An Inconvenient Life

I’m going to warn you in advance that this post may sound preachy, but I really hope it doesn’t come off that way. I’ve been meaning to write it for some time now, but couldn’t organize my thoughts exactly how I wanted to say things. Please know that I do not judge anyone for living differently from how I choose to live, I simply wish to explain some changes in my (and my family’s) lifestyle in case someone else is looking to adopt some of the same practices.

 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a strong conviction to pay more attention to the things in my life. Things like food, medicine, appliances, clothing, and other “dry goods”. It has been weighing on my heart, all this stuff we preoccupy our minds with. All the commercials to buy more things, wear new clothes, get the latest gadget. I started watching documentaries and reading books about living green, growing your own food and supporting sustainable practices and production. A lot of my friends and family tease me for this new “hippie” lifestyle. But I’ve found that the more I delve into it, the more I enjoy it and find more satisfaction in my day to day life.

organic-ingredients

 

One big decision has been buying better food. Yes, it’s more expensive. Yes, I know that “organic” doesn’t always mean healthy. But after reading enough frightening articles about GMOs and abusing animals, I wanted to set aside a higher budget toward food and skimp on other things. For instance, we cut cable and only have local channels and Netflix. It’s inconvenient. I would love to be watching the DIY Network and HGTV, but I knew this was the best choice for my family. For starters, the tv isn’t always on so we have more quality time together. But the most important part was feeling that we prioritize putting the best possible foods into our bodies. It’s a trade, and one we are all happy to make.

 

homesteading

 

One of the most rewarding aspects of the homesteading lifestyle I’m pursuing is the home garden. It’s my first garden ever, and it’s had it’s hits and misses. Zucchini has been growing like a weed! But I learned that cucumbers in the blasting Texas sun don’t last long, and neither does anything when you leave a gate open for a hungry calf to tear apart nearly all your okra and pole beans. Whoops! We also decided to give raising chickens a try. We started with four, and are down to our original one chicken. One was lost early to rough play by a very, very sad Red Heeler (it was our favorite too! An Americauna which lays blue eggs, and Juno was really upset that she killed it and hasn’t touched another chicken). Another suffered a large wound on a stick and needed to be put down. The last was the worst. Our Rhode Island Red (or Elmo Chicken, as Charlie dubbed her) had just started laying a couple of weeks prior and went into the coop to lay her afternoon egg. It broke inside her and she died. The small silver lining to all this has been exposing my daughter to the way of farm life. We were together when I found poor dead Elmo Chicken, who she pronounced went “night night”. A life lesson, that’s for sure!

storing-harvest

 

Preserving this bounty has also been a new experience. Yes, I spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen blanching and packing and freezing. It would be much more convenient to simply grab a bag of frozen zucchini or okra from the store. Yet I feel that not only is it immensely satisfying to know exactly how this produce was grown (without chemicals or treated water), but that I’m learning new skills to serve both myself and my family as well as preserving a little bit of history and independence. I’m not particularly comfortable with how reliant we have become on centralized food production and enjoy knowing I can start providing for myself. Over time I would love to expand this even more and do my best to grow all the produce and meat we consume every year. That may be a pipe dream, but it’s one I feel value in pursuing.

 

reclaimed-materials

 

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you’ll have noticed that I do my best to salvage old materials and recreate them into new things. I’ve become even more vigilant about this. It began by wanting to save money, but now I also strive to save as many resources as possible. Buying furniture is certainly simple, if expensive. Building furniture is great, especially when it’s derived from sustainably forested lumber found locally. Though I really enjoy finding old cast off materials and doing my best to make them into something unique and interesting. I may not always achieve this, but at least I saved it from clogging up another landfill.

 

Another new “quirk” I’m getting the side-eye for is recycling and composting, in an effort to bring our home to zero waste status. Our area does not have recycling pick up, so I sort it into large bins and take it to the local recycling cache every other Friday. I also asked my husband to screw together some old pallets lying around at my dad’s barn and make me a composting heap for our kitchen scraps and yard waste. It’s already been a huge help! It’s not a huge time suck, but I do invest about 5 hours a month into recycling and composting. We also put out two rain barrels so I can water my plants without dipping into our well water supply, from an aquifer that’s been declining over the past few years. One day I would love to get a two thousand gallon cistern, have wind energy, and go completely off the grid. Will that happen? I’m not sure, but I’m going to do my best to try.

 

If you have been considering taking steps to a greener lifestyle, I highly encourage you to do it. It isn’t always easy, and I get that. However, it is incredibly rewarding on a personal and global level. Every little bit helps. You’d be surprised at all the things you can recycle, and that it’s not a huge time investment. Or that you find pleasure and emotional satisfaction at keeping a garden. You can easily support local small farms by visiting a farmer’s market or local grocer. It’s worth it, I promise.

 




16 thoughts on “An Inconvenient Life

  1. So very eloquently said. I applaud your efforts, it’s not easy at first but once it becomes a habit there really is nothing to it. Good luck in your zero waste efforts, it’s a fabulous goal to strive for.

    Tricia
    UpcycledStuff.blogspot.com

    1. Thank you Tricia! It’s great to know that it should become second nature eventually. Like any lifestyle change, it just takes a while to adjust.

  2. I want to say I am impressed with your efforts and take my hat off to you for all you do! I would give anything to be able to have a garden again! I was raised by a mother who was raised during the depression. We had a garden; she canned and froze our vegetables and fruits. My parents would buy meat in bulk and freeze it. I am trying to do what I can to change my diet, it is a struggle with my boys, but oh well! So, Thank You for all you are doing and your blog! I love it!!

    1. Have you considered a small container garden? I would love to start learning canning. I’m hoping to find a kit soon and practice. Right now my husband hunts deer and we typically have the freezer stocked through the year, we’re down to only a few pounds so I’m eager for the season to open. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to purchase a heifer to add to my family’s herd and start raising beef as well!

  3. I’ve started buying organic foods (exclusively when buying new items, but still using up what I already have to not waste) over the last few months. I’ve noticed the veggies tend to last longer in my fridge, which is awesome when trying to stretch a dollar. Although I’ve had to get over the price difference, I feel it’s worth it to me to feel better about the food consumed in my house. Be sure to sign up for Cartwheel by Target (if you haven’t already), to get additional savings on food (sometimes the organic variety is available). Every little bit helps!!

  4. Killer, I applaud your choice and I look forward to future blogs detailing (and I mean detailing) the many adventures you will have and the many challenges you will face. Now for the important stuff. You spoke a lot about vegtables but not one word about ice cream. When your berries are ripe I expect to see you at the churn making that really great homemade ice cream. Good luck.

    1. Oh, Jake, I am lactose intolerant! Ice cream makes me very sick 🙁 Maybe I can look into some yogurt or gelato recipes?! I currently have blackberries and grapes planted, as well as a few fruit trees. I’m looking forward to cobbler next year!

  5. I think what you’re doing is wonderful, and I’m so sorry that some people in your life are giving you grief about it! I live up in Oregon–you would be among lots of like-minded folk up here. Here, people give you the side-eye if you don’t recycle and compost, and gardens and chickens are really common even in urban areas. I admire your lifestyle and hope to do something similar one day when my husband and I can afford a house!

    1. Thank you Andrea! I wouldn’t go so far as to say “grief”, they mostly just think I’m kind of an eco nut and ask me when I’m making my hemp skirt! I think Texas is a bit behind in the environmental mindset, outside of Austin at least.

  6. I agree with you! My hubby was born and raised on a ranch in Montana and I was born and raised on a farm in WV. We have gardened in my family as far back as I can remember. Our root cellar was lined with loads of canned goods from what we produced from our garden. Most of our meats were fresh kill off our land. Now hubby and I for the past 15 years together have had gardens and canned. We also hunt and fish which provides loads of meats for the deep freeze. We have made ourselves well aware of how much processing foods go through before they make it to grocery store shelves. What we cant grow or kill ourselves we try to go to the farmers market and pick up stuff. I bake most of our “treats” and our kids love them! We are not totally off the grid, but would love to be! We visited my inlaws in Iowa last summer and I fell in love with the wind turbines. They were massive and hundreds after hundreds of them peppered the farm lands. We would love to have one and install more solar panels. We also recycle and thank goodness we have a truck that comes every other week and does a pickup. I will fully admit I sometimes like to go out and trash pick. If I see something that still has good bones to it, I will fix it up and either sell it or give it to someone I know needs it. I love getting pallets and cutting the wood off and making different things. Right now I am in the process of making cable reel chairs. I think it’s fun and exciting to live this way and it feels great going out in the garden everyday and picking the days produce. Everyone is going to have their own way of living, but I will agree with you on this one that is great! It’s a much costlier way of living, but it pays off in the end not only health wise, but to leave a better future for our kiddos!

  7. Love this post, and I’m in almost exactly the same place right now. In the past year we’ve: stopped consuming any GMOs or buying from companies that use them, started buying all organic produce and other food items, expanded our vegetable garden to our front yard, started composting, got chickens, and had solar panels installed on our house.

    One thing that’s been hard on this journey is reconciling it with the whole “more is better” and “consume consume consume” message I’ve been getting from society since I was . . . I’ll say a teenager in the 80s. It’s hard to break away from that and to stop comparing yourself to everybody else who’s still caught up in it, but I’m getting there.

    And the thing is, every step I take into deeper homesteading-hippieism, the happier I feel. It’s pretty much the most awesome thing, ever.

    1. It’s a subtle trap, isn’t it Tracy? Marketing non-stop on tv, radio, print, even online! I was raised with this mindset, and it’s really hard to break. To be honest, it’s one of the biggest, most recurring fights with my husband, the “stuff”. He likes to constantly buy new things, I want to strive to be content with what we already have, or can make. The social climate right now is more = better, and “I want it all and I want it NOW!” I want to escape the cycle. I’m glad to hear I’m not alone!

  8. It sounds like you’re well on your way!
    Have you started using gray water? Or “waste” water. Like water that runs before the hot water that kicks in? Contain that. Or your washing machine water? I’m sure you’re already drying your clothes on a line. Bet they smell great.

    I live alone (now) and try to do these things myself. I have 32 solar panels and a solar water system, so my draw is almost nil. My biggest conservation was to actually start cooking for myself. I cook big and freeze in servings. I buy less, eat better, and certainly don’t spend as much money.

    I also wanted to suggest that in fall, put your compost items directly into your garden. Cover them with a layer of mulch, and by spring, they’re decomposed. It’s a quick way to incorporate your waste into the garden.

    All this stuff is fun to me. I feel like I’m getting away with something!
    Enjoy. Enjoy your healthy, productive life!

    1. Hi Christine! THanks so much for your comment, it’s so informative. I’m just starting out on my green journey, and haven’t tried any of these things yet! I do need to get a laundry line for drying. I have the perfect place for it. I’m so jealous of your solar panels! Eventually I’d love to get those or a windmill to generate power. And thank you for the tip on the garden compost, I’ll have to try that! I do have a question though, how do you save grey water from the clothes washer?

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