The Sun Goes Down

A new place; a new beginning. Pulling the old, familiar tools out again I go to work. Things are the same, but yet (as people always seem to say) they are the same. The smells that make up a home coat this house, but they are unfamiliar as they always are. At first, not knowing where to begin, I begin; and the day goes. The sun comes up.

I throw old memories down the staircase knowing that at one time they were important. They aren’t mine, but I feel for them nevertheless. Almost as if time as stopped I pause at a few, looking at them and understanding that there is a time for everything and an end to everything as well. The house is full of these memories; some are good, and some are just…memories.

The wood stove warms up the place and it comes to life. The house was never dead as some that I have known were near. It is a heavy feeling to work in a near-dead house. This one is tired, it is worn out but friendly. Silent, but thankful. Years go by in an hour. Days go by in a minute. I put another slice of wood in the stove and the cinammon smell of dried oak and pine fill the room.

The house is patient with me as I go about my chores. I leave for while to start a tractor, to make plans, to pick up wood, to have coffee, but I come back and start again. Each time I walk into the house the musty smell of smoke, incense, wood and beer fill my nose. It is not a bad smell, not a good smell; it is the smell of years of life, of existence, of survival, of talks and fights.  It is not my life, but somehow it is all of our lives. Human life is messy and the house as experienced all that people can give it.

And now, like me, it begins a new adventure. I almost see it smile as a close the door as the sun goes slowly down behind the trees.



face roadmap

As he realized, there was no explanation and searching for answers to the puzzle that the past posed, he found none.  With the past in his pocket, there was only the unknown, the future left to pack.  And as he folded and flipped the future a new realization dawned: it was not his own.

“The future is not ours…”, he thought out loud.  “The future belongs to no one; it is, in fact, nothing.”  As the thought settled in his head he reached for another piece to pack and found that there was always something to put into his bag, into his pocket to become the tear-soaked past.

“Something out of nothing is the truth; finally!  The Truth!!”

And what of meaning and these dangerous days of wonder and worry.  There will come more mistakes and more misgivings, but of what?  And about what?  If the future is truly nothing, than we are left with the pocket full of past and the present that we cannot notice.  Are we truly slaves to the limits of time or are we burdened with the freedom of space?

Philosophical nonsense made meaningless by poetry and prose, by literature and leitmotifs.  And as these thoughts ran through his head, the responsibilities that he had once believed he had had continued to create something that was never his.  Picking up his empty bag and feeling the weight in his pocket, he turned to go.

The Unattainable 

Looking at a mountain and slowly crawling up its magnificient facade by eye; the peak, so far up, and smiling down, from its precipice in the sky; seems to smile and smirk as if to say there is no way you will come to me.
And as you ready yourself, taking long breaths and feeling the tingle in your gut; you busy yourself with tools and toys and thoughts of what you must; the answer, you realize and come to know, is in your thoughts and not what you see.

The journey begins one step at a time, one foot, one stone, one rock; you begin the climb and see the sights that the trees down below have blocked; the climb is steep and the rocks are loose and the peak continues to smile.
The days go by, the tiredness heavy, and newness has worn off; your muscles sore, and so alone but the voices in your head they scoff; the morning comes and the pain is fierce, but ahead mile after mile, after mile.

Until one day, all hope is gone, the peak it snears and screams; the pain is numb, the cold is deep, and misery is in your dreams; you walk again, your bones are brittle, your desire is all but erased.
Dumb and blind, careless and lost, your adventure is no more; no more pain can cause you harm, there is no voice to implore; but at the top, you’ve made your goal! And now a smile comes across your face.

At the peak you sit and eat, and hope and power you feel; the sun shines down and the rocks are warm, your fate it has been sealed; you have conquered your fear and made better your life; explained the unexplainable.
Looking down, the trail is known, and the miles they melt away; you’ve not met your match, you’ve accomplished much no matter what others say; all are proven wrong, and you are honestly proud to have attained the unattainable.

It’s Just a Feeling

There is a place for that feeling that we get, our gut feeling, without explanation, about places, people, and decisions.  Sometimes that feeling is a warm and tingly sensation in the stomach and sometimes that feeling is a knot.  Somehow (it seems) our body is reacting to thoughts that we might not realize that we have; somehow are emotion is a road sign to an unknown understanding.

Perhaps this unconscious intelligence has just been blinded by a society that is motivated not by curiosity but by consumerism?  Maybe it takes time to realize, to listen, that how we feel is sometimes linked to what we do.  David Hume famously stated that reason is the slave of the passions.

Do not get me wrong: logical reasoning and rationale must be the foundation; we cannot lie to ourselves and equate our emotions with intelligence.  However, we are human and we must accept the bastard child, emotion.  Reigned in and controlled it will steer us toward what we truly want, ironically.

Think about it: the dreams that we pursue are not rational when we envision them but must be rationally pursued to make them a reality.  So, it seems, that we have a choice: 1) to sleep and perchance to dream, or 2) To dream and perchance to act.  It’s just a feeling after all, but feelings count when we choose to listen carefully.


More is Not Better

Give Me Give Me MORE | sweatglow

There’s a lesson to be learned in the idea that more is better.  First, this is an idea that has proven itself time and time again false, and yet as a society, as individuals, and as a race we continually strive for more.

More is larger, more is better; we need more and we desire more!  In fact, our society has based the concept of progress on the idea of more.  Oddly enough, it seems that intuitively we know that this is not correct; it is not right.  But we continue on.

Our current president has made a name for himself by believing, or at least selling the belief, that more is better.  The idea clearly does not work.  More seems to undermine better; quantity does not equal quality.  Rhetoric does not equal intelligence.

To move forward the concept of value needs to be redefined: both what we value and why we value it.  A self-sufficient lifestyle will do wonders in redefining what is important.  In fact, the whole concept of self-sufficiency is better because it allows us to redefine value based upon need alone.

No longer is money the measure of value; no longer can we confuse desire with need.  No longer can we continually accept that more is better.  To be self-sufficient is not simply to feed, heat and shelter yourself.  No, to be self-sufficient one must THINK for one’s self.  More thinking does not equal better thinking.  More production does not equal better products.

We can no longer define what we value with quantity.  So, what do we do?  One good starting point might be to start with less: buy less, think better about those few things that are actually important, and produce quality rather than depend upon quantity.  Perhaps we will find that more is worthy only of less thought, and less importance.


Here’s Knowing You!

Pork and Belly 2


It was a good day yesterday. Pork and Belly, our pigs, are hanging in the garage and the job of butchery begins tomorrow. We have four sides to get through and the process will be a learning situation. The process of raising, slaughtering and butchering your own meat is (as the words used to describe the process) a somewhat violent process towards the end but I choose to broaden my perspective and see the beauty in the cycle of life.

Pork and Belly were happy right up to the end. Sniffing at the barrel of the pistol that was about to end his life, Pork was at ease and full of trust; never stressed and never felt a thing. As I took a minute or two to calm my nerves, holding the pistol and watched as he poked at it innocently. I describe this not to disgust or dismay, but to remind us all (including me) that death is not the important thing: life is.

While it is true that Pork and Belly trusted me and I broke that trust, it is also true that I built that trust by giving them the best life that I could. Their life was full of rutting around, eating acorns, pats and scratches and a warm bed of hay every night. There lives were good by any standard and it is that life that I am proud of.

This is a process that I believe is necessary if we insist upon eating meat. It affords us the understanding that by eating we take something of great value, something that we must come to appreciate as we cannot bring it back: a living, breathing, and thinking entity. I do not thank a god or gods for their lives. I am thankful that I have been given the chance to look at life straight in the eye; all the blood and beauty of it. It only gives me a greater appreciation of the food that I eat, and the animals’ lives that I take in order to do just that.

Raise a glass with me to Pork and Belly
Good pigs they were, and good food they are!


coffee pic

There are rituals that we all seem to abide by often without knowing it.  These rituals seem so inconspicuous when we are alone but when guests come, or when they are otherwise interrupted, they show themselves in unusual ways.  If we work away from the home we tend to enjoy the workplace just a little more; or when we work at home we notice the rituals and how they are being poked at, if just a little.

This is nothing against the guests in our houses; they are welcome and enjoyed.  But the little rituals in our lives are, well, just a little put out.  If you have pets, especially a dog, you probably notice this.  However, when our own rituals must be put on hold, the dog’s perspective doesn’t seem that strange.  We, like our pets, live by rituals.

The ritual itself doesn’t really matter, it is not the ritual act that counts.  Rather it is the act of having a ritual that seems important.  We do things in a certain way, at a certain time.  Personally,  I notice this when my early morning coffee ritual is changed (read “interrupted”).  Coffee itself is a ritual, not just the need and desire for caffeine.  Coffee in the morning and a beer (or two) at night are explicit rituals, but what about those small, inane rituals that our lives are filled up with?

We do not notice the small moments in our lives when we are in the middle of living them.  It is only when we are reminded of them that they matter.  Perhaps rituals are not unlike our past: they are made and then remembered?  Perhaps Hume and other philosophers are right when they state that we are nothing but a collection of memories?  This may be the case, but if so then the memories themselves are rituals incognito.

The Act of Caring


Pork and Belly: it has been a pleasure!

It is getting close to doing the inevitable for the last time this year: I must “process” the last twenty-five chickens and more difficult, I must say good-bye to Pork and Belly our two pigs. There is no getting around the fact that death is violent, no matter how we choose to express it. Killing is even more violent. But death and killing are ubiquitious and we must come to understand that sometimes the acts are not necesarily wrong if we are to live with peace of mind.

When the decision was made to make self-sufficiency the goal the decision was also made to act philosophically; to be philosophical we must also act philosophical. And the reality of eating brings upon us the reality of killing. I have run into many that have expressed their opinion of the uselessness of philosophy, but in my years of teaching and trying to live philosophy their conclusion seems empty.

To kill an animal, even for food, honestly, we must look it in the eye and put the knife to its throat; this is the honest thing to do and because honesty is important to the act and so the act is philosophical. The question of killing is most certainly a moral question, one which the homesteader needs to ask themself: is it the moral thing that I am doing?

This is all to say that Pork and Belly present a unique opportunity to put philosophy into action, but also present a moral decision. We started with two pigs and they become as much pets as livestock. So, the obvious answer seems to be: more pigs, less pets. In other words, with more animals on the chopping block we don’t get attached. However, this solution is sidestepping the real question; it is a way of making ourselves immune to the inevitable act of killing an animal.

In the end we must choose: to eat meat or not to eat meat, but in making our decision we must also realize that life includes and is not the dichotomy of death: life and death are one in the same, and this idea (again) is philosophical. As humans, we have the ability, the capacity to choose morally, we must choose philosophically; life does not care, but we must because we can.


bob the rooster

In Memory of “Bob” the rooster and one of his girls.

This last week we have lost a beautiful rooster and hen; one to a hawk, and the rooster to  (what I believe) to be a fox.  These losses were unfortunate, but the fact remains: this is what those animals do.  They are predators and they were acting naturally.  As a farmer, my natural reaction is and was anger: something must pay, and the hawk and fox were prime possible recipients.  As an intelligent person, however, I am capable of understanding justice.

Sometimes we are faced with difficult decisions and in these situations we must make a choice: to react or act.  I could shoot hawks and hunt fox but for what reason?  There is only one answer to this: revenge.  Perhaps killing the fox is necessary for it will return, but the hawk…and at best such a decision is only partially reasonable.

This led me to consider reason.  As humans we are emotional creatures with the capacity, with the freedom, to act intelligently.  Unfortunately often enough we do not act accordingly.  The loss of my rooster and hen presented a situation in which I was presented a choice: to act reasonably or emotionally.  But I had left out another choice: the middle ground: to act both reasonably and emotionally.

I was saddened to lose my rooster and hen, but I could not get myself to simply kill animals for what they do naturally: they cannot be held accountable and so it would be immoral of me to kill them for acting the way they act.  However, I did not want them to return and kill more livestock.  The logical conclusion, was to accept the losses and try to lessen the chances of the predator’s capability of doing what comes naturally: to give them a chance to learn.

Many farmers would tell me that it is not worth the trouble: to kill the animals, and sometimes they would be correct.  However, I value my farm animals and other animals and their lives in a different way: as living things.  So, according to my values it is “worth” my trouble to find a compromise.  Sometimes a little emotion goes a long way, and sometimes (in order to remain moral creatures) we must learn to value all life rather than simply the life we deem worthwhile.

The Silence of Space

space II

Much of this blog has centered upon the goal of self-sufficiency, but little do we realize that such goals come with their own baggage.  No matter what the goal we have, it will pale in comparison to the idea of that goal.  This is simply a reality rather than a judgement.  The idea is so opaque, so brittle in its nature; easily breakable but it is the only solid ground we have to stand upon if we are to succeed.

If to simplify we must complicate, then to achieve a goal we must have an idea of that goal . Perhaps the most important act (it does come down to action) is to move forward while remembering the past; to complicate in order to simplify.  But again, remembering the past complicates the very simplicity that we desire.  It does sound so encumbered, so esoteric.    How can self-sufficiency be so complicated?  It is because that while life is simple, to act is complicated.

We must all light upon a surface and look around; we must all settle in the security of knowing that the life that we lead is not only up to us, but up to our realizing that there is no ideal.  We must acknowledge the silent moments and learn from them what we can; they are so few and far between.

So, as I feed the animals I must take the time to consider them.  When I work in the garden, I must look for those moments between the weeds that give me happiness.  When I work a piece of wood, I must follow the history of the grains of the tree that it is made of.  When I look up, I must realize that in the end we are self-sufficient like it or not; realize it or not.  The silence of space reminds me of that, and the act becomes complicated.