Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The move is final! My new blog is located at:
Check it out to see some photos and read more a new update on our veggie garden. This will be my last post on blogspot. Thanks for reading :)


Thursday, September 17, 2009

New site

Alright folks, I'm transferring my blog to a site with a much nicer user-interface... wordpress.

I will be backlogging all of my blogger posts to the new blog, and all new entries will show up there. So please, check it out, and let me know if you have any complaints!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Spiny Amaranth

I believe I have made a new discovery with my plant identifications. I am going to contact a local expert for verification, but in the meantime I am tentatively identifying a previously posted plant as spiny amaranth.
Here's a photo of my plant. One key characteristic that I am not really sure of is the plant's spiny texture... but I will confirm that tomorrow. It sure looks like a scary plant to me, and I used to regard it as evil. Alas, it may be quite valuable to us, as amaranth is a very nutritious food source.

I'm not going to go on a research tangent, as this was an accidental discovery during another research project. However, has a nice little blurb about amaranth in her post "Using Wild Plants As Food."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cutting back and getting organized

This past week has been productive and fulfilling for the most part. Seth and I have cut off the water heater, the AC and we're getting ready to cut off the refrigerator. I borrowed a book from a friend, Bill Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture.
I was very familiar with the ideas and concepts of permaculture but had yet to actually study it in a book. This is a good book to start with, especially if you're comfortable with the school textbook sort of layout. It's set up in that way, but also very pleasant and easy to read.

We've been thinking, researching and planning. When we get home from our trip (we are visiting my family for a week) we are really going to get to work on the garden and landscape. I am excited. I've really been looking forward to fall and winter planting and the time is upon us!

We'll see if we can cut our electric bill in half or less and maintain it there. I've been using hot water from the hose instead of installing a legitimate solar water heater. It works well but I only get about a gallon of hot water at a time and I have to make that stretch for dishes and some clothes.
I've adapted to washing up with cold water. It doesn't bother me much.

We also have a great compost bin going. Everything goes into it. I've even been digging through the trash to salvage things that I think would be better suited to compost or something other than trash. As a result, this past week we haven't produced a single full bag of trash.

In a few months I plan to make a graph of how we are using certain resources. I've got about 6 months worth of monetary expenses and about 4 months of electricity, so I need to start looking at the quantity of trash we are disposing of.
In 6 months I'd like to cut our output to about half of what it is. Spending half the money, using half the electricity and disposing of half of the waste-- all while *increasing* production of other projects. Let's see how this goes....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More information

I don't think I wrote about last weekend, but it was a really great weekend.
We went to a local State Park to go on a "Wild Edibles" hike where the ranger showed us different forest things that were edible. I had arranged for a meeting there with a Meetup group I am part of, that focuses on permaculture gardening and such. I met some interesting people with whom I'll probably keep in touch. In fact, we are meeting with one of the guys tomorrow and looking forward to it.

Maybe talking to him and having some sort of exchange will be useful for us. I feel like the more we talk about the homestead, the more it gets ingrained into our minds that that is what we are doing and that it's going to work for us.

Last weekend we also went to visit someone that I have grown to love dearly, Seth and Andrew's friend John. Ive mentioned him before, because we made a visit in Feb or March to his place. He has a little homestead set up several hours north of us.

Some people have a really good vibe about them and John is one of those people. I loved being at his place, it truly is an escape from all this other stuff that's going on. His porch is a concrete slab, maybe 1000 sq ft with a long sloping roof that starts at the second story of his house and runs all the way down into his garden where he was growing tomatoes and malabar spinach.
While we were there, a heavy rain broke out and it was amazing to be under that long roof with the rainfall resonating overhead. I love that rich, earthy smell that rises up in a good rain. We were surrounded by it, standing on the porch of his concrete fortress of a home. It felt like a place for people-- a big human cave enveloped in some warm sense of welcome.
I ate plenty of figs from his trees and admired the fruiting pecans and hickories. His ponds were stocked with fish and his gardens were bursting with tomatoes, okra, corn, and some squash.

What we create here in Louisiana doesn't have to be the big concrete cave, but I want to be able to transfer that feeling to some extent.
My little world is more like camping. The wooden porch gets soaked and soggy in any significant downpour-- there's no shelter there. I want to feel like I can sit outside and enjoy our place without being beaten by the rain or by the violent sun.

Seth and I have decided we're going to get rid of the internet. It manages to suck the creativity right out of me. I've kept it because I feel like I need to keep in touch with people, but I end up getting so overwhelmed that I just can't keep up and my mind goes numb and hours disappear.
I've mentioned this before and it still holds true, so we're just going to get rid of it and I'll access it once or twice a week from the library.

Today has been nice because for the most part I've left it alone. It's only now that I am writing because I feel encouraged and somewhat productive. I always feel a lot better when I'm actually doing things instead of obsessively searching the web for things I want to do, or might do, or would do "if only..."

So this wraps it up. Getting online only once a week will make it pretty difficult to keep up. I'll do what I can.
Take care.

Off the grid

Well it looks like we are turning the homestead into a full-time project now. I think we are going to shut off the internet again and I'll exclusively use the library and update here about once a week or so. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Red-tailed Hawk

While hiking with Callum around the back of the property, we spotted a large bird flapping its wings in a thicket. I got a bit closer and the bird sidled over and crouched down among the branches. I could tell it was either young or injured, hoping it was young and NOT injured.

I went back a little later with my camera and got some photographs. They aren't the greatest images, but they are alright. I submitted the photos to the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries and they are going to identify the bird for me and get back to me.

EDIT: The biologist wrote back to me and says it is a red-tailed hawk. That was what I suspected when I FIRST saw the bird, but then checked around on google and thought it looked more like a young Eagle. A good reason not to trust google too much... (especially considering that I try to use the internet as a resource for identifying edible plants!)

Anyway, the hawk must have been injured because it was in pretty rough condition.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Technology or simplicity?

An issue I see a lot in the area of homesteading, ecovillages and survivalism is the relationship between technology and simplicity.

There are some who believe, in simple terms, that the way to impact the environment the least, and/or achieve the greatest self-sufficiency, is to return to an old way of doing things and perhaps even shun technological advancements.

The opposing view is to use technology to improve our ability to live in harmony with nature and create a sustainable human civilization.

I wouldn't argue that either of these approaches are wrong. Realistically, however, we have to find the right balance. No doubt the current lifestyle of western colonial countries, specifically the U.S., cannot be sustained as it is. We cannot keep buying endless products, consuming goods imported from around the world, and driving from place to place in a frenzy. It's not economically sustainable, environmentally sustainable, socially sustainable and it's not emotionally sustainable for the individual.

They've been telling me this since kindergarten.

I believe the first step is reduction and simplicity. We all have to take the time just to reduce all the input. We have to reduce the amount of trash we bring into our homes, and thus dispose of. We have to reduce our consumption of food (I'm one to talk :P ), reduce our consumption of water, electricity, fuel, toiletries and material entertainment (TVs, computers, DVDs, CDs, hardware and gadgetry of all sorts).

We have to reduce our dependency on others, most especially for food, water and energy. This does not mean isolation, but it does mean that if the greater system is disrupted, people will be able to survive individually until the system can be restored or recreated. For long-term survival, food water and energy would be produced on-site rather than exclusively purchased and stored from outside.

I am not against technology by any means. I am against technology when it replaces knowledge or skills needed for survival. Many in the western world don't have to think about the people who have worked, struggled and even lost their lives to provide our food, fuel and consumer goods. We don't have to have a clue about the agricultural process to enjoy a pizza loaded with products from Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, etc.

People don't have to know a thing to survive these days. A lot of people don't even cook their own food, much less produce it.

Technology and science (including financial, political and social sciences) have obscured the basic processes required to sustain human life. As a result, those of us who rely on those processes are completely vulnerable even when it appears that the shelves will endlessly remain stocked.

In my opinion, advanced technology, especially complicated information systems, medical tecchnology and agricultural management, should be used with much reservation. While there are many great benefits for the individual, leaping ahead at the rate we are and in so many different areas seems to be stretching us thin as a society.

We can't maintain it; we can't even understand it.

IF the society breaks down, everyone who hasn't escaped dependency is in for rough times.

What do I do?
My solution is to cut back. As an individual, I cut back in every area that I possibly can. I'm not saying that I live a spartan lifestyle, because I don't. However, I do have an idea of how much I need to maintain my family, and that's where my focus is right now on the homesteading.

A few little steps at a time. I first look at how I can make something with the fewest outside resources.
Food was an easy start. Since college, eating out had become a HUGE problem for me. I didn't even start preparing many of my own meals until last year. I feel like I've come pretty far at this point. We keep a lot of grains on hand, some spices, and throughout the week we supplement with veggies and fruit, some eggs and some meat.

We are keeping chickens now to replace the eggs from outside, and we will probably either convert to vegetarians or suck it up and start killing our own chickens. As soon as I get my act together the veggies and fruit will be growing.
It has taken us much longer because we have few tools and few things on hand. For the chickens, we've done quite well and we have decent shelter for our flock of 13 without having spent much money at all ($10 I think?).

The garden is lacking because of human labor, because of limited tools, and partially because I have big plans and haven't yet figured out how to focus and get things done (except I have planted some fruit trees!).
I've spent a lot of time researching and looking for information on local, wild edible plants. It's surprisingly difficult to find that kind of information on my own. I suspect this is largely because of the overwhelming influence of modern agriculture which has essentially devalued other food sources and as a result the information has been lost.

I am interested in wild edible planting because it's the most natural and most efficient form of food production. A managed permaculture forest can, theoretically, provide much or all of what a human being needs for nourishment. After establishing the forest, if it is well-planned, it should require very little maintenance to continue production.

I've cut back in other places which haven't been as successful. In some ways, my reluctance to spend any money anywhere has made things much more difficult for me and probably ends up costing me more than actually investing a little bit of money in the beginning and having a long-term working solution.

This is where I believe in technology. Having a solar oven, or solar water heater, or something as simple as a well-designed clothesline would reduce our dependency on a energy but without complicating our lives too much. The upkeep required for those few items would not be unreasonable homesteading.

The organization of the homestead-- deciding where to start, where to invest initally, or whether limit ourselves to creating handmade objects from very local resources from the very beginning... it all gets overwhelming.

A modern homestead is a great puzzle. Goals, values, people and resources all complicate the process of moving forward.

Like starting a business, I imagine, and perhaps that's what we are doing here.

So here I am, a week later, still pondering.

Want to know about the homestead? Seth and I are planning on switching places so he's home and I'll be working outside. The chickens have all rotated, with the Barred Rocks being added to the original flock after 2 weeks, and the little chicks taking the place of the Rocks in the hayring.
I find Bitsy to be a joy to have around here but Seth doesn't much like her. We often have visitors-- the neighbor's dogs-- coming to poop on our driveway for some obnoxious reason.
Things are well. We're happy and inspired and I believe great things lie ahead.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Homesteading alone.

What we are doing now isn't possible. When it comes to resources, and most importantly human resources, we just don't have them. I have some leadership abilities. By that, I mean that I can boss people around, come up with ideas, and manage the work around here but I need other people involved. Seth works full time and so does his dad. For now, they are the only people around to help out. Friends and other family members have expressed interest.
I don't have anything to offer them except maybe a room in my house, a room in the old house that doesn't even belong to us, and some of whatever they can help us produce. A great deal for them, huh?

My parents have talked about coming down here, and my mom is especially excited about helping us garden.

Even if we could do this alone, with only us, I do not think I want to. I want a community. I want this to be a community effort. Ive mentioned it to some friends, but I don't really know if people are truly willing to jump into this.

Most of my friends are in college. Okay, I'm supposed to be in college this fall. Maybe that's what I should do, then in a couple years I can re-evaluate the situation and see who's up for it at that point.

I am desperately lonely. At least lonely in the sense that I feel like I am on a mission to do this all by myself. Support is really low, and it undermines my ideas. It's the confidence issue, I suppose.

It would help if the 22 acres actually belonged to us. Sometimes I entertain the idea of packing up and moving to the Appalachian Mtns. Isn't that what everyone is doing these days? Well they are beautiful and I love it there...

I am interested in eco-village style community life. Any takers? Here, there, anywhere.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A big ugly rash.

About a week ago I noticed a strange mark on my knee that I casually assumed was some sort of melanoma. It appeared out of nowhere, had a very strange shape, was black/brown and seemed to exist just on the surface of my skin but with a lump underneath. Though it didn't really look like a scab, I thought maybe that was more likely and covered it in ointment and let it be.

The next day, the lump underneath was a little bit bigger and slightly red and warm to touch. Okay, an infection? I treated it again and later that day the redness went away so I assumed it was getting better.

Here's where it gets fun. The NEXT day there are these two itchy bumps around the original bump, kind of like mosquito bites. The redness is back but it's like an irritated redness NOT an infected redness. Over the next few days the itchiness and redness has spread to about the diameter of a peach and my entire knee is red, itchy and pretty nasty looking with that little scab in the center. It is, in fact, a scab.

Today it is not much different than yesterday, except the itchiness kicks up when I rub against it. My flesh certainly isn't rotting off and I don't have red streaks of blood poisoning or anything.

I must have been bitten by something but I have no clue what it was. I've lasted a week without any other symptoms so I don't think I've contracted any serious diseases, just this local dermatitis that looks and feels really uncomfortable but not painful. Oh boy.
It must have happened on one of my hikes.

The drawbacks of spending time in nature.