Country Living Series

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A vegetarian in beef country

An interesting article appeared on SurvivalBlog recently entitled What the Locals Really Think in which a fourth-generation homesteader related how newcomers to his rural area know everything. “I just find it funny because a lot of these folks come here and just do what I've done all my life,” he relates, “and then they squawk about it like a chicken that just laid an egg.”

(Ahem. For those unfamiliar with chickens, when a hen lays an egg, she cackles about it for long minutes after her deed is done. “Look at me! Look at what I’ve done!” It’s quite comical.)


As I start working on our garden this spring, it occurred to me that the best experts on almost any topic are those who have never done it. The people who know the most about gardening have only grown potted tomatoes on their patio. The people who know the most about how to raise kids have never had any. (This is particularly annoying/ tragic when these people are CPS workers.) The people who know the most about caring for cattle derived all their knowledge from watching YouTube videos. We’ve all been at the mercy of those who share with us their most profound wisdom on subjects they have never experienced.


Often newcomers to rural ways feel they must reinvent the wheel when it comes to learning what does and doesn’t work. They prefer to apply their book and video learning to whatever task is at hand – and fail, as often as not – rather than seek out the advice from experienced long-timers who have “been there done that” – sometimes, in the case of the SurvivalBlog article, for four generations.

Please don’t misunderstand, book learning is critical in the initial stages of any task. If someone has not yet had the opportunity to move rural, then book knowledge is often ALL they can acquire until they have a chance to put things into practice.


My gripe isn’t with these types of people. My gripe is with people who think their book knowledge supersedes an experienced homesteader’s real-life experience. In other words, when they become armchair experts.


This SurvivalBlog article was so comical that Don and I both laughed out loud in parts. For example, the newcomer – who has decided that the world is coming to an end and the government is out to get him – decided to give a party for his neighbors to discuss how to handle the apocalypse. In the words of the 4th generation homesteader, “Too often the guy calling the meeting assumes that everyone should, of course, listen to him – the guy who moved in a year ago and is stupid enough to be a vegetarian in beef country.”


If there’s one thing you’ve doubtless learned from this blog, it’s how many times we’ve screwed up when it comes to rural endeavors. The predominant thing we’ve learned over the years is what DOESN’T work. There’s no reason to reinvent the square wheel. (We’ve already tried it. Square wheels don’t work. Except in specialized circumstances.)


Those who are experts in something are experts because they’ve already gone through the square-wheel stage. They’ve learned through trial and error what doesn’t work. I wouldn’t trust my surgeon if his only knowledge came from book-learning; he needs hands-on experience as well. He especially needs to know what doesn’t work. I trust gardeners who have huge and flourishing gardens, not those with a single tomato plant on the patio. I trust livestock breeders with a herd of healthy livestock, not an active account on Farmville. I trust someone with a dozen wonderfully-behaved children, not someone who took college courses in child psychology.

Okay, rant over.

22 comments:

  1. Amen. I once had a childless by choice couple tell me that they would take my kids for two weeks and straighten them out. Stunning. I couldn't even close my gaping mouth.

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  2. I just wanted to say that I live next door to this gentleman, and he is actually a great organic gardener that had one of the largest and highest-producing gardens in this area last year. He uses no chemical fertilizers and no pesticides. The people that are saying this stuff about him just don't understand his methods of producing food. They've been here for 4 generations, as they said, and are still chemically weeding their field, chemically fertilizing their fruit trees, using insecticides, raising and selling chickens and eggs as "organic" while still using GMO feed, antibiotics, and hormone-treated feed to produce eggs. Just because this man is different in his methods and new to the area, doesn't mean he's wrong. These locals could probably learn a thing or two from him.

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    1. Well said! These folks obviously aren't Green Acres. Glad to know they put their money where their mouth is.

      - Patrice

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    2. Kudos to you for telling us the other side of the story.
      Frankly, the survivalblog article made the 4th generation local and his cousin look like rubes, as well.
      sidetracksusie

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    3. Draegon - thanks so much for your input, and for telling the other side of the story. we moved to a brand new community a few years ago. imagine my city-boy husband teaching the locals where the best trout were to be found. not to put any of them down, they know what they know and they know it well. but they don't know everything and if this gentleman is actively trying to be a part of his community, introducing new strategies and whatnot - then i applaud him. thanks for the other side of the story. i don't like one-sided stories and i don't like it when other bloggers laugh just because a one-sided story shows up on survival blog.

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  3. As a newbie, I have learned that there isn't anyone to ask in our area. The old gentleman across the road from our potato patch is experienced, but he can't believe we would use composted chicken manure for the health of the soil. When the "old timers" in the area want to give us chemicals as the answer to all our woes, we have no choice but to resort to books... But I don't pretend to know it all, even if I do blog about it!

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  4. I think AG books, extension offices are great. But When we have had trouble I love that we have been able to call on experienced neighbors, who have been there -done that!

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  5. Reading your article brought back an old memory of two Orthopedic surgeons performing there first knee replacement, They kept consulting a book in the OR ( circulating nurse was turning and holding the pages). I was very glad that I was not the patient on the table.. Dee in the American Southwest

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  6. Wow! Although I agree completely that an "armchair expert" is annoying with any subject, I am flat out astounded about the stupid vegetarian in beef country. How rude, how unnecessary, how small minded and ignorant a statement. As all of us beef eaters succomb to variety illnesses directly related to over-consumption of meat, that stupid vegetarian will hopefully get a laugh. And yes, I raise and eat meat, beef, chicken and lamb, but I will not think someone a fool for being healthy, even in "beef" country. We are supposed to be opportunistic omnivores, not T Rex meat monsters. And while we are at it, all those old timers around me are still pumping their cattle with antibiotic, hormones, and feeding GMO corn, I don't want their advice, I'll raise my meat the "new" way.

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    1. you have some severe problems. is your lithium dosage off? you vegheads are always so weird and so anti-science while trying to pass yourselves off as intellectually superior. gmo foods will some day save millions of peoples lives, you vegheads won't save anything or anyone.

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    2. Reading for comprehension? I am a meat eater, and slaughter my own.

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    3. You are correct, texomamorganlady. I have friends who suffer from gout who could use a little heavy handed vegetarianism. Gout used to be called the rich man's disease because only the rich could afford the diets that caused it.
      As for anonymous, he/she just doesn't understand English I guess. Too many gmo foods. I'm only half joking.
      I did a little experiment with my chickens. I let my friend throw his bad apples over the fence (store bought, chemically laden, and I threw some organic ones that didn't get eaten or made into sauce quickly enough.
      ALL my apples were gone before they even touched the others.
      I did the same experiment again, this time with potato peelings, mine organic, his the usual stuff from the store. Chickens prefer my peelings to his, 100%.
      I guess my chickens are food snobs like me, but trying to fight off whatever autoimmune disorder that is making me miserable is more important and worth the expense of purchasing and growing organically.
      The rest of the world can be saved by gmo's, covered in roundup. I'll do my level best to continue doing what I think is best, even if the old timer down the road thinks I'm nuts for spending MY money and MY time doing so.
      sidetracksusie

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  7. and may i say Amen!!! Amen! backwoods of Georgia

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  8. We ask those around us who have been there done that. We take what we can use, and "store away" what we cannot. We jump in head first but we don't pretend to know it all. We are truly learning as we go. Processing our very first pig today ourselves actually! I think having the wisdom from others is important especially those who are like minded in How we want to do things. I try very hard not to be an armchair expert myself... in every aspect because I don't like to be preached to, and I can listen so much better when I'm the one asking questions instead of being preached to.

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  9. Ha! And don't you just love the militant atheists who love to quote Scripture. Bless their little hearts.
    Montana Guy

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  10. Know-it-alls just twist my gizzard...whatever it is they think they know all about.

    I hope I don't act that way with stuff I know all about.

    Just Me

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  11. If you can't do it, teach it.

    IMHO the time someone is the most dangerous in any skill is when they learn just enough to stop asking questions.

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  12. I'd like to ask the old-timers...

    ...but I run into the same problem others have cited. According to most of the old-timers I've met, you handle fertility with MiracleGro, you handle weeds with RoundUp, you handle bugs with heavy-handed broad-spectrum insecticides, et cetera et cetera.

    Then there's the other one I've run into-- old-timers with a mean sense of humor. Now I like a good practical joke as much as the next girl, but I really don't appreciate the neighbor who gave me bad advice just so he could stand there and laugh at me for being ignorant enough to give it a try.

    Please, folks, don't do that. It makes people decide that they're better off reinventing the wheel-- or just not trying anything new to them in the first place.

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  13. Just out of curiosity-is there something "stupid" about anyone who prefers not to eat animals?

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  14. Armchair Experts! Ha ha ha! I know a few of those.

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  15. As an electrician who works in the solar area I know how you feel. Solar draws all sorts of folks with no trades background, and they are always acting as if their (limited) knowledge is some deep hard gained revelation.

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