23 March 2007

Self-sufficiency SEO

I spent some time this morning looking at getting the farm website (and maybe this blog) listed in various "directory" sites on the 'net...  "Is this really worth it?" I ask myself.

Who am I trying to reach, here anyway, and why?

For a start I love being able to interact -- even in the very limited way the 'net enables -- with other self-sufficiency nutters like myself; people who love the independence, raising their own food, healing the Earth, sustaining heirloom breeds, recycling their own "waste", managing their energy needs, exploring different ways for humans to live more sustainably on this planet.  There are few enough of us, so we gotta stick together.  (Besides, its a great way to learn new tricks and prick ourselves out of old comfort-zones and into new ways of doing, thinking, being.)

But, just as important, I want to connect with people similar to who I was 15, 16, 18 years ago.  Someone stuck in the desolate, affluenzic, wasteland called the Conventional Economy or (Post?)Modern Life.  The me of 15 or 17 years ago was starting to think of breaking out of the Two Inch Pipe that society had put him into, starting to conceptualise"something different", more connected with the Earth, but still did not know what to call it.  The me of 16 years ago could not see how to "make enough money to live" in an alternative lifestyle -- let alone the possibility of breaking free of the Money Trap completely!  The me of 15 years ago was finding it hard to summon up the courage to let go of the "safety net" of steady income, medical plan, pension plan and 20-days leave a year.  Little did I then see just how unsafe, how weak, shaky, unpredictable the "safety net" was, and what a vile and insidious trap it is.

Thus the urge to do some...

Website Marketing


I find it appalling: Not one of the website and blog directories I looked at has a category for "Environment"!

"Country Living" is a useful slot, but where do we fit people who are doing self-sufficiency in the cities and suburbs; those who cannot or don't want to live in the "country" but still want to be self-sufficient in some measure?

Would someone look under "Lifestyles"?  They almost certainly won't find anything useful there: It's all about Paris Hilton and buying the latest disposable crap.

"Health"?  Certainly some of what we do is motivated by health concerns: Our own health as well as the health of the other organisms all around us that sustain us physically, emotionally, spiritually.  And the health of our home, Earth.

"Home and Garden"?  Well, we built our own home.  And we do garden quite a bit!  But self-sufficiency -- or "homesteading" for my 'Merkin friends, though it does have an ever-so-slightly different connotation -- certainly encompasses a hell of a lot more than just Home and Garden.

It's also much more than a "Job and Career", and we certainly tackle the big "News and Issues" of the day, in our own tiny ways.  Not too many people are trying to directly and personally do something positive about Global Climate Change, (by using renewable energy sources, minimising our consumption, eating local) Corporatisation of the Food Supply (again: growing our own, saving seed, growing open-pollinated and heirloom varieties) installing and living with alternative energy supplies so that we're more resilient to the changes that will be wrought by Peak Oil.  We call it Taking Responsibility.

Lots of this self-sufficiency gig is, in my mind, about "People and Relationships" -- but that's not what the directories mean.  (One day soon I plan to write about self-sufficiency and community.  It's been much on my mind for quite a while.  Self-sufficiency is truly only possible on a community scale, and around here there's no real community to speak of, so I'd like to muse-out-loud sometime on how we might begin to build community towards self-sufficiency.  Another day.)

"Religion and Spirituality"?  Perhaps we don't talk about it much, but I, for one, am strongly motivated by the spiritual element of this life choice.

So Here We Are

All-in-all, I don't find the web directories to be much use at all.  We don't seem to fit in anywhere very well, but rather everywhere, just a bit.

I guess we never did, and that's what has brought us here, to this ever-striving-to-be-more-self-sufficient place.

22 March 2007

How to Kill a Chicken

I started this as a reply to "Chicken anyone?" but it got long enough for a post in its own right, and is, in any case, something I've been meaning to blog on for a long time...

Killing chickens is a necessity if you're going to keep more than one or two birds.  If you allow them to incubate their own eggs, you're going to end up with half boys and half girls, and too many roosters is not good for the flock.  Besides, you probably want to be a bit selective about which chickens you breed from.  We carefully select our veggie seed  for saving so that we eventually end up with strains that are well adapted to our local environment, soil and climate, resistant to the local pests and diseases.  We should be doing the same with our animals.  We don't really want some fancy breed of chickens from America or Europe; we want our local Big Black Mommas bred by J!

So, whilst I don't relish the job of chicken killing, I accept its necessity.  It's also about taking responsibility -- what I generalise as "dealing with your own shit."  I have little patience with people who are quite happy to buy and eat slabs of dead FactoryCow from the supermarket, just as long as nobody reminds them that it was a real animal that lived under appalling circumstances and die in the most demeaning and degrading way imaginable.  No.  Our chickens range free -- often too free! and die as quickly and with as little stress as we can possibly arrange.  They die with respect, and with our thanks, so that we can eat.  I take the responsibility.  Then, too, they taste a hell of a lot better than bought chicken -- even so-called "free range" chicken is soft and tasteless in comparison.

In the past I used to break their necks by hand: tuck the chicken under your arm; hold their head in your other hand with your hand facing out, and snap down and twist -- very quick, very effective.  But a rotator-cuff injury makes that painful for me now, and with some of our big roosters I didn't quite have the reach for as quick and clean a break as I would prefer.  Then, too, we have bred-up a really big, healthy, self-reliant strain of chickens (to the point where we are a preferred supplier of livestock for people wanting to start their own flock) and their necks are very strong!

So now its a tree-stump and a blunt chopper.  "Chicken anyone?" talks of using a meat cleaver, but my feeling is it would be too sharp, and will cut the head right off.  A pretty messy business!  The point is to break the neck, not necessarily to chop the head right off.  Its a bit of a ticklish thing, judging the strength to use.  On one hand you want a clean break, instantly killing the bird on the first blow.  On the other you don't really want to break the skin, thus avoiding quite a lot of messiness.  Two people makes the job easier than just one.

Then comes the tedious work: Plucking and butchering.  I'll leave those for another day...

13 March 2007

New Look Farm Website

Finally (after how long? :-) I've managed to put together a new set of templates for the farm website.  My own very humble opinion is that it doesn't look too bad.  At least not actively repellent, like it was before!

I would welcome feedback, especially concerning bugs and oddities, since I have not tried to fully debug everything; I was strongly feeling the pressure to get something, anything, out that improved the site's look.  I'll get you started: Horizontal lines should be green, and their left-hand edge should line up with the paragraph texts. ;-)  See?  Easy!

Hopefully I will have time in the next week or two to get the blog sporting a similar look'n'feel.  No promises, though, since I have loads of compost to make.

Now to add more actual content to the site...

11 March 2007

The Why Of Self-Sufficiency

I met a man, recently, who, I could tell, was quite taken with our somewhat-self-sufficient lifestyle. Clearly of an age where he feels unable to job-hop – too close to retirement to risk jeopardising his pension plan, and deeply unhappy with his work situation. I can empathise. I remember that feeling: day after grey day in a multi-storey concrete box, breathing recycled air, recycled fast-food lunch, recycled office politics, endlessly recycling the same paperwork the same bits back and forth, to and fro. At the end of the month The Company arrange for some bits to get shuffled in the computer bowels of various banks, from whence more bit shuffling happens to make the mortgage payment pay the credit cards pay the car pay the taxmen pay the bank pay the healthcare pay the life-insurance pay pay pay all the death merchants to stave off their death grip on your life your breath your soul. Remember that the word "mortgage" comes from the Old French for "death pledge".

No wonder I wanted to find a way Back To The Land. No wonder he does, too. How many people complain of feeling "disconnected", "out of touch", complain of a "sense of unreality". Of course all those bits are unreal! Trust me on this; I'm a Computer Scientist! "  Out of Touch" with what? "Disconnected" from what?

10 March 2007

Yes, We Have No Bananas

Nanny Ogg's CookbookI lie.

Anybody got a recipe for Banana Daicqiri? Probably my best bet would be to check
Nanny Ogg's Cookbook.

We harvested no less than five bunches of Bananas, and they're ripenng in the shed out of the sun. We missed another two bunches a couple of months ago by cleverly neglecting them until they started ripening on the trees, at which point the Mousebirds took them out -- ate every little Banana in sight, leaving just a stem of blackened, dried-out skins dangling.

5 big bunches of bananas
Four out of the five bunches are a small fingerling variety -- very tasty. They have a thin skin, so will never make it as a commercial crop since they would not well survive the rigours transport, storage and handling. The other bunch is from an old variety that we got going from cuttings given to us by nearby relatives; the fruits get quite seedy in the middle, and although quite tasty, the texture tends to be floury. Great Chicken food, though. Nothing goes to waste in a self-sufficient holding!

Chucked a few Bananas to the Chooks, and, despite it being a stinking hot day, they came running as fast as their legs could manage. Probably thinking "Oh Thank God Its Not Tomato Again!"

(Thanks to Carey for the picture!)

05 March 2007

Big(ish) Rain

Completely unpredicted by the bloody-useless weather service, here we are getting a healthy dose of rain.  Very glad about it, too!  I'm even starting to think that I should go and empty the rain gauge before it overflows.

Of course this means I'll have Tomatoes splitting left, right and centre...

Update: 48mm since last night, and counting...

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