Monday, May 5, 2014

Eating Locally, In Season - The beginning

Well this is turning out to be a real challenge. We started in March.. only to discover there is nothing fresh to eat in Nebraska in March. If it isn't canned, dried, or frozen - forget it. So, until the growing season starts, what do we do? We don't have much of our own from prior years, so we have to buy Something.

Priorities have been set: Local and organic (not necessarily certified) first, non-local organic / fair trade second. Emphasis on the first. Exotics are out - too much distance to travel. When you really think about how far a banana traveled to get here... it isn't so delicious anymore.

For March & April, we are trying to purchase what we might have grown, if we had started last year. Root vegetables & squashes that would keep over winter in cool storage. This includes butternut and acorn squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, canned or frozen produce. And meat. We did find a local farmer in March who raises their own cattle on grass (with a little corn in the winter). We bought 1/2 cow, plenty for an entire year. Oh glory, this is good meat. And the vegetables are varieties we love. Such hardship.

Pretty soon the radishes & lettuce I planted should be ready... fresh veggies on deck! Egg production should be starting & the local farmer markets are starting... local eggs, meat, milk, and cheese on deck! And our raised beds are built, ready to be planted (pictures soon).

There will be some creative thinking necessary as we learn the ropes. I had a recipe that called for orange juice. Um?

Substitution, thy name is Pie cherries. I had some left from my in-law's tree, frozen in their juice. Tangy & a little acidic, they worked the same as the orange juice. It worked out great.

There will probably be some things we buy that aren't local... like salt. In those cases, we can buy ethical.

Here we go...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bring on the Challenge

I’m all home, resettled, and refocused. As part of refocusing, we are looking deeper at self sufficiency, right where we are. Which, in the suburbs, means… what? We kinda drew a blank on what further efforts we could pursue that don’t require massive dumps of cash. So, we looked at what we are currently doing for inspiration to dig deeper.

Dig. Deeper. Eureka, that’s it! We were getting ready to plant our vegetable seeds for the year. What to plant, how much to plant, where to plant. Oh yeah baby, here we go. We decided to jump right off the deep end – into some large amounts of healthy dirt. Let’s go bonkers & plant enough vegetables to last the summer… and maybe into the winter? Ambitious? Yes. Doable? Absolutely.

We wondered how far we could take it. Could we really manage all summer? No problem. We planted seeds for 21 tomato plants, 24 pepper plants, squash galore, radishes, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, corn… Yep, summer is covered. But what about winter? Can we make it last? Can we preserve it in methods that remain delicious all year long? I say Yes! I hope. Oh what the hell, let’s see what happens. So here we go.

Seeds – check. Shelving – check. Lights – check. Great, seeds are planted and ready to go. Now, where will they go? Our yard is a fantastic size. And currently full of shade or flowers. Ok flowers, tough love. Some of you will have to share space, others will have to go. So now we have a location. Part of which gets a bit soggy. *sigh* The challenges never end. Solution… Raised beds! Yep. We have designed a plan to allow for 250ish sq ft of raised garden beds. We decided on mixed materials – the center bed is going to be a horse tank (dear horse tank, I love you) and the surrounding beds will have corrugated steel roofing framed (like a picture) for the sides. Woo hoo! I canNOT wait!

That’s enough right? Super ambitious project that is more than enough for 1 year. But I wouldn’t be me if I stopped there. We are going to try and grow as much of our food as possible, but where would the rest come from? Enter part 2 of the great 2014 experiment. Thank you Barbara Kingsolver for help with the inspiration. (If you haven’t read ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ I highly recommend it.)

Drum roll please… What we can’t grow, we are going to make every effort to purchase locally or do without. Local being within 100 miles. Everything – meat, eggs, milk, fruit, veggies, grain (including the liquid kind… mmm beer). It will all be sourced local or we will go without as best we can.

We don’t really have a hard start date & we are still hammering out the details. What items are excused from the requirements? Why? Can we make other ethical choices for the excused items (like fair trade coffee)? How many excused items do we allow ourselves?

I will admit I was overwhelmed at the idea initially. But then we found a beef farmer 50 miles from here with 1 side of beef not reserved for the March slaughter. Yes please. We just got it delivered over the weekend. I am giddy with excitement that if we found 1 meat supplier close, there has to be others. Milk will be a challenge but the farmers markets are starting soon, maybe we will meet someone there that supplies milk. I'm working on eggs & I think I found a pig farmer nearby.

So here we go. Stay tuned for updates.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Well. That didn’t work.

So, as my last post indicated, at the end of January I found a new job, moved to our new home in MO, and wrapped up multiple loose ends in NE.

I was there a week and realized: This is NOT going to work. Within 1 week at my new employer I determined that I was not going to be a good fit within their corporate culture. I actually went backward in some respects. And when I say 1 week, really it was 3 days. I believe we all have an inner voice – a gut feeling. Whether we listen or not is the question. Mine was hollering so loudly, there was no ignoring it.
This isn’t an attack on the company, it is an acknowledgement of different priorities. And with that, I leave discussion of my employer behind.

What to do? As I mentioned previously, I (we) are very fortunate. I actually have the luxury to not stay in a job I don’t like. So I didn’t. I contacted my previous employer, was accepted back, and came home.

I could be really embarrassed, I could be terribly depressed that it didn’t work out, I could be angry at the circumstances. I will admit to fleeting moments of all 3. But none of those serve any purpose. Those reactions completely ignore that I tried. I took the leap to quit my job & move away. And that I when I got there, I was self aware enough to recognize a poor fit.

I am not totally blas̩ faire about this. James & I discussed our options long and hard before I quit & after I got home. And I have had immense moments of doubt Рdid we rush it? Did I take the job, ignoring signs, just so I could say we went? Can we even do this? These doubts helped me reaffirm our goals to 1) become (more) self sufficient and 2) exit the workforce sooner than later. I do think I may have lost sight of these very important goals as I rushed to Make Change! But, I learned lessons. And I am recommitted to living in a sustainable manner.

We decided that we will rent out the MO house & stay put for approx. the next 5 years. Then, when we are ready, we can move and (remembering our goals) not need jobs that require at least 40 hrs. a week.. or even 20.

There is nothing like a crisis to refocus your attention. So how about some raised beds & an attempt to only eat vegetables that we grow ourselves for the next year? Yep, sounds like we have refocused!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gratitude for good fortune

I have to be honest – I am a very fortunate person. Sometimes I forget & need to take a step back, look around, & remember. Whether you call it luck, the result of good planning, karma, divine (or not) blessings, or being in the right place at the right time – good things come my way.

I hesitated to write this post because it seems a bit braggy. That isn’t my goal. My goal is to articulate my gratitude for the events & people in my life right now.

James & I have wanted to relocate to Missouri for some time. It has been on our 5 – 10 year plan for a few years. We have a lot of reasons, for now we will boil them down to “why not?” We got a wild hair this summer to actually bite in. So we spent our summer vacations house shopping. We looked at a lot of houses and eventually found one that we love. And so we bought it. We figured we could rent it out if we didn’t find jobs.

Gratitude moment – We are in a wonderful place that allows us to own 2 homes and afford the mortgages. We did a lot of planning & work in order to get that to fly, but I am well aware of what could have (still can) go wrong. I am grateful for the leeway we have.

Ok, step one – house bought. Step two – jobs…

I started searching for jobs shortly after we closed on the house. It was slow going at first, winter is not a good time for hiring & I was being picky. Because we had the option to rent the Missouri house, I was not going to apply for or accept a job that I wasn’t going to be happy with. I sought out companies that have mission statements I can believe in. I applied at multiple places, eventually one called back. An institution of higher learning. Within 2 weeks of applying they hired me. I am still practicing my vocation (accounting), still earning a necessary wage, and I get to be a member of an organization that (I feel) works toward the greater good.

Gratitude moment –I am exceptionally fortunate to have the luxury of being choosy about my job. Not everyone is in that position. I am grateful for that flexibility. And I am fortunate that I was hired so quickly. I didn’t have the long wait between first contact, first interview, second interview, and eventual hiring.

Currently, we will be living apart for approx. 3 – 6 months. We want to rent our current house out, which means some fixes. And James needs to train his replacement. Without going into detail – he can’t leave until he does.

Gratitude moment – We haven’t lived apart since our early 20s. It will be a chance to remember who we are as individuals during our transition. And I will be home every weekend, so there will be a lot of chances to make quality time with each other. This also gives us a chance to pare down possessions at a more comfortable rate. We can actually evaluate our possessions before deciding to keep or send on its way.

So here I am surrounded by boxes, picking up my life, & moving to a new state. I am sad to leave my life here behind & overjoyed to start a life in Missouri. There have been a lot of emotional moments in the last two weeks but threaded through all of them has been gratitude. If I didn’t have people who I love and loved me here, I wouldn’t be sad. If I wasn’t following through on goals authentically, I wouldn’t be happy.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Trade it

Welcome to the New Year! Can you feel your toes? The first week has proven to be bright, white, & downright frigid. A perfect time to be inside, taking stock of what is around us. I’m ready to jump back in after a short hiatus.

The first thing I did was the hanger challenge on 12/21/13. Before the New Year, but it was on my schedule to Do It. I started this back in July, where I turned all of the hangers in my closet backward. As I wore something, the hanger got turned around correctly. After the 5 months (3 good seasons), I could see what I was wearing & what was just taking up space. Wow. I filled a large bag of dress clothes. I probably eliminated ¼ to 1/3 of what was in my closet. Some items were worn out, most were in fair to excellent condition.

So they went into the “pile”. The pile that just keeps growing. I’ve tried garage sales – epic waste of time. I’ve tried contacting local shelters – most won’t take used clothing. On that… I would be disheartened if I had to filter through someone else’s scraps too, so I can’t really blame them. I’ve donated to local thrift shops – and will again. But really, I dislike giving something away to a place where a person has to buy it – when I am willing to just give it to that person.

In an effort to find “that person” who wants or needs something, I often take to facebook. I post the list on my page and in various groups I am a member of. The results are mixed. Sometimes I get a response, mostly I don’t. And the response I get is just a few people. I’m not sure why.
Do people worry that accepting free things makes them appear “hard up”?
Are they wary of strings attached?

I think it is time to take back control of our consumption. If I have something I’m not using & you need it… here – take it. If you have something I need… great – thank you. Passing on, trade, sharing… we can significantly reduce our consumption & costs, we just have to want it. I’ve heard of tool banks, car sharing, free swap sites, and parties among friends where you “shop” their closets. Look at libraries, they’ve been doing this successfully for years.

With more people on board, more things become available, there is more organization, rules are set in place (no broken stuff, etc), & less money is spent. We all win.

I’m going to try harder & check out Anyone got a bundt pan?