Victory Gardens

Springtime is just around the corner.  Now that we’re in a more hospitable growing environment, I feel obligated to get a better garden growing.  Of course, it is some work but the payoff, even for a small garden more than justifies the effort.

It’s always a good time to grow food.

In times of crisis, it is wise to have a bit laid aside.  Try canning and preserving if you have never done so.  It’s easy and rewarding throughout the year.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Peter Michael Bauer, a Portland-Based Re-Wilder

Peter-Logo3urbanscoutHe has a decent re-wilding/survival rant blog that leaves you wanting more.  How can you not like a guy with a road-kill squirrel puppet?  He doesn’t post much but what he does is well-done.

While you’re out that way, have a look at to get in on the conversation:

rewild

http://www.urbanscout.org/

http://rewild.com/index.htm

Wooden Truck Topper

A couple recent inquiries prompt this quick post about a wooden truck topper.  The question that came up a few weeks ago was “why would you make a topper instead of just buying one?”  Well, I’m not wealthy and making something costs a lot less than buying it.  Also, if you are a woodworker, it’s easy to end up with surplus wood from projects.  Often, the next project is virtually free.  That’s what happened here.

DSC_0028Sorry for the grime in this photo but I live on the southern Plains.  What can you do?  I tried to streamline it and match the curves of the pick-up but honestly, I didn’t put too much effort into any aspect of the topper.  I just needed something to get me through last summer but I’ve liked it enough that it is now a fairly permanent fixture.  The arc of the roof approximates the arc of the truck, created by eyeball and a pen on a board.  There is no better tool than the human eye in the creative process.

DSC_0027While making the shell, it became apparent that the Toyota bed tapers to the back.  I decided, upon reflection, to be lazy and just ignore this inconvenient truth and keep the shell square.  I did, however, match the front of the shell to the slope of the cab and allowed the back of the roof to overhang slightly.

DSC_0026This interior shot shows the three frames and sill that are essentially, the skeleton of the whole thing.  Also, highlighted is the eternal mess in the back of a working truck.

DSC_0025Here’s the basic part list that I used: 2x4s for side and front sills, 2×4 frames, tongue and groove yellow pine for sides, front, and hatch, western red cedar roof.  Lexan front and rear windows, hinges, closures, and various fasteners to hold it all together.  For the roof exterior, 30# tar paper and a canvas truck tarp.  The whole thing is varnished with exterior spar varnish. I think the whole thing can be made for  a couple hundred dollars as opposed to a couple thousand from the store.

DSC_0519And besides, it matches the house…

Good luck!  Hope this helps somebody out there.

Living Without Money

Not a new story, but one that seems to keep resurfacing.  Maybe there’s a crumb of wisdom that intrigues people about this concept.  Most people in the Western World have never, for a second, considered life without money, yet for most of the world, and nearly all of our history, this was the natural condition.

Can we all do it tomorrow? No. Can we move toward a less abstract, personally productive life? Yes.  Click the photo to read the short article or link below to visit the website and his book.

Headliner

Mark Boyle has a cuppa out the front of his caravan. He has forgone money and says he has found happiness.

“I believe the fact that we no longer see the direct repercussions our purchases have on the people, environment and animals they affect is the factor that unites these problems. The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that it now means we’re completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the ‘stuff’ we buy.”

This is the most salient point that so many of us miss in our daily routine.

“Very few people actually want to cause suffering to others; most just don’t have any idea that they directly are. The tool that has enabled this separation is money, especially in its globalised format.”

“I am not anti anything. I am pro-nature, pro-community and pro-happiness. And that’s the thing I don’t get – if all this consumerism and environmental destruction brought happiness, it would make some sense. But all the key indicators of unhappiness – depression, crime, mental illness, obesity, suicide and so on are on the increase. More money it seems, does not equate to more happiness.”

Mark Boyle is the founder of the Freeconomy Community www.justfortheloveofit.org. The Moneyless Man, a book about his year without money, is available here and elsewhere on the web.

Makers to the Rescue

Makers, Dreamers, Builders, and Inventors, Unite:

reflections on saving our world

“Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things. And it is by no means certain that a man’s business is the most important thing that he has to do”  Robert Louis Stevenson.

Coup_de_poing_acheléen

Humans are, by nature, makers of things.  That’s how we deal with the world…  or did, until the Industrial Revolution tore us away from our connection with the earth.  Somebody is still making all the stuff, of course, its just outsourced and corporatized,  repackaged, and branded.  Strangely, the stuff that should last, like clothes, housing, or tools are generally poorly made and often unfixable while the junk that should be disposable is made from plastics that will endure for a geologic age or poison our descendents.  But maybe, with a little effort, it doesn’t have to be this way.

TheCordwainer

Today, instead of procuring our needs directly or through someone we know, we trudge off into an abstract man-made environment to be treated as children and told to perform an obtuse task or two or twenty.  And in exchange for giving up our time, we get slips of paper (or more likely, digits only readable to a computer on a plastic card) that confirm that we have performed our work and are now in a position to gather food, shelter, clothing, heat, etc. from a middle-man where profits are almost never seen by the makers.

FullApron

Hand Crafted Apron from THOSE WHO MAKE.

Creating things like fire, rope, or cutting tools, not to mention shoes or housing will baffle most modern people.  Weaving a blanket, sewing a shirt, or butchering an animal are simply out of the question for most of us in the western world.  Many of these activities will get you strange looks at best or a call to the authorities at worst.  This mindset means that most of us can’t feed or cloth ourselves any longer even if we really want to.

tailorMakers are the hope.  We’re out there.  Doing things and making stuff.  Fending for ourselves in an hostile but lethargic world of expected and nearly enforced consumerism. Once you realize the machine doesn’t work, you can realize it doesn’t really exist.

Most of my adult life, I’ve noticed an interesting paradox.  Typical wage-slaves who proudly give 50 hours per week to a faceless and unappreciative mechanism are convinced that the dreamers and the creators are just a bunch idlers and flâneurs when it’s, in fact the lifestyle that they really envy.  If it isn’t recognized as drudgery, somehow it’s not real work.  But how much do we really need to be happy?

hammock

As a side note, many modern philosophers trace this thinking directly to the Protestant Reformation when, as they claim, much of the fun was beaten out of life and holidays were things to be frowned upon.  But here I digress.

The internet actually gives me hope, especially seeing the wonderful documentaries of real craftsmen and makers around the world that are emerging from obscurity.  Maybe to many, Makers are just a novelty.  Something to be ogled at.  But knowing there are others out there looking for a deeper purpose and a better existence makes me feel a little better about humanity.

BicycleRepair

Repairing something is a first step toward making something.

Let’s be realistic; most modern folks wouldn’t opt to live as hunter gatherers as their ancestors did, but maybe we can reach a better balance with our lives than to adopt the imposed role as absolute consumers.  And hopefully conscience people can do some good things along the way.  Maybe by thinking outside the consumer mindset and choosing to build our homes, make our own socks and shirts, ride a bike, and hunt our meat we can make a difference by both our action and our inaction.

In the words of Samuel Johnson, “To do nothing is within everyone’s power.”

san

Remember: “An idle mind is a questioning, skeptical mind. Hence it is a mind not too bound up with ephemeral things, as the minds of workers are. The idler, then, is somebody who separates himself from his occupation: there are many people scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation”

Robert Louis Stevenson, idler extraordinaire.

stillWhy not go make something?  Your great grandparents did.

P.S. Pardon the Friday late night ramblings.  My disdain for the modern world is heightened at the end of a ridiculous week at work.

Backyard Chickens

I’ve been lucky as a chicken owner for quite a few years.  Very few have been stolen by predators, and we’ve had very little illness.  Right now, with a dozen chickens both old and young, I get between three and six eggs per day with the occasional bonanza of eight.  That is, if I can keep the Gopher Snakes out.  I catch the snakes when I can and take them a few hundred meters away and hope they find new homes to rob.  With limited free-ranging in a pretty poor environment they cost me no more than $10-$20 per month and a few minutes work every day.  In the winter, they need a bit more tending, especially to keep the water unfrozen.  I can’t see how suburban America has so lost it’s way that there is a fight to keep chickens in your own yard.  I recently heard a politician refer to them as “gateway livestock”.

LuckyChickenI love my dogs, but to hear people speak of chickens as annoying, smelly, and dangerous is ridiculous.  Dogs bark, and often attack people (which are the jobs we bred them for) so the double standard is apparent.

DomPulletIf you have lived with chickens, you know how excellent they are at virtually eliminating small vermin; especially ticks, grasshoppers, crickets, and even the occasional mouse or snake.  They are wonderful pest control, especially around the perimeter of the garden and their manure is a potent garden additive.

BuffOrpMaybe not as cuddly as a dog or cat, they are certainly part of our history for thousands of years.  If you are considering chickens for eggs or meat, they are a simple, inexpensive investment that takes little time or money and are a great addition to the household food supply.  Mine survive well on kitchen scraps including almost daily doses of broccoli stems, carrot tops, fruit peels, and even chopped weeds from the garden.  They work better than composting for most waste.

LuckyThey come in many varieties, builds, temperaments, and fortes, but nearly all will help out the small homesteader.

Robin Wood, Traditional Craftsman

Here’s another excellent video of Robin Wood, wood turner and traditional craftsman.  Visit his website to learn more about this remarkable man and his admirable career choice.  As he explains, his job is easy to describe while so many careers are just about impossible to explain what one does and we create fancy titles to describe what we do all day.

His website is: http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/

Lightening my load

About an addiction I didn’t even realize I had.

BOOKS. A hidden addiction.

It seems that minimalism is the word du jour around the internet these days.  Tiny houses, the 100 Thing Challenge, Non-Conformist work strategies, and urban homesteaders are filling blog-space with ideas and adventures outside the old consumerist norm.  Many people are looking for something more in their lives and realizing that Stuff is not the answer.  There is often an epiphany in someone’s life when they come to the realization that humans are not just professional consumers or targets for marketing strategies.  Shopping is not a valid pastime.  Hopefully there is more to our short existence than reality TV.  Having lived without regular television for quite a few years I feel very lucky to miss out on political soundbites, sit-coms, and mass marketing of sports-watching.  Unfortunately, even with my relative isolation, I know about these things from reading the news on the Internet almost daily.

Choosing to not buy into most popular-culture lightens my mental load a lot and (hopefully) allows time for deeper and more elevated thinking as well as crafting a better life.  Daily walks, exercise, building things, cooking good food, and reading make for a calmer mind and a lower stress level.  These are intentional activities not the imposed sedation of consumer culture.

When I had to leave Flagstaff about eight years ago, I began uncluttering my belongings.  I don’t think of myself as a collector, but I had amassed an enormous library of books.  This is what people on an academic path do … right?  Who did I think I was?  Some nineteenth-century English aristocrat?  Why would I possibly need a personal library?  It hit me one day that this was crazy.  I have hauled books around since I was a teenager until it became truckloads to move while nearly always living within twenty minutes of a large, academic library.

Sure, as a person who researches writes for work there are certain references and sources I need to have on hand and could not adequately perform my job without, but I had fallen into the trap of keeping books around “just in case” I wanted them again.  That’s not to say that there aren’t recreational books I would never want to be without and I hope to read or reference many more times before I die.

I was able to sell a fair number of books and make a few dollars from them but, in the end, found that there isn’t a high monetary value on most books.  These I gave away.  I gave away even more to the local library and to the Goodwill store.  I still have far too many books, but now its really just the one’s I love or have a need for.  The ones I may not need but can’t quite part with are: a few rare antiques, first editions, special editions, and expensive academic tomes.

I’m still giving away books but I’m still buying them as well.  Being far from a real bookstore actually makes it easier, not harder, to shop, read reviews, preview and purchase books.  Without getting up I can order a book and expect it in my post office box in a week.  Such is the Amazon.com culture.

I still read voraciously, but now, when considering a book, I really try to consider how much I want to own it and do I want to lug it around? Another anchor holding me down.  Can my local library get it?  This has been a difficult addiction to overcome.  I’ve bought books since I was fourteen and, on some level, prided myself on having such an extensive collection at my fingertips.  It felt good to put another dozen or so hardbacks in my Goodwill box this morning.  Just a few hundred more to let go (but a few more are on their way to my post office).