Get notified of Words&Dirt updates

You are looking at dirt

Working It Out: Reflections on a Five-Year Experiment

Introduction: How I Got Here Five years ago, in October 2013, I committed myself to an experiment that felt both comfortably secure and quite risky. After teaching abroad in Japan for a year, I returned to my hometown in Humboldt County, CA, moved in with my mother and girlfriend, and actively eschewed all forms of [...]

My Life as a Shepherd’s Dog: Iron & Wine’s Masterpiece Turns Ten

Introduction In fall 2007, I was beginning my sophomore year at the University of Oregon. Having made it through the growing pains of freshman year, I had begun to relax a little. I’d found a great group of friends to live with, and finally felt ready to embrace the college persona that made the most [...]

Traveling in Post-Brexit Britain

Introduction: Waves Across the Pond I can’t remember a time when the political coverage of Britain in the United States was more fervent than during this summer’s Brexit vote. Given the parallels between the Brexit movement and the rise of Donald Trump, it makes sense that many interpreted the referendum as a testing ground not [...]

The Life and Death of Sweet Meats: A Tribute to Barry Snitkin

This is my fiftieth journal, which feels like an appropriate time to reflect on the origins of the words&dirt blog. When I began this project more than two years ago, I wanted to develop ideas about a way of life that was experimental for me. I wanted to step outside the traditional channels of education [...]

Journal #49: Rocky Road

Anyone who has visited the Raymers knows the gravel road that spans the two acres between the main road and our house. The road is in generally poor condition, with grass growing in a strip down the center and a number of sizable potholes that hold standing water in the wet season. We’ve been wanting [...]

Journal #48: Circling America, Pt. 3

Readers who’ve come this far might justifiably be thinking: Yeah, America’s a nice place and all, but six weeks on the road couldn’t have been pure bliss! Where’s the dirt? Our trip was surprisingly devoid of setbacks (no car trouble, natural disasters, relationship-altering fights, etc.), but it definitely wasn’t a perfect pleasure all the time. [...]

Journal #47: Circling America, Pt. 2

There are lots of ways to design a cross-country road trip, but Jessie’s goal was to see as many National Parks as possible. We visited few major cities, and spent about half our nights camped under the stars. Seeing National Parks has never been a particular ambition of mine, but I’m not much of an [...]

Journal #46: Circling America, Pt. 1

6 weeks. 12,000 miles. 26 states. 23 National Parks.   Back in April, Jessie laid out the schedule for our upcoming summer road trip. She wanted us to trace a loop around the country, heading north from our home in Northern California, turning east when we got to Washington, cutting through southern Canada into Maine, [...]

Journal #45: Defying the Drought, Pt. 1

California’s recent drought has been scary. Even in Northern California, where the water situation is considerably better than down south, people are realizing that the future of California’s water situation will look much different than its past. Though many improvements will be large, publicly-funded infrastructure projects, individuals can also take action to lessen the effects [...]

Journal #44: To Build a Greenhouse

Next month, Ma and I will be installing something we’ve wanted ever since I took the permaculture design course at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center: rainwater catchment. Ma’s been looking into it on and off for months, and we finally found a guy through a friend who pitched us a simple design for a [...]