Monday, July 21, 2014

Why do we do it?

Sometimes it's fun to dream of living somewhere else.  James and I have a fantasy of moving to New Zealand (we love New Zealand) or a foreign speaking country to live for a year and learn the language and culture.   On days when I dread weed-eating or cutting grass, or look at all the stuff in our yard that needs attention - On the days when the weeds seem too much for James to attack, or it takes hours to pick and clean peas, beans or blackberries, or his hands are yellow from squeezing mexican bean beetle larvae - When the electric fence needs to be moved or animals escape or predators get our chickens.  These are the days we ask ourselves, why are we doing this?

This weekend James and I went to visit our friends Mike and Laura who live in a gorgeous house on Lake Norman.  I'm envious of their meticulous landscaping and their beautifully decorated and spotless house.  It was a relaxing weekend just hanging out, catching up and having nothing to do but eat, drink and be merry.  Perfect.  We had many conversations about traveling and where we'd like to live.  We always do this with them.  They like change as much as we do.  James and Mike paddled one morning while I pretended to fish and Laura  and Kramer (puppy) kept me company.
Yesterday morning we boated to breakfast.  How spoiled we felt.
Later we floated.
Why don't we do this all the time?  I don't mean stay at Mike and Laura's house.  I think we'd get kicked out eventually.  I mean, why don't we play more?  Why do we think we need to fill our 4 freezers with vegetables, fruit and meat?  No two people need all the food we raise.  We don't need 4 donkeys, 3 dogs, 8 goats, 10 pigs, rabbits, 2 cows, chickens, a parrot and a kitten.  Or do we?

On the way to and from Lake Norman James read to me a book some friends gave us, See You In 100 Years,
In this book a young couple leave their jobs in NYC and move with their 2 year old son to rural  VA and live like it's the year 1900.  What they did made what we do here seem like childs' play.  It's a great book and I highly recommend it to all my homesteading friends.

When we got home last night James spent hours in the garden picking blackberries then making blackberry jam while I visited the animals.  Today I thought of the book as I used my electric milking machine, made butter, spinning the cream in my food processor, butchered 3 roosters and scalded them to remove feathers by heating water on an electric stove then chilling them in ice water.  James picked 5 dozen ears of corn, cutting off the kernels, then microwaving them before freezing.  He also dug up potatoes, picked tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, carrots, etc. (manually, of course.  no electric involved in this).

Our house smells really good right now of roasted chicken, lemon squash, onion, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes.  When we eat this we'll feel satisfied we grew this all ourselves.  I can't describe why this feels so good.  Does it taste better than store-bought food?  I don't know if everyone would say it does.  It's more than that though.   We saw these vegetables grow among the weeds and beetles, we know how this chicken made it to our table.

This morning as I milked Raisa I was entertained by Keri (our livestock guardian dog) and Cato (our young buck).  They've become good buddies as of late and they play together often.  I wonder how Keri will feel when Cato begins trying to breed "her girls" this fall.  The play may turn to something rougher.  This playing makes me smile.

We'll still dream of living elsewhere, maybe on a small plot of land in a European country where we can buy our veggies and meats daily at local markets and butchers like the Europeans do, or maybe in the US in a condo so we can travel wherever the wind blows us, without having to care for gardens and animals.  For now we feel fulfilled and our land, animals, dirty fingernails, aching back and full tummies (getting bigger all the time), ratty clothes, old home, poorly decorated but filled with wonderful dinner aromas, are the life we choose.

It's time for me to head to the field to feed Keri chicken scraps and her food, give the pigs the leftover corn cobs, scratch the mammoth donkeys and lounge on their backs.   I love this time of night.  This is one of the reasons "I do it'".  James is checking on the garden once again.  I doubt he has to do this but I think he wants to.


  1. You are so right . . . there is no way to describe it . . . and while we don't do anything on the scale you do . . . feeding the grandbabies burgers made from beef that grew in our fields (they don't know that yet), eating potatoes we dug, zucchini we grew . . . all the things you described . . . you just cannot replace the feeling of self sufficiency . . . it is just the best . . . stay here . . . and Alec would like to buy some butter if you have some for sale!!!!

  2. I'm finding that asking "why" can be quite dangerous. It has no bottom; eventually you have to answer "Why" there's anything instead of nothing and move up from there. But that's an impossible question to answer, or perhaps its answer is called Enlightenment? The answer probably involves realizing it's a flawed question... I remember when my dad asked me why I was hiking the A.T...and my thought was, "If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand." Maybe it's the same with the ultimate "Why."

    Anyway, despite not having "The Why" answered, we can still feel satisfied and purposeful with smaller-scale "whys," like you've described in your post. I have those in my life, too, but sometimes I can't shake the feeling that they're arbitrary.

    I knew a lady once who used to say, "There is no 'why,' there's only 'how.'"