What are you doing so as to be more self-sufficient?

digit(ID/WA)November 10, 2007

What are you doing so as to be more self-sufficient?

I'm a little embarrassed that I'm obviously not doing enuf. So, maybe the question for me is what CAN I do to be more self-sufficient?

This is a question that has fascinated me for many reasons for years. At one time, I thought that self-sufficiency would be a necessity but time and age (& maybe wisdom) has led me elsewhere. After all, if I am at all engaged in the world "on the grid" I can't be entirely self-sufficient.

My always independent elderly father was over the other day. I have pointed out to him when he has insisted on "not takin' anything from anybody" that he isn't building the vehicle he drives around in or the roads he drives on. Nor, did he refine the fuel that gets him one place to another.

That brings up a very real problem that we face as a society and not just individuals - energy use. Our dependence on foreign energy has created all sorts of issues for us internationally. But, that international scope of the problems would best be left to another forum. I'd hate to have politics interfere with any discussion of what is supposed to be gardening - by the definition expressed under the Rocky Mountain Gardening title at the top of this page.

So anyway, I make as good a use of my solar drier (clothes line) as possible, recycle everything I can (just about), and contribute to my own food supply thru the year. I could do more and intend to. This growing for the market in the Summer then buying food at the store in the Winter is kind of silly.

And, here's a fun little website I came across in a question on potato storage. Check out the "making a potato clamp" info if you're interested. I'm fairly serious about the ideas behind "home produced eggs are clucking good" and the "grow anywhere using rubbish" may bring a smile to your face. I don't know why the site features an "Organic Gardening jobs - March" story but maybe the young British guys who run it are busy with other things these days.


Here is a link that might be useful: Self sufficient 'ish'

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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I was self sufficient for 12 hoursand I hope I never have to try to be self sufficient again!

Actually, in this day and ageÂand for the last thousand years or so, I donÂt think TRUE self sufficiency is even possible anymore. (DonÂt wanna start a big argument! Just my opinion!) Even if you go back as far as the pioneers and homesteaders, they bought the tools and wagons they took with them, and no matter how self sufficient someone tries to be, everyone needs saltÂwhich we canÂt mine ourselves. Interesting factoid! Do you know the word salary comes from the word saltÂin Roman times the pay, or salary, was in saltÂit was that valuable. So even if one were to move out into the Montana woodsÂTed Kaczynski styleÂthere would always be something one would have to bring with them from "civilization." (Guns, for instance!!! Â no, IÂm not serious about the gunsÂbut, on the other hand, they would be usefulÂfor hunting!)

And then there are things like water! Ok, if youÂre out in the woods, you might have access to stream waterÂand it might be contaminatedÂso you might need purification chemicalsÂor your could boil itÂbut youÂd need a pot......... And if you had a (drilled) well, youÂd need a pump to get the water outÂand electricity for the pump. And if you had a hand dug well, you could put in a hand pump, but it would need to come from somewhereÂand even a rope with a bucket would need to come from somewhereÂÂand then thereÂs the shovel to dig the hand-dug well.

And, while you DO live "out in the woods," Digit, for those of us stuck on small, city lots, weÂre even very limited in what weÂre able to grow. Not to mention "modern" "jobs"Âwhich we need so we donÂt get kicked off of our city lotsÂwhich limit the amount of time we have to even try to grow our own food on the little bit of land we do have.

When I was a (little) kidÂback to the olden daysÂwe did have a hand-dug well (with the pump and electricity), and we had a huge garden (that went back to Victory Gardens from WWII), my parents actually owned a second lot next to our house, and most of it was garden. And we (pre freezer) canned jars and jars and jars of veggies, and had a dirt floor/walls root cellar in the basement for root cropsÂÂbut even that wasnÂt close to self sufficiency. We also raised chickens (store bought chicken feedÂin printed cotton bags that some of my clothes were made out of! Really!), so we had chickens and eggs, and then, in later years my brother raised turkeys (more feed), and bees (centrifuge), and other things along the way. The house (built by my father and grandfather) was built with store-bought supplies, we had a (wringer) washing machine (cold running water with water heated on a gas burner), electric lites (IÂm not THAT old!), a carÂand many, many more "non-self sufficient" things. And since things have evolved since then, I really donÂt think anything even close to self sufficiency is possible anymoreÂand how many of us would TRULY want it if it were possible.

I think maybe being as earth-friendly as we canÂthat being defined differently by each personÂis a more achievable goal. For me that means growing as much food as I canÂpartly because itÂs better than the food you buy in taste and nutrition, and partly because itÂs such a super-fun thing to doÂwork included! I donÂt use any more chemicals than I really need to, but I do use them when necessary. IÂm an infamously BAD consumerÂI usually put my dumpster out for pickup only about once a monthÂand often wouldnÂt need to even then, except itÂs starting to smell really bad by then! I keep the lights turned off as much as possible, and almost never use the air conditioner in summer. I only flush the toilet a couple times a dayÂif itÂs yellow....... Etc! So I think there are a lot of things individuals can do to minimize their footprint on the earth, but I think anything even approaching self sufficiency goes all the way back to the hunter-gatherers.

Is this your big, long philosophical thread for Winter Â07, Digit?


    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 2:12PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

Friends of ours recently moved to a community on the east coast that is completely off the grid. They grow their own veggies and meat and such as well as generate their own electricity.
I wonder how long before they move back. ;-)

My spouse has always wanted to be independent of the power company. Maybe not completely off the grid, but at least cover our electricity cost using photovoltaics. When we were young, he was interested in earth bermed housing and I'm kind of glad we didn't go that route. The plan now is to put photovoltaics on the roof of the new outbuilding when we build it. We can't put anything on the current roof of our house. If wind turbines weren't so expensive, one might be doable here.

If we really had to, we actually could spin, weave, dye and sew our clothing. We have everything but the sheep and flax. But I'll just stick to making the artsy stuff.

I think it is possible to be completely independent, food wise, in this neighborhood. Some neighbors raise their own beef here. I keep chickens, but only for their eggs. I can always get a better meringue from my hens' eggs than from store bought eggs, but the hens are getting old now, so fewer eggs. The gardens are big enough to grow all we need. But I like all the variety I can get at the store.

We're stuck with city water - can't get a well permit anymore.

We are on a septic - and the grass does always grow greener...

My mom grew up in Brandon, Manitoba in the 1920's. Had their own chickens, everything cooked on a wood burning stove, etc.
I'm afraid I'm too spoiled for that level of self sufficiency.

I've been reading a book called "The English Housewife", which is a "how-to" book for the woman of the house, written by a man around 1615. Thankfully, many things have changed since then such as medicine, but I find it fascinating how many things are the same or similar, such how to pickle produce, how to make a bread pudding. There's interesting advice on how to grow barley for beer making, and what kind of soil to grow it in. How to make apple cider vinegar. How to make wine (I'm sticking to the high tech way). How to make beer.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 5:46PM
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I don't know that there would be much philosophy from me, Skybird, except the need to limit our footprint here on earth. And no, I don't live in the woods nor even on farm the last few decades. My big vegetable garden is in the country but I'm here on a lot with just enuf room for a very few things.

So, I wasnt thinking so much about Ted Kaczynski or any saner survivalist and even using the term of self-sufficiency is based more on the linked website's name. Still, there are obvious advantages in knowing how to produce and store food and water.

Making one's own potting mix, reusing containers and saving seed in the garden; home health care, soap making, do-it-yourself repair in the home; solar energy in the home and greenhouse; movement away from the infernal combustion engine . . . that sort of thing.

Despite what some may think, I don't see how we aren't "all in this together" but, heck, I'm not sure if my daughter can make it thru the day without showing up at either a fast food joint or a 7-eleven to grab a handful of calories. And, I shudder to think of the number of times she starts her car.

As best as I understand, despite all his ranting about independence, the Unabomber lived in the woods in a cabin with only one window. That window, he covered. Imagine feeling oneself independent yet unwilling to look out into the natural world from one's home.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 6:21PM
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Ah, Cnetter, see I'm always thinking about alternative style houses. I'd love to try living in a hobbit-hole, with windows . . . lots of windows!!

No, I don't think I'll try wine-making again - there are only so many failures I can tolerate. Beer, on the other hand, I've made very good beer.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 6:37PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

"movement away from the infernal combustion engine"

While not exactly away from the infernal combustion engine, we do have two hybrids. We liked the first one so much we bought a second. Tax incentives made both quite affordable.

I wish I could still ride a bike.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 6:38PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

"I've made very good beer."

Light or dark?

I'm coming over.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 6:52PM
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Yeah, I used to be a good bicyclist, good walker too. (Where's that Cyclewest?)

Hybrids?? Good for You!

And, I hate the rototillers . . . My old "big veggie garden" was entirely in beds, over one-quarter acre and entirely cultivated every Spring with a spading fork. And heck, if I can do it while leaving the tiller parked, most people can do it. Cultivating Peace!

Beer - let's see. It was a Dad 'n' Me enterprise. Fell off after he got too old to wash the bottles - LOL!!

Our secret, if there really was one, was adding some raisins in the wort. The yeast likes raisins and if you don't add too many ounces the result won't be a raisin wine.

4 lb Alexander's pale malt
2 lb Munten amber dry malt
16 oz raisins (or less)
1/4 lb crystal malt 20L
1/2 oz Cascade hop pellets
5 gallons water

Dad likes a light beer.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 7:26PM
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singcharlene(Zone 5)

Interesting topic....one that has been on my mind a lot lately especially since reading the book Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

Honestly, I never thought about what kind of footprint I was leaving until I was an adult.

I think Skybird's right in that it would be hard to be totally self sufficient in this day and I don't think I would really want to (unless I lived in a society where everyone did it, like cnetter mentioned.)

What do I do? I drive a 1997 Honda Civic that gets between 30-40 miles to the gallon.

I try to turn lights off. Use energy saving bulbs where possible. Unplug appliances when not in use (except my computer).

I try to recycle whatever possible. The past few years I try to buy much less "stuff." I decided this week that I'm taking my own bags to the grocery store.

We do have our own well and septic system. We bought water saving toilets that have a #1 (.5 gallon)and a #2 button (1.6 gallons).

When we just remodeled our kitchen and bought all energy saving appliances and washer and dryer (sorry I don't think I'll ever hang my laundry outside!)

I tried to grow all of our own produce this summer and minus a few things (mostly fruit) we pretty much did and had lots to put up for this winter in jars and in the freezer. This concept is new to me. I was raised in the city by a single mom and as far as fresh produce goes, we were lucky to have a head of storebought iceburg lettuce, a watery cucumber, and green grapes around. I have lots of bad after memories of canned veggies. The only time I got fresh anything was from the little old lady in her late 90's that I used to visit with across the street from our apt complex that I used to visit who used to give me persimmons, pomegranates and oranges from her trees. When I got my first apartment, my roomate steamed some broccoli and I kid you, I had never eaten fresh broccoli. I fell in love right then and there.

This year I will be more conscious of buying local. I bought a bag of apples the other day and tried to find the closest distributor (the first bag I picked up was from New Zealand) which was from Washington.

I'd love to convert to solar power someday but not in the budget right now. We are totally reliant on gas for heat. I set the thermostat at 63 during the day and 58 at night except while my son showers and gets ready for bed I'll move it to 68 for about an hour.

Clothing.... my son has outgrown most everything from last year and needs a few pairs of pants for winter. Gap and Old Navy were busted for using factories abroad with horrible labor conditions including some child labor. Walmart is one of the worse which is why their prices are so low. So I tried to do a little research on where to get fair trade clothing. It was hard and I'm shocked by how few brands out there are made in America with guaranteed fair labor conditions. I found a few sites but honestly the clothes were ugly and almost nothing for kids.

We're going to get our own chickens this spring for eggs. This will be a new and exciting venture for us!

I just bought a free range grass fed lamb from a friend's little farm out in Elizabeth. They are going to butcher and process it for us.

Gotta go :)

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 7:43PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Cant help you guys with the beer! I need to be bombed out of my skull to "enjoy" beerand I havent been bombed out of my skull for over 30 years now! ;-)

I know you dont, literally, live "out in the woods," Digit, but what I meant was that at least you seem to have a decent amount of landsomewhere nearbywhere you could grow veggies if you ever wanted to/needed to, and it sounds like you already do grow a considerable amount of food, as opposed to those of us with only our tiny city size lots.

I already do a lot of the things you mentioned in your post (dont make soap), and, I didnt think of it when I posted before, but I do have solar assisted hot water in this house. There are two hot water "heaters," and the water is cycled thru the solar panels and into the first tank which is really just a holding tank that maintains the temp of the water as it comes in from the panelstoday its at 70 degrees, and it was cloudy most of the dayand then it moves from there into the "real" water heater where its heated the rest of the way. I admit, it was already in here when I bought it, and I probably wouldnt have put it in myself. I have no idea how much it cost.

I dont know anything at all about "residential size" wind turbines, but I agree with Cnetter, if it were possible, I think wind energy would be a great thing to do. But I remember the 50's when everybody had a full size TV antennae on their roof, and I envision whole neighborhoods of little windmills! But if you had the land, wouldnt it be wonderful to be able to generate enough power to be able to sell it back to Public Service (or should I say Public Disservice!)

And I do still have a completely infernal combustion car, but Ill be in line for the hydrogen powered cars when they finally make it to the market and are priced reasonably enough that I can afford it. If the government would quit supporting the oil companies and start seriously backing the alternative fuelsrather than just talking about itI think we could have had some of these technologies LONG ago.

EU Endorses Hydrogen Combustion Engine

BMW Sets 9 Records With Hydrogen Combustion Engine

Its been a lot of years now since I first heard about the possibility of a car that produced, as its "emissions," waterand ever since then Ive been hoping it would happen in my lifetime!

And, when it comes to living in Hobbit holesthat sounds like a lot of fun, in theorybut I dont think Id wanna actually do itunless the Ring came with it!


    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 8:05PM
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Honestly, I didn't know there were #1 and #2 toilets - excellent, Charlene!

Why wouldn't you hang laundry outside - birds, dust? I really feel guilty putting my denim jeans and the heavy towels in the dryer. This time of year, the towels can be hung in the bathroom again above the furnace vent and be dry in a couple of hours.

Buying local to a farmers' market guy - really makes sense. There's none of that thousand mile transport.

I'm excited to return to backyard chicken farmin' again, also! I'm thinking that I'll keep close track of store-bought feed this time and see how productive I can keep the hens with a lot of home-grown food. If you feed them like a member of the family, they just don't seem to let up on the egg production. No dessert tho' - just greens and protein and such. And, I'm cooking good healthful weeds for them again.

Doing a little math in that Selfsufficient-ish guy's story about laying hens shows that they got over 3 eggs each day over 8 months from 5 hens. Im pretty sure that I averaged over 3 eggs from 4 hens but I'll tell you what - - most families can't eat 90 eggs a month! Id only have 2 hens but it takes 3 to make a community, seems to me. Chickens are social animals, after all.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 8:32PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

Egg production drops off quite a bit as the hens get older, even when very well fed, so you need to get a nice sized little flock.
If you get banties, the eggs are smaller so you need more. I've been teased a bit about my banties, but they're so cute.

You need one of these:

This one is quite cuddly. She's 11 this year.:

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 8:52PM
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Well, there's more than hobbit holes, Skybird, but I'm not sure if I can still shinny up a rope to a tree house.

Just that there's lots of possibilities in construction and many of them don't show up in our cities. I know that if you are going to be conservative in any aspect of your financial life, it had probably better be your home investment. Still, we can see that energy savings are starting to make an enormous amount of financial sense.

One thing that got me thinking about this subject today was seeing something about green roofs on TV this morning. If you've got a flat roof, doesn't it make more sense to put soil on it rather than gravel? Apparently, leaks aren't really a problem and I'd bet we could figure out what to grow up there.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 8:53PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

"I know that if you are going to be conservative in any aspect of your financial life, it had probably better be your home investment."

This is exactly why we eventually settled on a traditional ranch. My sister had a geodesic dome home that was hard to sell when she had to move. It was a really neat house.

That said, this house I'm in is extremely well insulated and has a real attic, unlike many new homes. The house kept cool enough in the summer, with the use of an attic fan at night, so we don't have AC. Though this summer, when the nights didn't cool off, and I lost functionality when too hot, I thought about a swamp cooler for the first time.

My parents had a flat roofed house that leaked and leaked. It cured me of ever wanting a flat roof.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 9:37PM
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hmmm, here goes:
I don't own a TV because I think I would lose my self sufficiency when it comes to time usage and thinking for myself. Also, I pretty much hate the stuff.
We have a composting toilet, I don't love it but I feel I am doing something better than what I have always considered to be the norm, flushing water away.
I walk everywhere I can and take the bus if needed.
We cook our own food as much as we can. I love baking! I even have started making my own oat bars.
We try to trade with our friends rather than buy services. Dog watching is a big part of that...especially since the little ones hate kennels.
I know that stuff isn't really being self sufficient, but it works for me. I bet there are other things I could be doing, but I think I'm doing pretty good so far.
I am amazed at my boyfriend's family up in the boondocks of northern Ontario, CA. They do everything themselves. They build their own houses, install there own wells and solar panels. They help each other create roads to the places they build on, they check on each other and rely on each other. They are almost like frontiers people, to me, that is!
Oh, and I knit!! I'm into do-it-yourself stuff even though I am always learning. We visited my parents and were only there for about five days. In that time, my mom sewed four sets of curtains. We were the first guests in the above-garage apartment, so we needed privacy! Yeah, I'd like to learn how to sew. Would I make my own fabric...um, probably not :)

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 9:46PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

jclepine, do you want to learn to spin?

My spouse is spinning up some merino while I play/work on the computer.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 9:59PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Sewing is really pretty easy, J, if you just follow the directions and take it step by step. I learned on a treadle sewing machinewhich is actually mine, but its still in Illinois! The problem with sewing these days, and I could hardly believe it the last time I looked at patterns, is that the patterns cost practically as much these days as you can get the finished clothes for. Its absolutely insane that they can charge $15 or more for a few pieces of tissue paper and a couple pages of instructions printed on paper thats not much better than newsprint. But you wear skirts, and if you decide to give it a try, make a skirt as your first project. I bet you wont believe how easy it is. If you try it and you get stuck somewhere, email me, maybe I can help.


P.S. Digit, Charlene really does have a cool toilet! Its the only "water saving" toilet Ive ever seen that really does seem to work!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 10:13PM
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And, here are my first banties . . . not much of a picture but the memories . . . well, they aren't very sharp either.

I've raised quail for eggs, too. Even tho' the eggs aren't much bigger (surprising what a quail hen can do!), I like banties better but since they delight in flying up into trees and such, I doubt if I can keep them confined to the backyard.

and there's j!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 10:16PM
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Of course those are parts to self-sufficiency, J.

You are neither paying for a TV nor cable/satellite service nor the electricity to operate it. Entertainment is arranged elsewhere and probably "people-powered."

The composting toilet of course saves water . . . sewer service . . .? There's walking & public transportation & preparing food and trading help with others - more people-power.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 10:46PM
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Azura(z5 CO)

Banties Rule!! I had Bantam chickens when I was a kid and I can't wait to have them again. They have so much personality. Mine roosted in trees and one hen convinced my german shepherd that she should live in his doghouse.
We also raised New Zealand Quail which laid the cutest little eggs with shells that were mint green with chocolate-colored-flecks.
I hope to have some bantie chickens again someday.
I agree with becoming self-sufficient and I will comment on that when Im less tired. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz...

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 1:09AM
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rozannadanna(8 TX)

I had an acre garden in TX but had to drive 30 miles to work. Now I have a tiny spot of ground - not nearly enough for chickens or to grow all my food but the truck is parked and the bus and bike are my friends. This house is so tiny that there was no place for a washer & dryer and I hadn't been to a laundry mat for 30 years so I bought a little round egg shapped plastic "washer" that you turn by hand - 2 pairs of jeans is about all it holds but it works remarkably well - better than the laundry mat. The soapy water goes on the plants. I also bought a "spin dryer" about the size of a trash can - it is electric but the clothes come out almost dry - all the water sucked out of the clothes goes on the yard.

We recycle everything and most of our clothing purchases come from thrift stores. I can sew but again - the price of patterns and quality material is more expenseive than buying new at times.

We all do the little things we can - all those little things can add up to big things if we do them together.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 6:03AM
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Wow, I followed that banty link a long way . . .

Got to here and realized that I might end up in Ted Kaczynski's shack if I took a wrong turn. But, there are considerably more positive avenues leading off.

There's a frugal forum on GW. I was over there exploring some ideas on homemade fertilizer not long ago. As far as I can see, there are some folks who really go beyond the pale on some of these ideas. I'm not trying to crowd myself down to a miserly existence . . . that's not independence. (I've discovered a new word, "mingy" - mean & stingy. ;o)

I'm a gardener so I'd like to grow just about EVERYTHING! Along with just a few other notions - - it's what excites me in life!

Just like I enjoy growing my own food, of course, I'd like to grow my own clothes! I'd like to grow my own house! (Cnetter, how would I go about growing a multi-season gourd with a floor space of say, 1000 square feet? ;o)

The question is not "can you make a difference? " You already do make a difference. It's just a matter of what kind of difference you want to make, during your life on this planet. Julia Butterfly Hill

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 10:23AM
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Gee, you guys are so creative and capable!
Cnetter, oh, yeah, I'd love to learn to spin...I have bookmarked near a million sites about people who spin and dye their own yarn...shoot, even those who shear it off their own little critters. I plan on it one day, but it seems that winter is when I knit furiously and summer is when I play all day outside in the garden. Summer suddenly becomes the days I've never even heard of indoor crafts. Digging and playing with bits of wood and trying to build things and grow stuff. Hoisting a shovel or a pick axe replace the gentle wielding of tiny needles... But, I did just drag a few bundles of half-finished projects down from the loft a couple weeks ago!! I may have to get a little lamb now.

Thanks, I like my self-sufficiency stuffs, too, I just get amazed at how many other things there are for me to think about doing and how many people actually do them.

We recycle everything, too, Rozanadanandnandna! If we don't, then we have to take it to the dump and they charge for our trash by the bag full, so forget that. Luckily the recycling is free and they take a lot of stuff. I am thinking of using an empty seltzer bottle for a make-shift bird feeder. I saw one online and now I have to make one, too.

I think about the sewing, and my friend is happy to loan me her machine, mainly because she is generous and also because if I can figure it out (and I haven't got a clue) then I can teach her how to use it next. I think that is a fair trade! I thought that I could make a pattern of my own by taking something I like apart. I have a favourite dress that I own three of (that isn't considered gluttony, is it??), so I would not be losing a dress, I'd be gaining the possibility for millions of them. And, if I ever do figure it out, I bet the snow will have melted by then...perfect dress weather!

One more thing about yarn. We saw a craft thing about dying one's own yarn (or were they rovings?) with homemade colours by using koolaid! I guess if you don't add the sugar, it just is a bunch of cheap food colouring. The colours looked awesome, so I might actually try it.

Hah! Great photo!! But isn't that cheating? You know, having a pic of you as a child? No, because you are with chickies and you are a cute kid, so that makes it okay :)

What fun threads there are...now that the weather is a little less gardenable...

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 10:59AM
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I had a tiny washer/spin dryer combo years ago when I was in college, Rozannadanna (that name makes me smile :o). Probably the most sensible idea I had during those years and about right for 2 adults & a baby. With an indoor wood clothes rack and the shower curtain bar, it was all that was needed on laundry day.

The truck isn't parked at my house. Well, it is right now and I take a special joy this time of year when it can stay that way for 24 hours at a stretch. But, gardening on other people's property (OPP, our friend PNBrown calls it ;) has made a good deal of sense to me.

Dad's backyard garden is 28 miles away but there are 2 gardening stops closer. I can't recommend driving 28 miles for everyone but it keeps me connected to what's going on in his life as well as the growing activity.

I will soon send off a check for $100+ for water in one of the gardens. Paying for water was the agreement 12 years ago and that's all. The property owner there is elderly and he rents the residence and lives elsewhere. With a house & garage on 4 lots, the tenants over the years seem to appreciate my activities. The current resident barely shows up in the yard except to toss some more trash out there . . . sheesh! I just make sure not to arrive too early in the morning and contribute as little as possible to the mess.

The large veggie garden is on property where the owners just don't seem to ever be home during the Summer months. The water district charges them for irrigation whether they use it or not. They consider it a tax so have never asked me for a dime.

They had a huge garden but the kids are all off on their own and the mom & dad are retired but still active. Right now, they are in France and won't be home until February! They've got house-sitters and other than that, it's just DW, me and the owls on about 10 acres. I consider myself responsible only for the garden which is nearly one-half acre.

I think there are countless places like this in our suburbs. I had a garden across the road from the current place for 7 years. Very similar situation but dogs . . . big dogs . . . more dogs . . . new dogs . . . friendly dogs . . . unfriendly dogs . . . lazy dogs . . . rabbits . . . raccoons . . . and dogs.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 11:04AM
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Some other ideas - I have a greenhouse that is essentially an oversized cold frame with south facing double wall polycarbonate with windows along that wall, and regular, 2X6 insulated construction on the rest of the stucture. That may freeze if the outside temps are below 0ºF, but I have a backup electric heater in there thats set to go on if it gets below 40º. Happens a couple nights a winter. Its amazing how much stuff one can grow in there over the winter.

I spent my career working with rural development in Africa, and so many of the places I lived, electricity and running water were pretty iffy, to put it mildly. So I've gotten into the habit of making sure that should the power go off, say for 15 days, I'd have no problems. We use a wood stove for heat, and I can cook on that. I used to have to boil all the water used for drinking and cooking, so thats nothing new - I have a pond. Not that I'm adverse to using electric efficient stuff, we just replaced our washer and drier with the front loading kind, uses 1/4 the water, electricity, and detergent.

Gardening, I now have a 'carbon sink' which is a euphemism for a huge brush pile that sinks slowly into the mud below my pond. Why burn the stuff? Around 3/4 of 3 acre property, I have a really wide border with trees, shrubs, flowers, and so on. Anytime I prune or dead head or have any kind of biodegradable stuff, I throw it in the border under the trees. Last week I was severely pruning fruit trees. Haul the branches into the border and whack them with the big lopers into lengths that lie flat. Finished.

If I were King, I'd make every effort to change the transportation tilt / priority from 7000 lb SUV's over to bicycles and I still need to figure out what to do with newspaper. I tried to compost it, takes years. I use it as a heavy mulch out in that border over the summer, soak it in and dump branches and other garden junk on top, but it looks like somebody took a pile of newspapers and dumped garden junk on top, which isn't pleasing to the DW's eye.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 11:32AM
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I forgot that we don't use machines for our washing/drying!! Believe it or not, we hand wash everything and dry it on a rack. I wear dish gloves and my boyfriend says he is going to get a stick to bludgeon the laundry with. That ought to be fun to watch!

I know what to do with newspaper!! We take ours to the dog ranch and they use it as kindling in their kennel's wood stove. There, easy.

Yes, 50cc transport is a great way to go. Frankly, any motorcycle with a larger engine would be too high for my toes to touch the ground!

In some ways, I think some people/families/lifestyles are stuck with the gas guzzling vehicles; they work for their needs and if they drive smaller cars for regular use or use other methods of transportation, then why not? Me, I will never own an SUV, but I have zero kids and the dogs fit in the back of the Neon just fine...and they are cute with their little seat belt harnesses, too. When we absolutely need a 4x4 or when we need to transport something large, we have friends who loan us vehicles. Last year, with all that snow, we only needed to borrow the 4xs about four times. Not bad!!

I hope more ideas get posted...I like trying new things out!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 12:40PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

" if I can figure it out (and I haven't got a clue) then I can teach her how to use it next."

If it is an older Singer (pre 1960) chances are I have a manual for it. I think they even put many of the old manuals online now. If it's totally mechanical and not computerised, I can fix and tune it up.
Yes, I have a lot of strange hobbies.

"I thought that I could make a pattern of my own by taking something I like apart."

Definitely can do this. I've done it. I've also made copies without taking the article of clothing apart. But I've done an awful lot of sewing with patterns first, which taught me a lot.

I end up sewing odd things that can't be bought, like clothes for dances my kids get into. This one was made from a few rough drawn pattern pieces I had to highly modify and no instructions:

I know the guy who teaches this spinning class in Arvada very very well. I bet he'd just show you how, like he has with other friends of mine.

I love the picture of Digit with his little chickens, even with a hole in the knee. Here's a favorite photo of mine with the kids and it brings this post a bit back to gardening:

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 12:47PM
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Now, wait a minute, David! Are you saying that your "spin newspaper into a slurry in water with grass clippings - then compost" doesn't work?!?

If true, that very painfully reminds me of telling a large room-full of people interested in cutflower growing that I could compost cotton string from my trellises. Oh gosh, well I WAS doing that!

After leaving it for 18 months, it was still in the compost. I buried it and the compost in garden beds. For the next 3 years, I would unearth great gobs of cotton string from those beds! I'd really hate to be confronted by someone who actually tried composting cotton string on my say-so . . .

I think Cnetter's technique of burying paper under a manure mulch SHOULD work. Now don't show up sometime in the future with a glob of manure-stained newspapers demanding any accountability from ME!


    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 1:04PM
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Good looking chicken, kids, rose garden, not to mention the concrete curbing - but I want to talk about what appears to be fine, sturdy outbuildings.

Ive built a woodshed, barn, cabin, a couple of hen houses, greenhouses, various minor structures. Most people have this skill whether they know it or not. (Sewing machines would probably be beyond my mechanical abilities - motor vehicles are. :o(

Utility buildings are fairly simple (and useful, hence the name). I usually use screws to build things; it saves on the aggravation of not being able to drive a nail straight. Sometimes I cut a board twice and it's still too short! But, if I don't need to do something more than twice - I consider my efforts a success.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 1:25PM
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Cnetter, holy moly, you have the most beautiful children!! I love that dress...and that is probably the kind of thing I would sew. Of course, I'd also probably sew a bunch of things I don't need like cushions and more dog jackets...more table linens...that kind of thing. I am pretty sure her sewing machine is relatively new, like still-in-a-box kind of new. My mom said she could "not figure out how to manage the feed dogs" and I said "what?" I am pretty good at tracking down the right forum for manuals and for tips, so I might be able to get it managed. My friend will not read an instruction manual!! I like to think I don't read them, but if I can't figure something out, I will go on and read one.

I wonder if I could take that spinning class...is it hard?

And, oops, I have been putting bits of cotton string into the compost bin!!! But only sometimes... and only tiny bits...
things I rarely put in the compost:
brown bags
paper towels
If I have one and think of it, it goes in, otherwise I end up with a mountain of food soiled paper and fluff that floats away on the tiniest breeze.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 1:29PM
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michelle_co(z5 CO)

I count not having children! My footprint on earth will be comparatively small (no diapers, plastic toys, or plastic everything). My cousin was over the other day with her 3 kids and lunch alone was a plastic extravaganza - plastic cup, plastic waterbottle (kids can't drink well water??? out of a glass????), plastic bottle of yogurt drink... :-( Big SUV to drive the kids around.

Instead of having our own house, we built a cozy addition on my grandparents house and do co-housing. It works well, and was much more material wise than building a home. We save a lot on utilities by having a combined household, and we are able to pay their housing upkeep expenses.

I have mostly pre-owned clothing. Will drive my vehicles until they die. New Stuff is not the Best Stuff.

We bought alot of acreage that is mostly wildlife habitat... MANY acres belong to the infernal prairie dogs, non-infernal coyotes, bobcats, deer, bullsnakes, fieldmice, muskrats, geese, ducks, cranes, etc. Many acres are old growth pinon-juniper forest that will not be developed in my lifetime. There are currently a few thrifty corriente cattle running on some of the acreage. DH and I are building another 1/2 mile of fence ourselves to expand our pasture. I do most of the work, he helps on weekends. When we have everything that we already own properly fenced, we may add more acreage.

We looked hard at buying more acreage and putting up a windfarm, but there's just not quite enough wind here. Of course, we compost my grandmothers newspapers, and Starbucks grinds, and bagged leaves from town.

There's always more we could do.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 1:39PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

J, you dont need a stick to beat your clothes with, but you DO need a washboard if youre really gonna keep washing them by hand.

washboard, .

We had a when I was a kid, but we sometimes still used the washboard for hand washing some things.

I have a half a dozen of themantiquestwo of which I have hanging on the wall by my (real life modern) washing machine and dryer (the half of my childhood I didnt spend being slave labor in the garden, I spent being slave labor washing clothes and hanging them up on the linein the basement in winterand taking them back down, and Im not gonna spend the rest of my life doing thatbut I DO love the smell of the clothes after theyve been hanging out in the sunshine!). If youd like to test out using a washboard, I checked mine out, and I dont want the ones that still have the advertising visible on them to be used anymore, but there is one (metal) one where the advertising has been completely worn off, and you could use that one for a little while to see what you think of it. And I was surprised, but I found links to a couple places where you can still buy them. Actually, I was sure youd still be able to buy them back in Lancaster County, PAAmish country, but I was kinda surprised to find them onlinenot too many Amish online! I lived back in Lancaster County for 6 months after I got marriedmy exs parents were/are Mennonite, and when we moved back there we took our washer and dryer along and put them in his parents basementand it was the first non-wringer washing machine his mother had ever had (65). She loved itbut still hung the clothes outside to dry on nice days! When we moved back to DEN we left the washer/dryer there for her and got new ones out here.

Actually, Lehmans, the one place I listed above, is in Kidron, Ohio, and offers a complete line of non electric appliances (gas fridges, etc.) for the local Mennonite and Amish communities. You might be interested in more of the things they havelike other non-electric clothes washing possibilities. Check out the rest of the site. I bet youll find lots of things you like! Maybe we should all get together and stock up Ted Kaczynskis old shack and split it between us all like a time-share!

And about sewing! If youd really like to learn, Id be happy to help you. If you get your friends sewing machine, sometime when I have a bunch of days off in a row (so I have plenty of time to try to revive from my, apparently permanent, sleep-deprived state), Id be happy to come visit you sometime and get you started. Is it that you dont know at all how to thread or use the sewing machine, or is it just that you dont know what to do with it once its ready to go??? I checked out my huge supply of old patterns downstairs (pack rat here!), and I found a couple simple skirt patterns you can have if youd like.

Yes, as Cnetter said, you can make patterns from clothes you already have, but its not the way to start, girl! If you make something like that your first project, youll probably swear off sewing forever! I used to make almost all of my own clothesexcept for underwear! Was in 4-H (home ec) for 7 years, and took home ec (sewing AND cooking) all four years in HSIm lazythe classes were easy As! I used to make myself blazers and coats and all kinds of things. One time I made two sport jackets and vests for my ex (husband at the time!), and they were a birthday surprise for him, and I accidentally got a pattern that was one size too small, so after all the work of hand sewing the lapel and putting in bound buttonholes and everything, he couldnt wear them! I STILL have them in a box in the basementjust couldnt stand to throw them outand hes been dead for a couple years now! No, he wasnt a lot older than mejust a lot more high-stress! Heres a thats very similar to the one I learned on!

If youre interested in a sewing lesson or twowith the understanding that it could take a while to arrange it, let me know. And if youre down here and want to stop by sometime, youre welcome to the patterns whether you want the lessons to go with them or not. Heck! If you wear wool, I could even give you a piece of fabric to go with the patterns! Im absolutely positive you wouldnt believe how many boxes of fabric I have around here (used to be one of my addictions when I didnt have anywhere to garden!) And Ive always had somewhat of a problem wearing (unworsted) wool next to my skin, but the olde-er I get, the worse it is, and Ill never use any of the wool fabric I have around here anymore. (Im not being THAT generous! Ive given a few pieces of it away to a good friendCheryl from Paulinos. I gave some of my fabric away to someone I didnt even know on FreeCycleand they never even sent me an email thank you, so I probably wont do that again!)

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 3:49PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Steve started this thread by saying he was embarrased by how little he was doing to minimize his footprint on this world. Well, I don't think he, or anyone else that has posted so far has anything to be embarrased about.

Myself, on the other hand ... I am the person that Michelle referred to ... three kids, SUV, big screen TV, etc. Yes, I use disposable diapers, but at least I did breastfeed all three children for at least a year, so no bottle washing or formula to buy. My middle child wears mostly hand-me-downs from his older brother, but I did draw the line on making the baby sister wear boy clothes. We rarely eat fast food, partly because the closest place is almost 10 miles away, but also because it's healthier and cheaper to eat at home. We don't buy the prepackaged foods like lunchables, it only takes a couple of minutes to make a sandwich. We haven't even turned the central heat on yet, though I do have those radiator like space heaters in the kids rooms. My car is a small SUV, but it's 9 years old and paid for. DH does have a truck and a long commute, but it wasn't by choice. We couldn't afford to live any closer to Aspen where most of his clients are. If you want to talk about people leaving a footprint! Some of the people there live in their multi-million $ homes for only a couple months out of the year, but keep the heated driveways, swimming pools etc. running all year round. Does anyone really NEED a 40,000 sq. ft. home?

Most of my efforts at being self sufficient are related to my gardening. I use 2L bottles for my winter sowing, then once everything is planted out, I put them in the recycle bin. This year I grew my first vegetable garden, and next year I plan to increase how much food I produce for our family. I saved seeds from everything I could, so hopefully, I'll buy less this year. The other thing I would like to do is start composting, which I know you guys already do. We really don't have space for a compost "pile", but probably could use one of those bins, or tumbler types. Just wish they weren't $150. My other goal towards self-sufficiency, is to learn how to preserve what I grow through canning.

Even though my DH doesn't seem too concerned about his "footprint" he recycles in his own way, saving scraps from one project to make other ones. He built the loft I'm sitting in right now, the boys bunkbeds, the cabinet for the stereo, my cute little garden trellis (from scraps from the fence). His electrical and carpentry skills have saved us plenty of money over the years!

I know that we aren't doing much, but rethinking how you do things takes time.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 4:35PM
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The saga of the newspaper / grass clippings slurry.

This worked pretty well with 3 gal soap buckets, the bulb auger, and the battery powered electric drill. So I decided up 'upscale' the operation, and bought a $10 big plastic trash bin, a $35 corded electric drill, and set up shop down by the compost pile. Soaked a whole bunch of newspaper for a month. Went out, opened the lid, and after I picked myself up off the ground and the worst of the smell blew off, started to work. Things went great for about 10 minutes. Add water, slurry it up, scoop with small bucket, throw in compost. Developed a rhythm, started to hum show tunes to the beat of the flop flop of the auger. All went well until I drilled through the bottom of the bin, and had 20 gallons of reeking newspaper slurry come out all over my shoes.

We're re-evaluating this.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 4:42PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

I have friends who play those metal washboards as musical instruments. Jugs too. And we also made a wash tub bass.
I guess it's a form of recycling.
Someday I'm gonna make a gourd banjo.

We're guilty of having a minivan when the kids were little. When it died two years ago we got a Prius, but only after we determined you could fit a 3/4 bass fiddle in it.

Sorry, I should have been clearer. You can make patterns out of existing clothes, but that's after you've seen how they go together. Most of the major commercial patterns are good to learn from. After a while you start to see that they do the same things over and over again - such as putting in a sleeve, fitting a skirt to bodice. After a while you can look at clothing as see how it goes together.

If you liked Gen's clogging dress, I've got some vintage 70's Gunne Sax patterns.

Feed dogs - the things that move the fabric along. On some machines they can be adjusted or lowered. I can lower the dogs on my
($25 at ARC, but I knew it was a good one.)

Spinning is very easy once you've had some practice. Chris will be teaching a class again in January, but he showed a friend of mine who got the basic concept down in 15 minutes.
It can be calming. Some people go into a trance like state while spinning.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 6:07PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I'd LOVE to have one of those old Singer's, Cnetter. Did it come with the cabinet? How long have you had it?

I was shopping thrift stores a few months ago, and I thought ARC (and Goodwill) seemed really expensive compared to Salvation Army. It really surprised me.

I have some of those Gunne Sax blouse patterns. I loved them. Made a whole bunch of them. I'm sure I still have them in a box somewhere!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 6:39PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

I think I've had it about fifteen years - before they got popular with quilters and the price went up. And it came with the cabinet (which is quite scratched up). It's a 15-91 - the direct drive electric version of

My best deal was a Singer 301 - for $9.00 at ARC last year. The bobbin case alone is worth $80.00. Somebody had left the ruffler on it so the staff thought it was broke.

Don't laugh too hard - is a Gunne Sax, made by Mom on the treadle. Oh my, that looks so 80's.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 7:13PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I like it Cnetter. Don't have any pics to post, but my wedding is very 60's looking (hoop and all)! Was gonna make my own dress, and then found one that was almost exactly what I wanted, so it was easier to buy it.

If you ever see another Singer in a cabinet for under $100, pick it up for me and I'll drive over and pick it up from you! If they're not looking, quick attach the ruffler and maybe you can get another deal! ;-)

My mother's/my treadle in IL is a Minnesota. Some day I'll get it out here to CO. I'd have to play with it for a while to remember how to put the bobbin in, tho! And I'd need to find somewhere to buy a new belt for it I'm sure!

Gotta go! I have 0515 standby at the airport tomorrow! If I don't get a trip, I'll be back and posting tomorrow pm.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 7:37PM
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Oh, my holy mackerel, I'd love a sewing lesson!! No rush, I'm not going anywhere.
Actually, in all seriousness, I have never done any sewing except the kind that is by hand. I know there is such a thing as a bobbin, I know that there is a reason for it, but where it goes or what the heck happens with it, gee, I just don't know. And, no, I don't no nothin. I know there is a wheel or a pedal or something that makes it go, right?
I'd love free patterns!! Just let me know when is good for you and I'll work with that.
Thank you for offering!!!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 9:28PM
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Bonnie, I guess I just can't think of how to be more self-sufficient than breastfeeding babies. Probably the wrong person to comment . . .

Seems to me: food, water, and shelter (clothing included) are basic needs. Beyond that, we are just dealing with notions of value.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 9:32PM
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dafygardennut(5b-ish, CO)

I'm not doing enough, but am trying to be better. I only leave the house a couple of times a week and try to get all of the errands run in one go. My car is a '97 Cavalier and is paid for though and don't plan on getting a new one until it dies or the kids need a car for college. I'm growing more of the food we eat and have started preserving again. I want to start a compost pile, but I haven't figured out the space yet. This year I've mulched the leaves to put in the garden instead of bagging (I didn't know better before). Most of our yard tools are either hand tools or electric, the only gas is the mower, but it only takes about 10 minutes to do the front and 5 for the back. There's always more we can do, but every little bit helps.

Skybird, what era machine are you looking for? I've seen quite a few at the Unique thrift store on Buckley/Iliff. I actually saw a treadle one at an Arc that had a little plaque and the last patent date listed was 1909, but the cabinet was falling apart (the wood had dried out and split). I thought about getting it, but they wanted $80 for it and it was beyond my skill level of repair.

I did get a New Home Rotary sewing machine in a cabinet for $15 (it was 50% off) in late spring that needed one part replaced and just sanding and refinishing. Now that it's done I just need to fiddle with the tension on it so I can start sewing again. Then I got a Swedish machine (don't have a pic of that yet) for $15 in it's original carrying case with all of the attachments and paperwork. I have two daughters who I'm planning to teach to sew. Although I haven't taken clothes apart yet to remake them.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 10:08PM
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Well, I've beaten up the search engine trying to find an answer to the question: "Does anyone really NEED a 40,000 sq. ft. home?" And, since I'm now rather tired - I'll just stop and give you what I've got.

The only rational response is, "Of course nobody needs that large of a home!!!" But, just how many square feet of shelter do most Americans or, better yet, the people of the World make do with?

A measurement of floor space makes sense and it would seem that 50 sq. ft. per person is considered overcrowded housing. A hundred sq. ft. per person is very confined. New construction in Shanghai apparently has provided something like 183 sq. ft. per person and is considered a big step forward in China.

Western Europeans enjoy something like 500 sq. ft of "living space" per person. Living space may not be the same as floor space but I'm not really sure. There are sq. ft. outside the home but within a residential lot for many families.

The UN tells us that the average "living space" in industrialized countries is 350 square feet. And, if the definition is equivalent to floor space then average families of 4 live in 1,400 square feet homes.

So a 40,000 sq. ft. home in a "1st World" nation should provide sufficient space for 114 people.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 12:16AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

J and Daffy,

I getting ready to leave for the airport, but just wanted to let you guys know that I will be back to answer you. If I do get a trip today, I could be gone one day, or two days, or (not likely) up to six days! But I will get around to responding to you--sooner or later!

See ya'all,

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 5:49AM
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rozannadanna(8 TX)

I used to sew everything I owned and yes you can make a pattern by taking apart an old shirt or dress. Anyone want sewing lessons, let me know and we will set up a class. Nothing fancy - just basic use of a machine and basic clothing.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 6:23AM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Put me in the catagory of people that don't like to read instruction manuals, and aren't mechanically inclined. My husband gave me a sowing machine last year, which I have only used once, when HE read the instructions and threaded the bobbin for me, so I could repair a couple of things. I have a whole pile of my older sons jeans that he has outgrown, that have rips in the knees, and I plan to cut them off and sow hems in them, so my younger son can use them as shorts when he gets a little bigger. I am just waiting untiil DH has time to help set up the machine.

Too bad I'm on the other side of the state, I could certainly use a lesson or two.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 10:06AM
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(I'm curious, Rozannadanna 8 TX ,Wyo 5,Denver 5 - where are you?!)

43560 square feet = 1 acre

One acre of land can produce:
42,800 lbs of strawberries
36,700 lbs of potatoes
35,000 lbs of lettuce
11,600 lbs of sweet corn

Not too much farm land in Aspen? On each forested acre, trees will absorb enough CO2 annually to equal the amount produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.

An acre of forest generates 4 tons of oxygen every year - enough for 18 people to live. A forest reduces surface runoff and topsoil erosion. And, trees remove pollutants while cooling the air throughout the growing season.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 12:30PM
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rozannadanna(8 TX)

Digit - in Denver now - home place is still in TX - hoping to move back next Spring. And we (sons) have a ranch in Wyoming and I was there all last year - I spread/plant roses wherever I "light" for a time.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 1:44PM
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rozannadanna(8 TX)

Skybird - just noticed your link to Lehmans. THAT'S THE WASHING MACHINE I HAVE. It works great - clothes come out very clean and it's not hard to turn the crank - I call it my "wing exercise" for the tops of my arms.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 3:22PM
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I'm not much of an environmental warrior. A good number of hours have been spent trying to find information of housing.

This is the same problem I experience when I was curious about energy consumption for microwave versus conventional cooking. I asked about it over on the Going Green forum and the only reply was - do the research yourself and it was fairly hard to find!

I'm either not very knowledgeable about the resources of the energy conservation movement or it is just so nascent that the information isn't widely dispersed. Well, I found some things:

Single-family homes constitute 73% of the 101 million households in the United States. The average single-family home has 2,280 square feet of floor space - 1,950 square feet is heated space, the rest is in garage and basement areas.

Let's not go back to whether "living space" is floor space or something else. Let's just say that the 1,950 can be divided by 350 so that 5.5 individuals would be comfortable in that housing throughout the industrial world. Therefore, are we surprised that an average single-family home in the US only has 2.7 residents?

Further, these figures are from the 1990's - houses have gotten larger and the households have been growing smaller for years. Somewhere in my web travels I believe I read that the single greatest increase in per capita energy consumption over the last few decades is a result of greater housing space for fewer people. The energy consumed in new construction is one thing but total primary energy use in the US can be divided in 3 sectors: 26% for transportation, 37% for industry, and 37% for buildings. Finally, over one-half of the energy used by ALL US households is for heating, cooling and lighting their homes.

who had a tuff time today staying indoors even with absolutely terrible weather outside . . .

    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 7:01PM
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To draw all this energy stuff back to the self-sufficiency question:

I don't store one kilowatt of electricity. Heat for the house is all "on-demand" in the form of natural gas.

If there was a power failure I would have neither the means of generating any electricity nor of heating my home except by dragging in a propane tank and risking an improvised grill heat source - briefly.

At one time, homes had coal and firewood bins but even the heating oil tank and furnace are fast becoming obsolete.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2007 at 7:12PM
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Hmm, in Oregon, I think more homes are equipped for heating oil as they are for gas or electric. But, for some odd reason, the homes here are not. We do have a pipe-outlet if we wanted a wood stove, but then where would the bed go? What an odd design...really. We have a roof inside our house. It had been a small one-room "apartment" that they built around and now it has a house inside a house, so to speak. If the power goes out, and it does more often than not, we can have the heater, but that is all. We have oil lamps and flashlights and we want to get one of those OLPC foot pedal powered computers. It is awesome and I think everyone should get one. It is One Laptop Per Child and they are designed mostly for kids. For a limited time they let you buy one for $200 if you also buy one, for the same price, for a child in an underdeveloped country. I think they are cool, so we are thinking about it. In fact, thinking of this thread and thinking of the importance for children in the third world to be able to access the entire world, makes me think I should post the link...so here it is:

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 12:54AM
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aliceg8(CO 5)

Wow - that was a lot to catch up on, but worth it! I think about self-sufficiency a lot, but don't follow through enough.

So, I do garden and compost. We feed our dogs a raw food diet, that includes vegetables, so I've grown a lot for them. And in fact use some of the less desirable produce that might otherwise get thrown away in their diets.

When we moved into this house we bought energy efficient washer and dryer. So not as small a foot print as some of you, but at least consuming a little less resources.

We reuse plastic grocery bags for kitchen garbage and dog pooper picker uppers.

We just finished making a large new bed in our yard (photos to come soon) via the lasagne method - everything recycled. We did buy some manure; but that's recycling too - right?

Both our cars are paid for. One is a big truck, but it's 7 years old and we will keep it till it falls apart. Our other car is an '89 Volvo station wagon with 221k miles on it. We bought it this spring to replace the '90 Corolla I wrecked last fall. :( We plan on driving the wheels off of this as well.

Our housing footprint is excessive, per Digit's research. We have 2,200 square feet. But it is a 30+ year old house, so that's "reusing" in a sense too.

We don't buy all our clothes at the thrift store, but we do shop there often enough. The only time I shop at Walmart is when I received a gift certificate last year. I hate what they've done to local, independent retailers!

I do always carry a small bottle of water around with me. But I will reuse the same bottle for weeks.

We do have a gas lawnmower, but rake our leaves the old fashioned way. Also snow shoveling and tilling are done with manual labor.

Finally, Skybird, I love the Lehman's site. I've looked at that before and it totally fascinates me. I think that I would do a lot more things "by hand", including preserving, but I'm just not organized enough (or energetic enough), to work full time and do that too!

Thanks for starting this thread Digit. It's a lot of fun to see what everybody is doing. Also inspiring me to do more.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 12:30PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Just have a minute! Heard about this on TV and thot some of you might be interested!

Colorado is holding a statewide epidemic emergency preparedness exercise this Saturday. Free flu shots will be available for the first however many people who show up at any of the locations. (Adams County has 2000). For more info, go to the link and click on "local events" to find what may be near you. If you haven't gotten around to getting a shot yet, here's an opportunity to get one "cheap!"


Daffy, I'm looking for a late 50's, black Singer model pretty much exactly what Cnetter pictured (link) above--in a cabinet. They're just plain old straight stitch machines, and, even tho older, I'm sure better than the multiple stitch Singer ('61) I use because my other one is a free-arm without a cabinet--and I HATE it---working on that TINY surface. If you ever happen to see one for less than $100, let me know or pick it up and I'll come get it from you. My Singer seems to have a problem with the bobbin tension--that nobody has been able to fix for 20 or 30 years---I quit trying to get it fixed and just use it the way it is!

J, I'll email you personally about the "sewing lessons," but it'll be a few more days. I've had less than 5 hours sleep total in the last two days, and I was out working in the yard for a couple hours this afternoon and I'm so tired I wasn't even enjoying myself. That's a first for me. Usually getting out into the yard perks me up!

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 6:43PM
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