Caution: overuse of italics ahead


There are two reasons that I haven’t been writing here more often. 1) Due to unusual circumstances that I am not yet ready to discuss here in detail, we may have to completely change the way we garden. Research on this topic – as well as constructive activities to distract myself from the stress of the problem – have taken up most of my time lately. 2) I have a bee in my bonnet.

The bee is this: I’m ticked off about absolutism. About the growing trend of homesteaders and greenies sniping at one another for not being sufficiently committed to the cause – calling one another hypocrites for lapses in perfect adherence to the dogma of the three Rs, eating regimens, attachment parenting, and other “lifestyles.”

(Cue the Fight Club music; here comes my Tyler Durden speech.)

I say: There I no right or wrong way to live your life.

More specifically, there is no right or wrong way to “live green” or be be more self-sufficient.

Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan are not gods. The words they speak must not necessarily be accepted wholly and unquestioned as gospel. They have some great ideas, brilliant ones – but they are not infallible – they are not always right. And I – and you – are allowed to disagree with them.

You are not going to hell for throwing away that recyclable container when no one was looking last week. You are not going to hell for buying a loaf of bread when you didn’t feel like baking from scratch. Even if it contains high fructose corn syrup. Even if it’s Wonder® Bread. You are not going to hell for feeding your child something from a vending machine or the mini-mart or giving them formula because breast pumps were invented by the devil. I have every right to serve my home-grown, humanely-butchered, locally-smoked ham alongside store-bought national-brand canned peaches. I am not giving up prescription medication just because the packaging is not recyclable.

The world will continue to spin on its axis. The storm troopers of the politically correct are not coming for you. And anyone who gives you crap about any of the above can kiss your ass.

I say: Life is about balance, not perfection.

I strive to live a a better life: a more handmade, more environmentally responsible, more self-reliant lifestyle. And for the most part, I do. But sometimes I have to compromise or accept failure because a) the “correct” option is too expensive, b) a better option does not exist, c) I cannot do without something, d) I need a break from living like a farmer’s housewife in the Great Depression, d) I don’t give a damn about some facet of the “lifestyle” I’ve been told I have to freak out about.

The life that writers in my field have romanticized is idyllic, to be sure: organic cotton sheets and towels hand-washed in home-milled soap snapping on the repurposed clothesline in a soft breeze while a TV-less, homeschooling family spends 24 hours a day together in their straw-bale home growing and preserving heirloom vegetables to feed their vegan lifestyle by the light of hand-dipped soy candles and solar power. Later, they will bicycle into town to trade organic rainbow chard for free trade, shade-grown coffee. For most of us such a life is highly improbable, if not impossible.

I like my chickens and I like vegetable gardening. I like canning and cooking. I like hanging my laundry on the line. I like fixing things and repurposing things. I like shopping at the natural foods co-op.

But: I like junk food now and then. I like going to the hardware store and buying stuff to get nagging or emergency projects done right now instead of always waiting a week, a month, a year, for someone on Craigslist to be giving away what I need. I like getting 2 weeks worth of food in one place for less than the price of a tank of biodiesel, especially when times are tight.

Stand up for yourself. If you are at the grocery store and you have to choose between perfectly good food in a plastic container for $1.00 or gourmet food in a recyclable glass jar for $5.00 and you’re on a budget, you can get the plastic one and throw away the container. It is fine to be a follower. It is admirable to want to make the world a better place through the way you live. It is foolish to do so by bankrupting yourself or making your family uncomfortable. If going off grid is doable for you then I applaud you. If not, but you do what you can with what you have where you are, I give you a standing ovation.

— Amanda


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