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Family Structure and Permaculture

 
gardener
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Location: Ohio, USA
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Sustainable living isn't just about planting trees. It's about every generation from here on out planting trees. So let's talk about sustainable family structure.

Here's my immediate thoughts: humans are a very strongly knowledge based species. We can live for about 100 years, but females only reproduce from about ages 15-40. This extreme focus on knowledge means the more different knowledge bases and people a child is exposed to, the better off the child will likely be. If those people also care for the child, then the child will- learn to get along with more people, being comfortable with sharing and general community things.

In fact, not being part of a well-formed "family" can lead to reproductive difficulties. A pregnant woman is often barely capable of providing all of her needs for atleast a portion of the pregnancy,  and a newborn is completely helpless and demanding. Even in a society with all sorts of tools and tricks new parents are often sleep deprived, partly starved, and in a sort of survival mode without help from additional caregivers.

As an independent dyi-er, I have often over looked the extreme importance of community. I think many other permies have as well.

My immediate thoughts on the ideal family structure are as follows: (I believe people who are not genetically related can adopt a role in the structure and people who are genetically related can abandon their role in this structure)
Primary Care Takers, atleast 2. Provide the basic needs most of the time.
Elder Care Takers, atleast 2. These need to share wisdom, thoughts, parenting skills, as well as help care for the primary caretakers and child)
Of lesser importance, but critical for the child as they grow older) secondary caretakers: these help the child explore different perspectives, skills, and be related to in ways that their immediate caregivers might have difficulty with.  They help eachother out with their different skillsets.
Of great importance,  but not as immediate for first generation survival, but critical for healthy perpetuation: peers: these help the child learn to socialize, develop skills, and eventually a friend might become a mate.

Please share your thoughts.
 
Posts: 307
Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
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It sounds as if you are writing about families in the city. And it sounds like a number of your "thoughts" and assumptions are city based. My experience is quite different. We live on a multigenerational farm.

We have eight kids. The children's grandparents live next door. So do an aunt and uncle and 4 more children. Across our road is a family of 10 kids, and behind them is their aunt & uncle and another 11 children. All the children in all these families raise each other. There really isn't so much "primary" and "secondary" caregivers. There's just everybody doing whatever needs done. With lots of freeform moving here and there by the children. At any given moment they might be next door making cookies, or outside building a fire just because. Or feeding the pigs or collecting & selling eggs, or often as not giving tours of the museum we also run (the 10 year old is especially good at the tours). Or the kids watch each other when their mom is out milking, or they go do the milking themselves. The last couple days the 8 and 10 yr. old have been out hunting berries, then baking pies and tarts with them.

In addition to all this family, we have lots of wwoof'ers and others here all the time. They also tend to spend a great deal of their time "raising" the kids. Teaching them music, or to read, or clean stalls, and garden. Or just the more casual teaching of having come from distant places and talking about it. ~~Such as the Israeli guys who were here and taught the children some prayers they say before eating. Or like last week when another nine people were here for about two weeks. One lady was here with her four kids. She nursed our baby as needed, and "we" nursed her baby when he needed. It's all quite organized "chaos" that just naturally works. We've had older generations die off, and the next gen. take their place, and the family just keeps moving on. In our case it all seems to work pretty well when you're land based and like it. And like each other.

P.S. We happen to be looking for another person or two to move here, maybe long term. We like folks. With probably a preference for a single mother with younger child (They often need a bit more help than most others. And the more kids the better.)
 
Amit Enventres
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Thanks for the reply and offer. My family keeps telling me we'll eventually end up on a real farm, but I feel my efforts in the city have a much larger impact. Your family structure sounds ideal. I would say you have all the elements listed, but so naturally merged and flowing, you don't need to list them. It's like the natural forest versus the one you plant.  Yes, I do live in the city (suburbia really). I have primary care takers and some secondary care takers, very minimal elder caretakers. Just like everything else "natural" in the city, I have to artificially create it and hope it becomes natural.  If you have any insight as to how your natural family structure can be explained and provides for itself so those who don't have it can artificially create such a thing, that would be wonderful.
 
Posts: 1976
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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No one I know would want to come live our life. I'm preggo with kid 3. It's true, I am not able to accomplish as many tasks now as I was before pregnancy. I'm still out there building a pig pen, taking care of things. We've been fine through the other 2 kids. We accomplish less with littles about but we accomplish.

I should confess that our parents live close to us so we can have them watch the kids while we go pick things up and such. I guess that means we do have some family support aye.

We have siblings that will totally be in charge of the folks when they're old though. LOLOL
 
pollinator
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Jim Fry wrote:It sounds as if you are writing about families in the city. And it sounds like a number of your "thoughts" and assumptions are city based. My experience is quite different. We live on a multigenerational farm.



Since the vast majority of people in the western world live in cities and not on multigenerational farms, I think Amit's idea to come up with a bit of a formula is a good one.

My mum grew upon a farm, but her mum was a back to the land hippie who moved from the city. They were some of the founders of a new rural community. And it was a community - their school was held in a number of different people's houses and everyone chipped in the teach their skills. Eventually, all the kids had to help build their school.  But it was a new community and there weren't really any elders giving out their kind of teaching.

My husband and I don't live in a city, but there's no community here, just us. Our nearest neighbours are 3km away in a bedroom community for one of the nearby cities.  One of the reasons we decided not to have kids is that there's just too much for us to do as it is.
 
master pollinator
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One of the reasons we felt it was time to sell one of our houses was because we felt soon we would gain yet another one: my parents.

My mother has Congestive Heart Failure and my father has alheimers, but for us it is not a matter of just selling their home once they have passed. My parents adopted 6 kids, besides having 3 of their own, and two of my sisters live at home. They always will; they have down syndrome. They have jobs, but they would not do well if they ever had to move, and there is no way they could ever manage a house on their own. So it is up to Katie and I to ensue my sisters get by. Inevitably we will have to move into my parents house and take care of my sisters. It just is the way it is.

We knew all this stuff would eventually happen, but on Monday my Mom had a massive heart attack. She lived to see another day, but has a heart anurism and the Dr's said she is a ticking time bomb, with open heart surgery scheduled for next week. So it is all happening quicker than we thought.

But life goes on. Babies are born, and the elderly pass on, and somewhere in the middle life happens, that itty-bitty hypen posted on a headstone between the person's birthday and day they die. A person's life.

I would NOT want to do so without family close by.

I never had a choice on whether my parents adopted two children with Down Synrome, but in life many things are not by choice: who your parents are, where you were born, the color of your skin, your economic sistuation, etc. All that matters is that you take what has been handed to you, and make the most of it. Whinning about things you cannot control is pointless. With my sisters, Katie and I are doing the right thing even if we know soon life will be tougher. So be it. My parents know they will be taken care of, and their end of life will be less stressful. And doing what what we have to for my sisters is honoring my parents, even if they are not alive to see it.

Katie, Me, our children, my parents, my sisters...in the end, we all win.

Edited to Say: We are a 9th generational farm, here since 1746.
 
pioneer
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Travis Johnson wrote:
We knew all this stuff would eventually happen, but on Monday my Mom had a massive heart attack. She lived to see another day, but has a heart anurism and the Dr's said she is a ticking time bomb, with open heart surgery scheduled for next week. So it is all happening quicker than we thought.

...but in life many things are not by choice: who your parents are, where you were born, the color of your skin, your economic sistuation, etc. All that matters is that you take what has been handed to you, and make the most of it. Whinning about things you cannot control is pointless.



I'm very sorry to hear about your Mother and Father having these health challenges, but I'm so grateful to see another person that believes what I do, as shown by the last sentence I quoted.  So many people seem to think that they have no control over their lives because they weren't born into the conditions they would have wished.  Good for you for accepting what is and making the most of it.  My thoughts are with your family in these challenging times.
 
Jim Fry
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"If you have any insight as to how your natural family structure can be explained..."

How we live is the result of many "factors", I guess. One is, -family that lives together, already knows each other. You've spent your whole life living together and you know each others skills, abilities, habits, faults, blessings. You know what to expect. As a result you have fewer false expectations of what might happen. In created families, you don't know what to expect. Almost always what happens is that some folks like to work really hard, and others just lay about. Some are neat, others oblivious. It gets to be a huge strain on the workers who sometimes feel taken advantage of. Another problem is diet, another is type of preferred music, another is modesty and nakedidity. Or sexual mores. Then there's the potential problem of the differences between extrovert and introvert people. Some people are "noisy", others seek quiet. (And these days in the States there's one more huge problem. The seemingly impossiblity of most Trump haters to talk with Trump lovers. We talk~they scream -right?. That's something that often stops everything dead in its tracks.) There's just lots of stuff to cause problems among folks who don't really know each other.

We have so many people that come here, I have decided it is a lot like dating. It's easy to fall in love with someone the first few dates. You just have so much in common. It's only later that you realize that you also may have so much not in common. Then you have a problem. If dating, you stop dating. If living together, then what do you do. You're potentially living with someone you don't really like. I suppose when you are trying to create a family with non-family folks, the best thing to do is to get to know as much as you can about each other as possible, and spend as much time together as possible, before committing. And then, once together, work really hard at constantly trying to learn more and try everything to continue to get along. That's often a fatal flaw in many communities. They don't practice enough communication and talking things out. They let stuff build up. And eventually things blow up. ~~That doesn't so much happen with family that is family. You've already been mad at each other at some other family time. If you continue to live together, you've hopefully got past that. But even at that, one of the most important things you can do with each other is to love each other, not aggress on each other, and try real hard to respect each others choices (unless of course they hate Trump.)



 
Amit Enventres
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Funny! The Trump card.

Staying together as a family might seem easy to you, but a history of trauma and resulting mental illness kind of makes my family a mess and some people actively try to tear it apart. It's very unfortunate self- destructive behaviour.

Those who do get along and want to be close may have nothing noticeable in common other than wanting the relationship. In fact, that kind of makes them a good team because they fill eachother's weaknesses. If we expect children from across the community to have generally positive interactions together in school and on the playground all day, I would assume most adults can see eachother every day and get along. It doesn't mean we don't annoy eachother, it just means we can still hang out after that happens. Social resilience is related to being able to see people as neither all good nor all bad, which is a skill small children are supposed to be taught by their parents. It's possible to learn later in life, but more difficult. Memory books are supposed to help develop that.

I bet a good marriage book would help general comradery development in an artificial family.  Like you said, it's like dating. There has to be commitment to not just give up whenever things get a little tough.



 
Amit Enventres
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What do you think of this general structure, based on Gottman's work?

Get to know eachother with basic questions.
Have positive experiences together to bond with eachother.
When you encounter something you don't like, don't turn away from them, instead adress the issue in a caring way, discussing your feelings and needs, not blaming the other person.
Be okay rubbing off on eachother.
Discuss and develop dreams and goals together.

I find there's two kinds of speech in our society when dealing with people: speech you do in public where you want to put your best foot forward, not get into arguments, and generally be polite and then there's familiar speech which happens behind clothes doors next to your dirty laundry. If you are stuck in public speech, then you'll never be able to express your needs (or do so well enough) to be "family" because everyone has dirty laundry that isn't polite and needs airing every now and again.
 
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