Some years back I was speaking at an event and I mentioned the work I do around the house – lawn, garden, remodeling, fixing things, you know, the usual stuff. Several attendees were simply flabbergasted. They couldn’t imagine why I was doing all of these things… I mean, after all, I write books for a living. I must have money to burn, a private island, a yacht, two mansions, and three airplanes. Apparently, to some folks, all authors are automatically viewed as a cross between Rick Castle and Warren Buffett. Of course, I found this amusing and proceeded to explain in five part harmony, with full orchestration, how some of them probably make more money than I do. Hell, when I worked in IT I definitely made more money that I do now.
But, this is not about the low income of mid-list authors. This is about history and hard times…
Growing up in the 60′s and 70′s, I heard my parents talk about their lives growing up during WWII. I heard my grandparents talk about growing up and living through the Great Depression. I spent the better portion of my childhood on the family farm during the summer, as well as parts of spring and fall. I remember watching my grandparents – on both sides – canning food from the garden, or making jelly and preserves from a basket of fruit they picked from a tree in the yard. My parents did the same thing. It didn’t matter if all they had on hand was enough for one or two jars. If they weren’t planning to eat it before it could go bad, they would can it, or process it and freeze it. When the family would slaughter a hog, they packaged the meat, cured the hams and bacon, used the brains, made souse meat (head cheese), rendered the fat and made soap, and much more… The salient point here being - they wasted nothing. They had seen austerity “up close and personal,” so they learned how to get around it any way they could.
Watching all of this, I learned from it, too.
However, I have to admit, I spent a good part of my teens and young adult life during the “golden age.” Rising stock markets, rampant consumerism driving a ballooning economy… Sure, we had our moments of recession. I can even remember a long winter when the union where my father worked voted to strike. He wasn’t in favor of the strike, but majority ruled. He spent several weeks with only “strike pay” and what he could pull in working part-time loading trucks at a local short range hauler – and he was fortunate to get that job through some connections. I can remember peanut butter on Wonder bread being breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Still, for the most part, I had it easy. That “golden age” again… And, much to my chagrin, during that golden age I bought into the hype. I consumed, and wasted, and consumed and wasted some more, just like most everyone around me.
And that brings us to the “the times…” As the title says, These Are They… Perhaps it is my age – no longer young and indestructible. Perhaps it is the crash and not-so-great depression we’ve been weathering (that was NOT a recession, no matter what anyone says). More likely it is a combination of both. The thing is, this has brought me back around to what I learned in my youth. Waste nothing…
For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know that I pulled out the pressure cooker and did some canning this year. Honestly, I had forgotten how much I missed doing that. In addition, we are lucky enough to own an upright freezer, so some of the harvest from our garden was processed and frozen. For the past few years, I have been saving vegetable scraps and freezing them. Whenever I have enough, I roast them, then add water and cook them down to vegetable stock, which I then part out into containers and freeze for use int soups and the like. The leftover mush goes into our composter, along with other organics from the kitchen, thereby creating fertilizer for our garden.
So… Am I no longer a consumer? Well, I certainly cannot say that, and anyone who followed EKay’s and my landscaping adventures this past summer knows that I’d be lying if I said otherwise. However, I can say this – I’ve seen my moments of austerity, up close and personal. They weren’t the worst ever, and there are plenty of people worldwide who are worse off, or have been worse off. The thing is, I’ve come back around… And, like we all do, I have become my parents, and in turn, my grandparents.
Am I suggesting you become an urban-hippie-composting-farmer? Not so much. I’m just reminiscing and looking forward at the same time, which, oddly enough, offers more clarity than you might imagine.
In case you are wondering what sparked this little missive, it was the four gallons of turkey stock (pictured above, right) that I just squeezed out of the Thanksgiving turkey carcass and a handful of vegetable scraps I saved from the preparation of the dinner itself.