How Long Until a Rain Barrel Pays Itself Off?

As part of our project here at Hipster Homesteaders, we wanted to help make our home as sustainable as possible. This includes making changes like expanding our garden to grow more of our own food, getting beehives, installing a composter, eventually buying solar panels, and of course, helping our water consumption by installing a rain barrel!

While we knew that having a rain barrel would generally be a good thing, as our water consumption often spikes considerably in the summer months when our garden is incredibly active, we didn't quite know just how much our savings would be.

So after installing our rain barrel, we tracked our consumption and had some rather interesting figures. So in this one, we thought we'd share what we found plus ways to calculate if a rain barrel is a good economic decision for your own home!

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5 Raccoon Repellants that Didn’t Work (and One That Did)

We are quite fortunate to have a south-facing deck that is large enough to allow us to container garden in the summer and fall. Every year we put out many pots of tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and other items to enjoy the bounty of our prized deck.

In a recent season, however, we had a problem. A big problem in the form of a cute raccoon that decided to call our deck home and eat everything in sight. As it turned out, grease from our smoker had dripped onto the decking and attracted a raccoon, but the plentiful tasty fruits and vegetables caused it to stick around.

It came back again and again and again and virtually ruined our entire season.

After trying many raccoon repellants, we quickly learned that most did not work for our scenario. But after trial and error, we found one that worked. So in this one, we wanted to share what we tried, share why some items didn't work, and discuss why spike strips were our answer.

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How to Brew Kombucha – Easy Steps to Follow at Home

Kombucha is a delicious beverage that's made with sweetened tea fermented with a mixed culture of bacteria and yeast. Although it's widely available in grocery stores these days, making kombucha yourself at home is a really fun and easy fermentation project that can save you money and allow you to customize the flavor and ingredients.

Kombucha was one of the first ferments that I dove into – I like to think of it as a gateway ferment. Requiring nothing more than water, sugar, tea, and a starter culture, it also has a pretty short fermentation time so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor relatively quickly.

We're going to walk you through everything you need to make kombucha and outline the steps to brew this zippy fermented drink.

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How Long Until a Sparkling Water Maker Pays Itself Off?

Raise your hand if you are mildly addicted to sparkling water.

This was us at the beginning of the COVID pandemic when we found our consumption of sparkling water increasing to record proportions (often to the tune of four or five boxes a week). So when we realized just how much money this was costing us, we thought there had to be a better way.

Enter the Aarke sparkling water maker, and after just a few minutes of research, we knew acquiring one of these seltzer makers would really be a game-changer for our consumption.

But the real question to us after the fact was not “how good is the machine?” (we love it), but whether or not it was actually a worthy investment to begin with. So we did some math to see what the payback period would be for different scenarios!

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Graywind Motorized Curtains Review – Game Changer for Sleep

Three of the main reasons we purchased our house is that it is south facing, gets a ton of natural light, and has an exceptional skyline view (check out our Pittsburgh webcam view here)!

For the longest time, we simply did not have any blinds on our windows because we loved having the view and all that light come in. But after a while, especially in the summer months, the early wakeups due to the sunrise became old- we simply wanted to start sleeping in more.

So when we decided to get customized curtains for our bedroom, we decided to go for the motorized blinds and drapes route. We ended up purchasing electric curtains from Graywind as the price increase was not as much as we would've otherwise expected for motorized blinds versus conventional custom blinds. Now that we've had both electric drapes and curtains for several months, we thought we'd share a bit about what they are like in this review!

Note: Photos in this review were taken during the day as nighttime photos are impractical because, well, our room is so dark! As such, it is worth noting again that our house is south facing and our rooms can get exceptionally bright, so when we talk about breakthrough light keep in mind that we are on an extreme end here. 

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Red Thai Curry Recipe – Recreating the Best Thai Food

When traveling around Thailand, we found ourselves not only eating everything the country had to offer but taking as many cooking classes as we could to learn how to make some of the country's best dishes at home.

Curry was one dish we couldn't get enough of, and Thai red curry with seafood was one we found ourselves ordering again and again.

Unfortunately, when it came to learning how to make Thai curry in cooking classes, most lessons involved making curry paste from scratch. This was a cumbersome process that, to be quite honest, most home cooks probably don't have the time or patience for.

So after we got back, we spent a great deal of time taking some of our favorite components from our various recipes and adapting them to use premade curry pastes that we could readily purchase at home. In this one, we wanted to share our red Thai curry recipe using Mae Ploy curry paste!

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How to Make Koji – A Step-by-Step Guide for Home Incubation

Koji is an enchanting fungus that is the secret superpower behind many delicious fermented foods worldwide. It's been used for centuries in different cultures to create products like miso and shoyu.

What exactly is koji and how is it used? Well, the word koji can refer to both the actual mold spores (Aspergillus Oryzae), as well as the final product that you get when you grow koji spores on a substrate. The basic premise is that you inoculate a cooked substrate (rice, barley, and soybeans are some of the most common) with koji spores and incubate for about two days. As koji reproduces, it generates enzymes like proteases and amylases.

The power of these enzymes can then be realized in a second fermentation step by combining the rice koji (or barley koji, soybean koji, etc.) with other ingredients (like soybeans to create miso, for example). In this second fermentation, the proteases and amylases break down carbohydrates and proteins in the fermenting product into their smaller building blocks. These smaller building blocks give the final product a sweeter and/or more umami flavor depending on what you're fermenting and can really do wonders to improve the taste of a meal!

So, if you are looking to make koji at home, you will want to follow these step-by-step procedures to get started.

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4 Fig Propagation Techniques – A Test to Find What Works Best

One of the goals we have here atĀ Hipster Homesteaders is to work on building a garden on our 3,000 square foot, south-facing hillside.

While we have many challenges associated with this, one of the biggest is that we've found buying young fruit bushes and trees for planting can be quite expensive. With the going rate and how much we want to plant on our hillside, buying all the plants, even from local sources, would cost thousands of dollarsĀ as most cuttings range from $10-$25 a pop.

Thankfully, plants are incredibly versatile. Many fruit plants can be grown from saved seeds from the previous season and others can be propagated via cuttings outright. Over the years, we've found that there is no shortage of cuttings available from neighbors in Buy Not a Thing social media groups, and as we learned more about plants, we've found many wild berry patches to cultivate from as well.

One of our first attempts at this process was with fig trees as they're known to be quite easy to propagate via cutting. We purchased a couple of trees at our local farmer's markets and received cuttings of white figs from a friend as well. When we wanted to propagate our two trees into a small orchard (along with the gifted cuttings), we thought it'd be fun to put together a fig propagation test to see what technique works the best!

In this one, we wanted to share our process and our findings.

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How to Build a Homemade Incubator for Fermentation

If you're thinking about diving into the world of fermentation, one of the most important things to plan out is how you will maintain specific temperatures for your ferments during incubation. Provide too much heat, and the organisms will die. Provide too little heat, and they may not reproduce as they should.

Of course, not all ferments require elevated temperatures – lacto ferments like sauerkraut and pickles, for example, are simply done at room temperature. But if you want to explore the worlds of koji, tempeh, miso, yogurt, sourdough, and more, you'll need to maintain elevated temperature ranges that can be quite narrow.

So in this one, we wanted to share how we built our own homemade incubator for fermentation projects as it ended up being rather easy!

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