Cushions

The farmer in his field

A while ago we finally took the step and enrolled in a year-long CSA, starting this Spring, at Siena Farms. We visited the farm in Fall and fell in love with the fields and the farmers. I loved especially the fact that the owner, Farmer Chris, puts effort and money into training young people.

I am very happy we did. Last year, as Transition Wayland took off and I struggled with my novel, I lost track of my garden. I didn’t water it enough, let the weeds and the pests have their way, and didn’t even get round to putting doors on our hoop house for Winter and early Spring growing. Even though the season was mild, our harvests were skimpy, a far cry from the dream of eating solely from the garden during Summer at least.

This Spring we are planning to put in an irrigation system, which I would like to be as low-tech as possible, dependent on rain water catchment and gravity. The shortage of acorns last Fall may have taken care, temporarily, of the chipmunks, squirrels and voles, but the tomato horn worms will be back and the deer seem less and less shy. For the latter at least we’re thinking of better fencing, and for the varmints, traps and  “vole hotels” (you check in but you can’t check out!). I’ve also enrolled in a Timebank and may get some gardening help that way, as well as  from visiting grandparents. All of this will be necessary, as we have plans for significantly expanding the food gardens this Spring.

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What I am talking about here  is cushions, reserves, safeties. These last two months have been another lesson in those for us.

Take the firewood. We have lots of it neatly stacked in the back of the property, but it is not easily accessible for day-to-day use, for which we have a smaller stack on our porch. When we got back from our trip in January, that stack was very low and we soon ran out.

Why? It takes the two of us only two hours to fill it!

Two reasons. Because of circumstances we missed opportunity after opportunity to restock: it rained when we had the time, it was too bitterly cold, we were too busy, one or both of us got sick. But more importantly, we don’t have the mindset for cushioning.  That has been bred out of us by lifetimes of convenience. Heating was always available to us when we grew up (to DH because he grew up in a tropical climate, to me because there was always gas heat and good insulation). We still don’t have a “need” for hauling wood. Lo and behold: the oil furnace automatically picked up the slack (to the detriment of our Riot). It is heating my house as I write.

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Even with regard to our health we have this attitude. I mentioned sickness keeping us from hauling wood. Both DH and I have been sick too often this Winter (the mildest on record). We’ve been lousy at physical self care (New Year’s resolutions notwithstanding). For the last two weeks I’ve been suffering from sinusitis (not the usual for me). It got to be so bad that my herbal medicines no longer made a difference and I “needed” (pharmaceutical) painkillers and antibiotics. I detest painkillers, and I’ve not used antibiotics for over a decade. They’re all throwing me for a loop, making me too dizzy, for one… to haul wood!

I feel trapped in a spiral of convenience. The garden didn’t produce? Not to worry, there is plenty of food in the supermarket. Didn’t take care of yourself and now your head’s blocked and you can’t think straight? Here’s a spray, it clears you up in two seconds! Yes, you’ll have to wean yourself off. Yes, it makes you dizzy, but at least you can sit at your laptop now and blog…

Ugh.

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The cushions we need, that we truly need, have to be inbuilt in our systems. We must no longer be so reliant on outside convenience. I’m talking community supported agriculture, irrigation with rain water, simple fencing, help from friends and community, physical health and fitness with the occasional boost of a herbal tonic or medicine grown in my garden, a better stocked food pantry, a better composting/soil building system… And I could go on.

Why? For decency sake. Because of what’s coming. Because it will strengthen what really matters.

What kind of reserves are you building in, taking responsibility for, taking control of, coming home to?

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2 Comments

  1. Focusing on filling all those glass containers I would otherwise have recycled with dried beans, quinoa, rice, flours etc. Turns out the results are quite beautiful!

  2. I love this post because of your frankness in describing the barriers to building resilience. These are precisely the primary barriers that many people face, until they run out of options. And of course, rationally, we know that it’s best to prepare ahead of time, to practice, to learn through mistakes, and yet it’s so easy to fall back into leaning on conveniences, because they’re there. I do this too. The only remedy I’ve found is to keep trying over and over. I always think I don’t do nearly enough, but if I look back on how I was living 10 years ago, it’s easier to see the changes over time.

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