Radical Home Economics

Back in about 1967, (you know, when dinosaurs walked the Earth) all 7th grade school girls were required to take “Home Economics”, while boys had to take “Wood Shop”. I still have the sturdy footstool by brother made for our mother but I happily no longer have the ugly red dress I had to make-with darts and a zipper! At the time I resisted the sewing and cooking skills taught to us by Mrs. Fuller, but the concepts stuck with me, and for most of my adult life I’ve been able to sew a complete wardrobe- from a Barbie dress to a wedding dress- or cook a 10-course meal from appetizers to dessert. Too bad  most folks don’t still consider those valuable skills, but with yard goods now costing more than many fully-made, store bought garments, and convenience foods costing less than many food basics, I can understand the reasoning-if pure frugality is the only criteria. Having raised four daughters, sewing and cooking skills were invaluable to our family.



Now that I am beginning to see the light at the end of my chemo tunnel, I am reminded anew that those skills and more are part of me now and frugality is not the only criteria. I just don’t know how to live my life any other way. Michael and I deliberately chose to live a life of voluntary simplicity when we took early retirement in 2002-I at 49 and he at 55, a decision we’ve never once regretted. Sure, we’ve had to make choices, but those choices were often very agreeable ones: did we want 150 channels of Cable TV or could we be satisfied with a roof top antennae and a converter box? The extra time not spent watching so much television opened the door to many other pleasant activities, like playing music and volunteering, gardening, writing this blog, joining a church and other organizations that hold similar values to ours. Over the years we also discovered that using our house as a center of production vs using it as a center of consumption fit right in with a simpler lifestyle, all while enabling us to live lives that feel very rich indeed! We’ve had to make some concessions recently due to lingering health problems and increased medical expenses, but  growing and preserving food, reusing and repurposing, all while making the house as energy efficient as possible still allows us to live comfortably in spite of the increased expenses. My grandmother used to call it “Pulling in your horns”. I prefer ‘radical home economics’ because the former makes it sound like a temporary situation, but radical homemaking is truly a way of life.

I recently read a blog post about how some middle class folks just like us are buying older, smaller homes in well-established neighborhoods and using every inch of available space in the home and yard to increase the home’s productivity: some are renting an extra room out, others are converting former garages into home office space or workshops. Others are tending small flocks of hens and beehives; but what about rabbits? When my daughters were  young and involved with 4-H projects we started with a buck and two does and within 6 months had 32 rabbits! A quiet, high protein source of meat that could easily be grown, harvested and prepared for the freezer was the idea-far easier than chickens, pigs or cows, for example. 


Radical? not really. But I digress…

Many are converting front-yards to raised beds for growing fresh food and back-yards to clothes lines, compost bins and rainwater storage barrels.


These conventional, affordable homes are being converted to radical  home economies and are substituting beautifully for the large homesteads that were so eagerly sought after in the ’70s and ’80s. AND these homes can often be paid for with the proceeds made from selling their former McMansion or McSpread. It’s heartwarming to me, especially during this cold spell we’re experiencing here in NE TN, to know we are not alone.

What are  you doing to make your home productive vs consumptive? This first month of this new year is a good time to think about ways you might do that in 2016, then share them with the rest of the readers in the comments section. ElmStreetLogo




10 Comments so far
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Growing up We had rabbits also. Mostly for food, also to sell at Easter. I still remember one year before the got cold, we clean from under the cages, put it around our tomatoe plants, covered with plastic and had red tomatoes up untill Nov. Oh and at one time had over a hundred usally around Easter. And yes I know how to butcher one.

Comment by carvergardenfarie

I know how too Robert but how ’bout I raise ’em and you butcher ’em?

Comment by simpleintn

I was on board With your memories of home- RC, sewing aprons and such, darts in dresses, but when you mentioned bunny rabbits turning into buck and does. How do you go from being a rabbit to a deer? I figured it out. But, I digress too. I love and agree with all your blog. But I couldn’t eat an animal I fed and held because they become my pets. Let me explain. We raised a calf from the bottle when we first got married way back in 1980 when we lived on an old 180 acre farm homestead 18 miles out of Tuscaloosa. Lonny had the idea all along that Jose’ was going in the freezer after her was grown. We brought him home from the farm in the back seat of my 65′ Mustang with his head hanging out the window like our pet dog. He was 5 days old and we raised him on a bottle, I loved Jose’. We had some memorial times. He would get out of his pen and come on the front porch and look through the screen door and want to come inside. He laid around the back yard with our yard hens. Then when he was a year old Lonny had him hauled off and …. He came back in little white packages for the deep freeze. I couldn’t eat him. I chewed the first bite for 15 minutes. It kept getting bigger and bigger. I spit out Jose’, and told Lonny, I can’t eat my pet. Moral of my story: I can grow food as long as long as it doesn’t have a soul and pretty big eyes. If I have never met the animal and have never looked into its eyes, I can eat it. We have fish in our pond that need to be caught and eaten, but I’m more apt to take them to the river and let them go free. Growing my own protein isn’t for me. I love my animals, even the ones who weigh a thousand pounds.

Comment by Amanda Finley

Boy Rabbits=Bucks
Girl Rabbits=Does
Bucks+Does=Lotsa protein

Comment by simpleintn

My father raised rabbits when I was very young, cos (waaay) back then, he was still able to sell the meat to local grocery stores. And he sold the hides to somebody too. That was at a time when many people still had to do some things in their lives to make life more sustainable, and now I’m so glad to see it all coming back with more people. Your blog keeps giving us good ideas and encouragement!

Comment by sarasinart

Their manure and urine can be collected in bedding underneath their pens to add good nutrients to the compost pile. No smell, quiet, easy to manage…it’s the perfect backyard livestock!

Comment by simpleintn

They are Sam but here they need in a real building cos of our cold winters. I’m just in the wrong climate for several things.

Comment by sarasinart

See? I learn from you too! I never even considered that rabbits wouldn’t survive outdoors in winter! Wait! Why wouldn’t they? Wild rabbits do just fine. I don’t know the answer, I’m just asking the question.

Comment by simpleintn

Considering how unhealthy animal products are for humankind, and how readily available all needed nutrients are in plant products, why do people continue to want to raise and kill any type of animal for “food” (even if one doesn’t consider the devastating environmental impact that animal agriculture has on the earth)?

Comment by Sandy Aldridge

My kids are poorer for not having the school exposure to home ec/shop classes Dean and I had. (I think of home ec every time I measure flour and level it with a knife:))
This is not directly related to this particular post, but I got this link thru the grist website from a (rather depressing article) on plastic in the oceans. But it definitely is an eye opener as to what recycling could be, and apparently is in this no waste Japanese town. Over 30 catagories of recycling! Imagine!


Comment by Sara

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