Magic Tree Clock

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Food Preservation for Home Economy

Today was an important day in the economy of my home in relation to my food options as Autumn takes hold and Winter looms only a few months away. I've decided to preserve some of this late summer, early autumn produce from my local farmers. One problem I had to deal with was 'how'. Knowing that I don't have time to learn yet another skill, canning foods was out of the question. The next best thing I could do was freeze food. I used to have one of those plastic bag food sealers, but it fell into disuse in the early 2000s and I gave it away. So, I helped the national economy today by purchasing a new vacuum food sealer! Let the freezing begin!

I set about this last week to buy as many vegetables and fruits from my neighborhood farmer's market (see previous post), and from the organic farm I frequent. I did a great job getting tomatoes and peppers, and apples and pears, but I plan to buy more of these and other things as I learn the art of freezing food. One place online that I've found to help me in this endeavor is through the National Center for Home Food Preservation's page on freezing. Unfortunately, this whole idea came late, so things like cucumbers and zucchini are not going to make it in this round.

This afternoon my partner and I sliced a huge variety of the tomatoes and peppers, and put them into sealed bags using the new unit. One thing we did along the way was to make up packets of these things in serving sizes we knew we would use in a typical meal. Although this required us to make many packages, in the long run we will be better able to extend the food by not overusing it. Since it is apple season, and I love apples, I'm going to freeze them too. I've decided that I like the unsweetened freezing options and thus will reduce any browning with lemon juice or the mild salt bath. I like the idea of freezing the sliced fruit on a tray first before putting into vacuum-sealed bags. This is the technique I've used for blueberries - they turn into marbles, yet thaw easily. Since I have a typical fridge, I won't be able to fit much in the freezer, but I'll squish in whatever I can.

Besides economics, I also want to keep a huge supply of our personal kitchen basics on-hand during the tomato/pepper/apple off-season because I deplore fruits and veggies that have a protective edible wax on them, especially the petroleum-based ones. I guess you could say that not only do I want home economics liberated, I want my food liberated too.

One other thing I did this week was take advantage of the canning skill of the vendors at the farmer's market. I bought up what I could of jellies, jams, relishes, mustards, and even honey. Knowing that their skills are valuable, and that they make their products with the season, it made sense to stock up on these things. On a thrifty note, all of the jellies, etc. came in 1-cup Ball brand canning jars, so I'll have a pretty good set for next year if I decide that canning is something I'll be prepared to learn. If not, the jars will continue to function in the manner of the ones I already have, where I use them for taking milk and butter and other small amounts of food to work for lunches, and they can be used to store many things like seeds, paper clips, or become drinking glasses.

Home economics, liberation, and food - these three things are intimate friends, co-dependent, necessary. Philosophically, this linkage seems to be a practice of resistance to wastefulness, restriction, and bane.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Local Food and Your Home Economy

Today I visited my farmer's market, and like always, I enjoyed it. But today it really just hit me how such a small market has SO MUCH! I know that I just invested in my community via our farmer's market! In this practice I found joy and liberation. The liberating part stems from my act as resistance to force-fed corporate processed foods. Look - I got all of this: apples, pears, plums, wheat, rye, & baguette breads, jams, tomatoes, peppers, acorn squash, cookies, cabbage, radishes, beans, broccoli, cookies, oatmeal pie, paw paws, relish, honey! Whew - who says you can't eat locally? The corporations won't feed me like this.

I don't want corporations to feed me anyway. I spent $127.00. That was split between 6 farmers and bakers and home canners. I mentioned that I bought bread; only part of it is in the picture here. I put lots of it in the freezer already. I got 3 baguettes, a loaf of whole wheat, a loaf of rye, and 6 white farmer's loaves for $24.00, and because I bought so much, they through in a personal sized bacon and cheese quiche! What also isn't pictured is ALL of the jams, jellies, and relishes I bought. Most of those I put up already, but the variety I was able to get included, pineapple, peach, white peach, jalapeno, strawberry, lavender blackberry, and honey peach. I think I bought 13 jars of jellies and jams, plus two big jars of zucchini relish.

I'm going to freeze some of the veggies for the winter. My goal between now and the end of September is to get all the food I can and freeze it. I'm prepared to can food this year. This weekend I'm volunteering at a local farm, and this labor will get me $5.00 worth of their organic produce and eggs for each hour I work there. Not only does this impact my economy of home, but I get to play in the dirt under the big Earthly sky and listen to the bells clinking on the necks of the roaming sheep. Maybe I'll run with the roosters too :-)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Power of the (Woman's) Purse

As the economy has turned sour overall, it seems that more and more there are articles about women and economic behaviors. Specifically their purchasing power. When it comes to the economy of home, women have most often been assigned the "power of the purse". I see this as part of the ideology of consumerism, with women responsible for a prescribed role in determining how to dole out the cash that comes into a home.

There is an image from last year's Market's website around the time of Black Friday. Check it out below; it tells us very quickly who it is that economists see as the point of interest in making a Red Thursday into Black Friday.

I made sure to save this image. It struck me as a significant sign that men are discounted in economic recovery, with the exception of the men who are apparently tracking every woman's move in the world of shopping and consumption.

Recently, Seventh Generation, a natural care company, posted this blog: The Power of the Purse. Women are charged with not only spending money, but also inducing producers to make what women will buy. This is nothing new. Way back in the early 1900s when oven were being made, home economists were testing these products. Did you know it was a woman who suggested that a glass window be placed in oven doors? I'll find the name of the woman who I read about. Manufacturers had a hell of a time making it happen, as I read, but they worked at it until they satisfied what they thought would be a selling point.

But ovens don't last forever. Today on Market Watch there was a story about planned obsolescence (one of my favorite topics). Read about it here: Investors, beware of flat-panel investments John Dvorak's Second Opinion - MarketWatch. To be sure that I, as a woman, am participating in the consumer culture, I'll admit that I'm the one who decided to buy our flat panel digital TV. Our analog was still working, so why a new one? The decision wasn't all mine - remember not too long ago when analog TV signals became illegal, and could for all the future only be broadcast in digital? Hhmmmm. Who really has the power of my purse?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New book - Radical Homemakers

As I proceed with writing a dissertation on the early roots of the shift of American households from places of production to containers of consumerism, and of the inhabitants morphing from citizens into consumers, the book Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes, comes along. Radical as in defined by roots and fundamentals, as well as defined by necessary adaptations. Learn more here:

From reading a portion of the introduction online, I gather what I've suspected all along. Even though consumerism is the mainstream and pervades American ideology, there has always been the radical fringe of citizens who understood what home economics and the making of home was all about - society. I recently posted on Facebook a quote from Thoreau: "I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society." Home and economy are all of these things to me. It is my place. It is where I find peace with a friend. It is my connection with society. And in all of these options I find interpersonal and intrapersonal liberation in life. The economy of home is bigger than any education standard can hope to provide.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What Does Home Economics Mean?

What does home economics mean? What does it mean to you? Is it practical, or philosophical, or both? What do you remember from your home economics classes (if you had them)? Did you take shop classes too? Did you learn to work with wood or metal? Maybe repair a car? Did you ever learn how to hem a pair of pants?

I'm curious. What has been your experience with home economics? Good or bad? Do you know that you practice the economy of your home each day? Or do you? When you are aware of your own economics, do you feel liberated or imprisoned?

What is home economics?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Books You Might Enjoy, Part 2

Well, it's that time to provide another list of good books on the topic of home economics, , and in this case the development of the "American consumer".

Berry, W. (1987). Home economics. San Francisco, CA: North Point Press.

Casey, J. G. (2009). A new heartland: Women, modernity, and the agrarian ideal in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Pendergast, T. (2000). Creating the modern man: American magazines and consumer culture, 1900-1950.. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press.

Scanlon, J. (1995). Inarticulate Longings: The Ladies' Home Journal, gender, and the promises of consumer culture. New York, NY: Routledge.

Spring, J. (2003). Educating the consumer-citizen: A history of the marriage of schools, advertising, and media..Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Jacobson, L. (2004). Raising consumers: Children and the American mass market in the early twentieth century. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Pursell, C. (2007). The machine in America: A social history of technology. 2nd edition. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Scanlon, J. (Ed.) (2000). The gender and consumer culture reader. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Raggat, P., R. Edwards, and N. Small (1996). The learning society: Challenges and trends. New York, NY: Routledge.

Frank, D. (1994). Purchasing power: Consumer organizing, gender, and the Seattle labor movement. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Just 5 Easy Steps

Today, ToDay, TODAY! - learn home economics in just 5, easy to implement steps! Your neighbors are doing it, and so can you!

Really? Thanks anyway, Greg. Well, I'm poking fun at the eHow people and the five steps at this website: How To Learn Home Economics.
(Note to the right of "Instructions that the difficulty level is listed as "easy".)

At the beginning, eHow states, "Home economics is the study of economic and management in a domestic environment. This formal study includes consumer education, cleaning, sewing, cooking, child development and all other domestic related fields. In higher education, home economics is classified as family and consumer science, which includes women and men. Home economics has been thought of as a field of study primarily for women, but that has changed in recent years with higher enrollment rates for men. Luckily, home economics basics can easily be learned online or through taking a course at your local vocational school." Then the five steps follow.

Step 1 - Do some research. Find out what interests you about the field. You'll likely run across the things that have stereotyped the field and women, as well as avoiding any deeper philosophy connected with the economic practices of home and every other action occurring outside of the homes' walls or boundaries.

Step 2 - Take a home economics course at your local vocational school. Call them up and ask them if they have a basic introductory class. You'll already need to know something about your own home economic situation because this step suggests that you find a class that costs an amount that is comfortable to you to pay. Are you ready for a degree in home ec now? Simply go to Step 3.

Step 3 - "Go to the eCollege Finder website to look through a list of online accredited schools if you already have received your high school diploma." Okay, done. Now what?

Step 4 - "Choose what type of degree you want from the drop-down menu, then select your area of study from the second drop-down menu. Select "Liberal Arts" for a basic degree in home economics or select "Education" if you want to learn how to teach home economics. Type in your ZIP code and email address, then click on the "Search Now" button to continue." *coming to a screeching halt*... Ah, there it is, home economics used as commodity development. All a vendor needs, in this case eHow, is to know where you are generally located, and an email to send you important messages about your desire to be a home economist.

Step 5 - Provide the search system with your blood type, names of all your kin 3 generations out, your astrology sign, and a quote from the best fortune you ever got from a fortune cookie. Press submit and voila, you'll find the school for you with the program for your success in your newly found passion for the economy of home.

Okay, so this version of Step 5 is my interpretation of what is really listed on eHow, but how pertinent? There is no magical set of personal information that can provide you with the ideal school or program or interest in home economics or family and consumer sciences. One might not look at the successful completion of a home economics class as the determiner of pursuing a degree in the field. One would be better to look at the reasons that drove them to take the class in the first place. Where is your philosophy? What are you thinking about? What is the connection to home economics, family, and consumption that put you in front of your computer and compelled you to Google, perhaps, "what is home economics" or "home economics class"?

The search for what is important enough to us that we want to spend time, thinking, and money on it doesn't happen in the 0.26 seconds that it took Google to search for your key words. It is something that builds over time, even when you aren't paying attention. I suppose if someone wants to be a home economist, family and consumer scientist, or a writer for eHow, she or he needs to dig deep into their own thoughts, which, frankly, won't take five simple steps to do, nor will the results of how to pursue what you find happen in five simple steps either. There are no search boxes in your head. And no submit buttons.

[Disclaimer: - I'm sure eHow is a wonderfully helpful website. I just wish things so important to humanity and the planet weren't stated as if a Cliff Note or "home economics for Dummies" book made the study of economy that simple.]

Sunday, April 25, 2010

School Farming - is the time finally now?

I am researching information in some early 20th century publications generally entitled, The Farmer's Wife. It is basically a magazine with stories, advertisements, helpful tips, discussions, etc., like any modern magazine. In the August 1912 issue, there is a paragraph called A New Measure of Farm Life. It says,

"From Wisconsin comes the prophecy that in the future every school will be surrounded by a small farm of from ten to fifteen acres, which will not only afford the pupils a chance of practice and education, but will enable the teacher to partly support himself on the land. Wisconsin, like a good many personal reformers, is living many years ahead of the times. This idea of school farming is not its only advance step. Wisconsin is one of the states that has passed laws whereby every school building shall be considered a Social Center for the community. Other states will find an excellent lesson to copy in this act of legislature."

This combination of growing food and social interaction is something that was lost in many places in America, for how long I don't really know. But today, the trend is moving toward this Wisconsin "prophecy". People are taking an interest in real food and finding ways to bring it to the schools and the kids. An elementary school in Loveland, Ohio has their Granny's Garden School, and all the kids get to work and in the garden, learn and practice the process of growing food, and enjoy the goods! Apparently they caught wind of the prophecy early, establishing the garden in April of 2002. Want to see what they are doing? Here's the link: Granny's Garden School.

Think about this. Ninety years after the publication that I hold in my hand was printed, a school farm was initiated in Loveland. What has kept this disconnection in place for so long? Schools are always social places for their communities, as called for in the Wisconsin law. Now I wonder about the impact of this social farming on the youth who get to participate and how their practice of home economics will be influenced. More home food gardens? What about their future of food budgeting and knowledge of nutrition? What will their kids be taught? Where else is this influence happening? What are other kids today missing at schools that only provide processed government frozen goods?

Monday, April 5, 2010

A New Shift Toward a "Female-driven Economy"? - Seriously?

Well, if you know anything about the history of consumer patterns, advertising, and its development, you already know - without consulting a big national study by a communications firm - that women are the major targets of consumer ads and products. I am not going to try posting all of the background information I have on this topic. It's very extensive, and so insanely obvious that the research findings at the first link below, shocked me with the title: "Women, Power, and Money: The Female-driven Economy". It seems to be a specialized publication for companies to they can consider how to "reach" women and get them to "drive" the economy.

I just can't keep from chuckling about this. Really? In 2008 you had to do a study about women as the main consumers? I suppose the good news is that the marketers don't have a clue, which in my opinion shows that women, the consumers, are economically intellectual in many ways that probably can't be known or revealed by research. That sounds like economic empowerment to me!

I need to say that since the beginning of industrialism in America, women's traditionally ascribed gender roles of producing the daily things of home were being siphoned off into industry - the weaving, spinning yarn, knitting, quilting, sewing, food storage, etc.. When women began to follow that alienating hose to the factories, they stopped a lot of their own production and found themselves uniquely tied to selling their labor for what they had once done independently (see Women At Work by Thomas Dublin, 1979). They started purchasing what they had once made.

It didn't take long for manufacturers to advertise their goods and services. Hell, even the undertakers used to call out in the streets for people to bring out the dead and put them in a cart! You have to sell a service - any service. I'm examining some early 20th century publications called The Farmer's Wife (TFW), and they, like most publications, are chock full of advertising for the things women once made. To be fair, there is a mix of production and consumption items in TFW. But one can't help but see just how "female-driven" the economy of home was for women in rural areas as well as urban.

Check out the research by Fleishman-Hilliard here: Kitchen Table Economics: The Power of the Female Consumer. Then click on the Women, Power, and Money link under the paragraph (next to the picture). This will take you to the PDF of the document.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Women in Economics Symposium

Here is a link to the morning session of the Women in Finance Symposium held by the US Department of the Treasury on March 29, 2010. You can find the link to the afternoon session at this link too. What is interesting to this blog and all of us in general is that the discussion at one point revolved around where and when do we learn about individual economic practices, and the women on the panel said "home". There was also the inclusion of family as the reason maybe for budgeting, and it was recognized how women are most often in charge of the household budget.

C-SPAN Women in Finance Symposium

I would also like to suggest that you watch the introduction by Timothy Geithner when he says that when women are put on boards of companies, those businesses do better than others financially. What is this transition of what women learn at home, and what they contribute in the workplace to financial activities, success, and accepted practices?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Agriculture and Home Economics

From The Farmer's Almanac e-newsletter, January 12, 2010: "In this winter season, we contemplate the words of this Almanac's founder, Robert B. Thomas . . .

“The cultivation of the earth ought ever to be esteemed as the most useful and necessary employment in life. The food and raiment by which all other orders of men are supported are derived from the earth. Agriculture is of consequence: the art which supports, supplies, and maintains all the rest.”
–Robert B. Thomas, 1796"

Yes, yes, indeed. Without food, humans can do nothing else. So why has such an important necessity gone from a simple need met by a flexible complex of social interactions and skillful practices, to a commercial process devoid of community and shared knowledge? Maybe part of the answer lies in the individualization of "home", however one might define it, individualized in the manner of ever more distinct residents; and homes disconnected from others in the surrounding area even though they may occur in cul-de-sac housing tracts. From front porch communities to backyard deck oases, most of us wouldn't know anymore how to cooperate on providing our common basic needs.

Imagine a home economics course with a lesson about the acquisition of food. Do you first think of a farmer harvesting the tomatoes you need? Or do you think of the piles of romas stacked in a grocery store display? Maybe you think of your backyard - tomatoes are one of the most popular food plants to grow at home (Top Ten Vegetables)! It's likely today, with the growth in desiring food from local producers/farmers that you think of a farmer's market. In any case, no matter how you buy your tomatoes, you will find a variable set of interpersonal relationships between people and tomatoes, as well as intrapersonal relationships with the skills to find or grow your own.

Maybe you can't grow a darn thing, and you imagine the grocery store tomatoes. That's okay. But can you imagine having a personal relationship with the people who put the tomatoes in your grocery store? Who harvested them? Were they paid fairly or was it done under a very common and current form of indebted slavery as happens all across - yes - the United States? When the tomato seeds were planted, did the farmer (or more often now known in corporate agribusiness today as "growers") think about how happy I would be with such a special food that he or she or they raised and cared for it like it was VITAL? Right now your thinking, ugh, why is my desire for a simple red tomato becoming so complex?

I like to ponder the question of whether or not people are vital. I also like to think that our social practices should reflect the vitalness of food. Simple. Simple food; simple sociality; made complex if only by our participation in the relationships of food and social practices. The earth can be cultivated in many an agricultural manner, but without cultivating the social part too, the most likely consequence is unstoppable toxic runoff.