Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Early spring this year

For us at least. Because it's finally official: we're moving to North Carolina in March. Wife and I will both be apprenticing on a farm not far from the Smokies and not far from Asheville. It's very rural (over-the-air TV is nonexistent, and I hear radio is hard to grab as well), but seems to be part of a great community. I'm pumped. We'll get to learn a lot and at the same time I'll finally get to know what it's like to wake up to mountains every single day. It's going to be quite an experiment; in other words, I'll get to see if I'm crazy for wanting to do this.

So, the next six weeks should be a bit nuts here. Got an apartment full of stuff to get rid of somehow and a whole bunch of crap to do to prepare for the move. You'll know why if I don't post much. But I hope to post a lot when we do get settled on the farm (we will have Internet access there) so I can try to document our experiences.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A new day?

[Begin unpopular rant]

Yeah, call me a cynic. Or a partypooper.

I mean, he says this country has a place for nonbelievers. But I don't see it. And hey, at least call us what we are: believers in something else. Because everybody has beliefs. And everybody has faith in something or other. It doesn't have to be metaphysical.

He talks big about renewable energy and environmental responsibility. But I don't see it. What about localized systems that make sense on a local level and simpler, gentler ways of living? Can we talk about real, from-the-ground-up solutions and not repeat--ad nauseum--lofty, old-style, bureaucratically driven concepts? We're supposed to be progressive, right?

Do the words defeat and win really still mean anything? He says we will destroy them (or something like that). But who really are they, and how, exactly, will such destruction play out? I thought you said your favorite show was The Wire. I guess I foolishly thought you might agree that the world can't be so easily divided into good guys and bad guys.

And really, all those typical politicians in the cabinet? Yes, there were a few strong choices. But I kept hearing about some sort of change I could really believe in.

To be fair, he carries himself differently than most of those fed types. And he often talks a good game. And I really believe that people believe in him. All of which carries a lot of weight and potential.

Despite my cynicism, I do have a glimmer of hope for him. Just not for our broken, corrupting, federal government.

[/End unpopular rant]

Sunday, January 18, 2009


We survived the deep freeze. I think we got down to -30 one of those nights. They showed on the news that if you tossed boiling water into that air, much of it would instantly crystallize into ice particles. It was cold.

My car tolerated the awful weather until Thursday. Then it just cranked and really wanted to start. But it couldn't. No go on Friday either. I'll have to see if it'll come to life today, now that we will have "warmed" up to the teens above zero. But I'm proud it made it through a couple of subzero days.

It's sort of interesting coming out of a freeze like that here in central Wisconsin. Makes you think spring is on the way. All the sudden the 20s and 30s feel warm. You start to believe the air has that faint, sweet springtime smell. It's exciting. But we know better. January and February are typically the most brutal winter months. And March ain't much better. There is more to come. But the hint of spring is welcome.

Well, our future will be hinging on the next couple weeks. I know, things are always hinging, but now we're beginning to make plans to pack up our things and go. This will be a big change. We'll be applying for farm apprenticeships starting today. If all goes well, we could be waking up to a whole new existence in just two short months.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Break out the fleece

Chances are good that starting somewhere around midnight tonight we won't see temperatures above zero for about four days. Oh, I'm so excited. It probably means no car for me until Saturday, which, you know, has its pluses and minuses. Unless I pull the battery out. But methinks that's too much work.

Meantime, I'm getting sparse work here on the workfront. Which doesn't bode well for springtime plans. Working to correct that situation now, I hope.

Anyway, just a quick update tonight.

Friday, January 09, 2009


I think the word "gonna" has earned its spot in the dictionary. But if you go to Merriam-Webster online, it ain't in there. TFD has it (as an informal word) because TFD is a lot hipper. Gonna is used so much that it must be accepted, even by the most fascist prescriptivists. Because, who really says, "I'm going to go out tonight," or, "I'm going to beat your ass." No one who was raised or has spent significant time in America (please correct me if I'm wrong, but I haven't heard it anywhere I've been). Because if they did, they'd either be laughed at or you'd give 'em a double take, as you'd wonder if they weren't from somewhere else despite their American accent. So then, it's, "I'm gonna go out tonight," and, "I'm gonna beat your ass." Ah, doesn't that sound better? Liguistic prescription may have a couple of small merits, but come on already.

I guess I really just want to use gonna (among other words) in Scrabble, no matter the dictionary we choose to play with.

Note: "Hafta" is in the same boat.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

"So do"

So I've had a lot of time on my hands the last few days. I'm in the midst of some impromptu layoff from my editing job. We finished our first project and then--wham!--no more work for me. For the time being, they say. More work to come soon, they say. It's a bitch because I've been broke for months since I spent the spring, summer, and fall learning how to farm for no cash money. And then Christmas came. And this new job was supposed to be nonstop work until at least March or April (which would have been good timing). But all the sudden there's some sort of work stoppage for a reason I can't quite figure out. I guess that's the downfall of working freelance.

Anyway, the plan was to save up a small amount of money so that I could do a full time apprenticeship this coming growing season. Last season was part time, and though I learned a lot, I feel like I need to be at the farm all the time in order to really grasp it all. So after a few months of saving I thought I'd find a place that would offer me some sort of small stipend plus room and board so that I could at least pay those mandatory bills while apprenticing.

Though my current work has stopped, I'm not too worried about the plan. One way or another I'm going to be farming this year, even if I have to take drastic measures. Ideally we'd like to go out to western North Carolina because I'm just in love with the mountains, culture, and climate. There are a few cool apprenticeship options out there that I've found that seem to be nearly perfect. The other option is to go back to the farm I was at last year and come up with some way to make money, whether it be through procuring grants for the farm or selling excess crops at the farmers market.

These past few days have given me a chance to reflect on and research a lot of things. I really want to make the move to NC. And I really want to farm out there. I've discovered some tight communities in the mountains that really seem to know how to share and coexist without going all commune on your ass. For me, there really needs to be a happy middle. And there's a strong desire to pass along farming knowledge to a currently way-too-small generation of younger farmers. The local food movement is really thriving in the Asheville area, and many people genuinely care about the quality of their food, where it comes from, and how it is grown. Not to mention you have the best of nature and the best of city life so close together, in my opinion. The way I see it, now's the time, even if things aren't perfectly set up for us to do it. Apprenticing in the area I want to settle and farm in would be a great way to transition into a community, rather than spending another year here in Wis. and then plopping down on some land one day in the future.

But you never really know what's next. I could end up staying in Wisco for the rest of my life, which wouldn't be bad if I didn't hate the winters so burningly. I guess I could learn to cope. But it's getting close to a time in my life where I feel like I need to settle down for awhile. It's a critical time, you might say.

Well, we've got a few weeks to figure it out. We'll procrastinate, as usual.


If you can identify where the quote in this post title comes from, we might could be friends. It's from a TV show. Here's the rest of it: "Hello fellow American. This you should vote me. I leave power. Good. Thank you, thank you. If you vote me, I'm hot. What? Taxes: they'll be lower... son. The democratic vote for me is the right thing to do, Philadelphia. So do."

What do you want to listen to?

Though some might say I'm a luddite, don't believe them (well, just a little). Because I often love the Gore-invented interwebs. I also always love music, though I mostly hate MP3 iPod garbage, but you'll never see me picking up a record over a CD. Digression. Sorry. Found this cool site today that makes listening to all kinds of music really easy. When I say all kinds, I mean a crap load of songs. Not everything in the world, but plenty. Site is called JustHearIt. Seems like it's new, in beta at the moment. But according to their about section, it's all legal.

From what I can tell, the site gathers music from all over the Net, in audio and video form, lists it for you according to your search query, and lets you drag the song to a Flash player playlist in the same window.

It seems to work pretty well, but I couldn't figure out how to tell if a song was audio or video ahead of time, which was a bit annoying because almost every single one of the videos that I pulled up was from youtube and had buffering problems.

Anyway, pretty cool resource if it is indeed legal.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Plastic or plastic?

There's a lot of plastic out there. So much, in fact, that the ocean is filled with it. In the North Pacific alone there's so much plastic floating around that it continuously accumulates into a continent-sized area. It just collects in what the science folks call a gyre, which is sort of an intersection of ocean currents. Check out this astounding firsthand info from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation:
The North Pacific Gyre is roughly twice the size of the United States, occupying much of the North Pacific Ocean. We begin to see evidence that we are in the Eastern Patch 500 miles off the California coast. Others have found what is believed to be a Western Garbage Patch a few hundred miles off the coast of Japan. It's dimensions and location shift seasonally, and the density of debris varies. Our first investigation of plastic density in the North Pacific Gyre in 1999 found an average of .002g/m2, with the dry weight of plankton outweighed by plastic 6 times. In 2008 we replicated the same study and found an average of .004g/m2 plastic density, doubling in 9 years. The ratio of plastic to plankton was 46 to 1, likely a representation the spatial and temporal variability in plankton production, but alarming when considering the many filter feeding pelagic species that are impacted.

My readings tell me plastic doesn't biodegrade; it photodegrades, until it eventually "breaks down" into tiny plastic molecules, but it is unknown whether plastics can fully degrade and become bioavailable.

So plastic finds its way into the oceans from boat waste (e.g. nets), from coastal storms that sweep it into the water, and from rivers that transport the plastic hundreds and thousands of miles. Then it collects. And collects. And collects. And then some fish and birds and turtles eat it or get caught in it. And some of them die because of it. Or we end up eating some of these plastic-filled creatures. The plastic doesn't disappear, and we don't have any real idea of what the long-term effects of it are. Plastics floating around in water absorb chemicals that aren't water soluble, and when they get eaten those chemicals are attracted to fatty tissues where they bioaccumulate. Sucks for those of us at the top of the food chain. Plastic contains toxic chemicals from the start of its lifetime, and as it floats in the ocean it gets even more toxic. Yikes.

I read about the plastic-filled gyre more than a year ago in an issue of Harper's, and it startled me then. But now I'm shocked. And sad. It's another indication of us having absolutely no sense of moderation as a society. I try to avoid plastic whenever I can (which is really difficult in America), but I think we have to start really taking a stand on this one (remember the old styrofoam fight?); because, really, a good portion of this plastic garbage doesn't have to be made in the first place.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Inland Empire

I saw David Lynch's Inland Empire yesterday. Three hours of strangeness. While I was watching it the best description I could think of to relate my emotional state was that it felt like my brain was being detached from my skull.

I'm not really a Lynch fan , but his film making style is always interesting, which is why I usually catch all his stuff. And I have to say that Inland Empire was his most intriguing yet, but only for about the first 75 minutes or so. Then I started to lose interest in the web of craziness and absurdity and vague clues that might resemble some sort of meaning if you took notes and kept your laptop handy. But I was really into it for a while; it was funny (lead character asks an associate of hers if he's having a good day and he replies with a super-long weirdo response that begins with him saying something like, "The possibilities are infinite. I like dogs." I don't know if this is supposed to be funny, but I laughed pretty hard), and completely ridiculous. Lynch's camera just focuses on different, overlooked parts of lives, both internal and external. He holds the camera there, just so you don't miss it. But it requires the viewer to temporarily discard conventions of thought, which can be maddening.

I think Lynch just sees the world differently than most people, and it's watching the world through his idiosnycratic lens that makes the actual viewing worthwhile. I mean, his films almost completely defy interpretation, are sometimes excruciatingly weird, and are slow as can be, but he still manages to make movies that draw a sizable audience. He's able to take the viewer on a ride through a completely different dimension of existence, which is cool; I just wish he was a bit more concise about it all.

But, you know, people like Lynch keep our existence open to possibilities.