Day #2 THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH

Day #2     THANKS FOR NOTHING Month                               Sunny/Frigid

“Just for today I will touch the arm of every person I speak to face-to-face.  This one act has the power to create a connection between us.”
????????????????????? Mornings during THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH are a challenge during these beginning days of the month.  Each year we forget how much thought goes into the process of having hot water.  And hot water is the first thing needed in the morning, and nearly the last thing required in the evening.

Ralphie is mesmerized by the morning fire.

The wood stove in the living room is the only active source of heat for our home, an “Earthship” designed by the architect Michael Reynolds.  The home is constructed with rammed-earth tires, cans, bottles and lots of other re-purposed items.  Because the basic premise of the home is to use the concept of thermal mass for heating and cooling, the house naturally never falls below 55 degrees F, even with no heat source.

The only sources of hot water include a large old-fashioned enamel water kettle, and a small modern metal tea pot which are heated on of the top of the wood stove.  This hot water is used for washing dishes, filling up the solar shower bag that’s used for an evening shower, and, most importantly, for hot tea and coffee.  It takes a bit of planning to not run out of hot water, and that’s where our month of no electricity and money gets off to a rocky start.

For example:  Unless someone gets up in the night to put wood into the stove, in the morning the water in the tea kettles is only lukewarm.  The room is still plenty warm, and the stove is still hot, but the tea kettles loose their heat rather quickly.  Since Jay loves his morning cup of coffee, and I crave a proper cup of morning tea, this causes us to huddle around the stove, waiting for the smaller tea kettle to begin to “sing” that it’s finally hot enough.

After the first night, I’ve decided that if I wake up, no matter how much I hate to get up, I’m going to refill the wood stove.  Last night I did wake, and I tried telling myself that it didn’t matter, we could wait for our tea.  But then I remembered that there would be people joining us for a consulting visit and we would not have the luxury of hanging out until we’re good and ready to begin the day.

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With my head lamp shining brightly, I wandered down the hallway like a coal miner and filled up the stove.  Unlike a coal miner, I had the added hazard of avoiding stepping on any of the cats that sleep wherever they find a bit of warmth.  Then back to bed, to dream of warmer days.

Last year I tried hoarding hot water by filling up insulated water carafes.  It didn’t really work.  Lukewarm water just doesn’t make a great cup of coffee or tea.

I’d love to hear an idea or two about how I might keep the water hot enough over night to have a nice hot cup of tea, and not have to wait around for 30 minutes to get the day in high gear.  I’m considering putting some clay bricks on top of the stove (slight thermal mass) and putting the tea kettle on top.  My hope is that the bricks will hold more heat then the top of the stove.

The saga of how to keep the water hot over night continues.  I hope to hear from folks about possible solutions.

Menu
Breakfast:
Fresh fruit with yogurt

Lunch:
Left over butternut squash/potato soup
Rye bread with butter
Fresh hot pepper raw milk goat cheese

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THANKS FOR NOTHING Month Day #1

Day #1 THANKS FOR NOTHING Month           Snowing

Tom & Annie preparing for Yule
Tom & Annie preparing for Yule

“Thoughtfulness takes practice.  Just for today I will be thoughtful in my approach to those around me.”

This past year we have tried to make it a time of spiritual renewal, and my hope for the new year definitely includes more opportunities for growing spiritual connections and restful fun.

The beginning of a new year should allow time to rest and review the year.  For us at Blue Rock Station, it is also the beginning of THANKS FOR NOTHING month.  Each year we try to challenge ourselves with an entire month where we spend no money, and avoid using energy.  This is our third year of this practice – and we find ourselves looking forward to the pause, rather than feeling challenged by it.

Each year we try to push just a bit harder, so rather than creating a menu for the month (and going shopping that last week of December), we decided to use what was already on hand – and clean the freezer instead of shopping.  Normally the 31-day menu would be in place well-ahead of January 1st, and all the food stored.  This year, however, we’re eating completely out of the freezers and larder.  The only thing we purchased was a stash of cheese for Jay (he hates my goat cheese), and some fresh fruit to go with the bounty of fall apples still in the larder.

Going a month without money requires a bit of advance planning.  For some reason, the animals on the farm don’t share our commitment to the spiritual growth that comes from doing without.  So on Tuesday I decided to pre-pay for some chicken feed at the hardware store in Duncan Falls, just in case I ran out before the end of the month.  The grain storage bins only hold four 50 lb. bags and those chickens are eating like frat boys at an all-you-can eat buffet.  The hay guy, who is also prepaid, will probably need to bring 50 bales before the end of the month – it’s going to be bitter cold so the goats and llamas are going to need extra feed to keep warm.

We should have taken a before photo because it didn't look anything like this before we started cleaning.
We should have taken a before photo because it didn’t look anything like this before we started cleaning.

After chores, our neighbor from a nearby ridge, Tom Winland, came by to visit.  Jay and I were in the midst of cleaning out the freezer and sorting everything according to categories – cheese, milk (saved for when they are dried up while I’m in France), meat, fruit, leftovers and miscellaneous.  Tom sat and watched, drinking a cup of hot tea made from water heated on the wood stove.

I decided I am going to keep a little notebook of what’s in the freezers, so we can cross off or add to the list.  That way I’ll have some idea of what’s available.  I was surprised at how much grated goat cheese we had.  There was also quite a bit of frozen basil pesto.  I kept telling Jay that he could tell the things that I like to eat by how much of it was stashed in the freezer.

We were so inspired by the clean and organized freezer, and possibly by Tom’s story telling, that we decided to clean the frig.  Jay’s hope was that we might throw out some of the many jars that take up quite a bit of space.  I’m not sure what he wanted to put in the place of these jars, as what is there is what we get – at least for the next 30 days.  We only discovered two science experiments – plastic containers filled with mold.  The rest were unlabeled containers of jelly, jam, pesto, and fruit syrups for waffles.

After lots of sorting, making lists, and scrubbing the frig shelves, we were pretty pleased with our afternoon of visiting and the clean refrigerator.  Thank goodness the bitter cold is coming or we might have been tempted to move on to bigger and more cluttered items.

Even though there were only two spoonsful of Whit's Frozen Yogurt Jay saved the treat for evening.
Even though there were only two spoonsful of Whit’s Frozen Yogurt Jay saved the treat for evening.

Instead we spent the rest of the afternoon working with Tom to plan February’s maple syrup project.  Tom wants to tap a few trees to gather sap so his family and ours will have some maple syrup for 2014.  It’s an exchange of our resources for his labor.  We love sweetening desserts with the delicious flavor of maple syrup, and using it as waffle syrup.  Plus it’s fun to have projects that involve people who will show up with good stories, and bring their good mood on a cold day.

The clean refrigerator, and Tom’s visit are a reminder that 2014 is going to be full of spiritual abundance, and loads of restful fun.  Happy New Year to all, and we hope you’ll join us during this month of living simply.

Menu for today:
Breakfast – Jay had cream of wheat and I had gluten-free waffles, real butter and raw honey plus a banana

Late-afternoon meal – pizza with toppings (we each like something different) and fresh green salad.  The crust is pre-baked.  Jay will have pepperoni and cheese and I will have goat cheese, olives and basil.  The dogs will have whatever falls on the floor.

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH DIARIES – Day 11

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH January 11, 2012 7:40 AM

67 F indoors 33 F outdoors

TODAY’S HAPPINESS FACTOR: 8 out of 10
I’m still worrying about health but not as much, although nothing’s changed

Oh the things I think about when I go to bed at night…

I’m having the time of my life with all of this sunshine, and living without different types of energy. Since we are not using electricity, this has created some real-life situations to experiment with other ways to generate energy.

At this point in the month I want to bake something without worrying that I’m burning it up, and I was beginning to think this goal wasn’t possible without electricity. Jay’s so good-natured about food but even he doesn’t want to pretend that the black stuff on the biscuits is a special way of “browning” them.

I could use the solar oven (lots of sunshine lately) but it’s too windy to put the cardboard box oven outside, and the wooden one is put away for winter.

Night before last as I was falling asleep I remembered that I have an old-fashioned canning stove top that could fit onto of the woodstove. Also, I have an antique two-bay oven box that was manufactured to set on the back of a Model A Ford so that the lunch could cook and stay hot on the way to the picnic. When we first bought the land and I stayed down at the Bunk House I used that oven to bake a cake, meatloaf and lots of other things. What is it they say about “Necessity is the mother of invention”? How could I have forgotten I had these useful tools, or better yet, how did I not realize in my planning that I would need a piece of equipment for baking? Sigh…

Last night I experimented with the canning stove – not hot enough in its current configuration but I thought of some remedies while I was falling asleep last night. The Model A oven worked perfectly for baking a butternut squash soufflé, which we ate for supper when Jay returned from teaching. I was quite proud of myself.

On another note, I’ve been reading Poor Will’s Almanac (poorwillsalmanack.com) online, and he is right on the money with his predictions for this year. He’s recommending pruning and planting shrubs for the next two weeks as the moon wanes.

Since I am planning to take some cuttings from the pussy willows to propagate them I’d better get cracking before the ground freezes for the winter. My goal, besides starting some pussy willows to sell, is to take quite a few of the whips over to “John’s” field and shove them into the ground at the property line so that when they grow up I can keep cutting them to create a shrub barrier. That way we won’t be able to see that horrible white block building from the Over Look in the winter.

Poor Will also says that as the fourth quarter moon moves overhead near dawn, you will do well to go on a diet – I guess he means you’ll loose weight. Boy, that moon has a lot of power. I can just see the next diet book – Follow the Lunar Calendar to Remain Slim and Trim or something like that.

Canning stove on top of the trusty woodstove
Model A Ford cooking stove

The next few days are going to be quite busy, which makes me feel a little like I don’t want to give up the solitude I’ve had these past few sunny days. BUT, the sky is threatening rain, and the weather forecast is calling for cold and snow flurries so a good dose of visitors will be quite welcome.

Persa Zula, the first person in our new Blue Rock Station Fellowship Program, will visit today and tomorrow to work on her summer project guidelines. She’s designing the project for the end of May straw bale build week. She is a joy to work with…a quick smile and an energetic heart.

Tomorrow we have some visitors from Hawaii coming to take a short tour and have tea. Then on Friday Jay is leaving for two days for his annual Green Energy Ohio board meeting so he’ll drop me off at Kathy Newsom’s house to have lunch with friends. Gretchen Fathauer will take me home.

By evening on Friday the house will be full of young people. Mike Voellmecke (from Dayton) is spending the weekend so I can edit his book on how to build the beautiful rocket stove he designed and built on the sun porch. Ryan Evans (from Cincinnati) is bringing his new girlfriend and another friend to spend the weekend with us. We’ll cook food together and play euchre by candlelight. There will be lots of updating (gossip) and political talk…it will be a grand time I’m sure because this type of community building is what sustainable living is all about for me.

Menu
Breakfast
Waffles with applesauce topping
Eggs
Lunch
Beans and Rice
Warm tortillas
Cut up veggies and sour cream topping
Supper
Salad from the green house and wild greens
Rhubarb Custard with cream

THANKS FOR NOTHING – Day 10

Image

Rosie guarding Ernest

Image

Ernest watching Rosie

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH   January 10, 2012                5:30 AM

65.3 F  indoors            31 F  outdoors

Sunny again today – whoopee!

TODAY’S HAPPINESS FACTOR:  6 out of 10 Health is a big issue today – nagging at me, in fact

For three weeks I swore I wouldn’t but in the end I had to…the visitor we have right now is not what you would call “normal”, not even for us.  He’s staying down in the field, where he prefers to be at the moment.  Let me explain…

Each morning as I walk the lane to the barn I can look across the field to the farm directly in front of our west field.  A few weeks ago a Holstein calf (white and black) appeared right next to something that sticks up in the field (possibly related to the gas pipeline).  His loafing shed was a tiny building made with three pallets for the sides and something similar for the roof, and he was grazing.  The whole scene made me crazy. 

Since I’ve inherited almost every dog, puppy, cat or kitten they’ve ever brought home I wondered how long it would be before the poor calf got loose and wondered over to Blue Rock Station, as the other critters had done before him.  Even the neighbors make a joke that if they’re missing a critter, just go over to Annie’s – it will be there.

As I milked Tuti I was thinking that people do not necessarily change because they read a how-to book on the proper care of livestock, or how to be more ecological, or how to pare down their “stuff”.  It occurred to me that real change comes from some type of a shift deep in the soul.  I work on that issue daily, especially this month.

As my grandmother would say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  I think I’ve been on that road quite a few times in this life, but I want to have more then good intentions.  My neighbors have been on the road to hell with every animal they’ve collected.  Now there is this poor calf tethered to the pallet loafing shed and it is right in full view of my self-righteous animal self. 

On the weekend I could hear the neighbors using their chain saw, so while I was in the milk room I tried looking more closely at what they were doing – the nosy neighbor syndrome.  It turns out they were cutting down all of the trees along the road because, as they later told me, “One of these days” they are going to build a fence. 

At that point in the conversation I did the one thing I swore I wouldn’t do – I offered them the use of the llama lounge field for the calf.  They looked at each other for permission, bantered back and forth about what to do, and then I said, “I’d feel a lot better about it if he had a place to get in out of the weather and there is still grass for him to eat.”  They looked at each other, then at me and said, “OK”.

The llamas and goats were thrilled to watch this new fangled critter as it walked along the lane to the field.  The neighbor, Nate, says he found the bull calf when he was servicing oil wells as part of his job.  He said it was about three or four days old and just resting near a wellhead.  Later Nate said he had fed it milk replacement, but it looks so thin to me – he says it is because he’s a Holstein.  I say it’s because he hasn’t had one proper bit of food or treatment.

Yesterday was a big day for the dogs and for me.  The dogs barked at the bull calf to announce he didn’t quite belong there.  I’ve named him “Ernest” because he has such serious sad eyes.  After my morning chores I raked some of the hay the goats waste and took it down to make Earnest a hay pad to give him a cushion from the damp ground.  He did “moo” at me a few times, and tried to touch noses with Rosie through the fence. 

He needs a real home – Nate wants to sell him, but Ernest isn’t castrated yet.  What will become of him?  I can’t imagine, and I guess I don’t want to.  Livestock, in general, have a hard life in this country.

As I walked back from the Llama Lounge field I noticed that the pussy willows have set their catkins.  There are a few little white fluffy bunny tails poking up at the top of the highest branches.  It seems like they are a whole month early.  Early pussy willows, a bull in the field, sunshine four days in a row – what’s the world coming to?

Menu
Breakfast
Fresh fruit cut up with cottage cheese
Bagels
Lunch
Omelettes with veggies
Supper
Potato Soup

Sushi

You too can be a intern or become a part of our new Fellowship program. Learn now to build with a rammed earth tire foundation, plan a menu, grow organic food, identify wild foods, create a straw bale wall, plaster with the earth, and so much more. Whether it’s your vacation time or a commitment to two, four or eight weeks of learning you won’t regret your investment in sustainable living. Now is the time to explore the possibilities – slots of interns are limited. Scholarships are available. Contact Annie Warmke at (740) 674-4300 for information or visit http://www.bluerockstation.com.

New Year Begins

January 1, 2012

TODAY’S Happiness factor:  9 out of 10 (we both have a slight case of the flu)

68.3 F in the house  41.2 F outdoors  8:29 AM

 

Today’s Menu

Breakfast

Omelettes with toast

Lunch

Baked potato with toppings

Salad from the greenhouse

Supper

Curry Soup

Roles

 

After a restful night’s sleep (we stayed up until 10 PM watching Dr. Finley videos, which is quite late for us), I stayed in bed until 8 AM because I wanted it to be light outside when I got up.  It’s unusual to stay in bed for so long but I was savoring the comfort and warmth of the bed.  The dogs were anxiously waiting for me at the bedroom door since I had disturbed their routine.

For the moment I don’t think anything is out of the ordinary.  Jay got up at 5 AM to write and drink coffee.  The woodstove was blazing by 8 AM, and there was hot water for a proper cut of tea.

Yesterday Ryan Evans sent a post to say he’s visiting with his great friend Chad the glass blower this next weekend.  And Mike Voellmeke confirmed he’s visiting the next weekend to work on the rocket stove book so we can get it completed and printed.  Some friends are joining me here for lunch on Wednesday, and others on Thursday.  My social calendar runneth over with those who bring intellectual stimulation and great joy to my life – at least for next week (let’s hope the great weather holds).  The only thing missing will be Sam, who goes back to Ft. Gordon and the Army this week.  It’s clear to me that his leaving will temporarily bring down my happiness factor, but I am dreaming of traveling to Hawaii to have time with him, fishing, snorkeling, couch surfing and just generally enjoying his company.

This sounds a little selfish to me, but today I plan to telephone some old friends I haven’t talked to in ages, and read cookbooks, plus maybe finish my Marlene Dietrick biography, if my eyes will read that long.  Oh, and I’ll cook two meals (Jay will make the big breakfast since he really enjoys that).  I’m hoping Catlyn will be here with her fella, Devyn Kennedy, and, of course, Sam.

At breakfast we’ll drink a toast with a little hard cider, watered down with spiced cider (a gift from my adorable cousin Vicki Perkins).  We’ll tell jokes, share gossip from what went on last night at New Year’s and we’ll talk about the WHIZ TV interview.  This is the stuff that makes life complete.

THANKS FOR NOTHING Month Begins

Starting tomorrow through January 31st I’ll be posting letters written during our THANKS FOR NOTHING month, a time of experimenting a way of living more deeply, more honestly by not spending resources – no money, no electricity after dark or before dawn, no gasoline and more.  Join us by following this blog, or on Facebook at THANKS FOR NOTHING (Annie Warmke page) or on Earthineer.com, on on Twitter @bluerockstation.  Each letter will relay the weather, the menu and some thoughts and observations.  We hope you’ll join us in our adventure…Annie

40F outdoors  70.8F indoors at 5:18 PM

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs with cream cheese

Bagels

Sweet rolls

Bananas with greek yogurt (Annie’s breakfast)

 

Lunch

Skipped since we were busy with TV folks

 

Supper

Turkey and rice soup

As I walked back from evening chores I found myself thinking, for the umpteenth time this day, that I ought to want to go somewhere, go out to eat, visit someone or something.  The gate will close at midnight and I’m “stuck” here for 31 days unless someone takes me somewhere. 

The picture of Catlyn cooking in the kitchen with Sam…of Jay bringing me a cup of tea…of Carolyn, the cat snuggling on my lap…and so much more brings me back to the conclusion that I don’t need to go anywhere or do anything else – I’m exactly where I want and need to be in life.  Even more importantly I am rich.  Everything, at this moment in time is as I would have wished. 

Tomorrow it will change again.  Sam will go back to the Army and far away to Hawaii.  Catlyn will start back to college and her schedule.  Jay will be back to writing to meet his book deadline.  I won’t be able to look up to see Sam across the table, or Catlyn laughing at some silly joke.  I’ll be back to bringing the special morning chocolate to my author husband, and a normal routine.  Even all of that is enough because I have these souvenirs to sustain me, and I have the life I’ve dreamed about my whole life.

Now, if I can convince Sam to put a little cottage (a garden-shed size one) in the woods so he will have somewhere of his own when he comes home from the Army, or life…awe, the things my mind dreams up.  What do you say Sam?