Look what I found at the flea market. It’s a 1919 Swedish translation of the Enchiridion, a short manual of Stoic ethical advice compiled by Arrian, a 2nd-century disciple of the Greek philosopher Epictetus.
This book is 97 years old, but the original was written almost 1900 years ago. Still as relevant today as it was back then.
Now it’s been two weeks since my Nordic bees moved into the top bar hive. They seem to like it there, and the hive is growing stronger every day.
We’ve had a couple of rainy days but as soon as it gets warmer outside and the wind settles, there’s shuttle traffic from the hive to the nearest flowers or trees.
To move the bees from the frame hive to the top bar hive I followed this guide by Patrick Sellman. It went very smooth.
The Nordic bee is our ancient native breed of bees and is adapted to our Nordic climate over thousands of years.
This bee race has longer hair, better winter hardiness, and flies at lower temperatures compared to the southern races.
The last 150 years there has been a massive import of foreign bee races, such as Italian yellow bees, which has supplanted the Nordic bee. The Nordic bee is threatened today – of Sweden’s 125,000 to 150,000 bee colonies only around 1000 to 1200 communities are Nordic bees.
Work is under way to save and preserve the Nordic bee. This important work is carried out by the Nordbi association that I recently became a member of. To me it is a no brainer that native animal breeds that have adapted to the harsh Nordic climate over the millennia should be preserved for future generations.
The construction of the honeycombs are in full swing on the new top bars. It’s important to keep track and add new bars as the bees expand, so they don’t feel it gets too crowded. Then they might get the idea that it’s time to swarm and find a new home.
When we moved the bees to the top bar hive we also harvested the very first honeycomb. The bees had good amounts of honey in the other cakes so we felt it was okay to harvest one. I actually think it tastes better just knowing that it is produced on the farm and in the neighboring village where the bees were bought.
When the honey is ready the bees cover it with wax. The first thing you do when you harvest the honey is to scrape off the wax covering. This wax is extra fine and clean and you usually save it to use in balms and ointments.
Now all I have to do is make sure the bees have enough bars to build on, and let them carry on collecting pollen and nectar. Towards the end of July we’ll likely be able to harvest another honeycomb, but we will leave as much honey as possible for the bees over winter to avoid having to feed them as much supplements.
No summer is complete without visiting a couple of flea markets. Yesterday we went to a big flea market that we visit every now and then.
Among other things I found a debarker, used for debarking trees when making timber. Later when I came home and brushed off the dirt I noticed that the edge was really rusty in one corner, but it’s nothing a proper sharpening can’t fix.
I also found a couple of old files that I’ll turn into knife blades one day. Plus a small plane, rake, and more. Sure there’s rust on many of the tools, but working them with a steel brush and then giving a coating of linseed oil will turn them into top condition again.
That’s the thing that’s so amazing about flea markets. For a fraction of the price you’d pay in a store for new tools you can get perfectly functioning tools that just need a little love.
Nice wooden spoons are among my favorite things to buy at flea markets. Some spoons have soul. Those are the ones I buy.
I didn’t buy this hammer on a flea market but on Tradera, the “swedish ebay”. 1953 is stamped on the head. I’m going to renovate it and use for my chisels when I carve runestones.
Runestones fascinate me – the thought that someone a thousand years ago could send a message into our time.
It fascinates me so much that I’ve decided to learn to carve my own runestones, so I can send my own messages into the future.
An inspiration has been Kalle Runristare, a modern day swedish runecarver that has created amazing runestones in the past 20 years.
“Your runestone belongs to the future, not a dream about the past!” – Kalle Runristare
I have a big interest in nordic history and the lives of my ancestors, but I’m more often thinking about the future for my kids, grandkids and coming generations. It’s for them I want to carve and raise runestones.
My chisels have arrived from Rebit stonetools. They cost me quite a bit, but the idea is to offer my services as a stone carver when I become more proficient.
My first carving ended up being a heart, dedicated to my woman. I started carving a simple line just to try the chisels, but that wasn’t exciting enough so I carved a heart instead.
This heart will likely outlast both me and my woman. But I want to get better at carving deeper cuts so the carving lasts for thousands of years instead of being withered away after “just” hundreds of years.
All that’s missing now is some paint. It will be filled in with red ironoxide, a pigment that’s been used for thousands of years. I’ve bought the pigment from Ottosson Färgmakeri and will mix the color myself.
The next step will be to carve a real runestone. More on that to come!
I have a collection of favorite quotes that I wanted to display on my website, but I wanted to be able to use the WPML translation plugin to also translate the quotes into Swedish.
This was not possible with the most popular quote plugins such as Quotes Collection, so I’ve built something that I think has the potential to be turned into an official plugin.
You can see it in action above this post in the red bar. It displays a random quote out of my collection, and if you go to the swedish version of my website, sjbrg.se, it will show the same random quotes in swedish.
The plugin is quite simple. It creates a new custom post type for quotes that you can then choose to translate using WPML just like you’d translate a regular post. Then in the front end I’m querying this custom post type and displaying one random entry.
To turn this into a WordPress plugin and make it easy to use the next step would be to create a widget that you can easily add to a widget area such as your sidebar.
If you’re interested in a plugin like this let me know in the comments below and I might just make it happen!
Carl Sagans famous Pale Blue Dot speech leaves me with a sense of wonder every single time I hear it, and I’ve listened to it many times.
The “Pale Blue Dot” refers to a photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers.
From Wikipedia: “Voyager 1, which had completed its primary mission and was leaving the Solar System, was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and take one last photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space, at the request of astronomer and author Carl Sagan.”
Now listen to the speech and be amazed about your life on this earth.
“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on the mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” – Carl Sagan
The knowledge in these books have the potential to feed the world, regenerate and restore the soil, reforest deserts, and lead the way to permanent food security for mankind.
Bold claims, I know, but I believe them to be true because many of these books are based on what has already happened. Some of the books do include grand visions but the solutions they present are not science fiction, the answers are found in our own history.
The history of mankind shows that a civilization can only be as stable as its food supply. When the food supply falters, be it due to natural disaster or man-made destruction of the top soil, the civilization goes down the drain with it. The result? War, violence, starvation as well as financial, social and cultural collapse, and so on.
What led me to these seven books was a photo and mention on the Facebook page of Ben Falk, founder of Whole Systems Design and author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead (thanks for letting me use the photo!). Ben is a true self-reliance and permaculture pioneer on his resilient homestead in Vermont, and when he said that “there are seven books that NEVER get put away here” because “they are turned to so often”, that got my attention.
Here are shortcuts to the book descriptions below:
Some of the books I’ve read and know from before and they’re all what I consider game changers in my own search for knowledge, and some of the books were new to me.
Without further ado, here are seven books every homesteader and farmer should read. The same goes for every permaculture designer, architect, city planner, politician, president, change maker, activist, and so on who cares about this planet’s future.
“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.” – Aldo Leopold
First published in 1949, A Sand County Almanac combines some of the finest nature writing since Thoreau with an outspoken and highly ethical regard for America’s relationship to the land.
But it would be a mistake to describe this book as “nature writing” per se, or of that genre. As one reviewer writes, “It is a series of essays in wonderful prose in which nature, outdoor settings or situations provide the backdrop. But it is not written as a naturalist droning about the wonders of some aspect of nature. It is an inspired and deeply insightful description, by a man who clearly has a deep understanding of how nature works, about the ethical dimensions of our relationship with the land and our environment generally.”
Through science, history, humor, and prose, Leopold utilizes A Sand County Almanac and its call for a Land Ethic to communicate the true connection between people and the natural world, with the hope that the readers will begin to treat the land with the love and respect it deserves.
“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to the layman. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well, and does not want to be told otherwise. One sometimes envies the ignorance of those who rhapsodize about a lovely countryside in process of losing its topsoil, or afflicted with some degenerative disease in its water systems, fauna or flora.” – Aldo Leopold
Leopold’s legacy continues to inform and inspire us to see the natural world “as a community to which we belong.”
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” – Masanobu Fukuoka
Masanobu Fukuoka’s manifesto about farming, eating, and the limits of human knowledge presents a radical challenge to the global systems we rely on for our food. At the same time, it is a spiritual memoir of a man whose innovative system of cultivating the earth reflects a deep faith in the wholeness and balance of the natural world.
As Wendell Berry writes in his preface, the book “is valuable to us because it is at once practical and philosophical. It is an inspiring, necessary book about agriculture because it is not just about agriculture.”
In essence, the nugget of his wisdom is that, instead of struggling to control and command nature, we must learn to work with and learn from nature.
Trained as a scientist, Fukuoka rejected both modern agribusiness and centuries of agricultural practice, deciding instead that the best forms of cultivation mirror nature’s own laws. Over the next three decades he perfected his so-called “do-nothing” technique: commonsense, sustainable practices that all but eliminate the use of pesticides, fertilizer, tillage, and perhaps most significantly, wasteful effort.
“I believe that a revolution can begin from this one strand of straw. Seen at a glance, this rice straw may appear light and insignificant. Hardly anyone would believe that it could start a revolution. But I have come to realize the weight and power of this straw. For me, this revolution is very real.” — Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution
“Why are the hills of West China ruined, while the hills of Corsica are, by comparison, an enduring Eden? The answer is plain. Northern China knows only the soil-destroying agriculture of the plowed hillside. Corsica, on the contrary, has adapted agriculture to physical conditions; she practices the soil-saving tree-crops type of agriculture.” – J. Russell Smith
With this question J. Russell Smith sets the tone for his book Tree Crops – A Permanent Agriculture. This book reflects a lifetime of research around the world and personal trials on the author’s farm in Virginia on the uses of perennial tree crops for animal and human food.
Smith saw trees as “the natural engines of food production” for hill lands that we should put to work; to produce an abundance of food and fodder and to preserve the soil for future generations, permanently.
During his travels around the world saw many examples of this permanent type of agriculture, for example the chestnut forests of Corsica. He notes in his book: “These grafted chestnut orchards produced an annual crop of food for men, horses, cows, pigs, sheep, and goats, and a by-crop of wood. Thus, for centuries, trees upon this steep slope had supported the families that lived in the Corsican villages. The mountainside was uneroded, intact, and capable of continuing indefinitely its support for the generations of men.”
Here’s David Holmgren, one of the co-originators of the Permaculture design methodology, talking about this 1929 classic:
I’ll leave you with a quote describing his vision, at once practical and lovely:
“I see a million hills green with crop-yielding trees and a million neat farm homes snuggled in the hills. These beautiful tree farms hold the hills from Boston to Austin, from Atlanta to Des Moines. The hills of my vision have farming that fits them and replaces the poor pasture, the gullies, and the abandoned lands that characterize today so large a part of these hills.
These ideal farms have their level and gently sloping land protected by mangum terraces and are intensively cultivated — rich in yields of alfalfa, corn, clover, legumes, wheat, and garden produce. This plow land is the valley bottoms, level hill tops, the gentle slopes, and flattened terraces on the hillsides. The unplowed lands are partly shaded by cropping trees — mulberries, persimmons, honey locust, grafted black walnut, grafted heart nut, grafted hickory, grafted oak, and other harvest-yielding trees. There is better grass beneath these trees than covers the hills today.” – J. Russell Smith
You can download a PDF-version of Tree Crops for free here (1929 edition), courtesy of the Soil and Health Library, read it online, or check it out on Amazon if you prefer a printed version (it’s pricey though).
“Between these two books [Farmers of Forty Centuries and Tree Crops], you’ve got solutions to most of what faces humanity, food-wise. Read them. Be inspired.” – Ben Falk, Whole Systems Design
For more than 4,000 years, Asian farmers worked the same fields repeatedly without sapping the land’s fertility and without applying artificial fertilizer.
How did they accomplish this miraculous feat?
That’s what author Franklin Hiram King describes in his book Farmers of Forty Centuries, first published by his wife in 1911 after his death.
King traveled to China, Korea and Japan in the early 1900s. The purpose of his trip was to study how the extremely dense populations of the Far East could produce massive amounts of food century after century without depleting their soils.
What he discovered was a highly sophisticated system of water management, crop rotation, interplanting and rational utilization of ecological relationships among farm plants, animals and people.
The book has become a classic of the permaculture/sustainable economics movement for several reasons, as noted by a reviewer:
It dispels the myth that fossil fuel-free agriculture will produce much lower yields than industrial farming. Without access to oil and natural-gas based pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, agriculture will be much more labor-intensive. However with global population at more than seven billion (as of last October), the world seems to have no shortage of human labor.
Farmers of Forty Centuries paints a detailed picture of tried and true regional models of food, fuel, and construction materials production, as well as regional water and human waste management.
It provides detailed descriptions, almost in cookbook fashion, of a broad range of permaculture and terraquaculture techniques.
You can download a PDF-version of the book for free here, as various ebook formats here, read it online here, or get a printed book on Amazon.
“There is one timeless way of building. It is thousands of years old, and the same today as it has always been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the center of this way. And as you will see, this way will lead anyone who looks for it to buildings which are themselves as ancient in their form as the trees and hills, and as our faces are.” – Cristopher Alexander
The Timeless Way of Building is the introductory volume in the Center for Environmental Structure series. In it Christopher Alexander presents a new theory of architecture, building, and planning which has at its core that age-old process by which the people of a society have always pulled the order of their world from their own being.
The book explains the idea of patterns in architecture, and how we can use these patterns to build and maintain healthy living environments. As one reviewer notes on the term ‘pattern’, “there are certain patters in buildings. When the pattern works the building is pleasing. Otherwise it isn’t. These patterns are not architectural design plans, they are instead organic, instinctive, feeling-based relationships.”
[..] despite reading and re-reading the first half of the Timeless Way of Building about 10-15 times since first doing so in college, I am still enthralled at the depth of what Alexander is conveying in this work. Anyone who finds themselves amidst the planning stages of your houses or landscapes: I cannot encourage you enough to spend some real time with his work.” – Ben Falk, Whole Systems Design
Check out The Timeless Way of Building on Amazon (or your local library, the book is quite expensive).
“If you are interested in making great spaces – especially homes – and can only spend time with one book, this would be our pick. Read it and read it again. The kind of book you’ll never be “done” with.” – Ben Falk, Whole Systems Design
Also by Cristopher Alexander, A Pattern Language is the second book in the Center for Environmental Structure series and takes a more practical approach compared to The Timeless Way of Building. The book presents a series of “patterns” that the authors believe must be present in order for an environment to be pleasing, comfortable, or in their words, “alive.”
The “patterns” are answers to design problems, such as:
How high should a window sill be?
How many stories should a building have?
How should the light fall within a home?
Where should the windows be placed?
How much space in a neighborhood should be devoted to grass and trees?
More than 250 of the patterns in this pattern language are given in the book: each consists of a problem statement, a discussion of the problem with an illustration, and a solution.
As the authors say in their introduction, many of the patterns are archetypal, so deeply rooted in the nature of things that it seemly likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years as they are today.
Check out the book on Amazon (or your local library, the book is quite expensive).
“Nature really misses us,” laments M. Kat Anderson. “We no longer have a relationship with plants and animals, and that’s the reason why they’re going away.”
This book works not only as a history of indigenous horticulture in California, but also as a beginners manual for those who seek to understand more about sustainable, indigenous land management, gleaned in part from interviews and correspondence with Native Americans who recall what their grandparents told them about how and when areas were burned, which plants were eaten and which were used for basketry, and how plants were tended.
The bulk of Tending the Wild describes how the California Indians tended the land. They did not merely wander across the countryside in hopes of randomly discovering plant and animal foods. They had an intimate, sacred relationship with the land, and they tended it in order to encourage the health of their closest relatives — the plant and animal communities upon which they depended.
Tending the Wild is an important book, because it presents us with stories of a way of life that worked, and worked remarkably well, for countless generations. This is precious knowledge for us to contemplate, as our own society is rapidly circling the drain, and our need for remembering healthy old ideas has never been greater.
“Through coppicing, pruning, harrowing, sowing, weeding, burning, digging, thinning, and selective harvesting, they [California natives] encouraged desired characteristics of individual plants, increased populations of useful plants, and altered the structures and compositions of plant communities. Regular burning of many types of vegetation across the state created better habitat for game, eliminated brush, minimized potential for catastrophic fires, and encouraged diversity of food crops. These harvest and management practices, on the whole, allowed for sustainable harvest of plants over centuries and possibly thousands of years.“
In this book we come to see California’s indigenous people as active agents of environmental change and stewardship. Tending the Wild persuasively argues that this traditional ecological knowledge is essential if we are to successfully meet the challenge of living sustainably.
“The map in there of California cultural regions before colonization is insanely amazing.” – Ben Falk, Whole Systems Design
The one big takeaway from all of these books, in my mind, is that they irrefutably show us that there are alternative futures possible for humanity. There are ways we can feed ourselves, clothe ourselves and build our homes without depleting the soil and destroying nature.
But if the knowledge in these books can “fix” the world, why did not previous generations get it done? After all, some of these books are over 100 years old.
The answer is simple. As Wendell Berry writes in the foreword to a newer edition of Tree Crops:
“The minds that have dominated agriculture since 1929 when Tree Crops was first published, have been little interested in conserving either the land or the people on the land. They have, Heaven knows, seen no visions of “a million neat farm homes snuggled in the hills.” A farming system in which millions of small landowners would manage devotedly and skillfully a diversified, locally-adapted system of tree crops, pastures, animals, and row crops has been simply unthinkable to them.”
Or as permaculture co-originator Bill Mollison says in Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual:
“We know how to solve every food, clean energy, and sensible shelter problem in every climate; we have already invented and tested every necessary technique and technical device, and have access to all the biological material that we could ever use.
The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy, and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves.“
Now, back to my bold claim. Can a book really save the world?
No. Only human action (and in some cases human inaction) can save the world.
A book can show us the door to another reality, but we’ll have to walk through the door of our own accord.
It’s up to us, the humans who desire this alternative future, to change how things are done and show people that there is indeed a better way.
Nestle won’t get it done. Unilever won’t get it done. Monsanto won’t get it done. Nor any other of the mega corporations below that control almost everything you buy:
So let’s read these books and then get to work making things happen, and start helping ourselves and future generations to a better future. Start in your backyard, create abundance, and I bet you that the rest of your neighborhood will soon follow.
Let these lines from Bob Dylan lead the way:
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand For the times they are a-changin’
I love the new official theme from WordPress, Twenty Sixteen. It’s clean, simple, and great for blogs and beyond that want the focus to be on the content. It displays featured images beautifully, as well as images throughout the content. But it’s not perfect.
For example, when adding videos to the post they’re limited to the narrow width of the content column. What if I want to give a video more space and put it front and center?
That’s what I’m going to show you how to do in this guide. We’ll customize a Twenty Sixteen child theme (you do use child themes, right?) to check if there’s a featured video, and if so show that one instead of the featured image.
Here we go!
1. Create a custom field for the video link
First off, install the Advanced Custom Fields plugin. We’ll use this plugin to create a custom field where we can enter the URL to the video, e.g. a Youtube link.
Once it’s installed, create a new field group. I named mine “Posts” because I’ll only use featured videos on posts.
Edit the field group and change the location rules as follows:
This will ensure that the custom field we’ll create next only shows up on posts with the “Video” post format.
Now add a field and set the following four values:
The last value is probably not needed, but it can’t hurt.
Now, create a new post and select the “Video” post format, like this:
When you do the “Video URL” custom field will appear below the content window where you can copy and paste any video link from sites such as Youtube or Vimeo:
When you’ve published the post we’re done with this step, but the video won’t yet show in the post. The next step is to turn this video link into an embed and display it instead of the featured image.
2. Displaying the featured video on single posts
I want to display the video on single posts, and to do that we’ll have to edit the content-single.php file in /template-parts/ (again, in the child theme folder).
On line 18 (assuming you haven’t changed anything else) you should see this code:
Switch the whole line, including the php tags, for the one below:
This code does the following:
It checks if the post has the post format “Video” AND if the post has a video URL in the custom field that we created in step 1
It passes the video URL through oEmbed which is a protocol that turns the video URL into an embed code, just like the embed code you’d get from Youtube. This is the same protocol that WordPress uses for their embed function.
It displays the embed code in your post
If the post is not a “Video” post OR if the custom field does not contain a video URL, it displays the regular featured image as normal.
Now here’s what it looks like:
We have a big featured video! Looks pretty good, but those black bars are quite ugly and the video does not adjust well to various widths.
We need to make the video responsive. Here’s how to do that:
3. Adding responsiveness
Based on this guide I used FitVids to get a perfect result for every screen width. FitVids is a lightweight, easy-to-use jQuery plugin for fluid width video embeds.
Here’s how to do that. Start with logging onto your server and create a new folder in your child theme location called /js/.
Next download the FitVids ZIP-file from GitHub here.
Upack the ZIP-file and upload the whole folder to the new /twentysixteen-child/js/ folder.
Inside the /js/ folder, create a new file and name it FitVids.js. Edit this file and paste this code inside it:
This code tells FitVids to look for the .post CSS selector class and work its FitVids magic on the video to make it responsive.
Note that using the .post CSS selector class will enable FitVids for all videos in your posts, not just the featured video. That isn’t a bad thing, because you want all your videos to look good, right?
4. Add some margin below the video
The video could use some margin at the bottom to give it some air. It’s wrapped in a DIV with the .fluid-width-video-wrapper CSS-selector, so I added a margin below the video of 30px, like so:
Birch has played an important role for self-reliant folks throughout the millennia. The birch bark once acted as an important roofing material, and was also used to make waterproof but lightweight canoes, bowls, shelters, baskets, and more. The birch tree also gave firewood, twigs to make brooms, tar (or “Russian oil” to use as a glue, leaves and buds used in folk medicine, and last but not least it provides an abundant supply of birch sap every spring.
Video: Swede Jonna Jinton gathering and enjoying some fresh birch sap.
Birch sap has traditionally been a source of nutrients in the spring in the boreal and hemiboreal regions of the northern hemisphere. The famous Arab traveller Ahmad ibn Fadlān observed as early as 921 that the Turkish-speaking Bolgars along the Volga River drank fermented birch sap.
A deficiency of food in early spring, in the so called “hunger gap”, was customary in northern Europe until the end of the 19th century so the extra nutrients and sweet taste of sap was a welcome change after a long winter. And in places where water-springs were rare, tree sap was the only drink for herdsmen.
“During the last real famine in Sweden, in 1867, tree-sap was widely used in the southernmost part of Sweden, for bread, gruel and as a mealtime drink. Birch was therefore referred to as the “poor-man's cow”, according to one record from southern Sweden.” (Uses of tree saps in northern and eastern parts of Europe, p. 345)
Birch sap is collected only at the break of winter and spring when the sap moves intensively, just after the frost has crept out of the ground and before the tree has developed green leaves. In eastern Europe March is called “the month of sap” or “the month of birches”, but in more northern latitudes April is the best time to gather birch sap.
Here’s a quick video showing how Arborist Tage Rønne in Denmark taps birch sap:
Basically you drill a hole at angle upwards into the tree. I’ve seen recommendations for a hole between 1-2 cm in diameter and 2-6 cm into the tree depending on the thickness of the tree. You can expect to get 5-10 liters of sap per tree per day.
Tapping a tree does not harm the health of the tree, just make sure you plug the hole when you’re done and don’t drill too many holes in the same tree.
Here’s a lower impact way of tapping sap, from Natural Bushcraft:
Another less invasive way to tap birch sap is to cut the end of a branch where it’s around 1 cm in diameter. This can still yield up to 1 1/2 litres of sap in a day, and when you’re done you can seal the wound with wax or birch tar.
1. Drinking As Is
Birch sap is commonly known for its detoxifying, diuretic, cleansing and purifying properties, and can be drinken fresh straight out of the tree.
Cartographer Olaus Magnus mentioned briefly in 1555 that Scandinavians were tapping birch for sap and using it as a fresh drink.
The taste is actually not bad. It tastes like water with a hint of sweetness and birch. But I’ll have to admit, drinking large quantities of birch sap is not my cup of tea.
After a few days the sap will naturally ferment and the taste will become more acidic, but can still be consumed. It’s highly perishable though, and can be preserved for longer periods by freezing, adding sugar or citric acid, or pasteurising it.
Birch sap contains, among other things, 17 amino acids, as well as minerals, enzymes, proteins, antioxidants, sugar (xylitol, fructose and glucose) and vitamins (C and B).
2. Birch Syrup
Birch syrup is produced in the same way as maple syrup; you reduce the water content to concentrate the sugar content. But birch syrup is much more expensive, up to five times the price, because you get less syrup from birch sap.
There’s roughly half as much sugar in birch sap as in maple sap, so compared to maple syrup you need twice as much sap to produce the same amount of syrup.
Depending on the species of birch, location, weather, and season the birch sap will have about a 0.5-2% sugar content. You need about 100-150 liters of sap to produce one liter of syrup.
In commercial production they use reverse osmosis machines and evaporators to get rid of the water. For example in Alaska total production of birch syrup in Alaska is approximately 3,800 liters (1,000 U.S. gallons) per year.
When I’ve made birch syrup though I’ve just carefully boiled the sap. It’s easy to burn the sap though because of the high fructose content, and it takes a long time to get rid of all that water. What you can do to reduce the risk of burning the sap is to first boil off something like 50% of the water and then move it over to a bain-marie / double boiler and get rid of the rest of the water.
Birch syrup is delicious on pancakes, and it’s a fun experiment.
3. Birch Sap Wine
Birch sap wine goes back several hundreds (if not thousands) of years. It’s not harder to make than adding yeast and maybe som sugar to the birch sap and then letting it turn into wine.
The following recipe of birch sap wine is from 1676:
To every Gallon whereof, add a pound of refined Sugar, and boil it about a quarter or half an hour; then set it to cool, and add a very little Yeast to it, and it will ferment, and thereby purge itself from that little dross the Liquor and Sugar can yield: then put it in a Barrel, and add thereto a small proportion of Cinnamon and Mace bruised, about half an ounce of both to ten Gallons; then stop it very close, and about a month after bottle it; and in a few days you will have a most delicate brisk Wine of a flavor like unto Rhenish. Its Spirits are so volatile, that they are apt to break the Bottles, unless placed in a Refrigeratory, and when poured out, it gives a white head in the Glass. This Liquor is not of long duration, unless preserved very cool. Ale brewed of this Juice or Sap, is esteem'd very wholesome. (Vinetum Britannicum, p. 176, London, England 1676.)
Birch beer in its most common form in North America is a carbonated soft drink made from herbal extracts, usually from birch bark, although in the colonial era birch beer was made with herbal extracts of oak bark. It has a taste similar to root beer. There are dozens of brands of birch beer available(check out this taste test).
After the sap is collected, it is distilled to make birch oil. The oil is added to the carbonated drink to give it the distinctive flavor, reminiscent of teaberry
Alcoholic birch beer, in which the birch sap is fermented rather than reduced to an oil, has been known from at least the seventeenth century and was common in northern Europe.
In Sweden birch sap has been used to make ale by mixing it with malt and yeast. A 1749 description from Småland, Sweden, says that the birch sap ale was sometimes flavoured with bog myrtle (Myrica gale L.).
In south-western Finland a kind of ale was made of birch sap mixed with flour and malt.
5. Birch Sap Mead
You usually make mead from water, honey and yeast. To make birch sap mead, just switch the water for birch sap. I haven’t tried birch sap mead, but I’d guess that it adds a hint of birch taste to the mead, as well as some nutrition.
6. Birch Sap Vinegar
All over Europe birch sap has been used to make vinegar. Vinegar comes from the French word vinaigre and means “sour wine.” There are records of birch sap vinegar being made in Sweden, Estonia, Belarus, Hungary and more. I haven’t been able to track down a birch sap vinegar recipe, but you should be able to use this one from Mother Earth News and use birch sap wine as the alcoholic ingredient.
Tax his land, tax his bed, tax the table at which he’s fed.
Tax his tractor, tax his mule, teach him taxes are the rule.
Tax his work, tax his pay, he works for peanuts anyway!
Tax his cow, tax his goat, tax his pants, tax his coat.
Tax his ties, tax his shirt, tax his work, tax his dirt.
Tax his tobacco, tax his drink, tax him if he tries to think.
Tax his cigars, tax his beers, if he cries tax his tears.
Tax his car, tax his gas, find other ways to tax his ass.
Tax all he has then let him know, that you won’t be done till he has no dough.
When he screams and hollers; then tax him some more, tax him till he’s good and sore.
Then tax his coffin, tax his grave, tax the sod in which he’s laid.
Put these words upon his tomb, taxes drove me to my doom.
When he’s gone, do not relax, its time to apply the inheritance tax.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller
Building a new decentralized civilisation that makes the old, centralized pyramid of power obsolete, that’s what Open Source is doing.
Open Source is empowering individuals and communities to take matters into their own hands to improve their lives, secure their liberties and speed up their pursuit of happiness, and they’re not stopping to ask anyone for permission.
Buckminster Fuller said our collective goal as a species should be “to make the world work for 100 per cent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous co-operation without ecological offence or the disadvantage of anyone”
That co-operation he’s referring to, that’s happening right now and some call it the Open Source-movement. Read on to see 17 examples of this co-operation.
For those who stand to lose from the political and economic decentralization brought on by the Open Source-movement, namely megacorporations, politicians and bankers, it can sure seem like a revolution. Because they’re losing control. To borrow a line from the poem The Masque of Anarchy, “Ye are many—they are few!”
Both the article and Robert’s book are well worth the read if you’re interested in what the future has in store. As Robert writes in his book:
“Sharing, not secrecy, is the means by which we realise such a lofty destiny as well as create infinite wealth. The wealth of networks, the wealth of knowledge, revolutionary wealth – all can create a nonzero win-win Earth that works for one hundred percent of humanity. This is the ‘utopia’ that Buckminster Fuller foresaw, now within our reach.”
You might have heard of Open Source Software, and while that’s a big part of this movement it’s not all there is to it. Open Source principles and values have moved into the physical world with Open Source Hardware, and on this page you’ll find some great examples of that.
The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) [by Open Source Ecology] is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts. We’re developing open source industrial machines that can be made at a fraction of commercial costs, and sharing our designs online for free.
I personally give money to support Open Source Ecology every month as one of their True Fans, because I truly believe the work they do today is creating rings on the water that will travel far into the future and make planet Earth a better place.
If they reach even 10% of their Open Source Ecology milestones below the future will be pretty awesome. They just released this first draft today, and it will be refactored over this year as directions clarify.
Launched by a concerned global network of citizen scientists to track and counter the decline of honey bee populations, Open Source Beehives are developing open source sensor kits that can track a number of hive metrics from temperature, humidity, to a host of others.
They’ve also used digital manufacturing techniques to create a number of open source CNC routable beehives that are natural and healthy homes for your bees, for example the Colorado Top Bar hive and the Barcelona Warre hive.
Run by the same people as Open Source Beehives, AKER has developed open source garden kits that snaps together without tools. They’re all made out of plywood and among the kits you’ll find grow beds, wall planters, a chicken coop, and a worm compost.
Here’s a question for you. What if food production could be automated? Just as you don’t have to wash your clothes by hand anymore, what if you could press a button and grow your own free food without having to spend all that time tending the garden?
The team at FarmBot have been thinking about this question, and the result is FarmBot, “humanity’s first open-source CNC farming machine.”
They’re working on a graphical drag and drop interface where you can design your farm by dragging and dropping plants into the map, set up growing regimens, and the FarmBot takes care of the rest.
As for their goal:
Together we can take back ownership of our food, localize production, and feed 9 billion people sustainably
That’s a big goal to say the least, but I like the sound of it.
Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. Arduino has been used in thousands of different projects and applications.
Arduino boards are able to read inputs – light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message – and turn it into an output – activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online.
OSVehicle are the creators of TABBY EVO, “an open source framework for the creation of vehicles: it can be used to bootstrap businesses (electric vehicle startups), to create your own vehicle, for education purposes, and much more.”
TABBY EVO is their completely re-engineered from scratch open source platform for electric vehicles.
Also check out Local Motors, another community of enthusiasts building cool machines together.
RepRap is “humanity’s first general-purpose self-replicating manufacturing machine.”
RepRap takes the form of a free desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic objects. Since many parts of RepRap are made from plastic and RepRap prints those parts, RepRap self-replicates by making a kit of itself – a kit that anyone can assemble given time and materials. It also means that – if you’ve got a RepRap – you can print lots of useful stuff, and you can print another RepRap for a friend…
OpenKnit is an open-source, low cost, digital fabrication tool that affords the user the opportunity to create his own bespoke clothing from digital files. Starting from the raw material, the yarn, and straight to its end use, a sweater for example, in about an hour. Designing and producing clothes digitally and wearing them can now happen in the very same place, rewarding the user with the ability to make decisions regarding creativity and responsibility.
As Engadget writes: “The open source platform combines an affordable (under $757), build-it-yourself clothing printer with Knitic design software to let you make your own apparel quickly and easily; once you’re set up, you just need a template file and some yarn.”
Defense Distributed is an online, open-source organization that designs firearms, or “wiki weapons”, that may be downloaded from the Internet and “printed” with a 3D printer.
One could say they’re promoting Open Source Defense, and they’re strong advocates of the right to individual self-protection through gun ownership.
Defense Distributed has to date produced a durable printed receiver for the AR-15, the first printed standard capacity AR-15 magazine, and the first printed magazine for the AK-47, and the world’s first fully 3D printable gun, the Liberator .380 single shot pistol.
They’ve also launched the Ghost Gunner, a general purpose CNC-mill that automatically manufactures mil-spec AR-15 lower receivers to completion.
APM:Copter is an open-source multicopter unmanned aerial vehicle platform created by the DIY Drones community based on the Arduino platform.
This is the full-featured, open-source multicopter UAV controller that won the Sparkfun 2013 and 2014 Autonomous Vehicle Competition (dominating with the top five spots). A team of developers from around the globe are constantly improving and refining the performance and capabilities of Copter .
Now here’s something truly worthy of mention. The aim of the Open Hand Project is to make robotic prosthetic hands more accessible to amputees.
Leading prosthetics can cost up to $100,000. By using emerging technologies like 3D printing, we can cut that down to under $1000. That’s two orders of magnitude cheaper, and means that these devices can reach a far broader audience!
Bottom Line: There Are Alternatives
If you don’t like what the world looks like, you can change it. It’s all about what you feed with your energy, be it time or money. If all of us keep feeding our energy into the current system of Big Ag, Big Finance and Big Consumption, nothing will change. But if more people withdraw their consent and build their own, local alternatives, things will change.
Open Source is a great example of this. Permaculture is another example. As entrepreneur and permaculture teacher David Blume, writes:
Around the world people are demonstrating that, not only are there alternatives, there are alternatives that allow us all to take care of each other and the rest of the species we live with, and to direct surpluses from our designs back to this care. These are the three main tenets of Permaculture design. We aren’t waiting for governments, corporations, or bureaucracies to solve the world’s problems. We will do it with or without their help. We are already doing it and no one can stop us because we can’t be forced to buy what we don’t need anymore. Since few of us in permaculture education are hired by anyone in business or government, we can’t be fired or threatened.
I like to say, if you want to end transnational capitalism, (the very opposite of bioregionalism), then stop giving them your capital. To do that you need to start producing what you need—plus some surplus for others—bioregionally and I would respectfully suggest that permaculture design is a good tool to begin that process.”
This is also a key tenet of Gandhi’s teaching in his text Hind Swaraj, in which he argued for Indian independence from the British (Swaraj meaning self-rule).
Gandhi said: “In such a state (where swaraj is achieved) everyone is his own ruler. He rules himself in such a manner that he is never a hindrance to his neighbour.” He summarized the core principle like this: “It is Swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves.”
I think it’s time we as individuals and communities learn how to rule ourselves, without politicans or the media telling us what to think or how to feel. I think Open Source cooperation and transparency is an important piece in that puzzle.
So let me end this article with sharing a quote from Hind Swaraj on how Gandhi thought a better society could be organized, a decentralized society where the people governed themselves. This is where Open-Source can take us:
“Independence begins at the bottom… A society must be built in which every village has to be self sustained and capable of managing its own affairs… It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without… This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbours or from the world. It will be a free and voluntary play of mutual forces… In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever widening, never ascending circles. Growth will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose center will be the individual. Therefore the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it.” – Gandhi
What other Open Source Hardware projects are out there that the world should know about? Let us know in the comments!
The concept of the Open movement is free sharing of and access to information. Open Data, Open Health, Open Money, Open Hardware, Open Software, Open Food, Open Energy, the examples are many where Open Source principles are being adapted.
Open Sovereignty is about how we can reclaim our independence and exercise our sovereignty as free individuals and communities. This is done through decentralization and local self-sufficiency – enabled by open sharing of information as well as Open Source Technologies.
When I say “exercise our sovereignty” I mean standing up for our unalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These natural rights apply to all humans across the globe, not just those who identify themselves as Americans.
We are facing a “global corporate-financier oligarchy that has criminally consolidated their wealth by “liberalizing” their own activities while strangling ours through regulations, taxes, and laws”.
I’m pretty sure this oligarchy is the same monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that President John F. Kennedy spoke about when he said these now famous words:
“We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed.”
Let’s face it. Democracies are a smoke screen for the real rulers of the world. All political systems today gives an illusion of freedom in a world where in reality a tiny financial elite hold the only true power.
Representative democracy does not bring freedom to the masses, but rather covertly enslaves and controls them.
“Great nations are simply the operating fronts of behind-the-scenes, vastly ambitious individuals who has become so effectively powerful because of their ability to remain invisible while operating behind the national scenery.”
Follow the money – Find your rulers
Where does all the money flow to?
Back to its creators, to those who have the power to conjure money out of thin air. The banks and the owners of these banks.
By creating money (more accurately debt) out of thin air, and charging interest on that imaginary debt, bankers have been centralizing the wealth of the world for hundreds of years.
So when your vote does not matter in this fraud called democracy, how do you then exercise your sovereign right to live a free life?
You withdraw your consent.
You stop feeding your life energy into their systems of control . You stop interacting with their institutions of oppression. You build your own local institutions.
That is your right. That “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security” (The Declaration of Independence)
You throw off such Government, and you provide new Guards for your future security.
The Declaration of Independence also says that “Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”, but considering the immense suffering caused by governments worldwide just in the past century I’d say we’re long overdue for a global change in leadership. And this time change will come from the bottom-up.
As Bill Mollison, the ‘father of permaculture’, puts it:
“We know how to solve every food, clean energy, and sensible shelter problem in every climate; we have already invented and tested every necessary technique and technical device, and have access to all the biological material that we could ever use.
The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy, and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves.“
The great thing about the open source revolution is that it does not have to be carried out with weapons in hand, but can be done peacefully. That’s the point of free and open sharing of knowledge. It’s about cooperation, not coercion.
That’s what Open Sovereignty is about.
Independence. Self-sufficiency. Decentralization. Transparency. Pragmatic and Open Source solutions that empower individuals and local communities and effectively undermine and replace existing centralized power structures.
“We have over 5 billion human brains that are the one infinite resource available to us going forward. Crowd-sourcing and cognitive surplus are two terms of art for the changing power dynamic between those at the top that are ignorant and corrupt, and those across the bottom that are attentive and ethical. The open source ecology is made up of a wide range of opens – open farm technology, open source software, open hardware, open networks, open money, open small business technology, open patents – to name just a few. The key point is that they must all develop together, otherwise the existing system will isolate them into ineffectiveness. Open data is largely worthless unless you have open hardware and open software. Open government demands open cloud and open spectrum, or money will dominate feeds and speeds.”
What if these billions of brains started working together to produce unlimited abundance rather than fought and killed each other over imaginary scarcity?
In 1859 at an address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, US President Abraham Lincoln said that “Population must increase rapidly — more rapidly than in former times — and ere long the most valuable of all arts, will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil. No community whose every member possesses this art, can ever be the victim of oppression of any of its forms. Such community will be alike independent of crowned-kings, money-kings, and land-kings.”
Now imagine millions, even billions, of human beings globally working together to refine this art.
The only question is if those who stand to lose from this change will be just as peaceful.
If you agree with me, and want to reaffirm your unalienable Rights as a free human being, then repeat after me:
I, as a Sovereign Individual, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of my intentions, do solemnly publish and declare, That I am, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent, that I am Absolved from all Allegiance to any Government or politicians that claims authority over me, and that all political connection between me and them, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as a Free and Independent Individual, I have full Power to protect myself against Aggression from any party, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent Individuals may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, I pledge my Life, my Fortune, and my sacred Honor.
Often when I think about the future I think about how it could be different. How it could be better.
Did our ancestors also think about a better future?
I bet they did.
Take my Swedish ancestors for example.
Not long ago, say 150+ years but even into the 1920’s in some places, women spent a large part of their waking days washing clothes.
They washed them, mended them, sewed them, prepared to wash them, cleaned up after washing them, planned for the next time they had to wash them, and so on.
Now in the winter time, sometimes they’d have to take up a hole in the icy lake or a nearby river to wash their clothes.
I’ve read how, in the freezing cold water, they’d wash the clothes until they couldn’t feel their hands.
They called this process of washing clothes to “böka” in the local tongue.
Fast forward to present day, and what do we do now?
I just throw my clothes in the washer, set the right program, press a button and walk away.
Same with washing dishes. I just throw them in the dishwasher and electricity will work for me at pennies on the hour.
It’s all automated and requires no energy input from me, aside from loading them up and emptying them.
My female ancestors must have thought once in a while about a future where they did not have to spend so much of their life energy on washing clothes.
That future is here now.
What do I think about once in a while?
I sure wish I did not have to spend so many of my waking hours working.
Working just to see most of it go to buying mass-produced food at the supermarket, and to paying interest to the bank for my house.
And that’s after I pay the 50% fee to the corrupt and greedy protection racked called government so they don’t throw me in jail.
Working so much that at the end of the day I’m so tired that the only thing I can muster is to sit in front of the TV watching mass produced media.
(In reality I don’t watch TV, but for many people this is the current reality)
But I don’t think we have to live like this. I think there’s a better way.
The Alternative Now
Imagine an alternative Now where food is growing in abundance.
Where you could go outside anywhere and pick free delicious food off of a tree, or pull something edible and nutritious out of the ground.
An alternative Now where the people of earth has come together planting seeds rather than dropping bombs.
If we did that, amazing things would happen in only one growing season.
In two or three growing seasons we’d have total food abundance from annual crops, and the perennial plants and fruit trees would have gotten off to a good start.
In a decade we’d have total abundance with perennial fruit trees and nut trees everywhere.
In a century we’d have permanent food forests so well established that posterity would never have to worry about how to feed themselves again.
Can Nature feed 10 billion people this way? Without a doubt.
In this alternative Now shelter is cheap and abundant, and you don’t need to take on a mountain of debt just to have roof over your head and a safe place to sleep.
Can Nature feed 10 billion people this way? Without a doubt.
The homes in this alternative Now are beautiful, and the people build their homes out of local, natural materials.
Materials that people have used for thousands of years to build shelter. Without mortgages, and without the threat of foreclosures hanging above everyones heads.
It’s all about systems
Now let’s go back to the example of the washing machine, because I brought it up for a reason.
A washing machine is a system, and just as the washing machine has freed up immense amounts of time – there are other kinds of systems that can do the same thing for us.
With the washing machine you have an input in the form of electricity. You get an output in the form of moving water and a spinning barrel that does a good job of cleaning clothes.
Nature is also a system. In fact it’s the most amazing and perfect system that exists on planet Earth. And it’s a system that is being massively under-utilised by the average human being.
Frankly, I think we’re being scammed. We’re being scammed by large corporations that want us to work for them so that we can pay for things that Nature has provided for free for billions of years.
Things like food and shelter.
These corporations have hi-jacked Nature. They take the fruits of Nature’s labor, slap on a branded label, and we happily shell out our money for it without thinking about where it came from and how it came into being.
Case in point, I bought some sea-buckthorn berries at the store the other day.
$3 for 250 grams.
Buying a sea-buckthorn bush on the other hand would cost me $16.
So I could buy 5 packages at the supermarket for a total of 1250 grams of berries, or I could buy and plant a bush in my garden that would provide a harvest for years to come.
I’ve heard of estimates of 3 kg berry yields per bush per year. Even if we slash that estimate in half I’d still break even after one harvest. After that point all future harvests are pure profit (disregarding maintenance).
Plus, buying a bush would allow me to propagate it and get more bushes which would multiply my harvest exponentially.
(Note: sea-buckthorn requires both male and female plants in a ratio of approximately 1 male to every 6 females. So I’d actually have to buy 1 male and 1 female plant.)
Do you see what I’m talking about?
To me this is a no brainer, and I’m actually going to plant 20 sea-buckthorn bushes this spring that will form a half-circle around the kitchen garden, with the opening facing south to trap the warmth from the sun.
Nature does not care who she works for
She does the work willingly and she does it for free, regardless of if you’re a single individual or a global corporation. All she ask is that you give her time (and some love).
So wouldn’t you want her to work for you?
Right now most of us work a job just so that we can buy the output of natural systems.
Right now it’s mainly big corporations that are profiting from these natural systems. And they’re doing a pretty good job at abusing and destroying Nature in the process.
Instead, imagine an alternative Now where you, me and everyone else reaped the full benefits of these passive, automated, amazing natural systems of abundance.
Don’t get me wrong, for most of human history it’s been hard work to be a farmer and till the soil.
But most of human history it’s also been a pain in the ass to wash your clothes, and look where we are now.
It’s all about designing better systems where you get more output in relation to your input.
Now more than ever we possess the knowledge to create those fertile and abundant food production systems.
This is an important aspect of permaculture design, and one way to create this abundant alternative Now is to make food production more passive and automated.
I think the design methodology in permaculture will play an important part in this, because one way to create this alternative Now is to make food production more passive and automated.
It doesn’t get more passive and automated than planting a tree and other perennial plants.
You plant the tree. You might water it during establishment. But when it has taken off, you just wait. You wait, and every year you stop by and pick up the fruits. You might prune it every now and then, but it’s mostly a waiting game.
And a tree is even better than a dishwasher, because it won’t add a cent to your energy bill.
Why I’m optimistic about the future
The bottom line is that I’m very optimistic about the future and about creating this alternative Now for myself and my family.
I don’t approach self-reliance from a standpoint of fear or because I think “the end of the world as we know it” is coming. I approach self-reliance from a standpoint of hope and strength.
When people hear the word self-reliance I bet many people picture think it means going back to how it was 200 years ago, or even longer.
But for me self-reliance is not about throwing out all the new and returning to the stone-age. Self-reliance is about being in control over my time and my life.
Self-reliance is independence, and independence is freedom.
I sure don’t plan on chopping up a hole in the frozen river to wash my clothes any time soon.
I do have plans to plant a bunch of fruit and nut trees in the coming years though.
And not long ago the first chickens arrived to the Walden Labs homestead and they have provided us with fresh eggs from day 1. That’s another living natural system that I’m sure I’ll come back to soon.
What do you think about this alternative Now? Would you prefer it over how things are today?
“Thanks to the dysfunctional monetary system that were allowed to be the foundation of their society and culture, these humans spent their days manufacturing and exchanging things with each other at an ever increasing rate until the economy and nature couldn’t take it anymore and the human civilization collapsed under its (ironically) imaginary weight.”
From the book “Planets we remember”, a bestseller in the galaxy. Released in the early beginning of the 21st century (when counting in earth years).
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it”
I just finished reading a short essay called On the Shortness of Life by Seneca the Younger, written to his friend Paulinus. This essay was written in 49 AD but could just as well have been written today, because Man has still not learned to stop wasting his most precious resource; time.
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
Every now and then I question if what I’m doing with my time is really meaningful, if it matters at all in the grand scheme of things, and to be honest I doubt it does. I’m not sure if anything you do really matters though.
I’m busy, that’s for sure, but am I busy about the right things? As Henry David Thoreau once said, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
Being busy about amassing fame or fortune are two things Seneca advise against because chances are that if or when you attain these things you realize that they’re not what you wanted in the first place, and by then you might already have reached the autumn of life.
I can certainly improve in this area and Seneca gives some useful advice, including taking more time for yourself and ponder the big questions in life. Live for yourself and not for someone else.
You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!
The #1 thing I took away from this short essay is this: Don’t put off plans into the future that you can start now. Because the future might look very different from what you imagine, in fact it might never even arrive. So whatever plans you have, whether it’s writing a book or taking up gardening or something else, figure out a way to begin now! Your future self will thank you(unless you’re chasing fame or fortune, in which case you might find out it’s not what you were looking for).
Want to learn how to build a cheap house? Look no further. Let me ask you; how would your life change if you never had to pay rent or interest on a mortgage again? I bet it would take a significant weight off your shoulders. It sure would for me.
You’re not alone, in fact today most people in “civilized” parts of the world don’t own their homes but are indebted to banks or rent from a landlord. But it has not always been this way, as Henry David Thoreau so truthfully writes in his book Walden:
In the savage (Native American) state every family owns a shelter as good as the best, and sufficient for its coarser and simpler wants; but I think that I speak within bounds when I say that, though the birds of the air have their nests, and the foxes their holes, and the savages their wigwams, in modern civilized society not more than half the families own a shelter. In the large towns and cities, where civilization especially prevails, the number of those who own a shelter is a very small fraction of the whole. The rest pay an annual tax or this outside garnment of all, become indispensible summer and winter, which would buy a village of Indian wigwams, but now helps to keep them poor as long as they live.
Is this the best humanity can do?
Is it impossible to imagine a future where humans, just as other animals, own their shelter free and clear and don’t have to pay a “tax” their whole lives just to stay protected from the elements?
Of course not. This is crazy!
In the list below you’ll find examples of homes that “savage” people throughout the world built with their own hands using locally available materials that Nature provided for free. No mortgage or rent required.
Most of the examples on this list are small house designs. They are small because a small house takes less fuel to heat, less time and building materials to build, and for some of the more portable designs a small home is much easier to move.
What you take away from this list is up to you, but I have no doubt there’s a lot to learn from how our ancestors lived in harmony with their surroundings and adapted perfectly to their environments, no matter how harsh.
1. The Tipi
Tipis (also spelled Teepees) are tent-like American Indian houses used by Plains tribes. A tepee is made of a cone-shaped wooden frame with a covering of buffalo hide, and originally they were up to 12 feet high. Like modern tents, tepees are carefully designed to set up and break down quickly. As a tribe moved from place to place, each family would bring their tipi poles and hide tent along with them.
Plains Indians migrated frequently to follow the movements of the buffalo herds, and it’s said an entire Plains Indian village could have their tipis packed up and ready to move within an hour.
2. The Lavvu
Sami family infront of their lavvu, 1900
The Lavvu has a design similar to a Native American tipi but is less vertical and more stable in high winds. It’s a temporary shelter used by the Sami people living on the treeless plains of northern Scandinavia, and it’s made of wooden poles which are covered in reindeer hides or, more recently, textile.
Modern designs of the lavvu have replaced the wooden poles with aluminium poles and heavier textiles with lighter fabrics. Today some people choose to heat the lavvu with an oven instead of an open fire and that has the benefit of producing less smoke, but it also produces less light making it quite dark inside.
3. The Wigwam
Wigwams, sometimes also known as birchbark houses, are Native American houses used by Algonquian Indians in the woodland regions.
These shelters are small, usually 8-10 feet tall, and they’re formed with a frame of arched poles, most often wooden, which are covered with some sort of roofing material ranging from grass, bark, brush, mats, reeds, hides or textile. The frame can be shaped like a dome, like a cone, or like a rectangle with an arched roof. The curved surfaces make it an ideal shelter for all kinds of conditions, and while wigwams are not portable they’re small and easy to build.
A first hand account from 1674 of Gookin, who was superindendent of the Indian subject to the Massachusetts Colony, says…
“The best of their houses are covered very neatly, tight and warm, with barks of trees, slipped from their bodies at those seasons when the sap is up, and made into great flakes, with pressure of weighty timber, when they are green….The meaner sort are covered with mats which they make of a kind of bulrush and are also indifferently tight and warm, but not so good as the former….Some I have seen, sixty or a hundred feet long and thirty feet broad….I have often lodged in their wigwams, and found them as warm as the best English houses.”
4. The Hogan
A hogan is the primary, traditional shelter of the Navajo people. It can be round, cone-shaped, multi-sided, or square; with or without internal posts; timber or stone walls and packed with earth in varying amounts or a bark roof for a summer house. Anything goes really.
The hogans of old are also considered pioneers of energy efficient homes: “Using packed mud against the entire wood structure, the home was kept cool by natural air ventilation and water sprinkled on the dirt ground inside. During the winter, the fireplace kept the inside warm for a long period of time and well into the night. This concept is called thermal mass.”
In 2001 the Hogan began seeing a revival with a joint-venture of a partnership involving the Navajo Nation, Northern Arizona University, the US Forest Service and other private and public partners.
5. The Burdei
The burdei dates back as far as 6000 years and it’s a type of half-dugout shelter somewhat between a sod house and a log cabin, usually with a floor that’s 1 – 1.5 meters under ground level.
This type of shelter is native to the Carpathian Mountains and forest steppes of eastern Europe but has seen use in North America as well by many of the earliest Ukrainian Canadian settlers as their first home in Canada at the end of the 19th century and by Mennonites from Imperial Russia who settled in the Hillsboro region of Kansas.
The March 20, 1875, issue of the national weekly newspaper Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper described the structures:
…is the quaint brand-new village of Gnadenau, where there are some twenty small farmers, who have built the queerest and most comfortable cheap houses ever seen in the West, and with the least amount of timber, being merely a skeleton roof built on the ground and thatched with prairie-grass. They serve for man and beast, being divided on the inside by a partition of adobe..
6. The Barabara
A barabara were the traditional shelter used by the Alutiiq people and Aleuts, the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands. Similar to the Burdei, the barabara lay partially underground like an earth lodge or pit-house so they could withstand the high forces of wind in the Aleutian chain of islands.
7. The Clochán
A Clochán is a dry-stone hut with a corbelled roof, commonly associated with the south-western Irish seaboard. Dry-stone is a building method where you use stones without any mortar to bind them together, and these structures get their strength from compressional forces and the interlocking of the stones.
Clocháns are most commonly round beehive huts and the walls are very thick, up to 1.5 metres. Some Clocháns are not completely built of stone, and may have had a thatched roof.
8. The Log Cabin
Some of the first log structures were built in Northern Europe many thousands of years ago, and they’re most commonly associated with Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
They’re built out of logs laid on top of each other horizontally, with notches at both ends to form weather tight corners. The thick solid wood provide much better insulation over a timber frame covered with skins, boards, or shingles.
With suitable tools and logs, a log cabin can be erected (and disassembled) from scratch in days by a family but it can stand for potentially hundreds of years. In fact, not far from where I live you’ll find one of Sweden’s best preserved old farms with log structures built in the 1700’s that’s still in good condition.
Just as with the Clochán, the log cabin gets its structural integrity from compressional forces, and a log cabin tends to slightly compress as it settles over a few months or years.
9. The Long House
Reconstructed long house in the Vikingmuseum in Borg, Vestvågøy/Lofoten, Norway
Longhouses have been built all over Europe, Asia and the Americas, but may be most commonly associated with the Iroquois tribes in North America, as well as with the Norse (better known as the Vikings) in Scandinavia.
They are built similarly to wigwams, with pole frames and bark covering. The main difference is that longhouses are much, much larger. Longhouses could be 200 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 20 feet high.
Smaller longhouses housed one or several multi-generational families while larger ones could house an entire clan– as many as 60 people!
10. The Bamboo House
Tahitian bamboo house, c. 1902
Not a house design but rather an excellent building material, bamboo has a high strength-to-weight ratio useful for structures. It grows fast, it’s light-weight, and is a sustainable source of building material.
In its natural form, bamboo as a construction material is traditionally associated with the cultures of South Asia, East Asia and the South Pacific, to some extent in Central and South America,
11. The Pueblo
Pueblos are adobe house complexes used by the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest. They’re modular, multi-story houses made of adobe (clay and straw baked into hard bricks) or of large stones cemented together with adobe.
A whole pueblo housing comples can house an entire clan, with each adobe unit being home to one family much like a modern apartment. These houses can last for dozens of generations or longer in a warm, dry climate.
12. The Earthen House
Turf house in Sænautasel, Iceland.
In the old days you’d find several types of earthen houses around the world, including Native American houses such as the Navajo hogans, Sioux earth lodges, pit houses of the West Coast and Plateau, as well as subarctic sod houses in Alaska, Canada and on Iceland in the Atlantic.
These are all semi-subterranean houses, sheltered by the surrounding earth on three or four sides with a roof on top. The main benefit of the earthen house is that you’re sheltered from both cold and wind by the earth, and if you face large windows towards the south you can potentially heat your home 100% passively from the sun.
13. The Igloo
Igloos are snow houses used by the Inuit (Eskimos) of northern Canada. Igloos are dome-shaped shelters built from the snow, with large blocks of ice set in a spiral pattern and packed with snow to form the dome.
You’d be surprised how warm an igloo can get when it’s freezing outside! “On the outside, temperatures may be as low as −45 °C (−49 °F), but on the inside the temperature may range from −7 °C (19 °F) to 16 °C (61 °F) when warmed by body heat alone.” – Cornell University, 2003
14. The Yurt
The yurt is a portable shelter used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia for at least three thousand years. You read that correctly. 3000 years. Wow.
Traditional yurts consist of an expanding wooden circular frame carrying a felt cover, and complete construction takes as little as 2 hours.
Not as ancient as the other shelters on this list, the walipini is still worth a mention because it’s such a simple yet brilliant idea, and it can be built for as little as $300.
A walipini is an underground greenhouse that lets you grow food year-round, and the idea was first developed in Bolivia, South America. It uses the same earth sheltering principles as many of the ancient house designs on this list.
What makes the walipini better than hoop houses and green houses? First, by locating the growing area 6’- 8’ underground you take advantage of the constant temperature of the earth below the frost level. Second, you can capture and store the daytime solar radiation in the surrounding earth which then radiates back into the greenhouse during the cold winter nights.
What Can We Learn?
You might not want to move into a tipi any time soon, but there are still a lot to learn from our ancestors.
These ancient house designs are better than modern homes in many aspects because they were adapted specifically for their environments. The homes in the Arizona desert looked much different from the homes in the Alaskan tundra, and nomadic people had different needs than agricultural people.
The point is that our ancestors were as One with their environments and co-existed with Nature. These people were native to the land, while modern man is more like an invasive species that does not know its place in Nature.
But, maybe most of all, these homes illustrate that the builders knew when enough was enough. They were clear about the purpose of building a home, i.e. to stay protected from the elements and have a safe place to sleep, rather than constantly expending their life energy on trying to build bigger and fancier homes.
Here’s a closing thought from Henry David Thoreau:
It is possible to invent a house still more convenient and luxurious than we have, which yet all would admit that man could not afford to pay for. Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less? Shall the respectable citizen thus gravely teach, by precept and example, the necessity of the young man’s providing a certain number of superfluous glow-shoes, umbrellas, and empty guest champers for empty guests, before he dies? Why should not our furniture be as simple as the Arab’s or the Indian’s?
The world is becoming more centralized, increasingly focused on economies of scale and transferring wealth to a tiny elite at the top of the financial system.
Yet, at the same time there is another movement that is actively working to decentralize the world.
The 21 decentralizing technologies and innovations in this list are all related to food, energy, water, shelter and waste and they are not designed to disconnect you from mankind, but rather, they integrate deeply with families, communities, societies, and all humans; in a bottom-up process rather than a centralized top-down structure.
Many of these technologies are open-source, some are high-tech and others are low-tech and low-cost solutions.
This list is far from exhaustive, in fact, the reader will discover that each of the technologies on this list is just the tip of a larger network of innovations. Thanks to the information available on the internet, the prospects of self-reliance has never been more real, and more achievable.
Planting crops in rows has a long tradition, but the paradigm is being challenged. It has been discovered that by planting in two-dimensional patterns allows for more plant growth in small spaces without crowding the plants. It is a simple concept but has powerful implications. By increasing the effectiveness of growing space: cost, time, water, and labor is decreased while increasing production. All of this is accomplished without chemicals. The best known founder is Mel Bartholomew and his book Square Foot Gardening.
A third of the world’s population lives in dense urban environments with no access to soil, yet, inspirational individuals have created window farms. This open source and do-it-yourself movement can add food to your plate and living spaces. The ways to adapt this technology are limitless and there is strong community support behind the project.
Getting foods to urban areas is a problem that many are trying to tackle, yet it is a serious issue. Most cities only have food reserves of less than four days. Plantagon is a concept to bring high-intensity farms into the city without a giant eyesore.
This is not a single technology but rather the gathering of many pasture based management practices and new technologies. Polyface Farm, run by Joel Salatin and crew, utilizes high-tech electric fences to mimic the natural grazing habits of animals that are impossible to replicate with full-time animal herders. The fences promote native grass growth and limit weeds. Plus, the cost is affordable compared to traditional barb-wire fences. These animals often get all their nutrition from the pasture, eliminating the need to sell to feedlots.
Cold frames and hoop houses solve the problem of how to grow food in the winter without the expense of a greenhouse. Greenhouse plastic mixed with bootstrapping can yield a solar heated environment that keeps frost-hardy plants healthy even in extreme climates.
Water is the essence of life, and that is very true in arid climates. The Warka Water project, aims to utilize a simple net within simple structures to collect water. Not only is the technology easy to use, it can utilize local building supplies and construction skills to collect safe drinking water.
Band-saw technology has existed for several decades but has become increasingly popular over the past five years. It allows for trees to be turned into quality lumber without a large investment. A single person can operate the mill and the equipment is easy to maintain. Small mills allow for environmental improvement to forests and a source of affordable lumber to those willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Many people are not interested in a large house, a lifelong mortgage and all the hassle associated with it, yet still want modern conveniences. The tiny house movement is a reaction to complicated structures and enormous “McMansions”, and tiny houses generally utilize the newest insulation, windows and small-scale heating to create open, yet efficient houses that are often built on trailers for easy movement.
WikiHouse is an open source construction set, and the aim is to allow anyone to design, develop, and ‘print’ CNC-milled houses and components, which can be assembled with minimal formal skill or training.
The Global Village Construction set is a truly inspiring and unique approach to decentralization for communities. Tools are the foundation to modern construction and Open Source Ecology aims to produce 40 of the most useful tools, such as tractors, and make it possible to construct them in a simple workshop. They include all the open source plans and materials while boasting to be 1/8th less expensive than industrial equivalents.
Thomas Jefferson designed his house at Monticello to be sufficient, starting with the collection of rainwater, diverting the water into cisterns below the ground to irrigate the surrounding food and flower gardens. Monticello was self-sufficient in many regards. New roofing systems are free of toxic materials have become popular and allow for self-sufficient water usage.
Planet Earth is mostly water, yet, most of it is saltwater and not useable for human consumption. That is why this open-source water distiller was designed. It allows saltwater to be desalinated with only sunlight. The simplicity of this design is what makes it powerful.
Water is a great medium of heat transfer and has been used for hundreds of years to power industry. With many advances in solar technology and the simple microchip, water can be heated directly by the sun to create hot water for radiant floor heating or hot water for the shower. No need to pay an electricity company.
Solar has been around for a while, but it is still powerful and captures the imagination of people across the world. Power from the sun that shines so relentlessly on the surface of the Earth. Although, solar poses challenges to large electric grids (sun does not shine at night) it is great for individuals and decentralized grids.
Wind power generation is not just for big projects, it is easy to implement for individuals. Small wind turbines are affordable, easy to install and supplement solar, in fact, the two power-sources work well in tandem. When the sun is not shinning, there is a good chance a wind is blowing due to the atmospheric disturbance that is causing clouds to cover the sky. Plus, two power sources are better than one.
Nuclear gets a bad wrap, because it is dangerous when it explodes. But strip mining for coal is also dangerous. A solution proposed by start-up technologies is to utilize reactors of small size, the smaller the reactor the easier it is to protect in case of problems; unlike the large reactor in Japan. The saying goes, small is beautiful, but small is also safer. Small reactors can power towns and emit no greenhouse gases, plus the size of the reactor limits damage in case of a meltdown. Decentralizing small reactors would be a positive move for a more robust grid and stopping climate change.
Around half of the world’s population heats and cooks with wood stoves, and these stoves are crude, producing smoke that damages the lungs of people over-time. Bio-Char Stoves allow people to cook with a hotter, cleaner heat due to an afterburner feature that reuses much of the gasses of a fire. After the fire is finished, a charcoal is leftover that is a perfect soil amendment for fields.
Fireplaces are nice, but they do not use small diameter pieces of wood to heat an entire house or cook a meal. Rocket stoves allow for a fire to fully combust an entire fuel source and create an impressive amount of heat in the process. By completely consuming the fuel, there is little smoke and rocket stoves can be easily used for cooking.
Biogas can be created in the back yard and produce enough gas to power a stove for cooking. Thanks to simple concepts and open-source technology more people are harnessing natural gas rather than buying propane in tanks. The uses of biogas are endless but creating energy from waste products can help whole communities pull the plug on imports of fuel for home use.
We do not often like to think about it, but we humans do produce waste – and that waste can be used for gas. Using a composting toilet system with a biodigester and a gas-collector, human waste can help heat a house and run a hot water heater. By using a resource that is flushed away, that waste can lower payments to energy companies.
Its always better to have animals do hard work for us, they do not require minimum wage and they work much harder than humans. Worms are no exception. Red worms and vermiculture take care of waste and produce the best soil for plants, without creating a compost bin. Red worm bins can be stored under the kitchen sink and since the worms are so effective there is no smell from the waste you throw away.
So that’s it, 21 technologies for decentralization. These are far from the only ones though. Let me know in the comments below if you think some innovation or technology should be on the list!
Those who control the meaning of words and can most effectively attach labels to individuals, those people have the power.
Priests have for long had this power over society and they used it well.
Many people were burned alive at the stake just because one of these words were assigned to them.
But no longer do priests have the power over words.
In this day and age we have to look to the media for that, to the so called “journalists” who see their mission in life to protect and uphold their western democracies when in truth those democracies are mere smoke screens covering up the fact that central bankers rule the world.
So what are the words used today to curse individuals and distort reality for the masses?
Assign one of these labels (curses) to a person, and you change peoples perception of that individual.
You instantly reduce a living human being down to a single word.
These curses are so powerful that for a large portion of the masses a cursed person simply ceases to exist. Because they’d rather die than be associated with the assigned label.
That’s propaganda for you.
That’s the power of words.
That’s the reality of today’s journalism (most of it anyway).
In the Age of Divide and Conquer, the media is just another weapon.
Rather than bullets and bombs they fight with words, and polarization is the goal.
But as long as you’re aware of the power of words, you’re immune to the curse.
And when you know how these curses work, it’s easy to recognize the real witches and sorcerers among us.