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The Struggle Continues

I had an interesting dream last night.  I was living in some kind of two story apartment, or possibly house, and when I came into the living room & dining room area, it was almost completely empty.  There were a few pieces of furniture and a picture or two, and that was it.  While a bit stark, it had a calming and zen-like atmopshere.  I thought to myself, ‘I’ve done a good job here.  Now to work on the next level’ and I headed upstairs where a considerable amount of clutter still waited.

My life, once again, has moved into a phase of uncertainty.  If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that this is a pattern.  A pattern that comes from having contract work that lasts only 8 months, followed by four months of unemployment.  Repeat.  And whenever I feel uncertain, I get a strong desire to clean, sort, and purge.  I think it’s a displaced outlet for a need to control but an inability to do so.  As the dream suggests, I have accomplished a lot in that department, but there’s still more work to do.  This weekend I’ve been tackling my to-do list with quite the fury.

While it is not even quite November, I’m already worrying about April.  Time is flying by at an insane rate and I’m having to make decisions about my next step before I’ve even completed the first half of this one.  Jobs are starting to be posted, future opportunities discussed.  The most likely scenario is that I will be doing contract teaching at the university again next year as it is highly unlikely that I will find full-time work at this point.  The competition is too stiff, and without publications in addition to dissertation in hand, I just don’t measure up.

While I absolutely love the courses I’m teaching, the prospect of doing this for another year is at times depressing.  I’m working very long hours for little more than a poverty line income, and have a schedule that makes it just about impossible to have any balance in life, let alone finish the dissertation or get things published.  I must teach at least five courses or I cannot make my rent.  To put things in perspective, a full-time work load for faculty is three courses, and most find that exhausting.  I have no time for a social life, no time for my dogs.  No time even for food prep, although I’m trying to do something about that this weekend.  I have been managing to make one large something every week – pot of soup, a casserole, or whatnot, that I end up eating all week, along with fresh cheese, yogurt and soaked oatmeal.  Throw in apples and pears, and the occasional pepperette from Fieldgate Organics, and that’s my diet.  Oh, and I keep finding loaves of bread in the freezer, thank goodness.  I don’t remember when I last had time to bake bread.

Despite all this, I refuse to break down and buy industrial food.  Well, I have eaten the occasional meal at the cafeteria, but this week it was only once.  Otherwise I am still managing to stick to my principles.  The main thing that keeps me going is that I know too much about what’s in industrial food.  To me it simply is not food – it’s toxic chemicals.  That, and it’s a system of oppression, marginalization, and environmental destruction.  When I look at it, I can picture the people, animals and land that suffers due to it’s production.  Or rather, I cannot NOT picture it.  My mind floods with images.  That makes it easy for me to avoid, for the most part.  And when I do give in to spontaneous hunger, I usually feel gross enough afterwards to get back on track in a hurry.  Not to mention the guilt over the ridiculously wasteful packaging I end up staring at afterwards.

I think things will get a bit easier as I get better at organizing my classes, and also as I build a library of lectures and readings that I can implement.  Right now I’m doing everything from scratch.  The learning curve I’m on is tremendous, and I’m actually really enjoying exploring all the material I need to know in order to run my courses.  In the long run, this will serve me well.  In the short term, I feel like I’m trying to jog up Mount Everest.

Yesterday I took the whole day off from any academic work, and just focused on getting caught up around my house.  I finally got around to ordering wood for the winter (the main source of heat in this house!), and spent several hours moving and stacking the equivalent of three pick-up trucks worth of wood.  I had three more loads delivered today, which is waiting on the lawn.  I’m not sure my back is up to moving any more wood today, however.  Perhaps tomorrow.

I also emptied my composters, sifted out the good compost, turned what remained and put it back into the bins.  While doing so I went through my refrigerators and pulled out all the composting veggies I had never gotten around to cooking or preserving.  Such a waste, but there’s something very calming about looking at an empty fridge for me right now.  A full fridge screams food chores, and I feel guilty and tired just thinking about all that I *should* be doing.  Last week – for the first time – I didn’t even have time to process my milk.  Two liters of cream and 6 liters of beautiful, fresh milk, all went sour.  Fortunately the dogs and cats thought that was pretty delicious, so it don’t go completely to waste.  I have another milking waiting right now, but I will get to it today.  Just as soon as I finish un-burying my kitchen.  What a catastrophe!  But I did some work on that as well yesterday.  And again this morning.

While I don’t know where I am going to live past April, I am fairly certain that it won’t be here.  This is a beautiful place to spend the summer, but I shouldn’t be even staying here this winter.  The house is in such bad shape that it is becoming unhealthy.  One of my near-future chores will be to dismantle one of the bedrooms because the roof is leaking badly enough that things are going to start to mould in there.  I’ve been pestering the landlord to fix it since May, and a couple of weeks ago he said he simply was not going to do it.  I guess he’s just waiting for it to collapse completely.  That very well may happen – last winter the soffits blew off on the north side of the house, and the whole roof looks like a saddle.  Shingles end up all over the lawn every time a windstorm comes through.  So I need to get my stuff out, and seal it up that room, and hope the leak doesn’t spread.  I have to seal all my windows too, which makes me cringe.  You know how much I hate buying anything plastic, and I know of no other alternatives for sealing windows.  And there are a lot of windows in this house (one of it’s best features).

Just an aside, while I complain about the state of this house, I am sitting by the fire, looking out through a panorama of windows at a stunning valley of fall colours.  I live in a falling down shack, but I have a million dollar view and that really makes up for a lot!

Because I don’t know where I will be in the spring, I couldn’t bring myself to spread my nice compost on the gardens here.  Even with good soil, they produced very poorly, being too shaded.  So I put it in a large rubbermaid container and will tuck it away in the shed for now.  Likely I will bring it to my parents’ house for their gardens.  I have more or less commandeered the vegetable garden at their house, and last weekend planted garlic and onions while I was house & dog sitting for them.  I can’t seem to not grow something, even if I don’t have my own yard!  I didn’t get to eat much of what I planted this past summer but my family sure enjoyed what came up.  That made the effort very worth while.

One other important task I got done yesterday was getting my dried herbs into jars.  This is actually a fairly time-intensive process.  Between the herbs collected at my CSA, and the few that did well in my garden, I managed to harvest quite a good haul of rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, and mint.  I have a little oregano and Anise Hyssop as well.  And parsley.  I also have a nice little stash of camomile, lavender and calendula for teas.  I had bunches of all these things hanging around the house.  Now nicely dry, I had to pull the leaves off their branches – all done over a few sheets of clean paper – and then pour this into tightly sealing jars.  I didn’t preserve any herbs last winter and I really regretted that, so made it a priority this year.  Herb gardens are easy to get going and produce prolifically with little effort.  They also grow well in containers.  So while I didn’t get any veggies going this year, at least I accomplished this much.

Well, time to get down to my courses. I hope to finish up around 6pm tonight so that I can spend some time getting a nice venison stew going (thanks to the kind man who delivered my wood for the bonus of a couple of nice venison steaks!), and perhaps a pot of soup.  And of course a batch of cheese and butter.  I also have some red peppers cut up, waiting in the fridge to be turned into jelly.  If they haven’t started to rot, I hope to get to that too.  Next weekend, maybe I’ll get a chance to bake bread.  Fingers crossed!


One Response

  1. Hi–I’ve been browsing and came across this. It sounds like a great adventure, even if a tough one.

    I thought you might be interested in an initiative that is somewhat related–linking food and plastic pollution. It is a very tiny effort I’m undertaking with my sister-in-law, here in Ottawa and you can read about it (though it sounds like your time would be better spent writing your dissertation, so maybe better not) at the link above.

    Meanwhile, here is a link to a petition we have developed, asking local fruit producers to return to or devise biodegradable cardboard containers and stop selling their fruit in single-use plastic clam shells as they did this year. Sign it if you have a moment, and even better–help us out by circulating among Ontario networks.

    Good luck with your efforts!

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