the barefoot budget

unconventional grit for a mindful life


The Crazy Life

ct WW

I took four days off work hoping for a little rest after a stressful month of January. If you read this blog, you know me, and rest has been far away. I’ve been struggling with creating downtime in my life over the last year. I figured I needed rest and relaxation, given that work stresses me out and in general makes me want to run away. I’ve been fighting that never ending urge to go-go-go. But you know what? Production is my art. To be crude (and steal the name of a favorite book), making shit and doing things is how I interact with this world, as my truest self.

Even though I’m often weary, I’m a high energy individual. I’m not made to sit still. I’m not made to sleep late, to sip tea and watch movies, to take baths. I’m made to have dirt under my fingernails (shoutout to Katy!), to knick my hands and shins up, to not sit down for 12 hours straight. I’ve been fighting that in the name of my mental health and relationship (Andrew’s a low energy individual). Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with relaxing (wish I could do it more) – but I think trying to force myself out of the habits that make me ME is creating stress in my life. I keep telling myself I’ll have time to rest when I’m retired.

So what if I didn’t score the staycation I was hoping for. The last three days off work have been a trip.

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Romanticism Debunked

A follow up on yesterday’s Instagram post.

Do you know how hard it is to knead dough for 10 minutes straight? It’s winter so you’re wearing a sweater, but about two minutes in you start sweating and have to fineagle the sweater off without getting dough all over it. Then your hair gets in your mouth, but you don’t dare try to pull it out for fear of getting flour in your hair. If you’re a newbie to baking like me, your hands cramp. You can’t skimp on the kneading – if you do, you end up with dense, crumbly bread.

Have you ever used a whetstone? It’s a huge learning curve, and there are hundreds of videos on Youtube with conflicting techniques and different advice. The motion used to sharpen must be learned through muscle memory, which means the only way to get it is to practice hundreds, no thousands of times. I practiced sharpening for over two hours yesterday, and only felt slightly more confident than when I began. My knife was noticeably sharper, but nowhere near where I’d like it to be. Sharpening with a whetstone is a true practice of patience.

Has one of your friends ever found a dead worm in your house? The little bugger escaped from his new home, and conveniently died right on our living room carpet. When they’re dead, they are hard little sticks. You get a really weird look, and you know deep down your friends think you’re crazy for keeping worms as pets. It takes the worms a while to adjust to a new home though, so for now you just pick up the dead ones when you see them and hope nobody else notices.

I don’t write this to be a complain-y pants. I write this because it’s easy to be lulled into the romanticism of self-reliance. You can picture yourself ambling among rows of tomato plants with fat juicy fruits, the gentle summer breeze blowing your hair. You can imagine the way fresh baked bread with homemade jam tastes. You can envision the smiles on your friends faces when you hand them a bottle of homebrew you’re proud of. But what you never daydream about is the really hard work that this lifestyle takes, and the endless mistakes you will make. You don’t picture your hair matted with red clay, glued to your forehead in the oppressive summer heat while you attempt to train the stubborn tomato vines onto a stake without breaking any fruits or leaves off. You don’t imagine the mess canning jam leaves behind in your kitchen. You don’t picture painstakingly cleaning and sanitizing ten pieces of equipment and twenty beer bottles so your batch doesn’t skunk.

I’m guilty of romanticizing homesteading on this blog, because hey – part of the reason this blog exists is because I want to turn others onto this lifestyle. The rewarding aspects of this life DO exist, and damn are they sweet. But everything comes at a cost, and in this lifestyle that cost is your hard work and mental fortitude.


Getting Down to Business

Remember how I talked about over-doing my life last month? I’m happy to report that I have relaxed quite a bit since then. Ok, I’ve been sick – first from going off my pain meds, then from the flu – but honestly, these three weeks of feeling under the weather have been a total boon. I’ve been forced to take it easy, which has given me plenty of free time to read, write in my journal, and watch TV and play new board games with my boo. God it feels good. I had seriously forgotten what it’s like to just kick it – no agenda, no never-ending task list, no pressure to be on a train of constant progress.

Right before I left home, my dad told me, “stress is self-created. It’s all in your head.” I’d learned that so many times before, but hearing come out of my dad’s mouth was a kick in the ass. As I’ve been reflecting, I realized that even though I accomplished a lot in 2015, it was all done under this reign of self-created stress that I’ve talked so much about. Here’s the amazing part – I’ve released that stress and pressure, made more free time for myself, yet feel just as productive! Even in my sickie state this month of January, I’ve already:

  • Grown two batches of sprouts (alfalfa and mung)
  • Completed my new worm hotel
  • Started my first sourdough culture
  • Helped Andrew with our first oyster mushroom colony
  • Done yoga every single day
  • Built ~300 yards of hiking trail
  • Worked on two habitat restoration projects
  • Cooked so many delicious vegan meals (Thanks Isa!!)

Yet I’ve magically also had time to nourish my soul and my relationship (and watch the whole first season of Master of None). I feel so lucky to have been able to use all the insight I gathered productively to free myself of the unnecessary stress. Of course, every day is a new day, but I finally feel like I’m not on the verge of exploding.

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This has been the year of “I’ve learned.”

I’ve learned that:

I’ve learned how to:

But the number one, most important thing I learned this year is:

dear christine – you can’t do everything at once

Boom. What did y’all learn in 2015?


My Homemade Christmas Gifts

This year, I made all my Christmas gifts. It was something that sounded romantic at first, but man oh man was I busting my ass the last couple weeks, bagging tea, baking, tasting beers, and packing everything up.

We are trying to get away from wrapping paper, so this year I upcycled most of my packaging material. I took a big stack of boxes from a Dollar General, and cut them down to make little open top boxes. I wrapped these using Trader Joe’s holiday brown grocery bags, and accented using homemade name tags and gathered pine cones. The rest of the packaging material was bought cheap at the dollar store.

As you can see, our little gift baskets included: homebrewed beer, homemade candy (buckeyes!), pizzelle (Italian cookies I made using my late grandpa’s pizzelle press), tea tins with homegrown tea and tea cookies, and finally a jam or jelly. We made habanero pepper jelly using our own habaneros; apple butter using north Georgia mountain apples; and blackberry lavender jam using all the wild blackberries we foraged plus homegrown lavender.

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last year – my hair is much longer now

My hair is long. Whenever Andrew finds one of my hairs in some food (bound to happen, right?), he’s gotta pull for a while to get it out. Gross. I love my long hair though. Exactly three years ago, I had similar length hair that I had to cut completely off because I didn’t take care of it. I colored it into oblivion, coated it in chemicals, and regularly used blow driers and straighteners. When I decided to grow it back out, I vowed that I would learn to take care of it. I gave up my blow driers and straighteners. I gave up my damaging combs. I started using exclusively Giovanni products, which worked well. I love their products and highly recommend them. This went on for a couple years, until  I started to take self-sufficiency seriously.

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2015 Christmas Craft – A Christmas Mushroom

I present to you my 2015 Christmas craft! I’m trying to start a tradition of doing a Christmas craft every year in the month of December.I love decorating for this time of year, but often experience horrible spending anxiety. DIY-ing my decorations helps alleviate that. It’s a nice way to produce a unique, handmade decoration while spending little money. Also, I relish the experience of working on my craft next to our tree, listening to my favorite holiday music.

Last year, my craft was a painting for my grandma. This year, as you can see, I crafted a two foot tall light-up Christmas mushroom for our front yard.

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