Books + Magazines

Published on October 11th, 2010 | by Julie Finn


Home-Baked Bread over Health Insurance: Radical Homemakers

Keeping goats helps you stick it to The Man.Can home-canned tomatoes keep you healthy?

Can cold-process soap bring your family closer together?

Shannon Hayes sure thinks so. Hayes, the author of Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, claims in her book that the kinds of eco-friendly craftiness that we enjoy as a hobby–gardening, thrifting, sewing our own clothing, making our children’s toys–can be embraced full-time and marshaled into a political movement and a way of life that will allow us to be happier, healthier, and freer all the while improving our environment and bettering our political systems.

In the book, Hayes interviews numerous individuals and families to find out how they live off the grid, and finds out that most of them accomplish it in similar ways:

  • They grow their own food, and preserve it for the winter.
  • They don’t use a car.
  • They practice natural living and alternative remedies instead of buying health insurance.
  • They make or repair what they need.
  • They’re open to unusual housing solutions, including squatting, trading labor for room and board, or living with parents.

In some ways, this book fills me with hope. I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling, nearly broke, blissfully happy person, and it’s inspiring to read about people all over the country who would celebrate, not condemn, my choices. It’s inspiring to read about the difference that others think that my activities–buying local food, making natural cleaners, avoiding the mall–make in terms of the planet’s health and the political system.

In other ways, however, the book is a real downer. Sure, I’d like my partner to be able to spend more time with us, too. I’d like us to eat all our meals together, too, and take naps in the afternoons, and grow all our own food, and even have a couple of sheep.

But if it means giving up our car, moving in with our parents and giving up our health insurance-suddenly, that lifestyle is sadly looking a lot less feasible.

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

6 Responses to Home-Baked Bread over Health Insurance: Radical Homemakers

  1. Pingback: Home-Baked Bread over Health Insurance: Radical Homemakers … | Health & Wellness

  2. I’m more than 1/2 way into this book and it’s excellent! The history in the first section is really informative and thought provoking. I can’t wait to finish it. I agree with the author of this post that while really uplifting, being a 100% radical is just not feasible for all people. I could never go without health insurance. As with anything else in life though, I say… take what you want and leave what you don’t. I think there is something for everyone for wants to lead a more fulfilling life in this book – you don’t have to go all out… little steps in the right direction can be monumental.

  3. Certainly, there is much to be said for the self-sufficient lifetyle, home grown food and plenty of rest that this book promotes. In essence, these lifestyle factors promote activity, healthy eating and lowering our stress. Wherever possible, such behaviour is a good thing, but with our society becoming more and more urban, there will be growing challenge to make this feasible. We won’t be feeding ourselves out of gardens planted on the patio of our apartment, but doing so is better than nothing.

  4. Julie says:

    I especially liked all the bartering that all the individuals did. It’s something that I have absolutely never considered before. Mind you, I have no idea who I would possibly barter with and for what, but it’s in the back of my mind, now, if the opportunity ever presents itself.

  5. Tina says:

    I just came across this topic in a round about way.
    I’m all for living simply (we have done so and raised 3 children while living paycheck to paycheck, one car, butchering, canning,homeschooling)… But when I see the word “squatting” in the ways to do with less, I read”trespassing”, setting up house on someone elses dime. (someone has to pay property taxes right?) so the squatters can live more free and closer to the earth?
    Sorry, that’s where I close the book and say no way.

  6. I was just browsing for relevant blog posts for my project research and I happened to stumble upon yours. Thanks for the excellent information! 🙂

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