Sunday, May 22, 2011

Quick Follow-Up

A couple more things related to the last post.

First, I don't think i stated one important point that was present in my mind but failed to make it into the post. That is, that in this hypothetical alternative lifestyle, i would spend much more time "working" than i currently do. What i'm wondering, is if it would feel like work. I'm sure that sometimes it would, maybe even most of the time. But i'm also sure there would be times that it wouldn't. I don't know whether or not I'd prefer it overall, but i think that there is at least a chance that i would.

Also, I just happened to spend some time working on a farm today! There is an organization here called Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOLF) and Burl and I volunteered to help out today. We visited a farm about 20 miles from our house, that is a very small operation that primarily supplies CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box distributors in Central Oregon. We're talking about a total of probably around 5-8 acres, but a fair amount of variety in that space. We got to talk quite a bit with the proprietor and hear about the challenges involved. She said she grew enough produce in peak season to support 40-60 people.

Anyway, it was funny that half a day after writing that last entry, i was standing on a small, organic, hand-worked farm and learning about what it takes and what it produces. Of course, in this area, during a large part of the year, it doesn't produce much at all.

It was some fun and some work, some great food and a lot of sun. And now I'm bushed!

PS - thanks for all the comments on the last post! I'm glad to hear that a lot of other people are wondering about similar things.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How to live

That title is my question, not a a pronouncement that you're about to be enlightened with some great truth.

Let me say up front that this is a bit of a processing exercise for me, and my thoughts are not clearly organized, so this will probably wander a bit and may be about as clear as mud. I'm going to try to put something down anyway, maybe it will make some sense.

Lately, work has been a struggle, largely due to the current economy. But generally, work IS a struggle. For most everyone, most all the time, right? Financially, I had it pretty darn good growing up as a result of my dad's hard work, ingenuity and wisdom in conducting his business. Or so i always believed. And i still do for the most part, but he has told me himself that no small part of his success has been luck and good timing.

I'm now at an age where i feel like things need to start rolling if I am going to have similar success. I struggle with direction and ideas that are practical and marketable. I'm having a hard time seeing how i'm going to "make it happen" and lately a more foundational question has been traveling around my mind a lot: What is success and do i even want the type of success that i've admired in the past?

When I look at those who I admire and consider successful, one of the primary things that makes them successful in my mind, is control of their time. Money, obviously has been a measure of success as well, probably second only to time. (I'm assuming things like health, relationships and family, etc) Because with lots of money and no time, you can't have any fun or do the things you want to do. But with lots of time and no money, you can still have some fun. Having both would be ideal, but that is very difficult to achieve. Even the possession of both is no guarantee of satisfaction or happiness. I know this is not groundbreaking stuff here. Anyone possessing the least bit of maturity realizes that money does not equal happiness. But we still often act as though it does, and maybe we have a tendency to think that way without realizing it.

I've had a brief but interesting period in my life where I was making a lot of money. It was pretty nice. But it wasn't the answer to all life's problems. It really didn't last that long, and i was being relatively conservative so i guess i still don't have a good "feel" for what it was like. In any case, I'm confident that having lots of money doesn't contribute to my overall happiness much other than in the freedom that it provides.

When i say freedom, mainly what i mean is time. I need enough money to cover my basic needs and some entertainment (for me that means "gear" for the various activities i enjoy) and beyond that, more is great but it isn't as important as that first bit. Once that set of basic needs and wants is covered, I'd rather have more time than money. But it turns out that it can be very difficult to make money. In fact, it takes most of my time just to make enough money to cover the basics, leaving me feeling like i'm spending too much of my life doing something I don't want to do. I wonder if there is another way to get more time.

When i look forward and try to imagine what my life will look like, i have a hard time being confident that it will not be a constant struggle between time and money. Time is only going to get more and more precious as life changes and children will probably come along and Burl and I try to maintain a healthy marriage and fun relationship.

Lately, Burl and I have been very intrigued by the ideas of homesteading, or off-the-grid living, or the back to the land movement. Even things like intentional communities, communes or kibbutz types of living arrangements. When I think of homesteading, what i envision is living more or less like pioneers might have when they travelled west across the US and settled the land. That is a pretty wild thought, and there is a lot that i don't know about what that would entail.

One thing that was a contributor to these thoughts bubbling around in my head was my recent trips to Peru and Thailand, mainly Peru. When I was there, riding a motorcycle through the rural villages of the Andes mountains, I was struck by the lifestyle of the people. First we encountered the high-elevation Inca people living in pretty barren high-alpine landscapes, raising llamas and other critters. That looked like really hard work and i can't say it appealed to me very much. Also, we could barely breathe, it was over 12,000 feet! Things changed drastically though as we crested the mountain range and began down the eastern slopes. There clearly was a lot more rain because there was a lot more green vegetation and the people were able to raise a larger variety of livestock as well as having agriculture for themselves.

I saw these people working on building their mud-block houses, tending their animals and working in their fields. They didn't have jobs, they just built their shelter and raised their food and lived. Maybe i shouldn't say "just" because i'm sure it's no small feat. These communities were small and you could tell that the people depended on each other and knew each other and were very much a community, for better or worse.

I have to say that there was a lot I saw in their lifestyle that i was envious of. I'm sure there's a lot about it I don't know, and i'm pretty sure they would be envious of my lifestyle as well. There is always the old "grass is greener on the other side of the fence" syndrome to contend with. That seems to be a common feature of human mentality. I'm probably more susceptible to that even than most, because it seems i'm never satisfied with what i have and always wanting something different.

In any case, they were living much more closely to the way that humans have lived for most of history. We westerners have largely been veering away from the traditional lifestyle at an exponential rate over the last few hundred years (or even last few generations).

So, seeing the rural people of Peru was a bit of a catalyst to these ideas i've been having.

I can't help but wonder, if i was spending my days working on my own home and livelihood in a direct way, rather than doing some other "job" in order to pay others to provide the things to meet my needs, would i be more satisfied?

The whole modern western lifestyle of being a cog in an industrial or service wheel by day, and a consumer by night/weekend seems to lead to dissatisfaction because the production seems like such an odd endeavor when you step back and look at it, and because you can never consume enough to be satisfied. There are so many things out there for consumption, and we can never have them all, so we never seem satisfied. Or so it goes for me at least. And when i say odd endeavor, what i mean is the things that we all spend 6-10 hours a day (hopefully not more!) doing, can seem like such unnecessary and odd behavior when you think about what it is that people need to live and be happy.

When i think about ditching the modern lifestyle and going totally retro-rural, the things that i struggle the most with mentally letting go of, are my recreational activities. I sure wouldn't mind never going to work again. But i think i'd really miss road trips, and mountain biking and skiing. And i'm guessing that going camping just wouldn't be the same if you lived in in the woods in a smoky dirt and wood hut all of the time!

Social aspects could be a real challenge too, depending on where you are and who is around. It has the potential to be a much better or worse social lifestyle than that i'm currently living, depending on whether i was on my own little space in the middle of nowhere, or working an area along with several other families. There's even the common ownership models like communes, kibbutzes and the like. And there are more modern compromises between the completely agrarian lifestyle and the urban, like the intentional communities where people have there own properties as well as shared common property and social areas. There is a whole spectrum of possible implementations.

Imagine not having money, but rather just making sure you have enough food saved up to last you through the winter.

Imagine not getting up and driving to work and building or selling or coordinating or whatever it is you do each day, but instead working the earth to provide the things that you literally need to live.

I don't really know how hard it would be. I'm sure it would depend largely on where you were doing it and what the climate and natural resources are like there. I've read in some places that it's actually very easy, and in others it obviously can be difficult or even impossible. But if you were to pick a reasonably hospitable place, i can't help but wonder if it wouldn't be an awfully damn satisfying lifestyle. I think for me it could be.

A more realistic thought might be having a few acres somewhere with a long growing season, trying to cut way down on your energy consumption and having a smartly built home. Growing the majority of your food. Using solar and hydro energy production where possible and minimizing the things you need cash for, and having a part-time job or produce something on your land that can be sold.

It's intriguing to me. I'd sure like a test-drive, but i'm not sure how one goes about that.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Made it to spring.

Every year as green things and sun light return I breath a sigh of relief...Spring! Although our Central Oregon weather will not warm up until June all the small signs of life are reassuring. It took me until this year to recognize that I actually hibernate to some degree during winters up here. So in contrast to the dark and the cold of winter, all these small bits of light and friendship and full buds on the tips of tree branches are stunning...But I can't wait for summer!!

Signs of life in my own life: renewed desire to do a KPOV show: 'Mixtape Radio'. Garden plans. Life plans. Rearranged the house and turned it into a bit of a jungle. Got two fish - blue betas. Riding my bike again - discovered the Freddy Krueger face mask works wonders for those long downhills. Got my guitar restrung with really easy strings :)

Yes, I am still looking for a decent job in Bend, OR (one of the worst places to look right now). I have two interesting possibilities floating around out there (a NEPA Planner position for the FS and a field botanist position). I want the botanist one!

I am really happy with Bend the community. I have made some seriously rad friends here and there are a lot of fun things happening all the time. Then there's all the playing in the woods we all do...makes everyone pretty happy in general I reckon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

End of 2010 Ramblings

End of 2010 Ramblings                                                                  December 29, 2010

A collection of thoughts, things I’ve learned, favorite quotes etc.

I do not like exclamation marks.
“Beauty is a feeling, not an appearance.” Unknown

Putting on a wedding is hard work.

Starting a business is also hard work.

Winter in Bend is pretty. I am finally falling in love with the quiet snowy nights, crisp sunny days, the sparkle of ice crystals in the sun.

I’m pretty burnt out on politics and news and the messed up things people do. I don’t really know what to do so I’m mostly ignoring it. I’m open to some sage advice in this area.

“It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our Deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

I first read the above quote while changing for yoga. I had had a rough summer and this fed me and continues to do so. I later learned, in a sermon at City Church, that the author is not Nelson Mandela as I first read but Marianne Williamson, a Christian writer. I like our church and I’m agnostic!

I’m pretty into Kesha.

I have awesome friends and family.

I still miss home. Point Lobos, oaks and lupines, the crickets at night *sigh*

I think I am nesting (no, I am not pregnant!!).

This year I am learning the guitar. When I am old I want to play in a community orchestra.

I can usually tell from the first 30 seconds of a song whether I am going to delete it or not. I know, might miss some things, but life is short!

New favorite movies-
            The Kids Are Alright
            Despicable Me (“It’s so furry I’m gonna die!!”)

I am sifting through my favorite songs of the year, trying to make some sense of them. The past few years I have been able to sort them into slow, med, and fast mixes. I am not sure how they will fall together this year. I have been told I need to express my throat chakra, so watch out! Regardless, this has become a nice tradition and has incited some fun reflection. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


If you have not heard, Sarah Palin is blaming environmentalist for the oil spill.

This alone is not at all shocking to me. Yes, it is somehow comical and overwhelmingly depressing all at the same time, but not surprising. The hard part for me is all the otherwise intelligent people who do not see any problem with her absurd conclusion.

I guess maybe, if you do not actually stop and think, and you squint your eyes, you could draw a link between the environmental movement and deep water oil drilling. But really? Really?? I am not sure how this could get so confused but environmentalists have not been pushing for oil drilling in places that are dangerous to drill. In fact, environmentalists would hope for little to no oil drilling at all! Is this really news?

The enviro movement officially started with the first Earth Day after the oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara California in 1969. This, in combination with the first oil crisis and signs of climate change in the early 1970s, established a strong anti-oil sentiment in the group. Enviros have since pushed for clean power, reducing our footprint by consuming less and drilling less oil and and and. Well, here's the Daily Kos : "Sarah, maybe you missed the memo, but us ‘extreme greenies’ are opposed to ALL drilling. We are opposed to any energy that ruins our lands and soils our waters. We are for alternative energy, and funding new technologies to replace oil in America.

We all (yes, I am one of environmentalist!) dream that people had actually listened when signs of trouble first started showing up...40 YEARS AGO!!!! Imagine where we could be, the technologies that could have been in place NOW! What happened instead was law suits. Oil companies pushed back when their source of income was threatened and thus...more oil mess!

To end on a positive note: I believe things can be better than this. Humans are smart and we can do things differently and so so so much better! We do not need oil. Yes, our infrastructure was built around it (*sigh*...again, oh how nice if we'd actually started changing 40 years ago) but that doesn't mean we are stuck. There is no doubt that oil is a finite resource. It is messy and creates so many problems from so many points in it's production and usage, why do we continue to be so reliant on it? Please let this latest oil catastrophe be a catalyst for change!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 15!

So far so good! We have officially been married for 15 whole days now! We are very proud of ourselves :D But really, after one huge party and a week of vacation in Arizona followed by a "quiet" week hiding now that we've been home...this whole marriage thing is awesome!

Considering the wacky El Nino weather, all I asked for for my wedding day was "please don't rain, please don't rain!" Well, the day was as all we could have hoped for! Crazy, of course, just like everyone warned, but beautiful weather and everything ran mostly as planned :D

For everyone who was there, thank you so much for coming to celebrate our love. For everyone who helped out, we could NOT have done it with out you! This thing was very much a group project and wow are we blessed with amazing friends and family!! Aside from the obvious things this experience has really truly showed me how many wonderful people I am surrounded by. There are too many of you even to list who came to the rescue during various parts of all of this!

So thank you to everyone we know! We love you all and we are very happily settled in back in Bend!!

P.S. Soooo many more pictures coming soon!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This Must Be the Place

There is a song by the Talking heads, "This Must be the Place". I first heard it as a junior in Santa Barbara. It was a great year. I had met some great new people and was going on a lot of road trips. Anza Borego desert for the spring blooms (you could smell the flowers on a warm breeze). Havasu Falls, Hawaii, paddling around Ana Capa Island...Listening to this song, of course.

At one point I had an insight that not only is home a specific geographic spot (which to me is also very important as well) but home can be a feeling where you know you are with the right people in the right place for that moment.

It is only appropriate that I am reconnecting with this song again...I have been in Bend for almost 2 years now and have started to make some seriously good friends. It has been both a bumpy and a beautiful period for Troy and I (well, when has it not been??) but we continue to fall in love. And I am also falling in love with the Cascades in the summer, can you say canoe plus incredible lakes plus mountain views?.

But of course, at the same time I seriously miss California. So being down here prepping for my wedding, laughing at my parents, and seeing old friends - it all comes together and now "this must REALLY be the place" :p

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cali Moto Tour 2009 - A Note About Uncle Ron

One thing that was only briefly discussed before, and that I think deserves a little more time, is our encounter with “uncle” Ron, the gentleman in Truckee who took us in.
We ran into Ron in a bar in Truckee and he was excited to chat with us about the BMW Owners Anonymous listing and almost immediately offered us his spare room. Ron was pretty drunk and kept saying Meryl instead of Burl. He was also repeating himself a lot. He and his friend Rocky (who gave us his card and told us we could stay at his home in the bay area) had been fishing, eating and drinking all day. (EDIT: As I type this in, I realize it could come across as less than flattering. I want to be clear, Ron is a great guy, not some goofy drunk. We just happened to run into him at an endearingly intoxicated moment.)
So Ron was very chatty and told us all about his dancing skills, lady troubles and the woman in Prineville named Sheila who his niece wanted to set him up with, and whom was part of the motivation for his planned trip to Bend.
Ron gave us food, road advice, let us shower and dry our clothes and even washed the windshield on my motorcycle for me. He gave us some plastic bags to keep our gear dry and was hospitable in every way. It was great to run into such a person when we were wet and tired!
It will be fun to repay his generosity when he comes to stay in Bend.
(EDIT: Ron never did make it up to Bend that summer. Or at least we never heard about it if he did. We did make an attempt or two to get in touch with him and make sure he knew he was welcome. Maybe he’ll make it up this summer.)