[Homestead] The Focus
Clansgian at wmconnect.com
Clansgian at wmconnect.com
Thu Jan 1 20:40:16 EST 2009
>I think we are all talking, as James says, at cross purposes with you. >You
talk of maintaining wealth, we talk of maintaining life and lifestyle.
At the end of Tolkien’s "The Hobbit" Bilbo comes before the dying Thorin
Oakenshield and Thorin’s parting words are, "If more of us valued food and cheer
and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I
must leave it now. Farewell!"
Our economy, if not our very reality, focuses on something or the other out
of habit, custom, indoctrination, and ultimately choice. Now of days in this
culture and society that focus is money. It is so strong a focus that we tend
to think of and evaluate everything in terms of currency. It’s inescapable
and automatic. But it need not necessarily be so.
My own taxonomy puts the label "homesteader" as being applied to three
1. Homesteaders for whom subsistence living is their economic basis.
2. Homesteaders to choose to spend the money designated for their sustenance
on the homestead and then use homestead produce rather than buy it directly.
Such homesteaders could just buy some chicken to eat at the mart, but instead
they choose to use the money to buy chicken feed (etc) and raise their own
chickens. Rather than living directly on a money income, they live on that same
money income indirectly.
3. Those of the camouflage suit who sit on their stack of MRE’s and look out
for black helicopters. Unlike either of the above two groups, they are
always calculating how long the cans of chili beans will hold out and how many gold
coins it would take to survive the next two years. For them homesteading is
not a way of life, but an escape, a safety valve, a temporary refuge until
things get back to normal. Oddly enough, the quintessential homesteader himself,
Scott Nearing, would be numbered among this third group. I always found it
incongruous that he was a strong advocate of communism and yet pioneered the
modern homesteading lifestyle which required holding real estate privately. It
was the excellent book by John Saltmarsh, "The Making of a Homesteader" that
put the Nearing quotes and writings all in one place to settle the paradox.
Nearing called the Vermont homestead "A Cyclone Shelter in New England." He
said that the ideal economic arrangement was Soviet style communism, but in the
mean time individual homesteading was an inferior substitute, inferior but
better than participating in the political and economic system he abhorred.
All three groups have a lot of superficial aspects in common and this might
lead us to lump them all as a common philosophy. But the focus is not the
same, especially for group #1.
Very often in discussing homestead affairs someone brings up that we all have
to have money. Someone will issue the challenge and ask if there is anyone
who can live without a source of money. No? See how important it is, then!
Just try to convince us that you run a homestead day to day, month to month, and
don’t "need" money.
This is because the focus of their reality is money. And small wonder, it is
the glue that binds our common modern philosophy and orientation. Everything
is though of first and foremost in terms of money. Money it the one thing
that is nailed down, fixed, the epicenter and definition of all else. All other
things in their lives are viewed as variable, mutable, and circling and
drifting about the fixed central reality of money.
But it’s just a habit, a mindset. We might shift that focus to something
else. Let’s view our world in terms of wood. No matter how non-wood and
existence you may think you have, you still "need" wood, do you dare deny it!?? Oh,
maybe you don’t heat with wood and your house might not be primarily made of
wood, none the less, if you eliminated wood entirely from you life, where would
you be? Betcha there’s some wood in your house! And like as not there is
some wood trim somewhere on your car, the handles of you kitchen knives, your
furniture. And what about all the things you buy at the mart? Odds are they
arrived on wooden palates. And your electricity and phone hookup, somewhere in
that circuit no doubt there’s wooden utility poles.
Does this not prove that your life is inexorably bound up in wood?
No. Because as a matter of day to day focus you largely ignore it. It’s
there. You probably DO depend on wood far more than you think. But you can
concentrate on money as the central reality of your economy and ignore the wood as
real but relatively inconsequential peripheral factor.
When someone asks those of us living by a subsistence, direct-use economy to
account for our use of money, if falls on our ears much as if someone asked
you to account for your use of wood as if it were the end-all, be-all of
everyone’s world alike.
The central focus of the subsistence homesteader is his land. It is the
fixed unmoving focal point of his reality and all other matters, including wood
and money, waft and float about that fixed point. They are there, wood and
money for examples, and we recognize that we make use of them from time to time.
But we do not think about our existence, our prospects, or our success in
terms of those things.
For example over the past ten years the "market value" of my farm has been
modest, risen to a ridiculous and unsupportable figure, and now is falling
rapidly again to something that takes reality into account. I haven’t really much
noticed it and I am altogether unconcerned. I am neither in the market to buy
or sell a farm, so a figure representing the number of hummingbirds per acre
has about as much meaning as the market value of the place.
The value of this place is twenty years of composting, liming, overseeding,
and otherwise augmenting its ability to produce. It is the availability of
water in abundance. These things do not enter into any appraisal of the place as
far as market value. And this is the kicker that makes my point, when the
‘agricultural use value’ of the and is determined for use portion of the real
estate taxes, it is valued the same whether the gardens and grain fields are
deep, black compost or they are bare blue clay.
As Bev suggested in the above quote, those whose primary focus is the value
of their homestead land completely without reference to money -- and those
whose primary focus and measuring stick of everything is money -- will inevitably
be talking at cross purposes.
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