I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to write about what I’m learning, but I keep coming to the conclusion that what I’m learning shouldn’t be written about (by me), because it’s someone else’s material already. I want to write about my canning experiences, but I would need to focus on the successes, how that feels, rather than the process, which is all Ashley’s. Same with her pie crust, which is heavenly and turned me off to ever buying frozen again. Cooking a chicken and using the whole thing instead of letting it go to waste…that’s Shannon and Matron of Husbandry (and yes, I know that ain’t exactly brain surgery, not wasting food, but when you’re lucky enough to move from the city to the country, your whole outlook changes). I’m also contemplating making muslin bags for the awesome bread I’ve been making by hand…the bag making is such a simple idea, and yet it seems the type of project that’s likely in one of Amanda’s books.
But writing about how it feels, the accomplishments, maybe that’s doable. Discovering self-confidence at almost-mid-life that I didn’t know existed. Because we don’t even have our little patch of land yet and already I feel I’ve grown so much since moving up here.
I experience constant epiphanies. Every time I nail a recipe. Every time I screw up a recipe and take note. I’m not afraid to experiment, and boy, there have been some disasters. But on the other side of the coin are the successes, the ones that are so tasty I hear Hubs sigh with each bite.
It feels hilariously anti-feminist to get such joy out of baking something delicious or being able to stock the freezer with good, local food. And that’s just wrong on 14 different levels. City people look at the Little House books (or the Amish, or any homesteader) and think, “oh, how quaint!” And here I go again, cribbing material, because I’m pretty sure it was in Shannon’s archives that I read a really good railing on how divorced the public has become from their food. So there’s her link, and I’ll quit that tangent while I’m ahead.
I keep coming back and editing this post…and learning more about myself. Was thinking the muslin bag concept might be in Jenna’s Made from Scratch…so I pull it out and leaf through it, but she mainly talks about making clothes. But it reminds me that she and I share similar ways of learning: read about it a little, try it, fall on your face, get up again, read some more. And I already have the idea in mind of what type of bread bag I want to make, how it’s going to have a fold-over top so we don’t have to tie it, and the only thing stopping me is that there’s nobody around to tell me how to do it. So screw it! I’ll draw a template and give it a whirl. This girl’s going muslin shopping tomorrow!
Homesteading is a more awesome term than housekeeping. At times, it feels like all I’m doing are things that fall under “housekeeping,” AKA the stuff June Cleaver made look so easy. But June Cleaver made it look so easy because a) it’s fiction, and b) America was fresh out of war and smack in an industrial revolution that was creating the conveniences that most can’t live without now…whether it’s the multitudes of food-like substances available in the grocery stores or the modern appliances we utilize to make said food.
My little sister looked at me like I had three heads when I showed her the coffee mill we’d found at the antique store, plain couldn’t see the point in spending the money on something that grinds coffee by hand. Cut her some slack; she’s a city kid. I gave her the simple explanation: that if the power goes out, at least I’ll still have coffee. But that’s not it at all really. I enjoy the simplicity of grinding my own beans without electricity, and every little bit helps in keeping that bill low. Ironically, I recently purchased a Keurig, which while an abomination in wastefulness to some (including me, though I assuaged my guilt a bit by buying the filter cup that allows you to use your own coffee and not that prepackaged nonsense). But it’s suiting my needs perfectly now that I’m down to 1 cup a day. And that in turn, only assists the coffee mill argument, because it’s small and really doesn’t grind that much at a time. But yes, I also have a percolator, and I would take delight in cranking up the charcoal cooker for coffee if we lost power for more than a day. Gotta be better than braving the snowy mountain roads here for my daily Starbucks. Well, talk to me again when we finally have a vehicle with 4-wheel drive…wink, wink.
My other recent delight was the butter churn, gifted to me by the MIL. It’s a big sucker, such a find. My shift to a lowfat diet means I’m using a lot less butter than I was, and as I look at how long it’s taking us to burn through the first batch, I’m realizing that it will be worth the money to make my own butter. I was afraid that you’d have to frickin’ own a dairy cow to justify the sucker, and in some cases, that’s certainly true. But I like cooking with butter still (until we’re more in a position to render animal fat to lard), and that clear, delicious flavor of the handmade stuff is something I look forward to continuing on my homestead.
What I’ve come to appreciate, one of the unabashed delights I’m finding, is the authors who tell it like it is, blood, guts, manure, and all. And that’s going to be my saving grace, having those resources at my disposal as I dive further into this dream. It’s good it’s going to take us so long to reach the next stage, because in the meantime, I’m arming myself with knowledge. Sure, I’ll always be learning as I go, but if I can keep the panic at a minimum and the financial wolf at the door, all the better.
Image from here.