Archive for the ‘Agrarian’ Category

Different Economies

March 2nd, 2013 No comments

I don’t know how they balance  checkbooks in Washington, but every time I increase spending and borrowing around our place the household economy goes straight to hell. Mind you, banks need our loan interest to thrive and grow, just as corporate manufacturers need us to buy their latest products, but a certain comfort and sense of independence comes with saving, not borrowing, for one’s needs. If these needs are simple and fail to bolster the national economy, then all we can do is hope the government will muddle through without our help a while longer.

— Peter V. Fossel, Organic Farming: Everything You Need to Know
(p. 18)

The Mensch: The Character of Christ in the Book of Ruth | Radio Free Thulcandra

January 10th, 2013 No comments

Susanna Black, in this mediation on the book of Ruth, notes the same social welfare and mandated economic inefficiencies in the Old Testament Law that I’ve noticed myself. This would be one of the reasons I don’t see strict laissez-faire economics as the self-evidently “Biblical” economic system.

Ruth, the Moabitess, the foreigner, supporting herself and her mother-in-law after the death of all the men in their family by gleaning: picking up the sheaves of wheat left behind by harvesters in someone else’s field. This was put into place under God’s law as one of three levels of provision for social welfare in Israel (the other two, per my brilliant friend Kristen Filipic, are tithing, where a tenth of everybody’s income ends up in a central fund used for, among other purposes, welfare payments to those who really can’t support themselves; and jubilee, where every fifty years everyone’s debts are cancelled, along with any land sales that have alienated a family’s home farm.)

Gleaning is cool as follows: basically, God tells farmers to build in deliberate inefficiencies to their operation in order to allow others to make a living. You’re not supposed to reap to the edges of the field, and you’re not supposed to pick up the grain that you might accidentally drop in the process of harvesting, so that there’ll be plenty of leftovers for the gleaners. It’s almost like a portion of all privately owned land is actually commons, but commons that exist in the same physical space as the private property.

via The Mensch: The Character of Christ in the Book of Ruth | Radio Free Thulcandra.

Cult, Culture, and Cultivation

November 21st, 2012 2 comments

Irish Scholars

When the Irish scholars
decided to lay the
of medieval Europe,
they established:
Centers of Thought
in all the cities of Europe
as far as Constantinople,
where people
could look for thought
so they could have light.
Houses of Hospitality
where Christian charity
was exemplified.
Agricultural Centers
where they combined
(a) Cult—
that is to say Liturgy
(b) with Culture—
that is to say Literature
(c) with Cultivation—
that is to say Agriculture.

— Peter Maurin, Catholic Radicalism: Phrased Essays for the Green Revolution

Today’s Farmer: Nine Hours Daily On A Computer

June 20th, 2012 1 comment

Reblogged from The Contrary Farmer:

Click to visit the original postFrom GENE LOGSDONI promised not to use his name because I wanted him to speak freely which is not easy to do these days when society is in such conflict. He is a fortyish farmer, articulate, engaging, a delight to talk to. He and his brother grow upwards of 5000 acres of corn and soybeans, much of it rented. The first time I met him, several years go, I remembered him saying that a farmer needed to spend two hours a day on the computer, hedging and marketing his grain.

Read more… 767 more words

This is not a pretty vision of the future of American farming.Logsdon calls the consolidation of farmland into land trusts (worked by employees, not owner-farmers) “socialistic,” but I think that’s inaccurate.What he’s describing is really more like feudalism. Without the reciprocal obligations that medieval lords had to their serfs.

Categories: Agrarian Tags:

H. Ford on land

August 22nd, 2011 No comments

The land! That is where our roots are. There is the basis of our physical life. The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity. From the land comes everything that supports life, everything we use for the service of physical life. The land has not collapsed or shrunk in either extent or productivity. It is there waiting to honor all the labor we are willing to invest in it, and able to tide us across any local dislocation of economic conditions. No unemployment insurance can be compared to an alliance between man and a plot of land.
— Henry Ford.

Quoted on the title page of Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management

Categories: Agrarian, Decline and Fall, Distributism Tags:

Dream Big

October 16th, 2009 No comments

From Sharon Astyk:

So close your eyes. Or first, open them, and look at your property – or your friendly neighbor’s property, or your church’s lot, or your community garden plot. Now that you’ve got it in your head, close your eyes. And take what’s there and add on – what do you want to see? Look at it closely. Smell it. Taste it. Listen to it….

What do you see? A small farm of a few acres, with pigs that root out weeds and manure the ground and then feed your family, and chickens for eggs and a small woodlot, managed for mushrooms, coppiced wood and acorns for feed. Every year you plant more trees, grow more crops, and new garden beds sprout like weeds. There’s a sign at the end of the driveway reading “fresh eggs, raspberries” and the neighbors stop by to pick up your extras and trade neighborly gossip.

What do you see? The family farm brought to life again – the land made productive again, the weeds cut back, the family brought back, swales built to catch precious water, with new crops and new techniques for making fertile space out of what seemed like a lost cause. New hope, and the chance to work together again? Do you see yourself, slowly, patiently planting new trees, repairing the tractor, laughing with your sister again?

What do you see? Draft horses, pulling logs from the shady woodland, and a barn full of animals. A business plan and a market for your lamb, your wool and your vegetables. A diversity of plants and animals – life without monocultures. A pond. A quiet spot to rest, a kitchen full of peaches ready to can. And you see yourself, at work, at rest, in the kitchen, on the land, but there, and present, and ready.

Yeah, I can see that. I can see it all, practically taste it. It’s a good dream.

Categories: Agrarian, Garden Tags:

A Homestead Daughter

May 28th, 2008 No comments

New blog! (OK, not that new, but I’m slow…)

Our friend Mary Lund is now blogging at A Homestead Daughter about her life as, well… it’s pretty obvious from the title, now isn’t it?

More Urban Chickens

February 1st, 2008 No comments

Ann Arbor: following the lead of Ypsilanti!

Ann Arbor Council Member Stephen Kunselman is championing the right to have your own all-natural eggs, which he says taste much better than store-bought variety.

At a council retreat Saturday, Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, brought up changing city laws to allow chickens back in the city. He says there is a group of local business people and residents who support the idea and he plans to bring a resolution once he gets the local support organized….

At the retreat Saturday at the new W.R. Wheeler Service Center, the chicken issue livened up a discussion that focused mainly on bricks, mortar and taxes. When broken into discussion groups to talk about city priorities, Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward, questioned Kunselman on the chickens.

“What’s with the chickens?” Rapundalo asked.

“Chickens lay eggs,” Kunselman said. “I want fresh eggs. It’s just a simple ordinance change.”

“I want to have fresh milk,” Rapundalo said. “Let’s change the ordinance to allow cows or goats.”

Of course, we can’t mention urban chickens without mentioning pioneering micro-eco-urban farmer Peter Thomason:

The issue popped up earlier this year in Ypsilanti, too, where a resident is challenging that city’s law against keeping farm animals on his property….

Ypsilanti resident Peter Thomason had his request to keep 12 chickens in cages in his back yard rejected last year by the Ypsilanti City Council.

Thomason said Saturday he still keeps the chickens on his property.

And Peter, like myself, doesn’t think that Councilman Rapundalo’s question about milk animals should be left a rhetorical one:

“And I’m picking up two pregnant goats tomorrow,” Thomason said.

Yes, I know, this story is a few weeks old now, but I’m a lame blogger. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.

For cooler coverage than I provide about the Underground Poultry movement in Ann Arbor, see Teeter Talk.

Categories: Agrarian, Michigan Tags:

Urban Chickens!

September 19th, 2007 No comments

Last night, I dragged the kids through the Tour de Fresh in Ypsilanti, which was a showcase of cool things happening locally to promote local food production.

Weird synchronicity #1: At tour signin at the Ypsilanti Farm Market, the table next to us was being operated by David’s old Cub scout leader and fellow den member. I had no idea they sold stuff at the farm market. Maybe my boys should be there with their extra tomatoes …

After leaving the market, the first stop — only a few blocks from downtown — was Peter Thomason’s backyard chickens.

Weird synchronicity #2: While I don’t remember meeting Peter before at our homeschool co-op, a quick roster check proved that yes, we’re in this together. The co-op isn’t that big (“only” 150 kids), but obviously I still haven’t met all the other parents.

Yes, chickens. In addition to an amazing display of heirloom tomatoes trellised along the fenceline and some very nice raised-bed veggie gardens, the Thomason’s have a chicken coop.

Peter explains:

When people ask me, and they frequently do, why we have chickens living in the yard of our Ypsilanti home, I usually answer, “for the eggs.”

But the truth is, the main reason we have them is that it pleases my wife. And, if my wife is happy, most of the time, I am too. What I’m referring to is the inestimable value of pleasure that philosopher-farmer Wendell Berry speaks of in “Economics and Pleasure,” an essay that should be required reading for anyone who refuses to accept the idea that a monetary bottom line is the only “real” bottom line.

For several years we tried to sell our house, move to the country and start a farm, but the times and the market were against us and we finally accepted that, at least for the time being, we were going to have to stay where we were. Not that we had a problem with being here, we just felt a need to reconnect with our agrarian roots. The thought that we were not going to be able to do that was depressing, but we did our best to let go of it and to focus on growing as much of our food as we could on our one-tenth-of-an-acre city lot.

Then one day it just got to her and she said, “I don’t ask for much. I don’t want jewelry or fancy cars, I just want to have some chickens.” My wife’s distress about this weighed on me for weeks until it finally occurred to me one day to check the city’s animal control ordinance…

Read the whole thing.

For more details on the politics of urban chickens, plus being a philosopher-carpenter, and building coffins (yes, coffins), see this “Teeter Talk” interview with Peter:

HD: Something I would sort of like to explore is that, as best I can tell, it’s not that you’re somehow obsessed with chickens per se, it’s that chickens factor into this broader context of sustainable living, and even that has a much broader context of stemming from a Christian belief system that includes stewardship of the environment as an important component of your faith.

PT: And it’s more than stewardship of the environment. It’s what I think of as building a whole culture of life. The late John Paul II was excellent at re-presenting traditional themes in new language, so he sort of coined the idea of building a civilization of love as a way of talking about building the kingdom of God, which was a more traditional Christian way of talking about it. He talked about building a culture of life, and building a civilization of love. The components of that–certainly stewardship of the environment is a component–but also economics as if people mattered. And that is something that was largely talked about in my generation, among people that I grew up with because of the work of E.F. Schumacher. Small is Beautiful was a rallying cry for a whole generation of people I grew up with, the other two books in the trilogy being Good Work, and A Guide for the Perplexed. And from his perspective on sustainable economics, that what you can do in your own yard–in a cottage industry, what you can do to not just be a unit of consumption, but a unit of production, even in your own urban neighborhood–then counters so many of the negative and depersonalizing aspects of, if you will, a money-based economy, and makes economics human again. It’s no longer just the exchange of money, it’s the exchange of goods and services between people who’ve learned to trust each other and give people things of value. So there is a bigger discussion that, in my mind, that all of this is part of. But what it comes down to practical things that one can do–keeping chickens, or using worms under your sink to help compost organic material–it sort of brings it home. Chickens are in one sense emblematic of being somewhat independent, but they’re also pragmatic. They’re also a very real way in which you can make your own home economy sustainable. Not only are they pets, but they give back to you, you know? Your dog might be a pet, which you enjoy, but your dog may also guard your house. You may enjoy your cats, but your cats might take care of the mice that are a problem. Well, chickens also give you back food. And they eat compost, and they eat kitchen scraps, so they’re more than just symbols. They are …

HD: … good examples.

PT: They’re good examples. They’re good citizens [laugh]. They give enjoyment and they give food back. So they really fit nicely into the idea of the home economy being a producing economy, not just a consuming economy. And to me, all of that is a big part of building a civilization of love, and replacing the impersonal exchange of goods and services for money. I mean, what’s money? It’s just a dead thing, it represents something. It’s replacing it with real exchange of things that are of value and meaningful to people, because they’ve invested their time, their labor, and their love in them. So a money-less economy is not just something that communists or Marxists have a right to talk about, but people who have a Christian world-view, and who believe that it is possible to build a civilization of love.

Also worth a full read.

Anyone who can quote both Wendell Berry and John Paul II like that is all right in my book.

P.S.: David sampled one of their Amish Paste tomatoes, and is now praising heirlooms as tasting better. And Rachel was inspired to plead “Dad, can we have chickens?” in the same tones she usually reserves for “Dad, can I have a horse?”

Categories: Agrarian, Distributism, Michigan Tags:

And Now, A Word From My Sponsor…

December 9th, 2005 2 comments

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.
— G. K. Chesterton

Yes, that’s the new tagline for Eclectic Amateur. I’ve had that quote in my mind for years, but it struck me this morning in a new way.

GKC was writing about the things that every man should do for himself, such as blowing his own nose or writing his own love letters (I don’t think he forsaw the latter being usurped by the greeting card industry).

But, there’s a deeper meaning here too. If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly. The more it is worth, the more we should dare to do it, even if we will do it badly. Even if, most likely, we will “fail” to do it well.

I”m going to apply GKC‘s advice to our hoped-for family agrarian/distributist adventure (which he bears some responsbility for encouraging me to do). Self-sufficiency, good food, independance — all good ideas, but the how of how to make this all work is rather overwhelming and discouraging sometimes. I flip-flop between wanting to just pitch everything and start right now and wondering if I will ever do anything different from today before being forced by circumstances.

But. If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly. If the agrarian way is worth it, it is worth doing even if it is bungled. So what if I fail? I probably will. On my way to “failure”, will I learn more, eat better, be closer to nature and to God, and give my children a better inheritance in the things that matter than if I hadn’t? It seems most likely. How, then, can I really fail? What am I afraid of?

Not that I know what this means yet. Other than “Courage!”

We are not choosing between model villages as part of a serene system of town-planning. We are making a sortie from a besieged city, sword in hand; a sortie from the ruin of Carthage. “Safe! Of course it’s not safe!”
— G. K. Chesterton, The Outline of Sanity

Categories: Agrarian, ChesterBelloc Tags: