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How not to keep dogs

It’s been snowing since yesterday afternoon.  The yard is covered in a fluffy blanket perfect for revealing what tromps around the yard at night.  Aside from deer, turkeys, fox squirrels and the occasional rabbit we’ve got dogs- a big one.  As I went out to take care of the chickens this morning, I saw huge paw prints leading to and from the chicken house.  They circled around twice and even scratched at the gate.  The tracks were fresh.   It was still snowing and I could see each claw perfectly.  Definitely dog.  Too big for coyote and the claws are a dead giveaway.

It’s probably the dog we see running through the yard occasionally.  I’m quite sure it belongs to the neighbor down the road and I am not happy about it.  Not one bit.  I don’t know why people think living in the country gives them the right to let their animals run into other people’s yards.  Nothing will decimate your flock faster than your neighbor’s supposedly well behaved dog.

In Ohio, we lost thirty chickens over two weeks to our neighbor’s three labs.  They got them during the day- broke through split fence and chicken wire to get at them.  We saw caught one in the act and took it back to the neighbor and he said his dog couldn’t possibly kill chickens because he was too well trained- even though we caught him doing it!

So, as you can imagine, I don’t like seeing dog tracks around the chicken house.  I just really hope he doesn’t come back during the day.

If people would just keep their animals on their own land, life would be so much easier…

How not to buy local

Stuart and I are shamefully bad at patronizing our local shops and restaurants.  What we do buy in town comes from chain stores like Dollar General and Burger King.  We’ve never been to any of the three great looking restaurants, we seldom go to the two markets in town.  Until recently, we’ve bought the bulk of our groceries at the nearest Wal*Mart, a half-hour away.  The last time we went out to eat, we drove to the nearest large town, also half an hour away, and ate at a TGI Fridays.  And yet, we are both committed to the idea of relocalization, in theory.

So why do we drive so far and seem to actively avoid shopping locally?  I wish I had a good answer myself.  But I don’t.  Like so many others, we fell simply into an easy routine.  We moved here about two years ago and yet we never really left South Bend, the town my husband grew up in and the closest thing I could ever come to a home town.  I don’t think we made a point to explore our new town’s possibilities.  It’s downtown is desperately vacant, many buildings are empty or house intermediate stores- thrift stores hobbled together until something better comes along.  And it’s our fault. Well, not entirely.  It looked that way when we moved here.  But collectively, people like us are to blame for the desertion of America’s main street.  Honestly, it seems a miracle that there are any stores open at all.  If the nearest big box store weren’t 35 miles away, they’d no doubt be closed as well.

We used to justify it because Wal*Mart was cheaper.  But it isn’t.  Not really.  Since the economy tanked, I’ve noticed Wally World ratcheting up their prices.  It seems every time we went staples were just a bit higher.  I thought the same was happening everywhere else so I chalked it up to inflation and high production/transport costs.  On a whim, we decided to go to a local grocery store instead one week.  What a surprise!  The prices were very competitive and in many cases far cheaper.  I think because Wal*Mart has such warehousing capacity and a large customer base, they don’t have to get ride of overstock merchandise with sales quite as much.  But the little grocery stores- their sales are fantastic.  Also, I noticed they had more over-ripe produce sales- a great way to stock up on produce for canning or freezing.  There’s nothing better than ripe bananas at ten cents a pound for banana bread.  I’m baking some right now, oh boy!

The point, and I do have one, is that supporting local vendors doesn’t have to be an economic burden.  I know many are struggling in these harsh times, which makes it all the more important to support small businesses with our patronage.  It keeps money in our community, in the hands of people who have a vested interest in the well being of it’s citizens, young and old.   Many of the small businesses in my town support the school with donations, provide great jobs for my neighbors and sponsor causes I care about.  And they’re in trouble.  Every body’s reporting  losses in this recession-  except Wal*Mart.  It seems each time I drive by, there are more cars in the parking lot.  I can only assume that these patrons once shopped in their local markets and have moved on to Wal*Mart to help make ends meet.  And I can understand that, it’s their choice to make.  But I honestly don’t think Wally World is much cheaper, really.  And even if it is cheaper, I don’t think the hidden costs are worth it, not for me.  But this isn’t a post to induce guilt- the only guilty party here is me.

The last time I went to our local grocery, the owner gave my daughter a lolly pop- just for being cute.  She talked with us about the town, the school and the park.   I felt more than a bit ashamed, like a tourist in my own community.  Living in a town where my daughter will grow up and experience so many firsts, all while refusing to support it’s main-street… it seems criminal.  There’s a bakery, I’ve only been once.  It has great doughnuts and bread, but I just never think to go.  There’s a wonderful restaurant called Grand Central Station.  It’s closed for the winter.  We’ve never eaten there.  A used book store called Wiks, I went there once before it closed temporarily.  It’s been waiting for a “Grand Reopening” for months.  I wonder if it ever will.

So from now on, I’m buying local, as local as I can.  Not only purchasing foods grown as locally as possible, but from local sellers.  In a culture of fashionable earnestness, I’m well aware of the relative meaninglessness of this gesture.  Nor would I wag a finger at those who, for whatever reason, feel they can’t shop at small businesses.   But, for myself, when another store closes it’s doors for the last time, darkening my town’s main-street, at least I’ll know the owner’s name.

Take care,

I’m BACK!

OK, so this poor blog has been sadly inactive. But, there is a reason, several actually.

1. I’ve been busy writing a book.  No, not a book on homesteading.  That would be a slim volume!  A science-fiction novel that’s due out next year.

2. I’ve been preparing a new blog hosted with bluehost and wordpress.org at http://www.hownottohomestead.com.

3. And most importantly, I’ve been doing some serious toddler wrangling.

But most pertinent to this blog, is the new website.  It’s almost ready and should be up and running by February. Until then I’ll be posting regular updates here.

Thanks to everyone who kept reading, even though there haven’t been many (alright, zero) updates. As I keep on making massive mistakes, I doubt there’ll be any shortage of things to write about.

How Not to Do the Dishes

Ok, just quick post for today.  We’re busy harvesting our garden before the final frost.  I’m knee deep in mason jars LOL

Because of this canning, cutting, drying, freezing etc… I’ve been running a little ragged and I think my brain left on a late plane to Tahiti last Friday.  After I put Midori down for a nap I started running water for the dishes.  There were just to many awkward things to fit in the dishwasher, so I had to do them by hand.  I remembered I needed to transfer some of the squash seeds on to new paper to dry and went in the other room while the sink was filling.  When I finally returned the sink was overflowing, water running down the counter and onto the floor!  I really thought I turned the faucet off, but apparently I forgot.  Haste sure does make waste because that darn mess took me well over thirty minutes to clean up.  I’m not sure if I’ll tell Stuart or not.  It’s been a long time since he’s had a good belly laugh.   I think he deserves one, even if it’s at my expense.

On a happier note, I received my Cumberland General Store catalog today.  It was 5.00 shipped media mail and worth every penny.  I don’t know if I’d buy anything from them though.  They’re just so expensive, but I love dreaming as I look through it’s pages.  Wouldn’t I love a cider press?  Oh, that stone ware looks so lovely!  And their pressure canners…. OH their pressure canners!  This catalog is just about the only thing that can bring out my inner consumer.

We had wanted to burn the garden off by now, but with the unseasonably warm, dry weather we don’t want to risk it.  I am hopping for a frost by next week, but I’m not sure Mother Nature is going to comply.

Once we are favored by a nice, hard frost we’ll run a fire through the garden and introduce the chickens to scratch and eat whatever weed seeds remain.  Burning the garden helps accomplish two things, 1. It destroys many of the insect eggs left on the garden plants.  If these remains are just tossed into a cool compost pile, and then spread next year, the eggs can still hatch resulting in a new infestation of last years pest.  2.  It destroys much of the seed dropped by weeds, in our case, crab grass.

We would love to practice no-till gardening next year.  This would prevent the weed seeds deeper in the soil from surfacing.  We’ll need lots of mulch though and unfortunately our county has a miserable municipal mulch program.  Stuart is going up to another county on business several times this winter.  I’m hopeful he will be able to pick up some mulch there.

This week, we put on our handyman hats and fixed the fireplace.  We spent about 100 dollars on supplies (a chimney brush, four poles, firebrick cement, and a cap for the chimney) and spent about three hours on the repairs.  First, we removed part of the damper to access the chimney.  Then we pushed the chimney brush through the opening and added poles to extend it to the top of the chimney.  We scrubbed the entire chimney very well and lots of junk rained down in the fireplace.  After that, Stuart used a small trowel to clear out the smoke box.  Because the former owners had failed to install a chimney cap, birds nested throughout the chimney, filling the smoke box with bird crap and mud.  We nearly filled up the fireplace with all of it- bird skeletons, feathers, dried vegetation and powdered bird crap.  It was disgusting.  After clearing all that mess away, we moistened the fire bricks and applied the fire brick repair mortar to seal cracks and places where the mortar had chipped away.  We had to cure the stuff with a nice hot fire, which we didn’t mind a bit.  There’s nothing better than snuggling up close to a hot fire on a cool fall day.

 That’s When I’m Happy

One of the many reasons a family may choose to homestead is to provide a wholesome environment for their children.  Much of the media our children encounter today is directly opposed to homesteading and it’s values- consumerism vs. living simply, waste vs. ingenious reuse etc…   Simply walk down a toy isle and you will be confronted with sexy dolls requiring loads of accessories to be “complete.”

In view of this, it is refreshing to find a children’s book that promotes the values of simplicity and finding happiness in family and experiences rather than commercial goods.  “That’s When I’m Happy” is one such book.

The book features a bear cub recounting all the times he/she’s happy in order to recover from a bout of gloominess.  Running through leaves, counting stars, cuddling with mommy, reading books- these are the things that make her happy- not Bratz dolls and new clothes.  I love reading this book to my daughter and she finds great pleasure in the colorful illustrations.  I would definitely recomend this book for children ages 0-7 – with Christmas gone crazy, it might be the perfect gift to remind children (and parents) that it isn’t about what you get or have, it’s what you do that makes your life special.

How Not to Go to School…

I’ve just wasted about an hour of my time perusing my local school districts website trying to discover if they allow corporal punishment and what, if any, academic programs the have for gifted children.  We plan on “preschooling” our daughter, so I think she might already know quite a bit of the curriculum when she enters Kindergarten.   I remember how kindergarten and first grade were, I knew almost everything they were teaching.  The only things I enjoyed were art and story-time.

I clicked on the “academics” tab and was directed to academics – athletics.  The only options were all the different athletic programs the school has.  Well, that’s great but I DON’T care at this point, I just want to know what they’re academic programs are like.  It’s just so frustrating.

My mother in law is a teacher in another school district and she warned us that this school is the worst in our general area.  Great, that’s another thing I wish we had considered when buying this house.  Are we going to move or am I going to homeschool?

I also wanted to schedule a tour of the elementary school so we could decide what we wanted to do-let her go to our local school, try for a better out of town school or homeschool- but the phone number of the school is not listed on their website.  I’ll just have to look it up in the phonebook, but don’t you think that’s something people might want to glean from the website?

Stuart seems to think that if we’re on the PTA and participate greatly in her education, Midori will do very well in any school system.  It’s a great sentiment, but I’m still skeptical.  I suppose I should withhold judgment until we go and visit the school.