Is it sustainability or frugality?

I've been pondering this for a while. When I was house hunting, I had a definite list of wants. I wanted a 3 bedroom house (yes, even though I'm the only human that lives here, 3 bedrooms gives me the ability to have both a home office and a guest room). I wanted a lot that was either fenced or fence-able (it's all about the dog, you know). I wanted a dining room. I wanted a house in a certain price range, but that was structurally sound. I wanted a house with a garage, and that was close to the water.

All of those were "wants" not needs (well, except for the structurally sound bit!). I was willing to compromise.

The one thing that I was not willing to compromise on?

A large, sunny lot.

Because I believe in living a sustainable lifestyle, as much as I possibly can.

This, for various reasons, will be my first vegetable garden since childhood (trying to grow tomatoes on a small, shaded balcony in Saskatoon does not count). And boy, do I have plans.

I want beans, and peas, and radishes and lettuce, and tomatoes (gotta have tomatoes) and peppers both sweet and hot, and herbs. I want rhubarb, and strawberries and raspberries. Asparagus. And cucumbers. And maybe corn. Possibly potatoes. And of course onions and garlic. And and and...

There are a lot of reasons for this. I love gardening, both food and flower. I think what you grow yourself is better for you, and if we all did it, we would substantially reduce our burden on this planet (think of the gas required to get strawberries grown in South America to Canada). And as much as I love mowing the lawn, I would love to mow a smaller lawn that much more.

I have been reading books, and surfing the web, and reading different blogs about sustainable living (like this one. And this. And this. And this fantastic one (maybe I can get a hawk??) And I've already mentioned this one).

I've joined a frugal living group on Yahoo, looking to learn from their experience.

And I learned something I had previously known, but had forgotten. Frugal doesn't necessarily mean sustainable.

I try to live my life, and let others live theirs. If what someone is doing doesn't impact me, then, really, do I have the right to criticize (obviously not talking about human rights abuses, etc.)? But since when is the definition of frugality "get as much processed food as you can as cheaply as possible"?

Don't get me wrong - I'm not some granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing hippy (although I do love granola, and actually have all the ingredients on hand to make my own). I drive a 6-cylinder car with leather seats (heated leather seats. Hey, I live in Canada. We have winter here. It's long and cold. And besides, I bought the car off the lot and it came that way :) ). I have a small passion for Kraft Dinner (that would be Kraft Mac & Cheese for my southern neighbours). I have been known to eat at McDonalds on occasion (and (treason!!) I think McDs has better coffee than Tim Hortons!).

This "frugal" living group is interesting. There are tons of posts about coupon clipping. To teach others how to get a passel of frozen dinners for little or no money (about what they are worth, in my mind). Post after post after post about how to stretch a jar of salsa - but nary a one suggesting making your own. Baking bread? Nope. Growing herbs? Nope.

And the only gardening post was one discussing something called a "topsy-turvey" (those work out to $18 each, BTW, plus tax!).

So when did frugal become solely about getting manufactured good cheaply? I understand people are busy. I know that raising kids is a lot of work. But you know what? Both of my parents worked, raised three kids, and had a large vegetable garden. My mom had a large cold cellar filled top-to-bottom, side-to-side with shelves of home canning. They made their own wine, before kits were available - that means actually buying the grapes and crushing and pressing them.

I know families today who do the same thing (try twin toddlers, a job, many social commitments (both parents are very active in the community), and yet still able to have a fantastic yard full of flowers and vegetables). It is doable.

When did people stop gardening? When did the lawn become the focus of the yard? When did it become normal to spend a small fortune on flowering plants, but nothing on a plant that would productively put food on your table?

So, is sustainability frugal?

I think it can be. I'll be building raised beds (heavy clay soil is not ideal for growing), and will have to buy the lumber, soil and some great compost/manure to get it going (this will be next year, again, for various reasons). I will also buy a composter and possibly rain barrels. I need to buy a large freezer (I feed Kip raw, so there tends to be a lot of meat in the freezer at any given time.). I need to stock up on canning jars and lids (I have some now, but will need more).

So that first year, the garden will in no way be frugal.

But every year after that? Hell yes! Especially if I can save seeds.

Sorry for the overly-long rant! And excuse me for now - I have to go research something called "lasagna" gardening...

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