When I was a little girl, I remember curling up under the big picture window in our living room with old heavy books that I loved to pull off my parents shelves. I'd while away the hours, snuggled up in one of my mom's hand made afghans, leafing through pages filled with illustrations of flowers, vegetables, animal husbandry, how to build a log cabin and even, how to skin and cook a rabbit you'd caught. I found it fascinating. Even more fascinating than the colorful noise on the TV or that mustacheiod plumber and his princess on the newly released Nintendo. (although I did spend a lot of time with him, stomping out the evil turtle shelled Koopas. I've always enjoyed video games.) When I last went home to visit, I brought these books, time worn and ripped by the hands of small children who came after me,to South Carolina with me. Some days I pull them of the shelf, careful of loose pages and broken bindings, and flip through them. Once I get some practice in on books that I love less, I plan to rebind them. To the average observer, they aren't anything special; Back to Basics and the other being the Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening. They could easily be replaced with new or updated copies, but they won't have been made magical by the memories of childhood.
In the Springtime of my youth, you'd find me out in the yard helping my parents turn the soil to prepare for the year's garden. We'd work and drink unsweet tea (my parents and I all not being fans of anything incredibly sweet) and once the black gold was ready, we'd pop in the seeds or seedlings. I'd eagerly await them growing large enough to stake up or trellis by reading in the shade of our oak trees, trying to climb the giant pine tree in the front yard or playing with our dog or rabbits. As things grew, we'd harvest and eat them. Sun warmed cucumbers would be sliced in a bowl and served with a sprinkle of salt for a snack. Add cottage cheese, diced ham and a few cherry tomatoes and it was a light and delicious lunch.
As a girl, I wanted a horse, but I got a little sister instead. As an adult, I joke that the horse would have been less work.
In the classroom, I learned the basics of cooking and sewing in Home Economics; a class with both boys and girls in it. Our teacher, a large gray haired woman who always wore an apron and a smile, would reminisce about her own experiences and childhood while we baked cookies or learned how to darn socks. (Yes, I can darn a sock. By hand.) Some of my favorite stories she would tell were of the Hallowe'ens and Mischief nights of her youth. She'd tell us about the homemade costumes and treats they would gather and how she and her gaggle of girlfriends would walk giggling through the neighborhood waiting for the boys to pop out from behind a tree or bush to startle them. (flirting when you're young hasn't changed much, has it?) She always had such a wistful tone in her voice and I never understood that; Hallowe'en was wonderful still! But now, as I've grown older, I find myself taking that same tone when I tell about the holidays of my own youth and I'm only half the age she was when I knew her.
These were things that I did as a girl that were normal. There was nothing unique, special or (according to the by-laws of some ass-backwards towns) criminal in what we did. We grew our own food on our own land, raised animals, knew how to fix and reuse things. We didn't take simple arts and comforts for granted, The boys I knew were taught to sew and cook along with the girls and the girls learned basic home repair and car maintenance along with the boys. Either gender could take classes in farmsteading, woodworking, and sewing, something that wasn't an option for older generations due to gender roles and something that isn't available to younger ones due to lack of funding and the great push of technology and commerce.
As an adult, I keep my garden still, though admittedly it is nowhere near as lush and productive as my parents' gardens; a byproduct of poor red clay soil and hot heavy summers that seem to last forever. Crochet has always been something I've enjoyed and I will sew on occasion, though if I'm completely honest, I've never been its biggest fan. My husband builds the things we want or need when he is able: a bar and a dartboard to create a wonderful lounge space in the garage, the bed that we sleep in, a step-stool for me to reach high places with. He tries to use as much salvaged and scrap material as he can to not only add character, but to be environmentally responsible. His honey-do list currently consists of bookcases, a fence, a clothesline, a bench and a pair of Adirondack chairs. We have a pile of free pallets that we picked up stacked in the yard, which we plan to use for a few of these projects. I've grown to enjoy preserving foods and am even learning to like cooking, though that is a feeling that's only crept up on me recently. I used to loathe, hate and despise it but would do it anyway. Now, I'm a bit more comfortable and creative in the kitchen so I enjoy it more.
We sit curled up in front of the fire in Winter months and talk about our plans for Spring. What will we plant, what projects will we tackle? In the Autumn we host gatherings around the campfire in the backyard. On afternoon walks with Luna, we discuss wanting to become more self sufficient. We talk of backyard chickens, goats and maybe one day, a two room cabin in the mountains with an outhouse; no frills, no electricity. A retreat from the stresses of work and the ever present weight of technology.
A place where we can enjoy eggs our chickens laid, cooked in cast iron over a fire while sitting in our lovingly hand-made adirondack chairs.
People LOVE to tell us that we're crazy or old fashioned and like to say things sarcastically such as "Oh, look! Here's this gadget that makes my life easier. Screw that, let's do it by hand. Right, because that makes sense." (Yes, BFF if you're reading this, this is one of your rants almost verbatim.) Neither one of us completely hates technology; Joe is a television specialist and I'm a blogger & online shop owner. I think it's entirely possible to enjoy technology and simple living at the same time, both in balance. I don't think it has to be one or the other.
I enjoy sleeping in a tent for a week straight in the woods, but that doesn't mean that I can't also enjoy a resort vacation with spa treatments and complimentary cocktails. Why do some people try so hard to make everything so very black and white?