Monday, January 20, 2014

Water Buckets and Jamie Lannister

In the years I've been homesteading I've relinquished a lot of things most people consider necessities. Some of them I gave up on purose out of simpler alternatives and others simply broke down and I refused to repair them. For example: I have the skeleton of a dishwasher that's just another cabinet now. In my mudroom there's a washer and dryer waiting to be hauled off for scrap. And when I thought my my refrigerator broke down a few weeks ago, part of me was upset at the inconvenience of moving a heavy object, but mostly I was relieved to get rid of another big machine. I got excited at the idea of putting in an old-fashioned out-of-commision fridge from the 1950's (sans freon) and making it another larder. I could use a mini fridge if I wanted a few things cold, like goat milk. No part of me cared if I didn't have a giant food morgue in my kitchen.

What else isn't here? Well, there is no microwave, auto-drip coffee maker, television, air conditioner, washer, dryer, dishwasher, food processor, kitchenaid, or other assorted kitchen and domestic detritus. Instead there are bowls, spoons, knives, and time. I have an oil furnace but it doesn't heat the house, and keeps just enough fuel in it for hot water. I use woodstoves for heat instead. There is no tractor, skidsteer, bucket loader, roto tiller, or riding lawn mower. There isn't even an outdoor pump, hose, or light in the barn. Things here are pretty darn basic. If you want to take water to a goat you carry it in a bucket. If you want a garden bed, grab a shovel. If you want to see the goats at night, grab a lantern.

That said, This is not because I'm against gadgets or conveiences. My days of stomping around waving my Simple Living Flag are over. After meeting hundreds of people, families, and reading shared stories of homesteads across the world I am starting to see the western world's relationship with technology a very personal thing. It's a choice, and whatever mixture fits your life, fits your life. And yet I still see anti-tv posts on farming websites and celebratory posts about giving up ther internet at home. I agree television has a lot of garbage on it, but it also has a lot of art. A lot of literature, history, science, and other great things for education and personal betterment. And the idea of giving up the internet in my dishwasher-free home makes me physically cringe. This would be a very, very, lonely place without you guys to write to every day.

I have found my own comfort level with technology. I am writing you on my computer (which I adore) and have a smart phone in my pocket. I listen to podcasts, post on reddit, and love that I can click a button to download a new audiobook in seconds. This is a contrary combination of the old and new, I know. To some is seen as utter hypocrisy, but I think it's neat. I like carrying water buckets while listening to The Name of the Wind in my earbuds. I like ordering horse harness parts online. I feel grateful to be in a time and place where a woman can live alone, choose her own level of domesticity, labor, and not be burned at the stake for it. Cool, huh?

The things I go without are because it fits my lifestyle, and because it compliments my very specific circumstances at this particular point in my life. I don't think any less of any one for having a TV, a washing machine, or a kitchenaid. I watch TV shows I love on Hulu, use a laundromat once a month, and mix dough by hand most of the time. Remember I am one single person without children or a spouse 0 that gives you A LOT of leeway in the choices of domestic adaptations. I'm also 31, and able to carry buckets of water, throw a pitchfork over my shoulder, buck hay, and swing an axe. What seems as borderline Amish is really just volunatary simplicity in the areas I feel suits me. I know plenty of people who would NEVER give up a washing machine for their family of five but don't have any desire for HBO. (While this girl without a hose can not wait for more Jamie Lannister in her life).

Every one of us has our own preferences, limitations, financial and time constraints. My house is the way it is not because I think this is a superiour way to live, but because I like it. I like hard work, and things taking longer. I like being forced to use my body as much as possible. I doubt I'll feel this way in another twenty years. I also doubt I'd feel this way with a cast on. But right now this kind of life, with harness and shovels, buckets and HBOgo is okay by me. I like my coffee from the percolator on the Hob and I like my audiobooks during barn mucking. I like that a Game Night is just cardboard, beer, and friends around a table but I also never miss an episode of Community. I'm totally okay with this contrarian homestead. It's who I am right now. A gal with one foot in the past and the other in the future. I'm a lucky gal.

So what about you? Do you think a simple life needs less technology, or the ability to pick and choose? Could you live without a dishwasher or would it cause enough fighting to need a marriage counselor? What is your comfort-level with gadgets?


Blogger PansWife said...

I don't have any digital clocks, just an old windup French clock I inherited from my grandmother. I don't need an alarm clock, I have sheepdogs. My computer does have a clock and I love the internet, but have never missed getting rid of the actual TV (I watch a few things online). I love ebooks, but still like the real thing when they contain beautiful pictures. I would not want to get rid of my fridge or washer, both save me time and money in a good way. I have very few gadgets of any kind. Very, very little plastic as I switched to glass and ceramic years ago. I do like my water pump and irrigation system but I also have hand well (complete with bucket) if the electric goes poof. I have never had a dishwasher unless it was human powered. For awhile I lived off grid and had even less, but as I got older I have come to appreciate heat that comes on when it is cold (I also have a wood stove) and lights that pop on when I hit a switch (I also have Aladdin lamps). It's all a matter of balance.

January 20, 2014 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger mdoe37 said...

I think you pick and choose. I have most of the items you go without...but try to fix and repair rather than replace and upgrade. I would use less without the husband half here. My dishwasher does not work I store my empty canning jars in it. When I'm ready to can, I fire that baby up and I have clean, hot jars ready to go.

January 20, 2014 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well said Jenna...

While there are MORE than enough gadgets/machines in this house, we try to use things selectively...the dryer, for instance, is almost never used in any season, except winter here in the Northeast...I could go on, but you get the point. We have done without any one or more of these many times in our lives...we do not need them, but we choose to use them because we believe that the ones that we have enhance our circumstance at the moment...

Viva la right to choose!!!

January 20, 2014 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

I haven't had a dishwasher since I left my parents' home. Thankfully, I got used to it as a single woman, and now it is all part of the norm even though I have 4x the amount of dishes to wash as I used to. We decided to quit cable 6 years ago because we just didn't care. I'm a reader and he is a youtube-er (ha!) We make our coffee in a Chemex on the stove top, and gave up our microwave about a month ago. Other than the occasional puzzlement over how to best heat up leftovers, it has been fine. The one thing we can't give up is internet, since our business is online and the ability to sell our products internationally (rather than just locally) is what keeps food on our table and a roof over our head.
You are correct - it is all a matter of personal choice. Eventually, we would like to heat with wood but right now that is not a choice since we are reluctant apartment dwellers.

January 20, 2014 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Joie said...

Flexibility is the name of the game for me. I'm actually composing a blog post about giving up certain simpler habits in order to be more flexible. I wouldn't be very happy without the internet, that's for sure, but we don't have digital cable and that's a good trade off for me. I think the simple life, like all lives, must be self-defined. My simple life doesn't look much like your simple life, Jenna, but then, it also doesn't look like the 'simplified life' of my parents. To each their own.

January 20, 2014 at 11:46 AM  
Blogger serena said...

What a great post! I agree with you on the pick-and-choose mentality. I don't have a microwave, and never plan to, but giving up my computer would be very difficult. My husband and I live in a tiny apartment with a decent sized kitchen, but the stove and fridge are much smaller than average, and that suits us just fine. Once we save up enough money we'll (hopefully) buy a plot of land to farm, and I plan to live quite simply, though there are a few comforts I'd like to hold on to.

January 20, 2014 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Our dishwasher recently broke down and I actually preferred washing dishes by hand. We fixed it, but definitely will not replace it when it dies. I do not use any small electric kitchen appliances- even my waffle iron is stove top. The fridge is an interresting concept. I havent ever thought about living without one before but it is a possibility. With 3 boys I dont have any plans of getting rid of my washer but during 3 seasons I use the line to dry. I would give away the tv if it werent for my husband but not the internet. When I get my farm I will want some kind of multi purpose tractor but it will not be purchased on credit.

January 20, 2014 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger Sonya said...

It's a personal thing for sure..I have gone out with a dishwasher and I am so grateful to have one again. I am an avid from scratch cook and baker and it is so nice to have something else take care of the dishes.

I wouldn't want to give up the internet. I love blogging and reading blogs and every sunday I Skype with my Dad. It's just like having him in the same room with me.

I guess it boils down to each individual person and what they want for themselves and what they could see themselves doing without.

I love hearing about how everyone makes due with some of the things they have given up.

January 20, 2014 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I dropped Tv 3 years ago and never looked back. I miss high-speed Internet though and am going to try and get it hooked up this spring. Until then ill just dial on and read as the pages load.

January 20, 2014 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger Kati said...

As an aspiring homesteader with hearing loss and multiple chronic health issues, I've put quite a bit of thought into this topic. I would never want to be without a dishwasher, or washer and dryer. If I am feeling good, I can always choose not to use them, but when I'm in serious pain, they're necessities. Internet and smartphones are also necessities when you're deaf or hard of hearing. But if I get to the point of feeling "addicted" to the computer or smart phone, I take a break from it. Currently I have a mix of digital and mechanical clocks in my apartment. If I lose enough hearing to need a vibrating alarm, digital would be the only option for that. And of course, electricity is essential for all of the above.

All that to say, I don't think it's wrong to use technology. You just have to make sure it's working for you and not the other way around.

January 20, 2014 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

havent had tv for 2 years , but we have internet and netflix. we also buy alot of movies for a buck off alibris. we dont have trash service. we haul it ourselves once a mo. love my washing machine and dryer, just replaced the dryer belt myself to keep it working. we have 12 dogs so lots of lundry going on here. would hang it outside but this is wa., lots of rain. we have propane heat, wish we had bought woodstove instead, shoulda coulda woulda.

January 20, 2014 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Pilates Paula said...

"A gal with one foot in the past and the other in the future."

That's about the size of it, I think.

I trade with a friend to use her washer and dryer. I do have a smart phone, but no internet at my new apartment yet- I'm waiting to meet the neighbors and see if I can share theirs (I'll pay half!) I type away on my laptop, and do my uploading/downloading/posting at my office. No cable service, but there is a TV with a DVD player, and the library's a stone's throw away. No dishwasher, which is usually ok with me.

There's a few pieces of plastic storage around, for giving food away mostly, and I rely on glass for my own storage. My crock pot is a requirement, and not having a microwave is another requirement. I force myself to notice my food by both cooking and reheating it myself. And I need to keep food in cold storage, since I make enough for several days at a time and I also rely on my freezer, so the fridge is a must.

I gave up the washer/dryer and a private setting to live in an apartment with heat and electricity included, because cold winters were almost the end of me. I'm fine with discomfort, but there's no need for misery in our world. I'm so much more useful and productive when I'm not miserable.

I think "less technology" and "the ability to pick and choose" can be the same thing. I know a woman who's husband has every telephone they've ever owned, way back to rotary landlines with cords, but "simple" is not important to him. To her, "simple" was boxing them up and storing them, a compromise. Maybe the day will come when then need one of those phones, and for now those gadgets are out of sight, out of mind, and that simplifies her life.

January 20, 2014 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

I'm definitely with you---wanna pick & choose. Were I to win the lottery, my happy a$$ would shortly be on the way to Lehman's Store in Kidron Ohio with an 18-wheeler so I could REALLY pick & choose.

January 20, 2014 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

I completely agree with you about technology use being what we make of it - not inherently good or bad. I would never trade any of our 900+ books, but I also love my Kindle. I have a space heater in my garden house office, but cannot wait for an eventual wood stove in there. And so on and so on . . . I actually think sometimes that those at the extreme ends of the spectrum (all-tech or anti-tech) are missing out on living in the real world we live in, with all of its contradictions and possibilities!

January 20, 2014 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Our dryer recently broke beyond repair, and I wasn't eager to replace it, but we have lots of overnight guests and line drying sheets twice a week in winter is rough/impossible with the amount of rain we've had. So I took the sheets and towels to the laundromat (two loads worth). It costs $5.36 to wash one load here!!!! Two loads washed and dried was just shy of $20. So I picked up a "new" dryer on craigslist for $50 the next day. I feel so bad for anyone locally that's stuck with the laundromat-I can't imagine the weekly cost for a family of four!

January 20, 2014 at 10:39 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I applaud your sense of self and ability to pick and choose. I have many of the things that you do without. I don't judge anyone about it. I think about the past when the only way to live was very primitively. Of course, we didn't live as long then...and many women had 10+ children. I like technology, and I think that I enjoy choosing my options. Best wishes to everyone.

January 20, 2014 at 11:39 PM  
Blogger EZ said...

Picking and choosing is the way to go, but I'm all for less is more. I have a manual washing "machine" and a dryer that's basically like a salad spinner, and a place to hang things to dry the rest of the way. I haven't owned a TV since I've been living on my own, but I couldn't do without the internet. I not-so-secretly despise parents who give their children smart phones and tablets, and I'm wary of people who own all kinds of gaming devices, but they're not me and I don't have to live with them. So I'll do what's good for me, which means as little as apartment living will let me get away with.

(Of course, this completely disregards the need for technology outside the home, and as a worker in the field of science, I am ALL for that. But that's not what we're talking about, so.)

January 20, 2014 at 11:51 PM  
Blogger renee said...

I laughed at the 20 years. You have a long way yet ;-) I have been working like you for 30 years more and reckon I have another 20 years. You are doing a fine job

January 21, 2014 at 1:51 AM  
Blogger jules said...

I have a dishwasher that I'm pretty sure is still in working order. I don't really know because I wash our dishes by hand and use the dishwasher as a giant dish drainer instead. I think I have used it as an actual dishwasher once or twice since 2005, just to keep it in working order.

January 21, 2014 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

The hardest thing about living truly off-grid (no solar for electricity) will be the loss of internet. Gave up TV about 10 years ago but I do use the laptop to watch DVDs and stream movies. I have a trac-phone for emergencies. I do have a big lawn tractor that is essential for hauling wood as well as clearing pasture. I have wind up clocks, percolator, kerosene stove, propane grill, no refrigerator, an outhouse, and an outdoor shower(winter we use tub and heated water). I think to each his/her own. To me, less is peaceful and calming. Candlelight and oil lamps are beautiful and provide needed light. It is great that we live in a time when we have a choice.

January 21, 2014 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Bonniejean said...

I really appreciate and love your "to each their own" take on this. When I became a parent I quickly adopted the philosophy, "Do whatever causes you the least amount of stress and anxiety." This will be different for everyone and it's a philosophy that translates to all areas of life. I live in the city and we use most of your everyday appliances (fridge, dishwasher, mixer, coffee pot). Although no TV. And in the summer we hang our clothes. And we use a wood stove to heat much of the winter. I would love to have time to beat cookies by hand, but as a full time working mom, instead I whip up treats (from the finest organic ingredients) in my pink Kitchenaid mixer!

January 21, 2014 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

We use machines on the Phony Farm. We would find it difficult to cut enough wood for the winter without the chain saw and wood splitter. The garden is turned by a tractor but mule power works better. We also have an old TroyBilt Horse tiller, the best ever made. We use these tools to produce enough vegetables for almost a year. I make bread by hand with home ground whole wheat flour but there is a Kitchenaid mixer. No dishwasher. We have a rarely used dryer and a rarely watched TV. I do not have time for TV! We get a lot of use out of the internet. Not possible to get rid of the phone because of the part time job but I would like to.

The wood stove is REALLY nice on this 12 degree morning.

From Middle TN

January 22, 2014 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger KirstenJL said...

I am not a homesteader; I am single, live in the country, and have some chickens. I work full time and I have a long commute. I think what is needed for a simple life is time. It takes me 3 hours to mow my lawn with a gasoline push mower. I tried a reel mower for awhile, but then mowing was all I had time for. I've let as much of my lawn go wild as I can without the place looking completely feral. Having chickens takes time (I cannot free range them, and use electronetting) from something else--I no longer garden much. I'm always prioritizing what needs to be done in my free time.

January 22, 2014 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

I think blending the two is important - keeping the traditional and adding the technological. I love to hand weed my garden with my iPod blaring in my ears, but I don't think I could go without my power tools or my sewing machine. I don't have cable anymore, nor do I have internet...but I've found I can power Netflix on my Blu-ray via my iPhone. This blending, for me, makes life more interesting BECAUSE I get the benefit of doing things the way my grandmother and great-grandmother did, but I still get to feed my addiction to Pinterest and watch my comic book movies!!

January 22, 2014 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

I think blending the two is important - keeping the traditional and adding the technological. I love to hand weed my garden with my iPod blaring in my ears, but I don't think I could go without my power tools or my sewing machine. I don't have cable anymore, nor do I have internet...but I've found I can power Netflix on my Blu-ray via my iPhone. This blending, for me, makes life more interesting BECAUSE I get the benefit of doing things the way my grandmother and great-grandmother did, but I still get to feed my addiction to Pinterest and watch my comic book movies!!

January 22, 2014 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Kristine Jones said...

Oh my! Your way of living seems so inviting. Giving up the amenities of modern technology really gives life a back-to-basics appeal. Your philosophy about everything is what really amazes me, with your moderate view and how you see both sides of the picture well. Anyway, I think it's ultimately an individual’s choice in what lifestyle he or she chooses. I'm good with a simple phone, and minimal appliances. I'd also want to try to live a simpler lifestyle sometime in the future, though I cannot really live without is my computer. Hahaha! Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts! All the best to you!

Kristine Jones @ FTI

November 24, 2014 at 1:08 PM  

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