Saturday, September 29, 2012

And the New Name Is........

Yes, I realize that graphic might look a little familiar, since I basically took a virtual Sharpie to the old one, crossed out the TPH part and added the new part (which is far harder than picking up an actual Sharpie and writing on a piece paper or moving box, if you've never tried it).

While it might look like a lazy way to update the title graphic, it actually is very symbolic.  All the images on that graphic came from our life at the Trailer Park Homestead, which, as you read this (assuming you are reading this post fresh off the electrons and not several months later), is being transplanted to the City 'Stead.  As many of my tomatoes, ground cherries, zucchini (not watermelon or winter squash, since those are planted in actual garden beds and wouldn't survive transplant, so I'm abandoning them for my soon-to-be former neighbors to harvest until frost kills them), herbs, etc as we can transport and transplant are being uprooted (well, not quite literally, but close enough) to the new 'Stead.  And this blog is going right with them.

As of right now, I don't have any cool homesteading pictures of the new City 'Stead, because it hasn't been put together.  Once I do, I'll put those in a sparkling (well, again, probably not literally) new graphic on top of the page and say farewell to the Trailer Park Homestead completely.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How Much Do Your Showers Cost?

For the first time in my life, I'll be having a water bill at our new house.  Even though I've never had to pay for water before because it has always been included in my rent, I've tried to do the environmentally friendly thing and conserve by not running the dishwasher or washing machine until they are full, using low flow showerheads, not leaving the water running while brushing my teeth, stuff like that.

A low flow showerhead makes long showers cheaper

Except when it comes to my showers.  I like to take a long, hot shower every morning to turn my brain on, figure out the day, and meditate a bit.  Plus, my scalp gets itchy if I don't shampoo daily (sidenote: it's a bit better with the "all natural" shampoos that don't contain things like SLS, but it is still uncomfortable.  )

At the new house, my husband doesn't want me to take long showers, at least not until we figure out how much it would cost us on the bill to have my showers.  Thus began an epic quest to determine right from the first shower in that house, how much do long, hot showers cost?

For the purposes of my question, I'm considering the heat to warm the water a constant, since that's something we've been paying here and not something that would increase our bills at the new house versus the old house.  The only variables I'm looking at are water and the related cost of sewer.

From the rate sheet on the utility's website, it appears that there is a flat monthly fee, based on the type of meter and a rate per ccf, or hundred cubic feet of water used.  Since the flat rate isn't going to change whether I use one gallon of water for a quick wipe down, or take a full-length (read: until the hot water runs out) shower, I'm not going to consider that in the cost of a shower.  The cost per ccf per month appears to be $2.56, with an additional fee of approximately $0.44 for the chemicals they use to treat it, so a total cost of about $3 per ccf.

But wait!  That's just the water coming into the house!  They charge us coming and going!  On top of the water charges, there are a flat fee and per ccf charges for sewer use as well.  Again, since we flushed the toilet at the new house already, that's going to take care of the flat rate.  We used it, it is there.  The variable rate is 4.70 per ccf commodities charge plus a $0.59 per ccf inflow/infiltrations commodity charge.  So using one ccf a month, going down the drain, is $5.29, bringing my total costs per ccf month to $8.29.

I keep the water heater set to a really low temperature, to prevent scalding by the children (or me, during an airbrained moment) and to keep other utility costs down, so one of my showers (you can stop picturing me wet and naked any time now, thanks) usually consists of the hot water on full blast with little to no cold water in the mix and goes until the hot water starts to run out.  I know from survival stuff that the average hot water heater contains about 30 gallons, so that is approximately what I use for a shower.  Since I shower daily, that means I use roughly 915 gallons a month for showering, or 1.22 ccf (1 ccf = 748 gallons).   For all my showers for the month, it will cost a projected $10.11. 

The other way to look at it is one full-length shower costs about $0.33.  Considering how much I save the family on everything else under the sun, from food to clothes to things around the house, I don't think that's too much to pay for one little thing that is a small but important "luxury" in my life!

How much do your showers cost?

For this post, I had a lot of help from my expert on all things Lansing and crazy spreadsheet lady, my friend Melissa, from Cookies, Crayons, Classes, & Chaos.  (Seriously, she put yellow on a spreadsheet to do with sewers.  Who does that?  I guess I should just be grateful for her help...and that she didn't use brown.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

More New House Pictures--on the Inside

By request, here are pictures from the inside of our new house.  It is such an upgrade from living in a single wide that I'm not sure my brain can really wrap around it yet!  I'm trying not to get too excited about the wide open spaces inside the house, because I remember how much bigger our current tiny place looked with nothing in it, but having an upstairs area for the kids and a basement is a big enough improvement that it should all work out great, no matter how exactly we fill the house.

This is my small, but bigger than current, kitchen.  There is no dishwasher, which will be an adjustment, but there doesn't appear to be any critters, which is a major plus!  The counters, cabinetry, and plumbing all looks new as well.  I love the retro flooring as well!

This is the dining room.  It is huge in my eyes, about the size of our current living room.  I'm sure it will shrink a lot when I have our small chest freezer, hutch, homeschooling shelf, and table for six in it.  This is the view looking from the living room, toward the kitchen.  The shut door off to the right leads to the upstairs, which will be the children's domain.

And this is the living room.  I am so excited that there should be enough room for the couch, love seat, and coffee table and still have enough room to move around them!

This is our bedroom.  It's considerably smaller than what we have now, but with all the extra room in the rest of the house, I doubt I'll miss the space!

This is the mudroom, right inside the front door.  I doubt we'll use the front door much, except to get the mail (how awesome is that that our mailbox isn't a quarter mile away?), but I'm very excited that there is a designated area for coats, shoes, and all that nonsense that we've always kind of tripped over all over for the past couple years!

Our Michigan basement won't house some of the projects I'd been toying with, like a full blown garden with grow lights (which might attract the wrong sort of attention from the police anyway), but will be adequate for storage and as emergency shelter in severe weather, something I've sorely missed the past eight years that I've been living in a trailer!

This was taken from the stairs, peering into the children's domain of upstairs.  There's a large common area here, which will be the playroom and toy storage area.  There is also a common closet that they will share for hanging clothes (of which they don't have many, so that's okay). 

This is one of the two bedrooms upstairs.  The only difference between the two is which side the window is on, so of course the children are already arguing over which set of kids, the boys or the little ones, gets which room!  Kids!

So that's pretty much it.  That's the grand tour.  I didn't show you the bathroom, since you don't need to use it, being on the other side of the internet (and if you came over, it's impossible to miss just inside the back door, where everyone would come in), but it is a pretty good sized room that has a stacked washer and dryer, cabinets for towels (a first for our living spaces, like, ever) and bathtub with a sliding glass door in addition to the "necessaries".

This is going to be so much nicer than trailer living!  And once we get moved in, inside and out, I'll announce the name of the new homestead!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Before" Pictures of the Homestead-to-be

Out of all the houses we looked at, we ended up being accepted at our first choice!  It has a nice area for the kids upstairs, a Michigan basement so we finally have someplace for some more advanced food storage and someplace to go during tornado warnings, and the biggest yard of every place we looked at!  For me, the basement and the yard were some of the biggest pluses for what we were looking at.  On this house, I was also greatly encouraged by seeing the next door neighbor had clothes hanging on a line in the back yard, something that had been forbidden at the Trailer Park Homestead.  I'm seeing a lot of potential for this new place.....but I haven't asked if I can have chickens yet!

This is our front yard to be.  Since we are on an extremely busy street, I haven't decided if I'm going to leave it more or less as is for camouflage (nothing to see here; move along) for the sake of security, or if I'm going to turn it into a showcase of what is possible to grow in a small area to serve as an inspiration for the surrounding community, and just expect to share whatever is up there with the community.  If it wasn't on a busy street, there is no question that I would have a showcase, but this is one of the city's major streets, so it may draw more attention than I want to deal with, in a negative way.

This picture shows the side yard, as taken from the middle of the backyard.  There isn't a whole lot of side yard, but that's okay, because if I do want to conceal my urban growing activities, I'll want to put a privacy screen of some sort up there to block the backyard from the three- or four- lane one way street that goes in front of it.  I'm also excited about the ramp, because that means for the first time, my sister-in-law will be able to visit us, so I'll definitely be looking to make sure to keep that accessibility when designing the garden.  The other side of the house is driveway, so nothing to see there.
This picture is from the corner of the property.  You can tell from the small size of the ramp that it's a pretty decent sized yard!  Not so large that I'm really thinking about goats, but I definitely intend on asking the landlord about chickens, once I make sure that local ordinances would allow for them (which I'm pretty sure they do, I just need to find out specifics).  The van isn't actually parked in the real driveway/parking area, since I wanted to keep the back of the house clear for pictures, so that's actually future gardening area as well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Acorns Everywhere

After looking at the first four houses this afternoon and as we were waiting for our appointment to look at a fifth house, we stopped at a park to fill out a rental application for a house we kind of liked (it was in hardcore ghetto, but at least the bedrooms were laid out in a formation we liked, it had a basement, and a decent sized yard) and to let the kids run wild.  I expected that as soon as they were released from the van they would take off running toward the playground.

It turns out my children are squirrels.

Rather than rushing off to play, they squealed, "Look at all the acorns!  Mom, what can we put them in to collect some?"  I produced a plastic grocery bag that we keep in the vehicle for trash bags and they set to work collecting the nuts.  I think they ended up spending more time collecting acorns than they did playing!  You see, they know that tasty food can be made from acorns and were excited to do their part to collect the key ingredient in such delicacies as acorn pound cake.

Since we have all this craziness of looking for a house going on now, with the packing and moving that is to follow, I doubt I'll have a chance to post any fresh acorn recipes this year, but here is a compilation of my recipes and acorn instructions from last year:

Eating Acorns--How to gather and make acorn meal

Chocolate Chip Acorn Bar Cookies

Acorn Griddle Cakes

Apple Acorn Crumble

So now that you know acorns are food, get out there and start gathering them before the real squirrels get them all or they go to waste!

Friday, September 7, 2012


Yes, for real.  We've been given notice that we cannot renew our lease at the end of the month like we'd been planning, so we have to be out of here by the end of the month.  How that is going to happen when we don't have the money to move, nor will we likely be able to find anything that meets our requirements (under $600 a month, 3 bedrooms, and something resembling a yard, in the Lansing or Jackson, Michigan areas), so quickly, nor are we likely to find someone that will rent to use when my husband has been unemployed almost a year and I am self-employed in a very non-traditional sense, I don't know.

What I do know is all this is going to be left behind or destroyed:
That blank patch has been planted with the last of my spinach seeds.  I'll take the garden box with us, but it is too heavy to transport with soil in it, so all those plants will be destroyed.
Obviously, the boy is coming with us where ever we end up, but that gorgeous volunteer tomato plant and all the pepper plants in this garden patch will be left behind.  I plan on telling our neighbors that they can have whatever it produces until the trailer park management weed whacks it down.
 So that's it, my major update about the Trailer Park Homestead.

I do plan on keep up my homesteading activities where ever we go, but, as far as I know right now, it could be a Tent City Homestead, Homeless Shelter Homestead, or, probably the best case scenario, the Ghetto Homestead.  This is definitely a very, very scary time for us.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Finding Drafts Before Winter Finds You

With the unofficial end of summer here, it is time to turn our attention to winter. Yuck. With that mind, here is a guest post from Jakob Barry, a home improvement journalist for He blogs for pros across the U.S. like Washington, DC, carpenters.

Whatever living space you have one of the most important situations to rectify before cooler weather arrives is drafts. That’s because when it’s freezing outside and the wind is howling the brisk air will find its way inside your home making life more frigid and uncomfortable than it has to be.

Furthermore, while you’re sitting there hands around a hot glass of tea dreaming about spring the heating bill will be rising. That’s because whether it’s an electric heater or a basement furnace trying to maintain some sense of warmth, the thermostat will constantly be trying to compensate for the imbalance in temperature.

That said the following are a few tips for finding drafts and trying to seal them up so the indoors will be a cozy space away from the wintry chaos.

Locating drafts
Drafts are mainly found around windows and doors because those spots are the largest openings on a home. Once in a while an old structure in need of repairs that wasn’t tended to may develop a draft in a different spot but this would be an unusual case.

Doors and windows are the places to focus on when locating drafts and the best way to do this is with a candle.

It doesn’t have to be at night but should be on a day where there is a breeze.

1. Remove curtains from around windows and anything else likely to catch fire that may also be around doors.
2. Close and lock windows and doors.
3. Light a candle and make sure it can be held securely.
4. Holding the candle move it over the space just across from the door or window going over the frame from top to bottom and any parts in between.
5. Watch the flame carefully. If it flickers chances are you’ve discovered a draft.
6. Try to mark the spot with a light pencil so you won’t forget where it is.

Sealing easy drafts
Once you’ve discovered a draft don’t be startled. If it’s not too serious you should be able to deal with it yourself and not have to hire a carpentry contractor. If this is the case all you’ll need is a caulking gun, some caulk, and rubber gloves.

1. Look at the pencil marks made when holding the candle and eye ball where they would correspond outside.
2. Caulk around the window or door exterior with extra emphasis on where the drafts were.
3. Smooth out the caulk with a finger while wearing the rubber gloves so it covers any and all openings.
4. On a breezy day check with the candle to see if the drafts were sealed.

Sealing more complicated drafts
Sometimes the drafts are more complicated and may require weather stripping, especially around doors. This can be purchased at a local home improvement store and installed easily by following the directions.

It’s when drafts are found around the mechanism of a window that a professional may need to be called in. This often occurs when a window is out of alignment and needs to be serviced.

In such an event, it’s important to realize that while paying someone to give the window a tune up may not seem like an option you’d like to follow through with, the savings it will most likely provide on the utility bill will be worth the money.