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Some of our Homestead Oops Moments and Mistakes

I’ve written a lot of “how to” articles about our life here on our homestead.  I certainly did not have all those things figured out when we moved off grid!  I learned as I went and I’ve learned a lot through trial and error.  Today, I thought I would tell you some of the mistakes Zac and I have made along the way that helped us do things better the next time.  I’m being completely real here and telling you some of our stupid moments!  You know the ones that while you are in the midst of doing them, you are telling yourself, “Ohhh….This is just not going to be good!”, but it’s too late to stop!  If we’re honest, I think we all have those times.  None of us are perfect and we are all still learning.

  1. Using glass pans to bake bread in a wood stove.  This always sticks out to me as my number one stupid moment, only because I should have known better!  One day last winter, I wanted to try baking bread inside my wood stove.  It is not one intended for cooking, but I have been successful in cooking in it anyway.  I just push coals to the back of the fire box and place my dutch oven in front of them.  Well, on this one day I decided to try bread.  I found a metal rack to put inside the stove because I was worried about the bread burning on the bottom and then I set my glass bread pans on top.  Not smart!  By the time the bread was done the pans were completely black.  My cinnamon rolls were the worst because the inside of the pan was covered with burned on sugar.  I’m actually surprised they didn’t break.  It took FOREVER to soak, scrape, and scrub all that stuff off.  I had to use a razor blade for a lot of it. Never again.  Only cast iron from now on!  I know all about baking bread in a dutch oven, so I’m not sure why I even tried this.  Just a lapse of judgement I guess.  Have you ever had those?!
  2. firewood1
    A snowy day last winter.

    Not enough firewood.  Last winter was a cold one!  When heating with only wood, it can take a few months to cut and chop enough to last through the winter.  When winter came last year, my husband and dad had not had enough time to prepare with all the other homestead projects going on.  They decided to purchase a rick of firewood.  They came home with the truck bed completely full and neatly stacked the wood next to the tool shed.  I will always remember my husband’s comment.  “That should last us a good while!”  In reality, it lasted two weeks.  Lesson learned, you can never have enough firewood.

  3. Wearing a long skirt on the homestead.  I love wearing skirts!  But I learned very quickly that they are not practical for the heavy manual work done on a homestead.  Early homesteaders over a century ago, would often tie up their long skirts to make them knee length.  Long skirts drag in the mud.  Long skirts can catch on fire when cooking outside over a fire pit.  Long skirts are a tripping hazard!  One incident sticks out in my brain and it was the turning point for me in changing my mind about skirts.  My hands were very full (as they usually are in coming back and forth from my home), but I was also carrying my baby who was not old enough to even sit up.  I tripped on my skirt, my baby slipped out of my hands and almost fell down the stairs.  I really believe that God was watching over us because on his way down, I was able to grab him and keep him safe.  The mother instinct is powerful!  So I made the decision: No skirts for me while working around the homestead.  It just makes things so much easier and safer.  I still love wearing them when I go to town or have relaxing days around here.
  4. Slip on boots/shoes stuck in the mud.  This has been more of an issue for the kids than for us adults.  My oldest son has some slip on shoes that he loves to wear because they are easy on and easy off.  I love them because I don’t have to help him!  But I’ve learned they are not good in the mud.  On more than one occasion, his shoe got stuck in the mud in mid-stride.  He completed his step with only his sock on.  Muddy socks are not fun to wash.  When it’s really muddy, lace up boots are essential.
  5. Using baking soda to clean a propane oven.  I love the baking soda trick for cleaning an oven.  Just spray the inside of your oven with
    oven-with-baking-soda
    I think it’s funny that I took this picture to document my attempt before the disaster happened!
    water, sprinkle baking soda over the entire surface and let it sit for a while.  Open the door and simply wipe off the mess.  There is no yucky nasty smelly chemicals that fill your house.  I’ve used this method in an electric oven and it works very well.  I found out that it’s not great for a propane oven.  I tried it a few months ago with potentially disastrous results.  The bottom of my oven has small slits around the edge that allow the heat to come through from the propane flame below.  These slits collected baking soda that I could not wipe out.  When I turned on the oven, I thought that I had set fireworks off inside!  There were so many sparks and popping noises!  My only remedy for this was to spray the surface again with water and then turn on the oven for a very short time.  I repeated this several times until the sparks stopped.  Please tell me if you have been successful in using baking soda to clean your propane oven.  I would love to try again with a little more guidance.
  6. Using a chainsaw without the proper safety equipment.  My husband has gotten very good with his chainsaw since we moved away from the city.  I love watching him work!  He hadn’t been using it very long when one day he found me and said that he was bleeding and needed the first aid kit.  He had cut his leg with the chainsaw!  It wasn’t bad, just a big scratch.  It could have been much worse.  Evidently this is a common accident because they make things called chainsaw chaps.  After that we purchased some and now he wears them whenever he uses the chainsaw.  I’m so thankful that he practices working safely.
  7. lantern
    One of our Dietz Blizzard lanterns.

    Overfilling kerosene lanterns.  The sun had already set when I realized that my lanterns were both empty.  I rushed outside to fill them before the light was gone from the sky completely.  My husband was not home, so my dad offered to help.  We got them full and I headed back to our travel trailer (home for the first 9 months of our off grid life).  I hung them on their hooks.  A few seconds later, my oldest son cries, “It’s dripping!”  Kerosene was dripping down on his comforter!  I picked it up to carry it out and realized the lantern had already left a trail of kerosene down the center walkway of the trailer when I brought it in.  I emptied the lanterns of some of the kerosene and wiped up the mess as much as I could.  All while my baby was fussing to eat.  Thankfully my parents had an extra comforter in their shed.  My husband came home a couple hours later.  The first words out of his mouth were, “Why does the trailer smell like kerosene?”  Uggghhh….  After that I learned how much my lanterns would hold and only put in that amount.

These are just a few of our oops moments.  I can look back now and laugh at some of the moments when at the time I felt like crying.  In other moments, I can see how my family has been protected and I’m so grateful.  I know that we have a lot of other homesteaders who read our blog.  I would love to hear your stories of how you have messed up and learned along the way!

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About JaimieB

Jaimie lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead known online as An American Homestead. They live with their two sons and her parents Tim and Joann on 50 acres located deep in the American Ozark Mountains.

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7 comments

  1. That’s good to know about the propane stove. We use propane for our stove. It was converted from natural gas setting so I’m not sure if it would have the same issue – but I’ll be sure to check before I try any baking soda.

  2. I love your way of living , you inspired me to go very natural I am 64 , I will start in 10 days at the most, wish me luck . About your propane oven, use one tablespoon of any kind of vinegar in one liter of water and spry inside your oven after wiping the baking soda and wipe it again, it reacts with baking soda and neutralizes it. Wish you very happy days.

  3. One of mine today–made meat balls(good recipe); cooked in cup cake tins in cup cake papers; always remove the meatballs from the paper before freezing; I had to partly thaw to remove the paper.
    Tip: remove the meatballs from the paper and place on wax paper before freezing–pops right off!

  4. A big one–when making strawberry jelly/preserves/jam, I used a recipe that called for lemon zest for pectin.
    No, use orange zest–much better. Lemon zest has too much tart.

  5. I can certainly relate to your “oops”! My husband and I have gone through some oops, too and one of them was a terrible mistake we still regret to this day with sadness. Our milk goat had triplets and after everything seemed fine, she suddenly dropped over and died. The triplets lived but had no time to get colostrum and we had none to give. Being new to goats, we didn’t have the experience of knowing the right thing to do and called a vet who told us to get some Similac baby formula to feed them. It turned out to be our worse mistake and they died after a couple of days. It turned out that commercial formula for human babies, especially with soy in it turned out to be lethal for the kid goats. Never again will that happen. And after researching the formula and what we can do in the event this happens again, I have found that feeding these types of formulas is a detriment to all babies, both human and animals.
    Like you, Jamie, I used to wear skirts and found they just don’t go well with outside homesteading work.

  6. Like you say laughing now but with a bit of “uhg!” in it. We have power though it goes out on a semi regular basis & we are prepared for it to do so. Here’s a tip if you do have electric ~ don’t forget to turn off the water when filling the trough. Especially important in winter since the animals can’t get to the trough for the skating rink around it.
    Also glad to hear about the trife of wearing a skirt and your common sense approach. I have heard rants about why they are not a problem, and I think of all the times they would have at least put me in danger: crawling through barbed wire fences, riding horseback all day, tending a burn pile, hoping a fence to avoid an upset critter, etc.
    Great post. We can certainly learn from the mistakes others make.

  7. Jaimie, we also have a propane stove and like you, I like to use baking soda to clean it. It does such a wonderful job. It is a definite staple in our house. Although I didn’t have the experience you had, I did wonder if I could actually sprinkle it in the oven without anything happening. I decided I had better not, and then started trying to figure out another way. I like to make my own household cleaners, laundry soap, etc., so I didn’t want to use any harsh chemicals. This is what I came up with: A put about 1/2 cup of baking soda in a small bowl, added a couple teaspoons of dawn dish soap, (this has no harsh chemicals and is safe enough to use on animals), I mixed that into a paste and then added just enough white vinegar to smooth it out. Be sure to add the vinegar slowly, as it has a volcano effect when added to the baking soda. This makes the ultimate cleaning solution for our propane stove, and many other surfaces in our home.
    Thank you for sharing your homesteading life. My husband and I really enjoy learning from you and your family.
    Blessings!

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