Archive for January 1st, 2009


Sharon January 1st, 2009

One of the best things about the blog is that if I write something down here, there’s a good chance someone will remember and bring it up again, and thus, my forgettery, which works extremely well, especially for things I’m not that enthused about, cannot take over.  So I thought it would be worth posting my goals for the coming year - and perhaps you’d like to share yours.  If I’m really organized (resolution #1 should probably be “be really organized” but I’m trying to keep this out of the realm of fantasy ;-) ), I’ll do a couple of updates on them as we go.

1. Slow down and spend less time in front of the computer.  Three books in two years was a fascinating learning experience, and, frankly, I don’t ever want to do it again.  I’m going to recommit to my three-day a week online policy, at which I was doing reasonably well until I hit the wall of completion.  If my next book proposal is accepted (more about that when/if it is), I’m going to take a full year to write it.

2. Redo the front garden.  When we laid out the front garden, we were anxious not to waste space on paths, and we built raised beds with no retention features, and spaced them as tightly as we could. This was, ummmm…dumb.  While we can walk comfortably down the paths, they are not especially comfortable to sit or kneel in - which is how I do a lot of my gardening.  And we simply have too much rain to have raised beds without formal sides.  So the garden needs to be redug and redesigned, with irrigation and drainage redone, and the whole thing laid out again.  Besides resolving to actually do it, I’m resolving to treat this as an opportunity to improve, rather than a giant hassle.  Or at least I’m going to try.

3. Get a housemate or housemates, or rethink our plans.  As some of you know, we’ve been on again/off again looking for someone to share our over-large home for nearly a year now.  We’ve talked to various people,  but we’ve never found the right match or the right set up or the right timing.  But I’m starting to get annoyed with myself.  It is time to either fish or cut bait - so my goal for this winter is to think hard about whether I want this, and to organize and redesign things in the house so that we’d have the space to share, and make a serious attempt at finding a family that might be interested in living together and working the land together (we have a separate apartment available and ideally are looking for a family with kids, if you are interested).  If not, I need to figure out how we might better use what space we have and what our long term plans are.

4. Fence.  We need a lot more fences if we’re going to really do serious rotational grazing and livestock farming. 

5. Clean and organize the house as much as humanly possible in ways that will reduce the amount of time we spend hunting for fairly obvious things.  Keep guest rooms ready for occupancy at all times.  Stop treating our bedroom/my office as a dumping ground for things we don’t have time to deal with.  Keep up with the laundry.

6. Make an attempt at more consistent sabbath observance - that is, no cheating - since it always ends up cheating me.  Help bug Eric to practice reading Torah (this is the kind of pestering that is wanted by him, not the other sort ;-) ), work on my Haftorah.  Read Haftorah publically before January 2010.

7. Get over the “oh, it is just one more thing, I’m sure I have time” thing.  I tend to think that I can always take on one more little thing.  Sometimes, that’s not quite true.  Say “no” a little more often to grownups.  Say “yes” a little more often to my kids.

8. Be the one to get up with the boys more often, and let Eric sleep in more.  Pay Eric back for the last two years.

9. Keep up the Independence Days project, and take up the competence project.  Keep working on the Riot goals, on using less and needing less.  Remind myself that small gains add up quickly in the long term.  Make myself look at what I did accomplish, not what I didn’t.

10. Balance “Farmer” and “Writer” more carefully.  Now that I’ve gotten through the first wild thrust of becoming a writer, I need to figure out what I actually want to do with that - and where I want the farm to go and grow to.  It took this long to achieve the identity - now it is time to figure out what I want out of them.

What are your resolutions?


Like You Mean It…Redux.

Sharon January 1st, 2009

There’s an old Jewish story of a man who comes to a town.  He is a righteous man, and he stands up in the town square, and begins to speak about those who do evil, and prevent the perfection of the world.  He stands there and points out his finger, and says “It is you who has done this!”  The finger falls on a man, and he begins to weep and beat his breast, admitting that this true, that he has done great evil, and he says that he will change his life.  Then, the finger falls on another man, this one who protests that yes, he has done evil and badly, but no worse than his neighbors, and he should not be singled out - but yes, he must change, but so must they.  And the finger keeps moving, and the villagers alternately weep and express their anger - not that they were charged, but that the speaker does not understand the reason or explanations for their sins.  But finally someone notices that the man never looks at the person he accuses, and eventually, a small boy creeps close enough to realize that the man is blind, and has no idea who he is pointing at.

I have to say that the responses to my “Like You Mean It” post have rather brought this to mind.  I wrote it with a couple of people in mind - very specific people, who I described as specifically as I dared in the post (since I don’t want to make a personal attack).  I wrote:

Now many of the people who are kindest and most supportive of my work, are also people, who, to be blunt, have absolutely no intention of making radical changes in their lifestyle.  It is quite common for me to hear someone tell me just how much they love my work, and for it to become absolutely clear in our conversation that while they may well believe in some ways that lives may change, that I may have a point, at a fundamental and deep level they know that they will not be one of those people struggling, and that their ecological impact and choices are perfectly reasonable, and that there is no reason whatsoever to discuss them. 

I was thinking of people who have expressed their conviction that I am right, for example, that we are facing a food crisis, but who still haven’t *any* extra food put aside, who have made no preparations at all for difficult times that they say they are convinced are coming.  I wondered if I wrote a post about the difficulty of connecting belief and action, I might motivate this very small audience, and I figured one post that didn’t have much to do with my commenting audience  wouldn’t matter.

Instead, I hit a nerve, rather like the blind man casting his accusations - because, of course, I phrased things generally, so as not to seem to single anyone out.  And the reactions I got ranged from “thanks for the kick in the pants” to “I’ve been trying, and trying, but I guess that’s a fair criticism” to “hey, no that isn’t, I’ve been doing everything I can and now you are asking too much” to “Where the heck does she get off.”  And until I came back and read all the responses this morning, I genuinely had no idea that people thought I was talking to them.  It seemed to me (and things often seem obvious to the writer that don’t to the reader and vice versa) that I couldn’t possibly be talking about all of you who write in and tell me about all the changes you are making or trying to make.  And it clearly seemed to at least some of you as though Sharon had gone off the deep end and was berating you for not believing her enough.

 It is a fascinating reaction - and one where I can identify with the other end as well - I’ve had that moment, when someone critiques someone for a sin I believe myself guilty of too, and asked myself “but wait, are they accusing me?”  And of course, the sin of not doing enough - well, if there’s someone out there who isn’t suffused with guilt about their own inadequacies, with the sense that they aren’t doing enough in the world to make things right, well, I’ve not met them. All of us, I think (me included) look at what we do most of the time and think “I’m doing almost nothing, it isn’t enough, I’ve failed, I’m insufficient, I should have done it better, harder, smarter…”  To me, looking out, mostly at people I know from the comments here or from various forums, it is obvious, clear as a bell that I couldn’t possibly be speaking of most of you who do so much and try so hard.  But I also know what it is like to live in a head that constantly is saying “If you really did it right, you’d already have - clearly you are inadequate.”  And thus, the temptation to both mea culpa and to anger and frustration that others don’t see I’m doing the best I can.

It was never my intention to poke at that spot on so many people - it never occurred to me that most people would think this post applied to them.  And it also never occurred to me - and this is clearly a writerly failure - that so many people would take my suggestion, that people who do agree with me but don’t enact it try and act like *they believe me* as a suggestion that they try and act *like me.*  The two are very different things - if you believe difficult things are going to happen (and again, my claim was never that people who don’t agree with me should come to), the next step is to find a way forward.  But while I think there are certain actions that should apply to nearly everyone (and there are always exceptions), for the most part, the way forward won’t look anything like my way forward.

That is, most of us will be adapting in our place, in our circumstances, in our particular and very personal lives - and the range of choices and responses has to deal with those circumstances and realities.  So while I think nearly everyone should try and grow something, or at a minimum, get involved with their food systems, the range of what that will mean - from a pot in a window to a thousand acres in Nebraska or a dozen acres on a tropical Island or a suburban backyard is quite vast.  While I think most of us should be testing the waters of the informal economy, whether we start a cottage industry or consider ways that our current business could be adapted or plan for a long term career change depends on a host of things. 

My way forward, for this moment, works for me - and even that is up for grabs, that is, if my circumstances change enough, my present way forward may not be ideal.  The question becomes how each of us formulates a useful way forward - without being bound by any sense that there’s one true way that it is “supposed to be.”