Billy, Location 52
Billy, Top of some hill, Maine USA
I am back aboard the R Heritage Too. The world has shut things down and like many people around the globe I am suffering a bit from a lack of human contact. Stir crazy is a term we use for it in the states.
It has been really windy for quite a few days and sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts to 40 are driving huge waves into the harbor. I suspect at times they are higher. The power went out a bit ago and the gale wind alarm was well quite alarming. The lighthouse across the harbor vanishes at times, engulfed by sea spray and huge waves. It is tough to tell which as standing is a bit of a challenge and trying to focus with the sharp volcanic sands wind driven driven into your eyes is no fun. Folks have been asking about how I keep myself occupied solo aboard a boat under these circumstances. Not taking myself too seriously is my reply
I have always been a believer that humans are intrinsically good, innately wired from our tribal days to look after each other. I have seen plenty on evidence of this during these days. Folks are sharing funny videos with friends trying to get each other to laugh. We all enjoy the laugh but realize in our hearts know that the real purpose of these videos is to check up upon the people we care about and let them know we are concerned and thinking about them .
I like to always look for positives in all situations. I’m very encouraged by stories of things like yeast and chicks (baby chickens) being sold out. Friends sharing bread recipes, gardening tips and talking about making their our canned goods. It seems like a return to simpler times. People world wide are considering lifestyle changes that might make them less reliant on the global supply chain. Many of us have, myself included, never taken the time to consider how quickly a system like this could fall apart and I feel people are starting to value the opportunity to become in tune with Mother Earth.
Billy and Paulette are a couple who I feel are ahead of their time. I’ve followed their hard work over the years as they have toiled to revitalize a hilltop property in Maine. It was farmed generations ago but like many of the old farms in the New England states, the forest is reclaiming lands that had once provided food for families. Billy and Paulette work their land with a draft horse and a draft mule whenever possible
. Watching videos of the team plowing fields or sledding timber out of the woods in the winter has always made me smile. Billy has recently been sharing videos more of his efforts on social media. He is trying to educate others and keep them entertained while we shelter in place. Looking after each other in times of crisis, its the human way. Billy’s words follow
What is your favorite part of living in Maine?
The thing I like most about being a Mainer is that people do not tend to be worried about what their neighbors are doing. You can have a millionaire living next to a guy who lives in his moms basement and they talk to each other like peers. Nobody is telling anybody to mow their lawn or put away their rusty cars. It is very much a you do your thing and I’ll do mine mentality. It is also a great place for young people who want to get into agriculture. Their are a lot of young farmers fixing up former farm properties. There is a sizable market for people for local producers. People want to purchase sustainably grown local food from their neighbors, even if it costs a bit more. There are also markets for these types of products in the the small towns and restaurants in cities.
What is your least favorite part of living in Maine?
Winter tends to be long. I’m 52, and well I have never been 52 before. I have always been motivated, driven to reach goals and needed to stay busy. I grew up on a farm and dreamed about building my own farm. As I get older, I realize if I spend all my time making improvements to the property I am going to miss out on life. In Maine farming is working for 6 month then waiting for 6 month of winter to end. I still struggle a bit with the waiting for winter to end part, especially in December when the days are really short. The last few years though I have begun to come to terms with winter. It is now a time for me to rest. I work at a slower pace with the horses to manage the wood lot and prepare firewood for upcoming winters. I spend time with my wife and eat too much. As I reflect upon this, resting in the winter fits well into the natural cycle of being a human. It a bit ironic to me that the thing that used to bother me the most is now something I am coming to terms with. It is one of the beautiful parts of getting older.
Do you see the changes to the world where you live?
I tend to be kind of pessimistic that people are going to change the way they live in the long term. Maine tends to attractive the type of people that value traditional values and work ethic. When times get tough the absolutely help neighbors and when things are good they disband and do their own thing. I’m not sure this is the way in big cities.
As far as climate goes, I do believe in the scientific research and that Man’s activity is causing climate changes. I don’t really see a lot of change here in Maine, but it has been warm the last couple of winters. The last one was the warmest on record and that is likely to mean something. I’m not sure I see the trend yet. As farmers who are trying to improve our land we try and educate ourselves and attend MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners) events. One of the predictions is that Maine’s climate was going to become more conducive to agriculture with longer summers, shorter winters and more precipitation. I guess that is something.
How will this impact your community?
It would be easy to focus on the obvious changes that have been brought about by the recent pandemic, but did I mention I liked staying busy and hard work? I guess my biggest concern about what is going on in my community is the political divide. It is a topic that comes up with increased frequency and we seems to be becoming more and polarized. Even in a culture like Maine where we tend to accept others for who they are, you can feel division. I worked for a long time as a mechanic and now in the sciences. This helps me be able to try and understand other’s perspectives. One change I have noticed is that more and more people here seem to be concerned about environmental policy and that individual contributions are important.
Can you give me an example of something you are doing to reduce your impact on the planet?
Most everything we do here is about self-reliance and it just so happen those things tend to be good for the environment. Solar was an economic choice because running power lines to the top of this hill was far more expensive. After living off grid in a northern climate, we realized it could be mainstream. It is not at all inconvenient. We aren’t living in a yurt here. Its a 2000 sq ft colonial, the dishwasher running as we see each other talking over the internet. We have two chest freezer in the basement and three bathrooms. Anybody could be happy here.
When we bought this place it was a moonscape. Growing our own food is something we do for out health. We raise our own meat. I realize that cows get a lot of bad press. We do draw from the aquifer beneath our land but the water we use to grow crops and animals returns to that same aquifer. Sequestering organic manner is carbon negative. We pay attention to rotational management.
Carbon from plants recycled. There we no grasses on the land. Slowly the sheep grazed brush and weeds and we reclaimed the land by seeding and rotational grazing. We build thing with timber we sustainably harvest and also heat with it. No fossil fuels involve in walking cows around the field. Dairy cows do drink a lot of water but are not using grain. The water we use is from the aquifer below our land the the cow urinates much of it back into the soil. The land is also much more covered with plants and more rainfall is captured. Less topsoil washes away. There are ways to raise livestock responsibility. A small self sufficient farm with little outside inputs is very different from cattle raised on a feed lot. We are off grid and watch our consumption by our lifestyle choices. I do hate that I had to buy a gas guzzling F 250 truck but at times on a farm you need one. It sits most of the time though and I only use it when absolutely necessary.
Is there anything you would like to ask or tell me?
Well I am not the type of person to get up and travel around, but I do like what you are doing. I am interested in the perspective of others in the world on the topics we have discussed. What are the biggest difference around the world?
“In general Billy, I am beginning to believe that thinking about climate change is a something folks from highly developed places like mainland Europe and big cities in America think about. People who are living places where they scrape buy to survive do spend as much time worrying about it. I also have noticed a few things about attitudes towards Americans. In general folks in Europe are worried about the direction America is currently headed, but they seem to want America to take a leadership role again. Another thing I notice is that many peoples opinions of America are formulated by their exposure to Americans that travel and the news. I feel like many people would be surprised at home many people living in America are a lot like you, reverting to a more simple life. One of the people I interviewed for this page stated he would never travel to America. I didn’t press him on why but I did try and inform him that it isn’t at all like you about.
In my own travels I saw the same thing in Egypt. There were dad’s playing soccer with their daughter in the square. Father’s and Mother’s of middle class Egyptians were encouraging me to speak with their daughters. I tried to be respectful of my perception of cultural norms and they joked with me that communication was OK. The Egyptians have a wonderful sense of humor. This openness was not as apparent with the less educated, poorer portion of the population. Education plays a very important role in awareness.”
Bill shared some additional thoughts. Humans are a lazy species he stated. They look for easiest ways to make a living. For eons it has been those of us that take the easy route that are most prone to survive. We are wired that way, to be content. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people achieve or perceive contentedness. Even the drunk is trying to find inner peace. Eating out, being on the phone, going to the movies doesn’t give us a lot of satisfaction. We are very content, comfortable and fulfilled by canning and having a good wood pile though. For us this feeds well into the way we are wired as humans.
Billy’s words made me think more than most peoples. I’m not a religious man, but I did read as much of pope Frances encyclical, or as much as I could make it through. The one thing that stuck in my head was that he felt that many people reached an end of a life of consumption feeling empty. I too am very worried about the political divide in our country. There seems to be a portion of the population that is loosing its site of the value of the tribe and are not concerned about their fellow man.
I wonder how much society will change because of the forthcoming social and economic hardships. Will it be like the great depression where generations after people are still saving things like bread bags for rainy days? Will corporations place more value on working from home, enabling less commuting and lowering overhead but lower needs for office spaces?
As a scientist I have huge faith in humans and their abilities to innovate and adapt. If we look around, we can all see that rapid change is possible. I also hope some of my European friends and followers will read this and see how a typical American is really thinks
. As Billy told y’all, he’s not the type to travel, is interested in world perspectives, and in my experience quite representative of what most peoples of the world are really about. Billy and his family are just ahead of their time.