August is winding down, and autumn is in the air; I can just feel it coming! :-) I just love this time of year! Kids will be heading back to school soon, the weather is changing, leaves are turning... it's such an amazing time of changes, and I've always loved it so.
I've been keeping busy with my fairly new-found love of homesteading and old-fashioned self-sufficiency. This has been my fifth year of vegetable gardening, but we doubled the size of the garden this year, which has been fantastic. We also added 4 chickens, and the gals should be laying very soon now. And, I took up canning this year. It's such an odd thing that these, what should still be very basic tasks, have become more like very old-time hobbies. Fortunately there has been a resurgence of self-sufficiency; a movement to regain the skills of our foremothers and forefathers... a desire to re-discover the ways of our grandparents and great-grandparents.
I was born in 1960; my husband in 1957. This was a time when all sorts of brand-spankin' new "modern conveniences" came into existence, along with a movement that took people off of acreages and into the suburbs. Although all of our respective grandparents were farmers, our parents opted instead to raise us in suburbia and take advantage of the conveniences of the time. My mother worked full time as an RN. Although Dad's work history included a fair number of layoffs between jobs, he mostly worked full time as well. I remember our first television set, and later, the first one that was "in color." Mom had herself one of those newfangled washing machines and eventually added a dryer. I can even remember when dishwashers became available and were all the rage. Mom and Dad never kept a vegetable garden; the only gardening I can remember them doing was floral, and some fairly meticulous landscaping. Although we lived in a suburb, our lot was nearly an acre. But the portion that wasn't woods was primarily planted with grass, which Dad spent hours mowing each week, every spring, summer, and fall. Mom never did any canning. She bought and served convenience foods, and we ate at Kentucky Fried Chicken and a local burger joint fairly often.
Although at 52 I now find myself wishing I could have done so at a much younger age and at a healthier time in my life, I am so enjoying the process of learning and practicing the ways of our grandparents. I suppose my love for arts and crafts, which struck when I was about 10 years old and has never left me for even a moment, was the beginning of my quest; I just didn't know it at the time. But I can remember all the relatives being so impressed that Grandma made her incredible apple pies entirely from scratch, and that she still put up her own peaches and pickles. I remember visiting my paternal grandparents' farm before Grandpa passed, where they still had orchards, and Grandpa kept his own beehives. And it was all beyond charming; it was wondrous to me. I only wish it hadn't taken me so long to realize that there is absolutely no reasonable argument against living a similar lifestyle myself. It's about priorities, I suppose. We get so busy making a living that we forget to make a life. We are so caught up in preparing to live that we overlook living each day. All of those "modern conveniences" cost so much money that we spend all our time clocked in, working to make the money to pay for the conveniences that we now must rely on, because we're always either at work or worn out from our day at work.
Regardless of the lateness in my own life, I'm so grateful to have finally realized the truth. This world... this country has become so complicated. Our grandparents had it right to begin with. A good, solid work ethic (and a respect and LOVE for the work they did), wholesome, healthy local food, doing for oneself and taking pride in a job well done. They were always in touch with their own families and their communities. Neighbors worked together toward commonly beneficial goals. Bartering was common. So was a charitable attitude. Folks borrowed, loaned, paid it forward. Families gathered around the table and ate their home-grown meals together.
I may never have an orchard of my own. My health problems might prevent me from farming on much larger a scale. My age might keep me from making any drastic transitions. But in the past five years, I've gone from being a convenience-food shopper who rarely ate or served truly healthy, home-cooked meals to someone looking forward to the day we can escape suburbia and put a real plot of land beneath our feet, and someone who grows my own fruits and vegetables, buys at least some of what I don't grow myself from the local farmers market, prefers to buy organic whenever possible, keeps laying hens for fresh, organic, cruelty-free eggs (believe me, my girlies are spoiled), and has even canned a fair supply of strawberry jam, peaches, and dill pickles so far and is looking forward to adding spaghetti sauce and salsa (my Roma tomatoes and peppers are looking good!) and eventually plenty of other good, healthy foods.
My husband mentioned to our chiropractor recently that I had taken up canning and had made strawberry jam. Long story short, I had to take jars of it in to hand out at my next appointment there. Now *I* am someone who impresses people I know by canning, growing, doing for myself.
We have two sons in their mid 20s. No grandchildren yet, but I'm very hopeful. And while my own homemade apple pie might never rival the ones Grandma made, maybe some day, to my own grandchildren, I will be the one who is not only charming, but wondrous.
May we all strive to enjoy and seize every single blessed moment of this amazing time of year... and this amazing time of change.