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Henry David Thoreau was a Fucking Quitter.

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

Last year, I fired up the wood burning stove to start heating the barracks in the second week of October. To be honest, I could probably have let it slip to a week later, but hey, I thought, I have a lot of wood, and I don't need to make life especially hard for myself. Not now.



And now, it is the third week of April. Six months and one week later, and I am still heating the loft. We have officially entered the 7th month of winter.


Last year, we had an especially mild winter. The last snow was the 11th May, and the last frost on the 15th, but this is entirely normal. March and April were positively balmy and I have photos of myself in a tee shirt for most of January and February. Long trousers though. It wasn't warm enough to get the legs out.


This year, so far we had 10 warm days in March. Some of them were so unseasonably pleasant that Germany has, in March 2021, broken records for both the hottest and coldest temperatures recorded ever.


You may know that I got interested in climate change as a thing when, as a teenager, my slightly neurotic brain used to get upset by the amount of times it heard superlatives in weather reports. The most, the biggest, the fastest, the coldest, hottest, wettest. A superlatives anything should get progressively harder to beat.

Setting a new world record at the Olympics makes it harder for anyone else to set a new world record at the Olympics. You broke the record, you just made it harder. It will get broken at some point, but it's going to require improved training methods, advances in nutrition, or some exceptional talent to emerge.


One country beating previous records for both hottest and coldest temperatures recorded at given weather stations in one calendar month should be as unlikely as me going out now and setting a new triple jump world record*, but that is what just happened in Germany in March. Hannover saw it's hottest ever day, and somewhere else (I forget where) it's coldest. Ever.

We live in truly worrying times. For the first time, scientists are talking about us being too late to do anything about it. I mean, like duh, yes we are. We have been too late and past the point of no return for at least two, maybe 10 years now.


But what does this perpetual winter mean for me? Well, I am currently sitting inside because it's snowing something awful out there right now, and I've decided, I'm done for the day.

Both of the log fires are burning. Not on full power, but ticking over. It's the end of April, and my days are still dominated by (the pigs and) getting firewood in. I improved the insulation in the loft a lot in 2020, and was hoping to use a lot less wood in 2021.

But I am almost through the dried chopped stuff, and I had at least 50% more prepared than last year.

Actually, it's more complicated than that, but that can wait for another post.


In the garden, I want to put the potatoes in the ground next weekend. I'm not going to be able to. The weather forecast is for pretty continuous rain and snow for the next 10 days. You can't put potatoes in waterlogged clay, but even if you could, I've not had any time to turn over the ground or incorporate last year's well rotted compost. I can do that afterwards, but I would rather not.

Last year, I had already put the broad beans in the field by now. They are in pots in the greenhouse, germinating very inconsistently. About 3/4s are up. The rest might not come at all.

Not a single tomato, pepper or aubergine had germinated. They are inside the loft, but they still need the warmth of the sun on them.


As soon as the sun does come up, I have some serious catching up to do. 12 hours a day digging looks like it's on the cards.


It's not even that cold. First thing in the morning is just a couple of degrees under zero. Inside, it's at least 5 or 6. But my personal Wärmespeicher is empty. My hands were like ice this morning and for the first time old man ohh my joints has started. I am getting cold and old. I obviously can't do yoga in the winter (go on... try it with a layer of cold air hanging around at floor level), and I am desperate for it to warm up enough just so that I can touch the carpet without feeling like my fingers are going to snap off like dandelions in liquid nitrogen.


So why do I feel the need to share this misery in public?


Well, because I am not miserable. Not in the slightest. I chose this life. Self-inflicted poverty is not something to complain about. I could leave this at any point, no-one forced me into it.

Except climate change, of course. I do feel slightly compelled to do this to make that point that I am making. I am comfortable on the edges, and therefore, I have a duty to occupy them and try to encourage them towards the middle.

My comfort zone is "outside my comfort zone".


I'm posting because I want to say that I am happy. I feel calm and content and because I feel that is important to say that Henry David Thoreau was a fucking quitter!


I just realised that I am approaching my 2 years, 2 months, 2 days anniversary at the Barracks.

This is the amount of time that Henry David Thoreau spent at Lake Walden. Except he didn't. He kept sloping off to town to eat cream teas with his rich lady friends who plied him with admiration and scones. I expect they gave him a little something to take home with him as well.


You should definitely read Walden, though it is kinda dated. By which I mean a total snoozefest, but you should read it.


But it's author was a quitter. As soon as he had enough material to write a seminal work of extremely influential literature, he buggered off to go and smoke crack or whatever it was he did when he wasn't tending to his celebrated goddamn beans.


I'm here to stay, and I am having the time of my life!


Bloody amateurs.

 

*When Jonathan Edwards broke his own triple jump world record in Gothenburg in 1995, it was by such a spectacular margin (18cm), there was talk of it not being broken in a very long time. This talk was wrong. It was broken the same day, in the next round, by Jonathan Edwards, extending the distance by a further 13cm. Only one other human in history has jumped further than the first of those world record distances. (Christian Taylor, USA, 20 years later in 2015). This record might actually never be broken. And he's such a nice chap as well!


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