The Struggle


Photo: Kate Michaud Photography (Paris, ME)

I have been inspired.

However, that inspiration has been met with a fair amount of uncertainty and a tug-of-war between the heart and mind.

Today, there is a big movement based around healthy food, organic living, and urban agriculture is growing fast in popularity. Without sounding as though I am just jumping on the bandwagon... I keep finding myself wanting to jump on said proverbial bandwagon.

At times, I can feel it like a distant thunder - sort of like when I met my now husband. It was inevitable. I knew he was my future, even when I attempted to deny it (only at first). Similarly, my relationship with consumption and living authentically seems to keep evolving in front of my eyes, and I can just barely make out an image of what I think my life is going to begin looking like in that gypsy fortune teller's crystal ball.

We started with the gateway drug of agricultural critters - chickens. Shouldn't have done that. Or, maybe it's the best thing we ever did. It's yet to be determined.

After that point, we began reading more about "homesteading" and making things from scratch. We already homebrewed beer, and occasionally made maple syrup, but now that we were providing our own eggs, we wanted more. We then began making wine, and bread, and anything else we could easily get our hands on. Not having to buy these things at the grocery store was exciting and felt a little like we were sticking it to "the man". Frankly, though, all of the things we were making at home were better quality than what we would have gotten at the store anyway, and normally to buy those products in the organic section would cost twice what I'd been willing to pay.

We never ate poorly. I don't buy chips, sodas (unless whiskey is involved), or various pre-packaged snacks with saturated fats. Very little of what I buy is frozen. That being said, I'm not above convenience; I definitely CAN down a bag of Smartfood (or candy or ice cream or fast food - but I try not to), and I don't have an unlimited budget to shop at high-end grocery stores. The grocery bill was high enough, without meandering through the organic food section, or making additional stops at local farm stores for fresh produce and meats (even though I wanted to). We have always been foodies - we love to experiment with food and try new things, so we absolutely appreciate when something is fresh.

There is an additional factor at play here - I'm pregnant. Actually, I'm almost ready to give birth at 38 weeks along. With the thought of our future child on the brain, and doing right by her, contemplating what we are consuming has been even more relevant to us now. It is possible that we would have come to these same conclusions without her influence, but like everybody says "a baby changes everything", right?

Photo: Kate Michaud Photography (Paris, ME)

Baby raisin' aside, there is also this unfortunate, yet major focus on bottom-line sales in the food industry, as the market gets larger and larger, and the number of competitors becomes greater. When this happens, the food that may be marketed to us as "fresh" or "whole grain" really may not be. I never used to be bothered by preservatives (*gasp*) being added to foods, understanding that it was necessary for shelf-life. However, the more I read, and the less ignorant I become, the more I'm realizing that these companies may not have my back the way I had hoped.

Finally, my mother-in-law has caused me to pause and reflect on a lot of this, too... She has cancer. A perfectly healthy, younger woman, who should not have this challenge in her life, has cancer. So, when you begin to question if you want to do something, or should do something, I am asking myself more and more, "why not"? We don't know what kind of time we have, so why not do it today? Why not go for it?

My struggle with all of this, is the commitment. I, nor my husband, were raised on a farm. We did not grow up milking cows or butchering our own meat. I'm lucky if I kept a potted flower living for more than a few weeks in the past (I have gotten better though, I swear). Committing to a lifestyle where you raise your own products and need less from a store, means a lot more time spent at home, and dedicating many hours and probably a fair amount of finances toward animals and vegetation. Animals that need to be cared for, in addition to our two cats, two dogs, 20 something chickens, and soon-to-be newborn baby. Oh, and the 4-6 Muscovy ducks that are currently incubating.... When I say it "out loud" I guess we are essentially already well on our way to becoming gentleman farmers. However, the next step in all of this is livestock. Pigs vs. poultry, if you will.

In the long run, if I missed out on a couple of vacations in exchange for a very full home-life, maybe that is okay. I would not be upset about teaching our children to value and respect food, the effort that goes into making a quality product (of any kind), and the lessons of hard work. While this doesn't entirely solve the problem of cost, filling a freezer with our own meats, would likely mean less spending in the long-term at the grocery store. I've always had a flair for nostalgia and getting back to our roots in this manner, feels kind of cozy to me. I suppose anyone on the edge of a lifestyle change though, would feel equally as apprehensive... As they say, if your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough! Plus, I always have been OBSESSED with cowboy boots....

So, here's my grand announcement; my declaration. I am going to dive in with both feet, and we're going to really give authentic, wholesome living a shot at the Harper Homestead. For us, this is not about a lifestyle, but instead, a way of life.


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