Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sean with The Courageous Life Podcast

When I started this journey toward a more self reliant life and sharing our stories nearly 3 years ago I never knew how many people where on similar paths. I will be honest, at first, I felt very alone. Since that time I have been blessed to meet many interesting people with great stories. I have shared a few here and hope to share more. Occasionally though I will come across someone that I feel a special connection with. Sean with The Courageous Life Podcast is one of those individuals. He actually found me first, I was honored when he contacted me and told me that he enjoyed my posts and wanted me to give him a listen. Since that first interaction, I have listened to every podcast that he has produced. I am glad that I can now call him a friend, I hope you enjoy getting to know Sean.

1. You retired from the Marine Corps and could do anything you wanted after retirement. Why did you choose to homestead instead of something more expected?

The short answer is freedom. I did not want to enter into Corporate America and spend time working on other people’s goals and objectives. I wanted to be able to be with my family. To work side by side and connect with each other and the land. It has been amazing. I wanted to develop a family economy…I want to leave a legacy for my kids: spiritually and physically. Should they desire, I want them to be able to stay on the land, or close by, to participate in the various enterprises in a manner in which they desire and can thrive. I know it seems like such a foreign concept but historically this is how most peoples have lived through out human history. We also realized that the predominant cultural philosophy, when it is distilled to its most basic level, is to get all you can for as long as you can. We were done with this and prepared to withdraw from that mindset. Many people call it the rat race, whatever, either way, we are not doing it anymore. Most importantly, this lifestyle allows us to live consistent with our beliefs. I no longer need to watch what I say or who I criticize like I did as a Marine Corps Officer. Truth be told, I was not all that careful while in the military. Hence, it was time for me to go.

2. You and your family now live in Northern Idaho. Who was the most challenging to convince to completely change lifestyles?

Honestly, everyone was looking forward to this radical change in lifestyle. As a family, we talked a lot about the freedoms, and challenges (which are many), that come from living this kind of lifestyle. Sustenance (and for profit) farming, entrepreneurship, learning new skills and community have turned out to be much more rewarding and well worth the challenges and hardships we are facing.

3. How have they dealt with the dramatic change?

It has been a dramatic change for all of us, but I think we are working so hard to try and figure it all out that we have not had time to fret over dealing with it. Then again, we don’t know what we don’t know and maybe impending disaster is right around the corner, ha ha. I will say this: everything takes longer and cost more than initially planned. Hopefully my estimation skills in project planning will improve.

4. You and your wife have said that you live semi off-grid. How difficult was adjusting to the differences in daily life?

I’m embarrassed to say that when you live on base housing in the military you just don’t worry about power issues like water, electricity and garbage. A set housing allowance is taken from your pay and that is essentially rent and all utilities. That is a recipe for waste…and it works, unfortunately. It is not that we were ridiculous with our power usage but we weren’t real careful either.

Now, while still grid tied, we heat primarily with wood, cook with propane and get our water from a low to average producing well. We are much more careful. We work hard to heat our home. We have a very good appreciation for what we put into the stove and make decisions carefully about when to burn and when we can put on more clothes. We are also working hard on alternative water sources like springs, swales and ponds. For instance, one spring that I have been observing and plan on developing is above our property and has the potential to gravity feed water for our home, gardens and livestock. We have plans to build solar showers, gray water systems and even compost humanure. We are planting large amounts of black locust for fuel wood that can be pollarded sustainably. Our goal is to not necessarily go off grid but if the grid goes away for whatever reason that we have redundant systems in place that allow us to operate in a resilient manner.

5. Tell us a little about your family.

My wife Monica and I have seven children: our kids range from 22 years old down to three years old. We have three natural born and four through adoption. We homeschool our children and have done so since our oldest began his education in 1997. My much better half and I both grew up (mostly) in the Seattle area and of course our kids were born all over the place: North Carolina, Florida, Washington State, Cebu, PI and Tokyo, Japan.

My wife is amazing. First, she put up with me for 24 years and she is still here! She spent decades as a military wife enduring multiple combat deployments and other long trips away from home. Now, after all of that hardship and the completion of so many challenges it is time to relax and enjoy retirement? Nope, now we are working harder than ever before but, we are all together. She is embracing the modern homestead lifestyle with gusto. If you asked her 10 years ago if she would be making bone broth with chicken heads, feet, and necks she would have laughed but that is what she is doing today ha ha.

Our family is tight knit but not without our problems. By God’s grace we are managing except when we forget to rely on Him and instead try and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Do not get me wrong, God’s sovereignty and human responsibility both exist, and in harmony, but I believe the “bootstrap” mentality is an indicator when one has stopped living for the Glory of God and begun living for the glory of self . We need frequent reminders.

My kids love the outdoors and spend much more time there then studying textbooks…well, to be honest, we do not much use textbooks. Our homeschooling is pretty loose after many years of experimenting with every conceivable source of curriculum. We have them read books and more books and live life. Yes, we do follow some curriculum for particular subjects like math. Our philosophy is that we are raising adults. I recently sent a few of my kids into the forest with axes and hatchets and gave them the task of thinning it for future silvopasture (combining trees, forage and livestock production). I told them to leave all of the trees over a certain size, western white pine, cedar and larch. I marked a few others to obtain a good bit of species diversity. They worked on this task independently over a couple of weeks and took down hundreds of trees without complaint. I could have paid to do a commercial thinning or gone in there with chainsaws but I wanted to give them something hard to do and something meaningful. It is meaningful. We will now run pigs, goats, sheep and birds through there in a paddock shift model. That hard work will help to feed our family and other families. That sense of accomplishment cannot be duplicated in textbooks or schooling. My kids shoot guns, throw knives, butcher animals and shed a tear when one of our does loses a kid. They know how to plant a tree, make bone broth, and cut a rope without a knife and many more very useful skills lost on so many people. Our culture has become over-specialized.

To be honest, we have not known these skill for long periods of time, we are learning as we go. Nor do we even know a lot. We are recovering over-specialized beings. Sometimes, we are figuring it out after the fact! We joke because we will jump in with both feet before we know what we are doing. For example, we came across a great opportunity to buy six sheep so we went and picked them up, put them in the back of my truck, under a canopy, got them home and then promptly googled “how to take care of sheep.” Some people might get upset by that and believe we should have all of our research complete before undertaking such a venture. I believe that kind of thinking keeps most people from doing much of anything. That is our family, for better or for worse.

We are hopeful for the future. We are building our homestead: Sovereign Sonrise Permafarm to feed our family, feed other families, teach other families. We are building other small businesses and providing incubation for our kid to start small businesses.

We have plans to start a worldview academy where kids who graduate high/homeschool and do not want to go down the world’s path of college and debt (an assumption that we must do these things in order to by happy) can come to our academy for nine months and concentrate on these three pillars: Christian Worldview, Entrepreneurship, and Skill Building.
6. You have adopted children from overseas. Why did you choose to adopt from other countries?

Yes, for us there was a practical aspect and a spiritual aspect to this decision. On the practical side, we were stationed overseas. We were in Okinawa, Japan so adopting from Japan fit right into our situation even though that was never a part of our plan. In fact, it is very difficult to adopt from Japan. However, through God’s providence we were able to adopt in a relatively short manner.

The Philippines adoption worked because we found an agency that specialized in assisting military families overseas to adopt from overseas…obviously, a very complicated affair. I had previously traveled to the Philippines and while I cannot point to some dream or vision we felt like we were supposed to pursue this course of action.

On a spiritual level, the triune God adopts those He elects into the family of God. He not only justifies us but adopts us. The supreme judge goes beyond cancelling our debt but also invites us to live with Him and become a member of His family. We move from children of wrath to children of God. This vertical adoption is what we strive to emulate, albeit very imperfectly, in our horizontal, earthly adoption of children. Put in another way, horizontal adoption is a picture of the Gospel, it is a way of fulfilling The Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) and the Cultural Mandate (Gen 1:28).

In our podcast, we usually start with a Worldview section and my wife and I began what turned out to be seven segments on adoption. You can listen to the first section on adoption, in episode 29, here: These segments carry through to episode 37.

7. You took a Permaculture design course. Why? How do you believe that knowledge has benefited you?

As a preparedness minded person, I was looking for systems in food production that did not require huge inputs and that was sustainable. I ran across permaculture and was instantly hooked. Here was design science that integrated all elements (much more than just food production) of a system to work together synergistically, produce abundantly, and actually improve the land over time. It made instant sense. This in contrast to our current system of breaking apart each element into its own sphere (an allegory of the American church) massive inputs and mining the land of nutrients that eventually drive the land towards sterility without massive, unsustainable inputs. We are on a broken chemical, bio-technological treadmill. Our current system is built on a fundamental assumption that we will always have cheap oil, which is precarious at best.

Permaculture has opened my eyes to the amazing potential of creating systems design with regards to property. I went through Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Design Course and it was invaluable. I approach everything that I do on our homestead and permafarm completely differently. Let us use the example of the chicken, I observe and ask questions like: of what use are the products of the chicken? Where is the chicken incompatible with other components of the system? What needs of the chicken are supplied by other components? Where does the chicken supply other components?

Permaculture does not exclude annual gardening but thinks in terms of perennial plantings above annual. The productivity of hundreds of fruit and nut trees are measured in decades and centuries as opposed to annual production requiring annual inputs. Imagine an apple tree producing apples for 40 years. Imagine a walnut tree producing walnuts for 200 years. Imagine a pinion pine producing pine nuts for a 1000 years. This is the shift in mindset that we need for true sustainability. Not for the feel good kind where someone buys a Prius.

We will still plant an annual garden, and love our annual veggies, and probably always will but we are putting dozens and dozens of perennial systems (plant and animal) as our main source of nutrient dense food. If things get really bad, or even if they do not, we will rely on our perennial systems.

The great benefit of this personally and for my family inspired me to want to help others in this area. I started a company called Resilient Property Analysis and Design. Basically, I do consulting work on how to make other people’s property more abundant and synergistic with regards to: energy, water, access, structures, food production and waste (resources by another name). I have various services I offer ranging from online consulting to full on project implementation using permaculture design. Here is my website: and, in my podcast: www.thecourageouslifepodcast you will find several episodes about permaculture and property analysis and design.

8. You seem to be very political and have stated that you are a registered independent. What do you think is necessary for our country to get back on the right track? Do you think it is even possible?

What is the percentage of nations that have been successful (let us use survive as a standard) throughout recorded human history? 0%. That is a sobering number. All nations eventually collapse and are shelved into the dust bin of history or they can be rebuilt to try again. Our founding fathers were by no means perfect but they got one thing exactly right. They understood human nature. They knew that man was inherently evil. Hence, why they set up a system of checks and balances. Why they wanted desperately to limit the power of the government, especially the centralized federal government.

John Adams said perfectly, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” This is what we have lost. This is what we must regain. With all of that said, we must continue to fight. I believe there are two major pillars that can address the runaway federal government and the cultural and moral decline of the people: they are spiritual and practical.

First the spiritual, we must pray fervently for a revival in the land. This is predicated on a reformation within the church. Quite frankly the evangelical church in America is weak, uninvolved and loves to tickle the ears of its congregants and steer clear of controversy. The church needs to be the church. Our faith should impact every area of life, 2 Cor 10:5 (ESV) says, “we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Instead we chop up our life into categories that we compartmentalize and see as completely unrelated. Until we understand this we will live inconsistent lives in lukewarm churches. I blame the current downhill slide of America squarely on the back of the church. Now, reformation of the church rests on reformation of the family. Individual families make up local churches. Individual families need to stand on the Word of God instead of not making waves (read: I do not want to do anything hard). Christians must develop a comprehensive Biblical Worldview.

On the practical side I think we have a duty to act. Thomas Jefferson said, “The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.” The federal government has clearly overreached its constitutionally-established boundaries and has its hands in almost every area of our lives. Our nation is bankrupt and run by an unaccountable bureaucracy. The vast majority of Republicans in congress have proven over and over they are not much different from the other side of the aisle. They are Republican in Name Only (RINO). They love to quote Thomas Jefferson about wise and frugal government yet they are just as wasteful and just as fond of big government as their counterparts. Worse, they pretend to be something that they are not.

I am the Coalitions Director for the Convention of States Project in the State of Idaho. Article V of the United States Constitution allows the States to call a Convention of States to restrict the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, effectively returning the citizens' rightful power over the ruling elite. I no longer think it is a viable solution to work directly through congress. George Mason ensured this state provision to amend the Constitution was in article V for just such a time as this. He worried about the federal government becoming too powerful. Research this here, dispel the misinformation put out by the opposition and sign the petition (this triggers a letter to be written to your direct state representative) if desired. Are there areas of the Constitution that the federal government follows to a tee? Yes. Why? Because those areas are clear and politicians cannot get around them. That is what we seek to do, restrain the federal government by making the constitution clear. This movement is not a Constitutional Convention that will runaway but a Convention of States seeking to restrain a runaway federal government. If a state becomes tyrannical at least one can move to a freedom loving state, if the federal government becomes tyrannical there is no choice, hence, no freedom.

Beyond the above, I believe that states should nullify federal law wherever and whenever they can. I also believe that individuals that care about our countries future and the Constitution should pour out their efforts and resources into the local level. The next election for Sheriff and district representative is much more important than the presidential election of 2016. We need to change our thinking in this area.

Finally, on an individual and family level we need to pull back from the trappings of the world. We need to stop rallying and lobbying to the politicians for our pet projects. We need to create alternatives and live true to our principles. We need to build community. One of the most powerful things one can do is become self-sufficient from government.

If we do nothing, we will further slide down the path that Alexis de Tocqueville describes in, Democracy in America, and become, “a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” This WILL lead to collapse.

9. You clearly communicate that you are a Christian. How important is your faith on your homestead and in your everyday life?

Ha ha, the reader has either stopped reading in disgust by this point or they know this already to be the case. I believe that every area of life should be impacted by my faith. That is the Christian faith predicated on the scriptures laid out in the Old and New Testaments. This is the axiom of the Christian and our worldview should flow from this point. My faith impacts the meaning of life, how I raise my family, treat animals, engage with my community and everything in between. I do not pretend to execute this perfectly but Lord willing, I will be sanctified more and more over time. I strive for consistency in my worldview and living out the principles I believe in, based on my ultimate authority (everyone has one), but I know I fall short. When I find inconsistencies, I must address them and be willing to conform to the Word. My chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

10. If you could tell everyone just one thing, what would it be?

Acts 16:30-34 “30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”

You can connect with Sean and The Courageous Life Podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and subscribe to them through iTunes or Stitcher

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