I’ve never been entirely happy with a few things about this blog, and so in the interest of starting fresh (which I seem to be very inclined towards this year), I’ve started a whole new one. It’s called If Not Here and can be found, well, here. I’ll leave this one up for awhile (as well as it’s companion which is a duplicate of the new one before I managed to get a new gmail address / wordpress username that were the same), but I’ll be blogging over there now, although I anticipate I’ll be using some of the material from here in the new space.
If anyone else is as interested in the series as I am, Homestead Revival is giving away a set of Ashley English’s books on Homemade Living. They look great and I’ve been wanting them for awhile, so I’d suggest checking this out.
As I go through the machinations of budgeting – writing the budget, tracking what I spend daily, reporting it weekly here – it strikes me that I spend a lot more time on the budget itself than on why I keep a budget. This isn’t necessarily a problem in itself – I do the budget anyway, because it’s habit, and I know in the back of my mind that it’s hugely important – but sometimes it’s good to remember that it’s for a purpose and it fits into a bigger plan.
Really, it’s pretty simple, though.
First, I keep a budget for the here-and-now, so that I have an emergency fund if anything unexpected happens. By keeping a budget I can live enough below my means to save money. Saving money means there’s some flexibility if anything happens. Also, when I’m used to living below my means, if something happens – like, say, a pay cut – we’re already used to living this way, so while it may be an adjustment, it’s not as much of a hardship as it could be.
The bigger thing, though, is that I have a plan – or at least some hopes – about what I can do with a stash of cash and the ability to lie frugally. I want some land. It doesn’t have to be a lot of land. It could be in the city or the country. I’m not really all that picky. But I want some land on which I can have a home, grow some food, raise some animals, and generally live life a little more on my terms.
This won’t happen immediately, I know. There are too many things up in the air right now, and too much to get sorted out first. But by living on a budget now – thinking and writing and watching and tracking – I can better prepare for this much hoped for dream, even if it is a good ways in the future right now. I’d do this anyway – living below my means is important enough anyway – but having a dream in place makes it even easier, and gives the work a real purpose.
Friday – nothing
Saturday – rubbermaid tub (bought used for starting a worm composter) – $2.50; 4 books for $9 (The Almanac of Rural Living – 3; Rodale’s Garden Problem Solutions – 3; The Foxfire Book – 2; Last of the Curlews – 1)
Sunday – nothing
Monday – air mattress – $41 (the old one broke, and this is a necessity for nights when I can’t sleep and need to be in the living room)
Tuesday – nothing
Wednesday – packing tape – $4 (needed to pack up box to return old computer to manufacturer for a replacement)
Thursday – 4 books for $11 (The Lacuna – 4, How the Farm Pays – 3; The Trade – 1; a Terry Pratchett for The Boy – 2)
So, this was more or less a week of somewhat unexpected but necessary expenses. More in the sense that the mattress, as noted, is necessary to my sleep and sanity sometimes, so $41 was well worth it, I think (I got a reasonable quality one this time that I hope will last longer and not lose quite as much air and require so much maintenance). My computer’s being replaced under warranty, but has to be packaged up in a particular way to ship back, and so I needed to get a roll of packing tape.
The books? Oops is all I really have here. I love books, but I very much need to be better about what I buy. I’m not too bothered by more books on gardening, farming, and sustainable living – they will get used, and I appreciate having them on hand. The almanac is especially fantastic, based on my intial readings of it, and How the Farm Pays looks great too, especially since it’s a reprint of an 1884 manual and uses older techniques. The other fiction books, though, are not really so necessary in the strictest of senses. Kingsolver I love and would have bought new, but held off on until it showed up used (which took somewhere close to a year, as I recall). The Road is dark, but post-apocalyptic survivalist fiction, which I find helps get me in gear. The Last of the Curlews…well, that just feeds into my love of reading naturalist fiction, The Trade looked interesting from a Canadian history and wilderness perspective, and I pick up the odd book every now and again for The Boy to read (although I like Pratchett just as much as he does, I think).
The grand total? $67.50.
I’m not in love with the number, but $41 of that was a new mattress, so I suppose it’s not really all that bad. And, out of the books, I spent only $8 on non-reference materials (and half of that was on a book that I’ve been waiting quite some time for). I’m also not sure I’m thrilled with the amount of things – it looks like a lot of stuff when it’s all typed out, especially for one week. A rubbermaid tub, packing tape, a mattress, and 8 books in just one week is not really that sustainable in this space. Really, I think that I could be better about spending money, but also about bringing more stuff home, so that’s something to look out for for next week, I think – being mindful of money and of space.
By day, I research and teach about digital thing – bits and bytes and their effects on how we live our lives and interact with each other.
By night, I read blogs on urban homesteading, avidly research about sheep breeds, make my own pickles, and grow basil in my apartment window.
It feels like there’s a divide here, a significant split, possibly even a rift, between the two. I’m trying to reconcile these things, trying to find tenuous links and possible projects and things that will let me stand not with my feet in two different worlds, but in one slightly messy combined one. I have virtually no idea how, though, although it’s something I find myself thinking about a lot more these days, especially after another session flipping through the hatchery catalogue that sits on the coffee table.
I certainly think there’s room in this digital age to have both. The Greenhorns blog recently posted about a course on using smartphones on farms. The Internet has provided the space to question trademarks, raise questions about organics, and connect with similar minded folks. I am endlessly impressed with the blogs and websites that I find that make hands-on, highly material work that is grounded in..well, the ground accessible to anyone, anywhere with Internet access. I use digital resources to work and plan and figure things out for myself, to connect with other people, to make a record of what I’m doing.
But in my own life, I still feel like there’s a divide. I suppose part of it is that I’m highly focused on finishing my dissertation, the one big project that needs to be completed and is about as far removed from any kind of material existence as can be imagined. My hope, though, is that when this is done, when the light at the end of the tunnel has proven itself to actually be the light at the end of the tunnel and not a train that’s barreling down on me, that I can start to work on combining some of these things that are near and dear to me into my research and my life, and building better, stronger links between this academic life that I lead and these other things that I very much want for myself now, and in the future.
…an afternoon on the couch, the windows open for the first time since fall, with a book and some tea and plans for spring cleaning in just a little bit.
Bliss, I tell you.
A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. – Henry David Thoreau
While I am always grateful for what I have, more and more these days I find myself being grateful for some of the things that I don’t have. I know for some of the people I know that this is odd. To be grateful for what you have isn’t all that exceptional, but to be grateful for the things you don’t have – other than, say, major health issues or a heavy mortgage – isn’t all that common in my experience.
I am grateful for not having a car, a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, or a cell phone. I’m grateful that I don’t have the financial burden of paying for or maintaining them. Although my hope is that this will change someday, I am grateful for not having a mortgage. I’m also grateful that I have ways to get by without them. That I can walk, or bike, or take the bus. That I can wash clothes in the tub, or a sink, or a bucket. That I actually rather like sudsy water and the act of making dirty dishes clean. That I have a landline, a laptop, and easy wireless access. That I have an apartment now and that someday, with any luck, I will have enough saved to get that mortgage.
I am grateful without these things, certainly – I have enough in my life, certainly, and so much that is better than a few appliances and techno-gadgetry. I’m grateful for family, for friends, for food, and for shelter (and, admittedly, I’m especially grateful this afternoon for books and a guitar). I don’t need more than what I have, and not having these things does not diminish my life in any way, or detract from my gratitude for the things that I do have.
But I am also grateful that I do not have them, which seems to me a bit of a separate thing. I’m grateful that I’ve learned to be without them, and that being without them is simply normal, even pleasurable sometimes, and not deprivation. I’m grateful that I’ve learned that there alternatives to what so many people seem to accept as a given, if not some inalienable right granted by the gods of credit and debt.
There are moments when I whinge and moan, as most people do, I think. Moments when the dishes and laundry are piled too high, the grocery stores seems thousands of miles away, and it would be easier to call home on a phone in my pocket rather than one across campus. But these moments are the exceptions, and are far from the rule.
There’s more that I would like to cut out, I think. More that I would like to be grateful about not having. I hope to make some of these changes soon. But for now, I’m grateful – grateful for what I have just as much as for what I don’t. It’s a good feeling this gratitude, especially when it works more than one way.