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Changing Life
Chicken Coop
Chicken Injured
Chicken Memories
Disposables Gone
Eating Out of
     Your Garden

Fall Mini Notes

Herb Teas
Hot Water Simply
Make Your Own
     Treadle Lathe

Mini Work Bench

Reading, Sources
Ready for Winter
Recumbent Bicycles
Solar Energy
Solar Basics
Solar Food Dryer
Solar Oven
Temporary Shed
Washing Clothes
Window Quilts

ManyTracks Homesteading 
Sue Robishaw

 Freedom, Flexibility and
An "Alternative" Life

How-to  ~  Ideas  ~  Inspiration
 From more than thirty years having a good time living a sustainable life
in the northwoods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula

No bills. We worked "out" until we paid for our homestead, bought what we could afford, and did our own building. Our water is pumped by the wind, our electrical wants powered by the sun. Some of our heating is provided directly from the sun via solar heat, the rest indirectly from the sun via the woodlot. We cook with the sun, with wood, and sometimes with propane (one small tank a year). All this gave, and gives, us a wonderful freedom and flexibility to live the way we choose, a way that is satisfying to us and fun.

Our Aladdin lamps are long gone, oil lamps stuck in a corner, candles an occasional soft lighting source. All of our lighting is either 12-volt or 120-volt LED's. All are powered by the sun. Flashlights, with rechargeable batteries, are scattered throughout the house (and almost always somewhere other than where you are). The light is used when we need it, where we need it. It's a comfortable use of lighting.

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For many years we lived without a refrigerator. We enjoyed cold things when it was provided by nature during the winter months, and lived happily without when not. Our pantry and root cellar are naturally around 40 degrees half the year, the other half they are still cool enough to keep most foods quite well. The cost was nothing more than building the root cellar and pantry into the back of our house. A few years ago we bought a small (4.5Cu.Ft.) 12-volt DC chest-type refrigerator. It is located in the cool pantry so it doesn't have a lot of work to do to keep food cold. In the winter we simply turn it off and use the root cellar as our refrigerator.

We do have a telephone and broadband Internet service, and the monthly charges that goes with them. Our livelihood at this time requires the connections. But we know it is an option. We could do something else for a living that doesn't necessitate the Internet bill; we have in the past. But for now it is a part of our life.

The gardens, tame and wild, provide much of our food. We purchase some food from outside. We know we can live on only what we can grow and gather. We tried it, and it worked just fine. Outside food is an option, a choice, and one we choose. For now.

We live 15 miles from the nearest town and often travel 100 miles for dance, music and other activities. Transportation costs used to be a high percentage of our dollar outlay. We do the best we can  to minimize the environmental impact of our wandering by driving an older Toyota Prius Hybrid that averages 48 - 52 mpg.  Our bicycles and our feet give us a break quite often. We could choose to do without a car: we could choose to live closer to town. We could choose to live in an area where public transportation is an option. But we have chosen to live here, so we make do the best we can with what we have.

The only insurance bill we have is for the vehicles, the minimum required by law. Taxes we need money for, so that fund gets the money first. We take responsibility for ourselves and our property, and we keep the quantity of that down. Health is a natural state of being. We prefer to live and work with nature, not against. Our beliefs and our health reflect that.

There is a minimum money that we have to earn. By keeping that amount on the low side, we feel more free to choose our "work" -- what, when, where, and for whom. We know we can get all kinds of odd jobs if needed. We've done so -- in a so-called depressed, high unemployment area, and we were new folks in the area at the time. We just let people know that we were willing to work, we worked, and we met lots of folks that way. Much of what we do now doesn't pay a great deal in money, some hardly any at all. But the work that does pay allows for that which doesn't. The pay in satisfaction and creative expression is far and above more important than paper money no matter how much the job pays.

When we want to buy something we weigh it against the time and energy to be spent earning the money for it. We consider alternatives. Could we make it ourselves? Could we make do with something else? And if it takes five years to buy it, well, that's OK too. We have never gone without something we really wanted. If it is that important, the money  comes.

The hardest thing is not being so busy we lose the joy of living, the magic of this earth. There are so many possibilities, so many paths to follow, so much of interest out there, or in here. It's important to see the clouds, watch the birds, notice the stars, feel the wind, smell the earth, the fox, the trees, soak up the rain, and the sun. We continue to work on that.

Many human-slave machines have lost their importance to us. Mulch and permanent beds replace the tiller, the "lawn" mower is electric and used but little, the scythe is a comfortable tool. Brush piles full of small birds and animals make mockery of the long gone shredder. The chainsaw still has us, but less now than it used to. Heating and cooking with the sun beats cutting firewood.

That is not to say we don't make use of power tools at all. We do. I wouldn't want to be without the washing machine. And power wood working tools make short work of many jobs. But the hand tools are still alive and well. And used. And enjoyed. The pencil and paper is still on the desk along with the computers and printers. 

We enjoy life, enjoy our creative urges and adventures, enjoy the learning. We're different than the couple who worked for a large chemical company, lived a block off the main city drag, ate out most nights, belonged to the country club, wore pantyhose and suit.

And we're different than the two who wanted every other animal "Countryside" mentioned, wanted to mow and clear and "do something" with most of this 80 acres, wanted to can everything in sight and build and plow and build some more.

The pantyhose are long gone and the suit went to St. Vinnie's years ago. We no longer spend most of our "free" time building, though we are now spending much time "rebuilding" -- it's been that long. 

And I'm sure there's a future Steve and Sue who are different yet again, being born by the decisions we are making today. But we're happy to be where and when we are right now. And it was good to be where we were then, too. 

* * * * * *

Copyright 1997, 2003 and 2018 by Susan Robishaw

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Have you read  "Frost Dancing - Tips from a Northern Gardener"? A fun short read.

or "Homesteading Adventures"    Creating our backwoods homestead--the first 20 years.

and "Growing Berries for Food and Fun"   A journey you can use in your own garden.

updated 01/16/2017
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