Moving to the Urban Homestead

urban homestead

I moved in with my 83-year-old dad at the beginning of this year to help him stay independent in his home for as long as possible. Hopefully to live out his life here.

Although we are in the middle of the big city in Southern California, I am trying to homestead it as much as possible. In a multigenerational household, this is tricky, as 3 out of 5 of us are very convenience and disposable oriented.

This is a 50 something-year-old home, so much of the infrastructure has broken down and had to be replaced in the last several years. New water and sewer lines each cost about what we paid for the house, to begin with. A new roof wasn’t cheap, either. There are a few other large projects waiting, but hopefully, nothing that will be a disaster before we get to it.

Some of the little changes I have been making:

Bathroom

handheld shower head

  • Shower chair

  • Homemade all natural bar soap/shampoo bar

  • Homemade lotion –still working out the bugs with the liquid formula

  • Low flush/power flush toilets

Cooling

  • Using ceiling fans and room fans before turning on a/c

ceiling fan

  • Keeping windows and doors open during cooler hours so we can keep the a/c off for longer (trying to keep it off til noon)

  • Turning off a/c as soon as air cools outside (around 7 pm)

Kitchen

  • Using the outdoor grill as much as possible to avoid heating up the house

outdoor kitchen

  • Using the crock pot outside to avoid heating up the house

  • Hand washing dishes, as it takes several days to fill the dishwasher for a load, and they don’t get clean unless they go in clean (doesn’t make sense, does it?)

  • Decluttering cabinets and getting rid of broken, unused, and excess stuff

  • Cooking most meals at home

Pool

pool and drain barrel

  • Drain barrels to hold excess water from pool vacuuming, for treating and using to clean patio and water garden.

  • This is still in the experimental stage. Theoretically, the chlorine breaks down and evaporates in a few days. We have a salt water system, so I am not sure if the salt electrolyzed into chlorine breaks down, or stays salty to harm the plants.

Garden

  • Some successes and some failures.

  • Constant battles with slugs and mites.

  • Not as much food as I had hoped, but taking care of the boy, the dad, and the grands take priority and I get pretty tuckered out.

Projects I’m working on or that are on the list:

  • Gray water system for laundry, showers, and kitchen, leading to lawn and garden

  • Solar power for pool pump and trailer

  • Improve rain guttering and add rain barrels, leading to lawn and garden

  • Thermal draperies and curtains

  • Improve garden

  • Heating

  • – Firewood

  • – More efficient fireplace insert

Sadly, I am not using a clothes line to dry clothes, as my housemates frown upon that. Happily, our gas bill (we have a gas dryer) is very low, so I guess our dryer is pretty efficient. My share of the laundry is minimal, anyway.

The gray water system and the two small solar units are priorities, as these 2 utilities have been directly affected by the extra watering of the lawn and garden and the running of the pool pump, respectively. The only reason the gray water is taking so long is that I keep putting off looking under the house to figure out the best way to do the showers. The kitchen and laundry systems I have figured out, it is just a matter of taking the time to get the materials and set them up. Keeping in mind that my housemates want everything to look nice. Definitely not the country bumpkin I am.

My laundry routine is pretty well settled in, so I may put up a discreet clothes line that can be taken down before everybody’s home from work.

So that is how we’re adjusting to homesteading in the big city. I hope to have updates on these projects soon. But next on the list is a trip dad wants to take to the old farmstead, next month, so we’ll be getting ready for that.

 

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How to use a Soap Cozy

soap bags

How to use a soap cozy

What is a soap cozy? Simply, it is a little bag to put your bar of soap in. It can be used for:

  • soap storage

  • as a washcloth, without even having to remove the soap

  • put your soap ends in it and tie it shut, to use them up

  • use the tied up soap to scrub your sink or shower. What removes soap scum the best? Soap. Just make sure you rinse it off well.

soap cozy

Soap cozies can vary in size. At 4″x6″, 4″x5″, 5″x6″, they make great gift bags for small items. Also a nice pouch for carrying your cell phone or spare change and lip balm. Mrs. D’s soap cozies are made with cotton or cotton blend fabric and have long 10-12″ ribbon ties.

You can sew up a dozen of these in about an hour if you’re so inclined. Any scraps of the appropriate size (you are welcome to make them larger or smaller) will work. Trim them to a large rectangle or two smaller rectangles. I make mine about 4″x6″ give or take, or fold an 8″x6″ piece in half.

First, sew the top hems. Fold the fabric down about 1/4″ at the top and iron. Fold and iron again. This is the top of your bag. Now stitch away to hold the hem in place. I use a built-in decorative stitch for this. I do not cut the thread on each piece, I just pull it out a bit and start the next one. Then I cut all the threads when I’m done.

Next, make your bags. With right sides together and top hems together, stitch one side and bottom seam (or just one seam if you are folding). Trim threads if you are sewing several bags at once like I do.

Now for the ribbon ties. You can use the bags without them, but I like to add them because I use them to close the tops. Cut 2 12″ pieces of ribbon for each bag. Hold or pin them about 1″ down from the top of the bag, with the long ends inside the bag and coming out the top. You are leaving a tiny bit on what will be the inside of the bag to hold it there. Stitch the last side of the bag. Trim all threads.

Finally, clip corners and trim seams if necessary. Turn bags right side out and poke corners with a ruler, chopstick, pen, or another corner turner. Iron if desired.

Use and enjoy your soap cozy. Give as gifts. Or sell them at your next craft fair!

 

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Summer School

summer school

We do summer school.

Some homeschoolers take the summer off. We go year round. Some homeschools are structured. Some are completely unstructured. We are semi-structured. What I mean by that is that Yak has a daily list of assignments that he can pursue on his own time, within reason. I want his assignments done by 2 pm because often I will have a project for us to work on together. Usually, these projects are school related. Some days we have a field trip or something to do in the morning, which moves assignments to later in the day. Or even gives him a day off from his assignments.

We do school on Saturdays.

Yak gets his assignments done in 2-3 hours a day, so doing school on Saturdays is not unreasonable. It is a lighter assignment day, though. Usually, we will have some “alternative” schooling going on Saturdays, as well. This also keeps us moving towards finishing up high school requirements. Now we can move on to exploring life skills and possibilities for making a living. Deciding whether or not college will factor in. Did you gasp? Look around. Today’s college grads have lots of debt with student loans but they have to claw their way into any kind of decent job. College is not the solution that it used to be. Unless your student has a clear notion of wanting to enter the medical, legal, or engineering professions.

bike cruisers

So what are some of our alternative schooling and projects?

Learning to cut and fit new light panels in grandpa’s ceiling.

Caulking the bathroom sink.

Brushing, skimming and vacuuming the pool.

Working on mom’s truck: replacing brake lights, fuses, learning to check the fluids.

Fixing up the bikes we got at a yard sale: washing, replacing tires, adjusting brakes.

And more.

Field trips?

We’ve gone to the movies (historical fiction/fact).

Beach.

La Brea Tar Pits

Park days with homeschool group

Escape room

Hiking to Eaton Canyon Falls, San Antonio Falls, Murphy Ranch.

And more.

We document everything and save it in electronic files. Even pictures and videos. Soon I will be deciding how I will structure his portfolio and I will begin putting it together from all this documentation. This way he will have an official record when he decides to apply for college, jobs, or whatever.

In the meantime, it’s summer. I hear the swimming pool calling.

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How to use Bar Soap

The humble bar of soap.

Sometimes it seems like everyone has forgotten how to use bar soap. Since most people I know use liquid soap in tidy pump dispensers now. Yet bar soap is gentler, more economical, and does a better job of cleaning. Bar soap is truly a multi-purpose cleaner.

In order to make myself clear, when I speak of bar soap, I  am speaking of handmade soap. Rather like the kind I make, with all natural ingredients you can actually recognize. Like coconut, palm, and olive oils, milk, water, and essential oils, herbs, etc.

Sodium hydroxide (lye) causes a chemical change in the liquids and oils that soap is made with. This saponification neutralizes the lye and, as a result produces the familiar, sudsy soap that washes away grease and grime. Grease that washes away grease.

 

First of all, let me debunk the antibacterial myth:

Friction kills bacteria.

That’s right. Not soap, not hot water. Friction. Rubbing your hands together when you wash them creates the friction that kills the bacteria. Soap loosens foreign particles and oils from your skin, and water washes them away. But friction kills bacteria.

 

Now let’s move on to the truth about bar soap:

  • lasts a long time as long as you keep it dry in between uses. (use a handy soap saver)

  • does not harbor bacteria and grunge as long as you keep it dry between uses. (don’t let it sit in a puddle of water)

  • can be made with ingredients you recognize and with none you don’t.

 

Finally, what are the advantages of bar soap?

  • lasts a long time as long as you keep it dry in between uses.

  • can also be used to wash your hair.

  • makes a great pet shampoo.

  • is an all purpose cleaner. What removes soap scum best? Soap.

  • makes a great laundry soap. In this case, it needs to be grated very fine and mixed with some other ingredients, but that is a whole nuther post.

  • is a gentle soap for hand washables.

 

How do you use bar soap?

Same as liquid soap, use bar soap for washing your hands. Keep a bar of soap next to your sink in a soap dish or saucer. It is best to elevate it a little to keep it dry. Many soap savers are available for this purpose.

First, wet hands and soap with water. Then rub soap between hands and replace on soap saver. Finally, rub hands together, spreading soap as desired. Continue rubbing hands together as you rinse the soap off with water.

That’s it! Now go out and support your local soap maker or make your own!

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Education Reform Starts at Home

 education reform

For years now, our government has been lamenting the sad state of education in our country. So many methods of reform have been tried and have failed. As homeschoolers, we know that education reform starts at home. Education is not a one size fits all endeavor. The job market has changed and continues to evolve. Homeschoolers are in the unique position of being able to prepare our children for these changes, as we see them.

astronaut talk

Yet, the basics remain the same. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are key to further education and success. Once a person can read, communicate clearly through the written word, and solve basic math problems, he or she can pursue whatever career opportunities may present themselves. Provide a strong foundation in the 3R’s during elementary school. Then step back and provide guidance, support, and encouragement to the young person.

elk at rocky mt nat park

Guidance,

especially if the student in question seems to think that gaming is an appropriate career choice. It can be, but it is about as likely as becoming a rich and famous actor, musician, or sports figure. They need backup skills.

la brea calif tar pits poppies

Support,

in the form of books, supplies, activities, and mentors, as students explore possibilities for careers. Aside from textbooks and lab time, this might include internships; docent work at museums; a whale-watching trip with an oceanographer; a nature walk with a botanist, forester, or geologist; flight simulation with an airline pilot or an astronaut, etc. Once a student develops a more serious attitude towards a particular subject, they might spend more time with a mentor. Including assisting with projects, interning, transcribing notes, etc.

tar pits dig site

Certainly, all this must be documented in the student’s portfolio. Especially at the high school level. And even if you’re unschooling, your child deserves to have the tools he needs to get into college. If he or she so desires. So assemble the student portfolio with an eye to your state’s high school graduation requirements and general college admission requirements. At least at community college level.

We started high schooling this year. So I will post more about our activities and how I document them for Yak’s portfolio. How I blend it all together to satisfy requirements in several different states. How to make it good enough for college applications. And how I try to keep it interesting for Yak.

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Handmade Soaps and Lotions; Simple Living, Slow Travel; Homeschooling, Roadschooling