Monday, November 9, 2009

Forget Congress for a Few Minutes, Read a Book

Suppose you were an idiot. Suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
- Mark Twain

After listening to the House “debate”( right-that was a debate?) health care Saturday, I just want to run away. I will say here that the lone Republican to vote for the house bill was a surprise. Representative Cao voted for his constituents' needs One in how many?

But instead of thinking about the rest of the representatives, let us pretend our Congress has a collective brain-I know that is a real stretch. So let us pretend that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Well, no let us pretend we don't even have that fear to fear for a few minutes. (That stretch is not quite as large as the stretch about Congress having a brain.)

There is a little, but large in terms of information, book entitled: The “Have-More” Plan for A Little Land-A Lot of Living by Ed and Carolyn Robinson,Macmillan Company, NY, 1947.

My spouse and I have owned this book for years now. Every so many years after one of our many moves, we would drag it out and read from it. Though the book was written in in the mid-forties it is full of useful information.

The preface starts with a short rehash of the family of 200 years prior. Writing about the total self- reliance of family, here is a quotation from first paragraph of the preface:

There was no unemployment but no real security either. A drought, a flood, even a potato bug could mean ruin. Life was almost all work-men and women were old at thirty-five. Approximately one out of three infants died before the end of its first year.
(The “Have-More” Plan page ix)

(This chart is a good reference showing infant mortality since 1950. It is the one I found that didn't have a political bent. This chart shows 6.9 infant deaths, under 1 year, per thousand for all races.)

The author goes on: "In the past fifty years the completely self-reliant family has become rare indeed..."

And further the author writes about finding the happy medium between being totally self-reliant and totally dependent on others:

We believe such a man will fare better on the average over the years than the man who depends entirely either on himself or on other men for all the necessities of life.

Now part of what I love about this book is that some things don't really change at all.
These quotations below as found on page 85 are great examples:

Evidence is beginning to appear showing that soil and freshness all affect the mineral and vitamin content of the food we eat... Steam-table restaurant fare has a fraction of the value of properly home-cooked foods....
...Out at Ohio State, experiments show that about 43 per cent of the “fresh” vegetables sold in stores have lost the biggest part of their vitamin content.

The book is full of charts, illustrations, and pictures. There are quotations of letters the Robinson family received after the first publication. $50 From a Single Nut Tree is one such letter about the usefulness of suburban pecan trees in GA. (see page 124)

On page 105, Chapter 13 begins the information about berries and grapes. On that very page the mulberry is mentioned as one of the “something a little different” choices. How about that. But, what is a “youngberry”? (I found a definition ) a trailing bramble of the southwestern US that is a hybrid of a blackberry and dewberry with large sweet dark purple fruits.

Here is a suggested fruit tree “Simplified Pest Control”... “good sulphur-lead arsenate mixture” I don't know about you but I think that sounds a little on the WOW side of pest control-lead...! I don't like any pesticide but I sure don't want to mix my own. (page 123) On the same page-I do love this why-didn't-I-just-use-my-head idea: ...the fruit that falls before picking time can be saved if you put hay or straw beneath the trees to prevent bruising.”

Though around here, I would watch for insects and molds living in and under the hay or straw. Some may not be welcome depending on where your trees are located.

How about the section on “How Much Time Does a Cow Take?” found on page 213. On the following two pages are charts about the costs and the returns from your “Jersey Cow”. (I hope you don't have high cholesterol.) The Robinson's consumed and sold the dairy products from their cow. If you want to know for them “...Total expenses for the year that included her milking and dry period amounted to $158.07.”(215)

The last chapter in this wonderful book is Earning Money in the Country with the last section being called “Ribbon Cities”.
What is a “ribbon city”? ...By that I mean that stretching out from practically every city and town are roads where the traffic goes on all day”
page 314 (Note the all day).

A personal note here on the "ribbons". Where me and mine live now, the traffic on our ribbon has grown tremendously in the past few years. We were so spoiled by the “peace and quiet” after moving here from Atlanta 18 or so years ago we now sound like the old grumps we are. (Everything is relative.) Our dogs go crazy as the “city bicyclists” use our road now. “Why the traffic is so bad now it is unsafe to cross that road to the mailbox.” (It always was. We live at the top of an blind hill. When the wind blows hard, which it often does, you can't hear the traffic either. What does that tell you about the awful traffic now-a-days?)

Back to the book.

To the women readers, there is a “Letter to the Wives” from Carolyn Robinson found on page 11. Here are some sentences you might enjoy:

Out here on our wee farm my husband really needs me and I, in turn, could not get along without him.
(page 12) and on page 13,
“...One secret I have found is not trying to keep a spotless house-I have decided it's a waste of time....”
(She is assuming I keep a spotless house. I gave up years ago when “we” retired and our son came back. I still would like a spotless house if anyone wants to volunteer.)
A little further on the same page:...
”In fact, many duties are easier. Children require less attention and time while they are playing.”

That last part can be true but be careful if your “wee farm” is too close to the “ribbon” or you have a child that likes to roam far and wide in the blink of an eye. I taught mine how to pound and poke the trails in the wooded part of the hill with a walking stick so the snakes and other critters knew he was coming. “They don't want you any more than you want them.” I said. Turtles were fair game though when they came into the yard. Oh, but that is another tale.

So here you have it another book review of a great older book. I hope you can find a copy and read it for yourself even if you don't intend to have a “Have-More” Plan for A Little Land-A Lot of Living. Maybe you can find it through your library.

Now here is The Have-More Plan in today's world: Detroit

A couple of places you can purchase the book The "Have-More" Plan. and Or Google it and you will find many places to purchase the book.

The picture is from my oil of our "wee farm" facing our "ribbon".


  1. I like the picture. It sounds like an interesting book and when I can; I will try to get one (trying to tell myself "no" more these days). My wife and I studied and thought about living more on our own for a few years. I think, I am too lazy now to take on this kind of adventure. But, the reading would be good, so I hope to remember to get a hold of a copy.

  2. The book is fun even if you just read it with preconceived notions either way.
    Sometimes the things people thought at certain times is interesting.
    The letter to the wives is not exactly feminist.
    But as we say, I am past the point any more and the spouse says he still wants to but I don't see much of it going on.
    It is good though to know you can if you need, NEED, to do so.