This has been a very interesting past year or so. In January 2016, I changed my blog’s name from The Civilized Life in Sarasota to The Civilized Homesteader. After eight years, I retired from writing about social events for SCENE Magazine (and stopped going to events, too) and began to live a more simple, sustainable, urban farmer/homesteader life. I even stopped going to my regular hairdresser, my sweet David. I started getting my hair cut at Great Clips and had my daughter highlight my hair at home with a kit from the drugstore. Oh, the horrors! The first couple of times I went the drugstore route, I didn’t think it looked too bad, but then I had David do it again and let me tell you, it was a massive difference. I am never again buying an at-home hair coloring kit.
I was intent about being a frugal grocery shopper and enthusiastically built up my pantry and my freezer like a true homesteader. A little tip, if you use a lot of butter like we do, Publix always has a buy one/get one free special just before Thanksgiving and I stocked up with 30 pounds each of the past two years. I tried to keep my weekly grocery bill to around $100 a week until my husband finally put his foot down and said this was ridiculous and he wanted me to go back to cooking the way I used to.
Reading homesteading blogs had become my passion and I was filled with desire to make my own soap, including laundry detergent, can my own fruits and vegetables, and hang my clothes out to dry on a clothesline. I suggested to my husband that we have one night a week where we only used candles and not watch TV. That idea was nixed immediately. Can you tell my husband was not really on board with this whole idea? I thought I would love to make my own bread every couple of days and bought a bread-maker. Guess how many times I have made bread – zero.
When I started this journey last year, I already did several things as a true homesteader like cook from scratch. I make almost every one of our meals every day. We rarely go out to eat and I actually really like to cook. I have had an edible landscape for many years and love to garden. That has not changed at all, though recently it has been a bit heartbreaking. About a month ago we lost our lychee tree. It died pretty much in one day and we don’t know why. One day it looked perfectly fine and the next day it was almost completely brown. We trimmed it way back hoping it would revive, but it did not. The same has happened with our peach tree and now our carambola looks about half dead. I am afraid that we will eventually lose it. We surmise these “deaths” have been from the lack of rain over the past year or so. Losing these trees has broken my heart and a bit of my spirit. Last year was the first year we had a decent crop from both the lychee and the peach, as they were about 6 years old, and we expected a bumper crop from both this year. Our carambola was one of our oldest trees at over 25 years old. I realize there is a life cycle to trees, but is still makes me sad. Luckily we still have over 30 trees that are still doing well and producing fruit.
I am having great success with my vegetable garden this year due to an extra special ingredient that I have not used before – chicken manure that was gifted to me from our neighbor from his flock. The beds in which I used it are growing like crazy and the ones where I didn’t are fine, but certainly not as robust as the enhanced beds.
My dear friend, Gayle Guynup, asked to write a monthly column for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Style Magazine, which I started last October. I have enjoyed it so much! She allows me to write about whatever I fancy at the moment and I have tried to mix a simple handmade life with fancy Sarasota society living. Truth be told, I think I am being successful. And that’s where my new beginning starts…..
At the end of 2015 I was exhausted. I had gone through several medical tests that summer and it scared me. Luckily they turned out to be nothing other than stress, but I went through three months of not knowing what was going on with my health. It lead me to realize that I did not want my life to be made up of mainly social events. I still don’t, but I have been easing back into going to a few events here and there this season and I realized I had missed that part of my life a bit. What I really missed was seeing my friends, and if I am truthful, I missed getting dressed up. You know me, I do love a ball gown and a St. John suit, just not every day and not every weekend, like before.
So now I have changed my game plan, and my blog, once again. I am going back to The Civilized Life because I think that tells my story a bit more accurately. True civilized living encompasses nature, gardening, and simplicity, along with the little niceties of life such as setting an elegant table, writing notes on engraved stationery, and wearing beautiful clothes. As I have said before, I am both Mother Earth News and Town & Country. This blog will embrace both sides of me. I hope you will follow along.