A Simple Life

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We were at our favorite Celtic festival this weekend.  For two days we step back in time.  We feel a swell of pride and odd recognition as we hear the familiar bag pipes sound.  Outfits of different eras swish in the morning air through the woods.  We find our clan (Mackay) and bid everyone well.  It is an annual time of catching up with old friends and seeing glimpses of a simpler time as we toast with our mead and listen to the fiddlers and harpists play.

As I drive home, flying down the highway, I see the abandoned homesteads and outbuildings that line the railroad tracks.

All our modern conveniences do not add up to happiness.  We still work the same hours but with less meaningful work and constant stress.  I think our bodies were made to be more physical, our tasks plenty.  Our evenings filled with music and books by the fire instead of stressful television shows.  Home cooked meals and clothes on the line and chickens waiting for scratch and friends coming to call on Sunday afternoon.  There was joy in simplicity and we were not so inundated with brain washing media and mass panic.

I could see the ghosts of the farm women in their aprons taking a pail of milk into the farm kitchen.  The men throwing hay to the sheep.  A trusty farm dog by his side.

At the festival our friends did demonstrations of sheep herding with their incredible Border Collies.  A tradition as old as the Highlands.

We do not have to fall into the day to day modern but can choose to live more simply.  We can choose to unplug the television, hang up a clothes line, put a pot of beans on, cancel cable.  We can choose to dress simpler, eat simpler, enjoy simpler activities like having friends over to laugh by the fire or take a walk in the evening.  We can shut off the news and don our aprons and embrace our inner wisdom and enjoy a simple life.

For many of the greatest joys are from holding a warm egg just laid in your hands, or clipping herbs for tea, or seeing how many tomatoes are ready to harvest.  Some of our greatest joys are in an embrace, a smile, a plate of locally grown food, and a day consumed with inner peace.

Electric Items We Can Live Without (part 1)

When I saw my electric bill this month, I nearly fainted and was tempted to go out for cocktails to forget it.  I instantly blamed Shyanne for running her electric heater that looks like a fireplace all the time.  She lives in the dungeon of a basement here and it is ten degrees cooler down there.  Which means these days it’s pretty flipping cold.  Her lights are always on as well.  Doug said it was more likely the animals.  Who would have thought that the farm animals would use more electricity than my teenaged daughter?  Electric heat lamps and water heaters are adding exponentially to the already high bill.  Is it summer yet?

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It does seem silly to be working so hard at creating a homestead, doing things the old fashioned way, yet we are using more resources than less.  That is what happens when the thermometer breaks records all winter with below zero temperatures.  Thank goodness spring is right around the corner.  We do not have a wood stove at this house, and I cannot bring the animals indoors (Doug said) so I will pay the bill and move onto the next month.

I may not be able to shut off the furnace or the water heaters, but there are some electric items that I have lived without for a long time.  And there are more that I am working towards omitting.  There was a lot of hubbub about making women’s lives easier at the turn of last century and though I think that was a noble cause, it was primarily to make a lot of money off of subpar products that would actually create more work for us and pollute our planet.

These are the things I have found that I do not need (that much less on the electric bill!):

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1. The Microwave.  We truly do not need a microwave.  Microwaves were originally war technology and I sure don’t need any extra radiation running through this house.  So, one could zap food to instant boiling in a matter of seconds.  In a pan on the stove, I can do it in a few minutes.  It also doesn’t scorch the tip of my tongue off or kill all the nutrients.  Additionally, I have more space in my kitchen.  When I put it out on the curb for Goodwill, the kids howled that it would be missed, yet for six years now we have survived!  I truly do not miss it.

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2. The Coffee Maker.  Sacrebleu!  What is this mad woman talking about?  I drink scores of coffee in the morning, folks, don’t worry. I am a normal farmer.  I just really love the process of putting the coffee in the French press, pouring the boiling kettle of water over it, and smelling the delicious aroma stir up. I swirl hot water in the carafe that I will pour the coffee into and carry around with me all morning.  It keeps the coffee hot, no plastic taste, no plastic-non-biodegradable coffee pots in the landfill every year, and really, I think the French press makes the best coffee.  See my post here for more on it.

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3. The Dryer.  After our third dryer in five years broke down and smelled like it could catch fire at any moment I realized that the washers and dryers past that actually lasted were a thing of the past.  Companies make more money if we send lots of things to the dump and buy more.  The low end for a dryer is $250.  That’s the cheap model, heading upwards of two grand.  Which could get me a decent car.  Ever since I started using a clothes line six years ago I have found that our clothing lasts so much longer.  If I wash the clothes with items in the pockets and send stains all over everything, I can easily rewash it.  Stains do not set on the clothes line.  The clothes line is a means of forcing me twice a week to stand outdoors in the fresh air, in nature, for ten minutes and put clothes on the line like my grandmothers did.  The breeze makes everything smell fabulous, the cat hair is whipped off, there are no fires on the clothes line from overheated engines and clogged airways.  They dry in a day, even on cold days.  Should a sudden snow or rainfall come by the clothes are all the fresher when they dry.  Should I not have time and leave it out there for three days, they do not get wrinkled.  See my post here if you are considering leaving the dryer buying rat race.

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4. Overhead Lighting.  Especially fluorescent lighting.  Lord, help me.  The natural ebb and flow of the day is supposed to speak to our bodies.  The sun peeks over the horizon sending lovely banners of color across the sky welcoming us to a new day.  We get up, we work, we rest in the heat of the day, we work, we go to bed when the sun goes down. I notice that I sleep so wonderfully naturally getting up with the sun and as the sun fades behind the hills and the oil lamps are lit, I start to get sleepy.  I highly recommend getting some oil lamps, they are as low as $10 at Walmart and create excellent lighting scattered throughout the house with the help of some bright tapered candles. We add twinkly lights throughout for a magical feel and a bit more lighting.  Those could burn out though, and I’d be fine with just the oil lamps.  Should your eyesight require a tad more lighting for your nightly reading, then by all means add a lamp, but for heaven’s sake, turn off the overbearing overhead lights!

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5. The Porch Light.  The porch light serves more to tell folks you aren’t home than to provide security.  Goodness, with all the street lights, who needs a porch light?  Do me a favor, drive out into the country and look towards the horizon.  Do you see that glowing light like a bomb just went off?  That is light pollution and it is getting worse every year.  It throws off the migration patterns of birds and animals and uses a lot of unnecessary electricity and valuable resources to run even a simple porch light.

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6. The LED Clock.  I unplugged Doug’s a long time ago.  As soon as I get him a wind up one, it will join the microwave.  I use a cuckoo clock gifted to me by my dear friend, Kat.  I wind it twice a day.  It is repetitive and soothing and the joyous little bird that reminds me of the time is becoming an old friend.  (Perhaps I have been on my homestead too long.)  I do not require a clock outside of the happy cuckoo in the living room.

Oil is finite.  Whether we are arguing about foreign oil, or homegrown oil.  I am watching the fields around me be ripped up to put in pipelines.  And in the end, it doesn’t procreate.  Oil will run out.  I am trying to leave a whisper of a footprint behind (to make up for the ginormous footprint of my youth) for my grandchildren.  The reward is that I have more quiet living environment, less artificial light, and more meaningful moments homemaking.  Can getting rid of some electric appliances bring more peace?  I believe so.

Homesteading Freedom

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Everything costs something; either time or money.  Everything will require something as its payment.  We used to have a cleaning lady, nice cars, enjoyed expensive restaurants, took the kids on cruises.  We worked hard for the money and spent it on what we deemed the good life.  But it was a farce.  It was an illusion of freedom.  Behind cubicle walls and by his phone strapped to his belt, Doug was actually a prisoner.  I, too, even though I owned my own business and raised my own children, was stuck in the “gotta make more money” and “need more time” trap that so many moms feel these days.

Emily, Shyanne, and Peep

Emily, Shyanne, and Peep

I remember clearly a conversation that my friends and I were having at dinner one night when we talked about organic, vegetarian food compared to quick, processed food.  They were arguing with me that theirs was far cheaper.  I said, “A bag of organic beans is less than two dollars!”  “But you have to spend more time making everything.  We don’t have time.  You have to spend more time to save money.”

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Doug and I are working ridiculous amounts of hours right now.  We are putting up money and goods for the winter like little squirrels….exhausted ones!  But we know the trade off.  One always has to work.  What will you work for?  I want to work on preparing and storing my own food, making what clothing I can, selling excess to help pay bills, creating and selling herbal medicines to support us on our own time.  We heal people, we are as self sufficient as we can be at this moment, we work hard, but we fall into bed satisfied each evening.  We are much happier than we ever were when our tax returns said we were living a good life.  We know that we traded money for time.  Time spent doing things we want to do and creating a life that is more satisfying to us than our run-around city life.

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We try to walk softer on the earth.  Not use so many resources.  Pollute less.  Use less electricity.  Buy less stuff.  Stay home more and enjoy each other and our animals.  We have created a life no one expected us to have.  Don’t wait.  Don’t do the five year plan….the “when I retire”….”the when I get land”….the “when I get married”…the “when the kids move out”…just do it.  If you want to live simply.  If you want to take that leap of faith to become a homesteader, do it now. Life goes faster than anyone wants to admit, and the peace of living as a homesteader far outweighs any fears.  Homesteading is freedom.