The Unmovable Mountain

In the last year 35% of all money created in the United States was made. I refuse to say printed because the national mint didn’t print off this cash. It was done digitally with a bunch of 1s and 0s instantly devaluing savings accounts and the buying power of the dollar all over the world. It was only 20 years ago when Bill Clinton left office after 8 years as president and we had a surplus of money in the federal government. Then came Dubya and it all changed. There had been some shady stuff going on before then with Donald Rumsfeld telling the nation that 2.3 trillion dollars was missing from pentagon accounting books.

What we have been seeing isn’t new. The federal reserve bailout out wall street after they gambled all their money away. Then Obama spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a stimulus bill. Through quantitative easing the federal reserve bought the bad stocks wall street didn’t want and handed the bill off to the American tax payer. Now there is a new kind of theft taking place.

The COVID-19 lockdowns are shutting down small businesses all over the country. The public is forced to buy their food and goods through big chain outlets that are not affected by the lockdown protocols. People who are out of work or have their businesses shut down are at risk of losing their homes because they cannot pay their bills. Keep in mind that if people are not working there are no federal income taxes coming in. At the moment the house and the senate are talking over a COVID-19 relief bill that will have no way of paying for it. Again, they are printing off money while devaluing the dollar. In a situation like this what are people to do?

I have often thought about this question and in a world where everything appears to be falling apart there are a handful of things that will gain value outside of the dollar. If you are looking for currency related items gold and silver are the obvious choices. These metals have never lost their value over the centuries. A large amount of wealth can be transferred with little weight to move it. When gold reached $2000 an ounce a few pounds could be equivalent to a life time of savings. In the words of Ron Swanson “I have already said too much.”

Land. This was an obvious choice for me. With land comes opportunity. The more land you own the more you can do with it. I would recommend only buying what you can handle on your own. I currently own 15 acres. A goo portion of that land will be used for homesteading. The wild sections will be used for foraging and hunting. The woods also provide a reusable source of fresh compost for crops. Timber heats the house and cabin. With a homestead or farm there are other investments that will rise in value in the coming years. Farm equipment will have a high value along with fresh food with the way our current food situation is. China is buying up any soy and protein they can get their hands on. A large section of our corn crops was destroyed in a wind storm. China has been experiencing a drought in their bread basket for a few years now. Much of this can be learned through the ice age farmer YouTube channel and podcast.

Choose quality over quantity. This is true for many things ranging from clothes to tools. Buy a good pair of boots, jeans, shirts, the type that will last for years. Buy a good knife. Make sure you are not buying cheap gardening tools that will only last one season. For god’s sake stay away from Harbor Freight.

Buy a good quality vehicle, one that you can work on. You should be able to change the oil, switch out the air filter, and replace the fuel filter on your own. Bravo to those who go beyond that. Pick up a repair manual for the make and model of your vehicle. If you can, keep extra parts stored away in case there is a breakdown that can be fixed at home.

Beyond these things there is the usual list of things one should have. Food, self defense items, and a supply of cash incase cards are not taken at stores or bank accounts can’t be accessed. Learn about your neighbors and what they have that can be traded and bartered. If your neighbor is a corn farmer try growing something besides corn that he might want incase you have to trade for supplies. If everyone in your area grows tobacco grow food instead.  Set yourself apart so that you can be useful to the community around you.

I hope this article is helpful to those out there looking for some guidance in these troubling times. I will touch on these topics further in the near future and talk about them on my YouTube channel, The Collapse Experiment.

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2020, The Long Slow Goodbye

A few days ago, I learned that John Le Carre, a veteran of the cold war and seasoned writer of high-quality spy novels, died at the age of 89. The comment had to be added to the official announcement that he did not die from COVID-19. This is a good bye for two reasons, the author of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy would never writer another ground breaking novel again, and we can’t hear about anyone dying without having COVID-19 added to it one way or another.

A year ago, at this time we were living free from lock downs, wearing mask, and election drama. I still called myself a liberal. While I was starting to see a change in the city, I always lived I still had a love for it and what it could be. There was the cushy job that paid too much money with little work and responsibility. The house that I still owned since 2004 that I had already dished out $78,000 for and I still owed $43,000 on a $65,000 mortgage. Don’t ask me how the math on that works out. Life was cruising along and then news started to come out of China.

In the last year we lost Sean Connery, John Le Carre, Kirk Douglas, Kelly Preston, Jerry Stiller, and Eddie Van Halen. The list is longer and people would be pissed if I didn’t mention RBG, but to be honest with you I think that one had been living on borrowed time for a few years already. The year doesn’t compare to 2016 when we heard about a new celebrity death every couple of days but that was the good old days. When all you have to look forward to on the news is who died now maybe life isn’t that bad, for you that is, sucks for the dead guy. What was different was how every death this year was over shadowed by COVID-19. Except for Kobe Bryant there was always the question if the person they were talking about had died from COVID-19, or if they died of something else but had COVID-19. The story was never about the life of the person who had died but instead played second fiddle to a disease.

Celebrities aren’t the only thing dying this year. The country appears to be on life support as businesses shut down and lives are destroyed. Several places I loved going to no longer exist. Restaurants, breweries, and small shops have closed their doors for good. For many, the sense of having a future to look forward to has disappeared. The media continues to ignore the record number of suicides that states have been seeing while they continue to keep people isolated for no good reason at all. The American dream has been reserved for a select few, and unless you are prospering from the current economic conditions then this does not include you. The constitution has been under fire these days and like the bible thumpers I grew up with people have started to take a selective approach to the bill of rights. BLM is allowed to protest because it is their first amendment right. People are not allowed to protest the lockdowns because the government says so. Statues were torn down, building set on fire, people killed in the streets in the name of… something and nobody appeared to be arrested or held accountable. Meanwhile if you open your business to make money, while following CDC guidelines so that you can feed your family and keep a roof over your head you will go to jail. COVID-19 didn’t do this, we did this to ourselves. The government over reacted and continued policies more dangerous than a disease and we as a people let it happen and continue. Vaccines have been administered this week and even if the majority of the country has been stuck in the arm with a needle the government is saying we will still have to continue with our current policies. Democracy, the constitution, and the bill or rights also died this year.

Four states changed election rules without going through their state legislature in accordance to the constitution of the united states. When 20 other states tried to sue over this the supreme court declined to hear the case. Voting machines that had been purchased through Canada have been shown to alter votes, and while people like John Oliver stated a year ago that this was a problem. Now we are supposed to believe that there was nothing wrong with these machines.

Race relations have never been worse. A constant barrage of stories about racism and defining people by the color of their skin has alienated the country from itself.

A job that I thought was secure turned into a SJW cesspool, or maybe it always had been and I just didn’t want to see it. Emails went out to POCs (people of color) to have meeting with only them, segregating the employees. Over a span of two years several highly regarded famous authors died with no presentation, display, or mention of the event on the library website. Jim Harrison, Anthony Bourdain, Philip Roth, Elie Wiesel, Sam Shepard, and Harlan Ellison died during the time I work for the library and out of the list Anthony Bourdain had a display, only because I put one together on a cart and wheeled it out into the lobby. There it stayed for a week before it was taken down and the materials returned to the shelves. I had requested a display for Tony, even suggesting a link to suicide prevention, but I was told that “If we did a display for every author who died we would always have a display up.” Somewhere along the way the library had lost its way as to what a library is. Without writers a library would not exist. Somewhere along the way libraries had forgotten where they started and why they existed. And we wonder why people don’t read anymore?

My city started to implode. It was socially acceptable and encouraged to say that white people were evil. Riots happened downtown with windows smashed, and stores looted. The public sided with the rioters while the store owners cleaned up the mess and had to cover the cost. A year before a few members of the Proud Boys went to Bells Brewing for a beer. An out spoken member of the community refused to let them in the brewery saying they were not welcome here and harassed them until they left, while taking photos of their vehicles and license plates to post them online. These are the “open minded” and “socially understanding” people that had started to take over the city. A year later, nobody spoke up against BLM when they trashed the city while screaming about police brutality. The cops used tear gas when they refused to go home and all hell broke loose. The police were under fire for doing their jobs. The Proud boys came back to hold a rally. I watched the entire 1 hour 45-minute uncut video of their march through the city with the poorly narrated dialogue of a man who insisted on telling the camera the exact opposite of everything that happened. The proud boys marched to Bronson park, said some words, and went back to their cars. Meanwhile counter protesters threatened to hit the marchers with sticks and rocks. Flags were stolen and pepper spray used. The local media pushed the idea that the proud boys instigated the violence by showing up. The BLM protesters were arrested for assault and the chief of police was forced to resign for what the public viewed as a poorly handled situation. Later a memorial to a fallen officer was removed from the downtown mall because of public complaint and constant vandalism. My city, the one that I loved, no longer existed.

A brewery that I had gone to since 2013 closed its doors months before their 7th anniversary. The last day was filled with speeches of gratitude and memories that would live on forever. We tried to remain upbeat but by the end of the night men were hugging and crying at the loss of such a great place.

The union closed their doors after we had moved out of town. A place that I wrote about several times, for their live jazz shows, upscale beer selection, and comfortable atmosphere it had a special place in my heart with good food to add to the list. Reasons for staying were disappearing.

2020 has been a long slow good bye to everything that made this country great. From the small businesses that make up the majority of jobs in this country, to the Bill of Rights that has been under attack by the same people who freely use it while arguing you cannot. In a year we have entered some kind of upside-down world where nothing makes sense and to try to live the way you did a year ago is now illegal and you will be punished several ways for it.

People have talked about the new normal and I will admit that everything is changing all the time. There are some things that we need to hold onto. Change can be good but when you do too much you lose a part of yourself or your culture. The country is divided and as I write this there is talk of dividing the country physically. The west coast wants to be liberal democratic states and they can have it. The Midwest from the Rockies to the Appalachian Mountains want to be conservative republican “leave us the F*ck alone” states. Then there is the east coast that is a little more complicated. While I live in Michigan which somehow went from Trump country to Biden wasteland, I can tell you that if you are not in a larger city you are in Trump country. This land is the opposite of where I left. I have seen BLM bumper stickers on the backs of cars and wondered if anyone was going to say something. But there is a simple philosophy here. You don’t bother us; we don’t bother you. I don’t know why that was so hard in Kalamazoo. The country is tolerant, but remember, when you start crap here, these people will finish it. Burn your own cities. March in your streets. Tear yourselves apart. But don’t bring that shit here.

2020 has been a long slow good bye to a lot of things. I left my job. I left my city. I left the Democratic party. I sold a house that I owned for 16 years. I lost my favorite bar. I lost faith in people. I lost trust in government. The list goes on and on. 2020 has been perpetual loss and saying goodbye is something we are all good at now.

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Roughing It

I had only been to northern Michigan a handful of times before moving up here. The city I grew up in, and spent most of my life, is an anomaly in the state, with three colleges a manufacturing and tech infostructure it is beyond how most of the state lives. There are the obvious advantages to a place like this, things come easily, jobs are not hard to come by, and whatever you want can be found in a short period of time. The cost of living in such a place, I am learning is high. Everything is regulated, the city sticks their nose into any­thing they can find. Anything you need to live you have to pay for. There is a water bill, electric, sewer, heat, and food, with little space and resources it is difficult to find any of these or make them yourself, the city holds a monopoly on water, you have to hook up to the system, and not having electricity is against local code, you can try to get by without a car but good luck on buying things like furniture. I remember as a kid buying groceries with my mom and hauling them home on the bus. This also limits how much you can buy and forces you to spend more time and money on more trips. The cost of housing is high as well, for a family to rent a two-bedroom house will set them back $800 a month and that doesn’t include the other expenses, plus that is in a bad neighborhood.

For over a decade I wanted something different for my life. For a few years I grew my own food. Even in the city I became very good at it. I grew enough tomatoes to fill the 50+ canning jars I bought at the local second-hand stores. The surplus I could not eat or store I gave away at work. I had this gardening thing down. Financially I was doing alright being out of debt except for a house but still what I could do to better my situation was limited. To go hunting at a decent spot meant a forty-minute drive to another city with public hunting land that I had to share with idiot hunters that almost shot me several times while covered in orange.

In the last few years my wife and I traveled to northern Michigan including the UP and I finally saw for myself the Michigan that everyone else saw. Pine trees as tall as buildings, lakes with fish the size of small dogs, wildlife besides feral cats, and birds that I had read about in books out never saw with my own eyes. At the age of 37 I finally saw bald eagles on the Kalamazoo River, something that had almost gone extinct in our area because of the pollution in the water. Why did I have to hunt for these things in a place that was supposed to be, by the local definition, a perfect place?

It took a disease and a lock down to make me question things even more. If I was going to be forced to stay in a place for extended periods of time with little to do shouldn’t I enjoy where I was living? Why should I rely on a place and a system that appeared to be falling apart?

It took an internet search for a cabin to bring us here. While we wanted a small place to get away for our northern adventures we found instead a house that continued to pop up in our searches, The land was what we wanted, the house was larger than what we currently owned, and It came with the cabin I am writing in now. The town is called Tustin and we had never heard of it. With a population of 230 it was close to what we were looking for with two decent sized cities within a short drive. To find anything like this in the city would have cost us more than we could ever hope to make, or save, in our lifetime. To live in Tustin is to slow down. In the fall the locals take to their deer blinds to fill their freezers,beds of trucks are filled with the cut pieces of tree trunks to be later split and dried for winter heat. Discussions at the gas station regard the trials and tribulations of fishing gone wrong, every shop is filled with taxidermy of prizes taken in years past with space leftover for what is to come. During my drives through the countryside the roads are slowed down by the large tractors hauling liquid manure that is sprayed over empty fields keeping the land fertile.

If you come to the top of a hill you can see windmills in the distance and I often wonder if any of the locals had gone off on a Don Quixote adventure hopes of reliving a grander time than now. In a way everyone here is Don Quixote, decorating their lawns with the farming and mining tools of a century ago while satellite dishes sit next to their houses

Horses and cows are not an uncommon sight here and while some stick to older ways modern life is creeping in slowly changing the landscape into what we are all trying to stay away from,

Maybe I am a fool who thinks he can somehow turn back the clock grasping at something that might have only existed in my imagination, but maybe in this adventure I can find some peace for myself and my family during a time that leaves many people questioning how we have been living our lives.

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Lumberjack Time

The best kind of work

I should have known that replacing the fuel line would not be the only thing wrong with the chainsaw I purchased. After thirty minutes of trying to start the damn thing I gave up and grabbed an ax. I was not going to let the daylight I had left pass by without getting something done.

Over the past few weeks, I had spotted fallen trees and limbs that needed to be cleaned up. The cabin that doubles as my writing studio will need fire wood for the winter months if I expect to use it at all. I used a chisel to sharpen the blade and went to work. the first handful of trees I chopped up were by the house and the logs needed to be hauled back to the cabin. After a few trips with the wagon I took the ax towards the back of the property with me and went to work back there. I was surprised what I accomplished in two hours. Some of the trees were so old and dry they split in one swing. The loud crack of the trunk snapping in two told me my work was done. The stack grew and as three o’clock came around I felt one of the blisters on my hand open and my oldest daughter ran up the trail to see me. I could have continued working but there were other things to do.

Not having the chainsaw set me back with what I wanted to have done. I will say that cutting the wood with my bare hands was a work out that I needed. I forgot what it felt like to exert such power and strength in quick burst. That evening my shoulders were sore, in a good way. I knew my hands would hurt after they cramped up a dozen times or so while swinging the ax. In 40-degree weather all I needed was a long sleeve shirt and an insolated vest. The sun was shining and I could tell this was going to be the last nice day I would get to enjoy. Winter has been showing its ugly head around here and soon there will be no desire to go outside. Around here there are two kinds of trees. Pines and birch make up the landscape with a few others that try to poke their heads around here and there but they are hard to notice and most of them appear to be dead. Pine trees with do that to their neighbors, the needles turning the soil acidic making it difficult for other breads to flourish. The birch trees are rich in Chaga, a fungus that is sought after in Russia and japan. Hippies and the bohemian crowd try to find it for its healing properties. The Indians referred to it as tinder fungus, using it to start fires instead of a hot beverage.

The thorny brush out by the cabin provides black berries for the quail that live here. I’m not sure what the deer are grazing on but they come for the pond, a local watering hole. The bats keep the mosquito population low enough that you barely see them. There is a balance here and to disrupt it could create huge changes. The hornets need a predator, bird houses will go up. The bats need to stay out of the house. Bat houses will be put in trees. I have to believe that there is a way to keep the balance and find some harmony on the land.

I watched a red-tailed hawk soaring in the sky today. It dove down into the tall grass; it wings changing directions at the last minute like an emergency parachute as its talons dug into the rabbit it had caught. The hawk rocked back and forth trying to keep its prey. A minute later it rose into the sky, rabbit in tow, and hovered above the ground until it released the hare to fall to its doom. Cars pass by oblivious to this. I watch as nature continues to do its thing regardless of what man has done. We paved roads, put up power lines, cut down trees to grow grass, build large boxes to live in and yet nature continues to do what it does best. To be a farmer here is to prosper from allowing nature to do its best in your favor.

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