The Insanity of Convenience

In our technology-filled life and landscape, connected to “the grid,” working as “cogs in the machinery of society,” we can lose touch with (or lose altogether) the skills and the delight and the contentedness of being able to do things by hand, from scratch, start-to-finish, garden-to-table, wilderness-to-kitchen. The art of homemaking has been complicated into a series of tasks not accomplished without the intense intrusion of technology, supposedly there to make tasks easier, and making us capable of driving ourselves crazy. Some tasks have perhaps been simplified, but at the expense of the satisfaction of having actually accomplished the task. The rat maze of modern life is bound tight with things that we do in order to simplify our existence. But what is simple about modern life, except that a lot of it doesn’t require any thought or creativity, since that has been simplified out of it? There are multiple processes which we accept as just a part of our modern existence, and probably even think they are beneficial.

But are they?
IMG_4227eInstead of washing dishes by hand, drying them, and putting them away (at which point the task has been completed in no more than a half hour of time), there is the intrusion of the dishwasher, taking about as much time to load, run, dry, and put away the dishes as it does to do them by hand. Add the confusion of someone partially emptying a dishwasher, only to have another person come to add more dishes and no one knows if the dishwasher is clean or dirty.

Instead of everyone having fewer clothes that we wash by hand only after they are actually dirty and then dry on the clothesline, folding them as we take them off the line (at which point the task is finished), we have more clothes that we wash more often before they are actually dirty, dry in the dryer, only to forget about them and need to re-dry them to fluff them before we can fold them, which are then put into baskets and then forgotten again, until the laundry has piled up from a week of laundry-doing (because we do it so often, there is actually laundry to pile up), and then in desperation it is folded wrinkled anyway, by which time another two or three loads are waiting to be washed. All because we have a washing machine and dryer and we can wash and dry that much laundry.

Instead of well-planned trips to the grocery store or to town once or twice a month, there is the temptation to run to the store whenever you think of something you need, simply because we have a vehicle and either live close enough to the store to do that (that was our situation in Illinois), or because we drive by the store on our way to and from work multiple days a week.

Instead of having a couple of highly useful appliances, we have five dozen different ones that all do different things – supposedly to make life easier. If you can find the one you need and remember how to use it.

Instead of nutritious, simple meals, we complicate our lives with prepackaged foods, processed foods, and quick trips to a drive through over the lunch break. And then we wonder where the obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and general malaise come from.

We don’t memorize phone numbers, because we don’t need to – they are all in our phones. We don’t keep written, sweet records of communication with people in the forms of letters and cards, because it is all stored on the computer. We don’t keep a tidy recipe book or recipe card box, because we don’t need to, those are on the computer, too. We don’t print favorite photos to paste in a family album – instead, we have folders and folders of digital images, stored on our phones, computers, Facebook, that take ages to sort through if you ever want to find something, so we never look at them.

Please don’t understand me as saying that we should just scrap technology and modern advancements (although…I’m not not saying that, either…), but how much meaning has been added to our lives by our modern conveniences? Arguably, none. Spiritually speaking, absolutely none. Socially speaking, well, I think the studies and people’s attitudes and ineptitudes speak for themselves. Physically speaking, we may live longer but we’re all sicker and feel crummy and are depressed from all the craziness. So, arguably, none.

Yes, I’m being somewhat facetious. Just somewhat. Because just how much do we really gain by running ourselves into the ground with convenience?

Living further out of town automatically simplifies one’s life, to a certain extent. It no longer makes sense to go to the grocery store “in a pinch,” because it is simply too far away – hooray. Hanging a clothes line and even doing some laundry by hand has simplified my part of the laundry process. We only have one washing machine, which is half a mile up the hill at Grandma’s, so eliminating at least the clothes dryer helps to make laundry day more pleasant, at any rate.

So some ideas on how to simplify would be as follows (i.e., how I envision a perfect life):

  1. Live at least 45 miles from a town with a Walmart.
  2. Live at least 15 miles from a town with any kind of store.
  3. Keep a stocked pantry.
  4. Cook from scratch.
  5. Wash dishes by hand. Even better, wash dishes while making dinner and avoid the dreaded pileup.
  6. Only wash clothes when they need it. It really is okay to wear clothes more than once, believe it or not.
  7. Make use of the clothesline. And fold it as it comes off the line. There, nary a wrinkle.
  8. Limit bathing. No, I’m not kidding. Unless you have a job where you get actually dirty, you don’t need to shower every day. Honestly. Believe me.
  9. Keep chickens, if for nothing else than to have to say “no” occasionally.
  10. Grow a garden. Revel in the time it takes to pull some weeds and water.
  11. Get rid of appliances if they double the purpose accomplished by something else.
  12. Put the stupid phone away. I can’t tell you how irritating it is to see a dating couple sitting at a restaurant with their phones out.
  13. Spend real time with people, doing real things, and having real conversations. Pursue real relationships with the 10 people you actually like and want to know better, rather than electronically with the 300 people you feel like you sort of know through social media.
  14. Look up and seek out the constellations. Look for spiderwebs in the grass, dewdrops on the flowers, pictures in the clouds.

I desire to live a life that is simple, in that I can enjoy the satisfaction of taking the time to accomplish something start-to-finish from scratch without “conveniences”: from-scratch meals, sewing projects, housekeeping tasks. I desire to live a life that is simple, in that I have the time and energy to spend quality time with people I love. I desire to live a life that is simple, in that there is a routine, and a flexibility within that routine. I desire to live a life that is simple, in that I can actually say “yes” to things that come up, rather than wondering if it will fit within the busyness of a scheduled-out week. I desire to live a life that is not caught up in the things that don’t matter, but in things that do, in things that are lasting and eternal, not in things that are temporary and fading. I desire to live a life that is simple in its effectiveness, its sweetness, and its genuineness. I desire to live. Perhaps some of what I’ve said is idealistic and unrealistic. But I would rather err on the side of idealistic and only partially get there, rather than err on the side of realistic and not get there at all.

Convenience is one of the altars of modern humanity, and on it we sacrifice our time, our sanity, our joy, our relationships, our kids, our health, our dreams. Although simplifying our lives is by no means the answer to life’s problems, simplification can be a part of shedding the numbness we get used to when we are so strung out trying to accomplish everything – we succeed, but only at the cost of our calm, our content, and our joy. Be willing to slow down, and shake off the insanity of convenience.


Digging Out

When the weather folks began predicting a Christmas Day Blizzard almost a whole week before Christmas, many of us scoffed. The last couple of winter storms were somewhat over-hyped and, while being a little inconvenient, were really not severe. Christmas Eve rolled around and church was cancelled, and we really began betting on there ending up being nothing worth cancelling church over. Christmas morning rolled around and we got a dusting of snow, or a couple of inches, but nothing worth getting too excited about, and we continued to doubt the meteorologists. But then came the wet precipitation, the ice, and Christmas afternoon finally arrived in a whirlwind of snow and wind. Travel was not advised on pretty much all of the highways in and around the Black Hills, I-90 was closed, and the Christmas Day Blizzard arrived as predicted.
IMG_0347eOur mile-long driveway proved to be a hassle, and a lot of work went into shoveling parts of the driveway by hand on Monday, since the only person really familiar with the road grader is out of state for the time being. Trixie was in her element, and spent a good deal of the day tearing around to her little heart’s content. She loves the snow.
IMG_0336eSome of us humans love the snow as well, the rushing cold, the gleaming white. Shortcuts through a pasture turn into comical flounderings in knee-high drifts. Walking up the road to Grandma’s takes extra effort, since every step forward on the slick snow costs you six inches in backsliding. Pant legs freeze solid. But it is winter. It is supposed to be like this. The hassle doesn’t get to us. Granted, we didn’t lose power or need to be anywhere. “Hassle” is almost too big of a word to use.
IMG_0659eYesterday was beautiful and it was no problem getting back and forth between our house and Grandma’s, where Mom and Dad are currently staying, and which is the hub for family festivities. But this morning the wind picked up, and all the work that went into digging out Monday was drifted over. I went up to Grandma’s to get some firewood for the Miner’s Cabin, and on the way down I hit a drift and slid off the road. In the process of trying to get it back on the road, it slid deeper off into knee-deep drifts, so my uncle and I spent the next hour or two digging it out!
IMG_0343Currently no vehicle, including the Jeep, can make it all the way up to Grandma’s, so we get as far as we can and then walk the rest of the way. One of the other four-wheel drive vehicles got a flat on the way up, and the other truck is snowed in over at my uncle’s house. Winds of 20-30 miles per hour are expected tonight. More digging out tomorrow.
IMG_0658But God is good. He gives us trials, such as having one’s day turned topsy-turvy in a snow drift, as a reminder that we do not carry out our plans or order our lives – He does. He also sends reminders of his goodness and grace, such as the beauty of blowing snow in the sunlight, blue skies, fresh, crisp country air, starry nighttime, family fellowship, puppy antics, and kittens purring.
IMG_0630e B+WLife is good. God is wonderful.

Laura Elizabeth

Glimpse of History

There is something haunting about the beauty of these creatures. It is strange to see animals so muscled and powerful bedded down quietly in the tall grass, blinking sleepily in the bright sunlight, staring curiously at the intruders then losing interest, their massive horns spread broadly beyond the width of their shoulders. Only their horns are visible when they hunker down in the warm grass. IMG_4069IMG_3982IMG_3957IMG_3978Perhaps what is haunting is the feeling that even a barbed wire fence is no match for their strength. Or, perhaps it is the feeling that I’m staring into their eyes and getting a glimpse of history. Perhaps both.

Laura Elizabeth

Black Hills Gothic

Our cousin William from Ohio was staying with us for the last 10 days, and one of the projects he tackled, with Sarah’s help, was building a stone wall around our garden. We have a tall fence that keeps the deer out, but there is a 10-inch gap along the bottom that lets rabbits in. Of course, we could have just closed the gap with chicken wire, but a stone wall is so much lovelier! More pictures to come! He and Sarah got the rocks from rock slides along our driveway and from one of the several pit mines on our property. He also fixed the garden gate so it now closes properly, and put in flagstones at the garden entry. He and Sarah did beautiful work!

IMG_1122small IMG_1123smallSo we have the Black Hills Gothic.

Laura Elizabeth


A Nice Idea

Our crazy puppy, Ditsy Trixie, is becoming quite the favorite in our house. After a couple months of on and off disaster, Trixie has settled in and is learning the ropes around here! As a puppy, she has the attention span of a flea and the spazzy energy of a chipmunk, and no matter how worn out she is after an outing she always makes a beeline for the garbage to wreck havoc. But she has actually been learning, and is becoming quite the hiking buddy. I’m so excited. IMG_1127small IMG_1148smallThis morning while Dad was down in the crawlspace working on our plumbing, Trixie sneaked in and pulled a few stuffed animals out of storage – Stuffed animals that were supposed to be “keepsakes.” Being the generous person that I am, I thought I could pick up a stuffed animal for her from Goodwill when I went in this afternoon. She’d chewed the faces off her couple of stuffed animals, and disemboweled her favorite one, so it seemed right that a new one was in order. IMG_1177smallIMG_1161smallSo I found this hideous blue and yellow stuffed fish – It had plastic eyes, which I thought she might like (she loves to go straight for the face), and lots of appendages to chew on. IMG_1194smallThe long and short of it: she loved it. For all five minutes that it survived. Sure enough, she went straight for the face, after whipping it around to break its neck. Within two minutes, she had popped off the little plastic eyes, and about three minute later, we looked out the window and she was surrounded by white stuffing, and meticulously pulling out the rest. She completely gutted the fish. IMG_1205smallIt didn’t last long, but it was a nice idea.

Laura Elizabeth



Another Use for Duct Tape

My highschool years were during the duct tape craze – Well, at least among homeschoolers there was a duct tape craze. I know about creative uses for duct tape, although I was never cool enough to do anything unconventional with the stuff. But this was one use I had definitely never seen before.
IMG_9552Dad brought this little guy home yesterday evening. He found him on our long driveway, nowhere near water, and with a pretty sizeable chunk of his shell broken. We don’t know where he came from or how he got there, or how his shell was broken, but some kind person had duct taped him up, and it looked like he was subsequently taped another time or two. Given how warped the chipped piece was, it looked like he’s grown some since the injury.  Overall he seemed like a pretty healthy dude.
IMG_9556IMG_9558Trixie didn’t know what to make of Mr. Turtle – She growled and put her ears back and looked all funny at him, but went along happily with Dad to dump him in what little water is left in the stock pond. He’ll be happy there.
IMG_9567Oh, the creative uses for duct tape.

Laura Elizabeth