On Buying Wine Unnecessarily

I still don’t know how to make wine. One of my goals for this year was to begin making our own, but it never happened.

I have friends who are skilled winemakers, and they offered to help. We had a bumper crop of watermelons (the fruit I intended to use), so there was no shortage of material. I just never got around to it. I certainly didn’t spend any of the summer lounging around, but I’m a little frustrated that I didn’t prioritize better.

Wine is one of the few grocery items we’re still having to purchase.

So again I resolve that this is the last year we will buy our wine from a store.

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The 616

Danville Virginia now has a Farm to Table restaurant. Last weekend The 616 had its grand opening.

Ribbon cutting at The 616. The restaurant is in a part of town once known as Neapolis.

Ribbon cutting at The 616. The restaurant is in a part of town once known as Neapolis.

The executive chef (and part owner)Chris King is also a farmer. He and his partner Darcy Cropp own King Cropp Farm, one of a handful of local chemical-free farms. They are mainstays at our farmers market.

We’re excited to see Danville finally getting on board with Farm to Table. We’re especially pleased that our farm is one of the partner farms, and our food is on the menu. Because Chris and Darcy are farmers, they understand the seasonality of food production. The menu at The 616 will change daily, to reflect what is available locally.

We’re hoping the restaurant will be a great success.

Imagine

For most of us it will be easy to imagine the benefits that will come from eating better. We may imagine losing weight and feeling better, we may imagine becoming healthy enough to no longer need as many medications, and we may imagine longer, more fulfilling lives for ourselves and our families.  Of course these are all excellent reasons for choosing to eat a healthier diet. But the Wesleyan vision is grander than that.

Imagine a world in which all of humanity eats only ethically-produced nutritious food, in moderation. In such a world there would be less sickness, less disease, no gluttony, and a population living long, healthy lives. Farm animals would be raised naturally and compassionately, being afforded the respect they deserve as beloved creatures of God. There would be no exploitation of farm workers and farmers. The land would be treated gently and respectfully, with farming practices that ensure a sustainable, resilient, regenerative future. There would be robust and vibrant community-based food economies.

In such a world, the food system would be a part of God’s renewal and restoration of creation, rather than an impediment to it.

May it be so.

Let our next meal, and all those that follow it, be a part of bringing that vision to reality.

From Organic Wesley

Children on the Farm

We’re empty nesters now. There are no children living on the farm.

But it’s fun when we have them as visitors.

Two of last week's farm stay guests, feeding the chickens

Two of last week’s farm stay guests, feeding the chickens

They enjoyed the goats as well.

They enjoyed the goats as well.

Later in the week our granddaughter spent a couple of days with us.

Catching grasshoppers

Catching grasshoppers

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This is a kid-friendly place, and it’s nice to see them enjoying themselves here.

Dual Incomes

I saw an article recommending that couples with dual incomes try to live on just one of them, banking the other one for retirement. That’s sensible advice it seems to me. But it caused me to remember that in our case, it was losing the second income, not banking it, that set us on the path to economic freedom.

When Cherie and I got married, I was a young lawyer, working long hours and weighed down with student loans, and she was a paralegal, working her way through college at night, one class at a time. We weren’t living extravagantly by any means, but it seemed we needed everything we made just to keep the bills paid.

Nearly two years after we were married we had our first child. Even though we knew it would be tough, we decided that instead of going back to her job, Cherie would stay home with our son. We took an immediate and fairly dramatic reduction in our household income. We wondered whether we’d be able to make ends meet.

But we soon made an important discovery that has affected how we have lived ever since. We found that even with our income reduction, we had more money left over at the end of each month after she quit her job than we had before. Because we had to be careful about our spending, we found that we were spending far less. When we were both working full-time, for example, we went out to restaurants for dinner several times a week. After our son was born, we hardly ever did that. Those kind of simple adjustments to our lifestyle, none of which diminished the quality of our life, made a big impact to the bottom line. And the reality of having a child (and soon a second one) impressed on us the importance of financial responsibility. So we started a disciplined regimen of saving, and we spurned nearly all of culture’s calls for us to “keep up with the Joneses.” We set a goal of being able to transition out of my job by the time I turned 50.

The day before my 51st birthday, I packed my car and drove to Virginia to our farm. I haven’t been in my office since then, over four years ago.

We accomplished what we had set out to do. And, perhaps ironically, it was a the loss of our dual income that got us started in the right direction.

Media Fasting

I no longer spend my days sitting in front of a glowing screen, as I so often had to do back in my office-work days. But neither am I completely separated from screens now either. I start each morning with a cup of coffee and some time at the computer–I post on this blog, scan the news headlines and, time permitting, have a look at a few other blogs. Later, I try to spend an hour at the end of the day, just before bedtime, with a book. But before sitting down with my book, I try to respond to the comments on my blog, again putting me before a computer screen.

A couple of months ago I did an involuntary media fast. I had to trade in my computer for a new one, so I spent several computerless days. Without my morning blogging routine, I found that I was outside starting the day at least a half hour earlier than normal (sometimes taking my coffee along with me). In the evenings, I started my book time sooner. It caused me to realize how much time I spend online–time that would otherwise be spent outside or reading a book.

I’m not one of those people who goes on the internet and complains about its existence. I enjoy the internet, and even as we’ve shed some of the things folks use to keep themselves entertained (like television), I wouldn’t want to go back to life without the internet. I’m a fan of the information age, even as I recognize that its impact isn’t all good.

But I’m wondering if I shouldn’t take a break from it now and then. Instead of waiting for my computer to break before taking my next media fast, maybe I should make them a regular practice.

It’s good to break a routine now and then, if for no other reason, just to know you can. I’m still thinking about it, and what a fasting discipline might look like. Just thinking on a rainy morning…

The Simple Life

What follows is the Introduction to Rhonda Hetzel’s excellent little book The Simple Life. Our journeys have been very similar.

If you’d asked me 12 years ago if I could see myself living the kind of gentle, simple life I have now, I would have thought you quite mad. Back then, when my days were focused on the almighty dollar, deadlines and stress, most of the time I believed I was living the dream.

I think I slowly realized that there was little time for my family or for myself and my career took all my energy and most of my time. I don’t know if it was just sheer luck or the hand of fate that stepped in, but at a certain point I hit a brick wall and couldn’t go on with that kind of life. I knew I needed to do things differently. I wanted a simpler way of living. So I closed down my technical writing business and embarked on a new journey. Since then I have discovered happiness right in my own home. And now that I have found true joy and fulfillment, I can see that I’ve been looking for that kind of satisfaction all my life.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see why I was so attracted to this simpler way of living. My husband, Hanno, and I now have a lot more control over our lives. Our way of life offers us the freedom to live alongside, but separate to, the minefield of materialism that has become a large part of today’s culture. We’re living on much less than we ever did in the past, yet we have more independence. Above all though, we have become much happier and more confident, we smile a lot more and we have hope for the future. And that is a good thing because in the past couple of years, our grandchildren have been born and for them, and for all of us, there must be hope.

My hope for my grandchildren-and indeed for all children–is that they will learn many of the traditional skills that we are using in our home now and will use those abilities in their future. I hope they will see the value in doing that because unless there is a significant shift away from commercial convenience toward sustainable lifestyles, I wonder what their future holds.

My husband and I took a big leap in making the decision to change our lives, but we got to where we are now in small steps. Whether you are 20 or 50, whether you have kids or a partner, whether you have a mortgage or rent, you can make small or big changes that will allow you to slow down and work out how to live a simpler life and maybe even thrive.