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Sustainable Living - Page 2

post #21 of 329
Indigo, thanks for adding that viewpoint about sustainable urban living. I'm also thinking this way, since we may not ever move out to acreage- and I am wanting to live my values now.

I grew up on a farm and sometimes wonder if by the time I am older and we can afford the acreage, if I will have the energy for all the work. I knew someone who "retired" from her sustainable life at age 51- saying all that gardening, wod chopping, canning and freezing got exhausting after a certain age (she didn't have kids to help) and wanted to play golf. Which she did.

I want to find the balanced, sustainable life that will sustain and nourish ourselves in the long run and also be light on the planet. It is possible to grow a lot in a small space, as well as raise chickens or ducks for eggs.

We don't have a sunny yard for growing things. Even with a small space, you need to have certain conditions to make it work. We do have large trees to cool the house in summer, though. It's a trade off when you have a small yard.

The housing market here has taken off so much that to move in the area would be a dumb decision (we'd end up with less house, actually), so we'll need to work with what we have.
post #22 of 329
You all seem so neat. It is so great to hear about people with similar goals. I think urban homesteading is totally great (one really inspiring book is This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader). In most cities you can have a small amount of chickens, do food co-ops, garden and find ways to consume less, so we all can do our part. CeraMae- I think the issue of "depriving" our kids with less material things and oppurtunities is a huge issue. We seriously limit our kids' toys to things that are made from natural materials, preferably handmade, open-ended, and not a lot of them. We also limit the amount of classes and strictly structured activities. We want our kids to fully experience just being kids, playing with the animals, climbing trees, digging in the dirt, playing in our woods and creek, etc. I also think monica's point about the energy it takes is huge. For as much as I enjoy the way we live, sometimes it is hard; chicks are cute but sometimes they die, your bees swarm 30 feet up a tree and you have to go get them, you have a huge garden and by harvest time you have tons of work. Not that I don't love it and feel energized by it, but it is a huge commitment. We don't have dairy goats right now because we like to go backpacking and visit family and we don't have anyone we would count on to milk twice a day. So it comes down to the balance of what you can do now and what you need to put off until later. I think if we all lived a more community based; sharing the work and doing tasks together, it would be alot less draining.
post #23 of 329
Thread Starter 
Indigo73 & Monnie ~ you should check out http://pathtofreedom.com. It is a really great website about urban homesteading!

farmer mama, I agree with what you talk about. I want to unschool dc and totally let him experience being a child. I relished being a child out in the country -- climbing trees, playing at the pond, helping with the garden... I absolutely loved it until I hit puberty and then I felt trapped. Again, this had more to do with parenting now that I look back, but it still effects me.

In my ideal world, we'll buy the land now and plant fruit and nut bearing trees and bushes, and spend our vacations there. (it's 6 hours away in a valley). We are still trying to figure out the cheapest way to build a house, by salvaging materials and doing a lot ourselves, and we will rent in the meantime so as to not accumulate any debt. This will take years, and be a project of ours, and hopefully down the line it will be more clear to me if we are meant to settle down there when the kids are adults or before that. In the meantime we'd like to do as much "urban homesteading" as possible.

I also think that community is SO important. We are talking with friends about going in on a large parcel of land and splitting it, so that we can share labor and goods with each other.
post #24 of 329
I love how we are all on different parts of the journey towards SL For someone like myself, who is relatively new to the idea (my family are the most wasteful people I have ever met!) it is wonderful to know my goals are attainable. Thank you all for being here Its nice to have other mamas who understand my passion for this ideal and to remind me of the path I wish to be on.
post #25 of 329
i'm enjoying this thread-
farmermama, how old are your kids? i really believe that children when they are given a connection to the earth, the outdoors, gardening, playing in the mud, have less need for 'toys' .... do you find that to be true for your children?
my dd is 22 months- and she is really most content when she is outdoors exploring the land, standing on the fence watching the animals, picking flowers, shoveling rocks.... she doesn't have much of a need for 'toys', i make her dolls and balls, play silks *naturally dyed* i love playing with natural dyes, aren't they awesome??

yes-- i completely agree with what y'all were saying about community. i'm finding it real difficult to till my garden by myself- it just feels so tiring and it's so hard to get started without the energy of other people around me. my dh doesn't have a lot of free time to help me out. how are y'all doing with the energy it takes to work the land? it's always different with the seasons, life, and so on, but.. it's always a factor. there's a great farm down the street from us that totally embraces the concept of communal farming- no machinery- they do a CSA and encourage members to come and do work days. my dh worked there last summer- and we would all harvest the hay using scythes- it was just an amazing experience to be walking down the fields with a line of people, all scything rhythmically. loved that!!
post #26 of 329
Hi again, I am writing so much because this is such a neat thread! Lou- my kids are almost 5 and almost 2, and they have a blast and play really well together I must say. They have similar toys to the ones you mentioned, silks, dolls, rocks, and a really nice wooden play stove. They don't really get what to do with more conventional toys when they come across them at certain friend's houses! We have had kids that live down our road come over and they have asked "How do you play with this?" And these are pretty rural livin' kids, I couldn't believe it! When I read your post about a bunch of people harvesting with scythes I got goosebumps! Did you guys sing as you worked? That is the kind of stuff I am talking about! We also like natural dyes and right now really like hybiscus (my daughter is a pink kind of girl) and I am really into woad (because of my love for all things celtic, of course). My dh really perfers to do everything by hand so he double digs our beds (with lots of "help" from the kids and the chickens), and then I do all the planting with the kids at our leisure. To help with the energy to do these kinds of things I do them with the kids at a relaxed pace. My soon to be 5 year old is in charge of gathering eggs and filling up the food and water for the animals (this is something she just took on herself), while my toddler is more likely to throw the food on the floor it still works. Today the also helped me start more seeds in the greenhouse and plant our onion seedlings in the garden (it wasn't perfect, but it got it done). Another thing that is helpful to me is to get into the rhythm of the year. Like I am inspired to do spring cleaning because I want a fresh start for the spring equinox, we have celebrations with other friends and families with bonfires to mark the solstices and equinoxes, honey harvests and mead making, etc. The other thing I do for energy is have beautiful things in my life, as cliche as that sounds. Like having a bed full of flowers just for bouquets for our table, or my broom that is handmade with the bark still on and weighs 3 times the amount of a plastic one, but it brings me joy. Or how I like wearing old fashioned aprons and wooden clogs when I work in the garden (or really all the time and in public now that I think of it) to get me in the head space of doing my work. Does that make any sense? I would like to hear what other people do to find their energy. Again, you all seem so cool, and great mamas. Oh and Lou- about the plum wine, I'll ask my man as he is the brewer in the family.
post #27 of 329
Oh one more thing that I find helpful for finding energy is the idea of feeling empowered by what I do... that caring for my babies and growing food and cooking meals is the most important and should be the most respected job in the world. I also like the idea of mindfulness; that when I am washing the dishes, hanging up diapers, cleaning out the chicken coop, etc. that I stay present and appreciate the beauty and importance of the task at hand. I don't rush or look at these things as drudgery but as the meditative lessons that they can be. I think that this applies to the task of mothering as well as our lifestyle choices. FM
post #28 of 329
i love the image of farmer mama in her garden with wooden clogs and old fashioned aprons!

i totally relate to what you were saying farmer mama- mindfulness- and to be focused on the tank at hand- that gives us joy! i guess i'm just getting antsy and wanting the garden to be digged up and beds made so dd and i can plant peas, greens, and onions at our pace... dh will have his spring break next week and we'll prepare the garden together.... i just have to embrace that life doesn't always go according to plan- especially when we work with living forces.

i agree that surrounding ourselves with beauty and texture is such an important thing- the sturdy handmade brooms, fresh flowers, beeswax candles- that's why i choose to give my dd toys from natural materials & mostly handmade- such a different experience than playing with plastic electronic stuff that break and go in the trash! i love being able to mend dd's toys.

it's interesting that 'sustainable living' has become a modern catchword... the old ways are naturally sustainable- we've become such a throw away society!
about recycling- check out this great site, www.freecycle.org to see if there's a group in your area- it's a email list that brings ppl together to give away our unwanted items. i'm loving it!

i wanted to try dyeing with hibiscus- but i have hollyhocks growing on the farm & i think it'll give the same color? have you tried dying with cochineal? it's one of my favorites! when i was working at a waldorf preschool, we did natural dyes with the children and it was such a great experience for them to pick sourgrass that was growing in the backyard & prepare the flowers & dye it... then play with the beautiful sunny yellow silk.
post #29 of 329
Lou- I just looked at my natural dye book and hollyhock dyes almost the exact same color as my hardy hibiscus, such pretty dusky pinks. I have a bunch of silk that was given to me from a relative that got it 50 years ago in Japan, so I was thinking of making a rose colored canopy type thing for over dd's bed (we do the family bed with futons pushed together, so I guess it will be over half of our bed!) I like the hibiscus because it doesn't need a mordant. I love cochineal but due to the price I don't use it that often. Was the preschool a waldorf program? Anyhow, it is neat to hear of someone with such similar interests! By the way, dh says about the plum wine; did it taste bad? If it had and off taste and was a "gusher" then it could be a bacterial infection (this is not unusual in home brewing and winemaking) there would also possibly be a visible ring around the inside top of the bottle. The way to avoid this is to be really extra careful about sterilizing bottles and equiptment. If it tasted good, was it bubbly like champagne? That would point to it being not done fermenting and needing more time. -FM
post #30 of 329
Oooooh I wanna know more about natural dyes. Where can I learn (book rec. or websites?). It is something I am really looking forward to trying.

post #31 of 329

natural dyes are so much fun to work with- we can find so much materials in our own areas- The Herb Book, i think it's called- it has a great reference in the back as to which plants can be used for natural dyes. you'd be surprised at the range of plants that make good natural dyes. not berries really, though, they're not colorfast. Rita Buchanan has some good books on natural dyes- and i bought some supplies from www.shepherdsrainbow.com but be sure to keep your eyes open for any fiber festivals in your area- there's a great one in Eugene, Oregon- Black Sheep Gathering. akirasmama, PM me anytime if you want-

farmer mama- yes, it was at a waldorf school.
and that canopy you're gonna make sounds sooo beeyotiful! your dd will feel like she's in wonderland.... kids just love being cozied up in little enclosures. from my experience in a waldorf preschool and with my dd and her friends... whenever kids get a bit antsy, it does them so much good to 'build them a house' and i just love the 'house' to be made out of naturally dyed silk with the light shining through.

i don't want to hijack the thread- i'm just into this discussion! should we start another thread?
post #32 of 329
Oh, yes...this thread's topic is near and dear to my heart! I am just finishing the book, "The Good Life" by Scott and Helen Nearing. It's a compilation of their two books "Living the Good Life" and "Continuing the Good Life". It talks about their experiences and philosophy of 60 years of homesteading. Though they are both deceased now (He lived to be 100, she lived to be 92), you can learn more at www.goodlife.org.

By the way, not to contradict anyone, but I didn't enjoy the book, "This Organic Life". I didn't like her treatment of animals and did not enjoy her "energy" as it came across from her writings, if I remember correctly. (By the way, the Nearings did not use animals on their homestead -- for food or labor.)

I've enjoyed reading your threads immensely!


Oh, and yes, Lou I do find a correlation between how much time my children spend outdoors doing their own thing (mucking in the mud or laying on their tummies watching slugs and worms) and how centered they are. Luckily, my children attend a school where they spend an hour a day (rain or shine or snow) outside -- about 1/4 of their time at school. They also go on long walks through the nearby trails quite often. I love their school for that!
post #33 of 329
Hi again. One of my favorite things about the Nearing's books is how they had several different homesteads over the years. Even though we own our land, we are not here permanently, which is hard for me. It is good to be reminded that we can pick up and start over and probably do things even better. About "This Organic Life", I do hear you about her grumpy attitude (someone who I wouldn't want as a neighbor!), and her way of dealing with critters that snack in her garden. I think what I found positve about the book is her passsion for her garden and the sanctuary it provides, as well as the perspective of homesteading in an urban area. I know several friends who live "in town" who appreciated the personal nature of the book, but it is certainly not for everyone! I am sure there are other great books out there about suburban/ urban homesteading, all of the ones that I have focus on rural living, although I am sure you can apply the same concepts. About natural dyes, I really love the book Wild Color, especially for the color photographs and clear instructions. Is the Black Sheep Gathering in the summer? Also, for any waldorf-moms, my kids don't go to waldorf school but we do waldorf inspried at home and attend festivals and parent classes at the nearest waldorf school. I feel like sustainable living and waldorf go hand in hand; natural and handmade toys, gardening, handcrafts, etc. What do you think? Thanks, FM
post #34 of 329
I'm with you guys on this! We live in Maine on a 20 acre peice of old growth forest. We are able to heat our home by using wood from blow downs in the spring and a few other trees each year. My dh does all the cutting, splitting and I help with the loading. It's a hell of a lot of work. My dh seems so vital when he is chopping wood.

I'm a fanatic about composting. I have two large bins and a big pile with something always going. Dh does most of the veggie planting and I grow herbs and do a lot of wildcrafting. Wild herbs are abundant around here, I'm so lucky.

We pick berries every year, and harvest enough herbs to make teas, salves and gifts. We also put up as many veggies as we can for winter.

We have deep well water, and don't use any high-electricity/power applicances (no dryer, dishwasher).

I want to learn more someday about tree medicine. I love the forest.

My 22 mo old can already identify a bunch of wild herbs - he talks to plants, I swear to God. He'll have his own garden this summer with lots of peas and cherry tomatoes.

We are totally anti-material and don't have any "toys" or wish to accumulate them. I'm into simplifying and recycling. This comes in handy since we HAVE NO MONEY!!!!

We lose our power all the time - our lines are on trees. So we're used to using our propane cookstove, candles, lanterns, and woodstove. We have food enough to last a week at all times.

I would love to have goats, chickens and a cow. But we have very little grazing land. We're working on clearing a little bit, but I doubt we'll ever have enough for a cow. Plus the wild animals would prey big time, I'm not sure how we would do it.

Nice to know others are out there trying to so the same sort of things....The Nearing writings are awesome.

post #35 of 329
wildcrafter, that is awesome.

I never went more sustainable for two reasons, I think- married a guy who isn't into it much and grew up poor milking cows, putting up most of our food, field and farm work, foraging and was so @#$ tired by the time I was 20 I just wanted an education and get away from the all work and no play.

Then I found that the city/suburbs didn't offer anything really redeeming but have never managed to go back to the way I grew up...

I think my memories of the hard work, being tired and hungry and outside of "the norm" make some sort of hump I can't get over. I see the good side, then the dark side and end up just composting, recycling, gardening in the suburbs.
post #36 of 329
this thread is great.
It reminds me of my youth, growing up on a farm. We did live off our land, but it was much different then the isolated way in which we now live.

Then we lived in a large house with my parents, my granparents, my aunt and uncle, my 5 other brothers and sisters, and the occasional cousin or uncle.

So there were always many hands and eyes to help, work, and watch.

Now it's just me, dh, and two kids. Quite a world of differnece when it comes to things like raising a garden and animals...

I think in our "progress" we left something very important behind...family...

Makes me stop and think.
post #37 of 329
My lunch break is nearly over, so I haven't yet gotten to read all the posts, but had to add my ideas to the mix. Living simply/close to the earth really calls to me. My dh is slowly coming around. He often agrees in theory but is very easily swayed by the naysayers. (I'm no oak in a storm, either.) Unfortunately, since dd was born, I find I'm slipping back to my mainstream ways of 'yore'. (Convenience, convenience, convenience.) I was never very far down the SL path, but compared with most Americans... Anyway, as an example, the other day we made a pitstop at the grocery store - for frozen pizza & many 12-packs of pop (good sale.) I said to dh that we are pathetic. We don't walk the walk. For a while we gave up alot of convenience foods. We committed to cloth diapers, but are now doing about 50/50 with disposibles. We swore to limit tv & certainly never to pay for it. But 2 years later, we're starting a new satellite dish subscription. I'm so glad to have found this thread. It is people like you guys when give me strength when I am weak!! As for alternative housebuilding, I have big, big dreams of building a cordwood home. (for the person living in the wet south, I know these have been successfully built in the south, GA comes to mind.) We have the opportunity to build a cordwood garden shed this summer. DH wants to put it off, but I'm going to keep on him. Why wait?? Practice NOW. Anyway, I fear I'm rambling. Please keep the good vibes coming. Strength & cheers to you all.!
post #38 of 329
I think in our "progress" we left something very important behind...family...
i second that! we live with my mil on our farm- she's only here half the time, which is nice in some ways.. but it's so great to have family right next door, it just adds another dimension to our life, especially for dd. tho- it'd be nice if she'd get her hands dirty too!! :LOL

wildcrafter- awesome! i always wanted to try foraging- but i'm afraid to go out without an experienced forager. i do gather dandelion greens- and pick blackberries- that's pretty much it. i love euell gibbons' books about foraging- also love love the Foxfire series! it's like a window into another time-

farmer mama- the black sheep gathering is in eugene in june- www.blacksheepgathering.org

yes, for me, waldorf fits sustainable living. i guess some would say it's old fashioned... but so much of the old ways are inherently sustainable! so much of waldorf education supports the simple life- simple in materials, but rich in spirit.
post #39 of 329
Such a great point about practicing now. Cord wood is awesome and we are thinking of trying it as well, I have some experience with cob and strawbale, but we live in a particularly moist part of the pacific northwest, so we are still trying to figure the best sustainable building option. Wildcrafter- I love what you said about your dh chopping wood. Right now the nettles are coming up and my dh says that I must be the only person who gets this excited about stinging nettles. But I am guessing from this thread that I am not alone!
post #40 of 329
i'd love to have some stinging nettle here- stinging nettles are really beneficial to the farm organism! do you do companion planting? we have some experience with biodynamic farming and stinging nettle is supposed to be one of the best companions to almost all crops- and a great addition to the compost pile. does anyone else do biodynamic farming?
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