Friday, October 10, 2008

That Was Quick!

It’s amazing how fast the crash is proceeding day-to-day. I hope they can cobble something together so that things fall apart gradually rather than all at once. I’ve got a lot of intelligent spending to do, and it takes time! Being an economic primitive, I never believed in IRAs and all that fancy stuff. My version of wealth is seeing how thick my wad of $20 bills is. So I’m anxious to spend my wad on useful stuff while it still has some value. People who have more sophisticated investment instruments will doubtless feel the same way, as they watch the money they thought they had evaporating before their eyes.

I feel frustrated that I don’t have much time for this blog right now, because as a beekeeper, the tail-end of the honey season is a demanding time – harvesting the last of the honey crop, medicating the hives (which involves opening each hive 3 times over a 3-week interval), bottling honey every day (sales are at an unprecedented level), getting ready for the local Renaissance Faire (we’re the honey-selling gypsies), and then, in my spare time, making the plethora of last-minute improvements to my microfarm that I’ve been putting off for years. So... first thing each morning except Saturday (Farmer’s Market day), I have determined to squeeze in the time to write a few hundred words of useful information, and so far today I haven’t written anything useful!

First, a few quick words about my background: I started out as a Planetary Astronomer, specializing on weather patterns on the planet Jupiter, but I got caught up in the 60s, got fired from my astronomy job, and went “back to the land” in 1970. (This story is available at (I'm sorry, it's been years since I tried to use Blogger, and don't have time right now to learn how to add links.) (My thoughts on a land-based lifestyle, community, etc. are found at So I have 38 years of hardcore homesteading experience to offer. Also, during this time I put out a couple of magazines about sustainable living – Dry Country News and Earth Quarterly. And, I wrote about 20 articles for Organic Gardening and Mother Earth News back in the day. So, I consider myself a seasoned old warhorse of an information-monger, and I intend for this blog to be the mother of all info-dumps.

The key element to a sustainable lifestyle, in my opinion, is to actually own your domicile – your home and the land it sits on. Why pay somebody else to occupy space on this magical planet? We were born here, we evolved here, so why should we have to pay to live here? In this culture, when people say, “I own my home” they actually mean, “I own a mortgage on my home.” Only when you pay off the mortgage, and own your home free and clear, can you actually say you own your home. This is a critical distinction in a time of economic turmoil. In my case (the example I know best), my property taxes are about $200 a year and that’s the ONLY obligatory expense I have. Sure, I have to buy food, gasoline, electricity, clothing, etc. etc., but nobody is going to take my home away from me if I don’t buy these items. Since I don’t have to pay a mortgage, the government is the only agency capable of taking my land away from me, and paying my property tax every year is a small price to pay.

I don’t believe in debt. Laura and I use our credit cards as a way of ordering things online and having them shipped instantly, but we always pay our credit card bill every month. Interest is money wasted. Debt is not wealth – a fact that mainstream America has lost sight of. Stuff is more valuable than money – especially in our new era when money is in the process of losing some or all of its value. And the most important “stuff” of all is a piece of land on which you can live, grow food, and be more in tune with our planet. The poet Gary Snyder wrote an essay called “Reinhabitation” about 30 years ago, in which he said that a sustainable lifestyle is “Living on the sun and green of one spot.” This phrase always stuck with me, because it encapsulates what this way of life really involves. I’ll do a Google search and see if I can find the essay and pass on the gist of it.

By the way, I’m performing this as a public service. I enjoy writing, needless to say, and your comments feed my soul. I’m making plenty of money as a beekeeper, so I’m glad to give this information away. I hope to zero in on the important stuff.

There are a myriad of details, but the concept of owning your own domicile free and clear is key. I don’t know what mortgage holders can expect. I was talking to a friend about this yesterday, and he pointed out that during the Great Depression, laws were passed to reorganize the mortgage industry so that people wouldn’t lose their homes. No doubt the same thing will happen now. But it’s far more elegant to just own your domicile free and clear so you can be free from the mortgage industry altogether. (And be free of mortgage payments!) For people watching their investments evaporating in front of their eyes, it seems logical to turn your remaining horde (or at least part of it) into a place to live.

Speaking of which, there are two places for sale just down the road from me; both have Rio Grande frontage, which means bottomland for gardening and plenty of water. Both are wildly overpriced, as one would expect. I suspect there will be a time window in which property values will drop, but the dollar will still have value. That’s the time to strike! Send me an email at if you want more info. We are always interested in creating “intentional neighborhood” around these parts!

The day is dawning, life beckons, so until later... I hope I’ve said something useful this time!

p.s. The title for this post “That Was Quick!” also refers to the email I just received from Hannah at the blog “Safely Gathered In,” which is devoted to food storage. She wrote in response to yesterday’s “Grocery Shopping” post. What a wonderful blog they have! Each post covers a different aspect of food storage, and features dozens of color photos with helpful captions, that lead you step-by-step through whatever process they are describing. If you’re interested in food storage (and we all should be), I highly recommend their blog.


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