Our enemy, shame

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 - 11:23pm

Frankly, the reason many preps do not get done, the reason we or spouses or children don't want to make hard choices and spend money on things that might get us through the even more severe economic downturn to come, is a fear of loss of status. Shame about being “poor” robs us of the choices we can make, now, before what people fear but don't want to think about happening--dare I call it a collapse without some folks stopping reading?

Yes, I cloak my very real concern that we will have enough to eat in a collapse as a “passion for gardening and organic food” Yes, I home-can and make things from scratch; so people think I like to be “an old-fashioned cook” when really, I think we will all have to cook over wood, with solar energy, or (if you live in an area that has it) on coal stoves - with simple ingredients. just like the good old days. We won't have a choice. And yes, I have a reputation as a locavore: I'd just like local farms to be producing food when we cannot get it elsewhere.

The woodstove we heat with may be a necessity when electricity is unreliable looks like a quaint affectation. It's “dirty,” however, filling he house with bark & wood chips and ash that must be dusted off the furniture. Company is, frankly, glad they don't have one and seems to think less of us for it.

We got some very pitying looks when we spent Christmas afternoon enthusiastically picking up three loads of fire wood left on the side of the road by the folks who cut limbs away from power lines .People drove by, shook their heads, and tsked.

That has to roll off you like water off a duck's back. Or you'll be paralyzed.

You have to not give a damn what other people think to be an effective prepper. You have to grow a thick skin sometimes.

Yes, I use cloth napkins, handkerchiefs instead of tissues. and we shun paper plates. We don't buy bottled water. And we have solar hot water, a solar attic fan, and a solar-powered charging station. These are not because we are “green.” We are not only saving money to put into things that are important to us; we are starting to live the way everyone will have to. We split wood with an axe, wedge and sledge (we look at hydraulic log splitters and shake our heads - how will you power them when energy gets scarce?)

But when you add all the cost-savings of our preps to our eschewing (avoiding) debt has had an interesting effect. When times around us were “good” we looked poor because we were not 'financing our lifestyle' on credit. Now that things are getting tougher and tougher, the money we save on energy, food, and not mindlessly consuming means that our standard of living, relative to our neighbors, continues to improve.

And we are not ashamed of that at all.

29 Comments

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
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And if the world doesn't collapse...

... then you'll just have saved a bunch of money. Pity, that. :-)

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pinecarr
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Great post, Wendy!

I am convinced that those folks in my rural area who have dealt with hardship and a tough local economy for a long time are going to come out way ahead of those "doing well" now.  Owning woodstoves and wood furnaces is not uncommon around here.  Hunting to get venison is not uncommon.  Gardening to supplement purchased food is not uncommon.  Owning chickens and other livestock is not uncommon.  Like you said, in the past, these were the people we "felt sorry for", because they obviously were tight on money.   But now all I can think is how the folks who are already living this lifestyle are in so much better of position to deal with a collapse than those who used to think they were "above" that!  Those who have not done without creature comforts -food, heat, shelter- don't appreciate just how valuable those assets are!

I also remember a time when I had to pick through a scrap woodpile to get wood to burn in a woodstove to stay warm in the winter.  You don't forget life-lessons like that.  It makes you realize that creature comforts are NOT a given; a belief many living in developed nations have not even considered.

 

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Yes, great post

I agree!  Great post, Wendy.  :)

Oliveoilguy's picture
Oliveoilguy
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Old Timers are Good Mentors

In rural communities there are still old timers who unabashedly life the simpler life out of habits that have never been weaned away from them. I have so much respect for farmers and ranchers and those who struggle to make a living off the land. They have no "shame" when it comes to living a meaningful life. 

They have never adopted, and therefore don't have to discard some of the vestiges of "false civilization" that you and I struggle with in our attempt to find sense in this complex charade.

  

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Completely agree, but...

Wendy, I completely agree with your post.  I, personally, have been either blessed or cursed with the capacity to think unconventionally and to really not care what other people think.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm an INTJ personality type.

But, my wife has not been blessed/cursed by the same characteristic that I have.  She DOES care what other people think, and is still stuck with her head in The Matrix in spite of my efforts to get her to realize otherwise.  For instance, she still brings up things like, "When we are able to sell our house (and purchase a bigger one)," or, "When we retire I want to move to someplace warmer."  Most times I just let it go -- because I love her, and I fully realize that while I am a very intellectually curious person who seeks out opportunities to LEARN about things instead of being ENTERTAINED in my spare time, it's not her.  But once in a while, I cannot help myself but to say something, and when I do it's usually tinged with frustration and predictably is not well-received.

A case in point: I have been cobbling together ideas for installing a used, defunct hot water heater tank above the level of our woodstove in the basement, with a coil of copper tubing wrapped around the flue pipe to form a thermosiphon and use the waste heat traveling up the chimney to the outside to pre-heat our water and reduce our oil usage even further during the late fall and winter months.  From my perspective, it's a classic permaculture design that stacks multiple functions from a single element, leverages a "waste" stream for positive benefit, and makes use of a repurposed resource.  But as soon as I brought this up, my idea was greeted by a far-off stare, shuddering, and asking why it had to be in the corner of the basement family room and couldn't be in the mud room next to the oil boiler.  After I explained that it could only work if adjacent to the woodstove, the reply I got was along the lines of "We're never going to be able to sell this place with all your projects...."

Now, I don't want to characterize all of this in an overly negative light, because after I had calmed down a bit I brought up to my wife that even though she doesn't seek to be aware of all of these things in the world I do, as the man of our house it's my responsibility to take care of our family, which is why I'm working to design increased resiliency into our lives.  And ultimately she was understanding of this and saw it from a different perspective.  Plus, she finally relented and is going along with getting a good chicken flock this spring for meat and egg production.  But I think at the same time, it's important to acknowledge that the concept of "shame" of being different from others is something that some of us have to engage in a constant battle not with the outside world, but with those who may be closest to us.  And it does have the capacity to beat you down over time.

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westcoastjan
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Amen Wendy!

Most excellent post, and thank you for putting into words many of my own thoughts.

You have identified what I think is indeed one of the root causes that prevents people from taking prepping seriously: status.  The global marketing machine has done their job well and seen to it that nothing else really matters. Gotta have it! You are nothing without it! Why else would so many be living vicariously through the stupid reality shows that portray lifestyles of the rich and famous?

The ability to not care what anyone else thinks is a component of emotional resilience - if you believe, and have full confidence in what you are doing, then it really does not matter what anyone else thinks.

I smiled at the topic of getting free wood. I am exactly the same and I cannot walk anywhere without seeing a limb on the ground and thinking to myself I should take that home! LOL  But in all seriousness, I find one of the most cathartic things in my life is chopping wood. It is such a pleasurable thing to do for me, cathartic in so many ways, in addition to getting some fresh air and exercise.  What's not to like?

Richness is a state of mind!

Jan

 

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westcoastjan
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one more thing...

Without a doubt it is easier to "live the life" when one is on their own as I am.  As CAH points out, it is tough when your other half is not on the same page... that definitely takes even more dedication and emotional resilience in order to not lose the faith.

Jan

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Great post Wendy

I had a conversation yesterday with a neighbor that brought home some of the benefits of being a prepper.  He was complaining about recent interactions with a local fuel oil distributor, the money it cost him and the problems with burning the oil when temps drop below 0 F (he has an outdoor tank).  After a while he asked me which distributor I buy from.  I had to inform him I haven't bought any oil in 6-7 years.  I use the furnace only for back up and it rarely comes on.  I still have half a 500 gal tank filled and the oil is burning just fine when it does.

He muttered something about having to get some firewood for his insert stove and went off to renew his battle with the oil company.  I never have problems acquiring firewood at prices far below that of oil.  And, I can frequently work out barter arrangements for the wood.  I supplement that with down and dead wood on my property.  I could supply all my wood needs off my woodlot, but its just gaining value growing while I pay reasonable prices for other people's wood.

Makes me feel a bit smug at times.

Doug

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Free wood!

Wendy, I had to chuckle over your comment about getting looks while cleaning up the wood from line trimmings.  Where I live, you'll get looks too -- but they're looks either of disappointment (for not getting there soon enough) or envy!

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Chopping wood

westcoastjan, you're not alone in finding chopping wood cathartic.  I LOVE going outside on a brisk fall or winter morning, grabbing my axe, and spending a good 30-45 minutes splitting firewood.  It's my gym -- it doesn't required a drive to get there and it helps heat my home.  Much better than lifting weights or an elliptical machine, IMO. 

I've posted numerous times on FB about my "homesteader gym" when it comes to doing things like splitting wood, scything grass, digging postholes, etc.  And truth be told, at 41 years of age I'm stronger than I've ever been at any point in my life.

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It's a mix

I must say around me it's of mix of people trying to emulate that impossible lifestyle portrayed in the media and people who are perfectly comfortable grabbing free wood wherever they find it.  I live in an outer suburb of a smallish to mid sized city that has a mix of upper middle class to wealthy suburbanites, old timers from the days this was only farm country (now it's a mix) and suburbanites who imagine themselves as old timer self reliant types.

And about wood - the power company actually dropped a bunch of trees right on my property near the power line that goes back to the neighbor's house - hickory, ash, cherry and red maple.  They even did some limb removal and cut them into 6 foot lengths for me.  What a gift!  I cut them into firewood length and now my neighbor is going to move them with his tractor in exchange for some of the wood.  When I took my kids for a sleepover at a friends house - at a working farm out in the rural areas - wouldn't you believe, their friends' dad was grabbing cut trees by the power lines down the road.  Of course they have a big old farmhouse and a wood boiler that burns through 10 cords a winter compared to our small house that needs 2-3 cords.

Another interesting note - on our local pop radio station this morning, they had people calling in with their "first world complaints" - issues that would be total non-issues in places where life isn't so cushy.  People really got into the opportunity to laugh at how silly their complaints were.  Things like "I've been working out at the gym to get in shape for my wedding and lost a bunch of weight.  Now I have to wear baggy clothes to work because my budget doesn't have room for new work clothes right now."  When they finish, you hear a little rap jingle "that's you first world - first world - first world complaint."  The DJ actually went on to say - in a very kind way after the caller was off the air - there's no need to lose weight just to look good in your wedding pictures.  Why not just work out to be healthy and feel good rather than to look just right for others?  it seems like there's just a bit of that prepper-homesteading attitude creeping into the mainstream.  The day he says "why not scrap that gym membership and split firewood to stay in shape?", I'll know we've arrived.

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Salvage Activities

I endorse and encourage salvage activities such as picking up tree trimmings, or any kind of material reuse, but keep in mind that a big part of why we're able to do such things is that our neighbors aren't competing with us very much.

As more people get the same idea, we'll have fewer chances to score useful salvage finds. Enjoy the opportunities while they last!

For wood splitting, I want a Leveraxe:

http://vipukirves.fi/

Oliveoilguy's picture
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Executive Order banning Jogging

How about an executive order to ban jogging and require all exercise calories to be expended on a treadmill connected to a mini-generator? I think it would be entertaining to do an analysis of wasted workout calories and how much energy they might produce. I totally agree with chopping firewood Quercus as a great workout. Whenever I see a jogger I chuckle and think of all the stuff they could do on my ranch.

Quercus bicolor's picture
Quercus bicolor
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Leveraxe
Yoxa wrote:

I endorse and encourage salvage activities such as picking up tree trimmings, or any kind of material reuse, but keep in mind that a big part of why we're able to do such things is that our neighbors aren't competing with us very much. As more people get the same idea, we'll have fewer chances to score useful salvage finds. Enjoy the opportunities while they last! For wood splitting, I want a Leveraxe: http://vipukirves.fi/

Looks nice, but at $300+, I'd want a testimonial from someone I trust before I bought it.

Afridev's picture
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Splitting wood

On cleaving wood; two years ago I got the Smart-splitter (http://www.amazon.com/AGMA-10024-The-Smart-Splitter/dp/B000G8OXPY, though I got mine in Sweden). For a basic movie on how it works see http://www.smart-splitter.vedklyv.se/smart-splitter.html. Last year I split about 10m3 with it, and it worked very well; I think it takes me about half the time it takes me with an axe. I also have a hydraulic splitter, but found that the Smart-splitter worked faster on logs <20 cm; bigger diameter then that, the hydraulic one is better. Only gripe is that the nylon bushing will need replacing in the coming year.

While still quite physical to use, it is easier to handle for people with less force/ stamina (I also still use the axe from time to time as I enjoy to cleave wood with an axe :o). The splitter seem quite sturdy, and I would expect it to last (with regular bushing-replacements) for at least 5 years, possibly 10 years, of intensive use.

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More log splitting tools

Anyone used a device like this or know where one is commercially available?

 

or

 

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it's not just firewood

What about people who grow vegetables in their front yards? Even without a homeowners association, your neighbors can be very displeased (there goes the neighborhood.)  The solution, for now, is to do Edible Landscaping: stealth gardening of things that look like landscaping . I've seen perennials like sea kale, asparagus, artichokes, certain kinds of arugula, mint, and other unexpected things in front yards. Here is a favorite: an arctic kiwi vine.

And while, yes, foraging opportunities will eventually dry up due to competition, for now, until our fruit trees mature, we are getting free fruit from a tree no one cares about. I cannot believe what yard-conscious neighbors think about "messy fruit trees.

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Stealth Prepping
Quote:

 stealth gardening

This relates to a topic I've been thinking about lately ... how to prep very, very discreetly.

For one thing, life is a bit easier if the neighbours think you're sane, and for another, there's wisdom in not displaying one's prep resources to those who might covet them.

I've been on the lookout for ways to further boost our preparedness while being low-key about it. There's many decisions we can make where some options are more prep-worthy than others, and I"m trying to be more mindful of the difference than I have been in the past.

I need to be careful, though, because I'm prone to "mindless consuming" and readiness preparation is a great excuse to acquire more stuff. cool

 

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Front yard garden

I planted broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in my front yard last year, more as a political statement then anything else.  I was more then a little nervous about the reaction I might get given that I live on the main street through the village, directly across the street from the school (two buildings, actually, you start kinder garden at one end of the campus and graduate at the other) and that the plot is between the sidewalk and the street so technically it's in the right of way, nothing covert about it at all. I got no reaction, none at all.  I got a little push back when I started keeping hens in my back yard several years ago, but none since I've learned how to keep them from free ranging all over the neighborhood.  I expected some comment when I started keeping a rooster last year.  Again, no reaction at all.

This may be a reflection of the agricultural area I live in (there are apple, peach and pear orchards, blueberries, cattle, dairy, poultry, hogs, corn, wheat, oats and soybeans within 10 miles of my house and all manner of vegetables 10 miles further north and south were the sandy soil turns to muck) or that the transition/collapse is further along in Michigan then I thought (I won't complain about you if you don't complain about me, we're all just trying to get by).  Then, again, there is Detroit, duh.

I've eaten fresh road kill (deer, turkey and squirrel) and a raccoon I trapped in my yard ( you eat my chickens, I eat you).

So, I guess, be the change you want to see,

John G

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Doesn't look to hard to cobble together..
sand_puppy wrote:

Anyone used a device like this or know where one is commercially available?

It doesn't look like it would be too hard to cobble together. Might be nice to know some specifications for the spring. I'm thinking an old leaf spring might work as well or better than a coil spring.

(Time to get out the MIG welder...)

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The Prosperity of Living

Each morning I read the day's message from the book "Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy" by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Some of you may be familiar with it.  The entry for Jan 22 seems especially suited to this thread, and with all due credit to Sarah, I would like to share a part of it here:

"During the dark days of the Depression an editorial in the 1932 issue of Ladies' Home Journal encouraged readers to remember that "The return of good times is not wholly a matter of money. There is a prosperity of living which is quite as important as prosperity of the pocketbook." But the magazine stressed that "It is not enough to be willing to make the best of things as they are. Resignation will get us nowhere. We must build what amounts to a new country. We must revive the ideals of the founders. We must learn the new values of money. It is time for pioneering - to create a new security for the home and family....Where we are specialists in spending, we are becoming specialists in living."

We, ladies and gentlemen, are modern day pioneers, all seeking in our own particular ways to become specialists in living. This is a cause for pride, not shame.  I say shame on those who have accepted societies predicament(s) with resignation, and who continue to follow along with the rest of the sheeple, head firmly buried in the sand, waiting for someone to come along and fix things for them. There's going to be an awful lot of disappointed people...

Everything in this life is hard work. Trying to earn a big pay cheque to live large takes lots of work. Prepping is hard work. But for many it brings great joy, and the knowledge that we are living a truly authentic life. With that comes a certain level of contentment. Given a choice between the two, I'd much rather pursue the latter, for it is much more fulfilling.

Jan

 

Bytesmiths's picture
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Watch out for chimney fires!
CAH wrote:

a coil of copper tubing wrapped around the flue pipe to form a thermosiphon and use the waste heat traveling up the chimney to the outside to pre-heat our water

Be aware that the "waste" heat going up your chimney is performing "work." It gives you a nice draft, and it keeps creosote from precipitating on the inside of the chimney.

I think your creative scheme will make it harder to start and maintain finicky fires, and will require more chimney cleaning — or you'll have more chimney fires!

I do sympathize with your partner situation. It is very difficult to change in a good direction when you can't agree what "good" means.

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Thanks for the advice, Bytesmiths

Creosote buildup is something that I'm aware of and concerned about with this setup.  The other alternative I've considered is to mount a series of "switchbacks" on the back of the woodstove -- but since it's a soapstone stove I'm not exactly sure how I would mount the tubing on it.  Perhaps get a heat shield, and mount the tubing to the inside of the shield.

I don't really have trouble with any fires with this woodstove in its current configuration -- it drafts quite well, especially when I pop a casement window open to get it started.  Plus, I always run it with the damper wide-open.

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
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CAH wrote:mount a series of
CAH wrote:

mount a series of "switchbacks" on the back of the woodstove

Sounds like a better plan, to suck more heat off the stove proper. Without knowing your stove, I don't know how you can make attachments to the soapstone. Soapstone is soft, so perhaps you could carefully drill holes and put concrete anchors in them.

Chimneys want to have a temperature gradient, rather than a sudden change. A chimney fire can ruin your whole day — or merely embarrass you to the neighbours. But if little kids are around, they'll get a kick out of the fire engines. :-)

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newsbuoy
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Two issues, Shame and Responsible Conservancy.

I feel Shame is one of, if not the most important emotion we need to understand about ourselves before we can truly claim be conscious humans. It drives much of how we make choices. So I offer this brilliant essay on the subject by John Guarnaschelli (no not the Food Network Chef but her Dad)

Far as burning wood, a very good friend living in NYC has a wood stove (non-legal) in their loft and has been picking up scraps for 30 years. This person has been living low as a choice not to prep not prove anything but because they are conscientious and there's a lot of wood on the streets.

http://www.woodheat.org/wood-burning-and-the-environment.html

 

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Best article I've yet read on the subject

Cello,

that shame article is amazing.  I read it, will read it again, and have passed it to my men's group.  One of them is a practicing psychologist and has already handed it out as required reading to a number of his clients.

Great find.

We live in a shame-based culture and I agree that getting a handle on that in ourselves (first) is essential.

 

 

newsbuoy's picture
newsbuoy
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Speaking of Shame, here an example of Shaming as Policy

..."Owens, who has worked for the San Diego police department for nearly 20 years, pulled toward the curb and got out of his car. As he approached, three teenagers slowly slunk out from behind an electrical box: a boy, David, 15, whose identity, along with those of other minors, is being protected, and two girls. Heads hanging, shoulders slouched, they knew they were caught. All three were soon searched, handcuffed, and put in the back of cars for the ride to the command post – a local Boys & Girls Club.

Were the teenagers picked up for using drugs? No. Drinking? No. Had they fled a store without paying for their goods? Hardly. Their crime: being out past curfew."...

Life under curfew for American teens: ‘it’s insane, no other country does this’ | US news | The Guardian

Not to be too provocative but...

The Childhood Origins of the Holocaust | The Association for Psychohistory

They'll coming for you, Boomers. Further reading under "Inverted Totalitarianism"

newsbuoy's picture
newsbuoy
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Twenty-third Annual Village of Brothers Retreat

John Guarnaschelli will be leading the next retreat facilitated by the OTCG men's network:

ON THE COMMON GROUND’S

TWENTY THIRD ANNUAL

VILLAGE OF BROTHERS RETREAT

WILL TAKE PLACE THIS YEAR

ON 23, 24, 25 SEPTEMBER, 2016

PROBABLE THEME:

WHAT GOOD IS DOING THESE RETREATS??”

--> PLEASE SAVE THE DATES <--

Location will be Camp Hi-Rock YMCA lodge on Mt. Washington, MA

 

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No shame

If I were worried about what other people think I'd have to stop dumpster diving.
I do it to bring treats home for my chickens and goats, but when I find barely ripe bunches of bananas with the organic stickers still on I either freeze or dehydrate them.
It's disgusting what they throw away with a homeless shelter 2 miles down the street!

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