Project Local needs your old camping gear!

Have any old water bottles, backpacks, vintage camping or hiking gear from the collecting dust in your garage? I’d love to take them off your hands and put them to use! Project Local (my non profit) is making beginner backpacking/survival kits to give away, and all donations are welcome, even broken items, I have a special talent for fixing busted backpacking gear 😉

Just comment here or send me a message and we’ll work out the details of getting stuff picked up or shipped out, and thanks for all your help!

(More projects coming soon!)

Life is Brian

What if the revolution doesn’t have to touch the system. Finds it isn’t necessary to replace any of the words we’re currently using. What if revolution did all of its work, instead, on definitions. Let me give you an example. Our definition of the word life is insufficient. We define it like it is a state. And any of us full on the food we just ate, knows the word life doesn’t functionally describe all the work we are doing just to keep alive. Life, as far as we know it, is a process. Every human you experience is somewhere in the midst of an ongoing equation we all share in. Adding water, hopefully in the right amount, to carbon-rich nutrients, boiling in a leaky furnace we’re always working hard to regulate the temperature on. To call this massive, overlapping story some vague and singular thing, like Brian, is misleading.

I hope that example helped some. Because the point I’m making is crucial.

You haven’t done anything for Brian if you set him down on land he doesn’t own, no job, no clothes, no home, no food. You haven’t helped Brian either, if you bury him in the clogged heart of a city where anything he might eat or drink will depend on little green pieces of paper in his pocket. You see, Brian is not an isolated occurrence. Brian is actually a complex equation. Anyone who claims to create a system intended to feed and assist him would do nothing more than protect the elements of that crucial pursuit Brian is perpetually caught up in. Same as the rest of us.

Brian is all he has. Selling him the basic necessities for his own survival, is by definition, a monopoly. We don’t have to change that one. But life, on the other hand, is a definition we will need to update. Let me do that.

Life is harrowing plotline, with complex villains and heroes, the dragons that seek you and monsters for your enemies. As soon as you settle, you’ll be spurred on by hunger, and as soon as you’re sated, thirst will wrest you from your seat and set you digging wells and chasing rivers.

We’re all free. Correct? I mean, I think I read that somewhere, buried by our country’s waxing constitution. So. If we’re all free. Then I suppose society’s intention isn’t really to police human freedom. It must have been created to assist us all in the tedious writing of this complex novel we call living.

Then why does all food cost money?
Why does all water cost money?
Why is housing one of the most expensive, and essential, resources to come by?

Hmmm.

Why would society set itself up, and establish economies around selling us products
we die if we ever dared to boycott.

Some big questions there. Our definition of life should be big enough to answer at least a few of them. And we are falling short. Life is not a state of being. The same way we discuss freedom. We act like we’ll fight one war and have it for good for all our family for all eternity.

Point being, if we have the right to life, we have free and equal access to the resources essential to even beginning to sustain a state one could call alive. Nothing needs to be rewritten, or changed. No new amendments needed. It’s just that word life.

We’re too close to see it clearly.
With a little adjustment to perspective, we could all come to know life
by it’s true definition. The full meaning of the word life.
And wouldn’t you know.

It’s Brian.

The Most Local Project

No matter the specific product, we are all in the business of ideas.
The farmer, entrepreneur, developers of worlds, one through three,
and the architects of our very homes. Minus a captivating thought,
some broad yet sort of singular gut impulse to generate,
we are a fairly static unchanging species.

The first tool put to use by the squat, ape-faced ancestors of modern humans was stupidity. Weakness. The reason we try and will not stop, is need. Tall mountains,
flooded rivers that will not obey their banks, changes in the weather.
This endeavor is both yours and mine.
To recognize and study the constant pursuit for the source of ideas.
Great, humbling and even exhaustively lucrative imagination.
Where would such things come from?

The same place as the minds that gave birth to them.
Inspiration is in our houses. With us where we slept.
Thrown out discarded with other objects we could have kept.

Yours. Mine. All of us share a piece of this project. Ourselves.
The sole source of this place’s most impressive life changing product. Us.
Where value has always come from. An entire universe begins and ends within.

All people are a local project.
And where our feet touch down, meet and grip ground, is an ancient foundation.
The first. And because this structure has been around so long,
it has not been given due consideration. The human being.
Our local project. An invaluable resource.

One that we do not have to go too far or dig too deep to retrieve.
It lives with us, in our homes and wherever we work.

The soil that cradles our most prolific pursuit is thought.
It is our most local product.

We Project Local

We will no longer sift gold from local creekbeds or uncover vast oil fields or coal mines deposited in our shrinking foothills. The successive eras of quickly discovered and translated riches are over. Not because the resources no longer exist, but the places they remain have been overlooked. Local has been overlooked. In a specific location, all dots get connected. The true cost of corn growing directly beside the produce stand, where it has to be marked up a bit to stimulate a profit. This is where milk is pasteurized and chicken coops fill the air with stink. Where the composted filth of previous seasons is laced into the soil of this year’s garden. How was the product made, where does the waste go, what direct effect does such complex manufacturing have on people’s homes, lives, property? These questions need to be brought out into local light. Because it is being dumped into our moving waters, buried in lands filled with garbage beside our neighborhoods. No matter its distant source. In my opinion, these are places where treasure can be found. But for now, we are still intent on calling it trash.

New industries are going to be close to impossible to establish in a small town. Recreational services like restaurants and grocery markets require an almost insurmountable initial investment to get off the ground and running successfully and with sustainability. The sheer, jagged amount of capital required to realize an entrepreneurial dream is crippling. There are many directions in which to grow and change in order to foster local, community-based balance. One is a path mentioned already, and is happening at home whether we recognize it or not. Connecting the dots of seemingly separate business strategies and markets into complementary shapes. Like constellations. There may be several billion miles between the stars of a growing family farm and a country-style restaurant. But with a simple line drawn, these two ventures couple nicely into a single business.

Most mainstream, corporate chains actively obscure the connection between their products and the locations these products are made. Local communities can not only embrace this, but benefit greatly from being a stone’s throw from the fields and pastures that fed and coddled their merchandise. The scraps and leftovers could healthfully feed farm animals or even be composted and become meals for the coming years. If the restaurant struggles through a few rough seasons, food could still be directly sold at markets by the farm, as well as picking up catering events and holding festivals seasonally. It would allow a small level restaurant to spread out its image across several nearby locations, and control the pricing of food on the menu more intentionally, since they actively participate in its development.

Through intimate, hands-on recycling and gentle reuse programs, local businesses can compete at quality and pricing with any mainstream chain, creating within a range of diverse products. But, for the most part, initially, local communities need to take back our food. The agricultural economy of an area like ours is truly the beat of our heart. And the best way to cut costs while simultaneously increasing quality is to realize what others in your industry consider waste, treats as a burden, pays to have hauled away or destroyed. Decrepit technologies, food scraps, unused lots of grass, ancient looking buildings with busted out windows. This is what we have in abundance, and there are a lot of people who will only ever know it as trash. Project Local is first to examine value in a different way, to find or make it in a place where others have stopped working. Even stopped looking.

True local does not begin down the road or where you like to say you are from. It is home. Where and how we choose to live each and every day. Here we discover the foundation of any economy is community. The most abundantly valuable resource at our disposal currently is one another. And there is no such thing as waste. At least not in a well-connected place.

Farm or be farmed.

The farmer kills chickens when he or she is hungry.
And Japanese beetles when they are too. Killing the corn.

The farmer still does it.
Crushes reflective bodies between finger and thumb.
Red guts wiped on long wagging green tongues.

The beetles keep on also.
Out around eleven and on toward dusk.

Man has a husk. Armor. Which can be pierced. Eaten into. Through.
And chickens, beetles, these things do too.

I suppose all farmers feel a little bit bitten. Harmed.
And maybe this is why they kill them all. Big or small.

Farm or be farmed.

The price of water.

Man, he was laying it on iron thick. As they do. Man. Men.
When they had something to prove. Back in the day.
But never dealt with it then. So here he is now.

Finger painting for about four young faces a pastel utopia
that somehow ends with him richer than all of them
and us somehow happy about it.

Like a toddler does, he said our heads had been brainwashed,
green paint between fingers and a dash of red on his cheeks.
See, these are the trees. There is the sun.
Here is you and me. Look closely. He says.
Closer so you’ll see.
Look at the expressions on your smudged finger traced faces.
I painted you smiling you silly young shits.

Brainwashed,
somehow liberally biased,
wonderful young people
who really are good friends and family.
Communists.
I love you. I really do.
I wanted to say that,
in spite of needing to.

This was nice. Everyone needs to have chats like this.
You, and your flimsy words of food for the world.
And him. Yelling at you for considering it. Socialist.
Communist. Bleeding heart food is a right political
upheaval might be possible in a lifetime idealistics.
You possibilists. And your overactive imaginations.

And him.
Business man.
Watching profit margins like a weather report with the world on fire.
He knows we will get around to putting it out. Eventually.

It’s just that every year with the world on fire,
the price of water rises.

New Rooster #projectlocal

About five years ago, my father purchased fifteen fresh hatched chickens for me to raise. The end goal being a freezer full of meat that knew life before it met the knife. He was to take ten of them, and I took five. But somewhere along the line, I changed my mind and decided to keep at least one rooster for the farm. Out of fifteen baby birds that showed up at five thirty in the morning at the local post office, stuffed in a box, this single Rhode Island Red was the only one who made it past a year.

There are many common misconceptions about chickens. And roosters in particular. One is that it is impossible for two roosters to cohabitate, in the same coop, tending the same brood. It isn’t all the way true. In my experience, roosters who have known separate farms, separate flocks, at least a year or two apart, will most likely fight it out a few times, and if one does not give up, which one usually does, they will continue to be a problem. But definitely not a fight to the death all at once. I’ve seen years pass by between warring chickens. As long as one backs down at some point, they’ll go on neighboring. Also, if one bird is raised around a grown rooster, or two dibby roosters grow up together, they won’t even fight. As long as a hierarchy remains solidified, a rooster really doesn’t want to peck anything to death. This was the case with the Rhode Island Red. I had another rooster on the farm, but he was no threat, so they all got along.

Then five years passed by. My older rooster, affectionately called Big Daddy, got to the point his legs couldn’t pick him up anymore. So the young one inherited the whole flock of over twenty, all to himself, for about two years. Never intended to make it past six months. You go into farming thinking it is all about this ebbing balance between life and death. Then you find out they’re both in a three-way with time. And time has a way of making life and death trade masks. It made one out of fourteen, five years out of half of one, and what would have been a single meal into half a decade of crowing, strutting, staring down tree-lines and running off hawks. But time, like all other things, has limits. It can’t make an exhausted heart keep beating, or tired legs go a mile. And just a few weeks ago, home late from rehearsal, we found the Rhode Island rooster had died.

Now, on my street, some of our neighbors are gamehens and roosters. Partially kept. Partially wild. Roosting in this short thick Magnolia tree. They hatch eggs with no human interference. There are a ton of them. Mostly little screechy males who strut slow in the road and head tilt at car bumpers and crow. Randomly, about a week after my rooster passed away at his first hint of old age, I had one of those roadside neighbor to neighbor conversations in passing as I was getting home from work. And wouldn’t you know, she offered me to keep one of these for the most part wild roosters already roaming my yard for weeks. Of course I laughed at the idea of being able to catch one, let alone having one actually get along with my hens, stay in my coop, commit full time to my farm.

I thought it was laughable. I’m not exaggerating when I say there are seven or more of these little guys roaming up our street at any given time. But, to my disbelief, one especially small game rooster, the color of a slice of sunset, just started hanging around my birds. All the time. Stopped crossing the street every night to roost in his squat magnolia tree. Caught him sleeping on a perch in my coop, where he has now been staying every night. Completely committed to the flock. Now this is not a rooster I bought. Not a rooster I went looking for, or asked about. Not one I even want, really. But it helps to have him. He watches the birds, watches the sky, finds worms in the yard and cluck-struts to call them all over. They get along, and most importantly, he knows people are people and birds are birds. Because when that line gets blurred, it makes for a fighty rooster. He is small, much smaller than the others, smaller, even, than most hens. Which I think they prefer.

This story stands out to me in particular because of the effortlessness of this modest exchange of power. How a natural opening formed on my farm, and natural excess from down the road emigrated up and filled it. How no money changed hands. Just the mere utterance of an idea by a roadside one afternoon. But the universe was listening. And without much intention, one of its humble feathered counterparts perked up and answered the call. A new rooster, to replace the one who almost never was. A new voice, to sing to the sunrise. A seed of orange fire lit up in his eyes.

But why, why this one and not another, why this one but not all the others?
Every rooster learns to crow, even after the sun has risen.
But I think, somewhere along the line, this new rooster of mine,
he learned to listen.

Inalienable #projectlocal

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I want to take a moment to break this statement down. There are a lot of words here, but in reality, there is only one. An all encompassing four letter word that, should we fail to pause on it, even for a second, we might overlook the never ending, climactic struggle of ongoing cause and effect it entails. This word life. And to iterate a point, how many ended so that you could arrive at this point? How many lives complete with beating hearts and restless lungs and electric minds, stopped, so that this day could start?

I take it this is an agreed on statement, since I’ve been taught this in school since I was a child. That it is an inalienable right, for all of us, endowed by our cosmic creator, to have life.

It can be confusing. We’ve only had around a billion years roaming this little world to figure it out, but what exactly is life? Not talking about purpose, or pursuits, or the spiritual ramifications of eternal conquests for insight or understanding. I mean, what does it take to sustainably exist in a state one can call life? You see, this one is a simple equation. I can’t be the only person in the room who knows there’s no life in a vacuum. And that incredibly complex and deep running planetary roots are required to sustain all of us just to sit in a chair and breath regular. Just to exist. You’ve eaten. You’ve had a good bit to drink. And you’ve had reprieve from the elements. Food. Water. Shelter. A nice neat simple little equation to help make reality of this little soundbite, life.

If we have a right to life, that is different than a right to existence, right? Existence can be a blip. A single second. A momentary instant where some flash flood of consciousness thinks ‘I am’ just before it is gone. But life is more of a fire. A spark we share together with single cells from a billion years ago on the shore of a prehistoric ocean. Then all the fuel and tinder and kindling we’ve fed into it over the many millennia. A lot of work and effort went into life. And there are sources for resources we as a species can not generate all on our lonesome.

We don’t protect endangered species by putting them in armor. We do so by protecting their endangered habitats. Because there is no life outside of constant access to food, water, shelter.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Debt and over taxation without adequate respect or representation are forms of oppression. They have a long history of being used to maintain people in varying states of not fully free. Human beings can not survive in a vacuum. If you’ve guaranteed a human its freedom, you’ve guaranteed it free access to some food they can consume without fully depleting it, clean water from a consistent source and shelter from weather, from seasons, from the prying eyes of others. Without this option, this reality, what we have can not be called freedom. And if these assets are not available by natural, agricultural and rural-industrial means, and can only be obtained monetarily, then an appropriate amount of value must be provided, untaxed, at the very least annually, for the procurement of adequate food, water and shelter sources.

Choices.

The only doorway that leads to freedom. And unfortunately, when it comes to basic needs, none of us has any choice in the matter. Any governmental, or economic barrier that must be passed through in order to get to that simple, basic, fundamental place, is a restriction on, and therefore a denial of, our intrinsic right to freedom. We have to be alive to be free. We have to eat, drink, and have a safe place to sleep, to be alive. Therefore, having free access to those resources is the physical equivalent of having freedom. And what you do with it from that point on is living.

Fast cars, big houses, fancy dinners. This is why we formed economies. But capitalism has no intention of feeding our children past profitability. Capitalism knows that food, water and shelter are the invisible monopolies. And that if it can convince creatures these basic rights are commodities, they have found the perfect product. One consumers can’t boycott.

I’ve used a lot of words here, as usual, only trying to say one thing. Farmers don’t waste time trying to orchestrate the social lives of chickens. We would have better functioning government if they gave up trying to government, and simply tried to farm us. Because a farmer does three things for an animal. Provides food in varying sources, water clean and constant, and shelter from weather, danger and one another. Apart from that, freedom means nothing. Stubbornly doing absolutely nothing else for this little creature except watching it learn and grow throughout the ever-changing trials of life.

Local infrastructure: designed around food production and foot traffic based economic activity and education and healthcare.

Community justice: a tremendous burden placed on proof, and judgement by those who knew your name before they knew your crime.

Federal networking: communication town to town, region to region, state to state, and state to nation. Connecting the dots between surplus and shortage, recognizing the otherwise unseen congruencies between agriculture regions and climates. Trade regulations, foreign affairs, diplomacy, military and medical and disaster relief organizations.

We built a nation from the top down, and because of it, some country could take the head off America and the rest of it would just collapse. Local farmers go out of business while we feed families food from other continents, because it’s actually cheaper. We have flea markets, and garden like it was a pastime or hobby. Not like how when there is a disaster, it will be our sole source of life. Local will always be better. Always. Because there is an actual cost available. The story behind where a product came from and how it came to be. It is usually an incredible story. But it is always, however, local.

I propose we promote each agricultural region of no more than twenty square miles or so, to look at their area as an ark. As in, if they had to, just how much could they produce without going too far from home. At first, a simple, beneficial exercise, but ultimately, a ranking system where areas compete to produce upwards of forty, to sixty, or even eighty percent of their entire food, medical and water needs. So that when each local principality reaches out to their larger regions, even to their states, for help, it is only to supplement, or trade for the diversity we’ve grown accustomed to accessing. And in doing so, each region and state would go to our federal system needing that much less. An easy endeavor to incentivize, and even promote a little capitalistic competition between regions and towns to out-sustain their neighbors.

As opposed to what we have now, which is leadership most likely praying disaster for the sake of publicity and increased budget spending. Police departments receiving new gadgets and pay raises after each destructive riot. A certain level of homelessness and unemployment to keep the ship rocking. All hands on deck.

For as long as people look to governments to fulfill basic, daily needs, there will be government jobs in an endless stream. The motivation just isn’t there. The perfect worker works to make his or herself obsolete. So what we have here is an entire system built on a conflict of interest. And a government invented by unimaginative, vengeful men who didn’t want to dissolve the crown, but split it up into eight hundred pieces and secure never-ending employment for their little nephews and nieces until kingdom calls us all home. And it has. Right here and now.

We can not be free without the choice to be. To human. Before we American, before we are students or residents, before you are anything but you. This right is God granted. It does not need to be government approved.

What about bricks?

My solution is a shift in perspective. Currently, the administration embodies the blueprinted layout. A deep abstract, architectural design. And I say, what about bricks? Each block, unit, independent resource piled and placed in even straight lined relation to other bricks.

Local government. The only functioning government.
Humans aren’t broad enough to represent anyone.

Daily, the voices of represented populations should rattle in their ears. Decisions, restrictions, a short walk and conversation away from the people most affected. Here, within the heart of every American community, the seed of democracy can be glimpsed.

There can still be a federal government, president, senators and what not, but real active functional Americans won’t have to care. Just need to live. Strive to get food to the hungry, medicine and education to the sick and the suffering.

Who can find a sustainable method to pay for the feeding, welfare of millions? No one.
But the five, ten, twenty thousand in each small town, maybe. And the five hundred thousand, or even millions in and around great cities. At least a government tethered its area has a chance of hearing each voice, each complaint, and a fair shot at answering it.

Stared into the faces of their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, we would never send anyone lightly into war, harm, death. No more minority-majority speak. If one or two stand and make a good argument, they will be heard, or hungry, they will be fed, desperate, sick, no land, home or family, the representation of help can be omitted.

We can skip directly to real local democratic solutions.

A larger national-minded government may find a place in mortar, between bricks, to help each stick to the next. Interconnect, network, trade. Alleviate disputes fairly and then fall unnoticed back into the background.

But people, human beings, American citizens, we keep the town.
We built it up. We have the right to tear it down.

Project Local: How Everyone Deserves Time Out

As children, it is used as a punishment, but once we’re grown, the prospect of time out loses its sting. In fact, it becomes a sort of treasure. It isn’t a matter of being unfulfilled in your career or house or pace of life. People can be perfectly happy where they are, and still desire, time to time, to be somewhere entirely different. We are already doing it. Vacation. Sabbatical. Invaluable time off. Letting escape take us in little moments we purposefully didn’t prepare for.

Project Local seeks to intentionalize this process. To just go on ahead and out loud embrace this new modern breed of being partially nomadic within our domesticity.

Instead of fully transplanting every time, we will reorganize our lives like a vine. Always extending out from a solid, central, local base. An internal sense of home. And the requirements that make it so. Enough space for yourself, mentally and physically. Room to lay down some roots, figuratively and literally. Grow some food. Pursue a local water source or two. Or understand the community infrastructure required to provide any basic, daily, lifelong necessity. A home is not an island. Nor is it a clock whose gears and winding and ticking hands are all controlled, contained in the palm of our hand. The network of infrastructure, pipelines, reservoirs, the bulbous shaped water tanks that loiter our small town horizons, down to the very taxes paid by you and your neighbors, to help share the mutual cost of every shower, every dripping faucet, every dark soil soaked garden steaming in the late evening summer heat.
We can pretend that these things are merely products.
But that doesn’t make it so.

It just so happens, that for all our taxes, all our decades of standardized trial by fire tested education, we don’t actually earn ourselves any naturally reoccurring resources for existence. A human is meant to generate enough value, right off the bat, to pay into someone’s rental business, or be taxed by the acre, or pay monthly into a mortgage, just to have a simple source of shelter. Not to mention a bite to eat. I’d hate to take up all your time trying to explain how much time we have to steal to pay for every meal. And every bill that gets sent to make sure each spigot spits up that hopefully clear, hopefully clean, overly cold sacrament.

There is no time out. Not for these commodities. They make such nice neat little local monopolies. You just have to figure out how to sell someone something that falls from the sky. Or grows from the ground. Or depends on you living near a town.

And what you have then is not simply a consumer, but consumers for life.
And an economic class system, from which there is no longer the threat of time out.