A few years ago I set aside my consumer-driven life and headed for the hills. Literally.
I changed jobs, packed up shop, and moved cross country with my two kind dogs in a beat up station wagon. I left behind the laid back city of Knoxville Tennessee for the wildness of northern Idaho. There I rented a retired cattle farm and started learning some basic farm skills while I clocked in my 9-5 job every weekday. Over the year I spent out west, I mentored under a small sustainable farmer and learned some great stuff. Things like how to keep chickens, tend a hive of bees, plant my own food, and a bevy of other rusticated skills I now use everyday here in Vermont. It's been a hell of a ride, and now I'm at a point in my life where I've come to depend on those efforts. If not for survival -- for peace of mind.
I am comforted, even if it's just a little, by my garden and flock of birds. Knowing that there is a free source of protein and vegetables right outside my door brings me a little security in a rocky economy with rising food prices. Come August, the price of a pound of tomatoes might shoot up to a ridiculous amount. I can't imagine what organic vegetables will cost by then, but it'll easily trump their chemical brethren. Right now the prices of gas and grain, and the world's shortages in food are all I hear about on the radio (if not that, the war) While I could not survive off my little homestead for a long time. I can supplement my diet, and half of my meals this summer with fresh local food from the backyard. And yeah, it's a lot of work, but I'll also be saving me a lot of money. The six broccoli plants I just put in the ground cost $2.79 cents all together. Right now one head of organic broccoli is $3.49 in my local stores. Making my heads run me about 14 cents each, and I can keep planting more if the skillet calls.
And it's not just eggs and the garden. There is comfort in the other skills I picked up along the way. When strawberries go on sale I can make a years supply of jam in one afternoon for a few dollars and some mason jars. A few pounds of flour and some yeast and I can bake all the bread I can eat. A good tomato crop and I will have all the pasta sauce (and pasta too, thanks to the eggs again) I can eat all winter long. If I'm lucky this fall will have a few jars of golden honey and some home brewed wine as well. Knowing how to produce, preserve and create some of your food feels kind of good when the average barrel of petrol is going for 150 bucks a pop. We're not there yet, but you just wait. When your next salad costs ten bucks a pound you'll feel it there and at the pump. If there was ever a time to start learning to garden, if only for the saved cash, now is that time.
I'm not a conspiracy theorist, and I don't expect the recession to drive us into a serious depression. I don't think America needs to start turning their lawns in victory gardens. I do however; strongly believe they'd all be happier if they did. It's harder to be angry at cable news when you're biting into your own fire roasted sweet corn.