Thursday, April 24, 2014

These days I'm...

Saying goodbye to my beloved Irish Water Spaniel, Tia, my constant companion for over 9 years. She had what turned out to be a cancerous mass removed from her leg last fall, that unfortunately came back in her lungs with a vengeance in the new year, and we let her go a couple weeks ago as it was clearly her time. We went on a nice hike with her the weekend before, and it is nice to have that memory of her in the woods with me right up to the end, just like old times.

Feeling in awe of this large garden space to work with, and constantly admiring the new additions that keep making it more and more a creative space for us to grow in: yarn for the birds to use for their nests, garden spaces for Little M to grow plants in, haybale compost piles, and the fun continues.

Going on a backpacking trip for the first time with the four of us, just up the hill, and loving tent time at dusk with this crazy-hair girl.

Also loving this little cutey on my back on the way up. Not so much loving the midnight hike back down as we realized three in my little tent is too many, and realizing in order to make it through the night, let alone on a multi day adventure like we've been hoping for this summer, we would need a slightly different approach to gear.

Feeling proud of these little cactus that I've started from seed intermittently over the past 8 years.

Watching fresh life appear on herbs I had worried were dead in our early very cold spell last winter before we had any snow covering.

Watching the moon set over the mountains as the early morning sunlight starts to fill our world.

Starting SO MANY seeds with this little monkey!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting outside!

We've been spending so much time outside lately, especially now that the mister is back on dayshift, and I'd love to blame my lack of posting on that, but actually I had several posts prepared last month that just never made it to publish! Not quite sure what happened there! Of course they are now sadly out of date, so here's the update instead of those old almost-posts :)

Little M is a self proclaimed 'big help' now, at 4, and with Baby E quite content to be watching the proceedings from my back in the Ergo, we've got 2-3 sets of fairly capable hands quite consistently working around the property, so we've made some real progress. This is the most productive time of year for us around the property, so him being on the same shift as me right now has been meaning we've been motoring through tasks like no tomorrow!

I've been keeping the mister busy already moving the pig structure further to the south, taking fencing down and reinstalling it elsewhere, putting in more posts and getting the garden and chicken/orchard area completely fenced, and starting on the dog/yard fence. It's exciting seeing our plans for this land come together!

You can see the garden and pig area on the left side of this picture below, taken on a hike up the hill beside the house. The chicken coop and behind is the chicken/orchard area, and in front of the coop is the fenced side garden area. The pigs will be in the lower half of that this year, doubling the area in there to be gardened this year, which will be a challenge I'm sure.

We've gotten most of the fence posts in for the yard fence, although we still need to finish our H-braces complete with tension wiring, and then dig the trench for the fencing to be buried in along the posts. It will be nice to have a secure area for the dogs, to keep them a little more under control. The griff's like to tear off to the creek, or after deer, or just generally off on walkabout every now and then, which has made me limit their outside time more that I would like. The fence means that when we are out gardening, or playing in the yard, they can come along with and get their energy out!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Decluttering & Simplifying

We've been decluttering or simplifying for quite a while now, realistically I've been purging extra belongings since I first started packing for my move out west 8 years ago for grad school, and I've done major purges several times since, once when I moved into my truck for a season or two nearing the end of grad school, and once as I moved down into the States to be with the mister.

I don't think I would call what we've been up to lately a major purge, but it has been a rather intentional stuff reduction to make room for more daily life, with less time spent daily on organizing/sorting/cleaning/tidying. I definitely started small with this several years back, and slowly have been building up steam. Its hard getting rid of stuff, especially stuff that has memories attached - oh, so and so gave me that, or oh, I got that at such and such, but for me the evidence is definitely behind having less stuff and being more content (and less stressed by the amount of tidying one has to do!).

Lately I've gotten a great little helper -  Little M has gotten big enough, and old enough, to be a great help, so she's been helping, and we are moving through different areas of our home, decluttering as we go, organizing, tidying, and making sure that we limit the amount of stuff we have, only keep things that are useful and/or beautiful, and attempt to have only one of things when duplicates aren't necessary.
some furniture (not my rowing machine though!) on it's way out the front door, with associated kid-decorations

One of the problems I've been noticing as we try to pare down certain areas, is that since a lot of our stuff is second hand, we often have two or three somewhat useful items, when we could get away with one if only it had all the right characteristics. For example, we had 4 oven mitts, but one was hard to use but a great thickness, two were nicely fitted but had random thin patches that often resulted in hot hands, and one was rather stained, singed, and a bit too large. We got rid of one, and likely could get rid of one of the thin ones, although I hate getting rid of half a set, so for the moment here they be. I could list any number of other things/types of things that we have that have the same problem, a couple not-quite perfect items where one would do.

kid clothes on their way to be donated
This is a problem I've found with second hand/gifted things, they often aren't the perfect ideal item for your current use. However, since thrifting saves so much money, and since reusing things instead of buying new is important to me, I'm not sure of the best solution for that problem. Another reason you end up with a multitude of not-quite perfect items is if you have stuff that you've had for a while, but your use of them has changed over time. I'm trying to be intentional and make do, but there are certain areas (my wardrobe for example), where I'm winnowing things down, to see what is really needed, and what might need to be replaced with something more suitable.

freshly decluttered bins of outgrown kid clothes waiting for Baby E to fit them
In terms of how much stuff we've gotten rid of, well pretty much every time my mother in law (an avid ebay seller!) comes to visit, we send her home with several bags and boxes of things to be sold, or donated if she doesn't feel they would sell or be worth selling. In addition, Little M and I took a large load of kid clothes in to a local women & child support group type organization, where they have a room in the back filled with donated kids clothes for people to pick through as needed. We had gone through our stash of Little M's outgrown clothes as I had realized we had over a dozen long sleeve t-shirts in one size, so clearly I was keeping too many items between kids!

As you can see from the above photos, there is still a long way to go to get a much simpler, streamlined house with less clutter, and less possessions, but we are on a roll at the moment, and motivated to get there!  Ahhh... less stuff just feels so good!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Upgrading

We resisted 'upgrading' to smart phones for years, but finally did this past month, and boy, do I regret not doing so earlier! The reason being - we were holding off because of the added cost of a data plan. Well, I'm not sure if this has just recently changed due to the big companies finally realizing they needed to compete with the smaller companies running off their towers, or what, but we are paying LESS now, for 2 smartphones than we were before for 2 dumbphones!

Part of the reason is our own fault. We were out of contract with our old dumpphones for several years, but hadn't realized that there was a 15 dollar a month per line discount if you bring your own phones, which phones out of contract are. So we should have been paying 30 bucks a month less before already. So there was that savings, and the rest of the cost savings must be due to better rates now than in the past.

We bought one old used iphone with some of my saved birthday/christmas money (thanks mom & dad!). I had been saving that money for a new laptop, but mine still is doing ok, so that got moved down the priority list for the time being, as the reason we had to upgrade, or do something, now with our phones was that my husband's finally died (at 4 years it was not a surprise, and had been coming for almost a year with a slowly dying screen). We'll use the monthly savings in our new phone bill for the next few months to save up for another used iphone, and then we will both have smart phones!

We had both been wanting smartphones for a while now, and so while it was a good exercise to delay that want, since it truly wasn't a need, once we needed a new phone, and realized we could actually save money with a smartphone plan now, it was a no-brainer. Not to mention the added savings and convenience we will realize by having the convenience of a iphone: GPS/map capabilities when driving in the city, imessage & facetime to better stay in touch with my Canadian friends and family, to do and grocery list apps to reduce paper lists & forgetting of said paper!, and easy photos without lugging the DSLR around everywhere - even in the house!
I've already been making my daily to do lists on my phone, and have started trying to find the perfect grocery list and grocery price book app, and the simplicity of snapping quick pics of the girls on the go has been just great (and stitching them together to create photo collages is SO easy on my phone!).
Having an extra 20 or so bucks in our pocket each month, even with setting aside money for future phones, and with having iphones, is a pretty great feeling!! Of course, there are associated costs - protective case (I have a bad habit of carrying too much stuff and thus dropping semi-important things like my phone - never the baby, but often the phone!), old-school handset (for Little M to talk more easily on it to the grandparents), and now I'm realizing that although I specifically got an old iphone 4 as nothing newer would be compatible with my old mac laptop running leopard (still!), due to it being upgraded to ios 7, it actually won't sync with my itunes. Not really a problem unless I wanted to sync my icalendar or itunes, as it still will sync photos,, but I had been excited to transfer some podcasts across from my itunes. It will be simple (I think) to set them up to be downloaded directly to my phone, but a bit of an inconvenience that I wasn't expecting. Ah the joys of having old things, right?!

--the photos in this post are from the last few days with my new phone. yay for moments captured that otherwise wouldn't be, as I'd been finding that with 2 kids, I rarely had time/hands free for the real camera, and I do so love having photos!
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