Off-Grid Whole 30

So I assumed I’d never do another whole 30 after my failed attempt to complete one in 2016. I mean, no beans? We eat beans all the time. And no rice?! Rice is pretty much the backbone of our meals.

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It’s seems like such an expensive way to eat, honestly. And I really couldn’t afford to be running to the store every other day for perishables like meat and fish. Nope. I lasted about two weeks, and to be honest, apart from feeling all-meated-out, I did feel great! But Whole 30, off-grid, in June, is a lot of work and a lot of money – eggs and greens get kinda boring after a few week!

But here I am, jumping back on the Whole 30 bandwagon.

I’m really kind of excited about it.

See, I have asthma, and this winter, with it’s deep cold and harsh winds, has been hard on my lungs. I’ve got a lung tonic and mullein tea to help strengthen them back up again, but rumor has it, a month of uber ‘clean’ eating can do a lot to help! And since one of my big health goals for the year is to be intentional about healing my lungs, I’m going to try it.

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I’m taking 30 days – starting today! – to eat all ‘whole 30’ clean, nourish with herbs, calm breathing, and essential oils (eucalyptus, basil, rosemary, and cinnamon leaf is pretty nice), and hopefully get myself one step closer to my 2018 ideal!

But, we’re not exactly rocking the average Whole 30 grocery budget, so my month will be heavy on the eggs and goat-meat, vegetables, and soups..very light on the almond-meal meatballs and whipped coconut cream.

We’ll see how it goes!

Have you completed a Whole 30? Are you in the middle of one? Please, give me all your tips for making this work!

January Schooling

It doesn’t feel like January today. The stoves are burning low and the rain is pouring down, washing away feet of snow in a day. It’s warm enough to be out without a jacket, except that the rain is chilly and soaking.

We’re all indoors today. Even the goats refuse to step out of their shed. So this morning, we made a big pot of tea and set to work reclaiming our homeschool-schedule!

Structure is good for us. The kids like order – in moderation – and we get more done when we have a rhythm to our days. But in the deep cold from Christmas through Epiphany, we lost our rhythm. The days were full of at-home celebrations and desperate attempts to fight the cold weather and cabin fever. 

We didn’t do much schoolwork; so this week we’ve been easing back into it with lots of readibg aloud and a little bit of math. Today was our first day back on track entirely!

Our school-days involve lots of reading aloud. We start with Scripture in the mornings: Proverbs right now, which pairs well with the Psalms Seth has been reading at night. Then we chose from a selection of books and subjects. Today we read “If You Lived with the Iroquois” and reviewed “American History for Young Catholics”. We read poems in Spanish and English from “The Tree is Older than You Are” and worked on remembering “arbòl” and “blanca” as vocabulary words. We read Tomie dePaola’s St. Patrick, the Catholic Faith for Little Ones, and Yarrow narrated from the story of Noah in their children’s Bible.

Our morning reading is the primary school-time. Depending on the day Yarrow could be narrating from the catechism, history, the Bible, or a saint’s life. As well as reciting a poem from one of our favorite collections. Ilya works on ‘listening without interruption’ and remembering little bits.

Afterwards they have playtime for at least an hour before we sit down to work at the table: math and copywork, possible drawing and painting as well. Today, with all the rain we drew and colored and wrote and worked sums. So far we’ve been loving Saxon Math because Yarrow loves the repetive work that helps her build confidence as she challenges herself with new aspects of older lessons. Her copywork right now is from the Gospel of John. Ilya is tracing numbers and letters because he desperately wants to be as big as his sister!

Most of our reading is review right now. We’ve read through these books in September and October, but after an Advent full of exciting library books, we’re reviewing our regular texts before moving on. January seems like such an ideal month for reviewing and reclaiming.

Along with all this though, Yarrow is devouring books herself. St. Nicholas gave her a book about stars and space for Christmas and she is reading it herself as well as The Lord of the Rings – her favorite books at the moment.

At bedtime, Seth reads aloud and as he makes his way through The Lord of the Rings, Yarrow follows after on her own, reading through the tale and reliving it all again and again.

She also reads aloud to Ilya! Everything from The Happy Man and His Dump-Truck to The Hobbit. I love seeing the two of the cozied up together in front of the wood-stove with books and laughter. 

Monday Reflections: Countercultural?

I’m reading one of my favorite of Rilke’s journals again. In it, he begs us to “be for a single day unfashionable and you will see how much eternity you have within you.”

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Being unfashionable, out of step with the culture, is isolating. Our world is full of pseudo fulfillments – things to buy and have that with make the exterior of our lives look acceptable; things that promise to organize the interior as well if only we can follow the rules. We buy into them and live in a world of friendly neighbors, all nodding their heads to tell us we’ve done the ‘right’ thing, made the appropriate choice, built a successful life.

But eternity, the wilderness of life outside the crowd, is something lonely and beautiful. There is something intimately satisfying about learning to be entirely ourselves..to step outside of the self formed from advertising and entertainment and become a being of eternity, earth-bound and staring up at the sky.

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When we moved out here, some people saw our decision as a judgment. A way of pushing against them and their choices, instead of what it was, a pursuit – entirely our own, of beauty and intimacy and Christ. An attempt to hear Him better by listening more in the quiet, not an attempt to tell others how best to hear Him. We’re building our little monastic homestead on dreams and faith and magic – impractically, because we are almost always impractical – as are most people who make something unconventional out of their lives.

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The world is so quick sometimes to accuse the countercultural, the radicals, the wild dreamers who follow their hearts of trying too hard to be something they’re not: poseurs. But most of the time, we’re just trying to be that eternal self, the one hidden under all the things we used to do to hide her. And we’ve been formed by a world that values conventionality over truth, so she’s sometimes hard to find. We dress up in aspects of her, we play with ideas she might love, in order to draw her out, and so we look flighty sometimes, and altogether too earnest for society’s approval.. but we’re moving closer to something real.

I’m all rambly, Rilke has that effect on me. Tell me what you think? Are you living somewhere outside the mainstream? What do Rilke’s words mean to you?

New Year: 2018

The calendar year is new and fresh and full of anticipatory dreams out here in the snow-filled woods. We weathered our first big storm of the year, but not of the season, yesterday; and today we’re trudging through feet of fresh snow in heavy shoes – carrying in wood to pile around the stove, hauling hay closer to the goat-shed, and planning for a bitter-cold tomorrow.

We’re also reading seed catalogs and looking forward to longer days..because January is the month for dreaming.

I’ve been filling my new bullet journal with reminders of all the ways I want to see our life improve in this new year! Homesteading, ethical consumerism, homeschooling, writing, reading, minimalism..my word for 2018 is ‘Intentionality’ and so far, applying it has been challenging, but delightful. I’m feeling more and more joyful in my daily life, less distracted by social media or other outside stressors, and more nurturing within my little homestead.

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I’m determined to get more writing done, more consistently, and to have a slightly more ordered homeschooling routine. I am also working on altering my attitude towards things, growing in detachment and learning to want less. I’ve purged and konmari’d my house a couple times, I think I could do more with another round, but my goal in ‘abundant minimalism is to want less, to care about the things of this world less and less with each passing day.

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And to make each day just a bit more beautiful with the lovely, transient gifts of nature. Also to get our budget in order – transitioning to a more self-contained lifestyle has a huge adjustment curve. In part because to transition, we needed to leave the conventional work-world behind – it’s impossible to go half-way to a homestead-based income while my husband was driving over an hour twice a day to work and back, but now that we are working primarily at home, we are still transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle and repairing from the less-sustainable lifestyle – car repairs, building materials, etc.. it’s a tough balance. I’m not sure exactly where we’ll find ourselves this year. I have hopes that freelance writing will be an option for me, and that Paperwine Industies  will grow abundantly this year.  But we might also sell some of our beloved trees to a environmentally respectful lumber company to ease the transition.

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Balance is so important. And we’re finding it, slowly, as we greet this beautiful year, “new, untouched, full of things that have never been.”

Tell me, friends, what are your hopes and dreams, goals and intentions for the new year?

Winter-Yurting

It’s been a while! Merry Christmas all!

The season of Christmas has been a very focusing one for us. It’s been cold – very cold – for a long time now. This weather doesn’t usually hit us until mid January, and then it stays for only a few days. But we’ve been fighting off this deep-freeze for a while now, and it’s been pretty exhausting in a lot of ways.

It’s also been our best and coziest cold-spell yet! I think we’ve learned a lot in 7 years. Our first few cold-spells were just us huddling ’round the stove and waking every couple hours to feed the stove, because it had to burn hot the whole night through! Super exhausting!

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This year, the deep-freeze has lasted longer than ever, and we’re weathering it so well! The house is warm and  comfortable, the stoves don’t have to work hard day and night, and we can spend the frigid days reading, painting, playing, planning, and baking – all yuletide-y and fun!

So what changed?

Well, primarily, our yurt is tighter and better insulated. 

When we first put up the yurt, the outer skin was way too baggy – and I’ve noticed this in other yurts as well. Sometimes, your skin is not going to fit your lattice very well. Fix it before winter! We didn’t fix it until this last summer, because we were so busy with life and Seth’s work and we were just a bit lazy. But this summer, Seth slit the skin in two separate areas and glued it to fit the lattice. And it helps so much with keeping the warm air in and the mice out! We also re-adjusted the lattice and insulated some of the areas that were less weather-tight.

Essentially, we realized that since we are planning to keep the yurt as our home, instead of using it as some sort of transitional house, we should treat it like one. We aren’t living a nomadic life, and our yurt doesn’t need to be easy to tear down and put up. So seriously insulating has begun, and next year, we’re planning some additions too!

We also have a new door!

The door that came with the yurt was sub-par, and while we were able to make it work for 6 1/2 years – having a new, solid, exterior door is a life-changer! I love it.

Water Storage

Since we have livestock, we need access to lots of fresh, non-frozen water every day. More than just washing and drinking water for us, because those goats get thirsty! So we have a big, food-grade, metal barrel in the house. It used to store honey – mmmm, 55 gallons of honey, can you imagine!!! – now it stores our goat/chicken/dish/washing water. Not human drinking water, that’s stored in a bunch of empty wine jugs. So no matter how cold the night has been, our animals can start the day with warm, fresh water!

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Indoor Fun

Our kids do actually get pretty stir-crazy in this weather! They’re used to being outside a lot, but when it’s this cold, they barely do more than walk to and from the outhouse. So inside life in one room gets a bit loud. I have remember to focus on being understanding and patient, and I try to give them some outlets for their energy. We do a lot of reading aloud, a lot of bouncing on beds and playing “the floor is lava” or “Buffy and She-ra” (seriously, they love being Buffy and She-ra!). We spend time baking and drawing and painting as well.

Making the house a fun place to be, makes staying inside so much way easier, on everyone!

Saying No

We don’t go to parties right now, or if we do, one of us stays home to keep the house cozy while the other takes the kids and enjoys the fun! Because it’s just too cold right now to shut down the stoves and expect the house to stay warm.

If we had all the extra money to spend on extra yurt-insulation, we might not be fighting the weather so much, but we just have basic yurt insulation – and so we stay home in sub-zero temps. Believe me, it just isn’t fun to come home at night to a chilly house with tired kids and have to spend half the night getting it warm again! In ‘normal’ winter weather, parties are not a big deal, we can easily kick up the stove afterwards and have a cozy house within a few minutes. But in all these sub-zero nights with even colder wind-chills, we’ve learned to just say no.

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So that’s how we’re getting through right now! Lots of firewood. Lots of staying up late and pulling icicles off the side of the house to throw in wintery cocktails. Lots of books and paints and lazy mornings..

I can’t wait until the weather turns into normal wintertime cold again, instead of the deep-cold; but thankfully, we’ve learned how to weather it well!