Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Deliberate Agrarian And Voluntary Poverty

I do not know if you have had the pleasure of reading The Deliberate Agrarian, proprieter Herrick Kimball, who describes himself as such:

"I (Herrick Kimball) have been blogging here about Faith, Family, & Livin' The Good Life since 2005.  Browse down this column and you will find a rich resource of contra-industrial thought, down-to-earth inspiration & useful how-to information."

His story is one that many (I should like) would like to emulate:  he left his "good paying" job to move to upstate New York where he farms a small plot of land and has a part-time business in Planet Whizzbang, where he publishes plans of small-scale agricultural helps.

I hope to meet him some day (Here, There, or In The Air, as the saying goes...).

At any rate, he wrote an article yesterday entitled "Truth & Reality in the Midst of Economic Lies" which I would highly recommend you take the 10 minutes or so it takes to read.  In abbreviated form, COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) is a statistic of questionable value in that it hides economic displacement is coming for either those that depend on pensions or those that depend on retirement savings (unless you are independently wealthy) and that the wise person prepares for this ahead of time instead of waiting for the train to arrive.

How?  I will leave it to you to read Herrick's post but will simple suggest that his idea of "voluntary poverty" is one which should be explored, at least in theoretical form, before being completely dismissed out of hand.

I suppose the post quite resonated with me based on yesterday's column - feeling displaced already, the shackles of "Life As We Have Always Done It" weighs heavily on one.  What would voluntary poverty look like in my own life?   It was fascinating enough that I actually started asking the question "If I did not have the payments I have now - all of them - what would be the minimum that we would need to survive?  If we eliminated all debt - all - how much would it require for us to live where we are now? (Not even theorizing moving in this)"  I do not have that number but I fully intend to find out.

One more quote from the post to whet your appetite:

"Think in terms of less consumption and more personal production.  Think of it as "voluntary simplicity."  Maybe even "voluntary poverty" (which is much nicer than involuntary poverty.)"


When You No Longer Belong

That moment when you realize that you no longer belong.

It sort of sneaks up on you in a lot of situations, I think.  You are, for the most part, consumed with living your own lives, carrying on with the day to day responsibilities of what you have to get done.  Head down, hands on keyboard, moving through the seemingly inexhaustible pile of items calling for our attention.

Until suddenly you look up and realize that you are out of place.

Sure, things have changed. Change is a major part of modern life.  People come and go, policies changed, projects rise and fall, furniture comes in to fashion and then out.  These are the normal expectations one has come to have of modern life.

But it is the subtly changed undercurrent that leaves one feeling adrift.

It might seem a little undefinable at first, that nagging feeling that something is slightly different.  You try and shrug it off - you have been pretty busy, to be sure.  Maybe you have been a little out of touch.  But then as you start to pay attention, you realize that things have changed. The power structure has shifted.  Policies which seem disjointed suddenly lock together into a relevant tapestry.

And you realize that you have been left behind.

Perhaps not physically left behind - after all, we all serve a purpose.  But you are no looked to or for as a contributor; instead, you are simply expected to shut up and go along.  The way things were are not the way things are and best that you simply accept the fact and quietly go back to your corner.

All of a sudden all that seemed so important loses its glamour.  The years of sacrificing and going the extra mile are washed away, left on the other side of a gully filled by a stream you can no longer cross.

It is a shocking thing when it happens - and yet, the most freeing thing in the world.  Suddenly, you are presented with the fact that perhaps for the first time in a long time, you can get on with your life.

After all, you are no longer of import.  So who will notice?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

Wheat! I Have A Rye Expression On My Face...

Well, actually all I have is a terrible pun.  More importantly, I also have Rye and Wheat sprouting:

Gazelle Rye (119 days to maturity)

Dylan Hard Red Spring Wheat (112-140 days to maturity)

I am excited for two reasons.  The first is simply that something is growing (in my book that is always exciting).  The second is that this is the first time I have tried to plant Spring Grains. I am hopeful that it will work, as it will open up the possibility of having both fall and spring plantings going at the same time without fully eating up available space.

(As always, great thanks to the good folks at Bountiful Gardens  (  Their order came as always: quickly, completely, and inexpensively.  I cannot recommend them enough.

Friday, March 25, 2016


Clicking of nails
on the floor no more, as the
house becomes empty.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Syrah The Mighty Is Gone

Syrah the Mighty is gone.

She was diagnosed with  Hemangiosarcoma - cancer of liver/spleen, something that apparently can come to terminal stage rather quickly.  She had been acting a bit out of sorts - lots of getting up and having to go out at night recently, and then today when The Ravishing Mrs. TB got home, she was simply laying in the hallways, her breakfast uneaten.  Something was obviously up.

She was a good dog.

She lived with us for almost 8 years, from July of 2008.  She was a rescue and initially much bigger (and more powerful) of a dog than any of us expected.  But she was perfect with Na Clann - never in all the years we had her did she ever growl or bite them, no matter how much they loved her or rolled on her head.  If it got too much, she simply got up and moved to be somewhere else.

A devourer of all things food, she was relentless in her pursuit of it, constantly lurking about waiting for something to drop  (who will I share my apples with now?).  Her ability to hear the sound of the refrigerator opening - from any room of the house - was almost psychic.  She was a great defender of the home as well, barking if anyone walked by or up to the door (and probably moving more than one solicitor on to the next house).

She delighted in chasing squirrels in the yard although she never caught one, developing a technique whereby she would walk up to the back door as if she wanted to be let in, then suddenly turning and running back to chase the squirrel which had foolishly decided to come down as she was (apparently) going it.

I will miss her.  She was my constant companion around the house during the day, always interested in what you were doing (especially hoping you had food).  Sometimes I had to stop doing Iai because she would walk right into the line of my draw, looking for a pet.  She loved her walks at night, constantly driving me to distraction when she had to stop and sniff virtually everything destroying any chance I had of actually getting an aerobic workout.

I keep turning to my left even now to the dog bed by the desk, where I keep expecting to see her curled up in a ball.

Nighean Dhonn made an observation as we waiting there after she had fallen asleep, noting "It is lucky that it is Easter weekend so that we can remember about death and resurrection."  Would that I could think of such a profound statement in a moment of sorrow.

Godspeed Syrah. We will meet again someday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Caring For What You Do

Yesterday as I was driving to work, it occurred to me that I do not really care about what I do.

Oh, I care about doing a good job.  Fair enough.  But the underlying passion for what I do is simply not there as it used to be.

I like to do good.  It is funny, so many people look askance at you when you verbalize this at an interview (or at least you can hear them raising their eyebrows over the phone).  It sounds so much like a canned response that a fresh-out-of-college student would give, so eager to land that first job that they will say almost anything to get in the door.

But it is true.  At least for me.  In what I do, I have had (and continue to have but on a much diminished scale) the opportunity to impact people's lives for the good.  And that is an important part of what I do.

So what do you do when you have lost that feeling?  That is where I seem to be now.

There are really only two options of course.  The first is to simply find something else within the industry that I work in and do that.  And that is a possibility, of course - the difficulty is that for what I do, there is not much around here to go to.

The second is to figure out what I really care about and find a job doing that.

So I sat as I drove and started to make a list of the things that I care about.  Responsible land use and good farming practices, for example.  The preservation of skills and techniques from the past, such as Iai.  Writing that changes things.  Homes for all the rabbits.  That sort of thing.

Does any of this look like a job?  Not really.  But does this all reflect things I actually care about?  Absolutely.   And when I do these things, do I put attention and care into how I do them?  Yes, because I care deeply about them.

So perhaps my overall search needs to take a slightly different tack.  One will never successfully execute on that which one does not really care about.  Important, then, to find opportunities in the things one does care about - and do those.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Moonlight Garlic

The green garlic leaves
caressed softly by moonlight
sway in the gray breeze.

Spring Cleaning 2016

This weekend we actually had a 3 day weekend.  What to do? Work in the yard as it is practically Spring!

First off, mulch.  We need lots of it here as we have hot summers.

 My mint has come up in the strangest places...

I like the dark compost.  It works well with the lavender.

 Hey - Look what survived!  Pepper Plants:

View of the pepper plant and the garlic, which has overwintered nicely:

Back part of the garden, now planted with Rye and Spring Wheat:

And here's a view of the back, mowed, weed-whacked, and debranched:

Strangely enough, this work - along with mowing and weed-whacking the rest of the yard - has me looking forward to improvements this year.  Beyond the main garden (the one with the garlic and pepper plant) and the summer bean garden (just to the left of the bushes above) I am planning on a heavy planting of lavender, hopefully in preparation for bees.

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 18, 2016

On Sparta

I have found myself of late consumed by an incessant need to read about Sparta.
I have devoured (again)  Thermopylae:  The Battle for the West.  I have paged through (again) portions of A War Like No Other and The Spartans: The World of the Warrior Class in Ancient Greece.  I am reading through Plutarch's On Sparta and have just about finished Sparta's Kings.

Why, you might sensibly ask, have I been consumed with an ancient state in a province of Greece that is so dissimilar from anything that we experience in the modern world?

I am not sure.  Perhaps it is a longing for a simpler time.  Or perhaps a longing for nobility in leadership (Reading about the Battle of Thermopylae will do that for you).  Or perhaps, especially as I get towards the end of Sparta's Kings, it is the melancholy of seeing the dissolution and decline of a society - in so many ways, it seems like looking into a mirror of the state of the world as it is.

Is there a lesson in all of the things I have been reading?  Perhaps not any I can immediately take away but must meditate on to make sense of them.  But the one that truly seems to stick out at me is that once the fabric of a society is torn, it is never true mended back together.

And it is only fools that otherwise feel this to be so.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Confusedly Depressed

So I think I figured out today that I have been a little (or a little more) depressed.

I have just not had the interest for anything that I am usually interested in.  All I have wanted to do is read.  I practice Iai because I must and weight lifting because it has become a habit - but everything else suddenly seems to have ground to a halt.

This surprises me a little bit because I have been making an honest effort to be more positive.  And I think, at least internally within myself and with my outward speech, I have overall been making progress. This flummoxes me as it seems to be precisely the opposite of what I was trying for.

Honestly, I believe a lot of it to be environmental.  The political and world environment in toto has me completely distressed and while not paying attention to it alleviates some of the immediate concern it is always on the back of my mind, a slope careening into dissolution and chaos.  Work has not been helpful in this regard either:  I am essentially doing tasks that I started doing 17 years ago when I entered this line of work, hardly the sort of thing to raise one's level of enthusiasm.

But the shutting down of all interests, all motivation, has me confused.  I do not understand where this is coming from.  And equally as important, I do not understand how to lift myself out of this and get back on course.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mountain Laurel

Purple Blossoms dance
in the sunlight, as the bees
sip the blush of Spring.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spring Break Morning

It is Spring Break here.  The house is eerily quiet at this hour of the morning.

Usually it would be filled with the sounds of preparation for school and work:  coffee would be brewing, breakfast would be cooking, semi-conscious child would be stumbling around getting ready as the alarm was going off in another's room as she slept through it.

Instead, nothing.

Syrah the Mighty sighs and rolls over to one side.  The rabbits gently crunch away at their pellets.  My clicking of the keyboard, of course.  But other than that, nothing.

I do not quite know why I am so attuned to the silence this morning - maybe simply because I have become so used to such sounds of late that their absence is completely jarring.  Or perhaps there is something in my soul that is craving the silence that it hears at the moment.

All will be back to normal soon enough, of course:  Spring Break will pass and we will lurch into the last part of the school year.  But there is a hint here of a future which is coming all to soon, a future in which the silent morning will become every morning, not just the one's around Spring Break.

Monday, March 14, 2016

On Falling Out of The Current

I should consider myself fortunate - become disengaged from the political landscape is becoming easier and easier.

The secret?  I am just allowing my natural tendencies to avoid confrontation and the fact that I really dislike yelling and arguments to take over.  Suddenly the need to keep endlessly tracking on things of no import seemed to fall away.

The silence is surprisingly deafening inside after the constant input is removed.

I know what some will say - "You are avoiding a process that you need to be involved in".  And to some extent that is true - it is  a process that certainly impacts me and something that I will need to participate in - at the proper time.  Until then, all I seem to hear is yelling and counter yelling with any attempt to discuss actual issues being buried beneath layers of rage on all sides.  This is hardly the sort of thing that makes my life better.

And it is driving us apart, not together.  Herein lies the biggest worry - we will get through this cycle and find that we will no longer be able to talk to friends because too much rhetoric got in the way:  we called each other terrible things, imputed actions and attitudes based on outward appearances rather than on the inward person we knew.  We burned bridges and destroyed common landmarks of interest to make our point - and once they were gone, we found that we had nothing left to come back to, no point of reference to meet at or a place to begin to rebuild the relationships.

In our haste to be right, we destroyed our ability to communicate.  And without communication, things like societies and civilizations no longer exist.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Do Not Be Alarmed.....

Your eyes are not deceiving you.  I have updated the blog template.

I know, right?  It has been 11 years since I started this and no updates but to add additional things.  So boom.  New background (Books.  I love books).  And one of those handy blog feed thingies that so many of my friends online use to keep you updated as to when they update their blogs and the name of the update.

Who knows, I may someday get altogether crazy and start one of those dynamic picture things....

Less Social Media, Not More

I have to keep reminding myself:  less social media, not more.
I let myself get soft and comfortable.  I like to post things that people like.  I like to be involved in conversations.  I like to post things that influence people's lives.

And then something happens and suddenly  I remind myself why I do not do it more often.

I have managed to cull down my presence on-line to a smaller and smaller circle of notice.  I should remind myself to make it smaller.  Not because I am afraid that I am going to be singled out by the vast government conspiracy - no, I should think that they already have whatever they would need.  Instead, I need to do it because I need less aggravation in my life, not more.

And every time I post and something gets misinterpreted or goes awry, I feel my anxiety level rise. And remind myself again I really need to do something about it.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

More Rain

So it is raining tonight.  Rain heavily last night (1.5" in about 4 hours), then off and on again today, then started again around 7:30 this evening.

It is odd that we have been here as long has we have (7 years this year) and I still have not completely figured out the weather patterns here. It is a bit of a problem, of course, because Spring seems to only here something like 2 weeks (you laugh, but it is really true - essentially we have two seasons only, Summer and Winter, with brief intermissions we call Spring and Autumn) and planting becomes a bit dicey if we go too far into the not Spring season.

I was going to plant this last weekend  but am glad that I did not - I am afraid the rains (we have the potential of "Severe Weather") would have washed away what I had planted (which would have been my grain seeds - trying again this year).  We are supposed to be back up near 90 next Monday so perhaps planting will be more congenial then (plus, with Daylight Savings, I actually am back to having evenings I can work with).

We need the rain badly of course, and I am hardly the one to complain about another rain day (on the whole, I love them).  And hopefully a week one way or the other will not harm anything.

But I sure would feel better if everything was in the ground and growing where it should be.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Bats of Spring

Storm clouds dull the stars:
the first insects of Springtime
engage the bats more.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A Little Broken

I broke today, I think.

I cannot define the specific moment for you but I can define the time.  It was relatively early in the workday, when I was consulting industry literature to see companies in my space are doing.  There was an article about a leader in industry and his opinion on where the industry was going (in his case, the wrong way).

I read the article and thought "Wow, there is something pretty neat.  Cutting edge stuff, people doing good."  And then got sucked right back in to the mediocrity of my work existence:  broken work flows, documents that need fixing, things that I am supposed to do and have not gotten to because of other things.

And then it hit me:  there are great things going on in my industry.  Really great things.  Life saving things, life enhancing things.  They are just not happening here. And they are just not happening through what I am doing.

It was at that moment I broke.

All of a sudden all of my tasks were laid out before as they really are: administrative exercises in paperwork, minor walk on roles in a play where the action and main characters have long ago passed me by.  I do the work that needs to be done but even in that it is work that is ultimately just plugging holes and filling gaps.  The great work goes on elsewhere.

Not here.  Never here.

What to do?  I am not sure, except I have now discovered a huge hole where my "I care" button used to hang.  I will do the work that needs doing because it needs to be completed and systems need to be maintained, but I no longer have any illusion that this means anything other than nothing.  More effort will not results in greater impact or recognition.  My efforts to go higher will only result in more of the same rather than something different.

All I know is that I broke something today.  And I fear it can never be repaired.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Political Season: A Fine And Pleasant Idiocy

So this political cycle, perhaps for the first time ever, I actually followed a candidate.

It was driven by some vestigial sense of caring, of believing that somehow my involvement might matter.  I signed up for the the mailing list - which one?  I do not know that it really matters as I suspect they are all the same - and waited.

If I had believed the political discourse of this nation was done before, I am convinced now.

The e-mails have only one of two themes:

1)  Give money.

2)  Help us beat the other person because our candidate is the only one that can unite America (oh, and give money).

That is about it.

I receive breathless updates about how the candidate has done this or that, how this candidate took it to the others in the debate, how this candidate showed they were "the one"  (Shades of Highlander) to win.  All (apparently) in the vain hopes to get me to give more money, for which a link is helpful provided every time.

No discussion of the issues.  No plans.  No engagement.  Just

1)  Give money.

2)  Help us beat the other person because our candidate is the only one that can unite America (oh, and give money).

I am done now, convinced that no matter who takes the office of President in November little will change.  Because I do not matter, really, and neither do you.  The point of citizens, apparently, is to simply give money at the appropriate time, vote, and then quietly trust that the folks we elected will do what they say.  Mind you, most of their attention has already moved to the next election:

1)  Give money.

2)  Help us beat the other person because our candidate is the only one that can unite America (oh, and give money).

I sincerely question that I will ever see national politicians worthy of the title "Leader" again in my lifetime.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Harping It Up

So today for the first time in twenty years I played the harp in public.

It was a company talent show for which volunteers were eagerly "solicited". For a good cause and all of course, and with fabulous prizes,  so I signed up.

I have not been playing the harp as much as I should be.  Just got busy, I suppose.  But making myself perform put me in a position where I had to do something.  So for two weeks, I practiced.

It was harder than I initially thought.  I started with three O'Carolan songs that I remembered and was rather diligent to practice them.  The three slowly whittled its way down to two, which then became one about ten minutes before I performed.

How did I do?  Not terribly by even my own rather critical estimation.  There were a couple of moments of blank to be sure, but  this was a slow song (Blind Mary) and so I had plenty of time to correct.  Applause all around when I was done, and a gift card to boot.

The most important part of the exercise, though, was the fact that I did it.  And remembered how much I enjoyed doing it.  And how even carving out 30 minutes a day can make a real difference - perhaps not learning songs as fast as I did when I was without children and this was my other hobby, but progress can still be made.

Two points here:  the one is that it represents (potentially) another source of income.  Not a large one by any stretch of the imagination but something that I am in complete control of and I enjoy doing.

The second, of course, is that it involves entertaining one's self rather than relying on others to entertain you.  And that is yet another point of self sufficiency and ichiryo gusoku.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

A Subtle Atmospheric Work Change

I have noticed a trend over the last few weeks at my job.  There is a certain tilt to the tasks that are coming my way, a certain change in what I am being asked to do.

Essentially I - and my group - are being moved to the shadows.

Oh, we still have plenty to do, never fear you about that.  But what we have to do is increasing sinking beneath the level of visibility to the bulk of the company:  where before we managed, now we administer as well.  Where before we verified the work of others, now we are doing their work because they have more important tasks.  Where before management came to our meetings, now virtually none of them show up.

If I look around I realize that I am in a declining department, as least declining in relationship to the rest of the company structure.  Parts of the business are increasing in size and scope, but not us.  The problem, of course, is that we will be the recipient of that increased work force's output.  We should be growing now - and of course, we will not.

There are days when I enjoy what I do, that I feel it makes a difference.  But what I am finding now is different - it is not that I am doing my job function, but rather that I - and my department - are picking up the work to support us that others no longer view as important.

If you think the work we do is not important enough for you to do, imagine how you will feel when we are not there to do that work either.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


The mind is willing,
but the exhausted body
will win every time.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016