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5.11 pants

Some of my favorite tactical pants are 5.11. They’ve got great quality, and excellent design.

Freeze Dryer Maintenance

We’ve just purchased a freeze dryer from Harvest Right, and we’re excited to start freeze drying food.

Most people don’t realize that the freeze drying units are more like power tools than a kitchen appliance, mainly because the vacuum pump requires frequent oil maintenance.

Harvest Right recommends that before each new batch you drain a tablespoon of oil, and add a new tablespoon. Then after 3 weeks of constant use you completely change the oil.

The prices for oil range from $10 – $30 a gallon on Amazon, but don’t skimp and get the cheap stuff. If you want great performance you’ll need to use high quality oil.

Sweeping Your Own Chimney

As a homesteader, you should have some way to heat your home. The ideal methods are:

  1. Wood cooktop stove
  2. Rocket stove/Rocket mass heater
  3. Outdoor wood furnace
  4. Fireplace insert/standalone wood stove
  5. Traditional fireplace

Most of these methods contain a stovepipe to channel the smoke and soot outside of the house. Over time, those pipes become lined with creosote, which is a by product of wood burning.

The creosote buildup can eventually be a fire hazard, and a chimney fire is a very dangerous situation. To prevent a fire you’ll need to sweep the chimney regularly to make sure the creosote does not build up.

If you pay a chimney sweep to come out, you’ll be dishing out about $150-$300. It’s actually cheaper to buy the tools and do it yourself. You’ll need a cleaning brush and rods.

  1. Seal off your fireplace so that no soot gets into your room
  2. Take the cap off your chimney
  3. Attach the broom to the rod and push the broom up and down the chimney, loosing the creosote as you go

That’s it. Your chimney is ready for another season of warm wood fires.

Making Compost the Easy Way

It’s fall, and that means compost season.

Most people think they can just throw old table scraps in a leaf pile, and in 6 months it’ll be perfectly brown compost, but that’s not exactly how things work.

Compost requires 5 components:

  1. Nitrogen
  2. Carbon
  3. Water
  4. Air
  5. Heat

You can get nitrogen from green vegetation such as fresh grass clipping, and carbon comes from brown vegetation such as fallen leaves. As the nitrogen and carbon mix together bacteria starts to break down the materials.

The more bacteria there is the faster your scrapes will turn into compost, so it’s best to create an environment bacterial like; slightly damp with plenty of air flow. As the bacteria grows, eats, replicates and dies, their bodies generate heat, which allows different types of bacteria to grow.

Since grass clippings and leaves are the main ingredients in this compost mix, the best way to collect these is with a bag on your lawnmower. I use a Husqvarna riding mower, so I picked up a 3-bin bag for my mower.

It’s not cheap at over $300, but well worth it, as the amount of grass and leaves it captures would take hours to collect with a rake.

Combine the bag collector with a mulching blade, and you’ve made compost creation as easy as it can possibly be.

Fiskars Staysharp Max Reel Mower Review

I recently purchased a Fiskars Staysharp Max Reel Mower

A reel mower is one that has no combustion engine, rather the blades rotate due to you pushing the mower. It’s a little more work than a gasoline powered mower, but it’s cleaner for the environment, and doesn’t require gas or oil.

I bought this mower used off Craigslist. It runs about $180 on Amazon. The blades are very sharp and cut well.

One of the advantages of the Staysharp mower is the ability to sharpen the blade by running it backwards. Here’s a helpful video on how to sharpen dull blades.

It cuts just as well as a gas mower, but it doesn’t handle tall grass or weeds well. You sometimes have to go over tall stuff a few times, so it’s important to keep on top of the lawn.

I would recommend this mower to anyone who

  • Has a very small lawn
  • Enjoys exercise
  • Wants a cleaner environment
  • Wants to save money on fuel

Proper Compost Temps

For compost to form, proper temperatures needed to be reached.

Ideally, you’d like to keep the temperature at 150 degrees for a few weeks. This is done by having the right balance of nitrogen, carbon, water and air.

The best way to tell what the temperature of your compost pile is is to use a compost thermoter

For $20, you can buy a special thermometer that will constantly tell you the core temp or your pile. For best results, you want 3 thermometers, one for the top, and two for the sides.

If your pile temp drops below 150, add more fresh grass clippings. The nitrogen will super charge the bacteria and boost the pile temp back up to the right range.

It’s important that the temp stay at or around 150, because it needs to kill the seeds in your grass, otherwise you’ll have tons of weeds springing up in your compost come springtime.

If the pile gets too hot, you can turn it, and add some water to help cool it down. You can also spread the pile out a bit to lower the core temp, but that’s usually not an issue. The most common problem is a pile that is too cool.

Watering Rabbit Solutions

Anyone who has raised rabbits knows how annoying it is to constantly fill their water containers. Thankfully I found a watering system that let’s you simply fill up a 5 gallon bucket of water, then the rabbits can drink at their convenience.

The secret to this system is Blue Barb Rabbit Nipples.

The idea is to run a tube from the 5 gallon bucket of water down to each cage, using the T connectors to split the tubes between cages. Then attach the rabbit nipples to the side of the cage so that the rabbits can get water without it dripping everywhere.

I’ve tried a few different watering systems, and the Blue Barb is by far the best. They are easy to install, and have very few leaks.

TIP: If your water bucket gets debris in it, that debris can make its way through the tubing, and into the nipple. The debris can clog the spring making the nipple stick, and creating a leak. The best way to avoid this is to screen out debris at the source of your bucket.

Price: $22
Rating: A

Homestead Communication

When you’ve got a big homestead, and spotty reception, 2-way radios are a must.

We’ve recently tried the BaoFeng BF-888S Two Way Radio. Here’s what we thing…


The radios get good reception within a mile use on hilly terrain. They were easy to use, and signal was very clear. No static interference at all.

Each radio comes with its own accessories:

  • Headset
  • Clip
  • Charging station

They charged quickly, and kept their charge for days with moderate use.


I wish the radios were waterproof

I wish the radios used AA batteries instead of 1500mAh Li-ion battery

Final Recommendation

At $11 each, they are an excellent value, but they’re not meant for inclement weather. I think they were intended for use in large department stores. They will work for the homestead, but if you want radios that can take a beating, you’ll probably need to upgrade to a higher quality radio.