09 October 2010

“But it’s all so much work!”

Lots of people shake their heads at me because I “do so much work” – generally suggesting that I’m slightly nuts to do so much ‘from scratch’ or for going without convenience tools like a dryer. So, I figured today I’d document what it is that I really do (on a busy kind of Saturday), and see how much work it actually is and how it feels.

Now, although I plan to get a fair bit done today, I’m not overextending  as I’m still recovering from the flu: although I am overjoyed to simply be upright and mostly functional, my energy levels are still pretty low, so I need to move slowly and not do any heavy physical stuff. So everything I do today will be accomplished in first or second gear only. Also, I’m home by myself, the rest of my nuclear family having headed to Manitoba for a family visit that I opted out of: after 2 weeks off work with the flu, I really didn’t feel right taking more time off, besides the fact that the long drive and whirlwind visit is probably more exertion than is good for me just now.

So …home alone, puttering around, gettin’ stuff done. What’s it look like? Here we go:

To start the day, my parents stopped by to drop off some pies (and ingredients for MORE pies!) for Thanksgiving – they are headed out of town, and this was their gift to us. Cool! So I got to visit with them for a bit, which was nice. By the time they left and I finally got moving it was a little before 9.

First order of business was laundry: I re-rinsed the load I’d forgotten in the washer yesterday and while that was spinning, gathered up some more to go in for the next load. Meandered to the kitchen and started the coffeemaker, then changed loads in the washer and hung up the clean stuff inside (there wasn’t much, so this was a quick 3 minute job).

Now to the kitchen: I retrieved my Carla Emery Encyclopedia of Country Living and looked up some pickle recipes. And browsed, as always (it’s a great book). While pondering my options, I sliced and tossed into a pot the few tomatoes that actually ripened this year (just chunked and threw in the pot with a bit of water), added some seasonings, and set it to simmer. Pondered some more. Put a bunch of canning jars in the dishwasher and started it. Scrubbed off the ceramic water filters (since I will need a lot of water today and I want the Berkey filtering as quickly as possible) and refilled the reservoir. Set one batch of brine to boil and sat down to read my knitting magazine.  By now it’s about 10, and I’m happily sipping coffee and drooling over gorgeous pictures of sweaters and yarn.

The tomatoes finished simmering around the time the next load of wash finished, so I shut off the burner, put more stuff in the washer and headed outside to hang up what was done. It’s a lovely day outside, and perfect for drying clothes – there’s a bit of a breeze and it’s cool … they should be dry in no time … although they’ll just stay on the line until I feel like taking them down, I expect. Which might be tomorrow.

Back to the kitchen to run the tomatoes through the food mill (I love, love, love my food mill – it saves me so much food prep time), pour the resulting sauce in a jar (retrieved from the dishwasher, now steaming), scrape the seeds and peels into a bowl for the chickens, and rinse off the things I’ve used so far.

Poured another cup of coffee and read some more Vogue Knitting. Realized I probably need more brine than I made, so added to the batch and boiled it up again. Topped off the coffee and sat down to read some more. Just as the brine boiled, I finished my first pass through my magazine and decided I should actually eat something before I go outside. Shut off the burner, poured a bowl of cereal and another mug of coffee and came to the computer. Time now: 11 am.

I’ll spend another forty five minutes or so here while I have my coffee, check Facebook, and write this … then I’ll head outside to pull up carrots. I really need to hack all the quackgrass out, but I’m not up to that yet, so it’ll just be a carrot-harvesting day. Well, carrots and the quackgrass and weeds in their immediate vicinity, but no big mattock work today.

How do I feel so far? Very relaxed. I haven’t moved at more than a comfortable meander all morning and I have a jar of tomato sauce, a batch of pickling brine, clean canning jars, and some clean laundry to show for it.

The laundry’s done and my coffee mug is empty, so it must be time to go outside.

I came inside at 1:20 with a large bowl of carrots (the weeds and carrot tops got fed to the sheep). By 3:30 the carrots were all washed, sliced, loaded into jars (with jalapenos, garlic, and onions), doused in brine and in the canner boiling. While the canner bubbled away, I tidied up and swept the floor … and noticed the crock of lacto-fermented pickles. I had intended to stop at 4:00, but it takes a lot of time and natural gas to heat up the water bath canner, so I figured I might as well can some of those pickles while I had everything going. Rummaged around for more jars, loaded them up with pickles, and started the next batch processing. Put even more pickles in jars, and finished cleaning up while the water bath burbled. By 6:00, everything was done and cooling on the counter – except for the jar that broke. (Never had that happen before – it broke in the canner, and I came back to discover pickles floating around in the water bath. Weird.)

So, it’s 6:06, all the work for today is finished, and my evening is free. I think I’ll check out some things on the web, eat some supper, and do some knitting while I listen to my audio book. I

Today was a fairly busy kind of Saturday, but I’m not exhausted and there was no stress at all: I took my time doing every job, and the only significant physical exertion was lifting the pickle crock up off the floor, that and the fact that I was on my feet quite a bit. Still, there was never any pressure, no rush, no hurry, and I had the freedom to choose which of the many jobs that need doing I would do today.

It’s a good way to spend a day.


  1. I read this just after you wrote it and didn't know what to comment, but I did still want to thank you for writing this post. I hope your friends read it. The lack of stress is so important. I am primarily at home during the days, definitely busy maintaining the house and the food and the clothing, but I love it so much more than going in to the office because I can do things with flexibility. Adults and kids seem to come and go all day long - whether it be the neighbour walking her dog and asking me to join her, or another friend dropping off kitchen scraps for the chickens or I stop by the school with a forgotten lunch and end up having coffee with another neighbour I meet there. It is work for sure, but it's a totally different pace.

  2. Thanks, Ev! It is a totally different feeling, you're right - AFTER a hard day at work in the office you can't imagine doing more, it just wears you right out, and I think people envision this as the same kind of thing. It isn't. This kind of stuff .. well, it just feels like a nice, easy-paced, productive day, with not anywhere near the kind of stress you feel from the office.

    I mean, yeah, finding your pickles floating in the canner isn't exactly a good thing - but it made me laugh, whereas the equivalent minor stressor at the office makes me want to scream. :)


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