My favorite thing to do this time of year is watch the plants grow! And go to the beach. We grow plenty of rocks and chickens ‘round these parts - we’re starting to figure out plants pretty good, too!
The first photo shows some Hopi Red Dye Amaranth seedlings that I am pretty excited about. The seeds were a couple of years old, so I planted all of them - looks like they must’ve all germinated. Whoo!
Every once in a while I feel compelled to be meaningful in some way. To be original, insightful, clever. My heart aches for a truth that seems just out of reach. Like a forgotten name on the tip of the tongue and then forever lost. My soul feels the passing of something important that I could have, should have, been apart of but missed. And I feel like I’m the only one who almost noticed.
Being an immigrant—and not being allowed to lawfully access the labour market for long stretches of time over a three-year period—is what really got me thinking seriously and practically about my own long-term food security. I started reading and studying about food forests and edible landscaping, and began using the place at which I am living as a repository for edible germplasm. Whenever I’ve had a little money from doing things like delivering papers, or selling things I’ve grown, I’ve invested in seeds or plants. I started learning permaculture skills through free internet tutorials, and learning how to build all sorts of things out of free raw materials. It’s become an all-consuming passion: my small rebellion against a State that makes life difficult in order to try and edge me out.
I’ve learned how to be alone, and how to be ok with that, and even enjoy it. I’ve learned how to grow and schedule enough vegetables to put something on the table every day, for a family of four, during the spring, summer, and autumn. But mostly, what I’ve learned from this experience is that the right or ability to participate in economic activities is not guaranteed, and I need to be prepared for those situations in which I am denied both the ability to work, and any form of welfare.
I think the resurgence of interest in homesteading, survivalism, and bushcraft comes from a place of extreme economic uncertainty. Most people I have talked with who have made a point of learning these skills have had experiences like mine: experiences that left them feeling disempowered and more than a little helpless. Every time I’ve learned how to do something for myself (and others), I’ve felt more empowered. I’ve heard it said that these personal modes of ‘opting out’ of the system aren’t intrinsically political or radical, but in my case: they certainly are, because for me, there never was a choice to ‘opt in.’ My bank account almost always hovers around zero, so I’ve had to make a meaningful and productive life for myself that doesn’t include very much economic or social participation.
When I was reliant on the State and commerce to do something as basic as feed myself, I was extremely disempowered. I was at the mercy of government and corporate interests—because I had to be—in order to put food on the table. There is a constant gnawing fear that comes with living that way; I wondered things like: “are the pesticides on my food giving me health problems over the long term?,” “how is the worker that grew this produce being treated?,” “how many miles did this blueberry travel to reach me?,” “what’s the impact of all this plastic packaging?”. Now that I am learning the skills I need to get by on my own when ‘Shit Hits the Fan,’ (or even when things are fine) I don’t feel so anxious. I know exactly where those endives, artichokes, and onions come from, because I’ve been there every step of the way.
I also don’t feel so complicit in the exploitation of others, and the exploitation of the environment. If I need flour, I now know how to make it from acorns or chestnuts. If I need to cook with no power, I’ve learned how to make a solar cooker. If my pear tree has a fungal blight, I’ve learned how to kill the spores with urine. When my jeans are torn, I’ve learned how to patch them.
My personal transformation may not have a huge impact in the grand scheme of things, but I think that hundreds of thousands of personal transformations like mine–fostered by economic duress–could. What I’ve been given–through these three years of frustration and alienation–is a chance to change the way I interact with the world around me.
There’s a dump site that Andrew and I often go to when we’re in the right neck of the woods, where a lot of farmers and ranchers drop off the carcasses of their deceased livestock. Coyotes and bears abound, so we keep the location under wraps in case of poachers.
Last time we were there, I was dismayed to find the remains of a HUGE blackbelly ram. The head had been removed for he skull, and the hide had already started to slip, or else I’d have gladly taken it home and skinned it for myself. The mane on that thing was like a lion’s! I lamented about the fact that we’d not found the body sooner for months on end.
Ever since then, I’ve been on the lookout for a blackbelly sheep hide. The issue, though, is that they are a hair sheep, so most people don’t sell their pelts.
Well, my butcher called the other night, rather later than usual, to say that he had three sheep skins for me to pick up in the morning. I thought they were going to be plain old regular white sheep with fluffy wool, as he’d given me one of those just a month ago. But when I let myself into the shed where he puts all my pelts for pickup, I was thrilled to find that all three of them were from blackbelly sheep.
They’re on the floor of the shop being salted right now or else I’d take a photo to show them off. They’re beautiful! The hair is short spring hair across the back, but the belly and sides are still thick and long from winter. Not quite the ‘mane' that I coveted on the headless ram in the death dump, but I’m not complaining.
I was weeding out the raised garden bed today to start planting soon, and was surprised to find some pumpkin plants were already growing from last year’s pumpkins! Fish scraps make great natural fertilizer. 🐟🌱🎃