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Resolution, Set: Go!

Even though a spent a good amount of time brainstorming this year’s goals, my actual resolution totally came out of left field… literally. It came from the field to the left of our house, which actually has a couple of baseball diamonds on it so this metaphor works in a number of ways.

We went for a family walk to our neighboring field on New Year’s Day and it hit me – why not try to do this every day? It sounds so simple, but I know that some days will be a struggle to strap on some shoes and get out there. Especially when it is rainy, or cold, or I’m just not feeling like leaving the house.

I’ve been working from home for over a year now and while I love the flexibility and being able to see my kids so much more (Mr. Handsome stays at home during the day with Baby2 so I can focus), it is also awfully isolating and I find I can go days without going outside if I’m not careful.

So making a resolution to make a conscious effort to get out there makes a lot of sense. And let’s face it, we all know I’ll be striving to grow a better garden and work on my financial health anyway. I can’t leave those things alone, I love striving for improvement (or at least looking for ways to improve!)\. Making those things a resolution kind of makes the whole thing more complicated than it needs to be.

Here’s to a simple resolution, one that I’m sure will return much more than I can fathom at present. Happy New Year!

Brainstorming 2015’s Resolution

Creating a New Year’s Resolution is one of my favorite things to do, even though I’ve never really carried out my resolutions until this year when I fought back against GMOs, toxic foods, and industrial-type farmed foods coming into my house. This year was so successfully that I’m finding myself getting really carried away with my thoughts for 2015. There’s SO MUCH I want to do to better our lives and keep on our track to self-sufficiency. I thought it might be fun to brain-dump potential goals here so I can sort them out and settle on just one or two big things. It’s so much better for me to focus than to overwhelm myself with trying to accomplish too much!

Here are some of my thoughts…

  1. Financial Health is a big one. There are so, so many things that could go into it. We could figure out ways to reduce our bills, like reducing our garbage pick-ups to once a month. But that involves making less waste, which could be a year-long goal all by itself. And of course there’s simply creating a budget and getting used to it, which could also take a year and would be a great resolution (we recently purchased the You Need a Budget software and I’d like to write about it as soon as we get it really set up). I’m lacking clear focus with this resolution, so I feel like it could easily overwhelm me. Still, it’s very important that we address some of the sub-goals I’ve thought up.
  2. Oral health is something on my mind a lot too. Having just finished the book Cure Tooth Decay, oral health is at the forefront of my mind right now. And if I was really sneaky, I could still fit this under financial health (healthier teeth = less visits to the dentist = lower healthcare costs) but even oral health in itself could have a lot of sub-resolutions. I’ll write about this more in my book review, but the book recommends both diet and hygiene changes that would be great focuses for 2015. And they’re just outside the norm that I feel it would be a more challenging resolution than growing more food. But on another level it doesn’t feel like… enough.
  3. Growing more food. According to my self-sustaining goal phases, this is to be my focus for 2015. There’s a whole bunch of sub-resolutions that could come into play here as well, but I think it’d be easier to break them up into smaller monthly goals (planning in January, starting seeds in Feb, adding to our garden infras     tructure in March, planting outside in April, etc). Accomplishing something each month would be a great motivator, too. I could totally fit this in with financial health (growing our food saves money!) but then I run into the problem of overwhelming myself again. I only stray from making this my official resolution because I know it’s something I’m going to do anyway and I’d almost like for my resolution to be less… predictable? Less of something that I know I’ll already do. Something that will challenge me.
  4. Then I get distracted by the idea of smaller monthly goals and want to do a whole bunch of smaller things: find out how to recycle more things, practice meditation, start reading before bed inside of watching tv, way less screen time in general, institue a family-wide bedtime routine (where we all brush our teeth and everything at about the same time in the evening, even if we don’t go to bed afterward, because there are things we should be doing at night that we rush through because we’re tired and just want to go to bed. Case in point, to continue my tangent: Mr. Handsome got me an oral irrigator for Christmas which I’m so excited about because it’s one of the things I want to try from Cure Tooth Decay, but I haven’t used it yet and yes that was a week ago! But every night I go to get it started and I’m too sleepy to want to really figure it out so I go to bed. Bad!). I know that if I had smaller goals I’d stay interested, feel accomplished, and get to work on a variety of things. It’d be hard picking goals for later in the year though, because I’d want to get to them now!

So as I look over this list I don’t know which one to pick. I think that due to the success of this year’s resolution I have put too much stock in coming up with a good one for 2015.  I just want to learn as much in 2015 about something as I did with food this year! I’ll keep thinking about it tonight – I’ll have plenty of time since we’re staying up late!

Happy New Year!

Goal Update – New Phases

There have been so many things on my mind lately it has been hard to post! As soon as I settle on one topic I’m distracted by another.

I deal with distraction by making lists, so I’ve decided to update my Goal Phases page (tab at the top of this screen). I started the page to try to organize all the things I want to learn as part of my self-sustaining goal.

Now the list on the page is helping me to focus on just a few areas at a time. Lately I’ve been thinking about all the things I want to learn and I’ve gotten a little overwhelmed! But if I step back and recall that I’ve set a nine-year timeline, then I can break up my time into segments and feel a little more relaxed.

I’ve realized that this whole year I’ve spent most of my time learning about foods that the best for my family’s health and how to cook those foods. So that is my official focus for 2014… which I do realize is almost over. But I’ve learned so much about food this year so it’s okay that I’m just now applying the label. I’ve been focusing on this goal already without even realizing it!

So by the end of this year, just 6 or 7 weeks away, I hope to know enough about food that I can cook whatever we manage to bring home without too much stress. I’ve learned to cook a lot of things this year: I’ve learned the difference between cooking convensional beef vs grass-fed, I’ve learned how to cook a variety of winter squash (never had cooked a squash before this year!), I’ve learned how to chop an onion, how to properly hold a chef’s knife, substitutes for wheat flour and eggs, how to use a pressure cooker, how to cook in cast iron, how to lacto ferment vegetables, and way more than I ever thought I’d need to learn!

Cooking isn’t just proper use of ingredients and equipment. It’s also meal planning and shopping. So by the end of the year I’d like to have my planning and shopping systems in place well enough that I don’t have to think about them as much as I do now. Right now I spend about two hours planning meals and snacks for the week. I can’ keep spending that much time on it so I keep tweaking my planning system. I’m still using my meal planning template – that is actually working really well for me still. Coming up with ideas for what to eat is always the most difficult, so I’m working on a sort of “map” to give me fresh ideas each week. It has themed days, lists of healthy foods, and other things to trigger my brain and make planning fast. When it is more complete I promise to share it!

We spend a good amount of time on shopping for foods, too. We spend so much time partly because my planning isn’t 100% yet so every few days I realize we’re out of something and we have to go replenish supplies. I’m getting really close to only shopping once a week, but not quite there yet.

Part of planning better shopping is having a really good handle on what we actually use each week/month. So I’m working on tracking our consumption habits so I can better prepare for how much of something we’ll need to get. It’d be so much better to get say… granola only once a month and get it at a discount because we ordered five pounds.

So lots of cooking and food-related work still to do this year! But I feel like we’ve come a long way! We are WAY less reliant on standard consumer fare in order to get ourselves fed and that really is the goal here isn’t it! As long as we have ingredients and some tools, we can make ourselves a good dinner.

Once the year is over though, it’s not like I’ve totally mastered cooking. Like many life skills it requires lots of practice and a thirst for knowledge in order to keep skills sharp. So I’ll still be reading cookbooks and perusing the internet for cooking smarts in 2015 and beyond. But, I’ll try to make it less of an obsession.

In 2015 I’ll attempt to move on to a new obsession, which is to grow a lot more of the food we eat. We had a decent first year of gardening in 2014, but we need to step it up a lot in order to call ourselves self-sufficient.

For the future phases beyond next year, see the new page at the top of this screen. I will update it often!

The HOW (and the when)

Okay, after a couple days of updates and a break for Father’s Day, I’m back to the goal stuff.

The What and Why have been documented, and we know Who is doing this (me and my family!) and Where (at home and in our community) – all that is left is the How.

How am I going to be more productive and consume less?

The answer is… I have no idea! I’m new at this. I guess I’ll be finding out as I go? Well, that’s not entirely true, I have some ideas. Have I mentioned toothpaste?

But really, though, how do I produce more than I consume? I think I should start by being mindful, and encouraging mindfulness in my family. By mindful I mean that I should start looking at everything like I’ve been looking at toothpaste. I want to ask questions – What is this? What’s in it? How are the ingredients made? Where does it come from? Who created this?

Of course, I have to figure out how to encourage these questions from my family without being annoying. I have been kind of annoying to them lately. I mentioned that I’ve started changing our diet already. Well, I did some things kind of fast. No more white bread or white pasta – when enriched flour foods were gone I replaced them with whole wheat or I banned them (still trying to keep the Little Debbie-like shit from coming in my house but that’s a separate fight, and at least one that I don’t have to have often). No more Jello (I make some using fresh juice and grass-fed gelatin now). I added lots of veggies – veggies at every meal when before we had them only a couple times a week. Way less pasta – once a week for dinner and that’s it (and now it is only half the dinner instead of the whole thing). And the biggest one (but honestly seemed the easiest to implement when it was all said and done) – no more sugary cereals AND cereal is now just a “lazy day” breakfast. We now eat home-cooked breakfasts at least five days a week or more. Kiddo1 had cereal this morning (first day of summer!) for the first time in weeks. Trader Joe’s O’s, plain, with raw milk. Oh yes, our milk went from convention to organic to raw pretty quickly.

That’s not the annoying part. I’ve been telling them why I switch things when they ask, and how much bad stuff is in some of the things we’ve been eating. I try not to lay it on thick, I really do, but sometimes I get away from myself! I have also not allowed them much of a transition. I am trying not to swap out the whole pantry at once, but I will change the bread they get overnight. One day it was white, the next is was wheat and no matter how much they protested I did not go back. They’re actually lucky on this one – I’m still buying bread but I would like to do away with it all together. More on this later; it’s more complex than it sounds.

So I am not shy to tell them what they’ve been eating sucks and I’m not slow to take it away. I’m a “yank the band-aid off while they’re distracted” kind of nurse I guess.

I digress! Mindfulness! That’s all I’m trying to get at here. I need better ways to encourage mindfulness in my family, and I’m not sure what those are yet, but I know being more aware of what we’re eating and what we’re buying is going to be helpful.

Step 2… I also want to read whatever I can. Reading books and articles about what I’m doing helps. Reading will be a way for me to broaden my scope and skills. I’ve read a couple homemaking-related books since I started writing again last week (I’ve been sick, lots of time to lay around and read) and I’ll write reviews of those soon. I want to research homemaking, the art of domesticity, etc. I want to learn all those things our grandmothers knew – how to sew, how to clean, how to use all parts of a cow, how to raise chickens and garden year-round, etc.

Step 3… Community (this is the hardest one for me!). I need to get out of my house and find other people who feel the same way. I’d love to take a gardening class or find a mentor that will help me learn. I want to meet a local farmer that I can buy meat from today but maybe trade for meat when I have something of value. I want to meet folks who tinker with cars and would do anything for a few jars of the jam I make every year.

I’m sure there are more steps. Learn to try things without fear of failure. Find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Meditate. Turn off the TV more, put down my phone more. Talk about my goal with others. Write about my goal 2 or 3 or 5 or whatever times a week.

I think I really will be find out how to do this as I go. I’ll be sure to write it down though.

 

Oh wait! The When! I left out one question – when. I’ve actually been thinking about this one a lot this week.

Obviously I’m starting now, or I’ve already started I guess, but when am I done? Better yet, because I know I’ll never be “done,” when is my target to have the production-to-consumption scale emphatically tilted to producing?

I’ve been thinking about 9 years, mostly because of my blog’s namesake. Well I called this blog 9 years later because I started it to document my second pregnancy, which occurred 9 years after my first pregnancy. So, you know, gotta follow that up with something equally epic (which is impossible, I know, as nothing is as grand as having a child). Plus, this is, like, a really big goal. I’m talking Make. All. My. Shit. (Hahahaha – so I’m proofreading and just now realize how funny that last sentence sounds. So I can’t remove it.)

9 years from now I want to have the skills that will enable my family and me to be free. Free to live anywhere we want – stay in our current house and build on, or maybe move to a farm, move to another country if we felt like it. I want to be free to decide whether or not I will continue with conventional employment. Free to make decisions about our future that are not hindered by questions like where will our food come from and where will we buy X, because those things won’t be major players in the decisions any more.

I know it sounds like a lot. I know it is a really lofty goal. I know it could fall apart at any moment! There will be successes, there will be failures. I’ll probably give up from time to time, but that’s why the blog is here! Oh dear blog, please keep me motivated by making me accountable. I can’t promise to post my progress and not follow through, right? We’ll see.

Where does the time go?

Where does the time go, amiright? Baby2 is almost two years old and I haven’t written a proper blog post in nearly a year. I’ve had a couple draft posts going that I picked at from time to time, but I just haven’t felt as motivated to write as I did when I was pregnant.

This quest to find motivation has been on my mind a lot lately. In pregnancy I was so motivated to write, despite being tired, swollen, all my free time taken meeting my exercise goals, etc. Maybe pregnancy just provides such good fodder for my writing muscle… but it isn’t like life right now is boring! Maybe pregnancy provides the focused subject that I lack now. Maybe there’s just SO MUCH that I could write about now that I can’t focus.

Other than being a good writing subject, I’ve also thought about pregnancy as being like a goal, with giving birth being the ultimate culmination of all the hard work of growing a baby. It has all these sub-goals and milestones that are really great for making me feel like I’m progressing toward something.

Goals are good; everybody says so. I’ve never used them much in my personal life, though, other than the big goals like finish school, find a job, find a partner, buy a house, etc. Were those really goals or just things I wanted? Or things I thought I needed to do? They’re “life checklist” things – they aren’t focused goals (to me).

Lists are really by bag – they’re how I typically stay focused and organized. But as I examine that approach now, it suddenly hits me as reactive. I want to get shit done, but I want more than that. When I look back at the end of the day, or the decade, I want to be able to say that I did something more than keep the kitchen clean and the family fed. Not that those aren’t important things! Or that I’ll stop doing them, which can’t really happen! Lists are important, but I’ve leaned on them too heavily and completely forgotten about goals!

Lately this bug has caught me. I have a need to always have a project going on, but this is more than that. I want a project with lots of little sub-projects, that takes a long time to complete, that not only gives me a sense of accomplishment but provides something for my family and maybe even my community as well.

There are a few things I’m working on right now, but I think they make really nice sub-projects that could contribute to a bigger goal. First, I’m driving big diet changes for the family: reducing processed foods, reading/researching ingredients, making more from scratch. This leads directly into my second “thing:” growing food. We’ve kept a garden for the last couple years, but we finally have space for a lot more so I’m working on growing my skills there. Third, and directly related to the other two, is that I’m trying to make stuff whenever possible. Not like, craft with macaroni and shit (not to bash if that’s what you’re into) but “make stuff” like making my toothpaste and bread.

Those three projects have a lot in common I think. The third is the closest to my overall goal, which I just kinda figured out now* is – I want my household to produce more than we consume. More “stuff” needs to go out than come in. I’m not talking about creating an Etsy shop or simply spending less than we earn – I’m talking about using what we have, selectively buying what we need, re-evaluating what we actually need. Re-evaluating what we actually need – that is a big one too.

I want to use this blog to document my latest creation. I want to post more again – maybe not as much as I posted during pregnancy, maybe more, I don’t know! Clearly I haven’t worked out the logistics yet. I was just now able to articulate my goal! I hadn’t been able to really do that until I started typing. This blogging thing is good for the goals I think. Anyway, I’ll save the logistics for the next post.

For now, I have a goal so I’m going to toast to that!

*Although to be fair, I did start this post a couple days ago 🙂