| #7 | Blog Number Seven: Detoxing from American Affluenza | A Necessary Step Toward Homesteading (Athena)
Our daughter's day and my day are intertwined as one daily adventure. We are a pair of wild girls on a mission. We aim to be curious, find new adventures in simple things, not stay too clean, learn some good character traits and overcome fairly successfully the occasional (and very normal) mother-daughter tussle while she grows into her "big-girl"-hood and I (and Kyle) continue to somewhat messily figure out how to parent a toddler!
Adaline is 2 years & 3 months old at the time of this journal entry. She is very much her own mixture of rightly dependent and fiercely independent! At the start of this writing I thought it would be interesting to share with some of our fellow homesteaders what goes on during a "typical" day for us two gals while Kyle slaves away at his office job all day long every week of the year. However, as I wrote, the entry evolved into something different. I suppose that is normal to writing. It takes on a life of its own. So the following is what evolved.
(BTW on a typical day Adaline and I can be found rolling in mud puddles, reading lots of books, watching some Tumble Leaf on Amazon Prime, making muffins, noodles, bread or various other "kitchen experiments, visiting neighbors or our local playgrounds, and eating too many bites of vegan ice-cream--before lunch--while being sure the tomatoes and herbs get watered and the dogs get all the kisses.)
A HOME IN TRANSITION: URBAN TO SUBURBAN TO SEMI-RURAL TO...:
As is common for a homestead in transition from a somewhat standard "Americanized" lifestyle to a simpler, lighter and more earth stewardship one, it takes a lot of detoxing. Americans of middle class or above (and somewhat simultaneously, Westerners in general) live a life that is light-years from simple, minimal, quiet, slow, gentle, modest, mindful, content or other equally distasteful qualities.
We nearly all have a long road in detoxing from all of what is "normal" but not necessarily good for our souls, our communities, or our planet. For example, the move from a consumerist mentality to a "just enough" contented mentality. From a capital-driven market-place economy to a trade and home-based (or community-based)economy. For us, this started with a drive to living with less, curbing our habits that were highly consumer-driven, and generally just being conscious of how we use our "voting power" (money in particular).
ONE INCOME AND BEING A STAY AT HOME PARENT:
One of the biggest decisions we made this year (besides moving to another state!) is moving from two incomes to one. This decision meant that one of us continued working full-time while the other took up the role of stay-at-home-parent. Now, I wouldn't go as far as saying that (as the elected stay-at-homer) life of full-time parenting is exactly equal to actual front-lines of war... but there are days where the battles are decent and the blood and tear-shed is real.
None-the-less--this has been one of the most wonderful, freeing and necessary moves for our family toward our homesteading and life-simplifying goals. And despite rough days, the majority of our days (Adaline and I) are sweet with adventure and the smell of something yummy cooking. Our days, even when it rains or snows, are treasures that I am endlessly thankful for.
In this current season, I am the stay-at-home-parent. This could change. Kyle is just as more than capable...and in many ways much more so than I!
In the beginning of this new season I resisted leaving my career as a nurse "unattended" for this upcoming unknown future. I attempted to find work, but for one reason or another it didn't feel right. So, in the end, we both agreed we should let it be "okay" that I go ahead and let go of the perceived stigmas and fully engage in being a stay-at-home-mom. It is hard to say what will happen with my nursing career, but it's not my only passion (and certainly not my first)...so this is one of many areas in this whole journey for our family that I feel at peace leaving in the doorway of trust, waiting and not-fully-knowing.
Our hero (Kyle) gets up before either of us (or any other living thing in our house) is even able to think about being awake. He is consistently faithful in his work outside the home as an engineer. He is dutiful and loyal to his company. Loyal, loyal, loyal. This man would be the sea captain that goes down with his sinking ship if that had been his chosen career (to be a captain that is...not sinking ships... though he is a bit of a pirate at times too ;-p ).
We do not have a lot of money. We live "comfortable" lives, rich in so many ways, but we are by no means affluent. We have to be wise and we have to be prudent. We are chasing our dreams as normal people, and for us to be able afford to buy land and build a home for our farmstead, we have to combine Kyle's dedication to getting up every day before the sun is even awake, my staying at home parenting and studying AND some real and true sacrifice.
FOOD AND $$$:
One of our other really "big" areas of refinement was addressing how we obtain our food. We had to start by paying better attention to how we spent money on food and make an effort to develop a very simple and clear budget. As plant-based eaters we naturally highly value the source and quality of our food.
This is good. But...
This mentality, when coming from a standard Western-Consumer mentality, also translated into a really high food bill for us. Our food budget is still one of our larger monthly outputs and so is naturally the first and recurrent area we are applying a refining tool to as growing homesteaders.
Our food purchasing and consuming is complicated. We do our best to eat only organic but, as not go broke... we try and follow the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen. We also buy as local as possible, look for things with the least amount of packaging (especially reducing the use of plastics), buy from bulk sections, remember our reusable bags and glass jars, and support local farmers...oh yeah and not eat flesh, eggs or dairy--but still make fresh, homemade, toddler-friendly and healthy meals!! Whew! Good thing we like to cook or we'd have some fairly big issues here.
This is where becoming "growers" comes into play. In order to reduce our food bill we aim to grow and preserve the majority of our own food. We can do this. It'll take work but it will happen. Unfortunately, after a big move this year (which didn't get us into our own home until just before summer solstice)...our full and glorious victory garden will have to wait for next year. (Thankfully we were able to start the Westwood Children's Garden and small staples here at our house and still have time for a fall garden).
In the mean-time, while our food bill is being reduced and our garden is being increased, we try to do things like: eat only beans and rice or other staple macro food items that we have cooked from scratch ourselves; make our own breads (still working on a good sandwich bread if anyone has a recipe they'd like to email us); make our own noodles; forage seasonal fruits in our area; buy from local farmer's markets or a CSA (next year!); fight food waste like ninjas through menu planning and looking in the back of the dang fridge (!); freezing or baking with bananas and other fruit that is moving beyond its prime; putting green onion roots in water and re-growing them for weeks instead of buying new bunch every week; having our own fresh herb garden; buying from local discount food stores or while items are on sale...and do the hard work of saying no to things that aren't on our grocery list unless they make sense in the long run for cost-savings.
Just reducing our "Westerner's appetite" is a huge part of this whole process.
Recently we were incredibly blessed to sell our family's first home back in KC to a wonderful person who will make a perfect addition to our beloved neighborhood there (after the house was already taken off the market no less!). With the money from that sale--which wasn't a ton, but it'll definitely do---we will be able to pay off my car and a small credit card. This will allow us to start putting my car's payment and the CC payment toward Kyle's car payment. His car will be paid off in another year or so his car will be paid off. After his car is paid off we will officially have ZERO debt!!!
You read that correctly...zero zilch nada nope nothing zip....debt free!!!!
This means that the money we have been paying toward those debts can then be saved toward our future homestead/farmstead and land. As we have mentioned before, we have a trajectory of about 5-6 years before we will be ready to move onto our farmstead. So, it will be saving, saving, saving until then!
Other purchases:Aren't women known for their frivolous purchases--especially after marriage?--ha! Well, come to think of it, I really do want pair of overalls (that actually fit my 5 ft 1 in frame) or a wheel-barrow (seriously though)... anyone want to buy me a scythe?...and ya know, I'd really like to have a two handed garden-fork or a broad-fork for my birthday and while we're at it let's get supplies we need to build the green-house we have dreamed up in our collective head.
Well... in my case I may not be too far from the stereotypical woman but I have curbed some habits, thankfully. In some ways I may be different from that stereotype but I still have yearnings to purchase and consume. I am thankful that I am pretty good at not making frivolous purchases (read as: it still pains me to not just go and purchase ALL the seeds from Sow True Seeds, or all the compost, mulch and garden tools I want and need while I do some "window shopping" at my local garden store)...but it still takes discipline and conscious effort.
Maybe it's because I grew up with very little money and was raised by parents who worked VERY hard for the money we did have. But, to me, though I know I will never be monetarily "rich", I am willing to choose not to buy something even if we could in order to be a good steward of our income--which is another resource we intend to manage well. It might mean we have to wait to build our pretty cedar garden beds or our "Pinterest'able" green-house...it might mean I don't get my legit overalls next year or the year after.
And, more importantly, I am very thankful that Kyle has the same mentality. It makes such a different to have very similar mind-sets in marriage when relating to money and other resources of which we sustain our lives.
It won't always be easy to not spend when we want to. It will mean however that we can continue do what we are doing. I can continue to stay at home with our daughter, have some extra time to squeak out a mediocre blog post here and there, watch YouTube on planting for pollinators and predator bugs, read Bill Mollison's Permaculture, learn how to propagate plants and make Rye or Beet Kvass (next project for us, you should try it too!).
And, more than anything else, it will mean that eventually--after much hard work and lots of miracles--Kyle and I both will be able to do this all together. He will have the option of working less away from home and have more time to work at home, learn and grow in his own curiosities and passions and otherwise more fully engage in his own ways with this homesteading journey.
We do this together always. Even when one of us has to be away from home 40 hours longer than the other one and I happen to be the primary blogger, Instagrammer, and mad-scientist. We will continue to work our butts off at what we can, learn as much as we can and also continue to love one another and never forget that playing together is often more valuable than any cash-flow we will ever generate.
So, here is to our messy, wonderful, slowly-growing journey (and yours in whatever stage or speed)! We will see where it all goes, won't we?
With love and great warmth from our Homestead to yours!
Kyle and Athena
Welcome to our Farmstead Journal. We warmly invite you to read along as we share the day-to-day successes and road-bumps we encounter as we learn organic farming, pursue our search for our own land and our passion for homesteading, plant-based/"veganic" eating and growing, simplicity and our continual journey of learning and growing as a family!