Stacking Functions Garden



(Updated 8/27/09)
I’ve decided to start this blog, since this is a subject that I feel really passionately about. I wrote the following for a project I worked on this year with the writers of SnarkMarket. Basically, it’s a fantasy revision of what we think should be included in a liberal arts education.  It’s available as a free download, right here. Here’s the piece I wrote for the project:

Home economics
It starts with a bunch of bananas at your local grocery store. As you look at them, you are thinking about the price per pound, and the nutritious benefits they give your body. But what are the broader implications of that bunch of bananas? Who picked them? Was he or she paid fairly for the work? Did the bananas ripen naturally, or were they sprayed with chemicals and artificially ripened? How did the bananas get to your supermarket? Even though the price per pound is relatively low, what are the hidden costs? Does the health benefit to your body outweigh all these other costs?

The questions get even more complicated when you move on to the meat department.

Why home economics? Every single person in the United States makes daily decisions that affect their own health, but also have broader implications. To be educated about that impact, and to learn about and contribute to alternatives, is to have the power to lead healthier, more sustainable lives. The very health of our bodies and our planet depend on it.

Home economics has two core components: theoretical and practical. The theoretical component would cover the following:

1) Sustainability. How can we define sustainability, while finding ethical solutions to support a growing population?
2) Making sense of labels. Locavore, vegetarian, organic, green, EnergyStar, LEED certified: What do they all mean? How does the government define them for businesses? Are the definitions fair?
3) US food production. How did we end up with a giant corn monoculture? What can we learn from farming methods of 100 or 200 years ago?
4) Sustainable architecture. What are the best practices? What are the cost/benefit ratios of solar panels, for example? Of graywater systems?
5) Community planning. What can and should local governments do to encourage people to reduce their ecological footprint?
6) Animal ethics. How can we realistically obtain protein for 6 billion+ people while reducing pollution caused by raising animals for meat? What role should animal welfare play?
7) International trade. What impact do US imports and exports have on local economies and environments in developing countries?

The practical, or lab, component of home economics would cover topics such as the following:

1) Gardening: maximizing small spaces, organic methods, preserving harvested food
2) Permaculture: emphasis on urban planning and insect/bird habitat
3) Animal husbandry: small animals that can be raised in urban areas (such as chickens), including humane slaughter and meat processing
4) Cooking and baking: healthy, whole, practical foods for everyday life
5) The science of yeast and other fermentation processes: bread, beer, and cheese making
6) Nutrition: why one glass of apple juice is not equal to one apple, and other common misconceptions demystified; plus basic nutritional needs for average men, women, and children
7) Water and energy efficiency: practical in-home solutions

I do not intend this blog to be me telling you the answers to all the questions above. Those are real questions that I actually would like to seek out answers on — and I think many of them have multiple right answers.

As for the “practical” side, well, I have been living that every single day as I try to be more economical as well as ecological in my home life. Which is very busy. This is not going to be one of those stay-at-home mom blogs that treats each home-baked loaf of bread as a profound and beautiful object. I don’t have that kind of time. I work full-time, and believe it or not have many other interests besides home-making.

But I think this stuff is important, and I want to explore it some more, so hence this blog. If you’ve read this far, wow. Thanks.

7 thoughts on “Welcome

  1. Hey, thanks for starting this blog. Year two of Home Ownership+One Job Gone from the Family Unit=much gardening, bread making, etc. that I was already thinking about before but things that are now looking more like necessities. Thanks much for sharing your story.

  2. Sarah, we’re in almost the same boat. Year two of home ownership + one job down from full-time to 50% + two-year-old twins! Thanks for reading.

  3. Love your site. Take a look at this interesting picture on Etsy. Does it capture the New Home Economics?

  4. Jennifer,

    I just happened on your site when looking for some ideas on homemade eczema care and WOW!! What a treasure trove! My parents own Cedar Summit Farm and you have such a great culmination of info that I will most certainly be sharing your blog with them! Loved seeing the Buttah post:) Thank you!

    Keep it up!!

  5. I just found you via a link of the sidebar of The Heavy Table. I live just across the river from you and love your blog! Right on, lady.

  6. WOW, as an ACTUAL Home Economist, I have to say WOO HOO for your site! Haven’t perused it much yet, but this post is right on!! I’ve lately allied myself w/ the “Food Traditions”/Weston Price people & was looking for a pancake recipe to use my leftover “soaked” oatmeal. I think I will try to adapt yours, maybe using ground flaxseed instead of the regular flour. I’m still learning about how to use grains properly…. sprouted, freshly ground, & fermented. Anyway, THANK YOU for your emphasis on understanding where our food really comes from, & the emphasis on workers’ rights.

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