It Takes Longer Than You Think- by B. Durbin

It Takes Longer Than You Think by B. Durbin

I was recently reading a fantasy series—it doesn’t matter much which one—where the world building started out quite well, with a pre-industrial collection of cities and farming towns, but eventually dissolved into poor world building, in that a number of things didn’t make sense.

At the heart of the issue was that the author was evidently unaware of what living on the margin really means. A pre-industrial farming society, especially one such as the one portrayed, where darkness means that everyone and everything has to be safely inside, has almost no room for error, and is going to be on the edge of starvation.

To begin with, how long does it take to bake bread? I know the answers you’re likely to give, but in a society living on the margin, it takes nine months.

Let me explain.

We’re used to our modern society, where you have many things right at hand, but to make bread in a pre-industrial society, we need to be like the Little Red Hen and start at the very beginning. Which means a piece of land.

Land doesn’t come in bags of soil from the garden center. Land starts with what you have. It’s not precisely suited to wheat where I am, so the challenges are a bit different, but a lot of the process is the same. First you have to prepare the ground, which means you have to deal with the plants that are already there. And the rocks and other things that get in your way. Plowing is generally the first step, a deep breaking up of root structures and turning over of the dirt. Where I am, the soil is heavily clay, so things need to be added to break it up. Straw is good for that, as is any dry foliage that is unlikely to sprout. Definitely nothing diseased; you don’t need nasty spores mildewing up your plants. And you’ll want nutrients in there too, all the stuff you’ve been composting over the last year, steer manure or well-aged horse manure, fish heads, night soil, those sorts of things.

This will not smell good.

You may want to harrow the field to break up the clods and even stuff out—yes, “harrowing” started out as an agricultural term—and you haven’t even gotten to planting yet. When you do plant, you have to plant more than you’re going to need, because pests and other problems are going to take out a portion of your crop. While it’s in its early growth, you’ll have to go weeding every day, lest they overtake your crops, but once they’re established, they often out-compete the weeds. But you have to make sure they have plenty of water, the right amount of sun, no disease, no nibbling small mammals (or big mammals; deer are agricultural pests too), and basically you have to maintain the field for as long as the growing season is. 60-90 days is a typical amount of time for many crops after fruit set—which means until you’ve got flowers and pollination, you can’t even start the count. (And mind that you have bees and butterflies, or you’re not getting much of a crop.)

Once you’ve got the crop ready, you have to harvest. Of course, you have to be careful, because cut grain is liable to rot if it gets wet, and in a pre-industrial society, you don’t have the weather report as such. So you set your harvest for a dry day and try to get it under cover as soon as you can to dry out. Once it’s dried, you have to separate out the grain, which means threshing it. (One such threshing tool is a flail, which fantasy writers often imagine makes a good weapon of war. Maybe improvised, but that’s the sort of thing that can literally come back to hurt you almost more easily than it can hurt someone else.) Once it’s threshed, you separate the wheat from the chaff—yes, there’s another agricultural phrase for you—by throwing it up in the air in a bit of a breeze and letting the grain fall while the straw and other bits blow off.

So now you have grain, hopefully without too many straw bits in it. Time to get it ground into flour. You could do it yourself, with a mortar and pestle, that would take darn near forever. Or you could take it to a miller, who has millstones, which are set a tiny fraction apart and have channels to carry ground wheat to the edges. The millstones are turned by gears and wind, water, or animals, and the quality of the stones affects how fine the grain is, and whether you get little bits of stone in your flour to wear away your teeth over the years. You get back your flour—the miller has probably taken a portion of it in payment—and now you’re ready to bake.

Except you need some way to do it! While there are means to cook bread over an open fire, you need at the very least a sturdy pan in which to cook it, and the fuel to cook it with. Be careful of your fuel choices, because the smoke is likely to flavor your food over an open fire. If you have an oven, it’s very likely brick set to the side of the hearth, with its own door, and that will keep smoke and ash out of your food. (Hope it’s after the invention of the chimney, at least.) So if you have a nicely bricked hearth, chimney, and oven, you’re doing great. Plus wood, peat, dried herbivore turds (yes, that’s a thing), charcoal from a forest fire, or whatever you’re going to burn.

What else do you need for bread? Well, yeast is actually pretty easy to come by. Stale beer is the simplest (beer comes before bread in human history), but anything that’s fermented can do. In a pinch, you can get the flour wet and wait for *it* to ferment, that only takes a day or two. Three or four if you want that sourdough taste. Make sure nothing nasty starts growing, though—you want fermentation, not rot. Eggs? Well, if you have chickens, you can have egg in your bread. Milk? Cows, goats, sheep.

Now that you have all of your ingredients, you can bake! Baking itself is the shortest part of this all. What you’re really going to want to spend time on is safe storage techniques, though, because you can’t wait until the next harvest for your next loaf of bread. Pottery is pretty choice, as it’s waterproof and vermin-proof. Hope you have a potter around, and the right kinds of clay, and plenty of fuel for the firing…

*Note from the blog owner – B. Durbin didn’t know if this post would be germane for this blog. There was just a feeling that perhaps fantasy writers should know more about the real world before setting out to build imaginary ones.
I think, on the contrary, it is the same airy-fairy sort of notion that of course our ancestors could just run to the supermarket to buy some flour (i.e. for instance that regency that started with the duchess driving a gig to buy groceries…) that gives us the notion that, oh, a state (the glorious masked, locked, bear flag people’s republic) can postpone evictions for non-payment of rent indefinitely.
There is a generation/generations of people raised in such pampered affluence they literally don’t know that everything they can buy — or, say, loot — is literally pieces of other people’s lives: time spent making the things (and effort, and other materials, etc) so this thing could exist.
So, even supposing that insurance could replace the full value of looted goods (it can’t, for the record) the goods themselves would be gone, and with them the pieces of people’s lives that went into them existing and being available for sale.
Looting, and vandalism, which is all the pseudo revolutionary chic of pampered establishment brats these days is in fact a series of partial murders. You’re destroying parts of people’s lives.
You’re destroying value that can’t be replace by money, because money is just a symbol, not the thing.
Do that enough and civilization collapses. And those so pampered as to think that things just appear and that goods aren’t made or created or invented, just infinitely redistributed, really will not like what comes after.
So, yes, this post is germane. It’s a reminder of the real world. Which is that you can’t change by wishing it different. -SAH*

554 thoughts on “It Takes Longer Than You Think- by B. Durbin

  1. This reminds me of the whole “back to the land” movement among the left in the 60’s/70’s. Those of us who grew up rural know what a load of crap it was and just how completely delusional those folks were, but they actually believed the nonsense they were spouting.

    1. I’m an ad hoc back to the land type. Haven’t tried farm animals; but I’ve done vegetable and grain farming on a small scale using nothing but human labor. If you want self-sufficiency, it’s a full time job, and no insurance guarantees of success. In short, you run a real risk every year of famine, or out-right starvation.

      Did I mention that hand spading an acre of land is long, hard, back breaking labor? Or the first few years of virgin land (like what the colonists ran into in the 1600s) you’re rolling frigging boulders out of the field that are either on the surface, or suddenly popped up out of the ground? If you can move them in the first place. Probably half the cut stones used in buildings and foundations came from quarrying “field stone” just to break them up and get them out of the way. And first generation settlers usually don’t have the stone cutting tools for that – they farm around the big boulders.

      Oh, and I’ve tried 100% organic farming. Between the cabbage loopers, beetles, and grasshoppers, I have a wonderful crop of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage lace this year. And don’t tell me that soapy water and cayenne pepper will keep them away. That obviously only works if you submerge the entire plant.

      So what I am is not really a back to the land type. What I really am is a gentleman, or perhaps a hobby-ist farmer. I do it for a mental change from technical modern life, to supplement what comes from the grocery store, and to remind myself just how lucky I am to live in these modern times in the United States.

        1. I’ve restored about 500 feet of stone wall on my property, by hand, without powered assistance. Not any more. Front end loader is pick up those suckers from here on out. About 1100 more feet to go.

        2. Around here (Ontario) when I was a kid there were still stump fences. That’s what you get when you cut down all the really big trees on your land, and then pull the stumps out and line them all up along the sides to keep the deer and other critters out.

          Ever think how hard it would be to pull out the stump of an oak tree that was four feet across the trunk? How about just cut it down?

          1. The only thing I’ve seen that can easily uproot a stump like that is the tree itself. (Insert memory of a summer camp coworker standing on a trunk to cut down a fallen tree, a sudden crack, him throwing his hands up to shut off the chainsaw, and riding the stump back down into the ground. He did not fall off.)

            1. Classic demonstration of stump removal …

              It looks a lot easier if you’ve never swung an axe.

            2. Removing a large stump is one of those cooperative efforts, like raising a house or a barn. You get a bunch of people together, dig around the roots as much as you can, and then use horses to pull that monster out.

              I saw a documentary on the building of the Panama canal. They built giant wooden wheels that looked something like the big wooden spools for telephone wire, except 20-30 feet in diameter. They had a large diameter side and a small diameter side. The stump was hooked to the small diameter part, and the horses to the large part, so that each side was hooked to the outer part of its respective circle. The horses would pull on the rope going over the large circle, which would generate greater torque on the small circle, and rip out the stump. It was a moderately ingenious solution to a major work problem they had.

            1. Right? I know -exactly- how hard it is to chop a mortise in oak by hand, because I’ve done it. It takes a long time, and it makes you tired. Chopping the 18 mortises for a chair takes 18 times as long. Then there’s the cutting of the tenons, the paring and trimming to size, the fitting, the fiddling about, etc.

              This is given seasoned and dimensioned lumber, btw. Riving it out of a log is a whole other thing. (There’s a good word for everybody. Riving. Past tense, riven.)

              Which is why I have a table saw, a hollow chisel mortiser, and some other doodads to make the job go faster. I don’t mind doing the work, per se, but I do mind that it takes FOREVER to do it by hand. Oh my ghod, so much time! Yes, joiners in the old days were faster than me. But not faster than me with a table saw, mortiser, drill press and a few jigs.

          2. Ever think how hard it would be to pull out the stump of an oak tree that was four feet across the trunk?

            That is why Saint Alfred Nobel invented dynamite! 😀

            1. You need a team of oxen, strong chain and a tripod. Leverage for the win!

              But if you don’t have all that, you get to chop all the roots by hand and then lever the thing out with a pole. Ouch.

              That’s how you make a field in 1700s Southern Ontario. It helps to be Scots, apparently. That’s who did it all.

      1. Or if you’re driving through farmland and you see “fence posts” that are basically circles of chicken wire full of stones. They don’t do that because it’s more solid; they do that because it’s a handy place to chuck all the rocks that turn up every time they plow.

      2. Recommended reading: David McCullough’s The Pioneers

        As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River.

        McCullough tells the story through five major characters: Cutler and Putnam; Cutler’s son Ephraim; and two other men, one a carpenter turned architect, and the other a physician who became a prominent pioneer in American science. “With clarity and incisiveness, [McCullough] details the experience of a brave and broad-minded band of people who crossed raging rivers, chopped down forests, plowed miles of land, suffered incalculable hardships, and braved a lonely frontier to forge a new American ideal” (The Providence Journal).

        Drawn in great part from a rare and all-but-unknown collection of diaries and letters by the key figures, The Pioneers is a uniquely American story of people whose ambition and courage led them to remarkable accomplishments. “A tale of uplift” (The New York Times Book Review), this is a quintessentially American story, written with David McCullough’s signature narrative energy.
        Publisher’s blurb from Amazon

        When the settlers first arrived Ohio did not consist of the neatly tended farms and towns that now comprise it — all of that ordered liberty was hard-won, torn from the land by dint of human (and animal) muscle and sinew.

        An excellent read or, for those inclined, a good audiobook. But then, that’s what we expect from McCullough.

      3. This helped prevent peasant revolts. Unending exhaustion is not good for thinking straight, let alone plotting revolt.

    2. *Graaaar!*

      Translation: Grew up in a household that one parent wanted to do the whole “back to the land” stuff and did it badly.

      I know how to raise chickens, milk goats, dodge sheep, try to raise a garden, and a bunch of other things of dubious utility because, as I said, “did it badly”.

      It would have been far more useful if they had taught me to drive. But that would have meant I could have gone somewhere else and gotten a job.

      1. I have an uncle-by-marriage the most damning thing ever said about him (and there was plenty!) was, “He was the sort that should have listened to the County Agent.”

      2. yep, i spent my teenage years living in the boonies because mom thought she could save money by doing that….

        1. *Fistbump of rueful companionship* Yeah, no. Especially when someone thinks, “oh, I’ll breed award-winning goats! Oh, I know, raise Angora rabbits! Oh….”

          If I ever catch up with Paul R. Ehrlich, I may just punch him in the nose.

          1. I have met people who raise Angoras. If they make money it’s by selling Angoras to other fiber folk. And spinning off the bunny is a neat thing to do for a class or a demo. The Angora’s fur is so thick, they don’t easily shed. So it’s possible to spin the loose fiber right off the bunny’s back. (I’ve done it. My main worry was I might pull on for that was still attached and hurt it. But the bunny didn’t mind sitting in my lap and being spun from at all).

            1. *Nod* They’re lovely and very nice and I will never keep them myself, because whenever Mom got bored with the latest project she’d dump the animal upkeep on me. Picture being pre to early teens expected to keep up with feeding, watering, grooming several hutches of rabbits, various other Projects (animal and otherwise), significant care of 3 younger siblings, working part-time in parent’s retail store, and God help me if my grades slipped on top of that.

              I have scars from goats, ponies, sheep, dogs, cats, and rabbits. And probably a few other things.

              I do NOT want to live off the grid, thank you.

              1. And *this*, ladies and gentlemen, is why so many of the folks with an Indian great-(…)-grandparent have an Indian g…grandmother.

                The benefits of civilization for household stuff were a lot harder to import to tribal lifestyles.

                I listened to how my grandmother grew up– and she was one of the really well off– and I have NEVER taken warm, clean showers for granted. (Among other basic things.)

                1. *Nod* I heard secondhand stories of one ancestress; I wish I’d been able to hear firsthand, but antibiotics for tuberculosis came along too darn late.

                  (Yet another reason you will pry civilization from my cold, dead hands.)

                  1. I got them cleaned up second hand from my aunt, who worked as a vendor for one of the ladies who wouldn’t have otherwise survived; that gal was making a nice retirement income selling vaguely Indian art work in the early ’00s.

                    Her mother rather vehemently decided that being a six-months-pregnant single mother with only the clothes on her back, in a Catholic town in frontier Oregon (Oregon was approaching Mexico levels of not-friendly to Catholics), was a better choice than remaining in the tribe with her husband.

                    Not sure how old the mother was, but she couldn’t have been even 20; the gal could remember Indian massacres when she was a kid (or at least claimed to when she got going, who’s going to argue with her?) so her mother would’ve had to leave the tribe no later than 1908 or so, the Eagleville massacre was 1911. My aunt met the mother, so she made it at leas into the 1960s.

                    There was some kind of “problem with the pregnancy” and the far from cutting edge medical care the town (He was awesome, though) had was still better than “we’ll let someone else dig the hole you give birth squatting over, since you’re sick.” And yes, I got all kinds of possibly creatively detailed versions of those stories when I was pregnant, because people can’t seem to resist. At least it’s better than the “things that can go wrong” ones…. -.-

                    1. *Wry* Yeah, I run into people who get starry-eyed about “Native American matriarchal societies!” and facepalm – just because ancestry might be traced through the female line (’cause you’re sure of that) doesn’t mean they’re in charge.

                    2. The definitely not-sweet-little-old-lady rather frequently ripped a section of hide off of people while pulling the stars out of their eyes.

                    3. It’s amazing how they overlook that the “original source of the patriarchy”, Judaism, is precisely that.These people make me tired.

                    4. There you all go, being accurate and all.

                      Your facts keep interfering with my narrative. The native Americans were all green, vegan, socialist feminists who lived in harmony with the land. 😜

                2. I’ve seen the cabin grandma & grandpa had when mom was 3 and her younger sister was an infant. I was 11. It looked tiny to me then. It would look tinier now. Essentially a bed, crib, trundle, kitchen table, cook stove. No running water. Outhouse … and this was in the NE corner of Montana. Water was the creek down the hill, across the road.

                  We (hubby & I) camp, we’ve backpacked. Former are okay for a weekend or even a week. Any longer, no way in H*LL. We upgraded from tents to small RV when kid was born (one trip with 6 week old, don’t care if mom did same with 3 of us, until I was about 12 …). We still camp. We just take the kitchen sink, trailer queen bed, shower, & water, trailing behind us. In fact just got back from Yellowstone & Tetons. Even then we don’t use the showers every day, like we do at home; when we do, the phrase “RV shower protocol” is a thing … I have long (ish) hair.

                  Hubby scared the ever loving daylights out of me. He tripped & fell at Firehole swimming hole stairs. At the top. You know. Top of the cliff. Scrapes & bruises only. Did not fall down the stairs, or off the cliffs. If he had died, I’d have killed him. Besides the obvious … I am not ready to be a widow. Kind of like to keep him around (I don’t get the insurance money, no motive), he’s a 42 year old habit 🙂 Big motive for keeping him? I don’t drive the truck/trailer and last week was so not the time to figure out how to do so.

    3. Back to the Land is a cyclical delusion. My late Mother was fond of telling of the cycle that had the Transcendentalists convinced they could have a Communal farm where each would work just a few hours a day (and spend the rest of their waking hours having gassy thoughts). Their wives, who knew goddamned well who would have to pick up the slack, put their collective foot down.

      1. That’s what deplorables are for. In fact, they’re happier doing it as they’re too stupid to measure up to their betters.

        Notice how Democrats talking about blue collar workers today often sound like Democrats talking about slaves 200 years ago?

        1. The E!Democratic Party has always had an uncomfortable number of people that thought in terms of “lord” and “serf.” Or “master” and “slave.” And, even more believe this if they didn’t say it in public.

    4. At least they left it as a choice.

      When it’s tried as a societal method, you get Mao’s “relocations” and Pol Pot’s killing fields.

    5. Like the CHAZdiots who tjought they’d throw a few bags of garden soil on the sidewalk, add seeds, and POOF! Food!

    6. They still do. They just call it “The Green New Deal” now and claim that it has to do with preventing “climate catastrophe”.

  2. Only too true! As a child i was evacuated to a farm during WW2. Not pre-industrial, by real-life measures, but basic enough that horsepowered machinery was used. I can still remember how to milk a cow by hand. It was NOT a life of leisure. But when I drew upon that experience for an alternate-history novel it was criticised by a potential editor for showing no religion. The truth was that farming meant working dawn-to-dusk all day and every day – there was no time to be wasted on discussing religion when the cows had to be milked and crops tended.

    1. Seems to me that religion was an issue when you had the Church owning the land in place of secular robber barons. And I don’t imagine even the Pilgrims spent any more time than absolutely necessary in prayer until after the work was done.

      1. Or one of those unofficial but very heart-felt prayers like, “Oh G-d, please may the horse not die before harvest is done, please may the hail miss us, please oh please!”

      2. In general, “the Church” didn’t own anything. The bishop’s personal property or the land of the diocese, the founding house of several houses of a religious order, the daughter convent that got a donation of land and doesn’t want the founding house asserting ownership, the land that they can use but which actually belongs to someone else, the rent to own, the parish land for growing or buying flour and wine for Communion, the land for supporting the priest or the guy who owns the chapel and benefice….

        Monasteries and convents started out having lay brothers who did the farming, and eventually ended up also having tenants, both by improving and clearing “worthless” land and by getting donations beyond what the monks could work. The advantage was that monks were generally nicer and more legalminded landlords, and the disadvantage was math and living close by.

        Most of the Pilgrims were originally tradesmen and not experienced farmers, which was part of the problem.

          1. Mike Bloomberg is a lucky idiot whose only area of semi-expertise is in finance. He’s a fine example of someone who knows just enough to be dangerous.

            1. And like most such people he believes that he must tell other people how to live and what they can do “for their own good”

              1. Bloomberg purely gives me the creeps. He comes across as being totally without emotion, meaning he could give the order to send millions to prison or worse without a second’s hesitation. Because doing it would be “efficient,” or “rational.”

                1. That’s because he’s a psychopath. I know people who worked for him both at the firm and government. He has the whole thing going on

              2. The all-too-common delusion that because somebody has money, or power, or influence, it gives them the right to control what you say, how you live your life, even what you can think.

                1. That delusion creates one of the seductions of socialism. “Mr. Rich has a pile of money, under capitalism, and that gives him the right to control what we say, how we live our lives, and even what we can think. But those are Bad Things, and the obvious – obvious! – solution is to replace capitalism with socialism and deny Mr. Rich the right to do those Bad Things by taking away his pile of money.”

                  1. …and then do exactly the same Eeevul things. Only now it’s OK because it’s them in control.

                    Some idiot over on David Weber’s forums went on about how horrible things were in Venezuela when a few thousand rich people controlled everything. I wrote, “Yeah, and it’s SOOOO much better now that a few thousand people control everything, only now they’re the government.”

                  2. Got to thinking about why there’d be the “they have lots of stuff, need to listen to them” thing– then I thought about the eternal “I want what you have”=> “Here, I’ll tell you what I did to get that.”=> “No, just give it to me!” cycle.

                  3. The right to control what we say, how we live our lives, and even what we can think is proper of the State — but only when it is under enlightened leadership (i.e., our leadership.)

    2. In one of my medieval roleplaying sourcebooks, the point was made that while there were a ton of holy days in addition to the Sabbath, actually observing them wasn’t economically viable for serfs and peasants: They had too much work to do. So any time someone claims that medievals worked less because they had 1/4 to 1/2 the year off for saints’ day, I figure they don’t know what they’re talking about.


      1. Depends on what is meant by “observing” and “day off.”

        My family always takes big family days like Christmas, and Thanksgiving, off.

        Which means that one of my mom’s favorite memories is the year that they didn’t get back until four in the afternoon and her 14, 13 and 12 year old children had made the entire feast spread, cleaned the house for the (local) company that was coming at 6, set the table and had everything setup, even though they’d had to shoot the @#$@# bull that had decided to hide up in the woods and then broke his @#$@# leg after they’d almost gotten him down.

        A “day off” means that you only do the stuff you have to– feed the animals, check if anything needs help, break the ice on the water if needed (1-3 times a day, depending on weather) and deal with Stuff You Must Do Now.

        I’d put the difference at roughly that between camping, the kind where “tent” is hwat you make with tarps and on an unimproved campsite, vs being in one of those hotels that has a breakfast bar *and* the evening meal-snack thing.

        1. You know the term “glamping”? I consider what I do glamping because I have a cot. And I do campsites that are at least marginally accessible by car.

          I signed up to teach the Hiking merit badge. The teacher that the troop already has suggested I add Backpacking to it. No, I really don’t want to—because I’d have to go along myself. (The whole point of me taking on Hiking is that it has certain… subtleties that a male counselor might not pick up on for teenaged girls, let alone want to talk about. There are some girl troops in my area, so I want someone to be available. But if I teach Backpacking and get the certifications necessary to do it, you can bet I’d be the only one who’d be available…)

      2. Well, the Tudors made a big deal of removing saints’ days from the calendar “in order to keep people working and reduce the number of holidays,” per several sources. I suspect, once they got past the “saints who are political and we don’t like them,” (Thomas a Beckett was the first to go), it was minor saints who were trade patrons and whose “feast days” were more “days to let off steam and cause disturbances.” Sort of like occasionally happened during rogation processions and beating-of-the-bounds when people from one parish shadowed the procession from another parish in order to keep Parish B from claiming land from Parish A. (See _The Stripping of the Altars_ by Eamon Duffy for a lot more detail)

      3. So any time someone claims that medievals worked less because they had 1/4 to 1/2 the year off for saints’ day, I figure they don’t know what they’re talking about.

        I find it is most efficient to assume, any time somebody I don’t know starts spouting off about anything, they know not whereof they speak.

        It is up to the speaker (authors included) to demonstrate authority, not claim it until proven melon-headed.

      4. It wasn’t that they were unable to work on holy days, it was that their feudal lord couldn’t obligate them to work for his benefit.
        There was an awful lot of work done. Not starving is good for your spiritual health.

    3. Aunt & Uncle have 40 acres just west of Bend, Oregon (just went to their 65th anniversary gathering). They had milk cows (only 4 max, & one was used as the foster mother to all the calves, the other 3 had to be hand milked), pigs (how I know they are mean suckers), chickens, cats, dogs, a garden, & (most important) horses. I adored horses. I wanted horses. I spent at least two weeks a year from age 10 to age 14. At 14 I got to spend the entire summer. Wish I could say, spend the entire summer riding horses 🙂 Yea. Anyone else believe me? I don’t. Cows were hand milked. Garden had to be weeded. Milk had to be strained, then cream pulled off the top, butter made. Pigs, cows, horses, chickens, etc., had to be fed. Horses had to be brushed. Hay had to be put up (they didn’t grow that). House still had to be cleaned. Cousins & aunt worked during the day too. Uncle worked after his day jobs (one full time, one part time on call). They did hunt & fish. But someone had to take care of the animals, daily.

      Let me put it this way. We don’t have farm animals. Cats & dog, yes. Farm animals no. Horse I would have liked, but either we didn’t have the money, or we didn’t have the time. Why have a horse if someone else has to feed & care for it? When a friend of ours went rural, getting chickens, ducks, & goats (that have to be milked), our replay was a polite “uh, That is nice …” Dog we take with us. Cats get a check in by someone we trust to insure food & water are down. Now that trusted person is our adult son (well they are his cats too). Our friend is stuck. He has to pay someone to come look after his hobby farm if he wants to go somewhere. He made the mistake of asking us if we’d ask our son if he’d be willing to be that someone. We told him, sorry, he couldn’t go through us. He had to ask our working adult son personally. The friend never did ask our son.

  3. This is true for imagined future worlds as well. I just gave up on a post-apocalyptic book because it was clear that the author had no idea how much manufacturing and engineering infrastructure is required to maintain technology.

    The idea of a small enclave being able to preserve their level of technology by scavenging parts from the ruins of civilization is an old SF standby, but it wouldn’t work in practice. There are just too many things that have to be produced on a regular basis for a Mad Max kind of scenario to work for more than a few years.

    Things will fail that can’t be replaced, leading to critical systems having to be abandoned and replaced with low tech alternatives, and if there is no one in the community who knows how to do things by hand then you’ll have to figure it out quickly or starve.

    1. Perhaps the best, if mildly depressing, post-apocalyptic novel I know of is, “Earth Abides.” It also brings up the concept of, “What do you do if your random handful of survivors isn’t well educated or above average intelligence?” By the end of the novel the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the protagonist are at about the technical level of nomadic Indians, aside from using copper and silver coins to make arrowheads. Of course, they also believe copper arrowheads should only be used for certain animals, while silver is used for other animals, “because.”

      1. Obviously it was written before 1982, because there is no way primitive techniques could make practical arrowheads out of our ‘modern’ zinc pennies.

        Most of our coins are now made out of metals and alloys that primitive folks would find hard to work with.

      2. well, tbh, if your handful of survivors is well educated and above average intelligence by modern standards, you’ll be lucky to survive the first winter.

        1. It’s not how smart you are, it’s whether or not you have the skills to survive. Primitive does not mean stupid, it means a different skill set from what you have.

          1. the vast majority of people well educated by current standards are not going to be able to do anything useful survival wise, which is my point.

        1. The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm, by Lewis Dartnell.

    2. Once the infrastructure degrades to the point that the trucks stop rolling, the nihilists may get more “population reduction” than they expect. Modern farms are dependent on fuel, spare parts, electricity, artificial fertilizers, and bulk seed stock. Once those stop coming, not much will get grown. And whatever does get grown won’t go very far without trucks to take it away to market.

      1. People today don’t understand how much refrigeration changed the demographics of the civilized world by allowing large numbers of people to live some distance from the farms.

        Nor do they grasp how fragile the support structure is. I can fix a refrigerator, if I have the parts and tools available. I can not make refrigerant–even if I found an intact plant, I doubt I could figure out how to operate all of the equipment safely.

        1. Sometimes I get it through to people by explaining that a fridge meant that chicken went from the wow-this-is-a-big-deal Sunday treat, to meat tofu.

          1. How much does a chicken sandwich cost?

            Five thousand dollars.

            Starting from scratch, every element, one person. A guy did it.

            Five grand.

            America is borderline the “Midas Plague” of Frederick Pohl.

          1. Heh. You beat me to it. The hard part is harvesting, storing, and installing the ammonia without gassing yourself in the process.

            1. The hardest part is probably finding/making the small metal tubing… out of something the ammonia won’t eat holes in. Also, make sure your heat source doesn’t interact and provide carbon compounds, or you can get effectively TNT and a large BOOM. (The hazard of ammonia fridges, fired by propane, once common in travel trailers. Neighbor’s went BOOM, rather spectacularly.)

              1. I don’t believe that a modern refrigerator designed for an inert refrigerant like R22 could be converted to use ammonia, even before the tubes went the seals in the compressor would be eaten away. Building one from scratch? Yes, it could be done, once again granted the parts, the tools, and time to spend on the project. It would be big and not very efficient and I’m sure that if I tried it I’d make a lot of mistakes that would require shutting it down and starting over.

                1. Ammonia, used in a compressor refrigerator is actually more efficient than what we use now. It is also very poisonous which is why it is only used in very large installations that can afford a maintenance person to keep it inside the unit. You can make a solar ice-maker using an ammonia water cycle fairly easily. The problem is that it is a batch system, so you need to make ice in batches, then use an ice chest to keep you food.

                  1. The transfer of heat via the condensation and evaporation of ammonia is more efficient, but there is more to a refrigeration unit than the specific heat of the refrigerant. The condenser, evaporator, compressor, and metering device would all have to be made of materials that would resist the corrosion of the ammonia (I’d start by trying thick walled black iron pipe, just off the top of my head) which means that the pump itself would be less efficient. Making the unit out of a silicone synthetic would be best, but then you’d have to have a supply for that.

                    Materials engineering is a kind of stealth science–people have no idea how much technological advancement is due to people finally figuring out how to make the stuff with which to build designs that have been around forever, but couldn’t be made out of old materials.

            2. No, the hard part is getting a reliable source of energy to run your compressor. You don’t need to use anything other than air or any other room temperature gas to operate a chiller. A gas cycle isn’t particularly efficient, in terms of the amount of gas required to move a quantity of energy, but it works. The problem is that you need some way of turning a compressor, and if you’ve got reliable rotational energy, you also have the technology to make the compressor and ammonia or propane and all the fiddly bits that make up a vapor cycle chiller.

        2. So much this – in the mid to late 19th century there were fortunes made in harvesting natural lake ice from New England lakes, and shipping and storing it all around the world … an industry that faded away as soon as mechanical refrigeration was made widely available.

          1. In I believe 1874 the first ICE House opened in Waco, Texas. It competed with Lake Ice brought down from the North. Adds of 20 degrees colder were common. They did a good business. One of if not the First Ice Houses in Texas. Please remember at the time Galveston and Waco were THE CITIES in Texas.
            The Stock Yards were setup in Fort Worth because the Good People of Waco didn’t want the smelly things across the river from THEM! NIMBY.

        3. The People’s Republic of New Jersey is banning modern refrigerants in the HOPE that there will be something else that can be used that is “carbon neutral” when the ban takes effect. This is a large scale ban, on commercial and residential uses, air conditioners, literally everything. It takes effect over course of the next 2-3 years, with it being able to be “extended” by decree if there is “a need”. Of course the leftists will sue and get the courts to overturn any such extensions given that they will be doing so in NJ Courts.

          Again, this is something that goes national if Democrats win in November.

          As James Woods has been saying, vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.

          1. Recent events have left me very impressed by 21st Century medicine. For example, having a heart valve replaced through a small hole in my groin, and being able to walk around a day and a half later.
            But if people try to implement policies that ignore human nature and how people respond to incentives, I worry that 22nd Century medicine will wind up being leeches and the Doctrine of Signatures.

          2. ALL refrigerants?

            So much for buying fresh (or frozen) eggs, milk, meat and more than I can contemplate. They really want to earn their sobriquet of “The Garden State.”

          3. I had fun when I was dealing with my truck’s AC. The only good thing was that I could get the proper coolant (R134a), but had to replace the refrigerant discharge hose. Which required me to special order it because the only place the part was in stock was in Utah (the shipping cost more than the part!). Dad, at least, paid for a professional system recharge. I’m debating what to do next time I have a big-ish repair. It’s a sixteen year old Dodge truck that is in great shape, but still…sixteen years old. Doing research into after-market replacement performance parts to see if I can get some additional lifespan out of the vehicle.

            1. If you do the math, you will find that a new or newish vehicle when you have one that is working is NEVER a good deal. Getting a AAA with towing plus and getting it fixed every now and then is much cheaper. With new cars/trucks the reliability for the first 5 to 10 years is great but if anything does go wrong the costs are high. Older vehicles may not be as nice or reliable but with proper maintenance much cheaper.
              BTW: Used Cadillac’s, 15 year old, one owner, low miles are out there. The one I found a one owner, 2006 DTS, with everything, 75k miles, $5k. What other vehicle can you find at anywhere near that price point that will give you the same comfort and quality. It does cost to get fixed but it is pretty much disposable as long as it lasts a few years. It already has lasted 2 years. Its return on investment has already been met. Payments alone could be $4800 to $6000+ a year including interest. Needs to cost a lot of maintenance to make it cheaper to buy newish.

              1. That’s the math right now. And, also, I got in the right bracket of Dodge Dakota trucks (the year before were bad, the year after were bad in a different way, this one was Just Right.) I drove a 1998 Cadillac that was my grandfather’s car and the only reason I got rid of it was that the engine block had a wear spot that was going to become a crack, soon enough.

                And, with the Cadillac, I was able to do a lot of the work for upkeep. Drained the transmission and put in a new seal and filter, replaced quite a few parts, that kind of thing. Harder with a Dodge, but I am pricing some of the parts that might fail next and just replacing them and two parts downstream of them.

              2. Yup, I bought a 1982 Lincoln for $1,800 back in 2000 or 2001. I’ve spent a few months here and there, and maybe $1,500 doing repairs and it’s still running. When I can’t fix it any more, or it won’t pass smog test, I’ll get another used car.

              3. Not once you factor in the rentals.

                I bought a new car because the alternator needed to be replaced, the brakes would need replacement soon, the back door locks could only be opened and closed manually, and the turn signals were going. (I think I bore my fair share of propping up the economy.)

                Also, BTW, you can’t ride in the tow-trunk because of COVID-19.

        4. “I can not make refrigerant…”

          Sure you can! Just do what they do in Europe (and Mexico), use propane. Because glowball warmening.

          No really, they use -propane- instead of a sane refrigerant like R-134 or whatever. It does work, it just causes problems if there’s a leak. Like, kaboom.

          Now imagine a whole apartment building with a propane-filled fridge in every kitchen… yeah.

          1. Oh dear. The first year we lived in the apartment in this city, I went to help my parents at the polls, and since the day was starting so early, I spent the night at our house. Got a call from my husband: “If you see our apartment in the news, it wasn’t our building.”

            Some idiot had decided that if one Duraflame log was good, three were better. I think they got on it soon enough to only make three or four units unlivable (two-story buildings, eight units per building), but yeah. Five years before we could buy a house, worrying about idiot neighbors the whole time.

          2. Are they really using propane as a refrigerant, or just as the fuel for the heat source of an absorption fridge, like we use in campers in the US?

            1. I read somewhere that the EU had standardized on propane as a refrigerant to save the Ozone layer, or save the planet, or some other typical Greenie malarkey. I have not verified it as a fact. Maybe there’s a European here who knows?

              However I do know as a fact that propane is sold over the counter (in Mexico) as a counterfeit of/replacement for Freon in pre-1980s automobile air conditioning. Also to replace R134, because Greenies managed to get the EPA et al to treat that stuff like radioactive spider venom as well. I am informed that the propane does work, you just have to pray you don’t blow a high-pressure line. Because kapowie.

              1. That’s kinda scary. Honestly, propane scares me enough that for my camper renovation I’m looking into 12VDC compressor fridges and a larger battery bank in order to avoid a propane fridge, and a mini split AC/heat pump as an alternative to a propane furnace.

          3. $WORKPLACE offered a choice of a bunch of things for $TIME served. The only one of interest was a smll wine fridge. The thing was made in Canada and the refrigerant is not named (no “R-whatever”) as such, but the C5H5 warning/notice tells me “cyclopentane” and… say what?!

            1. most freezers and the cheaper fridges are now bombs.
              There was a few companies selling it as a replacement for R12 in cars when the AlGore ban hit. DOT busted several people . . cars are a big enough bomb without adding that to it, was their claim. My 73 Colt had been converted to 134a and worked fine anyhow. I used that as a sales point for conversions.

              1. I ran into this issue in the 1990s in Arizona. R12 was “licensed mechanic only” material, meaning my 1978 Oldsmobile needed a (to me at the time) very expensive trip to the AC shop. Rather than pay those guys I put a wrecking-yard AC pump on it myself, new hoses etc. and “sourced” a couple of cans of legit R12 from “friends”. Bought a proper AC recharge kit from NAPA or similar, and charged it up. No big deal.

                That thing blew -really- cold, let me tell you. Best AC I ever had in a car. It is good to have “friends”. Happy motoring in the Arizona summer, gigantic land yacht with some cold AC. I loved that car.

                But that was when I first heard that propane was being used in the older cars. R134 was over-the-counter but it was incompatible with the seals etc. and you needed to buy a new everything or it would leak. (I’m not an AC mechanic, that’s just what I heard.) So enterprising Mexicans were filling cans with propane and labeling them R12. Double-plus ungood.

                These days of course, R134 is “licensed mechanic only” in Canaduh, and the over-the-counter stuff is I don’t even know, some kind of lighter fluid at a guess. R12 is “you get arrested” to save the planet.

                So I’d surmise there’s a whole lot of older, crappier cars running around with propane or other explosive in the AC system. Greenies think that’s a win for them.

                1. We had a lot of trouble dealing with the “not compatible” mis-info our customers were getting from publications and the dealers. It was not the 134a that was the big issue but the oil that most of the factories were using in the new systems that was incompatible with the seals, and the hoses could slow leak over time as the molecule was smaller so it could seep out the rubber itself, so if you had hoses made using older bulk hose, or NOS replacements over time there could be loss. They left off all kinds of things like, Fords used compatible hoses and o-rings on the quick-connect cars because the connection weeped enough as it was, they needed “tighter” rubber liners to limit the seeping.
                  In non-Fords, if the hoses were within a certain age they too were likely the correct rubber anyway. If they were not, and you used the right oil, (PAG or Ester were the choices iirc PAG was the better oil, Ester caused seal and a bit of hose issues), the oil residue already soaked in the rubber prevented seeping as well or better then “correct” hoses. Why were dealers using an oil that was that way? The ester salesman got there first, most likely. Really all you needed to do to change was, buy adapter fittings for the hoses, 134a, right oil, flush rather well, but not the scrubbing they claimed before recharge, and not fill the system like one did with R12, 134a uses less to to work, so filling until bubbles stopped showing in the sight glass made for not much cooling. Replacing the dryer/accumulator could be needed depending on age, too, and well, one should whenever the system is opened anyhow.
                  I made a decent amount selling changeover kits back then, and my car blew damned cold for being a little York compressor and dealer installed kit parts (rather undersized on most Japanese cars.
                  I remember the price of R12 went from guys complaining a 30lb cylinder hitting $99 to a case of 12 cans being $199 in short order.

      2. Let alone a lot of food is grown in areas where it doesn’t matter if the wells don’t outright fail. If the power isn’t available to pull the water the land goes back to high desert and won’t grow the crops needed. Early Montana, Wyoming, & Idaho, had scramble dry farming that barely fed the family doing the farming. Maternal grandfather & his siblings had a lot to say about that. Oh the farm, & larger, are farmed by the older sibling & his (now corporate farm) but that entity didn’t come into being until the mechanized circle farm watering sprinklers pulling water from the wells came into being … around the 50’s(?)

  4. Preparing the ground- clearing- can take significantly longer, depending on where you are starting from. Trees, stumps, roots, rocks, stones, boulders the size of a frikken house can all complicate this. Straight lines make for good, efficient plowing.

    Human beings *can* pull a plow, but it is hard work. And by hard work I mean it’ll make a Man out of you or it will kill you, no kidding. Water, how much is enough, how much is too much, and how much to drink for people and animals can be a thing, depending on how arid your plot is. I live in Appalachia. Water is not a thing. Flat is.

    Speaking of flat, you can farm on not-flat, but it can be difficult. Terrace farming can be done, but involves time. Do you have the time? This can be anywhere from a side project to a major undertaking. Plan well or suffer the consequences- it ain’t pretty when your food crop slides downhill and ruins the harvest. Farming in anything more serious than aggressive hills ain’t likely without major effort or magic.

    On pests, dogs outperform cats (terriers) for keeping fields rat-free. There will be black flies. You will get sick. The obsessive cleaning that farm wives did and do isn’t a personality trait so much as a survival habit in farm life. Neverending stew is also a thing. You can eat for days on a good stew, adding a bit here and there. Farm life requries calories. A lot.

    Speaking of calories, winter won’t be your trouble time. Winter, assuming you had a halfway decent harvest and planned ahead, you have food. Early spring is the starving time, if you didn’t plan well. If your plan went absolutely out the window you won’t see spring, though.

    1. A lot of museum photos from Central Europe and the Alps show women pulling the plow and the man guiding it. I don’t know if that was because it was unusual so people took photos, or if the museum people selected those shots for the “this is how hard it was!” implication.

      1. An acquaintance from Tennessee told me his g-great grandparents had a small farm before the Late Unpleasantness. The grandfather had kept a journal. They had been relatively wealthy; besides the land and livestock, they had a male slave. After some ailment killed the mule, the grandfather and his slave hitched themselves to the plow so the grandmother could turn the soil.

        Not quite the Tara lifestyle…

        1. The question is, did they treat the slave as a slave, or did they treat him as a surrogate for a son they didn’t have? I have to wonder how many people bought a slave, freed him or her, and then basically adopted them into their family? Same race, I imagine that happened more often than with a mixed race situation; but where they were on the socio-economic scale might have made a difference also.

    2. Right the Terrier family are for ratting and slightly bigger rodents. Don’t denigrate Cats though. One CAN use dogs for mice for example Skye and Cairn and similar small terriers were for keeping mice from damaging cloth in factories in Northern England where a cat would have probably done as much damage to the cloth. Cats are excellent for grain storage (likely how they “domesticated” themselves 10K years ago) and for keeping domestic premises clear of mice. See Chapter 3 of Little House on the Prairie ” A Necessary Cat” for just how ugly life without a feline could get.

      1. Yep. Barn cats do well for mice and voles. Our barn cats would proudly display their kills on the back stoop once they learned there was milk in exchange.

        1. Cats CAN take out rats. We lived near a river when I was a kid and one semi feral/barn cat male called Stormy would take out rats and rabbit bucks from time to time. But a brown wharf rat tops out at 4-6 lbs and a buck bunny can tag 8-9. Stormy was no more than 12lbs. Of course as a hunter I always felt he was a cross between a Ghurka and a US recon Marine. I don’t think any of our other barn cats ever brought back rats or anything bigger than late season baby rabbits. Truthfully the ladies were the real hunters but as they topped out at ~8 lbs game that large would be dangerous. And there was Purina cat chow a plenty on our garage porch where they lived.

          1. I am well aware. *grin* One of ours was of the “smaller than me and not one of ours, it dies” kind, and brought us snakes, rabbits, squirrels, birds, bats, a skunk, weasels, rats, mice, voles, moles, and the like.

            The farm terriers would bring back 10 to 1, though, when it comes to rats. They’re bred for it, and good at it. Not saying that a good cat can’t, just that they seem to prefer not to do *too* much. Regulat naps, warm laps, and cat things to do. Scraps and his brothers, on the other hand, *lived* for it.

            1. Different kinds of animals, with different kinds of hunting techniques. Dogs in general tend to be more openly aggressive, while cats prefer the “you don’t even know I’m here until I jump on your back” way of handling things.

              Both styles have their situational uses.

              1. Right Cats are the classic stealth hunters. Lie in wait and jump it as it comes by grab it by the throat and hang on til it suffocates. From Lion to leopard to house cat that’s the technique. Basically kill it quick and with as little danger to the hunter as possible as they’re delicate. Dogs usually are pack hunters. A group of animals harass the prey until it tires and then drag it down.

            2. When we were living on the farm, we had a St. Bernard.
              And darned few rockchucks. (Groundhog variant.)
              Most he got pretty quickly, but there was one (or maybe some sort of colony) that had an unusually extensive tunnel system. By the time we figured out where he was disappearing to, the crater was well over ten feet deep and nearly twenty feet across.
              (Few coyotes, either. I don’t think he ever successfully * caught* one, but he certainly tried.)

          2. My parent’s cat will occasionally catch pine martins.

            Which was kind of unfortunate, because that particular martin had been clearing out the mouse tunnels in the walls of their fifth-wheel.

          3. Our Irish stray brought us rats. The milkman actually said he’d figured the cat had moved in with us; he could tell who the cat was with by who had the rats on the doorstep in the morning. We eventually convinced him to leave them there and not bring them into the kitchen, or worse, the bedrooms. So once a week or so we’d find the odd foot and/or tail by the doormat.

            Birds were odder. Gaston never brought them in, but we’d find the leavings by the back door. One pin feather and one foot. Where was the beak?

            Saw him trying to eat a rat in the back garden one day. He seriously tried to ingest it like a snake but had to give up after he couldn’t get more than it’s head down his gullet at once. We watched the whole thing in horrified fascination.

              1. One of my first cats after Ireland was good at catching squirrels. When I moved out from my parents’ place my father discovered what my “useless, personalityless” cats had been doing to earn their keep, keeping the squirrels from leaving nut shells all over the drive and letting the humans walk across the lawn without falling into mole runs every second step.

          4. The docks in New Orleans had some massive and nasty cats the longshoremen doted on. The rats there were quite big and mean, so the guys took good care of their favored cats.

                1. NO NO NO do NOT uplift cats in that direction lies chaos. Unless of course we can get them to hunt Antifa, in which case go for it…we’ll take the consequences.

                    1. Wow that’s an unexpected consequence. It’s clear there’s no good outcome on that path. I’m a serious Ailurophole but that’s to much even for me.

                    2. CHAZ: “I never should have taken Rika’s collar off, now I know why it said DO NOT REMOVE…”
                      RIKA: “Hey chaz! I have to take a bath again! Those fleas in Tinkerbell’s dog jumped to me!!”
                      WREN: …………

                      “Hah, being married to her means nothing, but I understand what you say about her being hyperactive. She had this urge to go out each night at 4AM, then she wandered by the street until 5AM, and she cried until I let her in. I hardly got any sleep in those seven months”

                      – Both from Conversations Within Elsydeon

                      In any event, I got “Polydactal cats achieve sapience” on my 2020 bingo card so my loyalties on the cat-girl issue are a little divided.

              1. Well, there was this SF story where cats aided humans in fighting critters in “hyperspace”. Said critters were attacking human spaceships. The title was (IIRC) “Game Of Rats And Dragons”. (Humans called the critters dragons, the cats thought of the critters as rats.) 😉

                1. ‘The Game Of Rat And Dragon’ by Cordwainer Smith, re-printed in ‘Cats In Space And Other Places’ edited by Bill Fawcett. Re-read it last year while waiting at the tire store.

              2. Ship cats. Norton’s “Plague Ship” … granted the cat wouldn’t go near the pest in question. But that is why the cats were on all traders. To deal with the pests that would insert themselves on different planets visited.

            1. Indeed I’ve seen some of those New Orleans rats. Back in the late ’90s (1996?) I went to SIGGRAPH in New Orleans. Arrived late afternoon Saturday and Sunday morning I wanted beignet for breakfast (had heard of them). So strolled over to Cafe du Monde near Jackson Square got seated outdoors at the back with a lovely view of the dumpster and the levee holding back the Mississippi (the river is ~16′ above the square at that point). Someone was lazy and had left the dumpster open when they were busing tables. As it was dusk the rats showed up and they were LARGE. kind of fat, looked like Remy’s brother from Ratatouille. Of course they were dining on left over bits of beignet so deep fried sugar coated bits sour dough so no suprise there were rather , shall we say, portly. Have to say those rats had good taste. Haven’ had a real Now Orleans beignet in nearly 20 years.

              1. Door County had a Beignet place that is supposed to be damned good. I liked Cafe Du Monde’s but my tatse is such I could only force one down before the sweet became cloying. And one cannot save beignets for later. they gotta be hot and fresh.

                1. Yeah, in my late 30’s I could snarf down a plate of 3 beignet and wash it down with cafe au lait in about 15 minutes. Today I’d probably go into sugar shock 😦 but dang I’d be willing to give it a shot.
                  Last time I was in New Orleans was a second trip for a second Siggraph in New Orleans. Siggraph (Computer Grapics Conference) tends to try to get the cheapest rates possible. But it also has 30-40K attendees in the modern world (well did I don’t imagine it happened in 2020). So New Orleans has a HUGE conference venue, and seeing they have Siggraph in August most years there’s not a whole lot of competition for Hotel space. I will note that a) New Orleans has got to have the highest humidity I have ever experienced and thunderstorms are VERY impressive b) Stepping out of a hotel in the French Quarter at 7:30 am in the morning smells like you’ve walked into the leftovers from the worst fraternity party ever, the humidity does NOT help this.

                  And yeah the river WELL above certain parts of the city seemed like a bad idea 10 years before Hugo… kind of freaked me out a bit.

                  1. As my dad said “Step out at 5am and the heat and humidity slaps you in the face, because it is already in the high 60;s and 90% humidity” . . . though the house out in Kenner didn’t have the added benefit of the Quarter’s bar scene odor factory. The joys of no closing time.

              2. one of the disadvantages of moving away from L.A. was no more SIGGRAPH. of course, this year’s was supposed to be in DC….

                1. D.C. has plenty of hotel rooms , didn’t know it had that class of conference center though I looked and one was completed in 2003. Heck it’s hot and unpleasant in August so it qualifies on that front. I wonder who the heck was going to be the main sponsor, unless it was fed agencies but the ones that use heavy duty computer graphics (e,g National Reconnaissance Office )tend to be on the hush hush side of stuff.

                  1. likely autodesk and nvidia, who have been propping it up for awhile. The USAF and others in DC buy lots of workstations too….

                    1. Nvidia I thoght was Mountainview (they originally were a bunch of SGI folks that went rogue). I thought Autodesk was also San Francisco region. Of course the Moscone was kind of beat up 25+ years ago and short NYC I can’t think of a more expensive place to try to get rooms in the US. Maybe Chicago is more expensive. SIGGRAPH was there long ago knew a dude that darn near got thrown off the show floor for plugging in hardware instead of letting union folk do it.

      2. My cat keeps bringing me mice that sneak into the basement and garage. Probably 1 or 2 each week. She may be killing more, but I’m not finding their remains.

          1. One of our purely indoor (except for the odd escape attempt which always ends in hiding under the porch because the great outdoors is scary) cats likes to bring my daughter mice he has caught. At least he kills them first instead of while she is watching now.

            1. Ah yes, the “wow, these overgrown kittens don’t even know step ONE of hunting, so I’d better dial down the difficulty of what I bring them” stage.

              1. The first one he brought her, he walked right past me and her younger sister, made sure to get her attention so she could admire the fat juicy mouse that was wriggling in his teeth, and then shook it hard enough that she heard its spine snap.

                So I dumped him and his paraplegic mouse in the bathroom and hoped he’d finish the job.

                No such luck. It wasn’t running around and was boring, so I ended up dealing with the poor thing. At least now he kills and eats them. I’ve debated going and buying feeder mice like he’s a pet python. But I suspect he’d decide those were boring and then I’d have to deal with white mice running around the place and not just the field mice.

                1. Every cat. We’re on #13 & #14, but they are still kittens & not allowed out (yet). Have at least once thought they could bring in their, still alive, toy, to play with inside. Sometime that is a bird (which gets loose in the house, so cat gets locked in a bathroom or utility room until said bird can escape out an open door, sometimes with help of a broom directing). A few times it has been a mouse. Cat goes to garage door (sliding door can see mouse so the cat call to come in is ignored), calls to come in, door opens, cat picks up still alive mouse, mouse screams, I scream, and cat, with mouse in mouth gets picked up & put back out (the looks I’ve gotten!!!) After either, we only find remains … Found an intact rat in the backyard. Not sure the one adult cat we have actually got it or not. Know the dog didn’t. It was a big rat. We have two problem neighbors. One who attract rats (feeds birds & doesn’t clean up the bird feed spilled). Another neighbor whose yard essentially is an overgrown jungle, providing living space for said rodents (neighborhood cats OTOH love it). Pretty sure the rat problem is what got Thump killed. Someone else is putting out poison to solve the problem caused by the two neighbors. He had to gotten hold of a poisoned rat or other rodent. He didn’t have to eat it to be affected by the poison that killed his kidneys. I’m hoping that posting what happened on Nextdoor App, & going around warning neighbors about him getting sick & not surviving has stopped any poisoning, as threats to their own animals, & *Stewart. (Yes. I want to keep the cats in. I’m not the only one who gets a vote. All I can do is try to insure they won’t roam far.)

                  * Stewart is the “school” cat. Having Stewart suddenly die would not be a good thing, despite school not being in session. He belongs to someone who doesn’t live in the neighborhood anymore, but takes responsibility for his medical needs. Between the staff at the school & neighbors Stewart has food, water, & a warm bed. He became the school cat, because his rescue family kept rescuing kittens. He resented that & adopted the kids at the school (next door).

      3. Maximum Maxwell the Murder Poodle is faster than a rabbit. He chased one out of the yard the other day. From a standing start that gave the rabbit 20 feet of lead, he was right on it’s fluffy little tail when he had to brake for the fence. Mr. Bunny used up a ton of luck that time.

        Named for Maxwell’s Demon, of course. ~:D

    3. Neverending stew was known as “the undry cauldron” in medieval Irish law. Any house large enough was supposed to have one going, so people at the house or guests could always eat.

      1. Given the number of Scots-Irish that ended up in Appalachia after getting kicked out of basically everywhere else, this doesn’t surprise me. *chuckle*

  5. Yep. And you can do the same breakdown for a “getting,” a shirt. Prepare the ground. Sew the flax seed. Weed. After three months, pull the flax. Put it in a creekbed or spread it out on the roof where the dew can fall on it and let it ret. (Which is why Rahab hid the Israelite spies under a roof worth of wet flax. And since retting flax smells, that probably kept the Jericho searchers from giving it a close look). Once the outer stem has been softened, get the hackle out (another agricultural term!) and break the flax. Then you get to comb out the debris and the tow (the shorter fibers). Ok, spin the yarn. Once you have enough yarn, you can dress the loom and start weaving. Then you get to take the linen off the loom, wash it, cut it and sew the shirt. Add ties, buttons or whatever. Figure you or yours will have their new shirt in about a year. Getting a wool shirt isn’t much, if any. easier.

    One of the more satisfying parts of, “Beyond This Horizon,” was J. Darlington Smith blowing Monroe-Alpha Clifford’s “back to the land,” fantasies out of the water.

    1. I once tried to figure out how much labor went into a simple denim work shirt, using a spinning wheel, hand loom, needle and thread. It came out to about 40 hours of skilled labor, more than half of it for spinning the 12,000 yards of thread required. I didn’t include growing the cotton.

      That would make the cost of one shirt more than $600.00 at today’s prices. How long did a medieval farmer have to bust his ass to earn the equivalent of $600.00?

      That was what they meant by ‘clothes make the man’ in those days. Only the rich could afford clothes.

      Spinning and weaving were among the first processes to be automated in the Industrial Revolution, making cloth and clothing a hundred times more affordable, and available. The Luddites were COMPLETE idiots.
      Nobody has so little that some asshole doesn’t want to take it.

      1. Eh, not by their lights. The Luddites wanted to freeze things so that they kept making very, very good money at home, weaving machine-spun thread by hand. One man could support an entire family, and his wife didn’t have to work outside the household. So they were opposed to one part of the tech chain, not all of it. Spinning jennies were fine. Power looms were most certainly not.

        1. Nod.

          The Luddies were “doing well” with the old stuff and the new stuff meant, at the least, that they’d have to learn how to use the new stuff.

          IE They were not the elites who didn’t have to use the old stuff or the new stuff.

          1. I think it’s more than learning how to use the newer tools. The power looms would most likely be way too expensive for a small shop to consider, so to embrace the new tech, the former hand-loomer would have to drop all that and become an employee at Big Mills. A hell of a change.

            1. The handloom weaver would probably not be the one working at Big Mill: women and children could be hired for these jobs much more cheaply, and generally had more nimble fingers. Some of these men might become loom-fixers.

              There is a very interesting view of the Industrial Revolution in England published in 1836. I reviewed it here:


            2. If you want a more modern take on some of the stuff entailed, look up The Silk Weavers of Kyoto, by Tamara K. Hareven. Goes into a lot of what happens when power looms and hand loom techniques collide.

          1. Leo Frankowski’s Conrad Stargard set the ratio at 6:1 in ‘The Cross-Time Engineer’. His spinning wheels were set up in a sort of ‘snowflake’ configuration, six facing a common center, so the spinning girls could gossip socialize while they worked. Conrad was a great believer in keeping the workers happy.

        2. I’ve seen the productivity improvement of the Jenny, compared with simple hand-spinning, cited at more than 5:1…yes in some countries, including France, they were not employed to any great extent. Someone studied this and analyzed Jenny economics in terms of two factors: cost of labor, and cost of capital.

          There is a virtuous circle between labor prices and the adoption of productivity-improving technologies: if you have to pay more for your labor, then capital equipment to improve productivity becomes a lot more attractive. The US was traditionally a high-labor-cost area, compared with other countries, and this was a big factor in American innovativeness.

          1. Sewing machine. Tailor’s were against it. Because one set of clothing took multiple tailors. One to measure & cut, multiple to sew. With sewing machine, one person could do it all, at less cost, over all than the original labor … Plus the ones doing the sewing didn’t have to be as skilled at the sewing portion …

            I can stitch by hand. I can use a sewing machine. I still do the former for small stuff as I us mom’s current sewing machine, and I don’t always want to take whatever over there. I also can embroidery. If I actually did a lot of it, I’d consider getting a smaller embroidery machine, and they are not cheap.

    2. I once looked up the entire flax-making process so that I could put linen into a short fairy tale. The really interesting part was that the flax that is best for linen is pulled earlier than the flax meant for seed, so you have to harvest at different times depending on whether you want cloth or linseed oil. (Of course, you’d always leave at least one set for seed for next year’s crop.)

    3. Beloved Spouse & I chanced upon the first episode of the first season of The Woodwright’s Shop in which Roy Underhill, beginning with nothing more than an axe & measure, demonstrated how to make the various tools required.

      I suspect many a viewer had no appreciation of the difficulty of the axual expertise on display.

      1. >> “axual expertise”

        I don’t understand. Wallabies are herbivores. What are you doing with all those carp?

      2. There’s a movement in the woodworking hobby the last ~10 years or so that handwork is holy.

        Roy Underhill is making very good videos on how to build (random guess) a milking stool with an axe. Roy’s got some serious skillz, there is no question. But the videos are deceptive, because they don’t show ol’ Roy banging his way through all the legs and rounding the whole seat. They do the “time passes” Galloping Gourmet thing, and either speed it up or come back the next morning, because it takes Roy and all his skillz ALL FREAKING DAY to round off that lump of wood into a seat.

        I use a bandsaw and a belt sander. Because I’m easily bored. 10 minutes to make a round seat out of a chunk of firewood. Five of them fiddling with the compass and trying to find a pencil to put in it.

        I have here in my sticky digits a book called “Joiner’s Work” by Peter Follansbee. As a source of period correct technique and tooling, it is excellent. Mr. Follansbee knows his way around a riving froe. This is a beautiful book.

        But trying to actually -do- it? Only if it was the end of the world and I needed a chair in the worst way.

        I also have, and highly recommend, “Ingenious Mechaniks” by Christopher Schwarz. He has produced a valuable historical source here, and explains how all the things work etc. If you want to know how it was in the shop when Jesus was a carpenter, Schwarz is your man.

        I built a couple of the things in his book because they seem very useful. They indeed are very useful, and work as advertised. He made his with hand tools 100%, very commendable. I cut a few things by hand when it was easier, but mostly I used my machines. Because dude, it would take forever to do all that by hand.

        Plus I hate working with construction spruce. It resists chisel cuts ferociously, choosing to crush instead of cut like proper wood does. You have to SMACK it every time. Tiresome. ~:(

        1. There’s a movement in the woodworking hobby the last ~10 years or so that handwork is holy.

          Late 80s-early 90s, too.

          My mom actually lost sales because her wood-work, horse shoe welded stuff and leather working looked too good, so you couldn’t tell it was hand made.

          If it follows the same cycle, they’ll slowly discover that tools are awesome, work back up to something sane, and go that way until the hobby-snobs decide that working smarter is a sign of moral flaws. Again.

          1. It’s funny, I got into the hobby in the late 1970s trying to make a living out of it. At that time in Ontario there were still little shops making custom millwork, doors, display cases, custom furniture, stuff like that. I wanted to be a furniture designer and maker, and tried hard to break in by selling turned bowls and things like that.

            Well, eventually arithmetic made it’s power clear even to me, the devoted do-it-the-hard-way hippy kid. One kid can’t make enough bowls to sell to feed one kid, not even with power tools. Not happening.

            But, I still kept up my practice and made all the stuff in my house, fixed all kinds of kitchens and bathrooms etc.

            Now I think that custom design is like being an author. I’m noticing a pattern here. Worse for furniture of course, you need a physical plant to do the work, whereas an author can type in a cafe. (I’ve done that, it is not optimal but it is acceptable.)

            Part of the current “handwork is holy” thing (IMHO) is the disappearance of shop classes from public education. I learned how to use a handsaw, plane, chisel, power tools etc. in high school. These days handwork is so rare that you can’t even buy a decent handsaw at the Big Box stores. They’re all impulse tempered Chinese Specials with plastic handles, designed for haggling off a 2×4. Nightmarish. You hand a guy a sharp tenon saw with a proper fitted handle and it’s like a revelation.

            1. Hubby learned to use the tools at his father’s knees, as did his brother. Both also learned the arts of mechanic. That was the 50’s & 60’s. Brother became a mechanic. Hubby didn’t. But he made sure to teach our son how to use the tools he’ll eventually inherit. The tools hubby inherited from his dad, and some from his great-grandfather, who did build furniture from hand tools. We have a band saw & a compressor that are older than my husband’s brother, who is 73 …, that work. Hubby was very popular at pinewood derby time. Kids designed, hubby cut, kids finished. (Only our son was eventually, with supervision allowed to cut his own car. Other kids, or even their parents was too much of a liability.)

        2. Yes, you can spend years (and YEARS) developing those awesome skills our ancestors had to make fine and useful things out of wood. Or, you can spend a whole lot less time learning to make equivalent (or better) things with modern tools your great-grandfather would have killed for.

          Great-grandpa didn’t have any choice. If he saw you CHOOSE to use crude, primitive tools instead of much better ones, he’d look at you funny. My 12″ compound miter saw is not just a hundred times faster than a handsaw, it’s far more accurate. I can set the angle with 1/4 degree resolution, and make cuts at the EXACT SAME angle all day long. I can clamp on a stop block and make a dozen IDENTICAL sized parts in a few minutes.

          Great-grandpa would say, “Gimme!!”

          1. I have one of those 10″ Bosch buck-saws, sliding compound miter saw. Portable, accurate, repeatable, fast. Awesome. (If I had it to do again I’d have gone for the 12″. Extra capacity is never wasted.) Had it for many years, still deadly accurate. Cuts 2″ oak and maple no problem.

            Or, I could try to make do with a cross-cut saw and a shooting board. Portable, accurate, repeatable… and really freakin’ slow, with quite a learning curve. Not awesome.

            Several companies are doing rather nicely selling shooting boards and specialized skew planes to go with them. For roughly the same price as a Bosch buck-saw.

            From this I conclude that people are crazy. Or I am, kind of hard to tell really. ~:D

            1. From this I conclude that people are crazy. Or I am, kind of hard to tell really.

              Embrace the awesome power of AND — I always do.

              Of course, there’s god crazy, there’s bad crazy, and there’s cray-crazy. Learn t tell them apart!

            2. I will take my planes and hand saws over a shop full of electricity any day. Perhaps because I work with skilsaws, mitre saws, and the like all day, so the quiet is wonderful, the lack of airborne dust is amazing, and fact that I can work and make whilst the kids sleep right above is priceless. I also still feel that I am more precise, and the finish is better, with hand tools than with power tools, particularly when it comes to the fine work, rather than the coarse or medium work.

              Of course, I can run a skilsaw square without running the shoe against a speedsquare because I’m a dam’d professional, as well as run the math for complicated roofs – although I wish I had done trig in uni…

              I would recommend “The Anarchist’s Design Book” for the whys of handwork, particularly ones that I subscribe too. Self-sufficiency, my good fellowes.

              1. I go out to the shop if I need to make something, or to get away from the computer for a few hours. If I need to make something, then the sooner it gets made the sooner I (or somebody else) will be happy. Happy wife, happy life. Not just an aphorism, y’know.

                For puttering about, I still like my power tools. A little noise and dust is a pleasant change from the clickety-clack of the computer. Plus, Roy Underhill I am not.

                But, I’m sure that if I was running particle board through a CNC machine all day I’d be happy with a handsaw and shooting board. A change, as they say, is as good as a rest. ~:D

        3. Ol’ Roy ain’t a hobbyist, eh? First thing to note is his Official Job Title: his day job is (was) demonstrating colonial woodworking techniques in Colonial Williamsburg. Only an idiot (which is to say, a depressingly significant part of the population) watches Roy and imagines they could get up to that level of craft in a few days.

          He works to give intelligent observers an appreciation of the craftsmanship involved and of the impressive amount that can be done with vintage tools and methods. Like craft loom-work, this is no substitute for modern production methods and does not pretend to be.

          Working with hand tools is primarily useful as it clearly demonstrates the benefits of technology.

  6. People manage to live without knowing how ANYTHING works. I knew a teaching professor with a doctorate who could not make a pitcher of lemonade from a can of frozen concentrate.

    1. I knew several someone’s, well educated, and were proud of the fact they couldn’t even cook a packaged meal like mac&cheese. Air in the nose they’d say “that’s what take out and restaurants are for.” Heck, I watched master’s degree throw away clothes because of an easily mended split on the seam.

      I’ve been saying, what are these grasshoppers going to do when winter comes? A generation raised in fairy tales with reworked happy endings.

    2. I used to think that would be silly, but while I was courting my Lady we came across somebody who managed to burn spaghetti. Literally left it to boil so long all the water evaporated and the pot heated up enough to set the noodles on fire.

      There are people out there who not only cannot cook WELL, they can’t follow simple goddamned directions.

          1. Literally yesterday, I reset a timer and thought I’d started it going again, only to be informed a few minutes later that I had not. They are excellent tools, but I still have some user error problems….

            On the other hand, I would like to note that while I can imagine it, I have never actually set the spaghetti on fire.

            1. Nor I. The worst I’ve done is neglect the pot until the spaghetti turned into a nearly inedible gummy mess. I mean, you COULD still eat it, if you were determined enough.

              1. Worst I’ve done is set 2 gallons of sap to boil on the stove, and forget about it until I smell the smoke. Think of a 2 gallon pot completely filled with a hardened black sugar and starch froth burned into it. Even making maple syrup isn’t an error free process.

            2. Never had a fire, but… Mom worked part time and would come home when I was in elementary school (no lunchroom there). A couple of times, she set stuff on the burner or electric skillet, got distracted and forgot. It was a tossup between the hardboiled eggsmoke and the steak-ish cut that was supposed to be cooked with liquid, but wasn’t.

              Mercifully, the attic whole-house fan was good at dealing with disasters. It took me a couple of times as a teenager to get the fireplace mantra right; 1) Open the damper! 2) Preheat the flue! Somehow, the folks never complained….

              1. Burned microwave popcorn is insidious. The stink gets into EVERYTHING, and STAYS.

                One day I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when THAT STINK floated in. I went to the lunch room and found a smoking trash can. SOMEBODY over-nuked a bag of popcorn and then just tossed it. I looked inside, discovered a baleful red glow like unto the pits of Hell, and drowned it under the faucet. Now it smelled like wet burnt popcorn. Nobody ever confessed, either.

    3. I just saw a scholarly article on how there are people who are starving because they have to cook from scratch.


      1. And for the rest of the planet, youtube videos on cooking have suddenly become popular.

        This is also why we’re having some interesting kinks in the supply chain: the reduction in demand at restaurant levels has seen a corresponding increase in domestic consumer demand – but the packaging for individual pounds of hamburger vs. restaurant-sized portions is very different, and has placed a severe demand on the plants that produce the plastic that packages the meat, and when you’re running 3 shifts, you can’t add another shift. So they’re hitting capacity… and still there’s a shortage in the supply chain.

        I bought six pounds of hamburger at the farmer’s market this morning. It is more expensive, but grass-fed, grass-finished, and I know the cash is going straight back to the farmer who’s had a hell of a year. (Said farmer hadn’t quite got the hang of looking like a vendor yet. He had a board with prices, a pile of business cards, and a trailer with several freezers hooked up to a generator. And a determined “I’m people-ing! I’m people-ing! God grant me patience, because I’m trying to people!” expression. Good luck to him!)
        The hamburger came in the same sleeves I’m used to seeing for wild game that’s been to a processor – which tells me what’s easily available for him right now.

        Also, he mentioned that since the supply chain shock to supermarket eggs drove people to look for local alternatives, the farmers have been hard-pressed to keep up with egg demand from consumers. “They’re buying ’em as fast as the chickens can produce, so I don’t have any left to bring here.”

        1. You know, I haven’t had any trouble getting eggs at the store here, but I do keep hearing that once you get hold of some really fresh ones from chickens that are allowed to scavenge (in moderation), you might never want to go back.

          1. I went back, but that’s mostly due to the sheer hassle of getting fresh eggs locally. If I could pick them up as easily as eggs from the store, I’d get them regularly. That said, if I upend my Saturday morning routine and go downtown, I do tend to pick some up at the farmer’s market. The lack today was, as I happily told the farmer, “A good problem to have.”

            Here’s to farmers getting full market price, and demand meeting supply!

            The beef I picked up today? I won’t go down there once a week to get, but I’m entirely likely to look at getting a bulk buy, maybe even a quarter cow, as that minimizes hassle. First, I have to clean out the deep freezer enough for a bulk buy, though. I have plenty of fish and veg… okay, next up on the maybe-tomorrow: one fish curry, with plenty of veg. After al, I bought a bag of garam masala from the import market, and it’s a little too much to fit in the glass jar I normally use for storing such. Clearly, I need to make a couple curries until it all fits!

            1. That’s probably what the farmer was hoping for– although if the butchers around here are anything to go on, it’ll be a LONG time to get an opening to butcher anything new!– because selling bit by bit is a pain.

              You can find stuff on the Facebook marketplace and Craig’s list to if that falls through, or in farming community newspapers.

            2. Hubby golfs with a hobby farmer. He gets preorders for the number of piglets needed for early/late winter harvest. We’ve gotten 1/2 the last two years & getting one again this winter. First year harvest was in time for Christmas ham. Last year, more like Valentines (his source of piglets disappeared so he got them later). Half fits in a 5 cuft chest freezer with room left (if packed right). Half lasts us not quite a year. 1/2 beef last us multiple years.

        2. And a determined “I’m people-ing! I’m people-ing! God grant me patience, because I’m trying to people!” expression. Good luck to him!

      2. There was a piece in the British Papers Some years ago about a girl who was mashing McDonald’s burgers to feed her baby. She didn’t know what else to do.

        1. This was presented as a bad thing, I’m guessing?

          That’s what baby food is— cleanly pre-chewed food.

          I ate what my family was eating, when I was an infant– mom got a food processor for exactly that reason. Same with the rest of us.

          Hamburgers were a big part of that– though home made, which I suppose would magically make it better. (Ire directed at the MommyWars, not you.)

          1. On top of that, have you checked the sodium levels in commercial baby food? They add a lot of salt to make it appeal to adult tastes, not the baby.

            Mashed-up burgers are not the worst thing she could be feeding the kid. It’s got the four food groups, it should all have been cooked to eliminate parasites – beats a lot of traditional baby food right there.

            1. Knew (of) someone who decided, for whatever reason, to sample the dog biscuits & such.

              Paraphrased (it’s been years..): “You know how they make a big deal of how much meat there is? What they are NOT telling you is how much SUGAR there is in all that. It was SO very sweet.”

          2. I would be somewhat concerned if she really, literally didn’t know of any other options, but I definitely gave babygirl nibbles of smushed fast food same as anything else we were having. I lacked the patience to deal with the storage and/or persuasion involved in getting through a whole container of store-bought baby food before it would go bad, when she was just getting started.

            — I assume there are advantages to it for the people who choose it, and I acknowledge that there are a lot of things I should work on having the patience and discipline to do regularly. But that one I’m just not fussed about.

            1. Yeah, the worry would totally be in the direction of “wait, she has no source of edible food besides McD’s?” rather than the kid eating those. I’ve got a video, somewhere, of my then-not-quite-two year old son holding about a third of a Burger King hamburger, after he snagged one of the bag I’d bought for the bigger kids and chowed down. I almost had to wrestle him to get the thing away long enough to move the paper down.


              One of the best tips I got about baby food was from our first pediatrician, who was a functional hippy. He was so granola that he should’ve had beads in his hair.
              But he was practical on stuff like baby food, and while he suggested trying a wide range of the premade baby food as a “supplement” to nursing, as soon as the kid showed any interest, he also flatly ordered me to not buy apple baby food. It’s just unsweetened apple sauce.

              Our kids eat a LOT of apple sauce with fortified rice or oatmeal powder in it, sometimes with (whole fat, or very sweetened greek, avoid honey if they’re under 12 months) yogurt.

              Or canned veggies (they’re pre-cooked AND cooled!), or frozen corn if they’re teething (not a big bunch, if they squirrel it that can hurt, but a small handful and they’ll pick at them like cheerioes), or those silly go-gurt or fruit sauce packages, or…..

              1. Ooh, I should try the powder fortification in applesauce this time. We had some fortified powdered cereal supplement that Daughter just was completely unimpressed with in all forms attempted, but we didn’t try that.

                I am (jokingly) assuming this kid is going to like McDs because the weirdest thing about this pregnancy was the stage of appetite antics that manifested intermittently as “the sole thing I can stand to contemplate eating is a really flat fast food hamburger.”

              2. She had no idea what to feed this child since all she ate was fast food.

                The Daily Mail runs these let’s sneer at the lower classes articles all the time. This one struck me because it was so sad. The girl in question was doing her best for her baby but had no idea what to do because her mother had never taught her.

                Anyone who follows the Great British Bake-off knows that even cooking in the UK is a class thing. That said, I remember a Larry Correa riff on cooking on $5 per person per day EBT ration. We actually do that most days here but then we know how to boil a spud. The rich people who were sneering at the poor couldn’t figure out how that could be done. In a funny way this ties In to the original post since so many people don’t know how to do much of anything from raw materials.

                My kids never really ate baby food. The oldest one did a little, the others wanted to eat what we were eating and went from breast milk to real, if mushy, food.

                1. The Daily Mail runs these let’s sneer at the lower classes articles all the time.

                  Yeah, part of why my ears were pricking at the thought.

                  It’s kind of cool when you can go back into the old mysteries adn such, and find the exact same kind of story– but they’re horrified because Those People are eating from the tin cans.

                  There’s usually a good bit of, ah, creative interpretation going on, as well. And of course it is totally alright for a school kid to eat only ready-to-eat food, but let’s start on the vapors because the child is identified as an infant. (Which I’ve seen used for kids up to 3.)


                  Yeah, if we were on an EBT budget I’d probably be spending more on food than we do. 😀

                  I got onto the kick about chicken being animal based tofu BECAUSE for a while we were mostly eating mechanically butchered chicken quarters. (ugly but not damaged enough to process further) Ten pound bag, sells between $8 and $4, holds eight to ten leg quarters.
                  They taste like what you cook them in. You could fill your freezer with ziplocks of these– four fit in a gallon bag, add about 1/4 cup of broth with any seasoning you want, lower the sealed end of the bag into water to push air out and seal it, then lay flat to freeze. Pull it out the night before you want to cook it, put it in the fridge, it’s marinated.

                  Throw in a baking pan (or sheet, but not one of those flat cookie sheets, it needs a rim) in a cold oven, set for 350* and tell the oven to turn off in 45 minutes, it won’t be perfect but it’ll be at least as good as the cold chicken at the grocery store.

                  Examples of seasoning are things like three or four shakes of garlic salt and/or lemon pepper; skip the broth and put in salad dressing instead (doesn’t work well with ranch, but Italian dressings is really easy); a baggy of Chinese take-out soy sauce, or any other sauce. A take-out pack of BBQ sauce.

                  1. I adore chicken leg quarters and find they taste chickenier than white meat even if, yes, they do also pick up seasoning well. I usually do 2-3 to a bag because I’m not feeding as many people as you are and they fit in the pots I have better that way when I want to cook straight from frozen….

                    …Alternatively, 10 lb of leg quarters will just fit in a 6 qt slow cooker.

                  2. My wife likes to read the Daily Mail because she “doesn’t like too much news in her newspaper”. Look at the old Yes Prime Minister line about the Daily Mail being read by “the wives of the people who run this country” I read the Telegraph, which thinks this country is being run by another country.

                    I find it to be the best gauge of middle class opinion around. When Kate and Megan are the headline, all is well. When they are second, trouble. When they are only the sidebar, crisis. Were they not to appear, world historic disaster. That said, I find their let’s sneer at the working classes thing unpleasant, and they do it all the time in different ways.

                2. Gee, if only there was instruction provided in the high schools, call it Life Skills or Home Economics or something. Shucks, it might even prove almost as useful and life-affirming as Grievance Studies.

                  I looked for the video clip of Sir giving the class cooking lessons from To Sir, With Loove but all I could turn up were trailers and multiple versions of that damned song.

                  1. To Sir, With Love, dagnabbit. Flippin’ keyboard with its bad vowel movements, when it isn’t skipping vowels it is double-striking them.

                    1. You’ve been complaining about that keyboard for a while, haven’t you? Is money so tight you can’t get a new one? If you know anyone who saves old computer parts you can probably get an extra one off of him dirt cheap or even free.

                    1. Meh. I am going to go into making them because I found my darling, with his sweet tooth, is eating my dried fruits before I can bag them for storage. The few relatively low carb, allowed to low carb dieters fuits: pineapple, berries annd honeydew.
                      So….Next week, when HOPEFULLY we’ll be home, I’m making him fruit leather snacks (you mash them then dehydrate and roll them) to keep him off the bad stuff.

                    2. >> “The few relatively low carb, allowed to low carb dieters fuits: pineapple, berries annd honeydew.”

                      Strawberries with almonds are quite a treat.

            2. The benefit is to increase your gag reflex threshold in preparation for the change solid food makes to diapers.

    4. I have had work order requests from graduate level professors to install motion sensor light switches in their offices because flipping a switch is too much work.

      1. …then they’d complain because the lights would go out after they sat motionless at the keyboard for too long…

        1. I would like to note that when you didn’t ask for them, that part can be really disconcerting. 😀

          (And this one was a friend rather than my personal experience, but apparently it’s even more so when you’re actually moving around a fair amount… but the motion sensor isn’t aimed at you!)

    5. I know a pastor who could not figure out how to tie a door open with a bungee cord. She missed the first step of “remove the cord from the panic bar where it is stored”.

  7. Once upon a time, many years ago, I was going to college. Mind you, I was going to college because plantin’ and harvestin’ tobaccy is such effin’ hard work that even the utterly oppressing dress up and play nice and regurgitate popular and professorial bullshit on command and never, ever let yer accent slip from tv-land back to Appalachian… still looked like a good idea.

    But I was standing in the kitchen with a nice gal from the suburbs of Chicago, whom I was fairly sure had never used an outhouse in her life, trying to teach her how to cook. She thought she was a pretty good cook, you see, because she was a fair hand at microwaving popcorn til exactly the point when reached maximum poppage for minimum burn. Boiling water was outside her wheelhouse.

    And I made a sarcastic comment about the beef I was about to turn into hamburger+rice+spices+veg, one of those mix meals popularized by hamburger helper but common to poor college kids and bachelors who cook everywhere. I don’t remember what the sarcastic comment was. I do remember the sudden, completely shocked and startled look she gave me.

    “BEEF comes from MOO-COWS?!?!?!?!”


    And she burst out crying, full on ugly-sobbing breakdown on me.

    Apparently no one had ever taught her that beef came from cows, and the only time she’d ever seen cows was in picture books and cartoons.

    I had no idea how to comfort her. Nor did I ever scoff at the words “disconnected from nature” again.

    1. *tilt*

      *shake head*


      I don’t consider myself super educated, or super intelligent, but I keep running into people who have managed to go through a couple-three decades of life without coming into contact with knowledge I would consider so basic as to be ubiquitous.

      They make my head hurt. They also make me want to hunt down their parents and school teachers for lengthy discussions involving a tire iron.

      1. I’ve read about kids taken out of the city to visit the countryside panicking on seeing a rabbit, because it was a wild animal. It might run over and rip their throats out!

        Same kids apparently think hand-feeding bears is a Good Idea.


        1. See I’d actually agree: hand feeding Bears (and Lions and Tigers) is a Good Idea.

          That is why he need to drop all of PETA into a volcano and start the grand taming project; so that everyone can have a pet Big Cat.

        2. It might run over and rip their throats out!

          Oh, come on, there is only one Rabbit that does that. 😀

          “Run away, run away!”

              1. In the future a genetics hobbyist will create a rabbit that uses a switchblade and who’s sole purpose is to find spammers and telemarketers and KILL them. Eventually they will become VERY hard to find but he will keep searching, after all he doesn’t age and is extremely hard to kill.
                From one of John Ringo’s books.

                1. And Santa Claus. He has to assassinate Santa Claus, which is REALLY HARD when he’s a F’N MYTH!

                  Fortunately, he can be appeased if you provide him with a rabbit-sized flamethrower and some enemies to use it on.

          1. I . . . may . . . according to rumor . . . have been known to show parts of Holy Grail and “What Have the Romans Done for Us” in class. Or so the story goes . . . (taps halo between ears to reset it)

            1. I’m sure you solemnly assured the students that other parts of the movie were inappropriate and they should not seek it out.

              And just as sure that they took you at your word.


              *solemn catly nod*

      2. …I wonder if in some cases, by the time their parents realized the kid didn’t know, they were afraid telling them would lead to an inconvenient outbreak of vegetarianism. It’s the sort of thing… I can see focusing on stuff like the alphabet and not running out into traffic, and assuming meat-comes-from-animals is obvious or just one of those things you pick up. (Sometimes it happens. My very young nephew was gleefully asking for “sheep!” when his parents had cooked lamb, and one of them said, more or less, “Funny, I don’t remember telling him that.”)

        1. My kids are VERY CLEAR on where meat comes from, because I didn’t want to make accidental vegetarians. (If they choose it later, that’s fine—I have enough adult vegetarians around to know how to make sure they don’t get nutritional deficiencies.) We get wild turkeys wandering around the neighborhood, they get a mention of “like Thanksgiving.” And so forth. We’ve even had the kids fish a few times. Only one kid actually likes to eat the fish, but that’s because the other two don’t much like fish. They all think prep is a little gross, but of course it is.

          1. We told our daughter meat comes from animals, and she does like fish, although we’ve never cooked, like, a whole fish with eyeballs. (I like meat. I am squeamish enough to be perfectly happy purchasing it after someone else has slaughtered and disassembled it.) She will blithely ask things like whether the slice of ham she’s eating came from a baby pig. We haven’t introduced her to Charlotte’s Web (or Bambi) yet, though — maybe it would be prudent to do the Little House books or something first.

            1. Didn’t get to *hunt until 12, but got to watch & help butcher Bambi & elk equivalent, well before then. If we (kids) didn’t eat venison, elk, or fish, then we’d have only had potatoes & whatever veggie being presented. Enough of a battle about creamed corn or beets to fight the meat battle.

              * Not that I shot anything. Apparently my finger isn’t loaded, as in “Look!” Dad shot & missed. I just pointed, with rifle appropriately pointed in a safe direction, for both of us & the deer. Then I went off to college & wasn’t home for hunting, then moved out of state, …. then … well we’ve “shot” a lot of deer, elk, bison, bear, fox, pronghorn, but no cougar or wolf, yet … we camera hunt. I miss venison & will eat it when we can. But we get prepackaged.

          2. We are intermittently raising meat animals and one purpose is so the kids clear that this is where meat comes from! And we call beef cow, chicken is the live animal and the meat, and we keep a few if those too. I, uh, I’m a bit vague about the butcher process, but if pressed explain it. That’s normally my job to actually do since we don’t keep enough to pay for poultry processing. So far, they have accepted it as normal. I’d rather not have vegetarians. I can cut way back on meat content, but feel better when I keep some meat in the diet.

            It’s not precisely economical, I have made some mistakes that increase my final cost, but it’s an acceptable hobby expense. I like hobbies I can eat.

          3. Same here– we’ve worked very hard to make it clear what animal each kind of meat comes from, what the dangers are (properly toned down– as amusing as hearing our kids try to say ‘trichinosis’ is, ‘really tiny worms with teeth’ gets the idea across much better) and what they eat.

            The “chickens are dinosaurs” people did a lot of heavy lifting, gotta say.

        2. I think that I had that all figured out, fairly early on – because of the Little House books. There were all kinds of descriptions of hunting for meat, processing the pig. So the fact that meat – tasty, tasty meat! comes from animals was not all that surprising to me.

          1. We read and reread those. Still at the plum creek and before due to age. Those help explain why guns are useful too. For wolves, obviously!

            1. Yep. And later once they’re a bit more mature, you can explain that wolves come in many varieties, some four-legged and some two-legged.

              1. Fairy tales with a bit of gore are a teaching tool. Why does the wolf want to eat the other animal? Because he’s a wolf. It’s what they do. (True, verifiable) Why did mommy tell the (goat) kids to lock the door? Because we don’t know if strangers are safe. A stranger might be might be a wolf and want to eat them all up! Etc. Probably depends on the child, but it makes a vehicle to talk about some people being bad and needing to learn the difference when personal experience is all with nice people.

                The above leads to, “Mommy, is that person a stranger?” “Yes.” “Why did you talk to them? We don’t talk to strangers.” And thus to another teaching opportunity re strangers vs friends how that is a process to get to know new people, and curse you, covid, messing with socialization opportunities. Sigh.

      1. When I see a herd of cows, I say”There’s dinner.” I’m a city girl from NYC but I knew the basics even though I only ever saw meat cut up at the supermarket.

        1. One of the road-cleanup sponsors in our area is “The Beef for Dinner Group”. Between the cattle and the potatoes, we have two of the food groups covered…

    2. Boggles. A good portion of my youth was spent in the western suburbs of Chicago, but real honest-to-goodness farms were within a few miles of us.

      Somewhere around age 9 or 10 I tilled a patch of ground and tried to raise corn (planted too late to get much good, and the plot had too much shade to begin with). I think the green beans turned out all right, though. Hard work with a spading fork.

      As a younger kid in the Detroit ‘burbs, we’d visit farms on field trips, so we had some relevant clues as to how that meat appeared in the ‘fridge. I couldn’t tell you when I first realized that hamburger came from the moo-cows, but it sure as hell wasn’t a shock to my system.

      1. My mother’s parents had a small farm that they used to supplement his income so I grew up knowing a bit about where food came from.

        Oh, I don’t remember if they raised chickens (or other food livestock) but I remember visiting one of Mom’s older cousins farm where I learned first hand what “running around like a chicken without a head” meant.

        Oh, if you cut off a chicken’s head in order to use it for food, the chicken’s body would actually run around (if you let it). 😈

        1. Most headless chickens just kick a few times, or flop around. There is only the occasional Super Chicken that actually gets up and runs around randomly. Even those generally blunder into something and can’t get free, because, no head.

          1. This was many many years ago and I was a youngster.

            Of course, I may have seen that Super Chicken. 😉

            1. a childhood friend was noted for dropping the birds to see if they flopped or “ran”. I’ve seen both. The “runner” hit the house and his mom yelled at him for making a mess. “Hold it over the bucket!” It was more a wing flop that allowed the flailing legs to propel the body than an upright live bird’s run. But it left a nice blood splat on the siding.

              1. Of course, besides being a youngster, I was a city boy who didn’t expect a headless chicken to move in any manner. 😉

        2. Did you ever hear of Mike the Headless Chicken? Farmer cut the chicken’s head off a little higher than usual, and it had enough brain stem left that it just kept walking around. So the farmer fed it with an eyedropper, dropping sugar solution into the esophagus, and charged people admission to see it. It lived for 18 months without a head.

      2. Chicago used to be known for its slaughterhouses. EVERYbody ought find themselves downwind of a slaughterhouse at least twice.

    3. I’ve seen too many people who are far too quick with the accusation, so I try to avoid using it lightly.

      But I am sorely tempted to call this child abuse. The degree to isolation from the real world to cause that is astounding. The average cult looks on in awe.

      1. Most counties in most years run free farm tour weekends, where you can visit all kinds of different farms and sample their products. Educational and fun. Same thing for county fairs, except not free.

        1. I don’t even mean “person never been around animals”.

          How does beef == cow manage to not reach someone’s ears in that amount of time? If *only* from the screeching of the vegetarians.

          1. I dunno, but a couple decades back, in a rural part of California, I twice encountered this (condensed):

            Them (waving a hamburger): Killing cows is wrong!
            Me: Where did you get that burger?
            Them: McDonalds.

            Hopeless, I tell you… of course, the average city dweller thinks electricity comes from the wall….

            1. Yep, just go to Lowes, get a box and socket and voila electricity flows from nowhere. That’s why AOC knows that it’s oppression for electricity to not be free.

          2. About the 70s or so, it got bad enough that a lot of agricultural groups actively started working to get people to realize where their food came from.

            My mom was a Cow Belle (plus ag college, school teacher and actually-does-the-stuff level volunteer for like a dozen groups, but the Cattlemen’s ladies’ auxiliary is her go to identifier for the outreach) and she had stories from folks in small towns that went “milk comes from the store” and had no concept of the idea that it had to get there from somewhere else.

            They had lots of fun outreach, too, for stuff that comes from animals besides food– from makeup to the stuff that makes zipper plastic flexible enough to not shatter.

            1. One thing that the California State Fair does pretty well is the agricultural outreach. They did have animals giving birth for several decades before protesters decided that was cruel. But they’ll still have all of the farm animals unless there’s a disease going around one type. (Piglets one year, chickens another, that sort of thing.) Though I think they stopped with the tables of recipe cards in the barns. Someone probably complained.

                1. Not to me. I’ve had to help deliver calves. Hard, nasty, dirty, stinky job, that.

                  Thinking about it, I’ve seen that on ‘Dirty Jobs’ too.

                  1. Very satisfying when you get a live calf and mother, though.

                    They had a couple of cattle, but we didn’t catch those. Got to see part of a goat’s hoof. Several pigs– saw that on the TV screens– and several chickens.
                    The baby emu in the hatching section were adorable.

                2. The novelty wears off.
                  I was so happy when our operation went from Hereford to Saler as the major rootstock. We went from 3 or more complications a week during calving season, to 2-3 complications for the season.
                  Although the lowest ebb of “like” was
                  1) discovering that chlamydia is a cattle disease
                  2) despite its reputation as a venereal disease, it is possible for humans to catch it as a pneumonia
                  3) being up to your shoulder while attempting to turn a calf puts you in the perfect spot to do so
                  4) less than a month after the state-mandated sex-ed classes in middle school

                  1. De gustibus; I never tired of it, in 18+ years of helping, but my dad also made sure that the cows had enough variety to avoid the worst complications, and feeding in the evening cut down on the night-births.

    4. K, my baby brother was support for the SEALs at one point– like, BFN Afghanistan phone call to my parents because they had to test a phone system they’d set up type thing and ours were the only ones that wouldn’t assume death at that hour of the day, dad answered from the top of a mountain and on a horse himself– and so mom sent a LOT of care packages.

      One of them was venison.

      After half the pack had evaporated, and the country guys were chatting, they discovered about half the guys in the shop didn’t know that “venison” meant “deer.”

      Three of the SEALs literally puked when they found out they’d eaten Bambi.

      1. *double facepaw* I believe it, but, just . . . I . . . Yeah. I ain’t got anything on that one.

        But Bambi’s girlfriend still owes me four grand in car repairs from 2001, so I eat deer to get even.

        1. I can understand folks not having “venison” in their vocabulary.
          I can understand having a negative emotional reaction to eating Bambi– that’s the whole thing PETA mined for years, for heaven’s sake.

          …I can’t see having a strong enough emotional reaction to hurl.

          Deer are just to REAL to me, for the cartoon to do anything on that level.

          1. Many, many years ago when I was active in the SCA, we heard from one woman about her boyfriend coming from NC(?) to upper NY state to visit her. He was late, and this was long before cell phones and just about the point where she was thinking she should call the State Police to see if there had been any accidents he showed up at the door, covered in blood, and before she could freak too badly announced: “I need plastic wrap and aluminum foil!”

            A deer had jumped in front of his truck, thankfully only damaging the bumper, but killing itself. He was a smith and had a lot of his tools and work product in his van, so he just found a decent knife and did a quick butchering and got some of the best bits. He figured the deer was already dead, and anyway it owed him for the bumper.

            1. I drove up to visit a friend in Montana one year, and figured if a deer hit my car, I’d pay for the butchering and leave most of it with her. I think Montana is one of the states where you can salvage suicidal deer.

              1. I’ve been told you can in Michigan if it’s during hunting season and you already have a license.

                Seriously, what are they going to do with it otherwise, and who in their right mind would routinely go hunting deer with the family car?

                1. Oregon you are suppose to report it. If they get to it in time it goes to local shelters, or if the right area, the tribes will take it. Yellowstone the rangers just haul it out into the woods or prairie (getting it off and away from the road), depending on locations. Bears, wolves, and a manner of all smaller predators appreciate the free meal.

            2. Is this my cue to insert this video?

              Country folks can survive
              ‘Cause you can’t stomp us out and you can’t make us run
              ‘Cause we’re them old boys raised on shotguns
              We say grace, and we say ma’am
              If you ain’t into that, we don’t give a damn
              We’re from north California and south Alabam’
              And little towns all around this land
              And we can skin a buck, we can run a trotline
              And a country boy can survive
              Country folks can survive
              A country boy can survive
              Country folks can survive

            1. Goat would be closer.

              Or maybe ‘unicorn’. One of the varieties where they talk, and are non-violent.

              I can understand it, intellectually…but wow.

                1. There is a manga and anime about cannibalizing mermaids. (Because it makes you immortL, IIRC. I think it was a serious storyline from the same lady that did Ranma?(searching… Yup, Mermaid’s Forest and Mermaid’s Scar.)

                  1. Rumiko Takahashi. She also did Maison Ikkoku, Urusei Yatsura and InuYasha. I wasn’t much impressed with Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku, but I’ve got the entire InuYasha series on disk.

          2. Stupid deer are eating my garden right now. I’d much rather be eating them. Grr.

            At least I don’t need the garden to live. It’s annoyance, not survival.

              1. Beloved Spouse & Daughtorial Unit were at Colonial Williamsburg a while back and asked a question prompting the docent to explain that a primary purpose of gardens back then was to lure deer into convenient shooting range.

            1. Check your state’s laws on that. In AR up until the mid 80s at least, you could shoot as many deer as you liked if they were “destroying crops”…. and that specifically included gardens. My late grandfather, not being stupid, planted the Yarborough garden so that it could be covered from the front door of the farmhouse. This allowed him to shoot the deer from inside the house. I think his record was 6 one year. All his neighbors had venison.

              His deer gun of choice was a 12 gauge loaded with slugs.

              1. When we lived in Norfolk, VA, one of the members of the next SCA group west of us had a “varmint” license for his farm.
                Their feasts almost always included venison. Or squirrel. Both are quite tasty. My most recent boss is just about salivating when he talks about his mother’s squirrel pot pie.

              2. Great Uncle had a varmint license because of their extensive garden. He supplied extra venison to family for years. (Drain, Oregon)

        2. Not to mention the fact that getting shot by a hunter is a far, far kinder death than starving to death, which is what lots and lots of deer would do if predators didn’t keep their numbers down. And since we’ve mostly driven out the wolves and other large predators from the areas where we live (for very good reasons), the only major deer predator left is… us.

          As long as the hunter is skilled enough with his rifle to hit the deer in a vital spot where it’ll die in a short time, he’s doing it a kindness.

          1. A friend of mine grew up outside Danbury, CT in a very rural area. Whenever folks would start in on the “Poow, cutesy, widdle deaw, how can you be so mean as to hunt it?”, she’d invite them to come over and watch the deer starve to death in her backyard.

            Funny, no one ever took her up on that offer. 🙂

            1. My sister lives on a hill in Novato, and her backyard doesn’t have a fence. She sees wildlife all of the time, and has one video of deer and turkeys all over the road in front of her house, with the caption “Thanksgiving at my house!”

            2. That’s the sort of area where they want them shot with tranquilizer guns and shipped somewhere else because they are a nuisance.

              1. Right, so they can go be a nuisance somewhere else.

                Sort of like liberals fleeing the hellholes they have made of their cities…

              2. I live near Bluff Point in Groton. Some years back when they authorized a cull the PETA types were demanding that instead of allowing hunters to shoot 30 of the herd, the DEEP should be out there giving all the does Norplant.

                1. *starts cackling like a loon*

                  Did you hear what happened when they actually did that?

                  Well…. does that don’t get bred stay in estrus.

                  So they effectively coated the entire area in that scent you use to attract bucks when you’re hunting.

          2. When we lived in New Jersey my husband used to suggest the government reintroduce wolves and cougars. They would Restore the Natural Balance by eating the deer, preserving them from the Eee-vil Hunters. And losing the occasional dog, cat or small child would be a small price to pay. He had to stop because too many people agreed with him.

            1. I’ve been in favor of bringing back the sabertooth for years. First choice for release would be Portland. 😎

              1. You know, sometimes I disagree with your more evil ideas. Right now, I’m just going to say, give my friends who have to live there (Not by choice) fair warning, and we’re on.

              2. Well … Portland, Eugene, & Salem, as well as the rest of Oregon, has cougars. Result of outlawing hunting with dogs. Black Bear too. Wolves have made their way to Willawas/Blues in NE corner, even a pack in southern Cascades. No wolves, yet, in Coast Range, however. I’ve seen black bears twice in Oregon, in the wild, and lots of sign of them. Never seen a cougar however (despite the warning posting at Doris Ranch within half an hour of a sighting).

          3. Not only that, but overpopulated deer eat EVERYTHING, so all the other herbivores starve too.

            It’s tiresome the extent to which so many people who claim to ‘Care About The Environment’ know next to nothing about it. Not to mention the number of ‘sustainable’ hobbyhorses they ride that are un-sustainable. Wind power, solar power, ‘organic’ farming…


      2. I got immunized to the Disney version of Bambi because I read the Felix Salten book (in translation) when I was in third grade.

    5. The local fair has milking demonstrations and usually has kids pondering the notion of drinking milk ever again.

  8. I take your point about the bread, but bakers have always tended to work at night, even before electricity. How else could there be fresh bread in the morning. The French in pre baguette days preferred their bread three days old but the middle classes and the rich in the towns wanted fresh bread for breakfast so the baker had to start work at 2:00 AM.

    It’s getting very hard to get a proper loaf of bread in France because few Frenchmen are willing to do very hard work all night. Most of the remaining boulangerie are owned by Algerians now.

    1. And unless France has greatly changed from what it was like when I was growing up there (I doubt it), those Algerians are widely despised. When I went to French public school (especially the year I went to a school in a poor neighborhood with a lot of Algerian immigrants), the racial epithet of choice was “arabe”*, which was a pretty inaccurate description of Algerians but that’s what they were called. And it was not, repeat not, used as a compliment.

      * The French word “arabe” is spelled with a final e in both its masculine and feminine forms.

  9. Before the windmill it was done using a queen stone. To grind your days requirement took a couple of hours of hard, tedious work usually by the women. it’s the origin of the expressIon “the daily grind”

    When Sampson was set to grind it was the woman’s work at the quern not replacing a horse like they show in the old illustrations.

      1. The picture I have in mind is Sampson pushing on a horizontal bar in place of a horse. Much like the first Conan movie.

    1. Rome used big grindstones. You sent slaves there as punishment because it was a slow death with all that participate matter in the air.

    1. Or using a mano and metate, the hand-held grinding stones. Female bones from some areas show the marks of spending hours kneeling and grinding.

      1. I remember… maybe in the second grade, and we were being taught about how people in the Far East had to flood and drain fields, then uproot rice seedlings and carry them in baskets to other fields and re-plant them by hand, and some other borderline-absurd stuff, and how hard they had to work to eat. And I wondered “if that’s so much work, why not plant something else?”

      2. There’s quite a few grinding rocks in my area; one’s even a state park. Great big divots in the granite from years and years of grinding acorns into flour. (You have to soak acorn flour to remove the tannins; it’s called “leaching.”) Note that a divot in a stone means bits of stone ended up in the flour—much joy for your teeth.

  10. Yes! The fact that property represents life spent is not pointed out enough.

    This is why we should absolutely be able to use deadly force against people “just” trying to take our property. Yes, I’m all for shooting someone in the back as they run away with a DVD player. Hang the horse thieves.

    Barbaric behavior must be handled with barbaric consequences. When the people start behaving in a civilized way again, we can return to more civilized consequences.

    1. Yes, I’m all for shooting someone in the back as they run away with a DVD player.

      I find the whole “shot in the back” thing annoying, in both it’s modern and historical forms. (And yes I do know the Why of both)

      If someone is worth shooting they are worth shooting from any angle. And fair fights* are for suckers.

      * fights for keeps. Fights as games should of course be fair.

      1. “They shot him in the back!”
        His back was to ’em (to sorta quote Lou Gosset Jr.)
        not only was it to them, it was to them as he probably dug for a weapon to use on them which he would have gladly used to shoot or stab them in the back

        1. The (possibly apocryphal) observation about the shooting death of John Wesley Hardin was that if his assassin shot him from the front, he (the assassin) was a brave man. If he shot him in the back, he was a wise one!

    2. I’ve been trying to explain to my elder daughter that theft is a form of slavery. You are stealing someone’s time. While money might replace the things, it won’t replace the time spent to either make the item or to earn the money to buy the item.

      When that b***h broke into our house in Norfolk and stole about $1000 worth of our stuff she made me develop a never-ending grudge against her. Seriously, it’s been nearly 25 years, and if I ever meet her again, you’ll be getting pleas for bail money from me. Yes, it’s kind of sad that I know who did it, but we can’t prove it. On the other hand, this led the local SCA group (how we all had met her) to discover that she had Interpol looking for her, and she’d managed to get Ford Motor Co interested in her forging a power of attorney to buy a car, so we can add grand theft auto to her resume. Sweet girl…..

        1. My list is short. Barbie (the burglar), Jane and Shiela (supervisors from hell) and the dude who kept trying to sue me and others a few years back, and tried to make trouble for me at this blog too, though he’s fallen way down the list. It seems that reality has somewhat caught up with him, though not enough to send him to jail or make him pay back his ill-gotten SSDI/federal disability.

      1. We don’t know who broke into our house in 2006, first day after the New Year Holiday (first day back to school, & work for us). What they got was replaceable (mostly). Except the actual digital pictures on my laptop of son’s Eagle Court of Honor (they are backed up somewhere, just don’t ask me where). Although we still have the taped version, now digitized. OTOH we know about when we had to gotten hit. Which also means we realized that our son could have walked in on the burglary if his first day back from school had been a short day (for him). Sure we were upset. But our stuff was insured & kid was fine with no confrontations.

        1. I had nearly stayed home the night we were burgled, and if I had I would have been upstairs napping with the baby. That house was solid, and the first I would have known of the burglary was when they were walking up the stairs. So that may color my feelings about it. But if, for instance, some BLM rioter decided to burn down my house, there would go my wedding photos, which are from ’94 with no digital backup. Not to mention furniture and silver inherited from my grandmother, etc., etc., etc. And yes, insurance would cover replacing most of the stuff, but then my insurance rates would go up, so it’s still theft of my time since they would be destroying things with emotional significance, antiques that can’t be replaced, and costing me more money in the future.

          1. burn down my house, there would go my wedding photos, which are from ’94 with no digital backup. Not to mention furniture and silver inherited from my grandmother, etc., etc., etc.

            Yes. Exactly.

            Theft = digital cameras (one which we were still paying for), laptop, jewelry, and game systems. Note, insurance, even with replacement costs, does not pay full cost. Well it does, but you have to have either the original receipt (most of my jewelry, we did, my class ring, and confirmation cross, no). New camera, laptop, had original receipt. Otherwise you actually have to replace the item to get reimbursed at replacement cost, otherwise, you get depreciated value cost. Fire will take out original paintings from my great-grandmother, grandfather, platters used by grandmothers, an antique oak wall phone (no dial), handmade quilts, handmade afghans, all *irreplaceable, regardless of depreciated cost. In the case of the painting, discounted cost is $0. That doesn’t count 42 years of photography, of which only the last 15 years is digital. Also, my wedding photos are from 1978, also not digital. Infant pictures of our son, not digital. Pictures of the various kittens we’ve rescued, raised, & said goodbye to, also not digitized. “That stuff isn’t worth someone’s life!” … wanna bet? Just try me. Granted my official response would be defending against lethal force (fire) with lethal force (because miracle of miracles not everything was lost in that canoe accident, what do you know).

            * Yes. I can go buy handmade quilts & afghans. Not ones made by Grandma A. Not the ones I spent weeks cutting out & putting together. Great-Grandmother died when I was 3. Grandpa died when I was 52. I can never replace their one of a kind paintings that I have. Not, ever.

            1. *sob* In the 2003 Paradise Mountain fire, in Northern San Diego county, my parents lost their retirement home and just about all the contents. Of the things we regretted the most? The large box of family pictures that we had been sorting out, and that my daughter nearly took with her, when she drove across country upon being transferred from Pendleton to Cherry Point. She looked at the box before she headed out on the day that she visited my parents, thought about taking it, and said … ‘nah.’
              The other thing, that we thought about first – was all the accumulated Christmas things, in boxes in the garage. Mom and Dad would never have thought to grab them, in the twenty minutes they had to abandon the house.
              We do wish that she had thought to get the family Christening dress, which was a wonderful, ornate Victorian confection, of fine muslin and beautiful embroidered lace. No way that I could ever replicate that, not without spending a fortune on fabric and lace.
              Yeah, they had insurance – but there was no way that insurance could ever come close to replacing what was lost in the fire.
              On the other hand, as my youngest brother cogently observed – it really will reduce any fights between us over family stuff when Mom passes on. Little of it left enough, and my sister is welcome to it.

  11. A great detailed example of the “comfortable pre-industrial society” fallacy so popular among writers who have no idea how an economy works… but somehow their characters have abundant clothing, metal tools, comfortable houses, books, etc.

    This essay should be the starter of a “society building for dummies” book!

    1. Oh, yeah. The medieval mystery (bestseller series) went against the wall because the crux of it was the maid bought a blanket in the unusual blue as her mistress’s cloak and was confused for her. Which is preposterous. A maid servant bought a blanket on a whim. That unusual color was available in their local market. Etc.

      1. Neil Stevenson’s latest went against the wall when he had Seattle working while the farm parts of the country were chaos. How did they eat?

        The line that finished me was about smart people living here. Useless drones mostly

        1. I read Snow Crash back when I was in college, and have not wanted to pick up another Neal Stephenson novel since. No, Neal, the human brain is not a computer, and cannot be hacked by a carefully-constructed bit of visual input.

          1. I was willing to accept that for the sake of the story, especially given the background he established for it. The thing is, at the time, a lot of people believed that….

          2. I really liked his Baroque Cycle and Cryptonomicon. Snow Crash was intriguing, growing up with the mob like so did showed me that he didn’t know much about it. He became self indulgent and uneditable. I probably won’t read him again.

          3. I gave up on the whole ‘Cyberpunk’ thing fairly quickly. None of the worlds in the books I tried to read would have lasted five years, if only because the underclass would have pulled them down around the Elite’s ears.

            1. ever notice how many cyberpunk worlds start with ‘first, the US fall apart/ gets put in their place by europe/etc’ ?

              1. Well, when we aren’t being spanked by Japanese or Chinese, depending on who’s fashionable and/or paying for it.

              2. The detail that always got me was that Cyberpunk is almost always written from a Leftist perspective, so evil corporations were the bad guys…but in order to make these corporations a threat, they first had to turn them into governments!

                1. F.M. Busby had the corporations bidding to run the US government in his “Rissa Kerguelen,” novels. Then one of them won the bid and made sure noone else ever bid again.
                  Mind you, his good guys weren’t leftists, either. They were all in favor of letting people run their own lives, but since the corporate form was what they’d grown up with they set up a world government as a board of trustees.

                2. Speaking of rule by private companies, Obama the Unready was talking up a new “history” of the British East India Company called The Anarchy. Obama seems to read books the way Lebrun James does — only the first page. Full disclosure, not a few of my extended family served in John Company’s army back in the day and I actually know something about the East India Company. Paradise, no. Better off under the EIC than under the local nabobs, oh yes.

                  Don’t read the book, it’s crap and gets the facts wrong. I can live with interpretations being skewed but you have to get the facts, as fully as possible and in the right order. Dalrymple (the author) has the British cringe down cold. I’m not actually a fan of empire, but it was a thing and had both good and bad. if you want to know something about it read John Keay, he’s properly critical but balanced.

                  Still, corporate rule is a fantasy since you have to have an army, which makes you a government. Armies are expensive and bad for business and what exactly do these companies sell? They always seem to be spoiling the environment making product, but who buys it, and why exactly?

                  What I liked about cyberpunk was the vaguely Japanese aesthetic. I always found Japan interesting, though I never really got into Manga. Number-one son learned Japanese just to read manga but I think it was just that bit too late for me.

                  1. Ah, William Dalrymple. The only Dalrymple I knew of was Theodore Dalrymple, and if he’d gone full SJW, I was going to fall into despair.

        2. The line that finished me was about smart people living here.

          They keep stubbing their toes on unnoticed assumptions; that’s what makes them smart.

      2. And in some eras blue was the color of livery, meaning her mistress wouldn’t be caught dead in it.

    2. I, er, got completely booted out of one of the later Velgarth-universe books (and never could quite get back into the ‘verse) by the mention of elaborate wedding costumes beaded to heck and gone, worn once, and then taken off to become “family keepsakes”.

      …I’ve beaded things by hand. The amount of work involved – aaaaaugh.

      That is not how medieval tech level civilizations work!

      1. I did a 3 inch round crewl work cat for my wife once.


        I have a healthy respect for people who do embroidery work by hand.

    3. The series in question had thousands of refugees descend upon a town of, say, fifty or sixty people, and they were able to deal with them. Sorry, what? This is not how a duchy happens. (I was enjoying the series for the first couple of books, and finished it because I wanted to know what happened, but that was one of the big world building failures.)

        1. I think the author(s) [because Larry Dixon did a lot of the behind-the-scenes engineering of how magic would work and what the rules had to be] got so focused on the magic and the huge plot arc and connections that they lost track of the small-but-vital details. IIRC M.L. also had some personal difficulties as well that might have thrown things off in terms of remembering world building details.

          1. Margaret Ball’s comment up thread reminds me of a book I walled years ago, which featured a non-industrial society (as far as I got) with teens able to spend lots of time river rafting, rock climbing, etc. I’ve forgotten which writer it was, but she went on to be a successful mid-lister. Even back then I knew that kind of society doesn’t have that much free time.

            But then so is Lackey/Velgarth, which … well, the worldbuilding bugs me considerably. And I looked at Dixon’s contributions in a collection once, (the engineering of the magic folk’s Vales) and they just made it worse. My kid has found it a target rich environment for fanfiction, so I can’t escape it.

        1. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, the Valdemaran Monarchy apparently made maintaining stores for emergencies part of the feudal obligations. Of course, how they grew enough food for that in a muscle powered economy was never really explained…..

    4. In my WIP the protagonist comes from a “stone-age” primitive tribe, but they have and use iron. The nearest city– two day’s walk from home– is late-Roman/pseudo-medaeval, but most of their metallurgy is broze because the local Empire (making free with caricatures of the Legions in Roman Britain) hoard any iron they find. Our Intrepid Hero gets in trouble because he’s come to the Big (to him) City at the frontier of the empire to sell iron horseshoes.

      I just hope the “tribal” forge and bog-iron aren’t too technologically anachronistic…

    1. I told you we don’t grow wheat around here. 🙂

      We do grow corn, though, and if you’re growing it at home, you have to hand-pollinate because wind pollination doesn’t work on a small scale.

          1. Don’t bother. Just tap the tassel against a large bucket, and the pollen will shake loose and fall into the bucket. There’s a lot of it (you can measure it with a spoon), and it’s fairly heavy (for pollen) and won’t fly away easily. Keep it dry and it will stay viable for about ten days, in my experience.

      1. I do that too, but at least with sweet corn I’ve found it’s largely a varietal problem, where there’s a timing mismatch between tassel and silk (usually the tassel matures too early). “Burpee Sunglow hybrid” (60 days from planting to harvest, but only about 3 days where it’s really good-tasting) has a long-lived tassel, and will pollinate itself and everything else in reach with no effort on my part. “Silver Queen” will only take about half the time even with a hand-job (white corn tends to be generally poor at it, in my experience). “Burpee Triple Crown yellow hybrid” (which nonetheless breeds true, and is by far the best I’ve found for a long period where it’s tender and sweet) has a shorter pollen production period, and while if it’s in a block it will mostly do itself, it still can benefit from manual pollination. I just bang pollen into a bucket (if you haven’t done that, you’d be shocked how much there is) and sprinkle a generous pinch on each visible silk.

        Also, I’ve become a Burpee seed bigot, as they seem to have better cultivars, the hybrids usually breed true, AND their seeds keep a whole lot longer. (I’m still planting tomatoes from seeds dated 2003.)

          1. We’re doing OK, though Zone 1 and a greenhouse. Siletz (Oregon hybrid, prefers the north side of the g’house), Siberians (so the packet said; Siberia and Siberian are supposed to be two different varieties. Arggh) are doing well on the south side.

            The Romas are so-so. We had poor results sprouting, so we got some Burpee seeds, and they did well.

            Summer squash was odd. (All outdoors, covered in frost cloth for 30-35F nights, covered in frostcloth and plastic for the occasional low-20s to 30F nights). Crookneck and yellow squash did well, as did the striped variety I’ve heard of as “true Zucchini”, and another light green. The dark green “normal zucchini” stunk; came in late, and for all plants, the female flowers came out a week or two before the males (normally it’s the other way around, but last and this summer were Odd) so there were a lot of failed fruit. Hard to pollinate when there’s no pollen…

            All the squash plants are pulled, though we are likely to have tomatoes into early October, with luck.

        1. Nice! I’m hoping to try some Glass Gem corn (I didn’t prepare the bed this year, so they topped out at two feet high, oops). I get my sweet corn from a local U-Pick that is at 40¢ a pound, minimum $40 (a huge jump this season, because apparently people were using the 30¢/lb, minimum $20, as an excuse to “picnic in the fields”, I WONDER WHY, but still very much worth it.) I’ve seen some women (Ukrainian by the look) even picking purslane from the irrigation ditches, which means they’re paying money to weed!

          1. A blueberry outfit in Michigan City, Indiana had a U-pick setup in the ’60s. Picnicing on site was encouraged. We’d get a bunch and freeze the whole berries. With care, we’d not run out until the next harvest. Good times.

  12. If the miller is LUCKY his millstone is powered by wind, water or animals. All too often it’s powered by the miller and his family. Sometimes supplemented by local folks who’ve been caught being naughty. “Two weeks pushin’ the miller’s grindstone, and don’t yer be a-doin’ that again!”

    1. You can always ask where the millstones came from or who made them. In one of the little valleys we used to camp in when I was a Boy Scout there was an old mill stone, all that was left of the mill. It had been imported from Europe by another Scout’s great grandfather. All those high tech tools and implements have to come from somewhere. The local blacksmiths shop can’t make everything.

  13. This fits well with some of the reviews I’ve been reading about this In Defense of Looting lady, who seems to think that looting shows us, “Without police, we can have whatever we want for free!” There are Hindu gods who don’t have enough hands to give that the facepalm it deserves, but I think she really believes it: things will just keep appearing on shelves and people can take what they want to their heart’s content. (Only the heart in that circumstance will never be content).

    It also fits with a number of socialists I’ve run across who openly admit that their goal is that people shouldn’t have to work for a living. Maybe they’re being cynical, but I get the feeling they’re not: they honestly think “capitalism” is the only thing keeping them from being able to goof off and do whatever they want all day.

    1. The IN DEFENSE OF LOOTING lady is a Trans Woman, which means the has her mental feet planted firmly in midair. Not that there’s anything inherantly WRONG with that, but it undermines her claims to expertise.

      1. I guess if your level of thinking is magical (I can make myself a woman if I BELIEVE it hard enough!) then all stuff grows on store shelves is not a large step.

        1. Oh and let’s not even get started on how a pre-industrial society needs children to be conceived, born, and raised at a rate greater than infant and child mortality. No one had a “gender” back then, you had a sex, and if you were a woman you had children until you died, and if you were a man you raised your children to replace you. If you were very lucky you outlived your fertile years and got to teach the children of other people.

      2. There’s some evil part of me that says the best thing that could happen to that lady is for someone to come and take her stuff away. But she probably wouldn’t even understand then…

        1. She argues that “that’s different.” Companies are living off of exploited people, and they have insurance, so if they get looted, it’s OK and justified property redistribution. Taking things from houses is theft, and theft is wrong. (AAaaaand now I’m going to get an ice bag, because thinking like that makes me brain hurt.)

          1. Too many people believe in magic. I saw a guy today in a full mask, goggles, gloves, and ….. flip flops. Like no one ever caught anything from walking on a dirty pavement.

            It’s all just magic

          2. You are likely correct TXRed. Here we have the classic stupidity of the left not realizing that the Company has owners who might be little old ladies dependent on the income , has workers dependent on the jobs has suppliers etc. I can not express how much this annoys me without the use of obscenity and/or profanity.

            1. the Company has owners who might be little old ladies dependent on the income

              This is why I am often wont to respond to anti-corporation arguments by pointing out that pensions constitute the main investors in corporate stocks, that they are the primary income for widows and orphans and demand to know, “Why do you want widows and orphans to starve?”

              Progs, you stupid bastards, I read your playbook!

          3. And the deluded idiot is probably ignorant of the standard insurance disclaimer which excludes damages resulting from ‘civil disturbance’ — like, say, RIOTS AND LOOTERS!

            Or the fact that it will be impossible to get insurance in those cities for years at least…

            1. Oh, you’re being too negative. Detroit had major rioting in 1967 and ’68 and they’ve recovered just fine.

              1. Yeah, In my own neighborhood there were Hartford, New Haven and a little further south Newark hit hard by the 68 riots. Newark has recently gentrified and recovered as of 2014 or so due to it’s proximity to NYC and a booming restaurant and club scene. I imagine it’s back to being dead with COVID lockdowns. In Hartford the middle class(all colors) fled in the early 70’s to suburbs north of the city. Basically it was a dead zone after business hours and with insurance companies fleeing due to stupid Governors and legislatures in the 90’s its dead outside Trinity College (now a third rate liberal vaguely Jesuit college). New Haven also lost its middle and upper class down the shore to Branford, Guilford and Madison. It never really recovered outside regions servicing Yale University (not that it was great shakes before). There’s probably dozens of other examples, basically the bourgeoisie got the bleep out of those places when it became clear their possessions could be gone in a few hours . Some places (northwest) missed this last time, but they seem to have generated their own idiots this time and the middle/upper class seem to be unwilling to vacate, To quote Niven/Pournelle “Think of it as evolution in action”.

                1. It’s long been fashionable to despise the “Boogie” even though that is a lifestyle Kings once killed to enjoy.

  14. Building an outbuilding with modern tools is taking a long time (working alone). However, if you had to do it from scratch:

    Find suitable rocks for making tools. We have obsidian available in various sizes.
    Make a knife to prepare binding materials (gut and sinews are the obvious, while some of the tule grasses *might* work.
    Knap out an axe head and some scrapers. Use the axe to cut branches for an axe handle. Bind a head to a handle and start going after usable trees. Remove bark where necessary and notch to suit.
    Stack logs. Doorway will likely be a piece of critter hide.
    Once roof is framed, make a thatched roof from local grasses.

    Not sure of elapsed time. Solo, maybe a few years for that shed, depending on how miserable it is to make and use the obsidian (or flint) tools.

    We have an iron bearing soil, (enough so that magnets pick up soil bits) but I would not want to contemplate trying to make steel out of that…

    1. “Solo, maybe a few years for that shed,”

      Probably not. The important factor here is expertise—if you watch the videos of those Thai guys who build things in the wilderness, or that Chinese farmer lady who builds furniture from scratch, you can see that someone who knows what they’re doing can do something in a week or so. Look at the Little House books, and the descriptions of how long it took Laura’s Pa to build a house. And someone who knows how to knap a tool can do that fairly quickly as well.

      1. OK, my “scratch” assumes someone who sort of knows what’s involved, but hasn’t done any of it in practice. So, lots of learning curve and most likely a whole lot of broken tools. Not to mention just wearing out the existing tools.

        OTOH, on rethinking it, I suspect such a shed wouldn’t be log based. The Klamath museum (need to get back there if it’s open this fall) showed that dwellings were branch-framed (there is/was lots of willow and aspen around), and I’m guessing skin covered. (Our soils make fairly poor mud. More shale than workable clay, and there’s lots of rock and pumice.)

        1. Cedar bark huts were the basic concept in our foothills. SUPER simple, because that stuff comes right off of fallen logs in large chunks. So you have your shelter while prepping something more durable.

          1. I’ve heard of cedar growing east of the Cascades, but haven’t seen any in the flesh. We have various pines, none of which would have convenient bark. According to one account, [redacted] River had plenty of willows along the banks, but they were cut when the ranchers wanted river access for the cattle. I don’t know how big the trunks would have been.

        2. I believe the tribes in the area used dugouts– that means less material needed up on topi, and better winter insulation.

    2. The Primitive Technology guy on Youtube built a nifty cabin, complete with fired tile roof and a fireplace (and a sort of hypocaust), working in his spare time over a summer, using only whatever could be found in the wilds of Queensland (no tools other than what he makes on site). He’s also refined iron from iron-bearing bacteria that live in the creeks.

      One of the reasons for wattle and daub is that it doesn’t depend on having the tools to cut and process timber.

    3. Modern “survival” video games touch on this a bit. You need to scrounge up some stones and wood to fashion a stone hatchet, which you then use to chop wood, which is then used to…

      You get the picture.

      However, such games can’t get into too much nitty gritty. After all, the more detail, then the more work on the part of the developers. And the less fun it is for the players who – presumably – just want to hurry up and build stuff. So the fact that there’s no saw to cut the wood into lumber, and there’s no measuring stick to make sure that all of the lumber is the right length, and there are no nails to hold everything together, etc… is quietly ignored.

    1. And sand. Lots of sand, at least in Colorado Springs. The soil there was like the soil where we lived in Florida; sand, with just enough dirt to color it.

  15. Anyone that has never worked how long it takes to make things with pre-industrial methods doesn’t understand what doing anything takes in terms of time, resources, and effort.

    I’ve been around enough SCA people that are glad they don’t have to make a suit of chain mail on a regular basis. With classic hand tools and not even modern hand tools. I remember reading that even the highest levels of Roman society had about as much personal wealth as a single upper-middle class American family.

    They also forget how much electricity liberated women. Think about half the things you use in the kitchen-the fridge (if you’re lucky to be near somewhere that you can get ice, you change that block once a week, otherwise…), the stove (build a fire or turn the gas on and hope that you got the match there in time…), the dish washer (all of them by hand, dried by air or by hand), the blender (by hand…), and a dozen other things. Hell, just washing clothing without electricity (boil the water, beat the clothing by hand on rocks or on a wash-board), hang up to dry and hope the weather is good enough to dry everything) is a whole-day task.

    Any woman that does not put the electric iron and the electric blender right next to her vibrator on her personal shrine is someone you should run away from very, very fast.

    People think that the Victorians were morose to have sewn burial shrouds for young children. When the odds are good that you’ll lose a quarter to half of your children before they become adults, it’s prior planning for a known event. Hell, many Victorian novels that have it assumed that an older man will marry a younger woman-because the older man is a widower and the younger woman knows that the older man will provide her with fiscal and physical security.

    Yes, “wash your clothing” and any number of small things can save lives and make life better. But, if you only have two shirts and one is your “go to Church” shirt, if washing anything takes the entire day when you need to work from “before sunrise” to “after sundown” just to make sure your family provides their tithe for the local lord and MAYBE feed their family (as the local lord…mostly makes sure that bandits don’t kill you, rape your daughters, and steal all your food)…yea, you see the problems.

    Or, you should, at least.

    (Idle plotting note-one of those “displaced in time” stories of a decently large enough American town from the 1880’s dropped in Bronze-Age Greece. They know how to make good iron and steel and have decent plows, good saddles and horses, can maybe make a rough steam engine, gun-powder, know about hygiene, printed books…)

    1. > chain mail

      A time-consuming and tedious task with store-bought wire on a spool. If you draw your own wire, plate armor and rivets start looking easy by comparison.

    2. The first time I made gingerbread, I started putting the ingredients together in a doubled recipe before noticing the “stand mixer” comment. I did not have a stand mixer. In fact, I had no electric mixer at all. I made that batch of gingerbread by hand (and did the same for the next couple of years) and was very grateful that having kids meant that my biceps were in better shape than before. (Side note: an electric mixer makes the dough much more flexible. I’ve had to add flour to the recipe to get it to behave properly since getting a KitchenAid.)

      1. “Now you’re cooking with gas!”

        Many people would recognize the old saying, but the metadata has been lost.

        To cook normally took building and tending a fire, which took time and could might a kitchen miserable on a hot day. Gas… you just turned the valve, struck a match, and you had fire, just like that! And wait, it gets better: when you were done, you just turned the valve the other way and the fire went out! No hot embers heating the kitchen.

        In the USA, “gas” was usually natural gas or propane. In England, it was usually “town gas”, otherwise known as carbon monoxide. Some English murder mysteries might make more sense when you know that…

    3. Local Lord, the smart ones, made sure that their surfs had three sets of every day clothing, one good one for church, and two sets of work clothing, so they could wear a set and wash & clean a second set, weekly. They may not have known why. But they knew they kept the work forces healthier. The serf/peasant should also have at least one night shirt/night gown for sleeping in.

      1. Nightshirts are a luxury. In that era, even kings and queens either wore their regular clothes to bed, or wore nothing except maybe a cap.

        Remember that every article of clothing was the end result of a long and laborious process.

  16. Agree with Reziac’s nits. Buy Durbin’s take, but with a lot of yea buts.

    Folks move from hunting gathering to agriculture, when and where they can, because it’s easier, safer, and meal times are far more regular.

    Farming is work, a lot of work, but tracking, killing, field dressing, hauling out, butchering, etc., a moose, speaking from experience, isn’t a walk in the park either.

    Poor world building, not making sense; I suspect the real weakness in many of the stories is the premise that the folks are intent on building a world. If, one assumes, they’re just trying to get through the day, be fruitful, multiply as was/is done here on earth, the built world becomes a logical outcome.

    So Tom O’Bedlam starts a farm, supplements the larder with a bit of hunting and berry gathering while waiting for the grain to ripen. Threshes, rock bakes, oven bakes bread bread over the years feeds his family, gets by, has nine kids, nine field hands, since baseball teams not invented yet, more workers, more planting, ends up with a surplus of grain.

    Now, at this point, wonders of capitalism, Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand comes in to play. Somebody builds a mill, around which grows a mill town Tom trades his surplus to the miller for a cow or a Cadillac and the world’s abuilding.

  17. Thanx (for both the bread-tech lesson and the observation on the ignorance of our pampered rioters)
    Our civilization has risen to where it is by counting on people working together to build societal and personal wealth. How did we wind up with all these college kids thinking wealth is something that just needs to be distributed? (heck – Occasional Cortex was an economics major, wasn’t she?)
    Any parents who paid for their kids to go to college should sue for a refund.

    1. Must have been Marxian Economics, which consists primarily of teaching them NOT to understand economics. In other words, you can’t understand economics and Believe in communism.

      1. If you read any if Braudel’s histories, especially his more Marxist ones, you find a lot about the towns exploiting the bourg and the bourg exploiting the farmer. It isn’t until you read closer that you see the exploiter is the town notary who exists solely to interact with Paris about the collection of tax

        The fact that vast majority of Marxists in then US are either rich or civil servants (teachers seem to be over represented) is no accident. They’ve either been insulated from or benefited by what exploitation there is. The rich and powerful against the poor

    2. “How did we wind up with all these college kids thinking wealth is something that just needs to be distributed?…Any parents who paid for their kids to go to college should sue for a refund.”

      The question answers itself: These kids didn’t have to pay to go to college; a parent or a student loan took care of it, at least as far as these kids knew. So they were just paid to take four years of Useless Studies; how could they have any idea that anyone else might actually WORK for what they get?

    3. (heck – Occasional Cortex was an economics major, wasn’t she?)

      Most economics teaching is horrid and has only the most tenuous possible connection to reality.

      That is “teaching”, in terms of classes taught by a person in a classroom.

      Economics is happy to teach the lessons herself. She is more sadistic than any nun however.

        1. Read Economics in One Lesson by Hazlitt, that’s all you really need. Give it to your kids too.

          I have an MSc from the London School of Economics and can tell you that life on Wall Street largely consists of unlearning what they teach in economics and then exploiting those who haven’t unlearned it. Government people usually have credentials in Economics and tend to believe in it, which is why big Wall Street firms actually love government while smaller ones don’t.

          There is a core of truth about economics but it’s not what they teach you

          1. … life on Wall Street largely consists of unlearning what they teach in economics

            This is ordinarily where I would insert the Econ class scene from Back to School, but really, why bother? If you know the scene in which Dangerfield’s character deflates the pompous academic you don’t need it revisited and if you don’t know it you probably ought not be playing in this yard.

            1. Rodney’s Glory. I ate at the old Center Diner from Easy Money and it really was open 23 hours. It’s long gone now. It wasn’t actually all that good and Staten Island had a number of good diners so I didn’t go there often.

              Warren Buffet once remarked that investors ought to pay a subsidy to universities who teach their potential competitors nonsense. The 3 or 4 times I made big wins on Wall St was when I deliberately ignored what all the economists were saying. They’re mostly paid stooges actually, either by the firms or the FRB.

                1. Milton Friedman was also awarded a Nobel Price in Economics. Paul Krugman has suffered a combination of the Brain Eater, Bush Derangement Syndrome, and then Trump Derangement Syndrome.

                  1. I gather that, ere he started accepting the Times‘ dollars Krugman was an excellent economist. It is only after he started writing columns for them that the derangement became notable.

                    Evidence that writing for the NY Times makes men* mad.

                    *also non-men, but alliteration always amuses a wallaby

  18. l. What you’re really going to want to spend time on is safe storage techniques, though, because you can’t wait until the next harvest for your next loaf of bread.

    Magical Fridge would be the #1 change in actual D&D, even bigger than Heal or Cure Disease.

    1. There’s a reason in the Merchant books that the workers of preservation spells are among the most valuable members of society . . . And why the price of salt skyrockets after a lot of magic workers get killed off.

    2. Purify Food and Drink (0th level)
      Gentle Repose (2nd level) – to preserve meat. Not the game-intended purpose, but the carcass of a cow or hog is a “dead creature” and thus a legit target for the spell…

      A D&D “Magic Fridge” would be a box that cast Purify Food & Drink once per day on its contents.

      On a more mundane – or perhaps arcane 🙂 – level, keeping mice out of stored grain was why cats became desirable to have around.

      1. Grandma’s kitchen, before the re-model, was a thing of black and white painted/enameled metal. The “bread drawer” was, perhaps curiously the lowest of a set. BUT.. while ALL the drawers were metal, THIS one also had a metal lid that had to flipped up to get at the contents. No rodent was going to get in. Well, maybe Metal Munching Moon Mice, but they wouldn’t be after the bread.

    3. And Decanters of Endless Water would be worth fighting all-out wars to possess. A never failing spring (and 5 gallons per minute is a good flow rate; think of your kitchen sink at full flow) of fresh water wherever it’s needed.

      1. Given a decanter of endless water is a known potable water source? Nothing in it from cholera to giardia? No minerals to taint the colours of the dye? No impurities, not even off tastes or smells to add as it washed the butter / salt / tallow? Oh, wars indeed, and that just between the merchant guilds in any victorious country!

      2. Or offering free schools to any 3rd level caster that wants it, for the payment of basically a week of their time to craft one for the person offering the teaching, for the version that is “only” a gallon a minute, craft wonderous item, 4,500gp takes 1 day per 1000gp of value.

        To hell with adventuring, the money is in logistics!

          1. My husband is pleased by the thought of miners passing through Oklahoma….i.e., the Cherokee Nation…and resupplying from helpful Cherokee grocers. The thought of the Cherokee commercially skinning the miners gives him a warm, fuzzy feeling. (Yet another economic reason for the Trail of Tears was the discovery of gold in Georgia in 1828, on tribal lands).

        1. And if that’s all the time it takes? The sorcerers guild would be paying its taxes by having to make them for the local ruler.

          Magic IS tech if the spells are reliable, and people will use it that way.

        2. *Bemused* My plotbunnies are looking at a lot of this thread and contemplating how it feeds into modern supers making Assumptions about an ancient sorcerer’s spirit. Obviously, he must want to take over the world, right?

          Plotbunnies: Guys. The modern world has refrigeration, plenty of food, plenty of clothes, the Internet… this is a sorcerer. He’s probably jumping for joy he doesn’t have to manage all the people it would have taken to keep a King supplied!

          1. Oh, that could be fun!
            Set up a house as close as possible to “living like a king”…for his initial time. And then start hving improvements.

            Kinda depends on how much in charge the spirit is, I suppose. It’d be kinda fun to see the modern spirit getting control back by bribing the guy with household improvements, but it’d be in an anime slice of life way, not very story productive.

            Which kinda ties into that article you had about the Shiny dragging away from the story.

            1. It would be shiny, yes. But while ATM the story is still in “nailing Jello” stage, gleeing over modern life ATM feels like a background story thread, compared to “both good and bad guys are looking for the ring, how do we deal with this and work out a living arrangement?”

          2. Heh. Sorcerer starts out thinking he needs to rule some territory to stay supplied, realizes modern people in a free, first-world country live better than he did as an ancient king for far less work, becomes champion of capitalism…

              1. Never heard of him and a quick search didn’t turn up anything that sounded like a fictional sorcerer. Who is he?

                1. [facepalms]

                  Never mind. It hit me just as I sent the comment.

                  And speaking of being hit by things, here’s another carp for that garden of yours. *thwack*

        3. I always thought that would make a neat idea for an adventuring concept-a decently sized town (15,000-40,000 people) near enough to one of the local major ruins/badlands area that has sufficient natural defenses that it can be large, and it offers all of those services that a bunch of murderhobos…er, adventurers would need before heading into the areas to make their money.

          The local lord is smart enough to try and feed the golden goose well and engage in golden goose breeding programs by doing things such as sponsoring young mages in exchange for a certain amount of magical work afterwards, hiring adventurers if there’s a problem (and they’ll be spending the money usually in town, which gets back to his tax coffers), keeping the local merchants honest (and ensuring completion and such that they stay honest), that kind of thing.

          1. There’s a neo-trope where retired adventurers run The Mandatory Bar– I think it started about mid-90s ish, when folks who’d played in college were now DMing with their old characters for neophite adventurers. I think I saw it as a story hook in one of the early Forgotten Realms novels, too.

        4. D&D combines nominal medieval setting with whatever modern traits they simply assume are universal.

          There’s too much sexual equality for women to have to spend their child-bearing years bearing children, and that means vastly lower infant mortality rates.

  19. And if you want to feed your family from your farm, start learning at least a decade ago. Two’s better, and you probably shouldn’t be above twenty.

    I’d be a grandparent in that society (which I am anyway, but step) at forty. And at forty I can’t physically do as much as I could at eighteen.

  20. On primitive fertilizer — that little patch of ground in the back will be INCREDIBLY fertile for a few years after you move the outhouse. That’s why it’s built on skids.

  21. For those interested in a more indepth look at this topic, military historian Bret Devereaux has just done a four-part series of posts on his blog “Bread: How Did They Make It?” on food production in ancient times. is a link to Part IV, it has links to the earlier parts. (Yes, this is the same guy who did the N-part series analyzing the Battle of Helm’s Deep.)

  22. eventually dissolved into poor world building, in that a number of things didn’t make sense.

    And that, kiddies, is why it is called a “Fantasy” novel.

    1. Yeah, but there’s fantasy of the “real world plus magical elements” style and fantasy of the “didn’t do their research” style. I was at a panel a couple of years ago where Brandon Sanderson mentioned that his fantasy world in the Really Big Series he’s currently on has several plants that function as natural antibiotics, because his storyline would break down if people died at the rate that they should without antibiotics. He took the time to figure out a solution, rather than just hand-waving that thousands of people descending on a marginal-survival town didn’t all starve to death or freeze.

  23. When it comes to deciding how much to plant, I have heard the phrase, “one for the birds, one for the bugs, one for us”. And that may be optimistic.

    1. There’s a reason why organic food is so much more expensive that regular food, and that’s even with the benefit of organic fields being surrounded by regular fields, which form a nearly impenetrable wasteland for pests.

      1. something the “ban all non-organic farming” fools seem to not notice, or care because humans are a virus (because in the coming famines THEY will certainly not be affected)

  24. How the heck do we stop these morons before they wreck American civilization? Voting for Biden just continues the problem.

    If America has a cold the rest of the world gets pneumonia. If we get it, the rest of the world dies? Or perhaps just becomes Rwanda. It took centuries of back breaking work of body brain and soul to get where we are.

    (scream of pent up fury and frustration).

  25. Speaking of grinding….circa 20 BC, Antipater of Thessalonica described the high-technology innovation of the day, the waterwheel-powerd mill:

    Cease from grinding, ye women who toil at the mill
    Sleep late, even if the crowing cocks announce the dawn
    For Demeter has ordered the Nymphs to perform the work of your hands
    And they, leaping down on top of the wheel, turn its axle which
    With its revolving spokes, turns the heavy concave Nisyrian millstones
    Learning to feast on the products of Demeter without labor

    I would so hire that guy for a Marketing Communications job…

  26. Even with modern implements, farming is still chancy. In 1974, we had a late spring, and then an early frost. There were some fields that yielded so poorly that my dad had to determine whether they were worth the cost of the fuel to run the combine through them. Years later, my mom was looking through some of the old farm account books and trying to figure out how we managed to stay in business that year.

    One real concern for me right now is whether seed companies have been able to produce enough seed for next year’s needs, both for the big commercial farm operations and for the home gardener. This year, I was able to go to the local big box store and there was a whole rack of seed packets, because that was all grown last year, when things were still normal. If seed companies’ production lines have been disrupted, there might not be enough seed to plant next year, right when we’re apt to see an increase in demand as more people take up gardening, especially if winter brings more shortages in the grocery stores. (I’m planning to increase the size of our garden plot next year, because while I did get a decent amount of food, it was still small compared to our total consumption).

    1. The seed companies have deep storage that can hold for more than one year. One seed company said they were increasing shipping times to deal with increased demand, but still had stock in deep storage. It’s might be ok. We’ll see. I stashed a few extra from this spring because some seeds last for more than a year even without special storage.

  27. My parents made me help with the garden when I was young. I understand the value of garden-fresh food. But I’m not a fan of weeding. I also have a rather vague idea of just how little food is produced on a given plot of land. Or in other words, you need a lot of land to support just one family.

    The amount of space needed to keep people fed is one of the things that often bugs me about video games. There are certain amounts of unspoken assumptions that need to be made. For instance, realistically sized farm fields in a video game farming community would mean that the players would spend most of the time running past (or through) fields instead of doing the more exciting “playing” stuff that’s supposed to be the reason why the game is being played. So I let that slide.

    It bugs me a bit more when I see something like the “rooftop settlements” in Division 2 (which in general, is a good game, even if the world-building is a bit implausible). The settlements are in the middle of Washington DC. One of them is in a series of linked tall buildings. The other is in a university campus. The real-world problem, of course, is that farming requires a *lot* more space than is allowed by the settlements. You might be able to grow enough food for everyone by turning the interior of the buildings into very large farms (assuming that you got enough dirt, and the floors didn’t collapse from all of the extra weight that dirt would provide). But then you wouldn’t have space to house everyone. The university campus is pretty much DoA, as there simply isn’t enough room.

    1. Not a defense of the game, but at lest one company is making hydroponic farms in shipping containers. Iirc a 40 ft container produces as much as 1/2 to 1 acre of land. Power and water are minimal as well due to recycling of water and led lights.

      1. They still require tech that isn’t going to last long if there is a collapse. Also not any tech easily replaced if alternatives are needed, and are heavy on pollution in their manufacturing and disposal after they expire.
        Though, as long as power and replacement bits are available, they can be somewhat competitive with “regular” organic foods, and somewhat safer if done right. There is a hydro place near here that has certain greens in the local grocery at prices not too far out of line with the other organic stuff.

    2. A historian who specialized in military history once did an analysis of the battles in Lord of the Rings, both the movie and book versions, which can be read at if you’re interested. What I find fascinating is that although he has plenty to say about the mistakes the movie made, what he has to say about the book is almost always, “Now, Tolkien got it right here.” For example, in the movie the Pelennor fields are an open plain. In the book they are farmland. Lots and lots of farmland, which is needed to feed such a large city. And that shows in lines like “Grimbold, take your company right, after you pass the wall,” which make no sense in the movie (what wall? There’s no wall visible anywhere in the shots of the charge of the Rohirrim) but make perfect sense in the book, where farmland naturally has walls all over the place.

      1. And it made even better sense in the book when you remembered that the entire Pellennor fields was surrounded by a wall, the Rammath Echor, precisely designed to discourage casual raiding. That’s the wall being referred to. And the orcs breached it in several places.

        1. Weird… the avatar and username are correct for Scott Nelson, but in my notifications it said that your Web address was Shadowdancer’s blog. So is this Scott Nelson with an incorrect Web address, or Shadowdancer with an incorrect gravatar and username? Either way, it looks like a case of WDE.

          As for what you wrote: yeah, I hadn’t realized there was a big wall around the whole farmland area until the historian explained that part. But Tolkien, yet again, proves that he Did. His. Research.

          1. Since I follow Shadowdancer’s blog and have never been Scott, WPDE is the most likely answer. Both my gravatar and WordPress account have blank websites and no contact info beyond my e-mail address. I think the null values are confusing them.

            1. Yeah, I get notifications for ATH and most other WP sites as coming from Mostly Cajun, and have for years.It’s probably an email reader glitch. Tbird is what I use and new posts show up as wordpress as correspondent, while replies or like notifications are Mostly Cajun, while in Gmail in a browser or the phone, the page titles are what shows up as who it comes from.

          2. *laughs* Yes, the guy who based at least two of his Crowning Moment of Awesome moments on real life (“you shall not pass” and when the Winged Hussar– I mean, the Riders of Rohan arrive) most definitely did his research.

            I am now almost positive that he had looked at mythological stories and identified when various tactics made sense, and when they didn’t so the story must’ve been changed.

              1. I have been ODing on Sabaton’s “Winged Hassars” for the last two weeks or so when I do my stress running.

                Not so impressed by the song Bismarck, but that may be I was drooling too hard over the video/film.

                Did one other song that didn’t grab me, keep meaning to find time to listen, but I have to be careful about what the kids hear me listening to; there’s a very good chance that they’ll want it for their music players, and there’s some things I don’t want them yelling.

                1. Yeah, Lion from the North, or Carolus Rex might not be something you want your kids internalizing at a young age.

                  Johnny Horton’s Sink the Bismark is something I’ve penciled in for my WIP playlist. For Sabaton, I’m looking carefully at “A Lifetime of War”, “Light in the Black”, and “No Bullets Fly”.

                    1. This has been getting recent play in my household …

                      Hard to go wrong with G-D and Hand Jive.
                      I got somethin’ make the devil gonna run
                      He been dancin’ till the break of dawn
                      Devil gon’ try to take a shot at me
                      He got none, but baby I got three

                      He tryna make a fool outta me
                      Y’all takin’ out my sanity
                      He ain’t nothin’ but a silver tongue
                      I got something make the devil gonna run

                2. I like Bismarck, and yes, the video is freaking awesome.

                  Their latest album, The Great War is excellent. And for an earlier fun song, Blood of Bannockburn. To Hell and Back, about Audie Murphy, actually uses some of Murphy’s own poetry in the lyrics, and the song got Murphy’s son’s seal of approval.

                  I saw the guys in concert last fall, and am very annoyed that the American tour with Judas Priest this year was cancelled, or I’d be seeing them this coming Saturday.

                  They have a YouTube series, Sabaton History, which gives the history of song subjects, and is quite well done. They are working with Indy Neidell, who did a week-by-week (a hundred years later) WWI series, and is now doing the same, for WWII.

                3. And I should also recommend the entire Carolus Rex album. If you are worried about what your kids might yell, you could always listen to the Swedish version. 🙂

  28. FWIW, being a fiber person I keep track of when the goldenrod blooms. (Goldenrod makes a very good yellow dye). Normally, the goldenrod is at or just passing its prime in western PA around the second week of August. Yes, around the end of Pennsic. This year we are in northeastern Indiana and the goldenrod just went into large-scale blooming. Does being maybe a hundred miles off and several hundred miles west delay the blooming season, or is something unusual happening with the weather?

    1. We had a very late spring this year. Here in Indianapolis, we had killing frosts up to the end of April, and IIRC the first few days of May. That’s why I didn’t start my garden until May — when I was growing up, we’d usually put in lettuce, radishes, carrots and beets in mid-April.

      1. Not many sunspots this year, or last year, or… that does affect the weather, eventually, though it’s not a clear and easy to suss direct relationship unless you really know your local weather patterns and climate.

        1. Have you read Stephanie Osborne’s book on this (or the series of posts on it she put up here a couple(?) years ago? One thing that lack of sunspots signals is a reduction in solar output. It’s why we’re seeing cooler weather the last couple of years.

          1. There’s also a secondary effect. Less solar wind thins out the Van Allen belts, allows more cosmic radiation to seed cloud formation in the upper atmosphere, and increased cloud cover reflects more sunlight back into space.

    1. As I recall, Bruce Lee had a low opinion of nunchucks as weapons …

      … but recognized they looked cool in the movies.

    2. Well, IIRC, weapons like the nunchuck came about because a bunch of other weapons were banned for use by the peasantry. So they adapted agricultural tools like the rice flail into a weapon.

  29. I think it also depends on the level of realism that you are going for. The Oz books have Lunch-Box Tree and the Dinner-Pail Tree which includes the meal and it’s packaging. IIRC, the Xanth series also has similar sorts of bizarre agriculture. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles has the medieval princess Cimorene borrowing a crepe pan and making chocolate mousse.

    How hostile the environment is plays a factor as well. Assuming the food capability of the land can range from real life Death World to the literal Garden of Eden levels of prosperity. Also if you have an Eldritch location that is self aware and has a will of it’s own regarding who it wants to have enough food … that would an interesting twist.

    Random thing I heard in seminary back in high school, animals didn’t run away from humans before the Biblical flood and that would make getting animal protein much easier as well.

    1. The animal protein would had have to be milk.

      “Fear and dread of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon all the creatures that move about on the ground and all the fishes of the sea; into your power they are delivered.
      Any living creature that moves about shall be yours to eat; I give them all to you as I did the green plants.”

    1. Saw that on Fox News a little while ago. They are every bit as stupid as I expected them to be. I am terribly upset by two things:

      1. Only the feet caught
      2. Only one of them got lit up

      I’m sure we’ll get better shows eventually. I have faith in them idjits! 😀

  30. My father was a coal miner, and we had a small, 3 maybe 4 acre farm that we used mostly as a stop-gap for food when the coal mines were on strike (Seemingly all the time, but that’s probably just the memories of a child.) So I’ve lived at least a small piece of that living off the land thing, and even I don’t have a good understanding of what pre-industrial living was like. With modern conveniences like running water and a good deep-freezer so we could reliably store food, and my father who was really good at making the farm work for us (and being a child, so mostly protected from the hard parts), I don’t remember ever worrying over not having food.

    I do know that other coal miner’s kids didn’t have it so good. Mostly those who’s families lived in town and didn’t grow food.

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