55 Uses for Garbage Bags

 55 Uses for Garbage Bags

 Bringing Rural Back Podcast

One of the things I like to do is take an object, any object and try to figure out as many uses for it as possible. Is this a preparedness exercise? Yeah, I guess it is, but it is also an exercise in creative thinking and problem solving. This process can be done with anything. I have already do this with handkerchiefs and vet wrap, now I am going to take on garbage bags. How many will I come up with? At this point I don’t know. I have a list, but I am sure more will come to mind as I go along. For the purposes of this exercise we are going to consider the non scented variety. Ready for the adventure?

The Container

For this category it really doesn’t matter if we are talking about the white, black, or the clear garbage bags. When one of my suggestions requires one over the others I will let you know.

  1. Of course use it for garbage. It just goes to reason if we are talking about a garbage bag that we should be able to use it for all of the stuff that needs to go away.
  1. Laundry basket. There have been many a college student that have figured this one out. When their clothes get so disgusting that they cannot stand them anymore, they just stuff them all in a garbage bag and make the trek back home to have mom or dad do their laundry.

  2. Make do luggage. I have done this one a few times myself. You are planning on going somewhere, but don’t have any luggage and either don’t have time or money to purchase any, a garbage bag will serve the purpose. Yes your clothes will be really wrinkled, but very few young people care about such trivial matters.
  1. Temporary Backpack.  Yup, it is related to the make do luggage, but you can use any garbage bag as make do luggage but if you are wanting to use them as a temporary backpack you will need the ones with the drawstring. As long as the load isn’t too heavy and you are not traveling through brush or a wooded area, it will actually work fine.
  1. Collect Rainwater. Just spread it out while it is raining. The water will gather and you will be able to use it.
  1. Store Water. I know its not perfect, but it will do the job.
  1. Forage collection. If you are out and about and come up on say a large stand of blackberries that are perfectly ripe. I for one wouldn’t want to pass that opportunity up, but I have no basket. If I have a clean garbage bag either in my backpack or in my vehicle, I am good to go.
  1. Emergency Toilet. I don’t know if you have ever been in a situation where there was no place to go….well you know relieve yourself. Maybe the plumbing is out or whatever. For me it isn’t a big deal to just go in the woods or high grass and take care of what needs to be done. For others this is very challenging. A bucket and a garbage bag and you have an emergency toilet. If you add to that either sawdust/wood chips or the blue stuff that is used in RV toilets you have something that can be maintained without all the stink. Once the event passes just toss the garbage bag.
  1. Grocery Bag. There are more and more stores that are charging for grocery bags, we even have one fairly close. We use grocery bags for garbage bags so why not the other way around. Garbage bags are way more durable than the thin little bags they provide.
  1. Short-term Food Storage. I really mean short term, but if you have nothing else this is a way to reduce the likelihood that insects will get into your food.
  1. Hanging Food in a Tree. If you are in an area that has bears you have probably heard horror stories of bears getting into people’s food supply while they are camping. The best way to avoid this is to hang your food high in a tree limb. They make bags specifically for this purpose, but if you don’t have one of these bags you will have to improvise. A bit of rope and a garbage bag and you have a way to hang your food out of the reach of Yogi and his friends.
  1. Mixing Food or Drinks. If you don’t have anything else you can use a garbage bag to mix food or drinks. You can either do this by placing the items in the bag and shaking or you can actually use the bag in conjunction with either sand or soil to make an actual bowl.

 Personal Comfort and More

So far we have talked about storage and have really already come up with more than I would have thought before I started this exercise. In this section we will be talking about the ways we can use garbage bags to make us a little more comfortable.

  1. Emergency Poncho. I have done this one myself. Take a large garbage bag and cut a hole for your head and one for each of your arms. After you have done this put it on like a pull over shirt. This will keep rain from getting on your upper body, but I must warn you that if it is warm at all, you will wind up sweating.
  1. Make Shift Umbrella. This one will go nicely with the last one. You can get as creative or as basic as you wish. I have seen people actually make a frame out of small sticks and tape a garbage bag to them to make a true redneck umbrella. When you combine the two, you can stay reasonably dry.

  2. Keep Your Feet Dry. I have my mother to thank for this one. When I was a child and it would snow, she would take some bathroom size garbage bags and would put them over my shoes (I never had waterproof shoes growing up) and would secure them with normally large rubber bands. This would keep the melting snow from soaking my feet.

  3. Keep Your Hands Dry. This is the same as the one above, though honestly if I remember correctly my mother would use the bags that sandwich bread came in most of the time.
  1. Keep Your Clothes Dry. Oh the creativity and sheer lack of concern of youth. As a young adult I would go camping whenever possible. One time some buddies and I went camping and it came up a rainstorm. I quickly pulled a garbage bag out of my backpack and stuck the entire backpack in the garbage bag. The storm didn’t last long, but when it had passed, I was the only one that had dry clothes. I guess I can thank my mom for that one too because of the feet and hands thing when I was younger.
  1. Keep Your Sleeping Bag Dry. I really don’t think this one needs much elaboration, sleeping in a damp or wet sleeping bag stinks.
  1. Insulating Clothing. Garbage bags are good at this for a reason. They keep most of the air in them. When you are cold, you are really trying to maintain you body heat. Since garbage bags are plastic this heat tends to be trapped. Using the same method as the poncho only put the bag under your clothing. You will stay a lot warmer.
  1. Emergency Blanket. They are not as good at this as a mylar blanket, but they beat not having anything.
  1. Life Preserver. I really, really, really wouldn’t want to have to rely on one, but if there is nothing else available, a garbage bag filled with air and tied off might be just enough to get you or someone else to safety.
  1. Hair Bow or tie. Now, I personally don’t have to deal with this because I keep my hair really short, but I do have daughters that this would apply to. Just cut into strips and use away.

Shelter Related Uses

23 & 24 A Pillow and a Bed. Take a garbage bag and fill with leaves or straw and you can make a bed. This would be far preferable to sleeping on gravel. This will also keep you from being subjected to any moisture that is in the padding material.

  1. Ground Cover. In a survival situation everyone thinks about trying to find or create shelter. Only one problem with that, most people when you say shelter automatically think a roof. The truth of the matter is that a floor is many times WAY more important than a roof. This is really true in three out of the four seasons. Summer is the only season that it could even be argued that a roof is as important as a floor.
  1. Sunshade. I know we just touched on this a little, but in a very hot area or during the middle of summer a sunshade is worth a lot.
  1. Improvise a Shelter or Waterproof one you already have.  The big contractor bags can be made into a one person tent without too much effort and I am sure you know someone that has lost their rain fly from a backpacking tent. Any good sized garbage bag can be used as a replacement rain fly.
  1. Fly Screen for Make Shift Shelter. Okay, so you are out and you need to set up camp, but you haven’t got a tent at all. You think back and you remember how to setup a lean to shelter. Branches and leaves later you have a workable little shelter or you find a rocky outcropping that can be used for a shelter. A garbage bag opened up and split down the middle, you can create a doorway for your shelter that will help keep insects out.
  1. Black out  Windows. If you have ever had to work nights, you know just how important this can be. Use the dark, really thick ones and a little tape for the best results.
  1. Solar Shower. Use the black or darker garbage bags for this one too. The dark plastic will absorb the heat from the sun and warm the water. Once the water is hot you can either cut the corner of the bag out or use a pin or needle to stick some holes in the bag. If you stick small pin holes in the bag this is a one time use thing. If you make a small cut in one of the bottom corners and have a way to either clip or retie that corner this can become a multi use item.
  1. Belt for Holding Up Your Pants. I know a lot of people who don’t use a belt. I don’t really understand it, but I do. After you have worn a pair of pants for a while they tend to get loose. Take several strips, braided together would be best, and tie into a knot to help keep from having to do what I call the wump dance. (Every few steps having to pull up your pants.)

First Aid Uses

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you will have to administer first aid you will have to utilize what you have and whatever you can scrounge. Unless you have a very extensive first aid kit you may have to get creative. Hopefully you will never find yourself in this type of situation, but if you do being able to think outside the box and come up with made do ideas. Here are a few uses for garbage bags that will help if you find yourself in a situation like this.

  1. Ice Pack. Simple and it doesn’t matter what size garbage bag you have. Just add ice and double ply the ice pack. Apply to whatever needs it.

  2. Keep a Bandage Clean. This is critical in areas that are extremely dusty or wet. Cut to about 2 inches larger than the area that is bandaged in all directions. Tape all the way around. Once you are out of the dirty or damp areas remove the cover, but this can really help prevent problems with an otherwise manageable injury or wound.
  1. Sling. Say someone has injured their shoulder, you need something to help keep it stationary, a sling is what is needed. Only one problem, you don’t have a sling in your first aid kit or backpack. If you have a garbage bag you can create one.
  1. Tie a Splint. I guess you can tell we are going up in urgency of emergency (hey, I rhymed) as we continue this list.
  1. Tourniquet. You will definitely have to either use multiple plys or braid several strips to make it strong enough to stop bleeding, but if you are faced with this situation, you can make do.
  1. Make Shift Stretcher. You will need the heavy mill contractor type bags or several of other type bags, but two strong poles and the garbage bags are a lot better than trying to carry someone out of an emergency over your shoulders.
  1. Sucking Chest Wound. A sucking chest wound is a wound that has impacted a lung. Care should be taken to keep air from entering the chest cavity through the hole. This is where you can use a garbage bag, or at least part of it. The bag should be cut so at least 2 inches of plastic extend beyond the edged of the hole all the way around. There is some debate over whether this should be taped on all four sides or only three. Four sides would help ensure that no air enters, three sides if done tightly should do the same, but also allow any air that has entered the chest cavity a way of escape.
  1. Body Bag. My wife didn’t want me to include this one at all and to be honest if a situation is this bad, things are really bad. But they can be used for this if needed.

Water Based Uses

I know I have already listed water catchment, but here are some more ways to use garbage bags to help you get not only water, but clean water.

  1. Part of a Solar Still. A solar still uses the heat from the sun to cause water to evaporate. This evaporation is captured by a cover (garbage bag). The garbage bag is positioned in a way that the condensation runs to a collection area. The water that ends up in the collection area is clean.
  1. Get Water From Trees. This really only works from mid spring through early fall. Find a low hanging limb with lots of leaves. Put the limb with all of the leaves in the garbage bag. The sun will draw out the moisture from the leaves and it will collect in the bottom. Cut a hole and drink away.
  1. Melt Snow. A black or dark garbage bag will work best, but if you need water and there is snow on the ground this can be a lifesaver. Do not eat snow in a survival situation. It will keep you hydrated, but will lower your core body temperature and can lead to hypothermia.

Lots of Other Uses

In this section we are going to list uses that range from survival to mundane and even a few that are last minute frugal. I hope you enjoy.

  1. Patching for Leaks in Containers. This works best for dry goods, but even for liquid it will help. Cut a piece out that is larger than the hole and tape in place.
  1. A Plate. So you have been out foraging, fishing, or hunting, or maybe a combination and you have come back to camp with your possibles and are ready to cook and eat. Dang it! No plate. Once again you can use a clean garbage bag, just make sure everything is cool enough not to melt the plastic.
  1. Signal Stick a white garbage bag on a branch and wave away. It might save you some day.

  2. Trail Marker. Strips tied in branches of trees.

  3. Windsock Tells you the way the wind is blowing.

  4. Banner for Message

  5. Frost protection. Like the mini greenhouse below, but doesn’t have to be as secure.

  6. Mini Greenhouse Clear or opaque only, with some way to keep the plastic off of the plants.

  7. Weed Barrier. I would only use these in flower beds or areas where it is non food producing plants. Be sure and mulch on top. Most plastics are photo degradable which means sunlight makes them break down.

  8. Fire Starter This is not preferable, but if it is all you have plastic will help you get a fire started. While the plastic is burning it will release chemicals so do not cook over this fire for a good while, at least until all plastic has burned up. Even then I don’t know that I would unless I was in a dire situation.

53 Rope. I have alluded to this a few times already. The think contractor type bags can hold a fair amount without doing anything to them. If you will take the time and cut strips and then braid them together, their carrying capacity is quite impressive.

  1. Gift Wrap.  I know it seems strange with the rest of the list, but I have done this. Say a gift is last minute or large or a weird shape. Use a white garbage bag. You can be as formal or as basic as you want. You can cut the bag and wrap it properly or you can just stick the gift in there and cinch it up. If you want it to be nicer, more personal, or more festive a set of colored markers and a little artistic talent can turn a regular old garbage bag into something that will be talked about (in a positive way) for years.
  1. Short-Term Weight Loss   Yup, I said that. I remember several years ago while I was in the Army a buddy of mine was in what they called the fat boy program. He had to weigh in every so often. On the day that he would have to weigh in he would wear garbage bags all day. He would sweat like mad. That would cause him to temporarily lose weight. At least for a day or so. All of the weight lost is due to water weight, but it does work.

There you have it 55 ways to use a garbage bag. This has been an exercise in make do engineering. I hope you enjoyed it. Can you think of some ways I didn’t I would love to hear them in the comments section.

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Episode 18 Dealing with Predators on the Homestead

 Dealing with Predators on the Homestead


Bringing Rural Back Podcast

Warning some will find this topic uncomfortable, but it is part of our life.

Livestock is a big part of the homesteader’s life. They provide meat, milk, eggs, and a whole host of other products. They are a big investment of time, energy, emotion, and money. Loses are to be expected, it stinks but happens. No matter how well you care for your animals you will occasionally have to deal with disease, accidents, injury, and predation.

All of these can be greatly reduced by proper animal care. Keeping your animals area clean, ensuring good quality food, and clean water are key, plus allowing the animals to live as close to a natural life also helps animals stay healthy. Keeping a close eye on your livestock and the conditions of their containment can reduce the odds of injury. The one area where we have the least control is predators. We can build our fences horse high, bull strong, and pig tight and a determined predator will some times still find a way in to our livestock.

Types of Predators

As a homesteader goes down in size of livestock the number and types of predators we have to deal with goes up. For cattle, goats, and sheep the only predators we deal with are coyote, mountain lion, stray dogs, and in some areas of the country wolves.  Once you step down to fowl or rabbits you still have all of the above and add to them raccoon, opossum, skunk, snakes, and birds of prey.

Just how is a small sized homestead supposed to keep their animals safe? We are going to go through a few ways to try to keep your animals alive.


Coyotes are an opportunistic predator. Unless really hungry they will not come close to a home. Coyotes have been known to take sheep, goats, young calves, and any type of fowl they can get their jaws on. They are most dangerous when they hunt in packs. The sound of a coyote pack yelping in the distance will cause the hair on the back of your head to stand up on end.

Stray and Untrained Pets

Around here stray and untrained dogs are our most common predator. They are a challenge in that they do not fear people like the coyotes do. They are willing to walk right up to your home. In many cases you may welcome them, even pet and feed them. The stray dogs are having to fend for themselves. These animal I really feel sorry for. The untrained dogs are the ones that bug me the most. Many people get a dog the same way they get a toy for their children. The children will love the dog, but as soon as the new wears off the dog is left to its own devices. Around here there is a whole group of people that just do not take care of their animals. I cannot tell you the number of times we have seen starving animals that stay close to a home nearby. We also have several feral cats in our area. Cats that were gotten as pets or in some cases their ancestors were gotten as pets and were left to fend for themselves.

Cats are not normally an issue except when you have small fowl or are trying to raise quail or rabbits. Once a desperate cat realizes there is a fertile hunting ground, trouble will follow. Both dogs and cats will continue to try your livestock’s defenses until they find a weakness. If a weakness if found these animals will come back regularly until they are either caught or the recourse runs out (that means all of you chickens are dead). If you have an active animal control they may be a good resource. You might however find that your animal control officer really isn’t that interested in doing a whole lot to help you out.

If you are in a situation where a neighbors pet is killing your livestock, please go to the neighbor first. Some will not listen to you, some will claim that it is not their animal that is responsible. If possible provide them with some form of proof, a game camera works great for proof. You may find that the neighbor will take responsibility for the actions of their pet and reimburse you for the damages caused. Please, do not be surprised if the pet owner does not take responsibility.

Again give your neighbor the opportunity to rectify the situation by either training or containing the animal. After this good faith gesture has been offered, other methods may be required. Depending on the size of the offending animal live traps or euthanasia may be your only options.

Small Predators

For fowl, small predators tend to be the greatest challenge. Raccoons are really too smart for their own good. If a raccoon cannot crawl through a fence, the will dig under. If they cannot dig under they will climb over. If they cannot climb over they will try to destroy the fence. These things are so smart that I have heard people tell stories of raccoons opening gates. Weasels, opossum, and skunks can be just a tenacious and cause as much damage.

Flying Predators

Hawks, owls, and in some areas eagles can cause losses as well. The problem with flying predators is very similar to all of the others. Once a predator realizes there is a readily available source of food at you place, they will keep coming back.



Traditional fences and cover

I know this seems like it should just be a given, but there are things we can do to make our animals containment areas safer. A barbed wire fence may keep larger livestock in but it will do very little to keep predators out. If you have the money using hog wire or field fence for your fencing is going to do a better job of keeping predators out. There will still be weak points. The most common weak points are gates and where the land suddenly changes in elevation.

I know there is a movement to free ranging fowl and I like the idea, but for the safety of the animal I advise at the least a secure location for the birds to roost. For small animals like poultry double fencing is a good idea.  Use chicken netting on the inside the layers the outside with 1×2 dog wire. This dramatically increases the strength of the fence down low where most animals will try to break through. You can also bury a few inches of the fencing to help prevent animals from trying to dig under. I have decided that I will line the bottom of the pen with treated lumber. This will keep many predators from being able to crawl under.

If you are in an area prone to flying predators, having a top on your animal containment can really reduce losses. Several years ago I had a free range egg operation. We kept around 50 hens at all times and had a good client base. A red tailed hawk found our little operation. I think the first time he/she found it was by sheer circumstance.  It took out an older hen. She was too far from the pen. Less than a week later we lost another hen. Two successful kills was all it took to put my chickens on this hawks permanent menu. We saw a two day reprieve and then suffered losses three days in a row. That weekend I put a top on the chicken run and kept them in the pen for a nearly a week. About the sixth day of containment, I heard a major ruckus from the pen area. I ran out to find our no so friendly neighborhood hawk had somehow managed to get through the top screen and kill another chicken. Only now that he/she was trying to get away with its prize, couldn’t figure out a way out of the pen. This bird was removed from our situation and we didn’t suffer any more losses from predators for over a year and no more from flying predators.

When free ranging you can also make sure your animals have access to cover. Cover can be anything from shrubs to a wooded area. Every chicken I have ever lost to flying predators was out in an open field more than 50 feet away from any type of cover. You may lose a couple, but to be brutally honest these will be the birds that aren’t very smart. The rest will learn for the signs of flying predators and will head for cover whenever a wrong shadow crosses the ground or they hear the scream of a hawk or other predator.

 Electric fences

Electric fences can be an incredible and flexible addition to any homestead. This is especially true for anyone who is trying to free range or even paddock shift their animals. With a solar fence charger, some push in fence posts, and a bit of wire you can create a fencing system that will do very well against the most common predators (the ones that can’t fly).

Wire placement and sizing of the solar charger are the two most difficult parts of an electric fence. I like the 25 mile charger, even if I am only fencing in one acre. Why? First we are solidly at the bottom end of its range, that means if I wish to expand later there will be no issue. Second, I like the charger to have some zap to it (pun intended). If you are using half of the potential for any machine it is more likely to breakdown.

How I like to set up an electric fence whether permanent or temporary is at least a 3 strand system. I will use pigs as an example. A pig is almost as bad an escape artist as a goat. The only reason I didn’t use goats for an example is because I have much less experience with them. With pigs the heights of the wires are as follows: first row between 8 and 12 inches off the ground, second row is right at 24 inches off the ground and the top row is between 30 and 36 inches. All three wires are hot (this means energized by the charger).


If used correctly traps can be quite effective at helping alleviate predation pressure on your livestock. We are going to cover two different types of traps, the live trap and the jaw trap. Yes, I know the jaw traps are controversial, but you know what? I have used them and they work in situations where all the others fail.

Live Traps

Live traps also called cage traps are the ones most people think about when someone mentions traps. They are basically a wire cage with a tripping mechanism in the back of the cage. These types of traps are baited and set in areas where the predators are most likely to find them. Using correct and desirable bait make this job easier. Cage traps come in a variety of sizes and should be selected based on the size of the animal you are expecting to apprehend. Cage traps are a little more socially acceptable, but depending on the predator involved may not be an option.

Live traps must be baited. When wanting to catch a predatory raccoon or opossum, I have found that the best bait is sardines or canned mackerel, but any food that has a strong scent can be used. If you are facing any of the larger predators, cage traps are not an option. Coyote and foxes are too observant to be caught by a cage trap. Yes I know there will be someone who has heard of someone who told a story about a guy who caught a coyote in a cage trap, and maybe they did, but nationally there are very few caught this way. In urban environments it might be easier because they have gotten used to having all kinds of new things around, but once you get rural at all that familiarity goes out the window.

Once you have captured the animal you will have to decide what you are going to do with it. There are many people who will take the offending animal and take it to a park or remote area and release the perpetrator. Others will dispatch the animal.

Jaw Traps

Jaw traps are without any doubt the most frowned upon by the animal rights people. They are welcome to their opinion, even if its wrong. The jaw traps of the past were quite gruesome. The old school jaw traps had teeth and were designed to break the bones of any animal that stepped into them. These style of traps are outlawed in most US states.

Modern jaw traps are a lot more humane. They no longer have teeth and most are padded. A properly adjusted trap very rarely does any permanent damage to the animal. Jaw traps can be path set or bait set. Path set means that you have found an area where the predator frequents and you set these traps in the high traffic areas of the predator. (Warning! Jaw traps cannot tell what is what. Anything that steps in them will get caught. If you are going to use these traps be sure that people or pets will not be in this area while the trap is set.) Bait set is the one that I have used in the past. Find the remains of an animal that the coyote has taken and place the traps in that area. They will come back to finish off the carcass or just hang out.

If you are going to use jaw traps, you must check on the traps each day. Jaw traps are a big responsibility, do not do this lightly.

Remember the only reason you are trying to catch these animals are because they have killed some of your livestock. If you don’t fix the situation it will not be long before you have no more chickens, ducks, or whatever.

It is unusual for a coyote to take a large adult livestock that is healthy. They tend to target young and sickly animals. The primary culprit for taking larger livestock are male coyotes, between the ages of 3 to 5.

Predator Hunting

In many cases predator hunting is a better answer for larger predators. Coyotes are very smart. You normally only have to kill one or two before the whole pack realizes that your farm is a danger zone. I will say this, anytime you see a predator that shows no sign of fear, can become dangerous, that animal should be dealt with.

A predator call can be utilized to make hunting coyotes and foxes much easier. There are several different types of predator calls, some are supposed to even draw bear. You will want to talk to someone at your local sporting goods store to help you select a call.

Predator hunting can reduce your homestead losses and if you want you can harvest the hides to sell/trade or even make things. I love working with hides.

The Homestead Dog

This may be the best answer for all of the above. As long as you select a protective breed, a good dog will stop most if not all homestead predation. I know that the dog cannot be everywhere all the time and I have seen raccoons still take a chicken every so often even with a dog. Dogs are very effective for protection of goats and sheep, especially is you select and train a Livestock Guard Dog. I go into this discussion in depth in the post Selecting the Homesteader’s or Prepper’s Dog.

Have you had to deal with predators on the homestead? What did you do? Were you successful? I would really like to hear. Thanks

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Selecting the Homesteader’s or Prepper’s Dog

Your text here

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Before I get started on the conversation of selecting the right dog for the job, I want to cover my qualifications to even have this discussion. I was a professional dog trainer for over eight years. At one time I was an AKC (American Kennel Club) Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. I have either trained or helped train protection, tracking, herding, competition obedience, competition agility, and basic manners to both pure bred and mixed breed dogs. I have done private lessons, group classes, and even boarded training. When my German Shepherd was younger, he was in the top five shepherds in the nation in his division of obedience. For those of you know know AKC titles he holds the titles of UD, CDX, CD, NA, NAJ, OA, OAJ, AX, AXJ, well you get the picture. I have trained dogs and owners ranging from chihuahua mixes to great danes and from pre teens to senior citizens. I am qualified.

The Dog’s Personality and Living Conditions

I have helped many people select a dog for their family or their application. There are several things to consider. Where will the dog live? I am of the opinion that any dog can be an indoor dog and there are some breeds that really shouldn’t be outdoor dogs. Some dogs have difficulty handling heat, others can’t deal with cold, you will have to do research for your climate. You will have to consider the cost of feeding and vet costs for your animal. For this post I am going to focus on the dog’s personality and the age of the dog when you get him/her.

The Dog’s Age

There is something to be said for adopting an older dog. If you adopt an older dog you are going to have to deal with the successes and failures of the previous owners. You can benefit from not having to deal with potty training, chewing everything in site, and even socialization issues, but you can also have to deal with mistreatment, failed training, inappropriate aggression, and more.  I am not saying that you cannot train out those failures, but there is something to be said for starting with a clean slate.

The Dog’s Personality

This is just as important if you are going to start off with a puppy as it is when adopting an adult dog. We are going to focus on selecting a puppy. Here is my list of selection criteria.

  1. Don’t be in a hurry. There are always puppies available for purchase or adoption. Unless you are bound and determined to have a puppy from specific bloodlines, you don’t have to get a puppy today.
  1. Sex of the dog. Is there really any reason to have one sex of dog over the other? Well, that depends. Females can be a little better with children, can be but not always. Males are larger and look more impressive if you are looking for the wow factor. I have found that there is little to no difference in the intelligence of one sex of dog over the other. I have owned both and actually still do.
  1. The temperament of the dog. I have made this suggestion hundreds of times. Do not get the timid puppy, but don’t get the most outgoing either. Why not the most timid? It has been my experience that more dog bites occur as a result of fear than aggression. A timid dog is more likely to bite you during your everyday life and run when you are in danger. Timid dogs can be more difficult to train, and you can run into socialization issues with other members of your family.  Why not the most outgoing puppy?  The more outgoing puppies tend to have a higher level of confidence and a stronger will. You may be thinking, this is great, that is the one I want. There is a price that comes with this higher level of will. The more outgoing puppies can have dominance issues. There are several breeds of dogs that if there is not a clearly defined leader in the house they are more than happy to become that leader.  Pick a puppy that isn’t fearful. Pick one that will pay attention to you, not the most aggressive or the most fearful.

What do you want the dog to be able to do?

Certain dogs are just better qualified to do some things than others. This is not being judgmental, it is just a fact. Dogs can do a variety of jobs ranging from hunting companion to personal protection.  A Dachshund or Jack Russell terrier will be much better qualified to do rodent control than a Labrador and Labrador will be better at retrieving really anything than either of the two.We are going to cover several of the common jobs that a dog could have around the home front and some of the breeds of dogs that would be best suited to that job. In everyone of these areas there will be mixed breeds that will be as good and in some cases even better than pure bred dogs, don’t think I am being a breed snob. In some cases I will actually suggest a mix of certain breeds for the best of both worlds.

Personal Protection Dog

You are going to find out really quickly that there are divisions within each section that should be considered. In the personal protection realm there are two primary divisions, bite dogs and alarm dogs. The type and personality of the dog will determine what they will be best at. Some will excel at one area or the other and some will be fairly good at both.

Bite Dog

Bite dog breeds should be medium sized or larger. While you are much more likely to be bitten by a dachshund, chihuahua, or shih tzu (and these bites really hurt, trust me I know) they are not the dogs that are likely to be real beneficial in a true protection situation. The honor roll includes breeds like the German shepherd dog, the Doberman, the Rottweiler, Belgian Malinois, other dogs can make really fine bite dogs. Great Danes, Pit Bulls, Pit Bull mixes, and several others make fine bite dogs.

Here is my warning. Find a qualified instructor. Do not train a bite dog using YouTube. Yes, I know there are lots of videos on there teaching you how to do this, and some are actually quite good, but without having a trained set of eyes to watch what you are doing, you will mess up.

A well trained bite dog is completely trustworthy with an army of six year olds all holding plastic bats and a nightmare to anyone who would try to harm you. An improperly trained bite dog can be really dangerous and you really don’t want to have to try to explain to a friend or family member that someone has died or was maimed by your dog that you trained without the direction of a professional.

Alert Dog

The truth of the matter is most of the time you don’t even need a bite dog. If someone is trying to break into your home, they usually want to get in and get out without being noticed. These people rely on stealth. The yippy little ankle biters can do a great job of letting you know someone is messing around outside. Once the element of surprise is gone most intruders will flee. Schnauzers are really good for this.

General Grounds Protection

You may wish to have a dog that will deter any unwanted or unwelcome animal from your grounds. This is fairly simple to accomplish. Any dog that is territorial will defend your property and will chase any animal off that is not supposed to be there. Issues can arise when your dog isn’t properly introduced to the animals that you have and want to stay on your property. Most all dogs can be taught to live peacefully with your livestock. Chickens, ducks, goats, really anything can be incorporated into your dog’s pack. The only caution I would like to give is to select a dog of appropriate size for the things you want it to keep away. More than a few dogs have been killed by coyotes or stray dogs.

Livestock Dog

A livestock dog is one that has a specific job having to do with farm animals. The two primary jobs that most have are livestock guard dog (LGD) or herding dog. There are some big time differences. The LGD lives with the animals. It becomes their duty to protect whatever animals they have been given charge over from anything and everything that is not considered acceptable. Both of these types of dogs tend to do really well with children if properly introduced and socialized.

Livestock Guard Dog LGD

There is some training and very basic socialization that is required, but many of the LGD breeds have a natural tendency for the job.  I have seen some young dogs fall right into the job and I have seen others that just couldn’t figure it out. Heavy supervision is required for a while after introducing a LGD. LGD’s job is simple protect the other animals from any unauthorized presents. I have seen some of these breeds take on coyote, other dogs, and even unfamiliar people.  Common breeds of LGD are the Great Pyrenees, Kuvasz, or Anatolian. These dogs live with the stock and become part of the herd. It really doesn’t matter to them if their herd is sheep, goats, cows, or even ducks.

Herding Dog

The herding dog lives with the livestock owner. Their job is not only to protect the livestock but to help the owner move the livestock. While a lot of this behavior is instinctual it does take some training to focus and refine this skill. A well trained herding dog is a beauty to behold. This is one of those things that if the dog has a natural desire to do this work, using good quality training videos are fine. If at all possible I would find someone with an active working dog just incase you ran into problems or questions.

Training these dogs and behavior can be great fun and very rewarding.

Other Jobs for Dogs

Hunting Dogs

There are many breeds of dogs that are excellent hunting companions. Which breed you should consider will be determined by the type of hunting you wish to pursue. While growing up we hunted pointers also known as English Pointers. These are excellent bird hunting dogs and when trained will hold a point with such grace as to take your breath away. These dogs are not good squirrel or deer dogs. They just aren’t made for that type of hunting. I have hunted deer over a small pack of beagles and this is a lot of fun as well.

Draft or Pack Dogs

We don’t see this much anymore, but the fact is that dogs have been used as light and medium weight draft or pack animals throughout history. There is still a valid use for this skill even today. There have been several times that I have gone hiking that my dog has been equipped with saddle bags to help carry some of the supplies. Even if the dog is only carrying the things it will need there will still be fewer things in your backpack. I have seen many dogs pulling small wagons with children in them and I have even known one lady that had her dog pull a wagon that was filled with compost and mulch when she was working in her rater large yard.


Yes nearly all dogs are really good at this one. Most of the lap dogs were originally used as flea catchers. The small dogs with longer hair would sleep with and stay with their owners. Fleas would leave the owners to be on the dog. The dog would be bathed each day and all of the fleas would be removed and killed. I know for most of us today this seems very strange, but it was one of the original uses.

Choosing and Obtaining Your Dog

Now that we have talked about several of the possible jobs a dog can have around your home or homestead and have mentioned several breeds we need to move to the next step. If you are not familiar with a breed of dog but have a need for a dog with a certain set of talents it is time for some research. Breed books are written by people who love that breed. One of the results of having a person who loves their breed writing a book about it is that there is a tendency to either gloss over or skip completely the challenges that are normal. When you are researching a breed have your critical thinking cap on at all times. Writers will use key words that allows them to believe they are giving full information without the need to be critical of their breed.

High spirited = needs a lot of exercise or will become destructive

Energetic = same as above

Independent = really doesn’t care about its owners

Aloof = going to do what it wants unless the owner is a strong leader

Focused = when something has its attention the world could explode and it wouldn’t know it

Well you get the picture. All of these descriptives can be used to be completely honest without conveying the true intensity of the behavior.

Adopting a Dog

I have already mentioned that adopting a dog could mean that you have to deal with training mistakes that were made by someone else, but adoption still makes a lot of sense. Even if you want a full blooded dog you can still adopt. A county animal shelter not too far from where I live regularly has full blooded dogs that have been dropped off by their former owners. There are a variety of reasons people will send a dog to the shelter. Some of these include training difficulties, having to move, loss of a job, not researching the breed a head of time, allergies, and many more. Check your local animal shelter first. Remember the criteria I stated above for selecting a dog. Unless you have experience and are really talented, do not get a timid dog.

Purchasing a Dog

There are times when purchasing a dog is the best option. You have decided on a breed and you cannot find the animal you want through the rescue organizations that are near you. Again take your time and evaluate each animal in its own rights. Depending on breed, bloodlines, registration, and performance records of the parents, a full blooded dog can be purchased anywhere from $50.00 to over $10,000. No I am not kidding. If you were to try to purchase a fully trained protection dog you are looking at over $10,000 as an average. So you see this can be a huge investment.

Do you care if the dog is registered or not? If you do there are some things you should know. In the United States there are really 3 reputable dog breed registries. AKC (American Kennel Club), UKC (United Kennel Club) and the Canadian Kennel Club. I didn’t include the Canadian’s initials because there is another kennel club that uses those. The CKC or Continental Kennel Club. There are pure bred dogs that are registered by the Continental Kennel Club, but there are tons that are registered that aren’t pure bred. Unless you don’t care about registration at all avoid the Continental Kennel Club.

There you have it. If you have any questions about this topic feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answer I will find out for you.

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You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. We now have a YouTube channel and we cover all sorts of things. Hop on over and check them out, oh and don’t forget to subscribe. I have just joined Instagram if you would like you can follow us HERE. We will be sharing several things over the next year, I hope to see you there.

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Make Do Engineering: Essential Skill for Survival and Everyday

Make Do Engineering

 Bringing Rural Back Podcast

Make do engineering is a skill that many people love and others hate. It has been around as long as there have been people and has gone by many names, a lot of which were not very flattering some were downright insulting. To many make do engineering is only for those who are short of money, lazy, or in a really big hurry. Make do engineering is the ability to use supplies at hand to improvise or repair existing technology. Most of the time when someone thinks of make do engineering they think of a bad situation and just making the best. While this is the most common situation where this skill is used, it is not the only place where it is valuable.

Learn the Mindset

This is probably the most difficult part of make do engineering. Lots of people are so tied to the traditional ways of doing everything they cannot comprehend any other way to accomplish anything. This is a major constraint for anyone wanting to accomplish a desired goal unless they have everything that they think they need. One of the biggest problems some people face is not having everything. If a person doesn’t have a special made tool or a certain part or ingredient they think they cannot come to an acceptable end product. I will be the first to admit that there are certain things that are critical and others that are optional. If everyone would look at a project like they would a recipe a lot more things would get done.

Beef stew would be a perfect example. You cannot make beef stew without beef. That would be a critical component. You can however make beef stew without celery or even potatoes. Now, I am not sure I would really want beef stew that didn’t have potatoes, but if I were in the situation, I could make do.

As strange as it may seem there are many people who if the recipe calls for celery and they don’t have it, they believe they cannot make beef stew. This is called box thinking. What is box thinking? Wikipedia defines is like this.

What is encompassed by the words “inside the box” is analogous with the current, and often unnoticed, assumptions about a situation. Creative thinking acknowledges and rejects the accepted paradigm to come up with new ideas.

Thinking inside the box means you are accepting commonly held beliefs. I cannot do this unless I have that, that, and that. As homesteaders or preppers we cannot be tied to conventional thinking. We need to figuratively throw away the box. When confronted with a challenge we need to think of as many ways as possible to deal with the situation.

Learn the Skills

Make do skills are numerous and varied. Like I mentioned in the section above, cooking is an area were making do can be practiced, but many people refuse to see that. The same mentality can apply to anything. I remember when I was a child, the plow implement had broken. My grandfather had called the farm store and had priced the replacement part. I have no idea how much the part was, all I do know is he mumbled under his breath and said that we would have to find another way to fix the plow. One major problem. One of the parts that we needed to repair the plow was lost in the field. What did we do?

First we walked the field in the hopes of finding the missing part. Nope. Next, we looked at all of the other pieces of equipment to see if there was anything we could borrow that could be made to serve the same purpose. Maybe, but not really. Third, we rummaged through the barn hoping to find an extra that we really knew wasn’t there. Finally we looked around for something we could fashion into a replacement part. Ah ha! An old piece of thick sheet metal, a cutting torch, a drill and a carriage bolt and we were able to fashion a make do part for the plow.  Was that part perfect? Heck no! Did it do the job? Yup, and did so the entire season.

It doesn’t matter if you are improvising a tripod for your camera, a television antenna, or fixing a garden hose, there is always more than one way to accomplish the desired goal. This can apply almost any area and you are going to fail a few times, that’s okay. Learn from every failure and success alike.

The Tools

This is the coolest part, anything and everything can be a tool or a part to something else. I don’t know if you remember the television show Mac Gyver.  He was this guy who could make anything out of really just scrap. This television show was so popular that even today in some circles make do engineering is called Mac Gyvering. Why am I putting this here? Because while over exaggerated this show really did show lots of ways to use anything.

The Made Do Engineer’s Supply Hall of Fame

Duct Tape . Duct tape has been the hero of countless situations. Almost everyone I know has duct tape. It’s great. Though I will admit there is a newbie on the scene that is kicking duct tape’s butt. It Gorilla Tape has been very impressive. YouTube and Instructibles are filled with duct tape projects and fixes. It doesn’t matter which type of tape you decide to have in your make do engineering box, this is one area where I suggest you do not purchase the off brand. I have found many just aren’t very good.

Bailing Wire Bailing wire is great for things that you want to secure, but you still want it to be able to flex, twist, or move a little. From securing fence wire to believe it or not improvised shoe laces, there are hundreds of uses.

Zip Ties I am now going to officially go on record…I love zip ties. I don’t even care if you call them zip ties, cable ties, wire ties, or even plastic zippy thingies, they are great. They come in a variety of sizes and colors and have who knows how many uses. They also come in regular and outdoor variations. The outdoor zip ties can stand up to UV light better and don’t degrade as quickly. I have used zip ties for everything from repairing a chicken pen to holding my pants up when I forgot my belt (haven’t done that in a long time now thank goodness).


Courtesy of www.thecourageouslifepodcast.com

member of the Rural Roundtable

Here we see that Sean with www.thecourageouslifepodcast.com used heavy duty zip ties to secure cattle panels together to build his chicken house.  Sean is a member of the newly formed Rural Roundtable and will take your questions on permaculture.

WD-40 Let’s go the opposite direction for a little bit. If something is supposed to move and doesn’t grab WD-40. WD-40 is truly an inspirational story. WD-40 was the fortieth attempt at creating a rust inhibitor for the space industry.   This company started with three employees. In my opinion this is still one of the best products out there for what it is designed to do and this is the only product this company produces.

Paper Clips Paper clips aren’t just good for Mac Gyver. From zipper tab, bookmark, and hair barrette to emergency fish hook (yes, it works, not great, but it does work) paper clips are truly versatile.

Handkerchief Oh the wonders of a handkerchief. I love them and never leave home without at least one. You can read a full blog post on 30 Reasons to Carry a Handkerchief. This is not an all inclusive list either and this is our most popular post of all time.

How do you practice your Make Do Engineering skills? Do you have used for the items I have mentioned that I didn’t list? I would really enjoy hearing about them, and pictures are great too.

Bringing Rural Back

You can like The Rural Economist on Facebook follow on The Rural Economist on Gplus. We now have a YouTube channel and we cover all sorts of things. Hop on over and check them out, oh and don’t forget to subscribe. I have just joined Instagram if you would like you can follow us HERE. We will be sharing several things over the next year, I hope to see you there.

Visit The Rural Economist’s profile on Pinterest.

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My 2 Cents #1

Bringing Rural Back Podcast
Bringing Rural Back Podcast
It is my scheduled time to write. I have gone over my list of topics that I have though of over the course of several weeks. I truly believe that all of them are important and will benefit people, but my heart is heavy and my mind is filled with all manner of thoughts. I have tried to organize my thinking and focus on one thing, but I just can’t seem to get it done. Instead of a single topic, we are going to discuss a few things.

Friends in Need

If you have ever lived in a true community, not just a common geographical location, you know that you develop neighbors, acquaintances, and friendships. A neighbor doesn’t have to be a person you know really anything about other than where they live.

I have several neighbors, I wave at them when we meet, say hello when passing, and will even shake hands and express pleasantries when our paths cross. I will help protect and defend them if the need arises, but to be honest, if they were to move to another community, it would take me a while to notice they were gone.

I have fewer acquaintances. These are the people that you can carry on a conversation with, even if you really don’t have much in common. I may know their children or something about where they work. I may see them regularly at high school football games or whatever. They are truly a part of your community. They just are not someone I would consider close. If they need help I will do so, but they are not part of my circle.

I have never been one who had a lot of friends. That may be because of the way I define a friend. The dictionary defines friend this way:

1 a : one attached to another by affection or esteem

b : acquaintance

2 a : one that is not hostile

b : one that is of the same nation, party, or group

3 : one that favors or promotes something (as a charity)

4 : a favored companion

For me all of these definitions fall short. To me a friend is someone in whom you have trust and/or confidence, someone with whom you feel a connection that goes beyond small talk.

A friend is someone with whom you will laugh when they laugh and sometimes even laugh when they fall, after you have made sure they are alright and cry with when things just aren’t right. A friend is someone who will tell you when you are messing up and will encourage you when you are on the right track. They push you to be better. You rush to the aid of a friend.

The homestead and preparedness bloggers and podcasters are a community of sorts. I know many of the writers and speakers. Some better than others. Some I would consider neighbors, some acquaintances, and a few I really consider friends. Tammy Trayer from www.trayerwildernes.com is one that I truly consider a friend, even though we have never met in person. We have spoken, she has interviewed me on her podcast, and we have chatted on line, but I believe we have a connection that makes us friends.

Tammy’s health has been decreasing over the past couple of years, but they couldn’t figure out why. Well, they have figured it out and she hasn’t released the details, but she will have to undergo surgery and treatments. She is over 1000 miles away, but my family and my heart goes out to her. If you would like to help her during these trying times for her and her family there are some things you can do. First and foremost, you can keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Second, you can go to her store and if there is anything there you would like you can make a purchase. This will help them pay the medical bills that they will be experiencing. Third, if you feel led to do so you can donate to help them with the medical expenses. All of these are completely up to you. Thanks.

The Idaho Rancher

This story has filled up my news feed on social media and I have gotten a few emails about it. I don’t know the whole story. I wish I did. Here is what I do know. A man’s bull was hit by a car, this is free range land so there are no fences. The police called to bulls owner. The owner came with a rifle to the scene of the accident and winds up being shot to death by the deputies. His wife sees the incident and has a heart attack, she is currently in serious condition in the ICU. A very bad deal.

Like I said, I don’t know any more about the situation than anyone else. I am watching it closely, but at this point that is all I can do. I am having to force myself not to get angry at this point, but it has made me reconsider my thoughts on other police involved shooting in the recent past. I know that there are good officers out there. I know some. I also know that there are people who wear a badge of law enforcement that shouldn’t. I will be watching this very closely. If the media starts trying to demonize this rancher that will seriously call into question their treatment of other possible victims of police violence. That is all I can say at the moment.

You Never Know Who You Influence

On a much lighter note. A friend of my youngest son has asked me to speak at his baptism. I have known this young man for a few years and he has been a good friend to my son. I was honored and surprised by his request. I am what my wife calls a hard person. I am what I am and that’s all that I am. Yes I quoted Popeye. When he has asked for advise, I have given it just as if he were my own son. Really that is all that I have done, but it was enough for him to see me as someone he respects. Be true, you never know who is watching.

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Bringing Rural Back


Identifying and Dealing with Time Wasters

Bringing Rural Back Podcast #14

Bringing Rural Back Podcast
Time is our most precious resource. It is the one resource that no matter what we do we can’t get any more. If we think about it time is the very thing we trade for everything else. You may think money, but we trade our time and talent to get the money we use. When something is as precious as time it just makes sense to try and utilize this resource to the best of our ability. This becomes critically important for anyone who is homesteading and/or running a business.

The strange thing about time is the more of it you need, the less you seem to have. I am feeling the crunch myself. I have gotten more serious about the blog and have added the podcast. On average each blog/podcast takes about 5 hours to produce. That is time I have to find somewhere. After a blog goes live, there is promotion, answering questions, replying to comments, and the list goes on. I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me or in the hopes that you will be in awe. I am simply telling you this to allow you to know the time and commitment required to run something like this. I have talked to several bloggers and podcasters and their production time is similar. So the people who produce content like this really want to share information, if they can make a little money on the side or turn it into a full income great, but the driving force is truly helping people.

I am sure your everyday life is hectic. Everyone who is a doer deals with this. Your day may look something like this. Get up, feed the animals, fix breakfast, wash the dishes or at least load the dishwasher, get ready for work, go to work, work, come home, fix supper, dishes again, maybe laundry, hopefully have some time to wind down, get cleaned up and go to bed. That sounds like a ton and you know what? It is, but I still left a lot of stuff out. There needs to be real time spent with family, cleaning house, paying bills, tending the garden, mowing the yard, putting up your harvest, grocery shopping, anything shopping, cleaning up the shop, building a fence,…… you get the picture. When you look at all of the things you want to accomplish and the limited amount of time you have available to do so you realize that you will have to have a crash course in time management. Some people have been blessed with a natural ability to utilize time to its fullest. The rest of us have to learn as we go along.

Setting Priorities

Setting Priorities is one of the things everyone needs to do and really we kinda do, but we need to make it more formal. As we go through our day we are prioritizing activities all the time. Not only that, we rearrange our priorities list several times as well. Taking the time to write out your priorities is a really good idea. Spend thirty minutes one day and write out all of your responsibilities for each day. Again this list is for daily duties. Then prioritize from number 1 through whatever. Rewrite the list in order then out beside it, write the amount of time you think is required to complete this task. Be sure to include sleep and some relaxation. Add up the times. If you find that the amount of time required is greater than 24 hours, you may have issues. Don’t get too worked up yet. Allow the list to sit for at least a day and really two.

After you have allowed this list to sit for  a day and you have done your time audit. You will need to compare the two. How much time did you really spend on each activity. Like I said you will find that you have some of them right on and some no where close. Drive times are normally fairly accurate.

I am not going to be one of those people who bash social media. It is an active part of what I do. I promote the blog and podcast. I share articles that I think would benefit my community. I even share things that make me laugh or smile (we need those from time to time). In this modern day, social media is one of the few ways we can keep up with those who are important to us. My grandchildren are in South Carolina and I am in Alabama. That is a pretty long drive. Due to social media I get to see what is going on in their lives. I enjoy the pictures and stories about what is happening.

Only you can set your priorities, but you have to be honest with yourself. You must schedule enough sleep. You must schedule some time of relaxation that is not sleep. People who do not take time to enjoy life or who don’t spend time with their family wind up sick and alone. While you are setting your priorities you will find that you will have to limit something. That is just the way it is.

Time Audit

Take a pad with you for a couple of days and actually take notice of how long your daily tasks take. Getting dressed 10 minutes, cooking breakfast 30 minutes, drive to work 42 minutes. After you have done this for a day compare the actual times to the times you estimated. This will give you a good time picture. You will have guessed some of the activities perfectly and some will probably be way off. That is the point of this exercise. These times will vary based on your current energy level, but they will normally be close.

There are a few more things that you will realize if you do the time audit. You spend a lot, and I mean a lot more time on some activities than you thought. Social media, email, and television tend to be the primary areas where we spend more time than we realize.

The time audit can be either really easy or a real pain in the rear end. I have suggested people do this who come back to me later and say that the time audit took even more time out of their day. To those people I say “You are probably overdoing it”. The time audit doesn’t have to be very detailed. It can simply be  a list. FB (for Facebook) 8 minutes, drive for your daily commute 42 minutes, etc. At the end of the day add it up. There will be some entries that are things like social media 1 minute and there could be 20 of those in a single day. This will give you a true picture of how you spend your time.

It is actually beneficial to do at least three time audits during the work week and at least one on the weekend, but we will work with what we have.

 Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

This can be fairly loose or can be quite rigid. As an example. The Rural Economist Facebook page is my primary social media campaign. Second is Google +, then on down the line. I answer questions, respond to comments, share posts, you know the full gambit. I take 2 hours at the end of each month to schedule as many things as I can out for the next month. Once I have the bulk of the social shares scheduled I can go into maintenance mode. I allow myself 30 minutes each day on social media in total during the work week. I schedule writing and recording time. I schedule my drive time, etc… After I started doing this I was able to find more time to spend with my wife.

My wife is actually better at the scheduling than I am. We both have a dayplanner. We will discuss some decisions and others we make on our own. Her dayplanner looks a lot more hectic than mine. A lot of that is due to her work schedule.

There will be times that your plan doesn’t work, but having a plan in place will make it easier. Extenuating circumstances happen.

Learn to Say No

This is a big problem for both my wife and myself. If you are a doer you will find people are all the time asking you to do or help with something. Benjamin Franklin is credited with making the statement “If you want something done, ask a busy person”. Why is this the case? Because a busy person is actually doing things. This is both a blessing and a curse. If you are a doer, the more you do, the more people will want you to do. This is also a reason that prioritizing your activities are so important.

You will find that you will have to say no to a lot of things. Even if something you have been asked to do is important, if you don’t have the time to get it done, say no. I know a lot of us can make time, but if that is requiring us to take time away from something else that is equally important, we are not doing anyone any favors.

Be Sure to Take Time to Rest and Relax

I have already mentioned this one several times, but I want to mention it again because it is one of my biggest problems.  When I say rest I really mean rest. A lot of times my wife will be watching television, normally either Flash or Arrow (cause she is just cool like that). I will be sitting beside her with the laptop working on something either research or writing, they are both very important. I have recently realized that I really haven’t been taking time to rest at all and she really doesn’t either. I decided that I would try an experiment. I haven’t told my wife, she will find out about it when she reads this. I stopped taking my phone to the dinner table, I will intentionally leave my phone in the other room. Why do I feel the need to do this? Notifications. If my phone goes off I have an automatic desire to check it to see if it is important. I would bet many of you are the same way. I cannot relax as long as I am tethered to an electronic device.


You may be thinking, “Gregg, this is all well and good, but how is it going to help me?”. Lots of ways. First, if you don’t know where your time is going you can’t fix it. That is why we had to do the time audit. Second,  if you don’t know where your time should be going you can’t adjust it. Now we are going to get into the practice. People have preached to do lists for forever and a day. You know what? If they are done well, with the right amount of structure mixed with a little flexibility they are great. The problem is that we either don’t do them at all or we make them so rigid that as soon as we get off track there is no way to get it back.

When you are making your to do list write out beside each task how long you think it will take to complete. I know we mentioned this above about daily responsibilities, but this is what you are planning for the day. Once you complete it write the actual time needed. This will allow you to adjust the rest of your schedule. If you fail. Don’t beat yourself up over it, just start again, slower. Complete a task or two. As you gain experience and confidence you will be able to meet and conquer bigger challenges. That is just the way it works.

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