Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Creating Simpler Times

The sweatshirt is 16 or 17 years old.

I bought it in Vermont for $50 – back when $50 was a lot to spend on something, especially for myself. I pick it up and look at it every time I clean or sort out my closet and clothing – every time I have moved for the past 17 years.

And I have kept it – but I need to donate it now.

Why? Because I do not wear it - it doesn’t look good on me or flatter me in any way.

I keep it because of what it reminds me of  – as if I need a sweatshirt to remind me that I am married, or that we went to Vermont, all the fun trips we have had together over the past 17 years, or the amazing life we are having right now!

Ironically, it also reminds me of simpler times…

It is not the only thing that I have had for that long, (or longer) and I am finally letting go. I love the little picture embroidered on the front. I actually like it more than I like the sweatshirt, so I am going to take a picture of it and put it in the digital album I am making and let the sweatshirt go.

My first run through - I pared down my clothing by getting rid of what I never wanted, or what was worn out.  (Translate: Things that were easy) This next level of paring down is much more difficult. I have a house full of things that remind me of events or people – but I have the memories and, in most cases, the people are still right here in front of me.  

The bottom line is that I spend more time keeping things “organized” or finding things than I do with the actual people these items/memories are attached to…

I absolutely see that less things around me, will clear my mind and create the space I need - to do what I really want to do. If each of these things has such a pull on me, I am being pulled emotionally in so many different directions that it is exhausting and I don’t have the energy to give to the people I love and really want to spend time with.

When I made the first decision to simplify my wardrobe, I was not sure what to do, so I picked a number  - 7 of each of type of clothing because I thought it would be a reasonable place to start – but the reality is that I cannot wear all of the clothes I have kept, so I am fine letting more go.

My guidelines:  Does it fit me now? Do I like the way I feel and look in it?

Some of the thoughts that are associated with letting clothing go: 
What if I need it in the future?
What would ____ say if I give away their gift?
What will I wear when I lose weight?
I spent money on that and never wore it…

What I would like from this process:
Less clutter.
Easier morning routine.
Nothing in storage in the basement.
To look and feel good in a simpler wardrobe.
To help someone else by donating.

But mostly, as I have realized while writing this today, I have been craving what that sweatshirt really represented…simpler times. We lived on much less money, didn’t spend unless it was for meeting a basic need of food, clothing and shelter.  There was still plenty left for family, friends, doing fun things together, vacations, etc. There was more time. 

I love my family, home and garden and can’t help but wonder if what I work for every day is just the excess that is mostly overwhelming me? If that is true, how can the money be spent in a better way?

The bigger question I have to ask myself: Do I really need to make the money at all?

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. 
Most people exist, that is all."
~Oscar Wilde

Monday, August 27, 2012

How do you eat? A driving lesson...

We don't have a car.
I have never had my license.
I have no desire to drive.
Rob has his license.
Rob has never lost his license.
There is no secret story behind this decision.
Rob can drive, and does when we need to. (rental)
Mostly we walk.  We don't like driving.

We do like hiking, walking, meeting new people, saving money, etc.

We walk or take the bus to work and because we don't have a car payment, insurance, and gas to pay for we have extra money to pay someone else for their time (and gas).

I know it has been difficult for people to see the reasons, but lately, it seems more and more people understand our choice and they are choosing to sell their cars and opt for public transportation instead.  Undriving is one of these groups.

I have also been reading about Minimalism here: The Minimalists and Becoming Minimalist  and living with less - and I see now that we will never own a car. It's okay. We live within walking distance of our jobs and near bus routes. When we need to get somewhere - we pay someone who already drives (for their job) and support the local economy by hiring them.

"How do you eat?" is my favorite question from someone who found out we didn't have a car. We have our food delivered through Peapod right now. It is quite amazing how much money you can save when you don't get to the store to be marketed to. In the future, I would like to be part of the Massachusetts food co-op and get what can't be grown in our garden from them.

This is all a great adventure and the best thing about it - we can be creative! Today all of this works and tomorrow it may not, but we will find another way if that happens. Why reinvent the wheel when so many people work so hard at providing access to quality, local food? I don't need to make cheese and butcher my own meats - we have so many great farms in this state that we can support for the things we cannot do for ourselves.

Each day is a step forward and a change for the better. However, better (for us), does not include more. In fact, even though I am just at the beginning of this gardening, sustainable, paring down life...the value is so clear...

Without a lot of stuff, without a car, without a huge house...I can sit quite happily in my garden and watch things grow...this is one thing that I know for sure speaks to my soul.

What speaks to your soul?

Mammoth Sunflower

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Corn can grow in the city?

Last Summer I was going down Pleasant St. and saw a yard with 2 or 3 rows of corn growing! I have to say that this was really surprising to me and led to research and planning...because who doesn't love the taste of corn fresh out of the garden?

Our research led to the corn, sunflower, squash and bean bed and it is working! The sunflowers are opening and are huge, the Zucchini, Butternut, and Pumpkin all flowering like crazy and starting to produce fruit, and oh the beans...they are winding up around the stalks of the Sunflowers and Corn and every leaf we turn over has small flowers and beans under it! They are a small red Mexican bean that can be dried or canned. I would like to try canning them, just because I haven't done that yet.

beans growing up the sunflower

Yesterday, we picked the corn and froze a couple of servings and canned the rest. Quite an amazing process to see. This year is an experiment to see what we can grow - and next year I will definitely include corn in the plan for the garden. Changing a couple of things would work better. The Sunflowers are ridiculously large and should be in the back row of the bed, with the Corn in the front so it is not shaded by them. The squash and beans are working perfectly so no change is needed for them.

Where it all began...

Today =)

Corn! Each plant grew about 2 ears of corn, some of the plants were stunted
by the Sunflowers

Corn! We were able to can 5 pints of corn and froze a couple of servings.
This is the summer of learning how to do all of this, and the vision of this corn (along with potatoes, beans, carrots, etc.) in a stew in the middle of Winter fills my heart with something that only going through this whole process can produce. Reading has been a great tool for learning the theory of how things work - but actually doing it, even on a small scale like we have, has given us experience that is invaluable.

First Zucchini starting to grow

First Pumpkin

Monday, August 6, 2012

Perfect Yellow

Today is the beginning of "vacation" for Rob & me. Technically it's vacation time for Rob and a little short term disability for me, but I am making the most of this and today was beautiful.

Because I've been home for four weeks with this ankle/foot/air cast thing, I thought it would just be like another week home, but it isn't, and Rob is here!

We spent the day today enjoying the birds and the garden. The weather was perfect - warm with a cool breeze...and it really, truly felt like a vacation day. That timeless, nowhere to go kind of day that seems endless.

Being home hasn't been so terrible. When I open all the windows and pretend I'm on vacation - it's a little easier with this view out the living room windows of the Sunflower, Corn, Beans and Squash bed.

Of course, it does look more impressive from outside - but I love that I can see the plants while I am resting indoors.

And the view of Sunchokes through the front windows is amazing!

Today, we got a little surprise of a pair of American Goldfinches!
I saw some rustling in the flowers and it took awhile to see them because
they are the same color yellow. If you look closely, he is in the center of the picture below.

This was how the day started and I was so happy to see them!

This is how the day ended - blue skies...

Wine & Chocolates.

I'm learning more and more to take each day as it appears and make
the most out of what I have to work with. I could find faults with the day, the situation of 
my health, the noise in the neighborhood, etc. etc.

Instead I chose to focus on the things that I really have control over. 
My attitude, and my choice to enjoy the many, many things I have to be grateful for.

I hear the voices that say: it's just a yellow bird, a few flowers and sunflower seeds are at the store and take a lot less work.

But I say that until you really look at the flowers and hear the song of the Goldfinch, sip that wine and taste the handmade chocolates from Vermont...Until you sit on a couch for four weeks with yourself and realize how much you have to be grateful for, you cannot know, and I cannot explain what this means to me. Every time I put my hands in the soil and connect to the Earth and harvest seeds from plants that grew in this yard...I realize that I would not trade this moment and this experience for anything. 

It is magical and I don't want to miss a minute of it!
And by a happy accident, I don't have to...

You say potato...

A couple of weeks ago, we finished our potato experiment  and I am pleased with the results. I envision Winter: wood cooktop warming the house and opening a jar of potatoes to put in a hearty stew or curry. We have a few adjustments to make for next year, but all in all, this year was a success. It was difficult for me not to squeal every time a potato fell out of the soil...what is this magic that is gardening? I must know more!

Didn't know what to expect, but look! Potatoes!

From the straw only patch - we definitely needed more straw during the growing time

From the patch with soil...

Also potatoes! There were more and larger in the dirt patch.

Celebratory Curry - made with potatoes and peas from the garden :)

17 jars put away for Winter stews and curries and enough saved out
for a delicious red potato salad.

Lessons from this experiment? More straw, or more dirt - we needed both. There were many, many very small potatoes that just didn't have the time/space/nutrients to grow.

Next Spring we will be doing a 4x4 bed that can be raised with each level of growth and filled in with soil to get the most from our small space without a huge amount of work. After all, the whole point is to enjoy the garden and learn from it so each year is better.

I am happy with what I learned and also with the canning we were able to do. Each step we take in our urban garden, is a step toward sustainability. I find myself surprised quite often by how big a 900 sq. ft house and little piece of land feels.

It is quite magical...