Monday, January 05, 2009

Reflections

It's interesting to see the difference a year can make.

Last year just before Christmas, Sweetheart and I had a long discussion about where we wanted to be and how we wanted to live our lives. The overarching theme was one of simplifying and living more naturally. That has led us on quite a journey. What I've discovered is that though living a more simple life isn't any easier, it is so much better.

We slowed down, unplugged from life. Of course, we are still on our computers--probably too much! It's what Sweetheart does and it's sure helped me a lot. In fact, many of our changes have become reality because of what we've found online. I've found a whole community of ladies who are trying, or already doing many of the things I've been wanting to begin.

This last year had us purchasing a grain mill, the Nutrimill. Love it! We've found a local source for wheat in bulk (50lb bags!) all either grown organic, or even better methods. My mill is used constantly as I now bake all our bread; sandwich bread, french bread, rolls, pitas, etc. I use our flour for our waffles, tortillas, muffins, crackers and more. Basically, if it can be baked, I'm baking it from scratch.

We expanded our garden this last year, with more plans in the works for this year. Between our garden, Sunflower Farmers Markets Grocery Store and Berry Patch Farms, we've switched over to almost all organic produce, most of which is also local. (Anybody want some squash? We're still eating our way through those!)

I've learned the value of eating in season. Weird, but true. I'd never thought about it before, but I can know really see a difference in both taste and cost. That led to canning. We had talked about my learning to can and scoured Craig's List for cheap jars through the winter and spring. When summer arrived, I was ready. I bought the most basic supplies and from there canned away!

Canning produce in season meant that I was able to purchase products at the peak of flavor, and usually on sale. So I canned: 75 lbs. of peaches, 80 lbs. of apples, a bushel of tomatoes, a basket of wild plums, green beans, strawberries, pickles, and a bunch of fruit jams and butters. Today we've enjoyed peaches with our breakfast tasting like summer sunshine, and tangy pickles with our lunch. Tonight we'll try the first batch of sauerkraut I made in November from a cabbage I bought at the farm.

Has this been a crazy amount of work? Yup. But we think it's worth it. The laptop is in the kitchen where we usually are. (I must confess that I'm sick of washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen. It's the only downside.)


We also switch over almost entirely to natural cleaners. Vinegar and baking soda are used to clean almost everything. They do as good of a job, if not better, than all the boughten chemicals I used for so long. Vinegar is used on counters, floors, refrigerators, bathrooms, windows, and more. It cuts grease and has antibacterial qualities as well.

I've even switched to washing my hair with baking soda and rinsing it with vinegar instead of shampoo and conditioner. I'm using oils for cleansing my skin and moisturizing it. Toothpaste is easily made with just baking soda, sea salt, and peppermint oil.

I now make our laundry detergent from just three ingredients and water. Vinegar also is used as a rinse for fabric softening, and for keeping those cloth diapers we're using nice and clean.

(I took a class from a gal who sews cloth diapers before the holidays. Since we'll be trying Toilet Training Take Two with Pumpkin here soon, I just went with cloth diapers in Dumpling's size.) I also use the disposables with him as needed. For example, with all the family here for Christmas, and having to have help after I fell, I've not wanted to make anyone else deal with them. Now that things are back to normal and I'm back on my feet, he's back in cloth.

What else? Sweetheart's ordering the stuff we'll need for soap making and cheese making this week. I'll keep you posted!

Sewing is another area. I'm learning how to use the wonderful machine I have and to embroider. This led to making almost all our Christmas gifts this year. Sweetheart's also been busy with his woodworking.

It's funny. The changes we've made have in turn made us a lot more frugal. Buying ingredients in bulk and cooking almost everything from scratch takes more time, but saves a lot of money and allows us to buy more organic foods without increasing the food budget.

The changes have made us more "green". This wasn't a reason for the change, but has been a nice byproduct. Recycling has just begun in our area this week and between this and our compost pile, we're just not making as much trash. Eating home-cooked meals and not packaged foods really does make for less trash.

While I'm not becoming a hippie anytime soon, I like my lipstick and curling my hair too much, we've really changed a lot. I've read a lot of blogs this year, learning so much from what others are doing. And let's put it this way--most of the ladies in my Bunco group, my major source of friendship and social activity, think I'm a bit odd. (Of course, that no television thing adds to that one!) It's been so good for me to find other friends on-line who are on the same journey.

Living like this has also help me to be more disciplined and be a better manager of my home. Really, other than more dishes to wash, I can't think of any downsides!

Why am I telling you all of this? I don't know. Part of it is reflecting on the year that has passed and planning for the new year. There is another reason though, too. For a long time, I didn't do these things because I didn't know anyone else who did them. Grinding your own wheat into flour isn't a common thing in my neighborhood. I'd only known one person ever who did that, and I thought her a bit odd. Oh, the irony of it! I hope that writing this may inspire you to try something new yourself and to know you're not alone for wanting a different life.


Now, through this wonderful land of the Internet, I've "met" people who do these things as a natural part of their lives. It's made a huge difference. Now I read something and try it! I search for new/old ways of doing things. I think about what I buy. I'm trying to make things myself and not just purchase everything that's offered. I've been amazed to learn all of the things you can do yourself. At times I wonder why it took so long for me to do things for myself.

Eating more seasonally has led to living more in tune with the seasons. Ecclesiastes is right about that for every thing there is a season. I'm paying attention more to the world around me and learning what the seasons are for. God put these seasons and rhythms into being. There are times when we, and the earth, are to be more productive and times when we are to rest. Going full speed through life, never slowing down, isn't how He created us to live. Life is too short to waste always being in a hurry.

I do a lot less things, but what I do I find that I do better. I want to slow down, to listen to the boys play, to have a picnic on a sunny December day, to feel the soap bubbles on my hands as I look out the window at the sunset painted across the sky. I want to hear the birds, feel the breeze, dig in the dirt. I want to give a gift that means something, that's taken a part of me, my time, to create. I want to feel the warmth of the flour after it's been milled, to watch the dough rise. I want to taste the butter melt onto that first slice of bread still steaming from the oven. I want to color a picture with Pumpkin, tickle Dumpling, kiss my Sweetheart.

Does any of this resonate with your heart?
Is anyone still reading? :)

Not everything has been a success, but I've had more successes than I would have if I hadn't tried! Well, Dumpling's awake so I need to go, plus a loaf of bread is ready to take out of the oven. I'll pull out the bread and then go get my little cutie pie. Then, I'll tackle the dishes...

12 comments:

Holly said...

I read it! All the way through...I LOVE your heart for the journey and the way you are looking for ways to save and improve. Wonderful, Kimberly! This may be the New Year's letter you thought about sending out!

Love to you,
Holly

window into our life of love, joy, and adventures! said...

Hubby and I have done the same thing as far as reflecting over the past year and deciding what changes we want to make. We yearn for the simple yet hard working way of life. we do make our own cleaners, laundry soap and our meals are made from scratch. I have always loved to sew so that has come back as a favorite past-time! I am learning to knit dish towels, so I might make a few extra for gifts for next year. we have been working on a larger garden and I am reading and learning about canning. Guess I should check into craigslist! thank you for your words of inspiration! It is so very hard to find like minded folks here!

Shan said...

Dearest,

I enjoyed this post so very much. I too, have been considered a bit "odd" for the things that I make, cook, can, sew, etc. from scratch. There are those who think it is odd to be so frugal and such a homebody. But truthfully, I am happiest when I am seeking this simple life...this gentle art of homekeeping.

I was so blessed to find a true friend about 18 years ago (long before the internet), when our children entered Kindergarten together. She sews, weaves, grinds her on wheat, bakes bread, cans and is the sweetest Titus 2 woman you could ever meet. My Mother passed away when I was young and my dear friend, who is older, became like the older sister I always prayed for! Her family teases her and calls her "Ma Ingalls"! LOL

So Dearest, here is to all the Ma Ingalls out there...wherever they are! Aren't we blessed to be able to find such kindred spirits from the comfort of our own homes through the internet?

Hats off to you for having the courage to try new things!

Yours kindredly,
Shan
Honey Hill Farm

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

Oh, yes, it sounds a lot like my home. Except I didn't do any canning last year.

When my daughter was no longer living near me, she found the one "appliance" she HAD to buy was a grain mill. She had grown up with using freshly ground wheat.

People around her in her new home thought she was quite strange but then they started asking her for some of her flour. :)

Each year we try to simplify even more. This year we are hoping to put in a raised bed garden, even if we only put in a couple of them at first.

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

All I can say is ....WOW!

Put me down for all those goals for this year : )

Tilly said...

Hello Kimberly, I found you via Rhonda's blog (Down to Earth) and thought I'd pop in.
I've enjoyed reading through your blog. Our lives have some parallels - my son also had his first haircut in November, I also gave up on the potty training, and sadly I too lost a baby in July.
We are at the very beginning of trying to simplify our lives so I found your post very interesting. Already my inlaws find us a bit odd though!

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

Yes, Kimberly, it ALL resonates with me! In fact, I'd love for you to share your recipe for laundry detergent and toothpaste. (Not sure I can do the baking soda/vinegar shampoo though!)

I do most of my cooking from scratch, and I long for a mill and Bosch. One of these days...one of these days.

I'm so impressed with all you've done to simplify. You inspire me!

Susan said...

Sigh. Yes, it all resonates with me. Made me tear up as well. It is so NOT my life.

Carrie at dumptrucksandteacups said...

This is a wonderful post and yes this all resonates with me. We are on a similar journey but several steps behind you. :) I'd love to have you share some of your recipes and tips.

Thanks for both the challenge and encouragement to press on!

Blessings, my friend.
Carrie

Farmgirl said...

Hello Kimberly!! Sorry for not posting in awhile, been quite busy with my Christmas tea and then my own Christmas and having fun making things for my family.....I love your post....isn't it a blessing to slow down and do things naturally? Yes, it is more work and you are always in the kitchen or cleaning it up....but you are home and that is a JOY in itself. The one thing I still need to work on myself is the "slowing" down...the rhythm of the seasons....we should be resting right now, shouldn't we?? Oh me, well, I have another tea coming up, so not much rest here. Although, it is smaller and in my home, so preparations are actually much more simple and enjoyable....Bless you and your family in this New Year!! Janice

tonia said...

oh yes...it resonates!!

and the irony...oh the irony. how many sneers and eye rolls did i have for the "hippies" i knew...shame on me! i deserve all the raised eyebrows and eye rolls i get now. every one of them.

i just didn't know how beautiful this simple, clean, frugal life was and what i was missing out on.

~ i am so impressed with all your baking/canning/preserving. i am slowly including more of these things in each year...it's a pretty steep learning curve!

you inspire!

hadashi said...

wanted to comment when i originally read this last week... but this is one of the best New Year's posts i've read! very honest & inspiring, and super encouraging that you've had such success in really making the effort to achieve more simplicity & regain an appreciation for the natural world. especially since i think the bulk of the work was yours in the kitchen! while i won't be grinding wheat, i think we will either start container gardening, composting, or both this year. and this gives me a good shot of energy to make it happen sometime in '09. yay for you!

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