...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Recap of Power Down Week

We survived Power Down Week, as I knew we would, and mostly achieved the goals we set for decreasing our carbon footprints for a week.  Of course there's always room for improvement.  I was going to give a day-by-day, play-by-play or how it went, but I decided to spare you the details and just report that we kept the TV off except when we heard the storm sirens go off Monday night and checked what weather was headed our way, my computer remained completely unplugged all week, Ben only checked his personal e-mail at work (he reasoned that the computer there would be turned on anyway), I drove just twice (once to a blood drive, which wasn't within biking distance as our schedule allowed, not to mention I wasn't supposed to engage in any strenuous activity the rest of the day after donating.  The other was to our music class on the lower eastside b/c our bus wasn't on time.)  We also managed to keep the oven off and cook in the sun oven as needed, though I still used the stovetop especially for two food preservation projects.  Didn't listen to the radio, didn't turn on the vacuum cleaner (much to my delight), and kept many more lights off.  We even made Vera power down by putting away all three of her battery-operated toys (the ones that annoy me anyway).  Overall, it was a pleasant week.  We connected with friends via phone calls, a concert in the park, and a play date instead of just e-mailing.  Ben asked what I missed most during Power Down Week.  Probably baking on a whim in the kitchen--the sun oven requires more planning.  I could more easily name what I DIDN'T--the daily obligation of e-mail, driving around more--biking gave me more exercise anyway, and I certainly didn't miss the sound of the television every night.  At least one interesting observation last week--we are so addicted to getting immediate results via our computers.  We wanted the week's weather forecast, but prevented ourselves from booting up just to check.  We also tend to use the internet to find business listings instead of opening the Yellow Pages.  A fun moment for me was avoiding Google Maps when I needed to find directions to our Rec. Dept. swim class this morning.  I tested my map skills and plotted the location on our 4'x6' 1959 map of Metropolitan Milwaukee, an antique store score several years ago that's been a constant conversation piece.  The most important parts of powering down for a week are becoming aware of one's weekly energy usage and therefore creating new habits.  It wouldn't be reasonable to just NOT do laundry for a week to save energy, but to find a more energy-efficient way to do this task that is required twice a week in our house.  I usually line-dry anyway so this wasn't much of a change, but it would be fun to use a wringer washer to actually clean our clothes, a chore that reminds me of helping my grandmother wring clothes in her basement when I was a kid.  We've agreed to only turn on the TV maybe twice a week, I'll reduce the amount of computer time I have in the evening, we'll cook in the sun oven more this summer, and I'll continue to use alternative transportation.

So if I wasn't on the computer and watching TV, what was I doing last week?  I found time to read a lot, play with Vera, bike, picnic, walk, sew, and preserve.  As I mentioned before, I didn't feel like I missed anything while I was unplugged.  I made a batch of strawberry jam with honey as well as my first batch of "Sunshine Rhubarb Juice Concentrate."  One of my preserving goals over the last couple of years has been to can more juices as we (make that Ben) drink(s) a lot of them.  I had a load of rhubarb from Ben's boss as well as a fair amount from our own yard so I made six pints of concentrate.  I also sewed some mail slots to hang in our front vestibule.  It's been a challenge keeping Vera out of the mailbox and tearing into the envelopes so these slots couldn't have waited much longer.  I chose some vintage floral canvas I bought at the antique flea market a couple seasons ago and some other green canvas reused from a shower curtain I made for our old apartment.  I used a vintage button also found at the flea market.  So far the system is working.

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