The Official State of the Moby Report …. December 2009
I got to thinking while I was laboring at the family mine… that 2009 has been a really cool year for me. One of my most favorites! It’s the first year in a long time that I’ve really felt balanced and comfortable and with a plan and feeling groovy and all that. Family is good, moby is mine, gardens were a success, business did fine, cars – technically have 3 now!, money is okay, a little tight but hey, that’s life, music is awesome, band is intact, in fact, aside from that one lacking bit of man in my life, I would say it’s perfect! Oh yeah, and chickens. I really want chickens. Probably more than a man at this point. (hahaha)
Okay, aside from that fairly odd admission there, things at the Moby are swell. I’m really looking forward to the spring, counting the days actually, and my to-do card pack just hit 10 today (YEAH!!!) and a got a new computer and I’m actually starting to feel comfy with it and all that. The kids scored great on holiday loot and they are so thankful for all the goodies that they got, and we’re all ready to settle in to a little deep winter calm for a couple months. It’s all good.
No, it’s all GREAT!
One of the things that really made this year great was learning to live a little more gently on the land. Really, this was a major part of 2009. I had started the seeds in 2008, when I bought the Moby and all, but I was still not quite there. It was the winter of 2008-09 that I really started to feel the pull of living differently. It’s when I discovered the words URBAN HOMESTEADING and said, oh my… that’s what I’m doing. I mean, how many sane people go and buy a 30 year old $800 mobile home and say, wow, I’m finally home. Not too many apparently, because if you google anything about mobile home women… or urban homesteading with a mobile home, etc., I show up pretty close to the top. That’s pretty cool, yet a little disturbing as well. I mean… out of this whole big world of tons of people, I’m one of the few to consider this style of living as desirable? Well… someone’s got to do it, I suppose.
Well, here are my random observations on my pathway to enlightenment this year.
I have come to discover that anything I do to the Moby improves it drastically, and that little things have a big impact. The gardens, planting flowers, painting it, shutters, these things added to the overall contentment of living in a mobile home tenfold. I still smile when I pull up and see my little moby sitting pretty. I do declare it’s one of the nicest ones in my little neck of the woods. People comment all the time. Feels nice. It’s not overdone, just kept up and improved on, a little at a time.
Choosing to live in a mobile home was perhaps the biggest decision in my life that has affected every part of my life. Living so economically, yet, so nicely, gives me the freedom to do my music, to homeschool my children, to grow gardens, to have pets, to work at home and to do so without spending a fortune. My taxes are less than $40 a year. My lot rent which includes my water and sewage charges is less than $4,600 a year. I own the trailer outright, there are no loans or charges associated with it. We own our cars, and our insurance, even with a young driver, is less than $1000 a year. My utillities are very reasonable.. with electric about $700 a year and heat about $1200 – 1500 a year. (And I’m noticing that even little things like fixing windows and doors, and going to bed early are making those figures go down.)
When I think about my house that I owned… and was $18,000 a year in mortgage payments, not to mention more for taxes, utilities and upkeep… and then even renting a house that was over $12,000 a year… the Moby is just uber-sweet!!! And green… keeping an old moby out of a landfill? That is rewarding as well. So, yes, I am really doing a lot to reduce my housing needs on the community and environment.
Working at home is a blessing and a challenge at times. You do have to like being in one place sometimes days on end. And thankfully, I do. Sure, after a couple days, I might need a little change of scenery, but that’s easy enough to do with an errand or two, or just going out and doing something. But what I do not miss is that daily commuting thing. When I was working for a company, many years ago, I was driving two hours a day to and from work. That was a stressful thing. Sure, I had music to listen to, and I could think about things… things I would rather be doing. 2 hours a day, 10 hours a week, 520 hours a year!!!
If the average person sleeps 8 hours, that leaves 16 hours to do whatever and that commute time alone sucked up 32 days of my year. A MONTH of Sundays, if you ask me. Unbelievable. And don’t get me started on the gas and the wear and tear on the car and all that jazz. And the stress level of having to deal with people on the road not paying attention and just being rude and all that. 32 days. Shesh.
Now, working at home can be stressful, sure. Running a business by yourself, it means discipline, it means if you slack off, money suffers… it means that you do hold your own fortune in your hand. But it also means that you get the upside as well… when you do well, and stay the course, you build up an empire that helps to keep you going. I can easily take a day off, even a few days or a week and set things on autopilot and it works out wonderfully. Because I’ve built it up to do that. It’s like building your own little workfarm. I have many trickling income streams and when one dries up a bit, another takes over. I really only have a few dry periods when everything is slow, but I’ve come to know when that happens and prepare for it. And enjoy it. It’s usually in the early summer, which is wonderful and I get to use that as time for my gardens and my children and my music. Works wonderfully.
DAY TO DAY
Here is where we have made a lot of changes, and frankly, they are all great. First thing I started to do… cloth shopping bags. I can’t say I’m 100%, but I’m easily 90%. A few still sneak in. It’s usually when I just need something quick and I’m in a hurry and then I’m standing there in line and think… “Durn” I forgot the bag. I’ve been collecting a few littler ones, including a few that fold up small and tidy to slip in my purse and I hope in 2010 to be totally 100% MY BAG responsible.
We have been fairly successful in the paper towel ban. Instead of one or two a week, we’re down to about one every month to 6 weeks. Been using our bar towels and smaller hand towels pretty consistently. Paper towels are great for nasty spills, fried food de-greasing and some cleaning. Totally going without would be possible, but well, there comes a point when you have to think, would wiping up that nasty spill and then having to wash the cloth right away or worse throwing it out, isn’t the easily degradable paper towel not too bad? I still have some of those Catch 22 moments and think about it and decide that being super radical is just not me. So a roll a month, that’s good.
The freezer has been a HUGE help. It allows me to buy meats and foodstuffs on sale, and in bulk. It has not added much to our electricity, in fact, since we’ve been daylighting, and watching our use, it’s more than reduced in half, so any extra from the freezer, has been lost in the overall reduction. It’s not a huge freezer, but it’s really been great. I can’t wait for this summer with garden produce and of course, the You-Pick-It places to get rolling. We are SO going to have goodies throughout the winter. Right now, we still have blueberries, jams and spaghetti sauces from our garden, but that’s about it. Clearly not enough to get through the winter, but we do still have tastes from the efforts to bring a smile of self sufficiency to our lips… Next winter will be much better.
Bulk buying… definately working out for us. Staple things… rice, flour, sugar, mixes, spices etc. I can say without fear of discovery, that I have not been “grocery shopping” in the last 4 months. No longer do I go to the local grocery store and mindlessly wander the isles and buy way too much and come home with a bill and a bunch of prepacked crap. Now, we selectively shop at local shops for meat, fruit and veggies, staples, health and beauty and milk. Eggs we are getting locally from egg people. I wish I could find a family dairy, but those are hard! We don’t use a lot of dairy, so I figure that buying from the local little veggie shop, that helps.
The very rare times that I’ve dropped into the grocery has been late night things… pop… or last minute things… birthday cake, TP. And I make sure that I check out the day old bakery products to grab up any great deals to stash in the freezer! We’ve had really good luck with that. And popping in with a very strict list and being very careful to only get what is on the list, that combined with localized bulk buying has reduced our food costs easily by half. And our pantry is stocked full right now. We could easily eat off it for a month with only the slimmest addition of fresh milk, eggs and fruit.
Oh yeah, and pop.
I wish I could get us off that demon rum… but it’s hard. Try all the time and it always fails. I am thinking of going to cans actually, because I have noticed that 2liters disappear SO fast when it’s really just a taste that you want. Perhaps with the cans, we might slow it down a lot more. Just a thought. Well, that’s another battle to try and conquer in the new year.
Really have been trying hard to make dining out a little more special and definately less often. It’s working. I don’t want to say that we will never eat out, because I like to think of eating out as a social activity and a treat more than anything else. But we have been trying to watch the “don’t have anything prepared for dinner so grab fast food” kind of thing, because that is truly unfortunate. It’s never really that good and it’s expensive and well, terrible for us. I’ve really been trying to get my noodle around the idea of slow food and the planning that needs to go into it. Setting something out from the freezer is a problem at times… we just get busy and well, at 4:30 in the afternoon, it’s just too late. I’m trying to make sure that I have “parts” ready for just those cases… a pound of ground beef already browned… chicken cooked and frozen in pound bags, that sort of thing. In a pinch it will thaw fast in a hot soup base or will defrost pretty quick in the microwave.
Simple Homemade Food
We have been cooking more than I have in years. Simple, basic, peasant food really. Comfort food. The less ingredients the better. Whole foods. Local foods. Organic and homegrown foods if at all possible. We are building up a list of favorites… mac and cheese, chicken and rice, chicken and noodles, sloppy joes, spaghetti, lazy lasagna, simple roasts, soups. Stuff that always tastes good and is much easier on the budget and all that. And we’ve been making our own bread about half the time, and almost all of our deserts… cookies, cakes, pies, whenever we need that. Haven’t bought anything in the snack category except pretzels and saltines. That is really helping the budget considerably! I didn’t realize just how much you can spend on a couple bags of chips and such a week! I know we can make our own pretzels and all, but well, it’s not bad to have a few easy to nibble things around when you’re busy.
Been going to Tractor Supply and getting bigger bags of good stuff for all the livestock. And supplementing with people food leftovers. More as treats and a little extra, but also is helping with the overall budget as well. Instead of buying the small, more expensive fancy stuff, the dog and kitties are fine with the basic stuff, especially when there is a little extra gravy or a fat from a roast or a little veggies and good human food to help make it special. I am careful, though, not to overdo the extras and also to be careful of the super cheap pet foods that are all filler. Too cheap and all you do is pick up piles in the yard! But Tractor Supply seems to have several great brands that are very high in content and yet, not too expensive and a big bag will last a good long time. Bulk is really the key. Might cost a little more at first, but it lasts and lasts.
Dried and Canned
Been buying bulk staples at the restaurant supply place, like flour, sugar and such… also dehydrated hashbrowns and potatoes, as well as spices, rice, pasta and such. Great deals, bulk purchases and good stuff. It’s the same fancy stuff you buy at a premium when you dine out! And I really watch for canned goods that we use to go on sale. Fancy DelMonte veggies went on sale around the holidays… 50 cents a can! I bought about $25 dollars worth of the basics we use a lot of… corn, carrots and beans and we’re happy campers. Also I watch for basics… like sauces, gravies and cream soups. They go on sale often and you can really stock up. For us, a can of cream soup, some rice and a little meat is a good meal. Comfort food and easy!
Been watching how much flour and sugar we use. I would like to make a once or twice a year purchase of a big bag of the stuff and be done with it. However, I don’t want to have to store toooo much, so I’m just waiting and watching. We can go through 5 pounds of flour in a week if we bake bread and make a desert or two. However, some weeks, we’re too busy. I think a 50 pound bag would be good, not too much, yet not too little and available at a great savings. I just need to do a little more research into storing it well, and also figure out where I would store it properly. With a 900 square foot home, you do have to be careful about bulk storage. Same with sugar.
I have a super deep pantry shelves system. I am thinking that I might invest in some restaurant style big bulk containers for flour, sugar, rice and perhaps pasta. And fill and place those far in the back. It’s dark and they will take up the space nicely. And then keep the foreground area for day to day use containers. That’s the plan so far… I’ll be working on making that more efficient soon…
Producing almost 100 pounds of food from my little garden beds proved to me that you can easily do that anywhere and the food and enjoyment and contentment from it was worth every bit of labor. I do plan to increase my square footage of garden space this year, by about 400-500 feet, but I do have limited space. I want to be very creative with the use of containers and such. I don’t want to turn my yard and all into some huge production center, I still want to keep it very attractive to my neighbors and also something that we can easily maintain. I think however, that I have learned a lot last year about what does well, where and the requirements of water and shade and sun and all. I would like to double my production this year of good useable food. My goal will be 200 pounds of produce from the Moby farm. Considering that most produce is about $2 a pound it seems… that will be a savings of over $400 as well as the bonus of being organic, local and really fun!
I also plan to use only the farmer’s markets for extra produce as well as using the U-Pick-It places throughout the season and storing the excess in the freezer and also learning to can more! My jellies and jams are a hit and so are my pickles! Would like to try salsa and sauces this year as well. Canning them, that is. I made and froze some, but this year, I really want to bulk up the home canning skills. It really was not that hard and very very rewarding. I still get a smile on my face when I crack open another jar of sweet berry jam and it’s just as fresh and good as when we made it. It’s almost indescribable.
And I would like to source out a local meat source. Yes, I’m considering the purchase of a quarter hog or home butchered chickens and such. Why not? With the freezer, it makes it possible. In the meanwhile, we are using our local butcher shop and trying to buy things that he buys local. And just overall, I’ve noticed that our meat consumption is going down. I still have about 15 pounds of meat left from when we bought a load of it almost two months ago! We just don’t seem to be wanting huge portions of it anymore. A little roast will give us two or three meals! And when put into soups and stews and rice casseroles, you can make a pound of meat go a long way! I don’t think we’ll ever become vegetarians, but it is nice to see us being more aware of our food and what goes into it and how to be a little more gentle on the whole food chain thing there. And of course, there is savings! When you can get $100 of good high quality butcher shop meat last you 3 months? That’s pretty keen if you ask me.
The improvements we made in our windows and doors have REALLY paid off already. (Thanks Tim!!!) Last year at this time, our heating bill was already up to $900…. this year? $300. Last year we paid out $1700 to heat half of Toledo. This year, I suspect we will be under $750. That is a huge savings. And I know we can do better. But it’s a start.
We’ve really been watching the thermostat… and dialing it up and down as need. We’re wearing a lot more sweaters and socks and also adding undershirts to the mix. That alone is amazing to me… how just a little close body underthing makes you feel so much more comfortable. It’s the whole layers thing, but still. Pretty cool. Socks and slippers really help, too! I added an extra blanket to my bed and ditched the scratchy old electric blanket. Haven’t noticed! And best of all… I am happy to report that a month of good conserted effort to be a daylighter and go to sleep when it’s dark and get up with the sun has reduced our electricity bill over HALF!!!!! I could hardly believe it. It went from $121 to $49. Shesh! And we all feel a little better and definately sleep better! Who’d thunk that? Hahaha.
And our water use is very low. Believe it or not… we only used 300 gallons of water last month. 300. It cost us under $20. We have very low water pressure, so that helps a great deal, actually. And we have to bail our own shower water with a little pump… so guess what… no one dilly dallys in the shower. I watch and three people can shower and only use about 15 gallons or so. The girls will shower at their Dad’s a lot, since it’s a little easier and to be honest, I’ll not shower every day if I don’t need to. Every other day is fine. Probably too much information, but when did we decide that a computer working pretty sedimentary individual needs to shower every day? I have some skin issues and to be honest, showering every day makes them worse. I learned how to sponge bath when we didn’t have a tub for almost 4 months in the beginning and I believe that pretty much most of the world does not have access to showers and they survive fine. It’s amazing what we get used to and what we expect and how that changes when we are faced with the lack of resources for whatever reason. It’s rather easy to stay very clean and tidy without wasting a ton of water.
And we wash our own dishes, no dishwasher and we also don’t have a clothes washer and dryer. We save up our quarters from change and add a ten or maybe a bit more and once a month we wash everything in a short time period at the Laundromat. In the summer, we wash towels and easy stuff at home and hang them out to dry. This year I plan to make some sort of grey water system to catch some of our gray water and use on the gardens. At the very least on the flowers and such. Still learning all about gray water and the effects on food plants. Still, if I could save 50 gallons a month wash water for my flowers and shrubs and such, that is 50 gallons I have saved for my gardens from the direct line. I’m actually considering having a gutter put on one side of the Moby so that I can collect rainwater!!! Honest! Why not? There’s a fellow that makes rain barrels here in town, $35. And they look nice. I figure one or two of those and I could save a lot of rainwater.
This is an area that I feel very strongly about. I have stopped using the big box stores. And Walmart especially. This has resulted from two things. One purely selfish in nature. These places cost me a ton of money. I didn’t realize how much money I was spending when I went to Walmart once a week and could never get out for less than $100. Sometimes more. I would fool myself that I was getting all these great deals and all, but half the time, it was just junk that I really didn’t need, and cheap overseas manufactured crap. Very few things I have from those days, that I still use. Really. Very little. Clothes, housewares, etc., I can’t think of anything that we still have that I got there!
The other reason? I dislike a lot of their overseas production practices. Have read enough to see that they are just not the ball of wax they’d like you to think. Labor issues, even here in the states, with their workers and such, and then running out local hardwares and stores that are a staple of the American small town. Just thinking about it makes me a little sick to my soul.
Yeah, I’ve been in a Walmart twice since I gave them up. And each time, it was because we needed these boxes that they carry for our rock kits during the Holiday rush. Next year? I plan to stock up from the local crafts stores before the rush, so I don’t deplete their stores and am forced to go to Walmart.
And it’s not just Walmart that I’ve been avoiding. It’s Target and it’s Meijers and it’s the big chain grocery stores, etc. Even Lowes and Home Depot if I can help it. Unfortunately, the last little hardware store I was shopping at and loved, they just closed up at Thanksgiving time. Couldn’t compete with the Lowe’s around the corner. That made me sad.
I found a local butcher that I love and have even enjoyed chatting with and talking about local meats and buying local. And they know me! And they are all smiles and we chat and it’s delightful. And I found a great little fruit and veggie Mom and Pop shop and I love everything they carry. The local restuarant supply place, and of course, the Aldis. But even the Aldi’s, I’m not needing them as much as we get away from the prepacked stuff and move towards more bulk.
I’ve also been using Ebay and Craig’s List as a great savings place. I’d like to use more garage sales, but I’ve notice that it’s so random, it’s hard to really find all you need in a reasonable time frame. So garage sales are more for the fun of the hunt and the unusually good deals you can get here and there when you’re not even expecting it. But Ebay and Craigs’ List are my first levels of shopping when I need something specific. I buy a lot of office and shipping supplies online, as well as clothing and books, etc. Books, I love Amazon’s marketplace thing where they hook you up with used book stores. I save easily 50-75% off the cost of the books I really want for my library. Otherwise, for casual reading and research, we use the library, which is free!
Well, that’s about it. I think that wraps up pretty well how we’re doing and some of the major changes we have made this year. I think we’ve substainially lessened our footprint on the world, yet nothing has been too drastic, in fact, nearly everything has been wonderful, redemptive and rewarding. It has allowed us to live how we wish and to enjoy our lives fully. We can help out friends, and we can provide for ourselves in a way that just feels right. At the sake of sounding like Martha… It’s a good thing. It really is.
Thanks for listening to my little year end babble! I hope that you are considering some of these baby steps to really help you lighten up and make your own impact on the world a little more, well, careful and better planned. It’s easy and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Just changing over to cloth shopping bags is a great step! One step at a time and you can really find it to be a great new habit in your life!Pin It