Generation Cedar

As we begin “The Enterprising Family” series, I wanted to add a quick thought…some of the ideas we try to implement may not necessarily save us a bundle of money, but JUST AS IMPORTANT as being resourceful is the value of a foundational concept that we want our children to grow up with.

Namely, that God is the ultimate Provider (and we want them to see that in as many tangible forms as possible), and that the more self-sufficient a family is, the more freedom it has.  So we don’t measure everything solely by how much money we’re saving/making.

The first topic in the series is using our natural resources and bartering.  (Many of these topics overlap, so I’ll do my best to categorize them–very difficult though!)

This will vary for every family according the resources available in your area.  But I thought I’d throw out a few things we’re thinking through and/or implementing, and I hope you offer your suggestions as well.

  • Free Food.  Do you have food that grows naturally in your area that could be harvested for FREE?  Our favorite free food is blackberries.  I know, lots of work.  But work is good, remember? 😉  We love making pies and cobblers, blackberry butter, blackberry jam and blackberry syrup.  These homemade treats make great gifts too.  (Virtually anything we can produce is a gift possibility.)
  • Garden.  Growing your own food is the best use of a natural resource and has dividends far beyond saving money.  Health and good work opportunity abound, but also the ability to see God provide in a miraculous way just does something to the soul.  You don’t have to have much space at all to grow food.  You can even grow small plants (herbs maybe) inside the house. 
  • Expanding Food Usage.  My daughter is this very day, working excitedly on an all-natural bug repellent using the lemon balm plants she has been growing in her little garden.  (Our neighbors let us in on the secret of lemon balm as a bug repellent.)  Here is another clever way my neighbor uses the mint leaves they grow:

Cool Mint Towels


Crush mint leaves and sprinkle them on a small, wet towel.  Roll them up and stick them in the fridge.  On a super hot day, unroll them, shake off the leaves and drape them around your neck to squeeze in a few more outside hours!

  • Bees.  Consider getting into the bee business!  From a bee hive alone, you get a wonderful, healthy sugar-substitute  (that’s very expensive otherwise) to be used in all kinds of ways.  Plus, the bees wax can prove valuable in several different ways.  We’ve been using it to make some simple skin products (lip balm, baby salve, etc.) and you can also make candles from it. (We don’t have bees, we get it from a friend.  My Dad “did bees” when I was younger…I would love to do that again.)
  • Chickens.  Another great project, especially for kids.  And fresh eggs are so much healthier, I think!  We’ve had hens in the past, but are gearing up to build another small coop.  Look on-line for information about how to do it.  (It’s a cheap start-up project.)
  • Flowers.  We love decorating with wild flowers, and sometimes they make nice dried bouquets to keep for a while.  (Tie up with a ribbon, hang upside down, then place on a shelf.)   We’ve also made great use of wild flowers and ferns to make cards,  framed gifts and candles.  (More pics. in the “homemade gifts category.)  We press them in a heavy book and then glue them on card stock.  I used pressed ferns one year to embellish a poem I wrote and framed. And then as a gift for one family, I put the ferns on a piece of card stock printed with the family’s last name in the middle, and each member’s name and birthday all around it.  The right font and frame and the added ferns made it a very well-received gift.
  • Pine Cones.  For starting fires.
  • Pine Straw.  For mulching beds and gardens.
  • Veggie Scraps.  For composting.
  • Animal manure.  For fertilizer.
  • Trees.  If you happen to be building…this is the main beam-a cedar tree trunk-that supports my parent’s balcony.  When my Dad first put it in, our job was to strip the bark off.  At the silly age of 15 I thought his idea was ridiculous.  (“Like, I can’t believe we’re gonna have a tree in our house.”)  Now I love it.


  • Clay.  When I was young, I remember making moldable clay out of clay/dirt we found in the ground.  Then I ran across a man who was making a fortune out of red clay sculptures.
  • Rocks.  If you are artistic, painting rocks can create all kinds of


  • Plantain.  (This will also fit into the “medicinal” category I plan on covering.)  Plantain is a bountifully-growing, common plant with great medicinal properties, the most common of which is treating wasp/ant/bug bites.  You can make a tincture, or you can do what we do–run outside, yank it up, chew it up and spit it onto the victim’s wound 😉


Remember to barter!  Just as some of these ideas could turn into great gifts, they also make great bartering tools.  We’ve lost the pleasure and benefit of bartering!  We don’t have to produce everything, but when your friends and neighbors are busy at production, it expands everyone’s resources!

Currently in our neighborhood we have several who milk cows (we milk my Dad’s), several raising chicken eggs and meat chickens, goats, gardens, and all sorts of homemade goodies.  Bartering can be an invaluable resource for a productive circle.

There are more, but I don’t want to overload the post.  Besides, I know you must have some good ideas waiting to be heard!

“Be studious in your profession, and you will be learned. Be industrious and frugal, and you will be rich. Be sober and temperate, and you will be healthy. Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy. At least, you will, by such conduct, stand the best chance for such consequences.”  Benjamin Franklin

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28 Responses

  1. Really inspiring post!
    But I have to confess…I am perhaps the worst gardener in the world. I mean, I’ve managed to teach myself how to sew, how to knit, how to bake and cook from scratch, etc. But the gardening thing completely eludes me. To top it off, we live in a place were there are all kinds of restrictions on what you can and can’t do with your property, so I’d really have to have more of a container garden anyway.
    I really wish I had the time (and the funds) to take a class somewhere, but I don’t know if that would help. This is one area in which it would have been nice to grow up under someone with a “green thumb”!
    Anyhow, any suggestions?

  2. I also got blueberry suckers from my parents and planted them in my yard. And I cut a couple of pieces of their blackberry bush and rooted them. They are not producing much yet but they will by next year.

  3. I can’t belive I am telling this.I ones found an old door in the trash. I just had to drag home .Before I got it put in the shed my mail man asked if he could till my garden in exchange for that door. Sometimes other peoples trash really is anothers treasure.

  4. KB,

    My husband and children know much more about gardening than I do–I really just don’t like it (well, seems I’m usually about 8 months pregnant every time garden season rolls around and not very condusive to bending over and weeding! 😉

    Anyway, you may enjoy reading about the square foot gardening. There are lots of resources on the Internet or I can give you specifics from sites I know. It seems like an easier place to start–maybe with only a few vegetables.

    Or I would even suggest starting with ONE thing…tomatoes for example. And then add a couple of things once you get the hang of it. You may be a green thumb waiting to sprout 😉

  5. Fruit trees are amazing. In our part of the country the only fruit trees anyone seems to have is apple. We bought our house 5 years ago and were pleasantly suprised to discover we had 3 peach trees, 2 pear trees, an apple tree and even grape vines. Talk about bartering tools! All our friends and family love the fresh fruit, canned fruit, fruit pies, etc. I have not bought peaches or pears for 5 years now.

    They may take a few years to produce fruit, but planting fruit trees is well worth it!

  6. Hello Mrs. Crawford,

    My Momma (Leslie from VA) enjoys reading your blog. She tells our family about some of your posts. It leads to some interesting supper table discussions.

    Momma told me about you raising chickens. I am going to be raising meat chickens for my family beginning this fall. Do you have any pictures or plans of your coops?

    Also, I am very proud of my sister, Anna. She has been studying gardening and canning. It is a huge help to our family! You can read about her at

    Thank you.

  7. Lucy – I pulled a victorian Eastlake chair out of my apt dumpster – and sold it on Craigslist for $15 (it was damaged, or I’d have asked more)! I once bought a pretty victorian necklace but rarely wore it (too formal). I traded it for about 5 mos worth of music lessons a few years ago (traded an unworn ring for another 5 mos). I’m hoping to trade a mt. bike for a certain instrument in the near future. So not free, but when you’re done with something and it’s clutter, it can be a better deal than the re-sale value. I also knew a girl who traded laundry services for watercolor painting lessons.

    We love “free” food too. We’re well aquainted with picking wild berries, and we harvested buckets of walnuts and pecans last fall from our and our grandpa’s trees. We have our garden this year, and it’s the most wonderful daddy-son endeavor (mostly daddy, but son loves to help). And btw, tomatoes are super easy to grow in a five-gallon bucket with drainage holes drilled in the bottom, so great for folks with just a balcony or sunny porch at an apt.

  8. Ben–how exciting! Actually, my husband handles the coop building, and we may even have our last one that we plan to use. When we get it up, be assured, I’ll post pictures!!! Good luck…meat chickens are a lot of work but VERY rewarding–especially on the health end of things.

  9. Lori–yeah that bartering thing is awesome. My daughter is about to barter violin lessons (she’s giving) with house cleaning. Which is great for me AND her right now with the preganancy weighing me down!

  10. don’t forget, it isn’t always a direct trade… my sister commented the other day that she had all the stuff in the garden to make a ton salsa if only she knew how to make and can it, a friend of mine was in the kitchen visiting and said ‘well i have tons of canning stuff and a great salsa recipe but no garden.’ as soon as we have enough tomato, onion, cilantro, etc, he’s coming over and we’re gonna have a big ol’ salsa party. i think everyone wins. (we’re really getting into this stuff, the last family experiment was homemade yogurt).

  11. These are all great ideas! Unfortuately we don’t live in a rural area and no one on my street is allowed to have cows…But I will start looking for other resources…

  12. Home made bread, sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, cookies

    Home made jellies and relishes

    Home made soap and other skin care items

    My husband sometimes trades remodeling work with friends for animals, feed, and homeschool evaluation services…

    That’s what we do!

  13. an afterthought… participating in a bartering system (because you choose to) really builds the type of ‘community’ that forced socialist programs try for, isn’t that interesting? just don’t tell the government, they’ll want to tax what we trade… to build a ‘community’ through socialist programs…lol… kelly i have been reading your blog too long!

  14. Shanie,

    LOL! You are so right–did you know they are already coming down hard on the independent farmers and entrepreneurs, taxing and “regulating” them out of business? They’re becoming “too successful”…is anyone else alarmed by this amount of control?

    Keep reading, sister 😉

  15. Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for writing Ben.

    One thing we have thought about is collecting sticks, pine cones etc for fire starters for campgrounds. I am not sure what bartering power it would yield, but it would make a great little business!

    Our family is enjoying this series!

    BTW, I saw the write up on the Homeschool Entrepreneur Newsletter on! Woohoo! Go, Kelly, GO!!!!!

  16. Kelly,
    I like the idea of the square foot gardening. I also like the idea of starting with something less intimidating, like tomatoes (or squash, who can’t raise squash???)
    BTW, the other day my husband saw your post on “Early Child Training” and pronounced it as “Good Stuff!” (that’s a tremendous compliment around here :-)).

  17. Stephanie-

    We don’t live in a rural area either. We live within the city limits, which limits what we can do. We wanted chickens once and the city said NO. However, we do have a yard with fruit trees, and we have friends who do their garden in pots on their porch. We just have to be more creative than our “country” friends.

    We also do a lot of bartering with our services. We trade babysitting with some other families, my husband will do carpentry work in exchange for work on our vehicles, etc. There are so many ways out there to be resourceful.

  18. Kelly,

    The plantain I know grows into a tree, similar to a banana tree/plant. Are those shoots?… or is it something else entirely?… is there another name for it? I can’t see it very well, and I’m interested in it’s medicinal properties.

    I live in Jamaica

  19. Great tips! I’ve done some bartering for some nice “extras” on our home improvement in exchange for sewing work for our contractor.
    Most recently, I’ve been bartering goat milk and cheese to help offset the cost of acupuncture services for my son.

  20. My husband, a CPA, bartered his tax services for a well loved suburban and mechanics help for it! That was four children ago. Now we have six. Anyone have a slightly less well-loved multi-passanger van?!! Ha.

  21. Sara,
    Keep praying for that van!
    My children and I were in a bad car accident last fall. Our car was totaled. Insurance only pays what the car is worth, meaning, you can’t buy another vehicle to replace it without spending more money, it just can’t be done. (God loves doing the impossible). My husband wanted to get a suburban (we have our fourth child on the way), but they were around $12,000 more than what we were getting for the totaled car. Along comes a neighbor who just bought a new truck and was wondering if we would like to purchase his third row seat suburban (exactly what we were looking for) for $1000!

    I know this is suppose to be about being resourceful, bartering, etc. But sometimes the most resourceful thing to do is pray…

  22. i just love reading about all these great ideas and how to use barter. i began to barter not long ago and i discovered this great site that helped me out immensely. it’s called it’s all about bartering, and i haven’t seen any other site like it.

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