Last night was my permaculture meeting. As usual, it was the highlight of my week. We are talking a lot about orchards and pruning. At our next meeting we will be ordering fruit and nut trees from Fedco. We are also planning to attend two workshops at a Vermont orchard to learn about pruning and grafting. One of the woman who attends our group has a very old orchard. If we work cooperatively, we can graft new trees on to her old stock and have enough fruit for all of us while we wait until our own trees begin to produce. We are also swapping seeds with the goal of getting a seed library off the ground.

We have no school today as we are socked in with snow and ice is forecasted for later in the day. I plan to put the girls to work getting the house in order and pulling out the Christmas decorations. I also want to sew for a bit. I am making gift bags and having so much fun. I have pulled out some old costume jewelry to adorn the bags and I must to say, the bags are looking good.

I wanted to write a bit about sleeping arrangements. We have a big house. It was built in 1863 and is a drafty old barn of a place but we can heat with wood, we have reliable water and enough land to keep us all fed. From time to time we discuss the merits of building a very small, energy-efficient house on a 4 acre lot we own about a mile and a half from here. The pros are in the savings. We could build what we want for less than half of what this place is worth and we could heat it for nearly nothing as we have a good stand of timber. That would give us a chunk of change to invest in some things we want like a small barn and a well-equipped workshop for Bruce. I could have a state-of-the-art kitchen and food storage system. But we always come back to the cons. We are so established here. The gardens are loaded with 23 varieties of perennial food plants, the greenhouse is working well and we live in a very walkable community. If I lived out another mile and a half I would need to drive everyplace. The other big downside for us is that we fully expect some of our kids to return home at some point and I need to have a place for them. A big oil shock, as might happen with a serious Middle East conflict, would cause the cost of heating oil to sky-rocket. It might mean that one of my sons and his family would have to stay here during the worst of the winter months so we were only having to heat one space. Another son will be graduating from college in a year. If he can’t find work, he and his wife may well end up here while they figure out what they want to do. My oldest daughter is down in Florida and the employment picture is not pretty. If her husband should lose his job, they would probably come back north.

I can sleep 13 people here in a pinch. I just found an Aero Bed at the Potlatch. It is a double bed size and would provide more sleeping space if we needed it. I hope we don’t; it would be crowded and we would likely get on each other’s nerves pretty quickly, but it’s nice to know that I can. I have been stocking up on bedding for years. I have lots of quilts, heavy wool blankets, sleeping bags, sheets and pillowcases. I am think about what else I could do here if temporary living arrangements became permanent. I have looked at yurts and campers and even considered putting up a garage with an apartment above. If we get a barn built, we could rough in the space for some living quarters there.

I can come up with a number of good reasons for families to double and even triple up. You pool resources and have a layer of support that you just can’t get otherwise. Child care is easier. Elder care is easier. The labor is divided and the skills shared. The trick is to figure out how to do it without killing each other.