Friday, April 6, 2012

Are You a Radical Domestic?

If you grow and preserve your own food, you may be a radical domestic. If baking your own bread feeds your body and soul, you may be a radical domestic. And if you’re handy with a needle, in my book you are definitely a radical domestic.

What makes these skills radical? The fact that we embrace, rather than hide, our domestic talents. There was a time, not so long ago, when such skills were seen as old-fashioned, and anyone practicing them seemed out of touch with modern life.

Recently, we’ve come to recognize that such skills are not only useful, but satisfying. Additionally, if carefully thought out, they save us money, and may even provide an additional source of income. The Homestead Blessings set of instructional DVDs provides instructions from a group of homesteading women who seem to make everything from scratch. The library has nine titles in this series, including: The Art of Dairy Delights, in which you can learn to make ice cream, butter, and yogurt, and The Art of Gardening, which addresses everything from a small container garden to a large vegetable garden.

Ashley English and her family have a homestead in North Carolina, and she has written several books sharing what she’s learned. Canning and Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More  provides basic instructions along with plenty of step-by-step photos. Some of her other books address how to keep chickens and bees.

If you’d like to read about life as a homesteader, check out Jenna Woginrich’s book Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life, an enjoyable mix of memoir and how-to. Jenna gave up city life to rent a farm in Vermont, and her book tells about how she learned to become more self-reliant.

There are many new books and DVDs designed for novices and experienced practitioners alike, but don’t overlook titles that have been around for years. They’ve lasted for a good reason. If you’ve never looked at the magazine Mother Earth News, you’ll find it with our other magazines. The Foxfire Series of books recorded the lives and culture of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, collected by high school students who wanted to preserve their heritage. Foxfire 3: Animal Care, Banjos and Dulcimers, Hide Tanning, Summer and Fall Wild Plant Foods, Butter Churns, Ginseng, and Still More Affairs of Plain Living is an example of subjects covered in the series.

Whether you’re looking for tips on making your own clothes, healthier ways to clean your house, or suggestions on what to do with the astonishing number of zucchini you somehow grew, isn’t it great that domestic skills are now cool? You’re such a radical!

Amy, Volunteer @ Warrenton

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