On becoming a radical

About a month ago, I attended the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s (PASA) Annual Conference. It was an all-around thrilling, energizing, and highly educational experience, well worth the money I shelled out for it. I learned how to build a grazing plan from Daniel Salatin. I learned about chickens from Harvey Ussery. But the part that moved me the most was, without a doubt, listening to Shannon Hayes’ profound argument for resurrecting The Home from the ashes of a consumer society, and making it once again a productive, healthy, and vital place.

I’ve spent years reading anything I could get my hands on related to the how-to’s of self-sufficiency: gardening, hunting, raising animals, alternative energy, and on and on. When I read what little I ran across about the why’s, it mostly struck me as paranoia, negativity, or ill-defined idealism and historical re-enactment. I moved forward with my own efforts on an understanding within myself that had no words. I did it, or wanted to do it, because it just felt right to me.

Then I ran across Shannon Hayes’ book Radical Homemakers. I read the introduction, which is available online. [Go read it. Right now. Whether you have any desire to produce your own food or not! This goes much deeper than that. I'll wait here while you read it...... Done? Good! Wasn't that awesome?] After reading it, I was just so darn excited, I forced my husband to read it and sent it to the one friend who would definitely get it. I put it on my list of books to read, but the library didn’t have it and it was a little spendy for a paperback. So, quite frankly, I forgot about it for awhile.

At the conference, I went to her session. She read the introduction to her book and then did some Q&A with the audience. I found myself inexplicably almost moved to tears at several points. I mean, they were discussing practical considerations for Radical Homemaking, and I was almost bawling. It wasn’t even ‘that time of the month’. I briefly considered what the hell is wrong with me, but I quickly realized that the point is what’s right about what was being said. (She also gave a plenary address that you can listen to here. Look to the right of the slideshow, 4th item down.)

After the conference, I was re-energized to learn more skills, increase my family’s self-reliance, and make more stuff, but it was February! There’s nothing to can, freeze, and everything I’d normally be growing is being grown on the farm. It’s not hunting season or time to buy animals. What can you do to increase your self-sufficiency this time of year?

I decided to attack personal care and beauty products, as well as cleaning supplies. I started cleaning my face with a laxative. I haven’t shampooed my hair in a few weeks and no, I’m not starting dreads! Soapmaking will be attempted when the lye gets here. I’ll share how things work out going forward! In the meantime, please don’t worry about my personal hygiene. I’m as stinky and greasy as I’ve ever been, but no more so!


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