Dear America: FEED YOUR PEOPLE

Every once in a while I get a great reminder as to what we are doing and why.  I came across a meme on social media today that went on and on about how “the new American lifestyle” is to basically steal $75,000 from government assistance programs.  Being someone who has been, and is currently still in the system I call bullshit, and I called it out on my friends page.  I feel it’s my social obligation as someone who is fighting the system to well, fight the system. For one it is actually pretty hard to get on disability, for two almost nobody gets $600 a month in food stamps (we got $270 as a family of 4), and the abuse in these systems is actually closer to 1%.  It’s all propaganda.  It’s smoke and mirrors to get the mildly poor to blame the extremely poor so they don’t see what’s actually happening behind closed doors.  We spend more on the military than the next three countries combined yet we pay our military personnel the least.  Where does that money go?  Why do our career politicians make over 10x more than the national average?  Do we honestly believe that our politicians (who own stock in big business companies) are honestly going to make decisions that are going to hurt their bottom line regardless of whether they hurt the American public?

It amazes me that we have so many Americans that are going hungry, that have to chose on a daily basis to pay for gas to get to work or feed themselves and their children.  These aren’t the people who work part time, or don’t work at all and just mooch off the government.  These are hard working people, people who work full time jobs and even part time jobs on top of that to make ends meet.  These are people who may have even gone to college.  I know because I was one, I personally know these people, I intentionally know these people.  Yet we still argue that it isn’t their right to demand a living wage.  It’s not ok to want an increase in the minimum wage, but it’s totally ok that your CEO makes 400 times more than you do.  As someone else said “why are we fighting over crumbs”.  Why are we blaming the people below us for our problems?  We are reliving the French Revolution.  C even joked that we should put a guillotine in front of the capital with FEED YOUR PEOPLE written on it. Here is the real question and the real misdirection: why is this issue put on the back burner to more trivial issues.  When I get up to the pearly gates I highly doubt this is what I am going to hear “Hmm, let’s see here, you preached the gospel, supported the issues that involved feeding the poor, and making sure people earned a living wage, you were against corporate greed, but your candidate wasn’t opposed to gay marriage so we really don’t want your kind here.” and if i do, then that’s not where I want to be anyway.  There are STARVING CHILDREN IN OUR COUNTRY who have working parents but once the bills are paid there is nothing left because life is about SURVIVAL.  THIS is what we should be picketing the capital about.  We need to be handing out awards to people to pay their workers a fair wage, or help these families break out of this cycle, not to people who openly discriminate.   The “sanctity of marriage” should be the least of our issues.  How about the sanctity of life?  Wake up America: FEED YOUR PEOPLE!

So what’s our solution?  Once our 5 year plan is done the farm should only need to bring in $1000 a month to pay all the bills and pay us enough to put some in savings, retirement, and college funds.  Anyone we have work on the farm will make at least $15 an hour and all visiting teachers will make half of the class fees. Anything the farm makes over this will be donated to help families in need.  We will sell our products for the same or less than the stores and whatever produce we don’t sell is given away (we even do this now). C wants to run for a political office once we get set up and running well. If he gets elected any pay he receives will also be donated. Our farm is all we need. This is the way life should be. Not hoarding money so you can what? Be better than everyone else?   Own more stuff?  Have people envious of you?  I call bullshit. 

Daydreaming and role models

I don’t have much time during the day for things like daydreaming, so unfortunately I daydream at bad times, like when I am driving (which causes me to turn when I mean to go straight, oops), or when I am talking to people (which is really bad because my mom says I am not as good at multitasking as I think I am and have a hard time formulating coherent sentences when I have so much going on in my head). I just have so much going on right now and I need to daydream to keep it all straight (because my daydreams are mostly figuring things out for the future).

Right now I am trying to figure out our brand. What exactly do we want the farm to stand for and how to we get this out to people and make sure that the steps we are taking are the correct steps in this process. Well, we know that our main stance is to help people break away from the corporate greed that has so many of us enslaved. Currently I would say we have large companies that control the wealth of the country, and because they control the wealth they also control the government and every aspect of it. These companies are insurance, pharmaceutical, packaged foods, oil, utilities, and banks to name a few, I am sure I am missing some but these are the big ones. We dish out most, if not all, of our money every month to almost every single one of these guys. Very few people do not have one of these industries taking money out every month. We want to help break this cycle by showing people how they can lower their carbon footprint. The second thing we want to do is show people that eating an “organic” lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive. We pay more for food that is good for us because we think we have to, but we don’t. The third thing we want to do is show people what good food really is. What different food labels mean, why it’s important to be able to visit the farms that grow your food. I encourage people to visit our farm, see what goes into the soil, how the chickens are raised, what the cows eat, whatever they need to see to make them feel better. We shouldn’t have to hide what we are doing, If we do then we know what we are doing is wrong.

This also got me thinking about my role models in this field we are getting into. The two that stuck out in my mind the most are Ed Begley Jr. and Joel Salatin. When I was first introduced to the work of Ed Begley Jr he was always being portrayed as the crazy environmentalist actor who runs his kitchen appliances with a bike. I am very impressed with his work though. I am impressed that he can step away from the life a “traditional actor” would lead to follow a position he feels very strongly about. He lives in a modest house with renewable energy sources, drives an electric car, and even rides a bike to the Academy Awards. He has books and gives talks about the importance of maintaining a low carbon footprint. Heck him and Bill Nye are competing for who can have a lower carbon footprint. That’s so cool.

I know I have talked about Joel Salatin before but he is definitely my role model in building the food part of the farm. I greatly respect his ideas that a farm should build on itself, and that animals should be animals. If you take care of your farm the right way there really should be no need for non organic soil additives, mass produced chicken feed, even silos. Everything on his farms builds on each other. The cows “mow” the grass, his chickens eat the bugs in the grass that the cows “mowed” for them, It’s all very cool.

What we want to do is take these same ideas and mesh them together with the idea that neither one has to be expensive.  We dont care about being a million dollar farm, or build a $200,000 home because our goal isn’t how much money we make or spend, it’s how many people we help.  If we can show people that they can build a house with a low carbon footprint and renewable energy sources and grow or buy  really good natural food while living at or below the poverty line then we have reached our goal.

I would love to hear these two speak in the near future, but more than that I would love to meet them someday. When I say I want to meet them I don’t mean in a “I’m gonna stand in line and spend a second shaking their hand or having them sign a book” kind of way. I mean that I would like to meet them because we are involved in some sort of activist thing together. Be that a talk, or a film, or whatever. I want to meet them as a colleague, not just a fan, if that makes any sense. I want to publish books and give talks, and have real conversations with people who are already in it. This gets me excited. This is what I have wanted to do my whole life. Now I just have to get our building permit….

Just When You Think it’s Safe

I knew when I started this that I would be sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We have been really good with money every since moving.  Not to the point where we really have extra, but to the point where we could buy what we needed for life and the house and still be able to make it to the next payday without freaking out about money or getting hit with overdraft fees.  Somehow this week we really messed up.  We overspent by probably about $150 this weekend and until I get paid next (in a few days) we are kinda screwed.  This isn’t the first time this has happened and probably wont be the last but I’m currently freaking out and have to figure out how to fix today so we wont get overdrafted.  After today we should be ok, unless we get ovrdrafted and then we wont be ok.  ugh I hate this.  I think the most annoying part is that the $150 we blew was supposed to be used to do the perc test.  Now we have to wait until next thursday before we can do it.  I think what I may do is go ahead and apply for the perc test and schedule them to come out sometime after next Wed.  This is definitely the one major problem with building the house ourselves.  The good news is we only have $250 left to pay for renting the excavator.  Money is so stressful.  We also may have to go back to the drawing board with the architect too.  Our architect may have fallen through and if that’s the case we are looking at an addition $2000-$4000 we have not budgeted for.  Ugh, so frustrating.

I’m also still trying to get 100 followers!  Don’t forget to follow the blog!

If you would like to help with the build check out our GoFundMe

Update: We have fixed our current money situation and should be better by tomorrow (whew!!).  My aunt is spotting me $30 until tomorrow (i already have $50 being transferred to my account) and even though they are a big giant terrible bank Chase is pretty great.  I called and told them the situation and they took off the overdraft fee.  Sometimes if you are nice and calm and polite, yet still firm they give you what you want!   I may have also found some designs for our home that will cost us about $400 (yay!!) and everything is starting to look up.  I hate days when I wake up to a freak out.  However, fixing problems gives me a total high.  I am loving life right now.

Easy Like Sunday Morning

It’s been almost three weeks since we have been to church. I absolutely love our church. I think it’s really important to find a place to discuss what you believe in, reinforce what you believe in, have a better understanding of your beliefs, and challenge your thinking and behavior. I would say It’s important to have a place that you love and respect where you can worship, but not everyone has a belief that entails worshiping. I honestly feel that it is one thing to say that you believe a certain thing, but to not continue to learn about that belief, or learn about the opposing beliefs, you are leaving yourself willfully ignorant, and if you haven’t noticed by now I do not respect the willfully ignorant.

Anyway, I love our church because they preach what I feel are the most important aspects of Christianity, love God, preach the gospel, and love people. I love they they preach humility and mission work (both of which challenge me, I’m not so great at speaking about the gospel to those around me). I am pretty good at humility, but I credit this more to who I was before I became Christian.

Which (in a long about way) brings me to what I want to discuss. Today’s sermon was about worshiping for the glory of God and not for the glory of man (meaning we should do things because God sees them not because we want others to see how great we are). One of the examples given was about Buddhists and how they strive to be “the best Buddhist” and puff themselves up. I really wanted to say, “If you honestly think that then you don’t understand Buddhism at all”. I was a Buddhist for 11 years. I think i understand Buddhism quite well. I have learned more about humility from Buddhism that I have from Christianity. Here is the interesting thing about Buddhism, yes there is a religious aspect to it, but there is also a deep philosophical aspect too. You can be a different religion and still learn a lot about your own religion by studying Buddhist philosophy. I honestly believe I am a better Christian because of it. Buddhist teach that we are all the same, I am no greater than the ant at my feet, I am no greater than my neighbor, or my enemy. I’m amazed at how many of my Christian friends are shocked that I still study Buddhist text. One of my favorite books is one written by the Dalai Lama on ethics. After the book was written he did a tour talking about some of the ideas in the book and I was fortunate to see him speak in Louisville. I had several friends approach me about their fear that I was converting back, to which I replied with this story:

One of the first books I ever read by the Dalai Lama had a story about a woman who had grown up her entire life as a Buddhist. After the death of her husband she was introduced to Christianity and was wanting to convert but she was afraid of what would happen if she did, both in life and after death. The Dalai Lama replied to her with this: that she must follow what she is compelled to follow. That if converting to Christianity will ease her soul that she should follow in that path. I have great respect for him because of that.

He has also said that his goal in writing books and doing tours and talks is not to convert people. I have great respect for him for that too. He is an amazing person and we can learn a lot from his teachings. I think many times we become defensive about our own beliefs when we are around those that believe differently than us, but what I have learned from Buddhism (and also my mother) is to step back from yourself and listen to the other person. Find a common ground and go from there. We do not have to be enemies with those that are different from us.

First World Problems

It’s amazing the things in life that we take for granted.  We are so lucky to have power in our home, clean running water, the choice of how we want our children to be educated.  I am visiting this topic because yesterday our cistern ran out of water (or at least I thought it had, it ended up being a malfunction with the pump which was easily fixed) and it got me thinking about how much we as Americans take for granted.  We are so wasteful and many of us dont even care.

It’s funny, it’s almost as if this is my form of fasting.  It’s a way for me to become closer to the earth and to the things God gives us so that I don’t take them for granted.  I am blessed to have these things at my disposal, it’s my job to not be a glutton to them, and to be thankful for them everyday that we have them.

Some of what we do comes from being so poor for so long, but most of it comes from our views on the environment and how we should be treating it.  So here is a brief look at the life we live.  We have about a 300 gallon cistern under the cabin we are renting.  Until we get the rainwater collection set up we are relying on filling the water tank whenever it is empty.  It takes us about 7-10 days to empty the cistern.  Lets look at this critically.  We have six people living in a household that uses 300 gallons of water in a week.  We can run 3 loads of laundry, take about 2 showers each, 2 baths, and wash dishes every day.  How can we do this in a time when most households use 100 gallons of water per person every day?  Technically we should be refilling the cistern twice a day.  We have changed the way we do things in order to conserve more water.  i wash my dishes with a soapy dish towel before i rinse them off.  The water is only on while i am rinsing.  We take short showers.  When the kids take a bath we use the same bath water.  The washer uses less water than other washers.  We also don’t wash our clothes after every single time we wear them (unless they need it, like diapers or underwear).  I have some people who call me gross, I have some people who have stopped being friends with me after finding out how we use our water, and that’s fine.  We have been conditioned over the years to believe that showering everyday, washing your clothes after every wash, etc, was more “sanitary” and that “normal people” do it.  These things have actually been shown to not be better for us, or for the fabrics in our clothes, but we have been conditioned by those who benefit from the profits of us doing these things (shampoo companies, laundry detergent companies, etc).  The one thing that I do is wash my face everyday and the places that i sweat a lot, but i do this with a washcloth.  I don’t care what people think because this is the life I want to live.

We also spend about $200 on groceries every month, nothing is packaged, we have very little food that we waste and what is wasted gets fed to the dog or the chickens.  We throw away 2 bags of trash a month, and hopefully soon we will be down to 1.  Most of what people throw away is some sort of packaging, both food and non food.  If you reduce the amount of packaging you buy you reduce the amount of trash you have.  I feel much better about adding 1-2 bags of trash to a landfill every month than i did tossing 3-4 a week.  We reduce the food waste too by only buying what we need.  Yes, by the end of the 2 week pay period our fridge is looking very bare, but it should.  I find if it doesn’t we tend to not eat certain things that end up going bad.  This way we are forced to figure out how to incorporate these things into our meals, or just not buy them again for a while.  Once our garden is up and running we also will be spending much less on food.

We conserve electricity too.  We don’t keep appliances running during the day except the ones that have to (like the fridge).  We almost never have the tv on.  We also make sure to turn the lights off when we leave a room (or at least try to, our 10 year old is terrible at this).  Although part of what helps is that we are almost never home.  I find that we get cabin fever even if we are home for a few hours with so many of us in such a small space.

All in all our footprint on the environment is very low and we want it that way.  We are always looking for more ways to cut back without compromising on our heath and well being.  I have trained myself to stop and ask “what is the least wasteful way I can do this”.  I recommend trying it sometime.  It really does make you appreciative of the things you have.

Time to get back to work

I love my job.  It’s work, and it forces me to be motivated, but when I am working I love it.  For those of you who don’t know I am a Mary Kay consultant.  I have been for over 9 years.  I was a director for a period of time until my son had major surgery and I stepped down to take care of him for 4 months while he recovered and we adjusted to his new lifestyle.

After my son’s surgery I had a hard time bouncing back.  It’s almost as if I felt defeated.  Like I wasn’t good enough to remain a director while going through such a tough time, and that’s ok.  It’s ok and perfectly valid for me to have felt that way, but it’s time for me to go back to work.  We are having trouble putting aside much of anything for the build because C’s job pays all our bills and enough money for gas and food with a little left over and that’s it.  If i go back to work as much as I was for the several years before i became a director then we can put aside a lot more.  It’s not even full time work and I can still be basically a stay at home mom and run a farm, especially since I am getting really good at time management.

So what would that look like?  I just hired someone to watch the kids two days a week for 3 hours each time (that’s 6 hours a week).  That time will be spent networking, meeting new clients, and catching up with existing clients.  I would then spend 1 hour a day the other 3 weekdays contacting clients and doing paperwork stuff, then i would hold 3 selling appointments a week totaling 3 hours each (1 hour for driving and 2 hours for the appointments).  That’s a grand total of 18 hours a week working.  When i am working like this I typically bring in $800-$1000 a month.  i know my numbers, i know my stats, and now i just need to get working.  I need to see 30-60 clients a month which is totally doable when i am holding that many selling appointments.  it’s not about people buying stuff either.  Some people i see will buy $300, some will buy nothing, that’s not a big deal.  The individual numbers don’t mean much, it’s the relationships i am building and the number of people i am servicing every month that matters.  LETS DO THIS!!  LETS BUILD A HOUSE!!

Grocery Shopping

We totally overspent yesterday.  We knew we would, and I know it’s going to save us a ton of money in the long run, but it still sucks.  How did we overspend?  Thanks to some awesome friends of ours (you know who you are!) we discovered a restaurant supply store right next to Cs work.  This is where C bought the 50lb bag of flour for $14 the other day.  we bought butter, 10 lbs of flat iron steak, 10lbs of ground beef, 10lbs of pork chops, a huge jug of the good Worcester sauce, 3lbs of Mozzarella, and a large piece of Parmesan cheese, oh and enough olive oil to last us about 6 months.  We spent about $145.  I just about had a heart attach, but after thinking about it a LONG time i realized we are actually saving ourselves a lot of money.  If we send $20-$40 every month on meat we will be buying at least 10-20 lbs of meat, will have a huge repertoire of meat to chose from, and we will only be buying veggies at the grocery store (that is until ours come in).  We currently have about 10 weeks of meat in our freezer.  that’s pretty darn good i would say!! Plus we wont be buying more meat until next month.  our freezer is so full.  We need to get the deep freeze from Cs mom soon, especially before our 25 chickens are slaughtered.  We have enough food to feed us for over 3 weeks.  I’m pretty excited about all this, and NOTHING is from a box or “processed”.  It’s gonna be great once the veggies come in.  We will be spending probably about $50 a month on food if that.  I don’t think we have ever had this much food before.  ever.  We had trouble closing our freezer.  It felt pretty darn good.  Just to think that only three months ago we were striving to live on food stamps.  God is good!  We have a long way to go but we are so much better than we were when we started.

The silver lining of biodiesel

No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, there really is one thing I can rely on.  The God works in mysterious ways.

As much as I wanted to get a car first, as much as I really wanted us to have 2 cars as soon as possible, things are working out the way they need to.  As I’m watching this weekend unfold I am realizing this fact.  Am i scared C wont be able to find a vehicle this weekend?  Yes, but he really has until wed to get one and we may actually have one.  We have a truck that the service department has to look at and possible fix some things on Monday if the truck we are looking at tomorrow doesn’t work out.

But that’s the small fish.  Here is the big fish:

If we had followed our original plan I would have been the next to get a car, probably at the end of the month and it would have been a jeep commander.  Why a jeep commander?  Because it can seat 6 and in the rare occasions after the baby is born when we have all of us riding in one car we need a 6 seater.  Of course I was having that fall on me even though it really isn’t the most earth friendly economical option.  About 4-6 months after getting the jeep C would have gotten the truck he is currently looking for, and I would have then realized my mistake and been stuck…

Why would I have made a mistake?  First off the truck gets about the same mileage as the commander, but possibly better.  Second, it fits six so we would have had 2 six seater vehicles for those rare occasions we need it. Third, and the real reason I would have been upset…The truck is a diesel.  Ever since college I have wanted a diesel vehicle so I can have it run on homemade biodiesel.  C wants that too apparently (because we share the same dream, duh).  So here we would have been with one biodiesel vehicle and me being jealous.  That’s a sad story.  It’s so super easy to make your own biodiesel too.  We plan on getting a diesel generator for the house for “just in case” emergencies and running that on biodiesel too.  To make biodiesel you convert used vegetable oil (usually from fast food places that would otherwise have to pay to have it disposed of) into biodiesel using one of these biodiesel fun filtration/ conversion kits.  The cost starts at about $1500 and goes up from there.  The one in the picture makes about 40 gallons per day for about $1 a gallon.  The most awesome part about it isn’t the saving money part, which is really nice.  It’s the fact that once we make the switch we will not be tied down to the oil industry at all.  We complain about these giant companies that have monopolies over our lives, we complain about the fracking destroying our environment and contaminating the land, yet we rejoice when gas is below $3 a gallon.  I feel like a giant hypocrite.  Unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to live in America without some sort of vehicle, unless you live on the east coast but even then it can be tough.  We are cutting our ties to big power, cutting our ties to the water company, and now as soon as we can we will be cutting ties to big oil.  Now if only there was a way to do this with cell phone companies and internet, but unfortunately we can’t make those ourselves.

Sooooooo… Here is the NEW plan (thanks God!).   C gets his truck.  I still need a second car in the next month, but he says he is working on that so i’ll trust him to figure that one out.  I guess i have to, although I also have to admit that i’m super jealous that he gets a car before I do, but such is life.  Anyway, as soon as we can get his credit up (which should happen fairly quickly now that he has no debt except for a car payment he makes every month), we are going to get me a diesel SUV type car.  I have been looking around and it looks like a jeep (I love jeeps) liberty will be the best way to go for us.  We will also need to refinance his truck at some point this year too, but we’ll cross that bridge after we have 2 reliable vehicles.  I have to say, as upset as I am that we STILL don’t have 2 vehicles I am happier about this plan, and far more excited about it, than I was about the original plan.  I guess things really do work out in God’s timing.

the excitement is building

Things are starting to wrap up as we get closer to the signing date.  We are starting to work on some rough blue prints of the house.  it looks like we have settled on a 50 foot circle 20 feet deep.  When you factor in the tires, walls, etc, the house will be approximately 1500 square feet which is about where we wanted to be.  We are including a loft for our bedroom, two bedrooms for the kids (a girls room and a boys room), and possibly a guest room.  The 1500 sq feet doesn’t include the size of the loft.

We are also starting to budget for the excavation, the plumbing that has to go down next, and the concrete.  Once we get the paperwork signed I will start calling around for tires.  We are estimating we are going to need about 1000 tires.  That’s the part that is making me nervous.  We are going to need a lot of people working every Saturday for at least a month to finish these walls.  We are considering having a big bonfire on Saturday nights to entice people to help.  Build on our house and we will feed you and throw a party for you.  I think that sounds like fun!

Our garden is coming together too.  The brussel sprouts came up about 3 days before we anticipated, which meant we couldn’t get the grow lamps up in time.   It’s not a huge deal, it just means that they started off long and spindly, but they are recovering nicely.  Our cherokee tomatoes, romas, spinach, and tomatillos have also sprouted.  They will grow in their grow wells for about another two- four weeks, until they have at least 3 or more sets of leaves.  Then we are moving them to larger pots.  Those will be their final pots before we plant them.   They will also have better soil by then too. One of the first things we are going to do in the excavation process is start the garden and dig out a small greenhouse.  Last year we got our garden started way too late and didn’t have a great harvest.  This year will be so much better.  Also the running total we have on our garden so far is about $50.  I am keeping all the receipts from everything garden related we buy so we can compare the cost of homesteading to the cost of buying food.

Right now our main concern is getting this $3000 down payment together.  Currently we are about $250 off.  I am really confident that we will be able to make it.  It’s gonna come down to the wire, but if it didn’t it wouldn’t be fun!

My plan right now is to work my butt off.  I only need to sell about $550 with my business to be able to put in the $250.  I’m pretty excited about that.  i have a bunch of appointments coming up before the 1st and I think I can do it!  I know I can do it.

It’s still a bit surreal that all this is happening….

We are officially moving!!

We got the word last night that we have been approved to move into our friend’s cabin that is about 10 minutes from the property!!!  It’s a really nice, large cabin that’s probably close to the size of the house we are currently living in.  This is perfect for us because we wont have to drive as far to work on the property and our rent is significantly lower than we are currently paying, meaning we can put more towards the build.

Currently we are spending $750 in rent with about $200-$300 a month in utilities.  ($950-1050/ month and close to $1500 if you include property cost)

With the new place we will be paying $460 for the property and $450 in rent utilities included.  ($910/month)

We are so excited.  I guess it’s time to start the packing process.  We also have an ok to come out and start measuring for blueprints and such.  I am so excited.  I cannot wait.

Last night as we were leaving our friend’s place C mentioned to me how this is like climbing a mountain.  When we were talking about climbing the mountain it was so exciting because the mountain was so far away, but now we are about to head to the base of the mountain and it’s a bit more scary now.  We are planning our route, figuring out how to plan for miss steps and avalanches, packing our gear, and the mountain is so high.  It’s still really exciting though, but it’s one of those things where you just have to catch your breath and take that first step.

The next step is to sign the paperwork and hand over the $3000.  I was looking back at our plans and it’s so crazy, we went from needing $5000 by may to needing $3000 by March and we are doing it!  We still have cutbacks, sacrifices, and a lot of hard work ahead of us for this next month but it’s really happening!  Right now we have $1100 put aside which doesn’t seem like much but with 2 of Cs paychecks and my work there is no way we aren’t going to make it.  This month is really the turning point of our lives.  Come March 1st everything is going to be different.

Breathfarmer adin

Here we go!