I realized after I wrote Our Story that it really didn’t tell you guys much about who we are or what this blog is focused on. There is nothing I love more then making something new and usable again that someone else would have thrown out or torn down. I’ve become so hard core in this fact that now when I see new things I don’t even like them. There’s no character there, no pride, no workmanship. Literally hell to me would be living in suburbia where all the houses look the same and there is no amount of “money worth” or “price tags” that could ever make me feel any different. Of course this isn’t true of all new things . . . when I showed Joe the new faucet and sink I had bought for our house he asked really sweetly, “Could those go in our master bathroom?” (The other sinks and faucets were antiques I had pulled out of one of our sheds.) And that was when I realized that I had become so hard core that something that was actually new felt really special to Joe. Sorry baby, lol.
I’ve always loved homes and architecture and I have literally spent hundreds of hours on my computer designing homes from the ground up using this program: Home Designer Suite 2016. I’m the girl that just drives around looking at houses for the fun of it but, until I faced that garage full of furniture left to me by my grandparents, I hadn’t yet truly found my passion. I loved the work – from the stripping, to the sanding to the final finish coat, I just loved it. I also come by all of this naturally as my grandparents’ retired to wood working after farming and that’s when the barn became their wood shop. Stanchions, once housing cows, were filled with oak and pine – they built everything from hutches to dressers to cabinets and benches, there was nothing my grandparents’ couldn’t build and they loved it.
You’ve probably already noticed that saving money, recycling, doing it ourselves and using what we already have is what we’re all about around here. Though I may just prefer an old buffet for my vanity the truth is that the cost savings is enormous! We built all of our kitchen cabinets and I don’t know if I would have had it any other way even if we could have afforded to buy new. After all the work we put into this house and after hand making so much, I think new kitchen cabinets would just not have seemed right. It has just always seemed wrong to buy something when I could build it, or replace something when we could use something we already had and that’s just how I’ve always been.
When I first started refinishing our old furniture I was often met with, “How do you know how to do that?” But what they really meant was, “Why would you want to when you can just go and buy one?” It seems like most folks just call someone when they need something done or just go buy a replacement and never once considered (or ever wanted) to do it themselves. I’m the opposite, I hate to call anyone and to have to pay someone to do it is about the worst case scenario in my life. I don’t like strangers in my home but, even worse, having to trust them to make the same decisions I would for the safety of my family is just something I find very hard to do. If we can do it instead then why wouldn’t we? And I’ve found there really isn’t anything Joe and I can’t do if we want it bad enough.
I know I give the impression that I’m not far from quitting my job, having eighteen kids and wearing house dresses every day but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, Joe and I are firm believers in home made and growing (or harvesting) our food ourselves but that doesn’t mean we fear technology or don’t take full advantage of it. Neither one of us would have any interest whatsoever in turning back the clock and having to live without hot water, electricity or birth control, no thank you. About what it really comes down to is that we both hate being reliant on anyone or anything else and we both hate bills. I believe actually that with the help of technology we could leave a far better planet then the one we were born in. It’s just too bad that that wasn’t our goal as a society to begin with, imagine how far we would be with alternative energies if that was the case.
Joe and I both plan on dying in this home so all of our decisions are for the long term. We chose the most expensive insulation option of spray foam because we knew that it would pay for itself eventually. We plan on also looking into solar or wind power within the next couple of years because I would rather be paying that off then paying the electric company indefinitely. The big picture for us is simple: eliminate our bills and become self reliant. This blog, every post about our decisions and lives is about saving money by doing it ourselves, reusing and re-purposing so that, eventually, we can be working to live rather then working to work. I finally found the man of my dreams dammit, I want to spend more then two hours a day with him!
So that’s who we are and what this blog is all about! Self reliance, do it yourself, refinishing old furniture, re-purposing old pieces or building it from scratch instead of buying new and saving money every step of the way! Hopefully some of our ideas can help you with your own projects and save you some money along the way too! Trust me, if we can do it you can can too!
I shared a post on Facebook not too long ago about the dangers of factory farming and commercial milk and how excited I was that I had entirely eliminated milk from our home. Sadly, a dear friend of mine commented, “What a sad day when a dairy farmer’s daughter stops using milk.” I felt terrible because that hadn’t been my intention at all. Another comment included sarcastically, “Oh everything is bad for us these days!” and just about everyone assumed that my giving up on milk was because I was “dieting” and would I also be giving up on bacon too etc? And, pretty much, that I was just an idiot following a new “fad”. They were all wrong of my intentions. Firstly, milk doesn’t get used in our home unless I’m cooking with it and I was darned sick of pouring money down the drain. Secondly, I grew up lactose intolerant so the idea of drinking a glass a milk makes me nauseous to this day and we simply do not do the “cereal” thing that a lot of families do and one glance at the amount of sugar in commercial cereals makes me want to have nothing to do with it.
We do not have as healthy or as green of a home as I want it to be but I remind myself every day that we are always doing the best that we can. My ideal refrigerator would have no commercial animal products in it whatsoever and would be full of organic fruits and vegetables picked within twenty miles of my house. (Ideally they would all be harvested and grown by us in our yard.) And any animal products in the refrigerator would be the same, either harvested by us here and made by us or made/harvested/raised organically and ethically very close to home. Nothing we would eat would be commercially created or processed in any way either and to suggest that this line of thinking is a “fad” just hurts my heart and I have real trouble even understanding how anyone could call a sustainable way of a life a “fad”.
I once read: “If my great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food then I won’t eat it.” and I wholeheartedly agree! Of course we are not at all perfect. I still keep a block of Velveeta in my refrigerator for when Joe and I feel like having a queso night and I always keep cream cheese in there too because living without a ranch dip night is just not something I ever want to consider. Of course I always keep pizza and pepperoni around too. How often do we have what I would call a “bad” supper – maybe once a week and sometimes less then that. Again, we simply do the best that we can.
I am delighted to hear that I have officially converted my husband to this way of thinking. Once or twice a year we would “be naughty” and go eat at McDonalds. Last time Joe did this he couldn’t even finish it and couldn’t believe how awful it made him feel and how disgusting he found it. It is absolutely amazing what our bodies get used to and then can’t handle once you start eating better on a daily basis. There was one last can of Campbells chicken noodle soup (yup the stuff we all ate and loved as kids) in the pantry and Joe grabbed it to make it for lunch one day. He was so looking forward to it too and couldn’t believe how awful and salty it was. I couldn’t help but laugh when he told me about it as I had done the exact same thing to myself not many months before it. I am still shocked that that is the same soup I remember from when I was a kid. Joe and I love my homemade chicken noodle soup and there is literally no comparison.
We are the only species that consumes the milk of another species. Cows milk is perfectly and incredibly designed to do one thing: take a 60 pound calf and turn it into a 900 pound steer. Personally, I don’t really want to become a 900 pound steer. But once I started really thinking about it and looking around at the people of my country and the insane and skyrocking rates of obesity I couldn’t help but wonder: maybe this has something to do with the fact that they’re consuming huge amounts of a substance designed to create a 900 pound steer?
Back in my grandparents’ generation (and their parents before them) the need for fat in their lives was not only a necessity but a real treat – they literally needed that fat added. But nowadays everything we eat is so loaded with fats and milk products the argument does not exist to say, “Well my grandparents used milk and butter!” Because, in fact, the ration was much different and there is literally no comparison when it comes to the quality. It is similar to sugar in our lives: Yes, our bodies need sugar, but Americans are consuming 100 times the amount of sugar our grandparents’ did every single day. Besides that, milk products used to truly be a “luxury” they were expensive and rationed heavily but today that simply isn’t the case. I once looked back at every meal I ate for a week and not one of them were without milk products – kinda scary when I started thinking about that 900 pound steer I was clearly trying to become.
Will we be giving up cheese or butter? Probably not – but I have cut us back enormously and totally removed milk from our lives. Nowadays even when I make toast Joe and I are skipping the butter in favor of organic jams and jellies (currently we’re eating a fabulous no sugar added jelly made by my sister in law!). And, just like with milk, I’ve found when I make pasta sauces or gravy there is usually no need to add butter like I used to and we can’t even tell the difference. All of my sauces and gravy have always started with a base of homemade stock, or a pan with drippings browned from whatever protein I was using so the flavor was already there and there is usually no need to add excess fat. What is really neat now is because we’ve given up on milk and cut so far back on butter now we can afford to buy the organic butter 🙂
I once read that if every family in America gave up meat for just one day a week the difference in our economy and to this planet would be absolutely astounding. Between the money that family would save, the health benefits for all of them and that much less meat having to be raised and butchered we would literally start saving this planet for real. The big argument to tighter and more careful regulation of our commercial beef industry is always that beef prices would then skyrocket. Well, I don’t about you, but as far as I can tell beef prices are already really high and I would rather eat organic pasture raised meat twice a week then the stuff they’re selling now five times a week. Of course Joe and I refuse to participate at all in the beef meat industry as we have totally replaced it in our lives with venison. I wonder if it is because we’re just plain spoiled? I remember growing up where there always had to be a meat, a vegetable and a starch for every single meal and now I’m beginning to ask myself why that ever needs to be true. I’ve had some pretty incredible vegetarian dishes in my life (with plenty of protein!) – what is it with our obsession with meat?!
It is not just in our eating that I’ve applied these principles to but I’ve applied them to every single aspect of our lives. The simple idea is that something truly “new” should be a luxury and a real treat for us. Thrift stores offer all of the “new” clothes we could ever possibly need. Not to mention furniture and anything we could possibly purchase for our home. When it comes to any products we’re going to be breathing or using (cleaning products, soaps etc) I have managed to replace all of them with my own homemade versions. And here’s the real kicker, not only do I believe that this lifestyle is far better for us healthwise but it has also saved us a bloody fortune. Right now just in groceries and cleaning products alone we’re saving over $5,000 a year! So, to those that would say to us, “But there’s no real proof that they’re any better for you!” My answer is so simple, “We’re saving a lot of money and if that’s the only reason to live as we do then that’s enough for me.”
But I really do believe our food is poison laden and filled with unhealthy fats and sugars in enormous quantities. And I also believe the majority of commercial cleaning products (from our laundry detergents to our hand soaps) are so packed full of chemicals that, if we really knew the consequences, we would never allow them in our homes or anywhere near our families again. So, regardless of the savings, living the way we do is an absolute no brainer for me.
I will write more on this when I have a moment but for now here is my thought: As much as Grandma’s house here seems to point us in the direction and desire to go back in time to the way our grandparents’ lived in all honestly, my desire of how we live is a little bit different then that. In fact, it is different enough that I can say that my grandparents’ did not live the way we wish to live. They lived based on necessity instead, I hope to live a sustainable lifestyle. A lifestyle based on two key thoughts one: We are equal the animals we share this earth with and two: I hope to leave no foot prints behind us.