“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” –William Morris

Sis and I (well, mostly Sis) have been hard at work whipping the middle room into a functional and organized craft/multi-purpose room which every homestead needs!   The middle room, being well, in the middle of the house, offers the perfect environment to dry herbs.  But where to hang the bunches? Sis (and her organized brain of hers) comes to the rescue and sees possibilities in an old retractable clothes line we had laying around.  Voila!  Perfect for drying herbs.  Isn’t she clever?

And me… I am proud of my new machine, and boy, is she a beaut!  Since September was “Preparedness Awareness“, it made  us, as a family, think about whether or not we were  prepared for an uncertain future.   Over the last 25 years, we’ve been slowly getting rid of as many electrical gadgets and gizmos as possible.  Of course, we still have these computers, a necessary vice;  but with this recent acquisition of a 1928 hand- cranked/powered (not treadle) sewing machine,  we are a tad bit closer to our ultimate goal of being “unplugged.”

“Any solution that requires that you continue indefinitely to buy something that you cannot make or produce on your own is only a temporary or stop-gap solution….Ask yourself what would happen if some type of long-term disaster or world changing event were to occur”.  – Michael Bunker

What types of “steps backwards” are you taking?  In what ways are you preparing for the future?

Stay tuned for more on this subject!


  1. Lauren-Mae Cook says:

    Having a woodstove is nice. The only cost is the few bucks of gasoline for the chain saw, which is used to cut up logs, then the wood is hand spilt with man-power, and the price of hauling wood. My husband works for a tree service, so, we can have all of the wood we need. And this winter I’ll be using it for boiling noodles and bopiling water for tea. 🙂

    • Jennifer says:

      I have an enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven I set up on my wood burning oven in the morning and use as crock pot. I love it.

    • Anais Dervaes says:

      Lucky girl! 🙂

  2. Michelle says:

    I first learned to sew on a 1920’s treadle-powered sewing machine that was my great grandmother’s. It’s all my mom has ever sewn on and someday I plan on acquiring one of my own. They are just so sturdy and simple to use, in fact I was just complaining to my husband the other night how my mom’s sewing machine never used to jam up, but my new, electric one seems to jam up when the least bit of lint gets into the gears! Oh well!

    • Anais Dervaes says:

      I love old things, especially if they are in good condition. We like to say that the old machines are built like “tanks” and the new ones are just “feather weights.” Hope you find yourself an old machine, they are just a gem and joy to have.

  3. Janell says:

    So impressed with you ladies. You inspire us! We’re making small but effective changes that any family can implement – we use rags instead of single use wipes and paper towels, fabric napkins instead of paper ones, replace cleansers with vinegar and baking soda, use grey water for plants, cook instead of eating take-out, compost our kitchen scraps, and use more hand tools and fewer electric appliances in the kitchen. Each month we make a game of finding additional ways to ‘unplug’. The best part is it gives us a greater sense of ‘home’, because it’s something we’ve made for ourselves rather than a repository for ‘stuff’.

    Thanks for all you do to educate and show by example. You don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk.

    • Anais Dervaes says:

      Awww, thanks. We try. Believe me the simple life, it’s far from simple! 🙂 I like that about no paper in the house. Thanks for reminding me. We don’t use paper either (‘cept for “tp”) Folks often comment that they notice we don’t have any paper rolls in the kitchen. I like to tear up old clothes and use them for rags or wipes. What a great list of steps, that’s great! Thanks for sharing and reminding us how fun these steps backwards can be. Happy fall to you and your family!

  4. Joy says:

    Oh, I would love to have a treadle sewing machine! I’m keeping an eye out for one of those.

    Almost a year ago we moved to a house with one acre. It doesn’t seem like much land, but y’all have really inspired us to make the most of what we have! We hope to eventually be utilizing every bit of that beautiful acre. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

    • Anais Dervaes says:

      Hello Joy and happy fall to you and your family! Love hearing from fellow homesteaders. Thank you for your positive comments. Our family is certainly blessed that we are able to share our journey with you and so many others. Blessings!

  5. Susan says:

    I’ve heard of treadle sewing machines (I would love to have one someday) but never a hand-cranked one. I guess you crank it up and it runs for a while?

    I love the clothesline idea!

    • Mich says:

      You have to keep cranking to keep the needle moving 🙂 Used to be one of my jobs when I helped my granny with the sewing….keep turning the handle at a nice steady speed….

    • Anais Dervaes says:

      Hi Susan
      Here’s a video how the hand cranked sewing machine works — pretty cool!
      I know, me too!!! Ain’t sis clever 🙂

  6. Nebraska Dave says:

    Anais, Your house always looks so organized with everything in it’s place. My house …. not so much. With a whirl wind 7 year old grandson and all his toys and a daughter with her crazy work/school schedule the house most days is a little ragged. Small spaces do need creative ideas for multi purpose uses.

    I’m not in any way familiar with a sewing machine. My wife used to sew but it seemed to be a frustrating thing for her as the new machine we bought just didn’t do exactly what she wanted it to do in most cases. Do the older machines work better? I still have her last machine but it is electric. It’s an old Singer in a nice It hasn’t been used in over a decade and I really should get rid of it. That would be part of the basement clean up which is badly needed.

    Have a great day organizing your room.

  7. Kj says:

    Hi all! I too would love to have a treadle sewing machine. My grandmother had a beautiful one – my lucky older cousin got it. Out of curiosity, are you taking ads now on your site? I haven’t been on for awhile and noticed an ad or two.
    We, well I should say the boys and I as my husband isn’t quite on board yet in some areas of “unplugging” 🙂 We acquired an oil lamp from my mother-in-law, it has a beautiful red base and clear top. Last year we put in a wood stove for heating – love it! Sadly, we already are using it 🙁 Those are just two of the latest steps we have taken and are constantly looking for others.

    • Anais Dervaes says:

      Hello KJ
      Happy fall. If you missed what’s happening, our site’s been the victim of attacks lately , please read My sister is at her wits end trying to block the attacker(s) and is forced to try something new …. stay tuned for further details.
      Love reading about what others are doing to “unplug” thanks for sharing and have a lovely day.

  8. Fanny says:

    I very much agree with the ideas presented here, it is simply dangerous to forget how to live without electricity, modern technology and imported goods. Ever since I was a kid I’ve had the feeling that I NEED to know how to survive without modern society, and though I’ve lacked the means to get equipment like the ones discussed above, I at least have immersed myself in historic and prehistoric crafts and techniques (how to weave, make shoes, preserve food, sew clothes by hand etc etc). But there is always more to learn! And I do love learning new things!

  9. Nick says:

    Hey everyone! I’m a teen homesteader and I absolutely LOVE this site!!! Even though my family isn’t entirely on board I do what I can to lessen my Carbon Footprint. Right now I’m teaching myself to sew the OLD old fashion way(with a thread and needle. So far I can only do some basic mending but as a wise man once said “nothing worth having is easily won.

    • Nick says:

      I just looked at this again…yeash, sorry about the punctuation.

  10. Sara says:

    I used to walk past your house almost every day whilst I was staying in Pasadena .. circa 2004 – 2006 and how I wish I had had the nerve to go up your path and say “Hello”.

    I work 8,000 sq feet of land near between Chiswick and Kew in England and grow Flowers / Fruit and Vegetables.. but have to travel for an hour by subway and bus to get to the plot.. What joy it must be to have those animals and the land just outside your door..

    Lucky you.. best wishes from London – where it is raining and has been for two days.

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