The story I’m about to relay might be a little shocking for some of you. I apologize if it’s upsetting, but I feel compelled to share the good stories along with the bad. The weekend before last brought a lot of excitement to the Ant Farm, but very little of it was the good kind.
Leigh was out of town on a beach trip with some friends from college, and I was “batching” it with the kids. After a hard day of picking up brush and seeding the field, the kids and I were out late Saturday night consuming insane portions of fried goodness at Top o’ the River.
At 6:15am I was awakened to a very strange sound. It was one of those groggy instances where you question whether you actually heard it or not, but then it happened again. It was a loud “BAGOCK!” Instantly I knew what was happening, and I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Thinking about life and what matters. This exercise is probably pretty normal for a guy in his late thirties. I’ve finally run headlong into mid-life, and while it has brought a few gray hairs, luckily, it hasn’t been accompanied by the dreaded crisis.
I don’t know if it’s my children or my land or the escape from the shackles of debt, but something has changed in my outlook recently. Life is short and beautiful and guaranteed to end at some point in the not too distant future… for each and every one of us. Leigh and I have marveled at how death is the ONLY guarantee in this life, and yet, we run from it as if we can escape. As a civilization, our faith is completely shaken by the only thing in the physical world on which we can count with absolute certainty.
This week marked an amazing milestone in our family’s journey. It was the culmination of more than a decade of hard work. It consumed every spare moment in the last year of my life, and it was worth every minute of struggle and strife.
We finally sold our house in Trussville. We closed on Tuesday just a few hours before I boarded a flight to Boston for a business trip. Our family tree is forever changed because selling the house was the final step in our plan to become COMPLETELY DEBT-FREE!
Our future plans will no longer be shaped by our slavery to the bank. We’re no longer working to pay someone else. Our lives are finally our own, and I’ve got to tell you that it’s a pretty awesome feeling.
If you’re traveling down this same road, I want to offer my encouragement to stay the course. Continue making hard decisions and sacrificing for your goals on a daily basis. You can do it. I promise you won’t regret it.
As I’ve walked around this city, I can’t help but think that the world looks different, somehow. My first days as a truly free man were spent in another world, 1,200 miles away from my family and my land. We haven’t even had time to celebrate this hard-fought victory. It’s not the way I envisioned it playing out, but by the time you read this, I’ll be back home on the Ant Farm burning brush and chasing chickens… and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be!
If you haven’t been following the blog for very long, you may not be aware of the crazy ups and downs we experienced trying to get power at the Ant Farm. I’ve held off writing this post to be sure that the ordeal was really over. Since we’ve been in the house for a while now, and everything appears to be bumping along nicely, it’s finally time to say that in the end, Alabama Power did the right thing on our damaged road. Continue Reading…
It’s been a long time since I posted an update, and for that I apologize. Things have been crazy in our world. However, I’m pleased to announce that we are officially moved in and living at the Ant Farm.
In spite of the power company, the weather, and life in general, we’ve managed to successfully uproot our little family and replant them in paradise.
I’ll be posting more of the story in the coming days (once Windstream gets their act together, ahem!). In the mean time let me just say:
Last week I was out of town at the TSP earthworks course in Ft. Worth, Texas. While I was gone, some major progress began at the Ant Farm. It’s rare that an inch of progress is made without me pushing as hard as I can, so it’s pretty safe to say I was excited. Apparently, the power company finally felt like it was time to install my power lines, and I got a text from my neighbor with a picture.
In the picture I could see where the tree trimmers butchered our pines, and I could make out both power poles, the transformer and the primary line dangling to the ground. After having been told repeatedly that they wouldn’t begin installation until the home was on-site, this was a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only surprise I would get, and the next one was nowhere near as pleasant…
Last week I attended the TSP Earthworks Course outside of Fort Worth, Texas. The event was hosted by one of the smartest people I know: Jack Spirko, the man behind The Survival Podcast. With something like 85,000 podcast downloads a week, Jack is THE man when it comes to a wide range of topics from preparedness to permaculture.
During the workshop we dug over 500ft. of swales using a mini-excavator and participated in numerous lectures on earthworks, food forestry and permaculture. Each day’s events were chock full of surprises including hands-on training on mini-excavator operation, a presentation by an expert falconer (with live hawk), a knife sharpening class, training on the use of laser levels for marking contour, brainstorming sessions, Q&A and even a hands-on class in beer brewing (not to mention beer drinking!).
The project included the installation of 500ft. of swale to support a future food forest garden.
I signed up for the event thinking I would get an opportunity to pick the brains of Jack and his right-hand-man, Josiah Wallingford of Brink of Freedom. However, we were pleasantly surprised that Nick Ferguson of Permaculture Classroom and Nicholas Burtner of Working with Nature showed up and participated in the events. The time I spent one-on-one with these permaculture gurus reviewing the contour maps of my property and discussing design possibilities was absolutely invaluable and unexpected.
I’ve attended a lot of training events in my life, but this one was definitely one-of-a-kind. The food was incredible: slow-cooked beef brisket, smoked chicken, wild hog sausage, canned elk, home made salami, and a wide range of home-brewed adult beverages including honey mead and various ales and hard ciders.
The team pulled together to complete 500ft. of swales in one day.
With all of the excitement and education, the best part of the experience by far was the personal connection with twenty-five other homesteaders dedicated to the same ideas of permaculture, freedom and common sense. I realized the day before I left that this event would mark the first time I would ever be in the same room with a group of truly self-reliant people. So much so that we were all willing to fork over $425 to dig ditches in the freezing rain on someone else’s property for the simple opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture. Those of us who attended are a very special breed of crazy with a new bond… We may be crazy, but now we know we are not alone!
Now I just need a mini-excavator and twenty-five strong backs, and I can get my project done in a day or two… Any volunteers?
There are a lot of different reasons that we’ve decided to make such a dramatic change in our lifestyle. I’ve grown weary of suburbia, and the insanity of government at all levels has finally gotten the best of me. I want to be as free as possible. I know that eventually the county regulations will begin to creep in, and eventually the metropolis of Ashville will get a notion for progress. For now it’s slow and quiet, and I’m totally cool with that.
However, I never expected to fall in love with the Ant Farm the way that I have. I’ve always been Continue Reading…
When I first got interested in grinding my own wheat for artisan bread making, we found ourselves in a dilemma.The cheapest way to buy wheat berries is in 50 lb. bags, and to maintain its quality the grain needs to be stored in the house at a constant temperature. As always, the internet provided the solution: 5-gallon plastic buckets.
Each bucket can hold about 35 lbs. of wheat, rice, beans, or whatever. Two buckets would easily do the trick for my 50 lb. bags of wheat. But where do you get 5-gallon food-grade buckets? Home Depot and Lowe’s sell buckets for pretty cheap (about $3.00 each), but the problem is that they are not food-grade. You can overcome this by buying food-grade mylar bags that you seal with a clothes iron, but that’s getting complicated and more expensive.
The solution came one day while the family was at Sam’s Club. As we walked by the bakery, I noticed a neat little row of plastic buckets on the sink behind the counter. I asked what they were going to do with them, and when they said the buckets get thrown away I sprang into action. A few minutes later Leigh was hanging her head in shame while I convoyed three overloaded carts of glaze-encrusted buckets through Sam’s like the circus rolling out of town. Damn the spectacle… Free Buckets! Who’s gonna’ say “no” to that?!?
Things have finally started to move again on the Ant Farm. The rain has held off, and the soil (as well as the chert pit) has dried up enough for the heavy machines to roll again. As it turned out, things were moving so quickly that I was caught a little off guard. Friday I learned that the excavators were set to install the water pipe on Saturday, and I had been planning to install a conduit while the trench was open for the water line. As a result, Edie and I ended up rushing out to the property yesterday morning with a truckload of conduit and a long day’s work ahead of us.
The Ant Farm began as 16 acres of forest in unincorporated St. Clair County, Alabama. My wife and I bought the property in 2013 with the vision of raising our two kids here. As we're learning, we're also teaching our children about sustainable agriculture, the land, self-reliance and freedom. Society has a tendency to produce grasshoppers. We're raising ants.
Go to the ant, O sluggard;consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.