Catching Up Again. What A Year

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So much has happened in the past 2 years.  Leaving work, surgery, new projects begun at the farm as I have healed up both mentally and physically, brought me back to the blog to share what has been going on and kind of where we are going.  The end of this month marks my 11th month post back surgery.  It is going very well, but, I fear it will never again be what one would consider “normal”.  My new routine now includes a great deal of stretching and bending is a thing of the past.  It takes a considerable amount of time in the morning to get up and loosen up so that I can face the day.  The farm has kept me active, although I am having to get myself back into a regular exercise routine in addition in order to keep up both my stamina and strength.  Having left work a little over a year ago and having had my injury sideline me for most of the first year, I have only now begun to figure out what looking forward might mean.  I was a specialist in retirement planning and have had to remind myself to practice what I preached: Never make any major life decisions in retirement during the first year.  Well, considering that I spent close to 6 months of that first year flat on my back and healing, it wasn’t too difficult to let that sleeping dog lie.  But I have recovered to a great extent and now am now starting to fashion a life going forward.  A life of just leisure would make me insane.  The question to be answered was, “What does this farm life look like now that it is the only thing I have to concern myself with going forward?”

Retirement was very sudden and almost imposed on me.  I was sick of being lied to by my company as well as the economic and political world.  If you care about those you serve it creates an aire of fear and anxiety that eats away at you.  There was fear about so many things I couldn’t control, not to mention the lack of understanding people had if I made a mistake.  Fortunately, those were few and far between and I never had any complaints, but it wore me down to the point that when I was injured physically, mentally I knew I just couldn’t take it anymore.  For those whom I served for some 30 years, I simply cannot and will not apologize for how I chose to survive this.  I am still alive, I am healed, I am moving forward, and am able to continue to be a husband and father.  There wasn’t much I could do or would do differently if again faced with the same circumstances.  In fact, I’d have probably done it faster.  The physical proof that the changes were positive is the fact that I’m losing weight, my endurance is picking back up, my mind is quieter and my blood pressure is down.  I was mis-placed in finance and I am happy to be rid of it.

So the way that our new life is progressing is to a simpler lifestyle.  We are embracing a self-sufficient way of living and working to move farther and farther away from this truly insane society.  In a way it is a dropping out.  I cannot abide the news any longer and it seems that there is nothing but hate, lies, and greed running everything this country does.  We have dubbed the farm “The Island for Misfit Toys” from the Rudolph Christmas special.  Indeed, it is rare to have people in one’s life that actually “get you” without pre-conditions.  We welcome those that also share such a longing for a simpler and old fashioned life and I think that my life going forward will be to keep going deeper in that direction.

I think that as a society we are facing catastrophic pressures on too many fronts.  One of them somehow is going to eventually give; be it economic (my first bet), political, geo-political, peak-oil, warfare, resource depletion, over-population or human extinction due to human induced climate change.  One cannot prepare for every contingency, but 95% of this country is completely unprepared for even a 2 week emergency.  My assertion is that it will last much much longer.  It isn’t a question of “if” but “when”.  I guess that is the financial planner inner voice coming out.  After all, financial preparedness included adequate insurance and several months of cash-reserves.  I would now include in that, non-paper currency like metals, and as much food and water stores as you can muster.  As my wife told my doctor at an appointment when I had completely melted down over this, when he asked why I think that something like this is going to happen (I think out of concern for himself, not having ever really heard it before), she said,  “He knows to much.”

So now that the majority of the storm has passed and we are now settled into a new routine and lifestyle, the lifestyle itself is taking shape.  I keep informed about the economic scene because we are still a monetary society, I have tried desperately to filter out the absolutely child-ish and hateful political scene (I can’t even think what my life would be like having to be an advisor during this “administration”. They are simply the most horrible, ignorant and hateful people I have ever seen at the helm).  We are planting again, livestock is back on the land, and I am even learning some crafting.  Not only are we trying to become more self-sustaining, much of what we are learning now has to do with going pre-electric.  Learning how to preserve food the way people did prior to refrigeration (smoking, drying, root-cellaring, etc.). Not all of this is in some grand “prepper” scheme, its that we find these lost skills far more interesting and fulfilling than the world of screens, gossip, social media, and the endless tennis court volleying of one side vs the other.  Locally there isn’t much of a like minded community out there, but we are hoping to help build it.  After all, your neighbors may soon be your only source of community.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you actually knew who they were?

So in the next few posts I will try to get the blog back up to current.  Then going forward, I’ll try to be more punctual about what we are doing and how we are doing it, and why.  The past two years were devastating.  Going forward all we want is to do is live like Hobbits, live the middle path, and enjoy a simple existence far from the deafening roar of a society gone completely off the rails.

 

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The Bone Crushing Construction Is Over!

Not bad for a guy who, just six months ago, was in a hospital bed having his spine fused.  Zina and I have both agreed that now that the barn is built and the pasture fenced in, that the farm’s infrastructure is completed and its time to just be here and farm the place.  There will always be a hammer to swing at something, but none of it has to be a priority over the gardens and animals.

Friend Paul designs and produces archery equipment.  He called and wanted me to come with him to this year’s World Archery Championships in Las Vegas.  I used to go every year and bring my team of kids, but since having bought the farm, we have not been in at least 5 years.  He has a time share out there and it just happens to be just across the street from the South Pointe Casino where the shoot is being held.  Since we had just finished the big building projects I thought it would be a nice break.  We’ve been hanging out at his trade show booth and at the apartment.  Because we have kitchens, we bought our food instead of eating factory farmed slop at the buffets.  It has been so much fun.  Not only do we share archery as a common hobby, we both run hobby farms and our world views couldn’t be more similar.  Sometimes just begin around the like minded is very soothing.  It helps to re-confirm your sanity.

I have been using the week to unwind, but at the same time as a transition.  For the 30 years I slogged through my career I never had just a “routine” life.  It was largely crisis mode, multi-tasking and racing to deadlines; not to mention having gone through 3 major market corrections (thank god I’m missing this one – although I’m in touch with my partners fairly frequently).  Between work and the farm construction I was mostly running from one task to another.  So this week, during this break, I started to put together my new routine.  Some people in retirement want to travel and explore and do all the things they never got to do while they worked.  I couldn’t be farther from that perspective.  I’ve had too many adventures.  Like the Hobbits, I’ve seen the Orcs and Goblins and quite frankly wasn’t impressed.  I threw my ring in the fiery furnace and the eagles had to come and rescue me and carry me back home.  I’m done.  Right now I can’t think of anything more peaceful and healing than working in the gardens and hangin’ with the critters.

The weekend after I get home, Zina and I have an appointment at the Donkey’s Rescue Shelter over in Bennett.  The stalls and corrals are built and we will be adopting a pair of donkeys.  They will serve as companions and pets and predator deterrents.  They do not get along with Canine’s and will do well to keep the coyotes and foxes at bay.  In addition, we are in touch with a breeder and come spring (using another stall area in the new barn) will begin raising Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  I just ordered the fencing panels to build a turkey coop inside the barn, and we will be getting pigs again and our usual flocks of chickens.

So its been a nice break but I’m getting eager to get back at it on the farm.  There is so much to do, but now it can be done on a measured schedule instead of a breakneck pace that made a lot of it a struggle to maintain.

New batteries are arriving for the solar system next week as well.  All is coming back together…….  time to chill.

 

Here is a picture of some of the first day’s official scoring and a look at some of the pro’s targets that shot clean on the first day.

 

Above:  The completed barn.  Cupola and Stall door and everything ready to go.

I am retiring to the Shire.  Orcs need not apply.  Just a pipe, good ale, good food and company.  The rest can stay outside the fences.

Kinda Lookin’ Like A Barn

I have to admit that these guys work fast.  After the fiasco involved with getting our greenhouse and getting fleeced with our solar system, having this crew get in here gettin’ it done is quite refreshing!  Today they have almost finished the framing.  Before it rains tomorrow they will be coming out to finish the cross bracing, framing for the overhead door and framing for the people door.  If they keep at this pace, I’d expect them to be mostly finished next week.  They still have to put on the the over hang (lean to) but this thing will be wrapped up by months end at the latest.

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In the mean time, I have been steadily getting the pasture enclosed.  Because we are getting goats and donkeys everything says not to skimp on fencing.  I didn’t.  This is about a quarter mile of “No-Climb” horse fencing.  A 200 ft roll weighs about 200 pounds and, of course, I have 8 of them.  I’ve learned to use the tractor to move them around.  Pre-surgery I’d have just heaved them about.  Also, all of the nailing and such that happens close to the ground has had to be re-learned.  I don’t bend like I used to so most everything from about 18 inches to the ground is done more or less with a lunge.  It’s a lot slower going than in my “Strapping young socialist Muslim”days, but I have more time in the day now that Eliot took over at work and I’ve “retired”.

I learned how to splice field fencing today.  Because the sides of the pasture are all about 330 feet long, one roll of this fencing won’t get there.  So to make it reach, two rolls have to be spliced together.  It works great but it’s very time consuming.  Also, as it is a lot like sewing with metal wire, getting poked and scratched and hung up on everything, seems to be standard operating procedure.

I’ve built my share of fencing.  For non-large animal enclosures, you put up corners, H-braces and fill in the gaps with more single wood posts and/or metal T-posts.  Once the skeleton is up, then you wrap the wire around the perimeter and nail and tie it all into place.  Not so here!  Larger animals love to rub on things, especially exposed fence posts.  Consider a 1200 lb. cow.  If she sets to scratchin’ what itches and the fencing is on the outside of the posts, then all the weight is being born by the post and it’s staples and clips.  Soon the fence starts to sag and critters take themselves for a walk down the road.  So this fence, because of the potential of having larger animals, has the fencing on the inside of the frame.  Every corner has to be sewn onto the posts and woven at the corners instead of simply wrapped and nailed.  Pulling it taught (stretching it) also becomes a challenge because the corners get closed off and you have to put the come-a-long through the fence that is at 90 degrees to the fence you want to stretch.  It takes way more time, causes way more cussing, and takes many more staples.  But in the end, now that it is strung inside the posts, if said cow rubs up against the fence, it distributes her weight along the fence and thus several posts instead of it being concentrated on a single one.  So it’s worth doing, it’s coming along very well, there have been some snags, but it is turning out to be one stout cage.  Once that is finished, in order to further deter escape and fence destruction, it will have 3 strands of electric wire to act as a psychological deterrent to keep them away from it.

 

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As, I had mentioned previously, the livestock barn will serve several purposes.  One, we are going to get a few goats.  Whether or not they become meat, dairy goats, or just eating and pooping machines, remains to be seen.  Also, once completed, I’m going to build a chicken brooder inside so we can eventually quit having to have them in our basement for a month at a time.  In addition, a flock of turkeys is on the horizon and their coop will be made from chain link dog kennel panels, inside and outside.  Lastly (ya right), there is an animal shelter near here that rescues donkeys.  It is likely that we will be adopting two of them once all of this construction is over.  One requirement that they have is that the donkeys have their own outdoor corral in addition to the pasture where they can come to eat, feel safe, and have grooming and medical issues tended to.  Last weekend that was accomplished.  I guess there is not turning back now!

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I follow a lot of homesteaders, both on blogs, Facebook and You Tube.  I have yet to find any who bought a field of grass with just a dilapidated house, a garage and run down horse shed, and transformed it into a fully operational farm.  Sure, there are many who have done some incredible things, but I suspect for lack of resources, many are done via the “make do” approach.  Most are many years our junior so what they lack in resources they make up for in energy.  This is the last hurrah.  There will always be the need to repair things and some lesser, non-urgent projects (I would love to dig a root cellar), but this marks the end of the major construction.  It has to be the end.  I’m pretty good at all this building of things, but my dream was to be able to actually enjoy the farming part.  So far, everyone else has gotten to play – including in my greenhouse!  Now it’s my turn too.  I am looking forward to a life of simple routine.  I relish the life of getting up and tending animals, gathering eggs, making breakfast (cooking in general again) spending time with the livestock, spending hours gardening, harvesting and canning and building our food storage, all without the feeling of some urgency of having to have to get the place built before I’m too old to play with it.  The finish line is on the horizon.  Three more sections of fence, a couple of pens, and Farmer Juan gets to play with his creation.  That will be something to behold.

There I Said It

Charlie BrownI’m a Prepper. There, I said it. That is not to say I’m a survivalist; the folks who seem to think bullets are more important than food, shelter, water and clothing. A prepper is one who prepares. What could be more basic than that? I am also a Homesteader. A homesteader being someone who raises their own food, tries to build and make the things they need, and be less reliant on the economy itself, unless it is local. The Prepper prepares for events that can leave you on your own, a homesteader has adopted a lifestyle that comes from the traditions of America’s agricultural roots. I am both. Combine Prepper and Homesteader and what you have is someone who is as prepared as they can be, within their means, for what would best be described as an On Your Own event (OYO). Think in terms of storms knocking out power, disruptions in the food supply, acts of war, or anything that many of us have actually encountered. It could be caused by most anything. It could also simply be, as in my case, an aversion to a lot of what our society espouses as normalcy: chemical dependent food production, factory farming, fossil fuels, environmental degradation, a distrust of the pharmaceutical industry, the gun lobby. Name your poison. In this day and age I would also put my money on a crumbling infrastructure no longer able support the millions of people to which this country has grown. The trump card of it all, of course, is climate change, but there is no real prepping for extinction. No amount of stored beans is going to get you down the road past that horror I’m afraid.

None-the-less, I’ve heard some describe preppers as being those who are going to Mitigate In Place – a bugging in so to speak. It does not involve things that survivalists tout, like having Bug Out Bags or the latest and greatest gizmos and gear; nonsense like thinking that in an emergency event they will just throw on the survival backpack and head out into a wilderness in which they currently don’t live, and will likely be disappointed to find doesn’t exist (or what does exist is already peopled). Why is it important for me to say this? Why do I think that I must stand on my stump and proclaim that this is who I am? I say it because I have to admit that at its most fundamental level, the redneck tea party folks that claim to be Preppers, actually get it. They don’t seem to be able to articulate the problem well and they may very well think the enemy or the cause of said OYO is someone or some entity it is not, but their sixth sense of things seems to be quite right. Something on this planet is very, very wrong and they know that no one is going to ride to the rescue when whatever it is, happens. No one. They know it viscerally and I must admit, I would throw my hat into their ring over those who still think sports like golf are a good and viable past time. Understand, I am about as progressive a guy as you will ever meet; but I am also very wide awake to the world in which we live after having spent almost 3 decades as a financial planner. My entire career has been an effort to help clients to be prepared financially for the future. It follows logically, in my mind, that I would think being prepared for all of life’s ups and downs is a demonstrable consistency.

Survivalists use the acronyms: SHTF (When the Sh.. Hits The Fan) or WROL (Without Rule Of Law). I think that these are misguided and largely amped up terms created by those who allow themselves to become freaked out by the propaganda machine we call the Main Stream Media: Which of course is owned by corporations who profit off of those they can keep terrified. Survivalists are those who demonize, and continually create an evil “other” that is going to come and wreak some sort of havoc on our “American Way of Life”. I don’t identify with this crowd in any sense. They are a paranoid portion of the populace and would likely end up causing many of the problems they claim to be avoiding. I don’t know about you but having someone approach me or my dwelling place with a modified assault rifle, carrying a backpack, playing Rambo, is as much of a terrorist as I would ever be likely to encounter. According to the CIA and FBI those folks are the genuine terror threat to the U.S.

Besides, I would challenge many of those folks claiming to be survivalists, to don their bug out bags and all the gear they say they would hump into the wilderness and just take a simple 2 mile walk. Just 2 miles. If you live in an urban or suburban setting you likely haven’t even made it out of town yet. Then what? Motel 6? What happens to you if this so called event happens in the dead of winter? How’s that going for you? What happens when you do get out of town and find some woods that aren’t just a park, its the dead of winter, you have no shelter, kids with you, and no food to shoot and grill on that fancy backpack stove you think will save you? Folks, I’ve camped in snow. I’ve been in the high back country. I’ve lived off of what I could scrounge and I’ve taken survival courses. The only thing this stupidity is going to get you is 1. An encounter with another fool just like you. 2. Unbelievable despair when it doesn’t work out like you thought, thus putting you at the mercy of someone you don’t know just like homeless people on street corners, or 3. Dead. The second you step off your porch or out of your apartment and head out, you become a voluntary refugee. A friend who’s videos I follow said to the effect that you should, “just do the math.” There are 350 million people in this country, most in urban or suburban areas. That means they are all in close proximity to one another. If you all are going to go off into the “wilderness” there are only about 60 million deer in the woods. There will be many people vying for the same food sources you are.” This, all because you thought that no one would be able to do this like YOU can. It comes from an over inflated sense of ego and a vast over-estimation of what you are prepared for. It would be a very very dark and sad time. Which of course, I think some of them idealistically pine for. Also, let me clue you. Out here in the Rockies, in the winter…. there is no food and currently in the San Juan’s there is 22 feet of snow and it is only mid-January. If you think you are going to slog through drifts 10 to 20 feet high, shoot an elk, make a lean to and tough it out you are dreaming. Just as a matter of course, elk are currently down lower in their wintering grounds, most of which is comprised of private land… ranches. Think ranchers can’t shoot? Get a grip.

So I’m a Prepper. I’m a Homesteader. I actually think the more conservative and maybe not the more highly educated of our population are right now the most astute. I agree with them when they say they don’t trust the government and that you can’t count on them. Where we diverge is to the reasons why. The stereo-typical prepper you already know of. They are the “anti-big gubmint”, “their coming for our guns”, “the liberals are the enemy”, “gays, guns and god wedge issue believers”, thinking that somehow the more progressive of their citizens are the cause of all the fuss. They’ve been fed a bill of goods because those who would distract them from the man behind the curtain, the real culprit, has bamboozled them. They know the problem exists, they have just been sold on the straw-man to keep them complacent so the injustices can go on unabated and unregulated. You know of which I speak; people who have been so thoroughly convinced of the propaganda that they continually vote and act against their own self-interests.

So why do I prep? Why would a man who has almost 30 years in finance, a Masters Degree, the equivalent of a Masters in financial services, started a PhD, and could live in a mini-mansion overlooking the 8th fairway buy a foreclosed home on the high plains and kick his ass for 3 years to create a homestead that provides almost all of our vegetables, meat, generates all of our electricity, and walk away from empire? Precisely because of empire, thats why.

I agree with the prepper community. I don’t trust the government. Not because the government can’t work. It has. Anyone who lived in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s knows it can work. We also know that the government is the citizens. It is self-rule. The government was supposed to be the voice of those who can’t stand up to goliath corporations and is supposed to be the employer of last resort in economic downturns, and is supposed to support and protect our social safety nets. The government did all of that until the population was dumbed down in the 80’s and told that government isn’t the solution to the problem, government IS the problem. Once that was bought into, it started a downward slide that has now culminated in a government that no longer functions for the people it was designed to serve. The government that was once an entity of the people is now an oligarchic plutocracy that has been bought off. Legislation now is passed for whomever was the highest bidder. Think tanks write legislation, oligarchs fund it, and politicians are purchased, not elected. It was a coup-d’etat in slow motion and not a shot had to be fired – at least not domestically. Drones and false-flag wars had to be drummed up to make us give up our rights for faux-protection. The government has been completely high-jacked by special interests and has rendered it completely unresponsive to the needs of its citizens. I prep because I know that Wall Street owns Washington. I prep because our country was taken over by huge, powerful, monied, interests. I prep because even if an OYO event were never to happen, an economic one is on the horizon and our children and grand-children will reap the whirlwind. We have been conquered and the treasury looted by huge corporations. Laws have been written to make theft legal and to give almost unlimited power to entities that the Supreme Court has granted Personhood status to. There is no representation any longer. The victories of Cannabis legalization in some states, Gay marriage, etc., are not victories, they are bones being thrown to the masses to keep them distracted and to create the illusion of progress. Since the 80’s, human rights and the representative government we learned about in civics are gone. I prep because no one is coming. In fact, those we think should come are the ones who have caused the problems.

I prep because of free trade. NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, institutions like the IMF and the WTO, have rendered the borders of sovereign nations irrelevant. Should the TPP pass, which looks like it will, the workers of this nation will be forced to compete with laborers in countries who essentially are slaves. Redneck preppers are still convinced that hard work at places like Walmart can afford you the American dream eventually. GM used to be the largest employer in the US and a one worker family could afford a car, a home, some vacation time, insurance and send their kids to school. We now have Walmart being the largest employer and it is estimated that each outlet of this fine institution costs the tax payers $900,000.00 per year for the privilege. They can’t get full time hours, they have no benefits, and when they get sick they go to the emergency room in hospitals that are for profit organizations designed to suck every nickel they can from their patients. It will continue to be an unbelievable race to the bottom. Globally, middle classes will evaporate, the money will trickle up to the already insanely wealthy, corporations will rule, and the average person will have no options, no recourse, no safety net.

Should the average Joe the Prepper or Annie the Survivalist actually wake up and realize that yes there is a problem and no, they aren’t targeting the right people and come to understand that it isn’t Washington that is the problem it is the result of the problem, things could change very quickly. If Preppers, Tea Partiers, Survivalists, all of whom are heavily armed (after all the soldiers of the south during the civil war weren’t the brightest of men but they could damned well shoot) realized that they had more in common with Occupy and Anonymous than they do with their corporate masters, things could change on a dime. If they understood that the enemy lives in gated communities and flies private jets with gold plated toilets, and found out where they live, the Bastille could indeed be stormed and all of the rats forced into the sunshine. A new day could dawn. But it won’t. No one will come. No one will help. Learn who your neighbors are. Get local, get more self-reliant. Begin to re-create small town America, even if it’s in a big city. That’s why I’m a prepper. Wouldn’t you like to be a prepper too?

A Little Midwest Pragmatism

This article was posted by a friend on Facebook.  She and her friend have been members of the sustainable living and environmental movement in a significant way far longer than I have had the privilege.  I think this article helps to shed some light on what is -and may not be – important to the notion of localizing our food system.  Once a movement gets momentum there is always a fringe (and this case more than a fringe, especially in the city) that take a minutia of the movement and blow it up into monumental significance.  In this case, the micro-managing and obsession of cooking.  You know of which I speak.  When I was in high school my family was one of the first around to take up long distance bicycle touring.  We had decent bikes and we wore those old white helmets that looked like half an eggshell.  But we did it in T-shirts, shorts, and tennis shoes.  Now 30 some years later, everyone thinks they need to shave their legs and look like a competitor in the Tour de France simply to go on a nice bike ride.  This has now happened in cooking.  While having good equipment is nice and having a gathering of friends over wine and a nice meal contains a soothing animal warmth, the hipster movement has made cooking the Tour de France of food.  While yes cooking is important, the movement now has a plethora of those who are still out of touch with how their food is produced and the simple pleasures of eating foods that comfort like grandma used to cook.  A loose quote from the article is that if you cooked like your grandmother you would likely never open a cookbook.  Having to open a cookbook is indicative of how much of our roots, traditions and simple self-sustaining skills we have lost.  I would suggest that instead of learning how to cook Thai cuisine or attempting to become the next Julia Child, go to the farmers market, buy some great produce, and cook yourself up a good old fashioned hearty stew.  You will glow with satisfaction and you will have the basis of a recipe that you can build on and change and let evolve, that doesn’t require you to wear a stupid white hat and apron.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/03/shut-eat

Wordsmithing for the Cause, “I’m Going To Plant ‘Til I Can’t”

I am a guest writer for a blog called, Nature Bats Last.  Today my latest essay was posted.  I also posted it here just because.  I hope you find it interesting and thought provoking.

 

Plant til I can't

The Last Stage: Acceptance

I have been a pretty aware collapsitarian most of my life. I’m 51 and can remember watching films about jungles and oceans and all manner of eco-system topics in elementary school wondering why every film we watched had to end with a warning that if we didn’t watch our step humanity was going to destroy too much habitat for these natural beings to survive. It made me sad. Also, at that time, the population had hit 4 billion. Projected on the news and in school was that by the year 2000 we would hit close to 6 billion. As a child, I always found that mind boggling and never really thought I’d live to see the day. Of course, at the same time, I’m still pissed I didn’t get to live like the Jetsons when we hit the year 2000. We had to fight them terrorists instead, cuz they was cummin’ fer us. Meanwhile we heard nothing about a concept called blowback.

Anyone remember the commercial about pollution where the Native American in a canoe was paddling down the river past factories belching out smoke, the river itself clogged with trash and pollution? In the last scene there was a close up of him with a tear in his eye? That has always stuck with me. I think then it was called Project SOAR (Save Our American Resources).

My dream as a kid was to be a marine biologist. I always had aquariums growing up. I did fresh water, pond water set ups, marine and reef. I loved that like I can’t describe. It sounds funny but as a middle school and high school student I learned about environmental poisoning from those aquariums. An imbalance, particularly in population, unless the outside god-force (the aquarium keeper) kept the toxins at bay, the system would quickly acidify and crash the tank. I remember thinking that with all of our cars (I grew up in the Detroit area), and all of these people, weren’t we doing the same thing? After all, for all intents and purposes the earth is a closed system. The toxins are building, and there is no aquarium keeper removing the poison. In fact, the self- appointed, superior being in the aquarium, was going out of its way to create the poisons!

I have always loathed cities. To me they are the keeper of the sheep. As I tend to be kind of a bull in a china shop, I discovered first hand, through an encounter with a girlfriend’s father, just how vociferously citiots will defend the purity and sanctity of cities. On a ride he gave me back from their house one evening just before going off to college, I made one comment too many about how cities don’t feed people and that they were responsible for most of our ills (I was 17). Completely clueless as to what that meant he went off on me like a mad patriarch. Good thing I was raised by one, so I didn’t hesitate to stand my ground. He was red in the face pissed just like a Tea Partier screaming “don’t you love your country? What you do you mean cities don’t feed people!? Why don’t you just SHUT UP!”

I’ve lived on and worked by, the Great Lakes, lived on the high plains, the desert and in the high back country of the Rocky Mountains, and I have watched all of it over the course of my life, decline. Global Climate change came as no surprise to me. I have since given up trying to preach about the issue. No one who doesn’t want to hear will hear. Some may wake up, but watch the brouhaha that will happen when the mass of urban humanity wakes up violently when it is even more too late than today.

I have this image of myself in my dreams, sitting up high on a mesa on the western slope of Colorado filming the mass migration coming from California after the last denier uses the last drop of fresh water to irrigate his or her front lawn; Millions of people leaving their dead “paradise” thinking that anyone else could possibly want them in their backyard. Because of growing up in abuse, I’ve learned to simply walk away if the voice inside of me says, “Get the hell away.” I listen to the voice that says, “Danger, danger, Will Robinson”. People entrenched in their deluded mentally constructed worlds are very dangerous.

I became involved in the homesteading movement when I learned more about our food system. Having roots in Iowa, and “vacationing” there growing up, I watched our farms that had kitchen gardens, pigs, chickens, cows, and usually several different kinds of grains, turn into fields of mono-crops. Again, the aquarium hobby related. Spraying and pumping out diesel exhaust producing more and more toxins, farmers going broke and being kicked off the land, no family farms, nothing but fields of feed corn.

I received a Master’s Degree in a seminary during the peak of the farm crisis. I also worked with ranchers in the high country at the same time. That changed me. I went from being involved in the “what” of the issues, to the suffering being caused “by” the issues. I watched, like many of you, as thousands of farmers were forced off the land by the green revolution. I presided over a funeral where the deceased, having lost precious ranch land due to a bankruptcy, and who lost his wife at the same time through a divorce, drove down a canyon, tried to persuade her to come back, when rejected stopped at a liquor store and on the way home, unloaded a shotgun into his face. This was during a time when Colorado was seeing huge increases in the development of feedlots and plummeting beef prices.

Our capitalist system of greed has completely run over and destroyed the humanity of being human. Industrial civilization has put in place the proper infrastructure – essentially since WWII-, necessary to keep us in our places , to commodify everything, including the people whom the system is supposed to serve, and built the most horrific monolithic consumption machine our Patriarchal masters could envision. The colossus has taken a life of its own. It is too big to control, and any glitch in the machine will mean its catastrophic collapse and with it, the demise of us all. Even in the best scenario, even if the system didn’t collapse, we will slowly and painfully die off because our habitat – the aquarium – will be rendered all used up and not fit for life.

I wanted to say at this point that I don’t think that humanity is good at heart. But pondering that more I think that is wrong. I think that un-awakened people are not good at heart. I think that portions of our society (namely the patriarchs that built the industrial civilization colossus and convinced us of its virtues) are seriously, mentally ill. But because of the power they derived from their sociopathy, we have come to admire and emulate them as it being a virtue. I don’t think life among humans is exceptionally beautiful, however. I think too many put on a face or an act – be it the positive psychology movement, spirituality, fundamentalism and being saved – and try to convince themselves that it is. In my world, that is simply delusional. Nature is beautiful, humanity destroyed it. It’s too late, it’s too far gone. The time to resist was yesterday. The filters on the aquarium can’t keep up and there is no one to change them out and keep the system clean and inhabitable. After all, the temperature rises and the chaos in the weather patterns we see today, are happening because of emissions put into the atmosphere 40 YEARS AGO!! Imagine 40 years hence! In practically every human encounter in my life with people in supposed positions of power (parents, employers, religious leaders, etc.), I have always met with abuse coming from a patriarchal mindset seeking to control others so the ego can retain its existence. That is the poison that eats us as a species daily. That is why this will not and cannot change.

As a result of all of this, the fish are swimming upside down, and quite literally, the sea stars are melting. Now it is the time to simply live, or not live. Death is death no matter when or how. Can you not justify suicide today? Why would ethics today forbid it? Why would we even care? There is no purpose on this planet save to have lived. Our insanity destroyed the playground. 51 years of hell. Kurt Cobain sang to the effect: “All we are is all alone”…. He wasn’t wrong. Abuse of me, abuse of the poor, abuse of women, genocide, the abuse of the land base, abuse of diversity… A total culture and societal structure based on fear and abuse has led us to the brink. “What a long strange trip it’s been”. This is not the mark of a sane and intelligent species. It is more akin to a bacterium in a petri dish on the verge of catastrophic collapse. Blindly consuming its food source (or in our case, energy source), with no thought to its ultimate consequence it will unconsciously run right off a cliff. One big difference though, is that we created religion and a manifest destiny to help lock us into this death spiral in the name of our vast delusional superiority.

The last stage of grief is acceptance. I lived through all of the different stages of the grief process from about the age of 10. In fact, so much of my life could simply be a long drawn out sense of realizing that, as the song from YES goes, “This life’s not for living, its for fighting and for wars. No matter what the truth is, hold on to what is yours…” When one tries to live a life of altruism and compassion, and the whole of your species spits back into your face, you stand on the outside looking in, seeing the ridiculousness for what it is. Eventually, you become a different person. The rage (which I have been full of most of my life) subsides, you detach, and you become quiet. You see it all as a mirage. As it has become worse and the futility realized… I have become… quiet.

I got into the homestead movement, because I still thought that living as an example would help to save the world. I worked brutal hours; first turning a suburban home into a Dervaes style urban farm, and then building our JAZ Farm (www.jazfarmblog.com). I was hoping, like Dr. McPherson, that if I really showed the world how one could live with comfort, dignity, and harmony with nature, that everyone would enthusiastically follow me down the yellow brick road, dancing to the tune of the Pied Piper (to mix my story lines a tad).

Most of the response has been incredulous. Of course, my friends and family think it is great, but for acquaintances that are not as close, most of it was, like the sound-bites in the media, a flash in the pan. “Oh that is so cool, I really wish I could do something like that”, they’d say, and then it would fade. Invitations to come and help are met with excuses. Now I hope it is simply my hobby farm with my few enthusiastic friends who do get it. Seeing it for the life line it can be for us, if we simply do the work.

So while I have never really had to get to the point of acceptance over the finitude of the human dilemma (we are all going to die it’s simply a matter of when and how), I had to grieve over the futility of my efforts to really make a difference. Somehow, like I am sure with Guy, and my permaculture friends, and my doomer friends, and those who simply want to scream from the rooftops, we wanted to do something to make a difference. Chris Hedges commented about his activism that he wasn’t necessarily protesting against and calling out fascists thinking he was going to defeat them, but simply because they are fascists. A greater description of acceptance is hard to find. As Richard the Lionheart said to his brother Jeffery in The Lion in Winter, “When the fall is all there is… how you fall matters.” Acceptance. Personal meaning in the face of futility. “All alone, is all we are.”

The grief came from having to accept the fact that my dream of bringing the world around is dead. When you come from a helping profession, awakening to the fact that you can’t do anything of substance to turn the Titanic and knowing it is going to sink no matter what you do, is the experiencing of a death. It is the death of a purpose. It is the death of who you thought you were. It is the acceptance of knowing you were right all along and not being able to take egoic pride in being so prescient. It is a loss of life; YOUR life. All that you ascribed meaning to, like a soap bubble…. Pop! Gone.

I went through this sense of futility and grief at the same time that I was building out the farm’s infrastructure. I found my sense of enthusiasm beginning to wane mostly out of a sense of futility. Physically, I am a pretty strong male (think big ass defensive lineman). I also was able to summon up a tremendous amount of drive, mentally, to get me past the physical pain involved in getting things done. My self-imposed timelines were met and we are now on the verge of planting out over half an acre of organic vegetables. JAZ Farm lives.

Here is what happened to me during the acceptance phase. I lost the drive. I lost the mental toughness that drove me to work to exhaustion. Every time I told myself that I had to get my ass in gear to get this or that done, a little voice in the back of my head said, “Why?” “None of what you are doing matters.” “Who cares if the pig pen doesn’t get built?” That little voice rendered me – to what I would have considered in my life about others- a sniveling, weak minded, wimp. I spent days staring at my navel, not caring what happened. I spent weeks in depression thinking that I so eagerly went about this quest and it now being for nothing. My inner voice said, “The world is ending, humanity is mentally ill, and you my friend, just broke your body and turned your hips to dust, because you thought you were going to be the climate change messiah who led everyone to the promise land.” Grief: that person died. I have been holding vigil for him during the Polar Vortex winter of our discontent.

So from this depression came my previous two essays on NBL: Life is Different and What Is Your Calligraphy? Not because I wanted to continue my pontification, but like The President of the Galaxy in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” when looking for the answer to the great question and didn’t get it, said, “I think I did kind of a lot to get here…now I’m going to have to go figure out something else for my whole life to be about”. My life lost its meaning. I had to figure it out. I think maybe I have. Short answer: There doesn’t have to be any meaning. In fact, searching for meaning may be synonymous with pain.

Ponder on this statement: “Nothing really matters, and then again, so what if it did?” What really matters? If you sit down right now and ask yourself that, you may come up with something that your whole life can be about after you have come to see that what you thought you were going to be has died. Resurrect yourself like the Phoenix. How does one answer the question, “Who Am I?”

I found that the answer to that question was quite simple: No one. The world is too big and the damage so deep that I realized that I am no one. I am not the climate change, pure living, watch me and emulate me and change the world with me messiah. Maybe I am still Morpheus, getting people to take the red pill and then not getting invited to parties anymore. Fine. But if not…. fine! You are not your life. You are the eyes that the earth sprouted to look around with for awhile. The end. As I once heard a fellow astronomer say, “If you just leave Hydrogen and a little Lithium alone for long enough, it will eventually sing opera.”

The farm is still mine and the love of growing and harmony with nature is still in my blood and bones. It simply doesn’t have to be the bright light shining on a hill any longer. In fact, given the impending mass migration from the desert southwest, perhaps some anonymity isn’t a bad thing.

A wonderful friend uses the phrase: Ima grow food ‘til I can’t. To which I morphed that into “I’m going to plant ‘til I can’t”. It is a theme that awaits you on the other side of grief: That all there is in life, really, is just you being conscious. The only thing you can say about this existence is “I am”. That’s it. There is nothing else. So what do you do? I can say that for me, it is going through a conscious walking away from my species. While I share the same physical shape and needs, I don’t identify with the un-awakened creatures that have infested this place, largely only using their lizard brain. It is a mental evolution, a passing through the thin membrane between living in industrial civilization and trying to shake that sticky filth off. It is the final scene in a movie when the main character looks back on his home, his city, his country – in this case- his species, then rights himself in the saddle and slowly rides into the gray mist, never looking back, knowing that leaving is a death, and continuing to ride away, is rebirth.

In the past year, I mentally sat myself into the saddle. I am riding into the mist. I have left a life behind that says, “You need to be an activist. You MUST be involved! If you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem, and all that tripe.” I have watched that part of me die. I have grieved that I couldn’t have helped more. But it is dead. I am not looking back over my shoulder thinking that maybe I could just go back. Go do a little bit more. Others may take that path because of course, fascists are fascist, and maybe some find them a fun prey to hunt. Whatever works for them. Acceptance is an understanding and internalizing of the futility of it all; that you are only really doing it…for yourself.

“I’m going to plant ‘til I can’t” If people want to be involved, ok. If not, ok too. My species is beyond help because of the power elite. All I can do is do something I love; that feels spiritual and meaningful – even if it isn’t. For me, it means loving the metamorphosis of seeds and the peace of farm animals. It won’t save the world, but it will keep me from committing suicide. The illness of humanity is too great for me to do anything about. It is simply too big. Others will say, “That if we all work together then….”, “There is a great awakening coming and we’ll all ascend together” and of course, “People like you are the problem,” “Oh you’ve just given up so I guess the oppressors win,” etc, etc,etc. The mysterious rider slowly rides into the sunset. He fades into the Nexus, awakens from the Matrix and goes on to do….? Nothing in particular. I’ll probably just keep chopping wood and carrying water, collecting eggs, and Plant ‘til I Can’t.

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