Like many bloggers, it's taken me some time to find the real core of my own blog. I started Living The Frugal Life as a way to share information on frugality and to encourage those who feel out of control about their money. I still feel that frugality and self-restraint are critically important qualities for adults, especially as we move forward in this time of economic crisis and into a future marked by much scarcer energy than previous generations have been accustomed to. However, I've come to realize that bone-deep thrift is only one component in the life I'm trying to live. As I continued blogging, I found myself writing more and more often about the garden, the hens, the meals I cook based on homegrown food, about self-sufficiency, and re-skilling for a future we're poorly prepared for.
I'm not here to argue about what the future will look like, or when peak oil is going to/did happen. I'm not into doom, though I probably agree with 90% of what the average doomer believes. Given my grave concerns about what we are doing to our planet, I don't deny the occasional descent into fatalism. I'm convinced that the future will be quite different from what I was raised to expect. But I don't see the need to spread the fear that grips me in my worst moments I'd rather roll up my sleeves and DO something than expatiate upon how screwed we are. I call what we're doing about it thrivalism. Because mere survival isn't something I aspire to. I need to work towards a life that is manifestly worth living.
Offline I can be rather pedantic and a bore, nattering on about things that are apparently of interest to few others. (Shocking, I know!) I take pleasure in conveying information and ideas that excite me. Blogging, which leaves the choice to take it or leave it entirely up to the reader, seemed like a natural choice. No one has to feign polite interest in the blogosphere. I read blogs to glean nitty-gritty advice about topics that interest me. I want hard information, details, instruction in useful skills, experimental methods and results, and sometimes just some plain old inspiration to pursue a more self-sufficient, socially just, lower-energy, and happier life. The blogs I read, mostly by ordinary, otherwise unpublished people, often provide me with more of this stuff than I can find in books or mainstream media. If you're here reading, I guess that's the sort of thing you want too. Welcome!
Fairly regularly I get questions about how big my property is and what I'm doing with it. Here are some of the details.
My husband and I live on 2/3 acre in a semi-rural corner of southeastern Pennsylvania. We bought our 130-year-old home in very late 2006 and have more or less been working on it ever since to make it into a functional homestead, doing our best to work within the restrictions of a property zoned only for residential use. There is still SO much more that I would like to do. We have made strides too, though I frequently have to remind myself of them. In terms of livestock we currently keep
- 1 mature apple tree - came with the property, harvests exceptionally late and makes great eating or cider, unknown variety, but we suspect Stayman winesap
- 1 Ashmead's Kernel apple tree, planted 2011, not yet producing
- 2 pear trees - planted 2009, 1 produced lightly in 2010-11
- 2 cherry trees - planted 2009, 1 produced lightly in 2010-11
- 18 asparagus plants in raised beds - planted 2009, now in full production, +25 more planted 2011
- 7 blueberry bushes - planted 2009-2010, some produced lightly in 2011
- 6 golden raspberry bushes - planted in 2011
- 10 black raspberry bushes - planted 2010-2011
- numerous volunteer wineberries, always moderately productive
- 4 grape vines - wine varietals - planted 2009, began producing in 2010
- three small patch of ramps - planted 2008-2011, not yet enough to harvest
- 1 lime tree, in container, kept indoors in winter, not yet producing
- 2 Meyer lemon trees, in containers, kept indoors in winter, 1 may produce in 2011
- 2 elder bushes - planted 2009, began producing in 2010
- 2 blackcurrant bushes, planted 2010-2011, 1 produced lightly in 2011
- 3 fig trees, in containers, kept indoors in winter, produced lightly in 2011
- 4 hazel bushes, in containers, to be transplanted in 2012-13, not yet producing
- 1 Siberian peashrub, in container, to be transplanted in 2012, fodder crop for poultry
How much food do we produce here?
In 2009, the first year I kept good records, I produced just over 600 pounds of food for us, plus a good bit of food for the hens, which I didn't record, except for the acorns. I wasn't maniacal about record keeping, so anything we ate hand-to-mouth in the garden went uncounted. Three hens gave us 458 eggs during the 8-9 months we had them. 2009 was a cold and wet gardening year, and most of our perennial plants were too young to bear.
2010 brought the opposite extreme of weather: unusually hot and dry. We produced 760 pounds of food and over 1100 eggs from four hens, with only tiny harvests from our perennial fruits. We also had a squash crop failure and a poor yield in potatoes. I expect we will easily increase our harvest tally each year over the next several years as more and more perennials really begin to produce.
It's still early in 2011, but the harvest tally is already well ahead of previous years. I expect to harvest something in the neighborhood of 950 pounds of fruit and vegetables this year. We'll see what the growing season brings. So long as I'm blogging, I plan to keep a running tally of each year's harvest on the sidebar of my blog. You can check in there on my progress for this year.
Aside from the perennial food plants and livestock, here are some other things that we've put into place that allow us to do many of the things we do, and which provide a measure of security for a low-energy future:
- honey bees - 1 hive of Italian bees in 2011
- root cellar
- rocket stove
- solar oven, and a solar cooking station
- mobile chicken coop and pen
- passive solar thermal heating (currently being installed)
- one cats for rodent control (and superb companionship)
- canning equipment
- a dehydrator
- manual oil press
- manual grain mill
- rain barrel, eventually to be a larger barrel catchment & irrigation system
- indoor lines for drying laundry year-round, rain or shine
- plenty of garden, kitchen, and DIY tools
- beater pickup truck used for hauling compost, mulch, straw, and dumpster dive finds
Abstract assets - a few things that I can't take a picture of that nonetheless help us enormously
- knowing local farmers who produce food in a sustainable, ethical way
- a try-anything-once attitude
- a clear understanding of what we consider ethical, and unethical
- certainty that money and material goods are not the keys to happiness
- our health
- extremely low exposure to advertising (no TV, few magazine subscriptions, Adblocker, etc.)
- unflagging curiosity about the natural world and a wide interest in many skills
- nearby and supportive family
- irregular but enormously useful help from WWOOF volunteers
This page is a work in progress. Anything else you think should be here? Let me know in the comments.
Last update: 11/16/11