The Ancient Paths Family Farm

Getting Back to Basics in Health and Nutrition

Archive for May, 2007

Going Green

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on May 23, 2007

Why my interest in conservation and “going green”?

Regular unleaded gas costs $3.45 today and tomorrow it will likely cost more. We live in a county with two oil refineries and still our gas costs more here than it does in the larger cities. Energy is costing more, everything from the propane which runs our furnace and hot water tank to the electricity that runs everything else.

Milk prices have gone up also. A little while ago it was less than $2 a gallon, which was more than a gallon of gasoline. Today milk at the local dairy costs $2.35 and at the grocery store it costs closer to, if not over, $2.75. Everything at the grocery store is costing more these days. When the price of fuel goes up, so does the price of consumer goods.

So what can we do to lessen the impact of rising costs on our family? This is a thought that has been cooking in my mind for quite some time, several years. I’m sure it’s a thought that cooks in the minds of most wives and moms as well as most husbands and dads. How do we make our dollar stretch in the most efficient ways?

We started raising our own meat several years ago. This was born out of a desire to raise our kids with a particular lifestyle. We wanted to be on a small farm and raise our kids with all the benefits of farm/rural life. We have raised chickens and sold dozens of eggs a week to friends and neighbors in the peak seasons. Then we eat the chickens. With the beef and lamb we sell what we can and pick a few for our own freezer. It’s a lifestyle that we love. The benefits of these things are quite substantial. We know what we are eating, what went into it while it was alive and that it was healthy when it was butchered. Besides, it costs less for us to raise our own meat because we grass feed. Grass is free. We can “eat like kings” every Shabbat without having to pay a king’s ransom. But the benefits far outweigh these aspects listed. There are also opportunities to learn how to raise and care for the animals, limited veterinary experience, unlimited science opportunities, etc.

We have also grown a fair share of vegetables in our back yard garden. Not only do they taste better but the cost is simply a packet of seeds, some gas for the rototiller, and a lot of elbow grease. We love it. It reduces blood pressure and stress, we use it for it’s abundant science opportunities and we often have excess produce that we can share with friends and neighbors. This year Miriam and I are planning to learn how to properly can. But we planned on doing that last year as well and it simply didn’t happen. Not only do our vegetables taste so much better because we can pick them at their peak of ripeness and eat them right away but we know what kind of things went into the soil and on the plants themselves – no chemicals, just compost (which is another perk of having sheep, goats, cows and chickens around). The only price is time.

So having a good chunk of our diet covered in this way affords us the ability to buy more spendy, yet better for you, foods at the grocery store. I make my own bread now after we hit a financial tight spot a few years ago and I remembered that old bread machine in the cupboard. We haven’t gone back to store bought bread since! Not only do we not prefer it but it’s cheaper to buy the ingredients in bulk and make it on my own than to buy loaf after loaf of bread. Then Shalom read that those trans-fats that have been making the news are found in very high rates in baked goods – breads and cookies, etc.

So what else can we do to cut costs here at home? We built our own home and moved into it just 3 years ago now. Everything is insulated well and sealed well. The house stays cool in the summer because of the trees on the west and south side (which also protect us from the harsh winds in the cold months) and because of the larger covered porch that wraps around the house. Very little of the main floor gets direct sunlight and in the summer that means less heat. We have no trees on the east side and that is nice for winter sun. All of our appliances are the “energy saver” kind and we have lots of windows which let in a lot of light, we rarely have a light on during the day. There are a few rooms, like bathrooms, with no windows though. I do my best to use a clothes line to dry our clothes when it’s dry, but in the Pacific Northwest it’s not dry as often as it’s wet. Also DH and Shalom struggle with bad allergies certain times of the year so things dry in the dryer during those weeks. I’m thinking of getting a good sized portable clothes ‘tree’ to put up in the basement for the wet months. We do our best to heat our home primarily with wood, which is also free. But we do have a propane furnace as back up. Sometimes our back up is our primary, we’re working on keeping the wood shed full.

I do my best to keep my trips into the larger town in our area to once a week, at the most. I also try to keep our trips to the smaller closer town to as few as possible. This is one area that I really want to cut way back on, especially since gas prices keep rising. Besides the price of gas, I really prefer to be at home.

These kinds of thoughts have propelled me to become obsessive at times about things like solar energy, water barrel systems and even considering the future hybrid vehicle (though for a larger family, I don’t think those little cars would be a good investment). I’m not nearly as concerned with “saving the earth” as I am saving my family in terms of their health and our costs. My opinion is that the people who work to ‘live off of the land’ tend to care more thoughtfully for the environment than those who consider it an industry. I don’t buy into the global warming idea, mostly because the evidence shows that there was farm able land in Greenland not too many centuries ago and that pollution is shown to have been at higher rates in Southern California centuries before now due to various reasons. People forget the facts when emotion gets involved. The earth has cycles and we’ve simply not been keeping records for a long enough period of time to be able to accurately determine if our nature trends are indeed harmful or if they are simply part of the cycle, as I believe they are.

Our situation is a unique one. We live on property that my parents bought when I was a baby. The old house is about to fall over, as are the barns. But because the property was in two parcels we were able to acquire one parcel and build there. The thing is that the property is in a family trust. This means that the property can’t be sold very easily and not for a very long time. We will have to determine what to do with the land after my dad passes away and who will stand to inherit our house after we pass away. This means that one of our children will likely live in our home as adults, maybe even our adult grandchildren. This is one of my primary thoughts as of late. What can we do now to help our future generations who will live here? Knowing what it costs to run our house today, which isn’t a lot, I wonder how much it’ll cost in 10 years or in 30 years. Never mind the kids, will we be able to afford it when DH retires?

I’ve thought about getting solar panels to run the well pump and the septic pump. Those are why we have a generator for the winter months when we tend to have several power outages. We can stay plenty warm and even cook on our wood stove. It’s the flushing of the toilets and having drinking water that is the second closest necessity/connivence that I like having available. I’ve also thought of running the freezers in the garage off of solar panels too since they tend to be the largest power suckers. I’m also thinking of seeing if DH will install solar-tubes in the bathrooms and upstairs hallway. We wanted to do this when we were building but at the time they cost more than we were willing to spend. Now we wish we had been more willing. Very few rooms really need light and even though those rooms have those compact fluorescent bulbs, we have a hard time reminding a child to turn off a light in the middle of a bright and sunny day even if it is in the windowless bathroom.

Another thing I’m looking for is a good (though inexpensive) wood stove to put in the basement. The basement is insulated quite well and stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We used the Quad-Lock system (styrofoam lego looking material) when we built the basement for the very purpose of having a well insulated basement. Before we even had the furnace installed in the house the basement was maintaining a warmer regular temperature than the old farm house we lived in at the time – even with the wood stove and heat pump running! Back to the wood stove – this would help keep the house warmer in winter and cut back on the furnace more but it would also warm it up enough that my indoor clothes line (in the basement) will dry the clothes faster. Eventually the basement will be living quarters with two bedrooms, full kitchen and living room. This will make for a third separate living space – the daylight basement suite, the in-law suite and the main part of our house. This will be able to eventually accommodate us and two of our kids/families in the future (if it works out that way). We could also rent the spaces if we find we need the extra income.

Okay, back to my conservation. We’re trying to conserve our finances, our health, and our property all in one. Knowing that some initial investments cost more but expect to yield long term results make them very appealing. Whether it’s higher quality food or something like solar panels to power specific power hungry or necessary parts of our home, trying to do it with least financial cost is truly a task. But it seems to be a task that I enjoy because like I said, it’s a thought that seems to be constantly cooking in my mind.

I think that this mindset honors HaShem, too. He created the earth and man to care for it. Man is the peak of the pyramid but that doesn’t mean that the lower levels of the pyramid don’t need proper care. We need to care for what He has given us to be stewards over – the land, the animals, finances and our families.


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