Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One project down...

Woohoo! We finally have one project done! Mostly. My hubby finished the storage shed a few weeks ago although it's still not very pretty to look at. We still have to put shingles on the roof and some kind of siding on it but at least it's functional. We spent all day Sunday cleaning out the tent where we have been storing several boxes that we didn't have room for in storage. We ended up throwing a good bit of stuff away and condensed down how many boxes we had. I'm happy to have that stuff in the storage shed but we still have to get everything else out of our paid storage. Hopefully by the end of next month we'll have all of that stuff here.

The great thing about this shed is that almost all of it came from salvaged lumber. We bought the door at a Habitat for Humanity store for $15 and it's solid wood. We also got the felt paper there for the roof. We did have to buy a few 2x4's but that's about it. It is 8x10 feet with 8 foot walls. We also put in two small lofts on either side for storing smaller items.
Now that this is functional the husbandly unit has started on the floor for the bathroom. He has gotten some framing done and dug some of the holes for the support posts for the floor. Hopefully it won't take as long as the shed did but at least we've gotten started on it.

I also forgot to tell you guys about the great potato harvest! A few weeks ago when we got first couple of hard freezes the potato plant started to die so we decided it was time to dig it up. It did make two small potatoes but that was it. I was impressed it did anything at all! Ah well, it was an experiment and a learning experience. We will probably use the tire method again in the spring and hopefully with some good seed potatoes.

The Great Potato Harvest

We have almost finished putting up the drywall. It stays pretty warm with our two little heaters so we have been pretty comfortable. I wish we had the chimney for the wood stove because I hate running the heaters all the time but we are having to do things in baby steps. That may be our next big purchase and then I hope to start putting money back for the pump for the well. I'm hoping that by spring or summer at the latest to have that in. Bringing water home has become an everyday task and I don't think I'd know what to do to not have to do it anymore!
Next on the project list is the bathroom of course, building the raised garden beds and a chicken coop. There are several other projects but those are the top ones for now. Until next time I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Great Turkey Experiment of 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, the holiday season is upon us and we are getting ready to celebrate our first Thanksgiving on our homestead. We planned on having a traditional dinner but as you may or may not know, we haven't had an oven since we moved. This hasn't been to much of an issue because we have been making do with the camp stove, microwave, and grill. Unfortunately, none of these are very conducive to cooking a turkey.

Originally we thought about getting a spit and cooking it over an open fire. The cheapest one I could find was around $50 dollars and used a motor to turn the food. We actually wanted something that we could turn manually and I really didn't want to spend $50 on this thing, so we went back to the drawing board. As I thought about it I finally came up with a plan B.

Recently I saw a blog that talked about making an oven out of a box. The instructions said to get a box like the type that office paper comes in. Line the box with tinfoil and poke holes in the side of the box for ventilation and to place straightened coat hangers through. This will make your rack. Prepare your charcoal and place it in a pie tin. This goes underneath your rack. Place whatever you are going to bake on the rack and then put the lid in place. Here is a link to the site for those who may want to try this method. http://safelygatheredin.blogspot.com/2008/10/how-to-make-cardboard-box-oven.html

I actually brought a box home to do this, but as I was thinking about it, I didn't think this box would be big enough for a turkey or that the wire coat hangers would be strong enough to hold it so I decided to make a different one. We bought a sheet of foam insulation that is used behind drywall. We bought this kind because it has a shiny surface on one side and apparently this could also be used in making a solar oven. I figured if you could use it for that I could use it to make an oven.

We measured the turkey pan to be sure we cut it large enough and set to work. I cut the sides to be 2 feet tall to be sure it would be tall enough for the turkey. Once I had all of the pieces cut, I covered one side of each piece with tin foil. Then we used small nails to put all of the pieces together.

The finished oven
 For our oven rack we used a camp grill that is designed to go over an open fire pit. It has fold out legs and was perfect for placing the coals underneath. Of course because it's metal we also knew it would hold the turkey.

Our first experiment was to try baking some cookies. It took longer than baking them in a real oven but it worked! We also discovered where we were losing heat and used some duct tape to give it a better seal. Since we weren't sure how long it would take to cook the turkey we decided to cook it yesterday. My hubby put it in around 8 AM and by lunch it was done! It took about 4 1/2 - 5 hours to cook. Below is a picture of the turkey in the oven bag while it was still in the oven and one after we had taken it out and placed it on a platter.

As far as preparation, this has to be our most original Thanksgiving. Hopefully next year most, if not all, of our Thanksgiving meal will come from what we grow or from local growers. Below is a picture of the oven while I was baking brownies in it. You can see the duct tape that we added to it and the bricks were placed on top so the lid would get a better seal. The bricks were put underneath to give it a fireproof surface to sit on. I don't expect this to be a permanent fix but it works in a pinch!

So that was the Great Turkey Experiment and I hope everyone has a Happy Homesteading Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First Aid

It is inevitable that we get hurt on occassion. A misplaced slice of the knife in the kitchen or a stumble outside and out comes the bandaids and Neosporin. But should we have more on hand than just these basics? Several years ago after a major tornado, I decided that I wanted to have more than your basic first aid kit on hand. Fortunately I was not involved this particular storm, but given the level of destruction I felt it would be foolish to not have more than bandaids sitting around in case of an emergency. Now that we are homesteading and it would take us a nice little drive to get to a hospital, I think it's more important that ever to keep a well supplied First Aid kit.

First, I felt that your standard little First Aid box wasn't going to do. Nope, I wanted a Super First Aid kit. So, I went out and bought a large tackle box. As you can see in the picture, the box has a clear lid and small compartments where you can place smaller items such as Q-tips, antibiotic ointments, and small bottles of medicine.

One of the things I liked about this tackle box was that it opens in the center and has large compartments instead of the trays that lift out. This is where I keep the bulk of my first aid supplies. In here I keep gloves, bandage tape, bandage scissors, saline wound wash, bandaids in various sizes, ace wraps, Kerlix bandage rolls, tourniqets, and gauze pads in a couple of different sizes. We also have a snake bite kit but it's too big to fit in the box.

You can get all of these things at your local store on the first aid aisle. The snake bit kit is with the camping supplies. These are just basics and of course you can add anything that you might need for your own personal needs in a pinch. We take this kit with us whenever we go on a trip so in those cases I will add any medicines that we might need such as pain relievers, Pepto, allergy medicine, etc. Of course you could always leave this stuff in there for a take and go situation.

Anytime I come across something useful I may add it to my kit. Hopefully this will give you some ideas of how you can put together your own kit.


Sorry I have been away for so long. Things have been busy but have been progressing slowly. I will give a quick update and hopefully get back to posting more regularly.

Since we moved we finally got the electricity connected which took us a few days. We have been working on getting a shed built to store some of our stuff and hopefully that will be finished soon. The majority of the insulation is up, Yay! We are now in the process of buying drywall and getting that up a  little at a time. We built a worm bin a few weeks ago and a regular composting bin this weeeknd which I will probably post about later. Since it has gotten colder we have had to stop taking showers outside and we are working on a way to take showers inside.

So far, I think that's about it. We are still bringing in our water and I don't think we will get a water pump until spring or summer. That's about it for now but look for another post soon!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Store for the winter

This may be a short post but I wanted to bring something to everyone's attention. Today on Collapsenet.com Michael Ruppert put up a video update about the possibility of food prices taking a significant jump in the next week or so. He says this because in the last 24-36 hours there have been several news articles from major news outlets about Russia and the Ukraine not having enough wheat. These countries have been major exporters of wheat and if they are not able to export then we will feel the effects in our pocket books. There is also a fungus that has been devestating wheat crops in China. This is a brief of synopsis of what he said but he is encouraging everyone to begin stockpiling a 3 month supply of food for everyone in your home.

This may sound alarmist but this man is often right and if the major news outlets are talking about it then there is probably something to it. If nothing else keep a close eye on the food prices in your area. If you see prices suddenly starting to rise then I would take that as a sign that food prices are going to continue to go up. Also, be thinking about what you can store that will get you through in a pinch. If you can buy some things in bulk, now may be the time to start shopping with that friend who has a Sam's or Costco card.

I will try to post again soon and hopefully with a lighter subject next time!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Making progress

I promised I would put up another post about the progress we have made so far and here it is! Thus far we have gotten the flooring down and it actually looks pretty good. We used peel and stick tile that we found for 29 cents a square foot. It was cheap and it actually turned out great. Hubby did a good job putting it down. It's a wood grain pattern and improves the looks of the shed greatly.

Here's hubby with a little helper putting down the flooring. As you can see we are still dealing with bare walls but hopefully we will be able to start buying the insulation for the walls in a few weeks. So far we have put up reflective barrier insulation against the ceiling which has helped. It looks kind of like we have tin foil over our heads but if it works I don't care.

I don't believe I mentioned this before but when we first moved it had rained right before we got here. Did I also mention that Oklahoma is made of nothing but red clay? Well, our red clay has a good bit of sand in it so it gets very mushy when it rains. To say the least, when we drove up the truck we made some nice ruts in the yard. Fortunately, it also dries quickly and the ruts can be fixed later.

We also have put together a make shift shower. There isn't exactly a lot of privacy right now but it works. Hubby fixed up a pulley system so we can raise and lower the shower to fill it. We have also discovered that even though the solar shower works very well when the sun it out, it can actually get too warm. When it's pushing 100 degrees outside and you would like a cool shower, having to use 100+ degree water isn't the greatest thing in the world. So we have figured out that if we lower the shower during the day it gets to just the right temperature. Now that I am working during the day again I have taken to heating water in a tea kettle in the morning and adding this to the shower so the water is at least luke warm. Taking a cold shower first thing in the morning isn't exactly my idea of a good time.

Hubby didn't square it up so we will probably take it apart and redo it so it looks a little better. There is also something liberating about taking a shower outside and if you've never done so I encourage anyone to give it a try just once.

We have also acquired two new fur babies. We now have an English Shepard named Indy after Indiana Jones. I let the kids name him and they are stuck on the Indiana Jones movies right now. We also have a new kitty named Sabrina. She's a little shy but very loving.

And now for the latest news and then I'll shut up. See, this is what happens when I don't get to post for a month. Anyway, the hubby recently got the idea that we needed to have a path back to the pond. Now after working on this for most of the week we finally have a fairly clear path to the pond. Of course now the kids want to go fishing every day. We honestly didn't think anything was in there since it is a man made pond but low and behold we have baby Big Mouth Bass! The kids both caught their first fish the other day and were so excited! We may still need to stock the pond with a few fish but at least we know there's something back there!

And last but not least I have to brag about my Craigslist find today. At some point we plan on building a green house and I want to find some old windows that we can use. While looking over the free section I saw where a listing had been made for a picture window. He simply wanted to get rid of it and was giving it away. To say the least I jumped on it! As you can see in the picture the side windows open and the frame is made of metal. I can't wait until we build a greenhouse so we can put this in place. It's going to look great and this was just the type of window I was hoping to find.

So this should pretty much have us caught up to date. Now that I have internet again I will try to get back to posting on a regular basis. Everyone try to stay cool in these baking temps and I'll be back soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The longest move in history

Finally! I'm back online and connected to the civilized world again!

Outside of when we crossed the land bridge, this has to have been the longest move in history. I will attempt to give you the short version. Originally the plan was we would pick up the truck on Saturday and leave on Sunday. Well, on the Saturday of our move we picked up the truck as planned and began loading. We loaded all afternoon and realized we weren't going to get everything loaded that day. So bright and early Sunday morning we got up and resumed the process of finishing packing and loading. About mid day we realized that we had underestimated the size of the truck and needed to get a trailer. The only thing I could find on a Sunday was a 4x8 trailer so we got it and packed it as full as possible as well as the cars. Unfortunately, we still couldn't get everything.

Monday morning we get up before sunrise and hit the road. We get here around lunch time and began to unload and my hubby starts working on getting the electricity hooked up. Yes, we had not power yet. We end up staying in a hotel that night simply because it is too hot and we still don't have power. The next morning I go to a job interview while my hubby finishes unloading what we are going to keep here. After I change clothes we head back into town to get a storage building and turn in the truck and trailer. We finally get back on the road late that afternoon to head back to Texas to get the rest of our stuff. We arrive around 1:30 in the morning and stay in a hotel yet again. The next morning we get a larger trailer, get the rest of our stuff and head back. We get back home around 10 PM and finish unloading the next day. To say the least, we were all exhausted.

Since then we have gotten a little better organized and gotten the flooring down. Slowly things are beginning to come together. When I have more time this weekend I will try to put up another post with some pics of what we have gotten done. Thank you all for being patient while we got this move over with. Hopefully now I will be able to post regularly again. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Quick update

Just wanted to put up a quick update. We have moved in the sense that all of our stuff is out of our old place. Right now we still have a few things sitting on a trailer and I haven't been able to make heads or tails out of the stuff that we didn't put in storage. We are still trying to get the power on so hopefully that will happen today. Otherwise it will be another warm night with no AC. At this point I think all of the food has gone bad.

I don't know when we will be getting phone and internet. The phone company came out the other day and couldn't hook up the phone because a new box needs to be put in. Ah, the joys of living in the country. The engineer was by today so hopefully in no longer than two weeks we'll be in business. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will take less time than that.

No one ever said that achieving your dreams was easy but does it have to be so hot?? I guess I shouldn't complain too much. I am convinced that that someone loves me now. Lately it has been well into the high 90's but this week we are looking at highs in the upper 80's here and when we went back down to Texas to get the rest of our stuff it was overcast with a nice breeze. Much better than the almost 100 degree temps we've been having. It's still hot but at least I don't quite feel like I may die of a heat stroke. Anyway, there is more to tell to this story but I will have to save that for later. Everyone have a great Fourth of July and I will try to post soon!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting closer!

So this weekend was fairly productive even if it was unbearably hot. We managed to get the wiring done and my neighbor was kind enough to call today and let us know that the meter has been put in. Now all we have to do is hook up to it!

It's amazing how much heat these buildings hold with  no insulation. Here is my poor hubby tolerating the heat to get the wiring done. The kids of course wanted to help to so he let them use the drill to make the holes bigger. I'm not sure how I feel about them using power tools already but we all know how boys are with their toys.

We also bought a reel mower so we could mow some of the grass. This one cost us about $120 at Lowe's. It has an 18 inch mowing width and comes with a bag to catch the grass which is nice if want to try and compost some of it. Of course I wouldn't try to mow a very large area with this, but it does mow pretty well even if it is slow. The nice thing is it doesn't use any gas. We may invest in a gas mower later but for now this will do the job. Our neighbor was also nice enough to come over before we left and used his riding mower to finish mowing the grass for us. We have such nice neighbors!

The funny thing is the kids were actually arguing over who got to mow. I'm sure this is something that will never happen again but it was fun to watch. The mower is easy enough to push that even Baby Bit could do it. Overall the kids actually did pretty well with it.

So as of now the move is on for this weekend. I will post as soon as I can after the move so you guys stay tuned!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pieces of the puzzle

Every move has its challenges and this one has been no exception. We have hit plenty of hiccups in our plans, but slowly things may be coming together.

As much as I don't want to be on the grid, that is what we have to do for now. Hopefully the meter will be in before we move. If not, well, that's another issue that will have to be dealt with. Arrangements have been made for the phone and internet to be hooked up and this weekend we hope to get the wiring done.

Even though I am doing things I never thought I would do, I also realize that we are facing issues that we never thought would come. At least I didn't. Sometimes I think about what the future may be like for the generations to come and what are they going to think about us? There is no chance that those who come after us will enjoy the same level of comfort that we have. Will they think we were arrogant? Foolish? Conceited? I don't know, only history can be the judge. What I hope, is that the choices that we make from here on out are what we will truly be judged on.

I keep hoping that when the public realizes that the chips are down, that the American grit and ingenuity that we have become known for will kick in.  That, as we have done in the past, we will dig in and do what must be done. My concern however, is that the apathy and need for instant gratification that has been developed will hamper people's ability to function in a meaningful way.

The answers to the problems that we are facing are at our fingertips, we just have to be willing to change and embrace what needs to be done. Change is never easy and many of us don't like change, especially when things are changing in a way we don't like. Unfortunately, change is coming. This is why I strongly support the use of permaculture and relocalizing our communities. Start preparing your lifeboat and thinking of ways that you might deal with changes that may be coming. Also, keep an eye on what is happening in the world. We are connected to everyone else and events that may seem remote from us could have impacts that we can't even imagine now. Talk to your friends and family. Try to make as many people aware as possible. The more people that understand what is happening, the better prepared our society will be. Let's face it, we can't count on the government to do anything useful.

Change is a part of nature and like anything else in nature, if we want to survive we must learn how to change with it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Announcing - Collpasenet.com

Because I feel so strongly about this and I feel it is very important to get this out to as many people as possible, I wanted to announce the start of Michael Ruppert's new website collapsenet.com. I mentioned him a couple of posts back and I wanted you guys to know his website is up.

You may not believe in Peak Oil, or if you were like me, you're not ready to wrap your head around the idea yet. Unfortunately, I think we are running out of time. Mr. Ruppert feels that we are at the beginning of the end of industrial civilization. No matter how you feel about what he says, you have to admit that the things that are happening in our world are pretty scary. So for those that are interested, please visit his site and start making plans for your own lifeboat.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How far are you willing to go?

As we continue to prepare for our move and I have to meet the electric company's engineer this week, I have been thinking about how much electricity we use. We have discussed at some length about getting solar panels or going on the grid. I would love to get solar panels right away and not even have to go on the grid but to get a full blown system would be very expensive. Depending on what the engineer tells me however, that may still be something we have to look at.

As we seriously discussed getting solar panels instead of getting on the grid, I wondered how much electricity we use on a monthly basis. Of course this is essential to know if you want to figure out how big of a system you need. So I found our most recent electric bill and I was a little surprised. On average, we use 1500 kWh a month. Last summer when we were having those unbearable 100 degree days for days on end we topped out at around 3000. This is for a 1500 sq ft dwelling with two central A/C units, not enough insulation, and windows that are not energy efficient (We rent so none of these features were my idea). To give you an idea of how much it would cost to get us completely off the grid, here are some numbers. A 1500 kWh system, based on where we live, would cost about $82,715.00 or $40,680.00 after incentives. Hmmm....can we see why it is cost prohibitive for most of us to go solar, at least in the way we would like? These numbers were based on one solar calculator and of course the numbers will be different for each area of the country.

Depending on how much it will cost to have a meter placed on our property we may still go with solar panels. The question is, how can we reduce how much electricity we use? I would like to cut our current energy usage at least in half, if not more. Initially however, we cannot afford a large system so we would have to start out very small and then add to it.

I would love to get a refrigerator that uses propane but those are expensive and I haven't been able to find a used RV one. Instead, I'm going to try and sell my current fridge and get one that is smaller and energy star rated. We have a window unit that we plan on using but we have also considered getting a swamp cooler instead. One we looked at uses about 140 watts of power versus our window unit that uses over 1000. The washing machine has been a bit of dilemma. If we have to get a small solar panel system we simply won't be able to use the washer unless it is on a generator as well as the fridge. I have looked at a small hand washer that costs about $50 which could be used for small loads but we would still have to go to a laundromat from time to time. Here is a picture of the washer that I found through Lehman's.

As for lights, there are always candles and oil lamps to reduce how much electricity we use there. TV watching would be limited, much to my children's chagrin I'm sure.

Even though I knew that choosing this path would be difficult, I did not realize how hard it would be for me to let go of this idea of how we are supposed to live. I told my husband that we are trying to hold onto this idea of middle class living that is just not sustainable. I have to admit, I feel like a junkie trying to get off of drugs. I am used to living a certain way and even though I know that choosing a simpler lifestyle is better for my family and the world around us, it doesn't mean it isn't difficult. So if it is this hard for me, someone who is very aware that we have to change how we live as a society, how much more difficult is it going to be for everyone else?

We all have to make our own choices as to how we want to live. Some of us are willing to make greater changes than others. If you are reading this, then you have at least given some thought to greening your lifestyle and are hopefully taking steps to that end. I suppose the big question is, how far are we willing to go now and far will we be forced to go in the future?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Finally! Progress!

So, after a couple of not very productive trips to our property and fighting off ticks the last few days, we finally have something accomplished! The 12x30' storage building that we bought was delivered and is now waiting for us to make it livable. Even though it is a large shed, it's not very big when you consider we will be living in this while we build a house. It still has to be wired, have plumbing run to it, and insulated but at least I know we'll have a roof over our heads! I jokingly tell everyone that it will be like living in a camper minus the wheels. I am becoming more stressed however over pulling all of this together. There is still so much to be done and finding the time to complete it all is a challenge.

Since the tick population is getting worse we will likely get a few guineas and hopefully some chickens. This will allow us to naturally control the pest population and hopefully get some eggs as well! Hopefully this will only be home for a few months but I'm not going to expect things to go any more smoothly after we move than it has already.

As always, we enjoyed our time while we were there. The wind wasn't nearly as strong as it has been and we are becoming more familiar with the character of the land. As we look at how the water flows across the property we have begun to discuss where we may need to place swales and how we want to channel the water. Hopefully I will be able to begin creating our Permaculture design soon so that we have a road map to what we want to do.

Our target date to move is the last week of June so stay tuned and we'll see what we get accomplished between now and then!

Looking across our future home site to enjoy a sunset.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I want to discuss an idea that some of you may not have heard of before. Creating a lifeboat. Now we all know what a lifeboat is...it's that little boat that we run for when the big boat that we are on is in danger of sinking or some other disaster. The lifeboat is designed to keep you alive through the immediate emergency until you can be rescued or reach safety. So why, you may ask, do we need to create a lifeboat? Well, let's think about that one for a minute.

In the last couple of years we have seen a lot of economic turmoil here in the U.S. and in other countries as well. Greece is on the brink of financial collapse and Spain, France, Italy, the UK and others are not far behind. Despite what all of these well paid economists on CNN may be saying, we are on pretty shaky ground as well. Things are not as stable as they would like for us to believe. Our economy is based on a model of perpetual energy growth. We depend on increased amounts of available energy to support and increase our growth. Most of that energy comes from oil and as I hope you are aware, oil is on the decline. We have reached the peak and are now on the downhill slide. This is not good news for the economy.

Now I am not an economist nor do I work in the oil industry. I am just an ordinary person trying to piece together the information that is out there. I had hoped that we had at least another 5-10 years before we began to feel significant effects of Peak Oil but I am now beginning to think that we have much less time than that. So the need to create a lifeboat is becoming imperative.There are a lot of resources out there that can go into much more detail than I about what is happening and what we will probably be facing so I will leave that to those who are more qualified.

Everyone's lifeboat will look different based on where you live. There are basic needs that we all must meet which include water, food, and shelter. I would suggest starting there. Look around where you live and begin to think of what you would need to get you through an emergency that lasted a few days, weeks, or months. What plans do you need to put in place that will benefit you in the long term? What networks and community bonds can you strengthen or build so that you're not alone in your lifeboat? How will you and your family function if the things that we have become used to are not available or are only available in limited quantities?

I watched a film the other day of Michael Ruppert talking about Peak Oil and the coming collapse. One thing he said was to make your lifeboat where you feel most comfortable. Where you know the streets, the people, the customs, etc. You don't have to be out in the country surrounded by acres of farm land, but you do have to know your area and where your resources are. This makes a lot of sense to me and is why we are going back to Oklahoma.  It's where we are comfortable and where we are choosing to make our stand.

The ship is sinking and unfortunately many people don't see it. An analogy that I like to use is that of a coming storm. If you know a storm is coming are you going to wait until it hits to make sure you have everything you need? The smart person is going to make sure there is adequate food, batteries, flashlights, blankets, etc. If you are not prepared when you have been warned, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a way to embed Michael Ruppert's video in this text but I have included the link so you can visit the website and watch it for yourself. He doesn't sugar coat anything, which I personally like, but his message is a little scary. So watch the video, look at your own situation, and decide how best you can prepare your own lifeboat.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Permaculture Ethics Lesson #3

When we were children one of the first things we were taught was to share what we have with our friends. As we got older we learned how to share many things with our friends. Good times, bad times, clothes, and food. As we became adults we noticed that we may not share as often as we used to. We get caught up in providing for ourselves and our families. Often, we may not have enough to share with others because it takes everything we have just to meet our own needs. This is where the concept of Fair Share, which is the third ethic of Permaculture, comes in.

When we produce abundance we are able to share the surplus with those who are not as able. When we share with others then everyone's needs can be met. Of course we usually think of the physical things that can be shared such as food and water. But we can also share things such as time and knowledge.

This is how communities used to f unction. We respected our elders and they continued to contribute to the community by sharing their knowledge and helping to take care of the children. Everyone else provided the tasks that were needed for the community to survive. In this way everyone was doing their part. Permaculture seeks to rebuild community on those same principles. If we begin to incorporate Permaculture into how we live it will not only help the environment but our communities as well.

The ethics of Permaculture are simple but they are practices that we have largely gotten away from. These three things are at the core of Permaculture and everything we do will revolve around them. In the future I will discuss some of the principles of Permaculture and how they may be incorporated into your own living space. In the meantime I have put some links below to books that you may find useful as an introduction to Permaculture.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Permaculture Ethics Less #2

The second ethic at the center of Permaculture is Care of People. Ok, so this may seem like another no brainer but let's look at this concept a little closer.

When we talk about caring for people what images does that bring to mind? For most of us the first thing we may think about is helping our neighbors, looking after the elderly, and helping those in need. All of these things are correct, but let's see what else this can mean. When we are helping those around us, it can be more than just helping to put up a fence or making sure someone has a meal. How about teaching others how to grow some of their own food? How to install a rain barrel so the water can be reused on their landscaping? And how to utilize native plants and food bearing plants within the landscape so it not only looks nice but serves a purpose?

When we talk about caring for people we need to think about how to help people meet their needs beyond a handout. By establishing community gardens, educating others about the problems we will soon be facing, and how to live sustainably to deal with those problems we are going beyond short term needs and giving them long term solutions. This also helps to build community and create an environment of support.

In my next post I'll discuss the third and final permaculture ethic. In the meantime, look around your own communities to see what may be happening that falls under the ethic of Care for People. Maybe you will be inspired to start something that will follow this ethic.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Permaculture Ethics Lesson #1

If you have been anywhere near a radio or TV in the last few days I am sure you have heard about the oil spill that is happening in the Gulf. I say "is happening" because it is an on going event. To date, they still have not been able to cap this thing and stop the thousands of gallons of oil that is pouring into the ocean every day. To say the least, I am more than a little annoyed at this situation. I am annoyed for more than one reason. Not only is this an environmental disaster but it stands to affect my home state for which I am not very happy.

As irritating as all of this is, it is not the core of what I wanted to talk about today. As we make our preparations for creating a simpler life and I focus on using Permaculture to create a harmonious living environment, recent events have made me think about the ethics behind Permaculture. For those who are not familiar with Permaculture I thought I would discuss the three ethics that lie at the heart of Permaculture and how these ethics translate into our everyday lives.

Care of the Earth

This is the first ethic in Permaculture. It is a fairly obvious statement, but it means our first priority is to take care of the planet and not damage the systems that we depend on. So what does this mean? Does it mean we should recycle, compost, and conserve water? Of course, but we have to go a little deeper to find the true value of this ethic.  

For a person to have a deep concern for the Earth, we must have a relationship with it. This relationship must be developed over time and it also needs to have a healthy dose of respect thrown in. We develop this relationship by spending time in nature. Listening to its rhythms and watching the changing of the seasons. Unfortunately, the majority of people in our society have become disconnected from the world around us. I am no exception but I am slowly correcting this problem and working on my own relationship with nature.

Because of this disconnect, many people do not respect the world around them and have trouble fully comprehending the damage we do to our environment and what this means for us. As we gain an understanding of how the world around us functions, then we can understand how we fit within the grand scheme of things. We cannot count on some government agency or our children's schools to take us by the hand and show us how to have this relationship with nature either. This is something personal that we all must take the time to explore and discover. Then, we can teach our children so that this pattern of consumerism and abuse is broken. 

So the next time you spend some time outside, think about our connection to the earth and the ethic of Care for the Earth. What does it mean to you and how you interact with the world around you?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blue skies and water worries

Most people love spring and fall because of the more seasonable temperatures and the fact that it signals the changing of the seasons. I love spring and fall for these reasons as well, but this weekend while we were in Oklahoma, I remembered why I like the Oklahoma countryside so well. If you've never been to Oklahoma it is really quite pretty. There's nothing like driving down the highway to see wide open spaces of green dotted with varying shades of green from the trees. And all of this against the backdrop of a vivid blue sky that is often dotted with puffy white clouds. To me, this is beautiful scenery but I'm also fond of the open spaces.

I also love a cold glass of water on a hot day, but I read an article about how Oklahoma City wants to meet its water needs for the next several years and it concerns me. The city would like to buy the rights to a reservoir about a hundred miles away to supply the city and surrounding areas with water. The reason for this is that demand is expected to exceed supply within the next 20 years. The price tag for this little endeavor is around $42 million.

Apparently someone is not looking at some better ways to conserve water. I understand the need to meet the water demands for a large city, especially considering that within the next 20 years we may see more people migrating into large metropolitan areas due to the effects of Peak Oil. As those who commute to work find it more difficult to maintain their current suburban lifestyle, I am sure we will see more people either finding ways to work from home or moving closer to their places of employment. Naturally, this could put an increased strain on any city's resources.

I don't understand why the city is looking at this as the only way to supply the city with all of its water needs. The amount of rainwater runoff in a city is enormous due to the decreased amounts of green surfaces that can absorb and transfer that water back into the water tables. It would seem to me that the city should begin looking at ways to retain some of that rain water. Why not look at using some of that money to establish a city wide rain water catchment program? Offer some incentives for home owners to implement their own rain water catchment systems. If they expect there to be water shortages in the next 20 years, then how long do they think that reservoir will last? What will they do when that resource is no longer available?

Unfortunately, this just goes to show how little forward thinking there is. I'm sure this type of problem is happening all over the U.S. and as usual our leaders are looking for the quick fix and worry about the bigger problems when they happen. This course of action may be inevitable but I hope the city leaders will be looking at other alternatives to help solve this looming problem. In the meantime, I'll continue with my plans to set up our own rainwater catchment system in the future to hopefully meet most of our water needs.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The best laid plans

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Earth Day last week and is looking at new ways to enhance your lives by being greener and living more simply. Unfortunately, I was not able to post Thursday or Friday like I had hoped and like so many other things, our best laid plans often do not work out like we had hoped.

Well, first for the bad news. This weekend we paid another visit to our future homestead and discovered that while we were gone someone else apparently enjoyed our home site as well. The last time we were there we had bought a small storage unit to leave our camping gear in so wouldn't have to haul it back and forth every time. So what did we find we got there? Nothing. The storage unit and all of our stuff was gone. To say the least we were not very happy. We filed a report with the Sheriff's department but I would say it's a safe bet that we will never see any of that stuff again. Because of this event we felt we had to change our plans yet again.

Originally we had planned on building our temporary house on the weekends until time for us to move. However, with this theft we did not feel safe in leaving any construction work unattended for a couple of weeks at a time. Now, we plan on buying a storage building that we can live in while we build the house. This was not what I had wanted to do but compromises have to be made.

We still had an enjoyable weekend camping out and meeting some of our neighbors. We were also able to put the Permaculture principle of observation into action by putting up the prerequisite hammock. As you can see, my husband and son did very well at putting this principle into action.

The kids also picked some pretty wild flowers for me that we found growing at the back of our property. I have no idea what they are so if anyone knows please let me know!

So in a way we are back to square one but we are more anxious than ever to make the move and really get things going. The process is slow but we will get there eventually. Anything worth having is worth working for and this will definitely be a lot of work!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yesterday I posted some Earth Day facts which included some facts about water. One of those facts is that the Earth is composed of 2/3 water but only one hundredth of one percent is fresh water. So what does this mean to us?

Water is essential to our survival. We can go about a week without food but we can only survive three days without water. We drink it, cook with it, and bath in it. Water is an intricate part to our quality of life. Without clean water we face numerous health and sanitation issues. So why do we misuse our water resources so badly?

There are numerous things that we need to be concerned about getting into the water table and contaminating our water supply. The majority of these dangers come from us, not terrorists. So we need to be more aware of not only how we dispose of toxic substances such as oil and paint but also what chemicals are being sent through our treatment systems from soaps, shampoos, and cleaners.

Believe it or not there are several things that we can do to help conserve the fresh water that we have available to us. One of the biggest things that can be done is to set up a rain water catchment system. It can require a significant investment of money if you plan on having large holding tanks but it can also be as simple as having a couple of rain barrels sitting beneath your gutters downspout. With a smaller system, enough water can be collected to water your yard or garden for a few days depending on how much you need. With a larger system the water could also be used within the home as well as outside. Depending on what your goals are a filtration system may also be needed for household use.

If collecting rain water is not an option for you, there are things you can do within your home that can help conserve water and in turn decrease your water bill. Aerators can be placed on your sinks to limit the amount of water that is coming through but give you the same amount of pressure. If you don't feel like replacing your toilet just because it's getting a little old, place a brick or a bag filled with air in the tank. This will displace water so the tank is actually not holding as much water therefore you use less with each flush. Installing a low flow shower head will also reduce the amount of water that is being used.

Water is a critical resource that we cannot afford to lose. If we are not careful the lack of fresh water will be the next global crisis. So look around and take those small steps that can make a big difference.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Earth Day facts

Here are a few Earth Day facts that I thought I would share and I hope you find interesting. Happy Earth Day!

  • The garbage in a landfill stays for about thirty years
  • In 1995 about 200 of the world's landfills were full
  • Each person throws away approximately four pounds of garbage a day
  • Most families throw away about 88 pounds of plastic every year
  • We each use about 12,000 gallons of water every year
  • 1/3 of all water is used to flush the toilet
  • The 500 million cars on the planet burn an average of 2 gallons of fuel a day
  • Each gallon of fuel release 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air
  • Approximately 5 million tons of oil produced in the world ends up in the ocean
  • Every ton of paper recycled saves 17 trees
  • The amount of wood and paper we throw away is enough to heat 50 million homes for 20 years
  • Earth is 2/3 water but all the fresh water streams only represent on hundredth of one percent
  • 14 billion pounds of trash are dumped into the ocean every year
  • 84% of all household waste can be recycled
  • One gallon of motor oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of water

Monday, April 19, 2010

Finding our way to sustainability

Happy Earth Day week! Since Earth Day is this week I am going to make the effort to put up a post every day regarding an environmental topic. Earth Day is a time to look at not only what environmental problems we are facing but how our everyday actions affect the world around us.

In the last few years the word green has come to mean more than just a color. But what does "going green" mean? Unfortunately, much of the public perception of going green means changing your light bulbs to CFL's, buying energy star appliances, and recycling. All of these things are helpful and if everyone did them it would help considerably but there is more to being green. So what else can be done? Well, let's look at a new word that is being used more and that is sustainability.

From an environmental point of view, sustainability means that an action can be continued with little impact on the environment. When you take a look at how we live every day, it becomes pretty obvious that how we currently live is not only not good for the environment but it is not sustainable. We are consuming resources at an incredible pace and at some point those resources will give out. So how can we live sustainably so that we can make those resources last longer and continue with the same level of comfort we have come to expect?

First, let's start with where we actually live. Increase the amount of insulation in your house so that you are conserving energy. If replacing your windows is not an option, then look at placing solar film on your windows. It will increase the efficiency and is a more affordable option for many people. Go ahead and change those light bulbs and consider placing an aerator on your sinks so that you are using less water.  These are just a few simple things that we can do that will make a big difference when put together.

Now, let's look outside. If you have room, one of the obvious options is to start a small garden to provide some of your food. Did you know that on average, food travels 1,500 miles to reach your plate? How sustainable is that? It's much more efficient and healthy if it comes from your own back yard. Instead of having expansive lawns, replace them with drought tolerant plants and rock gardens. Grow plants that serve multiple purposes and create areas that provide habitat for our non-human neighbors.

This may not seem like monumental steps, but who said it had to be? Make what changes you can and do what is effective for your family. Take time this week to decide what changes you can make that you can stick with and see how much better your home and your environment is for it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Green Blogger Event

Happy Earth Day Celebration Week!

This is the 40th Earth Day!! What does Earth Day mean to you? We will be exploring that during our week long Celebrate Earth Day All Week 2010 Blogging Event.

Each Day will hosted by a different blog with green interests. Each blog will discuss green tips, green experiences, and/or green reflections. Each blog will also be hosting a green giveaway(s) that will run through our week long blogging event.

Monday- Hosted by Moms Wear Your Tees Blog with giveaways sponsored by SprigToys and Shaklee
Tuesday- Hosted by Tales of the Wife with giveaway sponsored by ArtsyFarstyFooFoo
Wednesday- Hosted by Once Upon a Baby with giveaway sponsored by Bagnesia
Thursday- Hosted by Retro House Wife Goes Green with giveaway sponsored by The Soft Landing
Friday- Hosted by The Crunchy Wife with giveaway sponsored by SodaStream
Saturday- Hosted by The Eco-Friendly Family with giveaway sponsored by Greenzys

Earth Day 2010 can be a turning point to advance climate policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs.

Earth Day 2010 is a pivotal opportunity for individuals, corporations and governments to join together and create a global green economy.

Please visit EarthDay.org to take action, sign petitions, and join events in your area.

We would love for you to leave us a comment with something special you are doing for Earth Day!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Green Clean

You know, in the last few years we have begun to see more and more "green" products on our store shelves. Not that this is a bad thing, on the contrary, I have been very happy to be able to find some products that help me to live more lightly on the planet. However, I do think we have to be careful and not buy something just because it says it's green.

Recently I took a stroll down the cleaning aisle at a local store. I don't go down the cleaning aisle that much anymore because I have found other more natural products to use.  Out of curiosity I stopped to look at some of these so called "green" cleaning products to see if they meet the claim of being green and my own standards for a green product. Now, I expect that if I am going to use a product that is good for the environment that it will be safe for my children and pets. That is if someone happens to chew on a bottle, get some in their eyes, or in their mouth that I won't have to call Poison Control. Not surprisingly, these products all had the same warnings we are all familiar with. You know the ones, don't get in your eyes, avoid contact with skin, etc. So here is my question, what did they do to make these products green and if they are so green why are these warnings on the packages?

I have used some truly safe cleaning products that clean just as well as the commercial stuff if not better. These products are made from natural substances that pose no threat to myself, my family, or any pets that I may have. Not mention they are non-toxic so they are safe to use in a gray water system. Most of these products are available by mail order although some can be found at your local health food store.

So what are these companies doing when they are promoting "green" cleaning products? Yes, they are trying to take advantage of a growing demand for products that are good for the environment but how much of an effort are they really making? Personally, I think it's more green washing than actually trying to create a product that will work and not pollute our ground water. I think many of these companies are counting on the fact that most people will not explore beyond the flashy label whether or not these products are truly safe and good for us. So the next time you need to buy some glass cleaner or bathroom cleaner read your labels and consider if this product really meets the standards you want for yourself and your family. Hold these companies to a higher standard, yours.

Friday, April 2, 2010

And so it begins

Well, we have signed the papers and written the check...the first of many. Yes, we have purchased 6 acres of land to call our own and now the fun begins. What seems to be the monumental effort of trying to carve out a homestead and create something that we can be proud of.  Our dilemma however, is that we live about 6 hours away from the property that we have purchased. A long distance move is a big enough pain, much less when you are trying to build something to live in. We are hoping to have something ready to live in by the end of June. If not, I may be shopping for a new tent!

We did go to the property this past weekend and at least got to spend a night in what is to be our new home. As much as we enjoyed that, the weather decided to not be very cooperative. It was cold and windy for two days. Even though we didn't get as much done as we would have liked, we did at least get the mailbox put up and discovered that the ground is much rockier than we had hoped. We thought we would be able to dig the trench for the water line from the well to the house site by hand but now we see that we will have to rent a mini excavator to complete this task.

Since we were able to spend more time on the property we were able to get a better feel for the lay of the land and where we want to put certain structures. I have not begun to create a Permaculture design yet but I will list some of the elements that we want to include in the overall plan.

1. Veggie and herb gardens
2. Greenhouse
3. Barn
4. Outside shower
5. Education center
6. Outdoor kitchen
7. Meditation area
8. Chicken coop
9. Fruit trees
10. Berry bushes
11. Composting

This is only a short list that I am sure will grow and be refined. Hopefully it will give you an idea of what we want to accomplish. Now if I can just find some good windows, cheap.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Have bag, will shop

So, a few days ago I did my bi-weekly shopping expedition. In everyday life this is not overly exciting but I was thinking about how much simpler my shopping life has been made by using re-usable shopping bags. Even though re-usable bags have become more available in stores, it still has not become a routine for many people. I actually see more of these bags being used to carry people's stuff in other situations and not their groceries. Although I am happy to see large companies offering shopping bags in their stores, I have not been overly impressed with the quality of these bags. So, I thought I would share what I use and how much space these bags save in the back of my car.

So here is the back of my vehicle after a usual grocery shopping day. I drive a Saturn Vue which is considered a mini SUV so the storage in the back probably is not much different that the average mid-size car. The brown bags are my reusable shopping bags. I purchased these from reusablebags.com a couple of years ago. I absolutely love these bags! They are the same size as a standard brown paper bag and fold up the same. They have black straps for carrying your bags and are very sturdy. I have probably stuffed these bags with 10 pounds of groceries and have never had a problem with breakage. I actually have six of these bags but only needed four on this particular day. I have found on average that 4-6 bags will adequately carry all of my groceries. Now compare this to how many plastic bags it would take. These bags stack neatly in the back of your car, they look nice, and you are helping the environment.

Now some of you may be wondering just how much am I buying in the way of groceries. Well, we are feeding two adults and two boys so you can imagine how much food we pack away. Because of this, we like to buy in bulk on certain items. So the brown bags are the grocery items we buy at the regular store. The rest are things we buy at the warehouse store.

On the right behind the Sunkist boxes are more sodas, (mostly for my husband), but on the left are two large thermal bags. I love these bags because they will hold some of the bulkier frozen things that we buy at Sam's and they come in real handy in the summer time. As you can see, these bags are big and work very well at keeping things cold. When you are finished, they fold down to a compact size and secure with velcro. I found these bags at Sam's Club for about $8 each. They have been a wonderful addition to my re-usable bag arsenal.

By using re-usable bags, I am able to keep the back of my vehicle fairly organized on grocery shopping day and I am helping to keep those obnoxious plastic bags out of the environment. Many people may say, why bother with re-usable bags when you can recycle the plastic ones? Well, to be honest, I suck at remembering to take back those plastic bags. The re-usable bags don't roll all around in the back of my car letting everything spill out and they have come in handy for other uses as well. Yes, it takes some time to get used to remembering your bags, but in my opinion it is well worth the effort. I hope that by seeing how we utilize our bags it will inspire you to do the same.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The New World

For many of us, when our ancestors came to this country it was with the hope of finding a better a life. There is no doubt that many of us have lives that our ancestors could only dream of. We have comforts and luxuries that would make us appear to live like kings. We have grown up with these things without ever believing that one day they may not be available. We have all had to deal with periods of inconvenience due to some sort of natural disaster or storm but this usually only lasts a few days to a few weeks. What if a few weeks stretched on indefinitely? What if the amount of electricity that was available to you was limited to just a few hours every day? These are some of the realities of a world after Peak Oil.

Now I will admit, when I first began to really think and learn about Peak Oil it freaked me out. My initial thoughts were we needed to move to the country where we can grow our own food, learn skills such as making cloth so we can make our own clothes, and how in general to live without all the things we have today. Granted, this is a knee jerk reaction and one that I am sure is quite common. However, now that I have had time to think about it and absorb some of the information, I can begin to see that there are some positive things happening out there.

One movement that is gaining ground is Transition Town. This is a grass roots effort of people coming together who have a shared concern over Global Warming and Peak Oil. The purpose of this movement is to help communities prepare and make a plan for the decent from oil. It focuses on re-localizing and finding ways to meet a communities needs that are less energy dependent than what we do now. Go to www.transitiontowns.org to find out more. There may be one near you or you may be inspired to start one yourself.

Permaculture is another movement that is growing in awareness here in the U.S. Permaculture is a system for designing sustainable communities and environments. I actually came to an awareness of Permaculture through my concern for the environment but it goes hand in hand with the issue of Peak Oil. Personally, I feel that Permaculture is the key to coming off of our dependence on oil.  I plan on using Permaculture principles as we develop our homestead so I will be talking more about that as things develop.

I'm sure there are other initiatives out there but these are the two that I am most familiar with. We can't keep living in the dark about these issues so once you get past the initial shock, start looking around your state and your community to see what's going on. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The future is....bright?

Only if you're burning candles. Low tech and powering down. That may be the future that lies before us. If you haven't heard of Peak Oil, it really is something you should begin to educate yourself about. The story of Peak Oil goes something like this...

There once was a guy named Dr. Marion King Hubbert who was a Shell geologist. Dr. Hubbert predicted that American oil production would peak in 1970. Well, it just so happened it did. Now most people thought he was a little off his rocker at first, until folks were waiting in gas lines in the early 70's. So how did he figure out that our oil production would peak and never recover here in the U.S.? Basically, he noticed that oil fields would peak in production around 40 years after drilling began. This proved true for all oil fields. Now, fast forward to present day.

Oil seems to be in a never ending supply. Not only do our cars run on it but just about everything we use in our everyday lives comes from it. We depend on it to transport our food and clothing, we make toys, computers, appliances, lights, etc. from it. It has become such a part of our lives that we cannot imagine living without it. Remember that bit about oil fields peaking around the 40 year mark? Guess when the last major oil fields were discovered?  A little over 40 years ago. So if the last major oil fields were found over 40 years ago, how much global oil is left?

The graph that I have included will give you an idea of where most experts think we are. Granted, there are always those out there that will argue that Peak Oil is way off base, but that's what a lot of people have been saying about Global Warming and we see how well that is working out. No matter how you look at it, oil is a finite resource. It won't last forever. Just like coal and natural gas have their limits also. Weather we experience the effects of decreased global production in 100 years or in the next 5 years, it really doesn't matter. We need to begin to prepare our communities for living without oil. And as for the decrease in gas prices from a year ago? Well, look how many people began to cut back on their driving. The demand went down but I can still see the price increases when I go to the grocery store. Gas prices fluctuate and sooner or later demand will go back up and so will the price.

So what does all of this mean for us? Well, to be honest no one is really sure. It is very possible our economy will collapse. It will only take a 5% decrease in global oil production for our economy to fall apart. There could be mass layoffs, people losing their homes, food scarcity, and price hikes. Hmmm....sound familiar? It is a bleak picture and not one that most of us care to envision. The future may not look that bright right now but it may not be as bleak as what we first think. First, consider what a life without oil availability may be like, then we will look at what is being done to help cushion the decent off of oil.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Sustainable Life

First, I must apologize for being absent for so long. As they say, life happens. In the last few months I have taken a Permaculture Design Course and begun putting things in gear for yet another move. For those of you who have never heard of Permaculture, I will provide an explanation.

Permaculture is a term that was coined by Bill Mollison as a combination of the words "permanent" and "culture" or "permanent" and "agriculture". It is a design system for creating human habitats that mimic the systems found in nature. In this way we are able to live with nature, not against it. There are many aspects to Permaculture but some of the things that are addressed are rain water catchment, repairing soil, composting, alternative building, alternative energy sources, organic gardening and local food, and creating redundant systems.

It is my humble opinion that we cannot continue to live as we have for the last hundred or so years. We have lived as though there is no end to the resources that we consume every day when in fact there is. There are many reasons why we should live more lightly on the planet and we must each choose our own reason for doing so. No matter what your reasoning may be, Permaculture serves as a blueprint for achieving a more sustainable lifestyle.

I have had some things on my mind lately that I would like to talk about in future posts. For anyone who is interested, I will try to expound on various Permaculture topics. I also want to go into Peak Oil. Peak Oil is a very serious topic that I feel falls right in line with Permaculture. If you haven't heard of Peak Oil either look it up. It'll knock your socks off. In the meantime, enjoy this fine winter weather and remember to try and tread a little more lightly on our Mother.