Homesteading – Living Locally

We do live in an remote rural area. We aren’t far from the highway, but it is a lightly travelled section of the Trans Canada. We can get places when we need to, without travelling over hill and dale – much. It is still a trek to get to a metropolis, and while we have resources nearby, nothing is within walking distance. Even the mailbox is a mile away.

I don’t drive often. With the price of gas, maintenance to do on the truck, and the generally poor state of roads in winter, I don’t want to go out. A few years ago I didn’t mind taking a trip two hours downriver just to shop and have a meal in a good restaurant, and I didn’t think twice about the cost. My income was about three times what we have now. I wasn’t extravagant, but I was not questioning the wisdom of consumerism either. My tastes are naturally simple, yet they still needed discipline.

I can drive half an hour to another town that has a fairly big supermarket, a Canadian Tire (which is a big chain of stores selling auto parts, hardware and housewares) and a Walmart. The supermarket has a wide variety of products, including housewares. These are three stores pretty much selling the same kinds of products. There are also a number of smaller chain stores such as Hart’s, Giant Tiger (really, that’s its name) and Home Hardware that carry the same type of merchandise. That town itself has a population of about 6000, with about 30,000 living within 30 kilometres. Beyond 30 clicks, there are not that many more people.

Who is buying this stuff?

I can’t imagine that 30,000 people need these stores, this much variety, and an almost continuous opportunity, seven days a week, in which to shop.

The last food I bought was at a local store – within five miles, even though I have to cross the St. John River on a wooden deck one-lane bridge and traverse the mountain to get there. It was locally produced beef and sausage. I paid a little less than I would in the supermarket. I can buy milk and eggs and bread there. Local vegetables are sometimes in stock seasonally. There is also a gas station; the gas is a little pricier than it is farther out from the community, but it is also full service. With the supplies of flour, winter vegetables, grains and eggs I have in the house, along with a small amount of meat in the freezer, we shouldn’t have to shop for anything for at least a week. In fact, I’m trying to get to the end of the month, and then I will make our monthly trek to Fredericton to see family and will stock up at the bulk food store. God willing, we will be set for another month.

I think we have been brainwashed into thinking we have to buy regularly, that we have to have endless variety in our diet, that we need to be gadding. We are not taught in our culture to stay home, be frugal, and make do. We are, as a society, close to exhausting the last of our natural and financial resources. In our rush to be anywhere but at home, we have  polluted our atmosphere and water, filled our bodies with toxins, and driven up the price of a non-renewable resource. In the end, we are burning our food for fuel in our vehicles.

“Who cares if the kids have anything to eat next winter, Martha, throw another bushel of corn in the gas tank and let’s go to Walmart!”

I am looking forward to having a garden and farm animals again. We could think of just the fun of it, of having good outdoor work to do, orof  the juicy tomatoes we can grow, the sweet lettuce and the pretty rows of green behind the house. But now it is more than a hobby. Our income is below the poverty line. We don’t want to take more from the government or agencies. We want to contribute. Our health, our peace of mind and importantly, the good of the rest of the world depends on us, and people like us, making do with less than we used to have, and not just getting by, but succeeding at producing more than we consume.

Living locally means our backyard.


9 thoughts on “Homesteading – Living Locally

  1. Amen, sister:) I am praying for thee every single breathing minute I have, for you are living my dream. A couple goats for milk and cheese and hens come springtime, and a solid garden, and you are there:)…well, and perhaps a large sturdy horse and buggy.

  2. Thirty thousand is a fairly sizable population and it doesn’t seem at all unreasonable that it would support several large stores.

    I think most people do their shopping once a week. I do a trade with my mother — I do her shopping and mine on Mondays, and she minds my children. This is for produce — we purchase our meat from Seattle every few months. It’s a long drive, but i enjoy having my husband’s ear for the entire day.

    The problem with looking at the variety and saying, “who needs all this stuff” is that any given person is purchasing within a very narrow grouping. You and I would each purchase a tiny percentage of what’s available, but our lists would not overlap much. I don’t buy milk (lactose intolerant child and husband) but I do buy milk alternatives (soya milk, soya milk powder, tapioca flour, non-dairy margarine, shortening). I don’t buy bread (we bake it). We do buy eggs, so many that a little quick math tells me it would take at least three chickens to keep us in eggs, assuming all were kosher, and they wouldn’t all be.

    In order to eat vegan meals a few times a week we buy tofu and vital wheat gluten to make seitan. This helps to space out the time between the Seattle trips.

    Like many people, I have a favorite dish detergent (Cascade, useful for so many things) and a favorite hand-washing detergent (Dawn) and will buy many bottles or boxes when either is on sale.

    I make the washing detergent, but that requires washing soda and borax, two more less-common goods.

    We eat quite a lot of Chinese food. That requires soya sauce, peanut oil, green onion, ginger root, sesame oil.

    Eating in-season vegetables means forgoing some of my husband’s and children’s favorite meals during the winter. I buy cucumber and lettuce all year, since cucumber is my children’s favorite and my husband loves lettuce.

    My kids have curly hair. I had no idea that curly hair actually requires a completely different set of tools and products compared to straight hair. Their hair is never brushed, but rather the curls get wetted (one squirt bottle), conditioned (I think I like a brand with something called Herbal Essence), and the ringlets separated by hand. Very different from how I grew up, where we brushed it dry with a brush.

    In short, it’s not people buying a wide variety of goods. It’s that different people buy different goods. Most people are fairly consistent in their buying patterns, even down to the brand they prefer. But different people want different things, and this accounts for the wide variety of goods available in the store.

    This must make sense to you, since you dress in a way so particular to yourself that it requires either special patterns and your own work, or a custom seamstress. You wouldn’t switch to jeans and t-shirts to limit the variety in stores. Likewise, most people are willing to put up with a lot of goods they _don’t_ buy if they get the goods they do.

    • It makes me think of one of my husband’s joke-businesses – the No-Choice Store. It’s for men who don’t like to shop. You need pants, fine, they are all one style, in black. You need a shirt – white is what they have. All a man has to do is walk in, find his size and just buy – a whole wardrobe could be purchased in minutes. Well, it’s rather like Gohn Bros., the Amish clothiers.

      I suppose what is vexing is that in these huge box stores there is too much – more goods than we can buy. And a lot of stuff no one should bother with, although we all may have a different idea on that. I remember towns in Maine when I was a child with a similar population density, and there weren’t that many stores, nor the range of merchandise. Those towns have seen a drop in population but an increase in big box stores. Small stores with limited inventory closed, but what replaced them wasn’t an even more limited inventory, but a massive inventory in one location.

      • Yes, but the No-Choice Store, though men would love it, would not serve the needs of men who can’t or don’t want to look Amish, kwim? Although men certainly have an easier time than women. My husband does all of his shopping for clothing during a once-yearly trip to the Brooks Brothers outlet. And now that I’m dressing a girl, too, it’s so hard to find skirts at an appropriate length for the appropriate price. And we won’t even start on maternity clothes.

        I guess I don’t see a wide variety of goods as a sign that most people are buying stuff that no one needs. They’re just buying stuff that _I_ don’t need. But I have things that other people don’t need. A few months ago I bought a treadle belt for a sewing machine — now that’s a minority interest!

        No one had the same range of merchandise in your childhood. But is that a good thing? Certainly it was hard for people who were out-of-the-norm, so to speak. I couldn’t have gotten goods for my curly-haired kids in an ordinary store, and black people couldn’t get anything for their hair. People who were eating any style of food other than western had to go to a specialty store or they were out of luck. A person fatter, thinner, taller, or shorter than the norm would have had serious problems. Plus categories of goods didn’t exist — computers, for example.

      • I think I mean that a lot of goods are wasted because no one buys them. Stores have huge sales, then the rest of the stuff, if there is enough of it, goes to a liquidator, who tries to place it with discounters. Smaller lots of redundant merchandise go on a sale table or rack, to be picked over endlessly, until the manager dumps it, literally, and writes it off. So the retailers must charge a good profit on the other items, or they wouldn’t be able to offer a variety of items that no one wants after all.

  3. This is an area of trouble for me. I want to do what everyone can do – not just me. Having a child with an illness that has an answer somewhere – and we have seen much of it affected by what he eats, what he stopped eating, it challenged our view. I have had to drive about 70 to 90 miles round trip to get some things I have not been able to get here. It really aggravates me. But I acknowledge that I need to explore a couple of meat places locally that sell buffalo and beef ( they are so high on their flyer). I do buy from another farmer who is about a 90 minute round trip. Some of the stuff I get driving that far are things like rice tortillas that I can even make pizzas out of occasionally, though we don’t eat much cheese. Anyhow, the big deal is that most of our time is taken up with trying to keep our son safe, be his friend, educator, and just everything, because he has noone else. Neither do we. When he is in his lacrosse helmet, motocross chest and back protector, knee and elbow pads, he can help us around the house now – and this makes an AMAZING difference!! But if the seizures get bad we have to keep him in the wheel chair – he managed to rack up 2 injuries this week in his gear – to his hands, when he fell on ice and his nose when he thought he was safe walking on his knees and slammed forward into a wooden couch end. Food seems so complicated when you are trying to figure out the right way to eat for more than one member with serious illnesses.

    I do think that the less we eat, smaller portions, our bodies can deal with the fall out of imperfect food. I felt so bad this year because so much of our garden went to waste due to our time constraints. First time in 28 yrs.

    I am ashamed to tell you that I go to the store ( 24 mile roundtrip) at least 4 times a week. I like to get fruit and vegetables more often, as they tend to get stuffed somewhere in one of two refridgerators. I am horrible – especially since Patrick ended up so bad in the last few years – with remembering to take out the meat in the freezer. It is a full freezer. In a cold room where it is not inviting to dig around in for the meat. Some of it may be I need to get out of here. Too bad we don’t have a local market anymore, like the French do, we could go daily without guilt.

    Well, I do like listening to you and others explore this topic. I get ideas from it!!

    • Our Lenten discipline last year was to use up what we had in the freezer and the pantry! It made for some interesting combinations in meals.

  4. Ah, friend, your words in posts this month speak to my soul. You are a kindred spirit I am glad to have found. Thy words give life to my thoughts, and I praise thy efforts and pray for thy continued success. I am rejoicing that thee has found a way to fulfill in reality what you believe is right. I am trying to follow thy example, although I have many things working against me currently.
    How I wish I lived closer to thee! I will be somewhat closer of course after we move, but not close enough to enjoy a cup of tea with thee on a cold afternoon whenever we wish. I am so grateful we have this means of communication, as not many around me currently understand my interests/ideas nor do they support them. You offer my soul such positive hope, Magdalena. Your blog never fails to uplift me when I most need it. Thank you, friend. Blessings to thee!

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