I think one of the hardest parts about making changes in your life is visualizing what your life would look like afterwards. When we talk about making 90% reduction changes, it sounds so drastic, so transformative, that I imagine a lot of people think "Oh lord, I can't even conceive of that." They imagine that if they did that, everything would change. The fact is, however, some few things do change, and others simply go on the regular way. And in fact, quite rapidly, your new practices become the "regular way" and you stop noticing them - or at least, I do.
In the interest of helping more people realize that they too could Riot, or at least make dramatic reductions in their consumption, I am hereby exposing my life in its full and utter boringness - or at least one day of it. Yesterday, Wednesday, November 7, to be exact. I invite other Rioters and those who aren't Rioting but are committed to to reducing their impact to do the same over the next week or two, and post a link here in the comments.
Even better, you'll be able to read this post and a whole bunch of others like it from people living very different lives than mine, but doing the same project. Miranda, Design Goddess and co-founder of the Riot has put up a wonderful new website...ta da! http://www.riot4austerity.org/. We're going to collect some great stories there over the next few weeks, and there's already a lot of good material. Among other cool things, the remarkable Edson has created a usage calculator for all those who want to riot but are too intimidated by the numbers to play.
Ok, here goes:
4:08 am: Dear freakin' g-d, what the hell time is it. *4:08* - oh, noooooo. But yep, that's the sound of four boys bouncing, chatting, and wide awake. You see my boys are very early risers - usually between 5 and 5:30 am. That part is ok - they are in bed by 7, and I don't mind that much. But it always takes a long, long time for them to adapt to time changes, and my kids are still on daylight savings time. Hence, the hour+ earlier rise. Ugh.
And worst of all, it is my day to get up. Eric was out playing banjo last night, and it is my turn. So I haul myself out of bed, throw on a thick, fuzzy robe over warm pajamas (we don't heat the upstairs bedrooms, so we dress warmly at night), visit the composting toilet briefly and open the kid's door. They are, of course, bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to start the day. I, on the other hand am surly, despite the sweetness of their cheerful greetings.
4:15 am. If it were really cold, I would start the cookstove straight off, but it isn't that bad downstairs. Even though we didn't bother keeping a fire going overnight, the lingering warmth of the heat held in the cast iron is enough to make the house comfy at 60ish. No one is cold - I'm dressed as mentioned above, and all four boys wear long johns under fleece pajamas. So instead of rushing to get the stove going, the first order of business is to let the dogs out, perform a cloth diaper change for Asher and then get breakfast for the boys. I'm still not conscious enough to eat anything. The kids drink milk and eat rice pudding that I baked last night with local milk, jasmine rice, bulk almonds, vanilla and honey. This is a favorite breakfast and I get a lot of compliments on it from the kids. My surliness fades a little.
4:30 am. Story time. Isaiah and Asher both have a selection of books for me to read. We do nursery rhymes, an Inuit folktale, a book about Chinese cooking and "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" which I read three times. I decline a fourth repetition and go off to light the cookstove. I get it on one match. Things are looking up!
5:00. Water has boiled, I have drunk my first (normally only, but 4 am is pushing it, so there are two today) cup of bulk, fair trade Earl Grey. Things are really looking up. I punch down the bread dough that Eric made last night before bed, grease four bread pans and dump the dough in. I set them to rise for a few minutes in the cookstove warming oven, while I get the oven hot enough to bake bread. I get help Eli dress himself, and dress Asher. The other two are ok getting themselves dressed, although I do supervise clothing selections. Because our house hovers in the low 60s with the cookstove going at this time of year (nights in the high 20s, low 30s, days in the 40s) everyone puts on a sweater.
5:15. Bread is baking. I'm doing dishes in the dishpan, to conserve water. Brief and best forgotten disciplinary crisis involving Asher's enthusiasm for hurling objects at his brothers.
5:30. Ok, I'm picking up speed. The kids are listening to Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes on Asher's toy CD player (using batteries charged up in the solar chargers) (for the rest of the day I will be humming "Did you ever ever ever in your long-legged life/See a long legged Sailor/Kiss his long-legged wife?" I fail miserably to resist the temptation to transform the lyrics into something far raunchier in my head.) I run out on the front porch to check the temperature and bring in yesterday's laundry off the line. Today's load of wash is on in the machine. Eli's school lunch is ready - leftover noodles with tofu and greens from yesterday, a local apple, homemade cookies, water in his water bottle. Will I get the giant pile of laundry on the guest bed sorted out today, finally?
5:45. Nope. Asher's favorite song..."Mommy, Mommy, stay with me." I leave the laundry and Asher settles himself firmly on my lap. Eli joins him and there is some wrestling over possession of my right knee. It is still quite dark, and there are lights on in only two rooms. The kids fight over who gets to carry the flashlight when we go out into the rest of the house to get things. Since everyone is excited about the dark, we go outside for a short while to watch it get light. The dogs come and join us and help keep us warm in the cold morning. We see some bats flying around too. The light breaking over the spruces is transcendently beautiful.
6:00. My contemplation of this beautiful, peaceful moment is interrupted by an argument over the Halloween candy inventory, and whether there are still Smarties left. Since Eric and I have both been sneaking them, there may not be. I remain resolutely neutral on this subject, and when we go back in, pretend to need to feed the fire so that my guilt goes unnoticed. I wonder whether I have to count the Smarties and mini-snickers bars I ate from the kids Halloween bags as non-local food, since I didn't purchase it?
6:30. Ok, I let them watch a video. I know a good environmentalist wouldn't even have a tv. It is a constant battle at our house (not with the kids, between me and my husband), but since we've got it, I cave and let everyone watch an old (from when I was a kid - it really was better then) Sesame Street episode. I watch too for a few minutes, drinking that second cup of tea. When the bread comes out of the oven, we all eat some hot and fresh while singing together "Draw a Daisy that's D, D-lightful...See for Being Handy, D's Fine and Dandy." I'm enjoying myself disturbingly much.
7:00. Eli goes out to play in the front yard on the playset - I check to see that the gate is locked (he wanders), the other boys are still engrossed in SuperGrover. Time to wake up Eric - 3 hours of extra sleep is enough (to be fair, he got up super-early the previous day, and gets up with the kids more often than I do). Exchange of data about kids, food, diapers, laundry and today's homeschool projects. Eric gets dressed and scavenges the rice pudding the kids didn't eat, and then we get the kids all together to sing "Modeh Ani" the Jewish morning prayer.
I make a third cup of tea (herbal this time, lemon verbena, nettle and oat straw - way better than it sounds), add some more wood to the stove and wander off to the computer. I'm within a few weeks of the book deadline, so I'm spending much, much more time in front of a screen than I really like. Today won't be too bad, though, because Eric is working and I've got other commitments.
7:30. I'm logged on, the boys are starting on homeschool math. I'll work until 10:30, when Eric has to head to SUNY. Eric and the boys will do manipulative math and practice doing problems in their head. At 8:15, the bus arrives and Eli heads off to school. This is his big energy consumption - school is 21 miles each way, and in the morning, he's the only kid on the special needs bus. The rest of us *might* make our 90% reduction goals, Eli won't - he'll probably come out about 30% of the national average, which puts him way ahead of most of the country, but still is a nut we haven't been able to crack.
8:30-10:30. I work on my book, Eric and the boys take a walk in the woods, collect kindling, chop some wood for the stove, hang up the newly washed insulated curtains that help keep our heat in (it was too warm to want them until recently), clean the living room and have spelling practice. Simon reads poems aloud for a while. I hide. It is best if Asher is not reminded of my presence.
10:30. Eric departs for his 17 mile drive to work. He carpools one day a week, but he works so much from home and such odd hours that it is hard to find a carpool. Before he leaves we verify that there's nothing we need - he goes past a grocery store, hardware store and most everything else, so if we did, he could pick things up. We're generally pretty organized about keeping stocked up, though, so nothing is needed. Eric grabs his homemade lunch (same as Eli's - leftover thai noodles with greens and homemade tofu and a Fall Pippin apple, his water bottle and his backpack and goes off to teach "The Exploration of Space." I take over at home, and turn off the power strip on the computer.
11:00 Asher is ready for his nap. I lie down with him on the futon in the back bedroom and nurse him and read a Georgette Heyer novel (did you think I just read peak oil and climate change books - G-d forbid, I'd go mad!), while Isaiah and Simon play quietly (mostly) together. Acknowledging that while a two hour nap seems a perfectly wise and rational way to spend the mid portion of a day that began at 4 am, I'm not going to get one, I get up and go make lunch - the same reheated noodles, warmed in the cookstove oven. We keep the leftovers in containers in our coolers, since we no longer use the refrigerator. We have a freezer, at least for now, so every night I put the day's ice packs back into the freezer and take out a new, cold set, and put them in the cooler with the leftovers, the milk and various other things that need to be kept cool. But we're getting to the very end of that - pretty soon, we'll just be able to put things out on our covered porch, or in a cooler outside. Natural refrigeration!
11:30. Lunchtime. Everyone enjoys their meal, and the boys and I walk out to get the mail. I must, must, must do more to get rid of my stupid catalogs - if nothing else, they are ruining my garbage/recycling totals. I resolve to make some more calls to companies asking them to take me off their mailing list. Soon.
Noon. Homeschool time with the boys. We read a fairy tale, practice handwriting, talk about how wetland plants and animals survive the winter, and then, as a reward, play two games of Candyland. I cheat to let the kids win - maybe not the best moral lesson if they catch me, but cheating at Candyland does make the game slightly less monotonous. I take the chicken carcass we ate on Friday out of the freezer and stick it in a pot of water with some onion, garlic and ginger. We'll have Laotian style chicken soup tonight.
1:30: Asher is up, and wants his lunch. All three boys get a glass of apple cider, and Simon revists his own meal. I often just put their plates aside for a while, since they are usually hungry again around the time Asher wakes up. Rather than give them a snack, unless they've cleared their plates, they get their lunches again. While they eat, I sneak outside, hang some more laundry on the line and split a bit of wood to build up the fire. I even manage to get a load of wool diaper covers and linens soaking in a bucket - they need to be hand washed.
2:00. Everyone cleans up. The kids tidy their toys, help scrape food scraps into the compost bin, and we all go upstairs to work on cleaning their room. Mine needs it worse. We mostly pick everything up, but get distracted by the pleasure of playing "hide the penguin" where Coltrane, their giant stuffed penguin (believe it or not, Simon named him without any help from us) "hides" and we all pretend we can't find him. It sounds stupid writing this, and it is, but we like it. Oh, and there's an extended game of "The Minister's Cat" and a discussion of what an adjective is. Isaiah and Asher don't quite get it, but they contribute gamely anyway.
3:00. Eli's bus will be here soon. We all troop outside, bundled in sweatshirts, and go visit the bunnies. The chickens and ducks are roaming around, and we take the angora rabbits out of their hutch and put them in the bunny tractor on the lawn. The kids bring parsley from the garden over to feed them, but they mostly ignore it for the grass. They also pick comfrey for both rabbits and hens, who love the stuff. Even one of our dogs, Rufus, enjoys comfrey.
We recently had one of the birch trees that shades our house during the summer taken down - sadly, they aren't long lived and the tree was at the end of its life. We discuss why we need another tree to provide shade there, what kind of tree we want (something that leafs out fairly late, since we enjoy the solar gain in spring, and something food producing) and debate what kind of fruit tree we have. The kids help me move some of the wood under cover to dry for next year's fires.
3:30 Eli is home, and we all indulge in our post school totally unsustainable ritual - popsicles. Eli is addicted to them, and gets one every day after school. About 2/3 of the time I make them from organic juices, sometimes organic juices I make myself and preserve. This time, they are eating red dye # whatever style popsicles from the grocery store. What can I say? Everyone follows up with milk and an apple, except Simon, who eats dried blueberries from our garden.
4:00. I should have planted the garlic a month ago, but I'm behind. Everyone helps me get it done, which means it takes twice as long, but we plant four garden beds of garlic, and mulch the beds with leaves we pick up on the roadside during our forays into town. The kids love the leaves, and are excited by how warm they feel from the process of decomposition. We talk about decomposition and heat. This is a good chance to visit the various compost piles, and I bring out the humanure bucket, and take it out to the bin. Isaiah walks with me, and we see some yarrow, discuss its medicinal uses, and spot a wild turkey in the woods.
5:30. Dinner time. The kids are flagging, so we don't all eat together. They've had a long day. They get the non-spicy version of the chicken soup, which is made with the tomatoes we've been ripening on the windowsill, the bits of chicken I pulled off the bones, lime juice, keffir lime leaves (we have a tree that I keep in the house), lemongrass (I keep a plant going over the winter), and onions. It is a wonderful, tart, brothy soup. The kids eat it with gusto, except for Isaiah who is in a picky stage. He eats brown rice and stir fried cabbage and carrots, while the other kids eat everything. It is dark already, and we have the lights on in the dining room and living room, but the rest of the house is dark. After dinner each kid gets to pick out a piece of halloween candy, which they do with much excitement and discussion of the merits of each kind.
6:00: Boys back into long johns and pajamas, and we march upstairs to do bedtime. We take a flashlight, since the lights are off downstairs while we get the boys settled. I read a chapter of _The Long Winter_ with Simon and one of _Heidi_ with Isaiah. Asher gets 2 repetitions of _Goodnight Moon_, and Eli elects to have me sing his favorite song "Chelsea Morning" to him. I don't sound like Joni Mitchell, but I don't let that stop me. Normally, the boys are in bed around 7, but by 6:30 Isaiah is asleep, Asher snuggled on my chest and halfway there, and Eli keeps saying "goodnight" which means "go away and let me sleep." We do. Despite the fact that we have four beds in their room, the kids all sleep together on one futon, like a pile of puppies.
6:30: Eric heads outside to do the "critter chores" - I feed the dogs and bank the stove. Our soup is ready, the cabbage and rice are set. I go back to the computer for an hour or so before dinner, while Eric sweeps the dining room, wipes down the oilcloth, puts the cloth napkins in the wash, sets beans to soak for soup tomorrow and tidies the kitchen. The house is dark, except the kitchen and the computer room. It is also cooling down (stove is banked for the night) so I put a bathrobe on over my clothes.
8:00: Dinner. The food is terrific, even if I am the one saying it. We elect to eat on the couch in the living room, and both of us sit companionably and read while we eat, talking occasionally and enjoying the quiet together. The rest of the house is completely dark, except for the glow of the fire on the cookstove. I'm reading the latest UN Report on Food, Eric is reading a biography of Werner Von Braun.
8:45: Dishes set to soak (will do them in the morning), food put away, ice packs rotated, stove given one more attention, curtains closed up for the night, draft stoppers against the doors, lights out, dogs in, boys tucked... we take a quick shower together to save water. And perhaps we'd better close the curtains here.
Don't forget to check out other "Day in the Life" posts at http://www.riot4austerity.org/, and links in the comments section here. Remember, you don't have to be a rioter to participate - just pick a day, write a post and let us know!