I’m currently reading Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture. It is a very interesting book which advocates for the return of the homemaker. No, not the housewife of the ’50s, but a woman or man in a family who is dedicated to the making of a home: growing & preserving food; repairing clothing; cooking food. Doing the things that cost today’s family so much money, causing people to work longer & longer hours, leaving less time for interaction with spouse, children, friends, & family.
I’m not going to get deep into the specifics of the book, nor am i going to go off on a tirade about how every family needs to take back the Domestic Arts (that’s for another post, after i ruminate on this vast topic more). I wanted to share with you something that i noticed in myself.
As many of you out there know—because you know me in person & have witnessed my tendencies—i am a maker. Some of my friends once joked that a statement that is almost always true of me at any moment is that i am “doing arts & crafts.” I think it really started in full force when i learned to knit & crochet, though i did alter my thrift store wardrobe all throughout high school as a result of my grade 8 sewing class. Once i realized that i could now make scarves, toques, mitts, & blankets, the world was my oyster. & i wanted more.
I learned more cooking skills, baking bread from scratch being a perennial
favourite obsession. Now i’m learning how to ferment things like mead & sauerkraut. I am also experimenting with woodworking & lutherie.
Shannon Hayes, author of Radical Homemakers, points out that when all the labour-saving devices & industrial convenience foods came into the typical North American household, the housewife* became more of a consumer than ever before. Suddenly her “job” was equated with shopping rather than making. “Being productive” became synonymous with “buying things”.
I am in The City (Saskatoon’s the biggest centre near us, so it is generically referred to as “The City”) today, shopping for various & sundry odds & ends: zip ties for goat fencing, rubber boots to protect our feet from the impending spring mud, & new knitting needles. Reading in the pauses between my shopping forays, i notice within myself how i feel productive after i’ve bought an item. Today has felt like a productive day, despite the fact that i haven’t actually produced anything; i’ve only consumed products.
While this does worry me—this productivity-equals-consumption idea wheedling its way into my brain & my activities—i take solace in the fact that most of what i bought are the ingredients of other things, tools & parts in a bigger DIY project. The zip ties represent the jury-rigged fencing that we are devising in our goat barn; the boots are a reminder that chores go on even when the snow melts & mucks up the land; the needles represent hats, socks, mittens.