Brier Hill Permaculture

1 02 2012

We are official. I picked a name for our little gem of a farm, and I’m sticking to it.

I finally gave in and started calling myself a farmer. I have wanted to be a farmer since I was about 10 years old and living next to a horse pasture. I remember looking out the window at the neighbor’s horses and thinking “Yes, that is what I want; a horse farm is in my future.” As I grew, my dream evolved and changed with my growing knowledge. I wanted a permaculture farm before I even knew what permaculture was. In my young mind’s eye, every farm should be permaculture, with all the different systems supporting each other. I thought real farms were living, breathing organisms, with a life and pulse all their own.

It turns out I was more or less right. I don’t think of industrial agriculture as farming anymore. I think I only ever did because that is what children’s stories and books depict modern farming as: some man of ambiguous age riding a tractor through a monoculture crop of some type of grain. Either that or an idealized version of Old MacDonald’s farm.

In reality, the truth is so much better. I wake up more or less around 5am every day, shortly before the rooster starts crowing. I toss and turn until the urge to relieve myself gets to be too much to ignore. Check the baby one more time before I get up. Starting the day with dawn is just lovely. I step out while the water is boiling for my first cup of tea, breath in the new day’s air, get a feel for what today’s weather might bring. Check the goat’s water and hay, feed the chickens and check for eggs in their new nest buckets. Come back inside, grab my now-cool-enough-to-drink tea and head back into the bedroom so I can wake the baby for another snack, if I keep her full she sleeps later.

As I drink my tea and nurse the baby I think about what I want to get done for the day. Since the snowstorm mid-January, the weather has been nice enough that the house is making a lot of progress on the garden and animal housing. Echo, Bean and I recently spent an afternoon clearing old stubby blackberry canes into a pile for our new hugelkultr bed in the garden while Tricks made some sweet new underground chicken nests since our hens FINALLY started laying eggs. We got 5 the first day!!

Last week I put in my seed order with Sustainable Seed Co, arguably one of the best seed companies I’ve had the pleasure of doing business with. Everything they sell is heirloom and open-pollinated.

So, going back to my original point, I finally gave in and decided to start calling myself a farmer. I feel like I finally got to join some secret club. Like, now that I call myself a farmer, do I get a badge, or an id card? “It’s okay folks, I’m a farmer!”

I have always wanted to be a farmer. My success with growing things it hit or miss, but I keep trying and I keep getting better. I am giving some serious thought to trying to join the local farmer’s market this summer. It runs from mid-May to mid-October, and would be cheaper and easier to start doing than a CSA, at least until I have an established clientel. But I am already about to start hardening off my first seedlings of the year, a mixture of salad greens and radishes. I think I should be able to get the hang of succession planting between now and May, and with all these blackberry vines and manure sitting around, I have an endless supply of materials for more hugelkultr beds.

Once I embraced the woman I have always wanted to be, and I mean I grabbed her by the dirty pigtail braids and gave her a damn good shake to make sure we were all on the same page, everything sort of started falling into place. I don’t feel like I am fighting myself anymore. I am happy more. And I’ve found a way to combine my passions – good food, animals, and gardening, with some more recent needs – working from home so I can also raise our daughter in a way that lines up with my morals and views, with a long time need of making money.

Bean will never have to fight it. She has been born into farming. She’s known goats and chickens since before she was born. She knows goats and chicks now. She has been strapped to my back while I chop wood, cut down trees, clear blackberry vines, build garden beds, herd goats and more. Her first taste of food will be of real food, grown and raised right here on this property. We aren’t that far from the city. We could just let the land keep sitting and it will just do what it does. We could keep trying to find a way to make a living in the corporate rat race, we could struggle trying to make ends meet while living on welfare and food stamps. Or we could use some of those food stamps to buy vegetable seeds (yes, it’s true, you can!) and start a garden. We choose to make a life rather than live one doled out to us one unsatisfying portion at a time.

I’m happy with my choice. I am happy there is dirt under my nails at the end of the day, and that my muscles are so sore that sitting up straight hurts. I think this is a good life we are creating here and I can’t wait to share it with others.


A New Year, a New Ewe

10 01 2012

So the Bean is now almost three-months old. I was originally planning on blogging about her birth, but it is just not something I am ready to write about in a public space yet. All I will say is this: her labor was hard, and long, and wonderful. My midwives were amazing, and Mr. Ewe and I welcomed her into our arms, on our own bed minutes before midnight. I can’t wait to do it again.

There have been huge adjustments in our lives to make our little family work smoothly. Adjusting to a new baby is never easy, but I would have to say that because of how much we slowed down our lives before the baby came, making that adjustment was that much easier when we had to slow down the pace of our lives even more.

Having this new person in our lives has made us so much more aware of where we are in our lives and in the world, and where we want to be headed. The last three months have involved lots of whispered, late-night conversations between Mr. Ewe and I about the path we are on.

The world seems so much scarier now than it ever was. Resources and time seem to be dwindling at an ever faster pace, and I spend a lot of time worrying about what kind of world my daughter is going to have to live in.

Mr. Ewe and I have always had what seemed like a pipe dream to buy land out in the boonies, build ourselves a small house and just try to live the best, simplest life possible. But with Lamb here now, it seems we can no longer afford for that to be a pipe dream, it is time for us to act.

The problem with acting now is that we are literally starting with almost nothing. I admit that we are quite poor, and saving anything when you find yourself poor is a huge challenge, both physically and mentally. We looked at the ledger and realized that to make a saving account grow, we are going to have to become evenmore resourceful than ever before. I am a stay at home mom, and Mr. Ewe is a full-time student. We are living off of his financial aid and the GI Bill right now. We have to find a way to turn an idea into something tangible with little to get us started. It is scary and a challenge. But here we are, ready to make the leap.

At the end of 2011 Mr. Ewe and I both turned 30 within a  month of each other. We are 30. Standing on the precipice of a third decade on this planet. It seemed like this was a lifetime away when I was turning 10, I had no idea where I was headed when I was 20, and now that I am 30 I have to wonder where I am headed to next.

But each month now we get ourelves a little more ahead than the previous month, and pretty soon I think we will be able to start putting money in savings so that we can put a down payment on land next year.

Our pipe dream of land and a small house has grown quite a bit in those late-night talks. This year we are going to start building on our rental property. I have decided that we are going to build a cob pizza oven, and then maybe a cob garden shed or milking shed. We are going to use this year to narrow down our property search, and start gaining skillz. We need cob-building skills so when we move we don’t have to live in our camper longer than we have to.

Our little house and farm on a few acres has morphed into a small eco-village, based on cob houses, earthships, and lots of permaculture. We don’t want to settle down and forget the world, we want to invite the world in, teach classes and show the world that there is a better way to live. One that does not involve a 30-year mortgage, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and fears that the bank will take back your home because you looked at a teller cross-eyed.

The ability to live in harmony with the world, and the ability to find comfort in having nothing is out there. I am redefining what comfort means to me on a daily basis. I am teaching Lamb how to live in sync with the world around her.

Turns out having a baby is the catalyst I needed to change my life for the better. :)

Green In Ways You Never Thought Of

2 04 2008

Date: April 2, 2008

Mileage: 5.1

April Mileage: 5.1

Year to date mileage: 97.5

Temp/Weather: 40F-54F, partly cloudy

Days until RAGBRAI: 108

In my mug:Yogi tea Green Tea Active Body, Tazo tea Berryblossom White, and Tazo tea Lemon Mat√©. I really like to drink tea, it helps me get my liquids in for the day, and it’s tasty, without all the sugar. (For non bitter tea, steep in water that is not quite boiling for 5 minutes, then remove the tea bag.)

My tea quote for the day: “It’s not life that matters, it’s the courage that we bring to it.”

Cycling as a greener, simpler way of life? Sure, in the obvious ways. I don’t drive, so I don’t have to buy gas, oil, and all the other fluids and lubricants an old, falling apart car needs on a weekly basis. I don’t have to get oil changes (filters?). These things are not Eco-green-environmentally friendly. Sure, I could replace my car with some shiny fancy hybrid thingy and be “cool.” But then I would have to buy oil, gas, fluids and lubricants, get oil changes, new tires, and outfit my car with Eco-cool bumper stickers to tell the world where I stand. Not to mention car payments and insurance.

So that is one way that cycling is better for my corner of the world. But HOW ELSE does it change things? Oh! I’ve got one for you. I buy less stuff, and I am pickier about WHERE I shop. By virtue of the simple fact that I don’t have a trunk, I must think long and hard about any item I might consider purchasing. Can I carry it home in a back pack? No? Well, I probably don’t need it. That might change at some point, but right now, this is how my life is evolving. I go to the store more often for groceries (it’s on my way home anyhow, I literally cut through the grocery store parking lot on my way home). But I only buy what I NEED. We are eating healthier because junk food takes up precious space that something healthy could be using. Since we are eating healthier, we are also eating fresher. I can’t carry 2 gallons of milk (1% for him, whole for me). So we get the smaller milk cartons, drink them up, and replace them. Fresher, mmmm.

Another way it has made my life feel green is much more subtle. I am exploring. I feel more creative and curious. It probably has something to do with increased blood flow to my brain since I am getting, horror, exercise. And having a better time when I am out commuting. I know that if I have to run an errand, my day is most likely going to revolve around running (biking) that errand. it means I am forcing myself to slow down and enjoy tat actual process of running my errands. It isn’t just about getting to point A, it’s also about HOW I get to point A. And I am meeting my neighbors. I can make eye contact with them. I can wave to them as I peddle by. Conversations get struck up. People feel inspired. All of these things make the world a little better. Just imagine what the world could be like if someone each of us knew (me? you?) went through their day in a better mood because they felt connected to their life and their world? Is it easier or harder to hate someone that you don’t know, don’t feel connected to?

Yesterday I drove. I already admitted it. I can’t believe how foul my mood was just 5 minutes after getting in the car. I felt empowered, strong, invincible. On my bike, I feel humble, delicate, fragile. I read a quote from somewhere yesterday that basically said that riding a bike as a primary mode of transportation is the closest that a lot of people of my social/economic class ever get to being treated like second class citizens. I thought about that a lot on my way into work this morning. The quotee also went on to say that those of us the CHOOSE to ride a bike instead of driving a car try to fancy themselves and their bikes up so that people will look at us and see the choice we made, instead of seeing us as having a lack of a choice. I say, who cares? If they want to look at me and see poor, fine. I really don’t care. Buying expensive bikes, rims, components, clothes, helmets, shoes is not going to change the way the person feeling more entitlement to the road than me is going to treat me. It just isn’t. They are going to go whizzing past me at 20 mph over the speed limit seeing nothing more than a chick on a bike taking up road space that doesn’t belong to her, if they see me at all. All the bright little blinky lights and reflective and neon colored clothes in the world can’t force people to open their eyes and see past their front bumper. But I am changing MY world and I am opening MY eyes. They can stay in their self-important-better-than-the-Joneses-inflated-debt-bubble for all I care. These things are making me more aware of the world around me.

I hope that if I am diligent on my bike, I can make it through life without some idiot driver plowing through me at an intersection some day. But it is a risk I take. The benefits are so worth the risk. I can’t say that about driving: last night I was trying to park at the grocery store so I could mail some packages, and I got stuck behind a women driving a HUMONGOUS dodge ram pickup. She seemed too tiny in that giant truck, and the perception I got was that she wasn’t comfortable parking it. She spent 5 minutes trying to squeeze into a parking spot that she barely fit in because she didn’t want to park 20 feet further away from the store entrance, where there were plenty of wide open parking spaces she would have no trouble fitting in. It was like a switch was flipped in my mentality. I immediately started screaming, waving my arms, flipping her off, calling her nasty names; all because I didn’t want to wait 5 minutes for her to park her behemoth. I am very uncomfortable with the sense of entitlement that seems to automatically accompany any person behind the wheel of a car, including myself. It’s scary how fast my attitude changed. I might someday miss the a/c on hot hot days, and the heated seats on frigid mornings. But I am really not too concerned at this point about what I might miss someday.

I was so glad to get on my bike this morning. My outlook about riding shifted quite a bit yesterday. I am going to try to sell my car this week. With the proceeds, I am going to get my rack, panniers, and a trailer. With the rest of the money, I am going to pay bills. I am not saving it for a down payment on a car in the future. I want to be car-less for now, I don’t need a car. If I can’t get somewhere by my feet, my bike, a bus, a cab, a ride from a friend, or a ride from my boyfriend, I have no need to go there. The hard part will be convincing my boyfriend that I don’t need a car. He seems very worried that I might be motor-less very soon. F*** ’em. If I can deal with it, so can he.

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