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Inspiration for My Aspirations as a Domestic Artist


I received a copy last week of The Urban Homestead (Process Media), by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, as part of a giveaway hosted by Edible Aria, and I am getting lots of ideas from all of its practical advice and how-to instructions. Today, however, I came across a passage that was particularly inspiring more for its philosophical flavor, and I wanted to share it here:

“We’ve lost our knowledge of farming and animal husbandry, and more recently, we’ve lost most of our practical knowledge regarding housekeeping. Housekeeping is no longer considered an art. If we have the money, we outsource it. We earn money so we can buy prepared food and pay someone else to clean our home. The home is little more than a crash pad where we watch TV and a storage unit where we keep the things we buy when we are not working.

The home used to be a place where we made things. We made the things we used, and the things we ate, and we made them with pride. With generations of experience guiding their hands, homesteaders transformed the harvest into usable goods. They could make almost everything they needed. There is power in that, power that we’ve exchanged for convenience.

This exchange is often celebrated as a liberation from drudgery, but art is never drudgery, even if it is hard work. The practice of art is profoundly satisfying, precisely because it is challenging, and when it comes off well, you know you’ve created something of real value. Drudgery is not about hard work, rather, it is a condition of skilless work. One of the big lies of the last century was that the home arts were drudgery that needed to be abandoned in favor of commerce. We gave them up, just as we ceded farming to factories.

Now the tide is turning. Just as there is growing interest in growing food and raising livestock among people who were not raised up with these skills, there is also a resurgence of interest in the indoor arts. If we take the kitchen back from the microwave, we discover a whole new world of flavor, a world of living, healthy, nutritionally complex foods. The kitchen becomes an arena where you, the domestic artist, learn to harness the forces of life. It is time to resurrect the lost domestic arts before they are lost for good.”

After reading this, I felt a little differently today about the effort required by my some of my routine chores—including “loading my solar clothes dryer” (a k a “hanging clothes on our outdoor clothesline”)—and the extra preparations that go into providing nutritious food for our family. I hope you will, too!

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on the book cover above, you will link to Amazon.com, where you will have an opportunity to purchase the book—and if you do buy it after clicking through from my site, I will receive a small commission to support my work here, as well as my own book-buying habit. :-) Seriously, though, I’d be just as happy if my recommendation inspired you to check out the title from your local library or borrow it from a friend.

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1 Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS { 08.17.09 at 2:51 pm }

So you won Ren’s giveaway! Congratulations! I would like to read this book someday. I love the quote you selected. The first paragraph especially is particularly wounding. I will enjoy reading your selected quotes. We are on the same track!

2 Erin Dugan { 08.28.09 at 11:17 am }

What a great passage and so true. I grow a garden in my space challenged backyard and also hang my clothes outside:) I think I only use my dryer 6 months out of the year. It takes time but I LOVE it!
Great website. I am truly enjoying it. Also, I am definitely going to get that book at the library.

3 Salihah { 08.28.09 at 11:44 am }

I saw this book mentioned somewhere else…I’m going to find a copy! The quote you listed is soooo true.

4 Sonya Hemmings { 08.29.09 at 10:28 pm }

Hello, my cousin! I’m so grateful you stopped by to read and leave a few words of your own! I hope you’ll be a regular visitor! I’d love to hear more about what you grow (and how) in your space-challenged backyard! And I think you would really like the book. If you can’t find it, let me know, and I’ll mail you my copy to read. 🙂

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