goals of a new year

Goal setting. Sigh, I know, it’s cliche. Everyone talks about resolutions, goals, their dreams, and they especially talk about it at the start of a new year. So perhaps this isn’t my most original post, but I find it important nonetheless.

I’ve always found the new year a thrilling fresh start on life. Is it in the dead of winter? Yes. Is it horribly cold outside? Yes. Is this the time of year when I’m typically the least motivated to do anything? Yes.

How convenient of you, New Year, to sneak up on me at a time like that.

In all seriousness though, I’m glad the New Year comes in the dead of winter when I’m the least motivated. It reminds me that spring is on the way, and that though my perception of the outside world is one of deep sleep, what I don’t always see is the one of anticipation.

Buds holding tight on trees, ready to burst when the warmth returns.

Thousands, if not millions of tiny lives below my feet, waiting out the chill.

A blank canvas of white that will soon spread into a painting of new life.

Adam and I begin each year by making goals. We write these goals down and hang them up in our kitchen/dining room so that we see them every day. This way, we’re less likely to forget them a month or two in. The goals also happen to make a handy conversation piece when friends come over, because we certainly aren’t hiding them from anyone. Talk about accountability.

And we always start with a blank slate.

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This is our lovely chalkboard that holds our goals, our hopes, our dreams. You can see the faint lines of 2016 that have been wiped away to make room for 2017. Adam was especially eager this year, and he was already cleaning the board on the 31st of December.

We did pretty good in 2016; I estimate that we reached 90% of our goals. Adam, who’s a little less sure, thinks we got to 75% of our goals. They included:

  • Putting several thousand dollars extra into student debt: check.
  • Reading 2 books on farming and alternative lifestyles: check -Jenn only, Adam doesn’t devour books as quickly, and made it through 1 instead of 2
  • donating 2 bags of groceries each month: check
  • visiting 3 farms related to our passions and farm plan: partial check -we only made it to 1
  • no more plastic consumption in our lives: partial check-we reduced but we can’t seem to rid ourselves of the horrible stuff

Overall, I’m proud of how far we’ve come. 2017 is sizing up to be a big year for us. Our goals now include:

  • Paying off the rest of our student debt
  • Buying a house and some land to start our farm
  • Read 2 books on farming
  • Visit 2 farms/orchards
  • Donate 2 bags of groceries each month
  • Make something beautiful

Yes, there is a sense of repetition to our yearly goals. We believe it’s important to pay off our debts so we can move on to the next stage of life. Have we sacrificed in the last couple years? Yes. But it will be well worth it once we buy our small plot of land in the countryside.

Also, for those of you wondering why we have a goal of reading several books each year, please let me elaborate. I recently came across a startling, and somewhat sad statistic. Apparently 25% of individuals have not read a book last year. Also, apparently if an individual reads for 1 hour each day in their chosen field, they will become an international expert in 7 years. Don’t believe me? Google it. Or better yet, check out this link that has some interesting thoughts on reading. Basically, if we put time into reading about farming, we’ll become much better farmers much quicker than if we were doing it blind. And that seems about right to me.

The visiting of farms/orchards fits right into to our pursuit of becoming very good at our dream profession, so I won’t talk about that anymore.

Hopefully by now it’s clear we are passionate about food. And that is why we make it a goal to donate a certain amount of good food to those in need.

And as for making something beautiful? Well, that’s up for interpretation. It could mean me finishing and publishing my book. For Adam it might mean finishing the remodeling of our current living situation. Perhaps it means we finally start keeping a better blog. Or, it could mean something else entirely. As Adam says, to make something beautiful means trying new things and seeing what happens.

So go forward, and make beautiful things happen with this new year.

 

 

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the necessity of travel

About a month and a half ago, Adam and I made the great leap across the border, to Canada that is. On our way there, I thought about how odd it is that though a different country is only a half a day’s drive away from me, rarely do I think about it. Even lesser so, I would wager, is the amount of people who cross the border, Americans to Canada, that is.

And yet, Adam and I drove there in less time than I normally spend at work (we took the long route through Michigan), and honestly crossing wasn’t too hard. After all, it’s Canada. I didn’t actually feel like I’d left the Midwest of the US. Ontario still looked like the rolling hills and farms of Wisconsin. The only difference is that they do everything in by the metric system, which in hind sight was the best practice I’ve ever had to actually use that system. But I digress.

It was a lovely vacation. Toronto and Niagara Falls, pretty much all of Canada is beautiful. As Adam and I were both veterans of leaving the country before (he’s been to Ghana, and I’ve been to Belize, Costa Rica, and Germany), it wasn’t too bad of an adjustment, adapting to a different country’s way of life.

Because even though it’s Canada, and they’re not that far away from my home, their way of life is different. It’s a subtle difference, not a loud cry that a third world country is, but still, it’s there. In their advertisements. The way people drive their cars. The politeness of the strangers around you. Their laws. How they treat their citizens. How they treat the environment. All of the subtext of another place that’s different from your home.

So what does any of this travel-stuff have to do about being Simple World Stewards?

Well, it helps us to know. To know and understand another culture is fundamental to becoming a person that cares about the world enough to make simple changes in every day tasks. Because when you make connections with a place that you’re not familiar with, you begin to see the world, the whole world, as your home instead of the tiny blot on the map that is your physical place of residence.

And I’m not saying you have to cross continents here, though if you have the chance to, go. Absolutely go. But when you do, don’t exclude yourself to the typcial ‘touristy’ stuff. Live as a local. Go to a local hang out, talk with some locals, learn to live as they do. Remember people’s names. Mark their faces in your memory so that you can count your friends and aquaintences in countries. That will help make the decision to live more lightly on the earth easier, because you understand that the actions you take affect them in a very real way.

I know Mulito, Chester, and Kimo in Belize. I know Roy and Louisa in Germany. I know the meaning of Costa Rican’s phrase pura vida, and I know Ron and Trish in Canada. These are people that I care about, because I had the chance to know them. They’ve all welcomed me into their homes and countries when I didn’t know another person within a hundred, or in some cases, thousands of miles.

But maybe you don’t have the means to go to a different country; traveling is expensive. That’s a very real reality. So go to a different state, go two hours away, or even go to a restaurant or coffee shop you’ve never been to before. Meet someone new. Remember their name. Understand that their life is significantly different from yours even if it’s the next door neighbor that you’ve finally met for the first time.

The largest part of becoming a Simple World Steward is simply caring about other people. Yes, Adam and my’s aim is to help heal and protect the environment, but as humans reside in that environment, they also fall under our desire to help heal and protect. And we do those actions better when we know, or at least have some idea of, those people. Because

 

In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” ~Baba Dioum

We must teach ourselves to go beyond our comfort zone and to experience new places and people, because if we don’t, we have no basis for why we want to live simply on the earth. How can I take the first step to living my life differently, if I haven’t learned to care about someone else’s?

Traveling is a necessity to growing as a person, not only to learn about someone else, but to learn about yourself as well.

“If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, cureler than a mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.” ~Patrick Rothfuss

 

The Art of Continuing

So it’s been a month since Adam or I last posted. I have a million excuses why, but mostly it boils down to the fact that life continues. Always. Whether we keep up or not, well, it is what it is.

And we haven’t been keeping up with the blog.

Not that we haven’t meant to. I have probably ten different blog posts rolling around in my head at any one point in time, but sitting down and getting it done has been another story. In light of that, I’m going to take this opportunity to sort of “start over” and remember why we wanted to start blogging in the first place.

We want to inspire people. We want to show how making conscious decisions to live lightly on the earth are life changing, but they don’t come besotted with negative connotations. In fact, many are easy to do, and these acts help your budget as well as your eco-conscious mind.

Despite this, there are times when you will struggle, and it will be hard. Such is with all that is worthwhile in life. It is not always easy, but it always worth it. Always.

One of the mini trials Adam and I have walked through recently was coming to a point where it began to be hard to get rid of things. See, we’d run out of all the easy things to part with like our extra clothes, kitchen items, etc. All those things that might seem a little hard to part with but in reality you don’t miss as soon as they’re gone. So, this left us in a bit of a conundrum.

I prayed very early on that we would learn to live with our hands open. That we would give. That we would sacrifice for someone else. And well, we’re hitting that point.

So what do we give away when all the easy things are gone? What indeed. There’d been one particular item lurking in the back of my mind these past few weeks, and at first I didn’t have the strength to deal with it. Because it was hard to think of parting with it.

My wedding dress.

The beautiful dress that I wore for exactly one day of my life, that has been preserved in a box and awaits endless storage while I worry over inconsequential fears. Like my family will be mad if I part with it. Or my potential future daughters will want to wear it. Or society says its important for a bride to keep this part of her wedding. Or whatever.

In reality my wedding dress is just a thing. It’s just an item that I’ve attached meaning to, and because of that I have a hard time parting with it. Which means in some way, I’ve allowed this thing to have power over me. Because really, what is more important, me keeping this dress forever or parting with it by either donating it or selling it and giving the money to charity.

The answer seems clear. But why then do I struggle with it so much; why is it hard to part with this item? Because some other bride could be just as happy on her wedding day in this dress as I was, and by doing that, I’d be reducing the resource use of our society by keeping one dress in circulation instead of having an untold number stored up somewhere just waiting but never being used for what it was made to do.

I think we do this with a lot of items in our life; we hold them close to us, convince ourselves that we need them, when really we don’t. We’re so easily lulled into the sense of ‘necessity’ because we’re told that if we don’t have these things we’re not affluent. Or cultured. With the day and age. Or whatever.

I am trying to refuse being held captive by these things that are just that, things. So I’m learning to live with my hand held open. Even if it hurts. Even if it’s hard at first. I’m learning to let go, and in that middle of that, I’m learning the art of continuing on. Of moving forward. Of being less and less tied to the things of life, and more free to spend my time thinking about what really matters. Like all the wondrous life that surrounds me and begs for me to care about it in the faces of the people I pass and the trees that give me air to breathe.

So what about my dress? I took it to the local bridal resale shop. If it doesn’t sell there in a few months, I’ll simply donate it to one of the marvelous non-profits that use wedding dresses in many wonderful ways. I’m not holding the fear of what others will think of me. And my future daughters? Well, I hope they’re fierce and strong and independent, and if they want a tradition to carry on at their wedding, maybe they’ll have a potluck or plant a tree, both of which Adam and I did on our wedding day.

Beginnings are usually relatively easy. It’s continuing on that’s that hard part. Because once your feet can’t touch the bottom anymore, you have two choices. You can go back to safer water, and pretend like you’re moving forward. Or you can go forward, continuing on even when it isn’t easy anymore, even when you’re not sure what that means.

And there’s beauty in that, the art of continuing.

 

Simplify, simplify.

I have struggled to make a first post to this blog; how can one posting sum up all that Adam and I want to share with the world? How could it encapsulate all that we are working for? I spent the last week mulling over these thoughts in the small moments of life, when washing dishes or on long car rides between relatives’ homes (on the holiday drive). What I realized, part way through, was that the answer was in front of me all along: simplicity.

The root word, simple is in our blog’s name, so that is a fitting place to start. As we said before, Adam and I both started our journeys toward better stewardship individually, and there is always one thought, one quote that I return to when I am trying to further myself along this path:

Our life is frittered away by detail…Simplify, simplify.

Henry David Thoreau wrote these words, and a great many other on the same topic that I wrestle with now. When I read this quote, I think about all the ways I spend my life, which tends to be played out through my choices in time, money, and other avenues. Living simply has a multitude of impacts that are hard to see before you’ve begun, though they are quite rewarding once your journey is on its way.

The first step in living a more simple stewardship of our lives (outside of food and growing it-which is our foremost love, perhaps), Adam and I took to the simplification of our belongings. The first attempt at this was a minor failure as we both had very different opinons on what we could give up from our home. Married only a year at that point, we were young (still are) and without large incomes. Giving up material things can appear to be a sort of risk. Indeed, our greatest disagreement over parting with the things in our posession was the “but what if we need this?” argument.

For example, one of the first places we attempted to cut down on material items was in our kitchen. We gave away two glass pie dishes, several stirring/serving spoons, 9×13 pans, among other things. All of these items we had twice the amount we have now, and yet, for almost every single thing, one of us asked “but what if we need this?” We certainly do not need four pie dishes, 10+ spoons, etc in our house, but the uncertainty that something would break, or there would be an event where we would need them, lingered over us. Still, we gave the items away on good faith, and have not missed them since.

After our first eventful process of trying to part with our belongings, Adam and I have found it easier each time we practice simplifying our life. About once a month now for the last half of a year we fill a box, backpack, or whatever else we have with items we do not need and donate them to thrift stores or wherever else they can best be reused. Now it is a challenge for us to stand in one room of our little home and search the corners for things we do not use and will not miss.

I have not missed a single thing I’ve given away, and in return I’ve recieved much more than I expected. With less things, cleaning takes less time, there is less clutter in our house, and there are less material goods for us to be distracted by. We now evaluate our purchases by a rule of “do we truly need this or will it bring us contentment in a meaningful way?” If the answer is no to either of these questions, then we do not need that thing in our life.

Our days make up our lives, and as we move forward, I find myself happier with less material things. It leaves me more free to pursue passions of mine, build greater relationships, and do well the work that I am meant to do. So friends, let us not let our lives be frittered away by detail, and instead choose to simplify, simplify.

 

The Get-to-know-you bit

Hey everyone, Adam and Jenn here. We hope you’ll join us on our journey as we seek to become simple world stewards. You’re probably wondering how we got here. Well, we both grew up in the Wisconsin countryside, helping our parents through gardening, raising animals, and other various “country” activities. This time helped instill a deep love of the land that would later shape our lives. Moving onto college, we met in an Environmental Studies 101 course, and from there, began the journey towards realizing that our very separate, individual dreams actually paired together in an encouraging and beautiful way. Fancy that. So, post-college, we married, and have been doing the marriage thing for about 1 1/2 years now. We’ve used this time to dream together about how we can change the world, and we’re now settling on the desire to live and eat simply, and help others do the same.

The things you’ll find in this blog reflect our passions. Adam in particular cares about cheese, cooking, local food, upcycling (in a very raw form), and sustainability in the terms of everyday energy usage. Jenn, on the other hand, cares about food (in the growing sense more than the cooking sense), native landscaping, reducing chemical usage in everyday life, and sustainability in the sense of passing on knowledge to the next generation.

So there you have it, we’re just simple people sharing our life story.