ON THE HOMEFRONT

New digs

Organized Chaos

Every year at this time chaos erupts here on the urban homestead as a new year winds down and another looms over the horizon. A flurry of activites and assorted projects begin: plantings, composting, organizing, planning, scheming, dreaming– and more –all start now.. The months of Nov & Dec are vital in the overall “tone” next year’s urban homestead.  

The new chicken/duck (‘hennery’) house has finally been finished — stained.  That took some time because we had to apply a few coats. Until that was done, for two nights this week we had the chickens sleeping in the urban homestead’s kitchen.   The beneficial bees have been moved to their new location and for a few days there were quite a few confused bees.   The old goat house has been dismantled, much to Fairlight and Blackberry’s annoyance, who now look as us incredulously as if to say “what have you done to our home?” Don’t worry, goaties, the urban homestead menfolk are working on a better home (er, goat chalet) which you will be so proud off and show off to all those who visit the urban homestead.

Three large composters have had their dark, loamy contents removed and mixed in with soil.   The layers of straw in the animals’ enclosure have been raked away and stacked in piles resembling a motocross-like obstacle course.  

Our record still stands this year in our goal of not using any organic NPK fertilizers but there’s still a pile of lumps. Lumps that are stacked in bags on the side of the garage filled with rock dust ready to be torn open as soon as a bed gets turned over.   For the short time the ground is bare and there is a coating of chalky white/grey substance before it gets turned over under a pile of rich black soil.    There are seeds packets and new seed catalogs scattered everywhere, some left open to pages where new vegetables have been highlighted. A huge pile of winter squash is stored in the middle of the garage, taunting me every time I walk by. One by one the fruit trees are being pruned, denuded of their sorry looking leaves and wayward branches.

Piles of salvaged wood lay in stacks needing to be axed into smaller pieces and waiting for the time when we urban homesteaders get beyond our temperature threshold (30-40 degrees F) when layers of jackets, socks and knitted hats don’t do the job.   We’ve learned to deal with cold, especially dips in temperatures to the point where we have become disciplined enough not to flip on the heat (well, because we have no electric/gas heater in the first place – that helps!)  

Even though winter is usually a time to slow down, the pace here quickens a bit as we get ready for next Spring.

Tis a bit of the slice of life here on the urban homestead…. always busy and bustling.

“Lighter shade of pale” – delicate snow pea flowers

Sustainable Tendencies

It’s funny in a way to stumble on a green tip and think to myself, “really, we’ve been doing that our whole lives” To us such a practice wasn’t something that was even on our radar as being out of the ordinary as it was just how our life was. When simple living has been my whole life I guess I see life myopically, thinking everyone is just like me. Well,  unfortunately or fortunately, depending on the issue, that’s not the case.  Things that come second nature to us are a new reality to beginning travelers. The other day I came across an efficient eco tip here and here so thus this post…

The veteran homesteader of the household is all about conservation and for as far as I can remember we’ve always washed our clothes in cold water. Even if we were tempted to use hot water, we couldn’t because it was purposely left detached.    So no worries about “cheating.’    *grin*Besides the hot water being turned off for washing clothes, the 20+ years we’ve lived in this house, the hot water has also been turned off in the bathroom sink. Head Urban Homesteader feels there is no need to fire up the gas heater to just to wash your hands or face in warm/hot water.   Makes sense, so cold water is it and has been for years and years. To us that’s been life.  

Yeah, sounds a bit odd, but it has been and always will be about going back to basics. It’s also efficient as the links above state and it helps to know we are doing our part to live a low impact life.     I dunno if there’s anything to it, but having washed my face in cold water (no soap) for years seems like it does improve your skin, making one’s skin feel soft. We get compliments all the time about our skin.   Besides our natural, homegrown diet (no meat, homegrown, organic) could it be the cold water too?    

As for bathing, we also conserve by not taking a bath/ or shower every day. Every since we were kids ,  we youngins were subject to old fashioned pioneer practice of weekly bathings (unless absolutely necessary if one was really, really dirty).   It’s a habit now – like second nature. I can remember a funny story of a how a friend fresh out of college returned back from a survival course and when asked what he learned one of his response was “I learned one needs not have to take a shower every day… ”    It’s all these little steps combined that have a deep impact….

There are other lifelong sustainable practices that were implemented years ago. Another low impact measure that we’ve done for nearly 30 years is using a solar dryer (aka clothesline) to dry clothes instead of an electric dryer. Having never owned an electric dryer ever, I wonder how many pounds of carbon we’ve saved in our lifetime.  

Another conservation practice we’ve done since I was little was to follow the “yellow mellow” rule when it comes to flushings. As for “possession” our home furnishings (beds, sofa, furniture, table, chairs, etc.) I would say 90% are second hand/used/hand me downs, etc.   We’ve never even owned a new sofa or bed our whole lives.  Good thing, too, because since we aren’t rich and can’t afford to buy eco, new furniture such a purchase could have made us sick with all the toxic chemicals.   Speaking of chemicals, we’ve not owned a new car in ages. The only new car we had was a Chevy LUV truck back in the 1970s, which was shoddy, cheap and promptly rusted in two years.

Since then have only purchased/owned second hand cars and, thankfully, we have been spared the “new car smell” which is now a health concern. I guess at least with “second hand” the chemicals smell has had time to dissipate.   Having lived a simple, low impact life since a young age we’ve been spared the barrage of additives, chemicals and toxic stew that contaminates our food and goods.   We’ve also learned to do without and understand what really matters is life.   Such life lessons are vital in this new age, an age of uncertainty and change.  

Skills and knowledge that we have acquired from an early age are hopefully ingrained in us for life. Lessons learned can be passed on to other travelers who’ve exited the crowded freeway of life and have taken the road less traveled to a live a more satisfying, healthier and happier life.From occasional trolling of the green web sphere I can see that this generation is having to re learn the old ways as they journey towards a more sustainable life.   Sorta reminds me of that biblical passage of a “return to the old paths.”   Old traits put in place by our grandparents or even our parents (hippy generation) are indeed back again and, hopefully, will be around for a much longer duration – a lifetime and into the next generation.In this hodge podge post, I’ve just touched on a few of our longtime eco habits and tendencies. Let’s hear from our readers.

Care to share yours?   Do you have eco traits you’ve been incorporating long before they become eco hip or greenstream (hey, I think I just coined a new word?).

No Comments

  1. Claire says:

    The henhouse looks great. I’m always impressed at how professional your projects look. I think many people would assume that homesteading and recycling would lead to everything looking chaotic and ramshackle, but your place is anything but. Your ability to make eco-living look pleasing to the eye as well is very inspiring.

  2. karin says:

    I really appreciate your site. I have been hanging my laundry for a while now and initially not for green reasons but economic reasons. I was going through some hard times where that 3 or 4 dollars to dry our laundry would be better spent on food. Now that I am a little more economically secure I still hang my laundry. Laundry hung outside smells so much nicer than laundry from the drier. And as a die- hard frugal yankee I appreciate taking the electric company out of the equation when ever possible.

  3. Florence says:

    I started recycling cans and papers for the Audubon Society while I was in high school and I graduated from high school in 1965. I’ve often wondered how many tons of paper I’ve recycled over these many years.

  4. Urban Homesteader says:

    Karin and Florence, thanks for sharing with our readers eco traits that you’ve incorporated. Perhaps will encourges others to follow your low impact paths.

    Clare, thanks for the positive comments. Our hens have the exact same sentiments! 😉

    The thing you said about eye appeal – you really hit the nail on the head in our family’s case.

    I take quote a passage from AT HOME PASADENA about our urban garden:

    “Jules was influenced by his gardening grandfather and his Belgian ancestors, who culitivated a sense of beauty and order through keen hand-eye coordination (think Belgian Lace)”

    — At Home Pasadena By Jill Ganon & Sandy Gillis (2007)

  5. Molly says:

    I grew up in a cold climate and learned to never let heat go down the drain. Leave bathwater in the tub to cool to room temp before draining, lift pasta out of the cooking water and let the pot of water cool before emptying, always let hot food cool to room temp before storing in the frig. In the summer, use that boiling hot pasta water in the garden to kill weeds.

  6. Frugai in Mexico says:

    I have been a reader on PTF for years. Oh, if my children would read your post they could see I am not alone on this road! I also only use night lights at night. One in the bathroom,one in the kitchen & one beside my laptop. I feel anything needing doing can after dark can wait until dawn. I use only cold water too & have found out you can wash dishes in cold water using just a tad more soap. My radishes,lettuce,chard & broccoli are growing well. I harvested green beans today & have nine stalks of Bananas growing. Frugal in Mexico

  7. Stephanie Griffith says:

    Your hen house looks fabulous!

    I have always washed in cold water too. The one exception has been cloth diapers. I did wash those in hot water.

  8. Kym Carkhuff Helwig says:

    I have been doing “green” as a part of life for many years, also. I use baking soda to clean counters, tub, and sinks. We use cloth napkins instead of paper. We don’t use paper towels. I have recently taken the carpets out of the house, and where needed, will replace them with small cotton or wool rugs that can be shaken outside when dusty, or hand washed if soiled. I grow vegetables and legumes in my garden, and can alot of food for our family of five. I am now working to reduce the amount of electricity we use and am planning to install PV panels to supply our energy needs. Being “greenstream” has not always seemed cool to family and friends over the years, but it has been worth it. Kym

  9. Devin Quince says:

    ? for you. I live in MN and we air dry all our laundry outside in all seasons except Winter. We want to start doing that in Winter also, but am concerned about how to do it where we keep the temp @ 60F. Any ideas on how best to do in the house?

  10. Laurie says:

    I’ve been thinking about your post regarding the sudden realization that other people don’t do some things that you can’t imagine NOT doing. I remembered once my daughter came home from grade school and told me the kids had ganged up on her because she’d made the comment that trash doesn’t stink. To a person they all violently disagreed with her, and it wasn’t until her teacher stepped in to explain COMPOSTING that they “got it”. Of course our trash doesn’t stink, but it hadn’t occured to me that theirs did (because they throw food scraps in it.) Another one of those moments of incredulous, “oh yes, some people actually don’t do (fill in the blank action that’s an essential way of living).” We don’t mean to be holier than thou, it’s just difficult to imagine any other way.