further up and further out

I have decided to take my blogging to wordpress. If you are interested in continuing to read my thoughts you can find them at http://digginginohio.wordpress.com.




“America does not need jobs that depend on the extractive economy. We need a way to arrest consumerism. We need a different form of accounting so that both sufficiency and efficiency have standing in our minds.” Wes Jackson, Becoming Native to this Place

America’s economy is seemingly on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days. Talk of recession and possibly depression fill hours each day in the twenty-four hour news cycle. Thousands of jobs were lost just last week and Washington is scrambling to provide and answer. I believe our new president will do his very best to promote healthier solutions to the problem but from everything I’ve read and seen so far indicate that some fundamentals of our economy will not be challenged or changed.
A real healthy and lasting change must begin at the local level. Communities must begin to practice sustainable economic development. In the quote from Wes Jackson above, he mentions the possibility of a community considering sufficiency and efficiency as equal concerns rather than competing ideologies. A sustainable economy must be concerned with both.

In an essay entitled Sustainable Economic Development Henry E. Daly explains that two answers have been given to answer the question, “what is it that is supposed to be sustained in ‘sustainable’ economic development?” The first answer is that our quality of life should be sustained. The economic term for this is utility. This is the idea that the next generation should at the very least have the same economic advantages the current generation experiences. According to this belief, happiness should be sustained or broadened and transferred from one generation to the next.
Physical throughput is the alternate answer to utility. Throughput is, “the entropic physical flow from nature’s sources through the economy and back to nature’s sinks.” If we are to sustain our sources of food and energy we must not use more than nature’s ability to replenish itself. The goal here is to transfer a healthy natural environment from one generation to the next.

Utility has been the driving force in our country and likely the developed world for so long that we are beginning to see how such an unbalanced system can damage our environment. In this generation we must begin to redefine happiness and quality of life. Instead of unchecked recreation we need to begin to find joy in good work. Convenience must be questioned without reservation and as Wes Jackson says, “chemicals that have not evolved with us must be presumed guilty until proven innocent.” A redefining of utility and a strong examination of our physical throughput will at the very least put us on a path to transferring a more healthy world to the next generation.

Digging In

In his book, Becoming Native to this Place, Wes Jackson writes, “The universities now offer only one serious major: upward mobility. Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or to go to some other place, and dig in. There is no such thing as a ‘homecoming’ major. But what if the universities were to ask seriously what it would mean to have as our national goal becoming native in this place, this continent?”

I have been thinking about education recently. First, in four years we will be helping our son make decisions about his educational future after high school and I would like to have a better opinion than simply, “you need to get an education son.” Second, my own education weighs heavily on me and has for some years now. I am disappointed with the advice I received from people I trusted. Looking back, family, guidance counselors, and advisors seem to have been pushing me further down the industrialized educational conveyor that promises a pot of gold when the product that you will become is completed.
Recently I heard someone say that the best and brightest students in the eighties and nineties pursued jobs in finance. Not everyone chose this route but it is obvious that there were more people trying to get rich than riches available. The generations of Americans before at least had a better balance of bright people choosing jobs that provided more than personal wealth. Jackson writes about the excesses of post Depression and war economics leading to a regression in the maturity of our country, but that is another post for another time. It looks as though more of the current generation of young people are choosing professions that add to the well-being of their communities. I believe universities, especially Christian universities have a great opportunity to direct these people to a place to dig in, preferably their homes. Although I am not convinced that these changes have to come from universities, and definitely not from the government, it would be nice to see young people trained for something more than upward mobility.

Finally, Jackson writes, ”We are unlikely to achieve anything close to sustainability in any area unless we work for the broader goal of becoming native to our places in a coherent community that is in turn embedded in the ecological realities of its surrounding landscape.”

c’est la vie

Every time we have had to cram our kids into the back seat of our Xterra in the past year Jenn and I have thought about getting a minivan. When stuffed into the back seat, Emma enjoys pulling Brooke’s hair, Brooke likes to be in Andrew’s business, and Andrew is a teenager who is subject to varying degrees of emotions. We have been car payment free for the last six years and were hesitant to spend money we don’t have on a vehicle not absolutely needed.

A couple of weeks ago a friend approached Jenn and asked if he could buy our SUV. We agreed on a price and the wheels were in motion. I found a used minivan in Columbus that fit our budget and went to pick it up on Tuesday. On my home from Columbus I received a call from Jenn that she was in the Jiffy Lube parking lot because our other car had overheated and apparently had a broken radiator hose. Unfortunately that was not the worst of our poor car’s problems. Our mechanic informed us that the motor had become so hot, due to the radiator hose breaking, that the headers had broken. The whole job would end up costing between three to five thousand dollars for a car that is worth about fifteen hundred dollars.

I have to keep telling myself that the two situations are completely separate but it is difficult to think that we went from two good vehicles one week to one used minivan the next.

I look forward to owning a horse drawn carriage one day.


I started a job at the local mall a few weeks ago. They have extra work during Christmas so I am trying to earn extra cash for the expenses I anticipate will come with spring and a more extensive gardening (and possibly a few chickens) project. It has been amazing to see the amount of extravagancy (crystal race cars, rooster gravy boats, giant remote controls) coming into the store. Has anyone heard we are officially in a recession?

As I leave the store most days I have been thinking about the Bloc Party song "Uniform", which begins and ends, "There was a sense of disappointment as we left the mall. All the young people looked the same..."

There was a sense of disappointment as we left the mall
All the young people looked the same
Wearing their masks of cool and indifference
Commerce dressed up as rebellion

'cause we are so handsome and we are so bored
So entertain us, tell me a joke
Make it long, make it last
Make it cruel just make me laugh
We can't be hurt

Drink to forget your blues on the weekend
Think about more things to buy
The TV taught me how to sulk and love nothing
And how to grow my hair long

'cause we are so handsome and we are so bored
So entertain us, tell me a joke
Make it long, make it last
Make it cruel just make me laugh
We can't be hurt
We can't be hurt
We can't be hurt

So why do you go picking fights that you'll lose?
When you have entertainment, when have you things to pass the time
So why do you have to go thinking thoughts that are above you?
You can be happy, just play dumb
You can be happy, just play dumb
Well I was brave
And unique,
A snowflake
I could have been a hero
No-one can be trusted over the age of 14
Tattoo our arms
Converse shoes
But we still do it
We tell ourselves that we're different
I've gotten so good at lying to myself
All, all my pain and honour is used up
All, all, all
All my guns are rusted
So when you gonna to realise those are not your wrongs to right
Have another dumb line, have another drink

I am a martyr I just need a motive
I am a martyr I just need a cause
I'm a believer I just need a moment
I'm a believer I just need a cause
We're finding it hard to break the mould
We're finding it hard to be alone
We're finding it hard to have time by ourselves
We have nothing at all to say


There was a sense of disappointment as we left the mall
All the young people looked the same

Every time I hear someone who claims to have some inside scoop on why one candidate would be better than the other they just seem to be repeating the latest campaign slogan or commercial.
I guess I have been duped into voting for Obama even though he is a socialist, or was that just the last commercial I saw?
I guess I should be concerned about McCain's connection to the Keating Five, or was that the last website I stumbled upon?

How can we vote for people who think we are that stupid, or are we that stupid?
From what I see in the video above, yes we are.

Real holiness doesn't feel like holiness; it just feels like you're dying.

-Richard Rohr

garden update

We have been enjoying corn for about a month and tomatoes have been ripening with more regularity after sitting green on their vines for what seems like months (the second photo is an heirloom tomato variety easily confused for a pepper). I started peppers from seed back in may and they are now rewarding my patience growing larger than I thought they could. Weeds have continued to flourish, as you can see in the pictures, but I think I can hold them off for another month or two. After talking David H. not long ago I realized that I didn't give the credit due to our green beans for making a great comeback and providing us with enough to make several pots of beans and potatoes. We also have some fresh broccoli and the kale continues look great even though I haven't harvested any for about a month. A few weeks ago I planted some spinach and kale in hopes for some more late fall veggies. Thanks to all of you who continue to check up on the garden and ask how it's doing.

The Man Who Created Paradise

Not long ago I wrote about Gene Logsdon and linked to his blog. I also mentioned his beautiful little book The Man Who
Created Paradise
. Today OrganicToBe.org posted the book in its entirety. I would highly recommend taking the time to read it. When you do, let me know what you think

The Man Who Created Paradise