Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Reason for the Season

What Work Is to Butterflies
Originally uploaded by Contrary Goddess.

Midsummer. In the first years we were here, the first years of learning to grow our own food, to live out, to be in a true way independent individuals, it was around solstice that what was known as the garden really became a jungle. Over head high. And only a person who knew where he had planted could find the food crops amongst all the weeds.

It is around this time of year that it really begins, the being overwhelmed with how much work there is. I once told my best friend, in August, that I didn’t believe she could even imagine how much there was to do in that time of year. It is not quite that bad in June but very soon the blackberry crop will come in and we will either make enough jam to last a year or we will do without jam. Today we have beets to can, fava beans to process, pumpkins to re-plant, corn to weed/hoe/hill, seedbeds, laundry, dishes, dinner, etc.

It takes me about an hour just to milk in the morning, milking a cow and a couple goats. I often go back out after evening milking to scythe for awhile. That’s pretty much dawn to dusk and not a moment when something couldn’t be being accomplished.

But the thing is, I goof plenty too. Soup’s on this morning, from yesterday’s boiled dinner, and lots of leftovers, so only bread to make. I probably will go pick some gooseberries, and I might be so inspired as to make a pie. Some days I take the kids to the lake to swim and soak up some sun myself. Other days we go fishing. Walking back and forth to the garden, I will take the time to watch the bee hives, the animals, make sure everyone is ok. Maybe I’ll take a pint of soup and a loaf of bread to the bachelor neighbor.

The funny thing about the weedy solstices was that the food crops were there.

And I find it a very difficult thing to explain how it is a lot of very hard work, and yet, there is almost no drudgery to it. There is lots of meditation instead. You can get overwhelmed or you can change your mind (metanoia), and changing your mind is not an option in the wage world. And here there are lots of adventures and/or misadventures too. How to explain that I am sweating and smelling bad, and sometimes even swearing, before breakfast, but that I eat a whole breakfast (whole wheat bread, whole eggs, real butter, rich jam) in a peace and health that isn’t even an option in wage land. It seems I never stop, and yet I read and I write and I sing and I tickle my children and a wild turkey hen clucks at me when I accidentally sneak up on her and her keats while I am walking the fence. I am healthy and happy and not waiting for some other stage of life before I have and do and am what I want to be.

And all that is because of the work, not in spite of it.


Wendy said...

I love the homesteading aspects of my life, and I long for a time when being outside in the garden, tending my "ground" is what I do and is not just a sideline from the work that pays me so that I can afford to have this house and this tiny plot of land.

It's interesting how different working for oneself makes one feel about one's "work."

zane said...

Hey CG--

I love your description of the integrity between your work and your life--that really, they are one and the same (with a lot of love and play thrown in to the mix). Your posts are always an inspiration for taking this life of homesteading to its fullest expression. Glad you can find the time to write (and I always appreciate when you show up on my blog comments). Best with it all...z

arcolaura said...

Hubby can't seem to understand that I am happy doing what I am doing. He asked me the other day, with a sort of perplexed tone, "Do you like gardening?"

patsy said...

i think the reason why a person can work really hard at the life you are living and not feel give out is you are your own boss and you don't feel overwhelmed or the feeling of working with out acomlishing any thing .The trouble with the work place in our country is we don't see any progress in our work.

the Contrary Goddess said...

I was almost thinking of this comment as another post, but I think that it is not just the aspect of "working for one's self" that relieves the drudgery of work. If that were true, market gardening would not so quickly descend back into drudgery. It is, rather, being totally outside of the money economy, the monetary system.

Although Marx did have something right when he talked about workers being divorced from their products. One of the problems in the western economy is that no one actually makes anything useful, a product, to not be divorced from. They produce only blips, air, and pretend that it is useful.

Alecto said...

I read your blog religiously. I live in the wage world and keep a garden in my 2.5 acre swamp. Your writing grounds me. Some days, that are particularly hard days, I come undone in the reading.

the Contrary Goddess said...

When I speak harshly of the wage world, I do want it clear that I don't speak harshly of wage people. I sometimes work for wages, sometimes sell stuff, sometimes produce something, sometimes do work for neighbors. I do use some money. But I do think we think we don't have any choice when we do. I think we (in general) think we are entitled to things, lots of things, that we are not entitled to (food, healthcare, I don't think we are entitled to much of anything, much less things). Etc. Any harshness I have is for the lack of thinking and acting one's way outside the fence.

Alecto said...

I didn't mean to suggest harshness - I have never, in any of your posts, experienced you as harsh, just direct and I sure do appreciate direct. It is ok to come undone now and then; it allows for things to be set back to some semblence of balance.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Hey alecto, I went to your website and see you got a blogger ID just to communicate with ME! I'm honored. I hadn't taken the harshness thing from you, just that sometimes I can seem that way -- it is just something about me, about the way I communicate, and about the way I see the world that I am aware of. Glad you are here!

huntersmoon said...

I'm a fellow unschooler and a homesteader - though new to owning land and homesteading I've done the gardening and horse bit all my life. I would say we are radical unschoolers but I struggle with assigning chores - as in I don't want to but have a hard time keeping up with the house and animals and garden if I'm doing it all myself. My kids love to help and they love to help clean (and my older two asked for daily lists), it's purely my mentality about giving myself permission to list out the daily routine to do. I know most RUers do not believe in assigning chores either, but saw you mention chores a couple of times. Is it due to living off of the land and everyone really needing to pull together? Do you feel it goes against radical unschooling to have chores in your family? I'm trying to find peace of mind with unschooling and homesteading chores.

CG said...

ok, wow, good question. I'm a radical unSCHOOLER in that I think school and schooling is harmful. I am NOT, however a non-coercive parent, and likewise I believe total and real non-coersion with children to be a harmful practice. I don't think it is better to let a kid's teeth rot out than to force him to brush his teeth and to take him, kicking and screaming, to the dentist. Better to convince him, but in the end, better to take him than not to take him. Better that a child know how to behave and be allowed to "misbehave" where that is appropriate than to misbehave everywhere. Etc.

My kids have chores. Some things they do every day or that are their own responsibility and some things as I or their father (or their sibs) ask them to do. They have choice in that if they can think of a better way, they can sell that idea. And their chores are largely where their affinities lie. But to live in community, sometimes you have to do things you do not want to do (or do not think you want to do until it doesn't get done -- like cleaning the toilet!).

So I guess that is my .02 on that.

Anonymous said...

I know you've often used the TM quote, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood," and I'm working on that one.

But what I want to know is, is it too late for me to be UNschooled? lol

I've known about homeschooling for years, but only recently heard about unschooling, and it sounds fabulous. I don't think I've heard of anything in a long time that makes much more sense. And I lovelovelove the magic that seems to spring from it!

Ren said...

Here's a place where I differ greatly from CG. I do believe in personal autonomy, moreso than non-coercion. Which HAS involved letting one of my kiddos get rotten teeth rather than forcing him kicking and screaming to the dentist (which is exactly what would have happened, up to the point at which he made a different choice...fully informed all along).

There are many reasons I believe people should have full autonomy over their bodies but it's too involved to post about here. It's also too involved to describe how non-coercive parents are in a partnership with their children and try to find solutions that work for everyone.

There isn't a top-down hierarchy here, with adults overriding the children's preferences but there is certainly a concern for "how can we make this work for all of us?"

In regards to chores, we don't have the top-down hierarchy there either. But we do help each other, constantly. And as we do more and more gardening, I have no doubt I will have help there too. It won't be about me assigning anything or forcing anyone though.

CG said...

well, we do disagree Ren. Children younger than certain ages cannot be "fully informed" about the dangers of their teeth rotting out, etc. It is simply not possible for an 18 month old to "decide" whether to brush his teeth or not. A parent who allowed his child to eat twinkies and beer for breakfast would likewise be a neglectful parent. I believe in personal autonomy but there are limits. We don't have a hierarchy either, but we parents are responsible.

I do believe in as much natural consequences as possible but if my wood cutting child decided not to cut wood, he's not the only one who would be cold. There is room for negotiation, or a day off, but there is not room for someone sitting around in a welfare state in our house, eating, being warm, the like, without doing the work that is required.

Now, I've had other parents think *I'm* irresponsible because I won't medicate my "different" children into behaving more like normal children. Well, I have a broader definition of normal than they do, and I don't care what they think either.

Annette, it is NEVER too late to UNschool yourself! You will catch various places where the schooling paradigm rears its ugly head though. It is fun. You can do it.

CG said...

oh, and I would say that "coercive" parents (like myself) are also very much in partnership with my children to find solutions that work for all. Thus our motto, all for one, one for all. We're serious about it.

Ren said...

I have found 18 month olds very capable of letting their preferences be known. It IS hugely our responsibility to make sure they have safety and also healthy choices, but within that realm of safety there is a huge amount of ability to choose.

When you have a child that throws-up because they cough a bit too hard, teeth brushing is a huge issues. Every one of my children was fine with my brushing their teeth as a matter of was just what we did. Together, making it fun, until Jalen came along.

He let it be known that he could not STAND the way it felt from a very early age. My forcing it upon him day after day, week after week would have been more harmful than some bad teeth. I feel quite certain of that. I don't believe bigger and stronger gives me the right to override his learning process.

It's been something I've been meaning to write about, maybe it's time. It's hard for people to understand the intensity and sensitivity some people possess. I think those intense/sensitive souls have just as much right to their own bodies as anyone else.

I also happen to think that it's natural for baby teeth to be able to suffer some damage and be ok in the long run. I know for us, it was the best choice. But I also will sit in the driveway for an extra 15 minutes to solve some disagreement between siblings rather than hand down a demand. Working for "win-win" situations takes a lot more time than just directing a solution...that's for sure.

My main goal is that everyone is heard, everyone has equal importance and we try to creatively meet everyone's needs even when needs seem to conflict.

Anonymous said...

You will catch various places where the schooling paradigm rears its ugly head though.

I already have. Once I started reading a bit about unschooling, or, more to the point, about the confines of the schooling paradigm and all its debilitating practices, I could actually feel those deeply ingrained ideas tugging at me. And I can feel the rebellion, mild though it may seem, that I've been working through for years.

CG said...

Expressing a "preference" is NOT a "fully informed decision". HumONgous difference. And while certainly there are psychological impacts of things (like I never understood the push to force potty training), there are also possible long term health consequences from rotting, compromised and missing baby teeth. Rotting baby teeth is not a win-win for anyone. IMO.

Now, in most other ways, I'd be willing to consider myself "non-coercive" in that we always work toward REAL win for all solutions to problems, and most often are able to avoid having such problems at all, because we understand each other and can all give some.

Annette, I'd be interested in hearing your stories. I think a lot has to do with obedience and heirarchy and submission to authority and the like. But sometimes it can be subtle.

Ren said...

~~Expressing a "preference" is NOT a "fully informed decision". HumONgous difference.~~

I wasn't equating the two, but "fully informed" means the person has as much information as you can possibly give them, appropriate for their development.

I believe with all my heart that the dental work we're getting now, with his consent is hundreds of times better than anything I could have forced upon him before he was ready. Rotting baby teeth is not something I prefer. My child felt differently. As it stands, his dentist believes his teeth and health are fine and he will suffer no long-term ills from the bad teeth.

I realize very few people would understand the need to respect their child's autonomy when they have limited world knowledge. The trust between Jalen and I is would have been badly damaged had I forced him against his will.

Teeth are easier to fix than a broken spirit or damaged relationship.

CG said...

Again, an 18 month old child cannot make a "fully informed" decision about brushing his teeth or not. That is simply a fact. You did equate the two in that you said your son was ~fully informed all along~. Well, he wasn't because he was not developmentally capable of it. That's why those of use who are developmentally capable of it make the decisions.

Which you did in his case too. And this comment, just so you know, was never about him or you but is something we started LONG ago when we were on the unschooling lists talking about this very issue. This is something that we, too, have put a lot of thought and introspection into.

And having put at least as much thought and introspection into it as you have, we have come to a different conclusion. Of course, we also have different children which can and does influence us.

I happen to think that the very real possibility of having compromised teeth and health for a LIFETIME is a greater evil than the child understanding that sometimes there is something you don't understand and you have to do something that is unpleasant because I, your parent who loves you more than anything, have determined it is best.

This is NOT hierarchy. It is not a rank order or a division or a graded imposed organization. It is the result of an organic relationship based in love.

So you see it as a few temporarily rotten teeth vs. a damaged spirit and relationship, and I see it as health compromised for a lifetime vs. a very temporary thwarting of a passing preference.

Let me also say this. ~But I also will sit in the driveway for an extra 15 minutes~ says a lot. Sit in the driveway. In the car. Imagine instead coming home and it is 25 degrees and dark outside, and 45 degrees in the house. Everyone is hungry and food needs to be fixed before people can eat. The cow needs to be milked. The rabbits fed. The chickens shut up. The fires started. That is not the time to take an extra 15 minutes. The extra 15 minutes can be taken later, after the pressing tasks are done. There are many times when that 15 minutes isn't available *right then*. Our life may be a stark example of those times, but I'm willing to bet they exist in your life too.

Ren said...

I choose to make a life where 15 minutes is always available to someone when they need it, whether for a disagreement or other issue. Sure, sometimes it can be put off. There are few things that can't wait for a child's needs in the moment though.

I'm seriously questioning why you equate a couple of rotten baby teeth to a LIFETIME of bad teeth/bad health. Seriously? As I said before, his teeth are in the process of being fixed and he will suffer no long term ills. His adult teeth are healthy and strong thus far.

At 18months I still take their preferences seriously. I don't think teeth brushing is really the crux of the issue. Some people rarely brush and have great teeth (my nephew for one) and others brush regularly and have horrid teeth anyway. If I thought forcing someone to brush against their will could solve all teeth problems, then maybe I'd feel more like you. I don't. I don't think brushing is the most decisive factor in tooth health. I think it's alarmist to say someone's entire health and future teeth are affected by a couple rotten baby teeth. I'm sure dentists would like people to believe that though.

Being in partnership with my child does not every include strapping them to a dentist chair and forcing them to get teeth fixed against their will. Not at any age. Ever.

It's one thing to say we all do things different, I take offense when my style of parenting is called damaging and neglegent, though you'll find plenty of people in the world to agree with that sentiment. So be it.

Ren said...

That should read "negligent"....oops.

CG said...

First of all, I really don't think anyone is truly "non-coercive". We all brainwash our children. And we all scar them -- sometimes in ways we are aware of and sometimes in ways we are not aware of.

I said, I am not Jaylen's mother, and he might have affected my decisions. But I've had kids who didn't want to brush their teeth or who didn't want to eat something, and yes, they had to. Sometimes. Someone has to be the parent. Sometimes. The adult. Twinkies and beer for breakfast, or not brushing teeth, is not a responsible option.

Teeth, baby or not, which become abscessed can set up an infection in the jaw which, yes, can lead to a lifetime of compromised health (and need for invasive dental care that could otherwise be avoided). People who use pacifiers don't like to hear that their does in fact move the teeth around don't like to hear that *either*.

I'm glad he's getting the attention he needs now.

CG said...

Now, I will tell you that there are things about this conversation that make me very sad. Misunderstanding mostly. I do not for a minute think that you, Ren, are an neglectful mother. I think rotten teeth are a lot more important than you do, but you've paid attention. Your interpretation of my comments seems to be that I am nearly an abusive mother because I am not and I don't want to be "non-coercive" as it is narrowly defined.

However, as La well knows, in my practical every day life, I value non-coersion. My kids aren't pushed around. That's where she and I get the saying that our families run like well oiled machines, because everyone gets along, everyone does, one for all, all for one.

The very truth of the matter is that you, Ren, and I simply draw the line in different places. A lot of that is no doubt from having access to different information. Like that mandibular infections are extremely serious things. Or nothing much to be worried about. Some people believe that vaccinations cause autism. They have one side of the information. Some people don't. They have another side of the information. A very few of us make a decision based on an analysis of both sides of the information.

I do my best to have as much information as possible in making decisions. I value my children as people. But I also value their long term health. So yes, I will intervene. So will you, as you have admitted. You just try not to. So do I.

Oh, and kids will eat twinkies and beer for breakfast if given the chance. I have a niece who nearly starved during her several days stay at our house because we did not have cereal or chicken nuggets, the two things she eats. Another kid, grandchild of our midwife, was here a week and adapted to eating bread eventually (real bread, not white) but became dehydrated because we did not have gatoraid and he wouldn't drink milk after he found out I got it out of the cow's udders and our water must have tasted funny (not like gatoraid). My MIL won't eat whole wheat bread and she simply denies that it is the only effective treatment for her diverticulitis. One of my own kids, if given the choice, would eat nothing, and I do mean nothing, except frozen bean burritos and my bread (so those are pretty healthy things to be stuck on). He's been allowed to *mostly* do that in fact, but he is required to sometimes eat something else (before he has his burrito! LOL! There is no lack of burritos!). I sympathize with him when he doesn't want to go to the dentist, heck, I don't either, but in the end he and I both must go.

love_krumpet said...

Well, to clarify a bit I don't think anyone who uses coercion is "abusive" nor have I ever stated that. Though I do think it can be an abuse of power (people who are bigger/stronger shouldn't automatically have that right).

I believe that many, many children go through phases where they eat one or two foods almost exclusively. Yes, I'd keep lotsa burritos (or cereal and chicken nuggets over almost starving to death) and items I might not necessarily think ideal and without the requirement of eating something else ahead of time (though many choices would be out and available). I actually believe forcing people to eat anything can slow down their learning process in what makes their body balanced and happy.

But I doubt your niece (and I could be wrong here) came from a home where free choice and lots of healthy choices were the norm. I don't think you can compare an unschooled kid to a controlled kid and use them as examples. I do think some children would choose really unhealthy choices for a very long time because they come from a controlled environment and/or have had very few healthy, delicious choices available to them throughout life.

I had neighbor kids that would gorge on foods my kids ignored, because it was limited in their lives. Heck, the one kiddo would wipe out our organic apples because her Mom wouldn't let her eat before dinner and wouldn't buy apples. Weird.

But I don't think our drawing the line very differently makes you "abusive" in the least. In fact, I think you're one of the most aware parents I know.
Oh, and I do know about how dangerous mandibular infections can be which is why we watched his cavities very closely.

I just don't care for the excuse "it's for his/her own good" or "because we're the parents" when people exercise coercion over children. I think they should just say "we're forcing him to do x,y,z" and call it what it is.;)

I have bad memories of people doing that to me. Don't have any desire to perpetuate it. My oldest child could tell you stories (they break my heart to hear now) about coercion. I believe it damaged the trust he had in us.

Anonymous said...

Annette, I'd be interested in hearing your stories.

CG, I've tried and tried to come up with stories or examples for you, but every time I seem to come up with the start of a book, at least a very long essay.

I guess it's just too much to cram in here. Someday, somewhere, I'll record it. I won't do it on my current blog because that one's priority is for the family, and just not something I want to get into there.

Obviously I need to think about starting another blog.

CG said...

Gawd but I'm glad these people are out of my life. We are still, btw, unschoolers. And homesteaders. We haven't broken up families, we haven't sold out, we just continue to walk our talk. Bumblingly sometimes but as best we can, and as honestly.

CG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.