Friday, October 9, 2009

The book arrived already!

It came!
I am soo excited that I absolutely must share this.
I just ordered my copy of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen late last week, and it has already arrived. Autographed and everything! I couldn't be happier.
I just have to take a second and say thank you to the World's Greatest Aunt (mine of course)! Thank you, I couldn't have gotten the book without your generous help.

At the time that I was reading Chelsea Green's Food NOT Lawns, someone had lent me their copy of The Urban Homestead. In all honesty, I hadn't done more than flipped through the book before I returned it. I have this horrible habit of forgetting who a borrowed book belongs to and/or never returning it. This habit makes me leery of letting anyone lend me anything, and I tend to return it as quickly as I can. I had added the book to my 'wish list' though.

I stumbled across Home Grown Evolution's website, they are on facebook as well, and saw the book just waiting for me to order it. I love rediscovered treasures.

This is a most awesome book! Of all the books I have poured over on homesteading the last few years, this one has the most simple clear information on just about every topic us 'hopeful urban homesteaders' could need. Composting, beekeeping, cycling, canning, baking and cooking, city livestock, and a ton more. Recipes for cleaning supplies included. It has excellent illustrations - which, with my cognitive impairment from the brain-blood-flow issues, really helps me. The reassurance I find in the voice of this book is so encouraging.

There are a few books that I really love, and The Urban Homestead is now on that list.
The other two are The Seed Savers Guide and Make It Don't Buy It (I will add the authors and ISBN later on). Two gardening books that are nearly always in my backpack are: Nevada Gardener's Guide by Linn Mills (ISBN 0789172000987) and Month by Month Gardening in the Deserts of Nevada by Mary Irish (ISBN 9781591863847).

Next on the wishlist is an autographed copy of Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg ;D One can always dream, right?

Do you have a book that you refer back to again and again, or that you always keep handy, that changed your life, or that you just plain love?
Please share in the comments.

Best Regards,

Mojave Momma

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reality hits, and hits hard. :P

As I lie awake worrying about the unpaid power bill, upcoming mortgage, the collections calls from all the medical bills, etc. I realized that it is easy to feel trapped in this vicious circle, this toilet flush of circumstance. I know we are not the only family dealing with these worries.

I realized this chain of events increases the challenges exponentially:
Serious health condition = I can no longer work (significant drop in family income) = disability application = long wait (1400+ days currently and awaiting a hearing with a judge) = medical bills = collection accounts = lower credit score = higher interest = more money owed = wider gap between resources and needs = skimping on medical care = higher medical costs = no money to fund a garden or other means to self sufficiency = continuing high cost of nourishing and raising 3 growing boys ....

Well, you get the picture. Thankfully we don't have the typical consumer debt on top of that, and no car payments, etc. Of course there are so many additional areas of our families lives that are impacted that I try not to consider them all at once. How overwhelming!

As I was rattling on the other day to my husband about the most economical way to do our raised beds, and what recipes I have collected that I can use when we grow xyz, and other plans for our self-sufficiency project; he had a bit of a breakdown. He said "You just don't get it."
Now, I thought I did 'get it'. Our situation has been precarious for a few years now. I thought that he didn't 'get it'... I thought "We just need to persevere, plan, execute, keep going one foot in front of the other, day by day, as we have these past years."

The realization that he is right, I don't GET IT, hit me square in the forehead about midnight.

Maybe it is all that conditioning from my Nana (THANK YOU NAN!), or that indomitable spirit finally kicking in, but I refuse to give up or give in. We CAN do this. I may have to be patient. Things may come in steps, small baby steps even. But they will come. Time is the one thing on our side.

They will happen. I know this to be true. To the very core of my being. I will not short-change our dreams just because there are challenges.

I have also seen that this 'Economic Crisis' has given other people the desire, freedom, and passion to pursue paths that they hadn't felt open to them before. My wish is for everyone to be empowered to pursue their passions, endure and overcome whatever challenges they face, and love themselves and their families for every ounce of potential there is in their being.

Wishing many blessings, and relief from stresses (even briefly),

Mojave Momma

Thursday, September 17, 2009

About our project - The Mojave Homestead

I am a disabled, unplanned stay-at-home mom, and attempting to start our own sustainable urban homestead. We are a low-income family of 5, in NW Las Vegas. With a 13, 12 and 4 year old boy, our family of five has no lack of ideas and plenty of hard working dedicated hands. Currently I am taking classes at the community extension service through the Master Gardener program.

Our vision is to have a low-water use, ecologically minded, sustainable urban homestead, complete with edible landscape and native plants, providing proper backyard habitat for some of our species (working with The Tortoise Group, BatCon, the NV chapter of the Center for Biodiversity, and other resources), that is also a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat™.

It seems that many major cities have a prominent Urban Homestead (such as Pasadena’s Path to Freedom). My dream is to create awareness of our unique environment here in the Las Vegas area and Mojave Desert through the development of our own Mojave Homestead, educate ourselves and share that knowledge and expertise with others, and to become THE Example of responsible sustainable urban green living in our unique climate, as well as provide education and support for other hopeful homesteaders, disabled, and would-be gardeners worldwide.

This project has been slow in development due to lack of resources, as right now we are on very limited budget and do receive financial assistance while awaiting my disability determination. Thank you for your patience and understanding of our challenges. We appreciate deeply the knowledge-base and companionship we have received from our family, friends, and fans. I know with your love and support, we will be successful as long as we persevere.

I think of this as my "Planning Phase". This is the first step towards self-sufficiency in the desert. After all, "You are who you Choose to be." ~ The Iron Giant

Thank you for your support, and for sharing our Journey!

Best Regards,

Mojave Momma

On the Mend

I have been down a little longer than I had expected following my hernia repair surgery. Everything went well. As I am high-risk, having Antiphospholipid Syndrome and a history of blood clots in my brain, they took every precaution imaginable. I am still on the mend, and not yet 100%. Sleeping in my own bed, instead of the rocker in the living room, was a PAINFUL but special treat the last two nights.

Joe was kind enough to share his stomach flu with me, so needless to say those stomach muscles are especially sore this morning. I may end up in the ol' rocker tonight.

This experience has really brought to light the amount of necessary daily maintenance that I do to keep things going here. Well, at least in the yard and kitchen. Because we have no irrigation/sprinkler system, I must water our few precious plants by hand. Thankfully the weather has cooled a tiny bit, and so nothing has died on the days the boys have forgotten to do this for me. Carrying that water can back and forth is my exercise most days. With so few plants growing right now, I have the time to water and tend by hand. Realistically, I won't be able to do this once we have the garden and edible landscaping in.

The Landscape Design class taught by 'Mojave' Mel Hengen at the extension unit will cover irrigation (week 8 I think). I can't wait to get that far. Knowing that my plants are getting the necessary water, even when I am sick or recovering from whatever, will give me so much piece of mind.

Thanks for all of your support and interest! I wish you and your families blessings and love.

Best regards,

Mojave Momma

Friday, August 28, 2009

Think outside the Blog

We all have found a few tricks that work for us.

What we do:
Water conservation is always important in our home, our eldest is the 'water police' - don't dare leave that water running while you brush your teeth or you hear him saying "We live in the Desert!".
Recycle old socks, toilet paper rolls, noodles, and other household items into art.
I know I can't wait till we can get our little worm compost bin going and make our own soil using the scraps we would throw out.

I would like to know what other people do.

Have your own tricks to live green, save money, do a good turn for the environment, reduce/reuse/recycle/renew, or just plain fun things you want to share?

Post a comment now.
Can't wait to see your hints and tips!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Getting support when you are starting out.

I think one of the biggest challenges I had... well okay, there were really TWO big challenges for me:

1- My husband thought, and likely still thinks, I am crazy. As does most of my family and friends!

2- I had no idea where to start, what to do, or how to learn the basics.

On challenge number one, I decided that I had never cared before if my loved ones thought I was crazy (well, except my grandpa - but he's just special like that), so why would I start caring about their input now. I know the answer to that has a lot to do with how battling Hughes Syndrome, and the repeated brain injuries from lack of blood flow, have effected me personally and my level of independence. The physical challenges are tough. The emotional ones from becoming dependent on others for your care and from having new limitations, those ARE the real CHALLENGES. Challenges are meant to be overcome, right? Not fun sometimes.

So, challenge number two: How to learn what I need to learn, to do what I want to do?

Youtube was a great find for me.
Youtube has information on everything I needed to learn the elements of 'urban homesteading' from composting, vermicomposting (composting using worms), backyard orchards, beekeeping, diy solar and wind power (grid alternatives), biodiesel, gardening, storing food, saving seeds, water conservation, composting toilets.... seriously just about everything you can think of. Once I had a few keywords to search for, I spent hours watching and learning.

At some point it does get overwhelming. That's when I said "Okay, what can I do reasonably painlessly?". For me that answer was grow a few things, learn to better utilize our resources (money, food, water, etc). So how to do that?

This video was one that really inspired me to take something that I was interested in and make it a larger life goal.

Jules Durvaes of Path to Freedom: HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION - Radical Change Taking Root.

Jules said "Rethink the possible. Start where you are, and do something different."

For me it started with some 'reclaimed' materials and some potting soil. I couldn't afford to invest any money into amending our soil or buying or building planter boxes. So a damaged dresser strewn on the side of the road became a planter box. Crazy! Right?
"Start where you are, do something different." It was a start. It also helped me decide what I wanted as a larger goal. Who am I, what am I about, what am I willing and unwilling to do?

I learned about the Master Gardener Program. Totally by accident. A freecycler gave me a pressure-canner, My grandma said call the Cooperative Extension Unit to see if they do safety checks. They didn't do safety checks here in Clark County, but they did have resources for gardeners!

The cool thing about your local Master Gardener Program is it has information tailored for your climate and culture! How cool is that? Most have a telephone hotline, and/or volunteers to help the public. Often there are classes or community events. The American Horticultural Society has a directory of Master Gardener Programs here:

Then it was down to the archaic basics: the library. Yep! They still have those. Some even have online rentals, read a book at the computer - check it out. One of my favorite books is: Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community (9781933392073): Heather Coburn Flores, Chelsea Green

So, I hope that gives you information that helps you get started. Thanks for letting me share a little bit of our experiences. Please comment with your own thoughts, resources, and frustrations.

Good Luck, and Enjoy your journey!

Mojave Momma

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Facebook Page

Okay, this has taken me ages and ages... but I am proud that it exists at least.

I am still struggling to figure out Myspace ( My cousin helped me set up the first one, but it was deleted because I hadn't logged on (probably in years). Somehow myspace seems harder to separate personal pages from a public group. It very well could be 'user error'. If any of you know how to do it, I welcome any enlightenment you are willing to provide.

In the meantime, we have our blog, email, and facebook page up.

Our little surviving Goji is in bloom. Life is good, eh?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Introduction: Vision and Purpose

Mojave Momma’s journey to self-sufficient living and urban sustainability in the City of Sin & Entertainment Capitol of the World.

This is my first and opening post to share and chronicle our journey. Let me start by sharing a little about us and what we are (hopefully) going to do.

Family dynamics:
I am disabled, currently a full-time mom, flexible and easy going, stubborn but also lazy. For anyone that knew me before my TIAs (mini-strokes) I am not the same driven type-A corporate work-aholic I was before. In addition to the physical limitations, I have some cognitive deficits and often have a hard time remembering things and learning new information.

My husband of 15+ years, Chris, works full-time, goes to school full time, is in the Air Force Reserves, and is involved in many other things in the community. He is our glue, or moral compass, and leader.

We have 2 boys of our own, “Joe” and “Aj”, and we also have the joy of having with us my husband’s little brother “Walter” during the school week. “Joe” and “Walter” are both 12 years old, and are in 6th and 7th grade – respectively. The boys are sometimes best friends, and sometimes like oil and water... and we love them for their authentic expression of the individual beings they are.

Joe is an introspective, efficient, thoughtful, young man who is interested in solving problems, legos, star wars, and robotics. He has a sharp wit and sharper tongue (he got that from me).

Walter is our entertainer - enthusiastic and energetic, creative, and passionate. He is a smart young man who marches to his own beat (sometimes with total disregard for authority or convention).

Aj, our miracle baby, is turning 4 on August 2009. He is a pistol, and keeps me on my toes every minute of every day! He challenges everything I believed about motherhood and about children. Aj pushes me to be my personal best, pushes me past my limit, and often brings me to tears (happy and frustrated tears, often at the same time).

We have 6 lovely cats, and my assistance dog Jasminder.

Where we are:
Our home is a modest middle-class 1889 sq ft, single story, handicapped accessible, 3 bedroom, 2 bath home on 0.16 acres with virtually no current landscaping (rocks in front with a tree, and a broken sprinkler system). We live in the Centennial-Hills/Summerlin area of Las Vegas, NV – in the Mojave Desert. If you don’t know what it is like in the Mojave, it is HOT and DRY with cold nights, high winds, caliche and poor soil, and unpredictable changes. This is our ‘palate’.

Our vision (the details):
Respect each other and Enjoy the Journey!
Become financially self-sufficient through ecological minded lifestyle changes.
Grow our own food and store it and use it: Garden, backyard orchard, drying, canning, freezing, the whole shabang.
Make our own soil via vermicomposting (indoors so the little guys don’t die in our 120 degree weather).
Extend the edible landscaping to our front yard.
Follow our family's values and religious beliefs (self-sufficiency, hard work, food storage and emergency preparedness are part of our religious culture – Yes, we are LDS).
Develop the skills to create and maintain as many of our needs as we can (sewing, woodworking, repairs, etc).
Create a habitat that is:
  • Kid friendly
  • Edible
  • Low-water-use
  • Tailored to our environment
  • Welcome beneficial creatures such as bats and birds (pigeons are NOT birds – no matter what anyone tells me!)
  • Utilizes native plants with landscaping choices that are both practical and respectful of our unique desert ecosystem
Living with Purpose - Thoughts on goals, modifications, and limitations:
The thought of becoming self-sufficient is a comforting and appealing one to me. However, I realize that in our family's individual circumstance it is not at all practical, or even probable. If we could purchase a plot of land with water rights, build a little home complete with storage, orchard, and garden and live off-grid then sure it could be probable. Because of the special needs in our family, it is not at all practical. I have a rare autoimmune clotting disorder, and have had very serious and life threatening complications in the past. Being far from the qualified physicians that have succeeded against all odds to keep me alive and reasonably healthy is not an option I am willing to exercise. The whole goal is to raise our 2+1 boys and see them build successful and fulfilling lives of their own. I am determined to be here for that.

In lieu I have accepted some limitations, realized that I must modify my ‘ideal’ goals, and create something that is tailored to and works for our individual families needs. For Example: My family is not entirely willing to do a strict 100 mile diet, ditch cars for walking and biking exclusively, use a bike-powered blender, or not go to the movies. They are willing to reduce our energy usage, help grow our own food, recycle and reuse reclaimed items, make our own items when we can, and all with good attitude. In addition, I have physical limitations that present some challenges. Thankfully there has been much written on disabled-gardening and handicraft, so I have some resources. Financially purchasing land that is zoned for livestock, total remodeling of our backyard, or even purchase of some basic necessities such as soil is not an option. Managing day-to-day needs on limited income is… well… limiting. We have used reclaimed items as potting containers (much to my husband’s chagrin) and other creative solutions in lieu.

Thank goodness that there is room for such individualism. I have spoken with others in the like-minded (self-sufficiency) community that take a militant “all or none” exclusive stance. I think that if every person did what bit they are willing (and capable) of doing to be self-sufficient, reduce waste, and live in some small part ecologically minded the world would be a much better place. Even if it isn’t a complete lifestyle make-over.

So, off the soapbox.

This website’s purpose is to chronicle our family’s efforts and journey toward a self-sufficientish sustainable urban life.

With limited money, time, and space it may be a long journey towards growing our own food and living with a low-ecological impact. As I am always telling the boys, the Lord never promised ‘easy’ only ‘worth it’.

Thank you for joining us in our journey.

Mojave Momma