Thursday, February 2, 2012

Challenge of February: Make as much as I can from scratch.

Albert Anker - Der Dorfschneider
Albert Anker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For a long time now I have been frustrated and confused about what I should be doing with my life. Perhaps it is my age. And yet it is all very simple. I just want to hunker down and care for my family and our home. There are other things I want to do too, and I can and will, but this is the thing I want to do above all others. Surely this is the first of my holy callings. Deep within me something rises up when I think of it, and I feel a sense of peace. I know it is right, just as I always have.

Just the other day I read Rhonda Hetzel's simple living column in the February edition of the Australian Women's Weekly. I could feel these stirrings inside and a sense of loss for the days I made our family and home life my priority, and an urgency to do it again while I still can.  It may seem a strange thing for a woman in her mid years to yearn for this, but I have two grown sons still at home (but probably not for long) and a daughter who will be finishing school in 3 years. I want to welcome them home at the end of the day. I want to provide them with food that is made with love and not hastily thrown together. I want our home to feel relaxed and peaceful, with some kind of order.

When the children were younger we lived on a very small wage, we made do - and I loved the challenge. I wanted to be a stay at home mum and no sacrifice was too much. One of my biggest passions (and probably best abilities) is making something from nothing. Today I positively love re-purposing (for example recently I made a laptop bag from a felted jumper and t-shirt and another from plastic bags that I ironed and sewed together.)I did a lot of it back then. I also sewed clothing for our children. I made my baby bag. I made the library bags. I made items like colourful fabric hats and sold them to supplement our income. I made the gifts we gave. I used things up. I rarely shopped for anything new. I repaired things. At one stage we even grew our own vegies, kept bees, and ducks and chooks. I made a lot from scratch. I bought second hand. I loved anything passed on to us. That was the good life. Actually it still is the good life - looking over my list I've noticed that I am still doing quite a lot of it!

And so for the month of February I am challenging myself to make as much as I can from scratch (over and above what I did in 'the olden days')- because I get a sense of satisfaction, because it is often healthier and it will save us money, and because nine times out of ten it is better for the environment. Sometimes my family might really appreciate it, at other times they might grumble a little (I'm not sure if they will be too pleased with some of my alternatives - like perhaps home-made tomato sauce or soap...). Mostly I hope they will understand that I am doing this to provide for our family in the best way I can, because something made from scratch is made with effort and love, and it allows me to be more available to them. Maybe it will trigger a memory of our earlier years together. I know it will for me, because every time I do something like this I always hark after the days when it was what I always did.

It is my choice to earn very little money for now (perhaps for always), it fits with my values, it frees me to live the simple life and in return living the simple life frees me to work as I please. I heard Rhonda interviewed on ABC Radio National/ Life Matters today and she called it a 'gentle liberation'. I think it is a perfect definition.


  1. I too think of days when my business was still struggling along and rather than send my children to day care we made a choice to each work with no common days off for several years and so one of us was at home for our children. We made up the shortfall by trading yard chores for fruit with neighbors who had an overabundance...making homemade pies from scratch and selling them and I reupholstered our couch several times and made matching curtains from my mothers old sheets or comforters. Being available to children and in my case currently elderly family and neighbors is very important to me. I have learned stories of ancestors I never knew and stories of making do during the Great depression and of church politics and support during the civil rights movements...just from being there to discuss. My parents love homemade soup from scratch and it is an easy thing to do for them. I look forward to reading more of the simple life as I too try to simplify and slow down to smell the roses.

  2. Asta, I think you're a kindred spirit. Making from scratch really pulls at my heart strings. Today, I made a Chinese chicken soup stock with chicken necks. I picked these bones up for next to nothing and they simmered in the crock pot all day with veggies and herbs. I'm so thrilled with my batch of goodness!! I'll make a delicious soup in the next few days and with some homemade bread we'll all be happy chaps around here!