Early Fall in the Liberty Home, As Explored Through the Five Senses

Keith Howard | Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I am a man who desperately needs editing. Oh, I’ve got no problems with spelling words like “amanuensis” or “antimacassar,” knowing what case the first-person pronoun should be at the end of the phrase “please share the cyanide with the queen and me,” or using punctuation properly; in short, I know how to use the tools of language. As Ani DiFranco tells us, though, any tool can be a weapon if you hold it just right. It’s not my language that requires a firm hand, it’s my inability at times to differentiate between an idea and a good idea. This guide, in my case, is Lindsay Elitharp, the internet maven of Liberty House, who reads over each blog post before it goes up. She has spiked the last couple posts I’ve submitted, and, in retrospect, I have to agree with her. Brief synopses:

–As some of you know, Alaya and John Chadwick of Raymond are hosting the Liberty Home on their property, Sanctuary. They had just a single request of me: I needed to purchase a 4-wheel-drive vehicle for the winter to navigate their dirt-road driveway. A month ago, I wrote a lighthearted blog post about my purchase of a 2000 Jeep Cherokee Sport (the greatest all-purpose vehicle of all time, by the way) from an auction house. I would have regaled you with stories of the challenges of navigating an on-line auction, my personal foibles and the ultimate purchase for $200 more than I’d intended to spend. When I submitted it to Lindsay, she promptly vetoed it, and rightly so. I’d portrayed myself as a hapless purchaser, and Lindsay pointed out that might not be a wise persona for the director of Liberty House—even if it was accurate, except for the exaggerations I made for comedic effect.

–The aforementioned Alaya, who is a spiritual person and author, recently completed a book Wake Up to War and Peace, and was kind enough to send me a pre-publication copy. Using all my English literature major skills, I read the book and wrote a review. Lindsay read it over, and said a Liberty Home blog is not the place for an appreciation of a friend’s book. She is absolutely right, but I think I can get away with saying Alaya’s book is absolutely worth a read and provokes thought about the experience of war by both the combatants and those left to tend the hearth.

So, with the score Lindsay 2/Keith 0, I’d like to tell you a little about the early fall experience in the Liberty Home, using four of the five senses as a guide.

Smell—Olfactory description is not usually pleasant, so if you’ve got a queasy stomach, you may want to move on. Briefly, since Lucy and I moved in on the summer solstice (or Father’s Day for non-Pagans), we’ve kept all four windows in the Liberty Home open, along with a ceiling vent and two indoor/outdoor ceiling fans, except when rain was in the forecast. All this ventilation was a great way to clear out any potentially nasty smells from the trash, dirty laundry or human cat box. With the first cold snap, though, I had to close up the ceiling and a couple of the windows. It turns out that without fresh air to clear out the odors, they linger. And multiply. And grow worse. No longer can I empty the trash every couple days nor the human cat box weekly nor let the laundry pile grow into mini-Matterhorns. Now, smell potentialities are removed as soon as possible.

Sight—Although I don’t usually get home much before eight, when we moved in there was still residual light so I could get away with a single light. Now, with the days shorter, I need to use up precious electricity in lighting or use a propane lantern. The lantern provides a blazing light but, as a corollary to basic laws of thermodynamics, it also throws off a lot of heat. When it’s chilly, that’s not a bad thing, but last night it was 70 degrees at 9 pm, and the last thing I want is to make it warmer.

Sound—Two changes here. I miss the background sound of the wind going through the trees or the singing of birds. Unless I want to set up an omnidirectional mike outside and send the signal in to a speaker, I’m probably not going to get to enjoy this experience again until spring. The second change comes from my addiction to podcasts and audiobooks. I’ve got a really great little rechargeable Bluetooth speaker that I stream audio to, but closing windows dramatically changes the dynamics in the Liberty Home. If I’m not careful to turn down the volume, the sound of Jimmy Pardo or John Dickerson nearly deafen me. (Although I suspect Lindsay will cut this, the two podcasts are “Never Not Funny” and “Whistle Stop,” which I only listen to when I’ve finished with “Beyond Spare Change,” the Liberty House podcast.)

Taste—Other than making coffee, my cooking has been slightly minimized, not because I’m not a good cook, but because washing dirty dishes with no running water is an hour’s chore. Because of the smell factors cited above, I can’t leave food-encrusted dishes unattended.

That, then, is the news from the Liberty Home. With climate change so evident, I can only assume a real autumn is on its way, with further changes to come.

-Keith Howard

Editor’s Note:

The Liberty Home is a converted cargo trailer with roughly 160 sq feet of living space. Executive Director Keith Howard is conducting a field test of the home as sustainable housing for future Liberty House residents. The field test will be complete June 2016. Following the field test, the Liberty Homes Project will offer residents of Liberty House the opportunity to earn affordable and sustainable housing through sweat equity, their own money, and community donations.

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