We’re in the positive for the first time ever as adults! Woot!
- Home (Estimated Market Value): 80,000
- 401(k) combined: 72,345
- my 401(k) will soon be rolled over into a tIRA with Vanguard
- Cars: 1,000
- Cash Savings: 1,600
- Total: 154,945
- Home Mortgage: 104,161 @6.5% –> PMI makes it effectively ~7.1%
- Student Loan (Chief A): 1,961 @0.1%
- Student Loan (Chief B): 5,960 @6.5%
- Student Loan (Alchemist A): $2,189 @0.1%
- Student Loan (Alchemist B): $24,826 @3.93%
- Note: this was refinanced from 6.5% with SoFi.
- Total: 139,097
Net Worth: 15,848
Savings Rate Calculation
- Savings: 8,823 (cash, principal paydowns, and 401(k) contributions)
- Income: 18,601 (net income plus 401(k) match)
- Rate: 47%
For an explanation of the new FI possibility spaces, see this post.
Just a brief check in on my goals and seeing how they’re going. The original post is here.
- Quit my job. –>accomplished!
- Eat healthier AND more seasonally. –>Doing well so far
- Do more science and history in homeschooling. –>Needs work
- Increase home food production.
Stretch goal: acquire chickens.–>A bit early yet, but plans are in place to grow more food. Chickens have been pushed to 2016.
- Increase muscle mass. –>going quite well
- Bike an unsupported solo century (100 miles) –>haven’t had much time (or good weather) to do long training rides. So far only at 28 miles, which is below 2014’s max of 46.
- Reduce waste and overall footprint. –>going well
- Take at least one ‘fun’ vacation (e.g. not to visit family or friends). –>A camping trip is scheduled for later in the summer.
- Learn how to car camp. Stretch goal: do an overnight backpacking or bike touring trip. –>Car camping is planned (see above). No idea if the other things will happen. I am thinking no at this point.
- Keep writing fiction regularly. Add one more character serial. Stretch goal: get to a point with Einar’s story (or character #2) that I can revise it and package it as a polished e-book. –>Until this past week, this was definitely lacking, but I’m back at it and hopefully will have good things to report in Q2.
- Buy no new clothes in 2015. –>On target.
- Learn the basics of homebrewing beer and/or hard cider/fruit based fizzy adult beverages. –>Have not made any progress as yet.
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer?
I am not a fan of Kanye West, except for a brief love affair with the album that the song “No Church in the Wild” is on, but those particular lyrics have always stuck with me. They’re catchy, provocative, and get to a very central element of the human experience: what are we without articles of faith?
I’ve been thinking about faith on and off in this space. My family, and many of my friends, are people of very strong faith. I myself was a very strong believer, and a core inspiration for me has always been Joan of Arc, a woman literally clothed in faith. She was a peasant girl who somehow had the ability to out-fence contemporaries with far greater strength and reach. This is truly remarkable. In addition, a famously lecherous military companion of hers described her as stunningly beautiful, with “perfect breasts” (nudity in a military camp is unavoidable), yet he felt no trace of sexual desire towards her.* I used the word clothed by faith very intentionally in the sentence above.
She is a fascinating figure and at one time I believed I had her as a near-constant spiritual companion. Perhaps I did. I am very accepting of clouds of unknowing. I’ve been thinking a lot about her since the Alchemist shared the image I’ve put in this article. It’s been my background image, and while I almost never minimize windows to desktop, I’ve found myself compelled to meditate on this picture. It also makes me recall that, over Christmas, in a sacred place of almost incredible power**, I spotted this beautiful statue in the otherwise horrifying gift shop:
I’m happy to have moved beyond my faith then, but finding myself attracted to her once more, I wonder – what part of my faith am I trying to recover?
In modern times, we’re well trained to be skeptical of religious callings. I have no church, nor ever wish to have one. The divine and the sacred can’t be contained in a human institution, especially not any that claim to have a monopoly on perfect truth. I have faith, but it’s a faith that’s more mystery than any positive experience. I have my lovely wife and kids. And I have Joan of Arc, the long-deceased woman who I once called my spiritual wife, seemingly finding a way to re-enter my life.
How am I called to be clothed in faith? I don’t think I will ever have a carved-in-stone-tablets answer. If I have a mission, it seems to me it’s to be a good father and husband. To create a place where the human being in my circle of influence can flourish. To work on my own flourishing. To leave the world a better place than I found it. This is no less than the calling of all humans, to my mind. It is the central article of faith so many of us are missing, and to which so much of the anti-consumerism of the ER community, but even more so the long-term vision of those in the permaculture movement really speaks.
What the words ‘flourishing’ and ‘better’ mean, of course, is part of the delicious mystery. Join me, fellow travelers.
*Regine Pernoud, Joan of Arc in Her Own Words, which is an edited and annotated version of her trial for heresy, and contains fascinating testimony from her and her contemporaries. Note: see also comment from Mindful Riot and my response below.
**The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Specifically the side chapels and lower church in the crypt level. I was almost bowled over with the power in this place and can’t wait to visit it again. A quiet, thrumming, sacred power.
Last weekend we took a fun, though quite muddy, hike at our favorite local hiking spot – the Pike Lake Unit of Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest. We come here many, many times each year and find it very cool to see how different the same place looks as the seasons change. The only time we haven’t made it up here is in the middle of winter. I keep forgetting that winter hikes can be fun too, so hopefully we will rectify that next winter.
While walking around, many other hikers seemed surprised that we were stopping to take so many pictures, but the Alchemist and I were both like “seriously, do you not have eyes?” The hues of early spring may seem drab, but there are really cool finds to be had if you have the eyes – and the Alchemist’s are even better than mine when it comes to spotting interesting fungi, plant formations, and whatnot. Enjoy the gallery below.
Last Edit: 3-27-15
Ever since we replaced our aged Cuisinart waffle iron before Christmas, waffles have been on the breakfast menu nearly every day. This recipe is my latest creation, which has more flavor, is a bit more toothsome, and satisfies both my goblins’ taste for sweetness and my taste for a more earthy, nutty flavor. The waffle iron we use is this one. I’ve been quite happy with it, and may write a review of it once it has passed enough time than I am confident in its long-term durability and performance (hence why I write very few reviews here).
As long as you have a good iron, making waffles is dead easy. Whisk the wet ingredients together. Plop the dry ingredients in, whisk again until moistened. You can whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl before adding or add the wet ingredients after the dry, but find this method is the easiest for me and delivers the same result. Note that no leavening agents are used – I’ve found them completely unnecessary here, unlike with pancakes.
- 3 eggs, ideally free range
- 1 cup milk or water
- 3 tbsp sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup)
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 tbsp vanilla (optional)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour (ideally freshly milled Kamut or Prairie Gold)
- 1/2 cup buckwheat flour (ideally freshly milled)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup cornmeal (ideally freshly milled)
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
Yield will depend on your waffle iron. With mine, we get about 8-9 square waffles. Because of the multiple grains used in the flour, it isn’t the easiest recipe to scale up or down, but I’d be happy to help design the proportions for a different size batch if you have difficulty.
I cool the leftovers on a wire rack. Once at ambient temperature, place them in a Ziploc bag and they freeze well without sticking. I then reheat them in a toaster (err on the side of low toasting temperature until you figure out what works for your particular toaster). So, depending on how hungry everyone is, I get a day off cooking breakfast every 2-3 days because there’s enough leftovers in the freezer.
Spring is coming, spring is coming, spring is coming! It is a balmy 55 degrees here, we have grass sighted, and the afternoon sun has been so warm the past few days that our house has gained several degrees from passive solar exposure.
While the kids played outside after school today, I paced around and made a much better map than my last few attempts. Scale is still a bit off at parts, but it’s good enough for
government homestead work. I also paced off the entire lot for the first time. It is 62′ by 105′, so about 0.15 acre.
A lot of people were impressed with the garden at the end of last year, but the beds in those pictures only represent #14-20 on the map above. I thought I was doubling the space, but I think I’m closer to tripling the space. Here’s the plan for 2015 planting by bed number (this allows good record keeping for rotation and yield records). I’ll likely finetune this after referencing my companion planting books. And feel free to offer feedback!
- (west) cover crop; (east) green beans
- May not be usable because of tree present, but I will try.
- (early season) peas; (late season) green beans
- Unsure, maybe tetragonia
- Our peach and cherries will get planted here. Not pictured is where my pawpaw seedlings will go. Likely I will put them in the shade of the large maple pictured by the garage. At this stage, the trees still leave a lot of empty space, so I will likely plug in a few things around them.
- Cover crop for future fruit plants.
- Beginning of our bramble hedge. Raspberries and gooseberries.
- Rhubarb (new crowns); one existing plant currently in bed 19 (if it survived).
- Winter squash
- Winter squash
- Cover crop
- Strawberries (some strawberries will get interplanted with perennials against the house)
- Chard and kale
- (early) peas; (late) green beans and tetragonia
Planning for the Future
- Beds 1 and 15-17 will be 2016’s corn patch, hence my effort to keep some of it in cover crops.
- Bed 7 will likely get some haskap and hardy kiwi. When it gets sun, it’s quite intense, but between the houses the sun period isn’t super long. Still not sure what the best use of this space is.
- The large tree in the back yard is a Norway maple, which means it has an incredibly dense canopy, aggressive surface roots, and is basically useless other than as (not terribly useful because of how the sun shifts, and how we use the yard) shade. I am hoping to have it removed in 2016 or 2017, saving the logs for mushroom cultivation, and freeing up space for more plantings. I would do it myself, but power lines are involved – no thanks!
- The main challenge in any urban garden is growing the variety you want, enough of it to be worth it, but also figuring out crop rotations to prevent disease and pest buildup. I’m still learning this site, and will probably still be learning new things by the time we leave.
I devoured Eliot Coleman’s The Winter Harvest Handbook in two sittings yesterday. Fantastic book. I rarely write reviews on the website, and this isn’t going to be one, but I’d seriously recommend it to fellow northerners looking to expand their garden season. Capital allowing, I will start experimenting with his techniques this fall.
He’s basically got three central techniques:
- Quick hoops: low tunnels which cover two of his standard 30″ wide garden beds. These are designed to overwinter crops for early spring harvest. Though if you got a warm spell mid-winter and something was ready, you could harvest it then.
- Cold houses: unheated greenhouses made of metal frames and greenhouse plastic. The outer greenhouse protection is paired with a second cover 12″ off the soil on flat-topped wire wickets. The two covers combine to give effectively three zones more warmth, moving his zone 5 coastal Maine climate to a zone 8 climate. These houses are actively harvested during the winter. The houses are mobile, using a multi-plot rotation (described in detail in the book) to get three crops out of the same plot.
- Cool houses: minimally heated greenhouses with a minimum temperature of 35F. The extra heat, primarily to protect the water system for their produce washing and packing station, allows for a small growing area with six crops per season.
For a variety of reasons they strive to focus on the minimal inputs allowed by the cold houses and the quick hoops, as well as traditional uncovered summer plantings, all depending on a complex rotation and market demands. Johnny’s sells a lot of the hardware and tools Coleman developed, but he encourages all homesteaders and farmers to experiment and modify. No one has the perfect design.
What does this have to do with the title? The real reason I started this post early on a Saturday morning was to share this wonderful quote. The details about the book above just kind of spilled out 😛
The quote starts with a story about a rant he gave to his wife, how if he were to open a store (instead of selling to markets and having an on-farm produce stand during the warm season), it would sell only “real food”. The description I quote below is, to me, beautiful. It encapsulates everything I’ve been trying to do with my family’s own diet, and talking about in posts like the Food Ziggurat.
…since we were talking about “whole” food she had the perfect name for the store: I could call it the “Wholier Than Thou Market”.
Well, i am very serious about the need for such a store, although I don’t have the time to initiate it myself. I offer the idea and the store name to anyone who would like to take the next step beyond where industrial pressure has stalled the organic movement. This store would sell no prepackaged food. Breads and crackers would be whole grain and made fresh daily. There would be no aged bags of flour but only wheat or oat or rye berries for the customer to grind into fresh flour with the store’s mill. Milk would be raw from a local grass-fed herd and so would the butter. If you wanted juices they would be squeezed fresh into your own glass container. Meat, poultry, and eggs would be local and range fed. The fruits and vegetables would be fresh year-round from nearby fields and greenhouses. The only processed foods would be the traditional ones like cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, dried tomatoes, wine, and beer. The only sweeteners would be honey and maple syrup. Real food. We all know what it is.
You can easily imagine the displeasure of the organic food processors with the “Wholier Than Thou Market.” They are already dismayed at nutritionist Joan Gussow’s truthful reference to their products as “value added, nutritionally degraded.” But I’m convinced that it is in the best interest of healthy humans to make food processors redundant. Furthermore, all the items in the “Wholier Than Thou Market” would be purchases directly from nearby growers. No middleman, no energy-intensive long-distance shipping, no need for preservatives. That would make a few other mercenary mercantile groups redundant.
Is this radical? Possibly. But then organic farming seemed pretty radical when I started.
(page 212, The Winter Harvest Handbook)
I’m a terrible businessman, so you won’t exactly see me doing this either, but I’m trying to build this for our family. The drive to have real food, food that exceeds your wildest expectations of taste, is what drives my homesteading dream. While we’re stuck in the city, we’re still doing as much as we can. I’m still a novice gardener, but I’m getting better, and next year’s garden expansion is particularly ambitious.
We’re now milling our own flour. I’m finding more and more recipes that have me excited about real, simple ingredients. I’ve always been a minimalist cook but books like Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi are utterly inspiring. They do amazing things with simple ingredients and judicious seasoning. I’ve got a design for a root cellar, again money depending.
While in the city, I’m looking at getting neighbors to co-operate and do community gardening, or at least let me cut up their lawns and pay them in veggies. Maybe I’ll offer milling. My taste in bread is a bit different than most Americans, but I’m thinking of offering bread and pizza-making classes. If the root cellar comes together, it will be big enough to store a bit more than what we can eat ourselves.
Have any of you done any community food initiatives? Would you shop at a Wholier Than Thou Market? If you’re a northerner like me, do you do any winter gardening?