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Dusting Off The Dirty '30s

From Countryside Magazine, March/April 2000

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at its highest level in history. Unemployment is near the lowest. Almost 70% of Americans today own their own homes-more than at any time in the last century. The number of millionaires has doubled, to about eight million, in the past 10 years, and countless others have become wealthy through the stock market and/or the increase in the value of their homes. Life is good.

So why look back on the Depression of the 1930s, now? One good reason is that those were very interesting times, in homestead terms. It was the time when "modern" homesteading was born, and to the best of our knowledge, that story has never been told. It should be inspiring, and educational, to anyone with an interest in country living, and others as well.

The "educational" part includes how America went from the days of the Homestead Act to the Roaring Twenties and on to modern homesteading. It includes recipes and other ideas people made use of when they had to "make something out of nothing," an accomplishment valued by many homesteaders today.

And for those interested in the homestead movement-the culture beyond their own gardens and barns-this study provides some insights into when and how it developed, and where it might be going today. This should be of special benefit to those just starting out, against what often appear to be great odds. They arenít just struggling against high land prices and mortgage lenders: they are struggling against history. Knowing that history can ease the struggle.

The "inspiration" ranges from brief visits with people who maintained their dignity and sense of humor during a time of troubles; words from some who escaped the worst of it, and how they managed that; to some of the silly jokes of the period.

In brief, 21st century homesteaders can learn a lot from the Dirty Thirties. The Depression has always interested a certain segment of COUNTRYSIDEíS readers. The attraction of people who want to be self-sufficient to those who had to be self-sufficient is understandable. When we talk about cooking, or gardening, or food preservation or animal husbandry using modern methods, equipment and supplies, younger people who want to lessen their dependence on the system frequently ask, "How did they do it back then?" Weíll provide a few answers.

On the other hand, some people who lived through the Dirty Thirties canít understand that attitude... or for that matter, why anyone would want to be self-sufficient in the first place! One common refrain goes like this: "Why do they call it the Great Depression? There was nothing great about it! I would never want to go back to living like that, and anybody who says they would has no idea what it was really like."

Although this misses the point -- modern homesteaders want to recapture the values of a simple life, not participate in a depression -- it also reminds us that the Depression, and the Dust Bowl that was a major part of it for many Americans, didnít affect everyone equally. Donald Worster, author of Dust Bowl, spoke to Helen Meairs, a widow whose farm family survived the Thirties in western Kansas, the center of the drought and wind erosion. By 1977 her two sons were running the farm, and were "rich enough to lose $1 million in cattle speculation and still come out solvent. She has considerable money herself, which she spends on trips to Singapore and Zurich. Worster asked her if she was happier now than she was during the Depression years.

"Well, that was the most happiest time of my life," she replied. "We had the children, you know, and each other. Of course I donít believe in Ďthe good old days.í Weíve got things really nice around here today."

Many people who survived that period would echo both of those sentiments. It was the best of times, and the worst of times. Many people, especially in the big cities, missed out on the good part. Itís easy to see why their memories are bitter. What made the hard times more tolerable for many, and in some ways even "good," is certainly worth examining today, for city and country people alike.


Depressions arenít democratic

Itís important to remember that hard times didnít affect everyone equally. Many farm families were spared the devastation the 1929 stock market crash caused so many others. There had already been a farm depression during most of the 1920s, and few farmers owned stocks. In fact, most of those who suffered-and suffered most-from that event did not own stocks: they simply lost their jobs, their savings, and sometimes their homes. By the spring of 1930, more than three million people were out of work. In the next two years that soared to more than 12 million. Many of those people and their dependents had no place to live, no way to buy food.

By comparison, most farmers were far better off. They had their homes, and a food supply. Most were also self-sufficient in terms of energy, because fossil fuel mechanization was rare and electrical power had not yet reached most of the countryside. As always, there were exceptions. Tenants were frequently displaced, and farmers who had gone into debt for land or machinery often lost it all. But in general, farm life was much better than city life.

But then too, the disparity between city and country had been very large. The Roaring Twenties that had brought washing machines and motor cars, silk stockings and radios and other signs of giddy affluence to the larger towns and cities had barely affected most farm families. Many rural Americans still lived like they did in the 1800s.

So when the banks closed and the soup kitchens opened, those self-sufficient people went about their lives with very little change. It wasnít that they were so well-off. It was that many city people who had become accustomed to having more than most farm people now had less than most farm people. This relativity is often described by older people today: "We were poor, but we didnít know it, because everybody else was poor too."

Most importantly, most farm families had community-a sense of place and belonging. They had neighbors, church, clubs, and most of all, family. In addition they had their land and livestock, their daily chores and routines that provided both physical and spiritual nourishment, and an anchor. (Again, not all of them: weíll look at tenants and "farm workers," both products of industrial agriculture, later.)


Back to the land

This relative rural prosperity-or lack of poverty-drew many people back to the countryside. They left during the 1920s because of lack of opportunities in the country and an abundance of them in the cities. They returned because the rules changed. So drastically had the balance shifted that even city people with no farm background became "homesteaders."

Although several people have scoffed at our use of the word today as "pretentious," it appeared in the modern sense in a book published in 1934: A Living From the Land, by William B. Duryee (Whittlesey House, New York). He also used the phrase "back to the land" for people who had never been there, another usage which became common 30-40 years later. The bookís preface is worth quoting at length:

"Homesteading days are here again. The present movement of people back to the land is of a different type and has different objectives from those which prevailed when a continent was to be conquered and exploited. Today we know that many urban industries will operate on a seasonal basis and we know too that periods of unemployment and shorter working days will provide more leisure and probably lower incomes for hundreds of thousands of families. The utilization of this leisure time to supplement incomes, to raise the standards of living and of health, and to attain some measure of economic security will tend more and more to settlement on the land."

Talk about rose-colored glasses! Businesses were going under like nightcrawlers in a flashlight beam, and he solemnly intones that "we know that (they) will operate on a seasonal basis." And those 12 million unemployed who we think of today as selling apples and pencils on street corners werenít as destitute as we picture them: they only had shorter working days... and more leisure! (Weíll see a lot more gilding the lily before weíre finished here. I point this out not to knock people with an upbeat outlook, but to call attention to the importance of having enough information to read between the lines. This hasnít changed in 70 years.)

Also note the words "a continent to be conquered and exploited" and "standard of living." Weíll come back to those, too, because of their impact on homestead mentality, philosophy, and culture.

Five Acres and Independence

Duryee continues in a vein we can more easily take at face value today. "This book is prepared primarily forthe family that is inexperienced in country living and in soil culture. Such a family should know about the nature of the soil on which it lives, how to make it serve the familyís purposes, what to do, and what to avoid in order that success may be attained and failure averted."

In that regard, this might have been the first of a long line of homestead books (and magazines) that continues to this day. One of the first, and much better known than A Living From the Land, (perhaps because of its catchier title), was Michael Kainsís Five Acres and Independence, which was published a year later, in 1935. That one is still in print (Dover). Ralph Borsodi, Scott Nearing, and others who made their mark during this period are still widely considered homestead gurus.

But one of the things weíre interested in for our present purposes is why such a book was even necessary. What had caused so many people to leave the land in the first place, and what brought them (or their children) back again? What was behind the rural exodus, the Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the back-to-the-land movement?

The answers to these and many other questions about the role of modern homesteading will require a quick review of history in a way it isnít taught in very many textbooks or schools that weíre aware of. It begins with a look at the real causes of the Depression, and especially the Dust Bowl. It concerns two factors that homesteaders are well aware of, and are generally uncomfortable with yet today, and which COUNTRYSIDE accordingly mentions frequently: the importance of living in tune with nature; and the effects of the producer-consumer society (or the industrial society or capitalism), on individuals and civilization.

Dust Bowl and Depression

Most people are aware that the Dust Bowl was caused by plowing virgin prairies, and a subsequent drought. Plowing destroyed the soil-anchoring sod and grasses, drought dried that soil, and wind blew it away. Droughts, of course, are completely natural, and cyclical, but had the native grasses been left in place on undisturbed soil, the Dirty Thirties wouldnít have taken place.

This is true as far as it goes, but itís an oversimplification. What was the nature of those soils, and how should they have been handled? Why were they abused the way they were? Why did a major drought "just happen" to strike during a major economic depression?

The last frontier

The Great Plains region was a true frontier for neo-Americans. They were not familiar with the soils, the climate, or the weather. And when "the West was opened" in the 1870s, "ecology" was unheard of. That wouldnít get much notice until after the Black Blizzards of the 1930s.

The plains had been an ancient sea bed. Fossils of dinosaurs and huge redwood-like trees have been found there, indicating a moist, warm climate. Tectonic forces thrust up the Rocky Mountains that helped form these soils both by cutting off moisture on the leeward side and through erosion from the mountains themselves. Glaciation was followed by flooding of biblical proportions, followed in turn by wind erosion that must have made the Dust Bowl look like a dust devil in a Wal-Mart parking lot by comparison: loess (windborne soil) deposits covered 13,500 square miles of what is now the Nebraska Sandhills, as much as 26 feet deep, and reached Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

The climate was deceptive. Yes, droughts are normal, but those of the Great Plains are quite different from those of the Eastern Seaboard or New England, or Europe, which the pioneer farmers were familiar with. One year the weather can be almost Midwestern, encouraging high hopes and speculative planting. The next two can be almost desertic, with high temperatures and evaporating winds. The climate is dominated by air masses that flow over-and are dried out by-the Rocky Mountains. But occasionally a moist system flows north from the Gulf of Mexico. There is no "average" for weather like this, but if there were it would be below the threshold for conventional farming.

Such weather, combined with the fragile soils, almost assured disaster from the beginning. By the 1930s, after barely 40 years of farming, the region had suffered as much erosion as some parts of the United States that had been farmed for 300 years.

Add to this the agribusiness mentality-the profit mandate-and the stage was set for unprecedented ecological, and economic, disaster.

The natural ecology

The native vegetation adapted to this environment over the millennia since the last glaciation. The eastern prairie, with 25-30 inches of rainfall a year, was home to the tall grasses: big bluestem, switch grass, and Indian grass, some eight feet tall with roots six feet deep. Where rainfall was less than 20 inches a year, the short grasses thrived. Grama-buffalo grass, wirestem, bluestem-bunch grass and sand grass/sand sage comprised the four main plant associations depending on soil and precipitation, but many other plants were found in each sub-region.

This vegetation supported a host of animal life: bison, of course, and pronghorn antelope, but also blacktailed jackrabbits, prairie dogs, kangaroo rats, and many others. The prairie was also home to hundreds of species of grasshoppers and locusts, but despite their voracious appetites, they never caused the destruction they did later, during the Dust Bowl years. Their numbers were kept under control by insectivorous mammals and snakes, and birds of every description. It has been said that a two-acre swarm of grasshoppers could eat as much as a buffalo, but the natural system of ecological balance made that of no importance... until the coming of the plow and the first silent springs.

The arrival of humans

There is archeological evidence that humans lived in the area as long as 40,000 years ago, perhaps hunting such animals as ground sloths and mastodons, whose bones have been found. The well-known discovery of flint points and the bones of a giant now-extinct bison was made at Folsom, New Mexico, in 1926.

Most human inhabitants of the plains, however, probably survived on a diet of berries, seeds, roots, and small animals. Even without considering his vastly smaller numbers (there could have been 20 million buffalo on the short grass prairies alone), manís impact on the environment was less than that of a colony of grasshoppers.

Much more telling were later incursions by more "advanced" peoples-those who built wood and stone structures instead of living in skin tents, and who farmed. "These early farmers," wrote Waldo Wedel of the Smithsonian, "apparently ventured far out into the Great Plains in favorable times only to withdraw when droughts set in." Nature ruled, but its lesson was lost.

European settlers

By 1876 the Plains Indians, who had lived lightly on the land by learning to live with its fragile environment, were a broken, defeated people, pushed onto reservations. The 20 million bison were all but extinct. Their disappearance from the Plains was due not to drought or Nature, but to the U.S. Army.

The armyís avowed purpose was to support American citizens-people who wanted to "own" the land, who wanted farms and fences and deeds, as well as towns and roads and railroads-and the railroads and other businesses that encouraged, made possible, and profited from that ownership.

Worster notes, "Against this land hunger the plains had little defense. In the war over possession between whites and Indians, the bison became innocent victims; they were viewed as Ďthe Indiansí commissaryí and therefore required extermination. As they disappeared, so did the predators they supported, including the red man. In a very few years the plains went through more profound changes than it had known in 40 millennia, and more sudden ones than it had ever passed through before, even during the geologic revolutions of the past. Changes now were to be measured in decades, not epochs."

For 10 years after 1876 the change was only slightly noticeable. The buffalo wallows and footprints of Indian moccasins were soon covered with grasses, and the white settlers who arrived often marveled at the beauty of the land, bedecked with flowers. The flowers, the grasses, the birds, the beauty-the land itself-were not to endure for long.

The plow

In the late 1870s homesteaders swarmed into the region like locusts. The Homestead Act of 1862 played a role, but the encouragement and promise of the railroads was just as important. In addition, there was a good market and price for wheat.

It is perhaps ironic that until then, wheat production had centered on Wisconsin, but the land there had become too "worn out" to produce satisfactory crops. "Wear it out and move on" was the endless frontier mentality. It had been so since cotton and tobacco "wore out" the soils of the South. It wouldnít end until man learned that even the bottomless oceans could be destroyed by over-fishing and garbage... and some people didnít learn even then.

False optimism

The final thrust was added by abnormally generous rainfall for 10 years, from 1877 to 1886. This led many to conclude that the climate had changed: the rain belt had moved westward, and the formerly dry plains would become a Garden of Eden. The confidence instilled by the good wheat market and apparent climate change led to unbridled optimism. This resulted in wild speculation and a rise in land prices, fueling still more optimism, much like the stock market of 1999. Goaded by these illusions, settlers went into debt to make improvements on their farms and small-town leaders dreamed of prodigious growth, authorizing bond issues for the public improvements they were certain would soon be needed.

Nature took the punch bowl away from the party in 1886. It began with a catastrophic January blizzard that killed thousands of head of cattle and virtually wiped out that industry on the open range. Then the rains failed to come. The summer was hot and dry, and crops were poor. And then, as if orchestrated by some malign force with an evil sense of mischief, the price of wheat slid.

By the fall of 1887 some recent settlers were already moving out. But the drought lasted for 10 long years. Well before then, the "new Gardens of Eden" in western Kansas and Nebraska were all but deserted. Even where the drought had less impact, wheat farmers were discouraged by low prices.

Cattle barons and cowboys

The role of cattle in the opening of the west is well-known, but exaggerated in the publicís mind. The era of the frontier cowboy was much shorter in reality than it has been in the movies. While the effect of cattle on the ecology should have been less severe than that of the farmer, it wasnít. By 1877 there were close to 5 million Longhorns in Texas alone. More than 650,000 were driven north to Abilene, Kansas, and other railheads. By 1880 prices had soared from $3 per animal to $60.

Two members of the British Parliament toured the plains and found 33.3% annual returns on investment. When this was reported back home, English, Irish and Scottish investors threw money at the plains like their later counterparts waving cash at dot-com IPOs. One ranch in the Texas panhandle claimed over 3 million acres and 150,000 head of cattle.

Like all booms, it couldnít last. First came over-expansion. Some call it greed. The Longhorns-and the land-were nothing more than money-making machines. To that end, both were pushed to the limit. Some ranches ran four times as many cattle as the land could carry, but few worried about killing the goose that laid golden eggs. In 1870 a steer could fatten on five acres of shortgrass. By 1880, it required 50 acres.

Then came the winter of 1885-86. It was the worst in the known history of the region. Thousands of cattle died. One report claims that on some ranches, 85% perished. The winter weather and the lack of forage resulting from overgrazing was exacerbated by drought. Cattle barons scooped up their profits, abandoned the rotting carcasses and abused land, and went in search of their next bonanza.

The cattle boom lasted a scant two decades.

The Oklahoma Land Rush

But opportunity-and greed-could overrule common sense then, as it does today. When the central part of what is now Oklahoma was opened to settlement in April, 1889, an army of 100,000 eager farmers rushed in to claim their homesteads. This was the wave that built sod houses. But the drought continued for another six years. The era of the sod house vanished even more quickly than the era of the Longhorn cattle barons.

In 1907, Oklahoma became a state. The frontier was closed. Nature had been conquered. But it wasnít over yet.

The attitudes of the white man differed markedly from that of the red. Most noticeable in how each regarded and treated nature, it was rooted in how they regarded life, and economics: Their culture. For the Indian, enough was sufficient. They regarded the Earth as a mother who will provide for the needs of all, not a piece of property to be divided by competition and jealously guarded by deeds and fences. For the white man, enough was never sufficient. As one said as late as the 1970s, "Nature is a bitch, and must be conquered." That attitude defines the westward expansion, the Industrial Age, and indeed, American thought and society.

Charles Dana Wilber, a Nebraska "town builder," explained it almost as a religious mission, claiming that God never intended that any part of the Earth be perpetual desert (the religious and economic views of Australian aborigines and others who have learned to live in harmony with nature, even in the desert, notwithstanding). Wherever man "has been aggressive" he has made the land suitable for farming, "so that in reality there is no desert anywhere except by manís permission or neglect." If the plains were not now a Garden of Eden, man could remedy their deficiencies. Rain would follow the plow. That was how the Creator expected men to think. Turn the grasses under and the skies would fill with clouds. There was no restriction in nature man must observe: on the contrary, all ecological limits were simply challenges to be overcome by human energy. Shortly after this pronouncement, as if on cue, another drought arrived, emptying some regions of as much as 90 percent of their human population. If it were true that God did indeed promise that the rain would follow the plow, then it was equally true, some said, that there was no god west of Salina.

In an 1878 publication, Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States, John Wesley Powell of the U.S. Geological Survey offered a plan for the arid west. It was based on simple logic: beyond the 100th meridian there was not enough rainfall for conventional farming; therefore, the conventional 160-acre homestead could not support a family; ergo, the land should be parceled into units large enough to support a family. These units he called "pasturage farms," with a suggested area of 2,560 acres, or four square miles.

Lacking mechanized farming equipment they would, of course, be cattle ranches, but the term "pasturage farm" was an obvious marketing ploy: it was more politically correct, avoiding the aristocratic "ranch," and gave the plan a better chance of acceptance.

The American standard of living

This might have avoided the Dust Bowl, although the land exploitation through overgrazing seen during the cattle baron period probably would have occurred anyway. But the plan found almost no supporters at the time (although his report was re-examined later, particularly during the 1930s, and was republished as recently as 1962 by Harvard University Press).

When it was first circulated, an offended public found it "flagrantly restrictive, undemocratic, and too pessimistic about the carrying capacity of the region." Worst of all, it would have made rural homes for only one-sixteenth as many families as the Homestead Act had. Nature, and reality, be damned: this was America! Donald Worster examines this with a great deal of insight. He notes that nature did not "demand" 2,560 acres per family. That was a human artifice, arrived at by economic reverse engineering: the "American Standard of Living" is thus, which will require X acres of dryland prairie to provide X = 2,560.

Worster suggests that the flaw is in the premise of what constitutes a standard of living. Clearly, the Indian economy wasnít considered. But neither was the 3 million-acre XIT ranch in Texas, which obviously had much higher "standards." (Y2K isnít as modern a term as you might think: XIT stood for "10 Counties in Texas.") On the other hand, for some plains farmers-particularly Amish and Mennonites-160 acres was sufficient for a comfortable and rewarding life in 1878, and it still was in 1935. As more farms became more mechanized the small-scale operations became more and more "Old World anomalies in progressive America," Worster says. "For most plainsmen who survived the 1890s, the unending escalation of wants brought a cutthroat competition for scarcer and scarcer resources that has lasted through the 20th century. If there was one factor that would defeat broadly diffused, democratic tenure in the region, it was precisely the demand for ever higher living standards... From the beginning, Americans were on a hopeless ecological course: there would never be enough land to satisfy everyoneís demands, especially if those demands were constantly growing."

And now a word from our sponsor...

Letís pause here for a moment to put this into the perspective of the 21st century homesteader. You might have become too engrossed in the story to follow the thread, or maybe you arenít familiar enough with COUNTRYSIDE or homesteading to see the thread.

Most homesteaders today, especially those who are just starting out or are still in the dreaming stages, feel a vague (and often not so vague) sense of dissatisfaction with conventional modern life. Even the poorest among us possess far more material goods and comforts than the average sodbuster, or even medieval royalty. Yet, somethingís missing... The typical diet of the sodbusters consisted of cornmeal and molasses, baking soda biscuits, and coffee made from roasted rye. But then, one family is said to have arrived in Kansas with "nine children and eleven cents." One wonders what they ate.

Obviously, not all of these people were "happy." And yet, in the numerous letters and journals of that period that survive, mostly written by farm wives, there is a great sense of peace, perhaps pride, and if not happiness at least a satisfaction approaching it. This certainly wasnít provided by worldly possessions or comforts. So we must ask ourselves, where did this contentment come from? Was it vested in the family, a close-knit interdependent community? A sense of accomplishment, perhaps from participating in the new American frontier, or from being in charge of oneís own life and surviving despite the odds? Was it hope, the promise of a better life to come once the homestead was established, or when the nearest town grew enough to provide amenities, and when the crops produced enough profit to purchase town-made goods?

For the 21st century homesteader, this is worth some musing, because it can weigh heavily in decision-making... including making a commitment to land and animals that might not even be a part of the happiness factor. Happiness is seldom a voiced, perhaps not even a conscious concern of most of the people who write to COUNTRYSIDE. Perhaps they feel it will arrive as a natural consequence of becoming a homesteader, in which case some musing on the above is all the more important.

Getting started

Usually a more immediate and practical concern is, "How can I get started?" A 21st century homesteader looking at land costing thousands of dollars an acre might feel a twinge of envy towards those who got land for little or nothing. There is no more "homestead" land in the sense of the period weíre looking at here. Much worse, there is hardly any affordable land for establishing a homestead, especially for those who are already burdened with debt and lack credit. If all of your income goes to pay current expenses and past debt, you canít afford to purchase the homestead that could free you from those debt burdens. Itís a vicious circle, but not the only one.

Even without such debts, the homestead is most often mortgaged, adding greatly to its cost. If this means more "off-farm" work for one or more family members, proportionately less is accomplished on the homestead. And then, even if everything else falls into place, there is the final indignity: homesteading doesnít "pay," but even homesteaders canít live without money. What you produce on the homestead could be purchased, probably for less than it costs the homesteader to produce it. It could be sold the same way: for less than the cost of production. With very few exceptions, no smallholder is going to compete, in the same markets, with agribusiness. This first became glaringly apparent in the period weíre looking at here.

There are ways to make money on a homestead, obviously, but they donít involve farming. They might involve marketing farm products, or processing them in some way, but thatís a different business altogether. The homesteaders of a hundred years ago had problems, but these werenít among them. From the first European settlements in the East, until the early 1900s in the West, land was available for little or nothing. By the 1950s getting started was becoming more difficult, as post-war mechanized and chemical farming took hold. Farms became larger, and getting started required far more capital than a few years previously. And by the end of the century most people who hadnít already made a lot of money found those hurdles almost insurmountable.

Examining the past, as we are, doesnít provide any real solutions. But it does provide explanations. What went wrong (in the eyes of people who yearn for simple living)? And why doesnít the majority even suspect that anything is wrong? Refer back to the accounts of cattlemen exploiting the short grass prairies: they overgrazed the land until it was destroyed, but they got rich! The very desire for 40 acres and a mule was quite reasonable and even modest by WASP standards, but that too led to exploitation of the land. Powellís belief that the amount of land a family needs is determined by working back from the standard of living they "need" was hooted down as un-American. Even if that standard were inflated, the notion was much too restrictive for a culture and people that wanted not just a sufficiency, but just as much as they could grab, and then some.

This is a partial explanation of how we arrived at where we are today. An unbridled lust for material possessions and comforts has led to the exploitation of nature, and people, and the destruction of resources. Some people called that progress. Simpler people called it greed. By any name, it became institutionalized. You are born to produce for others, and to consume what they produce. There is no escape. Even homesteading can only buffer and disguise that fact, but you have to play the game first in order to even become a homesteader.

Coupled first with industrial, and later electronic information technology, the point of "enough" was never reached. It was like pouring slop into a rubber hog trough: the more slop, the bigger the trough became. What this translates into for todayís beginning-and already established-homesteaders is that the initial investment in a homestead demands obtaining cash from another source, and the continuing costs entailed in homesteading demand a continuation of that outside income as well. This is arguably the primary distinction of the modern homesteader. Some people are able to distance themselves from that system to a much greater degree than others, but the underlying truth remains.

This leaves many questions. If such great changes have taken place in the past 50 years, what will the next 50 bring? Will homesteading become impossible altogether? Or will some yet-unseen force reverse the trend, and make it easier? And of broader concern, even to nonhomesteaders: will the growth/greed ever end, and if so, when and how? Are there limits to growth? Can we really conquer nature? Most important of all, can individuals who are so inclined swim against the current of materialism and live more simply despite the institutional roadblocks, and if so, how?

Letís continue to look ahead by looking back . . .

To read the long conclusion of this article, dear Link reader, you will have to go to Countrysideís website: and look under the March/April 2000 Back Issuesí articles. While there, you can read an amazing array of articles relating to home-living, including: "Grow Shiitakes on a Log", "Alternate Heat Sources for Food Dehydration" and "Make A Rope".