nav-left cat-right

Vintage Cast Iron Radiators Are Reliable And Energ...

cast iron radiator for home heatingIf you grew up in an older home or apartment, or attended an older school building as a child, you now doubt have memories of the cast iron radiators used for heat in these buildings.

I for one have fond memories of these ornate and functional radiators in the elementary school I attended, listening to them softly pop and hiss, and holding my hands up to them to chase away the chill of a brisk autumn day.

Until World War II, hot water heating using cast iron radiators was the most popular form of heating in homes and other buildings. But then, after the war, forced air furnace systems began to replace hot water as the preferred form of home heating.

But recently hot water heating has started to make a comeback, especially with the new radiant in-floor hydronic heating systems being installed in new homes, and retro-fitted into existing homes as well.

This return to hot water heating has also brought with it the return of the classic cast-iron radiators of the early 20th Century. People are re-discovering these sturdy, reliable, and classically styled iron masterpieces and are combining them with their new hot water heating systems.

What most people don’t know is how energy efficient these iron radiators really are. They assume since this is “old” technology that radiators must be inefficient at transferring heat into a room, but that’s not the case. In fact studies have shown that cast iron “rads” as they referred to are quite efficient and delivering heat with properly installed and maintained.

These antique cast iron units work especially well with wood burning or natural gas boilers, and can even be used in solar heating systems as well to give your energy efficiency an added boost.

While many people who decide to choose this method of home heating buy new, reproduction iron radiators, there is another option. Original, refurbished cast iron radiators are available in most areas of the country. After all, there’s nothing like the original, and many times radiators a hundred years old are still in very serviceable condition.

During the refurbishing process, the old paint is removed, revealing the original textures and patina of the metal. Then the interior flushed out and any corrosion removed, and the radiators are repainted and returned to like-new condition.

If you’re considering converting your home to hot water heat in the near future, or you’re buying a new home, you should take a look at antique cast iron radiators as a way to add character and functional elegance to every room.

Fall Is Time For Cover Crop Planting

Well guys, it’s Fall again, and you know what that means (unless you live in a sun-belt state like Florida or Arizona). Fall means cooler temperatures, especially at night. Here in Colorado we’ve already have several nights where temps dipped below freezing, although many of the days have been in the warm 70s and 80s.

The advent of Fall also means it’s the time of the year for those Fall cover crops that add vital organic matter and nutrients to the soil, while at the same time keeping the nutrients that are already there from leeching away during the Winter months. One of the best crops for this type of cover gardening is cereal rye, which is also referred to as winter rye for this very reason.

The cover crops work hand-in-hand with your compost bed, in a rotating cycle throughout the year. When your summer garden crops are finished for the season, save all the remains, including garden residue and weeds, and add them to your compost bed. Then in the Fall, the finished compost from the previous season is taken and spread over your garden bed before you plant your cover crops.

Then the remains of your cover crop will be added to your compost bed in the Spring, and the cycle continues from season to season. A good crop to plant after the compost has been removed is rye, which is great at absorbing stray nutrients that have been left in the soil, then plant corn after the rye.

If you’ve never planted a cover crop you’ll be amazed at the results. It allows you to have a low-maintenance garden during the Winter that’s working to replenish your soil, and lock in vital nutrients that will supercharge your vegetable garden come Spring.



Country Cooking & Canning

Homestyle Steak Dinner With Rice And MushroomsCountry living typically revolves around the kitchen, and country cooking and canning. Family and friends around the table, fresh food from the hearth, food cooked the old-fashioned way, simple recipes like grandma used to make.

It’s a lifestyle that conjures up a lot of memories for people in the country, and even city dwellers who grew up on the farm (or wished they had). With today’s hectic urban lifestyle most people are on the run from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed, and meals are where you can find them – too often at a fast food restaurant, or a quick processed meal in front of the television at home.

It’s no wonder so many folks long for a less complicated, less hectic life in the rural heartland. Food raised on the same property where you live, cooked in the afternoon in a warm sunlit kitchen, and eaten slowly around a table, each bite savored in a way that store-bought meals never can be.

Country cooking involves simple, hearty foods like fresh organic vegetables, beef, pork and poultry, stews, soups, pies and desserts cooked from scratch. It’s about simple, no-fuss recipes that are easy to prepare and wonderful to eat.

Whether you’re preparing food for a large Victorian garden party or summer cookout, or you’re just whipping up a quick lunch for the kids, there are hundreds of great recipes available for every budget. And if you’re cooking fresh food that you pulled out of your own organic garden, you’ll enjoy the health and cost benefits as well.

Canning and food preservation

If you’re into small-scale farming and sustainable living, or you just have a small organic garden, you’re probably interested in canning and food preservation. Having a root cellar doesn’t do much good if there’s nothing in it, and all that work in the garden will go to waste if you can’t preserve some of that great food for the winter.

Canning is a great way of storing food without refrigeration, but it needs to be done properly or you could end up with spoiled food – or worse. Botulism poisoning has been known to occur from improperly-canned tomatoes, for example, from canned tomato products. And steam canning is not recommended by most experts, so stick with water canning for convenience and food safety.

Also make sure you always use a heat process that involves either pressure canning or water bath canning, for any canned item that’s going to be stored on the shelf in your root cellar or pantry. Ignore recipes that tell you that you can get away with simply sealing hot-filled jars – this type of “open kettle” canning can result in unsafe products, and even food poisoning.

A Country Root Cellar

If you’ve ever lived in the country, or visited relatives who did, you’ve probably been exposed to a root cellar at one point or another. Root cellar’s are nature’s refrigerators, only better because they work without electricity, and they can hold a lot more food than any store-bought appliance. A root cellar is usually not as convenient as a refrigerator in your kitchen, but they make up for it in many other ways.

In case you’re new to this concept, a root cellar dug into the ground keeps foods (usually vegetables) and beverages at relatively low temperatures and constant humidity. A well-constructed cellar keeps the food from freezing during the winter, while at the same time keeping things cool enough during the hot summer months to prevent spoilage. Normally the owner of a root celler will stock the shelves with a variety of vegetables, normally canned for preservation, and typically in the Fall after the harvest.

Although vegetables such as turnips, carrots, and potatoes are primarily stored in these cellars, there are also a wide varity of other foods including smoked or salted meats, onions, jams and preserves, beets, cabbage, squash, and more. Some people also use root cellers as wine cellars as well, and also as a place to store beer and other homemade beverages.



Homeschooling Can Be A Great Option

A young girl reading a math assignment in her homeschool classIf you live on a rural homestead, or small town or other rural community, then homeschooling your children might be a good option for you.

Homeschooling has a number of advantages over traditional public or private schools, and studies have shown that homeschooled children on average do better on standardized test than their classroom-educated counterparts.

Homeschooling allows parents to offer a more structured, focused learning environment free of the distractions and peer pressures of traditional schools. Children educated at home, either by their parents or through a tutor,  are more likely to go on to college, and do well at university as well.

And with satellite Internet available almost anywhere in the country, Web-based educational tools can be combined with homeschooling to offer expanded learning opportunities that rival anything in the classroom.

Homeschooling Can Be An Amazing Experience

You need to think of homeschooling as a journey of sorts, a journey that you and your children will be taking together. You begin at a certain point (where your children are now in their education), and your ultimate destination might be spring of the sixth grade, the beginning of ninth grade (which is where most K-8 educators leave off) or even all the way through high school.

And this can be an incredible journey of learning and discovery for everyone involved. Many homeschool moms report they have “relived their childhood” all over again as they educate their children in this way. Memories of elementary school classes, the wonder of learning something new, the pride of achievement and accomplishment.

Plus there’s the added benefit of being able to spend so much extra time with your children, and pass on your values to those undeveloped minds. With so many bad things happening in our world on a daily basis, it’s comforting to know that your kids are home and safe in your care.


Some homeschooling tips

  • Tip #1: Take the “school” out of homeschooling. Many people have an image of homeschooling as dusty chalkboards, hardwood benches and Mom wearing her teacher cap and lecturing to the “class” for hours on end. Basically trying to recreate a classroom environment in your home, which shouldn’t be your goal at all.


  • Tip #2: Teaching your children at home is different by its very nature, so learn to adjust accordingly. You’re in your home for starters, the place where you live, sleep, eat your meals, entertain, etc. So don’t try to turn it into an elementary school. Let your kids sit on the sofa while they’re doing their reading assignment. Take them out into the backyard for biology class, where plants and birds and insects are available to study.


  • Tip #3: Make your home a place of learning, not just during the daytime “school” hours, but all day long. Encourage your children to be curious about the world around them, even in the car, or at the shopping mall. Take them on a field trip to the library. Take them to the park for recess, and allow them to socialize with children their own age.


  • Tip #4: Take the time to devise new activities for your toddler, especially if you’re homeschooling several children at the same time. It can be a challenge providing for a little one while you attend to the older children in your homeschooling class, but you can do it if you’re creative. One idea it to have some special toys and coloring books that are only brought out during school time to keep your young ones occupied. Another idea is to have your older children alternate spending blocks of one-on-one time with the toddler while the others focus on their studies.




Self-Reliance and Sustainable Living

Many rural residents use alternative energy sources for "off the grid" livingIf you’ve heard about sustainable living, and self-reliance, but you’re not sure what these terms really mean, you’re not alone.

People who live in the city are typically reliant on a whole host of urban services and resources, from grocery stores to gas stations, utility companies, mass transit, police and fire departments,  hospitals, and more. Things that most urbanites take for granted. And so the term self-reliance can be confusing or misunderstood.

Self-sufficiency, self-reliance, sustainable living, these are all versions of the same ideal in which individuals or communities seek to live and work free of the outside world to one degree or another. This also goes hand-in-hand with a rural lifestyle, as most folks who live in the country are self-sufficient to one degree or another.

Being self-reliant is more than just growing your own food. Sustainable living means being able to “live off the grid” so to speak, and this can include generating your own renewable energy, making your own clothing and other textiles, repairing or even constructing your own home and other buildings, being able to hunt and fish for food, being able to handle medical or dental emergencies when then arise, and more.

Self-reliance is a state of mind

Self-sufficiency is a mindset to some extent, a willingness to forgo traditional comforts and conformities. It usually takes a strong-minded individual to go without the security of knowing there’s a grocery store nearby, or an emergency clinic around the corner. It harkens back to an earlier time in our history when just about everyone had to “live off the land” and fend for themselves in one way or another.

It goes without saying that this can be a big adjustment for city folk who’ve never had to be independent in his way. If you’re an urban dweller who’s considering a move to the country and a more self-reliant life, make sure you have some training and you know what you’re getting into first. It’s not for everyone, and you don’t want to find out the hard way that it’s not for you when you’re living on your own in a rural environment.

Self-reliance is important no matter where you live.

For many people, being self-sufficient and self-reliant is more about being ready to handle anything that might come their way, no matter where they live. With these uncertain economic times, and with climate change and the severe weather that we’re seeing around the country, being able to take care of yourself and your family in an emergency is important.

Some of the topics related to self-reliance include emergency preparedness, survival skills, proper food storage, building an emergency shelter in or near your home, hunting and firearms training, emergency power generation, water filtration, investing in precious metals, self-defense and martial arts, and more.