Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy Birthday to the Original Radical Homemaker!

The past few days have been exceptionally delightful. I've been working my way slowly throughRadical Homemakers-- something I wrote about over at my Austinist blog this week-- and it's been a great reminder about the gift of "temporal abundance." Time is money, this is true. And when I have a wealth of time, or at least squeeze some hangout time out of my day, the payoff is always massive. I even pulled off a nap on Saturday, under the careful supervision of Warren the Nap King. We swam Saturday AND Sunday. And Sunday I managed to work in the garden and make some whole wheat bread entirely by hand. Then this morning, even though technically I had deadlines, I decided to extend the weekend a little, reminding myself that a huge part of the reason I seek contract work is so I can keep flex hours.

And so, this morning looked like this: Coffee in bed with the dogs and yesterday's NYT (print edition). I can't think of anything better than this start-your-day-right combination-- ah to be scrutinized by bug-eyed Boston Terriers while taking in the news. Then I meditated, and Bubbles joined me (and I'm serious, she understands the point of meditation, and sits on her own mat breathing). Then we took a long walk and I reminded myself that yesterday WOULD have been my 4th wedding anniversary but it wasn't because I AM NOT MARRIED!!! And I was so happy at this thought-- both specific to my last horrible marriage but also at not being married in general-- I swear I nearly skipped the whole three miles.

Then, I concluded that at long last, Charlaine Harris has done it. She has produced a Sookie Stackhouse book so awful even I can't bear it. I listened to the first nine audiobooks in the series and recently downloaded the newly released tenth. Look, I knew they were bad. And maybe this tenth one only seems worse since immediately prior to it I listened to Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and Ian McEwan's Atonement, both astonishing literary works (the latter might just be my new all time favorite). Whatever the case, I gave up on old Sookie and switched to music. I thought I hit "Shuffle" but I guess I hit "S" which brought me three versions of Solitary Man, including one by Johnny Cash, Marshall Crenshaw's Someday Someway, two versions of Sinead O'Connor's Something Beautiful (which reminds me so much of Warren and our early days), and Southpaw Jones's Sometimes I Forget to Be Afraid. Oh boy oh boy oh boy-- each song seemed so pertinent to the thoughts I was already thinking that I was flying.

(I was also probably flying because I am getting the real hang of not smoking, and I'm even patch-free today, and the absence of nicotine offers this stunning elation, but let's not dwell on that unless/until I really, truly quit for good.)

As I walked, I also thought about my Mom, who happens to be 75 as of today, even though I have her locked in at about 39 in my head. And as I thought of her, I again thought about this whole Radical Homemaking thing. It's too much for me to boil down here, but some major RH points include the importance of having a nurturer at home, the importance of being thrifty, of growing your own food, making your own clothes, salvaging stuff, and spending time together as a family. My mother wasn't following any sort of political manifesto. She sewed, cooked, kept on a budget, taught us arts and crafts, and salvaged furniture because there were eleven of us (nine kids and my parents), my father's paycheck was small, and the only way we could make it was if she figured out how to stretch the funds in these and other ways.

No, I did not like hand-me-downs. And I didn't always love every article of clothing she sewed me, but mostly I did, in particular my First Day of Kindergarten Dress and my Prom Dress, both of which I can still see perfectly in my memory. I've always been impressed with my mom's amazing skills. Now that I'm reading a book that essentially describes what she did to survive as a way to make the entire world a better place, well, it sort of cracks me up. It also motivates me.

I decided, in the interest of keeping my good mood going, I'd look around my house and yard at all the things I'm doing right (or at least not doing wrong) to work toward this better-living-through-Radical-Homemaking idea. I'm tempted to beat myself up over the carbon footprint of so many plane tickets, all those ciggies smoked, etc. But just for today, I set that aside and look at the good ideas. And I am totally up for any easy-to-implement suggestions y'all have. (With special advance thanks to Emily and Bug who are always planting such genius seeds in my head.)

So, in no particular order:

This is the kitchen drawer that is sorely lacking boxes and boxes of Saran wrap and similar bad-for-the-environment shit. Yes, sometimes I buy this sort of thing, but mostly I get one roll of wax paper that lasts me about six years, and I wrap up leftovers in re-used containers and newspaper bags. (Warren's dad did give me those "Forever Bags" in the picture.)
Electric teapot. Got it because everyone had one in France so I wanted one. Emily tells me it's actually way more efficient for boiling water than using the stovetop.

Homemade bread. I've baked bread off and on since I was little. These days, the trick is finding the necessary stretch of hours to tend to rising dough. I figured it out this week. Eventual goal: never buy another loaf of sandwich bread.

Yogurt. I love yogurt. I am insane for yogurt. Yogurt yogurt yogurt. I make my own now. It's pure, full fat, and I use Way Back When Dairy milk, which comes from nearby. Oh my yogurt is SO GOOD. And cheap.
French Press: I know, I know, me and my Francophile tendencies. I think this is "better" since I seem to run through those plastic plug-in coffeemakers about two to three per year. The used yogurt container next to the coffee pot is to lug grounds out to the compost bin.
The Meyers Lemon Tree. I love it. That's all.

The chicken coop. Sadly, the last flock got, uh, "surprised" by the dogs one night, leading Warren to have to put one mortally wounded hen out of her misery using the business end of a shovel. Lately I've been rewiring the chicken yard in hopes that the next flock will survive.
The box garden and compost bin. I bartered for that compost bin. It super rocks. And it ROLLS so you can, you know, mix up all the crap you put in.
The new clothes dryer. I meant to install this for years. Finally did. The sheets smell GREAT. And it's fun to hang clothes. Now if I can just get Warren to haul off the dryer so there will never again be one of those cheating days...

The unmowed lawn. This is the easiest way for me to be radical.
The gently used rain barrel-- a gift from friends.

And at the top of this post-- Warren's latest stunning gift to me-- a fancy cut jelly jar to add to my drinking jar collection. I forgot to put up a picture showing that I knit a lot of my clothes, too, but don't worry, with all my newfound temporal abundance, I'll start posting lots and lots of knit pics soon.


tuttianimali said...

Is there somewhere local to buy an outdoor clothes line? I mean, I have an old fashioned single line, but this thing looks way more efficient!

I love the idea of radical homemaking. I've been an at-home mom for 8 years but it's only since I've been surrounded by such a supportive diy community (we moved to Austin from...Orange County, CA) that I've been motivated to grow our own food, live slowly and purposefully, and scale back spending on a huge level. It feels great!

Spike Gillespie said...

My single lines kept breaking-- tried to stretch them too far across the yard. That umbrella model I have now, I got at Breed Hardware on 29th St just west of Guadalupe. I suggest you go there to get one and time it so you can also eat a nice organic, local dinner from the Texas French Bread across the street. The umbrella clothesline was, I think, less than $50. You need a little Quik-crete to anchor it and a friend suggested you dig the hole, then put in the dry QUik-crete, THEN add the water and mix it right there in the hole. I love love love my clothesline.