Warning: this is going to be a long one.
Once again we are at year’s end, just 1 year shy of 2020!! Crazy really since it didn’t feel too long ago it was turning into a new century. But then again so much has happened in the almost 20 years since, let alone simply in this past year. I sometimes marvel when I look back on the past few months, years or decades. I feel that 2018 was a bit of a weird year for me, as if I really didn’t do much but then I dig deeper and remember and I am like “wow…I did a lot”. I am a ‘doer’ so that isn’t surprising. However, it certainly wasn’t what I had planned back in late 2017.
I was to have spent 9 months in Barbados, working as an international development volunteer, having arrived in early Dec. 2017 (my website has blog posts about this time in the Caribbean). Due to circumstances beyond my control, Mr.C5 (he had arrived in early Jan after a crazy almost 3 day journey thanks to winter storms that impacted air travel) & I were back in Canada on March 1st. I was like so now what I am supposed to do in general but also to make some $, to have a livelihood I might somewhat actually enjoy… besides of course doing the annual growing of food – gardening/farming – whatever you want to call it.
Side note: I don’t feel like I am gardening since this sounds like a pastime, something one truly enjoys and does for pleasure; I don’t like to call it farming since this connotes an occupation and I have learned I am not interested in being a farmer as a full-time occupation unless I wan to live a life of poverty and work 12 hours days 7 days a week. My physical body also just can’t take it with my osteoarthritis in various hand, wrist & toe joints and a chronic back injury which I am finally addressing. Have to find another word for this stuff I do… but in the interim I garden/farm.
To recap, my mid-life career crisis had lead me on a journey to try new/different career paths based on my interests and access to resources, so I tried farming for a few years and then international development volunteering, unfortunately, both not leading me to fulfilling and meaningful work with a pay I could survive on. I would have liked to continue working in ID on short terms contracts but our success in trying to find good folks to watch our home & critters just wasn’t working out, and Mr.C5 & I weren’t willing to be living apart for months at a time.
In the end, I realized that I was going through an existential crisis which was much more fundamental than simply finding another career path even though the two were inextricably intertwined. At least I still kept plodding along trying to find something new that would re-invigorate me, re-motivate me to be involved in the wider world with purpose and compassion.
I had hoped I was going to have a 2 year break from growing anything really. I had hoped that I was going to be able to garner some income from my asparagus beds but instead I was simply doing ‘gardening’ to rehabilitate my plants from the damage/neglect of my previous farm (under)caretakers. Talk about endless hard work, mainly weeding, that was ongoing throughout the growing season with no results to show for it, e.g. a harvest of any quantity beyond our own personal consumption. I managed to get things back to where they were before I had left to go to Lima by the end of the fall and so I cross my fingers hoping my work will pay off next year with a good crop so that I can finally earn some $ from all my hard work over the years in establishing this crop.
In my farming/gardening efforts I have tried to incorporate as much as possible of perennials – this is not just me being lazy rather trying to be smart! I remember years ago learning about farming and how the bulk of it is with annual plants and I was like what?!?!? This is so much hard work so why not try to plant, cultivate vegetables and fruits that keep producing year after year. As this guides me in what I do in our gardens, I chose to get about $500 worth of arctic kiwis which I love but which are simply not readily available, another premium fruit. Alas due to our crazy, long, wet, cold spring, the bulk of my plants died, the roots just not handling the conditions combined with the shock of being transplanted from nursery to my home. I was pretty unhappy about this of course but what can you do… I tried rooting some branches I pruned from some old plants I have which have never seen a harvest – mainly due to lack of a viable male plant (you need male & female plants for pollination) but was not successful and from what I read this was not unexpected.
I also decided to plant once again strawberries. My last attempt which was when we first moved to the farm in 2003 and started gardening in 04, failed after a few years. I learned that if you don’t stay on top of weeding with this fruit then you lose it quickly to weeds. This time I mulched with well rotted hay and it worked. After the plants were established, we had this amazing crop well into Fall; if we had not had early and hard frosts, we would have seen even more. Organic strawberries are one fruit that is in very limited supply (and research has clearly shown not a good idea to eat these fruits if they are not organic because of their absorption of the toxic stuff used in industrial agriculture). There is only 1 producer in our region, and they charge a lot because they can and because they have to. I won’t be going for organic certification, but I know I can sell them as spray free and folks will pay a premium for them. Boy were they tasty!!
As for income, well the demoralizing job hunt ensued of course. I am very thankful we had savings to live on because this is all we had. I managed to land a job in June in our nearest happening community of Tatamagouche, about 15-20 minute drive from my home, a tourist mecca unlike other nearby villages including River John. I became a retail sales associate at a high end chocolate making store (they make confections from chocolate sourced from Europe of course). First time ever doing the traditional retail job. A great learning experience. Alas I couldn’t really blog too much about it since it would not have been appropriate to discuss many matters – there was too much gossip, conflict and ill feeling masked in a facade of politeness, not unique I’m sure to any small village, but just so weird for me as a city girl never having worked in a small community. I ended up being laid off in November since the store traffic just wasn’t enough to warrant separate staff. The store was a new step in this business and they learned the hard lesson that relying on walk in traffic outside of tourist season will not give them the sales they need at this time. At least the biz has been around since 1997 thus well known and they do stellar online sales that carries them through. I of course got to sample delicious chocolates, and there were the ‘oops it fell on the floor’ chocolates to be consumed occasionally, and the imperfects to be purchased and consumed.
In addition to this I got a teaching gig, one course each in Fall & Winter this time at St.Francis Xavier Uni in Antigonish, where I had once taught way back in 2004, the closest uni to where I live but still 1.25 hours to get to. I wasn’t really wanting to teach especially since they weren’t the courses I would have chosen if I had had a choice but when you can’t be picky… I had anticipated that this would work out well, with us being able to save the teaching gig $ replenishing our savings, living off the choc store work with its minimum wage. Alas since Sept my hours at the store got cut back to the point where I only had a few hours in Nov, so the financial plan was not working out as expected so back to job hunting…ugh!!
On a positive note… I am seeking your positive energy as I wait for the phonecalls where the River John library would like to interview me and then of course hire me to replace the retiring ‘librarian’. I put the job title in quotes since the position does not require an actual librarian in terms of skill set. It is a very small library in a community of less than 500. Heck we are lucky to even have a library; many years ago now the community rallied and raised the funds to have a new library built. It is a hub in the community, outside of the churches and the legion, especially after our local school closed a few years ago. I have 3 things against me: i) my age – weird being subject to ageism as a sociologist, a subject matter I would occasionally include in my teaching, ii) not being a local but I have been here now for 15 years!, and iii) being way over-qualified. However, as a friend noted, you see so many folks here working at jobs for which they are either not qualified or overqualified; there just aren’t many folks here between 20-40 so the minimum wage jobs aren’t filled by younger folk and a young family can’t live on such (often seasonal) wages. I am a prime example of the typical worker here.
Another example: in the summer I was at the local grocery store and saw someone I know from the committee I am on pertaining to the tech stuff at the library (wifi hotspot, printing, scanning, etc… – bonus points for me in terms of getting the job I hope!). He had just started work there. I was like what???!!! He is older than me, I think he is in his 60s (I am 55 now) and has been a woodturner for years but he said he needed to pay the bills, so I guess he can’t make enough $ these days to survive. Seeing seniors working is wrong in many ways, at least if they are doing so out of necessity not simply as something to do. I do keep seeing more and more middle-aged and older folks working in retail, mainly grocery stores since I am not a shopper and minimize my consumer wants. I do believe in light of the global economic and American empire collapse (you are seeing this, paying attention to this, not believing the lies and hopium of politicians and business ‘leadership’ right?), necessity is a key reason.
I always remember learning that this often would indicate economic circumstances that were not good for large amounts of the population; seeing youth in the entry level jobs was an indication that things were ‘good’.
Of course there is a difference between rural and urban areas and what this means for living & working, and the connection between the global and local economies. Because we live in an area where there is mainly viable seasonal work and often minimum wage (I am not including fishing here since it takes huge $ to get the quota – either you have the ability to get the huge $ (loans) or you inherit the license), one can’t expect someone to work seasonally to provide for their family so those folks have to leave or go to the city to find work. I find it mindboggling that some business owners in Tatamagouche complain they can’t find reliable workers…hmmm….well maybe if they were paid a livable year round wage perhaps… but no. Simplistically, instead the blame is put upon workers: they are the problem, not perhaps cheap business owners or that dreaded c word …capitalism!
Okay enough of that.
Every year we continue to work on installing infrastructure to make our property even more self-sufficient. Mr.C5 is having some great success with his blog slowly but surely. https://darkgreenmountainsurvivalresearchcentre.wordpress.com/. It is kinda neat that he is a bit of ‘celebrity’ in the world of prepping, providing a voice that is lacking, a much needed niche of teaching and discussion. He is able to raise some funds, the tip jar as he calls it, for some of the experiments he is attempting. Outside of this, Mr.C5 is the ultimate project worker providing aesthetically pleasing functionality. We were to have purchased another shipping container which Mr.C5 would convert into an off-grid mini home but that will be the project for next year. Instead he completed the initial round of planting about 1500 willow tree stakes to begin rooting them in order to create a living fence. This involved him scouting around our area to find willow trees in order to cut off branches, a job that took weeks and weeks. The idea will be to eventually have a lattice type pattern with the willow branches intertwined creating a thick barrier to stop critters, a multiyear endeavour of course.
The other big project that Mr.C5 worked on was putting up the wind turbine tower – what a job despite the fact that we actually had the tower components. Mr.C5 is very much focused on making his projects able to withstand whatever mother nature can give us so hurricane force winds, torrential rain, fire, etc… I had acquired an used turbine from our solar installer when we put in the solar system many years ago now, and two sets of used towers, all at ridiculously cheap prices. This year I had made some new friends, ones who had experience and interest in renewable energy systems, and they offered to help so I thought okay I finally have some support and expertise beyond that of Mr.C5 & I to get this turbine up so now was the time to do this project.
Well as is always the case, the build was far more complicated than anticipated. Mr.C5 did learn how to make concrete so that is a useful skill. We had many hiccups along the way, the last one being that the used controller ended up being a dud thanks to a non-functioning circuit board. Fortunately our solar guy ended up having a spare used controller however that also ended up being a dud for same reason…hmmm… what was this supposed to mean? Just by chance, our solar guy came across another used turbine set from someone who was fed up with their turbine coming down in a storm so three times a charm as they say – and it was free! It really is quite impressive. You can see a short video of it here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ha9DaBM7Slg. We finally had it running for a few days…
and then we screwed up. It was a stormy day with big wind gusts so we had to take it down for the 1st time in these conditions. Well we did it wrong and all 3 blades got partially broken off. So I am now having to order new blades and they aren’t cheap. So the project continues…
Other news: I have entered the world of edibles and hemp. Finally pot is legal here in Canada – nod to NL for being so ahead of the pack even though legalities are different there. It has been a fascinating process to watch – either the insane crazy paranoid media coverage, trying to follow/understand the introductions of all the regulations which are different from province to province in terms of actual acquisition of the products by consumers, the hilarious and fascinating stories of people I know going to purchase their first legal weed, and the stuff I hear folks say as I go about my errands.
Oh the stupidity: a case in point: in the check out line at a grocery store I overheard a woman seriously arguing that the reason our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, made pot legal was so that his mom, Margaret Trudeau, would get her record expunged (she got some charge pertaining to pot years ago I guess). She and the other customer felt that if you had convictions for pot possession/consumption prior to new law then you shouldn’t have this withdrawn – the classic argument of the oh so law/rule loving canucks: it don’t matter if the law was just or not, it is the law god dammit so you better follow it and pay the price if not. Just like slavery was the law so of course you have to follow it. NOT. Don’t give me that excuse of “well… we didn’t know better”. Well yeah some folks actually did know better, tried to change things with eventual success but not after retaliation for challenging the rules! So often the minority voice is ridiculed, vilified, etc.., but in the end this voice is truth, reason, compassion and morally right.
From supplies from others I know I am experimenting making cannabutter and gourmet cookies and crackers with said butter (sweet & savoury so the sugar and salt loving folks can have their taste satisfied), with the intention of perhaps having a small baking biz. My main aim is to mask the flavour since I am not a fan nor are most that I know. I believe I have succeeded but the experiment will continue. Not sure where this will go but I am happy to supply friends as I need taste testers. The one thing I do know is that the corporate take over of this industry has to be fought all the way – utterly disgusting thanks to capitalism. The speed at which this industry got taken over is quite impressive but also so depressing. Just a perfect example of governments and corporations working hand in hand. I know there are many of us who will still support the little person; you do have a choice where to put your $.
As for hemp, I grew my first crop of hemp for purposes of making fiber. It was only a small plot, about 1/10 acre. I still had to go through a federal government application form since hemp is a controlled substance under the jurisdiction of Canada’s health ministry. So that we covered our bases, Mr.C5 decided to paint our permit # on the roof of our barn – the authorities are always looking for grow ops and so do fly overs all around us at certain times of the year. Worst case scenario would be a helicopter landing in our field, our dogs going crazy and thus are shot on sight, and cops come storming into our place demanding our paperwork as they look for weed. This has actually happened to others even if rare so this is not a joke. The authorities are in our opinion often paranoid, stupid and behind the times but intimidation and propaganda is what they do best.
I am at the process of beginning the work of removing the plant material that surrounds the fibre. Fortunately I have made another friend this year who was taught by her grandmother how to do all things hemp without the use of machinery. I am seeking to do the hemp process in the traditional way using old tools which can readily be made. It is of course labour intensive and in the past would have been a project accomplished with many people from the growing to the processing to the making of the linen type material. This is all an experiment to see if I can actually grow something that can then be converted into cloth to make things we need. Mr.C5 also actually took the time to harvest a whack of seeds and he harvested an amount equivalent to what I had planted. It was good to find out that the chickens loved to eat the seeds. They were actually pretty smart as they would jump up on the stalk to bend it down so that they could easily eat the seeds closer to the ground. We have been trying over the years some experiments in trying to grow grain for the chickens but the manual labour involved in harvesting an amount that would be needed for a year was just not happening.
On a more contemplative front, in light of what is going on around the globe, whether in terms of the dire economic situation or climate change, I have reached a point where I have little tolerance for those in denial, and for those who are not sincerely trying to fundamentally change their lifestyles. There is just too little time for wasting my time on trying to convince the nayers who live in a delusion not all of their own making. The reality is that the majority are sheeples and or just plain stupid and or ignorant (I do understand why so many are stuck in these ways but this is often no excuse). I know this may sound harsh. Too bad. Truth is uncomfortable, painful.
My heart breaks when I think about how there are so many human beings on this planet – so many children, that have never known a day of peace as they were born into war. How can so many people just watch this happen and not become enraged? How can folks allow this to continue to happen? How dare we let these so-called leaders (the vast majority men) continue to support the killing of people and the planet. If you are not raging much of the time and not channeling that rage into meaningful change & direct action in your life & surrounding world, then there is something wrong with you.
My heart breaks with the extinction level events that are happening daily. If it weren’t for the nuclear power infrastructure for one example, I sincerely do wish the human species would become extinct as we are so to blame for the suffering that is going on. Perhaps you are thinking what a doomer and gloomer. Well I am not going to apologize for what I see as the reality. We need such a fundamental restructuring of the economic system but I don’t see it happening. Oh and by the way technology will not solve the problems (check out EROEI – energy returned on energy invested). Most folks just aren’t willing to make the changes (many are in survival mode so what can they do?). Sorry but the little individual actions d/won’t cut it. People need to reconsider that having indoor plumbing, central heating or cooling, refrigeration, individual car transit and similar are luxuries. They are not fundamental rights. Okay that is the end of my little rant/vent.
Finally coming to a close. Both Mr.C5 & I feel that something globally significant is going to happen in 2019-20. The signs are so there if you are willing to see them. For example, the stock markets are going to crash again but the ‘solutions’ of the last collapse (e.g. quantitative easing, gov’t bailouts) will not be available in any significant degree as these so-called solutions never addressed the fundamental underlying problems. I hope that when this happens (it is not if), you are prepared in some way to live out the storm that will ensue. I am glad that we have established a wonderful circle of friends that provide various supports, material and otherwise. We are all as prepared as we can be in light of the coming profoundly difficult changes that are beginning now. I have to say that we are actually the hopeful ones – why would we prepare if we did not see some future that can be liveable not just simply survivable?
I have blogged about quite a few of the topics I discuss above, so if you are looking for more detail please review the other posts. I am not sure what I will be doing with my blog. I plan on at least posting monthly which for blogs is not good but heck it is what it is. You can sign up for an email notification – finally; it took me a while to figure that one out. Originally it was started as I ventured into the world of international development as a way to stay connected with folks from afar. I do enjoy writing but I have to be in the right mood. I tend to write stream of consciousness type writing in case you haven’t noticed – lol! I hope the detail doesn’t bore you. I have a number of small writing projects, topics I want to explore. Here’s hoping I will be blogging about my new adventures as a librarian in River John!
I wish all of you the best in 2019. I hope you get what you truly need and perhaps some wants as well. I hope you are surrounded by people you can trust, by some support network that you can rely on. Take care of each other.
PS: I plan on deleting my crackbook account soon enough, not that I post much. It has been helpful when I was away staying in contact with folks and in a way the newsfeed works for me since most of my contacts are what I call politico types so engaged in what’s going on, of course sourcing non-mainstream media and ngo sources. I keep learning more and more about the crap that social media tries to pull as it tries to extract even more ad$ selling the info from their data mining where you cannot turn off the tracking even if you log out of accounts – I mean WTF!! I do use ad blockers, turn off all notifications, settings to privacy, but this still isn’t enough. And it appears that it is us older folks who are using crackbook, not the younger folks – confirmed by my students this semester – who were even more ignorant than when I left academia in 2014. This does not bode well in terms of the future unless the youth unplug. We need more Greta Thunbergs! She is one of my heroes these days. Also anyone who engages in civil disobedience and resistance – we need way more of these people. The revolution is on.