Thursday, December 31

Resolutions

I always make the same New Years Resolution. The same one that probably half the people that make resultions make. Lose weight. And it never happens. This year, i am going to make that resolution with the clear view that I know it will not happen and these 30 extra pounds i have been hauling around for teh past 10 months from the baby are probably here to stay. So, in addition to this standing resolution, i was looking for something to committ to and actually accomplish.

I didn;t want to just pick something out of thin air which wouldn;t mean anything to me. I could always go with "have more patience" or grow and try to eat a new vegetable (which I might do anyway and it would be an accomplishment. I am a VERY picky eater). But while surfing around my favorite blogs, I found what I was looking for.

More often than not, it was Cold Antler to the rescue. Below is a portion of a post from the other day.

"The new year is just around the switchback. We're almost there and people are talking about resolutions and changes and a hundred tiny things that are going to make us all better people in 2010. I have goals too, but not for the year. I don't have the chops for those kinds of resolutions. I do however, have a system that works and I measure it in hours...

For what it's worth, here is some advice from me. Don't attempt to be a drastically better person in the next calendar year. Don't plan on being thirty pounds thinner, or sixty-thousand dollars richer, or the front man of your own band. Instead, how about just trying to be a slightly better person in the next sixty minutes. This may sound like a weak attempt
but it's not. Results happen slowly and only when we focus on what we want and who we want to become right now. If you want more money, for the next hour, don't spend any and try and pull a quarter off the floor of your car. If you want to lose weight, try not to eat that candy bar for the next hour, and walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. If you want to be kinder, spend the next hour on the phone with old friend and tell her you miss her. If you want to plant a garden, raise chickens, or own a farm—spend the next hour online ordering seed catalogs or going to the library for a book on coop building. Make small changes constantly and just try to meet that next turn of the clock one hour smarter, one hour thinner, one hour kinder, and one hour richer and watch your life change.

If everyone could just see the day as 24 chances to make their life a little better, imagine the resolutions that could be met? I try to be an hour better, every hour, and hope those choices add up into something I can grasp with both hands. I think total dedication to the present is what improves ourselves, and not the empty promises that are too big to get our arms around. Just try be one hour better, starting right now. My favorite movie whispers the quote "that every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around". It's a chance worth taking
."

This is perfect. I can actually DO this. I even started early. I went to Wegmans to get a sub for dinner. Roy and Connor and I are all sick. Connor has croup and Roy and I have nasty colds. So, being the least sick of the three, I was nominated to go get something for dinner. While in the check out line, my eyes wandered, as they always do, to the racks of candy bars. 3 musketeers is a wonderful thing. And it even says 33% less fat on teh wrapper, which somehow makes it ok to eat even though it is a candy bar.

I picked it up. I had it inches from sitting on the black belt next to the sub and I could already taste it. I couldn;t wait to get out to the car and rip into it. But I put it back on the rack and physically slapped my hand and said "No" outloud. The guy behind me in line looked at me funny and I felt great.

Tuesday, December 29

Another day in the line of many

Nothing intesting or exciting today. Roy worked from home today because of the weather and we took Connor to the doctor. He has croup. Does that even still exist?? It sounds like something that went around in the 1840's.

A snowy, cold, windy day.

I took down the Christmas decorations and packed them away for next year. this makes me sad not because I love Christmas but because I love the way the house looks with the decoarations up. This Christmas was actually the first one in a long time where I was excited and enthusiastic. Normally it is stressful with gift buying, baking, and driving all over the state and sometimes Canada. But this year was different - we stayed close to home and it was our frist Christmas as a family.

But today was still one of those days. The kind of day where you feel like you are standing at the bow of a ship plowing through the days of the week, the month, the year. And all you can see before you are more days like this one. Not bad, but just another day in a line of many.

Sunday, December 27

A little bit of 1880

Ohh, the dilemmas of the modern homesteader.....

The internet is one of the best things ever invented and if Laura Ingalls Wilder was here, she would most whole-heartedly agree. Where else can you find how to videos for knitting, articles on tomato crop rotation strategies, and addicting blogs about sheep. Of course, learning "knit 1, purl 2" around the hearth would be more satisfying and probably warmer, the heat that the laptop produces is comparable.

So if we are striving for the true homestead experience, how can we justify using the internet - is it not a vice of the modern age? A time wasting, energy using endeavor that grows from just getting on line to quickly check the email to staying up until 1 in the morning harvesting your farmville crops and looking up why my knitting "curls" and I have a scarf that looks like a tube sock?

Should not I be spending my time pouring over seed catalogs by the glow of lantern light?

I would love it to be so. But it is not. Like it or not, (I have one vote for like right here), we live in what will soon be 2010. Not 1910. Not 1810. Not even 1940 for Pete’s sake. (who was Pete anyway?). And I am not mad about this. I love indoor plumbing and electricity and my computer. I love my digital camera and the internet and I love modern refrigeration.

But that does not mean that I don’t want to have a homestead. I like the modern homestead. I like solar electric and crank radios and sewing. I like growing tomatoes and peas and I like planning for my future barnyard of chickens and goats. As much as I would like to experience living in 1880, I have to admit that I would much rather live in 2009, or 10 and try to carry on the ideals, skills and way of life that makes me happy. A little bit of 1880 in 2010 will go a long way and I am looking forward to it.

So if I have to take a side, I say that the internet is essential to the modern homestead. My compromise is learning knitting from YouTube, relaxing on a blanket in the yard with Wi-Fi and using it to learn - just like any book I could buy or get from the library. I think that learning is what it is supposed to be about in the first place - no matter what time you live in and if you are learning the skills to survive on the prairie or to build a fulfilling life in the suburbs.

But, don’t leave the TV on every night. Have a campfire or two.

Thursday, December 24

Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas from all of us here at the homestead.

Monday, December 21

Doe, a deer, a female deer....



Couldn't help but love this picture. I said "Honey, push Connor's stroller over there so he can see that neat stuffed deer!" So, he parks Connor right by the butt and I get this picture of Connor looking at the deers "parts". And the look on his face just says it all. "Um, Dad, why did you park me at this end?"

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20

A bright spot




We have snow here, and being that the first day of winter is tomrrow, it is fitting. We were spared the storms that hit most areas south of us but we still have a good 5 inches of the powdery white stuff out there.

Snowy loves it, as she does every year. She would gladly stay outside all day romping and playing and digging and sleeping in it. But I am not as thrilled. I hate winter, mostly. I only like the cold and the snow when I do not have anywhere I have to go and I can stay in the house and watch it come down. Watching the big fluffy flakes accumulate on the ground and hearing the plows go by while I am in my warm sweatpants is actually a fun day for me. But if i have to go outside for anything other than a quick run to the mailbox, I change into my winter-hatred mode.

So on that run to the mailbox the other day in the cold wind and snow and icy chill, I was rewarded with a bright spot for the day - my Baker Creek Seed Catalog was waiting for me. I love their catalog. Even if I didn;t order seeds from them, or even plant seeds at all, I would still enjoy thumbing through, looking at all the beatiful photography. But I do order from them, a lot. I get 90% of my seeds from them. They are all open-pollinated seeds in an incredible array of heirloom varieties. They are the only place I can find Bells of Ireland seeds that I can actually get to grow. That was what sold me 100% on them.

Within an hour, I had pages marked with the "Yes!" and "Maybe" stickers from the Lucky magazine that Mom sends over for me. I can never see myself wearing most of the things in Lucky but it is till fun to look through. And of course the stickers are great for bookmarking catalogs and gardening books.

We always get the Purple Podded Pole Bean (Roy's favorite) and I love the Lime Green Nicotiana which adds nice light green color to the garden and is easy to grow.

Their blog is also an interesting read.

Thursday, December 17

The Greenhorns

A big thank you to Cold Antler Farm for letting us know about this:

The Greenhorns

Dozens and dozens



Making Christmas cut out cookies with a 9 month old is hard work. Unless you have a wonderful mother who comes over and helps you. I have both - a 9 month old and wonderful mother who loves her grandson. And hopefully her daughter too.

We made 6 bathces of cut out cookies, roughtly 25 cookies to a batch, at her house on Tuesday and then frosted them at my house yesterday. Thats a lot of frosting.

It was wonderful. I mixed and baked at mixed and baked at Mom's house while she entertained Connor with Christmas decorations and the piano. The whole house smelled his cookies and using the same cookie cutter that Mom and I used when I was little and that her mother used with her made it all the more special. The snow was gently falling outside in big fluffy flakes, the 1940's Christmas music was playing - all very Norman Rockwell.

Until the screams of both baby and Grandma broke the bliss of it all - Connor had gotten ahold on Mom's hair. Both of them were making a ton of noise - Connor because he was having a great time and Grandma because her hair was being pulled by a baby that my husband nicknamed "the terminator". I couldn't help but take a picture before I pried her hair out of his iron grip.




The forsting completed, I assembed the tins and plates for family, neighbors, and my husbands office last night and I can honestly say that i do not want to see another Christmas cookie for at least 12 months.

Friday, December 11

Watts and such



We are 100% up and running with the solar now - fully inspected and OK'ed by Rochester Gas and Electric. I'll bet they just hate coming out to peoples houses and giving the go-ahead for solar power. "Darn, another one who is not going to have to by electric from us!"

Despite the freezing wind chill temps today, the sun is shining and we are making electric. If I went outside now (yeah right!) to look at the meter, it would hardly be moving, if not going backwards.

It feels good to know that we are making electric for ourselves. Really good.

Roy is working from home today which is not much different than a work day since he is locked in his upstairs office typing away on the computer. The baby is napping now and Snowy and I are lounging in the living room enjoying a WII documentary. I finally convinced Snowy that it was just too cold for her outside, even though she loves the fridgid temperatures. She is laying here, panting, watching me type and learning about Omaha Beach.

I like to think that a little caption will pop up on the bottom of the tv screen that says "This DVD being by the electric coming off the solar panels in your yard."

Wednesday, December 9

Sequestered

We woke this morning earlier than the alarm to the sounds of sleet against the windows and the wind gusting through the tall pines. Only about 2 inches of snow on the ground but the roads were wet and slick. Roy was glad he had his winter tires on the car this morning!

I am surprised we still have power at this point, not that it would be a totally horrible thing to lose power since we are prepared for it, but the lights are still on here. Making breakfast I stood at the kicthen window watching the long arms of the tall pines waving violently and roaring like a plane engine. We get wind here since we are so near the lake but this was strong and something I have not seen in a while.

It has continued to pour rain all day and the wind has calmed some but it is promised by the weather man to pick up tonight and into tomorrow. Gusts of up to 60mph are predicted and more snow. And the pellet stove is currently off. It has been in despirate need to a good cleaning lately and it is feeding pellets much faster than it should so Roy has to readjust the settings and chip the pellet remains off the gears by the burner. So the baby and I have been using the oil heat/furnace today, reluctantly. if it was just me, I would wear more layers and tollerate the chill but with a baby in the house, the temperature needs to be a little warmer.

So we are voluntarily sequested in the house today, away from the rain and the cold and the wind gusts.

But Snowy, on the other hand, is a different story. She loves it. She loves winter. She is part huskey so she hates teh heat and loves the cold. The colder, the better. Snow and chilly do not bother her. She loves to be outside rather than in the house where the pellet stove usually keeps things nice and toasty in the winter. It is hard to get her to come in sometimes - she would rather sleep outside. But that is where we have to draw the line since we do not want her to get too chilled. So she retreats to the basement where it is cool all year round.

The only other aniamls I have seen today, besides the cats who have been napping on the bed and the couch all day, was one wayward bluejay trying to pick a dried kernel of corn out of some ears I have by the birdfeeders. He seemed to be holding up pretty well and waiting for a lull in the gusts to take off for the nearest cedar tree. I figure that is where most of them are hiding out today and I don't blame them.

So it is just me and the baby, lounging in the living room, warm blankets and afghans on the floor, he in a warm light blue baby track suit and myself sporting comfy jeans and a flannel shirt, enjoying the history channels discussions of the Normandy Invasion. Despite the weather, I can not think of a better day.

Sunday, December 6

Homestead Christmas

A Good Day



Today was a good day. It is Thanks-Birth-Mas here and we really enjoyed this one. Let me explain. Thanks-Birth-Mas is a holiday that my family made up to encompass Thanksgiving, my husbands birthday and the selection and cutting of the years Christmas tree. We have Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day with Roy's family and Roy's birthday is on the 8th so, we decided to get together at my Grandparent's christmas tree farm in Prattsburg, NY to celebrate both occasions and get our tree.

We left the house bright and early in two vehicles - the car with kid seat and the truck to haul the tree. After picking up mom and leaving the truck in their driveway to enjoy a day in Ionia, we drove the 45 minutes to Prattsburg. It was a nice drive - one of my favorites. The weather has been cold here but not a flake of snow graces the Finger Lakes as of yet. This did not stop Bristol Mountain from cranking up the snow making machines and the hazy and rising snow-fog could be seen for miles.

Just outside of Naples we could see the giant wind turbines spinning silently on the tops of the hills. Cars and trucks passed us with the drivers and passengers wearing bright orange but there was not a deer to be seen.

We arrived and were greeted by a warm woodstove fire and the smells of turkey cooking in the oven. Dad was out hunting - had been since about 6:30 that morning. He came in periodically to warm up by the fire.

Lunch was delicious with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and home made applesauce. I brought the home made cookies for desert.

It was very cold but Grandpa still hooked up the wagon and we went out into the field for our tractor ride/tree cutting ride. We picked a soft needle spruce for this year - a perfect shape - for Connor's first Christmas tree. He was bundles up in so many warm winter things that he could not lower his arms or turn his head. He was not entirely thrilled with the whole process but he did not cry and seemed to be relaxing and taking it all in.

Grandpa presented Connor with two more beautiful hand made wooden toys that he had been working on in his shop - a circus car with an animal shaped puzzle inside and a pull along bee toy where the wings move as it is pulled along. Connor loved them and he has added them to his growing collection here at the house.

The drive home was me int he drivers deat with a baby and a husband asleep in the back seat. And after another game of musical vehicles, we dropped off Roy with the truck and headed for home. A half hour and 5 huge does later (they jumped in front of the car but we missed them thankfully), we were home, heating up a bottle and letting Snowy out for a much needed bathroom break.

The baby is now sleeping, the pellet stove is humming away, and the tree is up and glowing. All in all, it was a good day.

Wednesday, December 2

A quote from a personal favorite....

"Late one night I was grinding coffee and listening to a radio show. There was nothing particularly interesting about this. Most nights I get the percolator ready for the next morning, and the radio is almost always on in the kitchen. But that night I realized something mildly profound: A hundred tiny efforts and decisions had converged right there on the countertop.

The radio was crank-powered, and the coffee grinder was an old hand-turner I had picked up at an antique store. I was standing in the glow of my solar-powered lamp with the aid of some beeswax candles. Suddenly, I realized that nothing I was doing required any outside electricity. I was seeing in the dark, grinding locally roasted beans and listening to renewable energy driven entertainment. As mundane as the situation was, it felt perfect."

That is a quote from an article written by jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm. As I have said before here, I am a fan of her writing. And I can't wait for the day that I can say something similar from my kicthen. Or living room. Or bathroom. Or any room for that matter.

In all our efforts to be more self sufficient, we have still yet to master the art of turning things off. I can sit here now on the couch and see at least 10 things that are "ON".

The cable receiver, the clock, the lamp, this laptop, the electric candles I have the windows for the holidays, the lights on the outside bushes, the pelet stove, the ceramic Christmas tree on top of the piano, Roy's Wii on standby, and the little ceramic light-up house decoration that sits on top of the tv, covered in ceramic snow, windows blazing, looking all cozy and inviting. Did I get all 10?

Just writing it all down, I can see what a waste it is. Even witht he solar panels in the side field.

Granted, I love my laptop. And I really like decorating for the holidays and for me that requires a candle in every window and the bushes lit up with LED lights. And I never miss a good episode of NCIS. But I can't help but wonder if it is necessary.

I have gone around the house on occasion and turned everything off. I know that clocks on vcr's can't be turned off, but I turned off everythng I could. And the hosue was quiet. Even with 3 cats, 1 dog and a nine-month old baby boy, it was scary-quiet.

And I really, really liked it. So much so that I dreaded turning things back on.

I would love to have a life of quiet.

But I love tv and laptops and reliable light.

So, I am off to find my happy medium. I will keep the laptop powered up and I will still veg out in front of the tv when he the baby is taking his naps. But after Christmas (I can't give up my decoration lights just yet), I will make a concious effort to be a little more quiet and efficient. A real, hard-thought effort.

Becasue I want to be able to say that I stood in my kitchen doing mundane things and it felt totally perfect.