Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Livin’ the wild life

It may come as a complete surprise to everybody, but you know what? This whole project of mine, self-sustainability, not buying things we use up at the supermarket, blah blah blah?

It’s hard work.

And it’s dirty work. Gone are the days of giving a shower a miss, or setting my jeans on the bathtub to be worn the next day – they would practically stand up and walk out all by themselves if I tried it.

And guess what else? There is wildlife involved.

Like yesterday, when I pulled out a big old patch of star jasmine and began cultivating up that area for a spinach patch. I was digging with the cultivator thingee, and as I dug it into the extremely muddy, by the way ground and gave it a twist a forty-foot long snake with venom dripping from its bared fangs worm shot out of the ground and landed across my foot wriggling like a ninja warrior.

I shrieked like a girl, stumbled backward, tripped on an exposed tree root and fell right on my behind.

In the mud.


Because a worm startled me.

I mean, really, now.

But, well…it was a BIG worm. And it startled me. I’ve never seen a worm do that before. It literally shot out of the ground, got some air, landed on my foot and proceeded to vigorously wriggle like it expected something to happen.

I’ve now seen it about a zillion times because every single worm in that whole area does the same thing. They look like regular old red worms, but if you disturb their soil they leap out and attempt to…actually, I’m not sure what they think they’re going to do. Wrestle me into submission? Defend the fort? Dissuade the ugly featherless bird from eating them by seeming tough? Anyway, they got their one shriek out of me, and now I’m ready for them.

In fact, now I’m thinking they’d make pretty darned good bait, if I ever get ahead of the available-time-curve enough to add fishing to my list of self-sustaining foody ways. There’s an awesome fishing hole not twenty minutes from my front door…fifteen, if I hit the lights just right…

I can only imagine the hilarity that will ensue if and when I actually do dust off my disused-for-over-twenty-years fishing gear and actually manage to land one of those squirming, slimy things…I mean, someone who screams over a worm is probably not going to handle landing a catfish very well, doancha think? And LORD HELP ME, there are sturgeon in them-thar waters, too…I don’t think there’s an uglier fish in the Delta than a sturgeon…

Of course, there was also this morning, when I was fiddling with a stuck valve on the sprinkler system. First it squirted me in the eye. Then my fiddling resulted in the long-defunct back lawn system roaring to life, and that valve hasn’t been used in so long that when I went to shut it off, it really resisted.

And then just as my brute strength and cussing cunning was winning the day, a black widow spider darted out from under the semi-defunct valve and ran up my excuse me but BARE arm. FORTY FEET TALL! FANGS DRIPPING VENOM! SCREAMING “FEAR ME, FOR I AM LEGION!!”

I screamed like a trained opera singer (“GAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAH!!!!!”) as I swatted it back to hell. And as I was thrashing around thwarting the minion of Satan, I fell into my pea bed and knocked over my so-called trellis, which is made out of wire.

It felt great! Because nothing says soothing, spa-like exfoliation, now with extra tetanus! like scraping your back and arms down a trellis fashioned out of the cheapest grade wire fencing available…except possibly doing that and bringing it down on your face as well, and then thrashing around in it because you’re not entirely sure the spider is truly dead. (It was. There is no spider deader than that spider. I think I actually atomized it.)

I picked myself up, limped inside, poured myself an iced tea and sat down at the kitchen table to snivel to myself for a while as all the things I had better get done pounded on the door of my mind.

One thing about this whole “homesteading” thing, there really isn’t a whole lot of down time just yet. I’m not sure there will ever be much of it.

I thought I was pretty frugal and did things from scratch a lot before I started this little social experiment – HA! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, right. How about this one: I send five people out of the house with lunches, five days a week. All kinds of stuff in the lunches, too – sandwiches, chips of various types, apple slices, applesauce, wedges of pie.

Now, I don’t have enough Rubbermaid-style containers left to get through even one day of lunches. They get lost, their lids get broken or misplaced, etc. etc. etc. And the plastic baggies are about to be used up. Without whipping out my wallet…what do I do?

Wellllllllll, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do: I’m going to dig through the fabric and mending baskets, and start sewing up snack bags. In my copious free time. Using my mad sewing skilz.

HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHA! Whoo! Yeah. My sewing skills, they are epic.

Like the time I sewed my finger to the felt when trying to make a Christmas stocking.

OR, when I attempted to repair a fallen-out hem on a pair of skirts and somehow sewed the front to the back and then ripped out the wrong seam.

NOT TO MENTION that I once put the pins in the wrong way and broke not one, not two, but three needles before it occurred to me that duh, I was basically trying to sew the pins to the fabric. And how is that working out for you there, Tama…?

Ohmygah, but I should not be allowed anywhere near a sewing machine. EVER.

Great, now I’m thoroughly depressed. Stupid baggies. Why can’t they grow on trees or something? Well. Only one thing to do, I guess.

Two words: Pumpkin pie.

Made with our very first ever homegrown pumpkin. Which was about as pretty a specimen as has ever been produced on this, or any other, planet. (But I may be a tad biased.)

Smooth, creamy, tender, spicy, in a tender crust…see, now, it isn’t all bad.

I may suck at heavy lifting, and I’m pretty lousy at that whole sewing-thing. I’m not exactly calm in the face of venomous spiders and can be startled into a mud-bath pratfall by a worm for heaven’s sake…but I do know how to turn a squash into a mighty tasty pie.

And I make good strawberry jam, and applesauce. I can grow zucchini and tomatoes, and I make darned good pasta, too, if I hafta.

We’re going to be oooooooookay, people.

…but our portable food containers, they may be a little on the, ahem, fugly side…


Quilty bird said...

Could you barter some of your produce or jam or (I hate to suggest this) hand-dyed yarn for some tupperware and/or baggies?

Unknown said...

If your sewing skills are on a par with mine (usually involves much bad language and some crying) then avoiding the gusseted, multi-pocketed creations and going for this sort of thing might be the way to go: http://www.towards-sustainability.com/2008/03/homemade-sandwich-wrap.html

Nancy said...

I'm surprised that you didn't reach for something a little stronger than ice tea after your close call with the venomous spider and tetnus inducing wire trellis! Or would that have meant that you would have to include becoming a vintner and growing your own grapes too!?

Paula Hewitt said...

jeez - sounds like someone needs a SODA!! oh thats right, i forgot... ;)

Louiz said...

I'll make you some food wrappers in exchange for yarn if you want. email me. louiz_hutchings (at) yahoo dot co cot uk.

Steph B said...

Bartering is a great idea - totally goes with the whole self-sustainability concept too. I'd offer to send you some stuff but I better wait until I dig my sewing machine out and see if I can remember how to run the critter...

RobinH said...

My reusable container collection consists of a few microwaveable rubbermaid type things, and a huge collection of plastic cottage cheese containers, ricotta cheese containers, yogurt containers, plastic margarine tubs etc. If it's not going to be microwaved, it doesn't have to go into a microwavable container. If it's going to be eaten at home (so that it can be decanted onto a plate before microwaving) than it doesn't need a microwaveable container.

I used to save pretty much all my plastic containers, but keeping track of the lids was such a pain, I eventually got rid of the oddballs to improve my changes of finding a lid that fit. I also mostly freeze applesauce in yogurt cups, so I can take it straight from the freezer and throw it in my lunch, or pop it out of its container into a bowl and microwave for hot applesauce for breakfast.

And sewing skills? Improve with practice. I think we all have embarrassing sewing disasters in our past. (I'm seriously hoping my mother doesn't have any of mine stashed in a keepsake box somewhere!)

Kathy and Judy said...

Bartering sounds like a good idea!! Or use the proceeds from some of your Etsy stuff to buy cute (and therefore they will take care of them??) bento containers from Ichibankan. They no longer have an online store, oh woe is me, but you are on the right coast for a visit to the brick and mortar variety.

Also, Goodwill...I get all kinds of cool stuff there, including a coffee carafe for 50 cents that (almost) fits in the coffee maker!

Marty52 said...

Try estate sails for tupperware... you can get some oldies but goodies that way. Also, the gardening and canning will get easier and less time consuming. Do you have a big freezer? Freezing is faster than canning, too. Hang in there!!!

Oh, and stay away from the black widows... yeesh!

Bullwinkle said...

Omg. I so needed that. Thank you.

At one point, my less-homesteady friends saved me all their cottage cheese/yogurt containers.

(At another point, I decided that I really had no use for 537 cool whip containers and recycled them.)

p.s. It does get easier over time. Freezing is easier than canning. Yardsales for plastic containers. You can do this.

Science PhD Mom said...

I have been a bit on the busy side (a six week old newborn plus 2 year old plus four year old will do that to you) but I just wanted to say you are doing GREAT for it being your first year gardening. GOOD JOB! (back pat) Back to your (and my, that newborn is wailing) regularly scheduled programming.