Monday, November 5, 2018

Home, Home on the Range

It is hard to know how to write this post.
It was so easy to structure a blog post around a trip to Venice or Iceland, or around a salient observation I'd made about the German psychology. 
But now we are home. Day to day life feels mundane, occasionally even like drudgery. Insights around culture and psychology seem to come more slowly here in New Mexico than they did in Europe... though they do still come. Interactions with cultural stimuli are much less frequent and less rich here, and the results of those interactions - be they new ideas or possibilities for collaborations - are also slower to come. In the place of all this are the facts and rituals of homesteading, the daily maintenance and labor of keeping our OWN land and buildings functioning the way we want them to. Would the limited European audience for my blog find these details interesting, in the same way I hoped my US-based audience would be interested in our stories from Europe? Who knows...

When we returned from Berlin, I thought that I would be coming around, in short order, to various profound insights about the differences between Europe and America. And... yes... I have had those thoughts, and there are differences about which I have something to say. But as we spend more and more time in our little rural quasi-paradise, I realize that the dichotomy which feels much more salient, more pertinent, is not the contrast between America and Europe but rather the contrast between rural and urban. Living out here where we live... it's really fucking different from life in a city.

If we had lived in Europe the way we live here... which is to say that if we lived rurally, with no neighbors, with our own workshop, in a house and on land for which WE were responsible... THEN I think it would be easy to see the America vs. Europe thing much more clearly. But in Europe we lived in an urban setting. For Christ's sake, we lived in apartments! We had neighbors and trash collection. If the plumbing broke or there was heavy rainfall outside, it was no worry of ours. Here in New Mexico, we live on the land. When we have trash, we load it onto a truck ourselves and haul it to the dump, where we then unload it into the steaming piles of everyone else's trash which sometimes contain dead horses. 

In fact, dead animals are a much bigger part of life here than in Barcelona or Berlin. 

(Freya shows off some of her favorite new toys, an old dog head and a fresh rabbit)

When the plumbing breaks, we fix it because no one else is going to do it for us. When it rains a lot, we have to think about which car to drive so it doesn't get stuck in the mud, and we have to be careful WHERE we drive, so we don't create terrible ruts on our land. When there is a packrat living under the porch, hoarding pencils and gloves and socks and dogshit and dead mice and partial coyote skulls, we have to take apart the porch and evict him. 

It's man versus nature out here, all the time. 

And it takes time. Pulling apart the Honda CRV or putting a new floor into the guest house to deal with the mice can take two or three days. Oiling the wood on the deck to save it from the ravages of the sun, or installing new gutters on the house to protect the firewood from the rain takes time away from being productive and creative. But the payoff, I guess, is that it's all ours. This is OUR LAND, damnit! 

Yes, Trump is an embarrassment, yes our healthcare system is barbaric in its callousness compared to what you see in Europe, and yes the culture of fearmongering here is grotesque, but what affects us on a daily basis is how to remove the dead rabbits from the living room, whether we can get the car out of the driveway, or whether the baby rattlesnake near the shop means that there are more of them somewhere nearby. Well anyway, that's where my head is at right now. I think that in time, these considerations will fade and the differences between the cultures will come back into clearer focus. (As for a snapshot of my thinking right now, I would say that Europe is more humane. Healthcare is a right. Gun violence is not an issue. High quality education at a fair price, or free, is also a right. But we all know all this shit already. Maybe America will grow up one of these days.)

So... what have we been doing anyway? Christina and I both came back from Europe with a really fresh perspective about how our workshop should be organized and have been spending countless hours reorganizing. For me personally, it was all about maximizing floor space to make room for bigger projects, or multiple simultaneous projects. 
This photo was taken in the first days after returning from Burning Man....

You can see that at the left edge of the image there is a big wooden loft, creeping in and stealing large amounts of floor space. I removed all of that, and all the other crap that had accumulated around it, and reorganized the entire left side of the shop. 

It involved lots of work with my really large forklift, poking into my comparatively small shop door...

And here is how it looks today...

You might notice in the background, on the right, is a brand-new room floating in the air, back on Christina's side of the shop. 
Here is a better pic...

This is Kodiak's new workshop! It was Christina's idea and she did most of the work, although I also helped a lot. Here is a pic of the inside...

Christina really did a fantastic job, and it seems to be ushering in a really fun new era of Kodiak working in the shop with us. 
Here, he is using a bandsaw for the first time...

Another thing that inspired me about working in Berlin was the amazing plate roller at BBK...
Here is a pic of that one...

When we returned to New Mexico I immediately started shopping for one of these... but we came back to a financial disaster which we are still crawling out of, and machines like this go for $10,000 - $20,000 used, so I had to re-think that pipe dream pretty quickly. The machine above was about $65,000 new. 
Well I put the word out among friends and pretty soon I found a (much smaller!) plate roller for the very good price of $150. It was manually operated, and actually quite physically demanding to operate, so I put a motor and foot control on it. I was able to source all of the power transmission components (motors, sprockets, chains, shafts and bearings) from my own personal supplies, and the foot pedal was about $40, so the machine came in at under $200. Not bad.

Halloween was really fun - the town of Taos stepped up their game and the entire downtown was transformed into a street-fair for kids, with everyone running around in costume. Christina and Kodiak and I all worked together to make him a robot costume, for which he won a prize in the 6-8 year old category.

I continue to work towards finding a placement - a rental or a sale - for With Open Arms... but nothing is sticking so far. If you want a giant sculpture of a robot god from a dystopian future in your front yard, or know someone who does... please let me know!

Paintings and sculptures of the nude female continue to be a force for good, calmness, and sanity in the universe, in my opinion. There's a painting I would really like to add to my collection, but at $11,000 it seems unlikely anytime soon. 

Later this week, we will add a new member to the family... this guy:

He is still a kitten, but I am sure that when he grows up he will bring us lots of dead animals! I expect nothing less of him!

There have been interesting developments in the old story of that pesky lawsuit that cropped up before we left for Barcelona, and so maybe I will finally tell that story. A topic for the next post?

Signing off from the land of entrapment...