Posts Tagged "self-sufficiency"

Why We Do It

Posted on Oct 25, 2012 in Eliza Brownhome, Featured, Simple Living | 8 comments

Why We Do It

The Tiny House Listings blog recently asked Why Do People Fall in Love With Tiny Houses? I have a lot of thoughts on this ranging from financial freedom to humans are wired to like cute, diminutive things. Tonight, I would like to explore the question a bit and give some of our history at the same time. I’m sure for most people who meet us or stumble across our story, there is a big silent (or not so silent) “WHY?!?” hovering in the air. On more than one occasion, there has also been some question as to whether or not we are doing this because we are poor, as one lovely 8 year old put it. Why do we live in a converted school bus? Is it because we are poor? No, we’re not living in a bus out of financial necessity per se. It wasn’t  a case of losing our home and having to move our family into a bus or be homeless. In fact, our previous rental was $1200/month and we were managing that. And yes. We are too poor to buy into the housing market where we live. One of the “mistakes” we made was not getting into the market earlier with a starter home (a condo or an 800 sq ft 1 bedroom bungalow). Now, with three kids and a business with multiple business vehicles, our needs in a home have put us in position where all the suitable homes are far above our income level. Furthermore, with the rental market the way it is, we don’t have much opportunity to save a down payment while we’re busy paying the mortgage on someone else’s investment property. We also can’t afford to buy property and build our own home. Property values in our area are inflated by out-of-province and off-shore interests to the place where raw land is almost as expensive as buying a home in town leaving no extra funds for bringing in services and building a home, and the required down payment on land without a house further prices us out of the market. Still, in a lot of ways, we don’t see any of this as a mistake, but rather a choice as I’ve discussed before in my post Just Renting. We have consistently made decisions to prioritize our family, rather than the financial success–whatever that means–of owning a home. Why have we chosen to live in a converted bus? For Fun!! Yes, our initial motivation was because it seemed like a fun project. We were caught up in our new relationship (read: we were suffering from the impulsiveness of those newly in love). We were excited by the idea of doing the project together (as opposed to buying an RV). I personally (I don’t speak for Aaron here) was in a place of needing to do something different and shake up my life a bit as I was stuck in a rut.  Aaron had lived in a van for a couple of years while treeplanting and had seen some bus conversions. My parents had talked about bus conversions when I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. Aaron’s neighbour was a journalist who had recently interviewed some folks who lived in and around Vancouver (off-the-grid) in converted vehicles of all kinds (milk trucks, buses, etc.) and we were inspired and intrigued by what they called the Urban Technomad movement. This was before I had ever heard of the Tiny House movement and I can honestly say that our initial motivations didn’t have much to do with saving money or living lightly on the earth. Thankfully, all these years later, despite the inconveniences, we still do it because it’s fun! Finances. While the conversion itself cost more than we would like to admit (to the point where we actually stopped keeping track), we did appreciate the financial benefits that came with paying less rent. In the five years we lived in the bus in Vancouver, we paid off more than $30,000 of joint student loan debt. We could never have done that...

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Project Energize Progress

Posted on Apr 11, 2012 in Eliza Brownhome, Featured, Simple Living | 0 comments

Project Energize Progress

Here we are: already the second week of April. I had intended to do monthly updates on our progress on our new farm plan, and on our word of the year, energize…but the weeks have slipped away in a sleep deprived fog as Silas continues to be an incredibly crappy sleeper. Yeah, I know he’s a baby, but this is crappy sleep even for a baby. Really. Jumping straight in then, since this will have to be a big update: January Progress – Getting Organized: I joined pinterest as a place to start saving inspiration for our Farm Plan. You can follow me there at abluebirdmama. My boards that are relevant to our Farm Plan are: Cabinspiration, Farm Plan, and Shelter: Handmade & Tiny Homes. I started my planned computer clean up by migrating most of my bookmarks to pinterest. Unfortunately, the purge is stalled there because the rest (sorting docs, downloads, emails) is too boring compared to playing on pinterest. I have our household binder 90% complete. Unfortunately, I only use it 15% of the time. We got a new (to us) van and we vowed 1) to keep up with the maintenance and 2) to keep it clean. February Progress – She’s Crafty: We finally completed and signed our Lease with the farmers where we are moving! This was a big deal for all of us. The process of writing the lease was lengthy and filled with yummy dinner meetings, and screaming-baby-filled-conference calls. It was a good beginning exercise in getting to know each other and learning to be vocal about needs, wants, hopes, expectations, and boundaries. Signing those pages was also very scary – no going back now!! I had a few nights of panic. Might as well lay there awake panicking while you wait for the baby to wake up again right? We celebrated our last baby’s first birthday. I got crafty. I made a birthday banner. I made a birthday crown. I also stayed up until the wee hours of the morning making wee mice in wee tins for the wee ones’ Valentine’s Day gifts. I made a cloth tote to keep stuff organized in the van. It holds snacks, spare diapers, a few baby toys, books. In the summer, it will also hold a spare towel, bug dope and sun screen. You can also follow Things to Make & Do on pinterest. March Progress – First Things First: We cleared and leveled the (formerly forested) lot where our bus (Eliza Brownhome) and cabin (the Annex, the Panic Room, or the Pannex, whichever you prefer) will be sitting. We sent trees from the lot to the mill to be milled into the beams that will become our cabin. We dug a trench from the barn to our site to begin running our electrical, phone and water services to our site. By we, I mean Aaron. He did a lot of organizing, tree work,  and got to drive a bobcat. I put in extra hours at the midwifery clinic. I neglected to do any work at all on the kids’ baby books which was my assigned project for the month of March. I celebrated my birthday by: 1) going for “breakfast” with a friend and accidentally staying for 3 hours of catching up on adult conversation that was totally free of kid-interruptions and included a delicious eggs benny AND dessert, and 2) getting my hair cut for the first time in 1 year and highlights for the first time in 7 years. That’s the part where some self-care energized me so that I would be able to energize our projects. Except I also got the worst flu I’ve had in years and took my first real sick day since my oldest child was born. He came from school and found me in bed. Ordered me to get up and when I wouldn’t, he cried and asked, “who is going to take care of me?’ Hmm. Good question. So much more to do before June 1. Stay tuned to my PEP (Project Energize Progress) talks to...

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Hand Picked

Posted on Sep 27, 2011 in Featured, Food | 0 comments

Hand Picked

{This is an old draft from a couple of years ago that I never posted. But I like it so here it is today.} As we pull in, the sun glints off the only other car in the gravel parking lot. It is early but the day is already warm and the sky is a brilliant blue. It takes a couple of minutes to disengage: unbuckle carseats; gather ourselves; make sure keys are in hand, not ignition, before shoving the door shut with my hip. We make our way through the opening in the hedge and up a path to a little market stand. The cedar shake roof is long and low and one wall is open to the fresh air revealing a wide counter and a cooler with vats of ice cream: raspberry cheesecake, bubblegum, maple walnut, moose tracks. There is no one behind the counter but after a minute, a woman calls out from the side of the building. We find her sitting at a picnic table playing cards with a young girl. She tells us that the best picking is to the right, anywhere we like. We clatter off, the four of us and our odd assortment of buckets. Noa, our thirteen month old daughter is not walking yet but we brought along her push toy: a bright yellow, orange and purple wagon with big wheels, a handle and a storage box under the seat. She toddles after us determinedly pushing the wagon over the gravel, falling every few steps but always quick to rise and push on. She has not yet figured out how to turn the wagon; her tactic whenever she encounters an obstacle is to look back at us with a grin and wait for help, one hand still resting on the handle. However, today she will need no such assistance. We have come to a pre-walking, wagon-pusher’s paradise: a blueberry farm. Our four year old son Rain runs ahead to choose our row. After a moment’s wait while we turn the wagon into the wide alley between waist high blueberry bushes, Noa is greeted with the longest unobstructed straight stretch she has ever seen. We set her free. Noa is instantly distracted from wagon pushing paradise when she notices the marble sized berries on the bushes. They are a deep dusky midnight blue and covered with a light powdery film. I am not sure that Noa has ever had blueberries and she has certainly never seen a blueberry bush. Call it human instinct; she drops to her knees, crawls to the nearest bush and begins to fill her mouth with berries with both hands. In fact, this is pretty much the reaction of all of us. We are all diverted from our intentions by the sweet, slightly sour fruit. I love the tanginess of the berries that still have a red blush to them. It takes a few minutes before we are able to get down to work, overwhelmed as we are by the plenitude on each bush, blueberries hanging in clumps like grapes. Eventually, we settle in. The rows are wide with freshly mown grass between. It is the perfect work space for a mom of young kids. Fully fenced to keep out the deer, bushes dense enough that it isn’t easy to get into another row, vast enough to provide a sense of freedom for roaming as far as they like and provided they stay in my row, I can always see them. Rain wanders off, imagination and monologue running a mile a minute as usual. He has a yogurt container laced on to his belt loop but he picks directly into his mouth. The only rule: Fill your bucket or fill your mouth but once the fruit is in my bucket, hands off. The small competitive spark in me flares up as I make it my goal to fill my large pail before we leave. Aaron and I begin working on opposite sides of the same bush so we are facing each other. Noa stays close for the most...

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Summer By Numbers

Posted on Aug 28, 2011 in Featured, Food, Parenting, Simple Living | 0 comments

Summer By Numbers

We’ve been counting a lot around our house lately. Here are some examples: Number of pounds of pickling cukes picked by Aaron and Rain while I jiggled and bounced Silas in the Ergo: 29 Number of pounds of pickling cukes bought from local farm stand: 10 Number of quart jars of homemade dill pickles made at 11pm after children were sleeping: 31 Number of times per night that Silas wakes to nurse: 8-12 Number of cute noises Silas makes per hour: 568* Number of annoying noises Silas makes per hour: 6 Number of decibels of annoying noises Silas makes: 100* Number of decibels of planes flying over our new house near the Air Force base: 130* Number of decibels of Rain’s constant singing & clapping: 75 Number of pints of strawberry jam canned while children watch movies: 13 Number of pounds of blueberries picked by 3 adults, 6 children & 1 sleeping baby: 16.5 Number of pounds of blueberries remaining after 2 weeks of pies, smoothies, snacking: 0 Number of coats of orange, yellow, red & purple paint (respectively) it took to paint our 1976 Dodge camper while the children slept and watched movies: 5, 2, 4, 3 Number of days on annual camping trip to Klein Lake (Sunshine Coast): 5 Number of sunny days on annual camping trip to Klein Lake (Sunshine Coast): 1.5 Number of teeth Silas has now: 6 * These numbers may or may not be slightly exaggerated. There you have it folks. That’s the way the final days of our summer are shaking down, in numbers. How did your summer add...

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Briefly May

Posted on Jun 1, 2010 in Featured, From The Mouths of Babes | 10 comments

Briefly May

What I learned in May 2010: If either of my children intends to pursue dance in the long term I have to be prepared for a ridiculous schedule of rehearsals at recital time. Rain has to be at dance 11 times over the course of two weeks, which involves hauling a squirming toddler inside and trying to corral her while wrestling Rain into dance shoes and ushering him into class in a sea of parents and preschoolers in a room the size of a closet. Run I mean, fun! Making butter from raw cream straight from the farm is not as straightforward as using store bought whipping cream, but tasty nonetheless and Rain loves kneading bread. I love working at the midwifery clinic as office administrator and when I put my mind to it, I CAN write a bio. I love Sir Ken Robinson, love his TED talks and I am currently loving his new book, The Element. I would sew a lot more if I could leave my sewing machine set up permanently. I can get a lot of sewing done while my daughter naps and having all the pieces cut and ready to go ahead of time makes sewing much more enjoyable. The weather in May is much more unpredictable than I would have predicted. Hello summer? Where are you? The steps to being awesome are easy to come up with but following them is not. Burt’s Bees avocado butter pre-shampoo hair treatment makes my hair happy. Rain is a comedian, an artist and has a flair for showmanship: Rain came out of the bathroom calling “Mom, you have to come see the treat I made you!!” I replied, “Promise me it’s not poop.” He said, “I promise.” As I entered the bathroom, he pulled a towel off the towel bar with much fanfare to reveal his masterpiece: a drawing of himself picking his nose! I can assure you that I was NOT able to keep a straight face as I explained that we do not write on the walls of our rental...

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