Binders Full Of …

Just like the former presidential candidate, I have a lot of binders.

And sometimes my head feels like it’s going to explode.

Life is way too complicated.

binders-full-of

I have binders for our publishing business. I keep one for each book with preliminary stuff, copyright approvals, all the stuff that goes with publishing a book. I have binders for things like agreements with our distributor. For techniques to export videos to You Tube and DVD. I have a binder for different services and formats we looked at to create eBooks in.

I have a binder with manuals for our video cameras we use to produce our videos. I have a binder (well actually an accordion-type file) where I store all of the manuals and driver DVDs for our external hard drives and printers (for when I need to reinstall software.) I don’t have a binder for our video production software, Final Cut Pro, but I do have a 2,000-page manual; one of the few manuals I still have for software. And it scares me immensely.

I have binders where I store copies of the agendas and minutes for the local economic development committee that I belong to. I have a binder full of materials that I acquired when we were researching a pelletizing plant for switch grass in our community. I have a binder where I keep all of our seed catalogs. I have a binder where I keep government papers on ways to deal with things like “leek moths.” These little critters did quite a number on our garlic and alliums like onions and leeks last summer, but most of the suggestions for dealing with them are useless because they suggest a few “cultural” controls (i.e. playing Mozart in the garden) and then they go on to list all of the chemicals you should use to nuke them, which I won’t resort to.

I have a binder for all the manuals that came with our digital cameras, and phones, and other electronic components essential for modern life. When I bought the 2000 Ford Ranger Truck for $4,000, as is, it didn’t come with an owner’s manual. I felt naked. How would I know how to operate the CD player or change the clock? I’ll be honest; I love Daylight Savings Time because it’s the only time of the year when the clock in the truck is correct. The rest of the time I have to add an hour (or is it subtract?) from whatever the clock tells me, since I can’t be bothered figuring out how to change it. I did find a PDF version of the manual online and I printed out the fuse box schematic and some other stuff that I’ve needed, but mostly I just hope it all keeps working.

Speaking of PDFs, Adobe upgrades Acrobat so often I should probably have file for it for so that I can keep current on how to download PDFs. I’ll need another binder for that.

I have a binder for maintenance on our vehicles. Since I’m past the days of the service department “summoning” me when they deem I should bring my vehicle to them to work their magic, I like to make sure I know where I’m at in terms of oil changes and things.

I have a binder with the full manual for the installation of  my Solar Domestic Hot Water Heater. That’s a fat one because there was a lot to it! And I still have a few box of binders full of data I accumulated when Michelle and I were editing and producing my uncle’s renewable energy magazine. I need to go through that one and recycle most of it.

In our power room I have a binder with all the manuals for our inverter and solar charge controller and wind turbine and bits and pieces of renewable energy equipment. It includes the chart where I periodically record the specific gravity of each of my batteries to prolong their life. Living off the grid is awesome but in our case it’s technology-dependent and I have to pay attention in order to optimize the money that we’ve invested in it.

I have a binder for our satellite internet because they keep upgrading it and it never works properly right after the installation, so I have to go through notes to get GPS settings and things to see if it’s oriented correctly. I have a binder with all the stuff for our satellite TV stuff. This is not only the hardware but also all the different packages available, music channels and other flotsam and jetsam that we get with it. When I call to change the package, which is usually to reduce how many channels we get, I have to get out the binder so I can speak intelligently with the person about which channels I want. So many options. So much terminology unique to each technology.

I have a lot of binders. I am probably obsessive compulsive, but mostly it just seems better to keep all this stuff together because when the darn printer won’t work and I have to get the old printer going on a laptop that doesn’t have the drivers installed, it’s nice to be able to find it. I buy my binders used at a thrift store.

Sometimes I think about someone living 50 or 100 years ago. I wonder how many binders they needed. I wonder how many PINs they had to memorize. I wonder how complicated the dial was on their big wooden radio cabinet that the family gathered around periodically to listen to music. I’m not suggesting their life was any better, just different. They had different stress. They had to worry about polio, and nuclear winter and living past 40 or whatever the age was the average person lived to. But you really have to ask yourself some days how much better off our life is, really.

I know young people embrace all of this technology. I am in awe of my daughters for their resourcefulness with technology when I’m with them, from finding the nearest vegetarian restaurant to a traffic update or transit schedule, all from the smart phone in their pocket. But frankly I feel myself slipping gradually into the age of not wanting to keep up anymore. I started selling computers in 1982. So that’s 30 years of trying to keep current and I think on one level it’s quite exhausting. My Dad’s friend Shirley doesn’t even have an email address. We like to tease her about it but I readily admit an admiration for anyone who stays unplugged from the matrix.

I was working on our eBooks recently. We use a service that does much of the liaising with eBook resellers like Amazon and Apple. You may have heard of the Barnes and Noble “Nook” eReaders, and the Sony eReader and the Kobo eReader and there’s a whole bunch of them. In fact every time I work through the system to see how we’re doing on distribution to the various platforms my head wants to explode. I’m really starting to feel overwhelmed. Like I’m drowning in data. Like I’m drowning in “choice.” In the old days when a new technology arrived there might be two competing platforms, like VHS and Sony Betamax for home video. Now you end up with 20 competing formats and hope eventually one emerges as the standard. That appears to be many years away in the eBook field.

Last summer after growing food for our CSA in the hottest summer in history, during the worst drought in history I longed for a break. I longed for the days of sitting at my desk, writing and publishing books, of pushing pixels magically on my keyboard. Today is February 1 and already that desire to get back in to the garden has hit. Next year’s growing season couldn’t be any worse than last year, right? We went 8 weeks without a drop of rain. That couldn’t happen again, could it? The grass is always greener.

Well frankly, suddenly it doesn’t seem to matter. I grew 50 different types of fruits and vegetables. Some were great. Some were dismal. Some, like my leeks, were a write off. I was hot and exhausted and pretty bitter about the lack of rain. But suddenly all of that is forgotten. I just follow the format in my gardening book (which I guess is a kind of binder.) Plant many cultivars. Plant them in consecutive plantings to optimize the likelihood that one of the plantings will mature in the optimum conditions. Add water. Soak up the positive green energy the plants give off. Try and forget about all those binders in the office that I still need to keep handy for my other life.

I have one foot in each world. It is very difficult to make money growing food on the scale that Michelle work at, but I can see which world I’m being drawn to. It’s green. I get my hands dirty. There are no binders.

* * * * * * *

Michelle’s Note: Just a reminder that there is a “Donate” button along the right hand side of this page. If you enjoy this blog and would like to make a contribution, large or small, we would be infinitely grateful!

To those of you who have already made a donation, including recent donors Robert, Brian & Ruth Ann, please accept our sincere thanks and ignore this request!

3 Responses to “Binders Full Of …”

  • Cat:

    The world is only as complicated as you make it. Unplug.

  • Ed Hiseler:

    Nice article, I feel your pain, Cam! I’m 50 now and do tech support for an Ontario cable company. I’m burned out with tech stuff. Get my house sold now and start building our passive solar homestead way up north, NW of Cochrane Ontario! We have 75 beautiful acres to LIVE the rest of our lives on, and off of. Thanks for all the great books you have put out there, they have been a GREAT help in this long journey! Just want to close with… You sound like Andy Rooney in this post!!

  • David Hribar:

    I tried to make a donation but it wouldn’t let me for some reason. I will look back thru the blogs for the address so I can sne a check as I remeber it being in a recent one. Please keep up the great work. I am reading your changing time book now and have already read your Living off the Grid. I am truely enjoying and getting smart off you. Thanks for the great work!

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. 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 available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people 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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