In this episode, I talk with Kylie about how she designed her backyard aquaponics setup and how she developed a small-scale food forest in the front yard of her house.
Our guest, Kylie, has a YouTube channel where she discusses aquaponics and gunfighting (https://www.youtube.com/c/AutonomousAlternative), and she is on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/autonomous_alternative/). She accepts donations for the free content she produces (https://ko-fi.com/autonomousalternative)
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the End Times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy, and this week’s episode I’m talking with Kylie, an aquaponics farmer. And aquaponics is basically, in short, the idea that you can raise fish in order to use their waste to provide you with other food that you grow. And I didn’t really know that much about this and I got really excited about it when I first started seeing her videos on the process. I ran across her, she has a YouTube channel that I’m sure she’ll talk about on the show. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts, and here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Da da da daaaaaa!
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Okay, so if you could go ahead and introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then any—I dunno, just like a brief introduction of how you got into what we’re going to talk about today.
Okay, my name is Kylie, she/her pronouns. I’m an aquaponics farmer, or a small-time farmer honks farmer, a backyard one. And I show and talk about how it’s going to be beneficial for yourself and your neighborhood and everyone else around you to have access to that in your own backyard. As well as doing things like food forests, and reclaiming the land that you do have around house and in your area, in your community, anywhere you can get to.
Okay, so, so what is aquaponics? It’s a word that I had probably heard before, but as we discussed a moment ago, before I hit record, I didn’t know the difference between it and hydroponics. And I don’t—you know, so what is aquaponics?
So the big difference between aquatics and hydroponics is whether or not you’re using fish in your system. If you’re using fish to provide all the nutrients and everything else that you need to grow your plants, then that’s aquaponics. But when you’re dealing with hydroponics, usually you’re using different types of chemicals and fertilizers in order to amend your water so that can grow healthy plants. Aquatics is really just a mixture of aquaculture and botany, or whatever the word for taking care of plants is.
That’s interesting to me, because one of the reasons that I never got particularly into hydroponics is that it seemed like it—if you have to add the nutrients to the water yourself—like you have to go out and buy them or something to add them—it didn’t really have a lot of interest to me as someone who is interested in building things that could be autonomous.
No, and I’m really not interested in involved becuase of that. With the hydroponics you’re completely dependent on lots of different industries in order to amend your water. But with the aquaponics, you can make it so that everything is sustainable and you can grow your own fish food, feed fish, and then use their fish waste in order to grow your plants.
How did you first get involved in in aquaponics?
Um, about eight years ago—maybe 10 years ago—I saw my husband out in the backyard digging a koi pond. I said. “What are you doing this for, you know, you don’t have enough time to take care of just a koi pond just sit there and look at.” And I thought he was crazy at the time. He dug a small one in the backyard. And of course he didn’t have much time to take care of it and I started taking care of it and started improving it little by little through the years, and then decided, hey, we have this fish and we have all this fish waste that we’re having to deal with all the time. Why don’t we just route it through a couple of pipes and try and grow some plants in it? And the first couple of times that we started—we ended up with some lateral systems and those that workout for us, they leaked all the time, it was a huge nightmare. We almost just stopped doing it entirely because it was such a mess. But little by little we tweaked the design and we’ve ended up with something that’s been running strong for probably about four years now non-stop.
Okay. And so what is the end result of aquaponics? Are you basically, are you raising fish to eat? Or is it more about keeping fish and then using their waste to grow vegetables? Like, what is the—what’s the goal? What is the result of it?
The goal is that, of course, you can grow all your vegetables that you need. And then if you want to grow protein as well because I don’t know what vegetables I can grow within the system that are going to provide me with protein or fats or anything like that. So if you’re looking for a more rounded, a more full diet, or whatever you want to say, growing the fish with it is going to provide that for you. Now, if you don’t want to eat the fish, that’s completely up to you. That’s dependent on you. If you just want to have koi—of course, you’re not eating koi, you can just have them because they’re pretty in they’re big waste producers, that’s something that you can do, that’s a personal choice. But for me, we probably a few fish a year. We don’t eat them that often because it’s a little weird when you don’t have such a big setup and you see your fish every day, and—it’s a little bit more to have to go and harvest them. So usually when they do get too big, we’ll either sell them off to other people that are gonna use them for the same thing, or—that’s about it. We’ll pull a few and eat them but it’s not very often for us personally. But it’s definitely an option with the system if that’s something that you’re looking into, because it takes about eight months for tilapia to grow out, for example. So every eight months, you’re going to have a fresh rotation of fish.
And what’s the advantage of using aquaponics over other methods of like backyard gardening and things like that? Like, what draws you to aquaponics besides the fact that you also get a fish pond out of it?
Well, um, I would say space, but there’s a lot of different aquaponics systems and ways that you can go about it. I honestly haven’t seen very many people using the vertical system that I’ve come up with because it takes all the growing space that you do have, even if you have a—you know how these apartments will have like a small five by five little patio in the backyard? You’re not going to be able to grow anything in that. You know, maybe it’s all concrete, maybe it’s there’s no grass there, and you can’t even have anything there except for maybe a couple of potted plants. But those still take up a certain amount of ground space. With this you could have, you know, a two by five footprint. And you could have a 10-square foot grow space for yourself, if that makes sense. So you take that little 5×5 and you turn it in—and—well, you’re only using 2×5 and you’re turning it into a 10 just like that. Because it goes up about 8 feet.
Okay. And so it’s particularly good for, like, kind of like backyard level growing and, you know, porch growing and stuff like that? Does it also—are people doing this who are out on land, or?
I’m the only one doing it the way that I’ve seen so far. I’ve taken little bits from both hydroponics and aquaponics because it’s far more common to see a vertical system in a hydroponic setup. So I’ve taken things from what they do and I’ve mixed them together with aquaponics to kind of create my own. The way that I’ve done it, it’s scalable. So if you did have a bunch of land out there, wherever you’re at, you could link these things up and just have them going on in a straight line forever. And with the addition of course with more pumps and more filtration, but you can just keep on adding onto the system easily. So if you only have the 2×5 grow space, you can still do it and get a lot out of it—enough to feed, you know, a two-person household salads every day. Or you could have, you know, you could have a full scale setup, you know. You could have one of those industrial farms, yeah it’s gonna take a little bit more work and you’re probably going to cut some corners here and there on, you know, like tank buildings and stuff like that in order to save yourself some money, but it’s definitely doable on a larger scale.
Okay. And what—what kind of climates does it work for? Like what kind of climates is this good for?
I can’t personally speak for climates up north because I’m in the subtropics and tropics.
So for me it works year round. And it’s absolutely beautiful. It never stops, I don’t ever have to worry about anything freezing over. But if you are in a cold climate, there are options for you. You can insulate your tanks, you can also start growing indoors so that you can grow year-round. The best option, instead of getting a bunch of grow lights and trying to go that route is probably a greenhouse, that way you get the free sunlight. And then all you’re doing is what I’m doing right now is paying for a little bit of power to run the pumps.
Okay. Yeah, I spent a lot of my—a lot of my life is involved with the frustrations of things freezing, like, and being destroyed in the winter. I’m on my, like, maybe third propane hot water heater for my shower here. And so I’m like, anything—as soon as you’re like, “Oh, it involves water pumps,” my thought was like, “Oh god, I’m gonna have to replace every fucking piece of it every time it drops below freezing.” So a greenhouse makes more sense.
Oh, yeah. I mean, if it’s like that, you’d have to stop the pumps for a certain, you know, however many months out of the year and bring them inside, take all the water out of things because if it does freeze over, you know, it just expands and starts cracking everything.
Okay, so what are you feeding the fish? You said you’re also growing the fish food? Is that—what makes that more efficient than just growing your own food?
Well, there’s a lot of foods that you can grow very easily and there’s parts of different plants that we don’t necessarily—like yucca, for example, or I think another name for it is cassava? Is that, you know, we the roots of it, but we don’t really eat the leaves of it. So I have all this biomass sitting there growing out my yucca, and I can’t really touch it. It’s not doing me any good. But I can go and feed that to my fish and they love it. So I’m getting free food out of the deal, and I’m also feeding myself at the same time. And when I’m pruning those yucca leaves, you know, daily, it actually makes the yucca plant grow a lot more vigorously. So there’s a lot of different plants such as sweet potato, things like that, that I can take the leaves from that I wouldn’t normally eat and feed them to my fish. Tnstead of buying the commercial fish feeds that are filled with all sorts of horrible chemicals that are going to get you sick, you can just grow your own fish food. And even inside the system itself, if you don’t have other space to grow different plants to feed them, you can grow extra things like lettuce in your system and just feed them the extra lettuce.
Okay, that’s cool, it—I’m not very—of all the sort of off-grid skills that I have, food has never been one of them. And I think people—listeners have probably sort of noticed that I haven’t really covered much about how to do one of the most basic things that everyone is interested in for being prepared, which is growing food. And so I get excited about concepts like this and I ran across—I ran across your work because of other work that you’ve done. You do videos around gun fighting and general, like, preparedness to be in the field and stuff like that. And then I saw your hydroponics work and—or aquaponics work.
Yeah, it’s a—my gun fighting stuff is more kind based on, like, logistics. It’s less about, I don’t know, I don’t really see anyone else kind of doing what I’m doing in the format that I’m doing it. So it’s kind of hard to describe for me, but it’s based in logistics. This is what you should be looking into, don’t worry about all the fantasy scenarios, don’t worry about any of this, this is what’s going to keep you alive in this very specific scenario of a gunfight without any context there as to what fight is or why it is or how you got there. That doesn’t matter.
I’ll probably ask you a bit more about that stuff at the end. But I wanted to talk to you more about food stuff. Like how—I mean, obviously one of the answers is watch your video series on it. But how does one get started doing aquaponics? What would you say to someone who’s starting to do it?
Start taking care of fish first. Even if it’s—even if it’s something that you’re looking at down the line and, you know, maybe you don’t want to jump right into it. If you have just an apartment for now and all you can keep as a fish and you don’t have the room for this but go into it someday, start taking care of fish now. That way, you know, even if you have a small aquarium in your house, one day you can translate those same skills into a bigger format. And there are small-scale aquaponics things that you can do with just a fish aquarium in your house to kind of work through the kinks and learn what works and what doesn’t and how to take care of the plants at the same time, because those two skills are extremely—there’s a lot of—what do you call it? Like, you’re learning from your failures type-thing. You know, there’s a lot of trial and error there?
Yeah, I’ve only ever tried to keep a fish once and it was a terrible—is one of those goldfish that was like, you go to the community swimming pool and it’s, like, they don’t chlorinate it that day and they put goldfish in it and you can bring them home, and then the goldfish die after like three days. Which doesn’t do anyone any good because then I just became convinced, like, ah yes, I cannot—yeah, I’m like, I can’t keep fish, they just die. Because I’ve tried once. This is also the reason I don’t garden, to be real. I, you know, when I was a kid they were like, bring home this sapling and plant it.
But you know what, the reason why [inaudible]. A lot of people don’t think that they can take care of things just for those reasons you go to even Home Depot, for example, and the plants are almost dead by the time you get them.
So you take them home and normally something that you’d be able to keep up with, it’s already dead when it’s in your hands. You know, maybe hasn’t started showing the signs of it or what have you, just like some of the fish that you get. So it’s like, it gives people a bad taste in the mouth and then they decide, “Oh, I’m not gonna ever be good this.” Like, I know how it is. I failed math a few times. I don’t think I’m ever gonna be good at it at this point. I’m not even gonna touch it. So I can imagine seeing something dying in front of you, that’s even bit more rememberable. Oh no, I can’t be trusted with that. But it is a lot easier with—
Sorry, you cut out. It’s a lot easier with what?
I just said it’s a lot easier than you think.
Okay. Yeah, no, I’m like—I’m now trying to figure out whether my landmates will forgive me if I dig a koi pond. I have a feeling that we’re not in the right, you know, the right space for at least an underground one. Maybe like a smaller setup like you have. But I don’t know. So you do—you do work around—you do work around aquaponics but you also have interest in forest agriculture and community agriculture, right? As like a kind of like a larger food autonomy idea?
Yeah, basically my vision and what I want to see in my community is just reclaiming all the land around us. Deciding what we want to do with it. Whatever the city says, if we all have food forests in our front lawn, waht are they gonna to do? You know, what are they going to do? You know, the code says one thing, but if we’re all doing it and that’s what we’ve decided we wanted for our community, they can’t stop us. So my goal is to kind of do the guerilla gardening thing where I can, and where I can get away with it. And being an example in my own neighborhood to my neighbors, which, my neighbors have already started catching on. What I’ve done is I’ve taken over my front yard, gotten rid of all the grass that literally doesn’t pay rent. It doesn’t feed you, it doesn’t do anything but poison your land and waste your time and money. So I’ve taken that up and I’ve planted a food forest with tons of different plants kind of living and helping each other, and it’s just out there. I have neighbors coming up to me all the time taking coconuts and—what are they called—papayas and stuff like that every day. Then I have little peppers in there, and another little herbs and everything else, and people can just walk by on the sidewalk and pick it up. And since I’ve been doing that, I’ve been seeing a lot of my neighbors start growing their own fruit trees, because I have fruit trees completely surrounding my property. So wherever I have a free spot that’s maybe like eight by eight, I’m going to put a fruit tree. And I’ve given out tons of fruit trees, because whenever I get them, of course I save the seeds and I plant them. If they grow, that’s great. I hand them out to someone, they go plant it somewhere. So it’s like, there’s little things that individuals can do. And just saving seeds, for example. Just save a seed, put it in a pot, hand it off to someone that can grow it. You know, there’s a lot of things that we can do and we can influence everyone around us to do the same thing. If we have an entire neighborhood with food forests in their front lawn, that’s going to change the climate of the area. That’s literally going to create a microclimate.
And that’s going to encourage all the natural flora and fauna and all the animals to start coming back and, you know, for the people that will eat that protein, that’s another food source. In my area in South Florida we have a lot of—a lot of wildlife and there’s a lot of invasive wildlife too, which I’m trying to get a handle on. I’ve definitely seen an impact since I’ve been actively going after them and trying to encourage other people to eat them when they can. Because, you know, it’s destroying our ecosystems down here. But I have noticed a difference, just me going out and during those little things. So wherever you’re at, there’s something that you can do. If there’s a median in the middle of the road, there’s nothing stopping you from going and plan something out there. If they take it up, they take it up, you know, and there’s not really a loss there, you can always get another seed. But you gotta try. That’s the important part.
That’s interesting to me because I often think about how we don’t think about how we can have an impact and how, like, you know, it’s—some of these problems that we deal with, right, are so big that we just sort of think, “Oh, we can’t have any impact on this.” And then even, like, when—I was raised very detached from—I mean, I spent time in nature, but I spent—I was still very detached from like the concept that I would have an impact on nature. Like the idea that, like, hmm—like with a prepping thing, everyone talks about like, “Oh, well, I’ll just go out and eat deer and squirrels or whatever,” right? But then I remember reading about how, during the Great Depression, people hunted deer and squirrels almost to extinction. And it’s—and I—people don’t think about the fact that we can have this outsized impact. And the idea that you can create an actual microclimate in your neighborhood is really cool. I’ve never really thought about it quite like that before.
Yeah, I’ve read a few things where, in different countries at certain points in time—I don’t remember where it was or when it happened—but they started doing something similar to that. And they were creating microclimates around their area. And, you know, increase the the wildlife and everything else. So even if, during the Great Depression, you know, people want to say, “I’m gonna go out meet deers and squirrels.” Well that’s, you know, with as many people as there is, that’s still a limited thing. You could, just like you said, you could almost go and hunt them to extinction. If the environment still isn’t beneficial to them, they’re not going to be there in those great numbers that you need them to be.
Yeah, it’s that extractive mindset, right? The like idea that nature is just this pool of resources that we draw from, not something that we actually tend to and try and—try and improve or try and create, like, a symbiotic relationship with.
Right. Yeah, people think that they can take a resource without replacing it, you know, and you have to—if you’re hunting an animal, you also have to encourage their propagation.
You know, or else you’re only going to be hunting them for a short period of time.
Yeah, I sometimes wonder if that was the—if that was the food system that I had grown up into I, you know, probably never would have gone vegan. My veganism was absolutely a response to the ways in which, you know, industrial meat production is done.
No, that’s another reason that I like to do what I do. Because it’s like, if someone, you know, if we have a bunch of squirrels out here because we have so many fruit trees and everything else, if someone wants to go out and take one of those squirrels and eat it, I don’t see that as any type of thing. That’s the way things are supposed to be. I don’t—I want to create an alternative, literally, for that industrial monocultural agriculture. You know, it’s like, it’s too much. And it’s completely unethical. People have to do what they have to do, of course, but there needs to be an alternative there for it. If we want to get rid of that, we have to first create the alternative.
And the alternative may be reclaiming our lands around us and using them to propagate food.
What—I especially like this idea, because most of the ways that I’ve seen people talk about, you know, raising animals for proteins, is on like a small-scale or an off-grid sense, is more about specifically the raising of animals, right? Like, it’s—as compared to what you’re talking about that kind of interests me more is about, like, creating the environment in which these animals can flourish enough to the point where one could, you know, without fucking up their overall population or whatever, like, go and take some of them.
That’s exactly it. And I feel like, once we can free ourselves from having to spend so much of our time in pursuit of money in order to get food and provide for ourselves and be subservient to that, you know, food system, you know, we’ll have more time that we can spend, you know, in our communities. Rather than having to work maybe 40 hours a week, maybe we can cut back a little bit, because we’re not having to worry about the basics of food. And once we’re spending—my idea is once we’re spending more time at home and we’re growing our own food, we have a lot more time to organize, and we have a lot more to lose with our residences, our land, or wherever we we reside. Um, once we can do that, then the next step is, what’s the next thing that you need? You need housing. You know, if we’re spending that much more time at home organizing, maybe we can protect that housing. Maybe we can protect our residences so that when they do come in, try and tell us, “Oh, that’s not code, you can’t do that.” Or “We’re going to kick you out because you’re not paying rent,” or whatever else it is, we can just squat it. You know what I’m saying we can say, “Hey, we’re all here, we got the time and you can’t starve us out, you know? Maybe we can start to reclaim parts of our lives, maybe we can spend more time at home with our families. The more food we grow, the more freedom we grow for ourselves. And then we can translate that into securing other basic necessities of life, like our housing.
Yeah. I think of when I first got involved with anarchism I spent maybe five years at least—maybe a little bit longer—without a job as a result of that, and I worked constantly but it was just all organizing and especially just sort of, like, frontline work. And a lot of it was like squatting and things like that, and some of it was squatting so that we have place to live or whatever, but also a lot of it was like, you know, squatting as a political project and things like that. And I like the—but it was definitely something that was presented on some level as, like, you know, there’s a certain amount of like privilege to be able to just, like, “Oh, I’m just gonna choose to not have a job and trust the movement to take care of me.” And, you know, there was a lot of like food donations we ate and stuff like that. And I think we, like, worked for it. I’m not embarrassed of this period of my life or whatever. But I like this way of doing it where that generalizes a bit more of the way that you’re talking about it, where we can minimize the amount of, like, you know, paid labor or whatever that we have to fuck with.
Right. The amount of time that we need to sell of our lives in order to survive and meet our basic necessities.
One thing I’ve always liked—you talk about food forests and, again, I I haven’t really fucked with food production. You know, this last year I finally realized, I was like staring at the, like, “Oh god, I actually have to fuck with food production.” And I’m in a very good place to do it because I, you know, live off grid on technically a farm. And—but the thing that—but it never—part of what never appealed to me about it, that food force does appeal to me, is I kind of like the idea of like food forests is, like, the like lazy way of gardening in some ways. Like it’s a lot more like planning, but then theoretically, you’re growing plants.
Oh, yeah. So it’s a lot easier.
Yeah. How does—like, how did you get involved with doing that? Like, what are—what are some steps that people can take to start doing food foresting if they have, like, a yard or something like that?
Well, in my area, the code tells me that I can have ornamental, you know, bushes and stuff like that. And I can have, like, mulch surrounding them. But I can’t just go and take away all my grass. They tell me that. But what I did is I planted a couple fruit trees in my front yard. You know, they don’t say anything about trees, luckily, in my area. So I planted a couple trees and then I put mulch around. And then I would plant, you know, a bush, maybe like an oregano bush in between those two trees. And then I put a little bit more mulch around that one. And then it just kept on growing from there. And each thing I would just start planting another plant in between each of the other ones, and then just adding mulch until it completely on my entire front lawn. And then it completely covered my entire back lawn—or backyard, whatever you want to say. It’s little by little. You know, if you start—the best place to start is with fruit trees. You know, you get that whole canopy up and you don’t want to be completely covering everything. But you get that up and then you start mulching around it, just start moving out slowly from there.
And eventually you’re going to start to see all the native pollinators come back into the area, you’re going to see all the birds come back, all the bees. I swear, like, the first year I did it, I had never seen like a bee warm before. And then all of a sudden in my coconut trees, there’s just forms of bees. You know, they’re not like harming anything, but it’s like, oh, wow. And they’re all going around pollinating all the little flowers and all fruit trees all around my place. It was amazing. And I’ve never seen that in my neighborhood before. And it happened quickly.
That’s interesting. How, were you—like how long from planting the trees till that kind of stuff started happening?
Oh, about a year, because I do it pretty quickly. Like, you know, adding the mulch and adding plants and growing it out. I did it pretty rapidly. And after about a year I would, you know, I’ve got really sandy soil here that doesn’t have a whole lot of anything and it’s very loose, kind of falls apart little gray. And, you know, I reach down in my soil now and I reach down past the first layer of woodchips and all the woodchips underneath that are completely broke down now. It’s completely, like, black soil underneath there. And there’s mushrooms growing everywhere. You’ll pick up a piece of the mulch, and it will just be one big cake of mycelium or whatever it’s called—the white little tendrils that interconnect it. And that happened within a year of just—I first put manure down, like cow manure, and then I put the mulch on top of it. And it took a year, you know. And then my fruit trees started really producing well, and the bees and birds showed up, and it’s been beautiful ever since. It’s probably gone on about five years now. And it’s it’s very low-maintenance. Like you said, it’s kind of the the lazy way of gardening.
Have you had much pushback from the city or neighbors or anything like that?
I had pushback. Several years ago when I first—I think it was after I planted my first fruit tree out there. I wasn’t really trying to do the food forest thing yet or anything, but I was trying to get rid of some of my grass. And I had a—I was out there in the yard working. I was really hard, frustrated, been digging holes all day. And I had a city code compliance car stop right in front of my house and he came out to me and he didn’t even speak to me, which I found odd. And he walked straight up to my door and he put a notice on it. And I walked over I picked it up. I said, “What’s this? What are you doing?” He’s like, “Oh, well, I’m I’m fining you for this,” or whatever. And I was just like, “How the hell are you gonna fucking find me, you didn’t even tell?” You know, at least give someone a warning first.
Maybe you’ve been putting stuff in my mailbox and I didn’t see it or know about or whatever. But like, you can’t just come at people like that. And I started getting irate with him. I’m not exactly proud of it.
[Laughing] Uh huh.
I just kind of explained to him. I was like, “Why are you extorting people? Do you feel proud of yourself? Like, how—are they gonna pay you extra for doing this?” I said, “Listen,” because he was wanting me to go and pay for sod because my grass wasn’t looking good enough up to his standard. And that’s really what it was all about. I guess the sod wasn’t up to his standard—is a little brown places, we were going through a drought. I wasn’t watering my lawn because I didnt [inaudible]. You know? And he’s like, “Oh, well, you need to go out and buy sod.” I said, “Well, I can’t do that. You know, I don’t have the money to do that. What do you expect me to do? Do you think fining me is going to help me find the money in order to do what you want me to do? Do you want this neighborhood to be beautiful, or do you want to just punish me?” And I don’t know if what I said got through to that individual. But I’ve never had them come back. I don’t know if he went back to the headquarters and put a little black mark and said don’t visit this house. But, I don’t know. Whatever has happened since then has happened since then. And I’ve checked in with him a few times, like, “Hey, can I do this? Can I do that?” Just to get an idea if there’s going to be pushback—not that I’m asking permission, but it’s good to know if there’s going to be pushback. So, you know, I’ve been lucky.
I’ll just say I’ve been lucky. And I think that the more people that see what I’m doing, and they see that it’s possible, the more it’s going to start happening and the less they’re going to be able to enforce it, just like I was saying earlier. It’s too much.
You know, when you do find everyone $300 a day every day? That’s unsustainable. It’s not even realistic to expect that.
Yeah, I find building code stuff to be this interesting mess of, like, I remember the first time I watched some of dealing with it, a friend of mine—one of my first friends to like go get land and start, you know, building a place to live rurally—and he got, you know, he was allowed—the like hippies in the area had fought for the fact that you could now do human compost. And you could—you know, human waste compost not human bodies—and you could do a solar water pump for your well. And he was like, great! So he went and he set all that stuff up and then they came and they were like, “You don’t have a septic field or a septic tank.”
Yeah, they’ll get you on those septic codes.
And he’s like, correct, in this county you’re allowed to do this. Yeah, it was interesting, because it was like, even though you’re allowed to do it the, like, you know, the natural way or whatever, you still have to have, like, a regular grid tied electric pump for your well, and you still have to have a septic field or a septic tank, even though—you know, it’s that weird thing where, like, I’m sure the people who fought for the right to compost their shit, like, probably were living in houses that were pre-built and already had all the septic stuff already figured out. And it’s just like such a—you know, it’s interesting cuz I had this moment of being like, “Oh, I’m so glad I live really and I don’t have to deal with that stuff.” I was like, wait, like living rurally, we think about and deal with code all the time also. You know, everyone who wants to do something slightly out of the ordinary has to deal with—it’s such a—it’s such a nonsensical, small thing. You know? It’s so, like, I think if you tell the average person, like, “Hey, if you buy a house, you’re not allowed to paint it like pink with purple polka dots.” And you’re, like, but it’s my house. Don’t we live in this, like, capitalist country where we, like, our private property is, you know, our own private property? And you’re like, yeah, you still can’t paint your house. I don’t know, I was a grouchy libertarian teenager for a couple months around stuff like that before I realize the nightmare of capitalism.
Till you realize that you still can’t do what you want to do because there’s still another guy bigger than you are.
Yeah, exactly. It was actually like I was—
The septic company lobbied the government to not let you get away without a septic tank.
Yeah. My communist girlfriend in high school was like, “Corporations would run everything.” And I was like, you’re right and I don’t have a counter-argument. And that ended my, like, three months of being a libertarian. But I was like, but I still don’t want the government to tell me what to do. Yeah. To tie this in to anarchy and anarchism and doing for ourselves, one of the things that we talked about when we were talking about maybe doing this episode is—something that came up for you as you were talking about how, like, politics and organizing, and maybe anarchism specifically, is like a practice or it’s nothing. And I was wondering if you wanted to talk about your thoughts on that.
Um, I just get tired of people getting caught up in—not that I’m bashing, you know, the intellectual side of it at all. We need people to think of alternatives, we need people to theorize, we need all of that. But when you put that onus on the average person and you expect them to go read a book in order to, you know—they don’t—my point is, they don’t need to go read any book in order to do things. You know what I mean? If there’s homeless people in your area that need to be housed and fed, it doesn’t matter if someone’s read a book. They can be completely illiterate. That doesn’t change the fact that their praxis or whatever you would call it is effective. They can go help, you know, change people’s lives without ever knowing what they’re doing is called. Just because there is a label for it doesn’t mean that you have to apply that label. Because, especially in this country where we’ve all been propagandized so thoroughly that anything outside of the system as it is, is seen as, you know, a Boogeyman. It’s scary. You can’t mess with it, you can’t talk about it. So if, for example, you talk to your neighbor about, let’s say, setting up a community garden, and you mentioned communism or anarchism, he’s probably just not even gonna talk to you. Because it’s not—it’s not because he doesn’t agree with what you want to do, it’s because he has these preconceived notions of what that means. And if you just leave that out of the conversation, and you leave the conversation at “What can we do to improve our and our community’s well being?” You know, like, that’s where the conversation needs to be centered. Not on, “Oh, you didn’t read this book or that book or agree with this 100-year-old philosopher this or that.” You don’t need that. People before Kropotkin and Karl Marx, you know, were doing and living in these societies that were anarchistic by label, by modern label, you know, they didn’t have a word for then call it anything that was just the way of life and made sense for them at the time. And somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that as an entire people throughout the world, you know. Once this type of, you know, brutality and violence took place and subjugated everyone put them into different categories and classes—once that took hold, we forgotten it. But every—you know, I believe that, you know, throughout—we got to the point of where we are because we did act like that. We evolved as human beings because we act in community, because we acted without arbitrary authorities over us. I think that we evolved to this point because of those things. So we need to recognize that that’s in all of our ancestries.
That genetic or mental, you know, memory is there. We just have to find it again and cut through all the bullshit that we’ve been taught in order to rediscover it and be like, oh, there is a way to just live. I remember when I was a kid, I was talking—I was having like an existential crisis, where I was like 12 or 13. And I was talking to my friend, I said, “You know, I don’t really want to go to school, I don’t want to like, go and grind out a job. Why can’t my job just be to grow a little bit of food? Why can’t I just go sleep on the beach, make myself a little hut? And have a little garden there and just be myself?”
And I was asking all these sorts of questions like, why not? Why not? Why not. And my friend who’s, you know, 13 as well, got extremely upset with me and started screaming at me, and she’s like, “But this is just the way it is and you need to get used to it because you’re not going to, you know, survive with that type of thinking, or with that type of mentality.” And, you know, it kind of cut through me and I’m like, well, maybe she’s right. And of course, you know, to an extent she is right. The system will kill you if you step outside it. It’ll will either jail you, starve you, or fucking literally murder you if you step outside the system and try and grow your own food, or trying to create your own education systems or systems of, you know, governments, I should say. It will fucking kill you. And, you know, I had to take what she was saying. I don’t know if it was from the frustration of not being able to explain to me why life is fundamentally like this now and why it’s so unnatural. Or if it came from a genuine concern of, you’re going to die. But either way, it kind of woke me up to, oh wow, something’s not right here. Why am I kind of the outlier here, you know? That little schism kept on going on until my early 20s, until I finally figured it out. But, you know, because I—you know, despite all that, you know, at 13, all that questioning, I was still subjected to all the propaganda in this country and I still, I still succumb to it and I joined the US Army at 18. You know, like, I kind of took what she said to her. I’m like, well, I better get with gettin and do what I’m supposed to do. So I tried that for a few years. And despite my anarchist tendencies without a label, and anarchist leanings and thoughts without that label, like, I still went in. And, you know, that little schism just drove me crazy until my early 20s. And so I was like, oh, this isn’t working for me. This isn’t working for anybody. You know, there’s got to be something else, there has to be a real alternative. And I started reading history, you know. There is a lot of good that can come and help shape your worldview from the books and from the theory and everything else. So when I started reading history, and I’m like, we came from this. You know, look at the Amazon. Supposedly that’s a gigantic food forest. You know, like, there’s a lot of little archeological dig sites where they find all this shattered pottery and all these plants that are basically, you know, plants that we made just like corn and everything else wasn’t just something that was naturally here all the time. We made that from a grass. You know, and the reason that we were able to do that in such a short period of time with such genetic diversity is because, for example, everyone had tiny little farms around their residences. You know, instead of these gigantic farms, it was tiny little home gardens. So you have, you know, hundreds of people around you all growing these little different strains of corn and grasses, and eventually turns into something bigger. They’ve separated us entirely and prohibited us from even dreaming about that. Now, I think that’s like one of the biggest fucking crimes in the world so far, is that they make us go along with the genocide and the war and the famine and all of that when we literally don’t have to, because they’ve coerced us.
One of the things when you’re talking—one of the like advantages of a label, in some ways… I don’t know, I think about like, so—and this is presumptive—but you went in, you said you went into the military kind of like not, you know, you had all this sort of like anarchistic energy, but you didn’t really know what to do with it yet, or you didn’t, you know, you didn’t know yourself in that way. But so in some ways I wonder if that’s, like, one of the advantages of a label is that, for me, when I finally, like, kind of, like, discovered and sort of calling myself an anarchist I was 19. And it was able to—I was able to like kind of—it was like a lens with which to see my own thoughts. And I think that I try to not feel confined by the label “anarchist,” like, but it still helped me wrap my head around ideas that I’ve been struggling with for so long to realize that there was this strain. And I do think there’s huge limitations with anarchism, especially as like, viewing it as like a Western philosophy and, you know, like, oh, it’s 150 years old and comes from Europe or whatever. But it still gives me a, like, a sense of, like, now I can look back and see rebels throughout history and see, like, very similar ways of struggling. And, I don’t know.
I still agree with you about the, like, you shouldn’t propagandize your neighbors, you know, I think that just, like, going and getting the shit done…
But, um, you know, the label is useful on an individual level for you to group certain ideas together and to learn more about it. Because, of course, you’re building off people’s knowledge previous. Like, of course, I’ve read Mutual Aid. I think it’s—I think it’s brilliant. And maybe, like, I don’t have to go exactly with what he says, but I can build off of it. I can take the labor that he’s already put down for us and I can build off of that. I can use that as a jumping off point. But the the problem is, is when you get dogmatic about these things.
You know, some people get dogmatic and it’s like, okay, but, you know, give—leave some room for nuance. Leave some room for expansion. Don’t just sit there and be stagnant. You have to grow. And you can’t use it as a limitation.
You know, that’s when it becomes problem is when it becomes a limitation. It limits your efforts or your organizing or your ability to work with others. But if you can use it as a way to further your own understanding of what’s going on around you and your own ability to increase the well being of people in your community, then that’s where it’s at. That’s where you have to focus it.
Yeah. What was it like to sort of fall out of favor of like—like, okay, so you went and joined the army and then you kind of—did you, like, realize that was a mistake? Or how did that—I don’t know. I’m just curious about the way you were talking about that.
Well, you know, just like I said, I had anarchist tendencies, you know, when I was younger, and then 9/11 happened. My dad told me that we’re at war when I was 11 and that kind of stuck with me. And of course all the propaganda that was ramped up right after that, I felt like I had to. Um, I went in and I didn’t really know what was going on in the war—it was probably 2008 by the time I went in, and I didn’t really understand it. I was just taking with whatever my parents said, wherever they heard on Fox News, probably. And I just ran with it. And I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was part of making my community better or safer or what have you. I thought I was doing the right thing. They use that type of goodwill to exploit it, you know? I don’t really blame people for for going in and seeing an opportunity there because that’s what they’re taught.
You know, almost everyone when I went in there for education if you ask them. That’s why you’ll never see free education in this country, because that would hurt the military recruiting numbers. But beside that, I realized that I wasn’t supposed to be there during basic training, because they brought us all into a building and they put on a video for us. And it was all this literal propaganda—like country music stars talking about, “Oh, you’re the hero of this nation,” and they’re playing all these like patriotic songs and stuff. And I started looking around the room—of course, I had little butterflies in my stomach because that’s, you know, what they’re trying to elicit from you. Of course, it’s an emotional reaction that they’re trying to elicit, it was working on me. But I kinda like snapped out of it and I’m like, “Where the fuck am I at?” And I looked around and all the other people around me had tears in their eyes. And I was seeing that it was affecting them, like, in a very, very big way that itwasn’t quite affecting me. Of course, I’m there, I’m in the moment, it’s affecting me. But it wasn’t affecting me to the degree that was affecting everyone else. And I’m looking around at these people, like, this doesn’t seem right. Like, they don’t seem like they’re thinking for themselves right now. You know, no one seems like they’re really, you know—for lack of a better word—coherent. And then I started just slowly seeing how the system was, and how the war machine was, and hearing stories from, you know, sergeants, and this and that. I’m like, holy fuck, I don’t want to be a part of this. When your drill sergeant, you know—someone asked him, “Have you ever hesitated when, when you saw a silhouette of someone’s body to shoot?” And he said, “Well, I never did before until I shot a pregnant woman in the stomach.”
You know, “I jumped in through a window in the middle of the night, and I saw a silhouette and I just put two rounds into the belly.” And ever since then he’s hesitated. But, you know, that still didn’t make me feel good about him as a person because, oh, now you hesitated. You know, like, oh, you didn’t just completely go off the deep end and be like, I can’t do this anymore or frag your officer. You decided, oh, well, I’ll hesitate for a second. You know, that’s what your takeaway was, instead of the, you know—what I would see is the the normal reaction of, “Oh, my god, put me in jail.” You know, I’m a bad person, that type of reaction. But it wasn’t like that. And everyone else around me is fauning over this guy. Like, “Oh, wow, whoo.” And, you know, I—that was still in basic training. I really realized that that was not the place for me. And the rest of the time—I was good at it, you know, it wasn’t like I had a bad time there. Yeah, there was traumatic shit. You know, I didn’t go overseas or anything else like that. But there was like, crazy shit that happened because you got a bunch of young people, you know, given access and authority and power and whatever else they think they have. And, you know, crazy stuff happens. But it was like, I’m not supposed to be here because of, you know, I don’t feel safe around these people. These aren’t good people, a lot of them.oYu know, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat there and listen to someone tell me about how they’ve murdered people. And it was just like… there’s nothing.
You know, they’re just recalling it. Like, they don’t see any—they don’t read into it. You know, “Why did I murder that person? Why was I there in the first place?” They don’t question that at all. And that’s where I saw the problem to be. Because if you’re really feeling like you’re there to protect people, or you’re doing it for your community, trying to protect and that’s what they lead you to believe, then the last thing you’re going to do is hurt another community the way that you’re afraid for your community to be hurt. So if you go over there and kill someone’s mother, you know, like, that’s exactly what you didn’t want to happen here to your mother. You know, how can you justify this?
How can you live with it? And how can you not—the powers that sent in there and try and, you know, resist that? Because you should—if you care about your own family you should be able to care about and empathize with everyone else’s families. And I didn’t see that with people I was around. So I got out in a hurry, long story short.
Okay. Yeah, I—one of the most like alienated I’ve ever felt from, like, people—or especially… I don’t want to specifically say especially men, but I want to say like maybe some of the ways that like men are taught to behave in our society or whatever. I remember talking to a friend who was on a boat with her boyfriend and they were boarded by pirates, and—or they were being approached by pirates or something like that. And her boyfriend was, like, so excited because he finally had an excuse to kill somebody.
And he was like, “I get to try and kill somebody now.” And he was, like, gleeful. And she broke up with him. And just hearing that was like the most, like, oh there’s people who think that way. And it’s so confusing to me. You know? I’m not a pacifist.
This show is clearly not a pacifistic project. But there’s still just this, like, gap between—I don’t know. And I just, yeah, I…
It’s because they don’t see other people as humans. They’re looking for an excuse and they have that eagerness. And it’s like, if you’re eager, like, that’s not a good sign, you know?
You know, I’m prepared to do what I need to do, but I’m not eager to ever do it. You know, I’m hoping for a world where no one ever has to do that. You know, that’s the ideal right there. But if you’re sitting there just waiting, itching for it, because you want to enact your power—your feeling of powerlessness on someone else—because that’s what I see it as. You know, if someone sits there and says, “Oh, I want to go overseas because that’s the only way to murder people legally.”
You know, like that’s you projecting your own powerlessness, because you feel like you have to enact that on someone else in order to feel power. You know, you obviously weren’t feeling powerful before, you know, if you feel like you need to do that—that you feel like you need to do that to someone. And for no other reason other than it’s legal. Not because they did something to you, but because it’s legal. And of course, you know, legality is no measure of morality. And it’s scary when you come across people like that. I don’t blame anyone for distancing themselves, protecting themselves from that.
Yeah. You know, that, uh—yeah, I don’t even know what to say about that other than it’s just fuckin—it’s fucking wild. Okay, so to, we’re kind of coming up—we’re coming up on an hour. But there’s a couple more, a couple more short things that I kind of wanted to ask you a little bit about. You know, a lot of your work is—for anyone who, you know, is listening, you do a lot of video content on YouTube. You have a lot of videos showing how you build the aquaponic stuff that you do, but also videos about tactical stuff. And I remember when I reached out to you I said, “Hey, I’m doing this anarchist prepping podcast.” And I use that as shorthand. I, you know, theoretically it’s a community and individual preparation podcast.
And you’re like, “Oh, god, I hate prepping.” And I—and then I watched more videos—I watched the video where you you have your camping bag, and everything that goes in it. And I really liked that content, it’s a very good video, and I recommend it to people. There’s a lot of really good specifics in that video. But I was like, okay, so there’s clearly an issue with maybe, like, the label or the culture around it, like, do you want to talk about your issues with, like, prepping as a label or a community or an idea?
Well, I think what sticks in a lot of people’s heads when they think about prepping is the damn show—Doomsday Preppers. You know, a lot of that was silly. A lot of it was silly. And I can, you know—for most people, that’s their exposure to it. So—and then you have the whole subculture around that that’s all based on individualism. And just, I’m going to go hoard this thing so that I have the power over others if things happen. I think that’s a lot of the mentality that goes into it. You know, you don’t see prepping as a community-based thing very often. Especially not on that show, not what’s being sold to us as prepping, you know. They want to frame it as that so you go out and you just buy things for yourself and keep on hoarding all these materials. But it’s like, really, that’s not gonna help you. You’re not growing food yet? You should have just bought seeds and started learning to grow. If you really want to, like, make sure that you can sustain yourself and your community, that’s where you need to first focus, is reclaiming the lands around you. But no one focuses on that. They focus on, oh, do I have the newest and latest gun so that I can go out and kill the marauders? And it’s like, okay, you know, you need to scale back your fantasies a little bit and assess what may actually happen. You know, if you’ve ever been in a natural disaster like a hurricane or something else like that, here in Florida they happen all the time. So I grew up going through these power outages and, you know, homes being torn apart. And every time that happened, it was like a fucking party. Like it was the—it was some of the funnest times in my life. All of a sudden, I’m outside riding bikes with my neighbor. All of a sudden, I’m like, going out and collecting coconuts and helping my neighbors and getting to know them and clearing the roads with them and making sure that people will have power and being like, “Oh, this person over here has a generator, let’s go get all the extension cords and make sure everyone’s fridges are running.” You know, it’s like people come together naturally. All the labels and all the bullshit goes right out the window as soon as something real happens. So all these fantasies that people have about, oh, Yellowstone’s gonna erupt and then the marauders are going to come from my food bars. And I have to kill them all with my children wearing bullet proof vests and they’re going to shoot them all with .22s. It’s like, it’s insanity to me. Not to like, you know, denigrate anyone, but it’s not healthy.
It’s absolutely not healthy to be thinking like that, where everyone’s your enemy, everyone’s out to get what you have. Instead of saying, “Hey, I have more than what I need. Let’s build a bigger table.” You’re saying, “I’ve got more than what I need, I need to keep it, you know, so these other people don’t get it and I got kill them if I have to.” But it’s like, how long are you going to be able to live like that? You know, so you got 100 Bakker buckets. And even if you are having to live like that, that’s not life?
Like that’s—why are you even fighting at that point? I don’t understand that, personally. Like, my life has gotten to that point where all I have to look forward to is eating Bakker buckets and sitting inside a house with no lights on and never stepping outside because I’m afraid someone’s gonna steal them. Like, that’s not a life, you might as well just kill me. You know, I want to be outside interacting with people and seeing kids run around the neighborhood and scream and yell and laugh. You know, like, that’s the goal. You know, when kids can be kids again, like, they can be free and not have to worry and they’re safe. And they’re fed and they’re healthy and educated. Like, that’s the ideal. That’s what we should all be working towards with prepping. But you got these people just working towards, “I got to get more bullets so I can shoot everyone in my neighborhood.” Like, that’s not where it’s at. If you’re talking about prepping just to shoot individuals, like, holy shit. Just like the other guy you’re talking about.
Yeah, you’re—one of my favorite, you know, a guest that we had on last fall—I just use the Royal we for myself—the guest that I had on last fall—the show is eventually gonna end up more collective but at the moment, it’s just me. And I had on a guest named Deviant who had stockpiled a fair amount of ammunition before the current ammunition shortage and Deviant got an incredible amount of joy out of, like, getting to be the like, the bullet fairy and go around and, like, “Oh, you’re just getting into guns now? That makes sense. Here Do you want to hold out of 223 ammo so that you can train?” You know. And like, to me the only point of stockpiling anything is to share it—is to be able—yeah, and like my personal goal, like I don’t stockpile ammunition—mostly cuz, you know, got into it too late. But, you know, I do. I have a lot of five gallon buckets of food and I have a lot of five gallon buckets of food because I live somewhere with space in a way that a lot of people I know don’t and they’re not for me. Like, I don’t want to eat beans and rice for the rest of my life. Like, you know, they’re just there to like tide us with a—broad “us”—over either through like small interruptions in food, or in a large interruption with food, it’s to tide us over long enough to get food into the ground.
Right, of course. No, no, I totally agree with emergency—to have those things. And the best part about having those things, as I imagine, it’s not going to do me a favors to sit there and stare at it inside my house all day, these little hoards and stuff like that. The real joy comes from like what you said, just going out and handing it out. Making people’s days, making sure they have a, you know, belly full of food at night. Like that feels so much better. You know, like even if you want to look at it as a personal thing. I want to feel good. I want to feel good about what I’m doing. You know, like, I feel good when I give someone something, you know, that’s a, you know, call it selfish. But, you know, that’s the thing, you know, it feels a lot better to give something and make someone’s day then does just sit there and stare at yourself.
Okay, well, do you have any last thoughts about, you know, we’ve clearly moved a fair amount away from aquaponics. But about, like, food autonomy in general, or the work that you do, or anything else that you want the audience to hear?
I just want people to realize that they have power. They have power to affect the people around them, and that’s the only real power that we have. That’s the only power that exists in the world. You know, the violence and the brutality and of, you know, the systems that be, that’s not power, that’s just an illusion of power. And we can affect each other. Like you—just like we were saying, if you can make someone’s day, that’s power.
You know, and you got to understand that. Instead of going around and trying to make people subservient to you or make them feel like they’re underneath you, make them feel like they’re with you. You know, I mean, when you see someone down don’t punch them down, bring them up.
Yeah, I like that.
Cool. Where can people find you online? Where can people engage with the content that you make?
So I’m in two main places, I’m on YouTube and I’m on Instagram. Both of them are AutonomousAlternative, all one word. And um, yeah. I’m in the middle of my next series, which is the firearm series. I’m about midway through that and should be finishing up soon. And then after that, it’s whatever people want to see.
Cool. Yeah. And if you want to see someone with gigantic bolt cutters and how you attach gigantic bolt cutters to your pack, I highly recommend your channel. There’s a lot of other good stuff, but I was specifically impressed by being like, you know, it has never occurred to me that there’s a version of this world where I would need to figure out how to connect, like, what four-foot bolt cutters or whatever to my backpack.
The authorities sure do you like to hide things behind the law locks and fences, so it can’t hurt.
Yeah, no, it—it makes a lot of sense. As soon as I saw it I was like—I love those moments of, like, you know, I spend all my time like reading about preparedness and writing this podcast or whatever, and then seeing something that I’m like, oh, yeah! Okay, well, thank you so much.
Of course. Yeah, it was really a pleasure being on here. Thanks for reaching out.
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell people about it. That’s, I think the main way that people hear about it. And telling people in person is, of course, the coolest way. Although, well hey, maybe by the time you listen to this you might actually be able to interact with more than 0–2 people or whatever. And telling people who’s cool. Also, telling people online tells the robots to tell other people to listen to it because algorithms are weird. And so is making the same exit commentary every single time I record an episode, but I’ll just roll with that. And also, if you want to support the show more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And I put up an ostensibly monthly zine that fell down a lot during COVID, but I seem to be picking it back up. If you go there, you can get a bunch of exclusive content. And it’s so exclusive that if you want it for free, just message me. Basically, anyone who lives off of less money than I make on Patreon, please just message me and I’ll get you access to all the content for free. But that said, I’m excited to say that I’m starting to bring other people on board. Live Like the World is Dying becoming a more collective project. And of course, that means financing more people as more people do the work. And I’m so grateful about it, I think the show’s gonna start getting back on track. And particular thanks to Casandra the transcriptionist [transcriber’s note: you’re welcome!] and thanks to Jack who is editing—doing editing on the audio now. And in particular I would like to thank Chris and Nora and Hoss the dog and Kirk and Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher, Shane, The Compound, Cat J, Staro, Mike, Eleanor, Chelsea, Dana, and Hugh. I really appreciate it. It’s your contribution—it’s everyone’s contributions that is helping this podcast continue. Thank you so much. And I hope that everyone who’s listening is doing well and enjoying—well, I guess the spring in the Northern Hemisphere, autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. I like autumn a lot too. So, you know. I hope you’re doing well and I will talk to you all soon.