Thursday, January 22, 2009

Answers to Your Questions

I want to thank those who read my blog and have been writing to me with questions. I am recieving so many that I thought I would answer a few of them here.

Security Lights: for night time lighting, there are many options in solar lighting. We are planning to utilize some of these to light the areas near the home. It will also be a possibility for lighting around the animal stables & poultry coop.

Computer: We are looking into the build-your-own types of alternaitive solar & wind power systems. This would power our computer and also any small appliances, such as my wheat grinder and slow cooker.

Indoor Lighting: currently we use oil lamps for our primary lighting source with jar candles as a secondary source. We have a coleman lantern that we are finding is much cheaper & provides better lighting than the oil lamps. We are going to start using it more. It is a dual-fuel lantern which allows for using unleaded gas as a fuel alternative which is much less expensive than the cans of coleman lantern fuel. The overall fuel cost for the lantern less than 50% of the cost of lamp oil. A lighting option that we are looking into is the portable solar lanterns. These would make an excellent option in that there would be no need for puchasing fuel. They are also a safe option for leaving on overnight as a nightlight for the children or for carrying out to the stables to tend the animals. Joe has even talked about having the solar lights along the path to the privy, possibly even solar lighting inside the privy also.

Doing Laundry by Hand: One question that I am often asked is how long it takes to do laundry by hand when compared to an electric washing machine. When I do the laundry, I do about 3 loads at a time. One day, I had some heavy quilts to wash, so I decided to see how the 2 methods compared. I start the hand washing by running a bath tub of hot soapy water and soaking the clothing for about 30 minutes. This will soften and loosen any dirt in the fibers of the fabric. After it had soaked, I put a quilt in the washing machine. Unfortunately only one fits at a time. I then started the machine and began hand washing the laundry in the tub using a scrub board. As I washed each item, I wring it out and set it aside in a basket. Once all the laundry was washed, I drain & rinse out the bath tub and refill with more hot water to rinse all the laundry. By the time I had washed and rinsed each item, I had hand washed 3 machine loads worth of laundry. This included our clothing, towels, and wash cloths. As I was finishing up the last of the laundry, having less than half a machine load left to rinse, the washing machine finished the final spin cycle of the quilt I had put in. I had nearly completed washing 3 loads in the time it took the machine to wash a single load! I wasn't trying to play "beat the clock" and working faster than usual. We don't have heavily soiled clothing. The work we do is not that messy. On the occassions we do have heavily soiled clothing, I simply boil them for a little while to soften the dirt well before I wash them. All in all, the time spent soaking/boiling laundry, the time I spend actually hand washing & rinsing the laundry, and hanging them on the line to dry takes less time than a machine does to do the same amount of laundry. The only way I would get the task done faster is if I were to go to a laundromat and use multiple machines.

Function in Furnishings: A common topic for questions I receive in emails concerns our purging and declutteing. Many of the emails express the ideas of what are we keeping? How can we get rid of so much? Here is the way we look at it. If you have something in your home that does not have a specific function that you utilize on a regular basis, then it is not an essential item to keep. The moment any items in your home lose their function or purpose they become clutter and unnecessary. Have you ever looked at pictures or toured museums that had a reconstructed home from the colonial or pioneer days? These homes were not overly furnished. Any items in that home served a specific purpose or function. One home we toured in Marietta, Ohio, had a kitchen that contained only the large wooden table, a couple of chairs, a side table for storing table linens and the like, and the wall which contained the large fireplace was decorated with the various cooking tools of the day. All were hung in easy reach for the person cooking on the fire. There was a butter churn in the corner and very little decoration on the walls. To look at that room, you could easily see the function of each and every item. This was clearly the heart of the home. The family not only prepared and shared meals in this room, but would spend time in the evenings around that table. In each of the bedrooms of that home, you would find a bed, possibly a chest of drawers, a little board on the wall that contained hooks for hanging clothing onto, and possibly a cedar chest for storing extra blankets or other items. Again, each item had a function or purpose. This is not to say that the children didn't have toys or a way to entertain themselves. They simply did not have the large quantity of toys that is common in many homes today. Homes of that period often had a formal sitting room for entertaining guests, but it was not something found in every home.

In our home, our goal is to focus on function more than quantity. In the kitchen, I am scaling things back to only the items I use on a daily or weekly basis. It is amazing how much you think you need, but in truth can do without. If you clean your dishes after each meal, you do not need as many utensils for example. I have a few favorite kitchen utensils that I find myself using each day. The rest simply sit in the crock and never are used. The same thing applies to my sewing supplies, crochet, and every other aspect of my lifestyle. My husband is doing the same. He is gradually sorting through his belongings and donating or disposing of things that no longer serve a purpose.

Our lifestyle is becoming one of minimal possessions. It is so liberating to do this. Where once we would have cringed at the thought of not having our convenience items and other things we were holding on to, we now cringe at the idea of continuing to hold on to those things. We see the blessing of simplicity.

Today, I am making major headway. I am completely rearranging the family room and tossing the things that have been sitting around stored in there. The room is looking empty, which is how I like it. Only the things used daily are remaining in there. I am doing the same with the kitchen. I love it. Beloved may be in need of CPR when he sees how much I did today, but he will enjoy the results of the work I am certain. LOL