Notes on Letters from a Woman Homesteader

Letters from a Woman Homesteader is yet another bit of old writing that doesn’t quite match up to the myths around frontier and pioneer folks.

It’s some letters a homesteading woman from over 100 years ago wrote to a former employer she’d maintained cordial relations with.  She’d worked for the employer as a laundress.  What is fascinating about the letters is that yet again, she didn’t do all the work alone, but routinely had other women helping her, or she traveled to help them.  It is clearly normalized in these letters for the women to go around to each other and spend days or weeks assisting with, well, homesteading for each other, along with the demands of hospitality.  When parties and social events are undertaken, it’s just assumed that everyone (including men) will pitch in to help the individual household tasked with hosting duties.  There is, despite the fact that they all live ten and twenty and thirty miles away from each other, not actually that much rugged individualism.

Also, this woman’s body broke down having lots of babies (six, more or less, according to other information about her life elsewhere on the internet) and working hard.  The letters Mrs. Stewart writes detail multiple instances of being unwell and struggling physically due to pregnancies (and infant deaths/miscarriages) and the work of homesteading. Her marriage was a mail-order marriage, but it lasted and as noted above produced quite a few surviving little bundles of joy out of it.

Mrs. Stewart promotes homesteading aggressively, feeling strongly that however hard that labor is, it still beats being a laundress in an urban metro area in the early 20th century.  She really felt that women should get out there and grab a piece of land for themselves, with or without a husband.  That sort of feminine self-determination is American to the core, being in regular currency prior to the 19th amendment.  American women waving a flag of securing financial independence through earning income rather than marriage is older and as traditionally American as apple pie.

It’s a short read, plus she’s a capable and engaging writer.  There’s a reason her employer sent the letters to be published in a magazine.

The truth about pioneer and settler greed

Something that is always left out of the portrayal of pioneers and settlers as secular saints is how rapacious they were.  FDR’s administration had to intervene during the Depression because whites only a generation or so removed from pioneers were so careless with forest harvesting that they were creating massive hazards and epic forest fires.  There was also the poisoning of water supplies for gold mining, there was the overfishing and rapacious hunting.  The ecological types arose in response to the fairly astonishing way in which (white) Americans were scooping up resources and hollowing out land with no particular thought to keeping it going for some future beyond the next few harvest seasons.

And the pioneers themselves worked hundreds of acres alone or nearly so with the aid of technology so they could have more money.  Wall Streeters putting up 100 hour weeks are working extremely hard, but I don’t see conservatives jumping up to explain how their hard work means they earned everything they have and that we should all look to them as role models for how to really live the Christian life.

Note, I’m not saying the pioneers and the first couple generations following didn’t work very hard.  I’m saying they chased them dollahs until they hollahed and whatever that is, it’s not saintly.  There’s this strain in American conservatism of slaving really hard for any extra profits and I think you have to consider the socialist and communism infiltration in that light.  There was a competing strain that did not win out of using the technology to work only enough to be “comfortable”, a sort of proto-distributism, and it’s very interesting to see it rise up alongside the “gotta get ’em all” mentality of the settlers and their children and even some of their grandchildren.

I have to throw in that “pioneer” and “settler” are terms along a continuum.  Pioneers and settlers were homesteading into the 1950s (Alaska) and there were still what moderns would consider “real Ingalls-style pioneers” as late as the 1920s in parts of the Mountain West and Pacific Northwest.

Dear Conservatives, setting things up so all housewives are drudges is anti-natalist and untraditional

Bullying women into staying home obviously doesn’t work, and yet it appears to make up the whole of the conservative argument for women staying home.  This is one of the core problems with American conservative Christian culture.  It leads to conservative Christian SAHMs putting kids into preschool as soon as the children age into it for breaks because “well, it’s not daycare now, it’s school!” It also leads to those women having fewer and fewer children.  Three is the new five and two is the new three.

Take cooking, as one example. Making stock takes time.  Sure, you don’t have to stand right over the pot, but you have to be in the general vicinity of the kitchen for 3-5 hours for relatively modest amounts of stock.  Now, this is the sort of homemade staple that we SAHMs are supposed to just have handy at all times, but it takes time to make it, and it takes even more time to make huge batches that you then freeze.  That’s a day or two or three you aren’t doing much else.  And I’ve already covered laundry.

As for childcare, we can’t all have lump babies that stay put wherever you plop them and we can’t all have children who hear an instruction to play quietly when they are older and do so for hours on end (this is actually fairly rare).  And the current status quo of spinning the childcare out to public school or preschool is not tenable, because it limits fertility and the false idol of homeschool robs a lot of communities of the stability they desperately need to have a functional school system.

There is no argument against homeschooling on a family level. Parents have the right and duty to educate our children as we see fit, and a state that interferes with this is acting unjustly. On a larger level, however, homeschooling as a movement is extremely uncharitable and antisocial.

Not everyone can homeschool.

As a society, we need schools and other collective institutions to spread the burden of childcare and primary education and to properly civilize and educate young people. But if you saddle enough individual families with the total burden of the care and education of their own children, you ensure that those families will have no surplus to support any such institutions. And this is in fact exactly what has happened. Everyone blames this on the homeschooling families themselves, because when you’re talking about homeschooling families you’re really talking about homeschooling mothers and no one ever passes up an opportunity to blame mom for everything, but individual families are just doing our best in impossible situations.

But people who can’t homeschool are left entirely at the mercy of the world all the homeschooling families have retreated from. There’s no civil society to join run by homeschooling mothers because we’re all too tired. Homeschooling mothers generally don’t even help each other out.

There are studies suggesting that being there when the kids are little is worth a lot less if the SAHM isn’t relatively rested most of the time.  And there is an argument (though not one I would advocate or consider pro-woman) for working while they are little and then, when they need the intensive parenting in teenagerhood, being available then as a SAHM.

This is why it’s insane to set things up so all women are drudges, it’s not Christian or functionally patriarchal. A lot of personality disordered people are able to hide out in “traditional womanhood” because there is an irreducible amount of domestic work and right now, that burden is going to fall on women. People can fantasize about it being different but right now, that’s how it is. Moreover, very few people can make more money than their labor is worth at home and very few couples can split the work effectively, for exactly the same reasons jobsharing doesn’t work, which is that you need a manager.

Much of femininity and marriage is socially constructed but you can socially construct it well or you can socially construct it stupidly and marriage and patriarchy are BETTER so who cares if they’re natural plus, Christian patriarchy is the only society that supports female liberation so stop sawing the branch you’re sitting on.

Lastly, women used to produce concrete results in their domestic work.  The industrial age was a rapid process of removing those concrete accomplishments from the domestic sphere and replacing them with vague repetitive tasks like driving the kids to activities (which goes all the way back in America to the 1920s!) and endless cleaning up kid messes and of course our dear friend laundry.  Those things are not terrible or wrong for mothers to do, but the conservative approach to the whole thing is to lie to women that they never had any other aspects to their domestic work and that they should delight in the abstract repetitive slog with no clear results at the end of each day.  Women then run to “crafts” in a flight to concrete accomplishment, and then are mocked for the crafts not being sufficiently useful or practical.  It’s a vicious trap.

Anyway this is all just random notes accumulated over time so if it doesn’t read like an essay, well, it’s not. I don’t know how to help women get the concrete aspects back for domestic labor when it’s simply not essential to survival anymore.  Our household has lived a pretty agrarian lifestyle and we ended up back in upscale suburbia.  And that’s pretty much the core of the problem.  The concrete accomplishments of my agrarian living helped alleviate the stresses of the worst of modern housewiving, but it couldn’t actually work long-term, which is why “be agrarian LARPers” is not a general solution to a general problem.  Even if people keep proposing it as one every 15 years or so like clockwork for the last century and a half.

Why Diversity is Bad for Sustainable Farming

Sustainable farming is all about the horrible exploitation of Mexican single mothers and slightly smarter brown women creating one middle-income job with benefits for themselves along the way as administrators of various “incubators” for small-scale vegetable farming.

What does it have to do with conservatives?  They could Notice that the stable farms producing local or regional food are not part of some baksheesh scam, but in fact are family enterprises that return profits and are mostly farmed by intact Christian families.  They could also point out that the “diversity” push is actively removing farmland from production and leading to less food produced over time, rather than more.  In the examples above, most of the land isn’t being farmed and what is being farmed is plots barely larger than a backyard garden.  The women farming those plots are worse off than actual sharecropping, because they’re never given enough land to make a full time income from, but they’re also not allowed to farm the entire plot as a group for the “incubator”.  It is the worst of independent “farming” of a backyard plot combined with all the regulatory hassles of having many masters as in a full-on collective.

There’s also fun stuff like requiring the immigrant single mothers to take college courses (that they have to pay for) to maintain access to the plots they do farm.

This is so horrifying I’m just going to put it up as it is and not try to expand on the numerous other examples of “sustainable” evil out there.

An insurgency post.

Wrote this back in 2018, and in 2021 not only has almost nothing changed, the behavior of the right in the last couple of years has only made this more bitterly accurate, not less so.  

There was some recent talk about insurgency on the right from Larry Correia and Vox Day.  I did read a lot of the comments, it’s always the same stuff with commenters to such posts.  They have elaborate action plans for that day gun grabbing door to door actually happens.  Endless examples of it already occurring cannot possibly get in the way of their latest round of wargaming on some dude’s blog.

That said, I’m doing a GIRLY GIRL GIRLISH insurgency post.

One thing comments in both posts get right is that current efforts to confiscate guns en masse have had pretty low uptake, less than 10% is extremely typical.  However.  The left has very successfully been using the soft power of threatening people with losing their jobs over the latest gender trip or any number of other lefty isms, so it kinda doesn’t matter how many guns you have, they won’t buy much food if you’re fired for using the original name of any number of people who “changed their gender” or if you laugh at someone who thinks peanut butter sandwiches are racist.

That’s the thing none of the insurgency posts that are a semiannual right wing staple want to work through psychologically, that the left already has us occupied and dominated.  And yet we aren’t #Resisting.  We tried via the soapbox, and they yanked it out from under us, and then many of our own said that was the right thing to do.  We tried via the ballot box, and they can’t stop breaking every law known to man while screaming about how the people we voted for are the real lawbreakers who just need to admit to the crime of not being Democrat politicians.

We’re also denied the jury box, with an army of antifa waiting right outside any courtroom at the drop of a hat if you vote to convict non-Republicans for committing crimes.

So am I saying the last box ‘o’ liberty is something people should use right now?

Nope, not even once. I am saying that it was all talk, it’s nothing but talk.  Right wingers like being under the yoke of genderfluid woke fruitbats.  They are desperate to “be witnesses” to those people by agreeing to everything they say, so long as it’s only on social media.  Or at school.  Or at work.  Or in the caverns of one’s private mind.  The people endlessly whining about white supremacy remain the sorest winners in the entire universe.

The real insurgency will come when people are more interested in sacrificing for their beliefs (whether they be Christian ones or non-Christian ones) rather than crawling on their bellies before hysterics who can’t be made happy no matter how much power they have and continue being handed outright by supposedly “racist” and “supremacist” (mostly) conservative (mostly) Christians.

And unlike Larry or Vox, I know it won’t be any 650,000 strong.  It will probably be more like 65,000 or 6,500.  A fraction of a fraction of a fraction.  And what that looks like I have many, many guesses about, none of which you’re going to see on this blog.

What makes this a girly insurgency post?  I’m a woman who knows very little about firearms.  All the guesses I have about how a radicalized Small But Serious Fraction could make the sore winners finally experience a consequence in this life for the evils they’ve visited on everyone else don’t even involve guns.  And many of them are things the insurgency-LARPers haven’t even considered, because women reacting in womanly ways after being radicalized beyond hope or fear doesn’t even compute for them.

 

Hedonic substitution and the myth of poor conservatives being middle class

Hedonic substitution in economics is buying ground beef instead of steak, or the Pinto instead of the Lambourghini.  People also engage in hedonic substitution.  It’s a hallmark of the conservative worldview.

Living in low quality housing, with one car in a car-centric society, eating a meatless or low protein diet, and yet all the while asserting that you’re middle class.  Homeschooling is often another hedonic substitution.  One hour once a week “co-op” is suddenly equivalent to 15k/kid/year private classical school and will definitely give you the same results.

It’s about telling people who have to substitute cheaper versions that they aren’t substituting at all but instead getting something for nothing because they’re just so smart and middle class.  And also not distinguishing between the people who can choose something else and thus aren’t operating on such tight margins.  The oft-cited (and mostly historical rather than current) statistics of children homeschooled by mere high school graduate mothers leave out how many of their fathers were engineers and STEM types.

While the median household income for married couples with under-18 kids is about six figures and has been even adjusted for inflation for decades, it’s still a median and a bunch of married folks with kids will end up on the low half of that median.  And instead of them being respectably poor or working class, they’re instead endlessly encouraged to engage in elaborate substitutes that cannot give the same result or benefit, but which would be superior if they weren’t being used as substitutes for something more expensive in time and/or money.

This approach also lets the higher-earning households avoid awkward social obligations and relationship building that used to be present even in individualist America out of a combination of ingrained habit and necessity.

Support production of CAFO-resistant animals.

One might ask what this has to do with conservative living, but it’s quite simple.  Animals that do not mesh well with the heavily industrial food production system can support a more distributed, robust food supply that is not controlled by a small number of centralized superproducers and their revolving-door government attaches.

What animals are CAFO-resistant?  Ducks, geese, goats and sheep breeds optimized for grass/hay feeding (so, not dairy sheep).  There are other CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) resistant animals, but those are easy to find and the learning curve on raising them is not too hard for someone with no background in rural living (which is nearly all of us these days).

CAFO-resistance simply means that when you try to crowd the animal in conditions similar to what is done with chickens or pigs by the ten thousand, you lose production rather than maximize it.  Goats can’t really be feedlotted, and many breeds of sheep are unsuited for it as well.  Ducks and geese can fatten without purchased feeds at all and also don’t thrive with the small amount of space that permits chickens to reach market weight or lay eggs.

Now there is a trade-off.  There always are, though.  These animals were dropped for cattle and chickens precisely because they don’t take well to overcrowding and high inputs from the farmer.  They need more space, but they produce well and are reasonably scalable to small and medium farm sizes.  One thing there’s no shortage of in America, though, is land to raise hardy breeds of livestock on.

Taking a step away from the cow/chicken/pig triptych when supporting or attempting homesteading and small farming is an essential component of having a functional alternative to the current food system.

Accept the implications of real community, not community of affinity

Those implications are that it’s not about your social life and only hanging out with people you think are groovy.  It’s about the reality that if you want institutions to persist when unusually charismatic/high energy people are not running them, you have to work with and spend social time with people you would not otherwise be inclined to hang out with.

Interestingly, for all the conservative rhetoric about real community, they are just as interested in only being around people who are “good fits” as everyone else.

Affinity as the primary socialization mechanism is a sign of a degenerated culture.

Offer aid and shelter to each other

H/T to Cane Caldo, who has been discussing this topic in a few of his most recent posts as of this writing.

Conservatives tend to be cowardly when it comes to helping each other out.  They hear the sneers of “white men’s club” and “old boy’s club” and “glass ceiling” from more liberal-leaning media (and sometimes even friends and family) and allow themselves to be pressured out of helping and supporting each other in times of need.

This is not always true, just as it is not always so true that liberals protect their own (as post-1970s black radical liberals found out to their great and lasting bitterness), but in broad general terms, liberals are much more likely to provide couches for years if necessary, jobs if they have them and plenty of food to eat when one of their own falls upon hard times for saying something impolitic.

This is something that modern conservatives have forgotten in aggregate.  Using fake names to post crimethinky things on the internet isn’t really the problem, it’s the idea that nobody has your back among real people you live and fellowship with, much less the affinity groups you stumble into online.  It is not loving, it is strange.

Having said that, however, offering aid and shelter to each other should come in defense of those who speak of normal life as normal and of real things as Real, not liars, dissemblers and hustlers.  This is actually less strict than the Danegeld liberals levy for succoring their wolves among their sheep.  We can do better.  We can offer aid and shelter to each other for speaking true things, real things, honest things, and cast out those who are just wearing the skin but have wolves’ claws.

There is a difference between discernment before bringing forth the casseroles and couch-surfing and straight out cowardice.  I seem to recall a very Good Book that explains how we can tell the difference….

If your wife can’t stay home without generating income, she needs real work, not a blog or pyramid scheme

The title says it all.  Blame pregnancy brain for this placeholder of a post.  I shall return this one day when I’m a little less gum-brained, but I wanted to post a little at least about what I mean in the title.

To be blunt, if your wife has to make money while she’s at home or else you all have big financial problems and she can’t get a job outside the home for whatever reasons, then she needs to do something real for money.

Too many housewives who have to be economically viable beyond canning and couponing get caught up in the pursuit of professionalism in their work-at-home endeavors.  So they turn to monetized blogs and pyramid schemes because you “join networks” and “build inventory” and sometimes get to wear a business suit or go to a conference.  Such things are just traps, sucking money out of families that really need every dollar and further devaluing the actual work at home they could be doing for money.

Seamstress, egg lady, taking in other children, cooking for working parents, taking in hand washing: these are just a few of the real, normal, historical things housewives have done for money that can still be done even in isolated exurbs.  Mostly they don’t have corrosive and ongoing costs that are difficult to break out of and they scale up or down to individual families and the strengths of individual women.

There are other options beyond these, but the common theme is slightly more than what is done for one’s family, just enough excess to sell for a moderate profit.  Maybe not a “real job” where you sit at a desk and have meetings about synergy all day, but real work that is useful to one’s local community and one’s real bottom line.