Communal Living ~ Us and Them

Although CB and her family live in a double-wide, not a camper or tiny house, the way we live together here tends to take on a very communal aspect.

While I don’t recommend trying to live like we do with just anyone, with the right family/families, I do believe it can work.

Last year CB’s husband planted a vegetable garden. I intended to get out there and do some work in it myself, but I had a lot going on. He was out of work due to some health issues and seemed to enjoy it, so I let him have at it.

This year, however, I think the garden will be left more to me since he’s now back to work.

Either way, I intend to plant an herb garden to help out and do my part like I wanted to last year.

The garden isn’t the only place our families come together to help. CB’s husband has a truck and he’s usually willing to help out if you need something hauled.

Paul is a fixer and can often be found fixing not just our stuff, but theirs as well.

I baked bread for both families the other day and will do so again today. I also help them get Kid #3 back and forth to school since she can’t be dropped off this year until 30 mins after CB has to be at work.

If one house runs short on something the other has, we loan and trade back and forth. That’s how the baking bread happened. I was short on flour, CB loaned me some, so I made her a loaf of bread, too.

Basically, whatever resources we have between our houses is gladly shared back and forth.

In this way, our lifestyle here seems very communal. Of course, there are more hard-core definitions of communal living, but this light version seems to work for all of us and it helps lighten the load and stress on us all knowing that we have others who are there for us when we need it.

Because of the system we have in place here, we continue to feel very blessed every day to have another family that cares so deeply for us. CB and her family are a blessing we’ll always be thankful for, and we strive to be a blessing to them in return.

This brand of communal living isn’t for everyone, but for our families, it works beautifully!

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Discovering Camp Showers

I mentioned in another post that one of the things purchased with Paul’s last check was a camp shower and that it would get it it’s own post. Let me say now, I am not being compensated in any way for this post. It was one of those spontaneous purchases that just happened.

I went camping a lot as a kid. We were a family of five with a lot tighter budget than I realized back then. Honestly, I just always thought my parents liked to go camping. I had no idea how hard or expensive a hotel would have been with three kids in tow.

Even though we spent some portion of every summer in a tent, my parents always got a camp site that had a water and power hookup and was close to the bathhouse. We showered every night while camping.

It wasn’t until I was older that I heard about “roughing it” out in the woods with no amenities at all, so my knowledge of the kinds of things you need for that was very limited.

Luckily, my daughter and my best friend would be happy to let us shower at their houses, and we have, but not being able to shower at home was something that really bothered me.

While searching for an appropriate heater, we ended up in camping supplies at the local big-box store. Paul was very carefully comparing the heater already in the buggy with one we found in camping supplies, so I found myself with time to look around. My eyes landed on a box that said “camp shower” and it got me curious.

Apparently, the idea of a camp shower is to be camping out in the wilderness with temps above seventy degrees, with enough privacy to be naked in nature. You fill the bag with water and lay it in the sun for a few hours to heat.

Once heated, I’m assuming you hang it from a tree or something to shower.

That’s great, but it’s winter here (or supposed to be anyway) and the temperature, although warm for December, isn’t hitting 70. In the summer, it seems an easy enough system, but I needed something now.

After some thought, I decided we needed it. It was only $10, so I decided if I couldn’t make it work in winter, at least we’d have it this summer.

What I’ve ended up doing is heating the water myself, which I’d have been doing anyway for the tub if nothing else.

We use a funnel to put the heated water into the bag and once hot and full, we hang it in our shower.

Height was a bit of an issue. The hose on the one we got is a little more bendable than I’d like and it’s obviously intended to be hung up over your head. It hangs considerably lower in our shower and we ended up putting a stool in it so we could sit down to get lower.

Although not a perfect system, it was still great to have a hot shower in my own house and not have to bother anyone to use theirs.

It was such a good investment that I actually want a second one. The one we have currently pulls double duty at the kitchen sink as well as rinse water for dishes.

Even though I have to heat the water myself in winter, it was still very much worth the $10 we spent on it and I would recommend one for any situation where running hot water isn’t available including off-grid and semi-off-grid living.

Again, this is not a paid post. All purchases and opinions are my own.

Why bother eating healthy?

Most of you are probably not aware of it, but I’m supposed to be on a number of medications to treat various health problems. The problem is, I don’t like to take prescription medications. Never have.

Part of the move from packaged and processed to made from scratch was because of spending some time considering the fact that although illness and sickness happened when I was a kid, for the most part, people seemed healthy.

Now days, if we see an article about someone living beyond their 80’s, we’re almost in awe. Again, true old age wasn’t that uncommon when I was growing up. Most people did live to their late 80’s at least, most well near to 100.

So what’s changed? Well, a lot actually, but one of the big factors in my opinion is how and what people eat.

Fast food was just starting to gain it’s death-grip when I was a kid. Sure, I got the occasional Happy Meal, but it was just that. Occasional.

I grew up in a world where people still cooked. Sunday dinners were common but they weren’t courtesy of KFC, they came from a woman that usually ran straight home from church to start the huge undertaking of putting it on the table.

We ate real food. Green beans that were snapped by hand. Corn that the kids spent half a Saturday cleaning. Fried chicken, potato salad…I could go on and on.

Now, families head for drive thrus and take out menus. Refrigerators and cabinets are usually bare and the microwave is the only appliance that sees regular use. We’ve become such a culture of instant gratification that we even get restless in line in the drive thru but complain if it isn’t “fresh”. I’ve got news for you, almost nothing that can be gotten in a drive thru is “fresh”. Go home and make the same meal fresh in your kitchen and tell me if you could mass produce them that way in less than 5 minutes. You can’t. And that’s where they get you.

But ask yourself how health has changed in the last 30 years or so. Compare life expectancy then to now.

Of course, there are other factors, such as pollution, but even the fresh vegetables you can buy in the grocery store could come with more than you think. Chemicals from pesticides, growth hormones, genetically altered to resist insect infestation, drought and all other manner of things. Do you really know what you’re eating?

I guess I’m old-school, and getting worse as I age, but when I was a kid, people knew what was in and on their foods. Is it a coincidence that people lived longer then?

Our Journey ~ The More I Learn

I’ve mentioned already that I’m taking this time of forced inactivity to learn all I can. That includes reading some wonderful blogs, but it goes beyond that. I also search the internet and YouTube daily on various topics.

As with any other research, one blog, website or video can lead me to other topics and ideas, but they can also be, in themselves, singularly inspiring.

This morning, I continued on a basic YouTube search for Homesteading. I’ve seen many videos, from outright farms off the beaten path, to Urban Homesteading in the middle of the city. This is one of the videos I happened upon. Homegrown Revolution http://youtu.be/7IbODJiEM5A .

This family has done some amazing and inspiring things with their property, just outside of the city.

Looking at all the green in their yard was inspiring enough, but as you watch, you realize that for them, there’s more to it than simply growing produce. They have embraced a way of living that is practically unseen in our culture now.

I have to admit, I’m a little envious.

I love their outdoor brick and solar powered ovens. I love their old-fashioned hand-crank appliances. I love that they produce enough extra produce, in such a small area, that they can sell what they don’t need to local businesses to supplement the things they can’t grow.

To me, this family is Urban Homesteading at it’s finest. They represent the lifestyle I want.

I’m not completely anti-technology. I’ll be the first to admit, I want a computer and internet and I don’t intend to give up my cell phone unless I have no choice, but to live so simply…to combine a little of the modern with a lot of the old…that’s what I want.

I asked myself, before I started researching, if we get stuck in the city, what can I really do? This family, and many others like it, proves that I can do a lot, actually.

The more I learn about Homesteading, the more I can feel the pull and call of it in my soul, the more I know, deep down, that this is the life I want more than any other.

I feel like my whole life has been building towards this.

I’ve never been really happy in life. I can’t put all the blame of our un-rooted life off on Paul either.

I’ve tried, and failed, at a lot of things. I’ve always felt restless, like I was searching for something just out of reach. I’ve moved from place to place, lifestyle to lifestyle, trying to find where I belonged and nothing ever seemed to really “fit”.

Usually, the more I’ve learned about something, the more unsure I became about it. It’s been different with Homesteading. The more I learn, the more I can see it clearly in my mind. Every day I find something else to get excited about. The idea of being able to walk outside and collect eggs for breakfast or the ingredients for dinner, the thought of homemade bread and cabinets full of mason jars that I know are there because we put the work into putting them there…I just can’t describe the longing I feel. That video kicked it up a thousand times over for me.

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That’s very true, and I’m taking that step…

Sunday Reflections

This week has been busy, not so much in the going and doing, but in thinking, talking, planning and learning.

I’ve done a good bit of reading, both blogs and websites, and made a couple of awesome connections along the way.

The number of immediate followers, both on Twitter and the blog itself, has been amazing. This isn’t my first dance with social media and blogging, and I have to say, the response has been uplifting.

I’ve found serval things that have surprised me about the community I’m making my place in. The first being, how accepting farmers and homesteaders are of new people. I’ve blogged in two other niches, before this one, and none of them were as immediately accepting of “new blood” as this one. I think that says a lot about the people in the community, at least the blogging end anyway.

Twitter seems to be more of a resource than a way to communicate for this community. Many post links to things, but few respond to you if you say anything about their Tweets.

Homesteading and farming pages on Facebook (this includes specifics like canning, growing certain types of animals, planting and harvesting, etc) are incredibly active sometimes, but no post on any of them get as much response as a picture of a spider or snake.

Unfortunately, most of those comments seem to be some form of “I don’t care what kind it is, kill it!”, which I have to say, surprises me more coming from these pages and communities than any other.

And do most people really believe that every snake is a copperhead or rattler and every spider is a black widow, brown recluse or tarantula? Seriously? Those seem to make up the majority of responses.

Some people in the groups are to the point of posting cartoons about bringing popcorn or just being there for the silly comments and fussing that generally follows.

I’d hoped for a little more from farmers, homesteaders and preppers on Facebook than what I’d experienced in other communities, but it seems like that kind of stuff is just normal for Facebook in general and knows no boundaries.

I find myself being more comfortable directly in the blogging part of the community than anywhere else, which is fine by me. As we move closer and closer to our goals, who has time for an over-abundance of social media?

We’ve tossed a lot of ideas around this week about what kind of farm we wanted. Did we want to go at from the aspect of eventually making a living from the farm itself? Do we mainly just want to be self-sufficient and have our income come from other places?

As I mentioned, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. A good bit of that has been about ways to make a living from the farm itself. While there are many options, and some of them sound possible, Paul (the hubby) and I have agreed that our main goal is simply to be self-sufficient, to live a little greener and more closely with the land and to have time for our crafts which we will be selling both from an Etsy store my sister and I will be officially opening in the spring and locally at the events in town and the jockey lot/flea market.

And of course, time for me to can and cook, which are passions of mine.

Maybe one day, our crafts and passions will support us financially with help from the farm, but Paul is content to continue to work for now.

I still intend to grow herbs, vegetables and some fruit. Paul is still interested in bee keeping and goats, chicken and possibly a pig (as a pet, not for food) are still part of the plan, so it will be a small farm, just one where the focus is saving money by doing it ourselves rather than making money and that’s important too.

We also decided that although our journey on the farm will probably begin in a camper, it will be temporary while we build our little farmhouse so we have the time to do it right rather than throwing it together. When the house is done, the camper will be reserved for company and for vacations.

The house itself, we’ve decided to take a “tiny house” approach with, just on a little bit bigger scale.

We’re going to look into the buildings you can rent to own or buy kind of cheap that you’d put in the yard for storing, say the lawn mower. Honestly, they’re just unfinished rooms. Run plumbing where needed, run minimal electricity for those things we need it for, insulate it and put up interior walls. Maybe cut an additional door and some windows, and attach them together. Sounds easier (and cheaper) than ground-up building.

So, that’s been our week other than the regular household stuff.

Paul did make another pot of BBQ yesterday, half of which is in the freezer, with a few tweeks. This batch wasn’t anywhere near as sweet add the last one and we added some green onions (we love onions of all types  by the way). It was awesome!

Next weekend, we’re trying to plan a trip to see the kids and our grandbaby. They live about an hour from us, where our old camper still is along with pretty much all of our stuff. It’ll give us a chance to pack up some stuff and exchange it for a few things we really need, so I’m excited about that (I’ll be bringing my toaster oven back with me and I’m very excited about that).

I hope this week has found you all well and happy as I’m sure most of you are preparing your farms for the winter ahead.

Blessings,
Crystal

Once Upon A Farm

I think almost every blog starts with a getting to know you post and mine will be no different. I think telling your story is where all blogs, and all journeys, begin, so let me tell you mine.

I’ll start with telling you a bit about myself and then we’ll go from there.

My name is Crystal. I grew up in Upstate South Carolina in a nice, quiet neighborhood, raised by my great aunt until I was 12. My great aunt, we’ll call her Aunt M, was pretty old-school for the most part. We didn’t live on a farm or grow our own food but we took advantage of a large “pick your own” farm not far from where we lived.

I grew up running up and down the rows of that farm. I also grew up snapping peas, shucking corn and watching Aunt M can and cook from scratch.

Aunt M also sewed and my mother was a seamstress by trade and made all my clothes back in the 70’s and 80’s. I had a complete terrycloth (sp) wardrobe when I was 5. Unfortunately, even surrounded by such crafty people, I never picked up the ability to sew myself. A skill I hope to learn, by the way.

My husband, who I’ve been with for 18 years, practically all of my adult life, grew up on a dairy farm owned by his grandparents in Indiana. By the time I met him just before his 22nd birthday, he was in the army.

In spite of our childhoods, we’ve never really put down roots anywhere. We’ve been chronic renters (and movers) the whole time we’ve been together.

As Pagans, we’ve dabbled in green-living and growing what we could, when we could, but we’ve never had anything permanent.

Last summer, we moved yet again. My brother-in-law is a welder by trade and got my husband hired where he works. He and my sister offered us a place to stay while we relocated and we stayed with them until a few months ago.

We’re now living in a hotel with our pug and faced with slim options when we get taxes in a few months.

We sat down and had one of those “real” conversations recently about “here we are in a hotel again looking at renting…again”.

We both agreed that we’re not getting any younger and we’re tired of constantly moving. We’re tired of not having anything to show for our lives and we’re tired of the way we live. It’s time for a change.

Now, there’s nothing I can do about our immediate situation. We have no savings, no nest-egg. We’ve lived paycheck to paycheck for so long that neither of us really know what it’s like not to.

Last year, we bought a camper from some friends and we lived in it for a few months. In theory, it wasn’t a bad idea, but the one we bought was old and had been sitting unused for a few years.

It was also one of the small ones. Very small. No pop-outs, no real bedroom. The heat barely worked and finally died completely right as spring was coming on. Then it got hot. The AC didn’t work at all and it was so small there was no where for fans. The plumbing was shot, the oven didn’t work, there was a leak in the ceiling in the living room…it was pretty bad.

In hindsight, we don’t regret the decision to get a camper, but we needed more space. A real bed. Something that didn’t need to be completely over-hauled. Something with pop-outs.

I’ve been following the small-space/tiny house movement and we’ve considered a number of ways to go about that, but we agreed last night that by the time we build something like that, we could have bought and paid for a new, decent-sized camper with everything already set up except the land.

Besides that, building a home, even a small one, takes time and we can’t afford land payments, rental costs and building costs. It’s just not realistic. We also can’t afford to buy a mobile home to live in while we build.

In the end, it’s looking like buying an RV is going to still be the way to go. It will give us the option to build if we choose, and do it right, without having to pitch a tent while we do it to save money.

Also, if we buy a new one that meets our needs, we could set it up as a permanent living situation and perhaps just add on to it.

Renting, at least for a year or two, may still be in our immediate future, but it feels good to have a plan.

While we’re renting, if we do, we’re going to try to begin the switch to more sustainable living. I’ll grow what I can in pots, begin the move away from processed foods and take the time to learn all we can.

Regardless of what we live in, the goal is to own an acre or two in at least a few years so that we can begin our little farm.

We decided on the name, Once Upon A Farm, for a few reasons. One, we’re both a fan of Once Upon A Time. Two, this farm will be our fairy-tale come true. Our “best chance” and “happy ending”.

This blog is intended to be a journal of sorts while we transition from urban life, to urban homesteading and finally to owning our own sustainable homestead. I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

Blessings,
Crystal