Thursday, February 17, 2011

Earth Mother?

As regular readers of this blog may know, I have been attempting to start a second (okay, let's be honest, seventh*) career by doing some freelance writing. (What's particularly ironic about this is that I have always known that I wanted to write. So I went through six other careers first before I got to what I've always wanted to do. I tend to live my life in a spiral rather than a straight line. At least I'm not an asymptote. And that is my geeky joke for the day).

One of my recent assignments was to write a blog about Urban Homesteading, which is the practice of trying to live off the grid without having to move to a farm or commune. As a frugal environmentalist with slight Martha Stewartish tendencies, this has always appealed to me. Growing my own tomatoes? Sign me up! Learning to can them? Yes, please! Sewing a quilt from patches of cloth I created from the cotton I'm growing in my postage stamp backyard? Sure, why not?

The problem is that my slight inclinations toward being a Do-It-Yourselfer run smack into my total lack of interest in doing some things for myself. Some of this has to do with my lack of mechanical ability, which J (a mechanical engineer) magnanimously puts up with in me. (When he tried to teach me how to change my own oil, I got so immediately claustrophobic having the underside of my Honda Civic mere inches from my nose that I scooted screeching out from underneath the car and never touched an oil pan again). But then there are things that I really just don't want to have to do. Every few months, J will start waxing eloquent on the benefits of having a wood fired furnace to heat the house, as our neighbor in Columbus did. It would certainly get us off the grid. But it would require more of me than simply turning a magic dial that makes me comfortable in the winter and keeping my check writing hand limber. I have said no every time.

I guess part of it has to do with what sounds fun to me. Gardening sounds fun, despite the fact that I have killed pretty much every plant that has ever come within a half mile radius of me. (I once killed an aloe plant. Those things are supposed to be able to survive a nuclear holocaust. Or maybe that's cockroaches.) My residual good feelings about gardening probably come from reading the book The Secret Garden when I was in 5th grade. Boy, did that book make gardening seem magical. If only there were a book called The Secret Oil Pan and the Furnace of Wonder that espoused the joys of regular car maintenance and splitting your own wood in the dead of winter.

Despite my ambivalence toward the less glamorous aspects of living off the grid, I've decided to give the fun parts a try. We're going to put in a little vegetable garden in the back yard. (I'm planning on blaming the dog when I inevitably kill something green, although I really do want to be able to eat tomato sandwiches directly off the vine this summer.) I've started baking my own bread. (See tomato sandwiches, prior parenthetical statement.) I'm going to hold off on planting cotton.

Hopefully, I'll find a way to have a little more follow through than my track record may otherwise indicate (see career list, footnoted below). I'd love to give LO the experience of self-sufficiency. At least for the fun stuff.

*In case you're wondering, the previous six careers are as follows:
1. Baker at Giant Eagle. Duration: 2 days. 4 if you count the Giant Eagle training program.
2. Barnes & Noble bookseller. Duration: Don't ask. According to a psychologist friend of my mother's, writers often feel as if the only non-sellout job they can take while working on their writing is book sales. I've never been so thrilled to be typical and over-educated for a job.
3. Administrative Assistant for Graeter's Ice Cream. Duration: 9 months. Because I couldn't even bring myself to finish out a full year before I ran screaming back to book sales.
4. AmeriCorps Volunteer/Art Director at Westside Boys and Girls Club. Duration: 9 months/1.5 years. Best underpaid job ever.
5. Program Director at Westside Boys and Girls Club. Duration: 6ish months. Never take a promotion when you're happy where you are.
6. High School English Teacher. Duration: 4 years. The most focused I've ever been.


  1. You can do it! Outdoor gardens are so much easier than indoors. I've killed aloe too and you know I manage to grow a lot of vegetables in our backyard.

  2. I always want to be more a DIY-er but just can't seem to find time to do a tenth of the projects that appeal to me. Sigh.

    Good luck with your garden! Please write about it for us (and post pictures!). YOU CAN DO IT! :)