Thursday, April 09, 2009

Urban Hippie Wannabe (long post)

I have granola envy. Here in New England, they don't talk about hippie lifestyles, they say crunchy, or they say granola. I like these terms as hippie to me has always been synonymous with flaky.

I have scrutinized my copy of Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy Traditional American Skills to figure out how to dig a well or build a smokehouse with glee but have no immediate intention of doing so. I have two friends, M and G, doing the crunchy cool Western Massachusetts Granola Thing. During our last visit, I sampled their home-made kombucha (a whole other topic I won't get into here), admired their huge garden, and cheered on their plans for launching a meade brewery and craft business. So why can't we do that here in Boston?

I've often spoken to Mr. Right about my desire to raise chickens, bees and even a goat if I'm feeling really ambitious. He is cautiously supportive although quick to point out it's probably better to wait until we've moved to our next house. He is a wise one, Mr. Right.

M pointed recently in the direction of the beekeeper life via the blog The Crunchy Chicken . And from there I pulled this list of skills that are very handy in trying to reduce your carbon footprint, as well as tickle the fancy of apocalyptic planners. My urban crunchy self loves this list! How do you fare on this list of skills?

  • Food gardening and food storage (canning, dehydrating, pickling, fermentation, etc.) -- I'm not a great gardener, but I'm learning and getting better each year. The seedlings are going, inspired by CF who is the seedling queen! I usually manage to grow lots of wonderful herbs, flowers, enough zucchini to overwhelm us at least for a month or so before the grubs take over, and a few peppers, tomatoes and cukes. Anything else has never really taken, but this year's a new year! I'd love to become good at arugula, chard, cucumbers, radishes and peas, which all are really pretty easy and so delicious when fresh and organic. My ambitious future goals would be carrots, eggplant, grapes, strawberries, and pumpkins. My mother in law (who reads this blog, hi Mom!) is promising lessons on canning/jams, and through my in-laws we have wonderful access to rhubarb and berries, even blueberries! I've done some limited pickling, and I think it is very fun. So! Doing pretty good here.
  • Seed saving and/or fruit tree grafting -- I'm not bad on saving seeds, the hardest part is finding a place to keep them so I don't lose them over the winter. Again my wonderful in-laws are ahead of me here -- they have a variety of beautiful fruit trees. I'll have to ask them about this grafting business.
  • Foraging for wild foods, mushrooms, etc. -- I'd love to take a class on this. Fascinating! (Makes me miss my California days where you can really live off of foraging: when I lived in Santa Barbara, foraging was too easy -- you had advocados, figs, oranges and lemons landing in your lap as they fell off the trees in the neighborhood. Paradise!) As for mushrooms, I'm not a huge fan, and the whole poison thing, well, you know, makes one nervous. I know, I know, you learn the difference. But still.
  • Composting -- We're doing pretty good on this front as we share a bin with a neighbor. It's amazing how much less frequently you take out the trash when you use a compost bin, plus the trash is less stinky. Cool! Now I actually need to use the compost in the garden, which will be new for me. Nervous about the gross factor in actually spreading out the stuff sitting around from last fall. We shall see!
  • Animal husbandry (chickens, goats or larger) -- Definitely nothing larger than a goat, but how cool would it be to get to know some chickens, have eggs, and have a goat friend who is also a lawn-mower/milk-maker. The goat part is pretty unlikely unless we actually move to the country, and I'm nervous about the whole baby goat part. Not so comfortable becoming a butcher even if I like goat meat. So that's a iffy one, but I still like the idea of having one. I can dream, can't I?
  • Beekeeping -- Very interested in this, may even be doable in the suburbs. Hmm. Research.
  • Animal skinning, processing -- umm, well, not high on the list. Appreciative but squeamish, although I'm intrigued that the writer of The Julie/Julia Project turned to butchery.
  • Sheep or other animal shearing -- fascinating but also not high on the list. Love sheepies though.
  • Spinning wool -- how cool would that be! But alas I am not a knitter...
  • Knitting -- I do like to do things with my hands so I may revisit, but all the exactitude drives me nuts. I drop more stitches than I knit.
  • Sewing -- I think this would be fun. Need a sewing machine and then how to use it? Definitely suits my practical nature. And I'm awesome at sewing on buttons, so that's a start, right?
  • Cooking, baking -- I think I'm good on this one as I cook and bake a lot. Whew. At least I can really check one off. Thanks Mom and Grandma, Moosewood and Cooks Illustrated!
  • Making own cheese and/or yogurt -- I've made yogurt many times. It's so easy and so much milder than the store version which is so very sour. I was perversely proud of the puzzlement generated by asking for a yogurt maker on my wedding registry. Have done some cheese-making which is fun. However unless you have a huge supply of extra milk around, it's not a big priority. Definitely when I get a goat, mmm goat cheese.
  • Making beer and/or wine -- Mr. Right has made beer. Cool! Wine making would be fun if I had a ton of grapes. So, not high on the list until the arbor is up!
  • Solar cooking -- Might be worth researching when I've really become crunchy.
  • Alternative medicine and/or first aid -- I've started to play with herbs and really get into that. Am definitely into the doula/alternative birth options scene, which I've discussed previously on this blog. I have and continue to give a lot of serious thought to midwifery, and I strongly support and can attest to the power of healing touch through massage/accupuncture/reiki and so on. There is a LOT to learn here and I am very excited to do so.
  • Making soap (cold process from oils and lye) -- could be fun! I have been experimenting with making my own laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent, as I'm horrified by the price of the more environmental stuff, and I'm horrified by the nastiness of the cheaper stuff. Tadah, the internet offers a bounty of other options! I'm also absurdly into drying my clothes on the line outside. I love how they smell afterard.
  • Making candles -- if I had a bee hive, I'd make candles in the morning, I'd make candles in the evening, all over this town...
  • Carpentry -- Mr. Right digs this stuff. Certainly would be handy.
  • Plumbing or electrical -- Another handy skill, not high on my list. I rue my girlyness.
  • Bike maintenance and repair -- I have some very very very basic skills here, certainly could use more.
  • Appliance repair -- I'm a pretty good fiddler with appliances, but motor repair is certainly beyond me. Funny, I never even thought of this as a skill, but of course it is!

I would love to have more of these skills. There is an authentic-ness to these skills and a link to the past that makes me happy when I am berry-picking or pie-making or yogurt-making. Totally energizing for me!

How are you on this list? Does it intrigue you or exhaust you?

4 comments:

Kenneth said...

I have friends in Philadelphia who keep bees on their roof in the city. So it is doable!

TT said...

I'm exhausted, Amy, but in a happy way. If you were my suburban neighbor who kept bees, I would need extreme amts. of miel to keep me quiet:)

Clownface said...

Hey gal pal! There is at least ONE person in the city we know as 'Da Ville who has an apiary. And another, as I've mentioned to you, who has chickens. And you know, we did a bunch of this stuff (poorly I'll note) in the urban co-op (soap making, candle making, beer brewing, yogurt making, etc.). You can do it - regardless of where you live. Jen Hartley is doing a bunch o' this stuff out in western mass - and her librarian self would be eager to help you find your way when you are ready.

monica gebell said...

You are my hero.