Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle - Revisited

This morning, leafing through the January 2010 issue of "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine, I came across two fascinating articles. Normally, I am really more of a "Mother Earth News", "Backwoods Home" "Countryside & Small Stock Journal" reader, but this issue had headlines about getting more organized, so I just had to check it out.

I never found the article on getting organized. Instead, I found two articles that that are notable for their very presence in this "upmarket adult female" oriented magazine. One article was about having swap parties. The idea is that you and your friends clean out and declutter all your closets and basements, get it all together in one spot and trade things, no money exchanged. This is an old idea - and a good one, but not something you'd be likely to read about in BHG.

The other article fascinated me even more. This one was about starting seeds. Starting seeds! Can you imagine? Not going to Lowe's and buying nearly grown tomato plants, but actually starting seed in little peat pots for use in your garden!

Now, among my family and friends, swapping, seed starting and so forth are old news. Very old news. In fact, it's a way of life. But for the readers of BHG, it seems to be a new concept. indicative of the narrowing gap between the economic classes and the rapidly disappearing middle-class. Very shortly, we will see "middle-class" as a briefly transitory state between becoming very rich or, as is the case for most of the country, very broke.

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article for The Texas Ring ( about a similar phenomemon - homesteading how-to books available through the "Doubleday Craft Book Club". Rather than re-write it here, I have included parts of the article below.

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle...

If ever there was an doubt about the feeling of mainstream America in regard to the shakiness of our economy, one need only to look in the places where the average, middle-class lady may be found. One such place is in the crafts & hobbies market.

Having a bent toward being such a lady myself, I am a long-term member of one of the larger crafts related book clubs. Recently, I logged onto that website, looking for a book on building small backyard sheds, something which one can never have too many of.

While perusing the selection of landscaping and gardening books in the “outdoor section”, I came upon several books that shocked me with their presence. Here, the bosom of middle class America’s bookshelves were books on homesteading!

Raising chickens! Self-sufficiency! Keeping bees! Urban homesteading!

Do I detect a sense of uneasiness and/or dissatisfaction in the lives of my sisters? Or is the harsh reality of the future of our society and lives starting to reach even the most cheerful optimists? And rightly so, since our future no longer glistens like the morning dew. More like the hot, dry dust at the end of a parched summer day.

How appropriate to see the beginnings of change in a vehicle such as a crafts club. It will be the womenfolk (as our dear Bill Buppert once called us) with a penchant for “handiwork” who carry the bulk of the preparation and work involved in keeping our families (and possibly farms and small-holdings) alive. It will be the womenfolk who stock the pantries, learn to garden and can our produce, learn to cook from scratch and how to make do with a good bit less than we are used to having. It will be the womenfolk soothing the battered egos and easing the torment in the eyes and hearts of our men as they see so much of what they have worked for slowing dissolving into the sand of a past life.

It is telling that the larger publishing houses also recognize and capitalize on this trend. Is it so obvious even to the publishing houses that our country and society have changed, yet we cannot gain even a hint of recognition of this fact from our own government? When a solid 40% of our population is now owned, financially speaking, by the federal government, it seems plain that we have, in fact, experienced the beginnings of Obama’s “change”, though it certainly is not the change for which we’d hoped.

 The 2008 Presidential Election map, shows the territory won by Republicans was mostly the land owned by the taxpaying citizens of the country. Democrat territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in government-owned tenements and living off various forms of government welfare."

While I would certainly hesitate to generalize all of the pro-Obama voters as welfare or federal fund recipients, I do have to agree that the United States as we have known it is certainly on the downhill slide, and apparently the major publishing houses agree as well.

In a recent story on Yahoo news, it turns out that we, as a country, have a good deal less financial wherewithal that we’d been led to believe. The National Academy of Science uses a slightly different formula for calculating the poverty rate than the Census Bureau, in that the NAS factors in such frivolities as rising medical care, transportation, child care or geographical variations in living costs. Factoring in these items shows the poverty rate to be at 15.8 percent, or nearly 1 in 6 Americans, according to calculations released this week. That’s higher than the 13.2 percent, or 39.8 million, figure made available recently under the original government formula. Currently, a family of 4 making $22,050 is considered at poverty level, according to Federal guidelines. Shoot, that’s most of the folks in the county where we live, except the wealthy folks who have retired here, university professors and government officials. In fact, these days, $22,000 for a family of 4 in our area is GOOD money.

Everyday, despite the placid reassurances from Washington, D.C., we see another indication that homesteading might not be a bad idea. Articles abound telling us that it is perfectly moral and upright to walk away from your mortgage, forsake your car loan, default on the credit cards. We know in our hearts that this is just not true, but we know that it is a hard fact of life that difficult decisions must be made in difficult times. “Shall we buy groceries this week or chip away on the credit card balance?” is simply not a realistic question.

Prepare for a revolution, Friends. It will not come prefaced by the demolition of the Goldman-Sachs lobby, as predicted (hoped for?) by one prominent author. It will come quietly during the sleepless nights of those caught in the crux of the change.

It will come as decisions are made on the family level to abandon the McMansion, the car, the credit card bills, using that energy and money instead to simply stay alive and on our feet. It will come as more families realize that they have sold their souls to the devil in exchange for a pittance of mediocre care. Revolution will come when individuals and families, one at a time, make the decision to stand for themselves, out of desire or necessity, and to do whatever it takes to stay free or become free.