Feeling Philosophical: Start of a New Cycle

I’ve been going whole-hog on local foods, gardening, and blogging for about four years now. And you know what? I’ve “done that” now.  It is hard to think of things to write about, hard to think of experiments that seem pertinent and fun.  Even reading other blogs about local food are getting pretty dull.  “My first all-local meal” just isn’t newsworthy anymore.

We’ve settled into a routine here, and I like it.  I grow probably 75% of our produce: all our potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, greens, green beans, cucumbers, and snow peas.  I can grow, trade for, or buy our tomatoes and salsa fixings within a mile of the house. Most of the rest of the produce we buy – cabbage, beets, parsnips, some carrots, fruit – come from nearby farms. I don’t feel much more of a need to experiment with growing methods, varieties, or weird vegetables, nor is “how many calories can I grow in 750 square feet” still an interesting question.

The meat we eat at home is 95% local and pastured – the other 5% is canned salmon and fancy salamis that we buy as a treat.  Our dairy is local, non-homogenized, and packed in glass, and my sweetie uses it to make his yogurt.  Local fruit becomes jam to sweeten that.  Even our Friday night pizza is pretty close-to-home deal: home-ground local wheat, topped with regional sauce and cheese.  And occasionally olives, from wherever olives come from.

The only things we buy in any quantity that are not “from here” are rice, carrots, avocadoes, raisins, chocolate, bread (I’ve tried and it’s just not right for sandwiches), olive oil, and our weekly (essentially vegetarian) sushi date. We love what we eat, and we feel good about where and how it is produced.  We are quite healthy (especially when I pay closer attention to my food sensitivities) and are not setting ourselves up for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and the like.

Our home energy usage has plateaued at around 40% of US average, if you don’t count that required work trip to Europe last year. I’ve tried pretty much every technique I can think of and am willing to explore. (Sorry; that does not currently include moving closer to work, keeping the house at 50 degrees, or never seeing my far-flung family again.)

So I think I’ve said pretty much everything I have to say about these topics, at least for the time being.

As I look around and ask myself “What’s next?” here’s what I find myself thinking about:

My life has been very gogogo for several years now.  For some people, this is what makes life worth living.  But, while I love solving problems and exploring various ways of sustaining a home, that constant effort is not, itself, sustainable for me.  However, I feel like all the experimentation of the last few years has given me a solid base for a sustainable life.  Now that I’ve got water, food, shelter, and heat figured out, it’s time to address the rest of the things that make up Life.

I want to hear the heartbeat of the land again.  This used to be part of my daily existence, when we lived in a forest outside Kalamazoo, and though I’ve acclimated to the bright sunshine of life on a busy country road, I miss the forest terribly.  Not just the trees and shade: the rhythms.  Every place has its own character – the amplitude and frequency of the sine wave of its soul.  Cities tend to have faster, sharper energy – that’s what can make them exciting places to live.  The country moves slower, but can still have pretty sharp edges from the roads and tractors and chemicals and depleted soils.  Forests tend to have longer, slower waveforms to their personalities – if you tune in, it makes it very easy to slow down, take a deep breath, and smell the maple leaves.

I often think our current house is too noisy – road noise, the fan on the fireplace, the furnace, the radon fan.  But what I want is not silence; it’s tranquility.  Have you ever noticed that tranquility can invade your home through an open window the same way a noise can?  Have you ever been in a space that not only allows you to relax, but actually makes it difficult to remember what you were so stressed out about on the other side of the door? I remember all that, and I want to find it again.  I want to re-learn my own soul and re-find my center. And I think when I do that, I’ll know what I want to do next.

I think a new pattern is emerging for me, and like timing your entrance into the swing of a jump rope, it will take time to see what the pattern is before I can join it.  I want to learn about watersheds.  I want to garden with trees, which will first require I watch patterns of sunlight and water and wind for an entire year.  I want to explore community in a different way than just teaching isolated classes.  I want to think about spirit and life and making a living and being with people I love.  Mostly, though, I want to wait and see what the new pattern is.

I don’t think I’ll find it in spreadsheets, or how-to manuals, or excessive exertion of will.  I think I’ll find it while daydreaming in a sunbeam, while canning tomatoes, while harvesting peas, and while tapping other ways of knowing outside of using my “thinky brain.” The heart and the gut can know, as well.  And the people, places, and spirits you love can provide insights, if you listen to them.

I don’t think that that sort of thing lends itself well to sharing on a blog.  Certainly not this blog!  So I hope you’ll forgive me if I remain a bit mum about all that.  I may still post here from time to time – if we get the new house, I think restoring the passive solar rock pile could be a great topic for this blog – but I think I’m more or less ready to mothball Eat Close To Home.

But hey…anything could happen. 🙂  Maybe I’ll see you around.

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12 Comments

  1. Ellen said,

    January 5, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Thank you for all you have written and shared. Your blog will be missed. But it is noble of you to listen to what you need.

    • Emily said,

      January 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      Noble? Sometimes it feels selfish, honestly. But it feels right, right now.

  2. January 6, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Well expressed! I was thinking of you this morning in relation to a reading I was doing. Wanted your perspective. Like you, I find blogging difficult because I get very tired of sitting at screens — it’s isolating. Spirit has been quite emphatic, too, about me not teaching too much (this reading included the oft repeated reversed “Instruction” card). I agree with your drift to seek peace & wisdom in nature. For me, any garden or even a shady street can anchor me, but I also feel the pull of the big forest. There’s a project that’s upcoming that might interest you involving wild rice…

    • Emily said,

      January 6, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      I’ve been wondering if wild rice could be grown in the wetland below the house…

      • sqwook said,

        January 6, 2012 at 9:21 pm

        wild rice wild rice wild rice! omg! so exciting! I mean, things to figure out (would it get out of hand in the wetland?) but that would be totally cool.

  3. sqwook said,

    January 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Hi! I don’t think those things are unsuitable for blogs – I think they’re perfect for blogs, actually. Though maybe not this blog under this name.

    I love all this.

    And I love you.

    From one of my visits to the river last summer:

    To remember:
    The way the creek ceaselessly flows.
    The way the moist air sinks through the canyon.
    The way the sunlight reflected in ripples dapples the overhanging grasses.
    The way families have carved out a day together.
    The way the shade shifts as the sun moves overhead.
    The way the stones under water bend and shimmer.
    The way each rock can make a waterfall.
    The way the butterfly glides between sun and shade.
    The way the conversations of others flow around me in a language I don’t speak.
    The way the small bird, velvet black and sparkling white, flits through the air.
    This is the world we live in.
    Jumbled, chaotic, messy.
    Changing, in movement, flowing.
    Fragile, enduring.

  4. riabaeck2 said,

    January 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Yeah, keep blogging about the new learnings and experiences. Photo’s can help! Poetry is great too.

  5. Cynthia said,

    January 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    I’d like to read about your journey – hope you will keep writing.

  6. varmentrout said,

    January 12, 2012 at 8:31 am

    You’ll be missed as a source both of inspiration and practical thinking.

    Suggestion for another challenge: try baking your sandwich bread too. I posted a multigrain bread on the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers site a few years ago. Your flat rye bread is delicious with soups but you need a loaf for sandwiches. It can be done.

    What about Preserving Traditions?

    • Emily said,

      January 12, 2012 at 10:53 am

      Thanks for the recipe, but after a dozen attempts at different recipes, and especially given everything else I do, I am counting myself absolved of making my own sandwich bread!

      • varmentrout said,

        January 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm

        You are totally absolved of anything that doesn’t work. Your credits are overwhelming already.


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