Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The homemade revolution

by Rhonda Jean @ Down to Earth

Hello, my name is Rhonda. Some of you won’t know me because I rarely write here now but I started this co-operative and invited these talented and thoughtful writers to share their experiences here for the world to read. I do my writing in other places now but it is a real pleasure to come back and write rather than just read here, which is what I usually do.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the skills I lost and regained when I started living a more simple life. Over the years, like many others, I was encouraged to become dependent on cheap Chinese imports and the convenience they provided. I bought fast food and forgot about cooking true to my heritage. I was proud to have enough money to be able to throw away clothes that needed a button sewn on or a seam mended. Looking back on it now I see that lifestyle as a waste of money, time and effort. I wasted money buying more than I needed, I wasted time and effort working more to pay for my stupid excesses.

Times change.

I live life now without wasting money, time nor effort. My days are full of the kind of gentle slow routine that makes each day flow. I grow vegetables, collect eggs, pick fruit, tend my million worker worm farm, I mend, create, knit, I make soap and cleaners for my home, I cook from scratch every day, I bake bread and cakes, I volunteer and I teach what I know in my community and try to show others , by example, that this kind of living holds a richness that credit card funded shopping sprees never come close to. I am in my 60s so I’m lucky that I’ve seen firsthand many of the things I do in the course of a common day, done expertly, many years ago, by my grandmother and sometimes by my mother. The skills they didn’t show me, I have taught myself. They make bread and brawn, but never cheese. They made ginger beer but not vinegar. They would have been interested in how I make sauerkraut but I learnt how to pickle beetroot and cucumbers watching them.

I never thought when I first decided to turn my back on my old life that the way to live a more enriched life was to regain the skills taught to me by my granny and mother. But the real skill, the one that made all these things come together for me was to use them daily, consistently, to patchwork a life worth living. Until you can do that – see and understand the relationship between the elements of your simple life - your garden, kitchen, chickens, sewing, no debt living, or whatever they are, and the joy to be found in those simple things, all you’ll be doing is carrying out a series of simple tasks. Anyone can learn how to mend a sock or bake bread, you need to develop the mindset of someone who strives everyday to live simply for it to have meaning.

When you develop a simple, green and frugal mindset, it all falls into place. You start with one step, which leads you to the next and the next. Following your path this way will lead you gently to each stage and when you look back you’ll realise how far you’ve come. It’s an interesting journey we are all on. Don’t ever expect to get much feedback or encouragement along the way because we aren’t living the life most choose to live. But choosing this life deliberately and rejecting the excesses we are encouraged towards will make you stronger and more self reliant. Not everyone is cut out for this, at times it’s difficult and you work hard but it will also bring you the rewards of independence, freedom and choice, and they are fine prizes.