What does it mean to be an American? I ran across a couple of articles this week( that got me thinking. Not what does it mean to become an American or to be born one but what does it mean to BE an American. What are the common, core values that make up an American. Once upon a time, whether you were a woodsman in Maine or a cowboy on the plains, a businessman in Chicago or a trader in San Francisco you shared a similar outlook with regard to your mores, character, and your expectations of polite society.

Sure, we have always been a divided society. I grew up an Alabamian first and American second. But regardless of where I have lived around this nation and around the world whenever I have encountered other Americans there was always a shared bond of experiences and expectations. It troubles me greatly that this is becoming largely no longer true. We have become a postmodern nation of subcultures most of which are antithetical to what it used to mean to be an American.

I myself find I now have divided loyalties. After 20 years serving in America’s Army I don’t like to think of myself as an American anymore. There are other titles that are dear to my heart. I’m a Christian, I’m a libertarian, I am a Permiculturist, I’m a Hoodlum, and a Barfly. These things define my tribe. It’s clear looking at American culture in the 21st century that we are Balkanized. No longer is their trust in American institutions that we once established among ourselves preserve our life, our liberty, and our property. Once upon a time we trusted the police, the courts, and the jury of our peers to protect us from injustice. Once upon a time we entrusted our children to educational experts. Once upon a time we trusted our fellow citizens. No longer.

Now, we isolate ourselves, we categorize ourselves, not on our Americanness but on our otherness. We self select based on our economic-social strata, ethnicity or our religion or sexual persuasion. We no longer have common heroes or a common culture base. Very quickly we are going to find we are no longer Americans.

And here I find myself challenged. Will I continue to fight for an idealized America that only really existed in our ideals? Or will I Balkanized myself, surround myself with those I consider to be of my tribe, leaving all the rest fend for themselves as best they can? I don’t know the answer to these questions. I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that America ever has lived up to her ideals. But if we abandon those ideals to something smaller, something more comfortable for us, something more Balkanized, we may find it a very bloody business.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

2014 Seed Starting Workshop

Seed Day Flyer2

Come on out to the farm!

Posted in Permaculture | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Biochar Conference Notes

Here are some notes from a biochar conference I attended. I will be making a burner as soon as I can locate the right parts and looking for some old round bale hay to convert and spread all over the place. I also have a recipe for a homemade inoculant which keeps there from being a 1-2 year lag in production after applying the biochar.

Notes from Biochar conference, Lawrence, KS, 1 Mar 14.
Keynote speaker: David Yarrow

“The purpose of agriculture is not the production of food but the perfection of people” – One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka
Definition: Biochar is fine-grained charcoal, high in organic carbon, largely resistant to decomposition, produced from pyrolysis of plant and waste feedstocks.
Per the USDA nutrient content of food has dropped measurable since 1940
Things to Google:
Mother Earth News Probiotics for the soil by Toby Grotz
Nutrient Dense Farming
Terra Char
Books mentioned:
The Biochar Solution by Albert Bates
Holistic Management by Dr. Allan Savory
Carbon Farmers of America by Abe Collins
1491 by Charles Mann
Under Cover Farmers
Living Web Farms
Application rate for gardening = 5-8% by volume or 1lb per sq ft or 2.5cm mixed in to top 30cm of soil.

Factors in evaluating Biochar suitability:
Particle Size
Surface Area
Structural Density
Micropore Density
Moisture Content
Ion Absorption
Microbial Activity
Residence (breakdown) Time

Hydroponic grow medium
Soil amendment
Water filtration
Fuel (burning and biomass gassification)
Medicinal (as is or processed into activated charcoal)

Biochar created at different temps has different pH. The higher the temp the more basic the char.

Steps to prepare biochar (4M’s)
Moisten: 5-10% moisture added by volume
Micronize: rice to dust size
Mineralize: Charge with minerals
Microbial Inoculation: specific blends or blend with compost or prepare your own

Posted in Permaculture | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Dealing with cold on the homestead

It has been historically cold here in NE Kansas, 100 year cold. Our low night before last was -11F. Our animals have weathered this very well, despite not being kept in totally enclosed spaces. I have found especially with the chickens that with the deep bedding method moisture is much more dangerous than cold or draft.

But, the cold has caused us a great deal of extra work in keeping the animals supplied with drinking water. We are changing out watering cans for the chickens about 4 times a day and busting the horses water trough each time as well. Electric heaters aren’t an option right now. So, yesterday and today I built a passive solar cage to put around the horses trough. It should be getting down to 12F tonight so we will see how it works and if the horse will even drink from it. I may need to pack hay or insulation around the sides as well. I’ll post updated photos tomorrow morning when we see how it works.


Horse trough2 horse trough3 Horse trough1

Posted in Permaculture, Preparedness, The Farm | 4 Comments

Economic Justice


*Planning how to improve water access in a remote Iraqi village, Diyala Province.

Economic justice. A very good, very, very smart friend used that term today and, unknowingly, spurred me to feverish mental activity. Not sure any of it will be any good, but feverish!

Economic Justice (EJ) is a loaded term for those who pay passing attention to politics. It implies you have come down on one side of the political spectrum and wholly embraced the Left wing philosophies, redistributionist rhetoric and Occupy Wall street philosophies of modern progressivism. Now, rarely does any one individual wholly subscribe to all of any party or groups doctrine. The vast majority of people self-identify with a group because they agree with enough of their doctrine to be getting on with and just living with the bits they don’t agree with. This kind of compromise is essential if you’re going to operate as more than a party of one.

EJ is a term adopted by modern progressives, it’s use does a couple of things. It self-identifies a user as part of the “in” crowd for other progressives. In that sense it is like many other terms taken over by modern socialism around the globe. By owning the terms and symbols and corrupting and re-defining historical terms they can confuse and mislead the majority of folks who are simply going about their lives only mildly engaged in politics. Take EJ as a perfect example, it has little to do with either economics or justice. for the progressive left it simply means that there is inequality in income distribution (thus violating the rule “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” or, if they are playing to a Christian audience in violation of the early Church communalism model). The solution for an EJ user is to have the organs of the State re-distribute that income to level the economic playing field. The usual bogeyman for the EJ user is capitalism.

And this is why terms are important. Like communism, there is now, and never has been, an example of capitalism being executed in any society. True, Libertarian free-market capitalism is as much a fiction as Marxian Communism. To use the term communist for any system or person shows a complete ignorance of what communism is. It is as ignorant as thinking that the current western economic model has anything to do with the capitalism of Hagel or Bastiat or Mises.

I traveled for three weeks across the then Soviet Union in the summer of 1991 as part of an exchange program. I visited with soviet families, stood in line in their stores and even attended an underground church. As preparation for that trip I studied in some depth Communism and all its bastard children. What was practiced in the old USSR, along with most of their allies, was a form of socialism. EJ if you will. One group of elites replaced another group of elites who had been organized along a feudal hierarchical model. The new group organized along a “classless” system that left some pigs more equal than others and then stratified into a ruling elite dedicated to utilizing a planned economic model to redistribute the wealth of a nation to level the economic playing field. The communist theory is that once that income has been re-distributed sufficiently, a form of enlightenment will occur, the perfect Soviet Man will emerge and the more equal pigs will voluntarily step down from their more equalness and a form of Utopia will have been reached. Of course it’s so much stuff and nonsense as once the more equal pigs have their perks they have no intention of ever becoming enlightened enough to give them up. And, with the reins of State firmly in their hands, why should they?

Of course, the idea that America follows a capitalism model is equally false. Here, we threw out the feudal elites and set ourselves up a nice, new Republic. And, promptly had it taken away from us, often enough with our help, by another group of elites who began gathering and using the reins of State (see all the similarities?) to create not a capitalist Utopia (though that idea worked well to sell the masses on) but a mercantilist state that, technically, can’t be called anything but fascist.

The old Soviets fell apart, and for a time it looked like their people might have a chance at grabbing a large chunk of Liberty for themselves. That hope is now fading as the former elites use their ties and money to re-gather the reins of State. It won’t matter much which ideology they follow, follow the money trail and you will see where the power lies. The pressures in our society are building up to the point that we will most likely soon see some sort of effort to remove the current crop of elites. One of two things will happen. We will hang most of them in the streets and usher in a new crop of elites who will then begin gathering the reins of State for their own ends while selling the masses one form of pap or another or we will see “reform” of one sort or another that doesn’t usher out the current crop of elites but eases the economic pressure enough that most people’s pool water isn’t uncomfortable enough for them to make much of a fuss.

There really isn’t much the average Joe can do about all this. It is a rhythm as old as society. I think Christians have always had the answer to this, but it became less obvious the more we adopted the mores of society (thinking we were converting the society and forgetting that Jesus died for individuals, not groups). The early Church model of voluntary collectivism is a good example to follow. It promotes community over self, re-focuses ones energy from amassing goods to amassing relationship in order to survive hard times and provides the maximum latitude for the exercise of Freedom and Liberty within the group because the individual, based on his relationships, self-limits some behavior out of respect for others rather than fear of consequences.

The current western economic system is incredibly productive, but incredibly fragile. To properly address that fragility without killing the productivity requires some things to happen that probably won’t until we can kill off, figuratively or literally, the current crop of elites. It requires a societal re-awakening to the importance of relationships. It requires a re-ordering of priorities away from a work hard, save, retire model to a live well and passionately now and rely on the community to support you in your dotage clan model. It requires a turning from consumptionism and pop-culture dreams to respect and adoration for those who can make creatively or at least productively. It requires an abandonment of the current regulatory structure where someone who violates another’s person or property pays “society” through fines or prison to a direct, to the offended party, payment method. This would, at a stroke, eliminate 90% of the State’s purpose for existence and radically pump up the economy but would require an almost complete restructuring of the judicial system as well.

All that to say, if you really are bothered by EJ in this day and time, and you are looking for the reins of State to come to your rescue, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. You have been duped into believing that if only OUR group of elites were in power they would make it all better. If you really want to see poverty reduced, focus on making those in poverty more resilient. Usually, that involves a whole lot of one on one relationship stuff that has very little to do with how they earn their living. If more and more of us became resilient, the power base of the elites would be eroded. Neither the State nor the Corporate elites have a solution for how to maintain their power, if the population is focused on becoming locally resilient, other than force. And, the use of force in the face of popular opposition tends to eventually end with the elites swinging from lamp posts. Who knows, if we had that kind of revolution among a people who were dedicated to becoming personally and locally resilient, maybe we would forget to put some new elites in charge of the reins of State this time!

Posted in Community, politics, Preparedness

The 1st Amendment makes me Happy, Happy, Happy!


So, Phil Robertson said some things the homosexual community doesn’t like but which accurately, even tenderly and forgivingly, reflect mainstream thought within the Christian community. Is anyone surprised by this? If you are unfamiliar with the controversy, Phil gave an interview to GQ and in it he named homosexuality, along with bestiality, promiscuity and a host of other things, as sins. He then went on to admit his own sinfulness and encourage GQ’s readers that, just has he found hope and redemption for himself in the faith of Christ, so could they.

And, for this terrible thought crime he has been censored. I’m 100% certain, in today’s litigious society, that A&E is within their contractual rights to censor Phil for pretty much any reason they want. That is standard contractual boilerplate. But the real reason they chose to do so was to appease what they see as their primary customer base. What I believe they will find is the only reason folks who watch the Robertson’s watch anything on A&E is because OF the Robertsons.

Whichever side of the homosexual “issue” you personally fall on, we should all take a moment to regard with utter loathing a group of people willing to vilify a man simply for publicly stating his personal beliefs. I am surrounded daily by ideas which I do not agree with, and which cast my hillbilly self in any number of disparaging lights. Yet you will never see me calling for the suppression or public disavowal of any one or group for publicly expressing those ideas. You see, I don’t give them the permission to make me butt-hurt. I have my ideas, others have theirs, and as long as they don’t want to take away my right to express myself, I have no right to deny them theirs. But, increasingly, the homosexual community and their progressive ilk seek not to beat me in the arena of ideas, but to use governmental authority illegitimately to stifle the very debate they seem unable to win on its merits. Rather than win persuasively, they seek to win a summary judgment that forces the majority of society to meekly accept their ideas.

I don’t have a beef with homosexuals, and I don’t believe Phil Robertson does either. At least, no more than with any other form of sin, and I am chief of sinners. I extend grace to myself, through Christ, every day for the sins I commit. And because I am so very aware of my own failings, I find it abhorrent to castigate others in their sin. But I also seen no reason to publicly say it’s ok for someone to believe 2+2=5 just because not publicly saying so makes little Johnny butt-hurt. The stance against sin, not just homosexuality, but all sin, is a basic tenet of Christianity without which it stops being Christianity. If you don’t like it, fine. But I’m sick and tired of being told not only do you not want to believe it, but I can’t either. There are consequences to siding with the censors.

Posted in News, politics, Spiritual life

Christmas Traditions

I love this whole series, but this episode is particularly fitting right now.

Posted in Video | Tagged , | 2 Comments