It was a book put out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture called “Living on a Few Acres” that started it all.
Having grown up in the “urban” area of downtown Norfolk, my husband had always longed to live on a farm. He was a gritty Vietnam vet.
And I was a young, idealistic "hippie". So we bought a rundown house that had some land around it and a barn. While both working full-time jobs, we lived in our old house and renovated the new one. (Paying 2 mortgage payments!) He bought a tractor, I planted a garden and we had a baby.
Life was very busy and very fulfilling.
What we realized later, was that there were portions of that agriculture book that we must have skipped over. Did it mention how tired we would be? It glossed over the way projects would suck up all our free time with phrases like this one , “ You will be provided plenty of opportunity for creative and useful work.” Boy, were we ever!
The chapters on the economics of it all were pretty short too. Did you know that you can almost go broke “saving money”? While my husband was busy using his DIY carpentry skills, I got into “growing our own food” in a big way. I tilled a 40 x 25 foot garden plot in the backyard and, over the course of the next 15 years, planted an amazing assortment of vegetables, flowers and herbs.
However, if you added up the cost of the various tools and equipment needed for our projects (the books, charts, seeds, plants, lumber, fertilizers, canning supplies etc...) and measured the time and effort involved, was it worth it? I think so.
Could we have saved money by just hiring someone to do the carpentry work and bought our food at a farmer’s market? Maybe. I don’t think it would have been the same though. The satisfaction we got from doing something by ourselves would have been lost.
We opened a door into an unknown world. It started out as fun. Later, as we got older, it started feeling more like work than adventure. It was time consuming. I began to resent the fact that after working 40 hours a week at my job, my evenings and weekends were being spent tending the garden. My husband was tired of home improvement projects. We had no "free time".
We wanted to lay on the beach or shop at the mall; which was what my (by now) teenage daughter was doing. We wanted to just read books, watch TV and sit on the deck sipping ice tea.
So, my garden got smaller and smaller and finally ceased to exist. I feel guilty about it and many days I miss it terribly.
My point in telling you all this, is so that you will know that the reward you’ll get in growing your own food is not from the money you will save. It’s good because you are eating fresh produce that you raised yourself. It’s “green”, but you’re not going to save the world doing it. Sorry.
What you will do is gain some small measure of independence from the urban world and re-discover the simpler joys of the real, NATURAL world.
There is satisfaction in doing something by yourself, whether it is tiling a floor, planting a garden, building a deck, baking bread or sewing curtains. It’s fun going to yard sales or browsing through second-hand shops. I hope you all discover these small pleasures.
Don’t, however, become self-righteous about how “green” you are because you are doing these things. Because I promise you this; one day you will crave a greasy, fast-food meal, a trip to the mall to buy a pair of shoes you don’t need and a day frittered away at the beach.
Trust me, I know.
Books in our collection that may interest you are:
A Thousand Acres by Smiley, Jane
The Good Earth by Buck, Pearl S
Prodigal Summer by Kingsolver, Barbara
Farmer Boy by Wilder, Laura Ingalls
Mudbound by Jordan, Hillary
The Encyclopedia of Country Living: An old fashioned recipe book by Emery, Carla
The Off Season by Murdock, Catherine Gilbert
A Painted House by Grisham, John
Hit by a Farm: How I learned to stop worrying and love the barn by Friend, Catherine
Homesteading: A backyard guide to growing your own food, canning, keeping chickens, generating your own energy, crafting, herbal medicine, and more by Gehring, Abigail R.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Kingsolver, Barbara
The Botany of Desire: A plant's eye view of the world by Pollan, Michael
Plenty: One man, one woman, and a raucous year of eating locally by Smith, Alisa
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A natural history of four meals by Pollan, Michael
Fast Food Nation: The dark side of the all-American meal by Schlosser, Eric
The World Without Us by Weisman, Alan