Still wobbling through Staphland. So here is a bit I dusted off from the archives of Shawndra ravings, for your reading pleasure. Back to the couch.
Some years back this magazine Real Simple caught my eye in the checkout lane at Kroger. Its thickness approximated that of the phone book of the small town where I went to college. It was unlike me to put it in my cart, but I was attracted by the silky cover, I suppose.
Because I remember that cover to this day. It was a tableau of succulent blueberries. Inside were “real simple” ideas for augmenting someone’s perfect life: Make blueberry tea cakes the size of dolly dishes for your brunch guests! Weave a wreath from wheat purchased at such-and-such online store! Festoon it with dried wildflowers you’ve sprayed with hairspray, for colors that last! And so on.
Not one project within those pages would do anything but complicate life. The crafts were Martha Stewart-level hard, the recipes were full of fussy ingredients, and the whole magazine was a waste of $4.95.
Hmph, I thought, I’ll show you real simple.
Call me crazy, but say “real simple” to me and I don’t think of spending oodles of time piping mint icing onto chocolate chip cupcakes. I don’t envision sewing clunky wooden beads onto the placket of my earth-toned Nehru shirt. I don’t have time for fussiness.
But I realize that what I do in the name of the simple life may seem a bit on the fussy side, to people with different priorities. I operate on the premise that the less money I need to live on, the wealthier I am. This leads me down some curious roads.
Here I am leaning way into a wild bramble, getting all scratched up to reach one more black raspberry for my little bucketful.
Or here I am washing onion skins and celery tops to save in a big Ziploc bag in the freezer, for a future stock-making escapade.
Or here I am standing over the stove on a 90-degree August day, stirring sugar into grape pulp—having picked the grapes from my neighbors’ fence—and waiting for the precise moment when it turns to jam, seemingly many sweaty hours later.
There are times I feel rather smug about my gardening and homesteading efforts. Like when homegrown produce turns into a meal made a soleil “for mere pennies!”
Other times, I just feel like a chump. Lugging buckets of water from here to there in 100-degree heat, for example, while my neighbors up the street lounge by their in-ground pool.
Remember that TV show featuring two famous-for-being-rich-and-famous young women who attempted to live among farm folk? It was called The Simple Life. The opener showed the starlets in overalls, with straw in their hair and dirt on their faces, looking aggrieved.
I guess the fun was in watching the high-class duo learn that the simple life ain’t easy. So true, even on my own modest homestead here in town.
Wouldn’t trade it for a slick magazine.