Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's hard to find affordable houses with land!

Please excluse my semi-political philosophical rant. It has been building for some time now, and it wants out. It is quite probable that we won't be able to take the livestock with us when we move, because we won't be able to afford a place that will allow that. This makes me very sad, but of course there are still ways to continue some of it, such as the fiber arts. We will see what we can do.

The following is my response to a thread on a message board, under the topic of Wal-Mart being evil. I happen to be allergic to Wal-Mart, and avoid it if possible, but the problem is deeper than that, and a boycott of Wal-Mart won't solve it.

"Nike was exposed first......then Kathy Lee Griffin.......and on and on.......i guess we could all grow cotton and sheep and do our own thing with the fabrics. "

There I think you've got it. In today's busy world, it almost sounds crazy, but everybody doesn't have to do everything. I think that the problem isn't WalMart per se, but rather just that we have gotten so far away from meeting our own needs, that people in general don't understand what is involved, and they take it all for granted.
It makes me so incredibly sad that now it is to the point where you have to be wealthy to be able to afford to participate in producing your own food and clothes, and being self-sufficient. Farming is either big mega-business or a very expensive hobby. Small farms just plain can't make it if they have to be self-supporting. It costs more to grow a garden than to buy canned goods at the store.
Once upon a time a measure of wealth was how many sheep you owned. Now animals are a liability. You have to keep them fenced (and land gets more and more unaffordable), and you have to buy hay to feed them (which gets harder to find and more expensive each year, as more houses are built on top of what used to be hay fields).
Most of my grandparents had family farms when they were children. They had small family farms as a way to provide for themselves and bring in a bit of income. So did everyone else. My grandfather lived on a farm in an isolated rural community that is now Park City, Utah. His family owned some of the land where Cottonwood Mall now sits (they sold it way too soon!)
Now I want to hang on to a few goats and sheep, and the right to raise chickens. We are moving back near the area where my grandfather once farmed because they had to in order to survive, and we are a middle-class family, moving up, and we can't afford land that will permit us to do that.
Most of the properties here where I am moving from could be homes to small farms, but only a handful of people live that way. If you can do a little, whether it's growing a garden or keeping a couple of goats, or sewing some of your own clothes, hang on to that and teach it to your children.
My grandparents' generation were generally happy to be free from having to spin and weave their own cloth and raise their own food. Those were burdens that were time-consuming and hard work. Now they are almost lost arts to us, as everything is mass-produced by people who get very little for their effort, and the products are made to wear out quickly and be thrown away so that we will buy more of them. Wal-Mart and other big businesses contribute to this.
We have a crisis in America because we don't want to pay what it costs for minimum wage and benefits for workers to produce most of our food, so mostly illegal immigrants do those jobs. We depend on them because nobody else will do those jobs, but we don't want to give them benefits or make them citizens. Then they might not do those jobs either.
Too many children (and adults) don't understand where their food and clothing come from - even the basics. Nobody has taught them any more than it just comes from the store. Too many people waste what we have, and don't respect the plants and animals that produce it, and the people who labor to bring it to us.
I wish that more people would participate even in some small way, so that they would understand, and their children would understand, and they would know how to provide for themselves if the stores stopped providing.
I wish that more people had the opportunity to have land and gardens and animals.
We need to support small farms and small businesses as much as we can, so that somebody at least can maintain these skills, even if it costs a little more. And also to enhance our own quality of life.
We might find out that we are better off. We have too much stuff anyway, and we don't need it. It just complicates our lives and wastes money and time and other resources.
I'm still guilty of trying to save money buy getting things as cheap as possible, but I went to some workshops by Micheal Colgrass a while ago. One of the things he talked about was a musician he used to be in a band with when they were young and poor. He noticed that the other musician seemed to live much better than the rest, and knowing that they all had the same income, he asked how. The secret was "I never buy anything cheap." When he wanted or needed something, he saved for it and got the best one he could find, regardless of the price. Things last, and he was also given better deals when he demonstrated that he knew what he was looking for and appreciated quality. There is a difference, and we could afford nicer things if we stopped spending our money on junk.
Sorry for the novel.


Blogger Wendy said...

You go, girl! Nice post. Good points.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

Wendy, I should also add that my mother's family comes from a long line of farmer stock and I was just lamenting the other day about the way things have changed. Oddly, there seems to be stigma around being self-sufficient. Even knitting is considered "back-woods" and heaven help you if you decide to process a fleece -- the general public will flay you. But there are people out there that sometimes surprise me when they say, "Wow. Can you teach me how to do that?"

My aunt has wanted forever to write books on canning and being self-sufficient. She makes her own bread and the butter to go with it. She's one of my heroes.

Not to get too long here in a comment (I'm feeling a little inspired here and could very well write a post about this myself), but even as a working mother I often wonder if we haven't taken our lives a little too far ... people like me who wish they could be more self-contained are so overwhelmingly shackled by the ties of work and employment and the almighty dollar (I live on the East Coast, where it is pricey to live) that it is difficult to break the cycle.

Thanks for having the guts to post this topic; I hope you get only good comments. And the best of luck with the move.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Cindy said...

I agree, it's a great post. While I'm not actively self sufficient, I come from family that has been.

It's definitely a lost art and it takes effort to keep it. My brother was fascinated while watching me cook with my children. Not only do they learn life skills, but we get to spend important time together.

Not so long ago, I would have said there wasn't enough time! Amazing how things change.

I agree wholeheartedly with the assessment that we don't value the work of laborers and completely miss the mark in understanding what it takes to produce clothing and food. I also believe that it's only a matter of time before the #@!* hits the fan.

2:06 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I agree. The small farm has become a rich person's retirement hobby. It's quite sad, especially in the factory farming scenario, where animals are treated as commodities with no's ugly inside and out. I buy lots of stuff at Wal-Mart and probably shouldn't...we're disconnected from the sources of our everyday, resources, everything... :-(

4:46 PM  
Blogger Karine Jones said...

I also agree with you Wendy! Good Novel! :) I admit I do shop at Walmart too. But sadly there I don't have many options here in the desert!

10:09 PM  

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