Posted in So You Want to Be a Homesteader Series

Sustainable Energy on a Homestead

I know we are taking too much.  You know we are taking too much.  We know its a finite resource.  We all know the damage we are doing.  Part of the heart of homesteading is caring for the earth.  Knowing that it provides for us and we give back to it.  It is being in the natural world with the birds singing and less sound pollution.  It is the earth between our fingers and perennials that feed the bees.  It is a respect for natural order and weather patterns.  It is about using less (but getting back more!) and making sure our grandchildren have a place to run through fields of wildflowers and drink fresh water.

It is so much easier to not think about it.  But homesteaders don’t shield their eyes to reality.  We know where the red dyed meat in the styrofoam packing comes from.  We know that the oil fields and their destruction are fueling our cars.  We know how much petroleum is used to truck in nectarines from Peru in January.

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I love my wood stove.  It is a requirement for me on a homestead.  Wood is carbon neutral.  It quickly heats the house, makes the air smell amazing, and creates a beautiful cozy glow.  We have many downed branches and friends with downed branches so we haven’t had to buy wood.  (I was also a smidgen lazy this last winter.)  When our only heat source was wood in a homestead long ago, we used three cords and still had some in spring.  A cord is 4 ft x 8 ft x 4 ft wide.  Beware paying too much and only getting a face cord, which is 4 ft x 8 ft x 16 inches.

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We take Grandpa’s newspapers and get them from places that are about to throw them out.  Junk mail can be used as starter.  My go-to is small, dry pine pieces and pine cones to start a fire.  I am not as good as Doug at starting a fire and have the patience of a squirrel so I really pile up the kindling to make sure it starts.  The pine cones with the cinnamon scent that you can get over the holidays are the best.

Blessed summer has finally arrived, cool and slow, but warm indeed and I no longer need to make a fire.  But I do need to manipulate the cool nights and hot days to keep from running the air conditioning.  Open windows wide at night to let the cool air in.  Grow more trees around the house.  I despise curtains, so I don’t use those but they will keep it cooler/warmer.

When purchasing a new item, see if you can get one that is manual.  There are manual grain grinders, blenders, food processors, graters, and more.  You get a workout and save some electricity.  Purchase well made appliances that use less energy.  Unplug anything with an LED light.  Those buggers just keep sucking energy.  I didn’t like the television anyway.

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We invested in solar panels.  I cannot even say it was an investment because there was no money down and we pay the same amount we paid our electric company.  It is a no brainer.  We are providing one hundred percent of our own electricity here on our urban homestead.

Well, that wraps up day 14 of “So You Want to Be a Homesteader.”  Happy Solstice and enjoy the longest day of the year!

 

Posted in Non-Electric

Our Farmstead Goes Solar

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Our farm began in an old house on two-thirds of an acre backing to the fairgrounds in a small, country town that will remain beloved to us for all time.  There on our rented mini-farm we watched goats, chickens, alpacas, and ducks play in the back yard, grew so many pumpkins in the front yard that people speeding down the street slammed on their brakes to take a better look, and we farmed the rest of the driveway.  We fell in love with oil lamps in that house.  The sweet glow of old fashioned light as we read in the evenings.  The gentle tick-tocking from the cuckoo clock on the wall letting us know the time as the stars came out and the moon rose.

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The landlords were losing the house but we found an amazing farm on ten acres where we would live in a late eighteen-hundred’s homestead on the property near the owner’s own house.  We had a wood cook stove to heat the house and cook on.  For a few months in the warm autumn of that year the world looked enchanted indeed.  We plotted a large garden, and gathered three cords of wood.  The chickens and goats were far from the house and we missed seeing them.  That winter we mastered the art of starting a fire while the house was thirty-seven degrees.  We quickly realized that the small firebox was not going to help and put in a large wood stove with our own money.  Of course, many of you know the ending of that dreadful tale.  We were forced to leave after putting every penny into that farm.

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So from friend’s house to friend’s house we went until we had enough saved to get into a beautiful, decidedly on-grid apartment.  That year was fun using a switch to turn on the fireplace, turning the heat up, basking in a large tub.  But the cement gets to a Farmgirl and it was time to see what was next.  Agricultural land was out of the question with the loan we qualified for.

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We found our homestead on the south side of a big-small town.  It’s big, but everywhere you go you see folks you know and I have never met friendlier people than here in Pueblo.  One third of an acre, an adobe shed with seven foot fencing made a fine chicken yard, wood floors for easy cleanup on what we knew would be our urban farm, and a wood stove held prominent position in the main room.  A root cellar holds hundreds of jars and the climate here allows for prolific gardening.  And dreaming.

The large grandfather clock keeps time, ticking regally and alerting us to each quarter hour and moon cycle.  The wood stove heats the house well, save for the back bedrooms.  We are constantly looking for ways to increase our sustainability.  How can we use less?  How can we spend less?  How can we show the beautiful earth that we are grateful?  And in return for our simplicity we find a peaceful existence of health and quiet joy.

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In the city, it is nearly impossible to be off the grid.  One can easily find one’s home condemned if attempted.  Composting toilets are against code.  City water is a given.  But there are still things we can do.  For us, the next step was solar power.  On that first farm, it would have been impossibly expensive (particularly for a rented home), but here on our very own home and in this time, it is absolutely practical and affordable. In fact, it cost us nothing.

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The solar company comes out and surveys your property, sees about light hitting the roof, and local zoning.  With a credit score of 650+ you get a loan for the amount of the solar panels, which was about $10,000.  $3000 is rebated back to you on your taxes.  We put nothing down.  The loan amount is the very same that we pay for electric every month so there is no change for us.  My neighbor’s electric bill is three times higher than ours, so she would save much, much more.  We pay a slight $8 charge to our utility company to “manage” our electricity.  Once the panels are paid off, we only pay the $8.  Our home value goes up as well.  The solar panels are flat against the roof and hardly noticeable at all.

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I have written many times how all of us really need to use less.  Wind energy is so destructive.  Obviously the power we have been creating with fracking and coal is detrimental.  Solar panels never decompose.  We can’t keep going on about the government and big oil.  We cannot stand around with our “Save the Earth” signs and not do something ourselves.  Solar was a great way for us to use considerably less resources, save thousands of trees, the equivalent of taking thousands of cars off the road, and using Father Sun for our power “needs.”  (I guess refrigeration and internet are fun.)  And it is completely accessible.

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If you are in Colorado, call Peak View Solar.  Everyone was so friendly and easy to work with.  Elisa Harrelson, 719-387-7232.  They have a referral program so mention us when you call!  It will help me get my greenhouse going!

Other things you can do to help save resources:

Eliminate animal products from your diet.

Grow a huge garden, community garden, or support local farmers.

Buy organic.

Drive less- get a bicycle!

Don’t buy crap. You know you don’t need that.  Put it back and save the money for seeds!

A wood stove is carbon neutral.

Preserve your own food.

Go for a walk.  The more you are in nature, the more inclined you will be to not hurt her.

Be grateful for life.  Indeed we are lucky to be alive this day.  Happy farming!

Posted in Farming

Improving My Quick Garden Bed Method and Marvelous Summer

20180717_075151There were pros and cons to my quick raised beds but overall they are a success.  I had first put down a layer of cardboard, surrounded it with logs, then put in thick slabs of straw, then compost, then organic gardening soil.  The whole thing cost about twelve bucks.

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This row was planted directly in the soil and is doing just as well as the beds but has a lot more bind weed!

At the beginning I quickly realized that I didn’t have enough gardening soil but was tapped out of funds so couldn’t get more.  It took a lot longer to water because I think too much sand (we have sandy soil) got into my compost.  Don’t forget to check your beds after watering.  It should be wet to your second knuckle.  Beds can be deceiving, they look wet, but aren’t!  I will add more soil this fall or next spring to build up the bed.

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The second issue was an obvious one, but I didn’t think about it.  Some of the corn has to be staked up with re bar because the roots can’t get through the cardboard.  The beds aren’t that deep and the straw takes up most of the space.  So, some of the deeper reaching plants can’t get enough space and nutrients.  They are doing fine now though.

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The potatoes are prolific planted directly in the soil.

The weeds certainly found their way through the cardboard but not nearly as bad as in the regular beds.  I have had a much easier season this year with much less work keeping the beds clear of weeds.

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20180717_07533820180717_075405My yard looks pretty and more organized with the makeshift beds.  Doug can mow easier around them.  It’s been so incredibly hot and dry here that the grass all died early in the season, but at least the weeds are green!  Because of the early heat, my spring crops came up (if they came up) and promptly died or went to seed.  I will be planting the same crops today as fall crops and hoping for better luck.  I need radishes!

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I planted a tomato seedling in the porch planter and it is doing amazing!

This fall I will build more of these beds and let them sit for the winter before planting in them.  How quickly logs (that I can still use in the wood stove this winter) and railroad ties make creative beds.  I like the look of them.  The bark gently peeling off, the varying colors, the moist soil within.

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20180717_075436The lizards dart here and there, drinking water from small leaves.  The birds come for their seeds.  And the cooler morning breeze rustles the sunflowers into dance. I hope you are all enjoying your gardens.  How I love summer!

 

Posted in Our Family

A New Farmgirl and the Family Farm

A new little farmgirl is joining our family this November.  During Emily’s ultrasound yesterday I watched in awe as the little skeleton baby moved her knees into her chest, moved her arms, and turned her head.  Is there anything more amazing than new life?  My daughter is five months pregnant.  Her five year old, our beloved Maryjane Rose, is overjoyed to have a sister coming.  We have so much to show her!

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New life is everywhere.  My garden beds overflow and bees, goldfinches, and hummingbirds delight in nectar as a baby squirrel eats walnuts from the tree.  I am not sure if there will be any left for us again this year.  There were plenty of mulberries to go around though.

No matter what new endeavors I take on, no matter where my life and studies take us, I always end up back to this place.

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“I keep asking myself what I do I want to do now?  What are my goals?” I told Emily while we were waiting for the doctor.  “And all I want is to be able to live on a big family farm, take the grandkids to see what is growing in the gardens, check on our general store and restaurant, and be together living sustainably.”

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“That’s all I want too,” she responded.

At dinner the other night, my son has it all planned out.

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In the end, all I want is to live close to the heartbeat of the earth, surrounded by family and community, and live sustainably.

It is time to can peaches today.

Posted in Homestead

Hypocrisy and the Homesteader’s Guide to Saving the Earth

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First things first, a compost bin.  The very weekend we move in I do hope Doug can build me a compost bin.  He makes it with pallets, three open spaces to move the cooking fertilizer through.

The thing about apartment living is that it is really difficult to be ecologically friendly.  They don’t recycle in this town.  There is nowhere to put scraps (no chickens to be found).  There is nowhere to compost (piles of coffee grounds on the balcony would be a bit weird).  There are hills of trash here, eye-opening, mouth gaping amounts of overflowing trash near the dumpsters.  I am shocked and saddened.  And yet, my things join the piles.

I am very much against the pipeline going through Indian land. I am also very much against the fracking, hideous wind mills, and pipelines going through farmer’s land (who don’t get to protest, by the way, they just get the land stripped from them) across the country.  I can get mad and share a post on facebook about stopping the black snake then I go get in my car and drive to work.  I understand that I am among the billions of hypocrites on this lovely planet.

The answer lies, perhaps, in mindfully (perhaps maniacally) opting to use less electricity, oil, and its many ugly faces.  We know we are killing our beautiful Earth (we know she is getting mad as hell) but we seem to not know what to do about it.  Our life has woven itself so thickly through the oil reserves that we don’t know how to function.

Once I step into my new homestead tomorrow I will be starting a compost pile.  I will find recycling.  I hope someone still does it.  I will reuse.  I will be like my elder generation where one is not sure if the contents of a container in the fridge is butter or leftovers.  I will get chickens and feed them my scraps.  I will use organic methods to grow as much of my food as divinely possible.  I will get oil lamps again and still crazily unplug appliances and Doug’s IPOD.  I will use carbon neutral wood to heat my home (though it will be nice to have that back up furnace!).  I will be more mindful.  I will do the best I can.  I will walk.  I will ride my bike.  I will purchase less.  I will sew more.  I will….

We must….