Friday, May 18, 2012

Living on the Land

Many people who are concerned with Hubbert's Mesa want to "live off the land".  It is a wonderful dream to find a place that will provide you with all your needs.  By all means, if you have the ability to do so, finding a good place to crash is well worth pursuing.  (If you're looking in western Pennsylvania, I can even help you.)

However, first and foremost, you need to realize that perfection is not possible. REAL real estate will always have something missing.  Some deficiencies can be corrected, which is all the more reason to start sooner rather than later.  Other problems are not feasible to change, you will have to decide whether it is something you can live with.  Consider your needs in their time order both when deciding where is an appropriate place to live and what projects to start with.  Also consider the kind of community you will be living in, including the neighbors' attitude and the local zoning codes.

What if you can't afford to move?  You can still do your best to live off the land you live on, like William Hunter Duncan.  You may have more to be more creative in finding solutions, but the most important advantage is that you can start doing things now, like planting a garden.   Invest in your skills today and "live on the land".  It may even help you save enough pennies that finding the perfect place becomes feasible.

The Long Ascent begins where you are right now.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Human Potential

As I've said before, investing in yourself is one of the ultimate forms of savings.  There is quite a large body of literature about self-improvement, of which I have read quite a bit.  I'm going to share with you some of my favorites.  Before I do that, however, I would like to turn it on its head.  Improving yourself certainly is in your own self-interest.  As we come off Hubbert's Mesa, we will not be able to rely on machines as much as we have.  Necessarily we will have to rely on ourselves more.  Making sure that everyone is living up to their full potential is the best way to resist collapse.

Now for my short list of the books I've found most helpful in improving myself:

  • Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

  • This is the second self-help book I ever read, and the first I ever read deliberately. When my family went on a six-week long car trip the summer after sixth grade, I didn't think to bring anything to read. All I could find in our travel trailer was "Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Energy but Were Too Weak to Ask" by Naura Hayden. This book was at the top of her list.

    Back then cybernetics was still a relatively unknown word, and even to this day I'm not sure how many people understand that it is the science of goal-seeking. The basic point of this book is that we all have goal-seeking mechanisms in our psyches, but they are below our conscious awareness and beyond our direct conscious control. This book is about reprogramming ourselves by changing our self-image.

  • Getting Things Done / Making It All Work by David Allen

  • There are a multitude of "time management" books out there. In my opinion these are simply the best. What he describes is not a single system but rather the characteristics of successful systems. Getting Things Done is the simple how-to guide and is more appropriate for people looking for steps to follow. Making It All Work is the follow up that provides a more conceptual framework for people looking to design or tweak their own system.

  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

  • This is the fundamental guide for creating value. Once you get the central theme, it can get a little repetitive, but that's to make sure that you do get the central theme. One of the important things that distinguishes this book from other books on getting rich is that it is completely independent of monetary and political systems. Even if you are just living with one other person on a deserted island, the concepts in this book will serve you well.

  • The NIV Student Bible [Zondervan]

  • I think this is the latest version of the Bible we used when I took a two-year Bible study through CCO. I've looked at a lot of different editions of the Bible. The NIV translation is the one I've found easiest to read. In addition, I found the commentaries in the Student Bible were the most accessible to me when I was just starting out.
I've found these to be the most useful books on developing human potential, and I hope you find them useful as well on the Long Ascent.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Going to Market

Tomorrow starts the new season for the Slippery Rock Community Farmer's Market (SRCFM).  The theme for this season is "Grow by Growing".  I'm particularly excited for the new season, as I have been preparing to participate as a vendor.  This is a bit of a homecoming for me, as I attended regularly the first two years, mainly selling sprouts and pizzelles.  If I recall correctly, it has already been ten years since we were in the unpaved parking lot behind the bank on the main corner of Slippery Rock.  Most days I would come home with no more money in my pocket but with a lot of different produce. 

This is the earliest it has ever started, and at the beginning they will be selling seedlings to raise funds for the market.  I will have a few of my own seedlings to sell this year, although if I don't sell any, I'll go ahead and use them myself.  (That is a major part of my "business plan", to literally "eat my losses".  I won't expand beyond what I can use until I'm sure others want to buy my stuff.)  I also have packaged up some biochar to sell; I've been holding back from using it myself in case people want to buy any.  (Don't worry, I will give you the full details on biochar in a future post -- hopefully with pictures.)

I tried last year to get into selling at the farmer's market in a major way, to the extent of buying a 10x20 foot greenhouse.  I knew my place was windy but didn't realize how major a problem it was until I found the twisted wreckage of the greenhouse lying next to my house, one side still attached to the ground.  I realized then that I would need to focus on staying low to the ground.  I've been building frames and planter boxes for that, a few of which I will have on display tomorrow if people want to order them.  I've actually had decent success starting seedlings in the cheap plastic peat pellet greenhouses, surrounded by 2x6 frames with a lath lattice on top.

This may seem like shameless self-promotion, and to a certain extent so far it has been.  But there is a larger trend here.  At the organizational meetings for the SRCFM, there have been a lot of new faces -- not just new to Slippery Rock, new to any market.  As the global economy deteriorates, and as food prices rise, more people are looking to make money by selling to their neighbors, and more people are looking to save money by buying from them.  Cutting out all the processing, transportation, and middlemen is a win-win situation for both buyers and sellers, and it helps build local economies while lessening the risk of global shocks.

Going to the local market to buy locally grown food and locally produced goods will become more frequent on the Long Ascent.