The Recovery of Oikonomia

Oikonomia…a combination of two other Greek words, oikos (house) and nomos (law), that is the ancestor to our English term economics. In the most wooden sense the word simply means something like home management, but in the Hellenistic world, indeed every world prior to the urbanization movement of the Industrial Revolution, it had a much richer cultural significance.

The home was the center of everything in the pre-industrialized world, including family, education, and vocation, with the other spheres of society benefiting from this sphere’s sovereignty over its own ends. In our world today it is the norm for the home to be merely a place of escape from the real business of life, a place to eat, sleep, and Netflix your brains out before dividing up and setting off back into the “real world”…the important world out there somewhere.

Our home, even in the modern context we enjoy, is in most ways the center of everything to our family, with the intention and inertia constantly moving closer still to that end. Neither Luddites, nor Preppers, nor Hipster Homesteader wannabes, but definitely out of step with the modern impulses that all seem to be designed to divide us up even at the most significant level, the family itself.

This thread is an attempt to collect our efforts bent towards recovering a vibrant and integrated oikos, a place where my wife and my own efforts are collaborated towards a unified end, with our kiddos reaping the reward of healthy ground to grow up in. If I had a garage, I would have simply called this my garage build thread, but since I am most impoverished in that area (weep for me brothers) this is a collection of all the random “builds” and “projects” happening around the old house. It is my Oikonomia Build Thread…


I’m gonna make a suggestion, here, John. Your build threads are stories in and of themselves.

Consider writing each installment in an ongoing Google doc before you post them here. It will make turning them into a book someday a whole lot easier.



Love how much you get your kids involved. I’ll admit I’m not as good at that, but I do try. You inspire me to try harder!


The Shed, aka “The Den of Entropy” | entry 1

In the backest section of my backyard lies this portal to the abyss. I think it might be safe to assume that one of the reasons I was able to afford my house was because this death trap of a structure was decrepitly leering within the legal property boundaries. In anyone else’s story, this thing would have been torn down day one, and on day two a giant smoking pyre would still be sending its cursed remains up into the heavens for judgment.

Few sheds can rival mine for shitfest accolades. The roof, though originally asphalt shingles, has so much organic matter growing from it to be considered a thatched barn by weight. The door and window are both rotten shells, held together by nothing more than the black paint that reflects the shed’s black heart. Then there’s the rot. My shed’s wooden guts are so rotten that this is where the broke ass termites come to live once they’re on that Section 8 money, and everybody goes to bed hungry cuz there just ain’t enough wood left to go around.

I hate this shed. But really, I think I actually just hate what was done to this shed. The previous owners… (that word…excuse me while I fight the urges of the Dark Side, tempting me to give into my HATE & ANGER!!!) … sorry, where was I? Ah, yes. The [censored] who lived here before us put their fingerprints all over this thing. Half-assededness, neglect, and short-sighted stupidity all have their allegorical representations underneath the fig leaf inspired vinyl siding. It’s always been a feeble attempt to hide the folly of our hands.

The graffiti, the broken glass left lying in the dirt beneath repaired panes, the boxes of junk and discarded Christmas ornaments left behind, all are like scars telling tales of abuse. And if scars tell a tale from the surface, the scattered artifacts buried underneath tell the rest. After unearthing over a half dozen used oil filters from under the dirt floor, yet not before chiseling through the inch-thick layer of spilled driveway sealant first, I’m not sure if I haven’t stumbled onto some occultic den of sacrifice to the demons of environmental catastrophe. More fuel for the argument that what this shed really needs is a good burning.

And yet, maybe it really just needs a good bit of redemption. I did. If the worst thing you could say about [censored] was that they wrecked and abused an old shed, well I know I’ve left far worse in my wake. Redemption is an economic term. It refers to the price paid to ransom something from debt, pledge, or servitude. I’ve been redeemed from the ills of my past by the goodness of another. And similarly, since I bought this shed when I bought the rest of my house, I own it whatever its past sins or current state.

But since I own it, I now have the say on how it’s gonna look from here on out. It matters who does the redeeming. In imitation of my own Redeemer, I’ve a mind to not see things continue down the path of entropy and decay. I’d rather see it restored, preserved, and once again fit for what it was originally designed for.

Plus, there’s always the other economic reality with me. I simply can’t afford a new shed if I were to lose this one to the dilapidation monkeys. Since I need a place to keep all my crap out of the weather I’ll need to figure something out before entropy finishes the work of reclaiming this thing for the earth. Time to get the crew of Hobbits to work.


The Riding Mower, aka “Tetanus by a Thousand Cuts” | entry 1

I’ve got about a half acre of property, and a sizeable chunk of that real estate is covered in grass. You know what grass is good for? Not a blooming thing. I hate grass. But you know what, I don’t even know if I have anything that actually qualifies as grass growing in my yard. I’ve got weeds, and you wanna know what they’re good for? Pretending to be grass I guess. But I hate pretenders. Thus I hate weeds too.

And when your yard is this big and this green you gotta mow it all the time. And guess what? Yep, I hate mowing the grass. The only redeeming quality for me marching around my property behind a push mower, aside from all the exercise and skin cancer (for I am but fair skinned), is the thought that I am cutting down thousands of my enemies with each intrepid step. Alas, for I am a man weary of war and stained in the green blood of my enemies (at least my grass-cutting shoes are). I long for days of peace, yet the verdant hordes ever encroach upon my gates. I hate grass.

In my hatred for all things green and useless growing up around me I have employed numerous prudent, but extremely ill-thought out devices to combat the spread, the growth, and the flourishing of said greenery. First, I have gone through a lengthy and expensive process for acquiring children that will one day be sent off to take my place on the front lines with the green devils. Unfortunately, even after nine seasons of combat they are still unable to march behind the war machine, mowing down their enemies. You need more than just heart to win wars. You also need long legs.

Another strategem I’ve gathered is the planting of trees around my property. I’ve got several hundred year old trees in my backyard that do a marvelous job of depriving my enemies of the one thing they need to survive…access to the sun’s rays. No grass grows under the trees. Alas I fear that in this case, like in the case of my juvenile recruits, it will be decades before the new trees are to be considered engaged in the struggle. I may not have decades to wait.

Fortunately for me, I have recently come into possession of a weapon that might turn the tide of battle in my favor. I’ve inherited 18 golden ponies pulling a chariot of grass decapitating fury from my late grandfather, a legend in turf warfare in his day. With this weapon I will ride out as the dawn, dreadful as the full day’s sun, and all will love me and despair. Gwahahaha!!!

…at least they would, if the mower worked.

Too much compression. Too much rust. Too little juice left in the tank or the battery. Too many days in the field without a bit of relief or general maintenance. In other words…another project to complete before the tide finally turns in my favor. But it will…because I hate grass.


The Shed, aka “The Den of Entropy” | entry 2

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”

Time to start removing the vinyl fig leaves to count up the damage…

It was quickly evident that I might need a few extra fingers and toes…and a bigger calculator.

And maybe an accountant.

And it wasn’t merely Mother Nature or six-legged vandalists that I’d be contending with here. There was also the reality that the original builders weren’t doing me any favors when they half-assed this thing into existence. Some parts would need to be reengineered and rebuilt entirely.

And for as bad as the damage looked at skin-level it was even worse underneath. I had to employ some exploratory surgery to discover the cancer in the bones. It didn’t take much explorations though. It was there in spades. Oye vey, some may say. Others would say, “You know you can still burn this thing down? Might have to add a bit of wood first though.”

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" Read right and you realize that it isn’t so much the size or scope of the tower project, but that of the builder. Important distinction…

Now I have it on good authority that the guy who originally said this spent many of his early years working with wood. He’d know a thing or two about building towers I reckon…and probably sheds too. Yet I also know on better authority that he’s seen worse and fixed far worse…at great personal cost.


The Riding Mower, aka “Tetanus by a Thousand Cuts” | entry 2

“Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.”

My mechanic was quick to point out that the lawnmower had no gas. Technically a problem, but far from the worst in store. There were a few prizes down in the bottom of the fuel tank (more a jug if we’re honest…and that held onto the chassis with a huge zip tie), including the deteriorated remains of the fuel cap. Considering that the fuel pump for this thing consists of a pin sized hole in the bottom of the jug and the forces of gravity, all this debris was sure to be a source of clogs and starvation. Gonna need a new cap, new filter, and possible a manual shut off valve to keep the carb from flooding during long sits.

And another really large zip tie.

The fuel system wasn’t the only dry well in the power department. The battery on this guy probably hasn’t seen 12 volts in years, and in protests over these DC food shortages the residents of acid-ville have marched upon the surrounding villages plundering and sacking at will. Lots of brownish debris and airy nothingness where once was a metal battery tray.

Speaking of brownish debris or whatever PC term for Hegelian utopianism is in vogue these days, it had spread its withering ideals far afield. My grandfathers fought many wars in opposition to this threat to all things good, true, and beautiful, and thus the hatred runs blood deep. I’ll refer to it henceforth by the same four letter word they used…RUST. I hate it, and it all must die.

And then there’s a few instances of just plain old stupid. Despite the clean Carfax report, I’d say I’m safe to assume that judging by the dented frame rail, shattered plastic face panel, and cracked heat shield that this thing has probably been in a front end collision. But since the top speed on this thing is about the speed of smell (as Ron White would say), I’d have to assume that it was dropped off a roof or something similar to sustain the kind of kinetic violence necessary to bend and break the American-made steel chassis on this thing. Or who knows, maybe my grandfather was mowing the grass drunk and ran into a school bus.

The damage from the front rippled far up the driverside of this thing, resulting in a slew of broken plastic bits and pieces. None of which are made anymore, by the way. Nor are there any lawnmower pick-n-pull yards. Looks like I’ll have to learn how to weld plastic before this is all over.

Yet here be the real evil in all this. When trying to jumpstart this thing the starter couldn’t get it to crank. Well, it could crank her all day once I removed the spark plugs to free up the combustion pressure from the out of adjustment valves. Small engine repair is not one of my skills…yet. Always good to have an excuse to learn something new.

“Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.” “Terms of peace” you say? I could still just set this thing on fire and roll it off a cliff…probably pick up a used but working example for a few hundred bucks.

But the army of green devils was still out there, growing. Always growing and lusting to take back civilization from the hard won grip of American Patriotism. The combined forces of rust and weeds would seek to steal the heart of a lesser man. But not this man. Not this day. May the restoration begin. And to my enemies out there, kiss your grass goodbye.


All of these posts about sheds and mowers and - well, it just makes me pine for a yard. An actual pile of dirt, not covered in asphalt or concrete, that is mine. While I own a home in Southern California, it’s a townhouse. No yard, only balconies. Not the same. Not even a little bit.


The Shed, aka “The Den of Entropy” | entry 3

The roof…
The roof…
The roof…is on fire.

Burn [censored]… …burn.

The thought of razing this thing to the ground was never far from my mind in the first few days of this project. Nor was fire. Fire would make things a lot easier. Quick. Clean. Square one again.

But too final. The goal wasn’t hellfire, but redemption. Sure, the shed probably deserved every degree of perdition a bonfire could offer, or at least the six-legged vandals and the four-legged squatters surely did. But after calculating the costs of a new tower…err, shed I mean, and realizing that the best option in front of me was to try and fix this thing up as best I could, fixing it up was the road forward from here. Besides, there’s no coming back from a pile of embers.

Knowing now the sorry state of the walls and foundation I knew that the first thing to target was the source of the rot…a leaky and poorly installed roof. When you’re trying to turn things around, you can’t just slap another layer of shingles on top and call it good. Whoever worked on this thing before me would disagree, maybe not in words, but definitely in their work. We’ve already discussed how the vinyl siding made a poor fig leaf for covering up the shame. Well, the second effort of shingles on the roof had about the same success. Twice the shingles, and twice the leaks. Some try to hide, some try to smooth things over with another best effort. Doesn’t really matter though. Neither deals with the real problem.

And the problem here was water being where water wasn’t supposed to be, or maybe it was the shed that was the trespasser. I’m sure that’s what the rain would say if asked for her side of the story. There’s always two sides to every conflict, and each has its share of the blame.

One obvious thing from that second layer of shingles is that doing more of the same isn’t a winning strategy for conflict. Gonna have to strip this all the way back to the vulnerable bits underneath so I can find out why these two haven’t been getting along all these years. Shingles installed by an amateur, doomed to fail the moment they were tacked into service. And when it became obvious that there was a problem, a second coat of shingles was a way of deflecting attention away from the amateur hand.

It’s sad to see two who are made for each other tearing one another apart. The roof and his rain. But he’s not taking care of her, and she’s not respecting him. The rot that’s ruined many a home, my shed on the verge of being the most recent victim.

The solution is obvious. Flashing. Not a lick of it was put in when the first or second effort were tried. She gave herself generously, sometimes fiercely, but he was unable or unwilling to lead her. Disrespect has a way of seeping into areas of insecurity. Each side has its share of the blame. Neither has the humility to admit it.

The roof is on fire…

Though it would be far easier to watch this thing burn, that isn’t what’s going to happen. Redemption doesn’t work that way. I bought this shed, rot and all, and replacing it with some plastic alternative from the big box store after tearing it down doesn’t send the kind of message I’d like my kids to see or hear. I’d never say it was the right thing to do, but my works would. They’d hear them both.

That’s not how you deal with conflicts. We need water. Don’t let it burn.

Roofing here is about reconciliation. The roof and the rain are meant for each other. Time to admit where the problem is and put things back into the right order. I can’t fix the rain, but I for my part can learn from the mistakes of the past and put things right with the roof. New shingles, new underlayment…and flashing to lead the water to a productive end rather than a destructive one. There’s a reason roofing needs to be done a certain way. The same holds true in all relationships.


The Riding Mower, aka “Tetanus by a Thousand Cuts” | entry 3

Duke said it best…

You know all there is to know about fighting, so there’s no sense us going down that same old road again.

To beat this guy you need speed. You don’t have it.

And your knees can’t take the pounding. So hard running is out.

And you’ve got arthritis in your neck, and you’ve got calcium deposits on most of your joints. So sparring is out.

So what we’ll be calling on is good old fashioned blunt force trauma. Horsepower. Heavy-duty, cast iron, pile drivin’ punches that’ll have to hurt so much they’ll rattle his ancestors. Every time you hit him with a shot he’s gotta feel like he tried kissing the express train.

[neck snaps]…Yeah! Let’s start building some hurtin’ bombs.

Here’s where the two storylines diverge a bit. Rocky would go on to start jacking steel and punching meat, while I would go on to tearing down the mower to its base elements. Rocky didn’t have stage four tetanus. The decapitation tractor does. Also, Rocky’s trainer Duke didn’t have stage four OCD. I might be guilty of a few stages of that.

Not to worry. I’m sure we’ll be building some hurtin’ bombs before we know it. Now where’s that grinder…


Please tell me your mower is destined for similar shenanigans…

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