Exactly one year ago to date, two young men sat aside each other just across the table from a state official and two pencil pushers in a muggy office of downtown Ironwood, Michigan. Being the midsummer and without any sort of air conditioning, the sweltering heat easily pressed into the stuffy halls and rooms of the old building. The official had been explaining the terms of a contract laid out before the two of them for what seemed like an eternity. Finally he finishes, taking a long breath after his lengthy speech reached its conclusion. One of the pencil pushers pushes a ball-point pen across the table to the lad sitting on his right. With haste he scratches his signature and the date onto the papers before him, swiftly passing it off to the left so that his friend might do the same. In no time at all, both signatures adorned the previously empty lines of the contract.
We had signed the deed as joint tenants. My best friend Gabriel (called Gabe) and I had been looking for quite some time at land available in northern Wisconsin. After much searching and deliberation, after many days of driving and many showings, after many days wandering about on vast swathes of land in the blistering summer heat and many nights sleeping in a cramped vehicle while seated upright in the front seats, we had finally completed the dealings to acquire the parcel we had our eyes set on; this, of course, was not without its difficulties. There was a great deal of trouble in getting all the parties together to relinquish ownership of the deed in the sale due to familial conflicts between those that owned it prior. For months it was uncertain if the plot could even be sold, but finally all the necessary contractual arrangements had been made.
It’s a quiet piece down a road off the main highway just south of town. Just shy of forty acres, its perimeter stretches a quarter mile on each side, a full mile to circumnavigate it all. With a pond that occupies about six or seven acres and an extensive wetland ecosystem in the center, it is flanked on the north and south sides by highlands occupied primarily by a wide assortment of conifers dotted with the occasional deciduous growths, most notably towering maples, well-aged birch, and various poplars. At a roughly half-and-half split between the buildable highlands and the impassible wetlands, it is the perfect environment for both homesteading and maintaining viable wildlife populations for hunting and trapping.
In no time at all we pulled up to the northern edge of the property. The thin black ink was still wet on the parchment we’d just signed, stowed away safely in the glovebox of my vehicle as there was no other sane place to put it. The land was barren of any and all man-made structures, a blank canvas eagerly awaiting our first strokes. Leaving the car parked along the side of the road we wandered into the vast expanse of forest with a wheelbarrow full of supplies. We had a vague idea of where we’d like to set up camp, but still not knowing the lay of the land we ventured about for a bit until stopping in a prairie full of blooming wild raspberry bushes along the eastern side of the northern highlands. In no hurry, we unloaded our cart, surveyed the extents of the area, swore oaths around the glow of an imposing bonfire, and finally passed around a jar of moonshine to end the evening.
This notorious evening was merely the beginning of a broad, continuing tale that’s still being written to this very day, and will continue being written long after my death by those that succeed me. In this thread I plan to document this story as it is seen from my eyes. In short, I seek to establish myself on this wonderful parcel that I’ve purchased, but the motivations and context of this tale can only be understood in the broader scope of my life experiences up to this point. If you are uninterested in this aspect, feel free to skip the rest of this post and proceed onto the next ones to see what will come; if, however, you find yourself curious how I’ve ended up at this point, then read on. Hopefully my story will resonate with at least some others on an intimate level even if they have not yet or never will come to the same realizations and conclusions that I have.
I spent a majority of the early and middle portions of my childhood alone. Both of my parents were very busy with work, and my sister was always doing some combination of extracurricular activities that took up most of their time outside of work. Additionally, I was a very obnoxious child and had great difficulty making friends. As a result I was home alone very frequently and spent a great deal of time on the family computer. At first I played a few video games to pass the time, but as I continued I found myself less interested in the games and more interested in how they were made; this interest developed over many years as I picked up computer programming as hobby to pass the seemingly endless time that I had outside of school. The oldest records I can find of my research into computer programming goes as far back as 2005 when I was roughly nine years old, however I am unsure if it stretches back further as I remember next to nothing from such a young age.
The years passed and my fixation with computer programming continued to intensify. At its peak, I would spend almost the whole school day reading printouts I’d bring from the library about topics I was interested in to my classes and read them there. I would spend all of my time at home locked up in my room implementing what I’d read about during the day, experimenting with all sorts of projects and concepts. I would often skip dinner when called down to eat by my mother as I was too caught up in what I was doing. Whenever I would come down to eat, I was silent and finished as quickly as possible so that I could return to what I was doing. It was becoming very apparent to those around me that this newfound hobby had become an extremely unhealthy obsession.
My mother attempted to intervene on my blatant lunacy a few times, but she was never successful as my father was adamant that I spend my youth perfecting my studies of computer programming and of computer science so that I might become a successful businessman later. As a result, this passion went completely unchecked for many more years. I was making top marks in school, and was studying mathematics at a local college as part of a cooperative program with the high school. I was making personal and business websites for family and friends of the family not long after, and soon at the age of thirteen I’d been contracted by a local furniture store to design software to track inventory transactions on a few embedded systems. At fifteen I was hired by a software company in downtown Milwaukee that maintained a vendor management software suite with whom I worked for three consecutive summers, as well as a minor consulting role during the intermittent schoolyears.
It was during high school that I somehow managed to make friends with some of the outcasts, one of them being Gabe. Over no time at all we became quite the tight-knit group and we’d often hang out before and after school. As our high school years drew to a close, we all came together that final summer after senior year as a final hurrah before we continued into our adult lives, to create what we all affectionately called “the Shit Shack”.
Looking back, it was a simple project. An eight-foot-by-twelve-foot shed with a sloped roof built in the back woods of a local park. A place we could all come to hang out and mess around without anyone to bug us, a place where we could do stupid shit without any adults to tell us (rightly) that what we’re doing is stupid and that we shouldn’t do it. Using the money I’d made from my job in Milwaukee, I purchased the required lumber and the project promptly began; over the next two weeks, we’d all tag team different parts of the construction process, be it hauling materials in, laying the base, building the walls, installing the roof, etc. Everyone had a part, and we all had a blast trying to get away with this blatantly illegal project in broad daylight.
Though I had the time of my life in the moment, later on in retrospect I realized just how physically pathetic I was during this whole process. I’d never worked with any tools in my life, my body was scrawny and weak so I wasn’t very helpful hauling, I couldn’t hold up the plywood sheets to frame the exterior and would require assistance, and I would frequently mess up even the simplest carpentry tasks. It was my reflections on this coupled with my brief experiences in college that made me realize how woefully little I knew of the world around me, and even more so, of myself. Building this dopey looking shack was the first time in my life I’d done something truly physically challenging. Everything else up to that point had been purely intellectual exercises, something that I’d figured was just normal for someone like me. I wasn’t meant to be doing physical labor, that’s not what I’m good at. I couldn’t be good at it. It wasn’t for someone like me.
Time ticked on and I continued with my same routines. These subconscious revelations bothered me in ways that I couldn’t really understand, and with each passing day I could feel them gnawing away at me from the inside out. Shortly after entering college to obtain a degree in computer science, I dropped out to pursue a career in computer science as I was already heavily sought after by employers for my skill set and existing experience. I decried the college experience as a mockery, a blatant waste of time and money that could easily be supplemented in your youth with a bit of self-motivation; as much as my views have changed over the years, I still feel this way about the whole thing.
Time ticked on and I continued with my same routines. My living arrangements changed and I had moved into a townhouse with some of my friends from high school. No one other than me was able to hold down stable employment so I was often left having to cover the rent and utilities to prevent eviction, which ate away at all of my income. I was working insane hours to meet demands promised by my boss to his clients, foregoing my own sanity to meet the required deadlines. In no time at all I began heavily abusing alcohol. During this time those subconscious feelings of weakness and inferiority began to manifest in conscious ways, and I lamented how my body was wasting away as each day passed in an endless haze of sedentary work. Desperate to escape for even a few hours, I went around to some of the nature preserves in the area and made several dugouts far from any trail, any people, so that I might enjoy the silence.
Time ticked on and I continued with my same routines. My mental state was quickly degrading and I did not see any way out of the hell I had created for myself. Not soon after my boss cut my wages, stating that there wasn’t enough coming in to cover the costs and that he’d pay me back later. The work load only got heavier. I no longer had enough money to live. No one was working other than me. I had turned to diluting rubbing alcohol with water in place of booze as I could no longer afford it. I’d stolen from supermarkets in the past when low on money, but at this point it was a regular occurrence. The final straw came when my boss announced that there was not a single cent left that he could pay me, and asked me to file for unemployment while still working for him so I could bring in some sort of income. In a blind fury, I immediately quit and held all of the code I had written for him as well as his servers hostage until he paid me what he owed from cutting my wage outside of contract; after a lengthy and brutal back-and-forth, he obliged, having no legal ground with which to take me to court.
Time ticked on and I continued with my same routines. Desperate for employment, I turned to a temp agency for any computer work they had. At a factory just outside of Milwaukee there was a position open for general IT which would also involve some programming. With no reserve at all, they hired me during the interview. Using the money I’d gotten from my previous employer I swiftly placed a down payment on a trailer home near my new place of employment, and promptly moved out of the tomblike townhouse right after. Work began again, and for the first time in two years I was only obligated for eight hours of work per day, not to mention having the lofty privilege of weekends off. I was paid far more than I had been before, and was bring home large sums each week even though I was still responsible for covering the cost of the townhouse for a few more months.
Time ticked on and I continued with my same routines. I no longer had to steal my food, and I was able to eat anything I wanted. Comparatively, there was so much time to myself that I wasn’t sure what to do with it all. I’d get together for good times with old friends. I’d go out drinking at various bars and restaurants. I’d enjoy peaceful hikes in the nearby parks. I’d end up dating both women and men alike. Though things seemed to be picture perfect for me now, there was an inexplicable hole that I simply could not fill no matter what I did nor could I fully articulate what is was or what it meant. Everything seemed so hollow, as if I was living a vain mimicry of a life that I was meant to lead. I still felt like a weak, pathetic man, and even as I became physically stronger these feelings didn’t change. During the workdays I’d be sitting at my desk, lamenting inwardly about how I was wasting away just the same as I had before, albeit with more free time I couldn’t make any meaningful use out of. My alcohol abuse continued and peaked at this point.
Time ticked on and I continued with my same routines. Gabe asked if he and his girlfriend could move into the second bedroom at my house. Being bored out of my mind I easily accepted, excited for some sort of change. Shortly afterwards we’d start going on hikes and long walks, discussing where life had been, where it was, and where it was going. I’d entertained the idea of purchasing land even back in the townhouse days, but now it actually seemed feasible and Gabe was interested in going in on it as well. We’d saved up through the winter, cutting our costs as much as possible and scrounging up all the money we could to place a down payment on some land in northern Wisconsin. We eventually ended up purchasing a parcel, and though we were nearly five hours away, we enjoyed being there when we could manage it; however, come about eight months later, I was laid off.
Time ticked on, but I’d long grown sick of my routines. Through an acquaintance I’d made through the place I’d been working at, I organized a contractual working arrangement to keep income flowing while I decided what to do next. Not long after, Gabe’s girlfriend discovered she was pregnant, and he feared that if he didn’t move now he would be stuck in southern Wisconsin for the rest of his life. Understanding his fear and wanting desperately to leave myself, we worked together to secure a house to rent up north during this transitional phase. To my surprise my house sold in no time, and for an enormous profit to boot. That on top of a contract that I’d just secured would leave me well off with quite the tidy sum in the bank.
Time ticks on, and I’ve finally broken free of my routine shackles. My arrangements with the contact I’d made from my prior employer fell through, though I have so much cash in bank it hardly matters. To speak the truth, it’s been so long since I’ve been able to simply exist without any work obligations or living obligations that I’d completely forgotten what it was like. Given the conditions, it’s a well needed breath of fresh air after walking about a smog-infested wasteland for years. Never before have I felt at peace like I do now, a sort of ethereal bliss permeating my daily life. Being only nine miles away from the property I’d purchased a year ago, I go there at my leisure by car or by bike at any time, not having to answer to anyone. Activities that were once impossible due to my great distance are now possible, and I’m finally orienting my life in a direction that doesn’t feel contrived, that doesn’t feel false, but rather is filled with all the meaningfulness and purity that I’d hoped it would.
Time will continue ticking on, and ultimately time itself will determine if I’ve made the right choices here. All I can say right now is that I have full confidence in what is to come.
gives me a little more hope about the upcoming future
ENTRY I : THE PREAMBLE
Given the enormity of text in the first post, I'll keep this one brief with mostly pictures and short explanations below.
Another view of the pond, this time facing southward versus the picture at the top of the OP which is facing eastward.
A small twelve-foot-by-twelve-foot cabin that I built last year. Due to the extreme snow load I decided that maintenance to the roof would be easiest if it was one long slope so I went with this skillion style of roof. The front, taller portion is twelve feet tall and it grades down to the short side, which is eight feet. The cabin is currently infested with enormous wolf spiders so I don't like going inside of it, once I figure out how to kill them all I'll do a tour of the inside.
A launching point for a canoe on the northwest side, as well as a view of one of the bays in the pond facing westward. This area being mostly tall grass and the steep gradient into the depths of the pond make it perfect as a launching point. The pond itself is a host to a large selection of wild aquatic plants, and come another month or so the lily flowers will bloom and make the whole surface of water smell like sweet perfume.
A view into another, smaller, shallower bay in the east. The short grass coming out of the depths of the water may very well be wild rice, though I am not yet certain; I've been keeping my eye on the area to carefully observe the growth.
This, believe it or not, is a dwelling for beavers. They mounded up mud and a bunch of logs in this giant pile, and there's an entrance to the center of it under the water. They're pretty smart for water rats, and doing that keeps a lot of their predators out. During the spring before the tall grass grew in they were really going hard on harvesting four-to-eight inch diameter trees around the northwest side of the pond, as well as killing a lot of saplings for food; if this behavior continues, we may need to trap them to prevent deforestation and erosion of the western peninsula the runs up from the south.
A view down the southern channel that provides access to several different landing sites, as well as a photo taken further down the channel. Though it gets pretty narrow, it's no less navigable with some care, and the water is still several feet deep even in these narrower sections. Luckily for us, this channel makes getting around to a lot of different areas of the enormous parcel much easier.
Docking your canoe in this thicket of grass gives you access to an area that we call the "Pine Island". For a long time we didn't even know this area existed as it's surrounded on all sides by pond or by swamp, but when we found a vantage point on the southeastern side we looked out upon the whole property and saw this patch of trees that didn't look familiar. At first, we figured it might've just been part of the same area we'd already been, but in the winter when the water was frozen I hiked the entire pond and mapped out all of the independent areas to check our assumptions from the summer. Sure as rain it turned out that this island did exist, and it's got sparse tree growth and a lot of tall grass and shrubs, which is perfect for grazing livestock.
Crossing eastward over the swamp that separated the Pine Island from the rest of the property, we're now in what we call the "High Pines" (which is much different from the "Low Pines", that's coming up soon). Much like the island, this area has a large plain full of grasses, not to mention a grand grove of wild raspberry bushes. There's other bushes too, and some that bear fruit as well, but among them all the raspberry bushes are the most prominent. This area is truly enormous, and is likewise great for keeping grazing livestock.
Also worth noting about this area is that this is the place where we set up camp that fateful first week of owning the place, a picture of which is shown in the original post. The first image a patch of soil we turned over in an attempt to plant some rape, which produces a seed which can be used both as feed for livestock as well as pressed for cooking oil. Unfortunately, the rape didn't take and only managed to germinate into the first stage of growth before dying; the reasons for this we are currently unsure of, it could be related to the soil composition, its proximity to a conifer which is making the soil around it acidic, or a lack of water. I've got a pretty good feeling it was a lack of water, but I'll be testing this again soon. The second picture is our first firepit, which is notable as being our first imprint on the land. When we swear oaths we return here and light a large fire, as it has a very potent personal and spiritual significance.
An easement on the far east border owned by the electric company. These poles stretch for miles, which make great trails for the locals to get around. Additionally, it is great additional pasturing space for livestock, however I cannot build anything permanent on this easement so anything on it must be temporary and easily moveable.
Welcome, my friends, to the "Low Pines". Unlike the High Pines you saw earlier, this forest is much thicker with tree growth and the soil is much wetter as it sits at a lower elevation than that of the High Pines. Every time I enter this place I leave a different way than I came in, and I never manage to find my old paths. For some reason, this still happens to me even with snow on the ground. The low elevation and abundance of standing water coupled with the thicket of trees blocking the wind makes this place a hotbed for biting flies and mosquitoes this time of year. I made sure to take a lot of pictures of this place as I knew plenty of the photos would be blurred due to the great swarm of insects around me, causing me to fumble and twitch while taking pictures. There are a large amount of these big granite rock deposits which I try to use to help guide my way, but it doesn't help much. This area of all other areas requires the most additional exploration.
There is one rock, however, that I know well. When you see this rock, you can feel the moisture in the air around you quickly lessen and the wave of insects following your every move suddenly abate, as though it were some sort of magic relic. This rock is the gateway to an area we call the "Aldies", so named for its prevalence of alders and similar growths. When we originally found this area it was a welcome change to the dark, damp, oppressive atmosphere of the Low Pines, but the spiderlike alders grew in such insanely contorted and intertwined ways that navigating the area without an axe was impossible. We came back with some axes and made our way through the area, finding perhaps one of the greatest points on the entire property.
A great granite cliff that overlooks the entirety of the property, from which you can see each and every location from a distance, as well as the vast expanse of wetlands that houses countless birds, mammals, and lizards alike. This is without a doubt the hardest part of the property to get to, and it's the furthest from any human development. When we were exploring the Aldies and accidentally came across this grove, we were so taken aback by its magnificence and beauty that we immediately lit a great bonfire and swore an oath that we mustn't develop or intervene on this area, as it was sacred. It is here on this hallowed ground that we partake in the feasts, and in the rituals. Every time I am there, even when by myself, I never feel truly alone; never before in my life have I felt like this.
There's a footing of granite below the cliff, and the first picture shows the cliff face from below. The footing continues into a small pond dammed up with the ancient roots of marsh grasses. We had hoped that the channel would run back to this small pond, but unfortunately the way is too shallow and is made impassible by aquatic bushes. Lastly, the blessed binding stone that's seated at the entrance of the grove. Behind it is a great patch of wild blueberries which have somehow managed to grow on the surface of this behemoth rock.
Returning to the northern side of the property, there is a large prairie full of tall, wild grasses which make perfect straw for the bedding of livestock. The grass grows so tall that it often surpasses me in height, shown in the first image which is taken at eye level. The second image is taken at a slightly higher vantage point. Originally, Gabe had wanted to build a log cabin of his own which was was this tree was felled for, but after moving up here we decided that it was no longer necessary to do this right now, so I will be using this log to practice hewing with a broadaxe. I placed my backpack on the log to provide a point of reference for its size.
Lastly, a path on the farthest northeast corner that runs back to the shed that I built to dwell in while building the cabin. This shed is small, only eight-feet-by-six-feet, six feet tall on the ground floor and three feet at the tallest part of the attic. There isn't much of interest inside of it right now so I didn't bother taking any pictures inside of it, however worth noting is that it is not infested with enormous wolf spiders, which is nice. We lit off fireworks on independence day in the prairie around it.
A public pump house just up the road, nicknamed the Oma Golden Hole. It's mostly used by firemen, however many locals draw their water here when they don't have access to a spring or pump. I don't have access to either at the moment, so I often come here to get water.
Disable ipv6 and become one with the ipv4 singularity
Will do a livestock update soon, things keep changing really quickly so I haven't done it yet.
enable IPv6 or suffer from IPv4 deprectiation