During my last year as an independent bookstore owner I was fortunate enough to meet Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne, authors of Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World. Based in the middle of Los Angeles, they have created a lifestyle that evokes Ma and Pa Ingalls of the Little House books. They grow their own food, raise their own meat, bake bread almost everyday, and create much of what they need from scratch instead of buying ready-made products. Ironically, when I picked them up at the ferry terminal to take them to their author event, upon seeing my sewing machine in the back of my car (I must've been giving a lesson that day) they commented they still weren't sewing their own clothes, but it was definitely a goal on their list.
They are part of the Radical Homemaking movement where people take a hard look at their lifestyles and try to rearrange things in order to become producers, rather than consumers. Shannon Hayes has been chronicling this movement for several years in essays, books, and her blog. She, like Erik and Kelly and many others, came to the conclusion that they worked forty hours a week just to consume. They then took the leap and scaled back on their traditional jobs to allow more time to produce and found, in many ways, they were better off, financially, spiritually, etc. This lifestyle holds a lot of allure for me, and fortunately, our location and situation in life will allow us to pull it off.
That's where Making It becomes such a great resource. Erik and Kelly worked with the publishers to make the book very accessible and not overwhelming. Tasks are divided into sections: Day to Day, Week to Week, Month to Month, and Season to Season. The reader can tackle one thing at a time, incorporate it into their lives until it becomes part of a routine and then add another. Topics range from creating hygiene and cleaning products, to gardening, to food preservation and more. I am still checking off most of the Month to Month tasks, but really like their "recipes" for household products.
Although our family is most likely several years from being able to completely embrace this lifestyle, I do enjoy the sense of satisfaction we get now from the food we do manage to grow and eat, the eggs we collect, and the other items we choose to make ourselves rather than purchase at the store. And, hopefully, as our children grow up and start their own households, producing will be so normal for them they will not get caught in the trap of consumerism.