Growth is a double edged sword. Unchecked, growth can be cancerous and destructive. It is this type of ceaseless expansion that has put our society into the precarious environmental and financial positions in which we currently find ourselves. On the other hand, growth can be regenerative and life-giving. Following a forest fire or a bitter winter, the first green shoots to emerge from the earth bear witness to the earth's ability to restore life in the wake of disaster.

My goal for this blog is pretty simple and open-ended: I want to document and share with family and friends my efforts to incorporate an ever increasing degree of self sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, and environmentally-conscious design into my life as a would be urban homesteader.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bumper Crop

As per usual, the garden has been a mixed bag this summer. The cabbage and squash have not cooperated so well, the tomatoes, kale, and peppers have - especially the tomatoes. I got a really early start on them this past spring, and they've been going strong ever since. I began weighing what I picked every couple of days, and so far we're just shy of 150lbs (but I have to pick some today). The Silvery Fir Tree and Purple Russians were the first ones out of the gate, and the SFT's are almost played out by now. Lately I've been picking a lot of Amish Past, Moonglow, Sudduth Brandywine, Hillbilly Potato Leaf, and Black from Tula's. Some of them are HUGE. The Green Zebra's have less than prolific this year, and the Beam's Yellow Pear's are so so. A couple of the plants seem like they have begun to develop some sort of disease (powdery mildew?). I'm going to trim the bad parts back, and hopefully they'll keep going into the fall.
31 pounds of 'Burbstead fresh tomatoes, all picked on the same day

A Sudduth Brandywine that was almost 1.5lbs, the biggest one so far.

The best part about having all of these tomatoes, other than eating them fresh, is that I'm putting up more tomato sauce, salsa, and preserve than ever. Speaking of which, I have a bunch sitting on the kitchen counter that need to be cut up before band practice starts. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Homesteading with kids

 Alex helps mow the grass

Tater helps plant pepper seedlings

One of the best parts about trying to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle is having the opportunity to pass on important lessons and skills to your kids. Resourcefulness, thriftiness, compassion, and the ability to think critically are all things that children gain from learning to garden and cook or having to take care of animals. Learning about food preservation instills that value of being prepared for the unexpected. Having chores or helping to fix things around the house builds self-confidence and responsibility. Considering the amount of time that most children in modern American culture spend consuming various forms of electronic media (7 hours and 38 minutes per day, according to a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Stanford University), these are character traits that a lot of young people today are missing out on. My experiences in the classroom suggest to me much the same thing.

Once of my goals as a parent is to give my children as many character building opportunities as possible. I want them to have the chance to maximize their potential as intelligent, creative, responsible young people. That's not to say that other parent don't want those things for their children, but rather that I think a lot of parents today simply don't pay enough attention to actively fostering those things in them. With the hectic pace of modern life, it's easy to let things go on auto pilot. People are busy and tired, so they stop keeping tabs on how much time kids are spending online or playing xbox. Cooking from scratch and eating as a family become too much of a hassle, so they order out or heat something up in the microwave. Texting and Facebook updates replace face to face conversation. I suppose it is a time honored tradition of cranky old people to complain about younger generations, but an awful amount of my students seem to be self absorbed and completely disconnected from the world around them. They lack the ability to think and do things for themselves, and they are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions. Have kids always seemed like this? I suppose, but it doesn't mean that I have to idly sit by and accept it in my children.

Below is a short video of Erik helping me can salsa yesterday. I'm sure a lot of parents would squirm at the thought of letting an 8 year old do this. With all of that boiling water, hot jars, and bubbling salsa, there were ample opportunities for him to burn himself; and truth be told, he did burn his fingers a couple of times. But you know what? He didn't kill himself, and he learned how do it correctly in a way that he wouldn't have if he had simply watched me do it. True learning is born out of experience, and by doing it for him self, Erik learned that he is able to do much more than starring at a tv screen and pushing buttons. One of my greatest joys as a father is the look on my kids' faces when they find out what they are really capable of (look for it at the end of the clip).