States Filing Petitions for Secession

Uh-oh…

Rash of Petitions to Secede

Ok, really there’s not much tangible to this.  A lot of people made up internet petitions for their states to secede peacefully from the union.    The internet petition is probably the most futile and ineffective form of civil engagement out there I can think of.    Despite my lack of faith in internet petitions, I think there is something to this in that the concept of secession has hit the mainstream (the article is from Yahoo and I’ve seen a few things floating around Facebook) and people are talking about it one way or another, even if it is for the idea’s few moments before folks become distracted by something else.   I’m sure the media is running with this one just to have a shocking headline to grab people in rather than actually believing there’s a ton of substance to it.

I do think it’s funny that I posted The 2012 Election and the Elephant Outside the Room the other day and predicted that we’ll see talk of states splitting up by 2016 and viable state secession movements by the 2020 election and it’s already in the mainstream media.   I’m not suggesting that my article had anything to do with the one in the mainstream media by any stroke of imagination, but I’m just commenting on the fact that it didn’t take long to start having the “s” word thrown around in public discourse.   Again, I think there’s not a lot of substance to the article but I’m surprised by how quickly the subject has hit the mainstream.   Maybe my guesses as far as time frame might come a little sooner?    We’ll see.

I see that the Texas petition has something like 23,000 signatures but they’ve always had something of a secessionist movement down there.   I remember driving into Texas on I-35 and being greeted by a billboard from one of the secessionist groups down there.  I’ve heard of a group in South Carolina that wants to create an evangelical Christian republican down there and naturally there’s still some secessionist attitudes floating around the rest of the southern states.   A few western states have petitions and movements, which isn’t too surprising either.   The Iowa one had about a dozen signatures when I saw it a few hours ago.


 

The 2012 Election and the Elephant Outside The Room

First off, I’m not going to particularly support the Democratic or Republican Party.   There’s very little I like about either party and a lot I don’t like about both.    I consider myself right-wing and sympathetic to conservatism and “traditional values”, but I’m not onboard with the Republican Party as it exists today or Mitt Romney.    Please don’t get the wrong idea that I’m going to suggest that the Republicans will offer the ultimate solution to the world’s problems.

I’m a big fan of Patrick J. Buchanan.   I think he’s one of the most frank and honest talking heads out there.   Whether or not you agree with him, everyone knows that he isn’t going to mince words or sugar coat anything.    After watching the election play out into Barack Obama’s favor, I couldn’t help but to think about his 2011 book Suicide of a Superpower.   The basic premise of the book is that as America’s demographics change, the country is going to change.   Buchanan predicts that as the country basically gets less white, less affluent and more urban that the Republican Party will no longer be viable at the national level.

I figured this election would be close (and it was), but I thought Romney had a really good chance.   Let’s not pull any punches here – Obama hasn’t quite lived up to most of the people who supported him in 2008’s expectations.    Given the state of the economy I figured that there would be a good chance that a “silent majority” would vote in Romney, hoping that his plan for the economy would be better than what we’re getting from Obama.    Romney did well in the popular vote and with all of the usual suspects (Great Plains, Deep South, Western States), but pretty much got his ass handed to him in the electoral college.     Given the state of affairs, the Republicans should’ve easily had this one.

I don’t think that the Democrats are exactly winning ideological battles, but I think that the Republicans are losing them.   Meanwhile the sheer number of people who typically vote Democrat grows via immigration, higher birth rates among minorities, growth of cities and through the country getting gradually poorer.   Some of the mainstream news articles I read and radio programs I heard chalked up Obama’s victory to a shrinking white electorate and a growing minority electorate, notably the Latino vote.   The Republicans attempted to court the growing Latino vote by severely softening their stance on illegal immigration or fawning over legal immigration to no avail, which Buchanan thinks has been a nail in the Republican Party’s coffin – not only are they not getting the votes they were attempting to get, they’re alienating the people who would normally vote for them by changing their position (i.e. me).

Although I didn’t feel like I really had a horse in this race (I voted for Gary Johnson and caucused for Ron Paul – I knew they weren’t going to win), I felt a little unnerved when Obama was reelected.   Sometimes conservatives pine about returning America back to the idyllic and prosperous 1950’s or perhaps hark back to restoring a constitutional republic (see: Tea Party circa 2009, Ron Paul, libertarians, etc.) but it felt like the door to that pipe dream on a national level was closed, as it now seems highly unlikely that Republicans under the current circumstances can get into the White House.    I’m not under any delusions that the contemporary Republican Party would be able to change America’s course, but at least they give lip service to these ideas and kept some flicker of hope alive at the national level to those of us who lean that way.

I think the Republican Party will continue to be viable at the local level and in the Senate (where yeah, the system is skewed in their favor), but there’s going to be a lot of angry white guys in the red states who are going to feel like they no longer have a say in who’s going to be the president.

So here’s what I HOPE happens:    The Republican Party goes back to being the party that REALLY represents small government, fiscal responsibility and personal liberties.   They focus on working at the state/local level to put as much distance between Washington and their constitutients.  They do what they can to allow the red states be red while not interfering with the blue states being blue.   Republicans in Congress and the Senate just occasionally run interference on Democrats infringing on the red states’ constitutional right to be red.   If it plays out this way, I think that would be a pretty good outcome for everybody.   That’s how the US is supposed to work – each state and locality calls their own shots within the broad parameters of the Constitution.

Here are some things that I THINK will happen:    By the time of the 2016 election, there will be serious talk in states like Illinois, Michigan and California about splitting up based on economic, political and demographic circumstances.   I don’t think it will actually happen by 2016, but it will come up.   I know it does in California from time to time.         The map of the election results in Illinois is pretty telling – Chicago, East St. Louis and a few counties around the Mississippi went blue and everything else was solidly red.   I know I would be pissed off if I were a Republican in Carbondale and my vote for president didn’t count because of the people in a city I didn’t have a lot of connection to in my state.   The city of Chicago is in deep shit financially and the state of Illinois isn’t doing so hot either.   When Chicago comes to the state looking for help, people in central/southern IL aren’t going to be happy about bailing them out, if they even can.

I think that by the 2020 presidential election, we will hear mainstream talk of secession from some western and southern states.   I’m not going to say there will be secession by 2020, but I am saying that there will probably be open talk about it and not just from a few on the fringe.   We’ll see a lot more confederate flags and references to the American Revolution.   It’s basically going to be like the Tea Party circa 2009, but this time for real and at a larger scale in the red states.

If you want to prepare by stockpiling guns and ammo, I guess that’s cool but I think a better route is to simply build community and surround yourself with people you can depend on – and be the kind of person that other people can depend on through your skills, attitude and compassion for your neighbors.

Oh, another thing I hope will happen:   At the end of the day everyone respects everyone elses’ right to live the way the want to live and have the kind of local government they choose as a community/state.   This election has been very nasty – I think part of that has to do with the fact we have more outlets (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, commenting on articles, etc) to bicker without having to be face to face with the other person.    I think that if we genuinely acknowledge and accept our sociopolitical differences in the US and collectively rally around the fact they exist, diversity really could be our greatest strength here.    It’ll be a great day when people in Berkeley stand up for the rights of people in Fargo to live the way they want to live and vise-versa.

 

I have a feeling that the next four years are going to be very rocky for the United States and I don’t envy Obama for being in the captain’s chair right now.

 

Oikos Update 10/29/2012

So right now the East Coast is getting hit with a major storm, I hope everyone keeps their heads down.

We had our first frost at the beginning of the month and I picked a ton of green tomatoes.   They’re sitting out on a table and ripening at the rate of about a half dozen a day.   Lately we’ve been eating a lot of things involving tomatoes like chili, pasta and pizza.    They’re not ripening at a rate that would make sense to can them, so I have to do something.  Oh well, enjoy summer’s bounty while I can.   I bet I’ve got another two weeks of heavy tomato eating.   Fortunately I put away about a dozen jars of tomatoes, maybe 8 jars of ratatouille and two of salsa.   It’ll be nice to have those over the winter.

One of my dogs tore up a bed of arugula, spinach, carrots, beets, turnips, kale, radishes and rutabagas – all stuff I was planning on overwintering in a high tunnel.    It doesn’t seem like a total loss, but it’s pretty bad.    Fortunately I have seeds started of some of the same kinds of things in another bed that I’m going to put a greenhouse over very soon.    I was pissed off when I went outside and discovered this though, it definitely put me in a bad mood the entire night.     I have some more seedlings that I’m going to put a cold frame over and a 40 gallon aquarium I picked up for as many dollars last week at Petco.   I figured it’s about as cheap, more effective and definitely a lot easier than building another cold frame.   Plus if I want to use it to raise fish or something when it’s not needed outside I can.     

I haven’t been blogging much lately because I’ve been slaving away at a book.   I’m about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through it right now.   I want to have it done by about Thanksgiving.   We’ll see…    I’m having fun doing it right now, but hopefully I can get it done and move on to other things.

 

13 In 2013

Jack Spirko at the Survival Podcast mentioned something last week about a “13 in 2013” campaign where listeners pledge to learn 13 different skills in 2013.   I think we’re still waiting on the details on how the thing is going to play out, but I’m going to think out loud and try to list 13 things I’m going to try to get done.   The list is tenative, as different opportunities to do different things make come up.

 

1.  Beekeeping.  I’m pretty set on doing this in the spring.   I’ve been reading up on it and found a dude that lives near me who breeds and sells Russian bee nucs.  

2.    Chicken raising.   I meant to have this done by now, but I think I might wait until next spring.

3.    I’m going to build a chicken coop.    I think this is what is holding me back with the chickens – I’ve been torn on whether to buy one or whether to build one.    I see you can buy them for a few hundred bucks, but I’m not sure if the quality is exactly what I want.  I also know that I’ve got some limitations on my construction skills (to put it nicely).  I have gotten better in this regard over the past few years.   I think I’ll go with building one in order to get exactly what I want and the quality that I want (well, at least in the way of materials).  I think it will be a little more satisfying if I build it.

4.   Knot tying.   Yeah, this is a total merit-badge activity but it’s good to know these things.  I had a little bit of training in the Marine Corps, but forgot most of them.  I’d like to know at least a half dozen practical knots.

5.   Woodcarving.   I’m going to carve something.  

6.  I’m going to improve my Spanish.   I’m not sure how to quantify this, but I’m going to make some progress one way or another.  

7.   4-Seasons gardening.   I just had a major setback the other day with my dog tearing up a perfectly good cold weather vegetable bed, but I will celebrate New Year’s with a salad out of my garden.   I have a few low-tech methods I’m going to try this year.

8.   I’m going to make cheese.    Nothing fancy, but I’m going to do it.

9.   I will MASTER the art of yogurt making.   I’m not going to lie, I’m batting less than 50% on yogurt making attempts. 

10.  I will identify and consume five new wild edibles.   I already do lamb’s quarter, dandelions and forage blackberries.  

11.  I will improve my blogging skills.  I want to get better at making this look professional, putting out better material and most importantly, reaching out to people with it. 

12.   I’m going to practice the art of teaching and speaking.   I’m going to make a point to teach someone about something that I know one way or another.   I’ve been doing this with my job lately and I think I’ve been doing it well enough.  I’m going to try to translate that to the things that interest me.    I’ll also add to this list “networking”.   I’m going to do a better job of meeting up with like-minded people that I can learn from as well as connecting with old friends.

13.   I’m going to learn about energy through reading and some hands on stuff (maybe a solar oven or distilling alcohol or something).   I have a good textbook from a class I took a few years ago on energy that I’m going to re-read.  

So that’s how it’s looking right now.   A few big ones, a few small ones.    There’s the possibility that I might be able to do a basic blacksmithing course and some medical related things, so that would be cool too.    Either way, I hope that 2013 is a productive year for me.   I feel I’ve done and learned a lot over the past couple years and hopefully I can continue to build on it.  

 

Catalonian Independence – A Growing Trend Towards Secession?

Catalonia Calls Early Elections In Bid for Greater Independence

A couple weeks ago I turned on the TV.   We just got wireless and streaming Netflix (yeah, I know, I’m way behind the times) and I was watching one of the European news programs that comes up.   They had scenes in Barcelona of tons of people in the street in yellow and red, waving flags, banners and signs.

I’m not an expert in the separate regions of Spain, but I know there are divisions between Madrid and some of the other regions.  The Basques probably get the most airtime in our part of the world, but Catalonia is distinct with their own cuisine, language (still a Latin language), economy and culture.

So Spain is in deep shit right now with astronomically high unemployment, crushing debt and having to work within the confines of the European Union for a solution.    The article mentions that secession movements in Catalan have picked up since the 2008 economic crisis and have been particularly vehement this year as Spain isn’t looking so hot.   The general consensus among the nearly half of Catalonians who favor independence seems to be that if the Spanish state can’t make the trains run on time, they should give it a go for themselves.   Jumping ship and starting all over sounds more appealing than facing the music along with the central government.

Spain isn’t the only place this is happening either.  Off hand I can think of the Flemish/Walloons issue in Belgium, strong movements towards secession in Scotland and Wales to a lesser extent, Bloc Quebecois in Quebec gaining a little more steam and the situation with the Kurds in the Middle East and Turkey.   I know there’s dozens of similar situations I’m forgetting right now.

I think as things progress the way they have we will see a lot more of this around the world and maybe even here – we’re definitely not immune.   As states go, so do currencies, agreements (pensions, welfare, etc.), political arrangements and other things that many people depend upon.    Remember, political borders and governments are not permanent and change over the course of time.   Where I sit right now used to be considered Indian territory, then it was some land settled by some white guys, now it’s the United States and who knows what it will be in a couple of decades.     Maybe microstates are our future instead of the more monolithic nation states we’ve had over the past century or two?

Even though I don’t see any viable secession movements happening in the US in the immediate future, I do see it as something that could very well be in our future over the next few decades.   I think it’s a good idea to think about having skills and things of value that transcend the state.   By that I mean having things like precious metals and items (tools, durable household items, machinery, etc) that keep their value and most importantly having skills and knowledge that will make you valuable regardless of where you end up (or who ends up with you) one way or another.

 

 

Seed Savers Exchange / Decorah Trip

Last week the wife and I decided to spend a couple of days up in Decorah, Iowa.   It’s a small-ish town in the NE corner of the state close to Minnesota and Wisconsin and about a four hour drive from Des Moines.

I’ve never been to that part of the state but last year I heard a few stories on Iowa Public Radio’s Talk of Iowa about things in Decorah that caught my interest.   One was about the Seed Savers Exchange Farm and the other was about Fern Hollow Cabin.

Seed Savers Exchange specializes in preserving (and proliferating) heirloom varieties of vegetables as well as some livestock and fruit trees.   They can tell their story better than I can, so click here for more info.    On their farm they grow these varieties in order to harvest the seeds.   This is pretty important work in today’s world where GMO’s and monocropping rule the roost and it seems like there isn’t much variety in produce on most supermarket shelves.   They’re very famous in the world of organic gardening and all things related.

I think we made it to their farm at a good time of the year.   The heat of the summer was winding down, the summer crops were still in the ground, things were still in bloom and the fall crops were going strong.

The farm itself was very peaceful, I think there were only a few people there including some hippie-types lounging on a picnic table.   I guess the locals treat the place as kind of like a park, which would be cool.    It’s a nice, scenic walk through the whole place and big enough that it can eat up some time, especially if you stop to look at things.    I also thought that the gift shop was probably the only gift shop I’ve ever actually been excited to be in as an adult.  They had a great selection of seeds (of course), books on various subjects relating to gardening and homesteading, locally produced food items and things of that nature.  I picked up about ten packets of seeds, a bag of Siberian garlic bulbs and the wife picked up a couple bags of varieties of beans that you don’t see every day.

Here are a few pictures around the farm:

 

 

I like how everything is densely planted with narrow walkways.   You’re up close and personal with the plants.   You can smell them, they’re brushing up against you and all the insects and hummingbirds are buzzing around.   It’s a lot more fun and sensually stimulating than if they just had neatly planted rows of stuff.   I know that kind of sounds a little too hippie-ish, but I thought it was cool.   I’m a war veteran and I can get away with saying things like that.

This is me.

 

They had a few varieties of chickens, ducks, turkey and geese which I thought was kind of interesting.   They had a small herd of White Park cattle, which is an ancient and very rare breed that has been in the British Isles for thousands of years.   It was a nice walk down to where the cattle were at, through a nice pasture surrounded by wooded hills.

On another part of the farm they had an apple orchard of historic varieties.   Fortunately it was apple season and the trees were loaded with fruit.   They had a sign at the door that said that visitors cannot take fruit off the trees, but anything on the ground is fair game.   We got a bag out and spend about half an hour rummaging through the apples on the ground and filled up a bag with good apples.  I saw some other people doing it too, so it might be a common practice for the locals.     In part of the orchard they used electric fencing so they could have pigs come in and eat the apples that had fallen off the trees.   We didn’t pick up apples from the areas we could tell the pigs had been, btw.    I forgot what kind of breed the pigs were, but they were cool.   We could get up fairly close to them and we watched them for a while.

To get a little more touchy-feely, one thing I like about the Seed Savers Exchange’s mission is that plants and animals are sometimes more than what they are.   It’s easy to look at a carrot, chicken or tomato and say “that’s just a carrot/chicken/tomato”, but each of these varieties/breeds represents a distinct history, story, place and place in time.   It’s a direct living connection to the past – many of these varieties have been in families for generations.  I think the most famous example of this is the “mortgage lifter” tomato – a guy during the great depression down on his luck had a particularly prolific strain of tomato and was able to sell enough of the seedlings to pay off his mortgage.   As supermarket produce aisles are filled with soulless varieties that facilitate mass production and transport, we’ve lost that kind of connection to our food.   How cool would it be to have a heritage breed of turkey from the colonial era on Thanksgiving instead of one from Jennie-O?     I think society would be a little better off if we held more reverence for these kinds of things.    I would rather eat/grow/raise something with unique qualities (taste, shape, color, texture, etc.) with a story behind it than the kind of white-washed and homogenized food products on the supermarket shelf now.

The cabin we stayed in was very cool.   The owners were a couple of homesteader/permaculture types that had lived in the cabin with their two daughters, but built a house 100 feet away and kept the cabin as a rental.   It was built by one of the owner’s Norwegian ancestors around 1850 and moved to the present location a few miles outside of Decorah in a nice spot in a hollow surrounded by forests.    The cabin was powered by solar energy and heated with a wood stove.   There was a composting toilet in an outhouse and the shower was a small pump in a five gallon bucket connected to some pvc pipes – you had to heat the water on the stove and pour it into the bucket.    While a lot of people would not be happy with these kinds of accommodations, we loved it.

The composting toilet was interesting…  I’ve heard some things about them and heard people say “it really doesn’t smell” and I didn’t believe it.   They’re right.   It really didn’t smell at all.   Maybe it would in warmer weather, but it was a fairly pleasant experience.   We’re considering a move to the country eventually, and knowing that a composting toilet isn’t that bad is a good thing considering the cost of septic tanks and all of that.    Liz, the wife suggested that I piss outside in order to reduce the amount of liquid in the toilet.   Don’t mind if I do!

They served breakfast from foods produced either on their homestead or at least somewhere in the community (except for the coffee.  We haven’t figured that one out in Iowa yet) and it was great.   They did a good job accommodating my vegan wife too.   The first morning we had pancakes with fried puffball mushrooms, freshly pressed apple cider from their trees, pumpkin seeds and I had a couple of eggs from their hens.   The next day it was muffins (I forgot what kind, but they were good), green beans, fresh apple/grape juice and an omelette with parsley, tomatoes, garlic and basil.

One thing that was particularly memorable was the night sky, being so far away from lights.    You could clearly see the Milky Way and all kinds of things you can’t see in the city at night.   I spent about an hour sitting on a porch swing sipping peppermint tea just staring up at it.    A lot of the sky was obscured by the hills and trees, but still, it was very cool.

Here are a few pictures from the outside:

The website for this place (Fern Hollow Cabin) is here.   I would definitely stay here again.   I would also spend a little more time talking to the people that own it, they were very friendly people that did a lot of interesting stuff and probably had a lot of interesting stories and wisdom to share.

As for Decorah itself, I liked it.   It’s a very progressive town, but quaintly progressive – think Minnesota, not Berkeley.   There seems to be a very strong sense of community there.  I noticed the main drag (Water Street) was mostly local business with very few if any vacancies.  It seemed like most restaurants touted local fare on their menus and the local food thing was all over the place.   It was kind of nice to not see payday loans, fast food, tobacco stores and cellphone stores like the kinds of businesses I see day-to-day around here.    I think we went to Oneota Community Food Cooperative about half a dozen times in our short stay for a few meals and various grocery items.   They had a hot bar (or “buffet”) that changed daily, often using local products.   One day it was local themed with all local products – apple pork, stuffing with local bread and herbs, beets, squash, kale and apple crisp.   The next day it was Chinese with local products.     One day we hit sample night, where local producers come and peddle their wares within the store with free samples.  I was told it was just like getting a free meal once everything was said and done and they didn’t disappoint.  There was yogurt, various meats, honey, aronia berries, bread, produce, mushrooms and some other things.   It sure beats getting a wedge of frozen pizza or a paper cup of cereal at Costco.    All in all, I was very impressed with that town’s support of their local producers and merchants.

Decorah is VERY Norwegian.   It’s home to Vesterheim, a museum dedicated to Norwegian immigrants.  I guess it’s the largest museum dedicated to an ethnic group in the US.   The museum was interesting with lots of things from day-to-day life from the early immigrants.  While we were there, they had some (apparently) famous fiddle players from Finland playing in a church on the museum’s grounds.      Around town there were a lot of signs in Norwegian, trolls, troll houses (did you know that there’s never been a credible troll sighting of English-speaking trolls?   They only do Norwegian, even in Iowa).   Lots of little trinkets with that self-depreciating Scandinavian humor like Ole and Lena jokes, Lutefisk jokes, “Uff Da!”, etc.  Most people looked the part – lots of tall, thin blondes.   I know that Scandinavians in the upper midwest have a reputation of appearing to be stand-offish and cold to outsiders, but most of the people were very friendly.  In fact, I kind of felt like a dick some of the time for being kind of short with a few people that seemed like they were trying to engage us in conversation.

The scenery in the area gets described with “it doesn’t feel like you’re in Iowa”, which is definitely true.   Maybe that’s Central Iowa centric of me though.   The glaciers flattened out most of the state, but they missed a sliver in NE Iowa/SE Minnesota/SW Wisconsin known as the “driftless area”.     Most of the drive up there was through mind-numbingly flat Northern Iowa where there’s little but fields and wind turbines and then all of a sudden there’s hills, rock outcroppings on the side of the road and a ton of trees.   I think it looks a lot like Northern Minnesota.   I guess it’s a good area for mountain biking, canoeing, hiking and things like that due to the terrain.

A lot of Northern Iowa looks like this.

Decorah has stuff like this

…and this. An area by a stream tucked away in a forest near the cabin.

 

So that was the first time I’ve been to that part of the state and I’m glad I know it exists now.   It appealed to a lot of things I’m into – gardening, sustainability, locally grown food, European heritage and outdoorsy stuff.   I’ll definitely be back.

 

 

NBC’s Revolution

Well, the premier episode of “Revolution” was on tonight.

I think I missed the very first minute or so of the show, but it started out with scenes of the lights mysteriously going out all over, airplanes falling out of the sky, cars stalling out on the road and so-on.   I don’t think they said exactly how this happened, but I guess the viewer assumes it was some kind of EMP attack.

We fast-forward 15 years and see images of nature reclaiming urban areas and a suburban subdivision transformed into an agrarian village.   This scene definitely seemed like it came from the World Made By Hand series.   There were chickens, goats, raised garden beds, lawns turned into corn patches, walls around the neighborhood and what appeared to be a common area in the cul-de-sac.   The hood of a car was turned into a planter, which I thought was a nice touch.

I think that those of us who are into the world of preparedness would see these images and just think it’s kind of cool, accepting that these kinds of things could happen and if they did, you would just have to roll with the punches.   I would think that images of cars only having value as plant receptacles, familiar cityscapes in various states of disrepair, McMansions grown over with vines and lawns turned into corn patches might be a little unsettling to people who haven’t thought much about these kinds of things but might start contemplating the frailty of the modern world during the course of the show.  Certainly things like airplanes falling out of the sky is a chilling prospect.

The narrator describes the world as having mostly gone over to militias and/or criminals.   Shortly into the episode, a band of soldiers representing the government of the “Monroe Republic” enter the village looking for one of the inhabitants, Ben Matheson.   Ben’s son takes a stand against the soldiers and it turns into a fight with the soldiers getting the upper-hand.   They kill Ben, they take his son (Danny) into custody and as Ben is dying he tells his daughter Charlie to go find his brother Miles in Chicago.    So apparently there’s some kind of story developing involving an underground organization against the “Monroe Republic”, which appears to be a tyrannical regime.   They also establish that there’s some sort of personal connection between Monroe and Miles,  having served in the Marine Corps together (by the way, nice lack of regulation haircuts during the flashback, NBC).

There’s also a complicated love interest brewing between Charlie and Nate, some young guy in the militia they encountered in the woods who appears to have twisted loyalties.   There’s also tension between Charlie and Maggie, Ben’s girlfriend or wife.   Danny ends up stumbling upon some lady who appears to belong to the same secret organization as Miles after escaping (and then getting recaptured) from the soldiers.

So far my opinion is that the show looks like a cool concept, but I bet the subplots are going to get even more ridiculous as it progresses.    My work schedule (and lack of the Tivo thing) doesn’t make it easy to follow these kinds of shows, but if I’m home I’d watch it.

Here’s a few of my observations/thoughts so far:

–  When the soldiers came looking for Ben, my first reaction was that their leader looked remarkably like Barack Obama (maybe ten years from now).   I got a chuckle out of this and I’m not sure if this was intentional or not to have the face of government oppression be so similar to our president.

–  I think the fact that this show is on reflects that a lot of people can sense that something’s wrong with the world.   I don’t think they would’ve made a show like this in say, 1997 when the economy was roaring and the USA was clearly at the top of the world.   I think network TV (and most mainstream outlets) are more reactive to what’s going on in the world than truly being at the forefront of creativity.  Surely they see that there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world and people are starting to look for answers and explanations.   I still haven’t seen Doomsday Preppers, but I imagine that Revolution is kind of jocking the buzz that Doomsday Preppers created in mainstream circles.    I’ve definitely seen a lot more talk about issues of preparedness/survival in the past couple of years, be it the “zombie apocalypse”, ads and increased availability for long-term storage food, blogs on the subject, talk of economic collapse, increase in talk about precious metals and so on.

– I always hate it when people get too hung up on “that’s so unrealistic!” when dealing with works of fiction, but I thought it was kind of strange that most people in the show looked like they just pulled their clothes out of the washer and dryer now in 2012.   You would think that after 15 years of not having the same kind of textile industry and living an agrarian lifestyle any clothes from the abundant-energy era would be completely tattered and torn.   In the beginning of the show there were some people in more primitive clothing but the clean shaves, clean clothes, nice teeth and neat haircuts seemed a little off given the back story.    Oh well, write a good story and I’ll let it slide.

– I think a lot of people already in the preparedness world will probably scoff at this show, as they did Doomsday Preppers.   Yeah, so far it looks a little goofy – I’ll definitely concede that.   However, I do think that these shows will do some good by getting some people who otherwise wouldn’t think about these kinds of things to really start to consider preparedness scenarios and just maybe start to action.     Just like anything else in life, mainstream society will stumble across something, it’ll be in the national consciousness if only for a few minutes, a lot of people will jump in, society will move on to something else, a lot of people will jump out and then at the end of the day there will be more people standing in than there were before the mainstream stumbled upon it.   In other words, something like this could lead to more people taking an interest in preparedness and sustainability.   I consider that a good thing – the more people who think like us, the better off the world would be in the event of some kind of calamity.  I also think that the more people who accept that things could go south for us one way or another, the more likely we are as a society to make the kind of changes we need to steer clear of man-made catastrophes.  I don’t think that Revolution in itself is going to cause a, uh, revolution but I think it will bring some people our way once everything is said and done.   It’s up to us that are already of this mindset to be there to provide accurate information, guidance and solutions to the people that truly come to look for it.   We can certainly do it better than NBC’s writers can.

 

Again, I don’t think my schedule (and lack of Tivo) will allow me to keep up with the show, but I’ll tune in when I can.   We’ll see what comes of it.   Hopefully it at least gets mainstream society to start asking “what if…?” and more imporantly, “what can I do about it?”

Oikos Update 9/13

I finally got a disability insurance policy locked down after a couple months of getting everything in order for it.   Yeah, in the world of preparedness this isn’t the most romantic thing but realistically I’m more likely to become physically impaired at work or something than running around a post-apocalyptic world shooting bad guys in sweet tactical gear.   Another yearly expense kind of sucks, but I feel better with it, especially considering the fact that I work with machinery and such and people do get hurt occasionally.

I’ve finally canned tomatoes this year.  I put away about 12 jars and will probably do some more before everything is all said and done.   Been making a lot of salsa and marinara too.

Next week we’ll spend a few days in Decorah, IA visiting Seed Saver’s Exchange farm and a few other places.   Can’t wait.   I’ve been planning on going up there for a while now.

On a whim I stopped in at a local garden center that I’ve never been to and I’m glad I did.   The guy gave me a whole bunch of cabbage, cauliflower and collard seedlings for free.   I bought a bag of buckwheat for cover cropping and also talked to him for a little bit about chickens.  They sell them there and he had a nice little chicken house and pen for sale.   The house seemed like a good deal, the pen seemed a little expensive for what it is, but put together it seemed reasonable.    I could make one myself, but that’s one of those things that I’m likely to put off.   Next weekend I might go up there and pick up a few hens and the things I’ll need to get started with them.   I think I’ll end up visiting that place again, either way.

This weekend I’m going to talk to a guy that lives near me about beekeeping.   I guess he has 28 hives and has been doing it for a while.   There’s also a local backyard beekeepers group too.    I’m a little worried about my dogs messing with the hive, but I think there’s ways to prevent that (build a cabinet).      I’ve been taking more interest in  this idea lately.

In the garden I still have a lot more green tomatoes than red ones for some reason.   I’ve picked a few Armenian cucumbers lately, which is cool.    I let a bunch of lambs quarter go and it just went to seed, so I cut that down.  The plan is to harvest the seed and use it as grain throughout the year.   Peppers have been trickling in and the heat sent a few of my radishes to seed.   Oh well.

I might have a chance to take some adult ed classes in beekeeping, blacksmithing and/or investing soon through my job.   Hopefully that goes through.

 

World Made by Hand / The Witch of Hebron by James Howard Kunstler

 

I read these two books recently.  I read The Witch of Hebron over the course of a couple of days last weekend and World Made by Hand last night at work (I had a lot of free time).   I guess I read them in the wrong order, but it didn’t seem to matter.  Both books were fairly easy reading and page-turners.

The background to the story is that the United States was involved in a major war in the “Holy Land” with the Chinese and Arabs.   There were some major terrorist attacks, including some nuclear bombs (not sure if this was a terrorist attack or “act of war” – either way, same result), a major pandemic, skirmishes with Mexico and hyperinflation.  Oil stopped flowing into the United States and people were forced to live an agrarian lifestyle in the absence of fuel.   Race riots broke out in the major urban areas.  No one is certain about the fate of the US government, news from outside the immediate area is scarce or sketchy and communities are largely on their own, with mixed results.   Both of these stories take place several years after the “old times” were over and people have generally adjusted to their reality but there’s still knowledge of how things used to be.

I liked both of these books because for the most part they had realistic characters with realistic traits and qualities coping with these situations in a realistic manner.   Well, there’s some supernatural undertones and a few situations that seem a little out there, but hey, the guy is trying to write an interesting story.    The New Faith compound seemed reasonable enough (nothing too outlandish), there really weren’t any superheroes in the book and the ways people managed to get on with life seemed reasonable.    The world didn’t completely turn into Little House on the Prairie, nor did it turn into Mad Max but there were certainly elements of both in society.   People still acted on some of the same motivations that drive people today – love, lust, friendship, materialism, greed, fear, religion, whatever.

Oh, and reading the book recently seemed particularly poignant considering the way it seems like they’re really starting to bang on the war drums in the Middle East right now.     The back story doesn’t seem outlandish at all, unfortunately.   Pretty much everything that caused the world to end up like it does in the two novels is either happening now or very likely to happen.    His depiction on how these things will play out is speculative, but again, nothing seems too unreasonable.   I believe the author has some non-fiction books on the subject, which I’ll make a point to seek out.

I think my favorite part of the book was the descriptions of food.   In the world Kunstler creates, folks are largely dependent on what they can produce for themselves or trade.   There are no supermarkets or produce flown in from halfway across the world.   People grow things, raise livestock and forage for their food.   They practice food preservation techniques and do things like brew beer, distill alcohol and so-on.   Much of the food they eat is seasonal.   For instance, The Witch of Hebron takes place in the fall so there’s a lot of mention of things like kale, turnips, arugula and potatoes.   World Made by Hand takes place in the summer, so there’s scenes of berry picking and tomato cultivation.   Reading about things like roasted meat with root vegetables, cornbread with butter and honey, fresh eggs with homemade cheese, bacon, ham, etc. was almost too much to take.   The scenes involving Barbara Maglie (the witch) were probably the most vivid in the two books.   It made me think of The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil where the people were forced to produce for themselves and ended up with better quality and more nutritious food than before.   I suppose I should add that I’d rather be able to enjoy these kinds of foods now when I have the option of ordering a pizza and having someone drive to deliver it to me or getting an apple flown in from Chile in the off season if I want to than if I had no other choice, like the characters in the book.

In addition to the great food descriptions, I think The Witch of Hebron did a great job evoking the feeling of fall, especially now as it starts to get a little chilly at night and the days are getting shorter and I’m more conscious of it.   Kunstler describes harvests, builds around a supernatural/Halloween theme, the weather and of course some of the foods typical to the season.   It’s definitely a good book for this time of year.   World Made by Hand didn’t quite have the same effect.

Between the two books, I’d have to pick The Witch of Hebron as the better of the two.    Yeah, I know, the sequel is rarely better but I think it’s true in this case.   I think it wins on being a lot more suspenseful and more graphic.   Both are worthwhile to read, but I think The Witch of Hebron will be stuck in my memory a lot longer.

I liked the talk about commerce in the book.    Cheese and ham was almost like money – it has value, it’s widely accepted, it’s easily divisible and the shelf life is so-so.   People traded in silver and US dollars were accepted too, but in dollar amounts that suggest a lot of inflation before everything collapsed and very little confidence in the government (i.e. the cost of a few pounds of dried fruit in one transaction was either 10 cents silver or $1000 paper).   Regardless of everything that had happened, people still found ways to produce things of value and trade them amongst each other without government involvement.

I have to say that the editorializing was muted in both books.   It was there and it wasn’t always subtle, but it didn’t take away from the story and it was usually well-placed.

The people who had skills seemed to come out alright (i.e. the doctor).  The people who didn’t (say, the lady and her dad at the farmhouse), they didn’t fare as well.   People who were involved in now-obsolete trades had to learn something else – one character had a Ford dealership and ironically ended up in the donkey business, showering praises on them just like a car salesman would on a car.

As a preparedness-minded individual, reading both of these stories forced me to do a bit of a self-evaluation on the skills I have, the things I possess and the people I know and where that might take me in the event of something resembling the events of the World Made by Hand series.     That’s the beauty of these kinds of books, you can put yourself into the situation and think about how you’d fare.     I think I’m a few steps above the average person in that I already know some of the basic skills that people would have to fumble through when the stakes are high and I already possess some of the things I would need to facilitate my survival….  But I definitely don’t know everything I’d like to know and I don’t possess everything I’d like to have.    These books just provided a bit of a kicker to keep on the track I’m on.

 

 

 

Sustainable Agriculture In Cuba

A while back ago I did a write-up on The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, discussing some of the things in the documentary.      I hate to post “hey, look what I found on the internet!” kind of things, but I just recently went through a series of posts about Jill Richardson’s trip to Havana to study their agricultural methods and figured I’d share it.     There are some very cool photos and insight in the blog, I suggest checking it out if you liked the documentary/article or have any interest in life in Cuba.    Here’s the link:   http://www.lavidalocavore.org/diary/3582/cuba-diaries-day-1

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