SMALL STEPS

It’s challenging to look at the overall running of the urban homestead and figure out what could be done better, which new projects should be incorporated and so forth. When you’ve line dried clothes your whole life or planted a garden for as long as you can remember, it’s even more of a challenge for us longtime eco-pioneers to work on what sustainable steps are next in the journey.

Each of us urban homesteaders has personal challenges. One that’s most important to us all is acquiring more back-to-basics skills and know-how and that will be a lifelong journey. Then there are the everyday challenges – small steps that eventually make a big impact. Also there’s to consider what challenges we will face in the future, what steps can we take now to lessen the steep learning curve that will come with the ascending “Peak” (peak food, peak oil, peak water)

Of course, it’s sometimes overwhelming to look at the big picture without freaking out, throwing up your hands in despair, or heading for the hills.

Head Urban Homesteader always reminds us that, “Change starts with I.” So, I have to ask myself, “What can I do?”

One of many personal challenges will be to better preserve the homestead harvest. I’ve even started to “no-poo” (working on a few months now). Instead of using shampoo, I just rinse my hair with apple cider vinegar and herbs (rosemary and sage) – homegrown of course! So far so good.

There’s also working on localizing even more of our food staples or changing our diet all together.

Then there’s this on my list and that, and this one. Ah, that’s right! Small steps…. first.

Care to share your small steps and challenges that you face on a daily basis?

Hmmm, I’m suspecting there’s another web challenge afoot…

:: Field Hand Appreciation :: LE $10 Thank you for your continued support.

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  1. Ginny says:

    I went no-poo about a year and a half ago. I use homemade soap and a vinegar rinse. It is wonderful and cheap. You do have to get used to what hair feels like when you aren’t using all those chemicals, but it still feels clean and soft. I think my hair is even getting thicker and growing better. I also changed my hairbrush from a stiff one that breaks my hair to a natural bristle. Also, there is really no need whatsoever for toothpaste, believe it or not. It is just for emotional purposes. LOL! People feel the need for foam and flavor. Really all you need is the cleaning action of the brush and floss. I also use an Oral Breeze attachment for the faucet that gives me a WaterPik-type clean, but it uses no extra electricity. I don’t usually use deoderant, either, unless I will be around people that will really get offended by smelling a natural human body. heehee This may be more than you wanted to know… LOL! Trust me, I’m clean. 😀

    In Christ,

    Ginny
    http://randvfarmstead.blogspot.com

  2. Ginny says:

    P.S. My husband is on the opposite side of the spectrum as me. He uses many chemicals and thinks it is necessary to human life. However, he doesn’t notice that I am any different… hmmmm
    😉

  3. Angie Robinson says:

    I’m learning to cook seasonally with local food. I get my veggies from a CSA and pastured meats from a local farmer. I’ll have to learn to preserve at some point since I live in MN and we don’t have much available fresh in winter. I’m also learning to make bread. I’m trying to grow my own yeast starter.

    People had been living here long before the industrial age and they fed themselves somehow. So I’m trying to learn how to do that just in case I lose my modern conveniences.

  4. Ken Kunst says:

    I tried the no poo thing recently, and I’ll have to admit, there’s a getting used to the feel of it thing, and I went back to shampooing, but only about once a week. I’ve tried using herbs and a tea made from walnut leaves, and that helped…but I think using home-made soaps or home-made anything is almost always cheaper, healthier and more empowering than buying stuff. Making bread is a great thing, and is more of a giant stepfor us, rather than a small one, especially when one commits to it regularly. A step I’m looking into is to start growing grains in case of some shortages, but that is also a huge step, really. I constantly use as much recycled, reclaimed and dumpster dived materials I can in the various garden projects, and that always makes me feel resourceful and creative.
    There’s no better feeling than when I’m out in my luscious garden, feeling the sun pour through the giant sunflower leaves, and I feel the glorious rays striking my face and all the other plants around me, with that green/yellow garden glow. And then I go into the kitchen with my bounty of fresh produce. These are not small steps…these are HUGE! Yes, little by little, small steps eventually lead to a large Life!

  5. Stacy says:

    My laundry soap is a homemade concoction of Borax, washing soda and Ivory soap. I don’t use fabric softener, just white vinegar in the rinse cycle. I’ve been line drying my clothes for about two years now (though I often revert to the dryer in busy winter months). I’ve been turning the resident plum harvest into jam for as long as we’ve been here – the typical harvest makes about 3-4 gallons each year, and I often have to give much of it away to keep from being drowned by it. We also have lemons and tangelos thanks to the plantings of previous owners, and I’ve tried to train myself to morning citrus and summer lemonade, though much of it still gets given away. (Can you tell the trees need some serious pruning for size management?) Feminine hygiene products are limited to washable/reusable Luna Pads.

    Upcoming projects are a simple greywater system, new and improved raised beds in the garden (the old ones were rotting out), and a fully realized vegetable garden (PhD and baby have resulted in half hearted attempts at tomatoes until now in this house). Thanks to your recent post comments, I hope to experiment with acorns this summer/fall in my oak-heavy neighborhood. Farther out I have plans to experiment with VAWTs and perhaps photovoltaic for power. I’ve experimented with solar cooking before, but it needs a more educated/experienced try sometime soon. We have long range plans to replace the ornamental trees on our driveway with fruit – fig, avocado, peach, loquat…

    The biggest challenges are weaning myself off electricity (computer addictions run rampant around here, not to mention preschool TV) and gasoline (the internet is great for forming friendships with folk beyond walking distance…). Adjusting my diet to more homegrown is also a challenge as I’m not a fan of cooking, even if I am a fan of eating! But I have started shopping at Fresh & Easy to try and focus on more local products than Vons is likely to carry. I’ve tried doing the farmer’s market option, but around here the timing was always incompatible with our church schedule, but F&E is conveniently on our way home from church if otherwise beyond walking/biking distance. Hopefully a full garden will eliminate the need for a farmer’s market. I tried to shift to baking soda for scouring for a while, but the results didn’t impress me compared to bleach cleansers like Comet and I reverted, though I’m told if I switched to microfiber cloths with baking soda I’d have better results, so I intend to try it soon.

    I’ve still not convinced myself to go no-poo with my waist length locks, but I have a self-described “dirty hippy” friend who does and can give me all the tricks on long hair management under those conditions, and the cost of such products is becoming nauseating. I’m also not yet ready to believe in the evils of toothpaste, given the genetic misfortune I have with dentistry – I’ll take all the fluoride I can get! But I’ve never worn deodorant/antiperspirant and I don’t shave/shampoo daily. Sometimes I don’t even shower daily (especially since motherhood) though it’s getting better as he ages. Eliminating my dishwasher would be painful – I hate doing dishes by hand. And having been raised by/married to health care professionals, rinsing in anything but running hot-as-you-can-stand water would be nigh impossible for me to do as I’m so trained to that being the only acceptable method for sanitation reasons (my civil engineering training reinforces that).

    Obviously I’ve got a long way to go, but being trained in Environmental Engineering it makes no sense for me to not be leading the way!

  6. Fiona says:

    I’ve been wanting to try the “no poo” but do you steep the herbs in the vinegar or what is the method?

    As with another commenter my husband uses a tons of chemical laden products on his body. It makes me shiver that one person that use a WHOLE thing of underarm deodarant in ten days, a bar of soap in less that a week (he lathers up like its no ones busines), and other various lotions and potions). Almost half our food/sundry budget is his stuff. I try and buy organic natural hair shampoo/conditioner but he goes through that like mad too. Sometimes its frustrating trying to get through to him that a little goes a long way and what he is putting on his body is not good even then.

    Fiona

  7. Robbyn says:

    I can’t list all the steps here, since are most underway in the refinement and experimental stage, or better yet the painful learning curve stage (lol!), but one thing that came to mind is that I’m finally stopping dying my hair. That might not sound like a big step, but for me it’s close-hitting since the gray is now abundant and really makes me look so much older than the chestnut brown of my younger years. My hair is quite long, so it’s also a vanity issue as the gray grows out and I just determinedly allow it to be multicolored during this stage. It’s a little thing in the scope of all reality, but it’s big to me personally. I also have gone from high maintenance in areas such as cosmetics and clothing, as well as hair color AND cuts, and now am only trimming my hair about twice a year — sometimes myself and sometimes at a budget hair place. Wearing it long once it actually got long enough is actually easier for me than mid or shoulder length since I can put it into a ponytail or twist with ease. I now wear little or no makeup, keep my hands groomed only with an occasional shaping with an emery board, and buy clothing about once or twice a year…just enough to replace what can’t be mended any more. I set aside two nice outfits for “special” and the rest are just pretty basic. It’s amazing what I used to spend in the past to keep up with a corporate wardrobe, trips to the salon for haircuts and coloring, and occasionally some nail care. Those things are exorbitant expenses based on our current budget, and even if we had the extra money to spend on them, I wouldn’t…I have so many other things it would be better spent on. Not having a corporate job figures largely into my happiness now, and requires a remarkably lower amount of money to maintain.

  8. Jan says:

    Well we installed a new clothes line this summer,Two brand new water barrels to catch the rain, 3 out of 9 raised beds for more veggies ( the garden space will be for corn next year) hoping that will give us enough to get through the winter also. We planted a new apple tree this year and have plans for 2 more peach trees and 2 more apples in the fall. Also purchasing grapes and strawberies for future harvests.

    We have been using the shut off method for the electric and we have knocked our bill down half. We have agreed to buy the energy saving light bulbs for next week.
    We also have to compost pile and have a local tree trimmer bringing us some wood chips for the mulch he wants to give away.
    I have been making my own bread for about 3 weeks now but it is not rising as much as it should. Anyone have troubles with bread? Any tricks?

  9. debbie says:

    we’ve started trying the no-poo (baking soda followed by a vinegar/chamomile/rosemary rinse) method in our house… of course i made my eldest son the guinea pig. his mop of bright blonde hair comes out soft and cleaner feeling than it did with his regular shampoo/conditioner routine(albeit with a mild vinegar scent). by the end of a “regular” day his hair was so greasy looking you would think he hadn’t washed it in a week. i’m reluctant to try the combination on my long, fine hair cos i’m afraid of the tangles. i guess there’s only one way to find out….
    last week the house went paperless as we finished the last of the roll of paper towels. we went to rags for cleaning, cloth napkins for meals and washable cloths in place of toilet paper. that was met with some resistance by my middle son but soon enough everyone was on board and in agreement. last month saw us return to line drying (i’ve used my dryer twice since the end of april), handwashing and drying the dishes in a basin and then tossing the water out to the patio plants and flowers (nothing edible). i’m still not sure what to do about my daughters cats. i have directions for homemade litterbox filler that makes use of shredded newspaper and baking soda but just the fact that i can’t compost it after it’s been used drives me nuts… we’re aiming for zero waste and no new plastics in the house. i’ve joined my local freecycle community and am slowly but surely clearing out some of the clutter and making our lives less about consuming. things are a long way from perfect but i feel that we’re making slow and stady strides to where we should be. the garden, my first ever) is coming along nicely with beans, cukes, watermelon, okra, broccoli and raspberrys. it feels go to be doing more than spending and throwing money at the problems.

  10. Ginger says:

    Living in Colorado, I have many challenges: one being a short growing season, and two being the hail. We have expanded our garden and I should be doubling my crops for this year. We do have lots of sunshine, so I’ve been line drying and we’re going to try our hand at solar cooking. I just got my utility bill today and for a family of 6, we use 17kwh per day. I felt pretty good about that since we try to keep all the lights turned off when not in use. We are going to try to cut that number down this summer by unplugging appliances and switching lightbulbs and using oil lamps. We’ll see how it goes. We’re going to get some rain barrels to cut down on water usage. I really have a problem with using perfectly good water to water the grass. Slowly, but surely, our lawn will be reclaimed. It’s so exciting! Your family has been so inspiring! And we decided to get chickens–we live in the suburbs, but we can have up to 10!!! Thanks for all the info. I always look forward to reading your posts!!!

  11. Susan says:

    Jan, if you’re reading this perhaps when you add liquid to the yeast it’s either too warm (kills the yeast) or not warm enough (doesn’t activate it). Test the liquid on your wrist; it should be about as warm as for a baby’s bottle. You could also google to find exactly what the temperature should be (I think it should be 100F but I’m not sure) and use a thermometer.

  12. Jennifer says:

    We recently moved across country in order to live more sustainably. That was a BIG step. It’s taken a lot longer than I thought it would to get things going here on our new little suburban homestead (1/2 acre). I guess it’s always like that.
    Little steps we’re taking now are planting an herb garden by the kitchen door, mostly for cooking but some medicinals too. The clothesline is finally up in back and I’ve got one in the cellar too for wet weather (though it only fits one small load). I’m researching converting part of the cellar into a real root cellar and have already started keeping potatoes and onions down there, buying extra when they’re on sale.
    Mostly I’ve been researching and organizing. Researching which varieties of fruit trees, berries, herbs to plant; how to design a passive greenhouse; what wood stove to buy; organizing stuff to make room for the bigger projects like building a chicken coop, potting shed, greenhouse, sunheated outdoor shower…
    We got a rainwater cistern system last month. Needs some tweaking but it works – I just watered the herbs with it.
    Our new neighborhood is full of eco-conscious families – we’ve started a community garden just a block away! Got lots of beans and tomatoes going there. Oh yeah, and the coolest thing so far – 2 bee hives!

  13. Jan says:

    Susan – thanks for the info. I googled and it said 105- 110. Does that sound right?

    I will try another loaf. HOpe it rises more!!!

    thanks for the help

  14. Anais says:

    Thanks for the contributions everyone. Great to hear of the little steps everyone is taking in their lives.

    Jennifer – Howdy! Nice to have you back and commenting. Sounds like you have found a great community … and bees!

  15. Jennifer says:

    Hi Anais!
    This Jennifer is still living in England in the same house. I haven’t commented much lately and I don’t know why. Still reading every day! 😀

    I am defo going ‘no poo’ when i run out of shampoo which is going to be within the month. My big thing, since getting so much into the organic movement, is lessening the amount of chemicals I put on my skin, much less in my own body.

    I do actually feel better, more energy as well. It’s amazing to think things you rub on your skin do actually penetrate into your body. One thing I have switched and this is just to give you ‘a challenge’ is that I’ve stopped using body lotions….just use either coconut oil or hemp oil. Works great.

    Take care.
    Jennifer at HomeMattersMost

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