31 December 2009

Peace and Quiet for the New Year

I love peace and quiet.

I suppose that too much of it would get boring, but I can’t actually think of any set of circumstances in my life so far where that’s occurred, so I cherish peace and quiet when it shows up.

Early winter is always a good time to indulge in a little bit of restful quiet at home: sitting by the fire, reading, knitting, spinning, puttering about looking through boxes of stuff, reorganizing the book case. Things outside are in a routine – the entertaining antics of breeding season are past, lambing won’t happen until April, calving won’t be until late summer, and the chickens are on strike and not even laying one measly egg a day. Whatever outside work didn’t get done in the fall has to wait for spring, and since The Reluctant Farmer is in school, larger scale inside projects are on hold, too.

That means peace and quiet. :)

Ten years ago, I was part of the preparations for Y2K – I know there was a lot of hype and panic, but there really were things that could’ve gone wrong, and through the efforts of a lot of coders, testers, technicians and journeymen, trouble was, by and large, avoided. Oh, the whole world infrastructure was never at risk of collapse, but power plants could’ve stopped, phone systems gone nutty, and billing systems gone even nuttier … and it was worth it to put the effort in up front in order to avoid the potential problems.

I remember having a copy of one of the magazines popular among the survivalist types back then: I kept it in my office for entertainment purposes during some of the late-night work we had to do. The part that always made me laugh out loud was the big story about how to build your own bunker. That wasn’t the funny part: the funny part was the advertisement on the facing page for a years’ worth of food for six people, in which the primary meal was beans. Just imagine: six people squashed into an underground bunker eating beans … this is not gonna be a pleasant place to be in a few hours! I always figured those kinds of ‘eat for a year’ parcels ought include and annual supply of Beano and Gas-X, just on humanitarian grounds.

Ten years ago at the turn of the new century, I lived in a nice house in town, with a gas fireplace and electric heat, went grocery shopping every week, and didn’t really give it all much thought - even with all the hype and hoopla of Y2K. Now I live in the country in a not-quite-finished house … but one with enough power from solar to keep the water running and the dark at bay if the power goes out, a woodstove for heat and cooking if the natural gas goes out (or for when prices spike by 40% as they are scheduled to do next month), and a reasonably full pantry (nowhere near where I’d like it to be, but we are set up to weather a week of being snowed in with no real problems, at least).

Looking back on my 'old life’, I can’t imagine how I was ever comfortable being so reliant on “things being the way they are supposed to be”. Of course the store shelves would be full next week (but a forest fire that blocked the roads was all it took to make that untrue) … of course there would be heat all winter (but the furnace quit one very cold night and only the gas fireplace and the furnace repair man’s quick response time kept the house from freezing) … of course we’d always have enough money to buy whatever we needed (but a brain tumor took over my first husband’s mind and body, and suddenly everything fell apart, and there was no money, no house, no nothing).

Things can change, for any number of reasons, there is no ‘sure thing’. Oh, I don’t need to be prepared for every situation, I don’t even believe it’s possible. I tell people quite honestly that I gave up “planning” when my life fell apart way back when. I don’t believe in plans anymore. I believe in preparation, and it’s different. Plans are built on a set of assumptions about what is going to happen and how you’ll respond to the changes you predicted. Preparation is about having options and flexibility to meet whatever the Universe decides to throw at you.

Even with preparation, the Universe can still wing a fastball at you that you can’t hit, I know that. But boy, oh boy, is it a good feeling to know that you’ve at least managed to slightly increase your chance of having the bat meet the ball.

I think it’s time to start shopping for a second woodstove… :)

18 December 2009

Bounty from the food cooperative

Today I picked up my first produce order from the local food purchasing cooperative. For only $8 we received:

  • 5 onions
  • 3 giant potatoes
  • 5 big carrots (one 2 lb bag)
  • 6 green apples
  • 5 bananas
  • 1 cantaloupe

All that for less than the cost of two Starbucks lattes. There was so much there I couldn’t quite fit everything into my shopping bag!

This is great. It’s convenient and it’s cost effective: I just stop by the pickup point (right near my office) to pick up my box of food, drop off $8 for next month’s order, and I’m done!

The cooperatives do appreciate volunteer help with pickup and packaging, but with this one, at least, it’s not mandatory (The Boy will probably go and spend a day now and then helping with the weighing and packaging). Even without my time, though, my membership increases the cooperative’s bulk buying power and so my contribution of dollars also helps everyone else.

If you have a food cooperative like this in your area, please consider joining, even – or maybe especially - if you can afford store prices on your groceries. The more people who participate, the better it works: and there are a lot of people who could use a discount on their grocery bill.