Posts Tagged With: Simple Living

Fall at the Homestead

The first day of fall was last week, and we are entering one of the busiest times of the year around here.  Of course it’s harvest time – which means much of our work moves from the garden to the kitchen.  You’ve seen all my posts on jam lately, but I’ve been canning too.  A little over ten quarts of tomatoes so far, and we’re going Sunday to our CSA farm to help pick more toms and to pick and roast green chiles as well.  The tomatoes will also be canned and the chiles peeled and frozen.

I’m glad we had the CSA to fall back on this year as my tomatoes were so sad.  I was actually a bit worried.  It sure is nice to see the pantry shaping up after all.

Lots of Christmas gifts here too.

This coming weekend is the second annual chicken coop tour.  Locals can purchase tickets here or here.  We participated last year as well, and we are excited to show off again this year.  The coop had a couple of improvements this spring and summer and I really wanted everything in place for the tour. Rick bought me two galvanized garbage cans – one for the chicken food and one for finished compost, but when I started harvesting the compost, I had enough to fill both, plus half a wheel-barrow-full that I pawned off on the neighbor (it was a hard sell, trust me).  The chicken food is still in the garage for now, and there are almost two bales of straw under a tarp out there.

The hens seem excited to have straw in the coop for the first time.  We’ve always used dead leaves or pine shavings in their coop, but the “fall” part of the season has yet to happen here and we wanted to coop cleaned up for the tour.  We were hoping for some wood chips to spread over the ground before the tour too, but it looks like we’ll have to go with out.  Despite that, the chicken area looks nice.

The extra straw, not for the coop, will be used to mulch the garlic that we ordered and saved for seed.  I ordered two varieties this year and saved ten bulbs from a third.  We hope to plant around 125 cloves after the first frost hits.  That should yield us enough garlic for the year next year, including some to save for seed in 2012.

A couple of weekends ago, Rick and H put up my clothesline for me.  I was so excited to get the line that Rick’s mom had promised me.  But once we got it home, we actually couldn’t manage to get it into working order.  After fighting with it for a couple of weeks, we ended up buying a new one, and I love it!  I’ve used it everyday, but I’ve realized I need more clothes pins.  The line holds a lot, and C’s diapers (and inserts and wipes) take up all the pins I have.

  

We harvested our concord grapes – one whole bunch!  There would have been two bunches, but I accidentally knocked off the second bunch early on in the summer  when I was trying to get the vine on the trellis.  Not too bad for it being the vine’s first real season – we just planted the cutting last spring.  We hope to use this vine to make a few more cuttings when the pergola is done.

Speaking of the pergola, Rick’s uncle brought us down our first pieces from the mountains.  The posts are here!  We will be setting them on poured concrete footers this fall and we’ll begin laying the patio in the spring.  This was the goal of the tree removal project.  I had hoped to have it done all in one summer, but it really was a huge undertaking to manage on our own.  Not to mention having a baby this summer too.  (There’s that old excuse again!).  ;)

There is a huge amount of beetle-kill pine in our forests here right now (a heart-breaking 4 million acres in Colorado and Wyoming), so we plan to build the whole pergola out of salvaged logs.  Once it’s constructed, we will plant and train grape vines over it.  I am very excited about it, but it’s been slow going.

Fall is also the time when we start filling the freezer back up with meat.  We actually got a good look at the forests this year as we did some prep work for hunting season.  Rick sighted in his rifles at the range up on Highway 40, and we did a little grouse hunting and some fishing.  We were skunked on the grouse, but Henry did catch his first fish!  He let it go so it could grow up a bit.  Nothing was added to the freezer yet, but the trip was great fun anyway, and we’ve ready for big game in a couple of weeks.

So that’s what we’ve been up to lately – I’m hoping the tour participants will give us grace on the yard still being half done.  Oh well, they’re coming to see the coop, right?  ;)

About these ads
Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, DIY, Garden | Tags: , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Riot for Austerity: My Insanity Knows No Bounds

Have you heard of this?  Sharon Astyk, who I have mentioned  few times before, posted last month about the Riot for Austerity.  Back in 2007 a bunch of people made it their goal to live on 10 % of what the average American consumed.  TEN percent.  Ninety percent less than what everyone else was doing.  It was a movement that grew to several thousand people and crossed 14 countries.  It was a huge goal.  Sharon is doing it again, and I’ve decided to join her.

Apparently my crazy knows no bounds.  The Riot focuses on consuming 90% less than the average for seven categories: transportation energy, electricity, other fuels (like natural gas or wood), water, garbage, food and consumer goods.  This is huge.  Read the goal details in her post linked above.

At first, I was really excited about the Riot.  Heck yeah!  I can do that!  I unplugged my fridge, for goodness sake.  I’m an extremest rock star!  And Rick has always laughed at my crazy but come along, I’m sure I can get him to go for it!  We can bike everywhere.  We can totally do this!  I will start September 1st!

And here it is, the beginning of September.  And I’m totally freaked about it.  Rick is so not on board.  Ten percent is such a crazy low goal.  We are slated to drive 240 miles one-way to pick peaches in the next couple of weeks and Rick has two hunting trips planned.  That sinks our transportation energy in the first two months.  What the hell was I thinking – I can’t do this.  Why must I put my family through these crazy experiments.  Henry is going to grow up and be able to one-up all his friends by saying, “Yeah, well, my mom wouldn’t let us have a fridge.”

Thankfully, Sharon was smart enough to create a facebook group, which has been great for ideas and support already.  No, Rick is not yet on board.  Yes, if I count the miles for the peaches and hunting, our transportation gets blown, right off the bat.  But a lot of people are starting this off without their whole family being on board.  And as the group pointed out, no one else is counting their food costs in their transportation budget.  The tough thing about the riot, besides the obvious of course, is that it makes transparent the otherwise hidden costs of the way we consume.  So we spend 25 gallons of gas to get a year’s supply of peaches or meat.  That cost is in front of us.  The cost of fuel to get peaches shipped from another state (or country) is hidden.  But it’s still a real cost.  The cost of commercially produced meat in fossil fuels is not very clear to most consumers at the grocery store.  But there is a cost and it’s high.

When I posted my peach/hunting debacle and sudden discouragement to the group, Sharon’s response was “Maybe one of the questions to ask is, “even if we’re not going to change this this year, what would we do if the cost of gas did exceed the other costs? What would we do if we felt we couldn’t? Are there are other ways to do this?'”  Those are very real and hard questions.  Lots of people asked if there were closer orchards or ways to  split the cost by getting peaches of others while we were there, which we’ve done in the past.

Perhaps my favorite response was a quote though, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”  -Voltaire

It is so easy to get discouraged before you even get anything off the ground.  I thought I was ready to start cruising the house for things to unplug and start taking sponge baths, September first.  But I realized that with three kiddos under five years old and a husband not yet on board, maybe I should use September to evaluate where we are at.  How much are we using in all of these categories?  Where is our real, low hanging fruit – things we can do now, painlessly that will cut our energy consumption (using a clothesline, for example)?  Also, Maybe I should cut myself (and my man) a bit of a break.  I’m not the only one still waking up a couple times a night with the baby.

Then Apron Stringz jumped in.  She beat me to the punch with a Riot post (see I’m still not even back on the blogging ball yet).  And she announced her Quiet Riot idea, which I love.  I think it’s a wonderful idea. I’m not necessarily going to Quiet Riot, though I’m reserving the right to go back on that too.  I really want to see if I can hit that 10% benchmark.  But to get there, I’m going to take my time.  For my family’s sake, I am going to cut myself some slack.  September will be the evaluation month. I know I can’t do this all at once (none of us can).

More on this to come… my mind is reeling a bit, both with ideas and little inner battles.  Stick with me, and don’t judge me, please.  I know how crazy I am.

Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Virtual Homestead Tour

Welcome to the Schell Urban Homestead’s end of July virtual garden tour!  I was really excited when Erica at Northwest Edible Life invited me to participate in letting all you Nosy Neighbors peek over our garden fence!

Here’s how the Lazy Homesteader does the Nosy Neighbor Virtual Homestead & Garden Tour:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first part of this tour that makes me really excited is that I’m actually documenting what the whole garden is doing at a given point in the summer.  I never remember when we get the first tomato (this week!  A Silver Fir Tree Russian heirloom).  The kohlrabi is a giant variety that Rick’s grandpa brought us from Slovakia.  It will get to be over 8 pounds and will not be woody.  It also keeps great all winter, and it’s starting to bulb up to about baseball size in the last few days of July.  Rick’s parents shared cucumbers with us last week and the week before, but ours have only just begun to flower.

The unexpected thing that I am loving about this tour is the truth of it.  In the pictures of the onions and watermelons, you can see both the weeds I’ve neglected to pull, and the light-colored, hard clay that we grow in here in Colorado.  Normally, I’d make an effort to hide both the weeds and the soil, because the shiny-happy blogger in me wants you to think that my garden is perfectly groomed and full of rich, dark, beautiful loamy soil.  In fact, some people do think that.  Rick’s grandparents even commented this week on how they couldn’t grow something that we could because their soil (about 25 miles from us) is hard clay.  Rick and I burst out laughing.  So here’s the proof.  We don’t have perfect soil.  This is how it looks after eight years of work amending it.  And I’m glad I let it show.

Some of my other favorite highlights from the slideshow (the shiny-happy stuff):

Corn from our neighbor’s garden, actually.  His corn is peeking over our front yard fence.  Well, not peeking, so much as towering.  We are actually sharing our harvests this year, so that is how I’m justifying including crops that belong to someone else in my garden tour.  ;)

The hundreds of tiny cherry tomatoes on H’s plants make me giddy.  And I can’t believe how big those two plants are.  Over six feet high!

The garlic I harvested in the week before C was born is drying in the garage, and the beets I pulled a few days ago are beautiful, although we might have pulled them about a week earlier if we weren’t in new baby mode.

We’re still waiting on the first eggs from the pullets, but we are getting two or three a day still from the older hens.

I was really hoping to include a picture of our raspberries this year, but they suddenly quit producing just last week.  Luckily I found something in the strawberry bed to show you instead!

Be sure to check out the other homesteads and gardens in Erica’s Nosy Neighbor Tour.  Thanks for stopping by!

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Hugelkultur, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Unplugging the Fridge: Cost vs. Inconvenience and Project Review

Nice Jugs!

A few weeks ago, I posted on what we had saved for the first two weeks of our fridge-less project. I got some interesting responses!  Some of which made me realize that not everyone who is a current browser on my blog fully understood what we were doing.  I had a hair-brained idea to see if we could live without a refrigerator for a month.  No reason.  Not really to save money (though I knew we probably would).  More like, I just wonder if we can?

I got a lot of “I’d love to do that, but I can’t live without my [insert favorite cold food or drink item here]” comments.  That was never the point of our experiment.  More like the opposite.  How could we unplug the fridge and still eat and drink all the things we like to have?

So if you’re a newer reader and have not followed since the beginning of this project, which we started in May, or if you just can’t remember that far back (I know I can’t!), please read my first post about it.  It summarized the old and inefficient fridge we were using, and some of what we thought we were getting into.  This post explains how we are keeping food cool.  Yes we still have milk and yogurt and cheese and meat.  And we use the chest freezer in the garage.  I have two boys, a preschooler and a toddler.  And they love them some yogurt.  ;)

One of the more interesting comments I got after that post a couple weeks ago came from a reader on Facebook.  She said:

I watched “No Impact Man” with my yoga class and we had a discussion afterwards about the movie and in particular the getting rid of the fridge part. Even though they were “saving electricity” in their apartment, they were using someone else’s electricity to procure the ice they were using, not to mention that spoilage was possible by not keeping cold foods at a safe temperature, especially considering they had a baby in the house. Most of us in the yoga class came to the conclusion that we *could* go for a time without a fridge – I’ve done it myself after several hurricanes for up to 3 weeks – but the energy that shutting off most new energy efficient refrigerators actually saves is often negligible.Your family saved approximately $4. You didn’t say in your blog post, so I have to ask: was $4.00 worth the extra trouble and inconvenience?

So first, I want to talk about the inconvenience.  Here’s what is currently in the “icebox” (the freezer compartment of our unplugged refrigerator):  A gallon of milk, a quart of half and half, a half gallon of yogurt, four kinds of cheese, a tub of cottage cheese, lemon juice concentrate, fish sauce, homemade jam that’s a little too runny at room temperature, peanut butter (so I don’t have to stir it every time), green onions, grapes, a pound of butter, hoisin sauce, ginger, my bacon grease container, half a bottle of bleu cheese dressing, and mustard.  Oh, and two one-gallon jugs of ice.  Normally there would also be mayonnaise, possibly some orange juice, and usually some carrots and celery, but I need to go to the store.  Meat for tonight’s dinner is defrosting on the counter.

To keep all of this cold, I walk out to the chest freezer in the garage each morning (usually while I’m on my way to get chicken food) and swap the half-melted ice jugs for two completely frozen ones.  I also grab meat for that night’s dinner and a pack of peaches or frozen veggies or whatever I’m going to use later in the day.  Pretty simple, and we didn’t change our diet or menu at all.  The only thing is that I now buy only one gallon of milk instead of two each week, or it will go bad too soon.  I don’t go to the store more often, we just are drinking less milk (but this hasn’t been an effort, not sure how it’s working actually?).

We did leave for the weekend at the end of May, and that entailed a bit of planning for the condiments we left behind, but it really wasn’t a big deal.

Next, cost.  From May 1 to May 18, we saved $0.31/day or $5.58 for the month compared to the previous year.  That was 15.5%.  Unlike No Impact Man, we were still running our chest freezer in the garage, regardless of the experiment, so this was a true and actual savings, since we run our own freezer year round, and we ran it last year as well.

Now it’s been a full billing cycle.  From 5/18/11 to 6/17/11:

This Year Last Year
Average Daily Temperature
62°
64°
Gas/Therms per Day
0.57
0.38
Gas/Cost per Day
$0.71
$0.59
Electric/kWh per Day
12.67
18.52
Electric/Cost per Day
$1.53
$2.29

Translation:  We saved $0.76 per DAY over what we spent last year!  For a month, that’s $22.80 in electricity.  Um – math people, correct me, but is that really 33.2% !?!??!?!  REALLY!??!?!  Whoa.

Is it worth it?  Um, yes, 33.2% savings over a year in electricity is worth a daily trip to the garage freezer to swap out ice jugs to us!  That amount of money would put a decent dent into buying a newer, more efficient freezer (which would really save us a lot more, since ours is from the 1980’s).

Will we keep it unplugged?  As it stands, Y.E.S.!!  Now, admittedly, this is the first week of distribution from the CSA, so we’re not sure how all of that will be handled once the major produce really starts rolling in.  I am 35 weeks pregnant, which means I can expect to be less available to handle food preservation duties for a few weeks.  But Rick and I make a pretty good tag team.  There’s no law that says if the going gets tough (or we’re just plain going crazy), we can’t plug back in to catch up.  But I really don’t think that will happen.  I will, of course, tell you if it does.  Full disclosure here. The plan for now is to keep going without it.  Feels kind of liberating, actually!

So what do you think?  Would you be willing to try it?  Any ideas of how we could improve?  Do you think it’s worth it?

Also, I think I linked to nearly all of them, but just in case, here is the entire series of posts covering our Unplugging the Fridge experiment.  Happy reading! 

Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , , , | 19 Comments

Wanted: Fridge-Sitter

Ever wonder what happens when you leave town for the weekend, and you have resolved not to plug in your fridge?  Probably not, huh.

Last weekend we wanted to take a spur-of-the-moment mini trip to the mountains.  It was the last weekend we had free before we hit the end of June-holiday/birthday craziness, and then it would be July and the baby would be due at any time.  My mom was a gem and said we could camp in their motor home for the weekend.  So we went for it.

I basically packed up the whole icebox into a cooler.  I put in the ice jugs, the quart of milk we had left (I put it into a jar instead of the big jug), the half and half, the cheese, some green onions and the pork chops we’d planned to cook.  All that was left in the icebox was my jar of bacon grease that I save to cook with, a jar of mayonnaise, some celery and a few other random condiments that required the cold.  We packed all of these into a smaller cooler with ice packs.  And then we took the shelf out of the freezer compartment, and put the little cooler in to stay the weekend without us.

The verdict?  Everything in the little cooler/freezer compartment/condiment and bacon-grease-preserver thing-a-ma-jiggy stayed cold.  The whole weekend.  Everything we took with us in the cooler for the weekend got used, with the exception of the last of the milk, which soured due to us neglecting the expiration date and then leaving it in the heat without replenishing the ice (since we’d used everything else by then, we forgot it).  So, yay.  A weekend away, a full three days and two nights, without plugging in a fridge and nothing but the neglected milk going bad.

So, if you decide to be crazy like me, rest assured that you can preserve your condiments without a fridge for a weekend, without changing ice packs or inviting your neighbors to see just how nutso you really are, if you use a good cooler that you don’t open ever until you’re ready to unpack it upon your return.  ;)  Heh. Longer than a weekend, you should probably make other arrangements though.  Either use those condiments up, give them away, or resolve to make peace without them, I’d think.  Or you can invite the same neighbor that is collecting your eggs for you to fridge-sit.  ;)

Categories: Food, Simple Living, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

No Fridge = Saving Money?

So – we went the whole month of May without a fridge.  Was it hard?  No.  In fact, it was surprisingly easy.  Kind of undramatic actually.  In my last update, I mentioned that we’d continue the experiment for at least a full billing cycle from our electric company to see how our energy saving (if any) was adding up.  This month’s bill showed up, and although it wasn’t a full cycle, we’re seeing some savings at least.  From 4/18/11 to 5/18/11, this is what our bill looked like:

This Year Last Year
Average Daily Temperature
49°
49°
Gas/Therms per Day
1.03
0.90
Gas/Cost per Day
$0.98
$0.84
Electric/kWh per Day
14.27
15.76
Electric/Cost per Day
$1.69
$2.00

Note: if you’re curious, Nick over at Northwest Edible gave a great explanation of watts vs. kilowatts vs. watt hours, last week.  It was a bit over my head, but good info. 

Obviously we’re using less electricity than we did last year (wonder why we’re using more gas though?).  But it’s not a full billing cycle yet, since we started this project on May 1st.  We’re going to keep it up at least one more month to see what we get.  But so far, I’m happy that there has been some impact already… if I’m doing my math right, that 31 cents works out to an average savings of 15.5% per day.  (!!)

Categories: Simple Living, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Summertime Top Five

To me, this weekend is the official kick off for summer.  To celebrate, here are my top five favorite things about the upcoming season!

Sun-warmed tomatoes, straight from the garden.  We have thirteen varieties this year.  I truly, truly can’t get enough.

Farmers markets  Even though we have a big garden and a CSA membership, I really love strolling around a Saturday farmers market.  We always come home with a treasure.  Like the time we bought five kinds of mushrooms – just because.  Or some late-season strawberries that we had eaten practically before we left the stall.  Amazing breads, greens to die for, radishes in the colors of the rainbow.  And all the varieties of squash at the end of the season.  Such an adventure.

Dining alfresco  Whether an impromptu picnic lunch with the kiddos, a late-night backyard BBQ with friends or an everyday dinner on the back patio.  Eating outside is fun.  Bonus points for cooking outside too.  Sun tea, s’mores, and grilled corn on the cob to name a few.  Through some experimentation, we’ve managed to grill a few somewhat unusual things too, like pizza, biscuits and peach cobbler.

The Fourth of July  I love, love, love the fourth.  A BBQ with friends, sparklers and spinners with the kids, popsicles, watermelon, staying up late.  One year (2005) we saw fireworks from the beach with our friends in San Diego.  Last year it rained, so the neighbor invited us all to pile into his Volkswagen Bus.  We drove to an empty parking lot, popped the top and watched the fireworks display through the window of the top bunk.  We’re hoping for a repeat (with or without the rain) this year.  Every year, I can’t wait to get my patriot on.

Bare-feet and Line-dried Clothes  Ok… I know it’s really two things.  But I love being barefoot in the cool grass.  I’d run around barefoot everywhere if I thought I could get away with it.  And I love the smell of line-dried clothes in the summer time.  Particularly sheets.  We hang clothes to dry throughout the year, but laundry that’s been crisped by the summer sun and kissed by a warm breeze is just better.

What are your favorite things about summer?

Categories: Garden, Simple Living, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

To Be Continued

Four weeks now without a fridge and going strong.  We’ve had a lot of questions about the experiment and how it’s gone so far.  Last week, a friend asked if we knew yet if we planned to continue, or if we were going to plug back in after the month was up.  The honest answer, at this point is yes, and I don’t know yet.

Yes, we plan to continue living without the fridge plugged in, at least for a while.  Partially because it’s not been that hard or that big of an inconvenience.  Partially because I really want to get a full month’s billing cycle (or maybe two) from our power company under our belts, so we can compare the bills to last year.  I don’t know how significant of an impact not running the refrigerator will have on our energy consumption and bills for just the one or two months.  I’m hoping it’s a lot, but I realize that translating those kilowatt-hours to dollars isn’t always that huge of an impact either.

When asked what amount was significant enough to keep it unplugged, I didn’t really have an answer.  I like the idea that by unplugging the fridge for a year we could save enough money to upgrade our older, less efficient freezers to new, super efficient machines.  But I don’t know how realistic that is.  And if it’s not, I don’t know that that will make me plug back in either.  It’s sort of an open question right now I guess.

The other reason I don’t know how long the experiment will continue is that we’re coming up on summer when the CSA will be in full swing and we will have a lot of vegetables to get through every week.  This was Rick’s first major concern when I originally brought up the unplugging idea to him.  I plan to take it one week at a time.  To try to be efficient and wise about getting veggies put away in the freezer, kept cool in water, and used up within the week as we can.  But I’m not going to just let them waste or rot if it gets down to it.

I expressed the possibility of using the fridge in the summer if we are overwhelmed with produce and then re-unplugging it again in the fall and through the spring until it’s needed again.  But we’ll see if that’s even an issue as the summer gets here.  The CSA season starts usually in mid-June and takes a few weeks to get into full gear before we’re bring home loads and loads of food.  We’ll be able to adjust and take it as it comes, I think.  ;)

So far, we’ve learned a lot already.  I learned that once you open the cheese, you better use it up, and don’t store it in the door unless you want it to go moldy.  Also, I learned not to buy two gallons of milk at a time.  They take up too much space and we ended up giving about half a gallon to the chickens that was spoiled during the first week, simply because it’s not quite as cold in the icebox as the fridge was, and the expiration date wasn’t at the end of the week.

At this point, we’re looking to keep going.  We still have a week left in the experiment, but I just don’t see us plugging in yet.

Categories: Simple Living, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Proudly powered by WordPress Theme: Adventure Journal by Contexture International.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,425 other followers

%d bloggers like this: