Two weeks ago, just before I flew out to Washington to visit Will, we had our generator in the shop.  When we went to pick it up, our carpenter friend, Tom, went with us.  He said that when he and David had taken it there, he noticed a 300 gallon poly water storage tank sitting out in a guy’s front yard, with a "For Sale" sign written on it.  We picked up the generator, then went to look at the tank.  It had not been used other than for garden watering, and the man did not need it any more.  The price he set was half what a new tank (like the one we have in our basement!) cost, so I gave him $50 to hold it and told him we’d be back just after the 1st of February.

So today, I sent David (Tom went with him) to pick up the tank.  Now this tank is NOT small.  It stands about 6 1/2 feet high and you can’t reach around it, no matter how long your arms are.  When they came home, it wouldn’t fit through our 36" front door!  So we took it off the hinges and luckily, it just squeeked in.  And wasn’t it a wrassle getting it down the basement stairs without it getting wild and running us over.  Wow it looked huge in the stairwell!

But now it’s down and no one got squashed in the bargain.  It will fit next to our existing tank once we move the 12 volt pump and the battery bank.  We’ll hook the twin tanks together and the pump will draw from both at once, keeping them at the same level.  And they’ll fill when the pump is on, giving us 600 gallons of water storage.  Yes, our water line can still freeze, but now we can have twice as much water on hand at a time.  That will be oh so nice!

Readers’ questions:

Living off-grid

Thank you for all of your help and advice over the years. This will be our first year at our new Homestead and we are using a 1500 watt battery bank and a generator to charge it at least until we get our windmill going. What do you use for electricity? Are you off Grid? You mentioned getting a Brushless generator csn you reccomend a particular model?

Mark Beyerchen
Silverwood, Michigan

Hi Mark.  The first year at your new homestead; how exciting!!!!  YES we are definitely off grid.  It would cost us about $40,000 to run power in here.  IF we wanted to, which we don’t.  We are still in the building-the-homestead stage and are currently running on a 2,000 watt inverter, with four six volt golf cart batteries for storage.  All our lights are CFLs and we watch leaving even those on, as well as various phone/cordless drill/flashlight chargers, which draw current when off.  Of course, David unplugs his TV and other electronics, via a surge controller with a switch.  We run all day until about 8 pm on the batteries, then start the generator to draw water for the animals and us, then leave it on for about 2 hours or so at night to recharge the batteries and use power for the computer, washing machine, dryer (gas), etc.
We did use a generator longer hours at night, especially in the winter, which wore out several sets of brushes.  Recently, after such a crash, we bit the bullet and bought a Yamaha brushless generator, both to avoid such a problem again and because of the unit’s reputation.  Hopefully, it’ll be a good one for us, especially when we’re using it less.  We also plan on buying four more batteries soon (they’re ordered), to tie in with the ones we’re using now, which have only been used for about 3 months.  You don’t want to mix old batteries with new ones as it reduces the life of the new batteries.
We have two solar panels, and will be buying four more when I can afford it; this is a pay as you go homestead, for the most part.  I’d also like to see a wind generator on the hill, but first we’re walking before running. — Jackie

Browning bison and living in Minnesota

Hi Jackie! Two questions for you. First, we recently harvested a bison and we’re interested in canning some of the ground meat. Should we brown it first? Also, do we need to add broth? If so, how much?

Second, we’re interested in what factors/criteria you considered in choosing Minnesota for your current homestead. Know you used to reside in Montana. We currently reside in northwestern Montana and would like more land for our homestead . . . but the prices here are now very STEEP. Maybe we should be considering Minnesota??

Holly & Jack McDonald
Rexford, Montana
Glad to hear you have a lot of meat!  Yes.  Definitely brown the meat, both ground and pieces, before you can it.  I used to can a lot raw, just to get it DONE.  But since I’ve been browning all my meat, it’s turned out to look and taste much nicer.  Hardly any tough meat at all, even the cuts like round steak.  I brown it, add water to make a broth, then pack the hot meat in the jars and fill them to within an inch of the top with the broth it was simmered in.  VERY GOOD!
We absolutely love Montana.  But we couldn’t afford enough sustainable land for us to really make a self reliant lifestyle there.  Mountainous land, which we love, was selling for $1,500 plus an acre, and only about two acres out of 20 was actually useable.  Rocks and cliffs are gorgeous, but you do need to make a living from that land, too!
So we came to Minnesota, where I had lived for 20 years before, dreaming of Montana.  Yes, the land IS cheaper and more useable, as there are fewer cliffs and rocks.  (But we live on a gravel ridge and have a whole lot of basketball on down rocks.  That’s building material, though!)
Every state has its good points and bad.  Up north where we live is relatively low populated.  We like that.  There are tons of lakes and rivers.  Plenty of woods.  But it DOES get cold here and you do have bugs to contend with in the summer.  Our growing season is about 100 days.  Usually.  Some surprises there, though; we had a killing freeze in July one summer!  You’d just have to research Minnesota and come out to make a decision as to whether you’d want to live here or not.  At any rate, the best of luck! — Jackie