Radical Homemaking | Back Yard Plans

As I mentioned last week, I've just finished re-reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes, which has me all fired up about sustainable living. My husband and I are in the planning stages of transitioning our household from what Hayes calls a "consumer household" to a producing household. She writes...

"Mainstream American culture views the household as a unit of consumption. By this conventional standard, the household consumes food, clothing, technologies, repair and debt services, electricity, entertainment, health-care services, and environmental resources. In order to be a "successful" unit of consumption, the household must have money."

As I wrote earlier, I have had it with corporate America and I am sick and tired of handing my hard earned money over to corporations who turn around and poison our environment and our bodies. My goal this year is to move our household in a different direction than the one described above.

I find myself in a rare situation. My husband and I have enough resources to sustain ourselves - a Godsend given our current national economics. Our relationship is strong, balanced and unconditionally loving. He is as committed to our domestic life as I am, and we share the burdens and the joys. We have a home with space enough for gardening, composting, cooking, art-making, child-rearing and all sorts of additional recreation. So as I see it, I am in a great position, as a homemaker, to shift our lifestyle away from the mainstream, extractive-style household towards a more compassionate, connected, life-serving household. I'm sure this shift will be slow and incremental, but I am optimistic about what my husband and I will be able to accomplish.

I'm starting small. Less spending, more making. I won't be milking goats in my backyard or installing a composting toilet or anything. I also won't be dragging my home back in time - I've studied Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique.  My eyes are wide open on that score. But I will be exploring ways in which my husband and I can produce more of our own food, simplify our spending, consume less from corporations, decrease our waste, support local farmers and enrich our local community through our efforts.


So where do we start?  The first thing on our list is to transform our derelict backyard into a food producing mini-farm. I know this sounds overwhelming and maybe even weird, but I love gardening and have already had some success with building raised beds for veggies in the past. Here is my late summer / early fall to-do list as I prepare to create a little urban homestead.

1) Rip out our small and scary backyard lawn (Bermuda Grass) in order to build raised vegetable beds

2) Build rain barrels for water conservation and collection (This is Texas, people, and water is like gold! Why are we wasting it on green lawns?)

3) Build a three-bin composting system on the unused side yard of the house to feed our garden

I'll be checking in here at La Maison Boheme with updates about this transformation and what it means for my family and my home. Next week, we'll talk chickens. Yes, chickens. If you're wondering what in the world I've been rambling about for the last few paragraphs, feel free to pick up a copy of Radical Homemakers or Animal Vegetable Miracle or Homeward Bound or any of the many books available on the subject.  I've also started a resource list via Pinterest: Radical Homemaker.  Follow along if you like!