Re-purposing a riding mower as a mini homestead tractor

If you are like me you have the need to move things around your property.  I’m surprised how frequently I find myself jumping on this striped down ridding mower.  We picked this up for a song because it had some problems with the mower deck.  After we determined the mower deck problems were beyond worth fixing we decided to just use it to pull things around.

First I stripped off everything I could connected with mowing.  Since the back tires had trouble holding air they were replaced with something with more traction.  The little trailer was found on Craig’s List and will dump and has a removable tailgate.  I must admit that due to the fact we have so little money into it I just leave it outside where I’m using it and just tip up the seat.  I know I should cover it up but I don’t.

Things to look for are a mower that starts and runs well, unless you want to take on fixing the engine as well.  Bad tires and bad mower deck are good as it will bring down the price.  You are going to want to strip off all the mowing related stuff and put on different tires anyway.  This model I have has the type of drive train that pressing the pedal further makes it go faster by changing the size of the pulleys in the drive train.  A hydro-static transmission would also be good, but those are harder to fix.  If all you can find is one that you have to shift the gears that would be OK, but look for one that does the speed control by just pushing the pedal.  You do want good brakes as well since you will be using it to hauls stuff around and if you have any hills no brakes can be bad.

I have a fairly steep incline in one area and this has no problem having enough power to go up it.  However sometimes I lose traction and frequently the front wheels are too light to steer well.  I’m thinking of adding fluid to the tires or at least some weight in the front.  I find moving firewood, feed and mulch this is a nice setup to use.  I’ve also used it to move my skid-able chicken coop around.

This can be a low-cost way to have a powered method of moving things around your property and gives you a chance to learn some repair skills.  DR also sells what they call a Powerwagon which is like a small flatbed powered by a gas engine.  From time to time they pop up on Craigslist but usually they cost a lot more and you don’t see very many of them.

Looking around for something used that can be re-purposed to fit your needs can be a good way to learn something and save some money.

How to Make Lotion Bars

What is a “Lotion Bar” you may ask? Well it is something that resembles a bar of soap but is actually lotion. You rub it on your hands, feet or other parts of your body to help with dry, chapped or cracked skin. I find I greatly prefer it to a liquid lotion and since I make it myself I know what is in it. And while it might not taste the best, everything I used you can eat. I use a 4 equal part (by weight) recipe of an oil (I prefer almond), a soft fat/butter (Shea butter or coconut oil) a harder fat/butter (coco butter) and finally beeswax. It is my belief that the oils & fats moisturizes your skin and the wax forms a protective coating on top of your skin. While I haven’t tried to prove this, it works for me so that is all that counts. Continue reading “How to Make Lotion Bars”

Making Homemade Strawberry Jam

This past week, Deanna & I, made our first batch of homemade strawberry jam! I remember making jams and jellies with my grandmother when I was a little boy, but I forgot how easy it actually is!

Crush the Strawberries………….

Crushed Strawberries

Add pectin & Sugar…………

The sugar we used

 

Boil, ladle into jars, & water bath process them!

This is the recipe that we used:

Makes about 8 (8 oz) half pints
Strawberries, lemon juice, Ball® RealFruit™ Classic Pectin and sugar combine to create this homemade strawberry jam. Try out this recipe, then make it your own as you discover new twists to this favorite canning recipes.
LEVEL OF EASE: Easy
PRESERVING METHOD: Waterbath Canning
YOU WILL NEED:
  • 5 cups crushed strawberries (about 5 lbs)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp Pectin
  • 7 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 Half pint jars (8oz) with rings and lids

DIRECTIONS:

  1. PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
  2. COMBINE strawberries and lemon juice in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
  3. ADD entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
  4. LADLE hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
  5. PROCESS in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
Deanna testing the Jam

 

Make sure you check out the jam making video on the Save Our Skills YouTube Channel

Additional canning and dehydrating supplies:

Jar lifter, sure tight band tool, regular mouth jar storage caps, wide mouth jar storage caps, regular mouth lids and bands, wide mouth lids and bands, Jelly Jars, wide mouth pint jars, wide mouth quart jars, Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, fruit pectin, non stick dehydrator sheet, Recipes for Adventure, mandolin slicer, ladle, magnetic lid lifter

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Follow us on Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/104557873869303516382/+Saveourskills1/posts
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Some links are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase from these links. Thanks for your support in this way.

A Little Retreat from the Pennsylvania Winter

My parents have a place in Florida that they retreat to for the winter. Mostly my mother, however my father has been staying a little longer as the years progress. This year, my mother had asked two of my daughters to drive her car down and she was going to fly in. Somehow, that turned into a mini family get away for most of us.

My daughters drove their grandmother to the airport and continued their journey to Florida, three days later. my wife, Deanna, flew down to Florida to visit her parents. A couple of weeks later I drove down with my father to “help him drive”. I didn’t drive one inch of the trip! I got in the truck at 5:20 AM, we stopped once for gas and a couple other times for restroom breaks and arrived 15 hrs later!

Dad sticks around for that extra 2 weeks because we still have deer hunters coming in for muzzle loader season. During those two weeks he closes down his house and we winterize the hunting camp after the last hunters leave. We also load the truck with about 400 board feet of lumber. Dad places ads in the Florida papers for lumber and takes orders to be delivered, he says it pays for his trip to Florida.

Sorting lumber to be taken to Florida

My daughters flew back from their trip a few days before dad & I took off. It worked out perfect! They were able to get my moms car to Florida and visit with her for a few days, visit with their other grandparents, spend a little time running around Disney World, and make it back home to take care of chickens, rabbits, cats, dogs and be here for their brother, Sawyer.

After arriving in Florida, I spent a few days with my parents and then met Deanna and headed down to her parents to spend a few days. Deanna’s mother, Betty, has been going gangbusters canning and dehydrating! She bought us a 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator for Christmas and I can’t wait to get started!

Excalibur 9 tray food dehydrator

Betty has been canning chicken, ground beef, meatloaf, hamburger patties, beans, pie fillings, jams, and jellies. She usually had a water bath canner, two pressure canners and two dehydrators going at once.

Pressure canners
Canned Potato
Jelly that Deanna made

 

I’m not sure what brand of pressure canner she uses, but I have a couple of All American pressure canners that we will be using.

She also had this cool old utensil to pry off the lids from canning jars. It’s called a “pry-a-lid” and I believe she bought a few from ebay.

Pry-A-Lid

When Betty is dehydrating, she stores all of her dried fruits and veggies in quart and half gallon mason jars. She uses a FoodSaver machine with a jar sealer accessory to take the air out of the jars and secure the lid. What’s nice about that versus the bags is that you can reseal & reuse the jars over and over again.

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer

Deanna and I helped out a little and learned a lot. I think Deanna is excited about getting started on the canning and dehydrating.

I also helped my father-in-law, Terry, rebuild the gate going into their back yard. The old gate was very heavy and mounted with hinges that were too small, so it had sagged over the years. The new gate uses the type of hinge and pin we use on the farm, lag bolt style gate pins. We also used an Adjust-A-Gate gate frame that Terry had purchased. I have to admit, I was a little leery of it, but it worked great and looked good too!

Installing 2 adjust-a-gate gate frames
Almost done

 

Putting on the finishing touches

All in all we had a great time visiting family in Florida, but now its back to the grindstone. I have a lot to do around the farm this winter!

 

Additional canning and dehydrating supplies:

Jar lifter, sure tight band tool, regular mouth jar storage caps, wide mouth jar storage caps, regular mouth lids and bands, wide mouth lids and bands, Jelly Jars, wide mouth pint jars, wide mouth quart jars, Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, fruit pectin, non stick dehydrator sheet, Recipes for Adventure, mandolin slicer

Be sure to check out and subscribe to the Save Our Skills YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/user/SaveSkills
Follow us on Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/104557873869303516382/+Saveourskills1/posts
and Like our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/saveourskills
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Some links are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase from these links. Thanks for your support in this way.

New Video Posted to the Save Our Skills YouTube Channel

Setting Fence Posts
This the second support video to the blog post Building & Mending Fences (pt. 1)
http://saveourskills.com/mending-fences-pt-1
Be sure to check out and subscribe to the Save Our Skills YouTube Channel
https://www.youtube.com/user/SaveSkills

Building & Mending Fences (pt. 1)

 

One of the many activities around the farm during the fall season is building and mending fence. We have several styles of fence around the farm, woven wire, high tensile single strand, and board panels to name a few.

Board panel fence

 

Woven wire fence

 

High tensile single strand fence

If you have fences or plan on building fences on your property it is well worth the effort to cut your own posts and install the fence yourself. Contracting a fence builder can be expensive!

This past year we built traditional fence and had some fence installed professionally. The contracted fence wound up costing $5.00/ft. or more and when we do the work ourselves it costs $0.65/ft. That is a huge cash savings! However, it is a large investment in sweat equity!

Most of the fence posts around the farm are locust or hedge (osage orange) that we have cut and split from the property. If you’re going to be building fence around your property you will need a few tools. The first tool you’ll need is a chainsaw to fell and limb the trees that will be cut into 7′ fence posts.

 

16″ chainsaw

 

Next you’ll need a sledge & wedges and an ax for splitting the larger posts into smaller posts. You will want to save some of the larger posts for use as corner and gate posts.

Splitting fence post

 

Double bit ax

Sledge hammerWood splitting wedgeAx

 

Once the post are split it’s time to start building fence. We set the first corner post and run a string near the ground, 550 cord works great for this, to the next corner post. If the fence is longer than your string just set a post at the end of your string. Along the string we mark a spot on the ground every 10′ where we will dig each post hole.

Setting fence post row. The post in the foreground is a corner post, notice the string tied to its base. It runs to the next corner post and we marked every 10′ on the ground for each post hole

 

This is the same fence row as above, looking from the other direction

550 cord

 

Digging post holes manually can be quite a chore. If you have a tractor with an auger the job is much easier. If you don’t own a tractor you could use a 2 man power auger which could be rented at most equipment rental stores and possibly Home Depot or Lowes. If you have no powered auger option then your left digging post holes with a shovel, digging bar, and a post hole digger. When I was growing up on the farm, my brother and I built many miles of fence this way. Even if you use an auger, it’s still a good idea to have these tools on hand to clean out and level the bottom of the post holes.

 

old style post hole digger

 

tamping & digging bar

 

Dad & Jeff drilling a post hole

 

ShovelPost hole diggerTamping/digging bar2 person powered auger

 

Now you can start setting the posts you have worked so hard to cut and split. Move the string to the top of the end posts and align the top of the post you are setting with the string. When you have the post aligned start filling the hole with a shovel and tamping evenly around the post as you go. Continue in this fashion until all posts are set.

Neighbor, Jeff, getting ready to set & tamp a post

 

Hand set fence posts prior to stapling on wire

 

You are well on your way to finishing the fence!

In future posts I will be discussing corner braces, gates, water crossings, stretching & stapling wire, and much more on building and repairing fences. Also, tune into the Save Our Skills YouTube channel for future videos on this subject.

Shane

Be sure to check out our support video on splitting fence posts on YouTube – Splitting Fence Post

 

Some links are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase from these links. Thanks for your support in this way.

 

DIY Furniture and woodworking plans

http://ana-white.com/

Sorry for an overly brief blog post, Save Our Skills will be back to full swing in a few weeks.

This site is a gold mine of wood working and DIY information.