I have found one thing to be true: The greener we go the more work it creates for all of us. I find I get up earlier in the morning to finish up predawn chores and then as daylight dawns I have a whole new list of things to tend. But these stolen moments in the morning between those two busy times are my quiet moments of peace and reflection. This is when I have some coffee, some time with God and have a few moments left over to work on the blog.
Somehow, the work, though copious, is not so tedious when you hold a finished product in your hands or when you sit down to a wholesome meal with your family, a meal that you have tended from its inception. It is unbelievable rewarding to see the beginning fruits of our somewhat meager and often misguided labors. We are doing this in baby steps, little chunks at a time, so to some it seems like we are not doing enough. To others it seems like we have gone off the deep end.
My grandma likes to tease me now and every time she sees me will ask me questions like “Are you doing your wash in the river yet?” To her our efforts seem crazy and silly I am sure. For her generation the invention of modern technologies saved them from a life of hunger and back breaking labor. Fred and I are in no way trying to return to a time where every bite of food was a struggle and nothing was certain. We simply want to take our lives back into a more balanced proportion.
Last night as a family we sat down and watched “King Corn” the documentary about two post-college guys who follow an acre of corn from seeding the ground to selling at market and beyond. This movie is eye opening in many ways and further convinced us of our need to seek a balance. I know that in the seventies when the government radically changed the way they subsidize farmers it was not with the intent of smashing the family farm or destroying the nutrition in our food. Instead those men could remember the pangs of depression era hunger that still haunted their bellies and they looked forward to a time when a surplus of affordable food would be on every table. This defined America to them, bounty, the land of plenty. Grow more!
I am sure that they never envisioned a land of an obese poverty stricken lower class glutting themselves on a diet made almost entirely of corn. Instead, they pictured farmers with easier lives and less heartache over small and ruined crops. They pictured every child going to bed with a full belly not every child going to bed with a gut hanging over their belts. But as with many good things they created a monster and now the monster runs the tractor. Thousands of acres of inedible crop are planted every year and subsidized by the government. When the farmer cannot consume his own product until it has been chemically treated and put into a soda can then the pendulum has swung too far. The corporate farmer today is no different than Fred standing on the assembly line everyday twisting 2 bolts in an engine for a car he will never see.
All that Fred and I really want is to bring that pendulum back into a smaller more centralized arc in our own lives. We no longer desire this vast gap between ourselves and the things we eat. We want to know our food and to have a hand in bringing it to the table. I do not want to order three things off the dollar menu only to find that ultimately they are all corn and I could have saved myself the trouble, the fat and the ensuing health problems. Instead of our meals regularly coming from a paper container our meals are now more thought out. Yes we still buy stuff at the grocery store but now we read the labels and consciously make better choices. Soda is a treat, not a beverage with every meal.
So what does this all mean for our work level and our green lifestyle you might wonder? Well frankly, like I implied before, it means a lot more work. But it also means a lot more satisfaction. I make all the bread we eat. It no longer comes from the store shelves in plastic bags with a list of ingredients as long as my arm. It is not filled with high fructose corn syrup, caramelizing color and “softeners” whatever those might be. Yes that means I get up in the night to put it on the cooling rack but I sleep more soundly knowing that my family is eating something wholesome from my kitchen and not poison from the shelf.
I get up every morning and make Fred’s lunches. I no longer fill them with convenient and easy to pack snack cakes (Have you ever read the ingredients on a pack of snack cakes?? High fructose corn syrup seems tame. Do you know they actually include beef tallow!?!? EWH! Not to mention a bazillion chemicals I could not pronounce on a bet.) or prepackaged lunch meats that have enough sodium to dry up a river basin. Instead I fill it with leftovers from our dinners or sandwiches made on fresh bread with natural peanut butter and honey, fresh fruit, wholesome granola (not the cereal box kind), homemade snacks and I make his breakfast from eggs we gathered the previous day.
Not only are we saving a small fortune because those are two less meals bought at a restaurant or cafeteria every day but I have the peace of mind of knowing that as he labors through a grueling day his belly is fully with wholesome foods that will give him sustainable energy and not make him sick, give him heart failure or diabetes.
I admit up until we watched the movie last night I did put soda in his lunch every day, two cans. Soda is so ubiquitous that I never really gave it much thought. The sugar (HFCS) and caffeine gave him the extra little jolt of energy to get through the day. I was always much more careful with the soda that Sarah and I drink limiting it to an occasional treat but I really never even gave much consideration to any alternative for Fred’s lunch. So this morning I got up even a hair earlier than normal and brewed him fresh herbal iced tea for his lunch.
Yes, this adds one more chore to my morning. Yes, it adds one more piece of paraphernalia Fred must tote off to work in the form of a thermos. But it provides me with the peace of mind that I am not poisoning my husband and it provides Fred with a refreshing and thirst quenching alternative to soda.
These are the kinds of things I am talking about when I say that going green entails a significantly greater amount of work that staying in a stagnant fast-food culture. Sure it would be easier to stay in bed hand Fred ten dollars from the ATM and tell him to have a great day. Sure he could hit the drive thru in the morning for a sausage McMuffins and a gargantuan latte then park his bottom in the cafeteria to eat unidentifiable steaming piles of carbs. He could slog his way through the rest of his work day in a veritable food coma and come home to gripe and be sick before he trudged off to bed. But this is not the life either of us wants.
We, like the Farm Bureau of the seventies, want a life of more and we want it more abundantly! But what we have realized over the years and through our recent struggles is that sometimes more means less and most time more means harder work. I am sure lots of people think we are crazy, or feel sorry for us because we live without air conditioning and do not shop at Walmart (insert eye roll), or do not have cable tv, but I will tell you this even the small changes we have made the tiny bits we have scaled back have proven to us that less is more. Yes sometimes it is more work but oftentimes it is more time spent with family, more meals of wholesome food shared around a dinner table. More time spent together tending the bees or the chickens, more peace of mind because my family is not eating poison. And I am content with my more.
Thank you for reading,
Much love (less junk),