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20 Dec 21:38

Review: Pusha T's Darkest Before Dawn is a skeletal and steely stocking stuffer

by Jamieson Cox

Barring some kind of Christmas miracle — think turkey dinner in the studio with Kim and North manning the boards — Kanye West isn’t releasing a new album this year. Will you accept a stocking stuffer from his musical consigliere? Pusha T’s King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude isn’t a surprise album, but it’s somewhat unexpected: the newly minted G.O.O.D. Music president has been hard at work on King Push since at least 2014. (It’s now scheduled to arrive sometime in the spring.)

To hear Pusha tell it, Darkest Before Dawn came together naturally while he was recording King Push with a murderer’s row of hip-hop veterans. "What we have here is like a compilation of ten of the hardest records that I’ve compiled… I didn’t want to...

Continue reading…

07 Aug 19:42

Shell cuts ties with corporate bill mill ALEC, claiming high ground on climate (!)

by Clayton Aldern
shell lego arctic polar bear

A ray of sunshine above the oil rig: Royal Dutch Shell became today the latest company to leave the American Legislative Evil Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative non-profit that pushes corporate-friendly cookie-cutter legislation at the state level. Shell’s decision comes after months of pressure from scientists, shareholders, and the public at large to cut ties with ALEC over its position on climate change. ALEC continues to question climate science and pen template legislation that discourages development of renewable energy.

Shell joins oil companies like BP and Occidental Petroleum (along with a slew of tech companies like Google and Facebook) in cutting membership ties with the group. In a statement, Shell wrote, “We have long recognized both the importance of the climate challenge and the critical role energy has in determining quality of life for people across the world.”

This might seem ironic coming now, considering that Shell is currently attracting the ire of climate hawks everywhere for its intention to commence drilling in the Arctic, despite continued calls from scientists that the only way to hold onto a scrap of planetary hope is to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Still unclear on what ALEC actually does? The group promotes hundreds of corporation-penned pieces of legislation to state lawmakers. An ALEC bill is a bit like a Mad Libs version of the policymaking process: Lawmakers need only scribble in the names of their states and a few local details and a bill is ready to be introduced. And it’s not just anti-environmental legislation that the group promotes — it’s also the expansion of private prisons and for-profit colleges and the “stand-your-ground” laws that contributed to the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Unconvinced of the nefariousness at hand? Let John Oliver of Last Week Tonight help you along the road to raging bafflement:

Filed under: Climate & Energy, Politics
14 Oct 01:41

We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind

by but does it float
The Bus by Paul Kirchner Title: J.G. Ballard Atley
21 Jul 16:41


This weekend we stayed with friends in Lewis. On Saturday we woke up early to catch the town-wide garage sales in Elizabethtown in the spirit of E-town Day. Our haul included: 1 over-sized sweater, 2 books, and 3 hats.

In the afternoon we took a little excursion out to Lake Champlain and Ausable Chasm.

Lake Champlain Ausable Chasm Ausable Chasm Ausable Chasm

That night we threw a couple blankets down on the E-town golf course and enjoyed the fireworks.

Hot tubs, pools, coconut rum, good company, and poor cell phone service make for a top-notch Summer weekend.

18 Jul 22:14


by Hallie Bateman
a game where you chase after bugs with light-up butts 

a game ultimately about rolling around in the grass and getting weird looks from passers by

while you try desperately to capture a bright spec

a yellow swoop

a shooting star!

16 Jul 04:16

The concept of stress, sponsored by Big Tobacco

by vaughanbell

NPR has an excellent piece on how the scientific concept of stress was massively promoted by tobacco companies who wanted an angle to market ‘relaxing’ cigarettes and a way for them to argue that it was stress, not cigarettes, that was to blame for heart disease and cancer.

They did this by funding, guiding and editing the work of renowned physiologist Hans Selye who essentially founded the modern concept of stress and whose links with Big Tobacco have been largely unknown.

For the past decade or so, [Public Health Professor Mark] Petticrew and a group of colleagues in London have been searching through millions of documents from the tobacco industry that were archived online in the late ’90s as part of a legal settlement with tobacco companies.

What they’ve discovered is that both Selye’s work and much of the work around Type A personality were profoundly influenced by cigarette manufacturers. They were interested in promoting the concept of stress because it allowed them to argue that it was stress — not cigarettes — that was to blame for heart disease and cancer.

“In the case of Selye they vetted … the content of the paper, they agreed the wording of papers,” says Petticrew, “tobacco industry lawyers actually influenced the content of his writings, they suggested to him things that he should comment on.”

They also, Petticrew says, spent a huge amount of money funding his research. All of this is significant, Petticrew says, because Selye’s influence over our ideas about stress are hard to overstate. It wasn’t just that Selye came up with the concept, but in his time he was a tremendously respected figure.

Despite the success of the campaign to associate smoking with stress relief, the idea that smoking alleviates anxiety is almost certainly wrong. It tends to just relieve anxiety-provoking withdrawal and quitting smoking reduces overall anxiety levels.

Although the NPR article focuses on Selye and his work on stress, another big name was recruited by Big Tobacco to promote their theories.

It’s still little known that psychologist Hans Eysenck took significant sums of cash from tobacco companies.

They paid for a lot of Eysenck’s research that tried to show that the relationship between lung cancer and smoking was not direct but was mediated by personality differences. There was also lots of other research arguing that a range of smoking related health problems were only present in certain personality types.

Tobacco companies wanted to fund this research to cite it in court cases where they were defending themselves against lung cancer sufferers. It was their personalities, rather than their 20-a-day habit, that was a key cause behind their imminent demise, they wanted to argue in court, and they needed ‘hard science’ to back it up. So they bought some.

However, the link between ‘father of stress’ Hans Seyle and psychologist Hans Eysenck was not just that they were funded by the same people.

A study by Petticrew uncovered documents showing that both Seyle and Eysenck appeared in a 1977 tobacco industry promotional film together where “the film’s message is quite clear without being obvious about it — a controversy exists concerning the etiologic role of cigarette smoking in cancer.”

The ‘false controversy’ PR tactic has now became solidified as a science-denier standard.

Link to The Secret History Behind The Science Of Stress from NPR.
Link to paper ‘Hans Selye and the Tobacco Industry’.

26 Jun 19:44

The Truth About Zones

26 Jun 19:44

Careful To Whom You Open Your Cloak

12 Jun 19:17

The Jack Rabbit Speaks

by but does it float
Scenes from Burning Man, shot by Trey Ratcliff Open Fullscreen for optimal viewing Fullscreen Folkert
30 May 20:08

Goat Riding a Guy... Riding a Bike

by Wm.™ Steven Humphrey

The next time someone groans about somebody else "keeping it weird" in Portland, show them this video of a goat riding a guy, who's riding a bike in Ethiopia. (Eye roll! That is SO Ethiopia!)

[ Subscribe to the comments on this story ]

20 Apr 01:17

My Tattoo

by Frank Chimero

I have many blueprints for tattoos: “festina lente” in a small roman italic on my right wrist, two crossed rings around the circumference of my left forearm for my passed mother and father, an anchor on my right ankle (that ship has sailed), a small mockingbird on my right tricep, crossed arrows through the calf. Others, too, which I have forgotten. Planning tattoos was a way to be embodied while lost in thought and, if I am honest with myself, my mind’s way to flirt with a mundane, safe danger. This is not a good reason to do anything.

Most of my friends have tattoos. Thoughtful and thoughtless (usually both kinds on the same body) in suggestive and mundane placements that announce themselves as statements and conceal themselves with symbolism. Every tattoo, in some way, is a secret to tell. The question always comes: What does it mean? “When the secret is exposed, we look away. When the secret is hidden we try to see it.” So says Mary Ruefle, who does not have any tattoos, but cloaks herself in symbols by writing poems. In some way, we all dress in symbols, and bask in the glow of knowing what they mean. We are in on the secret, because we invented the secret.

But it is too late for a tattoo, because I have fallen in love with the wrong thing. I would rather wonder about having a tattoo than have a tattoo. I do not want the permanence or the mark—I want to be committed to a secret.

What does it mean?

11 Apr 21:09

Fetish Wish List

by Chris Randle

Deterritorialization (receiving)

Roleplaying a neglected landmark of brutalist architecture

The ol’ flower crown + septum piercing + pouty boy combo

Eating ass like a senior editor at a respected publication just invited you out to lunch for it

Forced masc play: You press a snapback against my face and sneer “I’ve got a roof for you to clean, bruh”

Furries, who are cool now

In the middle of sex, we go hard Mariah (turn into evil dark-haired versions of each other). Anybody too fuck-addled to successfully rap the Jay-Z verse from “Heartbreaker” gets pelted with popcorn

Masturbating during Law & Order marathons and striving not to come until a Fran Lebowitz episode

You begin hoarding all our idly flirtatious tweets for a revelatory feminist-exhibitionist text

Pinioned to their drawing table using licorice twists of dark rope, your slave is erotically compelled to pursue cartooning full-time

Prince (musician)

I start a blog about the aesthetics of socialist realism with a minor but devoted following. Occasionally people get off on it

“You look famished, President Reagan. And here I am, a tight…little…jellybean.”

Busty leather-sheathed Helmut Newton amazons watching Broad City

Definitely not, ever, pending the heat death of the universe, daddy doms

Image: Bruce Nauman, "Big Welcome," 1985, Collection Daniel Hechte.


The poet Tricia Lockwood recently described Chris Randle as a male princess. He is a contributing editor at Hazlitt and writes various other things, including the comic Charivari for ADULT Magazine.

The post Fetish Wish List appeared first on Adult Mag.

10 Apr 17:38

Toward More Poetic Job Interviews by Dan Kennedy

Tell us why you’d love to be part of our team!

I’ve wanted to be part of something for so long, there’s this hole in me I try to hide, something I’ve jammed everything at; empty calories and half-hearted sex, travel and spending, starting and ending, any god’s guarantees… Now, I ask you, what if all along it was as simple as joining this company to fill the part of me missing? What if some deranged wiring or disease has forced me to isolate myself away instead of considering being part of a team like the one here at your company? I feel pretty good right now, and I’m not even officially part of anything. Just even filling out this application is fixing me. How weird would it be if it turned out I don’t even need the money, that I just need to be part of something, and I’ve idealized your team? That should be a movie. There’s probably a Preston Sturges movie like that.

Tell us a bit about some of your strengths
that you would bring to your work here.

A head on fire, a heart speeding through what days are left for me, a one hundred and forty beat per minute rocket ride back into the ether we all came from, and in the meantime longing to leave something behind, some kind of initials carved in wet cement, a stain on the planet, something proving I was here even just for the minute we get, you know what I mean? We look to leave a mark like a young drunk’s bruise, we stare at our arms to see the boats our fathers fished on, drawings of what we touched littering our limbs, tattoos. Okay, so, picture the company a hundred years from now: imagine my work is left here somehow, even if the projects and meetings that I led are long gone, it’s gone but my work is left here somehow, my strengths here in the muscle memory of these walls and desks and copiers and rooms—maybe some reports or memos or other documents I’ve typed are left in cabinets like ghosts in attics, dead flowers in the staff break room, thirty years later, come into bloom. Someone sees them and is like: “That’s from a great energy that someone put into their work here. That’s from a team member who was fucking extraordinary.” Everyone getting coffee that morning is just quiet like, “Yep, that’s what that is.”

What was something you didn’t like about
the last company you worked for?

If there’s one sort of revenge fantasy I have about them it is this: I’m kind of on a stage or in a big field that looks lunar, like when you leave Ketchum for Boise. And I’ve dropped a little weight, and I start to scream and kind of sing, but it’s kind of like reading or comedy, too. It’s cool, I’m not explaining it well here, but I’m kind of scream-sing-talking like a ’60s comedian or ’90s punk singer, and it’s lines like: Why naynay naynah I can’t manifest it! Baby, I! Can’t! Float when they drag me down, your company to me, was like swimming in concrete! The whole department, coming on like cherry candy, winding up my deadly make believe! You hired me, played me, caught me, cooked me. I could’ve walked away but I was weightless, on fire; you had me! But my burn faded until your want was wheezing, your devour sated. Me, a frozen moment, hypothermic, one dumb bug there so still, waiting to thaw, goodbye millennium, been here so long it feels like I’m gone. Picture the guitar parts sounding pretty dissonant while I scream that stuff. I’m not going to compare it to other bands you or other people at the company know, because it would be my own thing.

Aside from the position you’re applying for, are there any other skills you’d like to pursue that you feel you might learn here? Sometimes we offer schooling or classes in other areas of interest to employees that express interest in expanding into other fields or departments.

I wouldn’t mind learning more graphics stuff, I guess. I don’t know. Sometimes I think you start believing everything you write on an application or résumé, you know what I mean? It gets hard to remember what you’ve sold yourself. I’m not sure I even know the truth about me at this point.

07 Apr 16:00

A tour of the accents of the British Isles

by Jason Kottke

Using Google Earth, dialect coach Andrew Jack gives a tour of the accents of Great Britain and Ireland.

The audio is originally from this BBC program. See also Peter Sellers doing various English accents. (via devour)

Tags: Andrew Jack   language   maps   Peter Sellers   video
01 Apr 21:41

153 million dollars available to form SGs in Nigeria

by Paul Rippey


26 Mar 23:35


I’ve been known to use profanity on occasion, like everyone else. It’s infrequent here on my blog, and only slightly more common on Twitter. Still, I get complaints.

Actually, ‘complaints’ is probably too strong a word: I see people mentioning it in a disapproving way. Those people will no doubt find this article offensive too. The usual sort of remark I get is that such-and-such a piece was interesting or worth reading, but it’s a shame about the “bad language”.

Swearing isn’t bad language. Swearing is essential language.

I periodically check the incoming links to this site. I remember a particular time when someone had actually complained about the “potty mouth”. That’s a direct quote. I can only assume it was either a child, or an adult with a child’s mental age. I think I’d had the temerity to say “fuck”, within sight of this prudish Victorian time-traveller with the vocabulary of a five year old.

There’s a long history of using slang terms for genitalia as curse-words, of course. An inconsiderate person is a dick, and a wilfully obnoxious person is a cock, for example. But that’s barely half the story.

I grew up in the city of Glasgow, in Scotland. We swear a lot, and in almost every situation. We have a healthy relationship with profanity. We obtain our full measure of utility from it, as an emotive and an intensifier, a defuser and a restorer of perspective. More importantly, it’s a joyous thing. There’s such relish in a properly-prepared and skilfully wielded curse word. It’s like exquisite seasoning for language.

More than that, though, profanity is a powerful pressure-release valve. Any injured feelings after a jibe, prank, defeat, humiliation or otherwise can be salved immediately by lambasting the perpetrator with some choice curses (perhaps out of earshot, as discretion requires). Profanity can drain the tension right out of you. It’s a terrible shame to waste that power by abstaining from a few words. It’d be even more of a shame to hold negative feelings inside unnecessarily, allowing them to fester.

Not all swearing is equal, admittedly. Profanity is overused, and used too soon – usually by those with an unsophisticated vocabulary. If I want to actually insult you, I won’t be using unadorned curse words. Only the feeble-minded (or temporarily rage-blinded, perhaps) would actually say “fuck you” in earnest. It’s a child’s insult, only given weight by mutual immaturity.

In the same way, shock and outrage over profanity exist only for the willingly repressed. There are those who voluntarily yoke themselves under preposterous limitations of self-expression, despite being adults, and swearing tends to be one of their regular taboos. I pity them. Linguistically, they’re operating with one arm tied behind their backs.

Profanity lives and breathes. It’s vital, in both senses of the word. Language is one of the prime examples of evolution, and is ruthless in its selectiveness. Unsuitable words are excised from the common tongue in far less than a generation. New terms mutate into existence on a daily basis, are tested by society (often globally, these days), and either take hold or vanish. It’s an unquenchably egalitarian system that delights and frustrates in equal measure. We have “LOL” and “sext”, and “blog” and “selfie”, and thousands more.

But we also have “fuck”. Fuck lives on. Fuck thrives. It couldn’t do that if we weren’t still finding it useful. If we weren’t throwing it around, trying it out, and discovering that, yes, at times it does add a certain something.

There’s nothing inherently special about fuck. You can make it from “fun” and “duck”, and have three letters left over. It might as well be “blir” or “morv” instead. The magic comes from the fact that we’ve reserved it.

Socially and collectively, in an almost unequalled act of universal cooperation, altruism and shared will, we’ve made it special. When someone says this word (we’ve decided), we’ll have an amplified reaction. We will understand that the speaker means to impart an uncommon degree of emotional intensity to their statement.

Profanity is a linguistic special move. Forward, down, down-forward, punch: Shoryuken! Or indeed, Shoryu-cunt, if you must. Because we’re adults.

Were you shocked at my use of “the c-word” there?

Yes, you may very well have been: even I was shocked, because it’s a bit of a special case, isn’t it? By definition it’s misogynistic, which is reason enough for condemnation. It’s not part of my daily vocabulary, and I’m a little ashamed to have said it at all; such is the power we’ve given to an arrangement of four letters. You can’t deny that it’s jarring. In fact, it’s almost talismanic. You can still feel the aftershocks from the moment you read it, like the unnatural whine of utter silence after a bell has been struck.

You’ve just witnessed the effect I’ve been talking about – and it only works by mutual consent, en masse. It’s an amazing achievement; a monument to our species. If only we could pull that trick off more regularly, and in other fields of endeavour.

There is such a thing as bad swearing, too – it’s bad in the sense of just not being done very well. I see it periodically on blogs and even hear it in podcasts: the “angry teenager” style of discourse where almost every sentence has a swear word, blunting all impact and leaving the audience with the impression of someone who’s afraid they don’t have enough of actual value to say. When you’re always angry enough to swear, you’re maladjusted.

We know those words too, little boy. We’re not impressed.

The rest of us are grown-ups. There’s no need to practise the absurd, infantile self-censorship of using phrases like “the f-word”, as if we were giggling schoolchildren. We can choose whichever words we like, and we hopefully know there’s no such thing as a word you should never use.

It’s faintly ridiculous, and amusing, to apply a moral judgement to something like a word, across all possible contexts. Curse words are amoral, not immoral. Profanity is rich, expressive and exceptionally useful. It’s a wonderful and legitimate tool, when wielded judiciously. It wouldn’t exist otherwise.

Our culture has some catching up to do. This article, for example, will gain fewer links than others. Those it does gain will have quaint warnings (written by adults) about the monstrous use of words that everyone knows and probably uses themselves from time to time. I’ll even include a warning myself, when I tweet about it. I’ll lose a few followers for having the temerity to discuss this subject.

More vexingly, some people will mark this article as “not safe for work”; an environment presumably populated entirely by adults. Naturally, it’ll also get some wanton and gratuitous expletive-including citations that just come off as puerile, thus rather missing the whole point. That’s inevitable – for the moment. But perhaps we can make some progress, in time.

I’m not asking you to add a swear word where you wouldn’t have before. That would only dull the magic, and bleed some of the colour from the world. I’m just inviting you to think for a moment the next time you automatically reject some of the most resonant and accessible words our language has to offer. Are you truly doing so for reasons of style? Or an outdated, unnecessary reluctance to speak how people actually do?

If it’s the latter, I’d advise you to think again. Approach the issue with a calm mind. Remember that you’re not a child anymore, and your reader probably isn’t either.

Yes, there are a hundred words you might use instead, and plenty of people who would sanctimoniously thank you for doing so. But are you still truly making your point? Is your voice authentic? What of art, and aptness?

Sometimes, the word you’re really looking for is fuck.

There are ten instances of profanity in this article, of which seven are “the f-word”. Did it seem like more? This piece is thus approximately 0.8% profane, for the record, and by far the most curse-laden thing I’ve ever published.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting my writing.

21 Mar 16:48

A Softer World

17 Mar 00:50

Songs I Like #3: Bjork, “Heirloom”

by downdeepdowndeep

“She’s figured out how to get by just on being cute,” my painfully cool friend Dion informed me that summer 13 years ago when Bjork’s Vespertine came out. “Not quite worth the wait,” sniffed Pitchfork. Like Patti Smith’s Dream of Life (dare I see the beginnings of a sexist double standard for home-and-family records?), Vespertine was called oversweet, overpretty. it marked the first time Bjork was identified with a schtick instead of a sound, as if the album’s distant chirring drums and choral suspensions were any less rich than the raspy cellos and oceaning pound of Homogenic, her previous.

But Vespertine remains the Bjork record I like best. It’s a home record, a sex record, a dream record: gathering ripe black lilies. Climbing a tree’s private branches. Waking up with your lover still inside you. Taking the sun in your mouth. Tilting your head to get an angle on the day. Repeating “I love him” eight times. Vespertine still smells like mildew for me, Nivea, coffee, oven-roasted vegetables and old carpets: the place in the north U District (the basement of a house packed with bitter, high-strung ultimate frisbee players) I shared with my college sweetie where we played Vespertine every day. I remember making love to this record, having pointless fights, hosting our parents in a tiny shouldn’t-have-been-there basement kitchen.

Vespertine‘s movement feels like my memory does: inward-and-down, not forward-and-up. There’s no epiphany like Post‘s “Isobel,” or screaming blowout like Homogenic‘s “Pluto,” only a slow descent toward unity. It sounds like I felt when I was deep in love. It also sounds like I feel now on days of, say, feeding ducks with my toddler, squeezing in a prayer in front of a candle, waking up early enough that I can write my dreams down. This song is my favorite, a dream (speaking of) I grasp without understanding.

11 Mar 16:51

‘FIRST KISS’, A Beautiful Short Film That Captures the First Kiss Between a Series of Total Strangers

by Rollin Bishop

Do we just do this anytime?

“FIRST KISS” is a short black-and-white film by creator Tatia Pilieva, with help from Los Angeles-based womenswear brand Wren, about the first kiss between a series of total strangers. In total, 20 strangers were filmed kissing another person for the first time. The short film, with music by Los Angeles-based Soko, was made as part of Wren’s Fall 2014 Fashion Week.

via Jody Avirgan

02 Mar 20:36

The Path to Mortgage-Freedom – Tiny House Family’s ecourse

by Kent Griswold

by Hari Berzins

During the big snow storm last week, Karl and I walked up the hill from our tiny house to our newly dried-in (Woohoo!) big house to watch the falling snow. The snow in the woods was magical and the view in all directions was spectacular. I looked up at the rafters and there was no snow falling in the house! We were dry. After more than a year of watching rain and snow fall on our house, this was big. I smiled at Karl. “How does it feel to go into this snow storm with a finished roof on the house?” He took a deep breath. “You have no idea.”

dried in house

That was a nice moment.

We’ve come so far, and it’s so important to take time to celebrate all of the milestones along the way.

Hi, I’m Hari Berzins from My husband Karl and I built a mortgage-free micro-homestead and have worked our plan for the last five years. We’ve created an online course to help others realize their dream of mortgage-freedom.


In 2008, we had to totally redesign our life after losing our restaurant and home in the financial crisis. With a firm resolve to never use credit again, we started over. We dreamed of building a homestead for cash. With $300 to our name, owning a mortgage-free homestead seemed like an impossible dream.

I searched and searched for others who had lost everything and built a new life that included debt-free home ownership. How happy I would have been to find a course like ours, but I guess it was our work to write The Plan: Creating Your Pathway to Mortgage Freedom.

Our plan was a simple one and simply radical. We would work hard, stop buying, sell, donate, downsize, make a budget, and save every penny. We would find a little piece of land,


buy it for cash, and grow a homestead. We saved, worked, bought land, drilled a well, dug a septic system, built a tiny house, and are now completing the exterior of our main house. We did all of this with cash and time. We now live our impossible dream!

In our rebuilding process, we’ve relied on several practices of deep self-care to affirm that our worthiness is not attached to the balance of our bank account, nor our foreclosure, nor our belly-up business. We’ve relied on these practices to cultivate the contentedness and patience we need to thrive in our 8’ x 21’ ft. tiny house while we build our right-sized house. And we’ve relied on these practices to keep the faith when we have no idea how we are going to get through the next phase. We will share these practices with you because this change is for the long haul and we want you to be successful getting there.

tiny house

You might wonder why we are building a bigger house. The tiny house has been our ticket to mortgage-freedom. This phase of the plan has taught us so much about what we really need, about compromise, communication and delayed gratification, but we need room for our art, space to dance, and entertain, space for our children (now 9 & 11) to grow into adults. Space is so very personal, and we will explore your needs for space in the course. You will design a plan and a homestead to fit your unique lifestyle and budget.

Our little journey has attracted the attention of many media outlets which has brought with it a ton of emails with questions about our plan. We felt the need to compile a comprehensive course to guide others down the path to mortgage-freedom.

Now when I look up the hill at the main house, I’m so thankful we chose this route. It’s not an easy path. It’s hard in the beginning. It’s hard to talk yourself out of those moments when you just want to give in and blow your budget on a dinner out, or buy those cool new hiking boots or whatever it is the merchants pry your self-esteem with. With practice, this has become the norm for us, and the urges are rare. We’ll help you with this, too.

“. . . I will act, says Don Quixote,
as if the world were what I would have it to be,
as if the ideal were real. . .
— Don Quixote de la Mancha, Cervantes

There were lots of naysayers in the beginning, even family and friends who thought we were crazy. How in the world are the four of you going to live in that little house without killing each other?

the family

We are still alive almost three years after moving in, and look what it’s enabled us to do. We live mortgage-free on our own land; we’re raising animals and growing food. We get to be choosy about the work we do, and we spend tons of family time together. And once we move into our main house, we’ll have a micro bed and breakfast ready to go!

What would your life look like if you didn’t have a mortgage payment? If your dream is to simplify your life by building a tiny house, we can help you get there.

Having a supportive community is all important when making a “tiny” lifestyle change such as this. As part of our course, you’ll have access to a private Facebook group where you will connect with other like-minded individuals to discuss course materials, share ideas and support each other in creating your very own micro-homestead.

This e-course is 5 weeks long and begins on September 20, 2014. If you want to join us, see all the details here:

kids loft


living room


27 Feb 00:31

The word “God” exists

by downdeepdowndeep

Probably the mot important thing going on in my life which I have never written about here is my decision as an adult to convert to Catholicism. There is way more to this than a single blogpost, but I thought I’d start writing more seriously about my journey, for friends who I don’t see that often, as well as for folks whose backgrounds are like mine– lefty, punk rock, a product of Scandanavian Protestant family tradition, raised in a secular/Christian-hegemonic, appetitive, pyramided culture, groping for an authentic spirituality.

The title up there comes from German theologian Karl Rahner’s Foundations of Christian Faith, one of about five books that made it possible for me to decide to convert. The book is unbelievably dense; the translation is careful and business-like but with the bad habit of (seeming to) render Rahner’s monstrous German periodic sentences exactly into English. The chapter on God, “Man in the Presence of Absolute Mystery,” begins with a reflection on the word itself that I return to when friends ask me why on earth I would join an institution like the Catholic Church. (Please note that any misstatements or horrible dumbings-down of Rahner’s thought here are my responsibility alone.)

The word “God” exists. This, as a fact of our language, is worth thinking about. Unlike other ways of conceptualizing the divine– Lord, the Great Spirit, holy of holys, Adonai, Siva, the womb of love– “God” has no descriptive or metaphoric content: it points to nothing in the world. We might in an act or sign momentarily glimpse the action of another abstraction we believe in, such as truth or love, but the word “God” cannot be pointed to in instances. It simply stands (in distinction to even such abstractions as truth or love) as a sort of question about reality: it is everything beyond what we can identify, point to, strive toward, or name. The word “God” is rather the is-there-such-a-thing in whose presence, or upon whose ground, we do our pointing-to and striving. But as such, the question asked by the word “God” (says Rahner) points toward what is unique about humans.

So what is unique about humans?

Natural science has eaten the lunch of just about any earlier claim to human uniqueness: people are not unique among animals in acting compassionately, in showing grief, in communicating complex thoughts through sound. But what seems to be unique about humans, speculates Rahner, is our ability to reflect on the entirety of our lives and speculate what may lie beyond our limits: the limits imposed  by the conditioning experience and political history, and the limits of our powers of understanding. Our ability to reflect on our lives as a whole– how are my intimate relationships just shadows cast by my conflict with my parents? would I be happier if I exercised more often? would I be a bad person if I stole these leggings? why are some people happier in bare simplicity across the world than I am in my material comfort here? can I share without hope of recompense even though I’ve been taught life is war?— and then make a choice, is, for Rahner, the definition of human freedom. Freedom is the spiritual environment in which we decide and then take responsibility for that decision, not the mere fact of deciding to steal those leggings.

So: humans, in reflecting on the conditioning of their dark, hard, bitter, or irreconcilable histories or circumstances, can step beyond and transcend this conditioning. We can choose, in freedom, to be more or better than our apparent limits would allow us. God can be thought of (in Rahner’s phrase) as the term, or endpoint, of this or any possible transcendence, the absolute unknowable horizon-line past what can be conceived of in our frail and wandering little hearts. This makes “God,” for Rahner, an inextricable part of what is human about humans, definitional even in the psyche of someone who names and then denies the existence of this term of transcendence. To (probably mis)quote from memory: “Without the question represented by ‘God,’ we would cease to be anything but clever animals.”

The first “natural revelation” of God to a human– the first gift of the Spirit— lies in our being able to yearn for transcendence, regret or reflect on our past, formulate a question or longing about our lives as a whole. Rahner is a meticulous, unlyrical writer, temperamentally cautious, but some of his writing on this subject feels like it takes flight, as when he writes that the Spirit is “everything in the world that is constantly new and fresh, free and vital, unexpected and mighty, at once tender and strong… The Spirit can be perceived wherever people refuse by the grace of God to conform to legalistic mediocrity.” (Had this quote drawn back to my attention by Fanny Howe.) This yearning, and the self-renewal it allows, is a condition of our humanity that’s a sheer gratuitous gift. And this gift (for Rahner) is the first indication that God wants to be known– worshipped, contemplated in silence, honored by faith hope or love– by us fortunate apes.

So. This is one way of talking about God. It was the way that started me reading, writing, talking, trying to pray, and talking some more on the path that’s led to me being where I am now, enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at St. Mary’s, learning words like thurible and ambry and memorizing prayers I’d already half-soaked-up in childhood. Bearing in mind how absurdly difficult it is to speak authentically about belief, I would love to talk to you all more about it. Look for more posts soon.

26 Feb 19:24

Time in Motion, Animated Photo Collages That Show Many Different Times of Day All at Once

by EDW Lynch

Time in Motion by Fong Qi Wei

“Time in Motion” is a series of animated photo collages that show a single vista at many different times of day all at once. The series was created by artist Fong Qi Wei. We previously posted about his still photo collages “Time Is a Dimension.”

Time in Motion by Fong Qi Wei

Time in Motion by Fong Qi Wei

Time in Motion by Fong Qi Wei

via Colossal

17 Feb 17:39

Dive In: Resources for Web Animation

by Yesenia Perez-Cruz

I’ll admit it—animation is usually left until the very end of my design process. After nearly all of my other design decisions have been made, I’ll look through the coded designs for opportunities to add some “flair.” What I loved about Val Head and Rachel Nabors’ articles last week is that they advocated for a much more meaningful way to use animation. After reading their articles I immediately realized, “Wow, I should start thinking about animation way earlier.”

Prototyping seems like the perfect way to get animation thinking happening sooner. When I’m designing, I usually have some idea of how I might want a menu to slide in or a button to behave, but I will usually shelf those ideas until later. I love Val’s suggestion to create a quick and dirty example of an animation idea in order to have something real to evaluate and iterate on. This is also a great way to communicate your idea to your teammates or clients.

If you lack the tools to be able to prototype your ideas, Val is giving a CSS Animation workshop in New York on March 7th. She also has an online course on CSS Animations for those of you that can’t make it in person. If diving in and experimenting is more your thing, Magic is a CSS3 framework with a ton of animation examples. Finally, for a jolt of inspiration check out Use Your Interface, “a growing library of transitional interface and interaction design patterns to help you inspire and communicate your UI ideas with people.”

Aside from a motion graphics class in college, I don’t have much background in animation theory. If you’re like me and want to take Rachel’s advice about starting with the fundamentals, then I recommend checking out The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams. Drawn to Life by Walt Stanchfield and Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair are also classics. For a shorter read, “Animation: From Cartoons to the User Interface,” is a Stanford paper by Bay-Wei Chang and David Ungar which explains how cartoon animation principles can be applied to user interfaces. Rachel also has a ton of additional resources in her article that I’m eager to check out, and she’s expanded on her article in a recent screencast. If all of that isn’t enough for you, Benjy Stanton has assembled a great list of web animation resources and further reading.

I can’t wait to start incorporating animation thinking earlier in my process. If you have additional resources to share or are also looking to bolster your animation knowledge, I’d love to hear from you.

13 Feb 07:18

The sixth extinction

by Jason Kottke

About 250 million years ago, Earth suffered its fifth (and worst) mass extinction event. Nearly seventy percent of land species disappeared. And they got off easy compared to marine species. Are we headed for another mass extinction on Earth? I'm not ready to break that news. But something unusual is definitely going on and extinction rates seem to be speeding up. Here's an interesting chat with Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction.

The worst mass extinction of all time came about 250 million years ago [the Permian-Triassic extinction event]. There's a pretty good consensus there that this was caused by a huge volcanic event that went on for a long time and released a lot of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere. That is pretty ominous considering that we are releasing a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere and people increasingly are drawing parallels between the two events.

Tags: books   Earth   Elizabeth Kolbert   global warming   interviews   science   The Sixth Extinction
31 Jan 22:15

Wealth does not make you smarter

This thread began in a Facebook post by Mike Godwin, who is the Godwin in Godwin's Law. I know Mike. He's a regular East Bay liberal lawyer type. Not rich, as far as I know, intellectual, opinionated, left-leaning, and a longtime netizen, which is why he's so famous for creating the law, which came out of various flamewars on the pre-web Internet. He's a good guy to converse with, he's smart, edgy, opinionated, challenging -- all good things when it comes to learning and having fun in conversation.

He was commenting on a Krugman post entitled Godwin Help Us, a line he stole from Jonathan Chait, referring to the Tom Perkins mess. I commented, which brought my friend Chuck Shotton into the thread, with a link to a Scott Adams post that takes a contrarian view to conventional wisdom about the Perkins mess. He says Perkins is a smart guy, and has seen many trends before others, that's why he got so rich (good point) and that while his choice of Nazi metaphor is distracting, it's not totally impossible that the rich will be demonized as the source of all our pain, as Jews were in the Holocaust.

As a Jew myself, whose family fled the Nazis, I have always had mixed feelings about Godwin's Law, even though I like Mike. It's been used to shut down discussion of fascism and repression, and even a resurgence of Nazism, and it's contrary to my grandfather's admonition, a man who fought to save his family from the Nazis, that we never forget.

Anyway, that's all preamble.

Tom Perkins does have a point, but that's not what I think of first. I think of what wealth does to people over time. Wealth buys distance. I learned this when I participated in a Kleiner-Perkins IPO in the late 80s, and became rich myself. I did what lots of newly rich tech people do, I bought a big house on a lot of land in Woodside. Pool, hot tub, lots of room for big parties, which I had fairly regularly. It wasn't a terrible lifestyle, but I saw where it was going, and I didn't like it. So when I had a chance to change things, I sold the house and downscaled my lifestyle dramatically. I now live in a Manhattan apartment. A nice one, for sure, but it's just two rooms, a small kitchen and bath. I ride the subway. I don't like possessions. I don't enjoy being distant from humanity.

Richness, over time, warps your perspective. You tend to only associate with other rich people, the non-rich people you meet are often employees or service people. The rich reinforce each others' belief that they're the smartest people around, otherwise they wouldn't be so rich, right?

Thinking gets inbred, fragile, cloistered. I've seen it happen to people of my own generation. You have to work at staying in the flow of humanity. Poor people do the opposite, dream of being separated from all that humanity. The trick, imho, is to strike a balance, if you can. And being well-off financially gives you the option. You don't have to choose to be cut off from humanity. I find I'm much happier if I'm more immersed in it, less separated. I think this is because it's reality. No matter how much money you have you still have just one body, and it ages at the same rate as all other bodies, and it does all the same things. Bill Gates used to say when he flew coach instead of first class, that he gets there at the same time. I admire that. Why? Because it's true!

When I lived on the estate, I dreamed of having a house on an ordinary street with people coming and going, and stopping on the street to talk with neighbors. It's so funny how people are that way, the grass is always greener, even if you have the largest, greenest, fullest lawn around. I think the super-rich have an inkling deep inside that they'd do better as people if they got out of the limo and helicopter and had a drink or threw a football with a few ordinary people, not just for PR but for real. I think we're built that way, a social species, and for most, to be super-rich is to be cut off from that.

Sometimes ordinary people, not rich, act like they're inbred rich people. I think that's what the Fox News phenomenon is all about, and why people vote Republican. But I don't think being rich equates to being smart. Over time, the more you live rich, I think it actually makes you less intelligent.

22 Jan 00:37

Traffic Forecasts

by Alex Tabarrok

Official DOT forecasts of road traffic with actual road traffic.


Hat tip to Andrew Gelman, who compares it with some other famous forecasts.

30 Dec 20:33

Turkish Ice Cream Vendor Subjects His Customers to Countless Tricks

by EDW Lynch

Customers of this Turkish ice cream vendor in Istanbul must endure a succession of tricks and stunts before they can get their ice cream. Judging by the many “turkish ice cream man” videos on the Internet, there are many such vendors in Turkey and abroad.

video via MillerTural

via Boing Boing

27 Dec 22:37

Zoetrope-Style Animation Created with Ceramic Pot

by EDW Lynch

A handmade ceramic pot serves as an ingenious zoetrope-like animation device in this collaborative video. The video was created by animator Jim Le Fevre, filmmaker Mike Paterson, and ceramicists Roops and Al Johnstone of RAMP. It was commissioned by the UK-based Crafts Council.

video via Crafts Council

via Digg

22 Dec 20:11

Homesteading 2014

by fchimero

Have you ever visited an architect’s house, one they designed themselves? It’s fun to walk through it with them. They have so many things, arranged so thoughtfully, and share the space with such pride because of the personal reflection the house required to design (not to mention the effort it took to build). It’s really quite special. I think there’s a pleasure to having everything under one roof. You feel together, all of you at once. In a way, building your own house is the ultimate project for a creative person: you’re making a home for what you think is important, done in the way you think is best.

But the web right now is a house divided: a silo for each little thing that you make. As I look back at how I’ve used the internet this year, I’ve come to realize it’s not sustainable for me to continue this way. Hosting my things all over the place is fatiguing, never mind attempting to keep track of everyone in multiple places. I’m pretty good at juggling, but I feel split and overwhelmed, because these networks are sorted by what things are (a photo, video, snarky quip, etc.), rather than who made them. My brain works in the opposite way. It’s people first, so I don’t think “I would like to see photos,” I ask myself, “I wonder what Josh has been up to?” To find out, I have to visit each little silo and piece the story together. So, if you’re like me, you speed through and develop an uncourteous stance toward it all, because the stuff you really care about gets mixed in with a lot of accompanying bullshit.

The web runs on newness, but the massive quantity and disagreeable structure we place on that newness (*cough* streams) means it’s very easy to have your stance online become, as my friend Jason likes to say, “Fuck you, impress me.” Your coping mechanism for the glut becomes passing judgment, a weird and public version of sour grapes to deal with missing out, thanks to limited time and attention. You form an opinion about something in five seconds, because maybe if you kick it like a puppy, it’ll go away. We’ve all done this, but good god: asshole move. Good people don’t want to be like that. Especially if that grumpiness and ill-will seeps into the stuff you truly love, because you can’t pull it out from the bullshit.

A couple of concessions. First, reducing noise in digital products isn’t an easy problem to manage, both for the employees at these platforms, and especially for the users who are trying to figure out how to make that platform best work on their terms for their needs. That second group doesn’t get enough mention. Secondly: I’m over-saturated in a way most normal people are not. I’m an early adopter, but my type are the first to feel (and hopefully understand) the draw-backs and side-effects of whatever we’ve tried. Early adopters usually turn into early quitters.

While this callousness and irritability might be caused by the traits of certain environments online, it’s also just an attitude, so it can be modified. I can adjust how I look at the newness, change how I interact with these venues, and try to make a quieter, warmer, and slower place for my things. That’s good for the audience (I think), and good for my work and the things I share. You need to build a safe place so people don’t need to be on guard and stingy with their attention. If you can do that, we all get a breather.

It seems the best way for me to do this is to step out of the stream and “build my own house,” just like those architects. I don’t have to simplify or crop or be pulled out of context (unless I want that), which hopefully produces a fuller picture of who I am, what I like, and what I value. I’m returning to a personal site, which flips everything on its head. Rather than teasing things apart into silos, I can fuse together different kinds of content. Instead of having fewer sections to attend to distracted and busy individuals, I’ll add more (and hopefully introduce some friction, complexity, and depth) to reward those who want to invest their time. I won’t use analytics—actually, I won’t measure at all. What would I do with that data anyway? In this case, it’s just more noise. The singular thread that runs through everything is only “because I like it.”

So, I’m doubling down on my personal site in 2014. In light of the noisy, fragmented internet, I want a unified place for myself—the internet version of a quiet, cluttered cottage in the country. I’ll have you over for a visit when it’s finished.

11 Dec 04:47

10 Things I’ve Learned From Lambs

by Craig Rogers
Piers Boericke Rippey

If you're not following the lamb blog get on that.

1. A shepherd’s life is most humble (the oldest profession)

From the beginning of time, shepherds have been the proverbial “ditch diggers,” the down-trodden, the disrespected. Hence, even the angels came to the shepherds, the lowliest of all men, to share the news of the birth of Christ, as the story is told. Over the centuries, nothing has changed much. From the shepherds of the hills of Scotland, to the shepherds of the new Western frontier, to the Basque shepherds who migrated from Mexico and became the shepherds of the far west and the emancipated slaves who headed west with prolific breeding sheep as their source of livelihood, all have been discriminated upon and viewed as a lowly class over the ages.

Even today, many wish not to be referred to as “shepherds” but instead as ranchers, land owners, or flock owners. The work of shepherding is left to the “lowly” or “immigrant” shepherds. Shepherds have typically been the transient or migratory workforce since the the early days of agriculture. Shepherds have never been romanticized like the western cowboy. In fact, the shepherd has often been cast as the villain, the migratory farmer who was ruining the cattle grazing land of the west.

The famed cattle-sheep wars of the 1850’s saw some cattlemen realizing there was more money to be made in sheep than cattle — but they still they never called themselves “shepherds.” I find great pride in doing the ancient work of caring for sheep, the humble work of caring for the sick, ensuring the health of each individual, providing feed and shelter and protecting the safety and health of the flock. Shepherding requires more hands-on work than most livestock farming. Lambing (the birthing of lambs) often occurs at night, in the cold, and is a solitary farming task where the reward is personal satisfaction in perhaps saving a life of a ewe or bringing a lamb into the world that otherwise would not make it. It is a personal satisfaction with few equals.

2. Sheep are smarter than everyone thinks they are. You just have to be smart enough to recognize it

Over the years I have often been told, generally by non-sheep people or someone with 10 or 20 sheep that are fed from buckets, how dumb sheep are. However, if you pay attention, you can not help but be impressed by how smart they are to have survived domestication since 10,000 B.C. Although many think of their flocking instinct to be a sign of “dumbness,” it is in fact a community-based survival mechanism where they have learned that their strength is much greater in numbers and their comfort and survival is enhanced as a group rather than as an individual. Not a bad lesson for all of us. A baby lamb will enter the world and within a few minutes is up and walking, able to find its very own food source,and is self-sustaining as long as it remains near its personal food supply. You can only wonder in awe at the sustainability and intelligence of this creature. The intelligence of sheep is obvious to all those who take the time to listen to them.

3. Tend to the flock, but care for the individual

Shepherds, like the sheep themselves, learn quickly that the path to success depends on tending to the flock but caring for the individual. Providing clean water, ample forage and shelter to an entire flock is essential to maintaining the health of the flock. But the success of a shepherd or shepherdess is in the compassion they have for each individual. This means being able to identify a sick or injured sheep or lamb within a flock of hundreds or thousands of sheep. Assisting with the birth of a lamb when needed, caring for a lamb orphaned by its mother, providing the expectant mother with enhanced nutrition or weaning a lamb in a compassionate manner are all part of that job. The more concern the shepherd has for the individuals who are in need of health care, supplemental food assistance or individual attention, the healthier the flock and the more profitable the whole operation is. (This lesson applies to more than a flock of sheep.)

4. The joy of birth never gets old — and sometimes is not easy

The miracle of birth graces our farm almost year long. I can still remember the first time I saw a lamb expelled from it’s mother, on the ground, and within a few minutes it was walking wobbly-legged in search of its mother’s teat. It is something I never tire of seeing and if truth be told, I have wasted countless hours simply watching in awe this miracle. However, sometimes all does not go according to plan. Sometimes the shepherd must assist in order to save the life of the mother, the baby or both. Lambs can be born breach, can be too large for the mother to lamb naturally without undue stress to her or the baby, may be too large to ever come out on their own, have multiple births where they are twisted or may have stillborns that need to be fetched out by hand. We have probably shed more tears over lambing situations gone bad than over anything else in our lives. But the joy of putting your hand (and arm) into a ewes uterus, finding the right feet, turning the lamb, getting the head and neck in the right direction and being able to pull a lamb out alive and seeing it take its first breath, watching the mother get up and begin cleaning its new baby is simply without equal.

5. Cute doesn’t last forever

There are few things in the world as cute as a newborn lamb. Maybe a young child holding a small lamb for the first time or bottle feeding one of the orphan lambs may come close. Yes, I do believe that baby lambs are even cuter than baby kittens — though maybe that is why I am a shepherd and not a cat herder. For compassionate shepherds, there is no doubt that the cuteness cuts to our soul and we can not help but to provide a bit more attention and care to the small lambs. But they grow old. They reach sexual maturity around 6 months of age and the lamb that weighed only a few pounds will already be as much as 75 percent of its full-grown size. Much like aging shepherds (though hopefully not as as severe as aging shepherds), they lose their cuteness as well. Sheep are always stunning creatures, at least in the eyes of a shepherd. But the cuteness does not last forever in sheep, fortunately for me.

6. Nothing is more serene and picturesque than sheep grazing a beautiful hillside

Farmland across American is diverse and all with different virtues. From the amber waves of grain to pasture land along the Rockies, from the Green Mountains to the Blue Ridge, there are beautiful farms. But there are few things that can enhance a beautiful pasture more than a flock of sheep happily grazing. Our farm is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Each day I am able to look out my bedroom window to see sheep grazing in pastures near the farm house, and on the “mountain” (a hillside pasture) about a mile away from the farm house where the majority of our ewes gracefully move across the hillside. Many days, around sunset, I will check my flock and simply sit for an hour watching the serenity of a sheep’s life with its head down eating sweet grasses with lambs at their side. I know of no way to forget the stress of business and farm life for a few minutes than simply watching a lamb come into the world or watching them graze on a beautiful pasture. We don’t stop to smell the roses here, we stop and admire our flock of sheep, and maybe pet a few as well.

7. A good dog is more than just a great friend

Many people keep dogs as pets, and the adage “man’s best friend” is shared by almost all. However, there is something quite different when your dog is a working dog. We use border collies to assist us with all of our sheep chores. As I write this, my #1 dog, now retired, Jake, is at my feet. My most loyal and loving friend. But we are also partners. Jake has done the work of four farm hands. Together we could move a thousand sheep from our farm up the road to our “mountain” pasture. He has brought new mothers, ever so protective of their new born lambs, into the barn from the pasture, often having to go nose-to-nose with the ornery ewe. He has rounded up cattle 40 times his size. He was worked in the heat of the summer and in the bitter cold of winter nights.

This is not a hobby for my dogs or for me. This is a partnership where a job must get done. We share in the misery of bad weather, bad sheep and bad circumstance. But we end each day with a shared appreciation for a job well done. Pets are wonderful. Working dogs are one of nature’s true wonders and my life has been blessed with the most loyal of friends and working partners. My dogs have been responsible for my livelihood, my contentment in farming and for my joy to have them at my side day and night.

8. Death on the farm is inevitable. It may even get easier. But it is never easy

Livestock farming involves killing animals. Whether we ship them off to an auction, a slaughter house, or we do it ourselves, ultimately the objective is to turn the animals into dollars to sustain a family and the farm. Sometimes, an animal needs to be euthanatized for humane reasons. And humanity hurts. Knowing you are doing the right thing may take the sting out, but it still hurts.

Sometimes, in spite of your efforts to save a mother or a baby during lambing, the shepherd loses. It hurts. And the harder you try to save the life, the more it hurts. To make enough money to provide for a family to make a farm sustainable requires that a shepherd kill a lot of lambs. But for each lamb killed, there is a ewe who lives to produce again. For every lamb killed, we keep a farmhand employed to care for their family. For every lamb killed we preserve a piece of American farmland that is disappearing at an alarming rate.

When I speak to the general public about the business of livestock farming I refer to “harvesting lamb.” But I never fool myself. My job is to kill lambs for food — with many benefits for the animals and our farm. Although I take my animals to a slaughter house to be processed to sell to chefs along the East Coast, I always kill one myself each year for food. It is never easy for me, but it reminds me what my job is. It helps remind me of the value of each lamb and sheep on the farm, and their death is never taken lightly.

Our lamb is Animal Welfare Approved which means even our slaughterhouse is audited to ensure that the life of every animal is treated humanely until its last breath. It is with honor we raise our lamb and it is with honor we kill each one and share it with the greatest artists we can find to honor the shepherd’s work and the lamb’s life. It is with honor we kill our animals to feed and nourish. One evening, at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, our lamb was the featured entree for a special dinner by Chef Joseph Lenn and Blackberry Farm. The most touching and surprising tribute ever given to me as a shepherd was when a guest walked in late, as we were seated, and he came to me, shook my hand, and said, “Thank you for nourishing us tonight.”

I knew then that the life of those lambs would be honored that night by the artistry of Chef Lenn and that guest — and that was a great honor to me, a humble shepherd.

9. Happy lambs are tastier lambs

Not all lamb tastes the same. Much like apples and tomatoes, each variety has different virtues and flavor. Lamb is no different. Some breeds of sheep have long fine staple wool that spinners adore, others have course wool better suited for rugs, some are of large frame and are used to add size to hybrid lambs. Some are mild in flavor and some have a fat that remind many of old mutton. We use two breeds of sheep to create a lamb with a rich lamb meat flavor with a fat so sweet you want to suck on it like bacon. We have learned that happy sheep are the tastiest sheep. We oversees our pastures with three types of high sugar grasses, and red and white clover to give our grass-fed lambs enough sugar to create a delicious fat. But most importantly, animals that get to graze ample rich pastures, have crystal clear spring or well water and can live in peace of predators or the stress of wondering where the next meal comes from will be the happiest and the tastiest.

10. Nothing makes a party like a whole lamb on a spit

One of the joys of the farm is entertaining visitors on the farm. We show them our sheep, the wonder of our border collies and our livestock guardian dogs, the story of our heritage chickens and turkeys, and the pride of the work of the humblest of all professions — shepherding. But a trip to our farm is not complete without breaking bread.

Many times a year, we put a whole lamb on a spit on the farm. More often we cook a lamb on a spit at food festivals or special events at restaurants. From starting the fire to dinner it takes some 8 hours. During these eight hours, the whole lamb is the focal point of the party. It is where people are drawn to the spectacle and where tales of farming and old family traditions are often told. Often it will remind people of old family stories of how Grandpa would roast a whole hog or lamb. Many times it is the first time they have seen a whole animal prepared for a meal.

But always, it creates a conversation about the value of farming, the beauty of simple cooking, and the fun of sharing a meal with family and friends. There is no better way to start a conversation about the joy and value of farming than with a lamb on spit. There is no better way to celebrate the life of a shepherd than sharing a lamb cooked on a spit.

The post 10 Things I’ve Learned From Lambs appeared first on Modern Farmer.