Friday, March 9, 2012

Is technology destroying our sense of community?

I read and interesting article today. It talked about how the internet and cell phones have given us more opportunities to communicate then ever before. Yet we are more isolated than any other time in history.
Remember when if you wanted to talk to someone you called them? Maybe you can remember when a friend might even just (gasp) stop by to talk. How about when you wanted to tell someone you were thinking of them and sent a card. Remember getting a card in the mail, opening it and smiling over it, then sitting on your counter so you could see it when you walked by.
Here is a freaky thing... remember when you talked to people in line at the grocery store? No, you weren't texting or emailing or chatting on your phone you were actually acknowledging another persons existence.
Now don't get me wrong I am guilty too. I am just wondering what technologies we actually benefit from.
I read a lot of blogs and gain a ton of information from the internet. I have earned money buying and selling online. This money has been a great help on our path to being debt free.
I've been thinking about this and I have decided what I find beneficial and what I find detrimental. The last week or so I have spent hours on the computer. The dark dreary weather of the Pacific Northwest has managed to keep me glued to my recliner after work for hours.
 I am going to cut back on my computer time starting today! Now I needed to decide what is good and what is bad about my time on the computer. The last week or so I have been searching craigslist excessively and watching tv episodes on my computer, at the same time I have been neglecting my blog and my blog reading. Basically the opposite of what I want to do.
I also have mixed feelings about Facebook.  I am having a hard time finding any value in it. I guess I see posting from my favorite blogs but I usually read their blogs anyway. There are definitely privacy issues with Facebook as well.
Some of you are probably saying that the internet is a source of relaxing or entertainment. I am going to seek my entertainment elsewhere. Maybe I will watch a movie with other Homo Sapiens, maybe I will seek out other humanoids and play a board game where you interact with people.Maybe I'll talk to my neighbor next time I see them outside.
I know it sounds crazy but I'm going for it.
Can one person change a city, or even a city block into a community? No but we are not alone there are many others who. whether they know it or not, are craving human interaction.
I think sustainability can be very consistent with nurturing a community. Focus on your little piece of the world! Grow your own and share, share tools,share knowledge and most importantly share compassion. There is nothing more powerful then truly listening to a person and showing you care.
I realize this post is rambling but I have a lot of thoughts rattling around in my head. Look for more posts coming up and please share your thoughts on these matters.

So here is my little experiment.......for the next two weeks I will be limiting my internet use both in time and in content. I will actually have more blog time but no TV shows or excessive Craigslist. I am also going to take a break from Facebook and re access it's value.
I am also going to make a concerted effort to interact with actual people more........ I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Putting in the new raised beds

It's been awhile since I have posted but I have got some things done. I recently took a long weekend and was able to get my new raised beds in. I found some great rough cut 1" X "10 Cedar boards in twelve foot lengths from Craigslist. I decided carrying 12 foot boards in my 6 foot truck bed was not for me. I thought I'd take a chance and see if he would deliver the lumber and to my surprise he delivered 25 miles to my front door for only $20! I felt really blessed by this and he shared some pictures of his garden and his new Hugelkulter gardens he is experimenting with. So with the boards at hand the construction began in my garden. I had a tough time getting the layout down . One of my goals was to try to take more advantage of my rock wall. To accomplish this I built the South end of the beds even with each other and "stair-stepped" the North end to get an equal amount of space between the beds and the wall in order to put my most heat-loving plants nearer the wall.

I knew the best weather I could expect in February was cold and occasional showers so I knew I needed to be prepared. I decided to make my shed into a temporary break room and shelter from the heavier squalls.
My rest spot notice the thermos on the shelf? I'm going to call this" my happy spot"!

So what's better than working with electrical power tools in the rain? I ended up getting quite a bit done. I think leveling the beds was almost as hard as building them. I got them in and leveled and didn't run out of coffee. It was nice to get them in.
Almost leveled.
I have decided to remove all the soil and bark mulch from my garden area and replace it with crushed rock. I am hoping to get some better drainage and retain more heat. The second day was spent scraping the topsoil and well composted wood chips from my garden bed and putting it in the new beds. On my next days off i will be adding compost and soil to finish off the beds.
Looking to the North

I have  nine, ten and eleven foot beds, all four feet across.
In the top photo you can see the edge of my territory. The dark pot is for Mary's petunias.
She normally has five pots the first one isn't in the picture.
While we were admiring the beds she actually said " Maybe we could move this pot to the front and you could put your new apple trees here so they can get the full sun". After I regained consciousness I realized she had actually given me more space for my gardening! Now if I can just get her to let me take out part of the back lawn. Hmmmmm better not push it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The home and garden show !!

My wife and I recently attended the home and garden show in Seattle and what a blast! I don't venture into the big city often so I must have really wanted to go. The display gardens were pretty incredible. They were a great displays of a gardeners vision and handiwork.
Some of the stone work was pretty amazing when you considered it was all set up in a few days inside of  a building. The displays were complete with waterfalls and Koi ponds!
I have to admit though we really enjoyed the marketplace. We didn't buy a lot but it was pretty cool looking at all the greenhouses and all the merchandise. Some of my favorites were hand crafted items.
I looked at some wonderful hand tools that were hand forged by a local blacksmith. There was a lot of art and hand made items.
It was a good opportunity to get to know some local artisans.
I also found some local sources for plants and seeds. There was a local beekeeper who had many great products. All in all a great time.
I think the highlight of the day was the the class we took on winter gardening.
It was taught by Annette Cottrell who hosts a great blog, you can find it at:
Annette is a rockstar in the sustainable living field. Kind of like the Jimmy Hendricks of Urban Farming :)
She has also co-written a book called The Urban Farm Handbook. After the class I picked up a copy and had her sign it. It was nice to meet the person behind the blog I had learned so much from. I gained a lot of useful information but maybe more importantly I gained inspiration!
I hope to incorporate some of the ideas I learned into my garden redesign. I also learned the importance of the huge rock wall that runs on one side of my garden.
This 12 foot tall rock wall runs the entire length of my back yard and garden.

I hope to better utilize the heat it produces to enhance my heat loving plants as well as moderate temps in the winter.
We spent about 5 hours there and could have spent a little more time browsing and went to at least one more class. The plan for next year is a full day with a long lunch.
I will be putting in most of my redesigned garden in the next week. It will be a lot of work and I seem to change something in my head every time I go out there. My next post will include the framework of the new garden. I have several veggies started under my fluorescent lights in my garage and they will need a home soon! What are you growing?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Are frugality and decluttering incompatible?

I have done a lot of studying on frugality. I wish I was as good at being frugal as I am about studying how to be frugal. Now I know a few people who are , at least what I consider, frugal and it seems they have a lot of stuff. They save odd containers in case they want to store small pieces of...well..something that has a lot of small pieces. They save every tool, nail and screw they have ever owned. When they need something they either have it or make something else work.
Personally when I save that much stuff I usually buy a new one when I need it and then discover the one I kept from 3 years ago shoved in the back of a drawer the next week. 
Recently I have been thinking about decluttering. I know I have way to much "stuff" but what if I need it someday? How foolish would it be to throw out a sour cream container when it is the perfect size for starting tomatoes?
The fact remains that we have to create a balance between our making good use and re purposing our items and accumulating so much "stuff" that it begins to complicate our lives.
A perfect example is my garage. I recently did a major organizing/decluttering job on it. My garage, although we do park a car in it, is my shop, lawnmower repair facility, seed starting area, storage and a few other things area.
As I went through it I realized there are no hard and fast rules on decluttering. I have heard the old "if you haven't used it in six months get rid of it" rule but that isn't always right. For instance I have special tools for changing drum brakes, now I haven't used those in about two years but I know I will be using them within the next year or so. That means those will be staying in the tool box.
My biggest struggle came when I begin going through the shelves and drawers in one my work areas. After cleaning off the top and rearranging the pegboard it looked really nice. However, I new what was inside the cupboards and drawers. What a mess.
As I stared blankly into a couple of drawers that I had been stuffing things into I got overwhelmed. I knew what I had to do.....I had to call in a professional!
"Honey! Could you help me in the garage for a minute" Yes I wasn't messing around I called in the "A" team of organization-my wife! Even though the "for a minute" turned into a couple of hours she helped me get the ball rolling.
I have to admit I did wince a little bit when she made me throw out about 20 Altoids tins I had been hoarding for things. With her help I began to see what I really should keep. I ended up eventually going through my entire shop and got a bag of garbage and two garage sale/Ebay boxes of "stuff".
One of my work areas. With free Craiglist cabinets.

In the end my shop just plain feels better. I know where everything is and it is easy to get to quickly. So what area in your house is stressing you out? You need to be strong and get rid of a lot of stuff! It is true that less is more! Only you can strike that balance between keeping things to re-purpose and getting rid of them to rid yourself of clutter.
You have to remember though our grandparents use to "save everything" they only had a fraction of the stuff we get today!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The most important step to become more sustainable?

I have always tried to have a little garden. Mostly raised beds. They were always more of a hobby and who wouldn't like  a few fresh garden veggies?
At some point a couple of years ago I started reading about a bunch of crazy people who were "moving toward sustainability". What the heck does that mean? I decided to dig into it a little deeper.
I started to do something very dangerous and dare I say......rebellious.
I started questioning. I was testing everything that I knew about food. What is in the food I eat ? Where does it come from? Who makes sure it is safe? Who harvests and prepares this food and what are their working conditions?

Chicken Sandwich anyone?

Armed with a boatload of questions I turned to.....Google and YouTube of course and then stumbled onto blogs. I discovered there were a lot of people out there who had the same questions I did.
I watched documentaries like Food Inc.,King of Corn and others. I read books like "The Omnivores Dilema".
Who knew I was eating fresh fruit that was anything but fresh, laden with pesticides and shipped from thousands of miles away.
Even though learning about my supermarket fruits and veggies was awful, it was nothing compared to finding out what the rest of the "food" I was buying contained.
Then I started  to wonder where my fast food burgers came from and what was that "meat" made of.
Then a funny thing happened....I got overwhelmed. In fact, I got so overwhelmed that I did nothing for a while. Then I realized what I needed to do, so....

The most important step to become more sustainable?

It's the first one!

Don't try to do it all at once and never compare yourself to other people. Simply start where you are and move forward with one thing. Start small and plant a few veggies'

 One of my first gardens at my current house

 Stop eating fast food for a week. You get the idea start slow but start now.

 Time to start the journey!

It's okay to look ahead at where you want to ultimately end up but don't expect to get there overnight.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Save the greenhouse!

Winter came in with a vengeance! Our usually mild Pacific Northwest winter changed very quickly the last few days after 4 days of snow we have nearly a foot of snow. The snow ended with a nice ice storm. Everyone around here is getting cabin fever and looking forward to the warm up this weekend even though it will be a mess.
My main focus this week has been keeping the snow off my greenhouse. It isn't much of a greenhouse but it does the job. I bought it at a local hardware store on sale for $99. I have built a frame on the bottom to hold it down in order to stop it from blowing away. It fits my little yard perfectly. I had to go out every few hours and knock the snow off.The snow is stopping so I think it survived!

My blueberry bushes were also a concern as they were heavy with snow. I kept going out and shaking the snow off them. I wondered if I should have moved them into the greenhouse but they are in very heavy pots.
I think the worst is over though.
My front yard shrubs were really buried.

And the Kale I have in the front for decoration was frozen solid and it will be interesting to see if it survives.

Hopefully the worst is over and we can get back to our "normal" weather of 40 degree rain :) I have some projects and organizing to do in my garage but a 25 degree garage is no fun to work in. What are you doing to keep busy this winter?


             This Post is part of the Homestead Barn Hop! Check it out!

Welcome to my blog!!

So after much debate and even more procrastination I have decided to start a blog! I have been following and learning from so many blogs I thought it was time to throw my own two cents in. I have grown tired of being "normal" and with my wife at my side we have decided to make some major changes in our life.
Some of the things we have done so far?
To fight back on the food front we have started taking our garden more seriously. We are eating more whole food and beginning to find local sources for our food.
For our debt we have developed a hybrid "3 year plan" to become debt free. We have used some of Dave Ramsey's techniques as well as some self-control and lots of reading for help and inspiration.
So tell me are you ready to stop being "normal"?