More Parents Deciding to School-Home


Posted on : 7:31 AM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

A great article from The Onion, the satirical news that's gets a few too many things right:,17159/

"In addition to providing better supervision and overall direction, school-homing has become popular among mothers and fathers who just want to be less involved in the day-to-day lives of their children."

Bears and the Bees: Quick Update


Posted on : 1:08 PM | By : Anonymous | In : , ,

The adventure continues... it has been almost four weeks of camping now and progress has been made and lots of wildlife has been seen.

Yesterday the girls were playing in the big field which is bordered by a forest leading down to a ravine with a creek. There is a fence, but it is a run down and has quite a few holes. Our neighbor, whom we had complained about for his rowdy, drunken ways happened to see them playing and walked over to tell them to watch out for bears. At that moment, a hungry black bear came out of the bushes and was making his way towards Annie. Our neighbor told the girls to run, and they booked it for the door of the bus, and he scared it off. I happened to look out the window just as the bear was running up the field and back into the woods.

So for the next month or so, the bears will be hungry and we will be living in the middle of their migratory path. I guess the ravine is their walkway to wherever it is they go in the summer.

On the other hand, there aren't any bees. The trees have burst forth in a glorious splendor of pink and white, but I've only seen one bumblebee and a few wasps. It looks like it might be a slim year for fruit.

I've gotten the hang of doing the dishes... I haul the water in my collapsible water container which has a spout. Then I put it on a table and put large bin on the ground under the spout to catch the graywater. I quickly scrub the dishes down with soap, and put them down in the bin. When I'm done scrubbing, I turn on the spout and rinse everything off. The water is generally lukewarm and I have learned to let go of using hot water for this. I was trying to heat it up but we make so many dirty dishes that it would take hours to heat enough hot water on the camp stove. It's been so rainy a fire wouldn't work either on a consistent basis. I now have the additional luxury of an indoor portable buffet stove but it takes quite a while to heat water on it.  When I am done with the dishes I dump the water in the compost pile.

Is cold water...bad? Tradition says yes - every woman in my family washes in excruciatingly hot water. BUT, from what I know of germs, dishes would have to be boiled for a few minutes to be germ-free.  It's actually the soap that is cleaning the dishes, and the warm water helps get rid of the grease. If a greasy residue is left, that eventually could cause some problems I suppose. We don't eat much greasy food though.  So far everything is feeling very clean.

The bus windows that needed to be removed are almost all removed and covered with metal and plywood and primed, and half of them are also fitted with insulation.  This weekend we will finish those windows up, finish bolting down the floor, and create an electrical and plumbing plan.  Wiring has to get done before we finish insulating the walls.

The weather has calmed down and we are enjoying seeing how much wildlife we can spot... bears, bald eagles, robins, hawks, geese, wild rabbits and today I saw a weird white animal off in the field that appeared to be grazing.  It was smaller than a goat but much large than a cat.  The girls have seen it before but we can't find our binoculars.  Hmmm...

Steampunk Bus - Crazy Weather - (03/21/10 - 011)


Posted on : 5:57 PM | By : Anonymous | In :

Warning: Wonderful Things May Occur!


Posted on : 10:44 AM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

It is with incredible excitement that I announce that my book Deliberate Life: The Ultimate Homesteading Guide, is going to be published by Skyhorse Publishing, who has also published Back to Basics and many other of my favorite homesteading and self-reliance books.

My new book is going to have the cover above, and it will be full color and also have even more information and many, many more photos and illustrations!

The catch is that while I tell you this now, the book will not come out until about January 2011... so you'll just have to wait!  Furthermore, my current book will no longer be available as of April 1st of this year... in only two weeks.   This means that if you want to have the original, self-published edition of my book, you'll have to buy it now.

At some point in April I will be completely redoing my website and I will no longer be hosted on Blogger.  Some of you have been coming to for many years, even way back when I had a forum and you could log in and talk to people and post articles.  I want to thank those people who were there, the seasoned homesteaders that I double-checked all the knowledge compiled in my book, who freely offered their time and encouragement, and all the people who have been reading my blog just because they want to.  Thank you!

Keep your eyes peeled for more adventures!

Sometimes Children Need to Fail


Posted on : 9:15 AM | By : Anonymous | In :

I am sick and in bed today and it made me realize how much I do stuff for my girls that they could do themselves.  It's not very 'continuum'.... continuum parenting dictates that you only do things for your kids that they need, which means relying on instinct rather than an emotional response.  For example, Autumn is four now and really wants me to continue to dressing her every day like a baby - but I know she can dress herself quite capably.  It's in my own emotional fear that I am letting her down in some way, or maybe I don't want to let go of her baby age, that has prevented me from saying no to her.

Growing up, like in many families, my parents didn't often allow me to fail.  I love them and I don't think it harmed me in any way because when I grew older and wiser I began to realize when they were letting me win a game or going behind my back to fix something that I wasn't doing very well.  They loved me, and hated seeing me disappointed.

But, in the long run, I think it did give me a big fear of failure, and it made it tough to deal with criticism.    Failure really isn't a big deal, and yet when a parent tries to constantly save their child from it, it sends a pretty big message. Ideally, if a child is allowed to fail now and then, and it is treated as no big deal, and then coached into trying again until success is achieved... they will obviously learn that failure is just a means to success.  Persistence, patience, confidence, fortitude - a multitude of positive character traits will follow.

This morning, not being able to get out of bed, I couldn't open the door of the bus for the girls.  Normally the bus door opens with air when the bus is running, but when it is off you have to shove it open and it gets stuck on this one spot.  It takes patience to figure out the trick and a willingness to exert some muscle early in the morning, but nothing two strong girls shouldn't be able to handle. I can't wait to put in a real door, but it is what it is.  I decided I wasn't going to kill myself to open a door for them that they could spend the time learning how to open, so I didn't.

A hundred screams and a couple buckets of tears, and about ten minutes later, the door opened.  The girls at first refused to work together.  4 and 7 do not like to do things together at the same time, and after heaving and shoving and yelling, "I can't!" they finally realized I was not going to pull myself out from under the covers and they opened the door.

Now, this did have repercussions for me... Autumn decided this was unacceptable and promptly peed her pants in protest.  But after opening the door they both got a huge confidence boost, got themselves dressed for the day, and then Annie cleaned up the bus and swept for me.  So sometimes... it is better as parent to just... do... nothing.

Water, Weather and Technology


Posted on : 12:46 PM | By : Anonymous | In : , , ,

Good morning from the Albatross!  It has now been a week and a half and I wanted to update you on some of the practical details of our camping adventure.  The most important aspect of camping is something completely out of our control, and that is The Weather.  The weeks leading up to March 1st, our departure day, were balmy (if wet) days that threatened the Winter Olympics.  The weekdays were sunny t-shirt weather.  The weekend John finally had time to work on the floor, it dropped below zero and snowed.  It has gradually been warming up, but it is still 40 degrees and windy.  Rule #1: Never rely on the weather.

So, to combat this, we wear many layers of clothing, I changed the baby's diaper under the blankets ("Look Rainn!  We're in a tent!"), and I'm not really cooking much in my outdoor kitchen.  This morning the sun peeped out so I used the opportunity to heat water on the camp stove to do some dishes and I made scrambled eggs.  For dinner I will use one of my packs or ready-made organic soup. In a few weeks the weather will warm up significantly so I will be patient.  For now I have a widget on my Mac that connects me to the Weather Channel with radar so I know what to prepare for, because the weather and temperature impacts every single thing I do and our plan for the day changes accordingly.

Which brings me to the technology we are using.  John's iMac is at a friend's house which he can access through screen sharing using my Macbook Pro.  We have wifi in the bus because we boosted the connection from the house with an Airport, but if we lose that connection or just need internet quickly, we use 3G tethering using the iPhone which gets pretty good connection speeds.  We use the computers for work, and also for our bus plans which I will post soon.

The other interesting aspect is that I now know exactly how much water we use.  We drink approximately 3 gallons of water per week, we use about 5 gallons for cleaning per week, and we take 3-4 showers.  Those are family showers at the pool that last about 20 minutes.   Shockingly, a shower uses about 2 gallons per minute, which means each shower is using 40 gallons.  We also do 4 loads of laundry in a front load washer, which uses about 40 gallons per load.  A toilet uses about 5 gallons per flush, and right now we are using a regular toilet and we flush it about 5-6 times per day, so about 30 gallons (when our RV toilet is in that will be much less). Our family total water usage for a week, with four people and a baby, and a dog, is then 318 gallons of water per week.  Typically, a family of four uses about 1,750 gallons per week.  It makes me think that the only way people will learn to save water is to just not have such free-for-all access to it.  I feel like we have exactly how much we need to use and we're not scrimping on the water usage, and yet we are using 6 times less than the average family.

I think it takes a little geekiness to obsess over water usage the way I am right now, but when you have to carry it around in your arms you suddenly appreciate how much it really is.  And my arms are tired!

Camp Albatross


Posted on : 11:44 AM | By : Anonymous | In : ,

Steampunk Bus - Moving Day! - (03/6/10 - 010)


Posted on : 1:52 PM | By : Anonymous

Life in the Albatross


Posted on : 9:38 PM | By : Anonymous | In : , , , ,

My current internet is tethered through the iPhone but we are working on setting up wifi so I can post photos and videos.  I wanted to tell you what it's like out here.

As you know, it is very early March and this is Canada after all.  Vancouver Island is the warmest place in Canada but we are still seeing some below freezing temperatures when the sky is clear.  Before we moved in, John finished sealing the floor with an anti-rust paint and an anti-corrosion paint that actually coats the floor with aluminum.  Then he laid a heavy plastic vapour barrier, then 2" pink foam insulation with an R value of 10, and on top of that is some high-quality plywood that is quite smooth.  These layers still need to be bolted down and sandwiched with large bolts that go through to the underbelly of this beast.  For now the plywood is so big and heavy it doesn't shift when we walk on it.  It is surprising what costs the most... the floor ended up taking $1100, but he sheet metal that will cover the outside of the school-bus style windows will only be $200.  Rather than removing all the windows, we are only removing some and replacing them with double-paned RV windows, and the rest will be covered with metal and painted to match the exterior, and sandwiched between insulation on the inside.

But camping is the best part.  The way we have it set up right now is our queen mattress, the girl's sleeping bags and blankets, the playpen, and the dog crate are all within a a 15' area in the center of the bus divided on either end by leftover vapour barrier plastic.  In the center of this is a little electric space heater fireplace. This increased our night-time temperature by about 20-30 degrees.  Everyone is also wearing warm polar fleece pajamas, the baby sleeps in our bed, and everyone has double blankets.  Fortunately this is as cold as it will ever get in here.  The first night we were here it was actually way warmer and we didn't have the plastic and our beds were all spread out, which is what I ended up showing in the video I will upload later.  Insulation will be added in the next week and the bus won't experience such extreme changes from a greenhouse in the sun to a freezer at night.

One reason I was so willing to do the bus this way is that I am fascinated with how humans function differently when their lifestyle changes to one with less convenience.  Whereas my mind used to wonder what to have for dinner, I am now also concerned with how to cook it and how to keep things fresh without a fridge.  While the cold temperatures make us bundle up, they also keep the ice in my cooler frozen and the food from my fridge is still good while we eat through them.  I now have a George Foreman grill, and a crock pot.  I have made grilled fish, pitas, sandwiches, and bean soup for dinner and all of it tasted so delicious.  There is something about spending time outdoors that makes anything taste just that much better.  We sit and eat in front of our fake fire surround by blankets and it is quite cozy.

We do have access to a toilet, and access to plumbing.  However, the well here isn't safe to drink so we buy water in a big jug for that.  But I just fill up my other water container for washing up.  We also get to use the washing machine and dryer.  We have electricity in the form of an extension cord, which is where I plug in my crock pot on the floor by the heater.  We also are using the bus batteries to power lights, and they are being charged by a charger so they don't die when we use them, which actually isn't very long.

So, we wake up in the morning a little bit after the sun, put our hair up, take the long walk to the bathroom, and have our breakfast.  This week it has been cold breakfasts, but when I get my canopy and set up my camp stove we will have eggs from the chickens here on the farm.  Then we do our homeschooling.  The way I have this set up is each girl has a box with an assortment of books I put in.  They just go to their box, pick what they want to do and we read and draw and learn for a couple of hours.  I will rotate these books around eventually as the rest of our books come out of storage and into the bookshelves in the bus, but for now they are keeping them busy.  Then I bundle them up and send them outside where they stay until they get hungry.  Then we have lunch.  Today it was peanut butter on a tortilla and fruit and apple juice and chips and salsa.  Then back outside they go while Rainn has her afternoon nap.  Then they come back when they are hungry and tired, they change into pajamas early and we might watch a movie on my computer or read in their beds until dinner.  A few times a week we go swimming at the local pool, get clean and wear the kids out even more, and by the time they climb into their sleeping bags they beg to go to sleep.

The adjustment from being inside most of the time in a wet and rainy urban environment to being outside most of the time in a somewhat wet early spring homestead environment has been exhilarating and exhausting. I am so relaxed and feel so at home in the outdoors, and I have so much energy even though I am working harder and my sleep gets interrupted more.  I walk the dog through the field and follow the paths that the deer make, and listen for geese and birds returning to the island.  When I take a shivering walk in the dark to use the loo and I can't help but stop and marvel at how many more stars there are to see.  I've missed the sky.  I've missed how noisy the forest is.  I've missed that heavy, heavy dew in the morning from the mist that hangs over a valley just before dawn.  I've missed the sunrise.  I've missed seeing the girls running and screaming until they run out of breath and can't run anymore, instead of running into a fence.  I've missed tire swings and the rooster crowing before dawn because he tries to beat the other rooster to it.  I've missed not caring that we get muddy in the mud and grassy in the grass and dirty in the dirt.  I've missed the quiet.  I've missed falling into bed and slipping into deep, deep sleep quickly and painlessly.

Feeling symptoms of stress, tension, anxiety, panic, nausea, heartburn, perfectionism, obsessiveness,  tiredness, etc. etc?  Let me write a prescription for you...
Step 1: Get rid of everything you have that isn't Useful.
Step 2: Find a way to live very, very cheap and as close to nature as possible.
Step 3: Do it!