A few years ago I began a journey. Or I realised I was on a journey. It is a journey of living my life a different way. At the moment I still feel like I have a long way to go in this journey, so I’ve been reluctant to put a name on it, but friends and family are starting to notice a difference in how I’m doing things and, looking back, I’m reflecting on how far I’ve come.
This journey is one I struggle to find a good name for. Self-sufficiency? Sustainability? Cheaper living? Healthier living? Natural living? It kind of has aspects of all of these. ‘Natural living’ is probably the term I like the most. Self-sufficiency is a major part of this, but I don’t like the term ‘self-sufficiency’, as I’m not trying to provide everything I need myself; partly because I can’t and partly because I don’t want to forget about helping out others. I like buying products from small local businesses, markets and second-hand options. I will never be in charge of everything I need, and that’s ok, coz the ‘Big Guy’ takes care of things better than me anyway. Sure, ‘self-sufficiency’ doesn’t necessarily mean total self-sufficiency, but it can, or other people may think that’s what I mean if I use the term. ‘Sustainability’ is a term I struggle to use for myself, as I know I’m still heavily reliant on things that are bad for the environment. I guess I’m learning to tread more lightly. Trying to be more healthy has never been something I’ve had to do, in terms of having a good metabolism, but it has become more and more important to keep myself feeling good and getting sick less often. One of the biggest things that drives me is trying to spend less money, as we have often not had a lot to live off.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly when this journey began, as I was rather oblivious to it for a while. But then, I have always been an independent, somewhat stubborn, control freak, do-it-myself my way sort of person so maybe I just needed an extra shove to really get me going. Like the fact that I have been cutting my own hair since I was 16, which is not always spectacular or timely, but think how much money I’ve saved! 14 years of haircuts… thousands of dollars! When I took one of my clients for a hair cut recently I just about died when I found out how much it cost. I suppose I should really have another crack at learning to cut The Husband’s hair… Anyway, I’ve assembled a wee timeline of significant events and thought processes along my way as I stop and reflect on my journey thus far.
- Realise it is milk products that body doesn’t like anymore. Concurrent incident with mouldy vegemite confuses symptoms. Lactose intolerance not labelled until some years later. Diet must change. Self-control wars with chocolate and dessert items. Start to become expert at substitutions and reading ingredients labels at supermarket. Make more things at home (especially cake).
- Acquire house with first vege garden in Christchurch. Start growing own veges, fruit and herbs (other than in a couple of small planters). Fall in love with gardening.
- Vege garden expanded.
- Get Diploma in Horticulture from Lincoln University. Learn more about plants.
- Discover the joys of horse poop for the garden – organic, cheap and oh, so helpful.
- Get better at recycling waste.
- Big earthquake in Christchurch. Scared for life. A few photo frames broken. Wonder why we have so much stuff.
- Collective sense of value of life in Christchurch. We don’t help people to get rewarded, we help people because it’s the right thing to do. Just do it. Learning to be more generous.
- Work in horticulture industry. Learn more about plants. Must LOVE plants.
- Even bigger earthquake (for our house) in Christchurch. Some stuff broken. House moderately damaged. Scared for life. The most important thing is family. Why are we so far away? Why do we have so much stuff? Who cares about stuff? People matter. No shower for some days. Borrowing showers every second day. Learn value of running water.
- So many properties ruined and abandoned. Must make most of everything I have.
- Bad back injury. Can’t bend or sit. Must rely on other people to help with many things.
- Become more interested in baking, motivated by baking competitions at work. Must beat gloating co-worker. Voted best slice.
- Start going to small knitting group with friends. Learn to knit. Learn that knitting does not have to be pink, frilly and frumpy.
- Join ravelry.com. No going back from knitting now. Many patterns, much love.
- Have more time due to part-time job. Start baking more often and trying new things.
- Start planning meals better – reduce food waste and expense.
- Start watching River Cottage – drive towards more natural, seasonal and responsible living.
- Make bread for first time.
- Start experiment with a few homemade bathroom products. Conditioner made from cider vinegar and water = great, never buying that conditioner stuff again.
- Discover amazing wholemeal bread recipe. Continue to make it about once a week.
- House repaired from earthquake damage. Move most stuff into storage container on front lawn. Move ourselves into motel. Why do we have so much stuff? Move stuff back into house.
- Move to Hamilton. Have gotten rid of lots of stuff. Not as sentimental about stuff as used to be. From now on, stuff must have purpose and be cheap or on special.
- Brought many propagated, potted plants up to save money.
- Buy breadmaker. One of best purchases ever. Not buying much bread now.
- Fruit Plan created. Varieties of fruit trees and plants selected to try and have fruit year-round in future. Acquired some, some on wishlist.
- First knitting projects for house completed – coasters and rug.
- Move into new house.
- Buy loaf of bread on moving day, then, no more. All bread made now.
- Make almond milk for first time. So easy, so tasty. Never buying almond milk again. Need almond tree now.
- The Husband starts pallet missions to get pallets for projects and firewood.
- Start buying glucose. Watched video about how sugar affects body (badly) then met lady in Bin Inn who told me off for buying sugar instead of glucose. Hadn’t realised glucose was there. Now use glucose instead of sugar.
- Make peanut butter for first time. So easy, even The Husband will make instead of buy it now. Chocolate peanut butter a hit.
- Start making mayo instead of buying it.
- Decide wrapping paper is scourge on environment. Will use recyclable brown paper now with recycled ribbon. Also, realise sellotape is not needed when present wrapped in ribbon.
- 30th birthday. Make almost everything to eat and drink with help from guests. Homemade aioli is addictive. Instead of streamers and balloons to decorate, use burlap and natural rope – sweet as. Other decorations made from found or cheap items.
- Food processor broken. The Husband disappointed I had to buy peanut butter. Thought of buying mayo is disturbing. Can’t make egg salad, can’t make tuna salad. Need to make more aioli too. Must find new food processor!
And that’s about where I am now. There are probably many little things besides which aren’t listed here. A few thoughts I have after this reflection are: 1) My journey has definitely accelerated in the last few months. 2) Learning to help, share with and care more about people is a big part of the journey – though I may have little at the moment, sharing what I have, what I make and what I can do is something I want to keep getting better at. I am not a naturally generous person; my first instinct is to guard what I have fiercely (Feijoa Frenzy comes to mind), so I have to keep working on this. 3) The more things I make and do myself and the less money I spend, the happier I am! This DIY journey is blimmin’ addictive!
Life is a funny thing. What’s next? I have a few (million) ideas…