Saga of Othala, ch. XIV: Right Relations

If it were not for the mosquitoes, black flies, no see-ems, and fire ants, I would be gardening naked. Thoughts through my feral mind, as my barefoot met with solar scorched fallow field on a solstitial day of cultivation. True, these micro beasts are just as much a part of the environment as the staghorned Moose, concspicous Whitetails, and foraging mama Bear, but alas I can not admire them, catch photos of them on my camera traps, sup kingly on their meats, or tan pelts from their hides. They feast on my essence, and spoil a perfectly good meditation, or yoga sequence, and are infinitely terrible when they make contact with the genital region. No wonder Adam and Eve had fig leaves, and tribals stitched loin clothes with kudu skins, it wasn’t for shame but for protection of the future race!

Bug season comes with a heaping mound of sweet experiences too, with a thick gravy of special moments so as to make all the heathland discomforts worthwhile. Flowers galore naked in their beauty, flashing their feminine forms to all nectar lovers of the animal paradise, human men of this species included. I love to get up close and personal with the passionate violet, a flirtacious peony, or the sepals and petals of an orchid in bloom, watching their colors shift with dappled sunlight, watching rainwater bead from their soft landing strips, and inhaling their natural cologne, as my own musk is left in their aura by exchange, sometimes consuming the flowers whole and tasting them slowly as they dissolve in my mouth. I wonder if one can be sustained by flowers alone? A Floratarian?

At the cabin, I sold my vintage bike to make room for a new chariot with some more horsepower and “getting around the world” vibe. The KLR 650 is made for those with long seeing gaze, and wild manes, and who don’t mind putting on the miles. It’s full of custom mods that make it sounds like a Lion that swallowed a volcano, and I dig that. It’s black as soot, with some gritty paint job that gives it a rough and beastly look to it. Each bike should be akin to his rider anyways. When I first saw it, I started thinking about how far it would take me, there is something satisfying about saddling an open air vehicle and knowing with confidence it can carry you to the ends of the continent and beyond.

She needed some love however, the tank was rusted, and required some old fashioned chemistry in old school ways. Vinegar and baking soda descaled the rust, cleansed it out of the tank and turned clear acetic acid into a red slurry filled with chips of the fungal rust resembling corn flakes. The vinegar changes the pH of the steel to acidic naturally, while the baking soda etches and neutralizes the tank metal closer to alkaline. A failed Por-15 sealing solution that resembles liquid silver, was a major disturbance to getting the horse out of the stable. I started calling it Poor-15, when this material did not adhere, and come out of the tank in pieces looking like parchment paper, and lava rock and porous rubber. Six days after the first attempt to cure the tank with the solution, I had it all picked out, using a barbeque fork, a birch branch, a crow bar, and a chain. It rained most of the time bringing further moisture into my workshop space, and making the dry priming of the tank even harder. In the end I was able to scrape out all the hardened solution inside with only a few minor dings to the tank and a few chips of paint knicked off the sides. Fortunately I have half a can of rugged black grit paint for touch ups later. The tank did eventually get a light bloom of the rust (a fungus caused by oxygenation of various metals), but apparently the new epoxy resin solution that has come to me will bond even tougher to a surface with some traction so I remain hopeful. In the meantime I tore down the carbeurators, deep cleaned inside and out and replaced all jets, fuel screws, emulsion tubes, pins and gaskets, and rebuilt the carb in an afternoon. Though these processes were carried out by my hands alone, I must give thanks to the fellow Kawasaki owners on youtube with far more mechanical inclination than I for making videos for just about everything I needed to know along with way. I still consider it a small miracle that such information can be liberated and shared, for free. After the rebuilt, a friend of mine linked it to his hybrid engine vehicle and we let it charge for half an hour while we sat around a pit fire. The beast did not turn over first try. I had forgotten to connect the throttle, so I drew on my bicycle experince connecting brake cables, and had them both back on without a challenge. After a charge, and a few good words, it roared to life, the beast liveth! I trotted down south Knowlesville road for a celebratory first run, then returned it to the stable for further tending and tuning.

Under my bare feet, I have felt the ground and the warmth of Pacha Mama. My hands, roughened, dried and calloused by the stacking of wood, the foraging of plants and the sowing of seed are balmed by resinous oils, and natural sebums of youthful age. When not in service to the duties of the land, animal or homestead, they work to turn the pages of saga rich literature, and timeless knowledge. On my bookstack, I currently have The Art of Fermentation, Sacred Plant Initiations, The Rune Poems, and a copy of the Rastafarian king Selassie ver. of the Bible. I’ve started two vinegars, one an infused tropical vinegar with banana peels and burnt orange skins, another with a vinegar grandma and masala chai spices. They sit bubbly on my tea shelf next to some other rose family and medicinal vinegars, as the herb walls becomes filled out with newly foraged and solar dried concoctions. In the meantime I’ve been restoring some old beehives, I need a Queen in more ways than one, and a Queen means workers serving her highness, and that means honey laden hexes, and honey yields Viking mead!

Every year I set intentions to experiment cooking and eating new wild foods, incorporating some into my ever expanding and diversifying diet, while others are munched and eaten in season but ultimately enjoyed ephemerally. Thus far the testament has been verified and I have been lucky enough to be in the right place and time to engage the terroir of some ofthese species little or unknown to me before. Whether enjoying them cooked artisanlly into a solo supper, prepared for a communal potluck, or snacked in situ. Early season brackenferns a.k.a. fiddlenecks, and which I like to think of as Eagle ferns because of their eagle talon like fern heads, were a nice treat side by side with asparagus, which had a muskier earth flavor that intuitively seemed good to pair with seafood. Violet flowers were blended with raw goat’s milk and heavy cream to make an unpasteurized healthy ice cream. I sample a few honeysuckle berries on a friends land, and have been adding Lovage and Valerian florets into egg recipes, stir frys, and potato mashes. I’ve yet to find thistles with enough heft in their stalks to try Thistle celery, of which all species are edible in their stalks when peeled, and their flower buds apparently yield an artichoke like heart before sending out their petals. Nettles have been therapy for some chronic arthritis in my hands which I take more advantage of in their urticating hairs left unpicked from root, with the caveat that their dark foresty green brews, an simmered leaves with miso have nourished me on wet tropical muggy days. A tincture of nettle helped after being stung by a wasp, and biten by a jumping spider, and counters the adrenal drain of coffee. I’ve switched to some decaf Marley roasts half the time. A spicy fish batter went over well with some dry roasted horsetail fronds, and their unique anatomy lent for a special eating experience. I’ve dined on a handful of latexy milkweed greens, and a garnishing of flowers though not so much to trigger any ill-fated butterfly effect. I believe they will still be hatching in profusion here in our no spray south Knowlesville and charting their route to Mexico in no time. Elsewise the wild oreganos, mints, and pineapple chamomile gleaned from weedy human designs made their way to the solar dryer, and stocked some jars for further plant communion through the all holy tisane ceremony.

Spring filtered through with some exciting moments, and some not so irie ones. A friend of mine and permaculture guru launched an orchard planting blitz on the maritime coast in Little Shemogue, where hundredss of fruit trees, berry borne shrubs, perennial flowers, nuts and medicinal herbs were married together in guilds, aligned with the four directions and concentric ring designs. Spawning the beginning of a larger vision for an intergenerational fruit and nut highway in the maritimes. I met some beautiful souls while rooting willow into burms, from which some precious connection have unfurled. From one who chooses consciously not to engage with social media, dating sites, or have an online presence beyond this journal, and lives in a village of 40 people with no car, meeting other high minded beings, with their heart resonating in more pure frequencies, and their actions matching their words is a treasure and a rare occurence. We are becoming an endangered species, and the tribe is scattered like seeds on the wind. I am pleased to have found a few good seeds in the bunch over my years of picking and choosing.

Other bonds met their natural fraying, and not so happy endings, which ultimately made way for deeper self sovereignty, and more pure levels of self-love. The dance does not last forever, and it is important to know when the love language is forced, and when it comes organically. I remain thankful to all those I have learned to love, and those who have co-conspired with me to step together and aportion a piece of this finite lifetime we have for the joys of being. I choose not to hold anything negative in burdensome weights on my soul. Some cooler nights have afforded a reason to sit presently with my woodstove, and “feel the feelings” so they may be absolved, and integrated, released, healed, or celebrated. This is all we can ever do, and there are no wasted hours.

A robust animal presence at Othala is being watched, I have my own nature documentaries here inna de yard. Blue Jays have been courting in strange crooning lyrics, a resident woodpecker chases standing timber for afternoon snacks, and a hummingbird woke me the other day while hovering an exhales distance from my face as I lay in bed on the other side of a bug screen. The moment later, a rather large garter snake slithered across my floor and attracted unruly attention from the Alaskan husky. I transported her outside to the pyramid tent, and she later returned to the cabin door, seeking passage in again. The wolves have also been at my door, of the arachnid kind, some goliaths of a spider hanging from gossamer webs, hiding in the racks of drying herbs, cornered in sills and tucked under boards of moist wood. Another smaller species lives in the glass of a spider plant vase, a fitting home methinks. Their webs have done a good job of catching all matter of flying insects, so I welcome them in this hall.

On the waning of the new moon, I shall be yoking the mechanic steed with a sister for an epic roadtrip to the Cape Breton highlands and a return to the Gaelic countryside for the 2nd Rainbow gathering this side of Oh, Canada. Last years circle was held in Indigenous Wabanaki territory while this year beckons us out to the sea, at the site of an abandoned lighthouse in Cape North. I look forward to taking my shoes off and leaving them off, swimming everyday in the salt, eating porridge when really hungry for it, sleeping when tired, letting the animal body be free of its fibers, and play in the world as if decades younger. These are the perfect places to commit oneself to such enjoyments, and I think it is not a matter of escapism but rather responsibility to allow yourself to be so free, to marvel at simple things in awe and wonder, to tell the weather with your skin, to share meals hand in hand with brother and sister, and sing for your food. We need to remember the sacredness of the fire that does not go out, the melodic forest hymns of songbirds speaking across the species, the absence of time and manmade geometry, to call a tent one’s temple, and drink live wild water from the burbling spring fountain of terra firma. This will be my fifth Rainbow gathering and 2nd in this country. During some nomadic travels, I found my way home to gatherings in Mexico, Wales, and Gotland, always emerging from the cocoon of love and peace a little wiser, more graceful, and with richer hue of spirit.

Saga of Othala, ch. XIII: Hand Built Life

If you listen closely on a golden sundown, you can hear the trembling of polar streams, and the trilling of spring peepers in the fens. You can see the myriad shades of green of our skedaddle forestry, rising out of the muted earth tones of straw yellow and tan browns. Moss keeps the memory of the wet season in soaked barefoot steps, and solar rays now beam strong enough to darken the skin. Fiddleheads are in season. Bloodroot, swamp cabbage, and trout lilies roll out the green carpet for the keen forager. The brooks are rippling with the procession of rainbow trout and silver fish, some of the first oil and protein rich life available to harvest since thaw. In the garden, volunteer chives blaze up a few blades from sweet bulbs alongside planted rhubarb, sage and tarragon. I drink bullet proof coffee on a rustic wooden chair on a pallet and barnboard porch and enjoy the liminal time that exists between the permafrost and the mosquito plagues.

Thee last transmission of mine carried the theme of bearing burdens, and responsibility, little did I know that in the following days of the post I would be laid off from my occupation in the sugary. Four men had been hired from Guatemala, and unfortunately this meant the burden of being jobless, at least for a spell. Survival instincts run deep in me, whether out on the land gathering wild flora for the cooking pan, with a bow and poison arrow in the Savannah of Afrika, or prospecting in the stone’s throw for meaningful local work. By the next morning I was chisel deep in the woodshop, carving out mortises to be jointed with their tennons. Maybe nowhere else in New Brunswick was such craft still seeing a tradition. This little parlor behind our village shoppe felt akin to the Nordic workspaces of those industrious and clever dwarves, turning out odd wooden furnitures and creations with nae’ more than peculiar hand tools and building songs.

This was purely a labor of love, done by hand, with patience as the timekeeper. Rough cut 1×6’s, and 2×4’s would transform into beautifully wrought doors, and slotted window frames, puzzled together with tongues, grooves, and handmade dowels. How many people can say they know how to use a biscuit cutter, a flush saw, a whetstone mill, or a bit and brace? What about getting a square peg to travel through a round hole? Or using kindling scraps for useful bracing to hold a window square? I for one could not until now, and if a field of cotton plants represented each moment of gratitude I have felt during this learning journey, well.. there would be a lot of cotton.

More the gift it is while tooling, carving and rendering this handbuilt home alongside someone so special and significant in my life, whom will habitate the dwelling after it is raised this summer. The woman of my heart glazes an eye over her creation, and builds it a thousand times in her imagination before any timber is actually set. The structure is actually the prototype garden cabin in the Appleseed Homes line of affordable tiny houses. Launched by a mentor and and elder of the Knowlesville community. The first of its kind and almost entirely hand tool centric, with heritage elements of the build revived from a bygone age when everyone built their own homes with their family. Framed, planed, slotted and carved with great care for design, and longevity. This house was the furthest from the run of the mill, instead like beavers in a swamp, we chucked, chiseled, bored and braced the pieces one by one, each bearing the uniqueness of a piece destined to represent itself. Honoring the fact that these woods were species and lives, not measurable resources and products.

Anyone worth their salt also knows that homesteading can sometimes produce epic failures. These are the outcome of trial and error, and inventive troubleshooting that arise through the endless project to do list and the need to get things done, allow me to introduce you to one of mine. When I raised my Mongolian ger in the chilly days of October in New Brunswick’s mini monsoon season, I forgot one essential step and dismissed another equally consequential one, ultimately leading to disaster.

For starters, the platform was constructed by a brother and I without any major earthworks. No burgeoning dump trucks hauled crushed gravel from a pit to make a base. Instead I used the bedrock chips that emerged from my well drilling operation to rake into a circular pad that justified the free resource as being purposeful for a yurt foundation. On top of this lay cinder blocks around the edge of the ring with 8×8 tamarack beams bridging the diameter of the circle to support a plywood platform for a five lattice wall yurt. In between the spans of lateral tamarack joists were freshly cut straw bales, one bale wide on the sides and two bales wide in the center for underfloor insulation. The birch ply was anchored onto the tamarack joists and arranged into a 400 square foot symmetrical stage. Then trimmed with a sawzall into a circle just a few inches greater than the circumference of the yurt. I ripped a meranti board into strips to make a belt that would ring the platform and contain the footings of the yurt lattice walls from bellowing out and shield against water coming in. The downfall was that the platform did not sit entirely level, nor was there any vapor barrier between the ground, the strawbales, and the bottom of the plywood. During the heavy wet weather, rain that would condensate on the canvas on the yurt on the west side would percolate inwards with gravity towards the slightly lower east side of the yurt, instead of dripping off the sides of the canvas evenly above the skirt of the ring. Kind of like when your pants hang over the top of your boots, nothing can get inside.

Over the course of many rains, and out of sight to my observations the rain was soaking the underlayers of the birch from leaking rain, and rising moisture from the earth conducted via the strawbales which absorbed huge volumes of water. During the first winter I did not live in the yurt, there was no furniture, flooring or signs of comfort. Only a solitude Vermont casting woodstove, a couple of hearth stones, and a single bed. The urgh skylight was covered, and no bay window was yet inserted. In my lack of adequate care, the yurt suffered the tumult of ice, snow and rain which eventually melted and started to rot the birch subfloor and some laminate boards which I won at auction that had covered only half the platform.

The signs did not show until the next fall when white fungus had bloomed on the surface of the birch. By this time several friends had come to stay in the ger and yet another had resolved to shelter the winter while I was away in Africa. The birchwood was still hard, and I thought so long as an apple cider vinegar wash was applied regularly and it was kept adequately dry with the woodstove burning, there would be no lasting damage. The mushrooms had already penetrated the fibers of the wood, and the fruiting bodies of course were the evidence of a mycelial takeover in between the layers of the ply. Nourished by the fungal loving conditions of heated air in the yurt meeting the moist cool floor, not unlike the topsoil of the earth. The platform began to sink like on quicksand as the frost heave accentuated the dearth of the level. Where there was too great a span between the tamarack joists, the bowing and caving in of the floor was noticeable and resembled an undulating wave. In the deep freeze, the problem seemed to inert itself long enough and habitation resumed rather cozily, as the insides were always warm, dry, and tended to. It even sheltered a silver fox rabbit, along with his owner, a scruffy bushman who ran survival camps for the children of the village and an all around friend who worked with me in the sugar woods.

By easter, the thaw of days softened the grip on the ger, and resumed the cycle of destruction incured by the grim weather. By this time, my friend was in transition of moving out so I could remodel the platform, and the damage was far worse than I had grown to expect. The beautiful white birch had blackened, the bottom of the laminate boards had been soaked and were caught in a rain after the yurt was taken down. The strawbales were soaked into the consistency of oat porridge with a bit of chaff, and the meranti board skirt was frayed and withered. I spent the better of four days prying up the boards I could save, recycling screws for other projects, and stacking the poor plywood into a heap, destined to burn. The wet straw does serve as a good resource for my new and improved garden. But it’s the most expensive straw I have ever paid for, as the damages to the yurt stage cost over a $1000 in materials alone, offsetting the resource to be merely a token blessing of such epic setback. My morale was fairly bleak for a few days, but I am already dreaming up the next platform design, and hustling to make up for the deficit. Lessons come harshly when you live out on the frontier.

From where I stand, I am of the mind that homesteading has a great deal to do with the labor of the hands. In polarity to the hyper domesticated, ultra fragile lifestyles lived by the prevailing majority, where machines are tasked for completing every chore from grinding coffee beans, to tilling a field. I believe most of the urbanized and developed world, and the humans that choose to live there, have lost the capacity to feel deeply the levels of trust one can glean from doing things with their connection to source, by hand and heart. I often look at my own hands and marvel at what they have done; like planting a quarter million trees, or massaging a lover to relieve her stress, cooking for a house of people, or writing this post. They perform miracles everyday and they do not receive enough credit, but they are humble hands. They are calloused, scratched, bitten, tattooed, dirty, inflamed, and sore hands, by the things they do. Their lines hold on to the past and yet they are still so eager for the future. Like peasants, we bear burdens, and do things by hand, steading our homes like tough mares to tame.

As a homesteader I consider it a great responsibility to un:learn much of the redundant urban information downloads like transport schedules, public mandates, social trends, and google map routes to new restaurants, and the outsourcing of useful potential skill bases to appliances, computers, machines and robots. Rather to re:learn what it feels like to be exhausted after a full day working outside in a garden with hand tools, knowing how to fix what you own before buying new, understanding the dynamics of a properly seasoned cord wood stack, and getting a grasp on as many real world country skills as humanly possible. A few in my own firing range that have come into the fray as of late are tanning and curing pelts, mortise and tennon construction, seed sprouting, cook stove installation and operation, dreadlocking, rustic furniture making, shelf building, or stone carving. I’ve also been learning a thing or two about solar power optimization and turf roof design. Though I aim to place stress on the hand made, hand built, hand worked kind of lifestyle that I actively try to uphold because it makes sense to me, and carries within it the secret of simplicity.

As housing systems grow more complex, mechanized, and automatic, one’s level of engagement with the stuff of your life is decreased. Either one’s work is outsourced to experts, who slave away for their clients doing one thing really well, in order to ‘make a living’. Or one is tempted by every tool and gadget that proffers to make life easier (read: convenient, mindless, less involved), which is then installed in place of the hands to perform some particular and exclusive function and grows incumbent upon constant maintenance, electricity, parts, servicing, and the ever present feeling that this thing does not actually make you happy. Living off grid with hi-speed wifi, a bread-maker, and a generator will have you listlessly harvesting more screen time instead of outdoor time, buying overpriced gasoline from foreign nations, to power more loud toxic machines, and never experiencing the miracle of bread rising in the yeast of our cosmos a hot summer afternoon, of which I promise you it will taste superior to the automatically produced loaf. When systems stay simple, one can be away with expensive investments and debts and find contentment in evening candlelight during a blackout when the power wanes. To find satisfaction in repairing and fixing things with your own cleverness and resourcefulness, everything from broken cups, and ripped clothes to water filters and wood stoves. There is a pleasure in saving and reviving the life of things, tangible items like tools and gear, and thus your money and time to acquire new ones. And also your dignity, for something is lost when giving over so easily to consuming with such an insatiable appetite for the new. Sometimes I think, what would Henry David Thoreau do? He would probably re:handle and self sharpen his hand forged felling axe a hundred times with genuine hickory before going to the hardware store to buy a new one, let alone a chainsaw and scare all the animals away from Walden pond.

If machines did not exist, what would your life look like? How would it be different and what would remain the same? Are you aware that all of the tools, appliances, and mechanical implements you use have an analog component to them, and that the function they perform can be accomplished almost entirely manually. You need nothing more than good hands, ingenuity, perspicacity. When the will is woven with the working, you can build a house with shaped iron and carved wood. You can cook a meal over smouldering logs. You can birth a baby, off the grid without computers or monitors. You can even travel long distances, by pedal power, or in creative vehicles that use no fossil fuels or run on veggie oil.

The analog lifestyle, marries well into the off grid lifestyle, which coiincidentally pairs handsomely with the d.i.y. lifestyle, and most real bush and country folk I know align with these paradigms naturally. I am seeing more men with unblemished hands, but less are those who are handymen. I shall not claim to hold any specific mastery over the handicrafts of any one genre, but the Gods know I can wield a hammer and chisel in Thor’s name to carve a stone, or rip a board with a vintage saw and build a live edge shelf, a porch, or a doorframe. I need no chainsaw to fell a tree, a right handed hewing hatchet is good enough, and strips the bark thereafter for an evening snack of spruce cambium. My arrows pierce the forest silently, with no recoil or deafening boom to disturb the perfect frequency of forest wilderness. And the hearth of my home draws no electricty from the steel giants and buzzing drones of hydro-electric generators, just the crackle of popple, and sussuring of maple on a cool hibernal night. Call me a Luddite, but I can boast for a sound nights sleep without the added magnetical frequencies invading my temple, no wi-fi within these longhall walls, and the only link to the stars are my eyes.

My homestead is embellished with the signs of the the human hand. The torch burnt posts upholding my ceiling, the cedar bark logs and stumps that raise the tables aloft, woven alder and dogwood seats for the village guest and the master host. Nothing is quite level, the doors don’t quite close aright, the teeth scrapings of small animals on the wood where they have denned, fixed cracks in the coffee mugs, and dents in the old kettle. Anything new is a luxury and a rare acquisition, instead a vintage hand me down will do just fine. Technological greatness is a perspective of a conditioned mind from a contrivial era. I’ll forever trust in the bicycle before the car, and walk to an outhouse in the snow in the middle of the night before installing a modern toilet. A small library lines my walls, and the pages do not hurt my eyes when I read them the way screens tend to, and there is something sublime in hand pumping your water up from the earth and heating it over fire to wash oneself, clean the dinner’s dishes, or brew a fine cup of herbal tea. We can all manage ourselves with a greater hand and eye coordination for what I believe is the essence of work. The work known thoroughly through experience because the work is lived, not just performed. Then and only then can one’s leisure be reaped like so much grain, imbuing a remarkable satisfaction of the hand built life.

Saga of Othala ch, XII: Bear it

A wise man once said “The purpose of life is finding the largest burden that you can bear, and bearing it”. I eat meat. The largest burden for a meat eater is to hunt and kill an animal. I shoulder that responsibility, which is among the most recent meaningful commitments of my life. This integration of the predator archetype and participation in a natural human ecology of life feeding on other life has been uncomfortable, challenging, and time consuming. In truth, the transition into an onset hunter-gatherer-forager is still in the realm of virgin experiences. I recently dispatched four small game creatures and processed a rabbit for meat. Doing so invited some of the hardest emotional downloads that I have had to saddle up to, and as the above writer hinted at, come to bear…

Being a journal on homesteading, I am fully aware and wish to make evidence for my readers that admitting these stories to my community and the wider world is not easy. I can not compose these sagas on my lunch break at a cafe on the natch, nor in the tired venues of public libraries. These stories happen at home, and stay at home, and sometimes they are uncomfortable. Sometimes even, they are inconvenient, triggering, and taboo, but if they are one thing, they are raw, real, and a direct distillation of my present experience of living as a homo-sapien in a very weird world, trying to make sense of it the best way I know how.

To me this has meant shoring up in a hand-built tree house, for my home is of the Tamarack variety, and living as far out of the modern world as I dare, holding off Ragnarok just a little longer. This kingdom is solar powered and watered by a mineral well, not a corporation with wolverine greed. I sleep on straw, wool and pelts, burn wood, re:cycle my own humanure, and practice doing without. If it means I must cleanse my body with incensed oils and ashes instead of hot running water for six months of the year and bathe in rivers and streams the other six, then that is something I have accepted and adapted to. When I carry water, I feel it’s weight and the strain in my biceps that come from pumping it up from deep below the subsoil. Less is wasted in my kitchen, as my water usage consciousness is more acute. Homestead repairs are slow, often unorthodox, and economical but most of all practical. I can live with a few mosquitoes getting through a ripped mesh screen, but a disintegrating wood-stove is more of a safety concern. Whether to rebuild the threshold of my cabin door first, or replace a broken glass in my workshop window from a rogue pheasant collision is a fairly easy choice. And when winter comes, and it always does, I feel success with a room full of preserves, flour and dried goods with five cords of wood stacked a few paces from my mantle. There is not much need for anything else, as company occupies the land that loneliness may try to raid, study and contemplation of the arts render a renewed mythology of being in the world, and a deep semblance of being can be attained from doing nothing, sitting still, and observing the breath. It’s harder than you think!

Looping back to the killing complex, it loomed upon me in this transitional season that the acquisition of meat was becoming important for a more integral diet. While my hidden trail camera revealed photos of a few nuisance rodents actively chewing the wooden doors of my hall while I was away in the sugarbush. So it would play out that these creatures, long in tooth and claw were aware of my working hours, and decided to pillage my abode in my absence on repeated occasions. On returning home I would find a fresh pile of wood shavings neath the base of my door, while inside all my spice jars and masons of delectable nut butter would be scattered across the floor, fortunately none broken but often with lids ajar and their contents spilled out like entrails on a highway. I tried hiding the proteinate treasure troves inside baskets, and confining the apothecary of spices to new locations to no avail. The red furred beasties had found ways to ransack the larder through brute force or careful contortion, fitting through the smallest of niches to access their addictions. They evaded my attentions but not that of the camouflaged lens of the camera, carefully disguised against the bark of a poplar trunk. One night before potluck I caught the thief in full color. Cycling through the pictures taken over just a week, I came to be aware that he was not the sole visitor to my hall. A band of bearded turkeys, a few wandering grouse, a woodcock in launching flight, a sleuthing red fox, and a black cat always retreating. Red squirrel showed up in almost every second frame, leading to and fro on methodical trails between the cabin and his nest. I had found his tracks and set a trap therein, and would let peanut ally with steel for an ingenious ploy of my own…

In the first twenty four hours I had caught the homewrecker, he was rattling around the cage when I came down from syrup mountain, and I knew I had a responsibility. I brought him into the workshop and tipped the cage on it’s end and tried to calm him down, while a friend loaned me his pellet gun to snuff him out swiftly. I am adverse to guns generally, though at the time a blunt arrow felt like an unsuited tool for culling this creature in such a setting, so I lodged one copper ball behind the shoulder of the squirrel and prayed that he would not suffer long. He writhed and jostled and did not seem to take his death throes easily so I reached in with a welding glove and grabbed him by the tail. He arched around and bit the thumb of the glove but it was too thick for penetration, while I pinched his scruff and resorted instead to the more intimate way I had learned of dispatching an animal from the Hadzabe tribe. A small crunch on the upper vertebrae in the neck region, and his furry body un-tensed in my hand, eyes closing on the world, the spirit evaporated, and I thanked him for his pelt and his meat. He was fat from gorging on white oak acorns in a pack basket that hunt from a nail in my hall, and several hundred grams of almond butter. Keeping the local terroir of wild flavors and culinary inventiveness, I opted to collect the half bitten peanuts that were pilfered in my pantry for shelling and grinding into a dry nut flour for breading the squirrel. Steaks and thighs were braised rare and tossed with the powdered peanuts, then caramelized in butter and maple syrup. Served up with a slow cooked ham that a sister rescued from a supermarket bin, and a savory pot of green pea soup. We ate a wholesome feast, where farm meets wild, and all for the grand sum of… free.

Turning a problem animal into a sustaining wild meal shared amongst kin, and a beautiful pelt for craft use felt intimately right and natural. Unluckily, a house cat then stole the pelt from the woodpile where I had processed the meat and buried it in the snow out of reach, leaving only the tail as evidence of his scavenging. I had acquired the taste for squirrel in Tanzania, which was the main small game animal we hunted in Hadzalands. Little did I know there was more than one avenger to the former’s death, who may also have been a co-conspirator to the evisceration of my wooden doors. In another two days, I trapped two more fuzzy destroyers and bit the neck in the same as before, these times with more grace in the sacrifice than before. While engaged in the act, my mind entered a different consciousness, a sacred necessity even. Taking the life of a squirrel was not easy because it was small, the gravity of a life lost was still felt in full. When I noticed a patch of fur missing on the nose of the third squirrel from rumbling violently in the cage, and he caught my gaze eye to eye, a deep sadness prevailed, and I almost set him free. I was caught in the grip of this unique creature who came to teach me to be more careful in protecting my house. I remember thinking, “I wish I could trap or hunt something larger than a squirrel and make several meals from them, instead of all these small portions”, as if to safeguard the feelings of necessary grief that comes from being present with an animal in the last moment of its life. But the thought was irrelevant, the giver gave what was fit for the moment, could I really process a giant moose right now? Maybe, but somehow I doubted it without help.

So two more squirrels made their way into the freezer, and by some strange happenstance, a ruffed grouse, after returning home from Skedaddle ridge one afternoon to find him sitting on the cutting board in my outdoor kitchen space, very much alive. I received this to be a sign from nature that he had come to offer his life, though not without the short lived lion-like predation I used to catch him. I proceeded with caution and lunged forward to grab the bird, but he exploded out of arms reach and hit the window, then shot to the opposite side of the shack in a ruffle of feathers, back and forth a couple of times. I let him tired himself out while guarding the open doorway until he lurched underneath my motorcycle and tried evasion techniques instead. We engaged in this hide and seek for a couple of minutes as he followed a passage behind the freezer. Rocketing skywards from there and impacting the wall, I had a chance to wrap my paws around him and hold this fine feathered friend with a firm grip. He seemed a little lean, and instinctively I felt called to let him free, yet upon tossing him back to the trees, he gave no flight of wing and landed back down on my woodpile. Well then, I was not about to be made a fool and so lunged at him a second time catching the talons, swiftly breaking the neck with a turn of the wrist. Stepping on the bony edge of the wings while pulling up on the feet to undress the animal. The grouse are one of the easiest birds to field dress, their feathered hides come off the carcass like a sweater, and there is little blood. The strings of sun yellow fat that lay between the breast meat and the ribs demarcate the choice edible portions, though with a bird hunting husky for a companion, nothing went to waste. The neck, feet, entrails, skull and every keratin rich feather were fed to the dog for lunch while I boiled maple syrup the next afternoon. With the dark organ meat and breasts I made a wild game version of Indian butter chicken, paired with wild lake rice and a Ukrainian borscht recipe for one of the finest meals shared under this roof.

Coyote came to me, both in song and in skin. They have been howling outside my cabin for weeks, and one day after making syrup on Maple hill I was offered a pelt of a handsome ‘yote for spring tanning. One silver fox rabbit was also gifted to me, but unfortunately had died of Pasturella disease in the lungs. At least this was the conclusion after consulting a sister who bred rabbits for years. He did not alas, make it into the Hassenpfeffer, but was offered back to the earth scavengers in the deep woods. The luscious pelt was preserved and stored frozen with Coyote and Bear for brain tanning after the frost. Another more aromatic animal was brought back to the land from the side of the road, when a drive in the country with a friend yielded us in contact with a recently deceased skunk. My logic at the time was that I already had three other pelts to work with, what’s a fourth? Besides I could learn something new from this one, and had not worked with a skunk since I nearly poisoned myself with contaminated meat from one when I was a lad of twenty-seven years old. It left a bad taste in my mouth, literally, and I felt like giving it another try.

The direct contact with the deaths of these seven animals, and their subsequent shapeshifting into food for the table, fur bearing skins for craft, and canine protein walked me through some new emotional sets that I was not used to. Exposing the insides of a rabbit that I had intended to cook the community and coming to the realization that the meat was unfit for eating grieved me. Though even more so it brought home the stark reality that life sometimes includes and is not indifferent to suffering. The poor creature would have endured intense misery in the time before its demise as the disease prevented the normal functioning of its lungs and would asphyxiate it unto its last breath. One less heartbeat in our greater community, meant a loss to our collective resilience, and the night took on a shade of gray and tinge of loneliness.

Though these ruminations must not all be about loss and death, and the sun still shines on everyone now longer each day and with great thawing power on the frozen flesh of earth. Green herbs, and ephemerals will forever return for spring gorging and foraging, and I have my eyes on for the first shoots. Spring beauties, fiddleheads, trout lily, wild ginger, and watercress, but even before this are the balsam poplar buds, birch sap and colstfoot. I’m harvesting knowledge from two wild food cookbooks by Pascal Baudar, and Alan Bergo, with a main course from the anthology of foraging literature from Samuel Thayer and Euell Gibbons, peppered in with some psychodynamic floral lore from Stephen Harrod Buhner and I have more on my plate than I can possibly eat. Relationship forming with plants and their associates; fungi, lichen, and moss is a lifetime marriage, and one that I am fully committed to. All of the major homestead improvements on my blackboard this year relate to plants either directly or indirectly. A south facing hothouse for season extension, a grass roof for growing herbs and mushrooms, planting a heritage garden and native trees, and utilizing the forest in a sustainable way.

On a frosty march morning, my mug fills with hot maple syrup from the evaporator pan and my blood sugar spikes from a massive dose of boiled tree blood, probably too much, but I love the way I feel after 6oz. of the freshest syrup, delivered straight from a forest of rock maple, and transmuted into its signature complex sweetness in under an hour. We are joined by four men from Guatemala who have never been to Canada, tasted maple syrup on their pancakes, or seen snow before. They are intrigued with the giant stainless steel tank that is pouring out the dark amber liquid, and ask many questions using a translator on their phone.

An early season cold snap and freezing temperatures in the daytime has halted the flow temporarily and reserved my outputs to more local venues, as I help a sister build Larsen trusses for her garden cabin. The construction methodology is simple and consistent, and reciprocates in equal levels of satisfaction returned for each truss finished. The collaborative efforts of the labors of love enhance the work time with frith, joy and satisfaction as we tack and turn out boards by the woodstove, in what feels more like play than employment.

At the end of my own hands, I hold a cold chisel and a hickory hammer and chip away flakes of slate on a standing stone that has been erect in my hall since the week I moved in. Over the winter I made the final draft of the old Norse translation for a runestone inscription, which was then translated into the Elder :Futhark:, and at long last is being carved into the gray slab. Stave by stave, recited over with poetry, and hallowed by Thor. It is a process and a praxis, as the means serve an even greater means without end. One word leading to another word, a deed for yet another deed, and a serpent that bites its own tail and begins again. Every man must have a legend, a myth, and his saga may be preserved in runes or on the tongues of others long after he enters the mound. I intend for both.

We are living through a new medieval age, one that no human knows the fate of. I think it is only reasonable to put some faith in the old time weavers, the ur-Gods, the mystic seers and holy prophets, and the forces of life that animate us as carnal beings, we must be ready for anything. In my worldview, I envision another golden age on earth, of right relation to nature, diversity, abundance, simple survival and love as the prime motivator for action. Though I don’t believe this is possible before a period of darker times runs it gamut, a spell of disintegration, destruction, and reckoning, the “ashes” of civilization which we are bearing now.

Saga of Othala, ch XI: Out of Africa

There has been a season and a half since this bushman made his last homestead transmission, and uttered a story from this Tamarack and Spruce wooded cabin. Not because there has been nothing to tell, but because as some of you know, I have not been home. For the last four months my soul has been steeping in a biologically rich African culture, and my spirit has been simmering with Swahili folklore and exposure to the motherland. Life in Tanzania was random in the best of times, and defeating in the lowest. From suffering malaria, and a crazy infection from bed bugs that lasted nearly a month, to chasing after Giraffes, Zebras and Elephants in a three wheeler, to hunting bushmeat with a primitive tribe on the shores of a salt lake. Love life’s were kindled and burned out, danger and risk was a built in feature to every adventure, the mind expanded, broke, and spread its contents all over from the great plains, to the tropical mountains and blue blue ocean deeps. There were many sagas written about mama Africa and shared with the intrepid public who dared to live vicariously through the stories at fromthemotherlandwithlove.wordpress.com Now I have come back to my frostbitten homestead in the bushland of New Brunswick with a renewed sense of patience and gratitude for how far I have come through the passage of this incarnation, and I am finding it all very poignant and peculiar.

I went to Africa to try to become more human, to throw overboard any extra cargo my ego was carrying aboard, and settle into a greater depth of understanding the self in connection to what really mattered. The overarching sentiment of relationships and their functionality in guiding our moral and ethical compass was really the biggest take home from this trip, liked checked luggage stowed under the plane from Tanzania to Doha. These thoughts were tucked away and out of sight for awhile, then picked up again from a carousel of other anonymous baggages and unpacked. I identified them as my own, and knew this would be what I would carry home with me as I answered the beck and call of my former lifestyle, literally and figuratively. As I reflect on the gamut of experiences in Africa, my response to those experiences ranging from embodied engagement, to denial, or neutrality and openness, and try to flesh out the motivating force behind those experiences, it would boil down to relationships. The intimacy or aloofness with any one person that I would meet set the coordinates for how that relationship would foster favor, reciprocity, or anonymity. The felt presence of the immediate moments of existence meant I could choose to fully occupy an experience, or cast out and negate one, determining my circumstances from thence. I understand that my desire to go out on safari was to connect in a meaningful way with other non-human species in what I would not mind calling a relationship, albeit ephemeral and non-intimate. I know too that my bonds with my fellow man, and women on another continent were made in order to breach some kind of spiritual contract that agreed upon the mutuality of our existence, that nothing was done alone and even distant souls could connect. It was in order to stare in the iris of another eye, and say “You are in there, and I am in here” and together he we are. Tupo Pamoja as the phrase goes in Swahili. My overwhelming urge to hunt in ethical and masterful ways by staying five nights and days with a primitive tribe was nothing less than the need to foster a more integral relationship to the meat I eat, and the embodiment of a sacred practice and how that looks like in the real world. Acknowledging that death is an aspect of all food that is no longer living, including plants but especially animals. That it was becoming for me more important to be conscious and aware of the life I eat, and to practice killing in an ethical way the meat that I choose to consume, and being responsible for that death, to have a closer relationship with death, the great Taboo.

It comes as a great relief to have unearthed those parts of my soul complex. I did not know I would need it would take living in Afrika and putting myself in strange, dangerous and uncomfortable situations to awaken it, but that is in my opinion a beautiful feature of taking the human curriculum. Life as a homo sapien in the 21st century is at once worlds apart from the lives our ancestors lived, while in others it is almost impossible to define any real differences, only through our personal composition of what this world is, and how we relate to her do we find out with more perspicacity and definition what we are really up against. Do you depend on luxury amenities to survive, or could you live in a mud hut for the rest of your life with no electricity or running water? What about your children and their children? Are restaurants and supermarkets really an essential service, or do our supposed entitlements highlight where we rely far too heavily on the industrial complexes and consumerist models of the world while shedding light on our divorced relationship with the source of our food in general? How many soul mates could you have had if you just changed your mind? Some Gods teach us that we are the most important species to the expense and destruction of other fauna and flora, but what about the Gods that teach that plants and animals are our equals and worthy of respect, protection and even worship? And what about the people that believe in these Gods or spirits or entities? A barefoot cattle tribe in eastern Africa has very different views on the world than I do, as does a dreadlocked Rastafarian living on a tropical island. Should I discount their opinions and ontologies because they are unlike my own subjective conditioning? I would rather expand what it means of my own sense of being in the world, by becoming en-cultured with the tribal, the Rasta and the foreigner. For in their very essence, they are my teachers of humanity, unlike and yet so alike my own.

Life feels different here, besides the obvious climatic changes and cultural dynamics, there is just something subtly different about the energy and presence of being in this cabin again. Like I am here to stay, and that it may be a very long time in gestation as I confide and abide by myself in this wooden hall with what I have garnered from the world after so many years. There is still a quest ongoing, but that quest is never ending and will be made through different essentially different territory. It will be the walk into and embodiment of new archetypes that I have been carefully preparing my life to receive, built in with the sacred masculine initiations and roles that have been impressed and informed with me. As my homestead improves and the energy systems become more efficient at conducting the life force that in return fuels my growth, I feel rich with self-trust in my ability to live according to a means. One that elevates the narrative of my life to levels of personal sovereignty, responsibility, and skillful adaption. While I fine tune my moral compass and seek the balance between the ever present fullness of voices, ideas and dreams that flood my awareness. I drop into a more lucid state of being that allows for the pranic current to flow within and without me and gently dictate how to move, more organically and harmoniously around the banks of my own natural limitations. I feel proud and at ease amidst these walls and long-hall timbers raised two years ago in a symbolic mark of finding land and settling therein.

Meanwhile some great fun has been had after an initial spell of sacred solitude and silence after the long trip. Together with a kindred brother Jeremy at Birch Bark Adventures and his twenty-four huskies, we laid claim to four of the most epic days this winter has seen. Ice fishing with home-made rods on Chaleur Bay, as once Leif Eriksson and his seamen might have done a millennia ago. This time we were fishing for smelts. Snowshoeing in the forest fringing on the Tetagouche river, and harnessing the Alaskan dogs to a wooden sled for some glorious sled mushing on fast trails. Once even roped to my own Agouti Husky for a snow pull with a Siberian purebred named Kimmick and four other top dogs. We were joined by his woman in the cabin for flame cooked suppers, and cold winter night slumbers. For the first time since living in the Maritimes, I can now say I have traveled all five scenic routes of New Brunswick. The former being the River Valley route and Fundy coast, and after this foray in the north, the Miramichi route, Acadian highway, and the Appalachians. We were not far from the Gaspesie, and it is somewhere I would be greatly interested in returning to.

Now I don a pair a snowshoes and hike the ridges of Skedaddles backbone to finish the last of the maple tapping for the season before the imminent sap flow and sweet syrup boil marks the beginning of spring. Joined by a brother for the meaningful work at hand, I come full circle from the underbelly and deep culture of the motherland to the oldest traditions of our Canadiana countryside. My blue eyed K-9 follows the path of the snowshoe, and the trail of the bobcat through deep snow. I drill a hole into the nearest Acer saccharum and hammer in a new tap, then pan my eyes over Garvie mountain to the west, and feel the cold wind bite into my hands. Riding polaris sleds through the Appalachian ridges the other day with an ally, I watched the landscape change before my eyes in a way I have never experienced. We crossed one of the province’s heritage wooden covered bridges and stopped at a warming hut after cruising the sleds from Knowlesville to Howard Brook, stoked the fire and ate some deer jerky. My eyes looked over the still frozen stream, the snowy boughs of fir on Skedaddle ridge, and the forested trail from which we came, I sighed in contentment, and felt home and alive.

Saga of Othala, ch. X: Resting on Arms Reversed

At the end of my day, when all side hustles are reined in, all projects cleaned up, and communal karmas are fed, eye can truly sigh a breath of contentment and rest with crossed arms behind my head in the space of knowing eye did what eye did with integrity and passion, and infused the living moment with an affect of intimacy into the satisfaction of doing those things. Then, when there was nothing left to do, eye be. Eye think about the return of the seeds eye have sown, and the nexus of interpersonal relationships that have played out during the course of a wane and wax of a day and night. My mind is allowed to steep and brew a stronger dose of the philosophic spirit that is then distilled into the rich memories extracted from my lot. If there were things to complain about, they simply get filtered out through the purification process that comes in the gloaming hours before sleep. Eye am still here in my own bed, have worked in right ways, appropriate with the Dao of my own energy, and shared inspiring words with those who are other than me. Eye am rich in the private abundance of my soul, to be here, and be with here.

Doing without:

One common denominator of living the homesteader’s bushman existence, the country life, and that of nomadic global travel is the ability to do without. Going without the luxuries of what is considered “human rights” in modern first world countries is to me the root of what supports a personal gain in one’s self-accountability, bravery, resilience, and inner strength. It is also a lowering of one’s threshold for what one requires to be completely fulfilled and content. From my view through the trees, eye can say a life lived this way, and un:learning what it means to be a civil being in the twenty-first century, actually amplifies what it means to me to be more fully human, capable, and aware. Taking stock of what you choose to live without is a liberating routine to rigorously examine your creature comforts and in raw fashion to attempt happiness with a minimal set of those itemaries. This may seem archaic, eclectic, or a willfully desperate struggle to those with an outsiders view, but eye concur that the room inside such a life is filled with a buoyant sense of ease, graceful domestic rituals, leisure, craft, beauty and a sense of humility. A minimal inventory of the things eye have adapted to or choose to live without are;

:plumbing/running water, on-demand hot showers, flush toilet, electric heaters, fridge, on-grid electricity, television, radio, a college education, modern shoes, guns, power tools, public transportation, an insured vehicle, plastic, internet/wifi, tablet, netflix, credit cards, loans and debt, phone plan, gyms, bars, restaurants, social media, mortgage, bills, mainstream jobs, social media and service subscriptions etc.

The horned and dreaded meet in the feral meadow

If eye were to mine a little deeper, it would be easy enough to find several more, but the landscape looks the same. There are still elements of my life where eye feel they could be simplified, refined and worked on, and that is as good a personal testimony to my existence as any. The truth is, eye have no desire for these things, in three months of the year, eye often go places without shoes, bathe in wild waters of nature, find entertainment in watching the bonfire with my kindred, and foraging forest food to cut the fat of expenses. In winter, the fire is moved inside, eye write more in my leather journal, and my imagination is vivid, so there is no need for movies, series, and newsfeeds on social media with a world of distractions. Eye settle into the monochromatic existence of cold white snow, the deep green woods, and the warm amber light of the hearth, finding contentment in books, silence, solitude, and a slow cooked supper. In life, eye yearn to be happier with less, while not depriving myself of the utmost needs. If one were to read the list above and guess which country eye belonged to, perhaps Namibia, Guatemala or New Guinea may be a likely answer, but the truth is eye live surrounded by the palace of the new world all around me, dominated by big corporations like Irving, McCains and Crabbe, and eye have access to all the pleasure pursuits, trappings, and social media webs of the metropolis, only in my eyes it is more of a necropolis. A mundane and flattened way of experiencing the gifts and loaded opportunities this world has to offer. Eye am seeking the raw food and fresh fruit of the world, the heart of real living, where my days are spent worshiping the dirt with foot to earth, bathing in wild waters, mingling with a network of souls in the flesh, tasting the land, listening to no music except that of the soundtrack of my labors and environment, where life comes for free, unpackaged, and unbridled.

Preserving a Season

One of the most integral ways to thrive in a homestead is to preserve food for the hyperborean nights of winter, when nothing grows except your beard, and besides reindeer moss under the snow, and tree bark or chaga, there is not much to harvest from the landscape, unless you are lucky with the beasties. As the sower saves the seed to grow his fond fruit again, the homesteader saves the taste of the land, the colors of the summer, and the calories of a season. Eye have been able to ‘put in my time’ this year carefully balanced around other fixer projects, yurt upgrades, cabin renovations, and peasant chores to preserve some food for all those that will eat in my hall with me. Mushrooms made an early gleaning in July, and several species have made their way through dehydrators, solar or otherwise and into jars like looking glass windows displaying their ornate and extra terrestrial shriveled forms. Horse mushrooms, Morels, half a dozen varieties of Bolete, Giant Puffball, Sidewalk mushrooms, and Turkey Tail. Others went straight into the pan; Lactarius, Lobters, Porcini, Hedgehogs, and Shaggy mane’s. Sedative herbs like bog myrtle and Labrador tea were pinched on hot and hazy afternoons in the Quebec nordiques, and an eclectric array of Rose family members were consumed along the way or saved for later; Rosehips, Hawthorn haws, Apples for rings, sauce and cider, and those that fall on my head when eye scrump a tree. Two bottles of choke cherry cordial, some Halloween green masala beans (basically snap beans in curry spices), jalapenos dried on the bush hung next to my hearth, and a whole day spent pickling beets at the school. Eye also tried a small batch of special jam using blackberries, baobab fruit powder and maple sugar, the result was seedy but satiable. A potato barrel sits in my pantry holding the pride of Ireland, none other than some white lumpers, and some fancy purple spuds, red fingerlings layered with some handsome carrots in between layers of sawdust. In barrel number two, filled similar fashion with some zucchini that bred with some indigenous squash from my garden, the odd pumpkin and others of the squash family. A pail of apples remains unprocessed, as eye bring home yet another container of free fruit from a local riverbank, the highbush cranberry, boiled down into a sour sauce, which eye looked forward to pouring over dark meat or a mound of mashed potatoes. A mushroom flour was even made by my sister by drying the giant puffballs in small pieces, then grinding them in a ninja blender. Eye can not say eye have experienced eating pancakes or bread made from mushroom flour but the world of food is weirder than we can suppose. A humble forage of unmolested acorns in my packbasket still need pounding, leaching, drying and grinding before being turned into nutritive flour, gravy and coffee alternative. Fresh herbs of thyme, rosemary and other culinaries dry in a refurbished solar dehydrator in a warm spell of these early autumn days.

What eye could not make by myself was easy enough to obtain from the Annabaptist community, and allowed me to fill the shelves with cottage pickles, sweets and hots, jellies, jams, and raw honey. A few ruffed grouse have been revealing their presence and offering around the homestead woodlands, as my arrow nearly made dinner of this wild chicken like avian. A few cuts of bear fat gleaned from a neglected hide were scavenged to make cracklings, and half a liter of rendered bear grease. Some for the husky, and some for me. My fishing rod has been on the other end of dinner, where eye caught three bass in an afternoon on the meduxnekeag river. Eye feel a deep ancestral call to make my first hunt, to learn the savage beauty of the essential kill. The ancient archetypal provider bore protein rich meat, not only vegetables and nuts. Tonight we dined around long tables in the forest of the years abundance larder; seafood and meat from land, a diversity of apple based deserts, lentil dahls and naan bread, vegetable gravies and autumn salads. It was truly a blessing to come to the table with my community and feed each other, give gratitude, share space and a speak a modified version of the Thanksgiving address.

Wolf Age: Axe Age

To turn a third eye on the ways of the world right now could be seen quite grim and overwhelming, for a Canadian. All manner of cosmic f**kery is in the pipeline, remodeled civilization systems being manufactured without consent of their denizens, qr codes of human-techno i.d.’s, beauracratic spiderwebs being spun over constitutions, rights and codes of freedoms, drafts of new laws as frequent as the moon’s swollen tides, social media breakdowns, and the division of humanity into classes based on medical status, instead of medicine for the people. Eye have been making a maneuver on a foray out from this country for a minute to Mother Africa, back to the source. Eye feel that it may the last time to visit a country freely with this current passbook of mine, and feel some unfulfilled karma in Africa to live with the original peoples of earth, to know something of what they know; bow hunting and construction from raw natural materials, prey tracking, foraging medicinal and edible plants, making primitive footwear to walk for days in the desert, processing and animal in the bush, natural pigment use, earth home building, and on and on. Their knowledge is vast, they are all our family, and eye need to see my original homeland before the world is closed to travelers, partitioned and off limits. As of this writing, eye fly in under a fortnight, and it is all terribly exciting, dreadfully awesome, bittersweet and about time! My homestead is stocked to the tits, and a chum of mine will look after the place, living in the yurt while my husky hero will head north for the winter into early spring to run with the pack and follow the sled!

Companionship

The Mongolian ger has attracted a few souls to its hearth and inside its yak felted walls. Two friends from the Rainbow gathering traveled from Quebec side to visit, and together we surrendered into the flow of the days without a care or touch of stress. Hurtling our naked bodies into the cold rushing waters on more than one occasion of the maritime flood of rain that swelled the banks of all the watersheds here in the St. John valley. We gathered elderberries, blackberries and apples from the richly endowed trees of the countryside, picked bullrush grasses to weave mats, nipped some culinary herbs from an abandoned castle garden, bumbled around the backroads listening to roots reggae, shared stories, a load of laughs and cooked up a storm. Xavier stayed a week longer and we began ritual baths in the Fallsbrook waterfall, running barefoot over root and rock to reach the pools, and once encountering a Mother Bear and her two cubs which Tradition chased off. Sometime after my company eye was offered a moose hide, and then a bear hide. The Moose was unfortunately left out in the rain in my absence and the hair sloughed away and was destroyed, but eye was able to render the last of the fat, and make cracklings as treats for my husky while eye sampled one or two myself.

Xavier and Joanie also agree to dread my hair, and eye am liking the change, it feels natural and comfortable. A crafted antler bead with the rune of Man burned into its creamy keratin surface is carefully holding one of the dreads now nested on my crown. Eye have turned an ear to some of the uplifting vibes of Jamaican reggae music, especially that of Jah9, who among other talents also leads yoga and makes dub remixes of her music to flow with the sequences. This is a nice change from the Ashtanga sequences for now. Another friend Stu from Shediac led some acro yoga in my longhall, so thence we flew into the afternoon in all manner of aerial maneuvers like our birdy cousins. My psychedelic brother Jeremie also made a placeholding with me and was the first in the yurt since its puzzling assemblage. We held medicine ceremony, danced in the Pilick first nations pow wow ring, and lingered many an evening around the stereo, the world music connoisseurs that we are, trading tunes into the twilight.

Some say about these times that it is the apocalypse, but eye am a solution minded man and see a lot of the positive unfurling through the world. Eye keep a positive attitude, and balanced mood even in the worst of time, so eye am pretty much at least 80% even when the world is more like %20. My bonds with this commune are stronger through knowing who my tribe is, there is less consumerism rampart in the urban centers, and folks are tuning into what is actually important in this life, putting down what they have been carrying for so long. Of course others still choose to follow the herd (but is it not the herding behavior which creates disease in the first place). In the meantime, a whole gamut of triggers are awakening people to their subjective truths, and eye think only when we can be right with ourselves, can we be right with our relationship this world and all the inhabitants.

Saga of Othala ch. IX: Next Level Life

Everyday eye wake up from my straw bale bed with a most profound love in my heart, look out the rustic spiderwebbed cabin window onto a feral garden of herbs, wildflowers and grasses, watch the black Alaskan husky dreaming, and breathe in the morning dewy air from opened windows, and recollect how this all came to be and what the Norns had saved for me when they wove my wyrd with woof and warp through the weave of middle earth. It is like just a moment ago, eye was a caterpillar, contemplating pupaceae, and now eye am a butterfly, just flying around in another dimension. A liminal space between the here and now and the transcendental moments at the core and end of time. The next level of life is unraveling in and through my body, sourced from the skull of soul, and spiralling sunwards in the sacred spirit directions, guiding me onwards and upwards into my day, out into the primordial nature that surrounds and is made up of me, and eye her.

Eye have moved into a space of sublime comfort within my hall and the habitat eye occupy, one that is imbued with myth and meaning, divinely feminine, and made of place. It is a comfort that is steeped in spirit and rich with details, too many to mock or attempt to convey without diluting the sacral. My home has indeed become my temple, the base of operations, the magic place of secrets, and a setting for getting the good work done. It is a space where eye can move freely to and from its protective boundaries, to steward and enact new projects on the one acre land that eye am happy to call my minor kingdom. At Othala, eye am free to be who and what eye am, to host the traveler and the artist where they can also explore their own sovereign being, and this is exactly what has been happening down on the land. When eye returned to my plot, the plants were much taller, the ground a little softer to walk barefoot, the winds gentler, and the greens more vibrant. The terrain outside was a perfect material landscape of my inner grounds that are tended with utmost love and awareness. Not only eye have become more attuned to this patch of earth, but the man’s best friend that is my sole homestead ally and only other heartbeat living under this one roof with me. The dog has been finding his piece in the rustic cabin lifestyle. Though separated from his siblings up north, he is never wanton for company with regular tours of the village, and prospects for chasing waterfalls, and the next trail with me.

Still high on the rainbow energies from the last gathering on Cree land, eye backed it up with a camping trip to the Tobique first Nations reserve for last weekends pow-wow with a sister from the village. Our foray out from town was not without a few stopovers, since the backcountry of new brunswick is just so damned interesting! We stopped at a garage sale, and bumped into an elder friend who was manning the tables for his daughter, so we hustled a couple deals and talked about fuelwood, his gravel pit operation, and made obligatory comments about the the heat of the day. On yet on the snakey dirt roads into said sisters young tramping grounds, and we came upon a few special landmarks of hers. Moose mountain with its distinct two humped back, (maybe a special type of prehistoric Canadian moose had these anatomical features, but I am lost on the connection), then on past a hops farm, and old heritage homesteads and hobby farms, her childhood house, and those of some relations. Our tour into the next county unfurled further with a stopover at the Tobique River Trading co., a castle overlooking the Wolastoq river, and a generational general store called Nissins with a good bulk supply of organic provisions, and some funky antiques. We both shared some libations at the trading post, and chatted about coffee culture in Chiapas over some deep dark espressos.

Right, but the itinerary was set for the pow-wow so we kept the wheels moving on for Mudwass park in the Tobique rez, ironically right behind the shell gas station. The tipi gave it all away, and we pulled in to a quiet grounds the day before the grand opening. Idling around we found Leonard, a.k.a. Lenny, the Tribal security of the Neqotkuk reserve, one of six Wolastoqiyik/Maliseet Nation reserves in New Brunswick. We asked where we could pitch our tent, with an inclination to the river, and he brought us to his favorite childhood spot, inside a bay of the Tobique about seven minutes walk down a forest road. We hitched the car up nearby to a mossy trail, and hoofed it in the last 400 meters. It seemed like we now had settled onto the most beautiful camping real estate in the rez, and eye was instantly gratified, and would come to be long fed from this place.

My solar return re:birthday just re:volved, and it was one for the books. What are the implications of 31 years on earth? If anything, life is becoming more finely tuned and richer in luck. A wild natured sister accompanied me for two days of fishing, foraging, wild swimming, with forays into Perth Andover for some excellent coffee, and a return to the Tobique rez where we found our friend of tribal security. In the first day, we gathered wild chokecherries from a lakeside, then continued our picking near Coldstream, where I found dark blue-black berries that may have been a viburnum species which yielded an a beautiful purple warpaint and a terrible bitter taste. I did not eat one but inadvertently got some smudged juice in my mouth from stroking my beard and moustache after smashing the berries in my hand to make the paint. We found dense stands of staghorn sumac, which the first nations use to make sun tea, steeping the delicious berries in a jar in the solar light and heat passively to yield a vitamic c booster that tastes something like rhubarb, cranberry lemon-aid. Unfortunately with all the muggy temperatures, the berry clusters were all infested with bugs, and after checking at least 20 of them on several trees in many places kilometers apart, and finding the same crawling worms and insect waste inside, I forgave the opportunity to make a good harvest, sigh… perhaps I was too late for the just ripened fruits. We visited three swimming sources, one on the Becaguimec river, called Hells Eddy, though how it was coined with such an uncouth name, I am perplexed. The second at Mainstream further up the same river, the water was actually too warm and infested with leeches, but the strap rope hanging from a cedar tree over the deep end still remained an allure for the primate in me that wants to swing and bracheate through dense jungle canopies, above the forest floor and occasionally jump into deep pools of water. The third was perhaps my watershed of choice, on the Shiktehawk river, behind the Crabbe mill, where a manmade stone dam and some lucid waterholes made for good trout habitat, fishing ops, lotus snatching and cold bathing The prospects were set out to hike Moose Mountain, though upon our approach the torrential rains poured in, leaving us flaring the windshield wipers full tilt and seeking an altered adventure. This turned into a rendezvous with one of the brewers at the Trading co. coffeehouse, and leaving well caffeinated with a blue sky clearing, which lit up our chances again of a potential hike. We continued up the Wolastoq river, back to the pow wow grounds and ended up spinning a long yarn with our friend, waxing about bug out bags, bear hunting, indigenous traditions, and survivalism.

Well eye suppose eye should keep talking about my homestead again, that is why you are here eye think. The yurt has a new floor and eye finally used the maple tongue and groove boards that were never put into my father’s planned man cave, a.k.a. his garage with a woodstove. They certainly did not cover as much floorplan as eye thought, but the differing tones of wood offer some diversity of texture and tone to the eye, there is still some more to go, but far advanced from last summers meagre efforts. And eye have been fully reaping the enjoyments and comforts in the use of my Zodi portable shower. Which is something that resembles a stainless steel milk can with a shower nozzle attached to it. With two and a half gallons capacity, eye can have three or four short showers of a couple minutes each, with brief pumping action between each burst to pressurize the tank. It needs no batteries, only enough muscle as one would pump a bicycle tire, and a small propane canisters, like those used for coleman stoves. One cylinder has laster me about half a dozen showers so far and is still going. With the Zodi, eye can shower anywhere on my land, on top of a mountain, on a beachside, in a tub in the winter, or naked in the garden beside my woodpile. It brings a sense of rustic comfort to the homesteading way, and eye am firmly proud of the acquisition of it.

By the way, eye have been using the anatomical eye or spiritual third eye identification instead of the egoic and capital I in my common parlance because it currently resonates with how eye feel to identify with the world and my subjective experiences. Eye noticed being caught in the ‘I’ was perpetuating a kind of self importance that was not as easily balanced with humility, and grace, and when storytelling one magical nuance the teller has in his tool box is the ability to bring the listener or reader into the imaginal world for awhile. By self identifying so much, it does not leave as much space for others to relate to the words, and experiences, and eye was starting to feel that my boastings were a bit heavy dosed when one has to write about their life in a personal way.

The longhall at Othala finally has its new protective shell on the roof, coming in the form of some roll-out grip tape that is supposedly waterproof and will keep the rain where it belongs, in my garden and out of my homestead. Eye feel content in the work done on a muggy afternoon as eye baked myself over a hot steel roof with sticky hands, laying half a dozen rolls of this shingle like membrane over the ridges and rides of my low sloping parapet. The top is covered in gritty sand, and is permeated with a kind of tarry substance. Though it did become pierces in some places by the lag screws, eye hope it will not affect the functional integrity of the product. The red elderberries in my garden have become monstrous in the space of a year and shroud the inner temple with dappled shade, adding privacy in tow to the goings on inside the hall. What happens at the cabin, stays at the cabin. A few more exotic house plants have taken up residence in woody sills of windows, a branching bonzai like succulent, and one blooming lotus gather grace next to a salt crystal with a low amber burn. The bryophyte air plants mingle company with mini spined cacti, while the money trees generates all my hidden cashflow. A bromeliad feels out of place next to an arctic fox fur, and a five stemmed bamboo sends off shoots on a ledge where eye keep my herbal spices, salts, and sugars. The weekly vegetable share eye recieve from a local organic farm has been quite abundant, and eye do not know if my diet is just not strong on vegetables or if eye can’t eat through them fast enough, so methinks eye will start juicing and freezing them for the times when they are no longer freshly pulled from their dark humus.

A respectable wild harvest of herbs and mushrooms have taken shelf in the workshop to dry under the passive dehydrator in the sky. Chanterelles growing on the acre in abundance, a couple species of boletes, lactarius, lobster and coral fungi were processed this week, and the one before last was a session with bog myrtle leaf and spice, labrador tea, and creeping snowberry herb. These have found clean mason jars and are assuming their position on my tea hutch for various self medicating and sleep inducing purposes. Meanwhile the rowan berries are ripening in their clusters, and eye em graced by their presence in my life this year, most of the rose family actually has been a mainstay in my foraging escapades and plant based relationships this year. A sister and eye processed yellow transparent apples to make sauce, and eye still have my spots for feral pippin apples on the St. John river for making dried apple rings. Eye have also put up some pesto this year, two cans of choke cherry cordial, and some pickled ferns, soon will come fruit juicing, barelling root veg, pressing late flowers, and saving heirloom seeds.

On a spur of the moment, eye attended an artist’s storytelling presentation held at the nature school from the Beehive collective. Two of the creators and artists displayed a massive cloth drawing of a piece entitled ‘The True Cost of Coal’, which by itself is museum worthy, and should be a learning piece in all of Turtle Island. They told the story of its creation over three years by a dozen or more artists, researchers, native bands, illustrators and botanists, who designed and contributed or provided knowledge and history for the panoramic landscape that broadcasts the cultural history of coal in the new world. From one side of the drawing to the other, the depiction of healthy ecosystems without decay for millions of years, into a period of colonization, and enslavement, and finishing in the revolution of the indigenous population and workers to rebuild for a new future. All characters in the landscape are drawn as animals, and represent highly symbolic elements of one event, part of history, person, or energy. The piece in its fullness has an accompanying rhyme, and storybook, and must be taken in with several viewings and their narrative. It was pleasant to mingle with the artists again after meeting them at the tea-house of the permaculture garden where eye work, and eye brought home a mesoamerican art poster for displaying on the ceiling of one of my cabin rooms.

The days to come eye will be antiquing forest feasting tables for the Praxis festival, processing Indian ghost pipe for tincture, carrots for juice, blueberries for jam, and haying potatoes for one last growth spurt. as well as trying some new herbal concoctions gifted me from Munna the witch, and rallying for the Miramich Lake protest, where the environmental authorities plan to pour rotenone into the waterbody to kill off small-mouthed bass, in an effort to save salmon, the kicker is that rotenone also kills all gilled invertebrates and fish. If it was my decision eye would open full season fishing of bass without limit, but the mishandled logic of some environmental agencies is beyond me. Meanwhile there are some big fish hooked on the line for a winter adventure, though eye am not going to say where yet.

Saga of Othala ch. VII: Flora and Foray

The Husky is sleeping on my mother Bear pelt, atop the strawbale bed, I am listening to a man from Senegal play the kora, an African harp with a floating melody that emanates from the strings lofting my consciousness above the sinking dirty snow and into springs solar swoon. A slant of eventide light graciously dapples the interior of my cabin from its west facing glass eyes, now removed of their translucent wrappings to bar the winter drafts, while nights stay above zero, as the breezes lose their harshest tongue. The pussy willows have all budded, and the coltsfoot follows in bloom on the south facing slopes. Maples show no holds in dispelling their sap, with Birch in the kicker, one could almost smell the sugar steam, streaming through the grey clouds of an idle afternoon, mingling with rain, and coming down with a sense of sweetness. Life is brighter now, until roughly eight in the eve to be fair, and with each breathe I sense the aromas of spruce, moss and dank soil effevescing volatile therapeutic incense into the air. My hands get sticky with balsam poplar, With the extra hours of light, I engage in post-sugarbush freedom rides, long dog walks with the Alaskan, garden planning, and mid day lion naps followed up with evening coffees, knowing the day is not lost to the myrk too soon. The newest member of our village, Ziggy Love was born, to mother Spirit and Papa Seven. This couple joined our tribe last summer after a happenstance meeting of synchronicity, after I saw Seven on kijiji looking for musicians. Their new home in Howard Brook is the oldest log cabin in the area, and perfectly fit for three.

I’ve eaten up all the meat, now that my passive outdoor ambient freezer is not working. Well, I don’t fully own that, the porcupine family living under my floor found my package of ground bear meat and eviscerated the entire pound, along with two pounds of perogies, they stopped short at the blueberries. Munna and I have eaten like kings and queens meanwhile when our savorings are not gleaned by some beast, I’ve sat down to great six course meals of moose roast, savory rice and spicy veg, sausages cooked in mint and maple, barley soup, salad and frozen fruit. On ‘board meeting’ nights, we collectively cook a themed meal which is eaten from a cutting board with our hands, or else sharp implements like skewers; the cheese fondue, charcuterie, shiska-bobs, falafel, raw fish sushi, and wood fired pizza have all been a great success. While equally creative and impressive country feasting is holding it’s own at the potlucks of thursday. A neighbor in the next field over from Simms Rd. made a cake, entirely out of mashed potatoes and meat, using purple carrots to make a colored ‘frosting’ which died the mashed taters an attractive shade. Too many deserts to name, melomels and maple beers, herbal gins, and spiced rums, and the spectrum of cultural foods one would have to travel for a couple days to obtain in their native terroir. We are doing well in the heathlands.

Tradition, the name bore bear the newest addition to my heim, an Agouti Alaskan husky from racing lineage, was born in northern New Brunswick near the Miramichi, Chaleur Bay region. He has spurned me on to adventure further afield, where we run paw to foot down logging roads, Appalachian trails, and glacial ravines. My food pantry now fills up with Inuk’shuk dog food, braided chew ropes, fish biscuits, and cartilagionous bones. I am proud to finally see this day, and seeing this young wolf hound grow up in my wooden abode. He is already a runner, and is doing his father ‘Coyote’ proud. Eventually he will be larger and heavier than me, and I won’t be able to keep up unless with skis underneath me and the beast pulling in front. An outing into the hemlock woods lead to patches of evergreen and snow-berry, reindeer and sphagnum moss, carpeting the cliff of Gibson falls. Churning out a gorge of epic volume, the cascade falls twice, and peters out into a lethargic babbling brooks where the hardwoods transition to fen. I filled a motorcycle satchel bag with wintergreen herb, and tramped along the edge of the tumulting water, with husky in tow. The tip off came from a neighbor with her shepherding dog who also accompanied. I would be hesitant to drive down what was deemed a ‘road’, though maybe my perspicacity for difficult auto terrain is a little more privileged here after enduring the state of roadway on the Indian subcontinent. Booking it back out of Kilmarnock and near the old railway trail south of Hartland, my lady friend showed off another hidden waterfall that is a powerhouse of raw energy which crashes down into a grotto, throwing up a mist and bathing the rock walls in perpetual moistened life. After a few turns in the cove, it piles through a culvert and into the the St. John/Woolastook, depeneding on who you talk to. Another foray to Chimney Rock, and it’s glacial remains profered an impressive sight, where the knuckles of the earth separate from a cedar tangle and meandering wet trails, to open a crack in the earth, cool, lichen covered, and deep. Inside this earth yoni is a phallic shaped tower of stone, it is a ‘chimney’ of sorts, if people still made these rising smokestacks out of the bones of mother nature.

Off the trail, I have been reaping my extra leisure time with a new course, offered gratis, by the University of Stanford. A deep dive into the concept of ‘Love’ as a force for Social Justice, from which I have gleaned some potent insights, and contemplative workpieces. While cancel culture forbids much of the free interaction of analog teaching in the hard and fast material world, I do enjoy not having to show up to an institution, and piece mealing off some satisfying study hours during a weekend for myself. It gives me something to chew on, and offers an alternative to intellectual banter amongst peers, here is something I can focus on entirely in the way that will leave lasting knowledge. Having never actually been inside the walls of a University, and only ever in College for one week of my life, I am copasetic with this style of academia.

The Yurt remains a barrenland inside, and hungers for someone to live in it, once it is finished being floored with maple, and furnished with some hygge accoutrements. It would be great for a traveler to come and stay there this summer, and if the borders open again, perhaps it could act as a magnet for those coming from away. I foresee it as a perfect wwoofer home, and potluck venue, or for holding workshops. The falls brook behind my land now gushes for the first time since I have migrated here, dividing itself once at whale rock, and then bifurcating several times more as it moves through wetland. The like named waterfall no longer trundles gently over a rock face but pours with a great roar, through the southern flanks of Skedaddle ridge range.

Eostre came with a few happy visits, painted rune eggs found their way on my altar by the village witch, I also happen to love gifts that I can eat. This spring and summer will be full of wildcrafting, apothecary production, permaculture projects, and motorcycle expeditions around the Maritimes. I want to cruise to Saguenay, and hit the Runestone in Nova Scotia, take the pass in the Cape Breton Highlands, and motor over to Newfound with a brother in the club, and finally see Gros Morne and Lanse Aux Meadows. Covid won’t be holding me back from any of this, where there are two wheels there is a way, though the black horse will need some work, and a masters hand before it is ready for the long hauls. With the right ingenuity, and some modifications to the saddle bags, I may be able to bring along the Alaskan dog for some of these trips, in the meantime I wait for the ground to dry for some five toe shoe running, and country backroaders with the Nighthawk, with 450cc of twin engine power, and the freedom found in a full tank…

With a full tank, comes the unspoken duty of riding it to empty, and seeking out all possible routes from the homestead to explore the territory. The same way a lion or a wolf will venture out from their cave or den, and voyage across the land, picking over its terrain and mapping the topography of his kingdom. With the saddlebags I gleaned from India, carefully stitched with the flag patches of far away sojourns, I buckled in my Alaskan husky Tradition into the right pouch and he had his first two wheeler experience. Now we had a biped, and a quadruped, coasting along New Brunswicks upper Acadian territory on an iron and steel animal more powerful than both of us together. The feeling is unmistakably novel and rich. The Icelanders say a horse can make a man King for a day, I would add to that a rumbling motorbike with the throttle down.

With the sapflow staunching at the spile, and the trees budding out, a transition of work comes afore me, the taps will soon be taken out, and the manipulation of my hands will turn their work to the apothecary garden, the wildwoods, and the traditional buildings on my land. I have set up a workaway profile to draw in potential prospects for a homestay at Othala. I could always rely on guesting through the workaway platform during 7 years of travel and found it enriching on many substantial levels to cohabit with people around this earth. For my readers, let it be known that the longhall is welcoming the traveler; be ye a farmer, writer, musician, yogi, healer, artist, teacher, ad infinitum, I look forward to seeing you out here.

Saga of Othala VI: Meanwhile… The Village Grows

One of the least exciting prospects of a normal workaday job, is how ordinary and flattening is the potential to make one feel. Some days it seems like my “down time” is a mad rush to get ready for the next day, forming no intermission between work and play, and with added sleep deprivation during this cycle, it can alter the mind in grim ways and start to feel taxing on the soul more than bolstering. Pondering questions rooted in the flight instinct, wanting intensely to wash the slate clean and try something elses. I admit to experiences of these wild-eyed evenings trying to return to the core, and keep my spine straight, literally and metaphorically. Though as I live in a homestead filled with material reminders of the why’s, and what for’s, in relation to to my reasonable affects in the world of service, there is recall of the prime importances, and modest luxuries, that frame my existence in the afterhours.

The solar system continues to illumine my edison lighting track, and juice my batteries, laptop and cellphone with enough power to listen to Baltic folk music as storm giants rage outside cutting the power of the on grid world. The system was primed for a long life, and imparts the hygge factor (see: Danish standard of living) when creature comforts are on short supply. Gushing fountains of water still obey the leather pumping action of a hand well, and fill carboys for me to drink and wash kitchen implements with, and is then filtered through a hand made clay vessel for some of the cleanest water attainable. Preserved in motion deep underground until needed, with no pipes to freeze in below the earth, and no plumbing more technical than a rod sealed with a leather plug and a cylinder of iron to form the vacuum to raise it against an entire atmosphere of gravity. It works every time and always impresses me how the simplest technology is often the best and most reliable we have ever engineered.

I can afford the buy the good coffee, and a malt of whiskey once in awhile, rather than living completely spartan and devoid of our necessary trappings that feed a different nourishing aspect of us. There are new books in my library, obscure foreign instruments to play, and no bills to pay next to the obligatory motorbike and car insurance. Although in one dream life, I marry a Mennonite girl and ride horse and cart everywhere, essentially cleaving away these final tethers to the thieves at large. The money tradeoff for my branded service brings home the meat and potatoes, and there are women and children in my life to eat it with. Helga, my woodstove keeps me shedding layers at night rather than putting them on, and so long as I clean out her dirty smokestack, sweep her hearth, and pilfer the ashes, she cooperates with even heat distribution and the prospects for free hot yoga! A full plate of food every night, and weekend breakfasts of pancakes and muesli porridges accentuate my gratitude with feelings of abundance. While not needing to go out and kill something three times a day when I get hungry, feels less stressful on the body and the karmic scale. A few simple crafting tools remind me that my hard work pays off in creative flow. I like and care about everything I own, while much of it has a unique story, and that feels paramount to my happiness.

Of course there is more than materializes in the eye, and my soul is also fed by simple private pleasures that were not acquired, bought, or put on the shelf to look nice. The serene quiet of living in the trees nearly buried in snow, makes for some potent sleep experiences and lucid dreaming. Animal visitors like the porcupines who have resided ‘neath my plank floor since August, or the flying squirrels, and the solitary coyotes in the lunar night. Thursdays have become potlucks, which seems fitting for a day dedicated to Thor, a god of feasts, harvest and the common people. I offer Wednesdays to Woden with a good saga, and Tuesday to Tyr for study, and self betterment, Mondays are passive, like Mani the Moon god, while Fridays are in the arms of a lover, only Freyja knows who she is. Laurdag is Saturday, the traditional washing day of the Germanic heathens. Grooming, cleansing my old Lion scent, and posting up some laundry over my hearth are the needs of the day, while the solar Sundays are active and when things get done; shoveling pathways and cascades of snow off my roof and yurt, clearing the photovoltaic panels, burying compost, and ditching the graywater, pushing dirt into a pan, hauling wood, and chopping vegetables means Othala continues to thrive. These are not the glorious things, but they do allow for glorious living to ensue.

Pileated woodpeackers have been spotted in the maples, and a cow moose with her yearlings. Chickadees are singing their spring lyrics and I wonder when the Black Bears will break their fast and hibernal stupor. This man worked up a vigor in some -8 degree balminess, and hauled sacks full of wood naked into the witch’s cabin up a flight of stairs, wearing nothing but a Russian rabbit fur hat, and Laplander sheep wool boots. It could have been the nutmeg I had for dinner the night before, or a sense of younger vitality stored in me from time of yore, whatever it was, it helped me believe the spring Goddess Eostre would bless us soon with all her concealed gifts. The last of the ashes to sweep out and the burning wicker of old man winter, the dances around the May Pole, and the equal chase of the sun to the moon. New faces join the village as of the latest journal. A woman who crafts one of a kind clothing, and a mother of three. This single mother archetype seems to run in south Knowlesville and I am grateful to hear their landing stories on how they came to be a Knowlesvillian. Meanwhile Seven and Spirit are on the cusp of growing their family clan, and another New Brunswickite waits patiently for his plot in the land trust. Our village fills with talent, and skillful service; permaculture gardeners brush up with a metalworker and master carpenters, midwives neighbor to writers, teachers and homesteaders. We have singers, songwriters, and community leaders, come from awayer’s and proud to be here’s, the old guard and the new. A successful trading post has been established and the first gathering for barter and exchange went handsomely. My nephew was born, bearing the name Grayson (‘Warrior’) to my brother (‘Bro for short) on March the 8th, and his characteristic features certainly carry the marks of the lineage.

I’m on a Slavic/Baltic/Russian folk music binge, as the sun staved Kolovrat disc flies through the sky a little higher, sun worship starts to reel the body ever outwards into the natures of these mountain siblings. We trade our seeds and adopt some more, ready to make our contribution to the lineage of vegetables and herbs, we grow that wisdom the feeds us, root, stalk, sinew, radicle, and all the fruits that are gleaned in the bliss of an idle afternoon. Spring will bring more time in the field, barefoot and base tanned, and in the highlands of these Appalachia, with the song dogs wailing lyrics on firefly nights. A new furry canine will make a new home with me in Othala. Tradition, the husky descended from Siberian sled dogs will run a new tract of Boreal woodlands and Atlantic mountains and grow up a handsome yet savage wolfdog.

A visit to Babylon yielded intriguing insights into the hyper domesticated lives carried out by urban dwellers, and the odd customs and bizarre etiquette carried out there. Six weeks had elapsed since my last excursion outside the heathlands, and into to metropolis. Feeling like a stranger in a strange land, I found a place to park, another practice rather novel and intriguing to me, it feels like a kind of game. Entering the marketplace I scanned the horizon for acquirable meats and fruits, then proceeded to glean the best cuts from a selection of hog left out in the open, and gather some fruits that were already dry by the time I got to them. I did not find their fishmonger, or their chief and saw no children. They used no scales to weigh their vegetables and instead had shiny metal tables with glowing numbers reading their weights on them. They kept all the bad food in one place at least, and I picked through a couple of these more reasonably valued goods. There were whole lanes of alcohol, and sweets, and food in cans, but not much that grew from the ground, and I pondered how it was all produced because I saw no green spaces or forests nearby. They would not accept trade for the things I wanted and many things were wrapped in plastic, including what they wore over their faces. Though one of the cities woodworkers was honorable enough to remove his covering and tell me about his business making archaic furniture like monk chairs, and wine racks for cellar dungeons, proceeding to show me advertisement of his productions. His hair was bushy and moustache wild like mine, and he seemed equally out of place in that silly place… the women seemed fit enough, but the men did not, nor did their hands look like working hands. There was all kind of plants indoors, wrapped in more plastic, and a lot of people looking lost or confused. I wondered who organized the marketplace and who they traded with.

Truly though, the contrast of modern life to one lived somewhat antiquated with a Luddite mindset makes for an interesting adventure into the city. I do not turn my wheels often, and earn my living salt within eye-gaze of my village, and thus not venturing out too far beyond the frozen fields and snow roads of south Knowlesville. Some of the prospects entertained in just a forty minute drive from my cabin porch door never ceases to captivate me. Yet not with interest or awe, but with stunning confusion, memory cues, and a modified social presence. Coming from the robustness of a place in the world like India, to settle on a backroad in rural New Brunswick indeed breaks up up any form of continuity that may have been amassed in my short saga, and I forget at times the world out there. All the roman styled straight roads and euclidean geometry, high prices and advertisements, instant food acquisition and millions of products ready to take home without any work to grow or make them oneself. I tried a digression to write the last paragraph as a visitor to this modern world, or a savage who just ended up here in the twenty first year after the century. I can securely say I own only as many plastic objects in my life to count on one hand, this is including plastic parts and implements on things like furniture, bedding, clothing, tools, books, boots, appliances, and vessels.

I am also grateful and boastful to be living with no debts, or loans to anyone, no institution, corporation or government, and to owe no one anything next to my respect, my services, and my love with those who have earned it. While I ‘post no bills’, and do any writings and research on ultra low speed internet, transmitted from wary weather driven satellite signals near my windows and no further. There is something to be said about this alone when it seems everyone who has graduated high school already has some kind of growing tumor of debt, instead of a healthy nest egg. Though I hide no golden eggs in my nest, and keep sharp axes to deter those to come and try finding one without permission, I have reason to believe that this is a mark of some modest victory and success because it keeps email trolls, tax wardens, bankers calls, and credit merchants from barking for my interest and hardly won funds. Less ghastly draws on my life force through recruitment of my attention, the better.

There is an ease of joy by keeping all systems simple and/or analog. Routine actions like making coffee, filling a kettle, getting warm from the cold, even listening to music have all taken on deeper involvements, where hand pumping water when my jugs are empty may be the work between me and a mug of herbal tea, and the heat of a radiant flame takes longer to fill the room, but also heats the bones and blood with a healing touch, not just the skin to climate controlled rooms. The beams that hold up my hall are splintered, the floor is wavy, and the roof does not shed snow. The door freezes shut with me inside, there are cold air draughts and my kitchen is made of Tamarack and Cedar, not marble and steel. I carry baskets on my back, on my waist, and in my hands to bring food to neighbors, or else forage and fish for something to put in them. Almost everything is truly biodegradable, and even if I were to migrate from this place and it was forgotten under the change of time, then rediscovered in the ground by a future residents of earth, there may be little to find because I collect nor save any junk, and find it easy enough so far to acquire only what brings joy in my life; from a hand crank juicer and coffee mill, to sheep and bear furs for bedding, a woven chair that needs patching and old leather shoes for walking on a wooden floor, that also need patching. My life comes secondhand, only new or firsthand with regard to experience, knowledge, and community solidarity. I appreciate things that need light fixing, clothes with holes, fruit with bruises, and rusty tools. I value hand forged and hand crafted implements and more things done with real hands like fresh baked rye on thursdays at the school, handmade quilts for new babes, grinding spices with a rock, and relieving myself into a dry pit covered with ash and sawdust. I honestly do not know how I could adapt convincingly to the quick and convoluted modes and methods of the modern world, it would be some cunning theater or bewildering failure.

And then there is of course, the c-word, to which my sentiments and thoughts are on par with certain mentors of mine, of which some of their missives I can get behind with gusto and conviction, to paraphrase and transmit Jack Donovan at length from his Script; “Social distancing” is a euphemistic confection that evokes both “social justice” and “social responsibility.” Perhaps it is going too far to call “social distancing” a Trojan horse for socialism…or maybe that’s exactly what it is. To explain the machinations of bloated bureaucracies, I generally tend to prefer desperation, delusion, self-interest and incompetence over conspiracy. The country issued orders mandating a soft house arrest and the closure of countless businesses, it was called “Shelter In Place” and “Safer at Home” and, weirdly, a “Pause.” I guess you could also call a prison sentence a “pause,” though it wasn’t quite that, so I’ll avoid the gratuitous hyperbole and say it was a little more like parole. On parole, you’re allowed to go to the grocery store and go to work, but there are limits and rules and the promise of freedom is dangled if you follow them. This is, certainly, what the various “phases” of reopening have been and will be like. Businesses and citizens on parole. All sorts of nauseating feel-good phrases were popularized to comfort citizens as they were being relieved of their freedoms, like “we’re all in this together,” with the implied paranthetical (whether you like it or not). Perky people — who obviously didn’t have anything at all — insisted that “we got this!” Many of these novel phrases are coping mechanisms, but by far the most insidious is “The New Normal.” So vague and flexible. It soon seemed as though at least a third of the population would accept any new intrusion, regulation or confinement as long as their influencers contentedly repeated that it was “the new normal.” The words we use tell a story about the way we perceive our world. New phrases are designed to shift thinking and realign reality. Words are power. The Bible said “In the beginning there was the word,” and Nietzsche said that masters were the givers of names. When you repeat their magic words over and over, you help them create their “new normal.”If you want to maintain control of your own mind, be wary of whose words you repeat. These little catch phrases are scripts. If you don’t want to be an actor in someone else’s play, don’t read their script. Refuse to say, “social distancing,” and “we got this,” and “we’re in this together.” Refuse to participate in the process of manufacturing consent — in creating “the new normal.” However, if you don’t use their language, understand that it will make them uncomfortable. It will make you an outsider in their Empire of Nothing. Barbarians are people who use a vulgar alien tongue that offends the sensibilities of those who have acclimated to the “new normal.” And if you refuse to accept the new normal, it will make you one of the new barbarians.

The rules of the game of life is being gone over, but only if you were playing this old trap in the first place. The old phrase of the 60’s “get out of my movie” can apply here, as we are to choose how to draft the script, and which ones flounder or are scrapped is up to us. If you want to adapt to viruses and other associated threats, then I encourage you to become more resilient, harden your body, work outside, take risks, eat a lot of medicinal plants, build your castle and know that you are the King or Queen there, but never worry. Death eventually subdues us like a lover, but in the meantime we can live all the way alive on every other day. Don’t let yourself be willingly tricked by archetypes of deceit, and claim your future with your might, let your own health be a rebellion, and others will see that it is ok.

For the first time this season, the cesium climbs into the double digits above zero, and the maple sup starts gushing from their spiles. The Black Walnuts and Yellow Birches will flow too with medicinal saps, and sweet syrups for meats and bitter beverages. I have several birches on my land, of which some of the chosen specimens may get a tap this year. In the old days the folk of the land used steel buckets with hinged lids to collect the lifeblood of the tree, and transport it with two horsepower carts back to the sugar shack. No reverse osmosis machines, or miles of pvc and silicon piping. No plastic, diesel fuel, or power drills. Maple bottles may have been glass blown manually including the caps, and minimal impact on the forest was made. In the old old days, stainless steel was not even a thing, and the sweetwater was collected in wooden buckets made with hand forged ribs and hand split wood, then swelled to make a tight seal, ensuring not a drop of sweetness would be wasted. I have even heard of wooden troughs hanging off the trees to channel the sap back to the holding tanks or vats for the boiling off. Canoe paddles were stirred inside the vigorously boiling viscous liquid to transform the syrup once step further into its crystalized sugar form. Nowawadays, there is a huge investment, company shares, land leases, organic standards, millions of dollars in product and polished metal machinery, and the strained systems of running several sugarbushes on natures calendar which is often sporadic and spontaneous. I do hearken for those times of yore, when the men were of a different ilk, and followed suit with traditions because it made sense and generally involved the whole community without a hierarchy of profiteering. I can learn to accept that these traditions also morph and evolve and can preserve what is possible in this day and age, by carrying the appreciation for what has defined Canada in many ways. The syrup and tree sugar tradition is perhaps one of the eldest of known forest stewarding techniques known back to the indigenous peoples, the maple leaf adorns our flag, our coins, and government insignia, and the maple is equal in importance to Canada, as is the Olive to France, the Oil palm to Brazil, or the Curry tree to India. I am proud to at least carry the standard of this national love.

With the snow melting into sunken mounds, my darling and I made a venture for the ocean on the Fundy coast, and the shores of New River Beach. My last foray here had been in the high summer of ’17, when I foraged surf clams, sea buckthorn, and crow berries with two fine women and their children. We feasted on a manoomin cooked over flame with these afformentioned berries, beach hips, and seafood. This visit was made without prescribed intention but rather a spur of the moment freedom chase and the soulful connection back to unlimited coastline. As the tidal bore left a rivuleted sandy beach in her ebb. Stout winds robbed our warmth and stole the shawls off our backs, as we explored the crenulated rocky banks, and frozen features of the fir flanked forests. Bits of shamfered driftwood were collected for dog chews, and car mantle pieces and a rendezvous with a sister on the beach made for a unique village connection three hours from home. The blackened boulders contrasted with pink slabs, painting a beautiful picture of the lands edge.

It is on these fluxing seaside inlets where I feel most connected to the rest of the geographical planet. A sense of belonging pervails to these inlets, bays and tides, like Vik-ingr on their Scandinavian fjords.

Saga of Othala V: The Winter Hustle

Whoever wrote ‘This is the Winter of our Discontent’, must have not have had a woodstove, and access to snowshoes. For this has been a winter of abundant contentment as I pilfer into an idle hour to write another transmission on a subzero nocturnal. The revolving door that lurched us unclimactically into 2021 brought about a need for great mauna, silence, as the year prior carried the din of a loud and amplified history. With two new world viruses to protect ourselves against, giant voices in the media, and even greater trolls imposing their way into inner circles of our homes and social spheres, it seems like the average being has been on the defense against powers akin to Goliath telling them what to do, how to do it, and we are all tired of being should upon.

My plan was to lay in potentia this winter and hibernate some, I planned a more hermetic path after such a hefty filling of lifemaking in India, and the initiation of a new life in my sylvan abode. Of course, the Gods finds amusement in the fickleness of our human plans, and nothing can alter the web of Wyrd but the ladies of spirit strands themselves. Instead my winter hustle in the Appalachian woodlands has taken presidence over leisure, and ushered me into a more feral landscape for the longstanding annual tradition of maple tree tapping. Perhaps it is worth at least a mention since my new engagement entails so much of my waking attention.

From dawn to dusk, I wade through moosebrush saplings and fungal laden birch from one snow footed maple to another, in a field of crystal crusted powder. Power drill in one hand, and aluminum mallet in another. Assessing the health, and state of each tree; rock, red, sugar, gray, mountain, the species I look for bearing old holes from years past of sap providence. I have heard box elder can be tapped, black walnut and birch too, but there are not so much of these former sweetblood trees to speak of, the maples are the objective and the ‘Sine qua non’ of the Canadian winter postcard image. Though we don’t use horsepower anymore, and the procedures vary, the essence and the product remains the same. A few hundred thousand trees and some are tapped here in New Brunswick, each drop funneled through a silicon spout into flexible sky blue tubing on grade, which flow to lateral piping on contour and start their meandering way to the sugar shack. Though these shacks have had quite the renovations in their time. No moss chinked logs and cast iron woodstoves to be found, but lots of stainless steel, reverse osmosis machines, ball tanks, hoses, motors and electric panels. No wooden buckets, staghorn sumac spiles and vintage cooking pots, sigh… The hyper modern element of the job is something I may never ante up to, it just feels so industrial and can easily give the perception of being unsustainable. Maybe there is verity in that, though the high standards of today ensure that most commercial maple operations are fairly bullet proof when it comes to forest stewardship. The outfit I work for is registered bio (organic), which means only two taps are allowed per tree, with smaller girths permitting only one. The native ecology and plantlife must also remain unaltered, save for trail clearing and storm damage. The species that inhabit the crown land are left so the the forest can mimic a natural ecozone (boreal/eastern broadleaf mix) while supporting an operation. Therefore, these are typical of most maple woodlands in lower Canada, with ferns, fiddleheads, ramps, poplars, some conifers, and chaga bearing birches, though with the lowbush flora, they are now under a packed layer of the white stuff.

Seven weeks into it, and I have finally hit my stride. My muscles start to remember the movements, I have gleaned how to coast and climb on snowshoes over the topography of this rolling Appalachia, my eyes seek out the spatial patterns of each bark face as to where the most ideal place to tap a new hole will be, and my motions are smooth, most of the time unless I get caught by some infernal snow snag and faceplant into the cold ground. The varying degrees of temperature have taught me the appropriate clothing apparel to cope with the flux of wild weather, and I have learned some of the Inuit knowledge of the different kinds of snow; soft and powdery, crusted plate, ice glazed, solid and squeeky, wet and compact. I have my favorites, and they can either make or break an eight hour day on snowshoes. My sympathies go out to the narrow hoofed fauna with heavier frames than I, these are good days to be a snowshoe hare or a chipmunk. The exposure is the grace of the toil, with so much time languished in the great outdoors, an affordance of divine encounters (well, maybe not divine) but sublime experiences can lofty the soul out of its couching in the mundane. These injections of the special certainly levy the great slog and monotony that the work can sometimes be. On one occasion I found myself lost in the woods (there is a paradox for you), and followed the tracks of a Moose until reaching an evergreen treeline. Before I knew it, the great beast was afore me and he spooked back up the slope from which he inevitable had come. His tracks left cloven prints in the outlines of my snow shoes, we shared the way, and I drifted through the snow until recognizing a chaga on a broken birch which I used to orient myself in the land and find my south, which was wear I was heading, and was the the coordinates of my lunch, left behind in the skidoo. Another occasion offered a sighting of an ermine in his arctic coloration, which brough back nostalgic memories of my last meeting with this rodent on the banks of the St. Lawrence in Montreal, on a -40 degree day, as I meditated on the rapid pack ice flowing downriver. A weekend walk on the traditional rawhide snow shoes brought a few neighbors and I to a beaver pond and forest bridge, before which I was treated to the sight of newborn rabbits and their kin.

The first day of winter also marked the first day I started to learn the tagelharpa, a new instrument that has made it’s way to my hall of the woods, all the way from Turkey! The Tagelharpa is form of lyre, bowed with a horsehair string, with models found in some Viking farm remains and burial mounds. Mine is a reconstructed version made of rowan and horsehair carved with the ring of the Elder Futhark Runes and a Mjollnir hammer. I fashioned a braided horsehair rope from the extra Mongolian ropes on my yurt, to have it hang across my chest while strumming, and have been sounding the tuning, and finding the drones. Eventually I see this new tool as being an instrument in my Skaldcraft and composing music to tell story in a more fitting manner to old tales and new. It hangs proudly on my bed post, just in case I wake with a dream of tagelharp tune in my head, and need to hear the strings vibrate. A carved axe hangs on the other head post, for other purposes.

The addition of an altar table in my hall has made the space hold a new reverence, adorned with relics from the forest, pictures of my ancestors, books I have written, ivory, horn, antler and bone talismans, a seax knife and salt crystal amongst other precious sentimentals. It also holds my cultural library with books on the Viking migrations, myth, archetypes, stories, and pagan traditions, prose, and my Gild curriculum. I oft speak aloud morning heathen poetry for marking events in my life, ritual actions or ceremonies. In an example from the Sagas, when the God posts sent from a faring ship were tossed overboard, and later found on the coastline, a man would lay claim to this land in the name of his Patron God. From whence he would walk the boundaries of the land with fire brand, a torch that symbolically drew the edges of the gard from where we chose to settle his hof, or heim. This has been a gesture that has always garnered a fascination in my heart, and something I could finally partake in, as one night the mood was perfect, and my kenaz torch was light. As I walked the four corners of the land, from the road, behind the yurt, into the boreal trees, and back north to the ravine, my flame illuminated the tracks of a small mammal, perhaps fox or porcupine, and then was extinguished naturally by a snuffing powder of snow at the end of my walk, as Thor and Frigga were called in for their hospitality, and intervention.

In Knowlesville, we have not bore witness to much sun this past week, and a few of my neighbors older solar systems are suffering, while my own remains a little hesitant to give up its limited bank of power. Some 1W amber led lights in all four of my rooms are a stout back up during gray days when other outputs are too heavy a pull on the inverter and batteries. Besides this we are experience odd January temperatures above the freezing point. The Woolastook river is only frozen over in parts, and the streams of Hamilton Brook behind the land trust are slushy with ice only on its fringes. These freeze thaw cycles before late winter are doing a number on my roof, and tend to bring a few cold drops inside, unsolicited, then pooling on the floor in one of my rooms. My pantry is as full as it has ever been, and I found a source for venison, moose, and raw honey, so my larder has been fairly abundant. The return of potlucking has injected some life back into the small folk gatherings of the village. Thirteen different heartbeats frolicked in the company of this cabin place, with food to fill the belly, instruments with strings being strummed for others to sing, and the free vibrations of living the good life with others you love.

A new tradition of ‘board meetings’ has caught on between myself and someone very dear to me. Each Frigga’s day (Friday), our meal is curated over a board, and eaten with our hands, which each alternating week being focalized by one or the other of us. It began with sushi, then with charcuterie the week later, and nachos the third week, there are swimming ideas of what shall be next fridays supping, and I am the curator of that one. Another night I brought home Indian food from Woodstock from a new place in a large hotel off the trans Canada highway. A young pretty girl named Preet warmly surrended my order of palak paneer, veg briyani, and rotis, some favorite of my Indian foray in the yesteryear. Though she wore her mask, I thought I could see her smile, and felt strongly pulled to stay and talk, share a few stories over the counter, and linger for a moment. To be honest, she was the first east Indian woman I had met in New Brunswick, only having seen even a few men in the co-op. They had some posters of anti-Modi in the restaurant, and intrigued me to get some insight. Pleasant as it was to come across another woman close in age with radical views, and a strong presence. Nevertheless, our meeting was brief and only rubbed the surface of platonic icebreakers.

I’m revisiting a couple old books I wrote in my twenties, one on Norse astronomy, and a script on Scandinavian psychoactive herb lore. I am always impressed with these reflections of a younger self, the sense of accomplishment at an age when most folks my age were getting careers, starting accidental families, and killing their spirit with mind numbing passivity. Writing is always something I have had the knack for, and I think I will always write. One of the initial reasons for the impulse to settle into a more domestic routing for me is the forbearance of leisure time for writing. A personal ‘study’ has not yet been established in the homestead, though a small writing table with my wicker woven habitant chair pulled up to it by the hearthside affords me a great many hours of idle creative drafting, while the victrola stereo sends strains of sound pleasing to the ambience of the hall.

The moon is so intensely bright tonight, she keeps me awake in a lunar bath. Her halo that illumines the spruces carves their boughs into stark staves jutting into the ether of the blue gray gloom. The teins of a deer antler above my bedposts, the rime of icicles tilting off the steel pan roof, and the chiseled silhouettes of birches that seem to scrape the nightsky without their foliage on, form three levels of pointed shadows in a single gaze outwards my windowpanes from beneath the covers. While shuffling along on snowshoes near the Shiktehawk river the other day, a winter hare bumbled out from hiding into a less conspicuous blind, where I could gaze at him in full for several full minutes. Occupy simulatenously an awe of this reslient creatures grace but also of delicious Hasenpfeffer;

‘Saute shallots and garlic in skillet for about 4 minutes, until tender. Stir in wine, 1 cup of water and bouillon. Heat to boiling, then stir in jelly, peppercorns, bay leaf, and rosemary. Return rabbit and bacon to skillet.

The black capped chickadees are making their sonorous spring and summer calls months ahead of nature watch, and temperatures are rarely plummeting below the double negatives, methinks we will experience spring like temperatures in february. Three times now I have found myself stuck the Knowlesville field, and twice in my own driveway, these experiences would be more inconvenient if they were not part of the village initiation. How I already long for two wheeling weather, and sun strewn backroads, my heart pangs a little when I visit my workship for some frozen meat and see the Nighthawk parked beside the ash barrel and the plywood, cold in its pipes and stiff in the bones. Meanwhile the mildness of this winter is perhaps just what is needed for now, as I closely observe the quirks of the cabin for the next fimbul season, this being my first full winter in Canada for eight years.

This transmission closes the draft with an old fashioned pancake breakfast with the Guatemalans I work with, and three women from the village. The ladies danced bechata, and we griddled the pancakes on a hot pan, then broke our fast around the long table with smoky maple syrup, frozen blueberries, and the good life. Luckily one of our posse spoke far more eloquent Spanish than I, she was never my mother tongue alas, and it felt rich to experience the bumble of conversation over the meal.

A stark noreaster now brings Labradorian blizzards to snuff out the snowshoe tracks, and paint the forest white with Hagalian rune crystals. We are on the ebbing side of winter, and my soul feels sated and held aloft by the boughs of good bonds. Projecting forth my thoughts to spring days, I look forward to being shirtless on my roof, laying turf in the open air, and riding the saddle to Newfoundland on a motorcycle foray with a brother in the Old Bastards. At least that is the dream, we are in a new world of men, so I don’t even know where we are going.

Saga of Othala IV: Midgard

Life on our planet is hastily evolving as we know it, life’s culture and the way we live it alive…

Human Flow

Monsooned inside my cabin hall, I count the drops of water gushing from my roof while the Maritimes ge plundered with 130 millimeters of rain, akin to the great deluges of summertime in India and the Asian subcontinent. Caverns underneath my floor dug by prickly porcupines swell and flood with water, and the Edison bulbs that illumine the interior of my domain can not compensate with the myrkiness of gray weather that shades me from outside. My Mongolian ger is standing in the round proudly enduring its fair share of trials, looking handsome with its new chimney hat and fireplace though still a ways from finishing. The sobering realization that I will not be making the yurt home base for the winter is satisfactory, as my cabin home has become far more hygge as cold season fortification has abetted. My neighbors Spirit & Seven offered up some plastic wrapping to cover the windows, and my north door has been cloaked over with wool to buffet any drafts entering from the north. Clever humans use the hair of these ruminants to defend themselves against the polar conditions. I also installed a damper on the chimney pipe to withhold the precious btu’s from being starkly wafted up and outside, heating the sky rather than my body and my dinner. Now that the nights are colder, my coolers function shift to being passive freezers, dropping below subzero in the night and staying in the double negatives to preserve frozen berries, fruit, fish and meat. I’ve procured a more fortified pantry with a new delivery of Grammy B’s canned preserves, moose meat, and jams, bulked up with a stocking mission in Flow-ville for coffee, alliums, strong spirits and haskap juice concentrate. Spaces in my floor where the hall staves let in a draft from beneath are stuffed with torn wool socks that traveled with me some small Himalayan village of northern India, and I have been able to rope in at least two neighbors willing to stoke my fyre when I am absent .Homesteading is about finding the low-tech systems that work for you and enhance the richness of the living experience.

Forays into the Fray

A spontaneous trip to Ontario, and two rounds of Fredericton proffered me good enough reasons to stay closer to my kinfolk in the village and invest more nesting energy into home-base. The cities have always felt too fast for my pace of life, and while my visits with kindred were enriching and satisfying to my senses, the side effects of these forays into modern territories have their gauging effect on the soul. A kindling of spirits with my Viking Brother in the Laurentian mountains and a rendezvous with my Ma in Ontario claimed all my attention for the initiation of November. We held a moot and work gathering to clear a giant tree that had fallen on an outdoor ritual space, and I enjoyed the exorbitant luxuries of a modern suburbia for a short stint, while the presidential elections showed on the tv in the background, and garnered absolutely zero of my intrigue, it’s always the same movie playing. Re-connections with were made with two sisters in Steel City, as we retreated from the mask wearing zones of downtown, to private quarters and escarpment forests to drink artisanal coffee, and read divinatory cards about plants and trees. The cruiser suffered greatly during the trip from the long stretches of high speed commute on the trans-Canada, 401 and QEW highway and will need a new flex pipe. Upon returning to New Brunswick, the manifold started to pick up a rattle that sounded like the guttural defense bellows of a prairie buffalo. Affectionately, my ride was renamed the P.T. Buffalo by a dear neighbor. My adventures away from home felt as intentionally rooting to place as they did a craving for novelty and spaciousness. Pulling onto the dirt road leading home in the dark, after 20 hours of driving was a cathartic experience of grounding and place-holding where I truly belong. I still retain a credit with the Air Canada company from the cancellation of flights during the early spring lock-down, perhaps a midwinter trip up north to the territories would be warranted when the pining for flight again rumbles within me. I have always wanted to take a working holiday and join a dog mushing team under arctic skies.

The Push

Mr. Groovy Yurts himself, Yves showed up in Florenceville one wintry morning and Kaia and I caught up with him for a Tim’s brew while we sat inside by their fake fire, and generally talked louder than the six old men combined who were huddled around four other tables. We must have seemed the odd crew. Yves is a giant of a man from Switzerland, Kaia being once an exotic dancer with the physique of a young woman and gypsy wool clothing, I in Norseman garb and a beaver trimmed hat. Caffeine was slowly introduced to the blood stream one sip at a time while we bartered stories about Mongolia, communal living, and the trucker’s life that Yves built his legacy on. We exchanged knowledge like currencies, on rocket stoves, earthbag building, and the obscure economics of a nomadic horseman on the other side of the globe. I truly believed that day that Yves was driving the fanciest truck in the entire maritime provinces. On his way to PEI to build two yurts, and hopefully not get held up on the red sand shores by the new frontier.

Beyond my humble acre and its goings on, parts of the New Brunswick are ramping up control measures for enslaving the people inside their homes, forcing indecent public protocols indiscriminately on healthy people and surveiling the private lives of well meaning communities and individuals straining to live with a semblance of normality. Other provinces are going into total lockdown for the second time, due to covid, and here in Knowlesville, the penetration of the worlds paranoia has reared its ugly head into the confines of our own village. These are words and sentiments I never though would be uttered, but it feels that everyday normalcy is more and more like a scenario from Orwell’s 1984 or the Black Mirror. When my own sisters and brothers personal lives are being invaded and vigilante civilians, forcibly telling us how to pursue our day to day existence in a fashion completely unreasonable to honor.

Luckily, I’ve saddle up with a winter hustle that will bolster me with meaningful work and a cash stream through the crossover of the year and well into the spring of the next. From my patch of the woods, commuting 500m north on Knowlesville road, I leave my p.t. Cruiser at the confluence of three roads; one leading to a hunting lodge, another culminating in a beaver dam, the third forging N. on a mud road to Skedaddle Maple, the way is made into the heart of Golden Ridge where I spend my days leveling pipes and tapping maple spouts, that will carry the sweet sap through the woods to the boiler rooms of a 200 acre sugar bush. A Bear den was found on one of the maple lines, where the papa bear had dragged a blue hose containing some of the frozen sap from last years flow into its cove. Amusing images of a suckling male Bear in hibernation emerged into my mind, and I made mental affirmations that my work matched my joy. Another afternoon brought the music of a cardinal and the presence of a downy woodpecker, while a morass of coyote, moose, deer and fox tracks pepper the woods with sloughen paw prints. The bitterness of subzero temperatures works its way into bones, but my hearth is always waiting for me at home to blaze.

It’s a Pagan Tradition

Enough time has elapsed now that the ambience at Othala has warranted a yule tree to stand erect in the cabin hall. Of course there are those who are keen to stand the timber right after Hallow’s eve, and even those country folk that keep their lights on their front forch all year long, as the lyrics of a country tune once went. For me personally, traditions are more intentional, and occupy a space beyond profane time and the everyday experience. A set and setting in which they exist in a liminality all of their own, totally in the here and now. They are not meant to be chores, or consumer fetish niceties put on for the display of the public. In my heart, they carry great symbolism, myth and a connection to something deeper in our well waters of wyrd. The yule is one of these tradition perhaps closest to my pagan heart.

Along with raising the evergreen in the hall as a symbol of the Axis Mundi, a dear neighbor of mine and I have been lighting the Sunwait candles every Thorsday, for Thorshelg. The day of the week when the craft of Dwarves, and the magical intentions of elves can make themselves felt through the people of middle earth. This involves the carving of beeswax candles, which were made by our hands using the dip method. Each stick of solidified sunshine is carved with a rune, starting with Fehu, of the elder :FUTHARK: and following with the the next five runes, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido, and Kenaz, with the final flame being lit on solstice evening, and the brands of six runes flaming brightly. Each flame is initiated with a poem, for which I am using a book of Skaldcraft by my very good ally Eirik “the Eagle” Westcoat. Potent sips of the poet’s mead are drunk with wode, and we meditate on the mystery of the Runes while the candle hood softens our gaze, and brings us to an altered state.

‘Neath the Yule tree are crafted gifts for young and elder, neighbors and allies, even the domestic wolves have a share. Some new, others vintage, things you can eat and precious objects exchanged for our local currency, and all suited for each gift taker. There are medicines, baskets, books, potent brews, and calming lights, things that smell good to the senses, and sound well to the ears. On the boughs are runic talismans, salt dough ornaments, a giant egg, and fishing lures, hung with strings of rowan berries studded with dried orange rings and heirloom treasures. A small fawn skull takes the center of the trunk and a large moose up at the base. The roots are submerged in water in a bucket and wrapped with burlap and covered in wool, looking very much snow laden and thulean. I keep a torch burning when neighbors visit, or at least a candle on the altar to hold the space, and the fire stokes its eternal nature, being quickend the morning after its growling slow burn, not going out.

This winter, I intend to carve a runestone on a slab of slate, of my settlement here in Vinland to honor the lineage that came before me, over a millennia ago. It feels fitting that after a long seven year voyage overseas, mingling in exotic markets of foreign lands and obscure tongues, and following roughly the same course of Viking farers in bygone times across the Nordic hemisphere that I would finally make it back home to east coast Atlantia. Where Leif Eriksson and Gudrid the Far Traveler stepped off their ships in the new world, a long saga ago.

Afterglow

A wall of dripping icicles hangs perilously over the edge of my roof, as village children come by to pilfer them for sword fights, and chew sticks. Fauna leave their tracks strewn about the forest floor, while some continue to encamp beneath my own. Power dwindles in the sun, but I make up for it with personal power, and fully charged batteries. I’m drinking dark brews of herbal liquer, root powders, tropical charred beans, and fungal concoctions, while I take time off to write longhand letters for loved ones, and go to sleep early. My bed is my favorite place to be right now, under pelts of Black Bear, Coyote, and Arctic Fox. My heart is full here in the Appalachian foothills, and as I reflect on years of travel, their nourishment, and guidance to my spirit, there is a need to preserve these memories into a photographic collection, and to share thee stories of oulde with my kindred into the present and future. Perhaps by the next installment of the homestead journal this will become actualized.

Until then, we all go Wassailing, as Baldr is reborn in the light of Midgard!