The Difficulty of Living in Two Worlds: Harvest and Hokum

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Wed, Sep 3, 2014 - 12:15pm

I'm working hard on our harvest--canning, drying things, freezing, and such. All of this is preparation for the world I think is coming: a world where we will be much more responsible for making our own food. It's necessary to learn all the ins and outs not only gardening but preserving food while the world is still (relatively) stable.

At the same time, I have to function in the "real world," such as it is, right now. This means all sorts of necessary tasks - from redoing our bathroom to get rid of a mold problem, to doctor visits, to managing money, keeping house, planning as solar installation, and garden consulting, etc. This is a draining dual-process. It's a recipe for exhaustion. So I am going as easy on myself as I can.

I keep reminding myself that I am just learning at the moment. and that if push comes to shove, as I think it inevitably will, that we will have much more time to work on our gardens. So if I let some of the cabbages get woody before harvesting, or the weeds get a little out of hand in the onion patch, that's okay for now. If we did not prune the grape vines so the harvest is light . . .well, if things get bad, we will not forget to prune. When we are more dependent on this food, we will work harder on it. Now is the time to make sure you have the tools to prune, and can your food, and seeds, and good soil. Right now it is actually cheaper and easier to stock out pantry from the grocery store, so I try not to feel guilty about it (and try to buy locally grown meat, dairy, and produce).

Most of us have limited resources and lots of projects to get to, in whatever time we have left before a currency crisis, a plague, or something like an EMP changes how we live. It's perfectly all right to spend less time on gardening and canning than you would if things had already fallen apart.

Case in point: dill pickle chips are $1.29 a jar at my supermarket. I am able to make my own for slightly less money, and have learned how to grow cucumber reliably. I may can some this year, but will buy cukes from a local stand since I am experimenting with another plant this year.

The learning curve is steep, and we have so much to take in. It's hard living with one foot on each reality. Sometimes, letting the weeds grow is the better choice.


pinecarr's picture
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Been feeling the same way lately!

Wow, Wendy, I've been going through much of the same thinking lately as well.  -Feeling so stressed and over-stretched trying to function in two realities, and in multiple roles.  I am also finally realizing that I need to cut myself some slack in trying to be fully-functional in the anticipated reality, gardening and such, as I just don't have the time to do and be all now.  Like you, I had to remind myself that the most important thing now is learning, and that I don't have to grow in quantity (yet) or harvest and preserve everything to still learn many of the lessons I need to learn.  (Yes, being able to produce and harvest and preserve in enough quantity to actually be self-sustainable is the goal, and a bigger challenge than small scale.  But we do what we can do). 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  It is comforting to know that others are also dealing with this.

robshepler's picture
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Great posting!

Duality, one foot in both worlds. Great posting and it really hits home.

I have been fortunate enough to have been planning resiliency full time since 2008, and there is so much yet to do. One of the tools I have used is the decision matrix that I think was provided by Chris, how large is the impact? What is the likelihood? Those two questions guide my time. It is complicated by a lovely wife that buys into the theory of peak oil intellectually but not to the extent that it will happen in our lifetime. Much of the work that I do at our place is under the guise of another reason, to avoid upsetting her world. I tread the duality carefully. Our market garden has been successful in our first year and is returning some income. It took all of my salesmanship and a good part of a year to get a buy in, for what will be an important part of our food supply and possibly others around us. And the stock market goes up, and gold goes down. And Super Mario thinks about QE.

I tread lightly and share in the joy of the harvest with my life partner and her beautiful smile, with a foot in both worlds.


sdmptww's picture
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I think what you are experiencing is very common amongst those of us working to prepare for a different world in our lifetimes while not dropping out completely.  I would love to be at the point that I never have to purchase from the store or produce market but in reality I often remind myself that that level of disconnection is not really what I am aiming for right now.  Today, my to-do includes canning pepperocini peppers, making soap and working on caulking my windows, doors and baseboards with clear caulking.  Yesterday, I made my twice monthly trip to town for those things I can't provide myself and don't yet wish to do without.  In-between I clean house, keep the garden going, make compost and compost tea, study and practice, new topics of interest and need, practice new skills, sit and enjoy the wildlife at dusk, and work on a book on local history.  Tomorrow I will be carrying my camera out with me when I go weeding and harvesting.  While I think we can be overwhelmed by the chronic stupidity of the world we live in and its headlong rush to collapse, getting so caught up in that that we fail to continue just living and enjoying the days is a mistake.  And those daily things are part of the reality of the moment and may bring joy and peace to a busy day or make tomorrow a bit better.

I finally stopped feeling guilty for buying some items (such as extra tomatoes or cucumbers) to beef up my harvest canning.  I'm still finding and successfully saving seeds for plants that do well in my zone.  But the process has really allowed me to appreciate the efforts my grandparents made to keep 40 acres producing and feeding a family of ten.  And I'm still struggling with years of one pest or the other.  Like you, as long as the extra is local.  I also stopped feeling guilty for spending time with my camera, or working on my book or sitting and enjoying the end of the day.  I need to be refreshed and prepared; not worn out, anxious and prepared.  When the time comes I suspect I will be busy helping my neighbors and thankful I got done what I've done and I will spend much less time worrying about basics than some of my neighbors.  One trick I discovered is keeping a yearly plan that I update regularly and keep for reference and a weekly planner that is also kept handy.  When I'm feeling guilty or anxious that things aren't progressing fast enough, I can pull them out and see what I've done over the last nine years of concentrated effort.  Most of us do get lost in the daily grind and think we aren't accomplishing a lot.  My guess is most folks on this site are getting more done than they think.

jtwalsh's picture
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Posts: 270
Self Imposed Stress

Thanks Wendy. I was starting to stress out about all the things I did not get done on my list for this summer. Your comments made me focus on what I did get done which included some important steps.  I am now taking a deep breath and readjusting the list for the fall and winter. The goal is to keep on keeping on at a pace that will not burn ourselves out and cause us to give up.

Your insights are very helpful to me.


Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
points well-taken

ptwisewoman, your suggestion to see how far we've come was a good one. I always feel better after looking at the progress we've made.

Other than paying down debt, I started making physical changes in my life in 2009, when I moved to the Carolinas and quit working 80-hr weeks in NYC. Someone gave my new husband and me a copy of a book on prepping. It was a really awful "hunker in a bunker" sort of book, with no emphasis on community, but it did cover the basics. I used the chapters as a loose checklist, making a spreadsheet in Excel with a sheet for each category.

I just brought up that spreadsheet for its annual update. Sure we have more to do but I was struck by how very, very much we've accomplished! Symbolically, outside there's the four-year-old mulberry tree that started out as a 2-ft bareroot stick and now is 20-ft tall and shades the south side of our house.

Another useful tool is a gardening journal. Mine tells me that the bushel of figs we harvested this year is twice the yield than when the fig tree was not being watered, mulched at the roots, or getting a small amount of fireplace ash every year. It reminds me of how we planted a too-shady spot full of pine straw where nothing grew with strawberries, and how we went from a dozen strawberry plants to a 14' x 3' raised bed that produced over a gallon of berries this year. It chronicles the planting of three different types of asparagus, and our struggles to find perennial onions for our climate. All of my seed-saving triumphs and progress are mentioned in the gardening journal, too.

So it's time to have a cool drink next to my flourishing herb garden, and contemplate the next step. Like in the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.


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