Sunday, July 24, 2011

July's Activites

It has been so incredibly hot this month that we haven't done a lot. We've been paying off bills on the house in Texas, started paying new bills here in Oklahoma and it's taken a toll on our finances. As of the first of August we should have everything in Texas paid and that will free up money for building.

Last weekend we purchased a one-piece tub/shower surround from Lowes that turned out to be cheap plastic that cracked in the warehouse when something heavier was placed on top, but we didn't catch it until we brought the shower home and were unloading it. We took it back and now we're saving the money to get a similar product from Home Depot that is made of fiberglass and $60 cheaper. 

Through the flush fund we've received $271 towards the bathroom so far. We feel so incredibly blessed and lucky. Next weekend we'll go purchase the toilet and shower. This weekend it's been 105+ and we've both been so hot and miserable that we've decided to relax a bit and spend time putting up insulation and organizing stuff in bins since we don't have shelving or cabinets installed yet.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harvesting Seeds

This spring I was jonesing to grow some herbs and veggies but seeing as we would be moving soon I wasn't able to do a proper veggie garden, so I decided to start some basil in a pot that I could take to the new house with me. I came across some heirloom lemon basil at the local feed store. I feel it's important to learn to grow heirlooms from seed as a form of self-sufficiency.

I thought I had made a post showing how I germinated the seeds, but apparently I didn't. I'll have to make sure I document that when I do it again later. Essentially I filled a pot with organic potting mix, sprinkled the seeds on the surface, sprayed it until it was moist, then laid a piece of plastic wrap over the top and secured it with three clothes pins so there would be gaps to allow for airflow but still hold in the moisture. I've had a problem with mold in the past when there hasn't been sufficient airflow and it's killed the seedlings. I kept it either on the top of the stove (which was gas and the pilot light kept it warm) or in a sunny windowsill until the seeds sprouted and then I set them outside during the day to acclimate. After a couple of weeks when the temperature stayed 50s or above at night I left it outside. I started with 8 seeds and thinned them down to the hardiest one. Once the second set of leaves appeared (the first set of true leaves, not not cotyledons) I began fertilizing the seedling once a week.

Here's the seedling after approximately a month:

Here's the plant after approximately 3 months:
I noticed today one of the stems with flowers was dried, so I pulled off the flowers so I could open them and search for seeds. Each flower averaged two developed seeds although some had as many as four and others had zero.
Out of the flowers I pulled off one stem I ended up with approximately 75 seeds that I believe may be viable. There were many undeveloped seeds that I threw away. It amazes me that one plant can produce hundreds of seeds. One of my favorite sayings that I viewed at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens is "It only takes one acorn to grow a forest".

Here's what the seeds look like:
There is something about seeing the cycle of life complete itself in such a short amount of time that simply amazes and inspires me. I feel like I experience a miracle with the life cycle of each plant.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Flush Fund

An amazing friend was joking a couple nights ago that she should start a collection to buy a toilet for our house as an anniversary/housewarming gift. Tony and I are celebrating 13 years together this week. She said she'd mail me $1 and I joked back that she could send it through PayPal. I wake up yesterday morning and she made a post on my Facebook page asking my friends and family to each donate $1 towards the Flush Fund. She joked that it would be fun to buy us a gold toilet. I told her that would be quite expensive so I offered to stencil the name of anyone who donates in gold on the toilet. It's been so much fun that several other amazing friends have reposted the Flush Fund info on their Facebook pages and given a brief history of how we got here and why we don't have a toilet. Now we have more than enough for the toilet, seat and taxes. This is such a HUGE relief seeing as we have had to keep putting off buying the toilet and other bathroom items because we're trying to recover from all the moving expenses, paying off the bills from Texas, and start paying the new bills for the house here in Oklahoma.

I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has donated. I will keep adding names to the toilet for anyone who wants to contribute $1. Donations can be made to via paypal. I will never forget what everyone has done for us and will make sure to pay it forward to others.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mother Earth News Article

I'm assuming that those of you who read my blog know about the blog post that editor Robyn Lawrence wrote about us living in a small home. Just in case not and you'd like to take a gander here's the link:

I obsess over Mother Earth News Magazine and replied to a query on Facebook asking people to respond if they live in a small home. Since we've moved from an 1800 sq foot home in the city, to a 900 sq ft home in the country and found that home was still too big for us and now we're building and finally living in the 640 sq ft home I thought I'd respond. I'm quite excited that I did.

And I want to say thanks to any of you who stop by. I'm truly honored that you've given a bit of your time to me.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Living Without Plumbing

Tony and I are coming up on a month in the new house and we still don't have plumbing yet. We're hoping to get the bathtub and toilet installed in the next few weeks as long as finances cooperate, and I'll have to hold out on the vanity I want for a little bit longer. Until then I thought I'd share how we're getting by without indoor plumbing. If you had told me four weeks ago that we would be getting by comfortably without plumbing I would have told you that you're crazy. Oh! Here's an updated photo of the house.
Each day we fill up a 5-gallon water container that has a spigot at Tony's work or a friend's house. We have 3 of these containers that we rotate through. We have it set up on a bathroom sink/counter that was given to us by Tony's mother and step-father that had been salvaged from an office building that was torn down. Why am I not planning to use this counter top in this house? It's because of space. We plan to put in shelves or cabinets on either side of the vanity since the bathroom is so small so we have a place to store linens. This counter top we are going to save for another small house we plan to build in future years. The sink drains into a 5 gallon bucket that we saved from adhesive we used to adhere the OSB on the floor to the insulated panels they are set on. We use this water for ornamental plants. For dishes, I have a wash basin that I use and that water is generally safe enough to water my herbs and tomatoes.
For showers, I found a camping solar shower for $6-7 at Walmart. We fill it with 2-3 gallons of water each morning and let it heat up during the day then take showers just after dark before we head off to bed. Our house is located down the side of a mountain in a secluded area so there is very little chance of anyone seeing us. They'd have to hike down or drive down the hill and we'd know they are coming. Tony also built a platform for us to stand on while we shower.

When we started building the house back in October 2010 on the weekends, we simply trekked off into the woods to take care of our "business". Now that we've moved, we use a bucket we purchased at Cabela's years ago for when our house in Texas had septic problems. We use a corn husk based cat litter that is biodegradable and compost that waste with waste from the cat box that once it's broken down I'll use as fertilizer for my ornamentals.
The only thing I'm not really able to do at home efficiently is laundry, so every Tuesday I make the hour drive to Fort Smith, AR and do laundry at a friend's home. Once we have the plumbing set up, then we will haul water at first from the local rural water company or a neighbor that we'll purchase water from. I bought several 300 gallon water storage units earlier this year that we'll store the water in. Later this summer we'll set up a captured rainwater system so we don't need to haul water except in times of drought.

Getting by without the indoor plumbing and learning to conserve water has been a blessing. Once we have the captured rainwater system set up I'm confident we will get by comfortably again and not have to stress over water. I love the idea of knowing we will have little impact on the water tables and help preserve that water.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cost of Building Square Foot Garden

Today Tony is putting up insulation in the bathroom and running the plumbing lines. It's not anything he needs much help with, so I'm working on plans for other things like our square foot garden beds. Since we ended up moving in June instead of May, I'm too late for a spring/summer garden, so I'm planning for a fall garden instead.

Tony's mother has had a garden for years. She has always used cinder blocks as a border and when she downsized her garden just over a year ago, she gave us all her extra blocks. I'm going to simply build one garden at a time and since at the moment we only have enough blocks for one or two beds, I thought I'd price the blocks as well as potting mix.

At our local Home Depot, the blocks run $1.53 for 8" x  8" x 16" blocks and $1.09 for 4" x 8" x 16" blocks. We will need a total of 16 of each type of block to make the bed a depth of 12", for a total cost of $41.92.

For the potting mix, a mixture of 1/3 organic compost, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite is recommended. We will need 16 cubic feet of potting mix to fill each bed, although I plan to go a little less than 16 cubic feet to allow space for mulch. Let's say I do 15 cubic feet just to approximate the cost of potting mix. I will need 5 cubic feet of each component. The organic compost I was viewing didn't give a measurement in cubic feet, so I had to do some math. Just in case you ever need to know, there are 1728 cubic inches in one cubic foot (and to measure cubic inches or feet, multiply length x width x height). Each bag of compost is approximately .5 cubic feet at a cost of $1.67 per bag. The peat moss is 3 cubic feet per bag at a cost of $9.75 per bag. Then the vermiculite holds 2 cubic feet per bag at $19.97 per bag. So I will be needing 10 bags of compost, 3 bags of peat moss and 2 bags of vermiculite for a total cost of $85.89.

This will bring my total cost per bed to $127.81. Now since I will have some leftovers from the bags of peat moss and vermiculite and I do have some cinder blocks on hand, my cost will end up being a little less. It may seem expensive to initially build the beds, and it is, but when I consider how much I spend on fresh produce each week, the cost of each bed will pay for itself in one growing season.