For my first post in 2017, again I will write about philosophical things. Instead of writing a “how-to” or describing what I have been doing on the homestead, I’m going to tell you about my “why”.
As some of you may know, in the last few month I have read a lot about productivity, motivation, making a contribution and success. The reason I have done that is because I have been contemplating everything I have been doing.
This thinking was initiated by the deaths of two of our dogs. Now, again I am writing about this because we put a third dog to sleep yesterday.
We have always had at least six dogs, partly because of my profession (dog training and grooming) and partly because I couldn’t say no to people who needed homes for their dogs, who then became my dogs. So dogs have been a big part of our lives.
I think I had so many dogs because it made me feel like I was connecting with the farm animals that I had wanted for so many years, but just can’t seem to get.
So in re-evaluating my life I find that all of these things – success, productivity, goals etc. – are useless and are likely not possible without a “why” or sense of purpose.
No matter what I think I might like to do in life, it always comes back to nature, animals and our environment. I can’t get away from that. It is what I loved as a child and teenager, what I studied in university and is reflected in choosing to live rurally.
This blog is already about being frugal, making your own stuff and growing your own food. but even more now I feel that it is crucial that I be more sensitive to nature and our environment.
I am even having a difficult time feeling good about driving a vehicle. I know that some driving in gas powered vehicles needs to be done for now but I don’t like it and I don’t care what other people do, I can barely do it.
Even though I feel I am “successful” in life because I am sticking to my values, I feel I could be more so.
So if any of you reading this can stand listening to more protecting nature or environment friendly blog posts, that’s great because that is exactly what you’re going to get.
I know I could use more of that.
This year we decided not to use our homemade Christmas tree . It’s pretty tall and a little difficult to fit in the house, especially now with the new puppy around. I don’t want to take any chances with him near it. It could go flying.
Instead, we are using a Ficus plant that I got when I was taking my Horticulture degree in university. This was one of the first things I got when I started living on my own and was a purchased from the Horticulture club on campus.
Use What You Have
Using a houseplant for a seasonal tree is very simple. The only concern is to us appropriate decorations. Obviously the branches on the Ficus are fairly sturdy but in order to avoid damaging anything you will have to minimize the number and weight of the adornments.
Also, if your plant does not have a nice pot to sit in, you may have to decorate that.
I didn’t do anything to the plant pot because there is a large surface area of soil and I need access to that for watering. The pot is just a left over one from a nursery plant that we had purchased and the tray underneath is an old aluminum pizza baking pan.
I know it doesn’t look great, and I may try to fix it up yet, but mostly I just look at the beautiful branches and lights.
It’s best to make sure that if you use electric lights, that you keep them away from the soil when you water.
Earlier this year I trimmed the tree’s branches away from the base and repotted it in a larger pot. The branches are now quite a ways up from the base which gives it a jaunty look.
If you have a larger plant in your house, why not try to decorate it for the season. You never know, it might grow on you.
This kind of a complaint blog post. I apologize in advance. There is not really any useful information in this post.
I have an issue with the LED lights that are used at this time of year.
We have a box full of strings of LED lights that don’t work. Some of them have been around here for several years but the majority of them didn’t work almost from the very start. This is highly annoying.
And extremely wasteful.
I have decided that this wastefulness will no longer continue here at our house.
We put up all of the lights that work in an acceptable display. However, half of the lights we used were NOT LED lights but the old incandescent lights. THESE WORK.
The plan is to keep using the lights – no matter what kind we have – until they are all gone or don’t work. We won’t be replacing them.
This is part of our contribution to the earth of reducing consumption. Yes, I know we are using power to light these up, but we are not going to throw the good ones away just because of that. We have them and we will use them.
Then we won’t buy anymore.
I feel that throwing away the lights that don’t work is MORE wasteful than the power we use to light them.
Two days ago, my aunt told me a woman who lives here in the village told her she watched as a couple across the street put up their lights on their house. She related that every time a string of lights didn’t work – INTO THE GARBAGE THEY WENT. EIGHT TIMES.
There was no attempt to fix them, they just got chucked.
I did some research and found many articles on how to fix these lights but they did not mention that almost every set has a different end and DOES NOT FIT into the socket. We have tried and failed every time. And we are talking about Ernie failing to fix something which just doesn’t happen.
This is wasteful and if I may say kind of, almost, unethical to make a product that can’t be fixed and gets thrown away when it doesn’t work. And then on top of that saying that they are more earth-friendly.
When I first started grooming dog for a living, I did it fast, so I didn’t have much time or money to get all the supplies I needed at the highest quality. Thank goodness we live in an area in which most people didn’t care if I was bathing their dog in a livestock water or feed trough!
We purchased the tub at a farm store in the city an hour away and used it just as it was. One day we were out for a drive in the village and on a road near some cottages someone had put an old bathtub out for garbage. It was a small apartment sized tub – not a regular sized one – but it was perfect for my use.
So we took it and the trough got put aside.
Now we have a puppy who will be a big dog. Already I can’t lift him into the bathtub anymore by myself. At 5 months he is 55 lbs. He will be between 110 and 120 lbs at maturity.
So we get to reuse the trough on a low grooming table that Ernie refashioned (will discuss that in a different post 😎)
Because we can’t lift Ira the Kuvasz into any tubs we have to get him to walk up a ramp or use a step to get into the tub. This means the tub had to be cut in the back in order to make it easy for him to do this. Hopefully he won’t have a problem after training wanting to enter the bathtub for a bath!
Ernie used a reciprocating saw to cut a section out of the end of the tub. The tub will sit on the low table when we need it.
He fashioned a drain out of left over pieces of plumbing supplies. It is a good idea to keep these things around just in case. And a good idea to learn how to figure things like that out.
The drain simply lets the water into a rubbermaid container underneath. This is all we have for now since there is no floor drain and the drain for the other tub is too high to allow for proper drainage.
Ernie also cut an old rubber tube in half that he had in his junk drawer and put it over the edge of the opening cut. This is where the dog will enter the tub.
When I am done wetting or rinsing the dog, I simply have to lift the bucket into the other tub and dump it. Hopefully it won’t weigh more than 55 lbs! Actually, I’ll probably just use a smaller bucket to transfer water into the other tub until it is light enough to lift.
The main thing about this tub is that it is not just on the ground and any dog that will be bathed in it will need to become accustomed to being in it and getting sprayed with water. If you do some work ahead of time with out water and with some yummy food almost any dog can learn to step up into the tub with no problem for the dog or you.
This tub could obviously be used for other pets and washing other things as well. The limits are only made by one’s imagination.
I prefer reusing things as much as possible. This is one way we do our part to be kind to nature. We have stuff and we don’t throw it out if at all possible. If we hadn’t used this for a bathtub it would definitely be used for something else. Maybe to grow plants in?
Happy Reusing Stuff!
We make our own ketchup. It was is easy to do I will never buy any again. The taste is excellent especially with homegrown fried potatoes.
Ingredients for homemade ketchup:
Tomatoes – grow your own
Vinegar – make your own
Onions or onion powder – grow or make your own
Sweetener – we use honey sourced locally
Salt – buy or make your own
Optional: A dash of cloves – I use it because I have some already but I wouldn’t go out and buy any especially for this. Ketchup can be made without it. Be careful how much you use though – it is very potent.
Cook the tomatoes well and press them through a sieve to remove the seeds and skins if you haven’t already removed them.
Into the tomatoes add sweetener – lots. Ketchup is very sweet so taste test often as you add this.
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Our homestead is unconventional but is one nonetheless. It is one because we are homesteaders by vocation. We do the most we can for the environment, self-sufficiency and frugality.
To do and be all these things, it is important to have a daily routine that gets stuff done but is flexible to things that might come up. And things always come up.
Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing something. There is nothing really wrong with that. Feelings are facts, I always say. The only thing that absolutely needs to get done are those things that involve taking care of animals or if the garden is very weedy. The rest of the time I follow a schedule that removes the need to make too many decisions about what I need to do.
I work from home, so in the morning I have to get my work done before I do anything else. This means I get up early (well early for me, just 7 a.m.) to work on the computer. I do that for an hour and a half. The quiet is what I need and the dogs and Ernie are still sleeping. There is minimal traffic noise. So at least I can get a good amount of work done first thing.
At 8:30 a.m. I feed the dog and myself. The new puppy is learning the routine now and doesn’t fuss in the mornings after breakfast. I work again from 9:00 – 10:00. From 10:00 – 10:30 the puppy gets a playtime and the other dogs a stretch, so that I can start working again from 10:30 – Noon.
Since we don’t have any livestock other than dogs (yet), I spend the afternoon working with them. I train and video that and then edit and upload videos to YouTube. I may also at this time video something for Homesteading 101 as well.
When I start making supper around 4 p.m., things are a little more chaotic but still get done, because I am not thinking about all the other work I have to get done – it’s already done because I stuck to the schedule. This is where I can feel the benefit fully of getting work done in the morning. I haven’t had most of the day to think about what I haven’t done. When you have many things to do that are just regular routine things and are fairly unimportant (not talking about taking care of animals here), it is easy to let those things take over your time.
This is the time I spend with Ernie and the dogs. If we feel like working on something and are not too tired, we do. If not we don’t.
It took a while to get this schedule figured out, even though it’s pretty simple. I have made numerous schedules in the past, and have never been able to follow them. With this one, I seem to be able to make it work.
Maybe it’s because of the simplicity of it. I have no choices at certain times of the day. Removing other options of what to do reduces decision fatigue which I have found to be a real problem in the past. Because it seemed like there were so many things to do (even though they were unimportant), I became frozen – not knowing what to do first.
If I take care of the the thing that is most important to me first thing in the morning so that it gets done, I don’t have to worry about finding time later. If I don’t do it first thing, it won’t get done.
So that is mainly how I manage my time on the homestead. Things that need to get done may change, but I will always remember to get the most important things done early.
Since we got back from our “vacation” we have drastically reduced our spending. This is part of how I have always wanted to live anyway so it is not much of a problem.
I think I have explained in past blog posts that we prefer to spend money on things that are important to us and not just willy nilly on everything for a quick fix. This is very easy to do sometimes, and is mostly just a bad habit.
In case you haven’t already guessed, M also stands for money, in this post anyway.
One of those things we buy for a quick fix is eating restaurant meals. When we make a regular trip to the city for supplies in the past we have purchased a meal there. This was done completely for convenience since we would be there at the same time as we would normally have lunch or supper.
Just for fun, or to torture ourselves, I have calculated the amount of money we have spent over one year on fast food when we were away from home. I was able to do that because Ernie keeps a daily journal of what we do, eat, etc. and has done so for three years.
We averaged $80 a month.
Some places are more expensive than others but in general a meal for two people is pretty much $20 – $25 each time. If we had a take out meal at home (purchased in our village) that would be added on as well. I did not include convenience foods that were included in a grocery purchase simply because I did not have that info.
This amount and habit is unacceptable to me, so we stopped buying food in restaurants and any extra convenience food items. Now, some people WANT to buy meals out, and reap great benefits from that (this is different for everyone), which is fine. However, for us it is not that important to do on a regular basis. It has always been my belief that (unless you are independently wealthy) you can’t buy everything you see. You have to weight how much benefit you get for something over how much it “costs” you.
Actually, even if someone has lot of money to spend, it could be considered irresponsible to buy a bunch of things just for the sake of buying, convenience, or just because one can. Purchases that are well thought out (to me) are much more satisfying and useful. And less impactful on our earth.
I feel life is more about experiences than buying things, and I’m sure many of you reading this feel the same way as well. Sure, if you want to experience travelling to different countries you’ll need money, or to experience staying at a first class resort.
The way I like to look at it is these things are worthwhile if they are meaningful experiences. If they are, then great. But if they are just for relaxing and pleasure because you work too hard, or if they are for bragging about, then they are likely not meaningful experiences.
So back to the original point of this post.
We stopped spending money on food in restaurants because it is more meaningful to us to eat our own food that we prepared at home.
There may be an occasion for buying a meal at a restaurant at some point, but for us the regular habit of it is gone. We will take the time to make food at home before we go anywhere, and then save the money for a more meaningful experience later on.
I admit it takes more planning and a bit of organization to get it done, not to mention the time. For me though, time spent making and growing our own food is one of the reasons I am a homesteader, so again it is not an issue.
Getting out of the habit of buying what you think of will immediately “solve your problem” is the most difficult part. It requires desire to change and live differently. It was something that we felt we had to do. Again, not everyone will feel this way about spending money on meals, but there may be something else. What is a meaningful experience for you that you spend money on?