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April 15, 2015

Upon purchase of our property we “inherited” many items the seller left behind. I think this happens with many older properties. In our case, most of it is garbage: old tires, old kitchen cabinets, old electrical wiring, old stuff. However, we are slowly selling some of the barely-valuable items on craigslist. A set of six old vinyl windows fell into this category. Over the weekend we had someone stop by to purchase them. $20 for six small/medium windows. As if often happens we got in a conversation with him; turns out he is an arborist. From Wikipedia, “An arborist, or (less commonly) arboriculturist, is a professional in the practice of arboriculture, which is the cultivation, management, and study of individual trees, shrubs, vines, and other perennial woody plants. Arborists generally focus on the health and safety of individual plants and trees, rather than managing forests (the domains of Forestry and Silviculture) or harvesting wood. An arborist’s scope of work is therefore distinct from that of either a forester or a logger, though the professions share much in common.”

He is interested in a few trees on our property. Surprisingly, they are trees we are not interested in keeping. Shorty after moving in a large branch fell off a honey locust tree near our barn. We could easily tell the tree had some rotten sections and was posing a minor threat to our barn. The arborist was interested in the tree and would remove it for free. We had a deal! He is also a gardener and would trade some fruit plants and nut trees. So far he has delivered six raspberries, one rhubard, three chestnut trees, and two cherry-cola grape vines (maybe a pinor noir).

Honey Locust trees are somewhat of a weed. They grow and spread quickly and have huge 1-inch thorns that are strong and sharp. The thorns are prevalent on young trees only, mainly saplings with one small shoot. The mature trees are valued for their durable rot-resistant wood.

Along with the large tree near our barn we also have several other smaller honey locust trees. The arborist is interested in all of them. Over the next week he will be removing them.


Kingdom Building

March 14, 2015

With the arrival of Spring we are thinking more and more about the land outside our house. We have mostly been focusing on the house itself through the winter months. There is still much to do but the right time to plant crops doesn’t wait. We’ve been discussing plans, layout, crops, livestock, etc. We definitely want a garden this year and have picked Black Australorp as the right chicken breed for us. Both the garden and the chicken coop need minimal work before jump into those endeavors.

On a beginning farm there is always more work than time. We must be strategic and efficient. We must prioritize and focus. We must not be distracted. The small steps must be done in light of the big picture of our property. What will it be like in 5 or 10 years? What is our mission? What kingdom are we we building?

Our vision right now has these aspects:
1. approximately 1 acre of intensive, organic garden
2. around 20 chickens for egg laying and meat
3. a couple goats for weed control and pasture management
4. possibly a steer for meat and pasture management
5. a large (10 kW) solar panel array
6. a couple dozen fruit trees
7. several dozen fruit bushes, vines
8. rows of lavender
9. demolishing our old barn (and building something else)
10. sharing it all with friends, neighbors, and the community to teach them about farming and sustainability

We don’t want to (and can’t) do this alone. We want to involve our community in some form, either with our church, or with our daughters classmates. We want to involve other people in the planning and the planting so we can all enjoy the harvest.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. –Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Modern Homesteading: My Definition

March 4, 2015

DSC09183small As we start this journey of homesteading on our new property I have been finding, and following, some new blogs. Many are homesteaders throughout the US and they each have their own definition of what homesteading is to them. I spent some time this week thinking about what homesteading is to me. To bring the term into this century the term modern homesteading is gaining popularity. I first heard the term from Renee Wilkinson over at Hip Chick Digs. She wrote a book, called Modern Homestead, a couple years ago about homesteading on a city lot. It acknowledges the reality that most people don’t have the traditional homestead (The Homestead Act of 1863 gave 160 acres). Instead, it talks about making the most of the land you have and farming much more intensively (efficiently) that old-time farmers even dreamed about. I still reference her book today. To me, modern homesteading is an evolved version of homesteading. Instead of thinking just about the land and survival we also need to think about the planet we live on and the global information economy we have. For this reason, a modern homesteader will have values regarding the soil but also information and the planet. It embraces the many forms of technology but remembers the essential bonds to the land.DSC09075small

A modern homesteader:

-cares about the land
-cares about where food comes from
-wants to grow a portion of what they eat
-cares about the fair treatment of animals and livestock


-cares about global/national/local sustainability
-knows that self sufficiency is better than relying on big corporations
-does not like the idea of chemicals or GMOs in food
-uses technology to answer questions
-uses social media to connect with like minded people
-uses blogging share ideas and spread the word

Why We Moved

February 24, 2015

We have been in our new place for about four months now. The house projects are still in full swing. We just finished going over our budget for downstairs. We are remodeling an entire bathroom including new windows and a clawfoot tub, a laundry room, and a foyer/mudroom. The anticipated costs added up quickly and it has me a bit depressed. We spent the last four months demolishing the water-damaged walls, ripping up old tile, and tearing down ceiling. It has been time intensive but not hard on the checking account. We just bought windows and a steel exterior door for the yet to be built wall between the garage and the mudroom. We are just at the tip of the iceberg of big purchases. We need to decide on heating in the basement and like the idea of radiant floor heating. The clawfoot tub needs expensive hardware….

Sometimes I need a reset button to remind myself why we are doing this. A week ago we went to Bend for a fun getaway weekend. We hiked, swam in the hotel pool, window shopped, ate out, and watched HGTV. This last weekend we spent both days working on the house and yard. We demo’d, built, shopped at Home Depot, chainsawed, and painted. The girls were outside at least half the day both days. The rode bikes, played with the dogs and bunnies, explored, picked flowers, and climbed trees. Many things they would not have been able to do in our previous houses. That is why we moved. We want the girls to be outside with nature instead of inside with a screen. Inside they love to color, read, play games, but also relax in front of the tv or play games (some educational) on their tablets.

We want to teach them about raising animals and caring for the land. About running in a field with your sister and playing fetch with your dog. About where our food comes from and how it grows. We want to show them that heaven is in nature and God planned the earth as a perfect home for us. That value comes from loving yourself and coexisting with our beautiful and bountiful planet.

So when the projects stack up and there aren’t enough hours in the day I need to remind myself that we are only young once. We need to enjoy our lives and spend them with people we love making memories we love. We moved to show the girls the value of hard work and the love that comes from pursuing dreams together.

Project 333 Conclusion

September 13, 2014

For the months of June – August I participated in Project 333. I could only wear 33 articles of clothing for 3 months. It was easier than I expected. Getting dressed was faster and I enjoyed it more. I didn’t feel bad about not wearing “that shirt” or “those pants” just because I have them. I picked my favorite items and wore them over and over. As a result I got rid of about half my clothes. Shirts that aren’t my favorite? Gone. Most of my blue jeans? Gone. Slacks that don’t fit right? Gone. Dress shirts that aren’t my style? Gone. It felt good to get rid of the fluff in my closet. I will say I probably have too many shirts still, both dress shirts and t-shirts. I will keep working on that. But for now it is great to look in my closet and see only clothes I like wearing.

Project 333

June 13, 2014

I recently read Everything That Remains by Joshua Fields. A couple years ago he started the modern minimalism movement. Essentially, reevaluate your life/time/possessions/relationships and keep only those things that add value or make you very happy, and get rid of the rest. One practice he brought up in his book is Project 333 by Courtney Carver. Starting June 1st I will be participating in the project. Here are the basics straight from the website.

The Basics

  • When: Every three months (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
  • How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.
  • What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.

I took a couple weeks in May to practice and refine my list. I tweaked the ratios then made the final decisions. Here are my 33 items:

  • 6 pairs of shoes: black dress shoes, Merrill casual shoes, Merrill running shoes, Sanuks, Hiking boots, flip flops
  • 3 pairs of casual pants: blue jeans, tan cargo pants, black pants
  • 3 pairs of dress pants: tan slacks, gray slacks, brown wool slacks
  • 6 dress shirts
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 long sleeve t-shirt
  • 8 t-shirts
  • 1 belt
  • 1 gray North Face sweatshirt
  • 1 raincoat
  • 1 pair swim shorts

I have to admit I am adding one exception: yard work clothes. For my 33 items I picked my favorite and best clothes. I don’t want them to be ruined. I am adding a grubby pair of pants, shorts, and a t-shirt exclusively for yard work and home projects. To them these items almost fall into workout clothes and would therefore be excluded anyway.

After just a couple weeks I am already feeling great about the project. Getting ready for work is much easier than before. I was tired of rifling through shirts I didn’t really like and wearing pants only because I hadn’t worn them in a week. Now I enjoy the relatively few dress clothes I have so the decisions are much simpler. I also pared down my casual clothes so I only have my very favorite pants and t-shirts. I already decided to donate big stacks of clothing I no longer wear but after this project will easily have even more items.

To join me you can check out Project 333.


Green Eggs and Ham

March 4, 2014

I told a coworker the other day that Claire read the entire Green Eggs and Ham book by Dr Seuss. I said we were impressed and praised her accordingly. We got into a discussion about our generation (Y, millennial) and how as kids we were always given participation awards. This led to the sense of entitlement attributed to our generation. I inferred that because we were raised that way we will also raise our kids that way and I think that’s a good thing. I mentioned that one of the best gifts I can give my kids is unconditional love and support. If they know above all else that their parents are proud of them they will have the courage to do great things.

I got a lot of inspiration from a particular post on the Single Dad Laughing blog. Dan Pearce says in his post “You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations.” several things that I wholeheartedly agree with. They are worth mentioning. In fact, the entire article is worth reading, monthly.

1. “I get the power a dad has in a child’s life, and in a child’s level of self-belief. I get that everything I ever do and ever say to my son will be absorbed, for good or for bad.”

2. “a child’s entire sense of value can revolve around what they see in your face when you first see them”

3. “…a child is what you tell them they are.”

4. “Everything you say or don’t say will impact their ability, success, and happiness throughout their entire lives.”

The whole article reinforced my method of parenting. Continually offer love and praise. Rarely show anger and never yell. Smile, be thankful, and love every time you see them. Let them play on their own. Get on the floor and play with them. Be interested in many things so they are interested in many things. Be happy and kind to everyone. Say please and thank you.

We often get wrapped up in work, chores, dinner, etc. and forgot how good our lives are and how lucky we are to have such great kids.