Living as I do on Rusty Metal Farm, I’d be lying if I said there was not some feelings of real pride in how certain aspects of my lifestyle have evolved into low impact, sustainable and environmentally friendly actions.
Like many who have moved even a little bit back to land on some level of homesteading, here on Rusty Metal Farm we turn food scraps into garden-friendly compost, eschew plastic containers when possible, turn off any electronic devices when they are not in use, create our own energy via solar panels and pursue recreational activities that do not require petroleum-based fuel.
It would also be a lie of omission to neglect mentioning how fine is the line between my pride in all this and smugness over it.
So. Very. Fine.
A friend of mine put it well when she said it can be difficult to be around people like me due to the level of smug.
Yeah, definitely not one of my more endearing qualities. Especially when considered in balance with my non-back to the land tendencies.
Composting, for instance.
Sure, once upon a time years ago I took the University of Maine Cooperative Extension composting class. I even passed it and have the snazzy black backyard composter given to all of us who did pass.
I will never forget the day that, with great pride, I plunked the black, plastic bin that bears a striking resemblance to the “Star Wars” character R2-D2 down not far from the house. Soon I was carefully layering materials such as food scraps, lawn clippings and other compostables and dreaming of the day months ahead when it would all be rendered down into that rich, dark garden additive growers call “black gold.”
That was more than 15 years ago and for all I know (or, to be honest, care) those materials have gone past gold and have compressed into diamonds. It’s been literally years since I have looked inside the composter, much less added anything to it.
That is not to say I don’t compost — sort of.
To keep food scraps out of the waste stream, I feed most to my flock of laying hens. There is nothing — and I mean nothing — they won’t eat.
Their favorites run toward pizza and anything sweet, but they also like fruit, bread, popcorn, nuts, yogurt, ice cream and vegetables. Well, sort of on that last one. They will deign to eat vegetables raw, but much prefer them cooked ideally with a side of melted butter.
Two things come out of the back end of a chicken — eggs and poo. The eggs I enjoy on a daily basis and after the poo mixes with straw on the coop floor and ages for several months under black plastic after being cleaned out of the coop, it turns into perhaps the the best garden compost around.
Now, if only I gardened.
I love the idea of raising, growing, producing or gathering my own food off the land. I just lack the ambition or desire to do it anymore.
For years, I kept up a productive raised bed garden here on the farm, and I resented every second spent in it. I have an attention span long enough to venture out in the morning and pick enough strawberries, raspberries or blueberries — depending on the season — for a batch of Sunday pancakes.
My tiny dog Chiclet, who loves fresh fruit, can pick more berries at a time than I can.
As for meat, after two seasons of raising meat chickens and dealing with the work associated with moving them from coop to freezer, I vowed there would be no more edible livestock on Rusty Metal Farm.
All this to say, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who grow and raise the food we consume, and those who cheerfully support them.
I am firmly planted among the latter.
My freezer is full of locally raised beef, chicken and pork; fiddleheads picked along a nearby river last spring; and bags of fresh fruit grown in Aroostook County — all of which was purchased by me. So despite my stance on gardening, I can still sit down to a meal in which everything came from within 50 miles of the farm.
Steak, fiddleheads and baked County potato with a side of locavore smugness, please.
Better yet, I am able to donate all that chicken-poo compost to local growers for their own gardens in exchange for fresh veggies I carry away in my reusable produce bags. When I remember to bring them.
My most recent foray into sustainable life is the purchase of a hybrid vehicle — one that uses a combination of gasoline and electricity to run the motor. Not only does it get great mileage, but it generates its own electricity, stored in batteries under the back seat, to supplement the gas it also uses.
There’s even a nifty screen next to the speedometer that shows a moving schematic of that process.
This means when I drive this summer to different locations around Maine to ride my non-gas powered bicycle, I can view my car making its own power while I contemplate pedaling along.
Talk about fuel for a smug alert.