You have not seen any of your settler friends for a good while. There is no instant messaging, no Internet, no cell phone, no land line telephone, no television, no daily or weekly newspaper, no magazines, no movies, no computer games, no cameras, no sewing machines, no bread makers, no convection ovens, no microwaves, no freezers, no refrigerators, no washing machines and dryers, no electricity, no combustion engines... The list is endless.
Breaking news would have been brought word of mouth by people on riverboats coming down the Mississippi River. A newspaper might be months old, but it would be devoured and shared and discussed. Meeting at the log church the settlers had built would be a big event, a time to hear how the few other settlers in the region were faring.
The average person in this country forgets that Mississippi went through its own log cabin phase just like the pioneers who went West in covered wagons. The people who moved to Mississippi did not arrive at the Port of Natchez or Port Gibson or Rodney and step off of the riverboat in silk dresses and walk straight to their Natchez mansion.
People who moved to Mississippi, bought land, and set about to sell the timber and clear the land for farming. Folks scrimped, ventured money on investments like land, worked hard to save more money with which they bought more land, etc. The way it should be now, but our modern life has become constipated with easy credit.
Missionaries had come to this area of the Mississippi wilderness seven years before this church was established in 1807. Amost a hundred years prior to that, the French had claimed the Territory and built a fort, Fort Rosalie, just a few miles down the Mississippi River at present day Natchez.
Settlers would have to have been hardy people, capable of building a log shelter, killing and preserving wildlife for food through the winter. Even a garden plot would have been a labor intensive project to clear of trees and undergrowth. Large stumps and roots would remain in the middle of the plot to be cultivated around. None of the Victory Garden pretty garden plans.
One did not open a stack of envelopes each month and sigh when paying four electricity bills, three phone land lines, three cell phone bills, satellite Internet access, mobile Internet access, Direct TV, two water bills, and two garbage bills.
My point is that we, as individuals, are in control of how complicated or how simple we allow our lives to be. It just takes getting over the notion that streamlining bills or doing without something is a sacrifice, or a loss.
Learning to live more frugally, learning the pros of delayed gratification, learning to live more Green (the fashionable catch phrase of this week) is a cleansing, healthy, feel-good process... once you get into the process.
Like an enema, the journey toward living more frugally is not any fun in the first phases.
I've written before about the last two years being quite challenging as Gordon and I devote more time to seeing that Unc and Mama, age 82 and 86, respectively, live as full a life as possible here on the farm. I have more to share on this part of the journey, but not today.
It has helped me to think about the daily life of my forefathers, the ones who bought this land and turned it into a farm in 1837. They did not have a Walmart to run to for a mop or more paper towels. We are spoiled by so many conveniences that ultimately congest our life with complication and congest our landfills with wasteful trash.
For one tiny example, Gordon and I use almost zero paper towels. I'm serious. At the moment, I can only think of using a paper towel to absorb any excess oil from baked chicken tenders. Otherwise, we use rags, worn out towels, cut into smaller sizes. We can bleach and wash worn out towels and use them again and again. I just threw away a clean up rag this weekend that literally had no depth or pile (or whatever those little absorbing loops are called). It was just a paper-thin weave of threads.
Possibly I could have thought of another use for those used up threads, but I let the ghost of fabric go to the landfill where it will easily degrade.
This post is rambling a bit because I am trying to not go too deep into this Freedom of Frugality thing. I've already re-written this Thanksgiving Day post three times, and as you can tell, Thanksgiving Day was four days ago. HA!
As the world wide economic crisis evolves and as the increased threat of terrorism consumes more of our attention and resources, we are all in for some lifestyle changes in the years ahead. Maybe that is good. I just know how painful the journey of increasing frugality was, at times, for me during the last few years...UNTIL I realized that frugality, efficiently using our resources, not wasting money or stuff was FREEing and EMPOWERing.
In the hope of giving you a little food for thought and some encouragement if you are trying to cut waste from your life, I want to share tidbits of our journey, from time to time. That is why I chose these photos of an austere little log church in Mississippi, photos that Gordon and I took in March, 2008.
When I squeal in pain at the thought of doing without, for example, Mr. Clean floor cleaner, and using instead vinegar and a few drops of an essential oil, I purposely think of life for our forefathers and foremothers who settled this country. We look back on their life journey as a noble sacrifice or as a great adventure. As an interesting contrast, we look back on the enforced frugality of The Great Depression as painful deprivation, even though few of us lived through the Great Depression.
Our family study of history and the sharing of family stories have given me the insight that my ancestors who carved this farm out of the wilderness and my ancestors who survived The Great Depression were equally creative in making do with less. Both generations found a wealth (not money) and bounty in what God provided through the land and through sharing with neighbors.
As I write this with a deep feeling of thankfulness that we have been trimming the wastefulness from our lives for two years, I would imagine my ancestors could also say that they felt better and were happier when they survived those hard times.
It has helped from time to time to imagine myself as one of those early settlers, like the ones who attended this little log church. This tiny log building could have been larger, more spacious and better built than the homes of the settlers who founded the church. I've seen some un-renovated log cabins of the first settlers, and they were TINY! Today, we all live in mansions in comparison to those first shelters.
Back in 1807, I'd be wearing my best dress to attend church, my one good dress, the one reserved for church meetings and weddings and any other special event. Closets in the really old houses, if luxuries like closets were even included in building the house, were so narrow because one only needed to hang up a couple of dresses or jackets. Contrast that to the closets in your house. Our closets are bulging with clothes we no longer wear. It is shameful.
I look at my stash of quilting fabric today, and I think about what a big event it would have been in 1807 to get new fabric for a new dress. Perhaps my husband flagged down a passing river boat, was shown a few bolts of fabric, and then he purchases the appropriate number of yards for me to make myself a new dress. It would be a very special, expensive gift, and the choice of fabric was very, very limited.
I'm so thankful for the business problems or hardships we faced in 2007 and 2008. God was pruning the stuff that sucked energy and money away from what He has planned for us.
Granted, I squalled and hollered and resisted everything we had to prune or plans we had to set aside, but as the Economic Crisis unfolded this fall, I began to be overwhelmingly thankful for each of those painful cuts.
Sigh. Unc left the English Shepherds outside, again. Sunny and Belle finally broke into the back yard to scratch at our door to let us know it was raining and they were getting soaked. Cold winter rain is not good for the arthritic joints of older dogs. Had to stop trying to make this post sound sane or cohesive and tend to the dogs. Gordon is not feeling well today, and he needs some attention
I hope you have enjoyed family and friends this Thanksgiving and that you have made note of many, many things about which to be thankful.