Sunday, February 28, 2010

I wrote 2 blogs over the weekend. They will be posted on Monday afternoon.

Homesteading with Chronic Pain

Sometimes, homesteading can be a challenge. As many who have read my
blogs already know, I have issues with chronic pain. Some dear friends
have wondered why I would choose to live this lifestyle when I have such
physical limits. I hope to explain it here.

Three years ago, I was at a point where I could barely walk most days.
I used a cane or walker to get around. My pain levels were bad enough
that we were looking into getting one of those scooters to make it
easier on me. Then, I suddenly had a major improvement in my health. I
had changed my diet, removing meat and all processed/refined foods. For
some reason, this alone helped tremendously in relieving my pain. It
hasn't completely eliminated my pain, but I am able to manage without
taking prescription medications.

There was concern that the increase in physical work would bring back
the severe pain I had previously. Through gradually building up the
amount of work that I do, I have found that the work is a blessing. I
still have days when I may over work myself. At those times, I end up
having mobility issues again and it takes a couple of days for my body
to get back to normal.

A blessing for me is our lifestyle's simplicity. We purged our home of
as much excess as possible. The rule for the purge was that items that
were not used/needed in a 6 month time were to be removed from the
home. There were a few exceptions of course: tools, seasonal items such
as winter gear or extra bedding, books, and personal items such as
photos. By doing this, we cleaned out much of the excess belongings
that we had held onto but had no true need for. Eventually, we have
begun to take the purge down to only the items needed in a 30 day time
period. By having far less "stuff" to clean and maintain, my days were
less filled.

I keep to a routine as much as possible. Having young children and
living on a homestead, there are times when strict routines don't work.
Most weeks, however, I am able to stick with the routine. This allows
me to balance my workload throughout a week's time. I try to do my
heaviest cleaning, such as laundry, in the morning when I have the most
energy. This works out very well. My washtub is set up in the
kitchen. I am able to work on the laundry while overseeing my
daughter's homeschooling. She has been eager to homeschool, so we are
allowing her to start with the Pre-K level. Other household tasks such
as sweeping floors, washing dishes, etc., can be done later in the
afternoon while the children are napping. I usually have my work done
by mid-afternoon. This gives me the chance to rest or do a quiet
activity. Many days, I will spend that time reading.

I do have my busy seasons. Summer is probably the hardest on me. The
hot temperatures have a negative affect on my pain levels. It is also
the time when the garden in in production and needs the most tending.
We try to be smart in how we garden. Using lots of mulch around the
plants can greatly reduce the amount of weeding that needs to be done.
It also helps to prevent too much water evaporation. Instead of home
canning large batches, I can up 2-3 canner loads a day. This is a great
help. I spend far less time preparing and processing the harvest. It
may not always work out that I can do this, but I try as often as
possible to not be over loaded with canning very often.

Just as people with chronic pain adjust their task loads in a more
modern setting, I adjust mine here. There is no perfect solution, but
you find methods that make each task easier. It requires a lot of trial
and err to find those methods sometimes. Be patient with yourself. You
will find the answers that you need.

The greatest resource that I have for my being able to work as I do, I
have saved for last. Not because it falls last in my thoughts, but
because I want it to be the last thing you read. My greatest source of
strength is my faith. I trust in the Lord to help me to have the energy
and endurance needed for that day's tasks. He has never failed me in
this. The Lord gives me strength sufficient for the day - every day! I
start each day with prayer. I make time each day to read from His
Word. I end each day with a prayer of gratitude for the blessings my
family and I have received. In doing this, I have found that my days go
easier and are far more productive than days when I don't start with

May the Lord's blessings be with thee,

Non-Electric - One Year Later

It doesn't seem possible, but we have been living the non-electric
lifestyle for a full year now. What a year it has been! While I felt
prepared for it, there were surprises in store.

Our adventure began in August, 2008, when we cut the electric usage down
to only the major appliances. We had a refrigerator, stove, water
heater and our computer still being powered by electricity. We gave
away or sold our lamps, TV, and all other electric items that we would
no longer have use for. It was a huge step to take. We enjoyed
watching TV and DVDs in the evenings especially. Our first move was to
start using oil lamps, jar candles, and at one point a lantern to light
our home. Not long into the adventure, we realized that candles were
not cost effective nor did they provide enough lighting.

When we began to remove the electric-powered items from our home, we had
to decide if there was a non-electric option. One item in particular
for me was my sewing machine. I enjoy sewing when I have the time to do
so. I had to find an old treadle sewing machine. We found one that
needed to be thoroughly cleaned, oiled, and cabinet refinished. While I
don't sew as much as I would like to, it is nice to not have to sew by
hand. Joe has had to replace his power tools with the good old hand
tools like our Grandfathers would have used back in the day. He has
found that work is slower, but I am inspired by him as I watch him
become more proficient and quicker with them.

We were prepared for the increased workload, but the reality was
sometimes different than what we thought. I had begun to hand wash
laundry in August, 2008, but always knew that we still had the ability
to use the washer & dryer if I chose to do so. When we had the power
company shut off the electricity and remove the cables from the house, I
lost the safety net of the machines. I now had no options available if
I got behind in doing laundry. One major obstacle was the weather. We
had a very wet winter that prevented laundry from drying in a 24 hour
period. Laundry washed and hung on the indoor racks near the woodstove
sometimes took 2 days to dry. This was frustrating at times. The only
place we could hang laundry indoors was at the large woodstove in the
living room.

During the past year, I have learned to pressure can meat to make it
safe to store unrefrigerated in our pantry. This has been a great
blessing. I am able to take advantage of meat sales at the store or of
times when we are blessed with venison or other game. I precook the
meat until it is about 3/4 of the way done, drain and then place it in
jars before processing. It is processed in the pressure canner for at
least an hour (depending on the meat) and is fully cooked once the
processing is completed.

We have now reached a point where we are feeling comfortable in our
non-electric lifestyle. It is strange, but I find is hard to remember
what it was like to have electricity. I am so used to the way we live
now that I find electricity to be an oddity. My days are becoming a
comfortable routine. Each day, I do up a batch of laundry to stay ahead
of it. This allows me the peace of knowing that if something comes up,
the laundry won't back up to an overwhelming amount.

We have replaced the electric stove and refrigerator with propane ones.
We have a couple of 100 lb. propane tanks that hold 26 gallons of LP
each. These provide a month's supply of propane for the refrigerator
and stove. If we are cooking on the wood cookstove the propane lasts
longer, of course.

Our most recent addition has been a second-hand laptop computer. Joe
bought a small portable power inverter that plugs into the 12 volt
cigarette lighter outlet in our vehicles. It is a small inverter made
for laptops. He found this one at a truck stop. With it, we are able
to charge up the laptop's battery. We are currently looking into
getting a small solar power supply for charging up a car battery. With
a power inverter hard wired to the battery, we will be able to use the
laptop in the house as it's battery is being charged. It is basically a
scaled down version of what people do when they set up their homes for
solar power. We only need the solar power to use a laptop and to charge
up our cell phones, so the scaled down version will work well for us.

This lifestyle is so peaceful and has blessed us in other ways. Our
son, Micah, was diagnosed with Autism last September. At this time it
appears to be high functioning. He does get over stimulated easily at
times so the quieter lifestyle seems to suit him very well. Abbie has
the blessings of being able to play and use her imagination in ways that
many children today miss out on. Most kids are sitting in front of TV
or playing video/computer games. They miss out on the creative play and
learning that we had as children. Abbie spends a lot of her time
playing, coloring/drawing, or looking at books. She has been eager to
homeschool, so we went to a Christian book store and bought a Pre-K
curriculum workbook for her. She asked to have a workbook that teaches
about God and Jesus, so we found one for her. It is so exciting to see
her eager to learn. She comes up to me daily and asks to do
homeschool. So, starting March 1st, she will be homeschooling at a
Pre-K level.

I work with Micah daily to help him in his speech and physical
development. He is delayed in those areas, but is making progress.
While we don't always see the progress on a weekly basis, we do see it
when we look at his abilities from one month to the next. He is now
using gestures to help communicate his needs and wants. This has been a
huge improvement. He is learning to say words, but still needs to learn
to connect their meaning and use them properly. Overall, he has made a
lot of progress since September.

The homestead has been going through some changes. The winter storms
caused many of our large trees to be damaged enough that they will have
to be cut down. On the other hand, we have enough trees down that we
will have more than enough firewood for next year. Joe has been going
into town and cleaning up downed trees at some of the homes. People are
more than happy to have the wood cleaned up and carried off for free.
They get their yards cleaned up and we get to keep the wood to add to
our firewood supply. Our ewe should be having a new lamb sometime in
March. Last year she delivered in mid-March. I am hoping that we get
another ewe this time. The 2 rams we have seem to enjoy head-butting me
too much. They had got out last October and the larger ram attacked
me. I had a lot of bruising and felt as though I had been in a car
accident. In January, the younger ram had gotten out of their grazing
pen without my knowing. As I was hanging laundry, he came up from
behind and head-butted me in the lower back. Seems he learned the game
from his papa. The ewe, while she can get ornery when in heat,
typically will behave herself. When we are able to do so we will be
butchering the rams.

Joe brought home an outdoor privy in February. I have wanted him to
build one so that it is available when we start remodeling the
bathroom. He plans to build an outdoor shower area also. This will
make it easier once the bathroom remodeling takes place. We already
have been getting questions about whether we will have indoor plumbing.
Yes, we will have it. I just tell people that we have a 2-bath
homestead and one happens to be outdoors.

Now that we have the laptop, I will be able to post more often. Joe
plans to take the computer to town on Monday & Friday each week so that
he can stop at the library after work to send/receive emails. On
Wednesdays, I will take the laptop with me to the library when I am in

May the Lord's blessings be with thee,