The question was recently posed to me: If Friday [payday] came and money was no object, what would you get for yourself?
The only thing that I could think of was a cream separator*. That made me realize 2 things; firstly, I must be a farmer’s wife, and secondly, how blessed am I?
A few months ago I did have a long list of all the things I wanted. But I had let the “Things I Want” list masquerade as the “Things I Need” list. In the midst of it, our pastor happened to offer a well timed homily on Pope Francis’ encyclical on how we, as Catholic Christians, should be interacting with the planet. The encyclical, Laudato Si, tells how our society is driven by a vicious cycle: production, distribution, consumption, disposal. Ultimately, it is the overconsumption and mass disposal of goods that is causing so much harm to the world we live in.
I read a lot of period fiction, from the turn of the century and earlier, and Steve has been reading the “Little House” books aloud to the boys. There was a time when hats and bonnets were “ripped” and re-trimmed to replace worn out ribbon or match a new dress. Socks were darned. Flour sacks became aprons, shoes were greased nightly to increase their longevity, people grew their own food and everyone fixed things that were broken. Now, the packaging food comes in isn’t fit for anything aside from the trash, and things cost more to fix than they’re worth. An example: our washing machine burned out last year, and the cost to repair it would have been as much as we paid for the machine itself. And, as we were informed by the technician, it was a typical problem with this model and if we chose to repair it, we could plan on replacing the same part in a few more years. How sad. All the time and resources it took from production to purchase, only to have it last for 3 years!
The metal, plastic, and rubber for the parts came from somewhere, and someone spent time and was paid money to manufacture them into those pieces. There was a huge factory where someone (or machines, which also took time and resources to build) put them all together. The materials for packaging it, the time and fuel for transportation to the store, the salary of the worker who sold it to us. All for about 1000 uses, if we assume a load per day.
From all these observations, I’m realizing we really don’t need much. And what we do need, it’s important to ‘buy it once and buy it right’ so that our things don’t need rapid replacement. In that spirit, I’ve been wanting a new vacuum, but ended up just fiddling with the old one and getting it working better. The boys’ dresser was beyond repair, and we were able to replace it with a vintage one (because ‘vintage’ makes ‘old and used’ classy, right?) from a friend who was moving. I’ve been drooling over professional mixers, but finally told told Steve that I didn’t need a new Kitchen Aid after all. Of course, unbeknownst to me he’d already bought one and had it hidden in the closet for my birthday! But the old one will be going to my brother to use, so it hasn’t been trashed.
And speaking of trash, Steve pointed out that the amount of which we’ve been putting to the curb has plummeted since we moved here. We’re both puzzled as to why. We no longer have plastic milk jugs since we started milking our goats, and we aren’t disposing of egg cartons as we get eggs from our own ducks. A lot of our food scraps go to the animals. Still, that doesn’t seem like enough to account for the sharp drop in our family’s volume of disposal. We used to put 2 overflowing bins to the curb every week. We’re down to 1/2 of one bin (same size) per week, and sometimes not even that. How did we do it? I don’t know the answer, but I imagine some of it has to do with homesteading. I will have to update if I ever come to a more solid conclusion.
I have to admit that I haven’t actually read Pope Francis’ encyclical, but Steve has, and according to him the bulk of it has to do with public policy. This is all well and good, but what about the individual household? I really and truly think that’s where the greatest good can happen. How are we, as individual families, supposed to interact with what the Pope calls our common home?
I don’t know the answer to that either, but I have an inkling. Produce more, consume less, and reduce, reuse, recycle. Easier said than done maybe, but Christ never promised easy. Then again, so much of it is just a matter of breaking little, daily habits. Do we really need that plastic bag when running into the store for 1 item? Why can’t I remember to bring my reusable bags every grocery trip? Do we have to use so many paper towels, or is it just as easy to have a few extra dish towels around? I have to do laundry anyway, it’s not actually THAT much more effort to drop a dish towel in the hamper rather than a paper one into the trash.
Okay, I’ll be honest, on some days, I can’t even manage to do that. There are times when there are already too many towels starting to mildew at the bottom of the laundry pile, and I break out the “emergency” roll of paper towels. But we are still making small steps to help our common home. And for now, I’ll be satisfied with that.
*Goat’s milk, unlike cow’s milk, is naturally homogenized and the cream does not rise to the top. This makes for delicious milk, but doesn’t help much when you want cream, especially when you want to make butter. Or whipped cream. Or ice cream. All the good stuff requires actual cream. Thus, a cream separator!