My time in limbo is over, and now its time for the next adventure

These last three months I’ve basically been in limbo, keeping myself occupied with lots of little things here and there until my next adventure as an apprentice at the Possibility Alliance in Missouri begins.

I’ve been questioning and changing many of my deeply held ideologies and beliefs over the past several years and several big things are in the process of changing in my mind as I write this.  I feel like I’ve been on a path over the last 3 years to find a more natural way of living and that quest has led to many changes in how I interact with the world.  Most of these changes have not conflicted much with my morals, they have just led to a different way of thinking and a different way of being in my daily life.  Many of the things that I’ve encountered in the last several years have led me to believe that the hunter gatherer lifestyle is the best way for humans to live.  There are a lot of things that appeal to me about that lifestyle that make a lot of sense and at the same time don’t cause conflict with my morals.  There is, however, at least one issue that I’ve come across that has conflicted with my morals and I’ll get to that later.  Anyway, in a hunter gatherer lifestyle, everyone gathers and then they all bring everything together and then share everything so that one day when one person gathers a lot they have some extra to make up for the one day when some other person couldn’t find much and then the next day it might flip around the other way.  In this type of system, it is very much looked down upon for anyone to keep anything that they gathered for themselves.  In this way, everyones contribution is valued and required.  Not required by law or anything like that, but required to make the lifestyle work.  If they didn’t share everything, the tribe would fall apart and it wouldn’t work.  This is how humans operated for hundreds of thousands of years and it seems to have worked very well.  There are still tribal cultures in certain parts of the world that maintain this hunter gatherer lifestyle and they are our most reliable source of information about how humans have been living since the dawn of humanity.  In this type of life, where everything is shared, nobody owns anything, it is just there and they use it for a while before it returns to the earth to be used by some other living thing and the cycle continues.  This sharing of everything and not owning things applies to much more than just food.  It applies to relationships, to raising children, to daily chores.  It really is true that it takes a village to raise of child, but in the hunter gatherer lifestyle, every adult is the mother and father of every child.  Of course, there is a specific mother that had the child, but it is not often known and they don’t even care who is the specific father.  It is almost universally believed in hunter gatherer tribes in the amazon that semen is what the baby is made from.  So, a pregnant female will continue to have sex with many males in the tribe throughout the pregnancy.  They believe that the baby will then take on the good characteristics of each man that “contributes” to the growth of the child.  In our modern world where science knows that only one sperm fertilizes one egg and then the child grows inside the mother from what the child gets from the mother through the umbilical cord, this idea that semen helps the child grow is obsurd.  But, in a tribal hunter gatherer culture, their belief leads to many fathers having very good relationships with many mothers and with all of the children in the tribe.  There is no, this is my child, I’ll take care of it.  There is no thats your child, you need to deal with it.  There is just these are our children and we will take care of them together.

This leads into the big thing that I am struggling with right now.  Given this knowledge of a more natural way of living in terms of men and women having multiple sexual/emotional relationships in a completely non monogamous way, I have a fundamental disagreement with the moral belief that I’ve had for most of my life.  I’ve believed for basically my whole life that it is good and right to not have sex until marriage and that it is good and right to marry one person of the opposite sex and stay with that person for the rest of my life.  Now, I’m not saying here that the hunter gatherers had everything right, but from what I’ve read and heard and learned about their lifestyle, it seems to me that it works a lot better than our modern lifestyle in terms of the general quality of life of the people and the environments in which they live.  There is basically no degenerative desease in hunter gatherer cultures, there is little to no violence and war.  Of the people that make it past infancy, the average lifespan is still about the same as that of the average american and that lifespan is filled with better general health and well being.  The hunter gatherer lifestyle was also able to continue in harmony with the rest of the natural world for hundreds of thousands of years.  So, back to the main issue that I’m confused about right now.  Relationships and sex with people of the opposite sex.  In my mind, I usually process things in terms of extremes.  So, one extreme is no sex until marriage and then there is sex with only that person and a deep committed emotional relationship with only that person.  The other extreme, in my mind, is sex and committed emotional relationships with many different people.  One extreme seems to fit better with one lifestyle, while the other extreme seems to fit better with another lifestyle.  The monogamy extreme seems to fit better with the agricultural lifestyle that humans have been operating with for 10,000 years.  The polyamory extreme seems to fit better with the hunter gatherer lifestyle that humans have been operating with for hundreds of thousands of years.  So, my lifestyle right now is an agricultural lifestyle, so do I go with the monogamy because it seems to fit better with that lifestyle?  I see my lifestyle changing over time to become a balance between agricultural and hunter gatherer, so with that do I try to strike some balance between monogamy and polyamory?  Or since I’m basically convinced that polyamory is how I as a human am evolved to operate, do I do that?  Or, since I live in an agricultural society, do I just operate how I’ve been told that I’m supposed to operate even though it doesn’t make sense to me?

This whole thing is obviously more complex than what I’ve written here, but I feel like I’d be writing for a ridiculously long time if I tried to put everything down.  I just wanted to put down the basics of what I’m thinking about right now.

So, other things that have been going on in my limbo time have been really fun.  I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time with a lot of my really good friends than I’ve had in many years.  I also got a chance to develop new friendships with a lot of awesome people that have challenged me to think about things in different ways.  So, I’ll give a special thanks to those good friends that I got a chance to reconnect with and/or spend a decent amount of time with:  Thanks Ishan, Tom, Pat, Gideon, Brian, Jeff, Jordan, Bethany, Megan, Mike, Claire.  I also want to give a special thanks to the new friends that I’ve made as I’ve appreciated getting to know you and having fun hanging out with you and some of you I’ve had really good conversations with that have helped to shape my life in some way: Thanks Tim, Aleza, Christie, Dan, Di, Chris, Kristina, James, Kamal, Georgia, Hannah, Cara, Aurora, and Rachel.  I feel that it is very important to tell people that you appreciate them and I’ve told most of you recently that I appreciate you and to the others that I haven’t told, here it is: I appreciate you.  Hopefully they actually read this, or else they may never know, oh well, shit happens, life goes on.

I’ve also been indulging over the last three months in a lot of things that I will likely not have access to regularly over the next 8 months and to any of you that have spent any time with me recently, you probably know what those things are, haha.  Well, to name a few, here they are: electricity, cars, computers, the internet, dota (if you don’t know what this is, don’t worry about it, its really not important, but it will be pretty hilarious for those that do know what it is), cell phones, refrigerators, flush toilets (although I really won’t miss these at all, I actually would be very very happy to never use a flush toilet again), laundry washing machines, really comfortable beds, central air, and alcohol.  It will be difficult to get ahold of me in the next 8 months, but I will have access to a land line phone (that I’ll be sharing with 10 people), snail mail, and the internet about once a week or every other week depending on how often I go into town to the local library.  If you want the phone number and/or address, let me know and I’ll hook you up.  Don’t try to call my cell phone after March 30th; at first I just won’t answer because I won’t be using it, and then it will be disconnected because I won’t be paying for it anymore.

I’ve had a lot of fun in this time of limbo and I’ve learned a lot.  It is finally time for the next adventure.  Bring on the fun, the learning, the hard work, the responsibility, the new relationships, and much more unexpected awesomeness.

I’m selling my car!

Check out the ad on Autotrader.com:

http://www.autotrader.com/fyc/vdp.jsp?ct=p&car_id=295667076&dealer_id=66105781&car_year=2004&doors=&systime=&model=FOCUS&search_lang=en&start_year=2003&keywordsrep=&keywordsfyc=&highlightFirstMakeModel=&search_type=used&distance=25&min_price=&drive=&rdm=1299275018135&marketZipError=false&advanced=&fuel=&keywords_display=&sownerid=56068889&lastBeginningStartYear=1981&end_year=2005&showZipError=n&make2=&certified=&engine=&page_location=findacar::ispsearchform&body_code=0&transmission=&default_sort=newsortbyprice_DESC&max_mileage=&address=60187&color=&sort_type=priceDESC&max_price=&awsp=false&make=FORD&seller_type=p&num_records=25&cardist=0&standard=false

More Bow Making

I’ve been working on this bow for about 6 to 8 hours during the past two days.  Its really freakin cold outside so I didn’t feel like working outside, which would make cleaning up sawdust a lot easier and the only room in the house that my mom would let me use was the laundry room and I had to put up sheets all over the place to keep sawdust from getting all over my parents’ stuff.  Note to self, don’t have nice things so that you’re always worried about them getting dirty or broken.  Anyway, I’m in the process of tillering, which is removing wood from the belly of the bow so that the limbs bend evenly and uniformly while maintaining the right draw weight.  The draw weight is how much force it takes to pull the bow string a certain length.  Tomorrow I should get the tillering finished and then all thats left is to sand it all smooth and then put a bunch of coats of oil on it to protect it.  Then I can start shooting stuff, yay.

This is a picture of the bow on a tillering stick.  A tillering stick is just a piece of wood with slots cut in the side so that the bow can be drawn progressively farther and the string can be put in the slot so you can step back and look at it.  You start out not bending the bow much and then make sure that each limb bends evenly and then make sure that both limbs are bending the same amount and take off more wood from the belly of the bow to make it bend right.  Then you draw the bow a little further and stick the string in the next slot down and do the same thing over and over until you get to the last slot and then you’re done.  This is a very long and tedious process of putting the bow in the tillering stick, looking at it, marking areas of wood that need to be removed, then taking it off the stick, putting it in a vice and then rasping away some wood then back on the stick, and repeat and repeat.  Putting the tillering stick on a floor scale will tell show the draw weight as you push the string down.

This is looking down the tillering stick at the floor scale.

This shows the slot in the top of the tillering stick where the bow handle rests.

Setting the tillering stick on a tile floor can help make it easier to see if the limbs are bending evenly.  Just line it up with the grid of tiles and its pretty easy to see any differences in bending.

Working on this the past couple of days has been pretty fun, and has been a good bit of work.  I’m kinda tired and hungry now, so I’m gonna go rest and then have dinner.  If you have any questions or comments, let me know, please.  I keep asking people to comment on my blog posts and nobody does.  I can see the statistics of how many people are checking it out and reading stuff, so I know you’re reading this, so tell me what you think.

Thanks.

Back to Koinonia for Another Visit

After the Falling Leaves Rendezvous and visiting Wildroots, I went back to Koinonia for another visit.  If you remember, at the start of this year when planning my big road trip, I made a Google map and put little markers on all of the places that I was interested in visiting and then I set out to visit them.  Before I went back to Koinonia for this visit, I took some time to look over that map to see what else was still on the map that I hadn’t gotten to yet.  The places that I hadn’t been to yet, weren’t really seeming very interesting to me anymore, so I just decided to go back to Koinonia and spend some time there before Christmas when I would go up to visit my family in Chicago.  Another thing that made those other places less attractive to me at this point was that I had found out that I got accepted for an internship at the Possibility Alliance in Missouri, you know, that awesome place that uses no electricity and all that other good stuff.  Yeah, that place.  The internship starts at the end of March, 2011, which was quite a ways off, so I figured I’d spend time at Koinonia and help out there and learn more about farming, gardening, livestock, life, community and spend some more time with that intern girl that I was interested in.  Then I figured that I would go up to Chicago to visit my family and friends up there for a while and then figure out something else to do until the start of the internship.

I spent almost three months at Koinonia before going up to Chicago to visit family for Christmas and a while after.  A lot of stuff happened in that three months.  Here is a brief highlight and then I’ll elaborate on some of the more interesting things.  I mostly helped Brendan out with the animals and with a big fence building project.  Things we did with the animals: castrations of new born calves, castrations of a couple of older calves that the farm bought and the original owner hadn’t castrated yet, daily movements of cattle a sheep to fresh pasture, improving the electric fence subdivisions in the big 80 acre pasture to make moving the cattle easier and faster, putting up semi-permanent electric fence wire in and around some of the pecan groves for winter grazing, moving pigs, feeding pigs, moving chickens, feeding chickens, fixing fence problems, catching the guardian dogs when they got out, slaughtering and butchering turkeys and chickens for thanksgiving, processing deer that hunters gave to Koinonia for letting them hunt on the property (mmmmm, venison…. sooooooo good), and probably a lot of other things that I can’t remember right now.

The fence project was the start of a boundary fence that will hopefully one day run around the entire property that Koinonia owns so that it would be possible and more safe to move animals all over the farm and make use of more of the available food that the forest is producing and is being under utilized.  We put up a lot of fence when I was down there, but there is still a huge amount left to do.  I imagine this project extending over several years at least.  It was fun to work on fence building again, there is something very satisfying about putting up a good fence that is going to be beneficial for a long time.  It also got me back into really good shape.  All that traveling around the country made me a little soft, but being back at Koinonia and working hard regularly hardened me up again.

Other things that were great about being at Koinonia for several months was reconnecting more with my friends down there, meeting some new friends, learning a lot and eating a lot of really good food.

It was really great to see the growth and improvements that have happened on the farm and with the people in the community.  It seemed to me that there were some improvements in organization and in people’s prioritization of all the stuff that they do that really made a difference in the way that the whole operation worked and in the way that people interacted with each other.  In general, the community members seemed to be more comfortable in their life together.  They also seemed to be in generally higher spirits.  There was more laughter, more smiling, more joking around, more good conversations, more love, and people seemed less tired than I remember from when I lived there.  It was really great to get to observe those changes.  Of course, everything down there is far from perfect and never will be perfect, but things are getting better and that is good.  God is at work down there and that to, is good.

I spent a lot of time with the fall interns and that was fun.  They were a really good bunch of folks and we got along well.  I definitely made some new friends.  Things didn’t work out with the intern girl that I was interested in, but we’re still friends, I learned a lot from her, and I hope she learned some from me to.  Things are still going well with the girl that I’m interested in who is still on her own little road trip around the country right now, so we’ll see where that goes.  It has been difficult to try to get to know each other over the phone, but we’re trying and we’re both still really interested, so I’m excited about that.

Wayne Weiseman, the Permaculture dude that has sort of taken me under his wing as a developing young Permaculturalist and teacher, came down to Koinonia for a week to help figure out how Koinonia could better organize their operation and prioritize so that everything could operate more efficiently.  I sat in on all the meetings that week and helped out where I could.  That was a great learning experience for me and it was also very helpful for Koinonia.  One of the big successes that week was getting all sorts of stuff out of people’s heads and on paper so they could really see everything that has to be done and better coordinate and communicate about things.  I think that is going to go a really long way to help the community to succeed in its mission and move toward a more sustainable way of life more quickly than they were before.  Good work, ya’ll.

Thanksgiving was pretty great.  I had a hand in the raising, slaughter, plucking, and cooking of the turkeys and man were they good.  The hatchery that Brendan ordered the baby turkeys (poults) from sent him the wrong breed of turkey and sent them a couple weeks late.  Brendan ordered a fast growing breed and actually got one of the slow growing breeds and they came late, so the turkeys that we ate for thanksgiving were pretty small.  We had to cook 4 of them to have enough food for everyone.  Even though they were small, they were still really good.  I cooked them all with some help from Sarah and Sarah Beth and they came out really well.  Pastured turkey is fantastic tasting and its really good for you.  Next thanksgiving, I suggest you should really try it.  Find a local farm that raises pastured turkeys and support them, you won’t be disappointed.  Check out eatwild.com for some more information and listings of farms in your area.  That website also includes farms that produce all kinds of meets and other animal products in a way that is much better for the environment, the farmer and the consumer than that factory farm crap that you buy in the grocery store.  The meets and animal products from pastured animals are also very healthy and did I mention tasty?  Yeah, I think I did.

This fall, Koinonia let a couple of hunters go around in the forest and hunt deer and one of them gave a whole deer to Koinonia while I was down there.  I helped with the butchering and I saved the hide to make into buckskin later.  I took about 15 pounds of the meet and made some deer jerky, it is was freakin fantastic.  Also, one night when Craig was on his way back from town he passed by a guy on one of the back roads that had just hit and killed a deer with his truck so Craig came back to the farm and got ahold of me to come help him get the deer so we could take advantage of some good free meat.  We drove back out to the spot and picked up the deer and took it back to the farm to skin it and gut it and process it.  It was a lot of really good meat that otherwise would have just rotted on the side of the road.  It amazes me how many animals are killed by cars and trucks and just left on the side of the road to rot.  It is still perfectly good if harvested freshly after being killed on the road.  A lot of people could be fed if there wasn’t some big stigma about road kill not being okay to eat and there were people willing to go out and collect and preserve the meat.  Another great thing about the whole deal with the deer was that Craig was so into it.  He surprised me in a number of ways when I was back visiting Koinonia and that was one of them.

My time at Koinonia was really great.  I felt loved and appreciated while I was there and I was able to help out and learn.  Good times.

Bow Making

Here are a bunch of pictures of several hunting bows that I’m working on.  They are all made from pieces of black locust wood that I harvested when I was in Michigan.  They are all going to be self-bows, which is a bow made entirely from a single piece of wood.  They are all going to be flat-bows, which are more wide and thin rather than a long-bow which is narrow and fat.  I chose to make flat-bows because they are less prone to breakage, are easier to make, and can shoot arrows faster and more accurately than a long-bow.  I’ve read a couple of books on primitive bow making, and there is A LOT of stuff involved in making a good bow.  I’m not going to go into it in huge detail for the sake of avoiding confusion.  Basically, I’m shaping a piece of wood into a deadly hunting weapon.  That being said, I have never actually hunted successfully before, but I have killed many animals that I have raised as livestock and have eaten them, so someday I will probably go hunting and hopefully be able to kill an animal and use it for food and for other things.  Taking the life of another being is not something that I take lightly, but something that I do and will continue to do out of necessity so that I can eat something very healthy that I had a relationship with and cared for and had a deep respect for.

On to the pictures…

This is what the ends of the pieces of wood look like at various stages of progression on the way to becoming a bow.  The stave on the right has had the sapwood removed, which is the layer of wood beneath the bark and the vascular cambium.  So, what is left is just heartwood, or the wood in the heart or center of the tree.  The stave on the right has also had some extra heartwood removed from the center or the bottom as it is oriented in the picture.  You can see the growth rings pretty clearly and you can also see three splits in the end, which is not good, I later had to cut off about an inch of wood to get past where it was splitting.  The stave on the left has been shaped into a bow, but still has some sapwood on it, so that is the next stage in progression from the raw stave on the right in the above picture.  The piece in the middle of the picture is almost a completed bow.

This is a more zoomed in picture of the stave on the right from the first picture.

This is a more zoomed in picture of the stave on the left from the first picture.  You can see the difference in color of the sapwood on the right and the heartwood on the left.  It is mostly the darker yellow heartwood with a small amount of lighter colored sapwood.  In black locust, the sapwood is very soft and very weak, thus not good for a bow; the heartwood is very hard and very strong, thus good for a bow.  Black locust also has an advantage of being very rot resistant so you don’t have to take as good of care of a bow made from black locust because if you get it wet or accidentally leave it out in the weather for too long, it won’t rot quickly.  This wood has been used for fence posts for a very long time because it takes soooooooo loooong to rot.  I’ve heard of posts lasting upwards of 80 years in the ground.

This is a picture of the middle stave from the first picture.  The sapwood has been removed and it has been roughly shaped.  All that remains to be done is do more fine shaping and then remove wood from the bottom of the bow as oriented in this picture until it bends evenly and is the right strength of bow that I want.  A stronger or heavier bow will in general shoot an arrow faster and farther than a weaker or lighter bow, but will be harder to shoot accurately.  Hunting large game animals requires a bow to shoot an arrow fast and accurately, so there is balance that must be struck to be able to get both of those characteristics in a bow.

This is a picture of a stave in a vice so that I can work on it.  A vice is a nice convenience that primitive people didn’t have.  They would have had to make something similar out of wood or they would have had to find a tree with the branches just right so they could wedge it in place to work on it.

This is the same stave as the above picture, and you can see how the surface facing upwards is pretty rough, this is the side that would be facing me if I was holding it to shoot it.  Most of the wood is removed from this side when making a bow.

Another view of the same stave.

Here you can see the process of working the back of the bow.  The back is the side that faces away from you as you hold it in shooting position.  The back is also the part of the stave that was towards the outside of the tree.  The back of the bow is under a lot of tension what the bow is pulled so it needs to be as strong as possible.  The back of the bow is ideally one continuous growth ring all along the length of the bow.  In order to get to one continuous growth ring, first the sapwood needs to be removed and then sometimes a couple of heartwood growth rings needs to be removed to get to a good, solid growth ring for the back of the bow.  What you see in this picture is a smooth surface other than the two knots that are towards the right.  Knots represent weak spots in the bow so a little extra wood needs to be left on top of knots to strengthen those spots.  The tree worked really hard to keep itself held together, so working the back of the bow and taking off growth rings is hard word, and a lot of care needs to be taken not to go too deep, or else you have to start over with the next growth ring down.

This is the back of the bow with one continuous growth ring along the entire length of the bow.  The surface is pretty smooth without even sanding it.  The back of the bow is worked to this point with a dulled draw knife.  It needs to be dull so that it doesn’t dig and cut into the wood it just peels and pulls and scrapes the wood away from the growth ring that then becomes the back of the bow.

This shows I worked around a knot to leave a little bit of extra wood on top of it to strengthen it.

Starting to look like a bow now.

This is the area that will be the handle.  I’m making this bow so that it doesn’t bend in the handle so that it is more comfortable to shoot.  It looks rough on the sides because this shaping is done with a rasp, which is a file specifically made for wood.  Primitive peoples didn’t have rasps either, they are sweet tools.

This is a look at the side of the bow.  The thicker part is the handle and then it thins out toward the left.  The handle is thicker so that it doesn’t bend, only the limbs of this bow will bend.

This shows a comparison between a raw, basically unworked stave on the left and a stave that is almost finished into a bow.

This shows the next step, which is cutting nocks in the ends so that a string can be attached and the finishing work can be done to “tiller” the bow so that the limbs bend evenly along their length and so that both bend the same amount.

This shows the nocks from the other side of the bow.  They taper toward the middle of the bow so that the string doesn’t get abraded from use.

This shows three different pieces.  The one of the bottom is almost done, The middle one still needs a lot of wood removed and the top one is basically unworked.  This shows the backs of all three.

This shows the same three pieces, on their side.  You can clearly see the general shape of what a bow would look like from the bottom bow.  The handle section in the middle is thicks so that it doesn’t bend and the limbs are pretty thin and even along the length so that they bend evenly.  The bottom bow in this picture will take me at least another full day of work to get to the point where I can shoot it.  If all goes well, it’ll be done soon and I’ll be able to shoot for the first time….  oh wait, I still need to make arrows.

This whole experience of making a hunting bow has been really great.  I’ve learned so much about the qualities and characteristics of wood and I’ve gained more patiences and my craftsmanship skills have gone way up.  Also, my appreciation for what it takes to make a weapon to hunt has gone way up.  It would be really easy to go to the store and buy some fancy fiberglass bow and arrows and go kill something, but going through the hard work of making my own is giving me a greater sense of what it takes to survive if there is no store.  I don’t know if I’ll live to see a day when that happens, but I guess I feel a little better knowing that I’m a tiny bit closer to being able to thrive in the event that it does.  Even putting that all aside, its really fun and rewarding to make something useful from scratch.

I hope this has been as educational for you as it has been for me.  If you have any questions, or if any of this didn’t make sense, let me know so that I can edit it to make it more understandable.  Also, if you live near me, come over and I can show you all this stuff in person.

Falling Leaves Rendezvous and Wildroots

I left Koinonia for about 2 weeks in October and then went back until just before Christmas and then I went up to Chicago to visit family for a while.  This post will be about the two weeks in October when I wasn’t at Koinonia.

So, the Falling Leaves Rendezvous is a gathering of folks from all over to share their skills and their lives for 5 days.  The skills that are the focus of the rendezvous are primitive skills or earth skills.  These are the skills and technologies that humans perfected and used to survive and to thrive for the vast majority of human experience until the advent of agriculture and civilization 10,000 years ago.  These skills were developed and perfected using natural materials that were readily available in the local areas in which the primitive peoples lived and/or passed through.

Here is a quote from a book I read a little while ago:  “Primitive.  The very word has come, to many, to connote brutishness or backwardness.  That is only one interpretation of a very formative word.  Look at the dictionary definition:

primitive – 1a. Of or pertaining to an earliest or original stage or state. b. Archetypal.  2. Characterized by simplicity or crudity; unsophisticated: primitive weapons.  3. Of or pertaining to early stages in the evolution of human culture: primitive societies.

The negative words that stand out are crudity and unsophisticated.  But when we look closer at these words used to define “primitive”, the definition of the word takes on a new light.

sophisticate – 1. a sophisticated person. -v.t.  2. to make less natural, simple or ingenuous: make worldly-wise.  3. to alter; pervert: to sophisticate a meaning beyond recognition.  sophisticated – 1. altered by education, experience, etc., so as to be worldly wise; not naive: sophisticated travelers.  2. appealing to cultivated tastes: sophisticated music.  3. complex; intricate: a sophisticated electronic control system.  4. deceptive; misleading.

I, for one, would much rather be labeled primitive than sophisticated.  Primitive implies first not worst.  When looking at the degree of understanding and mastery of manipulation of simple materials to solve complex problems, we moderns have no advantage over those who, by design, choose to live a simpler life.”  – David Wescott

Amen, brother.

Some of the skills that were taught at the rendezvous were: friction fire, flintknapping or making sharp tools from stone, knife-sharpening, brain-tanning buckskin, identifying edible wild plants, tracking and stalking animals, arrow making, basket making, carving wooden utensils, how to make mocassins, blacksmithing, and many others.

The first people that I encountered there were at the registration tent and were immediately very welcoming and engaging and friendly and helpful.  They also looked like young radicals, so I fit in reasonably well.  It was a diverse group of about 100 people at the event with people from all ages and lots of different backgrounds.  The people were really great to be around and were really open to meeting new people and including them and teaching them and learning from them.  A really good group dynamic developed during the 5 days and I really enjoyed it.  Lots of people stayed up late hanging out around the camp fire, but since I wanted to learn everything, I decided to go to bed early so I could keep my energy up during the day when the classes were being taught.  I am totally exaggerating when I say I want to learn everything, because I know that it is impossible, I just think its funny to say that I want to know everything and learn everything.  The classes that I participate in at the rendezvous were brain-tanning buckskin, flintknapping, friction fire, arrow making, knife sharpening, and carving wooden utensils.  The brain tanning class was really awesome.  We made buckskin from fresh deer hides over the course of 2 and a half days, it was awesome.  It is really amazing to me that using the brains of an animal and a lot of hard work can result in such a beautiful, soft, strong, and durable fabric.  I plan to tan some more hides on my own and start making some work clothing for myself.  The rest of the classes were really great and I learned a lot.  I met a really cool couple, Todd and Talia, at the rendezvous that lived at this place called wildroots, which is a 30-acre homestead in rural western North Carolina.  Their focus is on experiential learning and living, while practicing, developing, and sharing primitive skills for rewilding and reconnection.  It sounded like a really cool place and they were very interesting and friendly people so I figured I would go spend some time with them on their homestead and help them out and learn more.

Todd had converted an old truck to run on waste vegetable oil that he gets from restaurants so he basically doesn’t have to pay for fuel anymore and that is how he and Talia and some of the other wildroots folks get around.  They spend most of their time at the homestead, but use the vehicle to go to town occasionally to dumpster dive, buy food and other things, use the computers at the local library, travel, etc.  They have very few expenses since many of their needs are met from the land or they get things free from what other people are throwing away.  There were several buildings on the land and they were all really cool.  Most are constructed mostly of natural materials harvested from their land and a few were constructed solely of natural materials harvested from their land.  The land borders a national forest, so they have access to a lot more that just their 30 acres.  There is a small creek that runs through their property and it originates in the national forest, so it is pristinely clean and that is where they get their drinking water.  It tasted great and they’ve never had anyone get sick from it and they get quite a few visitors coming through.  They had gallon glass jugs to take down to the creek and bring back up for drinking water and for other uses.  Carrying water was a very educational experience for me.  Its so easy to just turn on the faucet and get water from there, but when I had to carry a jug or other container to a water source and carry it back to where we were living, it totally changed my perspective.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  What I did to help out while I was there was helping with the construction of a building with a bark roof and waddle and daub walls, I made an axe handle, split wood, carried water, harvested chestnuts, cleaned and butchered and cooked a road kill raccoon, started some fires with a bow drill friction fire set, and cut and split fire wood.  There was a lot of leisure time and it was a pretty relaxed pace of life, which was very different from what I’m used to so I actually felt a little uncomfortable and antsy for some of the time I was there.  It wasn’t bad in that respect, just different.  We talked a lot while we worked and while we cooked and ate and hung out by the camp fire and that was really great for the most part.  They only thing that I didn’t like about the conversations was Tod and Talia didn’t really have any hope for humanity.  They thought that humans had done so much damage to the planet and were going to continue to do so until something horrible happens and everything is forced to change and lots of people die.  I can understand that perspective to a certain extent, but I have hope that humans are capable of changing things around before they get too bad.  It might be a fools hope, but I do have hope.  Even though they have no hope or very little hope, they continue  living the lifestyle that they are because they find it more enjoyable and fulfilling and satisfying than the industrial, modern lifestyle.  Thats great.

I spent a week at Wildroots and learned a lot and had a good time and helped them out with some stuff, it was a good experience overall.  Then I went back to Koinoinia.  Stay tuned for more on that.

Back to Koinonia for a visit

I took two days to drive down to Koinonia from the Stawbale Studio in Michigan and arrived in the dark.  The first thing I did was head over to the dinning hall to grab some food and then I wanted to go see some people and start catching up with people that I hadn’t seen in a while.  As I walked out of the dining hall, I saw a couple of folks walk into the office, so I headed over there and it was Rob Castle and a new lady that was visiting, Sarah Beth.  We chatted for a while and then it seemed like nobody else was really hanging around anywhere so I settled in to where I would be staying and went to sleep.  The next day was full of reunions and catching up with people and meeting the new folks that had arrived since I’d been gone.  The first two days I spent most of the working hours working on my hunting bows that I had started up in Michigan.  I had to work on them to a certain point or else they would start cracking too much and get ruined, so I took care of that and then started helping Brendan out on the farm.  I went out to dinner with people several times within the first several days of being back, which was nice to take some time to hang out and catch up with folks, but eating out is expensive, so I’m glad that settled down after the first couple of days.  It was really nice to see that the things that I had helped build and plant were still around and standing strong and/or growing bigger.  It was also really great to see all the cool new things that were in the works, such as a really big swale in the middle of the 80 acre pasture, and the plantings in between the duplex and the dining hall, and the new fenced in areas of forest for pigs, and lots of other smaller things.  I also really enjoyed observing how the committed Koinonians for the most part seemed to be doing very well.  The people were more energized and seemed more well rested and in a better state of balance than when I left at the end of last year.

A couple of days before the Permaculture Design Course started, Brendan and I headed up to Virginia to visit Polyface Farms, home of Joel Salatin and “Salad Bar Beef” and “Pastured Poultry Profit$”.  The visit to Polyface was great.  Brendan and I had a lot of time to talk in the car and that was really good for both of us.  We got to the farm early in the morning and had about 4 hours to walk around and look at everything and take our time to observe how things were set up and how the different facets of the farm were working together.  It was awesome to be able to see in person what I had read so much about.  Joel Salatin has written a good number of books about his experiences with being a crazy, lunatic, ecological farmer and I’ve read almost all of them: “Salad Bar Beef”, “Pastured Poultry Profits”, “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal”, “You Can Farm”, and “Family Friendly Farming”.  To see the stuff that he’s written about on the ground was a very educational experience as it is impossible to write everything down.  It was also interesting to see some of the new things that are going on at his farm and how things have changed.  After having a long time to walk around and see everything at the farm, Brendan and I took a little break, ate some bagels that we got from the Panera Bread dumpster on the way, and then it was time for the tour.  The tour was given by Joel and it was really good.  He has a great way of explaining things and of course added his unique flavor and perspective to everything.  He doesn’t have all the answers for how to feed all of the people of the world in a sustainable way, but his farm is an excellent example of how farmers can partner with nature to provide a lot of food to a lot of people in a way that is very much better for the environment and for the farmer and for everyone involved than the crappy pseudo food coming out of the factory farms and centralized food processing industry.  I highly recommend reading Joel Salatins books, especially “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal” as it illuminates the many huge problems of the current food system and points to viable alternatives.  The choices that you make about what you buy have a much larger effect on the world than you think.  Start making more informed choices that are better for the world, better for you, and better for me.

After the tour at Polyface, we drove back to Koinonia and got there at 4:30 in the morning and went to sleep.  I slept in, but Brendan had to get up a couple of hours later for the farm chores.  It took us both several days to recover.  The Permaculture Design Course started the day after we got back.  My friend Wayne Weiseman, the main instructor of the course arrived the day Brendan and I got back and it was great to see him.  The rest of the folks arrived later that day and then for the next two weeks, it was lots and lots of Permaculture.  For most of the course, I sat in the back and observed and worked on other things when I already knew what they were talking about.  It was a great time to observe Wayne teaching and to learn more about teaching through that observation.  During the second week of the course, I taught for most of one day about the healthy use of animals in Permaculture systems.  This was my first experience of teaching in a Design Course and it went really well.  I was nervous and sweating a little at the beginning, but gradually got more comfortable and by the end, I felt very comfortable with teaching this stuff.  In the morning, I taught the students how to slaughter and butcher a couple of chickens and then I gave a long and detailed presentation in the classroom and then in the afternoon I finished that up and then we went out and saw some of the stuff that I was talking about in action.  We observed the cows being moved to fresh pasture, talked more about that and then I taught them how to milk a cow and everyone got a hand in on that and then my part of teaching the course was over.  Wayne told me that I did a fantastic job and then later when I was hanging out with him alone he told me that out of his thousands of students, I had the most potential.  I was really shocked and also very honored when he told me that.  For the last several years, I’ve been increasingly following my heart and really focusing on following where I feel God leading me, and many doors have opened, while others have shut.  I have found something that I’m good at, and that I’m seriously passionate about and that is helping the world and doors are continuing to open.  I thank God for guiding me along this path and ask that the guidance continue.

The rest of my time at Koinonia was really great.  I enjoyed helping Brendan out with the farm and with the animals and I learned a lot.  I also had a couple of unexpected things happen.  I met two women that I’m interested in.  This really surprised me, because I haven’t met any women that I’ve been interested in in quite a while, and then two pop up, wow.  One of them is preparing to head out on the road to do some traveling and exploring and learning more about who she is and the other is interning at Koinonia.  This adds another layer of complexity to my life and I’m very excited to see what happens from here.  I hope that through my interactions with these ladies that I learn more about myself and more about God and that the same happens for them.  I also hope that no drama arises from there being two women that I’m “dating” and/or getting to know better.  We’ll see what happens.  I’m sure it’ll be good and that it’ll be exciting.  Stay tuned, stay sharp, stay focused, love, laugh, LIVE!