Modern homesteading: Empowering or enslaving?

I read this article yesterday, and I'm still mulling over how I feel about it.  Unlike the author, my grandmother canned, sewed, and cooked and baked from scratch.  She also used some convenience foods, like Velveeta, but the overall theme in her life seemed to be to make your own, make do, or do without.  She was always very frugal, and despite only working outside the home for maybe 20 years of her life (including the time spent working at a bomber plant during WWII, after which she returned to homemaking), she managed to end up with a nice little nest egg. 

My mother had a different story.  As a single parent, she had to work full-time.  But she still found time to cook from scratch, and she taught me that life is more about experiences than material trappings.  All of my aunts are crafty, and they all cook. 

While I disliked cooking and domestic pursuits growing up, it seemed kind of natural that I would grow into it.  And then I took it a step further.  I am the only one in my family with livestock.  The last I knew, I was the only one who gardens.  And while my aunt and two of my cousins get together every year to can tomatoes, I'm the only one who cans and freezes in any sort of serious volume.

Do I feel enslaved by my efforts to be more self-sufficient?  Not at all.  I love knowing that I am providing healthful food for myself and my family.  I love knowing that I am helping to continue what women (and men) have done for thousands of years by working the land and growing food from seeds and sunlight.  I love that it's good for the earth.

But.  I do feel like feminism has seriously backfired in some ways.  Women now seem to feel like they should work outside the home, whether they want to be a stay-at-home mother/homemaker or not.  I know that when I've mentioned to some friends - and male friends at that! - they have actively discouraged me from staying at home.  "But what will you do all day?"  "Won't you be bored?" and, "Women who stay at home always let themselves go," are all things I've heard when I mention how nice it would be not to work.  While the feminist movement opened a lot of doors and highlighted that women can be just as capable as men in the workplace, I don't think that it ever considered whether it was right for everyone.  Staying home was portrayed as slavery.  But now aren't many women just as enslaved by their 9-to-5 jobs?  Work is work, whether you are keeping house or working your way up the corporate ladder.

Right now, I'm doing it all.  I'm raising my son, cooking from scratch, canning, gardening, cleaning (though Shayne takes care of the kitchen [thank you!]), and working a full-time job.  Is it stressful?  Sometimes.  Do I feel pinched for time?  Occasionally.  But would I give up my domestic pursuits?  Not a chance.  I'd ditch my job first.  Right now, I'm working so that we can afford to fix up our house and pay it off sooner.  Once that's done, you can bet your hat that I'll quit and spend even more time living my real life.


Ready? Not.

I had another "end of the world" type dream last night.  I don't dream about this stuff often (and I wrote about it last time I did, on January 19th, so it's been almost a year), and I'm glad.  It scares me.  I wake up in a near-panic about how absolutely unprepared I am to face any kind of disaster. 

This dream had a different premise from the first one.  There had been some kind of governmental evacuation, and Shayne, Ethan, my mom, and I were all living in what looked like an extended-stay hotel or small apartment.  Something bad had happened, and they were preparing to evacuate us again.  We could only take a bag or two of belongings.  I remember being in a panic about where the batteries, firestarters, flashlights, and warm clothes were.  I wanted to take guns and ammo, but I knew that the government would be checking our bags.  I also wanted to get some cash, but so many people had the same idea that both the bank and ATM were out of money.  I kept thinking how much easier it would be if we had ignored the evacuation and stayed home. 

I woke up feeling awful.  I'm not ready. 

I'm not sure it's ever really possible to be completely ready for a disaster.  And even if you were, the disaster itself could wipe out all your preps.  But we only have one alternative source of heat, with a finite lifespan (kerosene heater).  I don't have seeds.  I'm not ready to pack a bag and bail out.  Aside from birds, I don't know how to field-dress a kill.  We only have a good stash of .223 ammo, though we have several weapons of other calibers.

My mind is just buzzing.  On days like this, I want to just pack up and buy a house/land in the middle of nowhere.  But I know that isn't the solution either.  We need our "tribe" and our family close by, since we all have different skills and strengths.  If there was a real SHTF (shit hits the fan) scenario, loners are going to have a hard time after a while.  Many hands lighten the load.

I'm trying to talk myself down and remember everything we do have. Even with our limited preps and gardening abilities, we're still more prepared than 99% of the population.  But I've decided that a wood-burning stove is the next big project after the bathroom.  Freezing to death isn't high on my list of ways to die, and it would be essential if we were to shelter in place with kids in the event of a lengthy power outage. 


More musings on where we're going

As of Friday morning, we are officially debt-free except for our house.  I kicked Sallie Mae to the curb about 7 years earlier than my original payoff date.  Of course, that would have been paying the bare minimum, but it still feels nice.  Really nice.  We also closed on our refinance on Wednesday, changing our 30 year mortgage to a 20.  We dropped our interest by another percentage point, kept our payment the same, and cut 7 years off the payment plan.  We do plan on paying extra on our principal, but right now our focus is to rebuild our savings.

Speaking of paying extra...  If we dropped an extra $500 on the principle every month (which is less than what we were originally paying for our debt every month between student loans, the car, and credit card, so I know we can do it), we'd have the house paid off in 8 years and 11 months.

Which makes me very reluctant to quit my job before then. Can you imagine having a $100K+ down payment on a house?  I can be ruthlessly practical, and I have a hard time thinking of giving up our financial security.  There's also that fact that I really like my job.

I don't know how to make this decision.  I've been struggling with it for several months, and I just keep going in circles.  I suppose the logical thing to do is to continue fixing up our house, save money, pay down the mortgage, and wait.  It's just not what I want.  Sigh.


Almost meal planning: week 3

Amazingly, I'm still sticking to it.  I still haven't noticed having to carve out huge amounts of time to make it work, and the results have been great.  Part of having this work is that I'm making casseroles, crock-pot meals, and roasts, so I'm not spending much time slaving over the stove.  I like to cook, and I wish I had more time for elaborate meals.  But right now, the reality is that just having something nutritious on the table is more important than trying new and exciting recipes.  Also, since I know what the other meals are that I'm cooking that week, if one of them requires mashed potatoes (or a side dish that requires more than opening a can or jar), I'll just make a huge batch with the first meal and eat them for both. 

And the best part?  My fridge!! 

It's stuffed!!  Granted, we have a smaller model fridge.  It's not quite apartment-size, but it's not standard.  It was the only fridge narrow enough to fit in that space between the cupboards and the doorway to the laundry area and short enough to fit under the cabinets.  It's little.  And disorganized, since I just tossed everything from grocery shopping in there when I had a spare second.  But everything in there is edible.  Some things could be moved to smaller containers, but there are no old, crusty leftovers or anything. 

I currently have a chicken in the oven for cajun alfredo pasta and chicken pot pie later in the week.  I think it'll need to go in the freezer, while we eat our leftovers...