Friday, June 14, 2013

Radical Homemaking | Back Yard Plans

As I mentioned last week, I've just finished re-reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes, which has me all fired up about sustainable living. My husband and I are in the planning stages of transitioning our household from what Hayes calls a "consumer household" to a producing household. She writes...

"Mainstream American culture views the household as a unit of consumption. By this conventional standard, the household consumes food, clothing, technologies, repair and debt services, electricity, entertainment, health-care services, and environmental resources. In order to be a "successful" unit of consumption, the household must have money."

As I wrote earlier, I have had it with corporate America and I am sick and tired of handing my hard earned money over to corporations who turn around and poison our environment and our bodies. My goal this year is to move our household in a different direction than the one described above.

I find myself in a rare situation. My husband and I have enough resources to sustain ourselves - a Godsend given our current national economics. Our relationship is strong, balanced and unconditionally loving. He is as committed to our domestic life as I am, and we share the burdens and the joys. We have a home with space enough for gardening, composting, cooking, art-making, child-rearing and all sorts of additional recreation. So as I see it, I am in a great position, as a homemaker, to shift our lifestyle away from the mainstream, extractive-style household towards a more compassionate, connected, life-serving household. I'm sure this shift will be slow and incremental, but I am optimistic about what my husband and I will be able to accomplish.

I'm starting small. Less spending, more making. I won't be milking goats in my backyard or installing a composting toilet or anything. I also won't be dragging my home back in time - I've studied Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique.  My eyes are wide open on that score. But I will be exploring ways in which my husband and I can produce more of our own food, simplify our spending, consume less from corporations, decrease our waste, support local farmers and enrich our local community through our efforts.


So where do we start?  The first thing on our list is to transform our derelict backyard into a food producing mini-farm. I know this sounds overwhelming and maybe even weird, but I love gardening and have already had some success with building raised beds for veggies in the past. Here is my late summer / early fall to-do list as I prepare to create a little urban homestead.

1) Rip out our small and scary backyard lawn (Bermuda Grass) in order to build raised vegetable beds

2) Build rain barrels for water conservation and collection (This is Texas, people, and water is like gold! Why are we wasting it on green lawns?)

3) Build a three-bin composting system on the unused side yard of the house to feed our garden

I'll be checking in here at La Maison Boheme with updates about this transformation and what it means for my family and my home. Next week, we'll talk chickens. Yes, chickens. If you're wondering what in the world I've been rambling about for the last few paragraphs, feel free to pick up a copy of Radical Homemakers or Animal Vegetable Miracle or Homeward Bound or any of the many books available on the subject.  I've also started a resource list via Pinterest: Radical Homemaker.  Follow along if you like!


Michelle said...

This sounds so awesome! I have a book about raising chickens (from back before I discovered I'm intolerant of eggs) that you are welcome to have. I can either mail it to you or pass along to your MIL. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah. This is totally unrelated, but I am 97% sure I just saw you and your husband on my PBS station. There is a documentary on about the Prairie Home Companion and a guy in a suit is talking to this older couple and she made a joke about being with an older man. They did a pan of the laughing audience and I swear it looked like you and your hubby were in the front on the grass. Totally famous....
Jully ;O)

Sarah Greenman said...

Yep, that was me and my husband! We were at a live taping of Prairie Home Companion in Lanesboro, Minnesota in 2007. I was pregnant with my first son and we were working at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN. It was a great show!

Marsha Splenderosa said...

Sarah, you must look up Dylan Ratigan online and see what work he is doing vis-a-vis sustainable organic growing and training our returning vets via a project called Archie Acres. It's phenomenal and I support it very much. Brilliant of you, darling, what you're doing. How on Earth do you get to have chickens in the city?
We can't.

Rachel Anderson said...

ROCK ON GIRLFRIEND!! You continue to be such an inspiration to me!

Sarah Greenman said...

Michelle - I would LOVE to have your chicken raising book! Thank you!

Marsha - Dallas is a crazy town and they have no ordinances against raising chickens in the city.

Andrea said...

I don't find you ramble at all! You explain your intent to transition very eloquently.The quote about our households being units of consumption is a very interesting concept, I've not heard it described that way before. I'm more inspired than ever to become a self producing household-entertainment and all!

Karen Olson said...

Looking forward to hearing about your successes/failures. My husband and I have been working steadily on lowering our consumption over the last 4 years and now will be working on production having moved back to Maine recently.
Thank you for the encouragement by way of your blog.

morganmcclure said...

i just love this! tim and i want to come help! xo