Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Trying not to get overwhelmed

It's tough sometimes to not become completely overwhelmed with life. Even the sheer amount of stuff I need to learn in order to achieve my goal of living more sustainably and simply is a bit intimidating. However, I try to remember that I have five years to try and gather some of the skills I think I will need in order to become more (if not totally) self-sufficient.

My cooking needs to improve to start me eating a wider variety of foods which will make the whole task of eating locally and seasonally a bit easier. I'm quite a picky eater really although not half as bad as I was before I went to college - potatoes, meat, bread, apples, bananas, crisps and sweets were pretty much all I liked although I was forced as a teenager to eat vegetables (which was a huge contributing factor to my problems with food but that's a whole other story). During my college years I spent some holidays and a semester living in Germany and having to cook for myself and experience a different country as well as visiting my sister in France quite a bit really spread my food horizons - pasta, tomatoes, cheese, rice, onions was just the beginning! At any rate I still have a long way to go to get past just using the "traditional" vegetables.

Preserving/canning is something I would like to be able to do. One major consideration though is space. In my shared, rented house there isn't much of it so although I could probably make room to fit in a big boiler canner yoke (which I've seen pictures of on other blogs), I wouldn't really have anywhere to store anything I bottled up. Hmmm. It would still be good to learn the basics so that eventually when I have a bigger garden I can use, giving me lots of lovely fresh produce, I will know what to do with any extras.

I need to learn how to darn. Where does one learn stuff like that? No idea. I must check out evening classes in the area and see if basic sewing is done anywhere. Sewing is also something I need to learn anyway. My sister and I bought a sewing machine last year - she took it home with her and now she has gone travelling and I have it. Have at least a year before she comes back so would like to have the basics mastered before then. Would love to make my own clothes but will settle for being able to make curtains, pillow covers and minor repairs.

I did learn how to knit when I was a kid but never got much past knit one, purl one. I think I remember how to decrease and increase but that's about it. I only ever finished one thing (a stuffed toy for my then new niece) but one of my sisters helped me on that and did the complicated turning bits. I think I'll take a trip into town soon and buy some needles and wool though. Maybe a scarf would be a good project to start with. I'm pretty sure I have the "My First Knitting Book" I got when I was 9 at home somewhere (yes, I'm a hoarder, something else I'm working on!).

Gardening/growing vegetables - I've been reading around this subject over the last few weeks and of course this year I did actually grow my own courgettes and almost some lettuce. I think a mixture of reading and actually just doing is what's needed with more doing than reading. There is (or was) a community garden a few miles from where I live. It was some waste land beside a factory that a group got together and cleared up. I think it'd be good to get involved with something like that so must try and find a contact.

Keeping animals is also something I would like to do - at least a few chickens or hens and perhaps eventually some pigs. However, I'm still not sure I'd like to live right out in the country so this will be subject to some change before I ever can decide. I think living in a small country town or village might suit me better as otherwise I could end up in a situation where I go days without seeing anyone else. I think this is something I'll need to just wait and see how I feel about when the time comes. A lot can happen in five years, maybe I'll even be part of a couple by then which would change a lot. At any rate I need to learn at least about keeping poultry. I've been reading John Seymour's The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency - I think this book is going to be very useful to me.

Building/basic mechanics/learning how to cobble things together into functioning items. This is something I'm at a bit of a loss on. They do say that necessity is the mother of invention so there's no saying what I might be able to do in a pinch. In the meantime I do feel that it would be a good idea to learn basic mechanics, a bit about electrics, a bit about carpentry and so on. Actually, perhaps just making friends with mechanics, electricians and carpenters would be a better idea! Building a composter is my first project in this direction - a very simple thing to do (considering two sides of it are going to be old pallets) but has been on hold for the last couple of weekends due to the horrible cold and chest infection I've had. Hopefully I'll get a bit done on it this weekend.

That's a lot already and I'm sure there are other things I'd like to be able to do that would help me to get along without having to pay someone every time I need something done. I'll get there one day.

I've also been thinking recently that in some ways I'm lucky to live in Ireland. I've been reading Fast Food Nation and also read this excellent article by Michael Pollan a few weeks ago:
Having read that article I asked the following week at the farmer's market if the beef was grass-fed or grain-fed. It seems that grain feeding is fairly rare in Ireland and most cattle here are raised in a fairly natural way. I need to do more research on this. It's probably going to be one of the biggest things to deal with when I eventually leave Ireland (which I'm fairly sure I will do). I know it's generally easier to get local produce in Germany and France. But against that I'll be starting from scratch with the questions of what is normal practice, how do you grow that, how do you raise cattle etc. etc. etc. And if I do move to France I'll be needing to spend time becoming more fluent fist so that I can even ask those kind of questions! As I said above it's all a bit overwhelming. I suppose it's time enough to be worrying about that when I'm experiencing it! For now, I'll try to remember - one day at a time and in the meantime, Carpe Diem!

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