Monday, January 30, 2012

Peronal Empowerment

Before I write this posting any farther, I feel that I must first apologize to the mass number of people, who seem to be more narrow minded, uninformed or misinformed. As they tend to think that some of my writings may be considered as being controversial. Also they may view some of my topics as being insulting and/or revolting to their way of being. Since they may in turn not see the humor and wit and informative information, that I try to weave into all of my presentations. My intention you see is to suggest ideas and offer information, with witticism, guile and humor to everyone who wants to be informed and inspired. That having been said, please read on ...

There seems to be a general shift in thinking by some factions, towards the ability to empower ones' self. Even though it really a catch 22. Let me explain ... If you follow all of those glitzy advertisements for personal empowerment, Then your coin purse will be rather empty. Where as if you go at it alone and on your own, to save some of your hard earned coins. Then you could also be risking your good name, as those in power might label you as being subversive. I would bet that there is a information monitoring computer or two somewhere that is going "bleep-a-da-bleep" with most of my postings, even though I am new to this blogging game.

Yes we all are being classified as being subversive if and when we talk about building our own transportation, or our housing alternative ideas, or trying to live as cheaply as possible, or raising a garden, or trying to "live under the radar", or preparing to survive future disasters all on our own. While saving some of our hard earned coins in the process. With out big governments' help, or big business' help. Remember New Orleans after Katrina hit? They are still trying to rebuild. Wait ... What!?!?!? Raising a garden is being classified, as being subversive?!?!?!

Some of you may know me, so you can expect this. To everyone else, after hearing that raising a garden is being classified as being subversive, I had to dig deeper. It seems that the general idea is, that if we are not contributing to big government and its' taxes and/or to big business' coffers ~ who both like to claim that our best interests, they take to heart. However what they really take to heart is the lack of our coins in their coffers, so they label us as being subversive.

Let me explain a little further ... According to Roger Doiron, the Director of Kitchen Gardens International, who gave a lecture at the famous TED symposium a few months ago. Where he pointed out, that growing your own food has the potential "to alter the delicate balance of power, not just in our own country, but the entire world". As reported in the 2012/1/26 emailing of

You see that when we grow our own foods, we take back power into our own hands. Reclaiming our rightful power over our own diets, our health and our wallets. You tend to take back your natural self interests and away from the big industrialized agra-businesses, the giant chemical companies, institutionalized medicine and even from the big pharmaceutical companies. Did anyone ever even think, that we as a whole had that much power?

Doiron further pointed out that gardening is considered "a gateway drug, to other forms of food freedoms". As you will soon be relearning how to cook, more of your own meals from scratch. Instead of buying those chemical-ladened, sugar-laced, over priced prepackaged meals, on your way home from work. You may even relearn how simple it is, to preserve your gardens' produce ~ by canning or freezing or by making fresh homemade jams and jellies. Instead of relying on industrial complexes that use cans lined with dangerous-to-consume chemicals like BPA.

Doiron also points out that home gardens will become an absolute necessity in the not to distant future. Since it has been pointed out that by the end of the 21st century, the worlds' population is predicted to hit 10 billion (that is Billion, with a B). How will it even be possible to feed that kind of a population (when today it is estimated that around 900 million people go hungry each and every year) without having home gardens?

Personally I do not trust that technology will help to feed us all in the years to come. Case in point; in an article published in 2007 in the Guardian magazine stated that to keep up with population growth, our world will have to be able to produce more food in the next 50 years than it has in the last 10,000 years all put together.

I am not trying to scare anyone here just informing, but here are some sobering facts. As to why the Industrial Food System is doomed to failure. Industrial Agra-Business simply is not sustainable, because that for every 10 calories of fossil fuel energy used, only 1 calorie of food energy is yielded. To make matters worse yet ... Drought, over development and desertification are consuming farm lands at an alarming rate. Not to mention that genetic diversity is vanishing even more quickly. As some experts believe that about 90% of all vegetable varieties went extinct in the 20th century.

Genetically modified foods were supposed to be a god-send and increase yields. It had the opposite effect, with crop failures and pollen drift into neighboring fields of healthy crops being contaminated by cross pollination. Leading to an increase of allergies, autoimmune disorders and infertility to name a few. Also DO NOT believe in the "variety" that is seen on grocery store shelves. Now the average grocery store sports an average assortment of over 30,000 items from which to choose from in most industrialized countries. But please read the labels very carefully, on those brightly illustrated boxes, bags and cans. It is not really real food that they contain, or for that matter genetic diversity either. The vast majority of prepackaged foods obtain one of 3 ingredients; wheat, corn or soy, with most of it being genetically modified. Ironically food manufactures rearrange the same few ingredients and recombine them with artificial chemicals, to give the illusion of variety, flavor and appearance of real foods. So out of personal curiosity how much of the ingredient listing can you pronounce, let alone know and understand what they are? It is no wonder that with over 30,000 items on the grocery store shelves from which to choose, that we as an industrialized nation are now fatter and sicker than ever before.

Now do you see the importance of growing our own foods? Also how growing our own foods can save us some of our hard earned coins? I for one agree with Roger Doiron, that a backyard garden free of pesticides and genetic engineering will aid in our survival. Also gardening is another way to reclaim some of the power of self, that has been leaching away from the citizenry for the last several decades.

Gardening just may be the salvation, for the future of all of mankind ...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Living Cheaply ~ K.I.S.S.

Keeping It Stupidly Simple, is the best way to stretch our ever shrinking buying power. "Living close to the bone", is another phrase that describes living tightly. As is "Living paycheck to paycheck". All of these and others mean basically the same thing, we all are trying to do more with less buying power. You see it doesn't matter where we live, what really matters is how we live. Let me rephrase that ... What really matters at the end of the day is, that we survived long enough somehow, some way to fight another day. Not really a prayer, not really a fortitude wish, not really a blessing, but definitely a statement of determination.

When you are looking at buying anything when money is tight, look at it from the long view as it were. Ask yourself "Do I really need this, or can I do without it?". If however you really do need this, how can you get the most use out of it? Remember that buying something, that will only be used one time, is really a frivolous expense. However it could be a reward to yourself. Let me explain with an analogy taken from dieting ... Diets for the most part fail, because people tend to over indulge. The same holds true in living simply, it will fail for the same reason ~ Basically from over indulgence.

Now in my mind there are really only 3 or 4 categories to render your hard earned coins for. 1st would be for shelter, this should be long term in thinking. 2nd is sustenance or food, run away from anything that is prepackaged like it was the plague. Because it is a plague on your income. 3rd is enjoyment or entertainment. For the most part electronic toys fall in this category. Some would say that heating or cooling, depending on where you live is another expense ~ An expense yes, but really only for the enjoyment of the shelter. For me the 4th category is an income, yes to make money unfortunately we have to spend money. On things like clothing, keeping the body and clothing clean and smelling fresh. A computer might fall under categories 3 & 4. Now a vehicle could fall under all 4 categories, for various reasons.

So you see that living the good life really can be expensive. Trying to live modestly is stressful to say the least. However living simply really is hard work, until you get used to it ~ Then it is more like a second nature, and it seams easy. So yes it can be done, but at first you have to work at it every single day. Remember those who have the most, find that living under their means is a way of life. Rather than spending every last coin that they have to live in the moment.

We all should try to live under our means, to avoid the possible chance of having to beg on the street corner. That way we can maintain a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, oops back to categories 1 & 2. Remember that fashion is a fickle task master, as is "keeping up with the Joneses", or "what others may think". It really all boils down to your own self criticism. Don't let society dictate where or how you live, or for that matter how you make your coins.

No! I don't advocate begging on the street corner. Most towns and cities have laws on their books against that. It is easier to live cheaply while keeping out of the eyes of law enforcement officers. You must be willing to work at Something, Anything. Should you lose your normal income, might I suggest some kind of temporary labor arrangement. Here in the United States most cities have a kind of temp service called "Day Labor", basically menial tasks. Or you could offer a business to sweep their side walks and/or parking lot. Maybe picking up cigarette and cigar butts. Possibly a garage could use a clean-up person after the mechanics left, before closing. If nothing else just clean up the roadways and streets while sorting out the sell able recyclables.

In the country maybe you could get in on the migrant farm worker circuit harvesting fruits and produce. Maybe a farmer would be interested in some help cleaning up the barn or cattle sheds or mucking out the stalls. If sheep ranches are near by, maybe you could learn the open range Shepard's trade. My point is this ... Keep your eyes open for any and all possible chances to make some coins, you might even find something that you might like to look into a little farther. Remember that I never said that surviving or living cheaply was easy, it is very labor intensive hard work.

Here is a suggestion for gathering some food, watch as a harvest is being done. When the machinery or workers have moved on, ask if you could glean the fields after them. Gleaning is an old term, basically you pick up everything that harvesters missed, for whatever reason. Then you take your harvest back to your camp and pick through it, preserve what you can, then eat the rest.

As for shelter any kind of tent will do, or maybe a camp trailer is affordable. In warmer weather a tarp over a hammock is quite adequate when in the shade. As for tents I would recommend "The Whelen" or hunters lean-to, maybe even a tipi. Google all of these, you maybe surprised at what you find. At different times in my life I have lived in each of them. Now don't skimp on a good sleeping bag though. The reason being is that if you are sleeping directly on the ground, your core body temp. could be leached away. Causing anything from mild hypothermia to even death. So I say again DO NOT skimp, on a good sleeping bag.

Now for the big one ~ Food. If you don't know how to cook, learn. It really is quite simple. Learn to preserve your harvest and other excess amounts of food in the old ways ~ Before refrigeration. Learn how to make jerky, no not the over priced, over spiced and greasy kind. Buy foods in bulk as much as possible. Do you enjoy coffee? buy the beans green and roast them and grind them yourself. Get a grinder (hand cranked) that will grind your grains into flour, as well as grinding your coffee, also one that has different settings to grind different grades on your grains. Learn the many ways to cook the various types of beans. Rice is versatile as breakfast, lunch and dinner main stays or as side dishes or deserts.

Don't forget pastas ~ Case in point "Ramen Noodles". Currently I can get a box of 12 packages of noodles for $2.12, no tax on this type of food. What I do for a good meal is 2 packages of Ramen Noodles, 1 can of sweet peas, 1 can of cooked chicken pieces. Don't throw out the waters from the peas or the chicken pieces. Instead add those waters to the volume of water needed for the noodles. When the combined waters are hot, pour them over the noodles, peas, chicken pieces and seasonings. Cover and let set for about 5 min., then stir it all together and enjoy a feast for One. This will also work well when camping, whether for pleasure or out of necessity.

I would recommend that everyone learn how to set snares and traps, to aid in gathering (harvesting) some free wild(ish) game meat. Weather you use it right away or preserve it. Don't turn your nose up at squirrels, or larger rodents, or skunks, or raccoons, or possums, or woodchucks, to name a few that have kept me well fed when there were some really hard times that I went through. Learn how to butcher and clean, preserve and cook your freely gathered and harvested meats. Also don't forget to harvest the rivers, lakes and oceans of their plenty.

Yes, you could use a gun. But remember that guns can be expensive, to get and use, and all of those regulations and they make noise. People for the most part are more fearful or antsy around or of guns. Than say a live trap, a garrote or snares, also these are quiet. Think of how many people like to feed the birds in their yards but curse at the squirrels. You could offer these people your services, of rendering their bird feeders free of squirrels. When away from prying eyes, lay the squirrels down in your larder. Hmmmm ... getting paid to harvest your own meat, I like it.

Relearning the old ways will shelter us, feed us and if necessary clothe us. While allowing and aiding us in surviving our adversities. More comfortably than living on the fringes of society, begging for handouts.

So yes, history can teach us many useful things, we just have to be more open to relearning ...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Defining Self Sufficiency

Let me try to explain what I mean by being more self-sufficient. First and by no means am I saying, That I will not go into a store to buy things. As a whole we can't possibly make or produce everything that we may need to survive comfortably, not anymore. We of the United States, for the most part are up to three or four generations removed from the family farmsteads. However some people are turning around so to speak, and are going back to the land. They are re-learning the "old ways" of doing things. It is a cycle that seems to take place about every twenty to forty years. So in the end all may yet not be lost, as some people are interested in the do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) hands-on mentality.

Now for the most part food production has followed in the exodus, away from the family farm to city opportunities. As in the creation of big Agra-business that mass produces food, farming corporations now that should scare everyone. Since the things that we have lost to this so called industrial progress, has in reality acted more like the "Texas Two Step". That being for every step forward, we lose two steps backward. So let's get off of this losing dance floor.

Not everyone can re-learn everything, I know. What we all need to do, is to re-learn some of everything while specializing in one or two things ~ Like our ancestors did. Then barter our specialty for someone Else's specialty. Let's see the government tax that transaction.

Let me see ... A "lost art" might be raising our own food for the most part, also preserving the harvest. Or maybe keeping honeybees, to pollinate our plants and produce honey. Then too remember that Mead is a alcohol that is made from honey. Maybe someone could make cheese to preserve excess milk or maybe butter, after all both are made from the solids of milk, and both are better for us than the alternatives. Someone could re-learn how to make thread from plant fibers and/or animal fur. So that cloth could be woven, with which to make our clothing. Now digging into a mound of clay could produce tile or pottery. Paper can be made from natural fibers, even cloth. Imagine writing a note on a piece of paper, made out of worn out jeans to your child's teacher. Be careful here as some public school teachers are on the side of the liberal left. Who have taken on the challenge of indoctrination of our youth, as part of their goal. OOPS! Sorry but I seam to have drifted into politics again.

For the most part people are starving for tactile, creative and productive work. Something; Anything that they can hold up admiringly while proudly proclaiming, "Look ... I did, or made, or grew, or produced This!". After all how many of us can remember the smell of from scratch homemade baked bread fresh from the oven. Or the taste of free range chicken eggs, with your own homemade maple cured smoked bacon or ham, and a side of home grown homefries and grilled home grown onions, that both were just dug out of your humus rich garden the night before. Uh Oh; I almost drooled on the keyboard. Who remembers the smell of the compost pile as you worked it into your garden soil, to further enrich your home grown foods? So I say, let us all get busy working for our own betterment, not a cooperation office somewhere.

Now remember that produce can be grown in flower pots, while watering with "gray water". Some small breeds of farm animals can be raised in your back yard. Should you live in a town or city, maybe you can make an arrangement with a farmer outside of town for some of your food production. Possibly an act of volunteering to help out on the farm, in a sort of labor exchange. Maybe that in its' self could turn into a real paying job for you.

Personally I grew up on a dairy farm, we had 80 milking head and about twice that many in young stock. That was for the first twenty odd years of my life, so yes I know a lot of what I just spoke of. True, not all of it, but most of it. I am currently in the proess of re-learning the nearly lost art of welding. You see my uncle took care of most of the repairing, fixing and rebuilding of the farm equipment. His son (my cousin) and I helped, but as that was well over thirty years ago. So am re-learning welding as it will aid in my intentions of building my own transportation. That in turn may grow into an income stream, in my way-to-soon to arrive senior years. As this blog is intended to document the process there of. While I shift away from the all consuming auto industry and the related slavery to foreign oil interests.

So basically self-sufficiency to me means, being less dependent on any big business that has to transport goods across "X" number of miles for a consumer to buy. I know that this is a tall order, but do able I think. Since that the time that it takes to do or produce things, is on the side of people who are either under-employed or are unemployed, during this economic crisis that is on par with the great depression of eighty years ago during the 1930's. You see what we need to do is to remix the "old ways" with the new and improved without losing either. That way we as a whole will be able to survive to the future of our world.

So join with me as I roll up my sleeves and get busy getting busy ...

Monday, January 9, 2012


Time. To some it can be a blessing, to others a curse. It is completely intangible, but something that effects us all. Sometimes in some suttle ways, sometimes in ways that may be very profound. We all can use it for our benefit, or very badly abuse it. Some can seem to play with it. While others learn how to use it, seemingly for the most part on their own betterment. Some of us apparently have plenty to spare. Where others seem to have it in limited quantities. You see when we all are born, we each have been allotted a finite amount of it. In the end it seems to catch up with us all. When in reality it has been our partner in this race called life all along. So it basically comes down to this; Time or the lack of it is the main controlling factor in all that we can do, learn or accomplish, in any given day, week, month, year and so on. Also all of these frames of time are basically mankind's way, to count the passage of Time.

Oops, I am being philosophical here. Sorry about that as I am just trying to define one of my biggest controlling factors. While wishing that I had more Time, all of the time. To accomplish what ever it is that I am trying to do at any given moment in Time. However the reality of it is, like everyone else, I can only do so much at any given moment of Time.

Although I must admit that for approximately 35 years of my life, I have coasted aimlessly along and waisted Time. With out a direction, dream or plan that I wanted to accomplish. I did graduate from high school in 1973 and got my diploma. I have been blessed with a good amount of what is called "common sense". Now in the last couple of years, I have taken some adult re-education courses. Mainly in computer building and repair, However the lack of money, became a problem to furthering that endeavour. There was some good that came out of it though ... When my drive finally focused. I now have some computer knowledge to assist in my forth comming endeavours.

Since realizing that I will not live forever, and that Time is precious, also that it can be a great equalizer of us all. No matter our social standing. So in this era of events that are being more and more continuously classified as "once-in-a-hundred-years" storms, floods, earthquakes, fires and tornadoes, or be it a man made disaster.  My reverie has been shaken into action. I now know what it is that I want to do, with the remaining Time that I have been allotted.

To try to help my fellow mankind to see the light, of an alternate possibility in personal transportation. A little slower paced path, yes. But in the long run a better pace for our collective health, a few more coins in our pockets and a cleaner clearer view of our world.

So before Time runs its' course and like a spent candle stump, snuffs its' self out. Let us all use our Time more wisely ...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year To Everyone

Good, Bad or Indifferently 2012 has begun. This is a time for new beginnings. Which is perfect for this blog ~ A culmination of two years of notes jotted down and shetchs drawn. I started this blog in the last week of November 2011, then added four postings during December 2011. So yes, this blog is a new year's baby for me. Now in the spirit of new year's resolutions ... "I will try my very best to have a new posting every Monday of every week". Sort of like a micro report of various things happening in my life. Of course the main themes will be on living cheaply and alternate styles of transportation, as I work towards my own goals of living as independently as possible. So follow along with my progress (if any), set backs (hopefully few) and those ever present doldrums, where nothing at all seems to be happening.

I hope that everyone who made their own new year's resolutions, has done so in such a way that the goal can be achieved. You see resolutions are a kind of promise, mainly to yourself ... Hopefully for your betterment. Now since most people do not like to break promises, don't make your resolutions to yourself or others that are unattainable. You see broken resolutions are really broken promises.

OK, now here are some subjects that I am considering for this blog; living cheaply both at home and on the road, pedal cycling as a whole, minimalist camping, stealth camping, cycle camping or touring as it is called when traveling from point A to point B, D.I.Y. projects that would aide in living cheaply, also ways to set up the base camp (home?) as an off-the-grid operation and some possible ways of living under the radar as it were. All in all a tall order, but doable. Like that ancient proverb says "A journey of 1000 miles, is started by a single step".

What first started all of this was a simple idea, the thought of building myself a human powered camper/velomobile. To retire into and travel around economically with. That was my foremost goal. Then I started to break it down into, "How do I get to here?" steps. Along the way other possible steps presented themselves. Like, "Could this turn into a possible income stream?", or "OK ... If so, how do I get to that possibility, and make it work?", and so on ...

Another subject that I think is worth exploring is personally tested recipes. Not just for camping, but also along the line of living cheaply. Yes, I know that there are countless cookbooks out and about,  and other places with other people's ideas and advice on this subject. This will be my view of this subject. Coming from a 58 year old (this year) young bachelor, who grew up on a dairy farm for 20 years. Then spent the rest of my life till the present, in the restaurant industry. Whose current income is that of a dishwasher, at what could be classified as a part time job. So yes I personally know that juggling wants, wishes, needs, necessities,  niceties, and dreams with income is a test of will in and of it's self.

Now to touch on that living cheaply theory a bit ... I currently call a 35' camp trailer home, entirely to much space for one person. It is set up in a friends back yard, in a country setting. I pay my share of the electric and have household privileges. Have had to give up the tow vehicle, as it was to expensive to maintain and the tags and insurance were killers. Also that was before gas prices hit and soared above the $3.00/gallon mark. My current wheels are a Honda Elete Scooter, that has a 50cc engine and gets about 110 miles/gallon. Speaking of gas prices, before the new year here in north central Florida, they were inching back towards the $3.00/gallon mark again. However they didn't make it and the fluctuation is on the rise again.

Everyone near where I live is trying to sell off what ever they have extra of, for a little more coin in their pockets. Most everyone is also trying to down size, as it has turned out that 'Bigger, Badder and More' of something is not for the better. This economic crisis is hurting us all.

Now since it is a new year ... At least we can all hope for better times, while we struggle to try to make those better times happen. Personally I am not giving up hope, as I keep pushing forward towards an uncertain future of income, economic stability, livable solutions and sustainability. So let's all tighten our belts and work together towards a better and brighter future for us all.

Sorry but I don't believe that rose colored glasses will help, cool as they may look ...