Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sneak Peak

Well, the climate change deniers wouldn't miss an opportunity this rich, so I won't either.  We've had EXTENDED TORRENTIAL rainstorms this last several days.  There was thunder in this system that shook the mountain underneath us.  Thunder!  At Christmas!  And lots of it.  Sinkholes, mudslides, closed bridges, with whole trees washed up against the street level rails, detours, state of emergency.  That's the rumor anyway, that our county has declared a state of emergency and requested FEMA funding!  Wow.

Temperatures were downright balmy, too.  Still are.  I'm sitting in my friend's kitchen typing with windows open and fans running, trying to dry things out a little.  At my house too, curiously moist and warm.  A very saturating sort of storm.

Got all the way down to 66 last night.  Seen temps in the 70s, and almost 80 when we popped down to my Mom's in south Georgia for Christmas Eve dinner.  Hard to get in the yuletide spirit under the air conditioning, but my sister's new boyfriend was showing off his mad kitchen skills with a medium rare prime rib roast, so I'll soldier on...

El Nino, La Nina, call it whatever you need to to make it work in your brain, but I think this is a sneak peek of the new climate normal ahead of us.  Mrs. Small Batch Garden and I are beginning to wonder if we moved far enough north!  But, you know, like I would tell the deniers if it were bitterly cold, a week of weather does not a climate make, so we add a very unusual spell of tropical weather at Christmas to the tally, and pray for some chill hours.

From CBSNews.com:

"To me, this is the most staggering thing: In the Boston area we're going to see the coldest winter month ever recorded and the warmest winter month ever recorded in the same year in 144 years of records."

That's the real kicker with climate change: extreme volatility, unpredictability, shifting rain bands, no real normals to be counted on.  I've stopped taking the weather forecast seriously beyond a few days.  And even in that short time frame they can be incredibly wrong.  My aforementioned dad in the aforementioned Iowa got 6 inches of fresh powder on Christmas Eve, and NO ONE saw it coming even the day before.  "Thick Skin" may become one of the most desirable traits in meteorologists of the coming decades!

Meanwhile, the Greenland and Western Antarctic ice sheets keep melting faster than ever, and methane explosions pock-mark Siberian quasi-tundra.  Sea water bubbles up out of storm drains in Miami whenever there's a good stiff onshore breeze during high tide, and Florida's infantile governor has forbidden state employees from talking about climate change and global warming, as if that will magically make it go away.

Forty year lag time mean anything to you, Mr. Scott?  If humans stopped burning carbon entirely, right now, across the globe, it would still take 40 years for the current pattern to peak before things started getting better.  Of course nothing of the sort is ever going to happen, especially when you have the leader of the industrial world changing the language in the proposed climate accord from "shall" curb emissions to "should" curb emissions.  Yes, we should, we all should, but if you can't do it yourself, ain't nobody short of Mum Gaia going to enforce that helping verb.  Stop looking for help from above, and start making changes personally from below.  "They" don't have anything useful to offer.

(Channeling Dr. Mesmer)  That saltwater in your garage is supposed to be there...dry land is for pansies.  Sea level rise is a liberal conspiracy.  Now, repeat after me...

Message to current residents of south Florida: North Georgia is ugly, backward, smelly, xenophobic, and otherwise generally disagreeable.  The lovely forested hillsides in the background of the photos below were Photo-shopped in.  Think California when relocation becomes necessary.  It's more like Florida than north Georgia is.  Oranges good.  Apples bad...Got it??

On a more local note, we've spent some time this fall building more shelter for ourselves.  You know, in between downpours.

I'm all but finished with the cob oven shed - the cherry counter top still needs some of my time, and I may add a spice shelf above that - but all in all I'm pleased with its form and function. It closes up the campfire terrace very nicely, and I can (and do) position myself between fires for cooking and entertaining.  I've forgone the door I talked about last time, and opted instead to keep a small live fire going against the back of the dome when cooking.  Like I thought, it is a nice party trick.  And more importantly, it makes top shelf pizza...
Next up was a wood shed.  I needed a spot, on contour with the entry to the house, to store and process firewood, and keep some larger dimensional lumber high and dry.  This does all.  If you took the lower level of boards out and stacked firewood up to the bottom of the top level of boards, that would be exactly a cord (16'W x 6'H).  With our small, tight house, that's just about all I need for any given winter, and this is a very accessible design for my needs.  The fact that it's on display above the fire pit the way it is, just makes me want to load it up faster.
This is what I've really been looking forward to.  A big flat space!  Although I've kept it pretty modest, for so many reasons, it might just be the most useful thing we've added since we took down the tent and built the cabin.  A dry(ish) entry porch at the front door makes a great big difference, too.  All of us love this new space.
That said, I regularly field criticism that we have compromised too much, that our radical edge is gone.  And you know what I say to that?  So what.  Who cares.  We - four of us - live in a 480 s.f. house (plus loft), with maybe 30W of solar power all told, and no indoor plumbing, with a few new modest amenities.  And while I very much intend to add to some of that very soon, I would be perfectly comfortable like this for the rest of my life if it came to it.

Lots of people seem to misunderstand what we're doing here.  We didn't come here to don hair shirts and live in a tent.  The tent was so we could live on our land and not acquire any additional debt while we set up shop.  And, believe it or not, hair shirts were never part of the plan.  We weren't preparing for zombie invasions, or nuclear war, or Chinese hegemony, or an EMP, although what we've created, and where we've created it, might be fitting for any and all of the above!  The point all along was to live a more self-reliant life, which, taken seriously, generally just means a smaller life with less stuff.  

We went to ground, did without most of what Americans consider essential, just to see what we really wanted or needed to add back.  My blog over the last year and a half has shown a few of the answers to those questions, and the next spring equinox update will probably show some more - 500W of solar power for lights, fans, and a fridge, and hot running water to a kitchen sink.  And that's about it.  Most of the rest of what we think we need is fluff.  At least that's what our little experiment proved to us.

Your conclusions may be completely different.

Happy Winter Solstice/New Year/Christmas, and all that.  Thanks for stopping by!

Tripp out.


  1. wow! What a difference since our visit. I love the deck and covered porch...-Jessica W

  2. As always, glad to see an update. I always know you are very busy doing something, but it's nice to see exactly what, and draw on what you've learned. Yeah, COP 21 was a bust, but then we knew it would be. Anyhow, I liked your wood shelter, and thought I'd point out mine, built this summer. We have a too large house, and it's a bit colder here, so we go through three cords.


    This shelter stores around half of our winter's needs. With the now volatile polar vortex snaking and twisting, you might still get a blast on the other side of normal, so stock up!

  3. Say, I just read your fabulous recipe for Sunroot fritters from another site.
    Do you have any tubers of Sunroot, Helianthus tuberosus that I could get from you? If so, please mail me at yourprairiegold@gmail.com or phone 7126618467. Do you know what variety or varieties that you have?

  4. Say, I just read your fabulous recipe for Sunroot fritters from another site.
    Do you have any tubers of Sunroot, Helianthus tuberosus that I could get from you? If so, please mail me at yourprairiegold@gmail.com or phone 7126618467. Do you know what variety or varieties that you have?

  5. Jess, thanks, sis! It's getting nicer every day.

    Steve, love your woodshed, and your firewood post in general. Amazing what a difference DRY firewood makes in heat output, isn't it?? My 7 y.o. daughter and I committed to memory that mnemonic poem about firewood species recommended by Angus Wallace. Talk about useful poetry! And as an aside, I've been rescued by standing dead trees going in the wood stove here more than once in our first few winters...

    Larry Aden, welcome to my blog, and thanks for the comment! I'll email you about those sunchokes next.

  6. A friend was just asking me if I've ever seen that movie "The Perfect Storm." Yes, I have, but it occurred to me that what we have before us and around us already IS the perfect storm, especially for the particular kind of humans we are - a technical civilization bent on control, but it's just happening too slowly for most people, particularly American people - to be interested in!

    Probably not sage wisdom, but there it is...

  7. Love your pizza oven bro. You are so killing it on all fronts.


  8. Love your pizza oven bro. You are so killing it on all fronts.


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