What are Your Traditions? (And May Your Nights Sparkle!)

trout lights

From now on though the holidays, our house will be bursting with family and friends, so we’re going to have fewer posts for the next few days.

In the meantime, we wanted to do two things. First and foremost, we wanted to wish you all happy holidays, and give you our best wishes for the New Year.

Second, we’d love to know how you all celebrate this season of lights, so if you feel so moved, leave a comment and tell us what you’re doing this year.

We don’t have fixed traditions, ourselves, but rather what we do depends on where we are and who we’re with. This year we have a busy LA Christmas, jam packed with entertainment and activities. We’ll be going to some neighborhood parties–we may even be coerced into caroling!–and we’ll be doing some classic tourist stuff for the out of towners. We’ll celebrate both my birthday and my mom’s, as we have the misfortune of being born in the Christmas week–though at least we’re in it together! And we’ll be going to see that darn movie, along with everyone else on the planet. On Christmas Eve we’ll go to beautiful St. John’s Cathedral downtown to harken the herald angels singing. On Christmas morning we’ll unpack our Christmas stockings and later visit with in-town family. In between, we’ll be stuffing ourselves with cookies and candy and perhaps deploying elastic waistbands as a result. Repentance will begin in the New Year.

Is the Urban Homesteading Trend Over?

"Bread Recipe"

“Bread Recipe” searches

In a segment on KCRW’s Good Food, host Evan Kleiman interviewed Celia Sack, the owner of Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco. Sack noted a trend this year: fewer books on baking, bread and beer, which she linked to a rising economy. As she put it, people don’t have to make their own jam anymore, they can just buy it at the store. She is correct that interest in DIY homesteading books wane during good economic times. But I was curious to see whether Google search trends for DIY topics would back up Sack’s hunch. Above is the result for “bread recipe” searches and you can definitely see a slight decline over the last two years.

"Jam Recipe"

“Jam Recipe” searches

“Jam recipe” shows a similar decline as well as seasonal spikes that coincide with canning at the end of summer. Unsurprisingly, most homesteading topics revolve around seasons. Seasonality, by the way, is one of things I really like about this movement. A digression here–the flatness of time (see Charles Taylor)–is one of the things I don’t like about modernity.

Home canning

“Home canning” searches

“Home canning” searches show a more dramatic decline.

"Backyard Chickens"

“Backyard Chickens” searches

People research backyard chickens in the spring and the search trend also shows a decline.

Vegetable gardening

“Vegetable gardening” searches

Searches for “vegetable gardening” seem to have declined sharply, perhaps because of all the homestead projects, gardening is the most difficult.

Gluten free

“Gluten free” searches

And another digression–it looks like we may have reached peak “gluten free.”

I’ve often joked that when the economy picked up Kelly and I would have to write a book called How to Shop Your Way to Happiness, but that’s pretty much the story the culture at large is always telling, particularly at this time of year. Root Simple is going to, defiantly, keep covering these topics because we believe that the DIY ethos is important in both good and bad economic times. We value the ability to do things with our hands, hearts and minds. We’re not preparing for some end time, we’re realizing the good times in the here and now.

What do you think? Have you seen a decline in interest in homesteading topics?

I Gave Up Facebook for a Week and Didn’t Miss It

Last Monday I posted why I had decided to give up Facebook for a week. In the comments Root Simple reader Margaret left a link to a blog post by Paul Kingsnorth that noted the irrelevance and distraction of social media,

When I look around at the people I regard as great contemporary writers, I see that ninety percent of them do not have social media accounts. Thinking about this makes me realise how disappointed I would be if any of them did. If Wendell Berry started tweeting links, or Mary Oliver began sharing petitions on Facebook or Cormac McCarthy began posting pictures of his breakfast, I think my world would end.

I didn’t miss Facebook. I was relieved not to have to face the ranting and click bait. So will I continue to use Facebook? For now, I think, yes. But:

  • I’m going to set a time limit. No more than a half hour of social media a day.
  • If you want to keep up with what Kelly and I are doing the party will be on Root Simple not Facebook. I’m going to use Facebook mostly to send people to this blog.
  • Call it passive aggressive, but I’m going to unfollow “friends” who post nothing but divisive click bait.
  • I may unplug on Sundays entirely. I’ve got some dense books to read.

I want to give the last word to Root Simple reader Federico, who uses Facebook to post pictures of his amazing sketchbook (I’d miss seeing those images if I deleted my account). Federico suggested some rules for using social media based on Michael Pollan’s food rules: “Post positive things. Mostly yours. Not too much.”