Category Archives: Simplicity

Flowing With the Blog Journey

“An alive person, or an alive relationship, or anything that is alive, has to be unpredictable. What is going to happen in the next moment cannot be forecast.” -Osho

Since I haven’t written a post in a while, I thought we should check in. Something is nudging us toward a change; we don’t know exactly what that is, but we’ll see where we end up. After five years of blogging, a year on this particular blog, things are kind of in limbo-land for several reasons. Daniel and I have been re-thinking this a great deal, and would like to have a blog in which we both contribute equally, and one that doesn’t go in so many different directions. Let’s see- we have adoption, urban farming (which goes everywhere), personal attachment issues, spiritual insights, etc. We happen to be in the process of simplifying our environment even more, so it makes sense that this would spill over to our online world. Anyway, let’s just say some changes are in the works, especially considering the ages of our boys and the even greater privacy they’re needing now that their peers are beginning to surf the web. Like many blogs before, I’d say it may be time to re-design or have this one printed out in book format, and move onward to new volumes.

We don’t know where we’re headed, but we’ll post about the changes as soon as we find out!

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Family Happenings, River Living, Simplicity

Authentic Living: The Ego’s Ruin

I recently had a sweet, very dear friend tell me she couldn’t believe we moved from 2500 square feet, down to just 900. We didn’t have to do it, but I explained that I really liked it because of the peace of mind- fewer expenses, smaller ecological footprint, lower bills, less to clean and maintain, etc (the list is endless). ‘Less to clean’ has been a huge plus for me as a busy mom. My friend seemed amazed, and said she wouldn’t be able to do it because of her ego. Ego? For some reason that never entered the picture for us. We’d honestly never even thought of it. Of course, we have egos. I’m closely acquainted with mine, her name is Edna, and I keep her in check regarding other matters. But Daniel and I have never been about appearances, or what others think of us, and we don’t need a large, fluffed-up or fancy home to feel like valuable, important human beings. Granted, we do believe a home should be reasonably clean, arranged well, and that natural beauty is of great importance to our overall well-being. Those aren’t rooted in the ego so much as a general sense of self respect and a need for nature, order, and balance.

The little conversation sparked some thoughts because I’m sure she isn’t the only one reading our blog who thinks what we’ve done is probably difficult, strange, or an ego-blow. I recall sitting across the table with another friend last year and informing her of our recent move. She wanted to know all about the house, our amenities, and what part of town we’re in. She’s very into ‘prosperity consciousness’ which teaches we can have anything and everything we desire if we just set our intentions properly, and trust in the flow of the universe. Amen to the power of our minds, especially when aligned with our true calling. I strongly believe in that philosophy since I’ve experienced many results first-hand. However, the majority of people in  that movement (at least the people I’ve met) make lists of all the material things they want to acquire. That’s fine if it’s what you want, and if it’s where you’re at in your personal process, but it’s so far from my galaxy of thinking and desires that I tend to confuse that crowd. After explaining our scale-down move to my friend last year, she looked at me with the most puzzled and disgusted look (lip curling) and said, “Why on earth did you do that??!” To her, we should be striving for more, not less. After all, we are entitled to all of God’s riches and glory… right? Well, to me, God’s riches and glory do not lie in this world. Not one iota. My only response to that question is “Why the heck not??!” My other friend had it right– the ego just doesn’t get it.

For those who would walk into our cozy, little house, lip curled, unimpressed and puzzled, let me just say we live in a way that is in complete alignment with our beliefs. In doing so, we’ve experienced a level of happiness that far exceeds anything we’d experience with granite countertops, jacuzzis, a tiled foyer, finished basement, 3-car garage, or mammoth master suite. I spend very little time having to clean up the house, and every square inch gets the love and attention it deserves because there’s less of it. Oh yeah! I love the ‘less’ part. Every corner is valuable and sacred. Our family is 110% closer and more intimate; we talk to one another constantly, and I can monitor what my kids are doing easily. We have the huge, tree-lined 3/4 care yard we’ve always wanted instead of a massive and cumbersome home to maintain on an average, limiting lot. The regenerative, therapeutic value of being outdoors far outweighs any desires to materially impress myself or anyone else. My yard impresses me. The earth with her intensity, beauty, cycles and seasons impresses me from our sun room windows. The grandeur is in  the natural world for us, which isn’t easily noticed and doesn’t always impress people. That’s perfectly okay with me, considering I love the feeling of having a secret oasis. We like it simple.

I’d like to add that we have no problems with those who choose to live differently. We don’t think we’re holier than thou, or better than anyone else. We just wanted to simplify our lives drastically in order to experience more peace, happiness, and freedom, and it worked. We’re not selling anything at all, and don’t make a dime from our blog… we’re just passing along what’s worked for us, and why. There have been more than a few folks who have gotten rather defensive with me about their lifestyles, even when we’re not even on the topic. Seriously, they just blurt out, out of the blue, that they don’t like clothes lines, gardening or the smell of chickens, and need way more living space due to company. Okay, I mean it– that’s okay. The ranting can go on forever while I just listen. Reminds me a great deal of what happens when I inform people I’m vegetarian… ugh! I’m not even going there. Again, we make no personal judgments about anything, except what feels right for ourselves.. that’s what we believe everyone should do– live in complete authenticity with yourself and your surroundings, however that looks to you. So, please don’t take any of what we do or believe as an attack. In my experience, when people take what I’m doing in my own life personally, they’ve probably got some self-examination to do.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Clean Planet, Home, Materialism, Order & Balance, Peace, River Living, Simplicity, Small House Living, Thoughts & Insights, Wabi Sabi

Sorin’s Small House, or “Cottage” as She Calls It

It’s official! In just 12.5 years Sorin will have a mortgage-free home of her very own in North Lawrence. She will be the 6th generation of our family to live here. An offer was made yesterday on the perfect little 408 square foot house, and it was accepted right away. We have to get through an inspection and make certain nothing is seriously wrong before it’s a 100% sure thing, but I have a feeling things will go very well. It’s an immaculate house that’s been very well cared for by the previous owner. The bathroom was completely re-done last year, it has new kitchen counters and a very fresh feeling throughout. The roof is newer, and the exterior looks freshly painted with new gutters and newer windows. It’s much nicer than anything I ever imagined Sorin could afford. The utilities and maintenance will be extremely low.

Historically, the house used to be owned by the next door neighbors, so it was originally built as their guest cottage in 1950. The best feature is that she’s only .6 miles from our house.. just a 12 minute walk away, so I can easily check in with her, and she can come home easily. That will be very important in the beginning.

These pictures are horrible (from the listing agent), but it’s all we have right now. They give you a basic idea:

the front door, which actually faces the side. We'll be putting shutters and flower boxes on the two front windows, and Sorin has asked for a large metal/ceramic sun in the center (her name means "sun" after all!)

back door, which is right off her utility room

She has a large, mature Maple in the front and a really nice, yet manageable, flat back yard. It’ll be perfect for the dog she wants when we get a fence up for her. We haven’t settled on a date yet, but we’ll be closing and take possession in just 2-3 weeks. Much better pics will be posted by then. Welcome to your own little house, Sorin! We’re doing a lot of happy dances over here.

Posted by Jill

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Filed under Family Happenings, Kids, Living With Autism, Simplicity, Small House Living

A Peek Inside our Small House: Living Room

For a while I’ve been meaning to post some pictures of the inside of our little home. I love it when other blogger families post pictures like these. We’ve been here since last July, and it was a major downsize for us. For those who don’t know, we went from over 2500 square feet to just 900. This meant we had to simplify a lot. I love that we had to do that because we’re down to the basics now, and there is far less cleaning to do. It’s not just our house we clean and maintain, but all the stuff in it.

Today was the prefect opportunity to reclaim the living room. Four kids were away all day, and we all know how easy it is to clean when kids are gone. It’s completely futile to clean when they’re all home! There were papers, toys, and books strewn about, with pet hair in every corner, and everything in the wrong place. Despite that, it took me less than ten minutes to clean up this little room. We’re talking dusting, vacuuming, organizing, and straightening. The boring ivory walls will be a warm, earthy butterscotch yellow soon, considering I love it with the reds, and it will flow into the butterscotch yellow kitchen. In smaller homes it’s best to keep colors uniform to avoid chopping up the space. Remember, this living room serves 7 people. It’s small (11′ x 15′), but we have seating enough all of us, and it helps that we spend a lot of time on the floor. We also have room to dance (a big requirement for us), so we did away with trunks and coffee tables. Instead, we purchased a rustic 1930’s Drexel desk with lots of drawers for storage. Daniel uses it when he works at home:

The desk is a focal point, and the first thing people see when they walk into our front door

We prefer that everything in our house 1) serves a purpose, or 2) makes us happy. If they don’t meet those two requirements, we give it away. The large mirror above the desk reflects the front window. The strange wirey thing to the left is an antique rug beater, and we all know how practical they are in this day & age… haha. No, I just have a thing for very old stuff, so the rug beater makes me smile. The wall hanging at the right was purchased at a spiritual retreat, and it reads: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. -Chief Seattle, 1854.”

 

a little river nook next to the front door

We’re hoping to collect and store all our finds from river walks on this little wooden boat shelf. For now, it holds a few books and some potpourri. Daniel found this discarded item when we lived at our last home (in perfect condition), and a talented artist had painted a beautiful river scene on the side. This was an item I was stubborn about keeping, but it took me a long time to find the perfect location for it, so it almost didn’t make the cut. Above it is a picture of our guru on a boat in Mexico.

 

Storage

This old hutch/shelf is a work in progress, just like the rest of the house. I’ve never been happy with the shelf set-up. The lower cabinet stores photo albums, DVD’s, and CD’s. We don’t hang onto our books any more unless they’re extreme favorites, or ones we need access to for a while. Our larger book shelf is in the sunroom, and we like to keep this one pretty cleared off. If you haven’t noticed, when a shelf is overstuffed, the mind begins to feel weighed down. According to Feng Shui, we should always have the sense that there is room for more. Again, this shelf needs work… maybe a focal point, a plant, I’m not sure. It sits near the sofa, and makes a great end table while sipping tea.

closet door and decorative chair

The little cane seat chair is one of my favorite, very old pieces. I love old wood. It’s not just decorative, but practical, too. Amelie loves getting on and off of it. In front of the chair is the old, original iron floor vent cover. The masks above are from Africa, and the red one is from our trip to Ethiopia. And of course, the hooks serve as hat hangers in the Summer, and coat hooks in the Winter. The small wooden barrel hides our recycling items, which comes in quite handy. Final Note: I cannot stand the hollow closet door (hollow doors, yuck). We’ll be replacing it with a solid wood door, and stain it to match the wood trim. The whole room still feels incomplete- i.e. in need of family photos and paint.

Minimal. That’s what we go for, both natural and minimal to keep housekeeping simple, yet warm. It’s not easy to keep things simple because I enjoy browsing antique shops, and could easily fill up the space too much. If I do buy extra things, I almost always cycle something else out of the house, and it keeps things fresh.

Until we paint the walls, that’s the end of our teeny living room tour. Thanks for coming!

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Filed under Materialism, River Living, Simplicity, Wabi Sabi

Backyard Pullet Eggs

4 1/2 month old pullet's egg on the left, adult duck egg on the right

I couldn’t resist sharing a picture of the first egg laid by a hand raised chicken. Hens are not called “hens” until they are one year old. Until then, they’re known as “pullets.” We weren’t expecting pullet eggs for another month, so Ermengard is an early bird!

The scale isn’t apparent in the photo, but her little egg yolk was the size of a quarter. Pullets start out laying small eggs, and become larger as the pullet grows. As adults, the bigger hens lay larger eggs. From Prasad’s review, this tiny delicacy was “very nice, supreeemely delicious.” Not bad for Ermengard’s first egg. Sorin wants the next tiny egg, so I guess we’ll have to create a waiting list.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Chickens, Ducks, Eggs, Food, Natural Food, Organic Food, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading

Expecting Ducklings… Again

After releasing our two Khaki Campbells to another farm, we’ve been looking forward to adding more Indian Runner hens to our flock. They’re extremely docile, plus super amusing to watch. I have personally fallen madly in love with the breed. Phoebe, our Runner hen has consistently laid one egg a day since she began laying eleven days ago. She’s outperforming all our chickens, and the eggs are delicious!

We sought local farms for adult Runner hens or even ducklings, but didn’t have any luck this time around. We could have incubated eggs, but instead we decided to order two females through a site online. They’ll arrive within the next 1-3 weeks, at just a few days old. It will be ideal to have a couple more girls for our Mallard drake, and they’ll both be fawn & white like the Runner pictured below. The baby ducklings stand upright just like the adults. Adorable! We recently went through raising the two Khakis indoors for over a month when the weather was still too cold. With the current Summer heat they’ll spend just one or two weeks indoors; ideal for ducklings, considering they become quite a mess when confined in tight quarters as they get older.

When word got out about June ducklings coming again, Sky was thrilled beyond words. Despite the difficult departure of Ellie Mae and Jethro, he appears to be recovering well. Sorin and Prasad are excited, too. There is nothing like baby ducklings when it comes to melting child (and adult) hearts.

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Filed under Ducks, Eggs, Family Happenings, Kids, Natural Food, Organic Food, River Living, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading

Urban Farm & Garden Update: Late Spring 2011

Potato barrels

Our potatoes are taking off like crazy. We have two experimental barrels this year. Prasad & Sky chose to grow some in their own little garden plots, and those are doing great, too. We’ll get to experience ground versus barrel potatoes, and decide what to repeat for next year. When the plants are towering above the barrels like this, it’s time to add more soil, burying almost half the existing plants. We’ll wait for blossoms to appear, and do a partial harvest of baby potatoes.

Green Beans & Snap Peas

Remember when we first planted these? You can see them here in an older post. The green beans and snap peas have entwined, creating large, happy vines. The peas are already flowering.

Snow Peas

Our snow peas were started much later than the snap peas, which is why they’re so small. We started them directly in the ground with seed from a generous neighbor friend, Kristen. We thought we wouldn’t be able to find snow peas this year, and were thrilled when she contacted me. Thanks so much, Kristen! They took off pretty fast, but we noticed something started nibbling on them. They must be pretty tasty leaves, because nothing else in the garden was being nibbled. Daniel put a little rabbit wire fence around them, and they’ve been doing much better ever since. These are my favorite peas for salads, so we’re hoping they continue to do well.

Tomatoes

The tomatoes have gone insane! If you look back at our Early Spring post you can see how much they’ve grown. We’ve had a lot of rain, followed by sun and heat so they’re very happy so far. We’ve had no problems with staking, but when they’re taller we plan to add wood poles for extra support. Our tomatillo plants don’t have any cages, just poles, and they’re doing great, so far. They’ve got blooms, and so do all our peppers!

Zucchini

We thought this little guy was history a few weeks ago. It was tiny when we planted it on a small hill, and it got trampled a few times before the fence was up. I think it was down to two small, very sad look leaves. Now it’s thriving and blooming. I am a zucchini fanatic, so cannot wait!

Our front yard was tilled, and we planted a large strawberry patch, watermelon, and Russian Giant sunflowers. All three are taking off like crazy. Despite living in the Sunflower State, we’ve never been able to grow Sunflowers from seed. Our front yard plants are taking off, and we’ll have to post pics soon!

Summer heat is coming. We’ve had several humid days in the 90’s. The challenge in our climate comes during the intense heat & drought periods of Summer. We’re hoping the loamy soil helps significantly, and that we don’t have to irrigate excessively. It’s something we have to pay close attention to, or we could lose all our yummy crops. If all goes well, I’m pretty sure we’ll have enough food to feed several families!

Complete List of what we’re growing this year:

Potatoes (barrel & ground), 14 Tomatoes, 9 multi-colored Cherry tomatoes, 2 types of peas (snow & snap), Green Beans, 2 Blueberry bushes, 50 Strawberry plants, 1 Zucchini, 2 Cucumber, 1 Bush Cucumber, 4 Jalapeno peppers, 6 mixed pepper plants (red, yellow & green), Garlic, Onion, 9 Eggplant, 8 Tomatillos, Kale, Broccoli, Sunflower, Watermelon, 2 Peach trees, 1 self-pollinating Apple tree, Cilantro

Plus, don’t forget we have a duck & 3 hens laying eggs every day. By August we’ll have 6 more starting to lay. It’s a wonderful feeling when your food comes from right outside your back door.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Blueberries, Chickens, Do-It-Yourself, Ducks, Eggs, Food, Fruit Trees, In Season, Natural Food, Organic Food, River Living, Seasons, Shashwat, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening, Weather