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Below is a post from guest blogger Denise Robbins.  You can also read Denise’s blog here and here.

On December 2nd, a rainy Sunday, DC Ecowomen met for the monthly bookclub at a small shop called “Think Outside the Store.” Gathered around 3 small tables in an intimate room filled with rolls of fabric, sock puppets, beads, magazines, and hot glue guns, we discussed ideas behind “The Urban Homestead.”

Self-sufficiency was the theme of both the book and the craft session – being able to create things yourself and lessen your dependence on the consumer economy. To remove yourself from the grid one small step at a time. To be free of the constraints of choosing between one manufactured product or another. To create, and give meaning, to the things that you do consume.

So while we were creating our own crafts, we were also talking and learning.

One woman has made her own kimchi.  A few were interested in infusing alcohol, which is actually quite simple. Another plans to make homemade limoncelllo. We discussed the processes, and dangers, of pickling and canning (if done wrong, and stored for a long period of time, bacteria can grow and make you sick).

This book club couldn’t have come at a better time. The holiday season is a perfect time to try your hand at self-sufficiency.

There’s nothing better than a homemade gift, where you can tailor your gift to your recipient and make it doubly special. It can be as simple or as difficult as you like – what matters is that it was crafted with your two hands.

If you’re new to making things yourself, and the idea of giving a hand-made gift is too intimidating, consider the other end of it. Ask your family for gifts to help get you started, like a how-to book, or beginning materials for gardening, canning, or renovation.

However, I encourage you to learn. The venue “Think Outside the Store,” is hosting several workshops this coming month on holiday gifts, where they provide the materials and instruction for each 2 hour session. Personally, I love picking up a new how-to book and teaching myself a new skill. It gives me the chance to be creative, and test my own capabilities. If done right, teaching yourself something new can be extremely rewarding. But, it can also be valuable to get some instruction and help from people that know what they’re doing!

In an urban environment like D.C., it can seem impossible to grow or create anything yourself. Most live very busy lives and are only able to choose between the products at their local supermarket. But with a little time, patience and creativity, anyone can learn the steps to self-sufficiency in the city.

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