Friday, July 21, 2017

Hiking With Bears

Another cool thing we did on our Alaska trip was a little bit of hiking.  We didn't do nearly as much of the kind of hiking I'd hoped to, but two hikes in particular were thrilling as well as physically exerting.

The first occurred on our second day in Alaska.  Close to the campground we stayed at our first night (and just a little bit down the road from where we'd unsuccessfully attempted to see the bore tide) was the Bird Ridge Trail.  I love to hike, and especially on unpaved ground (paved usually equals too much traffic/other people in my opinion), and here was this trail calling my name.  Plus, somehow, DH had heard that this was a good (ie popular) Anchorage area trail.

So we decided to hike at least some of it.  Being realistic, we know that we are two fat overweight old middle aged people who don't do a lot of hiking. Being realistic, we figured that doing all 4.6 miles would take us most of a day.  Being realistic, we decided to hike until one or both of us was tired/sore and then we would turn around and go back the way we'd come.

Since we'd planned to leave the campground and do some exploring of the Kenai Peninsula that day, we drove the RV down to the parking lot at the trailhead.  That was when we noticed that the parking lot was empty.  Totally empty.  Which seemed odd for a supposedly popular trail.  But, we just counted it as our good luck that apparently we were the first hikers of the day.  Maybe we'd see some wildlife to go along with the scenic views the trail was sure to offer.

Climbing up from the parking lot (yes, up) DH was thinking not so much of the steep incline, but of the lack of other hikers.  We'd only made it to the restrooms (pit toilets) where the wide path from the parking lot narrowed into the actual trailhead when he stopped and pulled out his phone.  Not to take a picture--there was nothing there but the usual two brown wooden potty shacks and trees--but to see if he might have internet service.  Which, amazingly, he did.  And he used it to look up Bird Ridge Trail.

That was when the lack of other hikers on this 'well liked' trail began to make sense.  A little over a week before, a 16 year old hiker was killed on the Bird Ridge Trail by a bear. The bear had since then been located and taken care of (in other words, killed, for the safety of other humans), but locals were apparently still avoiding the trail.

We decided to hike it, and continued on.  It was a kind of difficult trail, with lots of steep climbs.


We may have been a bit jittery, as once we were startled by a squirrel in the brush.  Both of our minds immediately went to "BEAR!" when we heard the rustling, and then our bodies surged with relief when a ground squirrel came into view.

Slowly, as we followed the trail that ascended more often than descended, we began to see glimpses of the Turnagain Arm through the trees.


After hiking for about a half hour, we found ourselves nearly to the base of poles the power lines were hung from.  That seemed like surely we'd climbed fairly high.  Looking out, below we could see not just the water (high tide) in the inlet, but we could also see the road we'd basically started from.  Yes, it seemed like we'd hiked a good ways.  DH said that was probably good enough for a first hike, and we decided to turn back at that point.  (Later, we discovered the power lines we'd though were so high were probably only about 300 feet above the level of the highway.  *sigh*  we're wimps.)


On the way up to that point, we'd passed a pile of bear scat on the trail.  I, with my vast manure knowledge from years of working at horse farms, declared that it was fairly dried and had been picked at by birds, so was old enough to not worry about.  On the way back down, just a little bit past that pile of old scat, DH noticed a tree that had what he declared to be an elk scrape on it's trunk.  The scrape wasn't wide enough to be moose, he said (mighty hunter that he is), and it was way too high up to be deer, so it must be an elk scrape.  And he had me stand next to it for height reference--it started well over a foot above my head) while he took a picture.  Then he walked closer to examine this wondrous cervidae calling card.

Except when he got right up to the tree he noticed that the very top of the scrape had three distinct tracks in it.  Not usually what a deer or elk makes when they rub their antlers against the bark of a tree.

"That's a bear scrape!  Those are claw marks!"  he exclaimed at exactly the same time more rustling was heard in the brush two feet away from us.

We both jumped, and so did a hare.  Phew!  A bear might have scratched that tree, but a little harmless hare had made the rustling noise.

We laughed at ourselves all the way down the trail and back to the parking area.  Scared by a squirrel and a bunny rabbit.



Our second heart-pounding hike was a few days later, after DS2 had arrived in Alaska.  He had come to do some serious hiking (millennial that he is, he has hiked in the Adirondacks as well as a small section of the Appalachian Trail) on his Alaskan vacation.  He had not just the gear for it, mostly carried in his rigid frame backpack he'd used one of DS1's old sea bags to hold and safe-keep during the flight from Michigan to Alaska, but also a sidearm for protection while hiking the wilds of Alaska.  Other than a couple days at the family reunion, DS2's plans for Alaska included two 3-day/2-night backpacking excursions with some friends of his that he'd been hiking with since college.

Before he left us to rendezvous with them, DH and I hiked a few miles with him.  The trail was Bear Mountain Trail.  A short trail, just over a mile in length, and we hiked it all the way to the end.  It was a beautiful hike, through a low spot where the trail was a narrow (two 2"x6" boards paralleling each other) boardwalk, then meandering up through brush and wildflowers and trees until you reach the summit and a beautiful view of Skilak Lake. It was most definitely bear country, and we saw many sign of bear including a much fresher scat pile than we'd seen on Bird Ridge Trail (I guesstimated it to be not more than six hours old) and a tree with was obviously well marked by one or more bears.

The tree had many puncture wounds on it, most with old, dried sap, as well as a newer scrape that was still oozing sap.  Looking closely at the marks on the tree, I spotted several bear hairs in more than one wound.  They were brown, meaning somewhere nearby was either a grizzly or a brown bear.


bear scrape


I think that was the point at which we decided that DS2 needed to take the lead for the remainder of the trail, with me and DH alternating between middle and last in line.  Amazing how much braver you feel hiking in bear country knowing there is a pistol readily available should you meet up with an overly protective mama bear.

We never did see a bear on that hike, or any others.  Just lots of awesome scenery and more than a few flowers that I don't get to see back home in Michigan.




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Bore Tide

DH's aunt and uncle live in the Kenai Peninsula, and since what finally got us to Alaska was the fact that they were hosting the family reunion this year, the Kenai is where we spent the majority of our vacation.  A small part of Alaska, it's still a very big place with lots to see and do.  We headed out from Anchorage on our first afternoon, right after picking up the RV we had rented, and drove an hour or so along the Seward Highway following the Turnagain Arm.

One of the first things we noticed was that the tide was out, and nearly the entire inlet was mud.  Not plain old boring shallow flat mud, mind you, but mud with fissures that looked to be several feet deep.  There were a few little rivulets here and there, as creeks and streams flowed into the arm, but mostly it looked like a vast moonscape of mud.

This reminded DH (because the tide was out), that one of the things he wanted to see in Alaska was the bore tide.  The bore tide is seen in Turnagain Arm during certain phases of the moon.  It is essentially a wall of water that builds up on the mud (filling those fissures) until it washes down the arm in a big wave or series of waves anywhere from a few feet to ten feet high.  For more info on the bore tide, go here.

We tried to see the bore tide that first night.  A chart DH had found online informed us of approximate tide times for the first few nights we were in Alaska.  After that, the bore tide wasn't expected again until we were back home in Michigan.  But, alas, even after hiking nearly a mile from our campground, and sitting where we could see the (empty) inlet for about an hour and a half around the supposed ideal time, we did not see the bore tide.  Didn't see any tide at all, in fact.  Saw lots of seagulls and kittiwakes, and I even saw a fish jump in one of the rivulets (maybe not so shallow after all?), but no sign of the tide coming in.

On the walk back to the campground, DH spotted a bald eagle flying above the mountain to our left.  It was soon joined by another, and we watched the two of them soar while we walked far below, and with the inlet even further below, to our right.  Even with not seeing the tide, it was a nice evening.

Two days later, on our way down the Seward Highway along the Turnagain Arm again from Anchorage (having just picked up DS2, DD1 & Honorary Son from the airport), I happened to look out the window of the RV and notice that there was water in the inlet. Then I noticed that around the bend up ahead, there was not water in the inlet.  I mentioned to DH that the tide must be coming in, and right about then, we all saw it: the bore tide!

DH immediately pulled off the road in first pullout that was ahead of the water.  In the time it took for us all to pile out of the RV , the bore tide was nearly even with our location. It was just a few feet high and was being ridden by two surfers.  We were able to watch them go by, taken down the Turnagain Arm by the bore tide until it and they were out of sight.

surfing the bore tide




That was one of the first very cool things on our vacation.





Monday, July 17, 2017

Alaska!

It is a huge place.  Even though we spent nearly two weeks there, we only saw a small, small, smidgen of Alaska.  People have asked us if we went to the Arctic Circle. Nope, too far away.  Did we go to Fairbanks?  Nope, not quite that far.  Were we in Juneau, then?  Nope, didn't get there either.  We flew in and out of Anchorage and stayed within about a 4-5 hour drive of there.  That's a very small corridor of Alaska indeed.

Did we see the northern lights?  Nope, not in the summer, it's just too darn light out all the time.

Did we see the midnight sun?  YES, yes we did. In fact, we saw it before we even arrived in Alaska, during our night time flight from Seattle to Anchorage.  Boarding the plane in Seattle around ten p.m., the sky outside was dark.


As we got airborne, and flew northwest, mostly following the coast of British Columbia, up ahead (over the wing of the plane), I could see a band of light on the horizon.  Light that just kept getting brighter the further we flew even though the hour got later and later into the night.







It was after 1:30 a.m. when we arrived in Anchorage. Even so, by the time we collected our checked bags and went outside the terminal to await the shuttle bus to the hotel we'd had the foresight to book a room at (so we could get some much needed sleep upon our arrival in Alaska), the sky outside looked like it could be any cloudy dawn instead of the middle of the night.

Flying home was like the reverse; we took off after midnight in a dusky sky that still allowed you to see far, far below, and we landed in Seattle to early morning darkness.

leaving Alaska in the middle of the night



Even though I really didn't intend to stay up and see it very often, we saw the midnight sun a lot. Sleeping in the RV was rough (tight space, and the whole thing wiggled every time anyone rolled over, it seemed; plus a certain someone who snores loudly), and there was a roof vent above the master bed, so every time I woke up in the night, it was still some degree of light outside that could be seen through the translucent covering on the roof vent.  The sun does go down, roughly around 11:30 p.m. in the parts we visited, but the sky was never completely dark in the 12 days we spent in the RV.  I could go to bed at 10:30 (cuz I'm not much of a night owl), and it would be light out.  I could wake up at midnight and it would be light out.  3:00 a.m., light out.  4:30 a.m., now the sun is on it's way back up it's even more light out. 6:00 a.m., might as well forget trying to sleep, it's full daylight.

The long hours of daylight made sightseeing nice, as you still had hours upon hours after dinner each day that you could go and do things.  I have pictures taken at ten p.m. that you'd think I had taken in the middle of the afternoon.  And the moose seem to be very prevalent along the roadways at ten p.m. and later.  They were as abundant as white tail deer are at home in the dusky hours.  Unfortunately, most of the time we saw moose in the evening (night?), I had no battery left on my phone with which to take pictures.  So you'll just have to imagine driving down the road and seeing moose all over the place, some with twin calves, some with single calves, a young bull moose with just the beginnings of antlers, and even a moose wearing a radio collar.  I believe DD1 got pictures of most of them, but I haven't had a chance to see her vacation photos yet.

Sometimes that midnight sun did not play into (most of) our favor.  Some nights we didn't have a designated stopping and camping point, and DH would just be driving and driving, since it wasn't dark yet. (I might not be a night owl, but he is.)  Most of the rest of us were ready for sleep, but of course no one could get in bed while the RV was in motion. There were more than a few times we had to remind DH that it was eleven, or midnight, and could he please pull over at the next available camping place?

sunset close to midnight

A neat thing about Alaska is that you can pull over and park your RV for the night just about anywhere.  Unless it's actually posted "No Camping", you can just stop in a roadside pull out, or along a river, or in the Walmart or other grocery store parking lot, and go to bed. The picture above is one of the places we pulled off and camped at; basically a large gravel area that ran along a river.  We spent three nights at DH's aunt and uncle's house, and camped in actual campgrounds three other nights, but the rest of the time we just parked and slept wherever looked good (and had room for our 32 ft beast) at the time.  This free camping allowed us to save some cash, and since we had brought our own water supply and toilet, there wasn't anything else we really needed in a camping spot.  And, truthfully, those nights we stayed at a real campground--fire ring, picnic table and pit toilet--it was rainy so we never got to eat outside at the picnic table or have a campfire, and nobody was going to make a middle of the night potty run out to the pit toilet.

Rainy.  That is the overwhelming impression that Alaska left on me.  Maybe it was just that most of our time was spent in the coastal/fjord area, where the climate is stereotypical  Pacific Northwest (gray, drizzle, rain).  We did have a few sunny days (less than a handful), but overall the weather did not make me want to plan another trip to Alaska in the next decade.  I'm not fond of overcast skies (so depressing), and I get chilled easily, so upper 50's Fahrenheit with hours upon hours of drizzle and rain made me pile on all the warm clothes I'd brought.  You can only be so happy about wearing the same two flannel shirts (over a variety of t-shirts) day after day after day after. . .   

The weather also kept me from doing much of the one big reason I'd wanted to come to Alaska:  hiking.  Hiking trails abound, but in drizzly weather and temps mostly under 60 degrees, I wasn't going on any long hikes.  Drying clothes in the RV was next to impossible; it took 3 days to air dry a few items that weren't even dripping wet, but merely very damp.

DH, on the other hand, would love to go back, and if we could swing it next year (we can't, surely can't, what with DD1 & Honorary Son's wedding being next Spring) he'd go right back to the Kenai Peninsula even if the skies were grayer there than when we went further inland.  He is the kind of person who wears shorts if it's not snowing out, so the drizzle and cool temperatures didn't deter him from doing much of his wish list.

In the next few posts, I'll show and tell things that we did do, and scenery that we saw there.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Getting Ready; Catching Up

Ah, vacation.  Something most people crave; time off, time away, time to relax.  Summer is a popular time to take a vacation.  The weather is nice, the kids don't have school, and, at least in lower Michigan, several large companies employing tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of people take a week-long break.  Everyone in the auto industry around here has a mandatory week of vacation right around the fourth of July.

So, typically, we go on vacation in late June/early July.  As a farmer/gardener, it's a horrible time for me to be out of town.  In a rainy year, hay is still needing to be cut.  Rainy or not, the garden is in hyper-growth mode, plants and weeds alike, and needs lots of attention.  For me, going on vacation means lots of prep work, hours and days spent getting ready to be gone.  And then, when returning from vacation, I have hours and days of catching up to do to get back on track.  Sometimes I never do get caught up with the weeds in the garden, and the whole season is adversely affected.

I view vacations hesitantly.  Is the vacation destination worth the hassle of doing all the prep work, arranging for animal care (and possibly a farm-sitter), and then scrambling once I'm back to tame the weedy garden again?  If it were up to me, we would not take a vacation any time between late April and mid-October.  Too much stuff growing, too much weeding, too much watering, and too much harvesting (and preserving/canning) to do.  It's not easy to find someone to do that for me in my absence, and sometimes the weeds get out of control for the remainder of the growing season or I miss an entire crop harvest and preservation if I'm gone for more than a few days.

This year's vacation happened to be to a place DH and I have long desired to go.  Somewhere far away, so far as to almost be mystical.  Somewhere not a lot of people ever get to visit.  This year, 2017, we were finally going to go there.  Unfortunately, we were going there right when I hate to be gone anywhere: late June and early July.

Why that time frame instead of one more suitable to homesteading?  Why, if we'd been wanting to go there for so long, couldn't we schedule it for a more convenient time?  Why couldn't we spend his week of mandatory vacation doing projects at home instead and use a different week of his four weeks yearly for this trip? Because one of his aunts happens to live there, and it happens to be her year to host the family reunion.  At last year's family reunion (in Michigan), everyone insisted that she hold it at her home, in her far away state of Alaska, rather than her flying to Michigan and hosting it somewhere close to where the majority of us live.  For ease of travel for everyone, (and with many Michigan relatives having vacation time then) she decided to hold it the first weekend of July.

Alaska!  How could we not go?  Well, aside from the expense, and the time away from this little place here when things are hopping.  It was exactly where DH and I had been dreaming of going for many, many years.  We must go.

So we did.  :0)  It took a lot of planning, and budgeting, and me asking for and receiving two weeks off of both farms I work at.  The amount of time I spent in June getting the garden ready--weed-free, well watered and totally mulched in straw (in case of drought while I would be gone) was astronomical.  I literally worked myself until I didn't have anything left to give.  I wouldn't want to have to do it again, ever. But it was a once in a lifetime kind of thing.  Alaska!

Look for a series of upcoming posts, in pictures and stories, about our Alaskan adventures.  There's a lot of sorting of photos to do, and getting posts ready in addition to catching up on normal life at this little place here, so it might be a few days before I get the first post up.  But there's lots to show, and lots to tell.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

More Tiny House Thoughts

I'm calling it tiny house, as it has been prompted by me spending roughly two weeks in a 32 ft RV recently.  A 32 ft RV, while being as long as my house--although that was bumper to bumper, not necessarily interior space--is less than maybe 1/3 the width of my house. Which meant that while we had three 'bedrooms', a bathroom, a kitchen, a dining 'area' and a living 'room', every room was small and narrow.  One bedroom was essentially two bunks on the wall that slid out when the camper was parked. When not parked, those bunks ate a lot of floor space, leaving you a hallway with a width of about 18", maybe, to access the bathroom and rear "master" bedroom.

 A house on wheels, but a very cramped house indeed, without adding people and their belongings.  (Occupancy on this trip varied from 3 to 8, depending on the day, as DD1, Honorary Son, DS2 and two of his friends came and went based on their own vacation plans.  DD2, DH and I were the constants).  I think even if it had been just DH and I, I still would have found it rather more confining than I am comfortable with.  Even so, it wasn't all bad.  While I found many drawbacks (or not-so-good things), I did appreciate the good things of living in an RV/tiny house.

Good Things:

  • Less area to get dusty/have to clean.  Who wouldn't love spending less time cleaning less space?
  • Everything has an assigned place to be kept.
  • Belongings are kept to just the necessities.
  • You really think twice before you buy something that requires indoor use or storage.
  • You can't put off cleaning up.

Not-so-good Things:
  • It looks cluttered very easily.  One thing out of place, one book left on the table, one pair of shoes next to the door, one shirt discarded across the bed and it's a pigsty. . .
  • Similarly, it looks/feels dirty very easily.  Walk across that short expanse of flooring six times, and you can practically hear the dirt crunch under your feet.
  • Teeny tiny bathrooms without windows don't dry damp (used) towels very well.  Teeny tiny showers are hard to bathe in (forget shaving your legs in the shower).
  • No work area, per se.  Counter space is usually nil in a tiny kitchen, and that means doing any sort of batch cooking or baking, or even prepping a meal with many parts is practically impossible.  Unless you want to turn your table, sofa, bed, etc. into somewhere to temporarily hold cooling baked goods, or veggies chopped for stir fry, or even the different parts of a salad before they are all combined in the serving bowl.  Forget trying to make bread; nowhere to knead it.
  • Similarly, not much food storage.  I'm not fond of shopping, and going to the grocery store every other day doesn't appeal to me much. But there is only so much cupboard space for bread, crackers, fruits and veggies, nuts. . . The fridge is similarly small, as a typical house-sized kitchen refrigerator takes up kind of a lot of floor space.  
  • Also similarly, not much area for serving food.  So, unless you like casseroles, it's kind of hard to serve all your dinner components at the same time.  Me, I prefer to eat my veggies at the same time as I eat my meat, and it's really nice to be able to build my own taco or burrito with as many parts as I like rather than just tortilla-meat-beans-cheese.
I think that what I should take from this recent experience is to use the Good Things as concepts in my regular house.  Maybe not the less space to need cleaning, as I can't really cut down the size of the house at this little place here.  But, the other four ideas I can utilize:
  1. Everything has an assigned area to be kept.  This is a motto we've tried hard to have through the years.  But, it's not always easy, and with the kids grown up and being mostly transient (dorms, apartments, shared rental houses and sometimes short stints at this little place here), we find ourselves with a house that has gotten pretty full.  To the point where "this is DS2's, it gets stored in his old room until he gets a permanent house of his own" and "well, sure DD1 doesn't have room in her current apartment for this (couch, end table, box of cookware/serving dishes), but this is something that will be useful in her next home, so we'll toss it in our basement until then" has resulted in being really cluttered up with stuff that is irrelevant to my and DH's daily lives.  It also, since the kids' old bedrooms and now our basement are so packed with things that are being stored, makes it incredibly hard to keep those areas cleaned and dusted.  If you don't see the corners of the floor for two years (or more), you can't sweep them or keep the cobwebs from forming.  I think I should reassign areas.  Former childrens' bedrooms should be for those (now adult) people to sleep in when they are here; as well as any other overnight guests we might have when they aren't.  Their stored belongings should go elsewhere.  Like the attic.  Or maybe a shed.  (I not so jokingly told DH a few months ago that this year for Christmas we should buy each of our offspring a shed.  A shed that would be kept here, lined up in a row with the sheds belonging to their siblings.  And all their belongings that are being stored at this little place here could be kept in the appropriate person's shed rather than taking up room in my house.)
  2. Belongings are kept to just the necessities.  This kind of ties in with the personal shed idea.  DH and I don't need extra pots and pans, books, camping gear, end tables, dining room table, etc.  Heaven knows we've accumulated just about all that the two of us need by now.  Why keep all those extras in our living space?  But also, we need to make sure that we aren't buying more items than we actually are going to use.  I have to confess that I'm rather guilty of having more crafting stuff than I've actually had time to make use of in the last handful of years.  Clothing, too has gotten a bit out of hand.  As I had less kids to have to outfit, I've fallen into some impulse buying where clothes for DH and I are concerned.  I need to go back to only buying needed wardrobe items rather than "ooh, I like this, and it's on sale/found secondhand/otherwise cheap".  Which ties in nicely with the next concept:
  3. You really think twice before you buy something that requires indoor use or storage.  Yep, that sundress at Walmart is cute, but I all ready have a sundress or two that fit, and more closet space, not less, would be nice.  That polo shirt at the thrift shop looks just like new and is DH's size, but remember he has about a dozen polo shirts all ready. And fabric, oh fabric!  Being a quilter I am a sucker for even small cuts of fabric that I think would be nice in a future quilt.  Yarn too; I have only been knitting for 4 years, but somehow my stash of yarn has grown to several containers, all of which must be stored somewhere.  If only I actually knit as many pairs of socks as I have acquired yarn for!  DH isn't much better, the garage is filling up too with things that seemed awesome at the time, but have gotten little or no use and still need a place to be kept.   We need to stop doing that.  Use up the old first, before bringing in new.
  4. You can't put off cleaning up.  When there is lots of space (or you think you have lots of space), it is easy to procrastinate about cleaning stuff up.  Why put away your book when you will just want to read it tomorrow?  Just leave it on the couch.  Same with this magazine, or the newspaper DH isn't done reading. Why go through the mail right now when you can just set it on the counter until tomorrow, when you have more time?  Except sometimes tomorrow is busier.  Or someone else brings in the mail and, seeing the pile all ready on the counter, tosses it there for you to look at later.  And pretty soon there is so much mail you can't even use the counter and you really don't think you have time to go through a stack of mail that huge.
Hmm.  Me thinks I have much to learn.  And apply.  Then maybe I won't feel so overwhelmed trying to keep this little place here cleaned and organized.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Minimalism Vs. Self-Sufficiency

I think the Tiny House trend is interesting.  Actually, minimalism in general holds some appeal for me. I mean, who wouldn't like less stuff to have to pay for, clean, care for, keep track of, etc?

In some ways, minimalism/small homes is a goal of mine.  Ever since moving into the house at this little place here--which we designed and built keeping in mind that we had four growing children to raise, who would require beds and food, and places to store their belongings, not to mention future graduation open houses, bridal showers, baby showers, etc--DH and I have talked about how our "next house" (the one we will build for our retirement dwelling) will be much different.

Our plan is to have a small house in the next phase of life; I'm thinking under 1,000 sq ft.  Possiblyin the range of 600-800 sq ft.  One bedroom, in fact.  Perhaps even one room. Not counting the bathroom, of course, I do wish to use the toilet in private.

There will be a separate building, we refer to it as The Bunkhouse, where we will entertain and house guests (aka kids and grandkids).  That building will have a large kitchen and eating area, a big living room/casual seating area, and a large dormitory style bedroom as well as one or two private bedrooms with double or queen sized beds and possibly two bathrooms rather than one.  But our main home, the one that will be used daily, will be small. Easy to clean, and cheap to heat.

That plan, for the next house, is about as far as I can realistically go into minimalism.  Because I know my need for self-sufficiency, as well as creativity, clashes with true minimalism.  That second house, The Bunkhouse, right there is not minimalistic.  It will have tons of dishes (for serving upward to two dozen people; our projected family holiday dinner with offspring and grandkids ten years down the road), many beds and bedding for those beds, etc. It will also most likely be where I do all my canning.

Canning; that also doesn't quite jive with being minimalist.  There's the whole raising/producing our own food thing.  A tiny house doesn't have room for storage of a year's worth of canned goods or a freezer large enough for a year's worth of meat.  Not to mention the other things needed--like gardening equipment, canning equipment, butchering equipment, animal raising equipment, hunting gear--for growing or otherwise procuring that food and getting it into freezer or canning jar.

That's just food we're talking about.  How about tools for home and machinery (including automobiles) repair?  Not very self-sufficient (or cheap) if you need to call a handyman every time you have a small repair that needs to be done and can't do yourself because you own nothing to perform the repair with.  How about sewing supplies, and space to use them (let alone store them) for making (or repairing) clothing or quilts?  I cannot imagine having to buy every single sewn or knitted item I would need or would want to give as a gift.  I don't find nearly as much joy in shopping as I do in making.

I do believe that we--being Americans in general--have way too much stuff and should prioritize, pare down, and make do with less belongings.  I just can't quite subscribe to the 'own nothing, share everything, rely on the store daily for food' kind of mindset that seems to be what a lot of people who talk about getting along with less material goods are advocating.  Sharing is nice, if you live around other people who have a need for or own the same tools and things that you need.  But if you don't, or you all need that one item at the same time (ever try to share haying equipment during the one not-rainy week of a wet haying season?  or a pressure canner during the height of green bean harvesting?) that concept doesn't work out so well in reality.  Same with running to the grocery store for food multiple times a week because you don't have a garden of your own; I would rather not rely on the food supply chain for the majority of my nourishment.

So, I guess I'll never be a minimalist.  I'll be someone with a little house, and bunch of gear for all the activities of my 'simple' 'life.