Pockets of the Future Blog

Striving to live now as all will live in the future.

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    Jun
    19

    Beauty Springs Up in the Humblest of Places

    Posted by pockets

    Beauty springs up in the humblest of places, astonishing us and inspiring us to pause and imagine the possibilities.

     

    lilly

     

    Inexplicably, this beautiful lilly grows right next to the well casing within the cinder blocks that surround it.

    lilly by well

     

    Generally the boys use the cinder blocks as their “wood shop,” tucking away handmade tools and meaningful stones in the nooks and crannies. At this time of year, though, this area simply becomes the place where the lilly grows. We admire it as we pass by every morning and evening on our way to the milking barn. We all gaze at it and remark upon it. It refreshes us as it quietly goes about its flowery business. We don’t know how or why it is there but no matter - every day at this time of year we pause and imagine the possibilities.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Mar
    01

    Our Refrigerator Unplugged But Then Plugged Back In

    Posted by pockets

    A few months ago, I was really keen on unplugging the refrigerator and making a go of learning to do without one, at least until our cow calved and we were deluged with milk. My husband was reluctant because these innovations always mean more work (both mentally and physically). He rightly pointed out that we were already pretty overwhelmed trying to manage what we already had going on and that going without a refrigerator is probably a pretty big project. At least at first until you get the hang of it.

    “Yes, that is all true,” I said, “but this would otherwise be such a great time to try this out. Our refrigerator is practically empty these days which is expensive to maintain and it is freezing outside so we can use our breezeway to keep some foods close to the kitchen. Please could we try?”

    He graciously agreed and we did try it out. First I did some rearranging with his broad shouldered help. We have a freezer in the basement which was situated clear across on the opposite side from the stairs ever since we moved in for reasons lost to me now. I asked him to please move it to the plug near the foot of the basement stairs (which lead from the kitchen). I then rearranged our food shelves down there so that I could empty a smaller one and move it next to the freezer right at the foot of those stairs. This would give pretty good access from the kitchen to cool storage and frozen items.

    The door next to the basement door in the kitchen is the outside door leading to a breezeway (at least that is what we call it). It is like an indoor hallway with windows. It was empty when we bought the place but not too long after moving in, my husband installed shelves down one wall under the windows and hooks along the opposite wall. It is filled to the brim with boots and shoes and coats and bins of hats and mittens and jars of children’s experiments as well as some tools and the odd outside toy interspersed with lovely bits of wood and stone that have caught the children’s fancy. I rearranged the shelves to clear a few feet of a shelf right next to the kitchen door. I also reclaimed a cooler that was out in the “granny house” holding grit for the hens and put it in the breezeway also.

    Then one Wednesday morning after family prayer but before launching into homeschooling, we all went into the kitchen and watched while my husband ceremoniously unplugged the refrigerator. Ah, the kitchen filled with quiet. Blessed quiet. I love the quiet that only a loss of power can give (both materially and spiritually now that I think of it) and I was glad.

    Things went pretty well for a couple of weeks. We put the gallon milk jars out in the breezeway. We weren’t getting enough eggs from our hens to live on so I put the already refrigerated grocery store variety in the cooler with ice from the freezer. I put cream and buttermilk in there too. Produce went on the food shelves at the foot of the basement stairs. Yeast and seeds and so on went in the freezer down there. Ketchup and a few other things went in a cupboard in the hutch in the dining room. Everything accounted for, except maybe leftovers.

    We ran into a couple of problems. One is that the breezeway which is unheated and otherwise perfect for this use has a wall of south facing windows. This meant that there were lots of days - even in the cold of January - when it simply got too warm in there to keep food and milk sufficiently cold. The other problem was that having leftovers that have to be eaten right away changes meal plans and creates a degree of unpredictability. Paul and I have both spent a lot of time learning to cook so that there WILL be leftovers (which takes some doing for a farming family of eight). Now suddenly leftovers were sort of a liability. Furthermore, we were used to having some time pass between meals of the same food. Now, especially with a breezeway that got unpredictably warm at times, we needed to instantly get used to eating the same thing until it was gone. Somehow the “instantly” part of the equation didn’t get figured in.

    Finally my adrenal fatigue got worse again and I started to lose track of it all. The weather warmed up a bit. My husband wanted to put his attention into other things. We had some leftovers go bad which just can’t happen here. We need every scrap. So Paul made an executive decision and plugged the refrigerator back in. I was ridiculously disappointed which he was very understanding about. And there you have it - two and a half grand weeks without a refrigerator to mind our food for us.

    As I am writing this, it still doesn’t seem like it should be that hard. For me, it was the adrenal fatigue with resulting lack of mental energy that did me in. It takes some doing to implement a new system until it becomes second nature. I need enough energy to get from “new system” to “second nature.” I also need to tweak how we store the food. South facing windows is a deal breaker. Maybe we could get a second cooler? Maybe I could use the freezer more for leftovers? That just leaves the milk. We don’t have much now because, as I reported earlier, our cow turns out not to be pregnant. But sometime we will have a cow in full milk. Yikes. That will really be something to deal with. Actually this place has a spring house but there no longer is any water flowing in there. We don’t know if we can do anything about that or not and need to research it.

    Lessons learned from this experiment?
    One lesson is knowing from experience how much we love the quiet that settles after a refrigerator is turned off. One morning my husband woke up and thought for a minute that he was at an ashram. It was just that peaceful.
    Another lesson I experienced is how great I felt not having to depend upon a big metal box to keep my food stores good. I was surprised at how much this affected me. I really felt more “self sufficient” in a very tangible, daily life sort of way. It felt GREAT!
    A third lesson is that houses are not built for this just as they are no longer built for wood heat. You need a north facing storage area or pantry that is accessible from within the house, preferably the kitchen. After the fact adaptations require thought and planning. For instance, we have a small north facing front porch with a cement floor but it is entirely open with just a little roof over it. That might make a good storage area but we have no idea how to suitably enclose it and not have an eyesore as a result.
    A fourth lesson for me is to think long term and get more geared up with making lacto-fermented veggies and sprouts. I need to do this anyway as I think it is really important for our health. Having these two food preparation skills fine tuned, habitual and a long term part of our natural way of eating will smooth out storing produce during the winter a little bit.
    A fifth lesson has something to do with leftovers and my rhythm in the kitchen. For as long as I have a freezer, I could perhaps just stick leftovers in there even if they are going to be used day after next. And/or I could change my rhythm in the kitchen so that almost everything is cooked fresh and eaten on the spot (makes me tired just writing that). And/or I could start thinking more in terms of immediately transforming leftovers into something seemingly new for next day. What did folks do in the so-called old days? I imagine they ate what they had until it was gone. They also probably had stronger digestions and could eat beans every day. Some members of my family cannot do that. So ultimately the lesson here in this category is that I haven’t figured the lesson out yet! I will have to keep working on it and get really geared up for our next attempt.

    This is tough for me because right now our frig is practically empty and it is cold and snowing like crazy outside. This would be a good time to have the refrigerator off, right? But I think it is foolish to keep turning it on and off. That would be like dating in that it pulls for failure. No, I have to be fully prepared, my husband has to be fully on board, and then we will definitely succeed.

    In sum, then, we LOVED having the refrigerator off but it took more than we were ready for to make a long term success of it. However, I cherish living fridgeless as a goal for the future. So I will wait patiently, improve my adrenal fatigue somehow or other, learn some new food preparation and food storage skills, make long term plans that take fridgeless living into account, think more creatively, do a bit more research and then pounce when the timing is right.

    Oh, I am really looking forward to it.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Jan
    18

    “Natural Was Always Natural” and Living Off the Grid

    Posted by pockets

    Two nights ago it was the coldest here it has been in over 12 years and we were without power for most of it. We were without power from about 1am to 5am. It came back on for a little while and then went out again for some hours yesterday morning.

    I found this more unsettling than usual. Part of the reason is probably because I have a disconnect notice from our utility company sitting on my desk which I have no idea how to pay. Some of my unsettled feeling is due to my deepening thinking about man-made systems and the uncertainty of the future we all face.

    We Americans believe - no, have a certainty - that the power will always come back on. This certainty doesn’t just out of a feeling of entitlement but is embedded in our view of reality. We have never known anything else. To confront going without, not just out of poverty, but because there simply isn’t any (electricity, gas, food, health care…) rocks our world view in fundamental ways.

    But one day, that will all come true. There simply won’t be any. What will we do? How will we respond? At what point will we respond? Tomorrow, first thing? Or the day the power goes off and doesn’t come back on, and not a minute sooner?

    I lay awake most of the night thinking about these things, observing the vulnerability, praying for all of those out there on a bitter cold night with no heat.

    And, I thought, as close as we are as a family to living off the grid - we are still nearly close enough for my taste. We are vulnerable right now because I don’t know how I am going to pay our bill and avoid having our utilities shut off in a few days. We are vulnerable because I couldn’t get the pancakes I was already in the middle of making when we lost power again to cook properly on our wood burning stove. We are vulnerable because we don’t have immediate community around us with whom to share risks and problem solving.

    I am grateful that as hard as we are working on these changes of lifestyle, we still keep getting enough small shocks to keep us highly interested in seeing this homesteading/living a simple life/getting off the grid/spiritually based family life project to its conclusion. Well, “conclusion” is probably a bad word. How could there be conclusions to such things? How about “full expression”? We are receiving enough shocks in terms of worldly bad news and challenging personal experiences to remain highly motivated to see this project through to its fullest expression.

    Yes, and we also receive confirmation in many ways for the direction we are taking. A feeling of peace or satisfaction, for instance. Observing the growing competence and fortitude of our children, for another. Or the positive comments of other like-minded individuals and families or this that our spiritual Master noted recently:

    Nothing is difficult. You just throw away everything and you will find that you are as happy and comfortable as you were before you got hi-tech. What does it take? Leave your computer at home, disconnect your telephone, disconnect your electricity: you are back in the beginning. It doesn’t take much. What is civilisation? It’s nothing but a few instruments of communication and illumination! What else is civilisation?

    You sleep out one night and look at the stars - you are where your original forefathers were. It’s beautiful. And then you begin to wonder why on earth you went where houses are air conditioned 24 hours of the day, where you don’t know from inside whether it’s raining or not. The wind is blowing and you think it’s cool outside and you go and it’s 120 [degrees]! You wonder because it’s all artificial. So to cut off artificial is natural. There is nothing primitive about that. Natural was always natural. Sahaj Sandesh Dec. 29, 2008

    Oh, it meant a lot to me to read those words. “Natural was always natural.” And always will be natural, I might add. It is us who are unnatural. We must deconstruct all that we have piled on the natural state to find our way back to a simple way of life that allows us to re-focus on the goal of human life. That is the only option. We can take it willingly and in a timely fashion or unwillingly and with all kinds of suffering and angst but take it we must.

    A couple of weeks ago, a thought boomed into my mind that didn’t seem to come from me. It was, “Nature will support you if you are content to live with what Nature naturally provides.” This keeps ringing through my inner chambers completely unbidden by me. It seems to me to be one of those statements that is deceptively obvious, deceptively simple.

    What does Nature willingly provide? What was the Original Contract between Nature and humans (if we can even think of humans as being at all separate from Nature in order to require a contract)? What is the difference between what Nature is created to provide us and what it will yield when forced to by humans? And how long will this yielding hold out? No. No, I want to get back to the Original Contract. I want what is willingly given and not what has perhaps been reluctantly yielded all of this time. I want to live within the Original Contract, the Original Design. I know it will be better, whether I understand it or not or even know how do it right now or not.

    This notion of living within the center of what Nature willingly provides is how I understand the famous Matthew 6:25-34:

    25″Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life”?

    28″And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

    Notions about Christianity and paganism aside, I take the idea here as being the same as what I am talking about. Live as He would have you live, and the resulting harmony with Nature will provide you with all that you truly need. This is a startling thought when you think about it freshly. Fulfilling our needs comes perhaps not through our great intellect or organizational abilities or sheer (often brutal) efforts. Fulfillment of our needs perhaps comes about most quickly and easily through living in harmony with natural law.

    Run as fast as you can to any corner of the universe and the Law will be there waiting for you. Cornbread Nation 3, p. 14, from Marilou Awiakata’s “Compass for Our Journey”

    So for a long night and following day I considered these matters even more deeply and more urgently than I usually do. This morning I was grinding some cumin seeds for our Sunday morning breakfast in a coffee grinder when I thought, “I am going to make a list, by crackey!” Yes, I am going to make a list of all the ways we as a family rely upon “the grid” to accomplish our daily life tasks so that I can keep track of the changes and adaptations we still need to make.

    I can immediately start my list with:
    mortar and pestle.

    Quickly I can add:
    wood burning cook stove;
    alternative lighting;
    water storage and (hopefully) a hand water pump for outside.

    When I complete our list, I will post it here in the spirit of us all working together. I do enjoy crossing things off of lists. Don’t you? But crossing items off of this list will be a special pleasure and gift, no matter how long it takes. But even more, I look forward intensely to the day that it all just dissolves into a simple life led only in Him.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Dec
    21

    Our Thanksgiving Day Adjustments - Eating More Locally and Commiting to More Gardening

    Posted by pockets

    It has felt like ages since I posted last. My adrenal fatigue is worse again and we are having heart-stopping trouble with our computer. My whole thought life is on the computer. Which makes me wildly uncomfortable, by the way. It is dopey to rely upon things that are not reliable, right? I mean that is the whole point of the direction of our lives and the posts on this blog. Sigh. Well, I will deal with that one another day…

    Meanwhile I have been jotting down little notes about posts I want to write on our various blogs. This shorthand list is three pages long. Makes me tired just looking at it. However, I thought I would take the time now to convey a conversation we had as a family on Thanksgiving that will affect the future direction of our homestead and homestead kitchen.

    Just before Thanksgiving, we had to drive to Roanoke. While there, we stopped in at an Indian grocery to pick up a few things we were out of. We eat Indian food here at least three or four times a week and have done so for a long time. In the back of my mind has lurked the thought that someday we may not easily be able to get Indian supplies as, in reality, India is a long way away. But, like the problem of being dependent upon capricious computers, I kept putting conscious thought and problem solving about this off for another day.

    Rice has been expensive for a while now, as you may know. We have discovered during this time that basmati rice may actually be as good a deal as jasmine rice because it cooks up to a much larger volume than jasmine rice does. I guess I would have to do a detailed analysis between price and volume but just from cooking every day in the kitchen, we have found basmati to be a better deal than we thought and not just a rice for special occasions. But still - it so expensive. It darn near takes your breath away to pick up a bag of it with an intention of heading towards the cash register. So, I put that off and headed over towards the bags of mung dal.

    What I saw shocked me. The price was so high on this ancient, simple food of poor and/or spiritually oriented people that I couldn’t dream of buying it. Rice and dal. Cheap, cheap food. Now so expensive that it is out of my reach. And rice and dal are - or have been up until now - staples in my kitchen. With my mind reeling, we left the store. We had not a bit of mung dal in the house but we left nevertheless.

    I had to work on turning my reeling mind into a mind that simply meditated on the problem and came up with a solution or an approach, at least. I did this and it resulted in a family discussion which I will relate but first there is another strand.

    In homesteading literature, you constantly run into debates about whether it is better to raise cows or goats. We solved this debate for ourselves years ago by doing the rather unusual thing of raising both on very limited land. We love the cows and don’t ever want to live without one ever, ever, ever gain. The goats are fun and easy to manage and child sized and, well… I really love feta cheese. Plus I need all the minerals I can get and goat milk is higher in minerals than cow milk. Anyway, we have raised both and enjoyed both.

    The thing is that my family is very animal oriented. I am very happy to have these animals as companions and do not want to go through life without their energy and intelligence any more. We count on them. However, I am also a very plant oriented person. I crave greens and used to dream about herbs when I was an apprentice to an herbalist so many years ago. We have done little bits of gardening here and there but nothing really major. Everything has gone into maintaining the cows and goats and the many other projects around here like wood-fired earth ovens and outdoor bamboo showers and whatnot.

    But with this economic crisis adding a certain flavor and with our maturing a bit as homesteaders, we are starting to take on a different view and this is really what our Thanksgiving Day conversation was about.

    I talked with the family about my sticker shock with regards to Indian food supplies. I also talked about the significant reading I have done about families that choose to eat locally only. We then all talked about the morality (or not) of shipping food thousands and thousands of miles just so that others can choose to eat what does not grow in their region. The people I have read who have eaten locally for a year, say, all tend to have far more resources at their disposal than we do. Floyd County would be a great place to undertake such a project, I think, but we just can’t afford it. I proposed that we consider making every effort to eat what at least can be available in the United States. So while mung dal would not be available, mung beans would be (I Googled it. They are grown in unexpected places like OK.). What did everyone think of this idea?

    Then I raised the issue of keeping goats when we already have cows and a lifetime commitment to having cows. We need to diversify - we need more than milk and cheese in order to survive and thrive. We need to garden, I suggested. We need to garden A LOT. We need veggies and herbs and so many things. The goats are occupying the space where we would otherwise immediately start expanding our gardens. What shall we do? I asked this with some trepidation because no one here ever wants to give up any animal. But drawing upon my social work training, I had talked with my husband and several family members ahead of time and already discussed their feelings and ideas to a certain extent.

    So we as a family decided two things on this Thanksgiving Day:

    1. We will gradually learn to limit our food choices to those foodstuffs that can be grown in the United States. We are doing this as a preparedness measure in the face of wildly uncertain times and we are doing this as a morality measure as the resources that go into shipping foods such vast distances should really be spent more effectively locally.

    My husband encouraged me to apply Indian cooking spices and cooking practices to more of the foods we will continue to eat and sort of invent a hybrid cuisine that will work for us. I already do this some and I appreciated his practical and supportive suggestion. Now I only have to set about carrying it out. (And get over my heartbreak about eating less Indian food. I am not a foodie. I just have a heart thing with India and an abiding respect for the ancient science of Ayurveda.)

    2. We will sell the goats, our surefooted little companions of several years, and put our energies into getting much more serious about veg and herb gardening. As a matter of fact, a young man with a rather large farm to develop is coming tomorrow to meet our modest herd. It will be difficult to see them go. I have resisted selling them several times over the years but now it is time, as evidenced by the fact that everyone is surprisingly on board. Eager even.

    I have to immediately start thinking about seeds for spring. I have read lately on a number of agrarian blogs that quality heirloom seeds will be more scarce this spring and to order early. So after the goats go to their new home, we will apply ourselves to this next phase of our homestead development.

    Shortly after all of this bracing family discussion and decision-making, I read the following in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver:

    He told us that in India it’s sometimes considered a purification ritual to go home and spend a year eating everything from one place - ideally, even to grow it yourself. I like this name for what we had done: a purification ritual, to cultivate health and gratitude. pps. 338-339

    Yes, this is exactly what it feels like to us. For us this way of life is about more than adjusting ahead of time to straitened conditions. It is about more than spending time together as a family. It is about more than learning to live frugally so that there are more resources available for others. It is about purification. It is about living naturally. It is about easing out of sense gratification and conventional ways of thinking and finding ourselves. And finding inspiration. And peace. And time to look inward.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Dec
    03

    Laughter and Water and Prayer All Rolled Up Into One - A Hand Washing Laundry Postscript

    Posted by pockets

    About a week or more ago, my boys did a father-enforced deep clean on their rooms and finished switching out their summer clothes for winter clothes. This resulted in a sparkling room for them but a rather large pile of laundry for me.

    When laundry day dawned (for it is still a weather-based activity for us), I was dismayed at the formidable mountain of laundry waiting for little ole hand washing me to tackle. My husband responded by pointing out that we still have our old washing machine in the basement. He thought it would be a good idea to hook it up, use it to wash all of the extra laundry this one time, but just stand there through its cycles to stop the machine as it started to flood.

    Now that was a very logical, thoughtful suggestion. But you know what? I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. Even though hand washing our laundry takes so much time (and would especially take so much time in this circumstance) and I get absolutely starving from doing it (!) and I am usually in pain for a couple of days afterward (I am plagued by loosey-goosey joints), I just couldn’t go back to using a machine even in the face of an unusually large pile of laundry. I just couldn’t.

    I said, “Thank you but … well, I would know that those clothes aren’t really clean.” (He understood what I said and, I think, understood what I couldn’t quite say.)

    OK. Yes, it was partly that I guess. But, honestly, it was much more than that. There is something about doing laundry this way. I don’t know if I can quite put it into words. It is the elemental simplicity of it. It is the sound of the water and the rhythm of the movements. It is the quiet attention you can pay to each piece of clothing and each beloved family member to whom it belongs. It is the feeling of connection with brothers and sisters all over the world who wash their clothing in a similar manner. It is working together with enthusiastic children and strong, broad shouldered husbands to accomplish this necessary task of daily living. It is laughter and water and prayer all rolled up into one “mundane” activity.

    What else can I say? I think that it is the naturalness of it. Yes, that’s it. The naturalness of it. Hand washing the laundry and hanging it up to dry feels congruent. It feels right. It feels … well, natural.

    African mama's quilt

    A slapdash, machine-made, apparent efficiency cannot make up for laughter and water and prayer and naturalness. All the machine really does is move clothing mindlessly from one pile to another. Hand washing the laundry, on the other hand, always holds the potential to increase awareness, build muscles and character, and extend love. It fits into a natural day like the in fabulous quilt above. See the block showing hand washing laundry? It is all of a piece.

    I never, ever would have guessed this on my own. Only doing the work, paying attention to the actual experience, and submitting to the discipline of it showed me. I am truly grateful for myself personally, and am so glad that the children will grow up with more naturalness in their lives. Functioning a bit more naturally will come naturally to them. I view that as a good thing.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Nov
    23

    Sharing Our Passion for Living a Natural Life Through Bamboo Grove Press

    Posted by pockets

    This is cross-posted from our Bamboo Grove Press Blog.

    My husband and I were raised with pretty much the same attitudes as any other middle class Americans. Yet somehow, we ended up here. Where is here? Well, we are out in the country with six children, an assortment of rare breed dairy cows and goats, chickens, a garden and so on. Here also includes baking in an outdoor wood-fired earth oven, taking showers in an outdoor bamboo shower (during the summer!), hand washing our laundry (all year), making all of our food from scratch, building all of our outbuildings from scratch and so on. Furthermore, here includes homeschooling, heartfelt meditation, ongoing scriptural studies and daily relationship building in a very intimate family setting. And, honestly, it feels like we have only just gotten started.

    So how did we end up here? We ended up here because my husband and I share a passion for answering the question “What does it mean to live a natural life?”

    What does that even mean … a natural life?

    Discovering answers to this question endlessly fascinates us here. It challenges us, inspires us and constantly reshapes our thoughts and actions. Let’s see, living a natural life surely includes eating locally grown, organic produce and learning to tough out humid summers without air conditioning. Right? What else? It surely includes being willing to use our hands to carry out the tasks of daily living and living with far fewer possessions than is the norm. Yes. What else? We think it seems to include stepping away from cities and disengaging from a wide range of urban attitudes and dependencies. Definitely yes. But still - what is all of this? Does living a natural life go beyond lifestyle concerns and economic choices? Why do so many people crave “a natural life” and yet not know how to create one? And how did our passion for this question get us here?

    What we have realized after years of considering these questions is that living a natural life means living according to the Original Design. It means that we live contentedly (obediently even) within the supports and guidelines of “natural laws.” It means that we are willing to scrap virtually everything we have been led to believe is true or necessary for a successful life and aude sapere - dare to think - for ourselves. Dare to think fearlessly, creatively, In harmony with each other, by looking within for answers, and, most of all, in faith.

    There is an Original Design for humans and human life on this sweet, green Earth. We only have to keep editing and editing and editing out what we humans invented over millennium until we find what the Creator designed for us and in us in the first place. Pretty much everything works better according to original plans and instructions, yes? This is no less true of human beings. And this is rather less a statement about technology than it is about inner attitudes and ways of acting.

    Being passionate about something brings an inherent discipline and responsibility with it. As I read this morning:

    Anything you don’t give your life to is not worth doing. Swami Vivekananda said, “Give me men of passion.” Passion does not mean sexual passion; it means a passionate nature, that if I do this, I must do it perfectly. I must do it as well as I can. I must do it now. And promises do not constitute work. He who wants to give must give now. Youth: A Time of Promise and for Effort, vol. 2, p.157 P. Rajagopalachari

    Our passion for this ongoing process of discovering what a natural life can be has brought us such a deep feeling of well being and has provided so much “grist for the mill” for our growth that we have for some time now felt a likewise passion for sharing what we are discovering with the many other uncomfortable people who also crave a natural life. It is for this reason that we write extensively on our Pockets of the Future blog and share photos, videos and information there and on our POTF web site. We are pleased that so many people are finding these resources useful for expanding and re-shaping their lives. But we are restless to do more.

    As such, my husband and I are very pleased to announce the launch of our family-based publishing business - Bamboo Grove Press. Through Bamboo Grove Press, we will have the means to share much more of what we have been blessed with and what we have discovered during our own transformation. We will be able to share our delight in family life, our complete dependence upon a spiritual perspective, and the fruit of skill building in many areas. I am happy to say that we will be publishing books for children as well as for adults. (We even have a game in mind but we will see how that goes.) We will just generally be leaving as complete a paper trail as possible so that the many people who will be increasingly craving a natural life themselves will be able to have companions in their homes on their book shelves. While remolding oneself and one’s family life into a life that is more natural brings ease and contentment, it is nevertheless a profound transformation to undergo during otherwise hostile and uncertain times. Companions, friends, associates can help so much. We want to be that, to the extent that we are able, for brothers and sisters now and in the future.

    Last week, P. Rajagopalachari advised a group of young people to:

    Be Natural, Be Fearless and Have Faith

    It is on that basis that we present Bamboo Grove Press for your consideration.

    From the rustling leaves of the Grove,

    Leslie

    Nov
    22

    As Long as We are Hand Washing Laundry, Why Not Consider This Too?

    Posted by pockets

    I am not a moody person and I don’t wake up in moods per se. But I do sometimes wake up with some kind of call to arms such as “I have to write this,” or “Let’s get rid of stuff,” or “Let’s try ________ today!”

    The idea I woke up with the other day, I cannot just implement off the bat. It will require family enthusiasm as well as strategizing. But I figure I might as well share the idea and some resources with you all in case you can implement it right away. In any case, it is something I am finding very interesting to think about, to mull over, to imagine in the future of the family.

    How about living without refrigeration??

    I know this is kind of radical. And the many “large family” lists and web sites and so on I have been reading for years and years all extol the many benefits of going in exactly the opposite direction, i.e. cooking in bulk and then loading up multiple freezers and refrigerators with spare parts for future meals.There is great utility in this approach. Cooking enough for eight or ten or more people requires enormous amounts of time and planning. It is a significant time-saver to be able to cook up a double batch of beans, say, and then freeze half of them for a future time-crunched dinnertime. I have been doing this for years and, in fact, often wish I had been doing this even more than I have been.

    So no refrigerator at all? Hmmm….

    Well, I know it can be done because it always was done by everybody and often is done today by many people all over the world. Just like hand washing laundry, see? There really is a choice - we just have been unconscious of it because we are so accustomed to the mechanized, technology-driven, whenever possible use a machine to fill in the gaps that require having to exert physical effort or having to adjust to natural ebbs and flows approach. But if we set that particular calculus aside (or change the values of the variables for which we are calculating), we discover that we actually have a choice. If we were to stop and honestly consider this choice of keeping food in a cold, metal box or not, what would we choose?

    Some background reading is in order here! Here are a few of the articles I have been reading since the “no refrigeration” idea popped into my head.

    Don’t Fight Room Temperature - What’s in Your Fridge Does Not Need to Be There
    This is a brief summary of the some of the flow of the “no frig” way of thinking in the last couple of years. A great introduction.

    No Refrigerator - for 30 years
    This was apparently a seminal article from a most interesting blog, Little Blog in The Big Woods. Do investigate this blog for other interesting perspectives.

    We Make Do Without a Refrigerator - South central Texas homesteaders have learned to survive without a fridge and urge you to do the same, regardless of geography
    This is from a 1976 issue of Mother Earth News.

    Living Without a Refrigerator The no refrigeration section is at the bottom of the page.
    This thoughtful bit is written by Jim Conrad, naturalist and world traveler.

    Living Without a Fridge
    This article is from the British GoSelfSufficient site.

    I am always interested in how becoming more “self-sufficient” invariably increases awareness and shifts our rhythms significantly, sometimes dramatically. Along those lines, there are a few observations from these articles that I have been thinking a lot about:

    My experience is that when you have a refrigerator you develop addictions to foods and drinks that are richer, more caloric and more sense-deadening than need be. You don’t know your senses are dead until you have been free of your addictions for some time and find that foods and drinks you thought were bland and characterless begin pleasing in subtle ways. You don’t know how wonderful a cool drink is until you’ve been away from ice awhile.

    It’s beautiful to see wholesome grains, fruits and vegetables on shelves in my daily living space, not sealed inside a vibrating metal box… It’s liberating to not have to pay for the electricity and maintenance having a refrigerator demands.

    And it contributes to my spiritual well-being to know that I no longer require a kitchen with a refrigerator humming away every hour of the day sending out this message to power producers: “More, more, more, send me more electricity, no matter what the cost or consequences… ” Jim Conrad

    I can imagine the truth of this. The less I need, the better I feel. It is just so liberating to be able to do without. Or rather, it is just so liberating to be able to do with what Nature provides. There is always a lesson in it.

    By living without a fridge you will be more in touch with the food you eat. You will be much healthier as a result of eating fresher food, and you are less likely to waste food if you do not have a fridge to store it in (you will not buy it in the first place). GoSelfSufficient

    This would definitely apply to me. Somehow as I get older I become more and more of a “If I can’t actually see it, it no longer exists in my mind,” person. If I see the broccoli, I will remember the broccoli. If it is locked up tightly in a drawer in a refrigerator, well … then all bets are off.

    Much of the rest of what folks use refrigerators for clearly comes under the category of “luxury”. Ice cream; beer, pop.

    Would you be better off if they weren’t so handy? If you’re like me, if the ice cream is there- I’ll eat it. Then buy more. How much of our obesity epidemic is due to having a handy supply of treats in the fridge- all the time? …

    This, potentially, is a big deal. Refrigerator lust is one of the things driving huge energy use increases in the developing world- everybody wants one; it proves you’re modern.

    If we start a movement here in the Overdeveloped World to get RID of them in homes (sure, the restaurants, the stores, need them) - some folks in the OverdevelopING World would pay attention- and perhaps put the brakes on their country’s rush to refrigerate. Maybe.

    I’ve worked in China- in places where the nearest refrigerator was probably 100 miles away. Guess what? They manage just fine- and don’t “need” it, until you tell them they do. Little Blog in The Big Woods

    We don’t have any those luxuries anyway although I would probably be happy to have to gobble up some ice cream all in one sitting once a year or so! Imagine having the nearest refrigerator 100 miles away. That implies so many things.

    Makin’ do without a refrigerator isn’t easy at first. Like riding a bike, however, “it’s simple once you know how”. Mother Earth News

    I really, really want to know how to make do without a refrigerator and then always know how. I think that would be great and I want to learn the lessons just waiting for us within such a shift. I don’t know when, but I am sure we will try this. We are hard at work right now on a very big project which we will be telling you all about next week but maybe after that…? If we could be wild enough to start hand washing laundry just before cold weather sets in, perhaps we could be prudent enough to start going without a refrigerator when the great out-of-doors could make a suitable substitute on most days anyway.

    I will keep you posted.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Nov
    11

    Ten Ways Hand Washing Laundry is Similar to Homeschooling

    Posted by pockets

    Like many of the “living simply” tasks I am learning to do around the homestead, I find that hand washing laundry is done at a pace and with a physical rhythm that encourages contemplation. Also because water is involved, I find that my thoughts really flow. One of the trains of thought that has come to me through several washing sessions has to do with the myriad ways that hand washing laundry is similar to homeschooling. While homeschooling is much more common now than it used to be, hand washing laundry is not yet common again here in the United States. As a matter of fact, I have seen a number of people who engage in homeschooling decrying those who also engage in hand washing laundry. This is kind of interesting because most folks nowadays would decry both with no thought of distinguishing between the two. So stepping back a bit, what can I say from experience are some of the similarities between hand washing laundry and homeschooling?

    1. Both activities require that you re-arrange your life in ways that run counter to the dictates of the modern materials/money economy. Interestingly, since these are both age old activities, practicing them at this point in history requires bold thinking, self-discipline and a creative approach to problem solving.

    2. Both are giant steps towards self-sufficiency. All benefits that accrue from becoming more self sufficient in one’s daily activities flow from both hand washing laundry and homeschooling.

    3. With both, you build skills that you will never forget and would never otherwise learn. Once you know how to teach a child to read or how to wash their dress to sparkling cleanness with your very own hands, you will always know how to do those things and will be able to do them anywhere, any time.

    4. Both homeschooling and hand washing laundry create the space to pray about and devote yourself in service to the needs of others. As such both are, therefore, character building and have tremendous potential to deepen the bonds between family members as well as members of the community.

    5. Both hand washing laundry and homeschooling are greatly enhanced if approached from a “teamwork” perspective. If the family works as a team to clean clothes or as a team to discover what it even means to be “educated” and works as a team to become truly educated together, then adventure, beauty, love and Divine inspiration may be your constant supports as you undertake either of these daily activities of life.

    6. Carried out with awareness, both homeschooling and hand washing laundry demand fewer natural resources than conventional approaches to either education or laundering.

    7. Hand washing laundry and homeschooling are both pathways to discovery and connection. People undertake both all over the world so a brotherly feeling of connection is waiting there to be experienced. I will write more about this aspect in another post. Furthermore, simple truths have been hidden away gradually and, at times, willfully by those promulgating the conventional approaches. How many people know now that you can get clothes much cleaner on your own than by using washing machines? How many people know now that a loving parent can teach their children how to read? How many people know now that artificial chemicals and so-called fragrances are the opposite of clean? How many people know now that education is best conducted in an atmosphere of wonder and love? Peeling away conventional attitudes and approaches to both laundering and educating can lead to delightful and unanticipated discoveries.

    8. We are hardwired to find satisfaction in primary labor, i.e. the kind of work that is directly related to survival and real, natural life. Our economic engine is predicated upon us turning our backs on our true natures. It forcefully keeps us lulled in a state of perpetual forgetfulness about our true abilities and our higher purpose. However, I can say from vivid personal experience that taking the time to become reacquainted with the primary labors of life brings peaceful satisfaction brimming to the surface and spilling over into smiles, affectionate touches and contented sighs. The sight of honestly clean clothes ruffling in a breeze, the sound of milk hitting the milk pail, the experience of a child’s understanding blooming before your eyes are experiences that are wonderfully fresh and yet deeply remembered. There really is no substitute. The more of these activities you can include in your daily life, the more satisfied and confident you may feel.

    9. Both hand washing laundry and homeschooling increase flexibility and expand your range of choices. Now if a person’s goal is to engage in secondary labor (i.e. most jobs which are sort of made up and have nothing to do with creating food or clothes or shelter), to earn ever more money, to increase prestige and to have more things, then - no - neither hand washing laundry nor home educating are the way to go because they dramatically decrease the flexibility needed for those sorts of endeavors. However, if living a natural, unassuming, deeply intimate, conserving sort of life is your goal then both hand washing laundry and homeschooling expand your options considerably. You can wash clothes based upon the weather. You can wash inside or outside. You can work alone or with others. You can decide how much elbow grease to put into a particular stain or pair of work jeans or not. You can use equipment or not. You can make small adjustments throughout the process because you are consciously a part of the entire process. It is the same with homeschooling. You can choose educational goals, content, scheduling, exact location… everything. You get to choose everything based upon your style as teacher, the propensities and learning styles of the students, budget, other daily tasks that must be accomplished, spiritual goals or not and so on. As any of these conditions change, you are free to change with them because while doing it yourself is more work, doing it yourself comes largely free of institutional rigidity and hindrances. You are flexible and free to respond to inspiration.

    10. One of the most startling similarities between hand washing laundry and homeschooling is the wildly successful outcome that comes from giving individual attention. With both activities, individual attention is perhaps the greatest key to success. Examining each item of clothing in the bright light of the sun, assessing what sort of treatment it needs and then supplying said treatment is the key to keeping everything in the best possible condition and making it last the longest. Prayerfully considering the needs and aptitudes of each child and then stretching as a parent/teacher to meet those needs and aptitudes goes further in making it possible for each child to become what they should become than anything else. Simple systems carried out with modest resources generally encourage the magnifying glass of the human mind to be pointed towards the needful. Improved outcomes nearly always follow.

    Honestly, I find striving to live simply a gold mine of ideas, discoveries, insights, and opportunities. This seems to be true no matter what the “living simply” activity is (and is one of the biggest secrets of our times I might add). In any case, it is certainly true with both hand washing laundry and homeschooling. May we all boldly and yet humbly step away from institutional thinking and discover what we can through the profitable use of our own hearts, minds and hands.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Nov
    01

    Hand Washing Laundry in Beauty

    Posted by pockets

    It is a gloriously beautiful day today. 70 degrees, breezy and not a cloud in the sky. Pretty amazing for November 1 and pretty amazing weather in which to hand wash the laundry outside. Every single extra time I get to wash the laundry outside at this point feels like a “win” to me. So I washed away. My husband helped which takes considerable strain off of my joints.

    In the middle of washing, we had to take our oldest off to a choral audition so Paul decided to load up the back of the pick-up with hay and take the children on a hay ride after dropping off Carolyn. Lucy, our border collie, and Ramone, are human loving Nigerian Dwarf buck, came with us. Everyone had so much fun. I sat in the back on the hay with the children on the way home and just loved it. I could see the rolling hills and the distant Blue Ridge Mountains so much better than from inside the truck. I was awash in gratitude all over again for at last being in Floyd country.

    When we got back, I resumed my outdoor laundering. I save socks for last because I have to scrub each one on the washboard and that takes considerable time and effort. Today as I carefully washed and scrubbed each sock, I enjoyed thinking of each person to whom that particular sock belonged. Washing clothes by hand, I realized, is like the slow cooking of food. The length of time and degree of consciousness required provide an extended time to pray through and over what you are doing. I truly believe this makes food more nutritious and it certainly gives hand laundering deeper meaning.

    As Lalaji said in the movie we have about him, “It is not possible for time to be wasted if it is spent thinking of God.” (rough paraphrase)

    As I washed the socks of my hardworking, visionary husband and my lovely aspiring opera singer and toucher of hearts through song, I thought of a Navajo prayer song I have loved for many years. It was just the thing to muse over and sort of sing quietly to myself as I washed the socks in which they walk. I found I automatically changed the words as I could remember them to “he” or “she” rather than “I”:

    Today I will walk out, today everything evil will leave me,
    I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
    I will have a light body, I will be happy forever,
    nothing will hinder me.
    I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
    I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
    I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.

    In beauty all day long may I walk.
    Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
    On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
    With dew about my feet, may I walk.

    With beauty before me may I walk.
    With beauty behind me may I walk.
    With beauty below me may I walk.
    With beauty above me may I walk.
    With beauty all around me may I walk.

    In old age wandering on a trail of beauty,
    lively, may I walk.
    In old age wandering on a trail of beauty,
    living again, may I walk.
    My words will be beautiful.

    (There seem to be a number of versions of this beautiful prayer/song. I found this one here.)

    May my beloved family walk in beauty in socks washed in beauty, hanging in beauty under a beautiful sky.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Oct
    19

    Old Methods Eventually Call for Old Rhythms

    Posted by pockets

    We rarely go out and aren’t involved in many activities off the homestead. Nevertheless, it seems like I am constantly having to adjust our schedules and methods due to internal pressures, projects, natural changes and new ideas. I am in the thick of a series of changes yet again and one of them relates to baking and electricity usage.

    The more we ratchet back to doing things the “old way,” the more I see the wisdom of the old rhythm of assigning homekeeping tasks to specific days of the week. According to this blog post, homemakers lived by this rhythm for over a hundred years and some still do. I never felt a need to do this before because with a clothes washer, for instance, you can throw a load in any old time and it just doesn’t matter. If you aren’t concerned with the extra energy required to turn the oven on and off whenever the mood strikes (and you are using an electric oven in the first place), then you can bake at any time. If you have plenty of gas and live within a reasonable driving distance from town, you can jump in the car and go shop or whatever at any time. Modern “conveniences” and a “gee there are plenty of resources available to me to use how I like” lifestyle does not require the discipline/rhythm of accomplishing tasks in a predetermined order and on well chosen days. You can easily do little bits of this and that at varying times and days with no noticeable repercussions. That is probably part of what it generally means to be “modern.”

    Washing laundry by hand and baking a lot, at times in an outdoor wood fired earth oven, is teaching me the necessity of adapting to an older rhythm in order to successfully adapt to older methods. There is only so often you want to drag out all of the buckets and other equipment and get all set up and get wet and all sorts of things to do the laundry. Getting through as much of it as possible at one time is really starting to make sense to me. There are only so many times we can afford to go to town (both in terms of time and gas) so having a careful list and itinerary for the trips we do make helps us be more effective.There is only so often you can reasonably light up a baking fire so you might as well do as much baking at once as you can while you have that precious fire going.

    Even if you have an electric oven, how much electricity you use is still a consideration and will be increasingly a consideration for more and more people, I imagine. Oklahoma Prairie Mom, on her blog Life of a Prairie Mom, commented on this recently in her post Our Electric Bill. About baking she says this:

    The electric stove is in use only a twice a day. The greatest usage though is when I am baking. To help save energy, I plan my baking so that I am doing it only twice a week, on Monday & Thursday. On those days, I bake enough bread, cookies, and anything else that we will need until the next baking day. This also includes any orders that I have for baking bread or cookies for others. By limiting the number of days that I bake, I am not heating up the oven nearly as often.

    “Oh, that is a good idea,” I thought when I read that. “I am going to go back to trying that sort of schedule again.” I have been wondering about ways to cut our utility bill lately. It isn’t easy because we don’t have many uses left to cut! But I can at least do this. Lately I have slipped back into baking bread on an as-needed basis. I decided to make another attempt to go back to the old way of baking a lot at a time once or twice a week.

    So last Friday I baked a lot. One of my daughters helped me some of the time which was fun. All in all, we made four corn breads (we bake them in cast iron skillets), 10 loaves of whole wheat bread, one large loaf of Irish Soda bread and finished off with an unexpected batch of Homemade Herbal Marshmallows. It took more than half the day to make all of that. It was a good feeling to freeze 7 loaves of bread, and two rounds of corn bread and still have fresh Irish Soda bread for dinner with our mashed potatoes and greens. All in all, a productive day. I don’t know how much electricity it saved, but it surely opens up my schedule to do other things. It also frees me up tomorrow to do some cooking ahead for Sunday.

    Oh, the Homemade Herbal Marshmallows were a first hands-on herbal project for The Lionsgate School Herbal Education Program. (Doesn’t that sound official? Maybe I will come up with a more catchy name for it some day.) I will devote an entire post to that interesting and instantly consumed project very soon.

    Meanwhile I need to figure out exactly what our need is for baked goods. Maybe one day a week, I will focus primarily on loaf breads while on the other day I bake pizza crusts, sandwich buns, crackers and other wheaten goodies. Our days are so jam packed and I get so tired that I really need to have our freezer full of possibilities. Baking ahead will give me some breathing room as well as save on electricity.

    The old rhythm of organizing time and tasks was as follows, by the way:

    Monday: Wash Day
    Tuesday: Ironing Day
    Wednesday: Sewing Day
    Thursday: Market Day
    Friday: Cleaning Day
    Saturday: Baking Day
    Sunday: Day of Rest

    With a few variations (some folks had a gardening day instead of a separate ironing day, or the days were not quite in this order), this is the way everyone kept house for more than a hundred years. It was such a common scheme that day-of-the-week dishtowels emblazoned with that day’s chore were everywhere. (You can still get Aunt Martha iron-on embroidery or paint transfers with this scheme–I collect them, in fact.)

    There was logic behind this. Laundry was far and away the heaviest task a housewife faced, requiring a great deal of strength and fortitude to hand-wring clothes and carry big baskets of wet laundry to the clothesline from the basement washtubs. Monday was the day to do it, when you were still fresh and rested from Sunday. Tuesday’s ironing followed Monday’s wash. Mending and sewing on Wednesday made sense when you’d just been through the clothes and noticed what needed a button or a patch. And so on.

    Or for the Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush variation, go here.

    I will have to work at this and figure out (again) my own old rhythm. Having one type of chore listed for each day is a great way to make sure you get your 15 minutes of a neglected task in a week … like mending and sewing for instance. I am rather dramatically behind on mending and really want to start back up sewing again. I don’t actually require an ironing day (!), and already have my cleaning day on Saturday so that the house is especially nice for Sunday. We sweep every day and often many times a day so I wouldn’t waste a day in honor of just sweeping as in the Mulberry Bush song. I have long done the laundry in tune with the weather so I am not sure how to assign that to a particular day. I have tried and tried to make Sunday more of a day of rest for myself and I still need improvement in this area. Well, I guess I am going to have to work on all of this a bit. The point is for me to consolidate types of tasks that have heretofore been scattered all across the week in order to save on motion, time, and money/energy use.

    One more comment about old rhythms - I started cooking in a Nourishing Traditions/slow food sort of way years and years ago. I noticed even back then that cooking in that very careful way completely changed my rhythm in the kitchen. Having to soak foods, peel the skins off of almonds, cook beans for hours and hours and so on causes you to slow down and really feel what you are doing and think about it far ahead. It gives you much more contact with the food and, therefore, much more time to pray over the food. It is my experience that these old rhythms of food preparation add nutrient density not only in terms of needed chemical changes for ease of assimilation but even more importantly, in terms of opportunity for our thoughtful, prayerful care as homemakers and heartcenters of our families to permeate our daily cooking for our loved ones.

    Perhaps the weekly old rhythm will make that happen for mending too? I will have to make up my weekly schedule and live by it for a while and see.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie