Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Domesticity and Dispatches

I am continually amazed by how much knowledge has been lost within the past generation or two. If you were to ask the people around them if they knew how to bake a loaf of bread from scratch, darn a sock, make soup stock, or hand-sew a straight seam, chances are that only a scant few will know what you're talking about, and even fewer will be able to do these things themselves.  In this era, bread and socks both come from stores, stock comes in cubes, and why on earth would you ever need to know how to sew anything when you can just buy it?

My close circle of friends may be an exception to this general mindset, as many are either SCAdians or those who cherish self-sufficiency and simple living, but I also have extended family members and general acquaintances who wouldn't know how to prepare a meal that didn't come out of a can, and would have to run to mom in order to have a button sewn back onto a shirt.

Sometimes I wonder what might happen if modern conveniences were suddenly stripped away because of some natural disaster or somesuch.  Take a look at a few things that are sitting around you right now. Is there a bottle of hand cream nearby? Maybe a tube of lip balm? Would you know how to make those from household materials if you needed to?
If your pen wore out, would you know how to use a quill and ink? (Do you even know how to use a pen anymore, now that everyone types their correspondences?) What about cough syrup? 

If you've seen our "Dispatch Ontario" children's activity book series, you've probably noticed that it has a noticeable Victorian lean, and has both recipes and crafts for young folks. When we created them, we were influenced rather strongly by the New Dominion Monthly magazines that were published in Montreal during the later 1800s, and the activities and such that we learned about as we read those magazines certainly inspired and influenced our life out here in rural Quebec: we've begun to work the land to grow our own food, and we cook and bake (nearly) everything from scratch. 

Back in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, most people made the majority of their household products themselves, with the exception of a few luxury items like soap or perfume that may have been purchased from a shop. "Housekeeping" books were quite popular, and included everything from perfume recipes to gardening tips, and had entire sections on what skills to teach children at which age.

I spin yarn, knit/crochet, sew, and mend our clothes, and my newfound love of canning is nothing shy of obsessive. Just a scant 100 years ago, the average person would have known all kinds of skills like these, and it's sad to think that many of them might be lost merely because modern convenience has taken precedence over homemade craft.

Interestingly enough, these skills would have come in amazingly handy when we were younger, and we like to hope that some of the crafts and recipes we share with our young readers might pique their curiosity as far as self-sufficiency and such are concerned.

On that very note, we've been asked by a few people if there will be more volumes in the series, and we'd like to reassure you that yes—we are working on new material that we hope to release in 2014. 
Our move to Quebec (and an assortment of projects) have kept us busy for quite a while, but we've missed the Ani.Mals, fae folk, and such that we got to know while creating these books, so stay tuned for their re-emergence in releases that will now under the umbrella of Dispatch Canada.

Stay tuned!