asparagus as metaphor

Two weeks ago I planted asparagus.

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That means I put the crowns about six inches deep into the earth and covered them up with a couple inches of soil.

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Last week, there were new sprouts.

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I covered all of them with a couple inches of dirt. Next, they’ll get a bit more dirt and a bunch of mulch.

Over the next two to three years we will weed around and care for the plants. In the second or third year, we might pick a few stalks if they are thick enough. We will let the plants grow until the foliage is dead and we’ll cut that back. We will mulch regularly, watching and controlling for cut worms and other pests. In the third or fourth year, we will harvest the fresh asparagus from the strongly established plants. After that, we will harvest for two to three weeks every year over the next twenty years.

The possibilities for poetry — for metaphors and beautiful language — inspired by asparagus so overwhelmed me that I refuse to even try.

when I wanted to be Martha Stewart

In the early 90s, I wanted to be Martha Stewart. This was before she was a terribly famous person, before she went to prison, and before there was FoodTV. Living in Minneapolis with my beautiful boyfriend in his beautiful house, I was certain I could have a beautiful life. There were many reasons that wasn’t going to happen. Foremost among those reasons was my belief that I could be “perfect.” I remember preparing an Easter feast for us and his family that included a leg of lamb stuffed with goat cheese, and… honestly, I’m tiring just thinking of the work that went into making everything hand craftedly “perfect.”

Today, I feel great pleasure making our home a comfortable and warm space. I do enjoy making food from scratch. I might even stuff a roast if it was a special occasion. But the idea that I can do, or would want to do, anything “perfectly” has left my world. I may not like it when our apartment gets cluttered and messy (as it often does) or when I don’t have time to prepare foods as I’d like, but I never feel like I’m missing the mark. It’s not only that I’m aware these days of the staging that made the Martha Stewart show; these days I live comfortably in the knowledge that all of life is “progress, not perfection” and the way I care for my family is much more than sufficient.

(The idea for this blog post came after watching a video my friend Cyndee shared on Facebook. It’s an example of something I might’ve aspired to create back in the early 90s. Ha! :-) )

groceries (no groceries) lessons as I’m learning them

Just some notes from the time I was doing the no groceries challenge. The influence of the challenge is still with me, though I wouldn’t consider myself in a challenge right now.

  • Playing this game is nothing like actually not having enough money to buy groceries. Nothing at all. Knowing if I really “had to” I could get anything I needed makes the experience a personal growth exercise unrelated to poverty. I wrote about this in my newspaper column.
  • Homemade whole wheat tortillas are *really* easy and so much better than store-bought they are worth the effort. I can keep the dough frozen if I don’t have time to cook them all up at once. I used the breadmaker to mix the dough, which made it feel even easier.
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  • Friends are supportive and generous when they know about the challenge.
  • My grocery shopping is much more cost-efficient. I recognize impulse buys for what they are, for example, and don’t succumb.
  • Ordering take out pizza or Chinese food is CHEATING and it started seeming like a reasonable option after a few weeks.
  • The creativity I force myself to tap into has helped me work on time management skills. I don’t do it as much as would be helpful, but meal planning and pre-prep work make being so tired takeout seems like a good option a relatively rare experience.
  • I’ll do one of these no groceries challenges again soon.

no groceries challenge (October-November) update

In October, I spent $150.02 on groceries. Some people will see this as not much money, some will think it’s a lot. Regardless, my “no groceries challenge” has been successful thus far for a lot of reasons. Most important to me, beyond the money savings, is my return to awareness of and appreciations for the freedoms that come with having “enough” money.

Every time I think about this voluntary activity, I’m reminded of what it was like when I literally—and I mean literally—had less than $10 to my name. No credit. No cash. That level of financial crisis didn’t last very long for me, but it made an impression. Part of why I do these “no groceries challenges” is so I’ll remember what that was like; when there was no choice.

I spent $70 at the start of October to stock up so my no groceries challenge would last longer. A few bags of flour, for example, and bags of dry beans, and milk, and bacon, and almond milk, and chocolate…

What I hadn’t thought about was the impact being “without” money for groceries can have on our social life. We had friends visit us at my parents’ summer place and I wanted to feed our friends. They all chipped in, too, and my parents were fine with my using stuff they already had on hand. But what about people who don’t have the money to buy food for friends? My friend is coming from out of town tonight, and I’ve talked to her about this no groceries challenge. She knows about it, but I got upset and anxious because I wanted to try and keep going — how can I be a good host if I need to use only what I have on hand?

Of course, I could do it. I’ve been feeding my children just fine, thanks to the freezer, the pantry, and a lot of talent and creativity in the kitchen. My friend also understands and asked if I’d mind if she got herself some things in support of my decision to avoid grocery shopping.

Over the course of the month, I got cider and cinnamon sticks (for the Halloween gathering with friends) and I got milk and yoghurt. I must have gotten other items, made other “exceptions” beyond fruits and/or fresh veggies? to have a balance as “high” as $150.

shopping listI’ve decided to stock up again, today. I’m still considering it a no-groceries challenge because after this I will go back to not going at all. I’ll buy the items on this list, which includes some green tea and heavy cream for my friend, and then we’ll hunker back down again and not go to the grocery store for as long as possible. I’ll get a small turkey, or maybe even a chicken, and some cranberries for our Thanksgiving — I can make the rest of the meal with what we have.

It’s now an intellectual exercise borne of necessity, but avoiding “grocery shopping” like this continues to open my eyes to many issues: efficient use of our food, the impact of poverty on social lives, what are our family’s values? So, it’s not truly “no groceries,” but it’s still a challenge from which I’m learning a lot.

no groceries challenge redux (and redux and redux and redux…)

It’s a fresh start. Again. We’ve stocked up on staples and are prepared for the challenges of yet another (strict, again, this time) “no groceries challenge.IMG_5589

Borne out of necessity this time around (again)—food is one of the few areas where I have control of the amount we spend—we’re going to see how long we can go without going to the supermarket. The exceptions will be for fresh fruit and, eventually, fresh vegetables (after we’ve gone through all we have now). Eggs and possibly milk will likely be the first items beyond fresh fruit to get us into the supermarket.

IMG_5646This no groceries challenge started a few days ago. I got some good news that has my mood up again: my daughters told me they loooove the roasted squash seeds I included in their lunch. The delicata squash rings are a favorite of ours, and they freeze well (bonus!).

In the name of having snack-y foods for school lunches, I roasted the squash seeds like I will our jack-o-lantern pumpkin seeds. It turns out they are yummy!IMG_5647

I had been doing a modified version of the no groceries challenge since August, but I made a lot of exceptions. The up side is I mostly stuck to “only what is on my shopping list” rather than getting what seems like a good idea. This saves a lot of money and limits food waste, for sure.

After the illness and death of a pet, an unexpected car repair (following an unexpected car repair due to my backing into a telephone pole), and dental work, the savings I had built up are pretty much shot. It’s back to paycheck-to-paycheck for a while. Selling what I can, cutting corners where I can, and simply revving up those good habits I’ve started developing over these few financially-tight years.

As with the very first “no groceries challenge,” I find the act of choosing to restrict my food purchases is empowering. Rather than deprivation, I’m in a place of motivation. This one’s gonna be a good one.

 

 

 

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