Me and My Tractor…

It has almost been a year since we bought our tractor and we are not regretting it one bit.  This purchase brought us back into debt, but the benefits to having a tractor far out weighs the debt.  The fact that we are in debt for seven years and can make additional payments to shorten our years in debt puts the light at the end of the tunnel very obtainable.

As I was mentally gearing up to clean our chicken coop this past fall, I was not looking forward to the back breaking event.  Usually when I am done cleaning the coop, I have a sore back for many days after.  Then I remembered Clementine!  I thought, having her take the loads to the compost piles behind the coop would totally help because for the past 6 years I had used our wheel barrel.

vlcsnap-2018-02-16-19h07m07s948I waited for a nice sunny cool day after my garden was all harvested, had my husband unhook our generator from the tractor’s PTO, placed my chickens in the garden to eat all the garden scraps and Clementine and myself set out for a girls day on the Homestead.  I loaded the bucket up with everything I needed to clean out the coop, parked Clementine in front the the chicken coop door and began dumping all my chicken’s droppings and pine shavings into her bucket.  Once full, I drove Clementine around to the back and dumped the load.  After doing this many times, I noticed that my back was not totally sore and feeling like it was about to “go out”.  By having those driving breaks, I think that this allowed my back to relax and recoup before shoveling and filling the next load.   Also as a bonus, I had fun driving the tractor myself and going at my pace and learning how to use the bucket, different gears, and driving speeds.  I have to say cleaning out the coop was kind of pleasurable!

vlcsnap-2018-02-16-19h11m28s013A side note:  Before this video, I had never really used or drove the tractor all myself.  My husband had shown me the basics and taken me out a couple times, but to operate it all myself, this I had not done.  So, you are seeing in this video, my first attempt at driving and operating our tractor we have named Clementine!

May you enjoy this little video: Girls Day on the Homestead!

Tractor + Generator = Power

Before we even bought our land and were planning our off grid homestead, we wanted a diesel generator as our backup power system for those endless cloudy days.  Why? Because, the cost of dyed diesel is cheaper, and, most importantly, I don’t have to worry about the fuel going bad after a few months of it sitting in storage.  With diesel, I don’t have to add extra expensive fuel additives to preserve the gas for a year.  Yes, I am putting more wear and tear on my tractor, but I am also running it in the winter and not letting it sit for long periods of time doing nothing, so either case I am probably even on future tractor maintenance.

Our previous RIGID generator is still with us and still without a pull rope assembly and can be used if needed in a pinch. However, I had grown tired of the gas generator’s fussiness with the gasoline industry’s ever changing recipe and their self-destructive design to make people even more dependent on them each month to purchase fresh fuel or buy additives.  It seems that diesel has been the one line of fuel that has not been messed with as much as the others.  It is perhaps, the industry’s one nice gesture to the people who are so dependent upon them.

We have finally purchased our “expensive” diesel generator. But, it wasn’t that expensive in combination with the tractor.  We already own the tractor, so adding the Winco 15kW PTO generator was half the cost of a Honda 5.5 – 7 kW gas generator.  The great news, as well, is no more pull starting. Even if the RIGID was only 4 pulls to start.  It’s brutal when the back is already thrown out from some other incident and I still had to go and pull start a generator.  Did I mentioned the price difference in our area for dyed diesel compared to non-ethanol high octane fuel necessary for small engines.  The price difference in our area is 90 cents a gallon.  At this price, the difference for a 5 gallon fuel tank is about $4.50 savings per gas can we fill.  That adds up when all the calculations are done between how many times on average the generator needs to run during the cloudy winter season.

If you own a tractor and have the horse power, a Winco tractor generator would be an excellent backup in case of a storm or power outage.  The fuel would be the same you use for your tractor and can be stored indefinitely (20 years).

This post was not sponsored by Winco generators or Kioti tractors.  It is, however, sponsored by our off grid homestead business Pauper’s Candle Company. Visit today for your next candle purchase at

Snowplow Success!

This is my final post on the snowplow this year.  It has been a battle with the carburetor, battery and electrical system, as well as a replacement of the entire pump and motor assembly.  I am happy to say the snowplow truck functioned the entire season without a major break down unlike the 1st and 2nd season of ownership.  I was not only able to plow our quarter of a mile easement, but also the lower portion of the private maintained road we live on.  I was able to add a third plow truck to the road and ease the burden on the 2 gentlemen who have maintained it, one for the past 20 years and the other for the past 10.

For the first time, my wife and I did not have to rely on the kindness of our neighbors or Craftsman snow thrower to be able to leave the property after a major snow storm.  It still takes about 3 -4 hours to clean up our property, driveway, easement, and road using the snowplow. On the plus side, I’m able to sit in the warm cab of the truck listening to music as I run the course, which is far better than walking behind a snow blower for a 1/4 of a mile.

In this episode, I hook up the plow to the mount on the truck and also remove the old hydraulic fluid from the power angling cylinders.  I discuss some of the issues we’ve had with the plow truck that I haven’t shared before, and  I celebrate by using it during one of our snow storms.

One thing not mentioned is that our area is having the warmest January on record.  When we first moved here eight years ago, a typical high in January was in the single digits, now we are seeing 40 degrees F easy on most days.  This warm system has caused much havoc on melting snow and slush on the back roads.  If we didn’t have the plow truck running this year, we would be in serious trouble getting in and out of the property.  Our 4×4 Suburban on worst days, gets me out to work, but without the plow truck I could even have issues on high melts days if the road was not at least cleared.  If you are thinking about locating in snow country, you need to consider your snow removal system and cheap these days does not equate effective.  So, if you have a plow truck you know exactly what I am talking about, and if you don’t, you should before you buy one.  And, if you don’t live in snow, count your blessings and enjoy our adventures.

Did I forget to mention the plow truck’s oil leak?

Easy Do-it-Yourself Mousetrap (Very Effective)

Our battle with the chicken coop seems to be unending.  When the mice moved in and discovered the chickens had a bountiful supply of food, the battle began.  First, we removed our chickens’ food at night to prevent the mice’ thievery.  But, they still seemed to propagate.  I began setting mouse traps and competed with our farm cat over a summer, and together we eventually dwindle the population to a minimum.  However, this past fall season the mouse population exploded in our area.  The complaints about the mice were far and wide as everyone in the area began to purchase traps to stop the population boom.

I decided not to do the placement of individual traps in the coop anymore.  It seems traps would disappear by the time morning came. This is why I came up with the better mouse trap concept.  It localized all the traps in one area and drastically impacted the population in that area. And yes, not one trap would disappear.  In fact, in the first week of using the new trap I caught thirty mice.  The coop has quieted down some and the chickens seem less restless and able to peacefully lay eggs again.  Once the mouse population started to become more manageable, the chickens stress level seemed to drop as the egg production began to climb.

In the process of capturing mice, I have discovered that mice are cannibals by nature. When they see one of their own in a trap they do not offer to help, but instead turn on their own kind and devour them as a more enticing meal than the bait in the next trap.  I noticed with this localized trap I am capturing mice that pillaged their own friends and relatives for food and wander across the trap next to their pal they just ate.  I used to care about the mice and consider live traps and the like, until I discovered their dirty little secret.  One night I caught four mice in an empty 40 gallon trash can.  I decided to set it aside the next morning for an hour or two while I did the chores and made breakfast.  The family of mice were fine and had only been in the bottom of the can for a few hours.  Two adults and two younger mice looked up at me sheepishly as they awaited their fate.  I decided I would turn them loose in the forest.  When I returned,  the two larger mice had devoured the two smaller ones.  I was appalled. There was no way those mice were on the brink of starvation or threatened by the younger mice.    I know how the world works, I’m not that naive.  Perhaps, the Disney cartoons of my youth never prepared me for the systematic, cannibalistic, death squads within the mouse community.   Anyway since I have lived in the country, my view of mice have changed drastically and if any of them are caught in my traps, they will perish and become the bait for their family and friends.

Please share your mouse story and battle with us.  Maybe you have a “tale” we would all enjoy.  Yes, pun intended.

Integrity vs. YouTube: We have been Served our 30 Day Notice

What was to be the part 2 to a snowplow video today was interrupted by a letter from The YouTube Team stating their desire to control more content; they are demonitizing all channels under 1000 subscribers and with less than 4,000 hours of watch time a year.   My wife and I are concerned that with this move by YouTube our channel will be completely ignored by the algorithm, which is already happening slightly because we don’t monetize our individual videos. But, will it become a whole lot worse?  And, that is when we ask ourselves the question, then why do it?  At this point, I can’t honestly think of an answer of why we should keep spending time creating videos when we can spend that time promoting our off grid business more.  We have been attempting to successfully blend Pauper’s Candle Company with Living a Sustainable Dream.  But, if Living a Sustainable Dream’s YouTube channel falls into complete obscurity, what’s the reason for continuing video side of things?

Please do not think we are petitioning for subscribers.  We are not, in fact, if it wasn’t for the subscribers we have, I would have deleted the entire channel this week after reading the letter from the YouTube Team.  I explain more in the video, and I think my disappointment with YouTube is quite apparent.  This post is not a whine or a pity party; it’s a reflection on what the issue is and what the next step will be.  However, I am not going to solicit subscribers as YouTube encourages me to do.  I would have less than a 1000 subs that want to be apart of this channel’s journey than over a thousand who are begrudgingly holding onto their subscription or hate my channel’s content and troll us.  I want to be real to my audience, and I want my audience to be real with us and unsub or sub when they want.  I am not going to pay for bots to sub or view my channel to meet the minimum requirements.  Yes, you can pay a company to raise your subscriptions and views on your YouTube channel using bots, computer programs, but where is the integrity in that.

So, if you are thinking about starting a YouTube Channel or have found it extremely difficult to do so, your integrity may be getting in the way. And if that’s the case, I glad to know you.

Living a Sustainable Dream,

Today we are announcing changes to the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). While our goal remains to keep the YPP open to as many channels as possible, we recognize we need more safeguards in place to protect creator revenue across the YouTube ecosystem.

What’s Changing

Under the new eligibility requirements announced today, your YouTube channel, Living a Sustainable Dream, is no longer eligible for monetization because it doesn’t meet the new threshold of 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers. As a result, your channel will lose access to all monetization tools and features associated with the YouTube Partner Program on February 20, 2018 unless you surpass this threshold in the next 30 days. Accordingly, this email serves as 30 days notice that your YouTube Partner Program terms are terminated.

One of YouTube’s core values is to provide anyone the opportunity to earn money from a thriving channel. Creators who haven’t yet reached this new threshold can continue to benefit from our Creator Academy, our Help Center, and all the resources on the Creator Site to grow their channels. Once your channel reaches the new threshold, it will be reviewed to make sure it adheres to our policies and guidelines, and if so, monetization will be re-enabled.


The YouTube Team

Man vs. Snowplow (Season 3, Episode 2)

For those who have watched the war wage on between me and my used snowplow, this is perhaps the armistice between us.  This year, I did not mess around with the motor and pump assembly.  I purchased a “new” rebuilt Meyer E47 standard assembly.  This has made a world of difference.  The plow system is functioning at the best level I have ever seen it.  The plow truck has already removed quite a bit of snow and has allowed us to be more independent and not rely on our neighbors to be able leave our property.  Even though the truck still has some electrical and mechanical issues, it still runs well enough to remove the snow.

My wife and I for the first time since we bought this snowplow truck feel we may make it through an entire season without it breaking down.  However, there are still several issues that need to be resolved before next year.  The main issue is the dramatic oil leak in which to run the truck means adding almost 2 quarts of oil each time.  The other issue is the mythical gremlin that causes the dashboard, roof, and backup lights to pulse on and off without any warning of why or when they will return.  This has made night driving very difficult and a couple times, I had to just park it and begin again in the morning.  The other issue is the mysterious floating gas tank that likes to shift from side to side.  I may drop the tank and start over with a new tank because the neck of it will not accept a gas nozzle without spilling gas when filling at half speed or above.  The other issue is the hubs on the full wheel drive.  The truck is permanently in 4-wheel drive and this will need to be fixed eventually.  Also the truck’s gas gauge doesn’t work and the engine has died so often, I do not know if it is out of gas or if the gremlin is also wreaking havoc in the coil or distributor system.

That is our plow truck’s dirty laundry list of problems that still need to be worked out and hopefully the truck will not implode before the end of this season.  Creating a priority list, I have decided the engine leak, 4-wheel drive, and electrical systems are top priority.  The gas tank though difficult to work with still functions.  I will probably hire out the oil leak and 4-wheel drive system while I chase down the electrical problems and rewire the entire truck if I must.

A broken Christmas present becomes a learning tool for both my son and me.

It was the second day after Christmas, and it was quiet all through the house as my son was watching his new Brady Bunch Season 1 DVD while Ma and Pa sipped coffee from the couch.  Then rose a bang and an “Oh, no!” with such a clatter as the DVD player slipped to the floor.  Child with tears rapidly approaching, checking his precious cargo to my hands.  Everything looked fine and off he went again, until hours later his headphone jack slid into the DVD player’s casing and would no longer allow his headphones to work.

I am skeptical that my son’s slip to the floor jarred his headphone jack loose.  When I first took it from the box and helped him set it up, the DVD personal player’s side ports all wiggled and seemed loose.  The on/off switch even dived into the DVD player, and I gently pressed it to prevent pushing it into the casing.  My instinct to handle something carefully when it appears fragile seems to be only a parental concept that a 10-year-old boy has not developed yet.  Why should I and my son have to treat every item we buy these days with such care as if it will break on its second day of use?

I wonder how many of you faced the same disappointment.  You purchased an item with your hard-earned money and within hours of use, it implodes.  I am running into this it seems at every turn these days and my off grid blog is starting to have several articles that talk about product failure versus success. What will happen to our society if our products we purchase are so cheaply made and break easily upon simple use?   Profits it seems have overruled product quality.  Our once strong, proud, innovative economy has been replaced by worthless guarantees and exchanging cheaply made failed products with the same cheaply made product that will fail.

What was my option?  Call up the customer service desk and ask for a refund.  I should have when I first opened the box, but my nature to handle an easily cracked egg kicked in and I missed my chance.  The DVD player once upon inspection inside was not broken; it was made without any bracing for the ports.  Why would they even design it that way?  How could the design/engineering team forget such a simple and logical penny piece?  I made the bracing out of a broken flash drive component and some hot glue.  So simple, but I am flabbergasted by the ineptitude of the design. Perhaps, it is not profits, but lack of problem solving skills in the company’s design department. I don’t know the answer, but I am seeing this across the board from my propane heater we use in the candle shop, the pull start assembly on the generator, the after-market radiator in the F-150, the speed of our Internet connectivity through our data plan, and even our peanut butter (a blog post at a later time). Buyer beware is quickly becoming my mantra for each “purchase now” click on the Internet.   I am debating leaving Internet shopping for local mom and pop stores, big box stores, or even a visit to the mall miles away, so I can inspect and feel the quality of the product in my hands again.

Ask my son, “What do dads do?” and he will answer, “They fix things.”

That was the only option I could choose to do, roll up my sleeves, crack open the DVD player, find out what’s wrong, and be my son’s hero and fix it.  All the while during the process, teach my son to one day be the hero for his family as he learns to do what dads do and that is to fix things. Hopefully one day, I will teach my son, so his family can rely on him to fix things from broken toys, to machinery, and even broken relationships.