Saturday, January 25, 2014

Farm Chores (The Photo Series)

A random pictorial representation of our lives.

My favorite subject
Evergreen Waterfall
Not a good sign in the greenhouse
33 Weeks, big baby boy
Forest and Sean's awesome compost sifter
Amazing kale that made it through -10 degrees Fahrenheit 
First drink of the morning
Clear frosty mornings, love watching the sun rise
Hundreds of pounds of Sunchokes from the Ant Farm

Walnut House Work Party

What incredible work to be done with many hands and great friends!  The transformation from yard to edible landscape at the Walnut House took leaps and bounds during our most recent work party.  It's amazing how enjoyable 'work' can be when it's accompanied by magnificent personalities and a fat dose of sunshine.  All topped off with Chef Shelley's delectable chili and some tasty home-brew. Here's a list of the heavy tasks accomplished....

+ Dig path to livestock zone - lay down landscape fabric - backfill with wood chips

+ Map out orchard - Apple, Apple, Quince, Persimmon - Remove 12' circumference of sod - mulch

+ Mulch entire garden zone for coming growing season with city leaves

+ Sharpen all digging tools

+ Chip up Ramial wood chips for future orchard mulch

+ Move sod to Hugelkultur Beetle Bank

+ EAT!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Our Place

   Winter time lends itself beautifully to personal reflection and philosophical contemplation... and hot tea.  For those of us in tune with the seasons the dark and cold winter, filled with introspection, is the balanced counterpart to the extroverted, action-based hot summer.  Around this house we have found plenty to keep ourselves busy focusing on the growing season ahead, planning, designing, seed shopping, pruning.  Needless to say, time still abounds for cozying up with your own thoughts.

   An amazing book I read recently examined an incredibly broad array of larger concepts within a single paragraph, sending my thoughts bounding off in multiple directions.  The topics were wonderfully pertinent to the Now (though the book was published in 2002) and succinct enough to be perfect to share with the larger blog world (you).  As you dive into this excerpt, think about the Bigger Picture.  What do we know about agriculture?  What do we know about the natural environment?  Where do we fit in as resource utilizers in the broader web of life?  Do we hold a certain amount of responsibility for action or inaction as citizens of a country where education and privilege are freely available?  Take a look...

Near A Thousand Tables: A History of Food by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
pg. 209

 The world's reliance of the seeds of the Green Revolution is dangerous not only because of the incalculable effects of pesticide profligacy but also of the risk from rapidly evolving new pests and crop diseases.  The most widely canvassed next stage is conversion to genetically modified foods.  There is no reason to suppose that these will be other than nutritious, health-giving and efficient.  But they are almost as likely as Green Revolution crops to bring unforeseen consequences.  Among the foreseeable consequences are the accidental hybridization of non-genetically modified species, with resultant extinctions and the creation of new eco-niches in which new, potentially destructive biota can emerge.  Rogue, random effects are always loose in causation.  Our sallies in genetic manipulation will be made in tiny portions of the field: mainly in our own species and those we already domesticate.  The big battalions in nature will still be those beyond our control.  Evolution will still outclass our revolutions as a force for change.  Most of the diseases we eliminate, for instance, microbial evolution will replace.  Changes we engineer in the species we eat will be like all our previous interventions in the environment: a mixture of solution finding and problem forming.  It is not yet clear whether we have the means of escape from the world's food problems or merely a means of multiplying crisis.  

   Population, the Butterfly Effect, GMOs, microbiota, agricultural history, technology.  Such grand topics to touch-on in one paragraph.  The rabbit holes of discussion and perspective are endless from such a provocative piece of text.  It's possible to see this as a call for those of us capable to join a powerful international non-profit, and work to reconcile the issues within our food system and the degradation we have caused and will continue to cause to our natural environment.  However, for the rest of us, the individuals that make up the whole, what are we to do?  One view point is that we, the little guys, should sit back and let the muscles of the conservation/legislation structure do the work.  This may take progress to a certain point, but the REAL power, the REAL muscle lies within the individual.  The global is the sum of the local.  So much of our autonomy has been sacrificed in place of commodified convenience.  In order to reclaim our sovereignty and begin to make beneficial, rather than detrimental, impacts for the whole, it's imperative that we reflect upon ourselves and contemplate the big things we can do as little guys.  

  As a soon to be new mother in this world we all share, I've been pondering these issues.  Population, nutrition, access to food, disease resistance, education, family, the preservation of the natural environment.  How can I work to make the world a better place, not only for us all, but particularly for my son?  The approach I've dedicated myself to is the easiest and simplest for anyone to obtain.  It has no defined category into which it fits, but for our purposes lets describe it as simplistic intentional living.  It's a life that looks at food not as a commodity, but rather as the force that sustains us all.  It sees people as members of a community that can help each other to thrive.  It looks at place and space as something one can dedicate themselves to, and truly have a love affair with.  It all hinges upon living simply and appreciating little things greatly.  With grand uncertainties looming in the near future we have worked to increase the resiliency of this family by finding a loving community and being contributing members to it,  eating and growing nutrient dense foods, expanding our disease fighting internal microbial diversity, and continuing to educate ourselves and others as to how and why we do the things we do.  By growing open-pollinated food crops to feed ourselves and some of our community we make a small dent (but a loud statement) in resistance to the unknown effects that large-scale agricultural intervention may cause.

    The first truly sunny morning in January blazes through the windows as if to remind me that the season of introspection is coming to a close.  Soon life will be inundated with action.  While we still have a slow moment of reflection it seems a worthwhile exercise to examine the larger questions in life, in order to decide how we feel about them as individuals and which steps to take to fulfill ourselves in the days to come.  It's difficult and at times overwhelming to predict how the future will unfold, so for now, we educate each other, love deeply, live simply, and most assuredly, we eat.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Farm Chores (The Photo Series)

A random pictorial representation of our lives.

Shelley inspecting compost
Too much
Arugula (Urban Farm)
Flowers are beginning to bloom; Witch Hazel blossom
Seeds arrived at the Urban Farm
OG Redneck Fruit Tree Orchard
Beautiful, aromatic Celery
We were both excited about the life in the Greenhouse
Mashua; spicy Andean Tuber
Dill's Atlantic Skeleton
Pals, checking out the newly bottled IPA
Our first Lager; The Hip Hop (rose hips and home grown hops)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pruning: Fruit Trees, Thornless Blackberries, and Ornamentals at Lauren's House

Our collective farming unit has begun, in ernest, our weekly planned work parties.  The Potter St. location launched the beginning of the farming season projects with a task list including: 
+ Prune: Pear trees, Apple tree, Tamarisk tree
+ Prune: Ornamentals; Forsythia, Roses, Clematis, Fennel, Thornless Blackberry
+ Seed out Arugula, Spinach, Hardy Salad Greens

The weather was beautifully mild for mid winter, so we were able to spend most of the day outside learning about the various pruning techniques from Lauren.  I came to realize a deep internal satisfaction with control and organization as i snipped away at the overgrown branches, limbs, and vines.  Essentially that is what pruning symbolizes, the imposition of human control over seemingly chaotic, organic and feral organisms.  This self realization made me want to get more in touch with my Wild Woman side, embrace more chaos.  

If this inaugural work party is any indication as to how the rest of the farming season will transpire, 2014 should be a phenomenal year.  The day was spent outdoors, conquering meaningful tasks, hanging out with friends, and of course we ended with a delicious meal shared together.