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  • Writer's pictureGara

37 and as Helpless as a Baby

Baby Otto circa 2016

I like to think I know things. I like to tell people about the things I know. I usually say it with authority. And now I know - I know nothing.

There are certain things you must how to do to get by as as adult in modern urban society. You must definitely know how to ride public transportation. You should probably know how to drive a car. You must able to figure out how to rent or buy a home, how to fill out job applications and you must definitely know how to use email. Other things are nice to know too, how to cook a few good dishes, how to change a lightbulb, what day you must take out the trash. Of course, I'm oversimplifying, but for the most part, if you can land a job, find your way to the grocery store and use a computer, you'll be considered a competent adult.

As I mentioned, I like to think of myself as more than competent - hyper-competent if you will. When we talked about moving to Vermont, we also discussed a change in lifestyle. Both Boris and I wanted to do more for ourselves, be more directly involved in our everyday survival as humans. This doesn't mean we're going completely off the grid, but would like to grow or raise more of our own food and reduce our environmental footprint. Because we've been relatively successful at most things we put our minds to, I wasn't that concerned about our ability to execute this new lifestyle. And if I'm being honest, I expected to master it pretty quickly.

So how's that going? Well, Boris is holding up his part of the bargain. He just ordered a wood burning furnace and is currently updating the heating system so that by winter we'll be able to heat the entire house with trees we've cut from our property. One (large) bill gone forever. We'll likely install solar panels next spring and that should take care of the electricity. We have a well, so no water bills for us.

The food, as usual, is left to me. This summer we were lucky enough to discover plenty of wild growing berries on our property to feel the love from the land. By next spring we'd like to have a garden and chickens (just for eggs for now). The previous owners really let the land be taken back by the forest, so I've slowly been trying to clear some space for a coop and garden.

While I'm pretty good at hacking away at shrubs and trees with various trimmers, shears and saws, I'm pretty helpless beyond that. For example, I've discovered some apple trees behind all the shrubs, but they look pretty diseased and are producing undersized, spotted apples (though by the scat I keep finding under the trees, the bears don't seem to mind). I've consulted someone at the local nursery, sprayed some organic fungicide on the trees and crossed my fingers - but it doesn't seem like enough. Next, building a chicken coop - I'd really like to take on this project myself, but it seems almost silly when it's something it'd likely take Boris two days to build, and if I was lucky, take me two weeks. I also won't bore you about considerations of what breed of chicken to buy, whether we should have a rooster for protection, how to keep chickens healthy, etc. In short, there is so much I do not know about "living off the land" that I didn't even know I didn't know. (Can you follow that?) All this unknowing makes me profoundly uncomfortable - kind of like the first day of first grade, when I realized other kids could read and I could not. I suppose I should take a lesson from my six year old self and put on my big girl pants and just get to work - but man, humble pie is even harder to swallow as an adult.

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