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founding

I would happily read about you planting potatoes, and all the other other things, all the longday. That's a thing I really miss: the garden space to be able to do that, to have a project that literally grows every day, with roots and leaves and everything. There should be YouTube videos that are nothing but people gardening in silence. I mean, there probably are - I just haven't checked....

[Later] Nope! Surprisingly, there aren't. They're all How To videos. Missed opportunity, I reckon. At some point Calm and Headspace and the others will release soundscapes called "Gardening Sounds" and then the world will get it. Until then, I'm disappointed in everyone. For SHAME, folks. For shame.

It was interesting to see the growth (no pun intended) in people gardening during the pandemic - partly for something to do, but partly for the offsetting of increasingly higher food prices. I wonder if all of this disruption is going to trigger lots of green fingers in folk? Out of interest I went to Google, and this piece from Wales in 2021 has a startling statistic: "Almost three quarters of 18-24 year olds currently growing crops and plants – including on their windowsills (23 per cent) and in their bedrooms (20 per cent) in urban areas." 75%!!! And that's arguably the most information-technology -adept generation in the world right now? Wouldn't that be a fascinating reaction, if it were true?

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Are you kidding? With all the <<everything>> online, there aren't calm gardening videos? There are viral videos of people crossing the street in random towns in Wyoming! For no reason! I'd even probably watch videos of someone gardening.

I LOVE reading that statistic and really hope it's true. What a wonderful thing. And how wild would it be if the people truly bringing back gardening and raising their own food are people who only have access to windowsills and countertops and who spend hours every day online, not the people who are walking away from the digital world entirely? I love that!

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Hello— just following on our walking conversation, thought you might like this little essay: https://open.substack.com/pub/tcrawford/p/walking-christos-floating-piers?r=2edmz7&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

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That is so interesting! Even reading about them made me feel a bit dizzy, but what a cool idea.

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Her uncle was always mentioning Kofi Annan :)

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AH. He gave the address when I started college, and again at commencement. It felt like a privilege to have that experience.

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May 29, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

I loved every word! And also, you got the best bee picture. We sat, picking out which we thought were the largest, watching them last night. Some are almost as big as little birds. They are so happy and seemingly unstressed there. Thank you for writing all of this.

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Some of them are huge! I didn't even get a photo of the hummingbird bees, but those bumblebees are big enough. I LOVE watching them and am so glad you were able to relax with them around, too. They're clearly intent on doing their thing! They really, really love the borage in the garden when it flowers. They won't touch any of the other flowers when that's in bloom.

I thought about inserting a "sorry, kiddo" about the siding but a little too on the nose. Still, I'm sorry they prefer your siding to the nesting boxes. 🤷🏻‍♀️🫠 (Also, I emailed you and Sasha copies of the recordings and transcript. I had a panic last week thinking I'd lost the recording, but I forgot it wasn't on my phone because I didn't have a smartphone at the time!)

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May 29, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

I'm looking forward to listening. And I fully appreciate the bird nesting comments because, when in your writing, it feels like the story of life more than the scratches and loud chatter that wakes me up ;)

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😂

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My wife's parents lived in Montana for many years after their retirements. Her dad kept trying to give me apples, which just won't grow (for me) here in fire-blight-prone central NC. I've also had poor luck with potatoes.

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author

That's interesting about the apples and potatoes. I've never spent much time in that part of the country. We used to go down to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, TN, when we lived in upstate New York, but that was about it!

Growing up, the only apples I ever saw, besides an occasional wild one, were Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, which as everyone knows are anything but delicious. I still struggle with liking apples, but when we did live in New York it was a revelation being around so many apple orchards and seeing what kinds of varieties grew. Some of them were so good! I don't think we can do most of them here, but it's nice to know that apples were not what I once thought they were. (When we get good apples at a farm stand here, they're usually from Washingston state. Same with peaches.)

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Apples do fine up in the mountains where it's colder.

Where in upstate NY? I lived in Rochester for seven years during grad school.

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Ah! In that case, not really upstate. ;) I never did figure out what I should call where we lived (in Orange County, 10 miles south of Newburgh on the west side of the Hudson). To people in NYC, it was upstate. But to anyone *actually* upstate, it wasn't. It was rural--mostly farmland--but on a train line to the city.

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Yeah, "the city" -- like there's only one. I heard that all the time up there.

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It is a problem! I mean, I can’t comment too much because I’m not from that part of the country but the way NYC seems to extend a gravitational pull all the way up the Hudson Valley in a variety of ways was really disconcerting.

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So beautiful Nia. This line: "Those of us who want some intimacy with the stories that live within us have to make do with what’s given. It never feels close to enough." I feel that in my bones so often--of not knowing the life and experience of my own father's mother, of what she had to go through in her life, of what we inherit in the experiences of our ancestors that remain clouded and hard to reach. And yet they are within us. And the connections we have with the lands we live on, the soil, of how easily and how much we are at the mercy of legacies of oppression and colonization, of false identities tied to an idea of a larger 'nation.' And yet still, how seedlings planted decades ago can still return in spring. To hear of your grandmother's humor despite what she was forced to endure. It's hard to all make sense of, and yet we continue to plant, to nurture, like you with your beautiful descriptions of tucking in seedlings under sun-warmed soil, caring to make sure earthworms aren't exposed. It is how life continues. Such a beautiful read friend, thank you for sharing this and the treasured recordings of your family.

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It is, so much, how life continues. I like the way you put that.

It's so hard to know how much any of us can know of our own ancestry, what we're missing and what we carry without knowing it. I wonder about my own kids, what I've passed on to them that I might not realize need explaining. What can help them and future generations make sense of their own lives. And all the things we'll never know.

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Beautiful writing. Thank you. I was hooked from your first questions. The way you told your grandmother’s story was riveting. You have me thinking about food and safety and family and land and abundance and the marvels of the natural world. To think of how the earth helped your grandmother care for her children. It’s always available, that nurturing and belonging, if only we turn in that direction.

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It is indeed. Though what she would have done without potatoes I do not know. It's not a fertile country ...

(My great-grandmother was with them as well, and she was the one who really knew how to garden because she'd spent most of her life in a rural village. My uncle said their garden of beets and peas was more productive than most because most people had only known city life and didn't know how to garden.)

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founding

Thank you as always, Nia!

The following made me also think of another nation, a vast one in N America:

“What is currently called Russia is a vast land where many different people have lived for thousands of years, and yet the story of the land and people is still dominated by the mythologies of a nation shaped by an aggrieved sense of inherited exceptionalism and a constant grasping for something more.”

And I still have goosebumps from "I wonder what it would take to have a world where everyone has access to what we need for survival, and nobody has to bleed for it."

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YES. I kept waffling over making the obvious connection but decided to let people come to it themselves. ;) The aggrieved sense of inherited exceptionalism is different in both countries, and yet in both has religious roots (which are more obvious in the case of Russia).

It does amaze me how little is known about Indigenous people in Russia. I've only managed to find one book on their history -- also by Anna Reid who wrote "Leningrad" -- titled "The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia." It's fine but still very much the perspective of an outsider. Made me really wish for more stories from people themselves. Red Nation did have an interview recently with a Sakha person, which was really interesting: https://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/show/therednation/id/26618079

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You have such a lovely, lyrical way with words that makes your newsletter an absolute pleasure. And you write so movingly about such small, quiet moments that are really about such big things.

The stories about your family trying to survive in Russia especially resonated today as I'm spending several days with a Cambodian man who is showing us some of the country and recounting this country's recent horrors. It's absolutely ...stunning? moving? shocking? to hear this man so matter of factly recount his life.

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That is so kind of you, Michael, and means a lot coming from you, thank you!

I'm not sure I know the right word for that experience, either. Maybe there isn't one yet.

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A while back I wrote about potatoes but mine was superficial. I realized that when I read this. The potato transformed all of Europe but this was the best I've ever read of it. The siege is misery beyond comprehension. Remarkable writing Antonia.

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Thank you, Mark! I don't think I'd realized how transformative the potato was until I looked it up for this (just wanted to know when it got to Russia). Many historians say that the potato finally dragged Europe out of its cycle of famines (until loss of the crop caused another famine). One I read even said that without potatoes being introduced to Europe, those countries never would have had the capacity to pursue colonialism to the extent that they did, a fact that carries its own quality of horror I never truly thought about.

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May 29, 2023·edited May 29, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

YES YES YES! When I researched it for my light-hearted post about potatoes titled tater talk https://markdolan.substack.com/tater-talk the scientist in me got a smile. I am a big fan of Ockham's Razor (the simplest explanation the best). So here is my theory -- one of the big limiting factor of all bulk agricultural products is gravity! Whether wheat, corn, or rice, any excessive growth causes the "fruit" to droop and rot. Something under the ground can mature because gravity is not a factor. Almost all of the GMO innovations of grain products is around development of sturdier stalks so more fruit can be supported. Potatoes are a great source of dense calories and carbs -- hooray! The potato greatly transformed and eventually unified Germany and of course that led to a lot of belligerence!

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Oh, I remember that one now! I felt a bit guilty for my attachment to hash browns and tater tots, though I don't have them often. ;)

I've heard that theory about grains before, that their drooping is a limiter to reliance on them. It makes sense. And considering my mother-in-law is still seeing potatoes from ones planted almost 50 years ago, they can be tremendously reliable as a source of calories. (I love potatoes. They might be my favorite food.)

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As for hash browns and tater tots. There is NOTHING wrong with preparing potatoes that way starting with potatoes ON YOUR OWN. What I would say, however, after seeing the process of making the ones in the frozen food section of the store in an industrial process, I would discourage eating the ready made ones :) -- I get a little pushback from some of my readers when I share something about how some things are made so I rarely share the punchline anymore :)

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I like knowing how things are made! Especially when it makes me realize I shouldn't be eating them. ;)

I only eat tater tots maybe 3 or 4 times a year because there's nobody here who serves them, but hash browns are another story. You've inspired me to wean myself off of that habit and just make my own ... when the potatoes are harvested.

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YES! When we have a big family breakfast, hash browns made from REAL POTATOES are a real treat. The next time you are in the Twin Cities go to the restaurant Lucky 13. They make the ABSOLUTE BEST, from scratch hash browns AND tater tots (that means they start from FRESH POTATOES). Send me a separate email and I will share ONE WORD that describes why you should avoid store-bought hash browns and tater tots :) Don't wish to ruin them for your vast audience. Whenever I am in a nice breakfast spot I just ask if they start with fresh potatoes or not. As for making your own, they are easy to make and taste better anyhow! Only use starchy potatoes like russets.

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I did a LONG-AGO post https://markdolan.substack.com/the-norman-conquest -- it was about a University of Minnesota Agronomist who won the Nobel Peace Prize -- he was recognized for leading the Green Revolution which likely saved 1B+ lives -- all about breeding for a heavier stalk. As you know I am want to say, almost all human progression, both positive and negative is VERY RECENT! Your reference to the 50 year life. That is a topic I wish to explore at some point. When the SCOTUS ruled decades ago that life could be patented, that opened the floodgates for all of these seeds that die after one season -- disgusting. In terms of human agency I cannot think of a single decision from the courts so focused on corporate dominance and the dehumanization of the individual. Off my soapbox again...

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Yeah, the patenting of life is enraging, honestly. I really appreciated an interview I listened to some time back with someone in Argentina who's working so hard to ensure seed diversity and seed access. And here locally, there's an annual Free the Seeds weekend event that has gardening and composting workshops but the huge draw is the seed swap. I love it!

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That is wonderful about the seeds! The University of MN leases land to Hmong immigrants at their agricultural extension. We lived near there for many years. It is still the place where most of the apples that Americans like best are bred! The Hmong now largely have come to serve our Farmer's Markets all over the cities! I read a story about cooperative efforts to minimize fertilizer usage and allow for broad access to seeds of all sorts. I just looked at my post from the early days that I just linked to -- YOU WERE MY ONLY COMMENT :) :) :) Thank you Antonia!

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founding

Yes i was in love with the Russian language and I double majored in journalism. i worked at the pilot for a while and decided i liked waiting tables at the Buffalo better.

Family histories can be selective. I love hearing where people come from and what draws them brings them here.

One of my Blackfoot friends said the Flathead was called the Valley of Berries.

I am really enjoying your writing. It always touches me deeply even when I don't comment

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I have NEVER heard that about the Flathead. That is so beautiful.

Thank you so much. That means a lot! 🧡 (And, uh, my son buses tables at the Buff! Guess we're in closer circles than we realized.)

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founding

Such a small world! They took such good care of me when I was a single mom. They never would have let us go hungry. Andy was 5 and Alex

was 3 when I first started there.

Oh and the same guy told me that Blackfeet used to live here but when the winds stopped it became the "Valley of Sickness" and they moved to the east side.

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I love knowing all of that, from the valley to the kids. Hard to believe Alex and my younger sister are about the same age! I think he was a couple years behind her in high school. They're such a good family; I feel really fortunate that it's my own kid's first job.

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founding

Agreed. After working for them, it was hard to work for anyone else...therefore I had to become self-employed. Once again grateful for your heart felt, land-connected, people-connected writing

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🙏🧡

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founding

Beautiful writing! I studied Russian history/political science and language at U of M so I understand the hard lives people lived under Stalin. I really appreciate the stories of your grandmother's resiliency. My grandparents gardened on the Whitefish River. During the depression there were times they didn't have a nickel for a cup of coffee but they never went hungry. There is a bounty here that I am grateful for. And p.s. She never put her plants in the ground until all of the snow was off of Big Mountain.

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Ha! Yes. I have to rein myself in with that warmer weather we had. Itching to get beans planted but ... (waiting for the snow to melt on the Big is good advice).

I didn't know you'd studied those! My mother used to teach Russian at MSU and later a little at FVCC. Weirdly, I grew up with more knowledge of these histories than of her own family and history in eastern Montana. I don't think I really appreciated until recently how truly fertile this valley is. It's hard to imagine it not producing food of some kind or another.

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May 27, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Moving essay about food, planting, scarcity, hardship, and starvation. Also about bounty, privilege, good nutrition, and the joy of working in the earth with our hands. The line I love, which talks about the overabundance of and daily bombardment by city, mechanical, and vehicle sounds, to the detriment of hearing nature, is this: “in what felt like silence but was just the absence of most human-made noise”

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Hard to think of exactly what that word might be. I *feels* like what is often talked about as silence, the peace of it, the absence of attention demands.

Thank you, Mark. 🧡

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May 27, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

¨Isn’t “unearth” a strange word? Can anything really be un-earthed?¨

Seems one of the more sensible ones to me. ´Earthed´ here I would think of in terms of grounding and an electrical system.

¨They were on posledni poezd, my father has told me, the last train out of the city.¨

And thank God, you wouldn´t be here otherwise.

¨I recommend Anna Reid’s Leningrad¨

I read it when it came out. The story about the woman´s mother luring people into her apartment so she could eat them definitely got to me.

¨I wonder what it would take to have a world where everyone has access to what we need for survival, and nobody has to bleed for it.¨

My great-grandmother (a WWI veteran) had quite hard times during the Depression but she always had chickens. (She made quilts of the cloth that the bags chicken feed was sold in.) Grab a hen, whack the head off, hang it upside down over bucket on Saturday morning, yank the feathers off on Sunday, and plop it in the oven. Usually it was roast chicken, green beans and potatoes of some sort for Sunday dinner. This is Texas of course, so it´s always insanely hot, complete with approximately seven billions stinging insects. Hard living, but never THAT hard.

It wouldn´t be difficult to do; people with money don´t want to do it.

elm

i have been digging out small tree stumps - on to getting the tomatoes in

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Actually, it's also a point that the bleeding is going to happen at some point in the survival process, can't escape that. I probably should have said unnecessary suffering. (I have killed and processed chickens and did not enjoy it, but that's because the part where you're getting the feathers off is terribly smelly.)

I suspect the reports of cannibalism during the Siege were a significant part of why so many of those records were kept classified until after the Soviet Union fell apart. You know what always stuck with me, though, was the woman who talked about being sent to an orphanage after the Siege, and someone there asked her if she liked gingerbread (or something like that) and she wondered what this concept was, if you "like" food or not. You eat or don't eat.

Good luck with the tomatoes! I thought of you as I piled up that compost for beets. Literally it was the first thing I did with the compost pile, said to myself, "Remember elm's advice about the beets."

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May 28, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Oh, sure. I have bled enough in my lifetime to know that´s bound to happen. But this is the United States, and we have always had (minus the Dust Bowl, but only in the Dust Bowl) enough food to feed everybody plus a large chunk of the rest of the planet. This isn´t the UK where there are too many people and not enough fish and crops so they have to import food. Of course food prices there are through the roof. It´s not Russia either, in terms of growing things: that´s Canada.

When most or just a large chunk of the population lives on farms, they may be poorer than dirt in almost all ways, but they still have food. (Which was the case for my great-grandparents in the 30´s - my great-grandfather was a white sharecropper and that is a very poor social position (that is the poor branch of my mother´s family). But they had food, and my great-grandmother was a very smart lady, so they got by.) Russia under the Soviets problem wasn´t even that Russia is too far north, but it was run by Marxist-Leninist-Stalinists and they really sucked at farming. So, as I said, hard times, but not ´eating people´ hard - and we do have enough to feed everybody including all those schoolchildren, free of charge - we (as in wealthy people) just really hate that idea*.

And you´re right: the reportage of cannibalism was suppressed, and I can´t really blame them. The people of Leningrad had been through enough that they didn´t deserve to wind up being labeled ´Cannibal City´ or something like that.

¨Literally it was the first thing I did with the compost pile, said to myself, "Remember elm's advice about the beets."¨

😁🤣 I have for you, next time you start a chat thread a nice piece of Socialist Realism for you. ´Here we see the Canine Ideological Vanguard of the Soviets peering into the future as they plot the path to the future Communist paradise. They sit atop the the abundant output of the local Collective Farm, produced by the dedicated peasants & workers of the USSR.´ (It me! I´m the fucking peasant & worker of the local Farm Collective!)

As for the tomatoes - I´m still working on the hump I built in the back yard so the water that pours in stops instead of running off the lot and taking the dirt with it. That involves digging up sections of it, breaking it up, getting rid of the grass and the rocks and putting it back down and then sowing wildflower seed. Oh, boy!

I forgot: it is a really good piece!

elm

back to work

* Check it out: all the tech VCs were going on in 2015-2016 about how great UBI would be *because* then we could get rid of the ´less efficient' Social Security and medical spending. Right-leaning candidates ran on it, techbros talked about how they loved it and so on and so forth. As soon as the D´s passed the Child Tax Credit, all of the above discovered HOW MUCH they hated JUST GIVING MONEY to literal actual children because reasons (like, ´they might spend it all on crack´). And so, the great talking point of UBI promptly fell over dead, killed by actually just giving people money. The heads exploding and the kittens had over just giving people money would´ve filled up several seasons of any trashy soap opera. New ideas to make society my ass - news ideas to rip people off more like.

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The thing about UBI and the Child Tax Credit is so infuriating. Everywhere that's trialed UBI, like Stockton, California, has found that it drastically improves people's lives, even if it's not that much. But you are right, they hate it. It makes people much less willing to put up with crappy jobs and low pay.

The Socialist Realism is a good incentive to post another Chat thread, thanks!

Food prices in the UK are becoming pretty crushing. My mother-in-law is getting very worried. It's only herself to feed, but she doesn't have much to live on and between food and heating there are some serious holes.

Growing one's own food is a tremendous benefit when you don't have much else. Which goes back to land ownership and enclosures of the commons ... hard to grow your own when you don't have access to land. But the Soviet model is definitely NOT where anyone wants to go. Absolutely disastrous.

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Jun 1, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Social Security is UBI for old people - nevertheless our tech overlords and other right-wing CEO types argues for getting rid of Social Security and replacing it with something ´more efficient´. While, in effect, effectively expanding SS in the form of UBI to cover the entire population. Obvious self-contradictory bullshit from the word go.

elm

as pure talking points and republican health care plans tend to go

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That's the name of the game, isn't it? Self-contradictory bullshit.

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May 27, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

"Unearthing" is indeed a strange word and an unsettling concept. But if humans don't become more mindful, it could happen to us.

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That is VERY well put.

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May 27, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Ah, Antonia, so much here.

Like many, I started diving into my own ancestry during the plague years and found connections there to the history of the commons. On my father's side they're scottish. I didn't have to go back too many generations to find signs of deprivation and starvation. My 5th great grandfather (7 generations) was a crofter in Aberdeenshire at the time of the Clearances, the forced removal of tenant farmers and the enclosure of their common land for sheep grazing. His grandson was a farmer, but moved to Edinburg, where his wife died in the poorhouse. His son was a farm servant, then a railway porter. His son, my grandfather, moved to England.

Many Scots emigrated during that time to Canada and Appalachia. I wonder to what extent that lived experience of forced loss of common land lies behind the forced removal of Native Americans and enclosure of their common land in the American West in particular, and American's obsession with land ownership and private property rights in general.

This piece of your reawakened those thoughts. Thank you.

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This is actually something I've been thinking about a lot over the past few years. Have you ever read Andro Linklater's book "Owning the Earth"? It doesn't focus on Scotland so much, though he was Scottish, but the sections on enclosures of the commons and their obviously violent imposition of a private ownership model over shared land really stick with me. And he's got a chapter on the Brehon shared land use laws in Ireland and how ruthlessly England worked to dismantle them. I do, actually, suspect that those experiences underpin a lot of American white settlers' almost primal-feeling obsession with private land ownership. So many people's ancestors came from countries where there'd been no security of that kind for most people for many centuries. Scots-Irish ancestry is well-documented, and if you start looking at what was done to those people before they started emigrating, you can see where a lot of the fear came from. (Especially since Scots-Irish tend to be Scottish people who'd been oppressed by England for centuries, and then were forced to settle in Ireland in order to dispossess the Irish. I've got some of that ancestry, too, from my maternal grandmother.)

The Farmerama podcasts did a great short series on the links between Scotland, land ownership, colonization in North America, and slavery. I can't link directly to the episodes, but if you scroll down you can find the four-part series titled Landed: https://farmerama.co/listen/

It's so important that people start telling these stories more, especially in this way where they're talking about what happened and integrating it with taking responsibility for then inflicting those harms, and worse, on people on another continent.

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May 27, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Wow, thank you for that. I learned about this in school, but in England, and in a school for the next generation of army officers, captains of industry, and conservative politicians, so the perspective was a little different. Manifest destiny and all that. Researching my own family history, it's been jumping off the page, er, screen. The enclosures, the clearances, the industrial revolution, world wars, all of it. A book and a podcast - thank you!

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I hope they'll be of interest! I'd kind of forgotten about the Farmerama series. I should listen to it again.

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May 27, 2023·edited May 27, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Landed, so, so good.

Brings up primogeniture. That shows up in my family tree too, where a daughter of the local laird was married off to a commoner (now that's a loaded word!), my 8th great grandfather, father of the crofter. Of course, as she was of noble birth, I can follow her lineage back through history and into myth.

Many landless second and third sons emigrated to the then empire, including the Caribbean where some became slave masters, perhaps to recreate what they were denied at home, who then took that practice to the American south.

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Another entire world of ownership when we get into the history of women in Europe ...

Yeah, that's what I like about this series, how they really dig into that history and its effects worldwide, showing how it all fed on and compounded injustices.

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May 27, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

In other news, I found a forgotten bag of sprouting grocery store Yukon golds. They're in the ground now. I'll give you all the credit for whatever comes up!

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May 27, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Yes! Another family history thing. The lines stop at both my maternal and paternal great-grandmothers. No trace of their parents. And I met my maternal great-grandmother! Living with my great aunt on the street she was born on. Looking forward to this class from Substacker Maud Newton to help me flesh it out into a story: https://ancestortrouble.substack.com/p/family-history-with-imagination

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