Off the keyboard of William Hunter Duncan
Originally published Jan 03, 2013 @ Off The Grid In Minneapolis
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2013 begins for me, with about $1200 cash, a mortgage and bills, a house to maintain, without a working furnace, in the midst of a ten day stretch of below freezing weather with average temperatures around 10F (-12.22C), with no job, no income, and no real prospect of any. Two working, 1800W oil-filled radiators, and a working 40 gal water heater it turns out, are in no way sufficient to heat even this small 750 sq ft house, to anything even resembling what most Americans would consider a minimum threshold of comfort, in even half of this house, when it’s this cold. Not least because this house was built in 1918 when the only idea I suspect was to burn as much wood as was needed, to maintain whatever they considered normal, which was probably austere by today’s standards. The woodlot has since been swallowed up by urban sod, tar and concrete for forty miles in every direction at least. Most everything beyond that for a hundred miles+, by corn, sod and road. They build homes these days basically to burn as much natural gas as is necessary. Though you won’t find any of that for 500 miles in any direction, with Minneapolis as your starting point.
If I’m completely honest about it, even the energy necessary to run these two modest heaters and the water heater, comes increasingly from fracked natural gas. The electricity is also generated by the burning of coal, and of nuclear fission, there being two nuclear facilities on either side of the Twin Cities Minneapolis/St Paul greater metro, thirty-five miles upriver and thirty-five miles downriver on the Mississippi. Some electricity is generated in the west and the south of the state, and in the Dakotas and Iowa by wind, but only a small fraction; and as Congress has been playing games with the Wind Tax Credit, in the faux-furor over the fiscal cliff, what turbines we have may be all we’re going to have for awhile.
When I returned to this house in the spring of 2010, with $80, no income and no prospects, I had already as long as two years before that been dreaming of rebuilding this house, to take it off the grid, with as much scrap material as I could find, to show how it can be done, to be a model for what could be possible for the entire region. That vision has evolved, but I have failed miserably, in creating any of that vision for this house – but a few cosmetic effects, which do little to improve the livability of any insufficiently or unheated house, in a cold climate.
I’ve been much more successful with the land. There’s not much land here, but I have 18 fruit trees, 14 grape vines, 2000-3000 sq ft of veggie gardens and another several thousand feet of wildflowers, perhaps 300 different species of plants year to year. The healthiest black-cap raspberry patch I’ve ever seen anywhere in the region, red raspberries, asparagus and strawberries. Half of the driveway now is antique paver, there’s a paver patio next to the pond. The front walk is partially paver. I built stone garden beds along the driveway and the garage. I’m hoping to plant hops on the garage this spring.
All of which is cold comfort, in a cold house in winter. Much of which would likely be bulldozed and poisoned if it fell into the hands of the bank or a speculator. The house torn down, replaced by some hideous suburban Mcmansion style three story energy sink surrounded by sod, on this corner lot-and-a-half, south-east facing. Onward progress. I don’t know that my neighbors would mind overly much. Though when those pavers went in this fall, more people came by and spoke to me in a friendly way than ever before, even esp. because of the White Pine in the driveway 🙂
(My neighbor across the street just walked out of the back of his house, and chucked his Christmas tree off the back porch) LOL
Perhaps I am not ready to build the house I imagine building here? I imagine travelling around the world, helping people build unusual houses, helping people build gardens, dancing across Europe, dancing in Africa, going down-under, building a boat, sailing that boat eventually to the Big Island, Hawaii, walking around that island, eventually sailing to an inlet of British Colombia; and from there, either crossing the divide on foot, then paddling home, or depending on the security situation, sailing all the way around the Americas, up the Great Lakes to dock in Duluth. Maybe then, I think, I would be prepared to build the house I imagine. Perhaps by that time, Minnesota will be prepared to rebuild. Perhaps this house and this garden will not be destroyed, and available.
That would make a nice novel, too. Wouldn’t mind making this the home place, actually, a little writing loft above the greenhouse/garage. But oh right, one must finish a novel, to have something to sell, assuming someone is willing to buy; to help see this thing through. Which, novel writers need time, which I am in possession of for a short while at least. Dedication…Oh right.
Then I’m reminded of the security situation here in America. Not least increasing government surveillance, indefinite detention, expansion of the punitive penal, quasi-military state, but also pending food and energy problems. All hail the House of Saud. Natural gas is an investor inspired bubble, which threatens a vast investment bubble in natural gas infrastructure, that is sure to be useless when the fracking bubble pops. Never mind the polluting of aquifers, inevitable in punching so many holes deep into the earth, pumping vast amounts of chemical laden water at high pressures to fracture the underlying rock strata, leaking pipes etc. Aquifers not just necessary for drinking but for farming also. What if we had to rely on what falls from the sky, with an increasingly unstable climate? A lot of people die, that’s what.
$8,000-$15,000 an acre for farm land is called investors fucking with food, btw. An investment bubble exactly like the Tech bubble, Housing bubble, and the natural gas/oil fracking bubble. That’s going to be some dear corn after the investors take their cut, the interest paid, particularly during drought. Of course once the Ogallala is sufficiently empty, that’ll be the end of the breadbasket of the world, so make your riches while you can, I guess. Of course, pumping all that fossil water couldn’t save the crop this year. Nor the mass culling of the herd. Then there’s all the guns. A hungry people increasingly insular, manipulated by the media, made hungrier by debt bondage, few of them ever taught how to think. Seems a strange strategy to run a civilization, but no doubt the major players have their own plans to GTFO if TSHTF.
So you see, it’s no more crazy to stay here, than to go traipsing around the world in an orange afro wig. LOL
I applied for Unemployment bennies. That was easy. Twenty minutes online. My estimated benefit came to 0$, because there was no bubble to click in the section about why I am no longer employed, about a peaceful exit from a crooked enterprise. I didn’t massage the how or the why about why I left big bank, came right out and said the job involved potentially unethical and borderline criminal work, so I put on an orange afro wig and danced at my cubicle/work station, knowing my job performance was too good to get me laid off, otherwise. If I just walked away I wouldn’t qualify, and walking away, the Agency wouldn’t place me again, anywhere. Apparently I’ll get a letter in the mail, after the application is reviewed by a living human. The computer only recognizes that I got fired. There’s an appeal process, should I be declined.
There’s one job I might possibly be able to finagle my way into, but I’m going to have to be super charming about it, and I know it won’t pay more than $11.25-$11.50/hr – goodbye, $200 left over for food, craft beer. LOL Good thing I’ve got that 6 gallons of 2011 Frontenac wine in the basement, which I cracked last night and you know what, it ain’t all that, but it ain’t half-bad either. Works as advertised! In three years I could be producing 200 bottles, between what I planted here, and the vines at my sisters. Maybe more.
Plenty of food staples in house to get me by, till the thaw. Theoretically, I shouldn’t have to leave my house for the next two months, except for coffee. Oh right, Mortgage, bills, job…
Oh right, and my State of Minnesota tax return is going to get swallowed up by the State of Minnesota, because they say I owe them $300, because they say I made $12,000 in 2008, instead of the $9000 I apparently reported. Going back in time, to fleece the poor. That is the criminal racketeering enterprise American governance has become. Oh joy; big bank, big gov.
Oh and my Unemployment Benefit’s should I receive any, generally said to be less than 50% of previous income, are taxed at a rate of 10% by the Feds and 5% by MN? Nutz. Bizarro.
Oh wait. Remember how the media supported the OWS movement, mostly? And then mocked them for their weakness, for not returning to the streets in 2012? Here is evidence that there was a vast nation-wide suppression of the OWS movement, lead by the FBI, at the behest of the big banks and big corps, with even planned assassinations by sniper of OWS leadership – and you have to go to the Guardian in the UK to find anyone in the major media reporting on it? Which makes the media of America what, whore to the expanding police surveillance state? Which begs the question then, can one remain good or moral or have real integrity, and work for big gov, big bank, big corp, big ag, big edu, big law enforcement, big military, big media, big monstrous global machine devouring people and the earth?
Not sayin you can’t, just sayin the question needs askin’