Monday, December 19, 2011

The Place Where We Live: Bioregional Vacationing

Written by Karen

In wintertime, sometimes we begin thinking about an escape to another place. Whether because of the hectic nature of holidays or the shorter amounts of daylight, a vacation is welcome downtime. It can also be some of the only “unplugged” time families have with each other. These days, however, it can also be first on the chopping block of the family budget. But it doesn’t have to be.

In our family, we love to take our vacations right here. I call it the bioregional vacation. It can be an extended time of up to a week (or longer) or just a day or two (Unplugged Sunday). Taking the time to really see your own place the way a tourist might see it is so satisfying. It takes a little planning to take a vacation in your own area since the temptations of work, meetings and everyday tasks can beckon, but it can easily be done. 

Tips for the local vacation:
• Travel to a nearby town or even somewhere in your own, but pack as if you are traveling far away. Do not bring a computer. Do not schedule any day-to-day tasks or meetings during that time.
• Tell colleagues or clients you are going on vacation and not to call unless it is an emergency.
• Do not go home until the vacation is over.
• Consider a house trade with local friends or enjoying a bed and breakfast that you have actually stopped by to inspect ahead of time. 
• Make a list of the places in the area that you would like to experience.
• Notice the prominent natural landmarks of your area. Here, it is the river. Often, my husband and son take a boat out on the river for the afternoon, giving me a much-loved break of alone time, creative time, or tea-time with a friend.
• Call a friend for tea or lunch out. So often we see a friend, say we’ll connect soon, and then never do. Use this time to enjoy your friends along with your family!
• Spend time at a local farm; kids love this. Take a tour, wander around the farm, and stop for produce at the end. You could even volunteer on a work day.

Local vacations offer some special things that faraway vacations do not. 
• Friends can come along with you. One year, during my birthday, we rented an off-the-grid forest retreat cabin for a week. It was located 30 minutes from home. Then we invited a few friends to stay a couple of days with us and celebrate.
• When you enjoy a specific activity or place, the experience is repeatable. No need to say, “We’ll have to come here again” and then never make it back.
• When your vacation ends, it is a short trip home. You can enjoy the entire last day, head out in the evening, stop for a leisurely dinner and then be home.
• No airline or rental car costs means saved money and a longer or more involved vacation. Especially for families with children, this can be huge.
• Kids grow up knowing their local landscape.

The place where we live.
The more we explore our local native area, the more we find to appreciate and love. Making it a vacation gives us an excuse to enjoy it without feeling like we should be doing something else. 
What began out of financial necessity has become rich and sustaining. My husband and I are tuned in to our local issues, largely because of our focused interactions with the landscape. We love and feel supported by our community.
We have stayed in: a yurt; a solar-powered mountaintop estate; an off-grid forest cabin and cottages near the beach to name a few. We enjoy a variety of parks and farms and even finally walked across the Golden Gate Bridge! 
Going deeper, finding more layers, and developing relationships, the place where we live becomes more than just a location; it feels like we really live here. And when winter comes, there is less restlessness, and a growing sense of anticipation for our area’s seasonal treasures and what else we might discover here. 

Where would you go if you were to vacation in your own place? 

With whom would you spend the time?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Remember Blue Laws?

Written by Jonah Lisa

Back when most of us were children, blue laws were in effect throughout the country to preserve Sunday as a day of worship and rest.  
Isn’t that quaint?  

In some areas, all stores would be closed but other places had arcane rules that allowed for the purchase of certain items but not others.  I recall the famous example used when Blue Laws were being dismantled of being able to buy a hammer, but not nails.  Or was it the other way around?  And even after blue laws were repealed, you still couldn’t buy alcohol in many places on Sunday because, well you shouldn’t be drinking on a Sunday anyway!  You should be in church!
But us liberty-minded Americans, we bristled at the idea of commerce being dictated by religious beliefs.  We didn’t like being told what we should and shouldn’t be doing on a Sunday.  I’ll hammer and nail things if I want to, damnit!  And even as a kid, I completely agreed.  So down came the silly blue laws and the people cheered.  YAY!  
And then they went to Piggly Wiggly for a soda pop.  And some nails.  
As the years passed more and more stores were open on Sundays until there was really no difference between Sunday and any other day of the week.  As an adult I got used to the idea that I could buy and do pretty much whatever I wanted to on any day of the week.   Ah, the freedom!  I never thought much about those old blue laws again.  They were just silly rules that got in our way.  
Flash forward 30 or so years later when I moved from New York (the city that never sleeps) to a small, rural, mountain town in far eastern Idaho.  And low and behold, all the stores were closed on Sundays.  
Grocery store?  CLOSED.  Drug store?  CLOSED.  Liquor Store?  DEFINITELY CLOSED.  The only things open on a Sunday were church and the ski hill.  
You gotta have priorities.  
At first, I was shocked.  I’d lived in Dallas, New York and Los Angeles.  I didn’t know this went on anywhere except for Israel, where everything is closed on Saturday, and Muslim countries during Ramadan!  I understood the reason.  Half of the population of my new home belong to the LDS church and no business run by an LDS member wanted to ask people to come in and work on a Sunday.  That’s a day to be with family, and yes, to go to church.  
But for some reason--maybe because I’d just moved from the hustle and bustle of The Big City, or maybe because I’d matured, or maybe because I was broke--I really didn’t mind.  And I started noticing something interesting.  Not many of the tree-hugging, progressive “move-in’s” that you’d expect to balk at a religion-based mandate seemed to mind either.  Everyone was A-OK with it. 
Sure, it took some getting used to.  You have to plan ahead a little.  But for very different reasons the people of this valley all seem to agree.  There’s nothing wrong with having one measly day of the week when you aren’t being tempted to consume.  Even more so this time of year!
It slows down the pace of life.  It alleviates the expectation of getting just as much done on Sunday as any other day.  It removes lots of self imposed expectations.  It means business owners and retail workers can get out and enjoy the day, too.  And sure, go to church if they want to, or head up to the ski hill, or take a hike, or just stay home and maybe even unplug.  Whether for religious reasons or not, it IS wonderful to set aside a day for rest, relaxation, or renewal in whatever form that takes for you.
And hey, if you find that you really need an egg or a cup of sugar?  Well, that’s what neighbors are for.
We have another, even more a-typical, kind of blue law here in the mountains as well.  On any given day, after a heavy snowfall, you may walk up to a shop or restaurant and find the door locked tight and a sign swinging in the window that simply reads:  
Like the Sunday store closures, I’ve learned to embrace and appreciate Powder Days.  In my opinion, we’d be a happier, healthier society if we all took more of them.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Staying Home with Family

Written by Meg

Unplugging on Sundays gives us space. Space to breathe, to be together, to exhale. I feel like life is so hectic and switching off slows it down. Sometimes we get out for a hike (us kiwis call it a bush walk) or some fishing but often we just stay home.
I love being at home with my honey and my boys. Reading books, cooking and playing games usually take priority. Getting together over a board game we chat and hang out. It's a really great way for the kids to learn how to be good winners and losers. 

Some excellent family games:

•Hey That's My Fish 
•Scrabble Jnr

The kids have an hour of quiet time in their rooms after lunch. Mummy and Daddy brew a pot of coffee and have our own game time. We love to play together and switching off lets us make time for that. It's so easy to get sucked into the Internet and for relationships take second place. 

Our favourite two player games:

•Race For The Galaxy 
•San Juan

Unplugged days at our place often involve something crafty. The boys (5 and 7) both have enjoyed learning to sew this year. Trial and error has taught us that stitching into a heavy fabric like felt is easiest for a beginner.

I sometimes tinker about on my sewing machine but more often than not, I'll potter about and help the kids with whatever they're into. During the week I often have the computer on and I know that they don't get really good quality attention. I often feel a little guilty about that. I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

Cooking from scratch and trying new recipes is a something I like to do too. Recently we tried making pasta and although a little time consuming it was really quite fun. When we're switched off there seems to be more hours in the day.

My mother tells the story of us playing"unhappy families" when I was a girl as our games of "happy families" would inevitably end in tears. There have been plenty of melt downs at our place but these days the kids are a lot better at losing.
I think we used 5 large free range eggs and 500g of flour, mixed them to a dough, kneaded it by hand and then popped it in the fridge for a wee rest. The rolling out part was a two person job (one big, one little) and was a little bit magical.
What are your favorite family games? 
Maybe you'll have a new one that we can try. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

They Will Follow Suit

Written by Kiersten

Raising teenage daughters, I have quickly realized that coercion does not work. I am passionate about parenting and am willing to try new things, read new books and implement changes to our lifestyle that I believe will benefit us. 
When beginning new ideas, or introducing new behavior, I have to be subtle. I have to do it first. They will see me doing things, and they will follow suit. As parents, we are setting patterns for a lifetime.   
I started a blog a few years ago chronicling our new farming project and the beginning years of our home schooling. My mom started reading it. As my blogging became more inclusive I added birth stories from my midwifery practice and documented lots of arts and crafts.

My mom said, recently, “Gosh, Kier, you do all the same things I did while you were growing up! I keep reading about them on your blog.”
 “Like what?” 
“I gardened, I crocheted, and I embroidered. I sewed.”

I just barely remember my mom doing all of these things. If I spend time, consciously thinking about it, I can remember. I have blankets that my mom made. She made them for my daughters too. I remember her doing batik. She embroidered and we always had a garden. I never thought of that. I never realized that I was doing all the things my mom had done. 
She was (and is) an avid reader. So am I, so are my daughters. 
It reminded me that our children will do what they have seen us doing throughout their childhood. 

If you want your children to be unplugged, be unplugged yourself!
Make sure they see you:
  • Reading. Have books and magazines around the house.
  • Crocheting, knitting or embroidering. Use your hands. Spend time talking to your children while creating something.
  • Hiking.  Even if they don’t join you each time, let them see you going for a walk with your partner, or friend every day.  (Or often!)
  • Sitting still. Drink tea with each other. Drink tea with your friends. Let this be a normal way for you to spend time together with friends and family. 
  • Garden. Grow your own food, or just grow some herbs on your windowsill.
Do the things you want your children to do! 

What are some of the things that you do that you remember your mom or dad doing?