A Day in the Life…

By UM Student CLAY SPRINGMEYER

I play Dungeons and Dragons in a basement on Sundays. On Sunday nights I’m Terran Crane Fist, a half-orc monk that kills zombies and skeletons with my hands and runs at sixty miles an hour. On the other days of the week I’m an undergraduate at the University of Montana working on a creative writing degree and a minor in Wilderness Studies.

I live with five chickens. Their names are Rumpless, Featherfoot, Jailbird, Thing One, and Thing Two. Thing One is a Rhode Island Red and is about as aggressive as a Minnesota hockey player. If I were in the pecking order, I’d fall somewhere under Thing One and somewhere above Featherfoot (her species is bred for friendliness). Let me clarify: I don’t actually live with the chickens. I live in the basement with spiders the size of chickens, although I haven’t gotten around to naming all of them yet. I digress.

The chickens live in a coop in the back yard next to our garden with its rows in the flowery pattern of a mandala, a Buddhist symbol for the representation of the unconscious self. We also have a large and colorful Tibetan prayer flag posted next to our front porch under our weeping birch. A hammock hangs high in the tree’s branches, only accessible to determined tree climbers. To an outsider, our home might seem like your stereotypical Missoula hippie flower child den. There are six of us on the property that generate plenty of vegetable waste from the kitchen and garden, and all of it goes to our five mobile and squawking garbage disposals. They then return the favor by turning our garbage into delicious eggs.

We’re not actually hippie flower children, honest. We’re only partially that way. We’re evenly split between vegetarians and meat eaters. We even have a hunter in our group. He goes out every weekend and tries to kill something so that we can eat it. I personally try to do the same thing with fish, but usually it boils down to me standing in the middle of a river for the better part of an afternoon. Everyone in the house but myself is an environmental studies major. I suppose that might be hurting my non-flower-child case, though.

The property we live on is called the UM F.L.A.T., or the Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology. I know what you’re thinking. I must live in a space ship…

I wish I lived in a space ship.

Instead of outer space, we’re located on South 5th St. East. The Flat project was created by an EVST (environmental studies) grad student last year to promote local sustainable living practices. We monitor our energy use with the aid of a device called “The Energy Detective,” or Ted. Ted is hooked up to our circuit board and tells us how many kilowatts we’re using per hour, and even how much we’re paying per hour for our electricity. Usually we hold steady at around 3 to 5 cents per hour. Although our rates sky rocket to around 60 cents per hour whenever the washer and drier are running or whenever I engage the orbital thrusters.

Our main project at the moment is to renovate an old garage to make it as energy efficient as possible. We’re earth plastering a straw bale wall in the garage with clay we harvested from down by the rail road tracks outside of Missoula. Eventually we’ll be sporting photovoltaic panels on the roof, a radiant floor heating system connected to the solar-thermal system, and all of the walls will be covered in a layer of cob (basically mud). It’s my dream that someday the Flat will be a fully functional space ship. I’m working on getting the other Flat members on board with this idea as well.

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A little about me: I escape the city as often as possible to go on random outdoor excursions. I enjoy standing in the middle of bridges for extended periods of time. I love reading. I love dogs. I also love making music, dancing, potlucks, pretending to be a zombie on Halloween, gardening, running on trails, cooking with garlic, copious amount of hot sauce, falling leaves in autumn, and drinking black coffee. I also love writing, and feel fortunate to offer my weekly perspective as a college student to the Make it Missoula collective. Tune in next week for the next rivetingchapter.

Oh, and I hate Brussels sprouts.

Thanks for reading. Be good to each other.

Clay