Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Living life to the fullest

I talk a lot about canning, both on this blog and my simple living blog, The Freehold. I also go on about dehydrating, preparing for emergencies, and living life to the fullest. For me, my spirituality is tied up in all those things. When I look at those roasted tomatoes above, drying in the dehydrator, I feel a small thrill of devotion to my gods.

You might wonder why preserving food is a spiritual act for me. I think back to my ancestors, both recent (my grandparents) and ancient (those of Greece, Scotland, Europe), and I see myself in them when I am preserving and planning. I might have better tools than they (an electric Nesco Dehydrator is a definite upgrade from drying on racks in the autumn sun), but the end results are pretty similar.

 There is a feeling of domesticity, of happiness, of inner peace that comes with a full larder and pantry. The memories of long, hard winters with no food available may be worn and faded for most Americans, but they still exist. There are many books out there, both in print and in e-book format, that keep alive the memories. They contain information from the past brought into the present so that we can share in the lives and times of our ancestors.

Books like:
Food Storage and Preservation by Bud Evans
Cooking with T: Preserving (The Amish Garden Kitchen) by Teresa A. Phillips
Seed Saving Tips & Techniques by Julie Turner

All of these are inexpensive e-books (and in some cases they are free), and they let you peruse older topics with a modern twist.

It isn't just the instructional books that are good, though. There are several free or inexpensive e-books that I find really give a good idea of how people lived 75 to 100 years ago. In a real emergency, whether Zombie Apocalypse or winter power outage, the information in the books is timeless and useful.

Try these:
The Cabin on the Prairie by C. H. Pearson
The Quest of the Simple Life by William J. Dawson
Homestead on the Hillside by Mary J. Holmes
Life in the Backwoods by Susanna Moodie

As I read these books and others like them, I find myself drifting back to what is, in some respects, a much simpler time. Yes, there was a lot more work involved. Yet there was more peace, as well, and more space between neighbors. When we try to carve 15 minutes out of our busy schedules to worship our gods, we're almost shoehorning them into our day timers. Our ancestors knew the truth of it, that they needed their gods, and they made time out of their day for worship. Sometimes, that time came from their few moments of relaxation. It was a different world.

So yes, when I can and dehydrate and freeze the produce I grow or get at the CSA or market, I harken back to those times and those people. I think about my Scottish heritage, and that as recently as a hundred years ago they were still living in wattle and daub huts in some places. I contemplate my Hungarian heritage and realize that only 50 years ago, my grandmother and her mother were living in a structure that's a lot more like a yurt built into the ground, and a lot less like the house I'm used to.

It humbles me. It makes me realize that my grandparents and great grandparents took their own full days (both sides were farmers at the time of the "greats") and made certain they had time for worship to nourish their souls. They sang hymns as they canned or dehydrated. They read their Bible or told myths and legends on cold nights while darning socks and mending work clothes. I can't do any less.
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