Monday, August 29, 2005

Weekend homesteading, or: One foot in the working world

I have come to the conclusion that, although I love my current lifestyle dearly and have no desire to go back to the rat race, it is very difficult to appreciate the simple pleasures fully when you still have one foot in the working world. Weekend homesteading is not for the faint of heart.

Take laundry, for example. I was thrilled when I got my wringer washer, because it meant no more days wasted at the laundromat. I initially enjoyed the ritual of washing. But now it seems I have to plan my weekends around the inevitable loads of laundry that have piled up during the week, and with three children and The Hermit doing construction, there are loads. I have decided I have only patience (and clothesline space) for three loads a day. I'm still trying to figure out how I can work in a load or two in the morning or evening during the week. The other option is to go through fewer changes of clothing, and my younger two would probably be happy to run around naked, but although my dress is extremely casual at work, I still need to wear something that is clean and presentable. And The Hermit refuses to work with power tools in the buff, which is probably a wise decision.

I love canning and putting up the harvest from my garden, but again there is the time factor. I was going to try making crabapple jelly from the crabapples we picked the weekend before last, but stemming and cutting the small fruits, pleasurable as it was, took so much time that I only got as far as extracting the juice. It was worth it, however; the aroma and flavor of fresh crabapple juice is exquisite, and the deep red color will make a beautiful jelly. Since this is my first ever foray into jelly making, I decided to save the juice until I had the time and energy to fully concentrate on the task. I have just over a quart and a half of juice, but Calvin wanted to go pick more crabapples on Sunday afternoon so I have another five gallon bucket sitting there waiting for next weekend. I'm thinking the jelly might make great Christmas gifts if it turns out well, so I want to make as many half pints as I can. The Hermit also wants to soak some crabapples and a little sugar in vodka to make a liqueur; sounds good to me.

Of course all of this cooking requires some sort of fuel, which my one foot in the working world pays for. We buy hundred pound cylinders of propane from the local service station. We were in the middle of preparing dinner Saturday evening, and I tried to light the stove to fry zucchini, when...nothing happened. Out of gas. It was 6:30, and I knew the service station closed at 6. I thought we were SOL; I didn't want to go into such deep homesteading skills such as cooking over an open fire just yet. But The Hermit called the owner of the station at home and asked if there was any chance we could pick up a bottle of propane. "I'll be right there!" was the reply. Not "Sorry, we close at six." That's one of the great things about living where there is a sense of community.

Still, by Sunday afternoon of a two-day weekend, I get to feeling a bit melancholy, especially this time of year. There's so much to do here, and I don't mean chores and housework, I mean fun stuff like fishing in Sand Creek (not done yet), walking in the woods (not done often enough), riding bikes on the gravel roads (still have to get mine fixed so I can shift gears), or just sitting by the creek listening to the water. There's a gorgeous patch of asters just up the road that I want to photograph, but I haven't gotten there yet. The kids will be going off to school on Thursday, and I feel like I barely spent any time with them doing all of these things. Calvin had to practically drage me fifty yards into the woods yesterday, to show me "a beautiful spot". It's at the base of two giant white pines growing close together, and I agreed with him it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I want to put a comfortable chair there some day, and actually spend some time relaxing there, enjoying the beauty that is so close by.

I may have one foot still in the working world, and I hope to pull that foot free some day, but at least my other foot is in a place that I love, where moments like these are there for the taking like wild crabapples.


lené said...

Hi Deb,
I couldn't believe how many times I found myself nodding my head in understanding as I read through your post tonight. I'm not homesteading the way you are (the crabapple juice and jelly sound divine), but I decided to make pesto last week and had a similar experience to your apple one.

Basil is still plentiful at the farmers market. We can get huge clumps of organic basil for $2 each. I bought five bunches, and my mom bought six. I decided to offer to make her pesto, as well. I spent over 4 hours popping basil leaves from stems, had over 40 cups, and four ice trays of pesto, and I wasn't half finished.

Some of it is wilting in the refrigerator, but I can't seem to justify any more time away from the shortening days to food process, even if it is pleasurable and of the highest quality.

The way you communicated about summer coming to an end, the list of things you still haven't had time to do, was quite effective in evoking those same feelings for me. Do you think part of that feeling comes from living in the north and having such a short warm season?

Deb said...

lene- Basil--you're making me jealous, I never got around to planting basil this year! How about I trade you some crabapple jelly for some pesto? :)

I think having such a short warm season is definitely a factor here. Summer is so short, and so full of life, it's impossible to experience it all, and yet we have to try.

madcapmum said...

Exactly! You have to fit 12 months of projects into 4 months of warm-enough weather.

Dan Trabue said...

Excruciating but great post. I hear your longing and share it.

Power Tools in the Buff? A great name for a rock band...

pablo said...

Your last paragraph certainly sums it up. Exactly Right!

dragonfly183 said...

Powertools in the buff,isn't that hilarious.
I often wonder at the piles of laundry I have to do. I have a washing machine,but i boycott my dryer.
It seems i have at least one large load to do every two days. I mentioned to Dennis we are wearing way to many clothes. Looking in my closet I have 10 outfits for work,6 pairs i sleep in, milling around town clothes, digging clothes. I change clothes at least twice a day myself. When did it get this bad.

the dharma bum said...

deb - hang in there. your post certainly helped me understand the trials and tribulations, and i appreciate the nuance that it isn't just "homesteading is hard" but that it's much harder when you can't devote yourself to it full time.

for some reason, that image of the "beautiful spot" really resonates... i hope you do get a comfy chair there and spend many hours enjoying the spot. i think you will. all this work will surely pay off and it's impossible to predict the vast benefits you'll someday reap...

kudos to your son for dragging his mom out in the woods to show her that spot. what a kid.

Deb said...

Hi dragonfly183, thanks for stopping by! And thanks for the link on your blog; you've got some good stuff there.

dharma bum--your comments are always so uplifting and supportive; I really appreciate it!

Well, not just dharma bum, I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read this blog and make thoughtful comments. Here's to Power Tools in the Buff!!! :)