Friday, January 07, 2005

Including my family

A reader asked:

Not to be nosy, but what does your wife and child think of your living
simply quest?

There have been a lot of 'I' and 'My/Mine' in the posts...

Good question.

My child is young, but he did tell me he wants me to work less & be
home with him more

Most of my ideas would make life for my family less convenient, a fact that has not been lost on my wife. I don't want to be taking away the facilities that they depend on every day. For example, when I propose moving to a smaller home, I am taking away the generous indoor playspace they have today.

At the same time, my wife & I agree that we want to consume less energy, produce less waste, spend more time together, make our work more meaninful, and improve our health. We also agree that we are overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we own. We are reminded of this fact every time we clean for guests or before the maid service comes. (Yes, we clean the house so that we can pay other people to clean the house!)

So as long as I remember to be senstive to the needs of my family, they are interested and involved in the plan.

The two threads.

If you look over my posts about how to live, you may see some conflicting ideas. That's because there's really two different things going on:

1. Live simply. Don't let the stuff I own own me. Give up stuff I don't need + some stuff I do like to free up time. For example, I have removed 4 computers from my home, which means I don't have to spend time maintaining them. I give up the power of those PCs to gain the time.

2. Live frugally. Don't buy as much stuff, reduce my dependency on civilization, waste disposal, energy sources, and my job. Do more for myself instead of paying someone else. Cook my own meal instead of eating out.

Sometimes these ideas work together: moving from a suburban house to a cheap city condominium means I save money on the mortgage, don't have to pay anyone to mow a lawn, can get rid of a car & walk instead.

Sometimes they work against each other.

If I want to start cooking all my own meals, instead of eating out, I would like a well-equipped kitchen to make it more convenient. But that means having a large enough kitchen to keep all the appliances accessible. I'd want a nice set of knives, which need to be in a knife block on the counter, instead of in a drawer.

If I want to grow my own vegetables, then I'll need land (not a condo), and various gardening implements.

Man, simplicity is complicated!

Living simply in the kitchen

What's the minimum you need in the kitchen?

I have a microwave, a conventional oven, a stovetop, a Foreman Grill, a waffle maker, a toaster over, a coffee maker, a rice cooker, a slow cooker, and a bread maker. All except the microwave pushes electricity through coils to make heat to cook food.

If I were living on a small boat in the middle of the ocean, could I get by with a small oil-burning stove?

I have a blender, a food processor, a wisk, and a bunch of plastic & wooden spoons. (I don't have a mixer, but most people do.) Could I get by with just 1 spoon?

Knives seem to be a critical part of a kitchen. When cooking, I really enjoy the feel of a good knife. A sharp blade, heavy, well balanced, a gentle curve to the blade, and a wide edge on the non-cutting side (to push with my other hand). Could I get by with just 1 or 2, if I take really good care of them? I think I'd like to learn to make a knife myself...

I'd need a small and a large bowl, a skillet, a large pot, and a cutting board.

One thing I'm overwhelmed by today is those little plastic food storage containers. They have to be carefully nested to store and carefully matched with lids to seal. They stain with tomatoes, scratch with knives, and maybe leach nasty chemicals if microwaved.

200 years ago, waht did they do with leftovers?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Living without heat

A while back I heard an article on NPR about a writer who lived & worked in her home without heat, even in the dead of winter. She talked about how she wore many layers, but that she still was pretty cold in her office, which was on the north side of the house. She also talked about how it helped her connect with the many people in the world who don't have a choice: they live without heat, clean water, medicine, etc., and suffer for it.

I live in great comfort, but I find myself questioning it at every turn.

If anyone can point me to a transcript of the article, or to internet resources about this person, or other people making similar choices, I'd be greatful.

Vacation Kefir

We are visiting my inlaws, and have been here for 2 weeks now. All told I'm away from work for 3 weeks this time; the longest since I started at Microsoft 8 1/2 years ago. But I haven't been completely disconnected, instead spending a lot of time on the laptop playing with C#.

This week the weather was great, and we've spent a lot of time outdoors (and barefoot!). I'll miss that when we return to Seattle.

My mother-in-law makes a drink called Kefir. Humans have been drinking it for 12,000 years, so there's a lot of variation on how it is prepared & consumed across various cultures (pun!). She makes it by simply putting Kefir "grains" in to a jar of raw milk, and letting it sit on the counter for 24 hours. She then strains it & it's ready to drink. They mix some sweetener in, but I've been enjoying mine plain. It's slightly tart, and slighly effervescent.

One of the interesting things about Kefir to me is that it represents an about-face in my relationship with microorganisms. The conventional wisdom is to strike them out - wash hands, disinfect utensils, pasteurize, refrigerate, etc. With Kefir, you instead cultivate more microorganisms, the kind you like, and they overpower the bad kind. Consider: the "grains" are used continiously for months, never referigerated, and constantly immersed in raw milk. It never goes bad!

If you see someone with a cold, do you think "stay away, I don't want to get sick"? Or do you think "I am taking good care of my body, so I know I'm not likely to get sick". I'd like the latter.

I've also been reading about other related brewed/fermented concoctions, like traditional salsa or saurkraut. It looks like every culture has a history of using these with meals. It preserves food without refridgeration, predigests so you can more easily absorb nutrients, and adds more nutrients to what you eat. Good deal.

Could I live in 2004 without refridgeration in my home?

If I sail around the world, not having a fridge or icebox (or just having a very small one) would sure make things simpler.

Must keep exploring...
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