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a back to the lander reflects.

Posted: April 13 2010

Alex Smith, who recently interviewed Severine on his show Radio Ecoshock, shared these thoughts with us.  You can listen to that interview HERE

The Radio Ecoshock interview went very well.  It took me back to old times. When I went to the Algonquin Park area of Ontario (Canada), there were about 400 people, many of them artists and artisans, who had gone "back to the land". I was part of 7 people who purchased 200 acres of run-down farm and bush for $11,000.  There was practically no employment in the area.  The growing season was short, and soil rich - but generating stones every Spring.  So many stones, that former farmers built stone walls around all of the cleared fields (about 40 acres) about three feet high, and just as wide.  I took out 40 tons of stone for the chimney in the center of our house, without making the slightest dint in the piles.The secret to using masonry in cold weather, as we learn from the old New England houses, is ALWAYS place the chimney and fireplace in the center of the house, and not on the end on some outside wall, as all foolish builders do today.  Stone (or cement, or brick) just takes out the heat, and brings in the cold (it's a "heat bridge").  But inside, it collects and holds the heat from whatever stoves and fireplaces go through it, balancing out the irregular heat that wood gives.  Without that balance, the rooms get too cold, and then too hot.  Plus, we could leave the house empty for 3 days, and come back to find nothing frozen, because the massive stone chimney held all that heat.
Good times.  I had as much field space as I could every deal with.  Big double gardens (big enough to plow up with the Massey 35 tractor).  Double, because we kept pigs on one side one year, and garden on the other.  That was due to "quack grass" - an impossible to remove grass, because whenever you cut the root, you only cause it to multiply.  The rhizomes go out up to 30 feet.  The only solution, other than horrible chemicals, is pigs.  Pigs love to eat the root, and will "root it out" completely.  The next year, with lots of deep mulch, you get a no weed garden on that side (while the pigs work over the alternate space).
I learned to butcher my own pigs and chickens.  We had to keep a watch on both, during bear season.  My dog did that.  Counting the wolves, hawks, skunks, and raccoons, there was a lot of competition for chicken meat.
We hauled tons of food out of there.  Plus the dozens of apple trees, the maple sugar bush, Hell, we had to walk on Chamomile flowers and wild strawberries every day, just to get in the door.
But in the end, my wife wanted more opportunities than that hard country could offer.  We'd had enough bugs (!!) and long winters (6 months on a sea of snow) - we headed out West to Vancouver.  And have good lives here.  My daughter gave birth to our first grandchild, a big boy, just last Wednesday.  Hard to beat that.


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