The new year is coming. I was bewildered when a documentary ask “what will you change in 2018?” My first thought was how silly to asked that so soon. It took the next morning for my muddled brain to realize that 2018 is within weeks. By the time this post, it will be days.
I’m one of those die-hards that just love my New Years resolutions. I’m getting pretty good at setting goals and reaching them. The trick is to set goals you can’t wait to tackle and make plans you jump out of bed to accomplish. It has to be fun things you love doing. You then interweave the not so enticing task that will only improve the following lifestyle.
For example, my goals are to do as much homesteading as possible and to save a lot of money.
Easy peasy! Except that building a homestead takes money, right? Not necessarily. We already have the foundation laid such as having land, having a huge compost rotting in the back of the detached garage as I type, we have chickens, raised beds…I even know where to get free horse manure.
I’m using my winter months wisely. I have until the last frost in March to study and study I’m doing. I’ve been browsing through backyard farming books, buying ones I feel are a library must such as The Encyclopedia of Country Living, watching anything on YouTube on gardening how to’s. My new celebrity is Novella Carpenter that wrote Farm City, The Education of an Urban Farmer. Fun book to read (not for the vegetarian though). She and her partner moved to the worst part of Oakland and began farming an abandoned lot next to their house. She raises poultry and goats, bees, even pigs for a time but that was too much. The lot has a huge veggie garden with fruit trees. I love this clip about her and her urban farm. Vegans and vegetarians be warned, she does raise meat to eat. There will be blood.
I would love to meet this lady. But what I love about backyard farmers the most is when they spend almost no money to develop a mini farm that feeds them abundantly for years. As one farmer calls it, “money on trees”. They use what they find or is already there and create a sort of paradise.
I don’t know how well I’ll do or how far I’ll go. I’m still a bit shocked that I have hens. That was a move that seemed so advanced…so revolutionary, to have chickens in the suburbs, that I only dreamt big chicken dreams until grannie told me to get over it and get some hens. Now I have 4 hens bossing me about my own yard. They have a cute yellow cottage and a white picket gate to a yard that goes along the side of our house (all free). I hear my girls clucking and scratching about under my bedroom window and I swear I hear them talking in the middle of the night even with my windows shut tight to the cold winter nights.
I’m already thinking bees. I would be a very good bee mother, not stealing all their honey greedily and giving them sugar water for the winter as so many farmers do. What a crime. I think I’ll wait for the boys to get a bit bigger…or not, maybe just have some Epi-pens on hand just in case we have an allergy.
But gardening, that is something I can really get crazy on. We have 5,260 square feet of yard. It’s less than 1/12th of an acre. I didn’t think it was much land until I saw a small family farming in the city on 4,000 acres and they were feeding themselves year round. There were goats and chickens, trees and row after row of beds.
We have a cement patio in our yard. We have a lot of grass…and fences. There is so much potential in each situation. We could grow grapes and berries on the fences, container gardens and a greenhouse on the cement, dig up the grass and make plots.
I’m really into the food forest idea. I’m learning about companion planting of say corn, beans, and squash together. I’m learning about growing bamboo to use for building fences, trellis, and more. Potatoes grown in tubs, the magic of mulch, and how bees not only give you honey but make your crops more abundant.
It’s very addictive. With each step of self-reliance and green living, I find myself doing all sorts of little things to further slow down the pace of the modern world that tries to creep in through the cracks of our magical world. The wood floor vacuum broke down and would be easy to fix but I chose a handmade broom that I’m currently in love with. Dishes are hand washed and the thought of taking up precious space in my little 1940’s kitchen for a dishwasher is forbidden. I hang my clothes on a line outside most of the year and felt like I was taking a step backward when the dryer had to be plugged in this winter. I have a wooden rack on back up but we have the heating on the ceiling and clothes take so long to dry that they begin to stink.
I love my coffee and recently I replaced Mr. Coffee with a stovetop espresso maker and a stove top percolator. Bali had a conniption the first morning he couldn’t work the espresso maker (it was 5:00 in the morning and he hadn’t been trained, I would have hit the roof myself). Now he makes himself coffee every morning with either the espresso or the percolator. He never used to make coffee in the morning before work so I know he loves it.
Paper books are still big in our house and waiting for popular movies from the library trumps renting from Redbox or Netflix.
For me homesteading means that I do a lot of garden therapy year round, we feed ourselves for pennies, there is a connection to the land happening, and an old pioneering instinct is tapped into. Our farm is creative and fun to build, it gives my husband and myself great pride in every victory. I am thrilled when I can eat from the yard. We love our hens.
Bali is not thrilled with the idea of rain barrels because he doesn’t feel we have space but he always talks about grey water. He agrees on digging up the grass and planting food but he doesn’t agree on wood chips everywhere, as in no grass just a land of mulch. He also is completely against getting rid of the garage. If I had my way and extra money I would tear out the detached garage and all the cement. That ain’t happening on his watch.
Oh well, I’ll negotiate on grey water and more veggie plots on the lawn. When I get more courage I’ll get bees and a couple more hens. But that is it! Maybe…
Homesteading is living like a farmer in the city. You get the entertainment and convenience of the city and not the isolation of a real rural farmer but all the health and well-being benefits. You also save a lot of money as you get better at it. You are growing clean, organic food that is so fresh and packed with nutrition.
As for the budget, that is changed vastly when the gardens produce and the trees mature. Until then I do what I can to save money in all areas while I buy organics at the Coop.
Do I want to be off grid? Live in an eco-village? I’ve checked all these out and I’d say not. I like small towns, walking to the store, buying burger buns when lazy, having coffee in a cafe and monthly movies at the theater (I keep threatening my family I’m having this again). I do love some of the modern conveniences. But I love the old-fashioned ways and the quiet and slow pace. I’m a walking contradiction.
But what I love the most is being a housewife and staying home with my family. I don’t want this to ever stop and recently we encountered some issues and I was looking at possibly going back to work and putting my boys in a school and daycare. Things worked out in our favor but it made me really pursue all avenues of self-reliance and trimming our budget to the thread.
My budget is simply mortgage, food, utilities. Bali gets free gas at work as part of his manager benefits and we have begun walking a lot. If we can shop or do the library within walking distance, we do it. My DirecTV contract will be up in the spring and I will be relieved of that. I have the smallest internet, home phone, and cell bill ever. The utilities are small. Even for AC in the summer we paid half of what our neighbors paid. I am always looking into other ways to save.
Our groceries are purchased at a very nice health food store in Grass Valley. It is my one luxury. Everything is organic now. I afford it by joining the Coop and getting almost everything in bulk. I only buy rice, beans, produce, nuts, raisins, flour, coffee, and plant milk and cream. I make all my food from scratch. I make everything from granola bars to lentil loaf. If I crave it I have to make it. I have a list of things I want to make such as pickles, burger buns, soap.
I do little things too, I save all the bags to reuse, water down dish soap and shampoo, boil toothbrushes instead of buying new every 6 months. I am back to making all my own house cleaners and will be making laundry detergent again. I even make my own houseplants from trimmings off the main plants. Then I get all my needs met with hit movies and popular books by the library.
I write books to make money. I was a caregiver for a season and that paid for book covers, editing, and sending Arjan to Fox Walkers every Friday for a year. I also redecorated the living room with beautiful new furniture all under $220 at a high-end thrift store. My royalties are set aside in a far away bank and automatically deposited. Any extra home job I get I use for all the luxuries. I am now considering babysitting to bring in some extra money for vines and seeds, a greenhouse, and doing more work on the house.
Those to me are luxuries. And the occasional theater movie with that God awful popcorn.