SubscribeStar Saturday: The Second-Hand Economy

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A neighborhood friend of mine and I have worked out an arrangement regarding my fig tree and grapevines:  I provide the fruit, he provides the jelly (before he gets angry, let me clarify that he actually makes preserves, and they’re delicious).  It’s a pretty good deal for me:  he and his son come by and pick figs (and grapes, soon), converting them into delicious preserves, which I enjoy after the fact.  All I do is keep the plants alive and give him access to my property.

Earlier this week, he and I spoke for a bit after he and his son partook in some morning fig harvesting (God is Good—it’s been a bumper crop this year, and the figs haven’t gone entirely to the birds and the beetles).  We talked about the figs and the muscadine grapes that will be ready for harvesting soon.  In doing so, he pointed out all of the possibilities in our neighborhood for similar collaborations:  those with some resource or item (in my case, figs and grapes), and those with the time and inclination to put them to use (in this case, my neighbor making preserves from them).

In years past, I’ve shamefully let my figs go unharvested, letting the brown birds and beetles strip the tree of its fruit before I could get to it.  One year I managed to get maybe a half-pound of figs from the tree, but my own negligence, coupled with a busy schedule (not to mention South Carolina’s intense summertime heat) has dissuaded me from picking the luscious fruit.  Even having gotten the fruit, I’m often at a loss as to what to do with it, other than pop full figs into my mouth.

Thus, the magic of this arrangement:  my neighbor has the time and the knowledge to put my resources to use; I simply have the resources.  He gets a good portion of preserves, and I get to enjoy some jars, too (and they’re really good preserves).

Regardless, in discussing the beauty of our arrangement of the possibility of other such collaborations around the neighborhood, we also discussed how much stuff—not just fruits and vegetables, but just sheer, material stuff—is just sitting around, unused, waiting to be put to some higher purpose—if only someone with the know-how, time, and ability could come along and put it to use.

The possibilities exist for an entire second-hand or recycled economy.  How often have you driven past someone’s home—usually way out in the country somewhere—to find their yard or a half-open shed full of goodies untouched by human hands (even if touched quite extensively by the ravages of time)?  But that junk—one man’s junk is a another’s goodies, I suppose—is actual, usable stuff—it can be put to good use.

In an age of hyperinflation, the expansion of a second-hand or cast-off or recycled economy takes on a whole new level of attractiveness.

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Allodial Rights

I’ve made reference before to the concept of “allodial rights” or “allodial land rights,” the idea that a person’s land is his, completely and absolutely.  The land is not a grant subject to the authority of any king or magistrate, or subordinated into smaller plots under one governing authority; rather, the land belongs fully to the landowner.

When writing my piece Saturday about the Dukes and their struggle with the Town Council in Society Hill, South Carolina, I found a piece at The Center for Social Leadership on the topic of allodial rights.  The piece argues that allodial land rights—which are the norm in the United States—differ from those of the feudal system.  In a feudal system, the lord or king of a land controls all of the land, and leases or grants that land to subsidiaries with certain fees or obligations to the lord in exchange for the use of the land.

Under an allodial system, however, every landowner owns his land free and clear (or has the potential to do so), and is not subject to any higher authority in the use, maintenance, and disbursement of that land.  He is, essentially, the king of his parcel.

Of course, that’s never completely true.  The use of the land is subject to the restrictions of local ordinances.  Some towns enforce certain minimum standards of upkeep, and issue fines for particularly dilapidated and dangerous structures on private property.  Local governments assess property taxes; if those taxes go unpaid long enough, the government can and will strip you of your land.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Homesteading in the City

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Recently I’ve taken subscriptions to Backwoods Home Magazine and its sister publication, Self-Reliance.  Both magazines are treasure troves of information on how to be, well, self-reliant.  Backwoods Home focuses more on handy projects around the homestead and garden, sprinkled with articles containing recipes for canning veggies and baking homemade bread.  Self-Reliance seems to cover many of the same topics, just maybe with fewer recipes.

A major emphasis of both publications is establishing and maintaining a functioning homestead that is as self-supporting and sustainable as possible.  The authors often acknowledge that such an ideal may be impossible to realize in its truest, Platonic form, but point out that it is still an ideal worth striving toward.  Besides that grand ideal, though, the publications are very practical—how does one go about doing all of the tasks and completing all of the myriad projects that maintaining an independent homestead requires?

The goal of near-self-sufficiency is maximal liberty—if you can grow your own food and raise your own livestock, who cares if your employer mandates The Vaccine for work?  You can just live off your land, at least until you can find a job that doesn’t force you to inject yourself with an experimental drug.  That requires a great deal of hard work and focus, but the reward is freedom from the whims of the workplace and the world.  We all know corporations and even smaller employers are growing more woke by the day; in the case of big corporations, following the popular “morality” of the day to keep up appearances is more important than the well-being of their employees.

As someone who would like to raise a few crops and maybe some chickens on my little half-acre, a local story here in Darlington County, South Carolina, caught my attention.  A couple in Society Hill, the Dukes, has around thirty-one animals on their forty-four-acre property, which sits within the town limits of Society Hill.  Their livestock includes “chickens, goats, cows, horses, hens, a duck and a rooster.”

The Town Council for Society Hill passed an ordinance limiting livestock to six chickens and two “equines”—horses, mules, donkeys, etc.—on property within town limits.  The Dukes were apparently in violation of an older ordinance from the 1970s that limited livestock numbers on property within town limits.  I’m not sure what those limits were, but it seems Society Hill’s Town Council believed it needed to update the ordinance.

There are multiple issues here, which are reflected in the Council’s 3-2 split on the ordinance.  The Dukes claim that the current Mayor of Society Hill, Tommy Bradshaw, is targeting them because Dwayne Duke seeks to challenge Bradshaw for mayor.  The Dukes also claim that their animals are used for emotional support therapy for trouble kids.

Neighbors, however, fear that the Dukes plan to turn their home into a petting zoo of some kind, and there have apparently been repeated complaints about the livestock (no one wants a rooster waking them up at the literal crack of dawn).  Even before the new ordinance was passed, the Dukes were already in violation of the older ordinance, which was nearly fifty years old (a reminder to town governments to update their ordinances periodically, lest they be forgotten from lack of use).

So, who is right?  Should the Dukes give up their livestock—and their chance at homesteading freedom?—so their neighbors can get some peace?  Or should they be allowed to keep the animals they raise?

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Homeownership

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I love home.  Being at home is one of the simple joys in life, especially for a homebody like me.  Even before I owned my own home—when I was a lowly renter—I cherished time in my little pre-deluge bungalow.

Owning my home has made that appreciation even deeper.  As I am sure I have written before, I can understand why the Framers of the Constitution required property ownership as a requirement to vote.  Sure, I understood it in the abstract before I owned my house, but the wisdom of that prerequisite became real once I became a homeowner.  There is an immense pride that comes with owning a home, and with it, a protectiveness:  a desire to guard that investment, and to nurture it.

Few people with that sense of protective pride would squander their rights easily.  I understand why that is better than ever.

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The King of One’s Castle

Over the weekend photog posted a nice little post on his blog, Orion’s Cold Fire, with the title “The Western View,” a clever bit of double entendre:  it’s about both the view of the western end of his property, and the Western view of republicanism—independent self-government.

It’s appropriate that photog used his home as the centerpiece—the “hook,” as he put it—for a short essay on the nature of liberty and republicanism.  At the most basic level, one’s home—one’s land, property, and the people that reside there—is one’s guarantee of liberty.  That scrap of land and the house upon it is one’s castle, and every man is the king of his little estate.

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Gardening II: Late Winter Plantings

After what seemed like two weeks of rain, we finally had a warm, sunny weekend here in South Carolina, with temperatures in the upper-seventies and clear skies.  South Carolina tends to go directly from the depths of winter to a hot spring (or cool-ish summer), and this sudden leap in temperature and climate corresponded with a sudden change in mood.  Instead of bundling up sleepily watching horror movies, the warm weather inspired some spirited outings.

Aside from a rather adventurous, muddy trip to Lee State Park (more on that in tomorrow’s post), my girlfriend and I dedicated Sunday afternoon to doing some late winter plantings (in keeping with my desire to homestead more on my property).  Growing season for most garden-variety plants begins much earlier here in South Carolina than other parts of the country, so we took advantage of the warm water to pot some edible plants, and put two directly into the ground.

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The Last Day of Freedom?

Here we are, 19 January 2021—the last day of basking in liberty before Biden the Usurper assumes the throne.  For all his personal foibles and occasional missed opportunities (while acknowledging, of course, his many achievements), President Trump at least fought to ensure that Americans could enjoy freedom and opportunity.  Under progressive rule, no such guarantees exist.

But rather than look about gloomily at what is to come, I’d like to offer some words of exhortation.  Times will not be easy for conservatives and Christians over the next four years, but I’m trying to embrace this new progressive era with some cautious, small-scale optimism.

For one, I think the whole sordid election fraud, as well as the bipartisan effort to impeach President Trump for—if we’re honest about it—discouraging violence and encouraging peaceful protest—has confirmed for many of us that the elites of both parties are against us.  As such, effecting change at the national level seems increasingly futile.

That might sound discouraging, but consider it from another angle:  if we can’t make much of a dent at the national level, then why waste the energy?  Instead, let’s focus our efforts locally.

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The Land and Heritage

A major theme of this blog has been the restoration of rural America, and the promotion of the idea that the future of the United States rests in its rural areas and small towns.  I have often touted the affordability and the decency of the country as major selling points to those looking for a change of scenery.

So this piece at The Abbeville Insitute—Travis Holt’s “Thirty Pieces of Silver“—grabbed my attention.  Holt is a native son of the Ozarks in Arkansas, and he writes movingly about how his ancestors carved a livelihood out of the rough mountains of a challenging wilderness.  He details the sweat and toil that went into improving the land, and of gradually expanding small family plots.

Holt also describes a process all-too-familiar in the New South:  the commercialization of those hard-won family plots.  Holt does not denounce the sale of family lands in general, as he recognizes the economic hardships and the lure of better lives, but he does lament the sacrifice of heritage, history, and family to the whims of the market.  His essay grapples with the complexity of that loss, and his own determination to keep his familial lands.

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The Invasion and Alienation of the South

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the changing, dying rural communities I observed on a trip through western South Carolina.  You’re not supposed to say as much, but I don’t like that the culture and the world I grew up in are changing.  I’m not sure when it became taboo to say, “This is my home and these are my kin,” but apparently that’s no longer acceptable if you’re a conservative Christian in the American South, especially if you’re a white man.

Around the time I wrote that post, I stumbled upon two excellent posts from the Abbeville Institute that express that sentiment beautifully.  One, “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Leslie Alexander, is a poetic, heartbreaking glimpse at a personal sense of alienation:  the writer, a Louisiana native with deep roots, finds herself adrift in Dallas, a land that lacks not only has “no regional culture here—one of common language, mores and manners–there is not even an American one.”

The other, from Nicole Williams, is a more technical and historical dive into the emergence of the “New South,” the story of how an economically devastated postbellum region, in a search for economic opportunity, ultimately sold its culture and identity for a mess of pottage.  The title says it all:  “What Price Prosperity?

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