M and I are getting more and more frustrated with our temporary living situation which has existed for…well…since we were married (almost 9 years now)… And by that I mean the fact that we’re always on the move, without roots. That’s one of the factors that’s prompting this coming move. We want to get a place of our own where we’re going to be a while.
One of the ways this has played out is that we’ve been restricted to very limited container gardening. Mostly herbs, peppers and tomatoes. We’d love to have a bigger, more comprehensive garden once we “arrive” but we’re just not there yet.
As we talk more about rules of life (more on that later) and sustainability and how we’d like to embody our priorities, we’re starting to see this delay as an advantage. I’m working off the fundamental notion that—diets don’t work. (Bear with me for a moment…) If you want to lose weight and keep it off, diets fundamentally don’t work. What works is long-term lifestyle adjustment. A diet is something you pick up and put down—often in cycles. A comprehensive lifestyle change is far more long term. It means changing the ways you eat food, changing how you cook, changing how you schedule your time to include time for regular exercise, etc.
I think the very same is true of making a move to sustainability. It’s one thing to get excited and to put some plants in a pot. But—like a diet—that can burn out rather quickly. (And there’s nothing wrong with doing that for fun for a season or two to test whether growing food is something you have skills/gifts for or as a casual hobby.) But if you’re serious about 1) planting a measurable percentage of your own food, 2) reducing your grocery bills, and 3) moving towards a more interdependent sustainable way of being then it actually means being “serious” about it. Like, making budgets. Analyzing your grocery store receipts. Thinking abut what and how you cook. Putting together with your family a picture of where you’d like your food growing to be in five years on a year-by-year basis. Calculating how much time, energy, and money it will take to achieve those goals. (Especially as we recognize that we both have jobs—we’re not full-time farmers…)
Or, as Jesus mentioned… “‘For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish'” (Luke 14:28-30). Of course, he was talking about counting the costs of discipleship, but the point still holds…
So—we’re seeing this delay as a time of planning, of thinking, of exploring and researching. It’s not wasted time; it’s essential if we’re going to make an long term changes in how we live.
I’ve been thinking in particular about food supply and trying to wrap my head around just how much food we’d have to produce to feed us on a regular basis. I find the best way to do this is to boil it down to completely concrete terms.We make a pretty rockin’ home-made pizza and it’s our tradition to have it every Friday—so let’s break it down:
- Ingredients: flour, olive oil, salt, water, yeast, sugar, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, wine, cheese
- Of these, realistically, we can only grow two: tomatoes and basil (which grow especially well together. Bonus!)
- We use perhaps a cup of sauce a week spread over two crusts.
- By my crude estimate, a cup of sauce at the consistency I like might require 5 or 6 roma tomatoes.
- Assuming that we’d be canning quantities of sauce for our use through out the year, this means that 1 pizza a week for a year would require something on the order of 300 tomatoes.
- How much does an average Roma plant produce in a season? (I don’t know yet…)
- And that’s just one meal—we go through salsa like there’s no tomorrow and like tomatoes in other things as well. Suddenly the scale seems a bit more sobering, and the need for good research and planning comes to the fore…
So, keeping these kinds of things in mind, I’m going to and fro in my “spare” time to get a sense of what’s out there and what’s feasible. I may post some of what I find as the mood strikes me. And, at the moment, I’m liking what I’m reading about the efficiency of raised bed gardens—and here are three of the things I’ve been reading: a pdf from the Kansas State Ag Extension, a pdf from Purdue University with some basic construction calculations, and a website from some chump school in the state where the University of Texas holds pride of place. (Did I mention my dad and brother both graduated from UT…?)