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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for August, 2011

Claire Wolfe

Random photo nonsense post

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

I’m deadlining madly for the next two weeks. And when not making my way through a pile of assignments, I’ll be making my way to Montana and back.

It’s a whirlwind trip; just a few days. But the cause is excellent. A rancher — and blog reader — and his wife (who he says is a much nicer person than he is) are giving me a side of organically raised grass-fed Highland beef and are paying part of the cost of the freezer to house it. All I have to do is cover the butcher’s fees. My friend L., whose vehicle is big enough to haul this bounty, gets half the meat in exchange for making the trip with me.

This is all great for us, of course. Amazing, in fact. But between deadlines and travel, you may get “lite” blogging into early September. (You never know, though; often, the moment I say I won’t have anything to say, I’m struck with a burst of brilliance deep thoughts words. So we’ll see.)

In the meantime, with brain tired from a day of actual WERK, here’s some “lite” stuff I’ve been saving up for a while.

The garden

I can’t grow anything. Really, notoriously, I can’t. When plants see me approaching with good intentions, they shrivel. I swear I can hear their little vegetable voices shrilling, “No! No! Don’t touch me!” But when I finally just give up and let the old garden area here get taken over by weeds and let the dogs lie in the weeds and crush them, what do I get?

Elephant garlic from my garden

A healthy harvest of elephant garlic! I should try neglect more often.

Consider yourself warned!

This is a bag of peanuts. Sort of obvious, yes?

Bag of peanuts

Well, brace yourself. You will be shocked — simply shocked! — to learn that it contains:

Peanut ingredients

Yes — “peanut ingredients”! Oh, the horror. (Actually it is sort of horrible, rather like “pasturized processed cheese food.”) I ate them anyway.

Camo dog

Robbie is my oldest, and secretly my favorite, dog. I’ve always been fascinated by his coloring but too intimidated to try to capture it in a painting or drawing. Such a complex pattern. But those brindle markings make great camouflage.

Can you spot the dog in this picture?

Robbie "camo dog" in the weeds, uncropped

Robbie’s not very active. Even when not in full camo, he can frequently be mistaken for a garden gnome

Robbie as a garden ornament

But mostly, he blends in pretty much everywhere — particularly in places he is Not Supposed to Be. Here he is, cleverly disguised as a pillow.

Robbie amid pillows and stuffed animals on the sofa

Claire Wolfe

Monday miscellany

Monday, August 22nd, 2011
  • “Five Financial Lessons You’ll Learn from the Zombie Apocalypse.” Uh … yeah.
  • Bovard on raising hell in subsidized housing. Typical government solution to a government problem.
  • I’ve been wondering how long it would be before commentators started predicting the killer-rabbit moment.
  • “Pope Tells Pilgrims to Stay True to Faith.” Why is this “news”? Why on freaking earth is this news? It’s right up there with the headline the MSM prints every six months or so: “Pope Prays for World Peace.” I mean, nothing against Catholicism. As religions go, it was one of the best I ever tried out. The pope might even be a decent fella for all I know. But really, what does anyone expect the pope to say? Forget all that faith stuff and party hearty? A few nukes would go good right about now? How on freaking earth does this “pope endorses faith” stuff qualify as “news”? You’d get more actual news at Kim Kardashian’s wedding.
  • Speaking of religion … I could almost kinda sorta like some things about Rick Perry. I mean aside from him being a warmongering corporate shill, you know. But this part, no way …

Jesus tells a media-hungry Rick Perry that he doesn't do endorsements

Claire Wolfe

Alien-abduction lamp

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Alien-abduction lamp

An alien-abduction lamp. From dollar-store materials. Is that cool, or what?

I found it (and directions for making it) here.

And I found that in an article about “dollar-store culture”. Egads. Only the New York Times could discover that it’s trendy to be poor.

This is not the only cool homemade lamp I’ve seen lately. I’ll soon be blogging about one I received. Very creative …

Claire Wolfe

Good reading roundup

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Well, not exactly a roundup because we’re talking only two books here. But two good ones.

First, we’ve got three new segments of Jake MacGregor’s novel The Advisor this week, beginning with Chapter 29. We’re reaching the point where a few mysteries are starting to be resolved. (Always like that part of a book — especially when the author has been so artfully, maddeningly withholding in the early going.)


The second book, I want to mention before I have to send it back to the library. I’ve been conniving to keep this little volume in my hands much longer than the library usually allows because it’s so full of voice-of-experience observation about hard times.

I’m talking about Dmitry Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects.

I don’t think I’ve ever crammed one tiny book so full of bits of torn paper to mark passages that are quotable, startling, funny, or useful.

You may remember Orlov from 2005 or so when he predicted that the U.S. was heading for a Soviet-style collapse. He was in a position to know, having lived in the U.S. for many years but also having watched the USSR’s disintegration up close and personal. A blog reader (thank you, J) reminded me about Orlov earlier this summer.

This book is the continuation of his original observations — now that the house of cards has begun to fall.

Orlov is no libertarian and certainly no anarcho-anything. (He’s all for universal health care, for one thing.) But he is a sharp observer and often a scathingly witty writer. He compares the U.S. and Soviet systems, explains their shaky similarities, but also points out key differences.

Differences that don’t work in our favor in hard times.

In short (to paraphrase, and I hope not misinterpret) Orlov says the U.S. will suffer more from its collapse because … well, read the book and see. I can’t do him justice in a few paragraphs.

You almost certainly won’t agree with every word he writes. But it’s a fun read despite its subject, and there’s a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from it.

Claire Wolfe


Thursday, August 18th, 2011

At twilight one day five or six years ago, a pick-up pulled into the driveway of Cabin Sweet Cabin.

“This your dog?” the driver asked, nodding toward a shadow in the back.

She was a big Lab — yellow, almost white — and obviously already elderly. A blackish tumor, egg-sized, hung from one leg. She shouldn’t have been pretty. But she had the deepest, kindest eyes I’d ever seen.

“Nope, not mine.”

“Damn. She’s been sitting right beyond the edge of your property all day and everybody just figured you must be missing one of yours.” By everybody he meant the loggers, gravel truck drivers, and the couple of neighbors who regularly traveled up and down the road. Apparently a lot of people had seen the dog sitting there beside the road, patiently waiting.

“No,” I said. “But never mind. You’ve brought her to the right place.”

Bonnie made herself at home with my dogs. She was as gentle and loving as her eyes said she’d be. I took her in as a foster and consulted the vet about having the tumor removed. But before I got much of a chance to do anything with or for Bonnie, a friend spied her in the back of my truck.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody fall in love on the spot. But that day, it was clearly love at first sight. She seemed to be drawn straight into Bonnie’s eyes. My friend and her husband adopted Bonnie, who became the calm companion and counterbalance to their boistrous young male.

It still breaks my heart to think of that faithful girl sitting by the dusty roadside waiting for the return of whoever dumped her. (For clearly she was dumped; this dog was no wanderer.) But Bonnie got the happy home she deserved for the rest of her days.

He young canine companion was Bark. He died a few weeks ago, still young.

Bonnie never got over Bark’s death. She became increasingly forlorn and disoriented. On the day my friends were going to pick up a puppy in hopes it would give Bonnie new life, Bonnie had a stroke. The vet came to euthanize her. It had been just a month since she lost her friend Bark.

Bonnie was one of the great dogs.

Bonnie -- white Lab

This isn’t one of the great dog pictures, but it does the best I could do to show Bonnie’s kind soul.

Claire Wolfe

Social security numbers:
Still a battle worth fighting?

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

One of my old, old articles that still draws occasional questions is one I wrote back in the golden (so it now seems) pre-Patriot Act days — an article about working without a social security number.

The questions always carry a tone of desperation. They’re from people trying to do the right thing for themselves and their families and feeling increasingly pressured.

I have no good answers. So many doors have closed in the last 10 years.

Here’s the latest such letter. My response, such as it is, is below. If you have anything better, fire away in the comments section.

Hello Claire Wolfe,

I just found your article about working without a social security number:

I am a believer in natural living, homebirth, health freedom, homesteading, etc. and my family thinks I am absolutely nuts that I didn’t get my child a social security number at birth. Honestly, I was afraid of my child being monitored for all the so-called vaccines (a higher number every year, and some that are killing kids) that they try to force on children now and I didn’t care so much about the tax write-off. I was asking myself, “Is this going to put my child more into the government database keeping track of all health related records and who knows what else?” As the years go by I feel more pressured to get my child ‘the number’ but don’t want to do something stupid that I will regret. I myself of course have one (that I got only when I was a teenager starting a job) and never understood why a baby would even need one for a system that will not have any money when the child is grown anyway.

My husband is in the process of getting a spousal visa to come here and of course had to do the biometric visa junk and who knows what else. On his paperwork the box is checked for him to receive a social security number as well. I feel like we just have to deal with the fact he will be better off having one to not have any more headache.

I have tried to defend my position (some call it being paranoid, but to me it was nerve-wracking), but honestly I feel like I am about to give in and just go get the child a social security number so I can purchase insurance, open a savings account in the child’s name and so on.

As you said here, “No law requires you to get a Social Security number, even today. But try functioning in the everyday world of work, banking, credit, schooling, home-buying, or even video rental without one.”

Exactly. I went to the bank the other day and was told I could NOT open a minor savings account with the minor’s social security number, period. I was told my only other option was to keep a minimum $300 balance on a regular savings in my name (a minor account has no minimum balance of course) with the child listed as ‘payable on death’ and the child could still never be added without that number.

I plan to homeschool and am generally afraid of losing my freedom more everyday. Do you think I am giving in to a bad system to get the social security number and just quit fighting this particular battle?

Lisa D.

As I said, I have no good answers for anybody in Lisa’s position. But the question of picking battles is always a valid one for all of us who give a damn.

Do I think you should quit fighting this particular battle, Lisa?

What I think doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you want vs what you can bear.

If you want to have a “normal” life, operating within the system, then yes, you probably should quit fighting this particular battle. That’s not to say you should give up, accept defeat, and kowtow to Our Masters. That’s just to say that the sheer exhaustion of trying to raise an un-numbered child within the system (not to mention the stigma that peers and adults might put on your child) might take away energy you need to do something more productive.

Even the one feeble “solution” your bank dangled before you — “payable on death” is piss-poor. Obviously, you shouldn’t have to die for your child to get his or her money. And even if you did, the bank would make a numberless heir beg, threaten, and/or pay penalties on the money before turning it over. (Who knows what new restrictions will be in place at that time? For all we know, a numberless person attempting to claim money years from now might be automatically considered a terrorist; we’re close to that point already. “If you see something, say something!”)

BUT … if you choose to quit this particular battle and put your child “within the system,” be sure to choose to live your freedom and defend your child’s freedom on some other front — which it sounds as if you’re fully prepared to do.

If you truly want to keep your child free of the dangers of citizen tracking numbers, then recognize that there are other options besides the mainstream. Quit banging your head on things like bank accounts. That’s not the only way to save (and in these days of zero interest it’s actually a pathetic way to save). Opening a bank account for an unnumbered person is a nightmare. But you can still buy silver and small amounts of gold — in complete, numberless anonymity if you want to. You can still set up various trusts and small corporations to transact business for your child, especially since you and your husband are already stuck with, and presumably continuing to use, numbers.

Forget what any “establishment” expects of you. Go elsewhere. Options already exist. As conventional financial systems fall, new opportunities and options may crop up. Watch for them. Or create them for yourself.

Even head-banging can be useful. I know. You’ve run up against intractable problems and this is only the beginning. But sometimes trying to do the right thing and failing is useful in itself. Only by testing the limits do we really come to understand just how far tyranny has already reached and how much farther it might go to keep its fearsome hold on power. And of course, people who continue to nudge and prod at seemingly immovable systems sometimes do end up changing systems in the long run.

So you never know. It depends on who you are, what you’re willing to put up with, which battles mean the most to you.

All I can say is, “Good luck” — and whatever choice you make, don’t let it be a defeat.

Oh. And if anybody noticed that the three options I just described fit pretty well the profiles of the Mole, the Ghost, and The Agitator … it really is coincidence.

I wasn’t thinking of those at all when I wrote the above. Again and again they just happen to turn up as very apt profiles for a variety of Freedom Outlaws.*


* That last link is to Mac the Knife’s First Freedom Outlaw Brigade store. NFI on my part. I just think Mac and his artist did a great job and have produced terrific fun stuff for any Outlaw who wants to show his or her colors.

Claire Wolfe


Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

If this post isn’t 100 percent coherent or perfectly spelled, it’s because my friend L and I just celebrated with bloody Marys (and I didn’t make either of them as “lite” as she requested). Work this afternoon is going to be … interesting.

One year ago today, at precisely this hour, I dragged my U-Haul trailer into town after a trip that was more eventful than I might have wished, but ended well with a little help from my friends.

I paused at the title company long enough to sign papers. I popped into the real estate office to pick up keys. I called L to say I’d made it — then I followed her on over to my new-old house. I was seeing the house for the very first time.

Before that, I’d viewed photos and gotten second-hand opinions (thanks to L, who found the place, and the real estate agent; and the home inspector, of course). But that was my first in-person experience. One year ago today.

I think L was extremely brave to have found and done all the legwork on a house purchase for someone else — especially an old house like this one. Very risky behavior there, L!

I loved it from the first moment.

In the year since, I’ve gotten a few surprises. But considering the “interesting” things a 100-year-old house can do, I’ve lucked out. I’ve done a ton and have 10 tons more to do. But I can say (knock wood) that never once have I run into any surprises as “interesting” as this one sent just this morning by a blog reader and fellow old-house adventurer.

At times I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the improvements still needed. L and not a few blogistas keep telling me to remember how far I’ve come in a year. So, in the name of celebrating not only the anniversary but a year’s worth of small, plodding accomplishments, here are a few befores and afters:

Living room before:

Living room -- before

Living room after:

(Actually, since taking this photo I’ve torn up the carpet and removed the pellet stove and its surround. Temporarily it looks uglier than this — but it’s still progress!)

Living room -- after

Dormer room before:

Dormer room -- before

Dormer room after:

With new wall and closet behind the bed.

Dormer room -- after

Kitchen before:

Kitchen -- before

Kitchen after:

… with apologies to those who were expecting to see natural wood. I had good intentions, but the wood wasn’t in decent enough condition. And yes, the pink is ridiculous. But this house just affects me that way.

Kitchen -- after

Garage before (ugh!):

Garage -- before

Garage after:

Doors still to come.

Garage -- after

Garage -- after (2)

And of course if you’ve been around a while, you’ve already seen before-and-afters on the sun porch.

So. Today the front door … tomorrow the trim. Ever onward!

Damn slowly onward. That’s how old houses go. But still … onward.

Front door -- just installed and untrimmed

Claire Wolfe

A bassackwards look at statistics

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Lately there’ve been a lot of articles like this one compiling various polls that show that Americans are fed up, ticked off, and righteously furious.

You know the sort I mean: “A new Rasmussen survey has found that 85 percent of Americans believe that members of Congress ‘are more interested in helping their own careers than in helping other people’”; “A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll discovered that 73 percent of the American people believe that the nation is ‘on the wrong track’”; “A recent poll taken by Rasmussen found that 68 percent of Americans believe that we are actually in a recession right now.” (All from the link above.)

That’s supposed to show how shockingly cynical (or discouraged or angry) we’ve become. And … yeah, they’ve got a point.

But don’t you always wonder the same thing I do? Who the blankety-blank are the 15 percent who believe congressthings aren’t strictly out for their own interests? And can 27 percent of Americans (or for that matter Canadians or Frenchmen or Lower Slobovians) possibly believe the U.S. is on the right track? And is it really even remotely conceivable in this universe or any other that there are 32 percent who are so media-sodden and blinded by cooked gov-stats that they believe we’re not in a recession?

Well, of course, pollsters are only counting the folks who accept phone calls from pollsters. So naturally the stats they come up with are absurdly trusting.

Or at least I hope that’s the case. Because if those stats are representative of people’s real state of mind, you’d have to be very nervous around those delusional 15, 27, or 32 percenters.



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