the barefoot budget

unconventional grit for a mindful life

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Homesteading in Small Spaces: The Homestead Mindset

One year ago we moved from our suburbany townhome into an 1800’s Victorian smack dab in the middle of town. As many of you know, we had originally wanted to purchase a house, but the stars wouldn’t align. So we made the financially right decision to delay home-buying and took action to at least get closer to the life we want. Andrew wanted to be closer to bars, restaurants, and shops. I wanted to be in walking or biking distance of my office. We broke our lease and moved into town.

Just because we didn’t buy a house doesn’t mean we gave up on homesteading. It’s just a different approach, one that I’ve been exploring and have found both exciting and frustrating. I got a lot of positive feedback on the last ‘Homesteading in Small Spaces’ post I did that talked about creative gardening solutions. Today I am continuing that series and discussing the value of the ‘homestead mindset’ – something that takes no space whatsoever.

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Football Witch

This is a picture of my desk, and this picture is the epitome of me.

A few weeks back, I cut, washed, and hung big bundles of mint and nettle to dry. I like to hang them all over the house for fragrance. Seeing them all over evokes that nice witchy feeling and feels cozy in our small space – like herbs are stuffed into every corner.
After a few weeks of drying, the herbs turn brittle and are ready to be put up. I make a space on my messy desk to separate leaves and buds from tough stems, then to crumble all the medicinal plant parts into labeled mason jars that go onto my makeshift apothecary.

My apothecary is a shelf in the middle of our beautiful oak bookshelf, and it somehow feels right that the herbs are nestled between VHS tapes of the Matrix and The Blues Brothers, but also The Critique of Pure Reason and Harry Potter. It’s me. It’s us.

My fantasy football lineup serves as my altar for harnessing my herbs. Alongside sit everything from my heavily highlighted and dog eared copy of The Encyclopedia of Country Living to coloring books to black metal stickers to old issues of Audobon and National Geographic that I use for making collages. All the while I’m singing along to the supreme pop of Ruby the Rabbitfoot. There is nothing solemn about it but it fees sacred in my own special way.

I’ve spent a lot of energy in my life comparing myself to others, especially via the internet. Other people have always seemed to have it more together than me, and their lives have seemed more beautiful and happy in general. I am trying to stop thinking this way by celebrating the unique things that make me – me. My home doesn’t look like it’s out of a Tumblr blog and my garden doesn’t look like a magazine cover. My spaces aren’t perfect or Instagram-worthy. But they are mine. They feel like mine, and they reflect the unique person that I am. After all, there’s only one football witch.


The Natural Progression, or Getting My Life Back

To me, the heart of homesteading is regaining control over my life – control over what I consume, control over my impact on this planet, and control over how I spend my time. I’m 27 and I’m transitioning from a Standard American Lifestyle to a self-reliant lifestyle. I’ve been stuck in the middle for two years now, only an infant in this journey to retire early, live off the land, and teach others how to live simply, sustainably, and in sync with the environment. Days are long, full, and stressful, attempting to balance the lifestyle I want with the demands of my paid employment, relationship, and personal health. I’m still learning and having growing pains, and I hope to one day be able to stabilize the balance. Because the problem is, once you take up this lifestyle, there’s no going back. At least for me there’s not.

There’s a natural progression to this lifestyle, a progression that has no end goal or pinnacle. I want to talk about bread because I LOVE bread. I used to buy a loaf of store-bought bread every week and I didn’t dare read the ingredient label because ignorance is bliss. One Christmas, my mom gave me a bread machine. I started cranking out loaves of white bread on a regular basis. I loved my bread machine for a couple years – it was easy, no fuss, and I got to see the ingredients for myself. But the loaves always came out kinda misshapen and bland. I decided to venture into homemade bread, kneaded by hand and baked in the oven. I used the cheapest flour I could find, which usually came in $5/ 50 pound bags from Costco. As much as I wanted homemade bread for taste, I also wanted to save a buck.

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Midwestern Vacation

This past week, we trouped to northern Michigan for the annual Eriksen family reunion! Although it was A LOT (14 hours each way) of driving, we handled it like champs and made the trip up and back in four days.

In between the driving we found all sorts of fun to get into. On the way up, we stopped at Mammoth Cave National Park and took a cave tour + a wonderful hike along the Green River. We stayed at the campground and enjoyed our favorite camp dinner of roasted veggies and Field Roast sausages. The next day, we visited two breweries – Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall, MI on the way up, and then met my family at Perrin Brewing in Grand Rapids, MI. Saturday brought family hikes on greenways along rivers and another brewery – Rockford Brewing Company in Rockford, MI. After lunch + beers, Andrew and I laid in the grass at the riverfront park, him napping while I laid my head on his chest and watched the crowds. Saturday night of the reunion is always good food, good drinks (homemade wine and WHISKEY from my uncle!) and lots and lots of euchre. Southerners – love ’em, but they do not know how to play cards. Sunday we began the sojourn home, stopping at the Indiana Sand Dunes National Seashore where we saw the skyline of Chicago from across Lake Michigan. Afterwards, we picked up one of my best friends from college across the border and headed to Three Floyds Brewing Company for hoppy beer and lots of laughs. Then we drove the grueling 11 hours home.

Four breweries, two hikes, one cave, and lots of time with the people I love. I call that a win. Times like these make me miss my people so badly. I’ve never been able to connect with folks and make close friends in Athens (besides Andrew of course). Most of my family is hundreds of miles away, with my closest friends either hundreds or thousands of miles away. I’m trying to cherish the time we have together, but it often makes me sad, even depressed. I feel heavy this week. But I keep thinking of the past weekend and giggling at the good memories. Sometimes, that’s the best you can do.

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I think I finally have dancer, or natarajasana down.

My yoga practice is not something I talk about. Not on the internet, not with friends or family, not even with Andrew. In fact, I go into my room and shut the door to practice alone. I practice in my office with the door closed on my lunch breaks. It all kinda feels like a big secret. I guess I don’t want people to think I’m some pretentious yoga nut. But my practice couldn’t be more integral to my life. It is the one thing I make sure I find time for every single day. The garden might not get watered, I might miss a little sleep, but I never forgo my yoga practice. I bring my mat on vacation and at least find the time for a forward fold and some moments of meditation.

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Sunday Thoughts: Some Life Design Chatter


Some quiet mornings, when I’m alone drinking coffee, I listen to my music and reflect on all the ideas that have been floating through my mind over the last couple days. The people I’ve talked to, the podcasts I’ve listened to, the articles and books I’ve read, and most importantly, the lessons I’ve learned with my hands and feet. It never ceases to amaze me how much mental “stuff” I consume over the course of just a few days. I love these mornings. I feel inspired. It can be overwhelming.

The more I learn about permaculture, I am drawn to the life design element. This is the idea that we have the power to create a life that aligns with our goals, values, and beliefs. A lifestyle can be actively designed to meet all these existential/ intellectual needs, and this lifestyle can be functional, efficient, and fulfilling. This differs from the traditional view that there’s a designated path we must follow – go to school, get a job, have a family, go to the gym three times a week, take vacations, retire at 65. Cue Fitter Happier.

Having the power to design my own life isn’t what drew me to the early retirement community, but it is the idea that flung me full force into the path of financial independence. The FIRE community talks a lot about anti-consumption and retirement as the ultimate freedom – things that are core parts of my being – but I  feel that holistic life design is often missing from the conversation. It’s so enticing to fixate on the idea of retiring early that you get caught up in the work hard, save hard mentality and don’t take the time to consider the life you are currently living. I’m guilty of this – I often feel that I am head down, grinding through the days to save that money and get where I want to be. But I have at least 10 years left until early retirement, and I don’t want to spend those 10 years in this miserable, unfulfilling grind.

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Training for a 30K Trail Run: Halfway

30K 3.20

I’m roughly halfway through my training for the 30K trail run. I began slow training in late January, and official training in February, so I’m counting this first day of spring as the official halfway point. Like anything, there’s been a lot of ups and downs, and life getting in the way, but I’m amazed at how strong I feel and the level of endurance I’ve built up in eight short weeks. Case in point:

Last year, I trained for the 12K version of the same race, having never run more than 3 miles (at once) in my life. Our first long run was at a nearby park, and it was 4 miles. I mentally prepared for the run all week, psyching myself up. It was so brutal. Breathing hurt, my legs were heavy, and my mind was a mess. All I could do was whisper encouragement to myself every step and shuffle along. I made it all four miles without stopping, and afterwards I almost collapsed, half in pain, half in glory. I was so proud of myself – running 4 whole miles seemed like an unthinkable task, even for an experienced hiker like myself.

Today headed to the same nearby park for my long run – 12 miles. The first four miles blew by, as I glided through the forest, taking in all the plants and blue sky. My mind was clear as I called out the names of all my friends as I passed them by – painted buckeye, yucca, moss, lichen, christmas fern, sweet gum, loblolly, muscadine, elm, RIVER CANE! My thoughts were pleasant and breathing felt no different than when walking. I mused about how far away that first 4 mile run seems, yet it was less than one year ago.

I don’t think running is for everyone – truthfully, I don’t even think it’s for me. My knees ache all the time. After the race, I know I won’t run again until fall. And I’m ok with that. The training is about more than the running. It’s about how testing your limits can transform your mind. When I used to run, all I could think about was it being over, how much longer, how much it sucked. Now when I run my mind is open, curious. That’s the attitude I hope to carry through the rest of my training.

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