Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

My husband and I have lived in Albany, NY for about 7 years now.  We've become immersed in our locavore movement, inspired by working at the Honest Weight Co-op and making friends who are wonderful examples of Radical Homemakers.  We both grew up in suburban sprawl, feeling disconnected from food, meaningful work/play and extended family.  We have a 3 year old now and we're feeling the pressure to reinforce a life-sustaining culture vs. a consumer based one.  We were both encouraged to live a "conventional" life and are still being counseled by our parents to both get full-time jobs for benefits, and to put our daughter in school.  We whole-heartedly reject this idea, but it's difficult to carry the weight of trying to carve out an alternative lifestyle when the people we look to as mentors don't have any understanding of why.  

I finally received Shannon's book from our library recently and reading it has helped me feel inspired, comforted and anxious at the same time.  Comforted because it helps to have my own views articulated so well, and anxious because I don't feel I'm doing enough and there's so much knowledge to be acquired and implemented.  We have been removing ourselves from the extractive economy for several years now.  I stay at home w/ our daughter, we have one (very old) vehicle - a 1978 VW Bus, we live with my mother-in-law to share resources, we barter for many things we need and have drastically reduced our purchasing neuroses, we work within our community to exchange ideas & childcare.  However, we're still paying almost $600 a month for healthcare and are terrified to drop it - I recently broke my ankle & our daughter has been fighting an infection for 2 weeks.  My DH will be out of a job at the end of Sept.  During the winter I get seasonal affective disorder and have been fighting depression for years, partially due to feeling inadequate and ineffective in the mainstream world. 

However, I do feel like we're in the rebuilding stage...we bake out of our home for a farmer's market (using as many local ingredients as poss.) and are working on starting a Community Supported Bakery (like a CSA, but with bread/baked goods) in order to sustain us through the winter.  What's really got me in a tizzy now is, how can we sustain our home life through the winter in a more nurturing, healthy way?  We've had a tendency to rely on TV lately and with the weather up here, in winter it only gets worse.  I'm feeling kind of stressed out about how to feel more connected during winter (especially where our daughter is concerned).  I really don't like being out in the cold, but not having enough to do deepens my depression and the whole family is affected.  I do have some resources here to build on (community activity, homeschooling collective), but I'm wondering what other RH's stuck in the city, transitioning their lives, do in the winter to maintain that sense of well-being that our summer is bringing us now...we have so much fresh, nutritious food  right now that it warms my heart.  I've started freezing veggies (haven't ventured into canning just yet, but I'm working on getting there) - I know having those to eat this winter will help.   Does anyone have any advice or stories that might help me improve my whole family's winter outlook?  I want our daughter to have a happy winter, not a stressful one.  Sure would be appreciated.


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I just wanted to say you're doing an amazing job. Really. I know it can be hard to avoid self-criticism, but reading what you've written here makes me think you're further along than you think you are. Congrats on these major changes!

As for family/friend judgment ... it's a serious drag. I'm sorry. The only thing that helps me is talking to like minded-folk and hanging out with them as much as possible.

As for winter, I hear you about the disconnection, but I don't think connecting to winter has to mean playing in the snow all day long. I think it can mean looking for ways to get more light in your house, like by building fires or making candles, and savoring those tasks. It can mean embracing indoor time, and reading several novels, sewing and knitting, cuddling under blankets, making hot cocoa, or boiling cinnamon sticks on the stove until your whole house smells delicious. I felt a lot of guilt last winter for not working in my garden -- ridiculous, right? I can't work in my garden in winter because there's snow, duh. But I can savor downtime indoors.

Good luck to you!

P.S. We're not dropping health insurance and while we could use the money of course, I feel zero conflict about it. There's no reason to drop it if it terrifies you; it's not like they give out extra jewels for your crown in Radical Homemaker heaven if you follow Hayes' book to a T. :)
It sounds to me like you are ready to get crafty with the kids. Learn paper making, crochet, embroidery, scrapbooking, sewing, painting, drawing, paper mache, poetry, making cards for holidaysmaking Christmas ornaments from bread dough and baking. Check out some library books, ask friends and get creative. Make a quilt or a jean skirt. Some of these ideas might sound like they would be costly but you can barter, shop second hand stores and garage sales and see how creative you can be with finding materials for projects. Turn off the TV and set aside a craft area in your home, the kitchen table, a card table or a coffee table. Find a box to keep current projects so you can still use the table for family meals.
Also check out the local library for happenings throughout the year. I remember making aprons and bonnets for a Laura Ingalls Wilder day at the library but you could host a similar event for friends.
My kids are grown now but we had some fun trying new things and starting family traditions like a homemade gingerbread house every Christmas. There is a book called the Mother's Almanac where I found lots of great ideas for kids activities at different age levels. My kids are grown now but we stayed pretty busy and once they find something they enjoy, they can work on most things without constant supervision. It helps them learn new skills and the hours will fly by.
Thank you for the words of encouragement, Emily! You're right, I am doing more than I give myself credit for. Hard not to get caught up in all I feel like I should be doing. I guess some balance is called for...can't do everything all at one time.
You're right Carol, I think it is time to get crafty. Was never really encouraged to be creative growing up, sometimes it's difficult to foster creativity in our DD - I find I get so caught up in the craft myself that I tune out whatever else is going on..but we do need to delve into those creative projects. Thank you for the advice!




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