Eric Sloane

Dateline: 31 January 2014

Photo Link

I recall buying an oval rag rug from an aged Connecticut farmwife. Tears came to her eyes as she contemplated the rug and its sale. “I started that center part, “she said, “when we first started farming; you can see the dyed flour sacks we used for curtains. Then farther on there’s some blue gingham—that’s from the first dress Bob bought me.... and even a bit of the baby’s pink crib cover!” The continuous cord of rag material, probably a quarter of a mile long, spelled out a large piece of her life, all made from rags such as most people throw away. She had saved a lot of memories. “I’ll come back another time,” I lied to her, “when I have the cash with me.” of course, I didn’t return.

—Eric Sloane, 
From, The Spirits of '76  (1976)


I asked my wife today if she ever made a rag rug and she said, "Yes, I used to do things like that when I was a kid. Now I just do laundry and try to keep the house clean."  

She actually does a lot more than that, but her life is, indeed, busy with all kinds of responsibilities these days. And there is little time to pursue crafts. 

Marlene says her mother (now 99 years old) told her there used to be a local woman who made rag rugs for people. They would take their rags to her and she would make them into a rug.

So the historical progression for rug making appears to be something like this:

1. People once made their own rugs using old rags (because they were frugal and didn't waste anything).

2. People got too busy to make their own rugs and took their rags to a local rug-making craftsperson.

3. The local rug-making craftsperson, couldn't make any money at rugs, or got too busy with other things, or something like that.

4. People now have so many clothes, they spend hours and hours trying to keep them clean and organized. Then they donate them to Goodwill or throw them out. And they buy machine-made rugs from China.

Have you ever made a rag rug?

Eric Sloane

Dateline: 29 January 2014

Painting by Eric Slaone

“No people,” said George Washington, “can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of these United States.” [In Washington's] time, everyone attended services every Sunday and the church was the center of each village. Conducting business on the Sabbath was punishable; toll bridges were free; it was the custom to walk to church if possible rather than upset the decorum of the day with horses and carriages. Generally speaking, church-going in America has decreased from ninety percent to someting less than ten percent.

The critics of early American life contend there was too much religion in those Puritan days. Even when you learned your alphabet, the illustrations were all Biblical (A for Adam, B for Bible, C for Christ, and so on). But we should remember that there were no school-books then, and the always present Bible became the major (and often only) textbook. There were no professional teachers, so the preacher of Sunday became schoolteacher all the restof the week. Without the church there would have been no early American schools.

The church in Washington’s time was the main support in American life: today it is more an embellishment. The churchgoer of yesterday sought main support from the church but the churchgoer today merely embellishes his life with his occasional attendance.

Just as religion once tied together the family and surrounded the whole American community, the nation and its government was likewise fathered by the profound belief in God.... It was the conviction of the founding fathers, and the frequent words of George Washington, that “to attempt government without God is impossible.” 

Like it or not, accept it or not, the Bible was once the main source of America’s identity.

—Eric Sloane, 
From, The Spirits of '76  (1976)

Eric Sloane

Dateline: 28 January 2014

Drawing by Eric Slaone

The original spirit of agronomy can never return any more than Park Avenue can grow potatoes the way it did in the 1700s. But a spirit is something that doesn’t die, and the reverence for the land as an inherent part of man must for our eventual survival continue to be an American heritage.

In 1958 Eisenhower summed up the nation, saying: “We have progressed from an isolated farm economy to a world industrial economy.” That “isolated farm economy” happened to be more than an economy; it was our way of life, a personal and national philosophy. In “progressing,” the individual has now become a different person in a different nation. If the pioneer could return today he would certainly be impressed by the wonders of scientific change, but he would also be aware that his unique nation was no more.

Because we have become so business-minded, it is difficult for us to realize that the early American farmer seldom was in the business of selling farm produce: instead he raised food for his own family and for his own livestock: farming was the classical way of American life. “Those who labor in the earth,” said Jefferson, “are the chosen people of God.” Washington had said: “Husbandry was the first employment and the most honorable... farming is a diving appointment.” Washington and Jefferson, like everyone else, lived active farm lives and knew well the religion of farming. Even in the 1800s, when farming began to be a business instead of a personal necessity, the farmer was still regarded as a special man with a special calling. But in the mid-nineteenth century, things changed.

Like much of early Americana, agronomy changed and began its decline during the Civil War period. Young men returned from an unnecessary war too disillusioned to go back to where they had left off: they had seen big cities and quick money. Daddy was no longer the “lord of the earth’; he was regarded as an archaic stay-at-home comic character called Rube, with shoddy clothes, rubber boots and chewing on a blade of grass. The farmstead was no longer an estate built up and left to generation after generation; from then on, children would inherit money instead, and capitalism would become as much a personal philosophy as a national economy.

—Eric Sloane, 
From, The Spirits of '76  (1976)

Eric Sloane

Dateline: 27 January 2014

I have a friend who, with the fortune of an overwhelming inheritance, has retired to yachting and golfing. He chose to visit me while I was building the stone wall of my studio, and he offered to spend the time helping me. At the end of a back-breaking day, he confided: “I haven’t had such an appetite since I was young, and I’ve never felt better. Boy, am I going to sleep tonight!” he had forgotten how good it feels to be hungry and tired. “What you are enjoying,” I told him, “is the rare satisfaction of hard labor!” I suppose if I sailed or golfed with the same enthusiasm with which I build stone walls, I might become just as hungry and tired at the end of each day, but then I wouldn’t have a stone wall to crown my feeling of satisfaction. I think I like my own life pattern.

—Eric Sloane, 
From, The Spirits of '76  (1976)

Eric Slaone
(photo link)

January Flu Break

Dateline: 26 January 2014

My momentum on this series about the family economy has been interrupted by a case of flu virus, which came to me, compliments of my son, who got it from his girlfriend. I felt it coming on and called up reinforcements.... Colloidal silver, garlic, vitamin C, zinc... all to no avail. 

My final attempt to thwart the virus was to take a hot soaking bath. The theory being, super hot water might raise my internal body temperature, simulating a fever, and kill the virus. I soaked as long as I could stand it. Then, on the verge of passing out, with my skin red and steaming, I stumbled into bed and piled the covers on.

As I laid there my ear was folded over and against the bed pillow so that I could feel and hear the amplified pulsations of my heartbeat. Hot baths will shift the heart into overdrive and I imagined I was hearing the beat of an ancient Gaelic war drum (after all, I do have some Scotch blood in my veins). The drumbeat sounded Just Like This (crazy Scots!).

It is a spooky thing to hear your own heart and lifeblood pulsating through your body while you are alone, under the covers, in the darkness of your room, and fever, with it’s mind-altering qualities, creeps upon you. What if, all of a sudden, the beat just stopped? How long would the mind have to contemplate such a thing after the final beat?

But it didn’t stop. The drum of my imagination beat steady and strong and I thought that I might hear bagpipes at any moment:  “Oh Herrick boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling.” 

Yes, I know it’s an Irish song. I’m Irish too. The Scots, The Irish, they fought together, right? I saw the movie.

Were I to have heard The Pipes, I assure you, I would have risen from my bed and gone to battle, because the pipes have that effect on a man, no matter how feverish he may be. I would have grabbed my grandfather’s 1825 militia musket and charged out into the night wearing nothing more than my tartan pajama bottoms.

I would have run into the woods, behind my house to engauge the enemy. I would have looked for the biggest and took him on. The gun hasn’t shot a ball in over a hundred years, but no matter. A Scotsman under the influence of the pipes doesn’t need bullets. I’d hold the musket by the barrel, like a club, and crush their skulls. 

The next morning, the searchers would find my lifeless, frozen body laying next to the biggest maple tree in the woods, with bark chips and gun pieces all around me, and a peaceful look on my face.... “We've never seen a dead man look so happy,” they would say.

Fever brings morbid thoughts. As my temperature increased, so did the pain behind my eyeballs. I was sure I must have had a brain aneurism. I imagined that it would burst and blow at least one eyeball out of its socket. So I would be laying there with my eye dangling by it's optical-nerve-tether against my cheek, and blood spurting out of the socket with every beat of my heart. 

And I wondered what I would do when this happened. Would I feebly call out to my wife who was downstairs, diligently working away at the kitchen table, counting out poultry shrink bags, in increments of 25?  Or would I try walking down the stairs into the kitchen to ask her to call an ambulance? Or would I just lay there and die? 

I determined that I would patiently bleed out. I’m ready to meet my maker (and I truly mean that). Marlene knows where the important papers are. She can operate most parts of the Planet Whizbang business herself. Our three boys would be around to help her. Yes, it would be okay to go.

And wouldn't she be surprised! She's the one who insists that she's going to die before me. because I'm so healthy. Yeah, right, I used to be so healthy.

The fever broke early the next morning. Maybe the hot bath helped. Then came the cough—a dry, unsatisfying, gut wrenching, involuntary, wheezing cough that would not allow me to sleep. 

After two nights of almost no sleep it occurred to me that drugstores sell little bottles of liquid called “cough syrup.” Marlene was in town getting a new pair of glasses. I called her in desperation to tell her I just remembered that it’s possible to buy cough syrup, and I needed some.

She soon returned with the syrup. Grape flavored. I chugged some down, and the cough eventually subsided. It didn’t go away. I still have it. But it is not so bad now. 

Though I was in the grip of flu for the past week, I managed to post my previous two essays on Monday and Wednesday because they were pretty much already "in the can," as they used to say in the film industry.  But the intended final essay, once fresh and excitedly bouncing around in the crevasses of my brain, is now lost. The main points, the phraseology, the adjectives. They have all left me. I typed out four pages yesterday, read it over, and decided it was too long and bumbly. So I'll pick this subject up again someday in the future, perhaps after I read the much anticipated Allan C. Carlson book that launched me into this family-economy train of thought in the first place.

For now, I'm pleased to report, Eric Sloane has agreed to take over as guest blogger here for the rest of January.

Barring any more setbacks, I'll return next month.

Sage Advice
For Would-Be Farmers

(part 4 of)
The Family Economy

Dateline: 22 January 2014

One of New England's most-photographed farms
(photo link)

Farming is the traditional and, arguably, the best occupation for establishing a family economy. But you will never hear me encouraging anyone to go into farming these days. It is an extremely difficult and stressful business to get off the ground and make a living at, particularly if you are relying on the farm alone to support you and your family. 

Now, if you have an excess of money to buy the land and support the farming enterprise, that’s different. 

A crop farmer I know jokingly told me years ago that if he ever won the lottery, he would just keep on farmin’ until it was all gone. This particular farmer grew up on a farm and got his own farm right out of high school in 1960. He’s 72 now and still farming. Things were different years ago. It was not exactly easy to get into farming, but it was easier.

Unfortunately, a lot of good folks have been discovering the hard way that farming is an almost-impossible business to get into and succeed at. Yes, there are exceptions. There are people who do succeed. But they are, unfortunately, a minority.

I was reminded of all this last summer when I happened upon the blog of a woman who was announcing that her family was selling their farm. It was a downright sad story. They had bought a farm four years earlier with a lot of passion and desire to grow high-quality food. They also wanted their children to grow up in the country. They went into farming for all the right reasons.

It turned out that they absolutely loved the farm. They loved raising high quality poultry, pork, beef, and raw milk. They loved selling their farm-raised products at the market. Their customers appreciated their passion and the high quality, local food. The husband had quit his city job to come home to work the farm. The family was together every day. There were so many positive benefits in the lifestyle they had chosen to pursue. But they were selling the farm.

What was the problem? Why did they have to sell their farm? The woman said it was because there were not enough customers willing to pay the high prices they needed to get for their products. Well, that is one big problem with farming these days. But it turns out there was another underlying problem that I think was their biggest mistake...

It turns out that they had borrowed money to buy the farm. They had a mortgage to pay. They had also borrowed a surprising amount for supplies. They didn’t have sufficient income to pay the bills. The husband had gone back to working a job in the city. He was trying to do chores at night. The family was stressed. Their dream farm had turned into a nightmare farm. They were moving back to the suburbs.

Offhand, it sounded like this family was probably inspired by Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm and were trying to do much like he had done. They probably read his excellent book, Pastured Poultry Profit$. But I dare say they should have also read his book, You Can Farm, or, if they did read it, they should have taken the following sage advice seriously....

Here are some prerequisites to purchasing land [to have a farm]. Ask yourself if any of these have been met.
Have a viable patron base already purchasing what you are growing on land to which you already have access. This can be your own backyard, borrowed or rented land. The point is that you have a clientele that will follow you to your new location and provide a loyal marketing base to get a good profit on the very first thing that comes off your acreage.
Know how to make money on land. This, of course presumes you’ve been doing something long enough that you feel comfortable risking more than just sweat. When you begin risking your pocketbook, things get serious real fast. Your experiential confidence must be high. This does not include ideas you’ve gotten out of books or cooperative schemes you’ve picked up from magazine ads. If you’ve turned good money on a piece of land you’ve been working with, chances are you can duplicate this effort in similarly rewarding fashion on one you own.
Have enough money to live on for 5-10 years after you’ve completely paid off the farm. I don’t mean contracted for, I mean paid for. This one gets sticky. If your experience and knowledge level is low, your learning curve will be steep. You’ll make more mistakes than you imagine possible. Don’t worry, that’s normal for any fledgling business.
The average person who buys a farm today will have that farm back on the market within five years. This cycle is duplicated over and over and over again, and I don’t want you to go through it. Life is too short to be complicated with this.
I’ve seen this cycle repeated too many times. If you have enough money to buy the land debt-free, you won’t need to generate the cash to pay for it from your outside work. I cannot overstate the importance of this issue.
You can buy a couple of acres, move into a $3,000 used mobile home, and get started for perhaps less than $10,000. If you are debt free, you can work part-time while you develop your farm.
But if you have a mortgage to pay, even if it’s only 3,000 per year, it will saddle you with cash requirements that will push you into a more demanding off-farm job, which will leave you less flexibility to develop the farm. The magazine Countryside has featured testimonials time and again from folks who maintained a family on less than $500 per month. My own experience was like this.

Now, I ask you, how many would-be farmers do you think are willing to leave their comfortable house in a suburban cul-de-sac and move into a $3,000 used trailer on two acres of land, and try to live on $500 a month while they get their farm started? You’ve got to have a powerful desire to succeed at farming to do that, and so does your spouse.

But wait, there’s more.....

The best money you can make is what you save on living expenses. Get rid of the second car, quit patronizing the grocery store, and do more for yourself. If you grow most of your own food, harvest your own heat off the farm (firewood) and get clothes at the thrift store, you can live quite cheaply. As the farm becomes lucrative, you can begin to upgrade. You will see what you can more economically buy off the farm than grow yourself, and you can begin focusing more energy on the things that generate a high return per hour.
But you must keep your cash requirements low. If you’re going to move onto the acreage, build a nice, acceptable house with well-mowed lawn, you’d better have deep pockets. In such a case, if you can’t live farm-income free from 5 to 10 years, forget it.Why so long? It will take you that long to go through the learning curve.
Business guru Peter Drucker charts the business cycle and points out that any new business has a 7-10 year period before it becomes lucrative. There just aren’t any shortcuts to this no matter how you may think folks that are there got there easy. None of us did.

I think Joel is right on with his observations and advice. 

What do you think?

Also, Though I am not a farmer, I do have a successful (it pays the bills) home-economy business in the country, and much of what Joel has written is pertinent to getting a home business launched. That last paragraph says a lot.


In the next essay of this series I will post some final thoughts on the family economy and how to establish one in your family.

Profile Of A Free Man
(part 3 of)
The Family Economy

Dateline: 20 January 2014
Back in August of last year my oldest son was telling me about the Duck Dynasty television show. He said he would like to read Phil Robertson’s book, Happy, Happy, Happy, and suggested that I could get him a copy for Christmas. I said I might do that, and ordered it from Amazon that day. It’s rare that one of my boys say they want to read a book, and I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to help them do so, especially if I think it has a good message.

Then, come December, Phil Robertson was in the news because he dared to (in his own unique way) assert his opinion that homosexuality was deviant, morally reprehensible behavior.  He was, of course, simply reflecting God’s viewpoint on the matter, as clearly (very clearly) expressed in the Bible. However, based on the biblical record, I think it’s safe to say that God’s opinion about, and response to, homosexuality is far more extreme than Phil Robertson’s.

As you know, Robertson’s remarks ignited a firestorm of indignation from sodomy-rights advocates.  At one time, militant sodomites just wanted equal rights, but that seems to have changed. Now they also want everyone to agree with their behavior, proclaim it as good, and help promote it. And if someone does not kowtow to their expectations, well then, a brazen, organized cadre of rabid activists will do everything they can to destroy that someone’s livelihood and reputation. Which is exactly how it played out with Phil Robertson.

I found myself drawn to the controversy because I know that most Christians (including most pastors) are afraid to publicly side with God on this matter of sodomy. They have a lot to lose if they do. Besides that, no Christian really wants to even think about homosexuality. It is, frankly, repulsive  (especially if you know some of the things homosexual men do with each other, beyond what Phil Robertson said). Thinking about homosexuality is also not one of those things Christians are instructed to put their thoughts on in Phillippians 4:8

Nevertheless, we who take our Christian faith seriously are called to speak the truth in love, and if you read Phil Robertson’s “controversial” quote, he was not expressing his opinion with anger or hate. I dare say, it could be argued that, in speaking the truth, Robertson expressed more love for homosexuals than those who hold their tongue. 

The fact that Phil Robertson was, and is, unafraid to speak his mind, even though it is contrary to the dictates of mainstream cultural expectations, reveals more than just his opinion about sodomy. It reveals that Phil Robertson is a free man in the truest sense of the word.  

I believe all men are attracted to examples of other men who are free, who are untamed by the industrial-world culture, who are fully capable of taking care of themselves and their families without needing a 9-to-5 job, or government handouts, who hold fast to traditional moral standards, and who bravely speak their mind. Such men are few and far between.

Even the author of the GQ  magazine article that led to the December brouhaha, a man who is clearly an indoctrinated disciple of modern culture, admits that he himself is a wimp, and that Robertson’s manhood is admirable.

I was so intrigued by this controversy that I spent some time one day, while working in my shop, listening to several short segments of the Duck Dynasty program that are on YouTube (I’ve never watched a whole episode of the show). 

My impression of the show is that it’s silly and mostly vapid. But it does have some very endearing moments, like, for example, when Phil and Miss Kay speak to each other at their 50th wedding anniversary. What they say is not Hollywood. It’s real, and it put a real lump in my throat. That was my emotion because I had read Phil’s biography (I finished it off very early on Christmas morning). I know something of his pre-Christian past, and the hardships he inflicted on his marriage and family years ago.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with reestablishing the family economy, as the title of this essay states. Well, it turns out that it has a lot do do with it. 

When you read Phil Robertson’s biography you will immediately see that he grew up within a family that had very little in the way of material goods. But the family worked together to provide the necessities of life from the land, and the woods, and the waterways around their home. That’s a family economy. He grew up in the 1950’s but he says his family lived like it was the 1850s. 

If you read Phil’s book (and I recommend it), you’ll be treated to the story of a contra-industrial man. In addition to that, he’s a man who went from being a proud, selfish, irresponsible, backwoods hellion to a humble, repentant, responsible, backwoods husband and father. You’ll also learn about Phil’s entrepreneurial side.

Phil Robertson is a college graduate and was once a school teacher. But he left that job to be a fisherman. He supported his family for several years fishing for catfish, and it sounds like he was pretty good at it. The book says he brought in around sixty thousand pounds of fish a year. The whole family helped with the fishing business.

Phil and Miss Kay and the four boys lived in the boondocks back then, next to a river (they still live there). Phil’s parents (who he refers to as Granny and Pa) lived in a separate house on the same property. 

The story goes that Phil told Kay to find a riverside property where they could live and he could fish from. She found just the right spot but they couldn't afford the down payment. So Phil’s parents used their savings as a down payment on the 6.5 acre property (with two houses on it). The agreement was that Phil and Kay would be responsible for paying the balance over time. That’s how it worked, and the arrangement allowed the four Robertson boys to grow up with their grandparents right next door. Pa and Granny were there to help Phil and Kay, and Phil and Kay were there to help Pa and Granny. That’s a family working together. That’s a family economy. That’s the way families used to do it way back when. It’s a beautiful thing.

Phil did good at the fishing, but he dreamed of building a business making duck calls. He started making the calls in a shed on his property. His boys helped make the calls, and Pa helped too.

As you probably know, Phil Robertson is now a wealthy man, but he sure didn’t start out that way, and it didn’t come easy. But the man had an exceptional work ethic to go with his entrepreneurial mindset.

In the book, Phil tells about how hard it was to sell his duck calls in the beginning. There was no internet back then to help with marketing. He walked into a WalMart and tried to sell calls to the sporting goods department. That’s not how you sell to WalMart and he didn’t get anywhere. Most people would have given up after being rejected in one WalMart, but Phil went to other WalMarts, changing his sales pitch each time, and he finally made a sale. A man’s gotta have a lot of chutzpah to do that!

Phil’s duck call company, Duck Commander, is now a great American success story. I want to make the point here that it all started with a godly, entrepreneurial man, living close to the land, and establishing a family economy that included a home business. I believe the Robertson’s are the close-knit family they are today because they have all worked towards a common goal as a family, under Phil’s leadership, and their Christian faith has been central to the whole thing.

Now here is the point I want to reiterate about a man who lives free and establishes a family economy business....  Such a man is more free to speak his mind than a man who is a slave to the corporation, or a government job.

Phil Robertson is much like the yeoman farmers of early America. They were hard-working men of the land who were morally upright and  independent-minded. As such, they could speak their conscience freely. Such were the kind of men that Thomas Jefferson believed must be the backbone of the Agrarian Republic he helped to forge. 

I declare America needs more men like Phil Robertson.


P.S.  This YouTube Clip is the best interview I've seen with Phil and Miss Kay.


CLICK HERE to go to Part 4 of this series

Part 2
The Family Economy
—A Biblical Imperative—
We Are Not Called To Be Slaves

Dateline: 18 January 2014

"One of The Family," an 1880 painting by Frederick George Cotman. Click the picture to see a much larger view of this beautiful image. It is mealtime in the home of a productive, multi-generational farm family.

In My Previous Blog Post I wrote about the family economy and posted Returning To The Family Economy, a chapter from a book I wrote in 2005. My premise is, as the title of this essay states, that a family economy is the biblical imperative. An “imperative” is an essential or urgent thing. 

I happen to think that how and where we live our lives and raise our families can make an enormous difference in how strong and vibrant our families will be. That seems like a self-evident statement. What might not be self-evident is that God’s ideal plan for families is for them to live on a section of productive land, and to establish family economies. 

I’m sure that a lot of Christians will disagree with that last sentence. That’s because, for one thing, so few modern Christians live that way. Besides that, I don’t suppose anyone has ever heard a sermon preached on the biblical imperative of establishing family economies on the land. Pretty much nobody is talking about this. It’s virtually unheard of. There is a much larger focus in the modern evangelical church on "cheap grace," not multi-generational obedience to biblical imperatives.

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time in history that a biblical imperative was lost and unknown to God’s people. This brings to mind the Jewish King, Josiah, in the Old Testament. Josiah decided to renovate the temple. A lost scroll was uncovered in the process. It was the “law of the LORD.” 

It’s hard to feature how God’s law, as given to Moses, could be totally lost and forgotten in an ancient Jewish Kingdom, but that’s what happened.

King Josiah read the document and realized that his kingdom had strayed far from God’s law. Josiah was a man who feared God, and he realized the kingdom would suffer God’s judgment. So what did Josiah do? 2 Kings 23 tells the story

...[T]he king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.
And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.

Then Josiah ordered that all the pagan altars and idols and priests be destroyed. He purged his kingdom of all idolatry. That’s the fear of God in action.. 
It’s a story worth reading and thinking about because all Christians should be like King Josiah in the “kingdom” of their own lives. But I digress. I want to return to this matter of the family economy. Keep reading and decide for yourself if what I’m trying to communicate rings true or not.  I’m going to approach this in a roundabout way,  beginning with the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:23 ...
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
In the above verse (and verse 21 before it), Paul says that it is best for Christians not to be servants to other men. Servant is another word for slave. What exactly is a slave or a servant?
A slave (or a servant) can be defined as someone who is told by a master what to do with their time and labor. Furthermore, the master also determines what amount a slave or servant is to be paid for his (or her) labor. In other words, a slave or servant does not decide for himself how he will spend his time, what he will work at, and what the return for his work will be.
Furthermore, a slave or a servant is someone who works to advance the goals and visions of other men.
Thus it is that any man who works for a modern corporation, the government, or any small business is a slave or servant. Yes, it is voluntary slavery, but slavery nonetheless. Most people who are employed by anyone other than themselves know that their work is a type of slavery.
Now, I need to make it clear that Paul says some men are called to be servants, and that they should be content in that, because, ultimately, they are the “Lord’s freeman.” But if they can be free, God’s people should be free.
When the nation of Israel was enslaved in Egypt, they cried out to God to free them from the bondage. If slavery is the best kind of lifestyle for God’s people to be in, God would have just left the Jewish nation in Egypt. But He heard their prayers and gave them their freedom.
However, once they had their freedom, the Jews longed for enslavement again...
We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely: the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.
It so happens that freedom comes with a price tag of hardship (often harder than being a slave) and responsibility (much more than slavery requires). 
Once the nation of Israel got over their fondness for slavery and trusted God to take them into a better place (of freedom), He did exactly that. And in the promised land God took them to, every family had a section of land to exercise their freedom and dominion. In Kings 4:25 we read...
Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree.
In other words, every man (with his family) were on a section of land, husbanding the land, making it fruitful and productive. They lived and worked close to, and dependent upon, the source of all prosperity—the land. The economic productivity of the nation was not in factories and enormous industrial farms. It was in individual families. And these people were free— as free as earthly men can be.
This decentralized, agrarian paradigm for life—family economies on the land—was God’s ideal for His people.
Another evidence that God does not like to see his people in slavery or servitude is the Jubilee found in Leviticus 25. It was not uncommon for some Jewish people to lose their land and go into servitude as a result of poverty and/or unpaid debt. You borrow money from me, and you can’t pay me back, then you become my slave. That’s a simplification, but it is, essentially, the way it worked. But according to God's instruction, every 50 years, on the Jubilee, enslaved Jews were given their freedom. More than that, any land that was lost or sold in the previous 50 years was returned. In addition to God's feelings about slavery, we can see a clear connection between the ownership of land and freedom in the Jubilee.
Elsewhere in the Bible, Christians are warned to avoid debt. Proverbs 22:7 says that a borrower is a slave to the lender. Debt and slavery are synonymous. Debt is clearly not a good or desirable thing, and neither is slavery. 
When we look at early American history, we see a nation that was much like the promised land of Old Testament Israel. We were an agrarian nation. Men did not leave their land to go work in factories. The center of economic activity in early America was the many families living on the land, deriving their sustenance from it. Then came industrialization with its factories and centralized production.
Believe it or not, factories were once not allowed in America. We were a deliberate agrarian colony of England. The factories came after we gained independence. But they didn’t come right away. There was resistance to the industrialization of this country. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and other lesser known founders of the nation were against the introduction of a factory economy. 
Jefferson and Adams had toured the farms and cities of England together after the Revolution when they were there to try and work out a trade treaty. They saw firsthand how the industrial economy in that country adversely affected the people and the traditional culture. They identified industrialism as a danger to the American Republic.
But industrialization came and it brought the destruction of the agrarian-based family economies of this nation. The fabric of life that once knit families together was torn asunder as fathers left the home to work in factories and cities. Then, in the aftermath of two World Wars, mothers left to join the industrial workforce too. Marriage was no longer, as Allan Carlson puts it, “a union of the sexual and the economic,” (see below) and children became economic liabilites instead of cherished assets in the family economy.
Thus we see that, as dependence on the industrial systems increased, and the family economy has become a threadbare relic, few families today experience the fullness of family life as it once was—as God designed it to be.  Also, with the rise of industrialism has come an alarming increase in apostasy and the widespread decline of Christian culture. These are the most wicked fruits of industrialism.
Industrialism, and it’s spawn (e.g., corporate capitalism and statism), needs to be recognized for what it is— a primary tool for the destruction of Christian culture, and the enslavement of mankind.
Once this is clearly seen and understood, individual Christians, and Christian families, face a profound choice. Do they continue to live a life of servitude to, and dependency upon, the industrial masters? Do they continue to conform to the industrial expectations? Do they willingly hand their children over to be indoctrinated in the ways of industrialism? Or do they carefully, deliberately take steps to free themselves from the industrial matrix?
Yes, you can (and may have to) be the Lord’s freeman while living as a servant to wicked industrialsim. But I am inclined to believe that there is great wisdom in the words of the apostle Paul: 

Be ye not the servants of men.

Before the rise of modern industry… virtually the whole of humankind lived in family-centered economies. The family was the locus of the most productive activity, whether it be on largely self-sufficient farms or in small family shops… Husbands and wives relied on each other, shared with each other, so their small family enterprises might succeed. They specialized in their daily tasks, according to their respective skills. Marriage was still true to its historic definition: a union of the sexual and the economic.

—Allan C. Carlson, Ph.D.
From the book, Love is Not Enough

Click Here to read Part 3 of this series.

The Family Economy
—A Biblical Imperative—

Dateline: 17 January 2014

A 1919 farm family. You can bet they all worked together… 
even the young'uns.
(click for a closer look)

In my previous blog post I mentioned Allan C. Carlson’s soon-to-be-published book, The Natural Family Where It Belongs: New Agrarian Essays, and Generations With Vision, a ministry that is working to bring about the reformation of strong Christian families by casting a vision for the establishment of vibrant family economies. The anticipation of Allan Carlson’s new book has me thinking about the family economy as it relates to the Christian-agrarian worldview.

I feel compelled to add my 2-cents to this discussion because I care deeply about the well-being of Christian families (especially my own). I also understand the historical role that the family economy has played in God’s plan for His kingdom and His people. And I can see the industrial revolution has nearly destroyed the family as God designed it to function.

I sense that there is some confusion among many who are new to the whole concept of the family economy. I’m also concerned that Generations With Vision may be presenting a vision for the family economy that is focused almost entirely on a family business and entrepreneurship.  Without embracing the full traditional essence and understanding of what a family economy once was, and must needs be again, I  fear that family reformation may not succeed.  I'm hoping that Allan Carlson will inject this missing agrarian aspect into the discussion with his new book. 

In any event, it occurred to me that I had written something about the family economy in my 2006 book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. I decided to read again what I had written. It turns out that I’ve already expressed my thoughts (most of them) on this matter, and I have decided to just publish the whole chapter. Here it is

Returning To 
The Family Economy

We live in an industrial economy. Some say we are actually now in a service economy. If so, it is still a part of the industrial paradigm. In such an economy, the typical family is not a producer of goods. It is a collection of individual consumers. This is the way the industrial providers like it to be. They want everyone to be dependent on them. But that is contrary to the historical pattern. For hundreds of years prior to the industrial revolution, families were self-reliant, integrated units of efficient production. This historical model of family-based production is referred to as the family economy.

In a properly functioning family economy, every member of the family—father, mother, children, grandparents, and any extended family living under the same roof—plays a role in making the family as self-sufficient as possible. Everyone works for the good of the family. Everyone is needed.

This model is naturally suited to farming and homesteading. It was the norm in agrarian America prior to the mid-1800s. Many farm families tenaciously held on to some form of this lifestyle well into the 20th century. Today it is an anachronism, but that may be changing.

The family economy has, in times past, also included numerous cottage industries. Grain milling, candlemaking, tinsmithing, blacksmithing, coopering, carriage-making, and furniture-making are just a few examples of small-scale home businesses that contributed to the economy of many families. Each of these crafts and services was performed in, or just outside, the home. Such homes would also have gardens and some livestock. Even in the villages, it was not unusual to have a family milk cow. Again, self-sufficiency and thus, survival of the family, was the collaborative objective.

Within the family economy, mothers and fathers taught their children the many different skills associated with their way of life. The whole idea was to train children to be productive members of the family as children so they would become productive, self-reliant leaders (and teachers) of their own families one day. The virtues of thrift, hard work, family closeness, and religious faith, were integral elements of these families of yore and produced men and women of great character.

The primary objective of the family economy was not to make a lot of money. It was to sustain a way of life. Indeed, most farming was subsistence farming, which means the family produced just about everything they needed, bartered for what they did not have, and did not require a lot of money.

That kind of life is hard for us to imagine these days. We figure subsistence farmers must have been poor miserable beings, barely surviving. But these were people who knew how to make the land produce and, for the most part, they operated thriving farms and homesteads. They had what they needed to live a good and full life.

It is my firmly-held belief that in order to build strong families and reestablish a vibrant agrarian culture, individual families must rediscover and deliberately work towards reuniting the entire family into some sort of family economy.

Most agrarians clearly see the blending of family life and work into a more self-sufficient family economy is the ideal. It is something they dream of and work towards. I am one of those people.

But the reality of the situation is, unless you are born into an already-established family business, or you are independently wealthy, a true and complete family economy is not easily accomplished in this modern world.

Those families living prior to the mid-1800s did not have exorbitant property taxes extorted from them to pay for government schooling schemes. There was no federal income tax to support a bloated and oppressive federal bureaucracy. Spending on social programs was minimal. Life, health, auto, property, and unemployemnt insurances were, I’m guessing, not even around (certainly not auto).

Money was the real thing—gold and silver, not the fiat currency that governments so conveniently devalue through inflation. Huge stores full of manufactured goods, which we’ve been conditioned to think we must have, were not around back then either. Children were not being bombarded with messages to continually be buying the latest whatever.

For new agrarians of the 21st century to reestablish family economies, we need to, first, get out of bondage to debt. A key part of doing this is to simplify our needs and wants; we must tame our tendency toward materialism and consumerism. Then we must endeavor to supply as many of our family’s needs as possible. And finally, we must also create family businesses that generate enough actual money to pay the most necessary of living costs in our very expensive industrial economy.

All of this is an enormous challenge. It is not something that most people can do overnight. But it is something that most people can begin on a small scale and slowly, deliberately, bring to fruition.

There are some brave and innovative pioneers who are establishing wonderful examples of godly family economies. Joel Salatin comes to mind immediately. There are many others testing the waters and paving the way. If the task were easy, more people would be doing it. Nevertheless, the goal of bringing fathers home and reuniting families in life and work is noble and necessary. The difficulty of attaining an ideal is no excuse for not pursuig it.


I wrote that essay with passion and conviction back in 2005 (it was originally posted to this blog). At that time I was working to establish a home-based business that would pay the bills and allow me to leave my industrial-world job. Since then, the business has been very blessed, and I was able to come home a year ago this month. My example should be an encouragement to others who see and desire the same thing. But my quest is not entirely successful. I have not fully "arrived" at some ideal.  Mine is a family economy, on the land, that is still developing. I’ll have more to say about this subject in my next essay.


Update: Click Here to go to Part 2 of this series