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Archive for October, 2014

Looking to Tiny Houses

The temporary shelter we are looking at living in for about two years (haha) is a 16×20 wall tent.  We will put up a solid wooden frame inside, insulate the walls, and have a wood stove for heat.  I would like to set up a separate “bath house” that is connected by a small passage that is protected from the elements so we can take a hot shower and not freeze on the way back to the house.  There is not quite enough room to have a shower in the 16×20 and still function inside with two small highly active children.  We plan on getting a futon for us to sleep on and the children will have their beds that are sort of walled off from the rest of the tent and each other.  This is all we really know about the wall tent set up so far.  Obviously, with such a tight space, we are going to have to be very well organized.  It will be nice and toasty warm since it is such a small area, but it has to be livable as well.  So I look to tiny houses for some organization ideas.

Tiny houses have their own movement going on right now.  People move out of their regular sizes houses which average 2600 sq ft, into tiny houses which are more like 400 sq ft.  Our wall tent is 320 sq ft.  They downsize to these tiny houses for a few different reasons.  One is to save money.  Large houses are expensive to buy, furnish, heat, keep clean etc.  Tiny houses aren’t necessarily  a huge fraction less to build because of the fancy pop out beds and tables, but they are much less to heat.  I’m not an expert on tiny houses so I could be wrong about expenses, but this is what I have found so far.  Tiny houses also are much more environmentally friendly.  The building materials alone are much less just because there is much less of them.  And again, the heating aspect.  There is much more to this movement, but that’s not what this post is really about.  Here are some websites to check out anyways:

The Tiny Life

Small House Society

Tiny House Build

Tiny House Blog

 

Wall Tent

This is a very rough picture of what we have to work with.  Seems like a lot of space now, but all that is pictured are the beds.  No kitchen, no heater, no storage, no tables, no chairs…  We will be living full time here, so we have to fit everything in and still be able to move around here.  We have a big (small) job ahead of us!  By looking into how tiny houses organize, it gives us some ideas and advice as to how we should set up our “tent.”  Here are some links with some ideas:

Organizing Made Fun

Tiny House Blog

The Tiny Life

It seems like there are lots of nooks and crannies that are made into very useful space.  Most items are multifunctional, just like in permaculture!  You have to downsize quite a bit, of course.  There are also  quite a few built-ins.  I doubt we can really do much of this sort of thing being that we won’t have traditional walls, but maybe a couple things.  I think that folding items would work fairly well instead.  Like a futon instead of a bed.  I have also been looking into stacking crates and things for storage.  We may build a half wall to separate the kitchen/wood stove/no kid area from the rest of the house.  This could be used as storage for a lot of kitchen stuff on one side and kid toys and books on the other.  Tiny houses use a lot of hanging things from the ceilings and walls too.  I think with us building a solid wooden frame, we will be able to do this.  I will do an update once I spend a few hours going over the plans and get a better idea what we will do.

 

 

 

 

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I had been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award a while ago and hadn’t quite gotten to accepting it.  But since today is a good day for the blog, I figured it was the right time.  I also won’t have another chance to post anything for a week or so, so I figured I should get this in now.

Thank you so much for your nomination for the  Versatile Blogger Award,  gatherandgrow!  I really like this award because I get a chance to share with my followers the blogs that I love to read.  I sit down whenever I can and go through my list of posts from all the blogs I follow.  I love to read what others are doing and writing about.  Many of the blogs I nominated are similar in mindset to what I write about, so if you like my blog, then you will like these too.  A couple are totally different, but I love them too!  Not everything is based on homesteading and permaculture I guess.  You can learn more about the award here.

“When you consider nominating a fellow blogger for the Versatile Blogger Award, consider the quality of the writing, the uniqueness of the subjects covered, the level of love displayed in the words on the virtual page, or, of course, the quality of the photographs and the level of love displayed in the taking of them. Honor those bloggers who bring something special to your life whether every day or only now and then.”

The Versatile Blogger Award Rules
If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. (I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to the Versatile Blogger Award site.  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

These are the blogs I’m nominating:

xxx

handmade. homegrown. beautiful life

Mimic Nature

PermaCycle

Turn a New Leaf

Diane’s World

Cottage Craftworks

Digging in the Driftless

Building Connections

Simplicity by Choice

PermieScotCulture

Hand Powered Goods

Inspirational Village

Cordwood Construction

Planet Permaculture

Resurgent Circles
Finally, 7 things about myself:

When I am not blogging or working on projects, I am chasing my two beautiful children around.  They are my number one reason for everything I do.

If you had told me ten years ago where I would be today, I likely would have laughed at you.

Part of the reason I like permaculture so much is because once it’s all set up, I get to be a little on the lazy side.

Outside of the starting homestead, I am an RN.  I started out in surgery and now I work in rehab.

I have quite the weakness for lemon cake and lemon frosting.  Currently searching for a delicious version not out of a box.

When I can’t work on noisy projects because the kids are sleeping, we play board games.   I’m not talking about scrabble or monopoly.  We play agricola, mage knights, pathfinder or firefly.

I am a packrat.  I totally feel that Permaculture projects are enabling my packrat gene by encouraging me to use old junk to build new things.  I try hard to fight the packrat in me, but once I have some actual storage space, it could get ugly.

 

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100 Followers!

Today we have reached 100 followers at New England Permaculture Homestead!  Woo Hoo!  I’m redecorating a little to celebrate.

I started this blog out so that I would have somewhere to share what we were doing with our friends and family.  So they could figure out what the heck was going through our heads.  It was also a place for me to gather my thoughts, research, and information.  Kinda forcing me to be very thorough as I learned, not that I would ever jump to doing things without being fully prepared.  I thought a couple people I didn’t know might be interested, but wasn’t counting on so much interest.  I am so excited that so many people are interested in this type of project.  I get excited reading other blogs done by people who did what we are attempting, and I love it.  It was always so inspiring to me.  If I can inspire just one of my followers in this way, then this blog has surpassed my expectations.  It may just be a little project that you do that I helped you find a tiny piece of information for, then I am glad to have helped.  If you hang a birdhouse next to your garden after reading that the birds will help control bugs, I am thrilled.  If anyone runs out and buys some land and starts up a homestead, you better send me some pictures!  Either way, thank you so much for taking your time to follow our story.  Thank you so much for your comments and ideas.  Most of all, thank you all for your support, I wouldn’t be here without you!

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I have recently become more and more interested in the Paganism. There were many reasons I gave up my own religion, one being that I didn’t know what I was really celebrating on the holidays. Don’t worry, this is not a post about religion. Anyways, I do understand the things that Paganism celebrates. It is all about the seasons and what each new season will bring. However, Samhain is the Pagan New Year, in October. I never understood that. Now I do. October 31st is the end of the growing and harvesting season, hence the end of the year.

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At least that is how I see it. For us, it is now too cold (and soon to be snowy) to do anymore work outdoors. Basically the end of the year. So I am ready to share with you all the lessons I have learned this year, in no specific order.
1. Family and friends are invaluable

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I already knew this, but when getting yourself into a situation like the one we are in, it really shows. You really learn who is important in your life. This means support. Anything and everything matters. My grandparents passed away years ago but they left me supplies that they never even knew I would need and left my the spirit and strength I need to get things going. Others leant us some cash, supplies, fed us, worked for us, emailed us to check in, followed the blog, encouraged us, told us how awesome what we were doing is and even just asked how we were doing. Every little bit means something to us, thank you for everything!
2. You can’t plan everything, but you should try

I am a planner. It is my form of daydreaming I guess. So I had a plan. I knew what we needed to accomplish. I had an idea and worked out the finances and knew exactly what we needed to do. Then stuff happened. I thought we were prepared for the “stuff” but things that I never knew could go wrong did. Things that we couldn’t even have possibly expected or done anything about for that matter.

On the other hand, we did not plan the basics. we were so gung ho that we just left out some simple things that could have made a huge difference. We got here and realized that the pots in pans were not here with us. We didn’t really have any storage space. Our tent wasn’t toddler proof. We didn’t bring many tarps to keep us dry. We had no way to hang up wet stuff when it did rain. We had no extension cords and an air mattress pump that needed an extension cord. Toddlers shouldn’t sleep on air mattresses because they jump on them and pop them.  Eating out because it is raining again really drains your bak account fast.  Supplies that you have and need but can’t find have to be replaced and that also drains the bank account fast.  Basically we were not properly prepared because we were in a hurry.  Even though we thought we were.

3. Mother nature has her own plans

I knew that if we got a blizzard we wouldn’t be sleeping in a tent.  I knew it was possible that we might need a hotel room if we got a hurricane.  That would have been ok.  I did not know that it would rain ALL SUMMER LONG.  We spent weeks in hotel rooms.  One more thing that drains the bank account fast.  We also had a tornado nearby with a hail storm.  And a really bad lightning storm once or twice.  We wondered a few times if the weather was always this bad, or if we just never noticed before because we were in a house and it didn’t really matter.  You can’t fight mother nature.  she does what she wants.  A tent is no match for her.

4. Being out in nature heals the soul

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I knew this before, but now I truly understand.  I had a stressful job among others things back home.  It had gotten to the point where I was sick all the time.  I got out here and started living in the tent in the woods.  Life was VERY stressful, especially at first.  But I wasn’t sick anymore.  I felt amazing all the time.  There were days where I hit a brick wall and just wanted to cry, but the constant sick feeling has dissolved.  All I needed was to sit next to that stream watching the kids play and all was well.  I have never experienced anything like this in my life.  We went from living in a good sized house with all the technologies of modern life to living in a 10×10 tent with no technology other than a car.

5. A good understanding relationship can make anything easier

We do a lot of talking about everything.  We both know where the other stands and don’t usually even need to ask (although I like to bug him anyways).  We both have our minds set on the same outcome and know what we need to do to get there.  Through the toughest times, we just kept going and doing what needed to be done.  No arguing about silly stuff, just get done what has to be done.  We know in our hearts that we will get there together and that is what matters.  When we are in less of a crunch, we may have more discussing to do, but we still have the same goal in mind and that makes a world of difference.

6. Entertaining the children is invaluable

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You can not do anything if the kids aren’t busy doing something.  If you give the kids a good project to do or a great creative type toy that will keep them busy for a long time, then and only then will you get things done.

7.  Slow down and do things right

We unfortunately wasted money on things over this past year.  Hurry mode sets in and then you need a quick fix that is cheap.  And junk that breaks right away and you have to buy something else.  This didn’t happen a ton, but every little bit counts.  We almost jumped into some ugly situations because of this hurry mode we forced ourselves into.  We also set some things up that had to be redone because we did it in a hurry.  This apartment we got will at least allow us to slow down in the spring and do things right.  Although, we are in a hurry to get out of here, hopefully we can remember this lesson!

8. There are many antiques that are still very functional

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We have bought more super useful tools at the local junk shops than anywhere else.  We also salvaged many of my grandparents old tools that we use like crazy.  A little sharpening goes a long way.  Or a little cleaning goes a long way.  It is amazing the value you can find at an antique shop if you look hard enough.  There are tutorials all over the internet how to fix, use, and maintain this kind of stuff.  They are especially useful being that we don’t have power on site.

9. Knowledge and learning are invaluable

We came out to this land with almost zero actual experience.  We did not actually know what we were doing.  Almost no skills at all.  We did, however, come out here after spending 3-4 years reading, learning, watching and chatting from those who did have the hands on skills.  This gave us the chance to start with a clean slate and get to work.  We have absorbed so much information that we were bursting at the seams waiting for the chance to use that knowledge.  Because we knew nothing, we learned about everything that had anything to do with homesteading and permaculture that we could possibly get our hands on.  We read many things that seemed quite far fetched, but they kept coming up in other places.  Then they started to make sense and things were clicking in to place.  Had we already had some of the skills, it may have taken more for us to change rather than starting fresh.  There are certainly some skills that would have been nice to have had, but we are learning as we go.  It may take some time, but we will get there.  We have learned more this first year than I thought we ever could, and we have hardly done anything.  I can’t imagine what new things we will learn next year!

10. The first step is the hardest and most important

I cannot begin to express how difficult it was for us to get up and leave our families behind.  I also cannot begin to express how amazing a feeling it is to take that first step towards following your dreams and making them real.  The emotional aspect of this first step was far more difficult to deal with than the actual move itself.  Everything has been very difficult this year, but leaving behind everything you know is unbelievable.  It’s like jumping in with your eyes closed and having no idea what you are jumping into.  You know things will be amazing someday, but no idea how or when.  It’s pretty numbing for a while, really.  Then you sit back and look around and take a deep breath in.  Then the amazing feeling hits you.  Totally joy and excitement.  Then you just know that you are doing what you should be doing, no matter how tough that first step was.  You did it and it’s done.  Now there are only a million more steps to go!

11. Sometimes you need to take a step back to be able to continue forward

We have come so far this first year.  We got here, we lived on our very own property, off grid and everything.  Then we went back to living in an apartment, renting from someone else.  Lame.  But this is where our journey has taken us.  There are always rough roads, but I never thought we would actually have to turn around and go back in the process.  It was so sad the day we moved into the apartment and such a relief at the same time.  It was something we needed to do.  We had also come from a situation where our eating habits were really good.  No fast food, all organic, a lot of local food, vegetables and fruits, smoothies as much as possible, etc.  When we moved out here, we did not have the money to buy the better food.  Our arrangements, or lack thereof, forced us to eat out and eat fast food.  We went back to our bad eating habits.  And now we have to break them again.  Maybe if we had planned better, then this wouldn’t have happened, but it was another step back that we were forced into.  This one could have possibly been prevented, but overall, we are still moving forward.

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Mason bees are solitary bees that are excellent pollinators and the males don’t even have stingers.  The females do, but don’t sting unless you bug them.  Making a spot for them in your bug hotel is very simple and probably free to do.  Mason bees lay their eggs in small tubes that they plug with mud.  All you need to provide them with a home is some small tubes.  The most common thing use for mason bees homes is bamboo.  I found a large patch of japanese knotweed that had been cut right across the street from me, so I gathered the cuttings and will be using those.  This type of habitat will also help to attract lady bugs and other solitary bees.

All I will do is put bundles of knotweed into recycled tin cans.  The japanese knotweed is chambered and the “knots” so I will just be sure to put that end at the back so there is enough room for the nests.  If you use bamboo or something else, just be sure that there is a back to the tube to protect the nest from the elements.  The tin can is plenty of protection.  Also, the bottom part of the knotweed is likely too big.  I have read that the tubes should be about standard pencil size, but to include some bigger and some smaller for other beneficial insects.  Here is my little mason bee section of the hotel:

 

DSC_0013 This is what the knotweed looks like up close, before I cut it up.

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This is what the sections looked like.  I ended up cutting the knot parts off because they didn’t lay nice in the coffee can.  The unevenness they caused left lots of big gaps, so they are gone now.

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And the finished product!  I am thinking that I will be making a few more.  We have tons of space among garden beds, and the more good bugs the better!

 

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Starting a Homestead Isn’t Cheap

Just a quick expenses list for starting our homestead so far, in case anyone was wondering:

2013

$18,500.00 for the lot

2014

$200.00 trees and bushes

$450.00 small tent and outdoor cooking set up

$2400.00 large wall tent

$750.00 trailer

$250.00 storage unit ($50 a month for the past 5 months)

$4500.00 total in 2014

This does not account for tools, gas, food, money wasted on hotel rooms when mother nature forced us there, the tarps and ropes, the fencing, or the apartment since we weren’t able to set up the wall tent fast enough.  We also started out with quite a bit of tools and supplies.  I’m sure all the little things add up to quite a bit, but things happen fast and I have no idea how much they added up to.  If we had planned better, we could had prevented a huge amount of wasted money, but these figures at least show the big stuff that we really would have needed no matter what.  The storage unit will hopefully go away soon, depending on what we get done.  But we will likely have to keep it through until spring when we can build on site storage.  I’m sure next years list will have a lot more on it and be a much bigger total.  I hope not too much bigger.  We try to use what we have as much as possible, but some things you just have to buy.

 

 

 

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There are plenty of critters out there that like to dig through your garden and eat all the plants by the roots.  Especially your carrots and other root vegetables.  I have never had any problems with these guys in my own garden, but have heard from others how hard they are to get rid of.  Traps and chemicals are not what I want to be doing to get rid of them, and I’m starting out in an area where I’m not sure how much of a problem they will be.  So I’ll just go ahead and plant the stuff I need to keep them out anyways.  Daffodils and garlic.

I am familiar with using garlic and onions to keep pests out of the garden, but daffodils came as a surprise to me.  Apparently, they are quite offensive to deer and chipmunks too.  I have seen a ton of chipmunks around, so I need to be proactive against them for sure.  Both types of bulbs are offensive to these critters that want into your garden.  By planting the bulbs around your garden beds, it should function as a barrier for them.  They apparently won’t go through the offensive plant barrier, unlike the fences that they laugh at.  I doubt I bought enough bulbs for the whole garden, but I won’t know until my plants are eaten or not.  I did end up getting regular bulbs at a local garden store.  I would have preferred heirlooms, but I just can’t afford to do that right now.

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Here they are!  All ready for a fall planting.  The garlic will provide quite a few plants after I splint the bulbs up into cloves.  I noticed that some of the daffodils also had separate cloves to their bulbs.

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I’m not sure if it works the same as garlic, but I pulled the bulbs apart like I dod the garlic.  They weren’t expensive or anything, so if I kill them all, I will only lose $10 or so.

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According to the packages, I bought 10 bulbs.  I ended up with 16 or so.  Hopefully, I haven’t killed the daffodils and they will keep the critters out of my beds.  I’m just wondering how, if I plant my bulbs in the fall, I will be able to get to the beds to plant the veggies in the spring.  I guess we will have to wait and see.

 

 

 

 

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