The End of 2017 is upon us. In a few more hours we will flip the year forward to 2018 and the calendars onwards of January. It’s been a frigid end to a year that in many ways has been disdainful for millions of Americans but at the same time, was one of a prosperous, growing economy while ominous clouds grow in the background.

Like the heavy smoker who insists that cough they have is nothing, at some point our excessive consumption of fossil fuels and energy more general is going to catch up with us. We can continue to ignore poverty, and hope it won’t come back to bite us. We can’t ignore fundamental economic laws,, turn our backs on the world, try to stimulate an already red hot economy. One year, of the mostly dreadful Trump administration is done. Maybe the President has put some balance in our government, reined in the worse excesses of the previous administration, but it’s hard to say much positive about a year where our President has acted far from presidential and deminished our nation’s stature.

Tonight is definately a bright moon lit evening, as the mercury drops well below zero and the occassional wind whips around. With the fresh snow, things are quite beautiful. If it hadn’t been so cold and snowy, I would have loved to ring the New Year in the wilderness, but with tonight’s weather that was not to be. I keep telling myself one of these years I’ll spend a New Years Eve under the stars, but so far this time of year has been much too cold and snowy. There will be a day, some day in the future, when I will have a cabin up in the woods, and I can be sitting next to the woodstove, enjoying a cold New Years Eve like tonight.

While not every adventure went perfectly, I definately got out and saw a lot of nice places. Much of the summer into the autumn was quite wet, and while precipation has slackened as autumn turned to winter, we still have a couple of inches of snow from Christmas Day that continues to linger in the cold. Maybe before we get too far into 2018, the weather will moderate to the point where I can have an adventure in the Adirondacks or even just local state forest. Maybe not the for next few days, but eventually I am sure this cold pattern will break.

At work and in life, I’ve been thinking so much about 2018 lately that it seems like it is already here. Plans are written for next year, and I’ve always started to think about April and summer vacation trips. Not to mention November 2018 trip to Western NY, or maybe even West Virigina? There are many more places to see in 2018, and I would like to see some new places, as in many ways I’m bored with the ordinary. Piseco-Powley Road and Moose Plains are great, but I’ve been going there forever. In many ways I’m bored with camping, I need new ways to spend my time and get new enjoyment out of the wilderness. Maybe I got to start trying to get some of my colleagues to go along, or join an outdoor club, or do something to shake things up. 

This past autumn I’ve become increasingly interested in the hobby of electronics and microcontrollers, and what one can build at home to make life better, creating carefully colored lighting for rest and relaxation, and hopefully early next year, a large LED-based display sign that can display pictures and messages. Electronics are a fascinating field, there are many inexpensive compnentss you can get from China to make all kinds of things. Having a better fundamental understanding of electricity will benefit me in the long run — it will help me reduce my energy bills for now — and eventually help me when I decide to transition to an off-grid life-style.

This past year, I’ve been following more Facebook groups on homesteading, farming, and the off-grid life. One thing I’ve come to a greater impression and knowledge of on these topics is how much learning, skill, practice and capital is needed to transform natural resources efficently into useful products. Most natural resources, like the sun are dispersed, raw, and unprocessed, it’s left up to us the human, to use science and carefully gained knowledge to turn nature into something useful. And just like an electronics project, without careful studying and planning, your bound for failure. You have to start small and simple, and even then realize you may run into complications, and what appears as a simple project at first can become quite capital intensive. Successful hunters spend months planning their hunt, they scope out wildlife with trail cameras and other natural signs. They invest in the right gear. The same is true with renewable energy, with off-grid living, with agriculture. Living in a fossil fuel society, where we can turn our lights on instantly by burning old dinasour bones, we’ve forgotten what really makes up the basis of society.

2017 was the year I really came to realize that old age isn’t guaranteed and that retirement isn’t all fun and games. Both of my parents in 2017 saw increasing health scares, both are having increased trouble with their hearts and eye sight. It seemed like months, even if it just was weeks, visting Mom in ICU after heart surgery this autumn. Disability creeps in, and there is no guarantee that the years after 65 or 70 will be years of wonderful leisure as put forward by many in the media. Maybe the rich who didn’t work hard enjoy a life of leisure well into their 80s or 90s, but that certainly isn’t guaranteed. I will miss Mom and Dad when that year comes, which hopefully won’t be 2018 but instead will have many years left to come of decent health. I tell you, I think I will take early retirement, as soon as that’s an option for me in the late 50s or early 60s, because those later years of leisure are certianly not guaranteed.

The West Virigina trip was definately the highlight of the year, although it definately was not as special as the trip two years ago, in part because the leaves weren’t nearly as a good, the weather was inferior, and I didn’t visit Shenandoah National Park or Spruce Mountain. I had that rattle in my truck that worried me throughout the trip (which turned out to be a $100 repair after the trip, that wasn’t a big deal). The Moose River Plains trip in late September with the mercury pushing 90 degrees was pretty nice, although the hot weather still couldn’t make the days any longer.

Summer vacation certainly was wet. Besides the rain and the big flood the first day camping, it was a fine trip despite the cool weather, clouds, and rain. The trip I took out to Erie, Penna to view the esclipe in bask in the sun one last time before summer was done was pretty great though. All the major holidays were either very wet or just quite wet. But I survived in the wilderness and drank some good beer and had some nice fires. I look forward to the days when I live somewhere I can have a fire every day I want.

All and all, I have to say 2017 came and went quicker then I ever anticipated. I got a lot done that I wanted to get done, but there is still more to learn, more to experience, more to develop to become. Lately I”ve gotten away from walking and hiking as much, and maybe eating less healthy foods, so that’s something I do need to change in New Year. But over all, I think it was a pretty good year.

As the wind howls around, on this very cold last evening of 2017, I have some peanut butter cookies in the oven baking away, to enjoy with a cold glass of milk. Probably soon I will retire to bed, and when I open my eyes tomorrow, it will be twenty-eighteen.

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