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Archive for February, 2011

well worth reading for those who have the freedomsong in their hearts or just have a love for independent spirits living out of the box

Southern New Mexico by Carla DeMarco

Oldtimer Bob Sundown is a dropout in the true sense of the word. For 40 years he has voyaged about 20 miles a day along the West’s gritty highway shoulders in a donkey-drawn sheep wagon he and some kids built from discarded materials. “Thousands of friends,” a few live-in chickens and his knowledge of edible plants form his sometimes tenuous security net. Although he intentionally draws no pension nor social security, he claims he’s the richest man on Earth because he knows how to “use his mind.”

The seventy-something, slow-and-steady traveler espouses hard-won creeds borne of stark life experience. It’s apparent this slight, one-eyed, leathery-faced man in dusty clothes has conquered concepts cerebral seekers grapple with perpetually. As his story unfolds, he untangles fear, worry, surrender, attention to the moment, freedom and peace of mind sagaciously in the rough, unfeigned tongue of cowboy slang.

Sundown bears his Nez Perce Sioux mother’s name. He drove his Caucasian father off at age ten with a pitchfork after the man “whupped” his mother and sisters one too many times.

He left home at age eleven to begin a lifetime of labor that continues to this day, although a heart attack last year curtailed his fence building and “cowboying” activities. He still teaches survival skills to children, announces for children’s rodeos and ranch-sits for friends – mostly in Arizona and New Mexico. He says when he gets too old to work, he will lay down and die.

He eats plants, jackrabbits, chickens and eggs. His burros, he says, “always have hay.” Sometimes, if he has money left over after his burros are fed, he treks to town and treats himself to some store-bought food. “I’m not afraid to go hungry,” he says. “It never killed me yet.”

The former Marine, prospector, sheepherder and owner of two ranches used to travel the highways incessantly in trucks loaded with show horses and cattle. But four decades ago, after his wife was killed in an automobile accident, he decided the fast lane was not his friend. He relinquished his worldly goods and properties to his children.

He motions to the range beyond the highway. “I wanted to prove that a person can survive if they know what to do. Do you know there are 190 different plants you can eat around here? Pretty soon people better learn to be self sufficient.”

He expresses concern for an exploited world and its victimized children, blaming corruption in government, the church, the media and other institutions. But the corruption, he says, is just the end result of the root problem: the unbridled human ego.

Humans will be free when they learn to surrender their fear-based need to control, says the cowboy, intimating that the mind can expand to a clear perspective when aired in nature’s open spaces.

“Lots of people are afraid to do the way I do; they say they can’t. I say, How do you know? Have you ever tried?'”

But the nudge is designed to click light bulbs rather than change lifestyles. Acknowledging his way would be inappropriate for most, he believes humans from all walks of life face tough roads, and the key to peace is in learning to handle the fear that accompanies struggle.

“People are worrying about, ‘what am I going to do tomorrow?’ Let a person who has real heavy duty fears of life just go someplace away from every place else and just give up on everything and relax and start to think – use their mind. Then they figure, ‘Hey! By golly! I made it through today!’ They realize, ‘Hey, I could have done this but I was afraid.’ Then they figure again, ‘What was I afraid of?'”

“Everybody can be free; it doesn’t matter what kind of element they’re in. They just sometimes get too afraid to turn loose. If they just take another step – it’s like a newborn learning to walk – they’re afraid but then they take it and everything’s all right.”

“I don’t give a hoot where you’re at or who you are. If you can use this brain and these eyes and legs, you can always make a buck or two. In 40 years, I’ve never worried about tomorrow because tomorrow is always a new adventure.”

Despite losing an eye and getting his legs pummeled with machine gun lead in the Korean war, Sundown has persevered. “They told me I’d never walk again. That’s just a big bunch of stupid words,” he says, nodding downward. “I don’t even wear braces anymore.”

An avid reader and gatherer of information, he lived through his recent heart attack without medical assistance by preparing beforehand for the unexpected. “I used my mind, what was give to me. The mind is the most powerful thing on Earth, if people learn how to use it.”

Sundown was heading west toward Flagstaff, Ariz. to teach a survival workshop and announce for a children’s rodeo. Then it was on to Wyoming and Idaho, where he says he’s going to die because “that there’s near where I was born.” Is he afraid to reach the end of the road? “Fear of death is one of the dumbest ideas they put into people’s minds.”

When will he arrive in Idaho? “Whenever I get there, kiddo.”

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garden pathIn order for me to be able to write I have to be in the “right” frame of mind. This mental vibe has alluded me for the past year. Maybe I burned out cranking out articles for web content? Maybe it is because of my step father’s illness. Maybe it is because I am not living the life I want and I feel like a liar when I post here. I think it is an enchilada combination platter. So, this has pulled me out of my shell and has me writing again. I apologize for the imperfections of this blog post, I’m a bit rusty.

Dear reader, the topic today is on a battle going on in the virtual world that has real life consequences. A family, who I once had great admiration for, has gone rogue. The Dervaes family found their own path to freedom but has decided that others must bow to their wishes and is making life difficult for bloggers and facebook pages.

What they have done is to trademark several phrases, including Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading. That sounds like a great idea, if they had stuck to what they say they are doing, and let anyone use them as long as no money was being made and to protect the words from corporate use and abuse. As my momma always told me, actions speak louder than words and in this case they have gone after community groups and small businesses. This includes The Institute of Urban Homesteading in Oakland, California website domain name was changed and their Facebook page was removed by the Dervaes family’s insistance. Denver Urban Homesteading used their Facebook page as a way to communicate with their members was also removed. These are two non-profit organizations who teach people how to homestead in their backyards, live sustainably. I can only shake my head over the WHY of the cease and desist orders.

Urban homesteaders Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen of the website Homegrown Revolution had to change their name Facebook page to Homegrown Evolution because the Dervaes family has tradmarked the prhase “Homegrown Revolution” and their blog to Root Simple to get the Dervaes off their backs, but the battle continues to get petty, on the Dervaes part over the title of the book by Coyne and Knutzen called The Urban Homestead and their soon to be released update of this book. Retroactive trademark?

How can you trademark a movement?

The Dervaes family claims that this revolution would not have happened if it had not been for them. I find their arrogance appalling because if one was paying attention to the trends coming along in the last ten years one would see that people are looking more towards their own backyards. I recall that post 9/11 sales at big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes went higher because people were choosing to spend their money on their homes and “staycations” investing in their own backyards. Can the Dervaes family claim this? They were behind this movement? Also, it is a sign of a bad economy. Families are hunkering down, cutting expenses and yet are wanting to be more independent. After all the easiest way, as my momma always said, to double your income is to cut your expenses in half. If you want to live off of more than macaroni and cheese then you plant a few containers of salad greens and get a couple of chickens. I say that this trend would have happened before and it has the distinct feel of the backyard gardens that helped sustain families through The Great Depression and the Victory Gardens that supported the war effort of World War II. Many of these families were Urban Homesteaders. Urban homesteading goes back to the first cities before the words urban and homesteading were coined and before the English language was formed. It is about having a quality of life that one would not have otherwise. It is about feeding your family nutritious foods that you can no longer afford to buy at the grocery store, teaching children responsibility and where food comes from, adding income through sale of your produce and extra eggs. It is about sustainably and being green. It is about making it though the winter alive in hard, hard times. This is a path to freedom that our ancestors have chosen for thousands of years. Stick that in your hat, Dervaes family.

Get involved in the fight at Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) Facebook page.

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