It’s hard to account for my predilection with traditional home crafts. Mostly I don’t try to explain it to others, having grown tired of the sideways looks that alternate with kind comments about how great it is that I make butter and cheese and bread and soap. Kind, because I know it’s really pretty strange to most folks.
I have, however, tried to explain it to myself. I blame Laura Ingalls Wilder, close relationships with grandparents and great grandparents, and an upbringing that brimmed with the creativity of an artist and the curiosity of a scientist. Throw in a love of animals, a love of good food, and a tendency to
be a control freak want a say about the food that goes on my body or the unguents that go on it.
Then there are the advantages of making things from scratch. Things like getting higher quality for less money, the satisfaction that comes from wearing or eating something made with my own hands, or the treasured uniqueness of items not homogenized in design and flavor and then produced as quickly and cheaply as possible. There is the perpetuation of skills which have changed from necessary activities to art, an appreciation for nostalgia, and participation in the diversity of foodstuffs, seeds and heirloom animal breeds that add to the health of the planet.
Speaking of the health of the planet, organic food or food from just down the road is more than just a cute idea. According to Michael Pollan here, 20% of fossil fuels in the U.S. are used by corporate agriculture – for fertilizer and pesticides and transportation – to grow things like corn and soy to feed to cattle. (And don’t get me started on the conditions those cattle live in.) $500 BILLION dollars in U.S. health care costs each year go to treat preventable, chronic diseases caused by how we eat. Plus, up to a third of the greenhouse gases come from the way we produce food.
Real reduction of our dependence on foreign oil, health care costs and greenhouse gases are all good, big reasons to garden, buy locally, and cook from scratch. And I’m happy to be on board. But the truth is, I didn’t know any of those things when I got my first chickens. When I was eleven and made sourdough bread in the mornings before going to school, there was something else at work.
For years I referred to it as my home crafting disease. And for a long time it was a lonely malady, a weird quirk. But over time – and through the Internet – I’ve met others who suffer the same disease. A couple weeks ago I stumbled across an article on Mother Earth News’ Happy Homesteader blog about Barnheart. It’s written by Jenna over at Cold Antler Farm, and I was actually surprised at how deeply it resonated. Jenna is also a designer, and the graphic to the left is her idea of what Barnheart looks like. She gave me permission to share it here.
Will I ever take that step into actual farming? Probably not, at least not on a large scale. K would argue we already have a vegetable farm, what with all the gardens that feed us the majority of the year. The future holds more of the same, plus fruit trees, berries, chickens, a hive of bees and who knows what else. But in the meantime I’ll treat my disease in the usual fashion – with time in the kitchen, at my spinning wheel, holding knitting needles or up to my elbows in dirt – and then I’ll share it in fiction and nonfiction
And here. Because I know I’m not alone.