Minimum nut for expats vs minimum for Nicaraguans -- real or imaginary differences

Having lived in poor rural areas in the US and having lived for over a year here, I think that for people without family in poor rural areas anywhere, it's harder to be poor in the country than the idealists and book writers who are profiting off their back to the land stroke books will tell you.

I knew of people in rural Virginia who lived off less than $900 a year in 1977; there are people here who live off less, but in most of the cases of extreme poverty in both the US and other countries, the people who are that poor have access to land and various forms of family and community sharing that are not really available to people who haven't married into the communities. (Not all rural parts of the US are poor -- many near urban areas are quite affluent).

Scott and Helen Nearings wrote the archetypical stroke book, Living the Good Life, which mislead many people without outside incomes to attempt similar lives. The Nearings had money (his Social Security, hers gifts from a friend) and a cash crop (books and lectures). Most people who have small amounts of money coming in (or even not so small amounts of money coming in) discount that money and tend to not mention it in their accounts of their lives.

I've known people who lived in the 1930s and early 1940s on as little as $45 a year in cash money ($698.78 in 2010 dollars, so annually a bit more than I get a month in Social Security). People have lived on less by doing home production of cloth (my grandmother's grandmother, many indigenous people in Jinotega and Matagalpa departments until the 1940s, by saving seeds (Jinotega has over 60 strains each of corn and beans, now being conserved by special work as commercial seed sales take over), by raising most of the food at home, and cooking with local wood (and heating with it in more northern climates). With land, home production of textiles from fibers grown on that land (circa one acre per person in temperate areas for all agricultural products per person, no doubt less in areas with year round growing seasons), and not having many modern conveniences (my mimimum non-subsidized electric bill anywhere has never been lower than $15 a month in the US, but rural coops might be lower), people can support families and won't starve.

But my grandmother's grandmother gave the children the loom to burn when the family could afford store bought cloth with money made growing tobacco for cigarettes. It's a hard life, and it's a life fragile to the whims of others, from land confiscations (19th Century and earlier in Nicaragua, 16th Century to 19th Century in the US), inflation for items that can't be produced at home (kerosene, salt), and taxes, which can end up being land confiscation for people who do true subsistence farming and have very little cash in areas where land values go up.

For someone who isn't connected to the local support systems, going from having access to pumped water, washing machines, relatively cheap entertainment via television or the internet, and an expectation of being able to do things like travel, to not having any of these things is probably harder than most imagine (I'm paying circa $60 a month for cell phone and internet, probably will be able to do it cheaper when I get a rental with a lease; I can do without all sorts of things most North Americans can't imagine not having -- no car, no television set, no hot water showers, no washing machine, but not internet and I prefer to cook over propane and have a refrigerator).

I've lived in the US without television, with wood heat, and without running water. Having to heat or cook with wood is certainly possible, but takes more time than cooking with electricity or gas. Using an outhouse takes more time than having a toilet in the house. Making everything you wear from fibers you grow really takes more time than going to the market and getting some used clothes. Much of these things were women's work in traditional subsistence living conditions.

One of the things I've watched over and over were people learning that a single family actually can't, at least in the US, make a subsistence life work. It takes a community of people living that way to make it work, and once the cash economy develops, more and more people opt for paved roads, electric lights, central waste management, and cars, so taxes go up and people who inherited good farms find that they, too, need to enter the cash economy in more than a token way to pay taxes that are now supporting roads with surfaces suited to automobiles and bicycles, not horses.

The other thing is medical care -- most people who lived in the 19th Century died of their first major adult illness if they survived childhood, rich or poor. Relatively few people who grew up in complex economies are willing to live that way now, and probably almost none anywhere would want to have the sorts of infant mortality rates almost all human populations had before the late 19th Century. Before the 19th Century, a chimpanzee mother had a better chance of raising her second and subsequent babies to breeding age than a human mother on her second and subsequent babies (I believe this came from something Jane Goodall wrote).

Most people who came here from away had some money. We may have more or less than each other; all of us have more than the poorer Nicaraguans. However unless we marry into a family, we don't have the connections for barter and mutual support that those poorer Nicaraguans have (a good book on this is Roger Lancaster's Life is Hard: Machismo, Danger, and the Intimacy of Power in Nicaragua (Centennial Book)).

Most people who "live off the land" here had enough money to buy the various things that made generating their own power possible, had the skills and money to get and maintain trucks, and few are dependent on a cash crop harvested by unskilled labor. None that I know of are working as unskilled labor cutting coffee as part of how they make their livings off the land.

One of the things I've got to do later today is do the subject/keywords for the ebooks which are coming out as reissues on Monday. I'm going to do that before I try to make my own masa from corn and calcium chloride, because long run, I suspect I can buy more tortillas or even corn to make into my own tortillas from money coming in from the cash economy than if I grew my own. I bought a mill rather than found a man to make me a metate.

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Thank you.

I appreciate your thoughts.

When I was young but not too young I went deer hunting with my father, back to the place where he grew up. We stayed in a farmhouse with the people who owned the land. People he knew.

The farmhouse had the joy and comfort of an unheated gymnasium. There was a coal-burning stove in the living room, cheap, worn linoleum on the floors, and an outhouse out back. It was fun, for two days, but not for my whole life.

What I remember most was the pigs. One walked along fence, on the opposite side. It defecated a pile of something. Like undigested oats. With husks. The pile steamed in the October air.

The next pig, following directly, ate it all.

Mostly unrelated but not entirely, recommended for anyone thinking of doing something completely different is a book titled "The Final Frontiersman: Heimo Korth and His Family, Alone in Alaska's Arctic Wilderness". Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Final-Frontiersman-Family-Alaskas-Wilderness/dp/07...

It was written by a relative, a cousin I think: http://www.jamesmcampbell.net/

"Korth lives with his wife and two daughters 130 miles above the Arctic Circle, the only settlers for more than 500 miles...one of only seven hunter-trappers with a permit to live in the 19.5-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

You get some idea of life there, but it didn't really hit me until I read about a day Campbell accompanied Korth along his trapline. One trap held a fox, very much alive, cringing and shaking with fear as the men approached. Korth kept talking while he put one foot on the fox and stood there. Until it suffocated.

Later, the story of his daughter falling from a canoe and vanishing while the family moved from summer to winter camps. Korth did find one of his daughter's rubber boots. No more. She was gone.

He decided never to tell his wife. He knew it would destroy her.

One danger of life is that it takes us where we never expected to go.


No Sniveling!

Appropo to naught

one year today ~"here" huuuum