Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Simpler Life vs Simpler Times

To put it bluntly, simpler times never existed.  Each generation has had their hard work and bad patches, their criminals and tough lives.  But what we saw as kids is colored by time and forgetfulness, and we remember the better things. We're even worse with history.  So many people romanticize the Victorian era, for example. Not romantic at all. I only worked in a living history museum, dressing and working like the 1870s, five days a week.  At then end of it, I got to take off my long skirts and bustle, go home to electricity and running water and AIR CONDITIONING - there is nothing like summer heat of 101 plus 80% humidity to make you appreciate air conditioning.  But I lived enough of the lifestyle to know - things were not simpler.

I prefaced this blog that I wanted to learn how to live simpler. And I do.  And simpler is truly a state of mind rather than a state of being. If I wanted to live REALLY simply, I could win a lottery, not have to leave the house unless I wanted to, have someone in to clean, my groceries delivered and not worry about money ever again.

But I haven't won a lottery.

So for me, living simpler is being able to walk out to the coop and get fresh eggs, and be greeted enthusiastically, even if I know it's not always for me but for the treats I may have with me - cabbage wins over me for attention every time.  But at the same time, they clearly do know me; they will come to me when I get home from work and they are in the yard simply to greet me.  They'll come sit under my lawn chair or on the table next to me.  They don't do that with my dad or son - they're not here enough - but they do it with my husband, daughter and myself.  They even do it with the dogs, walking up and inspecting them as if they are some oddly shaped breed of chicken themselves.

Living simpler is going to mean getting rid of a lot of the stuff I have and never use.  One of my goals is to gather all the unfinished projects and get them done - either to keep, sell, or give away. It means realizing that my hoard of fabric is going nowhere, and it's time to start using it or selling it - a project I plan to start this weekend.  Same with the craft books and patterns - there's only a few things I want in each, so time to make a copy and get rid of the bulk.

Living simpler would, for me, mean being able to subsist without electricity of need be - a handpump for the well would be great.  Exploring the viability of the other well on the far side of our property is in order for warm weather. We already have an 1890s cookstove in good working order, I just need to get more firewood. I'll start with clearing some from the property, and then asking locally for the trees people get rid of on the county slash days. The freer the wood, the better.

Making more things by hand to alleviate expense and to be healthier for us - that would be living simpler, even though making bread, noodles, canning and drying foods are all more time intensive. That includes crocheted, knitted, sewn items as well. In that aspect, I fell in love with the treadle sewing machine when I worked at the museum, and want to get a nice working one to stick in the lovely cabinet my dad found for me.  I find sewing that way or by hand more soothing,  more creative.

I would like to become financially secure enough to be in a place where my income is enough and we have no worries about property taxes or car repairs, or even if toilet paper is in the budget this week.  Creative financing needs to become a thing of the past.

I would love to be able to garden and grow a great deal of our own vegetables, enough to can like we have in the past, but I am also realistic about that - we chose to live in the mountains where the soil is full of granite and the growing season is much too short.  So I will have to, for this year at least, content myself with growing some things indoors while also visiting farmer's markets and farm stands on my work trips, bringing home the good stuff to can.

But I have noticed, in my search to change life here for a simpler one, that too many people have made simpler life interchangeable with simpler times. As an historian, this bugs the everloving crap out of me. To that effect, I've started a series of articles about the myth of simpler times; the first three in the series discuss life on the plains, living in a soddy. My next set with be standard Victorian times, working my way into the 30s and 40s, through the ever glorified 1950s, up to today.

If you're interested, I've linked the first set here for you to peruse.

The Myth of Living in Simpler Times: Life in a Soddy Part One, Part Two, and Part Three

Just click the links for the various parts.  I bet it's easier to read if you start with part One.

My opinion for the day. And just for a giggle, this postcard I found:

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