Monday, May 31, 2010


Henny Penny telling me how it is.

A chickadee joins the conversation briefly


While I am out making big pieces of wood into smaller pieces of wood that I can get in the wood burner to heat the shop, I find myself mulling over all the information that I see every day on the web, on the TV and in magazine articles and other print media. During this forced bout of exercise the chickens and dog hang around under my feet and getting in the way of splitting a 20” round and I have to keep shooing them all away, being afraid of them getting hurt in the act of swinging a deadly instrument with all the force my aging body can produce. After 8 or 10 swings, I have to rest a bit, I sit down and the chickens gather round and peck into the ground looking for the mostly non existent tasty bugs they expect to find. That’s when the conversation with Henny Penny begins (our oldest barred rock hen). She exhibits that old phrase that wisdom comes with age, (she is 5 now). I sit on a log panting from my exertions, and venting my frustrations at the insanity I see and read about going on in the world. She clucks and does her “yuuuurp” comments without much enthusiasm, castigating me for being such a slacker. Sort of a “this should have been done a month ago” type of complaint.

Upon reflection of my comments concerning the financial bull shit going on, I was informed that living beings really didn’t need money. The implication was that since she and the other troops in the flock didn’t need money, and obviously the rabbits and the chipmunks and local squirrels didn’t, I shouldn’t either. When I pointed out that her feed necessitated having money to buy it, she just shook her head and took another dust bath.

When I expressed my frustration with the local politics and how stupid and unproductive they were and how destructive they were on the local population she invited me to take a dust bath with her, saying it would calm my nerves.

So ignoring the little voice in my head that said the Freeacre wouldn’t approve and just might call 911 if she caught me, I squirmed around on the ground , making a shallow depression and flipped dust and sand all over myself. Henny Penny was very approving and commented “now doesn’t that feel better”? As I lay there with my imaginary wings spread out in the sunlight I had to admit that yeh, it felt good, although I did feel a bit stupid.

About this time some more of the flock came around and commented on the goings on. Henny was encouraging and told the rest that I was just learning to relax and enjoy the sunshine since I was all wound up over the goings on of the human critters.

I finally got up, dusted off and split another round, and low and behold, there were some tasty bugs in the center. Henny commented: “See how easy that was”?

Seeing how the day was going I sat down on a log again and the rest of the flock (except for Henny) drifted off to look for morsels elsewhere. I talked about the oil leak in the Gulf and how that had the potential of being a world wide catastrophe and could lead to whole animal specie extinctions and a vast reduction in world wide food supplies. Henny tut tutted and commented there would always be tasty bugs to eat, if they could be found that is. I expressed a bit of dismay on that and said that I wasn’t too enthusiastic about a diet of bugs. She just shrugged her wings.

So I thought I would try another line of conversation. I talked about the aerosol spraying and how it contaminated the ground and water and had a lot of known and unknown health affects on all the biota it came in contact with. That caught her attention. She zoomed off to the rest of the flock and there issued a long conversation among them. Henny ambled back and looking me right in the eye asked; “Are you humans’ nuts or something? Why would you do something like that?” I replied that it was just another example of the craziness and arrogance of humans and how concerned I was about it. She stared at me for a bit, commented that she didn’t know why the rest of the living things on this earth put up with us, ruffled her feathers and took another dust bath. Since I figured that I had pushed my luck far enough with Freeacre, I declined to again join Henny in her luxurious bath.

About this time, Brie, our big dog, came over and laid down close by. This brought the flock over again and they started jumping on her back and pecking at her hair. Brie tolerated this for a few minutes and then wondered off doing dog things. Henny’s terse comment was “see how simple it all is?”

We currently have 16 adult chickens, including one aging rooster, and 4 young ones, periodically, a couple of hens will get into some kind of disagreement and start a fight. In which case, the rooster comes over and settles it, separating the warring hens and chastising the aggressor. It seems to work for them and harmony is soon restored. I will admit that I scratch my head over this happening and wonder what lesson I should learn from it.

Now the point of all this revelation on relationships? No matter how complex, no matter how bad circumstances become, no matter what predicaments humans find themselves in, we still have to chop wood and tote water. We still have to be concerned with the basics of living. As horrible as all the events we see unfolding around us, we still have to provide the basics to stay alive. I do think it is a good thing to be aware of what is happening in our local community and the world at large, we do have to have some understanding of when to duck and cover, when to change what we are doing to try and preserve some dignity and values we hold dear, to communicate with the natural world around us and to not take personally the complexity and artificial life that is predominate. We still need to take stock of what we have and need, now and in the near future and give thanks for what the universe provides. If what the universe provides is not enough as we think about it, well that’s just too damned bad, get used to it. You figure on living forever on this plane of existence? Between the furry and feathery entities that populate our existence, there is still much to learn about simplifying our lives, about how to join together in mutual problem solving, in mutual enjoyment and cooperation. Heh heh. It’s the anarchist way of life that our chickens can teach us.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Last Ones


Who were the last ones? How did they feel?
The last of the European monolith builders, those
Gentle women who built the round stone houses,
Knew the herbs, nursed the villagers to health with
Full and wondrous breasts full of life and love for their people…
Who were the Last Ones?

Or the Hopi people, watching the exodus from the cliffs, leaving
Behind the dwellings carved by the fathers of tens of generations.
Deserted by the animals and the grasses that had
Been their hope and the Gods that had been their life.

Or the followers of the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV - those gentle believers of only one great and good and omnipotent God who was the source of love and grace and beauty and peace. And when the vulgar hordes took over, and the last devotee turned his eyes to the likeness of Nefertiti in despair, what did he say to his children?

Or how about the Essenes, so pure of heart and intention that all the women were called virgins and all the men were brothers. So smart and visionary that they called for the Son of God Himself to teach once again that we are all one.

What were the arguments used against them? That their messages were impractical? That their methods were ineffective? That their leaders must be replaced with those who were more effective, more ruthless, more efficient, more sophisticated, better financed?

Suppose we consult the few remaining Children of the Earth who still keep in touch with the Great Spirit, or the Aboriginal people or the American Transcendentalists. What do we say to our children and neighbors? That we have never been good at defending ourselves? That these staggeringly vulgar and dense morons just don’t “get it”? That we’ll come back someday – born again in a new land and repeat the message in a new language and that maybe next time they’ll listen?

I know that if I were to ask the Dali lama, “How do you live with the despair and failure?” he’d advise me to calm down, take a breath, turn within, and contemplate the nature of Impermanence.

But, I cannot live with this happening again. The darkness must be kept back this time. I must sit down between the battle lines and inform each warring faction that the At-one-ment is at hand.

This time, let’s make our sense of separation from the Earth and from each other impermanent. I do not want to walk this path again.

I wrote that piece a good ten years ago while I was a practitioner in the Carson City Church of Religious Science. Happily, they were able to support me despite my variance with the usual metaphysical happy talk. I will always be grateful to those lovely people.

I hearken back to it now because once again, this seems like the End of Days. We anticipated the real estate crash, and the depletion of resources. We have mitigated these events by getting out of debt, reducing our expenditures, stocking up on food and supplies, raising vegetables, chickens, and rabbits. We have reached out to our local community, joined the Grange, got very involved with local politics, and created our cyber campfire. The tribe of people that have gathered here provides each other with good information and emotional support in this challenging time. Once again, I am grateful for the people who have opened their hearts and minds to us and to each other.

But, I have to admit, that I did not imagine the cascade of disasters that seem to be hitting us all at once. The Oil Catastrophe, the “Sun Sickness,” the death of the fisheries, the ruination of the corral reefs, real possibility of nuclear exchange, and the dire predictions of Patrick Geryl regarding 2012, have got me identifying with that woolly mammoth found frozen in the ice with a mouthful of petrified grass.

Mike Ruppert told the secessionists in Vermont that it is prudent to make plans to do without the federal government because it is about to fall apart anyway and we cannot count on help from it at any rate. Go to his website and view the video of his address to them. He pulls no punches. (Act II From the Wilderness)

It seems to me that almost all the countries of the world are falling victim to the malfeasance of the Central Banks and financiers much as the turtles, fish, and wetlands are about to be snuffed by the oil spreading out in the waters and onto the shores. God only knows what the natural gas that accompanies the oil will do to the air. There is very little information on it anywhere.

Can it get any worse? Well, yeah…. It seems that tremendously large magnetic filament that we’ve been watching on the sun has just erupted, and a large coronal mass ejection should be arriving on earth Wednesday or Thursday. Don’t actually know if it will just be a super light show in the sky over Canada, or whether it will disrupt the electrical grid. Better fill up the gas tank, just in case the pumps don’t work at the end of the week. Oi vey…. Just in time for the beginning of hurricane season.

So, I guess it’s little wonder that my mind is turning to saying goodby to all that I know and love, even as I plant marigolds, basil, lavender, yellow pear tomatoes, Easter Egg radishes, and my new Trail of Tears beans, to name just a few.

Thank Heavens for gardens. Their very nature demands that you envision that there is a future and that these amazing plant people are going to take their place in it. The little chicks are running around outside now while the older ones are digging holes and taking luxurious dust baths. The rabbits seem content to munch grasses and watch the goings on around them. The rooster, Big Red, continues to escort each of his ladies into the hen house to lay her egg and celebrate with her when the deed has been accomplished.

Murph is stacking wood (got eight cords so far) and tanning hides. I’m sitting here roasting meat for the dog and trying to come to terms with it all. I guess some things don’t change.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Beauty of Simplicy

comfort food: biscuits and lamb & barley stew

"Trapper" Ray's old simple home

by murph

On this blog we talk about a rather large variety of circumstances, happenings and speculations. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it pretty much overwhelming. Let’s face it, we are in a period of history when complexity is dominating our lives, either in fact or as a side effect. This complexity is leading to all kinds of additional problems within society which sure seems to me to be obvious. The newest example would be the oil leak in the Gulf.

Looking at a couple of these complex systems is worth while. Some of the most obvious are the supply of water, electricity, food and warmth, the absolute basics. We know that our food chain is very fragile and subject to disruption or even failing altogether under the right circumstances. We are also aware of the electrical grid, a monster of complexity that is subject to massive failure for large amounts of people. Water is now a big issue. Fresh potable water is an extremely small percentage of the total water on this planet, only about 3%. With huge human populations, the technology and complex system to make it available is also quite fragile. The same can be said for supplying heat to human habitation which is highly dependent on a diminishing supply of hydrocarbons and the complexity of the distribution system.

On April 28, The Archdruid blog posted a long essay on the “The Costs of Complexity”. He has talked about this in other postings. In fact, many other authors have approached this subject from the standpoint that complexity always reaches a point of diminishing returns, and if restlessly pursued, will eventually collapse the whole system. It seems obvious to me that adding layers of complexity to either solve problems or to enhance someone’s gain is ultimately doomed to failure.

From a population standpoint, increasing complexity creates confusion and an almost total inability to see the bigger picture outside of single issue concern. This confusion appears to me to be the biggest problem we have in modern society today. Groups have been formed that want to deal with individual issues as if they are discreet and have no relationship to anything else. Pick any group you wish; tea party, PETA, the environmentalists, political parties and their ideologies, tax protesters, any of them. They all treat their favorite issues as discreet entries in human existence. It sure doesn’t appear to me that this works at all. Thus we have a fractured, confused and angry population that has shown itself unable to affect any meaningful changes in the status quo.

Personally, I suspect that this overlying complexity is deliberate. It keeps the populations from understanding their situation and wresting control from the elites by keeping attention on a minimum of favorite issues instead of seeing a bigger picture of control and greed.

The world’s financial and economic systems suffer from the same problem, over complexity, and we have in our face the result of that. Taking a rough count, it appears to me that for every pundit declaring that everything is under control, that we live in freedom, that the good times are just around the corner there are 5-10 pundits that declare that we are doomed, that we cannot continue in the same path that we have been on for a couple of hundred years now. If that count is at least close, how come more people do not take notice? I suspect that to recognize a disaster is coming means that a radical change in life style must also come. And who in hell wants to give up the big screen TV, the IPhone, the big SUV, the 3000 sq ft living space, the toys and accruements of our modern life? Very few will do it voluntarily. The concept that our personal worth is contained in the amount of “things” we possess has permeated most of western thinking. If we give up “things”, we diminish our self worth.

I have a short true story. We have become acquainted with a man in his 90’s over the last year or so. He is one of the last of the old timers in this area, comes from a family that was one of the very earliest settlers around here. We met him through our engagement with the Grange. He impressed us with his gentleness, generosity and humor. Although, I have met people that have known him longer than we have and say that “old Ray didn’t take shit from anyone”. He spent a lot of years selling hides from trapping until he got so old that he couldn’t walk his trap lines anymore. He just recently became enfeebled enough that he had to go into a local assisted living facility. His relatives came in and are in the process of selling off all that he had and also sold the property, which was designated a historical landmark locally. Ray lived pretty much in an early or pre 1900 life style and his house is the original building his parents put up. A great example of how people lived back then. We heard that his son was cleaning up the property and was having a sale of his stuff. We went over to see what was going on. The son and two older ladies (one I think a grand daughter) were masked and cleaning up the inside of the house. Freeacre expressed awe and pleasure at the interior of the tiny little house and was expressing wonderment at how he lived. The two ladies looked at us like we were from another planet. We had gone there to see if there were any hides left from his trapping days, particularly skunk hides since I am learning how to tan hides for usefulness. All that was left was 4 skunk tails that the son gave me. LOL Not sure just what I will do with them yet. When we went back outside, the two women nearly jumped out of their skins and took 4 quick steps back when they saw the tails. (Dirty filthy things you know, but I did notice they wore leather shoes)

Like a lot of people that age, Ray was an accumulator, never threw much of anything away. Boxes and boxes of bottles, scrap steel piles, a lot of stuff that for modern life is not acceptable to keep around. But when you talk to the oldsters still alive from the last depression, it made perfect sense, you don’t just throw stuff away, for next week or next month you will make use of it. When I lived in Arkansas, I met a lot of old- timers just like that, never threw anything away, and if you needed some damned little widget to fix something, they usually had at least a couple of them hung up with bailing wire out in the shed.

The point of this story you ask? Well, we are living in a society known for it proclivity to throw away almost everything and buy new. I assert that this can not and will not continue and most people simply are not able to understand the complexity of our society that has made that, not only possible but desirable. The disdain expressed by Ray’s relatives at his life style was very easily discernable. I truly wonder how they are going to handle life when the throw away society is no longer viable, when you can no longer buy cheap shit that is soon to be added to our tremendous piles of junk and garbage. Look around you, how many home appliances and tools can be repaired by a home repair man anymore? As a society we are completely dependent on the massive complex systems that are not only fragile, but are rapidly becoming unsustainable from a variety of circumstances that sure appear to be eminent.

In light of projections of future events, I guess I will continue to stockpile my piles of wood, metal and parts, along with the tools and knowledge to fix stuff instead of throwing away everything that has no immediate use.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Out of Control

trying to herd the un-herdable

by freeacre

I’ve been thinking about control lately. Yesterday, the news featured a story where a seventeen year old was running around (like many goofy attention-seeking people have done) at a baseball game. Instead of running him down and pulling him off the field, the police face-planted him with a taser weapon. It seems a few in the audience thought that was a bit of an over reaction, but most thought the kid deserved it. He was “out of control.”

Then there was the hideous piece on Raw Story about fitting disabled kids with electronic devises that produce strong electrical shocks to children who piss off the staff for one reason or another:
”The rights group submitted their report this week, titled "Torture not Treatment: Electric Shock and Long-Term Restraint in the United States on Children and Adults with Disabilities at the Judge Rotenberg Center," after an in-depth investigation revealed use of restraint boards, isolation, food deprivation and electric shocks in efforts to control the behaviors of its disabled and emotionally troubled students.

Findings in the MDRI report include the center's practice of subjecting children to electric shocks on the legs, arms, soles of feet and torso -- in many cases for years -- as well as some for more than a decade. Electronic shocks are administered by remote-controlled packs attached to a child's back called a Graduated Electronic Decelerators (GEI).
The disabilities group notes that stun guns typically deliver three to four milliamps per shock. GEI packs, meanwhile, shock students with 45 milliamps -- more than ten times the amperage of a typical stun gun.
A former employee of the center told an investigator, "When you start working there, they show you this video which says the shock is 'like a bee sting' and that it does not really hurt the kids. One kid, you could smell the flesh burning, he had so many shocks. These kids are under constant fear, 24/7. They sleep with them on, eat with them on. It made me sick and I could not sleep. I prayed to God someone would help these kids."

I worked with emotionally disturbed kids in residential treatment for sixteen years, and this story almost made me physically ill. I don’t’ care if the kid is Hannibal the Cannibal, you just should not do this to anyone. Period.
“Pain aversion therapy” is what they call it. Sounds like torture to me. Abu Grabe torture. Guantanemo Bay torture. The kind of tactics apparently promoted on propaganda programs (pogroms) like “24” on television. I assume this, as I have never been able to sit through an entire episode. Is it still on? Whatever…. The damage has already been done.

Between television programs, movies, and video games that “entertain” the greater populace with portrayals of institutionalized pain inflicted by authority figures on the non-compliant, people by the millions have become desensitized to the suffering of others, and anesthetized to any sense of outrage. It probably helps that so many are also on anti-depressant drugs – or maybe it’s the fluoride in the water.

Somehow we have become convinced that everything needs to be controlled. So now we can have surveillance 24/7 of our whereabouts, our e-mail, or conversations – even our thoughts. New gadgets that can read our minds, “smart dust” nano-technology (see that will be dropped all over the planet and monitor virtually everything. Oh, that makes me feel so much safer… go ahead and spray mace into the eyes of tree-hugging protesters who are already kneeling with their arms handcuffed behind their backs. Fuck them and their stupid trees. They are out of control. Go ahead and search my luggage, pin-point me with my cell phone, put an rfid chip in my drivers license (or my inner arm), stream advertisements into my head in the department store. Read my mind. Disrobe and X-ray me. Whatever.

“Inalienable rights.. to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”” You’ve got to be kidding. That is so, like, pre-nine eleven…

I continue to be haunted by the movie, “The Lovely Bones.” I don’t want to spoil it for you by telling the whole plot. But, suffice it to say, that it concerns the excruciating process of dealing with a horrible and tragic murder of a child. It points to a larger concern – how do we react to a hideous situation that we cannot control, cannot make right, cannot make go away, cannot change? It seems for most of us, we try to control it with ever escalating tactics. More and more power, money, muscle focused and used to get our way and make it happen. More and more drugs and surgery or debt to stave off old age and death. More and more hardware, weaponry, manipulation, lies, whatever we can think of to maintain the status quo.
Until it just doesn’t work anymore. Then what? Eventually, you throw your hands in the air and surrender. “I give up.” Death, at that point, doesn’t seem so bad. In fact, it may be benign – wondrous even… a new direction. A better possibility than we have considered. And, the left behind, might just come back to what is rather than what could have been. Starting from “what is” may turn out to have its own sweetness in time

All this brings me back around to what is going on with the larger issues that we cannot control and must eventually come to accept and learn to make the best of. If we are not able to do this, we will become more monstrous than the threats that we perceive.