Weathering the Weather
It is hard to believe two weeks have gone by since my last post. With all the panoply of activities and work that life throws at us on a daily basis, maybe it shouldn’t be that shocking. As a society, we are fast-paced, always in motion and seemingly falling behind in almost everything. It doesn’t surprise me a bit to hear the other moms complain about their lack of time and their failing health while we wait for our children during their orchestra rehearsal. These moms do it all, work full-time, chaperon their children, taxi them everywhere, cook, clean, shop, garden, make sure they have healthful foods and maintain social lives. I’m one of them, and even though I struggle daily to make sure we eat healthfully, maintain a strict budget (I am not well off by any means), and meet all of my to-do list goals, I still fall far behind on the things society tells me I should be doing. What’s my solution? Screw society.
In my limited knowledge, this seems to be the first time in history people spend all day away from their home base, working in a job that really has nothing to do with sustaining life in order to earn the money that will enable them to consume products that have nothing to do with sustaining life. As technology advances, do we become slave to the technology, or does technology improve our quality of life? Technological growth, by the way, has moved beyond our capacity for control. It will advance and change our culture whether we like it or not.
However, I see promise in the movement to go back to a simpler time, to use technology to advantage, to get off the grid, so to speak. It’s a small movement and it takes time, organization and planning. Trying to adapt my lifestyle to the urban homesteading/sustainable living movement has left me breathless and confused. Me! The city girl who spent half my life on a ranch, helping to butcher our own meats, who likes to hunt and spend time just sitting by the ocean thinking about nothing. Many times, I don’t know where to start, so I do not begin. The weather has also been a great deterrent to working outside. And the pull of so many obligations, taxes, bills, financial matters, work, and the things I don’t enjoy doing detract from the things that I want to do.
I enjoy cooking and love spending entire days cooking up a meal plan for the week and then creating those items and packaging them so that I will have lunches and dinners at the ready. Most Sunday afternoons, this is what I make time to do. The other orchestra moms and I discussed this and I realized that if I had to cook a week’s worth of meals for a family of four over the weekend, it probably would not get done, even if I owned a dishwasher, which I don’t. Why? Most of the time, the children and other family members don’t help in the kitchen, and this would be a lot of work for one lone woman. As a society, we have gotten away from communal work and workshare. Things like cooking, cleaning, maintaining the house or car and growing the vegetable garden no longer need to be divided by gender, so why aren’t we teaching each of our children to chip in and help? It will help to make them more self sufficient as well. I know it takes time and energy to teach them, and also to convince them that it is in their own best interest, but that will pay off in the end. And please, I know many teenagers like to argue about working and doing chores — I certainly did — but I also recall with fondness the rare nights the family spent plucking and cleaning chickens under the moonlight, singing “Ole Slewfoot” and working together, even if I did complain about it at the time. I mean, many of the people I have relayed these fond memories to have reacted with horror, telling me how sorry they were that I had to go through that. We’ve become used to the flesh we eat coming to us already prettily packaged complete with artistically designed labels. My first store bought whole chicken seemed strange to me, the muscle tissue was loose and it was full of fat. I almost felt guilty cutting it up and eating it, wondering what sort of life it must have led. Some children have no idea what a chicken looks like “on the hoof.” I am proud of my roots and glad I have those memories so I can put that knowledge to use, now that I have the ability.
What have I accomplished toward my personal goal of urban homesteading? Not a whole lot. Because of the endless rain, my backyard has been sitting in swampy muckness without a plan for its revival. The past couple of days, I have spent quite a bit of time in my mind thinking about what would work in my limited space, where to build raised beds in relation to the chicken coop, the clothesline, future walkways and the future peach tree. In my head, it is coming together, even if my back yard screams neglect and my front yard looks as if it has been conquered by weeds. At least I got some Gazania (a groundcover) planted under the the pepper tree in the front last fall. I hope it is still alive. The front will eventually become a haven for aromatics: rosemary, lemon thyme, lavender, cilantro, artichoke and other herbs that blend together well under drought conditions. The back will have to be content to be an ongoing experiment. I’m still unsure what to plant, or how to grow it. I’m positive the chickens will fully enjoy whatever grows in my haphazard garden. Speaking of which, I decided to treat them to some leftover tater tots not too long ago. I watched from the kitchen window while they were happily pecking away when I noticed my cat sticking her little head through the coop’s fencing. Curious, I watched to see what she was up to. Tentatively, she reached a paw through and snagged a tater tot, and ran like the dickens with her jaw wrapped firmly around her treat as if she thought stealing tater tots were a crime. The little cutie. If I had realized cats like tater tots, I would have shared.