Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Gardening...

Is there anything quite as satisfying as eating a meal full of food that you have grown yourself? Right now we have purple peacock bush beans, Kentucky Wonder pole beans, sugar snap peas, nantes carrots, ronde du nice zucchini, black simpson lettuce, zebra stripe and red roma tomatoes, nasturtiums, red bell peppers and a smattering of spinach rounding out the garden. I plan to get a few more starters in the next week or so to add to our future harvests.

These home-grown crops beautifully balance the CSA farm share that we get from Live Earth Farm every week. Most weeks we have so much food that an unfortunate portion ends up in the compost bin as an investment in super-rich amendments for future plantings... (or at least that's how I try to justify it...) I am working hard to research best storage techniques, new recipes that utilize our varied (and sometimes unheard of) weekly cornucopia of veggies and fruits. Apricots freeze surprisingly well, halved and pitted, and are DELISH in smoothies! Carrots do not appreciate being stored with their greens still on... (picky, picky!) Beets stain EVERYTHING. Purslane is fantastic in salads (ever eaten purslane? Even Matt has eaten purslane! Get on the bandwagon!) Strawberries are AMAZING in green salads! Fresh apricots? Not so much... Caterpillars are best when not eaten (I know, shocking, eh?) and slugs give me the heebee-geebees when lurking in radicchio (again, shocking, eh?)

There is something so grounding - so fulfilling - about knowing where my food comes from. Seeing it go from seed to seedling to shoot to vine or bush or even tree... amazing. Matt doesn't have much experience with gardening - to see his face when inspecting the growth progress of our Autumn Harvest sunflowers is wondrous in and of itself. He's like a curious child, amazed that the now-six-foot-tall flower stem started only a few months ago as a tiny seed smaller than his pinky fingernail. I find his curiosity contagious, and catch myself running late for work because I decided to set my bag down and stare at newly opened Black Magic bachelor buttons (a-m-a-z-i-n-g.) Our cat spends 90% of her day perched in her basket-bed, overlooking the richly varied palate of colors and, particularly, the happy birds that are flocking to our birdbath and multiple feeders. I find myself plopping down beside her every lunch, watching nature be "as natural" as is possible in a controlled in-town environment.

But in all this beauty, there is a longing that is stirred in me. A desire to run away from the paved streets and city lights - to the quiet and beauty of woods, fields, oceanscapes, bluffs, mountains, meadows, creeks... To take the moments of peace that we find while two days in to the back country on a pack and hold it close forever.

Does this make me anti-social? Weird? A tree-hugging-hippy? Anti-American? What if we re-thought the American dream... Mine certainly isn't the biggest house on the block with the newest cars and track lighting. I think that more and more people are awaking to realize that this suburban dream is a myth, one that we need to leave behind in our search for sustainability in our community and in ourselves. So where do we go from here? I'm still looking...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Yes, actually, we do have too much.

Oh how I love my red toaster oven.

I am RIDICULOUSLY lucky. I mean DAMN lucky. I have food, clothing, shelter, personal transportation (aka Angelina, my bought-new-VW-Jetta), a pet, a washer/dryer, a kitchen-aid and Cuisinart, a Bose, laptop, furniture out the yin-yang, a memory foam bed, a warm jacket for every day of the week, comfort/orthopedic flip flops for every day of the week... The list goes on and on into minutia, making my head hurt and my eyes cross. While we am by no means the richest couple on the block, we're doing just fine and quite comfortable, thankyouverymuch.

The Salwen family of Atlanta, GA, recently sold their ginormous house and donated fully half to an international aid organization in Ghana. Read their story here. They downsized to a house half the size of their original palatial historical home (granted, still a HUGE 3,000 sq ft...) and restructured their lifestyle and belongings to fit with this new dwelling.


In addition to the wonderful things I list above, I also have a closet bursting with clothes that I don't wear (but hold on to, thinking that someday I just might wake up and think "dang it, today I will ACTUALLY wear that skirt that I bought six years ago while they were in style. How retro of me!"), crates of shoes that I don't wear, a dozen handbags that go unused all but one or two days of the year (if ever), a garage of STUFF, an antique 7' x 9' barn door, shelves of books that are never read, stacks of canvases that I never find time to paint, a huge tub of crafting supplies that represents half of my 2005 paychecks and .0005% of my current attention span, art to fill a house four times the size of our cottage, luxury cooking tools that have not been used yet (but boy will I be quite the gourmet once I crack that box open...)

The list goes on.

What do we need? REALLY need? How many pairs of shoes? Pairs of jeans? Pieces of jewelry? Expensive and time-sucking hobby supplies? Collections of china patterns or thimbles or MAC eyeshadow?

Our church community did a series on "Frugalgroovin'" - ways to be better stewards of our finances. Excess stuff = excess money spent = excess resources wasted = what the hey?!?

I'm still processing all of this. Too much. We have too much. And yet how is it that we never feel fulfilled, reflecting on society as a whole? My husband and I are meeting with a financial advisor to figure out how to get out of debt, save money for a house and eventually (ha!) be completely debt-free.

How did we get into debt in the first place? See above.