Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Habitual Offender

"That which we persist in doing becomes easier - not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

"That steady check hanging 'round your neck is a yoke you learn to wear"
from John McCutcheon's song "Long Way Back to Georgia"

Years and years ago I was in the library reading a magazine. This in itself is unusual for me. But anyway, in this article the woman was remarking about a friend of hers who was very very busy and yet made a from scratch cake for her family every week. This much impressed author of article. Then said author gave it some thought and decided that, though it was no less impressive that this woman baked her family a from scratch cake each week, the woman baked the same cake, knew which ingredients she needed and had them on hand, etc -- so that it wasn't the HUGE thing it is for a non-baker to bake her first scratch cake. I think her remark in the article was that anything habitual becomes easier.

Her article impressed me as we began life on our farm and doing a thousand tasks that were new to us. "What is habitual is easy," became a mantra for me pretty much whenever I thought things were hard.

I was expecting friends this last Saturday and on Thursday I took cream from milk I had milked the day before and cultured it for sour cream so I would have it for the meal I planned on Saturday. It occurred to me that many people in our instant culture couldn't be bothered to think this far ahead, or to do even the easy tasks it takes to separate the cream and culture it. I make bread lots of times without a specific end in mind for it, knowing that having bread means having a meal pretty much whenever we need it. Making bread is easy and I do take shortcuts (like letting a bread machine mix and knead sometimes) but it is something different than picking up a money loaf at the store in effort. I keep ice cream made for the kids.

Take it a step further for us homestead types and it is, what seeds do I need on hand, and when do I need to plant them in the hothouse, to have June cabbages? And then it is saving seeds from a biennial plant ahead. Years of thinking, planning. And having enough seed in case that year's plants fail.

Compare that with "budgeting" which has become (if it wasn't always) concerned only with how much money is coming in and going out this month. A body making payments and collecting a paycheck has a lot of trouble ever really "getting ahead". But picking blackberries and making jam, there is a point somewhere where it becomes "enough".

I believe the ability that most needs increased is the ability to discern "enough". And willingness to do for ourselves.

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