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.