Monday, August 3, 2015

Too much or not enough?

I thought it would be like this all the time.

It's been a busy summer here on the homestead, both with homestead-related activities and off-homestead fun and events.  Since moving to Wine Country, every summer I usually feel, guiltily, that I'm doing too much partying and too little homesteading, and have felt that way ever since we moved here three years ago.

But we've had out-of-town guests visiting from New Jersey for the last three days, and their last comment upon leaving us and heading to the Bay Area was something about how they were so impressed with everything we do for energy conservation -- water, electricity and propane. So there's me, feeling like we're slacking and not doing nearly what we should, and then there's our extended family relatives, who live more or less like comfortable urban folks on the East Coast do, in a planned development, who see how we live as something quite unusual and almost extreme -- but, surprisingly, in a positive way.

It's all in how it looks from where you're sitting, I guess.

When I started homesteading, I was committed with an almost religious fervor to live as lightly on the planet as possible, knowing it wouldn't change the big picture, but at least feeling like there would be an impact on the small one. And so I became conscious of every little thing we needed to do to cut back on the things we were wasting energy on (and also spending money on, not-coincidentally). I did as little driving as I could get away with, watched the thermostat in the house like a hawk, and made the family learn to live with crispy line-dried clothes.

Our lives changed, and the first place I saw it was in our bank account, which started growing almost as fast as the crops in our back yard, because we were no longer spending on a bunch of stuff we could grow/make ourselves, or using electricity without thinking about it. 

 But not everything we started doing became habits that stayed around.  While it's true that I still feel the same way about the importance of living sustainably, my world changed and grew bigger over the last three years and some things, like eating at home 100 percent of the time, have simply fallen off the map for us as our social life expanded. Not a good thing, but it is what it is.  Other things we started back then have stood the test of time: watching the thermostat, canning, hanging wash, making soaps and cleaners, growing some of our food.  

But once those things became ordinary for me, somehow I ceased to see them as making a difference.  They were just one more chore to add to the list each day or week. Until the other day, when I was reminded just how different those chores are by my urban relatives who don't/can't do them.

The reality is more of a balance.

We live in an area, thank God, where I've finally found a community of friends we love, and being active and attending gatherings is one of the best things about it. But I also love the quiet, relative isolation, and rural lifestyle we have here. It's truly a balance, but like the average temperature in any given month, is not so much a single line but rather a series of plusses and minuses that average out to a certain number.  Sometimes we're out too much, sometimes we're home a lot, but the average carbon and financial output of our lifestyle is probably still much less than the average American.

And so instead of focusing on my homesteading lapses and feeling guilty over all I'm not doing, from now on I'm going to allow myself to feel positive and proud for the things we have managed to do, and just enjoy that. 


  1. It can be difficult to see the big picture when your focus is set on the details. I'm glad these visiting family members were able to pull you back and remind you just how much you do! I think often about what a lifestyle shock it would be for me to conserve water the way you do! I need to come visit and hand over my debit card to you! I've been on a mad spending spree lately and need to stop! I could use some homestead financial planning :)

    1. Stephen, for us it was just a bunch of little things that added up. The biggest was electricity, many of our neighbors have monthly electricity bills of $300 or more, our largest so far has been $138. A bunch of little things like that really do add up to more in your bank account, which you can then use for a mad spending spree on something fun if you choose to! How's that for financial planning lol?