Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Crowdfunding Debt Freedom

In an attempt to alleviate as much of my student loan debt as possible, if not all of it, I've launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.  If you're not familiar with Indiegogo, it's much like Kickstarter, only with far more options.  And if you're not familiar with Kickstarter, have you been living under a rock?

Anyway, you can view and contribute to my campaign by visiting this link.  As readers of my blog, you know that my student loans have always been an impediment to my homesteading goals, and this is something I'm trying to do to alleviate that impediment.  If you can help by contributing, or just spreading the word, please do.  Every little bit helps, and puts me one step closer to realizing my homesteading dreams!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Life Decisions

Making critical decisions in your life can be hard.  I bring this up because Kelsey is graduating soon, and where she gets a job will have a HUGE impact on what we're doing with our lives 1, 5, or 10 years down the road.  Until now, I've been very adamant about moving from Portland to the Gorge and trying to find a decent house to live in, or some land to develop into a homestead.  That is still my top choice.

More and more frequently though, Kelsey has been telling me how awesome the unit she's doing her Integrative Practicum (IP) with is, and how she's positive they want to hire her as soon as she graduates.  Part of me is thinking "well sure, but I want to move to a smaller town, put roots down with good neighbors in a good area, and settle in."  Another part of me is thinking "ok, cool... that hospital pays more, it'll be nice for you to have a job lined up right away, and the fact that it pays more means we can buy more land more quickly."

It's a hard thing to decide what I want more, and what will be better for the both of us long term.  I'm not as happy with my current job as I'd like to be, and I'm not really a person who enjoys living in a city as big as Portland.  I spent most of my formative years on 5 acres in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, where the closest town was 12 miles away and only 26000 people (at the time, anyway).  The choicest piece of land Kelsey and I have found in the gorge so far is 15 acres, and about 10 miles out from Hood River, which is also around 25K people give or take 10 thousand, depending on whether it's tourist season or not.  That lifestyle appeals to me more than anything in the world, and it's hard to decide on the best way to get it.

Staying in Portland might be a smart sacrifice that leads to getting my land sooner, even if it means moving onto it later.  Is having land soon and only being able to visit it once or twice a month on my days off worth living in Portland and putting up with a job I don't care for all that much?  Would it be better to move to the area I want to be in sooner, and not buy land for a couple of years or more?  I don't really know the answer to these questions, but they plague me.

In the end, I don't get much say.  Where Kelsey lands a job depends on what hospital has job offers she's qualified for, and how well she interviews for them.  Kelsey tells me she's committed to getting a job in the Gorge if she can, and I appreciate that.  An extra $2/hr at a hospital in Portland won't make a world of difference (though it is a difference), so if she can get a job out there I'd likely appreciate it immensely.  My own job prospects in a smaller town might slow the acquisition of land somewhat, but having a slower pace of life in a small town I enjoy might be worth it, especially if I can do some of the domestic things I yearn for and contribute to our household bottom line in a way other than earning a paycheck.  If Kelsey ends up with a job in Portland, I guess I'll just grit my teeth, work my ass off at my current decent paying job, and try to buy land that better suits my dreams as soon as I can.  In the unlikely event the decision is up to me though, I no longer feel as certain about what I'd choose, or what would be the best choice for both of us.

Life is full of touch decisions.  Making the right one for yourself at any given moment might be pretty easy, but making a decision that is right for you now as well as 10, 20, or 50 years into the future is difficult.  I can foresee possibilities that make it such that the right decision for us now puts us into a bad situation some years down the road.  Add to this the fact that I put the additional pressure on myself to make the right decision not only for what is good for me in my lifetime, but also for what the needs of my 7th generation and beyond will be.  When I bring that into account, it's sometimes hard for me to wrap my head around it.  Will they care about some small 15-40 acre piece of land that I bought and tended, or will technology surpass anything permaculture can do and make my efforts seem ridiculous.  OR, will technology totally fail, environmental catastrophe rein, and make my efforts at permaculture nothing but tilting at windmills?  Will my 7th generation even come to pass, or will we degrade the environment so much that insects and microorganisms have a hard time getting by?  This Atlas crushing weight is the burden I put upon myself, because I feel that if I don't do it, I can't expect anyone else to... and we need as many people to bear it as we can.  Environmental degradation is not only far advanced, it's accelerating.  Ecosystems can only bear so much burden, and it's time we all chose to foster an ecosystem rather than burden one.  I just hope that the decisions and the chances Kelsey and I are presented with give us the opportunity to really do something about making a better future.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any advice for me, please chime in in the comment section.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Update on Land Choices

Since my last post about purchasing land, Kelsey and I have taken a few trips out to the Hood River area in Oregon, and fallen in love.  Affordable land seems to be somewhat hard to come by, but not impossible.  More importantly, we've met some folks who seem like they'll turn out to be good community, the scenery is beautiful, and there are job opportunities for Kelsey.

It feels good to be this close to potentially moving to the community in which I'll be buried.  I know that's a slightly morbid way of thinking about it, but it's really important to me to finally put down roots somewhere.  I want to have neighbors whose kids I watch grow up.  I want to have weekly, monthly, or yearly traditions that become a staple of my life.  I want to know the feel and flow of a place like the back of my hand, and I want my potential future kids to get that sense of place as well.  I want to plant a tree knowing that I'll eat its fruits in 5 or 10 years, or that my kids will eat its nuts in 50.  The thought of finding the place I'm going to spend the rest of my life is uplifting to me.

That said, the kind of land that I want that's available in the Gorge is largely out of our price range.  The parcels that are in our price range are not necessarily the quality of land I'd like to start out with, or they have too many restrictions.  So we're probably going to end up buying something smaller to start out with, and a few years down the road we'll purchase a second piece of property that will turn into the main homestead.  We might even, as a placeholder, buy a regular house on a .25 or .5 acre lot, just to have a little space to work with, but not something that would be hard to sell due to my radical plans for larger land.

All in all, I'm looking forward to the coming changes.  I'll update the blog with my progress as land potentials crop up, and certainly with updates when we end up knowing if and when we're moving.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Permie Homestead 4 Year Anniversary

Four years ago today, I published the very first blog post on this site.  It has been an extremely intermittent project for me, and yet I renew my domain registration every year.  Somehow for me, letting this domain go would be equivalent to letting my dream die... and my dream is not dead.

Over the years, I've promised to write more.  I've come up with plans to post consistently and frequently.  I've hoped this blog would become an income stream with which I could accomplish my homesteading goals.  Unfortunately, I've never kept up with those promises.  I attribute this mostly to the fact that I really haven't been doing anything interesting in the homesteading realm.  I live in an apartment, living a very urban/sub-urban life that doesn't at all resemble what I had in mind when I started this blog.  I've read and learned a lot over the years, but I don't really have my boots on the ground, so to speak.

I think, I HOPE, that this year things might be different.  I'm finally on the brink of some kind of homesteading beginning in earnest.  My partner truly is dedicated to building a resilient future.  She is also about to graduate school and is willing to move close to a place where ownership and long-term thinking will actually pay off.  I myself am more educated and ready for what's ahead than I ever have been.

If these things combine into what I hope they will, I'll actually have things to write about.  I'll have chickens and a productive garden, and time to brew and roast and cook and build.  I'll have land that I can plant a tree on and know that I'll be able to harvest the fruits 5 to 10 years down the road, which makes it worth it.  I'll have systems that I rely on that are solely my own... when something goes wrong it's on me, and when things work out I'll be able to be proud of providing for those I care about.

As infrequent as my blog posts are, the Permie Homestead is not dead.  My dream for it is something that is at the top of my mind every single day.  Unfortunately, I don't necessarily make progress towards it on a daily basis, and I blame this fact for my lack of diligence when it comes to posting on this blog.

I think I'm on the verge of getting better.  If you are someone who's been following this blog, get ready for my projects (and reporting of them) to get more consistent.  It might yet be a year or more before I maintain a weekly update, but it's coming, and soon.  I've got 4+ years of permaculture thinking behind me, and land on the near horizon in my future.  Once I have a place to practice my ideas, get ready.  The best is yet to come.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Conflict and Concerns

As I begin this post, I'm not convinced I'll publish it.  It is far more on the true personal journal side of writing than I think I have ever been on this blog.  That, however, is exactly what I say I want to do with this blog, so I guess we'll see.

As I write these words, I'm feeling concern over and disconnect from what I want to accomplish with me life.  The goals I have in homesteading seem to consistently ratchet up to an unrealistic expectation, then release to a level that offers me no true satisfaction.  Striking a balance with myself is hard to do.

As if that weren't enough, I have the hopes and dreams of my love to consider as well.  She is onboard with my homesteading goals, because she loves me and wants to make me happy, but in truth I think that what I truly want is too extreme for her.  She wants to be within easy commute of a hospital (ie city) so she can go to work and earn good wages and help people.  I respect all of those things, but I have concerns.  She is used to some modern comforts.  I'm interested in off-grid living.  She melts when the mercury goes above 85.  I'm willing to be sweaty and uncomfortable to reach my resiliency goals.  She is still somewhat concerned with keeping up appearances with neighbors and co-workers.  I'm concerned with providing systems that will nourish and support my offspring for generations to come, and I'm willing to sacrifice pretty much all my own comforts to accomplish that goal.  The interplay and timing of these goals that are largely at odd with each other concern me.

I'm concerned about the systems of support we depend on, specifically the healthcare system in relation to the economy, our personal one and the large one.  Currently, we have a good plan to get out of debt within about 13 years, and part of that plan is having a nominal (but not ideal) piece of land that I can homestead on.  Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that the economic realities will match the economic ideals we need in place to realize that plan.  Will the healthcare industry truly continue to provide the living both she and I are hoping it will, or will the money in healthcare show its true colors when the unfunded liability bubble finally bursts?  If so, the time spent and debt incurred for her to go into nursing may turn into a liability in the long-term.  We'll have to wait and see.

I'm concerned about the environment.  Getting out of debt with nominal land in our possession might be enough to get us through a short to medium-term environmental catastrophe, but what if it's not?  There is a reason that I have an ideal piece of land... mainly the ideal is that it is connected to a much larger piece of somewhat intact ecosystem that is nominally healthy and resilient.  Most of the land that we look at is surrounded by other plots that have been managed in a way that isn't exactly with the ecosystem in mind first.

The lack of land available that meets both my big picture needs, and my loves immediate concern needs, worries me.  I'm worried about making the decision to start a family.  Will I be able to provide for them in a proper fashion.  Will the ecosystem into which they're born be able to?  The decision to have kids shouldn't be taken lightly these days in the developed world, and it is something I am acutely aware of.  I'm worried about the economy going to shit before we can rid ourselves of our debt cancer.  I'm worried about the ecosystem collapsing out from under us if we don't make the right decision in the land we choose.  If these things happen, what kind of lives will our kids have?  My love persuades me that she's onboard with buying more remote, ecosystem connected land once debt is paid off and she isn't reliant on being in a hospital setting for good pay, but I worry that economy and ecology might not wait for us.

I should pause in this moment to be fair.  I've so far made it seem as if my love is responsible for any and all bad choices, and that isn't the case.  The student loan debt that I'm currently saddled with is my own doing.  She is not only not responsible for it, but is unbelievably gracious enough to offer help in paying it off once the nursing pay kicks in.  Obviously a large part of my apprehension towards the future has to do with my own choices years ago, and being worried about being able to get out from under those bad choices before the rug is pulled out from under us.  She is willing to do what she can to rid us of that burden and move forward with resilience.  With all that said... do I sometimes fault her for still not quite paying attention the larger picture that I see?  Yes.  Am I a major contributor to the things we need to take care of before we can truly address that bigger picture? Undoubtedly.  So if anyone feels like I'm demonizing her, rest assured I'm not... but she is a source of angst at times, because I think she doesn't feel the same sense of urgency I do.

Moving on.  I very strongly wish I was debt free.  The student loan debt she has incurred would be nothing if I was already debt free.  If I could go back in time and kick 18 year old Kyle until he decided to be more responsible, I would.  If my worst fears about the economy come true, perhaps my debt won't matter, but that's a chance I'm not willing to take.  Not only do I think it is the honorable thing to do to pay off the debts I incurred (even if I incurred them because of a lie that was sold to me about college and the jobs available after completing it), but I also worry about the fact that historically, debtors have been less willing to forgive and forget debt during hard times, not more.  If I were debt free, I'd be a lot further down the path that I want to be on, but that is not the case, so I have to figure that in to my plans.

I have what I consider to be a tremendous plan to get out of our debt quickly.  Buy raw land for cheap, live VERY simply for a few years while paying off debt, and then build systems up using money freed up by becoming debt-free.  One problem is, that plan doesn't seem include some of the modern amenities that are necessary for keeping up appearances in a healthcare setting.  I think it would include them quickly enough, but it's an argument I'm not willing to keep making at this point because I can't really promise that they'd all be present after only a few months.  Which leads me to another, bigger problem, which is that that plan is more simple that reality, and I need to accept that it will be harder and more uncomfortable than I think.  So I sit here, writing this article and contemplating go-between measures that may or may not be enough, all the while hoping that I can accomplish what I must before the world burns.

Will the world burn?  Many and many a generation have thought they were amidst the end-times, and truly the feeling I have is no different.  All of those other generations were wrong, and I have to allow for that fact which implies that I'm probably wrong too.  I don't truly think that we're close to the end times, just close to VERY hard times.  Do I think modern science presents a convincing case that anthropogenic climate change may cause a mass extinction that will wipe us out as a species?  Yes.  Have previous generations been similarly convinced that they lived in their own version of the end-times?  Obviously.  I cannot discount the fact that I might be overreacting.  But I also cannot discount the idea that my thinking so in the previous sentence might just be hopium.

This leads me to the idea that I don't really care if I'm over-reacting.  Perhaps I am, and near-term human extinction is nothing to worry about.  In this case, I'm still very interested in homesteading and all it affords.  I think it provides a lifestyle that will make me much happier.  I think it provides an upbringing for my children that I can be proud of, and that will raise them to be respectable human beings with respect for the planet they live on.  To be completely honest, I know it will be my dream come true, despite all the hard work that goes with it.

I don't know what will become of my future, or the concerns I have for it.  If we choose to have kids, I don't know what kind of future we'll be able to provide for them, or what kind of world we'll be bringing them into.  I do know what I want it to be, and I do think I have a good plan to be able to provide that.  I just hope I'm not too late.  It's possible that I was 30 years too late when I was born, and my tale might be a tragic comedy competitive with any of the best of them.  Or it might turn out that I'll only be 5 or 10 years late as of writing this post, and had I made better decisions when I was in my late-teens and early 20's it wouldn't have been an issue.  Or, lastly, it might prove that I've completely over-reacted, and technology will save the day, and the ideals I hold high will prove to be antiquated and laughable.  All I know is that I feel the weight of humanity on my shoulders right now, and I don't always think I'm taking all the proper steps to be able to shoulder the burden.  Time will tell if I'm successful.  If I'm not, may whatever future lies ahead forgive me for the bad decisions I've made, and at least know that I tried my best once I knew what the future actually was.  May my children, and hopefully their children, know that I did my best with the circumstances I was presented and chose for myself.  May they know that once I was a little more mature, I acted more with their best interests in mind than my own.  May they know that I did what little part I could in saving this planet for them.

Most of all, selfishly, I hope that someday I can be doing something that relieves the guilt I feel.  I want to be somewhere doing something that I truly feel is the best I can be doing.  It's exhausting constantly feeling like you're destroying the planet and whatever future might lie ahead for your children and grandchildren.  I feel despondent and despairing now, working for the machine.  I hope, for my own sake, that I might someday be at peace with the legacy I'm working to leave.  In truth, I suppose I am the biggest thing standing in my own way... and I hope that I have the strength and intelligence to find a way to the path that is the truth I'm seeking to live.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Doing What is Expected... What is Necessary

In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt said "There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny."

I think it is high time that the current generation, my generation (I was born in 1983) and younger, start to accept the fact that we are a generation of which much is expected. We must let go of our hopes that we, like our parents (the baby boomers) will be a generation to which much is given. In fact, our generation should also do what it can to make up for the failure of previous generations to do what was expected of them.

2012 was a year full of the "blowback" caused by irresponsible behavior.  Serious drought combined with record high temperatures in the United States and elsewhere around the world dropped world food reserves to the lowest levels in years.  Hurricane Sandy blew into New York and New Jersey causing dozens of people to lose their lives, millions to be displaced, and billions of dollars worth of damages.  In the Arctic, summer sea ice levels are at their lowest ever observed, and Greenland ice sheets appear to be melting at an ever more rapid pace.  And in the Antarctic, the West Antarctic ice sheet appears to be warming as well, which if it collapses into the southern ocean could contribute up to 3 meters of sea level rise.

All of this is just climate blowback.  Revolutions, uprisings, government crackdowns, financial meltdowns, "fiscal cliffs" and various other trouble dot the political landscape.  The Sandy Hook massacre is a sad and traumatic scar on the United States' history now, and may well precipitate an unprecedented crackdown on civil liberties.  Add this to the crackdowns going on against activists and whistleblowers and the covert and drone wars overseas, and you have a US government run amuck trying to maintain imperial control of a world slipping away from it.

And, to get back to what this post is about... what can this generation do to accomplish what is expected?  Well for starters, we should know that "what is expected" is not what FDR had in mind.  You should not do what your government expects of you, in fact you'll probably be on an almost perfect path if you do just the opposite.  Do not accept that the Canadian tar sands might be developed and piped through the US by the Keystone XL, causing untold more damage to our climate.  Do not accept that fracking might lead to "energy independence in America," and forget that it will also cause untold damage to our water supplies.  Do not accept spreading poverty and a diminishing middle-class.  Do not accept a slow and deliberate destruction of civil liberties.  Do not "keep calm and carry on," as WWII Britain propagandized.  There is much to not be calm about.  There is much to do.  There is much that your children, and their children, on down to your 7th generation and beyond, expect of you.  The way we're living right now won't leave much for them, and they expect you to do something about it.  They expect all of us to do something about it.  What will you do?

This post, in my mind, is rooted in the 1st and 2nd Ethics of Permaculture.  It is NECESSARY that we take care of the earth, and take care of people.  As much of the earth as we can, and as many people as we can, not just people and the areas that can "afford" it.  Future generations of humans and ALL life on earth expect this of us.  It is necessary.  Do what you can to make a difference.  If someone tries to get in your way, reason with them and convert them to the cause.  If they will not listen, push past them and continue to do what is necessary.  Life on earth is counting on us.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

30 Day No Spending Challenge!

Kelsey and I are hoping to buy or be close to buying land during 2013.  In order to have the money to do so, we're going to have to do some serious budgeting and saving.  In order to kick-off the year on the right foot, I'm proposing a 30-day challenge to not spend any money on non-essentials.  Really, it'll be 31 days, because we're doing it in January, so we might as well do it the entire month.  But "30-Day No Spending Challenge," while it doesn't have much of a ring, sounds much better than "31-Day No Spending Except for Essentials Challenge."  So there you have it.

What we will spend money on:

  1. Groceries
  2. Bills
  3. Other absolute essentials (gasoline, dogfood, toiletries.)
What we won't spend money on:
  1. Eating out
  2. Things (clothing, shoes, books, other random items that eat up money)
  3. Spirits (beer, wine, hard liquor, bar-time)
What we'll mitigate spending on:
  1. Gasoline - I take the bus and/or ride my bike most of the time, but Kelsey will have to drive once in a while.
  2. Energy - We'll keep the thermostat down, shorter showers, wear sweaters inside, etc.
  3. Beer - I'm planning on starting to homebrew more often as of tomorrow, which will hopefully provide for most of our alcohol consumption for the near future.
  4. Groceries - We're going to try to purchase food strategically so we can spend less money on it.
It will probably be tough at first, but overall I think not spending money for 30-ish days shouldn't be too hard.  At this point in my life, nothing I buy is absolutely necessary except for food.  I think the money I will save by not dropping a little here or there on Amazon or at the beer market will add up enough to matter.  Also, I think spending money at a grocery store and packing lunches for work rather than spending the money somewhere I choose on a spur-of-the-moment whim at the start of my lunch will help my spending levels as well.

I also plan on attempting to "barter" for things I need.  If I can land a short labor gig on craigslist, and I get paid in cash, but I use that cash to buy a 12-pack of beer or a bottle of wine, I'll still consider that barter.  My main goal, however, is to put that cash into my bank account and get it into my land fund.  After all, the entire impetus behind engaging in a 30-day no spending challenge is to save money for land, so if I can make some extra cash with odd jobs, I should try to save as much of it as I can.

Lastly, this post is being published on January 1st, which is the day of New Years' Resolutions.  I don't think this plan falls into that category.  It just so happens that the time that is easiest for Kelsey and I to plan on spending as little as we can for a month coincides with the time right after Christmas and around the New Year.  I think it's best to try to do this kind of thing when it's easiest, because then we get actual practice with it, and can be more capable of achieving it on a regular basis.  Even during times when it's easy to spend money (such as birthdays and holidays), if we get practice not spending money during a non-money-spending time, we'll easily save that much more money throughout all the times of the year when money-spending seems more socially required.

Do you have any goals to save money?  If so, what are they, and how're you going about achieving them?  In the spirit of New Years, do you have any New Years' Resolutions?  Please post and share in the comments section, so we can all hold each other accountable.

As always, thanks for reading!