Country Living Series

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Links of a chain

The one thing I’ve learned about homesteading is that it’s hard, frustrating, prone to failure, and in all ways challenging – until it’s not.

Once all the kinks are ironed out, once the necessary infrastructure is in place and time-tested to fix any problems (fences, anyone?), once the deer are kept out of the garden, once we've made every mistake in the book and then applied what we learned, etc. etc. etc. – then things get easier … and more productive.

I once noted that when things start producing on a homestead, they really start producing. Last summer we didn’t get a nice bowlful of strawberries, we got 160 lbs of them.


We routinely get 1000 lbs of beef back from the butchers.


Our refrigerator is often overflowing with ten dozen eggs and (when I’m milking) gallons and gallons of milk. Corn, garlic, blueberries, onions, potatoes, raspberries, tomatoes, even wheat can be embarrassingly abundant.


I think this encompasses much of what we’ve tried to achieve on our homestead, especially when raising our girls: an understanding of the chain of events, from beginning to end, for many things. Birth and death, planting and harvesting, shortages and abundance.

We also wanted them to see the work that goes into all these things.

Last week on my WND column, a reader made the following comment: “Some time ago, I came to the realization that, living on a farm, a shortage is that there being no more to be had. A shortage in a city is that you do not have the money to buy more. This artificial view of reality is what makes the progressive possible. Progressives have a view of reality that starts somewhere in the middle and they do not believe in the existence of the beginning of that chain. Things come from nowhere, take no work to produce, and exist in quantities where there would be enough for everybody if wealth was evenly distributed.”

I found this to be a fascinating, and accurate, analysis. When things are viewed from the middle and the beginning of the chain isn’t visible, then it’s too easy to reach an entirely wrong conclusion. It’s the old “snapshot” problem: If you see a snapshot of something, it’s easy to assume it represents an unfixed and eternal reality. But the viewer never sees what went into the snapshot. They never see the work and sacrifices. They only conclude it’s “unfair” when someone has something they want.

As an example: Over the years I’ve written dozens and dozens of articles on starting a home craft business. I’ve fended off endless misconceptions about the amount of work and effort that goes into a successful endeavor. A persistent problem is people who want instant success in their business efforts. They see the “snapshot” of a successful home business, and conclude that starting a home craft business is a breeze. Eh, how hard can it be?

What they fail to see is all the background that went into that snapshot. They never saw the years of toil and struggle, the times when we had no income, the customers who ditched paying us, the tools that broke down, the long long long long hours, the sawdust caked with sweat to our skin, the shows where we sold virtually nothing, and all the other tribulations that go into building a business.


Yes, many people see the “snapshot” – but don’t want to put in the work necessary to make that snapshot a reality.

(Incidentally, this is why I have absolutely no envy of rich entrepreneurs. I know what went into achieving their wealth. They’ve earned it.)

It’s the same thing with a homestead. Visitors might see the “snapshot” of our barn, garden, herd of cows, and flock of chickens – and assume it’s always been this way.


They assume we’ve never experienced failures or setbacks. They assume the garden always produced. They assume the livestock always behaved and stayed within their fences. They assume it was all done without any blood, sweat, and tears. (“Blood, sweat, and tears” is a cliché, but a very truthful one. We’ve excreted all three, many times.)

But all this work on our homestead is to avoid what another reader commented about the snapshot generation: that “Life and Reality are mere abstractions: food comes from Wal-Mart, money from some Sugar Daddy/the State, and Good and Truth are mere social constructs.”

We never wanted to live an abstract life. Our girls grew up knowing food does not come from Wal-Mart, money does not come from a sugar daddy or from the state; and good and truth are not mere social constructs.


There’s an old saying: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” But luck, as everyone knows, implies someone didn’t do anything to achieve whatever they got. In other words, luck implies a present situation had nothing to do with past sacrifices.

With the exception of exceptional situations such as winning the lottery, most “lucky” people aren’t lucky. They’re stubborn, they’re determined, they’re (sometimes) desperate, but they’re seldom lucky. They’ve made stupid mistakes and embarrassing decisions, learned from those errors, then applied what they learned to future endeavors which then succeeded. This is what’s known as the Formula for Success.


I guess you might say this is why we homestead. We like seeing every link of that chain, from beginning to end.

25 comments:

  1. Once again you have nailed it! When only 2-4% of the people have to raise all of the food for 300.000.000 + people it stands to reason that the vast majority of the people do not have a clue! If you have money (or an EBT card) you can go to wally world and purchase food. Until the farmers stop providing that food or even the trucks stop delivering said food. At that point whether you have money or not will make no difference. I have been following your family's journey for years and it has be wonderful to see some of your innovations like the tire raised beds come to fruition. Thanks for taking me along on the trip.

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  2. wow, I just, wow. Your writing something profound here and boy did it strike a nerve with me. Knowing that there is a beginning to the whole "production" chain is something I had growing up on a working farm, but I realize now I didn't teach that to my children. I guess I need to do some work. Again, what a pleasure to read something so clearly thought out, well argued and based in fact. You blow me away with your prose. Keep it up.

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  3. VERY insightful. and the analogy about progressives not seeing the beginning of the chain is proven by their idiot in chief saying "you didn't build that." This sure clarifies the motives for voting patterns.--ken

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  4. You've outdone yourself! So well said. And I agree totally. Just too bad I didn't know this 50 years ago when I was a stupid city girl that was afraid to take chances, afraid to fail.

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  5. You wrote that from the heart...some of your best work

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  6. Agaun,what a beautiful picture at the beginning, to greet us. I agree with the others. Thank you for taking us along on your trip - the dirt, stink, itching, hurts and even death. Just the facts of life that in the end are quite beautiful.

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  7. "Luck" is doing what others won't so you can do what others can't.

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  8. It doesn't matter. The 'free stuff' voters want more and you will be taxed to provide it. So, you see, it truly does come from nowhere. I live in Oregon a smallish town a nice town. Two towns in Oregon are far left leaning and all the rest are middle of the road or right leaning. All of us who vote from these small towns cannot compete with the free stuff voters in these two cities. I can vote for politicians who believe in the constitution and it doesn't matter the guy who promises free stuff wins. I can vote for lower property taxes and it doesn't matter because the free stuff people don't pay property taxes. It's gonna get worse over time.

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    1. Move next door. Your vote will count in Idaho. I felt the same in NorCal so I moved.

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  9. Excellent! You really said this well! We also have a home business and I think most folks think because your home your sitting on your backside and money falls out of the sky! They don't realize you have to work twice as hard! We live at 7,500 feet and I call gardening here "combat" gardening. If we are not pounding out leather in the shop we don't get paid! Thanks for calling it as it is.

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  10. Miss Patrice,
    I believe this is one of your best articles. I too have had a small farm, livestock and also ran a small auto electrical business too and you are so right about people see the end results of all your hard work and sweat equity and think it is so easy. Friends and family have told me when times are bad they will come live with us, I tell them flat out with not nice words if you do you might get shot. If you came out and helped me garden, clear brush and chase goats at 2 am then yes you may have a place, if not so sorry Charley. This piece is very thought provoking!

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    1. As I was reading your comment, I had a thought. I have people say they're coming to my house when things get tough. I think I'm going to tell them to come now. Come over every day. I will LET them help me so they'll know what it will be like to live with me. This might shut them up...or maybe not. One thing's for sure, they'll know that I don't allow any freeloaders.

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  11. Patrice, I agree with your readers. You put your head, heart and soul into this article. Wow...

    Families 'building' their lives together sure beats them simply 'living' their lives.

    Montana Guy

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  12. What a wonderful article, all I can add to it is " Amen ! " Dee in the South West

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  13. Well written article...common sense and the process of start to finish is a concept schools no longer teach.

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  14. Hm. We're city folk in a red state, and our food comes from Walmart - and from before there, Mexico and various other places - because we're not willing to spend on Whole Paycheck's organic "local" foods, but I'm damn certain that our income is still earned, and not from a "sugar daddy". Don't stoop to insulting your readers with your petty stereotypes.

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    1. If you were a regular reader, I do not think you could be insulted. I believe you missed the point.

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    2. Yes Anonymous 12:36, we regular readers were stereotyped as 'Deplorables' by the Queen of City People. But rather than reject it we wore it as a badge of honor. We have thicker skin than city folks. Oops sorry! Another stereotype!
      Montana Guy

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    3. Hey city folk in a red state why don't you try gardening on your porch! Or maybe start a community garden. We need to support AMERICANS and our neighbors. Let's all make America great again.

      Good one Montana Guy. Thicker skin comes from hard work, hard knocks, etc.

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    4. I am a suburban reader. I enjoy Patrice's prose but don't always agree with everything. I also think the poster meant that just because they aren't "growing" stuff isn't that they aren't productive people. My husbands job is in the defense industry. I garden, can etc but no livestock on our little suburban plot. But I know the family that produces our eggs, milk and beef, pork and lamb. I do computer work for them and they sell me their produce at a reduced rate. I think everyone in the country has a part to play in the "production chain" whether it is providing for themselves or being consumers of homebased business products. We are co-dependent species. Like any ecosystem there are roles for all.
      Patrice, I again I commend you for such a brilliant article. I have printed it out and have it on my desk with a stack of other stuff for my 83 year old father to read when he visits. Your articles always delight him in that he can relive the memories of the farm without the work! Thank you for producing something of value in electronic form.

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  15. I don't think she was insulting any one. She was laying out the cold hard facts of life as we hard working, God loving and greatful Americans are trying to survive in spite of all the taxation and entitlement programs we have to underwrite


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  16. I have setbacks on my little piece of dirt too. My latest was losing entire hives of bees. I was amazed at the people who thought I should just call it quits. Seriously? They must not know me. I don't give up. Everyone, and I mean everyone, who has ever accomplished anything has setbacks. I'm not defined by my setbacks. I'm defined by what I do when confronted with setbacks.

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  17. “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

    This is known as "bad luck.”


    ― Robert A. Heinlein

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  18. Well said. Here is another thread to these thoughts: a great number of "working" people are actually not producing anything other than paper. Not only do we have a lot of folks not working but many of those who are working are not showing a true increase for their labors. This would contribute greatly to their faulty view of progress and success. Perhaps this is why the left are so afraid of leaders like Trump who demand an increase.

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