Homestead Crafts Series: Intro

24 01 2012

I’ve come to realize that I have a duty to learn permaculture gardening techniques. I owe it to this piece of land we live on/off of to treat it with respect, and to leave it better than we found it. Part of treating this place with respect is to rid it of invasive species like Himalayan blackberry, the bane of just about anyone with open land in the maritime Northwest. The berries are delicious, but the canes are a monster to deal with if you so much as turn your back on them for even one season.

Lucky for us, goats LOVE blackberries. Well, the leaves actually. I was under the impression before we got goats that they “eat anything.” Sure, they seem to have iron stomachs, but my goats are quite picky eaters. They love blackberry, as long as it is young leaves, tender tips of fresh canes and shoots, and unripe berries. They want nothing to do with the old, tough, woody canes that are left over after picking the choice bits off.

So I am left  to remove the leftover vines with a set of hand pruners (I’m upgrading to a machete or a sickle this year), a pair of leather gloves and a box of band-aids. And then what do I do once I have a big pile of thorny trouble? I have tried making giant piles of old thorny canes in places I don’t want the goats to go, but that keeps me from venturing in those places as well, and it only lasts so long before the goats decide they can just carefully walk over the pile. In goat world, the grass is always greener on the side of whatever you don’t want them crossing.

I’ve tried cutting the canes into pieces small enough to break down relatively fast in the compost, but this takes a lot of time that I would rather be spending doing PRODUCTIVE things. Regardless of the time of year, there are only so many daylight hours in a day, and I don’t want to waste them cutting things into smaller things.

So after a little research and some help from Echo’s amazing google-fu (seriously, where does she find half this stuff?) I have come up with several creative uses for blackberry canes that I hope to blog about with pictures of the finished products in the near future. I may even post some photo-tutorials after I teach a few classes.

I am so excited about this! I have been having a real hard time thinking up solutions to some of my most vexing problems here on the farm. Money is so tight that even finding free supplies on freecycle doesn’t guarantee a solution to my problem: I still need to use gas and drive the car to get things. So the more I can produce, create and reuse with what we already have at our disposal to solve problems, the further what little money we do have goes when I can’t avoid spending it.

 





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 Maté. 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.








%d bloggers like this: