Amongst the empty shelves, the panic at no tissue for the bum, and a virus that is terrorizing on a global level…we have taken to the yard for some semblance of peace, sanity and a smidge of that fragile feeling of control in our tiny lives.
The shutting down and shutting in of the world has spurned me to make a plan B, plan C and then I ran out of ideas. We already have a semi stocked pantry and Bali and I love gardening. I’m far too interested in the Depression Era and read from my small library of memoirs from those that made it through the hardest times; WW1, the Spanish Flu, the dust bowl, the Depression, and ended it all with WW2. Can’t get much rougher than that. All that reading has prepared me mentally.
And now we enter our own hard times in history. An economy built on sand. It only thrives on consumerism but consumerism is disrupting the balance, using up resources, polluting, destroying and encroaching on natural habitat, forest, and jungles. It is making us fat, sick, greedy, stressed and unhappy. We live as rats rushing about on mass highways, crowded towns, work awful jobs, and buy, buy, buy. When trouble hits we are soft and unprepared to take care of ourselves or even our country.
It wasn’t always like this. In the early 1900’s the population was a quarter of what it is now and 70% of the population farmed. There was a dry goods store to get your flour, sugar, and coffee, a hammer or shovel or bolt of cloth. Everyone had a kitchen garden and fruit trees in their city and town yards. Women canned even if they lived in a neighborhood off the main city street. There was always someone home. The breadwinner walked to work or took a train to a nearby town. There was no social media. Life was slower by far but filled with good old fashioned work. People worked the land, they worked out in the sun, they did things with their hands and neighbors were a gift not a nuisance. People loved socializing in person.
Today yards are barren or covered in green, mowed grass. Useless grass that isn’t even feeding a cow. People will commute 4 to 6 hours a day without questioning the insanity of that. We just make wider highways and sell more cars. Some people don’t see their families but on the weekend as they rush about to shop, clean, do laundry, maybe make it to a softball game for a son or daughter. They spend the short weekend preparing for another week living for their work, serving a corporate master. Then they wonder why they take such comfort in drinking too much, overeating, or need a sleeping pill to quiet the nerves?
Our lives are so out of balance in every way.
With this virus it has forced us to go home and turn inward, to reflect and ask ourselves, “Am I happy in this life? What is all this running about, this rat race for in the end? Is it all worth it? What is most important to me…us…my family? What if I die soon?”
At first, people will feel like they are trapped and going to lose their minds. They are trapped…with themselves. They will lose their minds that are conditioned to live like mindless factory workers. Then they will begin to question things, they may even begin to learn about who they really are, who their kids and partners really are. They may see glimpses of another life. A life that flows more naturally, has some balance and rest.
Isn’t it interesting that we have been forced into a quiet and solitary time? Classes, work, sporting events, all that rushing about to this and that, our busy schedules have come to a halt.
What will we do with our time? What will we change after this time of solitude and reflection? Will we just get sucked into Facebook and Twitter or will we surrender to the change? Will we find our truest selves and callings? Or will we just go back to the grind once this is over?
I hope that everyone takes the time to reflect and go inward deeply. That they do this with courage and come out with a new vision of how life should be fulfilled.
I have done this several times… self-isolated to heal and transform. It has been worth it. My life is like that of my great grandmother minus the cows and chickens and plows. I have her wonderful homesteading life with all the modern conveniences. We have a rototiller instead of horses. I only have a quarter acre to tend and not vast fields to grow. It’s scaled-down, for sure, but it has that sweet simplicity, slowness, and far from the “world”.
We just moved into a house that is 120 years old and drafty. The yard is a quarter acre and bare…a white canvas to begin our farming journey. Bali and I can plant to our heart’s content. The last house in the valley only provided us with two small lawns to grow food on and we packed it with fruit and nut trees and two kitchen gardens. Most people dream of promotions at work or fame. I dreamt of owning a house in a quaint town with a quarter acre.
When the government began asking us to stay home, I ran out to the garden nursery and loaded up a trolly with fruit trees. We had a hell of a move to this house because I insisted we bring all our compost and gardening supplies. I’m happy for it now. We have a huge pile of compost and once we raked up the leaves we had a second pile of mulch/compost. We even hauled over my artichoke plants and two fruit trees that were planted in bad spots at the old house. We now are starting the homestead with eleven fruit trees, three artichokes, and two huge piles of compost/mulch.
The pantry was sort of stocked up from a previous time when I was diving back into cooking mostly plant-based and had ordered 25 lb and 50 lb bags of dried goods from our co-op. There are containers of rice, beans, oats, soybeans, and such. But I have to admit I was a little too deep in my magical bubble and wasn’t prepared. A trip to the Grocery Outlet and the pantry was complete. The store shelves were missing basics so I worked with what was available. I found it interesting because now we will try new foods we don’t normally eat.
The next trip I took, at the same time I purchased my fruit trees, was a detour to Whole Foods. They also had plenty except white flour. That is fine, try oat flour or almond flour. Try new things. They had begun rationing. You could buy 4 units of rice, 4 units of poultry and such. Being that I read all the Depression Era books, I was not disturbed by this. It is a wise way to handle things when in hard times. It ensures that everyone is taken care of.
We have a nice pantry now and I have learned a lesson. I will work that pantry like a restaurant pantry. Monitoring, stocking, rotating, taking monthly inventory and continue to build it up and up.
But this time has also made it clear to me that we all need to begin lives of more independence and self-sufficiency. Let’s grow our own food to some extent, learn to stock pantries wisely, bake our bread and cook healthy food from scratch. Let’s find that sweet balance between old fashioned and modern. Both periods offer gifts and if combined you can have a very happy and peaceful life.
Every day I hear of a husband or wife being laid off. Sometimes this husband or wife was the only breadwinner. This may be temporary layoffs until the shut-ins are over, but what an opportunity to make some huge changes. Time to downsize or reorganize.
Years ago when I became a housewife and had my first son, Bali had to close the doors to his store permanently. When we were both working we made over $6,000. Then we went down to $0. I didn’t want to leave home or my new baby. I was nursing and I trusted no one with my precious gift. I built a daycare in response and signed up for everything I could, such as the food program for the daycare, medical for the family, and I budgeted like a pro. We also had a roommate at that time. Her part of the rent covered groceries for all of us. We didn’t spend money, go out, nothing. We worked and cooked at home. I learned to bulk up meals with brown rice and zucchini or potatoes and beans. We ate well and thrived.
After that, we moved for a job and Bali was now a cashier for minimum wage. We still thrived because we had learned to live on very little.
For each of you, it will be a different story, a different journey. I can only share what I know from my short experiences.
My advice is to not let this huge opportunity pass you by unnoticed. Let it change you for the best. Let it change your life to something better in the future. Let it change you to meet your destiny.
For me it is to channel my great grandmother and garden, plant orchards, can and preserve, to learn to farm in town. I may add chickens again one day but baby steps. Right now I have canceled the new stove and ordered a rototiller and 300 ft of chicken wire to build my garden. I have collected boxes of jars and been blessed with all the canning equipment I will ever need. I spend my evenings reading Tough Times, Strong Women to boost my energies. I will be putting up my clothesline soon and my mind is already shifted from “buying” to “using what I have creatively”.
I’m cooking up huge pots and pans of simple but delicious foods, baking bread with simple ingredients, and implementing menus and rationing to stretch the groceries and monies. I waste nothing. I even harvested all my greens from the old house and hauled the bags of mustard greens and kale up the hill to my mountain house.
We do have two properties right now. We have been blessed with a good renter and I hope they stay with us for a long, long time. They may have hard times as well but we can afford to lower the rent for them if needs be. Right now we make a small profit but as long as the mortgage is paid, I won’t cry.
In this old house, we now reside, there are 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. We can get a roommate to help with the mortgage if times call for it. We are blessed with two small mortgages.
We have one debt to HomeDepot and will pay it off as fast as possible, but our top priority is saving fast and hard. It means making everything stretch, watering down detergents and shampoos, keeping to 3 meals and not grazing all day like mindless cows, drinking plenty of water, working hard on the fruit and vegetable gardens and mastering canning and preserving properly, shopping for only essentials, learning to do patch jobs on clothes and linens. I will use this quiet time to read my books that teach and inspire this lifestyle and I will embrace it like it is life itself.
I wish all of you speedy recoveries and deep insights. I hear many of you and your concerns, I have been through these worries and they are scary but they can change your life into something wonderful if you go with it. These times are here to teach us to reprioritize.
Cut out everything that is not essential; shelter, food, utilities. You can fill up the empty spots with free alternatives that will be much more fulfilling in the end. Buy foods that heal and strengthen your bodies, not junk foods. Drink tea, coffee, and water in favor of soda and milk. Give up the addictions. Commit to a life of wholesomeness and pursue happiness instead of money and success. Success comes in the form of health and daily laughter. Fill your house with music and do art or write a book instead of rotting on FaceBook or Instagram. Dig up that lawn and plant tomatoes for canning in the Fall. Move to a tiny, cheap house. Take on a housemate. Find new work that is more fulfilling.
My answer is always…start homesteading right where you are.