The journal entries have been rather infrequent. That is usually a sight of overload around here. So we are starting to revive the journal and somewhat modify its missions.
The Affluent Peasant Web site / Free distribution CD is designed to give as much information to those interesting in living on the land as possible with the least work to us in making that information available. The fact that the journal has been neglected for a while shows that we need some adjustments to be able to meet our mission with less cost in time and energy to us. We are now focusing on collections of digital pictures to show as much detail as possible on how to live on the land with the least amount of writing. Our new section on the Affluent Peasant Web site/CD where we focus on pictures without words. We try to put as much information in each picture or set of pictures as possible. For example, if we are currently weeding a section of the garden where we are taking pictures then we will leave weeding tools in the picture when appropriate to let you know we are weeding and how we weed. When you are looking at the picture sections keep an eye out for clues to more information in the pictures.
Most of the focus of writing will now be in the journals. We will try and include a general run down of what we are doing this time of year and things related to the land that we are dealing with. We have also decided to include a new section within the journal, Commentary. The commentary section will focus on various observations of what is going on in the general culture and in the national and world economy as it may relate to life on the land and in why living on the land may be a viable alternative to the current ways of making a living. Living on the land is also living in a culture of many people who do not live on the land. Many people never get a chance to consider any alternative to their present life style. We hope that the Commentary section will provide an opportunity to point out trends in the current society and economy that might show some advantages in considering moving towards a more self sufficient life style. You don't have to move to the land to begin a move in the direction of self sufficiency, a small garden plot in the middle of a city can be an important move in that direction. It could be your first step in a journey that could bring you to living sustainably on your own piece of land or just more independently where you are.
The first commentary section follows the Journal entry below.
It's been cold the past few weeks. Days in the 0 to 10 degrees above Fahrenheit and nights down as far as 25 to 30 below zero. The good thing about cold weather is that when it cold it is usually clear and sunny, so working outside is actually enjoyable as long as there is not much of a wind. You need to be dressed for the weather with good work boots to keep your feet warm. A light shirt with a warm sweat shirt with a hood under a good wind breaker outside coat is good for working so you won't get too warm and start sweating. A hat is a must with the sweatshirt hood for extra protection. Good work gloves with leather outsides and cotton liners work well and are easy to dry. Have a collection of gloves on hand to make sure you always have dry ones available when you need them.
The sun makes such a big difference that I usually work indoors if it's around zero during the day and there is no sun. When the sun is out the cool air feels invigorating and the clear deep blue sky feels great as you work. This time of year we are cutting firewood for next season or to build up our inventory. I have about 2 years supply on hand now and I am hoping to have 3 years supply on hand by the spring. I like to have at least 3 years supply ahead and 5 years supply is even better insurance. If you are sick or have other jobs to do some winter then you have a good supply to draw from. This gives you a lot of options in scheduling work. For instance, next winter I expect to be working on inside work on a cabin I am helping to frame for a neighbor this summer. So if I want I can skip cutting firewood next winter (or cut back) to focus on making some extra cash working on that cabin, I can do that and still have plenty of wood. Having a big firewood supply gives you more flexibility in deciding when you need to cut wood again.
The trees have been popping as the temperature has been hitting new lows for the season. When trees get really cold, say minus 20 F or colder, then they begin to pop. At night, you can hear some trees popping and it sounds like someone hitting the tree with a baseball bat. Sometimes it's even as loud as a rifle. What is happening is that the wood in the tree shrinks as it gets colder. Ice actually shrinks as it gets cold too. As the tree wood shrinks it can split up the side of the tree. The popping sound comes from this crack as the split runs up the tree. If you were to cut into the tree and look down on the stump you would see a crack in the tree from the center to the bark, like a tiny pie slice cut out of the tree. This usually does not hurt the tree because the bark closes in over this crack when the tree resumes growth in the spring.
This tendency of the trees to crack when they are very cold is something we can take advantage of when cutting wood. Normally when thinning trees, you cut down the trees with broken tops or other damage and once you have the tree cut up to stove length then you need to split the larger diameter wood so it will fit nicely in your stove. Cold days are perfect for splitting this wood as the tree wood is already trying to shrink with the cold. A well place blow with a splitting maul and the wood explodes open. If we have wood that is hard to split then we save it till it gets pretty cold and it is a lot easier to split.
In addition to the ease of splitting wood, cold clear weather gives us plenty of sun for our solar panels to give us plenty of electricity. Days are short in the winter and the winter is the time of least sun. So having a few cold days is a real advantage in that we get extra electricity from the sun. Panels actually give out somewhat more electricity when it really cold, so in general, cold clear days in winter are a welcome visitor. When it warms up and gets cloudy that's when we get snow.
We have a good snow pack now with about 1 foot of snow on the ground. All the snowmobile trails we made to move our wood around are well packed and moving full loads of wood is easy on all our trails. I am clearing land near my cabin to make more sun for my solar panels and to make a place for a small 1/4 acre garden near the cabin so I can have the option of growing my corn here and being able to keep an eye on it if I have more trouble with blue jays eating more corn in my main garden (some distance away).
This weekend was pretty cold (5 F below for a high one day) so we spend most of the weekend indoors. Cranked up the stove to 85 to 90 and enjoyed watching movies on DVD with all the extra electricity that the solar panels soaked up in this cold snap. We enjoyed watching a series that first aired on TV in the 1970's Kung Fu with David Carradine. A monk from a Shoulin temple in China walking across the Western US in the 1800's without a gun or a horse. This series influenced a lot of "back to the landers" when people we moving to this area to step up homesteads in the 1970's. Cold weather has a lot of benefits. An excuse to take some time off is can sometimes help to give you a new view on things.
We just received our seed orders. You need to order early to get the best selection, especially when there are new varieties or hard to get varieties that may be in short supply. We grow most of our own seeds but find the need to buy some seeds and are always ready to try promising new varieties as long as they are open pollinated so we can save our own seed from them once we decide we like the plants. Every year it seems the catalogs come earlier so we order as soon as we decide what we need.
Winter is a slow season for work because you should already have a good supply of food and dry firewood all stored up. The only real work we need to do in winter is cutting more firewood for future winters, so if other jobs become available winter is a good time to take them. I am currently working for a neighbor cutting trees to expand his garden. Working out near where you live is a great way to get some extra cash. In the old days, according to our local old timer, Hank, farmers took their horses and worked "up the logging camps", cutting timber. So this fits right into our schedule.
We had a warm spell for a while with some days in the 40's and 50's. That was nice and we had cold periods in between so we kept most of the snow on the trails. Having pretty good trails on warm days was good for cutting firewood. This season I am working out helping a neighbor cut trees to clear some good quality soil for his garden expansion. Meanwhile I have started thinking about getting ready for spring.Last fall, we were working to devise an improved system for keeping deer out of the garden.
Today is cold and partly sunny. The wood stove is cranking out the heat from this mornings breakfast fire and its warm and toasty in here. The solar panels are sending in about 4 amps (12 volts dc). The computer is averaging about ¾ of an amp in use as I type, so the batteries are charging with the rest. If the sun comes out full later then the panels will be putting out about 9 amps and charging the batteries pretty good.
One of the real differences between living in town and country living (especially living on the land) is in how people schedule their lives. Out here we live by the weather and not the clock. The basic times out here are when you get up, lunch time, supper time and “before dark”. We set our activities around that structure. The most important one being “before dark” because you want to have all your work done then and be back making supper by then. A handy rough measure is to stretch your fist the full length of your arm and hold it up to the sun with the brim of your hat blocking out the sun and count how many fist widths the sun is from the horizon. Each fist is about an hour. So you can use this (or any method that works for you) to judge how much time you have left to “finish up” with your work. This time of year mid winter, the main job is getting dry firewood to your house (stacked and dried from last winter) and cutting your firewood for next season.
Cutting your firewood does not take a lot of time during the winter, so it’s best to pick nice sunny days to work on it. Cold is not bad if you dress right in layers and are working, wind can be more of a problem. Today the sun is coming out pretty good and the wind is low. So after this entry, we will start working on wood.
Besides cutting working with firewood, the winter schedule is pretty open. With all your food stored from the gardens you can hold up in your cabin and decide what you want to focus on for other work. Or you can take time off. More than likely you will be doing some combination of both.
The most important view to take in dealing with work in the country is scheduling. You need to have a strategy in your work schedule that working with the weather rather than the clock. Unlike people working in town who have to show up for work no matter how bad the weather, people living on the land work around the weather. To do that you need to pay attention to the weather and weather forecasting. For example, if it looks like it will be sunny and cold with little wind then you can plan on working on firewood that day and save indoor projects for bad weather. If a big storm comes up the person who works in town has to get to work somehow, the person living in the country waking up to a storm would have projects to do that avoiding dealing with the storm.
Even people living on the land in the country often have some connections to town and need to make adjustments to the clock schedule of town. This is where scheduling is critical. If you lived full time on your land and didn’t have any work, trade, or other connections to town then you wouldn’t need a schedule that deals with the transitions between the flexible weather driven world of the country and the clock driven work of town. Most people living on the land need to have a very carefully constructed strategy of scheduling to deal with the problems associated with the constant transition back and forth from town to country living.
Most people living on the land have some connection to work in town or work for neighbors for extra cash. Often couples have one person who works more with the town cash economy and the other works more on the land and does land related work for neighbors. With 2 people having different demand if you don’t have a carefully crafted strategy for scheduling then you will be in real trouble in a short time.
When people first move to a land situation they often run into a basic problem right away. That is the problem of being your own boss. Although people working in the clock cash economy often think working for yourself is easy they are usually surprised to see what kind of boss they turn out to be. In the sixties in the back to the land movement of that time lots of young people from fairly comfortable or well off families moved back to the land with visions of an idealistic existence. Unfortunately many had very little experience in doing any manual work. If they were either well prepared in what to expect in living on the land or they were fortunate enough to be mentored by a local person (usually older who learned about living on the land from his or her parents). Those who were well prepared or were adopted by a mentor had a real advantage in making the transition to country living. Those long on dreams and short on work experience had to learn fast or leave.
In the commune era of the sixties, people tending to move into one of 2 types of work modes. Those who worked as little as possible believing that country living was easy and those who did what it took to get the garden planted and tended and got there firewood in. In a commune, there were 2 basic groups, the “slackers” (who didn’t think that work was that important) and the ones who did the work. Many communes failed because the weight of the slackers not working wore out the ones who did the work. Couples faired better because they tended to work out any work inequities or face splitting up. As a result the slackers ended up leaving the country and the worked stayed on.
Being your own boss was a real challenge for most people. Faced with the experience of seeing many not make it on the land, most of those who remained tended to be rather hard task masters on themselves and started out as pretty harsh bosses. Being a boss is not an easy job, you need to see the big picture. You no longer get paid for merely showing up for work. You need to actually get your firewood cut for next winter sometime this winter or you will have no heat. As a result the first level of becoming a good boss was being a bad one and learning from your mistakes. For example, many people felt overwhelmed with what they felt they had to do and ended up working right through weekends and forgot about the concept of a day off. Working non stop without a day off just wears you out and you end up working without planning, and you begin to get exhausted and discouraged. The result being you are running with your brakes on without knowing it. So the first lesson of being a successful boss to yourself is schedule time off so you can get a balance and perspective on your work and begin to learn from your mistakes.
The concept of a day off does not usually come from the “boss” but it comes from the invisible worker. At first the part of you that is the worker in this arrangement is invisible because you are spending so much of your energy trying to decide what to do as the boss that you end up spending all your thinking time in the boss mode and end up most of your working time as the invisible worker doing the grunt work. Eventually, if you allow yourself a day off once in a while the invisible worker will emerge. This often happens in the morning on a day when the invisible worker (you) goes on strike and refuses to get up from bed. ”Enough already! *%%###!!! I need better working conditions... starting with a day off!” This is a very healthy situation as it marks the beginning of negotiations between the worker and the boss. Once a schedule of a few days off begins then the worker part of you will find that you feel like you are coming up for air after months of working in a slave labor camp. Surprisingly, the boss also benefits a great deal because with time away from work the boss gains a new perspective that allows (him or her) to set more realistic goals. For example, rather than killing yourself trying to grow more potatoes than your situation permits you may decide it is easier this year when you are starting to help a neighbor some work (getting some pay and experience) and buy or trade for potatoes. As you have more time off from the day to day work of being your own boss then you get the bigger picture. For example, if you are beginning a garden then it may be a better balance to do some town work for some cash and to buy potatoes and concentrate on cutting your own wood in the winter as a better return for your effort. Or if you have no wood lot you my be better off working for someone who has a woodlot to trade your labor for firewood and focus more work on your garden growing protein crops (like soybeans) for your winter food and buying starch (like potatoes, or rice or pasta) because they are relatively cheap. As time goes on you can make a balance where you do more of your own work, but to get there you need to keep a real balance between your role as boss and as worker.
We’ve found that be best schedule for the boss and worker is 2 consecutive days off a week. One day is an active day off and one is a day completely off with no work and time to reflect on things. Surprisingly this schedule has been going on for a while. It’s called Saturday and Sunday. On a Saturday day off you might “putt around” and do some of your pet projects as a hobby NOT as a job. The difference between a hobby and a job is that a hobby never has to get done. It gets done when it gets done. It may be some thing you’ve wanted to do for a while that you didn’t really give a high priority and now it is something you want to do. In any case, DO NOT begin to use Saturday as an excuse for another workday in disguise, or you will find yourself facing another strike. You might go to town for events, and pick up a few things at the hardware store, or go visiting. Saturday is an active day off.
Sunday is a whole different story. Remember it was not that long ago that it was illegal in many states to have stores open on Sunday. Before that is was even illegal to work. I think that was a real mistake changing that law that kept stores closed on Sunday. The loss of the traditional Sunday was a major contribution to the modern “rat race”. In fact, without the time off for rest relaxation and reflection on your situation and life in general few people now even have enough perspective to realize they are in a “rat race” because they have never know anything else..
So what’s a good Sunday? Try taking time off, getting up when you feel like getting up. Take time to read the paper, a book or just catch up on what you’re doing. For a real balance in your life there need to be time for a real reflection on what’s happening in your work, and where you are headed. Not only on the daily work basis but in the big picture of your place on this amazing planet earth and your place as a human being with so little time here to live this experience. For some people this is through religious traditions for others it may be through walks in the woods or other ways of getting in touch with their place in this world. In any event, be careful about working on Sunday, as an old timer once told me of someone he knew who didn’t observe Sunday and worked every Sunday. “That fella ended up falling off a roof he was working on and never did walk again.” There really is some kernel of wisdom in that story. I’ve seen lots of people on the land loose a grip on their land work situation because they never took time to reflect on what they were doing and lost the ability to see what was important to work on and what was not.
So the key to scheduling is a weekend, now to be flexible and live in the real world, you may have to make adjustments to deal with working in the cash economy. If you work on the weekend in town then you will need to make your own weekend during the week by taking 2 consecutive days as your Saturday and Sunday. Eventually it is better to move towards the conventional weekend because lots of events are on Saturday and Sunday is a slow down day in the country to some degree even now.
Next time we’ll take a closer look at designing a schedule for country living.
Sitting down and taking a good look at the current state of affairs of the country, the world and the world economy is something that very few of us have time to do. There seems to be 2 dominate points of view on what is happening. The most common one is that things are going fairly good and when the economy gets "back on track" things will get much better. For most of us, busy trying to get by, this view has a great appeal. The other view seems to be that of "gloom and doom", that is, every thing is going down hill fast and there is nothing anyone can do about because the problems are overwhelming. Given the choice between these views, it is no wonder most people end up leaning towards the view that things are pretty good and sure to get better soon.
I think most of us really have some sense that things are not going too well and the economy doesn't seem to be getting "back on track". Things don't seem to be getting much better, but we hope that the "gloom and doom" view is not where we are headed. As a result, we go on with a certain unease and try to avoid looking too closely at what is happening. The problem with this approach is that we waste a lot of energy in dreading the "gloom and doom" and face daily disappointment when we see holes in the "things are going pretty good" view.
In any time of change, there is a mix of things going on, some positive and some disturbing. If we are willing to use our common sense and look carefully at the current state of affairs will we see that things are not going well in many areas but things are also not as bad as the "gloom and doom" view suggests. During periods of change there is increased opportunity for those willing to look at what is happening and get a sense where things are going so they can adjust what they are doing to better anticipate and be prepared for the future. Most of what is happening is not as complicated as the experts would have us believe and not as dire as the "gloom and doom" people predict. More than anything thing else, how the current state of affairs will effect us individually is determined by how aware we become of the changes we are facing and how we prepare ourselves to meet them. For this reason, it is well worth the time and effort to begin to focus on what is happening and how we might prepare ourselves to be ready for those changes that we can see if we look carefully. We can begin to look at our current situation by using our basic common sense and by looking at similar situations in the past.
A few years ago we went though the high tech stock market crash in the US. A lot of people were caught up in the stock market craze and lost a lot of their savings when stocks tumbled. At the time, everyone was caught up in the view that things were going "pretty good and getting better". At that time very few paid much attention to the "gloom and doom" view of stocks. But a number of people voiced concern that common sense said that stocks could not continue to rise forever. Everyone who bought stocks was not predestined to get rich. Older people remembered well that the stock market crash of 1929 was preceded by a stock market boom where everyone, even the shoe shine boys, had money in the stock market. Back then, prices on stocks went higher and higher and then came the crash, followed soon by the Great Depression. Looking back at the tech stock market boom now, we are amazed that so few people were listening to their common sense and so few people remembered the details of the stock market crash of 1929. As the old saying goes: "Those who ignore history are condemned to relive it".
Most people were caught off guard by the crash of the high tech stock market crash, but not all. There were a number of people who bought stock and played the stock market who knew very well what was happening and used their common sense and a careful reading of history to do pretty well for themselves. They were the people who were willing to look at the stock situation and see that the stock boom was heading for a fall but there was plenty of money to be made before the fall took place. They bought stock, stayed in for a while and sold when they felt stocks were way over priced. They turned their stocks into cash and got out before the bottom fell out. They lived through the same stock market cycle as everyone else yet they profited by it while many others lost lots of money. The difference was that they were willing to see as clearly as possible what was happening and where things were headed BEFORE it happened. They were not surprised. The point here is, that for those people who figured out what was happening, using common sense and the history of the 1929 crash, the high tech stock cycle was a very profitable period for them. In the same way, most people now are continuing to drift along on with the "things are going pretty good and going to get better" view, while others are starting to try and figure out where we are really headed and how to get ready for the changes that may be coming. For those who slide along without looking ahead, they will have no idea what to prepare for and when the changes do take place they will be in the worst position to deal with them. So, change is change, if you are prepared for the changes then you may find your situation will improve, if you are not prepared then you are more likely to face your own "gloom and doom" in that by not prepared and you find yourself with very few options available to you.
So, let's take a look at where we may be headed and how it may actually be a positive thing for those who are positioned to take advantage of those changes.
There was a news article recently that showed that the US Balance of Trade Deficit was now over $60 Billions Dollars a month. For a number of years that number has been in the range of $40 billion a month. What does that mean? Basically it means that the goods and services that the US buys from the rest of the world is $60 billion dollars a month MORE than the rest of the world buys from us. This last month $60 billion more dollars left the country than came back from countries buying things from us. In about 2 years that amounts to over a trillion dollars. It seems pretty obvious we have some serious problems in that we are buying many more things from the rest of the world than the rest of the world can buy from us. What is going on here?
The problem is that the world economy has fundamentally changed with the advent of free trade. In the old days, the US was the source of most of the worlds manufactured goods. We were a powerhouse of production for the rest of the world. We had plenty of resources, a good labor force and an advanced technology. Over time things have changed. With multinational companies all over the world, the US no longer has a monopoly on the latest technology. We have a very highly paid work force and there are many places in the underdeveloped world where people are willing to work for barely enough money to eat and have a place to sleep. In the past that was not enough to change the world, but now multinational companies and others can move into an area and set up the latest technologies in a super modern factory and hire workers who can be trained to work in the plants for often a tenth of what a worker in the US would make in wages. This has changed the world economy and changed the place of the US in that economy.
I heard someone the other day who owned a manufacturing plant in this area telling what happened to him. He felt a real attachment to this area and had always wanted to make sure that his manufacturing business helped people here by giving them good jobs for their families and communities. So I was surprised to hear that he was closing his plant and laying off all the workers. He explained that he hated to do it but he had no choice. His competition had moved all their manufacturing to China and they were so seriously undercutting him in price that he would be out of business in short order. His only option was to move his manufacturing to China. He had no choice. He closed the plant and now manufactures in China.
This is the kernel of the problem. There is a whole world of people out there willing to work for very little and there is no way anyone can compete with companies that are using the latest technologies in ultra modern plants using very low wage workers. The handwriting is on the wall. The US is going to face a fundamental shift in its place in the world economy.
In addition, to the loss of manufacturing jobs, there has been a real shift in professionals jobs. Computer programming jobs have moved overseas. IBM just layed of over 1,000 programmers in the US as they moved the jobs overseas. With advances in computer technology and the internet, Doctors in India are now reading x-rays for patients in US hospitals over the internet. The difference in wages between US works, factory workers and professionals alike, will mean more and more jobs will leave. There is really very little we can do about that. Retraining unemployed people will not change the fact that the only way we can compete in the new "Free Trade" world economy is to work for less money.
So where does that leave us? Basically with the flight of manufacturing to low wage countries like China, and professional jobs to places like India, the US economy is headed for a serious decline. The US economy is not going to get "back on track" because we have been priced out of the labor market. The most likely form that decline will take will be a continued loss of jobs (with increasing unemployment) and a shift to part time work. What does that mean to the average person? Hard Times, if you do nothing or opportunity if you start planning ahead.
Many economists believe the world economy will gradually evolve to where wages in the underdeveloped world will gradually rise to support a higher standard of living, like they did in the US as the US economy grew. At some point, the US might then be better positioned to compete. Unfortunately, the estimates for this massive change in the world economy could take anywhere from 20 to 50 to hundreds of years. In the mean time, what can we do?
What if, as the world economy changed, jobs went overseas (and to China, India, etc) and the US lost its position in this world economy. What if we found ourselves priced out of the world economy, not able to compete. It may be that the US reaches a point where a considerable percentage of the population finds itself living at a very low standard of living doing unsatisfying work for people that don't like to work for. You could imagine that people could find themselves in a situation where they found that their was barely keeping them alive and very unsatisfying.
At some point we will have to come to grips with the fact that we may not really want to be in a position where the basic things we need are no longer made in this country. It is now very rare to find shoes made in this country, textiles are now almost totally from overseas. Telephones, TV, and electronics are made overseas under US brand names. Do we want to be in a position where we are dependent on the good will of countries like China to sell us the things we use every day? As times get more difficult we will have to decide if cheaper prices are worth high levels of unemployment. We may reach a point where we decide not to play the game of world free trade when we can clearly see that the cards are stacked against us. For our own security we may need to protect certain basic industries to make sure that we have the ability to produce what we need here at home. This may be even more important if we face continued terrorism in the world. In any case, these changes will take time and will take political consensus to move forward. In the mean time, how can we, as individuals, better prepare for the changes ahead?
The first thing we can do is to realize that many changes on the horizon can be a positive thing if we have the right attitude and are prepared. For example, it is already clear that a number of companies, in an attempt to deal with the current state of affairs, are moving to part time jobs. For some people, like those making minimum wage this will pose more problems but for others who may still have relatively well paying jobs, this could be an opportunity. Many surveys of professionals reveal that many people feel they have no time in their life to do the things that are important to them. They have enough money but they can't take time off for vacations, to be with their families, to travel, to develop and enjoy hobbies, etc. For people in those situations part time work may be an opportunity for a fuller richer life. Sharing a job, flex time, work at home, free lance work, working on projects on contract are all ways of working that may fit into the new conditions and offer opportunity to those who position themselves to be ready to take advantage of those conditions.
Let's say you find yourself in a position to work part time and have more time for your self. You may decide to travel, spend more time with your family, or have time for hobbies. Many of these activities can lead to positive changes in your life and you may find that having time is well worth the loss of money that results from part time work. At the same time, you may find that you would like to take some of this extra time to work on other projects that interest you that could eventually bring in a little extra cash or save you money on expenses. You may use this time to start a small business, or do some consulting work. You may find that developing a hobby of learning how to do home repairs, remodeling, or carpentry will save you the cost of hiring people to do the work for you when you need repairs to your house. Learning new skills will not only give you a sense of accomplishment but will give you more options in the future. The more skills you have the more flexible you will be in the future if you decide to trade for other's skills or services. Even if the money economy declines, people still need things done and they will be willing to trade with people who can do them. So, thinking about getting ready for part time work or being under employed will allow you to get ready with creative hobbies that can save you money or give you opportunities for trade. The move to part time work could be a good thing for those who look at the opportunities now and prepare.
On the historical level the most freedom and flexibility comes when you move in directions that provide more for your basic needs, food and shelter. Starting a small garden with a few tomato plants may seem like a small gesture but beginning on a small scale garden allows you to learn how to grow things and is a rewarding hobby in itself. Once you know how to grow a tomato plant the difference between growing 1 tomato plant and 20 is not really that great. During World War 2, many public parks in cities opened up the land to community gardens and hobby gardeners expanded their gardens into Victory Gardens to raise tremendous amounts of food for themselves and their families. The community gardens became a focal point for people and a neighborhood in itself. So moving towards a small garden as a hobby will position yourself to be ready to provide more of your basic needs if you find you job becomes too part time.
Before we go much further we need to sit down and begin to decide what kind of world we would like to see for ourselves. What you be your ideal life style in a world where you would be less dependant on a day labor job? Historically what have people created for themselves when they had a real choice how to live? More free time is one of the most common ideals, but we know from recent health studies that not doing anything, overeating, overindulgence is not going to give you a good life. We need some balance between work, exercise, positive social contact, a sense of community in friends and family, and some sense of control over our lives. We know there is such a thing as bad life styles of overwork, too much stress, alienation, loss of purpose and fear for the future. Is there such a thing as a natural life style for maximum health and well being for humans? Let's see if we can come up with a general view of what we might want to move towards as an alternative to what we fear we will face if we do nothing.[Return To Journal January 2005]
I remember my grandfather. He was born the "old days" when the main form of transportation was horse and buggy and a major part of the population were farmers. When he was born, he could look around his community and see many trades, skills and traditions that had changed very little over hundreds of years. Yet within his life time, he saw an explosion of changes in technology and the way people live. When he was a kid, no one had electric lights, radios, or TV’s. You went to town on a horse and buggy. There were no video games or computers. Life was different. In his lifetime, we went from horse and buggy to a man on the moon. Truly an amazing journey in only one life time. This acceleration of change is also a major part of the problem. Everything we are doing as a culture and as an economy is a great experiment. Things are changing so fast, we can not realistically expect to see the results of where we are headed. So we really need to take a moment to look back to a simpler time to get a better perspective on where we are, where we came from and where we may be headed.
The first economies were hunter gatherers. Tribes of our ancestors hunted and gathered wild plants for their food. They had highly evolved traditions that kept track of what foods to eat and where to find them. If you don't think they had highly evolved traditions, just try and go out in the woods and survive creating tools out of the forest and hunting animals and gathering food. You will soon find that the average hunter gather was far more educated in how to live in the natural world than people today. It wasn't long ago (about 10,000 years) that agriculture began to replace hunting and gathering as the main economy of humans on planet earth. Basically agriculture is just being a hunter gatherer with a permanent home. Instead of running all over trying to find wild plants and animals to eat, agriculturists learned to grow the plants and animals near by so they would not have to go out looking for them. Of course, this involves a lot of work in raising the plants and animals compared to just going out and finding them, but the real advantage came though selecting plants that grew bigger and produced more food. Take corn for an example, the plant ancestors of wild corn looked like wheat with a few grains of corn on each ear. Over thousands of years of selection by early farmers, corn now has huge ears with 500 or more grains per ear and often multiple ears per plant. With this huge increase in production, more people could be fed and this eventually lead to various civilizations.
When our ancestors where in tribes hunting and gathering there were basically two jobs. Hunting animals or gathering wild plants. In most cultures, men tended to hunt and women gathered while taking care of the children. Everyone worked for themselves in a family unit that included an extended family of relatives. If you were short of food, one of your relatives would share with you. Everyone had a job and social security.
A big shift came when agriculture became so successful that it lead to larger communities and ultimately whole civilizations. But the real change came when some people specialized in jobs outside farming. With surplus food to trade some people started spending a major part of their work in non farm work where they would trade for their food with their neighbors. People who were really good at making bows or tools may have specialized in making them and traded them for food. At first part time and later full time, passing their trade on to their children. Eventually they may have gotten helpers from other farmer's children. This marks a real shift in the economy, instead of all members of the society being able to fully support themselves, some people begin to live solely by providing goods or services to farmers. They became dependent on others (the farmers) for their food in exchange for their goods or services. Later, as crafts became more numerous and trades expanded in the industrial revolution, the era of "day labor" grew. The original agricultural people provided almost all their needs within the family or extended family of their communities. Once day labor began then some people worked for the ability to buy or trade for what they needed to live. They depended on others to grow their food and provide for their other basic needs like fuel for cooking and heating.
So if we stand back enough and look at most of human history, almost everyone provided all they needs directly in their family units, either as hunter gathers or as early farmers in farming communities. Historically, most of what we do now to make a living and this concept of "day labor" is pretty new. For most of time, humans lived off the land directly. They got their food, heat, and shelter in their daily work. Animals have a certain life style in a territory where they can supply all their needs directly. The natural human life style (niche) is hunting and gathering. Early agriculture just made the plants and animals closer to home. So the real change came when some people specialized in jobs that did not supply their needs directly but required them to trade with others (farmers) for food and other needs.
After a very long history we now find ourselves in a situation where almost everyone in much of the world is doing "day labor". You may be an engineer, airline pilot, house builder, a fast food worker, or any one of a vast collection of jobs, but what you have in common is that you are still doing day labor for someone else. The one thing all "day labor" has in common is that you only eat if some one wants your services. If you specialized in making a product that no one wants any more then you are out of work. If you do a type of work that is no longer in demand then you may have to work for very little pay. As jobs in an industrial economy begin to be harder to find, you may have to work on jobs that you don't like doing in order to have enough to trade to have food and a place to sleep.
Let's take a quick look at what happens when economies have faltered in the past. During the Great Depression when a lot of people were out of work, a lot of areas moved towards local economies. In rural areas, when jobs were scarce and money was tight, people often worked on trade or barter. You might work out a deal with a local farmer where you could work on his farm for so many hours for a certain about of milk or meat. You might work for someone cutting firewood on shares, where you cut firewood for them in return for the right to cut an equal share for yourself from their forest. The point is that even during hard times people found ways to get by and often that involved the evolution of a local economy. Now the interesting point about this process of a local economy and "getting by" is that it is actually a return to an earlier system. Let's put the current economy and system of work in some perspective by doing some time travel. We will take a trip back in time to see how things were in the "old days".
To search for a topic, click on the find button of your browser. It may Listed as Find or Find on this page. On Netscape navigator it is listed under the Edit section as Find on Page (Control F) or Find Again. This is a very powerful function and is well worth using.
You can look for a specific date in the form of dd-mm-yy , so you could search for all March dates by looking for 03- or April by searching for 04-.
You can search for any references to a topic you might be interested in. For example, you could search for all references to carrots, potato, beets, peas, gardens, electric, wood, etc. Once you find a reference, be sure to click on next or find next to see the next entry. By this method you can follow a references to a topic throughout the seasons. You might search tomato and follow the tomato from starting transplants to storage. Using the Find (or search this document) function of your browser, this document is fully searchable. This is nothing fancy but highly useful.[Return to Beginning - To Begin Any Search]
I was writing letters to my mother to keep her informed of life in the woods. It was her enthusiastic response to those letters that lead to the idea of sharing a journal with those who might be interested in the day to day life of living and working on the land.
Many times, especially when it was hard to find time during busy seasons, it was knowing that she was waiting for the next journal entry that helped keep this journal going.
basic needs to support country .... provided by us in this country .... so not dependent on the good will of other countries (like China)to provide those for us. A certain core of people would be needed to staff the basic needs industries of the US in an economic downturn ... why not hire people in this country to redevelop the lost industries that we need to supply our people with the basics. With more focus on basic needs and less mass consumption there will more people than jobs. Is there a creative direction for people who want to provide a better alternative to unemployment for their families? Now is the time to start thinking about those options and planning ahead.
look ahead to new alternative to waiting 50 years for wages to stabilize .... life style satisfying and more self sustaining on a family level ... alternative to total dependence on day labor .... downsizing ... The one that most people fall into is that things are really not too bad Note: Some people feel that discussing current trends and issues is focusing on "gloom and doom". We believe that being aware of what is happening allows people to see opportunities for positive change in their lives. In addition, if you begin to see a trend in changes in our culture and economy, you are in a very good position to plan ways that allow you to move in directions that actually improve your situation. In contract, if you wait and avoid using your intelligence and common sense you will find you have very few options when you are caught by surprise by changes that take place. For example, there was a lot of evidence during the last stock market boom that stocks were seriously over valued. Common sense tells people you can not keep getting something for nothing forever. People who where in the stock market and saw that the market was getting overpriced sold their stocks and actually made money on their stocks, those who didn't bother to look realistically at what was happening lost money, in some cases lots of money. It is much better to pay attention to what is happening at least enough to be ready for what is likely to happen that may effect you. You don't want to ignore a lot of clues that could have given you insight that would have allowed you to adjust your plans and even be in a position to benefit from those changes. At some point that could lead to a real shortage of dollars in the us to the point where there wasn't enough cash money to go around. This problem is somewhat handled by the US Federal Reserve. They can print more money to keep a number of things in balance. The M1 money supply (see the financial section of your newspaper for more info) is a measure of what is happening to the money supply. part time work is not necessarily a bad thing .. if you handle it right ... time to yourself ... what affluent people want. .... hobby vacation ... life style ... part time rewarding work to get things you can provide yourself .... like gasoline.
Historical level .... post industrial ... decline .. third world ... educated .. advanced tech ... not all but segment of society ... back to self sufficient ... part time day labor to trade for best of tech to directly survive on land ... .... affluent peasant ..... decide in advance ... plan ... develop skills ... buy land or go in on land communities with others ... new life style ... basic needs. .... time to enjoy ... loose waste and extravagance. When we talk about a Day laborer we include almost all modern jobs. Most people now get paid every 2 weeks, so even though they may not work by the day, someone else decides if they want their work and at any time they may find themselves only two weeks notice from being out of work. Why couldn't we instead focus on having our own local economy where we bought and sold within our own borders for the basic things we really needed to live. Why compete with the rest of the world when the cards were stacked against us? Changes on this level will be slow coming and could involve a lot of difficult changes. It may be that we need to start thinking of alternatives to the present decline and start to move towards those alternative BEFORE we find ourselves in a situation were we have few options.
[See Commentary: Where Are We Headed As A Culture?]