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Book Review: Radical Homemakers

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these! I have been reading since the last book review, I swear! Not as much as I’d like to, of course. Kiddo1 and I did have a reading contest last month. We raced each other – I read “The Book Thief” and he read “Divergent,” then we switched books. I finished “The Book Thief” first, but now he’s nearly done with the whole “Divergent” series and I haven’t even started the first book yet!

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My copy, which is quickly becoming worn!

In my defense, though, I’ve been distracted by homesteading-type books. This was the first one I read and let me tell you, if you need a motivator to start becoming a productive household, “Radical Homemakers” by Shannon Hayes is probably a good place to start.

I was reading this book when I started writing again last week. I’m sure its influences are in the articulation of my goal. Shannon makes a very compelling argument for homemaking. I’m sure her thesis has appeared in my posts about my goal, so I won’t go into the details of why she thinks homemaking is a critical art that should be cultivated.

The fascinating part of her argument, to me, comes in the evolution of human thought that she points out. Our society has gone from being very home-centered, when accomplishment of domestic tasks really did influence ones very survival, to the industrial revolution and the beginning of abandoning the home, the rise of convenience appliances and foods alongside the rise of “housewife syndrome” in the 60’s, the shunning of domestic tasks with the first wave of feminism, and on and on. It’s funny how one thing, like how Darwin described the roles of women and men in evolution, could so greatly alter how the vast majority of people view the sexes. She has some really great history lessons like these all through the book. I find them so interesting!

Shannon also shares profiles of a bunch of families she has interviewed as part of her research. I love reading real stories about others who have started to blaze a trail to homemaking. This book kind of reminded me of Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, with its second half full of birth stories. That book was very inspirational to me in pursing natural childbirth, and so I find “Radical Homemakers” to be very inspirational in pursing my new goal!

Apparently people have found this book to be controversial. That opinion could be prompted by the author’s disdain for corporate culture. It could be her opinions on feminism or maybe even her interpretation of history, But I found myself nodding along with just about everything in this book so I didn’t find it too controversial! I found myself wanting to be friends with Shannon Hayes, so I can learn everything she knows! She does address some of the controversy in this interview, which I also found extremely interesting!

This is a great book if you’re at all pondering issues of how we got to this modern life, or if you have any interest in homemaking. Next time I’ll review another of Shannon Hayes’s books, “Long Way on a Little.”

The HOW (and the when)

Okay, after a couple days of updates and a break for Father’s Day, I’m back to the goal stuff.

The What and Why have been documented, and we know Who is doing this (me and my family!) and Where (at home and in our community) – all that is left is the How.

How am I going to be more productive and consume less?

The answer is… I have no idea! I’m new at this. I guess I’ll be finding out as I go? Well, that’s not entirely true, I have some ideas. Have I mentioned toothpaste?

But really, though, how do I produce more than I consume? I think I should start by being mindful, and encouraging mindfulness in my family. By mindful I mean that I should start looking at everything like I’ve been looking at toothpaste. I want to ask questions – What is this? What’s in it? How are the ingredients made? Where does it come from? Who created this?

Of course, I have to figure out how to encourage these questions from my family without being annoying. I have been kind of annoying to them lately. I mentioned that I’ve started changing our diet already. Well, I did some things kind of fast. No more white bread or white pasta – when enriched flour foods were gone I replaced them with whole wheat or I banned them (still trying to keep the Little Debbie-like shit from coming in my house but that’s a separate fight, and at least one that I don’t have to have often). No more Jello (I make some using fresh juice and grass-fed gelatin now). I added lots of veggies – veggies at every meal when before we had them only a couple times a week. Way less pasta – once a week for dinner and that’s it (and now it is only half the dinner instead of the whole thing). And the biggest one (but honestly seemed the easiest to implement when it was all said and done) – no more sugary cereals AND cereal is now just a “lazy day” breakfast. We now eat home-cooked breakfasts at least five days a week or more. Kiddo1 had cereal this morning (first day of summer!) for the first time in weeks. Trader Joe’s O’s, plain, with raw milk. Oh yes, our milk went from convention to organic to raw pretty quickly.

That’s not the annoying part. I’ve been telling them why I switch things when they ask, and how much bad stuff is in some of the things we’ve been eating. I try not to lay it on thick, I really do, but sometimes I get away from myself! I have also not allowed them much of a transition. I am trying not to swap out the whole pantry at once, but I will change the bread they get overnight. One day it was white, the next is was wheat and no matter how much they protested I did not go back. They’re actually lucky on this one – I’m still buying bread but I would like to do away with it all together. More on this later; it’s more complex than it sounds.

So I am not shy to tell them what they’ve been eating sucks and I’m not slow to take it away. I’m a “yank the band-aid off while they’re distracted” kind of nurse I guess.

I digress! Mindfulness! That’s all I’m trying to get at here. I need better ways to encourage mindfulness in my family, and I’m not sure what those are yet, but I know being more aware of what we’re eating and what we’re buying is going to be helpful.

Step 2… I also want to read whatever I can. Reading books and articles about what I’m doing helps. Reading will be a way for me to broaden my scope and skills. I’ve read a couple homemaking-related books since I started writing again last week (I’ve been sick, lots of time to lay around and read) and I’ll write reviews of those soon. I want to research homemaking, the art of domesticity, etc. I want to learn all those things our grandmothers knew – how to sew, how to clean, how to use all parts of a cow, how to raise chickens and garden year-round, etc.

Step 3… Community (this is the hardest one for me!). I need to get out of my house and find other people who feel the same way. I’d love to take a gardening class or find a mentor that will help me learn. I want to meet a local farmer that I can buy meat from today but maybe trade for meat when I have something of value. I want to meet folks who tinker with cars and would do anything for a few jars of the jam I make every year.

I’m sure there are more steps. Learn to try things without fear of failure. Find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Meditate. Turn off the TV more, put down my phone more. Talk about my goal with others. Write about my goal 2 or 3 or 5 or whatever times a week.

I think I really will be find out how to do this as I go. I’ll be sure to write it down though.

 

Oh wait! The When! I left out one question – when. I’ve actually been thinking about this one a lot this week.

Obviously I’m starting now, or I’ve already started I guess, but when am I done? Better yet, because I know I’ll never be “done,” when is my target to have the production-to-consumption scale emphatically tilted to producing?

I’ve been thinking about 9 years, mostly because of my blog’s namesake. Well I called this blog 9 years later because I started it to document my second pregnancy, which occurred 9 years after my first pregnancy. So, you know, gotta follow that up with something equally epic (which is impossible, I know, as nothing is as grand as having a child). Plus, this is, like, a really big goal. I’m talking Make. All. My. Shit. (Hahahaha – so I’m proofreading and just now realize how funny that last sentence sounds. So I can’t remove it.)

9 years from now I want to have the skills that will enable my family and me to be free. Free to live anywhere we want – stay in our current house and build on, or maybe move to a farm, move to another country if we felt like it. I want to be free to decide whether or not I will continue with conventional employment. Free to make decisions about our future that are not hindered by questions like where will our food come from and where will we buy X, because those things won’t be major players in the decisions any more.

I know it sounds like a lot. I know it is a really lofty goal. I know it could fall apart at any moment! There will be successes, there will be failures. I’ll probably give up from time to time, but that’s why the blog is here! Oh dear blog, please keep me motivated by making me accountable. I can’t promise to post my progress and not follow through, right? We’ll see.

Where does the time go?

Where does the time go, amiright? Baby2 is almost two years old and I haven’t written a proper blog post in nearly a year. I’ve had a couple draft posts going that I picked at from time to time, but I just haven’t felt as motivated to write as I did when I was pregnant.

This quest to find motivation has been on my mind a lot lately. In pregnancy I was so motivated to write, despite being tired, swollen, all my free time taken meeting my exercise goals, etc. Maybe pregnancy just provides such good fodder for my writing muscle… but it isn’t like life right now is boring! Maybe pregnancy provides the focused subject that I lack now. Maybe there’s just SO MUCH that I could write about now that I can’t focus.

Other than being a good writing subject, I’ve also thought about pregnancy as being like a goal, with giving birth being the ultimate culmination of all the hard work of growing a baby. It has all these sub-goals and milestones that are really great for making me feel like I’m progressing toward something.

Goals are good; everybody says so. I’ve never used them much in my personal life, though, other than the big goals like finish school, find a job, find a partner, buy a house, etc. Were those really goals or just things I wanted? Or things I thought I needed to do? They’re “life checklist” things – they aren’t focused goals (to me).

Lists are really by bag – they’re how I typically stay focused and organized. But as I examine that approach now, it suddenly hits me as reactive. I want to get shit done, but I want more than that. When I look back at the end of the day, or the decade, I want to be able to say that I did something more than keep the kitchen clean and the family fed. Not that those aren’t important things! Or that I’ll stop doing them, which can’t really happen! Lists are important, but I’ve leaned on them too heavily and completely forgotten about goals!

Lately this bug has caught me. I have a need to always have a project going on, but this is more than that. I want a project with lots of little sub-projects, that takes a long time to complete, that not only gives me a sense of accomplishment but provides something for my family and maybe even my community as well.

There are a few things I’m working on right now, but I think they make really nice sub-projects that could contribute to a bigger goal. First, I’m driving big diet changes for the family: reducing processed foods, reading/researching ingredients, making more from scratch. This leads directly into my second “thing:” growing food. We’ve kept a garden for the last couple years, but we finally have space for a lot more so I’m working on growing my skills there. Third, and directly related to the other two, is that I’m trying to make stuff whenever possible. Not like, craft with macaroni and shit (not to bash if that’s what you’re into) but “make stuff” like making my toothpaste and bread.

Those three projects have a lot in common I think. The third is the closest to my overall goal, which I just kinda figured out now* is – I want my household to produce more than we consume. More “stuff” needs to go out than come in. I’m not talking about creating an Etsy shop or simply spending less than we earn – I’m talking about using what we have, selectively buying what we need, re-evaluating what we actually need. Re-evaluating what we actually need – that is a big one too.

I want to use this blog to document my latest creation. I want to post more again – maybe not as much as I posted during pregnancy, maybe more, I don’t know! Clearly I haven’t worked out the logistics yet. I was just now able to articulate my goal! I hadn’t been able to really do that until I started typing. This blogging thing is good for the goals I think. Anyway, I’ll save the logistics for the next post.

For now, I have a goal so I’m going to toast to that!

*Although to be fair, I did start this post a couple days ago 🙂