Change always comes bearing gifts. ~Price Pritchett
Oh my goodness, I don't know what I'm going to do with myself! The seed and hatchery catalogs have started to arrive and it's like Christmas morning all over again. I know that I must restrain myself and use the reasoning side of my brain in order to keep things in check. But the dreamy, romantic side of my brain is simply having a field day. It's simply remarkable that, in the midst of a frosty winter landscape which shows no life at all, I can full well imagine our grounds bursting with green, dancing with blossoms and oozing delicious edibles. I'm allowing myself the pleasure that pouring over the pages and pictures provides. I'm not sure what I enjoy more, the pictures of lush vegetables in full rainbow color or the lovely descriptions of feather and fowl. Who wouldn't want the following arriving at their doorstep??
"PURPLE PERUVIAN--A treasured, traditional variety from the Andean Highlands. Unique purple skin and glowing purple flesh, the most extreme purple available. This variety is ideally used for roasting, then cut open to reveal the stunning color. Hard to find."
"ROMAN CANDLE--Spectacular smooth iridescent yellow fruits that are 2" wide by 4" long. Very meaty with nice flavor. One of the few pure-yellow banana-shaped fruits available to gardeners. Great for making salsa base or tomato sauce."
"MOON & STARS--The medium-sized oval dark green fruits are covered with pea-sized bright yellow "stars" and usually one larger "moon." The fruits have sweet pink flesh and brown seeds."
Purple potatoes! Yellow tomatoes! Melons whose rind looks like the night sky! If I'm not careful, I will have to make eating a full time job once these babies are in the ground!
And then there are the chickens.
There are the Bantams, with names like Brahma, Sultan, Blue, Belgian Bearded d'Uccle...
or the the Rocks with names like Black Australorps and Rhode Island Red. Each variety sounds better than the last and soon I find myself scheming to make fresh eggs a cash crop for this family.
And I haven't even begun my goat search in earnest, yet.
After some of the initial excitement and euphoria begins to calm down I'm struck by the place of amazing privilege from which I pour over these catalogs. I'm not acquiring a flock of chicks out of necessity, as if my year's supply of protein depended on it. Rather, I'm choosing to because I can. Understand this, John and I are consciously deciding to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle within which we are more fully involved in our food production and sustenance. But we don't have to do this. Our culture doesn't immediately demand that we do this. In fact, our culture looks upon such choices as "quaint" and as some necessary link to our agrarian past that others continue for the sake of posterity. And that, my friend, is privilege. But I believe that our culture should embrace such choices in a bigger way. Not that everyone must get "back to the land" or else. Obviously, cities are an important part of our culture and survival. However, it shouldn't have to be all or nothing. If we are not in a place to pack it up and move to the country, we should be better about supporting those who are already there, growing food and raising animals in ways that honor creation and provide for numbers greater than themselves.
Now, a confession, put forth in the spirit of full disclosure. I am no better than anyone when it comes to this. I talk all big about supporting the local food movement and making conscious decisions regarding our food and such but the ugly truth of the matter is this... I've been grocery shopping at WalMart. Yes, folks, it's true. The person who used to "consciously reject" MalWart, the place to buy useless crap, is now realizing that I was so easily able to do that because I lived in an urban setting where the WalMarts of the world were restricted to the suburbs, too far away from me to justify the savings.
And now, here I am. Stuck in a conundrum. How do I adjust to a new job situation that demands strict budgetary decisions in the midst of an increasingly ugly economy? How can I make the best choices regarding nutrition and wholistic living patterns with less money than we had previously, when we weren't as concerned with the consequences? Seriously, what is a person to do when every food item put in the grocery cart costs, at minimum, 25% less, if not 50-75% less, than other options? I suppose one obvious answer is--EAT LESS! Point taken. But when it comes to what is required, what should I do?
That is why John and I want to move towards growing more of our own food so that we aren't continually put in the situation where we are forced to compromise our values because we have no sustainable alternative. But it won't be easy. We don't yet know how to can or preserve food in order to make what we grow in the summer last until the next crop becomes available. Is a root cellar simply a romantic throw back to the past that would only be more trouble than it's worth? Do I really believe that we could keep fruits and vegetables through the winter? Am I willing to do it?
It's just so interesting that what goes around always seems to come around, again. What is most frustrating is that we don't have any close models with whom we could apprentice and absorb all of this information. Sure, my mother has memories of going to her aunts' farm in the rural South, ages ago. But she was a young city girl and those experiences were more like summer camp. In fact, after she recalls the fondness of her memories, she then recalls the experiences via the voices of her aunts, and those stories are retold with a bit of the bite and harshness that colored those incredible women's experiences.
As John and I attempt to move in these new directions we will, ironically, be mostly forging new ground for ourselves. But our hope and prayer is that we will honor those that have gone before us--those who grew their own food and raised their own animals because that was the natural order of things, those who did such things from a place of necessity, not a place of privilege.
Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things…I am tempted to think…there are no little things. Bruce Barton