Life with the Stoopens

Should We Become Homesteaders?

Have you been thinking about homesteading, otherwise known as going “off-grid”?  People have lots of different reasons for making this choice, including a desire to be more environmentally friendly or more self sufficient or just wanting to get “unplugged” and closer to nature.  If this lifestyle holds some appeal for you, there are some things that you should understand about what your decision really means in terms of what you’ll be giving up and what hardships you might face.


The first thing to consider is how self sufficient you intend to be.  Do you intend to grow all of your own food?  If so, does that include raising livestock or fowl?  If so, you’ll need enough land to accommodate your gardens or patch farms as well as grazing room for your animals.  If you intend to use your homestead to generate some income, you’ll need even more land.  The more land you need, especially when that land needs to serve the above purposes, the larger your investment will be and the more work you’ll have to do to maintain the homestead.  Getting into even small-scale farming can be incredibly difficult for those going in blindly.  You can certainly get away with less land if you’re happy with purchasing food (in addition to other goods) from local sources.  If you’ll be able to earn your living from home, your location won’t be quite as important as if you’ll still need to commute to work.



Next, you should understand exactly what you could be giving up in terms of things most of us currently take for granted.  Naturally, where you intend to homestead makes a difference here.  Mostly rural areas might offer services that a cabin in the woods cannot.  Going too far away from “civilization” could mean losing reliable cell phone and internet service, easy access to shopping and neighbors, municipal utilities (including garbage pickup), and home mail delivery.  Going way off the beaten path could also mean few, if any, paved roads, so make sure your vehicle is equipped to handle the new routine and that you’re prepared for the extra maintenance that might arise.  If you live someplace where winter means snow, don’t forget to take snowy roads and paths into account.  Will you be able to shovel enough snow to get yourself out?


For those simply looking to get farther away from city life than even the suburbs allow, living “out in the country” might be the goal.  In these cases, you’ll probably have access to municipal electricity, but might have to rely on a well for water delivery and a septic system for sewage handling.  Make sure you understand what expenses and ongoing maintenance are required to keep a well going and your septic system working properly.  Cell phone and internet service in rural areas varies greatly, so make sure you know how reliable these services will be if maintaining these connections is important to you.  You’ll also need to adjust to the fact that your commute to work will be longer, and that a quick trip to the grocery store might be a thing of the past.


If you’re looking to go completely off grid, you’ve probably already thought about how you’ll generate electricity or otherwise meet your heating and cooking needs.  Make sure you also consider water and waste needs, too.  If you’re too far away from town, don’t forget to account for the time commuting or errand-running will take, as well as the fact that emergency services will be farther away.


All in all, getting away from it all can be a great way to simplify your life as long as you understand the potential complications before they become a reason to regret your decision.

Mary Reviews the Best Budget and Composting Toilets for Our Homestead


If you’re planning on renovating or adding a bathroom, or just find yourself in need of a new toilet, you might feel overwhelmed by the number of choices available today.

You first step should be to accurately measure the space your new toilet will occupy.  You’ll need distance from the back wall to the floor opening and side-to-side measurements if your toilet is tucked into a corner or other smaller space.  Include front-to-back measurements if appropriate.  Inaccurate measurements or eyeball guesses can turn this project into a real stinker in a hurry.

Most traditional toilets rely on a tank that holds fresh water behind and above the bowl.  When the toilet is flushed, this water is released to force out the dirty water and refill the bowl with clean water.  The most common models are gravity based, but some are pressure assisted.  In pressure assisted models, the water in the tank is stored under pressure.  This pressure does result in a slightly (to somewhat) noisier flush, but does allow the toilet to use much less water to get the job done.  Going from one flushable tanked model to another shouldn’t require any plumbing modifications, but, again, make sure your measurements are accurate.  If you’re looking for a top flushing toilet, this site reviews some top picks and gives pros and cons for each listed model.

Today, you can also find a number of tankless toilets available.  These models tend to take up less space since there’s no tank and no stored water.  Tankless models tie directly into your home’s water supply.  Though many homeowners like the sleek look of this type of toilet, many homes just do not have adequate water pressure to make them viable choices.  Be sure to understand your home’s water pressure limits and the minimum requirements of any tankless model before you buy.  

One feature that many Americans haven’t seen is the half-flush option on toilets.  Many other countries not only make this feature widely available, but actually mandate it in some cases.  These toilets give you the option to initiate a water-saving half flush for liquid waste and our more familiar full flush for solid waste.  You can check out this list of some top-rated models, including pros and cons of each, that could meet your home’s needs, including water-saving models.  With colors to match any decor and some that even clean themselves (sort of) at prices that should fit into almost any budget, you’re sure to find the perfect model for one of the busiest seats in the house.

For the ultimate water-saving toilet, you might be considering a newer composting toilet.  These are ideal for RVs, mobile tiny homes, and remote homes without access to local water supplies.  Since these toilets are fairly new to the American landscape, not all localities have updated sanitation laws to allow for their operation.  Be sure to familiarize yourself with any applicable laws before going this route, including laws concerning the use of hygienically-treated human waste as compost (or the legal disposal of such waste).  While different models have slightly different modes of operation, composting toilets rely on containment and breakdown of human waste.  Done properly, it’s a perfectly hygienic and odorless process that results in compost that can be used in the same manner as any other compost.  Some models might require the addition of some medium (like sawdust or peat moss) to help facilitate decomposition, but not all of them do.  Some models are completely waterless, but others do require some water.  Also, different models rely on different processes to remove waste from the toilet.  Most models require electricity to operate, but more and more models (usually on the higher end of the price spectrum) are now able to operate on battery or even solar power.  For toilet tips that go beyond how to scrub the toilet bowl, check out this site that reviews waterless composting toilets and addresses concerns about odor and sanitation.  Because of their advanced function, composting toilets do tend to cost a bit more than their more traditional counterparts, but can be an ideal solution in a number of cases.