The Problem with Fake Pumpkins

(All pictures are of my own fake, cheap fall decor.)

There is something about fall that brings out the country look everywhere. Probably some deep evolutionary response to the harvest season. Or maybe just decades of marketing. It usually starts in August, peaks in late September, and by October, Christmas has taken over.

But during those glorious days of fall advertising-season, it is all scarecrows and hay bales. And of course, pumpkins.

Sometimes it is so fun to go to a local pumpkin patch, pick out a pumpkin from their fields and get a gallon of apple cider. Sometimes it is a pain because it’s still in the 80s every afternoon, yellow jackets are everywhere, and those pumpkins are really heavy. And the farmers market ones are expensive, especially if you want different colored ones.

So one day at Target you see a really cute display. They are fake, of course, but look pretty all together, especially with some fake gourds mixed in. And that little weathered sign that says “welcome fall.”. So you add to the cart. Or maybe you are a little more upscale and you go for the expensive Funkins, which can be carved. I used to save up for one a year, to eventually amass a grouping of them carved in the shape of fall leaves.

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Now you don’t have to worry about them rotting on the porch in the September heat. When Christmas advertising season rolls around, you can just stick them in the basement. What’s not to like?

I’ve written before about James Howard Kunstler, and his theory that the countryside is disappearing in part because Americans love the countryside.  They each want a piece, so they divide it up and swallow it.  This feels a little like that.  We love the idea of the fall harvest look, so we copy it.  But we do it in a way that destroys any actual fall harvesting in our communities.

Every fake pumpkin that is bought is a real pumpkin that didn’t get bought. It is a local farm that wasn’t visited, a farmer’s market stand passed over. It is choosing convenience and cheapness over an easy chance to enrich your local economy. It is a choice to instead enrich a factory far away churning out fake squash. I am now imagining a factory in Cambodia, the workers laughing at us, thinking what is this and why are people paying for it?

And really, it is hilarious. We pave over farms to build suburbs that we decorate to look like farms. But do we at least support the remaining local farms as we decorate? No. We do not.  Our decorations are the most superficial thing possible, because they are the very opposite of what we value. At least there won’t be any crows on the front porch.

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The problem with fake pumpkins is that they are another piece of junk that chips away at a local economy. They are more styrofoam adding to the mountain of trash in our country. They are one more emblem of a world we destroyed and now so poorly try to imitate.

There are a lot of problems with no solution. But this one is easy.

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Thinking about zero-waste

Not thinking about actually attempting it. Just thinking about it.

Wasn’t it it just last fall that everyone was talking about hygge, and we were supposed to be surrounded by candles and playing cards? What was the “lifestyle trend” before that? Outdoor adventure? Quality time? Or was this the first one to have an official name and identifiable start date?

I recently stopped buying dish sponges, because I find them gross and ugly. Now I use dish cloths and a wooden scrub brush. Imagine my joy to learn that the brushes are part of the zero waste lifestyle! They can be composted!

Fine, except that I had them shipped here. They are made in Germany. Germany. The handle is wood, which I’m sure was harvested with power tools, trucked to the factory, and manufactured by something other than manpower. Sponges…well, I would have just picked them up at Costco while I was already there. The whole package weighs basically nothing and probably cost very little to transport from the factory to the store or the store to my home. But thank goodness I can throw this wooden brush in the compost to break down in twenty years. Don’t ask me about the plastic wrapper it came in.

Of course zero waste require a whole new set of implements. Glass jars, reusable produce bags, more wooden brushes, a drying rack, reusable straws. A travel mug so that when you go to Starbucks you can have them fill your mug instead of getting a paper mug. Conveniently, the coffee beans were grown and processed in the back of the restaurant, which is run on solar energy.

I’m not sure why this is making me so grouchy. I’m not saying that little things don’t make a difference. I also think plastic is wasteful and ugly. Heck, I line a basket in newspaper to give leftover food to the chickens and then put the newspaper in the compost. I use cloth diapers! But showing up to the grocery store with a quart sized jug and asking for olive oil… does not make sense.

Usually I am able to look at a trend and just simply think “that is not for me,” and move on. But this one seems so silly, so unrealistic, and so laced with judgement. Trash is a problem. Our throw away culture is a problem. Rich people with expensive brushes, me included, are not the answer. Do your best. Buy your glass jars. And then maybe stop calling it something it’s not.


Work Harder, Want Less

Whenever I send my kids up to their room to play quietly there is a lot of whining and complaining. “I don’t want to do quiet time!” “Let me stay down here!” “But I need a snack!”.

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But when I send them up to clean their room or get dressed, and I go to check on their progress, they are playing quietly without complaint. They are happy to be doing something that is just one level more fun that what they are supposed to be doing.

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When I have been working hard at home, dedicating my day to truly working and not just wandering around waiting for the time to pass, I am so happy when I have a break to listen to the radio and have a cup of tea.

But if I have been home all day doing nothing, just listening to the radio and drinking tea, I am bored by the afternoon. I want to go out to dinner or go shopping. Just to do something.

When I was in college and I spent my days shopping and going out to lunch, when evening rolled around, I was looking for that next level of entertainment, which meant going out to bars or parties.

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I wonder if that is the problem with so many celebrities. They already have “the next level”. They have don’t have to do any manual labor, they are constantly going out and being entertained, they have money and fame. So all that is left for them at the next level is affairs, drug use, and other addictions.

How many problems could be solved by doing hard and time consuming work. Not because it keeps you busy and makes you tired (although that is good too!), but because the “next level” that you are searching for is simply to relax and read, or occasionally go out to eat. I, along with the children, tend to be very whiny and complainy on days I have sat around doing nothing, even though doing nothing should theoretically make me happy.

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So I am making the effort to put the children to work.  Not because I need the help or because it is good for them, even though it is. But because making them work more makes them happy to just be reading, or playing quietly with puzzles and dolls, or sent outside to dig in the dirt. Doing everything myself and letting them just do what they want means they follow me around, bored, asking for tv shows and being pesky.  Making up activities for them occupies them for a few minutes and then they are on to wanting to do something else.  Enough.

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And I am trying to see the value in my work as a form of entertainment. There is more than just clean and folded laundry and a clean and organized mudroom at the end of every Monday. (Okay maybe not every Monday.) There is a day spent in productivity that helps to keep my greed for ever-more entertainment in check. This reminds me of my parents telling me to go outside in the cold when I complained about it being cold in the house. All of the sudden it will seem very warm inside!

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(Back Before the History, a beautiful and original song.)

Getting what you want will never make you happy.  It will never make me happy at least, because then I am on to wanting the next thing.  So I am just trying to find a way to keep wanting what I have.  Which is more than enough.

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Happy Easter!


“All I Want” Syndrome

“Oh I don’t need a big house like everyone else . I don’t want a big grand foyer or a huge closet. All I want is a cottage, with real wood windows. A garden out back, with antique roses climbing over the gate. I don’t need all this fancy stainless steel that people like today. I would rather have a simple kitchen with just some vintage appliances.”

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“People today really like a lot of junk food. Not me. All I want is really fresh, local food. Like our grandmothers had. Like an apple at the peak of ripeness, picked off the tree at just the right time. Or a cow butchered by a local farmer, where you know it had a good life. Some local cheese. It is so good that you only need a little bit.”

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“Women today sure love to shop. They must be really bored. All I want is some simple, well made clothing. Yes, I look for quality. Just plain colors, and natural materials. I got rid of all my cheap tee shirts and now I have nice, versatile pieces.”

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And then, from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters:

“…She is always turning from what has been offered to her to say with a demure little sigh and a smile, ‘oh please, please… all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast.’ You see? Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognizes as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may appear to others. At the very moment of indulging her appetite she believes she is practicing temperance…”

Ouch!

C.S. Lewis is using this fictional women to describe how a demon can help her along the road to hell, by wrapping up her sin in a cloak of righteousness.  The woman believes she is denying herself but is being more gluttonous than anyone because she is valuing her preferences over the comfort of others.

It doesn’t matter that what she wants is “simple”.  She wants something other than what she was given.

I am so, so guilty of this!

Trying this year to be happy with what I have.  Not buying beautiful glass jars for my kitchen in an attempt to be a thrifty housewife with a well stocked pantry.  Not turning up my nose at McMansions, or McDonalds.  Trying to control my tendency towards pride wrapped in humility, consumerism disguised as simple living, gluttony hiding as denial.

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I bought this apple tree.  But I tried not to pretend I was doing it for the greater good of humanity.

 


How much…

One of my pet peeves is articles about homesteading written by people who have never done it. “It is so easy to grow fresh food for your family!” “Sewing your own clothes will save you money!”, “chickens can provide you with free meat and eggs!”

None of that is true at all. It is hard, can be very expensive, and there will be years that all you do is fail.

And it is completely missing the point.

For example, did you know that a loaf of bread can be purchased for under a dollar?

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That eggs at Costco are less than ten cents each?

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That land taxes will go up every year?

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That free range chickens require you to go lock up them up every evening at sunset?

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That tractors, even used, are very expensive?

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That heating your home with wood is messy and requires year-round work?

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That the farther you are from town, the longer it takes your roads to be cleared in snow?

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That line drying your clothes will bring pollen and bugs in your house?

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That soap at Walmart is cheaper than making your own?

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That unless you are making minimum wage, it is almost always financially advantageous to work and put your kids in daycare?

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That porches are expensive to build and require maintenance?

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And that homegrown flowers save you exactly nothing.

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So put away your spreadsheet. It will never tell you what is it worth.