Halfmoon's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:32 pm

Good. I was getting tired of entertaining myself. Bring on grownup storytime!

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:27 am

Adult storytime follows (no, not that kind of adult). Blame it on Riggerjack.

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

BUILDING THE HOUSE:

**Standard disclaimer regarding scans of crappy old film photos, which seem even blurrier than usual. Sigh.

Having laid the foundation (such as it was), we were ready to build. We took 3 summer weeks of vacation from work and headed off to our mountain property. We’d arranged to have helpers:

1.An acquaintance who lived off and on in a cabin on one of the private inholdings (owned by someone else). He had the most construction experience.
2.A neighbor at our western Washington property.
3.A 70-year-old relative of DH (Maria) who was visiting us from Munich. She had grown up in a Munich orphanage and spent her life in the city. She told us later that this was the best time of her life. :)

We love wildlife as long as it stays outside. Mice, packrats, squirrels and bugs are not welcome in our home as visitors or long-term residents. Therefore, the first step was to seal the open underside of our log foundation with sheet metal:

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Next, we laid the floor joists and insulated them. Insulating was my self-appointed job. I was “encouraged” to wear a hard hat because I have an uncanny ability to hit my head on anything in the near universe.*

*I think this is genetic, because my sister sustained a concussion by hitting her head on a kitchen drawer at waist height. Sadly enough, I completely understand how it could happen.

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Then came the two layers of OSB flooring, fastened with approximately a bazillion screws. From there, it was the basic geometry of building walls (complete with door and window framing) and raising them. There’s something so satisfying about this: you lay it out on the floor, nail (or screw) it together, then *SHAZAM!* you push it up, tie it in, and you have the outline of a structure. Maybe it’s the combination of female nesting with male conquest (@7wb5 analysis needed here), but I absolutely love the moment when it looks like an actual building.

I know that DH experiences the same thrill. This is why we always default to building new things instead of finishing old ones. :roll:

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When we designed the house and bought the materials, we only planned to have one story with 896 square feet of floor space. When we started building, DH suggested adding a 4-foot knee wall on top to gain an upstairs. I argued that we were trying to simplify our life, live in a smaller space, have a roof lower to the ground for easier maintenance in our old age, blah, blah. DH won that one, and it was actually a good idea. The upstairs became my office, a workbench for DH’s indoor projects and a guest bedroom.

The roof was sheathed with another two layers of OSB topped with metal (nothing but metal roofing for us, ever). The walls had an exterior layer of OSB covered by T1-11 siding. Insulation and interior sheathing came later, except for the interior bearing wall.

The great part (sarcasm alert) was a series of RAINSTORMS that required us to get up in the middle of the night and pull huge tarps over the as-yet-unroofed structure. Every evening when we finished work and lounged exhausted among the trees, we’d look at the sky and say hopefully: “It doesn’t look like rain.” We really didn’t want to deal with the tarps.

HA. So much more fun to do it in the dark with flashlights. We finally learned.

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Aside from random construction tasks, my prime directive was to provide food for the crew. This was sad for all because I stink at cooking. I’ve actually improved over time and have graduated to semi-adequate. At that time…not. Just to make it more challenging, I was cooking in an open-walled shed with a wood stove and water in barrels, and one of the crew was an avowed vegetarian while the others wanted MEAT.

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It seemed that my day consisted mostly of cooking a meal, cleaning up from a meal, planning another meal, cooking that meal…you get the point. I would whine more about this, but I think the real victims were those who had to eat the food. It’s not my calling.

Maria made no complaint whatsoever. She spent her days picking up sticks for the wood stove, catering to the dogs’ whims and helping me. In between, she donned a garbage-bag apron and painted every single sheet of T1-11 siding before it was applied. Through it all, she laughed constantly and tried to communicate with me in a combination of Bavarian dialect, maybe 10 words of English and a lot of gestures. She had a remarkable capacity for joy that I wish I could replicate.

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Nice views from the roof.

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We managed to weather in the house shell in those three weeks. Mission accomplished. Lots more to go.

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cmonkey
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by cmonkey » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:46 am

Wow!

Yea that last photo looks pretty accurate. ;) That's what I did when we got our carpet installed.

George the original one
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by George the original one » Tue Mar 21, 2017 1:53 pm

Always love it when the dogs are so exhausted... from the effort of guarding the kitchen, LOL!

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Fish
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Fish » Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:43 pm

What I absolutely love about this journal: 1) The incredible amount of progress between updates. 2) Having the stories presented with the wisdom of experience.

One's 20s and 30s are exciting times, but perspective makes the adventures even more interesting to read. There's a lot of perspective on this forum, it's why I'm here. Thanks for sharing your story halfmoon!

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Tue Mar 21, 2017 8:23 pm

3.A 70-year-old relative of DH (Maria) who was visiting us from Munich. She had grown up in a Munich orphanage and spent her life in the city. She told us later that this was the best time of her life. :)
Maria made no complaint whatsoever. She spent her days picking up sticks for the wood stove, catering to the dogs’ whims and helping me. In between, she donned a garbage-bag apron and painted every single sheet of T1-11 siding before it was applied. Through it all, she laughed constantly and tried to communicate with me in a combination of Bavarian dialect, maybe 10 words of English and a lot of gestures. She had a remarkable capacity for joy that I wish I could replicate.
She was 70 in the 80's. So she experienced WWI from the German side. The Weimar hyperinflation, great depression starting early and capped by Nazis, occupied post WWII Germany. She may not have been exaggerating, that could very well have been the best time of her life.

On the other hand, as we were posting above, blood sweat and pain make for good memories, and excellent reference points to compare a current difficulty to. Those who have been thru truly tough times can laugh at today's petty troubles. And our lives are richer for knowing such people.

At least that's what I tell myself when I smash my thumb...

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Tue Mar 21, 2017 8:50 pm

@cmonkey, I can believe it! We've never installed carpet, but it sounds like massive work. I'll bet the cats were as exhausted as our dogs. :lol:

@GeorgeTOO, that weimaraner took her job of guarding the kitchen very seriously. ;)

@Fish, thank you! It makes me happy (okay; ecstatic) that you find my stories interesting. It's incredibly satisfying to find that people can gain amusement, inspiration or what-not-to-do knowledge from our experiences.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:44 pm

Riggerjack wrote:Those who have been thru truly tough times can laugh at today's petty troubles. And our lives are richer for knowing such people.

At least that's what I tell myself when I smash my thumb...
So true. I believe that it was the best time of Maria's life, because hers was difficult on many levels. She visited us three times (this was the last), and she became blind not long after. Most of us have things so easy in this time and place that it's easy to just float along watching YouTube. It's good to keep a little blood, sweat and pain in the mix.

On a lighter note completely unrelated to blood or sweat (possibly some fleeting pain), here's a little story:

The fist time Maria visited us, she told DH how lucky he was to have me (smart woman). She wrote to a friend in Munich and told her we were so in love, we never argued, I was such an angel...

One winter morning, DH and I went out to check the drainage pipe in the pond that fronted our house. [There was little incentive to stay indoors because Maria made a fire in the wood stove every morning, then threw the front door open 'to let the cold out'. :shock: No argument could deter her from this.]

The drainage pipe had a wire cage over it attached to a long stick. When the wire filled with floating debris (sticks and leaves), we lifted the stick and dumped the cage. Low-tech but effective. Feeling enthusiastic, I grabbed the stick and...the cage fell off and sank to the pond floor. DH was Not Happy. He stalked off to find something to fish out the cage.

I was SO PISSED that DH was annoyed with my well-meaning mishap. Stupid superior male! :twisted: I "decided" (perhaps this word suggests too much actual thought process) to JUMP INTO THE POND AND GET THE DAMNED CAGE MYSELF AND SHOW HIM UP.

Wow. That water was cold. Also: I was fully clothed, and now my clothing was saturated with frigid water and weighed about 100 pounds, and it was sort of hard to breathe. I breached the surface, spluttering and howling. DH appeared from nowhere, grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the dam. He was laughing so hard that he couldn't talk. Jerk.

So here I was, dripping wet and furious, yelling at DH at the top of my lungs about what a JERK he was. DH was trying to help me stand up, but he was laughing too hard. I shook him off and happened to look over toward the house. Maria was standing on the porch with her mouth open. So much for the never-arguing angel thing. :lol:

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by McTrex » Wed Mar 22, 2017 3:20 am

halfmoon wrote:I was SO PISSED that DH was annoyed with my well-meaning mishap. Stupid superior male! :twisted: I "decided" (perhaps this word suggests too much actual thought process) to JUMP INTO THE POND AND GET THE DAMNED CAGE MYSELF AND SHOW HIM UP.

Wow. That water was cold. Also: I was fully clothed, and now my clothing was saturated with frigid water and weighed about 100 pounds, and it was sort of hard to breathe. I breached the surface, spluttering and howling. DH appeared from nowhere, grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the dam. He was laughing so hard that he couldn't talk. Jerk.
Still following along, you're still on the nomination list for best ERE journal :)

This reminded me of one of the first times I went sailing with my wife in a small open keel boat. Because of the wind direction, we had to row a small distance first to get out of the harbor. While rowing, one of the wooden oars slipped away and fell into the water. My wife immediately jumped overboard to fetch it, fearing it might sink :lol:

Luckily, this was 25 degrees C. :)

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Farm_or » Wed Mar 22, 2017 8:55 am

Through it all, she laughed constantly and tried to communicate with me in a combination of Bavarian dialect, maybe 10 words of English and a lot of gestures."

After my parents married, my mother studied and practiced her Spanish in anticipation of meeting my father's family. She wanted so much to make a great impression and went over and over what she would say.

She wanted to assure them that he would be happy and that she would do right by him because she was a person with a good "heart".

When the trip to the Basque country finally came and she finally realized her moment with everyone gathered around the dinner table, she was so nervous! She got out what she wanted to say, only to fumble the Spanish word "heart" and told them that she'd take good care of him because she had a good "ass"!

Everyone was stunned! There was an awkward silence broken by my uncle erupting in laughter. Every body was laughing when my dad leaned over to tell my mother what she'd said.

She was so embarrassed!

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:11 am

McTrex wrote:While rowing, one of the wooden oars slipped away and fell into the water. My wife immediately jumped overboard to fetch it, fearing it might sink :lol:
Do whatever it takes to keep that woman. You may fall out of a boat someday.

Also, thank you for the kind words about my journal! Flattery will get you more stories. :D

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:25 am

@Farm_or, great story about your mother. The first time that Maria visited, I showed off with some Bavarian words DH liked to use. However: most of them translated into things like "naked frog" or "little guy who runs around with his pants falling off his butt". Maria thought it was hilarious.

I've been wondering about your absence on the forum (not that I'm one to talk). Have you been busy with lambs and calves?

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Mar 22, 2017 4:26 pm

I "decided" (perhaps this word suggests too much actual thought process) to JUMP INTO THE POND AND GET THE DAMNED CAGE MYSELF AND SHOW HIM UP.
There was a ring road planned around Seattle in the 60's, that was scratched in the 70's. One of the side effects of "victory in the DOTs war on roads" was on ramps to nowhere. One of them went over Union Bay. My friends went to go jump off this on a sunny day in '96. They jumped, I drank beer. I hadn't ever jumped off a bridge, and this 35' drop didn't seem like the place to learn.

Along come a couple pretty girls, some sharing of beers, and smiles. Then a younger guy comes up, asks if we plan to jump. No.

This caused some swelling of his chest, "Yeah, that's a good idea, you can really get hurt. There's shopping carts, and old pipes down there. You gotta know where to jump, or you can really get [email protected] up. Of course, I've been jumping here since I was a kid..."

I'm sure he said more, but I was falling too fast to hear him. Or maybe it was that I was screaming like a little girl.

A few pointers when jumping off bridges into water:
Extend your arms and twirl, to keep your feet directly under you. Before you hit, bring your arms back in close to your chest. Lock your knees. Practice on lower jumps first. Do this sober.

I did none of these.

When I hit, I was mildly reclined. My feet hit, slowing down, and the rest of me continued at the same pace, so my knees flexed, and the backs of my thighs were parallel to the surface when they hit. Think belly flop, with thighs. I was still slightly reclined, when my lower body slowed, and upper body didn't. This caused some whiplash effect and massive spinal pain. To this day, my firmest memory of that day was looking up through the bubbles and green water, a wondering if I'd just broken my back, and if so, could I swim to the surface. I spent the rest of the afternoon floating, afraid of what would happen when I had to face full gravity on land.

I got out, and had a few weeks of back pain, but no lasting damage.

I hope this makes you feel better about your "decision" to jump in the pond. My "decision" was about as well thought out, and at least as unpleasant.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Mar 22, 2017 6:38 pm

Riggerjack wrote:I hope this makes you feel better about your "decision" to jump in the pond. My "decision" was about as well thought out, and at least as unpleasant.
Riggerjack, you can't imagine how much better I feel! In fact, my decision starts to look positively brilliant in comparison. I'm rolling on the floor kicking my feel and howling at this story. :lol: :lol:

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:33 pm

When I was young, picking up every lesson in school was easy. This made people think I was smart. It made me think I was smart.
As I get older, and look back, it seems hard to find evidence to support that hypothesis...

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:17 pm

@Riggerjack, never confuse intellectual prowess with hormonal influence. It's like bringing a knife to a gun fight. ;)

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Mon Apr 03, 2017 10:09 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

COUNTDOWN TO RETIREMENT:

We finished the house shell in the summer of 1991, a year and a half after we bought the land. We’d originally planned to work a little over one year after buying, but that stretched to two and a half. There was just too much to be done before we could move, including hauling a ridiculous amount of stuff over the mountains to our new place. Minimalists we were (and are) not.

Theoretically speaking, I admire people who keep few possessions and gain a sense of freedom from it. DH and I have gone pretty much the other way. Some of it is hoarding, so we’ll just skip over that and move to the justification part. ;)

The thing is: if you want to do as much as possible for yourself and live far from stores/neighbors, you need tools and supplies. There’s no way around this unless you plan to jump in your car and drive (50 miles RT for us) to the nearest store every time something needs to be built or repaired. Even if you did this, the store would be a small-town place with limited stock and high prices. We also aren’t much for social capital because we enjoy our own company and prefer to be self-reliant where possible. I just don’t see how one could live the way we did (and do, to a lesser extent) and still be a minimalist.

A very sketchy list of things we had/have on hand all the time:

Food staples & cooking tools
Grain grinder, meat grinder, meat saw
Clothes for all activities and seasons, including things we can trash with paint or grease
Cross-country skis, snowshoes, ski boots, snow boots, hiking boots, rubber barn boots
Axes, hatchets, wedges, sledge hammers
Carpentry tools & building materials
Mechanic’s tools (a LOT)
Metalworking tools
Generators
Spare water pumps
Plumbing supplies & tools
Electrical supplies & tools
Buckets and drawers of hardware: nails, screws, nuts, bolts, propane fittings, etc.
Fencing tools and supplies
Propane, gas, diesel
Cables, chains, ropes, come-alongs, snatch blocks
Tractor & implements
Shovels, picks, rakes, bow saw, pole pruner, hand gardening tools
Chainsaws, brush cutters and tools to maintain them
Wood-fired stoves for cooking and heating; propane tankless water heater
Supplies/equipment for winemaking and a number of other DIY hobbies
All sorts of things I’ve forgotten, plus lots of junk for which there’s no justification. Many of our belongings were bought for pennies at yard sales or scavenged.

Tl;dr: we moved a lot of stuff in that final year.

One of the epic trips involved hauling our massive marine diesel generator to our new place. DH referred to this as our white elephant because we’d almost never used it (we had smaller, more practical generators for tools and solar for everyday needs), but leaving it behind wasn’t an option he’d consider. This thing was unbelievably heavy, not to mention huge; it basically filled the bed of our 64 Chevy pickup. We winched it onto the poor, abused truck with a come-along and steel rollers, then set out on a hot Memorial Day with the generator in back and two big dogs panting up a storm in the cab with us.

Three hours in, we were less than halfway there under heavy load. The last town we’d passed was 20 miles behind us and the next 40 miles ahead, so of course the alternator chose that moment to seize and snap the fan belt. We pulled over and assessed our options: no cell phone (not common then and completely foreign to us), nothing but orchards around us, overheated dogs…

Sometimes sheer ignorance can be an asset. I asked DH if the diesel generator had an alternator and fan belt we could borrow. He was dubious but willing to try, and the alternator fit reasonably well on the truck with some modification. The fan belt didn’t. DH used a piece of rope as a fan belt, and that lasted long enough to limp us to the nearest fruit stand with a house and orchard. Since orchards usually have tractors and various vehicles, we asked the owner if he possibly had a fan belt we could buy. He went back to his shop where he had about a zillion different belts hanging, picked out one that fit well enough and gave it to us. He wouldn’t take any money. A fellow hoarder saved the day!

One more quick hauling story, and then I promise to stop. Our old Massey Ferguson tractor was another hunk of iron, and we absolutely needed that in our new home. We loaded it onto our flatbed trailer, which maxed out the 10,000 lb axle capacity, so we put the implements in the truck bed. DH made this trip alone because I was picking up a relative at the airport and bringing him up to visit our new place. Everything went okay for DH until he reached the 4-mile unpaved mountain road at the very end. Our truck wasn’t a 4WD, and it just couldn’t pull the tractor up that steep grade without losing traction. DH finally parked the truck and trailer, unloaded the tractor, drove it home and then walked 4 miles back for the truck and trailer. A 4-mile walk wasn’t unreasonable, but it came at the end of a very long day. Just shows how much easier things are if you have two people working together. :)

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:43 am

Being backwoods and minimalism can work together. Think remote monks/hermits, etc. What DOESN'T work is minimalism remoteness, and changing the environment. You were trying for self sufficiency. That requires changing the environment to support you, that requires tools and supplies.

If you were comfortable with a more passive approach, you would need less.

This is NOT me advocating the minimalistic approach to living backwoods. I also have stuff, tools and supplies. And if I were to change anything it would be to have more, not less.

But this is ERE, and the extreme measures should at least be considered. If only to feel better about the choices we do make.

Your stories make me think I need more experience with come alongs. Having a backhoe has made me lazy...

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by jacob » Wed Apr 05, 2017 11:43 am

I think the concept you guys are looking for is "voluntary simplicity". By deliberately cutting away some aspects, the stuff associated with that can lead to less ownership. Here the means are the activities and the end is less stuff.

Minimalism seems to me to me to come at the problem from the other side: First reduce "unnecessary" stuff and then notice how simplicity obtains. Here the means are the possessions and the end is a more focused life.

A boat is a good example of having weight and volume constraints. The solution here is to cut away the inessentials. For example, not having an engine on board eliminates a big source of problems and tools. If your only use of electricity is that which can be driven by batteries, you remove the need for wiring. Lin and Larry Pardey are the gurus in that regard. One thing that stuck in my mind was how their first boat (DIY) didn't have any thruholes (IIRC). Therefore there were no places for potential leaks. Contrast that with a modern boat which has holes for the screw, the rudder, the speedometer, the tanks (intake and outtake), and probably a few others I forget. Also a good RV lesson---the more shit that's stuck onto the roof, the greater the likelihood of a leak.

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FBeyer
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by FBeyer » Wed Apr 05, 2017 12:03 pm

PUBLISH THE BOOK FOR F**** SAKE!

Just paste your posts together and add in the necessary comments from your readers and publish the book like it is currenlty: A conversation with a bit of back and forth about a truly interesting life.

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:05 pm

Riggerjack wrote:
Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:43 am
If you were comfortable with a more passive approach, you would need less.
:lol: Allow me to introduce you to my husband, who has no concept of the word "passive". One of his favorite quotes is 'Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth.' In our defense: we've also invested significant energy in trying to change our environment in positive ways. Over the years, we've planted thousands of trees on our properties, eradicated invasive weeds, created hundreds of brush piles and rock cairns for wildlife and preserved habitat by buying it.
Riggerjack wrote:
Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:43 am
Having a backhoe has made me lazy...
We have a backhoe attachment for our current tractor, but we're usually too lazy to remove the back blade and undergo the elaborate dance required to connect the hydraulic lines and get everything lined up, so we end up using hand tools and sweat most of the time. Go figure.
jacob wrote:
Wed Apr 05, 2017 11:43 am
Minimalism seems to me to me to come at the problem from the other side: First reduce "unnecessary" stuff and then notice how simplicity obtains. Here the means are the possessions and the end is a more focused life.
This is an interesting concept. I get frustrated sometimes by how much stuff we have, but I'm not 100% sure that we want a more focused life. That would of course require deciding what the focus should be (in lieu of moving the earth). We're sort of one-trick ponies.
jacob wrote:
Wed Apr 05, 2017 11:43 am
One thing that stuck in my mind was how their first boat (DIY) didn't have any thruholes (IIRC). Therefore there were no places for potential leaks.
In my limited experience, boat leaks have come from external forces such as rocks. Case in point: my father managed to wrap an aluminum canoe around a large rock in Susquehanna River rapids because he was standing (!) in the stern to take a photo when he was supposed to be steering. He lost the camera to a watery grave, so one could argue that the result was a less focused life. :lol:

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:17 pm

FBeyer wrote:
Wed Apr 05, 2017 12:03 pm
PUBLISH THE BOOK FOR F**** SAKE!
This makes me so happy. :D Thank you!

The thing is: I am publishing the book right now, for an audience who can understand and appreciate it. I don't want to work at making something commercially acceptable; my motivation is the feedback and conversation my stories generate. That's what makes it fun.

Also: you ain't seen nothin' yet. I'm just dying to tell the tower-building story.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:28 pm

I would argue that a lost camera is likely to lead to a more focused life.

I like having tools and capabilities. That is my driving force, to do what others can't, or won't. Minimalism holds no charm for me.

I have a case 580sk, so the attachment options are limited. I only have it because it was the most beat up machine a construction company had, in the depths of the great recession. I bought it disabled, and fixed it up, learning as I went. But it is nice to never worry about how I'm going to move something. ( though, twice I popped a wheelie moving something heavy in the backhoe bucket... Balance in all things, backhoes more than most!)

I expect there to be some balance stories involved in the tower tales...

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Apr 05, 2017 9:27 pm

Riggerjack wrote:
Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:28 pm
I expect there to be some balance stories involved in the tower tales...
You must be psychic! :shock:

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by RealPerson » Wed Apr 05, 2017 10:58 pm

Halfmoon, your stories are priceless. I enjoy your journal tremendously. Interesting, enlightning and humorous. It has all the ingedients for a great book. What are you waiting for? Thanks for the writing.

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