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haele's DU Ramblings - Archives
Posted by haele in The DU Lounge
Wed Apr 04th 2007, 03:13 PM
Saw you around 1130 this morning near SD City College! I was the "gold" Windstar behind you for about a minute...
BTW, is anyone going to be at the Anti-Blackwater training camp demonstration at the County Bldg at Ruffin tomorrow afternoon?

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Posted by haele in General Discussion (01/01/06 through 01/22/2007)
Sun Mar 19th 2006, 01:25 PM
A single person, or even a couple might be able to do something like that (historically, trappers, miners, and other explorer type jobs were done long term only by single people), but if you have a family, you have to have a much bigger ecological "footprint" for everyone to survive.

There's many reasons why people nowadays are surviving in the cities instead of staying on the farms. Much of it has to do with the ability to actually live as a single "nuclear" family instead of the standard multi-generational families (usually with seasonal hired hands)that was needed for a successful family farm.

A family such as mine, where there are only three of us - where there is also one diad of mobility disablement and another diad that has a lot of health care issues - could never make it out in the country on our own for more than a month or two before there are some serious consequences that would force us to move back to the city where there are more resources available for less work - or have us disband as a family by the time next winter kicks in.

From what writings I have from a set of great-great grandparents who owned a family farm in Missouri back in the 1870's indicate, it takes at least three healthy working people and two at least seasonal hands or friendly neighbors with time or extra big kids to spare to have enough manual labor resources to maintain house, acreage, and supporting structures and still grow/create enough food to keep that family and livestock healthy and fed year after year. That's just for subsistence farming. If you want to have an income off your farm, or be able to pay taxes, you need at least ten people to support the operation and maintain the home.

The average subsistence farmer and his hands worked an average of 12 hours a day on the land and amongst the flocks - not counting hunting when butchering one of the farm animals wasn't feasible.
The average "farmer's wife" who just kept the house worked an average of 14 hours a day - from the moment she got up to the moment she lay down in bed to go to sleep, she was constantly moving, collecting enough water for the day, cleaning, cooking, keeping an eye on the condition of the available food for the season, keeping an eye on the available health-care items for the season, making, resizing, repairing clothes and the essential linens, overseeing the condition of the household essentials like furniture, fire, stove, keeping an eye on the pest and parasite situation around the house and out-buildings, taking care of the younger children...
And the children - until the children were able to expend energy at the same level as adults and could take some of the load off the adults, they took in up to three times the resources of sustainability just to raise to that level. Children were an investment. And by the time they reached the ages of ten to thirteen, they were expected to be able to pay off their investment.

In small rural communities, you were either a farmer, or supported farming in one fashion or another.
If you were a skilled craftsman, like a potter, a metal-smith, a woodworker - in those days, if you didn't work in the city, you hired yourself out to one or several large farms and participated in the farm life as much as you could to get by. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, farriers(veterinarians) - they lived off "subscription" by their community as well as worked their own land when they weren't being paid for their skills.
If you were an artist, you were basically SOL if you stayed rural. One of my g-g-grandmother's cousins was a professional pianist for the Metropolitan Opera in New York - he had to leave Missouri and never came back to the farm. My g-grandmother and grandmother were both good enough to be professional - but since they were women and were more valuable as mothers according to the community, leaving the farm or the family store was not considered a wise thing.

If you remained "rural", your art work would always take second place to your ability to labor or to convince the community that you had value that would translate into some sort of survival as say, a teacher or minister - or if you could make lots of money sending your art work to those "fancy-pants city dwellers" that you could pump back in to the community.

If you were mobility disabled, you were a burden to your family and community. If your family or community were generous (i.e. - fairly well off and sustainable), you would be placed with someone who had the time and resources to care for you as if you were an extra baby or toddler. If not, you were out begging or you found yourself a church or charity hospital to take you in. Or you died.

If you were mentally disabled and either couldn't work or were unreliable, you either self-medicated yourself to an early grave - or jail - ,or lived a hard life with co-enablers (if you were lucky to get one), or you were literally institutionalized; left at a charity hospital or kept in a back room, a shed, or an attic.

Most families who moved to the cities and lived "the easy life" as a clerk, a banker, a shopkeeper, a factory/construction worker, a service worker, or any other "8 hour day" union type or professional salaried "thinking" type jobs did so because there was not enough resources, internal and external, for them to provide for their families in a subsistence manner.

A family of three or four, even if everyone were totally healthy, could not sustain rural living for more than a few months without going back to a city or town-like community as a support base. And once that happened, that "softening" townie influence would start creeping in...

That's the primary reason why farm families that would "survive on their own" placed such a high priority on having large numbers of kids and adopting "orphans" when they became available up until the 1940's.

Your scenario requires a few more things to happen for the average person to survive.
It requires access to a local community of support, and it requires arable land, available water, and seed stock of both plants and animals. It requires planning.

Otherwise, you end up with either a bunch of dying individual families or lots of bands of tribes that survive on temporary farming and raiding for a generation or two until they find an area they can settle in and resources enough to make a stand.

Downsizing is one thing. We already do that because we can't afford anything else on a straight middle class income in San Diego County. We're renting a "vintage" city house (1943 - we would love to buy and upgrade if we won the lottery or came into at least half a mil) on about 3/4 acre with lots of yard and a thriving(so far) veggie plot and cooking pit, cutting our luxuries to the bone - hanging laundry to dry, one vehicle, recycling - everything we can to save money. But with just the three of us, mobility disabilities and a surly, clinically depressed teenager who is just learning the concepts of organization and getting off her ass and actually doing things for herself, it's difficult to expend the energy and resources to do much more.

Damn Medical bills and inflation are killing us.

Personally, I'd love to be able to do what you suggest. I've got some experience with living on minimal resources, including knowing how to spin and weave wool, grow and use medicinal herbs, some security and medical training, pottery, basic metal craft, tooling, and basic woodcraft (at least enough to frame and side a shelter). My husband has some experience in hunting, fishing, and farm maintenance. But I'd only be able to participate in your scenario if I can manage to get about a hundred acres (at least 60 wooded, with at least one year-long creek and pond) in a temperate zone, fifteen other like minded, fully abled people - families that have had even a minimum training in rural survival skills and some craft knowledge, and some minimal tools, seed, fruiting trees, and livestock - to create a small, self-sustaining community.

But daym - it takes mucho money just to do that nowadays. Back in g-g-g's day, you'd just save up a month's pay, grab some extra tools, livestock, and seed from the farm, pack up the kids in a wagon, and head out.
And hope you survived.

It sucks living in 21st century urban America.

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Problem with that Scenario is...
This post was written in response to Earth First’s poll “If you can downsize your life, would you?” in which he postulates what would happen -

“I'm talking everything from your home to your car. Your job to the way that you eat. Could you sell your home to build a smaller, more energy efficient shelter? Could you sell your second vehicle and become a one car family? Could you quit your job to farm your land, and work menial, barter-type labor?”

Well, everyone can do that to some degree. With necessity, it can be started. But can it be sustained? I answered:
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