Saturday, October 30

Inundated (not with chickens)



The past few weeks have proved to be a bad week for trees.

We have been absolutely inundated with political mailers here at the house. I go out to check the mail and I am greeted with glossy 8 1/1 x 11 flyers, printed front and back, with either very nasty or very positive messages about a particular candidate.

Inundate means, literally, a flood. "To overwhelm as if with a flood" according to Webster's. and we are drowning in 'em. I have been keeping track.

We are up to 25 8 1/2 x 11 glossy political mailers in the past few weeks. And yesterday I was greeted with 5 more of the previous plus the bonus round edition of a 15" x 12" poster. Seriously??!!!? The thing hardly fit in the mailbox! It was from Maggie Brooks (shame on her for wasting so many resources). I just toss them. I don't think I can recycle them because of the glossy print. I used to throw them in the fire pit in previous years but when I hear them sizzling and popping in there, I know that can't be good.

In this day of internet and television, I just don’t understand why this form of "getting your name out there" is still done. It is a waste. Any candidate, especially those serious about environmental reforms and who promises them as part of their campaign, should not send out a single one of these things. And it is not just the people who are running for a particular office - special interest groups are sending them out to endorse someone. Even people who do not use the internet are hounded by the commercials on tv all night long. Every commercial break has at least three ads, usually one right after the other.

This makes me glad we have this little thing that lets us record local tv and then skip all the commercials. Just like DVR or TIVO but for local stations.

The exorbitant amount of money wasted from their campaign funds on these mailers could better be spent elsewhere. Although I don’t want to see another tv commercial or billboard. Maybe they can just not spend it? Maybe there should be a limit on the number sent out. Each candidate should only be able to send out so much information.
The amount of money spent on political crap is ridiculous, and I really don't think it changes the way people are going to vote. Personally, I go to the websites of each candidate running in my district and compare what they have to say on the issues that are important to me. Then I make my choices. I do not like to be influenced by someone else’s negative spin.

So my mailbox is full - of mailers and bills, and animal organizations asking for donations (more on this later). It has gotten to the point where the glossy junk has out-numbered my regular mail. It just feels so wasteful and unnecessary.

I searched around the election sites for my district and could not find an 'opt out' form to stop getting political mailers. I did find that Clark County, Nevada has one, but that does not help me. I emailed both NY state and my county to see if could get some answers and have yet to hear back. I did find some sites for opting out of junk mail, which may be helpful since sometimes organizations, including political ones, share lists of names.

Junk Your Junk Mail
Federal Trade Commission
8 Ways To Opt Out Of Junk Mail Lists

So it has been a bad few weeks for trees, and for the environment in general. Not only do we have junk mail galore flooding the mailbox, but I am betting that the printing of all those things produces a ton of waste product. And, all those signs that litter peoples yards and public spaces on roadways came from somewhere, and they must go somewhere after election day. Came from: forest. End up: landfill.

I am dreading the trip to the mailbox today.

Thursday, October 28

New Additions and Winter Concerns



I got a call on my cell this afternoon while dropping off some items at Goodwill. My mom was on the line and she said "Where are you? We are at your house with a cage of chickens!"

I did not know I was getting more chickens. Now I have a total of 22.

My new ladies as 5 month old Rhode Island Reds. They are a very dark brown/red color and none look like roosters, yet. I am going to keep an eye on them and make sure since I am not sure I want a rooster around. But they are all very pretty and distinguished.

I kept them in a separate pen until it was dark and my ladies were asleep in the coop. Then as quietly as I could, I put the six new girls in and crossed my fingers. I am slightly dreading going to the coop tomorrow morning.

So my flock is slowly growing and I am selling eggs to a few regular customers. I am into the schedule of nightly font and feeder filling, as well as the weekly scoop-the-poop session. And I can honestly say that I enjoy having this little flock under my care. We are getting about 13 eggs a day (my lucky number!), and it is enough to keep my customers happy and my family comfortably stocked.

Winter is coming though and I am trying to figure out the best way to care for them in the cold weather. I am thinking that they will spend most of their time in the coop since I do not want them to get frostbite. The coop is big so they will all have plenty of room, even with the 6 new girls. I bought 10 bales of straw for bedding and insulation and I still have the heat lamp that we used for the chicks. Does anyone know if I should have the heat lamp on all the time? Just at night? Just on really cold days? Do I even need it at all?

Any and all advice on 'wintering' chickens would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, October 26

Living 'lite'


With the over and fall coming on strong, the garden is winding down and so it seems also is the anxious feeling of needing to get things done. Summer is always so busy here with endless chores and to-do lists and when things come to a close, it is almost like a sigh of relief.

Not that I don't love summer and all its playing in the dirt - that is one of my favorite things. But I do look forward to the crisp fall and slowing down.

Fall is my time. My favorite season. I love every single color in the fall spectrum -deep yellows, tangy oranges and the shades of green from almost yellow to the pines that never change. It is also a time to go over in my head all of the things that went right in the garden and the things that need improving. That list is long but it makes me happy. It shows me that I am actually accomplishing something here. I am learning from my mistakes and successes.

Since the title of this blog is 'lite' homesteading, I thought I would take stock of our efforts in this area. Again, to learn from the mistakes and successes. Being 'lite' does give me a little freedom to indulge in modern conveniences of all sorts, because, like I have said, I am not Laura Ingalls. I enjoy internet and electric and the grocery store. Not that I don’t mind when the power goes out, the internet goes down, or we spend the evening canning peaches and making bread. We want to do as much as we can for ourselves even though the modern way is right around the corner. And we still use the modern stuff all the time, just in moderation and with consideration.

The biggest thing I think he have done so far is to get the solar panel. It pays for half of our electric bill. And given that we used significantly less electric than the average family, this is a big deal to us. We know we are sucking less energy from the grid, and when we get the batteries installed, we will be able to keep our food fresh in the fridge when the power does go out.

Another of our changes we feel good about is the pellet stove. This will be our third year with it heating our home and I really do not know how we could have survived without it. When we moved in, the house was heated only by oil. It cost a small fortune to fill the tank. Now we have the oil people calling us wanting to know why we are not heating our house since we hardly ever have to buy oil.

And who can forget the ladies - our egg production staff that has kept our fridge full of eggs and provided hours of entertaining poultry television. It really makes everything feel right to have animals here. My daily trips to the coop to collect eggs, check on the fencing and fill fonts and feeders has become one of my favorite chores.

Learning how to knit, growing and preserving our own food, making responsible and informed purchases and decisions - just a few of the things that we have started doing here in the past few years. We are starting here. With our home and property in this imperfect world. So many things to consider and much more to come. More experiments, more discoveries and more learning from our mistakes and successes. It will still be 'lite', but it will be our own take on modern homesteading.

Monday, October 25

It's Gotta Be The Truck.

I love my truck. My red, mulch hauling, feed delivering, used oil returning, freedom machine. My truck does not have a name, it is not a "he" or a "she". The truck is more like a friend that lets me vent and lets me take a few swings to get things off my chest.

It's 10 years old, scratched up, has a few dings, and the upholstery has definitely seen better days. But there is almost nowhere I would rather be than behind the wheel, windows down, radio on. And if I am on my way to Tractor Supply, then that just about as close to perfection as I will get.

Even with a baby seat in it.

Yes, a baby seat. I turn the passenger side airbag off and strap in the kid seat. The little man rides along with me whenever I want to use the truck for something and he loves it. He is up higher and can see all the interesting things on the road, and every farm we pass results in him yelling "tractor! tractor!". He loves tractors.

But even with that baby seat, it still feels cool. Like I have a partner in farm-crime. Spending money on chicken crumbles and Urban Farm magazine; passing a rich brown field being plowed with white birds all over it and thinking it is pretty; driving down to Stuben County to visit my Grandparents farm and stopping at a back woods gas station that smells like beef jerky.

Saturday I went to pick up a load of straw bales for the chicken coop bedding. Is there anything better than seeing a pickup truck going down the road loaded with bales? Just one thing.

Driving the pickup truck loaded with bales.

Friday, October 22

Wasting Doedorant

I have a deodorant dilemma. I know that sounds strange so let me explain.

I have been reading a lot about what is safe and what isn't lately. Food, cleaning products, health and beauty products, baby stuff, pet stuff, etc. Using this information I have been slowly "greening" the house and replacing products with safe options. We have also been buying as much organic, non pesticide and local food as possible.

But back to the household and beauty products thing. This is where the dilemma comes in.

Before we started reading labels, researching and making more informed and responsible choices, we bought the "regular" stuff. Deodorant, shampoo, kitchen cleaner, lipstick, toilet cleaner, and the like. If it was on sale, if we had a coupon, or if it was just the cheap option, we bought it. And we stocked up on things. I liked knowing that we had a supply of the things we needed on hand, even if they were not the greenest of options. And we really didn’t think about it that much. We were on a budget (still are) and that was the end of it.

When we started replacing with the green options, we waited until we ran out of said product. I did not see the point in wasting a half a bottle of Windex by dumping it down the drain (even though I would recycle the bottle). It just seemed like a waste, and part of what we are trying to do is NOT waste. So I would use the rest of the Windex, feeling a mix of guilt and resourcefulness.

And that is basically how we switched just about every cleaning supply and household necessity to a safe option.

My problem is with deodorant. And shampoo, nail polish, hair color, etc. I have a small stock of these things as well and the "use it up first" thing takes on a new meaning here. Using up a bottle of Mr. Clean before buying Green Works took about 2 weeks. Using my stock of Pantine and Herbal Essences would take significantly longer. I am kind of ok with that, and I am not sure why. (guilt? rebellion? conscious ignorance?). The problem is that I have 7 unused, unopened sticks of deodorant in various brands and scents. I also have 4 for Roy in various 'mens' scents, all unopened. Deodorant takes a long time to use up. (Yes, we use it every day. We do not smell. It just takes a LONG time!). And I am worried about the aluminum exposure and the studies that link it to alzheimers. Not to mention all the other chemicals.

But I do not just want to throw them all away in buy a stick of Tom's. It would be such a waste and a brand new product would just go into the landfill. A waste of resources, money, and landfill space. But do i want to use them, which would take quite a while, and keep exposing myself to aluminum and other nasty things?

I never thought that something like this would ever be such a stressful dilemma for me. I am also mad at myself for reading and learning about these things. For giving up my conscious ignorance and opening myself up to constant label reading and becoming one of "those people."

But, if I am going down that road, why aren't I replacing everything in my home? Furniture that has been treated with anti-stain chemicals, clothes that are not 100% sustainable, my lawnmower.

This is going to sound bad. And I think I might be black-listed from the homesteading and sustainable living blog society.

I don't see the need in going out and purchasing a new "green" item to replace something else that works perfectly fine. (gasp!)

Tupperware is a perfect example. I reuse the containers that butter comes in and I have durable Rubbermaid Tupperware that works very well. I am not going to toss it just because it is plastic, add to the landfill, and consume more eco-friendly containers. i just doesn't seem right. When it eventually cracks, the dog gets hold of one, or it just won't come clean anymore, I will recycle it and invest in a green alternative. But I will not make more waste just to say I have sustainable Tupperware.

So what do I do about the deodorant? Keep it and use it? Toss it? Does anyone know of any creative projects involving Speedstick?

Thursday, October 21

Curb-side

People throw out a lot of stuff. You cannot help but notice, when you drive to town, how much is sitting on the curb. Garbage totes are full to overflowing and stuff is piled up next to them. You can't help but look. And sometimes I see something that I can use. But I rarely stop.

Not because I am embarrassed about it or don't have time, but because there is usually a reason that someone if getting rid of something and I do not want to inherit someone else’s headache.

However, the other day, I saw the table. A small, beat-up table that had seen better days and was most likely piled with rusty junk in someone’s garage. It was painted white at one time but it was peeling and flaking. I passed it by and then thought about it. It was the perfect size for that odd space in my kitchen between the fridge and the covered radiator.

I went back and took a look at it. It needed work, but it was salvageable. So into the back of my truck it went, it waited patiently in the parking lot while I got my groceries and ran errands, and then made its way to my driveway.

I sanded it down in the driveway and removed as much of the paint chips as I could, being careful to stay upwind of the paint dust. One of the corners needed to be repaired which was done with two strategically placed wood screws.

Then new paint - a nice light green to match the kitchen trim.

It turned out great, and fit perfectly in the space that I needed. It now holds my indoor compost crock, my egg scale, and my potted African violet which is currently blooming little white flowers.

Does this mean that I should go out scouting for curb-side finds? Since this table worked out so well, should I be looking for other furniture?

I am really thinking no. Not unless it is something I really need and that I cannot see any headaches revolving around it in my future. Then I will spend the time loading whatever it is into my truck.

A note on throwing things out: the other day I was coming home from the library and I passed a man carrying Wal-Mart bags full of apples to the curb. There must have been about 10 full bags of big red apples and I can only think that he must have an apple tree in the back yard and nowhere to throw the apples that he obviously did not want.

Does the fact that this really bothered me make me strange? Maybe it is because I have been really trying to get into homesteading and I am trying to not waste? Too many books on being green? Seeing food in a new way? Probably all of these things. Cider and apple sauce were the first things that came to mind.

In the first place, the guy should have a compost bin in which to throw his apples. But then that would suggest that he had a garden which is probably not likely since he was throwing away perfectly good food, wrapped in non-biodegradable Wal-Mart plastic, and adding to the landfill problem.

And secondly, unless the apples were covered in pesticides or his septic system had miraculously exploded all over his yard, covering the apples will poo, he could have found someone who wanted them. He probably even could have made money on the deal. And something tells me this guy doesn't really care that much about pesticides.

Wednesday, October 20

Chicken Advice Needed



I am worried about Hildred.

She is looking rather ragged as of late and I am not sure why. She has energy, she is eating, and, as far as I can tell, she is still laying.

Her feathers have never been quite right, and she has always had a little "bald spot" on her rear, but it seems to be getting worse. The "bald spot" is much bigger and she has lost a few feathers around her wings. She is also looking a little thin, but she always was a small bird.

All the other ladies appear healthy, happy and plump and i have seen no aggression towards anyone from anyone else.

Is she molting? Is she being picked on by the other ladies when I am not around?

Any advice would be very helpful!

Tuesday, October 19

Book Report



Sleeping Naked is Green
by Vanessa Farquharson

A cheeky, sassy little book that I did think I would like after I started reading it.
But I did like it for the most part. Very informative and entertaining and she talks about green changes but also how they effected the people around her. She seems to be trying to answer the question "are we really making a difference?"

Also, I had no idea there was such a thing as vegan dental floss.

I really like her take on protesting - "the concept of activism provokes so much secondary embarrassment in me. I think of sandwich boards and poor grammar, unnecessary noise pollution in the form of yelling..." So true.

A good quote - "what's the point in learning the speed of train A coming from X as it approaches train B coming from Y that’s traveling at two thirds the speed carrying half as many people if, meanwhile, you have no clue how your bedroom is being heated and what happens to everything you flush down the toilet?" I hear people say 'out of sight, out of mind' which makes me think of people hurling paint half empty paint cans over the hill and pretending that the paint can fairy comes and cleans everything up. It just seems like people don't 'know' anything anymore. Book smart vs. street (or farm) smart.

She makes 366 green changes (1 for every day of the year, plus one since it was a leap year). Some are simple, some are hard, and some are kind of gross. I get a little squeamish when it comes to discussing delicate personal hygiene situations, and I really don't like hearing about other peoples tendencies. But most of the book was very entertaining. And she stuck with 271 (74%) of the green changes after the year was over. After all, "striving for absolute eco-perfectionism would only make me neurotic".

Green as a Thistle
Green Time
Treehugger
One Billion Bulbs

Wednesday, October 13

Lessons




I was going through some albums the other day and I found some nice pictures of my Aunt Sandy. She passed away over a year ago but it feels like just yesterday that I was talking with her about an interesting bit of family history information.

She was the one who fostered and encouraged my love of history and genealogy and taught me the importance of remembering and learning from the past.

She was a talented woman who was not only an historian but an artist, farmer, traveler and friend. She also had pet raccoons at one time - the picture below is her holding one of the "babies".

I worked for her on the farm and helped her dry flowers - one of her talents - and she would make beautiful arrangements to sell at their huge fall farm stand. She would tie them and give them to me to hang in their barn. I would ask where to hang them and she would say to just "find a nail", meaning one of the many that dotted the beams of the old barn.

A lesson to us all: tell the people in your life how much they mean to you while you can.

Friday, October 8

Good Day



Yesterday was a good day - for weather and for knocking quite a few things off the to-do list. Mom came over to keep an eye on little man while I got muddy and sweaty in the garden. I loved every minute of it.

The vegetable gardens are now ready to have a good tilling before winter. Everything we planted is done, and it was a pretty good year. We got a lot of tomatoes, cucumbers, and decorative gourds this year, and even a few corn stalks made it to use for fall decoration. I also managed to take down the huge sunflowers that were severely drooping and that the birds were demolishing regardless. I set all the seed heads out on the front porch for the chipmunks and birds and we get to see the show pretty much 24/7. Blue jays are mean.

The chicken fence has been repaired and holes have been patched in the coop where some of the older boards became loose. The poultry netting on top of the chicken pen is going to need to be reattached before too long since we have had some very windy days here recently. And I have to remove the part closest to the shed anyway for painting. A few good dry fall days and I will have a red shed with white trim.

Behind the shed has gotten quite overgrown due to lack of time to trim branches. So yesterday I went to work with the saw and now that whole area is looking ship shape again. It is quite shady there to begin with so I want to keep it as clear as possible to let light in.

The rest of the day was spent doing all those annoying little things that build up and that you just can't seem to get done. Too many to name here but things like put up the new birdfeeders, clean up yard debris, take all the empty potting containers to the shed, get the grill ready for winter - things like that.

To top it all off, little man behaved wonderfully for Mom (he even took a nap!) and the weather cooperated all day. After Mom went home little man and I flew his butterfly kite and played with the chickens in their tractor. (I had to get that set up today too so they could have a little fresh grass. Their enclosure has seen better days in the grass growing variety).

There was one incident in that a poor little coyote, not a baby but not full grown, was struck by a car sometime over the night. He had managed to crawl towards the woods but only made it to our back yard. My neighbor came over and removed the little guy for me - not wanting to have it in our woods or field so Snowy would not get into it. I makes me sad every time I see an animal in the road. I feel like we are taking so much away from them as a society.

So, except for the coyote, I can say that yesterday was a good day. Cooperation, hard work, getting dirty and the feeling of accomplishment at night. I really want to think that that is what all this 'lite' homesteading is about.

Monday, October 4

Book Report - Can't Beleive I Read This One



Eat Pray Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert

I wouldn't normally pick up this book, and I didn't for a long time. Then I saw the Julia Roberts preview for the movie. Being a big Julia fan, and noticing that the trailer was about travel and just getting up and going, I decided that it might be something I would like after all. I have not yet seen the movie but I have read the book, and I actually really liked it.

I have never meditated and I don't think I will because I just can't get my mind to shut up for longer than about 20 seconds. I would go crazy thinking about all the things I could be getting done instead of sitting on the floor. And it would probably annoy all the metal in my back.

But I look at her, Elizabeth Gilbert's, picture on the back cover of the book and she looks so peaceful. She is smiling like she knows something I don't. Like she has found the secret of the universe and risen to a plain that I probably will never know. She looks as though she doesn't have a care in the world. But still has everything just so, so she will not worry about her bills but she won't lose her house either. Did all this blissful living come from meditation and self discovery? Now I am torn - should I sit on the floor for hours to get this bliss?

A part of the book I enjoyed was when she was in Italy and she was talking with a friend about the "word". In the book, "every city has a word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there. And if you’re personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don't really belong there." Examples: NYC=Achive,Los Angeles=Succeed, Stockholm=Conform. Of course, I had to stop reading and immediately try to think of what my word was. Not the word of the town I live in because, let’s be honest, I spend as much time as possible NOT in town. It was not as hard as I thought. I just came to me and it felt right. I could not think of a negative point that would apply. My word is 'quiet.' Does that say that I am not living in the right place? Noise is here even though we are on a back road and town is just a few minutes away. Should I be living in rural Maine?

A good quote from the book that i think everyone can use in some way: "you should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead."

And another good quote "...admitting to the existence of negative thoughts, understanding where they came from and why they arrived, and then - with great forgiveness and fortitude, dismissing them." If only it was that easy. What a wonderful thing that would be. So organized and so planned and so in control. I would love to have my mind work like this. Example: I feel like I am going to have a massive panic attack, throw up and make everyone around me miserable. I feel this way because the heat is turned up to 100 degrees in the mall and it is horribly crowded because it is December 23rd. I forgive myself for feeling like a weak loser and maybe I will let myself throw up later just for fun, but for now I have to buy gifts for 12 people so please be dismissed, you horrible panic thoughts. How freaking cool would that be!

And how perfect is this: "The word paradise, which comes to us from the Persian, means literally "a walled garden." Paradise would be some placed walled for me, wouldn't it. No people, no interruptions, no noise. Just me lounging behind a big stone wall weeding my tomatoes. Ah, paradise.......

Good book, very interesting, kind of spacey with the self discovery stuff, but all-in-all, I really liked it. It makes you think about things but not so much that you get all philosophical and stuff. That would not be productive in before bed reading.

Sunday, October 3

In The Blood....



That's my Dad, early 1970's. Since my great, great, great Grandfather came over fron Tipperary, Ireland in the mid-1860's, they have been farming in one form or another.

And that's my Mom.

Saturday, October 2

Book Report


Twelve by Twelve
by William Powers



I liked this one, but it didn't have enough of what I really like - the day to day descriptions of life. He goes off on tangents at times, and he gets philosophical quite a bit what annoys me at times. Thinking too much into things always annoys me just a bit. (Reminds me of my college days when a writing teacher would put an empty paper cup on the table and ask as to meditate on what this cup would say about our society to someone who might dig it up in 500 years. Totally too much into crazy town for me but when forced to, it was not hard to come up with the obvious mystical answers).

But I did really like his thoughts on solitude: "whereas loneliness is clingy and needy, solitude is expansive and luminous." His distinction between loneliness and solitude is a good one for me. I have often wondered if there was something wrong with me for not wanting to deal with many people. If I was strange or really anti-social. People sometimes assume that the lady who lives in the house alone with her cat must be lonely. Maybe she just seeks solitude for the joy it brings.

The whole idea of the 12 X 12 house is to simplify and what comes from that simplification. A great quote: "part of the joy of simplifying one's material life is that you don't have to work long hours to buy and maintain a bunch of stuff."

Taxes and retirement savings aside, the need for disgusting amounts of wealth is, well, just that - disgusting. Not that I think people who make a ton of money should be obligated to donate a ton of that money to charity, but I just think that all the waste and need for more, more more is not good for anybody. Priorities and the need for them are a great lesson I took away from this book.

Friday, October 1

Book Report



No Impact Man
by Colin Beavan

A quick read and pretty good. Day to day struggles and solutions - just what I love in a good eco-book. Even the cool cardboard looking cover was a plus. (I am a tactile person).

Some political stuff, some tangents but mostly great and I recommend it. I do not think I would be able to do, or would ever want to do, all the things he does (and makes his wife and kid do), but I do have to admit that it was interesting to see that you actually CAN do all these things and not die of dysentery.

At one point he talks about "disengaging from the political process, deciding that it had lost its ability to change and act, which is why I struck out on a course of individual action." Aside from the fact that I have 99% disengaged from that same political crap, I don't know how effective the 'individual action' is on a whole. I have been back and forth with this idea of one person actually making a difference since we started our mission of sustainability and I have come to the conclusion that it is more about knowing that you did what you could. I just don’t like how it is paired with political junk, which makes the whole thing seem like a pointless protest of some sort.

All in all, a great read with some ideas that I might be trying.