Tag Archives: nature

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.


Saturday Afternoon Ramblings

Here’s an update on the farm.  The first hydroponic unit is doing pretty well.  All of our seeds but two came up, and so far, all of the plants are growing well, especially the cucumbers.  Assuming nothing goes awry, we should have our first harvest by the end of this month.  We’ve learned a lot on this initial run and have some plans for how to refine and improve the system.  Our next goal is to build a second system that is dedicated solely to one crop.  From there, we’ll work on building at least one unit for each specific plant.

Now that this system has proven itself, I have a question open to anyone.  Do you think it would be worth the effort to run a second Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the second unit?  The last campaign was a little disappointing, but now, with a functional unit in place, do you think more people would be willing to contribute?  After watching the efficiency of the system, I’m convinced now more than ever that this is the future of farming, and I’m more dedicated than ever to getting this project off the ground.  Please, share your thoughts and let me know your opinions.

Monday Morning Ramblings

Here’s a farm update.  After two years of research, planning, testing, set-backs, building, and rebuilding, our first hydroponic system is up and running.  For the trial run, we’re growing three varieties of tomato, two kinds of lettuce, cucumbers, and cauliflower.  So far, the seedlings for spinach and peppers haven’t sprouted, though one of spinach plants looked promising this morning.  Right now, the young plants are growing well and all is working as it should.  Hopefully, in the next couple of months, we’ll have our first harvest of fresh, organic veggies, just as prices begin to skyrocket.

The thing I love about this system is the simplicity.  It’s an easily repeatable design and functions quite nicely.  We won’t know if it fully works until we get a harvest, but so far, the lights seem to produce ample spectrum; the grow chamber floods and drains the way it should; and the plants have shot up quite a bit in one week.  After watching them flourish so quickly, I’m more convinced than ever that indoor growing is the future of farming, especially as weather patterns become more and more erratic and more and more extreme.  The indoor environment is more stable, more efficient, and more controllable than outdoors.  Long-term, indoor production will be the solution to farming.

I’ll continue to post updates as the plants mature.

Thursday Afternoon Ramblings

Before the separation anxiety created by losing my children, I had never really known anxiety before.  Sure, I’d gotten nervous in certain situations, but I’d never experienced the unexplained waves of fear that appeared out of nowhere and made me edgy.  For the first year after the boys were gone, excluding the times when they were back with me, I lived in a constant state of panic, worried about whether or not they were safe and healthy and happy.  My stomach constantly burned from this fear, and I often awoke in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, trembling.  As I adjusted to my new reality, the anxiety waned, and ever so slowly, I began to feel “normal” again.

Recently, the anxiety has returned.  This time, however, it’s not about my children, even though the sensation is much the same.  I can’t say exactly why I feel this way, but for a few weeks now, I’ve not been able to shake it.  There’s no one specific thing I’m worried about, more like a thousand little uncertainties that gnaw at me.  From the erratic weather to the political sideshow to the sluggish economy, I feel like we’re heading for something bad in the next few months.  While I can’t point to any quantifiable thing and say, “Here’s definitive proof,” I just have an overwhelming intuition that the proverbial dung is about to hit the fan.

I don’t believe in the Mayan calendar and don’t expect the world is about to fly apart, but I do feel like our nation, because of the internal strife and chasms we’ve created through our sensationalist parodies of debate and deliberation, is on the verge of a deep, fundamental shift.  I can’t say for certain what that shift will be, perhaps martial law, perhaps financial collapse, perhaps civil war.  I don’t know.  I just know we cannot continue unraveling at the seams the way we have for the last few years.  And again, I can’t point to any one thing, just a feeling I get from people I encounter who either give off vibes of being frazzled and panicked or seem like mindless drones on auto-pilot.

I hope I’m wrong.  I want to feel positive and optimistic about the world and the future.  I much prefer feeling positive energy, but right now, there simply isn’t much to feel good about.  Everywhere I look, things are just out of balance and eroding into an uncivilized frenzy of self-interest.  People are either mad as hell at those who disagree with them politically, distracted by TV, or apathetic to everything.  Few people seem even content with their lives, and I don’t know anyone who feels positive about the direction we’re headed as a society.  I wish I could look at the future and feel hopeful about it, but right now, tomorrow just looms bleak and ominous as we trudge onward.

I’m sorry for writing such a negative piece, but this is how I feel about our country right now.  I can’t pretend like everything is okay when in my gut I have this feeling that something awful is about to happen.

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.

Thursday Morning Ramblings

The last month has flown by.  I can’t believe it’s already June 7.  I realize I haven’t been updating the blog as often as I would like, but I’ve been extremely busy between the farm and book four.  There’s been great progress on both fronts.  We’re finally getting close to launching our first phase of production on the farm, and I’ll try to provide an update on that as soon as it happens, probably sometime next month.  It’s been a long, uphill climb, but things are really coming together on the property.

Book four is rolling along.  I finished chapter five last night and will dive into chapter six tonight.  So far, I’m pleased with the manuscript and like the flow of the story.  Everything is coming together the way I envisioned it, and I’m still pleased with the energy to the book.  It feels good to write, and the words have been pouring out fairly well.  As I’ve often said, I’m a slow, plodding writer, but so far this summer, I’ve nearly doubled my normal daily page output, so hopefully the rough draft will be finished on schedule.

That’s all for now.  Time to go outside and get some work done.