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"Furniture Free"...But Where Do You Sit?

"Furniture Free"...But Where Do You Sit?

Your furniture is a cast. Like liquid, over time we tend to take on the shape of our containers because many of our containers put us into the exact same shape. 

I'm going to assume that if you're reading this you're at least somewhat familiar with WHY someone would want to get rid of their couches and chairs to live a more movement-based lifestyle. If you're new to this concept entirely, I highly recommend you check out Katy Bowman's many books (specifically Don't Just Sit There), website (specifically blog posts like this one), and popular podcast Katy Says (specifically Episode 69: Natural Movement and Variability). We've heard the saying that "Sitting is the New Smoking," but it really boils down to HOW you sit, HOW MUCH you sit, and in WHAT RATIO to the other movements you do. Katy's goal is succinct and well-said: "Move more of you more often." That's where the furniture free lifestyle comes in. 

Let me say from the start that I'm literally about to show you pictures of my furniture. My house is not a barren wasteland of floor-sitting and squatting. Every person's interpretation of this message and application of these strategies will look different, so I hope you find some helpful options in here that make you say "I could do that!" That's my intention.

What Does "Furniture Free" Even Mean?

For me, I interpret the idea of "furniture free" to mean that I have freedom from my furniture.  My furniture does not dictate how I move (or how I am restricted in my movement), it is not the focal point of my life, and it does not invite sedentary behavior. You don't have to throw away your couch if you're able to NOT use your couch as much or use it differently. I am the type of person, though, who can't keep sweets and junk food in the house or I'll eat it ALL. So I decided I won't keep "junk food movement" in my house, either.  "Furniture free" also means freedom from the kind of social class structure that comes along with furnishing your house with the right brands, the right pieces. I don't need TWO dining sets even if I have two spaces where I could theoretically eat in my house. I am free to have empty spaces if I want to. I am free to let my home echo if I desire. I am free from the pressure to keep up appearances. 

The All-Important Question: But What if Company Comes Over?

On the junk-food and appeasing-others note, I have always abided by Katy's defense of this question. Just because I eat healthy (I'm a nutritional therapist, after all), that doesn't mean I concede to buy Doritos and Little Debbie's when company comes over if that's what they like. It's MY house. I'm not going to craft the health and wellbeing of my home around the few times I might have company who aren't fond of sitting on the floor. I know, I know, "But what about old people and grandparents who come over?"  Slow down. Just strategize, people. I'm not telling you that your great aunt has to sit on your floor, I'm saying that your entire house shouldn't have to rest on this issue, and whatever strategy you employ for making your home accessible to your less-mobile guests should be one that does not tempt and invite you to use it as "junk food." I have several pieces in my home that serve this purpose. 

It's not about having NO furniture...It's about having furniture that facilitates progress and forward trajectory in your life. 

Just because you have some furniture, that doesn't mean you can't be part of this movement-movement. Even though we got rid of our couch, we decided to get something comfy and temporary in anticipation of our new baby arriving in April.  I want to have a little nest-y place for nursing and relaxing, and for family to visit and hold the baby. I don't see this as a regression at all, it meets a specific desire for a specific purpose for a specific time, it does not merely fulfill a cultural requisite that we have an 8-seater Pottery Barn couch. 

With that, I thought I'd bring you on a little tour through some parts of our home and pieces of our furniture to see what we're sitting on and how we're transitioning to a more movement-based lifestyle. In addition to wanting more movement in my life, I also want to transition away from furniture treated with chemicals or made with eco-un-friendly synthetic materials. Not every single piece of furniture in our house is organic hand-carved fair-trade fairy-dust sprinkled perfect. It's a transition process, a fun journey, and an interesting collection of pieces. 

Just Through Here We Have The Dining Room...

I dove head-first into furniture freedom with our dining room. I sold our chairs and donated the table, and ended up finding a big gorgeous oversized oak coffee table through a local re-sale Facebook page. The table only cost me $145 and at the time I replaced all of the chairs with cotton chair cushions (which we still have and use--you can sort of see the stack back there next to the shelf) that were $11 apiece. Recently my big pregnant belly has not been comfortable on the cushions (trying to breathe normally and eat at a low table cross legged is NOT comfortable), so we got these little jute poufs from IKEA to give me a better elevated + firm surface. They're also stackable so people can be chair height if they want, or they can be stacked to use as a table. My sweet spot right now is one of these with one cushion on top. I'm still squatting below parallel each time, getting a good pelvic angle while sitting, and using my core to support myself as I sit. 

Adjacent to this little dining space we have a sit-in counter. I myself like to be able to visit with guests here while I make dinner--you know that comfortable kind of gathering in the kitchen that happens when friends and family come over? It's also a great workspace (when it's clean). 

Bar stools can be a great piece of furniture to KEEP if you already have them, or to add to your furniture. With no back, sitting on a stool requires you to actually use your back muscles to stay upright, making you less likely to slouch and slump. You can also use stools for a variety of positions. One of my favorites is to stand here to work here on my computer (like I am RIGHT now) with one leg up on top of the stool getting a nice deep hip stretch, then change sides every once in a while. I can also squat on them (and my daughter does this a lot, too), sit cross-legged, or use these as work spaces in other places throughout the house.  

 

Next We Have The Living Room...

This is a double papasan chair that will be my little newborn + mama nest when the baby arrives. I can sit cross-legged in it, I can lie in it or sit if I want to, and it's great for snuggles. It's NOT something I can sink into for three hours on end, and that's a good thing. We purchased it second-hand, and when it serves its temporary purpose in our life we will send it off to its third-hand owners. The pouf is a sweet little cotton stuffed foot-rest type deal that I got for $9 at a thrift store. I use it a bunch of different ways, sitting on it right-side-up, and also on its side. It makes a great back bolster for stretching out my back, and it goes with the rug, too, so...win-win.

This is another IKEA find. Yes, you can actually sit in it and lean back! It's made with natural fibers, it requires that parts of your body are engaged to sit in it, it's light and movable so wherever the company is or wherever I want to use it, I can take it there. I don't need to fully furnish every single room in our house for a gathering, but I have enough options spread throughout the house to call a counsel if I want to. 

This is my favorite chair! It's a handmade piece we got at a farmer's market when we lived in Washington. It folds up so it can be moved out of the way easily or put away, it sits the tailbone about 5 or 6 inches off the floor so it's a great squat getting in and out, and it's fully reclined so when you lean back you can just relax, but if you want to sit up to have a conversation or get work done, it requires you to engage your core. It's SO comfy with a sheepskin draped over it. I wish I just had five of these instead of ALL the other seats I just showed you. 
 

A versatile wooden bench. Its most recent use was actually as a table during my daughter's birthday party. It's untreated, easy to move, can be sat on in different ways or used for various surface needs, and will probably be featured in some MovNat exercises very soon!

You Can Move More in the Bathroom, Too!

Here's a change you can make without getting rid of anything. Get a Squatty Potty!

Squatty Potty stools ensure you get at least one good sustained squat throughout your day, and also that you're having easy strain-free healthy bowel movements.  They're also super helpful for toddlers using the toilet. You can order a Squatty Potty HERE

 

Our Sedentary-Safe Space

I could write an entire blog post about my process for upgrading our bed, but I won't. In short, we had a small budget and my primary concern was getting rid of our toxic flame-retardant treated mattress and cheap particle-board VOC-off-gassing frame.  We went with an 6" cotton futon mattress with a wool cover. Since wool has natural flame-retardant properties, they can be sold and marketed as "mattresses" without legally having to be treated with flame retardants. It's very firm, but we've had it for almost a year now and we really like it. The frame is a wooden futon frame that I treated myself with a home made beeswax and olive oil wood sealant, and it's much lower to the ground than most conventional beds (and eventually I'd like it even lower) which is great for our toddler who often sleeps in our bed, and for a new baby who will co-sleep with us. 

We generally do not use many pillows, but our collection has grown as my pregnant belly has grown! I recently purchased the large gray square cushions in the back (which are actually "floor cushions") so I have something to lean against when I'm up late at night nursing. When they're done being a temporary headboard, they'll be moved to another part of the house for floor seating. Nothing crazy expensive or exclusive, but I'm able to avoid synthetic fabrics and also meet specific needs--like pregnancy--with versatile things that can still serve me in a healthy way later on. 

More Movement Indoors

Here are a few more things we keep in the house for added movement, which I will be utterly grateful for after the baby arrives. We do have a full gym get-up in our out-building, but we keep a few other things around just to make movement more convenient and accessible to us inside. Namely our rowing machine, yoga mat, foam rollers, a couple kettle bells and resistance bands, a 2x4 for balance work, and a rock-climbing/grip-strength/pull-up board. I'm also excited to set our slack-line up in the back yard and do more balance and stability training when my core is ready for some recovery and postpartum strengthening.

Conclusion

So there you have it! ALL that furniture, and I still consider myself to be "furniture free." I hope that doesn't sound hypocritical, but INCLUSIVE. My furniture doesn't make me weak, my furniture doesn't contribute to a decline in my health from sitting too much or inhaling chemicals, my furniture doesn't define my status or success as a home-maker. And I think in general our house looks pretty "normal" for having company, hosting family, and entertaining guests.  These are all things we've acquired or transitioned to over the course of about two years, and we are still on that same trajectory.  You can make small, concerted, conscious efforts to curate your indoor environment, improve your health, and change your perspective, and they will all eventually add up. 

 

Acorn Flour: An Amateur's Ecology Experiment

Acorn Flour: An Amateur's Ecology Experiment

As much as acorns are ubiquitous in our environment, they are also undervalued and misunderstood.

Until recently, my only physical interaction with acorns had been using the caps between my thumbs as whistles when I was a kid, and sweeping them out of my driveway as an adult. This fall, I learned from my brother and mentor Daniel Vitalis that these are truly valuable, nutritious, and easily accessible wild foods! (You can listen to Daniel Vitalis, Frank Giglio, and Arthur Haines talk about acorn processing in Episode #119 of the ReWild Yourself Podcast). As someone interested in expanding my foraging and plant knowledge skills, and as someone generally down to experiment with weird stuff, I decided I would undertake the challenge to take some acorns through the process from nut to nosh. 

Let me remind you that even though you may see me on Instagram foraging mushrooms in the forest, making wild nettle pesto, and being generally crunchy, I live in basically-downtown San Antonio, Texas. I drive a tiny little Mazda mini-van and I have a Costco membership. I am not an ultra-cool off-grid ultimate-forager mom (yet). I say this first and foremost to admit my utter lack of expertise, but also so that you realize you have access to all of what I'm about to talk about.  If somewhere in the middle of this (maybe you'll even read this to the end) you think "I'd like to try that..." you can and you should, even if for no other reason than the fact that there are delicious pancakes waiting on the other side. 

You must first know that I went about this process in some of the absolute LEAST efficient ways possible, but that was part of my strategy. I'm a huge fan of Katy Bowman, and what I've learned from her books and podcasts and amazing brain is that where there is convenience, there is some cost being shouldered elsewhere. I've made a point in my lifestyle to start questioning these conveniences and start reversing my sedentary lifestyle. I wanted to take this opportunity to use as much ME-POWER as possible and truly appreciate this relationship to my food. I wanted to fully learn this process through trial and error, much the same way we learn to do math long-hand before we allow ourselves to rely on calculators. (Hey, remember when we used to use MAPS for directions? Crazy.) You can rest assured there are gadgets and tricks and hacks for processing acorn flour, but that's not part of this story.

I also got something out of this I wasn't expecting, and that's an important life lesson for my daughter. My little girl worked SO hard for the reward at the end of this process. She tended DAILY to the various steps and tasks; she was engrossed and engaged and enlightened. She was present for it, even when I was caught up in tunnel-vision toward the end result. My point is that we often think "working for something" means doing enough work to make enough money to save up for the thing we want and then buying it. Yeah, there's virtue in that somewhere but only from the perspective of society and consumerism and the value of money. I didn't set out to teach (or learn) this lesson, but it arrived to us through this process. The work we did with our own bodies directly correlated to the outcome.  I'll never hear the phrase "work for what you want" the same way again.

GATHERING

My three-year old daughter and I spent several hours over about two days gathering up acorns. That process in and of itself offered ample opportunities for quality movement: Sustained, engaged squatting, squat-crawling and pivoting, and various seated positions. It was also a great example of what Katy Bowman has coined "stacking," which is where one activity in itself is able to serve many purposes and values. Over these hours together we: spent time outside in the sunshine; we spent quality time together; we moved a lot; we talked a lot; we learned about how to identify a good acorn vs. a bad acorn; we used fine motor and dexterity skills; we practiced counting; we collaborated; we observed trends and patterns in our environment and in our processing. It was a productive learning experience that cost $0. (Hey moms, you're welcome.)

SORTING

Once you start gathering you'll notice a variety of shapes, colors, textures, and abnormalities in the acorns. You'll want to leave behind any acorns with tiny little holes that look like someone has used a tiny drill bit on it. These are the little escape hatches of weevils, which are laid inside and then eat their way out (more on those later). Also toss aside any acorns with cracks or discolorations like these. 

Acorns will look different depending on where you live and what species you're gathering. This particular species is a quercus virginiana, or a Southern Live Oak, and they're EVERYWHERE in Texas. We gathered all our acorns from within 300 feet of our front door. As we gathered, we noticed that the healthy acorns tended to be dense and heavy, darkly colored, and nice and glossy. Like the Pantene-ProV commercial of acorns.

If the acorns are still spongy and moist from gathering, they won't crack well--they sort of just splice open. Much like trying to break a green, living branch. They're much easier to crack when they're a little drier. We filled up some baking sheets one-acorn deep and let them hang out in the sun for a couple of days to dry out so they'd be easier to crack.  This is an important (and longer) process if you're going to be storing your acorns whole (which you can do for up to three years). Consult the experts on that process, but once they're completely dried, you can store them for making flour throughout the year. Because of its high fat content, acorn flour does not itself preserve very well and can go rancid, so as I understand it's best to store the acorns whole and make & use flour as needed.

WEEVILS

After bringing all these beautiful acorns into the house and giving them a nice warm place to rest, apparently all the weevils living inside felt quite welcomed and thus emerged to greet us. I was sipping my coffee in the kitchen one morning when my daughter called from the next room "Mom, the yellow worms are being so silly!" Kids say weird things sometimes, especially my kid, but there was sincerity instead of playful imagination in her voice. Sure enough there were weevils all over the acorns, on the floor, and in her hands. Weevils crawling a 2-foot radius around all of the pans of acorns. Don't panic, they're harmless (and actually nutritious themselves) and easy to sweep up with broom and dustpan. I was still shocked. I thought I had avoided this by only keeping acorns without holes!

Weevils' eggs are laid inside the acorn through an opening that is pretty much undetectable. As the weevil hatches and grows inside the acorn, it eats the acorn flesh and then burrows itself out (once it's nice and fat and warm in your living room). The holes in the acorns show that a weevil WAS inside, not that it IS CURRENTLY inside. I took this learning experience in earnest and set to forging through and not abandoning the project, and I'm glad I did. I texted this picture to my brother Daniel in a panic thinking I would have to throw everything out (and burn my house down), but he was totally unfazed--just a normal part of the process. I sat back down to my pans of acorns and started sorting. I threw out all of the newly-evacuated weevil-houses first. Then I set about feeling and listening to each acorn on the hard wood floor. Some felt light and sounded higher in pitch on the floor--obviously less dense inside and rather hollow; eaten away by a weevil who hadn't decided to show himself yet. Others were dense, heavy, and bass-sounding on the floor. These sounded right, so I tossed them into the "keep" pile.

A LESSON IN FOOD PURITY

The most important realization for me here was the sterility of my food sourcing. Bugs, worms, parasites--these are are completely normal parts of gathering and processing food, we just don't SEE it. When we arrive to the grocery store, all of the weirdly-shaped, bug-bitten, imperfect foods have already undergone this process. SOMEONE ELSE IS ALREADY DOING THIS WORK ON YOUR FOOD FOR YOU. If someONE isn't doing this work, then someTHING like a chemical pesticide or a toxic wash is doing it for you. I was surprised to learn from the podcast with Daniel, Frank, and Arthur how many fresh wild fish are infested with parasites, and that most of the fish at your store was, too, at some point. They were simply removed before being cut into filets, shrink-wrapped, and neatly arranged on the ice tray at Whole Foods. I was humbled by the fact that I have the "skill" of picking out a good avocado by feeling it or a good watermelon by knocking on the rind, but I didn't know how to identify and interact with the wild foods that were sitting outside on my own lawn. Think about that for a second.

So if you make it this far, don't stop for the weevils. Just let them pass through, they're part of the journey. Learn from it. (And if you're totally unsure whether there's a "prize" inside, just crack it open and find out!)

CRACKING

We went the old-fashioned way with this and cracked the acorns by hand with typical metal nut-crackers (which were SURPRISINGLY hard to find; I had to go to three stores to find their last two sets). It took a few sessions of cracking to "get good" at it and be efficient. My husband and I found that it was most efficient to crack about 20 acorns in half, then pick out the flesh rather than crack and pick out each individual acorn. My daughter would recommend going old school and just using your teeth if your hands aren't big enough for the nut crackers...

LEACHING

This is part of the process that I did completely backwards because I'm an admitted amateur. If you're going to make acorn flour, you'll want to go on to the grinding process next and THEN leach the flour. My mistake was researching "how to cold-leach acorns" instead of "how to cold-leach acorn flour" which are two similar process but for different purposes. In my case it didn't seem to change much, but I want to note that I haven't seen a tutorial for making acorn flour that recommends the leaching before the grinding. This is a blog about my experience not my expertise--so here's a good professional tutorial for leaching acorn flour you can refer to. (And if that's all you came for, scroll to the end for the recipe I used and be on your way!)

I think the most common comment I got in posting about my foray into acorn flour was "BE CAREFUL, ACORNS ARE POISONOUS! THEY'RE TOXIC! DON'T EAT THEM!" 

First of all, no they're not. Slow your roll. Far from being toxic (What does that word even really mean, anyway? Can we quantify that a bit?) acorns are just high in anti-nutrients called "tannins" which give them their bitter flavor. For the same reason we soak beans, rice, and legumes to dissolve and ferment anti-nutrients like phytates, acorns are soaked and rinsed repeatedly to leach and remove the tannins. It's very simple whether you're leaching the acorns whole or as a flour: cover with cold filtered water, wait several hours, pour the water off, rinse the acorns, and fill the vessel back up with water again. As I understand, each species takes a different amount of time for the tannins to be removed, and the best way to know is a taste test. Once they're adequately leached, you won't be able to taste any bitterness at all, and the water will be mostly clear. Since I did three separate batches of acorns, they were each started on different days and I was able to clearly see & taste when they were ready. Here is a pour off of the water from 1, 2, and 3 days of cold leaching:

DRYING and GRINDING

Again, my process is a bit out of order and out of whack (although it still yielded the same result). I'm sure an expert can explain the difference, and I do intend to seek out that information. Just know that the pros will tell you to crack, grind, leach, and then dry the acorn flour. I ended up cracking, leaching, drying, and grinding mine. 

To dry, I followed instructions for what must just be for leaching and preserving the whole acorns for other purposes other than flour. I laid the leached and pat-dried acorns on a pan and put them in the oven on it's lowest setting (150 degrees) for a couple of hours, checking on them frequently, agitating them, and biting through some of the bigger ones to make sure they were dried through the centers.

Once they were dry, we stone ground the acorns by hand in some Southwestern molcajetes.  I'll be honest, this part was not as fun for me, but I still reveled in the purpose and the learning experience of it. It was the LAST step before reaping our reward. For almost two weeks my daughter had been asking nearly every morning for acorn pancakes, and each time I would explain the next step and the rest of the tasks required before these promised pancakes would be ready. She was glad to help with every step of the process, but three-year olds don't QUITE have the elbow grease for grinding flour by hand. At least not 21st century three year olds...

Once the flour was ground, we ran it through a sieve to remove any leftover chunky pieces (which I'm glad we did but was also disappointed in my hand-griding skills to have about 1/4 cup of these bits to re-grind afterward).

TIME FOR PANCAKES

Even after the weevils and the mis-matched processing, we were sufficiently rewarded for our efforts! I perused and compiled various acorn flour pancake recipes into one that turned out excellent for us. You'll find many variations out there. Acorn flour is incredibly lipid-rich, over 50% fat (yum!) and free of gluten, which means it doesn't hold together very well on its own. Most recipes will "cut" the acorn flour with white flour (no, thanks) or some other kind of traditional flour on order to help hold them together. I took Chef Franky's suggestion and cut mine 1:1 with sprouted spelt flour.  A lot of other recipes were calling for milk and vegetable oil, which I also wasn't crazy about. I figured if I used some organic canned full fat coconut milk I could hit two birds with one stone on that one. My brother Daniel uses Surthrival colostrum powder as a binder in his pancakes which sounds delicious, too. 

Wholly Chloe's Acorn Flour Pancakes

1 cup acorn flour

1 cup sprouted spelt flour

2 pastured eggs

1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt

1/4 tsp baking powder 

1/2 cup Organic canned full fat coconut milk - or enough to create desired consistency. 

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Raw Honey to taste

This recipe yields about 8-10 pancakes which you can and should lovingly slather with pastured butter and mineral-rich maple syrup. These pancakes are out of this world. They have a mild and pleasant nutty flavor, and because of the higher fat content in the acorn flour PLUS the healthy fat from the coconut milk, they're incredibly filling and will not leave you with the carb-hangover you get from your standard paper-carb pancakes. I was nervous that they wouldn't live up to my expectations after all the work that went into them, but instead they inspired me to START AGAIN and MAKE MORE!

NOW WHAT?

So I'm sure many of you are thinking "Good for you, lady, but I'm under two feet of snow right now and my acorn-processing opportunities are over for the year." True. Sorry about that. No more pictures of pancakes. But what you CAN do is start strategizing for next year. Do you know how to identify an oak tree? Do you know what species grows near you and where to find a few? When do the acorns ripen in your area, and what pests are they prone to? You have some time to start learning and strategizing for next year. I know Daniel will be covering a lot more of this process next year on his podcast, so keep up to date with the ReWild Yourself Podcast. Until then, I hope as you've read this you've found opportunity all around you for more movement, interaction with your ecology, connection to your food sources, and lessons for your kids. 

 

Additional Resources:

Do Sweet Acorns Still Need to Be Leached? - Arthur Haines

The Incredible Edible Acorn - Arthur Haines