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.


Mary Beth said...

I so wish I could get organic milk delivered here, or any local milk, really. Interesting thesis topic. How do these things, like craft circles, make our homes more "public and political?" I'm intrigued.

DomaMama said...

Hi, Mary Beth,

Thanks for the comment. It's fun here in the blogosphere, talking about this stuff with folks besides my husband and friends (who are sick to death of hearing about it, I'm sure).

In some ways, I'm taking Habermas's notion of the public sphere one step further: instead of places like coffeeshops and pubs, where private citizens openly and freely discussed political concerns, I guess what I'm seeing today is a trend toward the home becoming more of a public sphere, where like-minded people gather to talk and share ideas.

Maybe it's just folks discussing parenting challenges and current events while knitting. Or it's folks gathering at one another's homes to learn about sustainable living or preserving. Or maybe it's like yesterday on my porch as people stopped by to pick up their milk and had conversations about raw milk and LEED remodeling.

I think even through things like blogs, which in a very real way make the home a public space (look at what it's done to break up the isolation of stay-at-home parenting!), people are creating communities that often have a component of political discussion or action: organic milk, buying local, DIY everything--all of these can be ways of rejecting mainstream capitalism in favor of small-scale economies. Very political endeavors.

I totally get that this isn't a universal phenomenon--I mean, some people just like making stuff! But at the very least, many of us seem to like doing it together, in person or online, which may not be political, but it certainly is public.

Mary Beth said...

Thank you for your reply! I know that through blogging I certainly have more of a community of like-minded people--I feel way less isolated. Also, I love the glimpse into the domestic lives of others.

Jessica said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and I just love it. A thesis in the summer time...sounds like fun. It would be very interesting to read when you are done (hint, hint!). I also have an affinity for milk delivered in glass containers. There is a little local grocery near by that sells their milk like that and it just.tastes.better. Happy Fourth!

DomaMama said...

I agree, Jessica, but our neighbors' kids, who are in their twenties, HATE the milk in glass bottles. They dislike the thickness and the film on the bottle. More for their parents, I guess!

sixty-five said...

What an interesting concept. I don't think of my home as either public or political (well maybe the front yard garden counts?) but I'm willing to be open-minded about the idea and look forward to learning more about you and your household. Thanks for visiting my blog!