What Does “Living Green” Really Mean?

November 21st, 2008

The coldest day of Autumn arrived last night with temperatures around 15 degrees F.  The wood stove is a constant roar of fire and warmth, and the little birds outside are clustered around the feeders.  Have I said how much we enjoy the wood stove?  I think it’s my favorite “investment” I’ve ever made… (better than a lot of others recently!). But the thing works really well and we get a lot of use out of it.  Of course it also helps to lower the heating bill and save on electricity.  And it’s a low-carbon emission stove… so what’s not to like?  I figure in four more years, the money we’ve saved on electricity will have paid for the stove itself.

    Buck Wood Stove

I bought a frozen turkey yesterday and since we didn’t have freezer/fridge space, I just left it outside.  Nice to have winter temps to keep things cold.  Along with a pot of venison chili I made yesterday… yum!  It was a little thin, so I’m going to thicken it up today- it was frozen when I brought it back in.   No, I haven’t taken a deer yet this year, but this finishes the last of the frozen ground venison for the chili.  

Venison chili

Speaking of wild game, this morning was funny- the boy and I are having breakfast and he says, “Daddy, guess what so-and-so brought to school yesterday?”  “Ah, I’m not sure, what?” I reply.  “Well they brought in a deer hoof and a deer tail, and the hoof was kinda bendy,”  he says.  “Hmmm…interesting… What did the teacher say?” I wonder out loud.  “She thought it was really cool!” he said.  I was impressed- his 2nd grade teacher didn’t think it was some weird or strange thing.  

I can’t help but wonder what a teacher’s reaction would have been in a more suburban environment?  For me it was a reminder of the difference between the schools here in the country and those an hour down the road.  In some places they would probably freak out if a kid brought not just a wild animal to school, but parts of that animal, still fresh!  Around here it’s just part of life and the food that feeds the family during the year. 

Living in the country and in small towns is awesome in so many ways (and inconvenient at times and a lot of work). I wouldn’t trade it for anything, at least while I can handle the work.  But in many areas the landscape (of people and places) is changing.  People are buying up the land and building bigger houses in rural areas.  Sometimes it’s called sprawl, with a negative view for unchecked population expansion.  And some of the people moving to the rural areas have a different mindset about a lot of things.  Not necessarily bad, just different.  

Leaves in the barn gutter



(Gutter cleaning time for the barn!  Need to find those gutter helmet thingies to keep the leaves out some day… but the leaves make great compost.  I got lots of exercise on the ladder. Those are the beehives in the background, wrapped for the winter.)

In some cases that population growth brings positive change and affluence to formerly depressed areas.  For now development is coming slowly in our area with the downturn in housing.  I’m certainly not against growth or the choices people make for where to live.  I am definitely for strategic planning and zoning based on community needs and considering local needs and interests in complying with state and federal law. 

I don’t think we should all be closeted away in clones of planned communities near the cities.  That’s fine if you choose to live there (and I might too one day), but I think it’s also okay to move out and find your own place in the country.   Last time I checked it was still a free country, though there’s some debate about what it will be like in a few years…



It also seems like there is a movement of people who want to live a simpler life, with sustainability as the theme.  Gardens, some livestock and natural living- a choice to find balance in life, maybe to “live green”, or to seek a more frugal and independent lifestyle for one’s family.  It makes me wonder how the contrasts and dynamics will play out between suburban and rural values?  Being “green” is quite fashionable these days.  Who doesn’t want a healthy planet?  We all do. But I think some people simply embrace the idea and fashion of a cultural change in being “green” while many others actually make hard choices about living it everyday.  

(Isn’t this a cool picture with the contrast of sky and trees?  The leaves just came off last week, and I’m still getting used to how open the sky feels.)

Treetops bare of leaves against November sky

Sure, lots of folks choose “green values” and adopt the “green movement” with recycling, organic and sustainable food production, and low-carbon transportation choices as leading themes.  And yet I think a lot of folks living in the country do the same thing everyday in ways that present challenges and choices that our more urban friends often don’t understand.  I wish I could speak more for myself in terms of sustainable living or homesteading like Ron’s and Karl’s families do.   We’re not there yet by a long shot, but we’re focused in other ways on growing food naturally, canning, planting trees, managing resources for wildlife, recycling materials on the land…

But the dynamics are so different from that of our friends an hour down the road.  Many of us also use bigger vehicles, engines and fuels to support family, agriculture and farming, we burn wood for warmth and even for reducing the fire hazard of too much brush around the property.  And we have to drive longer distances for schools, shopping, medical care. 

I guess my point (yes, I think I have one) is that it bugs the heck out of me when some ninny half a country away thinks they have all the answers based on the context of their lifestyle choices.  Living a “green lifestyle” can mean different things to different people, with many of the same goals in mind.   While the choices I make might be different from the choices another person makes, we can work toward those same goals for a healthy planet and find a balance with the reality that exists for our family’s needs.  

Now it’s time to go stir those “green” chilies in the pot again…

5 Responses to “What Does “Living Green” Really Mean?”

  1. My teacher never batted an eye when I brought in a three eyed pig to school. The neighbor boys brought in a two headed one and one born inside out. I was jealous that mine only had a third eye.

    I just got inside from cleaning out the gutters. I tried using ladders once but then just put on grippy soled tennis shoes and do it from up above. Much easier but a little spooky on the two story part of the house.

  2. Well, I think a three-eyed pig is amazing! Never saw that before- have seen the two-headed thing. And I don’t want to see one “inside out”… don’t even know what that means! :) Hmmm… grippy shoes for the gutters- never tried that? That’s definitely spooky- think I would use a rope!

  3. I notice the attitude differences up here in northeast Wisconsin compared to more suburban Indiana where I grew up. Down there, people protested hunting of deer, and regularly harassed hunters in the woods. Up here, hunting season is a super big deal, and the TV stations encourage you to email pictures of your “big buck” so they can show them on the news! If those Indiana stations showed an image of a dead deer, there would be a riot! (Personally I very much prefer living in Wisconsin! :)

  4. Hi Lisa- What a great comparison and example about the differences around the country. I like that- pictures of the big buck :) We drove through Wisconsin and Michigan last summer- it was so beautiful! I can understand how you enjoy living there. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Thanks! I love it up here, and all it took was a camping trip to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan with an old boyfriend, and I was hooked! Frankly, I’m enjoying the area more without him, but you’ll have that. :)

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