I've been thinking a lot lately about a show that was aired on PBS several years ago called Frontier House. Unlike a lot of commercial reality television, PBS didn't set up a situation where people competed against each other and no one was sent home at the end of each episode. The general idea was to take modern families and see what happened when they lived like pioneers on the American prairie. Experts rated their abilities to set up their homestead and determined if they would have survived the winter. It was an incredible show.
There was one segment that really affected me. One family had been raising a pig on their homestead. The kids had named the pig JoJo Pumpkin and he was smart and awesome. He knew his name. But JoJo Pumpkin was not a pet and in one gut wrenching scene the father of the family walked out to the pig's pen and called his name. JoJo Pumpkin came running over to him and you just see the gun raised and aimed at the pig's head. They cut away at the sound of the gunshot and you know that JoJo Pumpkin is dead. Later, you see they have prepared the pig for a dinner celebration with the entire community.
And that is survival on the frontier. You raise a pig so can eat the pig. As a culture we have separated ourselves from the processes of living and eating that most of us don't think through the fact that the bacon in our pan was once living pig - one of the smartest animals who share the planet with us. I'll admit, watching JoJo Pumpkin get shot on public television was not enough to make me want to give up eating meat. But it was enough to make me think about how I connect to my food and to my life. It may have been one of the things that got into my brain and made me think about changing everything about the way I live.
I head read that one of the participants, Mark Glenn, had quit his job after Frontier House and moved to to the area in Montana where it had been filmed. I don't find much about this on the Internet, but then I have to assume that was part of the point. I imagine that Glenn simply couldn't go back to living his old life. An experience like that can change you forever.
I have no idea what is in store for us after we move to our mountain. Our lives will be simultaneously more simple and much more difficult and we've made this choice consciously. I'm ready to fundamentally change the way I live my life.
In slightly related news, you can read an interview with me about simplifying our lives on Te-Erika Patterson's blog My Savvy Sisters.