This morning when I woke up, I had this blog post already written in my head. As I scanned it while thinking about it, I knew I had to get up and write it down immediately. This is a long post, but important and necessary. I also apologize to anyone who is a dedicated blog post reader and has heard this all before. I think I need to reiterate it to remind myself.
Ever since I was small, I loved nature. I don’t know why particularly, I just did. Growing up, I loved spending time in the country, around plants and animals and anything from the natural world. I took biology and ended up taking Agriculture in University.
Looking at career options, I was not pleased. A good paying job was most likely to be found in a province that I was not willing to live in (for several reasons), so I got sidetracked into a job that kept me in this location, but not really contributing to anything on the nature side of things. I had access to nature, but not a viable way to contribute to it’s health in the form of a career.
The main thing I didn’t want was a commute, which I had done previously for 2 years and which was draining and annoying and can take the life right out of you if done too long. Finally I was able to create a self-sustaining business right here where I lived.
So, now there was the time and energy for nature. I suspect this might have something to do with many people’s lack of interest or ability to contribute to the health of the planet – being tired and stressed from work. Change takes effort and when your effort is going into a job that is energy draining (as most are), you have little left after work for anything but the basics.
Anyway, this year we, Ernie and I, have decided to make a serious effort to live differently. We have been moving towards this for several years and refining our thinking and actions and have come up with many things that we feel will help move us and others towards living more kindly towards the planet. We are also now actively promoting this lifestyle to people (tactfully), hoping that they will make a few changes to their lifestyles to help out and make a difference. We do not lecture anyone, but simply mention things we and others can do in our daily conversations with people in our area.
The following are the things we ourselves are doing to feel that we are working towards the goal of protecting the health of our planet.
- Working towards growing all our own vegetables and fruits. We grow 80% of our veggies but only about 25% of our fruit. Producing our own fruit is more difficult but not impossible. We buy oranges, blueberries in season, cherries in season, and macintosh apples which we can’t grow here. We have our own apples, Saskatoons (Service berry), and raspberries. For veggies we buy cauliflower and radishes, both of which we can’t grow here successfully, and hothouse cucumbers from a different province and mushrooms grown locally. Everything else we grow ourselves and process for winter or do without.
- Reducing the amount we drive dramatically and walk as much as possible. This is easy to do especially in cities where you have public transit and can cycle most times of the year. In the country it is more difficult especially if you choose to live away from a larger centre where things need to be trucked in or you have to drive longer distances to get somewhere or buy something. As society moves towards more digital based commerce, it is likely that most things will be delivered which will save on individual car driving.
- Feed our pets as naturally and with as little waste as possible. Our dogs eat mostly raw meat, with some cooked foods such as sardines and tripe. Meat and eggs are obtained as much as possible from local ranchers/farmers. Sometimes we have to buy meat from the store, but if we do that, we save the plastic and styrofoam meat trays and reuse them for many things. There is almost no waste, where as if we fed dry dog food we would be throwing away big dog food bags, about three larges one a month. These are lined with aluminum and plastic for freshness and are not recyclable.
- Attempting to eliminate new purchases of plastic items and reduce the use of disposable plastics. This is a non-negotiable. I feel this is the most serious environmental issue that needs to be addressed currently. If we have some re-usable plastic, we won’t get rid of it just because we don’t want plastic around, but use it until it is not in good condition anymore. We don’t use shampoo anymore (water wash only) and very few store bought personal products so there is much less plastic waste. This is an area I’d like to reduce even more.
- We RE-USE EVERYTHING at least once. If it can’t be re-used, we will try not to buy it or find an alternative to it that is re-usable.
- Find new uses for most, if not all things that would normally be thrown out. This includes clothing, furniture, wood or any building material etc.
- Composting our waste. There is much that can be composted that people are not aware of, that would reduce the amount of garbage, maybe not useable for food plants, but compostable nevertheless. Cardboard is compostable by worms for instance.
- Support ethical and low-intensity animal farming for meat. We will never be vegan as veganism is not a diet but an ethical position that rejects using animals for food, clothing, entertainment and other reasons, like having pets. Yes, if you have a pet you cannot be vegan by definition. I would resort to calling yourself a “strict plant-based eater” instead. I consider myself a plant-based” eater because my diet is based on plants, but I also eat meat and eggs and a very small amount of artisan cheese. I will also not give up my connection with other species on this planet especially dogs. I feel it is a natural way for humans to live, interacting with animals. That said, I do not agree with factory or large scale animal farming. People can eat less meat and we can raise and slaughter food animals better and more humanely. We can live in harmony with animals in our lives and in domesticity. If I can’t have animals in my life because of the beliefs of a few radical people, I don’t want to be here at all.
- We save things from the garbage. There are so many things being thrown out in dumps and landfills that shouldn’t or don’t need to be thrown out. Ernie and other people we know have salvaged many, many things from being burned at the dump, and we have found ways to reuse these things.
- When we buy food, we make a great effort to buy products that are produced in this country, and even better, from within our community. All our meat and eggs come from local farmers and ranchers. It is not more expensive when you eat less. We also eat wild meat, specifically deer, which is low in fat as all wild meats are. For those of you who are opposed to hunting but still eat meat, unless you only purchase meat from animals that are dispatched on the farm and under no stress from transporting, then the meat is not at the highest quality. Wild deer are not terrorized by hunting anymore than they would be if they were being hunted by wolves or coyotes, whereas transporting animals to a slaughterhouse is very stressful on the animals.
- We don’t follow fashion trends. If something is not “trendy” or current in style we don’t get rid of it. Fashion is not really important. That being said, for some people it is important, but it is a throw-away culture. Furniture, knick-knacks, clothing, etc can be kept, saved, reused. Humans do need re-adjustment on the way we think about consuming things. We choose to buy good quality, and yes, more expensive items that last longer and do not give these things an expiry date based on what the current fashion or trends are. If something is in bad shape we simply find other uses for it until it is no more. I like the idea of finding one’s own style without the influence of consumerism. There are some amazing products in the marketplace that are high quality and unique and thoughtfully made. This is what I look for when thinking about a purchase (which isn’t often).
- Houseplants. Or how about just plants in general. Need I say more? OK, I will. I’m obsessed with plants. It’s what I studied in university. I love them. Tree, shrubs, flowers, food plants, houseplants. They are useful (in all kinds of ways) and houseplants bring nature into the home. The more I have the better I feel mentally. Having a few or several in your home is beneficial for you and your surroundings, reminding us even in snowy and cold winters (if you have them) that the plant, and planet, needs assistance to live.
- Writing about what we’re doing. This is a great way to spread information and ideas to assist others in changing perceptions about how we live. Ernie and I don’t presume to know what you do or can do in your own area, but where we live, since the community is small, we can come in contact easily with others to communicate information. Writing and posting on the internet is the same thing. Easy and convenient, and it works. If you think about it, I’ll bet there are several things you could do where you live now to spread the word.
I’m sure there are more things that you and I can and will come up with to contribute in your way to this planet project, which MUST be done now. There is now more fooling around and we cannot go back. We must do this together.
I’m going to address each of the things above in much more detail in regular blog posts starting today (well yesterday, May 1st 😉). It won’t be a daily post, but it will be posted!
Now that I have said all this, I want to emphasize, that this post is NOT a criticism list, to make people feel crappy about how little they are doing. This is a SUGGESTION list, describing mostly what we do ourselves and what CAN be done, and how important I feel this is. We want to encourage you ( I know most of you who read this are already doing this stuff) and show how easy it is to do some of these things, give ideas and to impress upon people how important it is to do these things. That’s it. We’re not saying how great we are, or that you’re a bad person for not doing what we are. Instead, I’m simply giving information. If you feel defensive or angry at some of these suggestions, that is not my fault. It is something for you to examine within yourself, why you feel that way.
Then, once you have done that, take action and do something great for your city/town, province/state, community, and most importantly for yourself and your family!
Our homestead is unconventional but is one nonetheless. It is one because we are homesteaders by vocation. We do the most we can for the environment, self-sufficiency and frugality.
To do and be all these things, it is important to have a daily routine that gets stuff done but is flexible to things that might come up. And things always come up.
Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing something. There is nothing really wrong with that. Feelings are facts, I always say. The only thing that absolutely needs to get done are those things that involve taking care of animals or if the garden is very weedy. The rest of the time I follow a schedule that removes the need to make too many decisions about what I need to do.
I work from home, so in the morning I have to get my work done before I do anything else. This means I get up early (well early for me, just 7 a.m.) to work on the computer. I do that for an hour and a half. The quiet is what I need and the dogs and Ernie are still sleeping. There is minimal traffic noise. So at least I can get a good amount of work done first thing.
At 8:30 a.m. I feed the dog and myself. The new puppy is learning the routine now and doesn’t fuss in the mornings after breakfast. I work again from 9:00 – 10:00. From 10:00 – 10:30 the puppy gets a playtime and the other dogs a stretch, so that I can start working again from 10:30 – Noon.
Since we don’t have any livestock other than dogs (yet), I spend the afternoon working with them. I train and video that and then edit and upload videos to YouTube. I may also at this time video something for Homesteading 101 as well.
When I start making supper around 4 p.m., things are a little more chaotic but still get done, because I am not thinking about all the other work I have to get done – it’s already done because I stuck to the schedule. This is where I can feel the benefit fully of getting work done in the morning. I haven’t had most of the day to think about what I haven’t done. When you have many things to do that are just regular routine things and are fairly unimportant (not talking about taking care of animals here), it is easy to let those things take over your time.
This is the time I spend with Ernie and the dogs. If we feel like working on something and are not too tired, we do. If not we don’t.
It took a while to get this schedule figured out, even though it’s pretty simple. I have made numerous schedules in the past, and have never been able to follow them. With this one, I seem to be able to make it work.
Maybe it’s because of the simplicity of it. I have no choices at certain times of the day. Removing other options of what to do reduces decision fatigue which I have found to be a real problem in the past. Because it seemed like there were so many things to do (even though they were unimportant), I became frozen – not knowing what to do first.
If I take care of the the thing that is most important to me first thing in the morning so that it gets done, I don’t have to worry about finding time later. If I don’t do it first thing, it won’t get done.
So that is mainly how I manage my time on the homestead. Things that need to get done may change, but I will always remember to get the most important things done early.
Recently I wrote a blog post (ok not really recently but sort of) talking about how we were going to do more travelling and I would work from wherever I was.
Well, talk about messing up plans.
Two weeks ago we went on one of these trips – a camping trip – to a campground not too far away, about three hours. Both Ernie and I didn’t really want to go but because I was determined to go and had done so much planning to do so, we went.
Right at the end of the trip, one of our dogs passed away. Not just any dog. Not one of the 15 year olds, but our youngest and most active and my best pal, Miranda. She had an infection that had gone unnoticed by us and undiagnosed by the vet. She was on a medication that depressed the immune system to stop her from chewing her feet. She picked up a bladder infection which spread. I was weaning her off the med when she crashed. We took her to the vet where we were and they tried their very best, but it wasn’t to be.
Needless to say, we realized that we were focusing on the wrong things. Should I say I was.
Taking care of what you have is so very important. Because of this tragedy in our lives, I have a push to make the transition to homesteading full time and staying put. I had mentioned in my earlier blog post how I had wanted to travel ever since I was small. I guess I was wrong. I also can no longer look (groom, pet sit, or train) after other people’s dogs, something you may have heard me discuss in the past, but now seems pressing to do.
It often takes something major to happen to snap us out of, or move us toward what we really should be doing. Unfortunately, this realization usually happens after the fact.
I know this all sounds kind of silly, but when you have a feeling about something, listen to it. Feelings are facts in my opinion. You don’t have to read everything I post, but just know that your support is very helpful. Thanks.
Pets are an expense. Food and vet bills are the main issues. When I consider feeding my dogs on the homestead, I always feed the best food I can find. This doesn’t always mean bought food either.
Dogs need to eat well just like we do. What they eat affects their health. Having six dogs and many more over the years and being a pet professional, I have tried all kinds of store bought dog foods as well as those I prepared myself and I have seen many different kinds being fed to their dogs by clients.
On the homestead, the more food I can provide for my dog the better.
This is what we do:
We Feed Dry Dog Food
We buy the best quality dry dog food we can find that is made in the closest location to us. Yes, we use a dry dog food for convenience. Yikes! Isn’t this the opposite of a homesteader’s thinking? In a way yes and in a way no.
By yes I mean that it is not self sufficient and likely NOT the most ideal thing for a dog. By no I mean that I have always felt that our dogs need to be able to eat from many different sources. Often, I have worked with a dog who has been babied and won’t eat anything but certain types of food. I expose our dogs to many different kinds of foods and this includes a good quality dry food.
So if you are a “purist” and want to and can feed your dog raw or only stuff from your homestead, great. It can be done. I have fed raw in the past for years, but currently don’t have the access to the kind of meat I want to feed to six dogs. Also, two of my dogs are 15 years old and can’t chew bone anymore. They also are starting to not eat, so I give them whatever I can that is tasty enough to interest them AND give them nutrients they need.
We Feed Cooked Fish
We buy canned salmon and sardines, and fish that was caught from the local area lakes. Don’t forget that if you are or want to be a “raw” feeder, canned fish is cooked and so is not raw. All fish caught in local lakes is cooked before feeding to the dogs.
We Feed Scraps
All scraps have to be whole foods i.e. NOT processed meats, foods with additives etc. Our scraps include things liked cooked potato and other veggies, meat scraps like chicken, venison, beef, pork etc. If there is fat, we still feed it but are extremely careful not to feed too much at once.
We also buy dog cookies/treats at this time from the pet store, but that is also for convenience and we buy from companies that are as local as possible with the best ingredients as possible.
We Feed Meat From Local Sources
We get meat locally. The beef is grass fed from nearby ranchers and we get chicken from a woman who raises them herself. We used to get pork from a farmer but have not had any for a few years. Ernie also hunts during the season, and sometimes the dogs get extra deer meat, but we always cook the deer. The deer antlers are also given to the dogs instead of bones to chew. If I feed bones they must always be raw. We only give chicken bones as we have had bad experiences feeding other bone.
If I feed raw meat only on one day, I make sure to always give bone meal if it is beef or feed the chicken with the bones. Feeding raw meat exclusively without bone leads to nutrient imbalance.
We also feed raw or cooked eggs. If we have farm eggs then we feed raw. If not, then the eggs are cooked. In the fall we have apples from our trees but make sure not to give too many so that they don’t eat too many seeds. Most seeds go right through because they don’t chew them, but just to be cautious we watch how many they eat.
And thats about it really. Basically, we try to keep it simple and not feed processed food from the grocery store. Dry dog food is processed but with the high quality that we buy I am not worried about that. If we come into a regular source of local meat for the dogs, I will start feeding that.
Recently, my homemade dryer arm was completed with the help of several reused/recycled metal and plastic parts – and a new grooming arm that was purchased 2 years ago that I have never really used. Ernie pieced together the contraption so that I could brush out a dog’s coat while having the air blow on it without having to hold it myself.
The dryer sits in a piece of plastic that came from the back shack and is attached to an old plastic tripod. The arm moves in and out and turns from side to side, so I can adjust where the air is blowing. This frees up my hands to hold a dog and brush at the same time. Works great. Many things were saved from being chucked in the garbage.
The other day my hubby and I were making salsa.
Whoop-te-do some of you may say. Why not just go out and buy it?
This was me thinking to myself as we were working, because people have said this to me before and I have heard many say this in regards to other things.
So, I came up with the answer while we were working.
We do it because we can, NOT because we HAVE to. Buying food from the store is for those who HAVE to. They have no other choice. They don’t have the knowledge, space, time, ability etc. The more you buy, the more the money you need. I work from home about part time at my own businesses (yes more than one). The rest of the time I put into making food, cleaning and other things to save money so I don’t have to go out to work.
If I went out to work, I would be exhausted at the end of the day and not be able to cook, clean etc, so we would be eating poorly with prepared, store bought foods. Sure I would be making more money but I wouldn’t be saving it. We would be eating out more, buying more processed foods, and going on expensive vacations more because of the stress of the job.
This month (March) we were able to get our grocery bill down to $185.00 for two people. This is for dairy and staples including paper products. We don’t shop at the cheapest store – just the local co-op. However, we do have a garden, hubby gets a deer in the fall, we get a fish a week from the local lake, we barter for eggs and beef (which is also partly to feed our dogs), and we buy a whole pig from a local farmer for about $180.00 (feeds us for over a year). We eat WELL. If we didn’t, we would feel deprived.
Part of the work we do to save money is slaughter our own beef and pig and do our own fishing. This time would otherwise be spent working for others. By doing this we also learn amazingly important skills and a reverence for life.
I am not telling you all this to show how great we are. My point is that anything can be done. Truly. My point is that people make choices. Choices create movement towards goals and accomplishing them. You either want to do something or you don’t. As Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try”.