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 @ (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


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 (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 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!