Casaubon's Book

First of all, in response to reader suggestion, I’ve changed the names of the categories. People rightly felt “domestic economy” and “household economy” were too confusing, and reader Apple Jack Creek suggested we change “domestic economy” to “domestic infrastructure.” Claire also suggested that “Farm and Subsistence” was too specific to my case, and that we should just go to “Subsistence” there. I don’t think I quite agree, although I am taking the word “farm” out since not everyone has one, and replacing it with “cottage industry.” Not everyone will have a cottage economy emerge from their activities here, but I do I hope that some people will, and want a way of differentiating between purely subsistence activities and those that generate income in the form of barter, community currency or plain old money.

So the new categories for the Anyway Project are:

Domestic Infrastructure - these are the realities of home life, including making your home work better with less, getting organized, dealing with domestic life, etc…

Household Economy: Financial goals, making ends meet, saving, barter etc…

Resource Consumption : in which we use less of stuff, and strive to live in a way that has an actual future.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:: The things we do that prevent us from needing to buy things, and the things we produce that go out into the world and provide for others. Not everyone will do both, but it is worth encouraging.

Family and Community: Pretty much what it sounds like. How do we enable those to take the place of collapsing infrastructure?

Outside Work: Finding a balance, doing good work, serving the larger community as much as we can, within our need to make a living.

Time and Happiness: Those things without which there’s really no point.

So what am I trying to do in the course of November? What should you try and do in the near term? My goal is to set one or two goals in each category for each month (I’ll do this by the first each month) and go forward. Since I’m getting us started late this month, I’ll try not to overreach. Ok, that’s probably not realistic ;-).

Domestic Infrastructure: My goals are finish moving the food storage out of the walk-in closet it has badly overflowed and into the spare guest room, where now people will have the pleasure of sleeping surrounded by jars and buckets (this, however, is one of a couple of guest rooms. I’m also moving around the space my office is in, but can’t really finish that until I get a door for said office. So my goal is to put the door on and move the furniture. Beyond that, I hope to get the firewood stacked and some of it moved into the house and get some more garden beds built before winter. That’s probably as much as I can accomplish (and maybe more). If I have time, however, I did make a list of 25 free or cheap projects I could do to improve our quality of life that I’d like to take a stab at.

Household economy: We have several times in the past tracked our expenses, but haven’t done it in a couple of years. So go back to tracking every penny we spend. I think realistically, the most I can hope for this month is to figure out where all the money goes (we know basically but I’d like a closer analysis) and make a plan for shifting our expenses starting next month.

Resource Consumption: This we’ve been tracking all along, so I pretty much know where the problems are. My goal is to drop our electrical usage by 5% over our present use, something I’m sure I can accomplish simply by staying off the computer a little more and by the normal shift to cookstove cooking away from our stove. The major problem will be our mileage – they’ve crept up with kid activities and my travel, and they aren’t immediately fixable, although they will go down after next month, since I won’t be travelling as much. So figuring out where we can cut there is the next project.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence: I need to find out if I can get an inspection that will allow me to produce small scale jams and other food from our spare apartment kitchen – there are permits for this in NY, but I am not sure if we’ll qualify. In the meantime, lots and lots of farm planning for the spring, and garden planning in general. I want to reduce our input costs and increase our outputs – some boring tax research is also required. My goal is to have a plan set out for the farm by the end of the month – a month by month schedule of what we’re producing and what I need to do to accomplish that.

Family and Community: Eric and I are committed to trying to be part of two more outside our home events every month than we had been doing – evening events are tough for us, with almost no babysitting and the fact that we’re usually really tired by the end of the day. But the fact is, human relationships happen at night, so we’re trying bring some new folks to the farm and also go out more. Oddly, this seems like the most overwhelming one – I can handle my finances or declutter my house, but when it comes to actually getting organized to do something at 8pm, I find myself struggling!

Outside Work: I have several times tried to get my outside workload down by insisting I work and check emal only 3 days a week. In principle, this seems doable. In practice, I’ve never pulled it off – but if I’m to accomplish as much as I want to, I can’t do it in front of the computer all the time. I’ve been trying to help get my ASPO commitment stabilized with more hands to do the work, and that seems like it is settling down. My biggest, perhaps most difficult to achieve goal is this – that I will work at the computer *only* on Monday mornings, and all day Tuesdays and Thursdays – and that includes everything I do online – on all other days, the computer will stay *off.* I’m hoping to pull this off by December 1 – and stick to the commitment.

Time and Happiness: I think honestly, accomplishing the above will get me both. I’ll let you know how I do.

So what are your plans and goals? You can post them here or link to your blog and we can talk about it. Let us know what you are struggling with, and what you’ve accomplished. Spread the word – get a lot of people involved. It should be fun – and we can all use a little support!

And the badges, btw, are coming!

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 jen
    November 9, 2010

    Okay here’s mine.

    DI- I’ve been working on this quite a bit already and have streamlined several areas. I have a few more decluttering projects left, one being my sewing room. Once I get it organized I can sell some fabric I;m not going to use.

    HE- We have been doing this since Sept and we have finally achieved some balance and order! Dh has taken over a large part of the responsibility I had and it feels great!

    RC-need to make a 20% drop. We have our water under control, but electric has crept up. I’m hoping the gas will be improved with all the insulation and the Supertherm roof coating we did this year. We have dropped a degree from 62 last year to 61. I would like to have us at 60 during the day and 58 at night. We’ve also had some food waste I need to curb.

    CI- well this year was our first year for honey and we did okay, but definitely not enough to trade or give much away. We are adding 2 hives in the spring so next year should be great. I’m starting my midwifery training in January, but this will take at least 3 yrs before it is producing income.

    F & C-I’m signed up for an urban farm tour so that’s a big motivator for me to have things looking good and a great way to make more connections. I’m at capacity with this right now homeschooling and parenting a 2 & 4 yr old as well.

    OW- would like to volunteer someplace this coming year.

    Right now this is the working plan, but I have lots to do in ’11!

  2. #2 ChrisBear
    November 9, 2010

    DI- We are moving at the end of the month. So packing/reorganizing are definitely happening. More space will allow us to have more food storage and hopefully a dedicated workspace for sewing.

    HE- save, always save! We have been tracking this and squeezing for years now. By good fortune, we have friends who have some of the equipment we would otherwise be thinking of buying.

    RC- I am trying very hard to stay at twice a week biking to work. That is 20-30% of our total driving per week. The new place will also let us control more of our utility usage.

    The rest- I am swamped! This will do for now. Hopefully I will take some gardening classes when they come available, and improve my sewing throughput. But we are good on clothes for now; anything I make this winter will gifts or test pieces.

  3. #3 Brad K.
    November 9, 2010

    Sharon,

    One thing that I enjoy in odd moments – from a computer break, to waiting at a red light – is play the recorder. Sometimes hymns, or songs I have memorized.

    I didn’t see you incorporating family music in your plans, nor focus on worship time.

    I have picked up a few old-time music books for singing (without electricity! Or batteries!), and there is a fair amount of folk lore, history of culture, and glimpses of other ways of living amidst some interesting tunes and some fond memories. Lines like “She’s a young thing, and cannot leave her mother”, “You’ll look sweet, upon the seat, of a bicycle built for two”, “Just the way you look tonight”, and the one I cannot find “Strolling along to the evening train”. Or tunes like Mixylodian, or Glenn Miller’s “American Patrol”. Even “Col. Hathaway’s March” from the Disney’s “The Jungle Book”. (“Oh, we march from here to there, and it doesn’t matter where, as we stamp and crush through the under brush, with a military air! with a military air! Two, three four, Keep it up! two three four.”) Sometimes knowing the past of a culture can be useful in putting actions into perspective when your neighbors or family seem the most . . contrary.

    I find “San Antonio Rose” and the jingle from “Aunt Jemima’s Pancakes, without her syrup, is like the spring without the fall. In this universe, there’s just nothing worse, than no Aunt Jemima’s at all,” can be helpful working with livestock. Seriously. Tonight the cows were nervous, but cooperative with some Neil Sedaka and Bangles (Walk like an Egyptian). I wonder how many today can sing the lyrics to a dozen songs – direct from the worship song book or popular songs?

    Or perhaps poetry and song are just frittering away time, of no use in enjoying or sharing life’s joys and sorrows.

  4. #4 Apple Jack Creek
    November 9, 2010

    Posted our initial ‘beginning’ on the blog.

    And Brad … when stressed, unable to sleep, or otherwise just in need of comfort, I sing Christmas carols and old hymns – all from memory! Be Thou My Vision and O Little Town Of Bethlehem being favourites, for some reason or other. :) I think this falls into the last category of the Project Anyway … Time and Happiness!

  5. #5 Sharon Astyk
    November 10, 2010

    DMAB, your post got deleted because it contained a threat to a specific group. If that ever happens again, you’ll be banned from my site.

    Brad – Time for music is implicitly part of the time and happiness thing for us – and always has been. Perhaps I haven’t mentioned it because it is one of the things that generally seems to work right for us, although I’d love Eric to have more time to practice banjo and piano. As for worship – that’s pretty built into our lives as well – from Friday night to Saturday night is family and sabbath time, in addition to the routine incorporation. I could use more time to study Talmud, but at this point, I don’t feel like we’re doing too badly there.

    But that’s a good point.

    Sharon

  6. #6 AnneT
    November 10, 2010

    We’re having a busy November. Lots of the stuff fits in with the Anyway project; listing in the blog.

  7. #7 Yvonne Rowse
    November 12, 2010

    I have to spend some time thinking about this. I’ve got the big picture sorted out. The actual targets and management programme, however, need a bit more thought. I’ve made the mistake in the past of identifying sweeping ambitions that are never realised because the time and effort required seem so huge. I need to break this all down into bite size chunks. So far I’ve got ‘tidy my bedroom’ under DI. You might think that sounds a little petty but it is a mighty task. This is where my yarn store, my sewing stuff and a quarter of my books are.
    I’ll get back with my other targets Real Soon Now. I do appreciate the discipline this imposes. Thanks Sharon.

  8. #8 dewey
    November 12, 2010

    Inspiring; I’ll have to think about what goals I might set. Planning to take care of a subsistence goal tomorrow – canning jalapenos and salsa. The DH is already frazzled by the mere thought. He thinks I will give him botulism. :)

  9. #9 Sue
    November 14, 2010

    Fits and starts seem to be my style at present – I get right into a project, then something comes up to distract me.
    DI – I have delegated more domestic duties to DD16, which has freed considerable time to tackle the big jobs. This week have completely turned out wardrobes and donated/gifted excess clothing. We have 2 sprout jars going continuously now and add them to sandwiches and mains – one less veg prep.
    HE – Have bartered an unused trailer for the fencing of my new orchard/garden area and house painting. I was given a thermal cooker for my birthday, which will use less electricity.
    RC – Thermal cooker again. We had storm damage to our wireless antenna and were without internet for 3 days and survived/got more practical things done – so one or two comp free days per week – I hope. I am in the process of collecting and sterilizing all used pots to reuse for market sales.
    CI&S – Pots again – Producing lots of seedlings for market sales.
    F&C – Friends have set up system of sharing around magazines and books, clothing and household appliances.
    OW – Local commercial herb farm needs a harvester – seriously considering a real job.
    T&H – No time if I get another job – all of these things seem to overlap don’t they.

  10. #10 dewey
    November 15, 2010

    Okay, I got goals – to run through the end of the year since I’m out of town for so much of the remaining six weeks.

    DI – Sort and store or ragbag excessive T-shirt wardrobe.
    HE – Set up a savings account.
    RC – Create and post charts for the fridge to show this and next year’s gas and electric consumption.
    CI&S – Can jalapeno salsa and pickled peppers (done Saturday! with a double batch of salsa AND six half-pints of jalapeno jelly – yes! I AM hot sh*t!)
    F&C – Shovel out front room so we’re not embarrassed to have friends over.
    OW – Keep all chainsaws in the air for another six weeks.
    T&H – Cut back on coffee drinking.

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