I’m going to warn you in advance that this post may sound preachy, but I really hope it doesn’t come off that way. I’ve been meaning to write it for some time now, but couldn’t organize my thoughts exactly how I wanted to say things. Please know that I do not judge anyone for living differently from how I choose to live, I simply wish to explain some changes in my (and my family’s) lifestyle in case someone else is looking to adopt some of the same practices.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a strong conviction to pay more attention to the things in my life. Things like food, medicine, appliances, clothing, and other “dry goods”. It has been weighing on my heart, all this stuff we preoccupy our minds with. All the commercials to buy more things, wear new clothes, get the latest gadget. I started watching documentaries and reading books about living green, growing your own food and supporting sustainable practices and production. A lot of my friends and family tease me for this new “hippie” lifestyle. But I’ve found that the more I delve into it, the more I enjoy it and find more satisfaction in my day to day life.
One big decision has been buying better food. Yes, it’s more expensive. Yes, I know that “organic” doesn’t always mean healthy. But after reading enough frightening articles about GMOs and abusing animals, I wanted to set aside a higher budget toward food and skimp on other things. For instance, we cut cable and only have local channels and Netflix. It’s inconvenient. I would love to be watching the DIY Network and HGTV, but I knew this was the best choice for my family. For starters, the tv isn’t always on so we have more quality time together. But the most important part was feeling that we prioritize putting the best possible foods into our bodies. It’s a trade, and one we are all happy to make.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the homesteading lifestyle I’m pursuing is the home garden. It’s my first garden ever, and it’s had it’s hits and misses. Zucchini has been growing like a weed! But I learned that cucumbers in the blasting Texas sun don’t last long, and neither does anything when you leave a gate open for a hungry calf to tear apart nearly all your okra and pole beans. Whoops! We also decided to give raising chickens a try. We started with four, and are down to our original one chicken. One was lost early to rough play by a very, very sad Red Heeler (it was our favorite too! An Americauna which lays blue eggs, and Juno was really upset that she killed it and hasn’t touched another chicken). Another suffered a large wound on a stick and needed to be put down. The last was the worst. Our Rhode Island Red (or Elmo Chicken, as Charlie dubbed her) had just started laying a couple of weeks prior and went into the coop to lay her afternoon egg. It broke inside her and she died. The small silver lining to all this has been exposing my daughter to the way of farm life. We were together when I found poor dead Elmo Chicken, who she pronounced went “night night”. A life lesson, that’s for sure!
Preserving this bounty has also been a new experience. Yes, I spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen blanching and packing and freezing. It would be much more convenient to simply grab a bag of frozen zucchini or okra from the store. Yet I feel that not only is it immensely satisfying to know exactly how this produce was grown (without chemicals or treated water), but that I’m learning new skills to serve both myself and my family as well as preserving a little bit of history and independence. I’m not particularly comfortable with how reliant we have become on centralized food production and enjoy knowing I can start providing for myself. Over time I would love to expand this even more and do my best to grow all the produce and meat we consume every year. That may be a pipe dream, but it’s one I feel value in pursuing.
If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you’ll have noticed that I do my best to salvage old materials and recreate them into new things. I’ve become even more vigilant about this. It began by wanting to save money, but now I also strive to save as many resources as possible. Buying furniture is certainly simple, if expensive. Building furniture is great, especially when it’s derived from sustainably forested lumber found locally. Though I really enjoy finding old cast off materials and doing my best to make them into something unique and interesting. I may not always achieve this, but at least I saved it from clogging up another landfill.
Another new “quirk” I’m getting the side-eye for is recycling and composting, in an effort to bring our home to zero waste status. Our area does not have recycling pick up, so I sort it into large bins and take it to the local recycling cache every other Friday. I also asked my husband to screw together some old pallets lying around at my dad’s barn and make me a composting heap for our kitchen scraps and yard waste. It’s already been a huge help! It’s not a huge time suck, but I do invest about 5 hours a month into recycling and composting. We also put out two rain barrels so I can water my plants without dipping into our well water supply, from an aquifer that’s been declining over the past few years. One day I would love to get a two thousand gallon cistern, have wind energy, and go completely off the grid. Will that happen? I’m not sure, but I’m going to do my best to try.
If you have been considering taking steps to a greener lifestyle, I highly encourage you to do it. It isn’t always easy, and I get that. However, it is incredibly rewarding on a personal and global level. Every little bit helps. You’d be surprised at all the things you can recycle, and that it’s not a huge time investment. Or that you find pleasure and emotional satisfaction at keeping a garden. You can easily support local small farms by visiting a farmer’s market or local grocer. It’s worth it, I promise.