Only after dinner

About once a day I sit down to write a post about how we could work together and across friendships and neighborhoods and families create our own food systems to potentially feed, house, and employ us all endlessly when the moment inevitably comes that we need.

I’ve farmed long enough to know we could dent the grocery bills of hundreds just making use of our backyards and right of ways and waste space. Hell, we’re already burning gas to keep down the grass. Crops or ruminants may actually be cheaper maintenance.

If we had that sort of back-pocket resource, we’d all be so much more free to pursue our dreams and personal agendas. If we knew we were fed, employed by a few hours of chores and housed, kept, even if no one wanted to take a chance on hiring us or God forbid the economy does what it always does, by design, every decade, recedes. (Considering America has never reached full employment, even at its best, hasn’t our economy been in prolonged depression from initiation?)

I want to write this post, but I know the reply, I know almost no one hears farm and thinks freedom. But I’m telling you, rice and milk was the great epiphany of Buddha, and Christ filled his career with food production and economic analogies and culminated it gathered around a dinner table, where equality is implied, reflexive, no longer good or right, where loving your neighbor is as simple as passing the plate. Equal share. You ever notice this? If you ever make it to the dinner table with a person, how the inequalities and social divides and economic distinctions disappear. No one divvys out portions based on anyone’s net worth.

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe the answer waits at the end of all these earmarked budgets and policy debates and legalese liturgy. But I don’t feel crazy. And I’ve heard society sputtering ever since I came of age out of it into the world we left out of it. The real world. Universal, base need. Hunger. Thirst. Need for shelter. Starving for the culture that surrounds these things.

So, to sum up, every day I want to write this post that ends in dinner. That dinner becomes our primary goal. Food, the greater movement. All conversations, talks, arguments over divides and distinctions, only after dinner.

Toys

When people don’t think on timelines they think combines are a more practical way to harvest wheat. One farmer can go out and clean up a hundred acres without breaking a sweat. Until one of the blades break. Or some component deep down in the blocky engine. A tire retires on the early side of evening from a nice rusty screw stuck in its hide.

A sharp sickle at the end of a stick, what breaks first on it? Makes a human like a tree with a strong trunk and wide shade casting shoulders. Some of the most hardworking people I’ve ever known were afraid of shovels. Afraid of going slower. Garden hoes and self propelled push mowers.

Lovers of gadgets and vinyl seats and hands vibrated so long everything you touch for an hour afterward feels feather soft, or hands numbed altogether, blood shaken out from muscle clamped veins like clay spits out rain.

Toys. Tools.

This job would be easier if we had a skid steer. We should wait on the Bobcat. Hey man, if you let me bring over my gas powered stump parter we could stack this whole mess up faster. Until that rubber fuel line with the imperceptible cracks and spaces decides to come apart altogether. What about when you don’t slip your hand out quick enough, and you lose the most costly game of rock paper scissors ever. Just so we’re clear, we are always the paper.

Engines are the ugliest, dirtiest, rankest form of immortality ever engineered by mortal hands. The inspiration behind them seems the thinking of toddlers, banging blocks together, and having the realization one could turn wheels and tend flowers, if we could only trap and harness continuous revolutions of banging blocks.

I’ve always had bad luck with having people work with me, because they almost always go straight for my toys. Chainsaw. Weedeater. Tractor hovered over a finish belly mower. I’ve seen them break. There are thousands of dollars in contingencies associated with almost every single one of them that are invisible to anyone who has not paid for it.

This is why thinking on a timeline is so important. There is a point where the horse and steer surpass the tractor and combine and no till seed drilled planting and acres of insect and non-soybean armageddon. What we might call old technology, is a more redemptive, tried and tested form of immortality, with recognition of limitation and need built in. No moment of anger or surprise when the shovel handle breaks off right at the neck. No matter how slow I chop, or weak my grip, or strength in back, or numb my feet and fingers become, I have the means to repair all of them, or an ability to self-repair is built in to them.

If you can’t see why economy loves gas powered and oil blooded technology replacing wood handled and everlasting iron tipped tools, I don’t have the time or space here to teach it.

It is clear. It is comparing 10W-40 to water. Without a combine, how many people would be needed to tend those hundred acres. Just what is this half a million dollar machine intended to replace, a bunch of time and energy and stress, because in that regard, it is very much hit or miss. But consistently, regularly, dependably, it replaces what used to be an entire community of employment, housing, and opportunity surrounding agriculture. A massive, ever-expanding, predominately cashless economy built on trade, interdependency on land management and food production, cheap simple machinery and lots and lots of animals and people pursuing common ends.

A true example of something that fulfills all the expectations of the word sacrifice is impossible if not thinking on a timeline. A lasting farmer, in charge of an operation that will foreseeably still be running in two, or three hundred years, supporting a family, and a community, and a nation of communities, is impossible without making sacrifices today for that eventual tomorrow.

For all the modern conveniences, the bells and whistles of high tech agriculture, the returns and prices and community interest in farming is lower now than it ever was back when our great grandparents were chasing mules and lugging buckets of water up from the creek bottom.

What’s different is the prioritization they placed on timelines. Our ancestors sacrificed comfort, ease, access, because what they were building toward was greater than anything they could imagine within their lifetimes.

Whereas in stark contradiction, today, we buy gadgets, tools, air conditioned cab tractors so that one farmer can comfortably do the work of hundreds, and pay thousands and go into debt to repair their great giant community substitute. And to think I hear awestruck and wonderment from farmers about how little people understand what they do, or seem to care at all about the source of their food. And I know why. Because whenever you talk to a farmer, the first thing they tell you about is their toys.

The Farmer – Opening Paragraph

Why don’t we think how little control we have over basic life everytime we set an alarm at night? What a nasty trick to play on ourselves. Set a digital trap to ensnare any shred of our senses first thing in the morning. This one first thing in particular, began at five AM, because I had to be at the farm by seven, and I had to have a half a pot of coffee in me before then. And I liked to read and write during that time. I love the early morning. Just as soon as I’ve slapped the sleep out of myself. The most productive hours, I call them, because of how they melt away without much mental cognition into small piles of finished projects and completed records. Beginning, middle, and end. Every sentence. Stacked back to back each paragraph. Every follow after chapter. Until you’ve created your very own titan. A champion the gods themselves must descend and deal with outright. Jesus Christ, we’ve been seeking out an honest terms contest with God for a long long time.

The Almighty Dollar

Modern money is idolatry. Its very existence is a social contrivance. Like a lot of human institutions, it is representative, more so than authentic. For our ancestors, one of the stupidest, and most dangerous form of savings, was money. The wealthiest derived that status through land possession, crop stores, timber, chattel. Money was a placeholder, a tool for conversion. Lots of things have been money. Metal. Salt. Beads. And now, green pieces of paper and your hard fought credit score.

It is a relatively recent development. Even just a couple hundred years ago, money didn’t mean nearly what all it means to us now. You could have no money to speak of whatsoever, and live on your land, and eat from it. This idea that taxes just take a percentage of something that already exists is false. Taxation requires any land owner or laborer to convert some of their time or assets into the almighty dollar. And considering one of those trade goods is priceless, invaluable, and rare, and the other is as cheap as you need it to be, we always end up losing out on the conversion. We’re taxed. Even people who can only work a little, and are on food assistance programs, they get taxed. The goal is for all of the economy to pass through this government sanctioned, printed, malleable tender. Even if it is being spat right back up on people left in unsustainable economic conditions. Our government has become a glorified middle man. Our ancestors wouldn’t understand this.

I just wonder, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, why can’t we, as a community, simply take stock of our needs, and the ability of the lands within our regions to produce and meet that need. Instead of taxing our food producers and forcing them to convert their labor intensive products into money, why couldn’t some of those required taxes be rendered in providing food to the community, jobs, housing, even arts, culture and entertainment. I don’t know if you’ve read at all about what farms used to mean for people, but the idea of running a monotonous, one crop operation was almost unheard of. Very rare. Once, farms were cultural and economic institutions. Seasonal jobs to offer, cheap or even free housing for workers, hosting community events and celebrations. Fairs and concerts and markets.

Why would our government not want to send hungry people to this sort of place to get food, and possibly short term employment, or housing? They’re already taxing the farm, why not give a call, and ask, instead of these tens of thousands of dollars we were going to force you to render at peril of keeping your assets and freedom, there are three thousand people in your area on government assistance, what could you do for them?

That’s a good question, why exactly would our government not simply operate as a big picture, national seamstress quilting all the various agricultural regions together to form one solid, cohesive food system that could actually outlast the almighty, yet highly mortal US dollar. Don’t they care about us? Haven’t our leaders seen how currency is prone to inflate, and shrink back. I mean, by design, capitalism, our current form of economy, creates a recession or even a depression every decade. Don’t people lose all their savings even in mild recessions? Could we research what happens to the suicide rate during a recession, or god forbid, depression? People literally, and in more than a million ways, die with the dollar.

So this seems to me an insufficient vehicle to distribute basic resources we all require to maintain the little things, like breath, and open eyes, and a body that works, and a reasonable mind.

I don’t have some inscrutable authority to determine the rightness or wrongness of any issue, but same as you, I do have the ability to say there are some issues that truly effect all of us equally. Such as access to food, water, shelter, healthcare. Products we expire without. And knowing how many of those requirements exist naturally, easily on a farm, I wonder why our government talks about agriculture systems so infrequently.

Not really. I don’t wonder. I’m being ironic. It is because farms are true government. The first government. And that group of men who gathered up on the east coast and claimed to be this country’s new government, were mostly farmers. Problem was, they didn’t want to be any longer. So they became judges and congressmen and senators, and established a system that would allow their children to not to have to be farmers also.

If a farm is run right, and smart, a person could disappear into one like a black hole, and never be seen again, except for at a produce stand, strand of grass hung out from their mouth, while they turn a little bit of their best corn into petty cash, just to have some pocket money.

The base of our economy should be a barter based, agrarian community of farms, connected by foot trails and train tracks and highways like ivy vines all leading back to that rooted base. A productively laid back home place. People should be able to wade into it like a kiddy pool beside the high dive and sixteen foot deep end of the rest of the economy. Mark ups and tax rates are disrespectful and dangerous when they stand between someone and their survival.

Food, water, and shelter are not appropriate commodities for purely monetary economies.

Which, ironically, was the way it always was, even back when America was established. Everybody had a back-home and family farm they could retreat to when their city endeavors were taxed too high, or like we have now, a government that refuses to operate outside of its own self preservation. We literally have a system of government where our leaders can never make an unpopular decision, because they have to be elected again next season. Most of our workers are paid by the hour, so the harder and faster they work, the less they take home.

Why have I never read these ideas before? It’s like every other person who has this realization thinks forward, launches into new systems buried in the ideals of socialism, or the standardization and equality of communism. But I look back, just a few hundred years, and this is exactly the agricultural world our ancestors lived in.

Money was a trifling, mostly seasonal object for them, a vessel for trade, and security, so one could sit back and feel safe, and manifest their own autonomy while they lived off the food, water and shelter almost every piece of land on earth can provide.

But now money is being worshiped. This is beyond the borderline of idolatry.
The whole economy has become its sanctuary. And I really don’t believe in irony.

It’s just that survival is scary.

And money, the almighty dollar,
makes for a great place to hide.

Disagreeable Animals

It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy, to mean it isn’t an accident. This country is not broken. We are. Because that’s what the men who wrote our constitution were dealing with. A divided population desperately being translated into a divided constituency. England left slavery alone in America, because that is all America was to the British Empire. Slave labor. Pillaged resources. Raw goods, for industrial ends. The idea that under Britain, we would never own our farms, but if we were culpable only to Americans, we would. Talk about a powerful campaign promise. That’s all freedom really was to our founders. It is not a conspiracy, but was not an accident, that they did not address the liberty of all the people living within their country. How a leader can preserve the self esteem of thousands on the oppression of hundreds. Someone to look down on. The rejects, and runaways, and the chattel of Europe, and their African slaves. If they were not evil in their initial intentions, then they were certainly turned over to the idea by time. Look at who we are today. We are the inevitable, flighty, judgmental result of our ancestors. This was not an accident.

It was also not a southern tradition, or some small, easily discounted regionalism. America owes its existence more heavily to African Americans than any other group of people. This is the motivation for racism, untrue, identifiable, quantifiable hierarchy. Undelivered respect.
And the guilt it inspires.

Emancipation did not end slavery. Slavery, the word, does not mean the incarceration of one group of people in one country during any certain period of time. The people at the top, going all the way back, use the subjugation of others like caffeine. Slavery is in our prison system, it lives in welfare programs, and minimum wage, hourly pay, two weeks off a year careers. Slavery is the lack of having any other real, substantive option.

And if you did not participate in some form of income generating activity, where would you live, what would you eat, where would you go that you would not owe a single debt?

It is not some great conspiracy. But it is also was not in any way on accident.

It’s agriculture.

We, the people, are being farmed by the same poor standards we subject our animals to undergo. Taking the horns off goats so they don’t hurt each other. Castrating cattle. Separating mothers from babies. Not evil, just specific to a very particular context, that if taken out of that context, has a very similar shape, make-up and the same sordid potential of anything we would agree to call evil.

Up until now, no one has really been trying to shape a sustainable, viable society.
We’ve been building and expanding pastures. Fence lines. Tethers. Barns and locked pens.

Doing it outright to others is actually a highly successful method of pulling the wool over the eyes of people having it done to them. All the little pecking orders animals in cages establish over one another. Whispering conspiracy theories about those towering shapes that show up to trickle grain into a dish, or clean the water tub, and leave us some hay. Do they love us? Is that why they’re feeding us? Then why do we disappear one by one as our offerings shrivel up, why aren’t we guaranteed life outside of productivity and use? Did they shape all of this for this purpose, to keep us confused, yet working, ignorant, yet dutifully pulling the cart, for fear of a lash from behind?

It’s just, humans can’t be fully domesticated. The wilderness is written into our curious consciousness. We’re the shepherd creature. Through evolution, we learned the latent power of the universe.

Revolution.

And until we invent a system that truly guarantees our freedom, a pasture with a gate any one of us can open, we’ll have revolution after revolution after revolution. Just as we see when we study our history.

I refuse to believe we’ve been earnestly investing and upholding societies that break down this destructively and this often on accident. We’re too smart for that. It’s not a conspiracy that government has been used more as a tool for control than an actual mechanism for organising access to the basic needs and protections for entire populations.

It’s just inconsiderate, bully farming. But humanity makes for a precarious subject.
A creature that rivals goats at breaking down and betraying barriers.

We all need resources for food, water, and shelter built into our local communities.
And if we are living in a system that can not or does not provide those resources,
we all need the equivalent amount of commercial value that would allow us to sustain basic life.

It really is that simple. Leaving us in conditions that demand payment for items we die without, breaks down our sense of community, it lends tender to the fire of prejudice and division, and keeps us hungry, and reactive, unsettled and under stress. Essentially, our society doesn’t feed or water or house the chicken, until after the egg has been laid. Which is really poor farming. Most of us who have raised chickens provide a safe, warm environment, clean water, good feed, months and months before an egg is ever laid. And even when it grows cold, and the production slows, we don’t. A good farmer still pays into the livelihood of animals that are not currently returning.

“Is it really as simple as that, Jeremy?”
Yes. It really is. Society doesn’t need to organize our social lives, or tell us how to chicken. We really just wanted government to make sure the things we need to stay alive get distributed evenly to all of us, because no matter who or what we are, we cease to be any good to anyone without them.

Reading the headlines, scrolling through timelines, if I knew nothing else of America, I’d say every American had a full stomach, a good roof over their head, clean water, the protection and rights that come from any decent shelter. Four walls and tin roof and all. A big old yard outside to roam around, and a little help fending off the dogs. Which I know isn’t true.

So I’m asking you, if it really could be that simple, will you at least consider it?
That all sorts of issues we’re facing as a nation could be solved if there were a little more feed in our dishes, and if we, all of us, had more free time in the yard? That we wouldn’t have to take the horns off the goats, if they had space to explore their instincts and roam.

We need to start at the beginning, and experience a bit of the lives of our ancestors before we step boldly into so-called new worlds. There has to be a quiet, tax free, simple, self made life in the country available to every person, in order for a puritanically economic system to still be called freedom. Or every citizen needs to be provided with the economic equivalent of what it takes to sustain basic life in the town or city.

That’s it. That word, free, we’ve been throwing around for so long, that is what it has always meant. To be taken literally, free of required expense, or payment for products that can’t be boycotted, because they are essential to life. Every living thing has a right to the break neck pursuit of staying alive. Governments should exclusively be a facilitator and ally for us in that pursuit.

Humans are a precarious, particularly devilish animal on a farm. They refuse to lay their eggs in cages. And the human grazes only where the grass is greener, won’t live right not knowing what’s on the other side, for better or worse. Whinnies like a horse, and chatters loud as chickens. They make little plans, and take the screws out of wood, and dump their dishes and peck the farmer, when kept cooped up in pens, and solely within fences.

I get it, government. It’s not some conspiracy. Certainly wasn’t on accident. But up until now the pursuit has been better fences and pens. It has. No reason to deny it. You wrote out a Bill of Rights for us, but we never returned the favor, and put down our bill of rights for you.

Food.
Water.
Shelter.

Everything else we need from you will be lessened once those things are covered.
Like roots. We only see a tower of leaves and color.
But just to stand, just to argue, just to be someone hated by everyone,
you still have to have eaten, had water, and slept somewhere out of the weather.

So what we can’t agree on everything.

Governments, farmers, by necessity, must be impartial.
They feed and care for us all, just so we can get back to the business
of being disagreeable animals.

Farm. Or be Farmed

The farmer kills chickens when he is hungry, and Japanese beetles,
when they are too, clipping his corn. The farmer still does it.
Crushing shiny bodies between finger and thumb. Red guts.
Wiped on long wagging green tongues. But the beetles keep on.
Out around twelve, more toward dusk. Man has a husk. Armor.
Which can be pierced, eaten into, through.
And chickens, beetles, they do too.

I suppose the farmer feels bitten. Harmed.
And this is why he ends them all. Big or small.

Farm or be farmed.

The Freest Labor

Start building your farm in your brain. Don’t wait for land or lumber. When each nail is set, it damages the wood. Change is not the nature of nails. They’re not meant to walk back. So hold off on the expensive heavy stuff until you’ve done the brain work. Bricks lighter than light and concrete clouds that flash up and move on like summer storms. Learn. Slide up eyelids like barn doors wipe across wide short open mouths, spitting out horses and cows, and goats in molecular droves. Listen. To the names of creeks.
Legends recorded in no legends.
Word of mouth myths. Tell one story to every twenty. Farmers will give away their life’s works secrets for ten minutes of real committed roadside conversation. Don’t waste it.
Don’t wait to taste it. Don’t make them regret it.

Start your garden in your brain. Till it.
Invite the stories and criticisms of other farms in to disc it.
Commit to learn. And to listen.

Dream. Not the kind that find you asleep.
But ones that wake before the sun is up.
Dreams that wait at the bottom of a coffee cup.
Build it. Write it. In the cheapest journal ever sold.
Brain paper. Mind stuff. The freest labor. Human thought.

I like to say, if you lack perspective, you require imagination.
One or the other.

That’s one of the primary problems with human imagination.
It makes it hard finding a good excuse to wait to start anything.

Animals

Back of the throat, out through a double barrel twelve gauge nose.
Hoof smacks hard earth. And drags. Once. Twice. Three times.
Then open eyes, contact and hold. Horses. Undulation always.

Curious little tickle of a sound. Cracked opened mouth.
Pupils flat lining. Sweet feed pining.
Unhelpless hapless little mammals.
Goats. Have you heard, a herd?

Pushed around light as a plaything by one.
Whipped hard like a little boy’s baby doll.
Like you were one of them?

Another reason I love animals. No rhetorical questions.
Rhetorical anything. No rhetoric alone. Flat teeth
stained mustard roots. Bow brown. Wet chin.
Ankle thin. And thick headed.

Where there are a lot, you call them livestock.
When there are a few, you call them ‘hey you’.
Old goat. Old horsey coarse. Ye sheep.
Not something you own, but something you keep.
Live stock. Mute slave. Sit high up on a saddle
like steak stacked up on a dinner plate.

But need is need.
Regardless the animal.
Never mind the breed.

And we do, so much, and so money.
For what is a farmer now, except for fences?
And that is the ticket, isn’t it?
To answering rhetoricals.

The fallacy of believing you can own a living thing.
Simply because you keep it in a pen.

There is no freedom on either side of the fence.

The Billionaire

Have you ever had a billion anything? Let alone dollars with unquestionable, government-insured value. Once you get enough money to feed a single generation of your family, you start squirreling away nest eggs for your grand kids to make omelets with later on, and their kids, and so on. No one has a billion dollars. Not even the humans in the world who do. You see, there’s this funny thing about money. It actually all exists in a state of perpetual gambling.

It’s an investment, you see, because if there were to be some hiccup in society, I’m not sure how far paper money will take you. It requires a lot of institutions to be in place to funnel all of us to be so dependent on one form of trivial, flighty currency. Never before has it been like this. Never.

Salt used to be money. Grass. People even. Never flimsy green printed paper. There are shepherding policies all throughout our government that keep us herded onto this singular commercial token. First off, taxes. Can only be paid in dollars. Though value has infinite forms. No matter your trade, your content, your product, your crop, before you pay the debt you owe to society you will have to convert it all through greasy means into our economic system’s sole currency. And you will lose out in the translation. You always do. In fact. You’ll be taxed for the sales transactions you were forced to commit in order to exchange that little morsel of prized value you wrought from life and effort. My time is money. Why am I not invited to offer two weeks of labor to pay any tax debt I owe. Why can I not grow food, are there not welfare programs in place to provide food to people in need? I have land. You know. You’ll see where we’ve paid taxes on it as long as it’s been in my family. I could grow you some food, or build some housing you could offer, or I could show up with a shovel and give two weeks of labor.
A couple grand worth by my own math.

The things we don’t question. It’s not on accident.

My dream is a different form of economic thinking for the rural areas of America, and the world as a whole. An agrarian, barter based system where we are only bound by our mutual need as a community. You have to know the creeks that part your land don’t end where your property line is. You’re not being a good person, or a good neighbor, by considering having a formal relationship with the people living and farming in the area around you. That’s called common sense. We could do half the work we are putting on our government if we intentionally built communal and agricultural infrastructure in our local areas.

National, global issues, they’re like advanced courses you only take once you’re near the end of your major. They’re not for everyone. Most people only want a basic, general understanding of what it takes to be alive, to sustain any substantial, generally happy life over time. The prime focus of any person should not extend further than fifty or so miles out from where they live. Where they’re rooted. Water systems. Growing seasons. Sustainable agriculture. Barter-based local businesses. Education. Recreation.

Then, when our lists are marked off, the chores are done, we can sit on our porches and fail to imagine a thing left to do. We light our pipes. Cross our legs.

Rock back, and ask, so what’s been going on with Kanye West?

Farm or be farmed.

The farmer kills chickens when he or she is hungry.
And Japanese beetles when they are too. Killing the corn.

The farmer still does it.
Crushes reflective bodies between finger and thumb.
Red guts wiped on long wagging green tongues.

The beetles keep on also.
Out around eleven and on toward dusk.

Man has a husk. Armor. Which can be pierced. Eaten into. Through.
And chickens, beetles, these things do too.

I suppose all farmers feel a little bit bitten. Harmed.
And maybe this is why they kill them all. Big or small.

Farm or be farmed.