Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tiny homes and silence

This evening I was reading various blogs and sites about tiny homes, which I find quite fascinating and ingenious, when one site which gave awards for tiny homes/tiny home blogs, made me think about the entries. One was a 64 ft sq home, which is smaller than where I am living currently, by about half. At this point it dawned upon me that small folks, like the founder of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, have a distinct advantage over tall folks like me.

First there is the obvious, such as the 6 foot high ceilings in the Tumbleweed homes works for people under 6 foot tall.. but not for those of us who are more than half a foot again as tall as that.. but then too there is a problem of space. Our clothes take up more space, we need more space to dress, or to do anything.

Houses, even tiny houses for those of us who are larger are going to cost more, thus consume more resources to heat/cool than an identically constructed house for a smaller person.

Just some of the thoughts on small homes, as they pertain to me.. I am not in any way thinking of abandoning my own small home, though it may not qualify as a tiny home since I am making it large enough to make my own daily living comfortable. It will still have a "footprint" about a third or less than the average new home in the US, so if we adjust for space needs based on size, this is my tiny home..

Just before I wrote this, I opened the door of my extremely tiny temporary home (ceilings are just over 6 feet high..) to see how cold it felt on this last day of 2009, to discover not only is it not too cold, but more surprisingly to me, it is dead silent. No wind noise, no animals at all. Just silence. Quite nice, though I don't know how often I would be willing to be up at 1:00 am on any given night on the off chance of silence..

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Being fed up with not making progress of late on the homestead I went to the site, pick in hand to try to see if the latest idea for securing the posts to the ground would work.. well what I discovered put a damper on my mood and on any progress. 


The excavation was still holding water, but now in solid state. Though the temps have been climbing into the mid 40's or higher lately, the excavation, which is on the north side of the ridge, never gets sun in the bottom of it currently. So the ice just stays.. and each night gets thicker.. So I fear that I may be shut down for the season. 

I may still be able to salvage something, though not real progress as much as perceived progress in that I may decide to write up my own instruction manual so that when the weather once again permits me to work on the site, I can just look to my instructions without having to think about what step to take next. A very hollow victory at best, but something to keep me going..

That said, I have been working on developing my garden plot, the primary one anyway. I have hauled a couple of hundred pounds of manure to the site so that it can decompose, feed the soil, and the worms. Since it looks like I will spend another half year or where I have parked my caravan on Rancher Bob's property, he and I are going to work closely this year on a garden. With luck, unlike last year, I will be able to grow many of the foods that I enjoy, and want to live off of, so as to save on the ever increasing grocery bill.  With the seed catelogues coming in it is time for dreaming of the wonderful harvests.. 

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ironic, surprising, and apt quote

I never thought that I'd be quoting CS Lewis of all people, but given the current efforts to force government restricted (well more restricted anyway) health care upon us, his quote is quite apt:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

C. S. Lewis

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A night of "Culture"





Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Hermit Turns 40

Strange day.. Began early (5:30am)  rain ongoing from the night before.

Feed cows in the rain about 8:30am

Make a hasty trip to town for feed..

Return only to head back to town with Rancher Bob and his wife and her family for dinner.

Back to be welcomed by snow and temperatures plummeting by more than 25 degrees. 

per usual, little fuss about the day, all focused on the morn..

Thankfully, a couple of friends remembered... to them, I tip my glass.. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Old is new again

Well, the "old" setback of not being able to sink the posts into the ground because we have excavated down to solid rock,  has also defeated the "new" solution. The "new" solution was to drive Re-bar down into the rock (it is "soft" rock) then pour concrete around the posts and re-bar thus giving the post a good strong footing. Well, a few days ago I tried to drive some re-bar into the rock to no avail. Not even a hint of progress.. So onto the next approach.. 

Now I am going to try to dig out a trench out of the rock, using a pick and my own labor. Depending on a few factors, this trench will either be for the posts themselves, else for concrete wall to sit in front of (downhill/inside) the posts to prevent any downhill movement. Then I will be running cedars from the uphill "wall" to the downhill so as to further prevent any chance of movement. I am fairly certain that this is overkill, but though I plan one day to take my own life, having a few tons of soil come suddenly crashing in on me is not the way I plan on undertaking that endeavor. 

Regardless, I can see no other way to resume progress on the site now that the equipment is locked away for the season while the owner heads to Cancun.. And to think that there are some who question my wanting to do virtually all of this myself when I cannot rely upon others to meet any sort of deadline.. 

In the meantime I have been working out the details of my plan, catching up on movies (odd for me) reading economic books, and buying christmas presents using the rewards I receive from various frugal/reward sites. The $20 in Amazon cards went a lot further than one might think.. and a delayed present from another site will be 26 weeks of the Economist for Rancher Bob, which has the benefit of my getting to read them when he is through with each issue. 

Yes money is tight now, but there are still ways to make the most of things using the various rewards. To be honest, I have not even touched the best reward program yet (Harris polls) nor have I counted the cash from Pinecone Research. 

I've also come around to the decision to forego a refrigerator completely in favor of an ice box. I realized that over the past year I have been living with this small RV fridge, and using it mostly for the freezer section at that. Moreover the use I have for the fridge has been for leftovers, which in my case get eaten right away, and for condiments. With that in mind, I calculated that I can use a well insulated container for these items, making the ice (for now) with the freezer unit which I intend to keep. This will mean firing up a generator* once or twice a day to keep the temp cold and to make sure that I am making ice for the icebox, but that seems a small price to pay for the energy savings from not having an appliance that I really have little use for.  I hope to get to the point of being able to do without the freezer as well, perhaps by building one of the solar ice makers** that have been designed, and perhaps by canning more of the foods I would normally freeze. Then too in the winter when the temps drop into the teens, there ought to be no problem creating ice for the icebox, and to add to the freezer to keep it cold enough without needing to fire up the generator. 

*Compressors and other motors require too high an initial draw to safely operate on a small solar/wind/battery system so a generator stands in to take the draw and at the same time recharge the batteries. 


We are expecting rains starting Tuesday, lasting for three days, so that will once again prevent any on site work from getting done, but it feels like I am making progress by getting some of the plans worked out in better detail to deal with the new/old hurdles. 

That is the news from the backwoods of hell.. where the children are absent, the men overworked, and the women are welcome. :) 

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I can only imagine that those who held the hope for change, the hope for hope, or a hope for peace with the seizing of the reins of power by Obama, are the most sorely betrayed and disappointed. Surely even though I know from history and even the simple application of reason that no politician will ever actually reduce his own power, I still had some small hope that Obama would actually try at least to seek peace rather than to escalate two wars and start a third. Whether you like him or dislike him, you have to be disappointed in his decisions to seek and expand war. 

I realize that Obama considers himself the smartest person in the room, no matter what room he is in, but he is no Einstein. 

Friday, December 18, 2009

The trinity

No I am not suddenly going to start preaching about the fallacious 3-in-1 rhetoric.. I am speaking (and borrowing the reference) about Obama, Krugman, and Bernanke. 

I was reading the Mises Institutes web site today, including a number of great articles, but was struck by this one in particular: The Trinity is Complete by J. Grayson Lilburne .

A brief snippet: " "We Need a Housing Bubble" Krugman got a Nobel in Economics. "Let's Ramp Up a Murderous, Useless War" Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize. So what do we give Helicopter Ben Bernanke, who has squandered much of whatever capital we had left after the housing bubble burst by pushing interest rates down to zero, and guaranteed (just wait for it) the worst depression in American history? Make him Time Person of the Year!"

If you are wondering why these awards are so very wrong, consider that following the advice of Krugman, we are now in terrible economic shape. Following the policies, practices, and desires of Obama with regard to wars, we are now outdoing even Bush's fondest wishes expanding two wars, and fighting a third undeclared and illegal war on Pakistan. And now Time honors the man who determined that instead of a recovery, and instead of learning from the actions of the fed at the time of the Great Depression (NY fed was in control then) Bernanke opted for doing exactly what the fed did in 1929 three days after the market crashed.. except that he is taking it even further! 

It was Keynesian theory that set up the Great Depression, and now we have Krugman who is a dyed in the wool Keynesian, whom the powers that be are celebrating.. It was the actions of devaluing money that helped extend the Great depression by several years, and so we now are celebrating taking the same actions and calling them creative and inspired. 

We are on a tragic path economically, and Time is playing the fiddle while the dollar burns.. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Okay.. let me start by saying that this is a pet peeve of mine, and in one sense of little importance, but in another this one factor can really take away from an otherwise good story or film. 

What is it? Well it is the way that hats are treated... See? Sounds trivial.. But give me a second or two to explain.. 

I am a hat guy. This is one of my truly impractical (not always, but sometimes) indulgences.. I like a damn fine hat, both for myself and others, and both for men and women. Hats are no longer valued as they should be, nor seen as often as they should be. Hats provide elegance, can define character, provide protection, can show style, and offer up countless opportunities for graciousness. But this is not the post for arguing for the wearing of hats.. (oh, and I am NOT talking about the trashy caps that are so popular, but real hats.. )

No, this post is to simply vent on a practice which no real hat enthusiast, or even those who purchase real hats of quality would ever indulge: putting a hat down on its brim. 

Hats always "point" up right so you set them down in the same direction you wear them... 

No.. the brim is fragile and can be reshaped through such ill considered practices. This is why a good hatter will always tell you how to treat and care for your hat, whether it be a discounted second running about $100 US to a custom 100+ point fitting running a few grand, the quality hatter makes certain that you understand that you always put on the hat using the brim not the crown, and you always rest the hat on the crown (upside down if you will) rather than the brim. These are the practices which keep the shape of the hat intact. 

So why is it that this common knowledge amongst the wearers of real hats, never seems to find its way to the movies or tv shows? Why is it that these supposedly wealthy high bred characters never seem to know how to treat one of the few elements which separates them visually from other characters? Why can't hollow-wood ever seem to get this simple point right?

When they fail to have the character actually know how to treat their hat, they give lie to the character, thus harming the performance, and thus the story itself.. 



I should really know better than to read the suggestions by Amazon.. Today I noticed that they suggested that I pick up "The Keynes Solution: The Path to Global Prosperity" 

For those who are not familiar with economics, Keynes was unfortunately a very influential pseudo-economist whose rise to popularity rests upon two factors: 1. He told the powers that be that they are right to increase the size of government and to severely restrict liberty, and 2. He said that we can and in fact we must generate enormous debt in order to be prosperous.  Politicians like nothing better than being told that they need more power, and that they must spend money that they (and we) do not have in order to increase that power. 

Keynes must have been the basis for South Park's Underwear gnomes.. 

Step 1. Get underpants

Step 2. (well we are still working on step 2) 

Step 3. Be wealthy!

For Keynes the formula runs: 
Step 1. Increase government while generating enormous debt. 

Step 2. Wealth magically just appears

Step 3. Be prosperous.. 

There is just that little problem of Step 2..

So what made me cringe when I saw the Amazon recommendation is that no one who is familiar with economics, history, and logic can make the case that Keynesian "economic" theory leads to prosperity, particularly given that not on ly the US but virtually the entire world has been dutifully practicing Keynesian economics since before FDR was in power. After nearly a century of devout worship of Keynes, and holding everyone hostage at his alter, we should be free from any possibility of recession, much less the depression we are in now worldwide. The fact that the economy sucks is proof positive that Keynesian "economic" theory fails to accurately describe reality, and fails to provide a worthwhile guide for action. 

All of which ignores the moral aspects, where Keynes assumes that the people in power have not only the right but the duty to essentially own all other persons. 

Under sound economic theory the "Keynesian paradox" does not exist. This is the fact that we know it is smarter for the individual to save, but Keynes claims that this is harmful to the economy. We have been hearing about this "paradox" quite a bit lately on the "news," but none of these folks bothers to think about why this appears to be a paradox. It is a paradox ONLY if we assume axiomatically, that is without any thought, that Keynes is always right. Drop that assumption and the conclusion is clear: No paradox exists, Keynes is simply wrong!

But a brief explanation might help to make this more clear. When I save money, I don't stuff it under the mattress, I invest it. I either invest it in a bank in the form of a savings or checking account, or I invest it in other ways (stocks, bonds, precious metals, etc.). Now the banks don't stuff that money under their mattress either, they invest it to make a higher return than you will so that they can make a profit as well and thus stay in business. Or if you are buying stocks, bonds, etc. you are directly investing in a business which is producing (hopefully) goods that are desired by others. The banks are also investing in such businesses. Those  businesses then produce goods, which if desired will be purchased. Since we have been saving money, we are on good financial footing, and do not have the need to spend all of our time servicing some debt, so we can spend some on luxuries, or non-necessities, thus further advancing the economy. All with no debt.. 

Ultimately we must let reason and evidence rule the day. Either Keynes was right, and thus we are now experiencing incredible prosperity without even the possibility of any negative consequences, else we are in fact in a recession/depression and thus Keynes was simply wrong. Since governments have been closely following Keynesian theory, all other possibilities are excluded. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A little politics

Though the name of the blog is inherently "political" in that it states clearly that I do not want to rule the life of any other, nor can I tolerate others ruling my life, I have tried to limit the political posts as surely we are all more interested in living, rather than in arguing about how it is supposedly justified to live another's life for them. 

Still, with my background in ethics and socio-political philosophy, and my interest in real justice, I find myself near constantly reading about and otherwise delving into the area of politics in some form, though never in a way which could be understood to lend any legitimacy to the distasteful practice. 

On that note, a particularly good blog post was offered today by Wendy McElroy, a noted author of women's issues, history, and the individual. In this post she discusses the question she invariably gets when she writes on the police brutality which passes as "law enforcement" today: Where are the good cops? 

A snippet: Where are the good cops when police brutality happens? Where are they afterward when victims plea for justice? William Norman Grigg eloquently asks and answers these questions on his blog Pro Libertate where he is currently presenting a series of articles about police brutuality; it runs under the general title "The Thin Blue Whine." Where are the good cops is a question of particular interest to me because, whenever I write about police brutality, I hear from at least one reader who objects, "But what about the good cops?" The clear implication is that I focus on a few "bad apples" and, so, I'm being unfair to the majority of cops who are (it is claimed) decent men.

I disagree...for several reasons.

Follow the link above for the rest, it is well worth reading for both those who know that there simply is no role for police, and for those who still believe in the myth of a good cop. 

More on the build process to come. I did some testing today for a new method and need to make some adjustments to the plan..

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A brief update

Little new on the homestead, except for the acquisition of a few slabs, those being the bits cut off the sides of timbers when they are milled into lumber. These slabs will hopefully serve as the shoring, or part of the shoring system, for the U-house.

Weather has been alternating between cold (in the teens F) and rainy, and somewhat moderately tolerable, with the latter being the less frequent of the two.

Decided on some important design changes necessitated by not being able to sink the posts into the ground as per the normal method. I am going to drive re-bar all around each post into the rock and then pour concrete around the post and re-bar. Then I am going to run 6 inch in diameter cedars from the base of one post to the base of another post downhill, for each post. This will create a box structure firmly tied to the underlying rock, and prevent the posts from trying to push inward from the weight of the soil on the outside.

With any luck I will start to work on setting posts in the very near future.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


All about maintenance right now.. The tractor (Rancher Bob's) needs an oil change, filter change, and greasing, but I discovered that there is not enough oil for an oil change after all, so this means a run into town...

The chainsaw, with new bar and new chain still seems to be overheating so I need to clean it out really well and make sure that the oil is getting to the bar, which I strongly suspect that it is not now..

The beaver, being smarter than us humans, decided to stay inside this evening while Captain Rob and I waited in the cold for them to come out to be shot..

More of Rancher Bob's new parcel of land is being cleared, and I have done a bit of research on beaver online, discovering that they are essentially like cows as far as food and fur are concerned.. so I have dubbed them "creek cows" for my own amusement, and with any luck epicurement as well!

I am still slowly working on learning Portuguese. Seems harder and harder to find the time each day, but still it interests me for many reasons, so I try to keep progressing.

I will try to get photos up again soon.. left the camera in the atv today and have no desire to get dressed to go out into sub freezing temps to get it..

Friday, December 04, 2009

Outdoor Grocery Store

I have for many many months now enjoyed breaking my fast with fresh raspberries, muscadines, and only for the last few weeks, fresh persimmons as well. But the first two of these I must admit are cases of gleaning, not really foraging as they are intentionally planted plants (not by me, but by a neighbor) as opposed to true wild edibles. The persimmons on the other hand, if any were intentionally planted the original planter has long since passed, and no one but me, and very rarely Rancher Bob makes any use of them.

However these are far from the only wild edibles I have been either enjoying, or working to positively identify so that I may enjoy them in the future. A few other examples are henbit, which I described in the past and look forward to enjoying here again soon, as they are the first of the greens to come up. Since it is either ignored or hated by most gardeners, I have no problem harvesting more than I can possibly use in exchange only for strange looks and even rarely some gratitude for "weeding" a small area of the garden. The henbit is used much like cooked spinach. I am partial to using it in italian style dishes mixed with other ingredients, but it can easily stand on its own as a "pot herb." "Pot herb" being just another name for any cooked greens.

I gleefully took advantage of the fresh briar leaves, as some may recall. And I have enjoyed clovers, and clover look alikes such as wood sorrel and yellow sorrel, both of which are wonderful slightly sour additions to salads. I read recently that they also make fine lemonade like drinks.

Still, I very much consider myself a novice forager, one still learning as much as is possible while trying to identify as many plants as possible. Some such as pecan are ridiculously easy, others present more of a challenge, such as mushrooms, though I am making some progress on that front as well having positively identified two mushroom varieties on the land which are edible.

Last month, I finally managed to find and correctly identify a Jerusalem Artichoke, which is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke, but is related to the common sunflower. The tubers it produces are edible and can be substituted for potatoes for those on low starch diets. I had and still do plan on growing this as a vegetable, but finding on in the wild is an unexpected delight.

With the cold temperatures, around 20F currently, the search for wild edibles turns largely to meat. With any luck at all, I will be filling the freezer with beaver meat which I have come to learn can be used in any recipe calling for beef, but is leaner than beef. With the arrangement I have made with Captain Rob, I hope to have no need to buy meat again. Between the beaver harvest each year, and what I take of rabbit, perhaps even squirrel if I feel like it, I should have an abundant supply of meat for every occasion!

Add to that the chance at turkey and deer, and I should be able to set quite an extravagant table when I desire to do so. In some ways it is hard to believe that some folks claim that there is a food shortage. In truth there is a shortage on knowledge, and a shortage on willingness to try "new" (or very old) things..

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Beavers? Dam!

Still no luck in trapping the nuisance beavers in the neighbor's pond. They dropped another tree last night, and have begun on yet another sweetgum. These are not small trees either, probably about as old as the dam itself. Each is over a foot in diameter, yet this or these pesky beavers are determined to drop all of them, and many good pines as well.

All the while they are building their home, and undermining the existing dam, which will of course cause their home to cease to be. I am certain of the undermining as I discovered myself looking at the world from three feet lower when walking across the damn this afternoon. I'd stepped above one of the tunnels, which was large enough to drop me quite a ways.

This means that we need to get these beaver out of this pond before there is no pond to save and it costs the landowner quite a bit in both time and money to have the dam rebuilt.. most likely meaning waiting until summer, meaning all of the fish will die, and the land will be changed by the winter rains etc. with the pond gone.. Fortunately the neighbor is a gentleman farmer who has no livestock relying upon the pond, though he is seriously considering getting a few next year to cut down on the fuel expense of bush-hogging the area a few times a year.

Little else to report.. I turned a left over hambone and a couple of dollars worth of beans into several meals, then turned the remainder into several more meals of chili by adding in ground turkey, more onion, and spices.. finally I turned the last bit left which did not get frozen into future meals, into three final meals of a modified chili which includes corn and whatever else is on hand.. For all of these meals I am guessing that I am averaging under 25 cents a meal.. Not too damn bad if I say so myself..

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

More Thoreau via McElroy

Wendy McElroy, noted author and lover of freedom offers up another great post on Thoreau and the support for the state:

"I am sometimes upbraided for excoriating policemen or the military or [fill in the blank with the state agent of your choice] because I allegedly do not take into account that policemen or military are individuals with unique motives and values. The accusation may be true that the legal system currently expresses and enforces injustice, but many individual policemen are honorable and believe in the constitution. Thus, it is unfair to hold them responsible for a system that they are trying to change.

I disagree. As long as an individual freely chooses to violate the rights of peaceful people -- and the War on Drugs (to state just one example) is clearly such a violation -- then it is not a defense to claim the individual is decent enough to know his actions are wrong any more than it is a defense to say "it is his job"....which is to say, he is not only violating rights but also getting paid for it. These are not defenses. These are further condemnations. If a policeman knows it is unjust to smash in a door in the middle-of-the-night because someone may have drugs in their sock drawer, then he should not do it. Like the employee whose video "Why Bank of America Fired Me" was featured here on Sunday, they should refuse to violate innocent human beings. If they chose to do so, then they must take personal responsibility."

More on her site...