Airbnb: My quiet and creative adobe home near Madrid, NM

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2102601?guests=1&user_id=8342997&re f_device_id=69da415b18251f93

Restless again, I put my home up for rent. It’s winter which I like but that means more work up here. I can’t leave the chickens alone as the water freezes. Perhaps just a week away, three weeks? Would you like to stay here? In the his writer’s retreat? 

We’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed. Maps out. Carry on…


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Amazon Giveaway: Free copy of Van Life for those lucky buggers

Click on the link for a chance to win a free copy. Only via the app though so pull out your android and click away.
https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/54f123647530401f

van-life-full-cover

Don’t forget the other books too.

 

Van Life: Exploring the Northwest with two dogs and a cat in a van.

Time for another book, methinks. It’s a work in progress but I really wanted to get it out there. I’m still writing and working on the travel report from this summer in the van but as I’m about to head out again for another three months, I needed to finish up this first. I reckon while I’m on the road I can go back to edit, tweak, add and subtract as needed. For now though, I’m pretty happy with the book.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1540359441

Enjoy and pass it on! Thanks.

I forgot to download the cover but here is the back and front, better than nothing.

van-life-full-cover

 Other books are just as good though:

Naming Bannon as Chief Strategist in the Trump Administration is a divisive act.


“There must be no sugarcoating the reality that a white nationalist has been named chief strategist for the Trump administration,” the US House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, said.

With the new regime gearing up to take control in the New Year, social media and foreign journalists are all standing up in arms at the blatant white supremacist being named chief strategist. How can any of my Trump-supporting acquaintances claim that my fears are unfounded? Because each of those questioning my reactions are white men with incomes. They fear not. They don’t understand what is going on in the heads and hearts of the rest of us. Muslim. Jew. Female. Queer. Immigrants. We are all justifiably nervous, how could we not be?

Last week after winning the Electoral College vote, Trump in  his speech called for unity.

“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division,” he told cheering supporters at a Manhattan hotel. “To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.” He added that “We will seek common ground, not hostility. Partnership, not conflict.”

This week he appoints Stephen Bannon, someone with a reputation as a racist, mysoginist and anti-semite. How does the former president of the far-right Breitbart website whose rhetoric is so blatantly divisive aim to help Trump “bind the wounds of division?” The website that Bannon took over has a following of over 21 million hits per month with titles such as “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.”
Ben Shapiro, a conservative white male editor,  calls Bannon a “vindictive nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies.” Kind of like Trump threatening Clinton during the campaign you mean?  Is that the way to bring people together? Or is a reminder of -dare I say it-  a dictator?

Bannon was also taken to court in 2007 by his second wife for domestic abuse and anti-semitism. In the records, Piccard stated that Bannon didn’t want their daughters to attend a certain school in LA because of the number of Jewish students.

So what are the supporters seeing that they like so much? A working class background, a navy man, a successful media hound. The methods are irrelevant apparently. For some people. For me though as a woman, working class, queer and an immigrant, appointments such as Bannon scares me, just as I was scared after the Homeland Security Act changed the lay of the land for all immigrants. I’ve been deported once. And it’s hell. To be in limbo like that, waiting for the Embassies to correct the paperwork, to allow me back home to New Mexico.

What will I do about it though? There are petitions in the work, emails to be written, and a vocal condemnation. We can’t take the slide into such a divisive government lightly. Or can we? After two years of total control of both House and Senate with Trump as President, who can they blame if all goes downhill fast?

“It’s important for us to let him make his decisions,” Mr. Obama said. “The American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see.”

I’m not so nice. I’m checking social media, getting updates from the UK media, specifically the Guardian Newspaper online, and fact-checking like never before me. Change.org has a number of petitions worth researching. We have nothing to lose at this point. Stand up and be heard my friends. Stand up, read more, sign and share. Please.

What is fascism and why is it a threat in the US now?

Fascism began in Europe in the 1930s with Mussolini in Italy. Not so long ago, right? After World War II, Italy and Germany were in a terrible state financially, emotionally, there were torn by economic hardships and the constant migration that is part of life in Europe and always has been. Such levels of unemployment and cities destroyed by bombing, there was little to stop the anger building. Mussolini and Hitler both used that bitterness to create an ideology based on the concept of ‘us’ as good, and ‘them’ as evil. All of society’s ills were blamed on ‘them’, the immigrants, and in that case the Jews.

In the United States, during this election campaign in 2016, those same angers, frustrations, unemployment and struggles were blamed upon all immigrants. Trump called specifically upon Muslims, Mexicans, and all immigrants to blame for the economic struggles faced by many.

So what is fascism? And why am I worried about living in this country? When I look back to the history of Europe in the last hundred years, I’m sick to my stomach. Looking at Hitler and now Trump, the similarities are terrifying.

Hitler used racism to rise to power. Trump used racism to rally his supporters and yes, rise to power as the next president.

Hitler proposed and acted on mass deportations. Trump has proposed mass deportations.

Hitler was anti-jew and Trump is anti-muslim. He even claimed at a rally in Ft Lauderdale in August that “ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He is the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.  And I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton. Co-founder. Crooked Hillary Clinton.”

Hitler blamed jews for all the economic problems. Trump blames immigrants for the problems. His son, Eric, in an interview on Fox, claimed that the wage stagnation is due to Syrian refugees. The concept of building a wall between the US and Mexico has been proposed often by Trump even though undocumented immigration via that border has fallen considerably in the last few years.

Hitler made Jews wear armbands for easy identification. Trump has proposed the same for Muslims, saying  that they need “a special form of identification that noted their religion”. 

The control of the media, of the law courts, of the police, the use of extermination camps for any of those “others” that Hitler blamed, the Gypsies, the Jews, Blacks, Homosexuals, and intellectuals, this all comes under consequences. The consequence of voting into power a man who preached hatred and fear. The German public didn’t see it coming, din’t guess at the level of horror, intimidation, or the extent of the changes that such a personality in power could do.

Who am I to say that Trump will create such atrocities? Look at the similarities in the rise to power. Look at the records of his campaign rhetoric and actions to see the man behind the comb-over.

During the last few months, Trump has called Mexicans rapists amongst other things. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” June 2015.

Really? Or how about his claim that President Obama was born in Kenya, or at least claimed he was to get aid for scholarships. Or questioning his religion? And why did he even bring it up? Racism. Stirring up the racists in his rallies, that’s how I see it. Don’t you? Such vague statements were used to get them riled up about a potential Muslim as President!  “He doesn’t have a birth certificate, or if he does, there’s something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now, somebody told me — and I have no idea if this is bad for him or not, but perhaps it would be — that where it says ‘religion,’ it might have ‘Muslim.’ And if you’re a Muslim, you don’t change your religion, by the way.”– March 30, 2011

Trump proposed banning a whole religion, yes, you guessed it, all Muslims were to be deported and none allowed in despite citizenship or residency status.
 What else? Mocking a disabled reporter who questioned Trump’s stories of witnessing thousands celebrating the fall of the Towers in New York. Trump has even bragged about sexually assaulting a female TV presenter, watching teenage girls dressing for a beauty pageant, not paying his taxes, and then said that Hillary Clinton should be jailed. The control of the courts will be in his hand soon enough and if anything like Hitler, he’ll do what he wants when threatened.
 Are you not worried? I am. I’m terrified by the similarities between Trump and Hitler’s rise to power. I’m disgusted that this behavior is ignored by the masses who voted for him, condoned even. A racist, misogynistic, bullying tax evader, a six-times bankrupt businessman, and an alleged sexual predator and rapist (in court this month for such charges), this man is to be the next US President? Let’s only hope that once inaugurated, Trump becomes a true statesman.
As if it were possible. We’re screwed.

 

Driving in the City Different

Santa Fe prides itself on being unique, different, and well after twenty years here, I have to say it is. Driving alone will wake you up, but no, you don’t need a passport as some from the Midwest think. I do recommend a good defensive driving class though.

“Slow down, there’s a town just around the corner.” Karen lit a cigarette and calmly opened the side window in the little green Toyota truck.
I clumsily down-shifted to third. “Oh shit, you weren’t joking!” I braked, crunched gears again, and slowly we drove through Madrid, New Mexico. “I had no idea. This is cool!” My head swung from side to side, taking in the run down wooden structures, a few businesses open, and swerving around the wandering lone dogs. Karen gave me the history, a short version, it only takes a few minutes to drive from one end to another, and then we hit the open road, heading for Albuquerque. “Change gears, you should be in third up this hill.”

Such was my learning to drive in Santa Fe County in 1993. Yes, I was in my twenties and didn’t know how to drive a car, stick or automatic. I’d been a biker since sixteen, and living in Europe, you didn’t need to drive. It was too expensive anyway. A bike fit my needs just right. Here I was though, living in a cabin in the Sangre De Christo Mountains, with winter around the corner, thick snow threatening to trap me up alone. It was time to learn. Karen, my sweet friend, a calm (mostly) presence, unflustered by the crunching of gears, the panic in my eyes, she explained a few basics, put her sunglasses on, and we drove to Albuquerque on highway 14. Now, I love to drive, constantly taking huge roadtrips.


The driving test then and now is a bit of a joke too, I have to admit that I’m glad. Well, I was glad at the time. Now though, having seen so many accidents and read of so many wrong -way drivers crashing and killing others, perhaps it’s time to revisit and strengthen the standards for all drivers? Defensive driving 101?

Yes, people drive the wrong way on highways and interstates in the City Different. A plea bargain was just accepted by one such drunken driver, dating back to a crash caused in 2013. This last month alone, there were three arrests for wrong-way driving on the interstate and two deaths. Seriously?

The history of wrong-way drivers is linked to the high DWI rate in New Mexico. Put it this way, when the courts decided it was no longer a good idea to have drive-through Liquor Stores, the state was in an uproar. Not that long ago, either folks. In the last ten years, we’ve had about two serious accidents each year, all caused by those ‘buzzed’ drivers heading south in the northbound lanes, or vice versa, even one in 2009 when a driver decided to do a u-turn on the interstate. Most of these crashes have lead to aggravated DWI charges, rarely manslaughter even though so many have died as a result. Crazy isn’t it? In 2007, within a couple of months of each incident, there were two DWI wrong-way crashes. In 2008, a two car crash, one DWI charge. In June 2009, a driver with twice the legal blood alcohol limit, crashed into a car of five teenagers, killing four of them, and yes, on the wrong side of the road. In 2010, two were killed in another such crash, the driver was five times the legal limit. In 2013, a three vehicle crash occurred on the interstate after the driver had been drinking, she got confused and took the wrong lane.

The wrong lane. The left, the right, the southbound, the northbound. You’d think it’s easy to remember where to place your car, right? It’s not. Not for me anyway, my body memory fights my mind as to which side of the road I should drive on. Growing up in the UK, I learned by osmosis. Now as an adult in New Mexico, I still get confused. My 1972 Land Rover doesn’t help: it’s a right-hand drive one, that is the steering wheel is on the right. Weird to say the least when driving an empty backroad into the middle of nowhere. It’s not too bad if other traffic is around, I follow their lead. When it’s empty, I just hope I got it right.

2013-07-01-21-13-55

Now though, Santa Fe County has gone beyond itself in being ‘different’. Earlier this year, the powers that be decided to work on the I25 and Hwy 14 exits. Citing concerns over potential accidents, they’ve spent 19 million revamping the area. I asked a few local EMTs and Paramedics, and no, that junction was never a problem for crashes, fatal or not. So 19 million was spent. I thought they were joking, that it was just a phase of construction, but no, they have really done it now. Oh so “City Different” they are, now we drive down Hwy 14, stop at a traffic light, cross onto the southbound left lane for 1/4 mile, then we stop at another traffic light and revert to the correct side of the road.


I’m sure it looked pretty on paper, but what were they thinking? Seriously? After all the deaths, accidents, wrong-way drivers and drunk drivers in the area? You seriously think it’s a good idea to make drivers go against their instincts and drive in the left hand lane?


It’ll be interesting to count the number of accidents bound to happen, at a junction that had not been an accident zone until now. On a snowy night? Fog? Dark sky and no street lights? Seriously? It’s bad enough for me, one who’s easily confused by right and left, I imagine other visitors coming to that junction at night, unprepared to enjoy the lovely sweeping curves and gentle landscape, and fight the urge to stay in the correct lane. Me too, what if I’m tired? I can’t see the road ahead?


On another note, I thought I’d take the Land Rover down to town and grab some groceries before nightfall. Although, the turn signals died last week. It’s okay though, this is New Mexico, right? Anything goes as far as driving in the City Different. Or am I then part of the problem?

What kind of toilet do you have?

Susan stood in front of me as hundreds of women surged past us on their way to hear Ani DeFranco on stage. “Well?”

I took a moment, searching for the best euphemism but gave up. “I shit in a bucket.”

It’s a nice bucket. It sits in a nice wooden box with a lid. I shit in a bucket. A honey box. Outhouse. Compost toilet. Humanure. There are so many ways to speak nicely of my toilet.  The question is asked often though, more than I’d expected after living off grid most of my adult life. Curious as to how I live, these strangers and friends wonder about my ablutions.

Let me explain. Life off grid, my style, is to keep it simple. Rain-catchment into 800 gallon tanks that feed the kitchen and one for the bathroom. Solar electric power, a small system of 150 watts, which is enough for this computer, the lights, water pumps, and internet. I don’t need a hairdryer, this in New Mexico, everything dries within minutes.

There’s a woodstove in the living room and a small propane one in the kitchen. The fridge and stove are propane too and they deliver out here as needed, about twice a year on average. Not bad. Not expensive. And after many a year without a fridge, I love having cream for the coffee and a cold beer waiting at the end of the day.

That’s your introduction. Back to my buckets. Yep, you know what I do in them but why? and how do you deal with it afterwards?

Yes, I have choices, a bucket, a compost toilet, or an outhouse. I don’t have enough water or funds for a traditional septic system, and why bother when these other methods work pretty well. It’s much more hands on though, and not everyone who visits  me likes that aspect.

When you do what you do in the clean green bucket, cover everything with sawdust or peatmoss. This is to contain smells, visuals, and helps decompose your shit. When the bucket’s close to full, then bring it out to the compost pile…but make sure your pups aren’t anywhere near. Dogs are nasty critters, well, Rosie is. So I made the compost pile with four pallets tied together, then fenced off to keep her little white nose from browning. I keep a bale of straw near by, again, to cover the layers of poop and sawdust, to help decompose and smother the smell.

It’s not bad, I like having the indoor bucket toilet but I am thinking of changing it up. That’s where this essay comes in. I’m thinking outloud. You see, I’m tired of emptying buckets when people stay up here. I’m tired of buying the straw, the sawdust, the cleaning supplies to bleach and scrub the buckets. It’s time for a change. The question is, do I go back to an outhouse?

I do love my outhouse, but it’s filling fast. I need to pay someone with a small backhoe to dig another deep hole, one to last a few years at a time. The cost to dig, and rebuild is close to $300.

So I started thinking of getting an actual premade compost toilet. Those plastic kinds you see in Backwoods Magazine and the such. The pros? Once every few weeks or even a month before cleaning out the tray underneath. The seat is clean and professional looking these days, nice and traditional in shape more often than not. The cons? Cost. The cheapest I’ve found is a Biolet non-electric for $1200. The need for fans. The fact that if you don’t quite keep the balance of peatmoss and ‘presents’, then the cleaning tray isn’t quite so nice to empty. It’s work if you mess it up…I’m also not sure of the smell. Some reviews say you’d need an electric fan to keep the outside not smelling of urine. Other people say it depends on the temperatures. The reviews are mixed.

Photo on 4-28-14 at 5.04 PM

I’m confused. Does it make sense to keep doing what I’m doing with the buckets? Throw down a few hundred for each new outhouse? Or use my savings on a plastic pre-made compost toilet that might smell?

So I ask you. What kind of toilet do you have?