Truth Against the World

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Foxstead

Before the Foxstead existed in my mind, it existed in William Hunter Duncans mind (granted it wasn't called a foxstead in his mind, and it was just a pipe dream). Then along came another member of the Doomstead Diner, Roamer. One day Roamer decided to start a thread titled the "Community Owned Doomstead," and the foxstead rapidly emerged as a viable response to the world that the trifecta of Peak Oil, economic carnage, and our changing climate are assuring that we will inherit. I experienced the bubbling up of this idea that has become the foxstead as synchronicity in my own life. It came at the one year anniversary of my resignation from the Matrix. Up untill shortly before this thread, I had been trying to establish myself as a permaculturalist in the Palookaville sector of Whoville (not that I'm anywhere close to qualified for that title, but permaculture ain't exactly a household idea in Whoville). I saw the foxstead as destiny, and I still do. I saw my bliss delivering me the help that I needed to address our civilizations predicament. It was giving me other people to help and share the vision. That was the missing link for me. I was a lone ranger with no help, and out of nowhere help appeared to be arriving.

Initially Roamer was looking to locate the foxstead somewhere in the upper mid-west. No sooner than I showed interest in the idea, Roamer coughs up a connection for a location for the foxstead 47 miles away from my house. 150 acres in the hills outside of Appalachia complete with a spring fed pond (which some call a lake...to me it was a large pond). Within a week GM (Gypsy Mama, my wife and member of the Diner) and I were on our way to check the land out on the ground. The land owners were a couple who had been married for 30 something years. Jason was 71 years old, and his wife (later to be dubbed "Cat Food Carol") was 61. They were looking to leave the land to a trust made up of people who would ensure that it would never be developed. That it would remain a sanctuary for flora and fauna. GM, my son's Zen, in-utero Tribann and I walked the land. It was nothing short of perfect for the foxstead location. After we walked the land we all sat in their off grid reclaimed barn turned home and talked about the prospect for a foxstead on their land.
Zen and Dad

The only issue that emerged during that first meeting was the fact that Cat Food Carol wanted the land to be a vegetarian utopia. A place where her cats get to eat as much highly processed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation floor sweepings turned cat food as they could stuff in their fat cat bellies, while the foxstead crew all chewed on pine needles for sustenance during the starving times. However, during this first meeting I had a chance to corner Cat Food Carol in a trap of her own hypocricy. "I see that you feed your cats meat! So it's alright for cats to eat meat but not humans? Is that what you are saying?" She had told me that her concern with slaughtering on the land was the karma she would acquire by allowing it to happen. "I mean, if karma is your concern it seems sort of strange that you are buying meat to feed your cats. Doesn't that incur at least an equal amount of karma related to death and the killing of animals by humans for food?" She hemmed and hawed for a minute and then miraculously her phone rang "saved by the phone" is what she said as she scurried off to her get out of hypocrisy free moment with a large shit eatin' grin. There was much to talk about, and so Jason and I continued the conversation in a different direction. You see, Jason wasn't concerned about the vegetarian utopia, just that the land be stewarded responsibly. When Carol came back to the conversation it was already on the question of how many people they would be cool with living on their land. I told them that 10 able bodied men along with their families would be a good estimation for our group. That would be around 40 people. Neither one of them so much as blinked at the idea. They had no problem with it. After that first day, I mistakenly figured, given that Carol was at least open minded enough to allow a conversation in which her hypocrisy was challenged, that we could come to an arrangement on the vegetarian issue that would work. She wasn't trying to make the foxsteaders vegetarian, she just didn't want any "slaughter on the land." That's exactly how she put it. She didn't care if we bought meet at the store and ate it on their land...she just didn't want any slaughter.
Jason and I walking the land on the first visit

The foxstead crew talked about it and we figured we could just sell the excess bulls off when we needed to cull. We thought there was a way to work around this one issue since it was the only issue. Outside of Cat Food Carols delusion about how life works, what with requiring death for life and all, it was beyond perfect. I should have seen through her shit, but I didn't. I called Roamer and told him to come on down to check it out in person. I told him that I didn't think the vegetarian issue was an unworkable impasse. It turns out my judgment of Carol's character was dead wrong. I thought her heart was in the right place, and that she was reasonable and logical enough to see that she was being unreasonable. This one decision was a mistake. GM knew it to. She tried to tell me on the drive home that her intuition didn't feel good about Cat Food Carrol. I assured her that we could make the foxstead work here. We had to make it work. My desire to meet the challenges of the trifecta were overriding my sound judgment. I couldn't see that at the time. There was simply too much synchronicity occurring for this to not be the location of the foxstead.

The next week Roamer flew down to have a look at the land in person. Roamer, his girlfriend, and my family met near the land at a coffee house so that we could meet in person before going to the property (as far as I know this is the first time that two Diners have met in person...which if nothing else at least made the Diner a bit more real in reality. Roamer has since been to my house for beer, brauts, and conversation around my fire pit). Our group chemistry was amazing. Zen even sat at a table and played with chess pieces and a deck of cards by himself while we talked (he's two and a half). After a couple of hours visiting at the coffee shop, we drove on to the property. When we arrived the previous stewards were there (a couple with a 3 year old daughter whom I will call the Stewards). They had left the land, along with leaving their tiny house, for a farm down the road that was paying them 10 dollars an hour. GM was picking up overwhelming distress signals from Mrs. Steward that were directed at us and pertaining to Cat Food Carol. I was too interested in Carols complete 180 in attitude to notice her signals.

For about ten minutes everybody introduced themselves and several conversations got going. The vegetarian issue came up again, only this time Cat Food Carol had a different tone. It was now an unmovable and ideologically rigid position. Now, any goats or sheep that we may need to cull would have to be done in an impossible way. Now she was saying that the only way she would allow us to keep livestock on the land, you know to build soil to assist in growing food for human consumption, would be if we placed all of the piss scented billy goats in a home where they would be "pets". Meanwhile, my son Zen, grabbed that beautiful little girl's hand (the 3 year old daughter of the Stewards) and they walked off into the forest together. All present melted with the beauty of that moment. It seemed an amazing omen. Filled with hope from watching my son and his first girlfriend loving each other, I sat Cat Food Carol down to get to the bottom of the issue, since it was the only issue with the potential to stop the foxstead.

This is how I addressed the issue. "I understand where you are coming from Carol. I was a vegetarian once for a year due to spiritual reasons. I know what that's about. And I promise you that we will respect your wishes." I was giving her my best seriously pious look while looking into her eyes...I meant what I said and I wanted to ensure that she knew that. "However, I just need to know that in the event our group is starving you will allow us to start low on the food chain if need be. For instance, we could start by just fishing the pond (a pond that they had stocked years before), eating frogs, or perhaps squirrel. Maybe even just one of our chickens." By this point others in the group had heard the conversation, grown interested, and had come over to be a part of it. I want to be clear that we would only do this if we were starving. "Would you be okay with us harvesting from the land if we were starving?" To which she replied, "no, I don't think I would be. I believe that our species is going to have to evolve to a point where we no longer need to eat our brothers and sisters." What could I say to that? I said nothing. Ironically, just after this conversation she wanted to show Roamer and I her studio (she's a painter), and while she was showing us around she opened up a container of dead animal and fed her cats...right in front of us. She looked me in the eyes as the ground up, god knows what organs, hit the paper plate. She had no shame. Behind her I noticed a pile of about 500 of these cat food containers that were empty.

Shortly after this incident, while walking the land, Jason took Roamer and I off to the side to tell us something important. "I know my wife is unreasonable with her vegetarian requirements, and I want you guys to know that I'll do everything I can to help mitigate her. If it were up to me I'd let you guys do this however you wanted to." Just after telling us that he told me that he had "memory problems." I investigated further and was able to determine that he had been diagnosed with Dementia. It was at that point that I realized this would never work. There is a lot more I could say about what happened that day, like the ruins that we saw on the property, but the point is to just illustrate what happened and why the foxstead did not come to exist. GM and I had to leave before Roamer and his girlfriend because I had homework as well as two exams to study for the next day.

During the time the Diner thought it was going to have a home for it's foxstead, a lot of plans were made. There was a lot of hope and a lot of dreaming going on. But what were we hopeful for and what were we dreaming about? We were hopeful that there could be a way forward that doesn't depend on BAU in a dead paradigm. Apparently thinking that growing food without petroleum inputs is possible, is a delusion. Well, that is if you don't have money to buy land. That's what it has come down to. The foxstead has been stopped dead in it's tracks just now because of money. The one thing that is fit to explode into pointlessness over mismanaging the resources of an entire planet. The one thing that is collapsing as I type. The one thing that doesn't matter at all where nature and it's processes are concerned. The one thing that there is an overabundance of just now that could easily buy the foxstead location. That's the one thing that's stopping the vision that is the foxstead from happening.

So what is the foxstead? There are many projects and ideas composing the foxstead. Just for something to grasp and invision, I'll paint a picture of what it could be given the foxsteaders are helped rather than hindered. Imagine a greenhouse that is dug out into the earth. Inside this "greenhouse" is many methods of generating heat. Rocket mass stove, large containers of rainwater to collect the sun's energy passively (as well as strategically placed thermal mass like stone), and compost, and all of this emitting heat. The heat will rise and travel through a series of turbines that will generate electricity. Around this structure, this earth work power plant, will be dwellings built inexpensively with materials that are resilient. The homes will get heat, electricity, and hot water all from the power plant. Outside the homes will be many gardens kept by the inhabitants of these homes. These gardens will not require petroleum inputs. Further out from these gardens will be pasture for raising livestock via intensive grazing. Still further out will be agroforestry producing food for the foxsteaders in the forest surrounding the foxstead. There will also be hydroponics and aquaponics using surface water on the land, as well as many other types of renewable power generation such as small scale wind and microhydroelectric. All of this exists in the minds of the foxsteaders. All of this needs to exist but it's birth is being stunted by money and a dead paradigm. All of this could easily be a reality given the right amount of money (and not much either...probably in the neighborhood of $100,000 would buy the land and leave us with enough money to build the power plant and get a hydroponic operation off the ground).

The foxstead is a chance for hope to arise in the now. All that we want to do is to address the energy constrained reality that we're already in. Rather than just resign ourselves to the dominant reality of fukitol and the rat race. Rather than waiting to be stuffed back into the Matrix and it's hologram, we are daring to dream that something else is not just possible but desirable and likely. A way forward that has a future and who's reality doesn't hinge on expensive fossil fuel energy. There is no reason the foxstead can't exist in reality. The only thing stopping it is money and the fact that even the would be foxsteaders are rapidly loosing hope. The foxstead is the right thing to do for the sake of the Earth and humanity. Somebody has to rise up to the challenge to lead those of us paying attention into a workable solution to our predicament. The goal of the Diner is to "save as many you can." If you know that there is a reason to be saved, than why are you not helping the solution to our predicament to descend down from our collective mentalscape and into reality.

If we do not address the fact that BAU is dead, and then address the solutions to that knowledge, than we are just so many zombies just like the rest of them. We might as well crame fukitol down our throats, let the Diner die, and get on with the death that is assured for our children by a destructive BAU. I hopeless landscape ruled by chemical poison, a dead ocean, no trees left in the Amazon, and no air left to breath. These are the stakes that the miniscule thought of the foxstead are up against. For my part, I'm refusing to give up on the foxstead. I've seen no better solution, and I've got children. My children need something to believe in. They need something worth caring about and hope for our species. What about your children? Don't they need the same thing? I'm still waiting for the help we need to make the Foxstead a reality. If you don't agree with this solution than please offer something up. I'm all ears.

The fact is that we can't afford to ignore what are collective apathy continues to allow as reality. We have to do something while we still have the fuel to do it, and so what are we waiting for? Another Cat Food Carol and her delusional delusions of a world where life can exist without death? Or rather a world where life no longer exists on Earth because death has become complete. Where it was made possible because we were to scared to live. To afraid to take responsibility for what it means to be awakened to our predicaments. What does that make us? Knowing what will happen if we don't do something and yet continuing to do nothing. Talk is cheap. We need to redouble our efforts and yet we are giving up. Where are all of those helping hands that are supposed to arrive when you follow your bliss Joseph Campell? You're dead now...can't you put a good word in for us?

You can find out more about the Foxstead Project at the Doomstead Diner.

The above link will take you to the "Community Owned Doomstead" thread in the Doomstead Diner's forum.  Where the idea was born. 



8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did you read about the family in Siberia that lived out of the world for forty years? It's been in the news over the past months. Such things can happen in Siberia -- and could happen again for our purposes in Canada -- because there's still true wilderness in those places. The question then becomes whether you're sufficiently convinced by your own prognostications to make a similar break with life-as-it's-lived. Are you the fellow who's doing nursing? Nursing certification would get you across the border -- and even into reasonably remunerative employ, in way-out places where the public health system has difficulty recruiting medical professionals. And crown land is effectively free, ahundredbucks/year to lease, no deed, or you can get title to it after some amount of time by developing it for agricultural purposes. Not all provinces have crown available. I've found zero interest in off-grid living here (my area of Canada), despite all indications that hard times are coming; in a province that produces exactly 3% of the food it consumes (and that an exaggeration, because the chicken and dairy agribusinesses the provincial government counts as local produce are in fact raised with bought-in feed and seasonal Jamaican labour); and despite the fact that it's eminently possible for an individual or group content with a sufficiency to live abundantly of joy here. If you were to relocate, a medic, legally and gainfully employed, and claimed crown, and then 'hired' your peers, then they would probably eventually become eligible for naturalization, and be able to claim crown themselves. And so your garden would grow. I'm suffocating for like minds, but I'm not remotely leaving this area where I can claim crown -- and it would be so much easier if there were several households sharing the expense and labour of one bull to service all the family cows -- or lose myself in wilderness if things get too desperate. Something to consider.

Anonymous said...

PS There are foxes here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the enjoyable article. That Zen is one handsome little devil. I guess he got his looks from GM. Just kiddin' - I think I remember reading that you're 6'4" and pretty sturdy. Must be the hot sauce.

I have faith that...er, let me try again. I have confidence that you'll make the Foxstead happen. The four of you guys that are "on the ground" are all very smart and I can tell you personally know there is no future in the rat race and Matrix existence. I'm 52 yrs old and I guess I have to stay in the rat race as long as I can. I can tell you (as you probably already know), it is getting worse and more difficult to tolerate as time ticks away. Thanks again.

-Joe

Joe_from_NC said...

Thanks for the enjoyable article. That Zen is one handsome little devil. I guess he got his looks from GM. :-) Just kiddin' - I think I remember reading that you're 6'4" and pretty sturdy. Must be the hot sauce.

I have faith that...er, let me try again. I have confidence that you'll make the Foxstead happen. The four of you guys that are "on the ground" are all very smart and I can tell you personally know there is no future in the rat race and Matrix existence. I'm 52 yrs old and I guess I have to stay in the rat race as long as I can. I can tell you (as you probably already know), it is getting worse and more difficult to tolerate as time ticks away. Thanks again.

-Joe

Anonymous said...

great one, Lou. as far as i'm concerned, if you lower that 100K estimate down to 70k we got our 'prospectus' right here. deez nutz baby. we might already be at 50K for the newton county option. i personally think we should keep the 'prospectus' to a land-based investment. RE's good for 10K which will cover hydroponics and geo dome but probably even the full aquaponics system. bellows 2.0 earth works is 500 bones like roamer said.

so we're just about good to go.

joe, you're still a spring chicken. that is no excuse ;). the way you phrased it, without alluding to family circumstances prohibiting you from steading, requires me to tell you that it is me and Lou's job to provide the balance of hard labor. Lou'll dig i'll log, Lou'll log i'll dig.

to the canadian up top, thanks for the lead. dunno if you're familiar with ocean falls, BC, but that was previously under consideration but the residency/visa issues seemed like an unnecessary risk. what sort of timeframe would you put on the naturalization process in your scenario?

-reanteben

Jason Heppenstall said...

That's just too bad with Cat Food Carol. I've met her type before - let's call her Dog Food Debbie. Working in the jungle in Guatemala rehabilitating endangered wildlife snatched for the pet trade. we worked 7 days a week and ate rice and beans for six of them. On the 7th we were given some chicken - much to the displeasure of DFD, who was from Australia.

Still, I can't call her a hypocrite. She claimed to own cats that she had force converted to veganism, feeding them tofu and the like - only trouble was they kept escaping into 'the wild' and gorging on birds.

Keep looking for the Foxstead - it'll turn up eventually, I'm sure.

maureenlycaon said...

The way I see it, your *first* try just didn't pan out. Not your fifth or your 50th or your 500th, but just your first.

Maybe the only thing to do is to try to track down a second chance. Given my own life and choices, I may not be the best person to be saying this, but . . . it's just a thought.

Martin said...

Seems it's always 'the money' (or lack of it) and/or some other unimagined hiccup that does things in.

Back in the early '70's, my then wife, our daughter and I attempted to put together a similar community on a 20-acre piece that we had purchased.

The idea was that we'd sell 'shares' (and/or give 'credit' for hands-on hours put into the place) to a few selected friends in order to construct a dwelling large enough to house us all as a 'family' and to begin the task(s) of making the place more-or-less self-sufficient.

At first there was a lot of enthusiasm for this, but there was little in the way of shares purchased (two people came up with about $500 each) and, as time wore on, less and less effort was put in by others who had pledged to do so.

Anyway, after about five years, we (my ex, our daughter and I) were the only ones left - only the excavation for the dwelling was in place (we were living in an 8' x 35' wood-heated travel trailer) and the well dropped to about 1 gallon/hour due to new wells being drilled downslope from our place.

We sold the place (at a money profit) to a surgeon who wanted an 'escape pod', paid back our 'investors' (including the 'hands-on' ones) and moved back into town, lesson learned.

It could have worked, but there was too much dreaming and too little commitment - and a great shortage of long-term thinking.

Anyway, I wish you and your's Good Luck with Foxstead.