Occupy Your Own Backyard

by: Sara on 11/22/2011
Posted in: Guest Posts


Our guest blogger today is Deborah Niemann the author of Homegrown and Handmade, A Practical Guide to More Self- Reliant Living. Deborah is a homesteader, writer and self-sufficiency expert. Today Deborah talks about how even if you can't get out to an Occupy Movement near you, you can still stand up to Corporate America, starting in your own backyard!

Homegrown and Handmade is also the feature title in our book club this month,so with Thanksgiving and Christmas on there way the book club is a great place to talk to our Deborah directly and ask your questions about how to get back to basics and create your holiday from scratch!

I have been supremely annoyed at the fact that we bought a furniture set for our deck a year ago, and this summer it completely disintegrated. Maybe the factory in China forgot to spray UV protectant on it; whatever, it started falling apart after less than a year – and half of that time was winter, when the set was tucked away in the shed, completely out of the sun! Now, the paint is peeling off the metal, and the whole set is distintegrating. And it was not cheap! But like most people, I've been kind of whiny about the whole thing. Well, today I've decided that's the straw that broke this camel's back because I'm not supporting Corporate America any longer.

Wall Street is broken beyond repair. Every time the government comes up with a new regulation, a team of corporate lawyers simply figures out how to get around it. And the Supreme Court is not helping us at all. I really can't imagine how the corporate system can be fixed, so we simply need to opt out.
If you're wondering where all of this is coming from, I had a book signing today in Champaign, and it happened to overlap with an Occupy Champaign march. Some people came to the book signing following the march, and when others at the bookstore heard about it, they said they wished they'd known so they could have attended. Now I feel like I should have connected the dots sooner, but at least it all finally came together for me today.

Over the past year, ever since I started on the adventure of writing Homegrown and Handmade, I've been meeting a lot of very cool people. One man today was talking about how his family wanted to grow their own food, in part to simply opt out of the corporate scene. One of the families I visited in Chicago last winter was talking about how our society needed to abandon corporations and go back to the idea of small businesses serving local communities. If you are a local business owner, and you make things that don't last, your business does not last.
Of course, a lot of people will say that we can't do this in today's world, and of course, Corporate America wants you to believe that. They've spent the better part of the past century convincing Americans that "you deserve a break today," and that your time is too valuable to do things like cook, clean, or build or grow things. As you know, I opted out of the industrial food system a few years ago. I didn't do it overnight though. Lack of instant gratification paralyzes a lot of people. They think it's all or nothing. Well, if that were true, then nothing would have ever been accomplished in this world, because everything requires practice, patience, and persistence. My first vegetable garden did not yield any edible food, but I kept trying, and today we grow most of our own produce.
So, no more whining -- and I'm including myself in that admonition! I've been whining about that furniture set that's falling apart on my deck, but no more. Whenever I decide to replace it -- and it may be a really long time because we don't NEED it -- it will be built by someone I know. If Mike doesn't have time to build one, then I'll get a local craftsperson to do it. Surely there is someone around here that knows how to use a saw and a hammer, and I bet they'd be willing to do it for about the same amount of money I paid for this "Made in China" set that fell apart after less than a year.
I'm drawing the line in the sand right here and right now. I'm not buying anything else from Corporate America if there is any way to get it locally. I don't have all the details worked out yet, but the important thing is to get started. Whenever I find myself thinking that I NEED something that is made by a corporation, I will ask myself (1) do I really NEED it, and (2) can I find someone to make it locally? If my only choice is a corporation, was it made in this country?
A year ago I had my friend Mary make some clothes for me, and she did a beautiful job, so I have a source for most of my clothes. And seriously, how many more clothes do I need? We can also shop at garage sales. You know who gets 100% of the money you spend at a garage sale. Thrift stores may support a good cause, and again, one person's trash is another person's treasure, so you may find what you need there.

I certainly don't have all the answers, but I'm hoping to start a conversation on how we can all decrease our dependence on corporations that don't care about anything other than their bottom line. So, rather than occupying Wall Street, I think we need to desert it and start to occupy our own backyards. Taking control of your food is one way you can declare your independence. (I spent 270 pages talking about how to do that in Homegrown and Handmade, so I won't get into the details here.) Start a garden, get a few hens for eggs, or plant a couple of fruit trees. Barter if you have an apple tree and your friend has extra eggs from his or her backyard hens. Dust off your knitting needles or sewing machine. Rediscover or teach yourself woodworking. And stop watching 2.4 hours (or more) of television every day where advertisers will just convince you that you need to buy more stuff from them! I know this is only the beginning and would love to hear your ideas on how we can all become more self-reliant and declare our independence from Wall Street!
What else can we do? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. What's the first thing (or the next thing) you can do?

You can post your thoughts on this blog below or join us on the book forum with any questions or comments you may have for Deborah. Thanksgiving and Christmas are on there way so feel free to talk turkey!


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