Thursday, March 02, 2023

The Collapse LXXXXIII: Regrets

 01 May 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

As I was puttering around in the greenhouse and in the garden area at least eyeing where I will be planting things, I felt a tinge of unfortunate memory pour over me.

This used to happen to me from time to time, especially in that period of time after my wife had passed away and then the rather unexpected break with my children had occurred. I had anticipated the loneliness; what I had not anticipated was the replaying of all the events that had brought me to this point.

In retrospect, Lucilius, it is easy to look back on the situation we find ourselves in currently and in some shape or fashion be able to trace back exactly how we got here, at least in broad trends and terms. In our own lives it is possible to see the same, if we are willing to look deeply enough.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we are far more willing to look at national and international events than into the depths of our human hearts.

I wonder about my children, Lucilius. I had vague ideas of where they were before everything ground to a halt, but even in those last few months, no contact – not even, I suppose to check in on me, although that went both ways of course. I failed to check on them either.

In the former world of the InterWeb, to not contact a person meant (largely) that one did not want to be contacted – after all, the information was out there literally for the taking. If someone did not contact you, it was because there was an active desire not to contact you.

The argument can be made that final little bit of collapse happened so quickly that it could not have been anticipated and thus any contact was not possible. That is true, of course – but it is also a lazy excuse for something which should have been done but was not. As individuals, we always have a choice to look at what happened and move on or look on it and dwell on it. Sadly, I fall into the latter category.

Young Xerxes was by for his semi-regular check-in during the afternoon and I mentioned vaguely the thoughts going through my mind as I was busy moving plants in the greenhouse and shuffling quail from one side to the other. He did not say a great deal – but within twenty minutes of his leaving, Pompeia Paulina “magically” arrived with a Thermos of tea and biscuits and insisted that I take a break.

Wisely enough (or wisely enough for a man who spends a great deal of time not speaking), she let me do most of the talking.

The words, the regret suddenly poured out of me as if that “dam” we all read about inside of us crumbled under the combined factors of undermined substructure and water pressure. It has been a long time since I have been able to speak about such things, or even been willing to speak about such things, or even had an audience to listen to such things (at least in my opinion when one relocates, it is the height of poor taste to respond to a friendly “How are you doing?” with the undigested remains of your life’s story).

I am not sure that anything was solved this afternoon: the facts remain what they remain and the world remains as it is. I have no more ability to contact any of them than I do to fly at this point, although in the unlikely event that some normalcy returns that will be the first item on the list.

Rabbits are good companions so far as they go, but the only gift that they lack is the ability to respond with words when spoken to. For that, we need people.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca


  1. I really look forward to these little missives from the near future.

    Quail, rabbits and greenhouses. Are you wandering around in my neighborhood? I've been pondering the dovecote for a steady supply of squab and perhaps later messages.

    Off to make breakfast, it's a game of mine to see how much of breakfast comes from my own property. Coffee is a problem.

    1. Michael, I am so glad that you do. I have to admit they are a lot of fun to write. Originally they were just started as a "what if" project and grew from there.

      Dovecotes (from what I read) used to be quite common for small scale protein raising. On the whole, I think I would prefer quail (we have had them in the past even here in New Home). If only they lived longer.

      Coffee is the great item which we cannot seem to substitute. I have tried growing chicory to no avail as a possible replacement.

    2. Something I've been thinking about:

      Yerba Mate is a traditional South American tea, brewed from the leaves of a Holly tree called the Ilex paraguariensis. When compared to coffee, Yerba Mate has slightly less caffeine at 80mg as compared to 100-200mg.

      If you can successfully grow them in pots in a greenhouse and they propagate via woody cuttings you *might* have a cottage business.

      Similar to coffee, Yerba Mate is a great source of caffeine and contains a high amount of anti-oxidants, with 24 vitamins and minerals, and 15 amino acids, including B Vitamins, Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin C. If you’re looking for an alternative to coffee with a less jittery feel, Yerba Mate may be a solid choice.

      So many projects so little time and energy. I have hopes that my more youthful helpers grow into the gentleman farmer lifestyle.

    3. Michael - I have read of this before but never tried it; have you?

      If only I was independently wealthy and could pursue more of these tasks instead of "Work"...

    4. I've tried Yerma Mate it's an acquired taste much like coffee is.

      I've made it a hobby to successfully grow things you cannot grow in my 4b 5a grow zone.

      I've gotten some success with sweet potatoes, the leaves are delicious cooked like greens with eggs, and you can take about 10% off each plant without affecting the harvest from my observations.

      I've two figs near the sliding glass doors waiting for summer. One was a wood cutting of the first.

      Turmeric and Ginger is growing in my window next to my computer station. Not enough to provide me all I want but expandable over a year's effort or so.

      A small pot of pepper is growing nearby. Yes, I've harvested and ground the berries for fresh pepper. They are easily reproduced from cuttings, far slower with seeds.

      Yerma seems doable but it's a motivation thing.

      As the electronic python of Digital Dollars grows closer it seems prudent to do as much inside your circle of control as needful. Might be hard to buy seeds if your social credit is poor.

      The sun will rise, the rain will fall and the soil if fed will help feed you no matter who is in power.

    5. That is great Michael - I am experimenting with what we can grow in our area and have slowly been narrowing it down. Ginger is on the list (I can eat a lot of ginger).

      In terms of seeds, it need not be the digital dollar - look at Michigan's performance during The Plague where they shut down the ability to buy seeds without touching the money supply.

    6. Slightly off topic but now that I've found your series of letters (reading greedily) if I commented on the older ones do they show up as new for your attention?

      For example, fish debris (mentioned early in the series) isn't a disposal problem, it's a major resource for the gardens in fish tea side dressing. Yes, can attract critters but I treat my garden even now as hunting over bait. You'd be amazed what powerful and accurate a wrist rocket can be and it fits in my garden apron.

      A lot of my gentleman farming is to have the skillset and tools to expand my needful things IF my semi-retirement becomes more like your collapse story.

      For example, knowledge of how to take tomato suckers (unfruitful side shoots) and root them to make more tomato plants has gotten me a little craft beer money last spring. Have you seen the price of a well started tomato?

      This year if the crabapple is stout enough, I'm going to try some cleft grafting of other apple trees. The crabapple gives decent enough tiny apples but is most important as it's a universal pollinator for the other apple trees.

      Having enough stored foods and such for more than a year I can almost wait out the crazies before setting up full scale farming efforts. That assumes that what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:20-22 doesn't change my plans.

      I mentioned the digital dollar because that's the "Cure De Jur" for the "Problem" of people avoiding the tax man currently being worked on in the Fed and Congress. The anonymous nature of cash bothers them greatly.

      America is past broke; inflation is a stealth tax reducing the real value of the promised services like SS and such), and they are hunting hard for more money for their "Operations".

    7. Michael - No problem at all commenting on earlier editions; I tend to write these as a stand alone affair (instead of many at one time) so there will be inconsistencies. Also, I assume Seneca is partially independence minded but not fully, until he is thrust into the situation, so such things as fish entrails as fertilizer may not have fully become a "thing" yet.

      Grafting is an amazing skill; I fear I am too clumsy for it.

      Indeed, anonymity of anything bothers governments - except anonymity for themselves.

      One of the things I am considering (if we make it to the point of even being able to retire) is what is the minimum level of income I can have to minimize or even avoid taxes.

    8. If you say you cannot, your right, if you say you can, your right.

      Skills needed to handle a steak knife safely is about right amount of dexterity. A dab of bees wax to seal the wound afterwards in grafting. Green touching green is the main trick as the green part of the plant is the plants circulation system. The woody parts the skeleton.

      A dip into some growth hormone for the tomato plants. One can use "real growth hormone" or willow twig water and get the same results. I think of Willow trees and dandelions as gifts to the gardener.

      Your aware that Dandelions were brought over from Europe as a treasured spring tonic? They planted them here. A nearly surefire way to know when you can plant cool weather plants like peas, beans cabbage, potatoes and such is to plant when you see dandelions up.

      From my dabbling in the mountain man hobby, I've been amazed at just how poorly the American Indian culture was understood. They taught the early settlers about using fish as fertilizer and the value of hunting over the bait. Protected the crop and added some meat to the pot.

    9. "Skills needed to handle a steak knife". That may be my first problem...

      Interesting to me (at least) that at one time, this sort of knowledge was present in the pre-Iron Age civilizations of Europe as well, yet I feel as if almost none of it has survived to current times.

    10. i wonder if coffee trees could grow in the greenhouse

    11. Deb, in theory I suppose so. I think the great challenge with coffee plants is they have such particular temperature and climate needs that it is difficult. Certainly if it was something that could be done on a commercial scale, I suspect someone would have already tried it.

  2. Nylon124:24 AM

    Everybody makes choices, conscious or not. Regret covers a LOT of territory. I wonder how many are keeping a digital diary? Come the collapse the electrical grid won't be there.

    1. We do Nylon12, and I have as much or more than most to fill in on that department. I like to believe I have become slightly better about making conscious choices.

      Beyond this practice of blogging, I have kept a journal (more or less daily) for the past 24 years. It is interesting to go back and read entries from long ago.

  3. I really enjoyed this chapter, I think because it offered a very personal look at Seneca. And, of course, everything he said is true. I wonder how many others would be able to be as introspective. It seems more common to look elsewhere for the challenges and problems of life.

    1. Leigh, I wish I was more like Seneca. He is far more introspective than I am.

      We as culture are not introspective - or not in the ways that perhaps we used to be. We are often told what we should care about and what our issues are and how much of this is not all of our fault. It is, much of it; an inability to see that just continues to lead down the path of ineffectiveness, stunted growth, and even dissolution.

  4. Are there really 92 other installations of this story? I'm hoping you are collecting them together to put out as perhaps a short story someday.

    1. Nylon128:18 AM

      Ed, look under "Pages" above, "The Collapse".

    2. Ed, Nylon12 is correct - They are over under the page name "The Collapse". Not quite sure there are 92 (my numbering may have gotten off a bit), but easily 90.

      They are collected outside of this blog. I am actually almost at the point where I could create a "Volume 1" - but only after heavy editing.

    3. Not sure if editing adds value. Sometimes the ragged edges tell a better story.

    4. Fair Michael - In my case I am thinking of continuity errors in particular, missed spelling et al in others.

  5. Nice. Things I think about now that my own son has moved half a continent away. I was really expecting him to be here on our property for the rest of my life and planned/thought accordingly. It is very odd now.

    1. Thanks PP.

      Honestly, this is a place I think I failed my own parents - not that I never called (I did weekly) or never saw them (we did), but that we neve moved back they wanted and were hoping we would.

      I accepted several years ago that likely none of my own children would live close to us - certainly if we stay where we are now, but likely wherever we end up. If we want to be near them, likely we would have to move where they are (which, of course, only works if they themselves never move again or at least seldom). As you say, it is an odd way to plan.

  6. Thank you TB for this series of posts documenting a fascinating vision of collapsing society. It brings to mind a comment that societies usually end with a whimper and not a bang.
    It is also interesting to compare with the collapse of societies as recorded in John Wyndsm' classics The Day if the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes. I look forward to many more episodes.

    1. Will, thank you so much! I am glad that you are finding them interesting.

      Interestingly, I think this "vision" of a collapsing future is actually built off a concept in H. Beam Piper's Space Viking which talks about societal collapse. The first is, of course, a major catastrophe (like a war or natural disaster). The second is the slow dissolution as skill sets disappear and civilization, which is always a complicated thing, disappears with it. Oddly enough, modern science fiction seems to prefer the first version - more flashy, I suppose.

      I have seen the movie of The Day of the Triffids but have neither read the book nor the other book you reference - I will certainly look for them. Thanks for the suggestions!

    2. Space Vikings a wonderful romp of Sci-Fantasy. I wonder if I still have a copy in my cluttered library racks?

    3. Having recently (and finally) gotten the last missing volumes of Piper's work, I find Space Viking still to be my favorite (although nothing he wrote approaches anything like unreadable).


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