Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The satisfaction of simplicity

Ever since the beginning of our marriage, we have been taking small steps towards self-reliance and self-sustainability - whether it is in growing plants or chickens, recycling, finding creative uses for things other might discard, fixing up furniture someone else might have deemed beyond repair, and teaching ourselves to do a whole host of things we didn't even think possible. 

People who are "in tune" with our lifestyle and goals understand us well, even if their lives might be, at the moment, vastly different from ours. Others are puzzled. For instance, we've had people tell us that with all the effort we are putting into our chickens - hatching them from eggs, taking care of baby chicks, providing safe housing, battling foxes, buying good-quality feed (which is necessary even with whole day free-range, at least during the dry months, to provide balanced nutrition) - we could easily buy organic free-range eggs of the best quality. 

To this I might reply that it isn't always about dry numbers. We love to see chickens pecking and scratching and clucking around the yard; we derive immense satisfaction from observing how an egg miraculously cracks, and a tiny beak appears in the hole; then a wet and bedraggled chick climbs out and lies exhausted... to become, in an hour or two, a very cute and fuzzy creature! This is a great source of education (not to mention entertainment) for our children and ourselves. 

Perhaps growing your own tomatoes isn't that much cheaper than buying from a store or a market; perhaps a creative chicken housing solution does not really save THAT much money, when you take into consideration all the work that must be put in. Perhaps making your own bread is actually more expensive! But all of this, combined - taking care of plants and animals, living resourcefully, learning to do things by ourselves - makes for such a simple, full and lovely life that just the daily humdrum is immensely satisfying. 

An added bonus is, the simpler and more down-to-earth most of your daily tasks are, the easier your children - even very young ones - can be included, to become, from a very young age, genuine helpers around the house - this gives them such a sense of accomplishment, and solves a host of problems that arise from children being cooped up, bored, and over-stimulated by artificial means. 

We do not feel the need to travel as often and as much as other people do (and of course, there's the necessity to find a babysitter for a bunch of assorted animals, and a volunteer gardener!). We do not feel the need to compensate for the rush of life by treating ourselves to expensive gifts; we don't often crave shopping malls or costly night-out entertainment. Our home is not a show-place, but it's a spot that bubbles with life and creativity - and all the mess that follows. I even feel our living room will become a little dull when the boxful of peeping chicks is removed. :)

So, indirectly but very definitely, all of this also means we are living less expensively. But it isn't about the money; it is about the joy and satisfaction, without which all we do wouldn't be possible. 

I'm not romanticizing or idealizing our life, and I realize it isn't for everyone; we live very much out-of-the-way of everything, there is a lot of work to be done - over and over again every single day - and when it comes to some tasks, I praise G-d for giving me enough physical strength. But I do want people all around the world to know that such choices can be made, and can turn into something very interesting and beautiful. 

PS: In the picture above, you can see hens and a rooster which are no longer with us... they fell prey to a sneaking fox. Thankfully, we have obtained and hatched fertile eggs from them before this happened, so we've been able to raise the next generation. 


Rose said...

The satisfaction of living simply and sustainably needs no measure.

Miriam said...

Oh you said it so well! Choices really can be made according to you interests. You don't have to believe others and media...

And those puzzled people just don't get the idea of self-sustainability, you produce by_yourself_what you need, no need to go and buy it. And what if there are not organic free-range eggs for you to buy? ;-)

Magnolia Tea said...

Well said, Mrs. Anna. I agree.
Sadly, there is a huge gap between your (mine also) mindset & that of the "mainstream" folks. Several years ago my daughter & I were demonstrating skills of yesteryear at a local historical farm when I was asked by a school TEACHER if the fire I was cooking over was real. Yet another TEACHER asked if the potatoes I was peeling were real. I'm still stunned by those questions twelve years later.

Joluise said...

This is why I like to grow my own vegetables, I like to know that they are not covered in chemicals and have been grown with love and care. We can't have chickens in our area but I buy fresh from a friend who has their own eggs. Getting away from fast foods and processed foods and cooking from scratch makes me feel as if I'm taking control of what we eat. I have also found that our food bill has reduced since cutting out processed foods .

Lady Anne said...

Oh, for the love of Mike, Magnolia, how can you cook over a fake fire! The mind boggles! You could *almost* expect that from a student, but certainly not a teacher. I teach about lifestyles of the 1700s, and during a discussion of salaries and prices, I mentioned that there were no McDonald's back then, and the kids nearly fell over. No McDonald's? I don't think they believed me when I told them there weren't any around when I was their age, either.

Anyway - to get back to Anna, here. I think it is good to be able to do for yourself if necessary. If I get snowed in, or your husband's car breaks down, there is always homemade bread, and fresh eggs at hand. Homegrown tomatoes are infinately better than the red sawdust in the grocery store, and there is such a feeling of satisfaction in knowing that you can do for yourself.

Katie V. said...

Isn't it amazing how our little children derive such pleasure in learning about God's creation and wholesome activities. It so easy for all if us to feel the pull of those more worldly activities such as the mall/self indulgence/modern media distractions to distract our children. Hopefully, more people will start to see the beauty of living a wholesome life. God bless you!

Anonymous said...

We try to do as much as we can here,too, though we live on a typical city street. And you're right, it's not strictly about economics. Store tomatoes maybe less expensive, but the quality of homegrown.... not even comparable. I put up my own jams, simply because the flavor and quality is so much better. And I know what's going in them.

Katie B. of said...

My husband and I both derive a great deal of satisfaction from doing things for ourselves. That satisfaction is SO much deeper than if we'd simply gone to the store. Take, for instance, our vegetable garden. In addition to knowing what's in our food, for instance, we enjoy tending the garden together. In the evenings, we happily sit in the garden watching the fireflies. When it's time to harvest, I enjoy canning and dehydrating what we grew and, of course, we all enjoy eating the food. Then there's the financial savings, too.

So many ways to reap pleasure from something as simple as sowing and watering a seed.

Rose Godfrey said...

You can't put a pricetag on the experiences, the simple joys of gardening and interacting with the animals.