Anyway Project Update

admin February 7th, 2011

In all the chaos of having interrupted internet and lots of stormy weather, I never posted a January Anyway Project Update - oops, sorry! So here’s an early February one, and I’ll try and do one in late Feb. as well, because, of course, I’ll definitely be accomplishing double in this short month. Sure.

If you’d like to participate in The Anyway Project - redesigning your life to make it work better - please just join in. There are no deadlines (obviously ;-) ) and no pressures. Wondering what I’m going on about? Here’s a quick summary of The Anyway Project:

The larger idea of the Anyway Project is to make our lives work more smoothly. Most of us stand with feet in several worlds - our domestic and professional ones, our adaptations to a world with less and our day to day life in a world with too much (in some cases). Making the intersections between these spaces functional, bringing the edges together and connecting them smoothly is the center of my project.

In the service of this goal, we’re trying to sit down and figure out how things would need to work to go more smoothly and hold together better, reducing some of the chaos (and increasing other parts, the ones we like ;-) ).

My overarching goals are these:

1. Use what we have better. I find that often we’re so focused on the next project that we don’t necessarily get a firm grip on the current one. There are a host of small things awaiting my time and attention that would simply make life a lot happier if they got that time.

2. Make our daily lives adaptable to the way our present crisis is actually occurring - we have reason to worry about Eric losing his job or being furloughed, and I don’t want to have to worry about it, so we need to cut our expenses. I need to bring the farm back into profitability and find a better balance between writing and agriculture, one that serves our household optimally, since there are only so many hours in the day.

3. Make the pace of our life a bit more relaxing. I’m about to go on a three-day-per-week writing schedule so I can concentrate on other things, and am taking a couple of months off from teaching.

4. Spend more time directly with people - both local folks and in-person teaching. I love the connections I get to make with people I would never have met but for the internet, but I feel like that comes at the cost, sometimes, of time spent with the people who are nearby! I’d like to do more of my teaching here, as well.

January was a wild month - it began with the end of vacation (Eli does not like disruptions to his routine, and was heartily sick of winter break by the end), ran into my January apprentice weekend (which was wonderful!) and flowed further family visits, our first forays into the world of preparing to become foster/adoptive parents, involved a shot at a fellowship (not expecting to get it, though) and a lot of craziness, along with internet disruptions. It was a productive month, but a weird one. Or more likely, my life is just weird and this was typicalish ;-) .

Here’s the results of our adventures:

Domestic Infrastructure

We got the front room cleaned out - in the original Anyway Project plan, this was supposed to become my office and work space, so I’d finally have my own place. In the new, revised plan more focused on additional children, this room will be where the new kids will live. I need to Craigslist a set of bunk beds or other child beds, still need to put a door on the room and otherwise make the room as friendly and kid-like as possible, but it is cleared out, which is terrific. We never did get all the firewood stacked, and thus are digging it out of the snow with a shovel again. Ah well. In terms of the house cleanout, I haven’t gotten rid of as much as I’d like to (it is surprisingly hard to get rid of things at our house, since we live so far from anywhere to take them to ;-) ) but the last remaining untouched spaces are our closets (got to have somewhere to hide stuff you don’t know what to do with ;-) ), the attic and the garage. All major spaces have otherwise had some kind of at least preliminary clean and de-clutter.

Goals for the coming weeks: Get that door on, get the new kids room set up (we don’t need it for a while yet, but I’d like to have it done before the spring rush hits), which means finding some kid beds and maybe a couple of bookcases, finish cleaning my own room, begin to brave the attic.

Household Economy

I was very pleased at how well we did cutting expenses in December and January, and in general. Seed and plant order time is another money outlay season, but overall, we’re spending less and doing more with our money, which is my general goal. We still haven’t sat down and pulled together the farm budget for the year, which is the big project for the coming months.

Resource Consumption

A wave of winter storms has been excellent for gas mileage ;-) with many more reasons to stay home and not do stuff than before. Keeping the house warm for many guests upped our wood and oil consumption a little higher than I would have liked, but generally, we’ve done well. Hoping the worst of the cold is over! Our electrical usage has been nice and low, although I’m still struggling with my “work on the computer only three days a week” policy. Must work on that. Am working on plans for another outdoor masonry stove (we used to have one) to keep use of electricity for cooking to a minimum this summer.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence

After a weak start to the project, a lot has gotten done here - in part with help of friends who really want to be involved. The pastured poultry operation looks to get a big boost from a project to provide local, organic kosher meat in our community, the egg project is also getting a boost from our work with SUNY Albany to provide food scraps for the hens. A friend has offered to help support the herb nursery project, and help us build a greenhouse, and the CSA for the plant nursery will go up next week. Some seeds are germinating, the tax research is done, the goats are pregnant and life is good.

I’m doing flowers for a close friend’s son’s bar mitzvah this year, and planning to make the flowers a bigger part of my business mostly because this year will begin a wave of bar/bat mitzvahs, and i’d like to be able to offer the flowers from our farm as a gift to all of them. The good thing about cutting flowers is that they have to be cut, so I’m hoping to do some flower sales. I’m also working on selling our salad mixes with edible flowers and herbs, because no one near me is doing this, and they were a draw.

The bees are coming soon, which is Eric’s big project (I want in, but he’s so excited about them that I’m letting him take the lead) - while I work on expanding our native plants to support more varieties of birds and insects that already lived here. This is less a remunerative project than a inner-subsistence project - I just plain enjoy it. But supporting the life around us is, of course, wholly a part of sustaining ourselves.

Still plenty to do - more seed orders, much more seed starting, get the CSA material up on the website and start taking orders, and a bunch of new possibilities have opened up recently, about which I’m excited, but where I’m still thinking things through. Plenty of work to keep me busy ;-) .

Family and Community

On the family front, the big project has been the beginning of our move into foster/adoptive parenting. We begin our MAPP classes in a couple of weeks, and arranging weekly childcare for four kids, one of whom is autistic, is an exciting challenge. We have been so fortunate that family and friends have really been so generous to us - we’ve now got all but one week covered through the kindness and generosity of people we love and it is making me feel so grateful!

The boys are interested in this - particularly excited about having new kids in their lives to play with, and we’ve talked a lot about family structures and also about why sometimes families have problems that can’t be solved by themselves and that require help from their community. I’m sure this will bring plenty of challenges, but it is a good learning experience for the boys to begin both to understand the complexities of the world but also to see their family’s role in the community of families as a whole.

We’ve had some new opportunities to work with our community open up, and I’m starting to think that one of the things we can do is open up our home more - maybe host more things at our place. Being realistic, I think MAPP training may take up a lot of our “evening out” time for a while, but we’re hoping to do more hosting, starting up our pastured poultry cooperative and working with friends who run an Inn on building local supplies.

We had an open house the first weekend in January, and while the attendence wasn’t huge, it was pretty good, and we made some new friends and reignited relationships with old ones. Moreover, neighbors who couldn’t come now seem to feel good about stopping by and saying hello even if we’ve never met - the invitation opened a door. All in all, a wonderful thing. We’ll try and do another one in the warm weather, and I’d like to do a clothing swap as well! I don’t think I’ll get that done as soon as this month, but there are lots of community things swelling up.

Outside Work

Getting the fellowship application out was a big project for me this winter - even though I don’t anticipate getting it, it felt good to do the work of clarifying what my larger projects are. I failed again (third month in a row) at keeping my work schedule down to three days a week, although internet service failures did help ;-) . Trying again!

One thing I’ve been trying to do, at Aaron’s suggestion, is to ask myself, as I sort through what’s important, what I can do that other people can’t. That is, I am probably most effective when I’m doing something that other people aren’t able to do - and I have tended to get bogged down in work that I really could share with others. This can be a slippery slope, of course - in its pathological form this is the path to hyper-specialization, and back to the “I’m too important to scrub toilets” but in a benign form, it has me thinking about how i can be most effective in my work time.

Time and Happiness

My main goal here was to make more time for music with the kids, which we’ve done some of, but not perhaps enough. I find myself dancing constantly between all the things I can be doing and the fact that if I do them all, I go nuts. I do find that having my life be in better order is relaxing, but I still feel that there’s more to do in this department!

So how about you?


8 Responses to “Anyway Project Update”

  1. madison says:

    Darn, you make me tired hearing all that you do, lol! Good for you :D

  2. Karin says:

    Here is Februray…

    Here is January..

    Boy this has really helped with things around our homestead. It sorta helps to see what is possible when we set ourselves these monthly goals. And it just feels good to finally get some of this stuff done.

    Thanks for your good work!

  3. ctdaffodil says:

    Wowsa! More kids!! You are gonna be even busier….

    aside from looking on craigslist for bunk beds….look for a Habitat ReStore in your area. We have 2 within an 45 minute drive. The people there are really nice and I’ve even left a ‘wish list’ at one for something I’ve been looking for. Both of ours sell furniture too….they had tons of twin bed frames too - and I think they were only $25 each - very reasonable…they don’t sell mattresses though.

  4. NM says:

    We are trying to transition from our current careers to starting a farm. In the short run, this is not simplifying my life at all.
    The current project is to turn the backyard, which has been a bird haven filled with trees (and a lot of unwelcome blackberries), and some raised bed gardens, into a large garden, in order to spend a year growing more than we have before, and hopefully, having enough of a surplus to sell at the farmers market this summer. This involves moving or removing the items currently occupying the space. So now, instead of a muddy expanse, it’s a muddy expanse filled with big holes. Our little terrier is enjoying helping with the hole digging. He loves helping. We are noticing how many muscles have deteriorated over the past 20 years. ;}
    Meanwhile, I’m taking a night class on farming (in addition to the night meetings my job requires), and researching vegetable varieties and resources, drawing up garden plans and continuing to look for land. Gah.
    But it’s good to be moving forward, instead of waiting in limbo. Plus, I get to buy a lot of books. :D
    I’m also doing more cooking. I’ve always cooked a lot, but have added more pantry items, partly to save money and partly to improve husband’s health.
    Replacing the roof has been added to the to-do list, as the old one seems to be rotting …
    The stress level is on the high side. But on the other hand, it really does feel good to be moving forward, as I said, and in a quasi-manageable fashion. Jumping right onto a 5-acre parcel and commencing to farm sounded intimidating.
    I am sad about removing bird habit (or, as the neighbors may have known it, that ridiculous jungle back there), especially since the #%#@ city just made the neighbors take down three big, gorgeous horse chestnuts across the street. We’ll leave them the trees around the perimeter (quite a few), and hope for the best.
    We’re going to put in a small greenhouse, source of great excitement, and I’m really excited about getting to have my biggest garden ever. A bit worried about the heat level in the house next summer; the backyard faces due east, and we’re removing a lot of protective shade, in order to have sun for the garden. Guess you can’t have it all …

  5. 4BushelFarmgal says:

    I’ve got the condo buttoned up and heat bills are going well. (The same as last year but this winter has been colder, and I’ve eliminated the draft from the sliding door.)
    I’m trying to eat (mostly) from the “pantry”. It goes well when my planning is on track. Gotta work on that.
    For cottage indrustry/subsistance, I’ve just signed up for a class on internet sales (such as ebay and online shops.) I’m really excited about that.

  6. Ms Betterhome says:

    I’m trying to keep my goals fairly modest, and have achieved some things I planned (plus a little more), but am not quite there with others. My update is here:

  7. Claire says:

    Domestic infrastructure: I’m concentrating on the bathroom during the winter. My DH finally anchored the shower curtain rod into the wall, after 9 years in the house. I’ve arranged for a contractor to visit later this week for an estimate on a new bathroom floor, new low-flow and taller toilet, fixing the leak and wallboard behind the tub faucets, and installing grab bars (plus fixing a light fixture above the kitchen sink). We want the bathroom to work better for us as we age. I’m hoping the work gets done by the end of the month. I’ll paint the bathroom after the other work gets done, I can handle that part.

    Household economy: nothing in particular except for reminding myself to look more closely at where we can reduce expenditures.

    Resource consumption: found the glassed-in south facing porch does generate enough heat on sunny days to vent some into the house - but we haven’t had many sunny days this winter. It should at least end heating season earlier, besides being a great place for raising seedlings.

    Cottage industry and subsistence: redoing veggie garden to include more corn and beans. Learned how to cook wheat berries and grain sorghum for breakfast cereal (in the crockpot, overnight).

    Family / community: joined a group to begin a community garden in a nearby suburb.

    Outside work: nothing new, still pondering.

    Time and happiness: continuing to meditate 30 minutes nearly every day. Started practicing clarinet, continued practicing mountain dulcimer. Thinking about getting off the board of our Zen center, to let others have a chance to do it better than me. Resigned from one of the Stream Teams I’m on in order to better concentrate on the stream whose watershed I’m in. Trying to remind myself not to mind winter so much …

  8. Marian says:

    February Anyway Project Update:

    Domestic Infrastructure: I finally have the house cleaned, de-cluttered and organized. My plan to keep it that way is to focus 30 minutes a day on one room per day, so that by the end of the week the whole house (in theory!) is maintained…

    Household Economy: getting better at telling “wants” from “needs” and only paying attention to the “needs”. I’ll continue to find ways to meet these needs locally and sustainably.

    Resource Consumption: My numbers have come down but there is still plenty of room for improvement! This is a tough one for my household as my husband and teenager do not have low goals in mind as I do!

    Cottage Industry & Subsistance: We’re still eating plenty of the canned/dried produce from the past Summer. I realize that a root cellar would really help us to store root veggies for Winter eating, so we’re going to build one in our basement this Spring! We are also going to add some window planters and try growing “micro-greens”.

    Family & Community: I’ll be teaching a discussion course on sustainable lifestyles this month and next. I got to take part in a worship service at my UU church a few weeks ago. i did a short sermon on sustainable lifestyles.

    Outside Work: I’m still working on making my peace with the fact that, for right now, I have to keep my outside job for the health insurance. I don’t like the job but it helps to remind myself that my real work is in creating a sustainable homestead…

    Time & happiness: We have had some success in slowing-down our evenings and having relaxing family meals.

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