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 End of Suburbia” Still groundbreaking and urgent?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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.

Best place to survive East of the Mississippi

My wife and I have always thought that our location is optimal for living through difficult times.

Our intuitive sense was recently validated by the foremost expert in the field.   His name is Joel Skousen and you can read all about him, his analysis of world conditions and his consulting business on his website.

The third edition of his book, “Strategic Relocation” was released for sale this year.  It includes:
* 200 new pages with detailed analysis of every state and province in the US and Canada
* All new color maps for regions, provinces, and US States, showing threats, private and public land use, population densities, roads and terrain
This book can be purchased here.

A few months ago, I received an email from Joel.   He said,

“You’ll be pleased to know that the Cumberland Plateau received the highest rating for any area in the East in the new 3rd Edition of Strategic Relocation.”

In a follow-up conversation with Joel, I validated that his rationale matched mine.  If you would like to know what and why, you can buy his book or you can drop me an email, call (931) 442-1444 or send me a message from my website.

Preppers might also be interested in one of my older posts on the ten best places to survive in America.

On a side note, Mr. Skousen recently pointed out that Atlanta has the largest disparity of wealth of any large city in North America.  Thankfully, we are several hours drive from Atlanta, but that’s also fortunate for Atlanta residents looking for a safe haven within a reasonable driving distance.

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.

The Spirit of Self-Sufficiency

There seems to be a general consensus among people that times are hard and will likely get harder.  People are fearful and dissatisfied.  Some who are awake to the fragile nature of our world are frantically provisioning for all sorts of real and imagined calamities.  While it’s good to prepare, our best preparations are not in things.  They are in us.

This is illustrated in a book I finished just last evening.  Unbroken is the true story of Louie Zamperini–a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero.  It tells of his horrendous suffering as a castaway on the Pacific and in Japanese POW camps, of deprivation, hatred, redemption and his resilient, unbroken spirit.  I awoke peacefully this morning thinking of a journal entry I made several years ago.  I had completely forgotten and was surprised to find a second notation about a dream I had where I too was an Olympic runner.  Funny how much the subconscious mind remembers and connects when all is lost to the conscious mind.  Here are some excerpts from my journal.

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3/24/2009 – Journal Entry

I have a new favorite scripture.

Philippians 4: 11-13
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

As our family read this passage, I was inspired by Paul’s strength and courage in a Roman prison – for 5 years.
We had a wonderful discussion about what it was that made Paul so strong in the face of deprivation of everything that normal people hold dear – especially his freedom. It strikes me that the last verse holds a key.
Paul asserts with infinite confidence that he can do all things. What caught my attention was the why and how of that strength. I noticed that in the King James Version it does not say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Instead, it says which strengthens me.  The antecedent that which refers to is doing through Christ.  By doing His will, acting on His eternally wise counsel, we are strengthened. Paul emphasizes an important part of that counsel when he says he has learned to be content in whatever state he finds himself.  In modern terms, “happiness is not in having what you want, it’s in wanting what you have”.

I am filled with His Spirit, His strength and His peace most, not when I am on my knees begging for it, but rather when I am doing my best to do and be as He counsels…. then I am strong, capable and confident that I can do, be and withstand all things. In those moments, a deep sense of peace distills upon me and I am happy regardless of what is going on around me.

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Some one hundred years ago it was determined that the average American had about 70 wants, things he desired to have. A similar survey was taken of his grandson and he had nearly 500 wants on his list and today, I’m sure that number is even higher. Why? Because people are not content in what they have!
(Joe Guglielmo)

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10/9/2009 – Journal Entry

In the past few months I haven’t thought much about this scripture.
Last night I had a strange, vivid, unusually coherent and powerful dream that seemed to last most of the night. I dreamed I was in the Olympics as a sprinter and surprisingly (as I dislike running and have no talent for it) won a medal. After the race, there was a great deal of pomp and confusion.  We were dressed in regal clothes with lots of patriotic emblems and medals representing our athletic accomplishments.  We were taken to special stores where we could buy more commemorative stuff and shuttled about for photo op’s and interviews. At one point the whole group was asked to think hard and come up with 100 short quips about goal setting that could inspire others.
In my dream, I came up with only one statement. It was “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”.

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Paul was right.  Self-Sufficiency is not about physical preparation as much as it is about spiritual and mental preparation.  We must learn to be at peace, strong, contented in whatever state we find ourselves.   A wise man once said, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear”.  Prepare your state of mind by wanting less.