Friday, January 2, 2015

inspiration from the garbage heap

The last few days have had me feeling a little frustrated n grumpy about things n stuff (since resolved). The other night I went down to fetch some green onions to go with dinner n feed the bunnies, I decided I wanted to take a picture of my wheat on the junk pile. It's greenery makes me feel happy. As I stood there to take a picture I noticed a book cover laying there on the heap. I had to take the picture...sometimes we just have to be reminded that this is "the way things work". Mind you, I don't ever recall seeing this book on the pile there before and I check on my wheat a couple time a week. Thinking about it,  I don't really recall ever seeing that book at all before.

Yesterday while out putzing about I ran across some more pages of a book with these words poking up through the mud n muck...

Monday, December 29, 2014

it's expensive to burn down

Burning down is not just stressful, it is also very expensive. I never imagined all of the costs involved when something like this happens. It  is not the same as deciding to pack up, leave town, and start again somewhere else. When doing that, you  consciously decide you are done, have had enough and purposely leave behind what you had. When a place burns, there is no decision making to do, it is all just gone!

When the house burned I got out with  my old sneakers, a flamboyant night gown and my hoodie. The manthing fared slightly better as we were able to grab a couple drawers and a tote of winter clothes in addition to the outfit n shoes he had on. The only other items we were able to grab were the  fire safe, chainsaws, guns, and tobacco (because we had just received an order to mix with our home grown and it was sitting by the door). There was nothing else left to be salvaged in the aftermath aside from  a bit of cast iron cookware. Everything would need to be replaced.

Mind you, we are simple livin type folks. We didn't have tv's in every room, we didn't sleep on a conventional bed,  furnishings were minimal and not suitable for most life styles, but worked for us.  We didn't have a washer and dryer or other fancy gizmos n gadgets. Most everything we had pertained to maintaining our rather primitive life style. Even so, the list of stuff that had to, or has to be replaced, seems never ending and every bit of it costs money.  Let's just say that in the last 6 weeks we have had to spend more than I made the entire year last year. 

 The first few days were spent replacing some clothes, basic necessities, and food. There was no way that we were going to spend the Red Cross money, our money or any other money on restaurant food. Sure the foods were in a can or box or could be thrown between a couple slices of bread, but it was food.  We have not eaten a single meal out and  through all of this have  only stopped for a coffee refill three times. Once we had the food we remember we have no pans or eating utensils to eat the food. Once out of the hotel and back at the cabin we had more cooking options so we needed food that we are more accustomed to  though still not the same.Then, of course, you need the pans to cook in and pot holders since you are cooking over fire. This crazy cycle of needs continues for the first couple  few several  weeks.  I am still remembering things I need to get the next time we are in town.

Somewhere toward the end of the first week, we got to go to the charity store where they give you an allowance  for certain items. We got two towels, two washcloths, set of sheets, a couple forks, knives, plates and cups,  pair of shoes, two sets of socks, couple shirts and couple pants. It was kind of odd as the store was closed and we were the only people there aside from volunteers who served as our personal shoppers. Was one of the oddest moments I can ever remember, truth be told.  Treated like a wealthy person but  yer in a place of charity.

The things we humans need to  survive and attempt to thrive are innumerable. Many things you don't  really even miss on a daily basis but when you do its terrible. For instance flies in the winter. It aint often you have them but when you do, not having a fly swatter can become a huge issue. It is these little things ya miss the most and just when you think  you cant possibly need anything more to survive, you are rudely reminded that the pizza slicer was really handy and  you use pens way more often than you  think you do. And as minimalist as we are even though two pairs of socks or two plates  seems feasible, it aint.

The list of stuff needed goes on and on; from the simple and mundane like  toothpicks and toilet paper, to knives, pans,  fly swatters and  nail clippers,  batteries, band-aids, tampons, aspirin, and salt to other needs of society today like lamps, ice (for refrigeration) bed covers, gas (to get back and forth to town  27 times a month), computers, phones, and  of course electricity and shelter.  Even though we have had a phone for over 20 years, the 3 week  break in service meant we were new customers and had to begin all over on fees. To get power back it meant having a pole set in by an electrician, another expense. The biggest expense was getting shelter. Though we have the cabin, for various reasons there cannot be power lines or internet connections to it. As such we had to  invest in something that could serve as an office, internet cafe and electric source when needed.

Some ask why we didn't leave. The answer is simple, there is no place like home. Secondly, we had critters. It would have meant getting rid of every one we had including the dogs. Rehoming a near eight year old dog just isn't right. Thirdly, we would then be commuting back and forth to the  mountain causing wear and tear on a vehicle and costing money and time to do. Finally, we would have to rent which would then mean  a big heap of money going out monthly plus  initial fees when I have no idea when I will work again. Buying the tin can internet cafe, seemed to be the more logical solution. Besides, it gives us additional options later on if we so decide, as home is now on wheels. 

We are and will be replacing things and stuff for months, if not years, to come even though we now have most of the basics again. We will have future expenses if we decide to rebuild. Even if we don't rebuild we will need an outdoor kitchen, a dry storage area, larger water containment system and some sort of covering over the tin can.  We still need the trash from the house hauled off, the dirt leveled out and driveway fixed. We still need to replace  food preservation equipment like jars and lids, dehydrators (even home made, they cost money), meat grinders and grain grinders. I know, to most people these things sounds rather frivolous. To homesteaders they are tools and needed. Sure we could go back to the stone age and use a rock to grind everything with but from experience I can say it aint much fun and we aint got time for that.

 When people ask what it is they can do to help, my suggestion is to give food, physical labor, gift cards to a local and useful to them store, or cash. To be frank, cash is by far the best choice in our opinion. While everything is appreciated these are what has proved the most helpful to us.

The canned foods have been a blessing for when we are just too tired or don't have time to cook. The fresh produce has helped us to keep a bit of normalcy and diet and for whatever reason helped my mental  state (they are comforting and pretty i reckon).  Gift cards and cash have allowed us to choose what the money is spent on and when. It gives us the freedom to decide what to apply them to and how. Ours have gone for food, insulation, propane, supplies to get the water system up, and new tools to name just a few things.The remainder will be used to help fund the other projects that must get done before harvest season comes again. 

 Everyone  will have  the expenses I have listed in the event of a fire, insured or not. It does not matter their lifestyle or the things and stuff that they will need to get back on their feet. They will need the very basics from underwear to toothpicks. Clothing is fairly easy to come by either free or very cheaply but we all still  need food and shelter. In today's society, we also almost have to have power, heat, and internet in some way, shape, or form. Most people also have other bills and expenses all of which still need to be kept up to date  in addition to the ones created by the fire.  Cash allows them (us) to be able to do all of that when other options do not.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

fires cause stress... who woulda thunk...

I don't have much experience when it comes to fires and the cleanup/recovery process, but I dare say that ours has been  rather smooth and easy going compared to many who go through the experience. Even so, there are many moments or periods of stress that we have gone or are going through. Below are just a few of the stressors we have had to or are dealing with.

The whole cleanup/recovery process seems monumental and insurmountable, for weeks on end. Even though you can see progress being made, it still seems like there is so much to be done. It also seems like you are just moving the messes from one location to another.  And, that is, because you are but for good reason! Even as the mess is eventually cleaned completely up, you are still left with the aftermess. There is the mud pit where the house once stood. There is glass that keeps making its way to the top after hours of picking it up and then there is the crap in the junk heaps that the dogs find and drag all over the property.

The homestead is particularly depressing this year, though admittedly not nearly as depressing as it was two or four weeks ago.  There are mud pits n ditches everywhere, big puddles, gray skies and rain for days on end. Most of this is  perfectly normal but the pits n ditches are rather deep and more defined than usual. I am certain passing geese are going to stop by and use the front "lawn" as a camping spot. We have run over and squished garden beds, beds that haven't been put to bed, some with piles of compost never spread and some that never got seeds or plants harvested before turning to goo. We have  weeds everywhere  that  never  got weedwhacked and  of course the piles of  house remnants are laying all about. Oh we can't wait for spring so we can get busy!

Then, we remember how much we have to do in addition to the regular spring duties and on top of the ones we didn't get finished this fall like the outdoor kitchen,  laundry station, more water storage capabilities, dry storage, something to cover the tin can internet cafe, and landscaping of our new largish but empty and flat spot. Just when we think we have made great strides in the  recovery process, we come to the realization that what has to be done is or seems insurmountable. It seems like a never ending cycle of making  what we feel are big strides only to realize it was a wee baby step. 

As fairly primitive homesteaders, we are used to structure. After four years of school and working full time for the last year,  my days are pretty much filled with work, cookin and washin dishes with the occasional venture out to feed the critters or tend gardens. The manthing  also had a fairly set routine going depending on the time of year. The fire changed all that. The first few weeks were a crazy whirlwind of replacing  and tending to daily life necessities. The next few weeks were still busy  and trying to take care of business and  get some sort of structure back. Even though  we are getting closer to having it again, we don't have much yet. Almost all of our normal chores are gone and the few we have left or the ability left to do are minimized because life is so scaled down.  We have the above listed stuff to get done but December is not considered stellar weather for outdoor work so we are finding ourselves stuck in the internet world on uncomfortable chairs e while trying to remain tolerable and pleasant to the other.

I would be lying to say we don't stress about money. I don't care what type of person you think you are, your home burning is going to  cause stress that you have probably never thought of before. I assume most people are in about the same position as we were when the house burned. Working and able to save a little for old age but cannot afford to do much else except plug along and make do.  We had enough put back monetary and food wise, in the event someone was out of work or injured for an extended period of time, to live for a year or two without many worries. Our bad... We planned  for several scenarios but did not plan on having them all happen together. We didn't plan for having to replace everything we owned in one fell swoop nor the expenses that come with having to do that. Though we are not in danger of losing our land or home, we worry about losing or paying out the small cushion we had. We know how much we needed it for this emergency and were glad to have it so we didn't end up houseless but we have  now have expensive projects (water, storage, kitchen) that must be done to bring us back up to where or about where we were before, self sufficiency wise. We are faced with having to decide whether we need that cushion of savings or do we want our primitive comforts. Additionally, I have still not returned to work despite being ready to at the end of the first month.They are now promising me that tomorrow will be my return date. We shall see.

 On a happier note... we are so glad that we do not celebrate holidays in the traditional sense. We could not imagine trying to buy gifts and having to deal with all the drama jazz that most Americans surround themselves with this time of year in addition to what we already have on our plates.