Saturday, May 24, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - The simple life is not always easy

My sister, Bonnie, gifted me with my "watch chicken" a few years ago. :)
"People tell me that I do more work than they do and that my life is therefore far from simple.  It's true that it generally requires more effort to produce what we need than to buy it.  But "simple" tends to describe the nature of the activities in the kind of life, not the amount of effort involved."
Rhonda Hetzel

The above quote comes from the book Down to Earth by one of my favorite bloggers, Rhonda Hetzel (of the Australian Down to Earth blog).  I read this on the Kindle sample I downloaded of her book and the truth immediately brought a smile.

Especially since I had spent part of the morning replanting bush bean seeds that apparently did not survive a deluge last week.  That same week we had the One Hundred Year late frost that nipped at the garden.

Every year I garden, I learn something new.  Sometimes the challenges of weather force a new way of growing, failures tell me my soil is not correct or there is too much dappled sun (like the year I tried to grow tomatoes in the raised bed closest to the tree), and sometimes we just did not care for the food.

The back left bed is the original herb garden, now mostly apple mint.

Each year I am thankful I do not have to depend entirely on my garden for what I serve on the dinner table as did past generations.  If one does not believe we are no longer in Eden, grow a garden and do battle with weeds and pests and weather.  It can be hard work.  I enjoy it but it is work.

But I understand what Rhonda is saying about simplicity.  Her story involves leaving a career which paid well, eating out often, and a lot of shopping.  It was not an easy change in her life as she learned to "make instead of buy" and "grow instead of buy" and generally get off the modern treadmill.

We think of simplicity as corresponding to the term "easy".  But that is not what it is about at all.  It is far easier to buy bread than to make it.  It is much easier to go to the farmer's market than garden... and to locate a farmer's market may take more effort than running to Wal Mart.

For my life as a Pantry Person, simple living has become a way of providing organic food on an extremely tight budget.  Once budgeted for and built, it doesn't cost a whole lot to grow food but there definitely can be a learning curve.  Which is why I get concerned when I hear people say they would grow a garden in hard times but not now.

Rhonda talks about stockpiling when items at the store go on sale so one has in their home what they need... when they need it... at the cheapest prices.  Now, that is the epitome of living a Pantry Lifestyle!   It takes work to plan what one needs in a pantry, to write lists, to set aside a stockpiling budget, to watch for sales at the grocery, but in the long run it makes life ever so much simpler.

Why?  Because growing a garden and deepening the pantry may be just what is needed for someone to leave a job if they desire and learn the domestic skills that are not easy but can bring satisfaction.

The smaller of the two herb gardens, this one is just a couple years old.
It is definitely not easy to make a transition if you have been used to working full time.  I remember how hard it was to change the way I thought from working for money and buying to cutting out the middle man and doing (and growing, and making, and teaching my son at home).

It certainly is not at all possible for everyone to do this.  Not every person would even desire such a lifestyle.  But there are times it is forced upon one through a job loss or other life change.  And with even a few simple living skills under their proverbial belt, it will help that transformation be much easier... whether forced or desired.

For instance, everyone can learn the skills of deepening the pantry by purchasing needed items on sale.  Most people have some place they can grow something and watch it grow... or not.  All of us can research and make new recipes that use healthy but inexpensive food.  Everyone can ponder and plan.

Since we are all finite beings with limited time, energy, money, opportunity, etc. then we must pick and choose our level of living a simpler lifestyle.  In a perfect world I would love to have real live chickens in my backyard instead of my chicken statue (pictured above).  I wish I felt well enough to grow all my own food and do more canning and purchase grain fed beef (I have no desire to raise livestock, knowing how much work that takes!).

But at one time when we could purchase a house, I knew I wanted one in the country with a big back yard.  That decision not only made it possible to grow a raised bed garden but the houses are cheaper in the country so it was a good financial decision.

After a couple of years living here, we budgeted the money and time to build the raised bed garden.   I am always learning new skills and tweaking old ones.   And believe me, if I can learn these skills so can anyone else.

Are there skills I have given up on?  Definitely!  I am not a knitter.  I tried.  I can't grow tomatoes from seed.  I tried.  I have to do everything a little at a time and I can't handle excess heat in summer.  So that cuts out some opportunities.  My gas budget is very tight so I have to think twice before going anywhere and there is rarely money to eat out.  There will always be limitations.

But to simplify life by doing what I can and gaining skills... it has been a very good thing.  My own journey to simplicity was due to circumstances.  Rhonda's was a decision made when she realized she needed a life's change.

But it is do-able, even if done only a little at a time.  Like learning to make a good loaf of bread or a sweater or your own quilt or homemade jelly or soap... etc.  Perhaps the best part of the journey is just thinking about what you can do or learn that you have always desired to do and make time for it. 

Rhonda's books are now finally available in America in e-book form for the Kindle at Amazon.  Yes, these are Amazon Associate's Links.  :)

Rhonda's original book, Down to Earth, is available... here.

Her new 99 cent book called The Simple Life is available... here.  It is in my current reading stack.


Rebecca said...

Purchasing needed items on sale, researching & making healthy & inexpensive foods, pondering and planning, making do or doing without, using the library, bartering, and thrift store wardrobing--these are things that work for me.

I enjoy the hints re. pantry lifestyle I get from you here (and other bloggers as well)!

Deb said...

I agree with you and we attempt to live a simple "pantry lifestyle" with a close eye on our budget. This has helped us pay off our home and live debt free. I would like to read this book, but don't have a kindle. Her book sounds like another one I read last year called "Almost Amish." That one was very good too. Have a great weekend.

lejmom said...

LOVED Rhonda's book. Her blog is great, as is yours...thanks for all you do. Jane

Vee said...

Took a lovely sidestep to Amazon and to her blog. So much information. Thank you for featuring Ronda.

Anonymous said...

I am glad you can now work in your garden! I used to count sheep trying to sleep but now I ponder where to put another fruit tree or where I can snug in another herb! I go to sleep with a contented smile on my face! :-) Watching God's nature of growing things and tiny bugs and lively birds while outside is wonderful...isn't it!! Keeps your mind off your aches and pains too!! The peaceful feeling you get from gardening and being outside is also the feeling you get when you have stocked up on the essentials for your family. Forgoing eating out for making that extra payment on a bill so it can be paid off earlier is also a peaceful feeling! A really grand one is making the last payment on your property!!! Yea!! A little at a time adds up and is always better than doing nothing. One step at a time gets it done. Sarah

Manuela@A Cultivated Nest said...

Thanks for the links! I didn't know her book was available on kindle and didn't know about the new one. Too busy with trying to get this house ready for sale and keeping life going! I used to read her blog all the time and I don't think I've even looked at in about 3 months! Thank goodness this business is permanent.I don't know how people do it!

Rebecca said...

Just had to come back and tell you my husband picked up "Harold Fry" for me at our local library this afternoon. I'm already into chapter 4. Thanks for the heads up.

Deborah Montgomery said...

thank you for the links, I will check them out. Yes, ordering out for pizza is lots "simpler" than making your own crust, and growing the tomatoes and herbs for it! I think part of what "simple" means is unplugging from an oftentimes toxic world. Even if you're working hard it feels more real. I enjoy these posts, thank you.

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

You and Rhonda are the authors of nearly the first two blogs I began to read regularly, long ago. Both of such great value.

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I love Rhonda's blog.

I like her philosophy of 'do what you can.' Like you say, a little at a time.

This year, due to circumstances and choices, I didn't start anything from seed for the garden. But not having had one last year, I wanted to be able to grow tomatoes, peppers, and few other things. So I bought plants and got them planted this past week. It's something, but not anything like the garden we had a few years ago!

I cook from scratch, sew, I do some basic knitting, we keep things very simple here. We lack nothing. In fact we have an abundance of everything that is important - love, friendships, children, chickens….

Thanks for this post, Brenda.