Thursday, April 26, 2012

A really long note to self

I've just made a decision. I've just stepped over the line between acceptance to action. Now this is no major event or anything, in fact it's quite a small step but a huge shift in my thinking.

To live a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. This may be a let down or boring to some of you but it marks a significant moment in our household and I want to document our steps. I mentioned it here briefly but this is another, bigger step.

I often watch documentaries to entertain myself while I'm cutting and sewing my goods for sale. My favorites are social and political commentary, especially involving our food system.  I was watching one last week (not a very good one but poignant nonetheless) when someone made the observation that the public is going through the equivalent of the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) in relation to our environment and added one more step. Action. For many years I was stuck in the depression mode, feeling helpless against the mega-corps and corrupt government agencies. How can we, the little guy, fight against that?

I kept learning more, read a lot of books and watched way too many documentaries, talked with family and local community groups and entered the acceptance stage. Knowing and understanding how I can make a change but not yet walking the walk. After all, it's no small step for an average consumption-based household to suddenly make a big change. We talked a lot about what we'd like to do but never really followed through.

But some where, suddenly I mentally crossed that line into action.( I mean really sudden, like an epiphany while doing the dishes.) I'm ready. It's time. My mind raced for days, to the point I actually gave myself an anxiety attack. Were we ready for this? And there was the crux of the matter. We. Not just me. So the hubby and I sat down over a nice (local, organic and seasonal) lunch and talked about it. He's on board! There wasn't the same Jesus-ray-of-light-through-the-clouds-moment as mine but he's on board.

So here we are. How to the two of us, the little guys, fight against that broken system?

Well, you don't. You simply remove yourself from that system. I found that by taking what I call a self-centered approach, I am able to feel more productive and like I'm making a difference. Don't save the world. Save yourself.   Worried about GM'd food? Grow your own (with heirloom seeds of course). Worried about the state of the economy? Get out of debt, not by earning more, but by consuming/buying less. What if the "grid" goes down? Have alternatives ready.

What I didn't expect was to feel so empowered and secure. Knowing you can take care of your family on your own, without "outside" help is very empowering. It removes any remaining feeling of denial, anger and depression.

That's why I'm writing all this down. It hit me like a bolt out of the blue. I am not religious but I have been joking that this is my religion now. I am a born-again tree hugger, a newly devout self-sufficiency disciple!

There are many of you out there who have always lived this way. Quietly, without bragging or lecturing, you just Do. That is my goal. And I hope to document some of that here. Not for you, but for me (there's that self-centered bit again).

This is our starting point. I want to note our beginnings so we can look back later and compare. We're pretty average, really.

 We own 2 cars and my husband travels a lot for work. I don't drive much but do drive downtown everytime i need to run errands in our small town.

 While we endeavor to eat healthful meals both at home and out, we happily slip up once in a while and get a greasy burger or gooey nachos. We eat mainly meat-centric meals but try to buy organic whenever possible.

We don't get sick, don't have any nasty vices and consider ourselves "healthy" but we don't exercise and are pretty soft and sedentary.

I am a very novice, intermittent gardener. I get lots of help and advice from others. I have a newly enlarged garden space that I am just getting ready to plant.

I try to keep spending under modest control but I don't keep a budget and we use our credit cards too much. We have the usual debt a lot of Americans have (credit cards, car payments, student loans etc).

Here are just a few things we would like to accomplish in the next year or so and have even made some minor changes to already;

I have dusted off my husband's bicycle and have begun to ride it downtown for my errands. More for my health than for saving gas (but at the rate gas is going up, why not save?). I have fantasized about getting a cargo bike!

I want to rid ourselves of as much plastic as possible. Not getting militant or anything but the crap is poison and I don't want it near my body or my food. (This means altering my product line as well - say goodbye to oilcloth)

Meat has got to go. Animal fats and proteins are just too harmful. This will be a more difficult shift for us but I am already trying to use less meat. When we do buy meat I will try to buy organic at our farmers market and to grind my own meats and burgers. But don't ever deny me bacon! (I found a local provider, yay!)

I want to grow and preserve as much of our own food as possible. Organically and from heirloom seed. I want to learn to save seed as well. I have seeds, the space, canning and dehydrating supplies. Time to put them to use! I must learn about winter crops.

We are looking in to solar and even possible wind power options.

By being more self-sufficient I hope to spend less and reduce our debt. I also want to just buy less. Who needs all this stuff? We have way too much junk and I am already purging our home of it. I have realized that the clutter in the home has been cluttering my mind as well. Junk be gone!

So there we are. I had to get that off my chest. I thought about just journaling for myself but a small part of me wanted to share in case there are others in the same place as me. Indeed, please share your experiences in making change.