Blessed are the cheesemakers; or Confusion embraced

OK, so that last post was a bit bitchy, I recognize that. It had been hanging around for a couple of weeks and I finally decided to touch it up and just get it out there… or at least out of my head. And hey, I tried to put a positive spin on it towards the end…

Once upon a time, back when I started writing this blogthing, there was sort of a theme… a very loose theme that did not really last very long, but whatever. Point is, I was writing about my life and at that time there was a major focus on the work that I was doing while pretending to try to build a new cabin/house. Well that did not go very far really and a whole lot has happened since then (made for some good blogposts though…). Realistically though I guess the main theme is still here in that I am writing about my life… for good or ill. The recent business with the job thing is just the most current iteration of that I guess.

Anyways. The Wife and I are essentially all moved in to the new house and are really looking forward to doing more with This Land, once winter lets go anyway. Well, there will be much more to do once that happens at least. For now there is a lot of prep work going on. She has been writing about that in her own blogthing and should you be so inclined you can check that out here. This makes us a three blog family right now…

We keep throwing the word “homestead” around a lot lately. I was very interested in that word when I first moved to Alaska, but with a very different understanding of it. Back then I was drawn to the idea of being able to acquire a remote piece of land, mostly on the cheap, building a cabin on it and disappearing from view. Foolish, idealist, vain and youthful preconceptions. Given the opportunity I probably would have gone “Into the Wild” and ended up the same way.

Now however the word has a much different meaning. Oh, there are similarities to be sure, but only vaguely so. The connotation now is more on self-sufficiency, but not in some weird disappearing act separatist way. Rather, the intent now is to learn how to provide more and more for ourselves…at least where food is concerned. Gardening, animal husbandry, canning, preserving, etc.

The catch is this sort of thing takes a bit of work…and time. Hence one side of the previous post. But, in pondering this all the past few days the thought that keeps coming up is that there is much more than me involved now and really that was another side of the previous post. Once upon a time, if I were feeling that way I would have just up and split; changed the game, done something different. That sort of knee-jerk reaction behavior is no longer an option…thank goodness. No, now the change has to be more subtle, more intentional, more planned and persistent. One has to analyze the confusion, take it apart and figure out what makes it tick. Then decide how best to address it, make a plan and work to initiate some sort of change. We are wanting to start a family and being at home — with intent and purpose — is a big part of how we think about that idea right now.

There will always be confusion as there is no roadmap to life, anyone who says differently is selling something. And as we all know, the large print giveth, the small print taketh away.

So I am we are going to learn how to make cheese. And yogurt. From goat milk, as we now have a consistent, fresh, local source for it. Eventually we will have our own goats… and chickens (these hopefully sooner than later). And big gardens (in stages). For now though it is the learning and the slow, intentional forward movement. Make a plan, learn the skills, and control the direction at least of the confusion. Oh, and wait for winter to move along. For now though we mind the seedlings, clean out the old goat barn in order to reconfigure it as a chicken coop, acquire books and equipment that will be needed and do what we can to prepare. The adventure is in the journey. Without some confusion it would just be a commute.

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Littledog, helping with the “Spring” cleaning.

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Wait, I’m confused.

When I first came to realize that one could actually be an archaeologist, and get paid to do it, I was very excited. I knew it would not likely involve bullwhips or Nazis or any of the other Indiana Jones related quips one might offer up, but for much of my growing up years I did have a genuine interest in human prehistory. Thus when I finally made it across the threshold of taking a college degree seriously and actually choosing to pursue an Anthropology degree I thought my life had taken a very definite turn. And it did… no doubt about it. But then something else happened. I did something I was professionally advised against doing. I took the “first comfortable job” that came along.

So here I am, over four years later and I find myself scrolling through the local want ads, and what’s worse is the realization that in doing so I would pause – albeit briefly – when the “Laborer” or “Bartender” headings went by. Mind you I did not actually look at the ads, but the fact that I paused, however briefly, was somewhat alarming. The whole reason I went to college to get a degree in the first place, was because I was sick of those sorts of jobs. But that’s just it you see, I did NOT go to college because I was seeking a career. I just wanted to do something different. But I got a career, of sorts, and you know what? It is not the one I would have wanted had I chosen to go after a career. At least it did not turn out that way. I am neither Indy, nor Marcus Brody.

Instead, here I am, asking myself what the hell happened? I now find myself, primarily chained to a desk, not doing archaeology, barely doing museum work. Lately I mostly spend my time pretending to manage part of a website and responding to the ever increasing tide of “other duties assigned” tasks that come my way.

No wait, I think you’re confused.

When it comes down to it I really do not understand this idea that we all have to “do” more or “be” more. Every year for my job I am supposed to craft an Employee Performance Appraisal Plan. The idea being that I list out a series of tasks, duties, accomplishments, what have you – all in some quantifiable sense – which I will intend to perform that year. Every year it is supposed to become more involved, more detailed, more… well, just more. So not only did I accept the “first comfortable job”, but it has never really been comfortable and seemingly cannot really ever be, because of this inane desire of my superiors (society?) that all must do/be more… (more do/be might be better…) What the hell are we chasing? Who are we conducting these elaborate performances for? And when I think about it, truly think about it, I have to admit to myself that I really only took this job for the security of permanent, full-time work with good pay and benefits.

And to some that is the perfect reason to take a job… these days, any job it would seem. I understand that, I really do. The money and the leave time and the insurance are all great, but at what cost? It is a tricky business these first world problems and I do completely feel like an ass complaining about it.

But these empty performances, these hollow pointless accomplishments that say nothing, mean nothing, create nothing, change nothing, do nothing… where does it end? I can do nothing for no reason; wu wei, the action of no action. Likewise I am happy to work until my muscles ache and my skin is broken a cracked and bleeding… but for a reason. To provide a service or a function. But to endlessly, ceaselessly have to perform at doing pointless, meaningless things for no good purpose at times, drives me a bit more than batshitcrazy.

And then it is “spring” and there is four inches of new snow on the ground and on the one hand it adds a little bit more to the crazy, but on the other it is a nice reminder to not get too comfortable with what you might like to think is the status quo. I quote John Lennon, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Confusion is in the eye of the beholden.

I read a little thing recently on the problems of being an artist. I am not really in any way, nor have I been, nor particularly aspired to be an artist of any sort. I have dabbled in sketching and painting and writing poetry, I have goofed around with a few instruments and participated in a few plays, I have sang a few songs in public and done a hell of a lot of dancing, but none of that with any intention or purpose. It all just seemed the thing to do at the time. I enjoy writing these blog things, but the idea of making any money from it just seems silly. However, I have mentioned wanting to sort of be a farmer. What the hell is he talking about now you say? Well, I can see where starving striving artists and wanna be small farmers/homesteaders have some things in common. There is passion and hope and near ceaseless hard work, there is the necessity for some sort of structure and routine, but not what the modern world accepts nor promotes. There is the “Youarecrazynobodyreallydoesthatanymoreandgetsawaywithit.” attitude of soooo many of our peers (and perhaps even family). There is the doubt and the fear and the concern for security. But there is also the love and the payoff and the rewards from doing something for yourself.

And then there is that nagging reality of bills and debts and putting food on the table… well maybe more for one than the other, but you know what I mean. I cannot grow my precious coffee and/or bananas on This Land… and I have only sort of dreamt of having a “farm in Africa”. Extra points for those that get that reference.

But there is this mindset, this fundamental flaw that soooo many of us have been raised with that there is a certain form and structure to how we are supposed to live life. This damnable EuroAmerican Puritan work ethic that there is always something better waiting just up ahead if you work hard enough to get there. Dammit, what about the “heaven” that is right here and now!? Life is just hanging around staring us in the face RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF US while we are wiling working away the hours and days of our lives looking for what comes next. Another quote for you, “No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn!”

Don’t be fooled. Life and the world are what you make of it. I truly believe that. We are the sum of our experiences and thus we have a fair bit of control over our lives. Now, despite all of this, and despite the sometimes painfully agonizing temptation to burn the place where I work to the ground for lack of caring or want of a stapler (more bonus points here…), I am not about to up and quit my job. What I AM doing is making a concerted effort to learn more about being a farmer… with both feet in the muck. It is work and effort with purpose and for now so is my “job”… that purpose however is just not part of my performance plan.