Plant a Garden, Work on my Spoons, and Destroy Capitalism: A To-Do List

As many of you already know, I quit my job at the end of February. I have been working 2 days a week since, and have been spending more time on my spoon carving. Or at least that is what I have been telling people. In reality, my days have looked a lot more like waking up early and going to bed exhausted after a rousing day of chipping away at an infinite To Do list.

While I was working, I felt like I was waiting for my real life to begin, which is never a good sign of a sustainable future. I got tired of waiting and decided to start taking action. I put in my notice, and said the hard goodbye to my wonderful students. Then I began working on those things that I felt like I was waiting to do. Turns out that waiting feeling was the result of a back-log of tasks 6 months deep. For that reason, “leaving to focus on my spoon business” didn’t feel so true when I was buried in applications, paperwork, payments, gardening tasks, housework and a van rebuild. I was really only getting a couple of hours of carving time in each day. My website was far from polished. Despite working constantly, and forgetting to eat (let alone take breaks) I went to bed each night questioning my decision, asking myself “Am I doing enough to justify quitting my job?”

Then a friend lent me a book, as friends are known to do. This book was called Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. I’m often a very slow reader; most of my books take months or years to finish. I finished this book in under a week. Suddenly all I could do was read. As my mom said, I “fell in” to the book. It was everything I needed to hear. Here’s why:

The main premise of the book is that we live in a consumer culture. Big surprise. Hayes spends the first half of the book describing all of the ways that capitalism, consumerism and sexism have failed us. She lays out, in no uncertain terms, our need to reclaim domestic skills in the name of feminism in order to shift our households from consuming units to producing units. She describes a frankly creepy history of the evolution of housework that I didn’t completely know, yet was intrinsically aware of. Advertisers at the turn of the 20th century caused a major shift in a housewife’s role from growing, cooking and productive crafts to glorified babysitters and shoppers. Many of the lost homemaking skills were sold as convenience products. Why can your tomatoes when you can drive to the store and buy them? This resonated with me deeply, because while I was working at my salaried job with benefits, I couldn’t seem to hold onto any money. I felt trapped in a work-buy-use-toss-repeat cycle. I was so exhausted that I needed to spend tons of money on coping mechanisms and entertainment in order to not fall into a pit of despair. But I fell anyway. I realized I wasn’t going to make any more money, so I should start focusing on spending and needing less.

This book was validating because it described a life that no one has outright acknowledged the existence of to me before. You can work for yourself. Your work can center around the home. You can grow your own delicious food, sew and mend your own clothing and make all the art you want. You don’t have to be married or have kids to raise. You can just do it. You don’t need to work for a corporation to make the rich richer. Maybe people did tell me over the years, but society yelled over them. It made me realize that I was already starting down this path. I want to live simply, without chemicals. I want to scavenge and scrounge and repair and reuse. I want to thrive in a living world with clean water and clean air. This book just gave me permission.

So here I go, on my journey to spend less. My garden is nearly planted, and my van is nearly finished. I am spending the summer carving and selling spoons at various farmers markets around the city 3 days a week. I am slowing down and turning off the television. Expect much more writing from me about my adventures.

It's FrankenTREE Not FrankenSTEIN!!!

Today I learned how to graft fruit trees. Aside from the obviously wonderful benefits of being able to mush two or more individuals together into one tree, I found another evil-scientist-level use for this skill. More on that in a minute.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the process of tree grafting, it's quite simple. You just line up the cambium! Cambium, for those of you who are not massive nerds like me, can be defined as the only living layer of the woody part of the tree. It is a thin layer of cells between the bark and the wood that is responsible for far too much. It is responsible for transporting water, minerals, and sugars between the leaves and the root system. It also is the hub of growth for both the bark and the wood. If you are ever feeling overworked, tell me you feel like cambium and I'll understand. This is where it gets fun. You can cut a dormant twig of a fruit tree, known as a scion, and stick it to an entirely different fruit tree, known as root stock, just by lining up the two cambiums! This allows nutrients and water to pass between the two. Eventually your cuts will heal, and your evil experiments will be but a distant memory. 

Obviously, this is all oversimplified nerd-babble from an overexcited evil scientist. However, it is all to prove a point. Nay, two points. Point one: grafting is fascinating and you should look it up. Point two: I have a plan to score some apple wood to make into spoons. Friends of mine recently bought a house, and they have a very ugly apple tree in their backyard. It went a few too many years without being pruned, so the fruits are unreachable and not very tasty. I learned one technique in particular to help them out: bark grafting. You can graft in many scions of many different varieties underneath the bark of the stump of a freshly felled apple tree. They are going to love having many accessible varieties of apples in 2 to 4 years, and I am going to love putting their old, ugly tree to good use! MUAHAHAHAHA!


Making a Website is Scary

Well all, welcome to my website. I have been thinking about it for far too long. This is just the beginning, as I have only a few things to post. I currently have far too much to carve, and far too little time. I will be updating the shop weekly, and you can find out about the updates via my instagram @emiliesrigby or on my facebook page: Woodworking by Emilie Rigby.

Hello world.