3 Ways to Propagate Berry Vines, Bushes, and Plants (for Free)

When I said that I wanted to convert our weed-covered hillside into a fruit patch full of berry bushes, fruit trees, and more, Angie had one rule for me starting out- “don't spend money”.

This was partly because she (rightly) knew that our weeds are absurdly challenging (I'm still working on that one) but also because buying fruit trees and bushes can be very, very expensive. So since we were at extreme risks of failure for any endeavor on our hillside, it was logical to try and approach things for free.

So over the last two years, I've been trying just about every idea I can think of to see what will propagate berry bushes and vines at home, and have settled on three techniques you may want to try yourself.

But be warned- some have much higher rates of success than others and, while they can be achieved for free, those who have some equipment at home will be able to increase their success rates accordingly.

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Tempeh Recipe – How to Ferment Tempeh at Home

Tempeh is one of those foods that may elicit polarizing reactions- on one hand, it's white and fuzzy and doesn't seem like something you should be ingesting. But once you take your first bite of homemade tempeh, I guarantee you will be hooked: it's hauntingly floral, nutty, umami, and just plain delicious.

Tempeh can be really hard to find in grocery stores, and if you do find it, it tends to be quite pricey. It's cheaper to make tempeh yourself, with the added benefit that you can experiment with flavors and substrates. Whether you love tempeh or have never tried it but love fermented foods, we urge you to try your hand at making your own tempeh at home using our guide!

Note: This article shares our process on how to ferment tempeh at home; however, the exact proportions of spores-to-soybeans (or other substrates) and other ingredients (like vinegar) are typically outlined on your spore package and should be followed accordingly. As such, treat this article as more of a general process and follow your spore package recommendations above all others.

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Why We Chose Bee Hive Top Feeders Over Entrance Feeders

It is obvious that bees consume honey as their primary food source. But we, as beekeepers, may not live in regions with enough nectar year-round to meet their needs. When this happens, bees have only one option- to deplete the stored honey in the hive.

This can happen when you have a new hive (as a package of bees comes with very little syrup and nucs may only have a frame or two of honey), during summer dearth (when nectar and pollen production goes down in local flowers), if a hive is struggling (such as when a queen dies and hive numbers decrease for a while), or over winter (where bees need somewhere between 50-100 lbs of stored honey to make it through to the following spring) to name a few.

Since we, as beekeepers, like to take excess honey for ourselves, any scenario that causes the bees to deplete their stores may delay or outright prohibit our ability to harvest honey when nectar is flowing abundantly. So many beekeepers turn to feeding their bees food, in the form of sugar syrup, to help get them to build up their stores and allow us access to harvesting that sweet, sweet honey when the time is right.

So in this one, we thought we'd share a bit more about feeders you may want to consider for your beehives, and why a simple top feeder may be the best option!

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Hoover Hives Review – The Best Beehive For Beginners

When we decided to get into beekeeping, it didn't take long for us to realize that we wanted to buy wax-coated hives. 

In being located in southwest Pennsylvania, we are no strangers to the elements. It can snow 12″ here overnight. It can break 100 °F in the summer. We can get several inches of rain out of nowhere. It can be incredibly humid or horribly frigid (or both). More or less, name a weather condition that occurs in the continental United States, and we can see it- many combinations all in a single week, too!

As such, we knew wax coating on our hives would provide an extra layer of protection from the elements and give our bees the best chance of survival. 

When going down this rabbit hole, we discovered Hoover Hives and immediately fell in love with the product and purchased two pre-assembled hives from Galena Farms in Ohio as they seemed like the best bee hive for beginners by far.

It was the best decision when getting started.

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Humble Bee Suit Review – You Should Wear a Bee Keeper Suit

When you go online to read beekeeping advice, you are inundated with a million opinions on why you should (or shouldn't) wear a bee keeper suit. 

Bee suits can be hot. Gloves can be bulky and make it hard to work. They're not 100% sting-proof. I could go on. Some people wear full-body suits, some only wear a veil and gloves, and others wear no protective gear at all.

I cannot advocate for anything less than a full bee suit.

While all of the concerns about bee keeper suits are indeed valid ones, the simple issue is that bees sting (yes, even docile colonies have bad days), and bee stings hurt. Stings in certain locations can hurt a lot, too. So to minimize your chances of getting stung, a bee suit is a must.

I was given a Humble Bee Suit as a gift when I started my own backyard apiary and wanted to share a bit more about it in this review!

  • Disclosure: My body apparently has zero issues with bee stings, so please keep this in mind when reading. Some folks are outright allergic, and others experience minor-to-significant swelling when stung. Do not assume that a bee suit is going to change how you react to a sting. At best, a bee suit may lower the frequency at which you're stung and possibly reduce the time a stinger remains in your body for reasons we will discuss below. Your sensitivity to bee stings is not likely to change.

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5 Ways to Preserve Fruits and Vegetables at Home

If you garden at all, chances are you've been overwhelmed at one time or another with the volume of produce your garden has produced. Or perhaps you participate in a CSA and just can't figure out what to do with those five-pound zucchinis they keep giving you. Or maybe you've just been a little too ambitious with your farmer's market purchases.

We've all been there. However you got there, you've ended up with too many fruits, veggies, or herbs, and there's no way you'll be able to cook with them all before they go bad.

We've been in this position numerous times, and while it used to stress us out trying to figure out how to eat kale for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we've come to realize that there are so many ways to preserve summer's bounty for future enjoyment.

In this one, we dive into an overview of five of our favorite ways to preserve fruits and vegetables- what they are, what equipment you'll need to get started, and some basic ideas to spark your creativity.

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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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