Blog posts

My nuclear days, and my hope for single handing glory

More and more I’m starting to harden my conviction to leave on a sailboat. The maximum amount of cash in hand that I will be able to accumulate by my departure date comes to the sum of eight thousand dollars. Most of the boats that I have seen that would be “comfortable” to travel in for five months are selling for between five and ten thousand dollars. Something with a tiller, and preferably a gimbled stove would be nice, but at this point I’ll leave on the least of the seaworthy boats available. When I was in the navy I raced laser’s and 420’s on the Chesapeake bay. My hope is that I have enough experience to ride on when a storm picks up and I have to head up into the wind during gusts, or reef the mainsail when I see ominous clouds on the horizon. My single-handing experience leaves a lot to be desired. It has always been with a crew that I’ve sailed, with exception to racing the lasers. Just thinking of all the fun I had crashing through chop and small waves makes me soooo excited to depart on my own larger boat. I’ve been reading through Andrew Evans “Thoughts, Tips, Techniques & Tactics for Singlehanded Sailing” and broaden my perspective and knowledge on the subject daily. Still my gravest concern is financial. Not being able to pay for repair of a ripped sail (going to buy an awl), or some piece of failing standing rigging, or poor running rigging. I only plan to spend five months out there, but I don’t have any basis for expenditure aside from reading a blog or travel writeup on the internet. Most of those sailors appear to be affluent, and spend lots on docking fees and booze at foreign ports. All of them have it in common with me that they want to run away from real life to a sailboat. I don’t consider myself to be “well off” but certainly I carry many of those traits. My parents have always provided a roof over my head, until my embarkment upon my navy adventure. Their cushion allowed me during my high school days to put all of my saving into games. I would play paintball, golf, hockey, ski, and do all sorts of other fun recreational activities. When I was six months short of sixteen I got a workers permit to work on the food prep line at Taco Bell; some summer days even riding my BMX bike 5 miles to get to work. That only lasted one summer. The next year I worked at the local city golf course, driving the tractor to pick up range balls and washing golf carts. This was during my obsession with golf, and I could not have chosen any better way to spend my time. At the end of high school I worked bagging groceries and mopping the isles occasionally at City Market, until they had lay offs due to other grocers opening up downtown. I even got a job cutting diodes, led’s, installing bracket mounts, and other miscellaneous tasks at a factory which built the circuit boards which are installed in the Diesel tractor trailers that are currently taking our food and other goods from point A to point B all across the country. This was perhaps the most boring and therefore hardest jobs I have ever had. The monotony was incredible. Of course I fell into the pitfall of wanting to make more money and looking for more of a career, so I didn’t return to the golf course and went off to join the navy. There I learned the trade’s which are associated with nuclear reactors, mainly chemistry and contamination mitigation. I also got the benefit of two years of a sort of crash course in physics, electrical theory, mechanical theory, steam turbines, piping systems, fluid dynamics, and of course fission and decay reactions. I consider myself a sort of honorary engineer. I never got a degree (and don’t believe that such pieces of paper entitle you to anything aside from being pompous) though I could have taken a few credits with an online university, Thomas Edison University, which readily provides degrees for the “nukes” as we called ourselves. Not a glamorous position, in the belly of the ship making steam for hot water, electricity, catapults, and propulsion. During some point on my time on board National Geographic was doing a documentary of sorts on the carrier, which of course focused mainly on the airplanes and pilots and flight deck “skittles” and the control tower, etc, etc. They only saw half of the ship!

I don’t want a career. I don’t want a job (though I like to work). I want to see the planet taken care of by the stewards which are here currently, you and I. My uncle, from SLC, asked me “what are you contributing to society?” to which I replied in somewhat of a rant that by not making a bunch of money I was not using resources and therefore having less of an impact on the planet by not purchasing a bunch of junk I don’t need. My own sister and her husband have decided to have seven children, in accordance with the scripture “be fruitful and populate the earth”. It is my job to at least counteract her fertility somewhat by not spreading my own seed, then the average will come out as 3.5 kids for the two of us. All of her kids have the same mitochondria that I have anyhow (maternal lineage), and I am going to enjoy helping mould them into wonderful critical thinking human beings. I’m not sure if we as a race can remain “fruitful”, or if our constant attack on the environment with estrogen mimics and other hormone disrupters will render the population sterile. I hope for the latter. I do also hope that my writing will be some kind of contribution to society as a whole, hopefully as a mirror in everybody’s face showing where our major societal faults lie. I do think there is a chance for a healthy thriving planet, but that It involves local agriculture and close knit communities. Sustainability starts at the local level.

I can honestly say that I didn’t even like the ocean until I found a girl in Charleston, SC who was a beach bum in all regards. We spent many days on the beach, some of my most memorable. I remember distinctly reading all day long while watching the tides go in and out; we moved our chairs along with it so that our feet were always being touched by the cool waves. We watched baby turtles in their escape toward the white curling waves. I didn’t learn to surf until I moved to connecticut, where my buddy jeff gave me a really old fish board to get me started. I also broke the skeg off of his long board when learning because I didn’t realize that the tide was going out with all the fun I was having and clipped a rock pretty good. Sorry Jeff! Love you buddy! We would surf just over the Rhode Island border in Westerly. I can’t say that I was any good, but I got a few short rides before getting crumpled up by the huge sets. There was a beach bar in New Haven that I would frequent for two-man volleyball, and just plain good beach vibes and entertainment. I had a Suzuki GSXR 600 at the time, and it was also a great excuse to go for a ride. My last three years of duty in the navy was spent in San Diego, where I continued to surf, in lieu of concurrent advancement examinations, and took on the nickname Ronjohn. Well, thats about enough about myself, but I did want to give some background so that It was less of a mystery how I came to have the demeanor that I do. Love YOU. I hope that we can change all this together so I don’t have to isolate myself on the open ocean indefinitely.

Ahhh fossil fuels! I love my grandma anyhow.

The other day Grandma was in the kitchen preparing something for grandpa and I, like she has been for most of her life. Grandpa only now is learning how to cook his own egg, since grandma is tending to sleep in and wake up complaining of her stomach and her left leg which cramps because “its the one I sleep on.” She asks several times now the same questions, “did you want one egg or two?” or “can I get you some juice?”, even though I don’t think I’ve had juice since I got here a month and a half ago. She tells the same stories, as does grandpa. Just part of the aging process of life I guess. Sometimes I become a little frustrated at being talked at (since grandma is certainly not listening, or remembering, anyhow, what I say), instead of being talked to. I have to leave the relatively cool confines of the house for the packing shed and intermittent cooler time, sorting peaches or getting a box to sell. Being alone out there feels much better than being yaked at about this person who died, that person who died, or how her mother was a twin and that the two sisters would trick the husbands and switch some evenings. This one moment though, with her in the kitchen and me walking out the front door adjacent, I got the overwhelming sense of love that god must feel. Even with her failing mind she is the sweetest person at heart. She just loves everybody and wants the best for them. From when I was still in the early grades of elementary school she would feed us gram crackers and milk, spoil us with ice cream, and still make sure that we ate all the pickled beets we put on our plate (I used ketchup to get the wretched things down-now I love beets!). I try to my best to listen to her stories, but I find myself not making eye contact, and just giving the occasional “hmmm”, as she relays her remnant memory one more time. I think grandma and grandpa are far from realizing their own mortality, though they are both certainly close. I would want to be close to death if I were in their shape physically and mentally.

The garden is putting out a good bit of fruit. I have tomatoes and peppers coming out of my ears! Not quite enough to do a big batch of salsa yet, but maybe by this next harvest. Every three or for days I get ten pounds or so of tomatoes. Haven’t pulled too many onions, but the ones a week ago were really starting to bulb up. Nor have I dug any potatoes. My friend at small potatoes farm in Paonia told me a story during wartime when peasants would leave their potatoes buried in the field during the winter, perhaps covered with straw, so they would not end up feeding invading troops. I’ll dig them all before I go on my adventure: sailing or homesteading. I saw a sailboat in florida on the internet going for only 3,500 dollars, a 30′ sloop. At that price I’m sure I can venture around the Islands to the south for several months! I don’t really want to go alone, but I also really am having trouble enjoying the company of others. Being fucked over by a girl before leaving Gunnison to come here has shattered what little heart I had left for humanity. People can be the shits. I had a tough time going to sleep last night thinking about all that is happening, not just to me personally, but to the planet. We are wreaking havoc on the atmosphere with all the road trips and flights halfway around the world for a weeks stay. I want every generation down the road to know just how wasteful we were with their resources, for this generation is transient indeed. I see airplanes by the scores, carrying hundreds of passengers everyday. Some people will fly from New York to Los Angeles several times in a week for business with no thought of their impact, only slightly more worried about their increased risk of radiation flying at 30,000 feet for prolonged periods of time, at the edge of earths atmosphere. Is the whole planet filled with selfish assholes?

The biggest problem may be that we are all indoctrinated into this system at birth. We give toy plastic cars for our children to scoot around in, powered by their own feet, at the age of two or three. I spent my childhood being driven around to soccer matches, judo tournaments, and to visit family in far away places. We drove twelve hours I remember as a very young kid to spend a few days in California around christmas. That may have been the first time that I saw the ocean. I don’t think that we all necessarily need to stay where we are born our whole lives, but minimize the ratio of amount of CO2 produced to time spent at location would be ideal. Even better would be to demand a five dollar per gallon tax that would be put toward renewable transportation infrastructure, or at least trains. It is working well for europe. Also a tax such as that would deter people from taking two cars somewhere, or of not carpooling when traveling to work. Of course this tax could never be because it is taking away from the freedom of the individual, something the United States was founded upon (though under constant attack). But what of the freedom of the next five generations of individuals? Do they not deserve a livable planet and not one scorching hot and an atmosphere that has more PPM CO2 than ever in the history of the planet! There are naysayers, even now they are scoffing under their breath that the climate change hoax is being perpetuated by scientists who want more funding research or corporations that may benefit from selling their carbon credits (CO2 captured vs emitted). What childhood didn’t teach them is how to think for themselves, and how to be smart. Hardly a soul reads a book anymore. Everybody is so captivated by “10 best” lists that they could not possibly have time to read anything else outside of their Facebook feed. Ten fruits not to eat to avoid belly fat, ten exercises that will improve your health, ten drugs that are derived from plants, ten best sex positions, ten most atrocious drug addicted child celebrities now in their 30’s. If it is in a list it is finite, and can be comprehended. Just about all that the current high school graduate can suffer through reading.

What would the world look like if there was a society wide education system that didn’t focus on nationalism, but on personal exceptionalism. Less focus on training more engineers and geologists for mining, and more of a focus on how to grow a garden and be helpful in your community. What would the world look like if people were content to stay where they are planted, since it would be unthinkable for them to leave the people that they have developed so close a relationship with. With the internet any one person is able to learn how to do anything and everything that they want. They have infinite possibilities for their brains to dream and aspire toward. But they don’t, we all are still driven more by our biological urge to fuck the opposite sex than logic.

Can’t we eat the fruit with a scar?

Things are in full swing in the orchard for the last week. We have one four hundred box order every year from a guy in Kansas(southwest of Garden City) who grandpa claims is the representative of a church group, though he told me he puts an ad in the paper. The cooler is Jam packed, and having some trouble keeping up with the daily heat sink of one hundred boxes of ninety degree peaches(with a specific gravity very close to 1- that juice!). Thirty years plus in years of service delivered by the compressor unit already; the R-12 refrigerant must have been grandfathered in. At least that is what I can devise from the maintenance man who changed our defrost clock and topped off our refrigerant during the sweltering heat of july. The days and nights are much cooler now. I even woke up cold this morning, having only a mexican blanket and a T-shirt on. It is a struggle at times to determine which peach it is that we are picking exactly. It is easy enough to determine that peaches are ripe and ready, but the maps that I made last year from grandpas failing memory have some drawbacks. The early varieties are two rows here two rows there, and really indistinguishable unless you are a peach aficionado. There are seventeen different varieties on the orchard. The peaches that I have marked as Red Globe, and these are some that I’m most certain of, have been debated at a market that we sell to in denver as some other variety. Obviously this puts that vendor and myself in a tough spot. People in general want some kind of conflict in their lives, and I’m imagining little old ladies at the fruit stand putting up a fuss because the peach they see is not as they remember the Red Globe to be. “There are no red striations around the peach seed.” I can hear them saying it now, despite that I found some redness surrounding our peach seed here. Those peaches were juicy and delicious and of a good size. I don’t think I can do this next year just for having to deal with the denunciatory consumer.

Why is it that even the slightest blemish is regarded as a mark of the inedibility of a piece of fruit. Some scaring from rubbing on a nearby branch is enough for many people to scoff at a box of peaches. The same for tomatoes, squash, peppers, and the like. I understand that you don’t want to cut into an onion and find that the outer half of it is soft with fungus, but there should be a much lower threshold for edibility than there is. There is significant waste at many farms due to this fact. One farm I won’t name that I worked at previously marketed their kale as “swiss cheese kale” in order to make their weekly consumers aware that there are ubiquitous holes due to the overgrowth of aphids. His customers are surprisingly enlightened about our food systems, for what other group would buy any kale with the slightest of defects. There will only be more problems as monoculture farming continues to dominate agriculture, largely due to subsidies provided by government such as the farm bill.

The generation of which I am a part has been slow to make changes to the status quo, in regards to fossil fuels. For the most part, if a person can find a way to make a descent living then they don’t care. It matters not that you drive an hour to work, or sit in traffic for longer durations. Talk shows in this age capitalize on people stuck in traffic. How can we all be dismissive of anybody flying to Florida or California for the weekend. I have the biggest problem with older people who are set in their ways, the first group to travel via motors in droves. Grandpa was born in 1932. He tells me about some of the family history, because that is really important to both my grandparents. We have German blood I guess. My red blood cells carry oxygen just like any other. My great, great grandfather tried to grow some produce when he first got here from florida, but moved back to Kentucky where they had come. I see the planet as one big family, and we are all in this together.20160728_154411-1

The orchard and me

The orchard is a magnificent place in the middle summer, despite the heat(102 forecasted for the next four days). It is somehow subdued by the essence of peach in the nostrils, the shade that it provides, and of course the sweet sticky juice that runs down your face. I myself have to hide certainly from the sun, my anglo-saxon genealogy making me prone to outbursts of redness and blistering when exposed. Sunscreen works. I have a garden in the orchard this year, with squash, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, a few carrots, dahlias and some other flowers. It was a new friend in Paonia, CO that supplied my peppers and tomatoes, which certainly are the highlight of the garden. Thank you Don and Daphne!

Today is the very first day that I’ll be eating completely from the garden. The 25th of July. I have one onion that has just started to bulb, somewhere between a golf ball and a racquetball, a few cherry tomatoes, some small peppers, patty pan squash, a lemon cucumber, basil and thyme. It will be wonderful to have some purple viking potatoes later in the season.