Friday, June 17, 2011

The Little Stone House.


I have run and deleted 2 green/simple living blogs, and this is my third attempt.  I tend to get overloaded and pare things down, but I found that after I deleted the last one, I missed writing about this stuff.  I hope to be better organized and more regular in my postings here, and I hope that my readers will enjoy what I write.  I'm not a pro or an expert, but I like to share with others what my boyfriend and I are doing to simplify our lives.  (Maybe the third time will be a charm!)

The Little Stone House is actually a brick townhouse in a suburb of Maryland. (I hate siding!  It's ugly, and I don't feel like it's a sustainable component.  Blech!)  I was lucky to get an end unit, so we have a little, corner lot--less than 1/2 acre.  The floors downstairs are porcelain tile.  After we had the floors done, I told my boyfriend, "Now I live in the little, stone house I've always wanted!"  I was half-joking, of course, but it really does have a "Little, stone house" kind of feel to it now.

We are not homesteaders, but we are trying to learn to be independent. There are times when we come close.  During a good growing season (for us, that's mid-Spring or so well into late Autumn,) we yield probably a third of the food we need from our tiny lot.  He does the gardening, I document it and try to learn as much as I can.

We want to be off the grid, but due to the nature of our location, we are not able to really do that. When I said in my profile that we minimize our use and use the greenest technology we can, what I meant by that is that, though we can't convert and go off the grid, we make the best use we can of existing technology.  We would both like nothing more than to go completely solar, but our neighborhood rules don't really allow for it yet.  To their credit, they are working toward that, but we're not there yet.  We also just cannot afford to do any retrofitting right now.  The tile floors are a recent upgrade, and they will help our energy use considerably, I think.  The house is already much cooler at a higher temperature than when we had the carpeting. 

We are also both learning how to be more efficient.  We are in the process of replacing all of our light bulbs (previously compact fluorescent bulbs) with LED bulbs.  The bulbs are pretty expensive, but I believe the savings we will see will be significant.  I also recently learned that CF bulbs are not necessarily the clean light source we once thought they were.  It used to be that you had to take precautions if you broke one and you couldn't simply put them in the trash.  Now, it appears they are bad for you, overall.  We are using up our old incandescents while we stock up on the LEDs (1-2 at a time,) and I have taken all of the old CF bulbs to our county's toxic waste collection site.  From a cost and waste-hating stance, that was hard for me, but I think it was the right thing to do.

When I am going to be away from my computer or laptop for more than a couple of hours, I turn them off.  I don't put them to sleep, I power them down. Sometimes, I only turn my computer on once all day.  I don't leave chargers plugged in if my machines are not charging.  I don't leave lights on in any room if I'm going to be gone for more than 5 minutes.  At night, we use LED nightlights.  For a while, we were using solar lanterns, but the process of putting them out in the morning and then hauling them in at night proved to be too much.  Plus, our yard is no longer able to be used in the ways we used to.  (I'll get to that in another post.)  We are finding things that work for us, within our current budget, and we are experimenting. 

The next step for us will be to replace our front door. It is not weather-efficient, and it is not in good shape, either.  Replacing the flooring did make the gap under the door smaller, but it just needs to go.  I'm in the process of saving up to do that now, and I hope to apply to my home corporation in a few months for that replacement.

We recycle, catch rain water, compost, and make copious use of Freecycle, thrift stores, and the various charities that come and pick up unwanted items. We try never to throw out something that may still have some life in it, and we also pick things up from the curbside that we can use (as long as the items are clean and dry and we actually have a use for them.)  It's sickening to me how much people throw out.  We shop with reusable bags, and I also recycle all plastic bags that are large enough by using them as trash can liners and to clean out our cat boxes.  Even cat food bags get reused as trash bags.  Nothing goes in the trash if it does not have to.  Our neighborhood has 2 trash pickups a week, and we put our trash out at the curb maybe twice a month.  That's with 8 cats in the house!  If our county won't recycle something, we try to find a way to reuse it ourselves.

We don't shop retail, unless we absolutely have to.  (Groceries, hardware, etc. is a different story, of course.)  If we can get it from Freecycle, friends, a 2nd hand store, or find it, we do.  I very rarely even buy books or movies any more.  The resources are out there to find virtually anything you want without having to buy from The Big Guys.  When our floors were done, we went with a locally-owned, family business, which is located right across the street from us.  One of the work crew owns a restaurant, which we will patronize eventually.  We refer our friends to local businesses when we are aware of them.

It's not easy, and we are not perfect.  We have a car, because our families live fairly distantly and are not easily accessible by public transportation, but we are fortunate that it is an efficient one.  We combine errands, and if we don't have to go anywhere, we don't.  If we do need to run an errand, we first see if we can walk to take care of it.  I do a lot of my errands on the way home from my job.  We also need the car to transport the cats back and forth to the vet, etc.  Like with everything else, we streamline our use.

We don't have TV service, and we don't go to the movies.  We use Netflix, which allows us to pick and choose what we want to see.  Most advertising gives me a headache, and I'm not interested in most of what people are selling.  Pitch to me once, that's my philosophy.  We also still use our public libraries.  I adore my local library!  I have been able to get many of the books I've needed there over the years, and for a while when we didn't have Netflix, we got all of our movies there.  I don't watch the news, and I don't listen to it on the radio. I scan the headlines and read only what I feel a need to read.  I don't feel our media works in the public interest any more.  I feel their job is to sell airtime/ad space/papers/etc.  Let me rephrase that:  I don't believe the media is allowed do work in the public interest any more.  Everything is corporate-owned now, and neither my boyfriend nor I want any part of that.

Ah, yes. The cats.  You will be hearing a good deal about our cats and other animals on this blog, as well.  We live with 8 rescued cats, and I am trying to simplify and make their lives pleasant along with ours.  When I took them in, I made a commitment to take care of them. There are so many unwanted pets out there right now.  When a person takes on an animal, it should be for life.  These cats get everything they need, and I am also in the process of moving them to grain-free food, which is what they should be eating.  We are almost there, I'm happy to say. 

I have noted that we are vegans.  Cats are decidedly not, and I don't believe in forcing them to conform to a vegan diet.  (There are people out there who do this, and I really don't approve.)  It does pose somewhat of a dilemma for me, but my cats were in my life before I became a vegan.  I just try to make the most humane and sustainable choices for them that I can when it comes to their food.  If I did not work a full time job, I would probably start making their food myself, so that I could source the meat directly from humane farmers.  There are only so many hours in the day, though!  It's a compromise that I choose to make. I guess that is the best way to put it.  I love animals, so I can't imagine not having any in my life.  There are other measures I am starting to take with them, too, to minimize their impact on the planet.  I won't get into all of that here. This post is already very long.

So, while we are not an actual homestead, and we are stuck on the grid for now, we have found ways to draw the world in to us and minimize the harm that we do. We both spend a lot of our time creating our art and in my case, preparing and selling vintage items/antiques.  We watch a show or a movie at meal times, and the rest of the day (when I am home,) we pursue our own interests.  We spend time outdoors. We read.  We cook most of our food from scratch.  We maintain contact with the people in our lives who are most important.  We reach out to neighbors when there is a need.  I really feel like we are at a point where we are minimizing the "junk" in our lives and are living the best lives we can.  There is always more we can do, but this is where we are now.

Thank you for reading.

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