A Day in the Slow Life

I have been thinking a lot about how “sustainable” my gardening and lifestyle is here at Henbogle –sustainable as in how long can I continue to live as I do, growing much of my own food while working full-time, at least during the academic year.  Thus when  Sandy at The 10 Year Challenge invited me to participate in “A Day in the Slow Life,” a meme started by Toni at Backyard Feast, I decided it was a good opportunity for me to reflect on that a bit, and share with others, and invite you all to share your thoughts on this topic.

Part of looking at the sustainability of my life at Henbogle is why I do it.  The primary driver for me is that I share a strong independent streak Mainers are well known for — we take care of ourselves and our neighbors and go our own way.  My parents were children of the Great Depression, and knew well the need to fend for oneself, take care of others, and make do.  I find it intensely satisfying to grow my own food, to do my own home renovations, etc.  In addition, I am completely certain that doing so is economically essential — there is no way I can afford the cost of a craftsman who would take the time to make the intricate cuts on our siding the way we did.  By growing my own high quality, organic vegetables and keeping hens for eggs, I free up a lot of my grocery budget to purchase locally produced meat, cheese and other dairy.  The meat we eat came from animals who had good lives and were treated respectfully at the time of slaughter, and that also means a lot to me.

I also concerned with the disastrous results of our modern lifestyle on our planet, so I do my part to minimize my impact.  I grow organically because I love the birds, and care about the fate of the bees and other creatures (well, not so much the Japanese beetle) that are damaged and threatened with extinction from pesticide use. The whole chemicals are innocent until proven guilty thing makes me crazy, so I want to limit my exposure to agricultural chemicals as much as possible, but really, it is more about the birds and the bees for me.  I drive a fuel efficient car, hang dry my laundry when I can, recycle, etc. etc., but these efforts are more for me — they make me feel like I am doing my part, and set an example for others, and give me a leg to stand on when I say to others, especially my elected officials, we need to do more.  Honestly, though, I don’t really believe this kind of small effort is enough to make a real difference.  For that, we need real change at the governmental level.

This lifestyle is one I enjoy, too.  I like to garden, I like to be outside, and I love to be a part of the ongoing cycle of sowing, growing, eating, resting.  It keeps me grounded, and helps me keep focused on what is really important in life.

That said, here’s my slow day.  I wanted the challenge to be more about my typical summer or weekend day, so opted to wait until this past weekend to record my day, primarily because the weekend days are more like my days in the summer months, when I am fortunate enough to be not working.  I have a 10-month academic year position, so during the summer months, I am able to spend more time here at Henbogle growing our food, raising hens and doing assorted old-house projects.

Sunday October 18, 2010

6:10 am I awaken and listen in the dark for the rain and wind — the nor’easter seems to have ended, but it is still quite dark, so I opt to snooze for a bit longer.

6:50 I get up and go downstairs.  We are puppysitting this weekend, so first thing I collect Harvey from the laundry room for a quick trip outside.  He was a good boy and didn’t even need the piddle pad last night!  After a brief pee and romp, and we and head back to let the hens out, taking a scoop of food with me to refill their feeder.  They see me coming through the coop window and start a ruckus.  I leave Harvey at the gate, leash tethered to a fencepost, while I let the girls out, give them a handful of scratch grains, and refresh their waterers.  They are suspicious of Harvey, but look happy and healthy, so I head back in, making a quick stop at the hoophouse to water the greens and open the door for the day while Harvey waits impatiently.

7:20 Back in the house, set some coffee to percolating while I feed Harvey.  I settle down with coffee and wait for Dan to get up for breakfast.  This morning we opt for a baguette from the freezer, toasted, with some homemade jam.  Yum.  Another quick trip outside with Harvey, then we check some blogs and read the news online.

8:45 We head out for a long walk with Harvey, stopping to chat with neighbors who ogle over the 12-week old ball of fuzz with the black nose and eyes.

9:15 Back home, more coffee and we make a plan for the day.  Dan will finish caulking the siding on the front of the house, I’ll do some laundry, then we’ll tackle the compost and start putting the garden to bed.

10:15 Laundry in the washer, I head out with Harvey for some puppy tiring activities.  We roam the yard and he chases the ball for a while.  I hang out the first load of laundry, then Harvey goes back inside.  I put in a second load of laundry and I head back to the garden to forage for lunch.

11:30 I head back to the house with a big basket of garden goodness. I check in with Dan, he is almost done, so we agree I’ll make lunch while he finishes up, then lunch and compost.  I wash greens and veggies, and make a big salad with some pan-grilled chipotle chicken and homemade green goddess dressing.

12:30 Lunch is on. Yum.

1:30 Harvey has crashed on the kitchen floor. I decide we need a treat so whip up some shortbread while Dan heads out for some compost digging.

2:20 Shortbread done, I head out with a piece for Dan.  Dark clouds have appeared and it is sprinkling raindrops.  I ignore it.

2:30 Sprinkles become raindrops.  I head in to bring in the laundry, thinking I’m glad I forgot to hang out the second load.  Laundry in, I lob it in the dryer for 10 minutes to finish it off.

2:45 Harvey’s parents arrive.  We pack him up and say goodbye.  The rain abates.

3:00 Back to compost making.  Dan has almost cleared a bin to use, so I begin pulling plants from the garden.  We add a layer of greens, then fire up the lawn tractor to mow up a mix of grass and leaves.  We layer mowed leaves with pulled plants from the garden until the bin is full and it is time to quit.  We pick up tools and put away the mower and head in.

5:20 I decide it is too late for the big pot of chili I was planning, so I make hamburgers with onions and the last of the garden peppers, and cook a huge batch of the last of the snap beans.  I crack open a jar of bread and butter pickles, and we savor the grass-fed beef from our neighbor’s farm just across the river.  We’ll have chili with the rest of the ground beef on Monday.

6:45 Dan tidies the kitchen while I work on entering my garden harvest totals and write my Harvest Monday blog post.

7:15 Dan joins me in the living room for a quiet evening of writing and reading.  I ponder and write much of this post.  I make a list of what did not get done: vacuum the house, clean the upstairs bathroom, wash the kitchen floor, weigh the squash, can the gold beets (some pickled some not), defrost the barn freezer and reorganize in preparation for our pig’s arrival.  Sigh.

9:45 I head upstairs to get ready for bed, too tired to finish the post.  The alarm will go off at 4:57 am and I know it will feel way too soon.

This is a very typical summer or weekend day at Henbogle.  It is a very satisfying day, a very satisfying life during the summer months, but once the academic year begins, it feels much more hectic.  Dan departs for school at 6:05 am, arriving home sometime after 3:45, and I leave by 7:40 and arrive home at about 6 pm unless I have en event event, which then gets me home a lot later.  Couple this with the never ending list of home repairs and projects awaiting our attention, and I wonder how long can I sustain this lifestyle?  If I cannot sustain it, what parts of it go?  If I had my druthers it would be the cleaning part, as that has never been my favorite chore, I’d rather shovel compost any day.  BUT, if I don’t do it, then who?  I can’t imagine hiring a housekeeper or a cleaning service, I’m just too cheap, and have too many other things competing for my dollars.  Sigh.

So, how does one make this slow life happen?  I am a reluctant meme-er, so I invite all who read this to join in this reflective exercise, and let me know you have done so with a comment.  I also welcome encourage your comments and suggestions on my post. Please join the conversation!

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10 Responses to “A Day in the Slow Life”

  1. The Mom Says:

    That sounds like a wonderful day. Puppies are great to have around, but I’m sure you were just as happy to hand him back to his family. This life can be absolutely wonderful, but a bit exhausting as well.

  2. kitsapFG Says:

    Juggling a slower more simple life with a full professional life has always been my biggest challenge. Some weeks, the job just has to take priority and does. I intend to have my professional life power down in the years to come which hopefully will balance out the work load as I age.

    Fun to read how your day went.

  3. kate@livingthefrugallife Says:

    I too look to the future and wonder how much I’ll be able to keep up with in 10, 20, 30 years. My vague hope is that the outdoor work will get easier by dint of a lot of hard work that can be done now, and which will have enduring effects. Such as deeply amending our garden soils so that they’re easier to work with in future. And getting a real jump on the weeds so that there’s less maintenance in the future. And using the poultry schooner to let the hens do both weeding and soil amendment going forward. And getting rain barrels hooked up to soaker hoses so that watering is trivially easy. And the hoop house, and… and… and…

    At this point I’m not willing to hire help for any indoor services, such as cleaning, much as I detest it myself. But having a few WWOOF volunteers here has convinced me that outdoor help is a useful thing. I do hire out the pruning of the fruit trees each year. In other areas though I’m so particular about how I want things done, that I really need to work alongside the volunteers to see that it’s done “correctly.”

    Yeah, so basically my hope is that I can design less work into our systems in the next few years. I’m not at all certain it can really be done, but that’s what I’m aiming for.

  4. Toni Parker Says:

    Loved the journal of your day!!!! Greetings from Toni in Wyoming!

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Very interesting post. My friend Sybil maintains you can have time or you can have money, but you can’t have both. Before she retired, she was a journalist and worked part time so that she could have time. (Or should I write “Time”?) Now, this is not an option for everyone, and we must do what we can with the Time that we have. But the frazzled feeling you allude to is not a happy feeling.

  6. Cindy Says:

    Being a bit more on the downhill slop – almost 60 and mostly retired from the academic life – I too join the crowd of wondering if/how/when I can sustain the life that is so important to me. As I put the garden to bed, I try to think of how I can manage things next year to do, as the saying goes, work smarter, not harder. Having faced back surgery last year because of a combination of stubbornness and stupidity, I know that I need to work differently to keep my life going as long as I can. I am trying to redo my house to be as efficient as possible… yet find that this too is taking a toll on my physical and mental being. I think the bottom line is – I have no answers – but willingly join the group that is seeking the best of life for myself, my family, my community, and my planet.

  7. Angela Moll Says:

    Thanks a lot for this nice account of your day. I have no answers either, I don’t even know what it really means to live a slow or a sustainable life. What I know is that doing one thing at a time and being able to move to tomorrow what didn’t get done today goes a long way to give at least a semblance of slow and sustainable to my life.

  8. Laurie Meunier Graves Says:

    My comment on October 18th somehow came across as “Anonymous.” I didn’t intend for this to be the case, and I’m not sure why it happened. Usually, my name is with my comment. Anyway…

  9. Sara Says:

    I have a fleeting hope at least for us the house repairs will slow down someday (right??) And our theoretical plan for garden and yard projects is to simplify and make things easier to maintain, so hopefully even as they grow the work won’t increase as much.

    But there’s always days when the balance will be off. I definitely have times when I feel like the hard work isn’t worth it. On the other side, there’s days when I feel full of energy, or so fulfilled by the task at hand, it’s all worth it. I guess I’m going to aim for balancing it as best I can, and not sweating it when I need a break or have to let something go.

  10. A day in the slow life | The 10 Year Challenge Says:

    […] Ali at Henbogle’s A Day in the Slow Life […]

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