Interesting People – Rich Life

From the outset, I have made it a point to target interesting people who will become not only Village neighbors, but the fabric of a lifestyle that makes life interesting and rewarding. There are many prepper communities emerging these days. They typically aim to fill their ranks with a comprehensive list of survival skills. Welder, blacksmith, gunsmith, military tactician, plumber, electrician, mechanic, hunter/trapper, tanner represent just a few of hundreds of basic skills. Important as these may be, they address only survival. For Villagers, life is about much more than survival.

I believe we have been successful in attracting a certain type of individual who is a cut above the mundane, normal, or average. So far, our small community boasts interesting people with distinguished accomplishments from diverse backgrounds.

  • Some have advanced degrees, like Tom who has a PhD in plant genetics or George who is a bio-chemist with deep experience in water quality systems management, mycology and toxic environmental clean-up.

But intellectual capacity doesn’t always require a high level degree or formal education. Street smarts are just as valuable and interesting.

  • Jeff J. humbly acknowledges a lack of formal training, while his accomplishments as a highly sought-after Hollywood film editor are impressive. Having worked on such famous films as Star Wars and Hunger Games among many others, his experiences, instincts and observations on life have brought great pleasure and growth to me and other Villagers. Knowing my interest in movies, a residual from my days at Blockbuster, he even contributed a huge library of DVD’s to the Village to enhance our movie nights, whether at our large screen home theater or the bigger one at the amphitheater.
  • Mike and Barb are accomplished singer/songwriters who infuse their art with the values we embrace as a community. Their music strengthens both the moral and social fabric of the Village.
  • Fred is our inventor / engineer / communications expert extraordinaire. I affectionately nicknamed him Mr. Inscrutable because his intellectual and scientific prowess often makes me stretch to grasp a point he is making. Those who attend a lecture he is giving at the University of the South on Open Source Ecology this Wednesday will likewise be stretched and enriched.
  • Jim has a deep, practical history with self-sufficient living. Now retired, he is an effective investor who loves tending his garden and chickens while experimenting with all kinds of projects from alternative energy to alternative construction. Jim donated many years of Mother Earth News to the online Village Library. His soft, engaging nature makes him a natural in group dynamics where he instantly puts people at ease.
  • Jeff P. and his three sons are all Eagle Scouts.  Jeff is CFO for his company and has been a scout leader for years.  His practical knowledge of outdoor life and appreciation for nature derived from scouting contribute to our mission in many ways.
  • Micah stopped just short of completing a PhD in philosophy, and deploys his prodigious intellect and work ethic in his highly successful internet business, helping America’s best and brightest choose colleges best suited to them. In his spare time, he raises goats, cattle and chickens for home consumption and has purchased several hundred acres nearby to build a cattle ranch with his brother.

The Women in the Village contribute to the richness of daily life just as much if not more than the men.

  • My dear wife, Becky, is known for her home-making skills that range from amazingly artistic quilts to the best home-made bread ever, made from home-ground flour, to fresh veggies and eggs from her greenhouse and mini-farm.
  • Judy cans, sprouts, sews, gardens, bakes and cooks some of the finest food you will find anywhere and tutors neighborhood children in math.
  • Stephanie brings her personal brand of wisdom to the Village. She is a counselor who listens attentively and serves up help to University students, meanwhile raising her two little boys with patience and love.
  • Linnette is an accomplished artist who excels with ceramics.  She created the beautiful tile work and fired the individual tiles in her large kiln for the sign at the entrance to the Village.  Her sons include a doctor, an architect and a business man.
  • Linda is a natural organizer-leader.  She runs the Meetup group, “Provident Living and Self Reliance” out of Nashville. She was instrumental in organizing Preparedness Fairs here in the Village and many other group meetings for Villagers as well as hundreds of other Self-Reliance oriented people throughout Middle and Eastern Tennessee.

I could go on. For the sake of brevity, I will limit the list, but you get the point. Beyond specific skills and accomplishments, most Villagers are well traveled, intellectually open and, as a result, qualify as interesting people who contribute at many levels. Because they are all focused on self-sufficient living, each one also contributes to the list of survival skills and the general resilience of the Village.

The work I do to attract and woo interesting people results in tangible value to people who move here. And the longer I do it the more valuable the Village becomes. That is why the value of the product Villagers buy into is less and less about the beautiful land and more and more about a rich lifestyle built on relationships with extraordinary people. For fans of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, you might recognize the Village as a kinder and gentler Galt’s Gulch.

It isn’t enough that we have many interesting people here. It is just as important that those interesting people each desire to share their knowledge, insights, skills and talents or we are just like any other upper-income neighborhood, filled with people who are busy, successful, and isolated in social silos. So we try to select people who love people. It’s implied in our motto, in harmony with nature AND PEOPLE. I believe we have also been successful in developing a culture of sharing.

And, while attracting interesting people who want to share is the essential foundation, it is only the beginning. As we continue to weave and expand this fabric of many colors and textures into a culture of interesting people with an interesting, rich life, I think it is not enough to simply have them here. We must continuously draw people out in interesting venues and situations where all can naturally benefit from such rich natural resources. We must enhance our natural human resources through activities, processes, customs and traditions that we all embrace.

  • Our weekly “Village Project” is one such tradition that puts talents and skills to practical work while creating an atmosphere for mutual, service, positive social interaction and sharing.
  • Our Monday “Family Home Evening” gatherings are a regular place for sharing on a more intimate, sometimes more intellectual level. We teach, share stories, play games, discuss world events, books, and movies, share treats, and plan together.
  • Our Monthly potluck is a time for reaching out to Village land owners who have not yet built and relocated here. It’s less frequent and allows them to travel from Nashville or sometimes more distant locations. It’s also a time to enjoy great food and casual conversation in an unstructured environment.
  • Since I have joined the staff at the University of the South, I am much more tuned in and do a better job of sharing the abundance of culturally enriching, and mostly free activities there. Lectures, discussions, plays, concerts are plentiful to overwhelming in their availability. We try to get Villagers together to share in many of these experiences too.
  • At less frequent intervals, we have made field trips to Nashville or other outlying towns, like the trip we made to see Les Miserable or recently to Athens to learn about earth-bermed housing.

As more interesting, sharing people join us, the opportunities grow exponentially along with the need for careful tending. I take seriously the responsibility of creating value for Villagers. But, I think everybody knows that it’s a group project, not wholly dependent on me.

Frankly, I’m not satisfied with the type and quality of activities we do now. We can do more and be more. I need all of your help.
Please share your ideas and your energy to bring them to life.

Extreme Consolidation in the Solar PV market expected this year

This is a good industry article indicating that solar panel manufacturers will go through a major consolidation this year.

Consolidation is a weeding out of the smaller, less efficient manufacturers in favor of low-cost, high-volume, efficient manufacturers.  The remaining suppliers will benefit from lower supply and less intense pricing pressures.  It remains to be seen whether, in the aftermath of lower supply, prices will increase.  They may continue to decline, despite decreased pressure on prices, as new, more efficient technologies and manufacturing techniques are developed.  Or, it may signal the bottoming out of PV panel prices.  Also, there does seem to be some improvement in the economy, at least in some sectors.  This could release pent-up demand from people who have been waiting to invest in solar out of fear over a potential job loss.  If we have industry consolidation (lower supply) that coincides with higher demand, the remaining suppliers will benefit from even higher economies of scale, resulting in higher profitability and perhaps lower prices as low-cost suppliers further consolidate market-share.

By observing general trends in the high tech sector based on silicone chips, one could conclude that prices will continue to decline.  That is, unless there is some other major disruption in the supply chain (like war, political upheaval, etc.)  If prices begin to increase post-consolidation, this may trigger more government intervention and subsidization, which could also be an offsetting factor, although generally, once consolidation has occurred, fewer companies may use subsidies to simply pad their bottom lines, further strengthening their balance sheets and staying power in the market rather than reduce prices.

Industry consolidation is just one factor to consider in determining when is the right moment to invest in Solar technology that moves us further in the direction of off-grid self-sufficiency while staying fiscally conservative.  My sense is that now is at least a much better time to invest in solar than a few years ago.  I’m glad I waited.  Cost per KWh is still higher than grid-supplied electricity.  But the question remains, should I wait longer?  The economy looks to be improving in the short term.

I consider small-scale home based Solar PV not for its economic efficiencies, but more for its insurance value. Long-term, the world still looks extremely fragile.  With the short-term improvement in the economy, this may be the perfect moment to invest in self-sufficiency, whether it is a modest amount of solar PV or a more secure location on which to place it.

Achieving self-sufficiency and sustainability without bankrupting yourself requires a long-term, plodding approach.  Like Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, (remember that from college psychology or sociology classes?) one does not achieve self-actualization until the more basic needs are covered.  PV solar, is at the top of the pyramid.  First, you cover basics like food, water, shelter, Next is energy in the form of least costly and highest efficiency.  Energy for heat and cooling falls in this category.  Passive solar or bio-mass solutions are a much better alternative.    Never try to provide these using Photo Voltaics.  That would be like trying to survive in a famine on an all-corn-fed-beef diet where it takes 15 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.  Inefficient, unsustainable.

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.

The fruit (and vegetables) of Sharing

Several years ago, I built a 2,000 square foot greenhouse on our land so we could grow food for our family all winter long.   We had gardened successfully on the same spot in prior years.  Greenhouse gardening was new to us.  It took a while to figure out what to grow and how to grow it in the winter season, but last winter we determined to fill it with cold tolerant vegetables and not heat it at all other than the free solar daytime heat.  We knew it would have too much capacity for us to use, so we invited other Villagers to share in the work and the produce.   We dined all winter long on fresh cabbage, carrots, kale, spinach, beets, lettuce, radishes, onions, broccoli and cauliflower.   We worked together in the greenhouse and later making sauerkraut from the bumper crop of cabbages.  Delicious.  But the best payoff was in relationships.

I want to share an email that my wife, Becky, just received from Judy (cc to me).
It gladdened my heart to see the fruits of sharing.  Sharing:

  • Transforms relationships.
  • Demonstrates trust and love.
  • Stimulates generosity in return.

The Bible teaches,

“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”   Ecclesiastes 11:1

When I was a child, I used to wonder, “so who wants soggy bread?”    🙂

Here’s the answer:

Hi Becky,
 
I finished filling my kraut-bucket with cabbage today, and wanted to say thank you for sharing the produce from your greenhouse.  Although we spent a few hours there planting/thinning/weeding, our reward has been greater than effort expended.  Not to mention that it is your greenhouse, your seed, your water…  
 
I’ve been wondering how you determine what is fair when it comes to sharing the fruits of our labors.  I don’t want you to feel that we are taking too much advantage of a good thing!
 
My concern is that things not go to waste because there isn’t time or energy to harvest what was planted.  I am willing to help you put up the vegetables–as an additional ‘payment’ for what we receive.  For example, I’ll chop your cabbage and bottle it (you provide the jars); the finished product is yours. Maybe I can help get the last of the beets bottled…  I know you have MANY other things that could be occupying your time.
 
Please don’t hesitate to let me know what I–and Tom–can do to best help keep things moving along!
 
-judy.

Thank you Becky and Judy and Tom and George for your example to us all.

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.

Learn to trap small game

Hunting is alright as a sport and for large game, but for a year-round reliable source of food, the old mountain men were efficient trappers.

A few days ago, when we had lost 4 chickens in as many days to coons, I called Joe, my good friend and old-time mountain man, from down the street for a little help.  He came by, identified the problem, set some traps and very soon, problem solved. Next step, re-populate our chicken coop.

Joe wanted the raccoon to train his dogs, so I called him to come get it.  We ended up spending a couple of hours talking about old time skills and how he had trapped all his life. He shared many nuances I was unaware of. I suggested that you all might be interested in learning to trap and he could make some extra pocket change in the process. He said he would think about it. We might even consider a dinner of locally trapped small game, prepared mountain style. If you haven’t had the pleasure I can tell you, squirrel mulligan is mighty fine stew.

Anyway, I thought it might be a good idea to post this and see how many would be interested for, say $10 per person for a day’s session at the Village on Sewanee Creek, maybe a little extra for the meal. Let me know what you think.  You can get back to me here.

I also posted this on the Nashville meetup group, Provident Living’s site. If there is enough interest, we’ll ask Joe to do it.