Friday, June 28, 2013

Gender Trappings in the Life of a Homesteader

I'm friends with guys who own back hoes and dump trucks and skid steers.  With all these building related projects we've got going on here they have been helping out, streamlining our process.  In these moments, when they're problem solving and doing monumental amounts of work in minutes, they come alive. Their veins bulge, their eyes alight, and they bound in and out, up and down from equipment to building site and back again like little boys playing with their trucks in the sand box.

Meanwhile, I try to make myself useful, which means making lemonade, whipping up food, washing dishes, and concerning myself with all things domestic--I made my own room spray and counter spray this week. I hung lemon wedges on the edges of the drinking glasses. I smoothed out linens, beat rugs with a broom, and organized cupbords.

What I really want to know is how the hell I got here, playing Martha Stewart in my little house on the prairie?  So often it seems, people who homestead, live off the grid, or off the land seem to fall into stereotypical gender roles when it comes to division of labor, in spite their well-meaning intentions.

I love how these guys have kept their little boy dreams alive rather than suffocating behind a desk with a tie around their necks, and I enjoy nurturing them and creating beauty around us. The thing is, I think that we also appreciate the qualities in one another that buck typical gender roles. No one's saying I can't be the disheveled, competitive, outspoken, independent woman I am and I adore their vast capacity for sentimentality, empathy, softness, sensitivity, and tolerance.

Other women who have lived up here have written about this tendency with greater eloquence and insight--read them here: Not One More Winter in the Tipi, Honey and Women who love men who live in huts too much

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Phantom Changes

I keep wishing it were still May, because as far as progress in the garden and time spent with my hands in the dirt goes it's still May to me. Have you ever been going on, living your life, and stopped to realize that it shifted without your even noticing?

I work at an alternative K-12 school that supports kids who homeschool or are looking for something different. Each year my role at school has grown, and now, even though it's summer, I'm still going to meetings and trying to get ahead for next year.  Plus, I've taken the whole educator's schedule to heart by getting out of town to visit friends, explore old haunts, and to test my ability to suck wind at absurdly high elevation.

Also, the bathroom remodel is not the only building project that we've got going on now. Dev bought a prefab shed from our neighbor, Eric, so we've been clearing the land and deconstructing the attached awnings. With a bit of remodeling, this shed will be an extra living space for interns.

There's a part of me that feels like I've failed given the sorry shape of the garden, but mostly I'm curious. Life looks different and the changes have felt so natural it's almost like nothing has changed. The stuff that makes up my day to day existence is somewhat superficial; it's the feeling that counts.  Right now it's as though gravity caught up to me, winding it's way around my heart like a maypole dance.

I certainly prefer plants and soil to two-by-fours and plumbing and I know that once again these things will be my primary focus, but for now I'm relaxing into these effortless shifts.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Living with Less: Finishing the Food Challenge

The end of this week marks the completion of our food challenge--we have not purchased food for three months with three guiltless exceptions. Both the root celler and the freezer stand vacant. I fill them mentally each day as I mark the arrival of our meat birds, trellis peas, and ready my canning jars for jams, pickles, and sauces. Rural living has taught me a thing or two about hoarding as well as unconditional generosity and sharing.

Before we left for Boulder to take a Wilderness First Responder course I piled canned goods into a box and leveled the greenhouse. During our lunch break we'd bust out the cooler and the cook stove and whip up a feast, intriguing our classmates. I enthusiastically piled tender greens and wild asparagus into my bowl.

At night, before settling onto the futon mattress stuffed in the back of my car, Dev dipped into a dumpster, filling a bag with over $100 worth of pastries which we brought to class the next morning. Again our classmates were amused. I ate at least $20 worth of the bounty and gave myself a stomach ache.

Generally speaking, I'm weary of concerted efforts to live with less--they seem like a cultural past-time of eco-chic elites out of touch with the everyday concerns of the average American/global citizen and yet, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the consequences of our hyper-consumption culture.

I see my own obsession with wanting to live well wrapped up in this three-month food challenge and have an internal tug of war of sorts--just clean out your damn freezer and be be done with it! And on the other's fun to get creative with the dusty cans of corn and apple sauce put up years ago. It's fun to rummage through dumpsters. It's fun to feel a heightened sense of the everyday gratitude I experience living here--the many gifts of milk, cheese, and butter from neighbors, friends and house guests pumped up my balloon heart, swollen with the goodness of simple, kind gestures.