Using traditional skills in a modern home

20 June 2017

We all work in different ways in our homes.  Some of us have babies, children or elders to care for, some produce fresh food in the backyard, there are readers with cows, goats, chooks, ducks, geese and bees, many of us make laundry liquid and soap, we have candle makers, quilt makers and producers who, for necessity or love, make all sorts of things. We also have people who go out to work and who are part-time homemakers, doing their chores after their paid work and on weekends. There is no doubt about it, there is always something to do in our homes and homemakers, both full time and part time, are the ones who get things done.

The idea that is sometimes floated in magazines, or gossiped about, that homemakers sit around drinking coffee with their friends or watching TV is laughable. I'm sure there are some women, and men, who do that but it is not the group defined as homemakers.  We're busy creating the life we want to live and we do that by working at a thousand different things in our homes.

Here at our place, Hanno has been busy harvesting and juicing oranges and lemons. I've been picking herbs so I can freeze them before they die off during winter. We look after grandchildren. Hanno has deep cleaned the chook house and tidied the yard. I made up a ten litre batch of laundry liquid a few days ago. I've sown seeds, cleaned cupboards and washed curtains with Hanno's help. I don't know what we'll do tomorrow, but it will be very similar to what we did today. And yes, we sit down to rest and drink tea, we have conversations about work and life and then we carry on.

As I was thinking about all this yesterday, it occurred to me that it is the traditional work that most of us love doing. It's the harvesting, the slow cooking of food, the jam making, fermenting, soap making, sewing, mending and reusing, over and over again, what we can. They are our pleasures. If we can do our work using a traditional method, that is what we do. I can't say I've ever thought how wonderful it is to use a tea bag but I love making tea in a pot so that I can pour that properly brewed tea into cups standing on saucers. I've never celebrated paying through the teeth for a bottle of laundry liquid at the supermarket but I adore opening my plastic bucket to scoop our a tiny portion of homemade laundry liquid. Do you know of anyone who looks forward to a store-bought frozen meal heated in the microwave?  I don't, but I know many who want to eat the food I cook from scratch. Beautiful handmade soap is such a tender treat and sleeping under a homemade family quilt surely brings the best sleep.  It's the keeping of old ways that make these tasks remarkable and significant.

I'm always motivated to work when I see or read about others working in their homes. I feel like I'm part of a big working bee and that if we all pull together, everything that needs doing will be done. Most of us aren't part of a community that takes part in barn raisings or working bees but we have one going here. You in your home making bread and biscuits this morning, me starting to prepare vegetables for our lunch at noon, Hanno out the back fixing a fence, Kate who has been knitting beanies and gloves, Jack who moved his bee hives yesterday, and I've seen those gorgeous photos of cakes and slices made by our local ladies for the recent show. No, we're not part of a real life community who does those things but we're doing them nonetheless and we're reaching around the world with our photos and words. Let's celebrate our work and what we do at home. We're keeping traditional skills alive and supporting each other in the work that others seem to have forgotten. And that's worth celebrating. ❤️