Saturday, December 10, 2011

to think we face the 'global economy'... is there a domestic economy anymore?

Is there, in the majority of United States households, such a thing as domestic economy anymore? How much of anything truly necessary for the running of the household is made by members of the household? Would they, if pressed, know how to make any of the products or raw materials of those items from the world around them?

From the most simple idea of crafts in making something practical for the house - like a quilt or a scarf etc... to the more complex ideas of raising food, keeping chickens. There were many productive farm activities that were once necessary functions of the household like making soap, vinegar, storing, grinding and using grains and other materials.... If money had no value, what could a family make that WAS of value? Could they make enough to trade for the things they truly needed to live in health and relative comfort?

There was a time when towns did not form around an area unless there were adequate resources, water, salt, wood, lime - something brought them there and kept them there because it was an important place with important resources. Now, cities pop up and grow and thrive on other factors, but if supply chains were not as easily procured of necessary items - the town would become a shell, unable to support such population. Other places would thrive as much as they have before, if the people remembered what brought settlement there in the first place.

Not that I am saying we need to go back to the time of the Old West, or even pre-colonization. But, it would be nice to know some of these things - to have them in our mental reference and to pass them on to the children as real and useful activities to learn. If such things are lost, and the entire 'developed' world becomes about how much currency one has to buy the things of life... can we, would we, lose the knowledge even about what our basic needs for a civilization are? Can we truly call that developed?

These are things that have been rattling in my brain - nixtamalziation of dent corn which makes hominy. This is easier to grind without modern equipment and also (surprisingly) breaks out the niacin from the inside of the structure which allows it to be digested. Without niacin, the corn is missing a major component of what it takes to keep a human being healthy. Other grains and what they provide, what they cannot, the history behind each of them... Beans also need to be mixed in the diet alongside the corn to create complete amino acid proteins, but some (particularily kidney beans) can be toxic if not soaked AND boiled the appropriate time periods to leach out the toxins naturally present in the dried form. Squash provides the vitamin A and vitamin C to keep populations healthy through the winter. 'Three sisters' planting where these three plants grow together taking up different tiers of the same growing space, each using different materials in the ground. Turnips and rutabagas and other root crops also providing vitamin C and folate for months in storage - looking ugly and awful on the outside and providing a sweet rich flesh on the inside, that once cooked, can provide much needed nutrients in the dead of winter.

And not just dietary, but there are other "natural chemistry" activities people did for thousands of years - leaching salt out of the groundwater and marshes in various ways far from any ocean source, leaching tannins out of wood and acorns to create turpentines, laquers, leather tanning and more. Using wood ashes to make soap and also to make the hominy corn... Making various vinegars out of apples and other items, for cleaning, preserving and also numerous other chemicals, waxes, oils, fibers... that used to be part of a working farm economy.

And all of these thoughts from growing and holding some beans and corn.... wondering - civilizations rose and fell around these essential things. What is 'essential' is rarely simple, but always necessary.

For the reader: What do you make? Do you know how to obtain essential nutrients, chemicals and materials without a checkbook or a credit card? Not everyone will know how to do every thing or process... but we must retain what we can of the knowledge. Some day, it may be necessary again. And, thoughts on pressing oil, collecting plant waxes, grinding corn... it is all very interesting to me. I think I have a bit of a natural chemist breaking out, growing right alongside the botanist.


ElizabethEK said...

Very interesting post. The book "One Second After" (it is a novel) may interest you. It got me thinking about many of these things. One area where I believe the current population is especially vulnerable (which is discussed in this book) is prescription medications.

RheLynn said...

I have read a few of those types of books, not that one - might look it up. Thanks. I agree on the prescription medications completely. My mother is a diabetic dependent on insulin, so I have thought on this before.

Another book I liked was 'the Wall around Eden', it is quite a bit older 80s I think. I read that about ten years ago and the way they describe having to pick up the pieces and dealing with very limited trade between 'spheres' that were preserved by the aliens was a good treatment of the problem. So many 'future stories' glaze it over, or try to make it seem like 'someone' will get it all together and draw everyone else to them.... (thinking of Stirling Dies the Fire series)

ElizabethEK said...

Insulin was one drug they had to deal with in One Second After. I will check out the Wall Around Eden!

Definitely a thought provoking topic.