Living in a Tiny House: Part 3

I’m going to give myself a little break this lovely Sunday morning and do another blog post about living in my tiny house, and how I’m working toward my goal of subsistence farming, and independent living as a neurodivergent person.

It’s been closing in on a year since I last posted about this. Yikes! Time gets away from me when I’m so busy.

A lot has happened since my last tiny-house post. My mom had a triple bypass in February, for one. It’s really brought home the fact that all of the hardship that led me back to the family farm in the first place was well worth it, because this is where I belong. I was able to help my mom out and be there for her during her recovery, and it’s brought us closer together as a family.

img_2458
Winter on the farm

 

 

It was a beautiful fall, and an early (and pretty hard) winter. The first hard frost came early in October, and since our last one had been on June 15 (! – really, super late for this

IMG_2046
Tomatoes, peppers, and basil from last fall’s harvest.

area), we didn’t get enough tomatoes to can or freeze. I fried up quite a few green ones, though. Just thinking about the fried green tomato po boys and bahn mi (on homemade rolls) I ate is making me hungry right now. So good with veggie bacon and sprouts; or tofu, thin-sliced cabbage, Korean-style turnip pickles, and sriracha mayo.

 

I tried ripening some of the green tomatoes indoors, but without much success. I’ll hopefully get more ripe ones this year, but there are always some green ones left over when it freezes. I may sauce some of them this year, because green tomato puree/sauce is a great addition to soups, enchilada sauces, salsas, etc.

I did string a lot of peppers, can a lot of peaches, make jam galore, and Kid and I had

IMG_2009
Chestnuts and apples – gleaning leftover produce from others’ farms supplements my harvest.

plenty of dried plums, pears, and cherries to gorge ourselves on during the cold winter months and fight off ye olde scurvy. I also gleaned many pounds of chestnuts from a neighboring orchard (gleaning happens after harvest, so is not stealing. It’s produce that otherwise would have been left to rot.) I wrapped those up in tinfoil and roasted them in my potbelly woodstove, quickly learning that you have to score them beforehand or they’ll explode, sometimes right in your face, the shrapnel burning your eyeballs and curling your eyebrows. For those uninitiated, chestnuts are a little difficult to peel sometimes, but they’re SO good—really meaty and savory. I like roasting them in the oven with potatoes and root vegetables, and as a yummy addition to mashed potatoes and gravy. I’m going to experiment more next winter with grinding them into a paste to use in crusts, breads, and desserts. (Making a cookbook of all our recipes is something Kid and I are working on, but we have so much else going on, that it may take a while.)

 

IMG_2840This year is off to a great start. I’ve been working on expanding the farm business. We opened a little nursery (selling vegetable, herb, and flower starts we grew in our greenhouses). We were able to make costs (pay for the seeds and soil) plus a few hundred dollars on top of that, and we still had ample plants left over to fill our own gardens. I call that a success.

We’ll also be selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs—I’m already selling snap peas, turnips, basil, and cilantro. I have plans to start a worm farm soon, to save money on soil next year and increase our profit margin, while increasing the quantity of plants we grow.

I also hope to have enough extra eggs to sell soon, and maybe fresh chicken. The “fresh chicken” thing probably needs explanation…I used to be a vegetarian, but since my financial situation changed and I moved back to the farm, I’ve had to take a more practical approach.

This all started when (fucking asshole) neighbor dogs came in and killed a bunch of our chickens last winter. I’m so poor, that it just didn’t make good economic and moral sense to throw away good protein, so I butchered the poor things. It wasn’t too bad, though it was definitely an olfactory experience, and one that brought me into touch with my place in the food chain; as I labored at cutting out all the bad meaty/organy bits while leaving the good ones, I imagined hundreds of generations before me, working so hard just to feed themselves and their families, at peace with the fact that we are able to live

IMG_2830
Home-hatched chick. Name: Penguin

because other organisms die. There’s a sort of meditation to it.

 

So, anyway, still on the subject of chicken death, last year we had about thirteen chicks hatched on the farm by our own broody hens. Nine of those (eek) were roosters. They were wreaking havoc: fighting each other, brutally gang raping the hens, and traumatizing my parents’ border collie, who is autistic (this isn’t some ableist joke, nor am I comparing my dog to people to be clear—I’m serious, and I’m autistic so I have insight). She’s very noise-sensitive. Whenever the roosters would get into a kerfuffle, she’d pace and whine and be really upset. When a certain rooster crowed, it really set her off: she’d spin circles and snap at that rooster. I really felt for her, because she couldn’t walk away from the situation and it was really triggering for her.

So, before I moved back, my dad would give the roosters away to a guy down at the feed store who would slaughter them himself. I figured, if we know they’re going to be killed anyway, we should just own that fact and butcher them ourselves. My family reluctantly agreed, so we had a good old-fashioned butchering day in the spring. We rounded those cocks all up, my dad killed them and I processed them. I thought it was going to be horrible, but it wasn’t so bad because it was just family work, for a good purpose. We talked with each other so the togetherness could decrease the sting of mortality, and I just thought about those poor, gang-raped hens (it was really awful) and the poor dog, and it was a lot easier.

(Incidentally, if you’re a vegan who wants to harass me about this, I am quite literally doing what I need to survive. I’m neurodiverse, and disabled, and farming is the way I’ve come up with to make a life for myself and Kid. I’m happy to discuss the ethics of all this with you, but please don’t police my choices.)

IMG_2820
Home-hatched chick. Name: Nu Egg

 

I increased our chicken flock by twelve this spring by buying chicks (ten americaunas, and two silkies because I couldn’t help myself), and so far we’ve had seven chicks born on the farm. As I said, we lost some of our flock to (stupid fucking) neighbor dogs, so we’re currently standing at about 30-ish birds altogether. We eat all the eggs now ourselves, but hopefully I’ll have some extra to sell by fall.

 

IMG_2880
Bees!

We also got two hives of bees!! This is really exciting. I love watching them. The hives are already big enough that we had to add the second brood boxes, and hopefully we’ll be able to put on the honey supers by the end of summer. If all goes well, we’ll have honey next summer.

 

I increased my vegetable garden by 300%, tilling up a bunch more bottom land by my cabin. I’m growing lots of different stuff, including popcorn (I eat SO MUCH popcorn) and soybeans. I’ll sell some of it, but I’m digging a root cellar to store more of my vegetables and squash

IMG_2870
More garden!

. It got down below zero last winter, and was in the teens a lot, plus we had several feet of snow that stayed all winter, so the veggies didn’t keep in the ground at all. I was left having to go to the food bank and purchase food. I’m doing pretty well digging the hole. I’m hindered somewhat by the desire of my dog, my cat, and myself to lie in the cool dirt (which is unproductive in the traditional sense), but more by some physical problems: I’m getting a deep ache under the shoulder blade,

IMG_2879
Root cellar—hole in progress

and numb/tingling fingers, with an inability to grasp or lift things with that hand. It makes it hard to dig/hoe, and I have to sometimes rest for days on end (from strenuous arm-using physical labor, anyway) and drink my herbal painkilling tea. If ONLY I had a strong, sexy BOY who loved digging holes and eating fresh vegetables, and who could help me out…but I guess some people are just buttholes and don’t want to move up here, and I guess I’m not helping my cause by talking about how decrepit I am. I’ll get my hole dug by myself anyway. I don’t

shirtless phoenix
Man commonly known as Boy, here looking self-satisfied with the ocean breeze fluttering his beard

need any strong, sexy boys. *flounces*

 

As an aside, the weird thing is, if I were getting paid to dig someone else’s hole (not a euphemism), I would have quit and gotten worker’s comp for the injury, and would be in physical therapy and maybe having surgery. That would undoubtedly be the healthy thing to do, but I like digging holes if they’re my holes; I have to do it because no one else will do it for me; and I’m afraid of getting treatment because they’ll say, “stop digging darned holes, dammit” which is advice I will not heed in any event, at least not in the summer. So, I’ll soldier on and see what happens with my arm; if I need to get it looked at, I’ll do it this winter when I’m idler (as long as I get my wood all cut beforehand…and as long as Trump’s Deathcare bill hasn’t been put into effect yet CALL YOUR REPS, U.S.-IANS!)

All this farm work takes at a minimum three hours a day, often a lot more. It’s obviously not paying the bills yet (which, thankfully, are minor, because I own my car, have no debt, use barely any electricity (and we’re going solar!), have well water, etc. My only bills are my phone and my car insurance). I supplement this income with freelance editing, freelance writing, and a startup called Authordock that I’ve become involved in. It’s a website that helps writers with their publishing goals: I critique pitches, queries and first pages; give advice; direct clients to opportunities like pitch competitions; and provide resources by composing advice articles and making how-to videos…it’s a really cool project. The result of this is that, now that I’m, as people say, “lazy and unemployed”, I’m actually working 90-hour weeks, and yet making half a pittance. This is another way that disabled people end up making super-subminimum wage: the work we’re able to do isn’t something society values very much, so is underpaid.

I also have, you know, some books published (I’ve had several come out this year, and I have a short story in the next edition of a bestselling anthology, which comes out in a few days). That does bring in a little money, but I have very little time left for marketing, so not much at all. So, I’ll do that thing where I tell you I’m super poor and disabled (not that you should pity me—I love what I’m doing, I just make very little money at it). I don’t have a tip jar, so if you like hearing about my tiny-home and farming adventures, you should consider buying one of my books. People say they’re really good! And they’re ownvoices books, with neurodiverse and queer characters. They’re my way of trying to share my strange world with others. If you buy them, consider giving me a review, and/or recommending them to others who are into that sort of books.

Think of buying ownvoices books like donating to a charity, except you’re not paying forIMG_2873 marketing and executive salaries: you’re making a contribution toward someone’s independent, sustainable living and/or affirmation as an important member of society. In my case, you’re not only affirming my worth, you’re keeping me off the streets or out of an institution, making sure Kid has a stable and happy mom (and new socks when she needs them, which is too often), PLUS you get great books. This is such a win/win/win, y’all!

I’m trying to get an agent to help with the book marketing thing. My publisher is great, but their marketing apparatus isn’t really the best for my kind of books. If I had an agent directing and supporting me in my marketing efforts, I think I’d do a lot better. I have a handful of fulls out with agents right now, of my thirteenth novel—an ownvoices YA contemporary romance/magical realism about a young woman with bipolar psychosis trying to navigate high school, first love, the foster system and the mental health system. Wish me luck!

I have lots of other plans for my life—selling hand-woven baskets, and other crafts made with natural and upcycled materials, for instance, as well as the cookbook and some other things. Plus, I have a short story on contract for another anthology coming out in September, and I’m working hard on writing my seventeenth full-length novel. Another tiny house is also in the works, to give us more kitchen space and Kid her own bedroom. But I think I’ve rambled enough for this post, so I’ll talk about all that later.

Thank you for reading!

Advertisements

THE OPPRESSION OLYMPICS: THEY ARE REAL, AND THEY ARE (really goddamn) OPPRESSIVE

It’s time to write another of these posts wherein I open myself up for harassment and harm. It’s important for me to speak up, though, because I’m seeing lots of people (especially marginalized people) getting hurt. If you’re one of those people and you’re too afraid to speak up for fear of getting hurt even worse, please know that you are welcome to DM me.

My mother was a Montessori teacher for 32 years. As you can imagine, she has a valuable stockpile of anecdotes about what kids do and say. For instance, one time a little girl came running up and threw herself into my mom’s arms. “Josiah told me he hates me and never wants to play with me again!”

My mom, who had witnessed the whole interaction, patted the little girl’s back. “He didn’t say that, Queidlynne. He said he’s working on a project right now.”

Queidlynne stomped, wiping her snotty nose on my mom’s shoulder. “In my head he did!”

This has become a catchphrase in my family. Every time one of us wrongly interprets someone’s intent and accuses them of things they didn’t do, we catch ourselves and laugh. “In my head you did!”

If Queidlynne (thankfully, not her real name) had asked Josiah if he really did hate her and didn’t want to play, he probably would have said, “No, I don’t hate you. I’ll play with you when I’m done with this project.” He also might have said something snotty, or ignored her, but at that point she at least would have been sure of his intent, and have had a real reason to be upset. As it was, though, she didn’t have good reason. Queidlynne’s feelings were real, and my mom did the right thing by listening to her, comforting her, and talking to her about it. However, those feelings had no basis in reality.

Even if Quidlynne had experienced rejection from other little boys, it wouldn’t mean that Josiah was rejecting her this time. Just like other people can have hidden bias against you, you can paint them with the colors of your past experience and assume they are just as bad as all the others.

I’m seeing this sort of situation play out so often lately- but with adults, in the sphere of progressive activism. Neurodivergent people are ESPECIALLY likely to be hurt in this sort of scenario: not only are our actions/words/reactions notoriously wrongly-interpreted through a neurotypical lens, but we’re more likely to misinterpret others. We need to be accountable for that, and make sure to step back and listen. And NT people: when we tell you what we meant by something, don’t tell us we’re wrong. You can tell us we hurt you, but we don’t think the way you think or see society through your lens. Stop trying to force us into that mold, and we’ll all communicate a lot better.

There’s a lot of emotion flying around, and a lot of collateral damage from it. People-good people, and quite often marginalized people-are getting hurt, because someone misinterprets something they say and then doesn’t care to listen to the explanation. An offhand and perhaps ill-worded comment, or unpopular but harmless opinion (also common amongst ND people, because, again- our thinking is DIVERGENT from social norms, which doesn’t mean WRONG) can  cause an explosion of anger and bile that blows a permanent rift in the community.

I’m also seeing a lot of folks excluded from marginalized communities, or from the marginalized umbrella, for not being “marginalized enough” in the first place. Y’all…just…jeez, ok?

Communities of marginalized people have existed, I’m sure, since the beginning of humankind. People who, for one reason or another, are outcast from mainstream society gather together for comfort and protection. Marginalized folks often rely heavily on these groups for companionship, support, and validation. They are a lifeline to us.

However, there’s an alarming trend of people in marginalized groups trying to exclude people and police membership requirements. Since the whole purpose of these groups was to give marginalized people a place where they belonged, it’s devastating when that group turns around and tells them they don’t belong there, either.

It’s true that people can be mega fucked up, and there are those who will lie about their identity in order to troll and prey on disadvantaged people. But those are an incredibly small percentage. Until the person has clearly shown their intent by causing (or trying to cause) real harm, YOU are the one who is causing real harm by attempting to exclude them. It’s like Trumpty Dumpty and his Muslim ban (and edicts against other residents/immigrants): until the potential immigrant has shown they’re a “bad hombre” (which would likely become apparent through the exhaustive vetting process which is already in place), the only real effect of a ban is to exclude a group which is composed almost entirely of good hombres (y mujeres).

We need to be more welcoming of each other, accepting of each other’s differences, and tolerant of the wide array of perfectly valid opinions that exist in any marginalized community. Discussion and debate is fine. But insulting someone and even questioning their identity…that’s what bigots do to us. That’s the sort of behavior we’re fighting against.

The umbrella of “marginalized people” covers a lot of different sorts of folks, and we all have different experiences of oppression. We all belong to specific subgroups (and subgroups within THOSE subgroups), but the umbrella of “marginalized people” is meant to cover us all. The entire purpose of calling ourselves “marginalized people” is to be inclusive, and to give oppressed people a place where they belong.

There are many who would seek to own that entire umbrella, and try to leave the rest of us out in the rain—or at least huddled on the fringes, drenched in the runoff. They are the people who say, in one way or another, “You can’t possibly understand what REAL oppression is like, because you don’t belong to X subgroup.” We can all hopefully spot the sickening irony in that statement: that the one speaking similarly has no way of knowing what the other person’s experience in Y subgroup is like, either. I have also, horrifyingly, seen people try to exclude others in their own subgroup. If someone doesn’t agree with them on an issue, they attack them for “not being X enough” or “not doing X right”….and then they often turn around and say the other person is the one being oppressive.

Maybe in their head the person who doesn’t agree with them is being oppressive, but in the real world THEY are the one who is excluding the other person, centering themself in the other person’s experience, talking over them, and erasing their feelings. They’re saying very clearly, “I don’t want to be in the same group with the likes of you.” They’re, in fact, doing what non-marginalized people do to us. Furthermore, they’re gaslighting, and they’re forcing the other person to join in the Oppression Olympics by making them justify their right to have an opinion by pointing out all the ways in which they themselves are marginalized. (And then often, are forced to endure being told “you’re really trying to be oppressed, aren’t you?” and “stop playing the marginalization card” and “stop using your marginalization as a shield”, a tactic which is also flaunted so disgustingly by Tronald Dump, who does something, then tries to divert attention from the fact he’s done it by accusing everyone else of doing it. So yeah…those people are in great company, right?)

But no one owns that umbrella, and we shouldn’t try to. We should be happy to share it with others who need it, because doing so doesn’t decrease the amount of space available for us. It’s a super-special sparkly magical umbrella that gets bigger and more effective the more people it covers. All of us have a right to stand under it, and an equal right to speak up as a marginalized person. This applies to other inclusive groups (like Own Voices) or inclusive subgroups (like disabled people), as well. None of us owns the experience. All our experiences are valid, and letting all our voices be heard can only add to the conversation.

If I am speaking as a marginalized person in general, I am not attempting to speak for you, or as a member of your subgroup. It doesn’t matter if you think you are MORE oppressed than I am, or that I don’t understand your experience (of course I don’t, and I’m not trying to say I am). I am a marginalized person, and therefore I have a right to speak as one. Period.

It doesn’t even matter if I name another subgroup and say something like, “I have seen people saying this is happening to X community, and now it is happening to my community as well.” No part of that sort of statement is me trying to speak up as a member of X community. It is me trying to give people context for what is happening to MY community, by using another situation that people are more familiar with (the ND narrative, and I’m finding in particular my psychotic narrative, is so foreign to people they just can’t get it. How can I be proud of my psychosis? It’s BAD. Saying I’m psychotic is equivalent to saying I’m a murderer to most people. I’m not exaggerating. Think about your own reaction to it. And sometimes the only way I can get people to understand is to say, “Think how wrong it would be if you called X marginalized person ‘sick’ or ‘dangerous’ for being who they are?”)

No marginalized experience is the same but there are (very real) commonalities. I am not saying my oppression is greater than or even equal to yours by pointing those out: I’m just making valid observations. Furthermore, I’m not causing you any real harm by doing so. Maybe in your head I am, but in reality, YOU are the one causing ME (and others in my group) harm by saying, “People like you are not worthy to be in the same paragraph as me,” and “That stuff is bad when it happens to x group, but not when it happens to you.” That message is damaging not only to mental health, but to public perceptions of that group of marginalized people. It results in erasure of that group’s experience. It’s an attempt to say that group is “whining” or “faking” or “being a snowflake”. It deepens that group’s oppression, which is supposedly the thing we’re all fighting against.

If it does rub you the wrong way if I mention someone from your group while speaking about my own experience as a marginalized person, take a good look at yourself and ask yourself why you feel that way. As the person causing real, immediate harm, the onus is on you to examine yourself and your motives. Do you have a bias against my group, and you think it’s just gross to stand next to us? Do you think you completely understand our experience and can judge that we’re not really marginalized, we’re just making it up? Or is it, more forgivably, just a misunderstanding—you think I’m trying to speak for your group specifically instead of exploring and pointing out commonalities across the spectrum of the marginalized experience as a whole?

If you think that someone is mistaken and that the commonalities don’t exist, that is definitely a matter for discussion, but if you are saying unilaterally that “you don’t experience that—that’s a thing only my group experiences”, then you’re trying to police and erase that person’s experience, and you’re wasting a very good opportunity for both of you to learn about the other. And if you think it’s bad it’s happening to you, but ok it’s happening to me, then you’re just a bigot and a jerk

Trying to unify a group is NEVER a harmful intent, even if it doesn’t work, or is, in your opinion, misguided. That might require discussion to hash out, but there is no discernable reason to attack a person—especially another marginalized person—whose intent was to do good. However, attempting to divide our groups, exclude people, and do real damage to people’s reputations, employment opportunities, friendships and mental health…that is true harm. That’s not just harm in someone’s head. And, if you are doing real harm—especially to other marginalized people—in the name of preventing hypothetical harm, you’re inarguably the real antagonist in this story.

Another irony of the Oppression Olympics is that it takes a lot of privilege to participate. You have to have the cognitive ability to follow convoluted arguments, the eloquence to respond, the social skills to respond in a way that people might listen to, the emotional stability to endure stressful and emotional situations…not to mention the time and spoons it requires to become involved in these semantic battles. In a practical sense, a lot of marginalized people don’t have the resources to respond appropriately in these situations (especially ND people, who have different social and emotional experiences), and when you attack them, you are taking advantage of their weaknesses—weaknesses that are part and parcel of their experience as a marginalized person—in order to further your own ends. The practical aspects of survival always have to take precedence. We have to earn money somehow, take care of ourselves (eat, bathe, go to the doctor, take our pills), etc.—which can be quite difficult for a marginalized person for a lot of reasons. When you attack them, you are displaying your own privilege in an attempt to harm someone who is already oppressed.

Harming a marginalized person is bad (really, harming any person is). No ifs, ands, or buts. It’s just bad. If you’re doing it, you’d better have a damned good reason. Ask yourself what practical benefits you’re reaping from this exercise, and what your intent was in the first place. Avoiding harm in your head isn’t a good excuse. Simply “being right” isn’t a good excuse, because how can you think you’re right in the first place if you’re harming a marginalized person? If your attempt is to educate, look at the practical results: have you educated anyone? People aren’t going to listen to someone who is insulting them, oppressing them, hurting them. If you get out the belt and severely beat a child in order to teach him not to steal cookies…yeah, maybe the kid shouldn’t be stealing cookies, but who is the one truly doing harm in that situation? Who is the one who really needs educated?

Anger is understandable but abuse is not. Learn how to walk away before you cross that line. If someone is telling you not to abuse them, they’re not policing your anger. They’re standing up for themselves. I’m not talking about white tears here, which is very different.

And if your excuse is that you really do have it worse than the other person, ask yourself how you can possibly know that if you have no experience with their situation, and why it’s so important that you prove it in the first place?

If your excuse is that these seemingly-benign comments or opinions display “passive-aggressive bias” and “hidden prejudice”,you may be right. But frankly, I’ve always found those types of bias reveal themselves in their gross, naked glory if you take the time to scratch off the veneer and see the driving force behind the words. There’s no need to guess. We don’t always have the energy or spoons or ability otherwise to take that time to figure it out, it’s true. But if we don’t, why should we waste the time/energy/spoons we supposedly have a dearth of by being angry at a person who possibly meant no harm, and who caused you no harm except in your head?

And I’m not trying to stray off into “not all X people” territory, I’m just stating something that I, as a marginalized person, have (because of past experience) made incorrect assumptions about a person’s bias more than once, to my (and the other person’s) detriment.

And yes, even if someone isn’t personally displaying bias, they’re still part of the system of bias, which definitely bears thought and scrutiny, but if you attack someone for this you usually get locked in an intellectual battle which rarely has any practical benefit. For instance, if you start screaming at me about how capitalism is my fault because I’m part of the system, that conversation is going to go badly (and not just because I’m less a part of that system than most). So, unless it was I who jumped into your conversation about socialism and said “not all capitalists are bad”, just leave me the fuck out of it. I can only answer for my own actions. That’s all any of us can answer for.

If we’re really going to change the systems of oppression, we have to not model them.

Intent does matter…and practical outcomes matter even more. So if the practical outcome of your behavior is hurting marginalized people, alienating them from their communities, and deepening their oppression, you’re not doing good in the world.

The Oppression Olympics are a sick game that no one can win. We all lose.

Endnote: I’m perfectly willing and even eager to discuss this post with anyone. I will clarify, and own any mistakes, ill-wordings, misinterpretations, or subtleties I may have missed. If I am flat-out wrong somewhere in your opinion, I welcome you to tell me, because that is what conversation is about, and we should always seek to have greater understanding in all things. But really, cue people reinforcing all my points by attacking me…