Monday, February 28, 2011

Country Living 101 :: 10 Reasons To Become More Self Sufficient

The economic crisis we are currently living through is a good enough reason for most people to want to live more self-sufficiently. Granted, becoming totally self-sufficient is not something you can do overnight but if you start now, within a year you can be closer to becoming a producer instead of a consumer.  Call me fanatical, but I just can't help the overwhelming urge to encourage everyone I come in contact with to start planning for bad times. The hand writing is on the wall, please, heed the warning. If you do, the bad times won't seem...well... as bad. 

I found a pretty good list of the 10 Reasons why you should become more self-sufficient and 10 steps to getting started on your way to off-grid living. This list was found at Activist Post. Check them out, they have tons of good articles. Anyway, on to the good stuff.

10 Reasons to Become Self-Sufficient

1. Freedom from market manipulation – The traditional market-driven investment vehicles are more and more obviously controlled by traders and banking institutions. The debacle of the private Federal Reserve Bank is just the icing on the cake to a previous decade full of Ponzi-type schemes. Now, the institutionalized looting of retirement money is being planned.

2. Hedging against inflation – Have you noticed the price of goods lately? Even Wal-Mart is silently raising its prices. People might have a choice whether or not to buy stocks or gold, but people have to eat – the current increases in basic goods portend hyperinflation, and will not ease anytime soon. Food shortages could make the problem exponentially worse.

3. Increasing health and wellness – It has now been revealed that some "organic" items have been falsely labeled. In addition, a host of "GMO-free" brands have been exposed as deceptive. GMO food lacks the nutritional value of what can be grown in the average backyard. GMO mega-corporation, Monsanto, has a sordid history and has continuously trampled on our trust. It is time that we do the work ourselves.

4. Building community strength – We constantly hear people say, "I don't even see my neighbors, let alone know anything about them." Of course not: 80-hour workweeks and grabbing meals-to-go doesn't exactly promote community interaction. With such little time to interact with our immediate community, it is no wonder why many people report feeling disconnected. In these trying times, it is a local community that can offer the best support.

5. Working for yourself – Working hours are increasing, pay is often decreasing, and corporate executives are taking bigger bonuses than ever. This is leading to a prevailing disgust, as people are being forced to admit that they are living lives of near-indentured servitude. Even for those not working in corporations, working for someone else is rarely as satisfying as creating and working for something where every minute you spend is yours alone.

6. Having more free time – We have been taught to believe that life on a farm is arduous sun-up to sun-down drudgery where you collapse at the end of the day. This is not so much the case anymore. Sure, the setup of any farm or self-sufficient endeavor is often time-consuming and laborious, but new technologies and new skills of manufacturing food via permaculture and aquaponics are offering low-cost start up and minimal maintenance, as these techniques serve to create symbiotic systems that are remarkably self-governing.

7. Generating food and energy security – The planet is running out of food and traditional energy. Climate volatility, market forces, GM foods, and rising costs of harvesting and transporting food are all conspiring to create food shortages even in the First World. This trend will not reverse. And our oil-soaked way of life is being threatened by mounting evidence that the oil lifeline could be disconnecting rather soon. We should be looking to the air, sun, geothermal, and wave power to wean us from the energy grid.

8. Acquiring an appreciation for life – As one gets closer to life-giving forces, there is a natural appreciation for how things come into being. When you have created your garden, toiled there, selected the best for harvest, and have prepared that food for your family and community, the significance of what you have taken part in can be transformative.

9. Restoring balance – Nearly everything in our society is at a peak, or is drastically out of balance. The systems and governments to which we have looked for balance restoration are missing in action. We must take it upon ourselves to restore our own financial and environmental balance sheet. The best way to do that is to reduce our overconsumption.

10. Becoming a producer, not a consumer - This is the best way to reduce your cost of living and increase your self-sufficiency.  In the U.S. over 70% of the economy is based on people buying things.  This is a clear sign of imbalance and, by extension, it is not sustainable.  

Furthermore, we also have seen corporations race to the bottom (see video below) to find low-cost production on the backs of desperate people.  The exploitation of the Third World to clothe, feed, and entertain the First World is something that most people do not want to think about, but it is abominable.  Again, new technologies are making it easier than ever to produce your own food, and even your own clothes.

Now, the solution or at least some steps to a good start This list was also found at Activist Post:

10 Ways to Get to Self-Sufficiency

The global economic collapse has become an eye-opening experience for many people. The ongoing crisis continues to create more joblessness at a time when the cost of essential items like food and energy continue to rise.

The following are 10 suggestions that can lead to independent living:

Reduce your debt: Especially get your credit card debt under control, since it is entirely corrupt.  Call your credit card companies and ask for a work out plan similar to what they received from the taxpayer bailout.  If they don't cooperate to your satisfaction, there are some reasons not to pay at all. 

(Under the willow Tree does not advocate not paying your bills. This link leads to information for folks who are in no-win credit card situations) 

Reduce your consumption: Evaluate your current budget and determine absolute necessity. Push your comfort level to find areas where you can scale back, and then identify comforts that you’re willing to sacrifice.

Reduce energy use: Change light bulbs, have entertainment systems plugged into a splitter that can be shut off completely to reduce phantom charges, etc.  Carefully plan shopping trips and other transportation needs.

Store energy:  Always have back-up propane storage and a large wood pile for a rainy day. Investing in a generator of some kind (even a solar generator) will be money well spent

Invest in food storage: With a falling dollar and rising food prices, why not create a food savings account?  Get some good books, dehydrators and vacuum sealers for storage methods. Best storable food items are grains (rice, beans, flour), canned goods, seeds, and some prepackaged items.

Produce your own food: Replace your lawn with a garden, fruit trees, and keep chickens. Go on hunting and gathering adventures for nuts, fish, and wild game.  Store extra garden seeds!

Learn new skills: Surf the Internet, read books, and take courses in practical skills like gardening, cooking with whole foods, composting, carpentry, alternative energy, natural health and wellness etc.

Start a side business: Turn your passion or hobby into a small side business to make some supplemental income.  Who knows, it may become your path to full financial independence.

Install alternative energy: Start with small installations like a solar hot water system, a solar freezer, a solar attic fan, or a wood stove etc. If you have limited funds, tip-toe your way to independence.

Suggest solutions for your community: Start or join a local cooperative for food, products, and services.  Engage your local community in discussions to take steps for self-sufficiency. Share your story and build support.
These steps will save money as we move closer to the ultimate prize of independence.  

Each action we take to live more simply frees us from the control systems put in place to make our lives more complicated, more toxic, and less independent.

Again, a great big THANK YOU to our friends at at Activist Post

Saturday, February 26, 2011

DO You Know How Safe Your Food Is? Do You Care?

The last few months we've heard quite a bit about terrorists who may try to poison the food supply, Relax, the terrorists aren't going to poison us because the government is allowing the big agriculture corporations like Monsanto do it. Here's the point where we, meaning you and I, either stay friends, or you decide that I've lost my mind and we part ways. I haven't lost my mind, actually  I've found it.  The past year has been quite interesting. You see, I stopped drinking the Kool-Aid and when I did my eyes began opening to the ugly truths that surround us. All of us. My new mission in life is to help as many people as I can see the truth as well as prepare for the situations I believe we are all facing in the near future. 

Up until recently I paid little attention to things like "GMO's" (Genetically modified organisms), toxic pathogens in livestock feed and crops", and the blatant corruption in the government agencies who regulate the producers of our food supply. The more I read, the more I realized that Monsanto's claims that all of these derogatory reports about them we're false couldn't be. The fact that the corruption is so obvious leads me to believe that my fellow Americans have truly dropped the ball when it comes to anything that distracts them from their iPhones, XBoxes and PC's. 

Big corporations are in bed with just about every government agency so why should agriculture be any different? Is anything safe? Apparently not. How much do YOU know about the food you eat? Are you, like 99% of the rest of the population content with whatever is written on the label? Do you have ANY idea where the food you feed your family comes from and if you learned it was toxic would you even care? I mean after all, it looks good, smells good and tastes good. Wake up people. The people who control our food supply are POISONING you! 

Take a moment to Google: Monsanto, Roundup, Monsanto law suits, Monsanto documents, and then think decide if you really think all of the information is overblown or hyped, or conspiracy theory. Think about how you're going to protect your family from this company that controls almost all of the worlds food supply. Their goal is to control 100% within 10-20 years.Most people are not informed, they are conditioned to believe what the mainstream media tells them to believe. Most people never take the time to check the facts. It's time to take self-sufficiency seriously. 

Do I sound like one of those survivalist people that spout end-of-the-world scenarios? When you dig deeper and start learning what's really going on beneath the surface of the mainstream media glossing over the facts, you'll get serious too. And then again, maybe you won't. Whatever you decide, you and your family will be left with the consequences be they good or bad. When it comes to my family, I tend to err on the side of extreme caution. 

Whether you believe it or not, there are things that are happening that put everyone at risk. When you simply ignore it,  you are only putting yourself in a position to have to take emergency or crisis action instead of being prepared. No one is saying you have to build an underground bunker and hide out, but opening your mind to the possibility that that change you feel coming is real and you need to act. There is a reason why people are learning to garden, preserve their food, and stockpile. There is a reason why people are researching "self-sufficiency", urban homesteading, and prepping in record numbers and why the movement to be more self-sufficient is growing by the hour. It's because people can FEEL the change coming. Some will listen to that inner voice and prepare and some will say that those of us that are have gone crazy and bought into the conspiracy theories of future disaster. 

Do you ever wonder why cancer rates have risen greatly over the past few decades? Is it possible that the people who claim our food is being poisoned may just be right? What do you have to lose by checking it out and educating yourself? Search for facts about how our environment and all of the toxins released into it are causing this rise in cancer. 

(Global cancer rates are expected to increase 50 percent by the year 2020, according to the latest report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO). The 351-page study, titled World Cancer Report, begins by explaining that 10 million people developed malignant tumors and 6.2 million died from the disease in the year 2000. 

Under the Willow Tree is committed to bringing you the most accurate information and the BEST ways to become more self-sufficient.  Stop listening to the main stream media, start seeking facts and information independently and be prepared. 

For those that decided to stick it out with me, thanks for letting me rant. I truly care about you and hope you'll take the initiative to  protect yourself and your family, it's obvious that our  government isn't going to do it for us!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Saving Grace :: Urban Homesteaders

Sometimes you have to be thrust into an unsuspecting situation to truly appreciate some people for who and what they are. Last week, around Wednesday'ish, I had a life changing experience. Good things do come of bad situations and there is still plenty of good left in humanity even if the good ones are off the grid. Well, sort of anyway.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...The world is headed for some mighty big changes. No, I'm not talking about 2012 doomsday scenarios, although, at the rate we're abusing our planet, it's always possible that we'll find ourselves facing cataclysmic events we weren't expecting. No, I'm talking about a shift in attitude en mass. 

If the Durvaes Trademark scandal has accomplished anything, it managed to bring the urban homesteading community together, united in one cause. Within days, hundreds of us had come together as one to fight the greedy corporate attitude that has literally destroyed America starting with one Jules Dervaes and family. We were all sharing, and "liking", friending, and following each other and within days we all gained a couple hundred new friends and colleagues in our quest to make the world a better place.

Urban homesteaders EVERYWHERE today are flooding the Net with articles and posts about the one thing that belongs to no one person but to all of us who wish to live and teach others about living a self-sufficient lifestyle in urban areas e.g. urban homesteading. Not one of us claims to have invented the concepts that set us part from most of society, we all openly share our techniques and secrets with one another. The NERVE of Mr. Durvaes to think he would get away with trying to take our way of life and control it for his profit. Not only NO but HELL NO!

I'm not an urban homesteader, I'm in the process of being a rural homesteader, BUT my website - Under the Willow Tree DOES contain information about urban homesteading (notice I am not using any TM symbols? I REFUSE TO give Mr. D. ANY credit for the lifestyle).

So, what's so great about urban homesteaders and urban homesteading? PLENTY! The urban homesteading community is made up of the very people who will be the saving grace of our society WHEN it goes to crap. These people have mastered the art of living off grid, as much as possible, in urban and suburban settings. They grow their own food, raise their own livestock, make their own cheese, raise their own bees, and SO much more!  The big corporations and government want you to think they are nothing but a bunch of tree-hugging hippies. If you think that, well, then your just one of the sheeple who keeps feeding the corporate machine while they return your loyalty with processed foods that are killing you, chemical saturated nutrition, an environment they are raping for profit, and a speech to make you think they care about you, your family, and your well-being.

"Here, eat these veggies grown from genetically modified seeds"

"Have some of this beef raised on toxic, pesticide coated feed and pumped with more toxic steroids"

Enter an urban homesteader. These people start planning their city gardens the day after Christmas, they spend all of their time supporting themselves and many of them do it on apartment balcony's, rooftops, postage size lots and some even do it indoors. GO figure! They grow and harvest enough to give to their neighbors, the local food bank, and anyone who might need a little help. They do this with no thought of depleting their stock. They just do it. It's the spirit of sharing and giving that makes up their character. Not just here and there, but ALL of them. That's part of who an urban homesteader is.

Some urban homesteaders take it a step further. They've learned what most people don't know or refuse to believe and that is, even our food supply is tainted and poisoned by the big corporations solely for the almighty dollar. Our livestock like beef cows, dairy cows, and chickens are raised in inhumane ways, fed steroids and genetically modified feed to produce MORE MORE MORE for LESS, LESS, LESS! These urban homesteaders are creating organic seeds and feed that eliminate the poison from our food. Most people are too stupid to take them seriously, but many of us know exactly how valuable a part they play in our system. They are creating LIFE and to those of us who belong to this community, they are a saving grace.

Can you grow enough food to sustain your family for an entire winter? Can you preserve it? Know how to raise chickens or bees in your backyard? How about making homemade cheese or soap? Probably not. Urban homesteaders do.

Go ahead, call us tree huggers, we are. Make fun of our burning desire to store our food and preserve all we can in case of an emergency,  call us hippies... it kinda has a nice ring to it these days. But when you're done making fun, remember, it's the neighbor next door to you who has turned their 500 square foot yard or their 10 square foot balcony into a harvest that may be your saving grace if disaster strikes.

It's time to wake up people. You've been used by corporate America long enough. Find the energy, find the time and find the desire to start living a more self-sustaining life. Go ahead, tell us we're all doom-sayers and survivalists, maybe we are. But then take a moment to remember events like Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath and how responsive the government was to New Orleans. Do you think they'd do any better in a city like New York, Los Angeles  or Miami? Good luck!

Are you ready for the increase on your food, fuel and basic essentials? Can your already strapped budget afford to go out and buy healthy, organic, fresh produce? Probably not. It might be a good time to make friends with your neighborhood urban homesteader. They may be your saving grace. While you're at it, learn as much as you can from them. I guarantee you won't be sorry.

Today is dedicated to urban, suburban, and rural homesteaders EVERYWHERE! In my opinion, these fine folks may be the saving grace when it all finally goes to hell in a hand basket.


Coming Up:

An entire listing Take Back Homesteaders.
Strawberries are a comin'!
Under the Willow Live Talk Radio

Stay tuned for the first official Under the Willow eZine!

Be sure to follow the trademark scandal on Twitter at hashtag #

and come join the Take Back Homesteaders on Facebook - WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT TO PROTECT THE LIFESTYLE!!/pages/Take-Back-Urban-Home-steadings/167527713295518

Don't Forget to Enter the Under the Willow Tree Spring Giveaway!! Click here to enter.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Country Living 101 - Gardening Season Is Coming!

We're having a heat wave here in east Tennessee! The temperature officially reached 62 degrees up here on English Mountain and to put it mildly, it was MARVELOUS!  I threw open the windows and let all that fresh mountain air flow through the house.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the four seasons. One of the reasons we picked the foothills of the Tennessee Appalachians was because of the well defined, yet mild seasons we get. All that changed when we got our first major snow before Thanksgiving!  NORMALLY, we get hardly ANY snow...this year, I was snowed in more than I wasn't.  I did make the best of it though. I tried to enjoy every single day of the season, I had all the fire places lit, baked up a storm, quilted, painted, wrote, and spent massive amounts of time with my teens...(THANK GOODNESS IT'S ALMOST SPRING!) You'd be surprised how quick everyone, including the kids, can get sick of snow days. We're a loving family, but there is a point of too much togetherness.

Soooo with the whisper of Spring outside my window, the songs of the birds at the feeders, and the thought of getting my garden started I decided to get started on the 'Garden" section of Under the Willow Tree!

Right before I began this article I received a news alert warning me that food and gas prices were set to spiral up a surprise <yawn>. Who would have thunk it?  That's OK, I've got a master plan for saving tons of money this year. Go grab a drink and let me share it with you! We're going to start the series with Homemade Paper Seed Pots because after all, you gotta start somewhere and your seed pots are the first step!.

Whether you are an experienced gardener or a novice like myself, you can still utilize the tips and tricks of the pro's. Each year, I go out and spend a boat load of money on planting items like peat pots, planting trays, seeds, etc. By the time I'm done buying all the equipment, I don't really save much, although I do enjoy great homegrown veggies.  Most of you probably save some of the reusable stuff from the previous year but if you don't and you're starting from scratch, here is a good money saving tip for starting your seeds indoors with homemade Newspaper Seed Pots. Take a look at this wonderful video I found on You Tube.

As you can see, almost everyone has the materials for these handy-dandy little pots laying around the house. Depending on how many plants you grow your savings can start at approximately $15+. That's extra money for seeds and if you plan on preserving any of your bounty, you can use it towards preserving equipment (more on that later). 

I'd love to hear how your Paper Seed Pot projects go. Be sure to email me and send me pictures and I'll use them on the UTWT community.  This project may seem small and insignificant to you , but realize that you are  taking your first step towards being self-sufficient AND the pots are bio-degradable, how GREEN is that! You've already eliminated the need for those plastic, mass produced pots! Good job! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Urban Homesteaders Being Hijacked by Ego and Greed

I run a country living website and produce a country living web series that addresses Urban Homesteading. To all of my readers. When you hear the phrase "urban homesteading" or "Urban homestead" does anyone in particular come to mind or do you think of it as a lifestyle? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

These days nothing at all surprises me when it comes to ego and greed.  Several years ago when I began the Under the Willow Tree community I came across dozens of blogs and websites that talked about "Urban Homesteading" and "Urban Homesteads". Obviously as the economy got worse the concept grew more popular and as it grew more popular more and more people began to share their urban homesteading experiences with the rest of the world. Some of them do a damn fine job of it too.

Research shows that urban homesteading isn't something new. The phrase goes back to sometime in the late 1700's or early 1800's and began gaining momentum in the early 1900's as people began populating urban areas in greater numbers.  In 2001 (or thereabouts) a Pasadena, California family began a website/blog about their urban homesteading experiences and as the world began to change and the economy began to tank, their website increased in popularity. They were actually doing a good job sharing their experiences until it went to their heads. From what I've heard the family is almost cult like with mom and dad and 3 adult children all living at home in an almost cult-like atmosphere. (This is what quite a few bloggers who have followed the family say). As time went on, the site wasn't really producing much helpful information for urban homesteaders but instead started focusing on how wonderful they are for what they do on their tiny piece of Pasadena property. There are several spots on the website asking for donations and volunteers and they sell much of what they grow to "restaurants and catering companies". So the whole concept of living simply and using even an urban setting to be self sufficient went out the window.

Prior to today many urban homesteaders had never heard of the "Path to Freedom" website or its operators, the Dervaes family. Apparently the patriarch of the family believes he founded the concept of "urban homesteading" and went ahead and trademarked the phrase and began cracking down on anyone using the phrase(s) "Urban Homestead" or "Urban Homesteading". Bad move. So bad in fact it will probably cost them the popularity and good reputation they enjoyed amongst their followers and their fellow urban homesteaders. When the Dervaes were asked about the trademarking of such a common phrase they directed everyone to an explanation in the FAQ section of their website that is nothing short of pure bullshit (pardon the language but that's what it is).

They were obviously confronted by quite a few angry people. Here's what they posted on their site:

“We filed our trademarks for the purpose of maintaining standards and for the protection of the term and concept.  We are still in this society that is ruled by laws and governments and, sometimes, you have to use those rules to protect the freedom of an idea before it’s too late.

We began to see the terms “Urban Homestead” and “Urban Homesteading” used as “green-washed bandwagon” terms solely for profit — even mentioned in an glossy magazine advertisement of a car. It bothered us to see the terms being used for ideas that no longer reflected the down to earth roots.
The final straw came in an email we received.  It was from the owner of a small business who created a product and named his little business with a great sounding title. Guess what? Big corporations thought it was a great sounding title as well and trademarked it and told him, he could no longer use the name he came up with.

In addition, more and more people began to use the term for profit and the public / media started to confuse our project with that of the others.  It was a matter of survival — trademarks keep the little people from being overwhelmed.

So, as the popularity of Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading increased and began to label everything from television productions to big agriculture products, we couldn’t shake the warning bells in our minds.  The establishment of Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading needed to be protected so we can all move forward as a movement.”

Here are their terms of use: 

If you aren’t using it to make money and are simply documenting your life or sharing your information, this would only require that you update  your websites and articles to properly cite our works and properly acknowledge if used.

When using these trademarked terms, the proper way to go about it is as follows:
Proper trademark usage should include the proper trademark notice [®],  and note in close proximity that the term is a protected trademark of Dervaes Institute or link to the site.


That’s it!  If you want to label a for-profit endeavor with the term, we ask that you contact us first.
Thank you in advance for respecting our legally protected intellectual  property rights. If you have been supportive of our ten-year online work in  the past, we appreciate very much your continued support.

If you have any questions regarding the use of Dervaes materials or trademarks, please contact us at (626) 795-8400. We would be glad to provide you with more details.


Additionally, when the angry hoards flocked to their Facebook page to voice their opinion, the Dervaes shut their page down. What's wrong, you don't want your followers to know your really just a bunch of hypocrites?  Shortly after the news hit the blogoshpere, Urban Homesteaders from around the web formed a Facebook page of their own to oppose the egotistical and greedy attempt to make people cite the Dervaes website anytime the phrase was used. I DON'T THINK SO!!!!!   Within an hour the opposing Facebook page had DOZENS of followers and all of them are doing exactly what I am here, they are spreading the word! Please, take a moment to click on the link and "LIKE" us. 

The only thing I have to say to the Dervaes family is good luck trying to stop a movement like this. Your greed has now caused literally HUNDREDS of us to oppose what your doing and instead of enjoying the referrals and benefits of being part of a team, you instead acted like the very corporations you claim to be against. And for the record, I WILL NOT direct my hard earned website traffic to YOUR website in ANY cites containing the phrase "urban homestead" or "urban homesteading". If you'd like to benefit from my traffic, it'll cost you.  However, I plan to send this post to all 250,000 people on my mailing list.

You want exposure... you got it!

Urban Homesteaders Unite!


You can follow the movement on Twitter at 

And here is the original article found on OC Weekly

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Country Living 101 - Getting Started

When people think of country living visions of livestock and corn fields pop into their minds. That's really not what it's all about, actually that would be farming! LOL. Although, if that's what you want to do, we can help you there too!  Under the Willow Tree presents country living as living simply but comfortably, as self sufficient as possible, while slowing down enough to enjoy the world and life around you. Decor, gardening, crafts, cooking, etc. all of those things are part of your country living style and the sky is the limit with what you can do!

Country living is an attitude not just a new home decor. It's about taking the time to get to know your neighbors and in many cases, your family and learning how to live with less without being miserable in the process. It's about cutting the umbilical cord to the fast paced, high-tech, out-of-control world we live in and slowing down enough to enjoy the life we've got and the people in it.  Now that doesn't mean that you can't still own a computer or even an iPhone and iPod, but what it means is that these things are no longer the focus of your life and you don't NEED them to exist happily.

With so many people out of work these days and having to face life with less the fist thing that happens is depression sets in as the things they once considered important, like electronic gadgets, computers, Star Bucks, etc. slowly slip from their lives and their reason for living with them. How sad. The good thing is, these situations are forcing people to look around them and in doing so, they're discovering the joys of life without all that noise.

Some folks don't need to lose their jobs to realize they are ready to slow down and enjoy life. They're ready to create a new atmosphere that is less dependent on the "things" we've all become addicted too.

Seven years ago when my husband and I moved our family from the fast-paced, over-crowded, not who you are but what you've got, lifestyle of Palm Beach County, Florida, to a mountain top in the foothills of the Tennessee Smokey Mountains, everyone thought we were nuts. At first, we thought we had temporarily lost sanity too. I won't lie to you, it was a little bit of culture shock because EVERYTHING slowed down DRASTICALLY! 

Once I got over the fact that everything in town closed at 9:00PM and they rolled the sidewalks up until the next morning, and once I got used to all the businesses closing early on Wednesdays, I adapted and began creating a special place for my family up on top of English Mountain. When I couldn't find good Italian bread close by, I learned to make it. There are no corner stores or corner deli's in the mountains, I couldn't just run down the street anymore and buy a few pounds of Mr. Cino's delicious homemade Italian sausage, so... I mastered my own recipe. Little by little my life adapted to the simplicity of country living. I found that our lives became fuller and we were spending more time together. We're one of the last families who still sit down to dinner each night and talk. These things have improved the quality of our lives and have kept our foucs on the most important  

We had moved from a beautiful, 2-story, Mediterranean style, pool home on a zero lot-line lot, to a 40 year old farm house nestled on 30-acres of rolling, partially wooded land, with views that STILL take my breath away! This was our dream and all of a sudden we were living it!

You need not move to the actual "country" to live a country lifestyle. Although, if you dream of owning a home and some property that's really "away from it all" then hang on to that dream, you'd be surprised at how many people are doing it these days. One of the most common things I hear from people who want to sell off their city life and move to the peace and quiet of the country is that they can't buy another home because of the real-state market, or because of bad credit due to lost jobs, etc. One of the great things about relocating to small country towns is that many of the people selling property are willing to owner finance. Under the Willow Tree is in the process of creating a database of "owner Finance" country property opportunities. Stay tuned for the release.

How Can I Get Started?

Here is one way to get started building your new country life. Let's say you are a city dweller but you want to slow down and start living a simple country life. The first thing you need to do is create a country living atmosphere. The space you live in will play a great part in changing your attitude. One way to develop a country living attitude is to take stock of the home you live in and ask yourself these questions:

How far do you really want to go with this new vision? 

Are you just looking to re-decorate your home to look more "country"? 

Or are you wanting to make drastic life changes that will allow you to possibly survive on one income while you or your spouse stays at home and raise your children or even work from home? 

Are you ready to learn some of the basics of "country living" like sewing, canning and preserving food, growing your own veggies, or maybe even raising backyard chickens, etc.? 

Are you longing to grow your own veggies, preserve the foods you grow and become more self-sufficient? 

Buy yourself a spiral notebook or a journal and write down your country living dream, EXACTLY as you see it. Prioritize the things you want to accomplish right away and list the things that are less important in order. This is going to become your Country Living Bucket List and Journal. Remember, you don't need to do everything at once. Set realistic goals according to your available time, budget, etc. The good thing is, as you move into this new lifestyle, you'll find your spending less and creating more.

The first thing that pops into most minds is "I don't have the money to make any changes!"

Well we might have a plan for that. Once you've decided to simplify you'd be surprised at the things you can do to accomplish your goals!

Start by going through your entire house, from attic to basement and if you have storage anywhere else, go through that too. Go through your things and begin a "Yard Sale" collection.  One of our readers made over $1200 selling stuff she had been saving for years that she didn't really need, but hung on to "just because".

This serves two purposes.

First, it is clearing the clutter and forcing you to get rid of stuff you've been saving that really has no purpose other than to take up space.

And second, it's giving you a shot of cash that you can use to make some cosmetic changes to your home OR money to buy "equipment" like a canner, sewing machine, gardening tools, etc. All things you'll need for country living!

If you live in the north where it's cold, that's OK, you'll have a good 4-6 weeks to organize your Yard Sale and believe me, the better organized you are, the more you'll make! If you're selling clothes, take the time to make sure they are clean, separated into groups for kids clothing, adults, etc. price everything so there is no questions and people can easily see your asking price. Many people will put an item down and walk away because they are embarrassed to ask how much.

Recruit the Family. Get the kids involved, have them go through their old toys and books, tell them they get a cut for anything they sell and even get your spouse involved. Most husbands have all kinds of "stuff" in the garage they can get rid of.  Keep everyone motivated by sharing your excitement over what you're going to do with the cash you earn. Make it a family project.

Of course scheduling your sale will be dependent on the weather. Plan to announce your sale a week in advance. Most newspapers allow free Yard Sale ads, Facebook Marketplace allow free local advertising, make a bunch of signs and the night before your sale, recruit helpers to hang them.

Most IMPORTANTLY!  Yard Sales attract EARLY BIRDS so MAKE SURE you are SETUP EARLY!! If possible and safe, set your sale up the night before maybe in the garage or carport and then just move the tables out in the morning.

Be weary of early bird shoppers who want everything for nothing. DON'T Give your best stuff away for pennies, simply tell the early bird that you will reduce the prices of stuff an hour before your sale ends and if they want to come back they can. These shoppers go to Yard Sales early and unsuspecting or inexperienced sellers are usually excited to have buyers or anxious to make money and will give their best stuff away for peanuts. DON'T FALL PREY TO EARLY BIRDS!! HOLD OUT and get as close to your asking price as possible.

I suggest that if you have enough stuff, do a two day sale and keep your tables/displays full. Make sure hanging clothes are hung up and displayed so people can see them, fold clothes that have been tossed about by shoppers. Keep your sale neat at all times.

DO NOT try to do the sale alone! Have some help, whether it be teenagers or a spouse, parent or neighbor. And DO NOT keep your money on you. Have enough to make change and keep putting the rest in a safe place in the house.

For more Yard Sale resources visit the Under the Willow Tree community by clicking here.

Now that your sale is over you can count your money!  Sit down with the family and if you haven't decided how your going to use the money to implement your new lifestyle have a family meeting. Order a pizza and make this a family affair. Trust me, it will make some of the best memories you've ever had!

The secret to great country living is to become more self-sufficient. Creating a country atmosphere in a city setting IS possible. We'll cover more of that in our next post.

In the meantime, check out our Urban Homesteading blog "City Cents" with Julie Charet. Julie is an urban homesteading expert and she's sharing her secrets to successful urban homesteading with our readers!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Love Is in the Air - Making Memories

Ahhh sweet memories. Is there anything more valuable than the memories you make with your family? I don't think so. This has been a bittersweet couple of weeks for our family. Our oldest daughter enlisted in the U.S. Navy and ships out for boot camp on March 9, 2011.  That's it...just like that, she's all grown up and off to serve her country... to date, nothing has moved me more than watching her take her oath of enlistment....

"I, Ashley Rose Leahy, do solemnly swear, that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States of America... against all enemies foreign and domestic...."  

Tears of pride streamed down my face while I tried to hold the video camera still in an effort to capture this most precious moment on tape. My husband tried unsuccessfully, from the back of the ceremony room to hold his composer, but a quick glance showed he had failed miserably too.  As we left the ceremony room to wait in the lobby area of the Military Processing center, he put his arm around me as tears streamed from my eyes and we mutually agreed that our baby as all grown up...we have to let her go and follow her dreams now.  

Upon arriving at home and seeing my two younger children, my heart swelled with pride and love. These little human beings are a product of the environment, love, caring and values we've spent the last 21 years (some of them not easy) enveloping them in.  Where did the years go? How could they all be so grown up and ready to leave home so soon? Whoa!!  We need to slow this process down a bit! 

I broke out the cookbook and asked Cassie (my youngest daughter) if she wanted to bake some Valentine cookies with her ole' mom... 

"Sure mom, as soon as i finish my homework..."

Two days later, I baked the cookies and she decorated.  As I was cutting the cookies, I wondered if this would be the last year we would get to share our little Valentine cookie baking tradition together.  I surely hope not. 

People...listen to me. SLOW DOWN.... text your kids and tell them to come on home and when they get there, spend time with them! Turn your computer off, power down the cell phone, get out the cookie cutters and spend some time with your kids...time goes by fast and before you know it...they are gone, off to follow their dreams. At least make sure you have quality memories to keep you company until they come home to visit again. 

Here is our cookie recipe and a picture of our labor of love.  Feel free to use it to make your own memories this Valentines Day. I share it from my heart to yours.... 

Cassie and Mom's Best Valentines Day Cookies

Cutout Cookie Recipe


  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely. 

Ice with your favorite sugar cookie icing and decorate with sprinkles, gel, or other fixin's.  Then brew a pot of tea or whip up some hot chocolate and enjoy!