Monday, September 29, 2014

Something Kind of Amazing Happened

Back in August I wrote this post.  It was in part about the upcoming World's Longest Yard Sale and what I hoped to find at it.  I even posted pictures of the things I was looking for. 

The yard sale came and went, and to my disappointment I didn't find much of what I was looking for.  I found some shoes, and the kids found some treasures, but other than that is was a big bust for the things on my wish list.

We all sold some stuff at the sale.  Our friend at the sawmill had a space and he let us setup with him.  We actually did pretty good. I had cleaned out lots of stuff from the house and David went through his office. 

By then I was on a roll with the purging and determined to make more room in the house.  I've seriously been obsessing about winter coming and our limited space and growing kids.  Winter doesn't start out bad, but by the end of it all we have some pretty bad cabin fever.  Rather than wait for that to happen...I wanted to plan for it AND do something about it.

So, I started working towards making more space. One of the first things I saw was our giant king sized bed in a tiny bedroom.  Our old house was almost 4000sq ft, and that bed was dwarfed in our huge bedroom, but in the mobile there was a small path around it.  I found a queen size mattress in good condition on Craig's List and bought it, then I sold our king size frame and bought a used queen frame, and actually made money in the process.

I sold our massive T.V. armoire that was blocking a window and lots of natural light and replaced it with my bedroom dresser.  David and the kids thought I was sort of nuts at first.  They were worried about what we would put the T.V. on, David didn't think I would be happy with a smaller bed, but I was determined and just kept going.  With just that little bit of start up money from the yard sale I was able to make a few simple changes and start flipping things to make more money and more changes.

I decided to look for some of the things from my yard sale list on Craig's List, just because we still needed them.  I found a freezer for $50.00, and chair for $20.00, stumbled across a four slice toaster at Goodwill, took some money and bought new socks at Walmart.  It was just little bits here and there, but I was making progress and feeling better and better about our situation in general, and the upcoming winter.

Maybe in and of itself none of that sounds very impressive.  I know I wasn't really impressed.  I was just trying to meet a few needs, make us more comfortable, and have a plan to keep our sanity through the winter.

But then one day I was scrolling through my blog and I saw that post about The Worlds Longest Yard Sale and I suddenly realized just how many of the things I wanted had come into my life.  I saw that, slowly, my dreams had become a reality. 

And it got me to thinking about positive and negative thoughts, and how often we tell ourselves we can't because of one reason or another, and really, we limit ourselves. 

I was honestly amazed at how unknowingly one post inspired me to make positive changes and work towards some goals.  And it made me wonder - if I did that without intent, just imagine what I could do with intent!?

You Should Be So Lucky

As to have such a diligent handyman that he doesn't even bother to get dressed after his bath before he gathers his tools and starts repair work on your broken drawer!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Things

We worked the woodpile today. The boys have been gathering wood for months now and just throwing it in a pile to let it season a little. One good thing about the high turnover on the mountaintop is that the newbies always cut down trees when they first get here, then when they leave the boys go cut it up into small enough pieces to cart home. It makes their job a little easier and saves us from cutting down any of our own trees. 

This is what we started out with this morning. 

And this is how we ended the day. 

I'm so proud of them and their work ethic. There was no complaining about this job because they clearly understand that in order to have heat for the winter it must be done. They also understand that we must all work together as a team to keep big jobs like this managable. 

I was out working with them the whole time today. I believe that as parents we teach our children best by example. The girls aren't usually asked to work the woodpile, but we needed the extra help today and I wanted to show them that I would never ask them to do anything that I wasn't willing to do myself. And just as important...women can get sweaty, dirty and work hard, too. 

And yes, our boys know how to do laundry, cook, clean and wash dishes. 

We guess that todays pile will cover us for a month, what is left to cut, split and stack for another two months, and there is still more wood to be brought home. 

It feels good to all of us to be ahead in the wood department this year. Our goal is to have enough wood stacked so that we won't have to go for more wood until early spring when it isn't a freezing and miserable job. 

And now for the fun part...I'm off to go try a copycat recipe for Costco chocolate chip muffins. 

Double Chocolate Muffins (Costco Copycat Recipe)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2 dozen
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 (3.9 oz) package instant chocolate pudding
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffins tins with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Mix in oil, milk, water, vanilla.
  3. Stir in the sour cream, cake mix, pudding mix and cinnamon. Mix well.
  4. Stir in 2 cups of the chocolate chips.
  5. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips over the batter.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

What do you think...should I just double the recipe or quadruple it??

Happy Sunday :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Winterizing, Purging & Poop

I've been thinking about this winter since we came home from Arizona last March.  Our living situation on the mountaintop has always been less than ideal, but we had plans to make things better, so I always thought of our "problems" as temporary.  Just to recap: the twelve of of us live divided between two mobile homes.  Like this...

We placed our second mobile home 20 feet from the first one so that we could build a room between the two, creating what Columbus calls "the mothership."  This was a good, workable plan that solved a lot of issues, mainly heating both mobiles.  The mobile on the right does not have heat, and hasn't since we got the second mobile two years ago.  We were going to pipe in heat from the wood stove  connected to the other mobile, but we discovered that the chances of running heat that far weren't very realistic, so for the last two years the four boys who live in that mobile have spent the winter sleeping on the couch in the second mobile. 

We thought that the "mothership" would be completed by the end of this summer, but the week we came home from Arizona we also had a visit from the county/state septic man.  It wasn't just us, he visited all the people in our immediate area of the mountaintop.  There is so much feuding up here, and so many calls to the police and other services, that they decided to come pay us all a visit.  Which is really neither here nor there, but more of a reminder that neighbors can cause problems for lots of people even if you're not involved in the feud.  

It is completely legal for us to Humanure/compost our black/solids, which I knew.  We are still legally required to have a septic for greywater, which I also knew, and the septic man is now enforcing.  

One the first visit from the septic man he gave us instructions on how to bury our greywater drain to "buy us some time."  He also said he would be back to check on it and us.

When he came back the second time he said we were now in compliance, but would need to work on getting a septic tank put in.  David had called and got quotes for the required tank and lines...$2500.00 to $3000.00, which wasn't realistic for this year after I drained our funds for our "grand aventure."  No regrets there, we all needed that trip for peace of mind and sanity, for those reasons that trip was priceless, but it has meant a lean rest of the year and some suffering.  I explained to the septic man that our well provided limited water, 220 gallons a day, and that even if we had a septic tank I had absolutely NO plans of flushing any perfectly good water down the drain for toilets.  He said that he understood that, so I went on to tell him I had researched some lower cost, alternative grey water systems and that they were legal substitutes in some states, and then ask him if they are legal in our state?  Nope.  Spetic only, he said.  The best he could offer me was that as long as we didn't have toilets hooked up to our system we could get away with shorter drain lines to lower our cost, but that we would still need the same size tank.  

The septic system we are required to have is based on one mobile home, the second mobile is being counted as "storage." Soooo, if we connect the two and create the "mothership" that means we will need an even bigger, less affordable septic system.

Enter winter and heat, and growing boys who are now too big to squeeze onto the couch, and this is the part of winter I have been thinking about since last March.  

And I'm really starting to question our entire life up here.  This "simple living" thing is by far the most complicated thing we've ever done.  

We never could have imagined how daunting, exhausting and expensive raw land could be before we came here and starting living "the dream." And in all honesty, in large part we got as far as we did with the help of our benefactor, the Saint, and he has been completly absent from our lives for the most of this year.  Our relationship with him was magical, something you might hear about, but that never, ever happens to you, except this one time, it did happen to us, and for that I thank him and will always feel indebted to "pay it forward" when I can.  His kindness and generosity taught us the value in helping people, any people, without judgement, and the story of him will live long in the lives of our children, and I hope grandchildren. 

I keep thinking about all of the peole we have seen come and go from this mountain, and I believe so many of them leave because the light at the end of the tunnel dims and hopelessness sets in.  And I wonder if I am hitting that place?  We struggled so hard to get to this point, and there is still so far to go...and how will we ever get there?  And I'm not even sure if I want to fight for it anymore.  I'm not sure if I care any longer.  

With the kids getting older and their needs changing living an hour from town just becomes more and more of a hardship.  The time, the gas money, the crazy twisted road with new drivers learning to drive...after dark, in the winter...I'm going to have a stroke waiting for them to come home at night.  

I wonder if we became stagnate at some point? Did we stop trying, did we settle at some point and just accept that where we are at was it, and forget that we wanted more?  Maybe we've been making excuses for ourselves, and maybe at first some of those excuses were justifiable, but after a while don't those kinds of excuses just become plain-old-pathetic-excuses?  

Something has been changing.  I can feel it, and it continues to change.  I don't know what exactly, but   I know that it is there.  I got tired of saying "I'm tired of...." and at some point realized if I was tired of it I was going to have to do something about it.  

I purge the house again.  This time making room to bring three boys over from the unheated mobile to the heated one for winter.  We needed a solution to the heat problem that would tax us with time and money the least amount possible, so we decided to leave everything the way it is and just make room for them.  Still not ideal, but they will be warm for winter, and it gives us time to figure some things out, look around at other options and decide if this is where we want to be or not.  

With every purge I feel more free - physically, emotionally and spiritually, and less burdened.  There is a soothing sense of being fluid and unanchored in owning less.  I like the idea that I am clearing our pathway in life for something new, something better.  Because I have one main goal for the spring - to either be actively relocating closer to town, or to have a solid plan in place for here on the mountaintop.    And I believe that change starts now.  I believe that the choices I make today will lead to our future and I want to be ready to participate in that, not be fussing with the dead weight of stuff we never really needed in the first place.