Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Independence Days

I am afraid I have been neglecting regular updates of my compacting pledge recently, not because I have abandoned it, but rather because I have been allowing life to get in the way too much. It isn't that I am going shopping crazy by any means, but we have been eating out a little more than we normally would, and I have not been taking the time to find clothes for the girls at thrift stores when it has, (I hate to admit it), been easier to run down to Target and do a one stop shop. Oh, and there was that lovely Adirondack chair I bought at Cost Plus last week!!

All is not lost. I am still heading in the right direction generally, and so I was recently delighted to discover Independence Days which I found through my friend Judy, over at My Freezer Is Full.

This project is run by a lady called Sharon Astyk, who writes a blog, and has published several books along the theme of "peak oil, climate change and economic instability."

Sharon writes "I believe that most of us can reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, help mitigate global warming, create local food systems and enable the creation of a life of abundance, even in the face of depletion." Her work focuses on encouraging all of us to get back to basics by living more simply, and frugally, so that we are able to take on whatever the future may bring, confident in our abilities to sustain ourselves in abundance.

For me the Independence Days Challenge presents an easy way for me to regularly evaluate all that I am doing towards achieving my goal of living more sustainably, simply, and gently, without resorting to long winded, and I am sure often dull posts.

Here are the weekly categories explained by Sharon:

"1. Plant something - I doubt this one needs a lot of explanation. Obviously, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are doing a lot of this right now, but it should be a reminder that gardening isn’t “put in the garden on memorial day and that’s it” - most of us can grow over a longer season than we do, and even if you live in an apartment, you can sprout seeds. So keep on planting!

2. Harvest something - some people are full swing here, but even if you just picked the first dandelion from your yard, it counts if you ate it or saved it. Don’t forget to include food you forage - whether from wild marginal areas, or even just from the neighbor’s trees that he never harvests (ask, obviously).

3. Preserve something - this starts around now for me, as asparagus, nettles and rhubarb are up. Canning looks like a big scary project if you have to can a truckload of green beans on a hot day in July. Dehydrating seems overwhelming if you have to pick the pits out of 4 bushels of plums in a single afternoon when you’d rather be doing something else. And yes, sometimes everything comes ripe at once, some big jobs can’t be avoided, and you just put on the loud rock and roll and go at it. But a little at a time is possible, you can be canning corn relish while you are washing up from dinner, or stick the strawberries in the sun to dry on your way out the door.

4. Reduce waste - This category covers both the old “Reduce Waste” and “Manage Reserves” group. Once you’ve got food, whether purchased or home preserved, you have to keep an eye on it. In this category goes making sure you use what you buy or grow, cutting down on garbage production by minimizing packaging and purchasing, composting, reducing community waste by composting or feeding scraps to your animals, and taking care of your food storage - everything from keeping records and writing dates on jars to checking the apples and making sauce when they start getting soft. BTW, reduce waste also refers to money and energy - stretching out your trips to the store and not “spending” gas on your food, cutting your grocery budget and reducing cooking energy.

5. Preparation and Storage - This is the category where you report the stuff you’ve done to get ready that isn’t growing/storing/preserving food. That means the food you buy for storage, the things you build, scavenge, rescue and repair that get you further down the path. Did you get a good deal at goodwill? Scavenge some cinder blocks for your raised bed building project? Find a grain mill on Craigslist? Buy some more rice and put it away? Inventory the medicine cabinet? Pick up a new book that will be helpful? Tell us!

6. Build Community Food Systems - Great, we’re all doing this stuff at home. But what did you do to help spread the message, because that may even be more important. Did you talk about your victory garden at your kid’s school? Offer to share space with a neighbor in your sunny yard? Bring a casserole over to the family that lost their job or moved in? Donate to your food pantry? Teach the neighbor kids to make yogurt? Offer to teach a canning class? Show someone else where the nettles are growing wild? Talk about your food storage or gardening plans? Share a plant division or seeds?

7. Eat the Food - Sometimes I think people have more trouble actually eating their garden produce or CSA shares than they do growing or buying them. Ultimately, eaters have more power over our agricultural future than they know - farmers can’t necessarily lead the way - they have to sell what eaters want. So cooking and eating are the way we will change the food system. This is where you tell us about the new recipes you tried, or the old ones you adapted to new ingredients, about how you are actually eating what you store and store what you eat, or getting your kids to try the kale."

This is the second year that Sharon has been sharing this challenge, and I have to say I absolutely love it! I feel that this will be reasonably attainable for me on a weekly basis, and I can't wait to get started with my own Independence Days update next Monday.


fullfreezer said...

Welcome aboard! This is a great challenge! It really helps me see how much I have really accomplished in a week!

leaner said...

Canning is not so scary.

This is really neat, I will have to check it out when I have more time.

Mo said...

Thanks FullFreezer, I am excited to get started with this one!

I personally find canning very scarey, even more so since I got all the supplies. (Not used I am afraid). Any canning tips happily accepted. :) However, I am determined to get on the canning band wagon this summer, as long as my tomato plants do as I hope they will!

Liisa said...

Mo, What a great post! These are great ideas as well as reminders - there is always more that we can be doing. I had my first canning experience last summer. I only canned tomatoes, as I was nervous as well, and wanted to start with something fairly easy. But, it wasn't nearly as scary as I had anticipated. I hope to do more this year!