What Would Ma Ingalls Do?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Option to choose

I read the Little House books when I was a pre-teen, and then read them aloud with my son when he was about 7-8, so about 6 years ago. My most lasting impression is of the characters being plugged into an urgency and a practicality that most people never have to experience anymore. The frontier is closed. Our society has gone from farming families who are fairly self-sufficient, and who are dependent upon one another's good graces and skill sets, to families who live in insulated pods with earning as much money as possible in order to pay for entertainment a huge focus.

At this stage my main interest and ability is food supply, and my husband is the one who fixes the things that break. Most of us have no real concept of where our food comes from, and seldom have the time or the energy to give it more than a passing thought. We don't have to, or at least we've been conditioned to think we don't have to because of the ease and availability of mind-blowing selections of food. We hire specialists to handle most of the fix-it jobs around our houses because we haven't the time or inclination to learn how to fix plumbing, electric, appliances, replace shingles, erect a shed.

My family lives somewhere in the shadowy no-man's land between two worlds, learning to be more self-sufficient, but still woefully dependent upon modern conveniences. But we have the choice. We don't have to get it right the first time. We can afford to make mistakes and go back to the drawing board. The canning I do is more for the pleasure of it, than for the need. The savings helps, sure, but if I couldn't do it, or didn't want to do it, we'd be fine. I think of Ma Ingalls, and I start to panic. If she didn't get enough food put up for the winter, they went hungry. I can't even imagine the pressure on her soul to get it right. Add to that the fact that she didn't necessarily always want to be where she was, on the tattered edge of civilization, getting it done. I'm where I want to be for the most part, and I have the benefit of a husband whose business pays for most of what we need and want.

Part of the reason I'm learning as much about supplying our own food as possible is because I believe that in my lifetime we will see the food network shrink radically, we will have far fewer options than we have right now. Most of the people I know think I'm barking mad for thinking this, but I just smile and tell them to come see me when they need something to eat. I have a huge, long way to go— just barely scratching the surface of providing for my family without the help of a grocery store. If I feel overwhelmed at all, it's because I worry that I won't have enough knowledge in time, that I'll be caught with my pants down in the bean patch, and the clouds moving in. That I won't have built a strong enough network of people who have a variety of skills to fill in the blanks for one another.

I think Ma Ingalls faced things I'll never have to face. I imagine she often had a good, private cry then told herself to buck up and get on with it. I'm trying to learn to do the same thing, because I want to do it before I have to.


At 12:59 PM, Blogger Marsha said...

I could have written this post's penultimate paragraph. I think about food supply/security issues what seems like constantly. My big goal for this year - something I've never tried before - is to figure out how to save tomato seed. I've always grown tomatoes from starts and I've heard they can be a bear to get going on your own, but I'm determined to master this particular skill. As you say, I'd rather do it at my leisure than before I have to. Other seed saving may follow, for jalapenos and squash. We'll see.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Steph said...


I'm a step or two down the ladder from you, it's just beyond being an option, some things must be done for necessity. Perhaps by choice, perhaps by design.

Nice to have a neighbor in the no man's land. ;)

At 5:00 AM, Blogger Kelly said...

ooh, is that icon a picture from Soul Cards? My favorite Deck!

At 5:58 AM, Blogger Steph said...

It could be, it's called "Moon Goddess" by artist Josephine Wall

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Jeanne said...

This is a huge thing for me...the thought of choice and how many we have versus how many Ma Ingalls had. I've been mulling over it with an eye to the expectations having choices bring. My next post will surely be on expectations!

At 5:21 PM, Blogger Kelly said...

Holy crap, we've been spammola'd!


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