Prelude to the First Edition
1. Flight from the City
II. Domestic Production
III. Food, Pure Food, and Fresh Food
IV. The Loom and the Sewing-machine
VI. Water, Hot Water, and Waste Water
VII. Education--The School of Living
IX. Security versus Insecurity
X. Independence versus Dependence
|Cost of well||
|Complete pumping outfit||
The labor costs are, if anything, high, since I was my own contractor and only unskilled labor was used. These figures are too high according to present-day price levels. Our outfit can probably be duplicated for a third less than it cost us. Not only have prices come down owing to the depression, but technological advances in pump manufacture, motors, tanks, fittings, etc., have brought down costs materially.
We then projected costs upon an annual basis as follows:
|Interest on capital of $340 at 6 per cent||
|Depreciation on pumping system at 5 per cent of $170||
|Repairs per year covering seven years||
Annual cost of water
The moment we had these figures my friend exclaimed: "There you are--it is costing you over twice as much as it costs me in Suffern."
I went to the telephone and called up a mutual acquaintance who we both agreed was the best judge of realty values in Suffern, and asked him this question: "Suppose there were two lots for sale in Suffern, both of them equally desirable in every respect except one. Suppose one of them was located on the Suffern water system, and suppose the other was located where no water could be supplied to the owner by the city. What would the difference in the price of the two lots be?"
After considering the matter a moment, he replied, "About $500--perhaps a little more or a little less." Then I started out to figure what it cost my friend Wench for water in Suffern. And these were the figures at which we finally agreed:
|Interest on capital investment of $500 at 6 per cent||
|Taxes on added land value--3-1/5 per cent of the $250 assessment||
Annual cost of water
This showed a clear saving of $12.81 per year in favor of the individual pumping system. "But I am not through yet," I said. "This figure of $58," I went on, "represents what it costs for water in Suffern on a single lot. But many homes in Suffern are built upon two or more lots, thus doubling the initial investment, and correspondingly raising the hidden cost of securing water from the city mains. While if there were eighteen acres of land around a home, as there is around mine, the cost of water would be prohibitive for any but the wealthiest of families."
Here with regard to water we have another of the many illustrations available of the mistaken idea that mass production is of necessity economical. With water, as with other conveniences and with most products, what is saved by mass production tends to be lost in the costs of distribution. It undoubtedly costs the city of Suffern less to pump water than it costs me in the country. My small and relatively inefficient pumping system cannot hope to compete in cost per gallon of water raised with the large and relatively efficient pumping system of a city of many thousands of people. But when I pump my water on the "Dogwoods," all costs in connection with water end. When the city pumps its water, its real costs of supplying water only begin. It is the cost of distributing the water through an expensive system of water-mains which absorbs the economies of the "mass" pumping, and replaces them with an actual higher cost than that of the individual homesteader The city's investment and operating costs for its pumping system are negligible in comparison with its investment and maintenance costs for its watermains. The pumping costs are taken care of by the water tax, but the distribution costs are hidden in higher land values, except right when the mains are laid when they are made visible in the form of assessments against the lots before which they have been laid.
What is true of water is true of many of the public services which are enjoyed by those living in cities today. Just as mains are laid to distribute water, sewers are laid to assemble waste water. The two functioned for us in the city without our being hardly conscious of the fact. If we were to be equally comfortable in the country, we would have to solve the waste-water problem as we had that of running water.
A decent sewage-disposal system is unquestionably one of the essentials of a civilized existence. I can see nothing charming in the way in which this problem is handled by savages in a so-called state of nature, and the way in which it is handled in most country homes today, with uncomfortable and sometimes unsanitary outhouses, seems to me but little better. When we began to study this problem, we found, as we had with so many others, that the benefits of a modern sewage-disposal system could be enjoyed in the country without the expense of paying for maintaining the sewers and sewage-disposal plants for the operation of which city dwellers pay such an unconscionable sum. Looked at from its broadest standpoint, the system generally used today involves a shocking waste of the nation's soil resources. It is no exaggeration of the actual situation to say that we are now taking up organic material from the soil, converting it into foodstuffs, and then destroying that organic matter irretrievably with fire and chemicals in the sewage disposal plants of our cities.
In studying this problem, we became aware of the fact that we had, in common with others who enjoyed the benefits of city life, paid for sewage disposal even though we had been unaware of the fact. Unless the city man happens to own his own home--and the vast majority do not--he has no direct knowledge of what taxes are paid for. All he knows is that he pays rent. The fact that part of his rent really pays for running water, for sewage, garbage and ash disposal, is hardly realized by him, just as when he lives in an apartment he forgets that another substantial part of his rent really pays for heat, hot water, janitor service and all the conveniences of his apartment. What we discovered was that we could have practically every service of this sort essential to our comfort, without having to pay a premium price for them.
A simple and inexpensive septic tank, with a drainage tile system to dispose of the overflow from the tank, is all that is needed in order not only to dodge the heavy cost of sewage disposal in the city, but for converting the waste into a contribution to soil fertility. What is taken from the soil is then returned. After we installed such a system on our place in the country, the sewage problem vanished for us.
Hot water, and plenty of it, is necessary to comfort by present standards of living. In the apartment houses in which we used to live we secured our supply from the hot-water taps in seemingly unlimited quantities. We were determined to solve the problem of producing it for ourselves with practically no labor and at a lower cost than we had paid for it in the city--concealed inside the rent we had paid each month.
It is almost impossible to be clean without a plentiful supply of really hot water. For dish-washing, water which is merely lukewarm is an irritation rather than a comfort. Yet in spite of the fact that plenty of hot water is essential to comfort, millions of homes in America still depend upon such primitive methods as teakettles and side-arm-stove heaters for their supply of hot water.
The teakettle, we found, furnishes some really hot water, if the fire under it is always a brisk one. But the quantity which can be heated is hardly enough for the needs of the kitchen alone. And of course it requires dozens of trips back and forth filling the teakettle with water and emptying the hot water into the vessel in which it is to be used. The labor and strength involved in making these trips may seem trifling, but repeated dozens of times daily, it totals up to a surprising amount of time and a considerable amount of fatigue, for neither of which there is any real necessity. Modern offices and factories are efficient just in proportion to the extent to which they eliminate all such wastes of time and strength. There is no reason why our homes should be run at lower standards of efficiency. And such efficiency pays in dollars as well as in happiness.
Every bit of time and strength saved from unnecessary labor--especially non-creative labor such as that involved in cleaning, carrying water, washing, and similar work--frees an equivalent amount of time and strength for productive and creative work. Some of Mrs. Borsodi's friends wonder how she, even with the assistance of servants, gets the time to do the quantities of cooking, baking, preserving, sewing, and even weaving which go on in her home. By using labor-saving appliances and machines to eliminate as much non-productive work as possible, time is saved which can be used to produce these things. An investment in an efficient water-heating system, for instance, which eliminates the non-productive work of carrying water back and forth, pays for itself over and over again by what it enables the family to save in making things which it would otherwise have to buy. It is for this reason that the teakettle method of producing hot water seems to us as obsolete as the Dutch oven. It doesn't pay. It not only is unequal to the requirements for hot water in bathing; it makes a supplementary method of heating absolutely essential for laundering. And we have found doing our own laundry at home is one of the easiest ways in which to pay for an efficient system of hot-water heating.
We started to get away from the tyranny of the teakettle with a small coal heater in the cellar. Water was piped from it to a storage tank, and from the tank to the various hot-water faucets. This was an inexpensive installation, and furnished a good supply of hot water without too much expense. The fire, however, had to be attended to several times each day, and the ashes carried out periodically.
In an effort to get rid of this labor we installed a kerosene heater. The first one we tried out was wickless. Our kerosene was evidently not clear enough for this type of heater, and the burners frequently crusted, thus interfering with its efficiency as well as creating an unpleasant cleaning job. True, we had a plentiful supply of hot water; the cost, however, was a little higher than coal, and we still had the unpleasant chore of filling the oil-reservoir daily and cleaning the heater occasionally.
Next we tried a kerosene heater with wicks. This proved an improvement in one respect only--if we changed the wicks frequently enough we avoided the unpleasant cleaning job with which we had to struggle before. We still had the daily filling of the oil-tank on our hands--so the job was still by no means automatic.
Finally we decided to go in for a completely automatic installation. A very low rate permitted us to install an electric heater on an off-peak rate. Where the power company has established such a rate, this type of heater is economical and efficient, and it requires no attention whatever. The off-peak rate is still a new idea; in many cases completely automatic hot water can be most inexpensively secured with gas. In country homes not reached by the mains of a gas company, portable gas-tanks can be used and while the cost is higher, it is still, in our judgment, not so different from ordinary gas as to warrant some of the methods which we discarded.
Our experiments with the various methods of heating water, as with other domestic appliances, have thoroughly convinced us that the investment and cost of maintaining the most efficient means for furnishing the home with utilities and comforts are quite within the income limitations of most families in this country. It may not be possible to install all of these comforts in the very beginning, any more than we were able to, but they are distinctly economical if the time which they save is used for productive work in reducing and eliminating butcher, baker, grocer, and clothier bills.