Casaubon's Book

The Anyway Project: Update Two

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 ;-)).

Here are the goals:

y 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?

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 dewey
    February 7, 2011

    Nothing done because of a family health crisis (except that due to that crisis, we’re basically being forced to instantly give up all processed foods, which is an adjustment I have long wanted to make, though not this way). Have been too busy to get on Internet, a condition likely to persist for a while, so I wanted to stop by and say good luck with adoption, book, etc. Also to DD – if you see this, my very best wishes to you and your wife. It sure sucks to have a loved one in the hospital and feel helpless to do anything that will make a difference.

  2. #2 Amy
    February 7, 2011

    I love the idea of working with and educating the community!

  3. #3 dini sohbet
    February 8, 2011

    the two. Krall was a rich dealer in diamonds who had founded his very own institute for paraphysical research in Munich. He had also taken care of the famous horse Clever Hans (who performed arithmetic in Berlin in 1904) after his owner Wilhelm van Osten had died. He thought Hans used telepathy and started an elaborate research program but he was wrong: the horse could read the right answers in small unintentional signals given by humans.

  4. #4 Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife
    February 8, 2011

    Sharon, from my perspective, one thing you do that no one else seems to do is synthesize parts of the big picture and connect the dots in ways that help ordinary people make sense of what is happening right now. I don’t see too many people writing about the range of topics you do, and showing the connections between global problems and the everyday actions, decisions, lifestyles of people in the overdeveloped world. The mixture of realism, compassion, history, fine detail, ethics, concrete suggestions, individual empowerment, and optimism in your writing is not something I’ve come across elsewhere. So if you’re looking to identify what work is uniquely yours, I suggest you put that work high on the list.

  5. #5 Sawyer@Durma
    February 9, 2011

    Good luck with the adoption too. Kudos also for posting during such a crazy time.

  6. #6 ChrisBear
    February 11, 2011

    DI
    re-reorganized the garage for better storage. Never did get the kitchen resorted, I guess it is as it will be (for now). I sewed some gifts this year, and will be making snowpants in the next few weekends. Kids grow fast!

    HE
    Got our first bulk-food order in! Big cash outlay, but it should cut grocery costs for several months. Next up- the CSA investment. The delivery is what prompted the garage reorg. And Target bakery is getting to know me as I ask for buckets every few days :)

    RC
    Since life is a System, all these feed into each other. To afford the big food purchase, we turned down the thermostat. That led to closing our daughter’s bedroom as it stays 5-10 degrees colder than the rest of the flat. Snowstorms and -5F mornings have kept me from biking (that is my excuse, and I will stick with it!). We still use less of everything than ‘average’, but we will keep pushing down.

    CI&S
    I think about selling some of my sewing or other things I make (got some good comments about my quiver last weekend), but so far, I am still a wage-slave). I forgot small game season goes into Feb. here in MN, but got out hunting last Saturday. There were better archers than me there, so we did eat well at the end of the day :) Next year, I plan to hunt through the winter. Making clothes to fulfill that goal. Studying more wild edibles until I can get out looking for them.

    F&C
    I love my family. Other people? Meh.
    So this is still an ‘area of improvement’ :)

    OW
    Too much! But in a decade or so I should be able to cut back. Until then, it is what I do. All else flows around it.

    T&H
    I learned a couple of more songs last month. Everyone is happy about that- Dad playing the same three songs, over and over was not so much fun. Now it is the same 5 songs!