A Pig and Her Fencing, 7 Lessons Learned

     I’m here to tell ya’ about some lessons learned while installing welded wire fencing. No need to tell you I’m a complete novice, you’ll figure that out soon enough. First, I guess I need to introduce you to Lily, my itty bitty pot-bellied pig. She’s almost three-years-old now.
     Here’s a picture of her as a piglet with her best friend, my St. Bernard, Charlie. She’s in a makeshift pen I threw together with some hardware cloth and a few misc. poles tied together with baling twine. The indentation is from him trying to get in the pen with her.
     They really are best friends. Years later, she still prefers to  sleep with Charlie.
     This one is just too adorable to not include. My youngest kiddo (in her 30’s) makes Lily’s clothes on her 1903 Red Eye Treadle Singer sewing machine. She also lives off-grid. Who knew pigs like to eat snow.
     Alright, I know, I could go on forever about my pets. You know how a proud mom is, always armed with a slew of pictures and stories. I’m trying to reel it in, I really am.
     I wanted to enlarge her temporary play pigpen (she sleeps in the house) and wanted to have a place for her to burn off some steam when I don’t want her underfoot. I built her new pen right under some hickory and oak trees. So, not only does she get the benefit of shade in the Summer, she also gets the nuts in the Fall as a bonus.
On to the lessons learned:
1) 50 feet of wire is not as much as you think.
2) Make sure to drive your T-posts in the ground “straight”.
3) Stretching the fence taut by yourself is damn hard without some sort of gizmo.
4) Laying fence on anything other than flat ground requires a bit of digging.
5) Know that there has to be some kind of T-post clip “trick”.
6) Place the fencing on the “inside” of the T-posts (I thought it looked better on the outside, now I know).
7) Finally, when tired, frustrated and the job is completed, watch a video on YouTube and learn how much easier it could have been. Hahahaha, seriously, that’s how it happened. The built in hazards of being independent and just a smidge stubborn <wink>.
     So, I learned after the fact how to make a fence stretcher with two 2×4’s, some bolts and a chain and the crazy easy way to fasten a T-post clip. Good stuff to know as I am gearing up to build a new chicken run sometime soon.
     The new and improved pen with big girl wire and real posts (granted, not a good angle for viewing). I made the little gate all by myself (proud of this first attempt) I wish it were hung on more sturdy posts as these do not go in the ground and are just wired to the T-post.
   Lily today, well on her way to becoming a full-grown piggy (it takes five years for pot bellies).
Onward in Strength,
Mary Lotus


 5 Things to Do or Consider When Buying Land

     Regardless of what you want to do with your land, there are a few musts, if you want to have peace in your life. * The prices I have listed, were what I paid, and may be different in your area.
     Oh, I need to mention that you can put a bid in on the property with written conditions so someone can’t buy it out from under you (unless they outbid you) while taking care of all this. If the conditions are not met, then the deal is voided. Below were the conditions I included in my bid for the land I now own.
     1) Have a title search done. This makes sure that the deed is free and clear without liens, mortgages or back taxes attached to the land. It also makes sure that the person selling you the land, actually owns it or has the legal authority to do so.  (The bank, attorney or title company handling the purchase can order this report.) – $230 title-search-4
     In my case, there were two liens and two years worth of back taxes attached to the property I wanted to buy. The owner had to pay the liens off, presumably, with the proceeds from the sale and had to pay the back and current taxes up till the point in time that I purchased the property. All of which was spelled out in the purchasing agreement. If this hadn’t of been done, all of that debt would have fallen onto me as the new property owner.
     2) Have a survey completed. One of the biggest and most aggravating problems for land owners, are property disputes. This is a headache to be avoided at all costs. There are different types of surveys, but for your purposes, you will probably need a boundary survey. – $200/hour
What exactly is a boundary survey, you may ask?
This is where the surveyor will set or recover the property corners. They will research historical documents of the land to be purchased as well as all bordering properties. The field work that you will see is only about 1/3 of the actual process.
At the conclusion, after all the measurements and descriptions are done, they will draw up a scaled plat map. It will show in detail, the boundaries, measurements, any easements or encroachments, roads, and any structures or items of note, such as wells. Depending on the size of the property, at $200/hour, this can run up into the thousands of dollars. If a loan is being taken out for the property, all of these costs can be added to the final loan amount.
     If this has been done in the past, then all you may need is for a surveyor to come out and recover the property corners with stakes and visible flags. This is far less expensive, as they are following a recorded plat map and are usually just unearthing iron pins and remarking them. No investigative work or recording needs to be done. This is usually a few hundred dollars.
      3) Look up what the property taxes have been in the past (This can usually be found at the County Clerk Office). You’ll see the value that has been assessed to the land. This is a starting point for the price you should be willing to pay for the land. Look to see what comparable land has sold for in your proximity. – $ Free
     In my case, I was purchasing raw land, so I looked up, price per wooded acre without utilities.
     4) Understand the type of soil your potential property has. Will it pass a perc test (time it takes for water to seep into the ground) for a septic system? – $140
     I live in a tiny town, so the health department is where I had to go.
     5) What are the ordinances, building codes, or restrictions for your county/town? Are mobile homes allowed? Are you allowed to occupy an outbuilding? Do you need permits to build, improve or change your property? Are living off-grid, water catchment or outhouses legal, if you chose that route? Are there any livestock or fencing restrictions? – $ Free
     In my town, there are no codes or restriction IF you own over 10 acres, are outside of city limits AND do not hook up to public utilities.
     It’s a very different story when building within city limits or connecting to public utilities. A septic system is required to be installed before anything else can take place. In these parts, that starts off at $3,800.
     [NOTE: All of this holds true if purchasing on a private land contract as well. In that case, it’s even more important to complete the above steps and not take someone at their word. The only thing I would add in that instance, is to make sure you file/record the contract at the County Clerks Office.]
     They, whoever “they” are, say hindsight is 20/20. Boy, they sure know what they’re talking about. I wish I’d known about this stuff when I was buying land before. Then again, it’s usually the hard learned lessons that we remember. So, take it from me, having been burned a time or three. These items or steps really do need your attention.
Put a little peace in your life,
Mary Lotus

I Used To Be a Prepper


are-you-ready-2     I started off like most of you: living in the city, paying bills, working to stay afloat, caught up in the rat race. Concerned about my family’s future and well-being, I became a dedicated prepper, preparing for the eventual emergency. While I prepped mainly for fluke weather events or natural disasters, I also kept in mind how a civil unrest could affect my family.

A wise prepper prepares for a myriad of possibilities and circumstances, never putting all of their eggs in one basket. The more I “prepped,” the more I found holes in my preps and a need for more and more items, not to mention some creative storage solutions. <wink>

It dawned on me that 60-odd years ago, all of this was just called living. It was daily life, before the world changed and folks got used to instant everything. Much of the knowledge that was passed on to family members was dismissed or rejected as technology took hold, and conveyor belts delivered our wants and needs in cellophane-wrapped packages.


It wasn’t really that long ago that families had intimate knowledge of raising animals and gardening, and knew how to harvest and store the food for leaner times. They knew how to start fires without a lighter, or what to do when there was no toilet paper. Tools were simpler and could be easily repaired. If someone got lost in the woods, they knew how to find their way home and find a few snacks to eat along the way.

bucket-and-bags     A lot of this knowledge still remains in the backwoods, but it has fallen by the wayside for most city folk. Take, for example, storing grains. It’s one of the first things I did when I started prepping. I bought bulk wheat, rye and barley, to name but a few. I did all the research on how to store it properly. I made sure to get the proper buckets, Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers — the works.

It’s funny to me now when I look back on it. What did I think I was going to do with it all?  It was the questions that I hadn’t asked that led to uncovering my prep weaknesses. Did I have a grain mill, or know how to make flour? Beyond that, did I know how to make bread? Was I incorporating the grains into our daily diets? Did I understand the serious or even deadly consequences a sudden gluten-laden diet could have on my family?

     (It’s easy for one’s body to develop an allergy to wheat when saturated with it all at once. Allergies can pose a host of symptoms from merely irritating to deadly. During a SHTF situation is the last place you want to find this out.)

I’m a proficient shot, so hunting game wouldn’t be a problem. But I wouldn’t be the only one out there. Selective hunting would cease to exist, and so would the few animals in any given area. They’d be taken quickly; then what?

Did I understand the dietary and fencing requirements of domesticated animals? An efficient and humane way to harvest them? Yes, I had an heirloom seed vault, but did I know the soil, light, and water requirements for a garden? How would I plant the seeds, at what depth? Did some need prep work first, soaking or scoring? Did I know how to save seed for the following year’s garden?  Did I know safe and effective methods of preserving the harvests, the differences between water bath and pressure canning, or how to dehydrate and store for longevity?


I’ve only mentioned three areas — meat, veggies and grains — and I found many flaws in my preps. It was foolish of me to assume I could wing it and just use common sense if the time came. When trying to feed my family, trial and error isn’t going to work, especially when some veggies take three months or more to harvest. There would be no chance for a do-over.

I had to sit down and be honest with myself. Was I being the best prepper I could be? What I discovered was that I was focusing on supplies and gear, instead of learning skills. That was my biggest mistake. I needed to learn how to walk the walk. Acquiring the stuff wasn’t really keeping my family safe. Yes, it was an invaluable first step and loads ahead of most, but sorely lacking in application.

And so it began, the silver lining after my discouraging realizations: my move from being a “prepper” to eventually living a self-sufficient and self-sustaining lifestyle. I was morphing into a homesteader without really knowing it.

Here’s what I found out along the way. You don’t need to live on 20 acres to grow food. Start mixing vegetables in along with your flowers or beside the garage. Start learning how to cook from scratch. If it came from the store in a box, bag or can, you’re not learning how. If your municipality allows for chickens, get them. Learn about their needs and don’t delay. You’ll thank me for it. Learn how to harvest them and enjoy the best-tasting chicken you’ll ever eat.


Knowledge is everything: start buying books. Used book stores hold all kinds of treasures and at great prices. Stuff can be gathered, but without knowledge, it’s rendered useless. What if the power goes down? How are you going to pull your information from your computer?

Firearms are necessary. Practice, practice, and practice until you feel comfortable with the responsibility and the weapon. Teach firearm safety to all family members. Take a course yourself, if need be. Children who understand the danger and power that weapons possess are much less likely to be involved in accidents.

While I was once proud to call myself a prepper, today I’m perfectly content living a lifestyle that is the epitome of being prepared. I no longer stress that I haven’t done enough, or I need that extra thing. Once I started educating myself and living in a non-consumer manner, things started taking care of themselves.

I’ll close with this: above all else, be smart, do your due diligence, and for Pete’s sake, don’t let it consume you.

Onward in Strength,

Mary Lotus

What Exactly is a Cord or Rick of Wood?


With terminology being different in differing regions all these wood terms can get a bit confusing.

It is actually pretty easy to get ripped off when buying firewood, at times leaving you with less wood than you thought you were buying. But you can prevent that by learning a few basic terms and understanding their meanings.

There is a smidge of math involved but don’t worry. No calculating, just the use of a tape measure and the ability to count to eight <wink>. Most firewood, split or whole round wood is sold by stacked volume.

The standard formula for measuring stacked or solid volume is: length x width x height.


So what is this illusive “cord” of wood you may ask?  A full cord of wood when stacked, will measure 8 ft. in length x 4 ft. in width x 4 ft. in height.

     For those interested in the technical gobbledygook. A cord of wood, a cord of biscuits, or a cord of toilet paper will all encompass the same 128 cubic feet. How is that so, you might ask? It’s because a cord is a measurement of specified dimensions. A cord is never larger or smaller in volume than 128 cu. ft.

Next, we move on to the “rick” of wood. A rick of wood is also known as a “face cord” depending on where you live. It measures 8 ft. x  16 in. x 4 ft.


It takes three ricks or face cords to make one cord of wood.

You will hear some people say they sell “half cords”. There is no such beast. What they are actually selling you is a rick or face cord of wood for 1/2 the price of a full cord of wood.

The only exception to this is if they cut their wood into 24 inch logs, which is highly doubtful. Logs that size are unwieldy to handle and do not fit in many wood stoves. Standard logs are cut to 16 inches.

     As an example let’s say a cord of wood costs $200 (price will vary per location). Your supply person would charge between $65.00 – $70.00 per rick. Whereas this half cord fella or gal would charge you the bargain basement price of $100 for that same rick. Play it safe, do yourself a favor, and forego dealing with anyone selling half cords.

Now here is the part where it gets confusing. Most delivered wood does not get stacked on your property before you pay for it. So how do you know exactly how much is on the truck?

If someone is bringing wood in the back of a full standard size pickup and they are telling you it is a full cord, it better be stacked up close to the height of the top of the cab. If not, they are telling you a fish story.

On average, it takes two stacked truck loads of wood that fills the truck bed to equal a cord.

Now, if they stack it in the truck, then you can tell right away. But you need to know what to look for. With the use of this handy chart, life instantly gets easier.




So next time you order wood or perhaps sell some, you’ll be better prepared and understand what these terms mean.

Onward in Strength and Knowledge,

Mary Lotus


Something Hilarious and Sweet Happened Today


Something hilarious and sweet happened to me today, of all days. It started out with me doing laundry (I use washtubs and a board) and I’d just got done with all the shirts when a neighbor I rarely see and who has never been to my house stopped by. First, I’m naked, cuz who does laundry with clothes on, right. So I ran in the house as I heard the car coming down the drive and found a robe. It’s an elderly lady (I’m in my 60’s so you can see she must be close to death) and she is trying to rustle a garbage bag out of her car.

She precedes to tell me that she doesn’t want to offend me or hurt my feelings but she has collected some clothes for me. (I suppose I should mention that I am a self-imposed hermit type and rarely venture into town.) She tells me that there is some talk going around in town that I am an old widow woman without friends or family that lives back in the woods without water or electricity and every time someone sees me I’m wearing the same clothes.
I just stood there and started laughing. She thought I’d lost my mind of course until I asked her to walk over to my laundry line. I explained to her that I got a fantastic deal of .50 each on some brand new tee shirts and had bought every single one they had. I showed her four of the dozen I own, hanging there. We both had a good laugh and she said it was her duty to set the town straight, now that she knows the “truth”.

I offered her a drink and we sat and talked a bit. She said to keep the clothes and offered me the use of her washing machine, which I declined. Today has been a great day.

Onward in Strength,

Mary Lotus


Easy Peasy, Firewood Storage Rack


img_3520Suggested Materials List:
(3 or 4) – Concrete blocks
(2) – 2″ x 4″ x 8′
(4) – 2″ x 4″ x 6′

     That’s it, that’s all, the whole she-bang. I have several of these racks free standing around the property. I set them up where I fell and cut trees. I can let the wood season for a year right there off of the ground before I move it up to the outdoor furnace site racks. Depending on how high you stack the wood, one rack can hold up to ½ a cord of wood.
     Down on the homestead I try to repurpose materials or just make do with what I have on hand. Saving money where I can is a big deal.  This is a great project to use those warped boards or the ones you can’t pull the nails from. As it happens, I had some rough cut, oak 2″ x 4″s and some 3″ x 5″s lying around and a few left over blocks from my outdoor wood furnace project. I only used three blocks because the wood I was using is strong oak. If I were to purchase pine boards, I’d probably use four blocks to support the weight. I’d also buy treated wood.
     This is my third year of keeping these racks full of wood and I’m starting to see some insect damage on the boards. This will probably be the last year for some of them. But nothing goes to waste here. They will just be added to the firewood stack.

Let’s get started. Try to pick a semi level spot. Lay out an 8 ft. board to see where you need to place your blocks.









Place a block at each end and one or two in the middle, hole side up.


I put a few stones in the bottom so the wood isn’t resting on the ground.


Place the 6 ft. boards in the holes on the end blocks.


     It’s a little easier if you are doing this alone to place a few pieces of wood on the rack to help keep the end boards from moving till you get a row down. You’ll still have time to readjust them.
     Well that’s it, doesn’t get any more easy peasy than that, or cheap. I hope this straightforward rack gets you through a winter until you can build that wood shed. I know it’s on my list, my super l-o-n-g list.
Onward in Strength,
Mary Lotus

The Sweat Bee, Yellow Jacket and Hoverfly Debacle

Man o’ man, I’ve seen some heated discussions about the whole sweat bee controversy lately on some homesteading sites. Folks gettin’ themselves all worked up.
Part of the problem as I see it, stems from the fact that different regions of the U.S. call things by differing names. It doesn’t help matters any, that there is a western and eastern version of sweat bee that look nothing alike. I believe here in lies much of the confusion.
I grew up in Kentucky and a sweat bee to my Grandpa was actually a yellow jacket, and what he called a yellow jacket was actually a hoverfly. It’s all a big ole ball of he said, she said that can be easily remedied, once you know what you’re lookin’ at.
What is a sweat bee? You can ask three different people and probably get three different answers. Luckily, I think I can shed some light on this confusion.
Lets begin with actual sweat bees, then we’ll move on to the “imposters”.
Sweat Bee 1Eastern sweat bees (scientific name – Dialictus zephrum) are black and tiny. They can also look metallic in appearance with hues of greens, blues or gold. The females are the only one that sting and usually only when squashed or in attempts to brush them away. They continue to pump venom into you until you remove the stinger. For such a tiny creature, they sure pack a wallop.
Alkani  Sweat BeeThe Western sweat bee (Nomia melanderi) is slightly smaller than a honey bee and has thin, yellow or green iridescent bands on its abdomen. They are often times referred to as “alkani bees” and get that name because they nest in the alkaline soil of the desert regions. As with the Eastern variety, they only sting when swatted or startled. This particular bee is vital for the pollination of alfalfa fields.
Both are ascribed the moniker of “sweat bees” because they are attracted to the salts in perspiration.
[Factoid] Because the eastern bees are so small, I have heard them referred to as, baby bees. There is no such thing as babies or juveniles when it comes to bees, wasps or flies. They all go through a four stage growth process: egg, larva, pupa, and then adult. They present with wings in this adult stage. At this point, they are about as big as they are gonna get.
Now to move on to the posers and wanna bee’s.
Yellow JacketYellow Jackets (Vespula maculifrons) are actually wasps, not bees. They are bold and aggressive and are attracted to sweets and meat, having put the kibosh on many a picnic outing. You often times see them hanging around open trash cans. Their bodies are about ½” long, give or take and are smaller and more narrow than a honey bee.
Unlike bees, yellow jackets do not leave stingers embedded in humans when they sting. The sting of a yellow jacket is very painful, they are equipped with lance like smooth stingers, and are capable of stinging repeatedly. If agitated, it marks aggressors with its built in alarm system of pheromones, which alerts and sets off an attack by guard wasps close by that will pursue and sting you.
HoverflyLast but not least is the Hoverfly (Syrphidae), often times called a “flower fly”. They get their name because you can see them hovering, much like a hummingbird as they drink nectar from field flowers. They are very beneficial, as their larvae eat pest aphids on plants and crops and they are wonderful pollinators that can not sting.
On first glance it resembles the yellow jacket, and it relies on this extraordinarily effective defense system of mimicry.
Here are a couple comparison charts for your inspection.
Yellow Jacket
When trying to differentiate between a yellow jacket and a hoverfly, the first thing to be noticed are its wings. Flies only have two wings and they stay open, whereas bees and wasps have four tightly folded wings at rest. Another way you can tell the difference, bees do not have those huge fly eyes, and boom there you go.
This wouldn’t be a homesteading page if I didn’t at least provide a remedy or two. Here are some home concoctions that actually work on insect stings.
I remember an old neighbor down the road making a paste of baking soda and water. He put a glob of it on a band aid and sent me home after I was stung helping him move a small wood pile.
Plantain 2As an adult I have made a poultice or paste by chewing a leaf of plantain (a common weed for a lot of us) and holding it on the sting. The relief effects are almost instant. This is my go to treatment in all but the winter months. Note the larger the leaf, the more bitter it will taste, so pick young tender ones if possible.
My Granny was born in Germany, in 1889. She was a tough old Frau and died when I was nine, but I remember her slicing an onion and placing the wet side on stings.
Well, I hope this helped to clear up some confusion and define the differences between all these insects. Plus add a few new tricks in your bag of home remedies. Till next time.
Onward in Strength,
Mary Lotus