lifestyle

And Then Pigs

piglets

(Meet Pork and Belly, our new pigs)

For some years I’ve wondered where the line was between being a gardener and a farmer.  It began when I made the conscious decision to grow my own food.  I felt like a farmer, but couldn’t really call myself one.  Then, I endeavored beekeeping.  I started with one hive; they unfortunately died.  I got two more and lost them.  I was really hurt.

I thought that this is what a farmer must feel like when he loses livestock or must acquiesce to some sickness and put an animal down.  They were just bees (I said to myself), but they were more than that: they were my livestock, my responsibility.  I was, however, still just a gardener with bees.

Last year when we bought our current property we had to start from the ground up.  I renovated the house over the winter: I was a carpenter.  I plowed a large plot for my garden: I was a gardener.  Early this spring I built a greenhouse: I was a market gardener.  Bees came and I was again (gladly) a beekeeper.  Not long afterwards I built a chicken coop: carpenter again.

Finally, the time had come to get chickens; there were animals coming to a farm.  I felt that finally I could call myself a farmer.  I picked up the small chicks and installed them in the coop.  They had water, they had food, they had straw; I must be a farmer, but alas…still nothing.  I could have chickens in the city.

Then, I got a call on Friday from a farmer that I had met.  I ordered manure and we talked pigs.  Evidently, I ordered two piglets when they were ready (about 8 weeks old), which would be in about 2 weeks.  He told me that “my” pigs were ready to be picked up.  My wife and myself scrambled to build a house for them, a pen and bought some electric fencing.  We had the whole thing ready within 24 hours.

We picked them up and put them down in their pen.  I was nervous.  The cuffed around in the dirt and ate some food.  They were getting use to their new home.  They were a bit nervous in their new surroundings; they didn’t know what to expect.  They were, in fact, a bit like me: nervous in their new position.  Without knowing it I had fallen into farming, but I think the pigs realized it before I did.

Change

change-fish

Change is inevitable.  It does not come secretly into the night, but glaringly through our lives, if we only notice it.  Perhaps we turn our backs on it in hopes that it will go away.  But change will never go away; it is the reality in which we live.

Change is neither good nor bad.  It has no moral code, but a clear path which is all and everything.  It is the certainty that morality will never be.  It is reasonable to accept it, as it is reasonable to accept the moral codes which make sense.

Change cannot be ignored.  To ignore change is to ignore the water on the planet upon which we live; it is to ignore the infinite space above us to wonder at a small ditch beside the road.  To live life looking at the ground makes no difference to the change in our lives.

Change is fundamental.  It is both sufficient and necessary.  The fideism in which we lose ourselves blinds us to the ineffable, to the sublime, to the practical, to the rational, to the happiness in our lives, and to the sorrows that we must all face.

Change is the only consistent; the only inexorable constant, the philosophical truth, the scientific fact, the universal of the universe, the one god which is not love, but change itself.

We can change if only accept the change that is our lives.

Ten Things to Make you Feel Better

expectations

 

In this age of Trump, fake news, insanity and stupidity everyone needs something to make them feel better.  Here are ten suggestions guaranteed to help:

  1. Plant something and take care of it; start a garden.
  2. Go for a bicycle ride.
  3. Cook something completely from scratch (and drink wine while you’re doing it).
  4. Do something to help someone, but do it anonymously.
  5. Do #3 and take it to a neighbor.
  6. Take a long weekend and spend it in an expensive hotel.
  7. Go for a hike on a quiet trail, early in the morning (and I mean early!)
  8. Write a letter (on paper with a pen) to a friend.
  9. Close all the windows, all the curtains, and the doors and spend a day doing nothing.  Note: be sure to stock up with your favorite food for this one.
  10. Take a first step towards a long put-off dream.

Do not expect these suggestions to have the expected consequences, but if you delve into them in full guaranteed fulfillment is a certain consequent.

It Could Be Worse

Denmark has been rated as one of the happiest countries in the world for some years running (I think that Norway won this year’s test).  But, when reporters asked a prominent university professor in Copenhagen why his answer was, well…very Danish.

“We simply lower our expectations.”

Having lived in Denmark for some years and being fluent in Danish, I had to chuckle.  That answer sums up the attitude of the Danish culture as I have experienced it.  This seems very un-American and at the very least unattractive to Americans.  But, I believe that it is true, at least in a sense.

Recently in a conversation another somewhat “Danish” attitude towards happiness cropped up.  The interviewer asked how to be happy and the answer appropriated was:

“Always remember that it could be worse.”

This, too, has a ring of truth in it.  Lowering our expectations and remembering that things could get worse does help. Not expecting so much and being better than a worse scenario has the resulting happiness, at least in a sense of the word.  And perhaps that is enough, but perhaps not.

Then again,I am reminded of a song lyric (Queens of the Stone Age) that also alludes to happiness:

“Ignorance is bliss, until someone takes your bliss away.”

If you read, you might be reminded of an ancient philosophical idea (originated by Socratic philosophers) that says the same thing.  As J.S Mill wrote alluding to that idea:

“It is better to be miserable as Socrates than happy as a pig.”

So can a pig lower it’s expectations, and in doing so is it reminded, as it is shuffled off to slaughter, that things could be worse?

 

Mistakes…Dreams will Be Made

dreams

Dreams are interesting endeavors.  They are experiments more than anything.  But, can pursuing a dream be a mistake?  As mentioned in a previous post, it is hard to remember your goal when you are in the middle of it all.  To answer that rhetorical question: I’m not sure that pursuing a dream can be a mistake.

Think about it: a dream is an experiment; the goal is (at best) unknown and even perhaps undefined.  Pursuing a dream, therefore, can never be a mistake.  Pursuing that dream is always worth it, but it must be remembered that dreams may not be what you think they are.

Sometimes dreams will enlighten, and most of the time they will be frustrating.  Sometimes dreams clarify even if they are never achieved in full.  All of these possibilities are in a way necessities because having a dream itself is a necessity.  Imagine what life would be without dreams.

You must give up things to pursue dreams, but those things are often vague and easily given up, at least in the beginning.  In dreams, mistakes will be made, but it is never a mistake to pursue your dreams.

The Middle Bit

themiddle_logo

New adventures are often difficult, especially in the middle.  In the middle of things the motivation is often forgotten and the goal(s) are hard to remember.  The daily grind grows like a weed and every day becomes, well, everyday.  Adventures, we forget, also include the every day living of life: we wake up, we work, we eat, and we sleep.

But when we are planning the adventures of our lives we are often caught up in the possibilities; as was mentioned earlier: dreams that come true are no longer dreams.  In the middle of it all, though, we need to remember that the adventures and dreams in our lives are always worth it, even in the middle bits.

I was once asked why I bother with handmade and with self grown when there were so many more efficient ways to do those very same things.  Other than liking it, I had a hard time answering.  The answer came suddenly a few weeks later: because dreams and adventures are not efficient.  My answer, however, at the time:  “If I have to explain it, you would not understand it.”

And so in the middle bits we often find ourselves wanting a bit more efficiency, a bit more speed and always more time.  But dreams and adventures are actually built (slowly) in the middle, where all the work happens.  We spend much of our time trying to speed up rather than slow down and in doing so we miss the one thing many of us search for but call it by the incorrect name.  We are actually searching for the middle bits.

Work, Rest, Repeat

stress

There’s only so many hours in a day.  That is the lesson to learn if one is to try to take a self-sufficient idea to a self-sufficient reality.  Some of those hours are better spent resting and some are better spent working.  There is a balance and I notice it when I swing by (thanks to J. Mellencamp for that bit of word play).  This week was to be the week where both the greenhouse and the woodshed were to be started (not started) as well as my wife’s desk (started), and the cabinet doors and closet door for a new built in finished (done).  I did mention to catch a bad head cold.

I don’t believe I’m lazy, but looking back over the week the projects fell short.  But is that really the case?  There must be time for rest and relaxation; we all know that.  Taking time, however, is a different story.  Work defines us to a great extent and there is nothing wrong with that, but the guilt of not getting all the projects going is ridiculous.  There are those out there that feel this way and know what the importance of rest and relaxation are.  They also know how difficult it is to do when there is a list of things to be done.

Self-employment carries the weight of work rather than the joy of work, but this is unfortunate.  Often those self-employed become that for the simple reason of making decisions for themselves.  However, the reality is often the opposite: the projects needing to be finished make the decisions for them.  There is nothing wrong with having to work until late in the evening or even “crazy” hours, but there is something skewed to the thought that one must do this.

I, like many, enjoy working and the feeling that comes with finishing a job, doing it correctly and being able to look upon something built with my own hands.  This is a craft-less world that needs more time, not more things.  This is, perhaps, a good thing to remember when we wake up in the morning with a list of unfinished projects or unfinished business. The business of rest is equally important and (as I am finding) equally difficult as business as usual.

Merry Christmas!

country-christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!  It has been the time for Christmas spirit as well as that time of year when we all try just a little harder to be a little nicer.  Just as so many other things in our lives, it is a good reminder that in order to change the world we must first begin with the belief that we can, and then act upon it.  It is not much different than the Christmas season itself.

You may not believe in Santa Claus, but to act as if you do doesn’t hurt.  Santa Claus embodies the potential that we have as individuals.  The hard part of potential is that it takes time, more than a season of cheer has to spare.  But it is well worth it.  But that is perhaps the worth of believing in Santa: we can better ourselves for reasons other than selfish ones.

Perhaps Christmas reminds us that our dreams do not have to be forgotten; that our goals do not have to go unsung.  Christmas reminds us that failure is an option, but never for long.  The Christmas spirit is that spirit that we all have in those unfortunately few moments when we forget ourselves and the typical cash and consumerism motivations that we often do not realize define us.

While some of us cannot be with family, we can maintain our Christmas spirit by remembering that family is not always blood relatives and that friends are friends even if they are far away.  And so, I raise a glass of my favorite Islay to those I cannot be with tonight, and wish those as well as everyone else little bit of happiness in their lives, as much as there is room for!

The Daily Dream

pastoral

It’s interesting watching dreams move in and on, change and morph into new and strange, sometimes traditional and familiar themes.  At the end of the day, working to make a dream a reality is like most other jobs: it requires long hours, tough work, compromise, eating crow and learning; always learning.

The snow is on the ground now, and days are spent in the wood shop making cabinets and built-ins, making onion and potato boxes, and planning out woodsheds and chicken coops for the coming spring.  With each of these things the drawings and dimensions, the measurements and plans change almost with each passing day.  But the days pass, and pass quickly.

Every morning, however, starts the same: make coffee, fire up the wood stove in the shop, and take the dog for a walk.  I guess some things never change.

Six months into my dream, reality is taking hold and does so every morning when I get out of bed and feel sore, wanting more sleep but not being able to sleep because of the day’s work that rolls around in my head.  I watched, and worked, with my father-in-law dairy farmer for some years and told him this the other day.  He just laughed, but it sounded like “I told you so…”

And so tomorrow morning I’ll get up, make coffee, fire up the wood stove and go for a walk in the snow with the dog, and when we get back, I’ll get on with the work of making my dream a reality.

 

New-Old Lifestyles

Image result for old farm tools

When talking to people, especially older people who sometimes don’t understand why anyone would want to “go back” to raising and slaughtering your own meat, growing your own food and working your own land, they often point out that they are “fine” eating the modern products and processed foods of our current world.  They are right, of course; at least sometimes, or partially.

But the real point is lost on them; the point is not just the healthy aspect, but also the moral aspect.  We humans have somehow lost the necessary respect that life deserves and demands.  It is not just for health reasons that we till our own gardens and raise and slaughter our own meat.  It is healthier and better (lacking the additives and antibiotics) but is most certainly a more moral choice (respect for life and the living): a better choice.

A respect for life is the cornerstone of the agrarian lifestyle.  This does not preclude, but does not necessarily include, a religious adoration of life, but it is a necessary moral choice that does much to define who we are at the end of the day.  People that were raised on farms eighty years ago seem to remember the drudgery and forget the community.  They seem to remember the hardships and forget the rewards.  I’m not sure why and perhaps I will too at some point, but I hope not.

The irony of talking to older people who have had such “lifestyles” is that they seem to look upon the new crop of self-sufficient people as being a bit spoiled, but I would argue that the new farmers of old ideas are not spoiled, but curious and willing to do the work.  Although many people will fail at these new old endeavors (because the physicality and harshness of the work have not changed) there are many who have found solace and education in pursuing  “non-progressive” ways of life.

I think that when an honest lifestyle is dismissed so easily by others that it is because those that dismiss it have never really thought about their own life.  To do so, like the new agrarians will find, is physically and morally demanding; no less than the new- life that they have chosen to lead.