This blog – and future podcast – combines two of my main passions: the agrarian lifestyle and liberty. I grew up in upstate NY, north of Albany, on what I’ll call a country block. It was a big square chunk of land that was about four miles long by a mile-and-a-half wide with no side roads penetrating the expanse in-between. I spent the majority of my free time in this tract. My parents had a sizable garden when I was a young, but as my brother and I got older, the time to maintain and keep up a garden quickly dissipated. At some point, I think I may have just started high school, I convinced my father to help me build a chicken coop and before we knew it, we had a flock of 25+ chickens. I burned the old garden and started working small patches of ground. There was always a yearning for more; I wanted to walk out on the porch and see sheep grazing in the woods, I wanted to spend the days working the land with the dirt between my toes and the sweat dripping from my brow. Of course it was a romanticized vision, but I was young and I didn’t care. Of course, through college, time spent working the garden was cut back and my overall outdoor time faded, but my connection with the ground never faded.
Eventually, after my son was born, my wife and I settled down in our first home on a a fifth of an acre in Vermont. It was cold and dreary, and the cost of living was exorbitant, and the taxes were absurd. In Vermont we had a couple of chickens and a few garden beds, but the lack of yard space made it difficult to really garden anything of any quantity (the kids needed someplace to play!), despite the lack of garden space, the confinement made me learn foraging and I often took to the many green spaces to forage for edible plants and mushrooms. After a few years, the expense of the area finally caught up to us and we had to leave, and that is how we ended up in Georgia where it is warmer, and cheaper. We’re currently on an old cow pasture that used to be farmed for traditional southern crops – soy, cotton, peanuts, tobacco, etc. – but the cows milling about over the last decade helped build some of the soil back up. Each year our garden gets bigger and we are to the point where we can pretty much fill our freezer. Of course, we still have much to learn.
As for my liberty-oriented side, I think that’s sort of been there all along. I won’t say that I’ve always been anti-authoritarian, but I have always been justice oriented. When someone gave me a rule in middle school I would question it, not just to question the rule and the adult, but to understand why it was in fact a rule, especially the rules in which there was no real victim. Sometime when I was around 10 or 11, I was growing ornamental gourds in our garden, as can be imagined, I ended up with more than I knew what to do, and not being edible, I decided to ask the local grocer if he would want to buy them, and he obliged. He sold my gourds for two years, but on the third year I was told that while he wanted to buy my gourds, certain laws and restrictions wouldn’t allow him to purchase my product. I was confused and couldn’t understand why at the time. A few years later, when I was in middle school, bike helmets had just really made their way onto the scene and sometime when I was 13-15, there was a law passed that dictated bike helmet usage. It drove me nuts. Bike helmets were uncomfortable and weird, but I was being forced to wear one. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that if I fell and hurt my head, this was somehow a problem for the rest of society. It eventually led to me not riding my bike at all.
As I got into high school, I began to question things like the war on drugs. There was no victim when a friend smoked pot, or did some underage drinking, but this was a concern of the government and I could not understand why. (I still can’t.) Eventually, this questioning of authority led me to question the existence of the state as a whole.
My parents were Christian conservatives, and I started working at a grocery store when I was 14 or 15, so I knew first hand how much the state would take to dole out in assistance programs. (Working at the grocery store, I also saw what people bought with my tax dollars and it drove me nuts.) I also remember the whole Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky escapade and while it might have been good for some raunchy jokes and a few laughs, I remember wondering how much all that nonsense cost, and where the government got that money. At some point it dawned on me that our tax dollars went into funding that mess, and really, what was the big deal? I could see that he lied under oath, but was that really worth all these man-hours? In my mind, I couldn’t justify it.
By the time I got to college, I had a pretty good idea of what was right and wrong, but I was going to be an English-Environmental Studies major at a liberal arts school, so many of my values were tested and eventually I succumbed to some of the leftist indoctrination. My love for the environment was clouded by this idea that we needed the state to protect it; no one ever mentioned that the state was the biggest polluter, rather the EPA was lauded as a god-send of an organization ready to save the environment and force the evil corporations to clean their PCBs out of the Hudson River, to force our cars to run more efficiently, maybe even on electricity, to put an end to global warming, and require us all to live on solar power. I was led to believe that the EPA and other watchdog organizations, like the FDA and USDA, would be free from crony-capitalist intervention. I was naive. At one point I even went full communist believing that CEOs should have a capped salary and be forced to give the rest back to their employees. I still have Mao’s Little Red Book on my book shelf next to Marx’s Communist Manifesto as a bit of a reminder of how hard we can be pushed. I think my first exposure to the ideas of liberty with an actual political association came from a left-libertarian professor who introduced me to Chomsky and then a bit of Rand. I’m not sure if I just didn’t pay attention or didn’t care, but none of it stuck and I had zero interest in it.
At some point before I graduated, I was exposed to my first real dose of hip hop in the form of Black Star, and soon after Immortal Technique. Revolutionary Vol. 2 played non-stop (I think it may have gotten more personal air time than Dark Side of the Moon). It wasn’t just a good album, it had actual meaning. The lyrics and themes actual put voice to many of the questions and thoughts that were going through my brain. I didn’t trust the state from 9/11 to the WMDs; why would a ruling elite tell the truth if they didn’t have to? Why would the state, who makes money from wars, who keeps the people occupied with threats of terrorists and unknown assailants want to stay out of war? I remember the color coded chart they used for the terror threat level on a daily basis – the type Smokey Bear uses for fire. I couldn’t tell if they were trying to desensitize us, or keep us scared and divided. Eventually I grew out of these ideas and became a bit more rational in my thinking, but my distrust for the state never fully went away. I remember hearing Ron Paul speak some in 2008 and while I got on board with what he was saying, seeing how the media treated him and how much of what he said was ignored, I grew somewhat apathetic. When it finally boiled down to Romney-Obama, I didn’t care at all. (Though when I was forced to attend an Obama-rally as a substitute teacher after he won, it became very apparent that this election was not about politics, but more about the notion that “someone who looks more like me than someone else, will be a better president.”
Que eight years later and I finally realized that my love of individual freedom to grow and work the land, to help my neighbors out of goodwill and love, my desire to see the states monopoly on force eroded, fit nicely in this “libertarian” camp I discovered by accident scrolling through some podcasts.
I have read and learned much about the ideas of liberty and it’s many branches over the last couple of years and have discovered that there are many more like-minded individuals who also prize their personal liberties and freedoms, but don’t know there is something beyond the duopoly in which our current system operates. I aim to share some of the ideals I cherish with other semi-like minded individuals. When we work the land, when we provide for our self – be it from an urban patio container to a 500 acre commercial farm – we learn a different kind of self-respect that we would be crazy to let anyone take away.
I hope you join me on my journey to explore how these two concepts are so intertwined, through blog posts, rehashing of current events, interviews with activists, homesteaders, preppers, homeschoolers, entrepreneurs and anyone else that utilizes personal liberty to better their own lives and the lives of those around them.