Community jam session

Last night, Sunshine grilled some venison burgers and almost everybody here showed up at our place for dinner. Rude Ass brought his guitar, and next thing you know, Mr B had picked up Sunshine’s flute and he and Rude Ass started playing some songs.

After Mr B headed home, Sunshine picked up the flute and he and Rude Ass played a while.

This is why we decided to make this change.

This is what it’s about for us: simple pleasures, friends, connections, community. Last night, all was as it should be in my world.

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Meet the Flinstones: Cast & Crew

It has been brought to my attention that new readers need to know who’s who out here in the buttfuck middle of nowhere. I concur wholeheartedly, since we just added a new member.

I’ll start with myself. I’m an addict named Cindy, and I’m the genius behind all of the drool-inducing navel gazing that gets published here. I just recently celebrated 13 years clean, and I’m still trying to comprehend the miracle of 12-step recovery.

Sunshine: my husband, my friend, my partner in crime. He’s my better half, because he has much better people skills than I. He is also in 12-step recovery (I’m not supposed to say that about him, but he gave me permission), and he just celebrated 11 years clean. It’s been an honor and a privilege to watch his journey in recovery from such an up-close and intimate point of view. He is a mason, the kind that doesn’t start with a capital m. He stacks rocks for a living. Well, at least until we finish the house we’re building, and then he will hopefully retire or take up something less physically punishing. If you want to learn more about Sunshine, you should check out “Uncertain”, a feature-length documentary that tells his story with a grace and dignity that I could never conjure up.

Mollie: my furbaby. She’s a 7 year old dachshund who doesn’t know she’s a dog. She’s not sure what she is; but she’s certain that Sunshine is the biggest, baddest, bestest of whatever she is. She is all heart, and she is very wise. When you ask her “Mollie, what time is it?”, she just looks at you like you’re crazy and she asks you “What is time?” Then she tells you “it’s right now, and right now we should squeak the toy!” (or whatever strikes her fancy at that particular moment).

Mr B: he’s the guy who put up the initial money to buy the property we all live on. His hobbies are: studying neuroscience, changing the plan, buying tractors and other random big-ticket items to do things bigger/better/faster/more, and moving dirt. In spite of the ways he frustrates me, I do love Mr B to pieces. He’s great in a crisis; he’s had to break out his medical training from his past lives to tend to several of my severe injuries that aren’t major enough to justify carrying my uninsured-in-the-coverage-gap self to a doctor. He is also our resident court jester, and never passes up an opportunity to make us groan at his puns.

Mrs B: Mr B’s wife. She’s a science teacher at the local school system, which is hella cool because girls can do maths and sciences too! She’s our resident essential oil expert, and generally well versed in holistic health topics.

Tia: my BFF. She doesn’t live here, yet we all consider her a vital part of this community. She’s the Pinterest rock star who discovered a recipe for the vanilla cantaloupe jam we all love so much, and she’s constantly helping me find instructions for the new stuff I decide to try and learn. I couldn’t do all the stuff I’ve learned to do here without her, from tackling the cacti to learning to preserve the organic wild blackberries that grow on the property to how I can maximize storage in a small house.

Biff: AKA Goldilocks. He works for Sunshine, but I think he wants to stay on out here after Sunshine retires. He’s a bit of an oddball; willing to help plant the garden yet doesn’t eat most of the stuff that grows there because he’s addicted to Twinkies and Ho-Hos and Ding-Dongs and shit. His hobbies include watching cartoons, watching football, and he apparently enjoys weedeatering. He’s a great help when there’s a job to be done, and I’m glad he’s thinking about staying on out here.

Rude Ass: our master everything. He’s a skilled finish carpenter; a mechanic who can even work on diesel engines; he’s more than competent with plumbing and electrical work; and he can play guitar rather well. Rude Ass is also quite a good teacher who has yet to lose patience with me as I submit my change orders for the work he’s doing to help build our house; he’s taught me how to properly use a lot of his tools so that I can do some of the work myself.

DaRule: our newest member. DaRule is quiet, and has been busy getting settled in; as he’s not just new to the community, he’s new to the area. He’s originally from up north, so I think the weather has been a shock, especially since we went straight from “fuck it’s cold” to “damn it’s hot”, with no spring to speak of. He’s managed to find time to help in the garden, and having his help and companionship has motivated me to get out there and do more gardening.

So, that’s our cast of characters out here. I need to get my shit together and do some more “Meet the Flintstones” interviews so that you can get to know everyone better; but I’m seriously overwhelmed with health issues, decision fatigue from designing/building my new home, gardening, and increased hours at my job. It’s been a lot, and I have yet another appointment with yet another specialist today. I’m afraid of what he’s going to have to say about my left shoulder, because I’m guessing he’s going to want to do surgery (which is always scary for a recovering addict); so please send a quick little prayer to whatever you believe in that I’ll come through whatever treatment he prescribes–without changing my clean date. Check out the Meet the Flinstones tag for the stories I’ve already published, and the Citizens at large tag for interviews with other bloggers I follow (I need to get my ass in gear and get started on the next one).

Thank you all for reading my brief, navel gazing drivel and getting to know the cast of characters out here!

Freebies!

Our neighbor is an antiques fanatic. She used to own an antique store, and she goes junking/saling a lot. She took Mollie and me on a grand 20 mile yard sale adventure recently, and I had great fun (I’ll write about my haul some other time).

Recently, she asked us to come over and look at a cedar armoire and nightstand set that she needed to find a new home for. Her price was beyond reasonable, and we were planning to go look at it and finalize a deal. Before we could get over there and buy the pieces from her, she decided she would just trade us the furniture for some animal sitting duties. Now, we would have taken care of her ducks and chickens and cats while she traveled for no pay at all; because that’s what friends and neighbors do. She wouldn’t hear of it, and now we are the proud owners of a cedar armoire and a cedar nightstand.

Sunshine claimed the nightstand and I claimed the armoire and immediately moved my winter clothes into it.

Thank you, kind neighbor lady who apparently just needed an excuse to give away something we would have paid good money for!

Reader poll

You guys have all heard my take on Sunshine and my take on Mr B. They’re coming up soon in the “Meet the Flintstones” series, so I want to know what questions you guys want to ask either of them.

I’ll also be interviewing

  • my girl Tia,
  • our very own Goldilocks/Biff,
  • my boss (if I can hold his attention long enough to accomplish a brief interview),
  • Rude Ass,
  • anybody else you guys want to learn more about

For the Citizens at Large series, I’d like to interview you guys, my dear readers and beloved friends. I’ve already introduced you to The EcoFeminist. Coming up is The Tea and Book Pirate. I’ll be getting to all of you, so none of you are safe from my nosiness endless curiosityπŸ˜‡.

So, comment and let me know what you want me to ask Sunshine and Mr B.

From tree to finished product

Two different friends gave us some cedar trees that had fallen on their properties. We decided they’d be perfect for an entertainment center, with this bookshelf being our inspiration.

I’ve actually photographically documented most of the process of getting from tree to finished product.

Sunshine took one of the trees and used his chainsaw to cut it in half. Then he took a cross section off of them so you could see the beautiful colors and patterns in the grain of the wood. He and Rude Ass then bolted them to the exterior wall of the house, using decorative plates on the interior because pretty.

Then it came time to make the shelves. We took them to the guy with the portable sawmill and did a trade of 2 trees in exchange for milling some shelves out of one for us.

They started by sawing off the unusable ends (there were chainsaw cuts in the bottom and the top was too narrow and knotty for lumber).

Then it was time to move the log to portable sawmill.

Then it was time to get out of the operator’s way so he feels everyone is safe as he makes cuts (and say hello to the owner’s sweet doggie, Red).

The next step was to stand around bug-eyed like an excited 6 year old who thinks heavy equipment is super-cool.

I got closer to watch as more cuts are made.

After a few cuts, they had to adjust the log on the sawmill.

Once it was all sawed up into beautiful lumber, it was time to load up the trailer and head home.

Once the lumber is at the build site, its time to tell Rude Ass which board is which shelf on the entertainment center. Promptly have Rude Ass make you change your mind because you can’t argue with his logic; and take more pictures of Rude Ass’s ass because his ass hasn’t been featured on this blog in a long time. Also? Irritate the everloving shit out of Rude Ass because you don’t have the actual teevee that will be housed in the unit, and the dimensions on the internet make no fucking sense so now Rude Ass has no clue how to space the shelves.

While he works, I get to stand around and annoy the piss out of Rude Ass because he is a skilled finish carpenter & a perfectionist while I’m a freak of nature that loves asymmetry and imperfection. Also? I threw a change order at him and added a 5th shelf because storage is important, and we certainly have room for it.

Ultimately, we get a finished product that I love.

Ok, so it hasn’t been finish sanded and sealed yet, but I’m so fucking excited about this monstrosity of a media center that kind of goes with Sunshine’s monument to his ego fireplace that I’m posting a picture of it anyway. Final picture courtesy of Rude Ass, all others taken by me.

It blends Sunshine’s love of primitive and rustic with my love of minimalism, and it has the stature and presence to house the 62″ teevee we’ve picked out. There are stories behind the posts and shelves that make up this unit, and there are connections to the human beings involved with every step of this process. That, to me, is the heart of what this journey is about: simplicity, connection, community.

The view from up here

Recently, Mr B rented a scissor lift thingamajig. It was needed for the quonset hut that was being constructed. Mr B, being the overgrown toddler that he often is, had to play vroom-vroom with this piece of equipment (and really, who can blame him?).

Mollie and I hitched a ride, and he drove us around and raised and lowered us until my inner ear decided to revolt.

I did manage to get some pretty cool aerial shots of this junkyard intentional community.

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. πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

And once you are growing your own food, canning comes next! All self taught from the instructions online – pretty easy πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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