Movin’ To The Country, Gonna Eat A Lot Of Peaches

It’s pouring rain here today. The garden is getting some of the best natural tending possible (which it sorely needed, the soil has been getting really dry), and that leaves me with plenty of time to catch up on inside things. I thought I would take advantage of the extra time to give some explanation as to why I abandoned my main business, moved out of my house in the city, and left behind my friends (some of whom I loved like family and dearly miss) to build a little house in the woods and raise goats.

Some of my reasons (and Cal’s, because this was very much a joint decision) were simple. We wanted our new baby to see her extended family more than a couple of times a year, the crime rate in our neighborhood was going up at a rapid pace, my mother had a series of surgeries that I couldn’t be here for her after because of the distance and other commitments, my father was in a rather awful car accident, neither of us were all that thrilled with the way work had been going for my husband, etc.

Others were more complex. The art community is an odd thing. It’s full of people with different takes on the world.  I found it to also be full of what I consider to be outdated ideals regarding feminism. About half way through my pregnancy I realized that my vision of raising my child within that community, giving her a magical childhood that would encourage her to be tolerant, open minded, and willing to follow her dreams, was highly unrealistic.

What I found, especially after my pregnancy became very visible, was that people assumed it was an accident, my life was over, and that no educated woman could possibly wish such a thing on herself. I wanted a career didn’t I? If I was just going to run around barefoot and pregnant, why did I go to college? I was repeatedly told by men and women, young and old, that I should consider having an abortion/could give it up for adoption/how sorry they were for me. I found that to be incredibly frustrating. More importantly, I realized I didn’t want to raise my baby within a community that would forever assume she was a mistake.

At first I assumed I could just keep the two worlds separate, and for awhile I managed to do just that. In the long term though, I began to realize that it was infinitely more work than it’s worth. (As a side note on this, I do not mean that every art person I knew was awful about family. In fact, one of the most awesomely supportive people through both pregnancy and the immediate postpartum period was a comic artist and Dr. Sketchy’s regular who unknowingly did a great deal to keep my faith that I could still do what I loved and have a family. He was just not in the majority.)

Then there was the issue of sustainability. I managed to make a pretty good go of growing edible and aromatic goodies in a space that was smaller than some closets I’ve been in. We supplemented with wonderful locally grown, mostly organic produce from a farmer’s market held downtown every week and, later, with a delivery service, CSA type setup that one local farm ran. Still, I wanted to live a less consumerism based life. Why? I’ve never really put my finger on that, to be honest. One of the reasons I went into an art field was that I was always concerned with aesthetics as much as practicality, so I don’t think that is really it. I can be frugal, for certain, but I’ve been known to shop for recreation too. Whatever the reason, it has increasingly bothered me how much waste our culture produces. Most everything is disposable, even things we don’t think of that way. If a TV breaks, chances are most people are just going to go toss it and buy a new one. I started out with a little issue with that, even though I have certainly been guilty of it myself. Over time, I’ve developed a big problem with it.

Beyond that, there was security. I don’t mean keeping out burglars security. I mean the knowledge that if work is slow for me, or if Cal suddenly gets fired, we aren’t sitting on the edge of a cliff waiting for something to push us off. To be honest, work has been slow for me since the economy took a dip, and most of my work regarding birth is a labor of love done on a voluntary basis, or for a fee that often doesn’t cover my gas money, parking, and gear costs, much less a wage for my time. In our old life this could have been catastrophic. Now, it just means that I have more time to grow our food, mend or make our clothes, and generally spend time with my family. We still have bills to pay (I, unfortunately, bought into the idea that college is worth every penny, no matter how many pennies that may be and what you have to do come up with them), but if there’s nothing left over after they’re paid, there is still food.

Along similar lines, there is a different kind of security; the kind that comes from knowing for certain what is in my food, because I grew and cooked it. I know the real quality of my clothes and my daughter’s toys if I made them. I don’t have to worry about recalls because someone figured out that the country the baby food we bought was made in has no laws against leaded containers. When you use a technique or material that has had hundreds or even thousands of years of human testing (cotton, wool, weaving, putting livestock out to pasture, using manure and companion planting, not Miracle Grow and RoundUp), there is a certain amount of security you can get from knowing that it’s pretty unlikely some side effect that didn’t show up in lab tests or unforeseen consequence is suddenly going to rear it’s head.

Then comes what has turned into my biggest concern. Freedom. Not the political idea, but more the idea of not living under someone’s thumb or in someone’s pocket. We’re not there yet, but the progress is visible from where I’m sitting. Every debt we get out from under and every need we find a way to meet by ourselves is a little less weight on our shoulders. Even if you can argue that what you offer in trade is a wage fairly earned, anything that you NEED, but cannot provide without outside assistance makes you a slave to that system in some way. Doing things yourself gives you a control over your own life that you just don’t get any other way. Call me a control freak, but that makes me feel more comfortable, more free.

With the garden, house, and goats (probably chickens too at some point), the ultimate goal is self sufficiency. I’m not completely opposed to buying things we want, but don’t produce. That said, I aim to reach a point where the things we do not produce for ourselves are luxuries; unnecessary, but nice to have. I want us to sustain ourselves. I want to use growing practices that work year, after year, after year without exhausting the soil or needing to continuously reorder seed. I want to be healthy, and have happiness that comes from satisfaction with my experiences, not the pursuit of stuff.

In conclusion, here’s a picture of some irises and azaleas, because you deserve a pretty picture if your read this whole post!

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