Small Spaces, Big Hearts: Lessons learned from modern day pioneer life

Small Spaces, Big Hearts:

Lessons learned from modern day pioneer life

Kristin Parma, EvoOutdoors Media Coordinator

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There has always been a deep yearning in my heart for dirt. I didn’t have a rural upbringing and despite my efforts to shake it, dirt seems to follow me everywhere I go.

I am the coworker that tracked the mud into the office.

I am the girl changing from high heels to snake boots daily.

My own mother calls me her “mud puppy” as a term of endearment.

When 30 acres of dirt and mesquite covered brush became our dream come true, we were more than 2,000 miles away. I had only seen photos of the property and as difficult as it was to leave my hometown, the dirt called. It had been a long time coming and we were both eager to get there. We left our quaint, beautiful, three bedroom home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley for an unpredictable life. The truck acting as our oxen and the fifth wheel our covered wagon, we made the journey from the Pacific Northwest to the Lone Star state. We were modern day pioneers.

Kristin and Adam Parma pose for Christmas portraits on their ranch in Adkins, TX.

My husband, Adam and I have lived that existence and the lifestyle that comes with it for two years on our South Texas property, affectionately called the Czech Out Ranch. We don’t have cable but I am told that numerous reality TV shows currently depict small space living as simple, easy and affordable.

NEWS FLASH:

Small space living is not glamorous.

Small space coupled with farm life is not for everyone. It is not always peaceful or kind. In fact, it is downright difficult at times. Despite that, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have learned so many beneficial lessons these past two years as my soul has been tested, friendships stretched, and marriage tried and strengthened. As Adam and I prepare ourselves in the building of our custom home on the property, the lessons that we have learned from our journey have been at the forefront of our minds. These are lessons that we can all learn from and that I hope we will continue to remember throughout our lives.

  1. Less is more.

People have often told me, “I just couldn’t do it, where would I put all my _____?” Hunting gear, clothes, craft supplies, etc. My response is always the same, “You’d be amazed at what you can fit in less than 400 square feet of living space. What you can live without.”

Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.

Living in a tiny space has taught me so much about the importance of decluttering. Not only is it necessary when living in a small space but it is soul changing and stress relieving. When you go through all your worldly possessions and ask yourself the question, will my quality of life change without this? Two things happen. You are released from the stress that being attached to inanimate objects has on you or you truly cherish the item you decide to keep. It is all about priorities.

  1. Necessity vs. Comfort

Along the same lines of the “Less is more” concept, on a daily basis we are met with the troubling 21st century consumer question:

Do I want it or do I need it? If I do need it how will I fit it in our tiny space?

To make room for ANY item in our small dwelling means that we value it immensely- from a loaf of bread to a kitchen aid mixer. It also means being inventive with the space you do have.

Many items in our small space have multiple purposes. Adam handmade our cedar chest which acts as our coffee table and opens up for storage purposes. We jokingly call it the wine cellar, because well, that’s where we keep the wine. Adam also made a bird stand for our canary’s cage to sit on. That bird stand has two compartments. The top compartment is used to store animal supplies and the bottom is a hidden litter box for our cats to use. There are also some built in items that make storage easier, such as a pull out pantry and a laundry shoot- yes a laundry shoot.

In addition, living in a small space means saying no to many things because we don’t have the luxury of space to accommodate random decorations or adornments. When it comes to clothes shopping I follow the one in, one out rule. If I purchase something new I have to donate something old. Not only does this save space but it makes me feel good.

248Despite not purchasing many material items, we do add items to our lives that bring fulfillment and real joy despite our small space situation. These past two years we have added a dog and a kitten to our menagerie of indoor pets. When we added our collie Jane to our lives almost a month after moving to the Czech Out Ranch it added an even bigger space dilemma. We sacrificed our table and chairs to accommodate a wire kennel for crating purposes. In return, Jane fulfills our heart and home with laughter, purpose and joy.

 

  1. Focus on the Outdoors

My absolute favorite thing about small space living is that I spend the majority of my time outside. Whether it’s cooking, playing with the dog, farm chores, walking the property, hunting or gardening, rain or shine- my life happens outdoors.

329The time period between moving from Oregon to Texas was a rough two months of harsh, frigid temperatures and snow storms in my parent’s driveway. I remember the propane heater broke and we were without electrical hookups. To combat the stressfulness of life, Adam and I spent every single weekend of that two months hunting. Laying in marshlands looking up at the sky or in a deer blind watching the snow fall. The urge to be outdoors constantly carried over when we reached the Czech Out Ranch where we now spend 75% of our free time outside tending to farm animals, a large garden, hunting the property, trail running and enjoying nature’s splendor.

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Czech Out Ranch entrance gate

This is a lifestyle that has molded us into the people we are today. When people complain about the weather, we shrug our shoulders because it doesn’t affect us the same way it affects others. Even as we design our home we are reminded of the outdoors and have a deep yearning to pay homage to nature within it. We want to prioritize having outdoor living space as opposed to indoor space and limit our human footprint on the property we love so dear.

  1. Lower carbon footprint. Less waste.

13221694_579229795583004_2741015676691318438_nWe all consume. We’re all guilty of polluting. It is difficult to live a completely whole and “righteously” earth friendly life. I am a firm believer that small steps can make big impacts.

Living small also means storing small. Our fridge is small. Our pantry is small. As much as I say I hate the small space, it also means less food waste. Food does not get stuck in the never-ending abyss of the “back of the fridge.” And I often buy fresher produce and groceries, harvesting only what I need from the garden. When something does go bad it goes to the farm animals or the compost pile, limiting landfill waste.

Less water is wasted running long hot showers because it is just not possible in our small space. I have become the queen of the quick shower so much so that when I am staying in a hotel, a long shower just doesn’t seem right anymore. In our small space we have to make decisions about whether to run the washer for laundry, shower, or do the dishes on a weekly basis. We also dry our laundry on the line. A perk of living in South Texas.

In general, being more environmentally aware of our carbon footprint has inspired us to build what most folks might consider a small home with eco-friendly options. So that when we do have the luxuries of a large fridge, a dishwasher and more we still feel good about what the time without them taught us.

  1. Appreciate the little things.

Overall, I have learned the lesson to appreciate the little things in life that I often took for granted. Most of these “little things” are actually big things – electricity, water, hot water, water pressure, garbage service, a conventional oven, a bathtub, a large closet. These are all things that I have lived without at some point during this time in my life. I have always been an avid camper and outdoors person however, to actually live without some of these luxuries for over two years continues to be life altering.

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Installing electrical wire

As much as I am proud of our accomplishments I will admit there have been moments when I felt ashamed of living in an unconventional home. When the hard times were just too much to bare. Those “bad times” have become some of our most shared moments with others. The time the heater broke in a snow storm, blowing out a tire on a major highway in California, breaking the pull cord on the generator at six in the morning before coffee was brewed, digging trenches for electricity, losing electricity, hauling trash & recycling, flooding water from the shower and losing use of the fridge (which meant keeping groceries in the cooler for a week) are just a few of the memorable events. To really appreciate what you have you have to live a little uncomfortably sometimes.

Make no mistake there have been a lot of positive and memorable moments during this time period in our life as well. Enjoying weekday dinners together outside watching the sunset, evening walks around the property discovering new wildflowers, critter tracks and more, dancing in the living room/kitchen/dining room, lying in bed one minute and hunting in the “backyard” the next, sharing the property with friends and introducing others to outdoor activities, innumerable amounts of laughter playing with a hyper puppy in a small space watching as she bounces off the walls, almost literally, and many more cherished good times with my best friend and husband.

In the end the positives out way the negatives. Both make up our unique modern day pioneer story and how we have found deep appreciation for the big and little things in life.

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Standing Buck, Sitting Duck: An Ethics Contradiction

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Standing Buck, Sitting Duck: An Ethics Contradiction

Written and reposted with permission from: Aaron Futrell

This article originally posted on: Whackstar Hunters

As a water fowler, I have heard that it is not ethical to shoot a sitting duck. You need to kick it up and take the more ethical shot when it is flying. The reasoning is that you need to give the duck a chance. Shooting a sitting duck is not challenging. In fact, there is a famous adage saying that goes like this; when someone is an easy target, they are “sitting ducks”.

As a deer hunter, I have heard that it is not ethical to shoot a running deer. You need to let it stop, and take the more ethical shot while it is standing still. The reasoning is that you do not want to take the chance of wounding the deer. Shooting a running deer is challenging. There is another old adage saying that says when things are difficult to accomplish, it is like, “trying to hit a moving target”.

big buckI think everyone can see where I am going with this. Why is it considered ethical to shoot only stationary deer and only moving ducks? The ethics are contradictory. I have mulled this over in my mind, trying to bring some kind of resolution to the logic, yet I cannot seem to wrap my brain around it.
Firstly, you will get no argument from me about only shooting a standing deer. It gives the hunter the best opportunity for making a quick, clean kill, with the least chance of haphazardly wounding the deer. As conscientious hunters, this is what we should strive to do. A deer should not suffer because we decided to take a low percentage shot. I have been hunting long enough to have had the misfortune of making a bad shot on a deer that was standing still – let alone running. I wish I would have missed. It is one of the most gut wrenching feelings a hunter can experience.
mallard-male-swimming.jpg.adapt.945.1When it comes to shooting a moving duck, I understand that as well. The majority of shots taken at ducks and geese are while they are moving. That is the nature of the game. The ducks fly into your decoy set and you take the easy 20-30 yard shot. Hundreds of thousands of ducks are ethically killed every year this way.
I understand why it is considered ethical to shoot moving ducks but not moving deer – based solely on the environment. A wide open sky, at close range, is a high percentage shot. However, a running deer weaves in and out of trees – usually at greater distances, which creates a much lower percentage shot. In addition to this, the hunter is shooting a single projectile at a deer, compared to a plethora of BB’s at a duck. Even though the duck is moving, the difference in the ammunition used allows us to make a quick, clean kill.

The sitting duck is the hang up. Why is it unethical? Hitting a stationary target is easier than trying to hit a moving one. Common sense says that we have a better chance at making a quick, clean kill if the target is stationary. The only thing I can think of, is that if a duck is sitting in your decoy spread, you run the risk of peppering your decoys. Back in the day when most water fowlers put hours into carving and painting each decoy, it is understandable to not want to shoot them. Even today, at $50 to $60 bucks for a half dozen decoys, I would not want to shoot them up either. So instead, we flush the ducks, get them above the decoys, and open fire. OK – I can accept that. But what about the sitting duck with no decoys? When we come up to the pond, peer around the cattails, and see a big mallard 20 yards away, why yell, “hey duck!”, to make him fly away, and then take the shot? Why not just blast him on the water?

Venison Crock Pot Lasagna

Venison Crock Pot Lasagna

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 If your a guy like me who can bring the wild game to the table but can’t cook it…Then a crock pot is what you need! It’s so simple, follow directions, turn it on and forget it. The meals taste great and there always hot. It’s the perfect way to end a long day sitting in the woods. This recipe for venison crock pot lasagna is one of my favorite meals!
Ingredients:
1.5lbs of ground venison
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
un cooked lasagna noodles
small container of cottage cheese
1 egg
1 bag of 16oz mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
small onion
garlic
Step 1: Brown venison with onion and garlic. Mix the sauce with browned meat.
Step 2: In a bowl mix cottage cheese with one egg.
Step 3: Mix mozzarella cheese and Parmesan in a separate bowl and keep on hand.
Step 4: Place small among of sauce on the bottom of crock pot, then start layering uncooked noodles,cottage cheese mixture, then sauce then mozzarella cheese. Keep layering like this til crock pot is full.
Cook on low for 2-3 hours. ENJOY!
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“To me taking someone out and getting them into what I love doing is just as rewarding as if I were to hammer a big buck, turkey or catch a huge fish. The smiles make it all worth it.” -Ryan Van Lew

Ice Cave Adventures

Ice Cave Adventures

Chelsea Scott

The Northern Life

That Canadian Girls Blog

Nestled into the mountains of Alberta, Canada, on the border of the iconic Jasper National Park and the world-famous Banff National Park, there is a hidden secret. A place thousands of years old, where you can gaze into the past, where you can reach out and touch a piece of world history. There is a cave made of ice of the purest blue, ice that has shaped our world and that is part of a now quickly receding glacier.

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Most people who visit the Columbia Icefields do so in the summer time; they park at the Discovery Centre across the highway and take the Snow Coach ride up onto the glacier, travelling in first class comfort to set foot on the glacier, to ooh and aah at standing on a moving river of ice. And while yes, I have definitely done that, and yes, it is a pretty cool experience, it is definitely not the best way to experience this incredible environment. What if I told you that you could explore INSIDE the glacier? That you could walk into something that is a piece of real history. Because you can; I have.

I would like to note, right here and now, at the beginning of this piece, that glaciers are incredibly dangerous places, where you should not travel unless you have the proper training, experience and equipment. One fall into a crevasse, and poof! You’re gone. So when travelling in and around the glacier, make smart, low risk decisions.

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Aside from the Snow Coach tour (the above mentioned bus tour to the top of the glacier), there is another great way to experience the Columbia Icefield: park your car across the highway from the Discovery Centre and hike the ‘Toe of the Glacier’ trail. This trail takes you across a breathtaking landscape, where moraines tower over you and the ground is littered with erratics and alpine plants and wildlife. As you can see in the photo above, this landscape makes us humans look, and feel, tiny. I love the feeling of standing in a landscape that dwarfs me. It makes you realize just how very big this world is.

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So in the winter, if you walk the road down to the lower parking lot, you will see a trail where people have crossed the debris field at the bottom of the glacier and it leads up to the foot of the glacier.

As you approach, you will notice a couple hollowed out sections in the foot of the glacier. I walked over first to the ones on the right, just to check them out. While these are not actually caves, it’s incredible to see the glacial ice up close. It is the most incredible blue color, something that no photograph can really do justice to.

Being able to reach out and touch something this ancient is an absolutely incredible feeling.

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Out of the three hollowed out sections, one is actually a cave. There really aren’t words to do justice to the cave, so instead I would like to show you.

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The entrance is really nothing remarkable, its not until you get closer that the light starts to catch the ice and light it up.

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For the entire approach to the cave, the wind had been tearing over the glacier and had been in our face and whistling in our ears. When we reached the cave and climbed inside, the abrupt silence was almost louder than the wind had been. There was no natural noise in the glacier, except for small creaks and groans from the ice mass.

 

Up close, the glacier was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen; there was almost a lacework of air bubbles and frost inside the otherwise perfectly clear ice.

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Standing inside the glacier was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It was so much more awe inspiring than just riding a bus to the top of the glacier, taking a selfie to say I was there and then leaving. I worked for this, I hiked through a mix of mud, ice and snow and I slid down a glacier on my butt to get to this cave and it definitely did not disappoint.

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Should you ever want to visit the glacier, make sure to check conditions with local park authorities, and remember, the ice caves aren’t accessible in the summer!  No matter how you visit the Columbia Ice-fields, you are sure to be blown away and leave inspired.

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Chelsea Scott calls Alberta home where she is an KES Kananaskis Emergency Services Firefighter and guide for Kananaskis Outfitters. You can follow Chelsea’s outdoor adventures on her “That Canadian Girls Blog” and The Northern Life Facebook page. Chelsea describes herself as an adventure enthusiast who is madly in love with wild landscapes.