I was sitting in the tub, as you do, thinking about this post. I’ve recently finished Radical Homemakers and it’s left me with all sorts of good thoughts and dreams. I considered what I wanted to say and also what picture I might want to accompany the post. Something green, maybe. Or perhaps a photo of livestock, a sweet lamb or a strutting rooster. My mind wandered over my own farm experiences, the few I’ve been lucky to have, simultaneously reminiscing and trying to remember if I might have taken any photos that might match my words.
And then I remembered the photo you see beside this post now. No, I had no pre-prepared pictures of laconic cows or grassy fields ready to be hayed, but I do have this one photo of a farmer, a radical homemaker, if there ever was one.
If you know me in real life, you have heard at least one story about my grandfather or his family. I have always been one to carry family stories in me, to cherish them far more than any heirloom left behind. My grandfather has always held a particular fascination and affection for me. He farmed all his life, just as his father had, and his father before him. But my grandfather didn’t just farm, he also worked two jobs, was an accomplished woodworker, built three homes and renovated a fourth with my dad, and while generally very stern, had a wonderful sense of humor that balanced out his let’s-get-to-the-point sort of attitude.
As I was reading Radical Homemakers, I thought a lot about my grandfather. Radical homemakers hone skills that allow them to live free of the “extractive economy” (basically, consumer culture). They often grow and raise much of their own food, fix what they can of the things they own rather than simply throw them away and buy something new, create lasting symbiotic relationships with others in their community, and find joy in things that are not based on purchasing something or experiencing things passively. My grandfather (and grandmother, too) did much, if not all of this, and because of it, they had such good lives and were able to leave behind a financially legacy that buoyed the two younger generations of their family. They did not live extravagantly, they lived fully and with the awareness that it was not your things that defined you, but your character, work ethic, and how you treated people.
At the moment, I have a lot of dreams and wishes for what my life might be like if my family could move away from our buy, buy, buy ways and turn more inward, turn toward home. Those dreams are probably a little more rosy than they ought to be, I’ll admit (even I must realize keeping a cow or a few pigs isn’t a small task), but then I also remember that my grandparents did this. No, it wasn’t easy, but it was done and done really well, and while genetics probably doesn’t play much of a role in one’s ability to manage a homestead, a small part of me wonders if the desire to work the land and be responsible for your own little piece of the planet isn’t a legacy that one easily gives up.