Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Taking the Easy Route


Before we had kids, the Captain and I dreamed of living in the middle of nowhere, with a big chunk of land to call our own. The idea of growing our own vegetables, chopping our own firewood and working on an old fixer-upper was our idea of heaven. But after a couple of years (and a couple of winters) out here on the farm, I've learned something about myself that I think is pretty key. I am all about convenience.
Today I will tackle the last 30 pounds of home-grown tomatoes. They will be stewed, strained through a seive, cooked down to a sauce and canned, to be stored in the pantry for those cold winter days when I want a taste of proper summer tomatoes on my spaghetti that you just can't find in a tin at Wal Mart. By the time Firstborn gets off the bus at the end of our driveway and demands an after-school snack, I will have finally finished the week-long process of canning a total of just over 100 pounds of tomatoes from our garden. And it's been hell.
Last year, it was summer squash and tomatillos. At least this year, the product is a little more versatile, but between the blisters I've gotten from forcing them through the seive, the mess of tomato juice dripping onto the kitchen floor, and the piles and piles of dirty dishes from the whole operation, I never want to see another tomato again. And it makes me wonder if any of it is worth the trouble.
Last year, we embarked on a kitchen renovation that turned into a kitchen, hallway and living room renovation. The job was a nightmare. I got stomach flu 3 times last winter, which is unheard of for me, and I'm positive it had something to do with the 2 weeks I spent having to wash dishes in the bathtub. By the time it was over, I swore I'd tackle whatever jobs around here were absolutely necessary to sell the place when the time comes, but nothing more. Well, here we are a year later, and we need a full bathroom renovation, some new plumbing and drywall in the laundry room, and a few other aesthetic jobs done on the main floor. The whole thing just gives me a headache. I now get--and I mean I really GET--why people buy those brand new show homes you just move into and live in, with never any thought about renovating, or even redecorating.
The Captain isn't here nearly as much as I am, and he doesn't really see what the big deal is. He's happy to live in the mess, with jobs left perpetually undone when he IS here. He didn't have to plant, harvest or process the tomatoes this year, but will undoubtedly think it was the greatest plan ever when he's eating homemade sauce this winter, and will have similar ideas for more of the same next summer (when he won't be here again to deal with the misery of it all). He loves to roast and grind his own coffee. He occasionally makes his own cheese. And he's had, for some years now, this crazy, half-cocked plan to make his own sausages.
It isn't that I don't like doing things from scratch myself. I've mentioned before that I'm pretty crafty. I love to cook, I make my own bread, and I enjoy refinishing wood furniture I've bought for a next to nothing at Value Village. There are many things that for me are worth the work. But I've learned the hard way that not EVERYTHING done myself is worth my time.
So, my plan is to buckle down and pay someone else to get this place finished and ready to just be lived in and enjoyed for the remaining couple of years we'll likely live here. The garden will be reduced to a manageable size for next year, and when Rosemary's Baby refuses to eat homemade beans, spaghetti or mac and cheese, I will take it as a sign that it is actually OKAY to buy that stuff, preservatives and all, ready-made in a can or box. If I feel like buying ground coffee in a can, ready-ground flour instead of milling my own, or tins of tomatoes (not that I should ever need them again, judging from the contents of my pantry) while the Captain's away, it will not make me a failure. I will embrace convenience and use the time I save to play outside with my kids, or make something pretty and fun. At least that's my plan until next spring comes. By then I'll have forgotten the hassle of the enormous harvest, the way we all forget the pain of childbirth, and decided I may as well put in that farm-sized garden again.

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