Doldrums, Tyranny, and “Why Hawaii?”

(Week Ten)

Empty Sails

Like ships of yore navigating that infamously wind-still belt between the juxtaposed tradewinds just north of the equator, we too have entered the Doldrums on our fine jaunt. With only one foot left in our rapidly diminishing current lives and one foot inching toward the car and the road trip that will lead us toward Hawaii, it was a week of waiting in the quiet found between our personal north and south tradewinds. Waiting for moving pods to arrive. Waiting for land clearing to begin. Waiting for the formal drafting of the final yurt floor plans. Waiting for responses on job queries. Waiting for the rain-saturated yard to dry enough to start inventorying and packing our outdoor items. Waiting to exhale…

So there was time to focus on important things, like how to squeeze into our road trip a stop at Area 51 and a staged repeat of Pee Wee Herman’s infamous visit to the Alamo. Here is how the trail ahead looks so far:

Favorite Holiday (April 15)

We also found time to engage a new professional financial planner to further discuss our radical life plan, only to be reminded that our main life challenge is now the issue of taxation and that we need to spend more quality time with a CPA and a business planner to protect our life savings from, and avoid destitution at the hands of, the lovable IRS.

You see, good reader, Uncle Sam has adopted the most liberal definition of “income” known to any dialect of the Queen’s Tongue. No job? Well…now your “savings” are considered income if you do something silly like try to use them to feed yourself. And not only for calculating your tax bracket… Our savings is now considered income for the purpose of determining how much we pay into the new mandatory health care plan. Though unemployed for three months and no job prospects in sight, we are charged the same as if we still had two six-figure salaries. We simply are not rich enough to afford the fees of the types of good citizens who could help us “shelter” our money, and we are not poor enough to escape the tax man’s eye.

When coupled with the recent realization that Uncle Sam kept 39% of some of our employment separation benefits for miscellaneous taxes, and that today is Tax Day, these events have sent me mulling over the matter of taxation. (An unemployed citizen is dangerously free to think, as Mr. Jefferson hints at in his discourse on taxation, which I have included for your reading pleasure in a separate post below).

Simply put, I agree with Oliver Wendell Holmes when he said, “I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” I also accept the counsel of the first president of these united states: “No taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant.” And, ultimately, I am resigned to abide by the words of that famous Nazarene who said, “Give to Caesar those things that are Caesar’s.”

On the other, I am in league with Winston Churchill, who said, “We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” Perhaps Ron Paul sums it up best: “The Founding Fathers never intended a nation where citizens would pay nearly half of everything they earn to the government.”

Speaking of the Fathers reminds me of one of their very favorite words, often bandied about in the taverns of nearby Alexandria and Annapolis and Williamsburg just a few hundred year ago–"tyranny.” It is a good word and its diminished usage today, with domestic affairs as they are, is a wonderment.

Question of the Week – Why Hawaii?

Aah. A frequent query when we tell people about our ongoing life transfiguration, usually immediately following their question, “Are you out of your mind?”

Polynesia was, in fact, never part of our plan. Our aim was to establish a sustainable organic homestead in southern Virginia or, maybe, the sourthern Maryland – Pennsylvania region. We looked at West Virginia too.

Our plan was not to be, however. Our search criteria for properties continually surfaced land well outside the mid-Atlantic region, including–to our great surprise–opportunities on the Big Island. Intrigued by the possibility of living in an eastern pocket of Oceania, we dug deeper, and the more we investigated, the better it seemed. Why? Well…it had nothing to do with beaches, palm trees and luaus. What caught our attention was the availability and price of land and low land taxes, the agricultural infrastructure in place, the widespread use of offgrid technologies, frequent rain that reduces needs for irrigation, and–perhaps most of all–a 365-day growing season (no winter killoffs in the bee yard, frozen chicken combs, desolate gardens for 3 months a year). The seeming availability of occasional free whole foods–from wild boar and sheep to shore-caught fish to avocados and guava literally rolling across the roads–was an unexpected discovery too.

Exhausting our ability to research further from this side of the country, we organized a 7-day fact finding trip to explore the island–probably the oddest trip to Hawaii ever made by a working east coast couple. For starters, we flew for free (frequent flier miles) and we lodged for nearly as cheap, at a hostel.

We visited the Hilo library, checked prices at Home Depot, examined the offerings of Costco, and talked to builders and solar power experts. We visited a church and spoke with others on the island who have established offgrid farmettes and homeschooled kids. We spent time at six different farmers markets to get a sense of the local alternative food economy and talk to sellers about the lay of the land, and we drove around the key agricultural area with a real estate agent. We did not have time to visit a single destination that people normally visit Hawaii for (we can only assume that the Big Island has beaches somewhere). In the end, we came home convinced that the Big Island was not only suitable for our plans, it was in many ways a better fit than the mid-Atlantic alternatives we were previously fixated on. The die was cast…

Now some of you may be asking of this patchy red bearded fool, “Hey! As a descendent of vikings, the master agriculturalists of their day, don’t you long for the cold? They did fine without a year-round growing season.” Well… I do like the cold and I’ve always missed the seasons here when work took us to live in other corners of the planet. I like to eat year round too, though, and protecting the creatures under your care through winter is not fun. Moreover, as I understand it, the Nordic lads of legend were able to use their gardening offseason for pillaging–a respectable income stream in those days that is sadly no longer considered socially acceptable.

Fini

And on that note, I leave you. But before you explore the musings of Mr. Jefferson on taxation (below), here is a link that may help you be more green, like the little guys from Roswell:

The Ultimate Green Store

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