The Husky is sleeping on my mother Bear pelt, atop the strawbale bed, I am listening to a man from Senegal play the kora, an African harp with a floating melody that emanates from the strings lofting my consciousness above the sinking dirty snow and into springs solar swoon. A slant of eventide light graciously dapples the interior of my cabin from its west facing glass eyes, now removed of their translucent wrappings to bar the winter drafts, while nights stay above zero, as the breezes lose their harshest tongue. The pussy willows have all budded, and the coltsfoot follows in bloom on the south facing slopes. Maples show no holds in dispelling their sap, with Birch in the kicker, one could almost smell the sugar steam, streaming through the grey clouds of an idle afternoon, mingling with rain, and coming down with a sense of sweetness. Life is brighter now, until roughly eight in the eve to be fair, and with each breathe I sense the aromas of spruce, moss and dank soil effevescing volatile therapeutic incense into the air. My hands get sticky with balsam poplar, With the extra hours of light, I engage in post-sugarbush freedom rides, long dog walks with the Alaskan, garden planning, and mid day lion naps followed up with evening coffees, knowing the day is not lost to the myrk too soon. The newest member of our village, Ziggy Love was born, to mother Spirit and Papa Seven. This couple joined our tribe last summer after a happenstance meeting of synchronicity, after I saw Seven on kijiji looking for musicians. Their new home in Howard Brook is the oldest log cabin in the area, and perfectly fit for three.
I’ve eaten up all the meat, now that my passive outdoor ambient freezer is not working. Well, I don’t fully own that, the porcupine family living under my floor found my package of ground bear meat and eviscerated the entire pound, along with two pounds of perogies, they stopped short at the blueberries. Munna and I have eaten like kings and queens meanwhile when our savorings are not gleaned by some beast, I’ve sat down to great six course meals of moose roast, savory rice and spicy veg, sausages cooked in mint and maple, barley soup, salad and frozen fruit. On ‘board meeting’ nights, we collectively cook a themed meal which is eaten from a cutting board with our hands, or else sharp implements like skewers; the cheese fondue, charcuterie, shiska-bobs, falafel, raw fish sushi, and wood fired pizza have all been a great success. While equally creative and impressive country feasting is holding it’s own at the potlucks of thursday. A neighbor in the next field over from Simms Rd. made a cake, entirely out of mashed potatoes and meat, using purple carrots to make a colored ‘frosting’ which died the mashed taters an attractive shade. Too many deserts to name, melomels and maple beers, herbal gins, and spiced rums, and the spectrum of cultural foods one would have to travel for a couple days to obtain in their native terroir. We are doing well in the heathlands.
Tradition, the name bore bear the newest addition to my heim, an Agouti Alaskan husky from racing lineage, was born in northern New Brunswick near the Miramichi, Chaleur Bay region. He has spurned me on to adventure further afield, where we run paw to foot down logging roads, Appalachian trails, and glacial ravines. My food pantry now fills up with Inuk’shuk dog food, braided chew ropes, fish biscuits, and cartilagionous bones. I am proud to finally see this day, and seeing this young wolf hound grow up in my wooden abode. He is already a runner, and is doing his father ‘Coyote’ proud. Eventually he will be larger and heavier than me, and I won’t be able to keep up unless with skis underneath me and the beast pulling in front. An outing into the hemlock woods lead to patches of evergreen and snow-berry, reindeer and sphagnum moss, carpeting the cliff of Gibson falls. Churning out a gorge of epic volume, the cascade falls twice, and peters out into a lethargic babbling brooks where the hardwoods transition to fen. I filled a motorcycle satchel bag with wintergreen herb, and tramped along the edge of the tumulting water, with husky in tow. The tip off came from a neighbor with her shepherding dog who also accompanied. I would be hesitant to drive down what was deemed a ‘road’, though maybe my perspicacity for difficult auto terrain is a little more privileged here after enduring the state of roadway on the Indian subcontinent. Booking it back out of Kilmarnock and near the old railway trail south of Hartland, my lady friend showed off another hidden waterfall that is a powerhouse of raw energy which crashes down into a grotto, throwing up a mist and bathing the rock walls in perpetual moistened life. After a few turns in the cove, it piles through a culvert and into the the St. John/Woolastook, depeneding on who you talk to. Another foray to Chimney Rock, and it’s glacial remains profered an impressive sight, where the knuckles of the earth separate from a cedar tangle and meandering wet trails, to open a crack in the earth, cool, lichen covered, and deep. Inside this earth yoni is a phallic shaped tower of stone, it is a ‘chimney’ of sorts, if people still made these rising smokestacks out of the bones of mother nature.
Off the trail, I have been reaping my extra leisure time with a new course, offered gratis, by the University of Stanford. A deep dive into the concept of ‘Love’ as a force for Social Justice, from which I have gleaned some potent insights, and contemplative workpieces. While cancel culture forbids much of the free interaction of analog teaching in the hard and fast material world, I do enjoy not having to show up to an institution, and piece mealing off some satisfying study hours during a weekend for myself. It gives me something to chew on, and offers an alternative to intellectual banter amongst peers, here is something I can focus on entirely in the way that will leave lasting knowledge. Having never actually been inside the walls of a University, and only ever in College for one week of my life, I am copasetic with this style of academia.
The Yurt remains a barrenland inside, and hungers for someone to live in it, once it is finished being floored with maple, and furnished with some hygge accoutrements. It would be great for a traveler to come and stay there this summer, and if the borders open again, perhaps it could act as a magnet for those coming from away. I foresee it as a perfect wwoofer home, and potluck venue, or for holding workshops. The falls brook behind my land now gushes for the first time since I have migrated here, dividing itself once at whale rock, and then bifurcating several times more as it moves through wetland. The like named waterfall no longer trundles gently over a rock face but pours with a great roar, through the southern flanks of Skedaddle ridge range.
Eostre came with a few happy visits, painted rune eggs found their way on my altar by the village witch, I also happen to love gifts that I can eat. This spring and summer will be full of wildcrafting, apothecary production, permaculture projects, and motorcycle expeditions around the Maritimes. I want to cruise to Saguenay, and hit the Runestone in Nova Scotia, take the pass in the Cape Breton Highlands, and motor over to Newfound with a brother in the club, and finally see Gros Morne and Lanse Aux Meadows. Covid won’t be holding me back from any of this, where there are two wheels there is a way, though the black horse will need some work, and a masters hand before it is ready for the long hauls. With the right ingenuity, and some modifications to the saddle bags, I may be able to bring along the Alaskan dog for some of these trips, in the meantime I wait for the ground to dry for some five toe shoe running, and country backroaders with the Nighthawk, with 450cc of twin engine power, and the freedom found in a full tank…
With a full tank, comes the unspoken duty of riding it to empty, and seeking out all possible routes from the homestead to explore the territory. The same way a lion or a wolf will venture out from their cave or den, and voyage across the land, picking over its terrain and mapping the topography of his kingdom. With the saddlebags I gleaned from India, carefully stitched with the flag patches of far away sojourns, I buckled in my Alaskan husky Tradition into the right pouch and he had his first two wheeler experience. Now we had a biped, and a quadruped, coasting along New Brunswicks upper Acadian territory on an iron and steel animal more powerful than both of us together. The feeling is unmistakably novel and rich. The Icelanders say a horse can make a man King for a day, I would add to that a rumbling motorbike with the throttle down.
With the sapflow staunching at the spile, and the trees budding out, a transition of work comes afore me, the taps will soon be taken out, and the manipulation of my hands will turn their work to the apothecary garden, the wildwoods, and the traditional buildings on my land. I have set up a workaway profile to draw in potential prospects for a homestay at Othala. I could always rely on guesting through the workaway platform during 7 years of travel and found it enriching on many substantial levels to cohabit with people around this earth. For my readers, let it be known that the longhall is welcoming the traveler; be ye a farmer, writer, musician, yogi, healer, artist, teacher, ad infinitum, I look forward to seeing you out here.
One of the least exciting prospects of a normal workaday job, is how ordinary and flattening is the potential to make one feel. Some days it seems like my “down time” is a mad rush to get ready for the next day, forming no intermission between work and play, and with added sleep deprivation during this cycle, it can alter the mind in grim ways and start to feel taxing on the soul more than bolstering. Pondering questions rooted in the flight instinct, wanting intensely to wash the slate clean and try something elses. I admit to experiences of these wild-eyed evenings trying to return to the core, and keep my spine straight, literally and metaphorically. Though as I live in a homestead filled with material reminders of the why’s, and what for’s, in relation to to my reasonable affects in the world of service, there is recall of the prime importances, and modest luxuries, that frame my existence in the afterhours.
The solar system continues to illumine my edison lighting track, and juice my batteries, laptop and cellphone with enough power to listen to Baltic folk music as storm giants rage outside cutting the power of the on grid world. The system was primed for a long life, and imparts the hygge factor (see: Danish standard of living) when creature comforts are on short supply. Gushing fountains of water still obey the leather pumping action of a hand well, and fill carboys for me to drink and wash kitchen implements with, and is then filtered through a hand made clay vessel for some of the cleanest water attainable. Preserved in motion deep underground until needed, with no pipes to freeze in below the earth, and no plumbing more technical than a rod sealed with a leather plug and a cylinder of iron to form the vacuum to raise it against an entire atmosphere of gravity. It works every time and always impresses me how the simplest technology is often the best and most reliable we have ever engineered.
I can afford the buy the good coffee, and a malt of whiskey once in awhile, rather than living completely spartan and devoid of our necessary trappings that feed a different nourishing aspect of us. There are new books in my library, obscure foreign instruments to play, and no bills to pay next to the obligatory motorbike and car insurance. Although in one dream life, I marry a Mennonite girl and ride horse and cart everywhere, essentially cleaving away these final tethers to the thieves at large. The money tradeoff for my branded service brings home the meat and potatoes, and there are women and children in my life to eat it with. Helga, my woodstove keeps me shedding layers at night rather than putting them on, and so long as I clean out her dirty smokestack, sweep her hearth, and pilfer the ashes, she cooperates with even heat distribution and the prospects for free hot yoga! A full plate of food every night, and weekend breakfasts of pancakes and muesli porridges accentuate my gratitude with feelings of abundance. While not needing to go out and kill something three times a day when I get hungry, feels less stressful on the body and the karmic scale. A few simple crafting tools remind me that my hard work pays off in creative flow. I like and care about everything I own, while much of it has a unique story, and that feels paramount to my happiness.
Of course there is more than materializes in the eye, and my soul is also fed by simple private pleasures that were not acquired, bought, or put on the shelf to look nice. The serene quiet of living in the trees nearly buried in snow, makes for some potent sleep experiences and lucid dreaming. Animal visitors like the porcupines who have resided ‘neath my plank floor since August, or the flying squirrels, and the solitary coyotes in the lunar night. Thursdays have become potlucks, which seems fitting for a day dedicated to Thor, a god of feasts, harvest and the common people. I offer Wednesdays to Woden with a good saga, and Tuesday to Tyr for study, and self betterment, Mondays are passive, like Mani the Moon god, while Fridays are in the arms of a lover, only Freyja knows who she is. Laurdag is Saturday, the traditional washing day of the Germanic heathens. Grooming, cleansing my old Lion scent, and posting up some laundry over my hearth are the needs of the day, while the solar Sundays are active and when things get done; shoveling pathways and cascades of snow off my roof and yurt, clearing the photovoltaic panels, burying compost, and ditching the graywater, pushing dirt into a pan, hauling wood, and chopping vegetables means Othala continues to thrive. These are not the glorious things, but they do allow for glorious living to ensue.
Pileated woodpeackers have been spotted in the maples, and a cow moose with her yearlings. Chickadees are singing their spring lyrics and I wonder when the Black Bears will break their fast and hibernal stupor. This man worked up a vigor in some -8 degree balminess, and hauled sacks full of wood naked into the witch’s cabin up a flight of stairs, wearing nothing but a Russian rabbit fur hat, and Laplander sheep wool boots. It could have been the nutmeg I had for dinner the night before, or a sense of younger vitality stored in me from time of yore, whatever it was, it helped me believe the spring Goddess Eostre would bless us soon with all her concealed gifts. The last of the ashes to sweep out and the burning wicker of old man winter, the dances around the May Pole, and the equal chase of the sun to the moon. New faces join the village as of the latest journal. A woman who crafts one of a kind clothing, and a mother of three. This single mother archetype seems to run in south Knowlesville and I am grateful to hear their landing stories on how they came to be a Knowlesvillian. Meanwhile Seven and Spirit are on the cusp of growing their family clan, and another New Brunswickite waits patiently for his plot in the land trust. Our village fills with talent, and skillful service; permaculture gardeners brush up with a metalworker and master carpenters, midwives neighbor to writers, teachers and homesteaders. We have singers, songwriters, and community leaders, come from awayer’s and proud to be here’s, the old guard and the new. A successful trading post has been established and the first gathering for barter and exchange went handsomely. My nephew was born, bearing the name Grayson (‘Warrior’) to my brother (‘Bro for short) on March the 8th, and his characteristic features certainly carry the marks of the lineage.
I’m on a Slavic/Baltic/Russian folk music binge, as the sun staved Kolovrat disc flies through the sky a little higher, sun worship starts to reel the body ever outwards into the natures of these mountain siblings. We trade our seeds and adopt some more, ready to make our contribution to the lineage of vegetables and herbs, we grow that wisdom the feeds us, root, stalk, sinew, radicle, and all the fruits that are gleaned in the bliss of an idle afternoon. Spring will bring more time in the field, barefoot and base tanned, and in the highlands of these Appalachia, with the song dogs wailing lyrics on firefly nights. A new furry canine will make a new home with me in Othala. Tradition, the husky descended from Siberian sled dogs will run a new tract of Boreal woodlands and Atlantic mountains and grow up a handsome yet savage wolfdog.
A visit to Babylon yielded intriguing insights into the hyper domesticated lives carried out by urban dwellers, and the odd customs and bizarre etiquette carried out there. Six weeks had elapsed since my last excursion outside the heathlands, and into to metropolis. Feeling like a stranger in a strange land, I found a place to park, another practice rather novel and intriguing to me, it feels like a kind of game. Entering the marketplace I scanned the horizon for acquirable meats and fruits, then proceeded to glean the best cuts from a selection of hog left out in the open, and gather some fruits that were already dry by the time I got to them. I did not find their fishmonger, or their chief and saw no children. They used no scales to weigh their vegetables and instead had shiny metal tables with glowing numbers reading their weights on them. They kept all the bad food in one place at least, and I picked through a couple of these more reasonably valued goods. There were whole lanes of alcohol, and sweets, and food in cans, but not much that grew from the ground, and I pondered how it was all produced because I saw no green spaces or forests nearby. They would not accept trade for the things I wanted and many things were wrapped in plastic, including what they wore over their faces. Though one of the cities woodworkers was honorable enough to remove his covering and tell me about his business making archaic furniture like monk chairs, and wine racks for cellar dungeons, proceeding to show me advertisement of his productions. His hair was bushy and moustache wild like mine, and he seemed equally out of place in that silly place… the women seemed fit enough, but the men did not, nor did their hands look like working hands. There was all kind of plants indoors, wrapped in more plastic, and a lot of people looking lost or confused. I wondered who organized the marketplace and who they traded with.
Truly though, the contrast of modern life to one lived somewhat antiquated with a Luddite mindset makes for an interesting adventure into the city. I do not turn my wheels often, and earn my living salt within eye-gaze of my village, and thus not venturing out too far beyond the frozen fields and snow roads of south Knowlesville. Some of the prospects entertained in just a forty minute drive from my cabin porch door never ceases to captivate me. Yet not with interest or awe, but with stunning confusion, memory cues, and a modified social presence. Coming from the robustness of a place in the world like India, to settle on a backroad in rural New Brunswick indeed breaks up up any form of continuity that may have been amassed in my short saga, and I forget at times the world out there. All the roman styled straight roads and euclidean geometry, high prices and advertisements, instant food acquisition and millions of products ready to take home without any work to grow or make them oneself. I tried a digression to write the last paragraph as a visitor to this modern world, or a savage who just ended up here in the twenty first year after the century. I can securely say I own only as many plastic objects in my life to count on one hand, this is including plastic parts and implements on things like furniture, bedding, clothing, tools, books, boots, appliances, and vessels.
I am also grateful and boastful to be living with no debts, or loans to anyone, no institution, corporation or government, and to owe no one anything next to my respect, my services, and my love with those who have earned it. While I ‘post no bills’, and do any writings and research on ultra low speed internet, transmitted from wary weather driven satellite signals near my windows and no further. There is something to be said about this alone when it seems everyone who has graduated high school already has some kind of growing tumor of debt, instead of a healthy nest egg. Though I hide no golden eggs in my nest, and keep sharp axes to deter those to come and try finding one without permission, I have reason to believe that this is a mark of some modest victory and success because it keeps email trolls, tax wardens, bankers calls, and credit merchants from barking for my interest and hardly won funds. Less ghastly draws on my life force through recruitment of my attention, the better.
There is an ease of joy by keeping all systems simple and/or analog. Routine actions like making coffee, filling a kettle, getting warm from the cold, even listening to music have all taken on deeper involvements, where hand pumping water when my jugs are empty may be the work between me and a mug of herbal tea, and the heat of a radiant flame takes longer to fill the room, but also heats the bones and blood with a healing touch, not just the skin to climate controlled rooms. The beams that hold up my hall are splintered, the floor is wavy, and the roof does not shed snow. The door freezes shut with me inside, there are cold air draughts and my kitchen is made of Tamarack and Cedar, not marble and steel. I carry baskets on my back, on my waist, and in my hands to bring food to neighbors, or else forage and fish for something to put in them. Almost everything is truly biodegradable, and even if I were to migrate from this place and it was forgotten under the change of time, then rediscovered in the ground by a future residents of earth, there may be little to find because I collect nor save any junk, and find it easy enough so far to acquire only what brings joy in my life; from a hand crank juicer and coffee mill, to sheep and bear furs for bedding, a woven chair that needs patching and old leather shoes for walking on a wooden floor, that also need patching. My life comes secondhand, only new or firsthand with regard to experience, knowledge, and community solidarity. I appreciate things that need light fixing, clothes with holes, fruit with bruises, and rusty tools. I value hand forged and hand crafted implements and more things done with real hands like fresh baked rye on thursdays at the school, handmade quilts for new babes, grinding spices with a rock, and relieving myself into a dry pit covered with ash and sawdust. I honestly do not know how I could adapt convincingly to the quick and convoluted modes and methods of the modern world, it would be some cunning theater or bewildering failure.
And then there is of course, the c-word, to which my sentiments and thoughts are on par with certain mentors of mine, of which some of their missives I can get behind with gusto and conviction, to paraphrase and transmit Jack Donovan at length from his Script; “Social distancing” is a euphemistic confection that evokes both “social justice” and “social responsibility.” Perhaps it is going too far to call “social distancing” a Trojan horse for socialism…or maybe that’s exactly what it is. To explain the machinations of bloated bureaucracies, I generally tend to prefer desperation, delusion, self-interest and incompetence over conspiracy.The country issued orders mandating a soft house arrest and the closure of countless businesses, it was called “Shelter In Place” and “Safer at Home” and, weirdly, a “Pause.” I guess you could also call a prison sentence a “pause,” though it wasn’t quite that, so I’ll avoid the gratuitous hyperbole and say it was a little more like parole. On parole, you’re allowed to go to the grocery store and go to work, but there are limits and rules and the promise of freedom is dangled if you follow them. This is, certainly, what the various “phases” of reopening have been and will be like. Businesses and citizens on parole.All sorts of nauseating feel-good phrases were popularized to comfort citizens as they were being relieved of their freedoms, like “we’re all in this together,” with the implied paranthetical (whether you like it or not). Perky people — who obviously didn’t have anything at all — insisted that “we got this!” Many of these novel phrases are coping mechanisms, but by far the most insidious is “The New Normal.” So vague and flexible. It soon seemed as though at least a third of the population would accept any new intrusion, regulation or confinement as long as their influencers contentedly repeated that it was “the new normal.” The words we use tell a story about the way we perceive our world. New phrases are designed to shift thinking and realign reality. Words are power. The Bible said “In the beginning there was the word,” and Nietzsche said that masters were the givers of names. When you repeat their magic words over and over, you help them create their “new normal.”If you want to maintain control of your own mind, be wary of whose words you repeat. These little catch phrases are scripts. If you don’t want to be an actor in someone else’s play, don’t read their script. Refuse to say, “social distancing,” and “we got this,” and “we’re in this together.” Refuse to participate in the process of manufacturing consent — in creating “the new normal.”However, if you don’t use their language, understand that it will make them uncomfortable. It will make you an outsider in their Empire of Nothing. Barbarians are people who use a vulgar alien tongue that offends the sensibilities of those who have acclimated to the “new normal.”And if you refuse to accept the new normal, it will make you one of the new barbarians.“
The rules of the game of life is being gone over, but only if you were playing this old trap in the first place. The old phrase of the 60’s “get out of my movie” can apply here, as we are to choose how to draft the script, and which ones flounder or are scrapped is up to us. If you want to adapt to viruses and other associated threats, then I encourage you to become more resilient, harden your body, work outside, take risks, eat a lot of medicinal plants, build your castle and know that you are the King or Queen there, but never worry. Death eventually subdues us like a lover, but in the meantime we can live all the way alive on every other day. Don’t let yourself be willingly tricked by archetypes of deceit, and claim your future with your might, let your own health be a rebellion, and others will see that it is ok.
For the first time this season, the cesium climbs into the double digits above zero, and the maple sup starts gushing from their spiles. The Black Walnuts and Yellow Birches will flow too with medicinal saps, and sweet syrups for meats and bitter beverages. I have several birches on my land, of which some of the chosen specimens may get a tap this year. In the old days the folk of the land used steel buckets with hinged lids to collect the lifeblood of the tree, and transport it with two horsepower carts back to the sugar shack. No reverse osmosis machines, or miles of pvc and silicon piping. No plastic, diesel fuel, or power drills. Maple bottles may have been glass blown manually including the caps, and minimal impact on the forest was made. In the old old days, stainless steel was not even a thing, and the sweetwater was collected in wooden buckets made with hand forged ribs and hand split wood, then swelled to make a tight seal, ensuring not a drop of sweetness would be wasted. I have even heard of wooden troughs hanging off the trees to channel the sap back to the holding tanks or vats for the boiling off. Canoe paddles were stirred inside the vigorously boiling viscous liquid to transform the syrup once step further into its crystalized sugar form. Nowawadays, there is a huge investment, company shares, land leases, organic standards, millions of dollars in product and polished metal machinery, and the strained systems of running several sugarbushes on natures calendar which is often sporadic and spontaneous. I do hearken for those times of yore, when the men were of a different ilk, and followed suit with traditions because it made sense and generally involved the whole community without a hierarchy of profiteering. I can learn to accept that these traditions also morph and evolve and can preserve what is possible in this day and age, by carrying the appreciation for what has defined Canada in many ways. The syrup and tree sugar tradition is perhaps one of the eldest of known forest stewarding techniques known back to the indigenous peoples, the maple leaf adorns our flag, our coins, and government insignia, and the maple is equal in importance to Canada, as is the Olive to France, the Oil palm to Brazil, or the Curry tree to India. I am proud to at least carry the standard of this national love.
With the snow melting into sunken mounds, my darling and I made a venture for the ocean on the Fundy coast, and the shores of New River Beach. My last foray here had been in the high summer of ’17, when I foraged surf clams, sea buckthorn, and crow berries with two fine women and their children. We feasted on a manoomin cooked over flame with these afformentioned berries, beach hips, and seafood. This visit was made without prescribed intention but rather a spur of the moment freedom chase and the soulful connection back to unlimited coastline. As the tidal bore left a rivuleted sandy beach in her ebb. Stout winds robbed our warmth and stole the shawls off our backs, as we explored the crenulated rocky banks, and frozen features of the fir flanked forests. Bits of shamfered driftwood were collected for dog chews, and car mantle pieces and a rendezvous with a sister on the beach made for a unique village connection three hours from home. The blackened boulders contrasted with pink slabs, painting a beautiful picture of the lands edge.
It is on these fluxing seaside inlets where I feel most connected to the rest of the geographical planet. A sense of belonging pervails to these inlets, bays and tides, like Vik-ingr on their Scandinavian fjords.
Whoever wrote ‘This is the Winter of our Discontent’, must have not have had a woodstove, and access to snowshoes. For this has been a winter of abundant contentment as I pilfer into an idle hour to write another transmission on a subzero nocturnal. The revolving door that lurched us unclimactically into 2021 brought about a need for great mauna, silence, as the year prior carried the din of a loud and amplified history. With two new world viruses to protect ourselves against, giant voices in the media, and even greater trolls imposing their way into inner circles of our homes and social spheres, it seems like the average being has been on the defense against powers akin to Goliath telling them what to do, how to do it, and we are all tired of being should upon.
My plan was to lay in potentia this winter and hibernate some, I planned a more hermetic path after such a hefty filling of lifemaking in India, and the initiation of a new life in my sylvan abode. Of course, the Gods finds amusement in the fickleness of our human plans, and nothing can alter the web of Wyrd but the ladies of spirit strands themselves. Instead my winter hustle in the Appalachian woodlands has taken presidence over leisure, and ushered me into a more feral landscape for the longstanding annual tradition of maple tree tapping. Perhaps it is worth at least a mention since my new engagement entails so much of my waking attention.
From dawn to dusk, I wade through moosebrush saplings and fungal laden birch from one snow footed maple to another, in a field of crystal crusted powder. Power drill in one hand, and aluminum mallet in another. Assessing the health, and state of each tree; rock, red, sugar, gray, mountain, the species I look for bearing old holes from years past of sap providence. I have heard box elder can be tapped, black walnut and birch too, but there are not so much of these former sweetblood trees to speak of, the maples are the objective and the ‘Sine qua non’ of the Canadian winter postcard image. Though we don’t use horsepower anymore, and the procedures vary, the essence and the product remains the same. A few hundred thousand trees and some are tapped here in New Brunswick, each drop funneled through a silicon spout into flexible sky blue tubing on grade, which flow to lateral piping on contour and start their meandering way to the sugar shack. Though these shacks have had quite the renovations in their time. No moss chinked logs and cast iron woodstoves to be found, but lots of stainless steel, reverse osmosis machines, ball tanks, hoses, motors and electric panels. No wooden buckets, staghorn sumac spiles and vintage cooking pots, sigh… The hyper modern element of the job is something I may never ante up to, it just feels so industrial and can easily give the perception of being unsustainable. Maybe there is verity in that, though the high standards of today ensure that most commercial maple operations are fairly bullet proof when it comes to forest stewardship. The outfit I work for is registered bio (organic), which means only two taps are allowed per tree, with smaller girths permitting only one. The native ecology and plantlife must also remain unaltered, save for trail clearing and storm damage. The species that inhabit the crown land are left so the the forest can mimic a natural ecozone (boreal/eastern broadleaf mix) while supporting an operation. Therefore, these are typical of most maple woodlands in lower Canada, with ferns, fiddleheads, ramps, poplars, some conifers, and chaga bearing birches, though with the lowbush flora, they are now under a packed layer of the white stuff.
Seven weeks into it, and I have finally hit my stride. My muscles start to remember the movements, I have gleaned how to coast and climb on snowshoes over the topography of this rolling Appalachia, my eyes seek out the spatial patterns of each bark face as to where the most ideal place to tap a new hole will be, and my motions are smooth, most of the time unless I get caught by some infernal snow snag and faceplant into the cold ground. The varying degrees of temperature have taught me the appropriate clothing apparel to cope with the flux of wild weather, and I have learned some of the Inuit knowledge of the different kinds of snow; soft and powdery, crusted plate, ice glazed, solid and squeeky, wet and compact. I have my favorites, and they can either make or break an eight hour day on snowshoes. My sympathies go out to the narrow hoofed fauna with heavier frames than I, these are good days to be a snowshoe hare or a chipmunk. The exposure is the grace of the toil, with so much time languished in the great outdoors, an affordance of divine encounters (well, maybe not divine) but sublime experiences can lofty the soul out of its couching in the mundane. These injections of the special certainly levy the great slog and monotony that the work can sometimes be. On one occasion I found myself lost in the woods (there is a paradox for you), and followed the tracks of a Moose until reaching an evergreen treeline. Before I knew it, the great beast was afore me and he spooked back up the slope from which he inevitable had come. His tracks left cloven prints in the outlines of my snow shoes, we shared the way, and I drifted through the snow until recognizing a chaga on a broken birch which I used to orient myself in the land and find my south, which was wear I was heading, and was the the coordinates of my lunch, left behind in the skidoo. Another occasion offered a sighting of an ermine in his arctic coloration, which brough back nostalgic memories of my last meeting with this rodent on the banks of the St. Lawrence in Montreal, on a -40 degree day, as I meditated on the rapid pack ice flowing downriver. A weekend walk on the traditional rawhide snow shoes brought a few neighbors and I to a beaver pond and forest bridge, before which I was treated to the sight of newborn rabbits and their kin.
The first day of winter also marked the first day I started to learn the tagelharpa, a new instrument that has made it’s way to my hall of the woods, all the way from Turkey! The Tagelharpa is form of lyre, bowed with a horsehair string, with models found in some Viking farm remains and burial mounds. Mine is a reconstructed version made of rowan and horsehair carved with the ring of the Elder Futhark Runes and a Mjollnir hammer. I fashioned a braided horsehair rope from the extra Mongolian ropes on my yurt, to have it hang across my chest while strumming, and have been sounding the tuning, and finding the drones. Eventually I see this new tool as being an instrument in my Skaldcraft and composing music to tell story in a more fitting manner to old tales and new. It hangs proudly on my bed post, just in case I wake with a dream of tagelharp tune in my head, and need to hear the strings vibrate. A carved axe hangs on the other head post, for other purposes.
The addition of an altar table in my hall has made the space hold a new reverence, adorned with relics from the forest, pictures of my ancestors, books I have written, ivory, horn, antler and bone talismans, a seax knife and salt crystal amongst other precious sentimentals. It also holds my cultural library with books on the Viking migrations, myth, archetypes, stories, and pagan traditions, prose, and my Gild curriculum. I oft speak aloud morning heathen poetry for marking events in my life, ritual actions or ceremonies. In an example from the Sagas, when the God posts sent from a faring ship were tossed overboard, and later found on the coastline, a man would lay claim to this land in the name of his Patron God. From whence he would walk the boundaries of the land with fire brand, a torch that symbolically drew the edges of the gard from where we chose to settle his hof, or heim. This has been a gesture that has always garnered a fascination in my heart, and something I could finally partake in, as one night the mood was perfect, and my kenaz torch was light. As I walked the four corners of the land, from the road, behind the yurt, into the boreal trees, and back north to the ravine, my flame illuminated the tracks of a small mammal, perhaps fox or porcupine, and then was extinguished naturally by a snuffing powder of snow at the end of my walk, as Thor and Frigga were called in for their hospitality, and intervention.
In Knowlesville, we have not bore witness to much sun this past week, and a few of my neighbors older solar systems are suffering, while my own remains a little hesitant to give up its limited bank of power. Some 1W amber led lights in all four of my rooms are a stout back up during gray days when other outputs are too heavy a pull on the inverter and batteries. Besides this we are experience odd January temperatures above the freezing point. The Woolastook river is only frozen over in parts, and the streams of Hamilton Brook behind the land trust are slushy with ice only on its fringes. These freeze thaw cycles before late winter are doing a number on my roof, and tend to bring a few cold drops inside, unsolicited, then pooling on the floor in one of my rooms. My pantry is as full as it has ever been, and I found a source for venison, moose, and raw honey, so my larder has been fairly abundant. The return of potlucking has injected some life back into the small folk gatherings of the village. Thirteen different heartbeats frolicked in the company of this cabin place, with food to fill the belly, instruments with strings being strummed for others to sing, and the free vibrations of living the good life with others you love.
A new tradition of ‘board meetings’ has caught on between myself and someone very dear to me. Each Frigga’s day (Friday), our meal is curated over a board, and eaten with our hands, which each alternating week being focalized by one or the other of us. It began with sushi, then with charcuterie the week later, and nachos the third week, there are swimming ideas of what shall be next fridays supping, and I am the curator of that one. Another night I brought home Indian food from Woodstock from a new place in a large hotel off the trans Canada highway. A young pretty girl named Preet warmly surrended my order of palak paneer, veg briyani, and rotis, some favorite of my Indian foray in the yesteryear. Though she wore her mask, I thought I could see her smile, and felt strongly pulled to stay and talk, share a few stories over the counter, and linger for a moment. To be honest, she was the first east Indian woman I had met in New Brunswick, only having seen even a few men in the co-op. They had some posters of anti-Modi in the restaurant, and intrigued me to get some insight. Pleasant as it was to come across another woman close in age with radical views, and a strong presence. Nevertheless, our meeting was brief and only rubbed the surface of platonic icebreakers.
I’m revisiting a couple old books I wrote in my twenties, one on Norse astronomy, and a script on Scandinavian psychoactive herb lore. I am always impressed with these reflections of a younger self, the sense of accomplishment at an age when most folks my age were getting careers, starting accidental families, and killing their spirit with mind numbing passivity. Writing is always something I have had the knack for, and I think I will always write. One of the initial reasons for the impulse to settle into a more domestic routing for me is the forbearance of leisure time for writing. A personal ‘study’ has not yet been established in the homestead, though a small writing table with my wicker woven habitant chair pulled up to it by the hearthside affords me a great many hours of idle creative drafting, while the victrola stereo sends strains of sound pleasing to the ambience of the hall.
The moon is so intensely bright tonight, she keeps me awake in a lunar bath. Her halo that illumines the spruces carves their boughs into stark staves jutting into the ether of the blue gray gloom. The teins of a deer antler above my bedposts, the rime of icicles tilting off the steel pan roof, and the chiseled silhouettes of birches that seem to scrape the nightsky without their foliage on, form three levels of pointed shadows in a single gaze outwards my windowpanes from beneath the covers. While shuffling along on snowshoes near the Shiktehawk river the other day, a winter hare bumbled out from hiding into a less conspicuous blind, where I could gaze at him in full for several full minutes. Occupy simulatenously an awe of this reslient creatures grace but also of delicious Hasenpfeffer;
‘Saute shallots and garlic in skillet for about 4 minutes, until tender. Stir in wine, 1 cup of water and bouillon. Heat to boiling, then stir in jelly, peppercorns, bay leaf, and rosemary. Return rabbit and bacon to skillet.‘
The black capped chickadees are making their sonorous spring and summer calls months ahead of nature watch, and temperatures are rarely plummeting below the double negatives, methinks we will experience spring like temperatures in february. Three times now I have found myself stuck the Knowlesville field, and twice in my own driveway, these experiences would be more inconvenient if they were not part of the village initiation. How I already long for two wheeling weather, and sun strewn backroads, my heart pangs a little when I visit my workship for some frozen meat and see the Nighthawk parked beside the ash barrel and the plywood, cold in its pipes and stiff in the bones. Meanwhile the mildness of this winter is perhaps just what is needed for now, as I closely observe the quirks of the cabin for the next fimbul season, this being my first full winter in Canada for eight years.
This transmission closes the draft with an old fashioned pancake breakfast with the Guatemalans I work with, and three women from the village. The ladies danced bechata, and we griddled the pancakes on a hot pan, then broke our fast around the long table with smoky maple syrup, frozen blueberries, and the good life. Luckily one of our posse spoke far more eloquent Spanish than I, she was never my mother tongue alas, and it felt rich to experience the bumble of conversation over the meal.
A stark noreaster now brings Labradorian blizzards to snuff out the snowshoe tracks, and paint the forest white with Hagalian rune crystals. We are on the ebbing side of winter, and my soul feels sated and held aloft by the boughs of good bonds. Projecting forth my thoughts to spring days, I look forward to being shirtless on my roof, laying turf in the open air, and riding the saddle to Newfoundland on a motorcycle foray with a brother in the Old Bastards. At least that is the dream, we are in a new world of men, so I don’t even know where we are going.
The lesser ritual ov sweeping clean a hall, embedded within is thee door to thee sacred…
We all must perform this most mundane of actions. The sweep, sweep, sweeping over a wooden or tiled floor. It’s grunt work on grit levels, with high attention to detail and the demand for fine motor skills. Where lies the greater purpose of this sweeping out of the old? Hidden within and withot the action of the profane is a profound accesibility to the awesome. Owning a homestead (and a broom), has taught me the fine art of attention, ‘attoncez’, ‘attenciones’. Like the lyra bird in Aldous Huxleys island, it is the attention to attention. This common chore has become a ritual in itself for me and carries within it, the symbolic purifying of the mind. A sensational industry of the upper torso and forearms, married within the frame of meaningful self work. The sweeping itself becomes the Dao, and the Zen, but only if you are receptive to it, sensitive enough, feel it through, become the sweeper, the sweeping and the sweeped. Here’s how…
Thee mind clutters with myrk and chaos, like a film ov dust on the face ov a crystal left in thee desert. Bogged down with responsibility, and the dramatization ov thee soul, one becomes burden and unfree. There are dark corners ov the subconscious needing to be looked at and cleansed of their clutter. Sooty webs ov black, tangles ov torn hair from animals and humans, dead skin and flakes ov wood, the scum from the bottom ov the boots, and the ashes spilled from the hearth. It all amasses in pyramidal piles stashed away into the edges of the hall, the creases around the bed, the legs ov the chairs, and in the tassles ov rugs. You turn the light on it, and pick up the broom, thee same broom, yet always different, brushing against the bent corn stalk where it is stoutest, and will not brittle the edges. Commencing. In the far reaches of thee hall, in the roundhouse, or thee spare rooms, shirr, shirr, shirr…
Mind starts to experience the agitation ov the bristles, collecting smaller piles of dirt, into larger mounds, away from the hard to reach places of the consciousness and into the glow ov an amber light, gentle and accepting, the spine straight. No effort done in haste or gross expenditure, thee body becomes a super conductor of energy. Right Action, as the Buddhists would say. A lightment of soul takes over, shirr, shirr, shirr…
All rooms are opened, even too the Hallways of Always, an in-habitation ov occupation, wherein the ordinary crosses the liminal space into the extraordinary, but only if one feels it through, engages the simple, the easy, the needful work ov life. More detritus accumulates like flotsam and jetsam on the shores ov thee mind. Inside, the air starts to get a little clearer and the ambience brighter. Thee floor itself a more pleasant footfall for bare toes. Thee corn keeps a steady shurshuring across thee grains ov wood, over the cracks in the boards, under the tables and shelves, around the hall posts, directed in spiral fashioning into micro dunes ov dust and self. Spatial awareness of thee cosmic junk floating around in your subliminal thoughts are given a stout push out from thee temple of deep seated purity within.
Thee ego starts to dismantle from its bonds of identity, and the repetition ov movement whisks one into thee state of Dao, as the visualization ov so much dirt is swept off the cliff ov thee mind, leaving only empty space, from which comes the next inhale, and another sweep, another exhale, another sweep. The stress ov importance starts to dwindle and just is, only one action repeated until it is all finished. The broom becomes a special tool for transcending the chore of sweeping. The magical maiden seers ov old Scandinavia swept the ritual grounds ov litter and debris, for the enactment ov a liminal time within a space, where the traveler ov consciousness could enter. From which he/she exists in the evolving moment, and exits into the place from which they came, a more refined being, back from some subtle unknown to thee gross fields ov the identity.
On the other side ov thee wormhole is the cleaned floor, and a steady mind, cleansed of filth and noise. The smoke clears and the dust settles which is broomed into containers for their reduction. The fireplace opens, and the crud is burnt away in a flash, adding heat and light to the heart(h), or to thee forest, where organic matter is absolved by the earth. New eyes see from where the mind rests, vacuous, open, and neat. All surfaces in high definition, and the crystal ov consciousness gleaming with its new polish. Thee corn broom is set back in place, ready and waiting for its next use. One lives a little easier, barefoot with open lungs, the center ov gravity lingering in the core for some time.
Enmeshed within the simple, is the starkness of another way ov being, ready and willing…
The Guild tradition ov mapping the year in Runes is a custom that is always a great medicine when end of an old cycle comes and the crossing over of the new commences. Nearing the solstice, I start to stash it all together, taking stock of the past 13 moonths and from the magical ash where the Runic teachings were sung forth for the first time. Offerings of self to the spirit in transit are laid down as feast for the Gods. A Blot made from the well waters of Urdr and Verdandi assembles within the Lik:Taufr, the Talismanic body of each being in Midgard, and informs the Hug:Mind where the branches must be pruned or given space to grow, and those supporting life. How the Runes move through us and condensate meaning is the nature of the Great Mystery, how they change our lives of us and our kindred are the Grails, the boons of the original twenty four staves of the :FUTHARK: seep into the web of wyrd, like some colorful dye in the weave of the Norns. Each color bringing the picture of their great textile to life.
The textures on the leaves of my inner Yggdrasil are as follows:
FEHU: Treasure. Used my metaphorical gold to buy a homestead and one acre of land outright and invest in solar energy system, deepwater well, firewood, and a drakkar (my cruiser). Finished the payment plan on my Mongolian Altai yurt. Tracked cashflow out for homestead upgrades, and shared wealth through gift culture and hospitality. Donations of rupees to people and charities in India. Made my savings last while in a foreign country. Stored away valuable assets to save money in leaner times and reserved spending to essential services and items of comfort. Purchases made with reciprocation in mind.
URUZ: Endured harsh weather conditions, climbing injuries, illness and extreme endurance for road trip through India. Created strong enough boundaries to generate respect without inducing fear. Worked from a place of primal energy to garner strength for physical labors. Carried others burdens and knowing when to set them down. Approached setbacks with will to power, and confronted domesticity with wilderness conditioning.
THURISAZ: Maintained integrity against the Giant forces of government control laws. Built resilient health in response to world pandemic. Increased personal power to protect against abuse of external enforcement. Refined my inborn will for use of good and productive action vs. reaction.
ANSUZ: Told story of India saga in word and voice as a medium for relationships to form and last. Learned sparse words of Tamil and Hindu language. Earned a reputation in a foreign land. Found common ground to stand on, through deep communication with international travelers. Started a homestead journal, spoke poetry for Sunwait rituals, and Wassailing at yule tide.
RAIDO: Went a’Viking in India, for a ten thousand km. journey from the Indian ocean to the Himalayas, and the Arabian sea to the Bay of Bengal by motorcycle. Saw the palaces of Mysore and the beaches of Goa. Traveled to the international town of Auroville, and rowed on the Ganges river. Traveled by boat in Kerala, and on foot in the jungles of Tamil Nadu. Settlement in New Brunswick after seven years of nomadic travel. Road wending travels to Ontario and back again. Took my drakkar throughout the province to explore new territory, and adventured equally by foot into the Appalachian foothills.
KENAZ: Secured enough cordwood for the coldest parts of winter. Burned torch within the hall to welcome guest and wanderer. Live entirely by candle flame and oil light for two month of night. Installed a solar system to fuel my cabin with direct current electricity. Arranged a stone circle to make a Rune wheel fire pit. Keeness of knowledge gleaned of foreign cultures from the Asiatic continent, and those closer to home.
GIFU: Managed trade economy while in Auroville, and learned to barter in the marketplaces of India. Gift exchange in yule times with neighbors of my village. Learning the deeper dynamics of reciprocity and its fruition in small communities. Learned the story of Windigo spirit.
WUNJO: The pleasure pursuits of a Viking in a new land. Love of Women from around the world. The deep peace and frith of homelife, and beheld in a lovers arms. Bonds with brothers, sisters and family ties. Embraces of joy from source, the small things that matter everyday. Profound feelings of contentment in place based existence.
HAGAL: The conjuction of my nomadic existence with the settlement stage of my existence. Crossroads of synchronicities found in the seedforms of potentials made manifest.
NAUTHIZ: Witnessed the great need of others, and came to know on a more fundamental level how Need is kindled, and maintained by the autonomous choices made throughout life. Ate a lot of my own karma to experience transformation through friction. Experienced more directly what one needs to start a home of their own, and what is important to have in life for each transition of the seasons. Valued the things that matter most, minding excess in the superficial wants of the ego.
ISA: Sought out the quiet places to find sacred solitude, and the straightening principles of my own unique trajectory through life. Strengthened the central axis of the Self, to be more in line with the higher spiritual drives and virtue traditions. Felt more subtle connections with my own company during shelter in place protocols. Made comfort with my new reality of living alone in the woods. Experienced an important oneness and union with new kin around the world. Preserved my personality while in contact with the novel and foreign customs of other cultures, while branding my identity with recognition of honest refinements over a period of long maturation.
JERA: Experienced the tropical monsoon, and the dry summer of India. The autumn shift in the interior of New Brunswick, and the drought that dried the village wells. Gleaned skills on plowing terraces with two bullocks using a Yoke and blade. Sowed many indigenous Indian crops on terrace gardens, and Canadian crops on land designed with permaculture principles. Learned about how to efficiently harvest sunlight in different windows of the calendar year, where the prevailing winds come from on my acre of land, when to procure wood to season in time for winter, and an understanding of the botanical, and tree populations within the locality of my cabin. Witnessed a full solar eclipse on the summer solstice, and the yule star on winter solstice, during the conjuction of saturn and jupiter. Saw the constellations of our planet from several different lattitudes of degree both in the west and the east.
EIHWAZ: Set down much stronger roots in place based existence, and sown many new seeds for preparation of growing new branches. Held close my ancestral traditions and allowed for flexibility to incorporate new ones. Merged into a communal based lifestyle and extended the concept of my own journey to be inclusive of many. Gleaned a more subtle innerstanding of village dynamics with their offshoots of inputs and outputs.
PERTHRO: When nothing was known and the future uncertain, I learned how to bolster the mysteries with a more integrated level of trust. Making room for change without harm, and generating luck through magic and intention. Taking everything one day at a time, holding the possibility that all can alter. Allowed for the hidden signs of meaning, and nuanced information to steer me in the appropriate direction in fluctuating life seas.
ALGIZ: Survived one vehicle collision, a motorcycle crash, and a fall from a Himalayan cliff, grateful to still be here in Midgard. In the midst of a pandemic, fortified my immunity with healing herbs, and plant interventions against viruses and illness. Felt a tremendous capacity for protection of my loved kin and allies. Called to state boundaries when stepped over, lower walls when too formidable, and decide which doors to open and close to the flow of experience of a very full life. Stood guard against intrusion into privacy, material possession and personal space, while marking and upholding the gentleman couched in the savage.
SOWILO: Established a solar system to enable my modest home with four season electricity, and power security. Tracked the movements of the sun from the vantage point of my cabin and one acre land, noticing its exposure and patterns through half a year. Maintained a grip on virtue through temptation, and brightness over murkiness. Mediated some darker karma and personal traumas in spaces of healing, and experiences of renewal. Sought out the light of others through their own occult of shadows.
TIWAZ: Investigated deeper theories behind law, and authority systems to bolster myself with stronger personal will and intelligence for right action. Gleaned understandings and more integral coherence of the world schemes, and sought to dismantle any illusions about conspiracies and false news. Instigated personal order when the chaos of the world felt so close at hand, and made sacrifices for the continuance of that order.
BERKANO: Shakti, Freya, and Frigga coming in the form of friends, lovers and healers. A deep reformation of my relationship with women, those who run with the wolves, and those simply walk at home in the garden. The pull for the potential of forming family, and consciousness of the sacred feminine, womb, pregnancy, child bearing. Union with woman of different culture, sharing same spirit. Meeting the Sisters of my tribe.
EHWAZ: She-Bear ally, and potent Bear medicine. Moose traveler on roads to Home. Kingfisher in the Himalayan foothills. Elephant connection in the jungle of India. Year of the presence of the primate. The burning dead on the Varanasi ghats. Marijuana presence in all its forms, though with a more aloof relationship. The plant teachers of St. Johns Wort, Chaga, Banyan, and Bamboo.
MANNAZ: Saw and bonded with my Brothers for Yule, and Samhain, and found new male kin ties in the lands beyond the seas, those from ancestry and those of other lines of heritage. Redefined my sense of what it takes to be a Man, and being good at being a Man. Stepped into a more robust state of Manliness, and the onset of the Kingdom stage of Manhood.
LAGUZ: Explored the falls of the Himalayan footlands, and bathed in the sacred River Ganges, while her waters kept me clean from illness. Consumed the water of my own land, from deep in the earth, unfiltered, raw, and cold. Learned where the water flows and pools on my own acre parcel. Experienced how to shelter against rain in an organic homestead with elemental problems, and experienced how much water can fall in one place during the Indian monsoon season, bringing fertility for a whole yar.
INGWAZ: Cultivated terraced garden beds on contour in the Himalayans using oxen to cut furroughs. Planted chia, bottle gourds, melons, corn, beans, pumpkins, and cucumbers in hand tilled plots. Worked dry evergreen forest in Tamil country to grow salad greens, pineapples, and chikoo trees, and harvested several species of custard fruit, bamboo, papaya, banana, mangoo and indigenous wild food. Ate from the land when possible, and moved to a primarily local and Paleo ketogenic diet for most thriving health.
DAGAZ: Became highly efficient with my work days, and learned to balance industrious productive time and creative pursuits with passive, rest laden days where not much happens. Started work in a maple sugar bush, partaking in a renewed traditon of wildcrafting nourishment from the forest. Kept a journal and cabin log of the days, noticing weather, siginificant events, emotions, feelings, and encounters.
OTHALA: Found my forever Home. Stoked a deep well attachment to place based living. Upheld some of the old world traditions, both from heritage and foreign. Named a new land, and made ready for future clan.
Life on our planet is hastily evolving as we know it, life’s culture and the way we live it alive…
Monsooned inside my cabin hall, I count the drops of water gushing from my roof while the Maritimes ge plundered with 130 millimeters of rain, akin to the great deluges of summertime in India and the Asian subcontinent. Caverns underneath my floor dug by prickly porcupines swell and flood with water, and the Edison bulbs that illumine the interior of my domain can not compensate with the myrkiness of gray weather that shades me from outside. My Mongolian ger is standing in the round proudly enduring its fair share of trials, looking handsome with its new chimney hat and fireplace though still a ways from finishing. The sobering realization that I will not be making the yurt home base for the winter is satisfactory, as my cabin home has become far more hygge as cold season fortification has abetted. My neighbors Spirit & Seven offered up some plastic wrapping to cover the windows, and my north door has been cloaked over with wool to buffet any drafts entering from the north. Clever humans use the hair of these ruminants to defend themselves against the polar conditions. I also installed a damper on the chimney pipe to withhold the precious btu’s from being starkly wafted up and outside, heating the sky rather than my body and my dinner. Now that the nights are colder, my coolers function shift to being passive freezers, dropping below subzero in the night and staying in the double negatives to preserve frozen berries, fruit, fish and meat. I’ve procured a more fortified pantry with a new delivery of Grammy B’s canned preserves, moose meat, and jams, bulked up with a stocking mission in Flow-ville for coffee, alliums, strong spirits and haskap juice concentrate. Spaces in my floor where the hall staves let in a draft from beneath are stuffed with torn wool socks that traveled with me some small Himalayan village of northern India, and I have been able to rope in at least two neighbors willing to stoke my fyre when I am absent .Homesteading is about finding the low-tech systems that work for you and enhance the richness of the living experience.
Forays into the Fray
A spontaneous trip to Ontario, and two rounds of Fredericton proffered me good enough reasons to stay closer to my kinfolk in the village and invest more nesting energy into home-base. The cities have always felt too fast for my pace of life, and while my visits with kindred were enriching and satisfying to my senses, the side effects of these forays into modern territories have their gauging effect on the soul. A kindling of spirits with my Viking Brother in the Laurentian mountains and a rendezvous with my Ma in Ontario claimed all my attention for the initiation of November. We held a moot and work gathering to clear a giant tree that had fallen on an outdoor ritual space, and I enjoyed the exorbitant luxuries of a modern suburbia for a short stint, while the presidential elections showed on the tv in the background, and garnered absolutely zero of my intrigue, it’s always the same movie playing. Re-connections with were made with two sisters in Steel City, as we retreated from the mask wearing zones of downtown, to private quarters and escarpment forests to drink artisanal coffee, and read divinatory cards about plants and trees. The cruiser suffered greatly during the trip from the long stretches of high speed commute on the trans-Canada, 401 and QEW highway and will need a new flex pipe. Upon returning to New Brunswick, the manifold started to pick up a rattle that sounded like the guttural defense bellows of a prairie buffalo. Affectionately, my ride was renamed the P.T. Buffalo by a dear neighbor. My adventures away from home felt as intentionally rooting to place as they did a craving for novelty and spaciousness. Pulling onto the dirt road leading home in the dark, after 20 hours of driving was a cathartic experience of grounding and place-holding where I truly belong. I still retain a credit with the Air Canada company from the cancellation of flights during the early spring lock-down, perhaps a midwinter trip up north to the territories would be warranted when the pining for flight again rumbles within me. I have always wanted to take a working holiday and join a dog mushing team under arctic skies.
Mr. Groovy Yurts himself, Yves showed up in Florenceville one wintry morning and Kaia and I caught up with him for a Tim’s brew while we sat inside by their fake fire, and generally talked louder than the six old men combined who were huddled around four other tables. We must have seemed the odd crew. Yves is a giant of a man from Switzerland, Kaia being once an exotic dancer with the physique of a young woman and gypsy wool clothing, I in Norseman garb and a beaver trimmed hat. Caffeine was slowly introduced to the blood stream one sip at a time while we bartered stories about Mongolia, communal living, and the trucker’s life that Yves built his legacy on. We exchanged knowledge like currencies, on rocket stoves, earthbag building, and the obscure economics of a nomadic horseman on the other side of the globe. I truly believed that day that Yves was driving the fanciest truck in the entire maritime provinces. On his way to PEI to build two yurts, and hopefully not get held up on the red sand shores by the new frontier.
Beyond my humble acre and its goings on, parts of the New Brunswick are ramping up control measures for enslaving the people inside their homes, forcing indecent public protocols indiscriminately on healthy people and surveiling the private lives of well meaning communities and individuals straining to live with a semblance of normality. Other provinces are going into total lockdown for the second time, due to covid, and here in Knowlesville, the penetration of the worlds paranoia has reared its ugly head into the confines of our own village. These are words and sentiments I never though would be uttered, but it feels that everyday normalcy is more and more like a scenario from Orwell’s 1984 or the Black Mirror. When my own sisters and brothers personal lives are being invaded and vigilante civilians, forcibly telling us how to pursue our day to day existence in a fashion completely unreasonable to honor.
Luckily, I’ve saddle up with a winter hustle that will bolster me with meaningful work and a cash stream through the crossover of the year and well into the spring of the next. From my patch of the woods, commuting 500m north on Knowlesville road, I leave my p.t. Cruiser at the confluence of three roads; one leading to a hunting lodge, another culminating in a beaver dam, the third forging N. on a mud road to Skedaddle Maple, the way is made into the heart of Golden Ridge where I spend my days leveling pipes and tapping maple spouts, that will carry the sweet sap through the woods to the boiler rooms of a 200 acre sugar bush. A Bear den was found on one of the maple lines, where the papa bear had dragged a blue hose containing some of the frozen sap from last years flow into its cove. Amusing images of a suckling male Bear in hibernation emerged into my mind, and I made mental affirmations that my work matched my joy. Another afternoon brought the music of a cardinal and the presence of a downy woodpecker, while a morass of coyote, moose, deer and fox tracks pepper the woods with sloughen paw prints. The bitterness of subzero temperatures works its way into bones, but my hearth is always waiting for me at home to blaze.
It’s a Pagan Tradition
Enough time has elapsed now that the ambience at Othala has warranted a yule tree to stand erect in the cabin hall. Of course there are those who are keen to stand the timber right after Hallow’s eve, and even those country folk that keep their lights on their front forch all year long, as the lyrics of a country tune once went. For me personally, traditions are more intentional, and occupy a space beyond profane time and the everyday experience. A set and setting in which they exist in a liminality all of their own, totally in the here and now. They are not meant to be chores, or consumer fetish niceties put on for the display of the public. In my heart, they carry great symbolism, myth and a connection to something deeper in our well waters of wyrd. The yule is one of these tradition perhaps closest to my pagan heart.
Along with raising the evergreen in the hall as a symbol of the Axis Mundi, a dear neighbor of mine and I have been lighting the Sunwait candles every Thorsday, for Thorshelg. The day of the week when the craft of Dwarves, and the magical intentions of elves can make themselves felt through the people of middle earth. This involves the carving of beeswax candles, which were made by our hands using the dip method. Each stick of solidified sunshine is carved with a rune, starting with Fehu, of the elder :FUTHARK: and following with the the next five runes, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido, and Kenaz, with the final flame being lit on solstice evening, and the brands of six runes flaming brightly. Each flame is initiated with a poem, for which I am using a book of Skaldcraft by my very good ally Eirik “the Eagle” Westcoat. Potent sips of the poet’s mead are drunk with wode, and we meditate on the mystery of the Runes while the candle hood softens our gaze, and brings us to an altered state.
‘Neath the Yule tree are crafted gifts for young and elder, neighbors and allies, even the domestic wolves have a share. Some new, others vintage, things you can eat and precious objects exchanged for our local currency, and all suited for each gift taker. There are medicines, baskets, books, potent brews, and calming lights, things that smell good to the senses, and sound well to the ears. On the boughs are runic talismans, salt dough ornaments, a giant egg, and fishing lures, hung with strings of rowan berries studded with dried orange rings and heirloom treasures. A small fawn skull takes the center of the trunk and a large moose up at the base. The roots are submerged in water in a bucket and wrapped with burlap and covered in wool, looking very much snow laden and thulean. I keep a torch burning when neighbors visit, or at least a candle on the altar to hold the space, and the fire stokes its eternal nature, being quickend the morning after its growling slow burn, not going out.
This winter, I intend to carve a runestone on a slab of slate, of my settlement here in Vinland to honor the lineage that came before me, over a millennia ago. It feels fitting that after a long seven year voyage overseas, mingling in exotic markets of foreign lands and obscure tongues, and following roughly the same course of Viking farers in bygone times across the Nordic hemisphere that I would finally make it back home to east coast Atlantia. Where Leif Eriksson and Gudrid the Far Traveler stepped off their ships in the new world, a long saga ago.
A wall of dripping icicles hangs perilously over the edge of my roof, as village children come by to pilfer them for sword fights, and chew sticks. Fauna leave their tracks strewn about the forest floor, while some continue to encamp beneath my own. Power dwindles in the sun, but I make up for it with personal power, and fully charged batteries. I’m drinking dark brews of herbal liquer, root powders, tropical charred beans, and fungal concoctions, while I take time off to write longhand letters for loved ones, and go to sleep early. My bed is my favorite place to be right now, under pelts of Black Bear, Coyote, and Arctic Fox. My heart is full here in the Appalachian foothills, and as I reflect on years of travel, their nourishment, and guidance to my spirit, there is a need to preserve these memories into a photographic collection, and to share thee stories of oulde with my kindred into the present and future. Perhaps by the next installment of the homestead journal this will become actualized.
Until then, we all go Wassailing, as Baldr is reborn in the light of Midgard!
Karma. It all comes around, in and through the body and out into the territory of the soul stuff. It’s like a realm that one builds subconsciously through reputation and repetition of a patterned existence wherein we move from the mundane and instantaneous action and response into mythical time. The space where intentions and services sown now are then repercussed, meted, and dished out in a time of unknown forthcoming. What the Norse called ‘that which should be’, a sort of implicated future woven by one of the Norns, Skuld, but never explicit in detail.
A good deal of this karma has been served to me in the form handouts and budding opportunities for making my name worth something. As I have put a few new growth rings on this body over my adult life, I am partaking in a personalized process of maturation, and entering a new clave of self-conviction. What I believe today is more refined, particular, and invested than what I believed in last year, pre-homestead, and this continues to flux. Becoming the steward of a land base, a home owner, and an active member of an intricate community, while maintaining a sustainable relationship with myself has unpacked a whole new can of worms, and there is no ‘easy from now on’ sentiment adoptions, but instead its like playing a game where the rules are changed a quarter of the way through. Here I am, walking quietly, tracking my own footprints and marking my impact on the surfaces of others, while a new territory of community and communal life is explored.
October in the countryside of the maritimes is a period of hustling to tie up loose knots, finish projects and preparing to cocoon and turn inward. The constrictions of weather faring productive times, and the very real need to stock up your winter pantry is not without a strained inhale, and stiffening of muscles. The nor’easter winds and souther’ storms blow through your land, and remind you that you live in a rustic homestead with kinks and fickle problems, just like any real relationship has. This translates into sometimes serious issues like leaky roofs, chimneys blowing off, a rush to skirt the edges of your abode with new straw bales to cut the draft, and stockpiling enough dry kindling to cut the cold in the mornings of heavy frost. I’ve put the first maple logs through the hearth that have allowed me to be sufficiently comfortable enough to bask by its radiant heat while my eyes are open. Overnighting is a different story, and it is a sign that I may almost certainly need to bulk up the insulating and warming qualities of my cabin, whether that looks like gaining more thermal mass in the empty spaces, recaulking my double paned storm windows and draping them in heavy cloth, or simply wearing more layers indoors.
On a walk at Tomlinson Lake, I was greeted by four Palomino horses in a farmer’s field, who took a great liking to me and tracked me for nearly a kilometer through tall grasses. Their manes matted with the burdock thistles, but seemingly unperturbed. In the forest, a man from the Indian reserve was pounding black ash to make basket lashings for weaving, while a local carpenter, the same who brought the tamarack beams to my land was shingling a pioneer style cabin and filling the seams with moss. This was a day of memories with high resolution for the details, the sights of fallow swampland, historic forests, and the mantle of the earth, coupled with the cool scent of vegetation and the rarified air of moisture laden breezes. With a neighbor, we followed the path the American slaves walked for Freedom into Canada, not long ago.
A new porcupine has been dwelling under my floor, and one night on my front porch I caught him squeezing his way out of the hole under the cabin without ever seeing me standing there. An almost constant trilling sound can be faintly heard when he is around, like a wooden wheel with a squeeky axle. The sound blends with the ambience of the cabin, with the wooshing of the draught from the open woodstove, the rustling of the straw in my bed as I change position while falling asleep, a murmur of the wind and the tightening and loosening of the wood all around me as the cabin groans, swells and constricts with temperature. Not all my animal encounters were with live ones however. I buried a small gray bird in my garden and gave spontaneous roadside funerals to several less fortunate creatures, always placing the Jera runes on top of the body to reform and return to earth. On passing through Coldstream in Bubartown, to have my winter tires put on, a man wearing hunters camo and his female partner donning the hunters orange wheeled up in a country pickup with a doe in the back, fresh out of the bush, they had just killed it. Venison anyone?
The old piano that use to hold space on my eastern wall is now gutted and being used as a pantry with modified shelving. I pried the teak keys out from the featherboard, and saved them for winter kindling, I am curious which will burn hotter, the black or the white. No one will ever hear the songs from that piano again, but at least it has found new life in holding preserves, and my larder is starting to fill up. A wooden potato barrels holds a collection of winter squash, and burlap sacks filled with potatoes, beets, carrots and hardy kales. On the floor next to the piano pedals are sacks of pancake flour, brown rice and turtle beans, spelt and more potatoes. I won’t be famished here, no siree. The shelves are lodged with enough mason jars of nuts to make a winter squirrel jealous, along with indian curry pastes, porridge fillings, loose leaf herbs and teas gleaned from my herbalist neighbor, popcorn, apple rings that I dried on a piece of copper wire over my woodstove, and 44lbs of peanut butter… don’t ask. On another shelf in an old woven picnic basket is chickpea flour, sunflower seeds and black walnuts. I would say gesture it be the scent of the juglones in the nuts to keep the mice away, or my non-violent interaction with them in the past, but I have not seen one for the better part of a month while all my neighbors are at war with them.
As a community, we have been entertaining the idea of an emergency food larder in case of another lockdown. As a collective of twenty, rice and beans and chickpeas were ordered from the Speerville mill, and will be stored in a basement for safe keeping until January, when we may open the containers and weigh out portions if needed. I think the idea is brilliant and further evolves the sustainability side of a community. Grocery stores are a post war invention, and traditional communities including hunter gatherer peoples had stockpiles of food rations for unexpected times, you never know what you might get.
Though I do not own a freezer, the nights are consistently below freezing now, and the snow giants have shaken the snows of their skis already upon us. The uninsulated workshop will be a prime walk in freezer for any meats I may acquire, though at this point I have only stocked various wild fats for leaner times; wild boar fat, bison tallow and camel hump fat, raw butter, coconut oil and hemp seed oil. None of it need be refrigerated, the beauty of most preserved fats. Now, I’m bringing in raw milk once a week and fresh goat cheese made by a couple who also keep alpacas, and a good bond has been kindled with them.
The big episode on the land since my last transmission has been the raising of this great Mongolian yurt. What was two years dreaming up, sourcing, visiting, scraping for, and finally purchasing lead organically into hauling it all the way from Groovy Yurts in Ontario, to my hallowed hamlet in Knowlesville. The Tamaracks that I so love to see lining the country roads, as they hold on dearly to their golden needles form the structure of the platform, while straw bales insulate the spaces in between parallel runners. Silver birch plywood elevates the yurt off the ground, which is stocked together with fireplace flashing. In two afternoons, the ger was raised, insulated, and given its skirting and clear vinyl roof. The first of said working bees was all woman power, as two lady friends came to help set the wall lattices, which are hand split, carved and tied together with camel rawhide. As a trio, we inserted the heavy wooden painted door into the round, and raised the bhagans (pillars) and the toono (central wheel), from earth to sky. This represents the male aspect binding with the female within the yurt circle. The hun (spokes) were set into the toono afterwards which are a base color of sky blue, and painted with symbols and Mongoloid motifs of the Altai mountains, the steppe, tundra winds, and the sea. In this modern age I can watch videos of the actual family that painted my yurt by accessing the internet and searching the right words. This culminated day one and the ger stood naked overnight, but there was no rain, or by the Gods, snow forecasted. The second day, Liam and J.L. opted to play, and we clothed the yurt with the cotton liner, yak wool felt, house wrap, and canvas, then I flew solo for the evening and attached the roof flap with its decorative ‘eternal knot’ design, the braided horsehair ropes around the yurt to tie it together, the clear vinyl urgh (skylight) andthe hiafsch, which is a kind of geometric patterned skirt that prevents goats and sheep from pissing on the yurt. Dirt can be piled up against it for more insulation and cutting draughts from entering the yurt from below. A few days later I added a small curved awning over the door, the stove pipe, and spruce boughs below the edge of the platform and carved a moat surrounding the yurt to channel water away from seeping into the strawbales and swale it towards the apple orchard. A bay window is fitted into one of the wall sections on the south cardinal point for added light and an alternate passage in and out of the yurt. Now I have taken to sourcing woolen rugs for the floor, and hope to make a night in the round before yule time.
This hall has held more company in the last fortnight as well, as neighbors have come to see the progress, and have a snoop around, now there is another dwelling to show on the tour. On Woden’s nights, I meet with a dear friend for dinner and storytelling. We are reading the saga of Gudrid the far-traveler, an epic about an Icelandic woman that sailed to Canada in the year 1000, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a brilliant book about the life of a seagull with some spiritual undertones and rich black and white photography. The vintage cast iron pots are getting much use, and I favor the cook once, eat thrice kind of meals; heavy root veg stews, pig roasts, and I make a mean seafood chowder. I ponder at how many generational meals were cooked in those vessels before I started using them. My favorite so far has been the moose liver and onions roasted with walnuts and cranberries, though my neighbor takes the credit for this feast.
I finally did the reasonable thing and inclined the solar panels on an angle more in facing of the sun. All for want of three feet of cable to extend the reach of the panels. Anchored to the metal roof in four places, and installed with a fair bit of gusto if I might add. The 24v system reads 25v on a gray day and I have seen it peak at over 28v, so the juices are flowing in good order on this one. I should have no problem with it for the winter even during a whiteout, and my long telescopic shovel should reach the panels just fine to cleave off the snow.
One final joy ride on my motorhorse took me off into the farmlands of skedaddle ridge, where I saw a red fox in broad daylight stalking a horse, she didn’t stand a chance, and took off running upfield when she saw me. I find myself arrested by these animal encounters that take me off guard, catch my breath and out of profane time. Today is Midvinterblot, or Samhain in our pagan community, and a shrine in the common field is laid out with pictures of those who could go no further, and talismans of the ancestors. The fires must be lit now, to stave off the dark and the cold, winter is coming and the ISA runes have already carved into the land with piercing force. I look forward to these sub polar nights with the booming of ice on frozen lakes, and the crunch of snowshoes over crusty snow. The heart beats slower and is more insulated. We take a deep inhalation in as the Wolf chases down the sun.
The nights have been warmed by a woman next to me, but she didn’t stay around long enough to even see the plants wither or the frost runes form on the windowpanes… then again, not many would choose this life, and I continue to wait patiently for the bonny lass that will stand by me until it’s all over. Hopefully by that time, a small clan carrying our genetics will inherit the place, and there will be several other heartbeats living in and outside of the homestead. At least that is the dream, but to be honest, the reality is pretty damn fine too.
The home that shelters me feels more alive than when I moved in. Not only because my neighbors inform me so, but because there is a different sensitivity, capacity, and essence about the place inside these protective walls. My own Walden cabin of spartan humbleness and experimentation. I am starting to work out some of the kinks that hindered a comfortable settlement like the leaky roof, gray water system, fuel and battery security, and nighttime lighting. What this looks like may be a tad less pre-meditated and robust than you think, but running a smooth operation at home relies on your systems and how they work and serve for you. The kindred of Knowlesville expands to absolve me in its bubble, and I have intentionally mingled with the same twenty or so folks on a staggered basis as we passed the equinox on a neighbors porch, doing sun salutations for the fireball in the sky to rise and bring us into balance.
On a visit to the Faroe Islands and Iceland in 2016, I fell in love with the colors of the homesteads of the countryside. Matte black walls accented by deep red doors, white sills and live grass roofs. The blackened wood created a striking depth and vividness to the simplicity of the structure, the blood red color of the doors symbolized the life inside, the white frames were fresh highlights of the ice and snow that fell in the high lattitude lands, and the lushness of the green sod roof meant insulation in the harshest winter and coolness in the summer. A house that also grows grass, herbs and flowers on its roof is a living house, and I have even seen other graise their goats on them. I knew I wanted to live in a house like this, and have helped build one in Norwegian farm on another occasion. The staining job on my cabin is now finished, and I have been able to bring some of that Scandinavia spirit to my land. The Vinland flag also flies proudly from a birch pole and rock horgh.
We held a permaculture blitz and intimate music gathering hosted by one of my neighbors on his land trust plot. Interesting installments like a regenerative dance floor catered towards sustainability in an otherwise highly consumerist and destructive approach to transformational festivals. Folks were asked to brings their own bowls and spoons, and all the camp water was pumped by a solar panel to fill jugs. As bodies danced on the live earth, the lasagna type layering of alder coppiced poles over marsh, decked in straw, and broadcasted with seeds of herbs and wildflowers contributed to a pad of soil building organic materials that gradually broke down and decayed into finer and finer pieces. Over the course of a festival, people were literally creating a grass roots movement, and transforming an ecology in a permaculture way that involved specifically the culture aspect. I volunteered some of my time to build a robust earthen wood bridge that forded a small brook, which replaced one that was all but rotting through and perhaps a hazard for the festival attendants who could be walking back to camp in an altered state of consciousness. A man name Ben became a quickened friend who was an intern at another permaculture farm in Ontario. We drove the countryside down Ketchum ridge road, and stopped to watch uniquely patterned cattle chew their cud, and watch us with interest. It felt good to be there, doing nothing, just staring into all those sensitive eyes of the cows, thinking of how they are revered and omnipotent in India. Alex and I held court in his kitchen for many fond hours of story trading, downloading mindful information, and making vision plans for next years shindig. Mandala took the party through her sound tunnels of dark beats and electro waves to commence the night set. And despite the mist and rain of the weekend, everyone seemed rather satisfied to be gathered together, as relationships kindled from source around the fire barrels.
In the homestead, there is no longer any rainy days indoors when father sky pours down his liquid clear medicine on mother earth. During the first moon of being here, if it rained outside for one day, it rained inside for two. My walk for water affair is usually on a three day circuit, but with two extra car-buoys donated from Jem and Aeron, my cup is full for nine before I need to tap the well again. The water from the well on this one acre runs slightly mushroom color, and has a rocky, steely taste from the dust that fell in the casing during the drilling process. My hand pump came from Ontario, a black cast iron treasure that adds more beauty and function to the land. Sadly it cracked on first use, and after several calls to the manufacturer and the hardware store, it was resolved that I had a bad cast on one part and a new piece would be ordered in soon which I could replace at my own leisure. I now have that essential part and fitted it with a piece rubber, used to open rusted and wet mason jars, which is now providing a gasket for the pump cylinder. It still didn’t cut the ire and annoyance of having a piece of technology that is supposed to perform one action fail on its first use, but it does lend to the ingenuity one can develop with little resources on a leaner budget outside of cities that have everything. The pump has a long draw, but the water has traces of iron, and it may be several uses before the clarity of its healing medicine is fully transparent and tasteless, though I am cooking with it. Beside this new permanent fixture are two more cords of maple, which I spent a morning and afternoon piling and laying with evergreen boughs to shed rain. The straw bale yurt floor is also nearing satisfactory completion. Problem solving a natural daily part of homesteading, learning how to mend, fix, and fare with less, and simply being patient with all the processes. There is value in the fundamentals that are hard won, and robustly rewarding. Wood and water under ten steps from my south porch makes me feel like a rich man.
Animal medicine comes to us when we need to receive a potent teaching or derive a lesson from its presence. Bear has come six times in the last two weeks days. The first time when my motorcycle copped out half a km from home, the second on a mushroom foraging walk in the pine barrens that flank the south forests of the cabin, the third in the land trust, where my neighbors dog treed an adolescent cub in the woods while we cut alder poles for her goat fence, the fourth on a ride in north Knowlesville and a fifth time at the end of my driveway at night. Bear comes with messages to take courage for hard times, for lean times, for winter times. Bear is brother and walks like man on all fours. Bear is elusive and makes himself known when it is important to be seen. She-Bear reminds us to protect what is soft and fragile. The She Bear protects her cubs for six months in a cold dark place without eating, staving off boars, frost and hunger and lowering it’s heart rate to two beats per minute. I must condition myself for winter, fatten up both literally and spiritually become resilient enough for the mental challenges of the survival season. To stock potent medicines as does Bear, which root from Earth so that may winter pantry is loaded with health fortifying herbs, spices and concoctions. Potent elixirs, tinctures and a larder of healthy preserved foods and fats. I also must protect what is mine and slow down, be like bruin, do less and be more in the present moment. Feel everything, and wait. Timing is tantamount. Bearing solitude in long stretches of night. This is where my heart’s conditioning is at. To be more conspicuous, quiet, subtle in my presence.
My humble abode now has solar electricity flowing through its walls, and amber light cast on its walls, as my final pieces of the system have come into the picture. The wiring still remains to connect the workshop to the solar, and angle the panels to the best sunwise position for the autumn and winter low light months. A feeling of liberation accompanies the installment of a solar system that means you will never have to pay an electricity bill again, though I have been careful to avoid any kind of bills through my life, so I have been savvy with those protocols. I am running a 120v AC and 12v AC system simultaneously, one for higher draw amber edison bulbs which add a glow to the tamarack boards in the cabin, and one for the wall power to run a small assortment of gear. I don’t yet own any power kitchen appliances, and would prefer to limit this to a chest freezer, and blender. In the future, I would like to raise a great water tower that is filled once a month by a solar pump and use gravity to funnel it to different systems like a hot water off grid shower, and a cold water sauna submersion pool in the forest. One can daydream when the resources are free, the labor and materials are another thing, but I can easily compensate for the former.
At the time of collecting the 6v batteries for the bank, I was able to snag some high quality hardwood pallets to build a king size bed. Johan, one of our local cattle farmer, and the same man we buy sausage and bacon from, brought a dozen more bales to the land. I wasted no time shifting them into a makeshift frame of stressed barnwood boards atop the pallets, then fitting them with bamboo sheets. For the first time since slumbering in the cabin, I can lie in Shavasana with lots of extra. Halfway between the King’s sleeping quarters, and the Peasant’s tucket, I call it the settler’s bed. With the straw bales holding my bones aloft, there is no disconnection with the element of earth, no springs or metal besides those that hold the pallets together, and no floating space between the bed and the ground. My sleep temple is organic, made of sustainable, fast growing, and renewal plants and does not really on modern conventionally farmed cotton, or industrial materials to produce. It also carries a subtle grassy scent, which is relaxing to fall asleep to. The entire bed only cost me the price of the bales and the bamboo sheets, and the pallets were free. And a King size bed implies a Queen in the picture.
The frost giants have come to our plot of middle earth, and there is a rush to harvest what can be gleaned before old man winter sets his rimy foot onto the land. I’m finding the medial line between the investment of energy toward my own projects and duties, and to my service of others. An afternoon in a greenhouse with my neighbor meant we could harvest all his tomatoes, ground cherries and leftover cucumbers and squash, as they succumbed to the -3 degree overnight temperatures. While some were the sad victims of powdery mildew. We staked out a contour line in a feral hay field for the future siting of a blueberry swale with several members of the community who came out to offer a hand. And I’ve enjoyed an extended morning sadhana with Kaia, practicing yoga on her new deck to the soundtrack of psychedelic kirtan music from the 70’s.
As the subzero nights creep on us, I start to think more about sauna culture, and the detoxifying sweat rituals that accompany my winter stasis. In the Fallsbrook centre is a sauna, that I hope to have access to as the snow flies. One of my favorite ceremonies is the sauna, with equal immersions into the cold that follow the intensity of the heat and humidity. Cleansing the body through hardcore perspiration, then rolling in the snow, or jumping in a cold lake or pond, before return to the cedar steamhouse and letting one’s body thaw. But right now, the hibernal colors are still in transition, pumpkins are almost fully ripened on the vine, egg nog will soon be on the dairy shelves, and the brisk autumn winds will bring the sweaters and turtlenecks out from the wardrobe. When I start to wear long johns and toques to sleep, I know the season has changed. I’ve always wanted a husky as a companion, and I’m on the hunt for the perfect dog to live with me in this wooden temple of mine.
The ripening purples of elderberries have tinged the season with a beautiful harvest of medicinal fruit reaping, and I’ve collected a full basket of ripened apples that have fallen from just two of the trees on my land, while the crab apples bring in the presence of more wild fauna. The Balsam poplar holds aloft its snub and sticky buds of tangy terpenes, and the mosses reach an ultimate hue of neon green, as if they were lit up from the inside out. Lucid glows of sugar maple orange, and red, and mountain ash purple turn the landscape into an lsd kaleidoscope of postcard perfect brilliance. My breath is caught as I ride past them so full of chi and its last encore of beauty.
With the new moon and equinox energy I feel a nostalgia and pining for what is dying and leaving, but also a need to set intentions and parameters for the onset of a new season. I’m buffing up on the local fungal terroir, and have already found some fine specimens of reishi and gem studded puffball, while an entourage of Amanita Muscaria have taken up habitation on my land and have sporulated to the four corners of the mossy treeline. Large elf rings popped up literally overnight, and I had a small ceremony for the little people that no doubt came riding on the saucer-like spores. There is definitely a squirrely-ness in the forest as well, as I’ve noticed more activity from these long in tooth and nail.
On the village front, the city of Woodstock is gradually steeping in more and more paranoia of the corona virus, despite New Brunswick being a safe province with only one single active case as of writing. Masks are mandatory in some of the superstores, but a tension is building for those small town folk who know their freedoms are being compromised or chipped away at. A local counter-corruption activist from the ridge dropped a leaflet in my mailbox with some meaty expose, and it certainly feels like there is some solidarity for the common law of the folk. I have not been to the city in almost a month, and have learned to steer clear of the urban den and instead seek my provisions in some of the smaller towns like Glassville, Bath, Florenceville, Bristol or Coldstream where I can find everything I need to live a simple life; from unleaded gasoline to chimney pipes, to raw butter, hardware, tools, coffee, and fresh bread milled right here in Knowlesville. There is an Amish lady who hooks rugs, her husband sells buffalo sausage, a canteen with fish and chips, and a co-operative grocery store. I know of three roadside farm stalls, and three covered bridges, a hunter’s style brewhouse and an Irish pub, two automotive shops and a repair garage, two mills and a distillery. All accessible from the pleasures of backroad travel.
With the boys from the land settlement field, we took an outing in Juniper for a night at the Village Pour House, sadly we were the only folks in the pub, not even the locals were around, we chalked it up to be a cause of a Sunday night slump. There was actually a tumbleweed bumbling across the road. My sister from the straw bale home took me there the next weekend on a Friday, and the joint was thriving, with a full parking lot, most of them moose hunters who all had bull stories to tell, and hunter’s orange toques and caps atop their heads. We shot several rounds of pool with the locals on broken tables, drank overpriced Quebecois maple whiskey, and ate bad seafood, and had a blast.
Since my last admission I’ve put four wheels and more horsepower under me after lining up a deal on a pt cruiser near the historic pioneer village of Kingsclear. It will drive all year, and will heat up like a furnace for those blustery cold days before the maritime fimbulwinter. If I could ride my motorbike all year I would and even considered a skidoo instead, but the practicality of carrying heavier loads, animals, or people made it a surefire choice of manifestation, and I rest at night knowing I am proud of the pivotal choices I have made in my life as of late. We tend to make places of refuge in our cars and homes, and that is how I have been perceiving the integral extensions of this off grid lifestyle. Dissolving further into the momentous simple practices that are happening right now, building temples within the boundaries of our collective commune, and finding truths through the non-conventional means of wise living.
There is the scent of wild pheromones in the air, and the trees are full of prana. Blue Jay, Spruce Grouse migrate into the domain, while Canada Geese are headed south of the border. While to be a bird would be a great boon for winter travel, travel restrictions are still bottlenecked and stifled to completely remove any lucky draw for a chance visit for my Polish lover, whom I crossed paths with in India before my tumulutous return home. The confrontation with the necessities and the raw strenuous and unperiled lifestyle of the bush, put me closer in contact with the Iron John and Wild man mythos and paradigm of frontier living.
As the world primes itself for a “second wave” of corona virus, I’m boosting my immunity with bone broth, ginseng, rhodiola, chaga and maral root, and banking on jarred preserves to enable longer stays at home if things so south. I have no desire to visit the hysteria of the cities for supples and provisions, and frankly I’m not buying into a movement of culture that I was voluntold to be a part of. Folks are going back to the land, why did we ever leave it?
How a man or a woman chooses to provide for their most fundamental of :N:eeds is a matter of character, resource, and a good dose of tradition. I’ve always believed that your wealth should be worth your salt, and with years of hard work banked up, I figured my karmic returns would be sweet enough to ensure a fairly abundant reaping. My mentors have always been of the most particular ilk; I’ve learned everything I know from farmers, foresters, plant people, healers, trade workers, old-timers and the young at heart. A lot of it has been hard gleaned through failure at some endeavor or other, other lessons came swiftly through keen observance of culture and countryfolk. These have not been my only mentors, and in truth I would have to write an entry for each individual plant, animal, and human ally that I have shared some of this life with. Now I am learning to steer my own ship, and mark the directional course with the distilled wisdom of these thirty years of life.
The maritimes of Canada has always been known as the New World. It was the Viking Vinland to Leif Eriksson, and his uncle Erik the Red, and Bjarni Herjolfsson before him. The Icelanders, and Norseman of the Scandic sea. These pastoral ship building farmers sailed to Canada seeking agricultural lands and timber from Greenland and Canada. The Welsh, Irish, Scots and Anglo-Saxons followed in their wake, then Columbus, and the French fur traders by canoe, and fleets of other cultures trailed behind. They all left behind lives in the old world to follow a dream, and settle here. The place names of the land are stamped with their legacy. In maritime history, the people that grew here were tough and resilient, and able to hack at th harder challenges of life with a discipline that was unique to the east. It’s mostly rock the further to the Atlantic you get, and the long cold wet winters are a test of endurance, and mental health. It’s the land that really lets you know what you are made of, and particularly in the East, the land is steeped with tradition. Salt water fishing, big game hunting, forestry, snowshoeing, food preservation, country lifestyles, and closely knit families make up a quiltwork of what this seaboard territory is all about.
I’ve always wanted to be closer to the ocean, and admit that I feel slightly trapped inland when I can not access the waters edge. It represents the edge of the world, and the infinite of potential beyond the roots beneath our feet. These waylays of homestead journaling shall venture into all the aspects of a life intentionally lived in simple terms in the forests of the maritimes, and the evolution of my saga through the years. I will try to share the realities and challenges of an off grid lifestyle, and the bright and murky aspects of living inside a community. On one acre of land is where I build this kingdom, and only the Gods how it will grow.
Solitude Makes the Heart Grow Fonder,
It is said that solitude makes the heart grow fonder, this is how my raven’s nest would be tended, as I drove across that imaginary border line in the middle of the night, into the maritimes of Canada. The twenty hour journey from the lands of northern Ontario, to the St. John River valley was heralded by the presence of Moose on a dusty dark backroad in New Brunswick. Just under two minutes from my cabin door, I caught this sow running beside my uhaul truck in the opposite lane. It was a moonless night on a road without hydro electric lines, no light save the low beams of the truck lamps, just the antlerless beast trotting swiftly by the pines, bringing me home. Only eight cars were seen on the vaguely 100km stretch from Quebec to home, and people usually just passed through this province. There is a lot of open space, and probably more wildlife per square km than humans. A tunnel of arching alders and spruce boughs honed me in as I wheeled into an overgrown driveway of goldenroad, meter high grasses, and quaking aspen saplings, where the cabin was waiting. I was ready to hit the hay after the long drive, so I unpacked just a few pelts and a blanket and slept beside the woodstove on a makeshift bed. My first night in the woods, where no one had slept in over six years.
Seeing as my motorcycle was as yet uninsured or registered in the province and I had to take fourteen days away from the public, I wouldn’t get much further than my community of neighbors. Much of this time was sipped slowly, and cherished with attention to the details. Simply observing the land, getting to the know the herbs and trees that grew here, and making peace with the family of skunks that already lived under my floor. I walked the boundary lines in my bare feet, knowing I would again walk with fire brand and ritualize the land finding in the way my ancestors did. On the western side of the cabin is a jungle of green life that hid the windows, and had not been tended to since its past occupants. Raspberry canes, Elderberry, Oak, St. Johns Wort, Blackcurrant, Tansy, and Trembling Poplars crowded the space, Underneath them, wild Lettuce, Dandelion, Cleavers, Heal All, and Nettles grew in secret. Munna from across the road, who lives on the communal land came over on her bicycle and taught me about the herbs, and what to do with them. She is a medicine maker, with a son of her own, and makes a living from her relationships to the plants.
A shindig was held at one neighbors for a bonfire. The ban had just been lifted in the evenings, and nearly the whole community was out. One woman and her daughter from Happy Valley Goose Bay in Labrador sang rare strains of music in her native tongue of Inuktitut. Songs about travelers, dog sledding, and the struggled of the Inuit peoples. When she sang, no one talked, not even the dogs or the children. A woman named Sparrow played the banjo, and another strung a fiddle to the bluegrass jaunt of Cripple Creek and other folk tunes. Munna introduced me to her sister Mandala, who exuded the mysterious gypsy nature and had a darkly kind of magical persona. I reconvened with my neighbors Darius and Patricia and recounted a few tales from India, and enjoyed the jovial feelings of the gathering. Something about fires had an effect of making fond the memory of times spent sitting by them.
In the absence of human habitation, the cabin had taken on a fair few mammalian residents, and a brood of paper wasps in my front porch door. The field mice nibbled at my raw butter, sourdough bread, and chia seeds, and a daring brown squirrel wrested itself through the staves of my hall to pillage nuts and seeds from a wooden bowl at night. One morning while eating a stack of pancakes he returned straight up from my floor and onto the wooden counter to scour again, but I had taken measure to cover my stash of protein, so the thief went away empty pawed. The skunks had already raised a litter in the space beneath the floorboards and I could hear them all night bickering. Then I confirmed their presence as I caught them with a uv flash light through my cabin windows leaving the property after dark. One of these restless nights I could hear these odiferous creatures barking and revolting, sounding all the while uncomfortable, and in the morning found the paper wasp nest eviscerated lying in pieces on my porch. They skunks must have been stung as they tried to rip open the hive for larvae. This seemed to handle my skunk issue and the wasps at the same time. I had no intentions to resort to any violent or drastic means, and nature sorted it out for me. A couple sticks wedged into the base of my hall staves blocked the empty space for the squirrel to enter, and now I have fewer trespassers. I resorted to canning all seeds, nuts and calorie dense food that small rodents with gnawing teeth might like to carry away in their cheeks. This may deter most of them if there nothing left to forage. Though as the skunks and their posse moved away, a mother porcupine moved in. At first she was the sole occupant, but she must have been pregnant for now I can hear the faint mewing of newborn porcupines beneath the woodstove, and the purring of the adult. I never knew porcupines could purr or meow, and reflected on how this kind of experience could only happen in situations similar to mine. To be so close and intimate to a creature that is regarded as highly defensive, with a protective board of wood between me and hundreds of sharp quills, has allowed me to experience a unique event in another animals lifecycle that even on nature documentaries may never have been encountered.
The First Stages of Enlightenment. Chop Wood and Carry Water
I culled a few species out of the tangle of vegetation the overpopulated the western side of my cabin. The cleavers were too prolific and choked out the berry bushes, while the goldenroad and quaking aspens were dominant on much of the open acre, so I would not miss them. St. John’s wort was allowed to stay, though its medicine was just a bit late for harvesting, I would look forward to seeing their blooms again next year. They felt protective and calming to my senses. The raspberry canes would be thinned out, which were not hanging in fruit, and the elderberry suckers would be pruned back to allow more light penetration into the cabin which was already in a shadier pocket of the woods. I burned the rotted punky wood stuck with nails in a metal barrel, and a farmer neighbor took a stacks of tyres left behind the outdoor kitchen to weigh down manure piles generated by his full family of animals. I’ve started to stain the cedar shake shingles on the outside of the cabin in the Faroese turf house colors, which is transforming the soul of the cabin with each stroke of the brush. I put out my feelers for cordwood, and came up lucky with a local from Woodstock who could bring me semi-cured split maple within a couple days notice, and with the word, I had my first two hardwood bushcords dropped in the micro meadow of my yard, ready for stacking. The well driller came soon after, with three massive trucks to dig down beneath the bedrock, and shale to find the quartz veins where clear Appalachian water flowed in an the aquifers 125 feet down. Now I needed to find a hand pump to bring it up to the surface. In the meantime I pumped water from the community well using their bison setup, wrapped a shemagh around my head and hauled it back the three hundred feet or so to my hall, east Indian style. This works for now, but come the winter and the eight foot snow banks that would accumulate beside the road, would make it serious mule work just getting a couple gallons of the stuff back for cooking and cleaning. With blizzards and harsh temperatures, this would mean dressing in heavy duck down coats and a fur hat and trudging a sled every few days for the bare nesessities. Although I’ve read self addressed letters of my grandfather doing this with ice, and pulling it much further to trade for potatoes, I am not sure I could muster this tenacity year after year. Besides, there was something else liberating about the importance of a well on the land. It ties into the great myths and symbolism of the Well and the Tree, that my Norse ancestors held close to their hearts, and were pivotal to how they interacted and understood the world.
Thriving Not Surviving,
Living alone in a cabin in the woods currs a lot of hustle and responsibility to the land to survive. Those without an industrious nature rarely thrived under these conditions, but this lifestyle also held the closely aligned instincts for self-preservation. On my own, I needed to fend more for myself in the domestic rituals that homesteading requires. Though if a widowmaker fell while I was pruning the forest, and my senses were too dulled from long hours of toil to move out of the way, my bones would lay among the rocks and the roots, and I would have to inflate my rib cage enough to utter a howl to my neighbors to save me. If I lacked the attention to the cutting arc of my sickle blade while weeding and accidently cut my thumb, I would have to hope it wasn’t too deep for the plantain to heal, or as I have already wisened to, stacking two bushcords before lunch then riding a motorcycle 30km on a chip and tar road is heavy stress on the finely tuned wrist bones that will cause tendonitis. While staining wood is a more therapeutic acitivity for the body, something just doing nothing and gifting yourself with extended rest is a more powerful remedy than any power plant, medicine, or treatment. All animals have this self preservation that transcends genetic conditioning, and with homesteading comes a greater intetion to protect and conserve not only the land but myself. We have no gain on our dreams if we can not love ourselves enough to get there.
During this waning summer month of August the cabin has been without electricity, or running water, and I have catered my diet to accomodate this first stage of homesteading life while I suss out the needs for a solar system. Though I like to say that I need to “run for my water”, and my power comes from the most ancient and eco-friendly source possible, the sun’s radiation. I eat a lot of raw vegetables and fermented, dried and cured foods at this point; my shelf is stocked with kefir, kraut, kombucha, cheese and yogurt, salted cod, unwashed eggs, and roots, jams, honey and dried nuts and seeds or wild greens eaten the same day. These don’t need to be refridgerated, so long as they are kept in the dark and cool environment, and are actually some of the healthiest morcels I can put in my body right now. On cool mornings and evenings I light a fire and brew coffee, steep a slow stew or cook porridge and pancakes on the woodstove. Iron is my prefered cook surface, and copper or steel flasks for drinking vessels. The orientation of my bed is also important and I have always been delivered a more sound sleep with my head to the west, rising to the east.
Back to the Land
I intend to stay fully off the grid, and out of the harmful waves of powerful cell and wifi signals and electro-magnetic frequencies as much as possible. There is a ten kilometer radius of organic agriculture surrounding the eco-community, and very few of my neighbors rely on fossil fuels on their properties. I have made the intentional comittment to use hand tools while stewarding the land, to eliminate noise pollution, and the risk factors associated with heavy automatic machinery. This also caters to a truance for self-preservation. I just appreciate my body too much to get mauled by a chainsaw, and I believe there is more skill and nuance in using analog tools, some of which were design for specifically one purpose, an apple press for instance. Hand tools teach the body a wider variety of skills than machines, and contribute a significant joy in actual doing of the work.
Out here you don’t need to wear a mask, and there is no pollution save the odd beer can on the dirt road from a passing atv, which I don’t mind collecting. I currently produce less than a five gallon pail of trash monthly, and do what I can to save the jars from any food products I bring into the home. That sometimes means an after dinner past time of scraping labels off of pickle and jam jars. I don’t mind because it saves money and time from transporting glass from the city in my motorbike cases, and I need the jars to hold sundried herbs, teas, and preserves for the forthcoming years. The skies are black at night, and my senses are not dulled by noise of traffic, sirens, and the city din. When the sun goes down, I sleep, or extend my waking time with the help of beeswax candles. I listen for the reverberations of the woodpeaker, the crowing of ravens and screeching of Jays and Whiskeyjacks. Fox has come detectively to see who has come home. I know this from his scat filled with rabbit hair and tinted purple from the pigmented raspberries and dewberries he has likely been feeding on. Bald Eagle surveyed the St. John river, as I sat on my motorcycle outside a highway coffee shop near the worlds longest covered bridge. I’ve set a trail cam on a crab apple tree pointing down a mossy path to catch photos of any animal visitations. I would love to know if there are bears, coyotes, or wolves here. I did find evidence of the black ghost in the pine barrens, though no sightings of one in the flesh and fur. The forest is a place to bathe, to breathe easy, to walk barefoot, forage, hunt, gather, and appreciate. A great population of spruce, pine and tamarack compose this boreal acre, with a mix of poplar, quaking aspen, birch, and alder. Cedar, oak and maple are rare and coveted but they are here, along with wild apple, and hemlock. We are footing into mushroom season, and I’ve already shouldered my pack basket out onto skedaddle ridge here in the lowland Appalachians to forage Chanterelle and Turkey tail mushrooms, Bunchberry, medicinal mosses, and several species of the bramble berries. I can walk outside naked if the bugs are not bad, or sleep in on storm days as the tumult of the rain drums down on my metal roof. At night, I think about someone I miss and mentally release the day from my consciousness. Though I don’t have a proper bed yet and dream of building a king size frame out of live edge wood for my sleep temple. Any ills that may have come, or pains felt I try to surrender it all away, and attract instead strong healing offerings and a surplus of positive energy for the next day to rise.
Off The Grid:
Launching an off grid lifestyle can take its toll on the hard hustled finances you have saved up. Especially if you are anything like me and tend to earn your dough a little at a time, in farm labor jobs and thrifty living where a thousand dollars is a small fortune. All the fundamentals need to be covered, that’s water from a well, firewood for the stove, electricity if you run any single one of the thousands of appliances that now use them, and a reliable vehicle for living on a country road without regular plow service. If you are lucky and there is a spring on your land, you can collect water passively and retrieve your vessels when you need them and filter if needed. This only works six months a year when the water is not frozen. A well is more reliable than a spring, and can almost always be made rather than discovered. This can be twenty bucks a foot to have someone drill deep enough to find water under the earth. The man who drilled my well bought his truck from Pennsylvania, where they had to dig 1600 feet to find it. You can do the math, and realize how lucky you are if you find a shallow well. Then there’s the pump, which can function electrically or by hand. If it’s electrical, then you need panels, batteries, a charge controller, and an inverter, plus underground tubing, valves, a submersible pump, and small parts that are hard to find. Not to mention plumping, spigots, and filters and a water heater running on the electricty as well, stored in batteries in the winter when you don’t have solar radiation. It may be better than paying the bills in the long run, but still involves some major infrastructure. If you do it all by hand, you just need to buck up and do it, even in a blizzard. Step out to your well, and heave ho at it until you fill your vessels. You’ll need to carry a jug, or carbuoy into your home, and pour it into a pot and boil it to use for most homesteading things like cooking soup, cleaning dishes, or taking a bath. The last option is what I am trying. So far so good, but winter is coming. I keep it fairly low tech, and that keeps life pretty simple. Solar electricity is another chunk of change to get established, especially building a battery bank robust enough for six months will little charge. I’m currently sourcing all the necesarry parts to put this Frankensystem together, as I mentioned there are many fickle elements to get harmoninizing together to actually run your nutribullet, or turn on an edison bulb hanging in your roof. Cordwood remains the simpler of the off grid systems, if you know how to light a fire. Still, there is an art in wood culture that few people talk about. How many BTU’s are you getting from your wood, as different species burn at different rates with different heat values. What stacking technique you use, and how early the wood was sourced in order for it to have enough time to cure and dry. Several country folks let their wood dry two or three years in advance for a winter, which could be a bush cord of timber each season from Halloween to Mothers Day, at three hundred bucks a pop to order, or several weeks of hard labor to select, fell, delimb, haul, saw, split, carry, and stack yourself. Stevedore Steve commented on the Maritime Men who were proud to work with a crosscut saw and an axe in hand. I have two axes, a modern Vipukirves ax from Finland, and another antique run of the mill saw from an earlier era. I’ll use both for different purposes and watch the splinted wood pile up. There are ways to build the fire itself to save energy, and the kind of stove you are burning them in. There is fast wood for making getting your pan warm enough for fried eggs, and slow wood, for roasting a duck in a pan, or keeping you and your love warm all night without needing to stoke the flames. This also contributes to a healthier love life, and generally more comfortable night. Wood and water is heavy, so you learn not to waste it. I have set the date of Halloween in my mind to start consuming my stack, until then I am burning deadwood I collect from the forest a couple times a week. Some of it is punky and just smokes, and most of it is too thin to last longer than a breakfast fire. I just need enough for my percolator and porridge, and maybe a kettle of dandelion coffee, and figure that six bushcords will last me even the harshest of maritime winters if burned efficiently. I keep only wood furniture, which collect and radiate more heat in the hall, and the windows are double paned for less warmth leaving the cabin. Chopping wood, and carrying water starts with a fair bit of cash offering to the Gods of frontier country, but these are some things I think are truly worth every nickel. I try to live according, frugal but not cheap, efficient but abundant.
The Village in the Country:
Two wheels will not be able to carry me through the snow as four wheels would, and I’m bucking up to dish out for my first car or truck. A horse and sleigh was the next option, kidding but not really. Some will use their skidoos to visit town, though they are built for forest trails not icy roads and salted highways. I live 15km from the nearest general store, where one can buy unleadened gas, stove pipes, fixes, toilet paper, coffee, homemade baking, basic foods and jars of things the locals have preserved like pickled fiddleheads and maple syrup. Even have a cash machine, of which I prefer to have some stowed away than using a plastic card for everything. The next closest town is 32km from here in the St. John River valley, with a small town energy and some services like a bank, liqour store, meats and grocery, gas, and a coffee shop. But for hardware and homeware, farmers market, and a secondhand shop, Woodstock is the closest at the 56km mark. I hope to nail down the essentials of what I need by the time the snow flies and not have to travel beyond the small towns in winter. This also engenders a deeper connection to the neighborhood and the local ma and pa shops in the times of scarcity. Considering all the factors with how the world is shifting, I would probably depend on those smaller businesses if I can’t venture into a city for provisions because of social distancing.
As I finish this first letter, I am waiting for some hemlock beams to be delivered which will contruct a platform for my yurt, and I’ve cut two spruce trees to make additional staves in my hall for extra roof support. I finally have a pot big enough to make soup with, and besides a couple evening guests, my company has been finely kept with porcupines, a raccoon, and a black nosed mouse who returns even after I caught him in my hand and carried him out to the woods. A humming bird has been visiting my apple trees, and a blue jay was purveying my land on more than once. I’ve caught nothing on the trail cam yet. I turned thirty last week and somehow it matters, I just haven’t realized how. It’s quiet, and the metors showered during the new moon turnover as I laid on a bed of hay in my neighbors backyard. The mosses, grasses, and leaves are still green but autumns decay is coming. I am thankful for what I can enjoy, and what little I need to be happy with it all, though I don’t think I could do this alone through the years. May the Gods attract to me the fuller things of life, keep my hands clean, and my heart stoked.