Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Thursday, April 27, 2017

All or Nothing?

They say there are two kinds of people in the world when it comes to solar - those who think solar will save the world, and those who have used it...

I officially hate the house-selling business.  The only good I get from it is that the house is generally cleaner, more often, than usual.  I'm also checking off lots of little nit-picky tasks that I wish I had done last year - threshholds, window trim, rainwater filtration...that one I should have done the day we installed the downspout.  I think it's fair to say that I'm spending a fair amount of time these days kicking my own ass for not getting to some of these things sooner.

Not that there wasn't a whole bunch of other stuff to do first, before I could get to most of this!  You get to it when you get to it.  There is an order to all things, especially building a house.  But psychologically, this whole full court press I've been running these days, knocking jobs out left and right, is like a vice grip on my peace of mind.  On the one side is the fact that my place looks better every week, making me love it more and not want to leave it.  And on the other side I'm beating myself up for not getting to some of these tasks sooner, and not having longer to enjoy the results.  Double whammy.

Aaaand a deep breath...Inhale...Exhale.  As my friend Stimpi says, "don't forget to breathe."  Good advice, Stimpi.  I have not been myself lately.

Trying to sell a property as off-grid and unique as this place has proven to be more difficult than I expected.  I know there are lots of people who would love to try something like this.  I hear from them all the time.  For that reason I think it would make a top-shelf AirBNB-type rental.  If I were in that hunt I would live in town where I could walk to necessary services, buy it (in my case keep it) as a 2nd home, enjoy the (literal) fruits of 5 years of my labor, practice living life more simply, in and out of town, all that, and then rent it out to vacation rental clients as fast as I could, every open date in between.

As it is I'm stuck living in a house that's on sale, that I'm not altogether sure I want to be on sale, that used to be a really private place to live when the summer started closing in, but which is now not very private at all, with all these strangers traipsing in and out of here.  And it's not as if some of the alt tech around here isn't fairly challenging to the average American to begin with!

So you have a composting toilet...like an Incinolet?

No, it's a simple sawdust toilet.

But you have a septic field, right?

No, we live on rainwater and mass compost all of our waste.  But if that doesn't work for you, there are other, more hands-free types of composting toilets that you could exchange it for.

What about a normal toilet?

Not without a well and septic, and the water is about 300' deep here. Solar power would be pretty tough to use for pulling water up from that depth.  It's not the right tech for that purpose.  There are other options, like using a generator to pump up a tankful, use, then repeat, which would pretty much take care of any algae problems as well, cycling through it like that regularly.  Our off-grid friends on the other side of the county do it that way, and never have any trouble.

Can we not connect to the grid?

Not without jumping through all the regulatory hoops required for a full building permit and C.O.

You don't have a C.O.?

No, see the county's stance on off-grid properties is to just stay out of it.  They don't issue permits for off-grid structures, and we don't ask for them.  (Me thinking this will be good news for potential off-griddies, but usually met with consternation, if not disapproval.)

This isn't a normal house, folks! Didn't you notice?  We went to some length to point out the rainwater catchment, the composting toilet facilities, the solar power equipment, the graywater distribution, the gardens, etc, etc.

You're here because you're interested in something like this, right?  Well this is it!  This is most of what you need to survive.  And it doesn't depend on much outside support either.

Isn't that a good thing??  Why are you looking for a well and septic? A grid connection?  A water-flushing toilet, for heaven's sake?  I thought you wanted to live off-grid.  Have you even heard of all these alternative technologies we listed in our ad?  Do you see all the established perennial food everywhere around you?  The shiitakes over there, and the 6 colors of plums over here, the grapes, the herbs, the apples, the berries, and the tea out front?  As far as I know that's the only established tea camellia patch in the county, maybe the region.  Not to mention most of the medicinals you'll ever need.

I'm not trying to sell you a water-flushing toilet.  Good grief.  That's the opposite of what I'm trying to sell you.  Water-flushing toilets are our culture's favorite magic trick - take something dirty, flush, wow, it's gone! Just like magic! - and they are one of the most irresponsible technologies we've ever deployed en mass. Up there with cars probably.  There is nothing technically questionable about composting human waste, only the social taboo.  Just the kindergarten gut reaction you get from people who haven't had enough time to think it through.  Especially Boomers!  Man, those poor Boomers.  They have been alive during such a very odd period of human history.  And of course they think that's just how life is.  Actually, good for the Boomers! They were around to enjoy the wealthiest period in human history. Between 1950 and 2025, half - the good half - of the Earth's fossil fuel reserves will have been burned up forever.  And that drove a boom time that will never be duplicated.

But please don't make the mistake of thinking that's normal.  Please share this one-time windfall with the future and stop selfishly believing that there will always be plenty more.

And speaking of people taking inappropriate positions, another thing I have not enjoyed about this house selling business is when people who haven't spent any more time off-grid than a few fond family camping adventures when they were 10, come in here and question why we bother with this or that technology.

Why a vacuum?  Can't you just sweep?  (As if to say, why are you cheating?  Why can't you be a better steward of precious resources?  Why is it so hard to go all or nothing?)

Hehehe.  Funny.  Of course we can sweep, and we mostly do.  But vacuums aren't just for clean floors.  And after 5 years of living basically without electricity, we thought it was important enough to purchase one in our first round of electric tech, right after installing the main solar power system.  It should be good enough that we have lived completely off-grid for most of 5 years, and you have not, without going into the specific charms of a vacuum cleaner...

But hey, not to be too dour, most visitors have loved it, been all ears, if not awe-struck.  (With my wife anyway;).  So we'll just hang in there, keep caulking and oiling, keep showing it to people until we find a match.  Or we don't.

Man I wish I was better at this faith thing...

Tripp out.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Spring Equinox 2017 - Back At It!

Alright.  I give.  I can't stay away from this.  It's too fun.  And I've got some great pictures for you to get things started again here in this new year.  Let's just jump in, shall we?

The overview - We've worked some on a driveway below the house, and will probably be wrapping that project up soon. But this winter's big project was electricity!  And that's our whole solar panel setup, bottom right of the photo, all 400 Watts.   

Looking up from the driveway through the outdoor living and kitchen areas. 

Quick route to the garden!  And the new freezer... 

The other end of the escape hatch, looking up from the garden. And the tell-tale sign of off-grid greenhorns - the extension cord running under the door.  One tip on setting up solar power - use the heaviest gauge wiring you can.  This 50' extension cord cost $65! But it's thick and heavy, and doesn't add much ghost load to the power draw, like a lighter, longer cord would. 

Established peaches, established plums.  Apples, pears, and others elsewhere.  I've tried to plant for climate weirding - e.g. 6 plums total (so far), 3 low chill hour, early-blooming Asian varieties, and 3 higher chill hour, late-blooming European varieties.  As if to drive the reasoning home, we will probably lose the 3 Asian varieties this season due to back-to-back killing freezes this week.  The Euros haven't even bothered waking up yet.

Its youth is evident in its lack of polish, but this area is our sunniest spot available, so where else would we stick the clothes line and the solar panels??  I have a solar oven planned for this area as well.  If I get to it. (Foreshadowing)

Part of this year's power addition was building a "power shed" onto the back of the bath house. There's the chest freezer I mentioned earlier - a 10.6 c.f. GE Energy Star unit, that is super quiet and a real boon to our lives.  The right side houses the solar equipment, fertilizer, coolers, disc golf bags, and lots of new tool storage.  More weather protection in the works.

View back up toward the casa through the spring garden. 

Cozy outdoor spot, brilliant cool, sunny day. 

Outdoor kitchen, firepit, cob oven area.  

This is one of my favorite spots on the property - the clawfoot tub in the private bath house.  Steam it up, lock the door, pour up a home brew, and grab the latest copy of deindustrial sci-fi rag Into the Ruins, that just arrived in the mail.

From sort of inside in the bath house to sort of outside in the southeast corner passive solar dining room. This is a helluva place for a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter morning with the sun pouring in on your back.

Turn to the left...this hoosier cupboard has been our mainstay kitchen cabinet through it all.

More to the left (north) and you look through the living area/library to the family heirloom 1880 wood cook stove.  My great-great-great grandmother cooked on this stove every day of her life until she died in 1954, then it sat unused in her cabin until we installed it in late 2014, the year we built the house.  It provides almost all of our heat and a whole lot of our cooking. 

Lookie what I inherited (early) at Thanksgiving - this really beautiful old pie safe that has been in my family for longer than I know.  My first memories of any piece of furniture are of this cabinet.  Curiously, I built the space for it well before I knew I was getting this from Mom, and was already installing something like a built-in pie safe!  Punched tin doors...looking to create something like this.  Thrilled to have the real McCoy instead, and blown away by how well it fits in my spot.

To the left of there and down a step is the kitchen, but I won't show it yet.  It's the next project on the list, the last vestige of our camp days still hanging on. It doesn't match the rest.  Not yet, but it will.  But that project will also give us hot and cold pressurized water in an actual sink!  For the first time in five years.  Ah, dishes in a sink instead of a canning kettle on the stove...the simple things...and could be reproduced very easily in the bath house for showers and baths.

But here's the biggest news of all.  It's for sale.  Our beautiful little off-grid property is for sale.  It's on the market with a friend of ours who works with Coldwell Banker.

And here's the back-story - my dad just bought a 260-acre farm in the Missouri Ozarks near where we go every October for the annual trail ride.  My brother is likely going to move there too.  The real estate market is pretty hot here, and interest in off-grid, self-reliant living is on the rise.  The real estate market we're moving into is much less expensive.  We can finally have what we're looking for - sunny pasture, fencing, cross-fencing, a pond, small creek, barn, more living space.  As much as we love this place, and want to fit, we openly admit that we just don't.  We have lots of great furniture (you've seen our stuff!) in a storage unit, waiting for future additions of space.  But even then we still won't really fit.  

So we've made the decision to be who we are, and buy the property we want, instead of trying to be who we think we ought to be.  We fully intend to keep living this way.  I doubt we'll ever plug back into the grid again.  Life like this is just more interesting!  So deliberate, so quiet, so DIY, so empowering, so present in the moment.  But this isn't our place.  It's someone else's.  Although it tears my heart out to say that.

But if you're interested, let me know.  I want to sell it to good people.  And you're reading my blog, so it naturally follows that you're a good person! Ha.

Cheers, everyone.  Glad to be back...
Tripp out.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Goodbye from Small Batch Garden

Well.  It's been an interesting experience blogging these last 6 years or so, but I think that 100 posts and 100,000 page views is where I'm going to leave it.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this little project.  I had fun, and met some great people.  And I wish you all the best in the uncertain years ahead.

I think that the Brexit referendum marked an inflection point, where the trends that the energy descent crowd has been talking about for the last decade or so have become an obvious reality - a reality that must be understood and adapted to, rather than shouted down, brow-beaten, or swept under the rug.  Down that road lies open and bloody revolution.

I hope we can be smarter than that.  I hope that the affluent classes can begin to recognize their not-insignificant role in the creation of the swelling underclass that is now beginning to fight back.  Brexit was their first move.  Electing Donald Trump will be their next.  And if it isn't Trump it'll be someone else like him.  Someone perhaps even less savory.

I hope that the affluent classes can stop pretending that we Americans live in a class-less society where anybody can become whatever they dream, for they are the only ones who pretend that.  The masses on the receiving end of their class warfare, and now schoolyard bullying and name-calling, certainly don't.  Yes, occasionally an individual from a more impoverished background makes it big - it does happen.  But to think that the exception defines a rule is myopic, and self-serving.

In historian Arnold Toynbee's words, the "internal proletariat" is rising up against the "dominant minority" who've hijacked the political system for their own advantage.  And in the 23 distinct civilizational case studies he examined and compared, that never ended well.  Particularly for the dominant minority.

Stop listening to the people and they will stop using such benign tools as words and votes to express their disdain for the world you have built.  And left them out of.

Peace, friends.  And safe travels.
Tripp out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Show Me to the Brexit Please

It's just that Brexit wasn't supposed to happen.  

The markets were betting against it, which is why they're losing ground now.  Or rather, the markets that did bet against Brexit are hurting while the markets that didn't remain steady.  It's a crying shame that our "free" markets are controlled so heavily by speculation.  And the speculators seem to be able to convince ordinary people that their problems are everyone's problems.  In fact they are so used to being able to guide public opinion that they assumed the UK would remain in the Eurozone simply because they said it would.  

Even though 83% of Brits didn't want to join the EU in the first place!  

Is anyone listening?  Do we have your attention yet?  This was obviously an enormous upset for the business as usual crowd.

I know that most people don't question our leadership as much I do.  But I think we're dealing with bad people at the top who buy friendly results (friendly for themselves anyway) regardless of the collateral damage.  And I think Hillary Clinton belongs to that same group of influence peddlers that got side-swiped last Thursday, the financial/political elites who don't actually care what people think or how they vote.  They just keep doing whatever they want until someone takes them out.  I was encouraged to see David Cameron step down as PM when it became obvious that the electorate didn't side with him, even when they were supposed to, even when the media spin-doctors assured him it was a done deal.

This interview with UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage is possibly the best, most sincere, political interview I've ever witnessed.  (Can you believe I'm quoting Faux News??)  I loved it.  I loved him.  And I loved the way he made the female interviewer look like a tool for the same media spin machine that assured Cameron it was in control.  I hope it goes viral and Americans can see for themselves the solid political motives behind Brexit.  So many just assume that what the media tells them is more or less true.  I'd like to think I don't suffer from that malady...

"London isn't a financial center for Europe!  London is a financial center for the WORLD!  And 85% of global commerce is not in the EU."

The UK was supposed to stay in the EU because the bigger the government is, the easier it is to skim off of it.  The skimmers are desperately trying to keep their cash cows lactating.  Hillary among them.  (Gawd, the mental image of HRC breast-feeding that just popped into my head is horrifying.)  The larger the organization, the more wasteful it is.  That's just an inherent part of longer food chains.  Period.  End of thought process.  That's why Obamacare was put in place - larger profits for the kleptocratic medical establishment.  More fat to be skimmed.  I mean, it surely wasn't put in place to make American medicine better.  Surely no serious person believes that.

It also strikes me that this vote wasn't so much a vote against the globalists' politics, but against their religion.  That's why it's so damned offensive to them.  This is the cult of Progress at work again, and political/economic organization is only allowed to move in one direction according to the cult of Progress: toward bigger, more centralized entities, toward global government and central banks, (then galactic government and central banks, or whatever they fantasize about in between unwelcome bouts of reality), but definitely not in the reverse.  

Let me say that again.  The universally-accepted narrative of the cult of Progress makes no room for smaller, more localized governance.  Such thoughts are the opposite of Progress, they say, no matter what results emerge in the real world as a result of their doctrine.  Results like third world sweat shop enslavement to keep the price of consumer goods down.  Results like millions of Americans unemployed or drastically underemployed because their jobs have been sold off to countries where a lack of even basic environmental regulations and living wages makes the products of their labor less expensive for rich Westerners.  Results like turning a blind eye to increased illegal immigration because it keeps the work force more mobile and domestic wages suppressed.  All of these things are wonderful for a small minority of the Earth's population, and not coincidentally those are the folks who voted Remain, or the folks who couldn't vote but regret the result anyway.

What was it they liked to say before the vote?  Not everyone who votes Leave is a racist, backwards idiot, but all racist, backwards idiots will vote Leave.  Or something to that effect.  Well, it's just as easy to turn that on its head and say that not everyone who votes Remain is a rich white sociopath, but all rich white sociopaths will vote Remain.  Fun to hurl insults, isn't it?

But when you break down what exactly it means to be a member of the cult of Progress, what it means to accept only bigger and more centralized political and economic arrangements - what it meant to vote Remain - the results I listed above don't exactly paint a pretty picture of these people.  They certainly don't represent the shining light of tolerance and social justice to me.  Quite the contrary actually.  In essence, they are simply fighting to keep the crap they buy cheap.  However it gets spun.  It isn't so clearly a matter of the good and tolerant versus the evil and isolationist now is it?

This slight majority vote against globalism was the first time industrial Westerners officially voiced the opinion that Progress wasn't delivering on its promises.  That this particular conception of Progress is making our lives worse and we want it to end.

I'm just beside myself with this decision.  I've been in a celebratory mindset ever since I heard the official results.  This is really big for the (obviously growing) energy descent crowd, and horrifying for the Nancy Pelosis of  the world.  I would say that I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when she heard, but I know precisely what she said, because it's one of the best-rehearsed scripts in modern thought.  

Those racist, nostalgic, backwards simpletons!  How could they choose to hamstring our destiny??

Um...because your destiny is ruining our lives?


Normally I would post a photo update around the Summer Solstice, and there is more than ever around here that is worthy of photographing.  Forgive me for waxing philosophical instead.  This is just really big to me and I feel like it's time we all stopped and took a good hard look at what exactly it is that we are fighting for.  Suffice it to say that crops of all manners are doing great here!  Many superlatives to be proud of this season.  And I will get to that as soon as I can.   

Tripp out. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Farming, Drugs, and Drink

2-3-2!  Man, those are high N-P-K numbers for an "organic" fertilizer.

That's what was crossing my mind when I opened up the bag of Black Hen in the kale patch this morning.  This was a desperate situation, and it called for desperate measures.  You know, as desperate as an organic-approved 2-3-2 composted manure fertilizer can be anyway.  But the thing is, those numbers actually are high enough to warrant some care in application, because of their level of refinement or, said a different way, because of their level of extraction (and abstraction) from the whole system from which they were refined.

For example, I have no idea what the numbers for whole fresh comfrey leaf are, not even a very good guess, but I know comfrey is a dynamic potassium miner and accumulator, and I know that when I apply it around other food crops - herb, vine, or tree - it ALWAYS does magical things.  I know I can eliminate black spot in Prunus fruits with it - usually in less than two weeks - just by applying a decent layer of comfrey leaves on the ground around the tree, and that it's probably one of the best general plant immune optimizers out there.

In it's whole form.

Isolate and standardize "the active ingredient" potassium from within, however, and suddenly you're not dealing with an immune optimizing, biomass building, wound-healing wonderplant anymore.  You're just dealing with a mineral: potassium.  Just an element.  Just some granules from a bag that you probably shouldn't touch with bare skin.

What happened?  The comfrey we started with was large and robust, fuzzy and fleshy, with attractive purple-blue flower stalks - something you might carry around with you just to rub it on your bare skin.  And here's the important bit: you could probably pile comfrey leaf a foot thick around the target plant and get nothing but even better results.  I really don't recommend doing that with potassium granules!  Removing and isolating the potassium from its whole system makes it dangerous.

Isn't that funny?  All three of the major plant nutrients - Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium, the very things plants cannot live without - can become red-hot toxins in excess.  That's why fertilizers come with very specific dosage instructions, and why soil test results are so important.  If you're applying something that can KILL your garden if it's present in excess, you're going to want to know precisely how much your soil needs.  And add no more than that.

You can only overdose on comfrey the same way you can overdose on cannabis: by physically laying it over the target organism thick enough to smother it.  No one's ever died from a cannabis overdose because at some point the herb's gonna put you to sleep.  Then your body will rest and recover.  You can keep at it every day if you want to, just to verify my claim, and you might get pretty forgetful, maybe a little stupid, and you might get ostracized by your more pious friends, but I promise you will get tired of smoking the stuff long before it kills you.  Same with comfrey.  Lay it on, and lay it on thick.  More comfrey only makes things better.  And when you remove the potential for toxicity doesn't that take away some of the potential for failure too?  Some of the anxiety and paranoia?  (Pot paranoia is a product of the law, not the plant.  And the red eyes come from smoking the chemical fertilizers used to grow the pot, not the pot itself.  Try an organic version some time, and see if I'm lying.)

Any number of pharmaceuticals can kill you if taken in excess.  So can liquor.  For the very same reason I laid out in my potassium argument!  To my mind, that fits the definition of "drug" a lot better than cannabis does.  Just as chemical fertilizers strike me as a lot more toxic than organic biomass fertilizers.  At least that potential is there.

I've met so many herbalists whose main concern is standardization and dosage.  What?  Why?  Have you refined your ingredients so thoroughly that you've made them toxic?  If so, is that really still herbalism?  Granted, one should try any new food or medicine in small quantity to see how the body responds, but from then on, aren't we all smart enough to keep increasing the dosage slowly until our body tells us that's enough?  We are if we're not dealing in toxins!  And if we're used to thinking that way.  I don't know about you all, but that's how it works for my family.  And has for a decade now with fine results.  Try that approach with a standardized pharmaceutical isolate, though, and you're taking your life in your own hands.

See how that works?  Whole medicines, properly "tasted," like whole fertilizers and whole ferments (as opposed to refined liquor), just don't have the toxicity issues involved.  Yes it requires more of it to do the job sometimes.  Grab a friend one night and one of you shoot tequila as fast as you can and the other drink beer as fast as you can and see who ends up in the emergency room first.  Likewise, the amount of plant material in a teabag is probably vastly bulkier than a comparable pill.  So?  The tea dregs are also wonderful compost material.  Can I have yours too?  I can also simply step out the door into the kitchen garden and pick it for free...and come back for more free medicine half an hour later if needed!  I don't need the (understandably expensive) advice of someone highly trained in toxicity issues if I'm not dealing with toxins!!

Understand what I'm getting at here?  The medicine we're after is the same, whether that's a lone mineral like potassium or zinc, or the most complex organic molecule ever recorded, but one form is isolated, standardized, and toxic, and in need of strict dosage requirements, while the other is whole, subjective, and not just non-toxic, but also possibly synergistic.  You don't get unexpected synergistic healing from pharmaceutical isolates.  Ever.  They do lots of things that are worded to look like marginal problems (really? stroke, paralysis, death??) and talked about in hushed tones as "side" effects, but they definitely don't have any shot at synergy.

OK, yes, herbal medicine requires a little knowledge on the user's part.  Of course it does.  But I hope you're not taking any pharmaceutical medicine without researching it a little bit first either!  Buyer beware.  In all cases.  Especially the toxic ones!

This whole train of thought began about a week ago when I asked my more conventional father for his advice on phosphorous deficiency in a new garden plot.  Of course I got the very educated insistence that it couldn't be fixed (not in a timely way anyway) without chemical fertilizer.  And if I really did want to eat that kale this spring I would have to use something like triple 13 to get it done.  Now this might shock you, but I didn't take his advice!  Instead I used comfrey leaf and flowers, and bone meal, and the Black Hen composted chicken manure this post opened up with.  The stuff with N-P-K numbers high enough to get my attention.  High enough to open the door to toxicity.  To my mind a desperate situation!

Well, I've had that 40 lb. bag of Black Hen for a couple of years now and just used it up this morning.  I'm not likely to buy something with numbers like 13-13-13.  Numbers like that might as well be printed in fiery red with flames licking off the edges to me.  Caution!  This shit is toxic!!

And probably works wonders for your garden-variety biochemist, like my father.  Me?  I'm an ecologist.  A biophile.  I don't want a recipe.  I want a garden absolutely thronging with biodiversity and natural negative feedback loops to minimize damage.  Just like I want thriving children whose bodies are well-versed in general immunity due to natural exposure and organic plant-based medicine.  And I want to admire all of them from the porch swing with a cold hard cider on a hot afternoon.

Whether it's reductionist solutions in the garden, "active ingredient" medicines, or concentrated ethanol down the hatch, they're all symptoms of the same problem of isolation.  I want to live life in situ, not isolated.  Isolation is toxic.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!
Tripp out.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Guardian Sounds a General Alarm for Global Collapse

Limits To Growth model looking a little too accurate for comfort.

Wow.  The (so far excellent) model published by the Club of Rome in 1972 predicts a sudden rise in the global death rate in just 4 years, and then the beginning of global population decline - by about half a billion per decade - just 10 years later.

I hope you guys are settled in.  I'm not feeling all that prepared suddenly.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Alphabet Soup

There are some big changes afoot in our lives, and though I'm going to keep them under my hat for the moment, I do want to pull up a question from the new matron in the picture for closer scrutiny.

Before the big dinner and discussion a few weeks ago, she asked me what my experience in gardening/orchards was.  I gave a fairly stock answer for someone of my experience level that went something like this - "well I have a degree in biology from the University of Florida, with a minor in chemistry, my great-great-grandfather was a fantastic gardener/orchardman, my great-grandfather was a fantastic gardener/orchardman, my grandfather is a fantastic gardener/orchardman, my father is a fantastic gardener/orchardman - I just grew up immersed in big, productive gardens.  My professional experience is in watershed ecology, botany, and soil science, and I practically live outside in my gardens and orchards full time, and have for several years.  (And then cheekily,) I do go inside now and then to sleep!"  OK, and to blog eight times a year.

But why should I list my "official" credentials first, when I have lived in and participated with a garden for most of my 42 years (how is four years better than four decades?), and surely had some subconscious genetic leanings, not to mention extensive nurturing, in that direction passed to me through generations of garden-loving forebears.  Even in my wayward 20s and ladder-climbing early 30s, whenever I rented a new place my greatest affinity was for the raspberry thicket at the back edge of the yard, or the hops growing up to the second story bedroom window, or the little sunny patch in the side yard deep in the student ghetto at UF where I could grow a few tomatoes.  Or at least try to.

Why do we put so much emphasis on a few years of intense (but rarely practical) study?  In fact, as soon as one reaches a certain level of practicality the academic community tends to redefine that more as "technical" school.  Obviously implying a lesser entity.

Nah, the years of experimentation (and what decent gardener doesn't experiment constantly?), the thrilling successes - the spinach leaves bigger than my hands!, and probably most importantly, the failures, mean so much more than the alphabet soup we sometimes like to dangle behind our signatures.  At least they do to me.  And I think they should more generally.

There is merit in the letters, though, I think.  In a way it's a concise means of conveying that you care enough about a subject to have taken the time (and probably the debt) to spend 4 years of formally-sanctioned (and expensive!) study to further your chosen path.  But honestly, I've learned at least an order of magnitude more about my chosen path SINCE college than I did in it.  And it didn't require the psychological and not-insignificant social pressure of student loan debt either.  Debt that may not ever get repaid.  As a currently-popular millennial musician says it, "between student loans and treehouse homes, we all would take the latter."  Or was that ladder?

But even that concise packaging really only works because we live in a culture that identifies closely with credentials, so sometimes credentials feel necessary.  I for one would love to see a general return to apprenticeship systems, slowly wedging their way into the space currently (and fairly securely) held by banks and universities.

How many psych majors with 50k in student loan debt does the country really need?  At what point do the rest of us start discouraging young people from wasting their time on such things?  At what point do we get tired of education (and medicine, and...) costing as much as it does at least partly because of the number of administrators and regulators, the number of layers of people on the dole, requiring themselves to be paid before the letters of recognition can be passed on.  It's like we've had to make jobs up (and pay for them all!) to fit everybody into a space that just doesn't require them.  Because, well, what else are we going to do with all these people in a country selling its jobs abroad as fast as it can?

Energy descent will eventually make all that look like the folly that it is, but it will take a while.  Nobody's going to offer up their job willingly on the altar of efficiency, nor take a new, more practical one in the name of resilience.  But perhaps we should consider redirecting some of our cultural energy toward prying the death-grip of the banks and universities from the throat of the overly-credentialed and under-employed populace!  Just thinking out loud here.

Maybe it's time to realign ourselves with practicality, and give some of the certification outfits the boot to the backside they so richly deserve.

Meanwhile, here's something practical for another spring immersed in severe colony collapse disorder among our honeybees, an ongoing threat no doubt presided over by plenty of knuckleheads dangling alphabet soup behind their names.  (Alphabet soup that probably aligns better with doctrine than critical thought.)

Our first top bar honeybee hive!

And a darling little future beekeeper (my daughter Ella) modeling the new bee gear.  Bees in two weeks.  Can't wait!

Happy Spring everyone.
Tripp out.