Jeffrey Sachs appeared yesterday on my consciousness radar and I’ve started consuming him. I just watched this engaging talk about his most recent book “The Price of Civilization”. I loved to see the word “virtue” (a personal context which will become more clear when I complete and release my Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance project) in the book and video title and I loved to hear an academic, especially of economics recognize and highlight it.
One core theme that came up was the legalization of corruption in American politics. As I was listening to this talk I thought about the corrupt state of Romanian politics and I actually found comfort. Romanian politics and its corruption are immature compared to their American counterparts. They are more visible, more simple, more direct … and therefore (should be) easier to identify and deal with. They are not hidden behind an enormous body of government, libraries of legislation and vast economic empires. Romania is, still, a beginner in these domains and the corruption should be easier deal with.
If nothing else then this elaborate lecture indicats that Romanian corruption is not as unique or severe a problem as it is often made out to be. I suspect that it is actually a lesser problem. I suppose a ruler of some kind gives measuring context.
I am not sure I agree completely with the thesis in Sam’s recent post (I would need to invest more time then I care to right now to reflect on it). I also don’t know who is currently the minority and who the majority but I know who I want the majority to be:
Because believe me, there are lots of good people here, from all nationalities and ethnicities and speaking all languages because I know them and I meet more every single week. We’re only in the minority because someone played a cruel trick on Romania long ago and convinced most of the population to include useless fools as being part of what makes up “we” when in reality they are the minority and so they are not us, they do not speak for us, they do not represent us and in no way have they ever demonstrated that they deserve to be included in our group.
Sorin Apostu and his ilk might speak Romanian, might have been born in Romania, might carry a Romanian passport but he isn’t one of us. And that’s why I don’t just say it but know that I am more Romanian than he is, because we, the positive, good, honest, moral people, we are Romania and he and all the corrupt, evil assholes can go fuck off. We are the ones who make this country a good place to live and so it is ours, not his. I don’t care what his papers say – he hasn’t earned the right to call himself a Romanian.
Honestly, I think this is true of many places in the world … I just happen to be more sensitive and affilated with Romania now then with other places 🙂
Today started grey and wet … a nice fall rain … light and long 🙂 I did not feel like going out at all … and so I didn’t … unti I felt like going out and so I went out … and the weather cleared and the sun came out and even some blue skies later in the day 🙂
I started in the workshop … I buit a platform on wheels … which is actually a part of the second rocket stove project. Before I can buid the new rocket stove I first have to move out the old metal stove which is very heavy (takes an effort for three strong guys to lift). So my idea is to leg by leg lift it onto the platform and then roll out it out … so that is done.
I then went on to chop some more firewood … filled and stored another wheel-barrow … and then went out to clean up and mulch another of the raised beds. I was happy to find yet another small batch of small tomatoes … perfect for the solar dehydrator … shoud we get a decent day of sun 🙂
And another day gone by:)
I am sitting happily warm after firing up the rocket stove for the first time this season. The past few nights have been cold here and I’ve had to do an imitation of Andreea (layers of clothes and a blanket) … well no more. I modified the rocket a bit and we have not applied finishing yet. I was worried that without the finishing some unwelcome gasses would be released into the room. So I fired it up today in the middle of the day when the house was still open and there was natural ventillation … and all is good … and I am warm … which is VERY good 🙂
Over the past few days I’ve watched as neighbors coppiced some very old willows. I have to admit I was a bit jealous because (a) of the amount of easy to cut down wood they took away and (b) because we hope that in the next few years to acquire that land and we kind of already view it as ours … and so … you get it 🙂
Anyways they left lots of willow cuttings … some quite large … and with their permission I took some of those cuttings and today planted a few on our property … a small boulevard 🙂 I gave it priority because the weather forecast includes rain in the coming days … and I wanted them to benefit from the rain. I still hope to go back and collect all of the cuttings left on the ground. That wood is negligent if you have a regular wood stove, but if you have a rocket stove (as we do) it’s great burning material.
I’ve also started work on the second rocket stove … the one that will hopefully heat our living room this winter (last year we spent most of the winter in one room). Yesterday I cut open the barrel and burned off the paint and the remains of whatever was in the barrel. Today I sanded it clean and it is ready to go. This rocket is going to a bit more complicated as it will include said radiating barrel and an additional “firebrick barrel” as a heat-battery that will also have a baking stove in it. I am also considering installing a water heating coil inside the rocket (though we will hook it up the water boiler only next year … long story).
I cut to cut more firewood everyday and we have quite a good winter-store ready to go.
Now dinner and a movie in a warm bedroom 🙂
I am finding space again to do some short daily updates … that signifies a good thing for me 🙂
Andreea is still away attending to another home-birth in Bucharest. There are signs that birth is nearing … so hopefully she’ll be home again in a few days (before heading out to another birth … and then another).
Today I finished assembly and finishing of our new winter door. It’s an outer door in addition to the existing door. Currently in its place we have a light summer-door – which is a framed net to keep flying things out during the summer. The new winter door is essentially a wooden box (though with a few neat, for me, tricks) which houses a 5cm thick layer of insulation. Maybe this year out kitchen won’t kitchen/hall won’t freeze like it did last year.
I’ve almost finished insulating the water pipes inside the house. It has turned to be a mean project. I had to take apart quite a bit (almost everything) to get the insulation on properly. This seemed to lead to a leak from the main water supply into the house (the whole thing was already fragile from freezing last winter) from both the main connection and from the flow-splitter attached to it. I’ve assembled a replacement assembly for this … now waiting for someone to be here with me so that I can disconnect the old assembly and put in the new one without pushing the water supply hose outside.
A couple weeks ago I finished insulation the grey-water line existing the house. Today I built an ad-hoc cover (from scrap wood) to our “hole-in-the-ground” grey water treatment facility. Next it will be covered by straw-bales and plastic to keep the rain off … so hopefully that doesn’t freeze either.
There is still some insulation work to do on the concrete man-hole boxes (one with the pump next to the well, the other where there the supply is splite to numerous destinations). A guy was supposed to come here today to help me do that (in exchange for some work I let him do in my workshop) …. he didn’t show up 🙁 Except for a few small touches that should keep us with running water through the freezing winter … I hope!
In the coming days I hope to resume the last big project for this year … the second rocket stove for our day-room (last year we spent almost the entire winter in the bedroom). I have almost all the materials … but I need to get back into the “rocket zone” to do this properly.
And all the time cutting more wood … some of it for this winter, some of it for future winters (unlike typical Romanians we prefer to feed our rocket stoves with dry wood).
Also collected another batch of dried apples from our solar driers … great stuff … if the sun comes out tomorrow I hope to get another batch in 🙂
Flock is fed and watered, dog are fed … I am hungry … so off to whip something up for dinner and take a load off.
This morning I came across this video via BucharestLife – it’s in Romanian so you may want to turn on captions (a “cc” button appears after play begins):
I happened to come across this because I live in Romania and a bit more attentive to it then other places in the world … but I imagine this is a scene that repeats itself many times all over the world … which just makes it all the more powerful. The behavior of the police was most disquieting.
It’s already quite obvious to most people that economic patterns we have taken for granted all of our lives don’t quite work for us. But I believe the problem goes much deeper then economics. Here we can see that the legal patterns we think protect and uphold society us are also collapsing.
I feel privileged to be witnessing intense evolutionary changes happening on so many fronts. And with that in mind I return again to Robert Pirsig’s insight on this subject:
If you don’t like our present social system or intellectual system the best thing you can do … is stay out of their way.
I am undecided about Paul Wheaton’s podcasts. Many (most?) times I feel like I need to patiently wait through annoying chitter-chatter … however I do occasionally come across ones that are interesting and valuable. I just finished listening to one of my all time favorites The Realities of Practical Permaculture – Dell Artemis Farm.
Very few things in real life are as they seem to be in the books (this is true for Permaculture and almost anything else I can think of). Theoretical knowledge is one thing and practical application a whole other thing. I think a warning about this gap should be placed in large bold type-face on every permaculture publication … kind of like the warnings they have on cigarette boxes. But this isn’t the case and as a result learning about permaculture and sustainability creates illusions … and those illusions come crashing down when you hit the ground … and that pain can be avoided or the fall softened. This podcast does just that. If you are thinking of embarking on a permactulrue-esque life … listen to this podcast.
Nothing is ever as easy as it seems to be in the books or articles or even classes. Circumstances (soil, climate, culture, finances, skills, resources …) trump theories every time. If you are not prepared to experiment and fail and experiment and fail … again and again … a lot … then don’t head out on this road.
I completely agree with the notion that self-sustainability is a bullshit notion which is more likely to lead to misdirection and frustration than to inspiration. There is practically no such thing as self-sustainability. You can move towards a more self-sustainable life but true sustainability can only be achieved within circles of community. Community is one of the most complex and mysterious concepts I have come across … don’t take it for granted.
For example: we built our hugelkultur beds in the spring. It was too late for them to absorb water and get us through the summer drought. Yet we did a few experiments and lost most of our produce … we learned a lot but produced very little food. We were able to do this by purchasing the food we needed from neighbors. Those neighbors are growing food in traditional farming with a lot of work and risks and depletion of natural resources. They are supporting our research efforts. Those research efforts will hopefully come up with alternatives methods of growing food which they will be able to learn from and adapt to their needs. That is community.
Infrastructures first. Every time. Andreea is dying to bring a couple of goats on the farm and I am constantly the bad guy (and also the one who shoulders most of the regular tasks that need to be done around here) by refusing to even consider it before we have the necessary infrastructures in place (pasture and paddocks, yearly food cycle and supply, water, winter sheltering …). Those infrastructures will take years to build (once we have the money to get some of them started). Infrastructures make the difference between a life of pleasant work and a life of slavery. I did not come here to become a slave.