Monday, 25 August 2014

My article on Ferguson published at American Conservative

Check it out. 

I admit it's unusual for me to write something about current events; this blog, and most of my writings for Grit and Mother Earth News, deals broadly with traditional ways of life. That still covers a lot of ground, so on any given day this blog might cover things like:
  • Interviews with elderly people here, who remember life before electricity or cars; 
  • Archived stories on everyday life in Ireland from several decades ago; 
  • Our attempts to grow and make more things ourselves; 
  • Articles I write for popular magazines, like Grit and Mother Earth News;
  • My not-quite-homeschooling lessons with my daughter; 
  • Recipes I come up with with traditional life, and 
  • Pretty pictures.
I usually stay away from anything overtly political, as I want to stick to subjects I know well. Since I grew up next door to Ferguson, Missouri and have friends and family in the area, this is something that --- literally -- hits home for me.

I'm pleased The American Conservative wanted to run my piece. Even if you're of a more left-of-center bent, as at least a few of my readers are, I recommend you read TAC; they represent a thoughtful, principled kind of conservatism that contrasts sharply with some of the sneering and taunting I used to hear, from both sides, in the mainstream US media. They've run other pieces of mine in the past --  this about peak oil, and this about the collapse of the Irish economy.

More tomorrow.


betsy said...

Just read your terrific article, and am now happy to have found your blog-

Brian Kaller said...

Thank you Betsy! Glad to have you reading, and write any time.

P.M.Lawrence said...

Unfortunately, that Future Perfect article of yours is only showing its headline, withe the body of the article missing (even on the three copies made by the wayback machine). The other two articles are perfectly accessible, though.

Your Wreck of the Irish piece reminded me of a couple of things though:-

- Despite my (Irish) mother's family not having dug potatoes for generations, somehow I learned from oral tradition that they have to be dug over, and that they can even be grown from peel if that has a bit of the flesh left, if the peel has an eye (so allowing more to be eaten). I separately learned a trick involving car tyres that allows a great deal more to be dug over per plant. I had to explain digging over and what it does for the potato plant to someone I met when I visited a vegetarian club, who was wondering why he hadn't grown any; it turns out that what I was taking for granted just isn't general knowledge.

- You can improvise a spade from carved wood and give it an edge by pounding in flattened tin cans, cotter pin fashion. Clearly that piece of folk wisdom can't go back before the nineteenth century!

All that has in turn reminded me that a recent Crooked Timber article has been asking for expressions from Irish oral tradition. I have commented there, and it occurred to me that you might be interested in doing so too.

Brian Kaller said...


Thanks for letting me know; you can see the piece reprinted at

If the piece seems dated, sadly, it's not because conventional oil supplies didn't peak - the peak seems to have been in 2005 -- but because interest in the subject died down after the financial crash of 2008.

Thanks for the anecdote; we lose a lot of things without realising it, including a lot of things we that prove very useful later on.

I hear a lot of great expressions around here; I could add a few of my own.