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    The Road

April 12, 2011

Migrations Have Occurred

So, I certainly owe everyone an update.

We moved off the hill in December of 2009. It was a long story, but worked out for the best; three months later, we discovered we were becoming parents! So now there is a little BabyPacker learning to stomp around.

Before he was even born the family gave us one of those terrific baby backpacks by Kelty, complete with brush guard! I can’t wait to get out there with him once it warms up! I guess I’ll have to start going ultra-light now, if I’m going to have the little bush-rat in my pack.

As I mentioned last week, the original Guerrilla Camping blogs have been gradually refined and expanded over the last four years, and are presently going through a lengthy proofreading process before heading to layout. I’m hoping to get it all done before the end of spring, but everyone laughs when I suggest it’s possible.

I think I’m going to put out a first edition with less layout than I would like, and sell it cheap to guage the reaction.

Meanwhile, the lost chapters are finished. These were chapters I felt were quite important, but at the time I was unable to post them, or complete them to my satisfaction. I spent my family leave finishing these up as I completed the expanded Guerrilla Camping book, and will be posting excerpts here once the proofing process is finished.

The most important new chapter is on staying out of trouble when stealth camping or guerrilla traveling. Another involves the use of supply boxes to move seasonal or sensitive gear without having to lug is or risk it on your back every day.

I will be migrating the original GNN Guerrilla Camping 101 Blogs here this evening, so if you’ve been looking for them, here they come! If it is your first time reading them, please keep in mind that these were furiously written in the limited time I had in front of a computer at that time; forgive the terrible formatting and wretched typos. I’d also like to throw an immense amount of thanks to Floyd Anderson who’s work at the GNN Archive prevented an immense amount of information from going down the memory hole, including Guerrilla Camping!

April 6, 2011

There is so much to say. Guerrilla Camping is currently going through the proofing process with two very amazing editors. Patiently patiently waiting. We might yet see a book!

January 26, 2010

Hey! I’m over here!

You know, I’m a lifestyle migrant; Offline and on. That said, you can keep up with my current projects at work over at REDACTED. There you will find info on our gardens, grow rooms, chicken coops, and helpful tips on everything from erosion control to treating mite infestations in chickens.

Guerrilla Camping is still going, but since it’s been a few years since I had internet with anything but that dumb phone, posts are still going to be intermittent. Big news coming up soon though, so stay posted.

For all of you who followed my stuff on GNN, drop me a line! I miss you!

November 10, 2009

Funny customer inspired thought…

I’m going to sell organic cyanide from organic apple seeds so at least
our rats won’t die of cancer…
I think my sense of humor is intact.

July 8, 2009

Quick Update. Coming up for air again.

Well guys, once again, long time, no blog. As I have mentioned previously, blogging via the iPhone is obnoxious at best, impossible at worst. At last, however, I got a computer. Just the cheapest little netbook I could find. I don’t need the distraction of trying to see what a machine can do. A word processor, a few MP3s and the ability to work online is enough for me.

I’m still quite off the grid, however, I can upload stuff at work, so am working on getting that set up right now.

It has been a wild and convoluted year. The rise and gradual fall of our daily victories, right? They finally got me working full time at the Farm Supply, and it is possibly the best job description I have ever had… “Just wander around and do what you do.”

That’s right. No looking over the shoulder, no second guessing, just the support and assistance of my co-workers and manager. Without question. Open accounts at all the best shops in town, and working for a store that instantly gets me handshakes and warm welcomes at all of them. I must be a running joke at the local welding shop, as I have the most experience with a welder at the shop, and before I got promoted, I had about 14 inches of wire-feed welding under my belt. But they are helpful, and certainly don’t make me feel like an idiot.

About two months ago, we finally got DOGS. Yes. Big DOGS. Well, giant puppies at least. A mix of Great Dane and Cane Corso (an impressive Italian mastiff and, according to legend, descended from the same dogs that fought the lions in ancient Rome). Jack and Liberty are amazing dogs, already able to come, sit and stay with hand commands from a distance, and comfortable in lots of unusual situations, such as parked next to the machine gun booth at the 4th of July carnival in town.

The cabin is… well, the cabin. Things are strange, and we are looking for property to own ourselves.

Well, I’ve got more pressing things to write, so that is all for now.

 

April 2, 2009

Homestead blacksmithing

The newest addition to the abilities pile. Forged a little coal
scraper before work today… The wife loves it. More later…

March 27, 2009

As always, when there is silence on the blog, you can rest assured that there is a lot going on. Lets see, since the last blog, our garden has grown, but most surprising, the garden at the farm supply has exploded. A few days after publishing blog, I was told to go ahead and plant a garden out in the warehouse yard, something I had given up on, aside from a few onions and garlic, due to a lack of interest from other workers.

In a wild chain of events, we went from “lets plant some stuff and make raised beds” to “lets buy a skip loader and sell bulk soil.” Then on to, “Hey Spicer, go buy a tractor, build a soil bin, license a few of the guys in back, and think about a trailer so we can take the tractor out to our own houses, and rent you out to customers.”

Then, last Monday, this article his to front page of the local paper. The article prompted a few new customers to come in and ask me questions like, “why doesn’t my garden grow?” Wednesday, I got a phone call from the boss, who asked me if I’d be in on Monday because the head of the ag department at the college wants to meet with me, and that we’d also be working out a plan for a community plot for the local senior center.

Our wonderful neighbors, The Donners, are moving back to England again, and I spent last week working with the patriarch of the family helping him finish off projects before his departure. I spent the week mostly holding things and minding the fire on a small forge as I picked up a bit more practical experience in blacksmithing. Upon their departure, we’ll be moving their forge and anvil down here to my place to keep a blacksmith on the hill.

Yet another neighbor moved, but this time he moved his whole house. Having spent nearly two decades in a tipi, he was able to move the house and have it set up in one day, a mile deeper into the hills, finally getting him out of the dust channel of living beside our road. After helping him move a 1000 gallon water tank down a half mile foot path, he asked if I wanted his old tipi, which he had replaced a few months back. So, now we’ve got a 20 foot tipi that will be residing in the west side of the garden.

He also threw in an old box stove, some chairs and planters, and anything else he didn’t want to drag down to his new place. If anybody wants one of those dangerous folding plastic chaise lounges, he’s got one for you cheap. And a little cooler.

Finally, the fourteen month odyssey into experimental wind power resulted in a 30 foot erection as our new slavonius turbine went vertical, producing a whopping 20 watts before choking out and getting set back down.

Our neighborhood watch program got kicked into high gear with the arrival of trespass growers on the timber parcel beside our place, with a neighbor and I tracking them down the river road far enough to make sure they weren’t out in our backyard. A few days later, the security manager of the parcel arrived and we spent about an hour going over the tracks, and being shown the survey markers that mark the limits of our property.

A few days after the trespass growers went driving down our road, I ran into a guy in our driveway with no good business and a downright bad attitude. Being unable to encourage him to leave on my own, the neighbors got called into action and we managed to run him off the hill. Later that day, he enjoyed a 60mph high speed chase down a road I have trouble going more than 20 mph on, flipped his 4runner, and proceeded to defy police as he sat in the wreck. He was found to have a switch blade, tear gas and an empty flashlight containing just over a pound of meth. One of my buddies up here on the hill described him as a spunion, a word I will be using as frequently as possible when encountering tweakers.

Just a normal everyday hillbilly life.

February 18, 2009

Guerrilla Camping 101 : Advanced Class – Simmer Down Now

Simmer Down Now – Simmering On a Liquid Fuel Stove.

I love my multi-fuel stove. The ability to switch fuels on the go, depending on their availability in the area I find myself is indispensable. However, in my first few years using it, I was dogged by the apparent inability to simmer on the stove. Any attempt to cut the fuel level down enough to get a slow flame resulted in sputtering death. This required me to carry a simmer plate if I planned on anything requiring a long slow cook, wasteful of both weight and fuel.

I eventually learned how to simmer on liquid fuel stoves. The method of doing this is dangerous, and after I heard the trick, I found an apartment parking lot surrounded by a lot of inflammable asphalt to try it in. Having inadvertently created mushroom clouds when first learning to relight a stove after trying to simmer, I knew this trick could be very dangerous.

I pulled my cook set out of my pack and walked far enough away to not catch my pack on fire if things went wrong. I set up the stove and windscreen as usual, checking the tank pressure with a shove or two on the pump before connecting it to the fuel line of the stove. I bled about a tablespoon of fuel into the priming cup and shut off the valve before lighting it. It took about 30 seconds for the fuel to burn down and I turned the valve back on. The assuring whoosh blared from the jets as the stove kicked into full blast.

I gave the stove a minute to warm up, figuring I’d bring something to a boil before simmering it, and I knew the stove needed to be hot for this to work right. As the old edges of the jet plates began to glow red, I turned off the stove and waited for the last licks of flame to finish spiraling around the inside of the stove.

I quickly snapped the fuel tank off the fuel line and walked a few feet away, before cracking the seal on the tank by slowly unscrewing the pump from the fuel bottle. The compressed fumes hissed out from the edges of the bottle’s mouth. Distance is important; doing this near enough to the stove would risk igniting the escaping gasses. As soon as the pressure was released, I reconnected the tank to the fuel line, and gave it one pump. I leaned my head way back, and held a lighter to the top of the stove with one hand as I turned the valve on with the other.

I was immediately greeted with the sputtering death I expected, and gave the pump one long, slow thrust. The sputtering slowed, but did not entirely subside. I pulled the pump handle out, and slowly pushed it in about half an inch. The sputtering stopped, and I was rewarded with a small steady flame. About a minute or so later, the sputtering began again, and I pushed the pump handle about half way, stopping as the flame steadied. I continued this for a few minutes to make sure it worked, before shutting the stove off and allowing it to cool.

As soon as the stove was cool enough, I put my cook set back together, stuffed it in my pack and got off the asphalt as quick as I could…

Since then, I’ve used this a lot. It is especially useful if you make your own dehydrated meals, as it uses less fuel and is not as likely to encrust your dinner on the bottom of the pot. If you use freeze-dried meals, or stick to stuff like couscous and ramen, which only require boiling water, it’s just an interesting trick. However, if you want the convenience of cooking at home, no matter where you might be, this is definitely worth trying.

If you just bought your stove, and have not yet had a flare up, DO NOT try this until you do. There is nothing like a good mushroom cloud to teach you the principles and the dangers behind cooking on compressed liquid fuel. If you screw up, you will start a fire, or worse, blow your hand off. Hell, now that I’ve gone and posted this on the internet, I’ve decided: NOBODY should do this, and I’m stopping right now.

Remember kids, today’s lesson; Always Follow The Manufacturer’s Instructions!

February 17, 2009

You Can Find Me In The Garden If You Want Me…

This was originally shaping up to be a huge blog; heavy with both polemic and practicality. I decided to split them up. This is the garden plan as it goes at the cabin.

The Mountaintop

The top of the mountain behind the cabin was cleared a decade or so ago, and is in the slow process of remediation. I’m planning on a feral garden up there eventually, with collected wild edibles from around the county. So far, all I have done is put in a few transplanted fir trees to serve as an eventual windbreak and thrown down about 25 lbs of a local wildlife forage seed blend both to improve the soil and to draw in more deer. My goal is to make this garden actually meet the dream above, working to establish self-sustaining guilds of wild natives, so I only need to go up there when I have a hankering for wild foods, or deer huntin’

The Failure Garden
A small portion of the main garden will be dedicated to torturing plants. Experiments on nutrient bombing, water deprivation, off-season growing, forced fruiting, and whatever dumb ideas I have. By expecting to fail in most of the experiments, I will hopefully not be disappointed when I discover that strawberries cannot grow on a diet of pure urine and that you can not cross breed marijuana and hops.

The Greywater Garden

I want to do a grey water garden at the bottom of the hill below the cabin with structural bamboo. But that shit is EXPENSIVE! So it will probably be flowers and such until I find a good cheap source for thick bamboo. Thinking about setting up a few drainage beds from the grey water to feed craft gourds and maybe pumpkins for the trebuchet.

The Cabin Planters
Nothing says “home” like planters in front of the house filled with beautiful flowers. Of course, we’ll have flowers. Bee Balm, Nasturtiums, burnet, Marigolds, chamomile, Bachelor’s Button, Lavender, Lilac, Roses, Violets and Borage. Should look pretty. They are also ALL edible. Behind the cabin (south face) is a 45 square foot area totally overgrown by native Yerba Buena. It had over grown chicken wire, old wood and assorted rubbish when I first got here, and after ripping it all our, I had a few dire strands of herb. A year later, I have a lush ground cover and an unrelenting supply of tea.

The Wild Ones
Blackberry, Huckleberry, Bay and a really hilarious Boletes patch coming up in a tanoak fairy circle next to our manure pile are our primary cultivation spots. We also have oyster alley, a strand of oaks that keep falling over in the wind and which have provided oyster mushrooms three years running. I don’t expect this to continue forever, but the more I know about “when that tree fell” the easier it is to find oysters. Meanwhile, we have a good blackberry strand starting up behind the Yerba Santa, which we have been training into a hedge row. The bay is all over the place, though we have four trees by our gate. Selective pruning has provided me with a great amount of wonderful smoker chips for the BBQ (Bay smoked asparagus is one of the best things I have ever cooked in a barbeque.)

The Roadside
Our driveway runs along the edges of three hills, and during heavy rains, huge rivers run off the side of the road. I have trenched the driveway repeatedly, and have inadvertently created silty little run-off beds on the sides of the road. I’m hoping to put in some sort of useful dry land plants that can take advantage of the winter rains and make it through the summer on fog drip. (any ideas? I want useful, before pretty.)

The Main Garden

The main garden is a half acre flat spot about 100 yards from the cabin. This will be intensive raised beds, potato towers, herb spirals, inverted tomatoes and any other thing we find that works, or at least entertains. . . We’ve been sacrificing firewood for edging as we clear firebreaks, using the felled trees as the walls of our raised beds. I put down a total green manure crop in fall, using rye grass, clover, mustard vetch and bell bean seed that had been spilled at work. We mulched it with a dozen bales of wheat straw, and now have a decent pasture coming up, which I will till down at the end of this month, or the beginning of next.

This tilling is merely an attempt to get some topsoil action going on, as the clearing is mostly sandstone and clay at the moment. I’m not planning on a lifetime of soil chopping, just trying to get a bit of organic matter in the ground around the beds before the first year. Also note, that without the tilling, it would take years to do what I am still trying to do totally organically, not even adding gypsum to break up the clay.

Our raised beds are a combination of our own compost, three year old horse manure (very well composted) and peat moss along with a generous helping of the local “dirt”. Underneath the soil of the beds is a thin layer of rice straw. I chose rice straw since it doesn’t seed out like wheat. In the areas that were heavily overgrown with chaparral or yerba santa, I’ve put down unbleached cardboard sheets beneath the soil to try and kill off the root spreaders. I had a redwood shoot out of the cardboard I put down for the cabin planters, so we’ll see how this works with some actual cover over it.

I hope that in fifteen years or so, the raised beds will have rotted away the logs, and the whole garden area will be fertile and capable of sustaining plant life. My ideal dream is that some sort of symbiosis will occur and I will just go out and pick food year round with no weeding, planting or work. Yeah, right… But dreams provide direction, even if they are perfectly unattainable. I’m sure we are all familiar with that feeling.

The main garden also includes the orchard, which right now consists of a lonely self-fertile peach tree. I’m planning on apples, plums, cherries and pears as well, but don’t have the money for trees this year, nor the time and experience to try and graft my own. I am bringing up some seed from neighbor’s trees, but this is a VERY long process, so I will be bringing in some more developed babies when I can afford them.

The Seeds

We’re focusing on using only open-pollinated, non-hybrid seeds where ever possible. We hope to save, trade and share seed, with gradually decreasing orders each year as we increase our personal seed bank. I hope that in a decade or so, we’ll simply do our yearly seed planning by ordering a new varietal or two

Surprisingly, it’s only about a dollar more per packet than buying your standard Ferry Morse packets from the garden center. This year our seed order is a bit odd, as we are experimenting on growing interesting heirlooms for sale at the farmer’s market, and trying to find out what does well here. I will also admit the three colors of carrots simply feeds my current obsession with stew brewing.

This year’s Seed Order

Lima bean (Henderson Bush),
Green Beans (Contender and Mayflower),
Broccoli (Romanesco),
Brussels sprouts (Long island improved),
Cauliflower (Purple of Sicily)
Carrots (Atomic Red, Cosmic Purple, Lunar White)
Celery (Tender Crisp)
Corn (Yellow King Dent, Dakota Black Pop)
Cucumber (Crystal Apple)
Huckleberry (chichiquelite)
Strawberry (Red Wonderwild)
Quinoa (kasalala)
Bok Choi (Canton)
Peas (Sugarsnap)
Hot Pepper (Anaheim)
Sweet Pepper (Golden Cal Wonder, Sweet Chocolate)
Radish (Purple Plum)
Squash (Lebanese White Bush Marrow, and Vegetable Spaghetti)
Tomato (Green Zebra, Kentucky Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple, Red Grape, Tom Watson)
Artichoke (purple of romagia)
Asparagus (Precoce d’ argentevul)
Salad Mixes

Stuff we’re getting locally
Potatoes (Calgold, Yukon, Red LaSota, Trueblue) (We get these at cost, so aren’t pursuing anything fancy)
Garlic n Onions (We already have a bed of each coming up strong, even with the snows this winter)
Our Trees

And, finally, yet another appeal.

As I said in the companion blog; Grow! Fill boxes with dirt if you need to. Shoplift seed from walmart if that is the only way you can do it. But right now, we should all be focused on growing our own food, by any means necessary. If nothing goes wrong, you have the freshest, healthiest food possible. If the dollar tanks, or food shortages and famine erupt, you’ll at least eat a bit more than you would otherwise.

Those of you with backyard lawns, SHAME ON YOU! Tear that sod up, compost it, and plant a garden. If you already have a big backyard garden, tear out your front lawn.

February 17, 2009

Grow!

I am not a lifelong gardener by any means. I have done a bit of “dirt in a box” planting, and kept an underground herb garden in the SF basement using $8 full spectrum light bulbs and aluminum shaded work lights. I have a few tomatoes under my belt, and a few houseplants. I set my mom’s back yard up as a garden, but did it too well, and the work of harvesting and storing was too much for her, so she’s got flowers now in a few good strips of fertile soil. By nature, I am a walker and a builder, not a grower. So, again, my experience in this blog is limited compared to my camping stuff.

However, I want this blog to inspire you. I am not a master gardener; I don’t have a permaculture design certificate. My thumb is only green when the hammer pounded blood blisters get gangrenous. However, even for me, it is surprisingly easy to stuff a few seeds in some dirt and let the seeds do the rest of the work. Just water and occasionally feed. Some plants will flourish and feed you, others will die and feed the soil. But eventually, and probably sooner than you expect, you’ll get that breakout plant. You’ll be wading in food and you will instantly be hooked. Your successes will increase, and eventually, you’ll be sitting in a camper in the mountains trying to figure out what you can grow there. Well, it worked for me, anyways.

At this point in history, gardening may be the most socially aware and culturally subversive act we can involve ourselves in. If we are truly concerned with liberties, rights and justice; we must realize that dependence breeds consent. Not needing to rely upon the established distribution networks allows us to work directly for ourselves, without paying our tithing to the cesspool of corruption in corporate boardrooms, and government’s halls. Nothing is as liberating as being free to feed yourself. Should you grow enough to feed others, you can safely call yourself a revolutionary.

If we are to change the world, we must change our relationship to it. It is difficult to bite a hand that feeds, no matter how hard it strikes us, but it becomes downright impossible with it wrapped around our throat. We must begin to provide for ourselves in any way we can. And while in many places we are unable to dig a well, built a wikiup, or sleep naked under the stars, there is NO place we cannot grow.

When we grow food, we are doing more than growing calories, we are growing ourselves. Gaining a deeper understanding of our agrarian past and the fragility of our agricultural present. But one of the most important things we learn is a potential for independence. Once I realized that I really could grow my own food, all bets were off. I had always known it was possible, but until I took that first bite of a tomato that had grown in a old, duct-taped television box on my apartment’s balcony, I did not understand what it meant, how easy it was, and how deprived we really were to not have that simple understanding forced into our brains while in kindergarten. The fact that I spent months on a fairy tale history of America, and “oh yeah, here’s a lima bean in a milk box…” is probably 90% of the reason this country went to shit in the first place. Food comes from money and money grows on trees, obviously.

This year, plant a garden. If that seems too much, buy a packet of seed, spend fifteen minutes on google and bring up your favorite plant. Do it in an old shoe, coffee can or a million dollar antique vase. When you eat something you have grown from seed, you might find yourself growing roots, becoming more safely tied to the earth in these topsy-turvy times. And you will grow more next year.

If you have the spare time, or can make it, I urge you all to grow much more than one seed. Plant guerrilla gardens, pull out your pretty willow trees and drop peaches, stick alfalfa seeds in your ears. But GROW! Because the ability to feed yourself could become very important in the coming months. If it does not, and we can still rely on grapes from Chile, then at least your food won’t reek of diesel, and you can spend your grocery budget elsewhere.

You should grow for others. If you wind up with too many zucchini starts, give them to friends. Tell them you just want a hundred dried seeds back. Involve them. Give the meme of seed this year. If you’ve spent the last eight years protesting, then you should be ready to convince people of the importance of growing. Every bite we take that is not fed to us by a system which we claim to abhor is an act of personal liberation, and every convert we gain is an act of insurrection against the agro-chemical-corporate-complex that would patent our world into monoculture.

I always liked Sartre the best of the existentialists. He wasn’t such a freaking emo-kid about the absurdity of life, like Nietzsche and Camus. But one of the most important things he ever said, in my opinion, was when he was talking about the validation of ethical systems in a world without a god. He suggested that we should live our lives with the hopes that everyone will live exactly like us.

While this is not the source of my personal ethical philosophy, it does guide a great many of my actions, and enlighten many of my concerns. But when I stand at the garden gates and look out at my green manure and the slowly emerging grand garden, I frequently wonder what our world would be like if everyone grew food as a hobby, as a passion, or as life support.

We may overthrow a government with guns, but we will make it obsolete with gardens; under-throwing it with seed.