Episode-591- Planning and Building the Suburban Homestead — 6 Comments

  1. Jack, thanks for another great show. You are always mentioning how like-minded preppers tend to think alike, so as soon as I heard you mention vanilla extract on today’s show I figured I’d share this. I was talking to my mom several weeks ago on the phone, and she mentioned that she’d finally used up a huge bottle of Mexican vanilla extract that my dad had bought for her over 10 years ago. Since he’d gotten it at some random flea market, I got online to try and find her a bottle. During my search, I stumbled upon a do-it-yourself vanilla extract recipe. To my dismay, a single bean at Whole Foods costs around $6. After more research, I found a store on ebay called vanillaproducts that sells bulk organic vanilla beans. Since I don’t like to do things small-scale, I went all out and bought a pound of organic, extract-grade, Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans for $30. The recipe I have calls for 3 beans per cup of vodka, sealed in an air-tight container for up to 1 to 6 months. The containers should be shook up about once per week or so. After just a few weeks, the vodka is already very dark brown and smells wonderful. I figured up that 1.25 lbs of beans (they threw in an extra 1/4 pound since my order was over $20) will yield about 3 gallons of vanilla extract. Rather than go out and buy $200 worth of vodka all at once, I’ve been buying a liter here and there and gradually starting new batches. I’ll probably keep a lot for my wife and I to use and give the rest away for Christmas presents next year or something. Anyway, just thought you and the other audience members might appreciate that. It took all of 5 minutes to prepare the beans for immersion in the vodka, and will yield enough vanilla extract probably to last a lifetime, even though my wife bakes quite a bit.

  2. Jack…Thanks. I am really trying to get a jump on this spring…even though I am still picking tomatoes, this show really got me motivated to get my tail in gear. Have a lot add to the list…

  3. Great show. I like how you stressed the concept of a home becoming a producer instead of an expense. So many people who advocate homesteading seem to miss that most fundamental point. What people should take away from this is that there is vast, untapped potential value in our land. Value we’ve all paid for, but aren’t necessarily getting.

    You mention growing peppers and tomatoes. I planted some of my extra seed cells in my uncle’s back yard a few years ago. At the time, he was paying up to $2 for a single bell pepper in the grocery store off season. Buying 2 of them a week, we estimated he was spending about $120 a year just in peppers. 6 free plants and the weed covered 10’x3′ strip of dirt behind his garage covered 2/3 of his pepper needs. He took the money and upgraded his TV channel package with a couple of premium stations that were previously beyond his budget.

    I think that’s a great example of what can be done. He improved his standard of living, and instead of paying for it with money he didn’t have, he subsidized it with his own efforts and under utilized land. When we talk about making a home into a producer, ideally it’s a home that covers it’s own expenses (mortgage, taxes, utilities etc). That takes a lot of work. For people like my uncle, just displacing some of his expenses and putting his money towards his own recreational pursuits is a compelling and easily obtainable goal.

    Shaving even $50 a week off your food bill is very easy, but that’s $2,600 per year. That’s a school tax bill paid for in savings, or car insurance on two to three cars.

    Planting a couple of trees and growing hops up the south facing wall of my house cut my cooling costs about 30% ($1,000). Growing firewood saves me about $4,000 in heating costs (I do have some acreage, but it can be done on a ¼ acre lot).

    When people hear this talk about becoming a producer, it might be worth repeating that you don’t need to turn it into a commercial production. It’s not just about gaining income, it’s mitigating expenses. In many people’s minds, they think homesteaders are farmers in the business sense. I don’t know where this misconception comes from, but it seems prevalent among most suburbanites.

    The financial savings are amazing. A $100 investment in seeds, bare-root trees etc can save you thousands per year for many years to come. I have a pretty relaxed job with decent pay, but it can’t even approach that ratio of value gained for time spent.

    There’s also a lifestyle change that happens with homesteading. This is probably more incentive for most people than self sufficancy or monetary value. Personally I’d rather walk through my garden, planning what I will do, and looking at what I have accomplished with a sense of pride, as opposed to flopping my ass on a couch and watching two former strippers call each other skanks on MTV. I’d rather eat a meal I’ve prepared my self from produce and meat I’ve cultivated, instead of eating frozen, deep fried crap prepared by some teenage half-wit at a fastfood chain who thinks all his customers are stupid assholes. I’d rather spend my money improving a system that produces for me than spend it on DVD’s I’ll watch once and put up on a shelf to collect dust, or a new phone that will be obsolete in 6 months. Seriously, I could buy 2 peach trees and have fresh peaches for the rest of my life, or for the same money, buy “Pirahana 3D” on BluRay.

    I don’t mean for this to sound inflammatory, but I do believe the people of former description are inherently superior to people of the latter. We all have similar potential in life, it’s what you do with that potential that matters. We all strive to be better than we are, and choosing a life of productivity over a life of amusement or distraction is a huge step in the right direction. Anyone who chooses to begin a homestead will tell you how much better they feel about themselves, their family and life in general. That’s because their life is better. If we took away all the other factors, this would be reason enough.

  4. Awesome show, thanks! I am especially interested in making use of shady parts of my property. Have a great south facing backyard, but that obviously means the front of my house is mostly shady and cold as hell. An episode or (even better) YT video describing how to do mushrooms on logs would be great. My climate is high desert and zone 6, so I don’t know how well I’d fare with mushrooms, but if I kept the logs moist enough with irrigation I guess it’d work. Tried ’em indoors once and that was a disaster.

  5. @metaforge
    I have a lot of experience in zone 10 deserts, and zone 6 temperate regions. Just because the area is shaded, doesn’t mean that it’s not going to produce for you. In cool, arid places, the most common issue is with hardpan soils. You should get good growth out of tall, broad-leafed grasses. They are shallow rooted, frost tolerant, and drought resistant, with little light requirement. I know, they aren’t the most productive crop, but they’ll provide a lot of organic matter for soil improvement. Shade from a house can be easily overcome with tall trees that will produce food and wood.

    As for the mushrooms, there’s a good video over at and YouTube is absolutely over-run with mushroom cultivation videos. Most people recommend shitake mushrooms, however, they like humid, moist conditions. Oyster mushrooms will be easier for you to grow outdoors. They’ll work better with your climate and native woods.

    Good luck.