Pockets of the Future Blog

Striving to live now as all will live in the future.

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    Mar
    22

    Society, Love and Homesteading

    Posted by pockets

    I just reconnected with a dear friend I met overseas 20 years ago and haven’t seen since. I am quite delighted by this unexpected event. She is an interesting, artsy sort of person who likes to contemplate big questions and then fold her discoveries into film making. These days she is contemplating this: how does society destroy love? I have been thinking about this question of hers for several days. I think it has captured my imagination because it frames what we constantly think about and talk about here at Pockets of the Future a little differently than we usually frame it and that slight difference is shedding light for me.

    What is the ground from which love springs? To start with, I believe that love and the ability to love (not be attached, mind you, but actually love) are natural to us. The ability to recognize love and be love is part of our Original Design. Therefore that which is unnatural takes us away from love and, given enough time and force, eventually destroys it. The ground of love is also characterized by simplicity, intimacy, and awareness. The atmosphere of love is one of purity and desirelessness. There is a timelessness to love and with that comes the ability to wait and to perceive correctly.

    Love holds you accountable beyond all other ideas or obligations. It requires of you the maximum in all ways in terms of willingness, cooperation, patience, sacrifice and acceptance. Not because that which is loved demands those things of you but because your own loving heart demands those things of you. Love itself demands those things of you.

    Within love, there can be no force, no willfulness, no profligate excess, no flagrant disconnection, no distraction, no noise. As long as love holds sway, any such tendencies will be thrown up to the surface to be washed away for there is no place for them. The ripples they cause within the ocean of love are disruptive. The ocean of love is mighty and moves to roll over and over such tendencies until they are polished back into love.

    Ideally, human society would reflect the Original Design just as individuals most thrive by reflecting the Original Design. What would such a natural society look like? I have no idea. I have thought about this question since I was in graduate school studying social policy and yet I still have no idea. That is the unvarnished truth.

    I do know, though, that it would not look at all like what we have going on right now. The goals of present day human society do not include anything to do with love, never mind fostering love. In fact I would go further and say that the goals of present day human society run precisely counter to love. Or perhaps it is ultimately the most accurate to say that love runs counter to virtually all aspects of present day human society and it is because of this and this alone that a great correction is in the offing.

    The keywords characterizing present societies run along the lines of domination, profit mongering, control, an obsessive pursuit of physical comfort, fear, placation, instant gratification, ignorance, denial of reality, destruction of all natural resources both within and without, specialization, learned helplessness, disconnection - in short, immorality. Human society is built around taking from nature what nature is not designed to give over the long run. Human society is built around procuring for humans what is not in the best interest of humans to have. And it forcibly denies (both in terms of acknowledging and in terms of allowing) humans access to what is natural, right, congruent, loving.

    I have been thinking of the specifics of this in terms of the life cycle. Pregnant women are “managed” and made to answer to the medical system of childbirth. Their access to appropriate care takers, foods and medicines and the time and atmosphere most suitable for pregnant women is regulated and denied them. Childbirth itself is an event dominated by technology and control which is by far and away not in the best interest of mother and infant. The powerful spiritual opportunity the natural intimacy between mother and infant provides and which is the foundation of the family, healthy childhood development and so on is methodically denied and destroyed.

    Intimacy is a very delicate state. I remember back to when I had my first baby. My parents came to visit when she was just a couple of weeks old. Now my parents had never been interested in or supportive of children or family or marriage. Those things held little value for them. They were well traveled, educated people who needed to be entertained. They were not the kind of parents who came to help out. Rather they came to eat the best food and see the most interesting sights in the area and so on. Oh right, and see the baby. Now up to the point of their visit, my intimacy with my daughter was total but by the time my parents left three days later, not only was I exhausted but I detected a slight shift in myself. Even though my baby girl had been in my arms the whole three days, my attention had been forcibly drawn elsewhere and this had created a slight space in our intimacy. I only had the opportunity to see this because I went back to my old quiet ways with her immediately upon their leaving. The space was filled back in with loving intimacy right away because I saw it. This was an incredible revelation to me - the delicacy of intimacy. Whatever direction we start in, we tend to continue on with. A slight space or rift in our attention, our connection, our intimacy will lead to a rift and thence to distance unless we take corrective action. But to do that you have to see it and to see it, you have to stop and feel and take note and that society does not want us to do. This subtle intimacy is true of all important relationships (familial, spiritual and so on) and it brooks no master other than love itself. I don’t think many of us can even imagine any longer what it means to live within a web of truly intimate relationships.

    We could go on and on through the entire life cycle like this. People get married at odd times and have children at even odder times in order to accommodate educational and professional schedules. Children are sent to schools to be tooled to fit into the industrial/technological economic model. Mothers and fathers are both out in the workplace earning and earning and earning. Families live in houses that are too big and filled with too much technology that fosters individual isolation rather than family togetherness and which sit empty most of the time. Health care revolves around technology, rules, ignorance and profit with natural, simple, timely approaches to health problems frequently outlawed. Care and instruction about health, child rearing and virtually all other endeavors of daily life comes from so-called experts and not from trusted family members or elders of the community. Older people are shuffled off into buildings and systems designed to manage them away from the hustle and bustle of a profit oriented society. And the land and nature? No connection whatsoever any more. Nature has been objectified into a sometimes recalcitrant provider of resources owed to the owners of production. People do not even know how to eat any more so how can they be expected to love? All relationships have been fractured. Society and, perhaps, particularly American society, pitches towards the system and away from intimacy, love and connection at all points of the day and the life cycle. As my husband frequently notes, present day society rewards sociopathic behavior and calls men with soft hearts weak. Many others note that highly intelligent, well educated women who choose to give themselves up to love and intimacy at home are said to be wasting their educations and lives. Where would love and intimacy, simplicity and awareness even come from under such conditions?

    This kind of list is not new at all. What is new to me, however, is thinking of this endlessly negative list of how society functions so unnaturally as society methodically destroying love. And destroy love it must. You cannot control people who live by the dictates of love. When people are firmly grounded within familial and spiritual love and intimacy, they will not choose to sacrifice their ways of live in order to buy widgets. When people live close to the land in grateful reciprocity, they will not be as inclined to listen to foolishness. They know better. They still listen to their hearts. They can still recognize, at least a little bit, the difference between natural and artificial and know from long experience that natural is always better in the long run. (This pivots to a certain extent upon how you define the word natural which is a surprisingly interesting topic I will save for another post some day.)

    All of this brings me to the vibrant reason we homestead here and homeschool and meditate and do so many other of the things that we do and talk about. We want real food, yes. We believe in our rights to self-determination from a political standpoint and revile NAIS or the watering down of the definition of organic or any attempts to control homeschooling and bring it back into the fold of profit and control, yes. We want our children to learn real life skills like milking a cow or reading the weather or designing and creating what they need for their daily lives themselves, yes. We know from experience that a life with a balance of physical efforts along with mental and all other efforts is a healthier life, yes. We can go on and on with this list too of why homesteading and homeschooling and slow cooking real food and living simply and so on are life affirming choices that promote intimacy and quiet awareness.

    But really we homestead and homeschool to preserve love. We homestead and homeschool to preserve our family, to preserve our beautiful intimacy, to preserve our Divine heritage. We homestead and homeschool and live simply in order to have the space to create community, to create the quiet within which to hear what comes next, to create the future.

    Someday, someday the phrase “society, love and homesteading” will not be a study in contrasts. Someday “society, love and homesteading” will be a phrase of natural congruity. And when that day comes, that phrase “society, love and homesteading” will be reduced to one single all important word.

    Love.

    The rest won’t matter. Societies and ways of life will be original, natural expressions of love and gloriously un-noteworthy because there will be just that one word and that will be enough.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Jan
    18

    “Natural Was Always Natural” and Living Off the Grid

    Posted by pockets

    Two nights ago it was the coldest here it has been in over 12 years and we were without power for most of it. We were without power from about 1am to 5am. It came back on for a little while and then went out again for some hours yesterday morning.

    I found this more unsettling than usual. Part of the reason is probably because I have a disconnect notice from our utility company sitting on my desk which I have no idea how to pay. Some of my unsettled feeling is due to my deepening thinking about man-made systems and the uncertainty of the future we all face.

    We Americans believe - no, have a certainty - that the power will always come back on. This certainty doesn’t just out of a feeling of entitlement but is embedded in our view of reality. We have never known anything else. To confront going without, not just out of poverty, but because there simply isn’t any (electricity, gas, food, health care…) rocks our world view in fundamental ways.

    But one day, that will all come true. There simply won’t be any. What will we do? How will we respond? At what point will we respond? Tomorrow, first thing? Or the day the power goes off and doesn’t come back on, and not a minute sooner?

    I lay awake most of the night thinking about these things, observing the vulnerability, praying for all of those out there on a bitter cold night with no heat.

    And, I thought, as close as we are as a family to living off the grid - we are still nearly close enough for my taste. We are vulnerable right now because I don’t know how I am going to pay our bill and avoid having our utilities shut off in a few days. We are vulnerable because I couldn’t get the pancakes I was already in the middle of making when we lost power again to cook properly on our wood burning stove. We are vulnerable because we don’t have immediate community around us with whom to share risks and problem solving.

    I am grateful that as hard as we are working on these changes of lifestyle, we still keep getting enough small shocks to keep us highly interested in seeing this homesteading/living a simple life/getting off the grid/spiritually based family life project to its conclusion. Well, “conclusion” is probably a bad word. How could there be conclusions to such things? How about “full expression”? We are receiving enough shocks in terms of worldly bad news and challenging personal experiences to remain highly motivated to see this project through to its fullest expression.

    Yes, and we also receive confirmation in many ways for the direction we are taking. A feeling of peace or satisfaction, for instance. Observing the growing competence and fortitude of our children, for another. Or the positive comments of other like-minded individuals and families or this that our spiritual Master noted recently:

    Nothing is difficult. You just throw away everything and you will find that you are as happy and comfortable as you were before you got hi-tech. What does it take? Leave your computer at home, disconnect your telephone, disconnect your electricity: you are back in the beginning. It doesn’t take much. What is civilisation? It’s nothing but a few instruments of communication and illumination! What else is civilisation?

    You sleep out one night and look at the stars - you are where your original forefathers were. It’s beautiful. And then you begin to wonder why on earth you went where houses are air conditioned 24 hours of the day, where you don’t know from inside whether it’s raining or not. The wind is blowing and you think it’s cool outside and you go and it’s 120 [degrees]! You wonder because it’s all artificial. So to cut off artificial is natural. There is nothing primitive about that. Natural was always natural. Sahaj Sandesh Dec. 29, 2008

    Oh, it meant a lot to me to read those words. “Natural was always natural.” And always will be natural, I might add. It is us who are unnatural. We must deconstruct all that we have piled on the natural state to find our way back to a simple way of life that allows us to re-focus on the goal of human life. That is the only option. We can take it willingly and in a timely fashion or unwillingly and with all kinds of suffering and angst but take it we must.

    A couple of weeks ago, a thought boomed into my mind that didn’t seem to come from me. It was, “Nature will support you if you are content to live with what Nature naturally provides.” This keeps ringing through my inner chambers completely unbidden by me. It seems to me to be one of those statements that is deceptively obvious, deceptively simple.

    What does Nature willingly provide? What was the Original Contract between Nature and humans (if we can even think of humans as being at all separate from Nature in order to require a contract)? What is the difference between what Nature is created to provide us and what it will yield when forced to by humans? And how long will this yielding hold out? No. No, I want to get back to the Original Contract. I want what is willingly given and not what has perhaps been reluctantly yielded all of this time. I want to live within the Original Contract, the Original Design. I know it will be better, whether I understand it or not or even know how do it right now or not.

    This notion of living within the center of what Nature willingly provides is how I understand the famous Matthew 6:25-34:

    25″Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life”?

    28″And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

    Notions about Christianity and paganism aside, I take the idea here as being the same as what I am talking about. Live as He would have you live, and the resulting harmony with Nature will provide you with all that you truly need. This is a startling thought when you think about it freshly. Fulfilling our needs comes perhaps not through our great intellect or organizational abilities or sheer (often brutal) efforts. Fulfillment of our needs perhaps comes about most quickly and easily through living in harmony with natural law.

    Run as fast as you can to any corner of the universe and the Law will be there waiting for you. Cornbread Nation 3, p. 14, from Marilou Awiakata’s “Compass for Our Journey”

    So for a long night and following day I considered these matters even more deeply and more urgently than I usually do. This morning I was grinding some cumin seeds for our Sunday morning breakfast in a coffee grinder when I thought, “I am going to make a list, by crackey!” Yes, I am going to make a list of all the ways we as a family rely upon “the grid” to accomplish our daily life tasks so that I can keep track of the changes and adaptations we still need to make.

    I can immediately start my list with:
    mortar and pestle.

    Quickly I can add:
    wood burning cook stove;
    alternative lighting;
    water storage and (hopefully) a hand water pump for outside.

    When I complete our list, I will post it here in the spirit of us all working together. I do enjoy crossing things off of lists. Don’t you? But crossing items off of this list will be a special pleasure and gift, no matter how long it takes. But even more, I look forward intensely to the day that it all just dissolves into a simple life led only in Him.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Nov
    29

    Three Ennobling Truths Contained in “My Friend Within”

    Posted by pockets

    This is cross posted from our Bamboo Grove Press blog.

    It appears to be a small thing, really, to make the switch from focusing on an external God somewhere off in the distance to an internal God or Friend that is right there in your heart as your constant companion. In reality, however, having made this small change is what has brought us so many great Masters, saints, prophets and mystics. All the Masters of the major religions made this small switch from believing in an externalized God to finding and merging with the God that existed within them. Each of these Masters brought some transformational quality to the human experience which has benefited us all. After thinking about this, the questions then become, “What would the world be like if all of the people who inhabited it made that same adjustment and formed a minute by minute connection with the Divinity within? What if the world were populated by saints and Masters? What if we had a society of Buddha’s, Christ’s and Krishna’s? What would such a world be like?”

    This small adjustment from an externally viewed God to an internally experienced God would change just about everything within the human condition. It would be like how land mammal ancestors of whales and dolphins, after living for thousands of years in both the worlds of water and land, finally took their permanent plunge into the sea. Since making that shift, they have thrived as kings of the ocean. It was perhaps a small adjustment over a period of years such that each succeeding generation lived more and more in the sea until, finally, they became sea mammals. However they did it, their land existence soon became a faded memory.

    As we humans currently face a multitude of self-inflicted problems, we can see all around us the many success stories of other creatures that successfully adjusted themselves to a new way of living out of sheer necessity. Unfortunately, humans do not seem to be there yet. Rather we are still looking to change the world around us. We are still trying to impose our collective will on the world while we ourselves remain relatively unchanged. It is obvious that our orientation to the world isn’t viable and yet we still expect the world to change rather than us. The majority of us still seem to think that by winning political or economic or military power, we can continue to force our way and continue to enjoy our vast array of comforts. This is incorrect.

    Fourteen years ago I was introduced to the Sahaj Marg raja yogic practice and given the wonderful opportunity to meditate on Divine light in my heart. It seemed like a foreign thing to do at first and I did not know what to expect. As the years went by, however, I began to see more and more changes in myself from meditating in this way. My patience and tolerance levels increased. My ability to solve problems and choose the right path was enhanced. My ability to bear pain increased. Spiritually based opportunities increasingly presented themselves to me while unhealthy elements in my life seemed to just dry up and blow away. Significant and beneficial people started to populate my life helping me farther along the spiritual path. I no longer felt lonely or depressed as there was always my eternal Friend within to accompany me during dark times. When I regressed into old negative patterns, something quickly pulled me back onto the proper road. And perhaps most significantly, my capacity to love grew from the very first day and has continued to grow ever since.

    There were many material changes since I started Sahaj Marg as well including marriage to a fellow practitioner of this system as well as the grand appearance of six children. There was my family’s eventual move back to the country and the subsequent wholesale plunge into a more natural way of life. There were other material changes too in those early years as I earned both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. The former had eluded me for twelve years and three colleges prior to my starting the Sahaj Marg internal meditation on Divinity within. So for me the internal and external growth that came as a result of being guided to connect with an internal God was both astounding and, in some ways, even miraculous.

    It is very distressing to me that most if not all religious and spiritual movements eventually seem to steer people away from connecting with the divinity within. Instead they often settle into teaching complex and often counter-productive methods for reaching God. However, living in connection with our eternal Friend within is our birthright and the key to our becoming all that we can be. It also frustrates me that the world leadership employs externally-based methods to pacify the populous rather than encouraging people to seek answers within. It is only the latter, to our way of thinking here at Bamboo Grove Press and Pockets of the Future, that can provide real solutions to the problems of life.

    So for my wife and me there is only one lasting answer to our current predicament and that is for us all to put a large investment into connecting with the part of us that is eternally connected to all and everything. It is imperative that the world’s peoples develop the Divine instrument of their hearts and let their eternal Friend within guide them in all decisions big and small. For us, then, the path is very clear. If human beings are going to survive and develop into what they were destined to become, then we have to make the subtle yet profound shift from begging an external God to deliver to us our desired lifestyle to a new orientation of connecting with the God or Friend within and, therefore, allowing ourselves to be guided from within towards our best life.

    So in this spirit we are happy to release our first book, My Friend Within, for general publication. This short, colorful picture book for children presents three simple ideas:

    1. God is in everything,
    2. Most personally, God is within the child themselves, and
    3. God is the child’s eternal Friend.

    The ideas seem simple and straightforward enough but consider this - the worldwide acceptance of even one of these ideas would change human experience profoundly for the good. If we collectively accepted that God was within everything and we lived and breathed this principle, it would be difficult to impossible to abuse other people, animals, the world or anything else. We would see God in all and everything and, therefore, when in the act of mistreating any aspect of the world around us we would see that it was God we were mistreating and stop ourselves.

    The case would be similar if we saw and connected with the God that is seated personally within us. Whenever we mistreated ourselves and made self-defeating or self-sabotaging decisions, we would see that we were only punishing ourselves by cutting ourselves off from the Divinity within us. By contrast as we deepened our inner relationship, we would want to consult the God within in us before making decisions or pursuing courses of action. Our hearts would cry out to us if we were about to do something wrong just as our hearts would sing to us as we followed a proper course of action. The responsibility for our lives would not rest upon the mercy of an externalized God but within our own system. We would be responsible. We would recognize that we were responsible.

    Lastly if we accepted that God was our eternal Friend, our whole perception of our world and our situation would be transformed. The hostile lens through which we see an evil world inhabited by evil people would not last in the face of the new knowledge that there is a benevolent God within us that only wants the best for each of us. Demons would now be viewed as helpers who were placed there by our Friend for our benefit. Problems would become blessings, and everything that we received good or bad would be received as Divine gifts from our Divine friend. We would believe that everything comes from God and since God is our Friend, then everything that He gives to us is for our greater good. There have existed souls in this world who have taken this perspective and they have inspired great movements and improved the human condition greatly. Their examples pointed towards a path all could eventually take. Given our current dilemmas, there is no better time than now for us all to step onto that path.

    So we are releasing our first book containing these three ennobling ideas now as it is patently obvious that there is no time to lose. And our first book is directed towards young children because there is no better time to get started with this important inner work than at the beginning of one’s life.

    We are also making available a free lesson plan/activity book to accompany My Friend Within for parents and teachers to use to help pull out this knowledge that already exists within the child. We are all born knowing that God is within all and everything and most importantly within us and that he is also our beloved Friend. We only need some gentle guidance to help these truths emerge from within us. I hope parents of all religions, races, and ages will purchase this book, undertake the simple accompanying activities and lessons with their children, and start them solidly on this wonderful path of becoming the best person they can be. Then these children can in turn go on to help create the best world that humans can create.

    Please help us spread the word about My Friend Within and the free lesson plan so that many may benefit from it. Thank you.

    From the rustling leaves of the Grove,
    Paul

     

    My Friend Within cover

    Nov
    25

    My Friend Within - Our First Bamboo Grove Press Release!

    Posted by pockets

    This is cross posted from our Bamboo Grove Press Blog.

    We are very pleased to announce our first Bamboo Grove Press book release!

     

    My Friend Within cover

    My Friend Within encourages children to follow their natural yearning to find God seated in the center or heart of all things, including themselves, and to take delight in the mysteries of spirituality. The appealing art work and simple, rhythmic text provide a gentle way to spark an awareness of what is deeply rooted inside all of us. As children embrace the idea that “God, my Friend, is within me,” they are setting the cornerstone of the foundation for their future spiritual lives. (From the back cover)

     

    Here my husband Paul Romano, author and illustrator, sits down to talk briefly about the timeless messages waiting for children in My Friend Within and why we chose this particular book to be our first publication. We feel, and it is our daily experience, that the ideas contained in My Friend Within are the single most important principles to reinforce in children in order to prepare them for a vibrant spiritual future during rocky, uncertain times.

    My Friend Within is also just plain fun and contains many opportunities for conversation and exploration. In the video, Paul talks about the fun we had as a family developing the complementary lesson plan we are offering with My Friend Within, out of our desire to support parents, teachers and children as much as we possibly can.

     

    For more information on how to purchase My Friend Within, please visit our E-store.

    We hope My Friend Within benefits your family as much as it has benefited ours and that you will join us in helping children everywhere become adults who act based upon the promptings of their Friend within.

    From the rustling leaves of the Grove,
    Leslie

    Nov
    04

    Leslie’s Wonderous 50th Birthday

    Posted by pockets

    My wife, Leslie, is someone who never gets the proper credit or celebration she deserves. Born into a family where she was abused and scapegoated by both parents, her achievements and self-esteem were always undermined and negated. Furthermore, she was born on Halloween and so always had to share her birthday with trick-or-treaters. Her birth was never properly celebrated. On top of that two of our children were born on consecutive Mother’s Days and our last child was born on May 17th so there are three major birthdays right around Mother’s Day in our family. Again she does not get the time and attention she deserves even on the given day for mothers here in the US.

    Typically on Halloween I have been responsible for creating a good Halloween for the children and blending that with a birthday celebration for Leslie. Leslie has tweaked how we celebrate Halloween to make it more natural and seasonal but I have been the one to implement most of the arrangements. Having to combine the two events has led to a good deal of holiday stress and a mixed result in the desired outcome of both events. This year, however, was different.

    Last spring and summer, events revealed to Leslie and myself that the abusive, scapegoating dynamics that existed in her original family were still having a very negative effect on Leslie’s health and well being. In mid-summer her parents were given a choice to either take responsibility for their actions or lose the privilege of contact with Leslie and the rest of this family. They chose to give up contact. We will have more blog posts and videos on this subject in the future as they will perhaps be of value to others who have also been abused.

    As Leslie’s 50th birthday was approaching, the condition of her parents’ disappearance was something that was obviously going to come to a head as being the oldest in her family, her 50th birthday was not only a milestone in her own life but in the lives of her parents and the rest of her family. So I reasoned that as her birthday approached, Leslie’s awareness that she was not loved by her parents was going to perhaps become painful. While this was probably inevitable, no one wants to see their loved ones suffer so I started thinking about what to do.

    We have never had the material resources available to create the extravagant birthday celebrations common in our country and as our homesteading and natural living work have expanded, the time and energy needed to go into birthdays and holidays have been greatly reduced anyway. For example, now Leslie’s birthday and Halloween take place in the midst of a whole host of other chores and commitments, such as milking and tending to the animals as well as homeschooling and writing commitments. This year with Leslie’s adrenal fatigue recovery being my primary focus and then the unexpected addition of remodeling our house to effectively incorporate a wood burning stove plus the labor intensive addition of doing all of our laundry by hand also commanding considerable time and attention, I felt that I had very little left for Halloween and Leslie’s birthday.

    I made the decision to not celebrate Halloween at all this year - not even our way - and to try to pull something out of nowhere for Leslie so that she could have a nourishing 50th birthday. When we told the kids about no Halloween this year, they did not complain or even show any hint of disappointment which was great. Then a few ideas began to come to me about how to make this milestone birthday special for my wife.

    A few weeks ago I had the idea to get the old game Operation for Leslie as she had enjoyed playing with it as a kid - perhaps because she had always wanted to be a doctor. I was not sure how she would feel about me spending money on a game for her but it was meant to be. We were at a second hand store in our town one day. I was in the used toy room with the kids. I looked up at the games and there was Operation for 50¢. A week or so later there was another Operation game at the same store for the same price. I bought them both as I thought that there was a good chance that with all the small pieces in this game, many of them would probably be lost and the games might not be in good working order. But to my surprise a few days before Leslie’s birthday, the kids and I went through the games and found that both of them worked and had most of the pieces. Both also came with working batteries. We were able to put together a complete working game. This was great as Leslie had been hesitant to cancel Halloween but agreed to it when she came up with the idea of the family perhaps playing a game together that night. She just wanted the family to do something fun together. On Leslie’s birthday Operation came through. There is nothing better than giving an adult a game they enjoyed when they were a kid and then giving them the opportunity to play it with their children. On Leslie’s special night, this held true and everyone enjoyed operating on the electrically charged patient.

    Other things started to come together as well. About a month before Leslie’s birthday, Anna and Faith ran into the office very excited about a present they were making for their mother’s birthday. They told me I could not know what it was. I thought it would be a drawing or a bracelet or something like that. What it turned out to be was a finger puppet play they adapted from one of Leslie’s favorite children’s books, Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow. The book is about how Pelle, a young Swedish boy, trades various chores with his grandmothers, mother and local tradesmen so that he can get his wool carded, spun, woven and tailored into a new suit.

    The timing turned out to be remarkable. Just a few days before they put this play on for Leslie’s birthday, Leslie and both girls learned something of how to card and spin wool at Mabry Mill during the time Will was having his blacksmithing lesson. It suddenly became a shared goal of theirs to start carding and spinning here at home. The play itself was pure joy and Leslie was captivated by it. I could see by Anna’s and Faith’s excitement as they set up the stage that the play was going to be great so I asked them if I should videotape it. They said, “Definitely.”

    Both Carolyn and Rowan also had ideas of individualized presents for their mother. Carolyn put a poem from one of Leslie’s favorite poets, Kabir, to music and sang it for her. Rowan made a snowman out of wood in wood shop at school and then used his woodburning kit at home to burn in a face and features. He is a great artist and did a really nice job. Leslie also received a timely gift of two bottles of sesame oil from a long time family friend, fellow Sahaj Marg practitioner and current Pockets of the Future blog and website reader.

    However the biggest gift, in my mind, stemmed from an earlier experience that happened during my birthday last summer. Leslie had had the children draw me pictures of things they wished for me. Here are their pictures:

    This a tree that Andrew drew. None of us can remember why he drew this but as it has turned out, we have really needed wood for our wood burning stove and for posts for our meditation building.

    This is a watch Faith drew as we lost our clock in the living room when our DVD player was hit by lightening. She spent a long time drawing the picture, especially the books on the bookshelf. As I later thought about it, she was giving me the wish of time which is something that Leslie and I both need.

    In this picture Anna makes her commitment to have the living room be picked up by evening for a year. She includes a variety of hearts in her work. Since that time Anna has taken to making cornbread, pancakes, bread, kefir, feta cheese and other meals. She also has taken a great interest in serving meals to the family. This has freed Leslie and me up a little bit to do other things as well as relieved some of the pressure surrounding meal times.

    In this picture, Will’s birthday wish for me was that our 1986 Ford pick-up truck would be running again. Of all the pictures, this one had the biggest effect on me when I looked at it. It felt as if a subtle switch was thrown somewhere and that truck would actually run again. It was great that Will came up with this idea on his own because it meant that he realized that getting the truck to run again was really important. Up to that point, the truck had gone through a painful dying process stalling out at first and then having some electrical problems. I tried to put a new starter in but there was a bolt that was completely frozen in place and on and on. It seemed like the truck was essentially dead and would never run again.

    We basically cannot manage the homestead without a sturdy pick-up and many projects, including the completion of our meditation building, can only move forward with us having a truck. But last spring every time it seemed like we could get it fixed, something else came up or the truck itself showed no signs of cooperation. It seemed like the truck was dead and wanted to remain so. Then two months or so after Will’s insightful birthday wish, the truck was fixed and is now running again. In fact it is running better now than when we first bought it. A lot of events had to unfold for things to come together for the truck to be repaired, including a lot changes in our lives like remodeling the house to put in a wood burning stove that increased the vacuum of need that pulled that truck back from the dead.

    So this event changed my conception of what a birthday wish could be for another person. In the case of our children, they have no monetary resources or ability to shop for something but they do have something much more valuable: purity of heart, and the innocence of genuine goodwill for their family members. As our family moves from the world of wishes to the world of needs, we are constantly rewriting the way we do things like celebrate holidays and all of the other consumerism based training we have all received. This fruitful rewriting is now applying to birthdays as well.

    So I took the birthday wish exercise a bit further. I sat down with our four younger kids and asked them what they thought their mom needed and what they thought they would like to wish for her. They came up with ideas and then went about the business of bringing their ideas into existence by drawing a blueprint of what they wanted their mother to have. All things start as an idea and then through thought become a plan or blue print. By giving her a picture of their idea, they were taking the first step towards the materialization of their wishes for her. They were giving the gift of a possibility that will grow into a reality in due course.

    What better gift is there than to pray for the fulfillment of someone else’s need? To do this, the children had to take a vested interest in another person, the gift receiver, and they also had to take an interest in a particular project. They were volunteering to form a partnership they will be a part of to make their gift come about for their mom. When their drawn and colored wishes come to life, they will look at them and remember the picture and the intention. They will experience the spark they lit to make this birthday wish come true turning into a reality. It is not only a valuable gift but a valuable life lesson. So here are their pictures:

    Andrew wished for a garden for his mom. He drew beds of squash, lettuce and spinach respectively.

    When we went to Mabry Mill last week for Will’s blacksmithing tutorial, Leslie got to see and hear a spinning wheel at work. She immediately felt a sense of well being watching and hearing the wool being spun into yarn and resolved to have a spinning wheel some day. Knowing this, Faith drew her mom working at her very own spinning wheel for her birthday wish.

    Anna chose to draw her mom an orchard. This orchard also includes blueberry and raspberry bushes - all of which Leslie wants to create here.

    Will, the person who is training our Will to be a blacksmith, told us last week about his wife Joanna. Among other things, Joanna apparently has great expertise in making goat milk soap. Leslie was very excited to learn this because making soap, and goat milk soap in particular, is a skill she has been wanting to learn for years. Will and Joanna will be coming to visit us soon and Leslie can’t wait to learn more from Joanna. It is interesting that Leslie has been wanting to make soap for years and now it seems this need is about to become a reality. So Will chose this for his birthday wish for his mom.

    So as it turned out, this was Leslie’s best birthday ever. In my observation, this birthday was powered completely by love. Often birthdays and holidays become a mix of past training and family obligations with the real meaning of the celebration no longer in the forefront of anyone’s consciousness. The real meaning of celebrating someone’s birthday is that you are celebrating the persons birth. You are saying, “I am happy you were born.” You are grateful to God for bringing that person into your life and you acknowledge that they themselves are a gift to you. So this is how Leslie’s 50th birthday was celebrated. By removing those who did not view her as a gift and who were not grateful for her birth and by removing the distractions and other unnecessary additions to the day, we were able to convey the true essence of our love and appreciation for her. And that’s what people really want to feel on their birthday or any other day - love and appreciation. Nothing fills a void in one’s heart like love.

    All the best,
    Paul

    Oct
    22

    But What Does Being “Prepared” Truly Mean?

    Posted by pockets

    Ideas about “preparedness” are getting a lot of extra traction during these days of the underpinnings of our economy and the fear of people being exposed. I even saw the article “Hard Times Have Some Flirting with Survivalism - Economic Angst has Americans Stockpiling ‘Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids’” on msnbc.com yesterday. Here are some snippets from the article:

    With foreclosure rates running rampant, financial institutions teetering and falling, prices for many goods and services climbing, and jobs being slashed, many Americans are making preparations for worse times ahead. For some, that means cutting spending and saving more. For others, it means taking a step into survivalism, once regarded solely as the province of religious End-of-Timers, sci-fi fans and extremists.

    That often manifests itself as a desire to secure basic emergency resources — what survival guru Jim Wesley Rawles describes as “beans, bullets and Band-Aids.”

    “There are a lot more people — a lot more eager people — who are trying to get themselves squared away logistically,” said Rawles, who lectures and writes books on preparing for and surviving “TEOTWAWKI” — The End Of The World As We Know It.

    “I’m getting slammed with big orders,” said Kurt Wilson, a distributor of freeze-dried foods and other provisions with decades-long shelf life, like canned meat, cheese and butter.

    “I have customers who were spending 200 bucks a month now spending $5,000 to $8,000,” Wilson said from his warehouse in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “I get little old ladies calling up, stocking up for their grandchildren.”

    Seattle survivalist Hagmahani sees such commodity hoarding as just a partial measure for weathering a financial crisis.

    On his blog, mutuallyassuredsurvival.com, he advises people to prepare for a “major paradigm shift” that will, in a decade, leave the U.S. with a Third World economy.

    He said he began his preparations after witnessing the burst of the high-tech bubble in 2001, paying off the family’s debt, moving his assets away from stocks into safer investments, including, he implies, some precious metals and offshore accounts.

    In the last three or four years, he has led his clan away from what he calls their former “yuppyish lifestyle.” They no longer eat out, cook most meals from scratch, and rarely drive their one car. They also are all learning practical skills — such as sewing, nursing and wielding a gun for self-defense.

    “One thing I’m adamant about is that each of the kids needs real skills; they can’t just be a pencil pusher,” says Hagmahani of 19-year-old Hans, Sofia, 14, and Erik, 12. “You might get lucky and get a cushy job, but you might not. You need high-tech skills and low-tech skills for dealing with a systemic breakdown.”

    Stocking up on food, lowering debt, building skills… These are all good things when done with the right attitude. As a matter of fact, I think that stocking up on food, living within one’s means and building skills used to be a pretty natural and common aspect of life. The present day idea of needing both high-tech and low-tech skills in order to deal the breakdown of the present manmade system is sound advice. But does it really constitute being “prepared”?

    Michael Bunker says absolutely not:

    One of the problems, though, with the preparedness folk, is that they do not see beyond the fundamental errors of the people. Whereas the ignorant folk say “I have no need of storing up any goods when there is a nice, shiny, clean store just down the road”, the preparedness folk say, “Yes, and I will go to that store and buy up enough food for X years”, as if they know that X years supply of food will be sufficient. In both cases, the people are relying on the store. The ignorant folk say, “the government will take care of me if I run out of food, water, or shelter”, and the preparedness folk say, “Well, I would rather rely on myself and chance”. By this I mean that neither desires to make a wholesale change in the very principles and worldview that inform their decisions. Neither desires TODAY to be dependent on God and His Word. Neither wants to give up modern comfort and modern security in order to throw themselves on a Holy and Righteous God. I’ve seen it for years.

    Many of you may not know that I was a preparedness teacher many years before the Y2K scare of a decade ago. In fact, I was teaching preparedness before I had even heard of Y2K. I finally gave up when I realized that people will prepare for events, and they will prepare for hardships - but only so long as their fundamental principles are not challenged. They will not accept the idea that the very fundamentals of their industrial/commercial society is Anti-christ, and mentally and spiritually crippling. They will not accept that the way they have chosen to live is why the system is evil and must eventually collapse. They will not accept that their perpetual 72 degree lives are designed to ease them into hell. They will prepare, so long as the preparations guarantee a certain standard of living, and say to them that they will not die hungry or thirsty, or from some horrendous calamity, and that some day… things will return to “normal”, which is to say that they will one day get to return to their lives of colonized leisure and comfort.

    So… we can see that some will not leave Sodom at all because they are Sodomites,and some will leave, but will turn back hoping it is not utterly destroyed.

    Preparedness for events is a recipe for eternal and spiritual failure.

    I am not saying you should not buy food from stores, especially when it is on sale and you have not yet developed a system of food production for yourself and your family. I am saying that you should not rely on a band-aid when you have a potentially fatal bullet wound. 10.07.2008 October Rants (or “Rants-fest”) Part 1 (You have to scroll down the page.)

    A great point. As a matter of fact, it is the most important point regarding “preparedness.” What is our internal state? How much do we understand of natural laws as opposed to man made rules? Understanding the differences and learning to live within the natural laws are the most profound and powerful preparedness measures we can take. Then at that point, we can meaningfully begin to prepare practically in our daily lives. The latter without the former is merely re-arranging the playing pieces on the same old game board when we should be switching to a different game board altogether. The real game board is entitled:

    Fix up your goal which should be ‘complete oneness’ with God. Rest not till the ideal is achieved. Maxim 3

    Once we are on the right game board of life, and we tailor our actions to that and set aside the unthinking, societal ways with which we have been indoctrinated, then we can say that we are on our way to becoming “prepared” for life in a dramatically changing world.

    As a matter of fact, we are slowly starting to add a new curriculum into The Lionsgate School program aptly entitled “Prepare and Pray!” I will be posting much more about this in the future.

    May we all prepare now for the real emergency in our lives - which is not economic but of the heart.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
    Leslie

    Mar
    21

    Simple Sauerkraut How To’s (with videos)

    Posted by pockets

    Until fairly recently, knowing how to ferment food was considered a time honored and critical skill in homesteads and kitchens all over the world. It was a craft that preserved food, strengthened health, gave a scope for creativity and experimentation and provided an avenue for working symbiotically with nature. More and more people these days are maintaining that the complete absence of real fermented food in our diet has undermined our health dramatically. Some even say that introducing fermented foods into your diet is the first step to take towards improved health even before taking vitamins and so on. Please find here a brief introduction to the benefits of lacto-fermented foods, a simple recipe for making sauerkraut yourself, links for more online information, links to books for really in-depth information and down at the very bottom of this post, links to videos of us making this sauerkraut ourselves.

    I think that, therefore, having some ability with the artisanal craft of fermenting food will be a critical skill in tomorrow’s kitchens as well. Here is another instance where past pathways can lead us towards a healthier future more oriented towards relationships:

    It may seem strange to us that in earlier times, people knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines. This was done through the process of lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative which inhibits putrefying bacteria… These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things, and especially numerous on the leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. Man only needs to learn the techniques for controlling and encouraging their proliferation to put them to his own use, just as he has learned to put certain yeasts to use in converting the sugars in grape juice to alcohol in wine. Nourishing Traditions, p. 81

    What are some of the advantages of fermenting basic foods?

    The ancient Greeks understood that important chemical changes took place during this type of fermentation. Their name for it was “alchemy”. Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation, but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine. Other alchemical by-products include hydrogen peroxide, a potent blood and tissue oxygenator, and small amounts of benzoic acid. Nourishing Traditions, p. 81

    What is available to us today in grocery stores?

    Unfortunately, fermented foods have largely disappeared from the Western diet, much to the detriment of our health and economy. Fermented foods are a powerful aid to digestion and a protection against disease. And because fermentation is, by nature, an artisanal process, the disappearance of fermented foods has hastened the centralization and industrialization of our food supply, to the detriment of small farms and local economies. Wild Fermentation, p. XI

    and

    Lacto-fermentation is an artisanal craft that does not lend itself to industrialization. Results are not always predictable. For this reason, when the pickling process became industrialized, many changes were made that rendered the final product more uniform and more saleable, but not necessarily more nutritious. Chief among these was the use of vinegar for the brine, resulting in a product that is more acidic and not necessarily beneficial when eaten in large quantities; and of subjecting the final product to pasteurization, thereby effectively killing all the lactic-acid-producing bacteria and robbing consumers of their beneficial effect on the digestion. Nourishing Traditions, p. 82

    This is the same industrialization process that has robbed us of real bread and many other once sustaining foods, by the way.

    Keeping in mind that kefir and yogurt are very familiar fermented dairy foods, let’s move on to consider sauerkraut as a possible new fermented food we might make in our very own kitchens.

    A partial list of lacto-fermented vegetables from around the world is sufficient to prove the universality of this practice. In Europe, the principle lacto-fermented food is sauerkraut. Described in Roman texts, it has been prized for its delicious taste as well as medicinal properties for many centuries. Nourishing Traditions, p. 81

    Sandor Katz in his Wild Fermentation - The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods has an interesting section on the history of sauerkraut through various cultures, research on sauerkraut’s anti-carcinogenic qualities, the science of the microbial process that takes cabbage from garden to immune system booster and a range of recipes and approaches for making sauerkraut. I am still at the beginning stages of exploring the artisanal craft of fermentation myself, so I have yet to fully explore Sandor’s methods and recipes. Sally Fallon’s fermentation recipes were specially chosen to be simple and her approach to sauerkraut is certainly that. Hers is the basic recipe I used in the kefir sauerkraut videos (posted below) and the one I will detail for you here.

    Simple Sauerkraut

    Ingredients

    4 cups shredded organic cabbage, loosely packed

    1 tsp. juniper berries

    1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

    1/4 tsp. mustard seeds

    2 tsp. sea salt

    2 Tbl. whey (if you don’t have whey, then add an extra 1 tsp. of sea salt)

    1 cup pure water

    Procedure

    In a large bowl, mix together the shredded cabbage with the juniper berries, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Mash or pound everything in the bowl with a wooden pounder for several minutes to release water/juice from the cabbage. Into a clean quart-sized wide mouthed mason jar, put the pounded cabbage mixture a handful at a time. Pack everything down with the pounder.

    In a glass measuring cup, mix the salt and whey into the water. Pour into the jar. Continue adding pure water to the jar until the liquid in the jar comes up to the top of the cabbage. There should be about an inch of space between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar.

    Cover the jar tightly and keep at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, depending upon the temperature of your kitchen. Transfer to your refrigerator.

    The sauerkraut can be eaten immediately but it does become more flavorful the longer it ages in the refrigerator.

    Notes

    1. No matter how little food money I may have at any given time, I only make sauerkraut with organic cabbage. If I can’t get my hands on an organic cabbage, then I just don’t make sauerkraut. As Sally Fallon explains:

    It is important to use the best quality organic vegetables, sea salt and filtered or pure water for lacto-fermentation. Lactobacilli need plenty of nutrients to do their work and if the vegetables are deficient, the process of fermentation will not proceed. Likewise if your salt or water contains impurities, the quality of the final product will be jeopardized. Nourishing Traditions, p. 82

    I figure I don’t want to be drawing more out of a chemically raised cabbage through pounding and fermentation, then would already be “available”. I don’t want to add to the chemical burden we already have to deal with from living in this world. Luckily, even organic cabbages are not all that expensive and sauerkraut does go a long way.

    2. You can make sauerkraut with just water and salt which is good. You can inoculate the brine with whey which is better. You can inoculate the brine with kefir whey which is best. It doesn’t take much whey. You could probably get enough from a container of yogurt. You can get lots of whey from making very simple cheese in a pot on top of the stove. You can get kefir whey simply by draining some kefir through butter muslin or several layers of cheese cloth and catching the whey in a bowl underneath. Kefir whey is the most biologically complex and active, followed by various other sources of whey, followed by water and salt.

    3. I use well water to make our sauerkraut and have had no problems. I would definitely not use municipal water, however, as that is guaranteed to be chemically contaminated. If you are on city water, then I would suggest buying a bottle of good quality water. I don’t think fermented fluoride and chlorine and who knows what else is what the ancients had in mind with fermentation!

    4. You don’t have to use mustard seeds, if you don’t want to or don’t have them. I use very little as my husband doesn’t like too many of them in his sauerkraut. According to Sandor Katz, you might also consider caraway seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds and keep with the juniper berries. These various seeds also help keep the cabbage crisp while it ferments (as does the salt, by the way).

    5. As you become familiar with making and eating sauerkraut, you can also experiment with adding other vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets or burdock root. Sandor notes that you can even add fruits such as apples either whole or sliced. (Wild Fermentation, p. 41)

    For more information about the benefits and how to’s of fermenting foods, look into the books at the bottom of this post and also these web sites. Wild Fermentation, Weston A. Price Foundation, Traditional Cook, Through the Cooking Glass, and read the free file on making your own lacto-fermenated veggies found on LoveLandLocal.

    A final thought -

    Making sauerkraut is another one of those accomplishments that feels great. It turns out to be fairly simple at its most basic, but gives plenty of room for growth in knowledge and play of creativity. It is another way to become more self reliant. It is another skill and taste best introduced to our children while they are young. It builds future health by leading in and out of the garden. It draws upon the past to meet a critical need in the present you almost cannot meet otherwise due to the vagaries of modern day laws and industrialization. Finding real fermented food in the stores is not easy. Sometimes you can find real sauerkraut but it is very expensive and for some reason, around here anyway, the stores are not carrying it any more. This is similar to real milk in that almost the only way you can feed your family with it is by doing it yourself.

    There is one more aspect I would like to touch upon, however. I think Americans, in this age of enforced vaccines, powerful drugs and anti-bacterial soaps, hold very deeply the idea that the invisible world is a threatening one that must be strenuously guarded against, tightly controlled and preferably stamped out altogether. As human beings are designed to live in relationship with nature, this attitude and the actions that flow from it will eventually kill us if left unchecked. We can already see evidence of this everywhere. There are many articles now about children growing up with asthma and food allergies and all sorts of things because they now live in sanitized environments which can’t develop the human immune system as it was designed to be developed. Sally Fallon noted over 10 years ago that:

    Scientists and doctors today are mystified by the proliferation of new viruses - not only the deadly AIDS virus but the whole gamut of human viruses that seem to be associated with everything from chronic fatigue to cancer to arthritis. They are equally mystified by recent increases in the incidence of intestinal parasites and pathogenic yeasts, even among those whose sanitary practices are faultless. Could it be that in abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation, and in our insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms? If so, the cure for these diseases will be found not in inoculations, drugs or antibiotics, but in a restored partnership with the many varieties of lactobacilli, our symbionts of the microscopic world. Nourishing Traditions, p. 83

    Intelligent, informed, creative relationships with the natural world around us - both visible and invisible - are an important key to human health on all planes of existence. Learning how to ferment foods is a wonderful way to change our deeply held attitudes about the invisible world of “microbes”, all the while putting healthy, flavorful, food on the table.

    Do try this simple sauerkraut. It is fun to make, pretty to look at, tasty to eat and satisfying to share with loved ones.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,

    Leslie



    Mar
    18

    “In the Sun” (with video)

    Posted by pockets

    As I posted elsewhere:

    All signs point to the fact that we have entered a dark period in terms of human liberties and how people treat each other in general. Things have to either move forward or go backward as they can never just stay the same. It certainly appears now that humanity is choosing the option of going backwards. Some of this comes from the profit-seeking force of the powers that be. Some comes from the environmental consequences of our petroleum-based system and rapacious use of resources. The finite nature of petroleum, water, top soil and other resources is catching up to us all. In many ways things look bleak for our children and grandchildren.

    However I can report that after almost three years of homesteading based on solid spiritual principles, my family and I have felt a great sense of wellbeing coming from our collective efforts at leaving behind a dying system by returning to a more natural state of being. Our work has centered on learning some of the many skills required for homesteading and discovering through experience that a personal connection to one’s food brings deep benefits. We started our first homestead by converting our small 3.7 acre property in central VA into a small dairy. After completing that, we moved to a more rural mountain community where we have worked hard to rebuild an old farmhouse with just under four acres into a homestead that suits us.

    Now finally emerging out of a rough homesteading winter, I came across some of our pictures from our old homestead and made a slideshow of homesteading pictures past and present with Joseph Arthur’s “In the Sun” providing the music. It has really given us a boost to see the best of our homesteading ventures strung together to music that means something to us.

    For anyone who is suffering from despair or depression due to the current state of our Union - and the current state of the earth for that matter - one remedy is to make some progress in freeing yourself of our dying system by taking steps towards a more sustainable system. In that spirit, then, please enjoy pictures of cows, dogs, cats, happy children and a view of the future.

    Here is the description I wrote to go with the video on You Tube:

     

    Our family’s difficult homesteading winter is summed up in Joseph Arthur’s song “In The Sun” which we discovered in late January and have listened to frequently since then.


    Lately pictures of Patrick, the first calf born on our old homestead, have been coming up on our screensaver a lot. I decided to make a slide show combining “In the Sun” with pictures of Patrick and our old homestead. Patrick was a surprise for us as no one knew that his mother, Pezra, was pregnant. One Sat. morning I went out to feed the cows hay and discovered his feet sticking out of his mother. Patrick was unique in many ways. His partial white belt (he was half Dutch Belted and half Red Angus) looked like a large “L” on one side while on the other side was a silhouette of a cat.


    Patrick was really affectionate with people. Our family really enjoyed him but with his cousin being born 3 weeks later and 3 other cows on a small lot, reality set in. He was a beef bull on a 4 acre vegetarian homestead so as much as we liked him, we had to sell him. Fortunately, the Read Angus farm family we purchased Pezra from and where she was bred wanted to buy him. We bottle fed Patrick for 3 months and they came to take him away. He ended up being more like a pet for this family who owned 20 or so other beef cows. Patrick even gave their 5 year old rides on his back. When they moved him away from the house and into a large pasture with the other cows, Patrick mooed incessantly until they relented and moved him back. He was much like Ferdinand the reluctant bull of the famous children’s story.


    However a few months later Patrick suddenly became sick and died, leaving his new family deeply saddened. I think we were all very happy to have known him. His affectionate nature left a big impression on us all as he had such a positive effect on the environments and people he came across during his short life.


    It turns out there weren’t enough pictures of Patrick to complete the slide show. However as I combed through all the pictures from our old homestead and added photos here and there, the slide show became about much more than Patrick. It became about our entire family moving from the past to the future. Viewing this slide show lifts our spirits and prepares us for the coming spring that is going to open up many new possibilities for deepening our homesteading experience.


    Other pictures in the video include the painting at the beginning entitled “Passing Clouds” by George Inness and Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari, a Raja Yogic Master, celebrating the Pongal festival in southern India. The waterfall, bamboo grove and pond are located in Maymont Park in Richmond, VA.

    The future is there waiting to be stepped into.

    All the best,

    Paul

    Mar
    16

    Thank You to a Loyal Reader

    Posted by pockets

    I have been behind on posting to the blog this past week. Every single person in the family got sick with each person getting a bit sicker than the one before. That can really add up when there are eight people involved! Even though I was the last to fall, I didn’t get too awfully sick. I threw my neck out instead and couldn’t turn my head or lift my arm for a while there. Everyone else is gradually getting better and I am a bit better now too so I will try to get back into the swing of things this week.

    One thing I want to do right away is thank our loyal readers and to thank one in particular who recently gave us a donation. There is so much new work for us to do and so much we want to share with you and others. We definitely need help and support so that we can continue investigating, experimenting, researching and sharing our discoveries as well as lend a hand in whatever way we can. So donations mean a great deal to us and the timing of this particular donation really meant something to us. So thank you, dear one.

    May we all come together to form an umbrella of protection over our precious children as we strive now to live as all will live in the future.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,

    Leslie

    Feb
    24

    Can Following Old Pathways Really Lead to a New Future?

    Posted by pockets

    Why do I love reading about “old pathways” and past ways of living? I am drawn to the descriptions of lives lived closer to each other and to the land. I am drawn to the hints of useful everyday knowledge of yore now almost entirely lost to us. I appreciate the ingenuity, the self-sufficiency, the common sense, the patience and the contentment I often find in certain kinds of readings from the past. I also just really enjoy learning about other ways of life whether that be from the past or from a radically different culture right here in the present.

    I stumbled across A Childhood Reminiscence by Anne Knight in my web travels. With just a few paragraphs and photographs, the feeling of an entirely different way of living is evoked. Imagine this as a way to tell time every evening:

    In the evenings he would drive them back to the farm to be milked. The cows plodding along at their own pace, taking their time, and pushing their horns through the hedge in our front garden and munching at the dandelions as they passed. Turning patiently into the farmyard, each one went to its own stall to be milked by hand, patiently waiting their turn.

    Imagine receiving your fresh, unprocessed milk this way:

    Each day Mr. Mansell, his flat cap at a jaunty angle, would deliver the milk. He rode on a horse and cart, a type of open cart with milk churns at the back. The horse needed no instructions, he stopped and started at all the customer’s houses and Mr. Mansell dispensed the milk from the churns. He would dip in the measure and bring it out of the milk, frothy and creamy, and pour it into the largest jug we had. Milk was rationed, but he always filled our jug and milk was one thing we were never without.

    Imagine having bread, fish, groceries and all sorts of other necessities (including “stone bottles of lemonade and dandelion & burdock”) delivered to your house. Imagine knowing the person who grows the food and delivers it to you. Imagine sharing simple vegetables with your neighbors along with seasonal chores. There are so many things to imagine.

    Nathan Griffin, author of one of my favorite homesteading books Husbandry - The Sure, Cheap Way to Plenty & Prosperity in the Country, started early in his homesteading career reading old books:

    I neglected to mention that my antiquarian-bookselling friend handled mainly religious books, but he also specialized in old agricultural books. In the year I worked for him I read, borrowed, and bought dozens of books. I learned a great deal, things which made life easier in the days before America became petroleum-based. Finding much scientific lore too, I began experimenting with low-cost ways of making a good living with less money, less labor. Little by little, our tiny farm began taking shape. p. 8

    One of the ways that I think investigating the old pathways readies us for even a startlingly new future is that it disengages us from modern, conventional mindsets. We become vividly aware that there are other ways of living and that industrialization, rampant materialism, loss of tight family and community bonds and ties with the land, pretend food, too much choice of goods and services as well as a host of other modernities represent a loss. By disengaging from the present ways of doing things, we can think in refreshing ways about how to solve our problems of life. We can rethink what our goals actually are and ply a new course towards them.

    Unhooking from present day helplessness by engaging in past modes of self-sufficiency can build the skill sets, knowledge bases, thought force, and inner qualities of intuition, confidence, courage and faith that will be absolutely critical to participating in a radically different future.

    So I would say, “Yes, following old pathways is one of the first steps we need to take towards a new future.” The old ways aren’t necessarily an end in and of themselves. However following at least some of them can be a lever that moves us towards a more natural life and a wedge that opens our mind to possibilities beyond what we see in front of us. When we habitually come from the perspective that what is preached by society at this time is not “truth” or “the only way” or even “reality”, then we will have taken a giant step towards becoming more open to the new ways Nature is already mapping out for us.

    From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,

    Leslie