What is your reason for living? Have you found your calling? Does any of it contribute to the future unfolding before us? Time is ticking away to find what your passion and purpose is. The future needs you. Will you answer the call?
I remember when I was 11 or 12, I went for a walk around my house and discovered a gorgeous little bird. Fascinated by its beauty, I wanted to find out what it was. Unbeknownst to me, the discovery of this bird was the discovery of my passion for animals which quickly evolved into an infatuation for plants.
The bird that started it all- Yellow Breasted Chat
Unfortunately, my parents were not as excited about my budding passion as I was. Years later, I began to grow any plants I could get my hands on. Many of these plants were native trees that I grew from local seed sources. My dad was not impressed that I planted them on his 11-acre property. He was much too concerned with maintaining the land precisely as his dad had done. Subsequently, my plantings were banished to the outer corners of the property. Even there, my beloved trees were not safe. For whatever reason, my dad would go around cutting my trees down and running over the smaller ones with his lawnmower. All of my hard work could be destroyed at any given time. My security was based on what mood he was in.
I did not have a lot of friends in middle or high school, so these plants were a positive outlet to learn about and hone my skills in horticulture. None of my peers were remotely interested in nature or growing plants, so I was considered the odd guy to them and my aunts and uncles.
The excitement of facilitating life
To me, these trees were so much more than random sticks in the ground. These plants were my friends, were my family, who brought me tremendous joy and satisfaction. I was there at their birth, and I nurtured them till they could survive independently. They taught me about their particular cultures and how they are all interconnected. To this day, I am still baffled by my dad’s sadistic behavior. Neither of my parents appreciated my passion for plants and did whatever they could to snuff it out. They always downplayed my interest in them and never fully embraced my love for them. In many ways, they were embarrassed by it. My mother did not cut my plants down but she certainly did not do anything to stop her husband from doing so. She grumbled when I was out planting or trying to beautify the yard. To this day I am still perplexed at how cruel they were. They certainly did their best to eradicate any joy I had in growing plants or raising animals.
Well, they failed. They failed spectacularly. They never extinguished my burning desire and appreciation for plants or animals. The way I see it is if they could not do it, I know no one else can either. Now that I have been working on myself by building my emotional intelligence and mental health, I can finally love who I am. Mind you; this process is not finished in a day, as it takes time to work through the pain and bad habits accrued over the years. I mention my experiences, not for sympathy but to show that I, too, did not have support for being myself. Tragically, countless others have gone through similar upbringings. Perhaps you have had experiences like this with your family. You are not alone, and so I want to encourage you to take the time to discover your purpose and passions—to be your authentic self.
What a critical time in history to be doing this too. As the Long Emergency begins in earnest, finding your purpose should be prioritized. Times will be tough, so uncovering the satisfaction of living out your passions and their contributions to the local community will help invigorate you. I highly recommend checking out Natalie Lue's Baggage Reclaim website and podcast.
Natalie Lue has completely changed my life for the better. By listening to her podcast and applying her lessons, I have been able to work through all sorts of negative thoughts about myself. I have discovered my people-pleasing habits and how they have consumed my life for as long as I can remember. I also learned about my inverted narcissism and how that has impacted my relationship with myself and others. Although it's not pleasant uncovering these inner problems, the happiness and relief of working through them is unbelievable. I know I have more to work through, but this is a daily process of one step at a time. When I start to slip up, I replay the appropriate podcast and get encouraged to keep at it.
My Passion and My Purpose:
I finally realized that this determination to grow plants and raise animals emanating from within was not to be ignored. Over the past several months, I have come to understand my purpose regarding the Long Emergency.
Time to get going and get growing
I believe that my purpose in life is to use my passion for plant and animal husbandry to bring them through this era of crisis. I have taught myself how to graft, save seeds, cultivate hundreds of edible plant species, grow and make my own medicine, raise my own poultry breeds, and design a holistic system connecting these elements for greater resilience.
We have been afforded the most abundant time in human history to be alive. Knowing what I know about the problems and predicaments slamming into us, my heart breaks for future generations not having today's opportunities. This is why I want to do everything I can to bring the best-domesticated varieties of plants and animals with me into the future.
Not only do I want future generations to have these life-giving assets, but these valuable plants and animals are symbiotically dependent on us as well. I believe future generations deserve the best plants and animals the industrial world has assembled; it's the least we can do. If you think about it, in perhaps only a few years, transportation may be much too expensive to ship goods across the continent, let alone the world. Having a diversity of edible plant species being propagated and disseminated throughout the local community will greatly benefit the area's inhabitants. Once again, agricultural skills are nonexistent when it comes to most people. Starting after a crisis is not the time to raise and breed new varieties of edible plants. Having these systems already in place is a top priority for anyone aware of our situation.
When we improve our resilience we improve theirs
"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds." - Thomas Jefferson
Over the years, I have been learning how to save heirloom vegetable seeds by understanding their life cycles, pollination mechanisms, and maintaining varietal diversity. Unlike annual seeds, seeds of edible tree and shrub species must be kept cool and moist over winter to keep the embryo alive. When you are off-grid, the convenience of storing these species in the refrigerator is not an option. So, I have learned how to save them naturally by adequately storing them underground using wire cages to protect them from rodents.
Bur oak acorns ready to plant
When I was younger, I never had the money to go out and buy many expensive grafted fruit trees. So instead, I learned how to look for unusual and genetically superior plants whenever I went hiking or out for a drive. Doing this, I amassed a considerable diversity of edible plants that went overlooked by most. The easiest places to discover superior plants are on the side of the road. Here you can look from the comfort of your vehicle as you drive by. Observing what is in bloom, how much fruit is on a tree, or the amount of fallen fruit/nuts literally on the road are significant indications of a plant's genetics. Parks, shopping center parking lots, hiking trails, street trees, abandoned farms, cemeteries, campgrounds, and college campuses are some other places you can discover unnoticed high-quality edible plants. From a genetics perspective, not every tree will be the complete package (disease-resistant, precocious, and large fruit). You may have to look over 1000 trees to find one that is worthy of propagation. This makes the discovery that much more precious, in my opinion.
Growing up in Maryland, where Chinese chestnuts were commonly planted on farms of yesteryear, I noticed that the leaves of this species exhibited a noticeable lime-green coloration. Even from a considerable distance, I was able to pick out Chinese chestnuts from the encroaching forest regrowth around them. Often, these random seedling trees produced huge high-quality chestnuts that I could then grow out. Unfortunately, most of these trees would've been lost to time, but their legacy could be preserved by finding them and perpetuating their genetics. On another occasion, I stumbled upon an abnormally productive honey locust tree in a school parking lot. Landscapers had planted around 20 honey locust trees to provide shade. Most were not very productive, but one tree was producing bucketfuls of pods at a young age. Collecting seeds and scion wood from trees like this greatly expands my collection and helps to preserve these fantastic specimens. All I had to do was keep an eye out for abundant species at no cost of my own.
Below are some examples of productive plants I have found on my travels. Pawpaws from along the Potomac river, Chinese chestnuts from an empty parking lot, grapes from a local reservoir, huge hickory nuts from a historic cemetery, ginkgo fruit from a park, and so much more. No matter where I find myself, I always find a way to grow as many plants I can; as shown in my previous apartment's laundry room.
In regards to animals, I really enjoy raising Black Australorp chickens. Just as I try to preserve as many useful plant species, I thought it would be nice to pick a poultry breed to conserve too. For my goals on the homestead, chickens are indeed the perfect fit. Their invaluable contributions enrich the whole system here.
Black Australorp chicks
Not only do chickens provide eggs and meat, but this wonderful bird provides full-time pest control, waste management, compost, companionship, love, entertainment, and perhaps most importantly, excellent fertilizer. Chickens truly are the workhorse of the homestead. For me, the combination of docile temperament and their stunning plumage capture my heart. The way their black feathers shimmer in the sunlight revealing emerald, sapphires, and amethysts is such a treat to watch. There are so many other valuable breeds of livestock and poultry that I hope you, too, will be inspired to preserve your favorite breeds. In a way, our work increases the chances of these breeds' survival and is an ark of hope setting sail for distant shores. We may not all make it, but the more people can participate, the higher our chances will be for success.
Not everything works out:
Black Indian runnner duck
Another breed I wanted to preserve is the gregarious black Indian runner ducks. This breed of duck is more upright than other duck breeds, enabling them to travel further distances to forage. The females even lay eggs which is a nice bonus. However, despite their hilarious dispositions, beauty, and egg production, we are discovering ducks are not a good fit for us at this site. To start, the girls have taken nine months to begin laying. To some extent, this is not a big deal, but when you are on a budget and the ducks consume a lot of feed, not getting anything in return for such a long time is not ideal for us. When researching duck breeds, I read that Indian runners are relatively quiet. Males only make soft quacking noises, but the females are insanely loud. Loud enough that the whole neighborhood can hear them. The girls quack their beaks off every day, driving my partner and me up a wall.
I do get annoyed by excessively loud farm animals for the simple reason that I do not want to draw unnecessary attention to what I am raising. Sure the chickens squawk when they lay an egg in the morning but so do other neighbors' chickens. The ducks, however, want to tell the world what's on their minds and will stop at nothing until everyone can hear. Not exactly what I am interested in.
Our hand dug well install
Since we get our water from a hand-pumped well, having to do the extra work keeping the duck pond cleaned and full year round is a lot more work than I realized. Moreover, as our two male ducks matured, they tried to mate with the chickens, so we quickly ended that nonsense to keep the hens from being harmed. The boys are now in their own pen away from the ladies. This does complicate everybody's living arrangements and adds additional work to an already busy schedule.
I really wanted to add another useful poultry breed to our system. I thought ducks would be a fun experiment to test out. This, however, has not been working for us as planned. Still, this is an excellent opportunity to show that sometimes things don't work out. That's okay, and I am thankful I had the chance to test them. We will still keep the ducks as we love them dearly, but if there is a loving home willing to take them, we will part ways so everyone is happy.
I have discovered that the chickens are just as effective at slug control as the ducks if I let them into the garden 10-15 minutes before sunset when the slugs are coming out of hiding. This allows the hens to consume a fair number of pests while not allowing them the opportunity to start scratching up the garden.
Other Potential Breeds:
Minnie calves living their best life
In the future, I would love to try raising miniature cows. Cows are my favorite animal, and I think it would be awesome to have some on the farm. I want miniature cattle because their smaller size is easier to handle, they do not eat nearly as much food, and they would be easier on our smaller-sized property without causing damage to the land. In the context of living in a de-industrialized world, I also believe raising smaller livestock breeds would be an innovative venture. For starters, smaller breeds consume a lot less food, as I mentioned earlier. This would make raising livestock much more doable for smaller homesteads. Plus, the small size would make protecting your livestock from animal and human predators much as well.
Regarding human predators, people will be much hungrier due to limited food supplies (if any). Small livestock breeds will be easier to protect from people. Here again, size matters. For the space that one cow takes up in a barn, you can fit 2-3 miniature cows. This enables you to have a reasonable breeding population that is easier to raise, feed, breed, and protect.
Protecting your property will be critical in the coming years
The age of gigantism, which usually refers to governments, corporations, and globalism, can easily apply to gigantic animals. Smaller animals typically survive extinction events; perhaps smaller livestock will be some of them with our help. This may seem far-fetched, but I also wrote about this idea in a previous post. Due to most Americans suffering from normalcy bias about food production, those who have food sources will need to defend it. It's frustrating to think that someone capable of growing some of their own food ignores this reality, but this is the world in which we live.
Despite these problems, I believe every person's responsibility is to preserve and maintain at least one positive creation from the industrial world. For me, it is beneficial plants and animals; for someone else, it could be tools, music, knowledge, or health care. Still, we should all be doing our part in continuing basic food production for ourselves and the future. At the end of the day, if all else fails, defending what you have worked hard to obtain provides purpose too.
"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius- and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." - E.F. Schumacher
I want to make myself perfectly clear. Peak oil and the de-industrialization of society are not things that could happen later. No, this is unfolding right before our eyes. What we are facing is deadly serious. This is the end of the road for our civilization, and we need to have clear minds and both feet firmly planted in reality. We do not have much time to get our acts together.
Of course, many things will be lost, but many beautiful things will be gained in this transition. The quicker we can come to terms with this, the sooner we can begin kicking ass and making our lives worth living. We have been depressed and discouraged for far too long, as we gave our lives over to machines, the government being one of them. It's time we wake up to these realities, pull our big boy and big girl pants on, and start living with conviction.
So many possibilities waiting to be discovered
We need you. The faces of the future need you. We need farmers, animal breeders, plant breeders, seed savers, blacksmiths, engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, musicians, architects, builders, stonemasons, therapists, land regenerators, salvagers, designers, artists, security enforcement, carpenters, permaculturalists, barbers, cooks, shoemakers, butchers, creators, writers, dentists, waste managers, bakers, weapons fabricators, spiritual teachers, shop owners, craftsman, competent leaders, community organizers, judges, bookkeepers, mental health counselors, soapers, chandlers, herbalists, etc. all at the local level applying appropriate technology.
All of us can play a part in building a future worth inhabiting. But first, you need to take the time to find out what makes you tick, what brings you excitement, what gives you the most purpose in life. Maybe your passion is music. Don't be dismayed; use your talents to write songs about the world we live in and what it's like living through the most tumultuous time in human history. Who knows, maybe future generations will be telling the story of our time through your words passed down in song from generation to generation. It's time we thought deeply about our actions today and the potential for far-reaching effects.
We are in this together