- Linda: http://witcheskitchen.com.au/
- Jemma: http://timeforalittlesomething.com
- Megan: http://www.thebyronlife.com/
- Amanda: www.amandabrooke.typepad.com
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Who would have thought that when I began to make my Clay Cob oven that I would create such a sense of community? Well I certainly didn't realise the "power of the cob", but now I do!
Over the last 4 weekends, I have been entirely focusing on building this alternative type of oven in which we will bake pizza, bread, roast meat and just about anything else you can cook in an indoor oven. Yet I failed to realise at the time, that the building process has brought many people together, and has made them talk, joke and laugh. This is all before we have even cooked the first meal in it. It has built a stronger sense of community!
So far, over 14 people other than myself have worked on the oven, learning how to build a clay cob oven, and just enjoying getting their hands dirty with a bit of sand and clay. I kept telling them that it was great at exfoliating as a joke, but so many people mentioned that their hands felt so much softer after a few hours lugging, moulding, and smoothing the cob. I smile inside when I reflect back on the joy on the helpers faces and the conversations we had during each subsequent layer. It just goes to show that if you make work fun, then not only does it progress quickly, but lasting, happy memories are built as well.
Have you ever had a project that friends and family have been involved with, that have become more than the project itself or helped to build a sense of community? I would love to hear about them if you have experience the same effect.
Monday, August 29, 2011
In one more sleep I become a mummy, it has been a long and hard journey and one I'm delighted is finally happening! I've been thinking a lot about how to encorporate a simple, green and frugal life into parenting and the truth is I know no one can accomplish it all, so I'll need to focus on the most important things. So far I've been focusing on a couple of key points/ideas so that I don't feel overwhelmed.
- Establishing a rhythmn that meets everyone's needs and is flexible, yet predictable
- Not over-committing and prioritizing time to adjust
- No disposable products
- Get a community garden membership
- No plastic
- Shopping for locally sourced products and/or fairtrade
- Focusing on what is really needed vs. what people tell you are needs (I'm shocked at what people believe you need in order to parent)
- Buying second hand where possible
- Establishing a "norm" which isn't about commercialism or materialism
But here is where I turn it over to you. I'd love to know how you encorporate a simple, green and frugal life into your parenting and family life? I feel like I have a lot to learn and am most probably only scratching the surface!
So dear co-op readers: what advice do you have for living purposefully while parenting? How do you explain raising your children so differently than most people they will come into contact with?
Sunday, August 28, 2011
The urban hedgerows around here are heavy with elderberries right now - offering abundance to anyone willing to look up and take notice - seemingly very few people. This is a great shame as they are delicious. They have a nice fruity berry taste, if you can get past the astringency of the tannins they contain. The best way to do this is to cook them, usually with sugar or sweeter fruits. They make delicious jellies, preserves and pie fillings on their own or with other sweeter fruits, and good wines and cordials. I have no experience of this, but they can also be dried and added to baked goods.
This year we plan to make wine and jelly with them. I don't like taking too many bunches of berries from the same tree, or too many from the same area and so we have been collecting small harvests on walks across the city over the last few weeks, which we freeze for use when we have enough berries and enough time to do something with them. Only the ripe black berries are edible and they must be removed from the toxic stems. This is easier said than done as the berries are densely packed onto delicately branching heads that collect all manner of dust, debris and creepy crawlies whilst on the tree. Bunches tend to be of mixed ripeness, so going for the most uniformly ripe heads that you can find means less picking and less sorting later on. Once home, there are two main methods of removing the berries from the unwashed stems, both of which are fairly time consuming. If you can rope in a companion to help, the task will be infinitely more enjoyable.
Firstly, the berries can be gently rubbed off of the umbels between fingers and thumb. Green, unripe berries tend to stay attached to the branches, which means less sorting later on. This method is my preferred method, as it can be done with one hand, holding a baby or cup of tea in the other if necessary.
Another method is to use a fork to comb the berries from the stems. This second method of removing them is faster, but strips all berries, regardless of ripeness. Weaker stems also tend to break off, often with berries attached leaving more sorting for later.
Any obvious debris, unripe berries and young spiders can now be removed from the berry mountain. It is fairly easy to pick out large bits of debris - leaves, branch and unripe green berries. It also gives young spiders enough time to crawl out of harms way.
After this, it is necessary to wash the berries to remove dust. If you have several kilos it is best to process small batches at a time to prevent crushing, preserving as much of the juice as possible. Filling a bowl with cold water and then adding the berries to it prevents them being damaged by a blast of water from the tap. A few gentle swirls will lift the dust from them and any last bits of stem and unripe and spoiled berries tend to float to the surface where they can be skimmed off, and a few unripe berries and small bits left behind won't hurt anyone. Drain gently in a colander and store or cook as you wish.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Sometime ago on the net, I remember reading in a crafting/sewing site someone saying "there's a huge difference between a handmade and a homemade quilt!" The inference being that handmade was better and homemade was inferior.
You know, I sort of get that comment. After all, there are so many gorgeous quilts out there. I went to my local sewing shop a few months ago and asked for general advice on how to make a patchwork quilt and was shown kits of brand new fabrics already cut out for me. A search on the net pretty much revealed an overwhelming number of sites advocating the use of brand new fabrics to create particular types of patchwork quilt.
It was for this reason that I too, a newbie sewer, took on the attitude that "homemade patchwork" - ie one that uses real scraps from old clothes and other craft projects - should be limited to small applique type work or for things that are not to be displayed (eg - sew scraps together to make a decent sized rag).
So it was a huge eye opener for me last week when I found this at St Vinnies:
It is a single-bed size quilt that was celebrating "homemade handmade" instead of handmade!! ...and I thought it was just gorgeous (and promptly bought it). The stitching at the back reveals it to be truly homemade. Its not truly perfect like many handmade quilts. The person who made this used different types of fabrics too - from synthetics, to t-shirt fabrics, to "normal" cotton (smooth cotton fabric).
But there's something endearing about this quilt. Its...warm and homey.. and not warm and homey in an artist/designer sort of way - its warm and homey.
So, today, in honour of appreciating the "homemade handmade", I made this patchwork pillowcase.
Like the person who made the quilt, I used a combination of t-shirt fabric and "smooth" cotton (is that cotton percale?). The fabrics used were real scraps that I had at home.
And this one, I'll definitely be displaying.
I hope you all had a good day.
P.S. This is not to say I don't appreciate the many beautiful and artistic handmade patchwork stuff out there. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is room for both.
Do you have any homemade handmade crafts? Would you like to share?
Friday, August 26, 2011
Francesca @ FuoriBorgo
This past week, we've been busy doing some necessary maintenance around our ancient house, which includes giving a fresh coat of paint to the walls and ceilings (here). Some of our walls are colored, and for those I buy eco-friendly paints, which are pricey but something we don't skimp on, for our family and the environment alike. For our ceilings and white walls, instead, we use lime, which is natural and solvent-free, and inexpensive. Also, lime is particularly suited to the thick, centuries-old stone walls of our farmhouse (but it also works on timber and brick). The walls are built of stone, sand, clay and water, and soak up lots of humidity in the cold season; thanks to its porousness and anti-bacterial properties, lime tends to prevent the formation of mold. All this almost for free.
For the ceilings, we use lime putty, which is the easiest lime preparation to handle for painting: I dilute it with water and then apply with a brush. For walls, instead, we make our own inexpensive lime wash: I get a couple of kilos of slaked lime at the building supply store (which the shop clerks usually scoop out of 25 kilo bags and just give me for free), slowly mix it with water, let it sit overnight, and apply the next day. Over a day or two, the lime wash cures to a hard, opaque white layer with a rough texture that I personally really like.
So this is how we use lime and make lime wash. However, I did a little research on lime washing, and found differing opinions on the subject, especially as to whether additives (salt and glue) should be added to the mixture to make it more durable, and whether it's suitable for interiors. Should you want to give lime wash a try, you might read up on it first. Here are some starting points:
All you need to know about lime wash - points out to the importance of using good-quality lime wash and a suitable substrate.
Fias Co Farm white wash recipe - has some safety warnings about handling lime, and is of the opinion that lime wash should not be used for interiors (which is contrary to our experience - see above for information about properly preparing and applying lime wash)
Have you ever used lime on your interior walls?
Monday, August 22, 2011
I live in cabbage country. Everywhere you see farm fields you're likely to see cabbage. From glaucous blue to raucous red, cabbage is everywhere. That also means cabbage is pretty easy to grow here in the home garden too.
At a potluck one time I had the most delicious coleslaw, and was lucky enough to get the recipe from the cabbage farmer herself. It's light and crunchy, and gets better with age, the perfect dish to have waiting for you on a hot summer day. Featuring a few staples from the garden and pantry, this is the perfect time of year in the garden to make this easy slaw.
1 Medium head of cabbage, shredded or chopped fine.
2 – 3 carrots, grated.
1 medium sweet onion, grated.
1 green pepper, grated.
1 Tablespoon salt.
Black pepper to taste.
1/3 cup cider vinegar or strong Kombucha.
1/3 cup olive oil.
1/3 cup sugar or honey.
Mix first 5 ingredients, and let sit while you: heat vinegar, oil and sugar to just boiling. Pour over slaw. Mix well and refrigerate at least 2 hours before eating. The original recipe says it will keep six weeks in the fridge, but it never lasts that long – I eat this stuff for a mid-morning snack. There is usually dressing left over and I save that and use it on the next batch.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Around our neck of the woods a typical day goes something like this. I rise at 4 and write until the dogs want to go outside, I let them out, feed them and the cat, then go into the garden to let the chickens out to free range for the day. I count them all, check they have water, and encourage them to have a wonderful egg-filled day. "I will still love you if you don't give me an egg, but don't push your luck too far," I say.
Friday, August 19, 2011
I garden, first because I love doing it and then second, because it's the most certain and cost-effective way to know there are no chemicals in the food we eat. But my high-desert climate - short hot dry summers, long freezing cold winters, 10 inches average annual precipitation (as snow only) - means growing my own food is an iffy proposition at best.
So I grow when and what I can, preserve or store any extra, and then buy the rest of my produce. Sadly, organic produce here is usually way more expensive - that is, when it's available at all. When grocery money is tight, I'll buy organic for the "Dirty Dozen", and shop for regular produce if it has a thick non-edible skin or peel, or is one of the "Clean 15."
Apples, celery, and strawberries top the list of the most pesticide-laden produce. Earlier this year, I wrote about my trials in growing and preserving cilantro. I now feel my efforts justified. In researching the latest list of contaminated food, I found cilantro has the highest percentage of unapproved pesticides recorded on any item included in the Shopper's Guide since the Environmental Working Group started tracking the data in 1995.
2011 "Dirty Dozen" (buy these organic, or try to grow your own)
8. Sweet bell peppers
12. Kale/collard greens
Food prices are definitely on the rise. If price is an obstacle, buying these from the regular bins can cut costs without compromising on quality.
2011 "Clean 15" (least contaminated)
2. Sweet corn
6. Sweet peas
13. Sweet potatoes
Still, the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Reduce your exposure as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. Download a pdf of the above lists here. Then, do what you can, when you can.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
From Spiral Garden
I’m lucky enough to be involved in regular, efficient local co-ops. We get over 150kg of food delivered at once (due to ordering for the following 6 months). For me, this is sometimes an overwhelming amount to put away. I have a little kitchen with a small pantry cupboard, and I use a few shelves of the linen cupboard for some food storage too. I don’t have a large chest freezer, so I can’t just drop the bags into the freezer when they arrive.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Last night we had a 'weed' salad with our dinner!
|Our weed salad|
Weed.So really it is any plant not growing where you want it to be. After 5 years of gardening and growing heirloom vegetables that naturally propagate by self seeding, we have many friendly weeds around the garden. I did not plant them, nor did I interfere with their desire to grow where they chose to germinate.
1. any plant that grows wild and profusely, esp. among cultivated plants.
|Beetroot and rainbow chard self sown all over the place. I did not plant them in the pot!|
|Lambs tongue lettuce in my onion/carrot patch|
To cap it all off, I will leave you with the conversation around the dinner table last night. Ben was helping Kim gather the ingredients for the salad and he asked "Mum, why are you picking weeds?" Kim replied, "Ben, that is because nature left them here for us to eat". Now Ben must have thought long and hard about this statement, because at the table, after cooking Kim and I dinner that consisted of Tortellini and Basil Pesto, with said salad, he piped up and said, "Dad, we are eating weeds for dinner!" I laughed loudly because I knew exactly what he meant. Children tell it straight like it is, that's for sure.
So according to Ben, we eat weeds, and are proud of it!
Do you have any interesting 'weeds' growing in your veggie patch?
Sunday, August 14, 2011
We have lived in our current home for a little over three years - a small terraced house with a small patio at the back. Our home is a temporary one - we rent, in a city that we don't want to stay in past the next five years, three if we can manage it. We hope to stay in this house for a few more years until we are in a position to relocate across the country - but we could be served notice by our landlord at any time, adding another layer of uncertainty. Some of us carry a vision of a self sufficient farm out in the sticks, others an urban backyard farm - somewhere more permanent where we can put down roots. It can be hard to reconcile those visions with a nine to five job and a rented garden-less studio flat - and very easy to slip into the mainstream, consuming lifestyle more usual to those environments. So what do you do?
This is a time for us to get our house in order - not that there aren't other reasons to do so anyway. Cover the basics. The things that take no more time, space and energy to do than 'normal' ways of doing things. Begin to clean using natural cleaning products. Be mindful of your energy use. At least say hello to your neighbours and find out their names. Decide on a budget and begin to pay off debts and start saving. Be concious of what you are eating. Read widely on the skills and activities that you would like to incorporate into your life.
Take the time to declutter, not least because moving possessions from house to house is a complete pain. If you are storing possessions that no longer fit who you are now or who you plan to be when you finally move on, then you are wasting space, time and energy. Our DVD collection was one of the first things to be pared down - we just weren't planning on having that much spare time on our hands to sit re-watching mediocre movies, what with all the baking, brewing and gardening we were planning on doing. Use the space creatively to stock pile food or create a craft workspace.
Use this time to experiment and decide what you really want your future to look like. Before you sink all of your time, energy and money into a permanent home, test your vision on the smaller scale. I can tell you now, after a few years of experimentation, that I want to bake all of our own bread - as we infact now do - but it took three years of false starts and resignation to even learn to make an edible loaf, before that, it was merely an aspiration, a lovely vision of something that we should do. On the other hand, after a few kitchen experiments, I can tell you I have absolutely no interest in cheese making and dairying - and by extension livestock rearing. Its better to learn these things now than ending up in my 'ideal place' and finding out it isn't so ideal.
It is important too to focus on the things you like about where you now are. I like our neighbours and will miss them. I love the fact that the city is so vibrant at night. I like the roar that reverberates across the city from the football stadium every Saturday and Wednesday. I love the little community gardens and orchards that are popping up here and there, the parks, the sunshine and mild climate. It has taken me a while to recognise and be thankful for these things - but they enrich my life in the here and now.
It took us a few years to realise that where we find ourselves now is the perfect place to begin living the life that we envision - because this is the only place we have. It marks us out as fairly unusual in our street - we have herb boxes outside the front door, food growing in containers out the back - and if anyone looked, a food and brewing grain stockpile stashed in nooks around our house from the kitchen to the bedroom. I know that whilst they might not live in our street, their are others across the city living like this too and doing what they can.
There are no guarantees in life; and waiting for the perfect time and conditions to come along to begin living is a huge gamble. The only thing to do is to be here now and do what you can.
Friday, August 12, 2011
by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo
Do you grow flowers in your vegetable garden? I always vaguely meant to, but in the past, when spring came I was so busy planning my vegetable garden and sowing vegetables that I forgot all about the flowers.
But since moving my garden closer to the house (here) - one of the best gardening decisions I ever made - I've actually seen my garden more often, and now think of it more in terms of aesthetics, design and overall scope, and not just about what vegetables I want to grow there for my family.
I realized, in fact, that I was growing dissatisfied with the usual concept of the garden plot arranged in long, tidy rows of single crops. Instead, I became more and more attracted by the general principles of biodynamic agriculture and permaculture. And following these principles, since last year I've started to create a garden that's becoming a diverse little ecosystem, harmoniously integrated with the surrounding nature. As part of this strategy, I finally started planting flowers among the vegetables.
I started small, sowing one of three types of flowers: edible (it's a vegetable garden after all!), medicinal (you've got to love flowers with a purpose!) and purely ornamental (because flowers make me happy, and a happy gardener is the best kind of gardener, right?).
As edible flowers, I sowed borage, which grows in the wild around here. I planted it close to my tomatoes, green beans, and basil, because I'd read it's a good companion plant for these vegetables, which so far has proven correct, especially in the case of basil: my basil has never been so lush!
Besides the cobalt blue edible flowers, which we add to salads (they make such a pretty addition to a green salad, here), we also harvest borage leaves, which make good cooking greens. Last year, I used both the borage flowers and the leaves to make "floral ravioli" (see here), a recipe that I whipped up as I went along, and which made me feel like a very creative Italian cook - if only for a day.
In the medicinal category, I choose Calendula. They're a little behind, still at the budding stage, which is actually fine, since I need a little time to research how they can be used - any suggestions?
And for the pure visual joy, I planted a variety of Dahlias in different shades of pink and purple. Yes, a harvest of flowers in my diverse and colorful garden makes me very happy indeed!
Don't forget to share your photos of onion and garlic braids (read my previous post here) by emailing them to me: fuoriborgo @ gmail dot com
I think we're are gaining ground. There has been a shift away from the purchased conveniences of modern living, women and men are beginning to see the light and more and more homemakers are returning to older and non-commercial ways of doing the house work and cooking. It does my heart good to see how many younger women and men are expressing an interest in home cooking, knitting, mending, repairing and reusing, as well as making green cleaners and soaps. There is a move towards traditional home arts. Here in Australia, fabric, yarn and craft stores are reporting record sales, and cooking has become popular again!
Monday, August 8, 2011
Incorporating children into garden and farm plans is a investment in our future.
Not everyone farms, I know, but many people garden and sometimes I see gardens that are only planted with delayed gratification plants, like tomatoes, corn and potatoes. All good, but to a child whose attention span and grasp of time is different than ours, waiting for a tomato to ripen can take forever.
If I had a wish it would be that gardeners with small children would do more succession sowing so that kids get the idea that the garden can actually feed you. Eating daily from the garden, even just one thing, plants the idea that you don't go to the store all the time for your food. It may take some time to find out the combination of what to plant for kids that they will eat on a regular basis, (my teenager eats greens) it may be salad, peas, cherry tomatoes, or mild salad turnips.
If I had another wish it would be that you let your children help you in all aspects of gardening, not just eating, but soil prep, planting and weeding, and finally harvesting. Allowing your children to help will give them more of a stake in the garden. Gardening is a huge opportunity for learning about plants, and insects, and the 3 R's too. Reading seed packets, writing labels, and calculating how much to plant take the boredom out of "school" type activities. Little hands become deft when handling the big job of planting tiny seeds. Sure, they will make mistakes, planting, weeding and harvesting, but it won't be the end of the world.
We have to be careful about what message we send to our children about work and self-worth. Do you go to the health club to work out, or do you stay home and weed your garden and exercise all your body alongside your child? Do you pay someone else to do your "dirty" jobs while you take vacations? As long as we keep our children isolated from the real work of gardening and farming we limit their chances of being successful gardeners or farmers if they choose to follow those pursuits.
Farming and gardening may not be in your child's future but the skills and life lessons they pick up along the way will stand them in good stead in any profession.
Friday, August 5, 2011
I just harvested my shallots, and now have them spread out on a screen in the shed to cure. Like my garlic, shallots are planted in the fall to overwinter, and grow through early spring into July. So expensive in the store, they're easy to grow and store, and make a great flavor addition to fall and winter dishes.
I started with a few supermarket shallots, purchased in late summer years ago. They're planted in the fall, one per square foot. By the following summer each shallot multiplies into a clump of 6-7 nice-sized bulbs. Each October, I re-plant around a dozen bulbs from this year's harvest, say two clumps worth, and then still have at least 60-70 to eat throughout the winter.
Curing and storing them is super-easy too. I'll leave this year's harvest out in the shed for a week or two - until the leaves and roots have dried, the necks have shrunken closed, and the brown skin toughened up. Rubbing away the dried dirt, leaves, and roots, I pile the shallots in a couple of net bags (actually, they're a couple of drawstring net stockings used to sell oranges at Christmas time - now reused for my shallot harvest year after year), and hang them from a hook in the ceiling of my kitchen pantry. They'll hold well until the following March or April before they start shriveling up a bit - still tasty though.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
from Spiral Garden
Something which keeps popping up for me in conversations and community work lately is the term 'reskilling'. And I see it's now part of our new header banner here at the Co-Op blog!
Reskilling is "re-learning the skills that our grandparents took for granted, such as how to use hand tools, how to build our own structures, how to mend and make clothing, how to make our own medicine, how to forage, grow, preserve and store our food."
Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Town movement
The Great Reskilling refers to how society-at-large will be affected by Peak Oil, Climate Change and Economic Crisis in the coming decase or so.
When considering topics for our local Simply Living Workshops, we first identified the people within our community who have these 'old skills'. We then went about planning our workshop series, which includes:
growing food, including climate-specific workshops
storing and preserving food, including lacto-fermentation
sourdough bread baking
weaving and fibre crafts
alternative building and energy
fermented dairy products
animal husbandry - general
raising and using livestock - from hoof to horn
horse care - basic
Which skills have you learned since reading this blog, or otherwise researching simple living? Which skills do you think we need to add to our list above?
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo
Recently Sadge wrote a very informative post about how to make garlic braids for long-term storage (here). I used her tips, and made braids with some of the smaller onions that I harvested a couple of weeks ago. (I stored the larger onions, which would be too heavy to braid, in a crate in a cool spot of the house, after I'd removed the dirt, stems and dried roots - the method my neighbors have taught me to help delay sprouting.)
Braiding my small onions this way worked very well, creating a couple of beautifully decorative edible braids.
How do you store your onions or garlic? I'd love to hear, and if anyone has photos, please send them, and we'll share them with Co-op readers!
Please email your photos to me at: fuoriborgo at gmail dot com
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
As you can see there is a little bit of everything for everyone. I grew the tomato, onions, and one of the green capsicums (peppers) in this picture. Here is the fully dressed pizza with a little bit of cheese on top. Now that I know how to make mozzarella, we use that instead of grated cheddar.
Into the oven for 15 minutes on 190C degrees, and then 10 minutes at 170 degrees C or until cooked. This is what it comes out like after baking. A little bit crispy on the outsides, but that is how we like it.
The pineapple is Kim' piece, mine is the circle of tomato, DD is the half a tomato, and #2 son's is the quarter of a tomato. Very cute, just like the four little bears.
Monday, August 1, 2011
I have long held the belief that a simple, frugal and green life isn't about following a script or ticking off certain things on a list. A simple life in the country isn't so simple if you spend your time yelling, constantly bargain hunting or feeding a tv addiction. A simple life doesn't mean you have to keep pigs and bees or make every single meal from scratch. A simple life doesn't mean you can't work. Instead I view the simple life as a paradigm and a lense by which I view the world; a fundamental belief in focusing on the most important things, seeking to find balance in all I do and living by the principals "less is more" and "living simply so others may simply live".
Lately all around me colleagues and friends have been talking about what is important to them, a few even mentioned the term sell out. You see many of them thought in their early 20's that they would make "good choices" (that is their term, I certainly am not value judging their choices as good or bad) but as their lives have developed through their late 20's and 30's they really haven't decided to stick to those "good choices" they once thought they would live by. I spent the last week listening to their examples, some of which were:
- Deciding to commute for 2 hours to work so they could have the "biggest bang for their buck" aka the biggest square footage house
- Not buying free-range or organic meat or dairy because they don't care anymore about animal welfare (this person was very pro responsible farming in her late teens)
- Not taking the option of a 4 day work week after returning from parental leave because that extra day is a weekend in Las Vagas every year.
- Never hanging clothes to dry because it would take an extra 10 minutes and interrupt precious facebook time
- Feeding the family hot dogs, boxed pizza and boxed macaroni & cheese almost every night because that is what is quickest and after 10 hours outside the home, no one has the energy to cook
- Admitting they see less than 10 hours a week of their 4 and 2 year old because with an 11 day work day 5 days/week and a love of bargain/frugal shopping (thus visiting 5 different shops on Saturdays and often nipping to the US for the real sales) the grandparents pick up the grandchildren from daycare Friday afternoon and keep them until Sunday morning. This was a hard one for this friend to admit because while suffering from infertility they swore time with their children would always come first, now they have 2 very good careers, a very large house they just totally renovated and only see their children Sundays.
- Being scared to go without because their friends are richer than they are.
- Becoming so obsessed (their words) with paying off their mortgage, buying a second and third home to rent out and retiring at 55 that they are not really living now
- Throwing away anything with a tear/needing a new button and buying new
As I have listened to these conversations, I have tried not to make any value laden statements but did occasionally ask "so if you know, would you change anything", I further asked one "would you now go to work 4 days a week so you can do the things that used to be important to you and simply shop/eat out less". What was really interesting to me, is that no one said they wanted to change a thing. One, a top city lawyer married to another top city lawyer, who eat out 20x a week and admits they don't see their children at all between Mon-Fri said "nope, I'm a proud sell out - I want as much as I can have for as little as I can get it for, we're not interested in having less money, we want more money". I smiled and pondered those words, asking myself what I can learn from their experiences, choices and definition of happiness/selling-out.
What is interesting to me, is in my experience, the older I get the less I want to "sell-out" and the more comfortable I am going without what most people view as a necessity. It took fostering four very broken and traumatized children to help me see there was another life waiting patiently for me to embrace; they taught me there is so much more to life than work, stuff, money and materialism. And while I don't really have any friends in real life who live like I do (although I am blessed to have one friend on either side of the Atlantic who are at the beginning of their simple living journey!) hearing these friends and co-workers yearn for more money and not desire to change anything about their current circumstances, made me very thankful for places like this co-op, the readers of my own blog, Rhonda's blog and the myriad of others which remind me daily that each day I will face choices, those choices bring me closer to the values I hold or further away. While I do aim to be careful about how much time I spend online, I do feel a bit of a haven in what I choose to read in this amazing place. It was that haven that helped me stick to my choice not to attend a friend's wedding and your words gave me the confidence to stick to my conviction when the bride expressed her anger.
Through my own learning this past month (both from the wedding and the new life that awaits me, as well as conversations with those who live so differently to myself) I've come to a place of both certainty I'm on the right path and also grace - grace in deciding I don't have to be perfect or do things exactly like other simple life followers. I've come to realize if we embrace the simple life as a lifestyle choice, then we are probably all doing the best we can, sometimes under extra-ordinary circumstances and most often without people around us to commiserate or encourage. I've come to accept this path will often be lonely. And maybe when it comes to a simple, frugal and green life, that is OK. Maybe as long as we hold onto that value and don't allow ourselves to totally "sell-out", then our anchor will at the very least keep us grounded through the seasons where being simple, green and frugal is more challenging. Like my current season of vermicomposting - and it failing time and time again. Yes, it may be easier to throw in the towel like many people and not bother with spending more time trying to "do good" but since when is the right choice the easy choice. And by heck, one day I'll get that worm compost system right!
My own personal goal this week is to write a list of things I'm not willing to compromise on, as I begin a brand new and exciting chapter in my life, maybe it will serve as a reminder to hold onto what is most important and leave the rest behind! Because the truth is, whether people see it or not, there is a cost to selling out - a cost to ourselves, our families, those we love, our community, our environment and future generations. By focusing on the most important things, I hope to avoid the real cost associated with selling out and instead reap the rewards of a slower, more balanced, person/community centered path. And suddenly I'm reminded of the tortoise and the hare. And now I can firmly, without a shadow of a doubt, say I'm the tortoise, how about you?
Have a happy, simple, frugal and green week, filled with choices which represent the real you !