Insect Control with Chickens and other Life Lessons

Experience has taught us that the “organic” approach to gardening can be really hard if you are determined to be a purist.  There certainly are benefits to limiting the amount of pesticides and artificial fertilizers by using organic methods.  But, as in just about everything, the old saying,

Pesticide Warning Sign

“moderation in all things” works here too.  I like the way this guy says he integrates organic methods (chickens) with non-organic (bug lights and pesticides) when necessary and he doesn’t apologize for it.  I also like his philosophy of letting the chickens have some of his produce in exchange for their help in keeping the bugs down.  But, at the same time, says he manages them so they don’t take too much.  It’s a comfortable alliance.

The older I get, the more I’m convinced that there are many different solutions to any given problem.  When we become dogmatic, we shut out new learning and alternative solutions.  When we’re open, that’s what I call humility.  When something isn’t working or even if it is, keep trying and learning.  If you persist with faith and humility, solutions open up and things get easier.  Each year, our garden has become more productive and a little easier (that is until we expand to the next phase and take on new problems or new problems arise on their own).

My garden and my chickens keep teaching me things.

Isn’t life good?

Self-Sufficient Community – An Oxymoron?

Socrates put it well, over 2000 years ago:

A community starts to be formed when individuals find that they aren’t self-sufficient.

Does that mean our goals at the Village are mutually exclusive?  I don’t think so.  Each person starts with a deep desire to become self-sufficient.  We struggle to do all we can towards that end.  At the point of realization (whether early or late) that self-sufficiency in isolation is extremely difficult, our desire for community is enhanced.  If/when times become even more difficult, communities naturally coalesce.  And that’s a good thing.

A wholesome balance between independence and inter-dependence must be built first on a foundation of strong independence.  When individual strength is tempered by humility born out of adversity, the soil is prepared to grow a rich and fulfilling harvest.

The process can be long, requiring patience.  We’re here for the long haul.

A whole different bag of Huevos

We have kept egg laying chickens for a few years now. When we started, I did a little research on preserving eggs. Turns out there are ways to oil your clean, unwashed, whole fresh eggs and store them in a cool spot that will make them last 6 or 8 months. That’s pretty good I guess.

But, with a little practical experience, we learned that there is really no need to go to the bother. Unless you eat a hearty 3-egg country breakfast every morning you can’t possibly eat all the fresh whole eggs even a couple of good hens produce. In effect, your long-term storage IS your chickens.

Now, if you do some baking or enjoy a variety of recipes that need eggs, that’s a whole different bag of huevos.

Many years ago, I trained IHOP Store managers. IHOP uses A LOT of eggs, but fewer fresh ones than you might think compared to bulk scrambled eggs that go into omelets, pancakes, crepes, etc, and IHOP doesn’t even bake anything. They buy frozen scrambled eggs by the 5-gallon bucket.

So, if you’re interested in long-term egg storage, it’s really pretty simple. Keep a few chickens. Whenever you get to the point where there’s no room in the fridge for anything but eggs, and maybe the neighbors are crying “uncle”, just crack ’em all into a big bowl, scramble, and freezer bag ’em in handy portion sizes.

Quick easy to-die-for quicheBecky makes a to-die-for Quiche that takes only a few minutes to prepare from frozen scrambled packets. It’s her go-to recipe when we have guests and little time to prepare. That happens a lot with Village visitors.

The self-sufficient lifestyle doesn’t need to be about living out of covered wagons or the little house on the prairie. With a little experience and common sense, life is pretty sweet, simple and efficient. And that leaves more time for enjoying the other good things in life.

One week later, Still in Thanksgiving mode

This year the thanksgiving holiday (and feelings that go with it) have been extended more than usual as I have focused on the blessing of being married for 25 years to an angel.

But I think it is difficult to stay in a thanksgiving mindset these days, not because times are hard, but because we still have so much (although perhaps less than we had a few years ago).   As blogged elsewhere, the abundant life is more a state of mind than a state of having lots of material stuff.  Now comes more rigorous thought from economists on why that is the case. Do you remember those boring lectures in Econ 101 about the theory of utility?  Basically, the theory says with each additional (or marginal) thing we get, its marginal utility decreases. And with decreasing utility, so goes our thankfulness for it.

Here is the article that discusses “Thanksgiving and Marginal Utility.”

So Thoreau was right. The formula for optimizing thankfulness and therefore, Joy, is to minimize excess stuff and live in a state of mild deprivation.

Hmmm, deprivation. that sounds kind of bad doesn’t it?  I have found that deprivation, in itself, doesn’t necessarily produce gratitude or joy any more than our greenhouse always produces the best vegetables.  There are plenty of miserable poor people to attest to that and it takes more than just solar heat in the daytime to grow good produce.   But, like the greenhouse, maintaining the right environment is important where, with some additional care and tending, the fruits of thankfulness and joy can be most rewarding.

I know this advice is falling on a lot of deaf ears.  “Mild deprivation” doesn’t sound very appealing even with some quasi-scientific/Economic justification.  OK, so try a dare based on the more traditional Biblical justification found in Proverbs 30:7-9.

Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

Economic theory confirmed in Scripture or the other way around?  All I know is that this week, as I have focused my attention on being thankful for the simple, non-material things of value in my life, I have felt a deeper, lasting sense of peace.  That feels pretty valuable right now.

How to Celebrate your Silver Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday was a very special day for me.
Twenty-five years ago, I married the most wonderful girl in the world.
For 25 years, she has proved how wonderful she is by putting up with me through thick and thin, wealth and poverty, births and bereavements.

Five years ago she followed me into the wilderness to begin a totally new adventure, building a self-sustaining community. In that time, she has quietly raised the gardens, canned the fruit and veggies, ground the grain and baked the bread, fed the rabbits and chickens and scooped their poop, finished raising our kids, hosted numerous preparedness fairs and Village events, braved a cold winter while our house was built with four of us packed into our little fifth wheel trailer, helped build our house, handled the bills, served in the local food bank and church leadership, started a business making and selling women’s purses, researched hundreds of ways to become more self-sufficient, and cheerfully supported me in my crazy dreams and grouchy moods through it all.

If that’s not love I don’t know what is.

Several days ago I blogged about thanksgiving and gratitude.  There is nothing and no one in this world I am more thankful for than my dear, eternal companion. She has literally saved my life, repeatedly. Day before yesterday, we sat down together to list 25 top memories commemorating our 25 years together.  More than 100 recorded memories later, the pace slowed as we cuddled before the fire. The sun set through the trees.  Darkness fell as we listened to the wind outside, the rain on the roof and the swelling creek. We realized that we had barely scratched the surface and agreed that this was the best way to celebrate an anniversary whether on a tight budget – or not.

As a follow-up to our exercise in reminiscing, we did some of the more traditional things too.  We found a highly rated Thai restaurant in Chattanooga and relived, with our taste buds, one of our favorite memories.  That was a fun one.  In our second year together, she accompanied me on a business trip to Thailand when I was working on the business plan to develop 7-Eleven there.  She was 7 months pregnant with our first child.  I was busy all day every day, buried in spreadsheets, so she bravely set out by herself to explore Bangkok sites and traffic on a noisy, smelly tuk-tuk.  Over spicy Thai dinners, we shared her adventures.

So we resolved to spend our anniversary and whatever other time it takes, expanding the list, filling in the details and sequencing it by year. When finished, it will be a gift to our children. It’s time for them to know more about our love affair and why they turned out so well.

Twenty five years has been but an eye blink compared to the eternity we plan to be together. But it’s an important milestone on the path where my love for this goddess of patience, kindness and quiet perseverance increases with each year.  I am forever in her debt.

Fitting that our anniversary falls every year right after Thanksgiving, don’t you think?

Gratitude: Links to Faith, Love and Joy


The abundant life starts and ends with gratitude enabled by faith.
This day, Thanksgiving, has its foundation in traditions begun by the Pilgrims.

The occasion was a successful harvest after months of extreme hardship and deprivation. The Mayflower survivors invited the Indian king Massasoit to their celebration, and he came with ninety-some of his men. The Pilgrims provided waterfowl and turkey; the Indians added five deer. There were games and athletic contests, and even a joint militia drill. The celebration lasted three days. But they did not call the feast “Thanksgiving,” and the record does not mention prayers of thanks or any kind of worship service. Some historians question whether this “first Thanksgiving” was a religious celebration at all. But that’s because they don’t know the Pilgrims and what they really believed.

The pilgrims were children of the reformation, Christians seeking to live according to their best understanding of Christ’s teachings. They understood that God graciously declares guilty sinners righteous on the basis of Christ’s perfect obedience and his death, substituting his perfection for our imperfection, paying our debt by proxy and overcoming both spiritual and physical death for us.  This gift of legally transferred righteousness is received by faith and such faith is itself the gift of a sovereign God. But they also knew that grace doesn’t end there. They, no less than the Reformers, had faced the obvious questions: “Why then should believers do good works?  Doesn’t the doctrine of justification by faith, a free gift, lead to sloth and lawlessness?”  Isn’t it OK to simply declare your faith, then enjoy a free ride?

The Pilgrim answer, and the answer of Scripture, involves the nature of saving faith and the work of the Spirit who grants it. To the extent that one comprehends and accepts Christ’s infinite gift of redemption, won through unfathomable pain, one cannot help but feel gratitude.  Gratitude changes one’s heart. The depth of one’s gratitude determines the depth of one’s joy.  The video that introduces this post shows how we can cultivate a sense of gratitude by noticing and focusing on the goodness of the gifts (blessings) we receive and how gratitude is inseparably connected with joy.

This is the very nature of joy. When we enjoy a thing, we are thankful for it. We praise the gift to the giver and so enjoy both.

  •   “Thank you for this ring!  It’s magnificent!”
  •   “What a fantastic dinner!  It was the best ever. Thank you.”

When we find joy in another human being, we show our joy and gratitude with words and actions. We praise and magnify the one we love. We are thankful to love and to be loved.

  • “I’m proud of you, son. You’re the best.”
  • “I thank God for you every day. My life wouldn’t be the same without you.”
  • “There’s no one else like you!  I love you so much!”

Joy finds its fulfillment in thankfulness, in praise and thanksgiving. Silent joy is a contradiction. Mute appreciation isn’t really thanks. God requires our thanksgiving and our love so that our joy may be full. Shakespeare said it well, “They do not love that do not show their love.”

The spirit of thankfulness and joy are gifts that are cultivated by the Holy Spirit, who also gifts us with faith.  These four gifts (faith, gratitude, love and joy) are inseparable, and they begin with faith.  They work together.  The fruit of true gratitude is a desire to give back in some meaningful way, not only in words of gratitude but also in deeds.  The Holy Spirit gives the converted sinner a delight in serving God.  And so, the circle is complete.  Motivated by these gifts, one’s desire to work toward perfection, which is the love of God, increases.  Long before Shakespeare, James said the same thing about the interconnected nature of faith, gratitude, love, and works, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”  James 2:18

There is a perennial debate over whether salvation comes of faith or works.  That debate introduces a needless semantic division amongst believers in Christ that is easily resolved with an understanding of the inseparability of the gifts from the natural consequences of those gifts truly appreciated and received.  The core question is not whether we are saved by faith.  It is, what is the quality of our faith? . . . or is my faith sufficient for salvation?

If it is true that the natural and inevitable consequences of true faith in Christ are gratitude, joy and a desire to serve, then it should be easy to measure the strength of one’s own faith to salvation.  I am careful here to say, “one’s own faith” as feelings and desires are matters of the heart, known only to oneself and God.  Each of us acts on those feelings in different ways that we believe will be the best ways to serve and may not be apparent to others.  Hence, the command that we withhold judgment of others.

As I celebrate this day designated for Thanksgiving, I am prompted to evaluate the quality of my gifts. “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?  Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33)  Here is the test of whether I have actually received the gift . . . (the gift of salvation through faith):
1.  Is my heart overflowing with thankfulness for my gifts?
2.  Is my gratitude evidenced by deep, abiding joy that transcends the fear, pain and difficulties of this day?
3.  Am I filled with a joyful desire to show my gratitude through returning obedience and service to God by serving my fellow man?

If the answer to any of these questions is questionable, then the question remains, “have I received the gift of salvation through faith if gratitude, joy and love are obviously lacking?”  If not, as Shakespeare might have said it, they have not faith who do not show their faith.

Comfort and Joy
That gift of joy and comfort was not meant to be enjoyed only after this life is over.  This life is hard, often painful.  But Christ promised, “…my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt 11:30       That is the promise of joy and comfort now.

The Pilgrims and Puritans are almost always portrayed as obsessive killjoys and miserable downers. There’s little truth in that image. Joy wasn’t an afterthought for our Pilgrim forefathers. For them, joy stood at the beginning, in the center, and at the end as a natural product of faith. For them, God was joy, even when they were hungry and that same joy expressed itself in thankfulness. For the Pilgrims, a day of rejoicing is necessarily a day of thanksgiving. And throughout Scripture that sort of rejoicing means feasting, fellowship, and worship. The Pilgrims were deeply committed Christians who had braved an ocean and a wilderness to seek and serve God. When they rejoiced together, it would not–could not–be other than a time of thanksgiving to their Lord and Savior. Yes, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God and so should all of us.

On this day of thanksgiving, my wish for all is that our burdens will be light and easy, that our joy and gratitude will be full as we contemplate the eternal blessings that are our gifts from God and that we will feel compelled to share that joy, love and gratitude with others.

It’s not what you make. It’s what you keep that counts.

Sustainability

It’s the buzzword of the decade.  Wrapped up in that word are other buzzwords like “green” andeco-friendly.  But these words represent passing fads.  The bedrock reality underlying sustainability is a much more prosaic, boring, yet little understood word, “Economics”.   It’s a terrifying word.  It suggests complex supply / demand curves and the inscrutable workings of inscrutable institutions like the Federal Reserve, the IMF and the World Bank.  People are increasingly frustrated and angry with the “banksters”, politicians and other manipulators of “the economy”.

Take a deep breath.  It’s actually quite simple at our level.  Make more than you spendThat’s it.  Take charge of your life.  Live frugally.  Be industrious.  Build and create.

That’s not to say that one need not be aware of the many external factors that weigh in on the spending side of the equation.  America’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is next week. 

The Washington Post informs us Thanksgiving Dinner this year will cost 13% more than last year.  Yup, inflation is accelerating.  It’s about to get a lot worse.  Thankfully, I’ll be keeping more of what most people will be spending on a Thanksgiving feast this year.  We raise our own vegetables and poultry!

We’ll be enjoying some non-traditional, but delicious green tomato pie, remnants of our summer garden after a hard freeze last week.  Interesting how that word “Sustainability” is increasingly associated with another buzzword, self-sufficiency.  Keeping more of your output is inseparably connected with controlling both your income and outgo.  And that’s what self-sufficiency is all about – personal independence and control.

The good life is about more than financial economics.  Peace of mind is an even bigger part.  That’s why self-sufficiency, the sense that I’m in control of my destiny is so closely connected with sustainability and economics, which are all about achieving an abundant life.  Abundance can be in things, but has a lot more to do with state of mind.  It’s hard to have one without the other.

It’s not easy to be self-sufficient and independent.  It takes forethought, planning, intelligence and work, all values that were common to the early American ethic that seem to have become lost in the generations of excess.  Thankfully, those values are coming back into fashion.

One of the obvious elements to consider in the outgo part of the equation is the general cost of living.  We selected rural Tennessee as the place to buy land and put down our homestead.  Tennessee offers the lowest overall cost of living in the U.S.  For thinking people who want an abundant life, keeping more for themselves of what they produce, it’s an obvious choice.

For thinking people, there are many ways to cut costs beyond the current coupon fad.  Coupons only tie people to existing products and systems that reduce your control of your life.   Coupons might be put to better use as band-aids with a little stick-em.   That’s all they are anyway; short-term relief for a chronic disease.  Band-aids can be useful, but not for long.  In the Village on Sewanee Creek, an intelligent Intentional Community, people work together.  Cooperative effort on gardens, homes and other projects increases productivity and reduces costs.  We try to standardize on equipment and vehicles.  That way, it’s easier to repair things (increased productivity) and maintain extra parts (reduced, shared costs on a few critical items).   This kind of coöperation takes extra thought, extra preparation, extra commitment.  That’s why most people don’t do it.  That’s why most people don’t keep a lot of what they make.

At the end of the day, economics is pretty simple at our level.  Keep more than you spend.  Spend only on things of lasting value.  Work with your neighbors.  It’s all natural law.  We call it … “in harmony with people and nature”.  It’s our motto and it’s working to create a more sustainable, abundant life for people in the Village.

Quarter Horse Parable

Many of you who have visited the Village, if you were lucky, got to meet Joe.   He’s a local who does a lot of work here.   Joe is an expert with horses as well as an expert trader. A few days ago, knowing nothing about horses myself, Joe told me a little about his favorite, the quarter horse.
According to Joe:
The Quarter horse is a powerful, sensitive breed. They respond only to the lightest touch on the reigns, but are among the most brilliant, agile performers. They are the breed used in rodeos, barrel racing, cattle roping, all activities that need precision and power.  Joe buys and sells lots of junk horses. Most cycle through rapidly. He has one that just keeps coming back. With each trade, Joe makes a little money. Ironically, this one is his favorite.  It’s a keeper and it’s a quarter horse.  He sells it and then re-buys it for a lower price when the new owner discovers that it is un-ridable. That’s because people who are used to less sensitive and responsive animals tend to horse them around – meaning that they use gross, rough jerks on the reigns and gouge with their feet. Quarter horses respond to rough treatment with an equally rough ride.

It takes me a while to process information like that. This morning I awoke with a lovely thought. Good people are a lot like a good quarter horse. They are bright, sensitive, hard-working, responsive to a light touch, but may buck under a rough hand. Because I sometimes view myself as ineffective, an unskilled horseman, I often feel that people don’t understand what I’m saying or respond as I would like.  When I feel that way, the tendency is to be less sensitive myself, to tug on the reigns too hard or dig in with the spurs. Almost inevitably, that brings on a rough ride.

That thought reminded me of Christ, quietly writing in the dirt.  A gentle suggestion, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.  The accusers who were ready to stone the adulterous woman melt away.  He turns to the woman and gently asks, “where are your accusers?” Then, I can imagine he said lovingly, almost in a whisper, “I don’t condemn you either. Go your way and sin no more”.

Good people are like a good quarter horse and the adulterous woman. Imperfect, sinful, like everyone else, but humble and sensitive, ready to respond to a gentle touch with power and grace. It’s a lesson I struggle with over and over. Today, I will try to remember Joe’s parable of the quarter horse and live with a lighter touch.

I am so thankful that I live with a constant, perfect example of the gentle touch, my dear wife, Becky.

Use it up, Wear it Out, Make it do or Do Without

Tennessee Intentional Community

This was my mother’s mantra when I was little.  Having survived the great depression in her childhood, she was a raving evangelist of frugality.  That didn’t mean I was deprived in any way.  My Halloween costumes, made from pieces of this and that, were always extravagant pieces of art.  I was always the best dressed kid in my school, consistently walking away with the best costume award.

Speaking of school, when I decided to run for school president in the 6th grade, I easily trounced my opponents due entirely to my father’s artistic creativity.  He built an amazing, rotating sign from old wood scraps, a rotisserie motor, photos we developed in his basement dark room and his hand drawn Peanuts cartoons.  How could I lose with an endorsement from Charlie Brown?  Back in the day, that sign was so far ahead of its time, it became a sensation.

Some years lager, my wedding reception had a Hawaiian theme because my bride and I had lived in Hawaii as college students.  True to form, both my parents dialed up the heat.  My Dad created a replica of the church where we were married standing about eight feet tall.  The room was decorated with life-sized coconut trees and an outrigger canoe, all made from scavenged stuff, but looking like they came out of a Madison Avenue design studio.  The brides maids and grooms men wore authentic Hawaiian formal wear, made by my mother.  Hawaiian friends provided the entertainment.  They were willing to do the gig for free because they felt they owed my parents so much.

I guess that’s why this YouTube Video caught my attention.  Whether or not you buy into man-made global warming and the need to reduce our carbon footprint, it’s just way cooler to get the creative juices going and make great stuff out of almost nothing.  In our intentional community at the Village, we look for opportunities to be creative, together when possible, and as frugal as we can be.  It’s what I would call an abundant lifestyle.

Anyway, I hope this video inspires you to do more.  With some creativity, even a depression can be fun. 

Aftermath of 9/11 – Hope, Peace, Power

Victor Guzman survived 9/11 from the 85th floor of the World Trade Center  Watch this video to see how he lived to tell how 9/11 changed his life in a positive way.
In a strange way, his story is my story.

I was on the opposite coast that dreadful morning, but the impact was no less devastating.  I had celebrated my 50th birthday 12 days earlier by being downsized from the best, most lucrative position of my career as International Division President of Allied Domecq (Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin’ Donuts).  I almost never watch TV, but for some reason that morning I flipped on the news a few seconds before the image of the first plane hitting the first tower seared itself into my consciousness.  I believe the impulse to turn on the TV at that moment was not an accident.  I called my family together and remember telling them that I didn’t know what it meant, but it was hugely significant and the world would never be the same from that moment forward.

Newly emancipated from my career at its peak, I was still full of confidence.  I decided to take advantage of that moment of freedom and reward my dear wife, who had faithfully followed me across the world as we climbed the ladder.  We abruptly sold our California house, moved to Atlanta and built our 5,000 square foot dream house where we could be near her family.

What followed was four years of unemployment.  It was a period when, like Mr. Guzman in this video, I had the time to be intensely involved with my family.  We enjoyed precious moments working, playing and studying the scriptures together.  It was also a time of grief and depression.  My oldest son, stricken with the disease of schizophrenia took his life.  The first five years following 9/11 was punctuated by some consulting work and one year as International Division Managing Director (President equivalent) at Papa John’s International.  In that year, my performance exceeded all the targets I was given, but within one year to the day, I was fired by a boss who had never intended to fill that position and knew it would be vacant again one year from filling it.  I had sold our Atlanta home and relocated to a place we didn’t want to be.  Success meeting my objectives at Papa John’s had refreshed my confidence, but this time I was done with living inside the matrix, the corporate life.

It had been just over five years since 9/11 and my departure from Allied Domecq.  The second 5-year phase of post 9/11 life began.  Always supportive, Becky followed me as I threw what was left of our life savings and all of my energy into building a community where we could live free and independent, surrounded by honest, supportive, creative and hard-working people of like mind, good people who care about their fellow-man as Christ taught.  This second 5-year segment has not been easy, nor financially profitable. Today, I have more questions than I have answered.  But, of the things that are important, I am blessed.  My children are now all independent – two in college, two married with children.  I had time to be with them in their formative years, building and enjoying them. I live in a place of immense natural beauty.  My personal land and home are debt free.  I have time to think and have spent a much of my time meditating, reading and writing.  My wife has thrown herself into raising a garden that feeds us.  We have a secure, private supply of clean, pure, life-giving water.  Our efforts have yielded a core group of trusted, beloved friends.

So, you can see, 9/11 has a great deal of significance to me.  You could say it was the beginning of a ten-year journey through tumult, failure, sadness, depression, blessings, hope, peace and empowerment.  The journey has just begun.

In this moment of reflection, I am impressed to tell you that
the outcome of the next years will depend on whether we sink into confused despair or realize that we are individually and collectively powerful.  With God’s guidance, we can create a world of hope, peace and power.

Top Ten Rules for Self-Governance in a Self-Sufficient Community

On SewaneeCreek.com, my blog and preamble to the Village Covenants I have stated that the only rule of great import in the Village should be the “golden rule”. I also recognize that this rule may be the most difficult of all commandments to live in its fullness.

Some time ago, I recorded in my journal that for the past several mornings, our family spent our morning hour considering Christ’s monumental Sermon on the Mount. I marveled how he wove together sometimes seemingly contradictory concepts, presented back-to-back, not only achieving complete harmony between them, but a richness, depth and texture only seen or felt when the tapestry is viewed as a whole, stretched out on the wall and illuminated. One such observation was his comments on being non-judgemental, immediately followed by a caution not to cast our sacred pearls before swine. At face value, the determination of who qualifies as “swine” requires judgment. But stepping back from the tapestry, I was stunned to behold the picture of a supremely wise, quiet and untrammelled person who sees no need to judge others for their shortcomings because he is so focused on overcoming his own. With such a focus, he is so much at peace that he also feels no compulsion to share (or foist) his wisdom upon others who may not understand or appreciate the subtleties of truths he holds dear, having learned them by the hard knocks of personal struggle and knowing that without similar struggle, understanding does not follow. He walks his path at peace with himself, caring about others and prepared to love and uplift them without judging and without compulsion.

With this beautiful tapestry in full view, my heart-felt at peace. I wanted only to understand and emulate the words of the master.

Recently in reading Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, I observed this same great spirit of peaceful wisdom. Gandhi commented that Christ was his greatest example and that Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is the best example of how we should live. Yet, he commented, the people who least understand or practice Christ’s teachings are Christians. Whether that is true or not, I do not know. But I do know that mature wisdom dictates that we follow the principles laid out in this supernal sermon and lay aside our petty tendencies to judge, to exercise compulsion or to arrogantly consider ourselves above any other of God’s creations, our brothers and sisters.

Although I hold myself as a flawed, yet sincere disciple of Christ, I have discovered nuggets of great truth among all peoples and all spiritual traditions of the world. I hope that, just as the great Gandhi, a Hindu, was able to recognize the wisdom of Christ’s teachings, we can open ourselves to truth wherever it is found, meditate upon it, personally adopt and emulate it and become people of deep and abiding wisdom, faith, hope, and love for one another.

Can that happen in a world so full of strife? Are the principles taught in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount really practical to live? Though many would dismiss it as impossible in our modern, complex and competitive world, I submit that it is no more difficult, no less possible than it was in Christ’s time. And if we are to find peace in this life, the ONLY way.

Why We Tip

Some time ago, Fred posted a somewhat inscrutable comment that said something like the things we are embarrassed about can be the glue of like-mindedness.  Fred’s comments are usually thought-provoking and I have thought about it frequently since then.  Apologies in advance if I misinterpret embarrassment as guilt, but it’s a good segue, so I’m going for it.

I received a link to this NPR piece on Why We Tip from an old food-service website subscription.  It piqued my interest.  Its conclusion is that most people tip out of generalized guilt.

Despite that I spent my entire career in food service, with the accompanying social tipping pressures, I am an inconsistent tipper at best.  I have been told that I’m just plain cheap.  I choose to call it frugal, but that’s not the real reason or the point.

I believe deeply in the effectiveness and goodness of clear rewards and consequences for behavior.  If there is anything in my life that was successful and I am proud of, it is my children.  My approach to fathering was to let natural consequences be the primary teacher.  I chose to be a poor buffer and a good mirror.  It worked fabulously.  My kids were and are wonderful, exceeding me and my expectations in every way.

Apply that philosophy to tipping.  It is nothing less than a metaphor for life.  Early in my food service career, I was taught and completely bought into the story that tipping began in medieval rough-and-tumble road houses as an incentive for good service.  Simple and straight forward.  Get the food to me from the cook before it gets cold or spoils.  I will pay you for your extra trouble.

When I get poor, inattentive, surly service I often respond with either no tip or a penny to send a clear message.  I feel no guilt because I have done the right thing.  My intentional action has the potential to result in a positive change that could make the world a little nicer place, at least  for the next patron…. Or not…  At that point it’s out of my hands and rests firmly with the server who will either change the behavior for better tips or become more surly and angry at me.  Their move, but at least I have provoked a conscious choice.

On the other hand, when I get really good service, I take genuine pleasure in rewarding the server with a generous tip.  I often go out of my way to clarify the message by commenting to them and/or the on-duty manager what a pleasure it was for our paths to have crossed.  I don’t need one of those impersonal, anonymous comment cards.

I was once told that what we are building here at the Village is an “intentional community”.  It occurs to me that I have been trying to live all my life out of intention.  That is, I think, the opposite of living out of unthinking, guilt-based, or unexplored and poorly understood traditions.

To be clear, I am no saint and no stranger to feelings of guilt.  But as I look back on my life, I find that the things I did that worked and I am proud of, almost always came from a positive, intentional motive.  Actions starting from guilt often lead nowhere but to more guilt with unintended results.  As a motive for quitting a bad or ineffective behavior, I like natural consequences a lot better than nagging, amorphous, brooding guilt.

I am consciously working to build a culture at the Village  on Sewanee Creek  that is intentional and therefore positive.  A place of continuous learning, endless creativity, openness to exploring and recognizing the beauties of this world in their stark, truthful and sometimes harsh natural reality.  Nature is a great teacher.  I guess a certain amount of guilt is sometimes useful, but I hope that the glue of our like-mindedness will be made mostly of intention.

Individual Freedom vs. Unchecked Power. Where is the balance?


I would like to share a discussion string from our community website, “Friends of Sewanee Creek”  Names, other than my own, and emphasis have been changed.

Grant shared an article on 06/13/2011 07:06:20 am
Whoa!! And I thought it was a good thing to be considered a “sustainable developer”.


Jodi – 06/15/2011 01:40:06 pm
Will watch Glenn Beck and Pass the Video to MANY. Thank You!

Debbie  6/18/2011 00:05:37 am
Agenda 21 is very disturbing.
Glenn Beck discussed Agenda 21 on June 15, 2011

Ben  06/20/2011 03:34:03 pm
This is my first introduction to Agenda 21 so I am very unfamiliar with the details but the concept of social engineering is nothing new. I think China is a good example of this with the one child policy. In this case you have a country that is facing a huge ecological mess (pollution, water shortages, decreasing arable land from desertification) where a government steps in and attempts to avert having natural factors like starvation or disease controlling population growth by implementing a law to control population growth.

Again I am unfamiliar with the details of this particular “agenda” but I think it is a reality that increasing numbers of humans in the emerging markets pushing into western middle class lifestyles is going to pose some ecological challenges to the planet. Historical notions of sovereignty create complications when dealing with issues like nuclear disasters, disease, or climate change which do not respect borders. I think many of us see this as the nuclear meltdown in Japan directly affects our welfare.

How does the world begin to deal with these larger transnational issues?

Grant Miller – 06/21/2011 06:41:28 am
Good comment, Ben. It strikes me as both thoughtful and brave, two qualities I admire greatly.

Clearly, as the world shrinks and technology increases the power of mankind to foul his own nest (as well as that of his neighbors) the need for some form of control increases. This need is at the heart of your question.

The dilemma lies in the fact that corruption is endemic to power. I keep coming back to the well worn quote, “Power Corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” How do you have a global government where there is no higher recourse without sacrificing liberty and enslaving the world? Of more immediate concern, why would we want to turn that government over to those who have already proven themselves to be thoroughly corrupt?

I am among a growing population that recognizes the behavior of world, US and local leaders as nothing short of self-serving thuggery. People of all political persuasions are increasingly recognizing that national resources and the wealth of the people have been plundered by those with the power to do so. It is increasingly clear that there is collusion between people with their hands on the levers of power whether at the point of a gun (military or police), through government (congress, parliament, unelected bureaucrats, presidents/kings/czars/dictators) or through sophisticated financial manipulation (Powerful Corporations, Global Banks, Wall Street/The City). Many bury their collective heads in the sand, pretending that none of this exists by labeling it “conspiracy theory”. Thinking people are not cowed by this thinly veiled insult. They recognize that we are all subject to our selfish interests and that as power approaches the absolute, corruption is guaranteed.

The genius of our founding fathers was in their recognition of these facts. Their solution, indeed the only solution that has worked since the beginning of mankind was simple and elegant. To limit all kinds of thuggery, power itself must be limited, checked and controlled.

Ben, you just asked the right question in a forum where you might have perceived a risk of being shouted down. That is brave. In doing so, you elevated the conversation. There is great power in thoughtful, honest questions.  We all owe you a big thank you.

Frankly, I don’t know the answer to your question. I wish I did. The only level at which I think I have an answer is the local one, precisely because I have no power at the global or any other level. But I do believe that if enough people will exercise the power that they do have, locally, to live a thoughtful, wise, brave, chaste and righteous life, the world would change for the better. That is because people with unlimited power have it only to the extent the masses give it to them.

My dream for the Village is that we will have people here who desperately want to live their lives and surround themselves with others of like mind and commitment to virtuous character. Until that small kernel grows into something more powerful, we will at least provide ourselves a measure of insulation from a world that is out of control due to the greed and lust of all-powerful men.

Surround yourself with Extraordinary People

What do you want to surround yourself with?
I wanted to write something for you about this, so I Googled “surround yourself with” and here is the advice that came up on the first page.

I agree.  I NEED to surround myself with the best, the extraordinary, so that I can become my best.  That’s easier said than done.  It takes work to attract and keep the best in your life, especially if you are looking for people who are better than you are.  I have spent the last five years of my life with that single-minded goal, to attract extraordinary people to the Village.  Our list of permanent residents is still small, but it includes people of extraordinary talents, skills, accomplishments, experiences and character traits.   To name a few, these highly accomplished people, all with post-graduate degrees in their field and stellar life accomplishments, include among their skills:  published philosopher and writer, chemist, plant geneticist, musician, Sr. business executive, successful entrepreneur, web developer, teacher, world travelers, electronics/communications expert, linguists, etc.  If you include those who have purchased land but have not yet built and moved in, the list becomes too long.  Overlaid on these skills are values of hard work, positive thinking, humility, mental toughness, creativity, generosity, mutual caring, independence, self-sufficiency and a strong desire to be part of a cohesive, sharing community.

Have you noticed that on my website, the request for information page includes a text box that asks an unusual question?  “Tell us a little about why you are interested in living in the Village on Sewanee Creek and what you would bring to the community as a neighbor.”  Do you know of ANY other developments where land is offered for sale, but applicants are asked to justify their contribution in terms other than dollars?

I don’t refer to myself as a “developer”.   My primary focus is building this community, so my business card says simply “founder”.  Unlike developers whose work focuses exclusively on subdividing, meeting government codes and selling, I actually live here and have different, vested, personal interests.  So I spend the bulk of my time blogging to attract extraordinary people, then interviewing and observing to understand whether they would be happy and contribute here.  When a person buys land in the Village, only a little of the value they are getting is in dirt, trees, creeks and a nice view.  They are buying years of my single-minded labor to assemble a community, a circle of extraordinary people.  For some, it is hard to recognize tangible dollar value in that.  Those who think the above quotes are only nice platitudes won’t join us in the Village.   They are unlikely to commit to the lifestyle we aspire to or even discover my website with its carefully crafted key search words.  And that is good.  We aren’t looking for average people who have money but don’t get it.

For those who strive to surround themselves with greatness, with people who will lift you higher, people who are like-minded, passionate, intelligent, creative and so on, to these the beautiful land is a nice incidental.

That Village residents understand and value this was recently demonstrated to me by one of them.  We were on an outing together to Nashville to see my favorite play, Les Miserable.  As we drove together I took the opportunity to discuss some community business.  I mentioned that property values in the Village have stayed significantly higher than any nearby as indicated by recent sales.  I sought their views on changes to the covenants because I want to make them as minimally restrictive as I can while maintaining the beauty, tranquility and productivity of the Village.  A Villager with two young children dismissed higher property values.  “Resale value is irrelevant to me”, he said.  “I plan to live here the rest of my life.”  Then he added, “I just want to be sure you will continue to be selective with the quality of my new neighbors.”  BTW, this young, extraordinary man is our post-graduate philosopher/writer/entrepreneur and I would say he gets it.

How to deal with information overload

Since I left my job and had time to pay more attention to what is going on in the world, I have spent untold hours/days/weeks/months/years trying to sort through the deluge of information and looking for insight.  What is real; what is true?

This video deals with the problem of information overload.  It makes the point that the most valuable commodity is NOT information, but insight and how one achieves insight.  Our schools do not teach how to think any more.  Hence, our children don’t know how to act, only how to react.  And powerful entities can now more easily pull the strings of media to get us to react in ways that benefit them.

A hopeful insight towards the end is that, if you spend the time to sift the data, you will reach a point at which all the noise becomes background, you are able to see through the data overload and know how to act.  It is at that point that one can achieve a sense of peace with what is happening around you and what you are doing about it.

Taking it a step further, if you surround yourself with people who have insight, people who act instead of react, that sense of peace can be institutionalized in the community and life can be good.

Bashing the Obama/Bush-Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

Recently there was an Obama bashing post on “Friends of Sewanee Creek” our private website.  It was one of those chain emails that get mindlessly forwarded by people with a particular point of view.  Upon checking Snopes, it was found to be at least a partial fabrication.  No surprise.  One of the site members, a conservative, remarked that he was tired of the Obama bashing.

I responded:

I agree that the energy being expended toward “Obama or ANY bashing” is mis-directed. This is not to say that Obama deserves our admiration or support.  Only that the focus on Obama is a carefully manipulated distraction from the real issues.  Obama is a puppet.  So is congress. Both are dangerous to our liberty and to the peace of the world.

____________________________________________________

The US government and virtually all governments are thoroughly
corrupt from the top down
.

The global military-industrial-congressional complex are collectively the problem because
THEY ARE DRIVEN BY GREED AND POWER.

The global military-industrial-congressional complex are firmly in power because
THE PEOPLE ARE DRIVEN BY GREED AND POWER,
corrupt from the bottom up.

____________________________________________________

Please re-read the statement between the bars and think about it.
It’s simple cause and effect.
No solutions will be evident without a clear understanding of the problem.

Whether overtly religious or not, few people practice Christ’s teachings of charity, love and service either on a personal level or national policy level . Hence, Republicans who are supposedly the party of the religious right continue to support aggressive war and imperialism under the false flag of democratizing the world. But if you listen carefully to their rhetoric you will find the real motives are based on self-preservation of our standard of living over the rest of the world – grass roots greed and power.

No single individual is to blame for the world’s problems. It is all of us together. Therefore, No form of bashing will accomplish anything but distraction from the real problem that lies in each individual heart.

I am convinced that we are now beyond the point of no return where political activism using the levers of democracy can be effective.  Hence, while I pay attention to the theater of politics for cues, I believe that our only salvation is in the moral character of individuals.

Never has the saying, “All politics is local” been more true. We must begin with personal morality and by that I do not mean sexual morality, although it is certainly included.  For an example of effective political action that can turn the tide, I look to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the writings of Henry David Thoreau and especially the example of Jesus Christ.  The most effective non-violent movements start by restoring moral judgment to a large, critical mass of the population.

Short of achieving such a mass conversion, the only solution is to work with converted, small, local communities.  If you can’t control the world, control yourself, then your personal environment. Perhaps if I prove to myself that I can discipline myself, then influence a small community, I can gradually regain the hope that leads to faith that leads to power, to change the world on a larger scale. That’s what Gandhi did. Until then, I have no right or reason to hope for anything better.

AUSTERE but WITHOUT FEAR – A Message from Sendai, Japan

I lived in Japan for two years (1971-1972) and returned there many many times over the years on business. The Japanese people are amazing.  Since the morning I learned of the quakes and tsunami, I have been in touch with close Japanese friends via FaceBook and Twitter – glimpses of quiet, stoic courage.

A friend forwarded this letter to me this morning from a lady who lives there, but is apparently not Japanese by birth.  Her reflections on life in the aftermath describe what is happening there more fully, simply beautiful. Despite deprivations, this letter recounts people living even more richly than before – on a different level.  It’s amazing to think how different life experiences have prepared me to be where I am today.  To see what life can be, and hopefully will be like in the Village minus the calamities, read on.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Hello My Lovely Family and Friends,

First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you.

Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend’s home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.

During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets.

Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, “Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.”

Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often.

We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do not.

No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.

There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun.

People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs. All happening at the same time.

Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled.

The mountains around Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently. And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others. Last night my friend’s husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.

Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.

Thank you again for your care and Love of me,

With Love in return, to you all,
Anne

More background on Anne:  http://scribbler.ca/?p=192

We have extra land. Anybody want to farm it?

Food security is the ultimate liberty.  If you can do it in  urban NYC, you can do it anywhere.  For some more inspiration, watch this YouTube video.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDxBEUOImjI

The Village on Sewanee Creek is about 750 rural acres on Tennessee’s lush Cumberland Plateau.  Of that, about 80 acres is cleared land that could be farmed.  Some of it is.  (The balance is either in deep woods or in a deep rugged canyon nature preserve) We have already built a community raised bed garden.  But there’s more.  Either on lots currently owned by Villagers, but as yet unfarmed or on unsold lots.

Want to farm but need land?  We have it and we can help you learn to farm.  Call us at (931) 442-1444.

Top 10 Self-Sufficiency and Survival Skills

These days a lot of folks are thinking about how to survive tough times ahead.  It’s tempting to end your short list after a stash of food, and an assault rifle with plenty of ammo.  Good luck!  In a pinch, it’s not the things you have as much as the skills you have that will be your most valuable assets.  By the way, since it takes years to acquire all the necessary skills for provident, abundant living, I recommend adding COMMUNITY as a pre-requisite to an attempt to become truly self-sufficient.  You will find that the task is much less daunting and the journey more enjoyable if you work with other like-minded people to divide, conquer and share the spoils of your efforts.

Whether you want to move into rural America or stay put in the suburbs, here are some skills you will need whether or not TSHTF.

# 1 Grow Fresh, Wholesome Food

Most people have some experience gardening even if it was just watching a bean grow in a Styrofoam cup way back in kindergarten.  But could you live off of what you grow?  It’s definitely possible.  Our first summer garden in the Village provided us with roughly 80% of everything we ate, but we learned in subsequent seasons that doing it consistently can be challenging.   We added a 2,000 square foot green house, intending to grow food year round and found that it was a whole different animal… uh vegetable.  It takes time to build up soil quality, learn what grows best in your area, how to control insects, crop rotation and a myriad of other complex and inter-related issues. 

Fortunately, gardening is the single most popular hobby in the USA, so you know that it’s rewarding and you can swap knowledge with lots of people.  Agricultural colleges operate an Extension Service in most counties where you can get tons of useful, local information and soil analysis.  Local farmer’s coops are a great source for tools, fertilizer and seeds.  But your best source of information will be your neighbors who have successfully grown food for years.  They know local soils and weather patterns and where to buy or trade non-GMO heritage seeds.

Extend your garden with permaculture methods by planting a fruit and nut orchard that will yield abundant crops year after year without tilling and planting.  But start soon.  Developing a productive small-scale farm takes time.

#2.  Learn to Weld

Learning to weld is easy, especially if you use a MIG wire-fed welder. Just adjust the wire feed speed and voltage to match the thickness of steel you are welding.  You can get the hang of it with just a little practice and a few tips from a friend who knows how.  Community colleges often offer inexpensive classes on Welding. One near us is also certifying welders for work at nuclear plants in Alabama and NE Tennessee. 

I bought a little 120V MIG welder at Harbor Freight for about $100.  It’s a good idea to stock up on a bunch of flux wire.  Not a bad investment as inflation kicks in, especially on commodity intensive stuff like steel.  I use my little welder a lot and liked it so much that I bought a second one that runs off of 220V current and can do deeper welds.  It was about $180. 

If you haven’t welded before you will be amazed at how often you will use it, whether in a survival situation or just doing some DIY repairs around the house or shop.  Then again, you can barter or start your own small welding business for some extra cash.

For real self-reliance you might want a portable generator/welder combo. You can find these for sale all the time on www.governmentliquidation.com or, just use one of the generators you already have.  When we built the amphitheater stage, we added a 40’ container with massive doors that open to a big movie screen and lock closed to house the barbecue and A/V equipment.  It’s in a scenic, remote location at the Village. My 7KW Honda generator and MIG welder worked great.  I’m now putting the finishing touches on a guest house built from two shipping containers.  If you plan to do any welding on this scale, I also recommend getting a plasma cutter, also available inexpensively from Harbor Freight.

#3 Learn Basic Carpentry and Home Repair Skills

Start with some DIY projects around the house.  Build a deck, a shed or a playhouse.  Building it plumb, square and level are the basics and are easily learned. Ask a friend who has some carpentry skills to help out.  The Amish don’t have a patent on community barn raising.  It’s a great way to learn, build something great in a short time and bond with resourceful friends. 

Any long-term crisis requires these skills.  Even in good times there are plenty of opportunities for the service-minded person to enjoy helping a widow or single parent in need.  I have found there is nothing more satisfying than building or fixing something well.  Carpentry, Electrical and Plumbing skills will all be in demand.  Having learned some of these skills from a friend, if you are the one on the block who knows how to fix stuff it’s your turn to make a lot of friends quickly.

 #4 Learn To Trap and Hunt

Hunting is one of those basic survival skills that have also found their way into mainstream recreation. There are plenty of hunters around.  You need to make sure you are one of them so some of the local game finds its way onto your table and not someone else’s.  This is a skill that takes time to master.  It’s not just about marksmanship.  It requires one to understand the movement patterns of animals in the wild – the where and when of their eating, drinking, sleeping, communication and mating patterns. 

Since we have an abundance of hunting land right here in the Village, it has been easy to barter for hunting lessons with good hunters for the right to hunt here.  I think that’s a far superior learning method to book or video learning because it’s local.  But traditional learning methods have their place too.

Trapping gives you a more reliable, efficient way to get fresh meat.  Traps and snares work while you work at something else or sleep. Traps can cover a wide area. A hunter can sit in a tree stand all day and not see a thing.  If you are more interested in dinner than sport as I am, trapping is for you.

There are a lot of different types of Snares, Live/Box traps, leg hold traps and body gripper traps. Each has a different purpose and different methods that need to be learned for trapping anything from small game like rabbits or squirrels, to large game like deer or feral hogs to nuisance animals like coyotes, beaver or raccoons.

Look for a local Trappers Association and join up for their mailing list, workshops or just some fun outings.

 #5 Learn how to Butcher Animals

This skill is a natural, not only for hunters and trappers.  Near the Village there are several small farms that raise grass fed or free range livestock (beef, goats, chickens, turkeys, etc.) One of our Villagers is an avid carnivore.  He’s in the process of buying more land from me, planning to raise his own beef.  I lowered the price a bit with an option to keep a cow of mine in his pasture land.  Butchering skills come in handy for significantly reducing the cost of bringing your beef (or chickens or wild game) from the field to your dinner table.

The first time I butchered a deer, I was pretty clueless.  It was a partial road kill, with a broken back it limped onto my property and I needed to learn quickly.  That deer made it into my freezer and we enjoyed the venison, but it wasn’t pretty.  Later a hunting friend showed me how.  Learning how to properly butcher and store animals for meat is a skill that everyone wanting to be self-sufficient should have.

 #6 Fish for Food

This isn’t about trophy or pleasure fishing where a secondary objective is to have a nice nap in the sun. You need to be able to bring in a quantity of fish reliably and fast.  First, buy and learn how to use trotlines, fish traps and nets.  Then learn how to make your o  wn.

Like trapping, a good trotline can be left to do your fishing while you build a barn or chop firewood.  And when you return, you’re likely to find several fresh fish on the same line just waiting to be fried up or smoked.

In spawning season, many fish will school up and move together.  My wife and I have enjoyed a salmon run on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.  Many other freshwater lake and river fish like Walleye, Bass, Stripers and Crappie have similar spawning behaviors you can take advantage of.

Google trawl and gill nets for supplies you need.

Warning!  These techniques may be illegal where you are. Be familiar with local regulations.  But then, if it comes to a choice of a potential fine versus hungry kids, well… you decide.

#7 Gunsmithing – Learn To Repair Guns

For the aspiring Survivalist or Self Reliant person, having a variety of guns for various purposes is a no-brainer, whether for hunting or defense.  Knowing how to clean, repair, site and adjust guns is probably just as important as knowing how to use them.  Any  guy who has been through basic military training remembers that one of the first things you learn is how to disassemble, clean and reassemble your weapon efficiently so it will work properly? No shortcuts when your life depends on it.  Keep basic spare parts for your guns and learn how to fix each one if it breaks.

Many Video’s and Books on Gunsmithing can be found on Amazon or Brownell’s. Pick ones that cover your gun types.

#8 Operate a HAM Radio

We decided early on that having someone in the Village with communications skills and equipment is important.  With the many skills I need to master, we decided another Villager would take this on.  He happens to be my brother who is just finishing his house.  Since he already had his license, this decision was easy.  For now, he has a good portable HAM, but he’s planning to install a fixed unit with tall antenna.  I plan to get my license when I can get to it.  In a disaster, a HAM radio is your communications lifeline to the outside World.  To appreciate its importance, there was a great TV survival mini-series a few years ago called Jericho.  You can find it on Hulu.com.

Last year, the requirements for a HAM radio operator’s license became a lot easier.  No Morse code is required.  A few hours study and pass an online test and you’re on your way.  Then, join a local club for practice and to build a resilient network.

  #9 Advanced First Aid

“Knowing advanced life saving first aid skills should be the goal of every person who is prepping for life.   And I’m talking about skills that go above and beyond those taught in basic first aid classes.

Learn how to treat major wounds, such as a sucking chest wound, until help can arrive. Could you set a broken bone? How about removing a bullet? It’s not as simple as some macho guy on TV makes it look. You’ll have to assume at one point during a crisis, you’re first aid skills will be needed. If not by you, then possibly by a family member or friend. You may be their only hope for surviving.”
The Survival, Emergency Preparedness and Self Reliance Blog

  #10 Small Engine Repair

Small engines provide most of the power that makes self-sufficient living enjoyable and even doable for folks of our time.  As I look around our homestead, I’m surprised to count the number of small engines I use.  (Chain Saws, 4-Wheeler ATV, Generators, Pumps, Air Compressors, Saw Mill, Rototillers, and the list goes on)

Knowing how to repair any of these small engines is a huge plus because it seems they’re always breaking down.  Because we’re in the country there are a number of small engine repairmen I can and do depend on, many more per capita than you would find in a big city.  Most people around here use small engines a lot.  But in a crisis situation, good repairmen may be overwhelmed.  Your local community college may offer classes on basic and advanced small engine repair. Once you’ve learned the basics, the rest is a piece of cake.

Auto repair has elements of Small Engine repair skills, and I’m tempted to include it here, but in a real crisis I’m thinking of getting back to alternative modes of transportation.  Automatic transmissions or sophisticated electronics built into most newer model cars are way beyond the reach of today’s shade tree mechanics.  If I can fix the small engine on my 4-wheeler that will get me by for transportation within a ten to fifteen mile radius, that will do, especially if I have more than one vehicle.  I do have an older model 4-wheel drive stick shift, carbureted vehicle.  It’s great for off-road use or on icy roads.  And, for those wanting to be prepared in case of an EMP attack, it has no sensitive electronics that could be fried by a massive pulse.  For this older vehicle, small engine repair skills will get me a long way.  Then, of course I could go back to horse and buggy days as some around here do.  I know where to buy a saddle horse for almost nothing.  Come to think of it, where the cost of gas is headed, that might not be a bad idea.

At a minimum, you should be able to change a tire, and change out parts that frequently break like starters, alternators, water and fuel pumps. If you can’t do these simple chores, you’d better have money or another vehicle to rely upon should one go down.

This is my top 10 list.  It is only the start if you want to be truly self-sufficient.  To give credit where credit is due, I got inspiration for this article from a like-minded blogger on The Survival, Emergency Preparedness and Self Reliance Blog.  My list is a bit different from his, so you might want to visit there for more ideas and a different slant.

 

#11 Food Preservation

Yes, there are many other important skills I couldn’t squeeze into the top 10.  I’ll sneak in one more.  Food Preservation is really important because in most climates your winter garden won’t satisfy all your needs for fresh food.  Food preservation includes Canning, Smoking, Dehydrating, Salting, Pickling, Root Cellars, Refrigeration/Freezing and much more.  Maybe I’ll do a list of the next 10 another time and lead off with this one.

The Religion of Science

Is Science the new opiate of the “educated’ masses?

In our time, Science has generally replaced religion as the accepted means of understanding truth.  Religion has been discredited in our secular world, not only as a means of finding truth.  It is regularly vilified as a dogma that produces conflict, war, and the plundering of the planet.  Religion is redefined as dogma that stagnates thought and impedes the advancement of mankind.  In many “progressive” circles it is held as the source of all things evil.  Science is the new religion of our time and applied technology (light bulbs, micro-wave ovens, i-phones, computers) its proof, our Bible.

It has been twenty years since the announcement of “cold fusion” at the University of Utah. MIT scientists and government researchers exaggerated its death and prematurely buried it.   Now still unexplainable yet real experimentation results are exhuming this science from the grave.  Immutable truth has a habit of haunting those who discount it for fun and profit.

Look beneath the surface.  The serious inquirer discovers that imbedded within this drama are all the important questions about man’s search for truth, good versus evil, the corrupting politics of power and greed, human nature, faith and God.  These two YouTube videos, Cold Fusion Suppressed Technology (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htgV7fNO-2k&feature=related ) and Cold Fusion – More Than Junk Science (60 Minutes, CBS News ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyNn_Z6wCIk ) do address the scientific methodology as a proof of viability, but the important message is that beneath the methods, the sine qua non of any search for truth are motives, morals, integrity and values.  Absent this, we see the same dogma stagnation, manipulation of the masses for profit and power and rape of natural resources that have been seen as the province of “organized religion”.  Perhaps the new high priesthood of science based in government granted University research should be relabeled “organized science”.

But I digress.  Is morality not the realm of spirituality and religion?  I’m not speaking of the corrupted form of religion, manipulated by despots throughout time, but the religion of humble seekers of eternal truth.  The questions for our age are,

  1. Absent moral purity, can science be trusted any more than religion?   
  2. How can you tell if there Is underlying integrity?

And the answer just might be the modern maxim, “follow the money”.  The increasingly cynical masses have come to trust the wisdom that money leads to power.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  An unfortunate conclusion is that everything is corrupt, including religion, government, corporations, wall street, labor unions and the last bastion of credibility, the new religion, science.  The masses have thrown the baby (religion) out with the bath water.  With the current levels of cynicism it is conceivable that the same could happen for all other institutions including science where no one trusts anything.  Faith is dead.  This would truly be the cataclysmic end of the civilization foretold by prophets of doom.

The quest for knowledge of truth is personal and lonely.

The question I often ask myself and others is, “How do you know that?”  The answer is usually discomforting.  We must all rely on someone else’s first hand observations and analysis for things that we don’t personally and regularly touch and feel.  (Leave aside, for the moment, whether we should trust our own observations and feelings.)  That reliance is called faith whether exercised in the spiritual or scientific realm.  Because we individually lack the training and knowledge to assess the truth of almost everything, we construct means of creating credibility analogs. 

When a technology reaches the state of mass production where virtually everyone experiences its effects, then everyone universally accepts the scientific explanations that underpin it.  Yet few and sometimes no one really understands the basic physics of those explanations.  What’s more, even the science that purports to explain the phenomena often shifts under our feet as it discovers new “knowledge” that modifies the old.  This begs the question, “what do you know”? . . . . Really.

Conclusion:
So, how do we avoid a second coming of Noah’s deluge in the form of babies in bathwater?  In the end, science and religion are in many respects different sides of the same coin.  Each seeks to unwrap the mysteries of truth, each through a different process and each focusing on different areas of truth. 

The holy grail of science is the process that can be peer reviewed and most importantly, replicated under controlled circumstances, usually by a few qualified, knowledgeable scientists.  The masses then read the results in their text books and believe them to be true.  Their method of validating truth is two-fold. 
First:  Primary, personal experience with observable phenomena.  Flip a switch and the light comes on. Tune the radio and hear the music. (Yet understanding of the physics of electricity or radio waves is typically shallow to non-existent).
Second:  Vicarious faith in the prophets of science, and their disciples.  This faith is based on second-hand evidence, analogs for trust:  Nobel prizes awarded, credentials at prestigious research Universities, acknowledgement from peer reviews, and for the masses, talking heads in popular TV, newspapers and books.  For the average person this faith is in nothing more than a popularly accepted dogma.  It is no different than the religious faith exercised by the masses of the Middle Ages.

The scientific method of religion for the individual is similarly two-tiered.
First, primary, personal experience with the results of experimentation:  Pray for an answer to an intractable problem and receive an understanding that is enlightening or comforting, outside our normal thought process and unexplainable other than through the whisperings of the spirit.  Exercise faith and witness a healing of the body, or often more importantly, the soul.  Give generously of your means and love and reap the benefits.
Second, the testimonies of trusted people that we know personally, or the stories written long ago in scripture.

In either case, the personal inputs upon which people base belief are the same.  In both cases, adherents will swear to a knowledge of the truth of their conclusions. 

Today’s popular wisdom chants Karl Marx’, “religion is the opiate of the masses”, a means to wealth and power.  It’s an outdated slogan since that baby is out the window a long time ago in most 1st world nations.  A time will come, perhaps soon, when people begin to understand that science has its own false prophets.  These evil people have mastered the confidence game for power and profit but care little for the improvement of people they are meant to serve.  They care even less about truth other than that which results in personal gain.  Just as religion has been subverted, so can science.  Science is the new opiate of the “educated” masses who are educated with scientific dogma but lack wisdom. 

Perhaps, when people understand the vulnerabilities of science they will begin to recognize that science and religion are indeed, two sides of a multi-dimensional coin.  It is a coin that can be used for good or evil and a coin that, to have value, must seamlessly incorporate the strengths of each and root out the corrupting virus that is man’s quest for money and power over truth.

It seems to me a great irony that during the dark ages, utter contempt for religious beliefs was primarily the province of tyrants.  They were the ones who manipulated religion to justify and instigate unspeakable horrors in the name of God while the masses were unwitting but sincere followers of the tyrannical “keepers of the faith”.  Today, it seems a majority have embraced contempt for religion, resulting in a scramble to adopt tyrannical values.  Hence, we can trust no one.  Would that everyone embraced godly values that would form the basis for trust and discovery of truth through science, religion, meditation, philosophy, historical perspective or any method that gets us closer to the truth.