Midwest Self Reliance Festival in Des Moines, IA June 28th – 30th

We’re happy to be attending the new Midwest Self Reliance Festival in Des Moines this June 28th, 29th and 30th. This will be our first visit to the midcentral states, so if you’re in the, be sure to drop in and visit us. We’re bringing plenty of good old fashioned sustainability tools and we’re looking forward to a great show. The Ploughshare Institute of Sustainable Culture will be there as well giving seminars on topics such as beekeeping, soapmaking and cheesemaking.

Eco-Zoom Rocket Stove Demo

Homestead General Store manager John demonstrates the use of an Eco-Zoom Biomass Rocket Stove burning sticks and pine cones at the 2012 Mother Earth News  Fair in Seven Springs, PA.

Transcript: We’re doing a little demo with an Eco-Zoom stove. What’s happening here is we’re using small amounts of wood and pine cones, starting a fire, creating a draft which sucks the air in, pushing the hot air out the top. We’ve got water here, almost boiling, and that’s it: the whole goal is the least amount of fuel producing the most amount of heat.

Mother Earth News Fair – Seven Springs, PA

The week after the Expo in North Carolina we attended the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, PA. That was also a wonderful show and we’re hoping to return next year.

On the way to Seven Springs we picked up a number of excellent new non-electric and hand-powered items for the farm and homestead, including the Little Dutch Maid hand-cranked mixer (made from the excellent Bosch kitchen mixer), butane-powered Sad Irons , laundry carts and more. We sold a whole lot of double-washtub washer ringers, Hoss wheel hoes and Berkey Water filters. A big thanks to everyone invovled!

Here’s a few pictures of this memorable event (we hope to post some video  as well, so check back soon):

At the Self-Reliance Expo in Hickory, NC

The expo in Dallas TX was so successful we were able to attend the next one in Hickory, North Carolina in September. We nearly sold out! Some notable items included Marugg Scythes, Sun Ovens, the difficult to obtain Spear & Jackson Spades and Forks and a bumper crop of Eco-Zoom Rocket Stoves. We had a new Roller/Flaker made by GrainMaker (make-your-own oatmeal!) and their all-new grain grinder model #35 (which came out after our new catalog was published). We sold out on all the large grain mills, including the Country Living Mill.

Here’s a few pictures from that show (click an image to view it full size):



Arlington Self Reliance Expo

For the first time we took the store on the road when we attended the Self-Reliance Expo in Arlington, TX this July 27th and 28th. We were very pleased with the results: we got to meet a lot of great people and we sold a whole lot more than we were expecting! Some of the items we had in the booth were new Aladdin oil lamps, WaterBrick storage containers and samples of our all-new “Texas Natural Feeds” brand of non-GMO, non-soy natural poultry feeds. We also gave out copies of our first ever printed catalog!

Thanks to all who attended and made it a great show for us.


Spear and Jackson Digging Fork and Spade Review by Derek V. 2012

I’ve been using the Spear & Jackson digging fork and spade for over two weeks now to prepare some of the toughest soil I’ve dealt with for planting. The soil is a very thick red clay and has made very, very short work of the other digging forks I’ve been using. I’ve now dug a little over 100 square feet down to 2 feet deep of this thick red clay and haven’t skipped a beat with especially the digging fork. The length of the neck on the fork and it’s attachment to the wooden handle have greatly reduced my concern over the all too common snapping sound of the handle as you’re trying to dig up those hardened soil areas. I’m very pleased with the Spear & Jackson craftsmanship and especially their durability. 

Sport Berkey Review By Chris Krosschell March 19, 2012

Sport Berkey Water Filter for Campers and Hikers

Sport Berkey

I’ve been using the Sport Berkey for two months in central Texas and am very happy with it. For my first use of it I went to my pond in my back pasture and filled it up. My pond had been dry due to the extreme drought and had just filled up. I felt the water would not be as pure as tap water but would be relatively pure for standing water. I figured this would be a good initial test that would not put me at too terrible a risk if things did not go well. When I drank this water through the Sport Berkey straw, I did not even notice a bad taste. The initial test seemed good. My second use of it was from the tap at my kitchen sink. As expected, there were no issues with that. My third use was from water that had been standing for two weeks. I did this in early February so the water was not as murky as it would have been in the summer after two weeks but there was a definite strong green tint to it. I noticed a slight taste change in this test but did not notice any bad results. I’ve used the Sport Berkey several times since these tests in tap water and ground water and it has worked well every time.

So far, I do recommend this as an excellent resource for a survival kit. It seems that if you can get to almost any kind of water, you can use this.
I do want to add that the instructions do say that it is not for salt water use. I also like the thought that the instructions point out: If you think you have some really bad water or water that it won’t filter go ahead and add some chlorine tablets or iodine tablets. The chemical will kill the organism but will be filtered out of the water through the filter! This seems to be the best of both worlds.

Lastly, I want to point out that it took us 20 minutes to figure out how to use it because the straw was either intentionally sealed or pinch sealed at the cap. I had to pinch the bound ends of the straw to open it up so that liquid could go through it.

Rocket Stove Review

We picked up an EcoZoom Dura rocket stove from Homestead General Store and promptly took it home to try it out. One member of our family, who is not as well practiced in starting fires, tried it twice and felt like it didn’t work real well. Their conclusion was that they were using too big of sticks and maybe only real small ones work. Another member of our family, who was more adept at starting fires, went to use it and found it worked great. The second member taught the first member how to start a fire in it and now the first member is happily using the stove every day. The key to starting any fire is starting with something easy to lite and gradually work your way to adding bigger and bigger fuel. You can start with tissue, newspaper and / or any dried organic material such as grass or onion leaves, etc. Once this is burning bright you can graduate this to thin cardboard such as found in paper towel (or toilet paper) cylinders or thick cardboard that is torn into small pieces. Then add thicker cardboard once that is burning well. Next add slender and / or small twigs and splintered wood. After this start adding wood that, though it is still very small, has some substance to it (such as wood twigs that are ¼” in diameter). Once this is burning well, you can add the bigger fuel such as ½” or 1” diameter sticks. When this level of fire is established you can add blocks or chunks of fuel from the top. Make sure they are not too long to obstruct your cooking pot or pan when it is put on the burner.


We would like to report that in less than five minutes you can have an extremely hot and focused fire. With little forethought, you can adjust the temperature by the rate you add fuel. Additionally, you can adjust the temperature relatively quickly—about every minute or so. Also, my wife has noticed that when she is cooking something that needs extremely hot temperatures, such as stir fry, the rocket stove does better than our electric range in our kitchen. For example, whenever she puts any kind of noodles in boiling water on our electric range, the water stops boiling for a little while since the addition of the noodles absorbs energy. However, the rocket stove can get the water hot enough that despite the absorption of energy, the water does not stop boiling when the noodles are added into the boiling water.

We do have a few recommendations on use and considerations: 1) Set the stove on some noncombustible, countertop level surface for ease of use. Using the stove on ground level can be difficult on your back. 2) For a really hot fire, add fuel from the top. 3) For a quick fire, add fuel from the front.

Here are a few safety recommendations: 1) When you add fuel with intentions of making an extremely hot flame for cooking (like with stir fry) you must be extra careful because the flame will walk out of the combustion chamber and down the feed tray the length of the sticks toward what you would think of as “the handles”. Make sure you have a good safe area in front of the rocket stove where there are no combustibles. We recommend that everything within arm reach be noncombustible. 2) Keep it out of range of children. Putting it up on a noncombustible countertop level surface makes it more difficult for children to get to than if it is used on the ground. 3) Have an area where you can put coals or otherwise partially burned fuel so that it won’t unintentionally catch something on fire and children cannot reach them. 4) Have something noncombustible that you can push fuel in with such as a six inch metal rod or fork.  


How To Save Seed


Saving seed of open pollinated (non hybrid) seeds is easy.
1)Pick seed from healthy, mature fruit.
2)Dry on butcher paper.
3)When dry, put the seeds in a jar, and sprinkle a little diatomaceous earth on top.
4)Put the lid on and set in the refrigerator until next season.

NOTE: For sticky seeds like tomato, put the seed in a strainer and blast with water until the seeds are clean. Let them dry on a non stick surface. Then follow steps 3 and 4.