Charles and I started a new project here at our house. We have been doing these studies for years now of living more like the past. We knew that we needed to do more but how? Living in a city in modern times while trying to live more like the past is not always easy. We live in this world where everything flows to us.
We have tried many ways to reduce the flow of water, to reduce the flow of electricity but we always fall short of our expectations and then go back to our lazy habits.
One day Charles was at work and I was doing all I could to save water while cleaning and doing laundry. I had set a certain amount that I could use and only that but failed.
So I thought about, what if I only use what I "need" and nothing more? Have I been looking at this all wrong? I need a certain amount of water or I will never accomplish rinsing the laundry until clear as my Grandmother taught me. She said to get the clothes clean they must be rinsed until clear as we would watch the laundry swish in the wringer washer in the outside air.
She lived in a time without running water or electricity and yet they still had standards even though they had to carry the water.
We "need" to take care of our clothing, especially right now. So I changed how I was going about things....
Four years of daily readings are in this book. We know very well how much electric and water we used. We know how much our electric, water and sewer bill is going to be before we get it. But this does not mean that we will not have a high bill at times. The weather affects our bill and also our garden.
But then I thought there has to be a better way to do all of this? Many people are struggling right now to pay rent or house payments, many people are struggling to keep their lights on and pay their utility bills. But I cannot do anything about that to help them. But I can keep trying to improve what we do and share with others and maybe that would help.
We lived over a year with our hot water heater turned off when we were doing our world war 2 history projects. I had researched about the cost of running an electric hot water heater. Most everything gave averages about the cost but did not figure in how much hot water was being used. It was figured on an average of keeping the water hot in the hot water heater but if you use a lot of hot water doing laundry, dishes and bathing and depending how many people were in the household that hot water heater would be running those heating elements a lot. The same as an electric stove but an electric stove you can figure a burner being used with kilowatts per hour use.
We found ways to heat water to take a bath by just leaving a large dark pot out in the sunshine. There are many ways to heat water making our own solar water heaters and such as that. But people like to live a very convenient way today.
We learned during that experience that we live in a high utility bill area and that many people around our country do not have as high utility bills as we do. Many homes in our area,(not all but many including our home) is all electric. That means everything runs on electric. Hot water heater, air conditioning, heating, cooking, everything. Some people have Whopper Bills!
Our water bill is reasonable because we try to keep it down, but sometimes it is more usage due to gardening and extra laundry throwing us into a different bracket that charges more.
Then the sewer is double what the water is. So if the water coming into the house is twenty dollars, the sewer bill is $40.00 dollars making the use of water and sewer bill sixty dollars because here where we live you cannot have one without the other.
I know it is common for electric to cost $150.00 up to $500.00 for some and some even more. It all depends on what time of year it is and the size of their house. Our electric heating in the winter costs us the most.
Some people with all electric can keep their electric bill under $100.00 but many times that is because they get up in the morning and leave to go to work and use the bathroom at work, keep cool or warm at work all the while using the work place electric and water. Some of them even pick up ready made food on their way home from work so they do not have to cook. Some of you that have had to start working from home due to the pandemic may have noticed and increase in your water and electric bills.
Charles and I have to work hard to keep ours low because I am retired and when Charles is home we are full time here at home and we get dirty gardening and doing our own repairs, lawn chores, housekeeping, painting and cleaning windows. We often build the things we feel is something necessary or helpful so we certainly create dirty laundry to wash. We are not couch potatoes because we do not even have a couch nor a recliner. We have occasional chairs throughout our home and occasionally sit. :)
So starting this past Monday we started something a little bit different. I started using rain water to do laundry. Several of my blog friends in Australia use rainwater, some of them use rainwater for all their household and garden water. But they have rather large rain catchment containers because they have to catch and hold all they can when it does rain.
Charles and I have 4 rain barrels at this time but we are working on trying to capture more rain water as we can. We have been in a bit of a drought so if there is no rainwater storage and there is no rain, there is no rain water. But that should not stop us, we capture rain water when we can, store what we can use that as long as we can. Then use city water when we have to and let it all work out the best we can. Using the rinse water instead of letting it go down the drain helps because it slows down the water coming in.
I have many methods of hand washing clothes, but most important is always soak the laundry before washing. This is the laundry soaking in rain water and soap.
Last year Charles and I were surprised to receive this Lavario washer from two thoughtful friends Daisy and Nathan. This is a tall container with slots on the sides and a basket that goes up and down. The laundry items go in the basket and it forces water through the articles.
I have made this more frugal to use by using rain water and also to work even better. We must use something to experience working with it to work things out. So to make it work even better, I use the basket for small things such as dish cloths and drying cloths and socks and such.
By pushing the basket up and down the side slots washing the contents inside.. Then..
I remove the basket and use the full container using my plunger. The container is just the right size to swish very well to get towels, pants and shirts clean..
It has quite a bit of action with it being a taller vessel.
But another good thing to do is put the container in an area when you know it is going to rain and a area where the roof is clean so the water is clean such as our metal roof on the carport or the metal roof on the shed, and in a area that runs off and let it run off into this container to fill it with rain water. You will need to wash right there because it would be too heavy to move. If you can catch more in buckets to use for rinsing that would be good.
Or you can do like we have done and put up a rain gutter to catch the water and direct it to this container where we want to use it.
Water is heavy so it is difficult but not impossible to bucket the water to where we need it and this is what people did for much longer in years than what we have done with running water in our homes.
Thank you again, Daisy and Nathan.
One of our trusty old rain barrels that catches rain off our carport. We keep our roof cleaned off when we can and we have a first flush pipe that catches any debris first, then it goes through a smaller barrel with gravel before going into this barrel.
I have a older post that shows our rain barrels all together when we first put them in. We are in the middle of raising our barrels up one block higher at this time.
I pay special attention to the neck and cuffs on Charles shirts. I lay them out and scrub them on old counter top that Charles built in outdoor laundry area.
After soaking the clothing all is really needed is a flat surface, a scrub brush or scrubby and some soap and water.
It does not matter where I am washing, I try and wash in something that I can contain the rinse water to re-purpose that water. Either to flush a toilet or water some plants. My grandmother always use the rinse water to water plants. And also make sure to use soap that is pure and not harmful to the environment.
On another subject we continue to preserve the harvest so to speak, no matter if it is grown here at home or purchased from the produce market.
We only have a very small chest freezer so I am particular what goes into that freezer. We put some zucchini in the freezer this past week. After slicing, they need to be blanched in boiling water, then into ice water and drained.
I like to lay them out on a clean towel and blotted dry before putting them in a bag or freezer box. I want to mention here that I blanch and cool many things using just tap water because we do not make or keep ice We have a small refrigerator and small freezer so we do not have space for ice and have learned to live without it. When we do need to use ice we purchase a bag of ice which is a very rare occasion. For zucchini or squash I use ice because it seems squash really holds the heat.
We put up eleven bags of our serving size in our freezer. So we have vegetables canned, dried and frozen.
I made spinach, onion and egg omelets the other morning using some of the spinach I have dehydrated. It rehydrated very easily before using. Here above I have sauteed onion and spinach and am cooking off the water that the spinach was soaking in.
Charles said there was no difference in the taste of fresh or dehydrated.
I made chicken fritters from canned chicken. Charles loves when I make chicken fritters and they are very easy to make.
I either use a 12.5 ounce can of chicken or a pint jar of home canned chicken...
I add two eggs to a bowl and whisk, then add about half of a medium to large onion that has been sliced and chopped, then drained the chicken and add that to the bowl, then 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour.
Mix up with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated which I am still doing above. Do not use anymore flour because we want crispy fritters and not doughy. So mix this together gently.
I put this much light olive oil in the large skillet but any vegetable oil will do in the pan. We do not need to deep fry this.
I use a large spoon and spoon it over to the skillet. It will be a bit loose so just take the spoon and gently place it in the pan of slightly sizzley oil and once the bottom is starting to brown flip it carefully with a spatula and a fork then press it down a bit.
Somehow they always turn out crispy and yummy..
Another meal we recently ate was I boiled a whole chicken so I could make some broth, and cooked some rice and the carrots and onion cooked in with the whole chicken.
A simple breakfast one morning...
Back to the water and electric use.. ...
This week for the last four days we have used only half of our normal use on electricity and water.
We did this by saving our rain water to wash part of the laundry, saving our laundry "rinse" water,our "rinse" water from dish washing and using it to flush the toilet, turning off the lights when not using and not leaving the air conditioner on all day. We are having very hot weather so we "Need" air conditioning so I do not get sick. So we are using it for about three hours then when things are cooled turning it off for about two hours or just before it gets warm in the house. It is not always three hours or two hours Yesterday it was off six hours before it felt warm to me.
At night we are dropping the temperature down just a little to get our bedroom nice and cool before we go to bed then set it to turn off in three to four hours after we go to bed and leaving it off until we wake in the morning. We are sleeping well and find we do not need to turn it on for hours after we get up. We have a small fan run in our bedroom and this is keeping us cool through the night.
This shows us there are always things that can be done to save money on monthly bills.
These experiments are a lot of work but each time we learn something. This weekend Charles said he wants to run a pipe from the barrels to the laundry area faucet. We have been carrying or using the water hose from the barrels to the garden but the garden is up hill a bit from the water barrels. When we do not have rain water we have to use city water but the plants do not like the city water.
If we catch and use our rain water when we get rain then if we look at the whole picture of savings for the year it does help. There are times we do not have it but then there are times when we do. We will save up to purchase another larger tank and that will help.
Our rain water catchment has always been used only for our garden until this week.
It is always good to do things or practice things out of the normal so we can just switch the way we do things should we have a power outage or a economic downturn. Nothing stays the same as each day is different so it is good to learn skills of how to manage our home in all kinds of situations.
If we just remember that our ancestors, our Grandparents, our great grandparents and our great great grandparents, which ever generation it was since we are getting further away in time but they lived a time without the things we have today and what Charles and I have learned is life was not just awful for everyone as some have led us to believe.
We are in a time right now that I have never seen or even thought would be. Charles and I feel it is important to live in a way that will get ourselves through situations that could arise from most anything and also be comfortable. We pray the economy will hold but what if it does not? We should start doing something now and get good at it so we can work out the kinks before it could become a real situation. If the economy does not bottom out then we will have the skills to lower costs and save money.
I was recently asked how do I stay positive when trying to preserve food and all the work that goes with it and the stress of knowing when there is enough with the way the world is right now.
I do what I always do, I look at my home as an opportunity for a way to express romance or have a ambiance about the home.
This can be done in many ways. My friend June enjoys making meals enjoyable with special touches and coordinating the evening activities and uses themes. All done in a simple way. Possibly music that would coordinate with the meal or games played after dinner.
Our garden is an extension of our home. It once was just grass to be mowed and trees. Then one day I started making a path and years later it became so much more but not by itself. We must roll up our sleeves and make the effort and do the work or we end up with a clean slate that only collects leaves or dust.
It does not take much to make a home romantic, just baking homemade bread can fill the home with smells that calm the home. Even if we live alone and cannot eat gluten we can still bake bread and take it to another.
It is about taking any day and making it a special day but changing up and making blueberry pancakes and placing them elegant on a platter.
Being romantic to me is getting to a point in our life that we notice the small things. Romance is a feeling, it can be an excitement of noticing something very special. Something very beautiful.
Or just noticing. Being in a happy place mentally to where we notice things we sometimes just do not see because our mind is full. It is good to look around and notice the living things that are around us and to do our best to care for them. We cannot forget the trees and plants as well as I have been reading about trees and studies that are being done and how trees have feelings and they lower their branches at night just a little and back up in the morning.
I feel that I romance the past because I admire the work of an old quilt and the turns in the wood of the old bed.
A home can be a special place if we just do what it takes to make it special. Especially if children live in the home. We are making memories of home and it will not do it all by itself. We find that peaceful place in our minds where we can start to see more clearly those things around us and if they are not there we make it become there.
Don't let your light go out in this pandemic. Let your imagination become empowered. Coordinate your evenings with your children in simple ways to bring happiness.
Read a good book aloud or to ourselves in candlelight.
Learn to knit if you do not know how. Crochet a simple edge to a bath cloth, read Clean romances.
We need a calming home, there is enough noise outside our doors.