Vehicles

We bought new vehicles when we moved here 11 years ago.  I needed something to drive when I was here and Cherie’s 10-year old minivan was about to bite the dust.  For hauling and farmwork, I bought an F-150 4×4 pickup truck.  Cherie bought a Honda Pilot.  They turned out to be good choices for us.

The truck is now used almost exclusively around the farm, primarily for hauling heavy loads.  It’s pretty beat up, but still runs well.  It has a little over 100,000 miles on it.

The Pilot has been our workhorse vehicle.  Because the truck is a gas-guzzler, we use the Pilot whenever possible.  It’s been ideal for our produce deliveries and has never given us any trouble at all.  It now has well over 200,000 miles on it and is still going strong.

Considered without regard to the context of our lives, neither vehicle seems an environmentally wise choice.  That is particularly true of my truck.  But a heavy duty pickup truck is nearly essential for this life, and as much as Cherie wanted a hybrid or a smart car, neither made sense for country/farm living.  We are careful to drive as little as possible and we try to minimize our ecological footprint in as many other ways as we can.  We want to live in a less toxic world, but fuel efficiency isn’t the only relevant factor in deciding what we’ll drive.  As with so many things, there are other factors that have to be balanced in the mix as well.

I see lots of city people driving tricked-out pickups without a scratch on them.  Worse, I see them driving monstrosities like Hummers or Escalades.  I try not to be judgmental or “greener than thou,” and perhaps if I knew their life circumstances I’d see that those vehicles make sense for them, as ours do for us.  But I suspect that in most cases those vehicles are chosen not for their utility, but rather as fashion-statements.

We’re hoping our vehicles have another good 11 years in them.  But when the time comes to replace them, we’ll try to make the right decision on what to do.  Whatever other factors we end up considering, I’m pretty sure our choice won’t be intended to impress anyone.

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Let Me Tell You How It Will Be

Taxes are said to be one of life’s certainties.  We’ve paid a fortune in taxes over the years, and I’m not satisfied that they were used wisely.  But as we all know, they’re not optional.

We did find a seemingly foolproof way to avoid paying income taxes. Homesteading small farmers don’t have to worry much about that one. Likewise consumption-based taxes can be greatly reduced by greatly reducing consumption. When you don’t spend much money their bite isn’t so bad.  The tax that gives us the most heartburn these days is property tax.

As someone once said, if you think you own property just stop paying your taxes. You’ll soon find out who the real owners are.

As we prepared to transition to this lifestyle we eliminated lots of expenses and made sure that going forward we wouldn’t owe anyone anything and could be as reasonably self-reliant as possible. But we must pay the government every year for the privilege of owning our farm and our property taxes keep climbing.  It’s an expense we can neither eliminate nor control.

As tempting as it is, I won’t launch into a tirade about local government.  It really doesn’t matter much whether I agree with how it raises revenue or what it does with it.  We’re required to pony up whatever they tell us to pay and no amount of complaining is going to change that.  And to be fair, some tax revenue is necessary and there will be valid objections to any method used to raise it.

But for anyone thinking of transitioning to a less-complicated lifestyle, don’t forget the taxman.

New Things

“Eat what’s on your plate.”  We all probably heard some variation of that when we were growing up.  Children don’t get to do the household menu planning, and that is a good thing.

But eventually we were on our own and free to eat whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.  Instead of being required to just eat what’s on our plates, we could eat nothing but our favorite foods if we liked.  That is a privilege I recall abusing frequently when I was in college.

When we began gardening we grew only the foods we liked to eat.  We were beginning homesteaders, trying to become more food self-reliant.  We weren’t growing for market then, so we didn’t plant anything we didn’t want to eat ourselves.

Despite growing up in the rural South, I never had okra, grits or sweet tea until I left home.  They just weren’t part of our household food culture, even though they were staples of our larger community.  After we started growing okra here I asked my mother why we never ate it when I was growing up.  She said it just wasn’t something they ever had in their gardens in her family.  Why not, I asked.  She answered that they never grew or ate okra because her father didn’t like it.  If he didn’t like something, then they didn’t grow it.

Of course there’s no reason to waste garden space on something you know you’re not going to like.  We’ve never grown butter beans for example (better known to most people as “lima beans”), since neither Cherie nor I like them. But having said that, I also think it’s important not to be too rigid about that practice. Neither Cherie nor I liked black-eyed peas as children, so I didn’t plant any for several years. But eventually I grew some primarily as a summer cover crop.  We tried them and discovered that our grown-up selves loved them now.  They’ve since become a significant part of our garden plan.

Nowadays we try to add a few new things to the gardens every year as experiments.  We’ve discovered some great new (to us) foods that way. Our experiments with Asian veggies eventually led us to add an entire garden of them. If we had never ventured beyond the things we already knew we liked, we would’ve missed out on some delicious veggies.

We’re in the process of planning our 2015 gardens.  In addition to all the things we’ve already come to love, we’re looking forward to adding some new things as well.

Garden Rebound

After the crazy cold snap we had in October we’ve had mostly unseasonably warm weather.  The fall gardens that were seemingly done in by the cold have gotten second wind it seems.

I thought the bok choy was history, but it's coming back.

I thought the bok choy was history, but it’s coming back.

Broccoli looking good

Broccoli looking good

It looks like we may have Brussels sprouts this year after all

It looks like we may have Brussels sprouts this year after all

Likewise kohlrabi

Likewise kohlrabi

The cabbage plants are still alive and may yet produce heads.  Some of the Asian greens have survived and are still producing as well.  We have plenty of turnips.

It’s turning out to be a pretty good time of year for the gardens after all.

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.