Slowly we’re starting to think about purchasing our first house with some land to go with it. Not a lot of land, but bigger than your typical suburban lot. It’s funny, we’ll be married 10 years this June and for those 10 years we’ve rented our abodes, bummed with our parents for awhile, called a flame orange tent home, as well as a couple of motels/hotels. So, it is a little strange to think that we would be actually putting money towards something that in 15-30 years we could call our own (because really, it is still the bank’s until we pay it off).
With that I’ve starting seriously thinking about what I want in my yard, how I want my house to look—well, not quite, I have ideas, but honestly I’m thinking on the outside realm more than anything. I’m thinking about the food I want to grow, the flowers I want filling the rest of the yard, the types of trees I want if the yard isn’t already full of other trees, and also the animals I want.
Chris wants to keep bees and I want to keep chickens. Apparently Chris wants to grow his own wheat, too. I asked him about sugar cane but he said we could continue destroying the Everglades for that. All of these thoughts about what I could grow in the semi-near future had me doing some internet reading on homesteading, gardening and small-scale farming.
What I was surprised to learn was that there was a backlash against the whole urban farmstead/do-it-yourself trend. Frankly, I was dismayed about the backlash. Now, I don’t expect everyone to want to grow their own food, cook organically, go to the farmers market, or go out back to get the eggs for the cake they are baking that night, but what I do expect people to understand is that we aren’t that far away generationally from when all of these things were mainstream in society. Perhaps 60+ years of so-called conventional farming and lifestyles have deluded our sense of heritage, but more than likely (I’m generalizing here, I realize people come from all walks of life and heritages) if you look back to your grandparents, maybe further to your great-grandparents, you are likely to find someone who grew most of their food or cultivated a large garden, someone who sewed clothes for the family or made quilts to keep them warm at night.
The backlash wasn’t strictly related to food, it also seeped into the creative realm in regards to people picking up knitting and crocheting.
A term I was only recently introduced to by Keely is the word femivore. She told me about it so I did some searching and it stemmed from this article with many negative rebuttals on the internet about the word. While the word does have some weirdness to it, I don’t get the hatred of the back-to-your-roots idea. Some of the rebuttals were in regards to a glorification of the past, farming and simplicity, others were about th efeeling of women needing to have it all, a career and doing it all themselves at home (which is so ironically funny because lots of men are doing both, too (and I loved this cached rebuttal, original link is not working for some reason)). Of course all of this was completely different 100 years ago when what grew or didn’t grow meant starving or going without for much of the year. It meant you couldn’t pay your bills or you had to barter to get things you needed. Sewing your own clothes or piecing together a quilt might not have been necessarily to give as a gift for a baby or wedding but instead it was because you only had five dresses and you couldn’t afford another so you had better mend this one until it was in rags. And then you made a quilt out of the rags.
I get that. Our times now are not our ancestor’s times then. On the other hand, outside of the ‘trendy’ movement to do all of this, there’s everyone else who has been doing it anyway, despite mainstream living; the people with land in the country who keep a donkey, horse or cow, who might keep chickens in the yard all the while living a seemingly regular life. It’s not something new. Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in the U.S. and whether you are growing food or a rose garden, you are still carrying on in some form, part of your heritage.
I think the thing that bothers me most is when simplicity and doing things the old way is turned into somehow that you are being elitist. Small back-to-nature magazines have been around for a long time, heck Mother Earth News has been rocking it since 1970. None of this stuff is new. It’s only undergoing a revitalization and becoming more understood and less shunned—or somewhat less shunned. I remember in 2000 when I was in college, I joined the Sierra Sea Club. Their primary objective, other than general environmental issues, was to promote organic foods. This was the first time I’d heard the term and I remember it being rather strange and weird. Most people just equated it with PETA and crazy hippies. Here we are 12 years later and the term is widely known, though sometimes slightly green-washed. Being organic/living organically, in the sense of returning back to your roots and doing things a more natural way will easily get you labeled ‘crunchy’, ‘granola’, ‘hipster’, or ‘hippie’. If my great-grandmother who had chickens in her backyard in Azle, Texas would be called a hipster, then let me be one too! Organic is doing without all the extra crap—whether that is living an organic life with less stuff in your personal life or taking it the foodie way and purchasing your food without GMOs, pesticides and fertilizers.
There will always be the naysayers and people who don’t agree. And they are right, growing things for yourself, learning how to build things or taking up an old craft, isn’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be denegrated.
Me, I prefer to keep the crochet, remembering the jars of food stored on the tight shelves in my Nanny’s small hallway off her kitchen, thinking of the moments of sitting outside with my family as a kid—talking and playing around in the yard, going on campouts and learning about the natural world, cooking up old recipes from both of my grandmothers (reading their scrawl almost makes me think they are there), and trying to gather up all the bits of information I can on what is left in my natural heritage. I’m so glad I learned to make my Nanny’s chow-chow recipe because now when I taste it I am taken back to her kitchen in east Fort Worth, the blue morning light in the kitchen, the table a little sticky from her millions of things stacked on it—the margarine bowls and placemats, the smell of her freezer as my brother and I opened it to get the Blue Bell (or grocery store special) ice cream out. When I, someday, gather eggs from my coops I want to think about the chickens in my Granny’s yard, the scraps from lunch or dinner carried out in a round, tin plate. As I mow the lawn around my future house I want to think about my dad mowing his lawn, how the sound of the mower starting up signaled us to get outside and play, the fresh grass beckoning to be walked on.