Monday, July 30, 2012

Blogging Effort, Schedule, and Structure

Over the previous three years, in the time since I started The Permie Homestead Blog, I haven't been very successful keeping up a regular blogging schedule.  In the first couple of months I wrote a few dozen posts, and then fell drastically off after that.  I've had random streaks of writing, usually 3 or 4 posts long, but have never connected them together effectively enough to make my blog a regular effort.

I've decided to redouble my efforts to create a real blog that attracts readers, provides worthwhile information, and perhaps even generates a small income.  I've learned enough about permaculture over the past few years, and think that I am a good enough writer, that people will look to me as a resource.  Also, I'm in a place in my life where I finally have more to write about.  I'm in the city in which I want to live and start my homestead, I have a garden, I have a partner who is supportive of my efforts, and I am building community with like-minded people that will hopefully lead to volunteering on a farm of the type which I'd like to build myself, or possibly even an apprenticeship.

So, in an effort to maintain regularity with posting to the blog, and to provide structure to the information I provide and document for myself and for others, I've come up with a scheduling structure I intend to follow most of the time.  I won't always keep to it, as things might come up that I find too important to wait several days to post.  But for the most part, the schedule will be followed, otherwise what is the point of having a schedule.

So, here is what it looks like:
  • Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are mandatory posting days.  I intend to write a minimum of 3 posts a week, and these are the days they will occur.
    • Mondays will be days that I write blog or life updates, like this one or my post about what's new since moving to Portland last Monday.  These may not always be very long, but they'll be regular.  They could even just consist of a few pictures from my garden.  Basically, they'll be personal updates or "business" updates about the blog.
    • Wednesdays will be a Permaculture Lesson day.  Like my post last Wednesday, they'll be about some aspect of permaculture, be it the ethics or principles, or how permaculture can be applied to a certain project or design.  Think of this like a sort of practical classroom day (most of the time anyway.  I know last Wednesday and the next few are more conceptual).
    • Fridays I will post a Friday Feature.  This will be a post where I try to explore, in depth, one "piece" of a design.  So, this will include plants and as much vital information about them as I can gather.  It will also include other parts of a permaculture design, such as a humanure pile, pond, chicken coop, a pathway, or even a tool like an axe or hammer.  Basically, if something can be used in support of another element in a design, or is supported by other elements of a design, it is possible it could be a Friday Feature.
  • Tuesday, Thursday, and Weekend days will be optional.  I may find myself posting more frequently on Tuesday and Thursday, but I intend to leave most of my (and your) weekends free from an update.
    • Tuesdays will be a book related day.  If I'm in the middle of a permaculture book and feel like sharing my thoughts on it or doing a review, they'll fall on Tuesdays.  Also, if something in a book sparks an idea for me, I'll use Tuesdays to thresh out those ideas into a more solid and understandable form.  If Wednesdays are a "Practical Classroom" day, Tuesdays are "Conceptual Classroom."
    • Thursdays will be either a free-form brainstorm day, or a kind of "vision" day.  If I get some kind of wild idea into my head that doesn't really fit into the other categories, I'll likely post it Thursdays.  These ideas may not be that good, or they could be categorically brilliant.  I reserve the right to say crazy things this day that might totally suck.  I believe that if we are to save the world from disaster, we need innovation, and innovation that comes from a frame of mind that does not fear failure.  Thursdays will likely be days mixed with failures and successes as far as ideas go.  As far as the "vision" posts go, they'll be like the post from last Thursday, where I outline some of my higher-level thoughts for my homestead or some aspect thereof.
    • As far as weekend days, Sundays will be my "Editorial" day.  I mentioned a couple posts ago that I was starting to feel the need to post about politics.  If and when that urge hits me, I'll post them on Sunday.  Saturdays are unlikely to have many posts, as they are for things that don't fit into anything else.  If I knew what they might be, I'd invent a category for them... but as of now I cannot imagine what I'd write about that doesn't fall into one of the other categories.  Also, if one of the posts from earlier gets WAY too long but I feel like it wouldn't make sense to post part 2 a full week later, I may do a continuation of an earlier post on a Saturday.
So, with all that listed out, I can now be held accountable.  Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays will all be mandatory for me.  Other posts will fall into place as described above.  If you have any ideas for what you'd like to see on any given day, please let me know.  I'd especially love ideas for the Friday Features.  I believe that without reader suggestions, it could be easy for me to fall into a pattern of writing about plants that do well in the PNW, or items I personally use or want to use.  With reader suggestions, I'll learn about things that I didn't even know existed, and I'll be able to teach myself about them by trying to teach others.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Feature: The Friday Feature!

So, today is going to be a little bit of a cop out as writing these is a little more involved than I first anticipated.  So, the first edition ever for the new Friday Feature segment (which is a part of the new structure that I'll be discussing on Monday), is the Friday Feature.  That's right, today I'm going to tell you all about what the Friday Feature is intended to be.

The Friday Feature will cover as much information about any possible design element that I can sensibly fit into a blog post.  So for plants, this will be not just things like USDA hardiness zones and water or sunlight requirements, but also where I think they fit into guilds, what is edible or medicinal, what benefits it offers other design elements, what elements it needs to be supported, what some of its pests are, what beneficial insects it has, etc.

I might also discuss other things, like tools, building designs, static design elements like walls or paths, etc.  For all of these, I'll try to write a comprehensive post so that someone who has never heard of this thing before understands it at a level where they could start to plug it into one of their own designs.

It'd be awesome if people have suggestions for what they'd like to see in the Friday Feature.  I'll probably be writing a lot about plants that are useful to me in the Pacific Northwest, so if you live somewhere else and want a little research done for you on something from your area, let me know!  It'll help me to broaden my horizons by thinking outside of my bioregion.

Thanks for reading my short blog post about the Friday Feature.  Next week, I'll have a real Friday Feature all about the Medlar Tree.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Revisiting My Strategic Homesteading Goals: Productive Shelter, Part 1

It has been a very long time since I've written about my homesteading goals.  So long, that when I re-read the goals I put down in my first post and my post about My Homesteading Goals, I was amused by how undeveloped they were.

If you re-read the steps outlined in The Start of the Journey, you'd see that in my homesteading/permaculture naivete, I really thought that it could all happen that fast for me, even though I really had no money saved, didn't have a job at the time, and was planning on applying to a permaculture internship that was WAY over my head.  Needless to say, most of 2012 has passed, and none of those steps actually took place, other than working and saving up a little money, and practicing gardening (a little, though I'd say a LOT has happened since moving into the apartment I'm in now, which I mentioned in my post on Monday).  In many ways, I'm glad that things have happened the way they did.  I've had a lot of time to read about a variety of styles to approach sustainable living (as well as develop my thoughts on regenerative living), I've met a lot of people who have shared many good ideas with me, I have a career that is more stable for achieving my real goals, and I have a partner who shares those goals and wants to help achieve them.

So what are those goals, and how have they changed over the past three years?  First, I want to revisit the goals I outlined in My Homesteading Goals post.  It was a relatively long post, as this post and it's subsequent posts will turn out to be, so I'm going to examine them one or two at a time.
1. I want a house on my homestead that is as reliably self-sufficient as possible. I want it to produce its own energy in the form of solar, wind, micro-hydroelectric, or any other sustainable technique. I want it to have the ability to passively heat or cool itself using good design principles tailored to that end. I want it to make the most effective use of its waste, such as recycling greywater, effective removal and treatment of black water, or using heat from cooking to heat the home during the winter. And the house itself should be some sort of producer, perhaps by incorporating an integrated food-producing greenhouse into the design, and definitely by capturing and efficiently using rainwater. To my knowledge so far, the best design for a home that meets all of these goals is an Earthship Biotecture as conceived by Mike Reynolds. Though it may not be the first structure I live in on my homestead, this is my ultimate goal for my house.
Well, the heart of my goal here has not changed.  I do want my house to be as reliably self-sufficient as possible.  Energy production will be an important part of what I'd like to have, though not in the way I was thinking about it 3 years ago.  I've since learned that reducing my energy consumption will be far more valuable to me in achieving the liberty I'm looking for in this house.  In mid-2009, I was thinking I'd need your standard 5kW solar array, etc., in order to meet my energy needs.  Although I didn't know it at the time, I was on the right track with passive heating and cooling, because those would constitute a major reduction in energy needs.  But I was still trapped in the TV/washer/drier/lights/computers/etc. mindset, and thought I'd need the kind of energy used in a normal house.

I would now love to build a home and change my lifestyle to a point where a 1-2kW electricity production array was more than enough.  I would still like enough electric power to run a computer and the things that go with it (so I can keep writing this blog!).  I would still like some electric lighting, and a drip coffee machine (maybe, though I could be convinced to switch to french press I suppose), and limited kitchen appliance use (I love cooking).  But there are things that homesteading for a living affords me that I had not realized before.  When I am homesteading, I won't have an alarm clock to wake up to.  I know not having an alarm clock is not a big electricity saver, but it implies many things.  It means I'll be able to allow my body to find a more natural cycle in tune with the sun.  It means I won't use as much (if any) electric light on most nights.  Candlelight will be preferred above electric lighting anyhow, as it is much more natural and doesn't throw off your circadian rhythm the way electric lighting does.  I'll have the freedom to go outside, read books, play with my dog, play with the earth, and not try to be entertained by the television because it's dark outside by the time I get home from my job.  I might use something like a french press instead of a drip coffee machine because I'll be able to more leisurely make and enjoy coffee, rather than trying to get a quick fix before rushing off to work.  I won't spend as much time in front of a computer because I won't need it as much as an educational tool or as a form of revenue.  I'll be educating myself by practicing techniques and testing theories in the real world, and I'll be generating revenue by creating real products, or teaching others about what I'm doing.  Basically, I think more natural patterns of living will drastically reduce the need for electricity because I'll be entertained and fulfulled in more simplistic ways.

My need for a refrigerator will be reduced as well.  Eating fresh vegetables and herbs and storing produce in more traditional methods means not needing as much refrigeration to store them.  In fact, I can conceive of  a situation in which I could utilize a deep freezer, packed as full as possible for efficiency, for storing meats that I gathered from livestock or hunting and only a very small fridge that I use for limited amounts of dairy, butter, opened jars of home-canned goods, and a few bottles of homebrew.  This fridge and deep freezer would likely constitute most of my electricity needs, and if used efficiently would not constitute much.  I also believe I could supply the energy needed for these items off of a very small solar array and battery backup system.

I would like to eliminate the need for a washer and drier by just having less clothes.  If I don't have a "traditional job" in which I need to maintain appearances by wearing a different set of clothes everyday, then I'd be much more likely to wear the same pair of overalls or pants for a few days in a row, switch out a couple of similar undershirts for a few days, and then wash the 8-12 or so articles of clothing (underwear and socks in there too, of course) by hand.  I've seen many neat contraptions that utilized a stationary bike to "power" a washing machine, and think I could rig up something similar, which would make my clothes washing bacon 'n' eggs powered!  (NOTE: I have yet to even attempt to convince my girlfriend of the virtue of less clothing, and it could prove to be an insurmountable task.  I think I'll save this for when the time comes.)  Washing and drying by hand will save a lot of electricity.

With computers/coffee maker/limited electric lighting/freezer/small fridge taken care of with some possible combination of solar/wind/micro-hydro, and clothes washing taken care of by hand, that leaves heating and cooling as the only thing left to address on the energy side of things.  Here I again think I have a good solution.  But, I'm going to save it for my next post, because this one is already too long.

Next Thursday I'll post Revisiting My Strategic Homesteading Goals: Productive Shelter, Part 2.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Exploring the Permaculture Ethics: The Prime Directive

The three permaculture ethics - Care of the Earth, Care of People, and Setting Limits to Population and Consumption - are the nucleus around which all permaculture design ideas are built.  As the foundation of these, the Prime Directive acts as a baseline goal by which everyone should make their decisions about how to live their lives.  In this post, and on the three following Wednesdays, I intend to analyze and evaluate the meaning of the prime directive and the permaculture ethics as described by the permaculture greats such as Mollison and Holmgren, as well as the descriptions provided by permaculture teachers I respect such as Toby Hemenway and Paul Wheaton, and finally I'll include my own interpretation and opinion of the core of permaculture in light of what I have learned from the aforementioned people.  Today, I'll be analyzing the Prime Directive.

I want to start with a bit of a disclaimer.  In these posts, I'll be quoting some sections of the writing of others, and then analyzing it.  My analysis is my opinion, and therefore is subject to scrutiny in a respectful manner.  Should you disagree with my opinion, you are welcome to share why and try to persuade me otherwise.  However, if there is a disrespectful comment, it is likely I will delete it.  I don't anticipate this being a problem with the prime directive or the first two ethics, but I know from experience that the third ethic can generate some heated debate.

So, on to the important stuff.  I'm going to start with the basics as described in Permaculture: A Designer's Manual, by Bill Mollison.  Bill is considered the founder of permaculture, although he describes his work as having rediscovered what many aboriginal peoples already knew for centuries.  Bill outlines the ethical starting point for permaculture in the first chapter of the aforementioned book, and I'll refer to that frequently in this series on ethics.  I highly recommend purchasing the book for a full in depth analysis from the father of permaculture.

In order to understand the ethics, it is important to view them in light of the Prime Directive of Permaculture.  The Prime Directive is:

The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children. Make it Now.

Clearly, Mollison believes what I and I'm sure anyone reading this blog believes... the actions we are currently taking as we occupy this planet are less than responsible, and we need to decide now that our own lives and the lives of our children are no ones responsibility but our own.  I interpret this as a baseline of sustainability.  If you are taking real responsibility for your life and your children's lives, then you have no choice but to act and live sustainably, which is a minimum for true continuation of life on this planet.  If everyone made this the prime directive of their lives, I believe it would solve 95% of the problems we face as a species, and of the problems we are currently imposing on the other species in our ecological community.  Degenerative decisions would mean we were not acting responsibly, and they would cease.  With our inventiveness and energy freed up to act regeneratively rather than chasing our tail by enacting degenerative solutions to the problems caused by degenerative solutions, the remaining 5% of the problems to tackle would be easily deciphered.  Viewing sustainability as a baseline rather than a goal broadens our horizons to the true potential of which humans are capable.

To carry my interpretation of Mollison's thoughts on the Prime Directive yet further, I will quote another passage from page 2 of the Design Manual:
For every scientific statement articulated on energy, the Aboriginal tribespeople of Australia have an equivalent statement on life.  Life, they say, is a totality neither created nor destroyed.  It can be imagined as an egg from which all tribes (life forms) issue and to which all return.  The ideal way in which to spend one's time is in the perfection of the expression of life, to lead the most evolved life possible, and to assist in and celebrate the existence of lifeforms other than humans, for all come from the same egg.
If, indeed, the ideal way to spend your existence is in the perfection of the expression of life, then is taking responsibility for your life and your children's lives enough? Clearly, sustainability is not enough.  To quote Toby Hemenway from a talk he gave at Duke University, "If someone said, 'How's your marriage?' and you said 'Oh, it's sustainable.' then, ok, it's not all that good."  He was referring to the fact that we spend so much of our time doing degenerative things, that if we reach sustainability and stop, then we've done nothing to repair the damage to the environment we've caused over the last few centuries.  Indeed, if in your marriage you fought a lot and caused much pain and and heartache for your partner, then stopped and were tolerable but did nothing to repair the psychological damage done to them, then your marriage would just be sustaining a place of heartache and emotional turmoil.  Likewise, we have been harmful in our relationship with the earth and the other lifeforms inhabiting it with us, and we need to begin to usher in a healing process for the damage that we've caused.

It is this interpretation of the Prime Directive which I will use to analyze the Permaculture Ethics.  In the tradition of the Iroquois, the Great Law reads, "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine."  This Iroquois Law is the logical extension of the Prime Directive of Permaculture, and the difference between sustainability and regeneration.  If you are only thinking about yourself and your children, you may not plan for what is left for their children.  But if you are thinking about what will be left for your great-great-great-great-great grandchildren, the only way to ensure they receive a planet that is as or more healthy than the one you currently have is to try to regenerate the health, fertility, cleanliness, and livelihood of every living system you interact with and that they will interact with as well.  Those living systems are what support the livelihoods of you, your children, and 7 generations to come.  You also must teach each subsequent generation you have the privilege of interacting with to think and live the same way.  As soon as we begin leaving the gift that is the fruits of thinking this way to our seventh generation, we can truly say that we are living ideally, that we are practicing perfection of the expression of life, and that we are living responsibly and to our fullest potential.

Through this intellectual lens, I will explore the three ethics of permaculture over the next 3 weeks.  It is the lens through which I choose to operate, which of course makes it my own opinion.  Bill Mollison never expressed it this way, and perhaps I am carrying it too far.  If you see it differently, please express your opinion in the comments, as I'm sure that I have a long way to travel on the path to enlightenment on this topic.  As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, July 23, 2012

What's New Since Moving to Portland

A lot of good has happened since moving to Portland.  I'm in a healthier place, I'm living a healthier life, and I'm making good connections.  In this post, I'd like to share some of the changes that have come about for me since moving to Portland, and how they relate to my homesteading goals, to a healthier me, and to a healthier planet.  Not to say that any of my blog posts are very polished, but this post will be very unpolished, and more of a listing off of thoughts.

  • Kelsey and I moved our stuff down to Portland on April 21st.  I got to stay down here, while Kelsey went back to Olympia to finish out her job obligations.  She joined me on May 1st.  The reasoning behind the move was two-fold.  I didn't like working for the person I worked for, and so enacted a transfer to a store here in Portland because I do still appreciate the way the company operates.  Kelsey's half of the reasoning is far more exciting.  She was accepted into nursing school, which is something she has been working hard towards for several years.  She began nursing school in late June, and will finish up next Fall.  We have discussed it at length, and think that we will try to buy land soon after she gets a job after graduating.  Starting the homestead in earnest is getting closer everyday.  
  • Portland has a far superior public transit system to that which is present in Olympia.  Since moving down from Olympia, I have definitely driven my Durango less than 50 miles, and probably less than 30, though I did not look at my odometer when I arrived in Portland, which is unfortunate.  Taking public transit is not only easier on the environment from an emissions standpoint, but it is easier on my pocketbook as well.  At $4+ a gallon, I was easily spending $160-180 a month on gasoline.  Add in the cost of my insurance at $100 a month and my monthly costs came out to around $300, and that doesn't factor in the cost of routine maintenance.  Here in Portland, I get a discounted monthly bus pass through my work for $41, and because I drive less my monthly insurance is about $65.  This puts my average monthly transportation cost around $100, so I've cut those costs by two-thirds.  Easier on the planet, easy on my pocketbook.  A side benefit of taking the bus is reduced stress, increased reading time, and increased time to listen to podcasts... which I'll go into in greater depth.
  • My thirst for permaculture knowledge has gone into hyperdrive, mostly as a function of increased time available to pursue it.  Since moving to Portland, I have listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts that have to do with homesteading and permaculture.  I have read Gaia's Garden and Sepp Holzer's Permaculture in their entirety.  I have a reading list so long that there is absolutely no chance I'll ever finish it in my lifetime, but having time to consume more and more information that will be directly useful to my homesteading is a fantastic feeling that is making me more and more confident that I'll be able to realize my dreams.  This increase in time is the result of two factors.  One is the extra hour or two everyday that I have to listen to podcasts or read while taking public transportation, and the other (and major) reason is a function of my job.  I am frequently scheduled to work "truck" shifts.  This means I start work at 7am, and help stock the sales floor with new product.  Because our store doesn't open until 10am, I am able to listen to podcasts for several hours each morning.  I'm approaching a point at which the people producing the podcasts I find informational may not be able to keep up with the time I have to consume them.  I find this a good problem to have, as it means less time listening to podcasts on the bus or at home, which means I have more time to read.  Coming up on my reading list are The All New Square Foot Gardening and Edible Forest Gardens, as well as some fiction that helps keep my mood high.  The final factor that is helping me consume so much information is having a stellar library system conveniently within walking distance from my apartment, which allows me to read more books than I can afford to buy at this time.
  • And speaking of walking, this leads me to another of the healthier practices I've started since moving.  My use of "self-powered locomotion" has increased as much as my driving has decreased.  I have several bars, grocery stores, restaurants, dog parks, and a library all within walking distance of my apartment.  On top of that, I walk about a mile and a half to and from bus stops on days that I work.  I haven't tracked how much I walk, but I know it is a lot more than I was in Olympia.  At the beginning of October last year (after I had been in Olympia for about 8 months), I weighed about 235 lbs.  I currently weigh about 205 lbs.  There are some other contributing factors that I'll get into in another post, but the walking has been major.  Along with walking, I'm riding my bicycle more all the time, and would like to get into the habit of riding it more than taking the bus.
  • One of the things I love about my apartment complex is the community garden space.  Kelsey and I got a space a couple of months ago, and we've been experimenting with our garden ever since.  We have most of the usual stuff planted, like carrots, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, greens, peppers, and squash.  We also "cover-cropped" with strawberries and some flowers, though those aren't doing well.  And we're experimenting with ground-cherries, asparagus, and the design of our garden itself.  This warrants a more detailed post later, so look forward to that.
  • Portland is home to many many permaculture enthusiasts.  As I've written about before, it's one of the factors that led me to choose this area as where I wanted to homestead.  I haven't found quite the right fit yet, but I'm working on meeting permaculture folks that I can volunteer and/or apprentice with.  I guess this might not quite fit into this post because it isn't something that's actually new since moving to Portland, but it will be soon as I feel like I'm close to meeting someone that'll be a good fit to work with.
There are many little things I've left out deliberately, and more still that I've probably forgotten about, but if I tried to include them all this post would be far too long.  I'll share more in another catch-up post, the format of which I plan to talk more about in a post very soon.  I've actually planned out a posting "schedule" so that I have a framework to work within, which is part of my attempt to post more regularly and turn this blog into something more than it has been over the last 3 years.

Thank you so much for reading, and please share anything that comes to mind in the comments.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Permie Homestead Blog Turns Three

Sixteen days ago, on July 2nd, the Permie Homestead blog turned three years old.  This is a milestone for me even though I have been brutally neglectful of posting.  It seems each July, once I realize that another year has passed since I had the idea to start writing about my homesteading goals, I am reminded of how long this has been my driving force in life and it sparks a brief flurry of posts.  This post, like its anniversarial predecessors, is a very meta summary of some of my shifts in thinking over the previous year.  I am also hoping, as I have in years passed, that it turns a new leaf regarding my vigor for writing.

In late 2008, I first learned about the word "permaculture."  I didn't really understand what it was.  I started where most people start, and where permaculture itself started... thinking that it was all about how to grow food sustainably and permanently without the need for all the labor that goes into annual agriculture every year.  As I learned more about it, I was simultaneously learning more about homesteading, and began to develop a plan of how I could use permaculture to help make my homestead more self-sufficient in the food arena.  I hadn't yet understood how permaculture encompassed more than just food.  I didn't really understand how far down the rabbit hole I was leading myself (to quote myself in my first post) by choosing "to make this my life's goal and passion."  I had had several moments prior in my life when I had expressed similar "I've found my niche" sentiments.  None of them had lasted much more than a year, and so my friends and family nodded their heads tolerably, and understandably waited to see what my next hair-brained idea would be.

Except it hasn't changed.  Sure, I've had many hair-brained ideas since, but unlike my wild ideas of the past they've all generated from my desire to start homesteading sooner rather than later, rather than having no relation to each other or a common goal.  I have several hair-brained schemes I'm working on right now.  Each one, since my Permie Homestead was conceptualized, has been with a focus on striving towards this passion.  This is a new thing for me.  Never before in my life has an interest in what I want to be "when I grow up" lasted so long.  And it's not as if I'm just barely clinging to the idea either.  My passion for it has been growing ever since.  I'm consuming and digesting more information on this than I ever have before, and it grows each day.  My trains of thought surrounding my goals have evolved from "live frugally and avoid taxes" through to "be healthier and an example to others of simple but good living" and all the way to "I can help save the world by living in a way that will take care of the earth and my next seven generations and show others the same path."  That may be a conceited and lofty goal, but I feel that in this age of environmental, economical, political, and other "-al" catastrophes, we need as many people thinking that way as we can get.

So, in this beginning of the 3rd year of The Permie Homestead Blog, and as I personally approach nearly 4 years of thinking about how to achieve liberty and freedom from oppression (now not just for myself but for others, for my children and theirs, and for the earth as a whole) I will again state that I want to start writing more.  My track record has been poor, so I'm going to have to work hard to turn it around. I feel as if I'm finally at a point where people might read my blog not out of curiosity about a newcomer, but to learn from someone who has experience in exploring this space.  Recently, I have taken to likening my experience over the past several years to equipping myself with a "college education" in permaculture and homesteading.  I have been reading and studying intensely, and have probably learned more about this in the last few years than I learned about political science while pursuing my actual Bachelors in it.  As is the idea behind a college graduation, it is to be followed by application and/or teaching of that subject in their lives and the lives of others.  With this in mind, I am rededicating myself to share what I have learned through the medium of this blog, and to begin putting it into application in every way I can possibly conceive.  I will try my best to share my progress on the latter in this blog, as well as document my own not-yet-applied knowledge here for others and for my own later use.

As seems to be the case each year, I slightly change my goals for what I'll be writing about in this blog. I hope that this year I'll finally find the mix that keeps me motivated to connect frequently.  As I write this post, I believe that it will be a mix of all of the things that I have promised to write about before as well as some new things.  So I'll be sharing and including plant data, goals of my own, random pictures of things that strike me as interesting, stories from my life, things I've learned from the books I'm reading, and on and on.  I also plan on including some of my own spiritual thoughts in the realm of nature and our place in it.  I believe that I will need to express these ideas via my blog not only to share them and hear the thoughts of others regarding them, but also just as a release.  I am occasionally spun into very dark places when I explore this space, and I think that sharing my thoughts via this blog may offer me a kind of support network.  As I write about this topic, I ask that people remember that these usually are just my opinion, and I want anyone reading this to know that I take the definition of the word "opinion" very seriously.  If yours differs from mine, I wholeheartedly respect that, and ask that you offer the same kindness.  At times, I may describe something as more than opinion.  In these times,  I am still very willing to accept that people will still disagree with me, and please feel free to disagree with me openly as it may help me to learn and grow.  I do, however, ask that you disagree respectfully, as that will make me far more likely to consider your opinion and/or facts and incorporate what I learn from that consideration into my own worldview.

This is also a good segue into a space that I'm slightly uncomfortable with.  I'm motivated to include a bit more political commentary in the blog at this point.  Although I wanted to avoid it in the past because of its divisive nature, I feel that it is an important space to delve into sometimes.  Many of the reasons that I am motivated to homestead stem from the fact that I believe it offers more real solutions and opportunities for change than the political arena, and I am often powerfully compelled to express these opinions.  Doing so via this medium may save my girlfriend some headache since I may not need to discuss it with her, and saving her headache is something I am more and more motivated to do.  Should my political opinions (I'll repeat here... opinions) ever cause any angst in the life of any of my readers, I ask only a couple of things.  Please treat each other with respect if there is debate or discussion in the comments.  I am thick-skinned and stubborn enough that if you speak ill of me and my opinions I can handle it, but if you speak ill of each other I will delete the comments.  In the words of Paul Wheaton, one of my personal heros, please "never suggest that anyone [here] is anything less than perfect."  The other thing that I ask is that even if you are speaking ill of me in your comment, please simultaneously try to contribute at least something of value to the discussion.  As stubborn as I am, you still might change my mind, as I am acutely aware of the fact that there are many, MANY people in the world who are much smarter than I am.  Trolls, on the other hand, will be censored.

If you are still with me at this point, thanks for taking the time to catch up with me.  I look forward to sharing with you much more frequently in the future.  In my next post, I'll try to document a bit of what I've been up to, what I'm currently working on, and then after that maybe I can get into the "meat and potatoes" of what I'm hoping to achieve with this blog moving forward.  Thanks again.