Tuesday, February 28, 2006

the play of the just

we met up with some new friends yesterday in springfield. after a moderately painless experience at the car dealer mechanic we shopped at a local natural food store and went to a great park. this park has all the things that a good park needs. a giant super fast slide (the arm buster), a see saw (the excluder--only two at a time), an old slide climbing structure (dubbed the post office), several modern combination play structures, and the most important thing a large influx of children (most of the time there was more than twenty kids with parents).

tristan and kassi played the play of the just. they loved it with a passion that can only come from a child. our new friends were great, displaying the comfortable alternative lifestyle of lore. have we found like minded people in the middle of missouri? YES. the kids played together so well. tristan didn't want to leave them--gnashing of teeth upon departure. we loved it and plan to do it again soon!

maybe they can come visit our little farmstead.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

stanchion for milking

nimue has been feisty lately--especially in the morning. this behavior is counter to quietly milking more than two gallons out of her each morning. tabitha finally gave in and admitted that we need a stanchion (the thingie that holds a cow by the neck). i had some scrap cedar poles left and decided that something that appears rustic was in order. besides the car is on the fritz and runs to the lumber yard weren't an option. i based the design on an old one that i saw in mikes barn--simple, effective and time tested. i used my chainsaw for all the cuts (ripping the poles, notching and mitering)--this added to the rustic effect. it turned out pretty cool and functions like i'd made dozens of them before.

the cow hates the stanchion. i hate it for her but who knows how she'll freak out when she has a calf.

being a frequent contributor to the participatory panopticon has thrown me for a spin. more on this later...

my completed list...
split, hauled and stacked a rick of wood from below the pasture up to the front barricade. tabitha and the kids helped, well the kids got wheelbarrow rides back down the hill and looked busy. tabitha stacked and loaded while i split.

built the stanchion.

cleaned up most of the last fell tree in nimues pasture.

i completed the first draft of my proposed job description.

i loaded the front porch (full) with wood.

i played with the kids tons, lots of pushing in swings and general funny business.

i worked a deal with a neighbor to trade a cord and half of wood for a slightly used rear tine roto-tiller--craftsman brand. i'm about 2/3 the way there (he requested 24" length and big splits if any). pretty easy. i didn't expect to trade but i had this over sized stack of wood from when the power company cut the front trees. he stopped and asked about it. i said "i'd sell it cheap." he was such a nice guy. he came back to visit and said he had this tiller and would trade. we shook on it.

one less thing to worry about roto-tiller for the garden. now if i could just get a table saw--i could finish the trim in the house.

oh and i almost forgot--i made another car appointment for tomorrow morning. i hate, hate, hate taking cars to the shop. it was just there, they allegedly checked it out and gave it passing marks. maybe they forgot to plug somthing back together. whatever... they were still very cool to me on friday and i appreciate what they did do and especially the price.

another waisted day driving to the dealer in springfield.

Friday, February 24, 2006

i met some kindred souls today

i had lunch with some very cool gentlemen. they were impressed with me before we met. i guess my resume(s) did the trick. they might have talked to my previous employer (SLP) but i think the friend of a friend recommendation was all that they were going on. they might hire me if all works out. at first glance it appears too perfect to be true. they want me design my perfect position. we talked about all the things that i truly care about--my family, solar, the environment, and sustainability among others. they need someone in research and development that can take their ideas from the concept stage through to the production line. Implementation (real hands on construction of the products), marketing materials for the new products, and plans for production and automation.

i talked about my need to spend time with my family and desire to work somewhere that i can sink my teeth into. i think we clicked and i need to put together this proposal and get back to them in short order. i'm pretty sure that they pay well--they'd kinda need too, to compensate for the drive time. but i am more excited about possibly working on new solar thermal products, rain water collection, storage, filtration and delivery.

these guys are very smart and we already have such similar views that a match between myself and their company is likely.

this could be huge!


this is my angel "true one"

Monday, February 20, 2006

tristans first snowman

the snow finally started to melt. tristan has been begging to make a snowman all winter and finally the opportunity arose. tristan also took this opportunity to throw a snow ball at me while i was busy taking the photo. it seems that the eairlier snow fight hadn't quite ended yet.

tristan pushed the snow balls until the got too large then i'd finish them to the proper size. he wanted a big snow man.

merry winter everyone!

frozen & socked in

we only ventured out yesterday for breakfast. after waking to frozen pipes and no water to make coffee--i was ruined. being completely unable to function without caffeine, nancy (abuela) had to bring down coffee from their house so the deductive part of my brain would wake. back when we worked on the house--we completely reconstructed the foundation. i did some plumbing to the bathroom (toilet, sink and shower). this was easily done while all the floors were ripped up. i heavily and meticulously insulated all the pipes. i also did the same for the new supply for the refrigerator (ice and cold water). under the little add-on shed where i installed a new water heater is the main water supply. i tapped into that location for the new water heater and also heavily insulated before closing. they obviously had a leak in that location in the past. i stuffed the area with insulation and closed it up. i checked the faucet that i installed just out the back of the shed and deduced, thanks to the coffee, that the freeze was just under the water heater and at the main supply. i had to get out the new circular saw and cut out the recently installed plywood. i unstuffed the area and ripped the insulation off the pipes. i found my heat gun (an industrial blow hair drier) and proceeded to heat up the pipes. a few minutes later the water started flowing again and we were in business. by this time it was too late to go to church and breakfast was long overdue. as luck would have it mike and nancy invited us to breakfast. the snow started to fall again and we were going to visit grandpa and grandma-nancy (abuelo and abuela). i put a heating pad around the pipes and restuffed the area with insulation.

i have decided that the little area needs a heat source to prevent this in the future. some heat tape with automatic freeze protection switch turning it on at dangerous temperatures should do the trick. there is no point just re-insulating the area as before because without exposure to heat from the crawl space it'll just freeze again(being an add-on shed).

i'll get some heat tape from the hardware store and install it once the roads clear and snow melts.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

covered in snow

although it wasn't obvious at first, i woke to the sound and lights of the snow plow. i looked out to see that everything was white. i pessimistically thought 'oh just a light dusting.' then when i went to get wood for the fire the wood under the porch it was covered in snow. there was more than five inches covering the ground! whoo-hoo, when the kids wake up they'll love it.

i couldn't see nimue, the cow. i looked out all of the windows and couldn't find her. what if she freaked out from the snow and broke through the fence? i decided to get dressed and go check on her. i had to oil my boots--they were long over due.

i sullied forth into the snow. it was at least six inches deep. nimue made her presence known hearing me from the door. so i just took some photos of the snowy house. this is a compilation of four different shots blended together.

i took this one as i walked through the pasture trying to figure out where nimue weathered the snowstorm. i walked the entire pasture and didn't see any obvious resting places. nimue was covered in icy snow. i wonder if she stood-up during the entire snow? i worry about her having a calf in inclement weather. i just keep telling myself this species has been doing this for millennia--at least thousands of years.

i gave her grain and brushed most of the icy snow off her. she must like the snow cause she was bucking around and generally frolicking.

the chickens are scared of the snow. they haven't even gone down the rampart to eat and get water yet. i guess that is where scared as a chicken "your a chicken" comes from.

Friday, February 17, 2006

this is what NO TV does to a small boy

this is my boy without T.V. he is so great he loves this book brother bear
yes it is based from a movie but all he gets is the book except for friday night movie night. tonight is movie night. we plan to see a movie that tristan wants.

stuff i did today
  • loaded the porch with wood from across the street i had to haul and split 5 loads to fill the porch.
  • stretched the woven wire across the back of the house from the new rock ring to both gate posts. basically finished the fence along the back of the house.
  • i cut the rest of the wood in nimue's pasture into small pieces. i'll split and stack it this weekend.
  • i chunked more of that wood in the front yard and split a few pieces for stacking.
  • cleaned the pig feeder of rodent nests and other rubbish.
  • tabitha & i picked up the manure in nimues pasture strewed it across part of the garden.
  • i called and found out that we can roof our 18 by 20 roofing shed for less than $250 in galvanized steel and ready for rain water collection

  • we decided on the hobit. it has been years since tabitha and i have seen it. the movie night excitement is so cool. the kids love it and appreciate it, if you know what i mean.
    i want to go to church sunday. we plan to join this church and don't want to seem lame. besides i generally want to go to church. we are so blessed and should be thankful.
    i really need a table saw!! i keep coming back to this obstacle and hate it.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    tristan is a great big brother

    i spied tristan and kassi hanging out together in the kitchen. he had taken one of the photos of my parents down and was showing it to kassi. he said "see kassi this is grandme and grandpe, they are daddies mommy and daddy." he is so cute and kassi just adores him. they chase each other around the house giggling about 30% of the time. it's kinda noisy but glorious fun none the less.

    mike and i went to get some gravel yesterday and the quarry was closed to the public. What a lame thing to have happen. i'll have to borrow one of Ben's trucks and a flat bed trailer and get some from the quarry myself. it will work out because i'd like to get some crushed lime sand also. i guess a few trips are in order.

    the driveway needs a layer of gravel, i'd like to set the posts for the barn using gravel, there are several little places that could use some drainage soil, and i would like to have some around for my concrete plans.
      gravel list
      drive way
      walkway to house
      drainage around barn
      drainage around root cellar
      areas close to the house foundation
      foundation for chimney

    the sand would be used for mortar, cob and adding to the garden. the soil in the garden is dense and could use quite a bit of sand.
      sand list
      foundation for chimney
      mortar for chimney
      mortar for slip-form foundation for barn.

    i broke the handle on the post maul. it was because of dry rot on the handle. it wasn't because i missed and hit the handle or that i was swinging extra hard. it just finally gave-way. the stupid handle cost eleven dollars. if it were just a regular sledge hammer it'd almost be better just to buy a whole new sledge. this is such a disposable economy we live in. it is counter to recycling and re-using anything. i guess it mostly has to do with economy of scale in manufacturing of the most purchased item but it is really disappointing to a person that prefers only replacing the broken part of an otherwise perfectly good hammer.

    as for the rock ring question from way back. we simply make a ring out of woven wire, set in the place where we want the rock ring and fill it with rocks. we have learned a few tricks, being sure to place larger rocks on the exterior, using much smaller rock as the in-fill and shaping the fence and ring as we fill it. the smaller rock as the in-fill creates stability. the larger rock on the exterior closes the fence holes and looks nice. shaping the fence and ring by brute force as you fill it is very important. streching a fence to an unfinished rock ring is always a bad idea. proportions are also quite important the ring must be squat enough to be stable but tall enough to look nice. there is a balance that must be achieved. i've seen plenty of rock rings toppled because the constructor attempted a tall slender rock ring and filled them only with larger rock.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    valentines day

    just warming up enough to work.

    my girl is soo sweet

    me and the kids. they both need to be picked up at the same time.

    Monday, February 13, 2006


    the cedars are all cut. we cut fifteen acres of dense cedar forest from roaring river state park. the terrain was steep and rocky. we did about .4 acres per person per day. we had to fell them leaving a stump less than four inches from the ground. then cut them into manageable pieces for burning. the trees were beautiful. if we had been able to haul them out and sell them there would have been way over fifty thousand dollars worth of cedar closet lining.

    i came home to a bath tub left in our driveway by some random neighbor. what is that about? well we are going to use it in some of our livestock operation. possibly it will be a secondary waterer for our shaded pasture.

    the pigs will be ready for pickup in a week. a person might ask, do we have containment? NO, we have successfully shirked the pig raising onto mike. he needs a pond hogged. is that a verb? anyway he has a pond that needs to be sealed and hogs are the best and only method worth considering in the ozarks. the pigs will visit our garden in the fall for a final clean-up and a fresh tilling then off to slaughter.

    the cat is on the fast track to being an outdoor kitty. our cat climbs on any warm body and cozys-in. this is counter to raising a small child that cannot kick the cat off. so, the cat goes because there will be a new baby soon.

    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    scorched earth too

    this latest rock ring is almost finished. we'll stretch the fence to it my next day off.

    if you compare this photo from an eairlier post you can see that the burn is on the right of where tristan was standing. i am standing at the pond shooting the camera toward the house up the path same as before.

    this is a panorama of the entire burn. i'm standing on the rocky crossing of the ravine and directly next where the fire got outta control.

    if you look closely you can see the two lines of defense that i tried to contain the fire with. the final one was the least proper and since the wind died down was the only one that was effective.
    this is our frozen pond. i figured out why it is so black. it seems that during the digging of the pond we stirred clay into the water and the clay particles are positively charged and remain suspended. allegedly there are additives that we can use to break the positive charge and the clay will sink. i don't plan any thing quite so elaborate. time will heal this one.

    these are the six posts that will support the roof of the shed. we need some gravel to ram in to set them. the local clay won't be as effective. this gravel should be arriving thursday.

    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    what do these have in common?

    liet, anatoly, gustav, constantine
    mercedes, carolina, wren

    these are names that we are considering for the new baby. oh yes we just found out that we are expecting a new baby. the baby is due in mid october--maybe on my sisters birthday?

    the girls name is pretty set in stone. we like mercedes because both of us love the count of monte cristo fyi mercedes was edmond dantes "true love". the fact that a car manufacturer has usurped the name and made it a household name is only slightly concerning. we'll call her mercy. i really like that!

    liet and anatoly are currently tied for first place. gustav, spelled differently i think, was my grandfathers name. he was a very respectable man and had a cool name. i dislike the obvious nickname "gus" but it could grow on me. constantine, despite being almost ruined by the recent movie--it will be long forgotten in ten years.

    anyway, i think it is a girl. through empirical and incontrovertible reasoning i am convinced.

    controled burn?

    i wanted an easy day of work around here yesterday because i my muscles were still sore from cutting cedars. i decided to burn a small patch of (to be shaded pasture) above the ravine. the leaves were very thick. the scrub and saplings were fairly dense. i raked a fire break around the area and decided to burn across the ravine at the rock-pile-crossing. the leaves were especially thick there but i wanted to be able to use the crossing in case that is were the pigs will end up.

    the wind was calm and i started the fire. i also had two piles of brush and dead logs that i was burning. i added to these as the day went on. everything was going as planned i was very happy with the results. oh the old trash that i found, a bunch of slobs must have lived here for many years.

    the fire just whimpered along burning to the edges of my area and happily extinguishing. then when it crossed the rock-pile-crossing the wind strangely kicked up and it started to really burn i thought cool this will go faster. then it happened the fire leapt across the fire break at the worst possible place. the leaves were thick and it was at the bottom of the ravine. the fire got way hotter and started to climb up both sides of the ravine. holy crap--i ran down and commenced to rake another fire break--in the thick smoke. this one was done quickly and not nearly as wide. the fire leapt across it a second time. arragh!!!!

    at this time tabitha was coming over to tell me that lunch was ready. she asked is everything alright? "i said NO." she replied get out of the smoke and is this a wild fire? i didn't answer. i got busy raking another break then my rake broke in half. i guess i was raking too frantically. i used the stump of a rake and continued to rake and stomp the flames that were leaping toward me. i resorted to stomping on the fire with my shoes. this only slowed the inevitable. my dying of smoke inhalation and the entire county burning to the ground.

    then it happened as quickly as it started. the wind stopped--it died to nothing and i could finally manage the few remaining flames. i put everything out except the fallen wood that had caught on fire. i asked tabitha to get my sprayer and fill it with water. she called me from the house to come get it--too heavy. i sprayed all the wood--ten or so trips to re-fill my three gallon sprayer and the fire was just a steamy mess.

    whew that was a close one. one broken rake, scalded shoe laces and a humbled ego. the moral of the story: rake wider fire breaks, have the hose streched closer to the event and don't be stupid.

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    "see i'm a nice boy"

    i was gone for three days cutting cedars at roaring rock state park. i miss my family so much when i am gone. i am scared i'll miss something really cool that the kids do for the first time. i guess tristan was kinda naughty while i was gone. it is understandable because he is used to having me around and it is a huge change for him when i am gone. tabitha was using the promise of movie night to leverage good behavior. when i got home i brought the mail and the kids got valentines from my parents. they loved them tristan had me read his to him several times (it said "to a nice boy... ...happy valentines day") then he'd say kassi too. little stuff like that makes them so happy. after i had been home a while i mentioned that "only nice boys" get to have movie night. he immediately produced proof that he was a "nice boy" (the valentine card from grandme and grandpa) he said "see i'm a nice boy." i almost fell over laughing. i guess if it is written in print it must be true.

    somehow the printer didn't work to print the valentines cards photos. i'm going to re-setup the file and try again this morning. the cards might be a bit late but they are on their way.

    tristan can write his name! it is completely legible and very neat(i'll scan one of his examples later.) he also walks around muttering "T, R, I, S, T, A, N" all the time. this no-tv decision has really shifted his focus to wanting to learn to read.
    applications for pen pals will be accepted via U.S.P.S. all applications must be printed in all caps and very complementary to both tristan and kassi.

    trash day
    valentines printout
    milking shed
    make-up for lost hugs while gone

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    what we didn't get done

    the green house starter box.
    --i just thought about this one a bit
    the fence along the back.
    --we finished the gate and over half of the posts but need to move the chicken coop before we fence it in. in order to move the coop i need to muster more courage than i had left after this weekend. mostly i just want to find a couple of 8" wheels that i can mount to it so moving it won't be like moving the eiffel tower.
    rock ring
    --yeah, it's almost done.
    work up that fell tree in nimues pasture
    --well over half way done.

    we did get the posts up for the milking shed

    i cleared a trash heap from where we will eventually put the chicken coop. it was old burned metal siding, roofing and random bits of other un-burned metal. basically it was a tetanus hot bed.

    i cleared some of the old rotten logs and scrub that didn't get burned when i burned the leaves across part of the next pasture area. that pile of "to-be-burned" is over where we will put the coop. the coop will end up quite a distance from the house but further from the road which is the real concern. nightly closing up the chickens will be a bit more of a jaunt but tabitha will be out milking the cow anyway.

    i did make a valentine for tristans friends aren't those kids cute. we plan to send a print of these with tristan's valentines

    new gate

    this gate will painted blue. it is from the old shed on the squatter property. we have repurposed it. it is rustic. the rock ring on the left shows the latest progress on the three day old ring. it is almost full enough to stretch woven wire to it.

    finally blogger works

    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    better than i could have ever said it

    The Ethics of Eating Meat: A Radical View
    By Charles Eisenstein

    Most vegetarians I know are not primarily motivated by nutrition. Although they argue strenuously for the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, many see good health as a reward for the purity and virtue of a vegetarian diet, or as an added bonus. In my experience, a far more potent motivator among vegetarians—ranging from idealistic college students, to social and environmental activists, to adherents of Eastern spiritual traditions like Buddhism and Yoga—is the moral or ethical case for not eating meat.

    Enunciated with great authority by such spiritual luminaries as Mahatma Gandhi, and by environmental crusaders such as Frances Moore Lappe, the moral case against eating meat seems at first glance to be overpowering. As a meat eater who cares deeply about living in harmony with the environment, and as an honest person trying to eliminate hypocrisy in the way I live, I feel compelled to take these arguments seriously.

    A typical argument goes like this: In order to feed modern society's enormous appetite for meat, animals endure unimaginable suffering in conditions of extreme filth, crowding and confinement. Chickens are packed twenty to a cage, hogs are kept in concrete stalls so narrow they can never turn around.
    Arguing for the Environment

    The cruelty is appalling, but no less so than the environmental effects. Meat animals are fed anywhere from five to fifteen pounds of vegetable protein for each pound of meat produced—an unconscionable practice in a world where many go hungry. Whereas one-sixth an acre of land can feed a vegetarian for a year, over three acres are required to provide the grain needed to raise a year's worth of meat for the average meat-eater.

    All too often, so the argument goes, those acres consist of clear-cut rain forests. The toll on water resources is equally grim: the meat industry accounts for half of US water consumption—2500 gallons per pound of beef, compared to 25 gallons per pound of wheat. Polluting fossil fuels are another major input into meat production. As for the output, 1.6 million tons of livestock manure pollutes our drinking water. And let's not forget the residues of antibiotics and synthetic hormones that are increasingly showing up in municipal water supplies.
    Even without considering the question of taking life (I'll get to that later), the above facts alone make it clear that it is immoral to aid and abet this system by eating meat.
    Factory or Farm?

    I will not contest any of the above statistics, except to say that they only describe the meat industry as it exists today. They constitute a compelling argument against the meat industry, not meat-eating. For in fact, there are other ways of raising animals for food, ways that make livestock an environmental asset rather than a liability, and in which animals do not lead lives of suffering. Consider, for example, a traditional mixed farm combining a variety of crops, pasture land and orchards. Here, manure is not a pollutant or a waste product; it is a valuable resource contributing to soil fertility. Instead of taking grain away from the starving millions, pastured animals actually generate food calories from land unsuited to tillage. When animals are used to do work—pulling plows, eating bugs and turning compost—they reduce fossil fuel consumption and the temptation to use pesticides. Nor do animals living outdoors require a huge input of water for sanitation.

    In a farm that is not just a production facility but an ecology, livestock has a beneficial role to play. The cycles, connections and relationships among crops, trees, insects, manure, birds, soil, water and people on a living farm form an intricate web, "organic" in its original sense, a thing of beauty not easily lumped into the same category as a 5000-animal concrete hog factory. Any natural environment is home to animals and plants, and it seems reasonable that an agriculture that seeks to be as close as possible to nature would incorporate both. Indeed, on a purely horticultural farm, wild animals can be a big problem, and artificial measures are required to keep them out. Nice rows of lettuce and carrots are an irresistible buffet for rabbits, woodchucks and deer, which can decimate whole fields overnight. Vegetable farmers must rely on electric fences, traps, sprays, and—more than most people realize—guns and traps to protect their crops. If the farmer refrains from killing, raising vegetables at a profitable yield requires holding the land in a highly artificial state, cordoned off from nature.

    Yes, one might argue, but the idyllic farms of yesteryear are insufficient to meet the huge demand of our meat-addicted society. Even if you eat only organically raised meat, you are not being moral unless your consumption level is consistent with all of Earth's six billion people sharing your diet.
    Production and Productivity

    Such an argument rests on the unwarranted assumption that our current meat industry seeks to maximize production. Actually it seeks to maximize profit, which means maximizing not "production" but "productivity"—units per dollar. In dollar terms it is more efficient to have a thousand cows in a high-density feedlot, eating corn monocultured on a chemically-dependent 5,000-acre farm, than it is to have fifty cows grazing on each of twenty 250-acre family farms. It is more efficient in dollar terms, and probably more efficient in terms of human labor too. Fewer farmers are needed, and in a society that belittles farming, that is considered a good thing. But in terms of beef per acre (or per unit of water, fossil fuel, or other natural capital) it is not more efficient.

    In an ideal world, meat would be just as plentiful perhaps, but it would be much more expensive. That is as it should be. Traditional societies understood that meat is a special food; they revered it as one of nature's highest gifts. To the extent that our society translates high value into high price, meat should be expensive. The prevailing prices for meat (and other food) are extraordinarily low relative to total consumer spending, both by historical standards and in comparison to other countries. Ridiculously cheap food impoverishes farmers, demeans food itself, and makes less "efficient" modes of production uneconomical. If food, and meat in particular, were more expensive then perhaps we wouldn't waste so much—another factor to consider in evaluating whether current meat consumption is sustainable.
    Moral Imperative

    So far I have addressed issues of cruel conditions and environmental sustainability, important moral motivations for vegetarianism, to be sure. But vegetarianism existed before the days of factory farming, and it was inspired by a simple, primal conviction that killing is wrong. It is just plain wrong to take another animal's life unnecessarily; it is bloody, brutal, and barbaric.

    Of course, plants are alive too, and most vegetarian diets involve the killing of plants. (The exception is the fruit-only "fruitarian" diet.) Most people don't accept that killing an animal is the same as killing a plant though, and few would argue that animals are not a more highly organized form of life, with greater sentience and greater capacity for suffering. Compassion extends more readily to animals that cry out in fear and pain, though personally, I do feel sorry for garden weeds as I pull them out by the roots. Nonetheless, the argument "plants are alive too" is unlikely to satisfy the moral impulse behind vegetarianism.

    It should also be noted that mechanized vegetable farming involves massive killing of soil organisms, insects, rodents and birds. Again, this does not address the central vegetarian motivation, because this killing is incidental and can in principle be minimized. The soil itself, the earth itself, may, for all we know, be a sentient being, and surely an agricultural system, even if plant-based, that kills soil, kills rivers, and kills the land, is as morally reprehensible as any meat-oriented system, but again this does not address the essential issue of intent: Isn't it wrong to kill a sentient being unnecessarily?

    One might also question whether this killing is truly unnecessary. Although the nutritional establishment looks favorably on vegetarianism, a significant minority of researchers vigorously dispute its health claims. An evaluation of this debate is beyond the scope of this article, but after many years of dedicated self-experimentation, I am convinced that meat is quite "necessary" for me to enjoy health, strength and energy. Does my good health outweigh another being's right to life? This question leads us back to the central issue of killing. It is time to drop all unstated assumptions and meet this issue head-on.
    The Central Question

    Let's start with a very naïve and provocative question: "What, exactly, is wrong about killing?" And for that matter, "What is so bad about dying?"

    It is impossible to fully address the moral implications of eating meat without thinking about the significance of life and death. Otherwise one is in danger of hypocrisy, stemming from our separation from the fact of death behind each piece of meat we eat. The physical and social distance from slaughterhouse to dinner table insulates us from the fear and pain the animals feel as they are led to the slaughter, and turns a dead animal into just "a piece of meat." Such distance is a luxury our ancestors did not have: in ancient hunting and farming societies, killing was up close and personal, and it was impossible to ignore the fact that this was recently a living, breathing animal.

    Our insulation from the fact of death extends far beyond the food industry. Accumulating worldly treasures—wealth, status, beauty, expertise, reputation—we ignore the truth that they are impermanent, and therefore, in the end, worthless. "You can't take it with you," the saying goes, yet the American system, fixated on worldly acquisition, depends on the pretense that we can, and that these things have real value. Often only a close brush with death helps people realize what's really important. The reality of death reveals as arrant folly the goals and values of conventional modern life, both collective and individual.

    It is no wonder, then, that our society, unprecedented in its wealth, has also developed a fear of death equally unprecedented in history. Both on a personal and institutional level, prolonging and securing life has become more important than how that life is lived. This is most obvious in our medical system, of course, in which death is considered the ultimate "negative outcome," to which even prolonged agony is preferable. I see the same kind of thinking in Penn State students, who choose to suffer the "prolonged agony" of studying subjects they hate, in order to get a job they don't really love, in order to have financial "security." They are afraid to live right, afraid to claim their birthright, which is to do joyful and exciting work. The same fear underlies our society's lunatic obsession with "safety." The whole American program now is to insulate oneself as much as possible from death—to achieve "security." It comes down to the ego trying to make permanent what can never be permanent.
    Modern Dualism

    Digging deeper, the root of this fear, I think, lies in our culture's dualistic separation of body and soul, matter and spirit, man and nature. The scientific legacy of Newton and Descartes holds that we are finite, separate beings; that life and its events are accidental; that the workings of life and the universe may be wholly explained in terms of objective laws applied to inanimate, elemental parts; and therefore, that meaning is a delusion and God a projection of our wishful thinking. If materiality is all there is, and if life is without real purpose, then of course death is the ultimate calamity.

    Curiously, the religious legacy of Newton and Descartes is not all that different. When religion abdicated the explanation of "how the world works"—cosmology—to physics, it retreated to the realm of the non-worldly. Spirit became the opposite of matter, something elevated and separate. It did not matter too much what you did in the world of matter, it was unimportant, so long as your (immaterial) "soul" were saved. Under a dualistic view of spirituality, living right as a being of flesh and blood, in the world of matter, becomes less important. Human life becomes a temporary excursion, an inconsequential distraction from the eternal life of the spirit.

    Other cultures, more ancient and wiser cultures, did not see it like this. They believed in a sacred world, of matter infused with spirit. Animism, we call it, the belief that all things are possessed of a soul. Even this definition betrays our dualistic presumptions. Perhaps a better definition would be that all things are soul. If all things are soul, then life in the flesh, in the material world, is sacred. These cultures also believed in fate, the futility of trying to live past one's time. To live rightly in the time allotted is then a matter of paramount importance, and life a sacred journey.

    When death itself, rather than a life wrongly lived, is the ultimate calamity, it is easy to see why an ethical person would choose vegetarianism. To deprive a creature of life is the ultimate crime, especially in the context of a society that values safety over fun and security over the inherent risk of creativity. When meaning is a delusion, then ego—the self's internal representation of itself in relation to not-self—is all there is. Death is never right, part of a larger harmony, a larger purpose, a divine tapestry, because there is no divine tapestry; the universe is impersonal, mechanical and soulless.
    Obsolete Science

    Fortunately, the science of Newton and Descartes is now obsolete. Its pillars of reductionism and objectivity are crumbling under the weight of 20th century discoveries in quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and nonlinear systems, in which order arises out of chaos, simplicity out of complexity, and beauty out of nowhere and everywhere; in which all things are connected; and in which there is something about the whole that cannot be fully understood in terms of its parts. Be warned, my views would not be accepted by most professional scientists, but I think there is much in modern science pointing to an ensouled world, in which consciousness, order and cosmic purpose are written into the fabric of reality.

    In an animistic and holistic world view, the moral question to ask oneself about food is not "Was there killing?" but rather, "Is this food taken in rightness and harmony?" The cow is a soul, yes, and so is the land and the ecosystem, and the planet. Did that cow lead the life a cow ought to lead? Is the way it was raised beautiful, or ugly (according to my current understanding)? Allying intuition and factual knowledge, I ask whether eating this food contributes to that tiny shred of the divine tapestry that I can see.
    Divine Tapestry

    There is a time to live and a time to die. That is the way of nature. If you think about it, prolonged suffering is rare in nature. Our meat industry profits from the prolonged suffering of animals, people and the Earth, but that is not the only way. When a cow lives the life a cow ought to live, when its life and death are consistent with a beautiful world, then for me there is no ethical dilemma in killing that cow for food. Of course there is pain and fear when the cow is taken to the slaughter (and when the robin pulls up the worm, and when the wolves down the caribou, and when the hand uproots the weed), and that makes me sad. There is much to be sad about in life, but underneath the sadness is a joy that is dependent not on avoiding pain and maximizing pleasure, but on living rightly and well.

    It would indeed be hypocritical of me to apply this to a cow and not to myself. To live with integrity as a killer of animals and plants, it is necessary for me in my own life to live rightly and well, even and especially when such decisions seem to jeopardize my comfort, security, and rational self-interest, even if, someday, to live rightly is to risk death. Not just for animals, but for me too, there is a time to live and a time to die. I'm saying: What is good enough for any living creature is good enough for me. Eating meat need not be an act of arrogant species-ism, but consistent with a humble submission to the tides of life and death.

    If this sounds radical or unattainable, consider that all those calculations of what is "in my interest" and what will benefit me and what I can "afford" grow tiresome. When we live rightly, decision by decision, the heart sings even when the rational mind disagrees and the ego protests. Besides, human wisdom is limited. Despite our machinations, we are ultimately unsuccessful at avoiding pain, loss and death. For animals, plants, and humans alike, there is more to life than not dying.

    About the Author

    Charles Eisenstein is a stay-at-home dad living in central Pennsylvania. He teaches part-time at Penn State. His book, The Yoga of Eating, may be purchased from New Trends Publishing, http://www.newtrendspublishing.com/YOGA/.

    This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts,
    the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, SUMMER 2002.

    Click here to become a member of the Foundation and receive our quarterly journal, full of informative articles as well as sources of healthy food.

    Copyright Notice: The material on this site is copyrighted by the Weston A. Price Foundation. Please contact the Foundation for permission if you wish to use the material for any purpose.
    Disclaimer: The information published herein is not intended to be used as a substitute for appropriate care by a qualified health practitioner.

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    This page was posted on 30 JUN 2002.

    progress on my list

    appended short list for the weekend:
    - cedar poles for milking shed
    the three that were cut already were the first to come up. my method of implementing the dolly seemed to work fine but it was only necessary on the really large ones. for most of them i just took the heavy end and cheated back toward the middle taking more weight and tabitha and i just put them on our shoulders and carried them the whole way up. the six major posts are now up by the shed location. we still have to cut and haul the three oak cross timbers.
    - mini greenhouse
    no progress yet. my plan is to dig a sloping earthen foundation, make a rectangle out of straw-bales that tilts toward south. then simply put the two sliding glass doors on top. i have some shiny insulation that might line the north, east and west sides to reflect even more light back to our precious plants.
    - fence across the back of the house
    this is slated for today. the rock ring must be a bit further along before we can continue with this in earnest.
    - fill the new rock ring
    it is about half full now. i put an old clothes line pole in the center of the rock ring. it is extra tall (i added extra pipe to it). we currently have two pulley clothes lines that originate from the back porch and stretch upward to mulberry tree branches. this tree has that whiches-broom disease and we might be forced to take it down. so this new clothes line pole will afford an alternative.
    - fill the porch with wood.
    i cut the final two slices from the hickory, worked them up and put them on the porch. it had ants when i split it so i saved the ants and gave them to the chickens. the porch still needs more wood i'll top it off monday before i have to go back to work.
    - cut and work the fell tree in nimue's pasture
    i trimmed most of the tree branches, cut and split about half of it up. it splits ok. the fact that it had been trimmed so many times made it kinda knotty. tabitha and tristan helped stack the wood along the fence, extending our privacy fence. we like that wood barrier so much that we kinda never want to burn it.
    this is an example of the interum seed starting solution. i made this little shelf from an old ladder and old barn siding. it should only be in our window seat for a short while.

    the inside view. this was an easy quick solution. it is very "old timey"

    Saturday, February 04, 2006

    we have sucessfully culled television

    even though the kids only watched educational programs and constructive movies. we have completely removed all television watching except friday night "movie night" i make popcorn and we all cozy-in and watch a movie. the kids are more relaxed during the week and much easier to manage. tristan has been falling asleep reading books. well, looking at the pictures and either reciting memorized stories or making up his own. he also asks us to read him books constantly. both kids love to read--kassi says "me too, mee tooo" whenever tristan convinces someone to read a book. it is so cute. they'll both pile on my lap and sit patiently while i read. i take it as an opportunity to steal a few extra hugs.

    my sister gave us a leap pad for christmas we are going to start having "computer time" soon to teach him spanish and other stuff he's interested in. i have been scared that they'll ruin to books before they get good use out of them. tristan is really trying to learn to read right now. he can spell and write his name and is noticing letters everywhere--even in tiny tiny places. i keep telling him that once he can read the words himself he can read books anytime he wants. we are trying to set a good example by reading all the time. all this effort seems to be working.

    today i plan to haul some of those fallen cedars from the grove up to the milking shed. i'll strap the two wheeled hand truck to the base of the trunk and tabitha and i will pull from the top of the tree. we should be able to get up the hill with them in a reasonable fashion with this method. the length of the trees is over 20' so it will be a challenge. i still have to cut three more trees for our poles and to cut the cross beam timbers. these will be from tall skinny oak trees. i have a few selected from the forest to come down. it is going to be very rustic and "old timey" i still need to come by some steel roofing material. we plan to collect the rain water from the shed for the cows. any over flow will feed our garden but we don't expect much extra water.

    it is going to be cold-ish here today--my favorite work weather. i love to split wood when it is below freezing. the wood cracks apart with a satisfaction that is unexplainable when temperatures drop.

    the short list for the weekend:
    - cedar poles for milking shed
    - mini greenhouse
    - fence across the back of the house
    - fill the new rock ring
    - this list will grow once tabitha wakes up

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    garden photos

    this is a picture of our newest rock ring. it is located where the walk-through gate will be. the two rings are 12 feet appart--in case we want a drive through gate in the future in that place. notice the huge pile of roots behind the new est rock ring. somewhere between 15 and 20 wheel barrow loads of roots make a pile that large.

    this is our new/slightly used pig feeder. and this rock came from our garden tabitha called it "the rock of ages"

    this is one of our flowing-over rock rings. i also thought this made a nice photo. the orage gate, the red fence, the burnt orange wood framing the rocks.

    my little angel in the garden. look how the wall-o-wood has grown in the back ground.

    turned garden

    mike turned the garden with the tractor. we went out and pulled all the visible roots and rocks. yes, we started a new rock ring. the other three are now filled to the brim. i used some of that old fence that we removed from between us and the squatter lot to make it. i call it the squatter lot for two reasons 1. we have use of it until further notice 2. the adjoining lot on the other side is being squatted on also.

    the garden will be 35 by 70 feet. it seems huge from my perspective but we plan to become completely dependant on it for all our vegetables. is that big enough? tabitha says that it isn't the size of the garden but how much of the booty you manage to put up. we have a huge freezer. we plan to can everything. we have two excellently large pressure canners. the biggie will be to make a root cellar. i hope to get our neighbor to dig the area with his backhoe. i plan cement block walls with a gravel floor. the roof will be ferrocement, roofing felt, and a layer of meshcrete then piles of dirt. we plan to keep all of our canned goods in there along with the stored vegetables. it will have to be fairly large to accommodate our plans.

    today we plan to visit the piglets and the farmstead that tabitha visited last week. maybe i'll try to haul some of the big cedar posts up from the lower cedar grove. if only nimue were trained as an oxen. nimue is such a sweet cow the other night she was laying down in the field and i walked out and laid down with her, cozyed right in. she'll let ya lay right on top of her. she smells so good. my only experience with cows is that they are dirty and stinky. she is very clean and actually smells good kinda like a cross between sweet grain and milk. weird uh?

    pigs are another story, they stink and will be fairly far away. addressing their new home is also on my short list agenda. we'll need to get a solar panel, battery and electric fence charger along with electric fence wire. i plan to surround the pond and adjoining flat area with the pen. shelter will be just a simple lean-to.
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