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Home Sweet Home and The End

This is going to be my last blog post.  I made a commitment about two months ago to start weaning myself off of computer usage after being inspired by an article that one of my fellow community members, Ethan Hughes, wrote as a critique on technology.

I’ll include the article here for your reading pleasure.  It was printed in the St. Louis Catholic Worker newsletter.  The article as printed is a bit paired down from what Ethan initially wrote, but it still conveys the original meaning well.

Ethan Technology Article

There is one mistake in the article that I saw: it said that 200,000 miles was almost equal to 100 trips around the earth.  It should have been 10 trips around the earth, either way, its really far.

Anyway, the article, along with living with Ethan and living with everyone else at the Possibility Alliance has been incredibly inspirational for me.  I feel that as I have simplified my life more and more through living at this community that is electricity free and petroleum fuel free on our land that my life has been making much more sense.  I am more at peace, more connected with God and with other people and with nature, more joyful, more happy, more passionate, more energetic, more motivated, more alive, more open, more in touch with who I am, and more in love with life.  It has been a great challenge so far to transition into this lifestyle, but it fits so well that the challenge is joyful.  I have been learning so much about how to live off the land and how to provide for my basic necessities.  I still have much more to learn than I probably will in the rest of my life about how to live in a way that fully embodies my ideals, but I’m making progress and that is good.  I am remembering now that with God all things are possible, so maybe someday I will have learned how to live this life fully, but I’m sure there will still always be more to learn.

The last several months of living at the Possibility Alliance have been great.  We made a lot of progress on building our new house, and there is still a lot more to do so it probably won’t be finished until next fall.  We hosted and inspired and were inspired by a lot of visitors.  We taught a bunch of classes on homesteading and other related things.  We got a milk cow.  We made all of our preparations for winter including bringing in the harvest, preserving food, putting away firewood, and weatherizing the house.  We have some new neighbors/friends that are getting started with their own homesteads.  We processed the sorghum that we grew with some friends nearby and got about 10 gallons of sorghum mollasses syrup (its really sweet good stuff), and harvested about 8 gallons of honey from our beehives.  That basically means that for the first time in our projects’ history, we are going to be self sufficient for sweeteners for this next year, yay!  Things slowed down a lot when fall came around and it was great.  We had a lot less visitors and were able to take a little bit more time to recover from the fast paced spring and summer.  I harvested my first two deer which has provided us with about 100 pounds of really healthy meat and a lot of soup stock.  I didn’t get the deer with my bow, I borrowed a rifle from a friend, but I am committed to improving my skill with a bow so that I’ll hopefully be able to successfully hunt with a bow next year.  We have made plans to set aside the month of February to do a lot of visioning and planning and restructuring and organizing of the project and I’m really excited to see where that takes us.

I have decided to make my home at the Possibility Alliance and to put down roots there.  I could see myself living there for the rest of my life, but we shall see what happens.  Something pretty huge would have to change for me to leave so for the foreseeable future, my home is at The Possibility Alliance at 28408 Frontier Lane, La Plata, MO 63549.  So it seems that this man’s search for a life that makes sense has reached its conclusion.  Well, at least as far as writing about it on the internet is concerned.  Thanks for joining me on this journey.  Writing about all of this has been very valuable for me and I hope it has been valuable to you readers out there.  Don’t worry, I’m not done writing about my journey, I’m just done writing on this blog so if you want to continue this conversation, write me a letter or give me a call.

Thanks again,

Dan Truesdale
28408 Frontier Lane
La Plata, MO 63549
660-332-4094

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In the Newspaper

Check out these two articles about our Superhero Bike Ride:

http://www.amestrib.com/articles/2011/06/23/ames_tribune/news/doc4e035149c823f095665585.txt

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20110630/NEWS03/106300332/Munson-Volunteer-Superheroes-pedal-into-Iowa

My superhero alias is: Fortidude

Possibility Alliance Apprenticeship Part IV

Whoa, lots of stuff has happened here since my last blog post.  The 80 acre piece of land just north of us was purchased; the 60 acres to the north of that is being purchased tomorrow by our friend Beth Campbell; 2 baby goat bucks were born; we started working on and have made a lot of progress on the duplex, timber frame/straw-bale building;  our gardens have been producing lots of food; the cicadas have come and gone (they were very tasty, we ate lots of them); I went to St. Louis for my cousin, Kristen’s wedding; we started doing some Naka Ima work together; Ethan (The Zing), Beth (The Great Gichigumi), and I (Fortidude) went on the Iowa Superhero Bike Ride; and I’ve been learning and discovering a lot about myself and as a result feel much more free and alive.

Most of the work that I’ve been doing here for the last month has been on the duplex.  It is a new house that we’re building using mostly natural materials either directly from the land, from the immediate local area, salvaged materials from nearby, and a few new things that are not so natural and not so local.  The foundation for the building is a bunch of Osage Orange poles buried below the frost line and sticking above the ground about 3 feet.  Osage Orange is the most rot resistance wood that grows in North America and it grows abundantly here in North East Missouri (NEMO).  Several White Oak trees were harvested from the land here last year and some Amish neighbors that have a saw mill came out and milled them into square and rectangular timbers.  These White Oak timbers are being joined together to make the structural timber frame for the house.  Salvaged pine boards are being used for the floor and roof structures and other salvaged and locally harvested wood will be used for the finishing work on the interior of the building.  The walls will be earthen plastered straw bales and the floor and roof will be insulated with wool from a local sheep farmer.  I have been learning a lot working on this project and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it as well.  The crew that I get to work with is great.  The experienced natural builder, Julia, is a joy to work with and is also a joy to have living here while she helps us with the building projects.  We’ve been having a lot of fun working together and I have really enjoyed connecting with her.

The Superhero Bike Ride was an amazing experience for me.  A little history first, though.  Ethan and small group of people did the first Superhero Bike Ride 10 years ago and there have been over 20 rides since that first one.  The basic vision of the ride is to get a group of people together and dress up like superhero’s and ride bicycles from town to town doing service work and bringing love and joy wherever the ride ends up going.  Each superhero has their own identity which speaks something about their character or personality and the costumes are an easy way to break the ice when meeting new people and offering to help.  A big thing that is a focus on a ride is to find he local superheros that don’t wear capes that are doing impactful and meaningful work in their communities everyday and recognize them and encourage them and help support them in what they are doing.  The Superheros wearing capes and riding bikes and serving are only part time superheros and want to recognize and support the full time folks doing good in their community.  The reason why we ride bicycles is to travel mindfully by having a minimal ecological footprint and to slow down the pace of life so that there is more room for joy and spontaneity and reflection.  We carry everything that we need with us on the bikes: clothes, tents, sleeping bags, food and other miscellaneous things so that all that we need when we arrive in a town is service work to do and a place to pitch our tents.  Another big thing about the ride is that there is no plan of where we end up going.  We all meet at a decided location and then we go by faith and follow where we are led or where there is need.  This ride’s starting point was a Catholic Worker farm 15 miles north of Ames, IA.  We stayed there for 3 days of training and serving on the farm.  Next, we rode into Ames and stopped in a park and then sent out scouts to look for a place to set up camp and places to serve.  The scouts came back after a couple hours and we had several opportunities to serve and a place to stay.  We headed off to Helen Gunderson’s house to serve and the set up camp.  She seemed to be in her 50s or 60s and was a great woman.  She had an amazing garden in her back yard with chickens, veggies and some perennial food plants.  She has been car free for quite a while and is able to go wherever she needs to go and get what she needs by bike and by getting rides from friends.  She was really appreciative of our help and we really appreciated her generosity and all of the great work she does in the community.  We stayed with her for 3 nights and a couple superheros went to a couple of other places in Ames to serve other than at Helen’s.  When a superhero leaves the ride or we part company with a local superhero that we’ve served, we do a superhero goodbye circle.  We all form a circle and hold hands and invite the person we are recognizing into the center and then we share a word or a couple sentences about what inspires us about that person or ways that they impacted us and then we give the person an imploding supernova of love, which is to say we basically do a big group hug around the person and send our loving energy to them through that.  The superhero goodbye circle is a profoundly impactful experience for people and I personally have really enjoyed being on the giving and receiving ends of the circle.  Other ritual/tradition things that are a part of the ride are a morning meeting to decide by consensus what we’ll be doing that day; a thanking and sharing time at the end of the day to share with the group things from the day that we were thankful for or were impactful for us; the dice of destiny, which is rolling a dice which randomly selects an activity (such as: life as a musical, freeze-tag, kissing combat, orchestration, and other fun games or activities) for the group to do that day from a list that we generate at the beginning of the ride.  We rode to and served at many more places and were continually surprised by the amazing connections that we made with people along the way and the giving and receiving that happened as we took risks to open up to new people and they took risks to welcome a group of people wearing capes and superhero outfits.  It was a great experience for me that helped me to overcome some fears and do some inner work and to open up and feel more free to be spontaneous and more joyful.  A lot of the inner work that I’ve been doing lately has been in figuring out the different things that I’ve been holding onto from my past that are blocking the joy and love from coming out of me.  I’ve been operating for so long in ways that involve a lot of thinking and evaluating before I do or say anything and very frequently that evaluation leads to me not really communicating what is alive in my heart in the moment.  For a while, this was necessary for me to go into my mind and process through my motivations for doing certain things and saying certain things, but at this point in my life I am feeling the need to trust that my intentions to love and serve others will come out in a healthy way without my inhibitions and emotional blockage getting in the way.  Up to this point in my life I have been letting a lot of unhealthy things absorb my consciousness and that has resulted in me keeping some things inside and bottling them up.  I’m working to open up those bottles so that more of who I really am can come out and I can be more fully alive and present in each moment.  I feel like  I have a long road ahead of me in this process, but I’m very thankful to have help and support from so many wonderful people.

I started reading a couple more good books that I recommend:  The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, and A Theory of Everything by Ken Wilbur.

There is so much more that I could write, but I’ve got stuff to do.  Life is good.

Koinonia Permaculture Course and Natural Building this fall

I’ll be teaching portions of the Permaculture Design Certificate Course at Koinonia this fall.  The course is October 15-22nd followed by a Natural Building workshop that I’ll also be helping to teach and facilitate from October 23-26.  Check out this link for more information: http://www.koinoniapartners.org/ministries/schedule.html.

Help spread the word about these courses and tell anyone and everyone that you think might be interested.  Thanks!

Possibility Alliance Apprenticeship, Part III

I finished reading this really amazing book recently called A Handmade Life and here is an excerpt from it that really stuck out for me.

“In the past, we looked to experts, to leaders, to national heroes for knowledge and guidance.  To continue doing so means accepting a paternalistic way of life that holds us in a state of permanent adolescence.  And deferring to the experts is tremendously wasteful, stiffling the imagination.  We deny ourselves the joy of full developments at a time when we’re in need of all the creativity we can muster to solve the desperate problems confronting our world.  All these leaders and planners, however wise and skillful they may be are simply no match for the challenge.  …Expert knowledge is certainly needed in every area, but too little concern has been given to the value of stumbling.  If enough people are searching – stumbling as they may – we will make many discoveries and the stumbling diminishes as our searching skills get honed with practice.  There is also great value in all of us realizing that our abilities can be improved with use.  We need to design our responses to society’s emergencies to involve as many people as possible, and not be afraid of some inevitable stumbling.”

This really agrees with my observations of how a lot of people operate.  When we get together with friends and/or family and inevitably get to talking about important issues, I’ve found that time and time again people don’t really end up doing much of anything to address the important issues that they spend so much time and energy talking about.  Instead, people defer to the experts, or to the government, or to anybody else just as long as they don’t have to do anything about it or change their lives in any way.  I think we all need to grow up a little bit.  This is our world, we are a part of it and everything that we do has an impact on everything else that exists.  If we want to see a better world, we need to do something about it and we need to quit relying on the “experts” and the “leaders”.  They can’t handle all the big issues, they can’t even handle all the small issues.  Everyone is needed, especially you.

Anyway, my time here in NE Missouri has continued to be amazing.  I’m finding myself learning more and more each day and I’m also finding my skills and passions being put to better use every day.  I spent about a week at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, which is about 40 miles away from the Possibility Alliance.  The first 3 days at DR were a timber framing workshop, which was a great opportunity to learn more about building with natural materials.  JR, one of the other apprentices at the PA, and I biked out to DR together and we stayed for another several days after the workshop to help out with a building project at DR in exchange for some lumber.  Getting paid in things is much more satisfying that getting paid with money.  We’re going to be using the lumber on a building project that we’re going to be getting started with soon here at the PA.  I enjoyed my time at DR and enjoyed meeting a bunch of new people, but was really happy to get back here.   The week before I went to DR, I had the opportunity to bike into Kirksville with some folks to help out our friends at the Kirksville Permaculture Education Center.  They are fixing up their house and it was a joy to help them make some more progress so they will be able to be more comfortable and offer more educational opportunities.  In the afternoon, I went and helped another friend, Kevin, in Kirksville with planting some trees in his yard.  Kevin and his partner are both very into primitive skills and it was great to connect with him on that stuff.  We are planning on putting on a bow making workshop sometime soon and we’re talking about having some more primitive skills workshops as well.  Exciting stuff.

The 3 Epochs primitive skills Permaculture course in early June got cancelled because not enough people signed up, so I’m a little disappointed about that.  But, there is another course in the planning phases right now for mid to late august in Madison, WI.  It sounds like there is already a lot of local interest in this course, so I’m getting excited about that.

Lots of great things are coming together around here.  The neighbor to the north put his property up for sale and the Possibility Alliance has been interested in buying that property for a while, and all of the funds have been raised to buy those 80 acres to the north.  30 acres will be for a family of Ethan’s friends, 40 acres will be for the Possibility Alliance Peace and Permaculture School, and the remaining 10 acres are for one of last years apprentices, Will.  Also, Ethan and Sarah have decided to try to have another child.  We’re all really excited about these new things coming together and feel very blessed to be a part of all of these great things that are happening.

Alright, time to get back.  Thanks for reading this and thanks for doing what you do and being who you are.  If we all do our small things with great love, the world will be a better place.

P.S.  I started reading the book, Endgame by Derrick Jensen and it has been very eye opening so far, I highly recommend it.

Possibility Alliance Apprenticeship Part Deux

This place is amazing.  These people are amazing.  This way of life is amazing.  God is awesome.

After the first week of apprentice training, which was pretty great, there has been a lot going on here.  I’ve been planting fruit and nut trees, I built a staircase, I gutted and cleaned out a room in the workshop to make room for our new bike shop, I felled an Osage Orange tree and started working on making a bow from a piece of the tree, I harvested some amazing morel mushrooms, I’ve taken on a couple of the daily chores including collecting eggs and making sure the chickens and ducks are safe for the night, and I’ve also been a part of lots of other things.  Other folks have been planting things in the gardens, pruning fruit trees, planting grain in a newly prepared field, cutting firewood, cooking amazing meals, taking care of the animals, doing small building and repair projects, helping out a couple of the neighbors on their farms, and lots of other things.

A couple of nights a week we’ve been having discussions about various things including: Gandhi and his values of non-violence, simplicity, and the value of providing for our needs from the land and our own physical labor; and the Japan nuclear catastrophe and its global impact.

There were a couple of visitors this weekend and it was great to be able to host them, connect with them, encourage them and be encouraged by them.  They were a family from New York and the guy has been friends with Ethan (one of the founding members of the Possibility Alliance) since they were like 5 years old.  One of the family members was Zach, who is 9 years old and he really came alive when he was here.  It was great to see him get excited about being closer to nature as he’s spent most of his life in the city.

There has been a good deal of talking around here about the Japan nuclear crisis and I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  I’ve heard that the effects of this event will be global and I’ve heard that the US Government either has changed or is in the process of changing its standards for safe levels of radiation exposure because of the crisis in Japan.  I’ve also heard some pretty radical claims that there basically won’t be any truely safe sources of food for the next 600 years because of the global spread of radioactivity.  I’ve also heard that global cancer rates are expected to increase as a direct result of this nuclear disaster.  Meanwhile, there are still nuclear plants running all over the world, producing more and more radiactive material that will remain extremely dangerously radiactive for thousands of years.  How do we respond to all of this.  Do we just keep doing business as usual and ignore all of the terrible and widespread effects of this latest nuclear disaster, or do we act now to prevent future disasters from happening by shutting down our production of nuclear power?  I don’t know what the high level decisions will be, but I know that as individuals, we can use less power, buy fewer things, buy locally, get our power from different sources, learn more about where our stuff comes from, and do something about it.  If we all do a little something, it will add up to a big something.

Anyway, I’ve been having a great time and learning a lot and I’ve been getting a lot stronger from doing things with my hands and with hand tools.  Its all been pretty great and I feel very alive.  We had a Passover celebration last week and an Easter celebration yesterday and it has been really great to share our traditions and help encourage each other to connect more with the divine that is in everything.

The Possibility Alliance Apprenticeship Part 1

I left the chicago area in the morning on March 30th with my dad and it was a 7 hour trip with one stop in western Illinois for my dad to buy a beekeeping suit.  There was a warm welcome when we arrived and a special dessert for dinner, it was really good although I don’t really remember what it was… Anyway, the rest of the night and the whole next day were just getting settled and hanging out and starting to get to know people a little bit.  There are 5 full time people and 5 apprentices, including me.  Our training started on friday and continued through the next friday.  It was a really good introduction to pretty much all facets of life here.  It was also really thorough and fun.  Included in the training were introductions and explanations of the gardens, orchards, food forests, chickens, goats, horses, forestry, hand tools, tool maintenance, bikes, bike maintenance, cooking, cleaning, schedules, phone use, firewood cutting and storage, outhouse/composting toilet, non-violent communication, core values/mission/vision for the project, philosophy of raising a child in community (Ethan and Sarah, two of the founding members of the project, have a three year old daughter named Etta), and probably a lot more that isn’t coming to my mind right now.  It was really great to have such a detailed training and introduction.  I knew a reasonable amount about most of the things that were a part of the training, but I learned a lot of knew things and got excited about the opportunity to learn lots more during my apprenticeship.  Since there is no power equipment or machinery or tools and everything is done by hand, they have lots of really cool hand tools, some of which I had never seen before and I’ll get the chance to use most if not all of them.  Maybe I’m weird, but that gets me excited, tools are awesome.

One of the things the stuck out to me from the training was the ridiculously small amount of money that the project needs to keep itself going throughout the year.  For the 5 full time people, the 5 apprentices that are here for 8 months, and over 1000 visitors that stay from anywhere from an hour for a tour to three weeks the budget is about $9,o00.  That includes everything!  Taxes, the small amount of bulk food that they buy to supplement what doesn’t come from the land here, tools, garden seeds, new fruit and nut trees, building materials, hay for the horses, straw for mulch for the gardens, soap, wax for candles, a small water bill, a land line phone, mail, everything!  It blew my mind when I heard that.  Its only possible because they grow most of their food, they rarely if ever buy anything new, they don’t have any cars or trucks so they don’t have to buy fuel, they don’t use electricity so they have no electric bill, they heat and cook with wood which they get for free from neighbors or they cut it themselves from their land.  Its pretty amazing and the lifestyle isn’t super difficult and is very enjoyable and satisfying.

Another thing that stuck out to me from the training was the core values, mission and vision for the project.  They call it a project because it is really an experiment and they are willing to move on to something different if they experiment fails.  It is an experiment to test the boundaries of what is possible.  Is it possible to live well without electricity and without petroleum in the middle of industrial society?  Is it possible for people that grew up in the industrial society paradigm to transition to a radically simple life?  Is it possible to provide for all the needs of people directly from the land and the local bioregion?  Is it possible to offer educational programs and to continue this experiment on the gift economy?  The gift economy is basically providing goods and/or services with no obligation to pay anything, but accepting what people are willing to give as a gift.  This leaves the opportunity for people that have little to give little and for people that have much to give much and in the experience of the Possibility Alliance, the gift economy has worked very well.  The core values are radical simplicity, service, political/social activism, inner work, gratitude and celebration.  I’ve already explained the radical simplicity part.  They embody service in that each member of the community does about a month of service in either the local area and/or beyond.  The service is offered without judgement so they will help anyone with anything not discriminating even though the service is often not radically simple.  This could be painting a house, building something, cleaning up something, helping to create a community garden, helping to create a community bike shop, and lots of other things.  The political/social activism illustrates itself through participating in and/or organizing in protests or demonstrations to try to effect change for the benefit of all life.  They don’t do protests like most people thing of protests, however.  They try to do it in a way that creates dialogue instead of creating conflict by telling other people or groups that they are purely doing something wrong.  Inner work is meditation, reading, group discussion, yoga and/or anything else that helps each person move towards reaching their full potential.  Gratitude and celebration is a part of everything and is built into the daily and weekly life in the form of end of the week celebrations, daily times for reflection, daily times for sharing gratitude, and lots of other things.

Pretty much every part of my experience so far has been great.  It has been a little bit awkward as I expected in getting to know new people and trying to figure out where I will fit in, but that is coming along.  There is always that strange combination of expectations desires to connect with people and develop strong relationships quickly along with the reality that all of that takes time.  I already know that my world view and desires match up closely with all of the people involved and I am starting to connect with people here, it will just take time to get close and I just have to be patient.  The other part of the mission/vision is basically to live and do everything for the greatest good and for the upliftment of all life.  They take that into consideration in every decision they make and everything they do.

My time at The Possibility Alliance has been wonderful so far and I’m excited about all the great things that I’m going to be a part of and that I’m going to learn and do while I’m here.  Hopefully my writing about this will touch someone in some way or encourage someone to make a change in their life for the good.  If you have any questions or comments, please send them my way.  I will be able to access a computer to use the internet probably about once a week.  Feel free to send a letter or give me a call.

The address and phone number are:

28408 Frontier Lane
La Plata, MO 63549

660-332-4094

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great day!