Time for a Fresh Start

Reader Contribution by Erin C.
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It has easily been six months since I’ve written a blog. I can tell; my brain has about a thousand tabs open and I can tell that I haven’t put any of it to paper lately. A big part of successful homesteading is keeping records on hand each year so when it’s time to start Homestead Thing A again the next year, you know what worked and what didn’t. Instead of keeping up with much of anything, I have been engaged in the “I will remember this and write it down in a couple of days” cycle in which nothing gets written down or remembered. This, in turn, clutters my brain even more.  So here I sit, on thefourth day of the new year trying to figure out what we need to work on this year to improve. And I’m trying to put to paper all of the thoughts I have had about our homestead, our progress and failures, resolutions that will help us shape up the plan for the coming months, and still try to remember what the plan for the rest of the day is as I try to get ready for a weekend at work. 

First and foremost, our resolutions; they are family resolutions because they revolve this year around ways to make our homestead work better and home improvement projects that we just can’t put off anymore. From there, the plan for the year unfolds, as we chart monthly what we want to accomplish and find a place for it in the budget. This is not a new idea, this is something that many families do, if not all at once, in small bites over time. We will plan the garden and order seeds; we will plan additions to our livestock and make room in the farm budget for feed or bedding as needed. And one thing that is very important for us is to plan for the home improvement projects that are a must. 

This year, I resolve to learn everything I can get my hands on about plumbing. Installing pipes, toilets, and showers all the way down to slope for proper drainage and air vents that ensure working systems. How to insulate properly and what impact the distance from one side of the house to the other has on hot water but also water drainage. I want to learn about grey water systems, and draw up plans for installing an outdoor shower. This desire to learn about something that typically people call a professional to do stems from the lack of working plumbing we are experiencing in our home currently.  When we bought the house we are living in, we hired an inspector and followed him around for hours as he checked every aspect of the house. The plumbing passed with flying colors. The problem, as we are finding out, is that no one lived in the house for months leading up to our purchase, so of course everything flowed the way it should; it hadn’t dealt with daily use in a very long time. Now, we have a shower that drains so slowly it could be the next day before it is empty.  We have a toilet that just doesn’t work. The other toilet flushes sometimes, but sometimes you have to run a load of laundry to get the toilet water to go down. The kitchen sinks back up and the washing machine struggles. There are gurgles, bubbles, and all manner of bizarre noises coming from different parts of the pipes. The septic tank has been emptied multiple times and we don’t think it’s the problem. What may be the real issue is that when the house was built, the slope the pipes were plumbed to was not nearly enough to compensate for the distance some of them have to go.  At this point, we are ready to tear our hair out and build an outhouse. Instead, we are going to learn about plumbing, not only so that we can fix what we have the skill set to fix, but also so when a plumber does come out, we know what we are looking for when they try to fix something. And also, so we have a base of knowledge for the day when we build our own house. 

This year, I resolve to expand my creativity. Vague, I know, but bear with me. We have six massive pine trees right against the house, and they very badly need to come down this year. This will leave us with so much wood lying around. We will burn some of it in the fire pit, we will cut some of it into boards to use in farm projects that don’t have to live forever (or for very long) and I want to learn how to use our power tools to make small, decorative hand crafted items from the wood we will have an overabundance of. Maybe I should change my resolution to learn how to use our power tools.  Either way, my Etsy shop is about to have some funky new things in it.

This year, I resolve to learn more about drainage, including berms, swales and gutters. Oh yes, gutters. Whoever built this house put rain handlers on the roof instead of gutters, so water just pools against the foundation, which is not good for any home. But while gutters is a large part of the equation, using the lay of the land to find ways to redirect water that is running downhill against the house is important too. And this year I think we should learn about gathering and storing water for later use. We need to investigate rain barrels, but also multi-tiered filter systems that the water can run through and then go on to water a garden or flower bed. 

Finally, the usual: grow more food, eat better, sleep more, lose weight, cut out sugar, be pleasant, be present, save more money, yada yada yada. These timeless but typically useless resolutions can be boiled down to one thing: pay more attention to what my body needs and stop being so mean to myself. Better self-care is on the list. Ironically, this also stems from a place of need. I injured myself this fall, and continued to ignore the injury until today, when I saw my NP. The original injury would have been so easy to fix if I had slowed down and taken care of myself the way I knew I should, but never made the time to do. Notice I didn’t say find the time, I said make the time. There’s enough time in every day to get things done, it is a matter of prioritizing tasks and understanding how to say no to things that do not serve your life. This is one I need to practice this year. In addition to an injury that now includes nerve compression, I have gained 28 pounds; in a four or five month period. Because I did not make my self-care a priority last year. So I am starting this new year from a health perspective of repair and catch up instead of grow and expand. And blogging more is included in this directive to perform better self-care since writing helps my brain health quite a bit. Maybe it won’t be so long until we talk again. Meet me back here, on this blog, and let’s share our homesteading triumphs and struggles. The coffee is always on.

Photo by Getty Images/Cn0ra

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