Sunday, September 14, 2014

This Place Is So Lovely, It Kind of Makes Me Very Happy

     Today I went for a really nice stroll with my little lady love.  It felt so nice out.  There was a slight chill in the air even though the sun was shining bright.  The rout we took had lots of shade.  I couldn't help but revel in the feeling of an approaching Fall (*excitement*excitement*excitement*)

     I was paying particular attention to the types of plants and trees that were growing all around me as a study toward understanding the woodland that we'll be converting into food forest.  I've often felt a sense of wonder looking into any densely wooded or overgrown portion of land, but after watching this Geoff Lawton video on establishing food forests it peaked my interest a little more than usual.  Funny, how an idea can be a part of your make up, but suddenly something very simplistic brings its truth to the surface and the resulting feeling is almost like having an epiphany.

     At some point I stepped off of the road over to an area grown up with "weeds" and picked some fuzzy-looking purple flowers.  Tuut (it's a nickname we gave her-short for "tandertuut" which is just a funny way of saying tater tot....) really loved that I was being adventurous, giving me a sweet giggle and a huge smile.  So I let her hold the beautiful purple wild flowers for the duration of our trip.


     As we continued to walk, we turned a corner where stood a house with one large tree and one stump in the lawn.  My eye was particularly drawn to the stump, like it was something exotic, or maybe a place where something interesting could happen.  I realized that, to me, it was the only thing of interest in this yard.  Then, the way I felt looking at that stump-full of potentially interesting things and processes- surrounded by this oh-so-boring yard.... it immediately made me think of how I feel when I think of my childhood.  Then something just clicked for me.

     For the last four years, I've been learning more and more about nature, plants, growing things, becoming sustainable.  I've known for a while now that I've always loved the idea of living in a forest.  I used to actually joke that I must have been a fairy in a former life because I was so drawn to nature.  At some point walking down this current path it became apparent to me that if I couldn't get myself into a forest, I'd bring one to me. 

     So the idea of sustainability is very appealing to me because there is a sense of freedom that I believe must come along with it-monetarily if nothing else.  Then the idea of creating a forest that incorporates those principles is doubly so because it is the embodiment of an adventure every single day, a peaceful escape, on top of a means of becoming sustainable.

     About the time I started realizing that I wanted all of this I was also starting to understand more about my own most innermost workings.  I started to understand not only myself, but others.  The mistakes we make and why we make them; our sometimes somewhat skewed sense of pursuing happiness.  I started pulling things that had been buried down deep from childhood up to the surface. 

     Now, I don't want anyone thinking that I was the victim to anything particularly awful, but we all have had experiences at certain stages of development that set the mold for the person we will become.  Sometimes those experiences are traumatic, though.  And for something to be traumatic, it doesn't even have to be something extremely terrible; it just has to have a certain negative effect on our outlook of life at that particular time.  Some of these things we may not even remember.  I won't get into the long list of details on things that may or may not have effected me here, but suffice it to say I had to see and roll with some stuff as a child that I now realize I wouldn't want my own child to ever witness or deal with.  I spent most of my life thinking that I was ok with it, that it was normal to deal with these things and to be ok with them because they just happened.  To be honest, for a while I might have even been a little bit proud that I thought of myself as someone who could just adapt and move on.  And maybe I am.  But as I've come to know myself better and better over the years, I see some draw backs even to that.

     I say all of that to say this: thoughts of my childhood leave a sort of stale taste in the mouth of my memories.  I feel things like limitation and boredom; feelings like there was life to be lived that wasn't.  I was never deprived of the most basic needs; I had food, clothing, people who loved and cared for me, not much but some extra money to get to buy toys and go do things from time to time.  But I think I was missing out on childhood adventure.  I think even then the calling of nature was in my blood, willing me to explore it and find that adventure, but I had no clue it existed or even how to find it.  There were never any interesting spots of wilderness around me growing up.  I had one granddad that had a garden, but it was more so off limits to me than something I could have learned from.  

     So most of my time was spent watching movies and, as I got older, reading A LOT of fantasy novels. Eventually I began finding adventure in themed clothing: one day I was Gothic, the next punk, the next prairie, the next kawaii, and so on and on and on.  I became fatally attracted to cuteness and the supernatural.  I even went through a stage where I had the overwhelming sense of needing to buy everything that I found visually attractive ( I had a bit more money to blow and fewer priorities then....).  I realize now, the feeling I get when looking at a dense copse of trees or the harmonious rambling of a meadow, is the feeling I was always looking for in all of that.  And to some point it was fulfilled, but not without spending money time after time.  Because the feeling was always short-lived it never quite satisfied.

     And even today, as interested as I am in this idea, I feel like I should be RUNNING toward it, not just slowly ambling down the path.  But old habits die hard.  I still find myself torn sometimes-between the freedom and peacefulness that comes with living a simpler life and that surge of satisfaction that comes with buying some new decoration or article of fashion.  I'm not saying I should beat myself up about it, but sometimes I get frustrated with the fact that I spend my money on what isn't needed instead of just diving deeper into the marvelous adventure of nature.  I feel like I should be pursuing a peace that will last the test of time, instead of that instantaneous ziiing!

     I've been on my one month temporary lay-off this September we're in right now, and to be honest, it has been much much easier to focus on what really matters.  I think I tend to get overwhelmed with how much goes on around me when I get out and start mingling with the rest of the civilized world.  And considering I'm still very much draw to a good story, working at a library I continue adding books to my ever expanding list that must be read before I die-haha!  So in fewer words, I get side-tracked (to the point of overwhelming) easily by pretty, neat, and interesting things and ideas.  So I suppose I believe living a simpler life will also ease a lot of mental anxiety I put on myself.

     As I said starting out with this blog, part of my writing it is to find others, hopefully some in my area here in Etowah County or thereabouts, to have this sort of conversation with.  The more the merrier :D  I want to surround myself with people who love being plant nerds :)  I want to talk to people who enjoy watching things grow.  I want to share my awe over the many functions of plants most people consider obnoxious with someone other than just my husband and myself.  Don't get me wrong, I try.  But no one around me (on a regular basis anyway), other than my dear loving husband, truly gets enjoyment out of the conversation.  I'm usually just talking to hear myself talk when it comes to these sorts of things-haha!

     Well, at this point I'm just rambling.  I just had that nice little experience of on my walk today, and it prodded me into sharing much more of myself than I have previously.  For those who read this far, kudos to you!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Black Locust: Poetic Goddess

                                              (Robinia pseudoacacia)

     As far as I can tell, these are very very important trees when establishing a food forest.  They definitely attract me with their flowers alone.  I'm like some small hummingbird wanting to take purchase in its drupes. Something about a cluster of flowers that hangs like that (*relaxing siiiigh*).  I also hear they are quite fragrant, which fits right into my "surrounded-by-super-fragrant-EVERYTHING" fantasy.
     Another thing that really intrigues me is that they are said to be very good wood for building things.  They are even legendary in this regard and are said to last 10 years longer than stone! In reality, the cut wood can last up to 500 years even in very wet conditions-much, much longer in dry.  The reason this is attractive to me is because I will hold on to my fantasy of "living-in-an-awesome-little-hobbit-hole-home-that-no-one-can-find" until I DIE!  Haha! (Those of you who have read my link to the WOFATI article will already understand.)
     And just for those of you who wonder where I may have picked up such an *inspirational* idea-the very specific "no-one-can-find" article of this fantasy-is from a Permies podcast where Paul was talking about someone actually evading government fining by telling them if they could find the home on his property, then they could fine him for it.  And guess what?!  They couldn't find it!  So I thought that was pretty amazing.
     So it's pretty, fragrant, and useful for woodworking.  That's great and all, but you may be wondering of what benefit it is to establishing a food forest.  Well, it turns out this beauty is also a nitrogen fixer.  On top of that, it is an expeditious grower-I'm thinking this can put it in the coppice category.  I'm continuing to look up all things Black Locust currently and will share the links I've found below; but if anyone has any of these on their property (especially if in or near Etowah County here in Alabama) and would like to share some information, stories of experience, or tips, please feel free to share.  Please and Thanks! :D

Black Locust-Plant of the Week

All Things Black Locust Forum @ Permies.com (bet you didn't realize I was being literal about that)

Black Locust-this one is chock full of info

All About Growing Youe Own Firewood

BEAUTIFUL!

Black Locust Permies Video

Plant Finder-Black Locust




Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Adventure Begins....In My Head....

     So now that we have this wonderful property, and we have this wonderful established woodland, I can't stop thinking about all the possibilities.  We plan to transform it somewhat in order to make it work for us food-wise.  However, it is very daunting to think about how to get in there and transform it little by little.  I mean, I've fantasized about this day, but now that there is so much room to work with, and so much to learn-experience to be had- it feels a little overwhelming.
     Where should I start?  What should I lop down?  What should I leave?  Identifying everything will be an adventure unto itself-haha!  And we can't really start that until winter because I think it would be too dangerous to do that while it is still warm.  We've already run into a yellow jacket nest in the middle of the front/side yard; and wasp nests abound around the house and shed.  Someone said they saw part of a snake skin in the shed as well....

(Picture of the ^shed^ between the Pecans.  This image is one they had up when they listed the property.  From this angle you can see the pasture off to the side.  This is facing the southeastern side of the property out back.)
     
     I don't just have to think about the kind of food I want to grow; I have to think about what would be good long term chop and drop fertilizer.  I have to think about the height and growth rate of different kinds of trees.  I have to sort of think about a changing landscape that I'll have to plant and maintain as I go.
     And jumping back to the yellow jackets, wasps nests, and potential snakes- this property both amazes and terrifies me-haha!  No one has lived in this house for at least a year and a half and there was a plethora of old rat poison and poop in the lower cabinets.  I love nature.  I want to coexist as equals with it.  I want it to teach me all of its secrets.  But right now the property seems so dangerous with all of its hidden hazards. 
     I want to make this a place where I can be surrounded by nature, but not be afraid of it.  I wonder, does anyone reading this have any advice on or experience with the conversion of the woodland into food forest?  Or any suggestions on how I can clean everything out and feel safe with minimal hazard to my person minus poisoning everything just to start fresh.
     What I'm most interested in is if someone has advice or suggestions that lives in or near my area, or an area that is similar.  This is Northeast Alabama-zone 8a or 8b or straddling the line thereabouts.  And also any knowledge of the types of plants I might find therein.  Any input or conversation is welcome.  
     I also posted something very similar to this on the Permies forum right here.  Feel free to hop over and see what kind of conversation we're having there as well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Rusticating Dream: Numero Uno

   

     First off, folks........(dramatic pause)........WE GOT THE HOUSE^^^!!!  WOO-HOO!!  So now all of that fantasizing my husband and I have done about this property can begin to take form. :D  I've definitely got a few big dreams that I hope to see come true before this life passes me by.  The most complete of those dreams is this: to live in a WOFATI on a sustainable mini farm with a food forest.


There would be an amazing tree house somewhere on the property, along with a solar dehydrator.  Also, if necessary, I'd have a rocket mass heater .


     I'd say the longest range dream is the WOFATI.  The most achievable of the dreams I have, starting out, is probably getting a goat and/or some chickens.  But the one that seems to be taking up most of my daydreaming, currently, is the rocket mass heater.  I suppose that is because it would completely cut one of my costs.  Yes, fair reader, you read correct.  I said completely.  See, our house is heated with gas.  It is the only thing in our house that runs on gas.  So a rocket mass heater would not only be super avant garde, but it would be super efficient.
     Rocket mass heaters were originally just super efficient wood burning stoves.  A man by the name of Ianto Evans came up with the design for people in third world countries.  The book he wrote is actually, quite simply, titled Rocket Mass Heaters .  Then along came this AMAZING couple named Ernie and Erica Wisner (click the link to see a video of them talking about their rocket mass heater designs).  Now these cats understand fire!  They have brought the original designs a loooong way.  They've created them to fit all sorts of individual needs: from small one room cottages to 3 story houses! Aaaand the plans are for sale at their store on scubbly.com (If you use my links, I get a wee bit of the money you spend.  Please and thank you! :D ).  They even include a basic guide for beginners who have no clue what they are getting into, playing with fire in such a way as this.
     I had never ever heard of such a thing, but as I always do, I must hearken back to those permies.com podcasts (this links directly to Paul's store, but if you wish to buy the podcasts, you can also use the links I've listed at the bottom of some of my other blogs):D
     You know, I started this blog in hopes to not only share some awesome information and ideas, but also to hopefully draw in those who live nearby (Etowah County and thereabouts)-that have the same ideas-into open discussions about what they have done/will do.  I'm hoping to find a circle of like minded guys and gals that I could correspond and eventually barter with.  I don't quite think I'll ever live directly in a community full of people who look at this world quite the same way, but I know you guys have to be out there somewhere!  Haha!
     So, if you like these sorts of things, check out some further reading/watching in the links throughout this page, and those listed below.  Give me some feedback.  Tell me what you think! :D

More Info about Ianto Evans and His Rocket Stoves and Such

Permies Forum on Ianto Evans and Polyculture

A Whole Page of AWESOME Permaculture Videos

Rocket Mass Heater for 800sq ft Home

Rocket Mass Heater for 3 Story, Multi-Family Home

Rocket Mass Heater for 840sq ft Cabin

Rocket Mass Heater Daybed with Bypass

Two Chamber Earthen Oven (Great for an outdoor pizza oven-yummy!!)

Rocket Mass Heater Manual (The basics)

The Art of Fire-Web Format

The Art of Fire-Printable Format

Erica and Ernie Everything Combo!
   

Friday, August 8, 2014

Some Heavy Awesome

    


    I watched a documentary titled Connected on Netflix last night per my husband's suggestion.  It was AMAZING!  It was about a surgeon names Leonard Shlain who wrote several books, one of them being titled The Alphabet Versus the Goddess (which I have recently purchased  here >> at Thriftbooks.com for my magnificent husband).  It takes a look at how communication was developed and has changed over our lifespan here on Earth; at how we feel the need to be connected , and how technology has allowed that to the max.  It gives theory to what changes that it, in and of itself, has wrought.






     Another media treasure (of which I happened to find on my own this time :p ) I found last night was a video on Youtube.  It was Toby Hemenway talking about redesigning civilization with the use of permaculture.  It hit so many of the right buttons with me :D  One of THEEEEE best videos I've watched in a LONG LONG time. So amazing! If you are into history, religion, geography, agriculture, permaculture, philanthropy, philosophy, anthropology...So many amazing things and connections and points. Oh man! It's amazing! Did I mention that it is amazing?! So refreshing (Ahhh)



It was a night full of heavy awesome!

     If you really like this guy, Toby Hemenway, you should also delve into some of Paul Wheaton's stuff.  He has actually interviewed and worked with this guy a bit.  You can check out all sorts of amazing forums at Permies.com.  (For those who don't already know this trick, I learned it there:  If you want to search a special topic you can go to your search bar and type permies.com: whatever you're looking for :) )  
     You can also read some amazing articles at his other site, Richsoil.com.  I've learned a lot from his material.  Mostly I've enjoyed going back and listening over to his podcast.  I feel like I really learned the most from those starting out.  I didn't really get into the articles, videos, and forums until I had went well into listening for a while.  If you are interested in ways to comprehend permaculture more simplistically, or maybe you'd like to search out more sources and resources to hear from or learn about Toby Hemenway, I have listed the links to his podcasts below:


Permies Podcasts 041-080  >>There's some Toby Hemenway in there, guys :D




Saturday, July 26, 2014

"We Live and Breathe Words"


    It's funny when you think about what words can do to you; and then you think about where that power comes from.  I mean, aren't we the ones who give them the power they have?  For instance, the dreaded curse words or cussing-these can make the most mature adult turn into a small child again; acting as though they are afraid, and quickly shushing you.  I just want to say to them, "It's no big deal.  It's not the word that you should be focused on, but the emotion behind it."
     And isn't that where we get the idea for the meaning of these allegedly wretched words?  As kids we grow up hearing adults use them in fits of anger and frustration.  I wonder if originally, maybe even back before documented history, the word wasn't what made the original user feel shameful, but the emotions and ideas that accompanied the use of the word; along the way it just got a bit misconstrued.  I think about things in this way most of the time.  "What was it like before modern civilization?  How has it changed in its context?"
     So with this in mind, I try not to be "afraid" of words.  I definitely use them, they are the salt and pepper of my daily language.  Now, don't get the wrong idea here; I think if you don't use these words sparingly you come across a bit uncouth and possibly dull.  I definitely use them when angry or frustrated; or say, if something startles me (hey now, I can't really help those :p).  But sometimes they come out when I'm quite joyful, or being a bit silly, too.
     All of that aside, words-and the juxtaposition of words-can do remarkable things for you, can't they?  And if you are like me, you might sometimes find yourself wondering why.  And if you are like me you might find yourself deciding it doesn't matter at all :D.  I have said all of this just to come to a point where I can type here for you a small part of a sentence I just read in a delightful little book that just made me quite happy.  Here it is: "...the deepest moonless night."  (~from The Poisons of Caux: The Shepherd of Weeds by Susannah Applebaum)
     That is all.  The words just feel so nice bouncing around inside my little brain.  They feel especially nice as I breathe them past my teeth and out of my mouth.  Haven't you ever felt that way?

For the Hearts of Little Children Are Pure

 

     I have found several books in our children's department here at the local library where I work that convey what I feel is an important message about life and what I find important about it.  Mostly they are books that speak on the oneness of all things, or they send out a very strong permaculture vibe.  I'm sure the list will grow, but as it stands now, here they are along with some of my favorite passages from each:

(1) Crinkleroot's Guide to Giving Back to Nature by Jim Arnosky

A fun little non-fiction book with a cure little character to show you the ways of nature.

"Let a corner of your lawn grow wild.  It will become a cool and shady tangle of weeds and tall grass for small animals to rest, nest, and hide in."

"By caring for this little brook that runs right by my home, I'm taking care of water wherever water roams.  Small streams like this feed the rivers that flow into the sea.  Clean freshwater is a gift I'm giving to the sea."

(2) Little Fur: The Legend Begins by Isobelle Carmody (too many good ones in this one)

"By worldliness, Little Fur came to understand, he meant wisdom, though she was not always sure that knowing a lot about the world was the same as being wise."

"At first the heart of the human was touched by the beauty and age of the tree, but then it saw how short its own life was and it became afraid.  The human hewed the tree to sever itself from the flow of life,...It wished to be only itself and to control all other things without having to care about anything but its own wants..."

"They fear to die...They think if they can control everything, then perhaps they will be able to choose not to die..."

"Ah, but humans cut themselves from the flow so they see their dying as an end.  That makes them want to destroy anything that will live longer than they do, or which reminds them that they will die."


(3) Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life by Molly Bang

This is a non-fiction book that tells, beautifully and poetically,  how photosynthesis works.  It also shows how all things flow one through the other, making a perfect circle of life.

The opening line in this book, I think, is what hooked me:  "Listen to me.  Do this one thing: Lay your hand over your heart, and feel.  Feel your heart pump, pump, and pump.  Feel how warm you are.  That is my light, alive inside of you."

"So you see?  Life keeps circling round and round on your planet Earth, through photosynthesis, and through yourselves.  You share life with everything alive."

"Lay your hand over your heart and feel.  Feel my light inside of you.  You hold my light and make it live.  You are living sunlight."

(4) Brother Eagle, Sister Sky: A Message from Chief Seattle by Susan Jeffers

"'How can you buy the sky?' Chief Seattle began. 'How can you own the rain and the wind?'"

"My father said to me, I know the sap that courses through the trees as I know the blood that flows in my veins.  We are part of the earth and it is part of us.  The perfumed flowers are our sisters.  The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers."

"The voice of my grandfather said to me, The air is precious.  It shares its spirit with all the life it supports.  The wind that gave me my first breath also received my last sigh."

(5) Red Sings from Treetops: a year in colors by Joyce Sidman

This book tells a very poetic story about the different seasons using colors.

"In Spring,
Red sings from treetops: cheer-cheer-cheer,
each note dropping like a cherry into my ear..."

"Green is new in spring.  Shy.
Green peeks from buds,
trembles in the breeze.
Green floats through rain-dark trees,
and glows, mossy-soft, at my feet...
In spring, even the rain tastes Green."


(6) Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman

"A spiral is a snuggling shape.  It fits neatly in small places."

"A spiral moves....It stretches starry arms though space, spinning and sparkling, forever expanding...."

(7) In My Heart by Molly Bang

"You know how every morning, I put on my shoes and coat, kiss you good-bye, And walk out the door?  Well, just as I'm leaving, I feel something in my heart.  I look inside, And what do you think I find?  YOU!  Right here in my heart."

"...You are STILL inside my heart.  How do you DO that, always being in my heart?"

(8) God's Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"Each of us carries a piece of God's heart within us.  And when we love one another, the pieces of God's heart are made whole."

(9) On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole

This book has a true permaculture message.  It is about a little girl who moves into a new house on Meadowview Street.  Just when she is about to go searching to see if there is indeed a meadow, she spots a small wildflower in her yard.  She first starts off protecting this beautiful little wildflower, and it only grows from there.
The area she marks off continues to fill with more beautiful wildflowers, thus making her "preserve" grow ever bigger.  Eventually her dad sells his lawn mower altogether.  Next she brings in a tree because, "My garden needs a shady spot."
Next thing you know, there are birds and insects everywhere!  So she decides, "We need a place where everyone can get a drink of water."  So dad builds a pond.  And in doing this she starts inspiring her neighbors to do the same: "And soon, the Jacksons' yard changed.  And the Smiths'.  And the Sotos'.  Now there really was a meadow on Meadowview Street...and a home for everyone."

(10) The Enemy: A Book About Peace by Davide Cali

I like the way this story is told from a soldier's perspective-as if he is only fighting this fight because be believes he has to, not that he wants to.  It's as if he's been in this war for so long he has forgotten why or what he is fighting for.  He even almost starts to lose his grip on reality: "Sometimes I think the others have forgotten us.  Maybe the war is over and no one remembered to tell us.  Or maybe the world does not exist anymore."

"At night, there are lots of stars above my hole.  I wonder if the enemy sees them too.  Maybe if he looked at them he would understand that war is pointless and it must stop.  But I can't be the first to stop fighting, because he would kill me.  I would not kill him if he stopped first, because I am a man.  I am not a beast."

He finally sneaks into the enemy's hole only to find: "And what's this?  A manual just like mine.  But there is a difference: in this one, the enemy has my face.  This manual is full of lies-I am a man, not a monster.  I am not the one who started this war."

(11) When You Are Happy by Eileen Spinelli

"When you are sad, I will hold you.  I will let you cry.  I will catch your tears in a blue cup and water the yellow flowers and they will grow more beautiful."

"When you are lonely, I will show up on your doorstep with my heart in a basket.  I will whisper "I love you" until your loneliness grows wings and flies off like a silken bird."

"When you are happy...oh, when you are happy, I will outleap the frog, outbuzz the bee, outwink the firefly.  I will twirl you round meadows until we are both dizzy and dazzled and falling down into our grassy heap of joy."

(12) Jody's Beans by Malachy Doyle

More than any special quotes in this books, I think what I found special about it is that in a fictional story format, he has found a way to actually teach kids how to grow beans!  It even has a little mini index on the very last page so you can look up the different facts.

"It was springtime, and Jody's Granda came to visit.  He brought Jody a packet of runner beans."

(13) Yucky Worms by Vivian French

Another awesome book that teaches factual things in a fictional story format; another book that has a tiny little index in the back, too.  Also, in the back, right before the mini index, there are suggestions on how to look for worms AND how to be respectful when handling them-haha!  SUPER CUTE!

"Grandma pointed at the flowerbed.  'LOOK!  Can you see?'  I bent down-and I saw what looked like a weird, long curly worm made of dirt.  'That's worm poop,' Grandma said.  'It's called a cast.  You know when you recycle things?  Well, worms do it too....'"

     I always check Thriftbooks.com for any book I want to buy before I check anywhere else because they charge no tax on the listed price, usually have much lower prices than anywhere around the net or otherwise, and charge no shipping inside of the U.S.-so it's a nice, flat price.  When I looked up both Crinkleroot's Guide to Giving Back to Nature and Little Fur I found there are other books in the series!  AND they are on Thrift Books!  Woot woot!
     I'm sure on my marvelous adventures here in the children's department I'll find plenty of other amazing books to share with you guys.  I hope you all take a look at some of these books at least.  They are very worth it, even if you don't have a little one to read them to.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Little Steps



     As we walk this path toward a simpler life, it seems we must first deal with a few things that are quite complex.  We have been living with family for about four years now; we pay a large portion of bills here; we have a little girl who will turn one next month; we are both thirty this year, and (fingers crossed) we are about to buy a house!
     This is a major mile stone in our lives.  It has come a little later for us than for most, maybe, but finally it has come.  We should be celebrating!  And in a sense we are.  However, due to the great complications of all things family, it seems more like we are pulling the plug out and watching everything go down the drain.  This is not going to be an easy transition; BUT, though I am a bit nervous, I am much more excited :D
     It is kind of hard to leave behind all of the good work we've done to this land in these last four years, but I can't help but fantasize what it will mean to start fresh.  AND have total. control.  Don't get me wrong,  I feel more than fortunate that we have had family that we could coexist with for this long without blowing the lid off-haha!  Considering the degree to which we are all a bit dysfunctional, it has been nothing short of a miracle.  But since Flora has come along it feels much more important, even imperative, that we be in an environment where we don't have to compromise with others in our household.  I feel like it will be a much more stable environment for her if her parents are more in control-makes sense, right?
     I am holding tight to the hope that this house will soon be ours.  It is too perfect for our situation.  It puts us close to family, it has 1.5 acres of land-most of which is wild wood (woohoo!!!!), and it is something that is affordable for us.  It is not in the most perfect condition as it was built in 1930, but it is structurally sound.  Ever since the idea of having a sustainable mini farm/food forest has become our priority, we have said that when we look for our own place the land will be much more important than the house anyway.
     Ever since we found this place, nothing else has compared for us.  It was as if the moment I stepped out of the car and took a look around it already belonged to me; I could see us living there.  At first we didn't want to rush headlong into things, but it eventually turned into not wanting to miss this opportunity.  In fact, when we first started looking, we didn't think we'd be making a decision this soon.
     It won't be easy at first.  We will be going into this place without a lot of furniture-which, oddly enough, almost seems appealing.  We will have many years of work ahead of us to make this place into what we really want.  But you know what?  It will be OURS.  Saying it won't be easy doesn't just apply to us.  We live in a household where we are a big part of the financial foundation.  I have no clue how they are going to make this work without us, but I have to hope for the best.  Flora's tree we planted on top of her placenta is here.  I don't want to see this place go to the bank or roll over into someone else's hands.
     I hate that it almost feels selfish to be so excited about this, but I think there comes a time in your life where you have to make decisions that put you-and especially your child(ren)-first.  So that is what we are trying to do.  Things will never get less complicated in our current residence.  We have to take those steps.  OH!  Just THINK!!  We will finally be able to have chickens!  So, yeah, I think the pros far outweigh the cons.  So send positive energy our way guys!
   

Saturday, June 21, 2014

FORKS!......That is All

     As I sit at work sucking on a cinnamon disk offered me by our friendly security guard, I find myself wondering "Where are all the forks?"  Seriously, guys?!  Where are they?!  It's not just here; it's at home, too.  I'd say in the last month, the fork population of both my kitchen and the one here at work has dwindled by more than half.
     Are the forks partying hard while we're away?  Sneaking out to Suzy's house, having too good of a time, and forgetting to wander back home?  Is there a tiny tine-hording dragon slinking in the shadows?  Are the little people having a hoe down and need to barricade the dance because Senor Mouse is not invited!?
     Or maybe it's you.  Yeah, you!  Are you waiting until all backs are turned and building up your collection?  Either way, there is a lot of fork washing going on around me.  Just saying.....where'd they go, man?

Another Block That Built the Path (Continued)

 

     When my husband and I decided to grow our own food, we started looking into organic practices.  Somehow, while searching, I stumbled upon permaculture.  Now for people who don't know very much about this word or this practice I will try to explain as best as I can.  The dictionary defines it as thus:

permaculture [pur-muh-kuhl-cher]:
noun
a system of cultivation intended to maintain permanent agriculture or horticulture by relying on renewable resources and a self-sustaining ecosystem.


     So I suppose that is pretty self explanatory.  However, those who follow this practice are many and quite varied.  For instance, if you read some materials, permaculture has a standard of ethics that most people who wish to live this lifestyle adopt.  They are earth care, people care, fair share.  Now, it all seems simple enough, doesn't it?  But you wouldn't believe the number of people who get caught up and argue over what that last ethic means.  So if you go in search of more information on this topic, please be aware that those people exist, and don't let them ruin it for you please.

     Then there are the 12 permaculture principles.  They are all well and good to consider as you go, but I have found it hard to start from ground zero abiding by all of these principles.  They are as follows:

  1. Observe and interact.
  2. Catch and store energy.
  3. Obtain a yield.
  4. Apply self regulation and accept feedback.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services.
  6. Produce no waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate.
  9. Use small and slow solutions.
  10. Use and value diversity.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change.
     When I came across these principles, they resonated with my very being.  It all made perfect sense, and it was something truly attainable.  However, it can be very overwhelming to try to apply all of these principles from the get go.  I'm not saying it isn't possible for some, but i wasn't possible for me.  I found myself getting a bit discouraged, wondering if I was ever going to be able to get it right.  Couple this information with the idea of zones and layers, and I started feeling in way over my head.


     Then my husband  (^the beautiful man standing in the honeysuckle up there^) came across this amazing little podcast that was set up by a guy named Paul Wheaton.  This man changed the whole game for me.  Are you listening, folks?  Thee. Whole. Game.  Permaculture was no longer this strange, unique, beautiful, mysterious, possibly unattainable dreamy fantasy that I would never live up to.  It was something I couldn't mess up!  So when I was just starting to get discouraged, I got my second wind and have been sailing on that for these last 3 1/2 years, my friends.  
     Podcast after podcast I became more encouraged, more inspired, and my husband got really amped up about it too-which is lucky for me since he's most of the muscle ;)  We have been applying these principles as we are able and things have been coming along quite nicely.  We live on a lot of clay, but year after year it has become easier and easier to get that shovel further into the soil without resistance.  I can't quite explain how it feels, the difference between having read that something will work, but then seeing it actually work.
    Permies.com and Richsoil.com are this guy's two main set ups.  The articles on his rich soil site are astounding!  Things I would have never thought of, but they make perfect sense!  My husband and I even tried the hugulkulture that we read about in one of the articles (see here- MY HUGUL!! ).  
     We've read a lot of feedback from people who have tried this method and it didn't work for them until it set for at least a year.  However, we got our skinny little butts to work on one, and that summer we planted tomatoes (in partial shade I might add) and only ever watered it twice-once when we planted them, and once when it had been really hot for about a week.  The truth is, we probably didn't even have to water them, but old habits die hard.

     So guys and gals, if what I've said has you intrigued and you wish to do a little more research, I will list some suggested links below:












     






Wednesday, June 4, 2014

*Not Sayin' My Geees

*Note: Hence forth on this blog this asterisk "*" will forever more denote the fact that I have just used a reference to an inside joke you probably don't get.  If you DO happen to be a person who gets it, you may possibly be my new favorite person...... OR you may be someone who is ALREADY one of my favorite persons. :D  That being said,, shall we?



     You know, I've barely even begun to tread water with this blog thing, and already it seems to be improving my grammar dramatically.  I used to write a bit in school, and a little outside of highschool, and it seems like I probably was better about it then.  However, something just seems to happen to you after living a while with people who use lazy southern speak almost all of the time.  At first it starts out innocent imitation-being silly here, poking a bit of fun there.  But then it sinks down deeeeeep inside of you and takes root.  One day you realize it feels like a literal struggle to add the gs onto the end of words they belong to!
     Why is this?  Why does not the other party's grammar improve?  I suppose it is a question in the same ball park of: "Why does a dirty foot make a clean shoe stink?  Why doesn't the foot then just smell like a clean shoe?"

:D

Another Block That Built the Path



          My husband and I both had Monday off-HUZZZAH!  Our little lady baby took a nap that lasted more than an hour-DOUBLE HUZZAH!  We got to go out and putter in the yarden.  Now my husband has been pretty much on his own tending to it since last Spring.  Being pregnant then having a small baby has called me to other duties elsewhere. :)  So it was a much appreciated day in the yarden for me.  I gave our beautiful giant comfrey bush a trim.  I pulled grass out of the beds.  I snipped the dead heads off of the May Night Sage.  I genereally reveled.  This may sound boring, or maybe even a bit too much like work to some people, but it was not like that at all.  My husband got really excited and grabbed up the camera and started taking pictures of everything.
     "You just can't help yourself can you?  When you take a picture of a plant, you HAVE to get one of those really close up pictures of the flowers, don't you?"  He nodded and have a giant grin on his  beautiful bearded face :D   "I feel like a tourist,"  he said.
     The yarden was in much need of a photographic update.  I've taken pictures of EVERY THING for the last three years.  My baby related duties (and those other duties left in the baby duties' wake) have left me slacking.  He may not have got all of the shots I would have (:p), but I think people (and later when I look back, I) will be able to get the gist.  For anyone who is interested, I will link my Facebook account below so you may go straight there to look at them.  They have the year dated at the beginning of the descriptions.  Beware of two things: 1) they are long and specific descriptions-teehee!, and 2)because I take pictures of a lot of the same things each year, a lot of pictures may be a bit repetitive.
     I just can't help it, ya know?  Taking pictures each year when each plant begins to show after you've had just about enough of the winter blues.  And then when those new flowers pop out!  Oooooooh man.  I can never ignore them.  They shout out to me to shower them with camera kisses.  Those flowers are such vainglorious ladies and gentlemen.
     And no one can forget the busy little friends who come to help these wonderful green and growing things spread far and wide, ensuring their future progeny.  They pretend to be very shy, but they are just begging you to try a little harder-to work for it a bit (can't be too lazy now).
     Then, last but not least, the wildlings (disclaimer: this is NOT a Game of Thrones reference, but a word that has a literal definition in the dictionary.....though the dictionary definition can be equally applied to the Game of Thrones reference :p).  Above is a picture of one of those wildlings.  One that most people would probably just weed whack, mow down, or-for the very serious destroyers out there- (bum bum buuuuuum) spray with Roundup D:  But this plant has seemingly magical properties.  I read in a great and wonderful book titled The Herbal Medicine Maker's Handbook by James Green that if you have been bitten by a brown recluse, you can drink the juice of this plant and it will actually fight off the poisoning.
     Now this makes perfect sense to me because this plant is an instant cure for the stinging or itching caused from a bug's sting or bite.  I actually stepped close enough to a bee in sandals two summers ago (while having a yard sale) to prick an innocent bee's survival instincts and caused it to sting the side of my foot.  The pain was burning.  I reached down and picked a plantago leaf, chewed it enough to get the juices in it flowing, and applied it to the sting.  It quit hurting IMMEDIATELY!
     It really is one thing to read something, but something else to see (or in this case, feel) the actual results.  Maybe because when you read something that resonates with you, you want for it so badly to be true.  I think that is the way with anything you believe.  So to see what you believe to be true actually is, is quite reaffirming :)
     So, the funny thing about all that I've shared is that it was meant to lead into a blog about permaculture......However, I got a bit side tracked reliving this special hour out and about the yarden with my husband-haha!  Thinking about trompsing around, admiring all the diversity in our little lot, baby monitor on my hip, lifting it to my ear every few minutes just to make sure.  SOooo I suppose I will talk about that at another time (please, in your mind's ear, imagine hearing the words in italics in a southern girl's voice doing a probably poor imitation of a very proper French lady.)

Facebook Yarden Album
   

A Lovely Way to Start the Day


I'm keeping it simple today, folks.  I got up early enough to cook breakfast, sweep and clean the kitchen, AND take out the garbage.  BOOM!  I also brought to work with me a moonshine jug full of herbal tea, made from herbs growing in my very own yarden.  Plantago, Dandelion, Red Raspberry Leaf, and Mint.  Mmmmm.  What a wonderful way to clean the blood (plantago), tone the reproductive system (raspbery leaf), clean the kidneys (dandelion), and aid in my digestion today (mint).  I dare say all systems are a go!  And it tastes good without even adding honey. ;)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Where It All Began

         A note before beginningIt's kind of hard to know where to start with all of this information and all of these experiences since they are all so interconnected.  I am going to do my best to not get too side tracked, and hopefully each blog will primarily be about a single facet-not becoming too rambley (as I am wont to do).  With that said, here we go.......



     It may have started when my good friend began sharing her personal experiences of applying certain dietary restrictions to her lifestyle with me, but it BEGAN about midway through the documentary The Beautiful Truth.  For those who do not know what I am talking about, I dare say it is worth looking into.  It may not resonate with you in the same fashion it did with moi, but it is full of very interesting information.  For one, it may lead you down a rabbit hole of researching the work of Dr. Max Gerson.  See, this man was a German doctor who started off treating himself for migraines with (you guessed it!) DIET.  What's more, in experimenting with this he ended up curing his own skin tuberculosis!  Nobel prize winner, Albert Schweitzer, M.D., was attracted to his form of treatment after his wife was cured of her lung tuberculosis with this same method.  And this was just the starting point.  The Gerson form of therapy went on to cure heart disease, kidney failure, and finally the biggest and scariest of them all-CANCER.  His daughter now runs a clinic in Mexico*.
     It's funny, we hear "You are what you eat" through our entire lives; but like most things, hearing it becomes so common place it begins to seem.....redundant.  It is anything but in this case.  I think when we consider this phrase, we think that maybe it means we shouldn't eat a bunch of junk food.  Well, ok, that is a simple enough concept.  Do we ever, think, however, that maybe the current accepted ideas of a good diet might need to be reconsidered?  Well, Dr. Gerson obviously did, and furthermore, he had great success.
    What is so crazy (to me anyway), is that though this has been proven time and again in other countries, *doctors here in the United States aren't ALLOWED to treat in this way.  It is considered neglect for a doctor not to use some form of synthesized medicine or radiation.  Surely I am not the only one who thinks this is insane!  [Let me just make a side note here and say: I am not saying that there is never a need for medication or medical procedures.  I am only saying, "How about before we start dosing people with poison or with things that can possibly cause worse side effects than their current symptoms (leading to a hamster wheel of more medication use), we try looking at the underlying cause and go from there first."]
     What is further disappointing to me is that doctors are not taught in their oh-so-prestigious medical schools to look at a person's nutritional habits.  Well, I take that back.  They will consider that, but only if you have diabetes or weight issues.  In fact, let me jump into the future of this story and share a personal experience with you guys.  A few years back (at the tail end of 2011), when my husband and I decided we were going to try to have a baby, we were going to start as soon as I got off of the medicine I was currently on for my anxiety: Zoloft.  It was all over the television about how it had been shown to cause birth defects.  As someone who has had a very paranoid form of anxiety, I never want to go back to that way of living again.  It's like you're trapped in your own head, and no matter how much you try to tell yourself "It is just an attack, you will be fine just like last time"; no matter how much you "know" that your paranoid thoughts have no ground to stand on, you just can't fight that little voice in the back of your mind telling you, "Well this time it could be different.  This time something really COULD be wrong."  It is awful to have a gigantic fear that you are somehow dying and you just can't shake it.
     So, knowing what I know based on what little I have learned, I realize that if I'm coming off of this medicine I've got to do something different.  So I look at what nutritionists are available to me through my current insurance, and I call UAB (because they are the only ones on my list.)  I tell them that I am wanting to get pregnant, that I have an anxiety disorder, and since the medicine I am on is bad for baby I'd like to take care of this issue with nutrition.  I wanted to see what kind of help or counseling they could offer me.  Nada.  I can not be covered for that kind of help unless I have diabetes, I am overweight, or I am underweight.  SERIOUSLY!?  So, I refuse to be defeated.  I decide, "Screw it.  I don't need their help anyway."  Thus began my delving after the answers I sought in the first place.  Oh man, did I learn A LOT!
     I could go on here about all the things I learned, but I think you guys came here to read a blog, not a book-haha!  The point, however, is that though I had been learning, and had even started applying, some of this new found information to my life, it still took certain events in my life to spur me toward really making a change.  That being said, my life in terms of applying these changes is a continuation of ups and downs.  I am no expert, and I am no purist.  I simply do what I can when I can, and there are times in my life I've had more discipline toward it than others.  And besides, nutrition is just one of the many facets that have become of interest to me in this walk :)

For those who are interested and would like to learn more about Dr. Gerson:

More info on Dr. Gerson
The Beautiful Truth Movie Trailer