Life’s Better in the Garden

I had the greatest of intentions this week. I even spent 2 days working on what I hoped would be a really stellar post about our progress through the exercises in Tanja Hester’s book, Work Optional. Since finishing the book a few weeks back, we’ve been nothing but excited about the prospect of creating an even more fulfilling life than the one we already enjoy. We made all the lists, we drew our interlocking circles, and we came up with a mission statement for our work optional project, and, then it happened…

I was on our weekly “team meeting” conference call with the draft of my blog post in front of me. I felt like something still needed work but it was hard to pinpoint what it was. Yes, I was writing while conferencing. Anyone who has ever attended a remote meeting knows that these are the most boring parts of any job. So I say my part, then I tune out. The rest is just background noise to me anyway – the planning of events I will never attend by people I will never meet, in an office I haven’t stepped foot in in nearly 8 years.

Somewhere amid the drone of voices, I think it hit me. Angie and I had crafted the perfect work-optional “vision” but our actual plan to get there was as weak as my mom’s decaf coffee. I had given us a year to “figure things out” and “get better prepared” while still maintaining status quo at a job that stopped being fun a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work. I just don’t like all the other stuff that comes with having a job. Every Tuesday I get off the phone and say the same thing – “I don’t know how much longer I can do this” and every Thursday, I get up and do it all again. Not anymore. We need a better plan.

So… I wadded up the draft of that other post and threw it in the trash. Maybe in a few weeks (when we return from our first-ever trout fishing trip), I’ll dazzle you with the pretty charts we made (a newly updated version of them, of course). Right now though, we need to rethink our strategy and give it some real teeth.

In the meantime, we’re going to take you to our happy place – the garden. Enjoy!

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Home(steading) Is Where The Heart Is

I’m not sure if apartment-steading is a word or not but I decided midway through putting a patch on a tiny pair of children’s undies (for the 2nd time in a week) that if it isn’t, it should be.

According to the great source of all knowledge (Wikipedia) homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food, and the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale”.

I’d say that sounds a bit like us. We are always striving for greater self-sufficiency. Home haircut, anyone??

Giving Mom a trim at “Outdoor Clips”

We grow and forage some of our own food (or source it from our friends with farms). We picked 38 pounds of peaches just this weekend.

We can and freeze food for winter. See…we even canned the peaches.

And craftwork -well, we did an abundance of that when our little visitor was here.

We just happen to do all these things from an apartment. So apartment-steading, that’s my new word for today.

Seriously though, Angie and I watched a video on Youtube a few days ago about a couple that had just bought a 5-acre homestead. In the video they talked about how they had practiced their homesteading skills for years before making the leap. As we sliced up 11 pounds of cucumbers to make pickles on Sunday, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Are we practicing for the day when we move to an actual piece of land? Is that what our future looks like?”

I don’t know. The thought of walking out the door and seeing a chicken instead of our annoying (and sometimes naked) neighbor does have it’s appeal. But so does not owing anyone, and right now, buying land would require debt. So we’re okay with the apartment and our efforts toward self-sustainability here, for now. Besides, we’re only limited by our imagination.

Why can’t we experiment with solar power from our patio? Or grow an entire garden from the trellis? Or start burning wood for heat? We have an actual fireplace for Pete’s sake!

Don’t have land either? What’s stopping you from honing your homesteading skills? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Learn to cook from scratch. This is probably the best home or apartment-steading skill you can add to your repertoire.
  • Grow something, even if it’s just an herb on the windowsill.
  • Join a community garden or find a friend or family member willing to let you put a small garden in their yard.
  • Make friends with your local farmers. Not only will you have access to fresh produce, you are likely to get better deals (and sometimes even freebies).
  • Learn how to can. Up until a few years ago, we didn’t know much about canning but I promise you, if we can can, you can too!)
  • Learn to sew. Even if you’re just patching a sock, that’s one less sock you have to replace.
  • Make your own cleaning and laundry supplies.
  • Practice fixing things on your own. You can always call the repairman if it doesn’t work out.
  • Barter with your friends or neighbors.

Are you an apartment-steader? Or an urban homesteader with a small yard? What homesteading skills do you practice?