Citizens at Large: The EcoFeminist

This month, I’d like to introduce you all to Aimee, AKA The EcoFeminist: urban homesteader extraordinaire, feminist, environmental steward, and all-around beautiful woman.

The way I remember it, she popped by and commented on one of my posts a long time ago; so I popped over to her blog, liked what I saw, and immediately followed her. She inspires me, she educates me, and she touches my heart with her honesty and openness; and I’m honored that she agreed to be interviewed for a guest post here on my little blog. Her blog gets into the “how” and does it really well, so here we talk about some of the “why”.

 

When did you start urban homesteading, and what got you interested?

Well, in some ways I’ve always been homesteading. I get up in the suburbs but my mom always had a huge garden, canned, baked homemade bread, etc. I remember back then yardwork would be *punishment* when I got in trouble, hahaha. My stepdad was always DIY-ing something as well, from fixing up an antique woodstove to building our picnic table, so that never seemed unusual either. My dad was big into growing roses and that influenced me a lot. I helped out a lot in the kitchen, and I think I was 10 or 11 when I made a quiche for the first time – seems crazy now to think about that!

In college I mostly ate Hot Pockets and Kraft macaroni and cheese, but I would still bake whenever I could and experiment on my coworkers in my retail job. 🙂 Later when I was in my 20s, I married my first husband we were renting a little house in Seattle and my dad gave us 3 beautiful Mr Lincoln roses he’d grown in his greenhouse and that, along with tulips, was my first foray into gardening solo (my ex was never all that interested). Later we moved to Santa Barbara and I started growing herbs and roses in pots, but it really was after my divorce and I moved back to my hometown of Portland that I got the real bug for gardening! I bought my home 12 years ago and started out with one of those silly “Topsy-turvy” tomato planters, which was a massive failure ! Then I went to a free neighborhood sustainability fair and attended a workshop on raised bed gardening and I was hooked! The guy leading the workshop helped me realize how easy it was, and that sent me down the rabbit hole 🙂

And once you are growing your own food, canning comes next! All self taught from the instructions online – pretty easy 🙂 As far as everything else goes eco-wise, I’ve been recycling and reusing since I was very young – even did a presentation for speech class in high school on recycling! But with the advent of Pinterest, great blogs (!!!), and opportunities to learn more in the community over the past 10+ years, it’s definitely amped up challenging myself to do even more.

I’ve seen your lists of things you want to learn or accomplish. They’re great lists, and give me so much inspiration. How do you decide what to put on the list?

Completely stolen from Pinterest when I was messing around there once. Type in “homesteading skills” and you’ll see so many versions! I always had a disorganized mental list from various homesteading books in my house (like that one I gave you), and this helped me streamline it and see how others made it happen. I live in the city so I started out realistically and included a few “stretch” goals- you know, the ones you aren’t sure if you’ll ever do but gee, it sure seems cool. Every once in a while if we put one’s self in “prepper” mode (or as I call it, Grizzly Adams mode) and think of what you’d want to know how to do, and it helps as well 🙂

Are there things you wanted to add to the list but didn’t make the cut this time?

Not really…100 is pretty overwhelming! I’ve taken off a lot of more ‘beginner stuff’ that I’ve accomplished to make room for more, but as we’re not looking to move off-grid or raise a herd of cattle, this is pretty sufficient. We have a MASSIVE bucket list that has nothing to do with homesteading – travel!!! That’s why we don’t live in the boonies (well, along with the fact that my day job requires internet!), as we have that split personality of “be a country bumpkin” and “wander the globe eternally” which one can see when they check out my Pinterest page!

What one skill did you learn that you had previously said “never ever will I do __________________”? What made you change your mind?

Absolutely it was making a quilt!!! My great-grandmother had left us quilt tops that she’d made a zillion years ago (she died in 1984 at the age of 94, and I got to meet her that summer of ’84 when we road tripped out there to stay at her farmhouse my great-great grandfather built in Southern Illinois. My mother said she made the best chicken ‘n’ dumplings in her younger years. I just remember she had long white hair that she kept in one long braid down her back, and that there were guinea hens and cows and a clawfoot tub and my mom and I slept out on the screened in porch. Anyhow, the meeting was life-changing for me, as that entire summer was, and when I was 20 my mom gave me my quilt-top. However, at that time there was no way I knew what to do, but coincidentally had a coworker at my retail job who was in a quilting group, and they all worked on it for me to attach the backing for the cost of materials! Years later, my mother gave me the other two quilt-tops because my older half-siblings never showed interest in keeping them, so I googled a billion different ways and found a super easy way to do it – literally sandwiching a piece of warm fabric (for me, a repurposed polar fleece bedsheet) between the quilt top and a piece of backing, then tying little knots every couple of squares to attach them, then the big part was where I got some help. There used to be a shop called SewPo near my house where I not only bought the fabric, but also ended up paying the owner to stitch up the sides to create a border, something I knew I wasn’t capable of. You can see the finished product here and here – sure I didn’t sew the squares together or stitch the outside, but every few days I’d work on the hand-tying (and eating in the kitchen as it lay on my dining table) and it was definitely a labor of love. I kept one (it’s on my lap right now, as I don’t believe in “display” quilts, I like cuddling in ’em!) and I gave the other to my big brother when he had brain surgery. The best kind of homesteading in my opinion is getting to know people in your community with varying talents, because we all have things we’re really good at and, well, “less good” at, and pooling those talents are brilliant 🙂

Homesteading can be hard work, and it never ends. It can make it very hard to practice self care. How do you recharge?

I think because we don’t have land (we are urban homesteaders, so we’re doing it on a standard 50×100 piece of land) it’s not the level of exhaustion that many experience, but I will say I’m blessed to work from home which gives me so much more freedom to make and build and experience it all – so between client calls I can get a loaf of bread kneaded and under the covers for rising, or chop up the cukes and soak them in salt before they become pickles, or since my husband has his “weekend” during the week, I can get client work done on the weekends and go out to the island to pick blueberries in the summer (we have bushes, but they’re not big enough to freeze a year’s worth, not even close!). But to really answer it, my favorite forms of self care are putting my iPod in my ears on something chill and going for a walk around the neighborhood, seeing what other folks are doing in their yards with their limited space (one lady cut down a dying tree, but kept the bottom quarter’s worth and had the guy hollow it out to make a natural beehive…how rad is that…), or if I’ve just gotten a good payday, head across the street to my esthetician (yeah, we thought we were lucky to have a coffee shop at the end of the block in the former crackhouse duplex, now the world’s greatest facialist/reiki/massage-badass/goddess is next door to it…a rare form of positive gentrification I gotta say). But of course, the best place on earth is the Oregon Coast. I have lived on several sections of coastline but Oregon is by far where I can breathe. Hell, it’s where my sweetheart and I got hitched!

 

What one piece of advice would you give someone just starting her (or his) own journey into homesteading?

Anyone who tells you that you need to take a class to learn the basics is full of shit. Yes, classes can be fun and a great place to meet people, but you can learn how to make jam from the instructions in the pectin packet, and just about everything else through a good google search (Pinterest, blogs, homesteader sites, etc.). Too many books out there act like there’s only one way to do something – hell, composting is a great example, with people making it sound like a complex science experiment (my way of composting? throw everything except meat & bones in there, stir it around once in a while, and if you don’t want rats, have a really good cover on it…you don’t need to take the temperature or have a certain percentage for god’s sake! anyhoo….). My favorite though has been in getting to know my neighbors – too many folks these days don’t know their neighbors and I just don’t understand it! Not only does it make life more fun, it keeps you safer in case something happens! One neighbor let us take cuttings of some flowers, another taught us about making homemade limoncello, another was the first duck owner we met which is how we decided to do it years later! And we try to pay it forward as well – we give homemade jam out as housewarming gifts to new neighbors and on the holidays, we open our doors to the neighbor kiddos who want to meet our ducks or (RIP) our bees or see how the tomatoes are coming along. But my favorite this year was giving a neighbor a can of strawberry-balsamic jam in exchange for his turning our bees’ wax into a couple of candles. Rad!

Lastly, jist for giggles: What’s your “guilty pleasure” that you’re secretly not guilty about?

Making croissants homemade that took almost a day to make…then eating all but 4 before my husband gets home from work. So, um, yeah…I rarely make them because of this, hah…other than that? Walking around Cost Plus World Market. The furniture may be crap but I get so many great ideas going into stores like this…and in exchange I can find Buderin ginger candies and Vegemite for the husband 🙂

Thank you, Aimee, for opening up about the woman behind the blog, and letting us get to know you better.

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I am a domestic goddess

Not really, but I sure felt like it yesterday. I did all the things:

  • Started a roast and rainbow carrots in the crockpot
  • Rounded up all the dirty laundry–it was everywhere
  • Made doo-doo balls (that’s what I’m naming those nut butter/oat/chia seed snack balls)
  • Made a couple of decisions with Sunshine & Rude Ass down at the house
  • Actually washed and dried all the laundry, AND got it put away
  • Rounded up a giant canvass bag to collect aluminum cans in
  • Rounded up all the stray aluminum cans and bagged them
  • Cleaned the mess I made in the kitchen with the doo-doo balls
  • Finished crocheting all the pieces of the floor pillow I’ve been working on

I’m kind of disgusted with how domesticated I was yesterday. I’m also kind of disgusted that I didn’t get the floors cleaned, because they’re kind of gross with little scraps of yarn and bits of grass and mud and all that other country fried shit that covers floors when you live in the buttfuck middle of nowhere.

Now for my monthly review:

  • I did get some rest to heal my body. Unfortunately, most of it was forced on me my a couple of bouts of flu or something
  • I did start tai-chi
  • I made a hat out of one of the scrumptious secret Santa yarns
  • The kitchen cabinets have been planned and the cabinet maker is working on them
  • I did binge watch season 2 of “Travelers”, and I didn’t like the way it ended.
  • I haven’t figured out what to do about the cinder block walls of the closet. There are so many ideas, it’s just hard to choose!
  • The Christmas decorations are packed away

Not a bad month, if I do say so myself.

I do have my next guest post lined up for next week (The ecoFeminist… squeeee!). I decided that I don’t want to call the guest posts from other bloggers “meet the Flintstones” because I don’t want to insult them by including them in the insanity of the very real Flintstones/cave people that I live and work with. I think I’ll borrow a term from the Chickasaw Nation: citizens at large. That’s what they call citizens who live outside the tribal boundaries. I like that it stretches the nation/community outside of their geographical boundaries, and emphasizes that we are all connected. So, when another blogger is guest posting, those will be “citizens at large” posts, because the boundaries of the blogging community are spread far and wide. Each of you has touched me in very real ways, whether you’re “next door” in Oklahoma or “next door” in Canada, and I’m grateful for what each of you adds to my life. I’m hoping that the guest posts from other bloggers introduces you to new citizens at large that can touch your lives, too.

Now, this domestic goddess is off to go domesticate some shit. What that might be? Remains to be seen. I’m sure you’ll hear about it sooner or later. Who else is going to pat me on the back for adulting like an actual adult?

Meet the Flinstones: Sunshine

I know that some of you enjoy my mindless drivel (thank you for that, Benjamin); however, there is more to this fledgling intentional community than just me/myself/and I. I’m going to start trying to regularly introduce you to some of the other members that live here, some of the people we interact with regularly (like my boss, hopefully); and I also want to introduce you to members of the community that lives in my phone and tablet.

Today, I’m introducing you to Sunshine, my better half. I’ve been wanting to post about the time he hunted with a wolf by his side.

On the red carpet for “uncertain” at Tribeca: Sunshine, Henry Lewis, Ewanna (Ewan and Anna) of Lucid Inc., and Zach Warren. With Sunshine in camo: Ewan and Steve of Lucid Inc.

Well. this week, I got Sunshine to sit down and tell me the story about the day he crawled through the woods, side by side with a wolf, stalking feral pigs.
Side note: he’s technologically resistant, so I just had to type fast while he told me the story. I apologize for not having him do it himself so he could answer any questions or fill in more details, but I promise to get him to answer any questions as quickly as I can.

What follows is what he told me to type.

It was late afternoon. I had taken a guy on an unofficial guided wild pig hunt. We got up on a group of pigs, but the wind wasn’t in our favor. We were attempting to circle around behind these pigs and flush them out in the open from the thick underbrush they were in.

I got a glimpse of them as they passed down an open trail, but my objective was for the other guy to get to shoot a pig as he was my unofficial greenhorn client and he wasn’t in a position to fire. I placed him at the end of a trail and circled around behind the pigs.

The brush became extremely thick, and the only way in was to crawl on my hands & knees on the trails through the brush that the pigs traveled on. I had crawled about 30 to 40 yards into a thicket, where I found an opening in the brush. I caught some movement in my peripheral vision on my right. I was expecting to see a pig, and turned my head very slowly since pigs have poor vision and notice movement. I locked eyes with a red wolf in a crouched position, stalking the same pigs I was stalking, about 20 feet to my right. We looked at each other for 3 or 4 seconds, then the wolf continued to move forward in a low crouch.

That’s the closest I’ve ever been to a wolf in the wild. I suspect the wolf perceived me as another predator, possibly part of his pack, and therefore didn’t perceive me as a threat.

As I continued on to try to flush these pigs, they were able to evade me, and we went home empty handed. However, the experience I had with the wolf was a form of spiritual recognition of one predator to another, and the connectedness of all things. I felt very honored to have this moment of spiritual clarity, where this creature and I shared a primal common bond. I hope my brother, the wolf, had a successful hunt.

Some day, I’ll get him to sit with me and answer some questions (the same set of questions I hope to get others to answer in guest posts) so that you can get to know him a bit better. Until that day, I think that this story represents Sunshine in a nutshell for anyone that hasn’t met him or seen “Uncertain“.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and get to know my Sunshine a wee bit better. We are always humbled when someone takes an interest in what we’re up to and tries to learn more about us; this blog is no exception.

Why the local postmaster gets a Christmas gift from me

I’ve told you before about how my postmaster told me I should just bring him stuff and let him find the best way to package and ship it.

Today, I took a bunch of jar goods up there to send to Tia and The EcoFeminist.  As soon as he saw me plopping shit down on his counter,  he offered to trade me.

He handed me all of the mail and packages for the entire community, and it was not a little pile. I had to go to the truck and get my cart.

The big box on top is the bubble wrap from the Mason jars Mr B ordered for me to can shit in for the community. 

Then he got to work packaging my shipments. 

All I had to do was stand back and watch.

He even managed to make all that shit fit in a flat rate box and cut my postage fee in half for that shipment. 

As he was packing it in there, he noticed the blackberry vanilla and commented “that sounds good”. I offered to bring some back for him; he told me I didn’t have to do that and I shouldn’t feel obligated.  I responded with “gratitude is an action word auctioned I’m grateful for the way you take care of me” which made him blush a little bit. 

When I went home to grab my grocery list,  I grabbed him some jars of yummy stuff and dropped them off on my way to town. He called his wife and told her to get some biscuits on the way home so they could try that stuff right away. 

Now I’m sitting here, groceries put away, avoiding the long list of shit I need to crochet because Christmas is right around the corner and I have procrastinated long enough. I kind of feel like grocery shopping is enough accomplishment for today.

Connections

I live here in the buttfuck middle of nowhere, with few neighbors because real estate lots are measured in acres rather than square feet. I don’t often get much human interaction. Some days, that’s totally ok with me; it leaves me in peace to do cleaning or crafting or reading or whatever I happen to be doing. Some days, it gets a little lonesome. Thank heaven for the interwebz. 

There are websites dedicated to talking about fashion & style, and I’ve found one that I rather like; where everyone is supportive even when faced with my style, which can be rather weird with my shredded sweaters and shot-up jeans and such. 

Then theres my need to thank heaven for @jack. Even though the new 280 character limit feels so wrong, I still love that I can throw my shit out into the twitterverse at any time of the day or night, and there’s somebody there who will cry or laugh with me. It’s real-time instant gratification.

While I love the way that Twitter forces me to think of how to say things very concisely, I sometimes want a bit more; which is why I love blogging platforms. It’s a slower sort of interaction; we read each other’s posts, and we can take time to contemplate them before responding. We can respond with more than 140-ish characters (I refuse to use the full 280, it just feels so wrong). I get to follow along with people’s lives in a different sort of real-time way. Sometimes, life comes at you fast, and Twitter excels in that arena. Other times, life seems to drag out (like building my house); blogs are a more appropriate way to interact with that sort of real-time.

Being so geographically isolated makes it harder to make face-to-face IRL connections. It’s even worse when one lives in rural Texas as a Democrat LOL. I’m very thankful for the Internet, and the way it helps me form some sort of connection with people like me. 

So to all you folks who read my blog, thank you. To all the people whose blogs I read, thank you. You help me feel connected to the world around me, and that’s a beautiful thing.

Busy week ahead

Hurricane Harvey is trying to wash Houston out to sea. It’s horrifically bad down there, and it’s only going to get worse.

My boss called me today asking if I could work in his place for a few days because he was going out of town. I didn’t really want to, but the outfit and gas for my road trip to my sister’s wedding left me with some credit card bills I need to pay off asap so I can start saving for the Christmas. 

When I asked him where he was going, I couldn’t say no to his request to cover for him.

My idiot boss has gone and bought a flat bottomed boat and is driving his crazy ass to Houston to go rescue people.

Side note: my boss isn’t really a idiot. That’s just my matriarchal instinct, worrying about him because he’s not just my boss-he’s also a friend. My boss is ex-army, so he’s up for the task.

He’s also taking his son (ex-marine). I’ve met his son. That’s a cute kid. I say kid like he isn’t a grown ass man who served as a marine. Matriarchal instinct, I guess.

I will be busy with work until the boss returns, so I may not be able to post much about progress on the house, or the results of my peach jam session, or about the peach syrup I made (unless it’s slow at work). 

Say a little prayer to whatever you believe in; because my my boss, his son, and all of Southeast Texas need it

Fall garden

Mr B finally got done moving dirt where we wanted to plant a fall garden. Sunshine, Biff, and I got out there and got the dirt mounded up so we could plant the corn for the sisters method of planting. 

We used some of the old compost heap to enrich the soil. I call it the “ooey gooey”.

We also planted a row of cow peas  (aka black eye peas) and a row of chard.

In a week or two, after the corn has sprouted, we’ll go back and plant the squash, beans, and Rocky Mountain bee plant in the mounds with the corn.

I’m just glad we finally got the fall garden started.  It’s been so frustrating watching the destruction of a garden full of plants that were producing food. I’m ready to see things growing there again, because I’m tired of looking at the giant dirt scars Mr B has left everywhere with his obsession and compulsion to move dirt.