Before I got back to the land, I was a city girl. I was raised in the city, I worked in Cambridge, Ma, I moved to Portland in 1989. I never touched a chicken growing up, goats and sheep were critters I knew only from county fairs. And yet, here I am wakened by the sound of baa-ing sheep, saving carrot peelings for my chickens, marking the retreat of snow from the soil.
I wouldn't say that I just woke up one day and decided that this was the life I wanted to live. It was a matter of circumstances presenting themselves and providing lessons for me. I've shared before that I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 29. At the time I had to really think about what was most important to me as I realized that my health was not letting me live the fast paced life of a single mother, working a full time job and taking classes at the local university. As a result, life slowed down out of necessity and allowed time to explore what my body would allow me to do and in the process I discovered gardening, canning and knitting.
My lessons in self sufficiency were taught out of necessity. Portland has vibrant community gardens. I learned so much in my tiny little 5 by 15 plot. I grew enough veggies during the summer to never need to buy veggies through the summer. One summer, Tristan and I were really poor as my health impacted my ability to work at my fast paced hospital job. This was the summer that I realized that I could put a few extra quarts of green beans in the fridge. Friends and I gathered around a second -hand water bath canner to make strawberry jam. I shredded zucchini for the freezer. I canned tomatoes. It wasn't much food but some weeks that winter, when it was tough to get all the money I may have needed for the groceries, those few veggies filled the soup pot. I learned to knit and made Tristan's hats and mittens with yarn I found cheap at the Good Will. I patched the knees of his pants. I made very good use of my library card and read about simple living, Helen and Scot Nearing. Eventually, I moved north from Portland, met the man of my dreams and he shared the same dream of living a country life.
Here we are on our two acres, with our 7 sheep, one goat, 5 chickens and half acre garden. We heat with wood and each year that we live this life we find more we can do for ourselves. The recent upheaval in our lives has tested us. For me, holding the fort down during the week, I often wonder if this is a life one person could do on their own. For hubby who has to be away from his family and is living a town life right now, he muses on what it would be like for his whole family to be under one roof in town. For all of us who visit Portland, the lure of city life is exciting; there is so much music, art and progressive thinking. At this time, when we will be making some sort of change this coming year, it is easy to think that downscaling, giving up some of our self-sufficiency for the ease of a town life, would be a path we could take. It is one choice we could make.
But when it comes right down to it, I love this life. I may not like the struggles we have been through over the last year. It would be very easy to take the easy way out. But I love this life. I love living a life that follows the rhythm of the seasons. I love the quiet nights and star lit skies that I couldn't find in the city. I love those wooly faces that come up to me for a little grain from my hand. I love watching my boys , even though they are 13 years apart, get wild outside on a muddy spring day. I love the sense of satisfaction that comes from doing for myself, that full pantry in the fall, that sweater knit with love, those repurposed objects that saved us money.
I love this life so any doubts about what choices we may have made fall away....
Back to the sugaring....