Division

I recently read that according to an AP poll conducted this summer, 50% of Americans say torturing terrorism suspects is justified “often” or “sometimes,” while 47% say that torturing the suspects is justified “rarely” or “never.”  (SOURCE)

I find those results remarkable. On something like the use of torture one might reasonably expect a national consensus. But as with so many things, it seems instead that our society is split right down the middle on the issue.

Further evidence of how divided we are as a society.

Home for the Holidays

There are plenty of things to dislike about how our culture celebrates the Christmas season.  More than once I’ve been called a scrooge for mentioning them.

But whatever its flaws, the season tends to draw people home and that seems to me to be a very good thing.

When I was a child everyone in the extended family gathered at my Grandparents’ house on Christmas morning for feasting and exchanging gifts. No one had to travel very far to get there.

But these days it’s rare for a family to all live in the same community.  At least it’s rare among families I know. Most families are now scattered about, and many of us have to travel long distances to come “home.”  We tend to do that on holidays.

Our children are now grown and gone on to lives elsewhere. But at some point over the holidays they’ll both be home again. We’re looking forward to that.

Pig Kisses

Whenever I go in their pasture, the pigs insist on pressing their wet and usually dirty snouts on my legs.  A friend of mine calls this “pig kisses.”

A routine garden-variety pig kiss.

A routine garden-variety pig kiss.

When I take them their breakfast, the pigs start drooling when they see me coming.  I mean, they don’t just drool.  They DROOL–emitting what seems like bucketfuls of their foamy pig spit.  It’s a pity I haven’t been able to capture this salivary spectacle in a photograph yet.  I’m sure you are all disappointed.

So once a week Cherie washes my work bibs–that being the maximum period she allows me to wear them between washings. Yesterday morning when I put them on, they were crisp and clean and as I headed out for chores.

But alas they weren’t to remain unspoiled very long.  When I entered the pigs’ pasture one of them came up to me and began rubbing her head up and down my pants leg, liberally soaking it with pig slobber.  It was a particularly sloppy pig kiss.

Here she is afterwards, mocking me.

"What happened to your pants?"  Hehehehe

“What happened to your pants?” Hehehehe

An occupational hazard I suppose.

The Shed

Reading about someone building themselves an equipment shed has set me to thinking again about the kinds of things I mentioned in yesterday’s post about the DIY lifestyle.

Most of the improvements on our farm were done while I was still commuting and generating paychecks.

I’m glad for things we had done in those days.  Our shed, for example.

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We keep our tractor, lawnmower and utility vehicle in it, as well as our net fencing, chainsaw, rotary tiller, hay mower and assorted other stuff.

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But it’s most important use these days is as the location of our wood-burning boiler.  When we had the shed built we didn’t have plans to put in a stove like that. Luckily for us, when we decided to do that the shed location was well-suited for it. Thanks to the boiler, we’re able to keep our house toasty warm all winter with wood from trees that have fallen naturally on the farm.

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We have to accept our own limitations and work with what we have.  As satisfying as it would have been for me to build my own shed, in this case I’m glad that I just went ahead and hired someone to do it.  I suppose if I had no other choice I could build a shed, but it would no doubt take me a long time and be a laughable structure when finished. In hindsight I’m glad that as we approached the finish line I was trading my labor for sensible things.

Homesteading

I think we’ve done a pretty good job of reorienting our lives over the last ten years or so.  We grow almost all of our food and by selling our surplus we’re able to pay our bills.  And we don’t have many bills to pay these days.  Cherie has done a great job of reducing our household expenses without diminishing our quality of life.  It’s fair to say, I think, that we’ve successfully transitioned to the homesteading lifestyle.

But I can only say that because over the years I’ve adjusted my expectations. Back when this lifestyle was just a dream I imagined plenty of things that have never come to pass.  I planned to produce our own electricity on farm.  I wanted to make our own biodiesel.  I planned to barter much more than we do.  I wanted a root cellar, a milk cow, a passive solar greenhouse and lots of other things that haven’t happened yet and maybe never will.  I planned to acquire many more skills than I’ve actually been able to master.  But after a frantic beginning, I learned to slow down.  I also learned that the reality of homesteading doesn’t necessarily match up with the dreams of it.

Recently a friend introduced me to a Facebook group called “Small Farm, Sustainability and Homestead Living.”  It now dominates my feed.

Some of the folks who post on there are hardcore homesteaders–the kind of people who don’t just kill coyotes on their farm, but tan the hides and eat the coyotes too.  I find myself pretty envious sometimes of their degree of self-reliance (although I hope I’m never hungry enough to eat a coyote).  I have friends like that here too–folks who built their homes with their own hands (using mostly materials they made themselves), who cook on wood stoves, who make their own clothes, etc.  I admire them but I know now that one can live more sustainably and become happily more self-reliant without having to seek to be completely self-sufficient (a virtual impossibility in any event).

There are also folks who post in the group who are at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.  They have near zero understanding of country living, gardening, animal husbandry, homesteading skills, etc.  I’ve seen many variations of “Hello everyone.  I want to live off-grid in the wilderness and grow my own food.  I have no land, no money and no skills.  What advice would you give me?”  A day or so ago someone posted something like, “I want to live somewhere where I can grow my own food and earn money by digging for gemstones and precious metals.  Where would you recommend?”

It’s easy to laugh at these people.  Certainly they are naive.  Most of those kinds of posts are more reasonable, but I know most of the people who wrote them are going to be disappointed. In those kinds of posts I can feel their desperation and I feel sorry for them.  They’re people who want to escape a life of work that seems pointless and unfulfilling.  They want to reconnect and live in harmony with the land and with the natural world. I know that feeling well. For most of them though, what they’re hoping for just can’t happen, at least not without many years of planning and saving.  And it’s hard to look that far into the future for relief when you’re so desperate for it now.  I know that feeling too.

I remember back when the internet was still in its childhood and I’d spend hours reading the posts on the homesteadingtoday.com message boards, wishing I had the courage to chuck it all, move out to the country and live off the land.  This Facebook group reminds me of those days and of that online community.  By the way, ninety percent of the posts aren’t like the extremes I described above.  They’re more like sharing thoughts and advice with your neighbors over a virtual fence.  I recommend it if that sounds appealing.

I know from experience the temptation to want to go “all in” immediately. But I also know from experience that one can have a satisfying homesteading lifestyle without having to tan hides or dig for gemstones.  As difficult as it can be, we usually have to be patient.

The truth is that we can all lighten our footprints on the earth and enjoy more a more sustainable lifestyle.  Like all journeys, it will begin with a single step, and those that follow it can be small.  Maybe it’s being diligent about recycling, or improving your diet, or reducing energy consumption.  Once a small thing is mastered and becomes routine then it’s easy to add another one. Then someday you can look back, compare your life to the one you once led, and realize that all those small steps led to some big changes.  That’s what happened with us.

Overwintering

There are a few crops we plant in the fall for harvest next year.  Of course we have some fall veggies that we hope will keep producing till spring, such as broccoli and kale, but we know they may not last that long.  But with some, we know that we won’t get to enjoy them until after winter.

We planted a lot of spinach this fall that will overwinter. Even though we have taken a little of it already, it really isn’t intended for harvest until the spring, when it should have a growth spurt.

Garlic and onions are also planted to overwinter.  They get a jumpstart in the fall, then go dormant until the days get longer.

Good looking onions

Good looking onions

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After the crazy cold spell we had in early fall, the temps have returned to normal.  So even though we lost a lot of our fall production, there’s still a lot of goodness in our gardens.  Not enough to offer them for sale, but seemingly more than Cherie and I can eat.

Whether we’ll have any cabbage or Brussels sprouts this year remains to be seen.  I’m more optimistic about the Brussels sprouts than the cabbage.  Time will tell.

It’s nice to be able to eat food fresh from the garden in the winter.  Hopefully this winter will permit us to do that.

A Downside

Here’s what we’re subjected to this time of year.

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Look carefully in the distance and you’ll see two pickup trucks, parked on the side of the road. These are “hunters” (they don’t really deserve that word). Having set loose a pack of dogs somewhere, they’re waiting here for a chance to shoot at the deer the dogs are chasing, despite the fact that they’re on a public road with private posted property on both sides on them (including our pasture).

It’s illegal of course.  If confronted (and I have confronted guys like them many times) they’ll insist that they’re just “waiting on our dogs.”

Grrr…

Thankfully we’ve had less trouble than usual this year.  A couple of the folks who live on our road lobbied hard over the summer for increased patrols by the game warden.  One woman has put up signs warning dog owners that she has coyote traps set on her property.  We’ve also put up posted signs along the edge of the road and one of my neighbors has been diligent about chasing them off.

But even with the improvements, the problem hasn’t entirely gone away.

From where I took this picture I was about a third of a mile from our house. By the time I walked home, got in my truck and drove up there they’d likely be gone.  In this case they noticed me shortly after I took the picture and they drove away.

Having to deal with poachers and irresponsible hunters is one of the few downsides to rural living.