Friday, March 24, 2017

Taking Advantage of the Weather

The weather is pretty fine today. It is a good time to get some work done on many of the outside projects I have been putting off for just such an occasion.

My raspberry patch needs thinned.  Because they are good plants I can't just throw away the plants that I don't keep. I have found I can get a pretty good response if I offer them on Craigslist for free and I figure it is pretty good karma too.

I took my nephew out today. He "helped" me in the yard a bit. After his mom got home, I returned him to her and returned myself to my yard.

It was 70 degrees. There is something about being in the air and the light that quiets the noise. Maybe because there were no devices. I don't know.

I have a black kitty who has gone nearly feral. She comes to hang out with me when I work in the yard. Companionship and quiet and I got a little of the raspberry patch thinned too.  More to do. Lots more to do.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Spring Time . . .

. . . well, okay, maybe not entirely. There is green beginning to bud in the trees and brush. And daffodils are everywhere. Those flowers to me are the harbingers of spring. Although, considering that there is usually some nasty weather after they make their appearance, they often seem confused, as well. And, indeed, this year, nice weather, daffodils and then, this last week, snow.

But the springtime I was really referring to was the kind that shows up in the stores with packets of seeds, garden tools and baby chicks.  It always makes me feel excited and hopeful. I always start out with high hopes.

 I bought my chicks a few weeks ago and they are in that awkward phase right now.

I started some seeds a couple of weeks ago and they are approaching that awkward phase too.

The weather is supposed to be better next week. It should be a good time for projects like building a new coop and getting the garden beds ready for some of these starts. The greens and the peas, anyway.

Three Good Things
1. Seeds
2. Peeps (Chicks)
3. Better weather is on the way.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The 99%

I want to stay away from politics as much as possible in this blog because I don't think that self-sufficiency is a partisan issue and because people tend to say a lot of stupid things about those who might be on the other side of the political spectrum from themselves. What ever your political beliefs, I think we should all be able to agree that there is a certain amount of decorum that seems to be lacking from much of the political landscape on both sides of the aisle.

This is not a plug for any set of political beliefs, this is a plug for self-sufficiency. Many of you may remember the Occupy Movement. People congregating to express their-- for lack of a better word-- "displeasure" with the current system which allows big corporations and the very wealthy to make the rules that shape our lives. To my way of thinking, allowing money to make the rules is a problem.

During the Occupy Movement I came across a site called We Are the 99% . In it there were a lot of harrowing stories from people who were tired of not getting by. And while I can certainly sympathize, after you have read so many of those, it just sounded like so much whining.  I think that part of the problem is that too many of us are trying to play by the rules set up by the people with all the money.

That's where self-sufficiency comes in.

As long as we let "Them" call the shots, "They" will always win. If you are on the ball field and the rich kid gets to decide the rules of the game because it is his bat and his ball, then it is time to collect your friends, walk away and play a different game-- preferably one that doesn't require a bat or a ball. If the rich kid wants to play, he will have to abide by the same rules as everyone else.

What does this mean in terms of the real world?

I do think that we need to be involved in the political process, pay attention to what is going on in the world and vote. We should be involved in grass roots organizations for causes that we believe in, etc. But I think waiting for or depending on the political machine to move so that we can live is ridiculous.

We don't need anyone's permission to grow gardens or be involved in our own food production-- and we shouldn't be frightened into believing that we can't be involved.  Grow a garden. Grow it in pots and other containers if you have to. Build a small stock pond for fish, or maybe an aquarium.  Keep a few chickens for eggs. Rabbits are an amazingly simple and abundant meat source if you are inclined to produce meat. Grow fruit trees. Can fruit. Keep food storage. If you are determined, it can be done.

But it isn't just food. People, especially young people, are lamenting the fact that they can't afford housing. They continue to live with parents, roommates, etc. They are losing hope that they will ever be able to afford homes. But I think that we have been allowing "Them" to dictate for too long what exactly defines "home." What are your requirements for a home?  A little outside of the box thinking can go a long way. Could you live in a tiny house or an RV? Could you find a shared living arrangement that meets your needs? Do you really need three bedrooms, a game room and a walk-in closet? How much of your life are you willing to give up to pay for housing? How much housing are you really going to need or be able to take care of if you spend all of your time working to pay for it?
And what would you do with the time that you are not spending at work to pay for heat or rent if you didn't need as much of those things?

What about education? What do you need from education? Do you need a degree? Do you have to go into debt? We all know about scholarships, but what about studying a field that will pay for your education? There are employers who hire students and pay for their educations as they work. There are employers who will pay for your education if you come to work for them after graduation. There are employers who will pay for you to continue your education. There are employers who will accept demonstrated abilities over a degree. There are jobs that don't require a degree. There are ways to educate yourself that may not terminate in a degree. There are alternatives.

The one that is a little more difficult is health care.

There is an extent to which we have control over our health. We all know that the basics of good health are wholesome foods and plenty of exercise. Fresh air, adequate hygiene and rest all fit in to this paradigm.  The Amish see maintaining their health as a part of their duty to their community because they don't carry health insurance. When someone is sufficiently ill to go to the hospital, the entire community chips in to pay the bills. (Incidentally, this is also the reason the Amish are master negotiators when it comes to getting hospital bills lowered.) When we are busy working to survive, we often don't have or take the time to take proper care of ourselves.

There is also an extent to which our health is not in our hands. Stuff happens. Cancer, diabetes, heart failure. The list goes on.  I don't think health care should be a commodity.  It is pretty sick to say, "Why, yes, we can treat your cancer.  But you can't afford medical care, so never mind." I don't think parents should have to worry about losing their home because their child has leukemia. Unfortunately, right now, it is what it is. But that doesn't mean we just throw up our hands.  The internet and the library are great sources of information and inspiration and they are both free.  Learn as much as possible about the illness. How does it work? Are there alternative treatments? Is there a better way? Learn as much as possible about the system to get your bills lowered (the Amish have!). And of course MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.

In my own mind, the less we need "Them" for food, housing, money, etc. the less power they have. The less power "They" have, the better off  "We" are. They don't get to make the rules simply because they own the ball and the bat. If they aren't willing to abide by the rules then we should walk away and find a different game to play. We don't have to ask anyone's permission to study, grow a garden or provide ourselves with shelter. (And, boy, aren't "They" going to be ticked when they can no longer call the shots for those things.) We are the 99% and we need to stop behaving like we are powerless. There are more of us then there are of  them so we should behave like we are in charge, because when we do that, we will be in charge. They will have to abide by the same rules as everyone else or they will not get to play.  And that is how the system is supposed to work.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

House Hunters vs. Tiny House Hunters

Sometimes I watch HGTV when I am doing stuff around the "big" house. I'm pretty sure the "Big" house costs less than what most of these people will put into a down payment. I wonder what it is like to have that kind of money and why you would want to go into debt if you could pay cash for something that requires less up keep and fewer utilities. They aren't just taking on 30 years of debt to purchase a home, but cleaning, utilities, repairs, maintenance. I don't understand the people who want the 3000 sq. ft. house.  But then, I imagine they wouldn't understand me with my tiny house that is 30x smaller.

I remember visiting some people many years ago who were having an addition built on to their family home. The woman declared that she couldn't wait for the addition to be finished because they had been living on top of each other for so long.  When I was in high school, my family lived in a two bedroom apt for a couple of years.  There are six kids in my family. I wondered at the time what they would have thought about that arrangement.

Anyway, for those of you interested in a little comparison, here it is:


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Today I woke up to snow and cold. We knew the snow was coming. All the same, I have all of this wonderful time right now, while I'm looking for work, that I could be working on my house, but the weather is not cooperating.

There are stalwart souls like my sister R who enjoy the cold weather. I can't function when it's too cold. During our last work party in October, the weather was cool and I was okay for most of the day, but by late afternoon I was done. The cold had soaked through everything and settled into my bones. I think my body was spending so much energy just trying to stay warm, I had nearly lost the capacity for rational thought.

So, today while I lament the fact that I cannot go outside to play, I am dreaming and collecting wisdom and considering what I want to say here this week.

This is Dee Williams. I could say a lot about her and probably will. For today, however, I just want to share this lovely little video that embodies a lot about the tiny house movement and simplicity.

Sometimes, over the past few months, I get to wondering if my house will ever get done. But when I go down to the site and go inside, even though it is far from done, I feel calmer and get excited for the time when I can get it finished and move in.

Monday, March 13, 2017

I like to take a little inspiration from others who have done things. I like that this guy has gone way simple. Also, check out the garden. Off grid, inexpensive and everything you need. This whole place is a dream.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Build Update: Where we are now

So, yesterday it was sunny and 60 degrees.  This morning I woke up to snow.

I began building my tiny last summer. What is done so far was essentially done by November.  A little has been done since then but in October we began working 60 hour weeks and could no longer work on the tiny. After Christmas we returned to 40 hour weeks but the weather hasn't been great.

I know: "Excuses, excuses."

Now that I am unemployed again, I am hoping that the weather will give us two days together with out any precipitation so that we can get something accomplished.

Here are a few other pics of current progress.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Myths of the 40 Hour Work Week

I like TED talks.  Informative, intelligent and interesting. But, I'm going to let this lady do the talking for me. The sun is shining and I have been sitting in front of this screen for too long today.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

This Feels Normal

Can I just say-- this feels normal.

I spent the winter working at a seasonal warehouse job. Its not a bad place.  I have a few small debts to pay off, so I took up a regular job.  I was recently laid off from this job as business from Christmas and Christmas returns has subsided. I'm not sorry.  I'm certainly not bored.  I get up in the morning between 6:30 and 8:30, get dressed, eat, walk my dog, and then get my stuff together to start my day. Most mornings over the past couple of weeks since this lay-off occurred, I will put my laptop in the backpack that I use for my mobile office and head to the library to work. I could work from home, but there are far too many distractions. People think that simply because you do not have a regular "morning-alarm-clock, pack-your-lunch and get-out-the-door" sort of job that you aren't busy and can certainly go out and play.

I may not be sure what I'm doing, but I am trying to do something.

Part of "working" involves filling out applications as I do have a few small debts and can't afford to turn anything down just yet. But I would like to be able to work from my laptop. I would like my work to fit into my life, rather than the other way around.

What feels normal about this?

Maybe "natural" is a better word then "normal." It feels natural to go about my morning taking care of things with out feeling rushed. Being able to determine my own schedule rather than have it dictated. Being able to get where I'm going with a brisk walk in the daylight and fresh air.  Yesterday, the weather was grey. It rained all day. I stayed in bed a little while after waking up and read a few chapters of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. This is the best time of year to read that book-- when spring is just beginning to tease us. But it gave me just enough inspiration to get through a dreary-looking day.  I took my dog on a walk. Then I took my mother to the grocery store as I needed a few things myself. I came home and set up a camera that I bought in the hopes of making it useful here. Then I went to the library to work.

All of the important things get done, but they get done in the order that makes the most sense to me. It made more sense to me to get the grocery shopping out of the way in the morning, first thing, so that I wouldn't have to worry about my mother waiting on me to finish whatever I was working on at the library. I was then at liberty to work at a pace that suited me.

I am taking a class on Monday nights. It is a 12-week community interest course. It doesn't offer any sort of course credit, but I am excited about it. I've only attended the first class so far, but it seems like it will be great.  I have, in the past, been involved in a local writing group. Now that I am not working, I would like to do that again. Even if I don't have something to share every week, I enjoy the discourse. Enjoying the discourse of intelligent well-read people has made me think that I may join the reading group at the library. One of my sisters is involved in a book discussion group where she lives and she seems to enjoy it. Very soon-- like in the next couple of weeks-- it will be time to begin planting potatoes. Also, onions, peas and greens. Come summer I will be watching my sister's children while they are out of school. Now is a good time to begin planning a curriculum of activities for them for this summer. And then, of course, there is the tiny.  I would love to get it finished before my birthday. In any case, as you can see, my dance card is full.  I simply can't go back to working for the man.

But all of this feels like a normal way to live-- more normal, anyway, than getting up at the crack of dawn and packing a lunch to spend the day locked up in a big, windowless box until it is nearly dark again. And then going home to reset, sleep and do it all again.