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  1. #1
    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    Subsistance living in Kansas (story)

    Here's an interesting and inspiring-to-some story. Lots of interesting comments on it in the link.
    He reminds me of Scott and Helen Nearing. Yup, he's car-free.



    http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2006/ju...e_living_less/

    Growing more, living with less
    Subsistence farmer has need-to-work method


    Tim Coughenour lives on about $600 a year.

    He grows his own wheat on about one-fifth of an acre in North Lawrence.

    He also grows some corn and soybeans along with potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables in a garden plot.

    He builds his own stockpile and sells the rest to earn what annual income he needs, which is mostly to pay the property tax on his home in the 1200 block of New York Street.

    That’s the life of a subsistence farmer in the heart of a city, where he shuttles around on his bicycle and hauls his goods on a small trailer.

    It takes about half of the year to prepare for the winter, which he spends studying various subjects and visiting friends.

    “I have six months’ vacation every year,” said Coughenour, 53. “My work and leisure — it’s all mixed together. I can’t even begin to separate hours.”

    Need is a key word for Coughenour. He does only what needs to be done. When he finishes, he has the freedom and control to do what he wants.

    “You are a little more in touch with reality in a subsistence economy,” Coughenour said.

    Seeds for a way of life

    The subsistence may seem foreign to most Americans today, but Coughenour points to the country’s Amish communities as an example.

    He grew up in Manhattan and later attended the University of Arizona, where he studied Chinese and other subjects. He also worked in print shops.
    Photo Gallery

    Tim O’Brien cuts wheat with a hand scythe, one fistful at a time in a small field in North Lawrence. O’Brien and other volunteers recently helped Tim Coughenour, Lawrence, harvest his fifth of an acre of wheat by hand. The wheat, top right, provides Coughenour enough grain to live on until next year’s harvest.
    Growing more, living with less
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    “It became clear that at jobs, 98 percent of what I was doing had no real purpose other than to keep the economy from failing,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense. We need to work at things that do need to be done and to stop when the job is done.”

    So Coughenour moved to Lawrence and worked for about a year at a Lawrence printing company. He then started to phase out work as he studied more about subsistence farming, agriculture and the way he wanted to live.

    “By my 28th birthday, I’d never grown a garden vegetable in my entire life. I started learning,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot of things, but it’s all been pretty much self-taught.”

    Eventually, he paid off his house, and for the last 14 years he has farmed and gardened full-time.

    Now he concentrates on “building a community of people who want to depend on each other, who don’t want to depend on some person at a computer far away.”

    Although no one else in Lawrence takes subsistence farming yet to that extreme, Coughenour cherishes visiting friends across Lawrence face-to-face and working together on projects such as the annual wheat harvest by hand, which has become a tradition.

    ‘Very inspiring’

    Tim O’Brien, a Lawrence artist and gardener, met Coughenour about eight years ago.

    “I think Tim is very inspiring. He lives much more simply than anybody else I know for sure in this country,” O’Brien said. “And yet, even though he works very hard, he’s got a lot of time to pursue other interests of his own.”

    O’Brien and more than a dozen others helped Coughenour plant and harvest this year’s winter wheat crop.

    Coughenour expects to yield about 350 pounds and hopes to give about 100 pounds to those who helped. Some in the group seem to be making a gradual move toward total subsistence farming, Coughenour said.

    “I think the movement is growing. It’s more difficult to get started,” he said.

    His advice includes getting out of debt and getting rid of automobiles and utilities.

    He collects rainwater from his roof and stores it in a cistern. He pedals an exercise bike attached to a grinder that crushes his grain into flour.

    During the winter, he closes half of his house and uses his wood stove to keep “quite comfy.”

    “It only seems like a big deal if you haven’t done it,” he said with a shrug.

    He buys five items from the grocery store — margarine, cooking oil, salt, pepper and baking powder — plus eggs and apples from friends.

    He shops at thrift stores and garage sales if he needs new clothes. When something breaks, he goes to the hardware store. He spends about $100 per year on bicycle maintenance.

    During his free time, he studies botany, astronomy, music, history and anything else that catches his interest. O’Brien said Coughenour has a dinner and gathering each winter for several friends and provides the food. They talk mostly about farming.

    Healthier lifestyle

    Coughenour doesn’t believe in war, 99 percent of government expenses and buying insurance.

    He had a doctor stitch up a cut in his finger once.

    “Nobody’s healthier than me. I basically don’t get sick, and I think the lifestyle is a major factor in it,” he said.

    The owner of the North Lawrence lot lets him and others use it for planting. On a recent morning, Coughenour — in his scruffy beard, straw hat, flannel shirt and slacks — talked passionately about his lifestyle and his property taxes.

    “The hardest part of every year living as a subsistence farmer is the fact that I have to go out and earn money for other people’s lifestyles,” he said.

    Owning his home makes it easier, but Coughenour said the lifestyle would benefit homeless people who want to make it work — even though it may be difficult for them to find a place to live — because it is based on a personal choice to survive.

    “I’m trying to build a way of life that is possible not only for rich people but for people of small monetary means and a small degree of discipline who can somehow do this on a small scale,” he said.
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  2. #2
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    The article was interesting. The reader comments made me want to punch someone in the throat.

    It's rediculous that someone who's probably more content than 99.999% of society is looked down on in so many ways.

  3. #3
    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    ^^ I couldn't believe how many people made negative comments about the guy. It seemed these other people found security in a job and money (that easily goes away). I was impressed that Tim C. had found security between his ears and between his hands. That's about all you need.
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    Quote Originally Posted by eofelis View Post
    ...Tim Coughenour lives on about $600 a year....
    A couple things I noticed:

    ...one is he doesn't own the land he is growing on; somebody else is letting him use it (apparently for free). That significantly under-represents the cost of his style of living.

    ...secondly I wonder how he is heating his house? I think the line charge with my electric/gas utility is like $22 a month alone, even if you leave everything turned off all month. That adds up to $264, but the article says that "$600, ,,,, mostly to pay his property taxes".
    ~

  5. #5
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug5150 View Post
    A couple things I noticed:

    ...one is he doesn't own the land he is growing on; somebody else is letting him use it (apparently for free). That significantly under-represents the cost of his style of living.

    ...secondly I wonder how he is heating his house? I think the line charge with my electric/gas utility is like $22 a month alone, even if you leave everything turned off all month. That adds up to $264, but the article says that "$600, ,,,, mostly to pay his property taxes".
    ~
    They reported his actual costs. You would rather them make up a number that doesn't equal what he pays? Everyone clearly saw that he doesn't own the land. It's not like they're trying to mislead anyone.

    The article said he had a wood stove for heat, if I remember correctly (too lazy to go back and look)

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    They reported his actual costs. You would rather them make up a number that doesn't equal what he pays? Everyone clearly saw that he doesn't own the land. It's not like they're trying to mislead anyone.

    The article said he had a wood stove for heat, if I remember correctly (too lazy to go back and look)
    I live in Lawrence and see him often on the levee bike trail, usually sitting watching the river flow in the evenings or I see him riding around town. He also sells veggies at the Farmers Market. Seems a nice guy I suppose, but aside from that, don't know much else.

    I do know that there is a very vocal group who rudely dominates the local newspaper comment section as well as a local bbs type site. I Just ignore them and as do most of us in our bubble of goodness called Lawrence.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Nobody owns their land in states that have property taxes. It is just like renting your property from the government. If anyone gets ill and can't afford the property taxes the government will kick them out of their homes and take them. Property taxes need to be eliminated in this country so that people can truly own their land.

    Sales taxes would be the best way for local governments to get money. As the population increases and spends more money, more money would go to government. People who grow their own food would not need to pay taxes on the food they kept. Groups of poor people could band together to own some land and share the food production of that land without the government demanding taxes for that land.

    This man is a great example of what is possible in America. If I were a vegetarian I could go for such a lifestyle, but maintaining livestock takes up much more space. I know that many suburban areas ban any form of livestock.
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    Oh, hush, o anarcho-libertarian groupie.

    Lots of people love the idea that they should have full control over their land. Not astonishingly, as soon as their neighbor starts exercizing that same right, they are up in arms demanding to know why the government would be so horrible as to allow such a travesty.

    There was a.. governor, I think, or senator.. in Oregon, who was instrumental in getting the entire state covered under zoning laws. Every square inch of Oregon is zoned. His tactic was simple. he owned several pig farms. He'd have conversations that went like this:
    "Well, I want to pass a law to zone the whole state..."
    "What? I have rights! I own my land! You can't tell me what to do! (etc)"
    "Welp, you're right. Anyone can do anything they want on their land as long as it's not zoned. Hey, that land next door to you is up for sale, isn't it? I could put a pig farm there, and-"
    "Where do I sign?"

    We just went through the same stuff here. Residents: "How could you let this man do that on his property!?!" Govt: "We tried to stop him, you turned it down. It's called zoning. Sorry, better luck next time!"

    Property taxes are a service fee, like a lot of other taxes. You like having roads, you like having electrical cables that go to your home, you like police enforcing the laws (including your property laws), you like not having people build an all night strip joint/bar/hotel with hourly rates next to your kids' school, so grow up and take responsibility to cover the bill for it.

    You can grow some vegetables in window boxes and such and gardens, and reduce your food bills even if you don't eliminate them. If you think it's a great idea then do it, you don't need to go to the extent shown.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=JusticeZero;6087055]Property taxes are a service fee, like a lot of other taxes. You like having roads, you like having electrical cables that go to your home, you like police enforcing the laws QUOTE]

    How is money coming from a sales tax any different from money coming from a property tax? It's still money. Is there something you don't understand about money JusticeZero? Ten dollars in sales tax revenue equals ten dollars in property tax revenue.

    Why do you feel it is good to let a government take away homes of elderly people who have fallen on hard times? It happens when people living in their family home that has appreciated tremendously, can't make a large tax payment that comes due. Then the government evicts them and sells their property at below market value and keeps the taxes plus fees for going to the trouble of kicking them out of their home.

    Do you feel that the government is doing a public service that helps us all by kicking citizens to the curb?

    People living in hard times in their own homes can get assistance from others for food and energy. They should not fear that the government will be kicking them out onto the streets.
    Last edited by Smallwheels; 01-31-08 at 09:55 PM.
    Smallwheels

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
    ... Property taxes need to be eliminated in this country so that people can truly own their land.

    Sales taxes would be the best way for local governments to get money. ....
    I tend to agree with the notion that land taxes should be the only form of taxes allowed.
    Consider the two major problems with the current tax system:

    ...complicated administration of a huge number of rules and exceptions, resulting in a high administrative cost, and
    ...tax fraud, due to the fact that the IRS is supposed to keep track of vast amounts of moving piles of money.

    A land tax (that is--a tax ONLY charged on land, per-sq-foot, and at the same rate for everyone) would totally solve the two biggest problems the IRS has. Plots of land cannot be moved or hidden and the ownership is recorded in the local county court house, so ownership is easy to determine and revoke (if taxes aren't paid). This tax system would also do much towards encouraging the most-efficient use of land.
    ~

  11. #11
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
    How is money coming from a sales tax any different from money coming from a property tax? It's still money. Is there something you don't understand about money JusticeZero? Ten dollars in sales tax revenue equals ten dollars in property tax revenue.
    Sales taxes hit the poor disproportionately, while property taxes hit harder on the better off people. (Regressive vs. progressive)


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  12. #12
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Sales taxes hit the poor disproportionately, while property taxes hit harder on the better off people. (Regressive vs. progressive)
    Poor people (and everyone else) who rent housing pay the property taxes in their rent already. Shifting all the taxes away from income and property will tremendously broaden the tax base to include all the people here illegally or not paying any taxes (such as drug dealers whose estimated earnings are $1 trillion in the USA annually). Drug dealers would pay taxes on their gold jewelry, Escalades, and mansions.

    You need to go to www.Fairtax.org and read the national retail sales tax (NRST) plan. Nobody pays any sales taxes up to the poverty level. This makes life much easier on the poor and elderly on fixed incomes. Essentially EVERY LEGAL US citizen gets a monthly check equal to one months worth of sales taxes in advance of the coming month.

    For example; if the poverty rate for an individual was calculated at $10,000.00, every individual would get a check for one twelfth of the sales tax rate on that much money. The rate would be 23 percent (which is lower than any working person pays now with FICA, SSI and their tax rate). That equates to $2300.00 in sales taxes per year on $10,000.00. So the government would send a check to every legal US citizen every month for ($2300/12) $191.67. Families would get more according to how many children there are (no limits on the number of children either).

    There are many video clips and audio clips at www.Fairtax.org that can explain everything to you in detail.

    "...complicated administration of a huge number of rules and exceptions, resulting in a high administrative cost, and
    ...tax fraud, due to the fact that the IRS is supposed to keep track of vast amounts of moving piles of money."

    There would almost be no expense incurred in collecting a national retail sales tax because most states already have a sales tax. The only thing that would change is the percentage charge within all the cash registers. The local tax collectors would just need to write a single check to the Feds every month. The IRS would drop tens of thousands of employees because they would be unnecessary. States without sales taxes could add them and collect them or other states could do the work for a fee.

    There would be no exemptions or deductions for anyone with the national retail sales tax. All of the current complications would vanish and so would congresses power. Half of the million dollar a year lobbyists in Washington DC work to get exemptions or special treatment within the tax code. The NRST puts small business' on a level playing field with the huge corporations.
    Last edited by Smallwheels; 02-05-08 at 03:40 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
    ...such as drug dealers whose estimated earnings are $1 trillion in the USA annually). Drug dealers would pay taxes on their gold jewelry, Escalades, and mansions..
    Estimated earnings are ONLY $1 trillion? Why not $10 or $100 trillion? If you are going to use "estimates" that are conjured up from ****** dust why not dream big?

  14. #14
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    I've historically been in favor of a flat-rate income only tax.

    Given the political climate currently, I think the sales-only tax would be a slightly better method. It would greatly simplify tax collection, and eliminate the single biggest complaint people have about illegal immigrants (that they don't pay taxes).

    I can think of a few downsides, but they're trivial compared to the mess we have today.

    -------

    Do I think it will ever happen? Absolutely not.

    The government will never give up it's ability to control the people.

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    just a few quick thoughts about the sales tax.

    My question with the national sales tax is always, who doesn't think that a 15% tax is going to drive the underground economy further underground? cash under the table, barter etc. from a practical standpoint I think advocates of this system are a bit naive about this point. True, you are capturing 'income' from sources that may not pay tax in our current system, but I think that you would lose as much sales on the other side because of unreported sales that will happen.

    You will still need a whole army of enforcement agents, similiar to the IRS now, maybe even more. If they think many business owners don't 'skim' from the top with regards to sales tax collected they would be naive.

    And you don't think you will have as many, if not more, lobbyists trying to push for their product being exempt from this tax? there has to be some things that are exempt, no? I can only speak for NY, but the list for what is taxable and what isn't is fairly complicated for the average lay person to understand.

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    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    No exemptions... that's the point.

    There's always going to be fraud. There's fraud now, so using fraud as a reason not to change the system isn't compelling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    No exemptions... that's the point.

    There's always going to be fraud. There's fraud now, so using fraud as a reason not to change the system isn't compelling.
    impossible.

    I'd love to see it though. really would.


    In response to the fraud as a compelling reason not to change, or to change, it strikes me (as a casual observer) that the advocates of the sales tax system tout the taxation of all money (harder to deceive) as a reason to switch to it.

    I just don't see how that could be so.

    We need to simplify our tax system for sure, but a large exemption and a flat tax (and no other voodoo)seems to me like a better option is all.

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    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Sorry, but I think you're just arguing for your position.

    You're concerned that a sales tax will drive an "underground economy", but you don't think a 50% income tax will do the same? We'd all have to start carrying cash again, because that's all anyone would accept.

    Then you stop collecting any taxes at all from 12+million people?

    --------

    If you're so concerned about it...

    new law: sales tax fraud carries a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison. Take 5% of the govt employees we currently have dealing with the thousands of different tax schemes and you've have more than enough to deal with any issues.

    It's only complicated when you allow it to be. No exceptions is the simplest thing imaginable.

    ----

    Like I said though, govt will never turn over their power. What's worse, is that the general public won't let them. Between the diary farmer that thinks milk shouldn't be taxed, and the safety nannies who insist that we need high tobacco taxes to prevent smoking, and the christian right who insists alcohol be taxed...

    It's a never ending mess of people trying to control someone else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    Sorry, but I think you're just arguing for your position.

    You're concerned that a sales tax will drive an "underground economy",
    but you don't think a 50% income tax will do the same? We'd all have to start carrying cash again, because that's all anyone would accept.

    Then you stop collecting any taxes at all from 12+million people?

    --------

    If you're so concerned about it...

    new law: sales tax fraud carries a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison. Take 5% of the govt employees we currently have dealing with the thousands of different tax schemes and you've have more than enough to deal with any issues.

    It's only complicated when you allow it to be. No exceptions is the simplest thing imaginable.

    ----

    Like I said though, govt will never turn over their power. What's worse, is that the general public won't let them. Between the diary farmer that thinks milk shouldn't be taxed, and the safety nannies who insist that we need high tobacco taxes to prevent smoking, and the christian right who insists alcohol be taxed...

    It's a never ending mess of people trying to control someone else.
    strawman

  20. #20
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    This story totally ignores what one is to do when one becomes
    ill or is injured. Six hundred dollars a year won't buy much
    medical care. I suppose this man uses public aid for medical
    care which means the taxpayers pay for HIS medical care!!

    Good work if you can get it! Talk about a parasite.........
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    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C Law View Post
    strawman
    Not surprised you would choose to avoid the issue. The fact is, on multiple points you're criticizing one proposal for having a flaw that exists in your own, alternate proposal.

    Just say "I don't like that" and be done with it if that's all you have to add.

    BTW, it was a question, not an assumption (which would have been a strawman argument)

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    >This story totally ignores what one is to do when one becomes
    >ill or is injured. Six hundred dollars a year won't buy much
    >medical care. I suppose this man uses public aid for medical
    >care which means the taxpayers pay for HIS medical care!!

    >Good work if you can get it! Talk about a parasite.........

    Actually, Tim is a friend of mine, and I visit him whenever I'm in Lawrence, usually twice a year.

    For one, the last time I chatted with him, he was in fact renting the land he uses, at a nominal cost. He has moved his garden from place to place over the last 15 years. Well, really, he gardened in his own back yard for a while before finding the current plot her gardens. It's by no means a "sweet deal" as the man who owns the land doesn't guarantee that it'll be available for Tim to rent year by year. He moved Tim off half the land a couple years ago, for instance, so he could start growing golf course turf on it. Tim's been looking for better land, to buy, for several years.

    Also, as for medical costs, when he has them, Tim pays out of his own pocket. Even if all your money comes from selling vegetables, if your living expenses are under $1000/yr., you can save enough to take care of yourself for most normal problems that come up. He paid for a root canal out of pocket a few years ago, which cost a couple thousand dollars. Tim would, I think, rather die, literally, than take taxpayers' money. Which makes me sad. He won't even take books out of the public library or ride a bus. I don't agree with his (basically libertarian) beliefs, but he lives out those beliefs in a truly inspiring way.

    Tim heats his house with wood which he collects on the street--stuff that's fallen from people's trees mostly. He's not hooked up to gas, electricity, or any other utility. He drinks rainwater he collects.

    On top of all this, Tim is very kind, warm, and conscientious man, who is not prone to anger or to pride. While I don't have the same fervor that he has when it comes to living off the grid (though I do live car-free here in Indiana), he has more courage and integrity than anyone I've ever met. And I've met a lot of very good people.

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    Oh, and yes, Tim uses a bike for everything. He doesn't sell at the farmer's market anymore, but bike-delivers vegetables to his farm "subscribers." He's a good bike mechanic too. Taught me how to patch a tube, way back when... Lawrence is a really bikeable town, which helps. It only has one big hill really, and there are actually useful stores downtown (hardware, even groceries now!), unlike in most midwestern towns its size (80-100k).

  24. #24
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    bedefan,

    Thanks for the insight into this inspiring individual. He really sounds like a modern day version of Scott and Helen Nearing.

    I would really like to meet him some time.
    Gary

  25. #25
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    I had a friend that lived nearly money-free for years. He paid for it later when, in his forties, he had to have all of his teeth replaced because he could not afford dental care during his money-free days.

    I think you can live like the ancients if you are willing to accept the same mortality.
    Mike

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