Friday, March 26, 2010

Looking around me now

Part of the blog and part of the reason for this journey is to reflect on living intentionally, a concept which has stuck with me for more than 20 years now in various forms. One of the earliest was from the Rush song Time Stand Still.

I'll let it speak for itself here:

Time Stands Still

I turn my back to the wind
To catch my breath
Before I start off again.
Driven on without a moment to spend
To pass an evening with a drink and a friend

I let my skin get too thin
I'd like to pause
No matter what I pretend
Like some pilgrim
Who learns to transcend
Learns to live as if each step was the end

(Time stand still)
I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
(Time stand still)
See more of the people and the places that surround me now
Time Stands still
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away
Experience slips away

Time Stands still

I turn my face to the sun
I Close my eyes
Let my defences down
All those wounds that I can't get unwound

I let my past go too fast
No time to pause
If I could slow it all down
Like some captain, whose ship runs aground
I can wait until the tide comes around

(Time stand still)
I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
(Time stand still)
See more of the people and the places that surround me now
Freeze this moment a little bit longer


Make each impression, a little bit stronger
Freeze this motion a little bit longer
The innocence slips away
The innocence slips away...

Time stands still
Time stands still

I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
See more of the people and the places that surround me now
Time stands still

Summer's going fast, nights growing colder
Children growing up, old friends growing older
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away
Experience slips away...
The innocence slips away.

Rainy days

The break in the weather which allowed me to get all of the lumberjack work done is apparently over. Sure the temperatures are much improved for the most part, but now we are getting rain. This is not all bad as Rancher Bob's pastures were in need of some moisture so that he can get a good hay crop this summer. The rain also helps the cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and other plants I put out at his wife's insistence though it is about two weeks early by my own guide. After getting amazing harvests from a short lived garden in Austin before I had to move, I am completely sold on the methods found in:

How to Grow More Vegetables: A... How to Grow More Vegetables: And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine
by John Jeavons

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring? Says who?

After several days of almost perfect weather, something never seen here in the Backwoods of Hell*, winter has returned. As I type this there is snow and sleet falling, almost certainly with the sole intention of killing the 60-80 cabbage and cabbage family plants I just put into the ground yesterday...

Began planning for the next work trip, a kitchen remodel in Kansas. I loathe putting off working on my own build project, but money is getting rather tight, and this is a job which was in the pipeline for some time. So I will have about a month away from the site starting around the 4th of April. When I return, I intend to be a pain to the backhoe operator until he gets out and does the few hours of work I need so that I can begin the actual building phase.

With an increase in the size and number of timbers I have available, I have revised the plans yet again, though these are minor modifications. I have removed all interior posts that are not already in the few interior walls, and I have decided to double up many of the posts on the outer walls, just to make the job of finding shoring materials even easier. I believe also that this increase in posts on the exterior walls, will offset the effects of having very large (two feet in diameter) timbers running overhead. There are also other advantages, such as the ease with which shelves can be built between posts, but those are all secondary at best.

Though I still cannot begin developing my own garden yet, since the site needs more sculpting, I've been focusing on developing the garden schedule. Essentially I am applying the methods and recommendations from John Jeavons (How to grow more vegetables..) to this climate, noting dates of planting from frost dates, as well as some companion planting. Hopefully come next spring I will have the beds created, soil very amended, compost system set up, and a simple plan for growing more than enough food for myself, and to barter for that which I either cannot or do not wish to grow.

I've ordered three hazelnut bushes from the Arbor Day Foundation, and may well order a few more though they are supposed to be very good producers. The plan for these is to offer up some wildlife food, as well as plenty of nuts for me as well.

With the weather turning nasty again, I returned to the internet for some of the projects I have been putting off. I finally ordered the few necessary pieces of equipment and supplies I have needed to get back into brewing beer again. Call it channeling the spirit of Edward Abbey... A new 185,000 BTU burner, some caps, and a new stainless steel brew pot are all on their way.

I am now debating ordering more wine supplies, since I saw a kit for making trebbiano, a wonderful very dry Italian white wine that unfortunately is not found often as a varietal, but rather is usually blended with other grapes. This being one of my favorites, and the kits being just about half price I am finding the temptation quite strong, though so far frugality is still wining.. for now..

With luck, we will have only one day of this nastiness, then back to warmer nice weather.. If not, I may actually get through my inside chore list..

*I'll explain this reference in a later post..

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Window farms

While going through the blogroll today, I came across a post which linked to a site promoting "window farms" . The basic concept is to grow some of your food indoors, using your window as the source of light, and a simple hydroponic system for the plants.

One of the really great aspects of this project is that it is all open source and focuses on easy frugal and practical solutions.

That said, some of the rhetoric on the site does make it clear that they buy into the nonsense coming out of IPCC and Al Gore concerning anthopormorphic climate change, virtually all of which has been thoroughly debunked at the most basic level (google "climategate" or just read The Deniers).

Still, their hearts are in the right place, and unlike the IPCC, they do seem to be focused on real results. Will growing a few herbs and other veg in your windows radically change the world? Nope.. but it could be a great way to get high quality, otherwise expensive produce for pennies, while enjoying better flavor and nutrition as well.

So while I find the idea intriguing, and while I may well try it out myself, one question is nagging at me, prompted by some of the aforementioned rhetoric:

We know that indoor air quality, especially in apartment buildings and urban housing, is terrible.
We know that many if not most of the materials used in such housing out gas significant amounts of toxins.

Won't those same toxins be picked up by the plants which we will be eating?

A sort of typical day

Fed cows
Went to town to get feed and minerals
Did grocery shopping
Tilled garden
Fed cows
Showered up at the big house
Fed cows
Ate leftovers

and now.. computer time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From 106 to 160, now with photos!

Last day of timbering for a while, I believe. I cleaned up the dozed area, gathering in several more timbers along the way. When I started staging the timbers last week, I had 106 stacked that had to be moved to this staging area. Today ended with 160 stacked in two different staging areas. This photo is of the secondary area, and of only some of the new timbers taken from the dozed acreage. There are 43 timbers in the photo to be precise.. ranging from about 5 inches in diameter to over a foot in diameter. The really big ones are at the primary site, of which I have no photos as of yet.

Monday, March 15, 2010

More timbering and foraging

With the spring rains holding off, I've taken advantage of the dry fields and hills to pick up timbers I had already cut, and stack them into another staging area, as well as to get some timbers from last year that never made it to the original pre-staging area. On top of these timbers, I harvested another 30 foot hard wood timber which is always exciting to have fall.. Still I successfully got it to the primary staging area safe and sound. The gaining of this timber eliminates the need for any posts in the middle of any room in the house. The design method I am using for the build calls for posts every 8 feet, but the timbers used in his examples are all softwoods, which are notorious for their less than stellar performance as beams given their lower sheer strength.

In my own build I am using all hardwoods for beams and girders, and I am increasing the girth from his suggestions (10") to in some cases a full 24"! Even at 18" which is about as small as these girders are on the narrow end, they can carry far more weight than the suggested 10" pine or cedar timbers.

I am using cedars however, as their compression strength is wonderful, as is their resistance to rot and insects. So all of the posts are cedar timbers, some of these also approaching 2 feet in diameter.

So with that in mind it is easy to see why another massive 30 foot hard wood timber would be cause for celebration!

Along with the tedious gathering up of timbers and staging them, I have had a little chance for some more basic foraging and some gleaning as well. I foraged some wild garlic (which I suspect is some other plant actually, but it tastes more like garlic than anything else..) and hen bit, though not enough of the latter yet for a meal. Then this afternoon after I finished feeding cattle and moving timbers, I checked on the garden where there were a few pitiful looking turnips left over.. which turned into a delightful dish of turnips and greens, with butter and some cajun seasoning..

Another day or so and I will have picked up all of the timbers I can for the time being.. which means back to waiting for the backhoe to get out here to finish up the excavation so the build can finally begin in earnest.

*** I have finally found the cable which connects the camera to the computer so pictures will be forthcoming, though Windoze does not recognize the device, I am sure that linux will..***

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Forage of the season

Scored an incredible find, all from simply being helpful! Some neighbors were unloading cinder blocks and I saw no reason not to stop and help make the job a little easier. While transferring them from the trailer to an utility vehicle, I noticed what really looked like chives. This would not be out of place except that these were quite a ways from their garden area and certainly were not organized.

Well a couple of days later while checking the beaver traps, also for that same neighbor, I noticed more of these chive looking plants near the pond.. Finally, I checked and sure enough these plants are wild chives! I asked the neighbors and they were delighted that I wanted to take some. They directed me to an even larger patch of the chives, and though I am not really ready to plant anything on my site yet, as there is some sculpting of the hillside left to do, I dug up several plants and transplanted them to an area which won't be disturbed.

Then this morning to go along with the lunch of rice and beans, I picked a good handful of chives to add to the meal.. nothing short of delightful.

Once established, I should have enough chives to keep me quite satisfied, which is not easy to do..

Monday, March 08, 2010

More timbers, and a book review

Moved onto the last of the primary staged timbers today. Managed to get about half of the last stack moved to the secondary site before the rains began. Had two timbers which seemed pretty normal, though admittedly they are hardwoods, which turned out to be extra-ordinarily heavy. They alone caused me to drop the tractor down a gear while moving them. A temporary annoyance, but nice in the long run as these will make fine roof supports.

Rain will put all progress on hold for the time being, as the secondary staging area quickly turns to mud as it was just cleared of trees last fall.

I finished:
Legends, Lies, and Cherished M... Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History
by Richard Shenkman

And.. well give this one a pass. The author repeatedly relies upon biased and questionable sources, ignored some of the most obvious myths (like that Lincoln cared about slaves, he didn't according to his own letters) and for some strange reason referred to some of his sources as good "Marxist historians." Last I checked marxism is a pseudo-economic system, not a scientific or historical methodology..

Saturday, March 06, 2010

61 of 106

After today's moving efforts, I have 61 of the 106 timbers stacked. This leaves just over one of the four stacks, the one containing all hardwoods, left at the primary staging area. If the weather cooperates I will try to get that moved tomorrow, then if there is time left, round up some of the timbers that are laying down cut to length in the bulldozed area of Rancher Bob's land.

Obviously this is a slow process. Keep in mind that the timbers are various diameters and lengths, and not all will move down the road the same. The primary staging area is a half mile from the secondary staging area, and every trip is made by me on a tractor either dragging or carrying timbers. Some trips will have only one timber, if it is particularly large, others will have as many as 5 if they are smaller and will hold together as a unit (this is rare).

But I keep telling myself that this is one step closer..

One advantage of this move is that I am better able to organize the timbers so that the ones I need first (posts and girders) can be stacked together so that I do not have to tear down entire stacks in order to get to one needed timber. Hopefully this bit of organization will save me time and headaches come build time.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

More Books (15-16)

Finished the first of these several days back, though it was too painful to even think about until now. I am speaking of

Not since reading "The Accident" (Author unknown) have I come across a book that is so deserving of destruction. The author clearly has never studied any philosophy, logic, or ethics, and dismisses all who do as mere pointless musers or some such nonsense.

Why does he do this? It appears so he can try to pull the wool over the eyes of those who might read the book.

While he claims that the "golden rule" is the only moral guide, and is a perfect one, he fails to actually apply his own rule in any sensible way. Unlike those mere muddlers, those condemned "thinkers" who actually consider whether a claim is true or an approach practical, he ignores all of the counter-examples to his claims, that is to say all of those countless cases where the "golden rule" actually tells us to do either the wrong thing, or something which cannot be moral at all (such as being "obligated" to buy all of the encyclopedias from the traveling salesman who comes to your door, this is required by the "golden rule" but is not in fact morally obligatory).

His entire pop-(non)philosophy book (nearly a pamphlet) assumes that you are going to do the right thing already. If you aren't then the golden rule is worthless, especially as he describes its application. If you are going to do the right thing anyway, then his rule can only lead you astray or offer nothing at all.

The book serves only purpose only: to make the author money at the expense of ethics and knowledge. Avoid this one and go to something of value!

Fortunately the next book was much better.

Voyage From Yesteryear Voyage From Yesteryear
by James P. Hogan

Hogan is one of the most solid sci-fi authors, and as he shows in this book, a truly gifted thinker as well. He crafts a story which involves a few novel approaches to not merely colonization but development of society, along the way also showing how a peaceful people who embrace responsibility and liberty (cannot have one without the other after all) can defend themselves through almost exclusively voluntary non-violent action, reserving a physical response only against the most dire and determined threat to innocents.

This one is a joy to read in this time of economic and political turmoil where daily we see reports on the every growing police state. To be reminded that peaceful existence is not only possible, but practical and in fact necessary to our continued existence, helps us keep going in light of all that is going on around us.

I believe that this makes numbers 15 and 16 of the 50 books effort..

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


More progress on the slow build..

Spent some hours today moving the stacks of timbers, and organizing them at the same time, to the next staging area. I need to get all of them out of the hay pasture so that when I start using them I am not destroying the much needed hay, nor the wildlife habitat I will be developing this year.

I managed to get the two 30 footers moved and stacked, along with 12 others. Some of these had to be dragged along the road, which served to remove any deteriorating wood as well as any bark left on the timbers.

I will likely spend the next couple of days, doing more of the same until all of the stacks of timbers are moved to the staging area. Then I need to collect the timbers from the cleared over area, assuming that it has dried out enough to get in there with a tractor. Earlier this week I managed to get a utility vehicle stuck in that area when it slipped into a sink hole where a tree used to be. Tractors are far more prone to getting stuck so I have to be particularly careful.

Still it is nice to once again be working towards having a home.