Monday, June 30, 2008

And now, for some much-needed context

Those of you who know me may be wondering why I've started blogging now when I have other things I should be doing when I'm not at work or hanging with the family--namely, my 120-page creative nonfiction master's thesis project that's due by the end of summer.

Short answer: Blogging is more fun than writing a book.

Long answer: This blog covers the same ground as my thesis, which is a collection of essays that looks at how the middle-class American home has become a more public and political place in recent years (e.g., urban homesteading, DIY craft circles, salons, green build and remodeling, work at home ventures). In a lot of ways, I see this blog as an incubator, a place to try out some theories and get some feedback/input/other ideas from anyone else who stops in.

And I think this is also a good way to record the effect my thesis research has had on my family and our daily lives. The urban homesteaders and green mamas I've interviewed haven't only given me fodder for my book, they've inspired me to experiment with ways of breaking away from larger industrial systems of consumption by creating a microeconomy in our own home and engaging with our communities at the same time.

For example, after interviewing Cafemama, who is considered something of a superhero in these parts, I was inspired to start getting our organic dairy products delivered directly from Noris Dairy in Crabtree, Oregon. Check out the bounty--milk in glass bottles, butter, sour cream, half-and-half, and eggs--delivered to my porch this afternoon:

Because my family couldn't alone make the $16 minimum charge required for home delivery, we asked friends and neighbors if they were interested in joining us and, as you can see by the full coolers, they were. And just like that, our porch became a public space, which is really what porches want to be.

Our homes can be our best canvases for self-expression, but it seems to me that this expression has become a very public thing: Many of us aren't quietly, solitarily knitting scarves and canning strawberries and planting vegetable gardens and remodeling our old homes--we're raising our kids in these lifestyles and with these values, and, even more interesting, we're talking and writing and reading about these things. A lot. So here I am, jumping into the fray.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

If this isn't domestic ...

I don't know what is.

Why, yes, it was the hottest day of the year yesterday, something like 100 degrees outside and a relatively cool 85 in the house. But what else was I going to do with a full flat of delicious, fragile Oregon Hood strawberries?

It starts out pleasantly enough every June: homemade strawberry ice cream, strawberries dipped in chocolate, strawberries gobbled plain while sitting on the porch. I even tried a couple of new recipes this year: Strawberries covered with balsamic and honey then topped with whipped marscapone and cream. Arborio rice pudding with strawberry preserves and sugared almonds (from Ivy Manning's awesome book, The Farm to Table Cookbook).

But by about four weeks in, it starts to get ugly. The family starts to show signs that they're reaching the strawberry breaking point. When I say, "Let's go to the farmer's market and get some strawberries," my husband suddenly has something important to do in the garage and SB, not yet old enough to make up excuses, defends herself in classic almost-four-year-old style by pretending not to hear me. When I drag everyone to the farm to pick berries on a gorgeous Friday morning, I'm met with grim, resigned expressions that say, "Mom's crazy but don't antagonize her, because it could get even worse."

An insurgency?!? Are you guys kidding me? These are Oregon strawberries, people. Once a year and they're gone--gone! Must. Get. Them. Must. Eat. Them. Must. Can. Them. Now!

So this week, I force fed the family strawberries in every shape and form: on cereal and in yogurt for breakfast, on salad for dinner, and with chocolate and ice cream for dessert (okay, the last bit wasn't met by much resistance at all). And I had to put up at least a few of them, even on the hottest day of the year, because I'd just taken this super-fun preserving class.

But I might be done with strawberries for the season--a sure sign that July is just around the corner. Raspberries, anyone?