Upon graduation from high school, I carried 165 pounds on my 6’1″ frame. I was the epitome of skin and bones, lean from constant athletic events and the associated preparatory training. My red-hot metabolism probably had a lot to do with it, too.
I spent a recent couple weeks at the mud hut, working with a sense of urgency rooted in my strong suspicion the industrial age has nearly run its course. Patience is a reportedly a virtue, but only for the living. Barack Obama and his cabal of economic hit men have used a handful of tricks to paper over the economic pile of crap they inherited (and promoted). But the stench is still real, even if the pile is covered with an increasingly tall stack of dollar bills. Most industrial humans continue to ignore the crimes against humanity required to prop up the empire, instead focusing on the “disaster” of unemployment. A few of us actually give a damn about other species and cultures, and even on improving the odds of our own species persisting another generation on this planet, so we welcome the economically dire news. But most Americans welcome the ecological collapse we’re bringing to Earth, and they couldn’t really care less about future generations of human beings, including their own children.
Back in Tucson after a back-breaking two weeks at the mud hut, I tracked down a scale. Sure enough, I’m working entirely too hard. I’ve added two inches to my height since high school, and a whopping three pounds. If I was skin and bones back in the day, I’m now 168 pounds of callused skin on degenerating bones. Herein, I report the results of my recent physical labor.
This post includes links to several pictures that illustrate preparations at the mud hut, along with my rapidly developing skills. It supplements a post from six months ago. And if you want to know how far we’ve come since we started this venture, check out this post from October 2007. We’ve added minimal infrastructure during the last six months, so it’s worth reading the earlier versions. Photographs of infrastructure I described then are linked here: greenhouse, bee box, garden beds, outdoor kitchen with its wood-fired cook stove and grinding mill, straw-bale chicken coop, and straw-bale house with its off-grid solar system (the latter has components guarded by one of the resident gopher snakes).
What’s new, then? In terms of infrastructure, we have a goat pen and goat run, a duck house, and a potato cellar partially filled with more than 100 pounds of recently harvested potatoes. We’re well on our way to growing and preserving all our own food. Already, we are producing more than 70% of the food we eat. Admittedly, the abundant summer harvest makes this step relatively easy. So we’re canning and drying foods, making excellent use of the greenhouse and wood-fired cook stove as we plan for a paucity of fresh vegetables during the winter ahead. With luck, we won’t have to rely on the approach suggested by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert.
We do not have our own goats yet, primarily because the neighbors have more goats than they can milk, so we have free access to a few gallons of milk each week. And you know the age-old question: Why buy the goat when you’re getting the milk for free? Ultimately we’ll invest in a couple goats on our own property. But we’re plenty busy already, with the ducks providing at least six eggs each day and the chickens providing a few more. The nine young hens will start laying in a month or two, at which point we’ll be overwhelmed with eggs. I’m not worried about the cholesterol, but I am concerned about feeding the chickens and ducks when the industrial economy fails. Got any ideas, especially for sources of protein? We’re considering a mealworm farm, in part because I probably won’t be tempted to steal that particular source of protein from the fowl.
And how about those skills I’m developing? I’ve dug trenches (requiring only a strong back and a weak mind, so it’s the perfect job for me) in which to install water lines, and even installed a frost-free hydrant near the chicken coop and duck house (I’m a plumber). This morning I laid tile atop a counter in the outdoor kitchen (I’m a mason). I’ve built several awnings for tools and shade, along with a few structures for animals (I’m a rough carpenter). And we’re growing considerable food, planted from seed, in our own garden beds and also in a neighbor’s field (I’m a sharecropper). My two favorite titles, then, are Professor Emeritus and Sharecropper. I never dreamed I’d have either title, back when I weighed a mere 165 pounds.