Originally posted on November 21, 2012 at 8:00 PM
Thanksgiving and the process of giving thanks of course means different things to different people and at times like this when I try to take time to check in with my thankfulness subroutine I tend to think about progress made. Not just things accumulated though that’s part of it, but ways of doing things, remembering to get things done, quality of living emotional as well as physical.
Back in the ‘80s we were quite poor by most standards but we were thrifty and imaginative. We bought a wheat grinder, a Foley food mill, built a dehydrator and set about turning sacks of wheat into bread and cake, culled apples into sauce and juice. We turned waste meat from the meat saw at our local butcher’s into soap and cat food. We dried everything from throwaway grapes to boxes of nectarines found at the top of the grocery dumpster. This was also one of our more successful writing/publishing periods. As I wrote at the time “We would roothog or die (preferably roothog.)”
A tiny rental house in Sedro Woolley, Washington was our learning ground to accumulate skills needed in the back woods of Northern Idaho Where we juiced Serviceberries, made pemmican from prunes and ground beef heart which leftover fat from doughnut making. I could start with a pile of wood and a sack of wheat from the local feed store and turn them into bread loaves. In 1985 we returned to Seattle and things were a little easier in some ways. Eventually we increased our monetary income several fold and now we own three acres and two houses.
With everything there are tradeoffs. When we were underemployed we had lots of time for turning whatever we could get into something closer to what we wanted. As more and more time was spent away from the old homestead stalking salary, less and less time seemed to go into those old and dear processes which had sustained us when we were much younger. It didn’t happen immediately or all at once, but bit by bit Lenore and I began around 2000, reclaiming the best of what we’d had when we were poor. First we reclaimed our fruitcake, always made Sunday after Thanksgiving Thursday, accompanied by a rescreening of “The Homecoming,” pilot to “The Waltons.” We bought a greenhouse, a large steamer. I’ve ground hundreds of pounds of grain, legumes and nuts entirely by hand over the decades and decided that time constraints justified an electric mill. We revitalized our interest in gardening, moved into the County so we could have chickens, planted herbs as well as vegetables and fruit.
Looking at things this Thanksgiving I find I have less to miss and I’ve done not a bad job of keeping faith with my earlier self. I know how to do a great many of the things I wanted to do when I was 25. At this end of harvest time I am thankful for hand-cranked food mills, a 32-gallon sparging vessel, a grain mill, numerous sacks of varied grain in my home office, a cute chicken coop with six hens, food steamer, the skills of hand and mine to transform a piece of property and much else I could hardly even imagine in 1985.
Goddess be praised.