Thursday, March 18, 2010

limits in the time of plenty

It's early spring, and we are being hit full-force by an abundance of food. We're collecting upwards of two dozen eggs each day. We're milking over a half gallon a day from one doe, with a second doe due to kid any time. I use the excess milk to make cheese and then we have close to a gallon of whey (great for baking, can't use that much). There are thirty broiler chicks busting out of the brooder, four extra roosters who are dead men walking and a goat kid that may end up being freezer-bound (and more on the way). Two of our rabbits have buns in the oven, and both of our ducks are setting clutches - when they hatch, we'll have somewhere between twenty and thirty ducklings, all of which will grow FAST. I was finally, at long last able to join a CSA this year, and our own garden looks primed to grow like gangbusters. For a two-person household, this is A LOT of food.

This situation is wonderful. And terrifying. We abhor waste around here, so while having such a bounty feels like money in the bank, letting any of it get away from us sort of feels like throwing money on the fire. It puts us under tremendous pressure to make sure every bit gets eaten, whether by us or someone else, whether now or later. We need to stay on top of harvesting, butchering, preserving, and finding about twenty more ways to eat eggs.

In light of all this, now seems like a great time to begin an experiment I've been turning over in my head for awhile. I've come to really dislike grocery shopping. It used to be a task I rather enjoyed, but perhaps now that any trip to the store is something of a hike, I really find it tiresome to constantly have to run out for this thing or that thing. For that, and a host of other reasons, I've decided to (barring actual emergencies) only shop once every three months. I'd love to make it every six months, but frankly we don't have the capacity to store that much food, so quarterly it will have to be. Some thoughts came to my mind while hatching this half-baked plan, the first of which was, "Great! I hate grocery shopping, so now I can do it a lot less often!" Once my euphoria wore off, however, I considered the practical aspects. I considered that every time we go shopping, we invariably come home with many more things than we went after. Each trip we don't make eliminates an opportunity for impulse-buying. Furthermore, resigning not to shop for three months at a time will force us to make good use of what we already have, and to get out of the mindset of "we want this, so let's just go get it". The biggest potential obstacle here is how to keep ourselves in fresh food - we don't want to eat canned veggies all the time, and certainly don't plan to resort to powdered milk. I've concluded that, at least for now, we can shop this way and still have fresh food. We are producing all of our own milk and eggs (fresh daily!) and about half of our cheese. Between our garden and the CSA, we should always have fresh vegetables of some kind, and much of our meat is presently being stored on hoof or wing, where it will keep...more or less indefinitely! This means we will have to give up salads after mid-May, or eat zucchini every day for two weeks when we'd rather have broccoli, and sooner or later we'll run out and have to dip into the jars of homemade sauerkraut I put up in January, but that's sort of the point - re-training ourselves to eat what's available. There are a few things that are deal-breakers - things we WILL go get if we run out - medicines, hygiene items and coffee all come to mind. The plan, though, is to do our best to do without things when they're gone, and plan better for next time.

For the past few years I've observed Lent, even though I am not Catholic (or religious at all, really). I find it a worthwhile pursuit to give up something highly valued for awhile. It improves my self-discipline and teaches me to improvise, and to reconsider my needs. This feels to me like simply an expansion of that concept. Rather than doing without one thing, we'll learn to do without whatever we happen to not have, until the next quarterly shopping trip comes around. And we'll live. Meanwhile, we'll buy less overall, and I'll get to stay home more...and nothing makes me happier than that. I mean, when you live here:

Why would you ever want to leave?


  1. Great plan, Tara! I absolutely loath shopping. I had to spend about three hours in the city on Wed. and I was in a bear of a mood by the time I returned home.

    Methodist observe lent as well. Although I am not what you would call an "active" Methodist...I do still try to observe lent, for the same reasons you, I think it is good self discipline. I fasted for three days as a part of my "sacrifice". Maybe I was delusional from not having an ounce of food but I felt great... like if I could give up a basic need for three days, I surely could give up other things that were not necessities. Good luck on your goals!

  2. Thanks Leigh! Just as an aside, I went to several Methodist churches when I still lived with my parents and had to go to church...I don't recall them ever observing Lent...?

  3. Interesting....The Methodist Churches that we have atteneded all have observed Lent...

  4. Is that your land, Tara? It's BEAUTIFUL! Seeing pictures like that makes me I miss the country.

  5. Give up salads after May? Have you not tried Malabar "spinach?"

    Chard will make it through the summer too, although it might be good to plant where the afternoon and evening sun are dappled by a nearby tree.

    I found in my wee little garden experiment that a huge pecan was actually kinda an aid over the summer as a sort of season extender. Alas the garden presently has a 78 Bronco parked over it. Let me know if you or anyone you're acquainted with would like a 78 Bronco :/

    Not that it matters. I am typing from Houston. Altus, OK last week. Winston Salem next week. Houston the one after that. Then two in Galveston. Maybe an OK trip to a Cherokee reservation somewhere along about then.

    Fall garden. Maybe...