The modern mind

I’ve been working at building a homestead.  I say working at it, because I spend too much time writing here, podcasting, working on OGB, etc., and too little time working on the place.

In doing this homestead type work I’ve found that it requires a kind of long term planning and thinking that is nearly unheard of in other walks of life.

For example, I have on my property many dozens of wild sand plum/Chickasaw plum trees.  Last year my wife made gallons of jelly and preserves from the fruit of these wild trees.  It’s delicious and like nothing you can buy anywhere.  Do you know how venison is a little gamey?  Imagine if a fruit could be wild and gamey in it’s way.  That’s the sand plum.

I reckon there is more beluga caviar in North American than there is Chickasaw plum jelly.  It’s a rare foodstuff.  I love having it. I want more in the future.

We have a number of other wild fruit trees on our property, many are invasive, like the callery pear, and others don’t bear fruit.  They are difficult for me to identify when the leaves are off in the fall.  So….

In August I marked all the wild plums I wanted to tend knowing that I would want to prune and mulch them this winter.

I started pruning them today.  They are WILD.  They’ve never been pruned and grow wherever the plum or the pit in some possum turd fell.

I’m learning about pruning, and have been reading about it a great deal.  The consensus is that you should never prune away more than about 1/3 of a tree in a year.  Any more could endanger the tree.  These trees need a lot of work.  I’ve been pruning, knowing that I’ll have to evaluate my work next summer, and continue the pruning in the winter of 2022.  That will need to be evaluated again in 2023.

The whole “get the wild plums under control and more productive” project is actually a three year TASK.

My project to get wind-powered free water to the cattle I don’t have yet started in November of 2019 when I bought a property that had a good water well on it.  In March of 2020 I bought an old Aermotor windmill and started rebuilding it.  The windmill is up and running. Plumbing it up to a cistern on top of the hill will start soon.  Finally, we will essentially plumb the farm for watering holes that we will accommodate management intensive grazing.

I have two compost piles.  They both started out bigger than your house.  I mean it.  They are enormous.  They won’t be ready for at least another year.

We have planted 79 fruit and nut trees.  None of these will bear fruit or nuts for AT LEAST five years.  I’ve ordered 48 more.  I have to lay out the orchard and get the ground prepped before we receive the trees in February.  Then we plant.   Once planted, these and the first 79, plus the wild plums all need pruning, mulching, watering, etc.  Records are kept on the trees including, variety, nursery, dates planted, pruned, etc.   They aren’t set it and forget it.

The list goes on.

I’ve built businesses.  I’ve had five-year plans.  None of it was like this.  Those business plans aren’t really plans.  They are wishful thinking.   They are how you hope it goes.  Once you start the business, everything changes, you have to deal with everything as it comes, changing as you must.  That’s fine, but it’s nothing like starting an orchard and following through step by step for years, plodding and forging ahead.  The doggedness you must have is overwhelming.  The need to carry a large number of concurrent long-term tasks in my mind is difficult.  I use a planner, calendar, tickler file, etc., but it is some of the most complex and challenging project management I have ever dealt with.

People lament the shortening of attention spans and the want for instant gratification we all deal with now.  I don’t think it’s Pavlovian conditioning, I think it is an epistemic change.  The modern mind thinks in a different way than it did before. I struggle with this every day.  There’s not a good way to think about phase one of a three year pruning project in terms of productivity.  The pruning is a minuscule, but crucial part of the project.  It has to be done well, if not perfectly.

What’s the cost of a three year pruning project amortized over the life of the tree and pro-rated out to a quart of the fruit?

None of the ways we normally think about things now make sense for me anymore.

I have to do the RIGHT thing.  I have to do it reliably.  I have to do it as well as I can.

I think this is a better way of thinking about things.


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