WB: Questionnaire

Every Wednesday (so long as I don’t forget), I would like to share a poem from Wendell Berry. This man has influenced me more than any other outside of my immediate friends and family, and I hope to do a more solid piece on him in the near future. For now though, I present to you one of his more troubling yet powerful poems.

Questionnaire

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3) What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4) In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5) State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

From Leavings, 2010.

I once read this poem in a class presentation on Wendell Berry. A friend of mine, after the first question, asked what if she chose not to eat any poison? Similar questions were hopefully asked by everybody after each question. Lately, I’ve been wondering if it’s actually possible, in this hyper-consumer economy, to live in such a way as to not do any of the things listed in this poem. I’ve been challenging myself to live in such a way.

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Sunday Series: The Gloriously Unnecessarily Long Preamble

I have to give a confession. I am a Christian. Many of you already know this so this confession is completely unnecessary. Others of you may well be completely flabbergasted by the confession and will probably have to read the second sentence several times over to ensure that you read it correctly.

Because of this, because of me being Christian, and because my faith is such a vital part of my identity, I cannot help but acknowledge that this faith affects every part of my life, or at the very least, it should affect every part of my life. Naturally this will include my postings on the blog.

Sadly, I know the relationship many of my readers have with Christianity is not a positive one. Many of you have been hurt by those purporting to act in the name of Christ. I realize that some of you may be turned off by me simply mentioning the word. Please, if this is you, I ask you to bear with me.

I’m stuck in a difficult position. On the one hand, I want to be able to engage every one of my readers regardless of their faith choices. I don’t want anybody to feel as if they cannot come here, to follow my adventures and to share with me simply because they do not share the same faith as I do. As well, I very much would like to learn from others and their own beliefs, in order to grow in my own. To put it more colloquially: my tent is huge; and I want everybody to feel welcome.

On the other hand however, I cannot divorce my faith from my desire to live well in my place. My belief in God and my relationship with God directly affects, inspire, and shapes how I live. Which of course, is what this blog is about.

As a way to awkwardly deal with these two issues, I’ve begun this series, tentatively and unimaginatively entitled Sunday Series, as a way to more overtly discuss how I believe Christianity teaches me to live, specifically in relation to living within creation. This way, those readers who are interested in how I believe Christianity shapes my interactions with the natural world can do so while at the same time, those readers who would rather not get bogged down with reading about religion can easily skip over these posts, getting to the more interesting stuff that I will be posting throughout the week. In effect, the posts in this series will only ever be posted on a Sunday and will be clearly identified as being a part of the Sundays Series.

Now with that unnecessarily long preamble (those who know me will recognize my love and adoration for unnecessarily long preambles), I would also like to clarify a few things. First off, while the Sunday Series will be the only series that will be overtly Christian, I believe that everything I have posted thus far and hopefully everything that I will post will still be born from that part of my identity. Whether I’m speaking of biodynamic garden techniques, sharing a bread recipe that I recently came across, or showing pictures of a hootenanny that I recently attended, I believe all these things come out my identity as a Christian. I simply promise not to overtly speak in Christian terms.

The second thing that I have to ask is borrowed from theologian N.T. Wright. I ask for readers to approach me with a hermeneutic of trust. It is very likely that when I am dealing with Christianity, I will not discuss a particular issue within it that you feel is very important. I’m asking you to trust that I do not believe that the issue is unimportant. I am simply trying to focus on one aspect of a multi-faceted and incredibly complicated subject. If you would like me to address something, I certainly invite you to either comment on the blog itself or on Facebook, or, if you would prefer, just shoot me a personal message. I would be more than happy to discuss anything with you.

The final thing that I want to point out, arguably the most important thing that I will ever say, something that I want to emphasize constantly… is that I live in a tent. There are two ways you can look this. First you can consider me a modern day prophet, living wild-eyed in the forest spending my days listening for the whisper of God among the trees. Alternatively you can consider me a man who desperately needs to get his life together. Either, I think, would be at least partially true. So please, always remember that all my opinions are the opinions of a man living in a tent. Take them, at the very least, with a grain of salt.

In the next entry (not sure when exactly I’ll post it), I’ll be discussing whether or not I consider myself a Christian environmentalist. Short answer?

No.

Sincerely, Adam

Introduction: Part 3 of 3ish

Wow. It’s been too long since the last update. Winter has begun up in Thunder Bay, and as such I’ve been feeling a little bit rest-full as of late. I ask for your grace dear reader when I inevitably miss an entry or two.

Sometime in either late December or early January (depending largely on weather and on my post-Christmas-dinner coma) I’ll be heading onto a one acre field on Russet House Farm and laying down a wooden floor. Upon this floor, I will be erecting a wall or prospector style tent, which will form my accommodation for all of 2014.

I should at this point give the kudos (or possibly the blame) for this idea to Nick Cotter and Brad Farrish, two good friends of mine who proved that it could be done when they pulled it off over a winter semester a few years back. When I was considering this possibile living scenario, both were invaluable for encouragement and advice, and I probably saved myself a fair bit of trouble by listening to them.

The tent is large. 14 feet by 16 feet large. I really struggled with what size of tent to get. The major disadvantage of a tent of this size is that I’ll never be able to use it for backcountry winter camping, at least not without a snow machine and trailer with which to pull it. It is just too heavy for a toboggan. The big upside for me is that it is so big that it will be extremely livable. I can even put a full sized mattress in it (somethings that I’m definitely planning on doing). I decided that, for my immediate purposes, it was best to go with something that will give me room to move about, that enabled me to have guests over in relative comfort, and that was large enough to help me avoid feelings of claustrophobia.

My tent was made by Capital Canvas, a company based out of Victoria, British Columbia. Other than some issues with shipping which have since been resolved, I have been really impressed with the quality, service and price ($1400 for the tent, poles, an extra tarp AND shipping… considering how heavy the tent and poles are, the shipping could not have been cheap).

I picked up the stove this past weekend when I attended the North House Folk School’s Winterers’ Gathering (more on this soon!). The stove was made by Don Kevilus of Four Dog Stoves. I’ve had the privilege of meeting him several times over the last few years and I have a lot of respect for him and his craft. The stove is the biggest one he makes, something that will be very helpful keeping me warm throughout the winter and includes a four gallon water jacket which fits on the side so that I’ll always have hot water on hand (more than enough for a cup of tea and some washing water).

I was really hoping to post a picture, but the tent is currently drying in my basement and I was too tired to set it up. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of pictures in the new year. I have also decided to begin a new series next year, highlighting the more technical aspects of some of my equipment, where I’ll also share some very exciting news about a great partnership that I’m in the process of finalizing.

Next week, I’m going to be beginning a couple other series, and will also be reminiscing fondly on this year’s Winterers’ Gathering. That’s right… possibly THREE posts! (Though when I say that… I’ll probably cut it down to two.)

I hope you are all able to enjoy the snowy weather this week, that is if you’re living in a place that has snow. If not I will gladly enjoy the weather for you.

Sincerely, Adam.

Introduction: Part 2 of 3ish (con’t)

Last week I discussed the people with whom I’ll be living with next year. This week, I’ll be describing the place itself. For those of you who are patiently waiting for me to finish introducing my plans for next year (which, quite honestly includes myself at this point), I’m hopeful that Part 3 will be a single post…  which means we are almost finished this series!

Russet House farm is named after the Russet apple tree that sits prominently in the middle of the garden. It’s been there for a very long time and is nearing the end of its life, though it still provides a few apples every year. The prior owners of the property were very interested in sustainability, and used their farm to model and to teach many different technologies. The house itself was originally built in the late 1800’s, though it has been renovated and added to throughout the years. It is completely off-grid, powered entirely by a photo-voltaic system and heated via a beautiful old wood stove situated in the old farm kitchen. A solar water-heating system is perched on the roof of the house and a small wind turbine stands majestically in the garden… though neither of them currently work (Brian and Sylvia are not convinced that the solar water system ever actually worked, and they have found almost all of the magnets from the wind turbine in the garden over the years, magnets which should, ideally, still be located in the turbine itself).

When Brian and Sylvia bought the land several years ago, they originally purchased it with a community of people, though not everybody necessarily lived there. Instead, it was used as a “meeting place” of sorts, with a beautiful little cob cottage being used for sabbaticals and as a writer’s cabin, and the land itself being used to host a number of different conferences. Through the years, all the other owners left for a variety of reasons, and Brian and Sylvia are now the sole owners of it. Much of the land is still forested, with trails winding through it and little hidden surprises awaiting those with eyes to see.

The farm is primarily a market garden, and Sylvia is dreaming of implementing permaculture methods in the near future. The garden is having a form of sabbath, as the farmers are taking a break to focus on the book that they are writing together. They are still working the land, just not as intensively, giving a much needed rest to both it and to themselves. They have a small herd of cattle (one cow and two steers when we visited, though they have possibly slaughtered one of the steers by now), a few ducks for eggs and a couple of horses for their daughters to ride.

The neighbourhood nearby has deep significance for my family, specifically on my father’s side of the family. Not too far away is the remnant of the cabin that my great-grandmother was raised in, and also the place that my grandmother grew up on. A few kilometers up the road from where I’ll be staying is a farm that my father spent many summers as a boy working on, a farm that my aunt and her family lived on not too many years ago. I remember spending a week or so there every summer for quite a while.

A short bike ride away (or run, or walk) is the Victoria Trail, a converted rail trail that conveniently (for me) goes directly into Lindsay, giving me a beautiful way to commute to school every day. Even better, it goes straight through the Ken Reid conservation area, an area I am really looking forward to exploring and getting to know. The land is near Sturgeon Lake, which is part of the Trent Severn waterway, which, hopefully, I’ll be canoeing on as soon as the ice is clear.

I could go on with more details, but I think that, for now, I have set the stage of where I’ll be staying well enough, while giving myself ample room to explore specifics and expand on many of these themes as I discover more about them. Next week, I will hopefully be sharing the end of the Introduction series.

Adam