On Self-Sufficiency: Hubbard vs. Hayes
Sunday, December 05, 2010
One of my hobbies is reading autobiographies, journals, and handbooks on thrift and “self-sufficiency.” I was reading Payne Hollow Journal by Harlan Hubbard last night and something about the guy bothered me. He wrote about all the various tasks of “simple living” in tune with the seasons and the land: gathering and chopping wood, gardening and gleaning, animal husbandry, and painting and observing nature, with some musical evenings and infrequent trips to town for minor shopping and cultural events. Sounds nice doesn’t it?
He also related how he was really out of sorts before and after a visit of any length to another’s home or anyone’s visit to his home. He mused on how he was able to act cordial until the second either he or they were out the door and then he was back to his previous grumpy mood.
I couldn’t pinpoint what was bothering me—depressing me really—about Hubbard’s worldview. That was until I started reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes. To paraphrase her description of a Radical Homemaker, all “radical homemakers” were able to do a lot of things that enabled them to live on one income and save money by not needing it, but none of them could, or tried, to do everything.
Although Mr. Hubbard’s prose was wonderful, his outlook was too self-sufficient. He observed the natural world as interconnected, but he was emotionally disconnected from the greater world around him, which included people (with the exception of his wife) and just about anything that happened in town! The key things that the Radical Homemakers had in common, besides all being great cooks, were their ability to connect with each other. They were interdependent. They all valued and nurtured community and relationships. They helped each other and learned from each other, and it made their lives richer and more satisfying.
Last year, a friend of mine found a good deal on beef, and we bought a side of beef together. This week, my neighbor gave me two shopping bags of vegetables she didn’t want from her winter vegetable share from a local CSA. Last night, I made a big pot of beef vegetable soup for my family. That pot of soup that fed my family was really a group effort with two other families!
Are you doing everything you know how to be thrifty and self-sufficient and still not succeeding? Perhaps you are failing because you are trying to do too much alone! Begonia