When people read in Possum Living that my Dad and I raised, foraged, or caught most of our food, heated it with a wood stove, and lived without a car, they assume that we worked hard all the time. They don't believe me when I say we were pretty lazy.
It is true that sometimes it was hard work. Paying off and fixing up a house, putting in a large vegetable garden, and setting up housing for rabbits and chickens is hard work. But once everything is set up? Phht! If you are the least bit self-motivated and like gardening and hands-on projects, it's fairly easy.
The secret was that we got the bulk of our calories from feed and grain stores. Sacks of wheat, soybeans, corn, and potatoes are incredibly cheap there compared to grocery stores. It also meant that if we had a crop failure, we weren't going to starve.
It's not a case of rosy memories, either. I'm rereading the daily journals I kept at the time. When I was possum living, I did more socializing, bird watching, reading, napping, and general fiddling then than at any other point in my life.
For proof, I offer this description, from my journal, of a typical summer day for us possums in 1975. (I was 16 and grammar impaired.)
Had scrambled eggs with peppers and shallots for breakfast — very good. Bertha came by to visit but only stayed a few minutes because her friends were in the car waiting for her. I went swimming in the creek for a little while; the carp were jumping up near the shoreline, I think they were spawning. They made a hell of a lot of noise.
We had leftover snapping turtle soup and fry bread for lunch. I walked to town with a cart of laundry, finished at the Laundromat and started home around 2:30. Daddy went fishing and caught two catfish and several sunnies. I went raspberry picking and came home with a pot full. Took a nap. I real quick got up and ran to the cow farm. The cows moo'd for me. The sunset was beautiful.
After I recovered from my run, we stayed outside and talked to the neighbors awhile. They just got the cutest tri-colored kitten. We cooked peas and fried fish for dinner. Fed the bunnies. Listened to records, cracked nuts, read, and then went to bed about 11:30.
Doesn't sound too bad, does it?
Dolly Freed looking for wildlife while wading up a stream.
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Following her success as an author, Dolly Freed grew up to be a NASA aerospace engineer. She put herself through college after she aced the SATs with an education she received from the public library. She has also been an environmental educator, business owner, and college professor. She lives in Texas with her husband and two children.
Books mentioned in this post
Dolly Freed is the author of Possum Living: How to Live Well without a Job and with (Almost) No Money