Happiness is a Warm Slice of Bread.


I’ve wondered several times recently if it’s worth doing all we’re trying to do to live differently. Life can be so easy if you’re willing to just run down to the grocery store and buy pretty packages of ready-made food that bill themselves proudly as “natural,” “healthy,” and “old-fashioned.” And I will freely admit that for a few weeks (OK, months) after bringing our new baby home, I succumbed to the convenience. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I made the mistake of looking at an ingredient list on something I was about to feed my family for supper. Yeah. Bad idea. Now, I’m trying (read: struggling valiantly while wearing a baby on my chest) to get back into the habit of cooking from scratch.

Fortunately, I’m blessed with a sweet husband who loves to cook, so if the baby needs me around suppertime, Ben is totally capable of stepping in and fixing food for the three of us. Over the past year of pregnancy and babyhood, he’s also been awesome about taking care of the chickens and rabbits whenever necessary. I hope I won’t ever take for granted his willingness to come home after 10+ hours of work and still take an active part around the house. I’m trying to do as much as possible on my own, though, because I hate so much for anything to add to his burden.

But really, at times like this, it does seem so tempting to just let all of that stuff go. Let Ben come home from work and enjoy a well-earned rest. Let me focus on Legos and Golden Books and baby snuggles. Isn’t that all that really matters? Obviously, the answer is yes. And no.

I really do believe that we’re doing what’s best for our family by making the choices we’re making. Even the ones that might make other people think we’re crazy or have our priorities completely out of whack. (I’m pretty sure half of my Facebook friends have gotten sick of my agricultural/anti-GMO/crunchy-ish posts and unsubscribed from me!) And I want to be totally honest about the fact that we cheat sometimes. I don’t ever want to give the impression that we have this whole thing figured out. We don’t. But we’re trying.

For one thing, for reasons I’ll explain soon in another post, this will not be The Year of the Garden. I got a few tomato and pepper plants in the ground last month (didn’t even try to start from seed this year!), but my poor eggplants, okra, and cucumbers never even made it out of the pots. Next year, though, we should have a fantastic start as we work in all of the rabbit and chicken manures, straw, and leaves we piled on the garden plot this past winter.

We’ve also decided to cut down on the number of chickens we have. Our main coop is overcrowded, mostly because we planned to replace our older hens as their laying slowed down, only to find that they continued to produce like champs right alongside the new pullets. And overcrowding has led to feather-picking, so my beautiful girls aren’t so beautiful anymore. I’ve put up portable fencing in front of their coop so that they have more space and fresh ground to work through. But the simple fact is that we have too many.

So we are cutting back where we can and trying to lighten the workload. But in other ways, I want to do more. We’re using cloth diapers about 90% of the time, so laundry has increased somewhat, but it’s hardly overwhelming. (And now when I do have to use them, I realize just how nasty disposable diapers smell!) I have high hopes of doing more canning this summer and fall as well as making our own baby food, even though it looks like most of the produce for all of that will have to come from the farmer’s market. And I’ve been experimenting with new bread recipes, including this super quick and easy whole wheat from Modern Homesteaders. It’s so satisfying and absolutely scrumptious with last fall’s apple butter!

Whole Wheat Loaves

Mostly, though, when I make bread, it’s the same sourdough my mom made when I was a little girl. It takes two days to get from starter to bread, but the plus side is that you only spend a few minutes at a time working on it. Feed the starter, wait 12 hours, make the dough, let it rise 12 hours, knead it and make loaves, let them rise 10 hours, and bake. Given the lengthy time frames, though, it’s not uncommon for me to (finally!) get the boys settled down for the night and realize that I still have to mix up the dough or form the loaves. Funny how long those few minutes of work can seem when I know I could be curling up in my soft bed!

My 3-month-old, while a better sleeper than his brother was, is still waking me up a couple of times a night. So when I’m up late making bread, I do wonder if this (like so many other aspects of the life we’re trying to make) is worth the effort and the loss of rest. But the next day, I pull the finished loaves out of the oven and cut a slice while it’s still almost too warm to handle, but that’s when the butter melts into it the best. And I hand it to The Boy (just like my mom used to give me the first slice when I was little), and he takes a bite and says, “Oh, Mommy, you make the best bread in the whole world.” (Seriously, how did I get such a sweet kid?) And it means so much more than the extra 20 minutes of sleep would have meant. And someday, even if he never understands how much work went into it, he will remember that his mama used to bake the best bread ever.

I think that matters. I think it’s important.  And I think it’s totally worth it.

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