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.

Blue Rock Station Diaries

Jay, the writer

Blue Rock Station Diary                                                                March 1, 2012

62 F indoors                 44 F outdoors

The sun is shining again this morning.  What’s the world coming to – it’s Ohio, after all?  Even though it’s a little chilly in the house, that bright light in the window is going to heat the walls of the living room for an afternoon temperature indoors in the ‘70’s.  It must be April.

Last night when I went up to shut up the chickens the bull frogs were singing in the pond that refuses to hold water for more than five minutes.  They sounded so happy.  I could just picture them forming a little circle (this is what they do) and then calling out to each other. After lots of vocalizing one swims towards the center, then the singing stops for a second of two.  Who knows what it all means because the frog then swims back to his place and the singing resumes.

Yesterday (the leap year day) I finally went over to the east field to start cutting down saplings so I can create a willow field.  It was so warm that I had to strip down to my t-shirt and bib overalls.  The wind was fierce but it was a wonderful afternoon of working physically hard, with the dogs and I enjoying the work.  Today I hope to plant all of the curly willows Bill Johnson gave me.  After that there are more pussy willows to plant, and then the paw paws I ordered will arrive.  I think this year will be a record for planting trees – around 200 or more if I don’t wear out before I finish my task.

There’s a lot to think about in spring.  The buildings always look so ratty and in need of little repairs – that’s on the list of first tasks to complete when it dries up a bit.  First I worry if the goats are pregnant – it’s impossible to know until they start showing.  Then I worry that they are pregnant.

Getting the raised beds weeded is next on the list, and where to plant everything.  Jay didn’t want me to raise turkeys this year so now I am thinking about how to keep pigs down in the woods, and the design for all of the fencing that will be built this spring.  Where we will get all of the time to do these things, plus finish the book?

Part of the reason (this is my excuse anyway) that I feel a bit anxious about the long list of things to do is that I believe we have to get them down now.  MY PREDICTION:  the summer is going to be so darn hot we’ll have to get up at dawn to work, and then rest until dusk.  We’ll be like the factory farmers at night mowing hay with their spotlights in the field, trying to work in the dark to escape the heat.

Please don’t think this is about complaining (except in regards to the prediction of excessive summer heat).  As a dedicated goal setter, there could be nothing more encouraging then to create a long list of activities month-by-month.

But at the end of the day, when I look around to see who is going to help complete this ever-growing list I have to be realistic that the main assister is sitting across the room from me, writing his little heart out.  He gets religiously gets up at 5 AM every morning to write about all those thoughts that run through his head.  After WHEN THE BIOMAS HITS THE WIND TURBINE is completed (end of March), there will be the revision for the GREEN TECHNOLOGY book.  And then the GIVIING THANKS FOR NOTHING book to be ready by December.  All of this requires either that he writes and I edit, or I write and he edits.

The solution?  It will all come down to whatever makes the most noise to be completed…the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  The loud voices of producing food (there’s only so many months of warmth), visitors, family obligations, friend time, caring for livestock, repairing buildings, teaching, and writing make for a full life.  It will be rewarding to look back over 2012 to see how it all shook down.

THANKS FOR NOTH…

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                      January 31, 2012            7:00 AM

69 F indoors                 44 F outdoors

My vacation from the world – that’s what this month has been for me. 

 

The days of the THANKS FOR NOTHING month have been filled with writing, doing chores, milking goats, mucking out stalls, receiving visitors, and savoring the moments.  Frankly, I don’t know where the time goes.

Since I’ve based my writings on my definition of the HAPPINESS FACTOR, and written daily about some part of it I thought I’d write my last blog for this month with a little summary that is told more in photos then in words.

 

Meaningful work  Image

 

High expectations  Image  University of Dayton ETHOS engineering students working on the Earthship eyebrow

 

Education  Image New recipe:  Sweet Potato fries – YUCK!  They turned out to taste horrible!  We’ll do better next try.

 

Friends Image  Four of interns enjoying their time together – Anne-Lise, Beth, Marie and Sarah

 

Community  Image Annie leading the OEFFA Women in Ag summer tour

 

Health Image  Covered in critters while reading an interesting book

 

Family  Image Annie, Jay and Miss America at the McConneslville Opera House for our 25th anniversary celebration

 

Personal freedom/personal values   

 Image  Loving other people’s children, making time for others, investing in the future

 

Sense of security

 Image  The dream of the land, the lifestyle, and the freedom of Blue Rock Station

I’ve shared my thoughts, and my stories with anyone who cared to read about them.  And, at the end of the day there was no live news, except for Jay’s and other visitors’ summaries; No real trauma, except the young rooster dying suddenly; And one big change – Miss America announcing that she is taking off a year and not going to the university next year.  This has been a month of some normal worries but mostly no worries at all – the stuff that dreams are made of and I’ve loved every minute of it.

One thing I am sure about though is that I’ve been re-written in so many ways through the experience this month has given me.  And, I have not suffered, or felt deprived of anything but a hot cup of water for a proper cup of tea when I wanted it. 

As time goes by I think I will see just how significantly this family has been influenced by the month we lived without spending money, or other resources.  I could make some predictions but I won’t.  Today I am going to weed strawberry and onion raised beds, and clean out the barn so I can help unload 100 bales of hay.  Tomorrow is February 1st, and it will be the beginning of the next big adventure in our lives.   I’m ready.

 

 

The pizza crew:…

Image

The pizza crew:  Rachael Miller, Miss America, Jay Warmke, Ryan Evans, Mike Voellmecke, Annie Warmke – photographer extraordinaire, Keith Bowers

 

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                      January 16, 2012                      7:00 AM

 

62 F  indoors                            18 F indoors

A bit warmer but the wind is fierce, making it quite cold still

TODAY’S HAPPINESS FACTOR:  8 out of 10

 

 Thank heavens Ryan and Rachael were here visiting or there might have been a major killing spree.  The dog from down the road, an adorable golden retriever named Lilly, was waiting at the gate for us when we went to do chores this morning.  The minute she saw us she jumped through the gate opening and tore off after a big yellow chicken.  Rosie was with us, and she tore into Lilly, with backup from Cadeau and Sophie, of course.

This was how we culminated three days of cooking, working, and enjoying our time together.  Mike Voellmecke, engineer extraordinarre, and a former intern arrived on Friday evening to begin the completion of his book on building a rocket stove.  In 2010 he spent eight weeks with us living sustainably, and building an amazing machine out of re-used materials.  We worked on the booklet (he’s written quite a bit of it already) all day Saturday in between cooking food and talking our fool heads off about anything and everything. 

Ryan Evans arrived late on Saturday with two friends, Rachael Miller and Keith Bowers.  By candlelight I heated some broth and dug some bits and bobs (cashews, leftover rice noodles, and cheese) out of the frig to throw into the soup.  The feast included bread and butter, and a coffee cake dessert covered in pear syrup.  It all came together in what seemed minutes – the woodstove can be a tool for fast food after all.

On Sunday morning everyone helped with chores – and they met Lilly, since we’re on her regular rounds now.  Fortunately Nate showed up and took her back home. 

Jay made waffles for breakfast, and we sat around changing the world one conversation at a time.  After the day’s agenda was discussed – bring in firewood, chopping wood for the rocket stove, getting the fire going, taking photos of the firing process, washing dishes, preparing pizza dough, cooking pizza sauce, cutting up veggies and preparing supper, everyone jumped in to do their part.

By the time the sun came out in the early afternoon everyone was ready for a walk in the woods.  Off they went with the dogs to discover more about the Great Beech Woods – the place we take the llamas when there are treks during the warm months of the year.

By late afternoon they had returned, and  Keith was in charge of the dough making.  While he’s a fantastic photo-journalist, he is also a very serious maker of dough.  Rachael cooked the veggies in the antique cast iron skillet that I re-discovered down in the bunkhouse.  That’s the first time we’ve used the cooking surface of the woodstove like it was a quick cooking surface, and it worked fine.

After a round of photo taking, we sat down to a candlelit table weighed down with individual pizzas, kumbucha (a gift from Ryan’s personal stash), and conversation.  Afterward we played the card board game Tripoly, and I am pleased to report that I was the big winner.  My only regret is that we didn’t take a photo of my winning stash of poker chips.  Since I don’t normally win I would have liked to have a photo to prove the outcome.

As we were playing the game I was drinking in how it felt to sit in a room with such amazing young people.  I try never to miss such an opportunity.

Miss America was to my left, and full of instructions and advice (aimed primarily at me).  Apparently I have grown quite a bit younger and need some assistance now that I am having a challenge with my hearing.  She really enjoyed herself during the pizza making and the rest of the evening in spite of her periodic bossing of me.

Mike Voellmecke was also to my left.  He’s a brilliant guy, with a certain grace about him.  He also seems to have great luck at games, mainly because he’s patient and pays attention.  I value his opinions immensely.

To my right was Ryan Evans, a gifted man in many ways.  He’s brilliant, on top of being an artist.  I think he’d like to cheat, but only to see what he could get away with, but then it’s all done in a way that endears him to me.  He loves to think about many things and I value his ability to talk to people, and to lead them – and his opinions.

Rachael Miller is Ryan’s special friend.  She’s clever and has a charming quick laugh.  It’s clear she’s intelligent and gifted too.  I am sure I will come to value her opinion as well.

Keith Bowers has declined to play.  He would rather sit quietly with the dogs and cats.  Keith has the energy of a guru at some moments, and the massive energy of a thinker who has the passion to make things happen.  I am sure I will come to value his opinion as well.  Eventually he fell asleep on the couch, even though we yelled and cussed and carried-on rather loudly.

Over breakfast this morning we solved quite a few of the future world’s problems over raw granola and a proper cup of tea.  Sustainenace that we would need for dealing with Lilly as their final activity before driving back to Cincinnati.

As I told them on their way out of the door – I will be waiting for their next visit.  They teased that they would come without Ryan next time, which I objected to in a loud voice.  Out the door they went – taking with them their breath of fresh air.  I WILL be waiting for their next visit.

 

Menu

Breakfast

Raw Granola with peanut butter

 

Lunch

Potato Cakes

Fried Cabbage

 

Supper

Baked Chicken

Potatoes

Carrots

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.