Saga of Othala: ch. III, Making a Nest a Home

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.

Skal!

Saga of Othala: ch. 2, The Runestone

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.

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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.

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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?

Saga of Othala: ch. 1, One Acre of Vinland

Learning to Love the Work

The Ways Of Yore,

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.

NEED/This is My Home/OTHAL

a bed of flowers,

a ring of stones,

fronds of fern,

across the hallow,

creeping runes,

under a shelter of fir,

billows of moss,

and buried brambles,

hills of green,

and the mugwort waters,

the smell of rain,

and rotting flesh of wood,

the :N:EED, the Need for H:O:ME

the :N:EED, the Need for H:O:ME

the :N:EED, the Need for H:O:ME

the :N:EED, the Need for H:O:ME.

Sangre de Muerdago - Unha Ofrenta de Ósos - YouTube

Here in the forest, amongst the trees,

I feel Alive,

I feel I’m Home,

Here in the forest,

my kind means den,

my kind means destruction,

this isn’t our home,

I want to learn,

I Need to :G:row,

I must be a kindly steward,

and if one day I sense something wrong,

something unnatural,

upsetting the calm,

that’s when I see him,

forcing his will,

slaying an elder,

slaying my brother,

I pledge the oath,

the man must fall,

the villain must fall,

by my hand,

this is my gift,

I’ve made my offering,

I’ve learned my place,

here in the forest,

this is my HOME

with careful steps I carve my path,

it’s riddled with thorns and sharp stones,

I can barely see an arm right in front of me,

full of fear, and uncertainty,

all I am shall not give in,

I will walk on, with honorable intent,

I need a space to share amongst kin,

far from the reach of modernity,

hearken to an honest and natural time,

with deep respect,

we bow to the earth,

I trust you know,

that we can leave some beauty to our children,

Othala… Othala… Othala… Othala…

Othala… Othala… Othala… Othala… Othala…

Back to the Land, Roots Where I Stand

Here, looking out from a wood grained cabin window in the coniferous forest onto the slow motion Montreal river, the standing people; Pine, Birch, Maple, Poplar and Spruce represent this northern ecology. Nights are cool by the water, like the skin of a fish, thin and permeable, carrying scents through the hydrated air of aquatic plants and dank earth and the sharp smells of acidic trees. Barefoot on moss, green grass and lichen, a mosquito disturbs my zen, with an invasive attack on my forehead. Stacked cord-wood sits patiently in windrows with their edges cozied intimately together, neatly stacked in preparation for cold gray days, and the winter that always comes to the North. But it is not winter, it is summer. And I am no longer in mother India, alas I have come home to Canada, where this post you read spans a self-quarantine session in the lap of nature.

Our countries government requested for all travelers returning from a foreign country, regardless of where, to self isolate for 14 days in their own homes or other suitable dwelling. The prospects did not sound highly inspiring as I left behind a traditional tribal farm village in the Himalayan foothills, but the Gods were on my side and I was backed with a good dose of resilience from my experiences during lockdown in India. My father had some land in the north of Canada, on 11 acres of rural backwoods, with a cottage and a cabin with all the creature comforts. That was where I would shelter in place until I could resume a semblance of my life back home.

Life away from the country had become routine, last year it was Iceland, where my then wife and myself worked on pony ranches, bathed in steamy hot springs and gazed like children at the shows put on by the Aurora Borealis in the arctic sky. But returning to Canada again, I dug deeper than ever before into the firmament of what it meant to my own identity, of who I was, where I was, and when I was. When I saw and felt with new eyes and senses through the land, and lived intentionally of a more pioneering based subsistence lifestyle, I felt that I had become Native to the land. I had developed a place based relationship towards my home country. One that was built from the roots up, with reciprocity, love, and attunement to spirit, that transcended any lineage or genetic based identity. The elements of heritage, and ancestry always wagered a strong marker for my relation to place and culture, but they were no longer the absolute essence of who I had become as a man. The ecology, the seasons, the local folklore, the flora and fauna had a stronger defining feature now on how I was evolving.

Of course, I was still Viking, and traveling to new lands to obtain knowledge, trade goods, gain skills and bring back some of the treasure from far away nations is important to me. It is what my long haired barbarian forebears did with much greater intensity and keeness than I could ever match. The lifestyle I lead at home is moving into greater periods of settlement, place based agriculture, or permaculture, hunting, fishing, foraging, and the domestic rituals and routines of life lived in one space. When exploring the word ‘domestic’, one can open up meanings now frequently understood to the laymen. Even I was turned off from the notion of ‘domestication’ for a long time, and still have my qualms about it, but the forms of domestication I turn down are the ultra-modern examples of fragile human beings, living materialistic lives, entirely dependent on industrialized life support systems, institutionalized learning platforms, and shallow relationships catered through various social media platforms.

This kind of domestic human does not know how fend for themselves, nor serve a functional role in a community. There is a great divide between where there food comes from and what nourishment is consumed, and there is always an app on their smart phone for everything, almost ridding the need to actually know or do anything the analog way, like navigate, or identify a plant, tell the weather, research a subject of interest, or seduce a woman. Instead this kind of human relies on a complex mapping system based on global tracking and surveillance to tell them where to go, always following the fastest route without traffic or road construction. A picture is taken of an herb to identify all its medicinal and culinary uses without regard for the rich folk history and elder wisdom that could be passed down just as easily from Auntie Flora, if we had only asked. The weather is forecasted and broadcasted onto the smart phone, largely dictating peoples actions, and fostering a deficit of natural knowledge about natural patterns and cycles that affect your homestead. Rather that researching an interesting subject at a local library on say, growing squash, or on the lives of Icelandic fisherman, one can just ‘google’ it, and find the answers and information in brief digested forms. Dating sites and apps make it easier than ever to get a woman into your apartment, maybe even in your bed, but where is the natural authenticity and depth of romance in simply choosing the most attractive profile picture of the woman you lust after and swiping left. By next week you are tired of them, and its back to the profiles of new woman to exchange erotic messages before hopefully meeting, in a cycle that never fulfills. The modern domestic human does not carry the knack for the domestic ways of yore I wish to pursue.

For the modern homo sapien is very fragile, and with those tenets above mentioned, are signigicantly ill prepared for even living in the country. Most men I see would not be able to chop and carry wood for two hours straight, let alone cut enough wood for the entire half years supply to provide for his wife and children. The majority of women have sadly never grown anything, or birthed a natural baby, or treated a sick animal, or cooked a meal for their family with fresh ingredients from the garden. They may have never even had the time to explore their true deep femininity, because modern domestic femininity is wrapped up in toxic notions of bitterness for the masculine species, oversexualized glamor, competition, and victimhood. Children are no longer ‘free-range’ if I can use such an ironic term to describe our most natural state of being in our habitat, directly borrowed out of the industrialized farming paradigm. We have few old growth elders, with mines of wisdom and stories, cared for by their kinfolk, we just have ‘olders’ on life support systems or locked up in nursing homes. Well I digress, but I was circling back to the point of so called domestic lifestyles being lost, in the true sense. There are layers of beautiful meaning embedded in the real domestic lifeways.

The word domestic comes from the latin source -domecile, pertaining to the Home. In this regard, the home is where the family lives day to day, where children are born, reach adolescence, adulthood, partake in rites of passage like sexual experiences, marriage, and take sovereign ownership of their lives, they grow old and die on the same land. An intricate and integral bond with the species of other life surrounding the domestic home is formed. One comes to understand how to self-medicate, put up food, cook gourmet dinners, shelter themselves, build, alter consciousness, harvest, hunt and forage, all from the same plot. The crofters of the late 17th century would be one standalone example of a domestic culture that thrived in the W.I.S.E. isles. There was a room, usually part of the house for the family cow, or a flock of goats, and a range or coop for chickens to be protected from predators at night. Social life revolved around the domecile, where potlucks, family bonding rituals (or quarrels), music nights, and holiday gatherings were held. There was no place like no home similar, and people traveled little but always returned home. It was not an interchangeable unit like an apartment, freely rented, mortgaged or leased and then abandoned to the same empty white walls that another sorry soul would inhabit after. The domestic home was inherited through the generations, and each floorboard and window held stories steeping in rich detail. The home was not a commodity to be bought and sold. Ones domicile was the temple, barbershop, restaurant, hospital, gathering hall, workshop and office all in one. The home is where one went to find solace or entertainment, study a book, eat the best meal of your life, lay with your wife, and spend an afternoon canning peaches and tomatoes for the rest of the year. Time and cycles were taken into regard, that decided what to do, and when to do it. There was a place for everything and everything was in its right place. Each object in the house had a function, a meaning, and a story. Nothing was empty, simply acquired because it was on sale or fit the recent trend. People ate together at the same table, with no screens in front of their faces, in fact the house may not even have one. Problems were sorted out without violence or the unwelcome intrusion of police, agressive neighbors or child services. I can not imagine living the domestic life of most modern humans, it seems so complicated, fast, irrelevant, boring and soulless. What I understand is the warmth of the hearth, the kitchen garden, the family heirlooms, and the horse in the stable. What makes sense to me is the happy child who learns at home, in nature, part of it, and the rich textures of detailed beauty and nuance one gains from an intimate involvement with a small piece of the earth on an individual basis. This is the form of domesticity I can adopt, and have known from youth and as of late.

My so called ‘quarantining’ period does not look like you might envision from the word. There are no industrial buildings swallowing the horizon in it’s maw, forbidding the eye of the sunset. There is very little euclidean geometry in the rural township of backwoods, Ontario. I don’t have medical agents checking up on me everyday to monitor my health and respiratory systems, instead I breath the fresh nordic air and the boreal incense of sappy pines, musky bogs, and sweet birches. My bare feet touch the moss, the soil, and wood chips, or else touch no earth at all, as I paddle with my feet in the slow moving watershed. While the world is wearing masks and furthering isolating themselves from their neighbors, I am getting to know some of my non-human kind, while sheltering in place. In the country it is easier to keep social distance, because already everyone is further apart. People live in cottages during the spring and summer, or for the hardy bushman can hack it for the whole year if their living systems are up to speed. I don’t see any houses from where I have been staying for the last fortnight. Being in contact even with a patch of grass, amplified the immune system exponentially, from the healthful microbes in the soil. If you have pets, then your immunity is probably even more robust, and if you are a farmer like myself, you may get sick once every few years, and won’t have to worry about a novel virus overcoming the boundaries of your immunity.

Throughout the age of my maturation, I’ve always been a proponent of travel and a life lived outdoors as the greatest medicine for vitality, and longevity. I believe that through travel, we literally become ‘cultured’ in the very real sense, with the germs, bacteria, and microbes of other countries, bioregions, and ecosystems, and that is a good thing to have inside you. They are invisible gifts. Think of it like designing a polyculture garden in a permaculture system. You want to have a broad diversification of life forms living inside of you, that perform a vast array of functions on the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and central nervous systems. But not only on the bodies defense lines, also on the channels that nourish the heart, the brain, the microbiome of the gut, the soul, and the spirit. My personal worldview is that we need to incorporate first a versatility of tools to defend and protect our homes as temples, that is our body, from being broken into. Then we would not be so fragile as to be forced to hermetically remove ourselves for our parenting community that we depend on. We may prevent an outbreak of a corona type strain virus through society by preventing contact with anyone, but our culture will die in an empty grave with no one to attend to it. A Corona virus is simply another elegant and intelligent life-form that we need to live with, and accept as part of our ecology, one that has had billions of years of evolution, co-exist with the human species. Because we have become so fragile, the only tactic to not become infected some know is through fear based reaction. The mainstream thinking of following protocol, instead of becoming a less fragile species wins at the end of the day. I am making this post to prove that though it is the norm, it is not always the only way, or the wisest way, or the best and most joyful way to confront the struggles of life, because just living can be hard, we know this, but it is a learned knowing.

Kenabeek, Ontario, roughly one hundred kilometers from the Great Bear Forest, an old growth boreal wood haven that has never been cut, home to the aboriginals of Temagami. The name of the town Kenabeek means snake in the Ojibway language, which comes from the Anishinabe nation. My father is here, living in his retirement and it is where it would come to pass that I would re-ground in Canada after over half a year away on winter holiday. As nature’s clock ticked by, measured by finches morning song, squirrels afternoon gossip, and evenings black loon lullaby, the slanting nine pm sun of these climes turned the days over to silent reflection, writing letters on pieces of softwood to faraway friends, reading by amber light, and listening to the pelting blanket of rain on the river, the simple things. Two weeks can be a long time for people to self-isolate without becoming neurotic or extremely bored, and I sympathize with the challenge this is putting others through. I think this speaks a lot about our routines, and emotional intelligence, and reveals some deep set dissatisfaction, and dis-ease that is already harbored within us.

Taking responsibility for our actions also means enabling ourselves to live healthy, inspiring, thriving and engaging lifestyles that can exist locally in in stressful situation. When our communities, or cities, or the services we depend on for consumption, entertainment and enrichment are not open to us. I’ve learned in a modest three decades that I must ultimately look out for what is good for me with my own means, and decreased reliance on another counter-actively creates a greater boon for me. Thereby amplifying any offering given to me through privilege as more highly appreciated, honored and reciprocated. It is with this mindset that I have taken it into my own owns to ensure my happiness and choose to thrive in any circumstance.

Some of the ways I have been doing that are spending as much time outside as possible. I don’t use the word ‘spending’ very often because we too often applies a term of economics to a broad blanket of meaningful spiritual and personal pursuits. But in this respect, one can see spending time outdoors as investment, and buying a piece of the good life. Slowing buying more shares in a natural existence co-op that always grows as natures rhythms continue to revolve in cycle.

On several occasions of fair weather, I paddled both upstream and downstream on the Montreal river of Temiskaming, both by canoe and kayak. My father caught two pike, and we cooked them on plates of cedar fresh cut from a deadwood log, then smoked them over charcoal in a barbeque. Other times I slowly coasted the shoreline, in search of bullrushes, wapato, day lilies, and horsetail, in their edible stages. One red fox has used the grounds for hunting a pair of rabbits, while I wish I had my hunting license with me to bag one or two for the cooking pot. The Loons have started to croon in the evenings, while a gold tipped black winged bird resembling a kingfisher decided to sleep on the porch after a sustained flying injury. One morning on a walk on unmarked forestry roads, a juvenile beaver excitedly ran in my direction and stopped lest a yard from my feet until it finally noticed my presence, arresting its momentum and peering into my eyes before turning on a nickel and trotting away the direction it had come. The beaver had not yet begun to develop the elegant leathery tail of its elders. I took up a maul axe to split old punky wood found rotting in the forest for use in outdoor pits, and cycled highway 65 to Mountain Chutes, down a forest service road into a clearcut, which may warrant its own story. An air of abandonment and ecological murder was left on the land, and the nostalgic memories of seven seasons of back breaking reforestation in these very places that I had somehow managed to pull off in my 20’s.

Going into the buggy forest, I followed moose and deer tracks to find wild patches of strawberry and raspberry, eating handfuls of these brightly pigmented medicines. I took note to take stock of other species and healthful herbs growing in the bioregion; the aromatic yarrow, the remediating pioneer white clover, the lemony pheromones of wood sorrel, purifying reindeer moss and usnea, and the bitter greens of dandelion. My range of habitat during isolation was no doubt extended in the countryside, and I never met another human being. After sheltering in place, I was able to visit some of my kinfolk, and sit on the banks of lake Temiskaming again which straddles both provinces of Ontario and Quebec. A hike up Devil’s rock trail reinvigorated more youthful memories of black bear encounters, and a meeting with a mother bald eagle, three hundred feet above the lake, that no doubt guarded her nearby brood. Nothing has really changed in the north country, but I’m not staying here long.

In three days I’ll be packing up, and handling a few stings while I collect my life from different small ontario towns and haul it all east to the maritims, where I’ve chosen to settle for awhile in hamlet in New Brunswick. My neighbors are an off grid, solar powered one room schoolhouse, with a forest kindergarten, and wild child nature education program. My other neighbors life off grid in timber frame and straw bale homes, and I’m looking to join the ranks as I adjust my sights on the next phase of my life, in land stewardship, and fostering a deeper practice in foraging, fishing, hunting, and homesteading, while continuing to re:wild ancestral skills and eventually seed a family.

It could easily be overwhelming, but it speaks to how epic this move really is, and how long I have been waiting to pounce on it, finally in range of something I could bite off. My life won’t look terrifically different from the way I’ve managed it in the past seven, but one intense detail will be present, that of the place based relationship that will sprout over not just weeks and months, but years. As well as the fosterage of a more archaic way of life, an analog mode of production, as I start literally from the ground up. I intend to spend the first couple months just getting my bearings; understanding the land and where I am, and the first few seasons to personally introduce myself to the other species that thrive there, animal, fungal, herbal and the human kind. The migration to these places of intelligence, pioneered wildernesses, and ensouling rustic culture are more than just temperamental shifts of domestic ritual, they are sovereign rites of passage to spaces where we finally find ourselves and fit in. If my travels have taught me one thing, it is the power of relationships to change the world, the one you live in, right now. Keep that in mind, and close to your chest.

Man’s Fate

Father shows mettle to heave anvil up mountain in support ...

When does a mantruly start the life he is meant to have? He can be broken a thousand times and feel derailed from the tracks of purpose, fall on the spears of vice, and offer his whole heart to the one he loves, only to see it crash to the ground like a cigarette butt, waiting to be stepped on. He is not fully at Home in his domestic shelter, pandering ritualistically at menial things, yet world travel can instill a deep sense of rootlessness, a longing for something real, familiar, integral.

The saga of a mans life can be frought with setback, melancholy, pain, defeat, restlessness, and reckless self-indulgence, which divorces him from experiencing the primordial power of the Masculine. The Protector, Provider, and Presider in him that conspires to create him like a King. The weaknesses that can restrain and prevent an otherwise good man from waking up and becoming a living example of being good at being a man.

His soul is hammered on the anvil of his own life, and in deed he is the anvil, the forge, the hammer and the source material being shaped. He carries a tremendous burden uphill, to forever meet new summits that rise into the halls of the Gods. His hard work becomes larger and more important than life itself. As the wielder of these tools, he is also living through the ancient archetype of the Hero, and the Shaman. He can look at his table, and decide to change his creation. If he is unsatisfied with it, he can make subtle changes or scrap it, and start completely over. What this has to do with a meaningful life is the raw nature of power, and manifestation.

The flexibility a man bolsters from being able to bend and understand the continuing narrative of his own living myth as something that is adaptable, and fortified under stress, transforms weakness, builds tensile strength and versatility. By meeting with his own shadows, and confronting the great beasts that live there and forcing them into the light, so that even the darkness within him can stand afore, fully revealed and be appreciated as truly his.

In this, I think, are something recanted approachable to the life a man is meant to have. He stands in the land of his own claiming, and for me this is a landscape, and a time to bank up courage in a craven heart, to carry a greater fund of joy into the next cloud of sorrow, even to love the sorrow, for the pleasures it divides. Like periods of rest between the days, or the hunger between meals. To discover that pain and pleasure are twin beings, and necessary to appreciate beauty when it comes. Seven and a small score years ago I decided to walk into a life I was meant to have after realizing some of these truths myself. I swallowed what I thought I knew, regurgitated it, and chewed the cud. And by digesting the past, could write a wholly new book of my existence. One that stemmed and sprouted from my own soul but grew to include many others on the Hero’s journey away and back again. It was to become not only my story, and the purpose of my life, but of those I met, who ultimately were as deeply woven into the tapestry of this saga, one with all the aspects of a good story, for it is one worth telling…

 

Home and Hearth is Best: Sheltering in Place

A Practice of Resilience and how Covid-19 has affected my Nomadic Life

The Hearth & the Yard

For our great grandparents, travel was a luxury, and they did not travel often save for local trips to the next county, or perhaps to a European neighbor. Travel was perhaps a deal safer and freer than the twentieth and twenty first century. There had been no major terror attacks on the nation, plane travel was a rather borgeousie way to travel, and it was stil rather expensive. They stayed at home more often, but not because of increased border restrictions, economic collapse, and global pandemic induced social distancing measures. They stayed close to the hearth and the yard because home was best. The neighbors in the countryside oftered the best company, and all the excitement of adventure and life’s diversity could be found on home turf if you really looked for. To our grand elders, it was all inside. Not that the rest of the world did not matter or seem trivial, but I believe that mass marketing of commercial travel, and international vacationing did a lot to kindle the need to uproot and visit another part of the planet.

The Good Old Days

I remember when my folks won the lottery when I was young, and were given a free trip to Las Vegas, with some spending money for the casino. My folks are not travelers in the sense of the word today, and it is only my mother who has taken trips, though of the tailored holiday style vacation rather than vagabonding and cultural immersion trips. Back then, you didn’t need a passport to cross the border to the united states from canada, just a drivers license would suffice. The car was packed to the brim, and the great North American road trip commenced from the driveway. Food was made at home, and rest stops were impulsive and leisurely. A moose in the road, a view point, or a backroad made for good reasons to slow down and enjoy the scenery. One hopped on a greyhound bus for under a hundred bucks and crossed the entire continent from end to end and saw some of the world during the nearly as many road stops on route. Train travel was also a way to roll across vast country, away from the highways and biways, that cut through forever forests, impossible mountains, and oceans of prarie, sometimes in the same day.

New Age of Travel

Compared to now, post 911 and the current covid-19 era, where international airports all resemble each other, where one waits in long snaking lines, dragging oversized identical baggages to be collected by conveyer belts. Then being processed by body armor wearing guards, scanned by metal detectors, and often interogated about the itinerary of your trip. A criminal background is plumbed, a travel history, and perhaps more intimate details about your finances, lifestyle, and social status are investigated, including your current address, career, etc. Your personal belongings are inspected, documents checked for as many digits on your two hands, and there is a hurry up and wait protocol in these places. You step into an airport and just feel the collective stress that literally sweats from thousands of people, not to mention the mind numbing boredom of waiting for the clerk to finally announce boarding and waiting for the plane to take off. After four Tim Hortons coffees, you are high strung, and impulsive, already eager for the trip to be over before it has started.

Now with the spread of another world disease, the corona virus, there are even heavier measures at airports and more people are staying home again. Seats on planes are being kept absent to encourage distance between passengers. Health checks are mandatory, including masks and gloves, surfaces are sprayed with chemicals and it has become even more clinical and sterile, starting to resemble more of an industrial hospital. More permissions are needed even for nationals returning home. How this is affecting me as a farmer, is something I wanted to record here. As I am stranded in India for over two months since the global lockdown and experiencing the largest population restraint experimentation in the world, in a ‘third world’ nation.

Migrant Worker of Modern Times

Seven years took me several lifetimes to complete. During this nominal period of planetary travel, I set three overarching intentions; to glean instinctive and traditional skills from farmer, masters, teachers and mentors wherever I could find them, to expose myself and become culturally sensitive in order to lower my boundaries and learn from global cultures of the world, and to experience some of this one world garden, from the arctic tundra to the desert dunes, foggy islands to buggy forests. I worked along the way, taking up working holiday visas and hustled to reap some cash to afford to continue to travel. When my coffers were low, I took another seasonal job, fruit picking in the Okanagan valley and the maritimes, treeplanting in the highlands and isles of Scotland and interior of Canada, or salted my brow in farm fields from Guatemala to Iceland. I never opened a bank account until I started earning more serious money on a berry farm in British Columbia. I always made do with less, and often relished in the struggle and suffering, when the bitterness contrasted such sweetness.

Too Free

Some would call the whole ordeal romantic, and perhaps it was to a fault. Intimacy and romance were also partly thematic of the adventure. There were women, beautiful, far-knowing, and mystical women, some twice my age, some with children, other vagabonds, others with homesteads of their own, in their queendom stage of life. I held long distance relationships, online relationships, brief encounters with strangers and partnerships at close quarters, but these were annual cycles of a freezing and thawing heart. I had passions in spades, but not a heck of a lot of balance. The romantic images of a rugged backpacker, long haired, bearded, with his life on his shoulders also fit. I carried only what I could move across the land by myself, though I often stressed the limits. A creative and feral spirit often carries implements most would deem unnecessary. For three years I traveled with a grizzly bear skull, another wildcat, pelts, claws, things I found in the forest, crystals, letters, musical instruments, a library of books, plants and paraphernalia. Among other things my core pack consisted of a mohair blanket from Mexico, a dream pillow, some lumberjack boots, and a hunting knife, a military laptop, sandals, a wool pouch with hygeine products and a hair trimmer, and two of each type of garment. Tied onto this massive rackpack were tin camping cups, antlers, bandanas, extra shoes, and bags of trail mix and fruit for long solo hikes. The pack eventually earned several flag patches of the countries I had visited, where I had dined with their inhabitants, played in their sandbox, and taken some pictures, all the while forging stories stronger in memory than steel swords.

It was all about the road, getting lost, the next state, the next city, the next country, new friends and new experiences. But those friends, countrysides and experiences were not forgotten. Instead they became more drops in the well of the collective saga of my life, and the lineage of my own ancestors sagas before me. They added breadth, depth, and meaning to the apparent, and were steeped in details so rich that I can see and recall them at any time. They were integral to the make up of who I identify with today. I took a lot of risks and lived dangerously, precariously on the serrated bladed edges of law, on the perilous cliffs of love, and stretched to the tensile strength of freedoms unknown to me before.

Maturing

This global migration and test of endurance and vitality was also a maturation process. Though the stories of the years events had flares of the romantic adventure, I have come to see them more in the light of rites of passage, ordeals, and part and parcel of the hero’s journey. Something I needed to ‘get out of my system’, like so many others in the wheel of time, specifically men. Pivotal concepts of archetype, ritual and phase transition living became more apparent to me through literature, relationship, and deep introspection of motive. As the years waxed I realized I was actually climbing and gaining altitude. Less the rungs a ladder, and more of a landscape of mountains with several base camps. Upon reaching one mesa or plateau, I could survey the scene and study it from afar, feel gratitude for how far and high I had come, and feel good that I had weathered the series of challenges on the way up. Incessant travel has been good for me, and I was ‘kin to the wind’, as the old cowboys said, but as I counted my winters and service, and relished in the tremendous growth I had made both horizontally and vertically. I started to feel that my roots were exposed, and were weathered so severely that they barely held me standing. Indeed the feeling of rootlessness pervaded my being.

Warrior, Magician, Lover, King

I have experienced each in high doses, the archetypes of the Warrior, the Magician and the Lover, and only now have come to taste in the Kingdom stage. Last year on Samhain as the first snow fell over the quiet maritime province of New Brunswick, I opened a bottle of Captain Morgan with my new neighbor, and made a deal on a one acre piece of land in the bush, replete with a wooden cabin, a tiny home, and an outhouse. The site of my homestead, soon to be an Appalachian forest farm. The last year of my life has been a stark transition towards the kingly archetype, towards settlement and tending a domestic haven in the wild country, to building tribe, seeding a family, and roping in a community of larger than life individuals to start the world we see fit.

Dying to Be New

Before all this happens, I need to return to Canadian soil, and as a fallout of the corona virus pandemic in the world of 2020, I have been stranded in India. The Mother’s Village as I refer to it has been the pinnacle of one of these storied mountains, where I could host my prospects, wager my life experiences, and distill them down into new spirits ready for the taking. It has also been one large healing ground as I emerged out of the sharp teeth and snarling maw of a bitter marriage fade out. The intention was to spend five months here in the saddle of a motorcycle, and with a little good luck, and momentum, ride through the pain and loneliness I had, while seeking out every opportunity for salving my wounds, growing a stronger trunk, and exploring some unknown territory. I was hacked down, and chopped into kindling ready to be burned, my reputation was soured, I lost my animals, and the roots I had set on a quaint country farm and a commune I called my second family become strained. These foundations were never fully excavated but in hindsight, I did a lot of hard in rebuilding a reputation, my competence, and my ability to self seed, spreading new growth across the land. I hustled in the summer, and sacrificed a lot of comforts for a life that would be nurtured with potential for the winter ahead. Indeed, my direct family lineage also came under the banners of good fortune, and the Nordic winter looked pregnant with the promise of gift.

Stranded

My original itinerary aimed for me to return home in the spring, early enough to start working on the farm as old man winter walked away from the land, the ground thawed enough to plant spring vegetables, and the green therapy of the broadwood forest welcomed one back onto the trails. That was almost two months ago, and after four unfruitful attempts to find a passage home for a reasonable fare, I have been shored and cooped up here in the Garwal district of Uttarakhand, a ‘spiritual mecca’ town called Rishikesh.

My impressions have evolved in dramatic ways of India, and Rishikesh after been stuck here for so long. I see spirituality treated as a business prospect, bought and sold, and comodified into a product of social currency. The same twenty fruit and and vegetables are sold on every street cart, grown from gmo seed, making it almost impossible to find clean food. The buildings are ugly and abrasive to the panoramic span of the gaze, the same uninspired concrete walls and straight lines, crumbling or halfway finished and never completed. The streets carry an acrid aroma of sewage, excrement of all animals including humans, rotting food squashed on the roads, while emaciated sick cows dig through mounds of trash, which is everywhere a testament to the wastes of consumerism. There is no quiet, even in the night, save for the high reaches of the mountains, and the noise can be deafening at most hours. Only in the forest can one breathe the rarified draughts of air, and the water is hard, full of rust, lime and calcium. The living conditions are lackluster, a grimy kitchen hosts a population of rats, cockroaches, and years of refined oil smoke inculcated into every surface, black mold colonizes the walls, and there is no sound insulation from the commotion.

I’m banking on a flight that will take me home before summer solstice, which at this point feels highly symbolic rather than definite. All travel plans since March have been halted before they had a chance to get off the ground, and at this point I have been cautiously exploring new plans for the monsoon season which starts in July and holds until September.

It is a grim reality that is taking its toll on me, so I’ve stocked myself with a toolbox of coping mechanisms and life hacks to surthrive this pandemic era away from home.

How I Cope

I have taken to drinking from a well, pumped by hand from the ground. This water is deeper in the earths table, has never seen the light or a plastic bottle, and didn’t sit in pipes or holding tanks before reaching my mouth. I believe if you work for your water in some way, pumping it and carrying in in jugs for instance, that you will appreciate it more so as not to waste or pollute it. I drink it with generous amounts of Tulsi oil from a copper flask to add minerals and plant essence. Often I will walk several kilometer from any road or source of pollution to detox my lungs, and avoid contact with people. I travel with my own wooden bowl and utensils, and my own wool blanket for sleeping, so as to maintain strict hygiene standards. I workout in my room after rolling out of bed, and in the evening with pushups and calisthenics, and read prolifically when I am less inspired to get out. I’ve taken to eating only once or twice a day, from raw ingredients I can concoct together, with a heavy bias towards high protein food staples, dense fats, fermented foods, fresh fruit and teas. These are times of mainlining and sustaining the houses of our body, and the gardens of our mind, as it can be so easy to let our physical form become weak and toxified by bad habits, and consciousness to become weedy and choked with vice.

Keeping something on my horizon to look out for is a major factor of my ability to endure and bear the current circumstances. I get out to ride small adventures within the district limits a couple times a week, but my domestic routine looks pretty simple these days, since I have next to no responsibilities. This can be stifling and create existential boredom if not checked with some form of novelty. Sometimes I think how much easier this would be with a lover to bring levity to the days under lock-down, but in reality it would probably just dramatize things, so I tend my own heart and take pleasure in the serendipitous and spontaneous encounters that do come with strangers. While with each successive lock-down, I find ways to unlock the snares and binds that may keep me from living a full life.

Sailing on new Paradigms

As a farmer, homesteader, and modern day forager, being connected to the land is intensely important. I often refer to myself as a dirt worshiping heathen, and I mean that in every true sense of the word. The old paradigms are going down on a sinking ship, while the jetsam from the oceans steed are collected and preserved onboard on stronger more robust vessel that will sail into new territory. If we really want to build permacultre, and a Permanent Culture, we must stay closer to home, eat closer to home, and love closer to home. Those can be tall orders if one has been accustomed to world travel as I have made a living of. Remarkably I retain almost no desire left for leisure tourism, and see myself devoting more time hearthside at home, and forming more intense and endowed local relationships with all species of life there, including my neighbors. If I travel in the future, it will likely be to continue my practice away from home, whether that be permaculture, foraging, building, or learning to hunt and survive the way our ancestors did. I want to explore more of Canada, especially the arctic territories, the Saskatchewan north, and the islands of the Maritimes and Pacific, where the old ways of life are more intact.

Being cut off from everything I love at home has accentuated what I put value on and what truly sustains me through hard times. Missing out on our annual seedy saturdays and the early spring greenhouse seeding, the maple season, the transplanting and treeplanting, the early spring foraging, and the onset of the farmers market has felt like something essential has been stolen from me. Not having access to this world is tough, and not something easily fathomed by those I share it with. One can not pretend, and simply abandon the pursuit, even through the pain. But wearing the will of a wolf is a keen position to take, for they are survivors and can adapt to any hardship. It is a time of returning, and protecting not only ourselves, our elders, youth and kin, but also tending the land we live on as sacred. We must secure a safe future for our sons and daughters, for they will inherit the world we work for today.

So I dress myself in protective hide, and grow longer in tooth and claw, remembering that this too shall pass, and remember, that home is beckoning me back, as it always has.

Steff Metal - Steff Metal Reviews: Rewild Zine, Issue 1

A Motorcycle Saga – Transmission 2: The Biking Viking

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom hereafter, a man’s motorcycle is an archetype to its own; the Shadow, the Nighthawk, Rebels, and Triumphs, they are named after men and legends, Norton, Indians & Harley, or weapons of militant use, the Enfields of the world, protecting borders and nations, and carrying riders from the Jungles of India, to the autobahns of Germany and backroads of America. The two wheels, frame and analog parts that come together to give its rider a means to move, can make a man King for a day. He forms a relationship with his bike, like a lover, you listen to her needs, and she replies in tow with favors and the gift of travel. There is a keen magic in the ride, a kind of science that transcends the mere classical mechanics. Nothing is done insensibly, or without meaning, a ride in the country hearkens up new adventures and a greater sense of global positioning, broadening ones territory, and exposing oneself to the forays out from his own home, simultaneously opening up new channels and pathways to the interior of the soul. For the way traveled is as much within as it is without.

I was thinking about the machine that a motorcycle is, a wonderful feat of technology, and how our ancient ancestors might have perceived it. For instance, if the Egyptians or Mayans, or Vikings were on our streets and in our cities today, what would they think about a Harley Davidson, or in my case, an ‘82 army special Honda Nighthawk? Would the builders of the pyramids, and clinker warships, be struck with awe upon seeing a V-twin engine roaring to life, and seeing the rubber they used as offerings to their Gods, used create the tires that support a mortal man to fly down a freeway at 120km/hr. What would the Vikings think about our use of iron and steel in building engines and carburetors, and mufflers, that sound like wild beasts of the North. What would Eirik the Red, that Norse Barbarian of the sea roads, drive if he had a motorcycle? Methinks the ancients would probably be as compelled by our brand of technology in the form of motorcycles and moving parts as we are of their sacred geometric pyramids, longhalls, and carved wagons.

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We ride these modern day horses of metal, manipulated by forges and machines to create strong, fast, and powerful means of getting us from one place to another. Yet the motorcycle is much more than this. Compared to a car, where you are experiencing the world through a kind of screen, your windshield, on a motorbike you are the scene, and have a lot more intimate relationship with the road. The pavement rushing beneath your feet a few inches below is real, and the buffeting winds of an eighteen-wheeler can blow you sideways as you pass by. There are a multitude of things that can spell bad news for a bike, its the unforeseen aspects of the traveled road that one needs to be aware of, the gravel in the turn, the oil in the middle of the lane, a darting deer in your path or at high speeds even a squirrel can upset ones day, that knocking sound in your engine, blind spots, black ice sheets, wet sand on forest service roads, keeping your steed steady at speed on major highways, potholes on the back-roads, roadkill; these are some elements that are more risk laden than when driving in a car. There is a lot less allowance for these obstacles and hazards.

It takes a certain kind of man to ride on two wheels, a quality of courage, and daringness. Like having a psychedelic experience with an unknown drug, starting a movement, or touring the world to foreign countries, and with the risks come bounty. It’s the pioneering spirit of seeing beyond whats in the bend in the road, or over the next mountain, and what life is like, further away from comfort. I think that riding a motorcycle is an appropriate form of travel for someone like myself, nomadic, free, and original. I relate it not only to the lifestyle I have chosen to carve out, or the romance of the biker culture, but to deeper reasons, like ancestry, and a sense of primordial instinct. To be a wanderer, a master of travel, to know that you are the rider, and not the riden. With self driving, automated cars these days, it becomes very easy to drive absent mindedly, perhaps while you are checking your text messages, or talking to passengers. With a motorbike, you must enter into a kind of zen meditation before and during your trip. There is a confidence when you cover the miles of a long journey, ranging through all kinds of weather and terrain to reach your destination, to meet a friend, a brother, kinfolk, and ultimately to come to terms with yourself, taking stock of where you are, and what you are made of, and what you have accomplished.

Some folks around the county have started calling me ‘The Biking Viking’, and I thought it an apt name for this transmission. I guess there is a dose of truth in that. The Vikings were far rangers and explorers of new land, and they moved with a fierceness behind them, but they were also craftsman and navigators, they would be our master mechanics and pack leaders of today. It is written in my genetic code, to instigate something, lead a tribe, start the world, it’s the lions nature, and my affinity with Norse paganism is worked with magic into my bike itself. :R:oad prayers before every trip, a wayfinding Taufr hanging from my bars, :RUNES: and freedom mantras painted in black camo on the side panels, and travel staves on the ammo cases. Mead mixed in the fuel tank, and a small library of motorcycle literature and poetry in my cargo. I’ve merged my DNA with the very lifeblood of this bike. Though my own mare has only been on the road shy two months, I’ve riden her almost 4,000 kilometers. For awhile I mounted a set of 10 point stag antlers to the front, until having lucid dream that the bike took offense to the horns, gender confusion issues I think, so I took them off, she is my woman after all. I rode with her to the Laurentians of Quebec and back to meet my brother in arms, cruised backroads to Kingston, and all around the townships of Bastard/Rideau Lakes, & Leeds and Grenville; Athens, Plum Hollow, Lyndhurst, Harlem, Chantry, Portland, Lombardy, Morton, The Bush, Westport, Newboro, Forfar, and my current digs at a cabin in Delta, where the Old Bastards got their start up. Soon it will be time to park her away for the riding season, and mentally, at least in this Canadian climate, I’ve given myself until Samhain to enjoy a few last rides, and languish in the autumn colors of the backroads of Ontario. Then she is going to be in good hands with a brother in the club for the winter months while she gets reworked, tuned, and built back up again, maybe even a paint job, a whole new heroine.

I’ll be parting with one lady and looking for another on a grand adventure in India for five months. Next month, I’ll take flight for the sacred lands and find myself a Royal Enfield on the streets of Mumbai in Maharasthra, then ride it to Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry, before heading North, winding my way through the vastness of India, en route to the Himalayas and the holy Yoga towns. This being said, I have no itinerary, the monsoon rains hit India off the Arabian Sea in November, and it may be more practical to find something more kin to elemental travel like a VW bus or some other alternative. I am leaving as much openness as humanly possible for the mystical, magical and unexpected to happen along the heroic journey. My travels in the Kali Yuga will be guided by intuition, ritual, and cultural sensitivity, like the Icelandic Vegvisir stave on the back of my hand does for me in a more familiar home.

There I will encounter men and women of the sorts I have never met and some I have; Sadhus, Pilgrims, Muslims, Hindoos, Peasants, Beggars, Farmers, Children, Tourists, Fellow Bikers and Nomad Travelers like myself. The myths waiting to be told, the old Gods and Goddesses to be encountered, and the wild places and spaces soon to be visited makes the blood in my heart pump faster, and an inner fire stoke hotter than before. The new year will be brought in with ceremony, awe, and wonder. They also say India is the place of Love, where one falls in Love, with oneself? with the land? with ones soul mate? Perhaps all three. Perhaps an alchemy of all things unknown. Most certainly.

A Horse of Iron and Steel: The Motorcycle Saga

IMG_20190909_164827At long last, the blackened lungs of my new horse, Freyfaxi, breathes a draught of the late summer air, and accepts the mount of a new rider on her saddle. At first a stamper, then a tolt, and before long she picks up to a full charge, riding off into the backcountry roads of marlbank, ontario, to dry lake for her first circuit, followed by a swim the the clay white waters.

She came from the praries of Manitoba, and carries a back history of previous riders, with only 36grand on her in km, she’ 37 years old but rides like 25. I’ve had women this age, and she suits me well. I found her in Belleville, waiting to picked up and with a cache of extra parts, I own her twin almost fully, making it simple to trade out as needed. Makes me think, assembling the other beast for my brother, would be a good idea. She’s not fancy or shiny, but looks like something Che Guevara or an Army vet may ride. It’s rugged, and will handle the dirt or the asphalt without complaining. She has six speeds, and holds her own on the road.

I polish the leather of my blundstones, throw on my helmet and vest, and bring the motor to roaring life, and take this girl on the ride back home to the our stable in the backwoods of Lyndhurst. I patched in with the Old Bastards Vintage M.C. this morning, and feeling riled up for some road time before the frost and snow comes makes the roads one giant ISA rune.

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After being felled down by a hard marriage, the bike comes like another lover, just like a woman, she is temperamental, beautiful, vocal, and will carry me for hopefully many years in this life.

She needs some work, and that is part of the new relationship. There will be much to learn, great work to do, hiccups along the way that remind me to stay patient, and keep the wheels turning, while we forge a new path together. A few health problems are concern; tight calipers causing me to miss out on miles, cracks in the back tire, headlamp blacked out the other day on a gravel road at night, and there is a slight rattle in the lungs. I’ll be taking care of her as I go, cause I admit I don’t know a hell of a lot about bikes. It’s the zen of riding and the art of motorcycle maintenance that I am looking for in this marriage with iron and steel. She looks pretty sitting in the shade of towering ash trees. Metal ammo carriage cases, military green paint job, harley windshield, and some Runic :Galdastafir: painted on the sides, along with some riders affirmations “Freedom is Power and Unrestrained Movement”, ATWA. It’s uniquely mine, and no one else on the road will have one the same, she turns heads in both ways, attracting and repelling.

I rode her to the vineland in Westport to put in my work, cruising on the country highways early in the morning wild cold numb hands before the sun rose. Felt lighter and invigorated from the vibrations of the engine going through my axis mundi, shifting and shaking things out of sleeps stasis. A kind of high without caffeine filled me, and I parked her near the chicken coop on the farm, to prepare myself for the day.

I look forward to taking her by the Old Bastards and getting some in motorcycle talk. I’m already thinking about and Eastern pilgrimage to the sea next spring, but for now I’ll keep her in the county and get my footing.

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Loved By the Gods

 

A man with a mission, who has a way, who can bear almost any how, holds his bow with a firm shot on his loci of attention. When it comes his day of re-birth, he traces over the constellations to find his north star. The beast in him shines in the light of the divine, and being more than mere man. And he sets himself apart from profane reality to experience a re-evaluation of values as he comes another year into his being. He becomes more of himSELF, as his lower self is given to the fire. Here I stand, at sunset, on the 29th anniversary of my birth, stringing my wyrd with new patterns and patching holes in the greater tapestry of my life. As a more complete man, the sole author of my personal saga, enacting the story deed for deed, with actions matching words. Striving for impeccability, yogic perfection, valiant primal virtue, and soundness of existence on all fronts. I think of Jack Donovan’s words of wisdom, and drink them in like deep draughts of sweet mead.

“The Noble Beast believes himself to be good, and noble and beautiful and happy, and loved by the Gods, or favored by fate – because he is mighty. And he believes that he is mighty, and beautiful and happy because he is favored by divinity. He believes that it is good to be beautiful. Morally good. Morally Right. Power and beauty are equivalent! He believes that it is good to be happy and he wants to be happier still. He wants to be better, nobler, mightier, more beautiful, happier and more favored by the Gods. The noble beast wants MORE of everything GOOD in Life”

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I see these sentiments portrayed in the mythos of Baldr, a man who signifies rebirth, the purity of ones maturity, nobleness, goodness, beauty, and being loved. He is the archetypal power of the noble heathen, bolstered by his people to become greater than he is, and morally profound. For me, this is the year I look for Baldr’s teachings, his mythical narrative and the powerful weight of his own demise, that enforce his final legacy. Baldr as the one to lead by action, by virtus, and protected by the Gods.

These Nietzschean thoughts at dusk sum up a lot of my perspective on life in this age. Everyday I strive for more of everything GOOD in Life. Because my ancestors always wanted a better life for themselves, to thrive, to be told of in legacy, to be Loved by Their Gods, whatsoever name they were ascribed, to be held accountable and remarked in Honor, to have power within and without. To be part of something bigger, often better, ultimately the best existence attainable. To know there is more in a name, with conviction to virtus and truth, the noble beast, the savage gentleman places himself in the role of presider, leader, and creator. Who finds his way through the choking weeds of culture. Sailing his ship over roiling seas, past the breakers of a broken society, he navigates with stern focus and attention. There is nothing more than he can do than pursue this primal passion, to sometimes sacrifice an insignificant part of his dross to purify the spiritual elements of his soul. The great wheel keeps turning.