Tag Archives: environment

Saturday Morning Ramblings

Two and a half years ago, I was a shell of a man, struggling to get to my feet and find my bearings after my divorce.  I was broke and broken. I lived in my best friend’s spare bedroom and didn’t have my own car.  I made it to and from work by bumming rides from family and friends.  Each day was a challenge to find the motivation to get out of bed and force myself to trudge onward.  Because of the terms of my divorce, I get to keep roughly $.51 on every $1.00 I earn.  After taxes, child support, and insurance for my kids, my take home pay is barely above minimum wage.  Those factors severely limit how often I get to see my children, and for anyone who knows me, you know how deeply that affects me.

Two and a half years ago, I faced tough choices.  I could lay down and give up, and quite frankly, that option was pretty appealing.  I could move somewhere else, closer to my kids, and start a new life.  I went so far as to apply for jobs in South Georgia and North Florida.  Then, one day, as I worked on cleaning up my motor home to get it livable, an idea came to me.  I looked out at my family’s 27 acres and realized that one of the passions I’ve always wanted to pursue is growing vegetables.

I started researching what it would take to launch a farm.  The more I learned, the more I realized that the future of farming is indoor growing, so I launched myself into studying as much as I could about aeroponics and hydroponics.  At first, I leaned towards an aeroponic system because of the efficiency, and I built a functional prototype.  However, the more I learned, the more I saw that those units, while efficient, are highly unstable.

So I went back to the drawing board and designed an ebb and flow hydroponic unit.  In August of this year, I finally had enough money to buy all of the components necessary to build and launch the system.  Today, I’m a couple of weeks away from the first harvest.  From this experience, I’ve learned some valuable lessons, most notably that because of the grow rates of various plants, it’s important to have multiple systems to maintain proper nutrient cycles for each.  To that end, I want to build our second unit that I can dedicate to one specific vegetable.

But like I said, I’m severely limited in my financial resources, so quite honestly, I need help.  I’m currently running an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for this second unit.  If I didn’t need this money to get the unit up and running soon, I wouldn’t be asking, but I know, based on my take home income, it will be mid-summer before I can have enough money to put into it.  If I can get this system going now, I could effectively have three harvests in that time frame.

Recently, I’ve watched three specific fundraisers have tremendous success.  A friend of mine raised money for a rock video.  Within 48 hours, he had surpassed his goal.  An acquaintance raised money for an independent film and received enough to cover production costs.  Most recently, my publisher ran a campaign for a new book project and raised nearly 250% of their goal.  I don’t resent the successes of these fund raisers.  In fact, I supported each one, sharing links and writing blogs about them, but I am bothered by the lack of interest in supporting my project.

I’m trying to build a farm that will have a long-lasting impact on the lives of people in this region.  We need more fresh, organic vegetables in this area.  We need more sustainable agricultural practices.  That’s not political either.  It’s just a fact.  Weather patterns are changing.  During the grow season, we have extended periods of drought followed by intense storms.  That’s not conducive to efficient farming.  The future will have to be focused on developing indoor growing environments that are year round and efficient.  I’m not even going to get into the effects of rising fuel prices on traditional farming, but our current model isn’t financially sustainable long-term.

So I’m asking for your help.  If you can, please, contribute, even $1.  If you can’t, please share the link, especially with people you know who might be interested.  This farm has the opportunity to change lives, not just mine but those in my community, too.  I believe that with all my heart.  I have the plan, the design, and the ability to make it happen.  What I don’t have are the financial resources.  Please, help me make this a reality.


Friday Night Ramblings

Here’s an update on the farm.  These pics won’t really do justice to how hard I’ve worked the last three days to accomplish this, but it’s the best I can do.

The newest cabin for the mushroom grove.
From left to right, elm, ironwood, and maple. The elm and ironwood logs are from the trees that fell on the spring house. The maple ones are from the first fresh tree I cut on the hillside yesterday.
The second maple from the hillside, about 26 feet long. Should produce six to seven more logs for the cabin.
The bottom of the slope I dragged the trees down. The path goes up for several hundred feet.
A shot of the hillside. Not sure it really captures the height and steepness of the hill, but the view from up there is pretty nice.
My favorite shot of the cabins.

There are still three or four trees to get from the hill, but I started with the two highest.  I figured that would make the others seem easier.  There are two more maples, at least two more ironwoods, and one elm that are the right size for harvest.  I’m only taking out what I need for the cabins and am trying to minimize the damage to the young growth.  I want to keep that hillside as natural and unblemished as possible.  The other hill will eventually be cleared more because it faces south and should be good for certain crops.

Cutting those two trees and getting them down the hill was backbreaking work and took a lot out of me, but the feeling of satisfaction is worth it.  Once we have enough logs for five or six cabins, we’ll begin the inoculation process.  With any luck, in the spring, we’ll have fresh mushrooms ready for market.  Eventually, we plan to have about 36 cabins total, but it will take some time to get there.  Once that’s rolling, we should have a fairly steady supply.  I’m pretty excited about it.

Working on the farm and writing book four have been amazing experiences this summer.  For the first time in many, many years, I feel like I’ve found my place.  My goal is to make both of these endeavors my full-time professions over the next couple of years.  Working on the land nourishes my creative spirit, and writing feeds my soul.  I’m grateful to have had the time to do both this summer.

Friday Afternoon Ramblings

Because of a flare up of carpal tunnel, I’m having to take today off from working outdoors.  I can barely grip anything with my right hand, so I’d better let it rest a little.  Here are a few pics to illustrate the progress made this week:

The far side of the creek bank before
Some cool mushrooms growing on one of the downed trees.
The same area, looking in from across the creek.

Wednesday Morning Ramblings

The creek bank by mushroom grove

I’m about to head out to the farm and hopefully get a lot done between raindrops.  Right now, progress has been great, as the land is transforming from a tangled mess of honeysuckle and poison oak to a vibrant, useful space.  We still plan to get the indoor facility launched for the hydroponic growing, but for right now, we’re going to have to start with a few things outdoors to build up some capital for all of the equipment.  It may take a little more time, but long-term, I think we’ll get it up and running.  Each day I’m out there, I feel one step closer to realizing this dream.

Another major benefit of working out there has been the boost to my creative energy.  Three weeks ago, my tank was dry.  From the grind of two grueling semesters back to back and from the lingering effects of my neurological symptoms, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get back on track with book four.  Today, I’ve nearly completed the first four chapters, and the story is flowing as well as I’ve ever written in my life.  Chapter four is freaking intense, too.  Only time will tell if it’s as strong as I think, but so far, I have a good feeling about this book.

Overall, life is pretty good at the moment.  I feel strong and healthy, vibrant and alive.  And tho think that a mere six months ago I was honestly in fear for my life.  Right now, all of that feels like a bad dream, and I’m going to ride this positive upswing for as long as it lasts.  Between the farm and book four, I may not be online as much as I’d like for promotion, but I’ll still do my best to keep putting out Ramblings and providing updates on both fronts.

One final thought: congratulations to my dual enrollment students from Pigeon Forge High School students who graduated last night.  You guys are the best, and I wish each and every one of you much success for your futures.  You made last fall and the health scare bearable, and for that, I’ll always remember you guys.  It was a joy to teach you, and each of you has an opportunity to do great things in your life.  Enjoy this moment, but don’t forget the foundations for success: good practice habits, hard work, and persistence.  I love you guys.  Thank you for being such a wonderful group of students.

That’s all for now.  Have a great Wednesday.

Monday Night Ramblings

Here’s another day in pictures.

The creek bank a few days ago.
Different angle, but the creek bank today.
A few days ago.
One of three new red buds planted along the property line.
A neighborly visit that ended peacefully.

Today wasn’t quite as productive as I’d hoped for, but a lot still got accomplished.  Tomorrow should be even better.  It’s almost time for me to head off to write.  Hope everyone has a great night.

Wednesday Afternoon Ramblings

Sunday and Monday were fairly rough days, as I was dealing first with a bad poison oak rash and then the side effects of a steroid shot to clear it up.  Despite disabling me on Monday, the steroids did the trick, and I was back at it with a vengeance yesterday, making a huge dent on the area near the springhouse where we’re going to raise mushrooms and hopefully build a wood burning smoker inside an old brick building.  Things are really taking shape in that area and starting to look usable again.  It’s a good feeling to once again see real progress on the farm front.

Also, book four is coming along nicely.  I’ve been writing fairly steadily each night, again with the exceptions of Sunday and Monday, so hopefully I will stay on track with my deadline for completing the rough draft.  I feel like the story is moving in right direction, and the tensions in the story are growing nicely.  My goal is to make this the best book of the series so far, and while it will take some polishing to get it there, right now, it feels on track.  I’ll know more after getting a couple of first readers to glance over the first couple of chapters to make sure it starts with a bang.

That’s all for now.  Time to get outside and work on clearing more poison oak and honeysuckle.  Have I ever mentioned just how much I hate them?  Well, just as a reminder, they’re both of the devil and will be eradicated from my little corner of this earth to make room for plants that aren’t parasites.  Here’s to another day in the sun.

Wednesday Morning Ramblings

Check back for an updated picture of this area soon.

I got to spend a little while yesterday using a new brush cutter/weed eater, and today, I’m so sore I can barely stand it.  For one, this cutter is at least twice as heavy as my other one, but also, it’ll take me a couple of weeks to work myself back into decent shape.  The crunch time of the semester doesn’t lend itself to high levels of physical activity, so I’ll have to readjust to working outdoors.  I love the exercise, especially after the soreness works itself out, and hopefully by the end of this summer, my body will be in pretty good condition.

I also hope to make some major progress on the property this summer.  There’s a lot to do, and it will take a tremendous amount of effort, but I feel up to the task.  Each day gluten free, I feel a little closer to my former self.  My left hand still gives me a few problems, especially with typing, and I’m still a little clumsy, but other than that, I’m feeling stronger and healthier than I have in quite a while, so while my health is on the upswing, I’m going to get the farm producing.  Keep an eye out for pictures of the progress.

Since it’s raining today, I’ll probably spend the day indoors cleaning and organizing my place.  I have a lot of work to do to have it ready for the boys in June, and I can’t write there if it’s too disorderly.  My goal is to dive back into book four tonight, so the space has to be clean to make that happen.  Book four is my number one priority for this summer, so I have to roll up my sleeves and get to it.  The story has been gnawing at me for some time, and there are so many wonderful scenes to write.  If the book comes together the way I envision it, it’s going to be a wild ride.  Please, stay tuned.