Country Living Series

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The advantages of being a country bumpkin

When we think about the Great Depression from the 1930s, we think of the images of pathetic apple vendors on New York City streets, or people lining up for soup kitchens, or families fleeing dust storms billowing over prairie landscapes, or other grim scenes. We hear stories of hardship handed down by our grandparents. We remember the sad cases of people losing everything they owned when the stock market crashed.




What we don’t hear very often are people who (mostly) escaped the hardship and deprivation of the 30s altogether... because they were independent farmers in parts of the country not hit by drought.

Reader Sidetracksusie left this comment on my Why Be Normal? post which was so fascinating I didn’t want it buried. She wrote:

An old rancher in Wyoming shared with me that he was not aware there was ever a depression: he had no stock in Wall Street, only stock with four legs; no money in a bank, only what was in his pocket. He rode out to care for cattle every day, cut hay with a team of horses, ran his simple irrigation ditches, fixed his fence with tools and wire he all ready owned. He pushed cattle to mountain pastures in the spring and brought them back in the fall. He didn't have tv, radio or a newspaper. He just had his work and his land. Prices of beef went up and down. He never have many clothes, and no fancy ones, but kept a good heavy coat, gloves, hats, scarves.

He found it strange that "normal" people thought they could make something from nothing and would jump off buildings (something he read years later) when they found out it didn't work. He was happy he lived in what he learned was "fly-over" country.

My mother's parents fared those same years in much the same way…they were poor and raised every bite they ate, buying only salt and such. No savings in a bank that they "lost". Nothing much changed for them, other than they shared what they had with more people. Country bumpkins that were probably looked down upon, previously, and that in years to come, were most likely looked down upon again, living life simply by the labors of their hands, content to sit on the front porch and visit, to play cards with the extended family and neighbors, to have potlucks after church.

They had little but I guess they had enough and they seemed secure and content for as long as I was honored to have them as my grandparents on this earth.


This is an intriguing notion -- to be independent enough that an economic depression more or less passes you by. It shows the strength and benefits of tangible assets (cows, garden, chickens, etc.). Being a "country bumpkin" has some advantages, I guess.


I know it's not possible to be entirely immune from another economic depression -- but it's not a bad goal.

30 comments:

  1. My fathers family of three boys/men and four girls/women worked together with their mother and father to turn a mere acre of land in a small town into a garden that fed the family. During that time some of these adult chidren had their own families but still rallied around the family home. Two of my uncles and one of my aunts worked outside the home and my father worked outside and at the home. This allowed them to get through the great depression. When my father married in 1933 my mother and father converted a chicken house on the property into their home. My sister was born in that 10'x16' "home" a year later. The stories my family had and told about the great depression made a huge impression on me growing up. I remember one time in frustration not understanding the complexity of it all one of my mothers answers struck a cord. I kept asking why they didn't do more or try this or that etc. She said that no one knew it was that bad and no on knew it would last so long and the government kept telling them things were getting better. If they had only known in 1929 that their discontent would last for 11 years they would indeed have done things differently. But no one knew and the government lied...

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  2. Good post. We cannot all be independent farmers today, but we can all do something to make ourselves less dependent. My personal plan is to start by doubling the size of my garden and replace the decorative landscape with an edible landscape..

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    1. This is always a good idea. When I used to work in a garden center, frequently people would come to me for help because they wanted to grow a veggie garden, but didn't feel they had the room.

      I'd direct them to plant food trees and shrubs in their landscape instead of just decorative ones....beautiful cherry and amelanchier trees instead of arborvitae. Blueberry bushes instead of yews. Strawberry plants instead of grass.

      My customers were always encouraged by the advice and followed through with happy hearts! Many times they would come back to me and tell me how they picked their first cherries off their very own tree!

      There's always a way!

      Just Me

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  3. I have also read those who kept their jobs during the depression lived quite well too

    Sadly the government has had eighty years to make sure those who cannot be touched by a depression are even more of a minority now.

    Most farmers couldn't make it without the government subsidies these days and as I look around I would say 80% or higher of the locals who call themselves rural all get a government check of some type or another.

    My guess is the number of truly self sufficient people out there today is a mere fraction of what it was in the 1930's. This next mess we have coming our way is going to make the 30's depression look like a calm Summers day.

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    1. Not just subsidies. Alot of farmers dont know how to feed their own animals without a nutritionist, and feed truck deliveries every week.
      a lot of them cant plant without a soil conservationalist or ag extension agent telling them how/what/rotation/ fertilizr.

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  4. When everything falls apart, and people will lose what they have in
    the bank, no one will be able to spend $40 or so on the mugs that
    you sell for your income. I would find it educational to hear your
    thoughts on what you will do to keep the family farm. What will
    you do to make enough money to pay the bills, that you are not
    already doing now, besides your mug business?

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    1. Those of us who have been following Patrice and her family for years know her mugs are not her only source of income. We know that she and her husband Don are highly intelligent and resourceful. They are survivors who give the rest of us hope. Your negativity shows your lack of hope. Hopefully you'll read more of Patrice's articles, learn a lot more and lose a lot of that negativity!

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    2. If I had no money...and wanted one of Patrice's mugs...I'd barter with her for one which I am sure she would happily consider. Life isn't always about the money.

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    3. I understand what you're saying here: Who's going to buy a non-essential item when there's not even enough money for essentials?

      The wood-work business is only one prong of income for the Lewis family and I see it as adaptable.

      In a crisis situation, you're right, there may well be no money to buy luxuries.

      But, there will still be a need for items like tool and knife handles, wooden buckets, bows and arrows, yokes, traditional maple tree taps, walking canes, children's toys...

      And if those prosaic items are made with an artist's finesse, all the better. Ancient Native American arrowheads and spearheads are still prized to this day for their blend of utility and artfulness.

      Resourcefulness and ability to adapt will take one farther than we might imagine.

      Just Me

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    4. I had two thoughts in mind when I asked my question
      at 10:52. l. Many farms were lost during the depression because the owners living on the farms couldn't pay the property taxes. 2. A few years ago, Patrice wrote asking for our readers advice and ideas on new things Don could build to add to the farm income. These mugs are a luxury, not a needed item.
      However, I have 2 more thoughts on items that will be needed that Don could make. 1. That clothes drying rack that he made to hang from the ceiling with pulley system. When the grid goes down, no electric dryers. This drying rack on legs could even be moved
      outside and put under one of those 10x10 picnic tent tops that are everywhere, to keep the rain off. 2. A
      kit built smoke house. Kinda like the ones used on, the Discovery Channel "Alaska, the last frontier". It looks like a mini outhouse, with a door. The Fish is hanging from rods. Make it into a kit form, so people can re-assemble them when they get their order.

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  5. Fabulous post! Simply fabulous! My guess is that at least 80% of the people below the age of 40 today would have no idea why this post was so compelling. The younger ones will fare even worse. They don't know how to make anything (or indeed that anything 'needs' to be made - everything is always 'there' for them and always will be). They don't know how to fix anything. They don't plan ahead because they have never had to. Just In Time... that is a major demon today. Just In Time deliveries to groceries stores so that there are no reserves for more than a day or two. Just In Time deliveries to pharmacies, lumber yards, DIY places, etc. This alone has enabled our world to go to heck in a hand basket much faster than any one ever thought, and most people cannot see.

    As I was just telling someone today, this is NOT the world I grew up in.

    God Bless us ALL,
    Janet in MA

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  6. Hi Patrice!

    It occurs to me that you could use information on how to stack firewood in a tractor bucket now that you have your own tractor.
    You can get a lot in each load if you know how.

    I wish I could draw on the computer! It would be so much simpler but here goes:

    You put the first row on the bucket so that they are just balanced not to fall out, leaving space behind them. Then, as you fill the front up you put wood sideways behind them as you go. When you get to the top of the bucket, put the last row so that it goes under the top lip of the bucket and make it as level as you can. Then begin a row with half of the wood on the bucket, half on the wood below. Stack this up letting the sides go up at an angle so they stay on.

    The next trick is to maneuver the tractor without jerking and losing the wood! My hubby is really good at this -- he has driven a tractor since kindergarten -- and yours will get that way soon I'm sure. It also helps to position the bucket so it doesn't need much adjustment up or down from filling to unloading.

    Hope this helps you!

    Your Central Idaho Admirer,
    Anita

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  7. Hey Patrice!

    That comment was FYI, not necessarily for publication.

    Anita

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  8. One great-grandfather was a well off merchant in the 1930s. He was pulling in $11,000 a year during the worst times, and even had a chance to buy half of Mission Valley (San Diego area), but declined because he didn't think it'd be a worthy investment. Then... he lost most of his money betting on horses in the 1940s.

    My other great-grandfather was making $7 a month during the great depression. He then went onto buying stocks in the 1970s, like IBM and the likes. At his death, he had a bit over a million dollars.

    It's really astounding how people approach the same crisis with different results.

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  9. My father was7 when the Great Depression hit and my mother was 2.

    My father came from a family of 11 children, my mother from a family of 4, I suppose my mothers family would have been larger but her mother died when she was 10 Both were raised on a farm, so they never went hungry.

    I remember stories of how my grandmother made dresses for my mother and her sister from flower sacks. Were they poor? Yes, but only from a materialistic standpoint by todays shopaholics standards. They had all the necessities of life needed to live day to day. My mom and dad never felt they were poor growing up. Living on a farm provided their day to day needs.

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    1. That would be "flour sacks". That wasn't a Great Depression thing that was a country thing. My mother born in '43 wore those. Women would search through to find enough matching fabric for dresses.

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  10. Now I am blushing…thank you, Patrice.

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  11. I saw and was still thinking about that account by sidetracksusie later that evening. I love the idea and it's a great story. What is not addressed are three realities of life; the mortgage, farm insurance and taxes. Apart from these three bills more people could afford to live more simply and quietly.
    However, if you don't already own the land outright, or your parents give you some land, you have a mortgage.
    A friend's family barn burned last week. The herd of Angus cows and yearling were saved but they lost two large steers and a winter's worth of hay. Thankfully they have their cows but now have no way to feed them through winter. If your barn burns, how are you going to replace it?
    And taxes. Ah, taxes. If you can't pay 'em, the government isn't going to allow you to stay on your land anyway!
    I'd love nothing more than to stay on our farm full time. Lord knows there's enough here to keep me busy! And, without those three major bills, we'd be able, probably, to squeak by with what we can produce and sell. But the reality is we all have to cover those three bills somehow no matter how simply and quietly you live.

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    1. There are 12 countries on earth with no property taxes. Some of the best ones have cheap land in rural areas.

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    2. You are too right!!! Wherever people have to pay Property Taxes, no one owns their land. This is all by design. Sure, you can have your mortgage all paid off and not owe anyone a dime and own all of your cattle and buildings outright, but if you don't pay your Property Taxes the Gov can come and take it ALL away. Too many people don't know this or don't care.

      Something to consider.... There is now no safety anywhere outside of the Lord's grace and protection. And no amount of money is going to fully protect you from what is coming. The #1 preparation step should be to have yourself and your family safely snuggled in at the Throne before you take another step. It is truly the wisest Prepper Tip you will hear. 8-)

      God Bless,
      Janet in MA

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    3. In some states there is something called "homesteading" laws. If you homestead the goobermint can't take your property. They can put liens against it that must bee paid after the owners die and the people who inherit it take over or when the owners sell the property. As an owner of a homesteaded property I have found out that mine can not be taken from me as long as I live and don't sell it. Just an FYI

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  12. That's what my grandparents said about their experience in Arkansas. They were already in a "Great Depression " so they didn't have anything to lose. Everything was just business as usual when times got hard for the rest of the world. Their lives just went on as usual. They still struggled along and took care of each other as best they could.

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  13. I believe in the stock market too, the ones that lay eggs and the others that oink and moo. If a person has hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank, its not making much money in interest, and they don't have the use of that money while its sitting there. One good laying hen will give me a profit of $40 a year. How much money needs to be invested to get that in interest? And all I will have invested is $30 in feed. Besides that, she will give us fertilizer for the garden. A tomato seed for 10¢ will give us at least $10 worth of tomatoes.....and so it goes. I believe working at a garden is a very sensible thing to do.

    Although we have wood heat, and can cook on a wood stove, have a few animals, garden, etc., I still don't feel totally prepared for what might lie ahead, because I don't know for sure what we will be dealing with, marauding gangs, an earthquake could break all my jars...thank goodness that we are able to do what we can and pray a lot.

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  14. Great article! Here was the "money" statement for me: To be independent enough that an economic depression more or less passes you by. Good golly! You put it all in perspective! Prepping, storing, off grid-blah, blah. It is all summed up in that beautiful statement! My mom was 9 when the Depression hit. She was the last child of 12, and my grandfather had a previous 17 from the first marriage. All of the family: kids, their kids, their spouses, boy/girl friends, centered at my grandparents old Victorian. IF you are creative, my mom said that one chicken can feed 12 people. Everyone able worked any job that would pay, including children. Dogs were fed cornmeal mush sometimes but at least they were fed. All of the family worked the garden. Today, families are so fractured and hostile to one another. I wonder how people will survive when it all hits the fan.
    Thank you for that beautiful statement. It is going on a sign to hang in my kitchen! A good daily reminder of independence! -Stealth Spaniel

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  15. Being self sufficient should be all of our goals. However let us not for get that population size and lack of God is going to be a very hard thing to defend against. Hide things well and be prepared for the worst. Live stock will be taken, pantries will be raided and so on. IT WON"T BE LIKE THE 1930's THIS TIME. This is reality...

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  16. I am at a point where my short and long terms goals are to be self sufficient. I suffered a TBI 5 YEARS back and am getting back on my feet, lost mobility etc and a wife. Its all good. I bought property and a home , that I own, it is simple but mine.

    I am in the process of building my first chicken house and hay barn , never had any carpentry skills, using alot of scrap lumber , recycled. Also have a solar system I put in , only a few panels for now as I can afford, but in case of emergency we can have some power. I have baby chicks for the first time , and will be planting a garden in the spring. I am learning exponentially and reading everything I can get my hands on , I figure if one man or woman can do it , so can I

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    1. Good for you! Sounds like you are a man who refuses to quit. Put your faith in God's love and divine providence, keep that tenacious spirit, and you will make it.

      I'm in a similar situation, and wish you were my neighbor. We could watch each other's back.

      Blessings!

      Son of Liberty

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  17. I found the comment you quoted interesting. But I would like to point something out. From what I gathered the rancher didn't have a family, he seemed like a bachelor who worked his land. Tough times look very different when you are feeding 1 vs 5 or more mouths.

    As for his cattle, well he lucked out that the government didn't come and slaughter them to help balance the market like what was done in both TX and OK.

    I think we should be prepared for another depression but unfortunately the gov't doesn't allow a man to live as free as this rancher was. I fear that when the big one does hit, preppers will be singled out and forced to give us their precious goods. We aren't living in the thirties anymore, no one can truly hide anymore. I just trust God for his protection and keep preparing.

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  18. My grandparents fared much the same way. They had enough abundance that often they would take excess chickens to families that they knew needed food.

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  19. I sure hope it is possible to be immune to the next economic depression Patrice, because I fear it'll most likely be the country's last one...

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