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Radical Homemaking … With Houseguests?

I wouldn’t say I’m a slob. The toilets get scrubbed, I’m a champion when it comes to de-cluttering, and the sheets get changed. But I do possess a certain, ummm … blindness to grime. Since most cobwebs are above my sightline, I don’t notice them. The windows were last washed in 2008. Dusting really only occurs on those surfaces that see the most activity. I consider a healthy dirt population vital stimulation for my family’s immune system. It’s not quite the same for Bob. Maybe it’s because he is significantly taller, so he sees more of the dust and cobwebs up there. Maybe (most likely) it has something to do with his waspy New England roots. And while the vacuum cleaner is one of his personal power tools and he wields it with truly sexy masculine form, he generously lets the rest slide with only occasional gurgles of frustration … until company is on the horizon. A few months ago, we learned that our good friends, the Bowies, would be visiting from England for one week this August. Bob began planning right away. Our house, the color of grayed-over untreated pine siding, was slowly stained an earthy brown with burgundy trim over the course of the summer. Our front porch was cleared of tools and lumber scraps. Deteriorating screen doors were repaired. In an effort to match his enthusiasm, I bought flowers for the front deck and attempted to keep them fertilized and watered. I stacked the firewood early. As the days grew fewer, Bob’s efforts grew more intense. He would work at reshelving books, cleaning up his basket weaving supplies, and reorganizing the guest room. And then, he’d step out to where the girls and I were doing our best to stay out of his way … and moan at our mess. Saoirse’s yarn and felt scraps littered our floor. The contents of the costume bag were strewn across the living room. Ula is in the phase where she likes to pull all clothes out of drawers and scatter them across the bedroom floor as she puts together new outfits every 20 minutes. Clean and dirty five-year-old undies get mixed together and wind up in the most unexpected locations—under couch cushions, under desks, outside on the deck. Saoirse and Ula can be recruited to help out to a certain degree, but their creativity and unwillingness to part with a single paper scrap makes them an obstruction to progress. I’m not much better. No sooner are the leftovers from the last meal stored away than I have to begin cooking the next meal or testing the next recipe. The lamb harvest is coming in and there is fat to render, the bones need straining from the meat broth, and a few jars of fermented pickles sit out on the counter growing mold and bubbling over. My desk is a clutter of articles, books, receipts, bills, splattered and stained jotted-over recipes, phone messages, and disseminated important scribbles for future masterpieces jotted sideways and on the backs of envelopes and recycled paper. The contents spill over to the floor, confusing themselves with junk mail and wastepaper in such a way that no one but me is authorized to touch. Tensions were starting to grow last week with only seven days until the Bowies’ arrival. I was working at my desk, the kids were on the carpet behind me, and Bob walked through, looked at our detritus and actually moaned with anxiety. My temper grew short. “We can’t just stop living to keep the house nice!” I snapped at him. He growled a few choice words back. In spite of my defensiveness, I fully understood how he felt. I wanted our house to look nice, too. It only needed to be “perfect” just for one quiet moment when we brought the Bowies home. As long as we held together long enough to make a good impression, we would both be satisfied. He wasn’t asking for too much. Saoirse and Ula can be recruited to help out to a certain degree, but their creativity and unwillingness to part with a single paper scrap make them an obstruction to progress. Rather than cleaning their craft areas, they turn the moment into gallery time, figuring out how to tape every little art project to the walls of the house. They set about picking up their toys upstairs, but soon decide that “cleaning” means meticulously arranging them in interesting and artful scenes from their imagination. At the same time, my being on the cusp of releasing a new book as the fall meat harvest begins keeps my farm, computer, and desk demands high. Read the rest at Shannon’s Yes! magazine blog…
rawmilkrevolution Shannon Hayes is the author of Radical Homemakers.

What Bullies Can Teach Our Kids—And Us

Saoirse and Ula have a favorite story they are forever asking me to retell. It is about my first encounter with bullies in my kindergarten year. It goes like this: At the end of each day, my older brother and his best friend would pick me up from my classroom, and together we’d walk to […] Read More..

The Downsides of Upselling: 4 Tips from the Farm

A few weeks ago Bob and I had the delight of sharing the day at our farmers market with a young man who is preparing to go into grassfed farming. He worked closely with my mom and dad to understand the production end of the farm, then chose to spend a day with Bob and […] Read More..

What We Learned From Swimming With Leeches

We don’t go away much in the summer. Highways and traffic grate at our nerves, we fixate too much on what could be getting done on the farm, we get grouchy filling up at the pump. That is not to say our summers are without bliss. But once things are growing in the soil and […] Read More..

The Audacity of Acting Out: What Our Kids Can Teach Us

Originally published by Yes! magazine. Saoirse and Ula are three years apart. Saoirse, 8, is unusually tall, slender, well-spoken, and comes across to grown-ups as particularly well-behaved and extraordinarily poised. Ula isn’t any of those things. At 5, she’s about a foot shorter than her sister, demonstrates an ability to move exceptionally heavy objects for […] Read More..

Just Me and My Sink

Seven weeks of vacation was fun, but our farmers’ market starts in two weeks, and there is a backlog of work that needs tackling in order to be ready for opening day. We’ve been making soap, lip balm and candles; cleaning, repairing and updating our display spaces; weaving baskets to have in inventory;reclaiming the blueberries, […] Read More..