Monday, April 6, 2009

It's the City Life for Me

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.


Angela said...

This buy it made/make it from scratch thing is getting to me too. On Saturday I made bread [in breadmaker, admittedly] and that costs one third of the price of a loaf. And I made marmalade - this cost a few pence less than the sort I usually buy [but more than the cheapo budget stuff] - but I knew mine was just oranges, water and sugar, no additives. So that was a POSITIVE result - but I am NOT going to make my own underwear.EVER. The risk of disaster is not worth it. I made a bikini when I was 17 and Much Slimmer- but felt anxious when I wore it, and never dared actually go in the pool in case the top unhooked!

And we all KNEW Will was the coolest in his class anyway!!

Susan said...

Don't bother with the butter. Mary Beth made some at a Little House on the Prairie themed birthday party. You shake forever. Get a piddly little lump that's swimming in a watery mixture. It's pale, wet, and revolting. Not to mention that you risk carpel tunnel from all that shaking.

Go for the chickens. They're charming. Cook your scrambled eggs in butter from the Teeter.

Remember the show Green Acres? Zsa Zsa never seemed really content. I don't want to think of you rambling around a farm house in fluffy high-heeled slippers ruing the day you left civilization.

Heather said...

I have always wanted to make my own clothes, have chickens,rabbits and a couple of goats, but the cost is prohibitive. Ironic isn't it? You have to be rich to live and eat like a poor farmer these days. Provincial premium.

I guess I'll stick to the farmer's market, making my own bread, and living as simply as I can. And of course making socks- always making socks.

Danielle said...

knowing you as I do, this has been a journey ... to discover you really don't want to live in the country. I am relieved. You will be around! I've been alert to the threat of you shucking it all up one day to go country.

You are inspiring me to try to knit and sew in spite of my left-handedness. Perhaps one day I will knit a pair of socks and make you proud.

Tracy said...

It's a funny thing, the to and fro between homemade and store bought. My 2c on the subject is make everything you can, that gives you a measure of satisfaction and joy and buy what you need to.

For me, that means cooking everything from scratch, making marmalade from my kumquats, growing some vegies and herbs and making some clothes here and there. I buy local honey when I come across it. I gratefully take a dozen eggs from friends with chooks. And I relieve a lady at school who wants to be rid of excess garden produce. I'm not hard and fast with rules about what I will and won't do.

Of course Will is cool. He's your son, after all. He can't but help it.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Angela--it's amazing how much cheaper baking bread and cookies is than buying them at the store. that's been a big motivator for me, along with getting away from all those chemicals they put in stuff to keep it "fresh."

You made yourself a bikini! I'm so impressed! But the risk of the top falling off would have made me nervous, too. I assume any underwear I made would also drop right to the floor ...

Susan--I suspected that the butter making would be in vain and appreciate your confirmation (though I love the idea of a LHOTP themed birthday party). I'd be tempted to put in the time if I actually thought it would work.

Now the that City Council has passed an ordinance allowing chickens, we're definitely getting some. We probably won't get the coop built before the summer, but I'm really excited.

I am Zsa Zsa. I will wear my fluffy high heeled shoes in the city from now on!

Heather--Living more simply is definitely a goal of mine, and sometimes going the homemade route actually complicates things in ways that aren't particularly useful or personally profitable. But socks? Socks are always useful, and even when they're complicated they are a balm for the soul.

Danielle--I promise to stay in the city, but only if you promise to babysit the chickens when I go out of town!

How's that knitting going by the way? Perhaps it's time for another lesson?

Tracy, I'm with you. The more I think about it, the more I think that what's most important to me is homemade and homegrown food. While I love the idea, say, of making my own soap, it's not a priority (and I'm scared of lye) and not something I have time for. Maybe when I finally hire that housekeeper ;)

Anonymous said...

Loved this post. You are so right. Nobody needs to live in the country to 'live the dream'. It's all about creativity really.

(I am still in awe that you could make a pair of socks in two days)

love Tina :)

Gumbo Lily said...

LH Housewife,
I love what you have to say about homesteading. I do live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere and let me tell you, I'm very happy for my modern conveniences. VERY. I don't make butter (tried it once), I don't sew underwear or spin wool from our sheep or knit socks with it. I wish I could knit, but I don't. I used to have a huge garden and canned and froze lots of things. Now I enjoy some small raised bed gardens and we eat fresh from it. I still like to can and freeze things in the fall, but I don't feel I have to grow every bit of it.

I hope you will get some chickens and grow some strawberries and veggies. It's very fun on a small scale.


Left-Handed Housewife said...

Tina--I can make a pair of socks in two days IF--and this is a big IF--I do nothing but knit,no interruptions, no dinner to cook, no clothes to wash. Which is why it usually takes me two weeks at least to finish off a pair.

Gumbo Lily--Thanks for stopping by. I've enjoyed your blog on many occasion.

I've been thinking a lot lately about modern conveniences, and there are a lot of them I don't want to give up. I tend to romanticize the notion of homesteading until I look at it real hard, and then it doesn't seem very romantic at all!