Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thoughts on Homesteading

In my last post, I mentioned that I have been trying to make more and more of our foods from scratch, using as much clean, unprocessed, whole food ingredients as possible.  It is amazing how difficult this can be initially.  Old habits die hard and time is of the essence and all that jazz.  One of the things I keep telling myself is this: If you can't make it at home with basic, whole ingredients, you probably shouldn't be eating it. 

So where did this come from?  Why the sudden interest in cooking this way?  It has nothing to do with weight (which is what my nutritional concerns were always based on in the past), and everything to do with keeping our bodies healthy for the long run.  I am thoroughly convinced that all those chemicals and preservatives in processed foods are slowly and silently killing us.  Our bodies are simply not meant to consume those products.  It's one of those things.  You know when someone who has been overweight their entire life suddenly makes lifestyle changes and gets to a healthy weight and you ask them what spurred the change and they tell you they were just ready?  They had finally had enough?  They were finally ready to take care of their health and their future?  I kind of feel like that.  I've had these inklings and desires for a long time, but suddenly I feel ready.  Suddenly I feel spurred to action.  I'm just finally ready to make the change.

Going along with this is the longing I have been harboring for many years now, to be able to grow, cultivate, raise, process my own food.  Desires, that have been simmering under the surface, to be self-sufficient.  Most of my blog readers know that I grew up in a very rural area on a hobby farm.  My father was a teacher, so the farm was not income producing, but provided our large family with basic food needs.  We always had our own milk, eggs, butter, beef, pork, and vegetables that we produced on our own land.  While it takes a lot of work, even on a small scale, to run a farm, there is a freedom in knowing you have what it takes to support your family's basic needs.  There is something pure and satisfying about looking around you at what God has provided, and cultivating it into something your family can use.  When we moved to Wisconsin, it was the first time that I had usable space to really plant a garden.  I started small and then each year expanded a bit more.  Every time I pull a jar out of my canner to be placed on my food storage shelves, I am filled with satisfaction and purpose.  If I can look in my freezer and see it brimming with produce rather than frozen pizzas, I am content. 

I have been thinking a lot about my mother and the things she teaches me by her example.  Right now it is sugaring season in northern New York.  My mother has tapped her trees and has begun collecting and boiling the sap that will become pure maple syrup.  My mother has done this for as long as I can remember.  Not in a sugar house, but right in her kitchen, using a process she has refined over the years into a smoothly flowing cycle.  She begins the process on the old wood-burning cookstove in a large container, moving the sap along as it boils it down, until it is finished off on her gas cook top.  How fondly I remember sugaring time when I was a kid.  As soon as I would get off the bus from school, I would run to the trees to look in the sap buckets to see how well the sap was running.  I loved a nice sunny day when the sap would be running like crazy.  And nothing is finer than opening the front door to be greeted by a warm, steamy kitchen, the air heavy with the sweet aroma of maple syrup. The kitchen windows were always steamed up to the point of dripping condensation, from all the vigorous boiling going on inside.   If you have never drunk a small cup of maple syrup fresh from the vat at a sugar house, put it on your bucket list.  Absolute, pure delight. 

To me, this is the perfect example of what I am talking about.  Heavenly Father gave us maple trees, and Mom uses what she was given to provide something for her family.  For free.  Aside from the sweat of her brow.  This, THIS is why God teaches us the importance of work.  So we can take what we've been given and be good and responsible stewards over it. 

My parents have taught me this by their examples every. day. of. their. lives. 

Lincoln and I are trying to really explore how we can apply these principles of self-sufficiency to our lives right now.  We are renting our current home.  For us, that means we cannot have a large garden or get chickens or a cow.  So I am trying to do what I can.  Making bread, granola, and as many other foods as I can from scratch.  Making my own household cleaners and detergents.  Researching where I can purchase local grass-fed beef.  Exploring the possibility of keeping my own bees.  Learning to sew for more practical purposes, repurposing clothing and other fabrics.  Planning container gardens so I can grow at least some produce this year, and really exploring my options for growing as much as possible in small, creative spaces.  I have learned, and accepted, that this is not something that happens all at once, overnight.  It's a process of learning and practicing.  Having one aspect of it become habit before biting off the next chunk.  And that is where we are.  Seeking simplicity in our lives.  And I hope to take you all along on the journey, sharing what we learn as we go. 

In my next post I'll share our granola recipe we've been using and the little tweaks I've made to it.  'Til then...


Catherine and Dennis said...

Woa! I have had the same epiphany about the food lately and have been doing some of the same changes you are making! Awesome!

merathon said...

i completely agree with all of this. i always try to buy stuff as minimally processed as possible. overall lifetime health really needs to be the goal. if only i can get my garden started this year!