A few blogs ago I mentioned planning thanksgiving in Santa Fe with the one person I found on social apps that didn’t want to just have sex with me.. Well, I was wrong, a day before making my drive to Santa Fe I asked this person for some information, anything. He would not send me a photo of his ID or give me his full name. Things started to fall apart after that, his story varied, his intentions came through, and I soon realized I was dealing with a creepy person. I am a strong man, able to take care of myself, but I can’t beat up chloroform, so the whole idea of Santa Fe lost my interest. I was proud of how I handled things and called him out on his bullshit, as well as my new ability to recognize the toxic and not wanting to go near it. So.. I made the best modification to my journey while keeping the goal as priority. I will be spending thanksgiving with my newly acquired family from my brothers recent wedding. I am staying with Bob (my brother’s wife’s cousin) and Mindy (his wife), in Carlsbad New Mexico. They have a beautiful home and have given me another opportunity to upgrade and recharge. But before getting to Carlsbad, while driving south, I spent a day exploring Chaco Canyon, a natural historic park in north west New Mexico. Chaco Canyon was a major center of culture for the ancient pueblo peoples between 900 and 11150 AD. This area contains the largest collection of ruins north of Mexico. You are able to walk among the ruins scattered for miles within the park system. And remember, because it’s a national park, in most cases you are able to camp as well. Even spending most the day at Chaco Canyon. I was not able to see all the ruins, but I was able to see the 3 largest and most impressive. And in those ruins, I felt something beautiful being given to my soul. Standing in the cultures of our past awakens something inside you. The heart and brain are in eclipse at those moments and you understand peace again. I feel that Chaco Canyon gave me transcending spiritual moment. After meditating and breathing in their history while among the ruins, I learned how to harness my practice, and focus my energy. I close my eyes, and breath in the light. Visual, I breath in rainbows, as I draw my inward breath, I take in rainbows through my nose and into any one negative area that needs love and attention. As I exhale I visualize dark smoke out my mouth and from the focused area. I breath intensely for 20 to 30 breaths, while focusing my practice. Afterwards, I’m happily content and genuinely feel better and stronger with each meditation. The ruins at Chaco Canyon reaffirmed within myself that I am in control. We are the kings, we choose how to rule the complexities of our body and mind. Do you rule with honor or deceit within yourself? The many ego driven personalities we have inside ourselves are the loyal subjects inside our kingdom, or the slaves trying to break through the walls. Do you have enough knights to protect your weaknesses? Do you have too many, therefore no one gets through your walls? This internal battle within me was fought while among the ruins at Chaco Canyon, and thanks to a few generations of ancient spirits, I’ve become a stronger, more peaceful ruler within my kingdom. After Chaco Canyon I traveled to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southern New Mexico, located in the Guadalupe Mountains. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 known caves – all formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. They have almost 30 miles of cave systems, and some of the largest rooms in the world. The cave was alive, yet beautifully silent. The quite you feel while in the depths of the earth, can sometimes be too loud for the weak minded, but if you can connect with that silence between the void, you can amplify your meditation and find places within yourself you didn’t know existed. You can mentally go deeper within yourself with every drop of water falling down from a Stalactite, demanding for attention in the silent dark. When you are miles below the surface you are cut off from the world. No service, no noise, no commotion from the connected world, yet I’ve never felt more connected with Mother Earth, and myself. She has shown me how truly unconnected I was from her. And within the darkness of her womb, she gave me back my light. After my second life changing experience I had another mountain to climb. Guadalupe Peak is the highest place in Texas, and only a few hours from where I was staying in New Mexico. The peak is at around 8,700 feet. (More than double Mount Marcy, the highest peak in New York, in the Adirondack Mountains) Beginning the climb I pass a family, we share hellos, and while passing I hear the son ask his father why they aren’t going as fast as me.. The father chuckles out his reply; because you’re on my back son. I turned around and shared a laugh with the family, then continued my break neck pace, although I do stop and take in every beautiful moment that speaks to me in the wild, which negates my pace, but gives me more opportunities for wonder. While climbing to the top of this mountain, during a simple 5 minute meditation, I called upon my spirit animal. Shortly after, I came upon about 25 mountain birds. They flew and fluttered around me, almost accompanying me along the way up. As we entered into a clearly between 2 cliff edges, I come within eye contact of 2 big horn sheep. This moment transcended me yet again, and I wasn’t even at the peak. I don’t climb mountains because they are simply there, I climb them because I am here. I am not climbing these mountains to achieve something, I am climbing them to learn something more about myself. The Gods we have within ourselves shine brighter at the tops of the world. That mysterious wisdom flows through you easier as you feel your massive insignificance when surrounded by the mountain, while standing at the peak. The top of Guadalupe was extreme, with strong, cold winds that even the heat of the sun couldn’t stop from chilling through your bones. I looked for rock ledges and corners in the sun with plenty of thermal energy built up from the morning’s heat. The wind was above me with the sun on my face as I sat in my warm little corner and thanked God for my meaningful life. After about 2 hours at the peak I began my decent. On my way down, the encouragement I gave to other hikers on their way up, but contemplating turning back actually helped one women continue her journey. Passing that energy to others, giving them the extra push to the next level never once emptied my bucket. In fact, my bucket overflowed with gratitude and loving energy. My goal was accomplished, to come back stronger from the top, not just to climb the mountain, but to meditate and prey and be thankful while at the peak. So with those previous amazing adventures concentrated into my soul, and being one day away from the last full moon before winter, I decided to spend it at White Sands National Monument. Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders, the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand which has engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dune field. So now with 3 recent major life altering events influencing a great part of me; bringing me into ancient ruins, going from the depths of the earth to the highest peaks, I was ready for my slate to be cleaned. And the vast beauty of White Sands did just that. Walking the Alkine Flat trail, in bare feet, while the sun sets, during the last full moon before winter, gave me a chance to let go of the negative things from my past. I sat alone at the top of a dune, away from everything, but a more complete part of that great everything than ever before. I wrote in the sand emotions I’ve let go of, so they could be blown away before I begin my new life. As the full moon began to rise I was given a since of direction. We are more powerful than we pretend to be. It’s just easier being weak. Nothing can compare to this kind of beauty and clarity, when it’s right in front of you, it’s everything. I won’t dishonor the greatest most beautiful moon I’ve ever experienced with a picture. But I do so very much love this amazing world.. To the moon and back. I am ready. The universe is ready. And I can feel the connection to that next level. Something amazing is about to happen.
I’ve been getting the best sleep of my life, my internal clock has joined with the sun. I wake up with the sun shining on my face, I go to bed after my night time meditation, star gaze smoke session. Most mornings I slowly wake up, go to the kitchen, grab a bowl of oatmeal mix, (it’s awesome and will defiantly be another upgrade for me as I travel) throw in some raw honey, maybe cut up an apple or banana, and prepare myself for Arvo’s morning lesson plan. He literally teaches us whatever we want to know about permaculture and sustainability. We sit at the kitchen table and learn, he shows us his systems and why they work for him, and which designs will work best for all possible situations. He teaches us for about an hour a day, plus the experience we gain from working within his system. But sadly my time at Cielo Isla is coming to a close, although I will be staying in contact with Arvo and Mallory and hope to return to keep learning from their “well” of permaculture and sustainability knowledge. It scares me sometimes to be so far from self reliance, what Arvo has begun to teach me not only makes me less dependent on the grid, it makes me want it less as well, by showing me the simple complexities of solar, bio gas, and alternative building I am no longer intimidated by it. I am far from the peak of complete knowledge is these areas, but my path has been set and I will continue to go forward. They also taught me the how and the why in loving this way of life. I’ve been shown the illusion of the conformed life, in all its forms. To choose a life built on sustainability rather than consumption is not only beneficial to you, it benefits everyone. And taking that step is as easy as going to your famers market and talking with local vendors. As I learn clarity on how to support my life, I am also learning how to live that life. I am happier with an objective in my life. I love the wonder of this earth, but I’m not wandering it. You can be a jelly fish, unable to control your direction, or enjoy your seat on top of the food chain. I try to fill myself with love, light, energy, and a sense of adventure while having goals and meaningfulness as my fuel. As I leave northern New Mexico and head south I have several stops planned along the way. The forms and locations of my goals may change, but their meanings will never waver; Experience the most beautiful places in the United States and learn how to live off them, all while finding a life worth growing roots in, a home.. filled with wonder.
“In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks” – John Muir
My WWOOFing experience here has been one of constant work. There is so much going on at Cielo Isla that most days we work sun rise to set. But durning this, I am working in paradise, learning as much as I’m working, and enjoying every breath I take in. Living in this desert mountain climate teaches you to dress in layers. You may be cold in the morning, but by midday, if the sun comes out (it’s always out) you will be hot, Especially in a greenhouse. Clothes are best put on in layers so they can be later taken off as the heat progresses. Even on a cold day, you can feel the heat of the sun on your face. Because of the weather, be it cold or cloudy there is no shortage of breaks, I’ve spent more than a few getting to know Chaco the raven better. If you can here him cawing, than you can call to him, and he will come. He is the size of a large hawk, and has no problem chasing real hawks. I’ve seen him chasing and doing barrel rolls at more then a few, it’s kinda awesome. He also gets right next to you and speaks, he cries, he yells, he even has conversations with you. Chaco may be the coolest animal on the farm, however they have some pretty social goats, a dog with the most beautiful white pearl and blue eyes and a cat that I’m falling in love with. I’m not a cat person, I don’t care whether this cat is male or female, I don’t even know it’s name. But kitty is kinda neglected by everyone else, and after petting him once, we sorta developed this connection. When she finds me, he runs towards me and starts to purr before I can even touch him. I toss her on my shoulders and he lays there while I walk the homestead, on my way to another project, toss the cat down, and begin the next lesson as I make the world my classroom. At times, and rightly so, I feel as though our intentions are not as recognized as our actions and manner. Without a proper follow through, it’s only a whisper. With most days spent getting hands on experience, it’s hard to believe I have any time off. And since off grid means zero to bad service. No wifi. Less blogging. But more learning. I had time to learn about natural hot springs, by getting in my first one! After a beautiful mountain canyon hike through a winding river twice and back again. This was a shoes off, water shoes on to cross the river, night time stars included type hike. The first hot spring was along the river, separated with strategically place rocks, while the other was dug within the ground, in grass, just as it sounds. I enjoy finding the treasure that take any adventure to the next level. The feeling you get at the top of a mountain, the perfect dive bar in the most unique little town, a soak in the hot springs after a rainbow of a hike along cliff edges and river passes. I have more planned, and not planned hikes in my future, because the feeling I get from sitting at the edge of a rock cliff watching the sunset. Meditating, praying, accepting life, gives me a meaningful one. At times I feel I have too much life to live to ever grow roots again. I’m afraid after my American adventure is complete, I’ll want to travel the world more. But one adventure at a time. Another adventure for me will be living in random places alone for the holidays. This thanksgiving I plan to spend in Santa Fe with a friend for a week before driving to Tucson. I still have many places I want to go in New Mexico before leaving, and having a guide, and host, is next level. Although finding my guide/friend wasn’t easy. Using my travel apps I’m able to locate Possible hosts who are willing and available to help out fellow travelers. But sadly, and in one case, admittedly these apps work much better if you are female. I contacted 8 people on one of my travel apps, 7 men, 1 women. 2 replies, both verified excuses from honest men, because I wasn’t a girl. Even female WWOOFers have told me how easily they are excepted onto farms and through travel apps. Ugh. Is sex the only thing that matters? As I travel, and take weekend breaks in the surrounding cities, I’m reminded of how creepy men can be, because when I give up on the travel apps, and go to Craigslist. I post in the plutonic section for everyone. I’m very specific in my post. I explain my adventure, give them a photo, reference my blog, tell them I’m straight but not looking for anything, working on myself, blah blah blah. But 95% of the responses I get back are dudes trying to fuck me. This is a problem, too many creepers, not enough genuine people. People says they want more friends, but it often seems like it’s just for sex. It’s not genuine. I’m searching for genuine. I’ve tried the bi thing. Throw in a hot girl and maybe, but man, I’m trying to live my life! Not let it be controlled by sex. Sex can run and destroy your life. Be careful. Reject the primate brain and transcend. Establishing a relationship is better than just a random creeper hook up. It’s genuine. Controlling the ego monkey brain gives you more power, and God respects that control. The Universe will be proud of 2 people who just become friends, simply and beautifully, it looks down on creepers just trying to get off. I look forward to not getting myself off (abstinent for like 3 months!) while experiencing everything about New Mexico and more specifically, Santa Fe, and During thanksgiving! I’m finding reason, and controlling that reason through the madness of this beautifully chaotic life. It seems everyone’s life is powered by something, so why not love. If the sun rises and sets for your love. Then it’s powered by your love for it. And that’s a sustainable energy worth a lifetime. 2 if you’re lucky..
Cielo Isla is also known as The Solar Arc, Confusing a bit, but 2 names are better than one, Either way, they are the natural alternative to living a less typical lifestyle. “Alternative” building materials have been around as long as humans have been able to stack rocks on top of each other. Although building methods have greatly improved, when you’re living off grid, with a budget, surrounded by nature, you might as well use it. We press out our own mud bricks. They consist of dirt and sand, that’s it. The press is no joke, and after making 100 bricks before the end of the day, you’re probably not gonna want to go on a late day hike. But it does it’s job, consistently. As well as using mud bricks, The Solar Arc (Cielo Isla) also constructs foundation walls out of a mixture of concrete and pumice, which is another inexpensive building material in the New Mexico area. Throw in the right amount of windows, (as many as you can find) set the roof layering accordingly, and thermal dynamics keeps the house temperature controlled all times of the year with proper ventilation modifications. Not only is this 10 acre homestead built alternatively, it runs completely self contained, using wind, solar, and bio gas. As I learn more about these 3 massive energy upgrades I hope to apply at least 2 into my root system. Solar is all about knowing what you are running verses what you are talking in. Monitor everything and defiantly get some personal knowledge on it, but you’ll be surprised how easily operate-able solar can be. Wind is very comparable to solar as far as energy storage and usage. Monitor and study how best to use wind energy just as you would solar. As for bio gas… Well, animal excrement (including our own) has been providing fuel as far back as the first testament. Although The Solar Arc doesn’t use human shit, we do however see no problem in turning the chicken poop into bio gas. The sun and the greenhouse effect, heat the methane digester, which turns to part methane, and part effluent. Methane is extremely similar to propane, and the effluent is a powerful and clean liquid fertilizer, used for both watering and selling. Once again, if this sounds like something you can accomplish with the livestock you have, and you don’t mind the work, look into the bio gas process and you’ll be a bit surprised how easy it is to run once the digester, gas tank, and compressor has been properly installed. Solar, wind, and bio gas all run fairly self sufficiently after installation. But it takes the love and the maintenance to keep any well oiled machine running. Additionally, loving yourself and maintaining your own balance will keep everything you’re passionate about together as well. A solid foundation with the right connections is how we build beautiful and personal creations that give us wonder, and last forever.
Cielo Isla is a farm located in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico. They are off the grid with solar and wind electric systems, solar hot water, bio gas (from manure), masonry wood stoves, and greenhouses. They grow lettuce greens, cooking greens, beets, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and pretty much anything that will grow in this dry mountain desert climate. Cielo uses outdoor gardens in the summer and greenhouses year round, and durning the winter. They ferment kim chi, yogurt, cheese, tempeh, and bake bread. You can find goats, rabbits, chickens, geese, dogs and cats on the farm. Cielo builds with natural materials as well, using pumice, wood, mud, and straw. Green energy and alternative construction are also part of daily activities. They are currently building a wood fired oven to be constructed in the baking and brewing center, as well as building another house, with pumice and mud bricks, Cielo Isla is ran by Arvo and Mallory, Mallory is a teacher while Arvo seems to be the number one draft pick for any “end of the world” scenario. My head is spinning. My adventure just keeps getting better and teaching me more. Located at the foothills of the Rio Grande, Cielo Isla is completely surrounded by beautiful wilderness. Rivers, lakes, hot springs, 11,000 feet mountains, valleys, canyons, and all I have to do for unlimited hiking and fishing is walk out of my bedroom greenhouse door. The ground is rocky, the climate is dry, wild animals are everywhere. Deer, elk and rabbit are your most common types of game. This place is incredibly interesting, and completely self sufficient. I’m learning solar. It’s basically like hooking up a car battery, 80 to 100 times. They have many solar panels throughout the farm, but most of them are concentrated in one area, close to the pump house, which also controls and stores their water. The pump house building is another complete greenhouse, mostly used for lettuce. This room can also triple as a bedroom, if you don’t mind sleeping with all the batteries. They even have a pet (wild) raven, his name is Chaco, he is a big bird, he comes into parts of the house, Arvo has a connection with Jago. This bird will even sometimes follow us to other farms within the canyon just like a dog, sorta. The mountain desert is different from the mountain forest. And Cielo Isla is different from Juniper Hill, my previous farm. The differences are adjustable and can only teach me more. As I get acclimated to this homestead I will discover and learn, but I can already feel that my body operates better in this desert climate. And the stars at night aren’t just above you at Cielo Isla’s altitude, their in front of you. Impossible to miss, daring you to Reach for them.
Before driving west I needed to stop back around Dayton in order to fly out to St. Pete, Florida for My brothers wedding. I saw a few friends, but mostly kept my head down and packed up, while adding my new upgrades for my journey west. Since I had an extra god damn plane ticket from a broken past with someone I use to know, and my friend Laura had only been to Florida once when she was around 13, I decided to bring her along. She also knew that I didn’t want to be alone at a wedding, watching a bride walk down an isle, knowing how badly I’d be missing the girl that was suppose to be my bride. So I had my moral support, I had my brothers happiness to celebrate, and I had my family, and my new family all around me. The support, and the adventures we went on together around the beach kept my spirits high and my compass pointing forward. The weather was perfect, family and friends were abundant, and nothing but good times were ahead. On our first day there we settled into the house we would be staying at, just a few blocks down the beach from the hotels the majority of the wedding party was at. I met many new relatives, and as I took in hugs and positive energy from them I felt genuine expectance from Katie’s (my brother’s wife) family. I had not been around a group of positive people like that since I left the podcast. It helped remind me of 2 things: The importance of having quality people within your life, and respect for family. The time in Florida was only a few days, so I tried to make the most of it. On our first night, after that first arrival rush, we took a 2 hour walk down the beach, in the moonlight, under the stars, during a comet shower. Yeah… Pretty spiritual for sure. On our second night the wedding party took a dolphin cruise, with a keg of beer, good food, and a spectacular view. Funny story though… The dolphin cruise we took accidentally murdered a dolphin about a year ago. It was in the news paper’s, people saw it, pretty terrible I’m told. The boat was reversing back into the dock, a dolphin got chewed up and rolled to the surface where it floated, spinning.. while ice cream cones melted from screaming children’s trembling hands. Graphic for sure. Anyway.. The boat left from the local boardwalk where there was a sea food festival going on, which had more than enough entertainment to keep the thousands of people happy. After the cruise we spent a bit more time at the festival, then made our way back to the hotel, the tiki bar, and the beach at night. The beach is the perfect place for reflection, both day and night. The infinite grains of sand still can not complete with the number of stars above our heads at night. The night time brings a unique calm over you, the ocean is more sound than sight while under the moonlight. And as the waves crash against the beach and back into the sea, the culmination of that Beauty flows into you, and the stresses of life exhale away from you. The highlight of this wonderfully amazing celebration of John and Katie’s Union still has to be seeing my little sister Genni, who also lives with my father and step mother in that area. The wedding and everything about it was fantastic. Seeing my father and mother was equally great. But my little sister is the most important person to me. I suppose caring about a younger sibling is comparable to caring about a child… Or as comparable as I’m willing to get. Florida has infused the center within myself I re-discovered while in the Adirondack wilderness with the stability of having a positive family behind me. My pleasure in life has been fully restored, time to add more flavor to this adventure. I’m on my way to New Mexico, the Rio Grande, and the great unknown. As I relearn and upgrade my own system, I realize finding peace is my next mountain, and lastly love. If it takes me 2 years to finish my journey of self sufficiency and completeness then so be it. Whatever it takes to get me to the summit of life, and I’ll need love, as my brother and Katie have, to reach the peak. Reset, energize, go forward, blast off.
The end of my Adirondack adventure is coming to a close, and so is the harvest season in upstate New York. Every year at this time, Juniper Hill Farm puts together a large party for all their CSA (community supported agriculture) members to say thank you and to celebrate the bountiful season. They call it, The Fall Frolic, a celebration at this scale takes the whole week to prepare, and with 350 plus families invited, it’s no small task. The fire wood collection process alone takes a day to consolidate all the burn piles that have been building up for the past year. The bonfires put together for this event were next level. The weather was turning colder so having multiple large fires was essential for that genuine fall celebration feeling. Juniper Hill has a bottle kiln as well, and for those of you that might not know what this is, you are missing out. Start saving your wine bottles, and depending on your drinking habits, and friends, you could have your own bottle kiln up and running in a few months. A bottle kiln is basically a chimney built from bottles, you start with a 2 or 3 foot diameter circle, placing the bottles sideways, with the necks facing inward towards the center. But before or durning this process be sure to dig out and build your support platform at ground level with a fire pit below that. Make sure you have air flow at 4 sides and make sure you are able to get the fire big enough to melt and illuminate the bottles from the inside. A few simple bags of concrete mix will also be required as they provide the mortar within the system. (Remember, think brick chimney, but with bottles) after the first base level is complete it’s a matter of stacking and packing, Layering the bottles over top each other with about an inch of mortar between bottles. The height and shape of the kiln should be consistent with the base holding its diameter up to about 3 feet tall, at this point you can start shrinking the diameter of the kiln. This will ironically resemble a wine bottle standing up, and also bring the stems closer to the center of the fire, causing them to melt towards the base like the trunk of an elephant. A properly working bottle kiln will look very unique on the inside, and look bright and colorful on the outside as the fire lights up and magnifies all your colorful wine bottles. The Frolic takes place at the farm, in a beautiful meadow surrounded by mountains. Although the setting and entertainment was next level, the feast took center stage. With practically every vegetable Juniper Hill Farm grows involved, the CSA members were sure to experience a meal they would not soon forget. I won’t bore you, or make you hungry describing all the dishes, but I will tell you, the deviled eggs we prepared were one of the major attractions. Soaked in multiple vegetable juices, they were colorful and extremely delicious. Juniper also butchered 2 hogs for the party, dressing one for a serving display with choice cuts, while the other was harvested into tried and true pulled pork. Families and friends enjoyed everything the party had to offer late into the night, well after the blues and yellows left the sky, showing it’s depth as it turned into multiple shades of black. Within that, the stars slowly peaked out into our sight, feeling close enough to touch in some places, as the silhouettes of the mountains shined off the moon and the fires blazed warmth to keep the party energized. The Fall Frolic was a success, and so was my first completed farm experience since I began my journey forward. This is my first opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of a life built on sustainability, farming, and the pursuit of permaculture, versus a life more “plugged” in, yet distant from the center. This should be a very personal list completely based on what pushes you forward, aligning with your life goals. Factor in your physical and mental health while working in these places, whether or not you will have the ability to afford insurance, the time it either gives or takes from you against the skill set being provided for you to learn. Does it feed or destroy the ego, keeping you in a state of genuine sustainable happiness. Ultimately at this point it’s up to you. What causes you to act or react, and why. Recognize what causes you pain, and learn to avoid it. Discover your passion, and pursue it. Find the best way for you to learn, and never give up. Never quit. Especially on yourself. Thank you Adam, thank you Melody, and thank you Juniper Hill Farm.
Last night, in the dark, we walked into the chicken fields and started grabbing them. Chickens can’t see very good at night and when they are asleep, they tend to wake up slowly. The chicken abduction process went a bit easier than I thought, and after we got them all crated up, we took them to another small barn on the farm and set the alarm for 4:30 am. Ironically, as the roosters cried out to the impending sunrise we awoke to start the burners and set up the production line. This set up and process may seem cruel, but I assure you, it’s the proper way when harvesting chickens. Before I explain this process I think it’s best if I explain the alternative first. (For those of you that have not scene documentaries such as “Food Inc”) large commercial agriculture has it’s place in the world, but not in mine. Humans are not designed to live in cities with millions, we are tribal, our brain capacity operates at peak levels when our collective group mind is smaller. But the realization of having to feed millions forces the population into operating at extreme levels. This is “Big Ag’. The life of a chicken on these farms is considerably worse, the chickens are forced to live in small cages with many other chickens where they can barely move, their claws and beaks are burned off so they don’t kill themselves or each other. This experience causes them to literal go insane. The ability to simply walk is a privilege they will never experience again. The guy smiling on the commercial while he’s holding his chicken sandwich makes it difficult to see past the illusion and into the truth of the lives these chickens live. At Juniper Hill Farm, their chickens live a free range lifestyle, up until their harvest. This is the soul of the difference that sets organic farming above ‘Big Ag’. The lives of the animals we eat. Do the animals you eat live a life of freedom or slavery before making it’s way to your plate, and do you even care? The Harvest process for the free chickens that live at juniper is simply, and the production line is efficient and moves fast. We operate 6 cones at once, the cone is the chicken’s final resting place before it’s harvested. The cone provides the chicken with a few things, it puts the chicken in a disoriented and calm place before it’s killed, and it keeps them contained as they bleed out. The chicken goes head first into the cone, you fish out it’s neck and hold it’s head in your hand, from there you take the knife and forcefully slice it’s jugular right below it’s jaw line. After the first slice, you quickly and and cleanly make the second cut along it’s neck, at it’s last artery that brings blood to it’s head. From this point the chicken takes about 20 seconds to bleed out. Once you have 6 chickens in the cones, the first 2 are ready for the next step in the production line. You grab 2 chickens, repeatedly dip and twist them in 140 degree water for about 30 seconds or until the tail feathers can be plucked easily. From this point you can either pluck them, or in our case, toss them in the plucking machine, a large, round, rotating steel bin with rubber fingers that separate the feathers. Now you can start the pre-evisceration process by cutting of the legs at the kneecaps, and removing the head and crop, a system of glands and skin along the neck and breast of the bird which also connects to the entrails. After this is complete, the carcasses go into ice water buckets as they cool, and so the production line can continue. Once all the chickens are finished, it’s time to take out the entrails. Cut a horizontal slit across the rear, above the vent (where the eggs come from) then reach in the cavity and loosen the connective tissue. Grasp the center of the mass and pull the entire contents outside the bird.
This process should go fairly easily because of the pre-evisceration done prior. Only a few more important steps, the lungs and sexual organs must also be removed, so Reach back in and pull them out by scraping against the upper wall. Finally remove the oil gland, a yellow spot above the tail and throw them back in the ice water bucket. With the nasty parts done, packaging can begin. The chickens are dried, bagged, and weighed for market. There are multiple styles to butcher a chicken, but properly done, all of them are designed to relax the birds for a humane kill. Holding a chicken’s head as it’s life bleeds out in your hand is hard to describe, in a way, it’s a bit godly. You feel the responsibility of this chicken’s life, but you also know you took all the steps to harvest them properly, and you know you are providing food for your community that can be consumed with a clear conscious. We ultimately harvested 90 chickens today. Not all 90 went under my knife, because the line changes to offer breaks for the more difficult stages, and we often jump around to help others catch up. I have experience butchering hogs, with Matt Keener at Keener Farms, But up until this point I’ve only seen a chicken harvest. You can watch something get done, (even on YouTube) and learn how to do it, but the real skill comes from experience. And I’m happy to say, I’ve got my chicken harvesting patch, and my conscious is clear. But the first chicken life I took, I will never forget. The sympathy and graditude I felt just in the palm of my hand was enough to bring humility and the promise of a Learned skill that I can use to feed my family and loved ones for the rest of my life.
Sustainability is great, but the grid is still a nice place to stay connected to, just not dependent on. When I’m finished with my journey, if I ever finish my journey, I hope to find myself in a life where I’m working a job I love, possibly back in the steel industry, and farming a few acres of land with my closest friends. My dream is not to become a farmer, my dream is to learn how to farm at a level I can apply to my future. And since I’m technically living my dream, I’m going to fly. I’m going to make this dream last. National parks, state parks, big cities, small ghost towns, caves, waterfalls, mountains, the stars… every scene and landscape I can experience, I will. But while my travels are just beginning, I’m learning about modifications to my inventory. I have consolidated all my farm/work clothing and transferred them from the plastic bins into a duffle bag specifically for working. This simple mod will be efficient because while I’m committed to a farm, it’s easier to keep clothes separate. Dirt and dust get everywhere, you wash yourself, and your clothes about once a week, unless you’re particular dirty. And the ability to keep and organize space will effect the pace of my adventure. This upgrade has also opened up a bit more space in my plastic bins, which makes it easier to find an outfit on the days I’m not lost in the wilderness. Another big upgrade was getting back one of my iPads from my family at The Gem City Podcast. One of them went a little buggy about a year ago, so I replaced it, but still kept the old one. I originally wanted to be as disconnected as possible from technology, but after 10 blogs on an iPhone, I quickly realized a larger screen with a keypad would streamline my blogging. And in those moments I choose to connect back to the grid for some Bob’s Burgers on Netflix, the iPhone can not compete with the iPad. My final upgrade is simple, although my grooming is extremely minimal while I’m in the wilderness, and I have no problem allowing my beard to get out of control, my neck line is a different matter. After a couple weeks the stubble on my neck gets itchy and uncomfortable. A small mirror will quickly fix this, and prevent me from hacking up the glorious beard I’ve been growing.
These are the first revisions to my adventures, and hopefully the last. If I can maintain my traveling and camping techniques while increasing my pace I should be able to magnify the mystery of this marvelous experience.
There are many animals at Juniper. But only a few dozen or so have made it outside the fence line and settled into a more human like existence, if there is such a thing. Eventually all these animals will be harvested, but the ones that interact with people more regularly are usually friendlier (or perhaps just hungrier) which may extend their life. A particular rooster likes to hang out near my cabin. After work we watch the sunset together and eat left over lunch for dinner. His chicken head shows up now and again, but he usually runs her off. Chickens and turkeys are everywhere as well, but me and the rooster are particularly close. He eats from my hand and stands right next to me often while I sit. I’m sure his tiny reptile brain isn’t sharing the bond we have. But at least I feel it. And this journey is all about feeling again. I’ve also been trying to befriend a lil goat they have running around. He’s pretty adorable. But only slightly curious about my existence…. I just realized something. I’m talking about my friends and trying to get to know them, and their all farm animals. Yikes.. The people here are just fine. Truly. But I didn’t exactly go on a road trip alone without the ability to enjoy being alone. Or enjoy a few sunsets with a rooster. Who I would totally eat.