Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving in the Finger Lakes

Not an adventure blog, but I was away. And I didn't shower for 4 days... so it's enough like camping that I am posting.
I drove to New York to the Finger Lakes where my brother lives. He lives mostly off grid, at least his house and property are off the grid. He still uses gasoline and other modern infrastructure, so in the strictest view, he is still on-grid.
Some back ground, my brother has problems with modern society, rampant consumerism, and more than anything, authority. This doesn't make him far left or far right, politically. He considers himself right, as he identifies with the hard-working blue collar folks. However, he lives further left than most, but for different reasons. He contends that modern society as it 
 stands now cannot continue indefinitely, he is of the opinion that there will be a collapse, probably within our life time. He is a very smart, passionate guy. His opinions are formed with (albeit selective) research. The genesis of this world view of his stretches into the hazy past. He was enamored with 'My Side of the Mountain' growing up. He delved into wilderness survival with gusto, learning edible and medicinal plant identification - practicing his skills in and out of scouts. The second most important book to steer his thinking was 'The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight' by Thom Hartmann - a book dedicated to the theorized Peak Oil crisis. I read the book as well, and there are some very valid concerns. There are two schools of thought, one that Peak Oil is an unresolvable crisis, that once oil becomes economically unfeasible, that population levels will dramatically fall back to pre-oil levels (about 1 billion), meaning there will be a mass die off through war, starvation, lack of medical treatment, and lack of survival skills. This is the school of which my brother prescribes. The other thought process is that with a slow decline, people will be able to spin up other sources of fuel, hopefully renewable, to compensate for the disappearing "easy" fuel that is crude oil. I tend to fall in with this group, and that we won't see the squeeze of the need for a complete change to other fuels in our life times. Sure, I want my children's world to be a better place, but I think a slow transition to the next level will happen. Just from an economic view, once the demand for oil becomes price prohibitive other sources will be found.
Ok, enough back ground, getting off the soap-box.
Anyway, my bro decided to be proactive about it. He bought some property in NY on a side of a mountain. The 9 acres has a gorge with a typically flowing stream, a few nice pasture areas an old apple orchard and mixed hardwood and pine maturing forest. He built a cabin over five years ago. I helped some with that. He has added a porch and enclosed the porch as the kitchen. He is digging out the hill behind the cabin and plans on adding another room there. He plans on building a wrap around porch on the front of the cabin. On the property he has made a 20 by 20 work shop, several sheds, a horse barn (no horses yet), chicken house, pig pen, a small garden, and a root cellar.
I visit from time to time and it is like stepping back a hundred years (except the lighting). The water is collected from a rain barrel (the stream comes through a sheep farm on top of the mountain, so cannot be used), the LED lighting is powered off a few deep cycle batteries charged by solar panels - unless it has been exceptionally cloudy, then he runs a gennie for a few minutes to give them enough charge for the evening. The batteries aren't enough to run TV, computer, or anything beyond the LED and CFL lights nightly. Thanksgiving dinner was cooked on the woodstove, the turkey in the woodstove oven. 
On Friday I occupied myself in Watkins Glen, on the wine trail of Seneca Lake, and on the Keuka Lake Outlet Trail connecting Penn Yan to Dresden. The last an interesting trail I would like to bike and explore some more in the summer, or at least when there aren't hunters around. I found some interesting ruins off trail, I can never seem to stay on trails. I speculated that there was a towpath. The link confirmed my suspicions as well as explained there were some 30 mills, which must explain the helter skelter ruins I came upon.
I had no real high adventures. Hunting is serious business in these parts. I wanted to hit the Finger Lakes Trail, but some of it crosses private lands closed for the season, other parts cross public lands, dangerous in this season. I didn't have any blaze orange to sport and didn't want to mess up any one's shot by scaring their prey. Oh well, next time.