Amongst the branches of the miniature dome, they sing. I watch them flitting in and out of their hogan happily, busily. Some groups fly en masse to the bowl of bird seed in the front yard, another group will chat and catch up on the fence line, and yet another seem to be busy within the home, perhaps preparing for new babies or maybe they just got out of a town meeting.
I can hear them clearly through the thick, glass paned windows, and as the dawn breaks they begin to chant and chirp the loveliest, loudest songs to the sun. As I approach them on my way to the hen house, they fly up in a tornado of song and air. Exhilarating.
I shake my head when I see giant black trash bags of branches and yard clipping sitting in militant lines by garbage cans waiting to go to the dump. Such a waste. There they will never decompose. Here on our urban farm, we throw them into a pile. A large, haphazard pile (away from the eyes of the zoning lady down the street) behind a six foot fence. An eyesore? They are branches, for gods sake. Make use of them. They can be used for kindling or firewood or you can just let them be. We thought we would get a wood chipper and attend to them but the sparrows had another idea. As we threw the neatly clipped branches and larger weeds over the fence, blindly knocking leaves and clots of dirt into our eyes, they all landed in a great pile. The sparrows dive in and out perfect holes. A housekeeper I had said I ought to get rid of the mounds of wood because they invite mice. So we dubbed it the “Mouse House.” Haven’t seen any mice in there. They are too busy in the chicken coop. The mound gently settles each year and begins to decompose and we add more on. Nature makes use of all things, they do not throw things blindly into a landfill to suffocate the land.
The birds have created such a lovely haven out of those branches, carefully shaping them into lofts for hundreds of sparrows. And their uplifting songs and antics please me as I watch them. They make me laugh and smile. Such a gift to be amongst nature and all of its inhabitants.
(Tip: create a place next to your compost piles for items that break down slowly.)
Finding balance is one of the things we all strive for in every aspect of our lives. Becoming a homesteader is about living the life you want, that you dream of. It’s about taking chances and knowing you can live on less. It is about spending time in the gardens and with animals and friends and not giving our life to a corporation, who will have you replaced by the time you hit the parking lot, or grave. This is about relationships; with community, with friends and family, with nature, with God. This is about freedom. When we are living on less, we need to know when to be thrifty, when to barter, and when to splurge.
Being thrifty means that we reuse a lot of things and we don’t produce a lot of waste. This is helpful on our pocketbooks and the earth. We find we need less. We don’t go to an office job so we don’t need really nice clothes, nor do we worry too much about our appearance. We use our clothes until they are torn. Our cars have to be practically falling apart while driving before we get a “new” one. We read books from the library and rarely purchase new. We reuse rubber bands to fasten stems of greens together to sell. We save all of our twist ties and use them to stake plants to trellises and tomato cages. Wine corks can be put in the bottom of pots before filling with soil for drainage. Boxes that are too small to put in the garden or use to store canning jars get torn up and are used as fire starters. Wine bottles get turned into oil lamps.
Bartering is imperative in the homesteading world. Being able to trade for services that we cannot do ourselves helps us live on a small income and helps connect us to others. Rod put up a screen door for us and Doug cleaned up his computer. We are trading one of Elsa’s kids for one of Jenet’s Nubian kids. Last year Joan and I traded canned goods so we would have a bit of variety. We barter herbal medicines for a lot of things!
When to splurge? Buy good quality feed for your animals. Buy organics for yourself if you didn’t produce them. When buying tools, buy the best you can so you don’t have to repurchase. Buy quality seeds. Not everything need be cheap. Sometimes a bargain costs much more in the end.
Then there are other types of splurges. We live this way to enjoy life. My post about boxed wine gave folks a good laugh around town, I’ll tell you. I received large boxes of wine and funny comments. I bet knowing my affinity for good wine that you can guess that it wasn’t long before I was darn sick of boxed wine! If it’s under $15, a bottle is worth it. One can find a great deal of fabulous wines in that price range. And if Doug and I aren’t running around wine bars all week like we used to, you can bet your overalls that I am going to enjoy my glass of single vineyard, estate grown wine with dinner!
This weekend we are taking Emily, Bret, and our sweet Maryjane Rose up to Boulder to celebrate Emily’s birthday a bit early. I bartered for the rooms at a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast. We will splurge on great meals and make fond memories with our children.