Wednesday are Community Day here at Taking it to the Streets
My paternal grandparents were farmers in Doon, Iowa. They had a family farm with different animals (chickens, cows and pigs is what I remember) and raised different crops. Grandma had a huge garden, even after they moved to town. When it was harvest time they’d get together with their friends and go from farm to farm. While the men harvested in the fields as a team, the women canned, smoked meats, quilted.
In what we call “the Sixties” which actually occurred mostly in the 70s, there was a small but notable “back to the land movement” with homesteading hippies. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sang Joni Mitchell’s lyrics in “Woodstock” – “We’ve got to get back to the land and let our soul free.”
According to Wikipedia “In the 1930s, 24 percent of the American population worked in agriculture compared to 1.5 percent in 2002”
But there’s a new phenomena arising – a very different “back to the land” that doesn’t involve “tune in, turn on and drop out” lifestyles. In fact, it more likely involves minivans, soccer playing children, iPads and Starbucks. “Urban homesteading” (which often occurs in suburbs) is a term being bandied about for the increasing numbers of people who want to take a more active role in producing the food they eat. From back yard gardens, to keeping chickens and bees, to smoking your own meat, canning, drying food.
When I went to the workshop put on by the McHenry County Transition group (mentioned in this post) there was information about creating your own solar energy source, canning, soap-making, beekeeping, creating community – an entire panoply of skills that were once the province of only rural folks. Yes, some of the people attending lived in very rural areas, but the suburb my friend and I are from is far from rural, however bucolic it may appear to be.
I think this movement which fits hand-in-glove with the localvore and sustainability movements which also interest me, is a sensible response to both the ills of the world (as the Transition Town movement talks of – the confluence of Peak Oil and Global Warming) but also with some really good generational synergy – the ambitious sometimes driven members of my generation – the Baby Boomers – are starting to mellow; and the younger generations seem much more focused on connecting with life and one another – not as driven by “success” and greed. It’s a nice confluence.
I like the idea of getting back to basics. And what is more basic than food, really? In a world that seems more and more corporate and inhumane, taking back our lives, starting with what and how we eat seems a truly radical act.
Tackling urban homesteading on my own seems pretty daunting to me. But I remember Grandma talking about those canning parties and quilting bees and getting together “to put food by” and it all sounded very warm and friendly and enlivening. I could very much welcome that.
Of the 18 posts I’ve tagged “Food” the ones below seem most connected to this topic. So if Urban Homesteading and “rolling your own” (crepes that is – now what were YOU thinking?) interests you, pop in on these topics and please add to the conversation!