Friday, June 01, 2007

Fence Sitting

I find that I do a lot of proverbial fence sitting. I am perched on the narrow board between two worlds most of the time.

I moved back to Mississippi so I could stay home with my children, but when I got here I was lured into working by well meaning and needy family members and work has escalated from there. Now, I precariously balance school, the house, the farm, and work. I long for time to play, without educational motivation, with my children, yet I truly enjoy my work.

I truly believe in eating local foods that are sustainably grown, yet I want the convenience and ease of all those off season fruits and vegetables and pre-made foods available at grocery stores. Sometimes, I just get tired of the effort involved in producing everything we eat so we eat some garbage that I later feel embarrassed for eating or serving. If we lived in a less rural and more educated area there would be farmers' markets and whole food stores. There would even be restaurants that serve food you could trust. But, in order to live small and have land on which the children can freely roam, you must live in a rural place. So, here I sit wanting to eat and serve sustainable, locally grown foods without doing all the work. The fence is increasingly uncomfortable.

I want to live a small, sustainable life, but I can't seem to quit wanting stuff. Trained to maintain a household in the greedy 80's and 90's, I just can't seem to stop wanting five different china patterns and thousands of books. I even have a problem with homeschool curriculum and accessories. Do we need all this? NO! Does this stuff make our life better? NO!! So, why am I unable to let go and embrace a simple life where living small can help me focus on real needs and free me from the cycle of materialism that keeps me lashed to work.

I know. I know. By making small changes, I can move in the right direction. But, it's not that simple. We moved to the farm a few years ago. Much work has been done to restore the fences, house, gates, and orchard. All that stuff took, and is still taking, money. We had to work. The farm provides little income. In fact, we give away more eggs, vegetables, and honey than we sell. True, the cows produce income. True, the eggs, chicken, beef, vegetables, and honey are produced for our consumption. But, also true is the effort involved in producing these items. Also true is that we are not really any closer to living off the land than we were when we moved to the farm.

So, here I sit - straddling the fence between two worlds - feeling frustrated, torn, and tired.


Anonymous said...

At times like that it is good to remember how well you are doing compared to the average american. Not really hard to do better, but still, if everyone did a little bit, we'd be so much better off.

So stop looking at everything you haven't done and just look at all that you have.

ZBTzahBTzoo said...

Would you like to come up for a cup of coffee tomorrow morning? Brunch isn't 'til the 14th. We need to sit down before then, if just to get each other off our respective fences for a while.

(I ate at Burger King today, Wisteria. Second time since May 1. I think we're all prone to doing embarrassing things like that once in a while.)

Melora said...

I know exactly what you mean about wanting to live small and also wanting to be able to buy nice things. Sounds like we formed our expectations of what one should have for a comfortable life around the same decades! I don't need lots of china (though, of course, I have the old family china that I never use, as well as the stoneware we eat on), and I haven't had much trouble going from buying my clothes at Lands End and L.L. Beans to buying at Walmart (or Penney's at Christmas), but giving up buying Books is killing me! I like being able to mark up my books, and I like to have my "friends" around me, and I want my kids to have a good selection around the house to pick from, and none of these things works with library books!

It sounds to me like your farm is bringing you a Lot closer to simple living than most people in this country. Growing your own beef, eggs, fruits, and vegetables must do wonderful things for your grocery budget! Maybe you are being a little too hard on yourself, feeling guilty about buying fruits out of season or the occasional less healthful meal.

It is So hard to lead a balanced life. I wonder how many people really do achieve it? When we moved to NC from Florida, I left a job that paid more than I'd ever earned but which took up so much of my time that there was no time for homeschooling or family. I knew that I'd eventually have to find a small job (still looking!), but I thought that the added time with family would make up for having no book money. Turns out, though, that I still want books (and flowers!), and the old house needs money, and the dh would like to be able to take a trip. Money but no time was no good, and time but no money is not perfect either! Any more room on that fence of yours?

wisteria said...

Jove, Thanks for the reminder. I need it almost as much as I need to hurl myself off the fence into the life I want.

Z, I would love to come for coffee and the brunch. I could bring the perfect china for the occasion. Unfortunately, you are so far from Mississippi that coffee seems out of the question, unless we took a virtual coffee break and then I wouldn't get to use my dishes.

Melora, We do seem to have much in common. I think everyone has a weak money spot, whether it is food, books, kitchen stuff, cars, music, toys, or computer stuff. I would never rid myself of the books, though I could see discarding some of the china.

My fence is apparently huge. I have enough dishes for everyone to coffee. We could either have people and wildlife friendly, organic shade grown coffee or a Tab.

Susan T. said...

Wisteria, when I read Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" last month, I was really struck about how hard she and her family worked to eat local (really local, with food from their own farm). To me, it seemed to be an ENORMOUS effort, and so I think what you're doing is head and shoulders above what my family does, in terms of sustainable living.

I "rescued" an old tire (alas, not a huge tractor tire) from a filling station and planted pansies in it. Every time I see that little flower garden, it makes me smile. One less tire for the landfill, I suppose, is a teeny-tiny start.

wisteria said...

I'm so jealous that you were able to read that book all ready. As a part of my "Don't buy everything you want immediately plan" I have resisted the urge to run out and buy Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I am expecting it for my birthday which is coming soon, but I am having to use every ounce of self reserve not to run out and purchase it.

Running out to get a tire seems like a remnant of your southern past! Did you paint it white?

Susan said...

No, I forgot about painting it white! Good idea for the next one.

Right now I have a book out on "chicken tractors," or moveable coops. It's fun to think about, even if I never do it.

I am trying to use the library more and more, too, but it's difficult to resist the urge to buy sometimes. I did run and and buy the Kingsolver book for myself.