Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Archive for the ‘Sustainable living’ Category

The book of the farm

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With Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm showing up recently at Cold Antler Farm and at Small Measures, I started rewatching the shows, which I’d seen bits and pieces of already.  It’s an interesting look at how life used to be, and one that I imagine that I’ll write about later.

What really struck me about Victorian Farm, though, was the use of their “bible,” the text “The Book of the Farm”, which appears to be a very comprehensive guide to farming.  While old, it looks to have a lot of useful information in it, and I was delighted to find a PDF copy (only 737 pages) from the Open Library.  So, if anyone’s interested, it’s readily available.

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Written by Jenn

January 21, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Good luck at Goodwill

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After being without a computer for a bit (three fun issues, just to add a little spice to life), I stopped by the goodwill bookstore on my way home from the repair shop where it was undergoing diagnostics.  I sometimes lament how tempting its proximity to home is, since this poor little apartment has a rather large number of books in it already, but I really, honestly love it – great selection, great people, and supporting a charity at the same time – definitely right up my alley, so to speak.

Given that the weather has suddenly become incredibly cold, and that I was already somewhat chilled from waiting for two different buses, I seriously debating stopping.  I’m pleased that I did, though.

First, I stumbled across two young adult (I think) books that I’ve been wanting to read – “I Captured the Castle” and “The Yearling“.  Next, I found a copy of “Four Season Harvest“, which deals with ways to extend the life of a garden and keep production up through the whole year.  Finally, I stumbled across “Locavore” and “The 100 Mile Diet,” both of which I’d been considering from amazon relatively recently, but had decided to hold off on.  I’m now glad that I did.

The grand total for 5 books?  $16, or quite affordable.  I’m still trying to reduce my shopping as much as possible, and get stuff out of the apartment, but I’m pleased with these books, which are either classics, or good information and inspiration for my own efforts in living and eating more sustainably.  And now, I’m going to curl up on the couch with a book, a blanket, and some tea, and have a quiet afternoon.

Written by Jenn

January 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Local food and public perception

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“It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.”   – Margaret Mead

I’ve been thinking a lot about food recently – sourcing it, growing it, eating it – and this article at Salon couldn’t have come at a better time.  An examination not just of how food is accessed in an immigrant community, but the social pressures and even shame that go along with it, it speaks to different elements of the current food system at large, and the expectations of us as consumers within it.

First, it deals with the shame that can surround not food itself, but the processes of raising and getting food that are outside the mainstream.  No matter how useful, sustainable, healthy, or financially viable they are, in many areas there are still limits – some formal, but many not – not only on what we eat, but how we get our food.  Processed and packaged in a grocery store is fine.  Growing on a balcony is not so much.  Even if they’re not voiced, there are sometimes social exprectation, and certainly always social norms, around what it is that people eat and why.

At the same time, it also begins to look at the benefits of local foods, and the ways in which families made use of what was available to them in terms of space and resources to access what they needed.  Despite what seem to be some less than ideal circumstances, food was obtained in a variety of productive and even creative ways.  Sharing meat.  Planting vegetables in available lots.  Using grass clippings as fertilizer and mulch.

But there’s also an element of community here – bartering, helping others, and working together to provide. Maybe it’s just where I am right now, but I don’t see a lot of this on any level, even with something as fundamental as food.  Everyone goes to the grocery store and gets what they need to bring home and cook alone.  Even the borrowed egg or cup of sugar from days of yore, as it were, seems to be a thing of the past.

There’s also a loss of identity when people lose their ability to produce and eat food in ways to which they’re accustomed, which is what struck me most here.  While the people here lost of way of living to which they were accustomed, I wonder if there’s a fundamental need to produce.  I suspect that even with those of us who haven’t known a lifestyle that included raising or producing food in some way, shape, or form have lost something by not being more connected with what we eat and where it comes from.

These are just some of the reasons I want to and am trying to move more into being responsible for my food, either by growing what I can, or making sure that I’m aware and responsible for what I eat.  I don’t have all the solutions yet – although there are some great ideas in the article – but I think it’s incredibly important that it’s something that we start getting back to, even if on a small scale, whether or not it’s a life with which we’re already familiar.

Written by Jenn

January 14, 2011 at 12:12 am

Making good use

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As I continue to declutter (which I’ve realised is a complete pain without a car, since now I have 3 garbage bags full of clothes and 100 or so books along with other assorted bits and pieces that stacked around the apartment as I move them one backpack at a time to the Goodwill donation dropoff) I’ve been considering my stuff.

I have, I’ll admit, a lot of duplicates of things, which is easier to see when everything’s dragged out for sorting and relocation.  As favourite things start to look worn, I have a tendency to replace them.  Trouble is, the original very rarely makes it out the door because I like it, which means that I regularly wind up with multiples of things (which may or may not be in the most fantastic of condition), and because there’s a replacement, the originals rarely get the care that could fix or help them to last longer.  So, in the interest of keeping my apartment clean and my wallet full(er), I’ve decided I’m going to keep the best of my things (which was the plan all along) but care for them better, so that there won’t be such an impulse to replace them, and so that they’ll last longer and serve my needs better.

Today, I’ve polished a favourite paid of clogs, oiled my butcher block (which was very long overdue), and fluffed out my down duvet so it doesn’t compress too much.  I’ve scrubbed out the cast iron and will be putting it all in the oven for a good re-seasoning shortly.  Up next, the wooden coffee tables are overdue for a dust and a polish, and I have some beloved shearling boots that could do with a good cleaning at the local cobbler’s.

Sadly, I know this won’t prevent things from ultimately degrading – eventually, everything fails or wears down. Because they’re used, favourite and useful things usually can’t last forever.  But I’m hoping these measures – all of which are pretty inexpensive and rather easy – will prolong the life of my favourite things and, in so doing, also make it less likely that I’ll need to replace them, or wind up with a home filled with duplicates of things that could be better cared for.

Written by Jenn

January 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Dreams and plans

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When I think about what I want from the future, many of the things that I want aren’t yet fully fleshed out.  I don’t exactly where I want to live, how big I want the space to be, even what I want to be doing with myself over the course of a day.  I think this is a good thing, in many ways.  It’s flexible, and means that I’m not so wedded to one particular idea of the future that I can’t see another amazing opportunity that comes up because I’m so fixated on a particular idea of what I’m looking for.

Other things, however, are very specific, and it’s these things that keep my dreams from being too amorphous, while also giving me something to envision and work towards.  I know that I want chickens and probably sheep.  I know that I want chickens with a series of old-fashioned women’s names, and sheep named after some of my favourite authors.  I know that I want a cozy home (a fireplace or woodstove would be ideal) with a kitchen big enough to cook and bake plenty of food in.  I want a garden out back, with heirloom varieties of vegetables, and ideally an orchard as well.

I want to get up in the morning, care for the animals, and then drink my tea in front of the window.  I want to spend my days writing, or teaching (since I plan to keep up my academic life in some kind of balance as well), and then spend evenings cooking and baking (and eating!), reading, playing music, visiting with friends, enjoying life, or even catching up on some of the million things that always seem to come up and that need taking care of.  I want to get tired, cold, wet, and hungry, and then come in to the calm and rest of home, knowing that all is as it should be.

This is all, I imagine, a ways down the road, but I haven’t lost sight of where I want to be, or why.  I keep these dreams and plans in the back of my mind all the time, and work towards them as much as I can right now.  And someday I’ll wake to the sound of the rooster, and start my day with the animals.  Maybe that day will require new dreams and plans – more land, more animals, more gardening – but that bridge will be crossed when I come to it.  Right now, these dreams and plans are more than enough to keep me going.

Written by Jenn

January 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Resolutions

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…of the somewhat loose variety.

Despite not generally going in for resolutions, this year I sat down and drafted a whole long list of them.  A too long list, I think, and probably a list that was just made for failure.

So, I scrapped much of the list, and now I’m keeping it simple with three general resolutions (in no particular order).

One: Take care of me.

I’m kind of lousy at taking care of myself, so this year, I want this to be more of a focus.  Less anxiety.  More sleep.  Less stress.  More exercise.  Less crap food.  More whole food.  Less TV.  More meditation.  Less stuff.  More space.  Less spending.  More saving.  All the stuff you’re supposed to do, really, for a healthy mind and body, but not really in any set ways that require tracking.  I simply more want to be in tune with what I need and try to work with that.

Two: Take care of work.

Basically, this translates to finishing the dissertation.  I want to be done by the end of the year, and I think it’s do-able.  That said, I also need to do some job-searching, apply for courses for next year, and generally keep on top of things, but I want work to be a significant but manageable focus this year, with a PhD in hand by the end of it all.

Three: Take care of the world.

I plan to keep up with making my life as sustainable as possible, and adding in a few new things as well.  I want to keep cooking, baking, walking, bringing my own bags, reducing my consumption, recycling, using public transit, biking, knitting, growing, turning off lights, taking short showers, and buying used.  I’d also like to add in some composting, additional growing, and sewing to the mix.

Now, I know I’m breaking the cardinal rule of goal- making – other than taking caring of work and the culmination of the dissertation, this is all rather not-measurable (therefore making it difficult to tell when, say, I’ve actually accomplished something.)  But I want things simple this year.  I want to go largely on gut reactions.  I want to get a sense of when things are working, change them when they’re not, and have the flexibility to do so.  A lot has changed last year, a lot will change this year, and I look forward to seeing what it all brings.

Written by Jenn

January 1, 2011 at 11:57 pm

The Low Shopping Year

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I’m not much of a New Year’s resolutions kind of person.  I do, however, like a good challenge (could you tell?)  And so, with the coming new year, I’m taking on a new one, and one that fits rather well with some of the other projects that I’ve got in the works.

Here comes The Low Shopping Year.

In my efforts to save some money, prepare to move, clean out the clutter, and just generally sort out my life, shopping isn’t helping.  As I’ve said before, I don’t shop a lot, and I certainly don’t spend much, but it still means that things are making their way into my home here and there, money that doesn’t have to is making its way out the door, and the clutter and finances are all the more difficult to deal with as a result.  Also, because I almost always buy used, even spending a bit of money can bring in a lot of stuff ($10 at the used book store is usually good for three or four books).

The original thought was that I would start what I called “The No Shopping Year”.  Unfortunately, “The No Shopping Year” sounds a bit grandiose.  And, given my present situation, there’s no way I can go an entire year without actually shopping for anything, since I like to eat, need medication, and may require an academic book here or there as I plow through the dissertation, so the name’s a bit of a misnomer, cool as it sounds.  So, in the interest of accuracy, I’ve reconsidered the No Shopping Year in favour of the Low Shopping Year.  (More accurate, but sounds less cool, no?)

The plan?  Seriously reduce (my already rather reduced consumption) in much the same way as with my No Spending Month.

The benefit?  Less money going out.  Fewer things coming in.  Less clutter to deal with.  Less clutter to move.  More time for whatever I want.

There are still details to work out.  I need to figure out what’s allowed and what isn’t, whether there should be any exceptions, and if there’s anything else I should be figuring out.  I’ll probably wind up working out a new budget to reflect (and possibly reinforce) these changes.

Written by Jenn

December 15, 2010 at 10:05 am