The Delusion of Jumping Ship to Other Earths

Kepler 18The ways of pop science and the misconception of astronomy in the general population are often scary things. All over the internet, magazines, news and people are touting the discovery of “a new Earth”. I think most people believe NASA has a big telescope and they can actually see these planets out there, all blue and green with little Na’vi running around.

What NASA does with the Kepler scope is measure for very slight changes in a star’s spectrum caused by gravital fluctuations that MAY indicate the possible presence of a planet. They don’t actually see anything. On the basis of those fluctuations, they guess the planet’s density, distance from its star and what it’s made of. So they may have found a roughly Earth-sized planet in a star’s Goldilocks zone, and now we have “a new Earth”? In truth, we know absolutely nothing about this planet. For astronomers, it exists as just a set of numbers indicating something orbiting another star.

Let’s pretend this planet is really a new Earth, complete with forests and deserts and an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere that could support human life. It is 500 light years away. Thanks to goofy sci-fi shows like Star Gate and Star Trek, people think that’s no big deal. I remember in the last Trek movie how the Enterprise zipped to the home world of the Klingons and back as if it was making a run to the corner store. And I’ll never forget a line in the old Star Gate series:–and if you have the background in astronomy that I do, it is very significant–”We’ve detected a distress signal. It’s just 60 light years out of our way. We’re going to swing by and check it out.” It was one of the stupidest statements ever made on television. They acted like 60 light years was 60 miles down the road.

The general public has so little comprehension of the immense vastness of space and the universe. A single light year is vast beyond comprehension. Using modern technology, it would take about 2,500 years to travel one light year. So to get to that “other earth”, a voyage of 500 light years, would take 1.25 million years. For us, for all intents and purposes, that planet doesn’t even exist.

But the simple fact is we have no idea what is actually there. You see, we have two other Earth-like planets in our own star’s Goldilocks zone. Mars is a bit smaller than us and daytime temperatures at its equator can reach 72F. But Mars has a low density core, a fraction of Earth’s gravity, and a carbon dioxide atmosphere too thin to breathe even if we could. It is a cold, dead world.

Venus is virtually Earth’s twin in size and gravity. But Venus has an atmosphere of carbon dioxide that caused a runaway greenhouse effect that long ago killed its oceans. Now it rains sulfuric acid on Venus and the planet has a surface temperature of 900F, hot enough to melt lead.

Odds are astronomically high that that “other earth” out there is just another cold, dead, or baked, dead rock just like the frozen hell or the hot hell that orbit our own star. Earth is alive. Earth is a rare, breathing, teaming jewel in a stark universe.

I hate these pop science misconceptions because they give the impression there are many other worlds out there, and when we mess this one up bad enough, we can just jump ship. They cheapen our Earth. Earth is our home, likely the only home we will ever have, the only place in this vast universe we are suited to live or that we will ever reach. She is not replaceable.

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Ghosts In the Winter

haunted houseI hiked out to an abandoned homestead yesterday. I find these here and there in the forest. Some are very ancient, little left other than stone foundations, caving basements and forgotten wisps of dreams. In one place deep in the wildwood where I harvest end-of-summer beaked hazelnuts, there is an old cabin, nothing left but log walls, probably the remnants of a middle or early 19th century homestead. But this old place–the one in the photo–is different from all the rest. Things watch from the shadows. Eyes press ever on you; unfriendly watching things. Things scuttle and whisper within.

The old place has not fared well this winter, but it doesn’t seem like to fall anytime soon, either. Long ago, I might have been inclined to buy the place and bring it back to life, but now it is so far gone there is no saving it. We go there at the end of summer to harvest feral grapes, crab apples, wild apples, rosehips, and Japanese lanterns. I plan to transplant some cuttings from the feral vines this year to Twa Corbies Hollow and see how they do. The spirits seem to withstand the intrusions though remain none too pleased with them.

Once I rode Aval up there a couple summers back. He’s a good horse and doesn’t wander. I unsaddled and was assessing deer spoor in the tall grass. Aval suddenly looked at the old house and took off galloping down the trail. I found him a quarter mile away, looking chagrined and waiting for me. He doesn’t like the old place. It even makes Willowisp nervous.

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The Lean Times

The hen (the red chicken above) is spending a few days in the coop while she recovers from a minor injury.  She and the rooster sitting by her are bonded like an old married couple, and he has not stopped moping for her at the little outdoor run during her entire convalescence.

The hen (the red chicken above) is spending a few days in the coop while she recovers from a minor injury. She and the rooster sitting by her are bonded like an old married couple, and he has not stopped moping for her at the little outdoor run during her entire convalescence.

At this point in the spiral of the year, we have only about twenty or so chickens left in the deep freezer, but still there are over 200 pounds of venison in the stores. And Daphne made a lovely brothy venison stew tonight with chard, potato and whole wheat dumplings, but with last years harvest down to the staples, I was starting to worry our meals might start becoming monotonous, for these are the lean times on a homestead–that point between the end of last year’s reserves and the next harvest.  But just in time, the increased daylight hours are inspiring the chickens to lay heavily and we are getting over a dozen eggs per day from our layer flock. I expect that’ll double in the next few weeks. And with most of the goat does in milk now, we are getting lots of cheese.  (The two youngest does, our new pair of Saanens, did not breed til early December, so we won’t see their kids til May).

The eggs and cheese mostly come around now and early summer, so we eat a lot of what we consider seasonal dishes: quiches, omelettes, egg sandwiches, and anything fried has an egg batter, and the girls do a lot of baking that is best with eggs.  If the eggs still overflow, we sometimes trade it for pork at the farmer’s market, though his year we plan to raise a couple pigs of our own.

Snow may be on the ground, but spring brings new bounty if you know how to live and work with the sacred Earth.  And if that is the case, such times are only a time of transition in a diet that is really a product of the seasons.  And that’s as it should be . . .

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A Whole Lot of Brewing Happening!

In the image are: Muscat in the foreground (ready to bottle next week), elderberry wine in a Riesling base back right (about a month til bottling), and scrumpy at back left made from some unpasteurized whole pressed apple cider I found on clearance a couple weeks back.

In the image are: Muscat in the foreground (ready to bottle next week), elderberry wine in a Riesling base back right (about a month til bottling), and scrumpy at back left made from some unpasteurized whole pressed apple cider I found on clearance a couple weeks back.

Spring is brewing season around here for everything but ciders, which are best done as the apples are pressed in autumn. I fell a bit behind so I am restocking the wine cellar heavily. Last month I brewed 12 gallons, and this month another 18. I will brew another 18 gallons in May, for a total spring brewing season of 48 gallons, and that will finally get us back on track as I didn’t do much last year and the wine cellar was running low.

We aim to use two bottles of wine per week between cooking or a daily glass of wine each, which is 18 gallons of wine per year. Despite North America’s paranoid love-hate relationship with alcohol (no wonder, in a country where the goal of drinking is to get drunk), wine, when used in moderation, is positively linked to a clean and healthy cardiovascular system, and a glass at dinner is an old French tradition I’ve always adhered to.

We aim for about 18 gallons per year of ale or cider, too, especially for those warm months when a lot of outdoors work is happening. Nothing like a cold wheat beer or oat ale or bubbly cider after a hard day in the fields. And come autumn, nothing like pumpkin ale to toast the spirits round the bonfire.

Daphne used to complain that it was a tragedy to waste the yeasty dregs. Well, we waste them no more! She’s figured out how to make vegemite and marmite (god, I hate them and refuse to touch them!), and we’ve started using the yeasty dregs–rich in all the B vitamins–in stews and other dishes. Tonight, she is going to experiment with the elderberry wine dregs–just drained from today’s brewing activities–in making a sweetbread or cake.

As I was working on this, I got to thinking of the number of fermented foods we make in our traditional lifestyle, and it is amazing. Bread, cheese and yogurt are but a few. A while back Daphne started applying medieval methods of vegetable preservation by fermenting vegetables, which isn’t half bad.

To see a brief video on “The Three Stages of Brewing”, shown in the photo above, follow this link.

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Bushcraft/Tracking/Camping this May

elfwoodComing this May, near Cambridge, Nova Scotia:

Click here to learn more!

MID MAY – 17th/18th

$50 per person for one day
$80 per person for full weekend and campout.
Full payment to be made prior to the weekend. Email transfer to Cliff Seruntine: or if you do not have a computer, please have the cash to me by May 1st, so that I may transfer if for you. Thanks!

This workshop will be held at Emily and Tim Rogers property on South Mountain, Little Brown Rd, off Prospect Rd.


Bushcraft skills: starting fire with steel strikers (work wet or dry and one can substitute for local materials like chipped quartz and churt), creating shelter, warm bedding, navigating by sun, landmark and compass, what to do when lost, rigging shelter (lean-to or similar), coping with bleeding and natural medicine.

Many animals will be on the move at this time as it’s a major feeding season, so it’s a good time for tracking. Spring ground is “springy”, making actual prints uncertain, but there are many other ways to tell what wildlife is in your area, what it’s doing and what it’s eating, Learn to analyze droppings, scrapes and other spoor to interpret wildlife activity.

Cliff is one of the few people on Earth who has been charged multiple times by grizzly and moose and been able to avoid using lethal force in each incident. At their homestead, Twa Corbies Hollow, Cliff and Daphne live successfully with mature coyote packs and black bears. We will study realistic co-existence strategies to live with wildlife, from how to manage encounters with potentially aggressive wildlife to how to deter wildlife from entering inhabited areas.

Combine a day hike with tracking and foraging, getting stuff along the way.



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Farming . . . the Ultimate Get-Rich-Quick Scheme

Quick the image and watch the vid!!!

farming get rich quick

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The Faerie World Still Lives In the Ogham Wood

With some fifty reviews out there that I know of, and rated an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars, “An Ogham Wood” seems to have attained something of a small cult status.

From the lost love of the long-ago maiden Ellidurrydd to the designs of the crone-witch, Oak Peg; from the last charge of the Hundred Horsemen to the last hope of the fey folk in the New World; from the demons that torment a madman without a soul to the girl with no soul who redeems him . . . Enter Faerie as you have never known it:

To see it on Amazon, click here.

To see it on Goodreads, click here.

Published by Avalonia Esoterica Press.  Available on Kindle and at fine booksellers.

Published by Avalonia Esoterica Press. Available on Kindle and at fine booksellers.

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Bushcraft Family

The family that bushcrafts together stays together.

An overexposed image, but hey, it was an accidental shot taken by my trail-cam last autumn as Arielle and I were examining spoor to determine where the deer might gather for the rut.

An overexposed image, but hey, it was an accidental shot taken by my trail-cam last autumn as we were examining spoor to determine where the deer might gather for the rut.

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Esbat Moon

esbat moonI stepped out this evening to prepare to gather firewood. As I stood upon the covered deck overlooking the Elfwood, the air had that perfect sharpness of the time exactly between winter and spring. There was just enough bite in the cold to make you feel alive, just enough winter in it to feel fresh, just enough spring to bear the promise of magic and life. And with the sun less than half an hour til falling behind the west ridge, there was just enough daylight to offer the promise of a haunting night.

I sharpened the chainsaw and headed out to the cutting site and worked til the gloaming fell and passed, and with its passing came a silver shining in the eastern forest; a magnificent full moon that wanted to swallow the eastern sky in quicksilver light, piercing and brilliant, sharp and clean as the last bite of Old Man Winter. I paused in my work of hauling the logs down the hill and across the brook and knew, first and foremost in that moment, that here in the heart of Nature’s raw and elegant beauty, that I was alive. And the forest knew my name. And I knew her’s. She is Enchantment.

I arrived home well past dark, and the girls were just setting out from the cottage to go milk the goats in the barn, and ensure they were snug in their stalls for the night, and Natalia, now sixteen, came dashing over to me. “Dad! Did you see the moonrise? Have you ever seen anything like it?” She reveled in the rising moon as much as I, and I knew then, too, that I have raised my children to understand what is important in life. The true treasures, the true meaning, the true life . . . it has always been free for the taking. Nature has always been willing to share. The truly good things . . . they are beyond the door, in an enchanted forest beneath an esbat moon.

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Another Teaser from “The Wildwood Way”

white stag ravenAnother promised teaser:

“The nameless authors of the fairytales of old were well aware that the denizens of the forest live deep, secret lives unknown to us. And there is more truth than we know in the elder and eldritch concept of the wildwood as a place of living myths. Animals speak and love and lose and prank and play. And sometimes, if we are quiet and open, we might even fall into their fairytale.”

The Wildwood Way
Cliff Seruntine
anticipated publication date: 2015 (keep fingers crossed, it must go through many steps of approval and editing yet)

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