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Showing posts with label adapting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adapting. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dual Purpose in the Garden


Even though we have a large garden, we still try to apply the permaculture principle of stacking in some of our plant variety selections. Many times it is to save work, and sometimes it saves on space to choose a dual purpose type of plant.  Celeriac or celery root is one, I no longer grow celery, since the celery root is growing all summer anyway, does not require the water that celery does, and a few leaves taken for the kitchen here and there barely make a dent in the crop. Another is hardneck garlic which puts on scapes and gives me a lot of extra garlic for cooking and preserving.

Music garlic scapes
Sometimes we find these gems right under our noses.  What to do with hardneck garlic scapes?  They come on at once and giving them away is about like trying to give away zucchini during August.

garlic scapes for the freezer
My solution to run them through the food processor and freeze them has changed the way I look at my garlic now.  Previously come tomato processing time, I would spend lots of time peeling garlic for roasting for sauce and salsa, and I was always a little worried about using too much of my winter garlic supply.  Now I use the mild scapes for my tomato roasting endeavors.  Chopping would work fine too, but if you have a food processor you can make short work of a lot scapes.  To fully maximize the potential, I freeze the scapes in half pint canning jars.  Initially I froze the scapes in larger quantities and found that once I thawed them out, I needed to use them up fast.  And you know garlic, a little goes a long way.  One cup of chopped scapes seasons a large roasting pan of tomatoes or other vegetables perfectly, and really saves me time too.  No more peeling and chopping, but you do have to remember to thaw out the scapes beforehand. 

What types of stacking have you discovered in your garden or kitchen?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

With Thanks

Saying thank you is more than good manners.  It is good spirituality. 

~Alfred Painter~




Posted by Bel

I hope I can tackle this topic without seeming all Pollyanna-ish...  I was explaining to someone the other day that my main tool for dealing with any challenging situation is gratitude.  The concept of conscious gratitude was first revealed to me in the Simple Abundance books by Sarah Ban Breathnach in the ‘90s.  If I can find at least one positive to every negative, then life’s on even keel.  And it is all about balance, after all!  If I can find lots of positives in my life, then life’s good!

Sometimes I almost believe my family and friends when they tell me I’m just too busy, overworked, or just plain crazy.  Juggling kids, homeschooling, relationship and friendships, a business, the farm and animals and volunteering in the community as well...  Yes, life is full.  But it’s really just a season.  Already I have one adult child, and within a decade all six will be grown up!  I am currently selling my business, after an enjoyable few years of nurturing it from a hobby to a real source of income.  Sometimes farm life is very demanding with lots of baby animals to nurture, gardens needing overhauling, the cow to milk once or twice a day (which leads to lots of time in the kitchen processing and preserving the abundance).  And sometimes it’s a lot quieter – waiting for babies, no milking, fallow gardens or just enough rain and sunshine to ignore the lot and let it grow!  So many 'seasons'.



image from HP

Remembering the quiet times, and appreciating them for what they are, fuel me through the inevitable hectic times of my life.  Sometimes I am so rushed that, for example, sitting and waiting for the cow troughs to fill with water could easily irritate me.  But instead of feeling frustrated about what else I could be doing, I feel gratitude for the chance to sit (even in the drizzling rain) and look around me - to Be.  I glance at the nut trees, feeling blessed at their maturity and abundant crops; the bee hives full of busy workers who not only create delicious honey for us, but also pollinate our gardens and orchard; the kilometres of fences my darling husband built and repaired so that we could keep large animals like by beloved cows and that crazy horse;  the water flowing from the hose – gravity-fed, clean, fresh spring water which keeps on coming all the year round; my cows and their offspring - the companionship, mowing, milk and even meat our herd provide us with.  I am surrounded by such abundance!  To everyone else it looks like hard work - muddy, smelly, physically challenging, expensive, responsibility-laden hobby farming!  But I know I am blessed and I am grateful for the chance  to live this dream I’ve held for so many years.

To read more about gratitude on the co-op, see:
Gratitude by Aurora
Being Grateful by Eilleen
Bloom When you are Planted –  a Note from the Frugal Trenches
Enough by Bel

Tell me, do you use conscious gratitude as a tool to cope with the pressures of your life?  Perhaps you keep a gratitude journal or have some other ritual?  Please leave a Comment with your experiences, or share something you are grateful for...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How Simplicity Prepares You For The Harder Times

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Late yesterday evening I wrote on my personal blog about the difference in the experience of frugality when it is forced vs. it being a choice. The days grocery shopping "adventure" was still fresh in my mind. And in truth, my mind was on the black formal dress shirt school is insisting each child owns by Monday (for a concert), my daughters need for sandals, my son outgrowing his trousers (again!), four prescriptions that need renewing this month, three bills which recently arrived and a petrol tank in the bottom 1/4.

I've lived a frugal and simple life for many years. You will find us hiking instead of shopping, watering our community garden plot instead of going to an adventure playground or theme park, and spending our evenings reading, playing games, riding bikes or volunteering instead of frequenting paid activities. But this is the first time under our new circumstances of it not being an adventure, or a reason to save for something (emergency fund, car repair fund, holiday fund, long term savings plan). This is no longer about choice, but circumstance. The two very different c's.

The difference for me is two fold. Firstly, the "what if' thought is never far from my mind (what if there is another bill, or an emergency which costs $$ arises) and secondly, the constant need to prioritize, or choose what to cut in order to make it all work. And that isn't a nice feeling at all.

And yet, honestly, I see beauty in how we live. Yes, I've certainly learned that when things are already tough, more seems to go wrong - like a double blow that seems, at times, ridiculously unfair. But I've also learned about joy, faith, perseverance and commitment to a choice, and owning that choice even when it no longer feels like you've chosen such a path. If we had an extra $1000 a month, the reality is, our activities would not change, you would still find us hiking, bike riding, visiting parks, cooking from scratch, playing games, making art and crafts and loving life. None of that would be any different. What would change is the bank balance, our ability to easily deal with the emergencies that arise and perhaps a little bit more peace. But the reality is, we are not poor, we have a very nice roof over our heads, our fridge and cupboards are full, everyone has all the clothes they need, we have more books than we could possibly read (though we are trying!), we have our garden plot, a car that gets us from A to B, each child has a hobby, or two, that they enjoy each week. And our life really isn't any different, except that I need to be far more creative at times. And you know, the artist in me knows, creativity is never a bad thing!

I'd love to hear from you. Do you have any tips for me, or other readers, about embracing forced frugality or living well on less?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

10 Simple (and Free) Things You Can Do To Get Fit

by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

Lately, I've been focusing on my health and fitness.  With that, I've been noticing that there seems to be a hell of a lot of push to spend lots of money on fitness activities and accessories.  Unfortunately, I hear people use money as an excuse to *not* invest in their health.  There are heaps of things you can do to get fit *without* spending money! I'll start the list:

1. Walk/Run/Cycle in real life - When I first started my road to fitness again, I dusted off and re-oiled an old bike (about 20 years old) and started to ride it. It wasn't pretty, made of heavy steel and its as crappy a bike as you can get, BUT it worked reasonably well. I started exploring my neighbourhood and old childhood haunts on my bike and fell in love with my world all over again.  If you don't have a bike, then walk or run!  If weather makes it impossible to walk/run/cycle outdoors, then find the biggest building you know and walk there! I tend to do a lot of my indoor walking in museums and art galleries.

2. Wear old clothes in layers - You know I love dressing up but I have to say when you're getting hot and sweaty, you're going to look  and feel hot and sweaty - no matter what you're wearing.  

3. Sign up to a free exercise program or download a free exercise app -  If you're reading this, chances are you have internet in your home.  Many people also have a smart phone.  If you have internet and/or a smart phone then you will have access to a whole heap of free exercise programs (youtube and itunes have got a huge number of them!) or better yet free exercise apps on your phone that will let you  follow a training program and log your own exercise. Its a great way to get motivated!

4. Carry your shopping bags instead of using the trolley - Its a great way to exercise those arms!

5. Turn up the dance music and dance your way through your housework - You would be surprised at how much of a workout that is (and it always gives me a good giggle while I do it).

6. Use the fitness stations at your local park - TBH, I never really saw these fitness stations until I started to look out for them....and now I see them everywhere!  I like to think of these stations as "free gyms".

7. Drink lots of water - because its good for you.

8. Play with kids - Have you ever run around the playground with your kids?  I have and oh man, its a great workout!  Yeah, I have to squeeze myself into little tunnels sometimes but hey, that just adds to the challenge! Yet another "free gym" opportunity.

9. Volunteer for working bees - There are always organisations asking for volunteers to help with landscaping or cleaning or any number of physical work.  My local RSPCA often asks for volunteers to walk their dogs. Its a great way to workout as well as help out your local community.

10. Use exercise equipment you already own - Admit it, you probably have some...somewhere. (hehe)

Anyway, I'd love to hear your ideas for simple and free things you can do to get fit.  Please comment below and add to the list!

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Water Feature without Water

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Part of my landscaping includes a narrow little dead end piece bordered by the house on two sides, the front fence, and a storage shed, under the shade of a couple of trees on the other side of the fence. The space is split between a sunken paving stone walkway alongside the house, a brick retaining wall, and a little bit of garden space. It's the kind of space that often is easier left to bare ground, and to be honest, I don't really want any high-maintenance landscaping - the fruit orchard and vegetable garden keep me plenty busy.

But it's such a sheltered and shady little nook - so different from the wind-swept sand and sagebrush hills that make up my view. And both bedrooms have windows that open out onto that space - windows that have to be opened up to catch the breeze after the sun goes down in the summer. So I've tried to turn that little alcove into a pretty, green and restful spot, slowly amassing a variety of perennial plants through trial and error that survive, and every once in a while finding a perfect little decorative item to add to the scene.


One such item out there now is a standing birdbath - a terracotta clay saucer lined with blue enamel, supported by a single black pole. It adds a nice little bit of color and interest. And I like the idea of a little water feature in that garden, but quickly decided water wasn't going to work there.

I've written about providing water for wildlife earlier (here), especially important in my area since I live in a climate that sees no summer precipitation at all. I have two heavy concrete basins out in the open part of my yard, and love watching the birds, bees, and bunnies that visit those regularly. But I don't want fluttering, chirping birds right outside my open bedroom window at the crack of dawn. That's supposed to be my quiet, peaceful, restful spot. And I don't want to be always cleaning up after a bunch of birds. They're in the tree branches above anyway. I don't need to be attracting more to that particular little space.

And besides, it's so hot and dry here, and that birdbath is flat and shallow. Any water in it evaporates so quickly during the heat of summer, I'd have to be refilling that thing two or three times a day. It's ok empty, but just not quite right - something is missing. So, how can I have a water feature without water?

Eureka! Wandering through the local big box store, I spy my solution on a shelf over by the gift wrap section. Glass pebbles! So I get a bag of clear and a bag of various blues - mix them together and spread them out over the bottom of the birdbath (I just set it up for the season yesterday - it needs a vinegar soaking to get rid of the mineral deposit rings. Another reason not to fill it with water). I get the sparkle and reflections of sun on water without the trial and tribulations. It's perfect!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

We really REALLY need to talk about resilience.

Aurora@Island Dreaming

Yesterday the news broke in the UK that sizable numbers of tanker drivers had balloted to go on strike, possibly as early as next week. The UK has been here before, most spectacularly during the fuel protests of 2000 when fuel refineries were blockaded and the country was a mere '9 meals from anarchy'. Media coverage and a few either well placed (if you're cynical) or incredibly dumb (if you're cynical) comments from a few high profile politicians urging people to top up their tanks and have a jerry can of petrol on standby have led to queues and panic buying.

My own nation desperately needs to start talking about resilience. It doesn't really matter if tanker drivers go on strike for a few weeks. Well it matters, it will cause pain and disruption to a lot of already stretched people, but it doesn't matter anywhere near as much as the fact that we collectively and individually saddle our entire beings on the availability of a rapidly depleting, mostly imported, polluting, nonrenewable liquid fuel. THAT is a real problem; and judging by the commentary in today's papers, the majority of the UK public still doesn't get that. According to the International Energy Authority, 'conventional' oil production peaked in 2006. The potential short term pain we are about to feel is nothing in comparison with what awaits us in the next few decades if we don't wake up.


I became aware of peak oil several years ago, along with tottering housing markets, banking collapse, austerity drives and the potential for civil unrest. What did I do with that awareness? Well, I read voraciously for a few years. I read Richard Heinberg's 'The Party's Over' (a very good if somewhat gloomy introduction to peak oil if you need one) and many of the titles in its bibliography. I read and read and read and made moves to change my own life and become more resilient. Some of these I wrote about on my blog, preaching to the already converted. Who else did I tell? Pretty much no one. As all of these dire warnings became reality, I found myself unable to really talk about them effectively. These are not isolated problems that can be blamed on or palmed off on others to solve and as such are hard to talk about. Talk about bogeymen is cheap and this is instead a conversation  predominantly about personal responsibility.

I came across this video last week that explains the problems we are facing in a natty animation. I posted it to my Facebook page and it got a single like - from someone already in the know.


I think I understand why KONY2012 went viral and generated so much interest, when videos like this one do not. Murderous individuals are so much easier to 'solve' than murderous circumstances. You watch and post the video, you have done your bit - doesn't it feel good? You have helped change the world. You watch a video about the triple whammy reality of resource depletion, economic collapse and environmental degradation and within minutes you start to feel a little off colour. You may try to rationalize it away as extremist nonsense and stop watching. If you can't quite manage to rationalize it away and continue to take in uncomfortable information, you won't feel good for a very long time to come. Watching the video is only the very start of your contribution to the solution, because in essence, the problem is all of us choosing convenience over resilience every step of the way. The change has to come from within and comes to bear on every lifestyle decision you make.


This lack of resilience thinking also explains why the prospect of oil tanker drivers going on strike is causing such a furore here at home. Yes, it is going to be very inconvenient - but wouldn't it be better to stop the bellyaching and use this as a practice run for real energy shocks and disruptions that are undoubtedly going to be a part of our future. Resilience is not having a jerry can on stand by and sending out the army to deliver fuel. Resilience is designing our lives so that a temporary disruption to petrol supply doesn't warrant such attention, because other systems are already in place to take up the slack. It is sharing lifts and getting fit enough to walk a few miles instead of driving. It is buying a bike and learning to maintain it. It is maintaining a pantry and a kitchen  garden. Resilience demands forethought over immediacy. It demands that we make changes and choices and lobby government, but that we don't expect them to listen or to create a resilient society for us.

I haven't communicated any of this and it is time to own my own frustration. These issues encapsulate some of my deepest fears for my children, my community, myself. If I can't communicate these deepest fears and hopes to my nearest and dearest, in the same way that they express their own insecurities to me, then I am not really communicating, am I? It isn't a case of preaching, it is a case of revealing a little more of yourself and potentially taking flack and ridicule for it. So this week I aim to introduce these issues to someone who currently doesn't know or care and a tanker strike is the perfect opportunity. And then I will do it again with someone else next week. I aim to fill my barren Facebook feed with videos and links like the one above, promoting everything from economic collapse theory to up cycling old furniture and repairing bikes. Resilience is the very issue of our time and won't become a reality until the majority of people embrace it as a filter through which to view the world. I aim to start a conversation.

What do you do to promote resilience? Should we even try?


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Man skills

Aurora @ Island Dreaming

I don't know what else to call them - most people will know what I mean by 'man' skills, much as it irks me to divide labour along gender lines in this day and age. These are the areas of production that, in peacetime at least, have been the domain of men. Perhaps we could call them hard skills, as they involve sharp edges, hard surfaces, fire and electrical currents. A little danger, if you will, when contrasted against the much softer, rounder edges of garden, yarn and kitchen crafts.These are the industries that most commonly employed men and the skills kept alive, mostly by men, tinkering in sheds.

Until this week, I knew not a single person that shaped metal and welds in their spare time. I work in facilities management and the maintenance teams, comprised entirely of men, are obviously quite handy. But the older ones complain that the younger ones coming in from college lacking old skills - mental arithmetic, a working knowledge of their allied disciplines, a willingness to think outside the box. The number of jobs in these practical sectors seems to be continually shrinking. Whether this is a reality or not I don't know, but all of the people that I know that work in less tactile service industries do not pursue these hard practical skills in their spare time. They have hobbies - cooking, yarn crafts, gardening and may have an admiration for cars and gadgets. Few of them however, myself included, can fix a cooker, make a spinning wheel, re-handle a spade, perform an oil change or build a PC from spare parts.

Part of the problem I think is that these skills are less accessible and more expensive to learn. They require dedicated workshop space and tools. Many of them require a solid knowledge of scientific principles which many come out of school lacking. Part of it might be a mental block - these are the things that so many who are trying to simplify and transition to a lower energy future really can't imagine having to supply for themselves. I would hope against hope that women are not held back from them because they are unladylike, though I fear that may often be the case. But the idea that a powered down future is going to be built solely with knitting and seedlings is dangerous. I fear we may end up with an overabundance of skilled cooks, knitters and gardeners; and an under abundance of welders, tool sharpeners and ham radio enthusiasts.

Why is this on my mind?


This is the plough our allotment neighbour built. He spent the winter in Bangladesh on his family farm and brought this back with him. It is made from scrap metal, hand cut and shaped, welded together. It fits into a extendable paint roller handle. He shipped it back from Bangladesh, I suppose, because his expensive diesel powered rotovator was mangled by a piece of scrap metal buried on his plot. It is sturdy. It cuts through soil and weeds like a knife through butter and ploughs an allotment row in minutes. It laughs in the face of the scrap metal buried on his plot - and if it does get mangled, it can be repaired by hand with pieces of scrap metal. I am in awe of the handiwork and ashamed that I would not have a clue where to even begin with a project like this, short of 'Step 1: find scrap metal'.

My own grandad was a ham radio enthusiast. He built his own aerial in the back garden. He was an early adopter of computer technology and tinkered with all things electrical and mechanical. If I had grown up around him I may have been more handy than I am, but regardless of our crafts, I think that his example is why the DIY ethic courses through my veins. But my skills are all distinctly 'soft' and I felt both in awe and completely inadequate when confronted with this plough. Awe and inadequacy combined are an inspirational combination and I am now on the look out for my own 'hard' skill to develop over the next few years, though what it will be I do not know.

What 'hard' skills do you possess and are you trying to pass them on to others or revive them? Is there something you want to learn and what is stopping you? And what should I do? Ideas much appreciated...




Friday, February 3, 2012

Lifestyle Transitions

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
A wry smile crept across my face as I read my co-writer Aurora's post, immediately preceding my day to write. I have a comfortable morning routine, honed over many years. Or had, shall I say? My husband, transitioning into retirement, now has put everything into disarray.

Many of the same things still get done: breakfast cooked, dishes washed, a load of laundry started, bed fluffed and made up. And sometimes, now it's even him doing some of those things, so I really can't complain (although I do prefer he stay away from the laundry - and I do speak from experience).

But some things have changed too. He's an early riser, so I find my day now tends to start earlier too. I usually read the newspaper as my breakfast muffins or oats are cooking - he has the paper. I take my mid-morning cup of tea in to check my email - he's on the computer. I go to vacuum the living room - he's watching something on television. My late-afternoon walks with the dog are now more likely to take place much earlier, and now there are three of us. Dinner plans now are a topic for discussion instead of up to my discretion.

Spending patterns are in flux right now too. My grocery list has changed - he's now eating lunch at home instead of at work. And I had to reinforce that idea too. We'd often go out to lunch on his day off. But now that every day is his day off, that pattern needs to be broken. He's now readjusting to fixing and eating lunches at home most of the time.

Most of our household bills will remain the same, but we're still waiting to see about car use and gasoline expense. He's not commuting to work, but with more time to spend together we are getting out and about, doing things together. It's a good thing I do so enjoy his company.

As he said a couple of days ago, his "accumulation" phase is now ending. Now we're looking at how to start using the funds we've saved up for this time, and how far we need to plan ahead. Neither of us is quite old enough for government health care. Without the company health insurance, we're going to have to shop for our own coverage for the time being. Not constrained by corporate dictates of who we can see, we'll probably re-examine our health care providers - perhaps changing dentists, optometrists, and doctors.

We've saved and planned for this day - but it's always been "someday." Now that it's here, it's going to take the both of us a bit of time to readjust.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beauty in the Every Day

by Danelle Stamps at The Stamps Family Farm

There are some days when farming and simple living are anything but simple. There are some days where living this life, caring for animals and land and people is just so breathtakingly hard that doing chores in -40 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures with 60 miles per hour winds is preferable to facing the daily realities of farming. 

Animals die. Crops get flooded out. Children get sick. And the sun still rises in the East every morning.

This last year has had some hard lessons. We lost 15 pigs total to disease and heat. Preventable disease, but we didn't know enough to have vaccinated them and they died. We lost two llamas to a parasite because we didn't know enough about regular worming. We are armatures let loose to learn hard lessons at the expense of our livestock and no amount of book learning or Internet websites can take the place of these hard realities. 

But we are still here. Still farming. And these experiences made us better stewards of our flock. We know more about disease management and animal care and nutrition. 

You just have to know, if you are going into farming with no experience or mentors or help, it isn't easy.

That said, I started to sit down and write this week's post about finding beauty in the harshness of winter or farm life or daily grind. 


 Instead, I'd like to pose a question: What lessons have you had to learn the hard way? What losses built your skills? What things should new farmers know before going into it feet first?


My top four: 

Get to know your local vet, explain what you want to do and ask for advice, supply lists, and a lesson in how to administer shots. Ask how or where it is proper to dispose of animal carcass, especially if there is a burn ban.

Practice or list out what to do in an emergency. Who to call. Where supplies are. What and where to go.

How will you handle failure? Really. What things will you have in place to mourn your losses, to do things better, to not beat yourself up when you need to be working on making things better. 

Winter food supply for livestock. Last year, mid winter we had to frantically make calls to get more hay delivered. This year, all was purchased in October and stored well. The only mishap we have had is a dropped round bale on our truck (damaged the truck bed door). 


As with anything, make time for yourself. Each moment get ready for the next one and live it with grace. That is beauty. That is life.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The green and simple life - as it actually is in a small urban house, with small children

Aurora @ Island Dreaming


 
I have to admit, I am at a bit of a loss as to what to write about this week.


It isn't that we haven't been doing anything. I have baked bread, I have started two batches of wine, a batch of from-grain beer. We have further  decluttered and redecorated the house, celebrated Halloween and Christmas, cooked almost every day from scratch. Nappies have been washed, laundry gloop made. But my own blog has been silent for two months now, because the wherewithal to coordinate doing something worthy of writing about with having a charged camera battery, time to sit at the computer and compose something and the brain capacity to write acceptable English more often than not fails me.

The reason? A six month old teething baby. The beautiful routine we had begun to get into? Gone out of the window, replaced by fractiousness, separation anxiety and broken nights. Broken nights for everyone, because her three year old brother in the next room often wakes with a jump at the onset of a midnight screaming session. We are not a well rested household.

Herein lies a problem. The main attraction of a simple life is to be more rested than those panicking to climb the material and social ladder. I feel not rested, I feel overstretched for the first time in many months. A steady diet of doctors appointments, preschool sessions, vet appointments, scheduled activities,work and study commitments on top of all our day to day frugal activities is interfering with a previously plodding, calm schedule. Life does not feel simple and deliberate. It feels slapdash.

The reason I tell you this? I have been reading a few too many beautiful blogs of families with small children where everything is rosy and beautifully staged and calm and organized and tidy - and this has been bad for my mental health. It is, I realise now, no different to looking at adverts for expensive cars and anti-aging creams and feeling angry and inadequate for those things that are beyond your reach. I know that many bloggers actively admit they show the very best of their days, their blogs are a medium for them to focus on the things they are most grateful for and this is not a dig at them. I may have been guilty of this on my own blog. It is a dig at myself for falling into the trap of comparing our life unfairly with those edited blog lives.

I have neglected to keep up with a few of those delightful blogs that unfortunately I cannot help comparing myself too at the moment. My own blog has fallen by the wayside a little and instead I schedule my fortnightly appointment here and look forward to it. Our allotment is still awaiting its autumn tidy up, the garlic and broad beans have not been sown. Dishes sometimes stack up on the side. The hoover sometimes doesn't come out for a few days. Knitting gets left out in the rush and unravelled by a passing three year old. The cat knocks a house plant onto the floor and I shout and use choice words that I would never dream of typing. The dining table piles up and we eat on a rug in the living room. I raise my voice sometimes and lose my patience and sometimes I just scream into a pillow, cry and feel sorry for myself. Mindfulness escapes me to be replaced by racing thoughts and deep seated feelings of inadequacy.

I have nothing practical to share with you at the moment; I can't share with you tips for soothing a teething baby, as none of the things that worked with the first of my children is working with the second; I cannot get my brain (and camera) together enough to write the wine tutorial I have been planning for most of 2011. Instead I just want to say go easy on yourself and enjoy the start of this new year. If you are struggling to keep your head above water right now, because of overtired small children or for other reasons, then let something go and do what you can with the material or spiritual reserves you have. Keep on keeping on. I'm off to find my camera battery.




Thursday, September 29, 2011

Like money in the bank

Aurora at Island Dreaming


I have talked before about stockpiling food and my reasons before. But as we descend into winter, I realise I have been squirelling away other things, for many of the same reasons. 

These smaller stockpiles extend to a few balls of yarn, some fabric (mostly offcuts), seeds, compost, brewing chemicals, glass bottles and jars, cleaning ingredients, children's clothing, a savings account and, erm...toilet roll. None of these are stored to the extent that they are clutter, but are things I ensure that we always have a small stock of.  Sometimes we  take advantage of offers, sometimes we buy what we know we need at any price just for the security of having them. Many of these are the things that make life worth living, that should we take a financial hit, would allow us to continue the activities we do now - and probably save some money whilst we use them.

Physical goods are all well and good, but the most useful stockpile is the one you keep within yourself, from the knowledge you hold in your head, to the memory held in your muscles from practising a thing over and over. My most important possessions now are my ability to balance a budget and the know how to grow and cook some of my own food.

It is this latter stockpile that I think will serve me best in life. I don't believe that I will ever receive a a decent pension, state or otherwise. I am now 26 and currently eligible to retire at 68, which I suspect will rise much higher in my lifetime. Much of the social security safety net is being washed away as we speak. So we must continue to live the way that we do now and hone that most important of stockpiles - the ability to learn, retain and apply knowledge. I think all of us here are probably avid acquirers of new skills; to the extent that I am tempted to suggest we launch a Simple Green Frugal Co-op achievement badge program. Anyone for a fetching sash?

The stockpile I never really appreciated, being quite an introverted individual, is the esteem of a family, a community. The people that will help you out of a hole, as you will do them, when you undoubtedly fall into one. A community of people who care for you and who share useful skills and tools is as useful as the knowledge you yourself hold. I am now forced to be less introverted, to care more and to express my care to my neighbours and friends, where I previously would have shied away.

So these are the banks where I keep my money. Where do you keep yours?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

City Mouse, Country Mouse


by Linda@The Witches Kitchen

A post on Little Eco Footprints this week called Are we making a mistake living in the city? has been in the back of my mind at odd moments all week.  I live in a rural community.  I moved here as a young hippy mum nearly 30 years ago, living first in a caravan with no power, road access, or running water.  I have never regretted it and although it was diabolically hard in those early years, I do have the best of lives.

But sometimes, like the deserted beach or the fantastic suburban restaurant, things are only fantastic so long as no-one else knows they are.  Is living in the country like that?  Is it only possible to do it without destroying it because most people don't?

My "perfect world" fantasy has everyone living in permacultured villages with tiny ecological footprints, networked and linked with electric railways and internet (powered with geothermal or big desert solar installations), largely self sufficient in food, water, waste disposal, houshold and local energy, trading knowledge, culture, art, craft, manufactured goods and specialist crops.

The villages would be neither city nor country, but a bit of both.  They would have enough population density so that people could get around by foot and bicycle - kids could walk to school and to their friends places to play, neighbours would be close enough to rely on in emergencies or even just to borrow a cup of flour or a tool or visit for a chat.  But they would have a low enough density to allow most of the fresh food production to be local - kitchen gardens, fruit trees, chickens, geese, dairy cows.

That's not a very different level of population density to the older suburbs in Australia. As permaculture writer David Holmgren says, "It's technically possible that the traditional older suburbs could actually produce all of the food needed to sustain the people living there. The amount of open space - both public and private space in backyards - means that you've got a population density not that much greater than some of the densest traditional agricultural landscapes in the world."

FAO says that "It is realistic to suppose that the absolute minimum of arable land to support one person is a mere 0.07 of a hectare–and this assumes a largely vegetarian diet, no land degradation or water shortages, virtually no post-harvest waste, and farmers who know precisely when and how to plant, fertilize, irrigate, etc."  John Jeavons claims that  0.2 hectare can support a family of four. So my fantasy isn't unreasonable.  There's a batch of other references here, if you're interested.

But back to my fantasy.  Households and small businesses would have local grid connected solar power and rainwater tanks for water, with local water and power boards managing supply and floating pricing to force frugality in times of shortage. Along the same principles as the current push for carbon pricing - people figure out ways to use less of something when it's expensive.

Villages would have their own schools, hospitals, and local economies, based on trading everyday goods and services, but would be connected by high speed electric trains to allow some villages to produce specialist and higher education, specialist medical services, centres of excellence in research, arts and sport, and manufactured goods and specialist crops. Villages would also be connected via the internet, allowing work in any kind of knowledge industries to be globalised.

Giant solar installations in the desert would provide the power for the railways and energy intensive manufacturing.  There would be no private cars.  Petrol would be very expensive and reserved for engines and manufactured goods that couldn't do without it. Young adults would go backpacking round the world on trains, bikes and sailing boats.

Thump.  That was me falling back to earth.

In reality, both urban dwellers and country dwellers are a long way from my fantasy. With the prices people are willing to pay for quality food, and the cut that goes to packaging, transport, storage, wholesalers then supermarkets, it's no wonder that many farming practices are the equivalent of strip mining of farmland, as destructive to the environment as concrete suburbs. Much of our food is industrially produced, in CAFOs and ILOs that are just like rural factories. Both farmland and urbanisation are threats to biodiversity. Both lifestyles rely, in different ways, on huge energy subsidies.

I think most rural areas in Australia at least would benefit hugely from a big population influx of people intent on creating a simple green frugal lifestyle. It would move them towards, not away from my fantasy.  But in reality, the majority of the population lives in cities, and it is there that the real work of creating change needs to be done, and will have the biggest effects, for all of us.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Swept away

Francesca @ FuoriBorgo
sweeping

Is the vacuum cleaner an essential appliance? I've always thought so. But in the last few months, pushed by mechanical failure, we've discovered that, in fact, it may not be.

Our vacuum cleaner was a 4 year old small-size cylinder model of a well known Italian brand, mid-price range. It came with a 2 year warranty, and it worked very well. For two years, that is.

A few days or so after the warranty had expired, the hose split open. I sealed the crack with duct tape, and it continued working for another few months.

Then, one of the plastic wheels broke off. So I decided to do without wheels. At this point, my three year old vacuum cleaner looked like it'd been through the wars (which, in all honesty, is what vacuuming my house sometimes feels like), but it was still chugging along.

Then, just a couple of months ago, it stopped dead while I was using it, and no amount of coaxing, unplugging and re-plugging it back in, no gentle (or firm) tapping, did the trick. It was a goner.

Now, the repair shop is about a 3 hour round trip from my house, in a town where I rarely go unless strictly necessary. Partly because I don't have that time, and partly because gasoline has shot up to €1.60 a liter. But also because, in Italy you pay just to have an estimate for repairs, which these days cost far more than to buy a new item!

So I decided to do without a vacuum cleaner, at least temporarily, and to see whether a vacuum cleaner is in fact an indispensable appliance. In fact, where we live, this was a real test, with the mud and dirt of the surrounding forests and fields, the sand from the nearby beach, the ash and bits of firewood in a house that's primarily heated by wood, the dust and sundry bits and pieces from our ancient house. Not to mention our the three children (need I say more?)? So it's not like a vacuum cleaner wouldn't be handy.

My conclusions? A broom & dust pan don't quite measure up to a vacuum cleaner in three main ways:

1) Efficiency: much dirt and dust are left behind after sweeping, and there are many areas in a house that a broom can't reach properly.

2) Time: since sweeping isn't as efficient as vacuuming, I have to sweep the floors all the time.

3) Cost: though sweeping the floors is free (unless I pay myself an hourly wage!), since sweeping is less efficient I have to wash the floors much more frequently, which means paying for hot water and detergent -- hence, I'm not saving much money, and may actually be spending more.

In my opinion the vacuum cleaner is an essential appliance to get a necessary (and tedious) household task done efficiently and in a short time. Yet still I hesitate to have my 4-year old vacuum cleaner fixed, because I dread the inevitable diagnosis, and refuse to accept that things these days are made to cost less instead of lasting longer.

Does this mean that I'm coming to a new definition of "essential"?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Life Changes

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Since I wrote my last post here, I've become a mother to two beautiful children, a daughter and a son. Life has felt anything but simple, green and frugal. In fact, I'd go so far as to say like has been somewhat complicated, definitely the opposite of green and more expensive than it has ever been [aka I am leaking money]. One piece of advice has carried me through, from a seasoned parent who I really respect: focus on survival until it feels like you can do more.

This whole experience has taught me so much about understanding people who feel the simple, frugal or green life is beyond them. I've heard friends, co-workers and people in the media say that they feel overwhelmed at the thought of making their own soap, recycling, composting or cooking from scratch. While I've long held the belief we should all start slowly, being a mother for just shy of three weeks has really given me a level of compassion and understanding about why changes can feel so challenging.

Almost three weeks in, we are doing well. I can't say I'm cooking every single day, I certainly can't say my laundry situation isn't scary. But in terms of small successes:

- I am using green soap and green cleaning products, even if I didn't make them myself
- I am composting, even if the bucket is in a sorry state and needs to be dealt with
- I am ensuring we get three meals a day, even if they are simple or from a favourite independent store instead of more complex {what I would do for a roast!!!}
- I can see where I want us to be (a more simple, green and frugal life defining parenting choices) and I know slowly we will get there...

One of my favourite quotes is this: "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” Anatole France.

So if you are struggling with life changes, just know part of embracing the single, frugal and green life is to be simple with yourself and your needs. Don't be harder on yourself than you would be with others. Understand sometimes focusing on survival is the right thing to do.

I feel hope our new life is emerging and I'm sure as long as we are together it will be a grand one. I hope wherever you are in your life you see hope to.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Small living

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

We live in a small house. At first it was a necessity - it was the only two bedroom house we could afford to rent at the time. The rent is still incredibly cheap and so we are using the opportunity to build up our savings. The house is a mid- terrace, with a total living space of just 51.5 square metres (approximately 625 square feet) including the bathroom, stairway and hallways. There is also a small patio yard at the back, about 3.5m x 4m. There are now two adults, a toddler, a baby and two homebody cats packed into this space. The house is not exceptionally small for the UK and there are many in almost identical houses down our street who have an extra child, or a dog, or an extra adult packed in.

I have been into a few of my neighbours' houses. Some of them are kept completely clutter free, with minimal furniture and decoration - absolute bliss to my eyes that are more accustomed to scanning various piles of stuff from toys to laundry to bubbling demijohns in our own home. Yes, those homes are lovely. But contrary to appearances they do not lack stuff - it is just the kind of stuff that can be tucked away out of sight, single purpose gadgets and inert objects. The TV is the sole source of entertainment with a few DVDs lined up neatly on shelves. Very few books to be seen, certainly no arts or craft materials. Nearly every function of life has to be outsourced for lack of space and tools. In short, there is absolutely no resilience. Disruption to the food supply chain? You will be hungry in three days. Your internet connection fails? You will be bored.

I love the idea of minimalism - of having as few possessions as possible, of not being defined by the stuff we own. It would be very easy to do in the city too, with 24 hour shops and every kind of service under the sun within walking distance. At one point last year I became completely enamoured with the 'Tiny house' concept. Could a balance be struck between lack of stuff (actually a very green concept) and a modicum of self reliance? Some of the approaches I wish I had learnt, or implemented, when we first moved in:


  • Resist the temptation to hoard things for a rainy day unless you have a project, a timeslot and an adequate storage place in mind - fabric that will only become mildewed before it is finally used, packets of seed you will never have the room to sow and a down winter jacket that sees daylight once a decade are no good to anyone.
  •  Stack as many functions into as few objects as possible. Have a large hob to oven casserole instead of a casserole and a saucepan. The baby is bathed in the kitchen sink in our house - I don't know how we ever justified a plastic bath cluttering up our tiny kitchen the last time around.
  •  Ensure you have like minded friends with whom you can pool resources. Resist the temptation to own every tool  - everyone can justify a clothes airer, but everyone owning a pressure washer is ridiculous.
  •  Make sure your possessions reflect your priorities. Sell the fiction books if you no longer read them to make time and space for craft supplies. My knitting needle collection has been pared down from around twenty five pairs to eight that I will use regularly - and now I focus on simple patterns that I will actually make and wear as opposed to the wonderful but complicated fashion pieces in magazines. Knit to live, in my case, not live to knit. In effect, pare down your ambitions and you can pare down the amount of stuff you need to own, whilst still being productive.
  •  Do not feel guilty for limiting the number of toys your children have. We have given up buying toys as family and friends tend to furnish our house amply at Christmas and  birthdays. It is a sad fact that many lie discarded at the bottom of packed toy chests, or are broken within a few days. Our son tends to play with the same few things he has since he began to be aware of toys - bricks, marble runs, the odd figurine, musical instruments, art materials and his all time favourite, the cardboard boxes they came packaged in.
  • Learn to use the space you have unconventionally. Store bulk food under the bed in airtight plastic boxes. Make stored pumpkins decorative book ends each autumn. Use the space under sofas for yarn and the space under the bath for tinned food.

I now understand that our house will never be entirely uncluttered, but that is the price to be paid for cheap rent and a continuous succession of interesting experiments - usually involving some form of living organism that needs to be watched. There can be no tucking bread dough or drying seeds in a drawer out of sight and mind.  Our tiny kitchen windowsill currently has assorted trays and papers with saved seeds spread out to dry, along with the teapot, washing up liquid, a triffid like house plant that I have been meaning to re-pot for an age, some children's paint brushes soaking in jars and a few stray bulbs of garlic hanging from the window catch. There is a box of brewing equipment and a 25kg bag of barley stashed in our wardrobe. The living room windowsill is covered in green tomatoes interspersed with bananas (for all the street to see) in the hope they might ripen up.

We are still prioritising our stuff and gradually reducing and replacing it until it suits our small living quarters. Frugality and resilience are not synonymous with possessions and hoarding 'just in case'. They are states of mind that encourage creativity and problem solving, balanced with just the right 'things' to achieve an ends - in effect, living much better lives with less.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sell Outs

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















I have long held the belief that a simple, frugal and green life isn't about following a script or ticking off certain things on a list. A simple life in the country isn't so simple if you spend your time yelling, constantly bargain hunting or feeding a tv addiction. A simple life doesn't mean you have to keep pigs and bees or make every single meal from scratch. A simple life doesn't mean you can't work. Instead I view the simple life as a paradigm and a lense by which I view the world; a fundamental belief in focusing on the most important things, seeking to find balance in all I do and living by the principals "less is more" and "living simply so others may simply live".

Lately all around me colleagues and friends have been talking about what is important to them, a few even mentioned the term sell out. You see many of them thought in their early 20's that they would make "good choices" (that is their term, I certainly am not value judging their choices as good or bad) but as their lives have developed through their late 20's and 30's they really haven't decided to stick to those "good choices" they once thought they would live by. I spent the last week listening to their examples, some of which were:

- Deciding to commute for 2 hours to work so they could have the "biggest bang for their buck" aka the biggest square footage house
- Not buying free-range or organic meat or dairy because they don't care anymore about animal welfare (this person was very pro responsible farming in her late teens)
- Not taking the option of a 4 day work week after returning from parental leave because that extra day is a weekend in Las Vagas every year.
- Never hanging clothes to dry because it would take an extra 10 minutes and interrupt precious facebook time
- Feeding the family hot dogs, boxed pizza and boxed macaroni & cheese almost every night because that is what is quickest and after 10 hours outside the home, no one has the energy to cook
- Admitting they see less than 10 hours a week of their 4 and 2 year old because with an 11 day work day 5 days/week and a love of bargain/frugal shopping (thus visiting 5 different shops on Saturdays and often nipping to the US for the real sales) the grandparents pick up the grandchildren from daycare Friday afternoon and keep them until Sunday morning. This was a hard one for this friend to admit because while suffering from infertility they swore time with their children would always come first, now they have 2 very good careers, a very large house they just totally renovated and only see their children Sundays.
- Being scared to go without because their friends are richer than they are.
- Becoming so obsessed (their words) with paying off their mortgage, buying a second and third home to rent out and retiring at 55 that they are not really living now
- Throwing away anything with a tear/needing a new button and buying new

As I have listened to these conversations, I have tried not to make any value laden statements but did occasionally ask "so if you know, would you change anything", I further asked one "would you now go to work 4 days a week so you can do the things that used to be important to you and simply shop/eat out less". What was really interesting to me, is that no one said they wanted to change a thing. One, a top city lawyer married to another top city lawyer, who eat out 20x a week and admits they don't see their children at all between Mon-Fri said "nope, I'm a proud sell out - I want as much as I can have for as little as I can get it for, we're not interested in having less money, we want more money". I smiled and pondered those words, asking myself what I can learn from their experiences, choices and definition of happiness/selling-out.

What is interesting to me, is in my experience, the older I get the less I want to "sell-out" and the more comfortable I am going without what most people view as a necessity. It took fostering four very broken and traumatized children to help me see there was another life waiting patiently for me to embrace; they taught me there is so much more to life than work, stuff, money and materialism. And while I don't really have any friends in real life who live like I do (although I am blessed to have one friend on either side of the Atlantic who are at the beginning of their simple living journey!) hearing these friends and co-workers yearn for more money and not desire to change anything about their current circumstances, made me very thankful for places like this co-op, the readers of my own blog, Rhonda's blog and the myriad of others which remind me daily that each day I will face choices, those choices bring me closer to the values I hold or further away. While I do aim to be careful about how much time I spend online, I do feel a bit of a haven in what I choose to read in this amazing place. It was that haven that helped me stick to my choice not to attend a friend's wedding and your words gave me the confidence to stick to my conviction when the bride expressed her anger.

Through my own learning this past month (both from the wedding and the new life that awaits me, as well as conversations with those who live so differently to myself) I've come to a place of both certainty I'm on the right path and also grace - grace in deciding I don't have to be perfect or do things exactly like other simple life followers. I've come to realize if we embrace the simple life as a lifestyle choice, then we are probably all doing the best we can, sometimes under extra-ordinary circumstances and most often without people around us to commiserate or encourage. I've come to accept this path will often be lonely. And maybe when it comes to a simple, frugal and green life, that is OK. Maybe as long as we hold onto that value and don't allow ourselves to totally "sell-out", then our anchor will at the very least keep us grounded through the seasons where being simple, green and frugal is more challenging. Like my current season of vermicomposting - and it failing time and time again. Yes, it may be easier to throw in the towel like many people and not bother with spending more time trying to "do good" but since when is the right choice the easy choice. And by heck, one day I'll get that worm compost system right!

My own personal goal this week is to write a list of things I'm not willing to compromise on, as I begin a brand new and exciting chapter in my life, maybe it will serve as a reminder to hold onto what is most important and leave the rest behind! Because the truth is, whether people see it or not, there is a cost to selling out - a cost to ourselves, our families, those we love, our community, our environment and future generations. By focusing on the most important things, I hope to avoid the real cost associated with selling out and instead reap the rewards of a slower, more balanced, person/community centered path. And suddenly I'm reminded of the tortoise and the hare. And now I can firmly, without a shadow of a doubt, say I'm the tortoise, how about you?

Have a happy, simple, frugal and green week, filled with choices which represent the real you !

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Looking to the past

Aurora @ Island Dreaming

The problems that the world has begun to face (whether consciously or not for the majority) - financial, energy and resource descent, and an increasingly unpredictable climate - signal the onset of a decline in material living standards for many of us - a sizeable number of whom have got used to ever increasing levels of consumption and material wealth over the past decades. How we individually and collectively navigate these challenges will largely determine the quality of life we experience; and I personally do not believe that a decline in material consumption is a one-way ticket to misery and social breakdown.

Last year I finally got around to visiting my city's flagship tourist attraction - the historic dockyard. This is the home of the Royal Navy, and the place that it keeps its historic flagship, HMS Victory. As Victory is now preserved as a museum in dry dock (though technically it is still in commission) and has been restored and patched up several times over the centuries, it offers a sanitised view of life on a 250 year old warship. There were no fires, slop buckets, wounded soldiers, or unwashed sailors on board when we visited and conditions on board would have been grim when the ship was in active service.  But it did show that humans have lived and thrived with far fewer resources, far less complexity, than we have today. 


Fast forward a century, or take a walk a few hundred yards across the dockyard, and step on board HMS Warrior, the most advanced warship of the 19th century navy. The British Empire project was well under way, and it shows - a majestic, iron clad ship boasting the very best engineering and built and furnished from raw materials imported from across the world. By today's standards, it is still rustic (no running hot water, no electricity)  but it shows something of how humans climbed up one side of a bell shaped curve to the level of energy and resource consumption we enjoy today. Can the past show us a possible path down the other side of that curve?


 In the UK there has been a resurgent interest in WWII era house keeping since the onset of the financial crisis. This era, more so than more recent economic recessions, inspires people. Government pamphlets from the era covering everything from victory gardens to 'make do and mend' have been republished, and wherever you are in the world, you have probably seen at least one piece of merchandise or blog buttons with the phrase 'Keep Calm and Carry On' splashed across it. 1940's cookbooks have been reprinted and ration diet challenges taken - none of which is necessarily a bad thing when it inspires people to face the material challenges in their lives with 'Blitz spirit'.


The problem with looking to the past for inspiration on how to live today is the tendency to over-romanticise things, to look through the prism of the Hollywood movies we may have seen - to believe that society was rosier back then and the hardships that people faced were more severe but somehow more 'real' and endurable than the more familiar, boring challenges we may find ourselves facing today. A discerning eye is necessary when adopting historical practices and 'lost' skills - some make no sense, financially or ecologically, in the modern era. Still, many of us will be engaged in old fashioned, rustic and downright medieval experiments of our own in our quest to lead simpler, less consumption driven lives; and we will extract great enjoyment from them. 

If we can overcome a tendency to romanticise, there are real lessons to be learnt from the past. As humans we have used our ingenuity and opposable thumbs to increase our ability to exploit resources, increase consumption and create waste. Any era before our own shows that it is possible to live with less than we have today; and it is possible to live a good life with much less. Combined with the vast knowledge we now have in physical, environmental and social sciences - knowledge we have traditionally channelled predominantly into growing a consumer society - the practices and perspectives of our less spendthrift forbears might show us a way forward through challenging times. If our ascent has been characterized by increased consumption and  decreasing quality, increased outsourcing and decreasing self reliance and self determination - how might we be able to fashion our descent?

I am currently rereading articles and books from the 1970's and 1980's fuel crises and back-to-the-land movement, and the DIY and craft books that were spawned by that era - because they happened to be my first introduction, many years ago, to the issues we currently face. Much has to be taken with a pinch of salt, much is still valid and inspiring. What periods of history are you inspired by?

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Many Uses of a Hoophouse

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Justifying the purchase of a hoophouse can be hard to do if we think of this useful structure as just a place to grow warm weather crops.

That's a good use for sure, and in our cool, maritime climate, a hoophouse is insurance of a pepper and tomato crop. But building a hoophouse isn't cheap. Our 20' x 20' hoophouses came in at about $500.00 not including labor to build. That price included metal legs and bows, hardware, and greenhouse plastic. We used scrap lumber for end wall and door framing and if you had access to cheap lumber you could also build a frame from lumber instead of the metal bow system we used.


Actually we built hoophouses this size specifically for brooding chicks for our egg business. And I have to say a light and airy chick brooder is the way to go. Natural light encourages the chicks activity in the early days. We provide heat lamps but most days the lights are off only being used at night. Not using the lights so much is a cost savings, and a huge improvement over our earliest efforts at brooding chicks in a dark area with the only light being provided by heat lamps.


What is good for the chick - a light, warm draft-free environment is also a good place to start plants. To utilize more of our space we have our plant starts above the chicks suspended on temporary shelves. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that is true in this case. Once mice discovered how cozy the hoophouse was with a ready made larder, (chick food) they moved in as well, and discovered a liking for pepper and spinach seeds :(

It's hard to pin down the single best use of our hoophouse, all are important in our food raising plans. The more ways we can utilize this space throughout the year, the faster we get to the payoff of the original expense.

Time line for our small hoophouse:

January - nighttime sheep housing during inclement weather.

February - ditto.

March - begin starting plants with supplemental heat and covering as needed.

April - continue plant starts, and prepare for chicks.

May - finish brooding chicks on deep bedding, continue succession seeding.

June - move chicks outside to pasture, remove deep bedding, prepare for planting warm weather crops inside.

July - warm weather crops.

August - ditto.

September - harvest crops.

October - remove plants and rest space.

November - rest.

December - nighttime sheep housing in inclement weather.

Of course each situation will be different, and more uses could be found:

1) Such as winter time housing for rabbits, chickens, sheep or goats on a deep bedding system. In spring when animals are moved to pasture the bedding material could be removed and utilized for garden areas, still leaving enough residual to grow a summer crop of ??? Larger hoophouses make excellent winter time housing for hogs in high rainfall or cold areas.

2) A place for rapid growing succession crops such as mesclun or braising greens.

3) A place to raise broiler chickens off-season if you have a year-round market for your birds.

4) Hen house, provides natural light during the winter, and with shade cloth provides summer time housing.

Keeping all this in mind, planning a gap of at least 90 days from fresh manure to harvest of any vegetables to avoid any possible contamination of edibles, the possibilities are almost endless, with just our "ideas" to hold us back. Hoophouses can marry the idea of livestock and vegetables on a farm in a way our ancestors wouldn't have thought possible.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Occasionally Want But I Don't Need

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


















I'm not sure about you, but for many of the people I know I am the only person they know who lives a simple, green, frugal and downshifted life. Many of them would never elect to go without their SUV's, drive through dinners, busy schedules, quest to climb the career ladder, extensive clothing/shoe/jewelry collections, the convenience of disposable diapers or even the use of paper plates {I have a friend who uses paper plates, cups and cutlery for all their meals - going through 72 of each per week!}. One of the main things I've noticed is they struggle to understand why anyone would choose to wash dishes by hand, hang clothes to dry, live without a vehicle, wait for books at the library and wonder how anyone can want those things. I try never to seem perfect or totally put together either on my blog or in real life and I certainly share that there are times I do really wish for a little bit of convenience {usually after a long hard day!} and yes, occasionally I want. The other day after a long day, I thought about all the things I occasionally want and I wrote them down. A few minutes later I countered my wants by identifying what my needs were...

I want to drive a car down a big open road, listen to tunes on the radio & gaze at the sky...but I don't need to own a car.

I want a week of no dishes...but I don't need a dishwasher, I have two hands that work perfectly well

I want a weekend where I don't have to make time to take my food waste to the city compost when my vermicomposting worms aren't quite up to the challenge...but I don't need that time, in fact I like my weekly walk and I certainly like my worms {most days!}

I want to be able to eat 3 mouthfuls of a cookie {which contains gluten} without spending the night with skin bleeding {like it is tonight!}...but I don't need to eat cookies to survive, in fact going without cookies is a good way to make my frugal budget stretch further

I want to have some reprieve from life & eczema by sitting on a beach in the sun for a week or more {just like my Dr. recommended!} and enjoying a good 5* service...but I don't need anything except inner peace and the earth certainly doesn't need those carbon miles!

I want a much healthier bank account...but I don't need anything more than trust, sacrifice and perseverance and I certainly don't need more work hours to give me that bigger bank account

I want a microwave to make my meals in 2 minutes flat...but I don't need things to be ready at the push of a button, there is a rhythm to waiting for good nourishing food that fills my evening routine, which I'd be sad to say goodbye to

I want a week of no dishes...but I don't need a dishwasher, I have two hands that work perfectly well

I want a new wardrobe that doesn't need to be built around my skin issues or a non-existent budget... but I don't need anymore than I have, even if compared to the world it is more than frugal.

I want my clothes to be dried in a dryer with no creases and no extra work of hanging to dry...but I don't need a dryer and there is something exceptionally mentally cleansing about hanging clothes to dry!

I want land with lambs, donkeys, rabbits and chickens {oh my!}... but I don't need anything more than myself in order to live the frugal, simple and green life.


Once I finished writing out my list, I reflected on what life would be like if I had all those wants. The truth is, my life wouldn't be something I personally would want to lead. I have enjoyed my little journey in downshifting, learning self-sufficiency skills and the peaceful rhythm which finds its way into my daily and weekly life. I like that my choices reflect the values I have and that I aim to tread lightly on this earth. Yes I occasionally have hard days, every so often I wish there was a little button I could push to make that particular day easier, but the truth is, I wouldn't swap my new life, or my new choices, to return to my old ways. Nope, no going back!

What things do you occasionally want that you don't need? Do you think about what life would be like if you weren't on this journey? Could you ever go back?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Preparing For The New Year - A Simple, Green & Frugal 2011

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Slowly but surely I find my confidence growing. I've blogged before about a little internal battle I faced, feeling like I wasn't ever going to succeed at the green or frugal life because I couldn't knit or sew and didn't have a homestead for my own chickens, bees and garden. In 2010 I finally understood the truth, there isn't one prescription for a simple, green and frugal life, in fact I imagine if there were it wouldn't be so simple!

Looking back 2010 was the year I accomplish many changes in my life that were simple, green & frugal. 2010 was the year I semi learned to knit, I canned fresh produce (under expert instruction), I volunteered overseas, I learned how to make my own shampoo & conditioner and I began using re-useable toilet paper. It is only through recognition of the little changes I made in 2010 that I'm able to think about realistic yet optimistic goals for 2011.

One of my main goals for 2011 is to drastically change how I eat. The plan is to have a whole foods year, nothing pre-packaged, everything ethically sourced and made from scratch. I hope 2011 is my vegan year, or at the very least 95% vegan with a bit of ethically sourced feta cheese from a local farmer. Yes, my name is Frugal Trenches and I have a slight addiction to feta cheese! ;-)

My simple, green and frugal goals for 2011 are:
1. Begin using a worm composter
2. Volunteer to clean up a community garden or park
3. Make my own soap
4. Follow a 100 mile diet
5. Veganism {or as near as possible!}
6. Foster dogs or cats for the local animal shelter
7. Take sewing classes
8. Give up caffeine

All are realistic and represent changes I feel I'm now ready for and looking forward to!

Some may think it is a bit early to discuss goals and plans for the new year, but one thing I've learned on this journey is that I need a "settling in period", a time to adjust to change and get my head to follow my heart. So for the month of December I'm eating vegan 5-6 days a week and reducing my caffeine. On top of that I just found a sewing class which starts in January and while I'm not taking the path of insisting from January 1 I've made all these changes in full, I'm slowly getting there one simple, green and frugal step at a time.

What are your plans for 2011? Do you set yourself & your family goals for the New Year that will help you in your simple, green and frugal journey?