Appalachian Medicine Blog Gardening Heritage Preserving/Canning

Economic Downturn Causes A Resurgence In Old Time Ways


REX the Rooster

Over the past few days we’ve been discussing how reusing, re-purposing, and recycling can be good for the environment-and good for the pocket book. The downturn in the economy has caused a need for thriftiness in most households-which has resulted in a resurgence of lifestyles that hearken from an earlier time.

The “backyard chicken” phenomenon is on the rise across the nation. Amazing how many urban dwellers are now raising chickens in their backyards. Frequently they have to petition the local government before acquiring the chickens-and frequently they win the battle due to the sheer number of folks who are exercising their right to have and raise chickens on their own property.

Hanging clothes out to dry is on the rise among home owners. Two factors are contributing to the increase-the first needing to be “green” for the environment-hanging out your clothes saves on energy-therefore reducing the need to produce energy. The second reason-folks are trying to lower their energy bill. I grew up with a clothesline mentality-it was just something you did-hang the clothes out to dry. I also grew up without air conditioning. With the clothes dryer located in the kitchen-drying loads of clothes = an unbearable hot house. So hanging clothes out for us was a no-brainer, save money and have a cooler house.

Sadly the economic downturn has forced many people to cutback on health care. Many folks are trying to treat their aliments at home, to save money by skipping the doc visit and the prescriptions that often follow. Here at the Blind Pig-I’ve seen an increase in folks visiting my site to read about Appalachian Medicinal Remedies. Although I don’t know for sure-I believe the increase in traffic is due to folk’s interest in treating their illnesses at home-just like it was done back in the day.

The Horticultural Industry-is one of the few sectors of our economy that is BOOMING. Seeds, plants, and other gardening related items have seen an increase in sales-in some case up 40% in the last year-pretty impressive given the decrease in other retail sales. As folks worry about the economy-and the rising price of food, more and more people are planting vegetables as a way to put food on the table for their families. Even folks like me-who were already gardening and preserving before the downturn-are planting a little extra-and planning on preserving a little extra too. The Deer Hunter and I figure-if we need it we’ll have it-if we don’t need it we will share it with someone who does.

The economic downturn has also increased the amount of meals folks cook and eat at home. We hardly ever eat out-so that hasn’t been an issue for us. But we have tried to cut back on expenses in other areas-*we switched over to compact fluorescent lightbulbs-and have seen our electric bill go down *planted a larger garden than usual so we can preserve more food for the coming year *tried to eat out of our pantry instead of buying additional groceries *quit giving the girls spending money *made a greater effort to make do with what we have and quit worrying about what we don’t have.

So how about you-has the economic downturn caused you to go back to the old time ways? Has the downturn caused you to make lifestyle changes?


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  • Reply
    Coach Daley
    May 19, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Hey Tipp,
    I also grew up without air-conditioning and with a clothesline. There is nothing like air dried sheets to sleep on. And the heat has never really bothered me either.
    But I was always a town dweller as my dad was a preacher and had a house provided for him in the small towns and larger cities we have lived in. It wasn’t until I was in high school that the concept of owning property was realized in my family.
    So I envy you and those who have had land ownership in their families for generations. That is quite a gift and hopefully nobody will lose any of it.
    But like my family I have stayed within the bounds of city life, even though I mostly despise it, b/c owning a house is the one sure way to rekindle a nest egg at the end of a career. Although now-a-days I’m not sure how much kindling my house will provide when it is time to sell it and retire.
    And along with the suburban world comes rules a-plenty. If I was to build a chicken house instead of the playground castle I would get a big letter and fast. Probably not just from the homeowners assc. but from neighbors as well. But I would love to raise some and eat fresh eggs each day.
    It is funny too b/c I get a letter almost invariably each year for not getting my pine straw renewed quick enough. They have no concern for the soil but just want it to “look pretty.” I ignore that letter and get it out in due time but only after I have covered all my tree beds with as much lawn waste as I can. Then the pine straw helps it to rot and make good dirt. Boy what some good chicken manure would do for it!
    As far as the clothes lines go they too are forbidden! I do wear clothes mostly made from cotton and hang them in the house to dry. Air-conditioning keeps the air so dry they don’t take long, and the gas heat in the winter will dry a whole blanket overnight. That reeks havoc on my sinuses, though, so as soon as it gets warm enough I move myself to the deck to sleep. And I hang my shirts out there too, but I try to keep them out of sight of the architectural control police that must roam the streets when everyone else is away at a real job. LOL
    I do cut my own grass as well as my mama’s since my dad can’t do that anymore. And I never entertained the thought of a sprinkler system. I always have watered by hand, that is when the restrictions are lifted. I also replaced all lights like you did but find that they actually last longer if you leave them on longer. The outside lights in the back stay on 24/7 and last 2 to 3 years. But if I cut them off each day they only last about a year. No meat is cooked in the house and is always done on the propane grill, and we keep as much water as we do sodas so that all helps.
    My yard just doesn’t get enough sun in any one place to grow food however, and I regret that. I’ve planted many trees that add to the shade so the yard will stay cool and keep the house cooler as a result, but did have to give up growing veggies to do so.
    My plan has always been to get back to nature and simple living as much as possible when I’m all done working. And that is getting closer as I type. So my next abode may be an old farm house I can rebuild, place a castle in the back yard and run a clothes line from tower to tower on top of it. Chickens will roost inside and maybe a cow can stick its head in the window to feed. I’ll read up on canning and keep a super large stock of food around for all my suburbanite friends who might come out to envy me then. And we will eat on a long table under a big tree, OUTSIDE! lol
    I am glad you and all others who can enjoy a more simple lifestyle can do so and survive in this modern world. While you are tending to clothes in the peace of your back yards all I can do is try to ignore the constant roaring hum of the hundreds of air-conditioning units running day in and day out. It is so common a noise that the only time you don’t hear it is if there has been a power outage.
    As time comes closer for me to retire I’m going through all the stuff I’ve accumulated and thinning it all out. It has really shown me how wasteful a person can get and is quite embarrassing. So the upside of the downside in the economy for me it that it is causing the belts to be tightening here and that is a good thing b/c I want to get a head start on the new chicken castle cow feeding clothes hanging.
    Stay cool and dry,
    Coach D

  • Reply
    May 18, 2009 at 9:33 am

    We enlarged our garden, we’re hoping to grow enough veggies go carry us through the winter. We will purchase only things we cannot preserve. P.S. Tipper, you’re right about my black, rich soil. This house has been here since about 1920, so the topsoil was not scrapped off, like they did with most of the subdivision. That means we have the original heavy clay soil. It presents problems of it’s own, but is far better than many people have here.

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    May 17, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Since I don’t have a washer/dryer or a yard, I’ve taken to going to the laundromat every two weeks now. Bigger loads and more time, but it’s gotta be done to save money. I used to have two clothes lines in the shower, but when BA put up the new shower liner, I can’t put nails in the wall so I lost my lines. I do use old towels to hang handwashed items over the shower door though. I used to love hanging clothes outdoors though, everything smelled so good when you put it on the bed after being out in the sun all day.
    I use old socks to put soap chips in to handwash items and I’ve had my old washboard forever.
    I’ve purchased lots of dried pasta while it was on sale. Sometimes I cook some up and share it with Andy upstairs. We both like it with a little butter and italian seasoning. It’s filling and costs pennies to make. Beans and cut up hot dogs with a side of mixed vegetables is also inexpensive. Plus the dried beans I stocked up on at $1.69 a bag last year are still going strong for me. I haven’t purchased anything in the past few months except 99 cent loaves of bread and eggs when they’re on sale. On my little salary, it’s a must.
    I also miss the days when we didn’t need air conditioning. We left the doors and windows open, front and back all day to catch the breeze. Nowadays that’s impossible here in the ‘big harsh.’ I miss that so much. xxoo

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 17, 2009 at 10:12 am

    I don’t have a clothes line, or any place to put one. I do have banisters one inside going down stairs and one outside on my deck. That is where I dry most of my clothes. The Deerhunter recently rebuilt my stairs and banister in the house and in addition to being beautiful we made sure there was several coats of sealer so the wet clothes would not damage the beautiful wood!!
    I do a lot of home remedies to keep from going to a doctor, partly because of the expense and partly because I prefer not to take the chemical laden meds they are so fond of prescribing.
    I cook most of what I eat going to restaurants infrequently.
    This is my way of life!

  • Reply
    May 17, 2009 at 5:10 am

    i am growing some of the vegetables i eat regularly~tomatos, peppers, salad leaves, sorrel and grow herbs that i use in food and to make my own remedies~rosemary hair rinse is a good one! until we get our allotment on track next year i cant grow much more although i am going to ask my mum if i can use a chunk of her garden. i have sneekily taken over management of our back garden so will be slipping other vegetables amongst flowers! i always use a line to dry but have battles with my OH as he loves the dryer which makes me crazy. all our lights are low energy too. the only thing i wish is to have room enough to preserve and store plenty of vegetables

  • Reply
    May 17, 2009 at 2:19 am

    Somehow I kind of agree with Julie, we’ve already downturned years ago. Teachers don’t make much and no body pays you not to be using resources. So we really don’t have a lot of spots to turn down some more. However, I am actually looking at getting serious with making some more from what I do do. Problem is I have a hard time asking for a decent price on something somebody needs.
    When we live in the heart of the city I had six chickens and our neighbor turned me in. The health inspector came the day after my husband and I put the fifty fryers from the garage into our freezer in two days by ourselves. Well since I only had six pretty laying hens to show him and he thought they were extremely healthy and well cared for and my garden was beautiful, he didn’t write me up. But he wrote up my “neighbor” who had junk stacked everywhere.

  • Reply
    May 16, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I’ve planted a small vegetable garden this year. Would love to get some chickens but City limits number of pets (3) and we have two dogs and a cat. Who knew they’d think of chickens as pets! We line dry clothes when weather permits. We rarely go out to eat or see movies. Mom recently gave me all of her and her mother’s cast iron cookware. What a joy to cook with, it is nearly nonstick from being used for 80 years. Got any recipes?

  • Reply
    May 16, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Oh, I almost forgot. I read another blog http://midlifetruckerswife who has links to coupon sites, giveaways and stuff. She has “Frugal Friday” postings with lots of ideas if you are interested. I was raised in Oklahoma. My hubby’s family is all from North Carolina so we have lived the “poor” life forever. I’m more frugal than the man…who loves to shop…at the grocery store preferably. LOL.

  • Reply
    May 16, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Well, I know there are more places I can conserve. I’ve been begging for a clothes line…but we live on a dirt road and my hubby doesn’t think it would be a good idea due to all the dust. Ditto on opening the windows. Everything is covered in dust in one day. Also, due to the extreme heat where I live we are back to the air-conditioning already. We are already having 98 degree days and high humidity, but I live almost in Mexico..LOL. We replaced our roof with a metal roof with insulation that “reflects” 90 percent of radiant heat. We replaced our back door with an energy efficent one without the window. We have installed ceiling on and so forth. Part of our fixing was inspired by Hurricane Dolly, but we made it “green” for economical reasons.
    Oh, listened to ABC special last night. They are calling people who are doing their own canning and stocking up on food and stuff “Doomsdayer’s” and their homes “Doomsteads” like there is something wrong with stocking up…just in case the economy collapses.

  • Reply
    May 16, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I have just recently been given some baby chicks, and am going to try to get the landlady to let me put up a cloths line. I wish I could afford to have someone with a plow to come and dig up a garden spot, but until then I am container gardening. I am trying to cook more at home. I have the cfl light bulbs and turn everything off as I go. I hope to not have to use the AC too much this summer.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    May 16, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Tipper: I think that everyone should have a garden for fresh vegetables. Everything taste so much better. I do catch my grass to keep it neat and put all the clippings in the garden. It is both a mulch and a nutritional source the next year.

  • Reply
    May 16, 2009 at 7:13 am

    The downturn has me cooking more. I am a lazy chef. Most of my favorite meals are in paper bags. To my delight, my daughter actually eats my concoctions. This is a blessing!

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    It truly is a shame the way the economy is going. So many people are trying to do what they can to save a buck here and a buck there.
    In a way it is good though because it helps us get back to basics, back to a time when we didn’t take so much for granted.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Oh my, those garden pics are amazing. Mine looks so pitiful this year.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    We are doing most of the things that you have listed and are considering purchasing a corn stove for heat this winter. We rarely use our air conditioning in the summer.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    I have a clothesline. I love the way bed sheets smell after drying in the sunshine, and I love to watch my little grandchildren playing in the sheets hanging on the line. It reminds me of when I was little and did the same thing.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    You know, because I have chosen to stay home to raise and homeschool our children, my husband has always been the main income resource. Because of this, we have pretty much done(26 years) as people are starting to do now days. We rarely eat out, we only buy clothing if it is needed, I cook and bake tons of food, and the list goes on. Once in a while we go out on the town, if we have to buy supplies or something big and we eat out and have some fun. We only purchase something if we have the money for it.All in all we have a happy “life style”. Enjoyed your post! blessings,Kathleen

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Well we grow a garden and use the clothes line in nice weather. We haven’t really cut back a lot, because as people used to say, we never lived high on the hog anyway. We don’t go to the movies, I buy most of my clothes at yard sales or on clearance,the only eating out we do is usually on the 99cent menu, and I shop the specials at the grocery store. That’s what we’re used to and if we did anything different I’d feel like we were wasting money. It would be neat if we could have chickens where we live.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    We live in town, have a small backyard of which all but a teeny area is covered by a canopy of leaves from the huge oak trees around our house. It is also very humid where we live. I tried hanging clothes out on a line several years ago, but between the debris from the trees, the lack of sunshine, the high humidity, and my awful allergies, it didn’t work out too well. :-/
    I do have a sunroom, which though it’s not especially sunny, does get a lot of light. My hubby installed a shelf near the ceiling that runs the length of the long room. I have books and knicknacks on it, but I also use the edge of it to hang all our knit shirts and t-shirts to dry. It saves on electricity, as well as prolongs the life of the fabric.
    One of the ways I save money at the grocery store is by buying meat and veggies that have been marked down for quick selling. I freeze the meat right away, and either eat, cook, or freeze the fresh produce. We save a lot of money on things we’d not otherwise even be able to afford to buy.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    We’re doing all the things you listed, Tipper. Of course, I’ve always tried to be thrifty, but added the chickens last spring and the clothesline a few weeks ago. We hardly ever use the A/C in the summer, only the hottest and muggiest days, or if we’re having guests who aren’t used to feeling sweat. My neighbor does absolutely nothing to try and save money or the environment. Never opens her windows, cranks the heat up to 80 in the winter, never recycles anything. She won’t even try my eggs, because they aren’t “pasteurized”. Oh well.

  • Reply
    Amy @ parkcitygirl
    May 15, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Great post Tipper! I am working to grow/preserve more this year. Some items like tomatoes don’t grow well up here for me so I hope to buy lots at the farmer’s market and such 🙂

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    We have always had chickens and hung out the wash, but we have had to give up many things we once took for granted. You never know what things are luxuries until you discover how nicely you can live without them. Good post.
    Sorry I don’t comment more often, but for some reason my comments seem to get “eaten up” by the form. Hope this one works!

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    May 15, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Now see, here is where I run into trouble. I have had chickens for a couple of years now. Same with hanging clothes on the line to dry. And the small garden in my yard. And we almost never go to the doctor. I cook most of our meals at home. Where do I cut back?

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    May 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Yep, I have the chickens, line dry mostly, make my own laundry detergent, and have started a garden this year. I like the old ways!

  • Reply
    Matthew Burns
    May 15, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    We’re so poor we can’t tell a difference between a good economy and a bad one. We do what we’ve always done, but we see alot of people on TV and read online about people who are really having a hard time of it.
    About the one thing that we really notice that is out of control are our personal property taxes. They more than doubled from last year, and a call at the courthouse said that with people leaving here, they are picking up the slack with those that stay! I can handle the day to day living, but it is these jumper-uppers that get me.
    We grow what we can, & can what we grow. Buy in bulk in season for more, and pretty much make do with everything else.
    Somethings gotta give before long or people are gonna revolt. People ain’t gonna stand idly by for long when they’re losing everything they have and scraping to get by, only to see some fat cat bureaucrat living off the fat of the land.
    But personally, we do what we’ve always done, we don’t know any other way anyway. But we did plant extra of everything just in case. One things for sure, a person can’t afford to buy from a grocery store anymore.

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    We haven’t been forced to cut back yet, but we started a few years ago and have enjoyed the change in our lifestyle for sure. Life is easier when it’s simpler

  • Reply
    May 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Definitely in all the ways you described.
    Add in there making more things from scratch instead of the expensive prepared, reheatable food.

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    May 15, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Interesting read, Tipper! Esp. regarding home remedies. There are more doctors who do treat
    homeopathically, but in my opinion, not enough.
    *laughing* I’ll never forget when I was a young teen and anemic, my doctor told my mother to make liver as rare as possible for iron. There were no pills. Whereas these days doctors are ready to give out pills instead of at least seeing whether a health issue could be taken care of with diet. Although from direct experience with my parents’ conditions, there is no other recourse than medications.
    But alternatives should always be considered and available.
    So glad to be back! Have a wonderful weekend, Tipper!

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