Chaos On Serenity

Diary Of An Off-Grid Homesteader

Tag: vegan homestead

Top Ten Important Items For Your Extreme Homestead

Ok friends, before we dive into today’s Top Ten list, we should note that every homestead (off-grid or otherwise) is a unique operation and whether or not you fit the criteria of homesteader is honestly just a matter of opinion.

Seriously, I question my own homesteading creds at times! I may live off-grid in a camper in the woods, but I’ve yet to can my own tomato 🍅

The way I see it, if you’re involved in any activity which helps you shake free from the clutches of The Man (i.e. helps you become sovereign and self-reliant) than absolutely you are homestead-worthy!

After all, homesteading is as much a way of thinking as it is a way of living.

This being said, most homesteaders make sure they at least have a decent roof over their heads, an accessible driveway and some form of indoor plumbing before they take the homesteading plunge…

However, there’s a group of us out there who scoff at such folly…

We fall into a category known as off grid (off-grid, off the grid). But this category can be illusory as well, as there are off-gridders who are living in the height of luxury with decked-out cabins, solar-everything and composting toilets that cost thousands of dollars! (I’ve not actually met these people in real life, but I’ve seen them on YouTube)

So, for clarity’s sake, I coined the term ‘extreme homesteading’ to ensure I’d never be confused with the average namby-pamby homesteader… (kidding, kidding- I don’t think people with indoor plumbing are namby-pambys- I actually aspire to be just like them one day).

What Is Extreme Homesteading?

It’s one part camping, one part pioneer grit, and a whole lotta crazy.

You’re definitely 100 percent off grid. You might have a smattering of structures you’re building yourself in various states of completion. You should probably have access to things like a bulldozer and a bobcat. Maybe you have a saw mill to process your own trees. Definitely you have multiple generators, solar panels, chainsaws, and tools. Lots of tools. A ridiculous amount of tools.

While you do have something to live in (unless you are in the tropics, then some palm trees will suffice), it’s not quite a house. It could be a camper (nothing too fancy) a tent (get as fancy as you’d like) or even a van (a cozy kid’s bedroom, I say). Basically, anything temporary and hodgepodged together to get you by whilst you build The House Of Your Dreams.

There are some variables though. What one person needs to be comfortable can look a lot different than another (some of us are just nuttier by nature, I guess).

For example, our landmates purchased a solar refrigerator/freezer before they even considered coming to Serenity fulltime. We, on the other hand, are still working out of a cooler (or ice box, as I like to call it – much more pioneer-esque, don’t you think?)  

Okay, so now we’re clear about the definition of extreme homesteading, lets get to this super important, absolutely essential list already.

Ten Important Items Every Extreme Homesteader Needs:

 ​1. Gigantic Pot.

 I talked about this in a previous post; however, the Gigantic Pot is really essential if you don’t have an on-demand water heating system set up yet. With the gigantic pot and a heating source (stove top or fire), you can keep a nice supply of hot/warm water to be used throughout the day for washing dishes and bodies. Believe me, you’ll feel a lot more in control of your life when you at least have the option of keeping things and people clean.

 2. Witch Hazel.

As a natural beauty care buff, I am IN LOVE with witch hazel. The main thing I use it for every day is to clean my face. Its super-refreshing, doubles as a toner, doesn’t dry my face out and, man, is it good at getting rid of the sweaty grime that builds up several times a day in peak gardening season.

As an all natural waterless face cleanser, witch hazel makes extreme homesteading (where attaining water, especially warm water, can be a bit of a procedure) a much more convenient affair.

Instead of wasting a whole lotta water to wash my face, I just pull out the witch hazel, some cotton pads and – viola! – I no longer resemble a dirty street urchin (my garden hands are a whole other story, however)

Witch hazel actually has a ton of great uses on the homestead. It can be used on minor cuts and burns, as it has antiseptic and pain-relieving properties. It helps reduce puffy eyes and hemorrhoids, and can be used to soothe diaper rash. And it’s cheap! For a full low-down on the witchiness of witch hazel, check out this post.

3. Hammock.

I pity the hammock-less homesteader. What is the point of living in the great outdoors if you can’t relax and enjoy Mother Nature anytime, anywhere? I have a hammock that is quick and easy to tie up and take down. After spending the morning in the garden, my pup and I go hiking around Serenity and when I find a good spot to rest, (usually by the creek), I tie it up and have a little shut eye. That is, until Maverick or the kids air horn me back to reality. Which brings me to the next item on our list…

Baby Jasper waiting under the hammock while mom tales a lil snooze

4. Air Horn or Megaphone.

This is really only necessary if you have a decent size property to roam but even if you don’t, the megaphone or Air Horn can be a lot of fun- especially for those of us who aren’t afraid to embarrass our children in public. Serenity is a little over 70 acres, so the air horn comes in handy when it’s time to call the kids in for dinner or chores. It also works nicely to to wake mom up from her hammock hiatus

5. Sun Hat

I love my sun hats! Not only do I feel very homesteady when I am wearing one, it also allows me to garden without crying and squinting like a little old lady at her cat’s funeral (was that in poor taste? sometimes I can’t quite tell). The sun hat is also great at fanning away bugs and gnats, covering your face for an afternoon nap (judge much?) and allowing you to forgo your sunglasses so your eyes can absorb the sun’s healing rays and synthesize vitamin D.

6. Mud boots

Nothing makes me feel better than a good pair of mud boots after a rainstorm. It’s like the rain wants to break me down, but it cannot when I have my mud boots at the ready. They actually make walking around in thick sludge sort of fun. Like I can do anything. Bring it.

7. Outdoor Shower/Bath

Like I said, every homestead is different. We technically have a shower in our camper but who wants to be closed into that tiny space when there are other options? So when the weather’s nice and the sun’s shining, there’s nothing I like more than taking a shower outside.

Rigging up a shower station can be as primitive as a bucket of warm water, a bar of soap, a wash cloth and some trees for privacy. You’ll be amazed by how clean a sponge bath can get you! You may need to enlist help of another for washing long hair, though.

During the heat of the summer, in true pioneer spirit, we also often bath in our swimming hole…

Stepping it up a notch is the outdoor fire bath, an amazing contraption I’ve had the pleasure of using many times at my bff’s farm. Talk about pure heaven, bathing under the open sky, water heated to perfection from a fire under the tub. The whole process of building a fire, filling up the tub and waiting for the water to heat up can take hours, which means you’ll really appreciate the experience.

The fire bath is actually really cool and deserves it’s very own post, so we’ll come back to it in the near future. Until I write it though, here’s a tutorial on how to build one.

Taking a shower/bath in the great outdoors, more specifically allowing yourself to be totally stark naked with the sun shining on every part of you, is an extremely invigorating experience. I really think everyone should try it at least once. You never know, it may become your new thing.

 8. Clothes Line With Pulley.

Laundry is the never ending story, weather you homestead or not. On an off-grid operation, things and people get dirty quick. Knowing this, it still took us a whole year of hanging wet clothes and towels willy nilly anywhere we could, tying sagging ropes to trees and tossing the overflow over tree branches (which was about as aesthetically pleasing as it was functional).

Finally, Maverick realized there was a lot on the line, so to speak, and put up a totally rad pulley system with a super long rope that goes high into the trees, never sags, and can handle a full laundry haul. It’s even fun to use. Sometimes its the little things, my friends.

7. Hand Washing Station.

This should probably be at the top of the list. A decent hand washing station is so incredibly convenient and necessary for an off-grid homestead that’s not set up with indoor plumbing yet. It’s also a great to take with you on camping trips, etc. I hate to admit it, but it took me a couple of weeks before I actually set one up, (hey I was just getting used to things!) using instead a cumbersome jug of water.

This clumsy arrangement up did nothing to encourage the family to wash those dirty paws. Finally, realizing we were on the brink of an Ebola outbreak (kidding, kidding), I bought a super cool antique beverage cooler with a spout for ease of washing, filled it with warm water, set out a bar of homemade soap and a clean hand towel and declared we adopt some standards again.

8. Composting Toilet/Outhouse.

Obviously in order to stay anywhere comfortably for more than a few hours, you need somewhere reasonable to relieve yourself. Enter the composting toilet and outhouse. Both of these options require you to live on a little bit of land so as not to freak out your neighbors or create any contamination issues.

The composting toilet can be as simple as a bucket with a toilet seat on top and some wood shavings for coverage, but for more permanent situations, you can easily build a sturdy and comfortable composting toilet with a few supplies and tools.

The outhouse is also rather simple. Basically a nice deep hole in the ground, at least 100 feet away and downhill from any water sources (well, river, spring, etc).

We use a composting toilet as well as an outhouse. When the outhouse fills up, we simply dig another hole and slide it over. (Maverick’s mechanical auger makes this a much easier job than digging by hand, but we do that also).

Composting is seriously not nearly as gross as it sounds (as long as the kids stay up on their bucket duty and we don’t run out of shavings!). It’s an impressively circular system and one I think deserves a lot more consideration.

 10. Sexy handy man who can build/fix anything your heart desires (in due time).

 Homesteader or not, we all need one of these in our lives!

If you’re a homesteader (to any degree), what essential items can’t you live without? Comment below and let me know!

As always, sharing is caring people! Thanks for reading and happy homesteading!

The Quest For Sadie: Lessons Learned From A Secondhand Purse

I have a confession to make. I have only ever truly loved one purse. She was a backpack handbag and her name was Sadie.

Just the right size and shape to hold a couple of my favorite books, crumpled receipts and wadded dollar bills, she had this amazing ability to meld right into me, so that I would often forget she was even there. Which meant I rarely took her off. Which meant I never lost her. She was perfect.

Sadie was an item of deliberate manifestation. At a point in my life when I was really on fire, I called her into existence. I knew what I needed to finally get organized was a good purse, so I stopped into my local second-hand store certain that the perfect purse would be there waiting for me. And she was.

Turns out, Sadie wasn’t the answer to my organizational problems.

That didn’t stop me from falling in love with her.

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Sadly, we were together for only a short while before my carelessness began to wear her down. Soon enough, her zipper no longer zipped, her inner lining began pulling apart.

Finally the day came when I laid her to rest. Saddened at our parting, yet excited to see what else was out there waiting for me, I began the quest for another Sadie.

However, no matter how many thrift stores I frequented, no matter how much I believed she was out there, I was unable to manifest another Sadie. No purse I came across could even compare to the perfect fit we had.

A full year passed and still nothing. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I was again on fire. It was the day before my first public reading and I was feeling the energy. I went to my favorite local consignment shop and immediately loaded my cart up with awesome finds, including the perfect oracle skirt to wear for my presentation. So, as I always do, I headed over to the purse rack. At this point I was tingling, the creative energy was so palpable. I wasn’t surprised when my eyes immediately landed on the most fantastic purse I had ever seen.

Oh man was she beautiful! She was the perfect shape, the perfect color, a rich, grassy green, my favorite color. She was more stylish than Sadie, with an asymmetrical pocket in front. Just enough pizzazz to keep from being boring, yet not so much as to be trying too hard.

Of course, she was a backpack handbag style. The loveliest I had ever seen. I had been searching for her for an entire year. I picked her up and held her, reveling in my obviously amazing powers of manifestation.

And then a little voice whispered to me, look at the label. I hesitated for a second because deep down I knew what I would find.

I turned the label over in my hands and, staring right up at me, taunting me, were the words, “100% leather”.

My heart sank and the struggle began.

Now, I am not ‘vegan’. I eat eggs, though I try to avoid commercially farmed ones, I eat honey. I eat goat cheese and some other cheeses on occasion. In my weakest moments, I even eat Oreo Blizzards. I guess I would describe myself as (working towards) being an ethical vegetarian, although I really do try to avoid labels. They are just so defining.

Labels aside, my personal journey to (re)becoming a being of love and light centers around a continuous effort to grow kinder, more loving, more compassionate. In order to grow kinder, I have to think about and acknowledge my choices, even when that choice is not for the greater good. Sometimes I choose for me and only me. Sometimes I choose for my family. Usually convenience and affordability come into play.

For example, I would prefer to always buy vegan cheese or skip the cheese all together. However, my family really loves cheese. I can usually substitute vegan cheese with minimal protesting, but, depending on the day, the price can be prohibitive. Also, they eat a lot of pizza.

So often enough, I will buy the real cheese, even though I know and acknowledge that it comes with the hidden price of pain and suffering, which ultimately is a much higher price to pay than a couple of extra dollars or a little inconvenience. Yet, knowing this, I still buy it sometimes. Because it makes my family happy. I like to make my family happy. They love cheese. I could tell myself it’s just cheese. But I know it’s more than that.

So, back to my purse story.

Here I am, holding the purse of my dreams in my hands, hemming and hawing on what to do. I want this purse. Yet do I really? Do I really want to wear the skin of a murdered being around on my back all day every day? Yes, kind of. I mean it looks nothing like the skin of a tortured animal, it looks like a beautiful purse! If only I could just ignore that fact that it use to be a real live being that was no doubt abused and tortured before death I could just buy the damn thing. I have been waiting for this moment for a freaking year! And it’s only six bucks!!

I looked at Maverick, begging him to tell me I was being irrational. He is in a different place in his journey and could easily give me the nod of approval. Yet, he did not. He walked away, knowing that I have to make my own choices, knowing that I am simply attempting to use him as an accomplice, a crutch, an excuse. I breathed deeply. I tried on the purse. I took off the purse. I tried on the purse.

The struggle was real people.

But, an interesting thing happened. The purse actually did not feel good. It honestly felt as conspicuous as huge ugly zit. It felt like an endorsement for murder. It felt like a tortured being on my back. I took off the purse and put it back on the rack. My heart broken, I walked away to the shoe aisle, where I bought a pair of brand new $100.00 boots for only $10.00. They have leather uppers.

So what is the point of the story?

I am still not quite sure. I just felt like it needed to be shared. So many people seem to decide to do nothing in the midst of (perceived) insurmountable problems. They feel like their small every day decisions can’t change the status quo, so why bother. To some, it’s an all or nothing approach. Since there is no way to make 100% ethical choices without going insane or moving to a cave in the Himalayan mountains, it is easier to just not think about it. Believe me, I get it.

But what if we took the pressure off ourselves and each other? What if the first step was simply admitting, acknowledging that there is terrible suffering in this world and we all play a part in it, vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise. This is not about being angry, not about blaming and pointing the finger. It’s about just standing in the reality of what Is. It is my experience that from there things get easier, clarity sets in, the veil is lifted. If a person truly desires to become better, to become a being of light and love, they have to first acknowledge that there is a problem and we are all a part of it. Paradoxically, we are all the answer.

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