In all earnestness

I haven’t been able to blog in a few days – a week? Heck, when was my last post anyway? I have a two-year-old who hasn’t napped more than 20 minutes a day for a while now. I’m hoping today will be different. But then, I’ve hoped that for the last week…and well then I’d hear little feet making their way across the floor to my in-home library where I write. Darn it! So far, so good today. I’ll get on with it.

“Most of our citizens wake up in the morning and worry about the morning commute and getting the kids to school and paying the mortgage and thinking about a new car or vacation…and this is simply too narrow a scale of thinking to address the problems that we have.” – Joseph Tainter, professor and author of The Collapse of Complex Societies (quoted from the documentary The 11th Hour)

I watched the documentary The 11th Hour the other day and have been inspired to get with the program and really take steps to ensure that our family’s carbon footprint is small – though our being vegan is already lessening our impact in a big way. Sometimes, other than shelling out $20, 000 to convert our house entirely to solar or kissing our cars bye-bye, I feel a little lost about how just to go about what I should be doing. I’ve read a couple of books, but they were more along the lines of Al Gore recommending we trade our incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents. Done that, duh.

I’m also delving into Sharon Astyk’s new book Independence Days:A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation which arrived yesterday. She says, and I believe her, that we have a moral imperative to take on the actions that lessen our impact on the planet. And, gulp, that we owe it to our children and future generations to do without and experience a bit of discomfort (like lowering the heat) so that they HAVE a future. Now I really feel guilty about all of my excuses – how I don’t have time to preserve much food or hang the laundry; how I can’t stand the cold and keep my heat at a toasty 67. But, I should give myself some credit for all of the things I DO (or have done) and all of the future projects I plan to attempt in earnest. 

I recently emailed Ms. Astyk and told her how much I admired her efforts, but made some glib comment about how I bet my house is cleaner (she’s admittedly laid-back about housekeeping). So, when the real crises start to hit, my family will be freezing (we have no heat other than our boiler) in our very tidy house and begging for food. Her family will have adapted fairly well and have ample wood heat and enough food to last the winter. What an ass am I?

 So, in the hope that I am actually making progress in my goal of being more self-reliant and in lessening my impact on the environment, here’s a list of what I have already done.

Things Done:

  • Replaced all bulbs with compact flourescents
  • Buy used clothing and household goods whenever possible (I could still improve a bit in this area and hunt out garage sales)
  • Cloth diapered my first son. Tried with my second, but no matter what I did, he got terrible rashes on his legs, so now I use 7th Generation diapers and feel guilty every time I throw one out. I tried a few times to switch back to cloth, but no luck
  • Vegan diet and lifestyle
  • I keep a pantry  – enough to last (I hope) about two weeks. Plus freezer in garage (obviously useless if we lose electricity).
  • Breastfed my kids forever (the first for 3 1/2 years, the second is currently two) thus eliminating the need for icky and expensive formula
  • I buy about 99% organic groceries and other products from our small health food store and try to avoid the mega corporations, though that’s next to impossible since they’ve all been bought out
  • I buy in bulk when possible (though our “bulk” commodities come pre-packaged)
  • I shop weekly at the farmer’s market to support our local growers and get to know them
  • I joined a CSA last year, but found that even a half share was too much for us with our own garden producing so much and I like being able to pick my own produce at the farmer’s market. Still, I recommend it for people who don’t garden or make it to the farmer’s market each week.
  • Tore up 2/3 front lawn this year and converted it to vegetables, herbs, and ornamentals (mostly xeriscape types)
  • Planted two apricot trees and raspberry patch(raspberries should give us a harvest next summer)
  • Four large raised bed veggie gardens, herb garden and strawberry patch in back yard
  • Raise 97% of my own vegetables from seed, including heirloom tomatoes
  • Took a class on herb gardening and herb use
  • Took a class on water bath canning
  • We recycle as much as possible
  • Canned and or froze a good amount of peaches, peach jam, red currants, raspberries, rhubarb, cherries, green beans and zucchini
  • Actually accomplished a fall planting of lettuces, bok choi, tatsoi, kale, and spinach this year!
  • Joined a local urban homesteading group. Though I an seldom attend meetings because of work/childcare conflicts.
  • Hosted our first annual kitchen garden open house – complete with heirloom tomato tasting and informational handouts
  • Am trying to monitor our electricity usage (checking out a wattage meter from our local library -cool huh?)
  • Am washing most of our clothes in cold water
  • Occasionally hand a load on the clothesline (could improve MUCH in this area)
  • Our cars are old (10 years or more) and we won’t buy new again. I’d get rid of one car if I could find a feasable way to accomplish errands without a car during the day. Biking isn’t safe for the route my husband has to take and he takes our eldest son to school with him in the mornings. Given enough time, however, I can bike to my part-time job at least part (or most) of the year. Working on that…
  • We take mostly driving vacations and usually fairly local in-state ones 

I could do more. And, I’m working on it. I need to take this much more seriously. It weighs on me. Every time I do something like throw away the last of the cherry tomatoes that didn’t get eaten or put another load of laundry in the dryer, I see Sharon Astyk peeking over my shoulder sadly shaking her head.


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