Interesting questions. Is anyone in the mood for a multi day, indefinite length, thread?
How did I get here? What made me decide to do it?
I got home from Vietnam on my 21st birthday, wounds not yet healed, on the 15th of July, 1968.
I was pretty near the edge when I left.
Over there I was known as Flower. By the end, Sergeant Flower.
The company hippy.
Light weapons infantryman hippy.
Life is contradiction.
I was a gregarious but sometimes angry, extremely heavy drinking, pot smoking, LSD eating, pot dealing, full time telephone man, first for Southwestern Bell, later off in an unregulated business equipment industry called (at the time) the Interconnect telephone industry.
By the early 80s the bloom was off the rose. Ronald Reagan was President. We had protested longer than the war had lasted, although whether our protests had any influence on events I can't say. I missed Woodstock but I was in some bizarre situations with drugs, music, and crowds.
All this was going on in Kansas City. I was married to a sweet, exquisitely beautiful woman, whom I treated terribly. Those memories are mostly too painful to look at, so...
She held on for 27 years.
Different story.
Through it all I was out in the country every chance I got. We went to the Rockies and the Ozarks at the drop of a hat. A friend once said I'd drive to Harrisonville (about 40 miles) for "half of nothin' "
By the end it was sneak thieves, liars, big money dealers, cocaine,
Needles (not me - that's a different story, but I don't do needles, and it pisses me off when people do) came in. Junk. Anywhere there's junkies there's thieves.
Offer a guy a hit on a reefer and he turns his nose up at it. "I take the express."
Killed him, that express.
I had to get the hell out. Started out looking in Turner, KS, a semi-rural feeling suburb, not too prosperous, in Wyandotte County, KS, part of greater KC.
"Geeze, those neighbors are pretty close..."
First wife says, "Get this right the first time. I'm not moving twice."
We kept looking farther and farther out, but I was strictly looking for a home with some elbow room, not a farm. And I knew I'd be commuting. Work was where the money came from. I worked out of my truck, hauled tools, ladders, cable and parts. Sometimes whole phone systems.
I'm thinking, from a conversation I had recently with my oldest Richmond friend, that we moved here in January of 1984. 3 room house, ~720 ft², ratty, five degrees off plumb. The furnace didn't work but the wood burning stove did. 40 acres. I still own it; I tweet about it some.
We first saw the place in August. From the farm we were looking at, the office I worked out of, where I reported every morning by 8:00 AM, was fifty miles away in a different state. Kansas.
(If you've never been there, take my word for it: Kansas is a different state.)
Throughout August, every night after work we'd drive out to the land, walk around on it, and drive back home.
To get a feel for the commute. It was a hundred miles a day, five hundred miles a week, two thousand miles (and change) a month.
In a truck full of tools and equipment.
Every place we'd looked at before this one, I told the realtor, "Too much house. Not enough land."
We got about as little house as you could survive in, running water but no heat, on forty acres of eroded hills. But we were free of the city.
(The furnace was a recurring tale.)
We were living, before the move, in a three story, 7 bedroom, typical ratty old mansion, often full of hippies, but unlike most of the hippies I was chronically employed at a decent paying trade, so FW and I owned the house, and had quite a bit of equity in it.
We sold it.
With the money from the Mercier House we were able to put 50% down on the farm, with enough left over to buy a washer, a dryer, and a post-WWII tractor and brush hog.
And, knowing *absolutely nothing* about living in the country, we moved.
Tip: if the urge ever strikes you to move to the country, find out who the rural route mail carrier for the potential new place is. Ask that person about the neighbors.
There's a lot of riff-raff on gravel roads.
That's all for now.
Let's see... Where was I? Oh - two people, childless adults in their mid-30s, city born and bred, move to rural Missouri on a cold January day, and begin a new life. This was right at half my life ago. I've been here as long as I was there. It's gotten blurry in my memory.
Here's the original question again. I'm going to cut to the present, jump back and forth in the telling of this story. Because I have finally learned some things I wish I had learned younger, and I want to get those into the story.
My current lifestyle I began ~3 years ago.
My current lifestyle is based on an attempt to live my life on as little imported energy as possible, with as little exposure to external system failures as possible. I want to be healthy and happy and feel a sense of accomplishment. I want to be a member of Earth.
I was searching for this for all the years. I watched two videos about the same time, this one
And this one.
The catch with moving to the country is you still gotta have money. A handful of smart lucky hardworking people are able to monetize small properties, but they're a tiny minority. The rest of us commute.
11½, 12 hours a day, five days a week, we're gone. A small farm is work.
Plus what are you supposed to do when you own land? If you don't maintain it at some specific stage of succession, it will begin the slow march to mature forest. The whole process, left to its own devices, takes several hundred years.
First comes thorn trees.
I raised sheep. I raised goats. I wove and spun. First wife was with me and with the idea. But... I was gone. 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, year after year.
The other option is poverty, small crime, public assistance, bad teeth and an early death.
So... What I wound up doing was just living here, maintaining the land, which means mowing. No matter what individual species of, or combination of, livestock you graze, you have to mow or it grows up in thorn trees. These things spit on goats.
So: lesson one: the land demands to produce life and will not be refused, not for long. Life will eat every Walmart parking lot in the world, and probably soon. So, what to do? Ask, "What can I grow instead of that thorn tree that will make food?"
Ask the land.
It is pretty much understood that land can produce more total human-edible calories per acre as a diverse multilayer ecosystem than as any single monocrop field. It is understood ... Ahh, you've all heard me rant about it.
So: 28 acres, most of it grass. It is an absolute fact that it has to be mowed. If you don't graze it, it has to be mowed more. This is my wife's property; mine is undergoing unmanaged succession. I've made offers of it, but it will be a helluva lotta work if anyone ever takes it
Abraham was left over from another lifetime. He was born on my other farm in 2001. G and I were separate smallholders who helped one another. Country, late middle age, romance. Autumn, 16 years ago, I moved here. Brought Abe and Aspen, a mammoth jennet. Later I walked Jake over.
I was pretty sure trying to produce farm-y stuff was a waste of money and effort. Entirely sure. Managing flocks or herds is a lot of work and we abandoned it in our fifties.
By this time she & I were scratching out a living with a small phone & computer business and had been
For about fifteen or sixteen years. Her place was paid off and mine was close. Got to be nip and tuck one time, but with her help I escaped owning my property.
I got 300,000 miles out of every truck, which was, in every case, actually the latter 150,000.
By the time a truck had
150,000 miles on it, I could afford it. I know how machinery works, and how it dies. So, we wound up together here.
She's been managing this farm since longer than I had mine, back in the 80s, a year or two before me.
You don't just sashay in here and say, "Well, here's how we're going to manage your property now."
If you didn't know that you'd never get to come here at all. So we've been learning together, and when I saw that Mark Shepard video - Hey honey lookit this...
Somewhere along about this time our old donkey Abe was living in the pasture wearing a grazing muzzle, been foundered, had overgrown feet... It's a lot of work to do it the American way. It's supposed to be easier but it's not. We got behind.
I decided to train him.
Wild hair.
So, a few data points to keep you informed where I think the story is going...
We have agreed that I will plow small keyline swales across certain areas of the farm. We have agreed that I will plant food bearing trees along them with a focus on chestnuts as the overstory crop.
We have agreed that we are going to manage the outer portions of the farm as a food and hay savanna. We are going to use the hay to get as much of our motive energy as possible.
It's not part of the agreement, and I don't do it like a scientist would, with spreadsheets and data,
But I just keep a running tally in my head of every time I have to directly input fossil fuel energy into my processes. Including when I have to drive one of the tractors up to the fossil energy store for forty or fifty gallons of fossil energy for the tractors / mowers.
One of the questions is, how modestly (not in the emotional sense, but the material sense) I can live and remain satisfied. Content.
Pursuit of happiness is maybe a little over the top and we ought to pursue contentment.
My health comes in here. I have disabling PTSD. I have TBI.
I have been chronically overweight for at least 26 or 27 years. I am type II diabetic. Everyone on my father's side of the family dies of stroke. He had his first one at 52. One of the reasons for my entire active career and life.
But - I was turning, just had turned, whatever -
70, and I heard this old geezer on Science Friday. He was a researcher in his 90s, and he said, "Walking combats Alzheimer's. I used to swim for exercise but when I saw this research I changed over to walking." It appears that bones emit a hormone specifically when walking.
We'd actually begun the move toward agroforestry before I found Mark Shepard, but I was going about it all wrong. Gridded off a paddock...
Always, the idea comes first.
We have to see the picture. The overall. What Earth looks like, how it works.
Step one is go look at it.
If you look at the oldest pictures of the Abe manual, you'll see we were always out walking on the farm, Abe on a lead rope.
Pasture pet donkeys are neglected donkeys. Donks need companionship, structure, care. I needed to really look at our home.
That's how my current lifestyle began. This matters, because if I had known, if I had stumbled onto this pattern, this idea, in 1985, I would have a forest which by itself would provide more food than I could eat in a year.
I might not particularly want to live on a base diet of chestnuts and hazelnuts year round, but it would beat sitting in line for a food bank.
I read the other day that 60% of the carbon in an American came from corn. I don't think a shift to nuts and berries would kill us.
Producing corn is.
Working with animals requires education. It's not available in college. It's barely available anywhere. And where it is available, it is almost entirely about working animals to produce conventional agriculture.
It's better, but not that much better.
I'm having a hard time finding a quitting point, and I want to go read.
Next up, costs of smallholding.
You can follow @homemadeguitars.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled:

By continuing to use the site, you are consenting to the use of cookies as explained in our Cookie Policy to improve your experience.