For many life decisions and lifestyles, there’s not one defining moment that creates it; there’s a series of moments, sometimes starting very early in life, which eventually lead to a certain outcome. Some of these moments may be more significant than others, but sometimes there’s no telling how significant a smaller moment actually was.
Such has been my journey towards wanting to become more self-sufficient, prepared, and capable in my own home.
I grew up Mormon. I’m no longer Mormon — I became a nondenominational Christian at 19, which is a whole different topic — but the religion was an undeniable and significant part of my life. There’s a good chance that you’ve heard at some point about the industriousness of many Mormons, and of their food storage. The church policies encourage members to work towards a year supply of food.
I don’t think we’ve ever had a year supply in my family’s home, but my mom currently has probably a few months’ worth of staples stashed in her laundry room.
Beyond that, things like gardening, boy scouts with their motto to always be prepared (both my dad and brother are Eagle scouts), and encouragement of hard work are a notable part of Mormon culture. My mom had a garden for a few years of my childhood, when we lived in Texas, and I know she intends on eventually making one again on the property they’re about to move to. My mom taught me how to water bath can this summer, a skill she learned from her mother. One of my uncles and his family have a large food storage and a productive backyard garden, in addition to my aunt regularly baking her own whole wheat bread and making homemade yogurt and from-scratch meals from their large family. Basically, some level of preparedness and self-sufficiency was part of the culture I grew up in.
However, the depth and breadth which I’m aspiring to is not something that many people even within that religion aspire to or obtain. And so we move on to the last few years.
Within a few years after getting married, I discovered Paleo. I hadn’t been totally blind to the state of the food industry before; how can you be after watching Food, Inc.? But Paleo is what really started to wake me up to the realities of the American and global food industry. Money and life circumstances haven’t always allowed me to get grass-fed beef or shop local, but reading about the relationship between the health of animals and the health of those who eat them on Paleo websites has certainly changed how I view those convenient packages of cheap chicken breasts and make me think twice about where my food is coming from.
And oh Lordy, the ingredients. I’m now that person who opens the fridge or looks at the lunch of someone who thinks they eat healthy and cringes because I can see just how much they don’t, and they don’t even realize it.
I think what got me actually caring about the environment as an extension of caring about what I eat was reading Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth. I’m sorry, veggie friends, but I just can’t get on board with you. And please don’t tell me about The China Study because it just doesn’t stand up to examination when the raw data is actually compared to the conclusions Campbell peddles.
Anyways, Keith talks a lot about the environmental impact of monocrop agriculture and problems we could be facing within a couple of generations, such as the loss of a frightening amount of the world’s topsoil, because of current agricultural practices. Caring about ethical and sustainable agriculture naturally has begun to balloon out into caring about the world my children will have to live in and looking at what I can do to make my negative impact a little less.
About this same time, we decided that we were going to buy a house soon. My husband had gotten a job with the railroad, which mean that affording our own house was not too far down the road. Suddenly visions of my own garden were dancing in my head, and before I knew it I was buying or saving books on vegetable gardening and winter gardening in this area of the country. I came across blogs about gardening and urban homesteading and rural homesteading, and the more I read the more I wanted to get in on at least parts of that lifestyle myself.
So we bought a house, and here we are. I have seeds planted in my dining room, grow lights on the way from Amazon, garden beds marked off to be dug within the next few weeks, two apple trees due to arrive in about a month and a half, a supply of reusable grocery bags, wood for a compost bin waiting for my husband to have a day off, and a growing stash of cloth diapers. I know where a local butcher that sells grass-fed beef and pastured pigs is at, I know a few people with free-range chickens who I can get eggs from, and I have a large magnetic meal planner on my fridge. Over the next couple of years I plan on acquiring knowledge and skills such as pressure canning, making things like yogurt and fermented foods at home, reducing plastic use in my home significantly (especially one-and-done plastics), and wrangling two boys while doing all of this.
How about you? Where have you come from and where are you going in your journey?