Making BioChar for our small farm

BioChar Ovens

BioChar Ovens

We have a weekly tradition of trading projects in the Village, where one family chooses a project and others chip in.  This week, we built biochar ovens (sometimes called kilns or retorts) out of 55-gallon steel barrels.  Using a plasma cutter, it was a breeze cutting and assembling these ovens.   Weather cooperating, we plan our first biochar making session this Saturday.  We invite Villagers and visitors from the local community to join us.

Biochar, also known as Tera Preta, was discovered in the Amazon Jungle a few years back.  Apparently biochar production and use as a soil amendment was practiced by a lost pre-Colombian civilization.  The discoverers noticed that in a patch of cleared jungle land, the rich, black soil was incredibly productive where the surrounding soil was dead.  Upon excavating, they discovered that this black soil was also amazingly deep, having been artificially manufactured over generations.

“The burning and natural decomposition of biomass and in particular agricultural waste adds large amounts of CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere. Biochar can store large amounts of greenhouse gases in the ground; at the same time its presence in the earth can improve water quality, increase soil fertility, raise agricultural productivity and reduce pressure on old-growth forests.” – Wikipedia

Our soil tends to be acidic, so the addition of a ph raising amendment, like biochar is a big plus.  In addition to sequestration of carbon and other minerals beneficial to food crops, biochar is also noted for its tiny nooks and crannies that provide habitat for beneficial bacteria that enhance soil quality and structure.

The process of producing biochar from wood also releases clean syngas, that can be used as fuel in internal combustion engines.  We make electricity using a generator fueled by wood gas.  So many benefits from one process!

There is still much to be learned about how and why biochar works as a soil amendment.  But, as a community, we decided it’s well worth testing, contributing to the body of knowledge, reaping the benefits in our small farms and creating another source of green revenue by producing it in reasonably large quantities.

Here is a video that explains the system we built.  Have fun with this.  We are.

BTW, if you’re someone who enjoys being self-sufficient, building things, and the company of other creative, industrious folks, you might want to join us permanently.  We’re a community of interesting, accomplished people who care about each other.  Contact us here.

 

Most Important Lessons from Homesteading


This man tells the truth. I can’t say it any better or even as well, so here it is, unvarnished, intelligent, true.

These are the reasons I founded the Village on Sewanee Creek.  And, it’s not easy. But, as he explains, it’s worth it.  The real “safety-net” called family and community was dismantled and replaced by a false government welfare “safety net” as part of the system of broken promises he speaks of.  Working together with like-minded people makes it doable and more rewarding than going it alone.

The visuals may seem irrelevant to the words, but pay attention anyway. The video shows why it is worth it – to live “in harmony with nature and people”.

It is our mission in the Village, to make what is impossible, not only possible, but enjoyable and fulfilling, through community.

Saving the World one person at a time … starting with me

“Teach them Correct Principles and they Govern Themselves”.  This is the foundation for a sustainable world.  This is my message to the world.
I was asked to give a talk to the Economics club at Sewanee, the University of the South on our independent local currency initiative, the Sewanee Dollar.  But when the sponsor, a student representing the Economics Club read my BLOG, he decided there is more to the story.

He admitted to being a closet Libertarian, an unpopular position at liberal Sewanee U.  But, he said he was having a hard time reconciling “sustainability” with some of the libertarian views I had written of on this blog.  In his mind, these were polar opposites.  To which I responded,

“I can’t imagine anything sustainable unless founded on true principles, including the freedom to act on them”.  

That led to a broader discussion of sustainability.  Sustainable extends into eternity.  It’s not just about restraining ourselves from destroying natural Eco-systems, although that is part of it.  It includes spiritual, moral, physical and economic sustainability.   It’s about being wise, good stewards.  It’s about being the change we want to see.

In other words, Saving the World one person at a time. . . starting with me.

PS:  For a list of some of the community projects referred to in the above video, see my post, Socialism Fails as Free Markets Flourish In the Village.

Flaws Emerge in Libertarian Philosophy

Sharing a thread from the Village internal bulletin board (names changed to protect privacy):

I participate on a variety of libertarian forums and lately there has been discussion of “moral relativism” and “moral universalism”. The libertarians on these boards feel that morality is something that is subjective to the individual and that no one can actually say if there is such a thing as “good or bad”.  In other words, the intense desire for freedom and independence among many libertarians seems to also be trying to throw off the shackles of any moral code as well.

To me this appears like libertarianism is descending into “nihilism”.  I was deeply disturbed to see how many libertarians subscribe to the idea that there is no “objective” way to determine right and wrong.  Following this philosophy to its logical conclusion leaves us disagreeing with murderers, rapists, etc. but without a basis on which to condemn their actions because the “goodness” or “badness” of their actions is relative to their own personal perspective.  I think this is a dangerous trend emerging among libertarians.

—- Gary —–

Gary, I share your concerns. This is one reason I think it best not to identify oneself too closely with any popular external line of reasoning, philosophy or thought. It is so easy to be branded with their follies. While there are many elements of libertarianism that are compatible with natural law and truth, there are also elements that are twisted to serve the interests of corrupt and evil men. This is true of every philosophy. Hence, I prefer to be known as an independent thinker, not a subscriber to someone else’s philosophy.

As founder of the Village, I feel an obligation to weigh in clearly on your excellent point.

There IS such a thing as absolute right, wrong, good, evil and truth. I have observed, over time that while “facts” tend to change based on men’s perceptions of truth, truth does not. While we do not require Villagers to subscribe to the fine points of any particular religious doctrine or creed, we ask that all aspire to be practitioners of Judeo-Christian or other compatible religious teachings. This is the law and the prophets: Love God and Love others as yourself. The basic ten and other scriptural commandments are only descriptors of the highest commandment.

There is a fundamental, correct libertarian notion that crimes that harm victims are the worst crimes. Crimes that harm others justify punishment and/or the use of police or military force to protect people who would otherwise be victims.

But, I hold that “victimless crimes” can also be crimes. The victim of so-called “victimless crimes” is the self.  These crimes are against natural law, God and truth. They frequently lead to harmful acts against other victims. But, victimless crime is only punishable through natural consequences and by God. When governments take it upon themselves to prosecute victimless crimes, they tread on sacred, personal ground. It leads to speech and even thought control, wars on drugs, prohibition against drinking raw milk, raising one’s own garden, harvesting rain from the sky on one’s own roof, use of natural medicinal treatments and all kinds of incursions on personal freedom of choice.

Whenever personal freedoms are abridged to this extent and the state presumes to bear all accountability for choice, a general rejection of personal accountability is the natural consequence. When there is a tear in the fabric of personal accountability, social systems fail and mankind reverts to a survival of the fittest mentality and a rejection of all law and order.

Joseph Smith made one of the simplest and wisest statements on government when he said,

“I teach men correct principles and they govern themselves”.

Clearly, within this statement is the assumption that there is a difference between correct and incorrect principles.

Lest there be any confusion over the principles under which the Village on Sewanee Creek chooses to be governed, this is it.

—- 1st Villager —

Socialism Fails as Free Markets Flourish In the Village

In 1620, the Pilgrims tried socialism – and utterly failed at it. For several years, the colony raised crops in “communal service.” It didn’t work. So Governor Bradford instituted one historic change that was to ensure the flourishing success of the colony and change American history ever afterwards. Communal agriculture was abandoned and private planting was established. Here is Bradford’s own account from the original source documents:

“This was very successful. It made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could devise, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better satisfaction. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to plant corn, while before they would allege weakness and inability; and to have compelled them would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

The failure of this experiment of communal service, which was tried for several years, and by good and honest men, proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times–that the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community, by a commonwealth, would make a state happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For in this instance, community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort.”

This story from our American heritage explains why private property ownership is so important. Let me give you another example of how we learned the same thing that Governor Bradford did. Those who have visited my website at sewaneecreek.com have seen that we tout our community garden.  This garden was never intended to feed Villagers, but rather serve as a place for training and social relationship building. But, even on that level, I proudly admit that the “community garden” has failed. The good news is that we recognized this early on and, like Governor Bradford, changed to something better. I built a nice raised bed garden and brought in good topsoil for the community garden.  But, because everyone in the Village has enough land to raise their own crops, it’s simply more convenient to farm closer to home. That fact, combined with what the Pilgrims discovered long ago, that socialism discourages real work, doomed the community garden even though it’s still there, ready to be worked by anyone who wants to.

What works better? Letting natural law take its natural course. We began assisting one another with gardening on our own land. That practice evolved further to helping one another with other projects. The key is that there is always a project sponsor who has a vested interest in getting something done with or improving something they own. An enlightened sponsor, interested in optimizing value, getting the job done effectively and efficiently, puts extra effort into organizing in advance. By managing it well, needed tools and materials are readily available. Know-how is acquired by study in advance of execution and necessary training is given.  This happens naturally when the objective is efficient production, not just hanging out together.  Not only does value-added work get done, but leadership and management skills are developed in the process.  The tangible results?

Example 1. Last winter, three families contributed real labor in the planting, tending and harvest of crops from the greenhouse that my family owns. The productivity of our assets increased as needed labor hours were contributed. We felt good about sharing the products of our combined labor. We had an abundance of winter vegetables including cabbage, kale, lettuce, carrots, beets, broccoli and cauliflower.  At times there was much more than the three participating families could consume, and much more than our family had the prior winter, when we operated the greenhouse by ourselves.

Example 2. is actually many examples. As each family realized the benefits received when others contributed labor to THEIR sponsored/owned projects, there developed a free market of labor exchange based on trust that value given would be returned and amplified. A free market requires that kind of trust and it encourages all to give their best efforts in return SO THAT they can earn the trust and contributions of others. An essential part of FREE MARKET is FREEDOM.   No one is forced, coerced, or even made to feel guilty if they don’t opt to play in the free market. But there are natural consequences, in the form of benefits.

Here is a partial list of the products of these many small projects.

ROTATING COMMUNITY PROJECTS
(by sponsor/beneficiary – in order of arrival in Village & participation)

Family #1

  • Raised Bed Gardens Built
  • Greenhouse Built
  • Back Garden Clearing, Plowing, Planting
  • Orchard Irrigation Water Tank – overflow from RWCS
  • Deep Cycle Solar Battery Charging
  • CONEX Guest House Built
    • Insulation
    • Exterior Siding
    • Interior paint & Paneling
    • Plumbing
    • Roof
  • Power Shed
    • Concrete Foundation
    • Shed Re-Roofed
    • Lister Generator Installed
    • Wood Gasifier Installation & Training
  • Micro-Hydro-Electric Generator @ Miller’s Falls
    • drilled for Re-Bar above Waterfall for Small Dam
    • Install Weir
    • Install pen-stock

Family #2

  • Dam for Driveway and Pond Built
  • Driveway Built, Rock Surfaced
  • Outdoor Wood Furnace Installed
  • Raised Bed Gardens Built
  • Chicken Coop designed & Built
  • Rainwater Catchment Tanks installed
  • Solar PV System Installed
  • Roof Repair – Main House
  • Seed Lawn
  • Move In: Unload truck and move furniture
  • Kitchen Cabinets Finished
  • Special House Cleaning for guest visit
  • Solar Fence Installed
  • CONEX containers for shop installed,
    • Ground work, leveling
    • Windows installed
    • Trenching for electrical connection to shop

Family #3

  • Storage Shed Built
  • Raised Bed Garden Built
  • Garden Leveled and Plowed
  • Stone Retaining Wall & Garden Bed Built
  • Fallen Tree Removed
  • Chicken Coop Built
  • Installed 2 TV Antennas
  • Move In: Unload truck and move furniture
  • Rainwater Collection System Installed

Family #4

  • Put Out Large Brush Fire
  • Built Goat Shelter
  • Re-Mapped New Lot perimeter for Solar fence and Dam

Family #5

  • Raised Beds for Garden Installed
  • General Yard Clean-up during Construction

COMMUNITY PROJECTS

  • Tile Fired and Installed for Face of the Village Sign – Donated by a generous Villager
  • Planter at the Village sign, maintenance – Family #3
  • Winter Greenhouse Garden, Cabbage harvest & Kraut Processing
  • Bee Keeping
    • Monthly bee club potluck And instruction
    • Continuous learning & sharing of info re: bees
    • Hives built
    • Bees installed
    • Regular weekly rotation of bee care & feeding
  • Food Service Equipment donated for Commons, pending installation – another generous Villager

SOCIAL / CULTURAL & EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES

  • Weekly Monday Family Home Evening get-togethers for games, discussions, lessons, etc.
  • Pot Luck Dinners
    • Christmas, New Years and Thanksgiving
    • Monthly Village Potluck – Rotating Venue
    • Ad Hoc – too many to count
  • Preparedness Fair (with over 15 expert presentations)
  • Preparedness Workshop (with gourmet outdoor cooking demo and feast, rock climbing and rappelling and more
  • Annual July 4th Celebration (potluck, entertainment, movies, fireworks, pig roast)
  • Summer movies under the stars @ the Village Amphitheater
  • Movies @ the Miller’s Home Theater – Too many to count
  • Plays attended together
    • Les Miserable – Nashville
    • A Mid-Summer Nights Dream – U. Of South, Sewanee
    • Julius Caesar – U. Of South, Sewanee
    • Picasso at the Lapin Agile – U. Of South, Sewanee
  • Movies away from the Village
    • Defiance – U. OF South
    • Atlas Shrugged
  • Educational presentations attended in Huntsville twice
  • Many gulf hikes, cave explorations
  • Stone Fort Park Tour – Manchester
  • Local Worm Farm Tour

At the intersection of Christianity, Libertarianism and Sustainable Energy

The Solar Industry, even with unprecedented subsidies in the US and abroad,  is struggling.  In a second term Obama administration, what is the outlook for Sustainable Energy?  Read this for an industry insider’s perspective.  In closing, the writer makes this plea.

“It is absolutely critical – whether or not you have a new legislator – that you and your team introduce yourself to them,” Resch agreed. “Make sure they know they have a solar company in their district.”

It’s hard to be a libertarian purist.  As a matter of principle, a libertarian refuses to be part of the corruption, pork-barrel politics and influence-buying that is our government.  I acknowledge that is how the game is and always has been played.  Refusing to play it that way puts me at a distinct disadvantage.

There are more paradoxes.  I want to be self-sufficient.  Solar can be a source of “free”, liberating energy.  With enough innovation and scale, solar can be an economically viable solution, freeing me from the tyranny of the military- industrial-governmental complex.  I want the solar industry to succeed.  But I want it to do so in a free market without the distortions created by government meddling.

We are losing that battle.  But, as they say, “all politics is local”.

What can I do?  That which is important; Maintain my personal sense of integrity and support that which is good in the world.  How to be “in the world, but not of the world”?  John 17    Isn’t that the Christian struggle between good and evil?

Who is John Galt?  Where is Galt’s Gulch    Hint.

 

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Post Election blues? Find security in self-sufficiency and community.

Over six years into building an intentional community called the Village on Sewanee Creek, it’s an interesting coincidence that we finished this video on election day and have just uploaded it to YouTube.  I hope it’s a comforting response to troubling times.

I actually went to bed early on election night before results started coming in.  I slept well, knowing that no matter the outcome of the election, I had done all I could or should.  I awoke early, as usual.  Like most of you, I found it fascinating to review the Facebook posts from last evening.   So divided, so extreme!

I have a few suggestions:

For those who are celebrating, partay on, dudes!

For the indifferent, get back to work.  Move along, there’s nothing to see here.

Then there are about half of the voters who are genuinely concerned about the state of the Republic, your civil rights, the economy and what happens when a President is re-elected, with no prospects or concerns for re-election and a history of trampling the constitution.  This is especially for those of you who have noticed that it doesn’t matter which party that President comes from.  For you, it’s time to take action to secure your future.  The system is broken.  When things are beyond a political solution, it’s time for a personal solution.   In this video, I speak on the foundational values of the Village on Sewanee Creek.    Self-Sufficiency, Personal Freedom, harmony between people and nature, adherence to the Golden Rule.

If you’re in the mood to reclaim a sense of peace and security in your life, you can inquire about living in the Village here.

Making Japanese Kaizen and American Individualism work together in the Village

If you have read my short bio, you know that I have some experience with the Japanese culture and speak fluent Japanese.  In the late 70’s, Japanese management philosophies were popular in America as our auto, electronics and optics industries were being decimated by Japanese competition.

Kaizen is a key word in Japanese philosophy.  A direct translation from the Chinese/Japanese characters “Kai” and “Zen” is “change” and “good” or in other words, to transform for the better.  As with most things Japanese, there is a deeper meaning, hinting of a unique, underlying culture.  To understand, one needs to add a few more words to the translation.  These would include patience, persistence, small, incremental and harmonious.
Deeply imbedded in the Japanese psyche is an understanding that perfection is achievable, but only in incredibly small, incremental steps, accomplished through cooperation.  Nothing great is ever achieved by a single genius in isolation or in one magnificent technical or ideological leap.

Dyed-in-the-wool American that I am, it’s hard to practice this philosophy.  By nature, I tend to be visionary, impetuous, strong-willed and impatient.  We Americans pride ourselves, above all, on rugged individualism, self-sufficiency, independence and personal initiative.  We idealize strong-willed individuals, while the Japanese idolize an amorphous group who toil upward silently in the night, never seeking or receiving personal credit but collectively achieving greatness through an uncountable series of small innovations.  That’s kaizen, or change(s) for the better.  While American heroes are individual people, the Japanese draw their heroes from nature – ants and bees.

Polar opposites, there is genius in BOTH Japanese and American world views.  Where quick, bold action is required, Americans win.  Where absolute excellence of quality, nearing perfection, is required, the Japanese approach excels.

Is it possible to practice both in a symbiotic balance?  That is the challenge of the Village on Sewanee Creek.  We are striving for a balance between opposites.
Consider our motto, “In harmony with nature and people” One might say it has a Japanese, Zen-like ring to it.  A number of Villagers even work together harmoniously to raise bees.       Bzzzzz, sounds like “nature and people in harmony”, doesn’t it?  I actually hadn’t thought of the symbolic nature of our beekeeping collaboration till just now.

On the other hand, a top stated value for the Village is self-sufficiency, independence and personal liberty.  One practical application of that value is the absolute requirement for private property ownership. Within one’s personal sphere of control, ownership begets personal accountability.

On yet another hand, we believe that collective, cooperative work optimizes effectiveness, efficiency and positive social relationships.  We observe this in action nearly every week when we rotate projects, one Villager sponsoring and leading the project and the rest chipping in.  A few weeks ago, it was my turn.  My project was framing up a new car port.  It is instantly clear as you struggle to lift both ends of a heavy beam into place, level it, and secure it, that a team of 2 or more beats a single laborer no matter how skilled or determined.  Where there is clear leadership and willing follower-ship, once again there is harmony as well as efficient achievement.

Both Leaders and followers are important in any task involving more than one person.  But, we find that achieving long-term harmony requires that all who want to lead must have a fair opportunity to do so.  By regularly trading project leadership, each participant grows and is built along with the building projects we undertake.  Each participant has an opportunity to improve their people and relationship skills including both how to lead and how to follow.

Each also has the opportunity to express their creative side on the property they own and control.  That brings out the best of our American spirit of ingenuity, vision, and can-do attitude.

One of the big lessons I have been forced to learn is that quality takes time and continuous improvement.  Through the contributions of many, both in physical labor and inspired ideas for improvements, each day is a challenge to make things a little better.  In the Village, we enjoy the pleasure of seeing our personal labors translated into physical improvements before our eyes.  No doubt, it’s nice to be able to call up a professional and order a nice improvement done.  But there is a special satisfaction that comes only by being able to say, “I did that”.  Even better if you can say, “We did that.”  At the end of a productive day, working together on something that will be yours for a long time, the tired smiles are priceless.

If this is the kind of harmonious, productive life you have always dreamed of, drop me a line here.

Our Local Currency, An Alternative to Barter in Tennessee

Here, on the Southern Cumberland Plateau, there have been a number of recent attempts to establish a barter community.  One uses Face Book to publish barter opportunities, but it has become just an online yard sale.  A local farmer’s market accepts food stamps and engages in some barter.  Craig’s List offers a section for barter.  Old time rural residents of Grundy, Marion and Franklin Counties have been adept for years at striking good barter bargains.  But the fact remains that barter is difficult.  Matching two needs to two haves occurs rarely and usually with a lot of unsatisfying compromise.  All advanced civilizations rely on some form of universal currency to grease the wheels of commerce and stimulate trade within the economy.

And what of “the economy”?  How’s it going out there?    Even a casual observer will notice that “the economy” is increasingly distant.  Globalization has expanded the marketplace for goods, services, finance, labor and everything else far beyond our reach or control.  One impact of globalization is that it seems the only export growth sector for America is jobs, especially those that are high paying, manufacturing or high tech.  For several decades we have been told that America is a service economy and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing as long as you have a high paying job and can buy cheap things imported from China or India.  That makes you feel pretty wealthy.

Service economies function on lots of credit and lots of consumption.  That worked pretty well as long as the housing bubble and easy credit pumped up our false sense of prosperity.  When that popped, we bailed out the big banks and wall street investment firms with trillions of dollars of inflation generating fiat cash.  Oh yeah, that wasn’t a one-time thing as promised.  We’re still doing it.

Meanwhile, the government keeps telling us that inflation is low and under control.  But those of us not on food stamps have noticed a big difference in the cost of our every day expenses, things like groceries, gas, health care and insurance.  Meanwhile, tried to get a new loan for a house lately?  That huge cash infusion into the banking industry doesn’t seem to be trickling down.  Wonder where all that money went?  It’s still in the toilet and someone forgot to flush.  Can you imagine the inflationary impact if it had actually gone into our consumptive economy?

But the real elephant in the room is the US Dollar’s status as world currency tied to the petrol dollar.  There have been rumblings for some time that it’s time to change that.  In early 2012, Russia began selling oil to China without the intermediary US dollar.  The dike is cracked and many informed people believe it will take more fingers than we have to keep it plugged.   How many guns, fighters, tanks, air craft carriers and military bases will it take to force the world to continue using an inflated dollar?  When the dike fails and another currency becomes the global currency (Can you say Renmimbi or how about Yuan?)  what will become of the good old $US?   I have a framed 100 trillion dollar note from Zimbabwe on my book case as a reminder of what happens to all currencies when there is too much of them floating around to represent the value of their underlying goods and services.  Ever wanted to be a trillionaire?  Just move to Zimbabwe and you can enjoy that status.

These are just some of the reasons we have been considering alternative currencies for a long time.  We believe in proactively preparing for things.  We believe in being self-sufficient. And, there are many more benefits to stimulating the local economy by keeping cash circulating locally.  For a quick look at the benefits and how local currencies can work, take a look at this short video.

Surprisingly, there is nothing illegal about printing your own currency and there are a number of very successful examples of local currencies in the USA.  BerkShares in upstate New York are one of the most successful.  Here is a list of local US currencies.  You will note that, while there are several, they are still uncommon.

We think we have a unique approach to implementing the Sewanee Dollar at the Village on Sewanee Creek.  It can work initially in a very small economy based on systems already in place.  Over time, we hope to grow our economy and the benefits of participation to encompass business transactions in a much larger area.  Interested?  Inquire Here.

The Power of Small Moments

I have often blogged on the importance of making a difference by thinking small, or rather, local.  Meaning, if you want to change the world, start by changing yourself.  Gandhi’s “BE the change you want to see” is the universal starting point.  Failing to do so has delivered to us a shallow culture of hypocrisy and deeply ingrained corruption from the highest levels of boardrooms to the shop floor, from congress and the presidency to the local planning commission or school board.  Epidemic corruption makes for profound distrust, breeding systemic, deeply ingrained cynicism.

The longing for Values and Integrity is why many Friends of Sewanee Creek have told me they are drawn to the dream of living in a community of people who genuinely care for one another, hard-working people of strong, traditional core values, people who are civil and respectful to each other even, or especially, when they don’t agree or have conflicting interests.  That dream can only be realized when each of us commits to be the shining example of the community we want to be in.

That starts with me.  As the obviously imperfect founder of the Village, the self-imposed burden of self-examination can be daunting.  The worst kind of cynicism can be the loss of trust or self-respect that comes from failing to meet one’s own standards to perfection.  And . . . nobody wants to hang out with cynics.

While each of us does our best to live to high standards and values, it is important to think SMALL as well as local.  We need to recognize that it is often the small acts of kindness or civility that can make the biggest difference.

This morning, I ran across an article titled, “The Power of Small Moments”. It got me thinking of the huge task I have set for myself of building a culture of goodness in the Village, let alone the daunting task of being a shining example of what I want to see.  I found it oddly comforting.  I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did.

Christian Values

It’s been quiet on this blog. Son, Jonathan and I have been flat out finishing the carport that the Village framed more than a week ago. I’ll post pix later.

My early morning hours are usually spent reading and meditating. This morning I ran across this great blog, “the recovering legalist”. I ended up posting a long comment there under my nom de plum, 1stVillager, expressing some of my values and beliefs. This one deals with food and drink and our tendency toward “legalism” and judgmentalism, modeled for us by New Testament Pharisees.

Well worth a click: Christian Liberty or License

Friday’s Community Project

Just getting around to recapping and thanking all those who helped out in Friday’s community project. We successfully framed the carport on our CONEX guest house. Two hours of good fellowship and work followed by delightful conversation over lunch. Everything went smoothly. The timber frame is up, plumb and square. Experience is a great teacher. Still a lot to do before the carport is finished, but we’re well on our way now. The 800 square foot steel roof will provide a platform for solar panel installation and shelter for four vehicles. The combined roof space of carport and guest house is about 1,460 square feet. That more than doubles my effective rainwater catchment area, increasing the margin of water self-sufficiency with our 7,500 gallon Storage tanks.

For newbies here, the Village has a rotating voluntary shared project tradition. Every week a different household chooses and organizes a project. The community pitches in to help. One incentive to give time and effort is the expectation of the same when your turn comes around. But, there are others. The opportunity to learn from others with different skills and the comeraderie that goes with good people working productively together toward a common goal are others.

Together, we have built a storage shed, raised bed gardens for Several families, temporary shelter for goats, planting, caring for and harvesting produce in the greenhouse, installing drip irrigation systems and many other gardening projects, electric fences and chicken coops worked on our guest house, framed the carport, cooked a pig in the ground Hawaiian style and much more.

I want to thank all who have participated so far and invite everyone else to join us. Tradition is Thursday 10 AM start time followed by lunch, but we’re flexible on days and times. Some need to leave to get back to their work after lunch, but there are often several who keep working long after that. All voluntary.

Kind of like the famous Amish barn raising tradition without having to be Amish.

FEAR DEFINES YOU

FEAR

You may not want to accept the fact. It’s not the ONLY thing that defines you, but it does define you.

Notice the little things that motivate your behavior. There is a reason everyone is familiar with the carrot/stick metaphor. We DO things either out of desire or fear. Both define us because fear and desire are the two prime motives for thoughts that lead to action.

Many years ago, I received a piece of advice that stuck. “Never run away from things you fear or dislike, only toward things you want.” In the context of career advice, it made sense. When we react out of fear or negative feelings, we are apt to make knee-jerk, thoughtless moves that are self-destructive, leading nowhere positive. Moving toward positive goals is generally the course that results in a steady, upward climb.

You have probably heard similar advice. Having learned to reject fear, we try to reject the notion that we might be motivated by it. Pride says, “fear and negative emotions don’t drive me”. Don’t kid yourself. It’s there. Sometimes for good reason. Thank God, most people have the sense to move away from a rattling snake.

We fear things we don’t know. Recently, I attended a meeting where a bright, aggressive young attorney at the top of his game was directing the discussion. Suddenly, he stopped in mid-sentence to warn me that a tiny spider had strolled across my shoulder and disappeared behind my back. I shrugged. “I guess I’m part of its habitat.” Later I thought, how interesting that a guy with so much self-confidence in his world would be freaked out by a tiny spider. Apparently spiders don’t live in his world. They do in mine, and I hardly give them a second thought.

Today, I mentioned to my friend, Joe, that I’m writing about fear. Joe doesn’t live in the attorney’s world. I’ve never seen Joe in a suit. His world is horses, dogs, hunting or trapping raccoons in the back woods of the Cumberland Plateau. He grew up with critters of all kinds, knows them intimately and is their master. There’s not much in the outdoors that he’s afraid of. But Joe acknowledged that he would crumble if he had to leave his world for my other friend, the attorney’s. He acknowledged that everyone must deal with fear. Then he proceeded to tell me how his rugged father had taught him at a young age to deal with fear.

Near their home was the remains of an old strip mine, with a deep, blue-hole pond, maybe ninety feet deep. Joe’s family was dirt poor, so a swim in the blue hole was a good substitute for a bath. At a very young age, his Dad brought him to a cliff above the edge of the pond, dove in and swam to a rock in the center, where he climbed out to sun himself. Calling back to Joe, he commanded him to jump in and swim to him. Joe cried, “Daddy, I don’t know how to swim. I’m scared.” The gruff reply came, “Do you think I would let you drown? Leave your fear in the mud and get over here!” Trusting in his father, he leaped in, flailing like a puppy and found that he could, in fact swim. By focusing on reaching the rock where Dad was, he managed to leave his fear in the mud. “That’s how I learned to swim”, Joe beamed.
“But, you know, fear will kill you”, he said. “If you tense up, you drown”.

“Absolutely! I know that’s true”, I responded. I used to surf some good-sized waves on Oahu’s famous North Shore. A wipe-out can feel like you’re being tumbled in a monstrous washing machine where you have no idea which way is up. I learned early on to just relax. The wave soon passes. Then it’s usually easy to get to the surface to get a gulp of air. Sometimes you barely get a breath before being pummeled again by the next wave. Relax and go limp again. It too will pass. But if you panic, you waste valuable strength and oxygen. Fear will literally kill you. Or, it can kill the joy of life. It could have kept me from surfing, the one thing I enjoyed more than anything else.

English: Daniela Freitas doing a barrel roll a...

Banzai Pipeline during competition on the North Shore of Oahu,Hawaii. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Surfing large waves, it’s not just the fear of drowning that can kill you. At the point of take-off, you paddle to match the speed of the wave. Suddenly the bottom drops out and there is a moment of decision. Take one more quick stroke, commit, jump to your feet and drive down the face of the vertical wave . . . or pull back if your take-off is too late and too critical. Hesitate at the moment of decision and you’re likely to free-fall and be eaten by the wave. At a powerful break like Hawaii’s pipeline, that could mean an encounter with a razor-sharp coral head, just inches below the surface followed by tons of crashing, churning water. Is there fear? Hell, yes! Manage it. It’s all in the mind-set. Picture yourself driving hard down the face of the wave toward an exhilarating bottom turn. Take that last stroke with confidence and power. Allow yourself to think of free-falling, out of control? Fear, hesitation, panic and an over-the falls experience are sure to follow.

In situations where fear is a natural reaction, ignoring or denying it doesn’t change the fact that it’s there. You can’t manage something that you won’t acknowledge exists.

A few years ago, I witnessed a subtle, yet extreme example of denial. I was speaking to a group of preppers who were interested in joining a bug-out colony. Incidentally, the Village on Sewanee Creek is not a “bug-out colony”. I prefer to think of it as more of a “bug-in community” where long-term commitment to building a better, more self-reliant life replaces fear. I started my talk with an observation that attendees had probably come out of fear. One of the group took offense and became animated, even angry. His point, “I am motivated entirely out of positive desires to protect my family. Because I am prepared, I am fearless and calm in the face of danger.” His anger was telling. Turns out, he had a small business selling survival food storage items. None of us wants to think that we are motivated by fear. He ended his rant by observing that people don’t buy out of fear. A positive sales approach is more effective. And, of course, he was right. But, underlying the rant were two kinds of fear in the room.

First, it was clear from the discussion that followed, that these would-be preppers were petrified of a world they saw disintegrating around them. They looked forward to poverty, famine, social chaos, roving gangs of rioting thieves, cataclysmic climate change, tyranny, nuclear war, EMP’s, chem-trails, UFO’s, TEOTWAWKI and a myriad of other real or imagined threats. And they were seeking the safety of “like-minded” people who would band together in a time of crisis for protection. Tell me again that the prime motive was not fear?  Give me a break!

There was a second, more subtle, insidious kind of fear demonstrated that day.  Peering through the vigorous denial, was a palpable fear of fear itself.  I had called a spade a spade and was prepared to talk about it, reveal it and deal with it.  The objecting man was afraid that he might lose sales if the topic turned to fear.  Fear runs deep, denied or unnoticed.  Even when we project our most confident, happy selves, there are legitimate things to fear, to avoid.  When anger or other negative emotions bubble to the surface, fear often lurks in the depths of the soul.

As for me, I freely admit that, like the crowd I spoke to that day, there have been times when, absorbed in thoughts of what is wrong with this world, I have stared petrified down the vertical face of a violent wave as the bottom drops out of my deepest fears.  But as I visualize myself taking control and driving to a better place, fear evaporates, turning into an adrenaline rush.  That is the essence of my quest to become self-sufficient, independent of things that go bump in the night.  Better still, when I learn new skills, conquer new, unfamiliar worlds and open myself to creative expression, I am exhilarated by a sense of well-being and oneness with the natural world that God created and intended for me to enjoy.

Open Homes bring Nature and People inside

Having spent a good deal of my life in Japan, I appreciate ancient Japanese architecture that seeks to remove barriers between interior and exterior space. Sliding-wall doors open to manicured, moss-covered rock gardens where not only the sights but the sounds, smells and general ambiance of nature blend seamlessly with the living space. The Japanese, more than any other culture I know, have a deep love of nature.

In the Village, we are blessed with an abundance of nature at its best and most beautiful. Large flocks of wild turkey, does with their spotted fawn scamper by. Dense fog with a sense of mystery shrouds the deep mountain canyon views. Thundering waterfalls.  Majestic cliffs with sheer lookouts.  Lightning storms frequently rumble across the vista alternating with meteor showers on clear, deep black nights. Stunning displays of profound power inspire our deepest spiritual longings.

In western popular architecture, the closest we come to opening our homes is the covered porch. That’s one reason I require all homes in the Village to feature a large one.  To date, all five homes here have done a nice job of interpreting that feature and I look forward to the new ones coming on. Access to the porch on one lovely Village log home is through french doors on a 2-story wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.  It features a commanding view of Sewanee Gulf, a newly built pond, and a livestock pasture surrounded by a portable electric fence like the ones recommended by Joel Salatin.  Another Village home is of the newly popular tiny-home tradition.  A generous covered porch, featuring the same commanding view, at least doubles its sense of size and space. Jessica (name changed for privacy) absolutely LOVES her tiny house. The porch on another home, running along the long side of the house with huge road frontage, is particularly welcoming to passers-by.   My house has two large covered porches, one on the front that welcomes visitors and one on the back that sits comfortably over the creek with an outdoor dining area and space off the kitchen where my wife mills wheat and oats for her fresh, home-made bread.  None of these homes are ostentatious.  Each is practical, frugal and well-used.  Each is lovely, befitting the Village motto, “in harmony with nature and people”.

But I must admit that my favorite of all the porches here is my brother’s. Shear dimensions define it. Square, rather than linear, it is incorporated into the house on one side via sliding glass doors opening to the kitchen, a wall of windows to the living room on the other side and the front door on a 45 degree angle in between. Potted, fragrant herbs line the porch rails, conveniently facilitating a penchant for fresh, creative cooking. The porch thoughtfully sits above and hides three 2,500 gallon cisterns.  On the opposite side of the house, I recently helped build a chicken coop under the smaller porch.  The chickens are so pleased with it that I’m thinking I need to build another one on the back side of my house, further from the garden so the chickens won’t scratch it up and can run free as his do.

My brother’s main porch is large enough to accommodate a major gaggle of Villagers and other friends for dinner or a group project like making sauerkraut or building bee hives (both recent community projects).  This evening, he will host the monthly Village potluck on his porch. All friends are invited. RSVP requested. Thank you, brother, for designing, building and sharing your lovely porch.

For more ideas on a trend towards home architecture that welcomes nature and people inside and blurs the barriers, here is an interesting article.  I’ll try to post some local photos later on.

Rainwater Catchment: Better than a Well in a Drought

Many people have asked me if wells are feasible here at the Village on Sewanee Creek.  My response is always “yes, you can, but I wouldn’t and didn’t”.  This guy explains why better than I can.  Where wells are drying up in drought-plagued Texas, rainwater collection still works.  That’s the 1st reason.  But after that, pure, soft, quality water is an even bigger reason.

Four of six families in the Village now have significant rainwater collection and storage systems.  So, I guess you could say we’re another “Tank Town” with a nicer sounding name.  During the drought that even hit Tennessee for about 6 weeks this summer, we used ours to water the greenhouse and our large garden, switching temporarily to city water for our household needs.  That saved us hundreds of dollars and our garden when chlorinated city water would have been too expensive for gardening on our scale.

One of the benefits of living in the Village is that your neighbors prepare and share as much as you do.   My brother, George, and I both have large systems with a combined 15,500 gallons of storage capacity.  George has a larger roof than I do, so his system is more robust than mine.  By linking and sharing systems, we can increase balance, capacity and resiliency even further.  We recently installed another 500 gallon tank that takes the overflow from George’s tanks when they are full.  It is positioned just above the orchard.  Through a gravity feed drip system, the orchard is now insulated from droughts too, with pure, unchlorinated rainwater that would have been lost.

Rainwater harvesting is the first critical step in becoming self-sufficient.  I’m so convinced of this that I offer a 10% rebate on the purchase of land in the Village to cover the cost of implementing a great system.  We have built several systems.   George is a chemist and water expert, having run the water quality lab for many years at the Coachella Vally Water System (Palm Springs/Palm Desert).  So, we help Villagers with water quality expertise as well.  If you would like to see pictures of our systems or more information about what we have done in the Village to become inter-dependently self-sufficient for water, food and other stuff, contact me here for access to our “members only” online database.

“The End of Suburbia” Still groundbreaking and urgent?


In this morning’s email is an article titled, STILL GROUNDBREAKING AND URGENT from nextworldTV.  Here is the text that accompanies an edited version of the original film.

“We’re literally stuck up a cul-de-sac in a cement SUV without a fill-up” – James Howard Kunstler
This is the film that years ago, inspired the spark for the creation of Nextworldtv. Released in 2004, it is still groundbreaking and urgent in it’s message and the questions it raises.
“Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too has the suburban way of life become embedded in the American consciousness.
Suburbia, and all it promises, has become the American Dream.
But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now, some scientists and policy makers argue in this documentary.
The consequences of inaction in the face of this global crisis are enormous. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today’s suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid The End of Suburbia?”

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Back in January of 2008, (remember 2008? Ugh!) I posted an article about the peak oil phenomenon.  In that post, I referred to this movie, “The End of Suburbia”.  On July 3, 2009, we screened it at the Village amphitheater.  Well, since its release in 2004, a fair amount of oil has gone under the bridge.  Something like seven or eight year’s worth.  Time tends to sort out the truth of predictions.  So, where are we now?  There are many who claim that we have passed the peak and global oil production is clearly in decline.  Predictions that oil companies would be forced to move to ever more exotic technologies and expensive extraction methods like fracking and oil shale or sand extraction, or ever deeper ocean drilling.  These predictions have proven true and with disastrous ecological consequences in the Gulf of Mexico, Canada and the Bakken oil fields.  Yet, the oil industry maintains that the newer technologies have made these methods of extraction cheaper, so there is still plenty of cheap oil.  OK, if so, why does gas at the pump continue to rise at such a steep pace, accented by short periods of relief?  And why is our military still in the Middle East with sabres continually rattling, now at Iran?

On the other hand, one of the claims of the movie is that we are also running out of natural gas that fuels most of our power plants.  That makes continued growth impossible and suburbia doomed.
But T. Boone Pickens, in a TED talk claims we are at the dawn of a new boom in cheap energy on the back of natural gas while reaffirming that “the days of cheap oil are over”.  Fact is, natural gas is incredibly cheap right now.  A financial newsletter that I track says that cheap natural gas, with the build-out of the required infrastructure to replace gasoline for trucks, buses and finally cars, heralds an investment opportunity not seen since the oil and suburban construction boom of the 50’s.  If cheap natural gas is here for the long term, are all our problems solved, with peak oil just a speed bump on the on-ramp to a global concrete superhighway?

Meanwhile, the great recession (depression) rolls on.  America is clearly overextended financially.  Talk of QE3 at the Fed is back in the news.  Is our current financial predicament an outcome of peak oil or, as some claim, evil banker boogeymen intentionally wrecking global economies to bring about a New World Order that will enslave us all?  The specter of hyper-inflation and social chaos still looms as the can gets kicked further down the road.

Hmmmm… Information, disinformation.  Booms, busts, fear, reassurance.  What’s real?  Still cloudy? Tired of guessing what’s coming down or when?  It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting.  But, embedded in this doomsday flick is a bright spot.  Notice that the precursor to the Suburban boom of the 50’s was a more genuine promise of grand country living in a few planned, rural communities where people actually had livestock and raised their own food, but still had access to cultural refinements.  These early communities were for the wealthy, while suburbia became a caricature of that dream.  Fast forward to today, the dream of self-sufficient, country living is not reserved for the wealthy.  It’s a more authentic, peaceful way of life available to the rest of us.

Ready to stop the hand-wringing?  I think there are better reasons to check out of suburbia than peak oil.  They go back to a time when people knew and trusted their neighbors, a time when life was less complicated and people lived closer to the beauty that is nature.  It was also a time of creative invention, when Americans were confident in their own practical skills and full of the joy of exploring and learning new things because they could.  Let’s rebuild that life together at the Village on Sewanee Creek.

Low Cost Ownership @ the Village on Sewanee Creek

The jewel of the Village has always been what we called phase II.  Pristine, forested, rolling land, with the most dramatic views, cascading creeks and water falls.  It’s all there, untouched and waiting for this moment and the right people to build a community of caring, sharing and prepared people.

In 2006, when we got started, I expected to quickly sell out on Phase I, then move to the best part.  Then the sub-prime mortgage crisis hit in 2007, followed by a total economic melt-down, led by Real Estate in 2008.  It’s been slow going, but our unique approach to community building creates value that goes far beyond the land.  So, we survived in slow growth mode.  Slow is good when you are striving to build a community with solid roots.  Sort of like nurturing a Japanese bonsai tree.

Fast forward to 2012.  The forests are 6 years older and the wildlife has cycled through several generations, but phase 2 is otherwise unchanged.  Meanwhile, the cost of building paved roads and other infrastructure required by the government, has sky-rocketed to the point that traditional development of Phase II is not feasible.  And, on Phase I, we have grown a community of self-sufficient folks.  Our gardens are maturing, along with our gardening skills and our bees.  We have weathered seasons of drought and plenty with our rainwater catchment systems; we have experimented with various types of low-cost alternative energy, from wood gasification to Lister Diesel generators, to simple wood stoves, solar ovens and micro-hydro-electric generators.  We have built six lovely homes, some traditional construction, log, SIP, cast concrete and experimented with ultra low cost CONEX shipping container construction at the amphitheater, for storage, for workshops and finally, for guest houses.  The learning from all of this and expertise from highly skilled people who have joined us over the years continues to raise the level of self-sufficiency and preparedness of the Village community.

Cost of ownership in difficult economic times has been the primary obstacle for most people who wanted to join us in living a simple, frugal life.  So, here’s the low-cost alternative:

Land on Phase II is to be owned by an LLC with shareholders. Through a shareholder’s agreement, co-owners allocate personal plots within the community.

This method of ownership has several advantages:

  1. Lower cost per acre (In the $4,000 range)
  2. Lower taxes: Blocks of land over 16 acres can remain in “green belt” status, with close to zero tax rates.
  3. As there is one owner, it is not a “development”, hence no need for Government Planning to interfere.
  4. Lower development costs for roads, and other infrastructure.
  5. Full membership in the established Village on Phase 1 with access to commons, hiking trails, community gardens, and other infrastructure.
  6. Shared cost of self-sufficiency infrastructure (well(s), rainwater catchment, alternative energy systems, etc.)
  7. Enhanced sense of community, but still not a commune.

Purchase size would be from 50 to 100 acres.
So, hypothetically, 50 acres, shared equally in 5 acre lots = 10 owners (could be more owners and lower total cost with smaller lots).  Out of that, each contributes an acre for a highly functional 10-acre commons. This is all usable plateau top land. Cost per household would be in the neighborhood of $20,000 plus the shared legal cost of setting up the LLC.  Add a low cost home, like the guest house from Shipping Containers I built for under $10,000 to, say, a 2-acre piece of Phase II and you could have a great life in a gorgeous, sustainable community for about $18,000.

I know there are a lot of you out there who desperately want to own land in the Village, but simply can’t afford it in this economy. And I can’t afford to sell Phase I land for much less and even cover my sunk development costs.  But I have no development costs in Phase II other than the interest I have been paying on it for six years.

If this sounds interesting, please let me know. We can start doing some serious planning and marketing if there is enough interest.

Fear Mongering?

I found this TED presentation fascinating, as much for the audience reaction as for the information conveyed.
On YouTube there are, at this writing, 515 likes and 794 dislikes.

Among the YouTube comments, there is a refreshing amount of critical thinking and legitimate dislikes over some of the solutions  Goodman suggests and even his self-interest-promoting motives.

  • Good idea to re-engineer the genes of world leaders to make them invulnerable super-people?  Hmmm…. seems like a pretty bad idea to me.  Maybe the world leaders are the real terrorists?  In fact, I’m pretty sure many of them are.
  • Open source everything, including everybody’s genome?  No thanks.  Think I’ll try to keep that to myself as long as I can.
  • Turn everybody into vigilante mob cops?  Welllll… there are some problems here too, although neighborhood watch groups have been a pretty good thing for some time.

On the other hand, even with all the communications and coordination technology used by the terrorists in Mumbai, I wonder how successful ten guys would have been at killing hundreds of people in a luxury hotel and shutting down the city had all of the guests been personally armed and well-trained.

Here’s one case where Occam’s Razor seems to apply, where the more complex things become, the simplest and most straight-forward solution is the best one.

Liberals who responded negatively to this piece frequently suggested pre-emptive work to identify and help criminals not to become criminals.  That would be nice.  And, of course, there was the argument that the real problem is poverty.  If we could just put all our efforts into lifting people out of the ghetto, we could have a utopian society where crime would not be necessary.  As I have said elsewhere, I like nice, uplifting thoughts that often come from liberals with good intentions and positive, optimistic viewpoints.  But the pragmatic side of me says, point me to one example where that has worked in the real world.  (Again, see Occam’s Razor)

History says there always have been, are and always will be bad people motivated by power and greed and some who are just vanilla psychotic.  The smart and wealthy ones will be the most dangerous in a world dominated by high-tech innovation.  There must be adequate deterrents for them and protections for the rest of us.  Small, underfunded, slow response, remote police forces won’t be up to the challenge.    Don’t believe it?  How about cell-phone/text coordinated flash-mob gang robberies of stores in big cities that have become routine police nightmares?  Similarly, it’s doubtful that well-intended social engineers who want to reform all the bad guys will be up to the task, especially against the smart, well-financed bad guys (drug lords, world leaders and garden variety terrorists).

Liberal, anti-gun enthusiasts  love to cry “Fear Mongering”, believing it to be the modern equivalent of “Wolf”.  Many commented on YouTube, with a touch of sarcastic ennui, “What’s new? Technology can and always has been used for good and evil.”  as if to say in true Alfred E. Newman style, “What, me worry?”  But, if there is anything that rings true about Goodman’s talk, it is that the stakes and the risks are increasing at an alarming rate.

On a happier note, if you believe the majority of people are actually good and the bad guys are in the minority, as I do, why not put some trust in the good guys?  Arm them, train them well, not only in gun handling, but in positive ethics.  The Swiss seem to have a handle on this, where the general population is disciplined and  trained to be responsible for their own lives.  Guns are handled with great respect and crime is extremely low because the deterrent is high.  To acquiesce to a few well-armed criminals while distrusting a well-educated, well-trained majority is, in my view, the ultimate in pessimism. Unbecoming of a true, good-hearted liberal.  For a thinking person, the natural response to the scenario where the bad guys are the only ones armed with technology and weapons is not “fear mongering”.   It’s just rational, useful fear.

In Grandpa Mode at Last

I think I finally turned the corner last week when my daughter and family came for a visit. It’s taken a long time, but I am now officially just a Grandpa, nothing more or less.
Maybe it’s partly about letting go of all other pretentious aspirations. Maybe, the recognition that I have no career left. The “friends” I knew from 30+ years in business are long gone. What remains is my family. The fresh, young and renewing part of my life is in my kids and grand kids.

Tire Swing

What a joyous time we had,
  • Wrestling on the living room floor,
  • Piling all of us onto our king sized bed,
  • Enjoying the new tire swing, dubbed the “grandpa swing”
  • Sharing the kid’s beaming smiles from the sense of power and accomplishment each one got doing some real work with the skid-steer, moving and smoothing dirt and digging up stumps.

    Moving the Earth

  • Its fun and so easy to impress little ones with little things like showing off the bees without a bee suit, knowing that I’m fairly safe from being stung because I’ve done it before and the bees are usually very gentle.

Fearless Grandpa, bees and helpers

  • Then there were the simple one-on-one moments when we rode out together on the 4-wheeler, then sat on each child’s special spot, their own lookout point perched above the majestic canyon. No profound insights shared or expected. No grandfatherly wisdom or advice given.  Not even a photo taken because our spot is a secret.  Just two people joined in the bond of family, enjoying God’s grand creations, together.
  • Even the harder moments like trying to console an inconsolable grandson after a painful yellow jacket sting, knowing that where I was failing, my sweet daughter and son-in-law would make up the difference and, in the end, everything would be fine, an unforgettable memory in the life of a brave little boy.

I can tell you now, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Yeah, I guess I’m just a slow learner. I still struggle with the question of whether I’m actually retired or not. It’s taken a long time to settle into my true calling in life.   Maybe I’ll print up some new calling cards with the title, “Grandpa”.

If I wanted to Save America

  • I would start with me.
  • I would focus on my strengths, I would strengthen my self-sufficiency.  I would prepare for whatever might come my way.
  • I would assert my independence, my freedom to do what I believe to be right.
  • I would listen carefully for what God wants me to do and be.
  • I would “BE the change I want to see.”
  • I would join with or build a community made up of  people who can convince me that they truly want to be what I want to be.
  • I would watch their backs and expect them to watch mine.
  • I would teach others to be strong, to have courage and hope.
  • I would stop whining about the Federal government, because it’s past what I can change, but I would change what I can, locally.
  • I would “Act like an American, the kind of American that my father and Grandfather and their forefathers were.

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If I wanted America to Fail

This video has gone viral.
But it offers no solutions.
Focus on action, not fear.

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What kind of American are you?

Watch this for another shot of courage. . . and wisdom

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