The image of myself that I see when I look inward is of a farmer. In my head, I am nurturing and wise and self-sufficient. I speak softly, but profoundly and I know how to "get things done." Reconciling this image to what I actually see in the mirror, without fail, makes me feel defeated. I'm not a farmer. I'm far from self-sufficient and the words that come out of my mouth tend to be more on the side of "ridiculous" than on that of profundity. I have a long and nasty history of setting up artificial barriers for myself on the road to accomplishing my goals that are hard to distinguish from the actual roadblocks that I do have to cross. I can't have chickens because my neighborhood association forbids it. I can't put up more produce for the winter because I don't have the time. I can't feel relaxed because I'm drowning in unnecessary stuff. I need another week...month...year...to get to where I want to go.
It's true that I don't have as much physical land space as I would like. But, I do have half an acre and I am not using it to its full potential. I am trying to balance working an 8 to 5 with homesteading, but I also waste time that could be better allotted. I have made progress, but if I keep putting off "until the time is right" what I desperately want for today, I am a sad creature indeed.
So, here's the deal. A Life Sustained is my place where I am free to fail. Where I am free to try out what works and where I have the responsibility to make progress today, instead of waiting until our house is paid off and we can afford some more land. A Life Sustained is my half acre, my 8-5, my failed herb garden, my clayey soil, my ever-expanding personal library, my cats and my dog, my home, my husband, and me. Writing here represents an effort to dedicate time to planning, reflecting, and then assessing the outcomes of actually doing. My goals are many and are as fluid as my interests. So, then, let's begin.
A quick reflection on the past year:
This has been an incredible year of firsts. My first attempts at gardening, canning, marriage, home ownership, electrical repair, and cooking. Among other things. It was a year ago in August that I became aware of the cloud of toxins that hangs over everything that I eat/wear/buy/do and reducing my body burden became a priority. It will be a year ago in November that I made my first weekly menu and realized how poorly we were actually eating, and had been eating for years. It will be a year ago in in February that I decided the tide of trash washing in and out of my life had to be stopped. It will be a year ago next May that I gave up shampoo and conditioner (and a year ago from last week that I gave up the baking soda and vinegar that replaced them). And it will be a year ago from right now that I started writing this and set on a path that actually leads somewhere. As an undergraduate I studied acting, the most important tenent of which is to be in the moment. Somewhere along the line I've forgotten this. A Life Sustained is living in the moment.
What I'm working on right now:
Apples. Lots and lots of apples. I've felt really overwhelmed this past month with produce that I didn't really know what to do with. Until about a month ago, I had never canned anything or, really, done any sort of food preservation. My brother showed up at my house last week with seven grocery sacks filled with apples that he had picked for me at the farm of his girlfriend's parents. I know how to eat an apple. I even know how to bake an apple pie. But, how to keep enjoying these apples through the winter and figuring out what to do with them in order to make that happen, has taken some Google searches and some time and lots of stirring. The first thing I did was bake a pie and then my husband baked an apple crumble shortly thereafter. But, I realized that I needed to step it up.
I made apple butter last night. If you have done this before, you realize this is not really that big of a deal. But, doing so necesitated getting over the mental hurdle that I would fail at it. See, the thing about me is that I hate to botch cooking. Of all the things that make me rage, burning things or having meals not come out the way they're supposed to tops the list. I envy those people who can just go with the flow and have a sense of adventure and freedom in the kitchen. I am not one of those people. I'm working on it, but I am far from there. Not getting cooking "right" frustrates me because it makes me feel like a failure. Feeding ourselves should be the most basic of things, so only a complete idiot could mess it up, right? And I hate wasting food. In my mind, all meals should be delicious and perfectly prepared, and doing anything short of that just ticks me off.
So, the good news is that the apple butter was a smashing success. I finally got to use the sieve and wooden pestle that my in-laws gave me for my birthday this past year, I now have adorable little jars of homemade-goodness to give away as gifts, and I have proven that I am indeed capable of turning on a stove and stirring a pot of mashed up apples. I used this recipe. Next up? Applesauce. I'm expecting more of the same (i.e. turning on stove, mashing apples, smashing success).