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Posts: 186
Location: Swanton, MD
11
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To cover my expenses, I need to make at least $7,850 off the land.  My expenses are taxes, internet, gas and auto insurance.   My grocery bill is about $250 a year, mostly for salt and other items I cannot produce on the land.  

Here are some of the ways I make money:

1.   Making Pee buckets.   I have found these sell like hotcakes when the electric is out.   I sell about 5 a month during a regular month.   They cost me $15 to make with all new materials and I sell them for $30.   They consist of a 5-gallon bucket, a funnel (I cut off some of the down spout), a 90° angle, 2 bulkhead nuts, and a 6' hose.   I use caulk when screwing on the bulkhead screw nuts.  I put a nut on both sides of the funnel opening with one nut reversed so that I am sandwiching the funnel into place.   The caulk both locks the nuts in place and seals against leaks.  

2.  Making self-watering planters.   I sew a felt liner to fit a 5-gallon bucket.   I drill 2" holes all the way around the bucket except for the bottom 4".   I cut round scraps of perforated roofing that I get for $15 a sheet.  I purchase sheets that have been scratched or are 2nds for some reason.   I cut up 4" of damaged PVC pipes.   I use a diaper as a wick.   All the customer has to do is add whatever potting mix they want and the plant.   I made 118 of these this winter and was sold out by March.  These cost me $9 to make and I sell for $25

3.  Excess veggies.    I have an honor box out front where I place produce, eggs, etc.   People are amazingly honest and I make about $3,000 annually from it.   It is open from about July through late September.

4.   Excess seed.   I allow the best of my crop to go to seed annually.    The plant that grows the best is the one that is most acclimated to my climate and soil conditions.   Therefore, when locals buy my seeds, they do very well.   This business end started slow, but now I have regular customers who swear by me.   I do not ship the seeds, just sell to locals.   I sell the seeds by the each and by the ounce.   I make about $1,000 annually from seed sales.

5.  Christmas wreath materials.   I walk the woods in the fall and collect pine bows, pine cones, acorns, etc.   These sell tremendously well from November on.   I sell them in the honor box out front.   I make about $1,000 annually from the materials.  

6.  Fire Starters.   I purchase wax logs.  I slice them up into 1x1" squares.   In a warm room, these become malleable.   I insert a 1" piece of yarn, then dip the whole thing in paraffin.   Customers swear by them that they place one under a pile of wood with no other kindling and soon they have a fire.   These cost me about 20 cents each to make and I make between $3,000 and $5,000 a year from them.  

I do other things, but those things requires skills.   Except for Saturdays, my hands are always busy doing something small that makes small amounts of money.  

I think the mistake that a lot of people make is putting all their eggs in 1 basket income wise.   The more sources of income you have, the less chance you can be knocked off your feet financially.   I think people read success stories where people make it off 1 item.   I think these are the exceptions not the rule.  
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Posts: 121
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
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Thanks Nancy, this is great.  I've been searching for some ideas for my homestead for awhile now without much luck, and you just gave me 3 ideas!

Do you have any more details on the firestarters? Where do you buy the wax logs?  They cost you 20 cents, but how much do you charge? And do you pack them by the dozen?  More?

Regarding Christmas wreaths, have you considered selling the finished product?  I know a few small nursery owners that make Christmas wreaths as their main business each Winter when they aren't doing hardwood cuttings, and they seem to do really well.  

Regarding pee buckets - who buys these? Are you posting on Craigslist or somewhere else? I'd be all about using one, but I wouldn't think there's much of a market for them...
 
Nancy Troutman
Posts: 186
Location: Swanton, MD
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The firestarters are made from DuraFlame or similar brand logs.   I purchase all I can on clearance sale from Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, etc. at the end of the fire season.  You want the heaviest ones your can find.  

I am sold out at the moment, and do not use them myself to start a fire, or I would send you a picture.   However, I have bought DuraFlame logs for this Fall's fire season, and will be making them in August, so will post a picture then. What you make ends up the size of an egg, so I sell them in egg cartons.  From each 5# log, I get about 400-450"eggs".  It varies.   I use about 10 bars of paraffin.  I sell a package of 12 eggs for $5, or by the each for 50 cents.

The Paraffin is not needed for the fire makers.   The sole purpose of it is to disguise the fact that what you have is a cut up DuraFlame log.    Slice the log while the log is cool but not cold.   Then set the slices out in the warm sun.  Take off an egg sized portion and roll it in your hands with the wick in the center.   The "wick" is not necessary either, but again - disguises the fact you have just sliced up a wax log.   It makes it so you can dip it easily in the paraffin though.   After all the eggs have been rolled, dip them in paraffin.

I do not make finished Christmas products, I just supply the materials.   I have found a larger market for materials than I have for finished products.   It might be different in your area.   In fact, the market is so large for the materials than I have some regular customers that want over 100 pounds of materials.   Ironically, I get paid twice for collecting materials in some cases.   There are a lot of absentee property owners in my area who consider my collection of materials as beneficial to their land.   Sort of cleaning up their property.   Fall leaves sell EXTREMELY well.   Just press them.

I have an honor box out front and my business is mostly word of mouth.   A lot of my pee-bucket business comes from a campground near me that attracts people who car camp.   Wal-Mart, about 30 miles from me, also sends me business as there are about 5-10 people who sleep overnight there in their cars on a regular basis.   People who are car camping from choice or necessity really find the pee-bucket handy.  
 
Posts: 106
Location: Northeast of Seattle, zone 8: temperate with rainy winters and dry summers.
6
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Very good ideas. Thanks for sharing them! We might try some of those this year. How much do you sell the pressed leaves for?

Also, I'm missing something about how the pee bucket works. If you are in your car, or camping, where exactly does the hose go?
 
Posts: 117
Location: White Mountains of New Hampshire zone 5
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Those are all great ideas.  I have made fire starters using those peat seed trays or even egg cartons.  I first fill the individual "cups" with cedar chips (just get a compressed bag at the rabbit pet isle).  Then I would put a birthday candle in each, then I would melt wax (old candles, etc. and pour the melted wax over the cups.  Cut them apart and use as needed.  

I agree with you that there is probably a good market for the wreath materials.  I tried making and selling wreaths, but when you have Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowes all with in a few miles, people will look for the cheapest wreath, even if the ones you make are much prettier.  I think that another way to sell you materials and make some extra $, would be to host a wreath making class, you charge for the class and the materials.  If they enjoyed it, they will be back for next year and bring their friends.  

I really like your pee bucket idea as well,
 
Posts: 63
Location: Zone 7a, Paulden, AZ
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Nancy Troutman wrote:To cover my expenses, I need to make at least $7,850 off the land.  My expenses are taxes, internet, gas and auto insurance.   My grocery bill is about $250 a year, mostly for salt and other items I cannot produce on the land.  

Here are some of the ways I make money:

1.   Making Pee buckets.   I have found these sell like hotcakes when the electric is out.   I sell about 5 a month during a regular month.   They cost me $15 to make with all new materials and I sell them for $30.   They consist of a 5-gallon bucket, a funnel (I cut off some of the down spout), a 90° angle, 2 bulkhead nuts, and a 6' hose.   I use caulk when screwing on the bulkhead screw nuts.  I put a nut on both sides of the funnel opening with one nut reversed so that I am sandwiching the funnel into place.   The caulk both locks the nuts in place and seals against leaks.  

6.  Fire Starters.   I purchase wax logs.  I slice them up into 1x1" squares.   In a warm room, these become malleable.   I insert a 1" piece of yarn, then dip the whole thing in paraffin.   Customers swear by them that they place one under a pile of wood with no other kindling and soon they have a fire.   These cost me about 20 cents each to make and I make between $3,000 and $5,000 a year from them.  

 



These are some great ideas.  I've been camping where 1) the bathrooms were a long walk away 2) I'd rather use something like this than share a bathroom depending on cleanliness.

Question: Do the fire starters leave any residue in the wood stove or fireplace?

Bonnie
 
Posts: 121
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
solar woodworking
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For fire starters, a mix of saw dust or small shavings and lint would work well. Mix it well in Paraffin and pack it in a mold.

Planters! So long as you don't just make the normal square/rectangle box! they should sell.

I have a question: does anyone on permies know of someone who builds living room seating, ie couch and chair set, as a small business?
 
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