The end of the farm challenge
I read this a long time ago, and it's always stuck with me. I have no idea how accurate it is, but the idea behind it resonates:
Do you have more than one pair of shoes?
Do you have more than one choice of food at each meal?
Do you have access to your own means of transportation?
Do you have more than one set of underwear?
Only ten percent of the people who have ever lived on Earth can answer yes to three or more of these questions.
We're seven weeks into the farm challenge.
I have spent $23 on groceries. I bought almond butter for Sander, because he was miserable, I bought a bag of mini-marshmallows so I could make cupcakes for a friend's birthday, baking soda because I needed it, and, last week, creamer, because my creamer went bad and I won't live without coffee.
We also went out for dinner two or three times, but I don't count this as part of the challenge because it wasn't part of my grocery budget.
But now, I think, I'm done. The original challenge was to last until June 1, and was going to include one bulk food buy. But then I was overwhelmed with how many people pitched in to help, and who traded food with me, brought gifts, and were exceptionally kind and supportive. So I decided to see how long it would last, and how long I could go without buying ANY food.
And, honestly, we could keep going. Probably for another month if we REALLY got creative, or were really in a situation where we couldn't buy food.
But here's the deal: I am coming at this challenge from a position of privilege, and I know this. I was able to feed my family for seven weeks on $3 a week. Not because I'm poor, but because of the incredible waste inherent in our society, and because I've had the privilege of NOT being poor for a very long time.
Most of the food we ate was from the Gleaner's Pantry. This means that I had to have a car to get there, plan ahead and have lots of free time to glean (a minimum of two hours a week, but I'm a board member and a driver, so we probably put in 4-8 hours a week, depending on the week.)
I have THREE refrigerators. I have TWO kitchens. I have a deep freeze in the basement. I have 200 jars for canning. I have a ten-acre farm that produces apples and goat milk and eggs and berries and herbs.
If I lived in an apartment with a tiny refrigerator and worked 45 hours a week and took a bus to get everywhere, there's no way I could do this. I wouldn't have even tried.
This challenge took time and energy and commitment. I know that, in itself, is a privilege. To be able to have the luxury to choose what to eat every night is a gift that quite literally, millions of people around the world never know.
But I'm ready to get back my brain. We're almost out of almost everything: Gluten-free flour, coffee (about a week's left, I think,) creamer, sugar, meat. A farmer friend has half a cow for sale. I want to buy it and put it in my now-empty freezer.
Mark, however, still doesn't have a job. We still have no income.
So I'm going to use the lessons I've learned from the challenge and try to stick with them. I'm only going to buy the basics. I'm still going to can, and glean, and make what I can.
But it's taking me hours to make dinner: I'm spending time gathering eggs to barter for the beef, then going to gleaners for veggies and making the bread. I'm done.
We have two weeks of birthdays coming up: Sawyer's turning 15, and Scout's turning 5. I want to make cakes that have real ingredients and not whatever I can barter for. I want to buy potato chips. I want to choose what we have for dinner -- we haven't had chicken in weeks, because we had beef in the freezer.
And I want to cut down on crappy filler carbs. Sandwiches and rice and pasta and muffins and cookies are fabulous for a teenaged boy. I, however, have gained seven pounds and my pants are tight and I'm over it.
So, tomorrow I will go to the store. It won't be the huge "Whoo-hoo, we're employed again" trip that I was hoping for, but it will be enough.
And I'm slowly learning that enough is more than OK.
Enough is plenty to be thankful for.