Anyway Project Update 1

Just a note: Eric stepped on the overpriced device that allows us to have a slow and primitive but still wireless connection out here in middle-of-nowhere-land this morning. It is still working, miraculously (it doesn't look like it should be working), but I expect to lose internet access basically at any moment. So if this blog disappears, it isn't that I don't care, it is that my husband is a klutz. Since I'm a much bigger klutz, and have broken even more important things over the years, I can't really whine about it. But just FYI, I'm not sure how much internet access I'll have until replacement device is procured.

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, and in that regard, I feel like the last month has been a slow beginning. I spent a lot of the last month wrapping up chaos already in progress, but now I am hopeful that the winter will allow some sustained progress.

The six weeks between late October and mid-December are hectic ones - I travelled twice, once by myself, once as a family, and soloed with the farm while Eric and the boys went to visit Grandma. We had three birthdays complete with visting family, parties, etc... Halloween, Thanksgiving and Chanukah, hosted more than 20 guests for stays varying from 1 day to a full week, I wound up my fall teaching and Eric hit the end of his term, with all the grading and etc... Starting the project November 1 was probably doomed to msotly being a wrap up, but I came in with ambitions, some of which were even accomplished.

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 use more 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.

So how are we doing on this? Well, as I said, November was a bit hectic, so I didn't complete everything I'd like to do. I'll post both my November results and my plans for December here:

Domestic Infrastructure:

November: I got the food storage moved out of the closet and am almost finished setting it up in the guest room. It doesn't look too bad, either. I didn't get to the office, and the firewood is not all stacked, so that's only 1 out of 3 - and I'm not totally done with 1.

December: Ok, stack the firewood, get the door on my future office and move in to the office. Go through the house room by room and begin cleaning out and de-cluttering. Also, do my big annual spice order - I'm out of way too many things. Given that I only have two weeks left in the month, that's probably as much as I can accomplish.

Household Economy

November/December: We've been tracking expenses, but November was an atypical month, with some big projects, so I want to continue this through December, and see how much we can cut (we're probably the only people on the planet who spend *less* in December than the rest of the year ;-)). I have a budget set, but I have some ideas that I could cut even further, but I want to watch how this actually works for a month or two.

Resource Consumption

November: We have continued to cut our electrical usage back as intended, although our gas mileage went up because of a long planned annual visit to my Moms. We used wood extremely conservatively and have turned on the furnace only when we were away (just enough to keep the pipes from freezing) and when we had guests sleeping in the cold bedrooms. Generally, despite the early December cold spell, we're further ahead than we usually are at this season in heating fuel.

December: Time to compensate for that trip and all the fall travel by staying home and enjoying the winter peaceful season. I expect electrical use to decline as well, as I try to stick to my new work schedule, writing only three days a week.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:

November: This one was a total failure. I got none of my November goals done - I started the farm year plan, but failed to get my seeds for stratification in, started but didn't finish my tax research (the boring ones are tougher ;-)), and didn't find out about my kitchen certification either. Bad, bad blogiste!

December: Exactly the same list as last month, plus some other business details. Blah. This is my punishment for not doing stuff ;-). I also need to make up the farm and garden calendar, which at least is kind of fun, and order bottles for product sales. On the fun end, we also need to order our seeds, fruit trees and beekeeping equipment. Woot!

Family and Community

November: We committed to trying to do two outside events every month and work generally on strengthening community ties. We actually did this, but most of it was due to the many, many guests who visited and to previously planned events. Now I've actually got to do it purposefully.

December: I'm planning two fun things for the next month - first, a neighborhood open-house for New Years, and second, a winter apprentice weekend. Last year, we had 10 people come to my house for a weekend of goat milking, talking, eating, knitting, and learning about everything from woodstove cooking and maintenence to herb gardening and plant uses. I'm plotting another weekend for mid-January - I'll announce it this week. I really love being able to meet internet folks in person!

Also on my agenda in the "family" department, Eric and I have been talking for years about the possibility of adopting more children through social services, and we've decided to go forward at least as far as the class and possibly the homestudy (on the theory that my house might never be clean enough to pass a homestudy again ;-)) over the next few months. Scheduling the time commitment and childcare will be challenging, but we want to do this. I'm not sure what the longer term outcome will be, but both of us are thinking that our family might not be complete.

Outside Work:

November: I failed miserably at reducing my work schedule - but I'm ready to start again.

December: Trying that three day per week thing again. Must. Make. Workload. Fit.

Time and Happiness:

I didn't really set goals for this in the past month, just assumed they would be a natural outcome of getting things under control. They are, I suspect, but I'd also like to make more time for music at home. So more regular music practice and singing time with the kids and husband is on my weekly agenda.

Ok, so how did you do?


More like this

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…
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…
As most of you will remember, we came very close to moving during the summer. It was an agonizing decision to make - there were compelling arguments on both sides, and while we ultimately came down in favor of staying in place, we also recognized that the problems we saw with our present situation…
It hasn't escaped my notice that today is November 1, and I'm supposed to be starting the Whole-Life Redesign Project. In fact, I am starting it - I'm taking the opportunity created by my kids being out of the house to move all the food storage around and clean under things and get rid of things (…

My major project has been installing a gate across my driveway. I finished the project yesterday, except for minor details like painting the posts. It's taken a month to get the job done, because I had no one to help me and digging the holes in the rocky New Mexican conglomerate that passes for "soil" has been a real chore. Pound & pry with a rock bar to get just a bit of dirt & rock out of the hole. I wanted the 4" id metal posts set deep, so the top of the hole had to be wide so the post hole diggers would get the dirt out. An entire weekend of digging for each hole. But now the posts are set deep & in concrete. Would take a big tractor or bulldozer to knock the gate down. Police car or burglar's pickup couldn't do it. This is part of my "preps" for the future.

Haven't been cutting as much wood as in years past 'cause, again, no one to help. Have been harvesting hybrid poplar which isn't very good firewood. It's okay for getting the fire going but then need harder wood to make coals & last awhile. Need to get down into the bosque & cut Russian olive. Not using as much wood this year because I only have a fire in the evenings. I'd need to get up a half an hour earlier in the mornings if I wanted a fire then. Consequently, have been using more natural gas than in previous years but keep the thermostat set in the 50s F.

Have been eating a lot of potatos, eggs, green chili & winter squash. Hens are still loose so I don't always find their eggs & predators are taking them one by one. Old dog died, have Beagle puppy & cat to keep me company. Have shut down a couple aquaria to save on electricity. Have been reading Thoreau's journal & have rediscovered Emily Dickinson. I am in awe of that woman's mind & her command of language. I'm certainly not the first person who's gotten the impression that she knew exactly how I feel and was writing directly to me, personally:

"Now to the application, to the reading of the roll,
To bringing thee to justice, and marshalling thy soul:
Thou art a human solo, a being cold, and lone,
Wilt have no kind companion, thou reap'st what thou hast sown.
Hast never silent hours, and minutes all too long,
And a deal of sad reflection, and wailing instead of song?"

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 13 Dec 2010 #permalink

Oh! Please please please post on the adoption stuff. Hubby and I only have the 1 baby and I don't know if doing things the old fashioned way ;-) is in the cards right now. (I work, hubby stays home, works not-so-great with a newborn, and we can't afford for me to be out of work right now.)

I really want to compare some costs between the two options and make a decision in the next year. Any thoughts at all from your experiences would be nice to have.

Sharon, email me (I assume you can see my address since it's your blog) the specs of what got stepped upon and what you need/want in the way of a replacement, and I'll see what I have in the Electronic Bermuda Triangle in my basement. I might have something suitable that needs a good home.

By R. S. Buchanan (not verified) on 13 Dec 2010 #permalink

I started great and decide to sell the house. So no order of seed for me yet since I have noidea where we will end up. I want a one story house and to take MiL with us. I'll like a house that can be heated with electricity since it is an energy we can produce very well here (Quebec) and a woodstove to have some redundancy. A nice big yar is a must too. So I could say my Anyways will be to be on the look out for a suitable housing that can be adaptable in place. Gosh I wish to have your book in my hand now Sharon!

I'm going to take a random guess as to what got stepped on ... it sounds like an aircard maybe? We have one and I broke it over a year ago. It still works just fine. I don't know how, but it still connects. Fingers crossed for y'all!

By Elizabeth (not verified) on 14 Dec 2010 #permalink

We moved at the end of November- out of the apartment and into a little townhouse. BIG kitchen, so we are making cheese and planning on having a larger food storage area. First we need to sell/donate/unpack the rest of our stuff! Our march down the food-input stream continues. We made lasagna and ravioli from milk, eggs, flour, and our herb garden! And we are realizing just how much we need to can and dry during the summer to keep grocery costs low year-round.

Transport is hard. It was -5F this morning. With the snow/ice cover, I really worry about biking my 24 mile commute, plus getting my daughter to day care (4 miles). So far, lots of balancing our schedules to get by with one car and the occasional ride from coworkers.

The library, sewing, and playing outside are our entertainment. The household budget remains food, fuel, rent, and childcare. We run the heat as low as possible, few lights (but now the herb garden is not very healthy), and basically consume as little as possible. For a fun time, I think we are going to have a 'cut-off' weekend soon- no inputs from outside the house for 2 days.

Community is tough. We do not talk to many people, and I have learned to keep my mouth shut unless talking to friends of many years, so bringing up Peak Oil at the PTA meeting has not yet happened :) I do push for community building whenever possible, and trying to develop ties with local businesses to donate to the school fundraisers instead of replying on CostCo and and other big box retailers. But I will take whatever help we get. The school district is going to be several million short next year, and we just aren't going to sell that many brownies.

December goals- finish moving in, review the year's expenses, evaluate cost/benefit of an indoor garden, practice my penny whistle.

By ChrisBear (not verified) on 14 Dec 2010 #permalink


Where do you purchase your bulk spices from? I could use to place a nice order as well.

Tammy and Parker

I'm participating in the Anyway Project, but in a slower fashion. One that works well with surgeries, therapies and the such.

I made 15 quarts of organic stock from our Organic Thanksgiving Turkey my parents contributed to Thanksgiving.

At this time of my life, I can't defend spending almost $4.00 a pound on turkey, so I'll be stocking our freezer with the Norbest that are raised here in Utah and run less than half the cost of the organic.

However, I did do an amazing job gleaning and sourcing organic fruits and veggies from neighbors and a local farm that open up their left overs for the gleaners.

Over Christmas break I plan to go through both our food storage and bug out bags and make some extensive plans on how to get each of these areas up to snuff.

It's hard to fill a food storage room with real food, rather than coupon purchased junk while still feeding the mouths at the same time.

Tammy and Parker


About ordering seeds - I got my Baker Creek heritage seed catalog today. So much for getting more done for a few days.

Luck with reducing the distractions, the chaos, and finding time for fun. So - what kind of music? Which instruments? (I hope it isn't sing-a-long with YouTube. Which reminds me, I picked up a couple "Sing Along with Mitch Miller and the Gang LP's last summmer. Time to listen to them again, too.)

I was unpacking and found an old Verizon mobile broadband card, let me know if that is what you use\need.

Or anyone else on here, for that matter. But Sharon gets first dibs :)

By ChrisBear (not verified) on 16 Dec 2010 #permalink

Best wishes on the adoption front. Both of our children were adopted, one international and one domestic. If there's anything I can do to help your process just drop me a line.

Serenity Gulch Farm

Thank you all so much for the offers of electronic aid - I'm back, with a new Verizon wireless device (free, under warranty that apparently covers even spousal crunching ;-)) which is actually faster than the old one. I missed you all!


I'm sitting here in the dead zone between Christmas and New Year thinking how badly I've done so far. Essentially the only thing I've achieved is getting my bedroom semi-organised; building bookshelves and getting the remains of my books out of banana boxes and onto shelves. I've got most of my yarn stash stowed away with moth sachets but I still have to inventory it.
As it is so late in the day and I am getting ready for a small New Year's Eve get-together of local friends I think I will set aside New Year's Day for looking at my Project.