Sustainability: Carbon Footprint 2

Four areas to focus on as you consider your personal carbon footprint: 1) how you move around, 2) what you eat and how it is grown, 3) how you use natural resources in your home, and 4) what stuff you buy and how you get rid of it.

How You Use Natural Resources in Your Home — I am defining natural resources as fossil fuels (and their derivatives), water, wood, minerals, etc. It is a loose definition, but it makes it easy for me to remember. First let’s talk electricity. In my area coal is what most power plants use and therefore it is what you are using when you plug something into the wall. My part of Indiana is 38° north. That means we have four true seasons. I am also in a hilly area with inconsistent winds. Passive solar works pretty well on sunny winter days in the rooms with south facing windows. Solar panels on the roof should, theoretically give you sufficient power on the sunny days. The key to that being true is to minimize the amount of power you require. I read a report that there is enough “power” for each person to use 48 kWh per day.

Our family uses an average of 300-500 kWh per month and we buy green energy that comes from a cooperative of solar fields, wind turbines, and methane burning from landfills. At this time we don’t have solar panels on our home. The start up investment is just a bit much for us right now. Our biggest electric users are hot water, the refrigerator, and in winter the heater (when we use it). Our hot water heater is on a timer so that it runs during non-peak hours and that really helps lower the amount we use. The tank is very efficient and will keep the water hot for 12-15 hours. To keep our usage low we do things like: keep the lights off when not in a room, use smaller & more efficient appliances, got rid of most of our electric appliances (like the washer, dryer, air conditioner, dishwasher, etc), hung insulating curtains in all the rooms (closed during summer days, closed during winter nights, open during winter days, open during summer nights). These are just a few examples. We don’t use any natural gas, propane, kerosene, etc to cook or heat our home. In the winter our favorite spot in the house is beside the wood stove. We burn down/dead wood and never take down a living tree. Our woods typically have 3 or 4 down trees a year and that is sufficient for our heating needs. This year we are not using the chainsaw at all and are carrying up all the branches we can find. So far we haven’t used the wood stove at all, but we have had to run the heater on days when the high is only in the 30s (about 10 days so far). We must decide what to do about getting a new chainsaw for next year.

Let’s see, water usage has already been chatted about a few times. So I guess that is about it for natural resources. Although in some respects, what we buy

What you buy and how you get rid of it — For me, I try to choose natural materials first. I want everything to either be reusable (to infinity . . . ) or compostable. This eliminates a lot of stuff.

Stability: Cynefin

Stability > Welsh. Simplicity > In knowing

Sometimes while learning Welsh, I stumble on a word that just makes perfect sense. Usually it is one of those words that you really can’t simply translate. It means too much. Cyenfin is one of those words and it fits so perfectly with my whole being.

Cynefin: belonging to place, a place to “stand”

Cynefin comes from and leads to understanding that the earth is animate, all life is sacred, and harmony is found in living in the rhythm of cycles and seasons.

Related words are ‘cyfenw’ which we translate as surname, but it really has the meaning ‘place name.’Also ‘cyfeiriad’ which is address or ‘place you are.’

Stability: Aging and Retirement

*All pictures have been taken by me using my iPhone 8 with no filters* I took this one as I was taking dry laundry off the clothesline. I noticed this dragonfly, which was on the other side of a cotton dish towel. I thought it made an interesting picture.

Stability > Stability, Aging and Retirement

Our vow of stability means we plan to grow old here. We like to think of it as our retirement plan and safety net for Michael (and Hannah) when we are gone. Thinking in these terms means that as we grow older we are transitioning our systems to make it easier for aging bodies to do the work. We are also making sure we document our best practices. We strive to teach our adult children they whys and wherefores of the decisions we have made. In fact, I envision this blog becoming a sort of how-to for our property.

We have 12 years until retirement age (67). We have a list of projects that will need to be done. Each project has several pieces.

  • Housing: convert to rainwater collection only, reduce electricity usage to below 500 kWh/month (currently at 500 kWh/month), continue to find non-electric solutions, build rocket mass stove, build rocket mass heater, solar hot water tank, summer outdoor shower, dry pit/outhouse, re-insulate exterior walls to 12”, re-insulate roof and floor, build solar food dehydrator.
  • Gardens: add 4-15 beds, raise all beds to 2 foot high, beehives, add more soft fruit, permanent culinary herb bed, permanent medicinal herb bed, build 4 more chicken yards and another chicken house, build 4 rabbit runs, all plants either perennial or home saved seeds (increase diversity each year)
  • Yards: plant 5 trees per year, mow paths to scythe width, plant yard/meadow/paths with clover, vetch, and rye, increase pollinator garden space, add second clothesline, outdoor screened sleeping room.
  • Transportation: bikes, cargo bikes, and bike trailers
  • Finances: get debt free, stay debt free, save as much as possible, redo wills and trust for land/Michael/Hannah

 

 

Stability & Autism

Stability > Stability & Autism

This is Michael. He is 31 and on the autism spectrum (ASD). We have known since he was 9. We consider ourselves very lucky to have him in our family. He brings hardwork, joy, and “preciseness” to our family.

We learned early on that Michael does better with precise instructions (preferably no more than 3 at a time) and structure/stability. His routine very rarely changes. He likes to eat the same things, wear the same things, etc. He also has some pretty intense sensory issues — especially texture/touch, and hearing.

Our committment to stability means that Michael has spent most of his youth and young-adulthood here on our farm. He knows this property. For the past few years, he has taken over a lot of the caretaker jobs. He mows (with a pushmower) our front yard, the strip behind the house, and the paths are entirely his doing from design to execution. He carries the dead tree branches to create brush piles that protect wild saplings and a host of critters. He carries up the largest of those branches to chop into firewood to heat our home on the coldest of days. He dug all the cisterns/run-off ponds and trenches to carry the flooding waters away from the house foundation and back into the woods. And this year, he built a chicken house and yard almost entirely by himself with materials that we had laying around. He let me know how many additional 2x4s he was going to need and how many rolls of fencing would be required. He also turns our compost beds over each fall.

All of this has taken years for him to learn to do. Years he has had because we are committed to stability of place. This place.

*All pictures have been taken by me using my iPhone 8 with no filters*

Stability

Stability is the state of being resistant to change and not prone to wild fluctuations in emotion. When used in the Benedictine vows it refers to the importance of community and commitment in life.

In connection to our life and our land, I use this word to mean allowing a deep connection to develop between me and the actual land. I remember what it was like to stand here in my 30s with small children; I remember what it was like to garden here in my 40s with teenagers and a menegerie of animals; and I anticipate what it will be like as I move through my 50s, 60s, 70, 80s, and 90s. All while staying put in this place.

And so, I plant trees. Trees that take a long time to grow. Trees that will shelter my hammock now and someday will shelter my ashes.

And so, I design systems for caring for chickens and rabbits that take into account an older body. A body with limitations that still knows that to mimic nature is best for my critters.

And so, I start building raised beds so that the land can continue to sustain and nourish me as I strive to continue to nourish it.

And so, I ask Michael to mow wider paths through the back so that tired legs and failing eyes can still walk and enjoy the beauty that is present here on this land.

And so, finally, I practice gratitude that this is my home.

*All pictures have been taken by me using my iPhone 8 with no filters*