An Update

I realize that it has been a long time since I’ve posted anything, or since I’ve heard from many of you. My goal is to change at least 50% of those things, the rest I leave up to you.

In case you haven’t heard (I don’t know why you wouldn’t have), I am up in Oregon, doing a 10 week internship at a place called Aprovecho Research Center. Let me tell you a little bit about this place.

This place is pretty much an elaborate experiment in self sustainable living. We only eat food that we grow (However, we are allowed to buy things at the supermarket if we so wish), and let me tell you, there is not anything quite like going on an organic vegetarian diet to really clear all the junk out of your system. Our rule on meat is, if you want some, kill the animal yourself. (We raise about 15 chickens, 8 ducks, and 3 goats, but none of us has had a craving for meat great enough to slay a creature).

We also have a 3 mile long hiking trail in the nearby forest, which we leave open for public access, so long as they pay the small $2 per person fee. I am not making any money, and the facility is completely funded by donations and grants. It’s pretty much a small farm, with work to be done every day, whether it be Gardening, animal caretaking, forestry, or working on the new lodge we are building. I have become familiar with virtually every type of garden tool in existence, one in which I will describe. there is a tool here called the Polaski:

It comes up to my shoulder, weighs about 15 pounds, and can destroy anything in its path. I’m not sure how it got its name, but my roommate and I have a theory that it was named after the first man to be killed by one.

ALSO, we generate all our own electricity from massive solar panels throughout the complex. we have to keep an eye on our power gauge, something I’ve never had to do before. We use power-efficient light bulbs and such, and heat our house and cook our food with wood stoves. I never realized how fun it oculd be cooking on a wood stove. Also, the dorm has no foam insulation. Instead, it uses bales of straw, which is nearly as effective, although it can get a bit nippy at night.

Another interesting, and somewhat ironic thing is that the facility borders a clear cut: 20 acres of forest that has been completely cut down. The cut took place sometime this summer, and all the braches and smaller trees were stacked into piles. Last Friday, they began burning those piles. I decided to venture into this area and document it with my camera. You can see the video below:

The interesting thing about the footage is this: I failed to realize that my camera had a low battery, and I also made the mistake of relying on the attached LED light for my sole source of navigation through the night. Needless to say, my battery died on me when I was in the middle of the burn area. And let me tell you, there is nothing like getting lost in the middle of a 20 acre burning forest in the middle of the night. I was lucky enough to see a car drive down the nearby road and I was able to get my bearings from there, but I still had to walk 300 yards through fire and smoke to get there, tripping over branches and potholes in the dark. It was truly a great experience.

The wind patterns here make it so the smoke blows directly to the facility, and the piles have been smoldering for the past week. We have all had trouble breathing, and are trying to contact the logging company to put out the fires, but they aren’t answering.

Moving on, I have a book and movie to reccomend to you that I have read/seen since I’ve gotten here. First off:

World War Z
By Max Brooks

This is a book that takes place in a world that has recently recovered from a plague of the undead. Nearly 1/4 of the world’s population had been infected, and humanity is struggling to return to a civilized form of living. The interesting thing about this book is that it is written like a documentary, taking the accounts of several dozen people who survived that time. The author takes many different details into account, such as the human response to such a disaster, the demographics behind the solutions and how the landscape and environment affected the spread of the plague. It is a very intriguing book and I would suggest it to all of you.


Dead Man
Directed by Jim Jarmusch

This is a very… well… interesting spin on a western. It follows the (mis)adventures of a man named William Blake(Johnny Depp), who is being hunted after killing the son of a prominent tycoon(Robert Mitchum) in self defense. His only ally is an outcast indian (Gary Farmer) who goes by the name of “Nobody”, and has confused Depp’s character with the british poet of the same name. He constantly quotes Blakes poetry, and is surprised that Depp’s character does not know or understand any of it. This movie is very well made and has many good uses of metaphors and foreshadowing. Also, the soundtrack was composed by Neil Young, and there are small cameo appearances by Billy Bob Thorton and Iggy Pop. A great movie to watch with a good group of friends.

A Confession: I never hitchiked before I came here. I just did it for the 4th time this morning. And if you ever wonder why you don’t see hitchikers in Colorado, It’s because they’ve all hitchiked their way to Oregon. I have seen more in the past month than I had in all my years back home. Also, it rains here. A lot. to the point where the ground is mud 24 hours a day.I will have many more stories to tell you guys when I get back, just remember to ask me.

Well, that about does it for me. I miss you all, and I will be home for thanksgiving in a little more than a week.



15 thoughts on “An Update

  1. A “Polaski” was actually invented by a fireman named Polaski. Polaski came up with the grand idea that instead of the firemen carrying 2 tools (mattock and axe) they could combine them so he welded them together. From that great day on firemen as well as landscapers and other such dangerous individuals.

  2. Wow. I must say that what you’re doing is incredible, and I’m envious of your ability to devote yourself to such an endeavor. And I’M glad to hear from you all. Because that just lets me know that you’re all ripe for the picking…. yes…. picking….

  3. …Wait.

    How do you have access to internet? I would like to hear more about the spartan conditions of your current situation.

    Also, I would like to see a short film about either hitchhiking or burning large swaths of forest. The latter would be like Catcher in the Rye, but with more burning and less whining.

    Or possibly a short film consisting of killing an animal with a Polaski, then vomiting and passing out as a result of the subsequent mental anguish. Also, don’t you eat the eggs from your fifteen chickens?

    Or from your eight ducks?

  4. Well, with our limited power source I am still able to charge my laptop, in which I can either plug into the phone line and use the *Shudder* Dial up connection, Or I just go Into town on my day off (Saturday) and use Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop, which has seen some interesting happenings lately.

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