5 Years

Once again, the blog has been neglected for months. The main reason for this is the amount of time and energy that I’ve had to focus on the final capstone project for a degree I’ve been steadily chipping away at the requirements of for the past eight years. The final project, the culmination of both an intense 16-week class and the whole 8-year journey, has been submitted and now I have only to await a grade. Hopefully, once I catch up some on the many projects around the house that have also been put off due to the class, I will be able to write more. But tonight it is raining, so I have an excuse for writing rather than working on one of my many projects waiting outside.

I didn’t even write the week of my birthday, which is very unusual. This year my birthday came and went with much less reflection on life and goals than typical. Of course, that week an important assignment was due for my capstone project, so my focus was not on the birthday. Now that I have time to think and look back, it amazes me how much has changed from my birthday five years ago to my birthday this year.

On my birthday in 2015, I had not yet met Courtney. Now, not only are we married, but we have three children and a fourth on the way. In 2015, I had never yet stepped foot in an Orthodox Church, yet today I am the father of cradle Orthodox children. In 2015, I rented a room in a 2-bedroom condo. Since then I bought a house, sold it at a profit, and bought another house with more land. In 2015, I had never killed, gutted, skinned, or butchered a deer. Now I am asked to teach others these skills. In 2015, the management of the condos where I rented a room prevented me from growing a few vegetables. This year, we have a separate garden just for potatoes and onions.

In 2015, I was almost ready to give up on having a family. Five years made an incredible difference. Over the next five years, I hope to build further on the foundation established over the past five. I hope to move us closer and closer to self-sufficiency. I still need to get much better at fishing, to establish more gardens, and possibly move again to a larger property where we can have some farm animals, along with countless other projects. I hope to document this journey here.

Hopefully, the next update in this journey will be soon.

Finally! A Footwear Solution for Women and Children

The challenge when it comes to men’s footwear is deciding which of the many excellent Made in the USA boots to buy. The challenge for women’s and children’s footwear is the opposite. While a few of the companies that makes men’s boots also make some women’s boots, with the notable exception of Red Wing’s Clara (which is very pricey), these are simply sized down men’s boots, and not at all feminine. The options that are actually made for women (excepting boots for equestrian purposes) tend to be shoddily made of pleather or cloth. And Courtney likes to wear flats, which seem to be ubiquitously made out of cheap fabric.

Elgin’s first boots

Boys boots are no better. When Elgin was little, he would refuse to wear shoes. We finally got him to wear shoes when we bought a pair of work boots for him at Sears. They looked good at first, but were pleather and he managed to wear them out before outgrowing them despite how fast he was growing. He went through a few more pairs of those boots, because he would actually wear them, and we eventually found that he would wear rubber boots (or as he calls them “poop boots”) as well. And so, for the last few years, Courtney and Elgin have worn footwear that rather quickly deteriorated. Edna fared better–she was passed down a pair of crocs that seemed to wear quite well, and she wore them until she grew out of them. Crocs seems like a good play shoe for her, but as she’s gotten older I’ve become less comfortable with her wearing them for church on Sunday, or on other more “dressy” occasions.

Elgin’s boots
Edna’s shoes are just like Mommy’s

Well, it seems that we’ve finally found a solution. Courtney came across a company called Adelisa & Co. that sells women’s and children’s shoes that are handmade in Nicaragua out of genuine leather. While I would prefer to buy Made in the USA, handmade in Nicaragua is much better in my opinion than machine made in China. The leather is relatively thin, which makes the shoes and boots softer. Edna wore her shoes to bed the first night or two after she got them. Elgin has been wearing his boots every day, and they have not seemed to need a breaking in like thicker leather boots typically do.

If you’ve been looking for a better solution for women’s and children’s footwear, give Adelisa & Co. a try. Prices are reasonable, with Courtney’s shoes at $65, Edna’s at $45, and Elgin’s boots at $55. They have a variety of other styles available as well, including a simple Oxford that looks equally good on boys and girls.

Resource Update + Teasers

I’ve added some links under the resources page, and added more categories to keep everything streamlined. Blogs are now divided into categories, mirroring those for books except for the elimination of the fiction worth reading category and the addition of a technology category. The new technology category has 2 new resources, Low-Tech Magazine and No Tech Magazine. These are related blogs/webmagazines that deal with some of the problems of modern technology and low-tech solutions to common problems–interesting and inspiring reading.

I’ve also added a podcast page to the resources. I’m not a huge podcast guy, and the only podcasts I listen to are about Orthodoxy, so I didn’t bother adding categories for podcasts. I’ve included three excellent resources here. The first is Holy Archangels Orthodox Foundation, which host a wealth of talks, lectures, and homilies by Metropolitan +JONAH. I recently finished the series on contemplative prayer, and learned a lot in the process. The other two, The Arena and From the Amvon, feature homilies by Fr. Josiah Trenham and Fr. John Whiteford respectively.

Now for the teasers: 3 potential new resources! I recently ordered shoes for my wife and oldest daughter, and boots for my son, from a new company I’ve run across. For awhile now I’ve been frustrated, because while its fairly easy to find made in the USA from genuine full-grain US leather boots for men, I’ve found nothing similar for women or children–until now. I’m waiting to inspect the product, but I may have found the solution to cheap, shoddy shoes for women and children.

Second, I’ve been in touch with a friend from high school who has an extensive background in vegetable farming, including intensive production. He is starting a garden mentorship program in which he helps you with all things garden. Layout, varieties, pest problems, all this and more! Unfortunately, the program does not have any current openings, but I have asked him to let me post here when new openings are available, which will likely be this fall or next spring. You, my readers, will be the first to know when the program is available.

Finally, I’ve been in touch with a different friend from high school, who is in the beginning stages of a business selling fabric. If you’re like us, you buy fabric for kid’s clothes at least twice a year, and I always try to get enough for Courtney to make one or two new dresses for herself every year too. My friend is working on getting some USA made natural fibers, and I’ll post a write-up here when that’s a reality. In the meantime, she does have imported flannel available, so If you are further north than us here in Wisconsin, or want to start your fall outfits early, message me and I’ll get you the information.

Glory to God for the Coronavirus

The Covid-19 coronavirus, and the Great Corona Panic of 2020 that it has inspired, have undoubtedly had some negative results. It is likely, in our degenerate culture, that some of the people who have gotten sick and have died of the disease did so without repentance, a situation that pains God Himself. Furthermore, a large number of people have lost the ability to support their families, which should be a matter of immense and pressing concern for us Christians. Thus, I don’t mean for the title of this post to be flippant, but rather for it to be a challenge to me to remember to give glory to God for all things, as St. John Chrysostom did with his last breath as he was forced to walk himself to death. Let us then turn from the enumerations of the negatives of the coronavirus pandemic and panic, which there are undoubtedly more of, and consider the many reasons to thank and glorify God for the gifts He has given of both the pandemic and the panic.

Perhaps the most obvious gift, and simultaneously one of the hardest for us sinners to glorify God for is the gift of physical pain, sickness, and suffering. Our first response to sickness and suffering is not generally to glorify God for it, but rather to ask Him to take it away from us, or even to question how He can allow it to fall upon us. Yet we are told by St. Peter that bodily suffering cleanses us from sin. This is echoed in the Akathist of Thanksgiving:

+   Glory to Thee for raising us from the slough of our passions through suffering.

And again:

Priest: How near Thou art in the day of sickness. Thou Thyself visitest the sick; Thou Thyself bendest over the sufferer’s bed. His heart speaks to Thee. In the throes of sorrow and suffering Thou bringest peace and unexpected consolation. Thou art the comforter. Thou art the love which watcheth over and healeth us. To Thee we sing the song: Alleluia!

I am reminded of a man I remember from my childhood. His name, appropriately, was John Christian, and he emanated holiness. He also suffered from very severe and crippling gout. And yet he was joyful. I remember hearing him say that getting gout was the best thing that ever happened to him, because it brought him to God. The pain and suffering of his body purified and perfected his soul.

Suffering is not the only gift God has given through this situation. Another rather obvious gift is that families are once again spending time together. The artificially created fast pace of life has shattered, as families are no longer running back and forth between dozens of obligations. This creates time for family togetherness, and also creates time for silence and thought. Modern man tends to fill his every waking moment with work, entertainment, or noise to avoid ever having a moment alone with his thoughts and God. This escapism has become harder to maintain in the current situation.

Finally, the much bemoaned economic collapse is a gift of God. Realize the the majority of what we refer to as “the economy” is an edifice built on two pillars of sand: Materialism and Usury. Both of these pillars are collapsing before us. With non-essential retailers shut down, and significant restrictions in place at essential retailers, with people freed from the soul-draining daily rush of dozens of artificially created obligations designed to reduce man to nothing but a consumer, the veil of materialism is being lifted from many people’s eyes. People are even turning back to the true and original toil of man, as can be seen by the fact that seeds are sold out in so many places. Furthermore, the inevitable collapse of the predatory system of usury is well underway.

What happens with usury is that banks create money “out of thin air” by also creating debt.

People often state that fractional reserve banking creates money out of thin air, but this is not quite right. In fact, usury within fractional reserve banking creates money out of thin air. To quote the late, great Zippy Catholic:

When you introduce usury, though, is when the black magic appears. If the loan issued by the bank is usurious then the bank is issuing a new security against its balance sheet in return for a wink and a promise by the borrower. The bank then enters the wink-and-promise of the borrower onto its balance sheet as if it were actual property.  So in the case of banks which issue usurious loans, many of the loan ‘bricks’ in their balance sheet castles are imaginary; and in the case of collateralized full-recourse loans the ‘bricks’ are made of weaker material than they appear.

The majority of the current “economic collapse” is really just a collapse of a false economy as banks are erasing money from the books that never really existed in the first place except as debt.

So let us care for those around us who sick and suffering, for those who have lost their jobs, and for those whose allotted time for repentance on earth is drawing to a close. Let us be merciful and compassionate. But let us not forget to glorify God for the many goods things that He is bringing out of this crisis.

+    Glory to Thee for all things, Holy and most merciful Trinity.

A Big Move

We moved.

We sold our 3-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom, 1900 square foot house and bought a 2-bedroom, 1 bathroom, 970 square foot house with not a level floor in the house. This cut our monthly mortgage payments essentially in half, and provided us with the cash to buy a 22 year old Astro van with less that 90,000 miles to replace our 15 year old Impala with 370,000 miles. The van is AWD, and unlike the Impala, can continue to accommodate our family if we have another child–in fact, it can accommodate 2 more children!

The move new place has its drawbacks and benefits. I’m working on remedying the worst of the drawbacks as I can. One benefit is that we now have roughly 3x the land as the old place–1.2 acres as opposed to 0.4 acres. This means more room for gardens, and we’re still trying to determine where to locate them. Another benefit is that we now have river frontage on a small river, which opens up opportunities to catch fish in our own backyard. An additional benefit is that I am now less than 30 minutes from one of the properties where I deer hunt.

The main benefit, of course, is the lower payments. At our previous place, our minimum payments were about half my monthly income. While were able to keep up with it for quite a while, with each child it got harder, and after Helen was born we began to accumulate credit card debit (which is now gone). This is the opposite of what we want. We want to live inexpensively, save a little, and have money available for charitable giving.

We also found that having such a large house allowed us to accumulate a lot of stuff that we didn’t need or use. It wasn’t that long ago that I moved myself and all of my possessions from Virginia to Florida in a Ford Ranger, but this move required a 26 foot long U-Haul truck. We are continuing to work on paring down the number of things we own, while also working to replace low quality things with high quality ones, and single function items with multi-function items where reasonable.

Its a work in progress, and the past few months have been incredibly busy. But hopefully this move will create more time (in that I won’t feel the need to work as much overtime), and I’ll try to post project and purchase updates as we continue to settle in.

Roads are Sexist!

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up:

In the case of Romania, for example, the building of a major road through the country without conducting a gender-analysis, bore the consequence of marginalising [sic] certain trading patterns in the country that had a disproportionately negative impact on women over men.

Source

Your Actions Reveal Your Priorities

Its a phrase I’ve said over and over again to my wife, starting before we were married. For example, right now I could be doing any number of other things instead of writing here. The fact that I am not shows that this blog is a higher priority to me right now than those other things–even if I might claim otherwise. Its a truism, but one that often bears being repeated.

When I read the following paragraph at the end of Cane Caldo’s most recent post, I considered the first phrase to be a similar truism:

Most of us are or will be married to former whores; like Hosea except that most of us weren’t any better. So don’t miss Hosea’s lessons because of silly sentiments.

Clearly, some other readers did not believe it to be a truism: Lexet Blog expressed doubt over whether there even is such a thing as a “former whore,” and Jack expressed a similar sentiment.

This post is not to argue with them, although I certainly believe there is such a thing as a former whore. To me, the life of St. Mary of Egypt is more than enough to establish that. No, this post is about something else that came to my mind as I read the post and comments–something that really doesn’t even have to do with whores.

I thought of the many young (and no longer young) men who have told me that one of their top priorities in life is to marry and have a family, and have also shared with me their extremely high standards in who they would consider as a prospective wife while lamenting the scarcity of candidates that meet those standards.

Now, before you write me off as telling young men to “man up and marry those sluts,” let me be clear. I’m not telling anyone to get married, or to marry anyone. I don’t think there is anything wrong with remaining unmarried, provided you remain chaste. Nor am I telling anyone to lower their standards, whether that’s in terms of virginity, physical beauty, homemaking skills, or what have you. What I am saying is that your actions reveal your priorities, and if your standards are prohibitively high, it gives the lie to any claim you may make that marrying and having children is a high priority to you.

Think about it this way. A young man tells me that one of his top priorities is to provide a large percentage of his protein by hunting deer, but hasn’t been able to hunt so far because he can’t afford a deer rifle. I recommend that he buy a used NEF Handi-Rifle, or if he can’t find one, a Savage Axis, because they are decent rifles and cost less than $350 with a scope, even from overpriced retailers like Cabela’s. If he’s still not hunting 3 years later, because he refuses to buy anything short of a Weatherby Mark V Accumark and a Swarovsky scope, I’m not going to believe putting meat in the freezer is a high priority for him, no matter how many times he assures me it is.

Yes, there are significant differences between wives and rifles, but the general truth remains: If something is really a high priority to you, you will find a way to accomplish it.

In my experience, when someone says that something is a high priority to him, but acts as if it is not, he is almost inevitably unhappy about it. The dissonance between his perceived and actual priorities is mentally and emotionally exhausting.

So what do you do if that’s you? Well, you need to take stock of your priorities indicated by your actions, and those you claim to hold. You need to identify every instance where these are in conflict, and thoroughly consider which priority is actually more important to you. If the more important one is the one indicated by your actions, you simply acknowledge that, both mentally and verbally, and stop saying that something contrary is a priority. You start saying the truth you have already been living. If, on the other hand, you decide the priority you have been claiming to hold is more important than the one indicated by your actions, you do the inverse. In that case, you start living what you have already been saying. When your claimed and lived priorities are thus brought in line, you will find a level of peace that is impossible when they are in conflict.

Spring has Sprung…

On the way home from pre-sanctified liturgy this morning, I stopped and picked up a yearling doe from the side of the road. It had been hit by a car, breaking a hind leg, and pretty well mushing the hindquarters, but I was still able to extract enough good meat from it to add 8.5 lbs of ground venison to the freezer, and enough marginal venison to feed the dogs for a couple days. By the way, when I first wrote about buying a vacuum sealer, I did not realize what the most useful function would be.

Sealing roasts, steaks, and ground meat for freezing is certainly useful, but what we use far more is the attachment that lets you vacuum seal a mason jar using the regular canning lids. This has been extremely useful in making our Costco membership actually save us money. We buy sugar in 50 lb bags, baking soda in 10 lb bags, and many other dry goods such as coffee in bulk. We then transfer the contents of these bulk containers to half-gallon, quart, or pint size mason jars, and seal them with the FoodSaver attachment. This keeps the contents fresh for long-term storage in the larder, and we bring up only a couple jars of each item to stock the pantry. Some items, such as sugar, we only buy once a year (in this case, after the canning season, which is when we go through the most).

The day Lent started (Monday), my chickens went from providing a single egg a day to five eggs a day, so I expect to soon be up to 9 eggs a day which will allow the wife to make a little cash and offset the grocery budget a little. The duck has been laying almost as prolifically a a chicken, laying about 5 eggs a week, so we may sell a dozen duck eggs here or there during Lent as well.

It’s raining right now, and if it keeps raining and stays this warm, the snow and ice should be gone in less than a week. So far, none of the water has found its way into my basement, for which I am quite thankful.