Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nice Indian Food Blog

It's been a while since I made a masala for Jack, but it's time again.  I won't say he begged, but he mentioned it daily...

I just found this really good Indian food blog today called Indian Simmer I thought I'd share, if you haven't seen it.  I'll  be back exploring the archives in my spare time, learning.  I like that the recipes are actually simple and easy to execute with ingredients that are de-mystified, and lovely, simple pictures.

I've been away from the blog here a lot, but will be doing an upcoming series of posts on something Jack and I are having fun researching as we continue to make some changes in simplifying, and with the hope of relocation still in our minds.  Our desire to relocate is not only to have a place we can use more fully than our current property allows, but so that we can hopefully build a small home with no mortgage that can be maintained at little or no cost.

And thus, we have been having fun looking at Tiny House and related sites online.  I have a ton of links to share, but shall wait till the next post to start with those.  The idea behind very small and tiny houses is to live large by simplifying things to their most basic quotient...and surprisingly, at least for us, it takes very little (ha, pun?) to do that.  I'm really excited about the possibilities!

OK, off to take care of business...hope you're having a great day out there :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tiny Houses, Big Dreams, Customized Expectations

When I started this blog, I truly thought we were about a year out from being able to finalize the purchase of acreage for a homestead, and maybe two years from relocating to it in stages.

There has been a lot of backstory that has never made it here to the blog, mostly for the sake of privacy and also for the sake of's our preference to save a few things till their completion before piecing together the story so that we don't overstep negotiations that were in the workings, never know who reads a blog here and there :)

Now there is frankly more backstory than blog in a lot of areas. And yet while some negotiations are pending, whether permanently or temporarily (we don't know), it'll have to stay that way longer than I've preferred.

But it's not for lack of wanting to type it here...

Since this blog's first post back 3 1/2 years ago in February 2007, our picture of what we want, what we can afford, what's practical, and what we no longer need/want/are able to do has changed a lot.

Our economic "crash" came a lot sooner than the wider American one did, so we've been a bit in practice for some tightening of goals and the financial belt. What's ended up happening is that as God has closed some doors, and others remain open, we've grown 3 1/2 years into a clearer idea of what we want from our Homestead-To-Be, and we've made our temporary homestead wherever we are in the IS where you live it now. But we still see ourselves elsewhere, unless that possibility becomes a closed door in the future in ways we can't anticipate now.

Here are some things I have adjusted to fit my dreams differently, and Jack and I are on the same page with them:

1. Fewer animals. I think given our enthusiasm, we probably would have initially spent money on specialty breed purebred animals, namely heritage breed cattle, sheep, chickens, poultry, given the chance. We would have started with absolutely no background in animal husbandry, bought supplies we had little idea whether we truly needed (would have bought a lot of unnecessary ones we thought were necessary) and have been far afield of the practical goals of putting food on the table and saving money while being sustainable and wise. We needed time observing others's experience and hearing a lot of what NOT to do, and what has and hasn't worked for other folks. Presently, there are a lot of types of animals we MAY ease into keeping...perhaps...but mostly likely it will be one or two types at a time, discontinuing the ones that truly are not a good fit overall. Our perception of our needs is a lot simpler now than it was three years ago, and so is the amount of work I'm willing to do to maintain those. In short, we eat simply and would start out with one type animal, such as chickens...and learn small and grow into more.

2. Too much house. On paper a lot of things look fabulous. When that equates to square footage, my pen can run away from me when playing with graph paper and with visions of floor plans dancing in my head. But the truth is that there are only two of us, and in our lives now and most likely for the future, we need much less. And I think I prefer to maintain much less and have more freedom to do other our idea of our "dream house" is small...very small, actually. For years we've perused the Tiny House movement, and some flavor of that is likely what we'd do now...enough to own outright with no debt, even if it's a small small place that can be expanded in segments IF...big needed to be. Something actually not much bigger than a basic shed. If you'd seen the square footage of some of our past sketches, you might chuckle over the differences today.

3. Size of land. I'm willing to do with less as long as we can get the useage we need from the land...that's how any land will be judged by us now. What ACTUAL resources do we need? We're not going to be moving to Alaska and hand peeling logs we chopped ourselves, nor trapping marten or shooting moose for our winter stores. Our diets have changed to a higher percentage of vegetable, so we would have to allow for garden space. We want privacy. And I want no land restrictions that would choke us with regulations all over the place as to land use, building codes, and animals we can raise. Depending on the type of property, most of what we TRULY need could be found on a much much smaller acreage than what initially we had in mind. And it's a good thing because that's all our budget would allow today...if even that :)

4. Where do we want to be for the long term? We are aging. We are not "old" yet, but we're past the growing family stage. I don't want to relocate after this next move. We especially want to choose with care the climate, location, proximity to medical/jobs/colleges, etc that we would find optimum for the long term...the very long term.

5. Living on a fixed income eventually...perhaps we'll find ourselves in that situation. Being completely out of debt and without a mortgage would be optimum in having enough self sufficiency to survive below what's normally thought of as "average income" yet with a great relief of financial pressure. Debt reduction has been THE biggest goal and accomplishment of the last three years. If this time served no other purpose than to cement the discipline of realizing how narrow a margin that is...that debt, even a little, goes away a LOT harder than it is a lesson well learned and one we don't want to repeat. The appeal of a small setting with big freedoms (lack of debt)is one we see as our ideal "retirement"...not a big house or big set of monthly bills with the need for a big income to sustain them.

6. Physical health. Realizing our limitations may not be romantic...20 years ago we were in better physical shape and didn't have to baby our bodies (knees in particular, and lower backs...ring a bell?) in ways that now we have to bear in mind. Planning to minimize injuries and streamline certain tasks is a BIG factor in our planning our future homestead. This filters down to almost every area. Here are just a couple of small examples:  Jack's planning a 3/12 or 4/12 roof pitch for ease of maintenance if he has to be the one up making repairs on it...he doesnt need to risk a steeper pitch (nor do I want him to). My personal preference for always having a downstairs space that can serve as bedroom/bathroom figures into any sketch we make of floor plans for a future house...we've both had knee injuries before that made climbing stairs nearly impossible. Small preferences and large, related to maintenance...Jack prefers dry stack or other concrete construction for ease of maintenance and lack of termite problems, and I prefer to have the concrete pad or other surface extend out from the sides of the house a few feet to eliminate critters and bugs from burrowing close to the exterior walls and to aid in keeping the exterior maintained. Those are just a few simple things out of a list of many seemingly insignificant details, but they are things we've noted during these years as we've waited...and waited. And honestly, it's not so bad to have honed those down to the simplest and best of what would work for us.  The list grows.

7. Ease of use. This includes construction, maintenance, durability, things that save time or effort without adding cost, and are the most basic without relying on additional technology or expensive purchases. It involves what we truly NEED to plant to eat rather than trying to plan for the entire seed catalog, what buildings could be multipurpose rather than specialized for only one use, what tools would last and do the best job over time.  It means we'll plant things specific to our climate and microclimate instead of continually fighting to grow things not natural to this growing zone and area.  (Sounds easy, but it took a while to learn that lesson)  It has a lot to do with what size our garden will be, and how many animals we'll attempt to raise at one time, and how many types, what kinds of fencing will be the best. It means we probably won't opt for physically turning over an entire field spadeful by spadeful or fork by fork for the sake of our knees. It means we can barter certain products we raise to exchange for other products and services we could find locally...because we no longer want to do It All. We'll reply heavily on permaculture principles and wise siting.  Some things will be grown "wild" in a forest setting, others will be in raised beds or square foot gardens, and other ways customized to what the best fit is at the time. We'll tailor this to our best fit and not to simply be "green" or "sustainable." We may opt to use a washing machine but to line dry our clothing.

The point is we want to be together, ENJOY our homestead, and not paint ourselves into too many corners we can't rework if we decide they need tweaking.

So in preparation for we keep trying to finish the prep work required before we even GET our homestead property...

1. We are enjoying being together right now.
2. We are enjoying where we are right now and learning what does and doesn't work in our present situation.
3. And we're fine-tuning our expectations as we continue to collect ideas and the benefit of others' experiences. We can't underestimate the tremendous effect reading other homesteaders' blogs and sites has had on our development of a future plan, and what an encouragement. As frustrating as it's been waiting on some of the bigger things that seem to be continually on hold for us, it's been such a privilege experiencing through others' blog posts the How-Tos...and How-NOT-Tos...and joys and bumps and constant changes of so many other families of all descriptions...our community out here.

How has your homestead changed from what you initially thought it would be and what advice would you give as those of us who are wanting to embark to acreage at some point in the future try to set up a permanent homeplace?   All words of wisdom are welcome :)

That's all for now :)

I'm going off-blog for about a week, maybe more. It's a kind of seasonal block of hermit time I seem to need to take cyclically in which to back away, keep on going with the daily things but to put the brain on autopilot and take a vacation. Clarity usually shows up after some down time, and it's refreshing.

So I'll be back...just not sure the exact date.

Happy trails till then and I'm still praying daily for all my buds here in the particulars I'm aware of...please send updates if circumstances change!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Shabbat Shalom

Haven't been very productive this past couple weeks. Not that nothing's going on around the place, but I've had one of those lagging sinus infections that have put me in low gear.

I'm still practicing the CNA class, just lagged the past two weeks.

House cleaning has only qualified as "survival." keeping the man fed.

Language immersion, quasi quasi...I try a few new words each day and am still trying to read children's books when Jack's not around to pester.

Uruguay. I can't explain except to say Uruguay. When I know what I'm talking about I'll elaborate.

Sonic closed. Goodbye discount Route 44 Diet Coke with a shot of Dr. Pepper and rollerskating servers who my daughter went to highschool with. I'll miss your sneaking Kaleb a treat and knowing how you did on your last English test in college and the fact you know me by name.

Need to sell property. Praying folks please pray for us. It's our last and final push. We feel the need to get roots down sooner than later.

Fresh greens...from the backyard? ROCKS. Totally rocks. Next spring we plant more moringa and chaya.

How much do I love these cooler temps? THISSSSSS MUCCCCHHHH!!!! Muy mucho!! (have no idea if I said that right)

Happy birthday to my daughter who is a grown adult. SO HAPPY she's our girl :) Watching in awe as she launches out into her life.

Ugh...I'm boring myself now. I still have a lot to do before sundown and not time for typing. Just checking in to let whoever's out here know I still have a pulse even if my blog is severely lacking attention.

What's going on with you?

Tonight's shabbat...HOO RAY!

Have a great rest! I owe some folks some replies to very sweet and wonderful emails. I haven't forgotten, honest! Hope to have that quality time before Monday.

We always pray for our friends here...if you've got anything specific we can be praying about, we really do! please feel free to mention any requests.

Love you guys...shabbat shalom!

Them Fern Films

Irrelevant trivia about me: I am a sucker for foreign movies. That doesn't mean I LIKE all foreign movies, or even most of them, but it means I'm the one that will try those cryptic subtitled movies just to see if there's any gold in them thar hills. When there used to be a Blockbuster, Jack would pick the blow-em-up-shootem-up movie and I would usually go for the unknown. Drove him crazy. But once and a while we'd hit on a winner, that even both of us liked.

I'm listing a few of my faves. They're clean, but view them first to decide their appropriateness for your family before watching with kids.

Here's one I like called The Girl from Paris. It hails from France and has English subtitles. City girl decides she wants to become a farmer so she goes through training and tries her hand at a place in the Alps, raising dairy goats. You might want to fast forward through the pig killing scene. But the movie always touches me, especially how she finds out there is more to actual farming than what you're taught in school, and the interplay of the relationship between her and the former landowner.

A second fave: The Secret of Roan Innish It's in English (heavily accented and therefore all the more wonderful to me), but it's about the Isles. If you're Celtic crazy like I am, or have a tinge of that in you, this movie is as wonderful as having a storyteller weaving an old tale that you want to listen to all the way to the end. Again, hard to define what its charm is...maybe simply everything.

From Germany, Mostly Martha (foreign name Bella Martha), is THE original movie, and can be had in English subtitles. It is TOTALLY worth the trouble. Don't even bother to watch its American spinoff movie No Reservations, which will leave you cold and wanting to gnaw your arm off. The REAL movie, Mostly Martha is THE romantic comedy for foodies. Well, I love it. It's gentle and fun and really worth finding. Leaves you feeling warm.

From France again: The last one is the movie, actually a documentary, called in English To Be and To Have. It is about a career teacher in the French countryside in one of the last one room schools, and shows the progression through his final year teaching. It has English subtitles and always moves me deeply. It's hard to decide what its appeal is, but I periodically come back to it wanting some inspiration. It delivers.

Now...what foreign, or at least not American made, films do you love that I haven't discovered yet? The popcorn's popping :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Those Aussie Eyes

One of the coolest things about being an Australian Shepherd owner is that if you're HIS person, the primary person your dog is bonded to, you are The Chosen.

The eyes never leave you (except for the occasional treat or fleeing rabbit).  They watch your every move. 

Aussie eyes define the word Intense.  They are intently intense.

I've tried explaining to Kaleb that he can relax his vigil temporarily, like when I'm in the shower.  He is skeptical, and pretends to turn his back and not look.  But behind the door I see that one eye...making sure I'm still here.

There is one exception to The Stare.  It's when any opportunity presents itself for him to press his doggy torso as close as humanly (or caninely) possible to my person to cuddle on the couch, nap with his head on my foot if I'm reading or at the computer, or in any other way drape himself bodily over a spare square inch of me...a toe, a hand, his head stuck under my elbow.  Then the watch ends and the nap begins.  And sometimes his snoring.

Love love love our wonderful Kaleb!

Happy first year adoption anniversary, funny furball  :)

Lazy Pie-Making: The Galette

Why have I not tried this sooner?  Ok, yes, my pie crust was wilty because I didn't super-chill it first, and the blueberries were frozen.  But this is pie without the pan, SO easy!  Bake it the same time and temp and it's rustic and delicious.   I have yet to try the savory versions, but shall before too long, maybe with more of a bread dough crust? (I'll check the online recipes to see)   Anyway, this is  my new quickie homemade dessert...the filling can be whatever's at hand. 

Thanks to my enthusiastic test subject (Jack), it didn't make it for long after snapping this pic... ha :)