Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Working Home

If you have known me for any length of time, you know I have a thing for houses.  I always have.  When I was a little girl, I spent hours exploring every nook and cranny of my Great Grandparents Craftsman style home in Seattle.  I loved tucking into the cozy breakfast nook, nibbling on toast with marmalade served on Grandma's breakfast china.  Grandpa's study was especially intriguing, with an attached bathroom, in which the shower was barely tall enough for a child to duck under.

As I grew, so did my fascination with houses.  I would dream of having my own home one day.  I spent hours pouring over home decorating magazines and many more drawing house plans for my future abode.   Before I moved into my first apartment, I had decorated the whole thing in my head.  When it came time to actually move in, I knew just where to put everything.

During our first few years of marriage, Sir Knight didn't know what the house would look like when he came home.  I rearranged furniture like most people changed their clothes - daily.  I was obsessed with my home and making sure that everything was "just so".  Never would I have had anything in my house that I didn't believe to be beautiful and in keeping with my current "decorating" style.

Communications hutch (in the bathroom!)
Tactical gear behind the bathtub
Forklift batteries (in the bathroom!)
Our lives evolved.  I quit work, became an at-home mom and bought a milk cow.  Our focus changed from "entertaining" to "being hospitable".  As our family dynamics changed, so did our home.  What I used to think was beautiful, became pretentious.  Things that I had once considered sophisticated looked out of place against a backdrop of milk cans and butter churns.  Our lives were changing, and with it, our home.

Years piled upon years and we found ourselves in a "shouse" in the middle of the prairie.  The girl that had once collected home decorating magazines and house plan books found herself in a shop with no defined rooms, no running water and no flushing toilets.  As I struggled to create a hospitable, inviting home out of a garage, I learned that beauty and function could co-exist comfortably within the confines of most anything - even a "shouse".
Industrial sewing machine between the living room and the kitchen
All the guys like the reloading bench in the living room!
As our family became more "home-centered", our home became more "family-centered".  We have found, that as survivalist, homesteaders and entrepreneurs, our home has become a hub of industry.  Everything that we do is centered in our home.  And this is as it should be.
Winemaking nestled up to reloading
Fabric storage next to the stairs
As Sir Knight I and lugged his reloading equipment into the house to set up in a corner of the living room, I realized that if the grid goes down, it won't just be my home that is filled with the tools of industry, it will be yours too.  Like the days of old, when the kitchen was filled with milking pails, cheese presses and wood cookstoves, our modern kitchens will be transformed into efficient food processing centers.  Rather than big screen televisions and Playstations, our living areas will house reloading benches and spinning wheels.  Clothes drying racks and grain grinders will compete for space with stored foods and canned goods.  Our homes will lose their modern face and array themselves in the beauty of utility.  In the event of a TEOTWAWKI situation, our homes will cease to be our masters and instead, become our servants.
Basket with wool and drop spindle (for spinning wool)
Basket of yarn for knitting socks
Even now, when leafing through a home decorating magazine, I find myself coveting the beautiful homes pictured within the pages.  I dream of a living rooms without a reloading benches and industrial sewing machines and a bathroom devoid of forklift batteries. I dream of walls and doors and wall-to-wall carpeting.  And then I go home.  I walk through my front door, am welcomed into the warm embrace of home and realize its value lies not in paint, flooring and textiles, but in the beautiful strength of a humble, working home.

My working kitchen


  1. My "decorating style" is: We Do Things Here !
    I love seeing the canning equipment, Berkey, dehydrator and utensils covering the kitchen counters. I sigh with contentment when I think about the cupboards that are full of ingredients and supplies. My dish towels are faded and the flooring is OSB sealed against moisture. It looks like heaven to me !

  2. Enola Gay, I love a functional home. I truly hate having to pull something out of the garage, wipe it down and then try to figure out where I can place it in the house to use it. We have walls that outline rooms that are to small. If we weren't renting this place, I would pull down some of the walls and make the eat in kitchen and livingroom one complete room. It's more functional this way. It would be some amazing to have the functional home like you have. Thank you for sharing :-)

  3. Enola,


    Your home Rocks! By the way, you dont have a house, you have a home.

    You got kids and one and one day' Enola, you will have a whole mess of grandkids to babysit and fill up your home.

    Thats the difference between a house and a home.

    I think Sir Knight would approve of what I did to the extra bedroom. I have a amatuer gunsmith setup kinda on a custom workbench. On top there's a tipton best gun vise that my new Stag 3g is resting in. Two feet over is some more tools and stuff. Two feet from me where Im typing right now is a M1A rifle. Right next to me is a 420 round can of 5.56 green tip ammo, and six feet behind me is a 12 guage pump shotgun.
    Right now if anything thinks Im nuts, theres a Meth Lab five houses up from me. (I already talked to the police about it. So its a matter of time before they kill themselves or the police bust them)

    I need to think about some other home based industry stuff I can come up with besides basice gun repair and cleaning. Most of my friends are blue collar trade workers, welders, and carpenters.

    In the living room, I sold the tv, but I do have a 9000 watt super stereo system like most other bachelors have. (I crank up Hank Williams Jr and Ted Nugent)

  4. Just out of curiosity, because you guys are clearly handy, why no remodel or adding on of storage spaces or anything?

  5. The home looks wonderful to me! I love the sewing machine and fabric storage & the awesome wall filled with beautiful canned goods! No decorating magazine or professional could come up with anything that would rival the gorgeous colors & contents of those canning jars!

  6. The best place in the world to be is in a home that is lived in. Growing up it was my grandmothers house. Everything had a purpose to it from the tree stump ashtray stand between the two double beds in the bedroom to the front poarch with used kitchen chairs on it. I also thought like you in respect to decorating , but the older I get I realize that I am making memories for my children and grandchildren.

  7. Enola, I've been reading your site for months and learn a lot. Do you really knit the family socks? If so, what type of yarn and do have a fav pattern? I've been learn self sustaining skills and would love to add sock making. Thanks

  8. Enola,


    sorry to take more space again on your blog, but I forgot to mention yesterday I met a retired couple at my friends survival/prepardness store that were really nice people. The husband was an old school diesel mechanic and we talked about engines and stuff. Him and his wife lived on a small ranch outside of town were there are deer, hogs and turkeys to live off of. They are stocking up on foodstuffs also and were diffenitly like minded people. I should have asked the husband if there was any land nearby his place that was for sale. I would like to have them as my neighbors. I really enjoy talking to and learning from old country people.
    They have and endless amount of knowlege, skills, experiece and common sense to offer.
    If someone has an idea or is trying to come up with an idea to start a home based business, find an old country person and ask them. They might know a few things and have a few ideas to share.

  9. The definition of cottage industry! To a limited extent, the cat determines where I put some things-anything breakable is kept out of his reach(it's a cat thing to knock stuff off shelves). I do have an idiot box(shining example of mid 1990s technology), but my house isn't nearly so organized. Something you might want to consider-venting the batteries outside(easy to do), and grounding your reloader. Some years ago, my cousin's reloader ignited while he was using it. He wasn't doing anything stupid(like smoking near it)-no obvious source of ignition. It turns out the likely culprit was static electricity-it was a cold, windy, dry day-Nature's Van De Graaf generator. A #10 wire to a ground rod was the solution(and replacing the powder hopper).

  10. Enola - I love that your house is so useful. Since we have added on to have space for our son, dear DIL, and 3 grandchildren my cookstove has had to be unhooked. It bothers me that we aren't exactly sure where it will go. The plus side is a storage room inside of the house for canned goods and additional supplies. Homes that are magazine worthy are difficult to live in and make me nervous! Love it when a house is homey enough to enjoy the people and not be worried about moving something out of place.

  11. This is one of the richest posts I have read on any of the blogs I read. I really enjoyed this truth.

  12. This weekend I visited (and had home church with) a nearby plain family - like yours, their house was crowded with the equipment needed to produce income, preserve food, and take care of their many animals. It was even more crowded because of the 9 people living in a less then 1500 sq ft house with 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. While they have electric now, they are concerned for the future and preparing to do without if necessary.

  13. i live in a working home too. our floor plan is "open" and we have a good many "work stations". we have also made a few changes in our home to make it easier for us as we get older too.... when i was quite young my grandmother lived in a two room schoolhouse, with a wood cook stove and a potbelly stove. it was wonderful...there was two six hole outhouses-boys and girls and all of the old playground ecquipment was still in the front yard. next door was an old one room church and up the highway was an old timey grocery store that served up fresh breads, homemade preserves, and once a year the vet came to visit and give all the animals their shots. bathing in the pond or creek was not so unusual and of course there was the big washtub for winter bathing on the back porch. i consider myself really lucky to have aspired to live as my grandparents lived...it has made me very independent and self reliant.

  14. Very nice! Looks like you've made very good use of the area in your shouse. My wife really likes your cookstove. The bathroom seems like a very busy room. There's nothing to not like and everything to like about your arrangements. Very practical.

  15. Your article is timely for me. I'm transitioning out of a beautifully decorated large city house to a small farm house. Right now the bathroom has a incubator with eggs about to hatch. My kitchen is a milk/cheese and multifunction room. My bedroom has a box with goat supplies. The master closet is 50% pantry. My living room has a bucket to hold dirty rubber boots.

    I miss the strategically placed unless decorations. I miss the sterile clean environment. I miss getting meat in a neat little package. I wouldn't go back, but there are days that lifestyle tugs at my heart. It was easier.

    Our new lifestyle is wonderful, but very different. Much more manual labor. The commitments are every single day b/c of the animals. Gadgets have changed from Williams Sonoma to New England Cheese Company / Tractor Supply.

    Looking back, so much of the previous life was artificial. Even if the grid does not go down, I don't see how it can continue long term. Most of society will be required to change lifestyles and it will be very painful. It is one thing to change by choice like our family. But being forced into this lifestyle will be trauma for many.

  16. Thank you so much for this post! Lately my home has taken on the look of projects in action, with deer trails between work stations. I was wondering what happened to my neat and orderly life, then I realized that what I was doing now had so much more meaning than before. I am actually using my space to the fullest and being productive in the process and not caring what others thought. You reassured my conclusion. I just love it!


  17. Just curious, is it cost effective to reload? I've heard that it's not that awful big of a savings (when you factor in the cost of equipment). I'm sure it depends on the round your reloading, but I've always assumed that people did it more for the precision factor as opposed to its cost effectiveness. Thanks!


  18. I've been following your blog for awhile; you have a beautiful family. You teach your children self-control, and responsibility.

    And I love the kitchen shot of all your canned vegetables!

    Keep up the good work!

  19. Enola,
    This post makes me feel very much better. I used to have a beautiful, magazine-worthy home. Now it's cluttered with dairy goat milking equipment, canning supplies, reloading equipment, sewing and quilting supplies... you name it, there's some of it here somewhere. I've been trying to "hide" this stuff, especially when guests come over, but I'm running out of room so it's getting harder to do. Now your post eases the guilt... why hide it if it's the way we're living now? My guests will just have to understand. My home, like yours, is a working home now and not a sterile, decorator magazine showplace. That butter churn on the dining room shelf... that thing gets used. It's not a showpiece. I can't thank you enough for the reminder that I don't have to conform to society's rules, especially now when those rules make so little practical sense. Let's hear it for strong, competent homemakers who are rearing children with a plethora of practical skills!

  20. I've never seen a carboy frame like that- did you make it?

    1. No - believe it or not, we found that Demi John and cradle at a yard sale. I have never seen another like it.