Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How to simplfy

The roses are blooming again - even without my attention!

When my husband and I decided to move out here to the PNW and to buy a small piece of land and start our own little 'homestead', the idea was to simplify our lives. Are we on track? I think so. Because of the price of land here, we had to take out a larger mortgage than we wanted. It's certainly affordable with our current salaries, but with the economy on shaky ground, what happens should one of us lose our job? I *think* we could make it on one salary, but all improvements would have to come to a grinding halt. We owe $ on two cars, but selling the Prius should rectify that. Not only will one car payment disappear, but applying the remainder towards the other car will bring us down to only having to pay on it for another year before that one is paid off too. We have student loans, but no credit card debt. We do pay towards our retirement and we have other investments as well. All in all, I'd say that we are in a very stable place, financially.

I'd like it to be better. I'd like to be debt free. The plan is to pay additional towards the mortgage each month. We didn't on the first payment because we are still paying rent on our apartment, but once that is done, we will start chipping away at that mortgage.

Eliminating debt is one form of simplification. We are working to provide more of our own food from our land. Freezing and canning the harvest (and the milk and milk products) will help us offset food costs in the coming winter. Once I get the pantry set up, rotating our food and having all the things we need on hand to prepare meals makes life much easier. Less last minute trips to the grocery store will not only save us money, but save us gas and most importantly, time.

This weekend we have a couple of companies coming over to give us estimates on residing our house. We will also get our insulation evaluated. We have about a cord and a half of wood, and we will purchase some more to get us through the winter. We will also be filling our oil tank shortly (just to have it). The goal is to insulate and conserve as best we can to avoid throwing our money in the home heating toilet this winter. Again, simplifying instead of wasting.

Already, I'm getting better at managing my 'animal' chores each morning. And each day, I come up with new ways to make it easier. Just last night I got the bright (and necessary) idea of using a plastic bag as a cover for the milk bucket. This keeps out the rain, dust, etc and makes it easier for me to complete the other chores while the milk awaits my attention (instead of having to take care of the milk immediately). Keeping a small, water-proof container of chicken feed near the coop saves me the trip back to the garage to keep them fed. I just ordered 4 resealable lids for the 6 gallon plastic buckets we can get a HD or Coastal. The lids will allow us to use these buckets to store the feed in an airtight way - which will be essential when the rains start and moisture is an issue again.

Is my life simpler? Not yet, but we are getting there. I'll admit that it's difficult living in two worlds. At work, I'm an engineer working on high-tech products for a very consumer driven world. At home, I'm a farm wife. Like anyone else, I struggle with finding the balance. Some weeks, work wins the power struggle...some weeks, the farm does. I don't have much free time, but considering how much I enjoy the farm work, I'm ok with it. I've never been one to embrace inactivity for too long anyway.

In many ways, though, this whole endeavor has truly simplified our lives. I no longer yearn for things like nice cars, exotic vacations or gorgeous clothing. I still appreciate beauty, of course, but at the same time, I see those things and think of all the waste created in their production. I feel good about our choices. I don't feel like I am missing out on 'life' by not traveling to Europe. I've always taken pleasure in simple things (like the smell of warm dirt, cut grass or lilacs), but now it feels like I notice those things way more often. It gives me a sense of peace. In so many ways, I don't feel like I can adequately explain it. Maybe it's just contentment. Contentment makes life more simple.

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