Author Archives: John

Is the Peace Corps Still Valid?

A US general was touring a corner of Afghanistan recently cleared of the Taliban. He was accompanied by a contingent of flak-jacketed troops with weapons at the ready. Coming upon a remote village, he was surprised to find the smiling and waving inhabitants lining the dusty road. After some trouble finding the leader of the village, he curiously inquired about the unexpected reception. The village headman just said “Where is Rick?” The general was taken aback at the request and […]


What Have You Got to Lose?

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. This quote popped into my pre-conscious mind one early Sunday morning, a time where the essential has not yet been drowned out by the noise of the day. Knowing that this was, unfortunately, not an original thought, I did some digging and found it was written by a young Oregonian who, in 1956, died at 29 at the hands of the primitive Equadorian […]

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Building the “perfect” greenhouse using recycled materials

      I have been gathering data and resources for making the “perfect” greenhouse for California’s Central Valley. This has been a process that has taken longer than I would like to admit, but consider the constraints:   *       ¾ of the year it must not be warmer than ambient temperature (>100ºF) *       Much of that ¾ is unrelenting, dry solar radiation *       ¼  of the year it must collect as much heat as possible (<45ºF) […]

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Vertical Aquaponics

    The beauty of aquaponics is that you engineer it so it can fit into almost any space you have. If you have limited floor space, perhaps Vertical Aquaponics is for you. The advantage of Vertical Aquaponics is the unmatched number of plants per square foot of space, because the plants grow on vertical towers. You also cannot beat the visual appeal of Vertical Aquaponics. Where else can you check your whole crop from the comfort of your easy […]

“Some Thoughts on the Real World….” Bill Watterson’s Kenyon Commencement Speech

People often ask about our unusual lifestyle….owning a fish farm but also tinkering in other endeavors like aquaponics, permaculture, and hosting guests from all over the world.  We have never defined our outlook on life and career, but this speech from Bill Watterson comes close. Below are excerpts from his speech…. SOME THOUGHTS ON THE REAL WORLD BY ONE WHO GLIMPSED IT AND FLED Bill Watterson Kenyon College Commencement May 20, 1990  You will find your own ethical dilemmas in […]

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Working Yourself Out of a Job ~ Zambia, 2014

Violating the law of human nature is the concept of making yourself obsolete. It is a concept because, in much of the development world, it remains only a lofty ideal. In the corporate world, forget about it. This remains the challenge to the Peace Corps, and it is doing a fair job at it. I see current PCVs steeped in the mantra of sustainability, resisting the urge to throw money at a problem. I know how hard this is, because […]

Sacrifice – Zambia, 2014

What exactly do Peace Corps volunteers sacrifice? The first things that come to mind are physical, like pit toilets, bad water, and disease. But after two weeks of Matt’s Zambia that is a thirty-year bookend to my Papua New Guinea, I’d say the greatest sacrifice is mental. This sacrifice is 2 years of constant scrutiny, swatting down misperceptions and even outright prejudice. This sacrifice is relinquishing the cozy comforts of conformity to become the “Most Interesting Man in the World,” […]

The Visionary ~Zambia, 2014

Deep in the African bush toils a man with a plan. Wielding a sinewey frame and a vice-grip handshake, he has fleshed out a vision and has built several large fishponds by hand.     With no promise of financial gain, how many of us would toil for 12 years because of an elusive dream? Meet the host-country counterpart. This is the rare breed that gets paired with each PCV. He is the un-publicised link in the chain that is […]

The Ugly American ~ Zambia, 2014

  I have wrestled with the impact of the Peace Corps since leaving Papua New Guinea 30 years ago. Being with Matt in Zambia is giving me very fresh perspective. What can one American do? I see a five foot tall, sixty-five year old divorcee screaming out her instructions to fish pond diggers and leaving a legacy of functioning cooperatives and beautifully engineered ponds full of tilapia. I see dozens of America’s finest foregoing 27 months of their prime twenties, […]

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Building with reclaimed barn wood

One of the main philosophies on our farm is utilizing local resources. This is mostly out of economic necessity. The price of building materials is often prohibitive if you are trying to make a new venture pay for itself. Our foray into small livestock coincided with a fortuitous procurement of one hundred year old barn wood. Better yet, we were able to make a trade.  We received two loads of barn wood in exchange for fishing privileges. When we started […]

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