Thursday, June 21, 2007


You know, it’s always easy to get bogged down in what hasn’t gotten done. We haven't finished the vegetable garden. We haven't started the root cellar or the patio or the much-needed repairs to the shed/chicken coop to be. We've barely thought about home modifications like rainwater catchment or wood heat. With the baby due at the end of August, sometimes time weighs on us most oppressively. This morning, though, as I watched Jacob check on the bees from the upstairs bathroom window, which affords a handsome view of the back yard, I thought I’d prefer to think of what we have done in the nine months since we moved in here. It’s a heck of a list, really.

We’ve painted three rooms, one of which had to be stripped of a century of wallpaper and one of which needed all the crown molding replaced. We’ve put together comfortable and attractive spaces in the living room, library, kitchen, and dining area, and our bedroom is finally really coming together, too. We’ve put in a nice washer and drier, shifted a few cable connections, insulated some water pipes, made some repairs, and replaced various wood screws. We’ve unpacked all of our things, and acquired a great many more things.

We’ve put bees in the back yard, and they’re currently going strong. Jacob’s attention is constantly being redirected elsewhere, but even so, he’s got the makings of a very nice little metalworking and blacksmithing shop coming together in the garage, with an assortment of tools that's nothing short of incredible considering that a year ago we lived in an urban apartment. We have a happy little apple tree and a lovely raspberry patch. We’ve cleared, fenced, and planted a garden, and eaten our own radishes and peas, with carrots, cucumbers, peppers, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and tomatoes on their way. We’ve improved our garden soil tremendously, and maintained a compost heap to good effect. We’ve torn out no end of weeds and grass (the difference being largely one of intention in our minds), and planted a sweet little culinary herb garden in the front yard, and various other herbs along the side bed and elsewhere, to the total tune of 31 varieties of medicinal and culinary herbs. We’ve dug up and saved for future projects a rather tremendous amount of stone. We acquired two cats, whom we love dearly.

We’ve put up apple sauce and strawberry jam and frozen strawberries, cherries, asparagus, and rhubarb sauce. We’ve experimented with making hard cider and apple cider vinegar, with varying success. We’ve made fruit leathers and jerky, cookies, breads, simple cheese, and pasta. Over time, we’ve collected an amazing number of canning jars and lids at little to no expense to ourselves, and stand ready to draw this summer’s bounty to ourselves as much as we possibly can. We’ve bought the chest freezer we dreamed of so long, and in addition to the things already mentioned, it currently contains most of a beehive, locally raised chicken, and locally raised beef.

We’ve made fast friends with the neighbors. We’ve learned how to eat whole blue crabs, which brings us one step closer to being true Marylanders. (We still don’t think all that well of crab cakes, though—but we do like us some good pit beef with horseradish. ;-) We’ve learned the art of the country auction, and gotten some great deals on things which truly enhance our home. We’ve gone to various events—SCA, herbal, blacksmithing, and sundry others—and learned and had a good time. We’ve gradually discovered some of the many wonderful places to buy local that are all around us, and explored the wider landscape of our new home. We’ve striven with notable successes to reduce our ecological impact and increase our self sufficiency. We’ve maintained good friendships, and grown much closer to Jacob’s family than we were before. We’ve gone a long way towards growing a new family member, too, and feel happy and excited and fairly well-prepared to greet him or her soon. (Plenty of days, growing said family member has been all I've gotten done). We’ve shared pain and sorrow and fear and frustration and, most of all, a deep happiness and satisfaction, and grown closer through all of it.

Oh, and we finally bought a family car, after two years of talk. So, see--even things on the "long list" eventually do get done.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Hello all! We are Amy and Jacob, a young couple about to become a family of three. We're creating this blog as part of our commitment to live more self-sufficiently and sustainably. We hope to use it as a means to talk about what we've done and what we plan to do, and to share our efforts with others who share our goals. We hope that by so doing, we'll be able to give other people inspiration to make changes in their own lives. This is a personal blog for us, and we reserve the right to gripe about our bad days or coo over our cats/baby if that's what's on our minds, but the primary intended thrust is the practical details of a shifting mindset and lifestyle.

This seems like a good time to explain some of the reasoning behind our goal-setting and our thrust for greater self-reliance and sustainability. Essentially, we believe that the world in general, and we as citizens of the US in particular, face a number of very grim challenges in the near future, many or most of which bid well to seriously disrupt, if not destroy, the lifestyle to which we have been accustomed. That is, whether because of global warming, economic failure, energy shortage, political upheaval, war, pandemic, etc., things are going to change--probably soon, definitely uncomfortably, and probably drastically. We would prefer to choose our changes while we still have that opportunity, to test things out and see what works best for us while we still have the choice. Hence the title of the blog--we are, or are trying to, "run the changes", before we have no choices left.

We don't pretend to know when any of these problems might start seriously impacting any of us, but given that several of them are already manifest and causing real trouble both here and abroad, we don't think that a "wait and see" attitude is well-advised. We are choosing, therefore, to prepare as much as possible now, or as near as can reasonably be gotten to now without overwhelming our capacity to assimilate change.

Practically speaking, this is the drive behind greater self-reliance on our part, as well as giving us reason to support local farmers, businesses, and institutions, which have a better chance of surviving and retaining their utility in the face of large-scale collapse. Ethically speaking, it is why we choose to conserve and live in a more sustainable manner, so as to help build up institutions for a more sustainable world and to hopefully soften the blow to our society and planet. In practice, though, the practical and ethical aspects of the situation are by no means clear and distinct one from the other, nor are they in any way in conflict.

For example, we are working towards buying only local and organically raised animal products. Partly, this is because supporting and strengthening our local farmers is, in the long run, a good way of protecting our own food security interests. Partly, it's a way to get animal products that you are more confident come from animals that are/were healthy, rather than riddled with dubious chemicals and, usually, diseases. On the other hand, local and organic foods have a smaller ecological footprint than industrially raised ones that have been shipped over long distances. And finally, we are ethically opposed to the abominable treatment that factory-farmed animals are subject to, and feel that we can no longer condone those practices when viable alternatives exist. Some of these reasons are practical, and some ethical, and it is not a matter of interest to us which weighs more heavily...they all lead to the same conclusion.

We have lots of projects in the works, and plans for more. We're very excited about the changes we're making to our lives and our ways of thinking, and we hope that you'll find it exciting reading about it all. We hope to get some more posts outlining our basic philosophies and ongoing projects up soon, but we've also got a pretty crazy weekend ahead of us, so don't hold your breath! ;-)

Thank you for reading!