Harriet Fasenfest started this discussion over at the intro post, but I think it deserves it's very own thread.
Here's what she said,
"Oh but that I could call myself a punk housewife. I'm more your crusty ex-pat N.Y. still-talking-about-woodstock householder with grown kids and a husband who can't figure out what I do all this stuff (interminally slow learner). But I'm digging what's happening and I'd love to know more about how all this really works for you.
You know, I know, that you know, that there was the first book.** Now I'm thinking about the workbook cause I know going backwards and taking on all the skills and trades to make this work is hard when added to all our other commitments and lures of modernity.
So past the vision and the narratives are the real tools of home-ec. The budgets, the timelines, the storage, the meal planning. In essence, the nuts and bolts of a functioning home economy. So where do you get stuck. I'm wondering. I got some ideas."
(Harriet's first book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, is a great read. I can't actually believe she joined my group. Lil ole Apron Stringz. How thrilling!)
Whew! The whole fam's been sick the past couple of days, so it takes a bit to get caught up in the discussion.
Harriet, anyone working on this kind of life cannot be faint of heart... so if you speak a little roughly, my guess is most people can deal. And if not, that says more about them than you. I was not offended by anything you said, and can see how folks "brain-mooching" off you could get tiresome after awhile. If nothing else, it serves as a cautionary tale for me that, should I be so lucky to find mentors over the years, I must make sure I can pull my weight and really commit to whatever they are teaching me. I guess this falls into the karma argument, but it makes sense to me...
I loved, loved, LOVED N. California... one of the few places in the world where my soul was quiet and content, instead of wiggly and unsettled, as it can sometimes be in other places. Lucky...
One of the major things I struggle with is curbing my anger at NOT knowing how to do a lot of things. I'm not even talking about the harder-core homesteading skills, but basic householding--like cooking, or knowing that sunlight will destroy most organic stains in clothing. I know that, logically, that's not productive, but as I pick up new skills, and see how doable they truly are, I always seem to fight a moment of, "Why the hell didn't I learn this about 20 years ago??" I now understand that that is the power of a system that deliberately moved its society from a productive populace to a consumer populace, but it's still infuriating.
So, I appreciate the advice that many of you have suggested about going easy on myself and taking it slow. I think that's an important lesson for newbies like myself to learn... and I'm certainly still working on it, myself.
Pat - You crack me up... the whiskey/rum maker never got killed! So... beer is difficult? And here I thought I was starting with the easiest thing... would you recommend starting with wine? See... I've heard of little co-op groups that make wine together... and it sounds so complicated. We have a local homebrew club too... it's a little shop in Santa Cruz... they sell kits (which I bought for my hubby several years ago... but he never used them... so now I figure they're all mine!). But, I do need to replace the perishables... hopefully they can help me find a good starting space.
Gypsy Mama - I hear you on the heart connection with N. California. My heart sings here too. I do have to remind myself sometimes though... not to forget that I'm lucky... to remember to see and appreciate the landscape. It's actually easy to get busy and forget to look around. As for the anger part... I think that large corporations try to tell us how difficult it is to do ourselves... they take our power away by suggesting that it's "just too much work" to cook and clean and garden... and we believe them if we haven't been taught those skills. Is that what you feel angry about? Or are you angry with yourself for not knowing this before? One is motivating anger (at corporate America), and one just tears you down. Anyway, hope everyone is better at your house...
It is insane how much I'm simply nodding in agreement with the things being said in this discussion.
Gypsy Mama, I get so frustrated and angry too. Sometimes at what I don't know and a lot of times at knowing... but having people tell me I shouldn't or can't use what I DO know.
-You can't have chickens in the back yard. (Despite that the back yard is bordered on a hay field because the developer wants a snazzy subdivision.
-You can't grow a decent garden without chemical fertilizer and bug sprays.
-You can't pack those weird (healthy) lunches for your kid to take to school, they'll get a complex.
-You can't have grassfed steak taste good! I work extra hard to get those cattle grain finished! (Dad used to raise beef)
-You can't raise (fill in the blank) because it is too hard and you will never stick with it.
-You can't have a compost thingie, it will stink.
On and on.. and wow, I sound kinda twisted bitter as I look back at that list. But finally, just this year in fact, I'm figuring out that I don't need permission or approval to do things. I CAN do things. And what I don't know how to do, someone on the internet somewhere does. And yeah, sometimes I get mad at myself because it took 40 years to figure that out. Guess that leaves (hopefully) between 20 and 40 more years to learn and grow all over again.
Jill----I'd start with a wine kit so that you will aquires the skills it takes to go through the process. Then I'd suggest a few 1 gallon experiments from Jack Keller's Website. He has recepes for anything from Grape juice wine to dandelion wine. Then try some beer kits too but make sure you get the ones with actual grain that is steeped in the process (much better beer than the Mr. Beer kits or extract only kits). Then when you get comfortable go on to the "All Grain" process where you can turn our beers like the best of em.
Lisa----Good for you. You're right, you don't need permission for a lot of things and sometimes it's best not to ask permission but rather ask forgiveness if it's needed. If you ask persmission for nearly anything you will get the generic "one size fits all/cover your butt" answer that generally doesn't allow you to do anything. I'm not saying build a barn (spending a lot of money) but the smaller stuff like chickens I'd just use some common sense and ask myself if there is a reasonable chance of success. I feel that unless I'm doing someone harm I have the "illegal" right to attempt to proceed with a project as long as it fits into the realm of good common sense. So don't get too frustrated if you run into some roadblocks along your journey. I'm just saying take a look on the other side of the road-block and make sure there isn't a bridge out before proceeding around the roadblock and then just be careful. Disclaimer....if you get caught you will have to be prepared to pay the piper so don't start a pot farm or commercial cattle yard in a housing addition. The idea is to aquire and use the skills desired to get back to basics & be more earth friendly. You may find the neighbors like your projects and will look the other way. The code enforcement generally won't enforce code unless their has been a complaint. In the mean time look for a more earth friendly place to move to.
You have to make your mind up. Do you want to become a political warrior in the cause (they are needed) or do you want to do the actual worker bee stuff like canning and raising chickens. My point is, if there is a bridge out you can be a political warrior and press for the bridge to be rebuilt or simply do the best you can on your side of the river and try to support the warrior's cause the best you can. Everyone is dfferent and I've been on the warrior side long enough and am allowing others to take my place (the way most aging warriors do). Now I spend my time helping others on my side of the river and covertly mentoring/supporting young warriors to fight the fight.
Don't worry, be happy!
Signed, Mr. Happy Pants (according to Harriet
Pat: Yum. I'll be over around six-ish? LOL. I keep hearing about these solar ovens. If I ever get my back yard up to speed and beds planted the way I want them to be--after I finish my Big Purge--I just might be asking for a hook-up. :)
Harriet: I keep forgetting to mention the DeVries and your comment about them patenting "urban homestead". I'm very sad and disappointed to here that. How can you patent such a term? Sheesh. They weren't the first and won't be the last. Heck there's even a book out called "The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City." So WTH?
In the thick of Harriet's book and am into the butchering part. Ay yi yi! So much to learn. And I was never any good at math. It's getting into the nuts and bolts though. :)
I waited as long as I could Terri, you must have made a wrong turn;-)
Don't worry about the butchering part too much. Heck, thats why they call it butchering. Everybody butchers up the first attempt or two but the parts are still edible regardless of there final shape so "don't worry, be happy"!
While waiting for the pot roast to finish I cut back the growth on the fence row that threatened to block the sunlight in my little garden. Planted a few orka, pepper & bean seeds & prayed over the tomato & pepper seeds already planted but with no apparent growth. So far I got good starts on Corn, Swiss Chard, Grape Tomatos, Yellow Squash, Onions & Cucumbers.
For the record, though I write about the butchering part I am more advocating for knowing a good butcher from what we general have in the stores today - cutters. There is a reason industry has replaced one for the other.
Even though I have taken some three or four classes with a group here in Portland that teaches the craft, only now will I even think of boning out one of the primals I get (beef or pork). But that's me. I know what I know and what I don't. I'm the type of person that would rather intern on a farm for a year before feeling I had the right to take it on. I guess that is in part out of respect for the animal, the craft and my tendency to be a slow learner. I gotta say it does frost me a bit to see everyone playing faux butcher as if its a fad. But I can be cranky that way.
So rather than advocating to be your own butcher, my advise was to understand what challenges the industry, to relearn what a cutting chart means and how, when buying farm share meat, you can maximize the opportunity to get the cuts you never, ever see in the market place anymore. Also to ask for and use everything from the animal as a matter of respect for the life given and frugality.
So yes, butchering is butchering but that does not really suggest a hack job. With all the effort some farmers put towards raising an animal well (and I talk a lot about what that means) I rather work with someone who is an artisan in the craft then get all romper room on the carcass. Still, finding those artisans is difficult. Like I say in the book, don't mistake everyone with a tattoo and a knife belt for an artisan. They are not. But hackers, oh yeah, anyone can hack up an animal not just the one I'm investing in.
I suspect, Pat, that you work with folks who know what they are doing even though you most likely don't shy away from a challenge. I have noticed, in those classes, that guys love to get in there and start sawing away while women tend to watch more and consider what's involved. Even my instructors have noticed a different in styles. In other words, Pat, your a freak'n savage (no offense) and Terri, go slow. This stuff can be as confusing as hell.
Never fear Harriet & Pat, I wasn't intending to become THE butcher. I was just reading that part in your book and trying to digest it so I can be informed when the time comes to find my own butcher. And hopefully, I'll be able to find an actual butcher and not a cutter. I was just having trouble digesting all of it was what I was saying. That's a heck of a lot to learn--but I agree, the more informed you are, the better your decisions you make. (At least that's how it's SUPPOSED to work.) I wouldn't dream of doing the butchering. My husband's grandmother had to cut up the slab of beef in her downstairs cold room on the farm. But even she wouldn't have called herself a butcher. She always said when she needed beef she simply went downstairs and "hacked" off whatever she needed. That woman was my hero for sure. She knew how to do EVERYTHING. How I wish she were here now.
Pat, sorry I missed you at the fence, my husband brought home some homemade brew and we drank and laughed the night away. (Wink.)
Well I'm off to do more purging at MIL's. I'll check-in in a few days. Bye all! Have a great weekend!
Back for a few days, taking a break from The Great Purge. It is beginning to look better and I can see some progress. Phew! I have tomatoes growing in my MIL's garden window at her old house and they are going to town. I added more dirt to them and gave them a big drink. Dug up some carrots I planted in November. They are still about 4-6" tall instead of 12". They're not as sweet as I was expecting either so I'm not sure if that's because of the extreme weather swings we've had over the last four months or if the heat did them in. Who knows? I'll plant more and see how it goes.
Still enjoying Harriet's book! :) Lots of info, lots to absorb. After I finish it I plan to go back to April and start from there. I will have to made some amendments as Harriet is in Oregon and I'm in Southern California--a HUGE climate difference.
Pat, did you mention something about having a book published? I thought I read that in one of the back-posts.