Jennifer: Zachary Bower is here from An American Homestead. He lives with his family completely off grid on a 56 acre homestead in the Ozarks. Let’s start talking to him because I have so many questions. Welcome Zach!
Zach: Hey thanks for having me on. I appreciate being here.
Jennifer: Okay. Let me just get to it because I have got a ton of questions for you. You guys do a lot of stuff up there and so let’s just get to it. First of all, for people who don’t know you, I know there’s a lot of people here that do because I have been looking on the comments and they’re telling me how much that they love what you guys are doing, but for those who don’t know can you tell us a little bit about you and your family, kind of your background, and then how you got to this place of being totally off grid?
Zach: Yeah. In 2012 my family, my wife and our then two children, decided to leave the city. We left with my in-laws, my wife’s parents, and we moved out to eventually a 50 acre parcel of land in the Arkansas Ozarks, or in the Ozarks area in general, and built our homestead from scratch. There hasn’t been anyone living here in the last 150 years on the land that we purchased.
We basically started from raw land and we carved out our own existence on that land and we live completely off the grid. I mean by off the grid electrical grid. There’s no electricity here, we generate all that by solar. The conversation that me and you are having right now, Jennifer, is powered by the sun and our battery bank. We have no water utilities, we have no sewer utilities. We handle all that stuff on our own so I haven’t had an electric bill, a water bill, or a sewer bill in the last almost five years now.
Jennifer: Wow. That’s great. Okay so we’re going to talk about the water in just a second.
Jennifer: Can you go into a little bit more detail and tell me how did you come to the decision that this was the better life? I’m assuming that you were an everyday person, had a job all of that stuff in the city, so how did you come to the realization that hey, we need to pick up and move and do this and live this way? What made it attractive to you?
Zach: There was lots of things that made this choice an obvious choice for our family. I’m sure there’s a lot of people in your audience, Jennifer, who have gone down the road of bug-out-bags and beans, bullets, band-aids.
They’re into preparedness, they’re into self reliance, but they get to a point where they look around and they’ve made different preparations because of what they see in the chaos of the world around them and they say, “You know what? I need to make a bigger step. I need to take that next step of moving out of the city, moving out of an apartment or an urban or suburban area and move into somewhere that’s a little more rural that will allow my kids to grow up in my area without the fear of them being hurt or assaulted, or a place where maybe there’s less crime, or a place that will give me the ability to grow my own food and raise my own livestock.” Things like that because it’s really hard to do that nowadays. People are really in tune with raising their own food and the health aspects involved with all that and they go to the store and their grocery bills just keep going up and up and up. Where does it end?
There’s just so many variables that play in to a decision to move off grid. For me and my family we talk about that in all of our videos on the many aspects of trying to find a better, safer place for our family to grow up, and to have the healthier food, and to be a little less dependent on the world system around us, and more dependent on our own abilities and skills and what we can do for ourselves. There’s just a lot of aspects. I think we’re going to talk about some of them today but it would take probably many shows to go through all of them.
Jennifer: Many, many hours. I just want to say hello to Elizabeth, hello to Shelly, hello to Roxanne, hello to Suzanne. As you are coming in if you have questions for Zach please put them in the comments and we will try to get to them. That is on Facebook and then also on YouTube I see a lot of people coming over and viewing and that is wonderful, welcome to all of you.
Okay, so let’s go back for just one second though because you’re saying okay you live completely off grid but you do have this one connection to the outside world. Could you explain that a little bit and basically how you’re talking to me right now in terms of your one connection? I find that fascinating.
Zach: We happen to live in an area where you can get DSL. We’re at the end of the line so it’s a very slow connection. Some people complain that when we do podcasts like this I cut in and out but we do have a DSL connection. It’s slow but it’s there.
We went to the phone company when we arrived here and we asked them if they could put in a DSL line on top of our mountain and we told them that we had no power and they were like, “Well how are you going to power the line?” Well we could power it with our solar panels. We put in solar panels, they came up, they did an inspection to make sure it was all going to be above board, and we grounded it. They said, “You would have to provide the grounding for that,” and we did that and installed everything ourselves except for the line which they connected to a little pole that sticks a couple feet off the ground and that’s our DSL line.
Everything else is powered on our end, everything else that we’ve put and installed we did ourselves, so we didn’t have anyone else do it. We spent a lot of time researching and learning how all of that works and how to put it together safely. We did all that on our own and it saved us a lot of money.
Jennifer: Wow. That’s great. Okay. That’s your one connection. I love that, that you’re off grid but you’re still connected to the world. It doesn’t mean that you’re off living isolated away from people, you’re still connected so I love that.
You make your own sugar. Please tell me about that because I am fascinated with this.
Zach: Well it’s called sorghum and it’s called the poor man’s sugar. If you were here I’d give you a jar to take home because it’s just so good and we have it with our pancakes. I grow about a quarter acre of it every year and we have a sorghum press and we have an evaporator that’s created by the Amish over at a website called Cottage Craft Works. We bought all that stuff to use every year to produce our own sugar. Last year was our first year of doing this and it turned out really good.
We’ve had a lot of people try it, it’s great on pancakes, it’s great on biscuits, you can even use it and replace it in cooking recipes as sugar like if you wanted to make cookies or cakes. A lot of people in the past that’s what they did. They grew their own sorghum and when they made their own cookies or made their own cakes they just switched out the sugar in the recipe with sorghum syrup. That was their sugar. It was the poor man’s sugar because a lot of poor people who couldn’t afford to buy the bleached white sugar at the store … It was considered someone who was well off could purchase those things but other people grew their own sorghum, pressed it, and then rendered it down into a syrup to be used for whatever recipes that they had.
Jennifer: Well could you take us just briefly through that process? You actually grow it on your land, so from growing it … What does that look like? Is it a cane? What kind of crop does that look like? Then could you just briefly take us through the process of making it into a syrup? What do you have to do to it?
Zach: I think your audience will really like this idea. If they have any sort of land at all most people in the Appalachias, in the Ozarks, in the south could grow most types of sorghum. You just find which variety works best in your area but anyone can really grow this in most of the US, as long as they’re in those areas of the US and even more northern climates in Ohio and some other places could probably do this, Illinois and Indiana.
It’s a cane. It looks almost like corn. When you’re growing this, we grow about a quarter acre, it grows really tall, about 12 to 14 feet tall, and you cut it down in the fall, before the first frost especially. You cut these canes down and then you stack them up. Then once you stack them up you bring them … You have to do all of this within about a two or three day period because it will begin to sour if you don’t. In about a two or three day period you go out there, you cut all the canes down, you harvest all of the seed, you cut the tops off, and then you save that for next year’s crop or you can sell it, then you’ll take those canes and we’ll run them through a press.
Now the press that we have we do run through a generator. There are a lot of horse drawn presses out there and we looked at buying one of those, those horse drawn presses, the old antiques, the problem was if you did find one they were very expensive because most of them have to be refurbished. A lot of the barrings and bushing that made those machines work were made of lead back in the day and we know today that lead is very dangerous. Especially when you’re producing food products. To have that refurbished and redone was expensive. We opted to go ahead and go for a modern machine which produced about 50% more syrup, which means more sugar so it’s more efficient.
We do have to power it with a generator but it takes about a day to press all of the cane and then we get this nice, beautiful green syrup, it’s actually juice. Then you take that juice, it’s a very tasty health drink, I love drinking it, my kids love it, and then we put that into an evaporator and we heat it up. As it slowly begins to heat up we’re skimming the top because a lot of the impurities will rise to the surface. You pull those impurities off with a screen, very simple and easy to do, and it takes about a day to cook this down. As soon as it starts to bubble, you get these fine bubbles all over the place, you know you’re very close and we slowly drain this off as it reaches that point and then we bottle it. At that point you turn the bottles upside down, it self seals because of the heat inside the bottle, and you just stack it on the shelf and you’ve got your sugar.
Jennifer: Wow. That’s amazing! I love that. That’s great. Okay, so along these lines you guys are pretty hardcore homesteaders being off grid and all of that stuff. You butcher your own meat, tell us what that is like? What does that involve? You were telling us a little bit about the equipment with the sorghum so tell us a little bit about what this other process is with having your own meat animals. Do you have to have special equipment? Do you have to keep a certain schedule? What does that look like?
Zach: Having livestock and animals that you’re going to raise for your own meat there’s a lot entailed with that. First thing we started off with was chickens. Chickens are the easiest. Chickens are something that beginner homesteaders usually it’s the first they dive into when they want to produce their own food. Chickens produce eggs, they produce meat, they also produce manure which you can use in other parts of the homestead to help things grow so for composting and things like that. Chickens produce a lot of byproducts that you can use. Meat and eggs are usually top what most people think of first.
You can grow chickens. It’s very important to have a good coop. We’re actually filming a video today on the importance of having a very good coop because keeping your chickens secure is top priority when you live on a homestead where there’s woods and there’s rural area around you. When the sun goes down, Jennifer, everything out there wants to eat your chickens so you need to provide them a very safe place to live.
We have chickens, we have sheep, we have turkeys, we have now a milk cow on the property that we’re raising up to some age so that we can begin using her for milk for the family to produce yogurt and produce milk. As you grow animals you’re going to learn, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. That’s how you learn so don’t be afraid to make those mistakes and don’t be too disappointed when they happen because it is a learning process. Some of them are heartbreaking because a lot of times those mistakes involve the animal dying and that is heartbreaking for a lot of people. With those mistakes comes learning and so you learn not to make those mistakes again.
One of the mistakes, I’ll go ahead and tell you real quick Jennifer, was that when we first moved to this homestead we wanted to make sure we raised our animals in healthy ways without chemical medicines and a lot of the vaccines and things that they use today on animals. We started off with a commercial breed of sheep and those commercial breeds of sheep require those types of medicines and harsh antibiotics and things like that that we didn’t want to raise and so when we tried to raise those commercial sheep that had been bred that way on natural methods it didn’t work. They started getting diseases and they started dying.
We found out we had to go instead for a heritage breed. The commercial breeds today are bred for the maximum amount of meat, the maximum amount of wool, everything’s maxed out but they’re not natural animals. They’re bred for this amazing amount of produce that they give. Going to a heritage breed you don’t get as much meat, you don’t get as much wool, you don’t get as much as the commercial breeds give but they’re healthier. They’re a healthier animal and they’re okay to live under those conditions of a natural lifestyle.
Jennifer: I’m finding that’s true with seeds as well. When you-
Jennifer: Have something has been bred to be grown commercially then it does well but if it’s grown organically then not so much, so yes. Okay, Patrick is asking how long does it take to grow the sorghum?
Zach: We’ll plant probably when all threat of frost is done and there’s a little bit of heat, so probably end of May is usually when I’ll plant, right at the beginning of June 1st. That will give plenty of time for this stuff to … It would be better if you could plant it during a rainstorm. Throw your seed out there, however you want to do that, whether you want to use a line or you just want to … I give an open broadcast with my hand a lot of times. Do it before it rains. Check your weather forecast, say, “Hey rain’s coming this week, today’s a good day to go out and put my seed in,” and that rain will help germinate that seed.
Jennifer: Wonderful. Okay. We’re getting some questions on YouTube and Facebook and that’s wonderful. If you have questions for Zach please put them in the comments and I’m going to try and get to them while we’re live. Of course if I don’t we will go back and we will answer them later but we’re happy to get to all the ones that we can live. Okay, so meantime Zach could you tell me a little bit about your sort of septic system? Because you don’t really have a septic tank, right? Can you explain … Because you have humanure- is that how you say it?- buckets. Can you explain a little bit about that and then exactly what happens to the waste and all of that? Because that is very interesting I think for everybody to learn more about.
Zach: Yeah. When you move to an off grid rural area and you’re thinking about putting in a septic most people just put in a septic system. Well septic systems are very, very expensive and they’re getting more expensive the way the technology goes and they’re trying to improve the efficiency of septic systems. They’re very, very expensive and that was the case for us. We looked at what the prices were going to be to put in a septic system and we decided to do something different. There’s a lot of videos on YouTube that we had seen on how to use humanure and to do it safely and efficiently and so we decided to go that route.
What it is is basically we have a bathroom, but our bathroom is different. We have a very nice toilet that was made out of wood and decorated and there’s videos about that on our website, articles about it on our website … You can just search for humanure all kinds of things will come up. Once the bucket is full we remove the bucket and then we take it out to a composting area that’s away from the house a little ways. We just have these bins, 4 by 4 foot bins made of wood, pallet wood or such, and we dump them in there. Then after we dump it in we spread it out and then we put hay on top, or straw on top. Then we let another layer come in and so bucket after bucket goes on and in between those buckets is straw or hay. Then after it’s full we let it sit and we go to the next bin.
Now the first bin after about nine months to a year breaks down and it’ll start off at the top and it’ll go [inaudible 00:18:33]. It’ll just compost. After about nine months, we usually let it go for about a year, but after nine months it’s dirt. There’s no toilet paper left in it, there’s no paper products left at all, it’s just dirt and it doesn’t smell. Even when you’re out there it doesn’t smell. Once you put the hay on or the straw on top there’s no smell. Even in the heat of summer you go out there and there’s no smell.
I was very skeptical about this, Jennifer. My wife was the one who convinced me. She’s like, “This is what we ought to do,” and I was like, “Are you sure? This just does not sound right.” I looked at the evidence online, there’s a lot of people doing this, they have good reviews on it, and she assured me that it wouldn’t stink and sure enough it doesn’t. It doesn’t smell up the house, it doesn’t smell up the backyard. It’s a great way to take that compost and then reuse that compost after a year of it breaking down and putting it on our fruit trees, on some of our berry vine bushes. I don’t use it in the garden but a lot of people say it would be perfectly safe if you did but we don’t. We just use it on our fruit trees and that’s fine.
Jennifer: Yeah. That’s very interesting. I know that it’s used in other countries somewhat too and they do put it on their vegetable gardens and stuff but like you were saying it’s supposed to be-
Zach: Yeah it’s very useful and it’s saving you lots of money. When you look at the thousands of dollars you’re going to spend on a septic system that you could put into infrastructure and animals, livestock, or fencing that your homestead needs it’s just a no-brainer in my opinion. I’m like man I can do that in a bucket for the rest of my life to save that kind of money.
Jennifer: Then the septic tank is going to age and it’s not going to last forever and so you’ll have all those problems later on so yeah.
Zach: That’s right. It requires maintenance. Absolutely.
Jennifer: Yeah. Okay. Let’s move on to some other aspects because there’s so much to talk about with you, Zach, with all of these wonderful things that you do. You have a wood stove. Where do you get your wood for that and can you tell us a little bit about that setup? Do you burn wood in it year round? Do you cook with it? What does that look like in your home?
Zach: Inside the home we have a wood stove. I always recommend to people make sure you get a very good, efficient wood stove. Spend the money for your wood stove. It’s a part of your home that you don’t want to skimp on. There are a lot of cheap stove manufacturers out there. Go to a reputable one, find someone that’s good, and then spend the money on it for a high quality one because it’s really going to be a difference between comfort and not comfort in your house in the colder months.
We have a very good efficient one. Ours is made by True North. We have their economy version of their stove, very good stove, and we burn wood … We live in a forest so we have forest around us so we can harvest our own wood. However what we have found is an even better option. Because we live in a place where it’s heavy forest in our area there are a lot of sawmills and those sawmills produce slab wood. When they put a log on the sawmill they basically just shave the sides of it and you have these long slabs that you can cut up for firewood. They make great firewood. Some are bigger, some are smaller. They sell them … They basically give them away for like $20 for a ton, $20 for a ton of wood. Two years ago we had delivered eight bundles, eight tons of wood by a truck. We paid like $240 for that delivery, that included delivery and everything, $240. When you think about it, Jennifer, we were able to heat two houses for two years on $240.
Zach: You look at the heating bills in the winter time for most people, whether they’re on oil or gas or whatever heating methods they’re using, we heated two houses for two years on $240 worth of wood that we had delivered here from a sawmill.
Now, we also used that wood during those two years to cook with our outdoor kitchen, to cook … Because we do all of our canning outdoors over a wood fire. That’s also where that wood came from, most of it, and we used a lot of it in our smokehouse. We have a smokehouse that we built and so we use all that for that as well. Not only did it heat two houses for $240 it also heated most of the kitchen ovens that we use to can all of our produce and put into our pantry. That to me is a great savings. If you can find a sawmill in your area that produces slab wood, most sawmills do if it’s hardwood, make a deal with them and get it delivered.
Jennifer: Wow. That is amazing. Now do you guys own a sawmill now too though and run that? Does that make you guys money? Tell us about that.
Zach: Yeah. We purchased a sawmill this past year and I’m going to use it more for cedar. Cedar and probably cherry wood because we have a lot of cedar and we have a lot cherry wood on our property. The white oak and red oak that you see at the sawmills is a lot harder of a hardwood and it really dulls blades really fast. Especially the kind of blade that I have. I insert teeth on my sawmill and I have to sharpen them every so often. Most of these major sawmills in the area they have carbide teeth that don’t need to be sharpened, they just need to be polished every so often and so for them it’s a lot easier to cut that kind of wood.
I do do a lot of cedar on my mill. I have done white oak and red oak, which we’ve used for firewood, but for $240 I don’t mind paying a sawmill to deliver that kind of wood for me and not produce it on my own. Then cedar, I’ll do my own cedar but cedar’s not a very good wood, Jennifer, to burn inside your home. It produces a lot of creosote which isn’t very safe.
Jennifer: Wow. That is an amazing savings that you guys get all of that with. That’s amazing. I can’t get over that. Okay, so this leads into another question. How do you guys make extra money for the things that you can’t produce yourself?
Zach: I do work part time. Because we do have internet here, a limited amount of internet, I am able to work with clients. I am a web … I have been in web businesses since I got out of college so I design websites and I program websites for a number of clients every year. That helps supplement our income. We also sell products on the homestead. We make some money on the advertisements on our YouTube channel and on our website. It all adds up and we’re able to get by.
We got out of debt. That was one of our big things. We did it. Do whatever you have to do to get out of debt. That’s what I tell people. No matter what get out of debt. I still have some debt when it comes to school loans that I have to pay off every month but we make enough money to be able to make those payments and afford some of the things that you still need to buy.
Even the pioneers weren’t completely, 100% self sustainable. They had the general store, they bartered and traded for different things, they relied on their neighbors for different items. They still had to buy sugar or flour or have their grain ground into flour and someone else did that for them. You still have to work within the system a little bit. There’s things we have to buy like gasoline sometimes for our generators when we need them or a tool, something breaks on the homestead you’ve got to go replace it or have something made, just things like that.
Jennifer: Yeah. I think a lot of people don’t factor in that community aspect of homesteading and so that is one of the most important, I think, to have that.
Zach: Yeah. It’s not very good to be a lone wolf. It’s not practical to be a lone wolf. You need to rely on your neighbors and make connections and contacts.
Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah I totally agree. Okay. You have a video on your channel about homesteading sort of becoming illegal or if you do it you’re kind of an outlaw. I know that you made that video because it’s important to highlight those things so I wanted you to speak to that just a little bit without getting too political of course. Just to speak to why it’s important to know about those things and what’s happening around the country that is preventing people from living off grid, doing what they want. If you could just sort of speak to that and give us your take on that.
Zach: Sure. Go back, let’s just say 200 years. Two hundred years, Jennifer, our society was almost all, 100%, 95% agricultural based. They didn’t turn their nose up at the things that people today turn their nose up at. Things like an outhouse or a humanure would have been looked upon as common practice and just a way to get by with everyday life. Things like killing chickens and butchering meat and animals would have never had … People today turn their nose up at those things and so I have to go back 100, 200 years ago and look at how society was back then.
Well today so many people are turning their nose up at some of the agricultural aspects of our history when people today try to do those things. People have been arrested for owning chickens. That’s what that video is about, and other things. It’s just insane that someone would be arrested simply for owning chickens. Just a couple chickens. Or maybe harvesting water on their land. It rains. Collecting that water has always been a way that people have used to obtain water but today you can go to jail, and people have gone to jail, for collecting water. People selling raw milk. Milking a cow. Who would have thought 200 years ago that if you told someone that in 200 years you could go to jail for selling milk that came from a cow. As ridiculous as all that sounds it’s the reality in which we live today.
That video is a very popular video, it’s called Homestead Outlaws. You can find it on our YouTube channel and it goes through some of the aspects of things today that you might be called an outlaw for. The things you might be doing on your homestead that could be illegal depending on where you live in the country today. Where you live … It’s a very important decision to make when you make this choice to live off grid and to purchase some land in rural America to make sure where you’re purchasing it you can do some of the things that people 200 years ago would have been completely … It would have been part of their everyday life. Things like owning chickens. Things like harvesting rainwater. Things like a humanure pile or composting or even growing a garden. There are people who have grown a garden who have gone to jail or who have been fined for growing a garden. That’s the world we live in today. Some things we do on our homestead, many of the things we do on our homestead, we would be outlaws if we did them other places.
Jennifer: Yeah. I think the founding fathers are probably turning over in their graves for that sort of thing because I totally agree. It’s good that you are highlighting that. It’s something that we need to be made aware of.
Zach: Yeah. People need to be aware and they just need to understand just stop and think about for a second how our ancestors lived. People will pass these laws or ordinances because they’re trying to look out for the benefit of society as a whole. Well society as a whole was okay 200 years ago when people were doing those things. It’s how our society, this great society, came into being in the first place. Let’s go back to some of our roots and see how our ancestors lived and some of the benefits that they obtained by living in the ways they did and compare them with the things we see today. Yeah, it’s about bringing awareness to all that.
Jennifer: Yeah. Well that leads into a question that Jessica is asking about your children and homeschooling and how you are going to pass this sort of information down to them, but then also what do you see for their future in terms of going off and maybe finding their own way? Because it’s going to look different from how you grew up so what does that look like in your head? What are you planning for type of thing with homeschooling and raising your children? If you could speak to that.
Zach: Right. First off we wanted to find a place where we could homeschool our children and not have a lot of restrictions and not have a lot of the nanny state looking over us. Me and my wife are both college educated and we want to get the best education possible for our children and that’s not in the public school system today. My kids today are learning computer programing, he’s 10 years old, he’s learning foreign languages. He’s 10 years old and so he’s learning all these great things that the public school systems can’t hold a candle to.
We took that very seriously. We want our kids to be educated and we also want them to … Everyone talks about the social aspect of homeschooling and how does it hurt them socially? I don’t think it does. They do have friends. They get to interact a lot of times with kids their age. That’s not a problem. However I think the true detriment is the lack of learning that actually goes on in schools today. First things first we wanted to make sure we lived in an area … Going back to the homestead outlaws idea, is it okay to raise our kids the way we want to? Where we live yes that is the case, we can do that.
Second thing is we have an article on our website on how your children are your retirement plan. That’s the way it was 200 years ago and beyond, thousands of years ago. What it was is the male children remained with the homestead. They were given a place on the homestead and the father’s inheritance went back down to the sons and the daughters were married off and they went to be part of the household of the man they married, his father’s household. That’s how it’s always been throughout society in antiquity. Through most of antiquity that’s how it went. The reason they did that was to maintain the wealth and property of the family. We’ve gotten away from that. Today what happens? Your kids get older, they put mom and dad in a nursing home, and they go off and they do their own thing, and they get into their own debt, and mom and dad’s wealth, whatever it was, is squandered on whatever retirement plans they had or vacations they did or it goes to the government, but very little goes back into the family and is maintained by the family and so they’ve lost it all.
It’s called Your Children are the Homestead’s Retirement Plan I think is what the article’s called. What we’re planning on doing for our homestead is we’ve already picked out a couple locations where my two boys can build their houses and one day bring on a wife. It’s secluded, it’s in their own area, they have their own privacy, they won’t even see their own neighbors, us or anybody else. We have enough acreage for that. They’re going to work the land and we’re going to provide industry. I’m working very hard in these years trying to build up opportunities for them to have their own industry when they get to be of age to work and they can put that education into use. They’re going to be entrepreneurial minded just like their papa is and so they’ll be able to come up with their own ideas and ways of making money.
See it’s very rare, Jennifer, for a kid today to grow up and have the opportunity to have some land that we’re going to present them that opportunity to have that land here be debt free starting off in life and to not go down the road that most people going in today that just is a disaster. It’s proven over and over to be a disaster. That’s how wealth was maintained in the old days.
Jennifer: Yeah. Well and I think that the land is great if you can provide that but even a trade. Children today, young adults today, they graduate college and they can’t do anything, they can’t get a job, this and that. I also wanted to speak to the social aspect because we homeschool our children as well. I think that our kids have fewer friends but they have better friends and I don’t mean better people, like the children are better, I mean the relationships are better. They also spend more time with their parents and that bond is stronger. Because that is a big thing that people will talk about, “Well what about socialization? That’s going to be a problem,” and I’m like no it’s really not.
Zach: Yeah. That’s exactly right. That kind of speaks to how society is pulling the children away from the parents and that’s what you see today. That’s why the breaking of the wealth and the passing down of that inheritance has broken away. Because society spends the whole lifetime of that child to pull it away from the parents and I think that’s not a very good thing.
Jennifer: No. I agree totally. Okay so let’s change gears a little bit here. You guys wash you clothes by hand. How long does that take? Do you wash your clothes everyday? Can you tell us what that looks like? Because that’s a lot of work.
Zach: Well first off we wear a lot of our clothes over and over again. If it’s not dirty I’m not going to … Especially if I’m going out and working in it I’m not going to put on clean clothes everyday because that really does make the laundry load crazy. If I’m going to work and I haven’t really dirtied my clothes too much I’ll put on the same pants, usually I’ll put on a new shirt everyday, but like the over shirt I’ll put that on again if I have to and I’ll wear sweaters a couple times during the week. Jaimie does laundry as it builds up, when she sees a point where she has to do it she goes out and does it. Well let me ask you, how long does your washer take to do a load?
Jennifer: Mine takes over an hour.
Zach: Well so about an hour. A dryer will usually have your clothes dried in about an hour. It takes us about two hours to do that, of work, in a day but she has to actually do that. Two hours is the same amount of time as you’re going to be washing a load and drying a load, so it takes her about two hours a day. Now she doesn’t do it everyday. She just does it when she needs to. We’ve gone back and forth on having a laundry … I was all prepared to, because we have the solar power, to expand that solar battery bank and buy a washer for her, because we like to line dry our clothes. She was up for doing that but then she decided not. She’s like, “You know what? I like the exercise that it provides me.” It’s a workout and she enjoys that and she likes being outside to do that so she’s going to keep doing it by hand and that’s on her own. That’s what she wants to do.
Jennifer: That’s her decision. Wow. Well that’s great.
Jennifer: I guess it’s building a lot of muscles because you guys have a press right? Can you talk about that a little bit? Because she’s not ringing the clothes out right?
Zach: Yeah. I forgot what it’s called but it’s like a little plunger, like a toilet plunger, but it’s not a toilet plunger. It’s got this blue cone on the bottom of it and she uses that and a bucket to wash the clothes. She does that for a little bit, and we’ve got videos on this again. People are interested we have all these videos on our website many times over. You can watch the season episodes and she goes through doing that. Anyway, she washes the clothes and then after she washes them she’ll run them through the ringer and then she’ll rinse them and run them through the ringer again. Then they go into a basket and then they get hung on the line.
It’s a process but again it’s one that she wants to keep doing because she feels she gets exercise and benefit out of that. It does save money. Meaning we wouldn’t have to use electricity or expand our solar bank if we bought a washer. Maybe one day we’ll buy a washer but even Joann’s mom she’s well into her 60’s and she does it by hand still. She does that every morning. She gets out there before Jaimie does and she does her laundry by hand same way.
Jennifer: Wow. Wow. Well talk a little bit more about the water. Because obviously you have to have water to wash your clothes and so how far away is that that you have to go out to get to the water? Then talk about, because I know you guys just put a pitcher pump inside your house because you didn’t have running water inside your house for a very long time, could you talk about that and how the water’s located close to your house and why you made that decision?
Zach: Okay. We could spend an entire show on water. It is the most important aspect of buying a homestead and getting land. Water is top priority. I always tell people if you’re going to buy land, if you’re going to get a home, build a home, make sure it has a water source on the land and probably multiple sources if possible.
When we came to this land we looked at that and we saw multiple water sources. The land owner told us that the well never goes dry, there was a well that was dug back in the 1850’s and it’s still there today and we still harvest water from it. We have ponds on the land that never go dry and believe it or not there are sycamore trees on the top of our mountain. I’m going to do a video on this probably this week on that because sycamore trees will drink up to 500 to 600 gallons of water a day. Now, if you can find a sycamore tree on your property get that property. That’s the property you want to look for because there’s lots of water on the property. Sycamores drink a lot of water and that’s a great place to put a well.
Well on our place when we found the well, we had the old 19th century well dug back in the 1850’s, and we had another well drilled not that far from there, maybe about 25 yards away. We drilled another well and that’s the well we use for all of our drinking water. We built the houses right in that area because we knew you’ve got to be close to that water source. We have multiple sources of water on the homestead, ponds, et cetera, but that main source we wanted to be close by. Build your house next to that.
When it comes to water we use for laundry, we set up lots of rain tanks. I’m going through the very quick condensed version of all this. We have lots of rain tanks where we gather water from the roofs of the houses and Jaimie when she does her laundry she gets a lot of the water that she uses from water gathered from the house roof. It goes to a big 1,500 gallon tank. That’s where she gets the water for that.
Then we have other water collection sources around but we also get a lot of water from the well still and from the drilled well. That’s where we get most of our drinking water from and it goes into a big tank. That big tank is connected directly to our kitchen which we have the pump that you mentioned.
We went through a number of pumps before we found one that really worked because as you might imagine, Jennifer, there’s not a whole lot of demand out there today for pumps in the kitchen like we have. You go to Lowe’s or Home Depot in their kitchen section you don’t see any of those. The ones that are on the market, a lot of them, are mostly for decoration. We really had to search for one that worked really well on an everyday basis. We went through two different pumps before we finally found the third one that worked really well for us.
We have a video that helps guide people on the choices to make to look for a really good kitchen pump if they’re interested. We’ve got one that’s made by the Amish. We installed that and that connects, again, directly to that 1,500 gallon water tank that collects water and that we have to continue to, every so often, add water to it but it draws water from the drilled well which becomes drinking water.
Jennifer: Yeah. Wow. That is just amazing. Yeah we could talk, almost, just hours and hours about water and how important it is.
Jennifer: It’s almost better than gold.
Jennifer: When you find it on your property.
Jennifer: Melissa, Tina, and Shelly are all saying that your wife is a hero for doing all the things that she does. Okay, so let me ask you this. Are you a homesteader or are you a prepper? Or do you see a difference in the two? Could you talk a little bit about those labels and how you fall in between those, if there is an in between?
Zach: I used to call myself a prepper and I’m into preparedness and I love that aspect but you know people used to say preparedness is a lifestyle. Well if you’re a prepper and you think that preparedness is a lifestyle what truly is the lifestyle of preparedness is when you graduate into homesteading. That’s when you’re truly prepared.
Jennifer the world could end tomorrow, North Korea could nuke California and our economy could tank and while most people their lives would be drastically turned upside down, they wouldn’t be able to go to work the next day or whatever, I still have chores to do on this homestead that have to get done. My life would change but not change like everyone else’s would. I still have to plant, I still have to save seed, I still have to make sure my gardens are going to be good, I still have to maintain my livestock and feed them, I still have to make sure my water is maintained, the water consumption and the water production, the gathering of it is maintained. A lot of things would continue as they do now on this homestead if the world ended on the outside world.
If you’re into preparedness and you say preparedness is a lifestyle, because I’ve heard that a lot, if you’re going to go down that road to its logical conclusion you’re going to go to homesteading. Because that is the ultimate prep. We have another article on the website that says homesteading is the ultimate prep because once you get there you can really be, truly be able to handle everything. There’s still disasters that happen in life that you’re going to have to cope with, no doubt about it, but getting to a point where you actually own a little bit of land, even if it’s one acre, you’re going to be so much better off than being back in that suburban urban area with everyone else who is just not prepared for when disaster strikes.
Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I love that. That’s a great take on those two lifestyles.
Zach: I want to tell your audience please be aware that you can do a lot with one acre. You really can. People think they see we have 50 acres and they’re like, “Oh, I’ll never get that,” or, “There’s no way I’ll ever have the money for that.” That’s okay. You can have even a quarter acre and make it really produce and benefit from that. It’s not like you have to have 100 or 1,000 acres or even 50 acres, you can have a quarter acre, you can have one acre, and do amazing things. There’s plenty of people on YouTube who have shown that so don’t be discouraged if you look at what we have built here and see it as just an insurmountable task. Everyday is a little by little work in progress.
We moved out here, we lived in a little pull behind 25 foot trailer for 10 months, almost a year. We lived without all these conveniences and we worked at it little by little and it adds up over time. My question for the people who get discouraged is how bad do you want it? If you really want it you can do it.
Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. We look at you, I think, as an inspiration. I think that you have to do what you can with what you have.
Jennifer: As long as you’re moving forward that’s what counts and it’s not just staying stagnant. Yeah, definitely an inspiration with all the things that you’ve done. It’s just wonderful to talk about and to talk to you. Tell us a little bit, because you do live 30 minutes, 45 minutes out from civilization, tell us about some of the preparedness things that you’ve done for medical emergencies and the dangers that are out there.
Zach: We do have some medical kits and some medical knowledge. We’re always expanding that. We don’t have health insurance on this homestead. Health insurance in this country is just a mess and so we don’t have health insurance. I have health insurance with the VA but even that is not that great as many people might know. When it comes to health insurance we don’t have it. I’d rather pay the fine every year, if there is one. I think probably Trump has gotten away with that, or not, I’m not sure.
We have found doctors in the city two hours away that will work for cash and so we’ve gone to them on a couple of occasions. We’ve actually bartered for medical treatment from a guy who’s a nurse up the road. There’s just lots of options. Plus we have our own healthcare that we do here on the homestead. We make our own colloidal silver, we use Nixall a great natural product that your animals can use and you can use for treatments and things like that. We have our own medical kits, trauma kits. If there was ever a disaster here, a gun shot wound or something like that, we could treat. We have just different things like that that we have tried to educate ourselves on when it comes to treating those things. Snake bite kits, spider bite kits like a brown recluse or black widow, we have those on the homestead.
Jennifer: You’ve had snakes, you’ve seen snakes and that sort of thing and you’ve had to take care of them. You guys carry guns, is that right? Most of the time?
Zach: Yes. It’s spring and so we do carry snake shot as our first round in our pistols. My wife and me included. She went on a walk the other day and she pulls out her pistol and she goes and she takes it with her. We have snake shot, that’s our first round. We do kill a number of copper heads and rattlesnakes every year on the homestead. They started to thin out a little bit because of the guineas and chickens. They don’t like guineas and chickens, the snakes at all don’t like the guineas. The guineas will attack a snake if given an opportunity and there’s enough of them, so will chickens if they have enough of them around.
Yeah, we try to do deal with the medical emergencies that we could have. Fire is another thing. Something to think about when you live this far out in rural America, most insurance companies, Jennifer, will not insure your house for fire damage if you live off of a dirt road. A lot of people don’t know that. What do you do? Well we have a Toyota truck with a tank in the back, a 250 gallon tank, and a 900 gallon per minute pump and that’s our firetruck if we need it. We can fill it within a matter of minutes and get onsite within about five minutes. We’ve done a video on that on how fast we can respond to a fire on the homestead if we need to. You’re not going to have fire insurance if you live out in rural America. Most insurance companies will not cover you for that.
Jennifer: Wow, but you’ve got that covered. That’s great. I love that.
Zach: You’ve got to think about stuff like that when you live out here.
Jennifer: Yeah you do. Okay so you have a post, I just gravitated to this because I totally agree, but you have a post called Why Removing Carpet Should Be On Every Prepper’s To-Do List. I just loathe carpet completely. Could you go into a little bit of detail as to why you wrote this post and what it’s about?
Zach: Well people can go to the website and they can find that article, that’s one of Jaimie’s more popular articles. People like that article. Carpet came into being back in the 1950’s and 60’s when people invented vacuum cleaners but that was never really … People loved the feel of carpet underneath their bare feet and so it became very popular. Well people loved that. They’d never had that before. It was a luxury. Only nice bear skin rugs and things that only people who had a lot of money could afford those things back in the day. Well when it became commonplace or the availability became commonplace people put it in all of their homes. Well now you’re getting away from the agricultural aspects of society, remember like we mentioned before.
When you go back to those agricultural aspects of society and realize that you live in a rural environment and you’re going to be out in the dirt and working with animals and working in your garden, you’re going to get dirt on your shoes and now carpet doesn’t seem like such a great idea now again so you take it out.
Jennifer: I don’t think it’s a great idea at any time. I look at carpet and I see dust and germs and just gross stuff. I just do not like carpet.
Zach: That is absolutely true. It does hold a lot of germs and things like that and bacteria and mites and just nasties, but when you think about the practicality of it living in a rural homestead environment, if you’re truly a homesteader, you don’t want to have carpet in your house.
Jennifer: Yeah. I don’t think you should have it anywhere but especially on the homestead. That’s great. Okay so if somebody out there is looking for land … We touched on this a little bit because you don’t have to have a huge homestead you can do a lot of stuff on an acre or quarter acre, half acre, just something to have a garden and maybe some chickens, but if you were giving advice to somebody or if somebody was looking for land and came to you and asked you, “What should I look for?” What would you tell them?
Zach: They’re looking for land, they’re looking for a homestead number one, again, go back to water. You’ve got to find water. Make sure that’s top priority. You’ve got to consider some of the things you want. I mentioned fire insurance. Is it important to you that your house is insured? Because it’s going to be harder for you the father out you live for a company to want to do all that. You’ve got to think about all those different aspects.
Do research, research, research. You’ve got to do some research. Find out what other people, the problems they’ve encountered. There’s a lot of great YouTube channels, not just ours, out there on YouTube that have talked about these aspects and what to look for when buying land. We have a series of playlists called Homesteading 101. You can start there and look for that. Check out our website AnAmericanHomestead.com a lot of those things are linked there. Research, research, research and try to find out and try to nail down what’s important to you. What are your priorities for growing a homestead? Look into local ordinance laws. What’s allowed? What’s not allowed? Really it comes down to research and finding the problems that others have encountered. The good thing is today information is shared so easily on the internet so if someone has encountered a problem before chances are they’ve shared it with the world. You can gain from that knowledge and understanding.
Jennifer: Yes. Definitely. Heather is saying the first thing she did when she bought their homestead was pull out the carpet. Melissa’s saying she hates carpet too. We’re all in good company, we just hate carpet.
Zach: Yeah. There we go.
Jennifer: Okay so, you guys smoke meat and you smoke salt. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Because you sell the salt on your website so tell us about that.
Zach: Yeah. Smoke salt, amazing. It’ll change your world. Maple and hickory are my favorite, right now we have hickory for sale on our website at AnAmericanHomestead.com. We discovered that if you go out … We find pure salt, we buy it in bulk and it’s pure salt, sodium chloride, no additives no caking agents, no nothing it’s just salt. Then we take that salt and then we smoke it for 72 hours in a cold smoker that we built on the homestead and we have videos and articles on that.
It comes out with amazing flavor. Just amazing flavor. You can put it on your eggs in the morning, if you like eggs, put it on your salad, you can put it on steak, you can put it on pasta. Amazing flavor that it imparts. People love that smoked flavor and it just gives a little bit of it, just a hint of that smoked flavor when you salt whatever it is you’re eating, something savory that you enjoy. It’s a big hit. People love it.
We’ve gone to places where they have spice shops now appearing in different places like in malls and different outlet malls outside outlet shopping centers, and they sell smoked salt and it’s very, very expensive. We sell it a lot cheaper and we sell it in a big jar, a big five ounce jar, but they sell little packets for like $7,$8 for a little packet, just a tiny packet. I was like wow! Anyway, we started selling it, people love it, we can’t keep it in stock. In fact tonight I’m going to go cut down another small maple tree to make another small batch of maple because maple is really good, but the hickory is good too.
Then we smoke meat. We preserve a lot of our meat. Fall and winter is the time to save your meat and slaughter all your meat and go ahead and get it smoked and cured so that you have it during the summer and spring. Because if you look back at antiquity it was called carnevale, that means farewell to meat and then the Catholic church came in and took that over and they called it Lent but it meant … Because people of antiquity, when spring came there’s no more fresh meat. You butchered all of your meat in the fall and winter and then farewell to meat in the spring so you’d preserve what you butcher, what you slaughter so you had meat throughout the year. You did that by smoking it and salting it and that’s what we do.
Jennifer: Well I will put a link in the show notes to wear to get the smoked salt.
Jennifer: Because that is wonderful. Zach it is just been an absolute joy to have you here today and talk to you about all of this stuff. Where can people find out more about you, your website, Facebook, YouTube? Tell us where to go.
Zach: Be best if you just go to our YouTube channel and subscribe there. You can check out our website, AnAmericanHomestead.com. You can find all the links to our Facebook, YouTube, Twitter all at AnAmericanHomestead.com. Subscribe to our YouTube channel that’s the best way because when an update comes out it usually hits there first and see all the things that me and Jaimie and the family are doing. Later on today I’m going to go interview Tim, we’re going to do a video on the chicken coop and how important it is to keep your chickens safe. There’s lots of great content coming up, you guys are going to enjoy it.
Jennifer: Thank you so much for being here.
Zach: All right, thank you.