Monday, January 7, 2013

GONE LOCAL: Hoarding, Sleeping with Sheep, & Finding a Fencing Jacket, plus Getting Screwed by the Dealer (how's that for a catchy title?)

The project has barely begun and already I feel as if I’m failing. Alas. I've always wanted to be a “stunt journalist,” but I can't even survive one week. I am fascinated by stunt journalism. I gobble it up. First I read The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, and then Not Buying It by Judith Levine. And Barbara Kingsolver blew me away with her local eating book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I loved the film, No Impact Man, in which a family living in New York City attempted to spend a year having no negative impact on their environment. 

The idea that an author can subject themselves (and their family) to some kind of lifestyle change, discomfort, etc. and then write about it as it happens, captivates me. It fascinates me in the same way the idea of people living on the space station does. It all sounds so wonderful, but how does it really play out? What do they do with the poop? What if you don’t like the guy in the pod next to you? What if you like them too much and you have an affair – will mission control watch this happen? OK, so deciding to buy all our stuff locally doesn’t really compare, but if you ask my children they’d say they’d rather live on the space station, as long as they can have their Cheezits and Trader Joes cereal.

The hard truth of my little project is that my family is being forced along for the ride. My daughter is always up for a challenge and she sees the possibilities and the adventure. She also tells her friends that her mother is going to starve her in the next three months. My boys see only the way this lifestyle may impinge on their cereal options. My oldest has become downright obstinate about the whole thing. He says he’s going to wait until January 1 and then blow his whole Amazon gift card cache on things shipped from New Zealand. He chose New Zealand figuring it was as far away from here as anywhere. But then he couldn’t think of anything made in New Zealand. I offered, “Beef?”
First Confession: Ever since I made the decision to Go Local in 2013, I’ve been hoarding. It’s been almost unconscious, but still. I’ve stocked up on the things I can’t imagine going without – my favorite brands of conditioner and toilet paper, books from Amazon, good pens, plus Cheezits for the kids and cat food at a reasonable price. My husband has been filling the basement with cases of booze. We all have our weaknesses. I just needed to confess this up front. I feel better now.
 On Day two of Going Local I already felt like I was failing. This little challenge is much more complicated than I imagined. Determining the owner of a business is slippery. If a franchise is locally owned, does that make it local? Even though the bulk of the profits are being piped out of state to the mega-conglomerate that pulls the real strings? Hard to say. I’m still chewing on this one. I’ve met the owners of the local Chik-fila, but are they technically the “owners”? Isn’t Chik-fila owned by an enormously wealthy man whose wife gives money to anti-gay causes? I thought it wouldn’t be until a family road trip that I’d be smacked with splitting these hairs.
A few weeks ago a letter came from Honda. Seems there’s a small issue with a part that could potentially cause a fire in our car. The chances seem remote at best since this car has already raised our children and driven over 150,000 miles (in our 2-mile radius town). Still, it was past-due for its inspection so my hubby decided to take the dealer up on his offer to replace the potentially hazardous part for free and, oh-by-the-way can you inspect the car while you’re at it. He felt confident of the inspection since our local garage had put over $1600 of work in the car over the past year.
It wasn’t until my hubby called me with the news that the dealer had found some obscure problem that was going to cause them to fail our inspection unless we shelled out $500 for the fix that I realized our misstep. What? I’m about to spend a large sum of unbudgeted cash at a non-locally owned business for a problem I never knew existed. Is it me or does everyone feel like they’re being hosed by the dealer whenever they take their car in for work? So it’s a double whammy – I’m already broke this month and I already blew my commitment to locally owned businesses. Ugh. Can I have a do-over?
Let me balance out this tragedy with a triumph. As I’ve most recently confessed, prior to starting this Gone Local project, I indulged in a little selective hoarding of staples I worried I would not find locally. In fact, I was feeling guilty that this would all be too easy since I was stocked up on all my normal purchases from Wal-Mart. But then I sat down to print something out and the yellow flashing light lit up on the printer. No paper. And no hoarded paper either. Serves me right.
Where do you buy printer paper locally? Every stationery store I know is part of a large national chain. For a brief moment I considered calling my hubby and asking him if it was possible for him to “borrow” a ream from work. But he doesn’t even work local so that’s bad on too many levels. I began my search online and much to my delight I discovered an office supply company located right here in York and even better – it’s a “green” office supply company! Locally and family owned Greenline Paper specializes in recycled and green products. 
I e-mailed the store to be sure they sold to homeowners and got a lovely e-mail back with location and hours and an invitation to come right in! So I did! Not only do they have printer paper, but toilet paper, aluminum foil, and other paper products. They even have cat litter. And bonus – when you order more than $50, they’ll deliver it for free. And I worried that I’d never see my UPS man again!
Driving home from the Swordguild, my oldest son announced, “My fencing jacket is too small. I need a new one.” I raised my eyebrows and thought, “Why didn’t he tell me this a week ago when I could still shop on the internet?” He read my mind and said, “See, three days in and already this isn’t going to work.”
Fencing is a relatively obscure sport. My children tend towards obscure things. The youngest has just taken up archery and the middle one plays the oboe. Finding a fencing jacket from a locally owned store most likely requires that you live somewhere like Scotland. Normally I order fencing equipment from an online supplier located in New Jersey. That won’t work anymore. I spent one day debating giving in and softening my Gone Local stance, but then I remembered Craigs List. If I buy something from an individual, I’m definitely putting my money back in the local economy. Sure enough, several fencing options on Craigs List. I made arrangements for my husband and son to meet up with the lister and check out the jacket. Fingers crossed.
The same day as the fencing predicament, my son had an appointment with a doctor in Maryland. We live only four miles from the Maryland line, so technically this doc is still sort of local. It’s just that I was interpreting “local” to mean Pennsylvania, York County preferably. This is a follow up appointment, so it seems pretty irresponsible parenting to switch him to a doctor up here at this point. So I won’t. Again, first week and already I’m blowing it.
On day four of the New Year, my hubby and I traveled south to Virginia for a romantic weekend getaway. This was planned before Gone Local became a reality and was a birthday present. The grandparents came to watch the kids and we escaped for two days at a cottage on a working farm that grows grapes and sheep. In keeping with my new plan we rented directly from the owners, so while we were out of state, we still bought “local”. Local being a relative term. We did pack our own food as is our habit since cooking together is a treat. We patronized locally owned venues – a farm market and local wineries. Since I haven’t written up strict rules for this endeavor, I think I’m within my bounds here.
This first week proved that buying locally can be complicated. I have discovered that life, especially life with kids, is a series of wins and losses. The trick is to keep perspective. Don’t let the losses dictate your future, or at the very least, learn from them. 


  1. I love reading about your honest challenges with your new endeavor. Sounds like you're doing great!

  2. Enjoying your journey! We now have steps in our buying journey: local and/or handmade, recycled/reused, USA.