Yearning for the Abstract   46 comments

Monday, I went to Soapstone Lake, hiked around, startled a couple elk having an afternoon drink, laid down in the moss and shade, trees above me and a fern dangling inches from my face, and briefly napped. I sat by the lake and finished Dave Eggers’ A Hologram For The King, which is a beautiful and sad novel. On the way to work Tuesday, I saw two deer off in the distance fording the Miami River and then shortly after that a bird began to fly diagonally toward and away from my car, somewhat mesmerizing me as I very slowly grew closer and closer to it—at a high speed—before it disappeared from my view, only to reappear a few moments later in my rear view mirror, tumbling in the road and surely dead or dying. I didn’t mean to hit it; I hardly even thought about it as it was happening. The moment hypnotized me.

I’ve been trying to hold onto this magic the last few days, as the human world hasn’t quite been so lovely or magical, though it’s had a sadness I was thinking of even as I accidentally killed that bird. The days keep being beautiful and my work outside invigorates me even while I fight melancholy in my quieter, less engaged moments. At some point nearly every day of late, I feel overwhelmed, seemingly always in different ways.

I need to be writing stories.

— ∞ —

I wrote the above almost two weeks ago. I meant it to be part of an entry here on the blog, but it’s only now making it to this venue. As I imagine most of my regular readers have noticed by now, I’ve been missing for about a month. As you might also have inferred, it’s as much as anything because of the subject of my previous post: the current busyness of my life. I already catalogued much of that, so I won’t recount the details. Suffice it to say, I haven’t managed to set up a system for myself to get my writing done despite my work. Hence the quiet around here.

However, there’s a bit more to it than that, and it’s something I realized a couple weeks ago while working out in the garden. It’s a realization summed up in the last sentence of the above writing. While I’ve been so busy this summer with the actual work of growing and raising and selling food, I’ve become more interested in focusing on and writing about the abstract during my down time. I’ve been reading fiction rather than nonfiction and have felt a strong urge to write fiction rather than essays.

Throughout the winter, I rambled on and on here about homesteading and voluntary poverty and simplistic living and connections to nature. Now that much of those ramblings have manifested themselves in the messy, imperfect ways that the real world tends to deal in, and now that these manifestations are taking up a good deal of my time, I find myself not particularly motivated to continue to explore them in my writing. I honestly want to deal more in the abstract in that part of my life. It’s not that I’m not still thinking of all these things, of course—it’s that I’m a bit sick of constantly thinking of them in concrete terms and am interested in trying to hash out some of the emotional reality of all this floating under the surface. And I want to do it in an under the surface sort of way.

I feel the need for some metaphors, in other words.

That’s why I wrote that I need to be writing stories above. Writing stories is therapy for me. I could use a little therapy at the moment, and I could stand to tackle some of these issues from a different direction.

— ∞ —

Thus, much as I took a hiatus last August after starting this blog to get through the busy season, I’m taking something of a hiatus again. I hate to do it, but it’s simply what I need. I want to keep writing, but I don’t want to, for the moment, do the sort of writing I’ve been doing here.

Earlier this week, in fact, as I pondered a complete rewrite of a short story I wrote years ago, something more ambitious and perhaps nearing the state of a novel came to mind, and I’m excited to dive into writing that. So that’s where my writing energy is going to be going for at least the next few months. However, I also hope to write some smaller pieces, perhaps some flash fiction even, and to just dabble with whatever comes to me.

With that in mind, I’ve been considering how to handle this hiatus. I may not post much of anything here until the fall, but that’s not what I’d prefer. I hate to shut the blog down completely. So, rather than going entirely quiet, I’ll look to perhaps post some small writings like what I wrote at the beginning of this post. I may put some kind of flash fiction up, or just some small recounting of something that happened to me written in a bit more of a literary style. I don’t know if any of my readers are really interested in that; please feel free to chime in in the comments, and don’t hesitate to let me know if you’re not interested.

It’s entirely possible, too, that none of those plans will manifest here on the blog and that I won’t really start writing again until after the summer passes. Either way, you can expect much less frequent postings here than was common before the last month.

I do plan to get back to the blog’s regular tone once the fall and winter roll back around. I have little doubt that I’ll find myself quite preoccupied with this blog’s themes in the quiet dark of the winter season, and I imagine I’ll be a bit recharged and refreshed in that regard. I’m hoping not to lose what readers I do have, so please don’t never come back. If you want, you can always sign up on the left hand side of the page to get emailed new posts as they’re published.

— ∞ —

I’ll end this with a small garden update.

There’s one red Stupice tomato just about fully ripe in the hoop house; many other tomatoes—a wide variety—will follow on its heels. The squash, summer and winter alike, is suddenly growing like crazy. A deer got into the garden about a week ago, but the beans and peas it munched on seem to have survived and are coming back. The deer ate selectively, so really it just provided me a bit of unexpected succession planting. I can’t be too unhappy. The potatoes are in bloom, eggplant and peppers are coming on, the summer salad mix is about ready for a harvest and soon I’m going to have far more kale than I know what to do with. My first broccoli head is almost ready and I have a few hundred fall crops seeded in trays, just starting to sprout. The work is never ending, but it’s also a nice level of casual—I can find time for other things if I need it. And I will—for writing, for play, for sanity, for contemplation. But it’s the work that keeps me going, that keeps each day moving into the next.

I hope it’s much the same for everyone else here. No matter how much I find myself yearning for the abstract of late, it’s the work that creates that yearning. It’s the base. It’s the sustenance. I try always to keep that in mind.

That’s the update. I hope everyone is having a more or less good summer. (As for you, Chris—and any other southern hemisphere readers—I hope you’re having a fine winter.) I’d love some updates in the comments. Don’t take my hiatus as a lack of interest. Without the small community that’s formed here, I may have run out of steam long ago.

— ∞ —

In other words, thank you.


Posted July 20, 2012 by Joel Caris in Farm Life, Meta, Work

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46 responses to “Yearning for the Abstract

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  1. I’ll enjoy reading whatever you decide to write, and I’ll pop in whenever you come to the top of my blogroll with a new update. Other than that, I won’t be wondering what happened to you. I certainly understand needing more time for real life; I’m taking a bit of a hiatus myself with the Long Ascent. I didn’t want to stop writing or change the character of that blog, so I started a new one, Going Upslope. It’s something you might want to consider if people aren’t interested in your fiction.

    • Thanks, John. I probably won’t start a new blog if I want to post some fiction, but I might try to segregate it a bit here. We’ll see. I may just end up working primarily on the novel, anyway, which probably wouldn’t leave me anything to post here.

  2. Fall will be here before we know it.

    Don’t know why, but the bit about the deer inspired thoughts of trade offs. My neighbor has lent me two of his goats. They are saving me hours (days) of blackberry and brush clearing. There have been a couple of times where the sections I wanted cleared had a couple of roses mixed in. Clear the section and loose the roses or … Well, the roses are about played out. Once the goats are done they can be pruned back, fertilized (goat poop) and will bounce back next year. And, if I want roses next year, I’ll have to keep on top of those areas so the goats won’t be necessary.

    So, I’m getting to know goats. I move them around, make sure they have water. Untangle their chains. I’m still a little leery of the big ram (magnificent horns!), but we’re getting on.

    Getting a cat, soon. I want her to be an outdoor / indoor cat. More outdoor. The dog that came with the place has been off his feed for a couple of days. Hmmm. Put up another Hummingbird feeder, as there are still a few around. Haven’t gotten anything in the ground, this year. Looking into winter crops.

    I turn 63 next week. How did that happen? :D.

    • Hi Lew –

      Some years back a friend and fellow back-to-the-land-er used goats for brush and blackberry clearing. Rather than staking them out, he put them on tire drags (collar chains fastened to old tires). It worked pretty well, with only a few tangles, and the goats essentially roamed at will. Later he fenced off areas he wanted to turn into garden or pasture and borrowed a few pigs from another neighbor – they went to work and rooted out most of the brush and blackberry stumps the goats had left.

      And yeah, it all goes by pretty fast – especially out here at this end. I’ll turn 76 on 12/21/12 – stickin’ around to see what’s gonna happen….

    • Hey Lew,

      You’re right on fall. I can’t believe we’re already pushing toward August. Pretty soon, I’ll be turning 32 and then not long after that the season will be over. Then the rain and cold and wet and darkness and all the reading and thinking of winter. Perhaps. It’s kind of amazing how it just keeps on turning. I still haven’t grown tired of the feeling of the changing seasons—of actually noticing and being effected by it, rather than just being inside day in and day out in more or less the same environment.

      But anyway, the goats sound like quite an adventure. One of these days, I imagine I’ll have some goats. I’m just far too intrigued by them not to eventually succumb to the desire. I’m glad they’re going well for you and encourage you to come share any good goat stories you get out of them. I remember my first year farming, a woman down the street had goats, one of which I tentatively milked once. They’re smart as hell. I’ll always remember the way they would jump and launch themselves off the corrugated metal walls, making quite a ruckus in the process. I loved that—though perhaps I wouldn’t have so much if I lived there.

      Do look into the winter crops. I have a few trays seeded down and am going to get a bed of carrots and beets in soon. I’m hoping to have a decent stash of veggies for the darker months. If nothing else I should have somewhere around a thousand pounds of winter squash, assuming my it comes through successfully. Lord knows what I’ll do with it all. Give some to family and friends, donate some to the food bank, perhaps even sell some.

      • Yeah, the goats are a trip. But I realize that I don’t have to deal with all the “hard” parts. I just move them around and make sure they get a drink of water from time to time (I swear they’re related to camels). I think about maybe getting a goat down the road. But besides brush clearing and good compostable manure, I’d want milk. And then you get into the whole breeding to keep them fresh, etc. etc.. Next years goal is 3 or 4 chickens. THEN we’ll think about goats.

        • Yeah, chickens are probably a better place to start than goats. I, too, would want milk if I were to have goats, and I would also be hesitant to get into that entire scene. Perhaps some day, though. The ability to make an endless supply of goat cheese is mighty tempting . . .

          • One of my older sisters (now long gone off the planet) had friends who had a dairy goat herd. Now and then they’d call her up and ask her to spend a weekend or a few days tending the goats so they could get some time off. Seems like dairy goats are a full-time, 24/7/52 proposition. They finally sold the herd and moved on.

  3. Looking forward to reading whatever you write…whenever you write it. I can wait patiently. 🙂
    Patient waiting is the theme for my family these days. Wait for the drought to end, wait for the days heat to ease, and wait for the garden’s limited survivors to ripen.

    • Thanks, Kathleen! I thought about the drought as I hoped everyone was having a good summer—it sounds pretty terrible. As much as everyone out here in the northwest likes to complain about the rain, I far prefer too much water to not enough. That’s a pretty easy call. We seem to be some of the only people in the country who’ve escaped the weather madness.

      Sorry for your garden. I hope you get some good rains and easing temperatures soon.

  4. Joel –

    Hi – good to ‘see’ your voice again, you’ve been missed.

    With regard to writing: Although I’m a ‘lurker’ and sometimes commentator on this blog as well as a few others, I do not produce a blog myself (although I’ve definitely thought about it) for the simple reason that I’m sporadically working on a novel about a possible future here in the middle Rogue Valley and I am aware that attempting to produce a blog would detract from that effort. I’m also aware that, in contrast to blogging, such ‘serious’ writing is highly personal and requires a good deal of solitude and quiet time on all levels, else the voices of the story and the characters it contains will become diffuse and may even go away (which happens from time to time anyway).

    It is clear to me that you are at root a talented writer and that you have something to say – particularly with respect to your own experiences as they occur – but I also sense there is deeper stuff as well, as you have alluded to in this posting.

    So, I say go do it – at least try it on for awhile – but keep the blog going as well and post as and when you feel the urge. I’m certain that we-all will check in from time to time and may well keep a conversation going among ourselves during your absences.

    If I did produce a blog, right now it would be titled “Compost” as I’ve found myself more and more in the role of ‘Guru’ of the art, science and philosophy of the process among my fellows at the community garden where I volunteer. I am continually amazed at how naturally and magically things (like Life) evolve once we’ve created the set-up and then stand back only to provide further support to the evolution.

    Be well –


    • Fascinating, Martin. I didn’t realize you were writing a novel. (I don’t think, anyway. Perhaps you have mentioned it in passing before.) Your topic is certainly intriguing enough—I hope I might one day get to read it.

      It is interesting how different fiction writing or the equivalent is different from blog writing. Even though it’s not fiction, I consider the opening to this post something akin to that kind of writing. It’s just a bit of a different beast. I’ve pushed toward that end a few times here on the blog, but it usually is a different style.

      As you note, a novel is a much more personal and, I suppose, fickle sort of inspiration. At least for me, it will be much more on the emotional side of things that the philosophical or theoretical. I have no idea how it will go, but the idea motivates me—which means for me that it gets to something bouncing around in my head that I need to work out. That always seems to be the first step.

      I do hope to keep the blog going in some manner. I just rambled on in a comment over at The Archdruid Report, so it’s not like I don’t still get the urge for this sort of writing. If nothing else, I would love to see some ongoing conversation here amongst you all. That’s always a pleasure.

      As for the compost, it is pretty amazing what can happen when we just put in place some structure for it to happen and then try not to tinker too much, isn’t it? I haven’t done much of anything with compost yet this year, other than dumping kitchen scraps and other random material into a cobbled together bin. On the to do list is trying to make a large compost pile using some of the farm’s manure. That would be nice to work into the soil next year, if I’m around.

    • Martin – I set up a blog … “Hail, Sterqulius!” Sterquilius is the Roman god of …. compost :D. Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture (among other things) had 12 helpers. He was one of them. Poking around the web, I haven’t found a mosaic, sculpture or painting of him. I might set up a little shrine next to the compost heap. 🙂 .

      I haven’t done much with the blog. I just set it up to enter the Arch Druid’s story competition. Didn’t get picked, but it was a fun exercise. I often think of little essays and posts I could do, but I’m really not very computer literate and the learning curve (and time) to pull off a good blog would be steep.

      • Sorry to triple dip, but this was just too good not to pass on. Every day I check in on a site called “Rogue Classicism.” It’s stories and academic papers from all over the world concerning mostly Greek and Roman literature and history. They always have a “this day in history” section.

        Today is the feast day of St. Phocas. Martyred in 303 C.E.. Called St. Phocas the gardener, he is also the patron (among many other things like innkeepers) of agricultural workers, farm workers, farmers, field hands, gardeners, husbandmen and market gardeners.

        When the pagan witch hunts begin, I’ll just say that my little image of Sterquilius next to the compost heap is St. Phocas.

      • Hmmm…. I checked it out and I have to say that compost and shit are not quite the same – even though in the past I have used chickenshit as a ‘seasoning’ for compost: speeds up the process – big time

  5. I understand your plight. I have taken off writing essays for a while now. Just doesn’t suit where my head is right now. I have a semi-book being written on the web that I go back and eyeball now and again, but it also just sits there.

    I want to write, I am just kind of tired of the themes that used to interest me. Essays of any flavor tend to be preachy. I am not above that, but right now it doesn’t fit me.

    Keep going. you will be back when you are good and ready.

    • Thanks, John. I worry about the preachiness at times—it does seem near inevitable with essay writing, doesn’t it? I really do have the desire to write something that feels less likely to detour into lecture or rant and to instead just splash around in some metaphor and contemplation. I probably need to remind myself how very little I know.

  6. excited for you to be excited about writing fiction. I actually think it could help create a nice balance and generate life toward the non-fiction (not that yours lacks life, but I hope you know what I mean). It could be a marvelous project, a collection of the fiction and non- in a volume. As always where you are concerned Joel, I really wish you well.

    • Thanks, Leslie! I think I know exactly what you mean. They definitely can go together, fiction and nonfiction. I would love to have a collection of both together at some point in the future. We’ll see.

  7. Hi Joel,

    As they say here, “no worries, mate!”. It’s all good, as it is your blog after all. Quality always trumps quantity and I do enjoy your writing.

    Yeah, it is the depths of winter here, but you wouldn’t know it. I was working outside all day for the past three days in a t-shirt and overalls. Seriously, it has been freakishly warm and you can see the fruiting branches and buds swelling and the chooks (now numbering 12 after a dog and visitor, plus an additional rooster incident) are providing up to 5 eggs per day.

    As an update, I scored about 50 self seeded raspberry canes today from a neighbour and will set up another hugelkultur bed (parallel to the existing thornless blackberry hugelkultur bed). It has been undertaken as something of a permaculture challenge to convert eucalypt saplings (of which there are tens of thousands here) into soil.

    Yesterday was a bit of a bummer though. I had another neighbour around helping me fell trees and we accidentally dropped one (25m or 82 feet tall) onto the powerline connecting power to my other neighbours house. Ooops! I’ve never seen such a drama but at least it was fixed within about 4 hours and everyone was very nice about it as it was an accident after all. It was like my worst nightmare and I haven’t seen the bill / fine for it all yet either and apparently there will be an investigation into the incident… Oh well at least no one was injured and nothing was damaged.

    Anyway, on a more positive note, I am now in the possession of a digital video camera and will soon start uploading regular short digital videos (once I work out the audio) of all of the interesting things we’re up to here onto youtube and also for the permaculture people. Of course it could be complete garbage too, but I do have the OK for an upcoming series which I’ll let you know about when the time is ripe (don’t want to let the cat out of the bag yet as it is an original idea – well, at least I think it is).

    I look forward to reading your fictional works, should be interesting. Follow your heart, it should lead to you to good places and you never know where you may end up.



    • Thank you, Chris! Consider me quite interested in the video series, including whatever original ideas you have up your sleeve. Might the composting toilet set up be a possible video item in the future? I maintain my interest in your system.

      Sorry to hear about the tree felling calamity. Hopefully the fine and investigation won’t prove too burdensome. I’ve never been involved in the taking down of any sort of large tree, but I imagine it would be a bit of a stressful operation. It just seems there are so many ways it could go awry.

      As for your weather, it’s a bit odd all over the place, it seems. Not too surprising, all considered. Here we’ve been having a lot of overcast and a bit cooler days of late, though not cold. In the sixties, often enough. The plants are still growing well, though the tomatoes might be ripening off a bit faster if we could get some more consistent sun. Brian, one of the owners of the farm I’m on, has been a bit worried about it all because a couple of nearby fields have been hayed in the last few days for him by a neighbor. Some were delivered into the barn last night and today and more will arrive in a couple days. He opened up a couple bails and said they seem decent, so hopefully it’ll be good once winter rolls back around.

      The squash, summer and winter, is growing by leaps and bounds now, the tomatoes are just arriving and there are almost ripe snap peas. I keep not quite getting in a bed of overwintering carrots and beets and I’m probably pushing the timing at this point, but I’ll aim to make that happen on Wednesday. Today I had a massage bought for me almost a year ago by a friend, and it was quite the treat. I’m therefore relaxing for today and letting it sink in. I’ll probably work a few knots back into my muscles tomorrow as I expect to be mucking out a pig stall and mowing with a tractor.

      Do keep me posted on the videos.

  8. Hi Lew,

    Well done on the goats, chickens will be easy for you. My neighbour has goats and they seem to be quite tireless workers. I look forward to hearing about your experiences with them.

    Hi Martin,

    As to your birthday, now we know who is responsible! hehe! Good luck with your novel.

    To everyone else,

    I sympathise with your plight in the drought. Best of luck with your gardens and remember to apply woody mulch – as much as you can get and over as great an area as you possibly can. In a worst case scenario, even rocks can be of benefit to a plant by moderating temperatures and condensing moisture.



    • Hi Chris –

      As to the birthday – yeah, you can blame it all on me if you like, but I know it’s really just cosmic trickster energy being unmasked – kinda like the tree that got dropped across a powerline. Heh.

  9. Hi Martin,

    Please don’t send me any more cosmic trickster energy. You are obviously an original prankster!


    • Well, I didn’t (and don’t) send cosmic trickster energy (although I probably could, since I know how) – it’s just out there and (I believe) one attracts it through lack of attention, ignorance, stupidity, arrogance and hubris – just to mention a few traits common among us supermonkeys these days. (Heh.)

      No offense intended re: the recent tree across the powerline incident – that was probably due to oversight or a height-of-the-tree error in judgement, I reckon. I’ve done the same sort of thing myself.

      As for being an original prankster – not me; I’ll leave that title to the likes of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters back in the 60’s and 70’s. The thought brings back a fond memory (sort of) of a Grateful Dead concert where the Pranksters showed up – Happy Times!

  10. Hi Martin,

    No offense taken. Ha! That cosmic trickster energy is not to be trifled with.

    Perhaps I did attract it though? I misread the tree as it had a split in the middle which was not obvious from the bark. The initial cut left the tree hanging in mid air sitting on the chainsaw and it then just dropped in slow motion… Fortunately the steel dog and recovery chain grounded the charge to earth rather than into my neighbours vehicle (which was attached at the time). If it happened over summer, the fire would have just taken off into the forest and we could not have used water to put it out (electrical hazard), but fortunately it is the middle of winter here. What surprised me the most was that the charge from the lines zipped right through the tree for well over 40 minutes before it was cut off. I have even more respect for trees after this incident.

    The Grateful Dead would have been an impressive concert.


    • My biggest ‘misread’ of a tree was a two-foot-plus diameter, 30 or 40 foot tall maple snag that occupied the upper end of a gulley on some pretty steep ground. I looked it over two or three times and determined to fell it downhill, believing it had a slight lean in that direction. After cutting the notch, I moved around to the other side and began my through-cut – but I committed at least two of the infractions I noted in my last comment: lack of attention (I forgot my wedges) and arrogance (“I can take this sucker down – no big deal”). Well, I got the back cut to the hinge and the ‘sucker’ just rocked back on the saw bar and sat there, just like in your case – seems it did lean a bit but was weight-loaded on the uphill side. Nothing I could do but sweat and holler for a wedge or two and/or another saw – which I did. We got her down, but on her own terms – uphill, just missing my good ol’ pickup. No powerlines involved, but a smashed pickup would’ve been no fun either.

      Yeah, Dead concerts were always a trip – with or without the Pranksters help….

  11. Hi Martin,

    I don’t know much, but I do know that trees are exceptionally hard to read. I can’t imagine you trying to explain to your lady how the truck got squashed!!! hehe. There are so many tonnes of timber in a standing tree, unless you’ve dropped a couple, people never appreciate the risk. Jamming the chainsaw is also a real nightmare and one that has to be resolved.

    What were you doing trying to dropping the tree at the head of a steep gully?

    I was trying to reduce the over shadowing on the solar panels, plus the tree was a bit hazardous to the both the road and driveway. True story.


    • Yeah, getting a good read on a tree is tricky at best – even on level ground – and you’re right about the weight. But I learned the hard way that you also really have to have a sound evaluation of the way the weight is distributed. I never made the same mistake again during the time I was on that property and I left all that behind when we sold the place.

      The tree was a leftover from logging the prior owner had done and was beat all to hell, plus it was standing near the edge of a narrow cat road that crossed the property at that point. I wanted to open the access so I could get my rig over to the other side and haul out firewood I was cutting out of the mess the loggers left.

  12. Hi Joel,

    Thanks. Yeah, sprung, the composting / worm farm toilet system will be the first video. The article has been written for weeks, but the second hand video camera has only just arrived and it will take a while to learn how to use it. I’m still waiting for the external microphone but may just push on and use it in future videos and not worry about it for this one. Hope it’s not crap! That was a joke, because of the sewerage system video. Anyway, it was pretty lame… I may even scare you by showing you the contents. Are you squeamish?

    That wasn’t the original idea though, more to come later…

    Your weather sounds odd, especially given the rest of the country is in drought. Those sort of summers here really bring out the fungal problems in the stone fruit trees. The vegetables seem to love it though. Out of interest, my tomatoes which are outside in raised beds ripen in about early March, which would be about September for you. Does this sound about right or are you earlier or later? 65 Fahrenheit (18 Celsius) would be a very cold Summers day here – more like early Spring.

    Yeah, hay bales can be a real drama in wet weather. Over here they can ferment, but they still feed them to the cows as apparently a bit of fermentation is no bad thing for them.

    It’s been wet here, really wet. The ground is virtually saturated now with two months in a row of 150mm (5.9 inches) each. A spring has popped up in the driveway so I’ve been mulching it and planting ferns into it.

    Nice to hear about your squashes and peas, hope everything else is growing well too. Today I set up another hugelkutur bed with all of the donated raspberry canes. The chooks are at about 6 eggs per day now.

    After the tree incident there has been a bit of a community spirit raising thing. I’ve swapped plenty of favours and stuff, but have in turn also scored a welder, a telescope, the raspberry canes, some ferns and a couple of echium plants. Very cool.

    Keep well.


    • Hi Chris,

      Nope, not squeamish at all. Any of that I had has been pretty well cured in the last year or two. After you help pull a stuck, dead lamb from a sheep or cut the heads off a dozen or two chickens and ducks, the squeamishness starts to go away. Speaking of which, I participated in my first poultry slaughter last week and it was a hell of an experience. It’s kind of surprising how easy it is after the first kill or two. I’m not sure what that says, but I’ll assume it’s just that humans are quite adaptable to all manner of situations.

      My tomatoes are ripening now and starting to come on pretty well, though some of the larger ones are just starting to color. So I’m earlier than September, but my tomatoes are in a hoop house. Outside, September would probably be about right. Last year, I believe the tomatoes we had in hoop houses didn’t ripen until close to September. But we had a terrible June last year, so they were a bit behind. Not that we had a great June this year, but it wasn’t as bad as last year’s.

      As for the hay bales, that’s a good point about fermentation. I think perhaps mold is the bigger issue. A lot of the dairy farmers out here feed their cows a certain amount of silage, which is just hay that’s been wrapped in plastic and fermented (I believe that’s all there is to it, anyway.) Ahh, fermentation. It always seems to make things a bit better.

      I love that the tree incident spurred some community spirit. That’s the way things should be. Hopefully it’s managed to be maintained.


  13. Hi Martin,

    Yeah, loggers left a mess here too. I suspect they may have used an old bulldozer and dragged all of the tree butts into an elephants graveyard (broken drag chains left there gave the game away). I like to keep things tidy here and it took a couple of years of slowly cutting and burning to process them. They also gave them a quick burn so the outside of the tree butts were covered in charcoal and were not going to break down into soil in the next couple of hundred years or so… What happened at your place?


  14. Hi all y’all (picked that up down in Louisiana awhile back) –

    Been reviewing in my head all the stuff I’ve been reading and writing here on Joel’s blog (and elsewhere) about farming, sustainability and the back-to-the-land urge many have expressed and/or are actually experiencing and have come to the conclusion that, if I had do-overs and was say, 25 or more years younger, and knew what I know now – methinks I’d follow the ideas explored by Dmytri Orlov in his article ‘The New Age of Sail’. Seems to make more sense to me nowadays to become a mobile hunter-gatherer of sorts without necessarily relying entirely on fossil fuel and a permanent location that might (due to global climate change) become mercilessly unproductive for food. Besides that, I like to sail….

    What do you think?

    • Huh. I haven’t checked out that article. For some reason, I haven’t ever become a regular reader of Orlov’s blog, though I did read and really enjoyed Reinventing Collapse. I’ll have to check out the article and let you know what I think.

  15. Hi Joel,

    Wake up! hehe. I posted the humanure / worm farm article here (it’s even got video now – woo hoo!).

    Hi Martin,

    I reckon you may be right. The early colonists here almost starved, yet at the same time the harbours were full of fish (and sharks). Also, over here many of the towns and cities are located along the coast line which would make sail perfect for transporting people and goods.



    • Hi Chris –

      During the time prior to the European invasion of the Northwest coast of North America, many of the indigenous tribes who lived along the coast were sea-going folk, although they were land-based and built communities made up of cedar-plank long houses that each housed several families. They didn’t have the technology for sail at the time, but they got around pretty well by paddling their very large (some as long as 30 feet), elaborately-carved cedar dugout canoes among the islands, inlets and fiords to be found from what is now northern Washington state up into what is now southeast Alaska and beyond. They lived primarily on seafood (Salmon, Halibut & etc.), but also practiced hunting/gathering in the interior. All-in-all, they lived pretty well – except for the occasional slaving raid by some other group.

      So, I guess if they could do it, descendents of contemporary folk could too, albeit in a slightly different way. Also, the big Salmon runs are pretty much a thing of the past due to commercial overfishing and such (dams, mostly) but who knows – they might return after a time if left alone.

      Anyhow, per Orlov, I could envision a group of like-minded folk forming a loose, sailboat-based ‘commune’ of sorts that would amble hither and thither along a coastline (hopefully one with lots of islands, inlets and fiords), living primarily off the sea, but putting in here and there to hunt, gather and perhaps barter with the locals and hauling small loads of stuff cheaply (and slowly) from one place to another for some income.

      Sounds idyllic, I know, and it’d likely be uncomfortable during storms and the winter months, unless they all picked up and sailed south – or north, as in your case, Chris.

    • Excellent article, Chris! I just read it, after following the link from The Archdruid Report. Then I saw you posted the link here, as well! Anyway, it’s an excellent article. I commented and asked a couple questions over there. Love the video!

    • Hi Chris –
      That’s a pretty cool system. We’re allowed composting toilets here in Oregon, but I don’t think the worm farm idea has hit here yet, at least I have yet to hear of any. Scaled down, it might even be adaptable to boats, per my pipe-dream above (heh).

  16. Hi Joel,

    Thanks for the comment. Much appreciated it. Hoped you liked the wallaby and kangaroos. The big buck is about six feet tall and he’s looking at me going, “what do you want, stop hassling me”. There was even a cockatoo screech in the background (it was hanging off a solar panel which is a bit of a worry as they have huge and powerful beaks).

    I hope that summer is treating you well and look forward to an update when you get the chance.



  17. Hi Martin,

    The computer ate my comment to you twice. I’m giving up and will try again tomorrow.



  18. Hi Martin,

    Thanks. You could add a worm farm to a boat by modifying the worm tea output to go into a grow bed just like an aquaponics system. Add in the occasional fish head and fish carcass remains plus all food scraps to the worm farm to make up for losses and you’d have a great system. Your mission should you decide to accept it… hehe!

    The whalers and sealers lived a similar although much rougher life here in the early 1800’s. They were nomadic and ranged up and down the coastline. How are you with reading the weather? I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be out of sight of the land.

    You’d have to be good with foraging along the shoreline too. They used to plant herbs like salad burnet which has a high vitamin c content and also the roots can be used on cuts and wounds. Lots of knowledge. Do you sail much?

    it’s a shame what has become of our fish stocks.



    • Chris –
      A sea-going worm farm sounds like it might just work. I’m not likely to check it out myself since I don’t own a boat, but someone probably will.

      Being ‘over the horizon’ (out of sight of land) can be anxiety-provoking – I’ve experienced it a few times myself, but most sailors trend along the 20-fathom line hereabouts when ‘coasting’ (sailing parallel to the shore for any distance greater than a ‘day-sail’) and are generally within sight of land but far enough out to not get blown onto a lee shore if a gale comes up. Crossing big water (like, say, sailing out to Hawai`i, for example) is another matter – I’d like to experience it someday, but it’s not likely at my age.

      I’m pretty good at weather-reading ashore and on small water, less so over the horizon since there are no landmarks to help ascertain distance or direction of squalls and such.

      As for foraging, I guess what I was really thinking when I posted the pipe-dream was that the community would have a couple of land-based locations where individuals or family units would trade off time ashore and tend a small farm, hunt, gather & etc. Interestingly, back in the age of sail when Russia still owned Alaska, they founded a fur-trading settlement called Sitka, which is a town on Baronoff Island in Southeast Alaska. It’s in an area that gets pretty dark and cold (not as cold and dark as the upper mainland) during the winter months and where it pretty much just rains year-round. They were having problems with nutrition because they couldn’t grow much more than cabbage in their gardens so they founded Fort Ross, which is on California’s northern coast about 75 miles north of San Francisco (which wasn’t there at the time) as their almost-year-round garden. It apparently worked pretty well for them.

      I used to sail quite a bit, but mostly as crew or, later, as a guest. I never got it together to own my own boat – or maybe I was just too smart to be enslaved to “a hole in the water into which one pours money” – which is the sailor’s definition of a boat. Nowadays I rarely go out, mainly because I don’t feel it’s right to just be cargo, but once in awhile two of my now middle-aged nephews who jointly own a 42-foot sloop, coax me aboard for a short jaunt over the horizon.

      I always enjoy it.

  19. Hum…still no fiction heading. I’d love to see a short story. I originally stumbled onto your blog after the druids short story anthology sent me wandering across the net.

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