There is something deeply gratifying about eating a meal you grew entirely on your own. Or foraging for native berries and having the time to visit the beach before going home. Or breaking bread that you baked yourself and enjoying it with homemade butter and jam made from the berries you picked that day you played on the beach. That is not to say that everyone needs to make their own butter to lead a fulfilled life! Mostly I mean slowing down to do some of the tasks that are often hired out. Blue berries from a store, air conditioned comfort, prepackaged life.
The money saved by doing these quiet, contemplative tasks is often negligible. By the time I buy the flour and yeast and work to bake the bread I may be money down, depending on the price of the flour. But what of my sanity?
What price do I put on teaching my sons age-old skills that, should they need them, will allow them to feed themselves no matter what they decide to do with their lives? When they learn to care for animals, haul the water, provide the shelter and feed, they think about a world bigger than themselves and their own wants. When they pick the berries and eat the jam they value the labour that goes into their food. When they stack the wood they learn to plan for tomorrow and use their bodies for useful tasks. They have all the space they want to run in, play in, grow in, and that is indeed priceless.
My friend had my kids over to decorate pumpkins with stickers. Since my own pumpkins didn't grow I planned to bake them down for making pumpkin bread. The pumpkins sat until I finally needed to get them out of the garage. I was busy and had a messy kitchen after a long tiring day. I wondered if it was worth it to bother. But why would I compost 4 perfectly good pumpkins then turn around and buy canned pumpkin at the store?
Similarly, we recently had our pigs butchered. At different times this summer I really regretted venturing into pigs. Hauling the grain for them was time consuming and laborious and keeping their water clean and fresh was a chore I didn't love. I had to ask my mom to do my chores while we were away in the summer, which was quite a bit, and I hated to add to anyone's work load. Basically, the pigs were a lot of work but they were entertaining and they ate our kitchen and garden waste along with a couple tons of grain that I hauled here pail by pail from my parent's farm. Let's just say that when the job was finally done I wanted to have as much to show for it as possible. So I rendered the pig fat into lard.
|back fat trimmings|
|fat, chopped and rendering in slow cooker|
|rendered fat, unfiltered|
|our own lard, from our own pigs|
Not everyone is going to render down their own pig fat. I giggle even as I type the words. But I do a lot of baking and my sister in law likes making pastry. Canola oil went up to $9/gallon last winter. I expect I'll end up with about 6-8 pint sealers of lard by the time I'm done. This is all by-product that might have gone to waste. At $2/lb I could much easier go buy Tenderflake at Walmart, where I saw it just this morning. But that's not my point.
Living a simple, frugal life is about more than saving $15 on lard. It is about taking yourself out of the consumer transaction whenever possible. It might actually be more frugal to feed the fat trimmings to the dog and buy lard at the store, I don't know. But living an invested life means doing the work ourselves to prevent wasting what we have on hand. If there are saskatoons growing roadside my kids and I are going to pick and freeze them for winter rather than get berries at the grocery store. When butter is $6/lb we will buy the cheaper whole cream, make our own butter and bake with the buttermilk. I am lucky that I have the time to cook and bake and mend and grow things. I know not everyone has that option, and not everyone would choose this lifestyle. That's okay too. You should follow your arrow. My arrow seems always to lead me to a simple, quiet path where everything takes longer and is just a little less convenient.
There are certainly times that I curse my penchant for homegrown. There were many days I said "never again" as I lugged heavy pails of grain to those pigs. I am planning a post on the actual cost of raising the three pigs and, on paper at least, it was probably not a money-saving venture. The next time we do it (if we do) we will have to butcher pigs ourselves to save on the considerable cost of processing the animals. But, again, these would be skills that allow us to learn and invest ourselves and save money. In a way, jumping in with both feet, or going "whole hog" is the best way to learn every facet of what we are interested in. And we seem to be interested. Learning to slaughter and process our own animals is the next logical step in our progress here. For now, we are just going to enjoy the food and be proud that we did a good job and made it through to the harvest.