The Work of Home

Friday, November 13, 2015


"With industrialization has come a general depreciation of work. As the price of work has gone up, the value of it has gone down, until it is now so depressed that people simply do not want to do it anymore." - Wendell Berry, Bringing It To The Table (p.35)

When we view our homes as centers of active production, instead of places of passive consumption, we gain an entirely different perspective on the value and meaning of work.

The important work of home includes cooking nourishing meals from scratch with well-sourced ingredients, baking a loaf of bread to satisfy those seemingly bottomless little bellies, healing sick children with time-honored home remedies and rest, tending to the daily needs of active, growing babes. 

The valuable work of home involves opening up a manual with a six-year-old and an almost two-year-old to fix a pesky toilet with Daddy, and spotting the priceless look in a big brother's eyes when he reads the instructions and realizes exactly how the plumbing system operates. 

The work of home consists of the daily endeavor to determine what we can make instead of buy, what we can upcycle instead of recycle, what we can insource rather than outsource. The work of home means finding ways to produce more of our own food, fuel, and clothing and better manage our energy and waste. It means creating, not purchasing, our own entertainment and fun, and being together as a family more than apart. 

The work of home is all about becoming more self-reliant and less dependent on money and factories and a pervasive consumer culture. 

The work of home means rejecting industrial values and reconnecting with the simple values of home, family, and community that sustained generations.

In the new Winter issue of Mother Earth News, the editor's note states:

"For decades, our culture has moved further and further away from a hands-on, do-it-yourself approach to daily life. Our food comes from the grocery store or the nearest fast-food outlet, furniture arrives in boxes with a few hex wrenches and instructions for 'easy' assembly, and cars are so computerized that only trained mechanics dare try to maintain them. Important practices, such as baking bread, preserving food, raising animals and chopping wood to warm our homes are being lost. We've come to rely on mega-corporations for everything from our daily bread to the drugs that treat conditions we didn't even know we had."

For my husband and me, with so much of our lifetimes spent preparing for and participating in a consumption-based economy, learning the increasingly rare skills of home production and do-it-yourself-ness is an important calling. We are frequently dismayed at how far removed we are from the basic elements of human life, how little we know about providing our own food, fiber and fuel. In the weeks to come, we will be taking bigger steps to increase our self-reliance and boost our home production.

There is so much good work to do at home, so much value in producing for our families and striving to live more sustainably and self-sufficiently. We should all take tremendous pride in the important work of home.

:: outside and inside ::

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It's raining today, a welcome break from nearly a week of mild and bright November weather that kept us outside more than in. Days spent in woods, on trails, by water are exhilarating--especially on calm autumn days--but it's nice to have a retreat to home.

Today I will finally be able to get to my running list of to-dos. There is the mountain of laundry to be sorted, the tidying and organizing, the baking and simmering. There is a trip that I have been putting off to a nearby store to get winter boots. We have a stack of library books to enjoy and a warm fire to sit by while we do. 

Allowing the seasons, not a calendar, to guide our daily plans and actions leads to a natural rhythm of family life. We are outside as much and as often as we can be, and inside when the weather turns and we need to reconnect with the warmth and sustenance of home. Sure, there is always the daily repetition of tending and nourishing growing babes, and the constancy of daily anchors like meals and naps, but for the most part we try to be guided by the seasons. We keep schedules light and fluid, we prioritize unstructured over structured time, we value time in nature over time in classrooms, we devote full days to gathering with friends to freely play--and we do all of this with the current season as our backdrop, our guide.

There have been seasons when we didn't live this way and we all felt out of sorts: too over-scheduled, too harried, too stressed, too distracted, too far astray from our core values. It takes continuous effort to quiet the noise of our loud, fast-paced world. It takes clarity to say no to many of the good things, the good opportunities, that come our way, in order to say yes to the things more aligned with the way we truly want to live. 

We are always fine-tuning this process, and in the weeks and months to come we will be taking more deliberate steps to ensure that our days are more fully aligned with our values and that our values are more fully aligned with the natural cycles of our earth.

For now, the laundry pile calls.

:: leaves and lanterns ::

Monday, November 9, 2015

Leaves and lanterns. That about sums up our past few days together as we celebrate this season of gratitude and abundance. 

There is so much to be thankful for at this time of year: towering piles of leaves that hold giggles and laughter, long walks in the woods with so much to see and hear, a bountiful harvest provided by good farmers who lovingly and responsibly tend their soil and stock, nice friends with whom to celebrate the darkness with lanterns and light. So much goodness.

During these slower, simpler days of autumn it can be easier to live in the moment, to give thanks for the goodness around us, to cherish the vibrancy of our children, to seek special ways to celebrate the season, to be gentler on ourselves and each other. Autumn brings a clarity and centeredness that can only be found in the slow and simple. 

Leaves and lanterns. Gratitude and abundance. Slowness and simplicity. 

Autumn is generous.

:: woods and water ::

Thursday, November 5, 2015

I think of it as a little apology from Mother Nature for the 100 inches of snow in Boston last winter. A 70-degree day, in November, in New England -- all is forgiven.

We spent most of today in the woods with homeschooling friends: playing, exploring, building, creating, and enjoying the bright sunshine and warmth of this glorious fall day.

I have been thinking a lot lately about core values, or the priorities unique to each family that guide our actions and insights. Spending abundant time in nature, appreciating the changes and gifts of each season, allowing the natural world to guide and inspire our learning--that is a definitive core value for our family. A day like today fills up our bodies and our spirits, providing us all (including Daddy who was able to enjoy some time off from work) with a sense of calm and clarity and connection.

If I were to list our family's 10 core values it would look something like this:
  • To spend more time together as a family than apart.
  • To prioritize natural, self-directed learning that allows each child to pursue his or her own interests, build individual skills and knowledge, and reveal innate gifts and talents.
  • To connect deeply with nature and marvel at the gifts of each season.
  • To reconnect with the heirloom skills and practices that sustained generations of families and strive to produce more than consume.
  • To nourish our bodies with farm-fresh, sustainably-grown food.
  • To nourish our spirits by connecting more intimately with each other and with the natural cycles of the earth.
  • To nurture both our individual and collective passions and dreams.
  • To find ways to build community and connection with those around us.
  • To identify small actions that can make a big impact on our world and commit to living more authentically and sustainably.
  • To cultivate whole-family living and learning.
I wrote earlier this season about the clarity that comes with autumn. After the busy and full days of summer, fall is the time to retreat and reflect. This is the season of letting go and making room. This is the season of shedding that which is not aligned with our values to create space for more of what is. 

Natural Mother Magazine - Nov/Dec 2015

Monday, November 2, 2015

The November/December issue of Natural Mother Magazine is here! What a gem! 

:: autumn retreat ::

Monday, October 19, 2015

I have been feeling the strong pull of home these days. After stretching our full and active summer rhythms well into late September, I have found these first few weeks since the Equinox to be a time to retreat, to reflect, to restore. And isn't that the way nature intends it to be: busy, outdoor summer days bathed in warm sunshine followed by slower, indoor days where we seek the warmth and comfort of home.

Just as I had been reflecting on our changing rhythms and the tug of home, I read this lovely note from the owners of Farmers To You, our weekly Vermont-to-Boston, farm-fresh food delivery service. In their weekly update to partner families they wrote:

"Farmers who attend to their animals notice how sensitive the animals become when seasons change – appetite changes, mood swings, social behavior differences. Given that our bodies and minds are somewhat more complex it would make sense that our sensitivity might in fact be greater. Or would it. There is an interesting concept and view that our human bodies are an exact microcosm of our earth and influencing planetary forces... There is a dying off, a clarification and preparation that is the major impulse of fall. The air feels crisp and clean and the overall feeling is one of compression, crystallization and preparation for the deep sleep and dream of winter."
Compression, crystallization and preparation - that perfectly describes where I am at these days. Moving inward, closer to home; gaining clarity and perspective; and preparing for delightful plans and good changes in the new year. 

Our inside time begins to topple our outside time, and the warmth and comfort of home draw us closer to ourselves and each other. Yet, we still make time to be outside marveling at this glorious season with its vibrant colors, sweet air, and visible reminder of nature's cycle and our place within it. 

Choosing Home in Boston Globe!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Our e-book, Choosing Home, is featured today in The Boston Globe! Click here for the article link.

I was interviewed several weeks ago by the reporter who was fascinated by the HBS study about working mothers that found that daughters of working mothers have higher salaries and better job titles than daughters of stay-at-home mothers.

My co-editor, Rachel Chaney, discusses this study in the introduction of our book. In fact, the study was a primary catalyst for our decision to compile the stories of the amazing mothers featured in Choosing Home

Today's overwhelming cultural conversations seem to focus on work above all else. We moms wrote this book as a statement and an affirmation. We believe that children, home, and family should matter more than work, money, and consumption. And we also believe, very strongly, that the latter should not be considered the ultimate measure of success. Certainly not for our daughters.

We want much more for our children.