Got Carrot Juice?
If I were asked to define “the good life,” I would do so by providing you with some examples. For example, here in October, I could simply say, “Fresh carrots from my garden.”
I have a great crop of carrots this year. The following picture is not a good one of me, but just look at those carrots!
I happen to believe that the best way to eat a carrot is to drink it. Marlene and I are avid vegetable and fruit juicers, especially in the fall, when the carrots are big. To be able to walk out into my garden and pull large, vibrant-orange, chemical-free, nutrition-packed carrots from the earth, then, minutes later, be drinking the juice from those carrots.... that truly is “the good life.”
Because raw vegetable juices are alive with enzymes. Cooking kills enzymes. The typical modern diet is enzyme deficient. Enzymes are biochemical catalysts. In other words, they make everything that’s good for a body happen. Our bodies crave the enzymes in raw fruits and vegetables. They are necessary for optimum health.
Juicing separates juice from the plant’s fibers, thus making it very easy for your digestive system to assimilate the nutrients. We’re talking about an all-natural, awesome-good-for-you energy drink here.
Take eight big carrots, a medium beet, and one large clove of garlic. Run them through your juicer machine (we have used a Champion juicer for years). You will end up with two glasses of down-to-earth ambrosia like this:
One glass is for you and one is for your spouse (or another loved one). You drink it together by sipping, savoring, and reflecting on the goodness of it all.
A quiet moment together with my wife, sipping fresh vegetable juice concoctions. Uh-huh....”The Good Life.”
I chose, months ago, to deliberately “tune out” the daily news blather. But I still get bits and pieces in conversation. I understand there has been a recent “meat scare.” Tons of “factory beef” are being recalled because it is not fit to eat. Ho-hum…. So what else is "new?"
I’ll tell you what’s new. We are buying half a Black Angus from one of our country neighbors. It might be one of the ones that got loose and stampeded down the road into our yard (and my garden) awhile back. Cut (by a local butcher, any way we want it), packaged, and frozen, we will pay $2.00 a pound. I have no idea if that is a lot or a little to pay. All I know is that the animal was well cared for and healthy, and it was raised just up the road by good folks we have known for years.
Buying safe, locally-produced, beef and packing the freezer full... that’s yet another example of “the good life” here in October.
The arrival of autumn here in central New York state makes us think seriously about winter preparations. I ordered firewood from another neighbor. He is a small-scale dairy farmer. He took the farm over when his father died a few years ago. He is a bachelor and works alone. The firewood sales are a way to supplement his income. This man, a year older than I, is the hardest working person I know. I buy my firewood from him every year.
Ten face cord of seasoned wood, split and delivered, sells for $40 a cord. The price actually went down $5 a cord from last year. I asked why. He told me it was because I was a good customer. I told him we were grateful for his wood, that it was a blessing to us. And I paid him $42 a cord.
$420 worth of firewood will heat my home for the winter. A single, old, Vermont Castings wood stove in the living room of our house has been our sole source of heat for 22 years. Wood is some trouble to handle, and it does make some mess in the house, but it is an inexpensive, locally-available, renewable resource. And if an ice storm shuts down the power for a week, we will still be warm and snug.
There you go again.... yet another example of “the good life.”
(The only thing better would be to have my own woods and harvest firewood with my boys. I love to cut firewood. Maybe someday.)
Marlene has been making and canning applesauce. The apples were free for the taking from yet another rural friend. The apple trees were planted by our friend’s grandfather long ago. They are not sprayed or otherwise cared for. But the apples are very good this year.
Apples from friends. Jars of homemade applesauce in the pantry. Yep. “The good life” again.
Last Saturday we went to a wedding. One of our pastor’s sons married a girl that any parent would love to have as a daughter-in-law It was a simple wedding in a rural Baptist church (the bride’s church). We knew just about everyone seated on the groom’s side of the sanctuary. They were mostly friends and neighbors from our church and community. There was no fancy restaurant reception after the wedding (finger foods in the church’s gymnasium were very nice). There were no limousines to take the wedding party away. There was no live band. No worldly foolishness. Like I said, it was simple, but it was Christ-honoring, and that made it beautiful.
During one part of the wedding ceremony, our pastor prayed over the two young adults, asking God’s blessing on them and their union. His voice cracked with emotion. And we who sat in the pews, we who understand the special significance of a man and woman covenanting before God through their vows, we had tears in our eyes.
Oh yes! It was another manifestation of “the good life.”
My bride of almost 27 years, The Lovely Marlene, has finished up another successful season of selling her homemade breads and rolls at the farmer’s market. She has, over the years, gained a loyal customer base. When the market’s opening bell sounds on Thursday afternoon, people are lined up at her booth to buy.
One woman this past year informed Marlene that she wanted to quit her job and go into business with Marlene, starting a bakery. She would take care of the marketing and Marlene would take care of the baking. With bread like Marlene makes, the woman was sure the business would be successful. HMarlene's bread really is that good.
Farm markets and homemade bread. The good life? You betcha.
Coming Home To Apple Juice
We have not yet made cider (as in past years), but my son, James, and I ran some apples through our Champion juicer last weekend and enjoyed a couple glasses of real fine apple nectar. That, in itself, was great, but it gets better…
Yesterday I came home from my factory job in the city and I was feeling a little gloomy. Factory jobs will do that to a man. But my gloom turned instantly to joy and satisfaction when James walked up to me with a just-made glass of apple juice. He had made a glass for me and him. He gave me a big hug. Marlene, working in the kitchen, smiled and gave me a cheery welcome. My other son, Robert, yelled from the living room, “Hi Dad.”
Lord Almighty! If that isn’t the good life, I don’t know what is.
I could go on, but I think you have the idea. These examples of the good life are, in themselves, little things. When you put them together, however, they are like the many shining facets of a beautiful diamond. And there is an analogy for you to keep in your mind, always:
Simple, Christian-agrarian, faith-and-family-based life is a diamond that we, with the help of our Lord, create for ourselves, for our family, for our community, for the generations of our family to follow, for God’s glory. We do this with the beliefs we hold dear, the choices we make based on those beliefs, and the work we do putting those beliefs in action.
Make no mistake about it—-the good life, as I have endeavored to describe it here is not carefree and easy. It is a life of work and difficulty, because, ultimately, it is a life of responsibility, which brings me to another facet of our life here in the autumn of 2007…
The Fall & Its Consequences
Three weeks ago my 76-year-old father (stepfather) fell and broke his hip. He was already frail with the effects of age and many years of diabetes. But, until the fall, he had been holding his own, and was doing relatively well.
Yesterday, Marlene and James brought him home from the hospital. He can walk some with a walker. But he is now weaker and more helpless than he has ever been. I remember when this man was healthy and strong and self-confident and capable. He was once a Marine. Semper Fi. He has always had a strong work ethic. He could take care of himself. But that is no longer the case. He is in the October of his life—maybe even closer to November or December.
It is sad and sobering to watch your parent’s age, get sick, and eventually pass from this realm. I went through it with my mother four years ago. Fortunately, my father, the now-feeble man, was there for her to the end. Now, who will be there for him?
I have two younger sisters. Their life situations, the choices they have made, prevent them from being there to help their father. That leaves Marlene and I. There are no other relatives. Caring for my father is our responsibility. We will be there for him. We will help him. We will take care of him. We will love him in this difficult season of his life.
Our home is not big enough to take him in. I wish it was. We are considering an addition to do this. In the meantime, he lives only three miles away. If it becomes necessary, we will move in with him.
The lion’s share of caring for my father will fall on Marlene. She is now, as she was when my mother was dying of cancer, a ministering angel. She will check in on her father-in-law daily, help him get the food he needs, and take him to the many doctor appointments and therapy sessions scheduled in the weeks ahead.
The boys and I will do what we can to help him and support Marlene. I am taking tomorrow off from work to don an apron (figuratively speaking) and help with cleaning and clothes laundering here at home.
We are willingly entering into what may well be a difficult and stressful time for our family. Perhaps, after a couple weeks, my father will recover nicely and be independent once again. We pray that will be the case. And we hope that, however things play out, we will be able to care for him to the end, at home. Time will tell.
The point I want to make in all of this is that, sad and difficult as caring for an ailing, elderly parent is, we consider the ability to do this, and the opportunity to do this, to be as much a part of “the good life” as all the other blessings I’ve shared with you in this essay.
On another note, Rick Saenz has written some very fine agrarian-based essays at his blog, Dry Creek Chronicles. The essays are classic Saenz: intelligent, insightful, cogent, and compelling. I recommend them to you. Click here for links: The Lost Tools of Living
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