The first thing I did Sunday morning was put a roast in the slow cooker. I was still in my pajamas, ones that I made a few years ago. After I got the roast going I decided I had better render the beef tallow that had been in the refrigerator for over a week.
This started me thinking about the process I began a few years back. It started innocently enough long before the advent of social media sites that allowed the sharing of all sorts of ideas. I somehow found a woman named Linda Cobb who, as the self-proclaimed "Queen of Clean" wrote three books on cleaning and doing laundry using common multipurpose items such as vinegar, borax, Fels Naptha and washing soda. What the heck was washing soda? Back in 2000 when her books were published I could only find washing soda in one store. Being the mother of two cats and step mother to one at the time, I liked the idea of cleaning with ingredients I could pronounce and that were largely non-toxic (borax being the exception) to the four-legged children in my home. While my ideas were noble they sort of fell by the wayside simply because I was busy and got lazy; not to mention that for 4 years I lived with a man whose motto was 'better living through chemicals', but that's another story. Over the course of the next few years I ditched chemical boy, moved to another state and at various times I went from being unemployed to making a very comfortable salary to making squat. It became necessary to conserve finances to maintain my ballroom dance, yarn and fabric habits. This all coincided with the advent of a little type of social media called Pinterest. Hello, my name is Edie and I'm an addict.
I learned two important things: 1. There are a lot of people like me out there, probably due to the recession, and 2. There are a lot of women making money writing blogs. I won't even get into the blog issue because I can't figure out how they can make money doing this, though I'm sure there's a blog for that as well. Pinterest is a whole different story. I resisted it's lure for a long time. I mean who needs to post pictures of things they like online? Buy a magazine, cut out a picture and paste them in a notebook. However, this is free and you can find articles from electronic versions of print magazines. So I succumbed to the lure of the 'pin'. Being the information goddess (a.k.a. librarian) that I am I carefully check the sources. I don't go out in the pin-sphere wantonly, I am a practitioner of safe pinning. It's the Internet people; it should be called the "Information and Crap Superhighway". It is only good if used wisely. Like everything else there are a lot of 'pins' that are garbage; i.e. the chicken and rice casserole I tried Saturday night that went into the garbage Sunday night. There are a lot of nut-case female bloggers out there as well. If you weed through the dregs and loonies you can find some useful information. Which sort of leads me back to the title of this post.
There is a big self-sufficiency movement out there of 'homesteaders', some more sane than others, who are trying to find cost effective ways of doing things around the home. For instance, I started my Saturday morning much like other Saturday mornings by doing laundry. I did this using home made laundry detergent, laundry enhancer (helps to soften the clothes), and dryer 'sheets' (a ball of wool yarn, kindly donated to me by a friend, which I felted). While the preparation of all this does take time, it also saves money and at least I know what I am using to clean my clothes; epsom salts, essential oil, vinegar, borax, washing soda and Dawn. Yeah, ok, I know the Dawn isn't exactly natural but it has grease fighting properties - I might try castile soap which is all natural but 1. it's more expensive and 2. I would have to super pre-treat my clothes with stuff I don't make myself to get the stains out because I am a slob. I don't consider myself a 'homesteader' because I live in a townhouse I did not build myself. I get excited when I change a light bulb successfully. Admittedly I'm not quite that helpless but as some of my friends and my cousins can attest I'm pretty clueless in the some of the DIY arena (thanks, Dad). I do cook, bake, sew, craft and knit - the latter three thanks to my mom and 4-H; so I am able to put food on the table and clothes on my body. While I am not the best knitter or seamstress I find the need to make certain things now. Since Lanz are becoming more and more scarce I have to make my own nightgowns - not too difficult as only the cat sees them and I'm not concerned about fit. But it is more difficult to find good quality clothes at reasonable prices that actually fit so I'm seeing the need to sew more for myself.
I am not turning in to Laura Ingalls Wilder. You will never see me churning my own butter, there are some things that are far too foolish to do on my own. Not to mention the fact that as I said in the beginning, I do live in a townhouse. My back yard is very small and as much as I would love to have a few black-faced sheep in the back yard to keep the grass down the HOA and my neighbors would frown on that so I just have to settle for weed killer and stone to keep the grass at bay. I do use home made weed killer - yes I started with a chemical but now that the grass is mostly gone thanks to a friend who cut it for me and 2 gallons of Roundup, I can use the salt and vinegar mixture to manage what crops up. As to the beef tallow mentioned in the beginning, I am NEVER doing that again. I 'pinned' a recipe for homemade refried beans that used beef tallow so I thought I would give it a try, it was done in a slow cooker, how tough could it be? My first clue should have been when the woman blogger was talking about what part of the cow had the best fat and what had to be removed from the fat after the animal was slaughtered. I bought mine in a cryo-pack from the grocery store for pity's sake. While I grew up next to a farm and helped birth a fair share of pigs let's get real. Next time I'm buying lard in a nice little cardboard box. Not only was it messy to cut up into small cubes once it hardened while it was rendering the smell was so bad it almost made me a vegetarian. While I take pride in doing things on my own, being more self sufficient and saving money there is only so much self-sufficiency a suburban girl can take.