Saturday, November 21, 2015

making a conserve from the clown car of Republican politics

"The principle psychological trait of Conservatives is threat sensitivity:  fearfulness."  Which is interesting as I am a first rate catastrophizer myself.  I also want to conserve my health, my sanity, my family, the animals, the earth.

My fear is tempered by a sense of "there but for the grace of the Gods go I".  And I always want the truth.  It'll have to resonate with me but I won't hate you if it does.

I have always known homesteading to be an optimistic endeavor.  Like fishing.  I also know how to make a conserve.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Live withoug calling to terror

I need to sweep the last of the dog hair up today.  Of course, it won't be the last of the dog hair, not really;  it will still be hidden but no more will accumulate.

And every time I read of the Belgium slum where the Paris attackers mostly grew up the line from The Good Earth runs through:  When the rich are too rich there are ways, and when the poor are too poor there are ways.  It is still terrible, it is no excuse, but that poverty simply goes unnoticed, or treated with an Abercrombie sweatshirt and  crafts.  The taking of the jewels as it were does not go unnoticed.

But yes, when people would say that people are only poor because they do not work hard enough, they are not smart enough, fuck them.  I choose to not do those immoral things.  Because you are a doctor does not mean that you deserve that expensive treatment while someone like me would not because the "government" would have to pay for it, as though the government is not paying for yours through protecting your "profession" and paying your income.  No one "deserves" to be able to control their heat with a flick of a finger.  No one "deserves" to sleep under a park bench because the thing has an anti-sleeping thing in the middle of it.  Life in the dump may not really be so bad as you imagine, but neither Jesus nor Muhammad will make it any better.

True enough, I am not likely to give you any of my potatoes.  But that field will call no terror to it either.  Someone who lives the life tho?  Someone in need?  Of course.

So maybe the whole point of this blog all these years is that so many people come against a crisis as Paris and say "Don't look at me -- not my fault," and I am saying, have been saying, "Look at us -- this is one way to live differently, live examined, live whole and yes with love."

And the most simple way to explain that is to live smaller.  Much much smaller.  Much.  Honestly, not much else will change the human heart.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Yep, that's Hickory King (or Cane) corn, with a red sport.  Yep, that'll be seed next year to see what happens!  And it is so nice to have real corn bread again too.

Friday, November 06, 2015


fifteen November
chicks yellow fluff hidden
peeping behind hay

FIFTEEN chicks!  In November!  Makes me grin!  How she hid out with those eggs.  How she fluffs out to protect them.  How she pecks at my hands.  How they speak of lots of spring eggs.  And maybe a pot or two of chicken and dumplins.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

relaxed, forward, balanced, connected: living differently

We are not the perfect homesteaders.  I would kinda think that would be obvious, but maybe not.  It is probably true that I try to frame our failures in lessons learned, other possibilities, or as the husband says, make every disadvantage an advantage.  Which also means I don't tend to wallow in failure, or to do the same thing twice and expect different results.  I may mourn but I walk. Forward is the key.

We are not the perfect homesteaders.  We do not live off the grid, and in fact have no desire to do so.  Rather we prefer to reduce our consumption on every level that doesn't have big returns.  We happen to think refrigeration, for example, has huge returns.  But we don't even own a dryer because I consider it to be the most wasteful appliance possible.  But it also means that I take our down coats to somewhere where there IS a dryer, and I USE it, to wash and fluffy dry them.  See?  No perfection.  I'll tend to use solar for the electric fence -- that is, I would if I had a solar charger, which I don't.  I've considered the possibility of solar to power, say, a computer, if I ever have my little hermit's cottage thing -- where there would theoretically be a hand pump for water, a bucket toilet, and an inside and an outside wood cook stove.  And maybe even a heated masonry sleeping bench.

But I ain't having babies and diapers and feeding a whole passel of people like that -- if I don't have to anyway.

We are not the perfect homesteaders.  We do not raise all our own food, much less provide every other material need off of our 20 acres by ourselves with zero inputs.  Now, there are times we've done experiments on things we could grow more of in order to subsist, like wheat.  And there are things we absolutely DO attempt to provide entirely for ourselves every year (hard corn, the bulk of potatoes).  There have been times we provided more, most of which involved me staying at home and doing it.  If you want to put by 100 pints of jam for the year, which is about what it takes for us, and which we have done, somebody has to BE doing it.  If someone is making all the bread a family of six eats, which I have done, somebody pretty much has to BE doing it.  What we are doing right now is that we raise a lot of stuff, we scavenge a lot of stuff, we concentrate on eating fresh, we try to put some by as we can so long as doing it doesn't drive us crazy.

(not being crazy is an important boundary, one that is far too often overlooked methinks) 

We'll also sometimes plan exceedingly long term.  There is fresh pork (and salt pork, and *middlins*) in the plan about three years from now:  one year for the bull to grow up, one year for gestation, one year for milk and the pigs to grow up.  You never know what will happen in the meantime, but hopeful.  That doesn't mean I'll not be eating any pork roast in the meantime.

We are not the perfect homesteaders.  Someone has much more often than not worked off the farm.  For years, the years that the kids were small, that was husband.  Besides, he earned more.  And I have the boobs.  Boobs are exceedingly important to children.  It doesn't take much cash but it does take some.  And we could get by with less but that would basically mean world economic collapse.  I work off the farm now at least as much for love as for money, although I couldn't do it if it didn't produce some money.  And you know things are always developing, growing, possibility-ing.

We are not the perfect homesteaders.  We just put up some barbwire.  I really wouldn't have thought I'd do that.  But it is a perimeter, and it is a discouragement to large livestock roaming.  We have neighbors who had to have spent at least $60K on a fence that encloses, I don't know, not too much acreage.  I bet his pasture enclosed in that fencing doesn't amount to 20 acres.  And that doesn't count the barn and sheds, the chicken coop and FLAGPOLE.  To each his own.  Seriously.  But I always get the feeling that to "do it right", that's what that means -- throw money at it until it is DONE.  Which most often leads to the next thing to throw money at, with no improvement in skills and ingenuity at all.  If we did our road "right", we would buy a LOT of rocks and gravel to go on it.  But we won't let tucks that heavy pass the bridge so even if we could afford it, we'd have to do some alternative.  And there are a few alternatives I'm working on but right now it means taking the family and hauling some rocks (that we've stockpiled at other times) in buckets to the worst parts and fixing those up.  It takes a LOT less rock to do it that way.  We have some trouble keeping up with it, but then again, it's been worse so we must be doing ok.  Knock wood.  And haul some more rock.

And as with every single one of these things, there are dividends.  We get physically stronger.  We get to work together.  We get time and space to talk.  We get to explore whatever catches our fancy that day, be it what we've been reading or bear marks going up a tree, and do it together, which really there is no substitute for and which contrived "together" time is never as good as.

We are not the perfect homesteaders.  There are always "failures".  I don't think we've ever survived an apple tree but that doesn't stop me from thinking of putting an orchard in on some ancestral property.  Because I think I know what happens and I think it might not happen there.  We've had several starts of bees but that's not unusual in these bee times.  Last year we had no hard corn for the first time EVER.  There is always an ebb and flow in the years.  So you really have to have years.  It's a little like horse riding -- if you've never fallen off, you haven't ridden much, but if you fall off all the time, you just suck.

We are not the perfect homesteaders.  Sometimes I worry too much.  Security is a seducer, if a lie.  Sometimes I pay a bill late, and we pretty much don't go to the doctor.  Sometimes I have trouble letting go.  Sometimes we are lazy.

We are not the perfect homesteaders BUT I do love what I'm doing, and who I get to do it with and for, and I love this farm and this house even when it is dirty and even though it may never actually be "finished", and I love the try, the effort, and so in all that it IS so perfect!

As to people, there is this:  even when I don't like them, I love people and that is why I have such a hard time when they insist on hitting their own toes with their own hammers.  Repeatedly.  And then especially when they are shocked and surprised and oppressed when their toe hurts and swells because they are hammering on it.  Repeatedly.

Live differently.  Even if you aren't perfect at it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

if you know how to say "Appalachia", do you know how to say "flower"?*

There were asters today.  I was thinking of them just the other day, said to a fellow rider as we were remarking on the iron weeds and golden rods being pretty, that in the fall there are tons of asters.

Today they start.

There have been leaves on the bridge.  And great bright splotches of yellow in the forest.

And it is time for hay.  Counting up.  Figuring.  Making provisions.

I remember the year we found this land, got this land, and the tons of asters then.  I remember what the creeks looked like.  I remember some of what the road looked like then.  And us.  Hoooo boy.  Us.  Things do not stay the same. But maybe like the asters they cycle around.  No beginnings.  No endings.

So, yeah, the bears ate the sweet corn.  And we had such a great patch, and had one mess out of it and it was so good but just a tad under ripe at that point.  And then it was gone.  Period.  The hard corn needs harvesting now and then we'll see how much there is.  There was a decently good potato crop.  We did not have a great fall garden because too much life got in the way.  We have that luxury.

So much I would like to do.  Not nearly all of it will get done.  We will see exactly where the priorities lie.  Maybe not Tweetsie this year, but probably the new to us wood burner.  But maybe Tweetsie, you just never know depending on who gets the burr under their saddle.  Hopefully the road, and plowing the garden, and more fencing, and a shelter/feeding area for the big guy.  The stove would mean the library gets attention it so desperately deserves.  Well, hopefully it will mean that -- it is entirely possible it won't.  Flues always get attention but the roof needs it too.  Then there are the paid jobs.  The licenses.  The level 3s.  The lessons.  The writing.  The eating.

And, you know, us.

*helpful hint:  it is one syllable, but then so is Maryville.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

91 is not 75 and suburbia is not sustainable

Once upon a time there was an "environmental activist" who owned 50 acres of forested land.  She complained bitterly about what Georgia Pacific was doing in the Northwest.  But when it came time for her to rehab her old house, would she hire a responsible horse logger and a portable band saw mill?  Would she buy local lumber?  Nope.  Georgia Pacific all the way.  Why?  Because she'd be environmentally responsible when the LAWS and REGULATIONS made everyone else be that too.

Quite the opposite of Gandhi's "be the change."

We encouraged them to learn about wiring instead of hiring it done.  When we helped them redo one room's floor because it was rotted (with GP lumber they bought at Lowe's), we also fixed the outlet that the high paid electrician hadn't fixed.

Gardens are generally a lot more fun to imagine than to do.  Even when successful and you are run over by the harvest.  Much less when you put in all the work and lose it to something.  Something which is usually your "fault", or responsibility anyway.

And so my question, to myself and to everyone, is what are YOU doing.  Is it saying, "You are awesome!"  Because that is so easy.  But "Pay attention.  You are not happy.  This is the same situation again," is not so easy -- to say OR to hear.

But it is the only way to be a friend.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

what love is

Do not turn away.

Sometimes we kill our own meat. My mom used to say, "I don't see how you can do that." "Mom, you eat meat. You do that." "But *I* don't kill it." "Yes you do. If you didn't buy it, it wouldn't be dead. In fact, it likely wouldn't have been born . . . if you didn't buy it and eat it."

She never did understand that.

The way we live killed this boy. When will people understand that? When will people's "lifestyle" not be worth the lives of other people, especially children?

I believe the key to living differently is using radically less energy. You may believe the key is something else. Whatever.

Live differently.

That is what love is.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

so meet a bear and take him out to lunch

AND the bears got all the sweet corn.  We'd planted that patch because we had the space and nothing to do with it and couldn't get any more hard corn seed and extra sweet corn is always a good thing.  It had done well too.

We had up some hay nets to discourage crows.  We had traps baited at all times against racoons (and those caught met a timely demise).  We usually post a dog to the garden in the summer to discourage deer but had not done so this year.

The ground was wallowed.  They ate not just the corn but the entire cob.  They drug entire stalks off to eat later.  All bear sign.  We live in a bear preserve.  There'll be no bear barbecue.  Unfortunately.

We'd had one supper on that corn, slightly immature.  We thought we were just getting ready to process it in bulk.  Freeze some cream corn and parch some.  And eat massive amounts.  And share some with friends.

The dog is on his way down.  Another PETA violation.

Friday, August 14, 2015

here & now

ducks are big, should be laying, aren't

milk from weeds, and we love 'em.  She knows horse cookies.

Why no one can come to our garden?  This is the "path" to it.

hard corn -- those ears are @6 feet off the ground

what I came looking for, McCaslin beans.  Has anyone ever explained to you how to "set" your eyes?  Does that make sense to you?  You have to "set" your eyes if you want to look for morels, or deer, or cucumbers, or beans.  For beans, everything is green -- you have to "set" for the shape.  And I also follow the vines on the corn stalks.  There are always more than I see.  This is something that amazes me about the natural world, and where the ideal of abundance comes from I think.

some of them are really high -- I stood on a bucket and managed to get these but I couldn't find the old pool ladder to get some of the others!

the potato patch, obviously mostly stink weed right  now as the potato vines have died (the pontiacs are still alive, these are the yukons).  The bare spot is where one hill got dug and it seems it was a good potato year!  We'll have potatoes with those beans for supper tonight.

ooops a rabbit decided to sample this cushaw growing on the fence by the west garden gate


pumpkin or some other kind of winter squash, with more blooms

some other cute baby melon or squash

gratuitous butterfly shot on the joe pye weeds

Thursday, August 13, 2015

to ask the questions that have no answers, to provide the answers to questions no one asks

Turns out that around this time ELEVEN years ago, I must have been thinking about doing a blog.  I don't even remember now what or how much I even knew about blogs.  I'm pretty sure it was a lot like having children was for me -- I had no expectations.  I wanted to write about what we were doing, what I was thinking about.  And I wanted to show people that a different life IS possible.

Eleven years.  A lot has changed.  A lot hasn't.  There is time, so that my eldest was 12 and is now 23; the youngest was 4 and is now 15.  Just that changes a whole lot.  Life with young children IS different, and should be.  The life of a parent should not just go on as though nothing important has changed -- it has!  And it will always be different.  Life with a household of adults is also quite interesting.

This morning:  one child home from a few days working in town, one child (and a parent driver as she works to get her license) goes in to work a few hours, I -- just off having to get up early several days in a row -- sleep in, boys pick up most animal chores.  Then I get a supper started while one son does laundry and husband works in the wood shop.  You know, everybody does their thing.  But everyone pulls in roughly the same direction.  And help is generally available.

And yes, the corn is tasseling and the hunt is on for the cucumbers.  Weeds are over your head high.   Potatoes seem to have set on well.  There is good grass and some fencing projects are in my mind's eye.  The bull has a little neighbor's field with his cows but still comes up for his creep, and the billy we'd like to not breed the girls to got out of there just now so we need to go investigate.  Supper is on, sweeping needs to happen, unschooly lessons in Japanese and Spanish are planned for tonight.

Time invested with kids is a good thing.  Working to keep a good family dynamic is a good thing.  Farming the soil is a good thing.  Loving your food and your community is a good thing.  Working three years out is a good thing.  Being prepared for change tomorrow is a good thing.  Consuming very little is a good thing.

But I'd take a huge wasteful blowout trip to Disney tomorrow given the opportunity, and I wouldn't apologize for it.  But we'd also come right back and pick right back up and if it were another 20 years before we took another "vacation", we'd all be fine with that since we haven't built a life we need to vacate from every year, or several times a year.  And it is stuff like that that I think needs to be looked at.  It is never "the thing" but always the lie about the thing that is deadly harmful.  It is not the specific thing but the system of exploitation you buy in to that is deadly harmful.

And so the question very often is, what is the lie, what is the system?

What is in that Wendell Berry poem?  "Ask questions that have no answers"

Also, answer the questions that the psychotropically drugged and privileged and overly paid masses will never ask.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Morality: discuss amongst yourselves

When is it moral to have someone else clean your toilet for you?

My first suggestion would be that it never is -- there are some things that we should ALL do for ourselves, at least mostly, at least when we are physically able.

My second suggestion would be that it might be moral when you pay your servant enough for him to have a servant of his own.  Which of course never really happens.

There is, as Amanda Palmer elaborates upon, "exchange-exchange" -- you fix my car, I fix you supper.  Good old Eleutheros would have called those exchanges "like coin" I think.   You do a painting for me, I do an interpretive dance for you.   But few exchanges are like that.  Most involve class disparity.  This can be overcome.  But only, as far as I can tell (and I've been on both sides of this) by the servant class.

It is the whole reason for foot washing, which, well, culturally you probably don't even know about.