Nov 19, 2009

Homesteading and The City

Hello Everyone,

I started thinking this blog up last night after my eldest son commented on how much work it was to heat the house. He went on to say how much work it was to hunt, and garden, and tend the chickens, and wouldn't it be easier to just buy these things like we used to before we moved to Maine? We've just come back from a long vacation in Connecticut where my son witnessed many of his cousins and my friend's children live carefree lives with no chores or responsibilities, or any concepts of where their heat, or food comes from. This conversation made me realize that it's been an absolutely crazy last couple of months here on the farm.

Anything that can go wrong usually does, and there's a certain amount of stress that comes from the constant uncertainties of this life. I plant a garden for food, spending a small investment of my savings hoping for a large return, but will the weather cooperate? Will we have early frosts? Will we loose some crops to deer, Moose, rabbits, ect.? Oil is exceedingly expensive, so I cut my own firewood to use for fuel, but it is back breaking work. Not just hard work in the cutting and stacking but in the burning as well. Someone needs to feed the fire every 6 to 8 hours in order to keep the temperature of the house warm, and when the weather dips to -40 or below it needs to be feed every 4 hrs. or so. That means bundling up and going outside in the freezing temperatures to get into the basement through the outside hatchway because I like many other families out there live in a home built before 1900 and the only access to the cellar is from outside.

Every morning I get up at 5am make a pot of coffee for my husband and father, change the baby's diaper and set her to play in the pen, while I don my winter coat and head outside with a 2 litter bottle of water and last nights scraps, to let the chickens out of the coop and feed and water them. Then it's back to the house to make breakfast, and pack lunches for the guys so that they have food while they are working and they don't have to spend extra money eating out. That first pot of coffee that is now done is poured into a Thermos also for the guys to go to work with, the last remaining bit goes into a cup for me and a second pot is set to brew.

By this time my middle child is up asking for food and to be changed. The guys are up and about as well usually packing the truck with the tools they'll need for the day and putting wood in the stove before the last remaining coals burn out and a fire needs to be made from scratch. I usually have to wake up my eldest, and he picks up his room and makes his bed and wanders down stairs in short order. We all eat breakfast as a family, then it's off to get everyone dressed and start the dishwasher, and throw a load of laundry on. The kids now have an hour or so to play or watch tv, before we start school. This is when I run back outside to do the first egg collection of the day.

As you can see my son is right it is a lot of work and it's only 9am! But what he doesn't see because he's not yet old enough is that everything is a lot of work, you just pick and choose what kind you want. Whether you homestead or live in the city, neither life is absolutely better. It can be better for you or better for them but it's better because you made the choice to live in that manner. Not everyone is alike so one lifestyle will not be for everyone.

I spent $35 in seed this past spring to plant my garden, and I spent about 80hrs. give or take planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting. My corn crop failed because of our cold and wet summer, as well as our tomato crop. We got an over abundance of carrot and potatoes do to the same cold wet conditions so I do not have to purchase carrot seed for the next two yrs. or potato seed next spring. I have all of our potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, rutabaga, squash, peas, green beans, beets, and all of our soft fruits for the year out of that garden. I purchased $120 worth of peaches and other fruits earlier in the summer and canned them for the year. I also bought from the local apple orchard150lbs of various varieties of apples for about $70. The grand total of money invested for a years worth of produce is around $225. Add to that my time in canning which was about 50 hrs. and my time gardening, at the going rate of $9 an hr. for a total of $1170. So the garden cost in both money and man hrs. $1395. for a years worth of both fruit and vegetables if you count your time as money.

My chickens eat the left over scrapes from our meals everyday and I buy a bag of crumble and cracked corn every month for a total of $10 to feed them. They are currently laying 2 and a half dozen eggs daily and our neighbors are purchasing 3 dozen a week at $2 a dozen. We get all the eggs we can use in a month at the cost of 15 mins. a day in care and collecting. We make $10 a month on keeping our own chickens right now. If I sell more eggs than we make a greater profit. Next spring we will be selling both eggs and pullets which will increase our profits as well. In an enterprise this size your not going to get rich but again it's a lifestyle choice.

Now trying to explain the mechanics of everything above to an 8 yr old is just about impossible. $10 a mth and free eggs and chicken isn't that impressive compared with the endless hours of video games and Twinkies that his friends enjoy in Connecticut so I decided to explain it to him in wood. My house is old and drafty. We have an oil furnace as an alternative to the wood stove but if we use oil we burn one 275 gallon tank a mth. With oil prices once again on the rise the current cost this month would be a total of $725, next month only God knows. At that cost the average American would have to work two whole weeks just to buy oil to heat the house every month since 75% of all Americans earn between $9-$13 an hour. We spent 135hrs cutting, splitting, stacking wood, and we will spend about an half hr. everyday this winter feeding the fire. We used 10 gallons of gas in the chainsaws, and used a splitting maul instead of a gas splitter. for a total of $45 actual money spent. We had log length wood delivered by truck load and paid $475 for a total of nine cords. If we figured the 135 man hours @ $10 each that would be $1350. Giving the grand total of heating the house a price tag of $1870.

We have 6 months of heat usage here. So if we were to use oil heat we would have to work 12 full weeks to pay for oil heat to heat the house. With the wood heat we would have to work a total of 23 days if we were to be paid $10 an hr for our time. My son understood this, and in the end decided that we actually work a whole lot less than people in the city. lol.

But isn't it funny how we can think that someone situation is so much easier than our own. I hope my son remembers this lesson of the "grass is not always greener", but I'm sure he'll relapse and need to be reminded again that nothing in life is easy and if it is than it's often not all its cracked up to be. What I saw on my vacation was through the eyes of an adult not that of a child. I saw lots of people trying to get out from under a system that is slowly squeezing then to death. The cost of living rising all around them while the lucky one's pay is staying the same, and far too many are loosing their jobs, their homes, their dignity and everything they've worked so hard to build. Our society has become convenient, lazy. Ever growing more and more dependant upon the system to keep them going, but the system isn't working anymore. The gap between the rich and poor is becoming wider everyday, and the middle class seems lost in the divide.

I pray for all of those trying to stay afloat in these financial times. I hope these hardships will not break the backs of your families as it often does. Now is the time we all need to band together in society instead of pulling apart. This is the worst time of the year for families who go with out. Christmas and the seasonal holidays have become so commercialized it can degrade even the strongest of heart, and tear apart the best families. Everyone suffering through our Countries economic woes are in my families prayers.

For those of you out there wishing to homestead there can be no better time than now. If you've lost your homes, jobs, went bankrupt and are starting over anyway why not change the basics of the problem in the first place. A clean slate, a fresh start, a positive from a negative. One piece of advice I can offer is keep records of everything you do on your homestead. Without these records I couldn't have written this blog, and I wouldn't know how far we've come in just two years. With any luck next year will be better than the last for all of us,

God Bless.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for visiting my website about the Coffee cup I found at Walmart, I went back the other day with my DD to grab the Hot Chocolate labeled one but they were I guess they are too cute to just pass up at that moment.

    Anyhow I enjoyed reading this post and I can remember as a child thinking the same thing as your DS here, but as I grew older I missed the lifestyle and feel so blessed to have been given a chance at it again now as a wife and mother, my children are now wondering the same thing with all the new chores they have to do if they will Is it not like the Lord says we labour before we play... Hard work yes it is for all but the blessing of the rewards are so worth it.