The home that shelters me feels more alive than when I moved in. Not only because my neighbors inform me so, but because there is a different sensitivity, capacity, and essence about the place inside these protective walls. My own Walden cabin of spartan humbleness and experimentation. I am starting to work out some of the kinks that hindered a comfortable settlement like the leaky roof, gray water system, fuel and battery security, and nighttime lighting. What this looks like may be a tad less pre-meditated and robust than you think, but running a smooth operation at home relies on your systems and how they work and serve for you. The kindred of Knowlesville expands to absolve me in its bubble, and I have intentionally mingled with the same twenty or so folks on a staggered basis as we passed the equinox on a neighbors porch, doing sun salutations for the fireball in the sky to rise and bring us into balance.
On a visit to the Faroe Islands and Iceland in 2016, I fell in love with the colors of the homesteads of the countryside. Matte black walls accented by deep red doors, white sills and live grass roofs. The blackened wood created a striking depth and vividness to the simplicity of the structure, the blood red color of the doors symbolized the life inside, the white frames were fresh highlights of the ice and snow that fell in the high lattitude lands, and the lushness of the green sod roof meant insulation in the harshest winter and coolness in the summer. A house that also grows grass, herbs and flowers on its roof is a living house, and I have even seen other graise their goats on them. I knew I wanted to live in a house like this, and have helped build one in Norwegian farm on another occasion. The staining job on my cabin is now finished, and I have been able to bring some of that Scandinavia spirit to my land. The Vinland flag also flies proudly from a birch pole and rock horgh.
We held a permaculture blitz and intimate music gathering hosted by one of my neighbors on his land trust plot. Interesting installments like a regenerative dance floor catered towards sustainability in an otherwise highly consumerist and destructive approach to transformational festivals. Folks were asked to brings their own bowls and spoons, and all the camp water was pumped by a solar panel to fill jugs. As bodies danced on the live earth, the lasagna type layering of alder coppiced poles over marsh, decked in straw, and broadcasted with seeds of herbs and wildflowers contributed to a pad of soil building organic materials that gradually broke down and decayed into finer and finer pieces. Over the course of a festival, people were literally creating a grass roots movement, and transforming an ecology in a permaculture way that involved specifically the culture aspect. I volunteered some of my time to build a robust earthen wood bridge that forded a small brook, which replaced one that was all but rotting through and perhaps a hazard for the festival attendants who could be walking back to camp in an altered state of consciousness. A man name Ben became a quickened friend who was an intern at another permaculture farm in Ontario. We drove the countryside down Ketchum ridge road, and stopped to watch uniquely patterned cattle chew their cud, and watch us with interest. It felt good to be there, doing nothing, just staring into all those sensitive eyes of the cows, thinking of how they are revered and omnipotent in India. Alex and I held court in his kitchen for many fond hours of story trading, downloading mindful information, and making vision plans for next years shindig. Mandala took the party through her sound tunnels of dark beats and electro waves to commence the night set. And despite the mist and rain of the weekend, everyone seemed rather satisfied to be gathered together, as relationships kindled from source around the fire barrels.
In the homestead, there is no longer any rainy days indoors when father sky pours down his liquid clear medicine on mother earth. During the first moon of being here, if it rained outside for one day, it rained inside for two. My walk for water affair is usually on a three day circuit, but with two extra car-buoys donated from Jem and Aeron, my cup is full for nine before I need to tap the well again. The water from the well on this one acre runs slightly mushroom color, and has a rocky, steely taste from the dust that fell in the casing during the drilling process. My hand pump came from Ontario, a black cast iron treasure that adds more beauty and function to the land. Sadly it cracked on first use, and after several calls to the manufacturer and the hardware store, it was resolved that I had a bad cast on one part and a new piece would be ordered in soon which I could replace at my own leisure. I now have that essential part and fitted it with a piece rubber, used to open rusted and wet mason jars, which is now providing a gasket for the pump cylinder. It still didn’t cut the ire and annoyance of having a piece of technology that is supposed to perform one action fail on its first use, but it does lend to the ingenuity one can develop with little resources on a leaner budget outside of cities that have everything. The pump has a long draw, but the water has traces of iron, and it may be several uses before the clarity of its healing medicine is fully transparent and tasteless, though I am cooking with it. Beside this new permanent fixture are two more cords of maple, which I spent a morning and afternoon piling and laying with evergreen boughs to shed rain. The straw bale yurt floor is also nearing satisfactory completion. Problem solving a natural daily part of homesteading, learning how to mend, fix, and fare with less, and simply being patient with all the processes. There is value in the fundamentals that are hard won, and robustly rewarding. Wood and water under ten steps from my south porch makes me feel like a rich man.
Animal medicine comes to us when we need to receive a potent teaching or derive a lesson from its presence. Bear has come six times in the last two weeks days. The first time when my motorcycle copped out half a km from home, the second on a mushroom foraging walk in the pine barrens that flank the south forests of the cabin, the third in the land trust, where my neighbors dog treed an adolescent cub in the woods while we cut alder poles for her goat fence, the fourth on a ride in north Knowlesville and a fifth time at the end of my driveway at night. Bear comes with messages to take courage for hard times, for lean times, for winter times. Bear is brother and walks like man on all fours. Bear is elusive and makes himself known when it is important to be seen. She-Bear reminds us to protect what is soft and fragile. The She Bear protects her cubs for six months in a cold dark place without eating, staving off boars, frost and hunger and lowering it’s heart rate to two beats per minute. I must condition myself for winter, fatten up both literally and spiritually become resilient enough for the mental challenges of the survival season. To stock potent medicines as does Bear, which root from Earth so that may winter pantry is loaded with health fortifying herbs, spices and concoctions. Potent elixirs, tinctures and a larder of healthy preserved foods and fats. I also must protect what is mine and slow down, be like bruin, do less and be more in the present moment. Feel everything, and wait. Timing is tantamount. Bearing solitude in long stretches of night. This is where my heart’s conditioning is at. To be more conspicuous, quiet, subtle in my presence.
My humble abode now has solar electricity flowing through its walls, and amber light cast on its walls, as my final pieces of the system have come into the picture. The wiring still remains to connect the workshop to the solar, and angle the panels to the best sunwise position for the autumn and winter low light months. A feeling of liberation accompanies the installment of a solar system that means you will never have to pay an electricity bill again, though I have been careful to avoid any kind of bills through my life, so I have been savvy with those protocols. I am running a 120v AC and 12v AC system simultaneously, one for higher draw amber edison bulbs which add a glow to the tamarack boards in the cabin, and one for the wall power to run a small assortment of gear. I don’t yet own any power kitchen appliances, and would prefer to limit this to a chest freezer, and blender. In the future, I would like to raise a great water tower that is filled once a month by a solar pump and use gravity to funnel it to different systems like a hot water off grid shower, and a cold water sauna submersion pool in the forest. One can daydream when the resources are free, the labor and materials are another thing, but I can easily compensate for the former.
At the time of collecting the 6v batteries for the bank, I was able to snag some high quality hardwood pallets to build a king size bed. Johan, one of our local cattle farmer, and the same man we buy sausage and bacon from, brought a dozen more bales to the land. I wasted no time shifting them into a makeshift frame of stressed barnwood boards atop the pallets, then fitting them with bamboo sheets. For the first time since slumbering in the cabin, I can lie in Shavasana with lots of extra. Halfway between the King’s sleeping quarters, and the Peasant’s tucket, I call it the settler’s bed. With the straw bales holding my bones aloft, there is no disconnection with the element of earth, no springs or metal besides those that hold the pallets together, and no floating space between the bed and the ground. My sleep temple is organic, made of sustainable, fast growing, and renewal plants and does not really on modern conventionally farmed cotton, or industrial materials to produce. It also carries a subtle grassy scent, which is relaxing to fall asleep to. The entire bed only cost me the price of the bales and the bamboo sheets, and the pallets were free. And a King size bed implies a Queen in the picture.
The frost giants have come to our plot of middle earth, and there is a rush to harvest what can be gleaned before old man winter sets his rimy foot onto the land. I’m finding the medial line between the investment of energy toward my own projects and duties, and to my service of others. An afternoon in a greenhouse with my neighbor meant we could harvest all his tomatoes, ground cherries and leftover cucumbers and squash, as they succumbed to the -3 degree overnight temperatures. While some were the sad victims of powdery mildew. We staked out a contour line in a feral hay field for the future siting of a blueberry swale with several members of the community who came out to offer a hand. And I’ve enjoyed an extended morning sadhana with Kaia, practicing yoga on her new deck to the soundtrack of psychedelic kirtan music from the 70’s.
As the subzero nights creep on us, I start to think more about sauna culture, and the detoxifying sweat rituals that accompany my winter stasis. In the Fallsbrook centre is a sauna, that I hope to have access to as the snow flies. One of my favorite ceremonies is the sauna, with equal immersions into the cold that follow the intensity of the heat and humidity. Cleansing the body through hardcore perspiration, then rolling in the snow, or jumping in a cold lake or pond, before return to the cedar steamhouse and letting one’s body thaw. But right now, the hibernal colors are still in transition, pumpkins are almost fully ripened on the vine, egg nog will soon be on the dairy shelves, and the brisk autumn winds will bring the sweaters and turtlenecks out from the wardrobe. When I start to wear long johns and toques to sleep, I know the season has changed. I’ve always wanted a husky as a companion, and I’m on the hunt for the perfect dog to live with me in this wooden temple of mine.
The ripening purples of elderberries have tinged the season with a beautiful harvest of medicinal fruit reaping, and I’ve collected a full basket of ripened apples that have fallen from just two of the trees on my land, while the crab apples bring in the presence of more wild fauna. The Balsam poplar holds aloft its snub and sticky buds of tangy terpenes, and the mosses reach an ultimate hue of neon green, as if they were lit up from the inside out. Lucid glows of sugar maple orange, and red, and mountain ash purple turn the landscape into an lsd kaleidoscope of postcard perfect brilliance. My breath is caught as I ride past them so full of chi and its last encore of beauty.
With the new moon and equinox energy I feel a nostalgia and pining for what is dying and leaving, but also a need to set intentions and parameters for the onset of a new season. I’m buffing up on the local fungal terroir, and have already found some fine specimens of reishi and gem studded puffball, while an entourage of Amanita Muscaria have taken up habitation on my land and have sporulated to the four corners of the mossy treeline. Large elf rings popped up literally overnight, and I had a small ceremony for the little people that no doubt came riding on the saucer-like spores. There is definitely a squirrely-ness in the forest as well, as I’ve noticed more activity from these long in tooth and nail.
On the village front, the city of Woodstock is gradually steeping in more and more paranoia of the corona virus, despite New Brunswick being a safe province with only one single active case as of writing. Masks are mandatory in some of the superstores, but a tension is building for those small town folk who know their freedoms are being compromised or chipped away at. A local counter-corruption activist from the ridge dropped a leaflet in my mailbox with some meaty expose, and it certainly feels like there is some solidarity for the common law of the folk. I have not been to the city in almost a month, and have learned to steer clear of the urban den and instead seek my provisions in some of the smaller towns like Glassville, Bath, Florenceville, Bristol or Coldstream where I can find everything I need to live a simple life; from unleaded gasoline to chimney pipes, to raw butter, hardware, tools, coffee, and fresh bread milled right here in Knowlesville. There is an Amish lady who hooks rugs, her husband sells buffalo sausage, a canteen with fish and chips, and a co-operative grocery store. I know of three roadside farm stalls, and three covered bridges, a hunter’s style brewhouse and an Irish pub, two automotive shops and a repair garage, two mills and a distillery. All accessible from the pleasures of backroad travel.
With the boys from the land settlement field, we took an outing in Juniper for a night at the Village Pour House, sadly we were the only folks in the pub, not even the locals were around, we chalked it up to be a cause of a Sunday night slump. There was actually a tumbleweed bumbling across the road. My sister from the straw bale home took me there the next weekend on a Friday, and the joint was thriving, with a full parking lot, most of them moose hunters who all had bull stories to tell, and hunter’s orange toques and caps atop their heads. We shot several rounds of pool with the locals on broken tables, drank overpriced Quebecois maple whiskey, and ate bad seafood, and had a blast.
Since my last admission I’ve put four wheels and more horsepower under me after lining up a deal on a pt cruiser near the historic pioneer village of Kingsclear. It will drive all year, and will heat up like a furnace for those blustery cold days before the maritime fimbulwinter. If I could ride my motorbike all year I would and even considered a skidoo instead, but the practicality of carrying heavier loads, animals, or people made it a surefire choice of manifestation, and I rest at night knowing I am proud of the pivotal choices I have made in my life as of late. We tend to make places of refuge in our cars and homes, and that is how I have been perceiving the integral extensions of this off grid lifestyle. Dissolving further into the momentous simple practices that are happening right now, building temples within the boundaries of our collective commune, and finding truths through the non-conventional means of wise living.
There is the scent of wild pheromones in the air, and the trees are full of prana. Blue Jay, Spruce Grouse migrate into the domain, while Canada Geese are headed south of the border. While to be a bird would be a great boon for winter travel, travel restrictions are still bottlenecked and stifled to completely remove any lucky draw for a chance visit for my Polish lover, whom I crossed paths with in India before my tumulutous return home. The confrontation with the necessities and the raw strenuous and unperiled lifestyle of the bush, put me closer in contact with the Iron John and Wild man mythos and paradigm of frontier living.
As the world primes itself for a “second wave” of corona virus, I’m boosting my immunity with bone broth, ginseng, rhodiola, chaga and maral root, and banking on jarred preserves to enable longer stays at home if things so south. I have no desire to visit the hysteria of the cities for supples and provisions, and frankly I’m not buying into a movement of culture that I was voluntold to be a part of. Folks are going back to the land, why did we ever leave it?