Ah feck it. Once again the end of the money has come before the end of the pay period. Quite a while before, in fact. Having had a wee look at the cashflow situation and then spending the following few minutes in a catatonic state it’s clear that for the next week and a half we’ll be living on pretty much what I can find down the back of the couch. This is not new for us and probably not new for most of you, especially those with several more children than incomes.
We do have a few more resources available to us than we did before the whole a-livin’ and a-workin’ on the land thing. There are some things that we produce ourselves and have in abundance at the moment with or without access to cold hard cash. So instead of despair I’m going with trying to enjoy – or at least be proud of in a ‘wish it didn’t happen quite so often’ sort of a way – the challenge of using these resources and very little else.
What do we have? Beef. Mostly in the form of roasts, which are not my favourite to deal with in February, so I roasted one this morning before the heat really got going and ate quite a lot of it for lunch. So that’s a good start. Luckily it didn’t have a bone or I would have felt obliged to make soup which is another avoid-in-midsummer activity. We have enough ravenous life in this house without five billion flies.
We have eggs which are pretty handy when you think about it because not only are they valid breakfast, lunch and dinner options, they can also contribute to play-lunch, elevenses, smoko, arvo and dessert. It occurs to me that one reason why pikelets and scones were such staples in my grandmothers’ houses is that they can be made from the ingredients that a farm wife would always have to hand no matter what else was few and far between. If you have milk, eggs, butter and cream in abundance and not much else you make, well, the sort of things that we’ll be eating a lot of over the next few days. Disclaimer, though: although we do have a currently-lactating animal I will still be buying my milk elsewhere. That sheep is really uncooperative.
Apples, peaches and cherry tomatoes. Again, surprisingly versatile. At least until we run out of Weet-bix the fruit can be part of breakfast. Most of the kids love the little tomatoes so there’s the lunch-box fruit taken care of. And I suppose we can’t just eat dinners of steak with no 5+ a day so they can help out there, too. There are a few green vegetables trying to grow but without water it’s an uphill battle.
Speaking of water, if I had to pick out the one thing that sets our life here apart from our previous life in town, that would be it. I spent my first 33 years thinking that it was free, abundant and an entitlement that you don’t even have to think about. Not so, people. Water is a rare and precious commodity. When we have it now, we look after it. We wait for it, we take care of it, we cherish it. We have learned to do a lot with a little. It’s a good lesson. We can make do without the beef and the apples and the eggs if we have to because we can eat other things but water is not negotiable. If you can’t manage your water you can’t manage your life, out here. You have to get your priorities straight. We have animals, people and plants that all need it and we have to share. Since living here there have been many times when we have been rationing every drop for weeks or months on end and on a couple of occasions we have run out altogether. It’s stressful, yes, but it’s valuable because it’s a constant reminder of something much bigger.
There is no free lunch and best the children get that straight right now. You are given what you are given and what you do with that is up to you. Nothing is infinite, and if you use resources as though they are, you will face the consequences sooner or later. You take what you are offered, you are grateful, and you work out how to make it get you where you want to go. We do this every day with water and right now we are doing it with food and petrol too. As a starting point for everything else in life you could do much worse. There is something very satisfying about being self-sufficient in regard to water – we have what we need under our own steam, thank you very much.
So this is my week to be organised enough to cook meals with only what we already have and to fill the lunch-boxes with only what I make myself. And you know, this is a good thing. I have the ability and the time (although filling some of that time with, you know, paid employment would help too, if only it didn’t cost the enormous sum of $220 to renew my teaching registration) and feeding my children this way is better for them anyway. Not that we buy a lot of convenience food but as the term goes on, and sometimes as the week goes on – let’s be honest, sometimes as the day goes on – I get lazier and lazier.
So. Muffins! Cake from the old bananas hiding at the back of the freezer and possibly under the kids’ beds and the frightening depths of their school bags! Meal combinations that read like the ‘unusual cravings’ section of a pregnancy book! Eggs fried for breakfast, boiled for lunch and in cheeseless, baconless quiches for tea! We will lurch through to next payday with borderline scurvy but iron levels like Popeye. Bring it on. Pioneer Woman on the loose. I just hope that Mr Nearly 6’s dream birthday spread includes a lot of eggs, beef and tomatoes.