Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
First - for those of you who had been reading some of my earlier posts about our progress in relocating from Australia to Texas, please accept my apology for the lapse in posts. While this post is not an excuse for my absence, I hope that the situation and actions I've taken will help someone else with similar challenges and issues.
My vision of our future homestead in Texas was strongly connected with family on an adjacent property, grandchildren to see and visit daily and other related activities. My focus for the past year or so (until I am finally back in the U.S. permanently) has been on getting the basic infrastructure built. We've been working on roads and drilling a well in the previous blogs and we'll be documenting the progress on the house as it's being built, along with activities here in Australia to help build our skills in areas around food, gardening, bee keeping, canning and other things we can find that are useful. But since we first spotted the property we're now building on while standing on our daughter's next-door property, my vision of the land always had her and the grandchildren connected to it. You probably know what happens next, don't you?
My daughter and her husband split up and she and the kids moved 100 miles away where they seem to be doing fine with the kids in new schools, my daughter working as a nurse and everyone occupied with the business of life. But my vision had a huge hole in it and my enthusiasm for the project and its timing went as flat as the tire on my tractor wagon sitting in the bramble patch. I still loved the land and the rest of our extended family (our grand-childrens' other grand parents also live on an adjacent property). The fact that our children had split fortunately didn't seem to put a hole in our relationship with the others, but it was obvious to me that I had been counting on having my daughter and her grandchildren next door as part of the future. In essence, I had allowed others to control my vision (at least to a degree) my happiness related to that vision had soured. I was sad and disappointed. I either needed to re-invent the vision or get a new one. My wife supports my vision of the homestead in Texas but loves our life in Australia. She would stay here in an instant if I changed my mind. With respect to Texas, she has clear visions of what the house will look like, what we'll grow in the garden and how we'll create some of the visual excitement in our life once there. I'm happy she has these talents and abilities. If she can "see it" and describe it, I'm confident I can build it or get someone to help me build it. Still - I needed to get my enthusiasm back and, frankly, it took a few months and a bit of an epiphany to get it.
We've always enjoyed food and while we haven't grown too much of our food while here in Australia, we do a reasonably good job of sourcing ingredients from local producers. My wife is an excellent and creative cook so we don't go to restaurants very often and I can't remember the last time we had fast food. You could say we are "foodies" and we wouldn't resent the description. Still, we both believed we could lose a little weight and my wife in particular seemed plagued by a series of niggling, minor but annoying health issues. Since we knew she had a shellfish allergy and others in her family had wheat allergies, we thought we would "read up" on wheat and other potential allergens. We decided to do a bit of diet modification - total elimination of wheat (almost paranoid reading of labels and since a lot of what we eat is food prepared from raw ingredients, not too hard), virtually total elimination of processed sugar and, for three to four weeks, virtually total elimination of any type of sugar, including alcohol. We do enjoy wine and have a nice cellar so this change was the one we noticed the most.
My wife seemed to profit nicely from the change and both of us seemed to feel better with an improved energy level within a couple of days. We did seem to suffer from mild headaches, almost like some type of withdrawal symptoms, but those went away quickly. I participated in the diet mostly out of support for her and had few expectations around the possible beneficial results for me. I was surprised. Over the following two months, I slowly but steadily lost ten kilograms (22 pounds) without any perceptible reduction in the quantity of what I eat. Even better, what I just figured was a slight amount of arthritis associated with age has completely disappeared. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about the change to our diet and we've spent a lot of time reading, studying and discussing how these minor changes to our diet can become permanent and how that will affect our activities now and when we make the move back to Texas. For those of you who were wondering, we did add wine back after three months, but limit it to a glass with a meal and only on the weekends. A bottle will last a week that way and before, it didn't last the night.
The focus on food, where it comes from, how we prepare it and the effect it has on our health and well-being has become a significant focus for us. We've started canning produce in season. It's late Autumn, early winter here, so apples and pears have been the primary focus recently and we've re-discovered just how good (tasting and healthy) the products of our efforts are.
I'm very happy now that we have a vision for our homestead again. We will see our daughter and the grandchildren regularly and often when we're there. With both sets of grandparents on adjacent properties and the kids only 100 miles away, there will be plenty of visits during the school year and long stays during the summer. We have a clear focus now on food - its growth, care, preparation, study and discussion. We both enjoy the topic immensely and for different reasons - I like the science and the mechanical aspects of things like gardening, plant care and canning. My wife likes the planning and cooking and, of course we both like enjoying the final result.
Good progress is now being made on the homestead. We remain somewhat constrained by the fact that doing it by remote control means doing it slowly. Also, while still here in Australia, I've been doing some bee keeping (I'm really keen to do that on our property), canning and will look into other things I can add to my repertoire in Texas.
Final thought: When you decide to do something like moving to the country and building a homestead, make sure your dream and vision is not controlled or strongly influenced by the activities and actions of others. The vision has to be personal and the means to accomplish it have to be largely within your own control.