To Vlog or Not to Vlog: Part 2

I’ve always been a contrarian as far as I can remember.  But now, it’s going to another dimension. Instantly, my brain seems to come up with the exact opposite reasoning as to why the thing you just told me I should do is bullshit. People are like, “Oh, I’d just be afraid my kid wouldn’t get socialized if he didn’t go to public school.” Socialized?

I’m instantly like, “Well, most serial killers attended public school.”  It’s true yet it sends shock waves through a person. Like, you could take a quick stab at my life decisions but when I do the exact same to you it’s offensive? I’m over it.

I’ve nearly stopped talking with many people around me because anything out of my mouth is like a fomenting revolution.  They don’t want to hear it.  Nobody wants to know a spiral shaped garden may be the most efficient.  Nobody wants to hear the banking system is rigged to prevent you from getting off grid.  People aren’t thinking of launching a school based on homesteading (and people who are instantly stop when they come up against the government regulations that would need to be met but that’s a story for another day). Come to think of it, I’ve nary a friend to actually talk with about anything and perhaps this is one reason I should likely launch a Youtube page. I think it would be healthy for me to get out of my own head.

Yes, at bare minimum, I should start getting out and associating with like minded people. It would do me good.  At clothed maximum, there just isn’t enough money I can ever make fast enough in my current job to do all the projects I visualize.  It’s been a curse my whole life- my head is FULL of the biggest ideas imaginable while the funding to achieve said ideas is non-existent.  It’s slow creative torture.  Literally, I’ve now taken to praying to God to please stop filling my head with ideas he is not willing to fund.

“God, if you’re not paying for it then just take it away.”

It worked for a little while then recently the pattern started back up again…

I came across an opportunity to purchase a dream property I’d been eyeballing for years.  10 acres compared to my paltry .75 of an acre.  It’s everything I need to launch every type of business I’ve ever dreamed plus conduct the craziest Permaculture experiments in my head.  However, the only way to take a chance at it was to sell my house and put my wife and kids in discomfort.  After a lot of thought I couldn’t bring myself to do that.  It was too big of a risk.

Now I wish I could go back to when a property like that would never be available for me.  Because then, it was a fantasy I was in love with.  It gave me something to dream about.  It was always just out of reach so the fantasy remained.  Now that the property was handed to me on a silver platter and I didn’t have the finances to pull the trigger, it has all inverted and become about ME: unprepared, broke, incapable, doomed. Stuck with this head full of amazing ideas that will never see the light of day but rather rot away inside my skull.

I did a mock-up Permaculture design for the 10 acre property and saw how AMAZING it was going to be and now my own little property I used to be in love with lost its shine.  I don’t even know how that works- How can you be presented with amazing opportunities that ultimately just become temptation that drives you into self-loathing? It doesn’t seem the universe should work like that but it often does.  The universe is a trixter.  And it holds all the power to play whatever tricks it wants whenever it feels.

What I’m getting at is I really don’t see any other option at this point but to purchase a decent camera and start my Youtube page.  I don’t care about making money but that’s exactly what just cost me my dream property. I never cared about making money so I never did.  But now that I’m older it means there are consequences and when the dream property became available there was no funding.  I’m pissed.

I think I have a poor relationship with money because I violently hate it.  I hate that it makes the world turn.  I hate that it gives all the wrong people authority over all the right people.  I hate that it exists really, because I honestly don’t get why some fool invented it.  It’s like a stupid invention to me.  I don’t understand why society would want to move away from Agrarianism.  It doesn’t make sense. Why give taxes to a something I never voted for?  Never even volunteered for!  Ugh, it’s so ugly.

Well, I also hate to think I’m becoming the crazy artist who is incapable of managing the basics of his own business.  That seems like what’s up, so if I’m gonna have any chance at landing that dream property to see if my designs could have any impact on civilization… I’m gonna have to take my chances Vlogging on Youtube. I have to get a decent camera, and start trying to make something different of myself than what I was before.

SuperGarden 4

To Vlog or Not to Vlog: Part 1

Recently a smartphone dropping out of my pocket and plunging into the icy river to never be seen again has set off a period of deep reflection.  Yes, I dropped my smartphone into the river and no, I did not have insurance and no, I didn’t have the photos backed up to the cloud.   In less than 1 second I heard a “ploop” as I was netting a fish for my son and it was gone with the current.  God can move quickly when he wants.

The interesting thing was that I had been considering going back to an old flip phone and checking out of certain technologies for a while. I’ve been off Facebook forever and have never missed it.  In fact, I actually FELT better when I deleted my account 5 years ago.  So rather than fret, I activated the old reliable flip phone and reduced my bill by $21 per month or 21 x 12 = $252 per year.  I then committed myself to dropping certain habits like Tweeting while working or looking up information at the drop of a hat.

After all, I still have my home computer to check e-mail once per day, shop and research when I have time.  So do I really need those luxuries in my pocket?  I mean, I made it through high school in the age of payphones and pagers.  I went to college and was suitably married before social networking and sexting even existed.  I’ve traveled to California and back 5 times with road maps. Yes, I can read an atlas.  These reflections are what I am speaking of.  These thoughts are like a philosophical debate in my head set in motion by the plunging of the phone…

I’ve come to the conclusion the technology ahead of us is God’s test for an era. Like all things, personal technology can be used for either Good or Evil.  I personally think God wants to see if we are capable of using these technologies or not before truly dropping the Hammer of Positive Infinity upon us.  Likely we are failing this test.  I tended to use my smartphone for good but it also wasn’t like I was designing a revolutionary home for the homeless that sprouts from a capsule when you poor water on it.  The person that truly saves the planet will be the one who designs a nanobot that eats garbage, not the person taking selfies to get laid.

Is it realism or pessimism?  Positive thinking or skepticism? Or worse yet, who really gives a shit!  And that feels like where I’m at intellectually.  Kind of ambivalent.  Do I double down, make positive changes and try to save the world or check out of the system all together and just save me and my own?

On one hand, I’m on an interesting adventure- going from a 17 year apartment dweller with landlords (all of them were just themes and variations on asshole) to attempting to find a way out of the system. I mean, if I do find my way out, it’s a pathway I can film and broadcast to everyone else.  The Buddha stated the enlightened is the one who attains enlightenment but instead of passing through the vortex turns around for everyone else… or something along those lines.  It would be interesting to start vlogging the whole thing.  We’re starting our third year of a big journey and let’s be honest, it’s hard.  It’s not easy at all to get off grid.  Especially if you were born into the system.

A lot of people you find on Youtube and so forth are out West, facing a hospitable culture, cheap land and lax zoning.  It’s hard to know where they started… did they inherent land?  Were they born, like me, to be a drone for corporate America or where they born free to free men and women?  Don’t real estate values make a HUGE difference in the capacity for achieving sustainability?  These are all topics for my potential Vlogging. Topics that only a person struggling against the current can address.

I think it would be interesting.  I might even have fun filming it all and sharing it. There may be small amounts of money involved. Who knows?  But here is the big question- if Permaculture is about simplifying processes doesn’t the mere act of introducing a camera make a simple project like spreading mulch infinitely more complicated? It seems like a pain in the ass to me.  It’s already 200% more difficult than I thought it would be.  So taking the time to film things, edit them and post them to YouTube doesn’t appeal.  If there was a second person as passionate as me about it that was involved it could be great, yeah.  Alas that is not my life.  My wife decided she did not want to put in the effort it would take to be a full-time homesteader and instead went out and got a full time job.  This has left two of us working full time for others while also trying to homeschool the kids and supposedly get off grid.

Basically, it’s all generally left me to single handedly tackle everything alone.  Another topic for a Vlog? Literally the third year of homesteading may be a killer.  It’s going to be a turning point in some direction.  I’m spending time fixing huge mistakes from year 1.  Things I re-did inside the house are already falling apart.  I’m still cleaning out the old owner’s stuff on occasion.

I’m two years behind planting the mini-orchard.  Just today I finally got all the pine trees cut down and cleared out of that area.  But now there is no money for ordering the fruit trees so I can already foresee it may be another 6 months with no growth and no production.  There’s progress being made but it’s SLOW AS HELL.  It’s like being in a Flock of Seagulls album that’s been slowed down to 30 BPM. Basically, I can only go as fast as I can without turning into an asshole father over it.

daddyandboys

To be continued…

The Black Maple Trials Part 2: Sour Sap

The second year of tapping the Black Maple trees was looking to be a major success. Compared to last year, the technology and methods I deployed in the pursuit of syrup was like night and day. Last year I had 1 gallon buckets hanging off old spikes, full of bugs and rainwater.  This year, I had food grade 5 gallon buckets with lids, plastic taps, vinyl tubing and rubber grommets in bucket lids to perfectly fit the tube making them impermeable to rain, bugs and the elements.

I learned I could have more than one tap per tree so hooked two buckets to each tree for a total of 8 buckets compared to 4 buckets last year taking my harvesting capacity from 4 gallons per day to 40 gallons. Everything went beyond smooth and at first sign of above freezing temps I was all over it like Dennis Rodman on a big center.

maple

The first bucket overflowed immediately.  We started boiling down 5 gallons into a bottle of syrup.  My wife ordered a special scientific device that measures sugar content and guess what? This year we didn’t burn it! In fact the first boil was great and a bottle of syrup emerged that now sits on my counter and is delicious!

All in all we spent another $100 dollars in our syrup harvesting system for a total of $185 between last year and this year.  We planned to make a post on Facebook to sell a few bottles and start recouping our outgoing costs- a major step in running our homestead like a business and running the business like a Permaculture system, plugging the energy leaks!  Within days every bucket was half full and last year’s harvest of 15 gallons of sap had already turned into 30 gallons.  We were only on the first weekend.  I was stoked.

Then something happened- an unseasonable warm snap took our Northwest Ohio temperatures into the 60s for a week when we usually have snow:

1. The first thing that happened was the trees stopped producing.  The fluctuation between freezing and non-freezing temps acts like a pump in the tree causing the sap to rise and fall inside.  Pumping action stopped.  No more sap.

2. AMATEUR FAIL: I left all 8 buckets 1/2 full waiting for them to get full when the cold comes back, only I was naive and didn’t realize SAP GOES BAD. Oh, I left 15 gallons on the porch too.  This is the main thing I’m trying to write- I thought sap was a sterile, ultimate substance that would last in perpetuity. After 5 days of leaving the buckets out in 60 degree weather that finally pushed 70 degrees today, something inside started nudging me.  I researched it and just discovered I lost my entire harvest. 30 gallons has turned into only what I already boiled down and therefore this years harvest is now worse than last. If you’re taking something away from here let it be this- SAP GOES BAD.

3. Learning to homestead is the process of slowly admitting you’re an idiot. I’m really pissed.  I stood on the verge of triumph, staring a mega harvest in the face and lost it all because of a lack of knowledge. I lost the food, the money and success.  Just when I thought the Black Maple Trials were over- the Black Maple has returned with a vengeance.

Why Concrete Blocks?

In a 10 hr shift last night standing in the same place doing the exact same thing over and over again it was easy to turn the assembly line into a Buddhist temple.  The mind wanders and next you know you’re in a deep conversation with the person across from you about the best materials for RAISED BEDS.

block-garden-1

Our new kitchen garden- process of creation.

Coincidentally I had just finished stacking the walls for my new raised beds out of concrete blocks.  Perhaps those two events are not unrelated (my completing the project and the conversation), but after explaining my research and why I chose concrete blocks, it’s possible the budding homesteader I spoke with is switching from 2 x 12s with rebar to CONCRETE BLOCKS.

Am I just persuasive or are concrete blocks the best way to achieve maximum results with the minimalist input (the input of a minimalist artist?)?  It’s my opinion.  I’ve found concrete blocks to be the most effective method for raised beds.  Since I convinced somebody to switch, thought I should re-cap here what I verbally improvised last night while sacrificing my wrist to the corporate gods.

NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY

You’re just stacking bricks, Yo. No drills. No tools.  It’s just the primitive human in its rawest form, lifting and stacking rocks.  It’s easier to find help.  My wife was able to carry many cinder blocks from the trailer and simply set them down while I took a turn watching the kids.  So anybody who can lift a cinder block is a potential ally. We got to take advantage of an unseasonably warm day to complete this project and it didn’t take long.

PERMANENCE EQUALS PERMACULTURE

To me there is something aesthetically and intellectually appealing about stone in Permaculture.  I lay down an indestructible bed of cinder blocks and I’m done.  4 years later I’ll turn the soil over.  As stated, I’m done.  I see videos where people seem to be in a constant process of moving their garden beds around.  I bet if we got the God’s eye video from above and put it in FF their property would look like a sort of Permaculture sand dune on the Sahara.  I say NO.  Build it once.  That’s the point. Make it PERMANENT.  The design style we use is not Transientculture. A high end stylist will tell you the same thing- cut once.

BOMB-SHELTER

Don’t glue the bricks together and they are just Legos for adults.  Reclaim them in different structures in the future like but not limited to: fish holding tanks, rainwater catchments, chicken coops, new buildings, koi pond, a “wine cellar”… so I don’t think I can have enough concrete blocks around the homestead IMO.

UPSCALABLE, POTENTIALLY TRENDY?

Without the middle class you’re not gonna win. Yet so many Permaculture people how do I say this nicely… emit a negative attitude towards capitalism.  I disagree and they are fighting a losing battle.  The purity of Permaculture will inevitably be lost by the very process of achieving it’s end goal- transformation. In fact, the way it will spread to those we most need to change (CEOs, people in position of influence) is commercialization and normalization.  Sad but true.  I’m embracing it now so this doesn’t turn out like all my favorite bands. 😦  For example, I’m searching for Permaculture porn.  Seems to be an open niche- yet already filling on Youtube with beautiful women giving gardening tips with lots of cleavage and not-shyly bending over to spread the mulch…

What the H am I talking about…. oh yeah, you can make brick raised beds LOOK GOOD by using decorative stone, cap stones, fancy shapes and more.  With a little extra effort on the beauty side of it, you could fit them into any neighborhood near a golf course.

THE GOLDEN ZONE

Go two bricks high and you’ve got bench seating all the way around your garden.  LIVE WELL- sit down to pick your veggies.  You’re getting older so STOP BENDING OVER and even worse stop PLANNING to bend over.  Save your back the stress by planning ahead for abundance in lifestyle. Make your bed high enough to meet the ergonomic standards you wish your employer cared about you enough to meet!

block-garden-2

Kitchen Garden borders, complete.

ANTI-PEST BORDER

Finally, if you don’t use capstones around the top to create bench seating, every single hole in the cinder blocks is plantable! That gives you that many more square feet of garden.  I will do a combination and create some bench seating while filling most holes with Marigolds, Citronella and any plant or flower known to gardeners to repel the bugs that want my crops. Will post a follow up photo in the summer.

Until next time- Will

I am the Seed Starter

The third year of converting to homesteader is upon us. It’s full bore for me since the day the calendar flipped to 2017.  I’m already busting it out on the indoor grow-room to get ready for massive seed starting in February. This really is going to the next level for me and it feels in my heart this will be the best year yet.

Permaculture really is about simplifying processes to me. So my personal word of advice that can RIGHT NOW save you big time and money is to simply walk away from anything that’s making a process MORE complicated.  It sounds flaky, but you will know when a process is going the wrong way when you either get a bad vibe, start running into repeated road-blocks, or some combination of both. If you’re in the Northwest Ohio area and want Permaculture advice as to how to set up your homestead, garden or landscaping, I’m you’re guy! Please contact me.

As an example, I’m constantly researching new stuff as projects present themselves around the homestead and the process of getting “off-grid.” I’m thinking, why not use this blog to collect my research for posterity while it simulcasts to you!? So as I’m starting to make up some Potting Mix to get my seeds started this year- I’ll post a collection of educational videos that I am basing my own process on. More info soon! Thanks for reading!

theboysandharvest2016

Abundant Madness

Things are happening and time is passing so quickly that it’s easy to forget there’s even homesteading happening around here. Work. Play. Harvest. Work. Play. Harvest. And pretty soon the most abundant of harvests is just commonplace. And I guess that’s the point, right? When you get to that moment when you’re bringing in wheelbarrow loads of product and you’re not impressed anymore? LOL. Exactly.

That means you’re down in it.  You’re making a real transition to a lifestyle of ABUNDANCE instead of MADNESS. To thriving instead of struggling. To the reality of the infinite and away from the illusion of scarcity!

So here are a few photos in a slideshow to summarize the summer- our 2nd full season as Maumee River homesteaders:

As usual, thanks so much for reading!

Patience Critical

There’s the side of me that was going to have everything done this summer.  New roof. Rainwater catchment system.  Refurbished buildings to house the rabbits and birds.  Composting areas and landscaping beds with stone borders.  Fresh stones on the driveway. Finish remodeling the inside of the house.  Complete the indoor grow room and put into function b4 the wintertime, etc. Oh yeah, and clean out the building that is to be my new art studio, install two windows and a door and re-paint the building.

YEEEEAAAAH.

I’d say about everything on that list is already getting mentally pushed off ’til next year.  I wanted to have a fully functional homestead out here on the river in two years.  But reasonably, it may take three now that I’m getting realistic about the process.

For one, I will never buy a fixer upper again.  It’s going to be worth it when it’s done, but the kids are growing fast and I don’t like the feeling that I’m working here when I’m not working the assembly line.  Tons of projects, rooms and buildings laying in a state of semi-finished limbo.  When they do start to get wrapped up it’ll all happen very quickly, but I hate the waiting!

So patience is critical. I’ve been working on patience for years, through meditation and self reflection, etc.  But this level of patience is agonizing.  On the positive side, I finished the rainwater catchment pond for Zone 1 kitchen garden.  Seems like we’re in a bit of a drought here so I couldn’t have got this done at a better time.  Hopefully when everybody else is using groundwater I’ll be delivering rainwater to my plants.

water feature

I went slowly and took a full year and half to finish from when I first dug down the hole and installed the raised bed.  I committed myself to using only free rocks from Craigslist and so everything happened in small doses.  I was raised that if we started a project one day it was to be finished by the end of the day. So this working style got me way out of my comfort zone.  I’m pretty proud of it however and ultimately I spent @ $200.  Most of that expense was for the bell fountain filter, some live plants and small river pebbles to put the finishing touches in.

I think I’ll make a separate post about it. Not the greatest water feature of all time, but pretty good for my first and not bad for improvising with a shovel instead of measuring and planning.  Just realized I have an “idealistic” tag for posts and no “realistic” one.  LOL So I just added that and have tagged this under REALISTIC

Abstract Gardening- Installment 1

It’s dawned on me recently that I’ve been pushing paint around on canvases since I was 19. Almost immediately I took to abstraction, mostly because I have not the talent for realism nor do I find realism relevant to the processes of nature. It may also be an excuse, but I tend to believe the camera did to realistic art what the rifle did to the bow and arrow. That is just my opinion…

Regardless it seems I’m pushing into my twentieth year of experimenting with the process of Abstraction- pulling bits and pieces of information and constructive energy from the ether then randomly assembling them into what could be considered a finished piece by an interactive audience or just another unfinished work circulating through my orbit.

Whatever the case, two years ago my creative energies were suddenly smashed, rearranged then put back together again in an explosion of inspiration when I found some Geoff Lawton Permaculture videos. What happened to me in a nutshell is when I saw some of the Permaculture designs I immediately recognized them as abstract paintings pulled from my subconscious a decade earlier.

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AN ACTUAL PERMACULTURE DESIGN VIA INTERNET

12-04-2009 04;59;13PM

DUVALL ABSTRACT DESIGN CIRCA ’03

What I began to see looking at Permaculture designs and especially through taking the course with Geoff, is the process (to me) all begins with the basic first step of Picasso’s Cubism- which is dividing the available space.  Once available space is divided, it can then be subdivided infinitely by texture or material or further space.

 

Since the subdivision is infinite and can become fascinating and complicated, Geoff taught the “Main Frame” of design is inherently the most crucial element. That Main Frame is Access, Water, Structure and Zoning overlayed over a topographic contour map. 4 elements perhaps similar to the 4 seasons or the 4 directions based on an under layer of Topography? That sounded like every canvas or piece of paper I’d done for twenty years!

When I began to look at say, the abstract sketch above (that I found in a notebook) and apply or think about my original lines, spaces and shapes as interchangeable with one of those 4 elements, I suddenly found the missing purpose in my art- FUNCTIONALITY.

In the first image of an actual Permaculture design, u can see how the Euclidian trained mind tends towards order, wanting to know where everything is, how it’s going to be, then starts to bend towards pattern and repetition. All positive attributes to successful food production. I am simply wondering however, what happens when we begin with an abstract division of space in the reflection of God or nature, THEN overlay onto topography?

So as far as my thinking is right now- the very edge of my thoughts on this, here is the above abstraction made transparent then overlayed on 10 acres of property I was looking at-

garden vegetation change1

If I begin to think of the spaces I originally felt compelled to color in, for example, as wild food forest areas, I begin to see an idea I NEVER would have thought of either through linear logic or 13 years ago when I drew that. Putting a circular food forest in the middle of the property as opposed to at the edges of Zone 5 in standard design?

I’ve got lines going across the pond now that have me thinking of scenic bridges to fish from. Perhaps the lines that divide the space are now a series of roads and trails?  I hope to expand on this further soon. For now I wanted to get this part that was filling up my head OUT to make room for the new stuff!

Thanks for reading!

-Will

 

Compost Day!

If my back wasn’t burning up I’d be outside gardening. But those are the aftereffects of Compost Day! The big delivery came and this year I was totally prepped and made the pile disappear quickly. Hence, resting of ye ol’ back.  You ever wanted to know what 5 yards of Lake Erie compost looks like here you go:

Hopefully we will not be importing material onto the homestead next year. I’ve read a few things of recent that warn of potential dangers importing manure or hay to your property. I’m confident this is OK. But we need to establish our own internal composting soon…

My son thought it was hilarious this used to be horse poop. A lot still kind of looks like it. Is it glorified horse manure? Or is something on another level, aged like fine wine and mixed with a few secret ingredients? Either way it was the same price as everyday black topsoil so what the hay.

Here are some before and afters of the Kitchen Garden and the new Root Garden. Haven’t done this much weeding in a while lol. Enjoy!

 

THE ROOT GARDEN IN THE SHADE (for carrots, beets, radishes, cabbage…)

COMING SOON… THE CIRCLE GARDEN- AN EXPERIMENT IN MULTIPLE METHODS

Toledo Seed Swap was AWESOME

Another new thing for us budding homesteaders this year was our first seed swap! The event was in February and sponsored by Toledo Grows and Toledo Botanical Garden who by the way, has their spring plant sale going on this Mother’s Day weekend.

I’m so behind on posting this is basically a review/informative post. Bottom line- I got tonnage of seeds for FREE. With a discerning eye, there was plenty of organic and heirloom seeds! I was actually concerned on the way as we are staying away from hybrids at our place but it wasn’t even a problem in the slightest!

The kids had a blast.  There were events and goodies for them including mask making. They got balls of pollinator seeds so the kids could go all Johnny Appleseed meets Jackson Pollock on the ditch outside.

seed bag

It started out as 5 tickets a piece for the wife and I plus two kids which was like twenty tickets to exchange for seed packs. After that when everyone realized the seeds were free the tickets kind of went out the window and we were handed seeds from all directions until I ended up with this monster plastic bag full.

Talked to so many knowledgeable people.  Picked so many brains there about everything from rainwater gardens to indoor grow lights. There was plenty of food to buy (I had some delicious chicken soup). So many kindred spirits, it really was a great event. We had a blast and will be going again next year!

Just bring your unwanted seeds and drop them off at the door as your entrance fee!

Here is another local blog post about the same event from Sustainably Fit Mama:

Enjoy

One of my favorite local resources is the annual FREE Seed Swap hosted by ToledoGROWs. Free seeds + hard work = free FOOD!

via Seed Swap: a Free Food Resource — Sustainably Fit Mama