Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
“Thoughtfulness takes practice. Just for today I will be thoughtful in my approach to those around me.”
This past year we have tried to make it a time of spiritual renewal, and my hope for the new year definitely includes more opportunities for growing spiritual connections and restful fun.
The beginning of a new year should allow time to rest and review the year. For us at Blue Rock Station, it is also the beginning of THANKS FOR NOTHING month. Each year we try to challenge ourselves with an entire month where we spend no money, and avoid using energy. This is our third year of this practice - and we find ourselves looking forward to the pause, rather than feeling challenged by it.
Each year we try to push just a bit harder, so rather than creating a menu for the month (and going shopping that last week of December), we decided to use what was already on hand - and clean the freezer instead of shopping. Normally the 31-day menu would be in place well-ahead of January 1st, and all the food stored. This year, however, we’re eating completely out of the freezers and larder. The only thing we purchased was a stash of cheese for Jay (he hates my goat cheese), and some fresh fruit to go with the bounty of fall apples still in the larder.
Going a month without money requires a bit of advance planning. For some reason, the animals on the farm don’t share our commitment to the spiritual growth that comes from doing without. So on Tuesday I decided to pre-pay for some chicken feed at the hardware store in Duncan Falls, just in case I ran out before the end of the month. The grain storage bins only hold four 50 lb. bags and those chickens are eating like frat boys at an all-you-can eat buffet. The hay guy, who is also prepaid, will probably need to bring 50 bales before the end of the month - it’s going to be bitter cold so the goats and llamas are going to need extra feed to keep warm.
Cleaning and Sorting
After chores, our neighbor from a nearby ridge, Tom Winland, came by to visit. Jay and I were in the midst of cleaning out the freezer and sorting everything according to categories - cheese, milk (saved for when they are dried up while I’m in France), meat, fruit, leftovers and miscellaneous. Tom sat and watched, drinking a cup of hot tea made from water heated on the wood stove.
I decided I am going to keep a little notebook of what’s in the freezers, so we can cross off or add to the list. That way I’ll have some idea of what’s available. I was surprised at how much grated goat cheese we had. There was also quite a bit of frozen basil pesto. I kept telling Jay that he could tell the things that I like to eat by how much of it was stashed in the freezer.
We were so inspired by the clean and organized freezer, and possibly by Tom’s story telling, that we decided to clean the frig. Jay’s hope was that we might throw out some of the many jars that take up quite a bit of space. I’m not sure what he wanted to put in the place of these jars, as what is there is what we get - at least for the next 30 days. We only discovered two science experiments - plastic containers filled with mold. The rest were unlabeled containers of jelly, jam, pesto, and fruit syrups for waffles.
After lots of sorting, making lists, and scrubbing the frig shelves, we were pretty pleased with our afternoon of visiting and the clean refrigerator. Thank goodness the bitter cold is coming or we might have been tempted to move on to bigger and more cluttered items.
Instead we spent the rest of the afternoon working with Tom to plan February’s maple syrup project. Tom wants to tap a few trees to gather sap so his family and ours will have some maple syrup for 2014. It’s an exchange of our resources for his labor. We love sweetening desserts with the delicious flavor of maple syrup, and using it as waffle syrup. Plus it’s fun to have projects that involve people who will show up with good stories, and bring their good mood on a cold day.
The clean refrigerator, and Tom’s visit are a reminder that 2014 is going to be full of spiritual abundance, and loads of restful fun. Happy New Year to all, and we hope you’ll join us during this month of living simply.
Menu For Today
Breakfast - Jay had cream of wheat and I had gluten-free waffles, real butter and raw honey plus a banana
Late-afternoon meal - pizza with toppings (we each like something different) and fresh green salad. The crust is pre-baked. Jay will have pepperoni and cheese and I will have goat cheese, olives and basil. The dogs will have whatever falls on the floor.