A Quiet Moment of Significant Change   25 comments

Well, that post title is far too bombastic for such a small update, but I thought I might snag your attention. I apologize for the intense quiet of the last some odd weeks. I thought I might get a new post written while essentially vacationing in Portland; as it turns out, Portland is terribly and wonderfully distracting. No post. And then, as my time there came to an end, my laptop up and died. I had wondered when that might happen. The answer is now. (Or then, I suppose.)

This is all good, though. I’m in the midst of some life changes. Spring is here, summer advances quickly, my laptop is dead, I have a new bike. I am thinking about the future. I am staring cock-headed and inquisitive at the recent past. I am recognizing how terribly much time I have lost to the internet of late and I don’t want to continue that trend. A day or two before my laptop died, I had been considering giving it up, destroying my daily access to the internet and the intense distraction it foments in me. I am not above recognizing signs.

The current plan is no replacement for the laptop. At this moment, I type on a friend’s. I will post this, because I’m sad that I’ve been so quiet with no explanation. However, despite how the preceding sentences may sound, I don’t intend to abandon this blog. I intend, instead, to alter the logistics of running it.

My current plan is to bike into town a time or two a week to use the internet at the library. This will significantly curtail its distractive (screw it, I’m making that a word) possibilities while still allowing me access to the glories and convenience of email, research ability, The Archdruid Report, and the sporadically successful world of online dating. But I will not spend hours reading basketball articles, clicking around aimlessly to stay distracted, and spending more time with virtual cats in the form of videos and hilariously idiotic memes than the real cat that lives in my house. In general, life will be better.

I also suspect I will stay more on top of my burgeoning garden, my never-ending to-read list, my socializing, and very likely even my writing. If anything, I suspect this might make it more likely that I’ll be able to keep this blog going during the craziness of summer. We’ll see, though—I may be being wildly optimistic.

Either way, I am alive, I have not yet abandoned you, I’m reading a fantastic and 1,080 page book, I’m scheming about new blog posts, and I’m enjoying the hell out of my new bike. I am thinking of how to go about finding a farm of my own, or some sort of kind-of-but-not-really equivalent arrangement. I am imagining a life more fulfilled, less distracted, filled with food and fun and friends and . . . fungi? I don’t know, it starts with an “f.”

I am well, in other words, and slightly exhilarated at new possibilities, and I hope you are well and exhilarated, too.

Soon I’ll have more. For now, take care, all of you.

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Posted April 18, 2013 by Joel Caris in Meta

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25 responses to “A Quiet Moment of Significant Change

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  1. Did you need a laptop Joel?

    • Hi Todd,

      Nope! Thanks for asking, though. I’m going to go without for awhile and see how it plays out. So far, I’m feeling good about this decision. My life was due for a bit of a shake up. If I should change my mind, I’ll let you know.

  2. Hear hear, Joel, I know exactly what you mean! I gave up the Internet for Lent last year and it was wonderful, but then I found myself creeping back online. The Archdruid Report is great to read, and yourself of course, but a lot of it is sooooo distracting and time wasting. And BTW, I think distractive is a great word!
    Many Blessings and Good Luck with having no laptop!
    Heather

    Heather E. Caparoso
    • Hi Heather,

      Back in 2009, when I first farmed, I had a laptop but no daily access to the internet. I would go into a coffee shop on the weekends to catch up. Frankly, it was pretty great–I got lots of reading done, wrote letters to friends by hand, and just generally enjoyed the lack of distraction. Sure, there were times of missing the internet, but overall it was a very positive experience. Once I regained regular access, the slow creep you talk of began and it just ratcheted up over time. I’m definitely ready for a reset.

      We’ll see what happens with the blog without the access. I’m also feeling stirrings to finally get back to fiction writing.

      Blessings to you, too! I always like hearing from you, Heather.

  3. Joel –

    Given the several previous long lapses of attention to the blog – including the one just past – and your apparent juggle-struggle to keep it all in the air, and, given the crash of your laptop followed by the acquisition of a new bike instead of a replacement for the deceased laptop, I predict that you are most likely to let go of this blog, live your life, explore new possibilities and then, somewhen, start a new blog about all that. Think of the relief that will provide.

    And it’s o.k. if you do. I’ll stay tuned in – for awhile – to see what’s what, if anything, and I’ll miss your writing if there’s no new ‘what’, but I’ve found that it is usually necessary to let go of the ‘old’ in order to move on to the ‘new’. Even though you may think so, you are under no obligation to your readers.

    Catch ya later –

    Martin

    • Hi Martin,

      That’s entirely possible. Right now, I’m reading ridiculous amounts. I’ve also become sick, which is a rarity for me. I blame it on my drinking, not getting quite enough sleep, and lack of productive work while in Portland. Not that I regret any of it. I’m taking it easy today, though I did spur of the moment run into town and took the opportunity to get my library card and jump on one of their computers–hence these responses–and will from here be going to the store to pick up OJ and chicken noodle soup–if I can find something decent and non-Campbells. Sometimes you just got to go traditional when sick.

      Anyway, we’ll see if I really do keep this up, but I think there’s a decent chance of it as I think I’m actually now more likely to spend time writing. It may end up more fiction than blog, though. I’ll provide some updates and if it looks like real life will wipe out my updates here, I’ll let people know.

      I do get the sense of obligation, even though I realize I’m more obligated to live life in the real world. Thanks for the reminder!

      • I, too, have been belly-up with the crud for the better part of the week past, which is a rarity for me too – got it from the grandkids, who spend their time in daycare.

        Remedies (not to be confused with ‘cures’) – lots of vitamin C (2000g each hour all day with LOTS of water), chicken noodle soup (homemade is best, of course, but Lipton’s works too), hot water, honey and lemon juice with a shot of Wild Turkey (doesn’t really do anything, but is mighty soothing) and LOTS of sleep.

        Be well.

        • Yikes. Hope you’ve gotten better, Martin. Kids always seem a good source of sickness. I never did get around to getting myself some vitamin C pills, but I did have some chicken soup and did orange juice, though I’m skeptical that really helps much. It was comforting, if nothing else. And I had a hot toddy last night, though no Wild Turkey–Bulleit burboun, instead. I thought I was on the mend Sunday but it was a feint. Monday and Tuesday were the worst. I feel again on the mend today, like I’ll be fine tomorrow. Hopefully that’s true, because I want to seriously tackle the garden tomorrow. We’ll see.

          • I’m healed!! Took a week, but I felt strong enough today that I went to the garden and turned a compost pile. I swear by the Vitamin C regimen – I know I piss most of it out right away, but it really seems to work. Sleep is a biggie too, as is lots of liquid.

            Main thing is to learn to listen to your body and don’t argue – you’ll only lose if you do.

            • Nice, Martin! You were a day ahead of me. I got into the garden yesterday, worked today, will be back in the garden tomorrow. Looks like the weather may hold for awhile, or at least no major rain storms. With luck, I’ll get all caught up soon.

              And yeah, it took me awhile to figure out I just had to listen to my body and do what it wanted, but that really is the best and most effective way to go.

  4. Ha, if more people made their blogging sporadic, and only wrote when they had something they needed to say, it would mean less time procrastinating in my RSS feed, that’s for sure!

    • Andy,

      An excellent point! I do admit I’ve written some posts that were more a result of a sense of obligation than the necessity to say something that struck me as worthwhile. Perhaps less of those now.

  5. Diddling around on the internet, this monday, am. Putting off putting roofing on the “Chicken Palace.” With the help of two friends who know what they’re doing, we built the Chicken Palace in two goes. Due to crap weather. Today, it’s gloriously sunny and I need to get out there and put the roofing on. Something I’ve never done before, so there is hesitation and procrastination. Have all the tools, found a good how-to article on the Net. It’s not all that big. 4×8′? A little larger roof due to the slant.

    Better get cracking. The “girls” arrive sometime this week. 6 Barnevelder and 1 Brahma hens.

    Last year was the “Year of the Blackberries and Goats.” Looks like this year will be the “Year of the Chickens.”

    • You know, Lew, while I like goats quite a bit, I think the “Year of the Chickens” sounds a bit better to me. I’m a big fan of chickens, and the absence of blackberries (unless we’re talking just the fruit) is a big plus. Let’s see, this response is two days later–did the roof get put on? If I was in the neighborhood, I would be glad to help. Haven’t done much of any roofing myself and would love to learn.

      One of these days I’ll build a chicken palace myself. I’m looking forward to it. How was the main building phase, other than the crap weather?

      • Yuppers. The roof got shingled. In two goes. :-). I did about half of it, one day, and finished it off the next. I was getting a little woozey and had the sense to leave off. Last year while mowing, I bit off more than I could chew and fell over in the yard. Blood sugar, thing. Now, I pay more attention. Get something to eat and go do something less strenuous.

        The roof looks a little hinkey, in places, but I think it will keep the rain out. Today I’ve got to put some chicken wire in the open slope under roof eaves. Later this summer I’ll cut a couple of pieces of wood to close them in for the winter. Also need to close up one little section of siding. Clean out the used waterer and feeder. Thought I was going to have to buy a feeder. The chicken coop backs up on an open shed. When I was on the roof, I had a different angle of view into the shed (it’s full of … stuff) and, low and behold, there was a nice feeder hanging from the rafters. Need to clean out the bird’s nests, but it’s serviceable.

        The whole coop was pretty much made out of recycled material. Just about anything you’d need is around here… somewhere. The trick is finding it. I had a lot of 2x4s and my landlord had a pile of sheathing. 3 bundles of asphalt tab roofing were found moldering away in the grass. My friends Ron and Debbie (they’re the people I farm sit for, occasionally. They are also giving me the chickens.) have construction experience, houses and such. I just gave them their head. I generally just helped haul, hold wood to be cut, pounded nails and put in screws. The first day we put down the deck, framed the walls and got sheathing on one end. Then, the rain came. I put a tarp down on the deck so it wouldn’t warp. A week later, the weather cleared. Rafters (attached rafter hangers to the shed) roof sheathing and sheathing on front and
        remaining side. Found an old door to use for access. More rain. Roof sheathing didn’t warp. Shingled roof.

        Ron and Debbie have their farm for sale. They want to move to Idaho to be close to their daughter and son-in-law. Big farm auction on the 4th of May. I have been helping them organize, for that. They will be missed.

        I’m a worrier. I think the thing I worry about most, now, is that two neighbor dogs cut through my property, about twice a day to visit my landlords dogs. I hope they don’t bother (or kill) my chickens. I also worry about keeping the chickens off any garden I put in. Picked up copies of “Chickens for Dummies” and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chickens.” Hopefully, I can keep them alive and producing eggs and, maybe later, a bit of meat. Nice compost for the heap. Eggs for my landlord, me, and anyone else I want to gift them to. Webs of mutual obligation.

        Chicken soup. Ah, yes. Back when I had a kitchen (and, I have one again now) I used to make what I called “Magic Chicken Soup.” Bake a chicken, de-bone. Take long bones (legs and thighs) and cut in half. (That way, you know how many bones to fish out, later.) Chicken, garlic, onions, lemon juice, a bit of cayenne pepper, sweet basil, brown rice, potatoes, carrots …. maybe broccoli or peas. Bring to a boil and then let it simmer all day. I think that’s it. I used to make it up in big batches, seal-a-meal it and freeze. Always had it on hand if I got sick, or to give to sick friends.

        Enough. Chicken Palace, calls. Need to find something to cut that chicken wire, with. I’m sure I have the proper tool …. somewhere.

        • Ooh, I have blood sugar issues on occasion, too, though probably of a more mild vein. Don’t mess with that—make sure you get your food intake. Hopefully the roof will be fine, but even if there’s a leak or two, I’ve found chickens to be pretty forgiving. (Ducks, alternatively, would positively jump for joy at a leak. The more the better.)

          Love that you made the thing out of recycled materials and with the help of the neighbors. Always a good way to go. I find it amazing how much good material ends up strewn around farms and rural properties. It drives my roommates nuts—they want to see it put back in the stream, recycled, used for useful purposes. I completely agree, but I also understand how it happens. It’s amazing how much can get away from you. I know I could easily become one of those people with too much useful stuff laying around, exposed to the weather, becoming a little less useful each day. But glad you reclaimed some of that and put it to use for the chickens.

          Keep an eye on those dogs early on. Some dogs do seem to love killing chickens, others will leave them alone. But I would assume the worst and go from there—hopefully the fears will be unfounded. I’ve heard too many stories of chickens killed by dogs, though.

          Mmm, your chicken soup recipe sounds fantastic. I’ll have to try something along those lines one of these days soon. I keep meaning to get a chicken from work to roast and then make soup out of. Got to remember to do that.

  6. Was thinking today of how that creep had gotten hold of me again. And I’d been thinking of heading to the library and joining; it’s not too terribly far from me (a couple of miles). So I find this quite timely.

    Hope you get on the mend quickly from the crud.

    • It’s going well so far. I recommend it. Amazing how much the internet creeps, at least for some of us. Certainly me.

      I feel much calmer without the internet being a daily reality and I’m getting a lot more reading done. It’s been a bit distorted by my sickness, but overall I think it’s keeping my mind much more at ease and I expect my focus will improve greatly in the long term. A successful experiment so far, despite some inconvenience.

  7. Hi Joel,
    Good to see that you are still there and sorry to hear about your laptop. Hardware / software crashes are a nuisance. Still, it gives lots of extra time for life, and life is in the living after all. It is still unseasonably warm here, but I can now work outside all day without fearing any heat exhaustion. As a quick update, I picked up a second hand water tank and get this, the previous owner sold it because he didn’t like the colour. When I picked it up on the back of the trailer, I was looking at the guy when he told me that and was going, “what the ….”. Anyway, I got the water tank back here and it was a scary drive as it was massive and well over sized and was like a giant parachute. I had to take all of the back roads so that I didn’t get pulled over by the constabulary and fined.

    Because the block here is on a slope (which makes it cheaper land), I’ve had to excavate the water tank site by hand using a mattock, shovel and wheelbarrow. Some of the rocks weighed almost as much as I do so it was very hard work, fortunately there were only a few of them, but the subsurface clay was like concrete. Anyway enough whingeing, both water tanks are now in place and I’m waiting for the rain to fill them up. Did you know that plastic water tanks can blow away if it gets windy enough? True story, years back I knew a guy that had an excavator business and he told me that he had to recover an empty water tank from a paddock using his 20 tonne excavator. He moved the original water tanks here using a heavy duty sling because there was a bit of disaster when they were delivered as one rolled down the hill and smashed into his bulldozer… Not good and very expensive to sort out.

    Anyway, how are you coping with Internet and basketball withdrawal? I also hope you realise that you are in one of the worlds hot spots for microbreweries? I had no idea just how many were operating in your area. I’m not saying you’re spoilt, but…

    Keep well and let us know how your garden and life is going. Cheers. Chris

    • Hey Chris,

      Glad you commented! I’ve been meaning to respond to your email, but let’s just say I haven’t yet got my internet time management totally down yet now that I only have a couple hours on it a week. My, how much time I wasted before! And how leisurely I was about doing the things I needed to get done. Now I’m always on the clock. Nose the grindstone and all that. Still seem to find time to check basketball scores, though.

      Also glad that the weather’s cooled a bit, even if it’s still warm. It’s nice you’re not at risk of heat exhaustion! And oh, yes, I think I saw a comment from you over at TAR about the poor-coloured water tank you picked up (hopefully on the cheap!) People are crazy. If the damn thing works, what’s the problem? It’s a water tank.

      Ha! I haven’t heard of a plastic water tank blowing away, but I can imagine it. Those are pretty light when empty.

      Shoot, I have 45 seconds left, so I’m wrapping up this comment before the computer turns off. More on the lack of internet soon! Post coming in a couple days. Take care!

    • Oh, and yes, well aware of my luck of local breweries! I take good advantage!

  8. Hi Joel,

    Don’t stress about the email, it’s all good. I contribute articles to magazines and online sites plus videos to Youtube and always ensure that they come from the heart, so I reckon if it doesn’t feel right to blog like you’re saying, then stuff it. Glad to hear that you are feeling better too.

    Autumn, Winter and Spring are the times for working outdoors here and I’ve been going hard at these tasks for a few weeks now. Yeah, the water tank was about 1/3rd of the cost of a new one. I wasn’t ready to install it, but a bargain like that is hard to ignore and once you have the thing, you can’t very well leave it around the place! It’s big. Climbing inside the water tank to give it a proper clean (as it is for drinking water) was an interesting experience as it was so full of gunk inside.

    I’m aiming for the full off grid experience this year, so a wind turbine is the next project to be installed to wean me off fossil fuels for electricity. I’ll write an article about it with photos and will post a link to it when it’s done. Wind turbines are massively complex and it is stretching my knowledge.

    If it is not presumptuous of me to point out, you are learning what it truly means to live within your means. Sacrifice is an interesting experience and I hope you get a lot out of it personally.

    Hi Lew,

    Good luck with the chickens. A mate of mine has Barnvelders too and they are a really good all round breed. Dogs and chickens aren’t a good mix here either. My spitz killed one of the silkies when a friend accidentally let the chickens out of their enclosed run whilst the dogs were also out in the orchard. I had to go and finish the poor chook off with a knife. It was one of those times when you’re left wondering how it all happened.

    Hi Martin,

    I hope that your garden is growing strongly. I’m getting a bit of consistent rain now so the whole place looks nice and green. The fruit trees are just starting to turn and they’re even getting a few chilling hours too. The vegie and herb beds have almost exploded with growth because of the rain and warmth combination so it is nice to be able to eat from them again.

    • Hi Chris –

      Well, ‘the garden’ isn’t specifically mine – I’m a volunteer at a community-sponsored garden that grows produce for a local food bank. Where I live, we have a bit of altitude and we’re still getting some local frost. So far this spring it’s all been prep work, but the seeds go in soon.

      Your back-road adventure with the water tank brought to mind my own ‘adventures’ attempting to go back-to-the-land back in the early 1970’s. We didn’t ‘make it’ – though we lasted (or held out) for five-plus years before we flicked it in (ran out of $$ and other necessary resources).

      Good luck to you

  9. Hi Martin,

    Of course. The wallabies, wombats and kangaroos consider the garden here to be not specifically mine too! A local food bank and garden is a really important resource in food, seeds, knowledge, contacts and soil. I always enjoy your reminisces.

    The water tank was bought with “off farm” income. As you point out, it takes a lot of years to understand the long term cycles of land (flicking it can be a very rational decision if you’ve been at it long enough to see where it is going). I watch the infrastructure closely here to see which bits fail and then work towards rectifying the problem (if possible) or changing my behaviour to adapt to the limitation. Of course, the whole thing is done on the cheap too as infrastructure costs big bucks. Doing it on the cheap means lots of hard work as my labour is effectively free. The wind turbine is one example of this and the local renewable energy community here are kind of hoping that it doesn’t work so they can turn around and say, “I told you so”.

    I’m very doubtful that an organic farm could ever make the sort of money that industrial agriculture makes in the long term, however this is an unpopular opinion. My reasoning for this is that the nutrient cycle is broken in our society and it costs me money to bring back fertiliser in the form of mulch, compost, mushroom compost and rock dust. Nothing organic leaves the property either, it all ends up in the soil and it still may not be enough. Of course, Down Under the soils are older and not as good as in your location which doesn’t help. It just takes a lot of years. 100 years ago, they would never have considered farming in this location, mind you fertile river flats were probably a lot easier to come by in those days too.

    • Perhaps you’ve considered this sort of thing already, but on a farm-production scale you might think about the idea of planting things that would do really well in your locale (Olives? Grapes? – or whatever else might enjoy a hardscrabble existence) to trade for stuff that doesn’t do as well where you are. That way you would only have to rebuild soil health on a small area for you own garden use as a supplement to whatever you trade for (such as grains, meat, dairy, etc.) It would take time, but might be well worth it in the long run.

      By the way, the community garden is being managed organically – we don’t even use power equipment – and the soil is strange. being clay-based, stony and slightly alkaline. So to get anything to do well has required the addition of copious amounts of compost and other organics to make the soil friable and adequately nutrient-rich.

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