One of my favorite blogs is New Dress A Day, 365 dresses for 365 days for $365, where Marissa takes some thrift sale item and remakes it into something fun and/or glamorous for herself. It appeals because it’s creative re-purposing. If I enjoy the economical wardrobe, why am I so uncomfortable about sourcing my food year long entirely from my garden?
The New York Times recently ran Back to the Land, Reluctantly by Susan Gregory Thomas who became an urban farmer to support herself and her two children because of a divorce and dire economic necessity. She raises the point that once most of our ancestors subsisted on what they grew and made and that we can too. In fact, in the 18th and 19th century, most American households had a kitchen garden, typically around an acre, on which they grew the crops the household ate year round. It was the women folk and children who tended the kitchen garden while the men farmed for profit. My own Quaker ancestors farming northeast of Indianapolis ate homemade sauerkraut and their own sprouted wheat bread along with their own smoked meats all dreary winter long. They kept chickens and stocked a root cellar with their apples, potatoes, winter squash, cabbage and more throughout the winter. So Thomas, raising two kids on a perfectly nutritious diet of eggs, yogurt, vegetables and fruits, is the gardening version of Marissa, the seamstress. Thomas’ challenge is to subsist for the entire year, 365 days and 1095 meals, on what one grows and makes. I completely believe Thomas when she says she enjoys her urban subsistence living and I admire her creative industry and lament her necessity. Yet I’m uncomfortable and baulk instead of taking up the challenge. How about you?