“To paraphrase Confucius, a healthy planet is made up of healthy nations that are simply healthy communities sharing common ground, and communities are gatherings of households. A measure of the health of the planet is economics—the health of its households.”
—Wright State University,
Home Economics book description
The health of a household is obviously a pretty wide topic—one that Wendell Berry spent at least fourteen essays worth of time on (and probably more). For my part, I just want to note that one aspect of being a household is doing things at home, for ourselves, instead of relying so heavily on others to do things for us. This might mean reaching back to our roots and considering how life used to be, then trying things out.
For instance, my grandmother used to can a lot of her food. And she always cooked from scratch. My life is busy, but recently I’ve been considering how both my own health and the health of the planet can be better served by doing a few more things for myself, within my own household, like my grandmother did.
Plus, it’s just plain fun. And it gets you working with your hands, which stirs cognition and creativity.
For example, sitting on my radiator right now are three big jars of what will become sauerkraut. I assumed that since the price tag for organic sauerkraut is so high ($10 at my local organics store!) that it must be hard to make. Not so. Basic sauerkraut has two ingredients. Cabbage. And salt. Okay, and jars. And, if you need to add a little water as the process proceeds, there’s that.
Long, long ago (so it seems), every school took the issue of home economics seriously and they offered classes on that very topic. The problem was that they mostly offered the classes to girls.
A friend recently mentioned to me that her school district has come back to the idea of a home economics class, but this time they are calling it Life Skills and they’re offering it to both boys and girls.
Yay! I agree with Wendell Berry that if we’re going to solve our “earth care” problems, we need to first take seriously “home economics.” Schools and colleges can get involved, putting together a curriculum that combines science, history, life skills, philosophy, economics, and earth care (I’d love to take a class like that!). But even before our education systems get involved, we can take home economics matters into our own hands. For the pure joy of it. For our health. For the planet.
See if you can dig out an old cookbook of your grandmother’s. Or consult a homesteading site. Then write a poem about a cooking project (or other project using plants) that you’d like to try out. Alternately, write about a family member you wish you could consult regarding their knowledge of “householding” in the past.
When did we
forget to remember
not just grandmother
making cherry pies,
but also grandfather
pruning his peach trees,
and both sitting down
at the table together,
talking to us
about what the earth
whispered to them
to whisper to us.