Domaphile is a blog about reconsidering the role of sustainability, creativity and the domestic arts in the context of family life in New York City.
The first decade of the 21st century could aptly be described as one punctuated by the resurgence of activities that have been loosely defined as urban homesteading: raising backyard chickens, urban beekeeping, rooftop farming, and home canning, to name a few. These practices reflect a desire to question our culture’s obsession with consumption and to reconsider some of the foundations of modern life: where our food comes from, how things are made, how much we consume, and what is really necessary. It’s the third chapter in a story that can be traced through the back-to-the-landers of the 1970’s to the Arts and Crafts movement of the 19th century.
However, most urban homesteaders are at least in possession of a house with an outdoor lot in which to grow things, even if it is less than a quarter acre. Many have a chest freezer and some even have a root cellar. Living in New York City (and I’m not talking brownstone Brooklyn, here), my family possesses none of these staples of self-sufficiency. We live on the 9th floor of a high rise in midtown Manhattan, with no outdoor space aside from a small common outdoor “area” that only the most generous would describe as a garden. With full-time jobs and two small children, we are on a budget and pressed for time. In other words, we are just like everyone else we sit with on the subway every day. Not waking up to the rooster’s crow, gathering eggs and building a cold-frame, but often rushing out the door to jobs and school.
So what is a city-dweller to do, when picking up and moving off the grid is neither possible nor desirable? Can the the goals of modern homesteading apply to a family like ours? That is what this blog is about. Domaphile is a journal of experiments in urban domesticity that attempt to define the small ways we can go about our daily lives that reflect values not usually associated with city life: privileging the homemade, consuming less and aiming for zero waste. Rather than striving for self-sufficiency, we are looking to forge community by exploring ways urban life is, in fact, well-suited to these ideals. My hope is that this blog will facilitate a conversation about urban sustainability on both a large and small scale, by making practices normally associated with alternative, off-grid lifestyles more accessible to mainstream family life.