Posts Tagged ‘homestead’

I saw this idea somewhere between Back Home and Natural Home (& Garden), and I can’t figure who to credit this idea to, however, as we start to employ less toys, but more that are visible, it became obvious that we needed a row of hooks for silks and other play fabric and scarves.

Since we’re on a new “living within our means” commitment, I needed something functional, fast and free (my favorite f-words!).

So, the twig row of hooks was born.  It was fun to make and involve my nearly-3-year-old in, scavenging twigs and branches from around the house, using the loppers to get the right cuts, sanding the rough edges and banging the nails into a discarded piece of lumber hanging out in the garage, just waiting for a purpose in life.  Fun activity, no need to “fetch” supplies and just what I needed–quickly!


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Sorry about my little impromptu break!  Things around here have been a bit more hectic around here with the advent of summer, the end of school and nicer weather!  But, I’ve been busy!  I’ve been doing a lot of sewing, but more about that later; there have been many changes around here that I think are worth mentioning.

I started writing this blog in January.  It was then that we started ramping up on getting our house in the city ready for selling and waiting to close on 7 acres of woods, just 10 miles out of town.  We made lists of projects for the house and did research about green and sustainable building.  We looked up techniques to collect maple sap for syrup, what would be the best wood stove for our uses, and how to manage a small bit of land responsibly, while keeping ourselves stocked with wood for the stove.  Oh!  The lists were plentiful! (Perhaps, if there were such a thing, making lists would be the best career for me…)

We closed on the land in February (after waiting a painstaking 4 months) and put the house up for sale at the end of March.  We were inundated with prospective buyers for the house, and we continued to do more research, knowing we would be in temporary housing in the city for at least 6-12 months while we developed the site and built our eco-dream.

Well, we didn’t get any offers for the house, we didn’t aggressively market it after the initial market-watchers passed us by, we stopped cleaning the house every night in case another would show up, BP’s oil started spewing all over (this is important later), estimates to prep the land started climbing with the mercury, the sun came out, neighborhood kids started coming out of their homes after a hard winter, and our kids (and their other mommy) got out the scooters, bikes, balls, water toys…and started falling in love with our current home all over again.  I started to make different lists and examine the old lists.  My whole family seemed to be happy, connected and peaceful right where we were, despite all the reasons we wanted to move out to the country.  But, after examining the list (and taking into consideration all the law-breakers who have chickens in the wide open in the city), it turns out that

most of what I want to accomplish in life are
skills and a way of life
that can be achieved right here in the heart of the city.

We aren’t going anywhere.  I conceded that we would give it another shot for a year at least.  I looked around this 140-year-old house.  There are a lot of things I can’t change about it, but it suits us, it’s in a great location and, as it turns out, the kids couldn’t be happier anywhere else. 

The problem?  We’ve outgrown our britches here in this money-sucking house.  We’ve lived larger than we could, and part of selling and moving was to achieve financial sustainability as well as ecological sustainability.  Just as we started to look realistically at staying and the possibility of still having to leave to save our financial selves, a few things started to come into the mix.  I was offered a part-time job that would feed my soul, require no scheduling changes for the household, and provide a little bit of reliable breathing room in the checkbook.  Our local doulas  available started dwindling and I was asked to step up and start taking births to help meet the need for doulas in our area–so I did.  My partner came home one day after listening to the radio about the BP oil spill and suggested we get rid of our perfectly comfortable and convenient minivan and get a hybrid (which would cost a lot less)–so we did. 

Now I’m making new lists. 

And reorienting my attitude about life in this city to achieve the eco-dream. 

And, I’m getting a little closer everyday.

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Water is the most precious resource we have on this lonely planet, and we’re squandering it away.

Nothing exists without water, either directly or indirectly.

A while back, I put together a post about saving paper here, and now thought I’d post something about saving water, as it has been on my mind a lot lately.  We are a culture that, some say, is incredibly arrogant and wasteful.  When it comes to water, I emphatically agree.  One of my favorite new paradigm shifts came recently from the Organic Sister blog, where she shares a favorite idea:

There are two kinds of people in the world. 

People who shit in clean drinking water


those who don’t. 

It reads funny, but, if you truly think about it, it’s profound.  It’s safe to say that the majority of the Western world falls in the latter category, but it is also safe to ask: “When’s the last time you thought about where your water comes from?”  “Does it make sense to shit in the same kind of water that we drink?”  Or, should we get over our phobias about human waste and get real while we still have a planet?  I dream of the simplicity of 5-gallon-bucket composting sawdust toilets, but back here in semi-urban reality, we have two decently-water-efficient toilets (1.6 gpf).  So, what more can we do while we are here in this house and not dreaming up big plans for all the water-saving features we could do if we were, say, building a new home?  Water-saving ideas are relevant for everyone–particularly the 99% of households who are living in older homes, or have no intention of moving, for whatever reason. 

On that note, here are a few things we do in our home:

Since I cannot shower in 5 minutes, I take a shower every other day.  Shortening your shower time and using a low-flow shower head also helps.

When we had to replace our tub, we replaced a gigantic claw foot tub with a 4′ tub instead of the standard 5′.  When the children get baths, this saves quite a bit of water.

“If it’s yellow, let it mellow,” is a great saying for a reason.  Don’t flush unless you have to!  But, be careful if you have really old pipes–there’s only so much toilet paper (if you use it) that they can take per flush.

Turn off the tap while humming toothbrushing tunes.

Water used to cook food (i.e. pasta, grains, corn, etc…) should be used to water plants.  Pouring water down the sink only wastes water!!   Water that is enriched by cooking food is good for your plants and causes you to use less to water those plants…(not to mention lower your water bill).

In the same vein, water leftover in drinking glasses are used to water plants.  I swear this is the only way plants get watered around here!

Made our own rain-catchment barrels.  Those things can cost well over $100 for half-barrels!  I built mine (with help) out of $12 55-gallon food-grade barrels purchased from an outdoor store.  Your local junkyard, grain store or grocery might have them too.  I went to the local hardware shop and purchased a couple of pieces to install a spigot at the bottom (though you can siphon the water out manually) for less than $15.  I now have a fully-functioning rain-catchment barrel (55 gallons!) for less than $30, installed.  Here’s an even simpler way to do it.  While you’re at it, get a couple of concrete blocks to elevate your rain barrel, please don’t spend $30 or more just for the “stand” they sell at those Big Box Home Improvement stores.  Take that, Home Depot.  Don’t forget: use rainwater only for plants–it’s not potable!

Use an energy-efficient dishwasher.  There’s a controversy about whether dishwashers actually save or waste water, and it mostly depends on your dish-washing style.  I waste a ton of water by running the tap while washing, because I can’t stand the idea of using a tub of dirty water to wash dishes.  For me, the dishwasher saves water and my relationship (I h-a-t-e washing dishes).  Win-Win.

Only wash laundry when there’s a full load.  Enough said.  Be sure to replace any old or broken washing machines with Energy Star appliances.


If you want to take dramatic steps, try:

Using a solar shower outside.  A finite amount of water significantly restricts your ability to use a ton of water.

Replacing your flush-toilet with a composting toilet.  Composting toilets, whether incinerating or sawdust, use no water.

Take a sauna instead of a shower.  It’s not unheard of for people to use a sauna in the same way most would use a shower.  And, apparently, just as effective.

Install a greywater system (used tap or well water from dishes, etc…) for garden irrigation, flushing toilets and anywhere else it doesn’t matter if the water is really clean.  (Note: Make sure dishwashing soap is biodegradable and non-toxic or plants will be contaminated quickly.)

Do you have any crazy or wacky ideas about reducing or eliminating clean water usage?

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Hope and Promise

While the world around me is getting crazier (oil spills, war, etc…), I’ve found that a walk around our humble urban homestead provides wonderful whispers of hope.  We are debating on whether to take the house off the market, and I will admit the promise of being able to plant more veggies in the garden appeals to me.  I’ve spent most of my time this spring planting containers on the porch.  I got carried away with the peas (as they were pretty much the only thing I was anticipating being here for the harvest.  The strawberries took off and the raspberries are taking off!  I look around and see hope and promise of a re-birth and coming of age.

I’ve been feeling a bit trapped and directionless recently, and it turns out that my despair really mingled with the universe to deliver me a few options!  I’m considering applying for a part-time job that at least has something to do with my advanced degree, and I’m seriously considering taking on births as a doula (and maybe some post-partum work too) this summer.  It’s because of this promise of perhaps a little extra cash coming our way that we can even consider staying where we are for a spell, or at least until we decide we can either take less for the house or the perfect buyer comes along.  Regardless, I feel the pressure lifting and my spirits blooming with the vegetables and flowers around my little abode.

Have a blessed, flowery day!

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Yearning is ingrained in my personality. No matter how much I try to take time to live in the moment, appreciate what I have or smell the proverbial and literal roses, I yearn for more and better.  Sometimes I can justify this constant yearning by thinking that those things for which I yearn are worth yearning for: peace, quietude of soul, independent gardening to feed our family, better playthings for my children, time to learn a new craft (time to craft at all), most of all “time”.  However, after pouring over beautiful Waldorf-inspired mama blogs, I find that I spend more time reading about the life I want than living the life I want, and all that time goes away.

I’m a lifelong learner.  I suck up information and try to keep it all at a convenient place in my brain to be called up at the perfect time.  Like parenting advice when I’ve locked horns with Em and haven’t found a way out yet.  Or, when I have some spare time and need the perfect little craft to start with her.  But, by nature, I’m also not so creative or resourceful, so I blank until the next time I read something that’s inspiring and file it away again.

So, I have amassed the resources to be creative and join in with imaginative play.  I have saved the websites so I can peruse them at a different time and use the good times to do productive things.  We are putting together plans to move out of the heart of our small city and on to  7 acres of woods that we will have to work for years to fine-tune our homestead.  And, because it’s still winter and the magic of the holidays is long past, we fantasize about moving to coastal california.  Since the rest of it isn’t enough to preoccupy my stay-at-home-with-two-children self. (I’m hoping the sarcasm was obvious there.)

However, despite all my hopes and dreams and plans for the future, I did manage to capture a moment of peace and happy reading: 

And I also repurposed my mother-in-law’s discarded skirt into a “wedding dress” that Em has been clamoring for for ages.  I simply cut off the elastic waist, corrected the height, sewed in a little pink and green ribbon accent at the top and used the elastic waist to fashion straps.  Ta-Da.  Wedding dress.

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