This is a question I have been asking myself this week. Life has been busy. Sometimes too busy. So when I log on to this blog and I see my little tag up above "in pursuit of a simple life" I really have to ask myself ...are we there yet? If pursuing a simple life is an active exercise, have I reached it yet?
This week did not feel very true to those words. Last week was busy but in a home bound way. Seeds were started. I started sewing a new pair of pj's for the little guy. Sap was running. We spent a good three days sharing shifts feeding the fire to boil down the sap. Last weekend we spent some time improving our system so that it was more efficient. More sap storage containers, better fire pit. The weather was supposed to be bad on Monday so I thought I would take a "day off". Ha! When I realized that I was going to have a busy week I decided to put the house in order, knowing full well that it would soon be disordered by our hectic schedule. Tuesday, I had to run into Augusta to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Wednesday was a usual day in town for Tristan's Class and Evan's homeschooling gym time. Later in the day we met up with Mark to go to a school concert in the evening. Thursday I went to Mark's school to teach knitting and grocery shopping. Friday is Tristan's class, Evan's story time and laundry at the laundry mat. Today I am at the library writing this because I brought Tristan in for a metalsmithing lesson he has with a jeweler. This afternoon I will take my shift with the sugaring fire.
This is only half of the story.
The other half, my other half, worked all five days. He teaches guitar lessons on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday he does not get home for dinner. Wednesday night he had a concert. Thursday there was another concert but usually he has a rehearsal for a men's chorus he has started at the highschool. He is not home for dinner on Thursdays either. Friday afternoon we began boiling sap down.
This just does not sound all that simple to me.
Some of this will become easier soon. Tristan is going for his drivers license and should have it by summer. The road will be dry soon and we will not have to give ourselves extra time to leave the house. Mark is working on hooking up the washing machine soon so I will no longer have to go the laundry mat. Mark found out this week that our other car; which we thought had met it's demise, may still have some life left in her. So we will have two cars again which will save me from driving Mark back and forth to work when I need a car.
But in the meanwhile this is what I have noticed. It seems uncomfortable to say. But when life gets this busy, those things that make up our homesteading life, begin to feel like burdens. Sugaring is one example. This year we put in 25 taps. More than in the past but not much more. We have so much more sap than we have had in years past; partly, because we tapped much more mature trees. There are days when we have exceeded our storage for the sap and I can see sap overflowing the buckets, literally. But I notice this overflow as I am walking past the trees on the way to the car to get somewhere. I think about all the waste. I begin to feel pressured to get a fire started, on a windy day, because this is the spare time we have to do this and there is about 80 gallons of sap sitting in reserve and the buckets on the trees need to be emptied again. But...I also think, gosh, if we can get 4 or more gallons of sap this year we will be saving ourselves almost 250 dollars. Maple syrup goes for about 65.00 a gallon. This is not chump change. It is truly a local sweetener. If money gets tighter then the syrup will truly be something we will be glad we did. We could realistically be self-sufficient for sweeteners this year. And isn't this the point of this lifestyle?
This is a wake up call to me, I think. I don't think, as a family, we have had a reckoning of what is really important to us. At least not for a while. The hamster wheel is getting a little squeaky these days. I think that maybe we need to sit down as a family and figure out how to streamline some things, restore some balance to some areas and learn to let somethings go.
When I began on this journey I was inspired to do so because my life had become insanely busy. I was a single mother working two jobs, taking college classes. Life put me squarely in a sitting position with a diagnosis of MS. At that time I was not necessarily thinking of homesteading but of simplifying life. I learned at that time to slow down and find pleasure in the small things: buds appearing in spring, the feel of a small body snuggled next to you as you read a picture book, the sound of sap dripping into a metal bucket. It is so easy to let the flow of life divert you from the course you want to take.
Perhaps the first step to take begins with a good deep breath. It is time to breathe.