From farm to fork - Food isn't just a necessity, it's a way of life
Contemplating the meals she’s fed her family in the past 72 hours, cookbook author and third-generation farmer Shannon Hayes ’95 chortles. It’s a few days until winter solstice and the darkest time of year on Sap Bush Hollow Farm, a grass-fed livestock operation in the rocky hills of Schoharie County, N.Y., where Hayes, her husband and her parents tend pastured poultry, sheep, pigs and cattle. Snow blankets the dormant fields, and even the laying hens have slowed, yet the family’s table groans with a rich variety of locally raised and ecologically produced foods.
Today, roasted beets, butternut squash and onions accompany a meatloaf of hot Italian pork sausage and ground beef. For brunch yesterday, there was a hash of slow-cooked brisket with carmelized onions and red peppers, topped with poached eggs and homemade Hollandaise sauce. Two nights ago, the family dined on roasted pork shoulder served on a bed of rutabaga and apple purée. What they didn’t grow and can, freeze or store themselves, they acquired through barter with fellow farmers.
“What am I missing?” says Hayes of the nearly supermarket-free menu. “Wonder bread and pbj? We have a pretty damn good diet.”
Hayes is one of a growing cadre of farmer-writers preaching the local-foods gospel as a delicious means to revitalize local communities, boost public health and steward ecological resources. Perhaps the biggest challenge she’s had to confront in her own work is the assumption that for folks on a budget, local, ecologically conscious and tasty food is out of reach — a privilege of wealth and a certain sociopolitical demographic.
“I had an inferiority complex when I started on my locavore diet,” says the author, whose staples while she was earning her creative writing degree included Eggo frozen waffles and brown-and-serve sausages. Today, her cookbooks help readers eke the greatest flavor and value from grass-fed meats. “I realized one day that our income is as low as those of most people who live in these hills,” she says. “We could afford [to eat like] this, and as I did the research, I discovered there were a lot of people who could do it — it just takes domestic skills.”
In her latest book, Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity in a Consumer Culture, Hayes details how 20 families like hers, from Alaska to Vermont, have forged alternative economies through personal resourcefulness and a network of rich community connections. In her forthcoming Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lover’s Companion for Enjoying Meat, Pinching Pennies, and Living Deliciously, the author details the tricks frugal homemakers once knew by heart — slow-cooking to transform tougher cuts of meat or coaxing multiple entrées from a single chicken — that make local meats from small, family farms as affordable as a meal at the drive-through.
Growing veggies and relationships
“We try to eat as locally as possible and buy from local farmers and bakers, but we’re not purists,” he says, noting a weakness for Breyers ice cream. “People who are purists, really adamant about things, sometimes do a disservice to their relationships with others. It’s healthy to be flexible.”
Forging and maintaining relationships turn out to be central skills in Hambleton’s work as manager of the nonprofit Sisters Hill Farm, which grows affordable, fresh vegetables for residents of Dutchess County and the Bronx, where the farm’s owners — the Sisters of Charity of New York — are based. Hambleton runs an active apprentice program to train aspiring farmers and grows enough vegetables on the five acres he oversees to provide for 281 families who participate in a distribution model known as community-supported agriculture, or CSA. In a CSA, customers pay for a subscription before the growing season begins to help the farmer buy seed, fuel and equipment and then share both the risks and rewards of the harvest through a weekly vegetable allotment.
Events throughout the season — from a garlic harvesting party in July to a winter squash harvest in October, as well as potluck picnics — bring customer-members to the farm for a brief spurt of collective enterprise and community building. When late blight ravaged tomato crops throughout the Northeast in 2009, Sisters Hill CSA members attended an impromptu Beer and Blight party in the fields to help Hambleton and the interns nurse along as much of the crop as they could before plowing under the casualties. In 2010, they celebrated their largest harvest to date: 87,000 pounds of produce picked in the 24 weeks from late May through early November and distributed to members as well as to soup kitchens and food pantries in Dutchess County and the Bronx.
The last time he did the math, says Hambleton, his members paid just $20 each week for produce that would have cost two times as much at the grocery store. The low-income families who paid only what they could afford realized an even greater value. Despite a price increase in the interim, the sliding scale still tops out at a scant $30 a week. And every Sisters Hill member receives produce far fresher than what area supermarkets offer.
Farmers are rooted in their beliefs
“[As a student,] I felt that a lot of environmentalism was being against things,” says Hambleton, who first visited a CSA with Associate Professor Richard Andrus as a junior in environmental studies at Binghamton. “I really wanted to be doing something positive, saying here’s something that will help the world, communities, individuals.” The farmer he met on that 1993 field trip planted the seed of a principle Hambleton still nurtures. “I was inspired by what he had to say,” says the father of two. “He was living a life according to his beliefs and ideals and doing something positive.”
Like Hayes, Hambleton recognizes that buying directly from local farmers has profound implications for how things go in the kitchen. “If you don’t cook and you don’t eat vegetables,” he says, “then this farm, at least, is not a great deal.” But even for families where fresh produce dominates the menu and home cooking is second nature, coping with seasonal cycles and unfamiliar vegetables can pose a challenge. Hambleton and his interns craft a weekly newsletter with a harvest report and recipes featuring the produce members receive — from garden staples such as zucchini and leeks to such peculiar fare as celeriac and kohlrabi. “We realize it’s not convenient to be a member of a CSA,” he says, “so we try to make sure everything is really clean and universally appealing. Our members aren’t just die-hards who want to save the Earth. They’re people who really appreciate great food.”
Perhaps as a result, says Hambleton, despite Wall Street’s gyrations over the past two years, participation in the Sisters Hill CSA has held steady. “We haven’t seen membership slip at all,” he says. “It was gaining really fast before the economy went sour, and there’s still a lot of interest. The people who are members know this is a great deal and they find a way to make it work.”
Hayes has seen similar loyalty from Sap Bush Hollow customers: While 2010 sales weren’t the farm’s best ever, the numbers were still well above average. Perhaps, she muses, that constancy owes to the community within which the farm exists. “We realized that our customers didn’t seem the least concerned about the economy. Because they live in a life-serving economy tied to the local food system and the local community, they weren’t affected by the global downturn.”
Read the original article.
Author Promotes Radical Homemaking
Burlington Free Press - February 18, 2011
Denise Foote, 36, lives with her partner, Patrick Stanton, and their six children, ages 3 to 11, in a three-bedroom apartment in Burlington’s Old North End. They grow and preserve as much of their food as they can, bake most of their own bread and either buy clothes secondhand or make them. They have never taken a family vacation, don’t go out to eat and don’t own a car.
Their lifestyle is a far cry from what Foote describes as her and Stanton’s own upbringing in New Jersey “in a really affluent town in upper middle-income families,” and it is a conscious choice the couple made when they were expecting their first child, left comfortable jobs with good incomes to move to Vermont.
Foote works part-time in the cafeteria kitchen at her children’s elementary school, generating the family’s only steady income. “We’re just trying to reduce our cost of everything, trying to be self-sufficient and conserve resources,” she explained recently. “We try to buy used things. We make things. We buy very little food in boxes. We just try to live a simpler life.”
After slowly building their food and other self-sufficiency skills during the past 12 years, Foote said she was interested to learn about author Shannon Hayes, one of the keynote speakers at the 29th annual Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont’s (NOFA-VT) winter conference held last weekend at the University of Vermont, which Foote attended.
Hayes, who lives on her family’s farm in upstate New York and is the author of two cookbooks involving grass-fed meat, has taken her message beyond sustainably raised food to the need for a more broadly sustainable, less consumption-oriented lifestyle.
Her keynote and her afternoon workshop shared highlights from her 2010 book, “Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture.”
In her book and at the conference in Burlington, Hayes explained why she believes it’s critical that more Americans work to transform their households from “units of consumption” to “units of production” through rediscovery of “domestic skills, be they to plant a garden, grow tomatoes on an apartment balcony, provide for our own entertainment, cook and preserve a local harvest or care for our children and loved ones.”
Read the original article.
A quiet revolution is rebuilding communities
Honolulu Weekly - January 5, 2011
Daniela is five months pregnant and mother to Kainoa, 20 months. She works at a full-time job for the city. Her husband, Jack, works full time as an environmental consultant.
Theirs is a life we all know too well. They often wake before the sun rises, get themselves and baby dressed, and rush off to work/childcare before 9am. Home just in time to see the sunset, they cram the rest of their lives into nights and weekends. Both Jack and Daniela need to work full time to pay their bills — covering food, rent, utilities, childcare and health insurance, they have little left over at the end of the month.
While both are educated about the importance of sustainability and are strong advocates for the local food movement, even ecofriendly living can be expensive on our isolated island chain. Social events, chores and preparing for baby No. 2 make a visit to a farmers’ market the exception, and not the rule.
Jack and Daniela crave more. They share a longing for the country, the land and a life less defined by a mundane, 9-to-5 routine that tugs at them and excludes many personal passions. Here, again, they are not alone.
Radical Homemaking is a movement–some call it a quiet revolution–taking place across the nation among men and women like Jack and Daniela, who are reconsidering the role of homemaking and seeking ways families can build healthy food systems and launch alternative livelihoods through like-minded connections within their communities. As Shannon Hayes, the author of Radical Homemakers, writes, “Faced with climate change, dwindling resources and species extinctions, most Americans understand the fundamental steps necessary to solve our global crises–drive less, consume less, increased self-reliance, buy and buying locally, eating locally, and rebuilding our local communities.”
Think about a 1960s housing commune, with a modern-day, more realistic and less utopian twist. Radical homemakers strive for the good life by adhering to simple principles of ecological sustainability, social justice, community engagement and family well-being. Rather than creating new communities, radical homemaking is about retrofitting modern lifestyles, reclaiming the creative, post-consumer culture skill sets such as growing your own food, cooking, sewing, canning and so forth, to enable community self-sufficiency.
In Hawaii, where upwards of 80 percent of our food is imported, this is not just a personal choice–it’s a political issue. The ecological, cultural and political ramifications of our dependence on foreign-grown food are increasingly apparent. However, the isolated nuclear- family units that we’ve been told are the American norm do not easily lead to democratic food security. We can’t do this alone. We must begin to share our skills with one another and pool our disparate resources.
“When I meet with potential radical homemakers,” explains Hayes, “the problem is not whether people are capable of growing food, or sewing or canning vegetables–the problem is whether or not they have the courage to build the relationships necessary to make radical homemaking possible.”
Where does community building begin? Like many who live in condos, I lack sufficient space for a garden or large social gatherings. I make up for this lack of space, however, with skills in the kitchen, earning disposable income, and flexible work hours. Patty, an Aina-Haina based, stay-at-home mom, has space for a garden, a love for her friends’ children and the ability to make things grow. Daniela has a chicken coop, a formidable garden and a yard chock full of fruit trees. What they grow, I cook–and together we raise our families as inextricable parts of the land and the environment. What we lack as individuals, we make up for as a community.
As we carefully strategize to develop our experiment in radical homemaking, we realize the possibility of forming the foundation for a new life, free from the modern-day work-a-thon. It is community connections and interdependence that lies at the core of this new social experiment–and so we must begin by strengthening and fortifying these community ties.
Read the original article.
Occupation: Radical Homemaker
Doin' It All, Idaho Style
August 18, 2010
People, this book changed my life:
Or, rather, my life was already completely changed, but this book reaffirmed what I already knew, gave strong support, a voice, and a NAME to this new 'career' I had chosen. I am a Radical Homemaker.
Because Shannon Hayes, the book's author, says it so much more eloquently than I can, here's the low down on the book (and the subsequent lifestyle) from the website:
Radical Homemakers uncovers a hidden revolution quietly taking hold across the United States. It is the story of pioneering men and women who are redefining feminism and the good life by adhering to simple principles of ecological sustainability, social justice, community engagement and family well-being. It explores the values, skills, motivations, accomplishments, power, challenges, joy and creative fulfillment of Americans who are endeavoring to change the world by first reclaiming control of the home and hearth.
Mother Nature has shown her hand. Faced with climate change, dwindling resources, and species extinctions, most Americans understand the fundamental steps necessary to solve our global crises - drive less, consume less, increase self-reliance, buy locally, eat locally, rebuild our local communities.
In essence, the great work we face requires rekindling the home fires.
Radical Homemakers is about men and women across the U.S. who focus on home and hearth as a political and ecological act, and who have centered their lives around family and community for personal fulfillment and cultural change. It explores what domesticity looks like in an era that has benefited from feminism, where domination and oppression are cast aside and where the choice to stay home is no longer equated with mind-numbing drudgery, economic insecurity, or relentless servitude.
Radical Homemakers nationwide speak about empowerment, transformation, happiness, and casting aside the pressures of a consumer culture to live in a world where money loses its power to relationships, independent thought, and creativity. If you ever considered quitting a job to plant tomatoes, read to a child, pursue creative work, can green beans and heal the planet, this is your book.
For a few years now our lives have been slowly moving in this direction. We cultivated garden spaces around our small urban yard and traded produce and homemade items for free range chicken eggs. We began eating out less and when we did, we made sure to support local restaurants, dairies and the like. I even took my thrift store addiction to a new level, convincing my family to not buy anything new for an entire year in 2009.
Then there was that surprise layoff from my full-time job about a year and a half ago. While the layoff was traumatic and stressful, so was the job, so it didn't take me long to choose a completely new life path. We pulled the girls out of full-time daycare/preschool and I became a stay-at-home mom with benefits. I got to play outside all day. I got to be barefoot, bake bread, and take vacations whenever I wanted. Quickly, I became a working-at-home mom, as I was lucky enough to hand-pick one or two of the best art projects that came my way. Ones that had to fit into my new lifestyle, one that I wasn't willing to negotiate on this time around.
Eric and I sat down and examined how we could survive financially only his modest income as a college professor, as our yearly budget was now $30,000 less than it used to be. This meant some major changes including eliminating DirectTV and our entertainment budget, instead relying on free, local outdoor activities for the girls and Netflix. We cut way back on our grocery and clothing bills, by making food from scratch and relying on garage sales or clothing swaps.
Most importantly, we've made a major commitment to our Earth, by taking our recycling and reuse to a whole new level. We use reusable cloth napkins and plastic plates on our picnics and compost all food scraps in our backyard composter. Eric bikes or rides the bus to work, as we've cut back to one vehicle. Our lawn and garden use only organic materials and are watered by our neighborhood canal irrigation system. The girls and I keep food packaging materials for art projects and use both sides of paper for drawing on. I make my own shampoo and conditioner and shut off the AC every night.
We don't take fancy vacations or have lots of shiny new toys, but we also don't have any debt other than our student loans and our home mortgage. What we have truly learned (in this economic crisis oddly enough) is that money does not make you happy. Nor does money make your life better nor is it a measure of success. We are a good, no a GREAT, example of that. And we aren't the only ones. I have witnessed many friends just up and quit their successful, good-paying jobs recently in order to make their homes a healthier place. By having (and giving) time to connect with each other and our communities, we are creating a revolution. We are turning the American obsession with consumerism upside down and writing a new chapter in feminist theory.
It's a complex, amazing movement, y'all. And one that I'm so proud to be part of. And next time I have to fill out a form or someone asks me, "What do you do?" I can answer with a title, a name, an identity that sort of sums it all up nicely. I am a Radical Homemaker.
Read the whole article here.
Feminism and Simple Living
August 12, 2010
I recently came across the book Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. Hayes’ website describes the book as
…a book that looks at men and women across the United States who have opted to focus their lives on home and hearth as a political and ecological act; who have chosen to center their lives around family and community not only for personal fulfillment, but as a way to bring about cultural change. It explores what domesticity can look like in an era that has benefited from feminism; where domination and oppression are cast aside, where the choice to stay home is no longer equated with mind-numbing drudgery, economic insecurity, or relentless servitude.
Hayes asserts that radical homemakers
* redefine wealth in terms of family, community, good food, pleasure, and health
* reclaim skills lost in the increasing dependence on corporations for our livelihood, including nurturing relationships, setting realistic goals, redefining pleasure, and cultivating courage
* rebuild society by engaging in civic, artistic, and entrepreneurial activities often in their communities4
Yes, please! I can’t wait to read it. But this post isn’t really about that book. It’s really about what a book like that means in today’s society.
Read the whole article here.
New Book - Radical Homemakers
Liberating Home Economics
August 5, 2010
As I proceed with writing a dissertation on the early roots of the shift of American households from places of production to containers of consumerism, and of the inhabitants morphing from citizens into consumers, the book Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes, comes along. Radical as in defined by roots and fundamentals, as well as defined by necessary adaptations. Learn more here: http://radicalhomemakers.com/about/.
From reading a portion of the introduction online, I gather what I've suspected all along. Even though consumerism is the mainstream and pervades American ideology, there has always been the radical fringe of citizens who understood what home economics and the making of home was all about - society. I recently posted on Facebook a quote from Thoreau: "I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society." Home and economy are all of these things to me. It is my place. It is where I find peace with a friend. It is my connection with society. And in all of these options I find interpersonal and intrapersonal liberation in life. The economy of home is bigger than any education standard can hope to provide.
Read the whole article here.
Put Your Big Girl Panties On and Get Out There and Farm
July 28, 2010
I am always fascinated with writing that feels like a sentinel piece. This weekend, I finished reading Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. I first discovered Shannon about 4 years ago when I was just getting started with our family cow and when I would work nights at the hospital, and things were slow, I would peruse a discussion board about keeping a family cow. There I read a recommendation of her first cookbook about grassfed meat, and I bought it. It had been a nice addition to my cookbook shelf. Recently, Amazon alerted me "if I liked that I might also like this..." and it was her newest piece-- but definitely not a cook book! Amazon graciously allowed me read just enough to get hooked and luckily a friend lent me a copy.
Shannon is a beef farmer and radical homemaker in New York State. Her basic thesis is that homes were originally units of production and have become units of consumption. This shift, ushered in with the industrial revolution, has been so dramatic that as a society, we have suffered ill health as a result. She proposes that we need to re-examine the role of the homemaker (in true feminist theory, whether it be male or female or shared equitably) and support a reversion to being units of production in order to heal ourselves and raise our children. Her delivery is eloquent, her argument is compelling.
I may be stepping out on a limb, but I do believe this to be a sentinel piece of literature in our changing times. In the same way that Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver have changed the scope of interest in eating local and growing and raising your own food and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser unveiled the world inside our factory farmed meat, Shannon Hayes is doing that for the home.
Deep within the trenches of a recession, whose end, I believe, is not going to look anything like our world prior to 2008, we are ripe for a new cultural shift. As college graduates struggle to find jobs and then to find meaning in those jobs, our internship applications soar. As more people read books by Michael Pollan, my inbox is full with folks asking questions about how to eat locally. Shannon Hayes' Radical Homemaker is poised to usher in this shift.
An article written in March in the New York Times titled The Femivore's Dilemma has caused a ripple effect through the internet. Peggy Orenstein cites Haye's book and offers up some amusing theories. It turn out that femivores are everywhere and they're writing about it here. And the skeptics are out there too, as with every feminist discussion, there's always someone who sits in a different camp, forgetting there are many right ways and really its about women and men having a choice. The website Grist joins the discussion by pointing out that women have never left the "kitchen" as they still take the lion's share of the responsibility for feeding the family, only now its not so likely to be local, organic ingredients prepared at home but more processed and convenient.
But, although I like all this feminist theory, what I really like is radical homemaking. I like household units that aspire to consume less and produce more. I like the potential for more self-sufficiency as we learn not to live with less but to re-define what more is. More local, more organic, more home-grown, more stew chickens, more casseroles, more family cows, more butchering parties, more normalcy in the act of producing as a household such that neighbors are eager and willing to join hands and see a project to completion because we aren't afraid to spend time together as a community. Not more factory farmed meat, cheap commodities markets and over-consumption of inexpensive imported goods.
Oh and what happened to the nice colorful photos of the farm and its produce? Well, the other thing I want to share about is the Women's Land Army. The Women's Land Army emerged during the First and Second World Wars to replace male agricultural workers who had been called up for military duty. In 2009, at a reunion of British Land Army workers, women claimed they loved their time farming and the opportunity to pursue this option. I love this idea and I am drawn to the imagery of the photos and the posters from this time. Sometimes, when its just me and the crew in the field, all the women (sorry Aaron and John), I like to imagine we are our own Land Army.....but really we are a bunch of radical homemaking femivores out weeding a field with too much time to think and a choice about how to spend our time.
This week, we are hosting a film crew from the CBS Sunday Morning Show. As always, we feel both honored by and ambivalent about media engagements due to the potential to look stupid or have a comment taken out of context. Articles or short movies have no real direct effect on our business. We can't raise our prices for vegetables and say its because we were featured in the Times. But, indirectly, we believe we are helping a movement prosper and grow when we share a piece of our story. Above all, we want people to see it is possible to live well, with less, perhaps below the poverty level, producing food, raising children (and sometimes taking a vacation). Could a little clip on the Sunday Morning Show encourage anyone out there to emulate this lifestyle????
We'll let you know when its on so you can laugh and cringe a little along with us.
If you want for less, you'll always have more.
Read Shannon Hayes' book. Tell me what you think. Embrace your inner radical homemaker....you know she (or he) is in you somewhere...
Visit Broadturn Broadside.
Radical Homemakers proud to brandish a clothespin
The Chronicle Herald
July 24, 2010
What am I doing when I hang my underwear on the clothesline?
Saving a few cents? Hmm . . . yes.
Making clothes smell nice? Definitely.
Taking time to show I want a better world and that I’m willing to do what it takes to help make it? Bingo.
I’m paraphrasing there, from Shannon Hayes, author of Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture.
Hayes’s vision of radical homemaking includes, naturally, hanging the wash. Also? Using cloth bags, visiting the farmers market before the grocery store, home cooking and turning off the TV.
In Hayes’s words, it’s about "what you have and who you’re with" and not "what you think you may need, or how things could be better ‘if only.’ " Radical homemaking is finding fulfilment from places other than the mall, doing well with less and valuing your time and your peeps more than your stuff.
I dig it. I do it. I make my own compost, buy local, share appliances and tools with friends and only buy items I can’t make or borrow.
Why call it radical? In terms of numbers, radical homemaking is fringe, at best. But I meet more and more people all the time who do it. It starts simply, with hanging out the laundry, and becomes a passion — soon you’re letting a portion of your lawn go wild, learning to can food, using rainwater to give your plants a drink and car-sharing.
But the real radicalism doesn’t lie in how few people go whole hog at it, rather it’s in taking the time to do this stuff when it’s plainly more convenient not to.
Example: hanging laundry.
You have to do it early in the day, and on a sunny day. You have to watch the weather. You have to carry it outside, take 15 minutes to peg it on the line. You have to remember to put the jeans and towels on before the blouses and swimsuits, so the thicker, wetter stuff can stay on at the end while the next load goes on the line.
The alternative? Dump the wet mess in the dryer and slam a button.
So why bother with the bother? Because it saves money and it’s easier on the environment. But also because it slows you down. And that’s a radical idea to cleave to in a world where slowing down is not valued, where it implies being lazy or not fitting in with the way the world works.
It’s the same for all of the acts of radical homemaking — it takes more time when I make hummus from bulk dried chickpeas, or teach my kids to stay safe stirring homemade play dough on the stove, or when I bike to the store. But with these acts comes a breathtaking feeling of self-sufficiency and accomplishment.
I see the irony, of course, in labelling deeds "radical" that used to be the norm, or the only way. Trying to buy raw milk or, heaven forfend, having an urban hen literally makes you an outlaw these days.
I see the danger, too, in any discussion of feminism as it applies to these household tasks; the word homemaking alone gives me shivers. But radical homemaking isn’t tromping on the years of work of second-, third- and post-gen feminists. I just rendered 18 very smelly kilograms of beef tallow for candles and soap because I wanted to try it. And if my husband hears the washer stop before I do, he’s the one outside with the clothespins.
It’s easy to pass off these tiny tasks as meaningless (just as so-called women’s work has been discarded as inconsequential for all time). But that only leaves you right where you are.
The other option is to give change a shot and see where it takes you. Start by letting the neighbours see your undies on the line. Maybe you’ll see theirs up soon after.
Now that’s radical.
Livin', Lovin', and Learnin'
July 4, 2010
My favorite time of the day is morning, before the kids are up, when it's cool enough to have the windows open. Even without furniture, it's nice to sit around drinking coffee and looking up things on the internets.
There is just so much going on here. Right now I can hear bugs and birds in the trees. We went on a walk yesterday and saw ducks (of course), but also lots of turtles and a huge bullfrog. At Flat Rock Park I saw some little lizards running around on the rocks. It's nice for a nature junkie who doesn't really like being too far from the city. I like it for the kids too. Even though I don't think I would ever live in the country, I still like visiting, know what I mean?
There's a part of me that is jealous of people who do that, live in the country on a little homestead, growing all their own food and just living very simply. I feel the need to slow down, to enjoy life and what I have. I wish I could set up a clothesline in the breezeway. Could I have become one of those Radical Homemakers without even realizing it? In case you don't know what that is, there's a book about it (that I haven't read...need library card badly), and the basic idea is taking back domesticity, taking back a more simple life, rejecting a consumerist culture. It seems to involve things like cooking from scratch, canning, hanging clothes out to dry, etc. If you go searching around on the internets you'll find more information too.
Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about the whole Radical Homemakers thing. I don't do what I do because there's some list somewhere, so I can tick things off and give myself a label. I do what I do for our family because it feels right. Labels are so tricky, especially because so many people get caught up in the list of Must Dos that seems to come with a label. I found this with attachment parenting. I don't think attachment parenting is all about following the list, and I've always thought that the people who cling to the list are missing the point. I see this kind of thing with vegans sometimes too, that it's more about the do's and don'ts than it is about the real reasons for choosing not to eat or use animal products. I can see this happening with the Radical Homemakers movement too. People like to fit in, they like to identify with others. I suppose having a list is a fast way to do that. Don't get me wrong, the characteristics of a label can be useful if you're trying to learn about a different lifestyle than you're used to. But can't we take what is pertinent to our families and leave the rest behind without feeling like we're doing something wrong? Can't we be allowed to make small yet meaningful changes without being chastised for not following the list?
Me? I like to do what feels right and what makes sense. And if I save a little money in the process, heck, that's good too. So I will go on with my cloth trainers and my cloth pads and my family cloth, but I don't really care if you do it too. I'll tell you about it if you like, and even help you get started. And maybe you can share something you do with me, and if it feels right maybe we'll do it. If not, no big deal.
I didn't always feel this way. Life is a learning process. I've become a lot more chill in the past couple years. Are there some things out there that I would like to not see and hear about? Um, YES. Are there things that seem very wrong to me and that I don't understand? Of course. But is it my place to be all judgey and tell others they are doing it wrong? I don't think so. I've been told that I'm doing it wrong, and it hurts, especially when it comes to things that I do for my children, like homeschooling. I think the best we can do is lead by example. If you're in public wearing your baby or breastfeeding, people are going to observe you. If you're homeschooling and are happy and your children are happy and thriving, people are going to observe that. I could go on and on with examples of how everyday moms and dads can affect the world around them in a positive way. It might make them think, and they might be pleasantly surprised that there's a viable alternative to what they've always known.
So yeah. I'll still read the Radical Homemakers book because I'd like to see if there are more things I can do to enhance our lives. I'll probably read a lot of books about different points of view. I'll keep on keepin' on with the things we do, no matter how crazy or silly others may think it is. If I find something that makes sense, I might do it. I'd encourage you all to do the same.
Read the whole article here.
Enjoy your Fourth of July!!!
Little Cottage In The Country
July 18, 2010
Right now, I am reading "Radical Homemakers,"by Shannon Hayes. It is probably one of the most eye opening books I have ever read. Not so much for the philosophy, since I already believed in what she was saying,for the most part, but more for the history of households.
I guess I should back track a bit here. The book is divided into two sections: Section 1 is the history of the household, Section 2 consists of the stories of several Radical Homemakers across the US, why they are doing what they are doing and how.
I have never really thought about the history of households. I knew that it had changed through time, but the particulars of it were missing. The transition from producer to consumer was very interesting.
Households use to be a joint effort. Before the Industrial Revolution, people had to make everything they needed, or trade with their neighbors for goods and/or services. People worked together, because they had to. Men and women made a home TOGETHER. It was a joint effort. Households had a lot of power nationally, since they were producers. When the Industrial Revolution happened, it changed everything. Most of what the men did were now done in factories and could be bought in stores. They no longer had to make nails or butcher their own meat. Now they needed money, however, so they had to go to work, leaving the woman alone to take care of the house. This is when corporations saw a new market - sell to the homemaker. More things that were once made at home (predominately by the woman) were now for sale - soap, candles, clothing, processed food,etc. By the 1950's, women were getting bored. They were taking care of kids, cleaning, cooking, and that was about it. This is when "Housewife" started getting a bad rap. Then they started going to work, which opened up an even greater selling market - cars, work clothes, TV dinners, microwaves - things we were told we couldn't live without. The home was now a consumer, all it's power gone, because the household no longer relied on it's self.It relied on corporations. Now corporations have all the power. That's a nutshell version, and Shannon Hayes goes into much greater detail! It is very sad and very true.
When we started on this venture, it wasn't a political statement by any means. It was just something we wanted to do, and that we enjoy. Others are far more into it than we are. We are still learning and seeing where we want to go. We exchange work with our neighbors. If they have the skills and equipment to do something we don't, they help,and vise versa. Anything we do, we try to do ourselves or with our network of neighbors and friends. We have never paid a contractor for anything, at least, not so far. Our yard has been graded, our well fixed, driveway extended, outlet for our dryer installed, french doors hung, rooms remodeled, floors installed, chicken coop and turkey cage made, cars fixed - all by ourselves or with friends helping. Rick and I figure we have saved over $15,000. All we have had to buy is supplies and maybe spend a few dollars for gas or beer here and there.
If we did not have some income ( Rick's disability) coming in,we would probably would not be able to make it work right now, because we do have to buy things to live, pay our mortgage, etc. Speaking of Rick, he is getting stronger and stronger, and he has gone from crutches to a cane to only using a cane when his legs feel tired. His pain level is fairly nonexistent, and he has been given the green light by Dr Bernini to do some outdoor chores, such as mucking out the cages, feeding the birds,etc.This is a very exciting time for us right now. Rick is more like his old self, and his self confidence is coming back. We will still have to deal with his PTSD and TBI, but at least his physical well being has greatly improved. We enjoy this life together, and I know some people question it, but we are happy and content. Are they?
Radical Homemaking Is Not That Radical, Dammit
July 8, 2010
Sometimes, blogs get me riled. Riled, I say!
Madeline Holler's "I am a Radical Homemaker Failure" piece on Salon both got me stoked and then annoyed the crap out of me. After her husband took a lower-paying job and she decided to stay at home with their kid, Holler says their lives unintentionally moved "toward the Radical Homemakers movement" since they cut back on spending and started buying in bulk and cooking from scratch.
Here's what made me do a fist pump:
"...central to the Radical Homemaker agenda is the idea that we don't have to rely on nameless, faceless corporations to feed, clothe, shelter and entertain us. Instead, we can take ourselves out of an economy that requires endless hours of work while others raise our kids and chemists make our food -- all so we can go out and buy stuff that wrecks the planet."
Fuck yeah! But wait. Agricultural-society bonerkill:
"We don't need paychecks -- at least, not much of one. We might not even need health insurance. Instead, Radical Homemakers survive on home-grown food, old-timey skills and a willingness to help the neighbors."
No health insurance? Yeah, I wasn't so radical.
Read the whole article here.
Radical Homemakers: Learning to use lifeskills as a replacement for money
By Lisa Kaaki
July 7, 2010
Shannon Hayes’ “Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture” is the most thought-provoking book I have read this year. It is written by a brilliant woman whose excellent studies — she holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University — destined her for a great career. Hayes had chosen subjects such as sociology, sustainable agriculture, community and rural development, which she thought would help her find a job near her parents’ home. However, she didn’t even get an interview and even more, her husband lost his job. As a result, Hayes’ dream to work and start a family in the place where she grew up, among a supportive community, was shattered.
Hayes and her husband, Bob, like so many American couples, had no other choice but leave their home to find work. This meant breaking up the extended family and hoping for generous salaries that would pay for the babysitting and domestic help that caring relatives and neighbors would have offered at home.
Hayes’ family who practiced subsistence farming, food preservation, barter and frugal living, knew that the key to success wasn’t necessarily how much money one earned, but how much money one didn’t have to spend. So, before they decided to move away, they made their calculations and discovered that after they had subtracted out what they would pay for commuting, a new house, professional wardrobes, taxes, and buying rather than growing food, they would only make $10,000 in annual income, and they hadn’t even included the cost for child day care. Hayes and her husband then decided to join her parents on the family farm. There, she wrote cookbooks about sustainable food, and they had children and became homemakers.
“Radical homemakers are men and women who have chosen to make family, community, social justice and the health of the planet, the governing principles of their lives,” said Hayes.
Read the whole article here.
Meet The Radical Homemakers
By Mary Beth Breckenridge
July 7, 2010
What some people would consider adversity, Nika Franchi sees as a stroke of luck.
Franchi and her husband, Ben, were translators who often worked on international business deals until the global recession dried up their livelihood. Now they live mainly off food they grow on their rented property in North Akron, Ohio, and the money Franchi makes selling the bread she bakes.
They'd long been drawn to the idea of a simpler, self-sufficient lifestyle, she said, but they never had the courage to make the change until "we were fortunate enough to be cornered into this situation." Now their life revolves around home, family and hard but life-sustaining work, and Franchi sees her role as keeping the family together.
She's an example of what author Shannon Hayes calls radical homemakers, women and men who are reclaiming the traditional role of the homemaker as part of their desire for a less materialistic life. It's a social movement that's drawing a small but growing number of people -- many in their 20s and 30s -- who measure the value of their lives not in terms of money, but in strong relationships, ecological sustainability and happiness.
Hayes said radical homemaking is part of a quest for an economy that generates a living for everyone rather than a killing for a few. "The idea ... is understanding what enough is," she said from West Fulton, N.Y., where she and her husband are involved in running her family's farm.
In a way, it's a move backward. Radical homemakers are embracing skills such as canning, sewing and growing food that were common among earlier generations of women.
But the movement rejects one vestige of the past: the perception of homemaking as inferior work. That perception grew out of the industrial revolution, said Hayes, who holds a PhD in sustainable agriculture and community development from Cornell University. Until then, labour in the household was divided between the sexes, but those differences did not imply superiority or inferiority, she said.
The industrial age changed the purpose of the household from producing to consuming, Hayes said. The homemaker's role became largely that of the family's chief buyer, and her status diminished.
Radical homemaking shifts the household back from consumption to production, she said. It considers the household a shared responsibility and recognizes the roles as equally important.
That's the kind of life the Franchis are pursuing. Ben Franchi's job is taking care of the garden and maintaining the cars, the machinery and the systems in the house such as the plumbing. Nika Franchi does the cooking and housekeeping, home-schools their 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, and bakes 150 loaves of bread every week in summer to sell at the Countryside Farmers' Market on Saturdays at Howe Meadow near Peninsula, Ohio.
"If somebody told me three years ago this is what I'd be doing, I'd never have believed them," Nika Franchi said.
She remembers working in a law firm in New York City and wondering why the lawyers would work 80-hour weeks to amass wealth they could enjoy only during their two weeks of vacation.
"I have a very modest living," she said, "but I think I'm much better off than they are."
Her work can be demanding. A typical day might find her cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, canning fruit and baking bread for her family.
But there's an upside, she said. For one thing, she and her husband no longer have to pay for services such as child care and cleaning. And she said she has time to take her daughter places, cook dinners, hunt for mushrooms in the woods, play her beloved grand piano, read and even make her own sour cream and butter.
"I'm actually living, rather than waiting to live," she said. "I'm very busy living my life."
So are Laura and Mark Weldon, who with their children produce much of their own food on their
3.4-hectare farm in Litchfield Township, Ohio.
Like the Franchis, the Weldons were already pursuing a life that rejected materialism and valued self-sufficiency when economic circumstances nudged them farther down that path. Mark Weldon's loss of his full-time job about two years ago "made this self-reliant thing a little more serious," Laura Weldon said.
She said they'd long realized the folly of working to buy things in an attempt to fill an emotional hole or fit an image created by marketers. That seed was planted in her long ago by parents who valued self-reliance and by the book Diet for a Small Planet, which made her recognize that her choices had far-reaching effects on the well-being of other people and the health of the Earth.
The Weldons raise food in two large gardens, grow hay on nearby land for their cow and her two calves, and gather honey from their beehives, milk from the cow and eggs from their 60 or so chickens. Laura Weldon makes yogurt and cheese, preserves food, makes bread and even grinds flour from wheat berries.
She also works as a freelance writer and teaches conflict resolution and writing, and her husband is the bee inspector for two counties.
The family isn't entirely self-reliant, but "we do as much as we can," she said. "It's kind of a journey. It's not some either-or proposition."
Weldon believes their lifestyle is particularly beneficial for raising children. The couple's four children were all taught to help, and they blossomed from developing useful skills and contributing to the family, she said. They've all been home-schooled, and Weldon has written a book on the subject, Free Range Learning.
Despite the work, Weldon said she has plenty of time for reading and creative pursuits. And the family spends hours every day in conversation -- sometimes sitting around the dinner table, sometimes relaxing on the porch, sometimes curled on couches and pillows.
Radical homemaking isn't necessarily a rural pursuit; in fact, author Hayes said most radical homemakers live in cities or suburbs. In many cases, one partner will work full time outside the home.
What they share is a commitment to ecological sustainability, social justice, family and community, she said.
The idea of simplifying life and focusing on family appeals to many, they said.
HOW TO START
Shannon Hayes offers suggestions for radical homemaking:
- Hang your laundry out to dry.
- Dedicate part of your lawn to a vegetable garden.
- Get to know your neighbours so you can co-operate to reduce spending.
- Shop at a farmers' market each week.
- Donate things you don't need to help others save money and resources.
- Carry reusable bags on all your shopping trips.
- Learn how to preserve one local food item for the winter.
- Get your family to agree to spend more evenings at home, preferably with the TV off.
- Cook for your family.
- Focus on enjoying what you have and whom you get to share it with, rather than on what you want or think you need.
Radical Homemaking, What's It All About?
July 4, 2010
I’ve been seeing the term “radical homemaking” popping up all over the place and decided I needed to find out more about it. After reading the introduction to Shannon Hayes’ book Radical Homemakers, (you can find it here: http://radicalhomemakers.com/about/read-the-first-chapter/) and several other blogs and articles referencing radical homemaking, I realized that I AM a radical homemaker and have been for years!
Shannon Hayes says, “Radical Homemakers are men and women who have chosen to make family, community, social justice and the health of the planet the governing principles of their lives.” The kicker is that she makes this sound like a NEW idea. What about those of us that have been practicing those principles since we first started our families? What about those who have never bought into the idea of “he who has the most toys wins?”
It seems to me that this new radical homemaking movement is kind of like the popular kids saying, “It is now cool to be a homemaker; you just have to call yourself a radical homemaker,” giving the rest of the popular crowd a face-saving way to join the nerds.
I definitely get the feeling that there are those who would NOT consider me to be a radical homemaker. I did not finish college. I did not quit a high profile job with a six-figure income. I did not downsize and have to leave a big house. I did not move from a big city to a farm or make any huge shift in my lifestyle. I already know that eating at home and cooking from scratch is healthier and less expensive than eating out. I already shop at thrift stores and wear my clothes out. And honestly, I laughed out loud when I read Shannon Hayes statement about living well on $45,000 a year for 4 people!
I guess part of what irks me is the implication that those of us who have been homemakers have had no other options, no education and no skills to pursue other “careers,” while these radical homemakers have had other options, but have made a conscious choice to embrace homemaking. What a crock!
So after doing my research, how do I feel about radical homemaking? Despite my petty annoyances over the term and what it implies, I say we put aside how we each got to this point, welcome and help each other, and join in the common goal!
I am a Radical Homemaker failure
A new movement of canning, baking moms find inspiration in frugality. Me? I just hate it
By Madeleine Holler
June 30, 2010
When my husband told me he wanted to fall back on his Ph.D. and start a career in academics, rather than continue earning piles of gold shoveling rocks for Satan, who was I to argue?
I had left my own short but nicely paid career, thanks to a paltry maternity leave and a too-long commute, in order to spend time with our daughter.
"Sure, honey," I said. "Follow your dreams."
"The pay's pretty low," he said, before accepting his only offer, a year-long lectureship at a private university in the Midwest.
"How bad could it be?" I thought.
Read the whole article here.
Me, a Radical Homemaker?
Laura Grace Weldon Blog
June 28, 2010
By Laura Weldon
Okay, radical sounds hip. I can live with that. But homemaker? The last few decades that word has been a synonym for drudgery. Besides, ask my kids who really does the dusting and vacuuming around here. They do.
What’s radical homemaking? Shannon Hayes wrote a wonderful book called Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture. Yes, I thought when I heard the term. Naming something gives it momentum. And the lifestyles of people defining for themselves what The Good Life is all about haven’t gone unnoticed so much as undefined. It doesn’t seem radical in the slightest to many of us who try to live simply, it just makes sense.
Thankfully Shannon pulls the pieces together. As she writes,
“…each of us has a calling or right livelihood that enables us to serve the common good, and in finding this calling, we will be most happy. Few, if any spiritual teachings call us to seek the accumulation of money, stuff, power, or other purely selfish interests. Further, in a life-serving economy, we individually accept responsibility for creating our own joys and pleasures. We do not rely upon corporate America to sell us these things. We take personal and collective responsibility for supplying many of our needs. In taking these steps, we discover that true economic assets, unlike money, are intangible.”
There’s nothing new about this. Most of our foremothers and fathers upheld frugality and scorned excess. Throughout history people have been growing and preserving food, making gifts, providing hands-on care for the young and old, repurposing materials and finding meaning in pleasures that aren’t necessarily linked to spending money.
This sort of lifestyle simmers along quietly and purposefully while consumer culture runs at a full boil, generating heat over every new trend and news flash.
Somehow, in a world bristling with radical homemakers, I’ve been outed as one of the representatives. “A poster child,” claimed the journalist who trekked out to our little farm with her notebook in hand last week. I’m more comfortable interviewing others rather than being interviewed, but I put my trust in her expertise. I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult to talk about trying to place our interests beyond the shallow values of appearance as I sat there wearing a thrift shop shirt that had to be 20 years old. Well, until the photographer showed up. Judging by the anxiety that generated I’m still the product of an appearance-indicates-worth society. The irony wasn’t lost on me. I gave up all hope of looking 20 pounds lighter or remotely put together and kept talking.
And laughing. Her questions struck me funny. In fact, she came right out and asked, “Don’t people treat you as if you’re odd?”
Maybe they do but I always thought that’s because I’m sarcastic and tend to sing songs with made-up lyrics.
I told her about homeschooling and the intrinsic value of meaningful learning. I told her about our local food co-op, about making homemade tinctures and about using things until they wear out.
I tried to explain why I preferred to make sandwich buns over the weekend for a party here rather than buy them. “Was it part of your philosophy? Was it cheaper?” she asked.
I never priced such buns at a store, I told her. I ground the grain, used eggs from our chickens and milk from our cow and honey from our bees, kneaded the dough and baked them that morning. It cost almost nothing in ingredients and very lit