Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Putting Our Focus Into Action February 25, 2016

Filed under: family,homesteading,simplicity,Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 8:04 pm
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Recently, I have been reading various blogs about the off grid journey that other homesteading families have been taking. It is a real education to see just how varied the lifestyles are. Some adopt a few of the off grid ideologies, while others go all out. It would seem that there are as many variants as there are homesteading families. Each has their own way of thinking and living out their dreams of self-reliance and off grid life.

Some families are still living the urban life, but are slowly taking on a more simple attitude. They are paying off their debt, without accumulating more, and are becoming more frugal in their spending. Some families are rural and just taking life a bit slower, planting a garden to feed their family over the summer months, and possibly raising a few chickens for eggs. You have bloggers who are definitely in the prepper category. Even within that category, you can have varied levels of self-reliance. Lastly, you have those who fit anywhere in between these examples. Hobby farmers, small family farms, tiny house owners who are trying to live a full life on less, and many more.

In nearly every case, the bloggers are in a state of transition. They are still evolving in their journey. Some make the transition quicker than others. There are those who seem to meet their journey’s goal within a very short time. Likewise, you have those who are moving towards their goals at a much slower pace. It is inspiring to read about their journeys. I always learn a new perspective from reading their blog posts. I also learn what they have found to work, and what doesn’t.

This brought to me a challenge. I have often spoke of scaling back and purging the unessential things from our home and lives. Recently, I began following a video blog, Starry Hilders Off Grid Homestead, on YouTube. She has a Facebook page as well. While watching her videos, I began to feel a convicting in my heart. It was a challenge coming from within to take our simplicity a little further than we currently are. It was also the kick in the arse that I have needed to feel reinvigorated about our journey.

While we have been dealing with job changes, our son’s therapy routines, and homeschooling, I have slowed down in a few areas that I used to enjoy. The first is doing laundry by hand. I used to enjoy it, even in winter. On warm days, I would wash the laundry outdoors, enjoying the sunshine as I watched the kids at play. I loved the peaceful nature of that task. I actually looked forward to it. I washed laundry every day or two, then hung it out on the clothesline to dry. In winter, I would heat up the water on the wood stove, wash laundry indoors and hang it up on folding clothes racks near the wood stove to dry.

We had family members staying with us over a long period and I got out of the habit of hand washing. We had gone from a household of 4 to a household of 8 people at one point. Being the lone person hand washing laundry, it just became too much. So, I started going to the laundromat in the nearest town, 10 miles away. This became a habit. Now, several years later, I still use the laundromat. I look at myself today and wonder why I am doing that? I spend nearly $70 a month doing laundry. That is ridiculous!!! I could be doing it for free here at home, utilizing the hand washing and clothesline, instead of feeding handfuls of quarters into the machines.

As I watched one particular video, I remembered something that really had me kicking myself in the arse. Washing laundry by hand is not only faster, but often is more effective in cleaning the laundry than using machines. When washing daily, the laundry takes less than a half hour to wash and hang out on the line. It can actually take me longer to set up the laundry tubs to do the washing and then rinse them out afterwords, than it takes for me to wash the clothing and hang it up to dry. On a hot summer day, the laundry can be fully dried within an hour. With that in mind, where is the laundromat making life easier? That $70 a month spent at the laundromat is $840 a year that we could have spent elsewhere.

A second area that I have had to rethink is our garden. Each year, we have either had to deal with drought or our garden being flooded out by heavy spring rains. One year, the plants did great but early summer heat damaged the garden. Many people lost their gardens in the same way we did. This has been a constant frustration point for me. I love having a garden and home canning the harvest for our pantry. I take delight in going out in the garden to pick the vegetables and salad fixings for our meals each day. Having the garden fail to produce has disheartened me many times. In the homesteading blogs, I am seeing more and more posts about raised bed gardening, also known as the Back to Eden or the Square Foot Garden methods. In some blogs, I read about those who simply lay out cardboard on the ground, then heap their straw/manure/compost layers on top to form a mound into which they plant their garden plants and seeds. Other blogs use the actual raised beds that are built using wood, bricks, cinder blocks, or large stones. Years ago, in the early 1980’s, I used the raised bed method to grow a garden in an upper desert region. This method was very effective in helping me to have a productive garden. I actually produced more harvest than my pantry had room for! I gave away about half of the harvest one year. Looking back, I really wish that I would have set up the raised beds here on our homestead much sooner. It may have made all the difference in whether or not we had a harvest on the years when the gardens were being flooded.

A third area that I am feeling needs changed is the criteria of what we will hold on to and what we get rid of. Even with all the purging that I have done in the past, we still have more than we actually need. The problem is that we always find new things that we want to keep. In summer, it is not difficult to go to yard sales and find something that ends up being an impulsive purchase. That alone can increase the stuff in the home that is not really necessary. This also applies for sales at the store. The purchase always seems reasonable until you get it home. Once home, you find yourself wondering why you bought the item. For this reason, I rarely go to a yard sale. When I do go to them, I have a specific item that I am looking for. I stick to my agenda and try not to allow myself to be swayed into the impulsive buying.

As readers already know, I have been working on clearing out a room of the house that has been used for storage for nearly the past two years. Much of what was stored is being purged from our home. We have thrown out bag after bag filled with items that we had held on to, but was not needed. Of all the belongings in that room, nearly everything has been purged from the room with the exception of the furniture, a few books, and a tote of photos. This has lit the fire under me to do the same with the rest of the rooms. Once the rooms are fully purged of the unnecessary things, we will have to have a system in place to avoid bring in too much again. One method is to limit items by the “one item in/one item out” rule. This works well, if you stick to it.

I am planning out my new raised bed garden space. It will be in higher ground and the beds made from cinder block. It will also be in an area that will be easier to water in summer as well as being closer to the house. I am thinking of incorporating trellis in the garden beds to save on space.

Lastly, I have a major goal for this season to get the house fully organized by summer. I have always loved the idea of “a space for everything & everything in its place.” Once I am finished, this will be the way I will have the home set up. I have learned in life that if the right system is set up, your daily life is much easier. You still have your daily chores, but the intensity is greatly reduced. The storage issue has always been a big one in our home. Typical of the time period in which it was built, our home has no built in storage. No cabinets anywhere in the home. The only closet is one that was added within the past 20 years. All storage is either shelving added on the walls or bookcases/shelving units that we have brought in. This is yet another area of organizing that I will be addressing as we do our remodel. When each room is done, some form of storage will be added to the room. Most likely to be added will be shelving or bookcases.

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When Life Throws a Curve January 15, 2015

Filed under: faith,family — ourprairiehome @ 4:50 am
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My beloved husband is the guy who is rarely sick.  If he does happen to get a cold or something, he is blessed to nearly always recover within a day or two.  He never is down for more than a day.  Even when he had bronchitis last year, he snapped back very quickly.  Well, something happened that I never could have imagined.  Last Thursday, I drove him to work so that I could use our car to take Pookie to his appointments at the therapy center 2 hours drive away from hubby’s workplace.  He went to the back of the jeep to gather his lunch and gear so he could go clock in.  Just as he was turning to walk away from the jeep, he slipped on a patch of ice and fell hard.  Scary part was that he couldn’t move his right arm at all.  Co-workers rushed over to look after him.  Once they knew it was only his shoulder and arm that was hurt, they carefully carried him off the ice patch and he stood up.  I was thinking of calling the therapy center to cancel the appointments, but hubby told me to go ahead and get him there.  He had already missed two weeks in a row due to the Christmas and New Years holidays being on his Thursday appointment dates.  His boss and the co-workers assured me that they would see to it that he was taken well care of.  So, with great reluctance and worry, I made the journey to the therapy center.

When I picked my husband up that afternoon, I was relieved to learn that he had a contusion to the shoulder.  What a blessing that seemed to be!  He was told to take a couple of days off work to recuperate before going back to his truck driving job.  His boss told hubby that since he had a few days of personal days allocated to him that hadn’t been used yet, the company would take those recuperation days as personal days so that we would not lose any days off.  Hubby came home and did his best to rest, but since it was only a bruise, he tried to cut some firewood with the chainsaw, which the kids and I stacked into the utility trailer to bring home.  The following Monday, he went to work as planned and did his truck driving.  Now, here is the thing to understand.  He works for a company that picks up and recycles industrial scrap metal.  The truck drivers take large empty bins to the customers’ locations and trade out the empty with the full one.  Typically, he can have 2-3 of these large bins on the truck.  All the empty bins have to be removed so that the full one can be placed closest to the truck cab.  Then the empty bins are loaded back on, just leaving one empty bin for each full one he takes from the customer.  The bins are mechanically loaded/unloaded from the truck’s trailer.  After each is loaded onto the trailer, the driver has to manually chain it down and tarp the bin to prevent any metal shavings from blowing out as he drives down the road.  This is a very physical job to do.  With a tender shoulder, it is very painful.  By the day’s end, his pain was terrible and he could not sleep well that night.

Yesterday (Tuesday), he took a day off because he could barely raise his arm to dress himself.  That morning, the mail brought a disturbing letter.  The hospital had made an error in the diagnosis!  Hubby did not have a bruised shoulder at all.  The radiologist had taken a close look at the x-rays and found that hubby actually had fractured his right scapula up near the shoulder joint.  This explained so much to us.  The pain being so bad, yet there was no visible bruising.  He had swelling in the shoulder blade area from mid-level to the top of his shoulder.  So, today we went back to the hospital to find out what the heck was going on.  We got to the ER and asked to speak to the director of the ER dept.  Within a short time, a nurse came out to speak to us.  She then took us back into the ER to an exam room.  She saw that hubby needed to properly restrain the shoulder joint and the sling we had bought wasn’t doing the job.  She had the doctor on staff come in to talk to us.  He was a different one than had originally diagnosed hubby.  This doctor re-examined the x-ray before talking to us and explained where the break was and why it was hard to see.  Turns out that the fracture was in the top part of the scapula in a place that is rarely broken.  He answered all of our questions.   Thankfully, the fracture was not so severe as to need surgery.  The downside is that he now is in a shoulder restraint that basically is a waist belt what secures his arm just above the elbow and at the wrist to the waist to prevent any shoulder movement.  There is no way he can drive the jeep, let alone his truck at work.  From what the doctor says, it will take 4-6 weeks for his shoulder to heal.

We left the hospital and after getting some lunch, went to hubby’s work to let the boss know what happened.  They are being so great about it.  Because he fell before clocking in to begin his work shift, the injury is not covered by worker’s compensation.  But, they are going to find odd jobs around the office that will keep him busy so that we do not lose out on any pay.  He is taking the rest of the week off as suggested by the doctor, but will start back on Monday.  The only true downside is that we will only have one day of pay on the weekly paycheck next week since he only worked last Monday.  It will make an extremely difficult time for us that week, but the Lord is always finding a way to bless us when we need it most.

It will certainly make life more interesting for the kids and I.  Getting everyone up at 3:30am to give us enough time to get ready, eat breakfast, then drive the 45 miles to work.  I am trying to figure out things to do with the kids to avoid having a lot of extra driving.  If I can find activities or places for them to enjoy during the day, then I prefer to do that.  Unfortunately, it is too cold to take them to the park or zoo.  The library is an option, but Pookie gets bored after about an hour there.  Likely, we will just have to eat the cost of double the fuel use so that I can bring the kids back home until time to go pick up hubby again.  No matter what, I know that the Lord will provide a way.

It is hard sometimes to acknowledge that the Lord is in control and everything works out.  This injury of hubby’s is really a setback for us in many ways.  Yet, we are growing through this.  We are also thanking the Lord that hubby did not need surgery for the fracture.  We are grateful to the Lord for leading hubby to work in a place where his co-workers and boss truly are caring towards him.  Yes, this experience is not one we would have chosen, but even in this, we are able to praise the Lord and bless His name.

 

 

A Much Needed Hiatus January 13, 2015

Filed under: family,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 5:18 am
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Have you ever cooked a lobster or learned how it is done?  The lobster is placed in a pot of water.  As the water slowly heats, the lobster doesn’t seem to notice until the water’s temperature reaches a temperature too high for the lobster to survive in.  Over the past few years, it seems as though that analogy could describe my my life.  Yes, I have a wonderful family that I adore, but life happens to all of us.

Living our lifestyle is not for wimps.  We do everything without modern conveniences to make my work easier.  My husband chops wood and  splits it without the benefit of a gas powered wood splitter.  The physical aspect of our life is better than going to a gym on most days.  We love it.  

Homeschooling our children is something that we both feel strongly about and enjoy.  Our daughter is learning more on topics that schools typically don’t cover in addition to the regular subjects that schools teach.  She is also gaining life experiences that most kids never learn.  Our son is getting the one-on-one instruction that he needs in order to be able to learn.  He also is receiving  occupational, physical, and speech therapies at a therapy center each week.  It takes a lot of my time to homeschool and see that our son gets to his therapies.  The end results are worth it though.

One area of my life has been both a source of enjoyment as well as a source of stress.  It has been social media.  I can ignore the posts on places like Facebook, but the private messages and notifications were a constant distraction.  I love being able to keep in touch with friends and family, but I am finding another part of the equation to be more difficult.  While I love to “meet” others who are parents traveling the autism journey, I find myself being placed in the position of being the one to bring encouragement and filling their cup so often that my own has taken a backseat. 

I get emotionally, spiritually, and physically drained.  I found myself putting so much into every area of my life without taking proper care of my own needs.  As a result, I have felt like that lobster who is noticing a rise in the water temperature.  With that realization has come some much needed changes.

The best change has been that we allowed my prepay cell phone to run out of airtime.  It was purely unplanned, but has turned into a blessing.   I currently do not have a phone but will get more airtime put on it when I am ready.  Being “radio silent” has been enlightening as well as liberating.  I am finding more peace in my days with the kids and less stressed.  I have been changing our way of eating to a carb cycling meal plan.  With this, I am starting to lose weight and am feeling great.  The family loves the foods I have been making as well.  

Another change is that I am getting more relaxed time to spend doing things that I enjoy.  Because I am not stressed, my days are more productive, leaving me more time to crochet.  The kids and I have more time to do fun things, like crafts or games, than when I was stressed.  On the weekends, my sweet husband is going to give me a day out so that I can have a day to focus completely on myself.  I have so needed some “Momma time.”  I am truly understanding that if I don’t take time for myself, then I can’t be the best I am able to be for the family and others around me.

It has been a time of self-discovery as I learn to give myself permission to take care of my own needs.  As a Mom, you are so focused on taking care of everyone else first that you can easily overlook yourself.  I can honestly say that the lesson has been learned.  This hiatus from the phone and social media has shown me just how tense my life was becoming.  Now, I just am going with what comes my way and learning to say “No.”

 

Old Fashioned Romance January 6, 2015

Filed under: faith,family,old fashioned — ourprairiehome @ 9:09 am
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Recently, I had the opportunity to review a book titled, “The Old Fashioned Way: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Romance” by Ginger Kolbaba.

Old Fashioned Way

On Amazon, the book is described as follows.

Contrary to popular opinion, being “old fashioned” doesn’t mean you’re dull or unromantic. In fact, a true old-fashioned relationship can be more exciting and romantic than anything you’ve ever experienced! So what does it mean to do things The Old Fashioned Way? Sure, it means opening doors, holding out chairs, and taking things slow. But a true old-fashioned romance goes much deeper than that. Inspired by the motion picture Old Fashioned, this book will show you how to reclaim the lost art of romance by introducing you to romantic love as God intended it—for all of us. Regardless of your past experiences, where you’ve been, or where you are now, you can find and create a love that will last a lifetime.

As you work your way through this 40-day journey of inspiring readings and questions for reflection, you’ll discover all the unique and amazing benefits of doing things the old-fashioned way and be well on your way to creating a love story for the ages.

This book has been a very enlightening read.  I have never sen the movie, but the book gives beautiful insight into how romance should be.  The modern ideas of what is romantic and what an enduring romantic love should be is often far from what the Lord intended for us to experience.  Through this 40-day devotional, you are introduced again to what romance should be.  In reading it, I find that if more people were to apply this knowledge in their relationships, we would have a far lower divorce rate.  I am sure that some would cringe at the thought of a woman being a helpmeet to her husband, but that is because modern society has turned it into an ugly prospect.  Once you come to understand the true meaning of it, you can see how it can transform your marriage.  It isn’t just the woman however.  Men also have to play their part in this.

This book would be a wonderful devotional to share with teenagers who are approaching the dating scene.  As a Christian parent, I find that the teachings given are just as valuable to both young men and women as the knowledge was in earlier generations.

 

Momma’s Day Out July 27, 2014

Filed under: family — ourprairiehome @ 7:11 pm
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I am a very blessed woman.  Yesterday, my beloved husband told me to go and have a day to myself.  He understand the demands that being a stay-at-home can be.  Between tending the home, caring for the children, homeschooling, and the daily therapies for our son, I can get worn out.  While he worked as a long-haul truck driver, I had little to no breaks from the home responsibilities.  I really needed this break.  It isn’t a selfish need.  Everyone knows that you need a way to center yourself in order to be effective in your tasks as a spouse, parent, and just in dealing with daily life.

A dear friend, Christee, recently reminded me that I needed to carve out a time of day that is totally all about recharging myself.  Without it, I have been getting drained physically and emotionally.  and have been constantly exhausted.  After yesterday, I feel rejuvenated again.

I did something totally frivolous, but something that I have thought about for a long time.  I had my hair cut.  They took 14″ off the length.  That alone has been a blessing.  The long hair was always having to be put up do to the heat of summer.  It felt so good to get the hair dealt with.  It is still shoulder length, but the bulk of it is now gone.

Next, I went and did the little bit of shopping for supplies that I needed to take care of.  We didn’t have too much to get, but this eliminates my husband from having to stop after work.

My favorite part of the day was going to the library.  I spend time on the computer looking up more information about the communication system that our son is going to be taught.  Afterwards, I looked up new patterns to crochet for gifts and winter wear.

I came home to find the kids already in bed sleeping.  Daddy had wore them out playing outdoors all day.  The day was a fun break for them as well.  While getting a few things done, they still spent time playing on the slip & slide and other outdoor games.  Daddy had time alone with the kids which they sorely needed as well.