I am now a bona fied paid writer. I get paid to write. Real money! Well, digital money as it is telecommuting, but it is money. I claim what articles I want to write about and then I do it and I get paid. I'm still amazed by this. Total shock!
I have been writing for a subscription website for a couple months now, but it is a maximum of only five articles a month and doesn't even bring in $100. It was enough to call myself an aspiring writer, but not a real one. Not anymore! This one is enough to actually have to file a tax return!
I get to be home, with my son. I get to still homeschool. Best of all, I get to write for a living! Swoon! Happy! Happy! Happy! Happy!
The season has officially ended in our household. Not due to the equinox, or the increases in patchy rain, or even school having about 40 days left (not that Jules is counting). Nope, the season in our household ends when the firewood ends. Four cords of wood has been reduced to one small stack in the corner of the living room which awaits a cold night.
This year has been a good one. The entire winter we only used the heat in spotty increments, mainly during the afternoon-evening transition, when the house would get a slight chill. Ten to fifteen minutes of heat every few days or so lead to 30 dollar heating bills during our coldest months. Paying $120 for heating the house an entire year seems pretty darn fabulous to us. Even when the temperature didn't get past 12 degrees for a week, we stuck true to our wood fire and loved every minute of it.
Going back to heat via the furnace is definitely not an option. There is just something inherently snuggly and warming about a fire. The sense of heat is much deeper and fulfilling. Before this I didn't have any kind of judge for what real heat felt like since a furnace was my reference point. Real warmth is much wetter than the dry furnace heat. How warmth can be wet is a bit beside me, but wine can taste dry and that seems counter intuitive as well. Firewood warmth tends to expand in a room and feel almost heavy in the air, it is not light like furnace heat. Also, the smell of the hearth in the house is so much more welcoming. Walking up to our front door you can smell the fire burning from the chimney and you just long to be inside. I don't much want to ever live again without that level of longing to be home and with my family.
The knowledge that we have cut our own fuel, made our own fire, and created the warmth with our hands causes a so much more complete feeling about our life. We can now measure a winter by firewood rack and truly have a sense of the nature around us. I could not have told you before what the teens really felt like temperature wise. Nor could I have informed anyone how long our winters really stayed cold. Now I have fully lived this experience and know very well. The teens start to make your chest a little tight if you spend much time out in them. It takes about 1 cord (1 rack) of wood to last a month. Four cords works very well, but it is a little tight for our liking. Next year we are going to up it one more cord just so that we can be completely safe.
We have walked away with a better understanding of the resources we have used and the knowledge that energy taken from the earth means equal energy spent by us. If there was any testament to the importance of lost skills our year of firewood would be it.
So what does our family do without television? Dad pulls out his climbing gear and we discuss wallnuts, peanuts, karabiners, quick draws, and technical friends while playing around with all kinds of knots in the living room.
The Barracuda has already been through all the rock climbing and bouldering classes the local parks and rec offer. We are planning on being regular residents at the rock gym when he finally gets old enough to attend.
One of the most amazing things about our journey is the change that is beginning to take place within our perspective. If you had asked me six months before we began our simplifying if we would be culturing dairy products or changing break pads I would have exclaimed an adamant "No!" The idea wouldn't have seemed like a bad one, necessarily, but it would have been far past the reaches of our comfort. At this point, the idea of doing our own car maintenance (beyond an oil change) seems like a normal transition. Why not? It will cut the price dramatically and make you feel awesome all at the same time.
Like so many of the processes which seemed vastly complex, much car maintenance is a series of rather simple steps which add up to create a complicated machine. That isn't to say you should run out and just start taking things apart, but don't be intimidated by the idea of doing things yourself. A Chilton handbook can go a long way, a knowledgeable neighbor or family member, a few Internet searches, and you might be amazed at what you can conquer. This spring we (I should say Jules) conquered my brakes.
The front disc brakes of my car had hit the point of needing to be changed or serious damage was going to result. They weren't just squeaking every once in a while, nor were they lightly whining a bit. They were full on squealing in pain! No grinding had begun so the calipers were fine, but oh how the metal on metal made some noise.
Below is a picture tutorial of how to change the front disc breaks of my 2003 Mazda Protege. Most all vehicles have the same basic process, to some degree. Most all wear and tear on a vehicle's brakes occur in the front brakes. Secondly, most cars have front disc brakes and rear drum brakes. DO NOT TRY TO CHANGE DRUM BRAKES YOURSELVES UNLESS YOU ARE A TRAINED TECHNICIAN.First off, jack the car up and make sure it is fully supported. Remove the tire and locate the brake.
If you look behind the brake you will find the slide pin. It is more like a rather large bolt which holds the brake together. Usually the pin is covered with a plastic or spongy cap which is just pulled off to reveal the head of the pin. There is also another black rubber, spongy gasket the slide pin fits through. It is the black semi circle in within the highlighted section above. If your car has ever been in an accident, this is a part which is frequently replaced. In my car, the driver's side slide pin was a metric screw; on the passenger side it was an allen screw. In either case, you want to locate the pin and remove it.
Becoming Carbon Neutral
Discussing the process and outcomes of our endeavors. Our family is a unique situation in just how un-unique we really are. Mom, Dad, small child, dog and cat in an urban environment, living in 900 square feet on a low-to-middle class income. Our house was built around 1950 so we are also revamping an existing structure without remodeling. We would like to show what has worked for us and the direction we took so people can see that you don't need acres in the country or a ton of money. If we can make it work, anyone can make it work!
Projects and SkillsSo much of this last year has been learning everything we don't know. Slowly we are acquiring the books, websites, and resources to try and learn the skills time has lost. We have been helped immensely from the work of others and wish to forward that on by posting schematics and how to's on many of our projects.
Gear and the Outdoors with A Small Child
Reverence for the intricacy of our planet's interdependence is a major facet of our lives. If you are truly going to live with and off the land, you need to understand and respect it. Long distance backpacking and trekking have been put on hold in our family due to the age of our son. He has been slowly initiated into camping, and soon we will begin training, gearing up, and teaching him the skills necessary to live out of nothing but a backpack for months at at time with nothing but your legs to get you home.
Personal Fulfillment Without Television
We killed our television months ago when we didn't convert to digital. We don't have a single TV in our house even for movies. Talk about weird! For the first couple of weeks we didn't really know how to even talk to one another. Now, our lives are ten fold better. In hopes of helping others who wish to unplug their TV's too, we have complied a list of some of the things we do together instead of watching mindless crap. It is so much cooler!
"...It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness, to sit on a rock in the forest and ask of himself, ‘Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?’ ”