Extreme Tree Felling

Just so you know, this is an honest blog. I share successes at our little house off the grid, along with our failures. And when it comes to cutting big trees near your house, this is an activity fraught with many potential hazards, especially to those who come from the city. Actually that’s an inaccurate description – felling trees is a dangerous and unpredictable vocation for anyone, including the professionals. I have often heard the line “he cut trees his whole life” about the guy who was just killed by a falling tree he’d cut. And I remember an article from the Globe and Mail newspaper a while back that described cutting trees as the most hazardous profession in Canada.

I have seen ads on TV for cruise ships that now offer all sorts of “extreme” sports and activities to occupy your time. Wall climbing and zip lining and other activities are designed to create the impression of danger while you are tightly tethered to a safety line. There is no doubt though that our society is full of extreme activities and plenty of adrenaline junkies that seek them out.

I, on the other hand, do not seek out extreme activities. I find just driving my neighbors’ borrowed tractor on a 10% incline to be terrifying enough, so base jumping is not on my To Do List. Cutting down trees though continues to be a part of my experience here at Sunflower Farm. After 15 years I believe I am getting much better at anticipating how a tree will fall, but I do not say this with hubris, only humility. I am extremely careful, to the point of paranoia. This past winter I cut down the biggest tree I’ve ever cut that was growing near our garden. It was a giant poplar and was casting a shadow on the solar panel that runs the pump on our dug well, so it had to go. It was one of those trees that started out at the base with a clear lean in one direction but had a large amount of mass in the canopy that swung back the opposite way, so it could have fallen in any direction. I made my cut based on the lower lean, and then took half an hour to drive wedges into the backcut to force it to fall in the direction I wanted it to. We are miles from the nearest human being but I do believe someone must have heard my “Woo Hoo” yell when it fell exactly the way I had hoped.

Our guesthouse is surrounded by poplar trees. Our friend Heidi told me they are called “Aspens” and that they make an enchanting sound as the leaves rustle even in the slightest breeze. I guess I had fallen under their spell because I hadn’t noticed that they were getting pretty big in the decade and a half we’ve lived here. Poplars grow at an amazing pace but the downside of that rapid growth is that they are a pretty weak tree and will be blown down easily in a big windstorm.

In the city I would have called someone to take down a big tree leaning towards my house. When I first moved here I would have called my neighbor Ken to help. But I believe I’ve reached the point now where I have to grow up and do this stuff myself. I’d love to have the money to pay a professional (with lots of insurance) to take these dangerous trees down, but I don’t and I have a sneaking suspicion that when it comes time to make the claim all may not be what it seems in the insurance department.

I started by taking down a few smaller ones to work my way up to the large one on the far side of our guesthouse. It had kind of a nasty lean. I even got Michelle involved in this fun time.

I asked her to stand at the base of the tree while I discussed my strategy, the perceived lean and how I wanted her to pull on the rope that I had tied high up the tree, preferably away from the guesthouse. I also explained in unequivical terms that the tree ‘could’ misbehave and hit the house. I explained that the worst-case scenario was that I’d be repairing the roof and eavestrough later that day. I could tell she took little comfort in my assessment of the situation.

I did my front directional cut in the direction I ‘wanted’ the tree to fall. Then I made my felling cut from the back but only went in 60% of the amount I would usually go. The object is to have the back cut get close to the directional cut but not hit it so you leave a small uncut area call the “hinge” which does indeed act like a door hinge and helps to control the fall and prevent it from bouncing back up and doing dangerous things. This time I got out the wedges and sledgehammer and drove them until the tree finally started to fall. And it fell exactly where I wanted it to. Yee ha!

Then came the final and absolute worst tree yet. It was beside the driveway and leaned directly towards our cell phone tower. We have a yagi antenna on this tower to boost our signal to a local cell tower. So if tree felling went wrong it would have either smashed into the house or taken out our phone. And this tall poplar was 20 or 30 feet above the roofline so it would have lots of momentum for damage.

The driveway was still mostly ice covered that day but I chipped out a section down to the gravel for traction. Then it was time to get Michelle involved in the operation. I put two ropes on the tree and decided that rather than have the truck a really long distance away, which would reduce leverage and increase the likelihood of the rope breaking, I’d put two ropes on and situate the truck closer to the tree. I had a whistle and told Michelle that when she heard the whistle blow she should get the truck moving and start to pull the tree. Continued short blasts from the whistle would indicate that she needed to keep driving, but only about 5 feet to just allow the tree to clear the antenna. I had marked Michelle’s target with an orange pylon. Any further and we would have risked pulling the tree down on to the truck. My last instruction to her was that a long continuous blast of the whistle meant that it would be time to pop the clutch and drive like a crazy person because the tree would be coming her way!

I’m hoping that early on in this post I created the impression that things went horribly wrong with this little enterprise, but they didn’t. Once the tree started to fall Michelle pulled it just enough to miss the tower and it fell exactly where I had hoped it would. And if you are wondering, “what’s with the whole trying to create the impression that the tree hit the house” thing, my response is that this was a highly possible outcome, so when you’re able to overcome that probability, it’s a pretty darn fine feeling. Pretty awesome. After the tree is down and the fear subsides you get this incredible rush of endorphins, just like when you jump off a mountain in the Alps in your wing suit and sail at 100 miles per hour into the valley pulling your parachute at the last possible minute. Only this way you’re not nearly as likely to get killed and you avoid a tree blowing onto your house in a windstorm. Oh, and you get a week’s worth of heat from each of the big honkin’ poplars that you just cut down.

Even 24 hours after this activity I still felt a buzz.  Extreme sports … hah! They’ve got nothing on extreme tree felling at Sunflower Farm!

truck-tied-to-treetruck-tree-draggingjust-missed-the-antenna

Michelle’s Note: To make it even more terrifying, our old truck has a manual (standard) transmission and so when I heard the whistle it wasn’t just a case of hitting the gas. I had to let out on the clutch while giving it gas and hoped that it wouldn’t choose that moment to stall on me. I learned how to drive a manual when I was a teenager but I rarely drive our truck so it was rather nerve-racking!

 

My Morning Polar Bear Dip

Alternate Post Titles – “Otters in My Basement” or “Why the Movie Cliffhanger is Bogus!”

Our basement floods. Not in the yucky sewer-sludge-backing-up kind of way. It’s more of a spring snow melt thing. The water seems to rush in through the cracks in the floor and into the sump well. I know what you’re thinking, ”Just put a sump pump down there to pump it out!” Well, as we discovered the first spring that we lived here, we do not have enough battery capacity to run a sump pump 24/7.That first year I watched the battery voltage drop precipitously even though it was a sunny day and I realized that the sump pump was running, non-stop.

The water that comes in is cold and clear and you could drink it, since it’s just snow that has melted and trickled through our lovely sandy soil. I believe it has something to do with “hydrostatic pressure.”  We have just resigned ourselves to having an indoor pool in the basement for a couple of weeks. I would prefer it if this occurred in July or August when it’s hot and humid and I might be tempted to swim in it, but such is life. It is just an unfinished concrete cellar so we don’t have to worry about carpet and big screen TVs getting wrecked.

A couple of days ago as the water rose there was stuff floating around that I decided to retrieve. I put on high rubber boots but the water was over the top of them, so I retrieved much less stuff than I had anticipated. It turns out that ice water is really cold! We have a door that goes from our basement out to our woodshed and so we opened it up and carried some items out that way. As I discussed whether or not I could face another trip through the icy water to close this door, Michelle suggested, “Well if we don’t get the door closed the only wildlife we would have to worry about getting in would be otters.” That would be awesome! I LOVE otters!

cam in flooded basement

A number of years ago we did buy a freezer and we put it in the basement. Anticipating the spring flood, we put it up on a pad of two rows of big concrete blocks. This has been fine most years. This year however, with the unprecedented amount of snow that hasn’t melted one little bit since November, we knew there was the potential for worse flooding than usual. We kept checking the water level and sure enough, one morning we realized that the water was now lapping along the bottom of the freezer. So we needed to get it up higher.  I put on my bathing suit and waded in to the icy water. I held up one end of the freezer while Michelle slid a wooden block underneath it. She was able to stay relatively dry while doing this, but I was knee deep in icy water. By the time I had waded to the far side of the freezer it was getting pretty painful. By the time Michelle had the second block in place I basically leapt on to the stairs and raced upstairs to get my legs in front of the woodstove fire.

The next morning the water was again lapping the bottom of the freezer. We needed to add another layer. So we tried a second block of wood but the first one now floated, so that didn’t work. After a few minutes of waiting for the feeling to return to my frozen feet, I went outside and grabbed two concrete blocks. Again I tilted up one end of the freezer while Michelle placed the concrete block. It went fine on the first end but as Michelle struggled to get the second concrete block under, I kind of lost control of the freezer and it fell backward into the water. It wasn’t my finest hour, but hey, it’s amazing how little control you have of your body when it’s rapidly becoming numb. So I wrestled the freezer back onto the pad and rushed back to the woodstove to thaw my feet and legs!

After a minimal thaw, I went back into the water and retrieved the concrete blocks. Then a few more minutes of fireplace warming and back into the water. This time I was much calmer and I lifted the freezer with less panic and Michelle was able to expertly manoeuvre the blocks into place. I didn’t even rush out of the water this time because I had reached the point of no return when my legs were so numb they couldn’t possibly have been any more painful.

Finally on the third day, I had the brilliant idea of wearing a wet suit into the basement. I hadn’t worn my wetsuit in years, not since I used to windsurf. This time the freezer was fine but I did want to go and retrieve the sump pump to make sure it is working just in case we get more rain and the basement water level gets any higher! The wet suit helped a little but my feet were still numb!

Cam in wet suite

cam with sump pump

Many years ago when I lived in the city and was looking for ways to escape, I went on a canoe trip with a guy I didn’t know all that well. It was in the spring shortly after the snow had melted. He was at the back steering the canoe when we came out of a stream into a lake. He promptly steered our canoe straight into the middle of the lake with whitecaps hitting the canoe sideways. I told him we should stay close to the shore but he insisted that we were fine. If we had capsized we would have been dead in a couple of minutes. He was lucky I didn’t smack him in the head with the paddle as soon as we go back on the shore. I never spoke to him again after that trip and have rarely allowed myself to be put in a situation where my fate is in some moron’s hands.

In the movie “Cliffhanger” Sylvester Stallone plunges into ice and spends about 7 minutes under the ice dodging bullets and pulling bad guys down into the ice with him. I am good at suspending disbelief when I watch movies, but that scene is definitely one of the most unrealistic ones I’ve seen. You simply couldn’t function in ice water after a minute or two.


In 1982 a plane crashed into the Potomac River in Washington D.C. Most people died but eventually a helicopter rescued a few of them. I remember watching a news report that showed a man in the water pass the rescue line to a woman. I think he did it more than once and eventually he drowned. In 1982 I was in my early 20s and I remember being in awe of this man. I believe he was the personification of the word hero. After having my legs immersed in ice cold water for several minutes, I can’t comprehend how incapacitated he must have been, and yet still managed to help fellow human beings to be rescued.

I learned this spring that I will never again canoe in a freshly thawed lake. I will never risk being on thin ice again. There is no margin for error. You would be incapacitated in minutes. Every New Year I watch people take “polar bear” plunges. I’ve always kind of wanted to do it. Now I can pretty much say that I have and I don’t want to do it again.

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Meanwhile outside the snow was quickly melting and the “ladies” were enjoying a planter full of fresh green pea shoots.

chickens enjoying peashoots

 There are still 2 spots available in our upcoming workshop. Go here for more information and to register.

 

 

Learning from Experience … Priceless

Guest “Rant” by Michelle Mather

As many of our readers know, Cam and I have lived in our off-grid home for almost 16 years now. As I will readily admit, I didn’t know the difference between AC and DC electricity when we purchased this solar- and wind-powered home. To say that the learning curve has been steep is an understatement!

We have invested years of our lives and many thousands of dollars in learning how to live as sustainably and independently as possible. We have purchased many pieces of equipment over the years; solar panels, wind turbines, the tracking systems or towers to hold them, inverters, batteries, charge controllers, etc, etc, etc. And that is just for our off-grid electrical system! We’ve purchased woodstoves, chain saws, log splitters and all sorts of equipment to heat our home. We purchased and installed a number of different hot water heaters including our solar domestic hot water system. With each purchase we learned a bit more about how to live off the grid comfortably and how to live more sustainably. It hasn’t come cheaply!

Not only have we invested many thousands of dollars but we have also invested years of our time in learning about all of this technology. In some cases we are “tweaking” old ways of doing things like heating with wood using a modern, energy-efficient woodstove. We’ve read a lot of books, asked a lot of questions, listened to a lot of answers and used good old “trial and error” until we got things working the way they are.

We share what we’ve learned in a number of ways. We write this blog. We wrote and published books. We do talks and we invite people to our home to see our off-grid system and to learn from our experiences. Twice a year we open our home for workshops. We invite strangers to come into our home, we share our knowledge, let them see everything in action and we provide lunch and snacks and let them choose one of our books or DVDs to take home with them.

We post our workshop on numerous websites, wherever we might find people who are interested in learning about living more sustainably. We have managed to find and connect with very keen and enthusiastic participants and our workshop participants always been very effusive in their praise at the end of the day for what we have provided to them.

Recently after posting our upcoming workshop I received an email from the administrator of one of the websites, conveying a question that had come from one of their members. The member wanted to know if he could come to our workshop at a reduced price, if he skipped lunch and didn’t take a book. Our workshop price is $120 per person. It probably isn’t the least expensive full-day workshop out there but it sure isn’t the most expensive either. We like to limit our workshop participants to just 10. We find that 10 people fit comfortably into our century-old home and it is a good number for discussions too.

I’ve already shared with you the thousands of dollars and the years of time we have spent acquiring the knowledge and experience we share with our workshop participants. And in organizing a workshop there are the added hours spent planning the workshop, advertising it, corresponding with prospective attendees, providing numerous emails with information and maps, planning the meals and snacks, purchasing the ingredients, preparing the food, serving it and cleaning up. We are always sensitive to guests with dietary preferences and restrictions and so it isn’t unusual for me to prepare gluten-free or dairy-free versions of our meal and snacks. Cam and I spend the few days leading up to a workshop cleaning and organizing our home to make it ready for a workshop and we often spend the day after a workshop recuperating! So our “one-day” workshop actually entails many days of work for us.

My answer to the person who asked if he could come to our workshop at a reduced price was “no.” I felt that it would be awkward having one person who didn’t eat all day. The “hostess” in me would have felt very strange not offering refreshment to a guest. And I thought about the thousands of dollars and the years of our lives that we have spent acquiring this knowledge and $120 didn’t seem like too much to ask.

The person who asked for the reduced price left a comment on the website that went something like this;

While this does seem like a worthwhile workshop, in my opinion this kind of information should be shared freely and openly – or at least at a minimal price to cover just the costs. Out of principle I can’t justify spending $120 on a workshop like this. If people want to try to make a career out of promoting sustainable, off grid living that is fine but I can’t support it.

This attitude reminded me of the time, many years ago, when we were selling our books at a Green Energy event at a Home Show. A well-dressed woman came to our table and began to tell us about her home and her challenges in making it energy efficient. She lived in THE swankiest, highest-priced neighbourhood in all of Toronto (and if you don’t know Toronto, real estate is VERY expensive!)

We talked to her for a few minutes and then suggested that our book “$mart Power” would be helpful to her in learning about energy efficiency and how to retrofit an older home. She became quite indignant and told us that we should be ashamed of ourselves for trying to profit from such important information. We should give our books and knowledge freely to anyone who asked for them. It made me wonder if she gave away her knowledge or skills. If so, how would she have ever afforded her house in the swanky neighbourhood? Something told me that she was well compensated for her time, her skills and her knowledge.

What a funny world we live in where people who are gainfully employed, trading their time, skills or knowledge for a good paycheque, take offense when others try to earn a living from their time, skills and knowledge. To my mind, sharing what we’ve spent thousands of dollars and years of our lives learning is worth more than $120. Allowing others to learn from our mistakes is worth more than $120. It is priceless.

Thanks for listening. And many thanks to those of you who have purchased our books, attended our workshops, visited us or donated to this blog. We are grateful to you for recognizing the value in what we are doing and sharing!

And now here is one of my favourite photos of my wonderful dog Jasper. Enjoy!

Jasper's-eyes

 

Freeze Dried & Dehydrated Foods & MREs

(Man … my blog titles have gotten so lame and boring since we decided to try and be search engine friendly!)

Michelle and I have a pantry that we keep fully stocked. We do this for a number of reasons. The first of course is the coming zombie apocalypse. I’ve seen enough zombie movies … “World War Z,” “Shawn of the Dead,” “28 Days After” … to know that sooner or later the zombies will come, so I’d better be ready. I guess they might go after our pantry? But I digress.

The real reason is much less sensational, but the simple fact is that we are not the biggest fans of civilization and so the less often we have to venture out into it, the better. By having lots of rice and pasta and canned food in the pantry (along with the food in the root cellar and the freezer) we don’t have to venture out as often to get groceries. We use the “FIFO” system of inventory/pantry management. In other words, the first stuff that we put in to our pantry is the first stuff we take out (First In First Out). This comes in handy especially with things like baking supplies, since inevitably we discover that we need “flax seeds” just as Michelle begins to put together a batch of her granola. So when we open a new package of something we purchase another and put it in the pantry for the next time. It saves me from having to wander around the house waving my hands and ranting about the fact that all I want in life is a simple bowl of granola but because we don’t have any flax seeds my life is ruined, blah blah blah. It’s an ugly scene best avoided.

We have discovered through trial and error that some stuff keeps for long periods of time very well, but others, don’t. Peanut butter is a good example. Try to keep it too long and it acquires a rancid odour and flavour. So we don’t tend to keep a lot of the stuff that we have learned doesn’t store as well. For my book “The Sensible Prepper” I recommend that people might also want to supplement their pantry with some freeze-dried products. Since the moisture has been removed from these products they will last much, much longer. Their labels may suggest that they last “3 years” or some conservative length of time like that, but I would suggest they’re likely to last much longer.

We started using freeze-dried foods years ago on our canoeing/camping trips when our girls were young. They were a convenient way to prepare entire meals by just adding hot water over a fire or on our camp stove. They were incredibly light, space-efficient, convenient and extremely tasty.

Harvest-Foodworks-freeze-dried-food-photo

We bought them from a company that is located here in Eastern Ontario called “Harvest Foodworks.” http://www.harvestfoodworks.com/

They have an awesome selection and their food is delicious. I think it’s a great idea to have some of these around. It means you can have an awesome warm meal anytime, even if the power’s out. They are usually available at camping or backpacking stores.

And the meals they sell are amazing. Alfredo Primavera, Oriental Sweet & Sour, Tandoori Curry, Chocolate Almond Fudge Cake … I’ve got to tell you that if we ever have an emergency and need to use these, Michelle and I will be eating way better than we do on most days!

I know what you’re saying. “Cam, buying food like that is ‘prepping’ and I don’t want to be one of those preppers!” Nope, you’re right. Way better to be cold and hungry. A week before Christmas this year Toronto had a major icestorm and hundreds of thousands of people were without electricity. For some of these people the power outage lasted a week, right through Christmas. So I guess you’ve got to ask yourself, do you want to gamble that you know someone across town who might have power, or do you want to have some amazing food that you can prepare that will warm you up, feed you and cheer you up too! A warm tasty, nutritious meal, a good LED lantern or candles, a good book … tell me again what the problem with a power outage is?

The other option I investigated for my book was MREs or “Meals Ready to Eat.” These were designed by the American military for troops out in the field. You want your soldiers healthy and well fed but in many locations this can be difficult. An MRE is essentially a full meal, ready to eat, hot, wherever you are. It contains not only the food but also the method to cook it. You just put the meal pouch into a packet, which is a water-activated exothermic reaction product that emits heat.

Meal Kit Supply sent me some samples and have more information on their website http://www.mealkitsupply.com/ There’s a neat video on the site explaining how they work.

MRE-photo

Hot, nutritious meals, without a stove! Will wonders never cease? I like it in the video when they say one meal can be up to 1,300 calories. It’s funny that most people watch calories and with a recommended 2,000 calorie a day limit, these MREs sound like diet busters. But remember they’re not designed for regular daily consumption. They’re designed for those days when the jet stream stops that weather front over your part of the world, and you get 2 months worth of rain in 4 hours and that old bridge on the road to town gets washed out and you’re stuck for a few days, or a week, until you can get anywhere. I really think they’re a brilliant idea for anyone.

This is like an insurance policy that you can buy. The object of an insurance policy is to never have to use it. It’s only really relevant in a crisis. I would love to get an email 5 years from now from a blog reader who is angry because they invested in some MREs or freeze-dried food and they’d never had to use it. That would be wonderful.

During extreme weather events one of the dangers is getting cold. There’s nothing worse than being cold and wet. It impedes your ability to function properly, to think straight, to be rational, just at the time when those qualities are needed the most. Can you imagine being able to take a time out, in your car, in your garage, in your garden shed if that’s all that left, to enjoy a piping hot meal? It would fill you with the energy your brain and body need to take on the monumental task at hand. I rest my case.

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Our next full-day workshop here at Sunflower Farm takes place on Sat. May 3. Click here for more details and to register!

Hands On workshop poster 2014

The Sensible Prepper – In Transition

We recently wrote a book called “The Sensible Prepper – Practical Tips for Emergency Preparedness and Building Resilience.” We thought it would do well, especially with what seems to be happening with our weather as a result of climate change. Storms seem to be getting stronger and adversely affecting people more often. This isn’t a ‘guns and ammo’ prepper book, but more of a book for everyone who should start taking some basic steps to be more independent, or at least less dependent on infrastructure like the power grid, that seems to be more and more prone to failure during catastrophic events.

This is a follow up to our book “Thriving During Challenging Times” and I updated the later part of this book which took a big picture look at challenges like climate change, the economic collapse and peak oil and recommended some steps people may want to take in anticipation of these trends. Then I added new sections more based on the ‘clear and present’ dangers we seem to face with recommendations for personal basic emergency preparation.

We thought the new book would do well but pre-sales orders to our distributor didn’t live up to our expectations. People are buying fewer books since the economic collapse of 2008. Some people are switching to eBooks, which are less profitable for publishers. And with the ‘noise’ or ‘clutter’ of modern technology there is just so much competition for people’s attention it is difficult to get your message heard and products promoted. While pre-sales were good they didn’t justify investing in a print run that might have just covered our costs. This is part of capitalism and after being self-employed for 30 years, I understand and accept it. In the words of Led Zeppelin … “Good times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share…”

So I’m in the process of converting “The Sensible Prepper” to an eBook and we hope to have it available in this format soon.

We are extremely grateful to Heidi and Ellen who were so generous with their time and helped to proof and edit the book. And for everyone who has asked where it is so they could purchase it, thank you, we’re sorry but it’s still in the works and we still may print it at some point.

One of the things I did while researching the first part of the book, the emergency preparation component, was to talk to some manufacturers of good products that I thought would be relevant for readers to consider. So over the next few blogs I’m going to talk about them. There are no shortage of government websites set up to tell you what you should have in your home in order to be prepared for an emergency event. In fact I’m finding this sort of information becoming more common as governments are starting to realize that people are in these crisis situations more and more often and many are ill-prepared. The average citizen seems to expect that the lights will stay on, the heat will keep working and stores will be overflowing with food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As I watched the floods this summer, and the ice and snowstorms this winter I think it would be handy for people to have a portable toilet. I know, I know, who wants to have to think about this! But water and sewers can be disrupted by weather events and you know, a toilet is a convenient thing. It’s one of those items that you don’t fully appreciate until you don’t have one. Heck, even people on luxury cruise ships can’t take toilets that flush for granted. That cruise ship last summer that had the fire in the engine room and then went without power for 4 days didn’t have flushing toilets. The passengers were told to just drop their stuff outside their door in a plastic bag. I know the thought of all of those bags of human waste sure makes me want to take a cruise! http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/11/travel/cruise-ship-fire/

Now I’m not suggesting that you take one of these with you on a cruise (regardless of how “luggable” they might be), but I think they are pretty handy to have around the house, just in case. It’s called a ‘luggable loo’ and I think it’s a pretty nifty idea. And sure, you can make your own with a toilet seat on a bucket, but then you get into that whole dilemma of how to fasten the seat to the bucket. The idea of falling off such a device because of poorly designed seat is not a desirable situation, on soooo many levels.

Lug-Loo-col-sml

This company has some great products for emergency preparedness.   www.relianceproducts.com

And here is the one I’d recommend if you live in an urban area (i.e. you can’t head out to the ‘back 40’ to dig a latrine during a time of dislocation).   https://www.relianceproducts.com/products/sanitation/96.html

You can use a ‘luggable loo’ by lining it with a plastic bag, but then you would have to dispose of the bag (just like on the cruise ships!) or you can use it with water and one of their additives. This can be ‘bio-blue’which essentially is just a toilet deodorant so you can use the same for water for a longer period of time. It’s blue and has a strong odour, but who doesn’t want their toilet water to be a brilliant vibrant blue during an emergency?

They also have a ‘bio-gel’ which turns ‘blackwater’ into a gel. That’s right kids! During the power outage we’re going to be doing some really cool science experiments with our ‘luggable loo!’ Check this out!

Perhaps all of this toilet talk will offend some of our readers and there may be a rush to “unsubscribe” to our blog after reading this one, but I’m down with that. Our blog focuses on sustainable independence. That includes all of the systems in a house that you have come to accept as part of everyday life. In my house I control these systems. My water. My heat. My ability to flush a toilet, and the septic system where it goes. Heck, I even have an outhouse for extreme backup, or just for a moment of quiet contemplation when we have a gang here.

I believe that the new reality of climate change is that the jet stream is screwed up because the arctic is warming so much faster than everywhere else. This means that when we get storms they may last longer and be stronger than we are used to. This overwhelms systems like water and sewers that were never designed for these ‘100 year’ or ‘1,000 year’ storms that occur somewhat regularly these days. I hope such a power outage and disruption never impacts your life, but if does, I think you’ll regret it if you haven’t given some thought as to how to deal with these challenges. “Where will we get water?” “How will we keep the lights on?” “What will we do with our waste?” These things are fun to talk about in the abstract, but can be nasty to deal with in real life. And you don’t have to be living in Tornado Alley to experience such a disruption. You can be living in downtown Calgary when the floods arrive or New York City when a Superstorm Sandy comes ashore.

We had our own experience of disruption and dislocation last summer when a lightning strike heavily damaged our electrical system. I was able to jerry-rig workarounds but these events are frustrating and disorienting and a royal pain in the butt. They can even become dangerous. My advice is to follow the Boy Scout’s motto and Be Prepared.

More suggestions to come in following blog posts.

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In the meantime, don’t forget our upcoming all-day workshop here at Sunflower Farm on Sat. May 3.

Click here for all of the details and to register!

The Hubris of Modern Civilization

aka The Grand Illusion – Part II

“Hubris” is one of my favorite words. You sound so intelligent when you use it! In fact, if you use it you probably have ‘hubris’ which is a bad thing by nature. The wikipedia definition of hubris is “extreme pride or self-confidence. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.”

I know what you’re thinking …  this perfectly describes the writer of this blog! I fully admit to a strong sense of self-confidence but I also readily admit to being extremely humble about my good fortune. I am grateful to have been born when and where I was. I am grateful for my health, and my family, and friends. I’m grateful for the great comments we get on our blogs! And I am grateful to those that went before me that invested their time and emotional capital in causes, such as universal healthcare, which have given me such freedom in my work choices. I will admit that in 2007 when we decided to commit full time to publishing books about sustainable living I may have suffered some degree of hubris. Let me assure you that the economic collapse of 2008, and the fact that we now earn next to nothing from our publishing enterprise has been a hugely humbling experience. Forces beyond our control can have a great humbling effect on all of us.

So I read two unrelated articles last week that I somehow managed to see the relationship. One was in the Globe and Mail newspaper about the downfall of Canadian tech giant Nortel. The articles concludes:

“The collapse of telecommunications giant Nortel Networks Corp. was caused by ‘a culture of arrogance and even hubris’ that led to numerous management errors and weakened the firm’s ability to adapt to changing customer needs in a fast-paced industry, according to a new in-depth analysis of the company’s final decade of operations.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/culture-of-arrogance-doomed-nortel-analysis-concludes/article17521736/

There were few Canadians that were not affected by the collapse of Nortel if not by owning shares directly that at one time topped $124/share, to their participation in pensions that held the shares, including the Canada Pension Plan that all took a massive hit. A hit because of “hubris.”

Then there was a study from the NASA scientist about society’s propensity for collapse.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/14/nasa-civilisation-irreversible-collapse-study-scientists

I thought it was strange that the best coverage I found of this study was in Canada’s “National Post” newspaper, a kind of a beacon for capitalism and the elites that the study says are part of the problem.

I found it even stranger when they followed up with a story that suggested we needed to elect Green Party Leader Elizabeth May as Prime Minister to ward off collapse. As a Green Party candidate I found this a huge boost to my humble ego!

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/03/22/kelly-mcparland-nasa-backed-study-indicates-its-elizabeth-may-or-mass-extinction-your-choice/

I’m hoping the boring title of this blog dissuaded my daughters from reading it, because I’d rather they not, but hey, when they’re home they see my bookshelf. I have often discussed professor Joseph Tainter’s “The Collapse of Complex Societies” which is like the idiot’s guide to this topic. His theme is that complex civilizations deal with problems by adding layers of complexity on to the bureaucracy. Ever tried to get a permit for anything these days? Any questions?

But essentially it all comes down to ‘hubris.’ We think we’re different. Our leaders tell us we’re different. Elect them and they’ll keep it all going. Oh and how about that jet that disappeared? We think it will be different this time, that we’ll come up with some techno fix to deal with too much carbon and methane in the atmosphere, too many people competing for too few resources, not enough fresh water, not enough fossil fuel energy, and on and on and on.

Sure pundits have making this prediction since humans started living in groups. But I do believe that it’s different this time. No species has ever strained the resources of this finite planet more than we have. No species has actually been able to change the climate, and  in such an alarming way.

I do hope we’ll all vote for The Green Party and take some radical steps to stop the madness. But I believe social inertia may not allow that. So you need to make sure you don’t get caught up in the hubris that deludes you into thinking that the next decade, or the next few years will look anything like the past. They will not.

Over the next few blogs I’m going to discuss some suggestions incorporated into our book “The Sensible Prepper.” I understand the inclination of some people who just want to tune the whole thing out and eat potato chips and watch reality TV. I get it. I love chips. I love TV. But the next time there is a large-scale dislocation in our society that affects you that you surprisingly weren’t prepared for … flood, icestorm, drought, wildfire, economic collapse … don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Reminder: We are offering our full-day workshop here at Sunflower Farm on Sat. May 3.

Click here for more details and to register!

The Media’s Misguided Obsession with Flight 370 and the Whole Ukraine Manufactured “Crisis”

Aka The Grand Illusion – Part I

I’ve stopped watching the news. I am sooo sick of the media’s obsession with Malaysian Airline’s Flight 370 that disappeared just over 3 weeks ago but which still leads every newscast, everywhere, all of the time. What is with these people?

Yes, it’s a tragedy, 239 people were on the flight and presumably are gone. It’s terrible. But do you know how many civilians were killed in Iraq last month? More than three times as many*. And as terrible as Hussein was, at least he managed to keep the warring factions at bay. Why isn’t the media spending more time on what’s happening in Iraq now that the “Allied” forces have left? (* According to https://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/)

And how about the whole Ukraine “crisis.” Really? This is a crisis? A state that was formerly part of the United of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR, doesn’t want to align itself with the Eurozone. Oh and Crimea, a state with many people who consider themselves Russian, a state which voted 97% to join Russia. Why are North American governments so obsessed with this? Why is it that we are for democracy until the vote doesn’t go our way? Russia has military and naval bases in Crimea. Did we really think they would be happy about Crimea leaving their sphere of influence? And what business is it of ours?

I have read in a number of sources that the U.S. Government has suggested it will commit $1 Billion to the Ukraine. And yet it quietly watched Detroit (and other U.S. cities) go bankrupt? Couldn’t the money be better spent locally? And this misguided concept that somehow the U.S. can support the Ukraine’s energy needs with oil and gas if Russia cuts them off. Well come on, that’s just delusional!

This is an area of the world with no strategic importance to North America but of huge value to Russia. To think they wouldn’t want to keep it within their sphere of influence is just silly. For us to have such a hissy fit about it is akin to when I used to have tantrums when someone took my Tonka Toy in the sandbox. Not pretty and just about as important.

Nope, the media has just become a huge propaganda machine to distract us from issues that really matter.

The other night, the CBC, Canada’s state (ie taxpayer) supported, national broadcaster devoted 20 minutes of their premier news show, “The National” for a panel of ‘experts’ who answered absolutely inane questions about the jet that disappeared with 2 Canadians on it. Really CBC? It’s that important to your viewers?

How about this? How about a discussion of this winter’s weather? How about a discussion by climate scientists about just what the ‘polar vortex’ is and what causes it and why it matters to Canadians?

Because here’s what I’ve learned. The ‘jet stream’ has been consistent for a long time, keeping colder air in the arctic and keeping our part of the world tolerable. But the arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the planet and this is screwing up the jet stream. The jet stream now has these huge fluctuations that are dragging that cold arctic air south. Further south. All the way to Atlanta and Texas.

Here’s a great explanation of why a warming arctic and the reduced sea ice could have caused our exceptionally brutal winter. It’s 5 minutes long and worth watching.

The presenter is Jennifer Francis who is a professor from Rutgers University. This winter as I have tried to determine why we have had snow on the ground since the last week of November and still have almost 3 feet of snow at the end of March, more and more of the research seems to be leading to a warming arctic as the cause. But like most scientific theories it is an ongoing process with debate.

So why is my national broadcaster wasting my time with ‘experts’ debating a jet that disappeared  3 weeks ago versus the new reality of climate change? Many Canadians have been left unable to pay their heating bills after this brutally cold winter, especially if they have been lucky enough to actually get propane and home heating oil. Both of these commodities have been in short supply this winter. Really, what’s more relevant? Phantom jets or frozen Canadians?

Way to go media, let’s not debate the effects of pumping carbon into the atmosphere! Instead let’s lead off every news story with that rogue jet. And why not get us up to speed on who’s going to be on Dancing with the Stars next season? That’s the stuff I need to know!

Sigh.

 

Life in Real Time and the Sh*tstorm Survival Workshop

This is a series of unrelated, disjointed thoughts, which is only fitting since this is exactly how my brain works.

First off, our chickens.

It’s March 28th but in my part of Ontario we still have 2 feet of snow. Michelle and I are sick of snow, but so are the chickens. Once they’re finished laying at about 11 am we open their gate. In nicer weather they wander throughout the property scratching and dust bathing. This winter, not so much. They don’t bother. There is nowhere outside that isn’t covered in 2 feet of hard crusty snow. They are suffering from SAD. Or perhaps “CAD – Chicken Affective Disorder.” But lately with the weather slightly warmer (-5°C rather than -20°C) they are now seeking out anything that resembles soil. In this photo they are in the wood shed. They create huge clouds of dust as they scratch away at the dirt and then snuggle down into the little potholes that they make. They wriggle into the dirt, use their feet to throw dirt all over themselves and just hang out. Afterwards I twist my ankle in the holes they leave behind if I don’t remember to rake them flat.

chickens-in-the-woodshed

Here’s a chicken expecting to be taken on a ride in the sled. Really Henrietta? You want a ride?

chicken-on-a-sled

Here’s a picture of Jasper the Wonder Dog chasing a stick. With the warming sun during the day then below freezing temperatures at night Jasper can stay on top of the snow and he tears the place up chasing some maple sticks I made for him.

Jasper-with-stick

stick-chomping

Okay so now that I’ve lulled you into a temporary moment of distraction thinking that “well, at least there isn’t that much snow where I live,” here is a completely blatant commercial pitch.

On Saturday May 3rd we are offering our “Living Sustainably and Independently, Ready for Rough Times, Hands-On, Solar-Powered, All You Can Grow” workshop. This is an awesome workshop if I can be completely unbiased as the person who is offering it. I consider this the “Sh*tstorm Survival Workshop. If you read my blog and worry about societal collapse or climate change or any of the other challenges we face, this workshop is the antidote! It’s so much fun and so practical.

Here’s my theme for the workshop; If we closed our gate and no one came in and no one went out, our life wouldn’t change at all for 6 months. Well, we’d get a brutal caffeine withdrawal headache once the coffee runs out, but apart from that the lights would stay on, the fridge and freezer would keep working, the toilets would still flush, the water would flow, we’d be warm, and we’d eat well. We’re not obsessive about being self-sufficient, we just wanted to make our own energy and control our food supply. It’s easy. It’s cool. We share that in the workshop. And every time we offer this workshop, a group of really neat people comes and we serve great food and people meet other great people and share their perspectives and I end up with a huge buzz on at the end of the day. So there you have it, nothing subliminal there. Please come! Or if you know of someone else who might be interested, send him or her this link;

http://www.cammather.com/off-grid-retreat/upcoming-workshops-at-sunflower-farm/may-3-2014

On another unrelated note, we’ve had a few university professors come to visit us, to study us. We are like those monkeys in the labs where you see the people in white lab coats studying them. We are okay with this. I am on my best behavior on those days. (See this post for more of the story)

Last summer a professor came from The University of Guelph. He was studying the use of high speed internet in rural communities. When we installed our satellite internet we were one of our provider’s first customers. The equipment cost us more than $3,000 to have installed and it cost us about $200/month for hopelessly slow speed.

Fast forward to today and someone signing up now would pay about $50/month for insanely fast internet with no equipment costs. (We early adopters always pay the price!) Anyway, this prof is studying the effects of an Eastern Ontario program that subsidizes the cost of internet infrastructure allowing residents to enjoy high speed at a much lower cost. He wanted to know how high speed had affected our business. And yes, the new satellite we’re on allows us to SKYPE with our daughters and watch Netflix. It’s pretty great! Oh, and it helps with business too!

Recently this professor got back in touch with us and asked me to join him on a panel to discuss this topic. It’s at Queen’s University and I guess they decided it would be nice to hear from someone who actually lives in a rural environment and uses the equipment, to balance out the table full of academics that have been studying the issues. After I had agreed to participate, one of the organizers emailed me and asked me for my “title.” Since it is the Queen’s University of Business organizing the event I wanted to sound important, so I said “Publisher, Aztext Press” which is true, because we still sell some books. Then I added “Owner/Farmer, Sunflower Farm CSA.” I thought “farmer” would be scary to the guys in suits! So should I wear overalls or a suit to the conference?

Anyway I responded to the email and then I got distracted. About an hour later I got back to thinking about the conference and wanted to see what time I’d be presenting. So I went online to the conference agenda.

http://business.queensu.ca/centres/monieson/events/Economic_Revitalization_2014/agenda.php#Agenda

And low and behold the title description that I had just sent was already on the agenda! After an hour? Come on! How is that possible? What a crazy world we live in. A decade ago if you organized a conference you’d need 3 or 6 months warning to get the speakers together so you had time to get the stuff to the printers to print the agendas and mail them to the people attending.

Life in real time. It’s quite bizarre these days. Sometimes you just want to stop the ride and get off. The pace of technology does not affect the vegetables I grow in my garden. They grow at the same speed every year, dependent on the temperature, moisture, pests, and the love and affection provided by the farmer. I side with the vegetables! They’re more my speed. But humans still impress me all the time!

The Internet is NOT Democraticizing

I remember a moment in the Michael Moore documentary “Sicko” when someone was interviewed about debt and how it maintains existing power structures. It referred specifically to student debt and how when you graduate with a degree in America you are generally up to your eyeballs in debt. So you just put your head down and plow ahead trying to make money to get out of debt. In this position not only do you generally not have time to agitate against the status quo, you don’t want to. You don’t want to risk the implications … being arrested at a demonstration or having your online comments found by an HR department just before your job interview.

Noam Chomsky in “Manufactured Landscapes” talks about the time after World War II when the labor movement was really gaining momentum. Workers came home from work and then went out to meetings where current issues were discussed. Forming unions. Socialism. And yes, even communization. Yikes! And then in the 1950s along came this magic box that casts a ghostly blue light as it sat in people’s living rooms and sucked them into a vortex of brain killing lassitude (which I participate in nightly) and took away their desire to go to those meetings and question authority. And what the heck, everyone was getting new washing machines and things so why would you want to complain anyway?

Fast forward to today and we have this magic world wide network, the interweb or whatever Homer Simpson calls it, which is heralded by some (just who I can’t remember right now because of the whole watching-Netflix-brain-numbing thing) as being hugely democratic. The power of the press used to belong to those with the money to own one and there was always such a huge upfront cost that only those with money and its assorted bias’ could therefore have a podium from which to pontificate on their worldview. Now anyone with $500 for a tablet and $50/month for a smartphone can broadcast to the world.

Oh and how can they broadcast. On their blog. Or Twitter. Or Facebook. Or Instagram. Or … I think you get where this is going. So many places to let your views be known.

When we began publishing books on sustainable living a decade ago the internet hadn’t yet taken off and killed traditional media, so we were able to generate some good publicity though newspaper, magazines and television. Since then the whole income generation from those traditional media business models is out the window. It’s been replaced with a system of noise, where there is so much material out there it’s hard to cut through the clutter. Along with that has come the feeling that all knowledge is freely available on the internet, so why would anyone purchase a book and pay for it? Obviously we know the pitfalls of anything that is free, but the perception persists.

The other night was a prime example. A nightly political news magazine on TVO (an Ontario-based channel) called “The Agenda” had a panel of women on to discuss the issue that women are very much underrepresented as guests on the show. I have to admit I am sick of tuning into the show and seeing 5 white males (a demographic to which I belong) and so generally I just flip by it. With the number of women gaining prominence in every profession I’m just really tired of the male bias on this show. So it’s become irrelevant to me. And frankly I’m at a stage where when I hear an “expert” talk about anything I revert to one of the characters in a Peanuts cartoon when an adult speaks and I just hear that trombone with a toilet plunger in it sound of “Wah Wah Wah Wah.” This is the sound my family makes when I start to rant about something. They are awesome and quickly put me in my place!

So I tracked down the episode online (http://ww3.tvo.org/video/201754/beyond-binders) and I noticed that they list the producers of the show, 10 of whom are male and 3 are female. Hmmmm…. what’s wrong with this picture? So I decided to write a brief and scathing response to The Agenda and suggest to the predominantly male producers that when it comes to getting female guests on their show “THEY SHOULD TRY HARDER.” Then I wasted 15 minutes trying to figure out how to send my comments to them. I couldn’t find a place on their website for comments. So I guess I’m supposed to “Tweet” them my response. But I don’t use Twitter. I guess I could become their friend on “Facebook” but frankly that’s just more time than I want to spend. I remember the good old days when you could comment on websites like this. Right on the site. There was a place that said, “Give us your comments.” Now I have to do it on some third party social network. And you know what? When you do this, you lose lots of potential feedback, because not everyone uses Twitter.

While I was surfing around trying to figure out how to comment I saw a promotion that said “The Agenda” is on Pinterest. What? I thought Pinterest was a place where people posted photos of crafts they had just made. Or tricks they’d taught their dog. So what does a political news show post on Pinterest? The latest quilt that the host Steve Paiken has made? And with that, I gave up on providing comments to The Agenda and came back to rant in my own little private rant box called my blog.

And there you have the politics of the internet. It isn’t helping anything. It’s just fragmenting further the ways humans communicate with each other. Sure Lady Gaga can get 100 million people to follow her on Twitter, but a climate scientist like James Hansen warning of the impending catastrophe of runaway climate change, well, he’s lucky to have 4,000 followers. Please note I have not looked these numbers up officially, I’m just making them up. I generally use YouTube (oh yes, another outlet to further dilute the message) views to gauge popularity. For example Lorde’s “Royals” video (which is a truly awesome song, don’t get me wrong) has 300 million views if you include the various versions, and Bill McKibben’s (founder of 350.org) video about climate change  “Thought Bubble”   has had only 42,000 views.

Sigh.

The internet may give everyone a soapbox to preach from, but there are so many people preaching, in other words, everyone, that no one’s listening. It’s just noise. Want to change the world? Click here. Put your name on this on-line petition. Heaven forbid you’d pick up the phone and arrange a face-to-face meeting with your local political representative.

What was the slogan for the space movie “Alien” in 1979 …” “In space no one can hear you scream.” On the internet billions of people can hear you scream, but they’re not listening.

Democracy is a pretty good system, in concept. I’m just not sure how democratic our system really is anymore. Makes me kind of want to head to the living room to find out whom the Bachelor finally picked this year…. Ahhhhh the warm blue glow in the living room… so comforting… so distracting….

Diary of a Mad Househusband

I’m kind of struggling with housework this winter. Michelle and I have always shared the housework. She does the bulk of the cooking because she is exceptional at it, we split the sweeping/floor washing, and I do all the toilet cleaning. When my daughters were young I decided that toilet cleaning was going to be exclusively my job, because I believe men make the bulk of the mess so it should naturally fall on them to clean up. I used to joke that I pitied the poor men who married my daughters because they would have no idea what they were getting into. Even though they now both have men in their lives I have never been brave enough to ask whether they resent my daughters’ feminist upbringings.

Historically in our home, housework has been the domain of the spouse with the lower contribution towards our income. In the old days when I was busy running our electronic publishing business I was more focused on making money. So Michelle completed the bulk of the work around the house. Now both of us work at running a CSA in which we provide our members with a weekly box of vegetables during the growing season. During the growing season we are both pretty focused on our gardening efforts. During the winter there are still some small jobs that need to be done for the CSA, like ordering seeds and starting plants and getting things ready, but it takes up much less time than at the height of the season. Over the years Michelle has found ways to keep busy with small part-time contract jobs during the winter, and this winter she has definitely been the chief breadwinner. Not only does she do some administration and accounting work, she does some editing and also works on setting up websites, administering them and training other people how to administer them. I am quite in awe because I have found of late that I have hit the technology wall and am less than enthused about all things computer related.

So I have taken over the lead in the cleaning department and I’ve got to say, I think I’m slowly losing my mind. I have no doubt this long, bitterly cold and ridiculously snowy winter is affecting my outlook, but I think doing the housework is impacting me as well.

We heat our century-old farmhouse with wood, and we have 2 cats and a dog. We also have a dozen layer chickens and we keep their feed and bowls near the back door in the kitchen. We keep their coop generously filled with straw and I am constantly amazed by how much of it gets tracked into the house. Combine that with wheeling in a load of firewood every day or two, and the pet fur and every couple of days I basically need a snow shovel to clean the floor. I sweep and sweep and gather it all in a dustpan and it fills the dustpan a couple of times! I throw all of this dust right in to the woodstove and some days I believe that the potential BTUs from all this biomass would comfortably heat our house. Once a week I wash the floors too, and I guess the only blessing of 5+ months of snow covering outside is that much less of our sandy soil is tracked into the house daily by the dog and our feet.

But what’s really pushing me to the boundaries of (in)sanity is washing dishes. We wash our dishes by hand. Although we live off-grid and could run a dishwasher I’ve always hated them. They’re loud, inefficient with energy and leave a gross filmy feel to the dishes. When I see how much time people take to rinse all their dishes before they load the dishwasher I figure that I might as well just wash them by hand. The other advantage from an environmental standpoint is that during the winter our solar domestic hot water system (SDHW), which provides us with more than 60% of our hot water over the course of the year, doesn’t produce as well during the dark days of winter, so I heat the water on our zero-carbon woodstove and fill up the dishpan that way. There are always multiple kettles on our woodstove for such purposes.

What I don’t understand is how two adults can possibly make so many dirty dishes? They are just endless. Every time I go in the kitchen there is another pile of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat. Right now there is a mixing bowl and pan from the amazing homemade bread Michelle stirred up this morning, and a bowl and pan from the unbelievably awesome banana cake Michelle just baked, so I understand there is a price to pay for eating so well. But I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to envy people who eat at restaurants all of the time. I’m thinking maybe it’s time we just loaded up on paper plates and disposable cutlery to cut down on my dishwashing time. How can there be so many mugs? Do we drink that many caffeinated beverages? And the cutlery! Where does all the dirty cutlery come from? Sometimes I think Michelle sneaks into the kitchen and just tosses knives and forks into the dirty pile to give me more work to do. In fact, I’ve come to believe that the dog and cats team up at night, since they don’t have opposable thumbs, and carry dishes out of the cupboard over to the counter. I just know they’re snickering at me when I come downstairs in the morning.

I’m at the point where I always let Michelle put her almond milk and honey into her tea first. That way I can say “Oh wait, I’ll just use your spoon.” She thinks it’s a way for me to show affection but really it’s just to save me from having to wash one more spoon!

So here’s the real question I keep asking myself as I slave over dishpan after dishpan of endless dirty dishes, trying to position myself in such a way as to minimize the pain in my lower back. How did our mothers maintain their sanity while assuming the role of “housewife”? How did the endless onslaught of cooking and cleaning and dishwashing not send them all running to the woods to live like a cave dweller? If I don’t get back out into the garden soon and out of the kitchen I’m going to have to be institutionalized. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel emasculated being a househusband. It’s a temporary thing. And I still get to do lots of manly stuff. I still cut all of our firewood myself with a chainsaw. This winter I’ve been learning how to sharpen my chainsaw blades properly. I’ve been building shelves to hold the boxes we fill with vegetables for our CSA. I’ve been doing manly stuff. But this housework thing is starting to wear me down.

I hope readers of this column will feel sorry for me and join our CSA out of pity. “Look dear, I think we should get a box of vegetables from this feminist farmer guy, I feel kind of sorry for him having to wash all those dishes this winter.” I’m not above charity. I’ll take it. Anything that gets me out of the kitchen and into the soil. This winter has convinced me that our mothers were heroines to be so stoic about their work. They just pushed ahead and did it, and never complained. Jumping in a car and driving to a job was so much easier than running a household. So pick up the phone, call your mother and thank her.  You owe her big time!

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Here’s a link to our CSA website.

C&M and Veggies

 

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their business, Aztext Press. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is a sought after speaker for conferences and keynotes and has motivated thousands to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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