Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Living like Little House on the Prairie

Modern pioneer houseEmulating life in the late 1800s a la Little House on the Prairie is a lesson in conservation and frugality. Life may have been a whole lot tougher back then, but the end result was living life with less impact on the environment.

For modern day pioneers, you get the environmental benefits as well as the money saving ones. And, if your financial portfolio is taking a nosedive, consider trying some 19th century ways of life to snap you back into the black.

1. Grow your own food - Planting your own food crops may take some time to learn how to do properly, but once you get the hang of it, you'll save a ton of money on your food bill. Talk about eating local. For those apartment dwellers out there, you have no excuse. There's a bunch of things you can grow on your windowsills, plus indoor mushroom cultivation and much more.

2. Raise your own critters - Whether it be chickens or other poultry for their eggs and meat, bees for honey, rabbits for meat and fur or goats for dairy, wool and meat, many people have plenty of options for animal husbandry.

3. Make your meals from scratch - Do you think Ma bought dinner at the local fast food joint? I reckon not. Spending the extra effort making your meals from scratch will not only save you money, but will also save your arteries from the salt, fat and cholesterol laden convenience foods we tend to rely on. Take it one step further and make your own yogurt, cereal, butter, tomato sauce, jams, peanut butter, bread, pasta... the list goes on.

4. Conserve water - Indoor plumbing is a thing of the future and thinking like a pioneer will save you water. If you had to rely on all your daily water by lugging it to the house from the creek, you'd use a heckuva lot less water. So, save your warm up water from the sink and showers for other needs (like flushing the toilet) and be mindful of that running tap water.

5. Skip the heat - I know not all of you can do this, but even just turning your thermostats down lower, bundling up in sweaters, slippers and blankets will save you tons of money on your winter heating costs. Since the cost of heating oil, electricity and gas are expected to increase at least 10% this winter, think about reducing your thermostats by 10% or more to offset the increase.

6. Turn off the lights - Concentrate your activities in one main room if possible to reduce the number of lights on in the house. Does your whole family really need one light on (or more) per person? Getting together may also inspire more family interaction. Try telling stories - you'll be surprised at how interested your kids, friends and family are about your childhood. And all that huddling together will reduce your heating costs.

7. Walk instead of drive - Since most of you don't own a team of horses, walking is your best bet for getting around. Even if you don't live near town, most pioneers didn't either, and walking several miles to town was considered routine. You'll save money on gas and get the extra exercise you probably need.

8. Rise and set with the sun - Getting up early and going to bed early will not only award you with the much needed sleep that most of us don't get, but it will also save you money on your electricity and heating bills.

9. Craft your own - Sewing, knitting, quilting, soap-making, wood-working and other crafts are not only great hobbies, but are rewarding and can save you money. Plus, you can give away your hard work as gifts that will be much better appreciated than many store bought items.

10. Don't buy on credit - As Pa would say, "cash on the barrel head only"! In other words, live within your means and you will not run into financial trouble. By the same token, if you are only spending what you have you'll be less likely to be caught up in wanton consumerism and all the environmental impact it entails. So, stick to buying quality products that you absolutely need and that fit within your budget.

I don't know about you but I'm feeling another Pioneer Week coming on!


Bobbi Jo Nichols said...

Love the idea of Pioneer Week. Can't wait to see what you do with this!! Great tips you shared with us. Hugs, Bobbi Jo

Jenn, Pint-sized Pioneering said...

I wish that my family appreciated my hand-knitted items more than they do. I've stopped making things for people because they seem to think I've cheaped out by making them something, not realizing that the yarn cost me more than what I would have spent on a "normal" gift, and that the project took me weeks of nonstop knitting.

I now knit only for my husband and other knitters: they get it.

A Vision Splendid said...

I LOVE this idea. I often borrow the Little House DVDs from the library.
I would be quite happy to live like the Ingalls as long as I had solar powered laptop with wifi !!! LOL

Unknown said...

Nantucket is doing a 'Moving Planet' event today. Riding bikes from farm to farm and learning about growing your own food. Who knows better than farmers? Could we skip the Little House part where they were so cold and hungry Pa couldn't play his fiddle? I need my music.

Lee Borden said...

We're two years into our new life applying many of your concepts:
1. Food. Done except for a dwindling list of provisions we have to buy.
2. Critters. Not yet. On the list, but not #1 yet.
3. Meals. Done.
4. I use composting toilet. She flushes. I am patiently wooing her.
5. Heat. Done. We heat with wood and cool with fans and the breeze.
6. Lights. Done. We live in 600 sq ft.
7. Walk. Not yet. We're moving toward bikes.
8. Bedtime. Moving SLOWLY in that direction.
9. Crafts. Not much.
10. Credit. Done.

My main advice to others would be to take baby steps. Making this transition is actually quite fun.

treehuggers kitchen said...

I wasn't around for the last Pioneer Week. I love the idea!! We already do most of the things mentioned in today's post, but there's always room for improvement. :)

Brad K. said...

Just a couple of thoughts.

The early western pioneers suffered from a common issue -- they didn't know to keep garbage and outhouses (and compost heaps and kitchen scraps) at least a hundred feet away from (and downhill from!) the well. This resulted in several cholera and other epidemics. Remember, it isn't modern medicine that extended today's lifespan, it was public sanitation and food inspection that limit and avoid epidemics.

8) Rise and set with the sun. I think there may be some tie-ins here with normal nervous system function and development. It also has interesting implications for living with the seasons, storing up and learning and conserving during long winter nights, while quickly recharging for the work to be done on long summer days.

Blessed be!

Prairiemom said...

Rising and setting with the sun. To bad the sun rises when the kids are already getting to school and sets around 5 PM in the dead of winter.

Rachel S said...

Excited about Pioneer Week! Have found growing my own food on a shady .15 acre plot quite challenging. On a positive note, I drive my family crazy following them around unplugging appliances/ chargers that aren't in use.

Bee Girl said...

I am a huge fan of the Little House series (I grew up watching the show) and am currently re-reading the entire book series :-) If you do another Pioneer Week, count me in!!!

Rainy Day Gardener said...

Shared this on my FB..great post! I wasn't around for Pioneer Week before but am really keen to see what it's all about! Our household is even considering the Freeze Yer Buns challenge!

Anonymous said...

Great ideas! We are making more progress each day. We often use candles at night because A. it's more romantic and B. is does save electricity. We have our little backyard homestead working hard too with plans to expand.

Christina said...

Ah, the idyllic world of Little House. But it sounds like the books haven't actually been read? The Ingalls family depended on credit numerous times over the course of the book, because of hardship and also because of splurging on unnecessaries (of their time - like glass windows). Another thing that goes against my grain is Pa's constant insistence on independence rather than interdependence - although the latter certainly shows up to save their behinds numerous times. And of course, the pioneers' dedication to taking land and turning it into something (a farm) other than what it was (a prairie) pretty much set us on the road to environmental degradation, aquifer depletion, etc. There's a lot to learn from the pioneer spirit, but surely we can leave the rose-colored specs on the shelf...

Crunchy Chicken said...

Jenn - I'm always worried that people will think I'm cheaping out on gifts that are handmade. Perhaps just stop giving them things altogether :)

nantuckettiechic - Yes, we can skip the cold and hungry part by being prepared.

Christina - No, I've read 3 of them, most people haven't read all the books and/or are thinking more of the TV show rather than the books.

Laura, herself, painted the early books in a much rosier light than what actually occurred (not to mention rearranging time, people and events).

Anisa said...

Great idea.
Christna - I have read all the books, multiple times, even the two that are not typically part of the series, and in them, Pa rarely, if ever, bought on credit. He bought windows in the second book using the furs he trapped all winter. Though, he was obsessed with independence, he also worked together with neighbors (Mr. Edwards, the Scotts) to build his home, etc. He borrowed nails from Edwards to finish his roof but was urgent to pay the nails back. Anyway - not to argue too much, yes the early books are rosy - they are age appropriate to Laura's age in them (I read Little House in the Big Woods to my four year old), but generally, I'd agree with the above values in the series.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of the TV series. Too sappy. And Pa had no beard! ;)

Christina said...

I'm not saying I don't like the books - I have three boxed sets of them, the first two being so completely dog-eared that they are impossible to read, so I was very happy to find a third boxed set (brand new!) at the library sale a few years ago for a few dollars. I read them aloud to my children, my daughters then read them to themselves (now 12/15) and my son has the first three as audiobooks to enjoy. And they certainly inform a lot about a much more basic, self-sustaining lifestyle. I'm just saying that we need to read them wholly and not get bound up in the rosy children's book image of manifest destiny that they present...

BTW, in the second book Ma says that the furs were the plow and seeds, and they didn't have glass windows there. It's book four, Plum Creek, I'm thinking about, where every bit of the new house is "I'll pay for it when we harvest the wheat crop from this incredible land" which is of course eaten two years in a row by the grasshoppers.

I'm curious what are the two books considered out of series? I've only ever seen the series published as the set of nine...

dixiebelle said...

I read the whole series to my kids, and we often refer to how Mary & Laura did things, or what Ma & Pa had to go through. I often think about and compare times, and how bloody hard it was for Pioneers (in the US, but also, here in Australia), in so many ways. For all the positives there was in that 'lifestyle' (way of living), they were dangerous, stressful times too. While I may fantasize about living a simple life in the woods & escaping this crazy society, I like medical care, I like enough food on the table, I like communication. However, the skills they had and the attitude/ stamina/ perspectives they had might be handy one day.

Of course, the 'native' people of the areas the pioneers settled in, are the better ones to emulate.