Day Zero

Project 31 is off to a good start. I wanted to spend a month here during the winter, and I’m getting exactly what I asked for. After weeks of warm and sunny days, winter is finally back. It snowed about 4-5 inches last night, then after a beautifully sunny (albeit short) interlude this morning, it snowed another 5-6 inches. It’s about 16F (-9C) outside, which is respectably winter-like.

I started the day with a short walk around my property to take in the snowy scenery, snapping pictures along the way. But, I couldn’t idly stand by as the sun melted the snow away, so I also spent some time piling snow into my water bins. I packed snow into 5 gallon buckets to make snow-cylinders, which stack up nicely. After brunch (tortillas with scrambled eggs, cheese, and mixed greens sauted with mushrooms and onions, topped with salsa verde and yogurt), it started snowing again, so I retreated to Hut 2.1 to do some work inside. I continued work on the floor, accompanied by music blaring out of the new iPod speakers I’d picked up earlier this week. I’ve been thinking of getting speakers for a while, but it seemed like a luxury item that I could ill afford. After much consideration, I decided to get them for Project 31, partially because they were down to $39 at Costco, but also because music could be a real morale booster. I’m happy to say, I had a great time singing along (poorly) to some of my favorite songs. After all, one of the perks of being out in the middle of nowhere is that you can listen to music really loud and sing along poorly without worrying about your neighbors or roommates throwing rotten tomatoes at you.

People have asked what I planned on doing for a month up here, and the truth is, I have more to do than I probably will actually accomplish. Obviously, there’s a lot more work to do on Hut 2.1, and apart from that, there are various chores, like gathering snow, collecting or cutting firewood, and filtering water. As far as entertainment goes, I’m trying to not waste too much time online, and will try to get through some of the 20 or so books I borrowed from my friends. One of my friends also lent me her guitar and a book about playing guitar, so I spent over an hour this evening repeatedly strumming the G7, C, A7 and D chords (the first 4 chords in the book). That’s another thing your neighbors might throw tomatoes at you for, but out here, nobody can even hear me. Not being very musically inclined, I doubt a new career as a guitarist is in my cards, but making your fingers do new things is a pretty good exercise for one’s brain. Along similar lines, I also have yarn and a crochet hook, if I want to learn how to crochet (and also make myself something warm). And if none of those activities seem interesting, I also have a software project I’m working on and would like to finish while up here.

And then, of course, there are meals to be cooked. I’m going to try and cook as many of my meals as possible, at least while I still have fresh ingredients, which means I could easily spend 20-30 minutes cooking a couple of times a day. Other than brunch, which I mentioned earlier, I also cooked dinner today. Granted, it was just rice and stir-fry (with onions, carrots, brussel sprouts, zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, and turkey, seasoned with a secret soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and rum sauce), but, it still took close to 30 minutes to prepare. So, including the time it takes to eat, I could easily spend a couple of hours a day just cooking and eating.

Ultimately, though, I’m not here to live a productive little life. In fact, my goal is to slack off, and show that you can get away with it, at least for a while. In order for me to come out the other end of the 31 days, I need to eat, drink, and keep warm. Anything that doesn’t directly relate to those three things isn’t all that important. Work ethics in western societies can be traced to Christianity, and the belief that hard work will lead to either salvation or grace, depending on the denomination (or so I’m told). If you believe that hard work in this life will lead to something better in your next life, by all means, go at it. But, personally, I believe we only get one shot at life, and you can spend it working, or you can spend it trying to do something interesting, or fun, or awesome, or different. Which is to say, I’m not going to judge my 31 days based on how productive I was. In fact, I’m not going to judge it at all, other than based on the goals I set up for the project, and try to simply appreciate it for what it ends up being.

21 thoughts on “Day Zero

  1. Project 31 is fantastic adventure – it will change your life in fantastic way you cannot even imagine on Day Zero. I’m excited for you.

  2. When I asked my Grandmother on her 92nd birthday what she’d do different if she had it to do all over again, she replied, “A whole lot less housework.”

    Words to live by.

  3. For our tunes at the cabin I picked up pair of Bose Computer speakers… modified the power supply with banana plug and set up a 12 v power station that runs directly off my 12 system…no hum of the inverter in the back ground. I also know many people have set up regular car stereos and use a ipod feed for those…already 12 volt and they can pump out some serious volume if chosen properly

  4. Ohayo gozaimasu,

    As another hapa haole! I recently retired from the cubicle farm life myself to a secluded cabin in the woods. I’ve often spent most of the month (one day to go shopping) alone with my dogs, cats and assorted wildlife. I’ve found that just taking each day as it comes and enjoying to cook, bake, read and learn new things is very productive for me. Of course, I’m not off the grid, so do enjoy some things like being able to cook in larger quantities and freeze the leftovers.

    I recently completed reading A Naturalist’s Cabin by Cathy Johnson and am refreshed by knowing that others also love to sit, enjoy the environment and try to lessen their footprints on the earth.

    Enjoy your time!


  5. Ryo keep up the good work man. 2 years ago I hiked the PCT (pacific crest trail), it took 5 months. Being one with nature sure has a way of changing you. Good luck on your project. I would love to come help you out over the summer for a couple weeks if I could. I am entirely self contained and know some construction and gardening. Hit me up!


    • Nice! I’d like to walk at least some of the PCT too, seeing how I can get to it from my property without ever stepping foot off of public lands (I’m half a mile from Lassen National Forest, and the half mile is BLM land).

      Anyway, I might try and host a campout or work party in the summer, so check in on my blog every now and then 🙂

  6. Wow – love love love the nighttime shots.

    I really admire your attitude on productivity. Having been raised as a Catholic (AND BY ASIAN PARENTS), it’s hard to feel 100% good about milling around without justifying it as much-needed downtime, for example. Sad, isn’t it? (:

    • Well, truth be told, I’m not 100% okay with slacking off either. Also, I guess “slacking off” is the wrong word, but we seem to have set up this false dichotomy where you’re either “working” (i.e. getting paid, doing “meaningful” work, etc) and “not-working” (i.e. being a slacker and a lazy ass bum).

  7. Loved this blog. I work hard because it is what I like/choose to do. No higher truth. Same about slacking.
    I look forward to more of this story.

  8. First and foremost, even as a self proclaimed slacker, I’ve probably been more productive than 99% of folks in the US. Daily errands are work but they aren’t necessarily productivity. IMHO Too many folks confuse completing daily errands as being ‘productive’. Being productive to me means moving closer to a goal that once finished frees you up to do other goals. I give myself small daily projects that I know I can finish in less then 4 hours or so. I used to work until something was completely finished even if it meant not sleeping. Darn near killed myself that way. Now I always try to quit working on any project at least 2-3 hours before going to sleep. You’ve got to determine your long term goals first and then plan how to get there while remaining flexible enough to deal with life.

  9. Just gotta put a word in there for God — grace is free, you can’t earn it with work, you can’t do anything about the fact that God loves you. That’s just how it goes. Salvation isn’t earned. We get salvation — which isn’t just about the next life, by the way, but also about this one — because of who God is, not because of who we are.

    Explain to me how Christianity, a religion that proclaims free grace and the universal brotherhood of humankind, a religion whose central symbolic image is all people gathering together in one physical body,

    a religion that explicitly proclaims that the poor and the unfaithful and the meek and the lowly and the mourners and tax-collectors and prostitutes and outcasts and everybody else who doesn’t totally have their shit together, who doesn’t fit into the materialistic and successful and worldly demands of mainstream society, that *these* people are especially blessed;

    a religion that demands we not only stop taking our neighbors’ shit but that we forgive them when they take ours (an anti-capitalist thought if I ever heard one);

    a religion that demands that we not only stop cheating and hating and beating the crap out of our enemies, but that we exit the cycle of violence altogether, that we *pray* for those people who cheat us and hate us and beat the crap out of us, instead of cursing them;

    explain to me how Christianity, which it was born in the fringes of the world, in a filthy manger to an unwed Jewish mother,

    how Christianity got hijacked by some of the most un-Christian people ever to walk the face of the earth, and conflated with the all that dehumanizing exploitation and objectification and materialism of the capitalist world, with the ideas of success and purity and elitism and exclusion that Jesus spent all his time on earth trying to stomp out;

    how Christianity ever came to be associated with capitalism, a demonic faith that states that people are *not* beloved children of God, that a person’s value is their net worth, that instead of loving our neighbors and our enemies and our God, we should love our possessions and treat other people as disposable labor machines for making cash —

    Anyway, please excuse me, I was working on a sermon. :-p As middle-school Jesus said in that one This American Life episode, “Nobody rich can ever *really* be cool.”

    (And just for the record, other commenters, I’m not just some random left-wing religious nut-job on the internet, I’m one of Ryo’s friends — at least I was before I wrote this comment :-p — with too much time on her hands tonight and a very loving ax to grind. Peace.)

  10. Ryo,
    I am enjoying your journey. I plan on building a tiny house and doing something like you but I am a snubnose 38 kind of person.
    You are working to survive and to relax. That’s productive. Sharing your experiences is a public service. Thank you.
    You are giving me hope.

  11. Pingback: Update on Food « Laptop and a Rifle

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