22 October 2008

Finding myself on the wrong side of the peasant revolt

Most Canadians have some passing familiarity with the classic “Roughing It in the Bush” by Susanna Moodie. If you haven’t actually read it, you are likely aware of the gist of the memoir which documents the travails of a British upper class family who emigrate to Upper Canada in the 1830s. They were educated, but basically moneyless due to Mr. Moodie’s unfortunate status as a younger son. Mrs. Moodie complains throughout the book about the indignities of being forced to live in almost the same conditions as the working class Irish, the difficulty in finding good help, and how ill prepared they were to actually perform the endless backbreaking work required of pioneers.

My first inclination, on reading this book, was to feel smugly superior to her. Because there’s something satisfying about witnessing rich people getting knocked down a peg. Susanna’s big problem is that she was educated to believe that she was entitled to a life of relative comfort while not actually having the resources to do so.

Things are a little different now. We’ve educated the rich to keep their voices down when complaining about saucy servants. But who are the rich? Most of us don’t have to climb too far up the family tree to find very modest circumstances - but most of us possess a car and at least one bathroom, not to mention feelings of entitlement - so globally speaking, we are rich. But here’s the catch: we’re the younger son kind of rich. The kind that have all the expectations but not the inheritance. Unfortunately, our inheritance is tied up in the stock market and locked up in tar sands and tethered to the biodiversity of the planet. Our financial resources have vaporized as the last bubble has burst, we’ve squandered our supplies of cheap energy and we’re losing uncountable species every day.

No one pities the rich when they’re revealed to be skint. The population of the planet has far exceeded its capacity to provide a rich existence for everyone. In the not too distant future, some of us may well find that our expectations can no longer be met and the rest of the world is not feeling sorry for us. So if I’m ever faced with an angry mob of impoverished world citizens, I won’t look over my shoulder for the investment banker escaping in his BMW, because the target is just as likely to be me.


  1. What does your cold frame look like? Can you describe it and how it was made? What are the cloths across some of your raised garden beds?

  2. I don't have any cold frames at the moment - what you are seeing in pictures of the garden are 4 x 8 ft. raised beds made out of 2x6 in. lumber. I've planted hardy greens in the beds and covered them with row cover cloth similar to Remay. It lets light and moisture through but provides some protection from cold. I had better germination when I covered a newly planted seed bed on Oct. 3 then with seeds not covered that were planted in August. The plan is to add low hoop house covers to the beds in another month or so. The general idea for that can be found at http://mofga.org/Publications/ArticlesforReprinting/SeasonExtensionWithLowTunnels/tabid/833/Default.aspx, and I also highly recommend The Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.



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