A taste of radical

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I was just reviewing drafts that I never published….and this one made me laugh. So below is something I wrote years ago, and it’s not finished, but I don’t think I will delete it. Kind of nice to look back a bit.

Old draft – A taste of radical….

In August last year, I went on maternity leave to have my 3rd (and I am convinced ….final) child. Being at home with a baby, especially a very small one, sets some interesting constraints around you. Firstly, you spend a lot of time at home just doing baby-related things. Secondly, you equally spend a lot of time waiting while someone sleeps, home-bound, with the ability to plan being at a minimum, and the need to just ‘go with the flow’ at a maximum. Also, you find that the income dries up, so you have to start to live even more consciously. Sounds like a blast!

When not on maternity leave, I have been playing the role of working full-time mum. I find myself pretty busy in my day time job, and as I walk out the door my mind switches over to my ‘other’ full time job. My train ride home is spent contemplating what to cook for dinner while I have my face crammed into someone else’s sweaty armpit. When I get home I find myself to be fairly busy in every spare minute – picking up kids, dropping them off, picking up toys and books and dirty washing, doing dishes, making lunches, reading readers, listening to how everyone’s days have gone.

We live across the road from a large supermarket, and about 20 metres from a whole host of restaurants, and these are all very tempting conveniences – and when you are very busy they seem like a God-send, and very justifiable. At the end of the day you fall into the couch exhausted, spent, and you feel that cutting some corners is your right.

So – how does a woman like me all of a sudden find herself toying on the skirts of being, dare I say it, a ‘radical homemaker’. We are not just talking about ‘stay at home mum’ stuff here, but something a bit more than that. Someone who starts worm farming, mulching, recycling, trying to reduce the plastic in our home, making my own bread, pasta, yoghurt, and growing some of my own food, networking with my local permaculture group, and even more surprisingly, blogging about it. I would never have guessed this was going to be me, and what’s more, I am loving it.

What caused this change? Well time certainly does have it’s benefits – being on maternity leave is a blessing, and such a nice change from normal hectic daily life. It is a pretty special time (and challenging too) being at home with a precious bundle.

But aside from the bundle, and the time, the other thing that has caused me to take on these new challenges is that I realised how much I value my own health and the health of my family, and how central food is to this. I know so little about the true origins of my food when I purchase it, and when I choose convenience, I choose to be disengaged from the process of growing, storing, cooking, making it. This is fine when you are busy, as you don’t really have a choice, but when you aren’t, being engaged in growing or making my own food, sourcing it from people who care about how it has been produced, using the best ingredients, is a nurturing process. It not only brings me a sense of confidence that I can do these things for myself, but also brings satisfaction.

I also noticed that the food we make at home seems to be better than most food I buy. Not all, but most. So after a while, it becomes pointless to look elsewhere, when you enjoy your own far more.

Next week I am back to work – full time. I have had a taste of radical, and I like it. I like it so much I wish I could do this as a full time job. However, unless you already have the farm, animals, orchard and a husband who brings home more than just the bacon, you are probably just another dreamer like myself….maybe one day.

I will keep blogging…and I think it will be interesting to see what I can sustain from now into crazy hectic life. Will I get lured back into convenience world? I hope not.

I think a few other things have influenced my transition to doing more myself. Firstly, I have been glued to programs by a British man Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall this year. He has made many seasons worth of captivating television about living off the ‘fat of the land’ and using a ‘nose to tail’ approach with food called ‘River cottage’. He only uses food where he knows of it’s origin, and he is also passionate about being responsible for it the whole way through the process, from seedling to plant, from piglet to produce. However, I am not living in the country-side, not able to live off the produce of my small garden, but something in this show stirs a real passion in me. I think I was born to be doing this.

Also, I was raised by parents who were very unconventional in that they joined a community garden 40 years ago (when these were rare), and did their own home renovations, made their own wine, and so on. This teaches you as a child that these things can be done. I notice these days that many people don’t have the confidence to tackle such tasks. We have become a culture of shoppers – consumers. Go out and buy it.

Also, I feel very conscious about the fact that we are being constantly ‘sold to’ by clever marketing on a day-to-day basis. Everywhere you look you are being offered the sleek, convenient, cheaper, faster more sophisticated and more convenient product. Most of the time you don’t notice this marketing, it is so ingrained in our daily lives. But every so often you come across a product that is so ridiculous, so gimicky that it’s then that I start to realise this future is one that is playing on our human natures to like sparkly-shiny things. I have also found that choosing these options still doesn’t really satisfy me in a sustaining way. Being dependant on ‘things’ and the latest and greatest new gadget only heightens your dependency on consumer products. When you plonk into the couch at the end of the day, you end up feeling tired, but unfulfilled. Like you are spending all of your time and effort doing things that mean nothing, they don’t satisfy, sustain, nourish. More and more I have become aware that the ‘convenient way’ isn’t the way for me at all.  I think I have discovered that doing things for myself is a far more rewarding path.

So…here’s the problem….where do you start? I have little skill and lots of passion. I don’t have land, chickens, cows, or much capital. I have time, but it’s sporadic. Certainly with my current food growing record – we would be living off chillies.

If you have spent your life sitting on an office chair and taking advantage of the conveniences, then making a change from this is more challenging than it seems. Every where you turn you need to learn new skills, but let’s face it, it’s a lot more exciting that what’s on paid TV these days.

I’m the kind of gal who likes to achieve things – who knows what sort of personality profile that relates to. My husband could happily sit around all afternoon and do nothing. Me on the other hand, I feel like I have wasted a whole afternoon. I measure the success of a day by how much I have achieved. If I fall into the couch at the end of it exhausted and with 5 walls painted, I am pretty darn happy with myself.

So, in the past with my two other children, I can honestly say I have felt rather enamored with the ‘housewife’ role. Some days I would completely clean the linen cupboard, or spend hours scrubbing clean some trays, and it never seemed to get noticed. If you spend the whole day cleaning, you find yourself just doing the same thing the next day. I would feel lost after a while. A whole day could pass where I did nothing – because I could always do it the next day. Some days I would feel bored and listless, and others too busy and in desperate need of a rest.

So this time round, I decided to set myself some small achievable goals – and these centered around a few things:

  • I like to learn new things – and for me, I especially love cooking
  • the older I get, the more I enjoy pottering in my garden, watching things grow
  • I get a real kick out of picking something I have grown to use in the kitchen – it is a pleasure beyond the description of words
  • I value eating and feeding my family healthy food
  • I like being with my family, doing things with them – cooking, gardening, cleaning are great ways to do this.

When you have more time on your hands, and you can’t venture far from the nest, then focusing on food is a great way to bide your time. Plus the whole family benefits from it.

I am also  love trying to reduce the waste we produce or attain. I read somewhere recently that shopping for our generation is a form of recreation. I agree that this used to be the case for me. Bored on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon – go shopping.

Let’s get one thing straight – I am not superwoman, not a domestic goddess, and although I have fantasies of me skipping in the fields like Maria von Trapp, the reality is that I am pounding the pavement 10kms away from the heart of the city.

It’s great to base how you live, and what you do on your core values. Problem is, if you have never really considered what your values are, then you can just get sucked into the craziness (and monotony) of daily life. It’s then that cutting corners and making compromises seems so alluring.

So, I have had a wonderful 6 months, perhaps the best I have ever had. And I have been passionately occupied, engaged, busy, doing all of the things I never realised would bring so much joy.

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