Monday, 13 October 2008

A Childhood Dream Come True

~Sadge at Firesign Farm
I too, am honored to be a part of this co-operative venture. Looking over my fellow bloggers’ introductory posts, it appears I’ve taken a different route to the simple living philosophy. I started early. I grew up a city kid, the oldest of five. Dad was a salesman, earning only straight commission, and Mom was into the “reduce, reuse, recycle” lifestyle long before anyone else, probably out of necessity. Dad had a garden and fruit trees in the back yard, Mom canned the harvest. I was doing the baking when I was eight, and sewing my own clothes at twelve. Grandma taught me embroidery, and Grandpa taught me to not name anything you’re going to eat (and how to roll his cigarettes for him – probably best Mom doesn’t know that). When I read the Little House on the Prairie books, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be a pioneer - living off the land, in a cozy little home where my husband and I made everything in it.

Maybe it's crazy, but that dream never died. I did what I could, when I could. Except for a couple of years in a college dorm, I’ve had a garden everywhere I’ve lived – in the backyards of rental houses or in pots on the windowsills of apartments. I even gardened for 10 years in Leadville, the highest city in the US at 10,200 feet. Organic Gardening magazine ran a photo of me with some of my high-altitude harvest one year. With a season too short and cold for compost, I kept a worm box under my bathroom sink. I was at the library every month to read the new magazine, Mother Earth News, and devoured the Foxfire books. I bought books like Diet for a Small Planet and Make Your Own Groceries, learned how to cook with a pressure cooker, and how to economically keep warm when it’s 25 below zero outside.

Twenty-two years ago, I moved to northern Nevada. I was overjoyed to be where I could once again grow tomatoes and corn! And I met Aries – a fellow pioneer spirit. He had a little house, originally a two-room building (all the plumbing on one wall of the kitchen – from the sink you’d walk through the shower stall to get to the toilet), with a bedroom added on later. He’d built a garage and added on a bedroom and bathroom. After we were married (19 years, yesterday!), we did all the work to turn it into a cozy home – wallpapering, sewing, building furniture, everything from laying floor tiles to texturing the ceiling. This isn't really a farm - it’s an urban homestead, on a little over an acre (half of that still just sand and sagebrush) on the outside edge of the capital of Nevada. But over the years we’ve raised horses, a goat, a pig, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens and guinea fowl (only the latter two here now). I stood on a pitchfork to dig up the horse corral to put in a garden; we used our wedding present money to buy fruit trees. Through canning, dehydrating and cellaring, I rarely buy produce from the store. My childhood dream came true.

Over time, I find it interesting that perceptions of me have changed from "that crazy hippie" to that of a valued resource. People have stopped asking why I’d work so hard (when you can just buy things at the store) and started asking if I’ll teach them. When I saw young mothers trying to patch the knees of their toddlers' pants with iron-on patches, I realized that a lot of the things I know how to do are in danger of becoming lost arts. I volunteer with a group working towards making my community more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, and have a B.S. degree in Human Ecology. Blogging seems a good way to share my knowledge and experience with a world now hungry to learn. I’m happy to be a part of this effort, and hoping I’ll learn more here too.