Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” — Confucius
Happy autumn, friends! I don’t know about you, but fall is my “come alive” season. While I have a huge appreciation for all seasons (if a slight dislike of winter), autumn has always been my favorite. I love the changing leaves, the apple spice everything, and the smell of fireplaces being coaxed back to life. I’ve even bought my first pumpkin!
This time of year, I’m pulled into the kitchen even more than usual. I’ve already baked my first apple and pumpkin pies, as well as copious amounts of rustic seeded bread, and I’ve purchased my second hot water canner to increase my output. I’ve also begun to find importance in sharing some of my skills with younger people, and I implore you to do the same.
I spent yesterday with a young woman (she’s 19) going over some basic domestic skills. For one reason or another, she wasn’t given the opportunity to learn these things from her own mother and now has moved into her own place and is struggling a bit. I hadn’t given much thought to someone not having any domestic training. I took my own “training” from my parents for granted, I suppose. But, if you think about it, a lack of domestic training can keep someone from making a house a home, knowing how to bake, how to cook, how to set a table and be a good host.
My first stop with her was Goodwill, where we picked up a ton of basic kitchenware and discussed the importance of budgeting and buying used, when appropriate—recycling at its best, after all! We moved on to cooking and made homemade macaroni and cheese. In the process, she learned how to make a roux and temper an egg, both important for avoiding ruined recipes down the road.
We made fast homemade mozzarella so that she could learn how to turn a $3.50 investment of milk into $20 worth of cheese, an excellent skill for young people on a budget. We then talked about how that big ball of mozzarella can be used in meals over the next few days to really make it stretch. Then we made a quick apple pie with a store-bought crust, and I explained that even the most accomplished home cooks have some cheats to save time and cut down on stress.
By the end of our homemaking lesson, she had a few recipe ideas for us to try the next time and a real excitement to learn more. Equally important, we had the opportunity to discuss relationships, gratitude, and making a home and career, all without me lecturing. Instead, we chatted in the kitchen while the pie baked—a far less intimidating approach, I think.
In every society, the younger generation learns from the ones who went before. It’s what makes society work. But I’ve found that, though we push young people towards a career and monetary success, we have let the importance of home fall by the wayside. What good is success if you have nowhere to share it with those you love, no home that serves as your sanctuary? There’s a self-satisfaction in seeing your garden grow or your bread rise. We need to show the next generation a balance between work and home.
Before leaving my young friend’s house, which was now a little more organized and full of good smells from the bread and pie baking, I watched her getting ready to serve her guests. She was full of pride and smiling, eager to tell them about her day. I knew right then it was an afternoon well spent. My garden that needed tearing out and replanting could wait another day. I knew what I’d planted and nurtured instead was far more valuable.
Although she’s something of a newbie homesteader herself, Michelle comes from serious pioneer stock: Her great-grandmother literally wrote the book. It’s this legacy, in part, that led Michelle to trade in her high-stress life for a home on the grounds of a Pennsylvania CSA farm. You can read her monthly posts on beginner homesteading with kids and more here in HOMEGROWN Life, and sometimes you can find her popping up in The Stew, HOMEGROWN’s member blog.
Photos by MICHELLE WIRE