The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

A real weekend homesteader

Orange mushroomsTwo weeks ago, we got a call from the sheriff's office.  "There's an officer who needs to see you.  He's waiting at the mail box," the dispatcher said.

"Can you tell us what it's about?" Mark asked, but the dispatcher had no answer.  So he rushed out on the ATV while I bit my figurative fingernails and tried to decide if someone was dead or if I'd somehow broken a law I didn't know about.  It turned out, though, that I was merely being summoned to jury duty.

BeesI should have guessed why the deputy came calling.  Our county court system had sent out a questionnaire a few weeks earlier, asking if there was any reason I wasn't eligible for jury duty.  I probably could have gotten out of it since one of the eligible excuses was being the owner of a business with no employees (or something similar), but I figured it was my civic duty to serve.  Plus, I've never been called for jury duty before and I always feel I owe it to myself to try new things at least once, to expand my horizons.

Saving tomato seedsAs the date got closer, though, I started regretting my high-minded thoughts.  Our farm and business run like a well-oiled machine most of the time, but that all breaks down if one of the two wheels is missing.  And the jury-duty literature refused to tell me how long I'd be serving --- maybe just one day, but maybe up to the entire four-month court session if there's some big trial I don't know about.

So I scurried around to get the farm ready to live without me.  Like most couples who homestead together, Mark and I divide up our responsibilities, and he can't really do my job any more than I can do his.  Things like checking the peach tree for brown rot, saving Big onionstomato seeds, cooking up soup, and feeding the bees take longer to explain than they do to perform, and I did my best to get caught up for the next day or two on Sunday.

Which is all a long way of explaining why, by the time you read this, I'll be winding down a foggy, country road to the courthouse (and why your comments won't come out of moderation until I get home).  I felt like a real weekend homesteader trying to get ready for a 9 to 5 job that might last all week, and I have to admit that I vastly prefer my full-time homesteading status.

Our chicken waterer keeps hens happy with clean water.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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One of the primary reasons that our American court system is so messed up is because the jury of our peers isn't. Most guys do everything they can to get out of jury duty and the result is that the dumbest individuals are left to decide the cases. We need right, natural, normal people on juries. The lawyers attempt to get people who are dumb and who can't understand our basic system. I am not meaning jury nullification, but instead being a jury of peers.

You will be amazed at how messed up the system is if you are chosen for a jury.

Comment by Dave Mon Aug 5 20:38:47 2013
It will be a test of the homestead's resilience.
Comment by Charity Mon Aug 5 22:36:35 2013

Just an update in case anyone's interested --- Monday turned out to be just an orientation day. About 35 of us showed up to listen to an hour's spiel, got paid $30 apiece, and then went home. I couldn't help doing the math and realizing they paid $1,000 for something that we could have done online for free!!

The good news is that most jurors in our county only get called in twice during the term. The bad news is, we're basically on call for the next three months, having to check a website the night before to see if we have to serve. Is that really how they do it in larger areas? It seems crazy to not be able to make plans for three months....

Comment by anna Tue Aug 6 07:47:54 2013

...but I don't have any suggestions on how to fix the messed-up-ness.

In my county in Northern CA, you only have to call in for a week per call-up to duty. The last time I was called, I went in ready to serve. The last two times I had been called, I was given deferrals (once because I had a nursing newborn and the next time because I was defending a dissertation). So I had made up my mind that it was time to do my duty, and I wouldn't try to get dismissed. I did much like Anna did, preparing my homestead as best I could for my possible absence, letting my boss know that I might have to reschedule my next week or so of projects, and even making arrangements for someone else to take my two small children to and from school and activities for the next two weeks. When I got through the orientation, I found out that the pending trial was anticipated to last for FIVE MONTHS. There were 110 witnesses scheduled to testify. We would be expected to show up every day from 8:30 to 4:00, and would receive a stipend of 15 dollars per day. Now, notwithstanding the personal inconvenience and the financial hardship, there was no possible way that my job would just hang in there for five months without me. Not that my boss would try to fire me, but that my projects were uniquely mine and would not wait. I shamefacedly asked to be released (and was).

But who could accept those terms? I struggle with what the limits of our civic duty are. When I think of the sacrifices those in the military, for example, make, I am still ashamed that I asked to be released. But the trial did occur- they found 12 people, maybe retirees or people who were unsuccessfully job seeking... I don't automatically assume that the folks they found were less able than I would be to do a good job as a juror. Maybe they were more suited, having equal outside concerns to mine but a greater sense of civic responsibility. But maybe not. In any case, I want to do my part but frankly don't want my part to take over my life for five months (with possible longer-term repercussions). Do I not deserve to enjoy the benefits of our justice system then? I'm still wrestling with it.

Comment by Heather Wed Aug 7 00:22:52 2013

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