Month: January 2015

For the Love of Fear


We talk of loving nature, its harshness and its beauty. But, at the same time we find ourselves fearful of nature. We fear its harshness and it unforgiving ways. But it is important to remember that fear is not in the heart of love. We cannot love something that we fear, and we often fear what we do not understand. And so, we are left with the conclusion that we do not understand nature because we do not understand ourselves. The issue is not nature.

Fear seems to be the great motivator of many people in our societies. I want to farm, to move to a farm, to begin a journey of learning about the thing that I love; of having it teach me, but I am afraid: not of nature, but of failing nature; of failing. Perhaps I talk of farming, its unforgiving nature and simplicity. But at the same time I understand that like nature, farming is as harsh as it is beautiful: it will not help me not to fail. Perhaps it is only a fool that goes to war without fear (as the ancient saying goes in Art of War). That is probably correct, but more often than not the fearful never go to war at all.

Fear is like money, and like money it has a tendency to override all else. This is a shame because we miss so much because we fear failure, or others, or nature. Fear is not all bad though. Fear protects us, and if we are smart it leads us to “think things through” before acting. However, if fear is keeping us safely comfortable, warmly numb, we should be afraid

Perhaps we ought to befriend fear, to make it our partner in crime, our travel companion. After all, it is not going anywhere soon. But like any partner or companion we soon tire of each other and look for blame, we shuck responsibility or even our dreams. Because at the core of us all is the capacity to understand it is not fair to fear; for although it is not in the heart of love fear is a part of being human.


The Other Road Less Travelled


 Where I live the mountains are king and the prairie is a lowly and often forgotten cousin. But today was different if only for me. I was out in the prairie (rather than the mountains) today and this became more clear than usual. The grasslands that make up most of the state that I live in often get overlooked because of the grandiose mountains that are strung along the west. But today I decided that less would be better. Driving east I hurriedly understood the meaning of less: there was seemingly nothing. But this is the point I reminded myself.

When I stopped at the Buttes to hike around I really started to understand the less-is-better mantra. The dirt, the shrubs, the rock; they were all different and beautiful in a way that is unfortunately often overlooked. Spending a few hours out in the nothingness, listening to nothing and doing nothing, the beauty really started to show itself. There were lisps of snow between the rocks and cacti that looked innocent enough until stepping through up to your waist in the cold, windswept whiteness. The wind is constant, and a constant reminder that it is the land that is in control and not you. This is rough but beautiful country.

Many may call this land wasteland but this is a misnomer. What is wasted about the beauty of a natural prairie, the inner-workings of nature at its most simple and yet complex. How can we look at the nothingness, the quiet and the solitude and call it a waste? It is not a waste to the multitudes of unseen animals that make it their home. It is not a waste to those who take the time to go “the other way”.

I ate a simple lunch and laid on a rock, taking a nap in the wind and the cold; the sun in my face. I woke up with nothing on my mind and thanked the land for sharing its wasted beauty. I thought of all the ways such land might be viewed. Some view it for the minerals and gas that it contains. Some view it with regard for the plow. Others don’t view it as anything more than a long and boring stretch of land that stands between them and the next city. However, today I viewed this land as what it is: a reminder that more is not necessarily better, that less is often beautiful, and that it is a waste not to realize these things.

Two Boxes of Bugs


I have ordered two new packages of bees, and I have mixed feelings for doing so. My bees died abruptly last September, in part because of Varroa mites. It was really a heart-breaking experience. A few weeks ago I took the hive apart and thoroughly cleaned it, stored it, and have now begun building a new hive for one of the two new packages that I have ordered.

Why do I have mixed feelings?   The answer is simple: I was unable to keep my previous hive alive even before winter set in; I am acutely aware of the responsibility that I am taking on. However, I believe it is important not to give up, and to do what I can to help the bee population (killing them aside) by learning about the animals and continuing to try to help them in the best way I know how.

This conclusion led me to understand that Truth is more important than fiction. The truth is: bees are going through hard times, and need our gentle help. The illusion would be to turn our backs on the problems that we are made aware of (I was made aware of last year). The truth is: human beings are at least in part responsible for the problems that bees are having. The illusion would be to pretend that we are innocent with regard to the problems that we have caused.

With all of this in mind, I am cautiously optimistic about the bees that I will receive. I will do my best (but what if my best is not good enough). I will use the knowledge that I learned from my first hive (but what if I cannot know enough). The only answers that I have are that I will continue to try to do better, and I will continue to try to know more. This is the best I have, and all that I can do. I hope the bees that I get somehow understand, and I hope they have the patience to put up with my mistakes.

Even in their death, my bees continue to teach me things that only experience can teach.   This is yet another reason that I continue to be so thankful for my box of bugs. I will have two boxes of bugs in April, and will no doubt learn even more from them. I only hope that my student-ways are enough to keep them healthy, happy, or at the very least alive so that they can teach me even more.

More Beer Please


Haven’t brewed beer in awhile. This is a problem! The garage fridge, although not completely empty, does have shelf space and in the world of home brewing this is not good. I bottle my beers (simplicity and all that), and on top of fridge space I have an ample supply of empty beer bottles awaiting the next nectar to fill their empty spaces. It seems I cannot go into the garage without hearing their pleas to be filled.

It’s not just the logistics of beer that is problematic. The act itself is important. I’ve put wheels (with locks) on my brewing tables and stands that haven’t been tested yet. I have not heard the hiss of the propane burner under aluminum pots in while. I have not smelled the delicious aroma of mash and wort. I’ve not taken in the beauty of my home brew system in all its homemade, rough-hewn glory. I’ve not wondered at the tubs of hot water and cleaner, the chemist’s tools, and the tubes…oh the tubes.

Brewing beer is, well, more than just brewing magic. It is also drinking home brew early in the morning. It is finding local barley, and using homegrown hops. It is note-taking and smelling. It is breakfast and talk of the beer to come. It is realizing that sometimes what we think is most important is not. In beer brewing, that realization comes with the act of cleaning constantly. It is an all-day brew and feeling tired after you’ve done something that you know is good. It is also watching the carboy for baby bubbles and waking up the next morning to a foam-filled breather and the smell of bananas with a smile on your face.

Brewing beer is not just the day of the brew. Its pleasure continues. I think that brewing beer is one of those things that never end. It is much like music: a musician never gets good enough. I like the process and the realization that the process is ongoing. Bottling the beer, the waiting game begins. And finally…finally the first taste, the anticipation and worry; pouring over your notes and writing tasting notes, I like to share the first taste: more taste-buds the better, and anyway what is beer without friends.

I plan to rectify the problem soon. What better way to bring in a new year than to brew some beer!