Thursday, February 17, 2011

Making a living in a bad economy

Don and I were talking yesterday about making an income in a bad economy. We're not necessarily talking a grid-down situation (in which case barter would probably be the only economy); we're talking about an economic depression.

As you may or may not know, we make our living almost exclusively selling wooden tankards (mostly wholesale). We're done this since 1993 and it's kept our family solvent, though not wealthy. Through harsh experience we've learned to be frugal and creative.

And - God bless 'em all - people are still buying tankards. We just shipped a wholesale order off to a fellow who sells them at the Arizona Renaissance Festival. We're working on a custom order for a co-ed service fraternity.

But the day may come when the economy is so bad no one will be buying a luxury like a tankard. Should that day ever come, what will we do?

We don't know.

What we need to come up with is an item that is needed rather than wanted. This is where I envy my friend Enola Gay because she makes things that are needed.

I've always said the best way for a cottage industry to succeed is to find a niche and fill it. We've filled a niche for almost two decades by providing wooden mugs to people who like that kind of thing. But we may need to transition to a new niche, one that would be important in a depressed economy.

I'm not exaggerating when I say we've spent years talking about this, and we're no closer to finding a solution now than we were then. So I got the idea to open this topic up for discussion.

What advice can you give a creative woodworker for a product or service that would be important in a bad economy? Do you have a regional product or service compatible with our skills that we would borrow for our region? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

(Husband of the boss commentary)

I think it's important to make a small additional comment here. Although I know that the job market is tight, I firmly believe (because I've seen it up close and personal) that more than a few of the folks currently out of work are unwilling to accept available jobs because those jobs are: (1) beneath their dignitary; (2) weren't in their previous field; or (3) don't pay as much as they previously received.

None of these excuses apply to me. If it means feeding may family I will stand waist deep in manure fishing out golf balls at my feet. So don't limit your suggestions to wood working. I have several other sets of skills and I've never been shy about learning nor about working hard if it means my family is made safer. So rather than focus on me, think - really think - about what a Great Depression will be like in the world of today. What jobs will keep bread on the table? We will all learn something by your thoughts and suggestions.


  1. beneath their dignitary = beneath their dignity

    Not sure... How about making replacement parts for wooden implements so people can keep using them? - I'm reminded of my father-in-law who made some replacement wooden gears for a floor loom for a friend who needed to get it working again so he could continue making handwoven rugs.

    Or more wooden kitchen things, like spoons and bowls? Plates?

    1. The only things our struggling fellow consumers wish for is more groceries in their tiny sacks, more money left in their wallets and rest. Solve these issues and you have your winning idea. Personally, I am working on a website to dispense free money. Hope this helps.

  2. Not knowing what additional skills hubby has, it's hard do respond. But I can tell you what I am doing. Teaching.

    Last summer, I became burdened with the notion of sharing all the information I had learned while becoming more self-reliant. So, at the behest of the Lord (no kidding!), I began teaching free* classes in what I called "Heritage Skills". I taught canning, bread making, basic cheese making, homemade cleaning products, and frugal living techniques. I kept a free blog at our local newspaper to advertise the classes, and had more than 150 students over three months.

    The city has since hired me to teach canning and frugal living skills through the adult school.

    *I held the classes at my home, and thus was not allowed to charge for them. It was too important to me to just drop it, so I prayed about it and was directed to give the classes free.

    Your local demographic may not support this kind of thing, but then again it might. Both Patrice and Hubby could create a curriculum for their own skills. Research the local regulations about having classes in your home, etc. If allowed to use your home, you would be able to get a nice federal tax deduction, as well as some extra income from the classes themselves.

  3. And this is why your family will do just fine when the world falls apart. You are a family willing to do what it takes. When I look around, I wonder what is going to become of us all. Too many people sitting at home reading Drudge when they could be reading Backwoods Home magazines to learn something useful. I don't have any ideas for you though. I'm still trying to figure out how I could contribute to my family's well being as well. At least your family has the farm and know how to run it. I can't grow anything (not due to lack of trying!) and that worries me. God is good though. He takes care of us and will provide as we need it. A little hard work never hurt anyone anyway!

    Ouida Gabriel

    A faithful reader

  4. I checked, beer was first made between 5 and 10 thousand years ago. You gotta have something to put it in to drink it. The tankards seem like the perfect product, other than beer of course. ;-)


    If I get a real idea, I will post it. Not to remotely suggest that brewing beer isn't a good idea.

  5. This is a topic that has interested me for many years. I've even bookmarked stories about unusual ways to make money. Some of those unusual ways are beyond bizarre, but they put money into the pockets of those who do them.

    In Beverly Hills, CA, for example, a man has made millions by working only 1 month a year. He installs (and removes) Christmas and Hanukkah decorations on the exteriors of homes and businesses.

    A few people in Arizona make a living by finding and selling meteorites. One man has made a fortune doing this.

    These are not woodworking-related. These are just ideas that seem so unusual that it's hard to imagine they could be profitable, yet they are. There will always be rich people, even when the entire world is in a financial meltdown. But how many wealthy people can you cater to in Idaho or Eastern Washington? Seems to me you have to know your area before you can really plan on making a living in tougher times. Are there lots of wealthy people in your area? Or is the vast majority below the poverty line already?

    Most people are not rich, so finding a way to have them willingly part with their money will be difficult, unless you discover their need and try to fill it.

    Everyone has at least one small appliance, even if they live in a motorhome. People will not be financially able to purchase new appliances. With that in mind, I think small appliance repair may be a useful skill. Small appliances use less electricity than full-size ovens and refrigerators, etc., so small appliances may remain in use far longer than large appliances as people cut back on their electrical usage.

    Also, propane conversion. If you can convert a gas or electric vehicle or appliance to propane (or natural gas), you might have a source of income.

    Then there is shoe repair. Shoe repair shops used to be common in nearly every town across America. Now they are almost impossible to find. I would seriously think about shoe repair, but the equipment needed to do that job may be impossible to find unless you go to an antique store or junk shop and happen to find shoe lasts, a heavy-duty sewing machine, etc.

    Look around. Observe what people do everyday. See what they need in order to make their own livings. Keep them working, you keep yourself working. What does this have to do with wood? I don't know. Perhaps making portable corrals out of wood instead of buying tubular steel corrals from a ranch supply store. Maybe making bows and arrows or portable & stationary wheelchair ramps. How about firewood cutting and stacking? Around here, in crazy old California, some people buy the rights to woodcutting on large cattle ranches. They then cut firewood during the summer and sell it throughout the fall and winter. They must be doing well because I have seen these operations going on for at least 20 years.

    One of you is a geologist by trainig, if my memory hasn't failed me. Do you know that Rock & Gem magazine pays pretty well for stories and photos about places to go rockhounding? I have sold a few articles to that publication and was always glad to get the check upon publication. You can find their writer's and photographer's guidelines online. There are many other magazines that would undoubtedly PAY you for your knowledge, experiences, and viewpoints. Have you got a copy of the 2011 Writer's Market (available from Amazon and elsewhere)? It will give you general information about the number and genre of magazines and newspapers that buy freelancers' work. There are bound to be several that will fit your styles and personalities.

    Sorry, I've droned on too long, but as I said at the start this is a topic of great interest to me. We all need to find alternative income sources because the world is rapidly changing and nothing will ever be the same soon.

    If I come up with other ideas, you know I'm going to post them. I can't help myself. :)

    Anonymous Patriot
    California, USA

  6. Old Fashioned hand powered tools like they use to use. Axe handles, plow handles, other things that are used that don't take power to use. Not sure if I am getting across what I am picturing but I hope I am.

  7. We re-cycle old furniture and accesories. Junktiques, vintagor whatever you want to call it! Also old french doors become a small greenhouse! If you like to check it out our blog is

  8. I so appreciate your attitude towards work. So, many people including family member CANT or WONT take a job. My husband is the man working three jobs if necessary. He is currently in Medical School after 16 years of marriage. We live exclusively on student loans. I am a cheapskate, coupon queen and we are very good at making do or going with out. Find ways to increase your agricultural income. Reduce expenses, forage for food, barter,trade your skill for some other skill, maybe rent out or sell stuff. I have been a long time reader of your blog. I am not sure you go do much better. Make due, go with out, reduce, reuse, recycle then do it again. You guys are pretty savvy. Most of your post may not apply to you directly but, someone, somewhere is reading. It will help.

  9. For a lot of years, my grandfather made knives with wooden handles. He would cut steel in the basic shape of a knife and sharpen/shape the edge. The knives looked pretty rustic, and were obviously homemade, but a necessity in every kitchen. I'm sure your hubby can make a much better product because he has the skills and the tools.

  10. Buck over @
    has 39 Posts on different ways to make or earn a little or a lot of extra money. I love his ideas. He is so good at gathering resources, and sharing them.


    Just some ideas/eye candy.

    Maybe you'd like to get away from sales, though?

    One thing is that if you were to work on some sort of mentoring business, like one of the suggestions above, you are opening your lives up to whoever comes and whatever they bring. Of course you already do that right now, with your blog, but at least you have some control over your lives yet.

    I'll keep thinking on this.

    My husband is in nursing school (second career) because he figures nurses will always be needed, and I'm a medical transcriptionist mostly because I can do that from home/anywhere with a decent Internet connection, but I hope you find something that really uses your talents. Good woodworkers don't come along just every day.

  12. Woodworking is a wonderful line of work because it is so versatile. I really liked the canning shelves he made. The tankards you show really show a great craftsmanship. So I believe you could really sell any kind of wood products, from shadow boxes to shelving to ax handles. It will really come down to the area you can provide to and what materials are available to work with.


  13. Have you considered adding *trenchers* to your Renn. wares? A hand-made plate/platter of the same quality and beauty as your tankards would surely sell well at the Renn. Faires!
    Also, if you can make tankards...can you make buckets? I realize many people would buy them as a decorative accent, but still, they are a useful item as well.
    On the more practical post-SHTF aspect (or of folks quit buying the tankards)with the woodworking skills y'all already have, you might consider some of the following:
    Cabinet Construction
    Cabinet repair (in clients home)
    Furniture restoration
    Picture frames made from old barn wood
    Coat racks (the kind you hang on the wall) made from old barn wood.
    Wooden pegs for construction.
    Wooden carts and wheel-barrows
    Building looms, from small lap looms to large foot pedal operated ones. Plenty of plans on the internet...these things are EXPENSIVE to buy. Maybe you could undercut some of the prices out there? Quality (large) looms are usually *once in a lifetime* purchases and can be passed down in families.A friend in Germany has her family was constructed in 1746! Not many repeat customers, BUT if you get a good following from one or more hard-core weavers (they are a tight community) you will get LOADS of referrals. It's worth a look around the internet, maybe?
    Other money making ideas:
    Collect wild grapevine and other wild vines and make wreaths.(Even kids can help with this!)
    I know several women that go around to local thrift shops and buy old vintage sewing patterns, then resell them on ebay...those patterns are snatched up at prices you wouldn't believe! Also, MAKING some of the *retro* items, such as aprons and selling them on etsy or ebay could be lucrative.
    If you have the sewing skills, quilts sell well. They do suck up all your *down* time, though. I enjoy quilting, so I can do it (almost unconsciously) while watching t.v. or listening to an audio-book, etc.
    Hand knit and hand crocheted items sell well online. A friend of mine crochets and can not keep up with the requests for items she makes.
    I am not quite sure of ALL the critters you have there, but if you have any sheep (Or Angora goats, Angora rabbits, alpacas,llamas,etc), hand washed and spun yarn, dyed and un-dyed are money-makers. Knitters and crocheters want the *real deal* these days.
    Have a *secret family recipe* for fudge or other candy or maybe cookies that will ship well? Maybe a great-aunts special fruit cake recipe? Good for holiday sales!
    Gourmet food items sell well...have you seen what dried fruits sell for on those gourmet food sites? Hand made cheeses?
    I am just throwing ideas out here...

    I am focusing on things that WON'T take you and your husband off the homestead.
    None of them will make you a millionaire, and all require work, but all can bring in money to keep the farm afloat!

  14. Oh, are you interested in blacksmithing at all? That's a craft that is being lost, but is still important. We have a blacksmith in the next town over and it's great having him.

    Another craft that is dying out is thatching. You'll have to go stay in Ireland or England and apprentice with a thatcher to learn. :)

  15. In thinking about what people will need in a depression-like situation, I can only think of a few things. The first thing that comes to mind is food. Could ya'll start a "pick your own" orchard or garden? So many people don't have the skills or wherewithal to grow their own any more. Since you do have a dairy cow, how about selling cheese?

    I like the person's idea of firewood cutting. In depression like times, cutting back on heating costs will definitely be necessary. In Texas we pay a fortune for firewood!

    If you were desperate, could you lease part of your land?

    Since ya'll have such a wonderful woodworking background, how about furniture? Simple furniture that is durable but also reasonably priced?

    I hope these ideas don't sound silly


  16. Slanted canned food holders, the kind you load in the back and the cans roll to the front. You could make them in a pretty standard length to fit on a shelf and people could put them in their pantries. Make them stackable so the use of space is extra efficient.

    Pre-drilled square foot garden kits along with the lattices to go on top. The ones out there now are ridiculously expensive.

  17. I have a notebook that I keep, called "Slambuster Moneymaking Ideas". It has a bunch of entries in it that are ideas for products that I think will "go over" well with the public, or solve a problem with an existing product. Usually after I detail an idea, I put the book away and then when I get it out to detail another idea, I will look through it and often laugh at some of the prior entries.

    I digress. I too am a woodworker, but have no time to pursue my hobby, as I am blessedly busy with my regular work. I started my work life trained as an Industrial Arts teacher, and am now an engineer. The product I propose to you I came across after I bought a bread machine. My wife said the bread did not fit the bread keeper we had, and asked if I could make her a nice wooden roll front bread keeper. I said sure. I sketched out a simple keeper with a roll front similar to a roll-top desk, and promply forgot about it. Meanwhile, my wife went to a tupperware party and came home with an outrageously expensive plastic tub that was made for the rather funny shaped loaf you get from a bread machine. She won't put it on the counter, because she thinks it's ugly, - doesn't go, you know. So, that's my suggestion. Make nice practical bread box for large and small bread machine loaves, that look good on the counter, and keep your bread without having to pry the top off of a plastic tub, or fish around in the pantry to find your bread.

    For other ideas, I like to look through very old catalogs when I find them to find things that are still useful that could be updated for today. One handy item I found that way is a button hook that slips through the button hole of a shirt, hooks the button, and then you pull it through the hole and unhook it to button the shirt. I made one a long time ago for my grandad who had arthritis. you have to use a very strong close grain wood, like North American Cherry. Most of these good ideas from old catalogs just don't fit todays mass marketing mold, so they die off. Some can be made of wood and sold in small numbers at fairly good margins, especially if they appeal to the practical, and artistic side. And of course for most items, if you can eat it, smoke it, or play with it, it will be a hit. In times of economic stress, people still find time for entertainment, and just switch gears going from X-Box to chinese checkers. I have made literally hundreds of nice wooden games, peg games, and game boards from hardwood, and exotic wood scraps from a furniture factory close to where I lived.

    Good luck. Love the blog. Dick from L.A.

  18. There was an old treasure hunter who used to write about "owlhooting." That was his term for earning money under the radar. He often mentioned ways that he made money as he traveled around the western hemisphere looking for treasure caches. He was a clever man, he would travel around as he developed treasure leads, then he would write articles and books about his experiences and adventures. He found a way to make money in at least 3 ways while he sought his treasures: he'd write about his experiences, he'd look for antiques at yard sales and thrift shops, and he'd repair jewelry for people when he stayed in one place long enough to set up a table at a flea market or a gun show. He didn't limit himself to one way of making money, he always used one method to cantilever into another method of making some money.

    You have many pine trees on your land. How about collecting the pinecones and using them for making Christmas wreaths? Glue the smaller ones onto a wooden frame, viola! - a permanent Christmas wreath that people can use year after year. Some people weave pine needles into baskets and picture frames. This would necessitate the proper kind of pine needles. Patrice could make cloth napkins for everyday use (instead of paper ones) and then Don could make wooden napkin holders to keep the napkins when not in use at meal time. Add something unusual to the holders, like a half a pinecone or a few semiprecious stones or a painted scene. Be unique, get creative. Think outside of the box.

    Here's something for the young among your readers to consider - saving their nickels and pre-1982 cents. Right now, those coins are worth more in melt value than their face value. Right now, by law they can't be melted. However, someday soon that law may be rescinded. Plan ahead!

    I remember seeing a man park his tow truck near a dangerous curve every rainy day back in the 1950's. He would wait for a car to slide off the pavement and into the ditch alongside the roadway. He then offered to pull the car out of the ditch immediately if the driver would pay a fee upfront. People wanted to get to work, so they were happy to pay him. He may have been an exploiter or he may have been an enterpriser - your choice - to me, he was ingenious.

    Again, nothing to do with woodwork, just some things to think about. Some foresight and outside-the-box-thinking will serve us all well. Get prepared, friends, because we are witnessing the systematic destruction of our economy and of Western Civilization.

    Anonymous Patriot
    California, USA

  19. A very thoughtful post, and some very good, informative replies. Here's my 2 cents worth...

    The easiest way is to expand what you are already doing, ie you're already making small things from wood, so find other small things that can be made from wood.

    I'm not a woodworker, so I don't know what products to suggest. But the point is that you already have the skills, the knowledge and the expensive tools that could be transferred to making other things from wood.

    One poster suggested trenchers. I strongly recommend that you look into this! If someone is willing to pay a pretty penny for a tankard, logic says they will also pay handsomely for another SCA/Renfest type product.

    Maybe you could be a one-stop shopping type of place. You could also set up an affiliate program with other SCA/Renfest people who sell non-competing products. Maybe link to costumers, weapon makers, etc. You offer their stuff; they offer yours. Each side makes a commission when generating an order. It's very simple to keep up with on the computer.

    These are just a few suggestions. I hope it helps. I agree with you 100% that we all have to be constantly on the lookout for ourselves. If the economy crashed further, it would certainly affect your tankard sales. This is true for the soapmaker, the candlemaker and all other products like that.

    Keep up posted on this!

  20. Durable wooden drying racks can take the place of an electric or gas clothes dryer.

  21. Patrice,
    Besides finding old ,antique wood furniture and refinishing it and selling it, the main things he should look into are, installing/ making wooden kitchen cabinets, custom made coffins,(I know a bit grim), or look into wooden camper tops for pick ups, or wooden travel trailers, along the lines of gypsy caravans or shepherd trailers.
    There has also been a great deal of interest lately in small wooden homes.Good luck.

  22. I know someone in this area who makes a pretty good living from making and selling rain barrels and compost bins. The bins are made from pallet wood, which you can often find for free. He gets food-grade barrels for cheap, too; just drill a couple holes and add a spigot. With more people taking up gardening, you could sell them thru Craiglist, at farm markets, etc.

    ~Lee in Michigan

  23. Patrice,
    what if you were to look through a catalog like Lehman's .... check off the items that are used for self sufficency that Don might be able to make out of wood ( or other wise) and sell. You know from your life style what items are necessary for every day living .....just a thought.



  25. I am not a woodworking person. That is why I have to hire out any projects that I want or need built.
    Here are some that I purchase/d.

    Bee nucs, in our area many beekeeping newbies are starting out with topbar hives.
    I actually use both kinds.

    I had new hen laying boxes built.

    Bat houses.

    Rabbit hutches for large production. I would be willing to send you pictures if you wish to see them.

    Quilt floor frames, large for(group use) and personal size, lap frames.

    Dough rising boxes and bowls. Brotforms.

    Milk/work stands for large and small breeds, like dwarfs, that you can use to do their hoof care as well as milking.
    Horn cautery boxes for holding baby goats in to do a one woman cautery job..

    Wooden goat carts with wooden hanes.

    Worm composters.

    Replacement oak scythe handles and shafts.

    Pat, I would absolutely love to have one of the overhead clothes rack dryers that your hubby recently constructed!


  26. How about slingshots? Not your ordinary slingshot, mind you, but slingshots that will shoot paintballs. Cheaper than a paintball gun, and requires more skill.

    You can offer 3 different sizes, such as .410 (for small hands), 30-30 (for medium size hands), and the bazooka (for large hands). Then offer about 5 different models. Then each model would have a name, like "The Independent" or "The Alamo" or name them after events or locations in Idaho, like "The Borah Peak" or "The Lost River" or "Esto Perpetua" (the state motto of Idaho). And paint a small design on each model to represent the name of that model. It could be a whole family enterprise.

    People like something that is unusual, wellmade, under $20.00, and makes them feel good.

    Anonymoous Patriot


  28. What about building water cisterns?
    Does cedar or cypress grow in your area?

  29. COFFINS!! What a great idea! Seriously.

    My parents' church started a Burial Committee to start streamlining church funerals, and a big roadblock they hit was... coffins. They wanted to do burials in the Jewish tradition, which means no (or minimal) embalming, a plain pine box, and a quick interment. They hunted and hunted to find a cabinet maker who would make affordable pine boxes. Finally found one. But I bet there's a market.

  30. This is going to sound weird. But if people have no way to heat (and they don't mind cooking with this fuel), you might have a moneymaker.

    What about a sustainable fuel source: Biomass briquettes. You collect manure, agricultural waste, straw, hay, etc., which ought to be free. Then you build a briquette maker like this: or this:

    Of course, you would make multiple presses, or can find other methods on youtube.

  31. Don & Patrice -
    For what is worth......
    people are wanting noodle cutters and can't find them. You two could take over the Internet and spill out to specialty stores.

    I'm not sure what it takes to make them but I haven't seen one for sale in a coons age - either a new one or at auction.
    The one in the picture is cherry & I bought it a Lehmans' Hardware quite awhile back. I would think a hard maple would make a beautiful cutter too

  32. This got me thinking about your plans for Thor. Then I wondered if the Foxfire books covered ox yokes. Not in the first six volumes, so I did a search and found the PDF in the following link:

    Single yokes are covered on pg 20. 

    There a lot of other things made of wood that are on the Foxfire series. You may want to check them out for ideas..


  33. Trying to be a little sympathetic, a lot of people also cannot pay their bills with the lower paying jobs. Even a very frugal person could have problems with a 50% pay cut. And it can be very true within a professional environment, once you drop your salary, it is extremely hard to ever get it back.

    The middle is being gutted. The very high end jobs are coming back, and the very low end. But the low end wages have been gutted by inflation. What is good about a lot of the suggestions is that they are very specialized (like tankards) where you are not likely to get too much competition.

    Until it gets so bad that the UPS truck no longer shows up, there will be someone who wants specialized wood working. What do they sell to the NYC upper crust? Maybe individual items worth $1000s?


  34. I think that's a noodle dryer, not a noodle cutter.

    (reads further) Oooooh, the rolling pin thingie. I thought that was a lefse rolling pin. :)

  35. I am in a field where most of my projects are one of a kind. While experience accumulates, the details of each project are different. This works for our firm because our fees are high. Any sort of work where every job is different is much harder to make a living at, and the only reason it works for us is we are specialists in a highly technical field.

    Much easier to make money is a field where you make and/or sell something in quantity. You have this going for you with your current line of products.

    Some years ago I stumbled into a small side business selling items that are related to the field of my day job. I sell things that cost anything from a few dollars to several thousand dollars, but most of what I sell ranges in price from $50 to a few hundred dollars. All the items I sell are small, so I can stock them in my garage, and do my shipping and receiving through a UPS store. I never have delivery trucks at my house nor do I have customers calling on me. Everything is done via my websites, email, and a few phone calls. One of the things that makes this work is that I am truly an expert on the items I sell and can give much better customer advice and support than the big firms selling in this market. Many of my customers are churches, and as you may know most churches tend to be misers even in good times.

    At my day job we sometimes need custom woodwork to match a customer's existing woodwork. Finishes must be excellent, and since the wood must hold our technical equipment, tolerances must be held very tight. Many times the custom woodwork we need is small on the order of the size of your tankards. Quantities are always small and might range from 10 to 80 pieces for a project. I will send you an email with my contact info if this sort of work might be of interest.

  36. If you can handle strangers in your home then teaching and/or farmstay is a good way to go. Or a rustic B&B or backpackers (in the barn maybe?)
    Do make some more of those drying racks to sell - it's awesome!
    I don't know if you have regular markets nearby but money can be made out of raising seeds. Pots can be made out of folded newspaper. Heritage varieties sell well.
    If you were to go to markets you could sell some of your manure there as well as excess harvest.
    You could ask around companies to see if they'd like you to road test their products then blog about it. You usually keep the product so you could offer it for sale after. MD creekmore does this on his survival blog (don't know if he sells it though).
    I thought the furniture and loom making and repairs, bread box and small appliance repairs were all good ideas.
    Small animal breeding like fancy cats. If the rich are staying rich they can afford a fancy breed cat. And you could always eat them if it came down to it ;). Just build a small cattery if you don't want them underfoot. One male and two females would breed quite alot - expensive to buy the breeders though. If you don't want cats what about meat rabbits? Or pidgeons? My Dad has Jack russels that he loves. He sells the pups for $1000 each. I don't know how, I would never pay that much but it works for him.

  37. A few things come to mind, but mainly things that would be of use to somebody suffering through a depression.

    A garden rack for growing things on your patio or window sill. They could either be the type to hold just pots, or be the pot holding the soil.

    Big huge deep grow beds that sit on patios. Things that hold loads of soil so that such plants as squash or tomatoes could be planted in them, or sectioned off to grow multiple things. Even taters can be grown in them if big enough.

    Wooden cutting boards. They are more antibacterial than plastic after all.

    Wooden plates to eat off, or platters to serve off of.

    Wooden serving utensils such as spoons.

    Animal cages of all types. This could even include above ground fish tanks if you could get a line on pond liner.

    Or for that matter, you could just farm fish yourself. Its protein and will probably fetch top Dollar when food prices climb.

    If you have a ready source of natural clay deposits nearby, you could branch into making items out of it for sale. Some items that come to mind in that are the old style oil lamps, plant pots, or even rain catchers.

    Best advice though is to not just sell one line, but be able to make multiple items. You never know what will sell, when. Grow boxes might sell loads of for the first few months, then a rotating composting bin after that for a while.

  38. What about custom exotic wood rifle and shotgun stocks?
    I'd love to have a tiger wood shortened stock for my Remington 500 with a molded out hand indention
    for my stubby short ladies hand instead of this black flat plastic.


  39. I like the clothes drying rack idea, too. But if I had one, I'd want it to fold like a ladder rather than hang from my ceiling. That way it would be easy to set up and take down. I wouldn't want it to hang from the ceiling because of the difficulty a single person like myself would have in installing it. An a-frame rack about 6 feet high and 4 feet wide would handle most of my laundry. (I hang sheets over the tub enclosure). It should be sturdy, but not too heavy. And the hinges should be stainless steel so they won't rust due to all the wet laundry.

    Anonymous Patriot

  40. Thanks so much for putting up this subject! SwampMan and I have been discussing this (having another income source) on and off with increasing urgency, but something else always seems to come up that requires our attention. In this economy, we can't depend on either one of our incomes being secure and, in fact, I'm earning less now than I was four years ago with insurance costs going up and wages not rising.

    We've previously worked together in our own businesses for 20+ years (construction related), but we all know what happened to construction and the contractors (rueful grin). At least we're still alive and together! We know several people whose businesses failed that divorced and the man committed suicide.

    I've been politely (and not so politely!) requesting SwampMan to make looms, wool combs, drop spindles, and spinning wheels for quite awhile, but I'm at the very bottom of the list behind the paying customers waiting for sturdy rocking chairs! Check with the local spinning and weaving guilds in your area to see what, if any, items that they would like to buy locally. Again, these items would fit into your existing market as well as to spinners and weavers outside the renaissance fair world.

    A handcrafted item that I really like for my own use are the brooms with eccentric handles and broom corn braided/stitched and trimmed by hand. Again, it fits into your existing market line but also appeals to people that just like household items to be beautiful and are willing to pay for it.

    Our uncle has a you-pick farm in a rural area. He has peaches, blueberries, strawberries, onions, and a few other items I don't know about as he adds new items every year. He has hayrides back and forth to the orchards. People come from all over the state to pick his fruit, some for their own use and that of their friends, and some taking it back to their communities to sell it. He also has homemade ice cream featuring the fruit in season. It is delicious and *very* successful. I'm not sure if you could also put in small fruit trees and berries that grow in your area (and whether you could keep the cows out of them if you did), and tolerate tourists/customers everywhere, but it works for him.

    Since you have a junior ox now, perhaps one day you can add ox carts to your list of sales items.

  41. Hmmm, with all the snow that Idaho gets, perhaps an ox cart with skis for runners. Or perhaps a hay wagon with skis instead of wheels. Or a convertable wagon - remove the wheels and put on the skis for winter transportation out to feed the cattle. Sleighs would be useful and fun.

    Anonymous Patriot

  42. Don & Patrice,
    here's a thought ( which may have already been mentioned ): say someone pulls a EMP or power/batteries become scarce and/or unaffordable, then a lot of electronic stuff wont work any more. Then it'll be Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls: Welcome to the Games of Yesteryear! I can see very nicely crafted WOODEN things like Chess, Checkers, Dominos, et al, being in high demand, with fancier versions being made out of more exotic woods ( might be a good time to lay in a stock of said wood while it's still available to be got----in the country we say 'best be getting while the gettin's good'). Just a thought!
    AlaRedNeck and Mrs Neck

  43. How about a cheese press, ladders, crutches, canes, small tool sheds, three sided machinery sheds, chicken tractors. These are just a few things that come to mind.

    I love the ideas. I too am trying to figure out what I can do to help bring income into our home.

  44. I'm not sure what kind of wild life you have living in the area around you, but I just paid $40 for a 3# box of deer horns for my dogs as dog chews on Ebay. I know a lot of people are selling them now and a lot of them are natural sheds - they pick them up in the woods (deer, elk, etc.) People are buying them for craft projects and for their dogs.

  45. I would love a couple of 2 or 5 gallon sized barrels with spouts to make homemade vinegar. You could also use a wood burning tool to make etching and labeling. I have been picturing them in my house for so long.

  46. My first thought before I even finished the post was to make wood furniture. If you can get your hands on decent lumber and cut it up/plane it/whatever it is that needs done (my knowledge of the lumber industry went away when I was 8yo and my grandpa's mill closed down). Even now, finding good, quality wood furniture is like looking for the holy grail. Sigh.

    Or a CSA type thing if you have a big enough fenced garden area and enough family to work it. If we're able to move onto some acreage in the next decade or so, I plan to start my own u-pick operation, and let the kids figure out their own business venture (my 7yo is set on either selling chickens or eggs). In the meantime, I'm hoping to just amp up my own growing and possibly sell from a cart in the front yard to folks driving by in the neighborhood.

  47. Chicken tractors?

    How many do you have to hitch up to pull a plow?:)


  48. *tool handles - hammer, ax, PhD (post-hole digger), saw, awl, scythe, rake, shovel, hoe, pitchfork, etc.

    *garden carts like this:


    *milking stanchions:


  50. I think soap molds would be a needed item.Also if things really went back to the 1800's you could make wagons and sleighs.I've seen websites that have the plans for those.People who are into mountain man rendezvous might order them.

  51. Well, I have an idea that would sure be neat for retailers like me, who specialize in kitchen stuff and bread making. I would love it if I could find a good, pretty and adjustable wooden bread slicing box. There are some out there, but they are plain and ugly and the slices are one size only. If you could figure out how to make an adjustable one, that would be awesome. AND what about bagel and English muffin holders to slice those? Just a thought.

  52. Patrice and Don,

    Such wonderful ideas from everyone! Wow!

    I love the idea about classes and would gladly drive down from Newport to take a few. However, I'm one of those people who don't want strangers visiting my house (and that's on a good day - not just when it all goes haywire!), so this may not be something for you. A new friend in our gleaner group invited me over to teach me how to can chicken - and, in the process, how to use my new pressure canner. I can't tell you what a gift that was, and it was something I would gladly have paid to learn. I don't know about charging people for classes in your home in Idaho, but if you were to offer a cheese class, for example, you could have cheese presses for purchase. What about using a grange hall for classes?

    Another idea I saw above was composters. I saw a photo of one on another website using 35 or 50 gallon drums. It is the kind that turns on an axle (hope that makes sense), and I immediately thought of Eagle Peak Containers. That's the kind of thing you could even sell at a farmers market to see if there's any interest, and it would keep people away from your home.
    Whatever you choose to do, I know you'll find a way to make it a success. Best regards.

  53. I know quite a few folks that are going back to the old fashion clotheslines-I have read about your drying racks but you may be able to come up with a nice revsion of the T shaped pole. I also would pay to have lessons in pressure canning. My daughter and I went to an extension class and left feeling totally intimidated.In my lifetime I have done everything from paint an exterior of a house and fire escapes, waited tables,worked 3 jobs and went to school to be an RN while working part-time and taking care of 3 small kids. I can hardly stand it when I hear someone say they rather take their unemployment than to do a job beneath them. If its legal its not beneath you.

  54. Grandpa always said: Funeral Homes and Baby food; get 'em coming and going.

    Drop down side baby cribs. The nanny state is about to outlaw them 'cause folks are too stupid to assemble or use them properly. Examine a few designs and Don can figure out any possible weaknesses and improve upon them. (Unfortunately, liability may be an issue.)

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

  55. My husband's family made it through the Great Depression making pipes for smoking.

  56. I think the first baby step - while waiting for the "perfect" idea to fall on you - is to consider the items folks have suggested that expand on what Don is already doing. Make use of his tools, his skills, and his current love - wood. I'm thinking he needs to add a lathe to his collection and start adding bowls, cups, plates, platters, etc. as companions to his tankards, using similar patterns. Maybe some salt and pepper mills if he's really feeling brave. I bet they would move like free beer. Actually I was thinking that a few of sizes of straight-side "crocks" would be nice also. These could be turned or glue-lam'ed like the tankards. My grandmother always had a set of "canisters" on her counter that held, coffee, flour, etc. And of course cookie "jars". I was thinking a straight-side container with no lid would be great to set on the counter and hold cooking utensils. And done like the tankards, would be a beautiful conversation piece also. The economy may well tank big time, but as one person put it, so long as UPS still delivers, someone will be buying. The more you can haul in now, the more you'll have to see you through a rough patch.

    Jeff - Tucson

  57. There are a lot of great ideas on here. One of the problems that I see with most of them is shipping, even pre-shtf.

    A great idea both pre and post shtf is coffins, I have told my family that when I die I don't want them spending thousands of dollars on a box to hold me, just a simple pine box. But there again, how are you going to ship it. That makes your customer base close to home and therefore not very big.

    Consider this; Knowledge is Power. You guys are a wealth of it. People are scared and are wanting to know how to get ready for it (shtf). A lot don't even know where to begin. Most probably haven't even thought of toilet paper or Enola Gay's preparedness products. You guys have forgotten more than a lot of people know about urban homesteading. I have learned a lot from you both on this blog. But I am the type of person that learns from seeing not reading. A lot that you have put on your blog you say is super simple, but it really intimidates me.

    So here is my thought. Come to my home and teach me. Wait, wait, wait, hear me out. You guys cant physically go to everyones home and teach them to can chicken or milk Matilda, or build that great canning closet. You certainly don't want us all coming to your house to learn it (potluck anyone). So video tape it. Make dvd's about...well...all that you do. I have read articles and blogs that both of you have written and you are very funny and entertaining, so move it from the computer screen to the tv. Several people on here have posted that they would pay for classes to learn these things, so teach us on dvd. I would buy them. Don when you planted wheat last fall you wished that you had disced the feild one more time after the seed was thrown, why? You could show us your trial and errors, you know like the 2000 ways not to make a light bulb. Things that you have tried that failed, and ultimatly what worked. How to milk a cow, how to choose a cow when you are going to buy one, what is a good price for a cow, utter attachment, ect.

    You could call it: Urban Homesteading, Urban Homesteading, Urban Homesteading, Urban Homesteading, Urban Homesteading,...oops sorry.

    Urban Homesteading for Dummies.

    Get a hold of the nearest college and find a student taking film making classes. Get assistance with editing if you want. Find someone that knows nothing about what you are teaching on that particular video to be in it also, that way they can ask questions about things that you may know but forget to talk about.

    Dvds are a whole lot easier to ship than a coffin, and require a lot less space to store.
    Your customer base would be huge and, I would think, not a lot of over head.

    I could be totally off my rocker and wrong about the costs and it would not be worth it. I also don't know if this would work post shtf, because I don't know if we will have power. If we do though, I would like to have a video library of knowledge. If we don't then hopefully I will have gotten them soon enough to have learned what I need to from them and put that knowledge to work.

    That way, we can all come to your house while you teach us what we need to know, and none of us ever have to step foot on your property.

    Just a thought.

    Patrice, did this already post once? It didn't give me the message it normally does when I post something. If it did please don't post it again.

  58. Good idea Dawn


  59. Sounds like a winner, Dawn!

  60. Nice written!! I have been a big fan of your blogs. thanks
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