The Simple Life


Warning: Illegal string offset 'total_share' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'icon_alignment' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'share_counts' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'hide_mobile' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'animation' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Isn’t so simple. Our lives are more complicated than ever in some ways – I’m working two jobs, my oldest daughter at home is working and a senior in high school this year with all the attendant financial aid applications and college visits, and the living situation continues to be challenging (more about that later). Throw in a few extra complications like another new boss (third in 3 years), a road that has been under construction for more than half a year and a car with no air conditioning or heat and debilitating rust at important connection points and you’ll see why I crave simplicity!

So over the past few months I’ve been working on simplifying things. Starting with the animals:

Our beloved chickens were once again being picked off by local predators – possibly the family of foxes that have a den across the road on neighbor’s property- despite our attempts to keep them safe. When we lost our rooster and one of my youngest daughter’s beloved silkies (the sweetest, fluffiest chicken you’ve ever seen- the white ones in this photo) while I was away in Houston at the Code.org workshop, I decided to give the remainder of the flock to my relative whose poultry set up was more secure.

So we are no longer tethered to the chicken coop (birds must be locked safely away at dusk) and we are back to buying eggs from the store. We miss the relationship – yes you can have a relationship with your chickens as you get to know them as individuals and enjoy their ways of interacting with you and the other animals. But we also no longer have to worry about the dog chasing and maybe catching one, or having to hunt down the stray that insists on nesting in the barn instead of the coop, or counting them and finding one missing.

We have also said goodbye to the goats – the Kikos anyway. We sold the entire herd at the beginning of the summer. We still have our little pygmy rescue goats but they will hopefully be moving on to new homes too. 

No more evening feeding or buying barn loads of hay or chasing the odd goat that managed to scale the fence. And yes we (ok, I’m speaking for myself here) miss them as well. Their noisy greeting and curiosity whenever we were outside doing something, their individual voices maa’ing at us at feeding time. And especially their crazy goat antics that were such a delight to watch.

So we are no longer hobby farmers – in fact we aren’t even much in the way of gardeners either. After our little plastic covered greenhouse with all our seedlings in it took flight during a spring windstorm I pretty much gave up on that as well and the ‘garden’ consisted of a few cherry tomato plants in containers!

My only summer project was the patio, which I am proud to say we made a decent job of – doing it right by digging up the area, laying down weed barrier cloth, gravel, and sand before placing the paving stones. We even locked the stones and painted them with coating to make them more impervious to the elements.

It turned out to be smaller than I’d hoped, due to issues with cost and help, but I’m hoping to expand it next year. For now it’s a decent outdoor gathering spot.

As much as these actions have simplified our lives a bit new complications have arisen. The most daunting of these have to do with the house which seems to be deteriorating on an almost daily basis. Since it’s not on a solid foundation, but just on soil, it has settled and is no longer level. This means that the back door doesn’t shut completely, allowing for cold air to come in now that the temperatures have started to drop. Exacerbating the issue is the torn underbelly and oozing insulation.

I discovered this one night when I had to crawl under the house to catch our dog who was barking at a possum which had taken refuge there. As you can see not only is insulation spilling out but so are electrical wires. Before it gets much colder I need to suit up and crawl under the house and attempt repairs. You must know that while I can say that with a serious tone and a straight face there’s a little woman in my mind who is dancing around, tearing at her hair and screaming “What do you mean, attempt repairs? What do you know about repairing the underbelly of a mobile home????” Can I just say that my life is NOTHING like I expected or desired it to be? I’m not even going to go into the fact that we don’t have running water due to some fault in that system because if I do I’ll be late for my shift at the grocery store.

Happy Halloween. May all your monsters be imaginary!

PS – if you’d like to help with repairs there’s a few necessities on my Amazon.com wishlist.

Posted in DIY, Farming, goats, repairs | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Food: Part 1 – Working in it and for it


Warning: Illegal string offset 'total_share' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'icon_alignment' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'share_counts' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'hide_mobile' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'animation' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Not too long ago I took on a 2nd job. I thought I would share how that’s going. I work 20 hours a week (two 4 pm to 10 pm evening shifts after school and an 8 hour shift on Sunday) as a cashier at a large grocery store. I earn some money (about $6.75 an hour after taxes) and get a 10% discount on store brands. While I tend to spend that 2nd paycheck in the store it still means I’m spending less of the 1st paycheck there.

The store I work at is a huge flagship store setdown in the middle of a college town surrounded by forests and corn fields. The workers are diverse in age and ethnicity and in other ways as well. It is a tiring but good job and I like almost all of the people I work with and a good many of the customers too. The customers are as diverse as the workforce with a lot of international college students among them. I’ve tried to learn how to say hello and thank you in many different languages, including ASL so I can have more authentic interactions with them in the brief time we are together.

Because our store is so big we have an amazing array of food. We have a bistro, a butcher, a bakery and a deli, a sushi chef and a fine wine steward. We have gourmet cheese (like the Swiss cheese is really, actually from Switzerland) and our own Starbucks with all the macchiatos and PSL you could ever want. We have vegan, vegetarian, gluten-, high fructose corn syrup-, transfat- and GMO-free, low sodium foods and locally grown organic produce as well as exotic items like yucca root and dragon fruit.  We have cruelty free cosmetics and wild-caught salmon. We have kimchi and potstickers, empanadas and curry. We have 20 lb bags of rice and  individually packaged nibble-sized snacks. We have frosted flakes and Hohos and an entire double aisle of ice cream and three more of chips and crackers.

Food aside we are a happening sort of place, particularly on the weekends when we have live music and wine and craft beer tastings, free samples of small amounts of delicious foods, face painting and free balloon animals  (and I’m talking golden-horned, black eyed unicorns here, not little pink wiener dogs that slowly untwist as you shop).

We are a very busy store – the closest to the college campus and currently benefiting from an influx of customers from a grocery chain that recently declared bankruptcy and closed its doors.  At certain times, before a college football game, or holiday weekend, during move- in or family week the crowds are overwhelming and the pace frenetic. The work can be both physically and mentally draining – long hours standing on your feet (even with those cushy mats beneath them) and a fast, repetitive pace with the stress of timing goals hanging over your head (scan 27 items per minute from the start of the transaction to payment).

The customers are the best and worst part of the job. I love the little connections that are made and the stories shared – the chemistry professor from the university who promised to come do out reach at my high school, the young men from Hangzhou, China (which I visited last year) who were so surprised when I greeted them in Mandarin, the little old lady who buys a single carrot, banana and apple, a sliver of cheese and a can of chicken noodle soup because, as she confides each time, her children are grown and she lost her husband and she doesn’t have anyone to cook for anymore. I have my regulars – folk who shop late or early on Sunday and come through my line because I recognize them and I’m always ready to sacrifice my 27 items per minute goal to chat about how their day has gone or ask after their family or pets. There’s even an older gentleman or two who appreciate my sense of humor and come through my line to enjoy a little banter or sharing a joke.

On the flip side are the rude and unkind customers, the ones who find fault and complain about everything – the lack of parking spaces, the number of other customers, the damp counter in the bathroom, the lack of fresh golden chard… There are the customers intentionally trying to rip you off by printing the label for a less expensive bulk food item when the bag is obviously full of the premium stuff or who have peeled off the organic label on their half dozen avocados in hopes of getting 2 for $3 instead of 2 for $5. There are the ones who, even though there are no baggers present and a long line behind them, won’t lift a finger to pack their own groceries or who remember at the last minute that they forgot the cream cheese and ‘could you send someone to get it?’ and when you do they don’t like the brand the errand boy comes back with and tells you to ‘just forget it’ while mumbling under their breath about bad service. Luckily, most days, those customers are fewer than 1 in 10.

One of the downsides of the job is the additional amount of money I spend at the store.  Food shopping is a weakness of mine, linked I am sure to periods of want in childhood and more recently, so I have a tendency to stock up when there are sales. And we always have sales! I am working to cut back on that, reminding the kids of needs versus wants and not cashing my check at the store.

The other downside is how much the job eats into family and ‘me’ time which is already limited. The two days I work the evening shift I barely see the kids that I am working the 2nd job to feed and support. And I am much more tired these days. I am not sure how long I will be able to keep up this pace but with my youngest daughter needing braces and the rear suspension of the car about to come loose due to rust, I suspect it will have to be awhile longer! Continue reading

Posted in Food, Hunger, jobs, sales, shopping | Tagged | 5 Comments

Thinking of Houston


Warning: Illegal string offset 'total_share' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'icon_alignment' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'share_counts' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'hide_mobile' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Warning: Illegal string offset 'animation' in /home/boxcarmom/theboxcarkids.net/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/simple-social-buttons/simple-social-buttons.php on line 342

Art Sign in downtown Houston 

I have never been faced with a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey.  I’ve weathered minor, but still frightening, earthquakes in Santa Barbara, a wildfire that licked the edges of the city and flooding that closed the highway underpasses but none of these caused me anything more than anxiety or inconvenience. I’ve never had to flee my home, leaving behind possessions or pets, or risk my life getting to safety. I’ve never spent a night in a shelter surrounded by other displaced people.

So I’m not going to say that I understand what the people of Houston, and other coastal towns in Texas are going through right now.  I can’t imagine the enormity of the recovery effort that is in front of them. The clean up, repair and rebuilding will be a difficult and lengthy process as will the mourning for those lost.

I really feel for the people who have lost nearly everything. Who have lost their homes and don’t have insurance or the wherewithal to rebuild. The renters who no longer have an apartment which to return. The person who lives paycheck to paycheck and who no longer has a job because the place they work has shuttered its doors. The homeless, already displaced but pushed now even further to the edges as services are overwhelmed by those newly in need.

I do know what some of these people will go through. The difficulties they will face keeping their families together, housed and fed. The anxiety as funds diminish and needs accrue. The despair over lost dreams and derailed lives. The unending and unrelenting hardness of it all. I hope that by ending up in this situation due to a catastrophic natural disaster that has garnered the attention of the nation they have more help and resources available to them and a community to which to turn for comfort.

Posted in compassion, disaster, flood | Tagged , , | 2 Comments