Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Things I realize...

I grew up and still live (albeit in a more urban area in another state) in the Midwest. For many Midwesterners, I don't think this "Urban Homesteading" thing is such a stretch. It is not uncommon here to see a small garden in someone's backyard or a tomato plant on someone's patio. There are plenty of U-Pick farms where families make a day of picking (and eating) berries or apples. My brother-in-law and his bride gave away home canned preserves and pickles as favors at their wedding last month. While we, as a nation and a society, have strayed so far from the founding fathers' utopian farmer ideal, I think those areas that have traditionally been farming communities have stayed closer to those ideals. Others have not, including farmers themselves, but that's another discussion.

So, my grandparents had gardens, canned fruits and veggies, had wood stoves, kept and butchered animals, darned socks, sewed and crocheted clothing, quilts, afghans, and basically were skilled at making something from very little, fixing and maintaing their own cars, homes, and anything else that required fixing. They passed many of these skills on to my parents (and aunts and uncles), who also became very skilled at them in their own ways, adding their own talents and interests along the way. Sometimes raising chicken for eggs and meat, having a garden, keeping bees, etc., meant the difference between having food or not, but often they only served to improve the quality of life. None of them, ultimately, became farmers, nor were my grandparents farmers by trade. My maternal grandfather worked in a factory, though he did own a small farm and shared farming with his brother. His children, none of them farmers, still keep gardens. My maternal grandmother, in her 70's, still cans. My paternal grandfather was a postman, and my paternal grandmother sewed clothes for eight children, cooked for an army (even when there wasn't much to work with), washed clothes with a hand-wringer and pressed out wrinkles without electricity, crocheted and knitted huge afghans, and, I am sure did numerous things that I don't even know about. Their children, all eight of them, became doctors and lawyers, PhDs, physical therapists, nurses, landscape designers--among their employers have been such companies as McDonnell Douglas, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the HRSA.

We were blessed, growing up, knowing the origins of food (sometimes a little too personally). To some, we might have been considered deprived, but this knowledge makes seeking a more self-sufficient lifestyle feel entirely doable. I think, too, my own parents and their siblings benefited from their own upbringings in that they always felt capable of taking things on, of being able to do whatever needed doing themselves.

Now, I have learned, also, that sometimes it is easier to leave some things to others. Also, in a limited amount of space, there are limits to what we can do. We are exploring, of course, all that we might do, and the point is, we can do much more than one might think. Currently, there are ordinances forbidding chickens or small livestock in our neighborhood. So, maybe someday, I trade baked goods for milk. Ideally, we make connections with other like-minded folks and find ways to work together as a community to meet our needs.

There are those that believe that we will have to live sustainably to survive in the future, that for whatever reason, it will become difficult to go to the grocery and buy produce and meat. Heating and electricity, city water, and transportation may cost too much for the average person to afford. I don't know if I believe in any of the theories and ideas out there, and certainly, I can think of none that I agree with completely, but I know that where I live, jobs and incomes are dropping, so, even if prices don't rise, some people are going to be struggling. Living sustainably, whether you buy into global warming, peak oil, plague, or zombie invasion, will allow us to live comfortably even in times of financial stress. And, if financial or other stress does not occur, we live all the more comfortably and can do other things with our money than buy food shipped from foreign countries.

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