Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Moon Maddness

Yesterday there must have been something in the air, or maybe it was residual craziness left from the recently full moon, or perhaps the weather, but what ever the cause, everything got a bit crazy last night.

There was the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth associated with children getting home after a long, stressful day at school (I’m not sure what caused the stress this time, but the results were very apparent.) After working through all that, (I’m sure it didn’t help that mom was away at a conference, so they were totally stuck with dad. That could have been the source of some of the stress…) it was time to do the chores. The children went out to get the baby goats from the pasture and I mixed the bottles. By the time I got to the barn out cow, May, had gone crazy, jumped the fence, and was running and bucking around the yard. We don’t have any perimeter fence, so this isn’t a good thing. If she decided to make a run for it she could go all the way to West Virginia without having to stop. I grabbed the grain bucket, spilling the extra kid milk in the process and tried to calmly catch the cow. Twenty frustrating minutes later she was in the barn and things were returning to normal.

After a dinner of salmon fillet on a bed of brazed kale with garlic and balsamic vinegar, and showers and story time, the children went off to bed and I sat down to catch up on blogging. Apparently there was still a touch of moon madness in the air, because as soon as I logged on I immediately jumped up on my soapbox, stumbled around a bit, and posted. I didn’t make my point very well, so I’ll try again. (The trouble with this kind of thing is the posts get a bit long, and no one will read them. But since I write mostly for myself, I guess I’ll continue.)

As an eco-farmer I spend my day trying to understand the natural systems around me so that I can adjust my farming techniques to allow the systems to work at their best and still produce the desired product. When I here people pontificating about saving the world, or the environment, or the whales, or… I get pretty frustrated. The world doesn’t need saving. The world will survive; life will go on, regardless of what we do. WE MIGHT NOT, but life will continue. I also get put off by all the “green” programs and products that are flooding the market. Hybrids for example, everyone loves them. They are going to save the transportation system and eliminate global warming. Except that a few years ago we owned a Volkswagen Jetta TDI (turbo injected diesel) that wouldn’t qualify for any of the “green” incentive programs being offered by companies or governments, but which got better than 53 miles to the gallon on the highway and in the mid 40s around town. It also fit five adults comfortably, with room in the trunk for four sets of golf clubs, our all the baby stuff one ‘needs’ when taking the baby out. It beat the advertised efficiency of the current hybrids hands down. If carbon emissions are the measure of ‘greenness’ then we haven’t made much progress. Anyway, back to my point. We can’t “save the world”. We can’t legislate or incentivize our way into a better tomorrow. All we can do is decide how we are going to live our lives right now.

After working with and studying natural systems for some time, I have come to realize that the problems we are struggling with come from our system of building our society, growing our business, etc by using resources from elsewhere. This allows us to produce excess, to grow in and uncontrolled way. No other living thing on the planet lives like this. Maybe that is because it doesn’t work in the long run.

My proposal, for myself and my family (and anyone else who wants to give it a whirl) is to try to live in accordance with the rules that govern the rest of life. That means meeting all my basic needs (energy, food, water) from local resources and returning 100% of the “waste” back to the local resource pool to be used by other members of the community of life. For me, a human scale range is 20 miles. I can walk it in a day. I can know the people, plants, animals, systems intimately. I will feel immediately any mistake made in our community. If we allow waste to pile up and become toxic, I will see it and feel it immediately. If we use up all the nutrients in the soil in one area, I’ll see it immediately too. That is what I mean by living locally. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Haven’t succeeded yet, but it is a radical change of direction, and it is not dependent on any program from the government, or any product from business. It is all up to me and the other members of my community.


dND said...

It's a hard thing to do to change society. Some of us are trying but I suspect we are people who are happy living that way anyway. It's persuading people that even if they can't/won't radically change their ways it is still worth doing what you can, it all mounts up.

I'm still using far too much convenience stuff although I am gradually finding local suppliers but I'm still loathed to give up things like bananas which don't grow here yet.

As for government targets well they are only for soundbites and they are not going to set themselves anything difficult to do are they. Nor will they, I suspect, want to close down one of their biggest source of revenue, tax on fuel.

If I think about it too long I get quite depressed but I'm still going to plant trees for the future and try and husband the land in a sustainable way and most of all hope for the future.


Alan said...


Hopefully some people who aren't as back-to-the-land-ish as you and I can catch the spirit of this and start trying to live locally too. Everyone doesn't need to become micro-farmers, but they do need to be an active part of the system.

Barbee' said...

Robert, this is an excellent post. Not everyone needs 'photos and fluff'; there are still a few 'readers' like me. I appreciate your thoughts.

I live in Kentucky now. Kentucky writer/farmer Wendell Berry has spoken publicly and written essays about this for at least 30 years. He is a prolific writer. I used to keep up with his output, then I started saying: Wendell can write faster than I can read.
Another good url about him:

I have a hunch if you ever have time to read for your own pleasure that you would be enthralled with the book SHANTYBOAT by Harlan Hubbard who lived a different way of life: simple and elegant and on the fringe.
He wrote other books, and others wrote books about him, but Shantyboat is the best. If you read it, you will want then to read others. Here are some of his quotes excerpted from his writings.

I fear I am being presumptuous here loading you down with all this. But you struck a chord in me and these informations are gifts from me based on my hunch. Now I have used up all my blogging time on you :)

Heather said...

Hey there, found your blog after you visited mine. Goats! Oh man, I have wanted to work with goats since I was a kiddo. Love hearing about family life on the farm!

Barbee' said...

OK, I see I didn't enter those last two links very well and they got truncated. Let me try it this way and I guess you will need to copy and paste and piece them back together - if you are that interested. I had to put a break/return in them.

Also, apparently, your name is Alan not Robert - who is Robert?

Alan said...


Roberts is the last name. Out West (where I'm originally from) there is a place known as Robber's Roost. It was the hideout for various social malcontents. Since I find myself rather opposed to the current system, I thought that naming my home after Robber's Roost would make a wee statement. Mostly it confuses people. Thanks for the reading suggestions. I can't keep up with Mr. Berry's output either, but it is fun to try on a cold night. Not much chance of that now. I'll look for SHANTYBOAT next time I'm at the library.
Thanks for the gifts, both of time and information.


Alan said...


You can come check out our goats anytime. They are tons of fun (when they are not driving me crazy)

Keep Gardening!

Barbee' said...

Ah - love it - perfect title. Surprised to hear from you so soon. You must be indoors for lunch break.

I looked for you on Blotanical, but couldn't find you; guess you are not a member.

Alan said...


Yes, it was lunch time. I shouldn't have been on the computer, but blogging is, apparently, addicting. Thanks for the site info. I'm pretty new at this blog thing, so I'm not connected in lot of places I should be. I'll check it out.



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