Monday, July 30, 2012

What I am Reading

Reimagining Church
By Frank Viola

This is a stellar book. Proper church community in my life, not the apostate spectator sport most churches are today, is what is missing.

If it isn't already in my community then we will build it.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Frog Pond

As Sam and Fang run along the edge of the pond,  frogs leap for safety into the cooling water. The small green lives are ignored by the dogs whose only interest is in their rowdy play. Eventually the dogs will find the water and return to leap on me with muddy paws.

The frogs in the water surface to glare back at the interlopers. Their small heads dot the pond in the last rays of the evening sun. Soon the pond will belong only to the vast clouds of mosquitoes, who would find any warm blooded spectator to be a Godsent boon beyond imagining.

Proper Pentas

Some of the Pentas look a little wilty but most are doing fine. The bees ignore them so far. The flowers cost little and require no work. This time of the year they fill the spaces where vegetables died. They provide us with beauty and that pays their rent.

The coons are enjoying the prickly pear we did not harvest. We took our fill and left the rest. Seed-studded crap piles can be found scattered about. The cactus and its plans for world domination are evidently served by these nocturnal beasts.

The pond can now be walked across, with the water deeper than my head only in about an eight foot gap in the center. No rain in the forecast. Still we hold on. Plenty left for our needs and the garden.

The heat now is brutal. We have about two more weeks to endure it until the summer begins to wind down. A daily swim makes it easier.

Life here is good. This place feeds the soul in ways I've never known.

It's a Boy!

Praise God! My friend Kelly and his wife delivered a healthy baby boy in the wee hours of the morning. She's been about a week overdue so we've been praying for a healthy arrival and God did not disappoint.

Kelly has been helping me finish up the workshop and we're now at a point where it is clearly a two man job. So while he takes maybe a two week break from the work, I threw a tarp up to complete this big knife order I've had pending. It's not the best solution, but we must endure. I can make this work out ok so long as we don't get a torrential rain and mighty wind.

So we're back in the knife business!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Beauty in the garden

Is there any vegetable flower more beautiful than that of the okra plant?


The workshop is getting taller. Another week or two and I hope to be done. Work mostly occurs now only on Thursday and Friday when I have the other men here to help. From here out it requires more teamwork.

God willing, these walls will stand for decades and my sons may even put this structure to good use.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Flowers for Ernie

We're having a problem here in that our honeybees don't have enough forage to eat at this part of the summer. The big blooms are mostly done and everything is sort of just simmering in the heat. There's a few things blooming here and there (mostly in my garden) but not enough to keep my bees going. They've been dipping into their honey supplies and lack the forage to resupply.

So I went to the garden center today and loaded up on flowers. I planted two big flats of something called "pentas" simply because at the store there were bees all over them going crazy. So if town bees like them then I guess my country girls will too. I also got a couple of oleander bushes (trees?) and some honeysuckle. We're going flower crazy here.

I've never had the time nor inclination for ornamentals but these are both permaculture AND forage for my bees. In a strange way, flowers will help us survive. I had never considered that before.

So we'll make the desert bloom.

(NOTE: Yes, I know I do not live in the technical desert. The geotype I live in is called "arid scrubland", not desert, but since I spend most of my days walking on sand and rocks in 100+ degree heat then it's close enough to a desert for me. About 40 miles west of me the land drops off the mesa down into the actual desert. Of an evening when the wind turns then sometimes the deep desert sands blow up and turn the sunset blood red.)

It's a visually stunning place.


Though you be apart, still does my heart cling to thee and I call you brother and sister. To this is God's purpose, that you may seek truth and spread truth, if Christ grants unto you the ability to perceive it.  I would that it be so in your life.

 Pride is the demon that haunts all of the elect, preying on us like ravenous wolves when we cease to be alert to the danger. Cleave in love that your heart may be changed by Christ, not that your heart be hardened against us.

 It is not by our hands that we our saved but by the blood of Christ and thus it is not that we should consider ourselves to be elevated. It is for His holy purpose that this is so, not ours. We are no different than the crawling mass of sinful humanity that inhabits the cities. Christ has called us out. It is not our hearts and our hands and our will that it be so.

 Our lives are hard but the labor purifies the spirit; for the desert is the forge of God where His principal work is the crafting of saints. If you wished only leisure and comfort then it would be better not to have come to the desert. One comes because one is called and drawn out as wheat is separated from tares. What will become of the tares? Do not dwell among them long lest you share their fate.

As you sojourn, remember us in the desert and your time here. When your wanderings are done, a place has been prepared for you. We are the body of Christ and in us He indwells. It is not good for the members of the body to be separated from each other. If it be God's will then I wish that we be whole again here on this earth, but if not then I know we shall be together in heaven and part of the joyous song.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Finding Me

The old Ernie used to be sort of a hippy dippy guy. If you go back about 7 years ago, when I was still a gardener in the suburbs and before I became a homesteader, I was into all sorts of nature things. I enjoyed cooking and experimenting with food. I enjoyed hunting and gathering wild plants (especially edible mushrooms). I did all sorts of fun things to involve myself with nature.

Not so much anymore. Now I'm constantly in and around nature but I seem to have lost a lot of that appreciation. Where did it go?

Undoubtedly when it comes to homesteading, my wife and I have "seen the elephant" now and there may simply be no going back. Yet I still enjoy nature. I miss it incredibly when I'm stuck in a city for a few days. I miss the desert with all of its little hazards and obstacles that must be overcome daily.

So when I meet a person who is at that stage where I was 7 years ago, thinking about homesteading, it makes me wonder where the old Ernie went and how I can get back some of that enthusiasm.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Agrarian Tips

If you don't like something and you aren't showing an aptitude for it, don't do it.

Don't try and keep bees if you don't like bees. If you hate eggs then don't bother with chickens. Don't try to force yourself into someone else's model. There are plenty of unpleasant homestead tasks that must be done. Don't add to the list. DO branch out and find those new things that you didn't know you would love.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


The workshop continues growing. We are about halfway up the walls and ready for windows now. Earthbag building is slow and labor intensive. I have brought in some help though ... A couple of men from the religious community nearby. They are making short work of this. It is a true pleasure to build and labor in their company.

I think we have probably another two weeks to go.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


There can be no truce between the creeping green. Thistles, nettles, and spiny cacti are the foe here, as equally menacing as the omnipresent heat, lack of water, and the hungry jackrabbit.

Give in for a moment and you will go hungry or be forced into labor for another man to buy your beans. Nature is relentless in reclaiming the turf you carved out for your garden and the slothful hand goes hungry.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Are You a Gilligan's Island Survivalist?

Like most people of my generation, I grew up on television. Gilligan's Island was a staple and I believe there are some important lessons to be gleaned from what would otherwise be a useless piece of pop culture.

All of the individuals who ended up on the island did not wish to end up on the island. However their arrival on the island was prefaced by their willing intent to put themselves at the mercy of a system which they knew very well could end up putting them on an island ... i.e., chartering a small ship for sightseeing which could not weather any severe weather and trusting their fate to men they (presumably) barely knew and whose competence could not be accurately assessed.

Q: What world systems are you now entrusting which may put you on an island in the future?

Upon their arrival on the island, their overriding goal was to get off of the island and return to civilization. I recall no episodes where they sat back and admired the wild beauty of the island, or praised God for the bounty of fruit and food the island produced, or for the opportunity of spirit-building labor that island existence called for (a STAPLE concept in Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson).

Q: Do you look forward to the island or bemoan the possibility of the island?

The characters were extremely worldling in nature.

You had the Howells, whose life seemed little changed by their island existence. They enjoyed leisure activities and being attended to. They expected this and always seemed to get it, despite the logical inability to draw upon their wealth from their island position.

Then you had Mary Ann, a farm girl and yeoman (yeowoman) class who presumably should have been the most at home on the island. Her character is little explored in the show except the occasional sigh or groan at the menfolk around her.

Next up is Ginger, the movie star, whose whole existence seemed to center around herself. Any episode featuring her was bound to end up with the entire cast catering to her ego in some fashion by recreating the center stage world which she had lost upon her arrival on the island. You also don't see her doing a lot of labor beyond primping.

The professor is possibly the dumbest individual on the island. He abhors labor and spends an enormous amount of his time trying to create Rube Goldberg devices out of bamboo and coconut. He is very much the worldling and is either trying to recreate the world which he has lost using the materials at hand or is trying to recapture the glory the world gave him for freeing them from the hardships of labor.

The Skipper occasionally peddles the laundry bike but you don't see him do much else beyond smacking Gilligan with his hat. I always wondered why Gilligan didn't sharpen a length of bamboo and see how far he could ram it through the Skipper's fat gut. The Skipper is a peculiar character representing entitlement. Through unknown mechanisms he has found some way to lord it over Gilligan and the others though his status as captain lies wrecked in the lagoon and his status as employer failed with Gilligan's inability to cash the checks.

And at last we come to Gilligan, the bumbling everyman. He does everyone's will and labors incessantly (if not competently). In Gilligan we see that it really is the meek who will inherit the earth for it is not called the Skipper's Island, or the Professor's Island, or even Mr. Howell's island. It is Gilligan's island and he seems the most happy there. Perhaps what we see as bumbling stupidity is only cleverly disguised sabotage!

Q: Which character represents you?

When the Minnow of our worldling industrial JIT system hits the rocks and we find ourselves on the island, how will you respond? Will you press the advantages and benefits of the island or will all your efforts be turned towards getting off the island or recreating civilization on the island?

Where do your efforts lie now?

The Steps of Man

Oh the shame at reading this from John Owens in "The Mortification of Sin":

"He doth not wait upon God, who perhaps yet hides his face, and sees the poor creatures stealing peace and running away with it, knowing that the time will come when he will deal with him again, and call him to a new reckoning; when he shall see that it is in vain to go one step where God doth not take him by the hand."

Many of my steps are not ordered by God. A stumble or misstep upon the path of God is only a small matter, but a successful step in the wrong direction is to be hated and despised.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Can't Stand It Anymore

Ok, from the blogs and forums I lurk on I'm just about to pull out my beard.

Yes, it's HOT across much of America and yes THERE'S NO POWER.

These are not blogs and forums for people who like kittens and live in city apartments. These are hardcore prepping and survival forums and blogs.

I understand if you're hot. It's hot outside. But what are you going to do? NOT GARDEN? NOT TEND YOUR LIVESTOCK? These are things you ought to be doing as a matter of your survival. Your survival is not a matter for comfort. In fact, comfort has nothing to do with it. Try and find ways to cope with the heat, from cooling down with water on you to getting up earlier and doing hard labor before it gets too hot. Take a nap during the heat of the day, or at least sit in the shade and read a book. While you're at it, you might think about your living conditions. If you live in a big metal box of a trailer house or a modern home that was designed to have gigawatts pumped in to run fans and air conditioning then it's itme to reevaluate that decision.

Next, if you're thinking you're going to die without electricity then it's CERTAINLY time to reevaluate your lifestyle. Why did you let yourself get into this situation in the first place, where your entire life is dependent upon someone else providing you some nebulous thing? Your well pump is out? You can't cook? You live in a city and it's completely dark all around you? All your frozen foods are spoiling and you won't have food?

Better take this mild rebuke from God as the merciful warning that it is. In the not-too-distant future there's going to be no electricity available. There will be no law and order beyond what communities can provide for themselves. There will be no food production beyond what families and communities need and can provide.

Your weak mentality of creature comforts and living in a perpetual 72 degrees with hot and cold running water is going to lead you to die in a ditch somewhere, and you'll most likely die very uncomfortable.

Tempus fugit. Get to work.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Government Wants You to Help Your Community

By getting on food stamps.

It seems that too many people who are eligible for food stamps decline. The government's pitch is that this hurts your communities because you could be bringing in government dollars into the stores (Walmart mostly) and having it circulate in your economy (or flowing back to Bentonville).

Apparently some of the hill folk are bitterly clinging to their pride and refusing to take handouts, even though their low income qualifies them. What could they buy in the store that they don't otherwise produce?

Food stamps are a trap. Take them and you are now the government's slave.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

All Wet

Today I got a 1/2hp electric transfer pump and hooked it up to about 300' of garden hose. One end in the pond and ran it off an inverter on my truck.

It says it pumps 1420 gallons per hour and I ran it into my garden for 2 solid hours. Yep, that's a lot of watering. That's one thorough soaking in my garden got and I'm going to try for that twice per week. Maybe then we can salvage some of these plants that have been languishing and see if we can't increase the yield a little.

We're not doing too bad in the garden this year, all things considered. I got a lot of space set up and I'm getting a lot of cantaloupe and tomatoes. There's about one plateful of okra and the cucumbers are just now starting to really pop. I have high hopes we might yet salvage the year with abundant water pumped from the pond.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Flop Eared Zucchini Burglar

I haven't eaten jackrabbit in many, many years. After tonight, I remember why.

It tastes sort of like chewing on a grilled bicycle tire. Even with salt, pepper, chili powder, and olive oil ... it still is like chewing on a well-seasoned bicycle tire.

I'm a little disturbed that I shot and killed it with birdshot and we finished eating and nobody found any pellets. Did we swallow them or did they just magically not hit the parts we ate? I'm sure through the lens of history, many hunters have swallowed some birdshot with no ill effects. But I don't really like the thought of it rolling around in my colon.

I'm always amazed at what the kids will eat though. Bake cookies with rice flour and no sugar? They love them. They taste like sawdust to the wife and I but the kids think they're in heaven. Grill a bicycle tire, er, jackrabbit and the kids think it's a wonderful dinner that just showed up out in the yard.

I guess it's the fact that their tastebuds haven't been colonized by the corporate-industrial machine for 40 years and they can still recognize real food. Now if only I could get them to like squash.

Frank's Independence Day

God clearly meant for us to live agrarian lives, based on the educations that livestock and gardens often give us.

This morning I went outside around dawn and heard a loud grunt. I turned to see 350 pounds of boar hog rushing at me. The first thought that went through my mind was, "Please, Lord, let this be Frank." Turns out it was Frank for he rushed up and started rubbing his head on my leg like a dog. Frank was very happy to see me. I bent and scratched him on his hams (which he likes) and then we went to see how Frank had gotten out of his pen.

Most pig pens I've seen are somewhat ramshackle affairs cobbled together out of available materials and mine is no exception. Frank had managed to bust loose some wire binding a hog panel to a t-post and make a hole big enough to squeeze through.

Frank had about an hour or so of freedom on this beautiful Independence Day which he spent (presumably) hunting for food, water, and lady pigs. He apparently found none of those and then sold his freedom for a bag of pork rinds. He was reestablished in his pen (now made secure) and fed and watered. He's given a few wistful looks at the outside and rattled the fence a couple of times but with his belly full he doesn't seem inclined to try it again right now. Maybe he's fooling himself that he can get loose anytime he wants.

I've got to run into town today for a replacement drill bit. All of the stores have been advertising today about Indepence Day sales, bargains, and low, low, low introductory APR on store credit cards. That's their bag of pork rinds that they're shaking in your face. Will you sell your freedom as cheaply as Frank did?

The nature of man is no better than that of Frank. Like Esau, we would sell our birthright for a bowl of cold porridge.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

All is Right

There's a gentle rain falling now. I don't remember the last time we had a gentle rain. Normally rains out here are accompanied by thunder and lightning, high winds, and occasionally hail. The sun is still shining but yet it's raining hard enough to collect off the roof. What a blessing!

The new dog (whose name is "Fang Grip Snarl") is sleeping up under the porch. A day of rest, water, and food (as well as near continual petting) has rendered him a blissful happy puppy. He explored his new home earlier and gets scolded regularly for trying to eat shoes left on the back porch.

Momma Hen has lost one of her chicks and is down to 3. Not sure what happened to it but I found it dead in the roosting area she has chosen, an apparent victim of being sat on and smothered. The rest are doing well and as the rain falls, they're all huddled underneath an oak in some sandstone rocks. I guess some losses are to be expected. She is learning how to be a mother, after all, and if I'd penned her up then she still might have inadvertently squished her baby. So the process continues.

A very restful Sabbath today. Dinner is almost finished (hamburger meat, refried beans, and about 5 pounds of cheese apparently) and smells great. A welcome break from the cantaloupe we've been eating lately. I like cantaloupe, but my garden is really overproducing them this year and we're having trouble keeping up. The pig is enjoying the excess (and chicken-pecked) melons that he gets and he looks like he's putting on some weight.

Life continues. All is right under the sky here at Possum Creek.


If I asked you to choose between a good job and a good life, which would you choose?

This question often makes people angry. Why do you think that is? Did it make you angry? Why do you think that is?