I've been having a lot of fun lately reading books about homesteading and country living. For years, I've thought about moving back to the land. It's a notion that appeals to me greatly. And then recently I had an amazing revelation.
I don't want to live in the country.
Reading about homesteading and country living will really kill your homesteading and country living buzz, let me tell you. And if you check out homesteading and farm blogs, you realize just how much mud is involved in that sort of lifestyle. Way too much for Miss Clean Hands over here.
No, what finally occurred to me is that I want to live right where I am--with the addition of chickens. I don't need acres and acres. I need homegrown tomatoes--and chickens. Throw in a few potatoes and onions growing in my own backyard, and I'm all set. And maybe some corn, if I could get The Man to let me plough the frontyard.
Oh, yes, and strawberries.
Clearly, you don't have to live in the country to have a homemade life, which is my true interest. The questions I've been pondering recently include: Just how much food can we produce ourselves? How much of what we wear can we make? What makes sense in terms of time/
That last one's not an easy question to answer. For instance, you can buy socks cheap at Target. To knit socks takes a day or two of solid knitting and the yarn is expensive. And yet, the quality of homemade socks and the sheer pleasure of wearing them (and making them yourself) is worth the time and expense, in my opinion. I'd say the same is true for homemade pasta, which can also be bought cheaply at the store. But what about, say, homemade underwear? Is it really worth it to spend the time and the effort, when you know you're going to end up with sagging panties?
I've been reading a wonderful book called Made from Scratch: The Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich. In it she discusses raising chickens and beekeeping and sewing and baking bread. She tells you how you can make your own butter as well. You put cream in a clean Mason jar and leave it out overnight. The next day you put a cold marble in the jar, put the lid on, and start shaking, about one shake per minute. Do this for forty minutes or so and you'll have yourself a lump of butter that you can then put in a butter mold and chill.
Now, I have to say that on the face of it, I find this idea quite charming. Homemade butter! All you need is cream, a jar, and a marble!
And forty minutes of shaking time.
I'll spend two days knitting a pair of socks. I believe I'll continue shopping at the grocery store for my butter. (Having said that, I recommend Made from Scratch, which will inspire you in all sorts of ways, if not in terms of your homemade dairy production.)
One book I've got my eye on is The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. Clearly, I'll never use half the information in it (no composting toilets for me, thank you very much), but I like the idea that I could, if I wanted to. Browsing around its pages on Amazon (via the Search Inside tool), I found the following, which I think is appropos no matter where you live:
Helpful Habits [for getting done everything you need to get done]
1. Don't discuss the obvious.
2. Don't own a television.
3. Quit a job when you're losing efficiency.
4. Get more sleep.
5. Eat less salt and sugar and use less heat.
6. Keep a list of things to do and things to buy.
7. Then get somebody to do as many of those things as possible.
8. Don't drink coffee, tea, cola or alcohol; smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco or use illegal drugs.
9. Sing a lot.
10. Pray a lot.
My favorites are 6/7 and 9/10, but I think it's all pretty good advice.
English Tea Party Update: Mrs. B, who never updates her page on the Our Fine School web site, of course chose to post pictures of the tea party. Will is by far the most casually dressed, but there are several other boys who lack ties or tucked-in shirt tails. And in Will's picture, he's got his hands shoved in his pockets and has his head lowered but is still looking directly at the camera, and he's clearly the coolest kid at the tea party. So all's well that ends.