Winter has arrived early here in Virginia as we have our first ice storm/snowfall of the year, being the first time to snow in October since the late 70’s (according to a Va native). The beautiful colors of our east coast fall are still vibrant as the changing leaves do their best to hang on for dear life while the wintry weather gusts try to take hold of the season. We sit here nestled in our lil ‘suburban homestead’ falling victim to the urge to break out “Let It Snow” considering it the perfect song for what we are experiencing, nevermind the “No Holiday Music Before Thanksgiving” rule I try to abide by.
We are getting a fire going with our “burnables” trash. My mother sits making dolls for the upcoming holiday craft fair we’ll be vending at this year. Any “normal” person walking into the scene around me right now would consider us taking the wintry weather a little too far. Yes, any normal person would think this, but my family and I are anything but normal (truly, who is?). We’ve been considered “those hippies” from California for as long as I can remember – from my mom trying to implement her all-natural lifestyle choices in the new suburban frontier her and my dad settled into to raise us kids. She made our clothes, preserved food and maintained a garden for years until she began a career in teaching.
The truth of the matter is, eventually the homemade clothes became less and less as my siblings and I begged for the cool name-brand clothing that we believed to be so popular at the time. The garden was let go of with less time to maintain it and along with it the canning and preserving went too. The only thing I remember remaining a constant was the compost bucket. That stinky, old plastic ice-cream tub that sat just to the right of the sink we re-used for collecting kitchen scraps. I remember being told to dump into our pile that sat at the edge of the woods, but never did anything with. I never questioned why we did this, nor did I care at the time either. I was just a kid obeying orders, most of the time. To be honest, when I moved to the Northwest and began work on a farm, I took pride in knowing what compost was, all because of that damn ice-cream tub operation. Anyways, the composting seemed to be the life-line to the vision my parents had shared as young kids in love. That one constant of an organic lifestyle not so far off, just further down the road… because as life would have it, we became accustomed to the modern comforts and convenience of the suburban lifestyle.
Currently, my father is in his last year of work before retiring from a government career that took him and my mother overseas to Germany and Austria for the past 6 years. With his retirement from a 30 year run on the horizon, my parents are revisiting their dream. They have decided to head back to California where they have property to realize the old homestead they once held dear in the hearts as a younger couple with their whole lives ahead of them. Some would consider this a dream long gone and no longer attainable as though it’s too late. But the compost bucket is still kickin’ and has spoken – my parents may be attempting the dream many years later than what they first imagined, but still have the same youth in their hearts that’s been driving them all along.
Meanwhile, in our years apart, I’ve grown to have a similar dream – living “off the grid,” building a self-sustainable homestead. Currently, I committed to helping my parents with their homestead sharing the knowledge and experience I’ve gathered from living in the Northwest. As you know, I’ve been experimenting this summer while care-taking here at the home in Va until I went off to travel a bit more. I returned 2 weeks ago from my travels to meet my parents here and get to work renovating the house to prepare for selling/renting. Although the experiments fell to the wayside while I set off on my travels, they laid the groundwork for now. What can we do now to begin making the transition from our industrialized habits of comfort and convenience to sustainable practices of comfort and convenience. We have to rethink our traditional mentality and unlearn habits to begin making different choices that become “new” habits. And so the transition process goes – “we must be patient with ourselves while learning something new.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, writer)
Some might say, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” or to make these’ greener’ lifestyle changes within a suburban or urban atmosphere are impossible. My response? Nothing is impossible – be open, give something different a try and you never know, it just might snow in October 😉