Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Am Not Exactly an Urban Homesteader

For the benefit of my friends who don't follow the urban homesteading movement, a quick explanation:  a family in Pasadena that has been doing wonderful work on educating about self-sufficiency and urban agriculture has suddenly suffered from some kind of fit of self-importance and decided to trademark the phrase "urban homestead" and a few other related phrases.  They have sent threatening letters to a number of bloggers, news websites, and the authors of the book "The Urban Homestead."  This has caused quite a tempest in the urban homesteading community and there is a campaign underway to flood the sphere with the dubiously trademarked phrases.  Here's my contribution.

I am not really an urban homesteader.  First off, I live in about as sub-urban a town as you're ever going to find.  Second, because I live in an incredibly expensive suburban area and have chosen to be a stay-at-home mother, we own a manufactured home on a very small lot.  Third, we've only owned the place for a few months and I am starting from scratch, so aside from two 4'x8' raised beds (that don't get enough sun and are only partially planted so far) and a fence full of pea vines, we're not even close to producing one dinner's worth of vegetables.  There are a lot of plans, and someday you'll all be amazed at what comes out of my tiny patch of dirt, but for now I am at square one.

However, my heart is in this thing 100%.  There is an indescribable glory in knowing that you're responsible for nurturing something you're going to eat.  The peas started flowering this week, and that's immensely satisfying.  The broccoli florets are small but growing.  Once we get the windows replaced in front, I'm going to have a trellis made that will span the whole front of the house, which is west-facing.  The trellis will be used to grow climbing squash, runner beans, indeterminate tomatoes and maybe even nasturtiums (which are edible too!).  It will shade my house and save me from the temptation to use the air conditioner.  

I'm not a novice at this - I had an extensive vegetable garden and a flock of eight chickens when we were renting a house for a couple of years.  I learned from books and websites and my own mistakes.  I learned nothing from the Dervaes family - the folks who have started this little storm with a misguided attempt to monopolize a movement they have no right to control. I never found their website all that helpful, although I appreciate that they offer classes & tours, I'm too far away from them to take advantage. I'm not angry at them, just puzzled by the belief that a movement can be trademarked and owned.  The idea of urban homesteading isn't new - people have had kitchen gardens and brewed their own drinks and raised chickens in cities for pretty much as long as there have been cities.  So I fervently hope that this dispute gets settled on the side of fairness & openness, not on the side of ownership and intimidation.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Knock It Off

Enough whining.  The desks are finally coming together.  I ordered the desktops (two 96"x30" solid-core doors), bought four drawer units and one generic cabinet from IKEA, and requested a custom quote for the one cabinet that's been bedeviling us - we want pull-out shelves for the printer & scanner.  The IKEA junk looks like this:

Each one of us gets our own drawer unit, and the cabinet will hold our network server.  The desktops will arrive next week and I am chomping at the bit to get the desks set up.

We also finally broke down and bought a new sink & faucet.  Our current faucet leaks (we knew about this from the inspection and bargained accordingly) and the sink is pretty shallow (none of my cookware can be machine-washed), so Dan finally got fed up with it.  The new sink is white granite composite and looks like this:
The left side is 10 inches deep!  Heaven.  And the new faucet:

There's still a lot to be done, but getting the office together will be such a relief.  I'm more excited about that than anything else.

Band-related news: we have our first gig this Saturday as part of the Santa Ana Art Walk.  It's going to rain, so the audience will probably be minimal.  BUT it's a low-key, low-pressure gig that will give me some live experience before we start working harder for better gigs.  I've been trying to figure out what to wear all week.

Paul news:  We had a meeting with the school psychologist, the RSP teacher, Paul's teacher and the immersion speech pathologist this week.  The school district is already in violation of the law, since I submitted a request for assessment and they have not provided me with any paperwork within 15 days of my request.  Sigh.  I'm patient for now, but I was told I would be e-mailed a questionnaire and that has not happened yet, so I will soon hit a low simmer.   We have also received approval for 10 hours of testing through our insurance, and Paul spent about 1.5 hours this week with our private psych.  Her preliminary assessment is that he's a gifted child (duh) with "classic ADHD."  I dispute the H part, because I think Paul was just excited to be out of school and having a new and interesting experience.  I've seen no hyperactivity at home and his teacher also is very firm that there are no hyperactivity issues at school.  He just mentally floats away.  I'll fight that minor battle later and just let the assessments continue for now.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It Were Me Birthday

I took the day off yesterday and went to Glen Ivy Hot Springs with me mum.  I have never been to a spa in my life, but they let you in free on your birthday so we went and sat in the stinky sulfur mineral pools and I smeared clay on myself and rinsed it off in another stinky pool and wasted some money on a facial (It felt nice, but I'm not sure it was worth it) and sat in more hot pools.  Then I scooped up the boys & Dan & my dear friends the Wilsons (who are contemplating abandoning us for Idaho, which I am attempting to be gracious about) and forced them all to try a new Afghan restaurant that just opened a few blocks from us. 

If you know me well, you know that I have certain struggles with church.  We have friends at church, but not really FRIENDS - you know, the kind of friends you call just to call and you really start to miss if you haven't seen them for a week and who think to call you if they're doing something they think you'd like to do with them.  And then Connie & Darrell moved in and we hit it off, not just individually but as a couple and it's been so frigging awesome to have FRIENDS for the last year & a half. Connie will never read this (I adore her but she's just not into reading blogs), so I can agonize about them leaving without fear that she'll see this and feel guilty.  A tantalizing job opportunity for Darrell has appeared in Idaho and I can't blame them for thinking really hard about taking it if it's offered.  It's looking like a strong possibility it might happen.  So I'm struggling with a wee bit of agony.  Heck, Connie is struggling with a wee bit of agony!    I'm trying not to think about how lonely it will be to have them gone and trying to figure out how on earth we're going to find anybody to fill that void.  It's going to suck.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Family Man

I read two webcomics - Hark! A Vagrant and Family Man.

If you like historical/literary humor and don't mind the occasional curse word, check out Hark!  Kate Beaton, the author, sends me into fits of giggles very frequently.  Don't read it with curious kids in the room.

Family Man is blowing me away.  If you aren't scared off by the fact that it's about a Jewish Christian semi-atheist theologian living in eastern Europe circa 1768 and the story is destined to segue into realms of the supernatural, then start reading it here.  Her artwork starts out a little rough and the Jewish nose is deliberately exaggerated.  But it's fascinating and thought-provoking and the footnotes are wonderful. Oh, and her style has matured with time and her art is becoming absolutely sublime.  To wit: