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!

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

Learning to Love the Work

The Ways Of Yore,

How a man or a woman chooses to provide for their most fundamental of :N:eeds is a matter of character, resource, and a good dose of tradition. I’ve always believed that your wealth should be worth your salt, and with years of hard work banked up, I figured my karmic returns would be sweet enough to ensure a fairly abundant reaping. My mentors have always been of the most particular ilk; I’ve learned everything I know from farmers, foresters, plant people, healers, trade workers, old-timers and the young at heart. A lot of it has been hard gleaned through failure at some endeavor or other, other lessons came swiftly through keen observance of culture and countryfolk. These have not been my only mentors, and in truth I would have to write an entry for each individual plant, animal, and human ally that I have shared some of this life with. Now I am learning to steer my own ship, and mark the directional course with the distilled wisdom of these thirty years of life.

The maritimes of Canada has always been known as the New World. It was the Viking Vinland to Leif Eriksson, and his uncle Erik the Red, and Bjarni Herjolfsson before him. The Icelanders, and Norseman of the Scandic sea. These pastoral ship building farmers sailed to Canada seeking agricultural lands and timber from Greenland and Canada. The Welsh, Irish, Scots and Anglo-Saxons followed in their wake, then Columbus, and the French fur traders by canoe, and fleets of other cultures trailed behind. They all left behind lives in the old world to follow a dream, and settle here. The place names of the land are stamped with their legacy. In maritime history, the people that grew here were tough and resilient, and able to hack at th harder challenges of life with a discipline that was unique to the east. It’s mostly rock the further to the Atlantic you get, and the long cold wet winters are a test of endurance, and mental health. It’s the land that really lets you know what you are made of, and particularly in the East, the land is steeped with tradition. Salt water fishing, big game hunting, forestry, snowshoeing, food preservation, country lifestyles, and closely knit families make up a quiltwork of what this seaboard territory is all about.

I’ve always wanted to be closer to the ocean, and admit that I feel slightly trapped inland when I can not access the waters edge. It represents the edge of the world, and the infinite of potential beyond the roots beneath our feet. These waylays of homestead journaling shall venture into all the aspects of a life intentionally lived in simple terms in the forests of the maritimes, and the evolution of my saga through the years. I will try to share the realities and challenges of an off grid lifestyle, and the bright and murky aspects of living inside a community. On one acre of land is where I build this kingdom, and only the Gods how it will grow.

Solitude Makes the Heart Grow Fonder,

It is said that solitude makes the heart grow fonder, this is how my raven’s nest would be tended, as I drove across that imaginary border line in the middle of the night, into the maritimes of Canada. The twenty hour journey from the lands of northern Ontario, to the St. John River valley was heralded by the presence of Moose on a dusty dark backroad in New Brunswick. Just under two minutes from my cabin door, I caught this sow running beside my uhaul truck in the opposite lane. It was a moonless night on a road without hydro electric lines, no light save the low beams of the truck lamps, just the antlerless beast trotting swiftly by the pines, bringing me home. Only eight cars were seen on the vaguely 100km stretch from Quebec to home, and people usually just passed through this province. There is a lot of open space, and probably more wildlife per square km than humans. A tunnel of arching alders and spruce boughs honed me in as I wheeled into an overgrown driveway of goldenroad, meter high grasses, and quaking aspen saplings, where the cabin was waiting. I was ready to hit the hay after the long drive, so I unpacked just a few pelts and a blanket and slept beside the woodstove on a makeshift bed. My first night in the woods, where no one had slept in over six years.

Seeing as my motorcycle was as yet uninsured or registered in the province and I had to take fourteen days away from the public, I wouldn’t get much further than my community of neighbors. Much of this time was sipped slowly, and cherished with attention to the details. Simply observing the land, getting to the know the herbs and trees that grew here, and making peace with the family of skunks that already lived under my floor. I walked the boundary lines in my bare feet, knowing I would again walk with fire brand and ritualize the land finding in the way my ancestors did. On the western side of the cabin is a jungle of green life that hid the windows, and had not been tended to since its past occupants. Raspberry canes, Elderberry, Oak, St. Johns Wort, Blackcurrant, Tansy, and Trembling Poplars crowded the space, Underneath them, wild Lettuce, Dandelion, Cleavers, Heal All, and Nettles grew in secret. Munna from across the road, who lives on the communal land came over on her bicycle and taught me about the herbs, and what to do with them. She is a medicine maker, with a son of her own, and makes a living from her relationships to the plants.

A shindig was held at one neighbors for a bonfire. The ban had just been lifted in the evenings, and nearly the whole community was out. One woman and her daughter from Happy Valley Goose Bay in Labrador sang rare strains of music in her native tongue of Inuktitut. Songs about travelers, dog sledding, and the struggled of the Inuit peoples. When she sang, no one talked, not even the dogs or the children. A woman named Sparrow played the banjo, and another strung a fiddle to the bluegrass jaunt of Cripple Creek and other folk tunes. Munna introduced me to her sister Mandala, who exuded the mysterious gypsy nature and had a darkly kind of magical persona. I reconvened with my neighbors Darius and Patricia and recounted a few tales from India, and enjoyed the jovial feelings of the gathering. Something about fires had an effect of making fond the memory of times spent sitting by them.

In the absence of human habitation, the cabin had taken on a fair few mammalian residents, and a brood of paper wasps in my front porch door. The field mice nibbled at my raw butter, sourdough bread, and chia seeds, and a daring brown squirrel wrested itself through the staves of my hall to pillage nuts and seeds from a wooden bowl at night. One morning while eating a stack of pancakes he returned straight up from my floor and onto the wooden counter to scour again, but I had taken measure to cover my stash of protein, so the thief went away empty pawed. The skunks had already raised a litter in the space beneath the floorboards and I could hear them all night bickering. Then I confirmed their presence as I caught them with a uv flash light through my cabin windows leaving the property after dark. One of these restless nights I could hear these odiferous creatures barking and revolting, sounding all the while uncomfortable, and in the morning found the paper wasp nest eviscerated lying in pieces on my porch. They skunks must have been stung as they tried to rip open the hive for larvae. This seemed to handle my skunk issue and the wasps at the same time. I had no intentions to resort to any violent or drastic means, and nature sorted it out for me. A couple sticks wedged into the base of my hall staves blocked the empty space for the squirrel to enter, and now I have fewer trespassers. I resorted to canning all seeds, nuts and calorie dense food that small rodents with gnawing teeth might like to carry away in their cheeks. This may deter most of them if there nothing left to forage. Though as the skunks and their posse moved away, a mother porcupine moved in. At first she was the sole occupant, but she must have been pregnant for now I can hear the faint mewing of newborn porcupines beneath the woodstove, and the purring of the adult. I never knew porcupines could purr or meow, and reflected on how this kind of experience could only happen in situations similar to mine. To be so close and intimate to a creature that is regarded as highly defensive, with a protective board of wood between me and hundreds of sharp quills, has allowed me to experience a unique event in another animals lifecycle that even on nature documentaries may never have been encountered.

The First Stages of Enlightenment. Chop Wood and Carry Water

I culled a few species out of the tangle of vegetation the overpopulated the western side of my cabin. The cleavers were too prolific and choked out the berry bushes, while the goldenroad and quaking aspens were dominant on much of the open acre, so I would not miss them. St. John’s wort was allowed to stay, though its medicine was just a bit late for harvesting, I would look forward to seeing their blooms again next year. They felt protective and calming to my senses. The raspberry canes would be thinned out, which were not hanging in fruit, and the elderberry suckers would be pruned back to allow more light penetration into the cabin which was already in a shadier pocket of the woods. I burned the rotted punky wood stuck with nails in a metal barrel, and a farmer neighbor took a stacks of tyres left behind the outdoor kitchen to weigh down manure piles generated by his full family of animals. I’ve started to stain the cedar shake shingles on the outside of the cabin in the Faroese turf house colors, which is transforming the soul of the cabin with each stroke of the brush. I put out my feelers for cordwood, and came up lucky with a local from Woodstock who could bring me semi-cured split maple within a couple days notice, and with the word, I had my first two hardwood bushcords dropped in the micro meadow of my yard, ready for stacking. The well driller came soon after, with three massive trucks to dig down beneath the bedrock, and shale to find the quartz veins where clear Appalachian water flowed in an the aquifers 125 feet down. Now I needed to find a hand pump to bring it up to the surface. In the meantime I pumped water from the community well using their bison setup, wrapped a shemagh around my head and hauled it back the three hundred feet or so to my hall, east Indian style. This works for now, but come the winter and the eight foot snow banks that would accumulate beside the road, would make it serious mule work just getting a couple gallons of the stuff back for cooking and cleaning. With blizzards and harsh temperatures, this would mean dressing in heavy duck down coats and a fur hat and trudging a sled every few days for the bare nesessities. Although I’ve read self addressed letters of my grandfather doing this with ice, and pulling it much further to trade for potatoes, I am not sure I could muster this tenacity year after year. Besides, there was something else liberating about the importance of a well on the land. It ties into the great myths and symbolism of the Well and the Tree, that my Norse ancestors held close to their hearts, and were pivotal to how they interacted and understood the world.

Thriving Not Surviving,

Living alone in a cabin in the woods currs a lot of hustle and responsibility to the land to survive. Those without an industrious nature rarely thrived under these conditions, but this lifestyle also held the closely aligned instincts for self-preservation. On my own, I needed to fend more for myself in the domestic rituals that homesteading requires. Though if a widowmaker fell while I was pruning the forest, and my senses were too dulled from long hours of toil to move out of the way, my bones would lay among the rocks and the roots, and I would have to inflate my rib cage enough to utter a howl to my neighbors to save me. If I lacked the attention to the cutting arc of my sickle blade while weeding and accidently cut my thumb, I would have to hope it wasn’t too deep for the plantain to heal, or as I have already wisened to, stacking two bushcords before lunch then riding a motorcycle 30km on a chip and tar road is heavy stress on the finely tuned wrist bones that will cause tendonitis. While staining wood is a more therapeutic acitivity for the body, something just doing nothing and gifting yourself with extended rest is a more powerful remedy than any power plant, medicine, or treatment. All animals have this self preservation that transcends genetic conditioning, and with homesteading comes a greater intetion to protect and conserve not only the land but myself. We have no gain on our dreams if we can not love ourselves enough to get there.

During this waning summer month of August the cabin has been without electricity, or running water, and I have catered my diet to accomodate this first stage of homesteading life while I suss out the needs for a solar system. Though I like to say that I need to “run for my water”, and my power comes from the most ancient and eco-friendly source possible, the sun’s radiation. I eat a lot of raw vegetables and fermented, dried and cured foods at this point; my shelf is stocked with kefir, kraut, kombucha, cheese and yogurt, salted cod, unwashed eggs, and roots, jams, honey and dried nuts and seeds or wild greens eaten the same day. These don’t need to be refridgerated, so long as they are kept in the dark and cool environment, and are actually some of the healthiest morcels I can put in my body right now. On cool mornings and evenings I light a fire and brew coffee, steep a slow stew or cook porridge and pancakes on the woodstove. Iron is my prefered cook surface, and copper or steel flasks for drinking vessels. The orientation of my bed is also important and I have always been delivered a more sound sleep with my head to the west, rising to the east.

Back to the Land

I intend to stay fully off the grid, and out of the harmful waves of powerful cell and wifi signals and electro-magnetic frequencies as much as possible. There is a ten kilometer radius of organic agriculture surrounding the eco-community, and very few of my neighbors rely on fossil fuels on their properties. I have made the intentional comittment to use hand tools while stewarding the land, to eliminate noise pollution, and the risk factors associated with heavy automatic machinery. This also caters to a truance for self-preservation. I just appreciate my body too much to get mauled by a chainsaw, and I believe there is more skill and nuance in using analog tools, some of which were design for specifically one purpose, an apple press for instance. Hand tools teach the body a wider variety of skills than machines, and contribute a significant joy in actual doing of the work.

Out here you don’t need to wear a mask, and there is no pollution save the odd beer can on the dirt road from a passing atv, which I don’t mind collecting. I currently produce less than a five gallon pail of trash monthly, and do what I can to save the jars from any food products I bring into the home. That sometimes means an after dinner past time of scraping labels off of pickle and jam jars. I don’t mind because it saves money and time from transporting glass from the city in my motorbike cases, and I need the jars to hold sundried herbs, teas, and preserves for the forthcoming years. The skies are black at night, and my senses are not dulled by noise of traffic, sirens, and the city din. When the sun goes down, I sleep, or extend my waking time with the help of beeswax candles. I listen for the reverberations of the woodpeaker, the crowing of ravens and screeching of Jays and Whiskeyjacks. Fox has come detectively to see who has come home. I know this from his scat filled with rabbit hair and tinted purple from the pigmented raspberries and dewberries he has likely been feeding on. Bald Eagle surveyed the St. John river, as I sat on my motorcycle outside a highway coffee shop near the worlds longest covered bridge. I’ve set a trail cam on a crab apple tree pointing down a mossy path to catch photos of any animal visitations. I would love to know if there are bears, coyotes, or wolves here. I did find evidence of the black ghost in the pine barrens, though no sightings of one in the flesh and fur. The forest is a place to bathe, to breathe easy, to walk barefoot, forage, hunt, gather, and appreciate. A great population of spruce, pine and tamarack compose this boreal acre, with a mix of poplar, quaking aspen, birch, and alder. Cedar, oak and maple are rare and coveted but they are here, along with wild apple, and hemlock. We are footing into mushroom season, and I’ve already shouldered my pack basket out onto skedaddle ridge here in the lowland Appalachians to forage Chanterelle and Turkey tail mushrooms, Bunchberry, medicinal mosses, and several species of the bramble berries. I can walk outside naked if the bugs are not bad, or sleep in on storm days as the tumult of the rain drums down on my metal roof. At night, I think about someone I miss and mentally release the day from my consciousness. Though I don’t have a proper bed yet and dream of building a king size frame out of live edge wood for my sleep temple. Any ills that may have come, or pains felt I try to surrender it all away, and attract instead strong healing offerings and a surplus of positive energy for the next day to rise.

Off The Grid:

Launching an off grid lifestyle can take its toll on the hard hustled finances you have saved up. Especially if you are anything like me and tend to earn your dough a little at a time, in farm labor jobs and thrifty living where a thousand dollars is a small fortune. All the fundamentals need to be covered, that’s water from a well, firewood for the stove, electricity if you run any single one of the thousands of appliances that now use them, and a reliable vehicle for living on a country road without regular plow service. If you are lucky and there is a spring on your land, you can collect water passively and retrieve your vessels when you need them and filter if needed. This only works six months a year when the water is not frozen. A well is more reliable than a spring, and can almost always be made rather than discovered. This can be twenty bucks a foot to have someone drill deep enough to find water under the earth. The man who drilled my well bought his truck from Pennsylvania, where they had to dig 1600 feet to find it. You can do the math, and realize how lucky you are if you find a shallow well. Then there’s the pump, which can function electrically or by hand. If it’s electrical, then you need panels, batteries, a charge controller, and an inverter, plus underground tubing, valves, a submersible pump, and small parts that are hard to find. Not to mention plumping, spigots, and filters and a water heater running on the electricty as well, stored in batteries in the winter when you don’t have solar radiation. It may be better than paying the bills in the long run, but still involves some major infrastructure. If you do it all by hand, you just need to buck up and do it, even in a blizzard. Step out to your well, and heave ho at it until you fill your vessels. You’ll need to carry a jug, or carbuoy into your home, and pour it into a pot and boil it to use for most homesteading things like cooking soup, cleaning dishes, or taking a bath. The last option is what I am trying. So far so good, but winter is coming. I keep it fairly low tech, and that keeps life pretty simple. Solar electricity is another chunk of change to get established, especially building a battery bank robust enough for six months will little charge. I’m currently sourcing all the necesarry parts to put this Frankensystem together, as I mentioned there are many fickle elements to get harmoninizing together to actually run your nutribullet, or turn on an edison bulb hanging in your roof. Cordwood remains the simpler of the off grid systems, if you know how to light a fire. Still, there is an art in wood culture that few people talk about. How many BTU’s are you getting from your wood, as different species burn at different rates with different heat values. What stacking technique you use, and how early the wood was sourced in order for it to have enough time to cure and dry. Several country folks let their wood dry two or three years in advance for a winter, which could be a bush cord of timber each season from Halloween to Mothers Day, at three hundred bucks a pop to order, or several weeks of hard labor to select, fell, delimb, haul, saw, split, carry, and stack yourself. Stevedore Steve commented on the Maritime Men who were proud to work with a crosscut saw and an axe in hand. I have two axes, a modern Vipukirves ax from Finland, and another antique run of the mill saw from an earlier era. I’ll use both for different purposes and watch the splinted wood pile up. There are ways to build the fire itself to save energy, and the kind of stove you are burning them in. There is fast wood for making getting your pan warm enough for fried eggs, and slow wood, for roasting a duck in a pan, or keeping you and your love warm all night without needing to stoke the flames. This also contributes to a healthier love life, and generally more comfortable night. Wood and water is heavy, so you learn not to waste it. I have set the date of Halloween in my mind to start consuming my stack, until then I am burning deadwood I collect from the forest a couple times a week. Some of it is punky and just smokes, and most of it is too thin to last longer than a breakfast fire. I just need enough for my percolator and porridge, and maybe a kettle of dandelion coffee, and figure that six bushcords will last me even the harshest of maritime winters if burned efficiently. I keep only wood furniture, which collect and radiate more heat in the hall, and the windows are double paned for less warmth leaving the cabin. Chopping wood, and carrying water starts with a fair bit of cash offering to the Gods of frontier country, but these are some things I think are truly worth every nickel. I try to live according, frugal but not cheap, efficient but abundant.

The Village in the Country:

Two wheels will not be able to carry me through the snow as four wheels would, and I’m bucking up to dish out for my first car or truck. A horse and sleigh was the next option, kidding but not really. Some will use their skidoos to visit town, though they are built for forest trails not icy roads and salted highways. I live 15km from the nearest general store, where one can buy unleadened gas, stove pipes, fixes, toilet paper, coffee, homemade baking, basic foods and jars of things the locals have preserved like pickled fiddleheads and maple syrup. Even have a cash machine, of which I prefer to have some stowed away than using a plastic card for everything. The next closest town is 32km from here in the St. John River valley, with a small town energy and some services like a bank, liqour store, meats and grocery, gas, and a coffee shop. But for hardware and homeware, farmers market, and a secondhand shop, Woodstock is the closest at the 56km mark. I hope to nail down the essentials of what I need by the time the snow flies and not have to travel beyond the small towns in winter. This also engenders a deeper connection to the neighborhood and the local ma and pa shops in the times of scarcity. Considering all the factors with how the world is shifting, I would probably depend on those smaller businesses if I can’t venture into a city for provisions because of social distancing.

As I finish this first letter, I am waiting for some hemlock beams to be delivered which will contruct a platform for my yurt, and I’ve cut two spruce trees to make additional staves in my hall for extra roof support. I finally have a pot big enough to make soup with, and besides a couple evening guests, my company has been finely kept with porcupines, a raccoon, and a black nosed mouse who returns even after I caught him in my hand and carried him out to the woods. A humming bird has been visiting my apple trees, and a blue jay was purveying my land on more than once. I’ve caught nothing on the trail cam yet. I turned thirty last week and somehow it matters, I just haven’t realized how. It’s quiet, and the metors showered during the new moon turnover as I laid on a bed of hay in my neighbors backyard. The mosses, grasses, and leaves are still green but autumns decay is coming. I am thankful for what I can enjoy, and what little I need to be happy with it all, though I don’t think I could do this alone through the years. May the Gods attract to me the fuller things of life, keep my hands clean, and my heart stoked.

Back to the Land, Roots Where I Stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man’s Fate

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Home and Hearth is Best: Sheltering in Place

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

The Hearth & the Yard

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

The Good Old Days

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

New Age of Travel

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

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

Migrant Worker of Modern Times

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

Too Free

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

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

Maturing

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

Warrior, Magician, Lover, King

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

Dying to Be New

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

Stranded

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

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

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

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

How I Cope

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

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

Sailing on new Paradigms

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

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

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

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