Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Moseley's Silo

I began building a greenhouse today. Well, more accurately, I began clearing out the old earthen silo created decades ago when this was the old Moseley place. Unlike the tall vertical silos used by grain farmers, earthen silos are horizontal trenches dug into a sloping hill. They were used to store silage to feed cattle in the winter. This one is about twelve feet wide, fifty feet long and open on the bottom end. It dead-ends into the hill. Once the silage was packed into the trench it was covered with tarps and earth until needed in winter. Having fulfilled its usefulness for storing silage, this silo fulfilled its second destiny as a dump. Over time it filled with the flotsam of farming: old pallets, mostly used rolls of barbed wire, steel bed springs, old gutters, galvanized metal buckets and bins, as well as discarded steel automobile wheel rims, worn out tires, and rusting steel frames for everything from kitchen tables to a child's toy spring horse had all made their way into the silo. Once there, they became a platform upon which to pile brush which, over the seasons and years, had decayed and fallen into the voids and spaces between the exposed and rusting steel skeletons below. Eventually new plants emerged and the steel remnants disappeared once again beneath thickets of thorn bushes, cedars, and sassafras trees. Tall field grasses took over what little earth was left exposed by the great heap that lay atop it.

As time and economics changed and the discarded steel items rusting in the silo became more valuable, they were extracted and converted into cash at the nearest metal scrap yard. By the time I first saw the silo most of the steel had been removed except those few pieces in the far end so entangled and impaled by what are now medium-sized trees, they would require more energy and time to recover than they are actually worth. Though most of the metal had been removed, the woody thicket remains. It was the task of clearing it that I charged myself with today.

The temperature was in the low sixties as the sun shown brightly on this, the next to last day of the year. I readied my tools and with firm resolve, I entered the open end of the silo. First high weeds fell to the hard plastic cord of the weed wacker. After a quick change to what I call, "The Whirling Blades of Death" attachment, the woody bushes and small saplings relinquished their hold on the walls and floor of the silo. Finally, the chainsaw made short work of the larger saplings and a couple of dead medium sized trees. The trees were removed with the aid of a steel chain attached to my truck bumper as they will find a more productive place inside my wood stove. The rest of the woody debris will be allowed to dry and what the earth does not reabsorb by Spring can be easily raked out and burned. In all, about 35 feet of the silo's length was reclaimed. My plan for the silo's third destiny is to bulid a concrete, subterranean root cellar in the final ten feet of that distance with only its front wall and door open to the earth-bermed greenhouse I plan to build in the remaining distance. Berming will give the greenhouse a lower profile to the surrounding landscape than a more traditional design. The silo's east to west orientation will provide the most solar gain possible during the time of year it will be needed most. My hope is that my efforts in reclaiming the silo for productive purposes would make old Mr. Moseley proud.

The rest of the afternoon was spent cutting wood for the stove. With predicted overnight temperatures of 25 degrees and winds gusting to 20 mph., it looks like the last day of 2008 will again be spent contending with Winter. I now look forward to Spring with added enthusiasm. The greenhouse/root cellar project beacons with promises of delicious self-suffiency in the form of a seasonsful of vegatables from the garden, enough to last through the following Winter into Spring. Nothing seems more depressed economy-proof than a well-stocked root cellar, chocked full of nutritious food.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Matrix Disconnect

I had a dream last night. In the dream I had been dealing with some large conglomerate entity that had its corporate offices in one of the large hotels in its nationwide chain. I was to meet someone (I'm not sure who) to discuss an issue (I don't know what) over which we were in some sort of conflict involving money. Upon leaving the hotel I found a parking ticket on my car's windshield. I promptly snatched the ticket from under the wiper and marched back into the hotel and into the office of the receptionist of the person with whom I had just met and asked, "What's this?!" I was informed by the receptionist that their parking lot closed at 3:00 pm. and I must pay a fine. I threw the ticket on her desk and said, "I had an appointment to meet one of your corporate officers and now you want to fine me for using your parking lot? Here you can pay this!" And I left, end of dream. Well not exactly but fighting off aliens with Dumbo the Elephant in the fox hole next to me firing a machine gun with a cigar clenched in his teeth has nothing to do with the reason for this post.

I found the dream interesting because it mirrored what has been going on lately in my waking life. As some of you know, the last 18 months for me have been somewhat cathartic. Situations of my own making forced me into resolving issues and making decisions regarding my future that had been put off for too long. External influences compelled me to learn more about the institutions and policies that effect my life. I realized that the "rules" have been written for the purpose of imposing financial slavery on the whole of our society, and that those who wrote and administer the rules, do not follow them. I was inadvertantly liberated from those rules and the systems that have been set up to create, manage, and perpetuate massive consumer debt. My loss of the Holy Grail of our consumerist society, a good credit rating, put me beyond reach of the mechanisms by which most Americans find themselves mired down in financial quicksand from which they rarely, if ever, escape. I know a lot of this borders on cryptic but hashing over the complexities of my situation will not change what went down. What is important to know is that I found myself in a situation that required an honest reassessment of what my priorities are in life. Basically, I am talking about embarking upon life in a completely different direction. I have come from a high consumption, high standard of living to a lifestyle based on a minimal consumption, high quality of life model. For years I thought that high consumption meant a high quality of life and I couln't have been more mistaken. I have made a leap to a lifestyle from an earlier time; a time of self-reliance with self-sufficiency as the goal. Discerning my needs and releasing my conditioned desires made that leap easier than it might be for those more addicted to their possessions and conveniences. Once certain things lose relevance in your life, you lose interest in them. As those things fall away from you, so does their power. Absent the fear of losing these things then, makes you fear-less and beyond the reach of those who would use that fear to manipulate you. Wresting control of one's life away from those who seek to manipulate it engenders a sense of power, self-determination and freedom. No longer having the deck staked against one allows for relatively rapid growth and success. More income is freed up to be used to solidify one's own financial security. Reaching that point is living true liberty and freedom.

The plan for self-determination and financial freedom, is simple and centers around self-sufficiency. The basic outline is this: Buy as much land as you can afford, at least five acres, more if at all possible, preferably wooded and somewhat hilly. Being on one's own land not only brings important freedoms, but valuable options that can be had in few other ways. Do what ever is necessary to live there full time. Any vehicles, currently being financed should be immediately paid off or sold. Purchase a less expensive vehicle, preferably flex-fuel capable of burning E-85 and/or pure ethanol that can be owned outright. This will save not only the monthly payments and finance charges, but also at least 60% on auto insurance. This one change will bring big benefits almost immediately. Buy a chain saw, a wood stove, and a water purifier. Do not drill a water well. They are costly and need periodic maintainence. Collect, purify and use rainwater instead. The advantages of NOT having a well are many. One is that you will still have access to your water supply even when the power grid goes down. There is also the associated monthly power bill for the well pump you will not have to pay. Grow sweet sorghum or sugar beets as an energy crop. It is very inexpensive and easy to distill your own ethanol fuel for vehicles and cooking. Keep very little money in any checking accounts. Any cash that would normally go into a savings account should be converted into precious metals, numismatic gold or silver. Do NOT use credit. Make as many purchases as possible with cash. Pay bills with cash or money orders. Whenever possible, cash all checks at the bank on which they are drawn. Does some of this sound inconvenient at best, a pain in the ass otherwise? Yes, it is but call it the cost of freedom. Make it as hard as possible for "outside entities" to track expenditures or monitor actual income. Get rid of rediculous, exorbitantly priced crap. This includes expensive cell phone plans, buying designer clothing, fitness club memberships (owning and working land makes for plenty of exercise), and digital cable or satellite TV. Do not eat or drink anything with the sweetener aspartame as an ingredient. It was first developed as a compound to be used in creating chemical weapons. It attacks the brain, erodes your memory, and is seriously addictive. Buy canned food in bulk and keep a six month supply on hand until you can grow your own. Buy non-genetically altered, heirloom seeds and plant an organic vegetable garden. Build a root cellar for food preservation (a root cellar uses no electricity and doubles as a storm shelter). After a few months of eating organically grown foods and drinking pure rain water, the toxic chemical load will begin to lift from the body. Chemically-induced miasma will give way to clear headedness and memory improves. Refusing to be a willing victim also also caries with it added benefits such as, but not limited to, lowered blood pressure, peace of mind and a penchant for self-determination.

This plan will seem pretty drastic to some as it represents a major lifestyle change. To those who have been following it for a while, it seems the only sane thing to do given the current global economic and political landscape. But what about the American Dream and keeping up with the Jones's? The American Dream is an artificial carrot that the media, advertising, and mainstream TV dangles in front of you as an attainable goal of an artificial life, if you are willing to go into enough debt. The Jones's are on food stamps and in hock up to their eyeballs. Their home is in foreclosure. I am not advocating the illusion of wealth here. That is part of the old dysfunctional past. If you think the government will come to your aid and help you preserve your current life style, well, I'd love to see you try to float that idea past some Hurricane Katrina victims. What I am talking about and advocating is self-empowerment and the easy steps to true financial security. If you love your life and crave liberty, following this plan can lead to the kind of life America's Founding Fathers intended for us all, true freedom and financial independence. Besides, self-sufficiency is groovy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cessation of Darkness

Dawn did not really break this morning. Rather, some form of indirect lighting made it possible to observe a horizon that bordered the even, bland grayness that is passing for sky today. The outside temperature is 17 degrees. The inside thermometer tells me it's 43 in the cabin. Three "starving" cats greet me as my feet hit the cold floor, their plantive cries begging me to save them from starvation and the cold. I tell them they should feel lucky to live here. They don't know how good they have it. Millions of cats around the world are suffering this morning who would consider themselves blessed to have the food that I provide as well as this cozy shelter we all share. As I stand there in the kitchen, observing their completely full food dish they all crowd in, anticipating the fresh, wet, canned food they are all sure I am about to give them. They begin brushing up against my legs to show their approval and agreement. It annoys me when animals attempt to train me to do what they want. I am offended they think I am simple minded enough to fall for their transparent efforts. It is obvious I must remember to start kicking them more.
As on most December mornings, my first order of business is to start a fire in the tiny woodstove that heats the cabin. First I must empty the ashes from yesterday's fire. This allows an open airway for oxygen to reach the fire box. Once kindled, and with all of the air handling controls set in their proper positions, it doesn't take long for the fire to turn the little stove into a blast furnance. I am ever amazed at how much efficiency was built into this crude cast iron device made over 100 years ago. This is the second winter this stove has been my primary heat source here in the Chateau Tyvek and the more I use it, the more I've learned how to use it. Soon, the mighty little stove is warming the cabin to a point that even the cats have stopped complaining, resigned as they are to eating a breakfast of dry food. Within fifteen minutes the inside temperature is 53 degrees and rising. Then in a short time the temperature reaches 63 degrees. I sit down in front of the computer, with my toast and hot tea, to check e-mail and within the hour the cabin is a balmy 73 which is where I like it.
Cats fed, the fire stoked, e-mails read and answered. It's time for another cup of tea, or more accurately, another cup of caffiene, my current drug of choice. Now I'm ready to carpe this diem!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beaver Logic (The Slough)

Below my stone bluff there is a slough (pronounced: slew). This slough is a remnant of the old stream bed that was once part of Beaver Creek, which now runs several hundred feet away to the East. Water still collects there from rain runoff and from small springs that enter from sources beneath the ridge. The soil there is too porous to hold water for very long and, in the height of summer, the tiny springs cannot keep up with evaporation and the earth's leaching effect. The shallow lagoon dries up leaving its mud bottom swollen and cracked in the sun. Other times, water spills from its shallow basin and into the surrounding field creating, in essence, the perfect algae scum covered, mosquito infested swamp. Surely I could improve upon this unacceptable situation. I took it into my mind that if the water level of the lagoon were lowered about six inches, water would not run into the field thereby fixing the mosquito problem.
Convinced of my logic and armed with a trusty spade, I set about the task of creating a narrow trench through the earthen dam created by some unknown farmer decades before to contain the water for thirsty livestock. I was careful to make the trench just six inches lower than the existing water line before I dug away the last few inches of earth that separated the pool from my excavation. Suddenly, water came rushing into my small trench and the slough began to drain. I was reassured I had made the right decision as large sections of green algae began breaking loose in the current and were swept away leaving a clear water surface behind. Water and nutrients began running into the small drainage ditch, that led away from the slough, that eventually made its way down to Beaver Creek. I could envision this little tributary springing to new life, refreshed by this new source of water. My, I was certainly becoming an excellent steward of this land! I lay my head down that night and happily fell into a very self-satisfied sleep. The next day I rushed back down to the slough to view my handy work. As I approached, I could see the flow of water had ceased. Apparently some debris, freed by the current, had been sucked into my trench and had cut off the flow of water. This I cleared in a short time and again my project began to function beautifully. Within a couple of days, the small drainage ditch did spring to life as expected. Tadpoles were swimming furiously as minnows nipped at their tails. I even saw a small water snake chasing the minnows. Surely this was what nature had intended for this place before the dam had been created so long ago.
The next day, however, I again found that my little trench had become clogged with more branches and leaves. Water was no longer flowing into my little "creek". I cleared it but was now curious about how labor intensive this little project was going to be? It seemed that every time I cleared an obstruction, within 24 hours the trench was clogged again. Where was all this "trash" coming from? I began to have my suspicions which were confirmed the following day. Again, debris had created a dam which completely stopped the flow of water. But this time, the dam maker had left a signature. On top of the pile of trash lay a large dollop of mud that had been slapped flat by a large beaver tail. In a flash of insight, it suddenly occurred to me that the name "Beaver Creek" had been chosen for a reason. I got the message, alright, but was not to be outdone by a mere rodent with a fancy tail. I became a self-declared "Dam Destroyer". No matter how often I removed them, though, the dams would reappear by the next morning. Finally I had to admit defeat and the drainage ditch again dried up.
A few weeks later a friend of mine, a professional botanist, was visiting and I took her down to the slough to discuss the situation. I got the impression she was not impressed with my water project. After spending some time hiking the length of the slough and making several notations in her note book, she finally gave me that raised eyebrow look and announced that, "Even though the earthen dam had been created artificially by man years before, Nature had adapted to create what was now a perfectly balanced and fully functioning ecosystem complete with an extremely rich diversity of plant life unique to the present conditions." I got her message which was essentially, "It's perfect, leave it alone!" The most cerebral response I could muster was, "Oh . . . wow."
After that, I began to look at my slough a little differently. The "mosquito infested swamp" was actually the center piece of a diverse, complicated, and interdependent circle of life. From the rock outcrops above, I have since observed different species of water turtles, fish, muskrats, and even the pre-historic looking alligator snapping turtle. I have come to appreciate the many beautiful and strange looking plants that explode in multicolors every Spring and Summer and I've observed the flock of migrating swallows that nest each year in the cavities within the stone bluff. I admire how they roll and tumble through the air as they feed voraciously on the mosquitos the slough offers up for their sustenance. My observations from the bluff led me to discover the agave, one of only two cactus plants native to Missouri. I have also found which parts of the bluff are covered with the exotic looking plant with only three leaves, the purple trillium. I then discovered a grove of small trees growing tenuously within the tiny microclimate that exists between the bluff and the pond, and our State's only native tropical fruit, the paw paw.
The slough experience has slowed me down as I now consider carefully any change I might want make to what already exists on this land. I have taken pause and considered my own past when I've been so eager to rush in and "fix" things that weren't even broken. Now, my daily challenge is to figure out my own proper place within the surrounding landscape as I am just beginning to understand what the beavers knew all along. There is precious little we can do to improve upon what God and Nature have already created here in these Ozark hills.

Crystal and Xena's Night Adventure

I was sitting the other night, observing the constellations. Orion, normally the champion high in the northern night was cautiously riding the sky's western rim. Humidity filled the air and the moon had not yet risen. The unseasonably warm sunny day had turned into an unseasonably warm, yet very dark, early March night. Bathed in velvety blackness, the night revealed few shadows. All was silent. Danger and darkness seemed to loom everywhere providing an atmosphere of mystery and adventure for two young cats. As Lucy's surviving progeny, Crystal and Xena would tread together, far more fearlessly than they would ever tread alone. Tonight, for the first time in their young cat lives, they left the protection of Mother and struck out together, with me, to as yet undiscovered lands.
I had built up their trust in the mere months since their birth and I knew I could goad them into joining me in a grand adventure. Being the first out of their birthing box, Xena, the fearless explorer, usually led the way. Crystal, on the other hand, would timidly bring up the rear whining most of the way; ironic given she is the fiercer of the two, her fighting skills far surpassing her sister's. As we proceeded, my young companions were nervous but they were also prodded on by the thrill of doing something slightly forbidden. Our path led away from the cabin and down the hill, east toward the ridge. The tiny, single LED flashlight was the only thing keeping them from being smothered in the abysmal darkness. A sudden coyote’s cry required they crouch, silent and motionless, in the weeds until all threat of annihilation had passed. Staying within the protective circle of light emitted by the tiny bulb, they tentatively continued down the hill as we turned north toward the abandoned building site. Little remained of the preliminary construction except some concrete footing forms, a pile of weathered boards, and a lone porcelain throne. Still connected to the lagoon, open on all sides to the prevailing winds and to the sky above, this one small connection to civilization provided some comfort to my new, far simpler lifestyle. Flushing was accomplished by pouring water from a five gallon bucket straight down its throat.
As I observed the constellations, the moist night air enveloped me like a comfortable blanket and the breeze was quite pleasant. I found the experience to be much more inspirational than those endured in freezing temperatures. In fact, out here beyond the light pollution of the city and with the celestial vaults of heaven flung open above me, complete with its mosaic tapestry of twinkling stars it felt, well, spiritual. Spring was supposed to come early this year but four days of possible winter storms were being predicted to start the following morning. The impending sleet and snow made this pleasant night even more appreciated. I thought back to earlier in the day when the goal was to bring in enough fire wood to get through the cold about to descend. With no running water and wood as my sole source of heat, life has become more elemental. Was there enough wood, enough water, and enough food for the next few days? I relaxed as I knew there was, as is often the case in life, enough.
At the same time, however, far more important concerns were being addressed just a few dozen feet away. Crystal and Xena were totally present and completely engrossed in their biggest adventure ever. There were trenches, stacks of building materials, lumber and cinder blocks to explore. Strange new sounds punctuated the night air along with new smells that required thorough yet very careful examination. Suddenly, the worst possible thing that could ever happen did, the flashlight went out plunging them into total darkness! They immediately began wailing. Why had they dared to think they would ever be safe beyond their Mother's protective gaze? They must have been crazy to leave the cabin! How would they ever survive? Surely death would come next for what other fate did they deserve?
Having concluded the purpose of our sojourn, the light mercifully reappeared, saving them once again. We began retracing our steps back up the hill. At one point, Crystal became separated from the group. She found herself left behind and alone in the vast darkness. Her plaintive cries now reached a higher octave which required calling her name and providing the illuminative power of the single LED to act as a homing beacon to bring her safely again, within the light's protective circle. Finally, providence led them back to the cabin, back to the familiar, back to safety. What had begun as a spontaneous frolic had veered swiftly into very dangerous territory and they felt lucky to be alive. The danger had now passed but the lessons learned were those that come only from pursuing high adventure. Their dinner was unusually good that night and slumber came easily, illuminated as it was with vivid cat dreams. The seasons are changing here in the valley. New generations are exploring life for the first time in these Ozark hills.

Blackberry Therapy

I was hiking in my woods the other day, looking for a suitable site on which to build a cabin. The weather was unseasonably pleasant thanks to the low humidity and a gentle northwest breeze. I had remembered a knob that seemed to project out from the surrounding slope. I had first noticed it early last winter when the leaves had fallen making it easy to view the surrounding topography. I decided today was the perfect day to give it a close inspection. I seemed to recall that this particular hill seemed fairly covered in thick brambles so I grabbed the machete from behind the seat in my truck and headed into the hollow and up a deer path that eventually led to the top of the hill and into a small field in dire need of brushhogging. I started across the field to where I thought the knob should be; about a quarter of the way down the slope on the other side of the hill as I'd remembered it. Suddenly, I found myself waist high in brambles that were armed with no-nonsense thorns sharp enough to penetrate denim jeans and human skin. Undaunted, I took out the machete and prepared to hack my way through when my eye caught glimpses of bright red and shiny black. All around me I began seeing bits of color peeking out from beyond the green leaves. What I thought was a thicket of brambles turned out to the motherlode of blackberry patches and I had stumbled right into the middle of it. Hmmm, of course I had picked blackberries when I was a kid but that was decades ago. Then one particularly plump berry seemed to beckon. I instinctively reached out to pick it and it easily separated from the stem. I plopped the soft ripe fruit into my mouth and easily crushed it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth. The resulting taste sensation sent me back to my childhood and back to my truck. Priorities in life can change when new information comes to light and suddenly, looking for a cabin site didn't seem nearly as important as looking for a bowl to fill with Missouri's own black gold.
I made it back across the field, down the deer path, out of the hollow and up to the truck hoping to find something, anything in which to collect the succulent morsels that awaited me on top of the hill. Like most folks, the area behind the driver's seat of the pick-up is filled with more things than logic or physics would ever say is possible. I was hoping to find any suitable receptacle, even an empty fast food soda cup. Imagine my delight in finding three medium sized Tupperware bowls, nested within each other, along with their lids! Incredible. I raced back up the hill as fast as I could to begin filling my bowls with the sweet fruit. The berries were plentiful and came off the canes easily. I was sometimes able to grab three or even four at a time. As I moved quickly along I spooked a fawn just yards away at the edge of the field. It broke cover and dashed away. It was the same one I had seen a week earlier on top of the hill. It seemed too large to still have its spots, but there they were. The mother moves it around a bit but always hides it in the same field. Any predator could figure that out soon enough, but the coyotes usually don't make it this far up the hill. They seem content to wander the bottom of the valley along Beaver Creek, hunting and howling by moonlight.
As I pick, it suddenly dawns on me that I am not in a race. I've been picking these berries like I seem to do everything in life these days, in too much of a hurry to ever enjoy it. I decide to savor the moment. I slow down. The sun feels good on my shoulders. After a time, sounds begin to drift in as meadow larks call to one another, crows in the distance crack jokes and laugh at each other. Bees hum all around and work right along side, visiting blossoms while ignoring me, as we all go, collectively, about our own business. Turkey buzzards glide silently overhead, then swoop and hover a bit as their wings catch air. Finally, they angle downward and they swoop again as the wind spills over their wings. My mind tends to wander as my fingers seem to fall into a natural rhythm. I begin to think about the indigenous people who lived here before me. I wonder if there were blackberry canes on this hill 200 or 300 years ago. Could I be picking from later generations of the same canes they picked from? Could I be carrying on the proud tradition of all hunter/gatherers throughout time? It made me smile to think so and I suddenly felt somehow connected to them. I spontaneously began to thank each plant for its contribution to my bowl.
It's been so dry, up until this year, the only place the berries were "making" was on top of this hill. A thin impermeable layer of dense gray clay underlays the soil up here and any water that hits the top of the hill soaks through the topsoil and flows along that layer of gray clay down to this field which, at points, forms a natural bowl. On state soil maps, it is officially designated as "Farm Land of Statewide Importance." I don't know exactly what that means but am sure it has something to do with the fact that this seemed to be the only place there was enough water for the berries. All the patches down below would either lie barren or the tiny green berries would have failed to develop, but this year is different. Abundant and well-timed Spring and Summer rains have given even the smaller species of berries some extra bulk. The berries in my bowl, that is, the ones that miss my mouth, are plump and sweet and it doesn't take long to fill three containers. I mentally thank myself for taking a break and re-establishing my connection to this land through the primordial act of berry picking. I couldn't believe the amount of relaxation and calm that came with this simple act.
Later that day, I visited friends who live on a hill above the Gasconade River near a town called Competition. Now, they usually seem happy to see me but I also know that, as a form of currency, blackberries carry a lot of weight. I knew that my arrival would be welcomed with an extra degree of appreciation and fanfare with a container of freshly picked blackberries in my hand. As they grow much of their own food, my friends understand the amount of work that goes into being self-sufficient. They could appreciate the time, effort, and sweat that a bowl of blackberries represented as well as the perfect balance the fruit would provide to the fresh vegetables from their garden. As it turned out, the berries had the desired effect and I was immediately invited to stay for supper. Our conversations that early evening wandered from the weather to the floods last Spring, and finally to the meal we were to share. Fresh sweet cream, it was finally decided, would be the only way to improve upon what Nature had already provided by way of the delicious fruit. The moon rose over the river that night as prayers were offered over a bountiful table in these Ozark hills.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Exile to Paradise

Circumstances, engineered by the sub-conscious for the purpose of soul growth (or to fulfill a decades long Jeremiah Johnson fixation), find me sitting in a one room cabin with no running water, though it does have high-speed internet, at the edge of a wooded hollow out my back door. The view from the front window, next to my computer, is of an open field and the distant hills on the other side of the valley in which I live. The provisions of my bankruptcy require me to live in this manner until my case is discharged. Since this post is not about my being forced into bankruptcy, I will not expound upon the occurances that led up to it as all of the actions of some very greedy, dishonest people were a part of what it took to get me out here permanently. In essence, I was forced to come here, which is where I've always wanted to be, living permanently on my land in the country. As far as the water, I could not afford to drill a well so I collect rainwater with a system of my own design that seems to supply an adequate amount for all of my needs. I love using rainwater straight from the sky that has never touched ground as it is softer than ground water and seems to still contain healthful ozone gathered in its fall through the biosphere. My system costs nothing to operate as gravity provides plenty of water pressure. Consequently, I have access to my water supply even when there is a power outage which gives me a definite advantage over those who pump their water from wells.
Another advantage that seems to have benefited me greatly is my use of a wood stove for heat. My heating bills are around $2 to $3 per month. That is the cost of gas and oil to operate my chainsaw. An added benefit is that cutting and splitting wood has turned out to more effective than a membership in a health club. Wood has to be one of the most efficient heating fuels possible when one considers that each piece of wood warms me a least three times. It provides heat in the form of burned calories when I cut and stack it, and again when I split it. The real bonus is when I burn it which is the most enjoyable as it goes into the "fruits of my labor" column. Next Spring, I plan to expand this cabin by adding a real bathroom, large walk-in closet, and a 10' by 18' greenhouse/atrium. All-in-all, this new rural life seems to suit me. I find wonder in the changeing seasons, in the balance of Nature, and in the antics of the abundant wildlife. How many places can you start to pull out of your driveway and be distracted by a bald eagle gliding majestically across the road? My God, I've landed in Paradise, dragged there even, kicking and screaming and I've come to realize I am so blessed.

Babylon in my rear-view mirror

Darkness came early on one of the last days in November. What had started as snow flurries had grown in intensity throughout the day and now, the snow was blowing sideways. The little truck obediently leaned into the hill its task it was to climb. Thankfully, out in this remote pocket of the wild, many of the roads are gravel and the tires were able to grab onto more than enough traction to take the truck easily up the hill. I began to think about now drastically my life had changed in a very short time. No convenience store just around the corner, no twenty-minute pizza delivery, no modern highway system. I marveled at how I no longer missed those things. Like so many who are still living in the city, I found that convenience, access to goods, services, and a choice of restaurants does not come without a price. While there, I found myself surrounded by people who had bought into the false idea that if they could just acquire enough stuff, they would be truly happy. So they worked hard to buy all kinds of things and they still aren't happy and they don't know why so now they're angry and they drive that way. With that realization came my plan to escape "The Land of the Eternally Distracted" and to seek a more sensible life in the country. The first night I lit the wood stove in my new cabin I realized that I had just traded the sound of blaring car horns and the "thump!, thump!" of sub-woofers with the quiet lowing of cows, and the neighbor's incessantly barking dog with the distant singing of coyotes. My nights would no longer be punctuated with the piercing cry of emergency vehicle sirens, but with those of the hoot owl. During the day, wild turkeys "cluck" to each other in the wooded hollow outside my back door. I fully embraced my new country life and have never looked back.
Slowly, my little truck climbs the rutted gravel road that leads out of the valley and up into the hills that surround the Gasconade River. With the windshield wipers keeping time, the lights pierced the darkness and illuminated the flakes of blowing snow. How grateful I felt this night, just three days past Thanksgiving, and two days since my birthday, to be driving on this isolated country road. Things are different now and here life is allowed time to unfold. I knew I had made the right decision in moving here and what had been lost in leaving the city can never compare with what has been found, here in these Missouri Ozark hills.