I am a Radical Homemaker by Carol
August 29, 2011, 7:33 pm
Filed under: by Carol, Clothing, Food, Shelter

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I cannot fully express my joy to finally have a title again. I am indebted to Shannon Hayes for this title which is from her book by the same name in which she describes the lives of men and women who are living very similar lives to mine and whom I did not know existed. In fact, radical homemaking is now a movement of sorts.

The question “what do you do?” has been my nemesis for so long now that I have  avoided social situations at times so as not to have to deal with it.  How would I respond? Ummm…nothing? Ummm…everything? Either could be true depending on your perspective. For the corporate work-a-day world I once inhabited, the correct answer would be nothing. In that world, what you do=what your paid work is=your identity. Mothers generally get a pass in that world as child-rearing is still considered a valid way to spend time and it is usually just a temporary time out anyway.

From my perspective, and that of my family, I do everything that does not involve earning an income (though I do manage our finances) and in so doing create for us all a balanced healthy life lived at a much lower stress level than most of the people I know. We do NOT spend our weekends catching up on all of the requirements of life that we don’t have time for during our hectic workweek.  For the most part, we spend our time hiking, visiting, enjoying each other’s company and engaging in creative pursuits. In the past year, I have been making more and more of our products, growing more of our food, forgoing all but the most necessary house cleaning, becoming ever more frugal and slowly decreasing our dependence on purchased goods and services. Cecily too helps with many of these activities as she can balance with her corporate job. And now I know we are not alone.  About the book:

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.

I’ve been working on my own definition as well because the above is a bit long for a cocktail party answer. 😉 My working version is “a radical homemaker manages his or her home as the center of a life lived in increasing harmony with the earth and decreasing dependence on corporate products and services”. Not too bad I think. Leaves room for questions for anyone whose interest goes beyond social politeness. One of the passages from the book really resonated with me and lends itself to personalization as well:

It is time we come to think of our homes as living systems. Like a sour-dough starter, the home’s survivial requires constant attention. A true home is inhabited by souls who live, breathe, eat, think, create, play, get sick, heal and get dirty. It will wither in an antiseptic condition. A true home pulses with nonhuman life – vegetable patches, yeast, backyard hens, [sprouts], blueberry bushes, [soaking grains], culturing yogurt, [drying calendula petals], fermenting wine and sauerkraut, [steeping infusions and herbal tinctures], brewing beer, milk goats, [aging cheese], cats, dogs, houseplants, kids’ science projects, pet snakes and strawberry patches. A living system cannot respect the hours on a time clock and requires the involvement of all the inhabitants in order to thrive. When we can see our home as a living system, when men and women both play a role in its care, even if one of them goes out to a job for part of the day, we have taken the first steps to restore the important partnerships our Neanderthal ancestors innately understood. We will have moved toward creating a true Earth Community.

The bracketed items were my additions from our personal living system. This life is not for everyone. It certainly isn’t for this Salon contributor. As for me, it is the life I’ve chosen and I’m so excited about the new title that I had cards made (free from Vistaprint of course)  to make it easier to connect with people.  Viva La Radical Homemaker!


Firefly by Carol
July 22, 2011, 9:07 pm
Filed under: by Carol, Clothing, Food, Shelter

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Some people know fireflies as beautiful beetles with iridescent internal organs that magically appear in summertime. We love them, as most do, and marvel at their magnificence every year. No less magnificent is the Firefly Gathering which happens around these parts every summer. A camp for people to learn “skills to live with the earth” it is an amazing meeting of minds and hearts with more interesting classes on offer than is humanly possible to take in. This was my second year attending and Cecily’s first. Last year I was there for 2 days and 1 night and this year I really felt the need to be there. Without even knowing all the classes that would be offered or who would be teaching them, it was pure instinct that nagged at me to make a bigger commitment this year.

So we packed up for a 4 day and 4 night full experience last weekend which required a couple of days off work and some help with cat and plant care. It has taken a while to write this entry as there has been much to synthesize and integrate from the experience. Where to start…okay well we rented a cabin since we don’t have camping equipment. That put us is in a small  but  happy minority considering the amount of rain we had the first couple of days. Not that we were without moisture. Nothing in the cabin was dry the entire time we were there. But at least our temporary home was not floating on the flooded fields as many tents were. Our first lesson was in proper packing for the outdoors. A mere 40 minutes north and at higher elevation, our downtown home has been so warm that we’ve been sweltering for weeks. Expecting sweaty sleepless nights, we packed two fans, sheets, lightweight clothes and proceeded to freeze our behinds off that first night in the woods. Cecily went back home the next morning to resupply us as her scheduled class was offered another time.

Speaking of the classes…. between us we took classes in felting, bee keeping, home orcharding, spinning, earthen paints and mead making, 3 permaculture classes and 2 plant walks. Most of them were amazing. The permaculture classes were taught by some of the country’s best and most experienced instructors. Lucky, lucky us. All this in a beautiful camp setting.

Then there were the people. It turns out liked-minded people come in many shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds. I think this is one of the best things about the gathering. Buckskin-clad 20 yr olds mixed with 40-something real estate agents related to 70 year old lifelong learners interspersed with children of all ages. At one point many of these people were waltzing together to live music before the hokey pokey broke out. This was followed by the drum circle which went until the wee hours.

Ahhh… the drum circle. We like us some drums as much as the next girls and can even appreciate the accompanying primal yells from time to time. But after 3 nights of it, combined with brain saturation from so much knowledge-share, we decided to return home to our DOWNTOWN condo one night early where we could get some PEACE AND QUIET on a SATURDAY night! Can’t wait for next year.

Food AND Shelter: A two for one visit by Carol
July 9, 2011, 4:03 pm
Filed under: by Carol, Food, Shelter

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Purple Cone Flower

Photo courtesy of stock.exchng: Echinacea

A couple of weeks ago while searching about online I learned about Ashevillage, a sustainable living demonstration site, which turns out to be less than a 1/2 mile from our little urban wanna-be sustainable living demonstration (a.k.a. our condo home).  I was thrilled to learn they offer tours and we were able to tag along on a tour scheduled the next day.

The place is an oasis. The moment I arrived I wished I never had to leave. It is alive with edible and medicinal plants, arbors and trellises waiting for their viney cover, multiple levels of interconnected ponds thriving with water loving plants and animals, and a green house/chicken coop combo all arranged against a backdrop of mature trees as a three-dimensional feast for the eyes. We were lucky there were only 4 of us on the tour so we had the chance to ask our many questions.

If all that weren’t enough, it turns out Ashevillage is also the headquarters for Kleiwerks International, a not-for-profit organization for that uses natural building as a means to promote ecological and social resilience internationally. They had recently hosted a natural building workshop onsite so there were several examples of structures built (not necessarily completed)  using earthbricks, strawdobe and other natural building techniques. THAT was a bonus as we’ve long considered using some of these methods in our own home design and here we were walking around with a world expert in the field!

As part of my not-so-secret agenda to be allowed more time at Ashevillage, I offered unskilled volunteer labor when needed. I was invited to be part of an onsite work party yesterday to build out one of the walls of a partially built “casita”. So in what can best be described as a six-year-old’s dream come true, I learned how to mix piles of sand, clay and straw into the right consistency by throwing on loads and jumping around on them until they were well mixed. Next we learned how to apply a coat of mudslip followed by layers of our mixture in a way that would bind them all together and to the base of earthbricks and strawdobe wall forms.

I’m certain I’ve never been dirtier than when I left there after a great days work. My hands and feet still have a tint of orange from the clay, the tops of my fingers are raw and bloodied in places (from what I do not know), and every muscle in my body hurts today. In other words, I’m ecstatic.  And inspired! 🙂