Everything we do to grow, preserve, and make ends meet comes by way of necessity and conviction. Knowing we are responsible for making sure we get by and that we have enough without being at the mercy of corporate profiteering leads us to learning and doing, taking us further on the path of sustainability. Along with necessity resides a true pleasure derived from creating from one’s hand the ingredients necessary to sustain life. I believe that the greatest gift we are capable of is to be able to provide for ourselves and each other.
It helps a lot that we're not completely new to this lifestyle. I inherited a lot of “can do” attitude and know-how from my parents. I have also learned much on my own out of desire and necessity. We grew up on fresh veggies form the garden and home canned foods. A meal of fresh green beans and potatoes cooked with a little bacon or ham hock was a much welcome treat after the winter months. As long as I can remember I have regularly yearned for the taste of a fresh garden tomato throughout the months prior to their planting and ripening. I guess you could say that living simply and in a back to basics way is in my blood. It just feels right in every way; monetarily, environmentally and spiritually.
There is no great mystery in the ability to raise and preserve ones own food. People have been doing it for centuries. It is simple a matter of whether one feels this responsibility and has the time, space and inclination to do so. In these essential elements I am very fortunate. But in truth it is also necessary that we live this way. If we were dependent on purchasing all our food from the store we would have far less quality to our meals and far less food. Realistically, in order for us to live as well as we do, especially now with increasing costs we must be as self sufficient as possible. It makes no sense to be otherwise and lessen the quality of our lives.
I am aware of those who at times think ours is a life of leisure, one in which we have nothing more pressing to do than to tinker in the garden or craft and putter about, enjoying ourselves in whatever ways we choose. I would like to take the opportunity here to say yes, we have freedom. That freedom is not one away from work and responsibility. It is the freedom to do the work and live the life of our choosing and believe me it involves plenty of hard work. The garden, the ground, the preserves, the full freezer, the meals from scratch, etc., do not happen miraculously by themselves. Our lives are dedicated to making it work. From the dried herbs to the hand cut tomato stakes, from the spaghetti sauce to the fresh fruit, from the laundry soap to the hand made wash cloths and dinner napkins, it comes from time and effort specifically dedicated to making it work. And if I enjoy these things in the process, it doesn’t detract from the fact that it does require the majority of my time and effort. This is the choice I make as opposed to working outside the home for money that would be spent on these very items via someone else’s labor. The fact that I find satisfaction through my efforts and in needing less by way of commercially manufactured goods and food does not mean I work less than anyone else or that my work is less relevant than another’s. It simply means I enjoy it more and don’t consider all of it labor as opposed to other types of work or employment. The truth is I put more hours and energy into this job than I have any other.
We are fully employed here at home on a daily basis. We don’t get the weekends off, and often not the holidays. It is ongoing. Our jobs are our life, a life that many I know would not want to fully participate in. In truth, although it may sound simple and good (and it is), when confronted with the reality of what it takes to really live it, many would likely decline. I know this life is not for everyone. It would not be convenient to some to be self supporting, to not run out to the store when the need arose to pick up this or that. It takes dedication, foresight, planning and plenty of effort to live this simple lifestyle.
A simple life doesn’t mean an easy life. I think it is better described as being a less complicated, richer, more rewarding life. It is one in which we find the greatest pleasure and value in our own creativity and accomplishments. It is a life in which one is not searching outside themselves for satisfaction or meaning. It is a very full and rewarding life, one I hope we can continue living for a long time to come.