In the midst of a green revolution and a societal push for frugal spending habits, families are visiting farmers markets for locally grown products, brainstorming ways to use resources creatively, and striving to lead a more natural, sustainable lifestyle.
Want to take living green to the next level? Jenna Woginrich, the author of Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life, says it doesn’t take much effort to live a homesteading life, even in the suburbs or a modest living space in the city. All it takes, she says, is a window-box garden, hand-generated activities, and a willingness to create. If you don’t have a green thumb or aren’t nimble with a needle, don’t fret: You can learn.
There are many ways you can introduce a more self-sufficient lifestyle to your child. “Kids are naturally drawn to nature, and animals in general are intriguing to them,” Woginrich says. If your family would like to take that first step, go on an "agri-tour," she suggests. “Take a field trip to a farm and see what your kid is inspired by and naturally drawn to."
From planting a vegetable garden to raising portable livestock, she suggests these modern homesteading projects in Made From Scratch:
Grow Some Greens
Create a small raised bed garden—two by four feet, for instance—and grow edibles that your family can eat in salad or pasta: cherry tomatoes, carrots or herbs. (For those less inclined to break sod or who don’t have a yard, a container garden planted with seeds from a catalog or young nursery plants works well, suggests Woginrich.) Put your child in charge of picking veggies—she will experience, firsthand, the joy of growing and eating food created by her own hands.
Produce Your Eggs
Want to prepare breakfast with eggs from your backyard? Raise a trio of egg-laying chickens, which doesn’t require much effort. Buying chicks from a local farmer or mail order hatchery is easy, and once you build (or buy) a coop, you’re all set. These household additions introduce your child to a world beyond cats and dogs, to animals that can provide food for your family.
Keep a Beehive
If you want to cultivate sweetness, welcome the buzz into your backyard. Woginrich started out with a beginner kit from a reputable apiary, which cost about $100. You can gather up to 50 pounds of honey during harvest from combing the hive. Younger children probably won’t be able to physically maintain the hive; it requires some training.
Reinvent the Old
Take your child to flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores. People seek rare collectibles at such places, but don’t rule out everyday things; products made in the past were actually made sturdier. Encourage your child to scour the aisles and find practical items in good shape. This exploration introduces recycling that transcends the gathering of old newspapers. She can find a funky ceramic bowl from the 70s for her cat’s milk, for example.
Knit It Up
At a fabric store, grab a yard or two of material or a few balls of yarn, choose a few patterns, and then compile a basic sewing kit. You can find an instruction book with colorful illustrations at the library to get started, and then sew or knit with your child as you watch TV, establishing a fun, productive nighttime activity.
Raise Rabbits for Fiber
Want to make your own yarn? Consider raising Angora rabbits for spinnable fiber, Woginrich recommends. This starter animal requires little previous experience, but younger children should be supervised due to the rabbit’s sharp claws. Older kids and teens can brush its fur and collect loose hair weekly, or help to shear its entire body, which you can send off to be processed into soft, natural yarn.
Create a Family Soundtrack
Adding old-time, mountain music to your life—made by instruments like the fiddle, banjo, guitar, and mandolin—aids with boredom and anxiety, Woginrich writes. If you and your child can score a couple of instruments to play, immerse yourselves in the music: Listen to it at home and in the car, and have unstructured jam sessions and pluck whatever sounds good.
Projects that encourage a more sustainable lifestyle are plentiful. Try these ideas out:
- Baking bread from scratch
- Gathering used wrapping paper to create collages and art projects
- Composting leftovers for soil
- Using candles or non-motorized devices when possible (hand beaters, coffee bean grinders, juicers)
- Creating reusable cloth grocery bags using fabric paints.
Not all of these activities may be fitting for your family or geographic location. But these projects are starting points, and will hopefully spark more ideas that promote a DIY household.