Damn Good Boots

My version of Being the Change necessitates damn good boots.

For me, saving the world (or surviving it?) means I need Damn Good Boots.  These boots were a gift from a very good friend.  That friend has served two tours in Iraq, and may serve one more in Afganistan before he’s done.  These boots have seen the desert and the Hell of War.  I am very sure I do not want to know all they have seen.  Now, they stop rotary plow blades when I misstep in exhaustion, and have saved my ankles more times than I can count when jumping over goose fencing or dropping plate steel when welding on the gasifier.  I wear these boots with pride.  And I wear them with purpose.  We too are serving our country, though no one ordered us to.

At heart I am a “direct actionist”.  I see problems, and I take action.  That action *might* be doing research, but in cases like reading the JOE report, the RSCH portion lasts for a day, then my version of fight or flight kicks in and I Get Busy.  Much of this blog has been the results of that tendency.  For me the best antidote for despair is action.  I need to DO something.  When life gives me lemons, I build a gasifier to power a refrigerator to cool the lemonade.

We are facing some monumental problems.   Oil is going to get wicked expensive soon, I believe we have already crossed tipping points in climate change that will make 3-4 degrees impossible to avoid, and our population as a planet will hit 8 billion before we have any chance to turn it around.  More mouths, no more cheap energy, and unpredictable weather.  That is a crazy tough backdrop for designing a transitional civilization model.

My answers are not easy.  They involve building efficiency loops into biologically linked systems to turn waste into vegetables, animal protein, fertilizers, space heating, electricity and transportable fuels such as methane and ethanol.   Let me say this again – these answers are not easy. Look at the picture at the top of the page – those are $20 leather gloves with the palms worn out; they are less than 6 months old.  I work 8 hours a day, 4 days a week on Being the Change, then come home to read and write and learn about how to do it better the next day.  There are thousands like me.  And we need hundreds of thousands more.

My parent’s generation were activists – the marched and rallied and boycotted.  Our generation needs to be actionists.  No one is going to legislate these problems away – Congress is a quagmire.  And while government will have an absolutely vital role to play, they need to know WHAT to do.  I applied for Stimulus funding in 2009.  We never officially got turned down – in fact we made it through 4 hurdles before getting parked.   What my boots and I are doing is building my version of one of the solutions.  I want to build a Proof of Concept; to take all these ideas off the goddamn drawing board and show what can truly be done on 5 acres.  And then make it scaleable up and down so that it can be repeated all over this country so that we can heal the land while supporting our families.  And that is going to take a shit ton of work.

None of my heroes wore suits and none of my heroes were executives. But they all got busy Being the Change.  Its not only ok to be geeky and to get your hands dirty – its the only way.  Look at Thoreau.  Look at Holmgren.  Shepard, Salatin, Fukuoka.  Hard work isn’t enough; nor is theory.  The solutions are in applied theory.  Being the Change means doing it.  There is SO MUCH that needs to be done: slow money, cooperative business structures, joint capital ownership,  regional / local distribution networks, district biomass heating, changing school curriculums to reflect reality, getting healthy again, and so many more.  It makes ones head whirl.  I am just one man and I have chosen my path.  There are so many others.

We need you.  My kids need you.

Strap on your boots.

Be the Change!

6 Responses

  1. Thanks for bringing up the link to Guardian’s article. IMO we need to get prepared to produce our own food, cos prices will go up dramatically. Majority of food production relies heavily on oil (transportation) and petrochemical agriculture.

  2. Amen brother!

    I tried to email this to you yesterday, but am not sure that you got it so I’ll post it here in the comments – maybe helpful, maybe not. Kind of defeats the “slow money” idea (which I really like), but at the same time I feel like I get ripped with taxes and here’s a chance to have some government money go for something that’s actually useful:


    3-Year Project To Verify Effectiveness Of High Tunnels In Natural Resource Conservation

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2009 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced a new pilot project under the ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative for farmers to establish high tunnels – also known as hoop houses – to increase the availability of locally grown produce in a conservation-friendly way. Merrigan and other Obama administration officials highlighted opportunities available for producers in a video posted on USDA’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07vtMJgp0no, which shows high tunnels recently installed in the White House garden.

    “There is great potential for high tunnels to expand the availability of healthy, locally-grown crops – a win for producers and consumers,” said Merrigan. “This pilot project is going to give us real-world information that farmers all over the country can use to decide if they want to add high tunnels to their operations. We know that these fixtures can help producers extend their growing season and hopefully add to their bottom line.”

    The 3-year, 38-state study will verify if high tunnels are effective in reducing pesticide use, keeping vital nutrients in the soil, extending the growing season, increasing yields, and providing other benefits to growers.

    Made of ribs of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic sheeting, high tunnels are easy to build, maintain and move. High tunnels are used year-round in parts of the country, providing steady incomes to farmers – a significant advantage to owners of small farms, limited-resource farmers and organic producers.

    USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide financial assistance for the project through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative, and the Agricultural Management Assistance program. NRCS will fund one high tunnel per farm. High tunnels in the study can cover as much as 5 percent of 1 acre. Participating states and territories are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Pacific Islands, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    To sign up or learn more about EQIP assistance for high tunnel projects, contact a local NRCS office.


    USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272(voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

    • We looked into the EQIP grant in good detail back in February. Main issue with my plans is that it can ONLY be used for growing – no transplanting tables, no electricity, and certainly no linked aquaponic/methane/gasifier/ethanol/vermiculture system. It is a fantastic program that many of my CSA friends are doing.

  3. You are always inspiring. Several small farmers in our area got together and were awarded a grant that bought the equipment to process biofuel. Last year the first fields of sunflowers and rapeseed went in. It would have been better if the season were not so cold and rainy, but we are working on the long term.

  4. rippin good.

  5. “they stop rotary plow blades when I misstep in exhaustion”

    Take care of yourself!

    Your capacity is just as important as the soil’s, and mycelia recover from tillage a lot faster than toes do.

    If you’re bouncing back from your exhaustion with improved strength, that’s one thing. If not, maybe frequent, short breaks (20 seconds of stretching every 15 minutes?) would be worthwhile.

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