I have been gone for just over a year. By that I mean from the blog, and for the earlier part of the year in many respects, the home, without even venturing far from home. How can that be? Why so, when in my last blog post (Craftivism, Activism) I was there – all guns blazing? My ambitions haven’t changed, so what happened? For a while I have bumbled through with what ever time I have aside from payed work, revolving around my usual eclectic range of activities, which some may think of as old-fashioned and housewifely. Perhaps they are, but there I go, getting somewhere with some aims, failing with others. There was a period for a few months, though, when I have never failed quite so much. My attempts at looking after what, I lightheartedly call the ‘homestead’, were sporadic to say the least, and at times almost non-existent. This might seem to be a somewhat dismal story to report, but after some reflection I see it as instructive, as a call to keep going and even renew my efforts in 2018.

Let’s rewind a little. Back in mid-February 2017 Mr Gohomespun and I decided to inject some of our own time into a work-related project (for we are both in the same kind of work).  We never thought it would take so long, and take up so much of our time. Weeks went by, working on it in the evenings, at the weekends and through bank holidays until it was finally done.

Before this started we had thought things through: the allotment was going to look better and produce more of our own food, the pantry shelves under the stairs would be groaning under the weight of easy-to-store food from the allotment (butternut squash and pumpkins in crates, borlotti beans in jam jars), we’d carry on with the oh so sensible, planned shopping, our batch cooking bulked out with beans and pearl barley. I’d keep up my own green-living approaches, such as creative mending of clothes, making new clothes, knitting socks, spinning yarn, more steps along the road towards plastic-free living (or more realistically, plastic-light at best) . You name it, I intended it. I had some new aims to add, which will probably appear on this blog in time.

Then what happened? With all the concentrated activity the cracks started to show. The greenhouse, cold and empty in February had some warmer days in March but remained empty. In April the seedlings appeared but failed to flee the nest to the allotment which was successfully growing weeds. We worked into the evening on ‘the project’ but found we hadn’t thought about cooking, and hadn’t shopped, hadn’t produce anything of our own. The clothes mending pile grew, a half-knitted sock retired to the knitting bag. It came out sporadically and then the finished pair was, at least, eventually gratefully received by Mr Gohomespun some time ago. An outdoor renovation project stalled, and the list goes on.

To top it all I went down with what I now think was whooping cough, which I kindly passed on to Mr Gohomespun, and we suffered together with it for about three months.

With only 24 hours in a day and a virus in our system, it’s no surprise we under-performed on the household front. Why couldn’t we keep up with everything? I find that revisiting the past few months has me in a philosophical frame of mind. I am wondering, what does this say about a specialised versus a more eclectic approach to life, the specialist and the generalist mindset, producing at home to provide what you need versus producing outside of the home to earn money to buy what you need?

We are in a privileged position. Crop failures on the allotment didn’t mean we were going to starve, not attending to outdoor renovation wasn’t going to result in a breach of our defences from impending natural disaster (as far as we were aware). The house wasn’t going to fall down. We did some apologising to neighbours that our house looks like a building site AGAIN – they are so understanding, and we are lucky. We can aim to have a degree of self-sufficiency by choice: it isn’t just a fact of life because we have no other option. And so, until we found our way back to where we wanted to be, it was only too easy to do what most people do. We fell back on convenience. We relied more on ready-made food, the bin filled with plastic, and we had a tendency to waste food.

I think this is the case the longer you spend on very specialised work. You hit a tipping point and can develop tunnel vision. A theme has been developing in my mind of late and that is ‘tunnel vision’ versus ‘holistic’ thinking.

Here we are then, a year later. It seems so relevant, considering what’s in the news at the moment. Few can have missed the news about the rising tide of plastics in the oceans, the knowledge that our clothes and electrical goods (in fact, any kind of goods) given away for recycling are either not recycled at all or end up in poorer countries around the world, causing pollution or social problems. I’m surprised these issues have taken so long to break the news big as they have been bubbling along under the surface for a long time now. Food is always in the news. Concerns about factory farming have polarised views on a par with Brexit.

We could all think either that it’s a storm in a teacup, or it’s all hopeless and we might as well give up now and demand that politicians and experts sort it out. Like many green living or zero waste warrior bloggers, I’m more of the mindset that we can all play our part. I find I share many of their views, but I have my own peculiar take on this.

Want to attempt plastic-free shopping? Come on a trip down memory lane with me, my late mum and my grandmother (my nan). We’re going shopping 1970s style.

Are you confused about all the opinions on what we should eat in order to save the planet? Should we continue to eat meat or should we go for a plant-based diet? I’m not going to give a definite ‘you must’ answer, but come on a trip with me around my area, and I’ll attempt to visit some places very different from my own. It’s a way of tackling what questions we might ask of ourselves.