What 'we' were doing in the early 80s.

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by ho-hum, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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    I really just wanted the opportunity to gloat and also reminisce. Just before Christmas a friend gave me a box [maybe 50] of magazines, Grass Roots, Earthgarden, Mother Earth News and others which I have been reading ever since.

    It is interesting to look back on how much themes have altered over the past 25 years as newer 'back-to-earthers' have joined the ranks of magazine contributors. So I will have a go at relaying.

    The early 80s saw the last vestiges of the 'hippy culture' fall away. The magazines of the time had huge handicraft content with things like macrame and homespinning, crocheting and knitting all being regulars. A lot of clothing suggestions [shirts, dresses etc]

    More people seemed content to drop what they were doing and start a new way of life. Interestingly, I wonder if the changes in the dole laws put a stop to that for young people?

    Most seemed to be looking for 25-40 acres of bush to 'live in harmony with'. Build a simple house and get a few animals. Donkeys, draughthorses, sheep and Jersey cows were in vogue. This was before the llama, alpaca, ostrich, dexter cow and boer goat phase. Pigs were popular too.

    For the men it was all about stone/cob/mud construction, blacksmithing and woodworking. Making musical instruments appeared a number of times. Bush bands were huge and long beards and wide-brimmed hats near compulsory.

    Pottery was written about so often as a social and economic panacea that I was becoming suspicious of mind control activities being run by a secret monopoly..... :D

    Solar power was on the rise [mainly as a stop-gap till the powerlines reached]. A lot of 12v systems and gadgets featured.

    Most of the articles were 'how-to' stuff. Politics was never mentioned.

    Home Schooling was big.

    Yoga was often cited but 'walking' and tai chi not mentioned.

    The word environment was barely mentioned. The 'block' was never going to be cleared and I cannot find an article on lawns.

    Twelve to 18months seemed to be the average time for home builder to move out of the caravan. Houses were built in 'ones' not dozens at a time.

    Very little was mentioned about holidays past one article on horse-drawn caravans from 1987. Peoples' spare time was spent meditating [or it seems, writing some bloody awful poetry!!].

    An ideal property back then had 4 sheds and at least 2 bedrooms, today it seems we are looking for 4 bedrooms and a lock-up garage. We also liked the idea of 'back verandahs' and perhaps a 'sleep-out'.

    Sugar cane mulch & pea straw had yet to be 'invented'.

    There was no mention of an 'entertainment area' back then.

    Wood stoves and especially fireplaces were a must.

    Dogs and cats back then were family extras and not family members.

    ''Organic chooks'' were always popular and fed on commercial pellets/mash.... :D There is no suggestions of growing anything for the chooks.

    Plants, apart from rhubarb, were all annuals and came straight outta the Yates collection.

    Feed stores in huge dusty sheds still existed and were great resources for all sorts of gadgets, feeders and drinkers.

    Herbs were 'new' and popular.

    Water pollution was barely mentioned and air pollution was a city problem.

    Stone, leadlight and cottages were ubiquitous and all built around bush poles. Steel anything barely rates a mention.

    A lot of recycling was apparent but it was restricted to rejuvenating items from the 40s and 50s and using them again.

    You could still buy cream seperators at second hand stores.
    You could still afford acreage at Port Macquarie/Byron Bay and in the Gold Coast Hinterland without winning Lotto.

    Homebrew and beer was popular and boutique wines just getting off the ground.

    Pantyhose, string and number 8 wire could effect most repairs.

    Most 'back-to-earthers' were seriously stepping off the consumer bandwagon and looking forward to embracing a more minimalist lifestyle.

    Lastly is the issue of Permaculture which was barely mentioned and, when it was, considered a 'complex solution to simple problems' by many. The sorts of issues that Mollison raised were very much deemed to be in the 'government' bailiwick.

    Until I wrote this I had never considered Mollison to be a visionary. I saw him as being an observer, collector, and organiser of good ideas and a very effective disseminator. Looking back over 30 years of Permaculture from my tiny perspective I see he is a visionary, he foresaw future problems and future solutions.

    floot


    PS ... My observations of the magazines contents has been cursory and I have tried to be objective. My last 2 paragraphs are very subjective. I am neither writer nor semanticist so dont take umbrage at what I have written, it isnt meant to offend.
     
  2. han_ysic

    han_ysic Junior Member

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    Thanks for the review

    I have a whole bunch of old grassroots a friend collected and has lent to me, and I recognised some of the articles you mentioned as ones I read. Interesting to see it put into a table, list whatever like that. Thanks. Why wasn't I born 40 years ago, I could have afforded to buy somewhere before I retired. lol

    Hannah
     
  3. sz

    sz Junior Member

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    It's funny how I've been thinking about some of the same changes recently.

    A relative gave me a subscription to Organic Gardening and, flipping through the first issue, I was struck by how different it was from the Organic gardening of, say, 1968. As a kid I used to pore through the old issues that my mother had stashed away, along with a few musty Mother Earth News.

    The new Organic Gardening? Long fluffy pieces on growing sweetpeas. Self-congratulatory articles about traditional taro culture in Hawaii with almost no practical details. Lots of advertisements for overpriced gimcrack garden gadgets that no one trying to make a go of it on limited income can justify. The old issues I remember were full of lots of 'how-to' articles, just as you describe. Sure, the science in some of them was fuzzy in that sort of hippy anti-science way that was fashionable at the time, but the magazine really was, as far as I remember, written by and for people who wanted to change both their food choices and, by extension their lifestyles to have a lower impact on the earth.

    Some things have gotten better. I think a lot more awareness of the global scale of the problems we are facing has made it into the press, and therefore into the general consciousness. It's no longer just "stupid dirty hippies" who care about the effect that their choices have on the environment. Unfortunately, the message in a lot of publications isn't really that we need to make *big* changes right now, but that trivial changes are enough to salve our consciences.

    A lot of it seems to be the inevitable progression of publications. The longer a publication hangs around, the more likely it seems to become just a shill for its advertisers. Eventually new publications rise up to fill the niche abandoned by the old ones. The trick is finding such, given that reaching national distribution levels takes lots of work. Moreover, with the internet becoming so ubiquitous, I think new print publications face an uphill battle.

    But yeah, the attitudes have changed. Now "organic" is rapidly becoming simply another meaningless buzzword pimped out by walmart to sell more produce. And choices presented as environmentally sound seldom have much given by way of real analysis of their full cost.

    The fundamental change, however, seems to be that no one now is willing to give up anything. The message is that we can have our Hummvee and our organic carrots and our range-fed beef and our 5000 sq ft homes with solar panels on the roof. Is this any surprise? The corporate world that sponsors these publications is not really interested in promoting attitudes that would hurt their bottom line.

    Spend-spend-spend. Eat-eat-eat. It's bloody nauseating.
     
  4. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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    Sz,

    Interestingly, I 'cut' my gardening teeth reading Rodale's Organic Gardening and in about 1968 too. I still have some of those issues stored on my property. I cannot think of an australian equivalent at that time.

    I can remember reading about bell peppers - a quick trip to mum and she organised some seed. I was 8 and probably one of the first Anglosaxon kids in Australia to grow them. They were not commercially available and only grown here by foreigners or New Australians, as they were called then. Even then I think mum showed the photos to Italians, they are known only as capsicums in Oz.

    Mum was unsuccessful on the kale. I have still never seen it here and as for mustard, well, mustard was the shit that came in a tin that no self-respecting kid liked.

    I used to read all those tiny ads for the gadgets and widgets and wonder if I could ever buy any.

    An article on giant sunflower had me enthralled. Ever resourceful mum raided the parrot seed and got me some seed. Sadly, they only made it to about 5-6' high but all the same I was very very proud of them. I have grown sunflowers throughout my life, only a few, but my kids all wondered at them too.

    I had my very own ledger - hardback with lots of columns that was a legal requirement for anyone breeding australian parrots [which I did] and in the back of it my mother kept a diary of the different vegetables I grew as well as some of the animals I raised and sold. I dont know where it is at present but it's around somewhere..

    Edited... I hit the wrong button..

    Looking back I have the happy experience of being able to say that many of the first time I have tried a particular vegetable was after I had grown it. Things like leeks, celeriac, capsicum, chillies and snake beans, come to mind.


    cheers

    floot
     
  5. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Floot,

    Well, your topic "forced" me to drag out some of my old Mother Earth magazines (from Number 1 in January 1970) to find the earliest interview with Bill Mollison (Plowboy Interviews :lol: ). I finally re-discovered it in Number 66 / Nov/Dec 1980.

    Bill introduced TMEN to the concept of Permaculture and the idea of "constructing environments" that reflected the climate, local geography, terrain features, etc. while incorporating symbiotic relationships between cultivated and nurtured resources to support families, including the "guild" approach. He also dismisses the idea of "total personal self-sufficiency" and speaks to the concept of self-reliance in concert with community. Immensely interesting to re-read after all these years.

    I also encountered old issues of Organic Gardener, New Shelter, Farmstead, and a couple of old Omni magazines!! This is just the tip of my "old magazine library" iceberg and I'll try to find time to re-discover other TMEN articles about Mollison, Holmgren, and Permaculture.

    Thanks for the thread!

    9anda1f
     
  6. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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    Gandalf,

    Please re-read those magazines and revisit them from your perspective and share them with us.

    I didnt start to offer comparisons or predictions, I have just been a reader and dragged along. My point was how far I had been dragged and why.

    Hope in by all means.

    floot
     
  7. sz

    sz Junior Member

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    Lots of the information in the old issues has not been superseded, especially basic stuff like making compost. It probably makes putting out new issues of these magazines w/o just repeating old subject treatments rather difficult.

    I'd love to have a stash of the right period of all of these periodicals, before they went 'yuppie', and back when every page was worth reading.

    The biggest change from my perspective has been one of expectations.

    There were a lot more 'make-do/how-to/scrounge-and-save' articles in the older issues, and the assumption was not that you were funding your pacification of environmental guilt via a well-paying white-collar job. Moreover, the philosophy seems to be that living consciously is ok as long as it doesn't inconvenience you too much. Sure, buy everyone in the family a hybrid SUV - but don't even think about dropping down to 1 car (or none). And composting is great, but you *have* to buy a $200 tumbling composter to do the job, rather than (horrors!) building one yourself out of junk or settling for turning a pile in the backyard with a pitchfork (or a stick! or your hand!). Note I'm not really advocating digging around in an active compost pile with your bare hands; I'm just trying to point out that there are many ways to solve just about any problem, and when these solutions run the gamut from ridiculously expensive down to completely free, why are we spending so much on them?

    It all seems kind of nuts to me. I guess it's because I see everything I spend money for as composed of X hours of my life lost working for someone else. I'd far rather do without a lot of things - or build them myself, with attendant satisfaction and independence - than give away yet more of my limited lifespan to a company so that I can buy stuff.

    I guess the radical 'drop-out and rethink your culture' theme went away with the last of the hippies. It's too bad. Some of the experiments were obviously nuts, but actively questioning the habits of your society is pretty much the only way you figure out what is broken.
     
  8. teela

    teela Junior Member

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    old mags

    I have some old grass roots mags too, interesting reading thats for sure. Also I picked up a pile of old farming magazines called 'Country' from the late 60s, early 70s. I thought it would make interesing reading, well it did sort of. Seems the issue of those days was how to kill trees with poison, how to remove trees by ringbarking, best ways to clear scrub and bushland ect ect........you get my drift. Now its all about how to establish trees, scrub ect, and best ways to preserve native bushland.
    Good to see things have changed....pitty it took so long.
     

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