Blog Archive

Thursday, February 24, 2011

oil

Oil is over $100/barrel again. Wow. I am super excited about that! I checked oil prices on Monday, and by the time I ordered yesterday it had gone up $.10/gallon. We are filling up, and then hopefully we will last on this tank of oil for a while. I'm not that confident. This is a big old house. Yes, we have new windows and siding, but it needs new doors, and a lot more insulation! I am really wishing we had that woodstove installed right about now. Why is it that whenever we have a sum of money coming in and we plan to do x, y, and z, something else comes along and wipes out that money?! Always the way I tell you!

We had planned to pay down a good amount of debt this year, but now I am thinking that money is going to be for replacing our roof and hopefully a chimney for the woodstove. I think that we will have to put up that money this summer, because otherwise we may be paying $4/gallon or higher for oil next winter...and although we can hole up in one room and stay pretty warm, it would be a little nicer to have more space available to us :-)

I don't mind dressing warm, and in fact prefer it. The problem I run into? My 2 year old prefers to run around naked. How do you get a 2 year old to keep her clothes on? I haven't found many solutions...or any really! So heres to hoping we get the chimney installed for the woodstove we bought 3 years ago...and then we won't have to worry about being warm when oil continues to go up!

In related news, food is getting expensive. A pound of dry beans in my grocery store has gone up to $1.40, up from $.99 this past summer. I probably would be in a better situation if I could buy beans in bulk, but I haven't found a place to buy them in bulk yet. As far as everything else, well, we don't tend to buy too much from the grocery store anymore, mainly the staples, beans, flour, rice, sugar, oil. All of which have increased dramatically in the past couple of months. I am concerned how much higher these basic staples are going to go, and hoping to maybe stock up a little bit before that happens. I'm happy that we have the winter and summer CSA's so we at least have our veggies taken care of!

All the more reason to try and eat local organic food. The cost isn't driven by oil, and the money stays in our communities. Not to mention it is healthier and tastier than food from away. I will be following along at Wendy's blog for her 21 Days project. Should be interesting, especially with the state of the world right now.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

time

I can't believe how fast time flies by these days. I think it hit me about 6 weeks after I had Jack. It has been a little difficult these past few months. Matt is working two jobs now, and even though he works from home, we don't actually see him while he is working. Most people would think that would make their days drag. But, running after two kiddos all day is a pretty fast paced day for me. And if I leave the house to run an errand? Well, it makes the days go even faster.

Is it just me? Has the 24 hour day actually gotten shorter? I think that is quite possible! I feel like if I stay in the house most of the day then the day is a little slower, but who really wants to stay in the house all day everyday?! I have so many things that I want to plan and think about, but don't seem to be able to, so instead I just continue to say "I can't wait until I can sit down and think about..."

I'm hoping that after this week, when we start moving back into the rest of the house, it will allow me a little more time to DO instead of THINK. Instead of moving around piles and placing more stuff in boxes, I will be able to actually have a place to put that stuff. Stuff that I do actually use, but have no space for when we are living only in half the house.

Everyone is sick right now, so this past weekend and this week are pretty low key here at Townsend House, but hopefully this weekend will be productive and everyone will be well. What are the chances of something going the way I would like it to? Hmmm...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Urban Homesteading

I don't think I would qualify myself as an urban homesteader. I live in a small city...but it is more like a little town. How did we become a city anyways? Something to look up later I guess! Anyways! There is a large uprising in the "urban homestead" movement right now. And since today is Urban Homesteaders Action Day I figured I should write a little post about it.

You can go here to learn more about what is going on, and why this day has come about. To me, it seems completely insane to try and enforce a trademark like this, but to each his own.

I am proud to grow as much as possible, wherever I can find space. I am proud that I know how to can my tomatoes and cook from scratch. I am proud that I am trying to learn as much as possible about providing for my family without relying on commercial products. And I think in a way, that does make me an urban homesteader. I certainly don't have hundreds of acres, I only have a quarter of one acre. I think that everyone has a different definition of urban homesteader, and I am happy that so much attention is being paid to this right now. Hopefully it will break out of the small community online and into the mainstream and more people will realize they are urban homesteaders as well. Do I have goats and chickens and grow thousands of pounds of produce a year, no, but then again, I live in Maine, not California :-)

Friday, February 18, 2011

am I crazy?

Probably :-) I have signed up for two completely different projects for March/April this year. The first is an online workshop called "30 Day Vegan." It is a whole food cleanse which starts on March 7th. I'm not entirely sure how much I will post here about it, but they have a cool button, so I figured I should at least mention it :-) I even got my husband to agree to it, which is pretty cool. Of course when I talked about it last night with him he said "wait, I didn't agree to that!" Oh yes you did bucko, and we are going full steam ahead, especially with the genetic cholesterol issues on his side of the family. We are not getting any younger here! We need to make a change now!

I am pretty much a vegetarian right now, not because I don't like meat, I love it, but we are at a place where we are not able to buy that expensive organic meat at the farmers' market. The stuff at the grocery store? Not even an option after watching Food, Inc. Plus, the addition of a crazy ambitious budget to pull ourselves out of debt, meat isn't on the table. We are lucky enough to have a great winter CSA and will have the summer CSA starting soon enough. So organic veggies aren't as costly as what most people expect. Granted, this means that I will have to adapt many of the menu plans for what we have available, but luckily I am pretty comfortable in the kitchen and don't have any issues with substitutions :-)

The other project? Project Simplify. It's actually perfect timing since we will be moving into the rest of the house starting around the first weekend in March. I did have a huge purge last summer in preparation for having the tenants move in, and us living only in one bedroom downstairs. I don't expect that I will be getting rid of too much "stuff" But, organizing and getting everything in a place, definitely will be happening. This project requires before and after pictures, that is not going to be very easy for me, I prefer people to not know what a disaster area I have been living in, but it will be nice to see other people going through the same issues as me!

Feel free to join in on either of these excellent projects for the beginning of spring!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good News!

Our tenants are moving out. Well, that is good news and bad news. Good news because we will have the ENTIRE house to ourselves, which is awesome. Not so good because that rent is what we have been using to pay for the ridiculous amount of oil needed to heat this beast of a house. So, it looks like we will be going back to the lovely 55 degrees that we knew well during the winter of 08-09. Luckily we have lots of warm clothes, and we are going into March which means a little bit warmer temps...at least that is the hope.

I am so excited to get my house back though. I know I have said that I want to live small, and I do, but if we are going to do that, we need to really commit to it, which would mean getting rid of a lot more furniture and "stuff". But, if we are going to live in this house with the prospect of moving into the rest of the house, I don't want to get rid of everything! And now it looks like we will be moving into the rest of the house by the end of the month.

Our house is big, like I have said before, so it will allow us to have some dedicated extra rooms. Most exciting for me? A school/toy room for the kids and then the much sought after craft room. I am so excited to have a craft room I can't even explain it! Although, I don't think it will be a dedicated craft room, I think it will be part craft room, and then also house our exercise equipment...but the thought of having a couple tables set up for sewing/scrapbooking, and all of E's craft stuff in one spot in the house, which I don't mind getting messy, oh the possibilities!

E LOVES crafts. I think that she would paint all day if she had access to unlimited supplies. Granted, her idea of painting is actually more of a full body paint kind of craft then a brush and paper kind of craft. But, it will give her more opportunity to express herself without me saying "No, not on the walls!"

This new development has also given me the opportunity to do a bit more gardening then I had expected. We were not expecting the tenants to move out until July, which is way too late in the seemingly 2 month growing period I have, but moving out in February? Well, that is a whole other ball game. I won't be starting seeds, but I will be able to get some peas in the ground, and definitely will be planting some pumpkins...as well as some potatoes hopefully. Plus, I will have my perfect container garden spot back, the upstairs deck. That means tomatoes...hopefully lots and lots of tomatoes!

Oh, the excitement! The plans, the painting, the moving. So very happy about this!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

self-sufficiency

For the past 4 years I have been working very hard to provide my family with a mainly local diet. It is hard. We have been fortunate enough to find an excellent farm where we can get a CSA each summer. It has definitely helped in my desire to eat only local, organic food. We also have a great farmers’ market, which provides pretty much anything you could ever want food wise. Meat, dairy, more produce than imaginable, baked goods (yum!), we lucked out.

I love that we have all these options for buying local food, but I have been wanting to be more self sufficient with our food. It seems like it hasn’t been the time for me to venture into growing my own food, but I am hoping that I can make preparations for 2012 and at that point achieve what I have been thinking about for so long.

I want to get chickens. Our city recently changed the zoning to allow 6 laying hens. My husband actually agreed to it, I think in a moment of weakness, last summer when everything with the sewer lines happened. We eat a lot of eggs, and paying $5/dozen at the farm is not the most economical, not that I know how much a dozen eggs would cost from our own layers. I am hoping to convince Matt to build something for the chickens this spring, and then hopefully get some chicks from the feed store. Then I can have all summer to figure out how to keep said chickens warm in the winter…hmmm…may need to research that.

My desire is to be as self sufficient as possible. I think that we have a lot to overcome as far as plans and implementing plans, but it is possible. Not that we could be completely self sufficient. Obviously I don’t have enough land to grow wheat, but if I could grow most of the veggies we use, and then have the eggs for protein, I would be doing quite well. It would be nice to be able to barter, but I have no network for bartering right now, nor anything to actually bring to the table for bartering. I want to be able to repurpose materials from the junk yard for the outside buildings we need to build (or Matt needs to build). But, I don’t actually know how to do that…maybe if I had 5 minutes I could call someone. I should work on finding those 5 minutes of quiet in my house.

Am I crazy to think that I could provide so much from my little homestead? Is it silly to even try? And how do I manage all that I want to do with being a mama to littles and having a husband who could really care less about me growing tomatoes, let alone the chickens I want to get?

Gardening

I am a complete novice when it comes to gardening. I was lucky my first year. I had a container garden on the deck off the second floor of our home. It was perfect, tons of sunlight, no pests.  Then, the next summer we rented the space, and I lost my perfect spot for a container garden. Instead I planted some things in the ground, and had my containers. Weather was not on my side that year; we had rain until August, and then a drought until the middle of September. Not the ideal growing conditions for my beloved tomatoes. Last summer the weather was perfect. I had started all of my seeds inside, and planned to expand my garden. After I spent all the time doing that, of course the sewer guy comes knocking on my door, but I’m sure you have read my post on my old blog about that 

This summer, I have decided to do no gardening at all. I am going to take the summer off. I say that now, but really know that I will still plant a bunch of tomato plants and probably peppers and cukes, all in containers. But, I won’t be planting in the ground. Instead, I am going to give myself a break. We have joined our awesome CSA for the 4th year. We get a huge selection of vegetables each week, the farm is awesome. All organic, and we just love it there. At the same time I will really be paying attention to the sun on my yard. Even though there are sewer lines running through my yard, I can still garden, I just need to get creative in the placement of my plants.

Eventually I would love to have a pumpkin patch for Emma, and then do a good deal of growing for the winter. It would also be great to have an herb garden. I am very interested in growing medicinal plants, and learning to use them and preserve them. I have lofty goals, but I figure that with the space provided, we must be able to provide a good portion of our own food. And then I can supplement with the farmers market, and then I have a pretty local diet, which is what I have been working towards for the past 4 years!

the back story...

A little back story on our home: We bought it in December of 2006. It is on a quarter of an acre…actually slightly less than a quarter of an acre. It actually is a pretty nice little piece of property, of course that was until I found out this past summer that the sewer lines run directly through my property, literally a diagonal line splitting my yard into two not so usable spaces. It is usable land, it will just take some work as the best place for a garden was right over the sewer lines. We bought the house as a duplex, but have been able to rent space in our home as a studio apartment, and then currently as a duplex with the four of us downstairs, and a family of 5 upstairs. Needless to say we are a little cramped.

I think that if I were a more patient person, having renters would be perfect, but I don’t so much like having people walking above me all hours of the night, especially with a 2 year old and a 6 month old. But, it is allowing us some extra money, and that is what I have to keep reminding myself! We are both outgrowing our spaces though, so either they will buy our house, or we will move back into the rest of the house for the first time ever.

Our house is kind of large at 2200 sf, with an opportunity to expand into the attic and create two more rooms. Unfortunately, that is not the small, energy efficient home that I now want, but it is what we have currently. I do go back and forth between wanting a really small home, and wanting to have all the extra space. I think the reason I constantly think about this is because we do own land the next town over, on which we would build a relatively small, energy efficient home. But, until we sell this house, that won’t happen. And really, I have two babies. I cannot continue trying to sell my house and take care of the babies. Some people would be highly successful at this, I realize, I am not one of those people. In fact, I am barely hanging on at the moment!

It is a bit of an odd time to start a new blog talking about making this house what we want. It is February…in Maine. Not a whole lot of outdoor work can be accomplished. And we have our tenants here at least until the end of June, so we won’t be doing many improvements to the interior of the house until they leave. And if they decide to buy the house this summer, well I may end up making a new blog about building a small house on the land. In the meantime, I am going to talk about what I am trying to do to be as self sufficient as possible, and what I hope to do as the weather gets warmer outside.

I hope that people are interested in reading all the goings on of my life, I know that I enjoy lurking on others blogs that write about their own life. If not, it will at least serve as a nice little journal for me to document our progress!

Introduction

I have wanted to start a new blog for a while now. Inspired by all the “adapting in place” type blogs, I thought to myself, “self, start a new blog about making your house, your home.” Then it seemed like we were going to sell our house, so everything went on the back burner. Why bother making changes to our house if we were just going to sell it in a few months? And who wants to read about that? Well, I now know that we are not selling our house, at least not right now. I also know that I cannot continue to live in this constant state of transition. So instead, I am going to go full speed ahead and make this house my home. This blog will be a bit of a mishmash of everything though, because I can’t really just stick to one topic! I hope that you will all be happy to join me on this adventure!