Tuesday, January 19, 2016

They say homesteading is harder than it looks...

People tell me that homesteading is harder than it looks. Well before I had my own dreams of staking out a claim on the land, I surmised as much from the scatological metaphors of my college advisor, an Iowa farm girl-turned-historian. ("Every profession will have its own shit to shovel…")

In those days, I judged my success by how far I could get away from home. Now, having lived abroad, gotten lost in someone else's shoes, and tested my limits on four continents, the last frontier is surely the hearth. I have set my sights to homesteading, come what may.

I harbor no misconceptions that it will be easy. Animal husbandry is a wild, messy roller coaster that I'm not sure I'm up for. Growing our own food would require time, persistence, blood, sweat, and tears. I'm ready for a challenge – I've been planning for this for years. But the challenge I wasn't prepared for is the very first hurdle – the hurdle we have yet to cross – getting the darn land in the first place.

Having earned an MA as a Fulbright scholar to the UK, it seemed the doors should open up for me. And while I know I took an unusual route coming home to Eastern Washington rather than continuing to pursue a career in international development, I thought that once I found a job things would get easier.

My first job came in the form of a temporary session aide position at the Washington State Legislature. I could barely afford the clothes I needed to show up at work every day. I stayed with my sister and her husband in Olympia while my own husband, Daron, lived with my parents in Spokane to go to school. (Though his parents also lived in the area, they were well outside of any bus route, and we were both without a car at the time.)

When my session position ended, I was again without work and moving back in with my parents (and my husband). But not for long. Shortly after I left, a shakeup in the legislature resulted in an opening to become the legislative assistant in the office that I'd worked for during session. It was the first of several lucky breaks that helped me hobble along. But there was a catch – the senator would be leaving office, so the job only lasted through December. If destiny was in my corner, I would have a job again soon – one of the candidates would be the Senator’s old legislative assistant, whom I’d worked with during session and who wanted to take me on as his aide if elected. I had a lot to be hopeful for, but I didn't have any security at the time.

Daron and I rolled the dice, took our chances, and moved into a small apartment on Spokane's lower South Hill. Working a partner through school, every step forward is only a half-step forward. It was another year before we could afford a car--a necessity in my line of work, and a virtual requirement in general in light of the second-rate bus systems we tolerate in America.

Now, here we are, starting out 2016. We are a long way from generating the savings needed to buy some land and build a home, or to stake out a place with some acreage, but we have come a long way. It’s strange to look back and think that, six years ago, we were living paycheck to paycheck. Rent cost more than my two jobs were bringing in, and as we neared the end of the month I was calling through my contact list to see if anyone needed a babysitter.

Our wonderful scholarship-funded year in England was a break from the reality of trying to make it in the new economy. And the thought that keeps me up at night is this: we are the lucky ones. The ones that had family to fall back on when times were tough, instead of taking out backbreaking loans to make ends meet. The ones that had scholarships and other resources to pay for school instead of sliding further into the vicious cycle of debt. The ones that found work that valued our skillset—even if it didn’t pay what earlier generations would’ve expected (earlier generations of white people, at any rate).

Ultimately, our pursuit of the American Dream has been a study in privilege, opportunity, and inequality. Our story remains unwritten, as does the outcome of our shared story – the story of the transformation of our country as communities struggle to live up to the expectations of the past in a time of political, economic, and environmental change. I hope that we can end this story with our souls and our dreams intact.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A humble start to the Wild Ride Homestead

Patio garden design!
I recently started to design a patio garden for Michaela and my flat over here in the UK. I have been reading about Peak Oil for about three years or so and Climate Change for over ten. I think in many ways I have been stuck on the problem and not making the steps towards taking action and solutions. Michaela and I have made some changes in our lives and cut our consumption a lot but it feels different now. Partly because while we had cut our consumption a lot relative to the average American we were still only about equal to the average UK citizen. We had still not truly challenged the structures that our society is built on. Well now I'm hoping to not just bend the rules but start breaking them.

I have been watching videos from the Peak Moment TV online program. Through this I have seen many examples of real community based solutions and heard people's stories. This has inspired me to move out of my comfort zone. The first step is starting Michaela and my Wild Ride Homestead!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spring in the UK

I wanted to share some pictures I recently took of the UK in spring time!

Volunteering in the chalk grasslands

I had some fun today volunteering with the East Sussex Wildlife Trust doing what they call "practical conservation." At 10.00am today I headed out with a group of nine other people to work on restoring a small patch of English chalk grasslands. Apparently about 97% of the English chalk grasslands have disappeared over the years. Sheep used to help keep the grasslands from being taken over by tress and bushes but people here are apparently razing a lot less sheep then they used to. I was fascinated by this and I was eager to learn more about it all.

We got to our work site about 10.30am and started getting ready to work. I got my first surprise when I discovered that the area we were going to be working on was a very steep hillside covered with loose chalk rocks and soil. Towards the top where I ended up spending most of my time it was practically a cliff face. My next surprise was that it turned out that our task was to remove all the trees that were growing on this hillside! What sort of conservation was this I thought!?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Beautiful morning in Lewes

We woke up to a very lovely morning today with the sun just shining on the English countryside with a small band of fog hovering amongst the houses and parks.

The change in the weather is very much welcomed. The past several days have been cloudy and grey with some rain and a near constant wind strong enough at times to almost shake the flat.

Spring is slowly arriving here in Lewes. Spring bulbs are starting to show up and even a few spring flowers. Still getting below freezing at night though from time to time. It will be very nice once the weather warms and sunny days become the warm days.

We did have a nice day though walking through the English countryside about a week or so ago. It was a nice sunny day and crystal clear. We walked along the River Ouse to a small old church that even to this day is still in service (expect in winter).

On our way back though we did have a little adventure with Shelob. Luckily it was only Shelob's webs but we kept our eyes open and moved a little more quickly home.

Even the rain and wind though still does not ruin the day. We went out to the farmers market and a seed swap a couple days ago. It was very blustery and misty day but still a lot of people showed up to the seed swap. We bought some yummy English Apple Juice and some carrot cake n brownies as a treat.

The seed swap was hosted at a the Lewes Grange. It is a very beautiful place with gardens and a stream flowing through the gardens. There is also a crafter's guild there that has arts and crafts produced by the guild members. Its very nice and we are looking forward to going back once the flowers are all in bloom.

Lewes is a very lovely magical place. Seems like every day we are discovering some new secret passage way to a new adventure and sights unseen. *more pictures after the break*

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Our first snow of the year!

Well it looks like winter is here! We started getting snow yesterday and so far it seems to be sticking around. England overall is getting hit fairly hard with the Gatwick International Airport shutting down due to the snow.

Here in Lewes we only have about an inch but its still enough to make everything all white. I took a walk today down to the store. I was going to bike but decided that bike + snow = bad. I'm happy that I decided to just walk as I got a ton of great pictures of the Lewes area in the snow.

It was really magical walking around in the snow. At one point I was up on a small terrace just watching three squirrels having a blast chasing each other around the tree and sending up plumes of snow as they turned and darted of twittering the whole time. The whole time a bunch of song birds kept fluttering around adding their own voices into the mix. It seemed like all of nature was celebrating the fresh snow.

Human society though seemed a little less happy with the snow. While the kids were screaming with delight at school being canceled the adults were a little bit grumpy with it all. The rail system got heavily delayed and while I was at the store there were signs up on various isles saying that the daily shipment had not made it due to the "adverse weather conditions."

Especially hard hit seemed to be the bread and dairy isles. Both of those were basically picked clean with people scrounging around for anything that was left. Really made me think about how little back up food supplies we actually have any more.

Well overall its been fun seeing the snow. Have to see how the winter goes but so far its apparently much snowier then the UK is used to. Scotland received over a foot of snow from this storm!

*UPDATE: We are getting dumped on tonight! In the last 2 hours we have gotten about 4 inches of snow and could get 10+ inches tonight!

Pictures of Lewes in the snow after the break:

The blog and where it goes from here

Hello all,

One thing that I have learned from this blog is that its really hard to keep a blog updated and on track. Its also hard to figure out exactly what should be written about in each post.

At first this blog was going to be just about our experiences in the United Kingdom and our steps towards living in a more sustainable manner. We changed it soon after to include some political discussions. Now though we are going to be shifting back to just talking about the United Kingdom living in a sustainable manner.

The reason for this is that we want a place where we can just share our experiences with family and friends. For political discussions I'm planning on creating another blog that will just be about politics in general.

That blog will be up down the road. In the mean time I will continue to make political posts on facebook.

Thanks for viewing the blog!