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Freed of That Burden

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Yesterday afternoon Penny and I spent a couple hours in the kitchen. We did a bunch of things. First we sliced up a pair of chuck roasts real thin for beef jerky. The trick to slicing meat thin enough for good jerky is twofold: A sharp knife and a partially frozen roast. Then we chopped up a whole lot of garlic – we grow way more garlic than we can eat, but we sure do try – and mixed it into some tamari and a little honey. Penny might’ve put something else in there, too… I’m not sure. It’s her recipe; I don’t ask questions. We put the sliced meat in a bowl, poured the marinade over it, and stuck it in our passively vented icebox for the night.

When we finished slicing the meat, I went to the basement and dug a few carrots out of one of the burlap bags in the basement. This winter, we experimented with storing our carrots in dead leaves, and it’s worked out pretty good. We raked the leaves off the paths in our neighbor’s sugarwoods. I remember the boys jumped and wrestled in the raked up piles and I thought I should join them but I didn’t. Still, it was fun just watching them. I took the carrots upstairs. Washed them. Peeled them. Cut them small for stew.

I had some chunks of venison browning in lard on the wood cookstove. It smelled good. Earthy. The lard was from the pigs we slaughtered in January; the meat was from a fat little roadkill doe Fin and I came upon last fall, ironically just after we’d gotten home from rifle hunting. I would tell you how many roadkill deer we’ve harvested in the past six years or so, but it’s such an outrageously high number you’d never believe me and I’d only look like an idiot for having tried to pull the wool over your eyes (even though I didn’t). So let’s just say we haven’t gone without venison in a real long time, none of which were killed by our own hand or (thankfully) even our own vehicle. Sometimes I think it’d be cool to spend a year just living off roadkill and wild greens. But… nah.

While we worked, Penny and I got to talking about some things we’d heard on the radio. We generally listen only when we’re driving solo, and we’ve each been driving too much lately, so we had lots to talk about. She told me about some fellow who’d done a segment on his new coffee maker, which apparently communicated with his smartphone. I guess the way it worked is that the coffee machine would actually call him when it needed tending. Sort of like an aging parent or a teenage child, I said, and she laughed, and I was pleased, because in my experience there’s not much better than making someone you care about laugh, especially if she generally finds your jokes lacking. Anyhow, I digress.

I told her about something I’d heard that very morning, about how the cereal makers are in big trouble. No one’s buying Cocoa Frosted Death Flakes anymore, and I thought for sure they were gonna say it’s because people are finally getting wise to that shit, but lo-and-behold it was for a much more pedestrian reason: People want something more convenient than cold cereal these days. In other words, it’s too much work to pull the box and a bowl out of the cupboard, the milk out of the fridge, and a spoon out of the drawer. It’s too much work to “prepare” a bowl of cold cereal – the pouring of the flakes and the milk is simply too great a drain on the precious commodities of time and convenience. And then all those dishes to wash! So what’s the next big thing? Breakfast bars, apparently, because you can eat them in the car on your way to work. Tear open the package with your teeth, stuff your gullet whilst navigating traffic (it’s a pain in the ass, I know, but don’t fret: Driverless cars are coming soon!) and then stick the empty wrapper under the seat with the cast off detritus of previous breakfasts. Or maybe just throw it out the window. Yeah. That’d be even easier.

A story to ground all this: About a decade ago, we ripped the propane cookstove out of our kitchen and replaced it with a wood burner. I recall being a little anxious about the amount of work I perceived to be involved with cooking on wood. No more would I be able to twist a dial and have blue flames leap at my command. Now it was fell the tree, buck the log, split the wood, stack the wood, haul the wood inside, crumple the paper, lay the kindling, strike the match, feed the fire. Then coffee. Then breakfast. It all seemed like a bit much at the time, though clearly there was something about it that called to me.

Another story: A few years back, we turned off our gas-fired hot water heater. Let me be perfectly honest: This was no great hardship – we have solar collectors and a rather ineffectual loop through the wood cookstove – but it still means there are large swathes of time when we do not have hot water at the tap. Want to do dishes? Do ‘em in cold water, or heat some on the stovetop. Want a bath? Heat in on the stovetop (but mind the step!). And so on. As with the installation of the wood cookstove, I remember being a little nervous about extinguishing the pilot light in the water heater. As with the wood cookstove, I hardly remember that we ever had it differently, and now we burn only a couple dozen gallons of propane each year to fire the gas range we ripped out of the kitchen and stuck on the porch for use in the summer months. Honestly, I can’t say I’m more happy now that we don’t use our propane water heater, but I do experience a smallish delight in knowing how well we can live without it.

What’s my point? Actually, I think I have something like a half dozen points, though I may not get to them all. The first is that convenience (or the lack thereof) is almost 100% relative and almost 100% unrelated to happiness. When we lived without any plumbing at all, which we did for years while saving for this land, we thought running cold water would be the pinnacle of convenience (we didn’t even dare dream of hot water at the tap, lest we anger the gods with our greed). Funny thing is, we weren’t any less happy then than we are now.

Point number two: In far too many cases, without us even knowing it is happening to us, convenience sucks the simple pleasures out of our lives. I’m thinking of my boys wrestling in those piles of leaves I inconveniently raked in order to inconveniently store the carrots we inconveniently grew. I’m thinking of this morning, as I sat by the cookstove fire, writing the first half of this post and waiting for my coffee to perc. I’m thinking of splitting wood, the way my body feels after a day with the maul. I’m thinking of how that beef jerky is going to taste, I can smell it now from my office; Penny must have spread it across the drying racks. It’ll be ready by tomorrow morning, I bet. I’m thinking that Erik’s going to be here for lunch and we’ll eat venison stew from a deer my son and I hoisted into the back of our Subaru and butchered on our kitchen counter. Even at the time, I remember feeling a little put out by the inconvenience of it all: I’d had other plans for the day. But now I don’t remember what they were.

Point number three: I’m thinking that appeals to our desire for convenience are actually nothing more than sleights-of-hand intended to further ensnare us in the sticky web of consumption. And in doing so, furthermore erode our ability to care for our communities and ourselves. For what skills do these conveniences require? Only the skills necessary to maintain the jobs necessary to pay for them. To plug them in, to rip open the packaging with our bare teeth, one hand still on the wheel, weaving in and out of traffic, perhaps recalling that once upon a time we actually had to eat from a bowl, and oh! How wonderful it is to have been freed of that burden.

 

84 thoughts on “Freed of That Burden”

  1. I have often commented that ” convenience” is the product most sold by retailers. Without selling thus little figment of imagination, big box stores just do not work.

    My girl doesn’t like my jokes, either. No matter how often I tell them. There is no accounting for taste.

  2. You made lots of great points here. But I’m just gonna say one thing: roadkill venison is the bomb! My husband hunts deer with bows and arrows he makes himself, and that’s a lot lot lot of work and time, and many years he comes home from his hunting expeditions empty-handed. It’s just too damn hard hunting deer with a traditional long bow.
    Still, every year, we eat venison – because of road kill. In fact, just last night we ate a killer venison stew from one of those unlucky animals that got squashed by a car…

  3. I have been reading your blog daily for over a month, and I truly enjoy your words, perspective and life. My family is working toward a life that you describe, and your daily glimpses of life help give me faith. Being at peace with the inconvenience of opportunity is something I strive to flow with
    my boys daily as well. Thanks to you and your family for sharing:)

    Ps- I wish I had a spiffy nickname like hairyasshillbilly! Y’all have a good time for sure;)

  4. Oh goodness, Ben, are you now trying to annihilate those haters with all that jealousy for the leafed carrots and the smell of garlic?? Got me for sure. Nice try to hide the jerky recipe and blame Penny. .

    Breakfast bars are way too much work, may brake your teeth while opening that package, and then all the chewing. . I like Seinfeld’s Kramer idea: just pop a pill! Or the whole 3-course meal in a stick of chewing gum, like Willie Wonka. But they do make cerial bowls with a built in straw. . That may make it just a little bit more convenient.

    I loved this post. One of my favorite ones. 🙂
    On a serious note, make me ponder, how much different is it when you try to find best way to preserve the carrots over the winter – how much different is it from someone trying to come up with a better machine to improve something. . Yes, I get the consumption part and all that, but still there is a process of creation and innovation that is important for humans, it is just harnessed the wrong way and moves in a wrong direction sometimes.

  5. Awwww shit! You just keep peeling it back, don’tcha? Right along with that old adage….wanna know how to save money? Don’t spend it! Thanks!

  6. Great observations Ben. I enjoyed reading your perspective on “doing without” the gas range, too. First to go for us in that regard will be propane fired electrically forced air heating system, likely for an outdoor wood boiler and a wood burning stove here and there, with all of the “inconvenience” that will entail.

  7. I got a kick out of you source of venison. Here in Maine, a deer barely hits the pavement before someone has tossed it into a pickup truck and its gone. A couple of years ago, I was in upstate NY and within a mile saw two road kill deer just lying there decomposing. That was very shocking. Must be people in that area either don’t like venison or find it too inconvenient to do the butchering.

      1. In Nebraska, you need to get a salvage tag from a Conservation or Law Enforcement Officer before you pick up a road kill deer. Besides, coyotes, opossums, and racoons need to eat too.

  8. As someone who does enjoy some conveniences, Netflix and a smartphone, please don’t ban me form the blog now!, I agree that it is the provider of said convenience that makes you think life is easier with that product. Swiffers always cracked me up. Wipe your floor then toss it out. Because heaven forbid you have to clean the mop head in the wash??? Ah I love the lie of convenience more than anything.
    It also sort of reminds me of folks who hire others to do their lawn or clean their house so they have free time. Some use that time wisely, others just lay on the couch watching bad reality television, but I guess for them, that is wisely.
    Inconvenience is a part of life and while sometimes I wonder why I chose to be inconvenienced by some choices I make, the garden is a great example of this, when I have flowers or veggies I believe it is worth that effort.

    I would like to thank you and others who eat roadkill. It drives me batty that there is no way to get to roadkill immediately so it can be used for shelters and food pantries. Of course, I don’t want to take food from vultures aka God’s garbagemen, but I like to know that a family or two or ten is getting use out of the poor dead animal.

    1. MissFifi, no, you are supposed to hire someone to mow your lawn, and clean the house, and fix your house, pay them tens of thousands. Then you get a gym membership, fancy gym clothes, drive some place, pay more money, because you need to exercise. But I suppose sweaty stinky gym is more appealing than planting flowers in your garden. . .

  9. I live in a subdivision where everybody (except me) rakes up all their yard “waste” as it’s called, leaves, gumballs, grass clippings, twigs, etc., and then pays a hauler to take it away…and then they go to Home Depot and buy bags of compost to put around their bushes. Hmmm. On my property every little bit of vegetable matter goes either into the compost pile or in the fireplace. Gumballs make pretty good kindling…and I have thousands of them. And I had monster pokeweeds growing in the compost area last summer, about 10 feet tall and the stalk about 5 or 6 inches in diameter. I had to laugh.
    As far as those folks throwing their breakfast bar wrappers out the window, I don’t feel inclined to annihilate them with kindness, I’d like to see them hit with a big fine and made to do community service for as long as it takes.

  10. We have taken great care (some might interpret this as laziness) that whenever something breaks, we make sure it takes us an inconveniently long time (like, sometimes a year or more) to fix it — the fridge, the stove, the electricity, the kitchen faucet, the bathtub — so that we can fully immerse ourselves in not having said appliance/convenience. Then I feel comfortable that when we eventually find a suitable replacement, we can replace it, knowing that we are completely OK and happy and, in fact, no one in the rest of the world even knows that we’re living without certain conveniences frequently viewed as being required. It’s our secret power.

    1. 🙂 I think we may be related. We kind of lived without furniture or beds for 18 years. . without flooring for 15 years. . without bathtub for maybe 15 years. . without shower for. . don’t remind me.. . It is kind of liberating, because you never ever need to replace a piece of broken furniture, or worry about scratches on the floor, or worry about cleaning out the bathtub, because there is none. . This also makes it so that people you invite to your house are only those you are most comfortable with and accepting of your life’s philosophy or lack thereof. 🙂

  11. If you have many points, you are pointy.
    Me, I have no point.
    I am smooth like lemonade.
    I like to be smooth like lemonade
    Except when I’m not
    It’s like the rules of writing
    They apply
    Except when they don’t

    We don’t see to many roadkill deer around here
    Our county unemployment rate is too high for much of that

    Watch out for the boogey man in the bushes
    Trying to ensnare you in the sticky web of consumption

    Also, watch out for Jimmy Carter
    I hear he still roams these hills in a cardigan
    Sneeking into people’s homes and turning their SMART thermostats down

    On the otherhand,
    Socrates enjoyed walking in the marketplace
    This confused his students and they asked him
    He said that he enjoyed seeing the things he didn’t need

    You hear that? He enjoyed it.

    1. You’ve made your point
      Like the Soviet lemonade, smooth but with some bubbles, unless you get degassed once in a while, then you are just plain smooth talker
      And so you follow footsteps of Socrates and shop for the forest land. .
      But I am so glad you are here commenting
      Jimmy Carter in a cardigan 😀 😀

    2. I was having these dreams last night of the boogie man in the bushes and then Socrates came down in his Greek toga and sandals, right into the dead of winter in the center of Chicago. And Socrates looked around, thinking: I will look at all the things I do not need, and will enjoy them endlessly, because that is my scientific method, that is how I use my wisdom to find the truth, by looking at everything. And Socrates started looking. He looked at all the things that were sitting there at Macys and Apple store, and Walgreens, and even Chicago pizza. . . With 170 billion advertising dollars thrown to showcase all these things. . (compare to 3 billion annual spent on all national USA parks) he looked and looked and looked, greatly enjoying all of them, until he realized, that if he keeps on looking, he will have to voluntarily drink that poison hemlock before he finds anything. . . Because what Socrates found was worse than poison hemlock. It was the MSGs that trick your brain thinking breakfast bars do taste great, and you need more. . And Socrates realized that even his will is not strong enough to battle the MSGs and HFCS.

      I get your point on Socrates my friend, on being scared of the boogie man, been there, done that… but seriously, do we need to taste every breakfast cerial to decide it is crap? Most people do not have a mind of Socrates, most people do not have time to sit and ponder because they have cows and pigs to tend to. . In essence I do not see how you disagree with what Ben had to say, since he would pretty much agree with Socrates. And Socrates was preaching too, right?

      1. I don’t know what should be said in any given moment. But I know in the next moment I might contradict myself completely. What’s the point of holding on to anything? Maybe right now I agree with him completely. I’m sure Ben doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s just this – constantly slipping through your fingers.

  12. Great post. What I appreciate about your work is that it is not prescriptive in nature. You are merely articulating an alternate way of being, which will look different in each of us. Thanks for following your heart, and sharing, even when things often don’t seem to “make sense.” It’s the bigger picture that matters, and not the individual life choices that sometimes seem nonsensical in and of themselves and devoid of context. Taken together, however, you have a well-lived life.

  13. While on the other side of the ocean Syngenta is working hard on patenting peppers (called paprika here).
    Monsanto, Nestlé, Syngenta… they keep on pressing these issues, until one corrupt or shortsighted judge agrees…. and then…

  14. BTW, there was a breakfast food that came on the scene two or three decades ago called Pop Tarts. Sort of like a breakfast bar but it was supposed to be popped in the toaster and toasted. Tasted one back then, it was DÉGUELASSE…French word for crappy…pronounced DAY-GEUH-LAHSS.

    1. No time to toast them, must get the kids to day care, so must eat them raw on the way to my job at the factory that makes pop tarts. My wife is even more pressed for time, working overtime in the factory making toasters…Thanks for the opening Sandra, and for always being so fearless and honest.

      1. Oh, dear. Maybe I shouldn’t have called out Pop Tarts by name. After all, Oprah was sued by the Cattlemen’s Association after one of her guests bad mouthed hamburger and Oprah said she’d never eat one again. Oprah eventually won the lawsuit but of course she had very deep pockets to defend herself.
        I read the Wiki article on Pop Tarts just now. Had no idea how popular they are. And learned that they’re actually pre-cooked. So NeoNoah, you’re not really eating them raw, just untoasted. Heck, for all I know Pop Tarts have improved in taste over the years…

      2. Oprah probably doesn’t eat Pop Tarts either. Never want to offend, or take advantage of anyone. Just seems to me that for every convenience, there is someone somewhere inconvenienced, or something, animals, birds, fish etc. Maybe we are all being convenienced to death…
        Sorry, thought that maybe Ben and some of you were saying the same thing…

      3. Ben’s chickens are being inconvenienced – at least to some degree- when Hewitts eat eggs for breakfast every day. . . But at least Hewitt’s inconveniently clean out chicken poop on regular basis. . And that just places a bit more convenience back into the world for someone, for chickens and for your wife at the toaster factory. . Or maybe just leaves her unemployed. 🙂

      4. …” for every convenience, there is someone somewhere inconvenienced, or something, animals, birds, fish etc. Maybe we are all being convenienced to death…”

      5. Karen, watched that doc the other nite, thanks for pointing it out for all. Scary revealing!!!
        Bee, we have chickens, huge garden, orchard, shovels, rakes and hoes, we will never be unemployed. Using metaphors again, sorry…

      6. There is an enormous price being paid for our selfishness and greed… for the sake of convenience.

      7. Color me relieved, thought if i have upset BeeHappee i have really screwed up. Just saying that cleaning the chicken pen for the compost is hard and nasty, but when you are done,it was fun, if that makes sense…

  15. I was thinking about some of the conveniences that “normal” people have when I was visiting my parents last week. I love my parents and don’t fault them for living the typical American life, but it felt sort of weird to not have to deal with the “inconveniences” of my daily life. I didn’t have to shovel out the chickens when it snowed, I didn’t have to keep the woodstove going – heat was set to 70 F, didn’t have to make granola or bread – they were already there prepackaged. My Dad even started his car from inside the house and can’t understand how we live without a microwave. For the most part, having convenience means having more “stuff”. For me, less “stuff” means more happiness, or at least not feeling weighed down.

  16. Hell yes post! (lots of those around here) Also nice to hear what it was like after getting rid of those things, because I’ve wondered all that myself…”What if we didn’t have this? Would it be hard?” Part of me wants to say F it and make the plunge…start from nothing (my fiance has already stated ‘hell no’, claiming he can’t possibly go to work without freshly ironed clothes and a shower…I say screw them, they can handle some stink, good to shake people up a little).

    I saw someone in town conveniently put their live X-mas tree in a plastic bag by the curb after the holidays. Was that so the needles didn’t fall over their floor? Or did they see a living tree as garbage? Just seems weird to put the earth in a plastic frickin’ bag, into a landfill. “It’s UGLY! Get it out of here! Not on my floor!” Stuff like that and packaging, I struggle to not rant about. Yes, packaging…that stupid plasticy aluminum foil crap that you can’t recycle and is conveniently thrown into garbage cans because the frankenbar inside is inflaming someone’s gastrointestinal tract. If I could punch packaging in the face, I would.

    I’m gonna google, “When is roadkill too old to eat?”….maybe it just depends on personal taste?

  17. I think it’s funny that Penny doesn’t always laugh at your sense of humor. Maybe you suffer from the same malady as my husband, having a tendency to regress to humor likened to the level of a nine year old? Actually, nine might be being a bit too kind.

  18. One step back from selling convenience is the need to create a market for it and all you have to do is listen. “Everyone is so BUSY. Busy, busy, busy. No-one has any TIME or ENERGY left anymore because modern life is soooooo busy”. They’re busy commuting further every day and sitting in traffic jams. They’re busy playing with FB, twitting or checking email every five minutes. Or driving their poor kids to two different after school ‘activities’ every day. People are told a hundred times a day how busy and STRESSED they are, and the more often you tell someone, the more stressed they will feel.

    Then you have the fertile ground for selling ‘convenience’.

    For anyone with sufficient internet data allowance, I would highly recommend a four part BBC series made (I think) in 2000 called “The Century of The Self” which follows a century of manipulation of the individual psyche in order to control populations and run economies. Seriously scary stuff.

    1. I’ve been lurking here a couple of weeks now, enjoying Ben’s writing style. Found the blog via a comment at Mr. Money Mustache. As someone who remembers when fax machines were considered new fangled technology, I’d just like to mention a really really great convenience — being able to read good ideas and form communities of like minded people via blogs like these. Not as convenient to do that 30 years ago! You had to wait for someone to mail a newsletter, and forget about seeing any pictures unless it was a magazine. Here’s hoping we can all focus on supporting technology that makes it convenient to educate ourselves and improve our lives and communities.

  19. Preach! I say it all the time (actually maybe once or twice in these comments) that I’m done with the traditional idea of “convenience.” I love your point about the skills we’re missing with convenience, and I’ve often thought about what, exactly, I am saving time for by going the “convenient” route. I realized I would probably waste that “saved” time anyway so I might as well be fully mindful and involved in my daily living tasks and take pleasure in the things I “have” to do (ie, prepare food, walk to the store, etc.). And I’m happier for it!

  20. Dear Ben,
    I’ve been reading your posts every day or so for the last two years or so, but this is my first comment. I want to thank you for your words and sentiments, I’m deeply grateful that you and your family are willing to share so much of your lives with all of us “out here”. I could write so much more, but for now, just Thanks.

  21. A breakfast bar is great if you like cold carbs for breakfast, but I like a hot meal. So, I’m going to wait for that computer like they had in Star Trek, where all you have to do is say, “Computer! I would like some eggs over easy and sausage.” I’m pretty sure there’s a robot to wash the dishes.

  22. the next time our friends make the “you guys are crazy” remark for eschewing a microwave, dishwasher & electric coffeemaker, i’m directing them to this post! i’m pretty much with you on all but the hot water. i’m absolutely convinced that the ability to have a hot shower at a moment’s notice in fact makes my life a little better.

    i’d also like to point out that not all of us work just to buy things. i love my job and i like the fact that it pays me and it would be nice if it paid me more, but that’s not the sole or even primary reason that i work. i work because i enjoy it and because i’d like to think my work makes a difference. however, raising a family, working & helping my husband farm & run his businesses which he also truly enjoys (he plays music & fishes for a living – luck man!) are definitely made easier by having certain conveniences. and sometimes the things that everyone thinks make your life “simpler” and therefore better can actually be huge sources of stress. we are currently downsizing our livestock numbers for this reason. freezers are full and we’d rather spend time this summer rock climbing & rafting.

    i think it’s all about constantly assessing & reassessing to make sure what you bring in your life, whether a material or time commitment, are things that feed your soul. i’m pretty sure that is what you are saying too, but sometimes i think folks feel very strongly that there is only one granola-crunchy route to happiness. in fact, some of us find that feeding our kids a pop tart (ok some sort of froo-froo organic one) at 5am on the way out for a day of climbing & boating is just about the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    1. For us I think it comes down to making decisions deliberately. If you eat the pop tart (for that seems to be the base comparison object here) because someone says you should, that’s questionable. If you think, hmm, you know, a pop tart is what I want to eat and it makes sense to eat right now so I can (fill in the blank). Same with school/no school/home school or fridge/no fridge or running water/no running water.

      No decision is right or wrong, but a certain amount of confidence in one’s life or lifestyle can be found in knowing that the choices you make are made deliberately.

      And the fact that we have the privilege of making such decisions deliberately is something to always be thankful for.

      1. Personally I do think there most certainly are right or wrong decisions.
        If you eat that pop tart, knowing (or chose not to know or care) that its ingredients are drawn from the soil, using tons of artificial fertilisers, pesticides or other chemicals, are being produced in factories, while additives of a questionable nature are being added….. Then the decision is wrong, because for your convenience a lot a damage elsewhere is being done. The same goes for clothes, furniture and practically any convenience good.

        The thought that we have the privilege to make our own decisions is equally faulty. We do not! We are constantly being steered, manipulated or our decisions altered.
        Any idea how marketing or advertising works? Any idea what bombardment of mind- and decision altering mechanisms are being brought down on you, whenever you enter a store? Any idea how sophisticated and devious those mechanisms are?

        Matter of fact is that all the (in)convenient information is out there, conveniently brought to us through a convenience such as the internet. Looking it up can be inconvenient, the confronting nature of it too. So it is more convenient for the many to not look at it, but conveniently busy themselves with all the trivial conveniences we have today.

      2. Ron, I think you’re right on the mark here. Of course, with any of these decisions, there are very challenging tradeoffs being made.

        I would add another concern about saying that “we have the privilege of making such decisions deliberately.” Even setting aside the very legitimate concerns about marketing and advertising (which are powerful and frightening, once you learn about them), this phrase troubles me. It feels a lot like saying “the privilege of eating enough food,” or “the privilege of breathing fresh air,” or any of the like. While it might be true that in our deeply disfunctional human world, only the very well-off (i.e., the privileged) are able to do these things, they are not privileges. They are the basic rights of every living being on this magnificent earth. Privileges, by contrast, are things that are extra, over and above, granted to us by the generous concession or condescension of the powers-that-be. Privileges are something which we enjoy, but don’t necessary have any right to expect. The authorities have done nothing wrong to you if they take away your privileges.

        So while it may be (and certainly is) appropriate for us to be thankful for being able to eat good food, breath fresh air, or make deliberate decisions about our lifestyle and livelihood, we should not think of these as “privileges.” If we are unable to have any of these basic things in our life, that is *not* because we are waiting for someone to grant us a privilege; it is, rather, because some innate feature of our humanity has been trampled upon, crushed, or stolen away.

      3. exactly. and i’m in the line of work where i’m constantly aware of the environmental effects of our choices and “privileges.” in general, i go to near extremes to try & supply food, etc that i feel good about not just for being healthier but better for the planet. but, there has to be room for different paths. i can’t spend all of my time raising food or even researching every piece of food that comes into our lives. nor do i want to. nor do i think that is the best use of my talents when it comes to doing good for the planet.

        sometimes, at least in my opinion, the “pop tart” (or whatever the convenience item may be) is the greater good because it allows me to come home from after being away on a 2-week long work trip and throw breakfast together so my kids & I can hit the slopes or the river. it’s true it’s an objectively “wrong” choice from the point of view of consumerism and ecology, but if i’m making the choice consciously, i can live with it. i’m constantly striving to do better, but i let go of perfection a long time ago.

        (and, yes, the pop tart is just an example, I’ve never fed my kids one of those ever, and i probably never will.)

    1. Overrated… Matthieu Ricard: “Western science is a major response to minor needs.”
      Relative… Inuits find it very convenient to live on ice. I find it very comforting shoveling snow, but some people do not.
      Multidimensional…what is inconvenient for the body may be comforting for the soul. . what is convenient for the body may be inconvenient for the mind. If I eat that pop tart (by the way, how do they taste?) and beat myself up for a week about it, then it is not convenience.
      Physiological needs is just the lowest level of Maslow’s pyramid. If we put all time and effort to satisfy the minor needs, by going to extremes of living in bare survival of the body or by chasing each possible item that may make physical life more convenient, then nothing is left for the major needs. .

      Now you all inconvenienced me, I am thinking of pop tarts, will have to run to convenience store to get some. 🙂

      1. Amen sister, “what is inconvenient for the body may be comforting for the soul”. You just made sense of what i posted above. Go easy on the pop tarts, eat one raw just for kicks…

  23. From reading this post and many of the comments, I’m thinking convenience (as most would define it) is rather inconvenient.

  24. Forget pop tarts. For a trifecta of convenience, low cost and no trash to throw out the window, just smooth a tablespoon or two of peanut butter on whole wheat bread and put it in a lunch pail or tupperware or some non-disposable container and off you go for your commute or your drive to the hills or whatever. Old-fashioned oatmeal works too, for me. Although I realize some of you are anti-grain through a logic that seems byzantine to me…Also, I reuse peanut butter jars and the large oatmeal cannisters will hold a lot of zinnia seed heads for next year’s planting.

    1. Keeping in mind that non ecological peanuts contains a tremendous amount of fungicides and peanut butter may contain a handful of other surprises as well…. and mounting evidence and studies suggest, no planínkly state and show, that grains actually are directly responsible for a vast array of illnesses of the “modern” society. (celiac, crone’s, alzheimers, parodontitis, etc.) Modern as in since the agricultural revolution.
      Of course this information is hushed up and swept under the carpet, because they might have a bad effect on sales. And of course there is also a myriad of agencies and authorities claiming it is all bogus, conspiracy… Until you start looking at who takes care of their fundings and their paychecks.
      Don’t believe it? How (in)convenient that we have google these days…. One night of google-fu should make you wonder.
      Unless you prefer convenience and chose to ignore it.

      1. Ok, Ron, but what do you suggest? Just go on starvation diet? Almonds from CA filled with radiation. All nuts covered with fungicides. All nuts filled with phytic acid unless you soak. Rice full of arsenic. Tea full of fluoride. Veggies devoid of minerals. Potatoes sprayed so they don’t sprout. Good old VT maple syrup full of formaldehyde. And on and on and on..
        Unless you grow your own, harvest your own, all your own, or as much as you can.
        Otherwise, if you can’t what do you do? You know what you know, and you try to choose the best of all evils. .What else?

      2. Hi Bee, somehow I can not add a reply to your reply, so I’ll do it this way.

        If I had all the answers I myself wouldn’t still be struggling, now would I?? All I see, is the info found (not presented) and I have to deal with that. If I had all the answers I’d be a god… or filthy rich…. but most likely dead.
        You want an answer?? Or at least a part of one? Well, ask Ben for instance!! He provides us with plenty of ideas, suggestions and straight forward answers. You have read his book, haven’t you?

        What can you do?? What did a lot of other folks do. Some of which post here… What did you do? What did I do? Refuse! Change!! Dare!! Jump!! And if you land flat on your face… well, some make it, some don’t. But I for one want to belong to the category who would rather look in the mirror and tell himself:” I really gave it my best shot, even if it wasn’t enough.”
        You know what you know? No, you think you know what you know, because it has been fed to you, me, all of us for decades. Be brave, be bold.. Rebel! Ask questions. Never stop asking questions…. And do not accept “no comment” for an answer. Fear not the ugly truth. Open your eyes. Free your mind!
        It is a choice you have to make. A commitment. Any inconveniences involved? Not many, that much I can guarantee you. But I can guarantee you that this high definition. wonderful, polished up, commercial-like world that has been imprinted into our hearts and minds will fall to pieces…. shatter into millions of splinters. Simply because it is not true, not real, false.
        And everyone who feels, sees or thinks in a similar way will have to find their own way in it. Their own way of changing it. Their own way to make it better… Or die trying…. no, die doing!

        And folks like Ben here show us it can be done. We can make a difference. We can make a change. And we can be an inspiration to others, if they should chose to.

      3. No, I haven’t and judging by the reviews and comments I found, I am not likely to do so, either.
        I most certainly do not want to go down the dark path again. I want to focus on positive things, which is hard enough for me to do as it is.

      4. Bet the turtle shown above wishes that the person who threw out that plastic ring had read Derrick Jensen’s work and paid some heed.
        Could you describe the dark path you were on and how i can be positive about the rainbow oil slick on my now lifeless stream, and the ball of brown foam swirling at the base of the waterfall?
        Many reviews and comments, calls to radio talk shows,replys to blogs, etc are hired guns of large corporations and special interest groups to impede and destroy truth diggers and to further their own, often destructive agenda…

      5. I was one of those wishing for a swift demise of mankind. Some sort of virus that’s wipe out 80-90% of earth’s population. Hated the species as a whole… for what they did and still are doing.
        But that wasn’t getting anyone anywhere, unless I was that genius conjuring up such a “cleaning device”, which, with my knowledge of chemistry, was a smaller chance than the 80 richest folks on the planet giving away all their possessions.

        No, I want me and my family to make a difference. To be the change I want to see. I want to make a positive contribution to this world we are living in and on, not just take.
        We really are looking for an opening to start a small farm. Not like the one Ben has, but one that has a larger impact on a local level. Growing food for ourselves just isn’t enough. I want to create a possibility for locals to grow their own food too and supply some of those that can’t themselves with proper food at the lowest price possible. Maybe even create an opportunity for some with a “disability” to contribute to local society and learn about this way of life too. Y’know, people with an long term (mental) illness of some sort or unemployment to have a part in society.
        Maybe I am hopelessly naive or nothing more than a drop in the ocean, but I refuse to stand by and watch, point fingers and blame. Not doing anything is taking sides with those who grab and destroy.

    2. Heck, I like pop tarts! Particularly the cherry filled variety. If I didn’t have such a lazy pancreas and Type 2 diabetes, I’d eat more of ’em! Or, better yet, Moxie and whoppie pies!

  25. ha! i find it very odd and ironic that i seem to have end up somehow defending pop tarts. they’re gross. my kids don’t eat them. they eat nutritious whole foods much of which we grow ourselves most of the time. I’m with you all on 99% of this. i’m just saying many of us have accepted we can’t do it all in the eco & simplification departments, don’t actually want to & feel our contributions are just as meaningful, albeit different. there’s some freedom & burden lifting in that too. the whole reason i love ben’s blog is how it challenges me to constantly evaluate our choices and consider what fits & what doesn’t.

    1. I wasn’t targetting you, Danielle, or your comments. I agree with you. Very few of us are as pure as Ben as far as lifestyle. And I read his blog for the same reason you do, to see how other people think and live.

      1. Page 82 of The Nourishing Homestead section “How We Eat” three days of winter meals – makes me think Hewitts live in some overpriced New York restaurant. The most sinful breakfast: blueberry turnovers made with fermented dough. . .

    2. Exactly. There’s never going to be a single perfect answer; there are always tradeoffs. I think the big lesson from Ben’s post, and this discussion, is that it’s worth taking the time to consider our choices and make them mindfully. (And to insist on being able to choose.) So we’re not just mindlessly following the path of “convenience” for convenience’s sake, but doing whatever will help us and our families to live an authentic life–where that life might (gasp!) include poptarts.

      That said, boy do those blueberry turnovers sound tasty!

    1. Sadly, fracking is in full swing all around me, and the externalities are showing up in the small stream that i used to irrigate my garden from. May as well go ahead though, for who knows what toxins come down with the rain too. Can’t afford lab tests, don’t want to know anyway for what do you do? My wife says i shouldn’t be so bitter, above article says i should. Thanks CJ, read it y’all!!! Think we can grow our own healthy garden veggies, think again….

      1. Depending on where you live, perhaps a solar still would produce enough clean water for your veggies.

      2. Thanks again CJ, but can’t stop the rain (John Fogerty). Anyway what toxins the raindrops pick up as they fall through the air, i have been breathing anyway, which is worse than ingesting them with eating my kale, so will just do as Ron says, “die trying or die doing”…
        Will check out this solar still thing, thanks again. And thank you Ben for allowing us to excange ideas and thoughts here…

      1. It’s starting to get seriously interesting.
        Is he leading next workshop at Ben’s?

        NeoNoah, I had given up on vegetables in the suburban plot, because each one of neighbors pours thousands of gallons of Roundup 9 months of the year on their lawns that with each rain run down the hill into our garden. Not considering that they used 3 different pesticides over the last 7 years on all ash trees and everywhere that roots go, just to see them all dead from ash tree borer anyway..You cringe to see your kids play in the pesticide leaves. . . I guess just a small inconvenience in my very convenient life. .

      2. Gotcha, not a good idea to get lawn clippings from the local landfill, even tho they are bagged for ya…

  26. Reading this entry and all the comments related to convenience reminds me of Colin Beavan’s book and film “No Impact Man”. Although Colin is motivated mainly by environmental concerns and Ben more by self-sufficiency, both strive to determine how many of life’s “modern conveniences” are necessary. And that when we remove some of them from our lives, what is able to be brought in? Health, contentment, happiness, connection to others and self…???

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