Thursday, February 1, 2018

Life at The Britten Roost: Eliminating a Car

Each year our home works on eliminating something from our home for environmental or personal reasons. In past years it has been paper towels, napkins, etc. and last year...our microwave.

So, this year we decided to give up a car. Wait. What? 

Yes, it is true...we gave up a car. In mid-December, Drew was in a major car accident that resulted in the total loss of our all-electric KIA Soul EV. 

Devastation. Yes. This was the first time we had ever bought a new car and even was leased. 

Heart-broken. Yes, but we were grateful for Drew's and the other car's occupants complete safety during the accident and for the fact we had good car insurance. In an instance we were quickly reminded that a car is just an object, a thing you have, but life is so important.

Moreover, this accident gave us a swift kick of reality. In a mere few hours, our lives had drastically changed. As we discussed buying another car, the financial implications of doing that right away didn't make sense. We needed time to think, save, and re-group. Knowing that we were successful for four years of sharing a car from 2005-2009 made us wonder if we could do it again. Drew was already taking the bus to work about 3 days a week and leaving his car at the Lake Stevens Park and Ride (about 7 minutes away) and I had recently changed my work to very minimal part-time. Could we really share a car again now with two busy kids? 
Wasn't giving up paper towels a bit easier than a car? What were we thinking? A car...but, we live in the country?

After much debate, we decided to give it a go with a plan to re-evaluate every 6 months to determine if it was working and if the actual need for another car had changed. In the meantime, we opened another bank account with the insurance money and set-up an automatic payment to occur monthly for $250, the cost we were paying monthly for the car payment and insurance. If we weren't going to have the car, at least we could continue saving for a new one since we were accustomed to the $250 being in our monthly budget. 

On paper it all looked great...a wise decision, but what does it actually look like? I know we've had lots of criticism and curiosity of paring down to one car, but The Britten's aren't ones to shy away from a challenge or a "forced opportunity". So...2018 came in roaring with only one car to our name. 
Who does that? I guess us.

Surprisingly, we are actually nearly two months into the loss of our KIA Soul EV.  Family members have been going to activities, groceries bought, and work attended, etc. all with the coordinated efforts of a one-car family. Sounds good, but there has been struggles to overcome. 

Contemplating getting rid of a car? One of the biggest obstacle in sharing a vehicle I believe is communication and selfishness. If you can't get past these two probably isn't going to be successful for you and your family. 

Coming up with a plan on a daily and weekly basis is the key to ensuring everyone's traveling needs are met. I typically review the weekly calendar on Sunday and make a mental note of the days that I need the car (training on Tuesday, Drew's work meeting on Wednesday, etc.) Typically I have two days out of the week that I don't have access to the car until later in the evening. Yes, I simply go about my day without a car in the driveway or the urge to drive away to some glamorous errand. (Frankly it has been a bit freeing sometimes.) However, sometimes things pop up in the week that causes us to re-adjust our plans. 

Today is a great example of this transportation complexity. Normally, Drew has the car on Thursdays to help after school with Keegan's Math Club since there isn't a direct bus from his work to the school. However, Fiona had an after school dance she wanted to attend. Instead of Drew having the car today, I have the car and will pick up Drew from the Snohomish Station (Fred Meyer/Kohl's) and drop him off at Cascade View Elementary for Math Club around 3:30 pm. Then, I will pick up Fiona from the dance at 3:45 pm at Centennial Middle School and swing back into town to get Keegan and Drew from Math Club at 4:30 pm. Calculated car success!

I know many of you are probably thinking...NO WAY.  But, honestly, today is a rarity and instead of annoyance I am looking forward to the "captured" car time with each of my family members. To make this work it takes coordinated communication. But, it can be done!

When you share a car, you have to realize it isn't necessary about YOUR convenience. Honestly, when the alarm rings at 5:04 am...I question whether I really need the car that day. It is a sacrifice on my part on the days that I bring Drew back and forth to the bus stop. But, I enjoy the quiet few minutes we spend discussing the day or commenting on the radio show. I have to be conscious of the time during the day. Often, I stop my work on the farm early to ensure I can clean up and get to the Lake Stevens bus stop by 4 pm. Drew is counting on me...sharing a car is not about my needs, but doing what is best for the family.

By sharing the car, I have become organized by combining trips, disciplined in my activities for the day and more appreciative of this limited resource. Each day is different. It takes work, but we are making it work for now. 

One family. 

One car.

The Britten Roost.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mended and Patched

It didn't seem like a huge request, but as I went to store to store the other day, searching high and low for a clothes struck me. Where had all the patches gone?

Non-verbally, you could see it on their faces...wondering secretly if I had just stepped out from one of the Little House on the Prairie books. (Ha, I wish!) But sadly, store clerks over and over told me, "Oh...we don't carry one mends their clothes anymore."


A sad moment. Somewhere between sewing feed-sack dresses, re-using pieces of tin foil and online grocery delivery...mending became "uncool". Driven by materialism and amazing advertising encouraging MORE; we have become a "throw-away" society.

The mentality of "why would I mend a shirt or pair of pants if I could just throw it away and get a new one?" has become a way of life. We, as a society, have deemed resources as expendable and/or justifiable that we don't have time to fix it. Ironically, the time it takes to sew on a button is shorter then that drive over to your nearest Fred Meyer or the mall. But, hey...really?

This attitude has got to change. Our landfills are overfilling, resources depleting and yet...we continue to throw away our lives.

I was taught to re-use, re-purpose, mend, fix, re-invent it and we continue to hold fast to this mentality here at The Britten Roost. I cut up strips of worn out yoga pants to tie back plants, re-purpose feed sacks into snazzy aprons or use as garbage bags in the barn, gather sticks and branches that have fallen to use in my fires, buy the $1.29 part to fix the couch, and my cats and dogs sleep on old pillows.

It is a mind shift, but I believe I'm a steward of the resources around me and I want to leave the world better. What about you? What are you doing to shatter stereo-types of our "throw away" society?

For me, I use patches.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I Resolve..

As everyone headed off to their perspective morning places (school and work), I finally found myself alone. Pulling my coat tighter around me in the brisk, morning air, I was awestruck by the pink hues hugging the mountain sky. I paused only for a moment as my too-thin pj's were no match for the frosty weather. Carefully navigating the icy stairs into the house, the screen door made a sneering smack as it closed.

Having been busy with family and enjoying vacation in California for an almost combined three weeks, the quietness felt odd. However, with the Christmas decorations tucked away for another year I felt a urge to organize. After taking my shower, I had promptly pulled out the contents underneath the bathroom sink and set to work. Downing another cup of tea, I dug through random items including numerous hair ties, expired medication, bottles of half-used lotion. Yeah me.

Though I rather be out working on the garden even in the low thirties, these chores are a necessary evil in the Winter months. My goal is to ensure I'm as organized and efficient as I can be inside so I can enjoy the Gardening months ahead. This means I am slowly tackling areas of the home that need a "refresh", whether that be repairs, cleaning, organizing, etc. Today even with a cozy fire, I felt cold so I went ahead and set my oven to self-clean to glean any extra heat from this simple chore. I made the mistake of doing this last summer...not a brilliant idea on a 90 degree day, but I learn. 

Later I chopped and prepare a pot of lentil stew to cook in the crock pot, while I finished organizing and folding laundry along with my other daily chores. As I mindlessly chopped, I thought about the New Year...wondering how many of my friends and acquaintances were struggling and/or thriving with their self-claimed New Year's resolution. This got me to ponder what my New Year's Resolutions would be for 2018.

As continued my work this afternoon, I have spent quiet reflection on my goals for this next year. While relaxing from the warmth of a roaring fire with a small quilt tucked over my legs, I give you my New Year's Resolutions. If you are reading this, I hope you are apart of making these resolutions come to fruition here at The Britten Roost. 

1. Live intentionally; slow down and enjoy the moment with my family.
2. Cook and bake from scratch using local ingredients whenever possible. 
3. Take a ride with my husband in a hot-air balloon. 
4. Grow green beans! (Darn those rabbits the last three years...this is my year!)
5. Write and publish article(s) and/or book.
6. Host/Teach a seminar/class about gardening, chickens and/or homesteading on the property.
7. Embrace living more with less. 
8. Write more.
9. Be even more creative with resources - utilizing OfferUp, bartering, networking.
10. Expand edible growing space on the property.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Rooster's Crow

Watching his slow moments the evening before, I knew something wasn't right. And...after years on the farm, you just know. Without any visible injury or sickness, he hung his head low as I left the coop. 

Throughout the evening, I felt an anxious tension that lay heavy on my spirit. So I wasn't surprised as I cracked open the coop door this morning that I saw him. Laying in a heap under the roost, he lay cold and life-less. 

In his reign, his beautiful red and green feathers boosted pride and health at The Britten Roost.  Protecting his ladies, crowing with gusto at any sign of danger, educating fair crowds...he was one of the good ones. Big Foot had become the iconic rooster for our property.  And, just like that he was gone. 

Heading off to led a 4-H Poultry meeting, in my hurriedness, I scooped him up and dropped him into an empty feed sack. Without the fanfare, it hardly seemed like the right ending to a king, but the harsh reality of being on the farm. Even in this cold gesture, I knew his gentle presence was going to be missed. 

It wasn't until I was back on my property that I could fully grieve his absence. As I worked later in garden snipping away at the tangled grape veins, I watched his ladies leisurely pecking the ground as they free-ranged. The snow-capped mountain image was sharp and the sun blazed brightly through the forest line. 

Snip, snip; each cut sounded louder than the other. Though everything at a glance was normal, it wasn't. It was oddly quiet without him "talking" to his ladies. I found solace in my work today, almost a deep loss in knowing his absence created the silence. My checks, rosy by now from the brisk winter air, seemed to sting not from the cold, but from the emptiness. 

Yes, just a rooster, many would say. But, our relationship stood really more for a time-honored tradition of respect between a farmer and a rooster. Big Foot was my farm icon. He was my rooster crowing on a fence post and he would be missed. 

As I rounded up the hens calling out to them and rattling the metal bucket filled with scratch, I glanced at his predecessor, a smaller version of the king of The Britten Roost. As he stood there protected behind chicken wire from the ladies he would soon serve; I wondered if he knew of the "shoes" he would soon need to fill in the coming months. I began to think of the future and wondered if he would carry his father's gentle spirit or if I would be leery of stepping into the coop in the days to come. 

It would take time to determine if he was friend or foe. Days before I could once again fill the morning air at The Britten Roost with a rooster's crow. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dairy Post: November 28, 2017

Author's Note: To practice free-writing style, Drew has encouraged me to write down my day-to-day activities occasionally as a writing exercise. Over the years, I've had numerous people wonder what it is like to be at The Britten Roost on a day-to-day basis. These new writing entries, I've titled "Diary Posts" will be this glimpse into life on our property. Enjoy. 

By 7:40 am, I had already cut and scooped the contents of three sugar pie pumpkins, placed them on cookie sheets and was turning on the oven. Despite my lingering cold, I was going to make the best of today. The kids were off on their perspective days, the laundry machine was swirling, and I was frying a couple of delicious farm fresh eggs up for breakfast. I read a couple of emails, downed another cup of tea, and put a few things away from our "morning rush". The washer machine announced its completion so I set myself downstairs to change loads.

Knowing it was garbage day, I found myself outside scooping dog poop in the back yard by 9 am. Glamorous, I know. But, these things must get done. Once I cleared most of Ginger's by-waste I then began picking up all of the logs and sticks she had scattered. Our log piles are located behind the house which are covered under our back porch. This means Ginger has ample access to all of the sticks and logs a dog could dream of and for me, means I play a game of  "52 Card Pick-Up" every few weeks. I used to get annoyed about the logs she drug out, but know I tell myself it is a "work-out" that most people would pay for. Some days even I have to "trick" myself to get the work done.

After I pulled down the recycling and garbage to the end of the lane, I walked slowly back enjoy the light mist of rain that freckled my face. I was greeted by a bark. Ginger was waiting in the garage for me. I couldn't resist her youthful demeanor so I took a few minutes to kick her old, soccer ball around the back yard. Noticing a few more leaves had fallen, I grabbed my rake and pulled them close to the gate to push them out into the woods. I forgot my quick, but, faithful friend so Ginger rushed the back gate and began tromping through the woods. After calling her back several times, she ran back to me smiling. I decided to put Ginger away in kennel while I finished up sweeping up the back patio and preparing the soil for grass seeds. My dad had always called it "roughing the soil" which in layman's terms means dragging a rake back and forth over and area. After preparing the soil in a few key areas, I hand-seeded them with grass seed to help some of the barren areas. This summer's drought caused much plant damage on our property, including some grassy areas. 

After letting Ginger back out, I made my way up to the grain shed to grab the wheel barrow. I raked a few piles of leaves here and there as I made my way back to the chicken coop. I had loaded up the rest of the pumpkins displayed at the front door and added them to the growing pile of pumpkins by the coop. We had been blessed by several families' Halloween/Thanksgiving pumpkins and gourds which I had been breaking and giving to the chickens. The added protein, variety and food was a bonus for our chickens and helped us keep our feed costs down in the winter months. 

As I finished dumping the last load of leaves down into the woods, the soft drizzle had suddenly turned to a full-on down pour. Since the idea of coming back out in the cold rain, didn't sound too appealing I decided to go ahead and chore the animals while I had the chance. I was pleased to see the six new chickens we added to the flock last Friday were doing well and already mingling with the established flock. It is always a gamble when you mix new birds into your flock as they have to "re-establish" the peaking order and sometimes they just don't play fair. In addition, we always do bio-security measures to quarantine, inspect and dust the birds for mites as a precaution.

As I stood filling the last of the remaining chicken waterers, the rain had started to drip through my hair. No bueno. My hair was already making ridiculously large curls, so, I made my best effort not to dawdle. But found myself, sweeping a bit and gathering eggs before I made my quick walk back to the house. Just recently the chickens egg production has increased slightly to an average of 6-8 eggs a day. This was a huge relieve as we count on these eggs to pay for their feed and supplies. Not to mention, many of my regular buyers have become anxious for their regular egg orders to be filled. You would think that 26 possible egg layers would have more, but with the reduced hours of light and many of the hens molting this is still a fair number. As I quickly walked back to the house in the rain, I was grateful for having already pulling the recycling and garbage down. I was soaked.

By the time I had made way back into the house, the air was filled with a thick aroma of pumpkin.  I went ahead and slid the now soft pumpkins out of the oven to cool. Of course, without properly cooling the pumpkins I began peeling back the layers of the outer skin. I'm not sure what the temptation was, but within a few strips I was washing off my fingers with cool water and wondering why I didn't wait. To ease the time, I found myself folding a load of laundry and celebrating that every sock had a mate...well, at least this load. 

After peeling all of the pumpkin and putting it into a large bowl, I mashed the goodness with my potato masher. The warm, soft texture was easy to combine. After measuring out 4 lbs into their containers. The thought of pumpkin muffins and bread became a reality as I pulled out the deliciousness later that afternoon. 

My afternoon was complete. A fire in the fire place, warm pumpkin muffins and the opportunity to share my day.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for your continued support of our farm. We are blessed by your friendship and love.
The Britten Roost
Drew, Katie Jean, Fiona and Keegan

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dairy Post: November 22, 2017

Author's Note: To practice free-writing style, Drew has encouraged me to write down my day-to-day activities occasionally as a writing exercise. Over the years, I've had numerous people wonder what it is like to be at The Britten Roost on a day-to-day basis. These new writing entries, I've titled "Diary Posts" will be this glimpse into life on our property. Enjoy. 

Even though the mountain peeked out from the clouds, today's weather was grey sprinkled with rain. However bleak, the few fall leaves dotted the yard and hung to some of the trees branches almost like trees filled with butterflies. Most of my work is done for the day, so I sit and enjoy a sweet orange and a hot cup of tea. The tea is surely a welcome warmth as somehow in the last few days I've seemed to lose my voice.

I finished cleaning the rest of the house today. Mainly the kitchen which needed some love as we left the turkey carving supplies and cutting boards to this morning. Keegan's Boy Scout troop enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast together last evening and we had volunteered one of our farm-raised turkeys. We had left in a hurry since our turkey needed just a few more minutes to ensure it was perfectly done. It made for a whirlwind of events and both Drew and I were quickly carving the turkey to make it on time. The kitchen definitely got the brunt of the craziness. We were proud to share our bounty. There is something empowering being apart of the entire process of raising, harvesting, and cooking your own turkey.

 As I struggled this morning to wake up, I questioned my thought process leaving this mess, however, the work needed to get done. After getting both kids to the bus stop, I walked up to the chicken coop to drop the remaining turkey carcass out into the coop. The chickens were quick to gobble up the treat.  I decided they'd like some fresh air and a chance to stretch their legs so I let them out to free-range for awhile. Later when I went back to the coop, the carcass was stripped clean in only a few hours. In the meantime, I got some loads of laundry going while I deep cleaned the kitchen.

After finishing the dusting and vacuuming, I headed over to my dear friend Kasey's home. They were heading out for the weekend and I stopped by to go over the chores so I could check on their cats and chickens in their absence. We chatted a bit about and then she helped me load up her three chicks and supplies. Not only are we cat and chicken sitting, but we get to have the chicks live with us for the extended weekend as they need extra care. Since chicks need access to fresh water at all times, it made more sense for me to load them up and care for them at my home instead of making lots of trips. I made sure to let Drew know last night that I was "chick sitting" for the weekend. I didn't want him to get home from work and suspect that I had gone off and bought more baby chicks. This may have happened a time or two. Oops.

After I got the chicks settled, Fiona came home. The kids have an early release today due to the Thanksgiving weekend. After welcoming her home, I went into the back bedroom and worked on folding more clothes and putting them away. Keegan was not far behind her and I got to spend a little time with him while he ate lunch. We then headed out to the coop as I needed to dispatch a couple of hens. I needed my best chicken wrangler to help me catch the correct birds. I had been watching them for awhile and knew it was in the best interest to ensure the health of my other birds by ending their lives. This is always a difficult part of flock management, but it is a necessity. As I pulled out the killing cones, Keegan helped me catch the hens. Keegan and I thanked them for their service, before I completed the task. After we finished bagging the chickens, Keegan went ahead and went back inside while I cleaned up those supplies and fed and watered the animals for the evening.

As I walked back into the house I noticed there was another load of laundry to fold, so I walked it up with me to the bedroom before getting into the shower. The hot shower was a welcome relief from the cold rain and I let my mind wonder as I let the water beat down on my back. I took my time getting ready after my shower, finishing up folding the last load of laundry in between. I pulled out some pumpkin puree from the freezer to make pumpkin pies later with Fiona in the evening. Even though we aren't hosting Thanksgiving, I still am going to make a few pies for our family. We love pumpkin pie and the milkman even delivered the heavy whipping creme with today's order. We are set.

Drew will be home soon, so I best close for now.