Make a Sturdy Shag Rag Rug of T-Shirts

After years of looking for the most durable, yet simplest homemade rugs to wash, I have finally hit on a winner – shag throw rugs made of old T-shirts and towels. Besides being easy to make and care for, the rugs are fabricated from goods from the rag bag.Shag bathroom rug

With animals inside and outside our homestead, a steady flow of boot traffic and abundance of rain, we go through a lot of rugs here. Rubber-backed store-bought rugs are OK on the back porch, but impossible to keep clean in the house.

Braided rag rugs, while lovely and comfortable to stand on, turned out to be too difficult to wash. To clean them, I’d wait for warm, breezy days and then scrub them in a tub outside. By the time I’d hoisted the wet, heavy rug onto the clothesline, it was as if I also took an outdoor bath. It also takes me at least two weeks to make a single rug.

Looking for a solution, I decided to try a simpler method of rug making. The result is an easy-to-make, inexpensive, attractive, cushy, sturdy and easy-to-clean rug. I used jersey T-shirts (100-percent cotton) for the shag, but any knit fabric that doesn’t unravel will work, such as from fleece blankets and sweatpants.

My backing material is a piece of terrycloth bath towel that matches some of the shag strips. But again, any durable, non-stretchy fabric will work, so long as it is not too thick to sew on your machine. For your first project, you may want to begin with a small size.

How to make a shag rag rug:

  • Cut a base of durable, non-stretchy fabric and turn under and sew the raw edges.Back of finished rug
  • With a marker, draw lines 1/2” apart, either lengthwise or crosswise on the fabric base with the sewn hem facing up. (The hem will later be hidden by shag strips.)
  • Cut 1” x 4” strips (or shorter for less shagginess) of knit fabric. I used the bottom half of 15 T-shirts in various sizes. Discard pieces with seams, embroidery or printed designs. (I save the sleeves and shoulder pieces for household rags or other projects.) For a 20” by 25” rug, I cut 1,800 strips, the most time-consuming part of this project, but easy with a rotary cutter.Fabric strips
  • For a random pattern, put the strips into a large box to fluff and separate the pieces after cutting. Or fluff each color separately and keep in piles to form a rug with stripes or other design.
  • Place the base in position for machine sewing the first row of strips. Line up about 10” of strips on the first marker line. Working from your body toward the machine, layer the strips like shingles so you can sew without having to stop and guide the strips under the presser foot. Use good thread and a fairly tight stitch. Anchor the beginning and end of each row by backstitching.
  • To start sewing the next row, fold the previous row to the left and out of the way. Continue this method of layering and sewing each row until complete.Shag rug stitchingStitching with a treadle

That’s all there is to it. Although I use a clothesline, these rugs can be machine washed and dried. On slippery floors, use two-sided tape or non-skid rubber mats under your rug. This type of rug is very absorbent and particularly handy next to the bathtub.

Happy sewing.

Free Shipping for Treadle-Sewn Goods

quiltingWe now ship our treadle-sewn goods free anywhere in the United States. This includes our popular Granny’s Clothespin Bags, Super-Tuff Firewood Carriers, Triple-Pocket Aprons and all of our quilted patchwork items. We also have a host of bright and cheery colors in stock of our patchwork potholders and place mats.

As always, all of our products are carefully crafted of recycled denim and 100-percent cotton fabric whenever possible. We do our stitching by daylight on an antique treadle sewing machine. This is just one small way we’re doing our bit to help reduce the load on our world’s resources and landfills. Please see our Product’s Page for more info.

Treadle-Sewn Super Sale ends tonight

Order a Granny’s Clothespin Bag for your sweetheart – or mom or laundry lady — this Christmas at a great price. But hurry; our first-ever Treadle Sewn Super Sale ends tonight. We’ve also stocked the shelves with patchwork potholders and place mats in warm fall and sparkling winter colors to brighten your holiday table. With input from the younger generation, we’ve also gone wild with our Granny’s Clothespin Bags. As always, our one-of-a-kind treadle-sewn items are quality crafted of recycled fabric.  Be sure to check out our new items on our Products Page!

Granny's Clothespin Bag

On sale thru Dec. 10

Bright winter colors

Patchwork Place Mats and Potholders on Sale Now

Triple-Pocket Aprons in Bold Colors

Handy for a host of household chores

Red, green, orange potholders

Delightfully warm fall colors

Homestead-Sewn Super Sale thru Dec. 10

treadle sewn sale
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — and fall and winter — here as we prepare for our first-ever holiday sale of quality treadle-sewn products. Here is your opportunity to gift your family and friends with a homemade gift that will surely be used and treasured for years. And you don’t need to sew a single stitch!

Check out our products page from now until Dec. 10 for incredible savings!

New Well Bucket Slips Past Pitless Adapter, Inside 4″ Casing

Super-Slim WaterBoyWe get many calls here for a well bucket that will slip inside a 4-inch casing with a pitless adapter or inside a 3-inch casing or liner. We have designed such a bucket, made with our same high-quality parts and handy thumb-lever release.

The Super-Slim WaterBoy well bucket measures 46 inches in length, is made of 2-inch PVC pipe and has an overall outside dimension of approximately 2.75 inches. The bucket weighs 3.5 pounds and holds one-half gallon of water.

Check it out on our Products Page.

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Busy WaterBuck Weekend at the Mother Earth News Fair

???????????????????????????????Darren and Reba are having an exciting time at the Topeka Mother Earth News Fair weekend, which goes on until 5 p.m. today, by the way. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood, or Kansas, or the Midwest. The Fair is being held at the Kansas Expocentre in downtown Topeka.

???????????????????????????????They rolled out of here at 7:30 Friday morning with a packed truck and trailer, ready for our first Mother Earth News Fair. It was a beautiful day for a drive to Kansas.

Reba sent these photos of our Well WaterBoy Products booth before the crowds were let in the door. Our booth, No. 3005, is at the main entrance and will be hard to miss. We even included a pressure tank and one of our WaterBuck Pump cylinders in the display.

WaterBuck at Fair

Darren spent all day yesterday talking about the WaterBuck Pump and Pedal-Powered PTO while Reba used the Windlass Hoist and our Tripod to show how to use WaterBoy Well Buckets.WaterBuck Fair Darren

Meanwhile, I am here taking care of animals. The weather is perfect for clearing out the end-of-the-season garden growth to make room for more spinach and lettuce. I got some help and companionship from this cute little kid, Cream.

??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

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Well WaterBoy at the Topeka Mother Earth News Fair

We are excited to announce that, for the first time ever, we will be exhibiting Well WaterBoy Products at a Mother Earth News Fair.  If you’ve ever wanted to see a WaterBuck Pump or any of our other products up close, now is your chance. The fair will be at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka. We invite you to join us there Saturday and Sunday, October 25th and 26th.

Topeka Kansas ExpocentreCome say hello at our booth 3005 near the main entrance in the Expo Hall and receive a free packet of our homegrown, organic, heirloom seeds. Also, drop your name in our basket for a chance to win one of three prizes.

WaterBuck Pump 22 GPMYou will be able to see in person many of our top Well WaterBoy Products. Select items will be available for purchase at reduced prices. We are pleased to reveal that a full-scale model of the WaterBuck Pump will be at our booth. The convention center certainly could not allow us to drill a well through the floor, but our replica is just like the real thing – without a gushing water well, of course.

To go along with the mother lode of fascinating programs and exhibits scheduled, we will have ongoing live demonstrations of the WaterBoy Windlass Hoist and Well Buckets throughout the weekend. Fair guests will learn how easy it is to get water from a drilled well without power of any kind (except human muscle). We also will have with us our Pedal-Powered PTO, WaterBoy Tripod Kits, SolarBuck Solar Cart Plans and some of our treadle-sewn products including Granny’s Clothespin Bags.

WaterBuck Pump in actionPrices for many of our products will be reduced during the Fair. Stop by early, as we will have limited supplies on hand. If you do not want to tote a 48-inch WaterBoy Well Bucket around the Fair, we will be happy to hold it for you at our booth. Just let us know. Or, pick up one of our handy Mail Order Forms, mention that you saw us at the Fair, and we will honor our event prices. Then head off to hear the numerous speakers on all aspects of sustainable living, and see more hands-on demonstrations outdoors.

jessi-bloomIf you have been postponing attending a Mother Earth News Fair, do not miss this one. The list of speakers is too numerous to list here, but is available on the Mother Earth News site. We are thrilled to see that some of our personal favorites are on the list, including organic farmer Joel Salatin, actor/activist Ed Begley, Jr. and organic gardener/real food expert Barbara Pleasant. We have followed their blogs and work for years. Jessi Bloom of Timber Press will give two presentations over the weekend: Easy Peasy Edibles and What the Cluck?! Getting Started on Gardening with Chickens.

Kicking off the weekend, Mother Earth News publisher Bryan Welch, author of Beautiful and Abundant: Building the World We Want, will delve into the power of visualization, offering an engaging and practical method for building a collective vision of human sustainability one person – and one endeavor – at a time.

coverLike most fans of Mother Earth News magazine, we have boxes of back issues dating to the 1980s.  I have been a Mother Earth News blogger since early 2013.  The WaterBuck Pump has even been featured in the June/July 2014 issue of the magazine. So, attending our first fair is exhilarating, to put it mildly. To be among a huge crowd of like-minded, positive, forward-thinking environmentalists is simply something we have never experienced. We hope to see you there.

©2014 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™ logo

Folk Medicine Book Pushes Honey and Vinegar

D.C. Jarvis, M.D.We rarely encounter health issues on our humble homestead, except those mundane ailments involving chiggers, poison ivy or ticks. Still, I enjoy adding to my library of old-time cures and concoctions ― just in case.

This summer, I was ecstatic to find a charming old book by a country doctor who believed it was imperative he study folk remedies to gain the medical confidence of his patients living close to the soil on back-road farms. Deforrest Clinton Jarvis, M.D., (1881-1966) wrote “Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health” at age 77 after spending decades gathering home cures that he said were as, or more, effective than those organized medicine taught him to use.

“I believe the doctor of the future will be a teacher as well as a physician,” Jarvis wrote. “His real job will be to teach people how to be healthy.”

list-of-curesI especially love that my copy from a used book store has a penciled list of specific ailments paper-clipped inside, which leads me to envision a three- or four-generation household. The list includes: Honey for bedwetting, Page 105; Treating overweight, Page 68-69; Apple cider vinegar for arthritis, Page 91; and Castor oil for liver spots, Page 147.

Inside, a homemade bookmark made of a torn slip from a medical pad advertising “Polycillin-N” is handwritten with “honeycomb treatment for sinus cold.” Did someone perhaps discard a physician’s prescription and instead found a natural remedy in this old book?polycillin-bookmark

Jarvis is best known for advocating doses of honey and apple cider vinegar three times daily to prevent and/or cure many common illnesses including arthritis, rheumatism, asthma, high blood pressure and colds. The delightful elixir (one teaspoon each of honey and vinegar in a glass of water) also restores energy.

Already in 1958, Jarvis noted that our modern diet of fats, starches and nutrition-depleted processed foods made people sick, weak, overweight and listless. I wonder what he would think today of our synthetic and genetically modified foods laden with chemicals.

When he first began learning folk cures, Jarvis said many old-time treatments did not make medical sense to him, such as chewing the fresh gum of a spruce tree to cure a sore throat in a day. Jarvis’ further studies led to “considerable readjustment of orthodox approaches.”

The fifth-generation Vermonter not only sought the input of country folks for indigenous medicine, but studied insects, birds and animals to learn how they kept healthy. He watched wild and pastured animals to see what they ate and how they cured themselves when ill. Jarvis noted that humans are terrified to miss a meal, but animals know to retreat to a dark, secluded spot without food until they are well again.

“If you care to go to school, go to the honey bees, fowl, cats, dogs, goats, mink, calves, dairy cows, bulls and horses and allow them to teach you their ways,” Jarvis wrote.

goat-soapJarvis believed that everything people and animals need to survive could be found in nature. We hadn’t thought of it that way when we gave up buying commercially produced soaps and such. We simply wanted to avoid as many chemicals as possible. Now we use only all-natural stuff, such as our local Back Forty Soap Company’s goat milk soap.

Jarvis discovered that caged mink eating too much protein develop bladder problems and kidney stones, in many cases dying. But left to their own devices, wild mink supplement their carnivorous diet with berries and leaves. These same ailments plague humans eating a protein-rich diet. Eat more greens.

Farm children fascinated Jarvis, who discerned that children, like animals, have self-protective instincts about food. Studying Vermont children younger than 10, Jarvis discovered that these young children chewed cornstalks and ate potatoes, carrots, peas, string beans and rhubarb – all raw and fresh from the garden.

The youngsters also gobbled “berries, green apples, ripe apples, the grapes that grow wild throughout the state, sorrel, timothy grass heads, and the part of the timothy grass that grows underground. They ate salt from the cattle box, drank water from the cattle trough, chewed hay, ate calf food, and by the handful, a dairy-ration supplement containing seaweed; they even filled their pockets with this, to eat during school.”

folk_medicineJarvis speculates adults have lost much of their natural intuition toward food and health. Probably more so today, we are influenced by such an avalanche of advertisements and advisements that we don’t even know what’s good for us anymore.

“If we were wise enough to carry into adult life the instincts of childhood, we would make a point of eating fruit, berries, edible leaves, and edible roots that would not be cooked,” Jarvis wrote, adding that those who retained their natural impulses are fond of salads and are, consequently, healthier.

“Your body, designed for the living of primitive times, expects to receive a daily intake of leaves,” Jarvis wrote. “In these more civilized times the body still needs these leaves as much as ever, in order to better stand the stress and strain of modern living.”

WaterBoy Well Bucket

Water without Electricity

Interviewing Vermonters who live close to the soil, he found many ate beechnut, maple, willow, apple, chokecherry, poplar and birch tree leaves. Elm tree leaves are said to be the best for quickly relieving hunger. Pages 48-55 list numerous wild edibles and their benefits.

Throughout the book, Jarvis gives examples of how honey and vinegar or a combination of both restored health to humans and animals. Not just any honey and vinegar will do, however. The honey must be raw (not pasteurized) and unfiltered, the darker and cloudier the better. Vinegar, too, should not be filtered or distilled. Processing destroys nutrients and beneficial bacteria.

My husband and I have been enjoying swigs of raw apple cider vinegar before each meal for more than five years. We fill our gallon jug with it at the local feed mill; we also buy local raw honey by the five-gallon pail. And, like I said, it has been years since either of us has had a cold or flu.

honey and vinegarWe’d never mixed honey and vinegar before, so I was eager to try it when I began reading Jarvis’ book. As I was visiting St. Paul, Minn., at the time, I walked 2 miles to the nearest health food store for some raw honey and vinegar and hurried back to my daughter’s apartment with the goods. I was immediately hooked on the delicious sweet and sour concoction, also known as switchel or honegar.

A quick search on Mother Earth News’ site revealed others who have followed Jarvis’ advice. In 1973, reader Sue Gross wrote to Mother Earth News in Feedback on How to Raise and Keep Goats to say how she fed vinegar to her goats, successfully curing mastitis. Also, author Laurie Masterson wrote of her mother serving honey and vinegar water with crushed ginger root to the field hands in this 2014 article, Switchel Recipe.

poison ivyThis handy book is available at ridiculously low prices on eBay, Amazon and other online sites for used books. It is not only fun to read, but could save a trip to the doctor’s office. I haven’t tried it yet, but I may even have found a cure for poison ivy penned in the back of this book.

©2014 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™ logo

Why Have A Well Bucket?

high-voltage-and-stormAs if the threats of war, terrorism, economic collapse, natural and man-made catastrophes, plagues, solar flares and EMPs are not enough to consider, we now have a decline in fresh water — another critical thing to prepare for. As the national news continually warns us, water tables are dropping in many parts of the United States, not only seasonally anymore, but for long periods.

Having enough fresh water

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the U.S. population will increase by approximately 29 percent between 2000 and 2030, and the
western and southern regions are projected to experience the greatest growth (more than 40 percent) during this time. With such tremendous population expansion, fresh water becomes increasingly scarce. The bureau predicts water shortages in nearly all states. Below is a 2014 U.S. Government Accountability Office map depicting anticipated water shortages over the next decade:water shortage map

As population grows, droughts continue, fresh water declines and water tables drop, more wells are drilled (the National Groundwater Association reports 800,000 holes bored annually), putting more strain on freshwater supplies.

When the water table drops below the submersible pump in a well, many people face desperate situations without water. Often, a professional pump installer must be contracted to lower the submersible pump to reach water. In some cases, the well must be drilled deeper to access water with an electric pump. Another complication is having to wait for a well professional to remedy the problem. In some areas the waiting list can be as long as 8 months. Meanwhile, no water can be pumped.

Get Water Without Electricity.

On our road to self-sufficiency, twice we learned firsthand the consequences of the water table dropping below the depth of our pump. Even though we had electricity, it was useless. On one occasion, while we repaired our well, we depended on a neighbor for water. What would have helped us — and kept us self-reliant while we fixed the problem — was a simple well bucket.

Our main backup water supply system is now a deep well manual pump. Still, if the water table drops again below our pump, we have our trusty well bucket to get water.

Why have a well bucket?

farm with windmillsPrivate wells supply 13.2 million occupied American households with water, according to a 2010 report by the National Groundwater Association. In most wells, electricity powers a pump submerged in the well to bring water to the surface. Without power, of course, water cannot be pumped. A simple well bucket can sustain a family until the power comes back on.

Even if you’re generating your own power (with solar or wind, for example) to operate a submersible well pump, those systems can fail – temporarily or permanently. Ice, snow, wind and lightning can damage electric components, rendering systems inoperable.

And, although you may have a reliable hand pump, something may happen.

bucket tripodA well bucket, also known as a torpedo or cylinder bucket, is the simplest, least expensive way to get water from a well without power. As the name implies, a well bucket is simply a long, skinny bucket that can be lowered into the narrow confines of a well casing to bring water to the surface.

How Well Buckets Work

bucket well casingWe refer to well buckets as “inexpensive insurance” for water without electricity. There is no limit to the depth a well bucket can be used. However, for greater depths, it is easier to use a tripod or windlass to raise and lower the bucket.

bucket windlassSeveral styles of buckets are available commercially, and homemade versions abound on the Internet. Most include some sort of one-way valve on the bottom that holds the water in the bucket until it is hoisted to the surface. The water enters the bucket through the bottom valve.

bucket thumbThe best bucket design enables users to empty the bucket by pulling a lever at the bucket top.

bucket pourBy comparison, buckets that pour out from the top are difficult to manage. Remember, water is heavy (about 8 pounds per gallon) and liquid. Aiming for a pail to empty the well bucket into usually results in overshooting the pail and wasting much of the water.

bucket discharge

Another common homemade bucket type includes an extension on the bottom of the valve that must be pushed up to discharge the water. This works well if the full bucket is lifted onto a device to push up the valve, draining the water into a pail or irrigation trench. However, if the bucket is simply set down in a pail to discharge the water, the volume in the bucket and pail will equalize, not allowing all of the water to be released. The remainder must be poured out of the top.

bucket hoist

WaterBoy Well Buckets and Related Equipment

For more information about well buckets, tripod kits and windlass-hoist, please see our products page. Have the water you need — without electricity from any depth.

©2014 Well WaterBoy Products LLC ♦ WaterBuck Pump™ ♦ Pedal Powered PTO™ logo

Hooray for St. Paul, Minnesota Boulevard Gardens

St Paul boulevardSometimes we country folks take for granted the right to grow vegetables and having enough space to do so. A recent trip to St. Paul, Minn., reminded me that not everyone can just plop a row of tomato plants in the ground.

Those ingenious Minnesotans, however, found ways to grow their own fresh veggies right smack in the middle of a big, bustling city.

???????????????????????????????At first, as I strolled around the residential neighborhood near St. Catherine University, I didn’t realize what I was seeing. After all, we are so accustomed to only flowers and decorative greenery lining sidewalks that I almost missed noticing the zucchini and raspberries growing there.

On the 10-block walk to a wonderful used book store, I encountered enough incognito front-yard vegetable gardens to warrant going back to my daughter’s apartment for my camera. I saw squash of all sorts, assorted greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, chard, rhubarb (which grows to positively monstrous sizes in the North Country), herbs, onions, peas, beans and beets. I suspect now that some of those sunflowers and nasturtium were doing more than beautifying lawns.

???????????????????????????????Not only were the undercover edibles rooted discreetly in pots and window boxes, they were openly growing in the grassy strip between the sidewalk and street. This is especially pleasing to us who have followed Mother Earth News’ shocking forbidden food-growing stories. Here is a list of “illegal garden” news compiled by Mother Earth News staff.

In 2013, Mother Earth News assistant editor Kale Roberts wrote of two Des Moines, Iowa, residents complaining to the city council about separate front-yard vegetable gardens. Beginning in 2012, Roberts wrote of Jason and Jennifer Helvenston, an Orlando, Fla., couple facing fines of $500 per day for growing vegetables where grass “should have been.” In both instances, thanks in part to heavy public pressure, the issues were eventually dropped.

???????????????????????????????As I wandered about St. Paul taking photos, I encountered one yard completely devoid of lawn. The entire front yard along busy Randolph Avenue is a perennial wildflower garden without a blade of grass to mow or water. Wildflowers are naturally more drought resistant than domesticated grasses.

At another front yard alive with all manner of vegetables, the homeowners were, of course, sitting on their front step. Where else? Before I even had a chance to tell them what I was up to with my camera, they invited me over for a chat. Nearly every square inch was filled with delicious-looking fruit and vegetables. Only one slim grassy path cuts across the front yard ― as a convenience for the mailman, they said.

???????????????????????????????“When you live in Minnesota, you don’t walk, but RUN outside and start planting in spring,” the woman of the house laughed.

When I asked how it all started, the friendly couple said they bought the house 10 years ago and nonchalantly planted a row of red raspberry bushes along one side. When no one complained about that, they kept adding more growing beds each year. Rather than protesting, their neighbors admire and frequently thank them for their lovely gardens.

???????????????????????????????The couple said they are unaware of city ordinances prohibiting front-yard vegetable gardens, but have not asked “just in case.” Based on the number of up-front kitchen gardens I saw on my short walk, I guessed St. Paul encourages residents to plant “patriot gardens.” I was correct, later finding a Twin Cities Boulevard Gardening Guide prepared by Sustainable Resources Center’s Urban Lands Program that addresses how to properly plant along Minneapolis and St. Paul streets.

???????????????????????????????Even businesses got in on the movement. I found herbs growing outside a dentist office, yoga academy and therapeutic massage studio. Beside one apartment building, a resident planted peppers, squash and cucumbers in hay bales. Nearby, Swiss chard and kale grew in flower pots. All the plants were lively and producing fruit.

???????????????????????????????To learn more about growing food in the city, be sure to check out fellow Mother Earth News blogger Mike Lieberman’s article about his patio garden in Los Angeles and how to grow food in your city.

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