31 May 2010

Real change is coming

I think we're are gaining ground.  There has been a shift away from the purchased conveniences of modern living, women and men are beginning to see the light and more and more homemakers are returning to older and non-commercial ways of doing the house work and cooking.  It does my heart good to see how many younger women and men are expressing an interest in home cooking, knitting, mending, repairing and reusing, as well as making green cleaners and soaps. There is a move towards traditional home arts.  Here in Australia, fabric, yarn and craft stores are reporting record sales, and cooking has become popular again!

These traditional ways of housekeeping and home maintenance, passed down over the years by our grandparents, were replaced by convenience foods, cheap clothing and appliances, and when they started to disappear, most of us were too busy to notice.  The global economic crisis came along to show us that when we are given convenience on a plate it is at the expense of other significant things.  Many were surprised when they realised they could do a whole lot more in the home than they thought they could, for less money, while producing better quality, and they actually enjoyed doing it.

I believe it's a question of dependence versus independence.  Convenience encourages dependence.  If we buy food already cooked or half cooked, we forget our traditional foods and how to cook them.  If we always buy our clothes, we forget how to make them.  If we buy our knitwear, we never learn to knit.  There was a time when we never thought about having our nails "done", when we cut our own hair, fixed cars and lawn mowers, or we relied on friends and neighbours to help us do it, then we returned the favour by helping them do something we had the skill to do.  Now convenience and the cheapness of food, clothes and appliances makes us dependent on shops instead of each other.  We work to earn the money to pay for these things instead of learning how to do make them or repair them ourselves.

In my ideal world, mothers and fathers would teach their children how to live an authentic life in the modern world.  They'd make sure their children had the life skills they need to look after themselves, they would teach through example and they would be the people they want their children to become.  But we don't live in an ideal world, all we have is this one and while it is far from ideal, there are some thing we can all do to make our own family healthy, practical and competent.  From a young age, teach your children how to cook simple food, mend little things like toys, knit, recycle, plant seeds, harvest water, and how to care for what is theirs.  Giving them the responsibility of caring for a pet will teach them about nutrition, time management, gentleness and unconditional love.  Many parents think that teaching a child how to read before they go to school is a major achievement, but they need much more than that.  They need those practical life skills, those things they will enjoy learning while they're still young.  They will grow up confident and self reliant if you teach them these things, show them they are important part of the family and rely on them to help with the family work.  Giving to children only teaches them how to take.

I don't expect everyone to take up their knitting needles, start dressmaking or learn how to make a traditional meal from scratch, but I do see a move towards some of those things.  And the good thing is that many people realise that making and doing for oneself is a positive and life affirming thing; they enjoy it.  It has been a long time coming but the move is on and who know where it will lead us.  Now, more and more people are realising that we can change the way we live and because of that almost anything is possible.  I think real change is just around the corner.


  1. I so agree with your post! Parents need to teach their children how to make it on the outside...Our children know how to cook, do dishes, laundry, fix bikes, mow the grass, weedeat...etc as well as learning about how checkbooks work and how to save, give and spend wisely! Thanks for the article!

  2. I'm sure you are right with the belief that people are again turning to home rather than a trip to the nearest theme park.

    Last night we christened a newly acquired ( from the op shop) huge old fashioned dining table with 11 of our family sitting down for a home cooked meal.The littliest was in a high chair that her uncle, mum and aunty used.

    The meal was lamb shanks ( done in the huge slow cooker- easy) mash ( done with cream yummo) beans and carrots with a crusty bread loaf.

    All the girls popped into the kitchen and "did a bit" and when the time came all the males popped into the kitchen and cleaned up.

    Pudding, well Rhonda Jean I pinched your recipe ta ,they had bread and butter pudding,custard and jelly for the little grandsons. They are little gourmets they like red jelly better than green.
    We had a bottle of champagne that had been lingering in the garage fridge. Maybe it would have been a bit better if it had been 2 bottles but we all had a glass and I used all my good china.
    We had a beautiful night and the table was well christened.
    I don't think we could of had a better or more lovely evening at the best restaurant or been more entertained by the best show in town as we were by our gorgeous grandchildren.
    I think that home base and family are back in vogue.

  3. I think you are correct. And if there is any good in the financial challenges we are facing, this is it.

    Fortunate are those who already HAVE these important skills. Wise are those who acquire them and pass them on to their children--as you said!

  4. Hi, I have been following for some time now and love your approach to living. On the subjet of hair.... I cut my husband's hair and have cut my kid's hair (when they have allowed me) but who do you get to cut your hair? I have done the front top and sides of mine and let my husband do the back but it's really not the style I'd like. Suggestions? Thanks!

  5. I couldn't agree more, Rhonda. I hope my two kids are learning something from the example that I am trying to set. I guess only time will tell.

  6. Thankyou for your (always) insightful writing. I am one of those who made the 'change'. I knew how to knit and sew but was not very good at it and showed little interest. I have just finished knitting my second scarf for my children and it is a good feeling. I have also started cooking; my partner won't eat anything out of a jar so he makes it all from scratch and has been teaching me. I have had some shockers but much of it has been good food.
    It is coincidental and wonderful that I stumbled across your blog in the infancy of these changes as it has encouraged me and provided much direction (especially with cooking).
    Thanks Rhonda

  7. Yes, i couldn't agree more. I guess being a part of the simple way...then slowing moving away from this, unintentionally, feeling unsatisfied ....and longing for life how it was, i too have replaced some of the more simple things in life, which of course do not seem so simple sometimes. To add to your post of 'a change is happening' i read recently in the Financial Review how stores across Australia reported a high demand last Christmas for the gifts we used to give our children, like bicycles etc. They went on to say how they still sold computers and their attachments, but the favour last year was to get the family 'up and moving' again. Refreshing, i thought. Computers will always be a big part of the business world and some families, the novelty for some will wear as families realise it only separates them, not bring them together. At the end of the day we all long to be with those we love, not looking at their backs. Having said that we do have 3 in our home, but we are business people and place a lot of importance on family time. All my children learned to knit, including one son. They are all creative and love to 'make'. I am proud and satisfied i/we gave them those foundations to build on.
    Love your post Rhonda. I remind my friends as much and as gently as i can, the importance of making and saving...sweet day :)

  8. I'm not a parent yet. I'm not even married...but I agree with all of this :) :) I taught myself how to knit while I lived in Norway. I still knit to this day and I love it. There area lot of young knitters out there and all kinds of wonderful books being published.

    I loved everything my grandmother made or cooked. When I reflect on why, it was because she made it with her own two hands. There's a lot of love in those hands...so I really appreciate that. That's what I"m trying to implement more into my life...doing for "myself"..not in a bad way... No, I like the idea of having enough skills in my repertoire that I can make/cook/sew what I need to get through the day. Does that make sense?

    My mother used to make dresses for me as a little girl she never taught me how to use a sewing machine. I learned that in junior high school. I'm grateful that someone took the time to teach me how to sew fabric and make a garment. It's a nice feeling :) :)

    OH, I loved the picture of the yarn. I was curious what type of yarn that is...and what project are you working on now? The color choices are beautiful :) :)

    Thank you for letting me post my ramblings here :) :) Many greetins and lots of sunshine from Oregon :) :), Heather H :):) :)

  9. A very inspiring post! Along with our 5 children, we have just spent the day setting up our garden, with zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, and watermelon. Thank you for sharing your life thru your blog!

  10. I agree that change is coming.

    If someone like me has gone out and bought chickens, then anything is possible!

    (By the way, really enjoying our girls. My son is loving bringing up his day old chicks, too.)

  11. Parents need to teach homemaking skills even more than ever now, because those subjects/skills are no longer taught in the schools, which I find sad. Our local high school teaches commercial sewing and cooking, but not homemaking. So if grandmothers, grandfathers, or parents don't teach these skills, children won't learn them. Most kids love to do homemaking projects, anyway, especially if you start when they are quite young.

  12. I'm reminded of my little twin granddaughters on one of my visits to them, when you talk of teaching children to knit, sew etc.
    Their mum was going off to work, and had left big bowls of washed strawberries for them to hull ready for jam. They were so eager to start I had to almost sit on them to get them to eat breakfast first!
    When they were ready, they grabbed their aprons, only to discover one had a strap hanging loose, and a tear in the frill.....those two little girls each found a needle and thread each and did the mending together ...while singing a sweet sewing song...before starting on the strawberry work of the day.
    I was amazed, impressed and very proud of my daughter who encourages and teaches these skills to all 4 kids.

  13. I was lucky enough to have lived when people did learn things at home. And they learned them in school too...I had home economics in junior high and again in high school. We even studied caring for an invalid at home and nutrition for invalids. Boys studied "shop" which was mostly carpentry, I think. When my children were in grade school and junior high girls and boy had to have a semester of shop and a semester of home ec. It helps. And I taught my kids to cook and they saw me garden. They practice these things to different degrees, but are ready to be independent, and also were raised to believe that people are more important than things, a more than useful concept for a good life.

  14. Too right! Even myself, I got used to the conveniences, and I grew up with none. Now I am working backwards (who say's you cant go "home"?), to learn the things I gave up years ago, and teach them to my children. My 14yo son made pizza for the family last week! And he had a blast :)

  15. Sheila, North Wales. UKMay 31, 2010 8:41 am

    I so agree with lots of your comments in this post today. I can feel a change coming over here in the UK too!
    I personally do hanker for the "good old days",if you like, when my Mum & Grandma would bake weekly for the family and the majority of things were cooked from scratch. Vegetables grown in the garden, knitting or crochet on the go, all mine and my sisters dresses all handmade.
    I am making changes slowly, but surely. I have had too much of living with convenience and am trying to learn the art of cooking and growing vegs, don't know that the future will involve chickens or knitting, but one step at a time.....
    Like another of your readers, Rhonda, I found your blog quite by chance, and it came at a very timely point in my life when I was beginning to think about changes. Thanks for all your wise words.:-)

  16. I would love to believe the times are a-changing. I think the kind of cultural change you are talking about is the most powerful (maybe the only) way we'll survive the big perils of our times like climate change.

  17. It is heartening to see the evidence of change. I observe the young mothers that I know, going op shopping together - I hear them discussing which local town has the best op shops! My daughter puts up photos of her latest homemade dessert on Facebook and her friends are also sharing what they baked on the weekend but we do live in a community where many people already love homegrown and homemade. Backyard and front yard veggie gardens are commonplace and lots of people keep chooks. I travel into the city and the contents of most of the trolleys of parents doing their weekly grocery shop tells a different story as does their total at the till! I have been told by someone who had a friend who worked in a well known clothing store that each season some parents spend thousands of dollars updating their child's wardrobe. At least some of these parents are not too proud to hold a garage sale and I gratefully purchase the outfits some still with the price tags on for a couple of dollars. Sometimes a mum tells me that the dress has never been worn because her little girl didn't like the colour or style and refused to wear it. I let her know that my daughter will be delighted with the dress and it will get plenty of wear! We need to also teach our children about gratitude as well as equipping them with practical skills.
    Nevertheless, you are right that there are signs of change coming and I love to contribute to this by teaching my own children well and introducing others to some of the pleasures of a home made life. I made soup and baked a sourdough loaf for a fund raising lunch on the weekend - the homemade bread was first to go and people were asking for the soup recipe - so encouraging when someone comes back to you and says they made the dish and it was a hit in their household! This means they are likely to make it again and they become less reliant on convenience foods.
    Perhaps you could do a post sometime on how we encourage others, particularly those who do not read blogs, to move towards a simpler life without coming across as judgmental of their present lifestyle choices.
    BTW Rhonda I made the Masterchef rice pudding (didn't bother with the jelly cubes, just added sliced banana and a sprinkling of cinnamon). Thanks for your advice. I ended up using medium grain rice and it was absolutely creamy and delicious. Well worth the 30 minutes of standing at the stove stirring the pot!

  18. For me it is about teaching my grandchildren - or being a role model for them. When they see me in the garden regularly know where at least some of the food comes from.

    One of the things that concerns me is that their parents are so busy. Their mum works full time and studies at uni and socialises outside the home. Hopefully I can model another reality for them.

  19. You are so right Rhonda. People are starting to change their ways. I know my kids think I am mean by not buying convienience foods and by cooking from scratch. They get upset at not always getting new things but I know, in time they will thank me for it. I know they will hopefully follow the lead with their own children and family.

  20. A few days ago, my mom and dad appeared on my doorstep (they live a block away).

    Mom, her mind clouded by Alzheimer's, could no longer remember how to sew on a button. But she knew she had taught me and I would be happy to sew it for her.

    Tomorrow, we will commemorate Memorial Day with a home-cooked meal using recipes Mom taught me. I will do the cooking since she is no longer able.

    In a few weeks, my first little granddaughter will be born. I look forward to working with her in the kitchen, in the garden and in the sewing room, passing on the skills taught to me.

    Who knows? Someday, she may need to sew buttons on for me!

  21. I love the thought of people becoming more self sufficient, it is exciting!
    So many people just don't understand the processes involved in making things like clothes. I would much rather make my own clothes than buy them. The thrill of buying is temporary, but the thrill of wearing something you can proudly say was made by your hands is forever!

  22. Totally agree Rhonda. I grew up the eldest of 6 children, my Mum was at home, cleaning, cooking and caring for us all while Dad worked. Home haircuts, home sewn clothing, hand knitted items, homemade from scratch meals, sweets, parties, our vege patch as well. I have always loved sewing, knitting, crafting and home cooking, and now share these gifts shown to me by my own Mum, Grandma and Nanna, with my own children. Bring on the homegrown goodness, bring on the sharing skills with neighbours, bring on that lovely community feeling between neighbours and streets again. Bring on busting up the big-wigs and their 'control', and giving us the power to turn them over. Fresh is best, home is the heart.

  23. I agree with you. Our family left L.A.(USA) for the Midwest(USA)in 2008. We decided our family needed a simpler life on 13 acres.

    We now raise laying hens, meat chickens, ducks,and a rabbit. We get our milk from a local dairy farmer. The milk is straight out of the cow with no processing. We buy our beef from a local farmer. We have a veggie garden...but it is not like yours yet. We have some fruit trees but they don't bear fruit yet. We have 4 mulberry trees that bear fruit. I plan to make pies, smoothies, and can the mulberries. I don't want to waste food that is organic and free from our land.

    I do make clothes and gifts for people. Yes, you are right, people help out each other when you live in a small community.

    We are so glad that we made the move. Our children are gaining knowledge that they would not get living in the big city.

    Our lifestyle is not produced by economics but by choice. We choose to live this way.Everything we make or grow we can afford to purchase but we rather be self sufficient. I even buy clothes for our children at rummage or garage sales. I view this as being wise with our money. Our family thinks we are crazy but who is the one who is foolish.

    I really enjoy your blog.


  24. Ditto that in the US too. Its so good to see this happening, to read your post and the comments from other countries as well. I have always done alot from scratch... I think its because I was raised that way. We raised our boys that way too... and now I see them shifting toward the change too... and so the traditions are passed on and on. The efforts weren't lost as I feared they might be. Great post! Thank you Rhonda~

  25. I honestly couldn't have said it better myself. I can proudly say that my husband and I are returning to the life of basics, although we were never too far from and are happily raising our son the same way. While we have gotten disapproving looks along the way we know in our hearts that this is the right, an only way, we could ever be. I'm part of the generation that is making this great leap backwards and couldn't be prouder...I only hope that more follow before it's too late.

  26. Thank you! What an encouraging read! Growing up, we had a massive vege patch in which I had my own corner where I grew butter beans & probably carrots (can't quite remember!), and from when I was about 10 I cooked dinner (willingly) one night a week, starting with things like chops or sausages, but moving on to slightly more adventurous things like tacos and deep-pan pizza (possibly rather unpleasant now I think about it, but I thought it was great at the time!!). In many ways I think I was fortunate that my family lived in the country and was not affluent enough to really get into the conveniences of the 80's. I really hope I can pass on these basic skills to my children!

  27. We bought a Flowbee years and years ago...does anyone remember this hair cutting device? It was advertized widely on tv. You use their machine plugged into your vaccume and pluged into the wall. Cuts hair well and the same every time. Been most of our long married life using it. They still sell them and they have a web site on the net. Takes me about 5 minutes to cut my hair from getting out the thing to finishing my hair cut. Anna

  28. Yes, I believe you are correct. My husband and I (in our mid 30's) and our two young children have started on the road to food independence. Our families didn't practice this when we were children, but we see the real worth in learning it for ourselves and teaching our kids.

  29. Yup. I can feel times are a-changing!!! My pregnant self just wants a bite of that pancake, though. :-) So yummy-lookin'. My boys did agree, too.

  30. Well written Rhonda. My parents were born at the beginning of the 20th century and money was tight, and then they lived through the war years, so I was taught early that you did everything you could yourself, and if you didn't have a skill - then you learned it, by trial and error. "Make do and mend" has always been our habit.

    I have tried to bring up my children, now early 20s, that home-cooked - and preferably home-grown - tastes so much better and is so much cheaper. My eldest daughter has had a struggle after leaving University (no jobs available), and is better than me at making sixpence do the work of a shilling.

    I cut my husband's hair, he cuts mine in a bob. Then I roll it under to hide any imperfections and recently a neighbour asked which hairdresser I went to?!!! I used to trim my kids' hair too, but the girls are away from home now and my son is growing his for a Festival!

    I can only reiterate what you have said many times, that being a home-maker is so satisfying, and looking at something I have knitted or stitched and thinking, I made that, gives a real sense of pride.

    I am so glad I had the opportunity to be a stay at home mum rather than having to be a wage slave just to buy "stuff" (acknowledging that sadly many women work to pay the bills).

    Keep up the good work.

  31. hi rhonda, what is that in the first photo, its looks delicious!
    Also, i completely agree with this post, you are spot about everything Rhonda.
    Vick. x

  32. i hope you are right. thanks for posting your thoughts on this.

  33. "Giving to children only teaches them how to take." I had to read this line twice and my god, that is one of the deepest lines you have ever wrote! Talk about giving me something to ponder today. :D Thanks for your words Rhonda, thanks for your words!

  34. Dear Rhonda
    I could not agree with you more. I am in the throws of looking for a dressmaking corse I alread re purpose so many things and am an avid user of freecycle. As for cooking from scratch there are so many posatives too many to list. My Nephew weven took up the mantle so to speek and made a net cage fro my sisters dawarf cherry tree so she gets the fruit and not the local wild life. He even sugested planting a rowan tree so they didnt go without!
    He makes me so proud that at the age of 21 hes got it made the conection and moves forward.
    Hope all is well with you and yours

  35. I have been blessed to come from a family that always did things for themselves. My mother taught me to knit, crochet and sew. Now I take great pleasures in doing so. My father made sure when i moved away from home had my own tool box and spray painted pink. I knew how to generally fix a car, plumb and do electrical wiring. How ever my mother hated cooking and my poor husband and children had to endure some pretty terrible dishes. But now after 26 years of marriage I have master cooking and gardening and feel there is no stopping me in what I can do.Soap making is next on the list. The greatest joy is self sanctification, let alone the saving of money. As always great article.

  36. Great post, and sure hope so, because for a long time they have been way out in left field, hugs and nothing better than doing what God has ordained women to do, thanks for this post, Hugs Barbara

  37. What a wonderful post!! I am so happy with our family we haven't bought home made bread in over a month. I finally figured out how to make it so my daughter would eat it half wheat (home ground) and white flour. I also make my own enchilada sauce which if I do say so myself is a lot better than store bought. I wish I knew how to knit and to sew and wish I would of taken advantage of my grandmothers sewing skills. I do know how to crochet so that at least helps.

  38. I'm a 50-something simple living kind of girl. Always have been, always will be. I can't tell you how much delight it gives me to see so many 20 & 30-somethings discovering vegetable gardening, food preserving, sewing, knitting etc. It gives me hope!

    Your blog is a treasured resource for inspiration and encouragement. Thank you!

    auntie m.

  39. Can't tell you how much your comment brightened my day! Yes I do feel a good shift in the way people live their lives. I think it is not a fad and will continue. Many bloggers were already leading such a life but there are so many now commenting that they too are adding more and more skills and mindsets to their everyday lives and will continue. The fun of this style of life is it is a never ending journey or discovery! The satisfaction is great but the rewards are the best part of it!! :) Sarah

  40. I've been teaching my little girls to sew. They are 4 and 5. I'm amazed at their interest. The 4 year old has a hard time but the 5 year old is getting it. They are both learning so quickly. Reading and writing are important skills, but there is so much else to learn! Sewing, cooking, baking, cleaning, problem solving, etc. If I don't teach them now, they will have to spend their adulthood relearning how to live.

  41. Rhonda, what a lovely post. Here in the Netherlands I think it is a very small group of people living a more down to earth live. There is a lot of buying and wanting around me and sometimes I feel sad about it. But I am sure this will change in a few years so I have to be patient and in the meantime enjoy my own little steps to a more simple life. I'm glad I learned a lot of skills from my parents and I was trained as a teacher of textiles so I love to make a lot of things we use in our house. Marian

  42. You are so right! Things are beginning to change. I see small changes here in Little Old England, too. With our recession all around us we tend to find that people, now more than ever, are returning to utulizing their gardens for veg growing. Allotment societies are inundated now with requests for plots to rent. Younger folk are looking for ground to grow their own, and many now introduce their children to it as well. Organic growing is florishing here now, and it`s truely inspiring.

  43. I've noticed the change and love it. This is a subject that is close to my heart.

  44. That is sooo true about us young'uns learning the old skills and then teaching our children. I cook and bake with my son most days, a 2ndhand chair from our 2ndhand table pulled up to our stove top and him asking every question his massive brain can think of. He loves the learning, I love the doing, and in the middle (most days) we find that happy medium that is the mother-son relationship.

    Oh, and guess what? I don't know if you remember me saying I wanted to start a women's group, but it begins tomorrow, with a group of mums from my school coming here, to share a simple morning treat, some coffee and some head space to get to know each other and Really Share our lives.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  45. Very well said.:) What is that delicious pancake looking thing?

  46. Hi,Rhonda!
    I am Jeanie in KY and wrote you last week about what would be more beneficial:to make the skirts or buy them? Well, I got to thinking about my own question and realized that it is not so much what is easier, but what I want to do for myself. Isn't that what you have been saying to us all along? I get it now. I kinda answered my own question. :) thanks and I am enjoying making things for myself and learning to rely on me instead of the mass clothing markets.
    I also wanted to share with you something my son told me Friday. It relates to this post so well. He came home from playing with a public schooled neighbor boy and the boy asked if he knew about economics at 13? My son(homeschooled) answered not really, but do you know about how to take care of a yard or a house and do laundry, pay your tithes and offerings, take car of cars or pets? The boy stood there and said no . This post reminded me of that so much. Yes, my son does know about economics although I never told him that word specifically. Guess I am teaching him right after all. :)

    Jeanie in KY

  47. Yes, will you please share what the yummy pancake thing is?? Is the recipe somewhere on your blog?

  48. I was just directed to your blog by a friend, and this is my favorite post yet. I especailly connect with the part about growing community. I remember living in a new town where I didn't know anybody, and thinking with frustration that almost all opportunities for human interaction included some form of monetary exchange. I'm glad that is becoming less and less the case.

  49. This is such an excellent post! I couldn't agree with you more. I'm a 20yrold student and I left home last year in August with great cooking skills thanks to the wonderful women in my life (Mum, Nan and Dee) and I'm always taken aback that the majority of people my age can't even make soup! Worse, they don't even want to learn. It makes me really sad that so many people are missing out on so much. I am really starting to fall in love with the old ways; Dee has been teaching me how to spin (I can already knit and crochet a bit, though I can't sew to save myself!) and I've just bought a typewriter so that I can still write without being at my computer in front of a screen. I love your blog!!

  50. Hi! I was encouraged to read this post by a friend, Country Mama. I have a blog where I teach ladies and girls how to do all the things you are talking about. In fact, my husband and I have taught all five of our kids (some now grown) how to rely on themselves. Why go to a store when you can do it yourself? Whether is haircutting, nails, or homebirth and home education..we do it. I even figured out, years ago, how to make bread without yeast. I hated having to rely on stores for such an expensive commodity.

    I did a guest post about our family and our 'self-reliant' old fashioned ways for Shabby Chic Cottage and thought you might like to read it sometime. Here is the link..She wanted me to write because we are featured in a book that just came out by Jeff Yeager called The Cheapskate Next Door.


    Honestly, we were concerned that we might not always have a good solid structured society to rely on. It's funny, when Hurricane Ike took out power for two weeks...it just wasn't a big deal for us. Not comfortable of course..but completely do-able. We stay prepared!

    Great post!

    Donna @ Comin' Home


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