Monday, September 23, 2013

The Home Team is Moving On

"Slipperyslope", looking up from the main garden
Some of us woke up years ago and decided to redefine what it is in our lives that truly sustain us.

Before I retired in 2008, we both realized our dream of owning and running a small restaurant together was in fact a dream and we decided to incorporate the property we owned in helping to generate a small income where others could join us in the "good life" of owning how we live and sharing what we have.  David grew the garden space to feed 6-8 people and we worked on the existing infrastructure  in hopes of building a small community.

More than 10 years later we've learned that most of whom we've met don't want to share, don't want to work for their food and instead would rather have fun since time is running out, or to simply deny that our future will be any different than it is today and continue living the way they always have.

After failing at building community, we thought we would be able to find "business partners", someone(s) looking to team up with us to generate a farm income from fruit, as we fenced in a large area of the pasture and had hoped to put in drip irrigation from stored water at the top of the property.

Because we hoped that "they" would come and "they" never have, and because the property is too much work for just the two of us; we decided to market it ourselves hoping to find some youthful interest who can/may take it to the next level and prosper from the work we've done, and maybe we succeeded in that, we hope so.  With inspections happening this week, we should know if the deal is real and if everything goes well, we will be moving on before the winter solstice.

It's a bittersweet time for us, the longest we've ever been in one home, the hardest we've ever worked on one property and the most tears we've shed under one roof.  Someone once said, "the pain intensifies the joy" and we've certainly experienced joy while living here.

We believe that no one is exempt from working for what sustains them, especially food and water.  If you are not working for what you eat, then someone else is.

A great read by Walter Haugen, The Law of Physics Are On My Side, explores the fact that slavery still exists and states:

"Consequently, we pat ourselves on the back and think we have somehow slipped the age-old pattern of enslaving somebody else so we can have a good life.  However, this is just a delusion.  Instead of human slaves, we have energy slaves." 

We know we have worked for others in our lives and can say that it hasn't destroyed us.  In fact it's made us stronger in body and healthier in mind, all of nature works for food and we're no different.

Who we are:
David and Elaine married young at ages 21 and 19, been together for 36 years.  Not only do we still like one another,  we work well together and have always dreamed about having our own business or helping others to maintain/keep theirs.  Elaine retired from the telecommunications industry after 30 years in 2008 working from the lowest paid title of “operator” to the highest paid craft job of Central Office Technician.  David provided security for our two daughters teaching them “hands on” skills and spent time volunteering in classrooms and gyms where he coached basketball as well as mentoring as a “Big Brother.”  He held numerous job positions once our daughters were older such as Campus Supervisor,  Fraternity Cook, Sorority maintenance and Building Warehouse Supervisor for a major lighting company.

What we’ve done since 2001:
While I worked full time,  David built 1.5 acres of garden space where we grew the majority of our vegetables, fruit and herbs.

Our ad for selling stated this:
Secluded, small, productive farmstead on 5 acres 10 miles west of Junction City, Oregon
Land is gently sloped with southern exposure.
Soil is loamy, well-drained, balanced pH. Irrigation from 39 GPM well.
Ability to catch rainwater off buildings and slope of property.
No Chemicals or sprays.
Updated 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1488 sq. ft ranch home built in 1978.
Attached 2 car garage converted into recreation room
Separate 3 sided carport 33' x 36'.

Much has been written about our endeavors on our blog, specifically here:
and here:

We enjoy processing the food we grow and cooking with fresh ingredients during the summer season as well as stored in the winter months.
Fresh peppers stuffed with shredded zucchini and topped with homemade Ricotta cheese and cherry tomatoes

Green beans from the garden 2013

We both enjoy gardening, hiking, and reading. Elaine loves any type of craft including knitting and spinning as well as writing.  She has been a hospice volunteer for Signature Hospice in Eugene since 2010.
Shetland fleece from the Black Sheep Gathering 2013
Knitted and felted slippers made for David 2013

Here is some of what we had to offer (before selling):
• Fifty 4 x 26' raised beds.
• No till for the last seven years.
• Utilizing cover cropping, composting, companion planting, and crop    rotation.
• Maintained using hand tools.
• Well-established medicinal and culinary herbs.
• Young orchard, 40+ fruit and nut trees, 25 blueberry plants, 150' of cane fruits.
• 20 HP diesel tractor with front-end loader.
• Breeding pair of Ancona ducks.
• Chicken house capable of housing 25 chickens with fenced in run (90' x 45').
• 10' x 14' well insulated greenhouse.
• Framework installed for a 20' x 65' greenhouse with cover crop growing in it.
• Approximately two acres ploughed, tilled and deer fenced.
• Beehives.
• No Chemicals or sprays for the past 10 year

Eight beds of drying beans in front garden May 2013
Drying Beans in front garden July 2013
Taking down one of the bean trellises August 2013

What we’re looking for:
  • To possibly join others who would like to share resources and/or living expenses while helping with a business operation.
  • Help work/manage a small farm operation where our combined hours a week would be in exchange of food that we can process/store for ourselves.
  • Possibly opening a small business with the help of others where food can be processed and sold.  Perhaps incorporating a commercial kitchen onsite where we can all benefit from the profit as well as the food shared.
What we have to offer:
  • Financial Resources
  • Familiarity of using hand tools
  • Knowledge of processing fruits and  vegetables by using methods of drying, freezing, canning, fermenting and long term storage
  • Experience with doing starts in a greenhouse, seed saving, composting and vermiculture
  • Skilled in using herbs for cooking as well as making lotion, salves and tinctures
  • Some plumbing, electrical and carpenter skills
Along with some of our better attributes such as:
  • Organized
  • Physically in good shape
  • Dependable
  • Trustworthy
  • Ability to think “outside of the box”
  • Adapting and dealing

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Homesteading: Not Just a Way of Living, But an Act of Resistance

Time passes, things change and shit happens, so now what?  We come to terms with what we know, what we “can” do and how to take action, at least that is what we do.

Guy McPherson say's, "birth is lethal"; so every moment we live.  Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, some better than others.

Homesteading can be hard work but the energy invested is usually well worth the effort.  As a pacifist resists war, you might say a homesteader lives to resist giving up.  The more we learn about societies collapsing through economic fraud, resource depletion, population overshoot and climate change, the more we realize that NTE (Near Term Extinction) is not a disease but an ultimate death that we have allowed to kill us.  The choices we make today will not save us but will perhaps make the time left more bearable.

We don’t believe in hunkering down or living in fear of what inevitably will happen as death to us will come soon enough.  Instead we awaken to each day with chores in hand and a mindset of making the best of living.  This is not done without the help of nature to grow our food and/or the support of others who compliment our way of life.

We’ve found differences amongst us in our crowd of doomers that have prevented us from sharing, caring and helping one another and we have found commonalities with those who believe Revelations is all about collapse.  We laugh at our ability to get along with others and we rejoice in the overlap of the circles.  We're thankful to have some we can talk to, that will at least acknowledge how we’ve messed up our living arrangement with the earth.  We won’t ever see all things in the same light but we can agree on what is wrong even though we may not agree on what is right.

Knowing what is wrong can become so overwhelming that it prevents us from moving forward or should I say living.  Our lives are controlled by institutions such as our food system, banking businesses, military industrial complex, sickcare, education, info-entertainment (including the sports industrial complex) and the so called technology that will save the day.

Recently we read a report that stated on average people watch 34 hours of television a week.  We wonder, what if those people spent half the time securing their food source cutting down on costs and helping/supporting their small local farms?  So lets discuss food since it's something we need and it directly affects the health of us as well as the living planet. 

We've never been completely self sufficient as far as food goes and have learned to focus more on how close to home we can obtain it, either by purchasing outright or bartering.

We grow a variety of vegetables and fruit which we process and store.  What we don't grow ourselves, we purchase from small local farms or barter with honest, hard working folks.  This supports our local community, cuts down on packaging such as styrofoam, plastics and aluminum tin cans that are harmful to our health.  It also eliminates the middle person who mostly shuffles paperwork and makes money doing so.

Last year we had a surplus of 40#’s of garlic which we sold at $3 a pound to a goat farmer who wanted it not only for himself but as a booster medicine for his goasts.  The $120 paid for 300#’s of hard red wheat that we purchased from an northeastern Oregon organic wheat farm.  We grind our own wheat to make bread.
Home made whole wheat bread (I now use the whey from the ricotta cheese, which gives it a springy texture)
Home made whole wheat bagels, not very pretty but they tasted good!

We have also purchased beef from the same person for the last four years, he lives within 25 miles of us and raises two cows a year that are grass fed. We pay $2 a pound hanging weight plus .50 cents a pound cut and wrap.  Experimenting with the different cuts of meats have made for some interesting meals, we hardly ever go out to eat, why would we when we can eat better at home?
T-bone steak and turnips, served with salad of lettuce, spinach, radishes, cauliflour (all veggies fresh from the garden)

Our milk comes from owners of six goats which we make our own cheese with. These connections have built relationships where I have taught spinning in exchange for sewing lessons.  Since our walnut trees are still young and not producing yet, our yearly supply of 100#’s (yield after cracking and shelling is about 48-50#’s) has been purchased from the same farm for the past four years less than 15 miles away from us on our way to town.

We purchase in bulk when possible.  I remember years ago buying granola, now we make our own.  Oats we purchase in 50# bags and cinnamon, pumpkin seeds and flax in large quantities.  Our dried strawberries are a nice addition or frozen berries left to melt in the bowl with the milk also tastes good. 

Here are a couple of examples of local meals we've had using our dried veggies as well as fresh when we have them.
Breakfast omelet made with re-hydrated tomatoes, peppers and dried zucchini, topped with canned tomatillo sauce


Our frozen spaghetti squash mixed with canned sauerkraut
, dried tomatoes, garlic, green onions
 and local chicken sausage
.  Served with a fresh salad made of lettuce, spinach, radishes, green onions and Amish peas (all fresh from the garden), tossed with our own herb vinegar and olive oil.
Local sausage fried with garlic and green onions, turnips, broccoli and cauliflour from the garden

Raw Pepper stuffed with scrambled eggs made with garlic and onions, ricotta cheese and cherry tomatoes, served with homemade bread
In keeping local we choose who we purchase from usually after chatting on the phone with them or visiting their farm/homestead.  Like Barbara Kingsolver said in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle there isn’t anything better than a farm visit as even labels that say “organic” can be grown not far from GMO crops and we live to see words backed up by actions.  We’re kind of funny in that way.

Many things can be done on the homestead to keep costs down.  We incorporate new things all the time and recently have found time to make our own toothpaste.   I’ve enjoyed learning how to infuse oils with my rose scented geraniums, calendula and lavender which I make lotion and healing salves from.  We had hoped to have our own beeswax to use in our salves but have found many local beekeepers have lost their hives recently.
Calendula from the garden

Herb vinegar, and infused oils
Chickens seem to earn their keep on the property and we love their eggs and so does our dog!  
We make his food also.
Buckeye Chickens
Our Ancona ducks mostly forage though they gotten quite spoiled with leftovers from the garden, the main reason we have them is to clean up the snails and slugs in the winter months.  Our hen don’t lay much but we sold four ducklings that paid for the pair.
Leigh-Leigh, Dolly and her four hens
As most homesteaders, we are very frugal and waste very little.  Our egg shells go back into the organic chicken feed as well as the worm bin and our compost is heaping this time of the year.  Sometimes it gives back in more than one way and we’re honored with squash, zucchini or pumpkin growing in it.
Black Beauty zucchini flourishing in the compost
                                                                                                                                                              Our hops look promising and we may get a chance to brew on own beer,
Waiting for a good brew!

and this year’s elderberries may give us a fine wine to drink on the solstice when we can celebrate once again the gift of our garden.
Elderberries wanting to become wine
I can’t imagine had our plan for a micro community worked out.  Homesteading is not for those who are lazy, but for those who don't mind a little hard work, the rewards are gratifying.  Contrary to belief, we still have fun while working.  We save money and get to see where we do spend it, and the challenge of living differently keeps us motivated.  There is no better way to live for our body, mind and soul...not for us anyways.
Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Food Freedom

Who needs daylight savings time to tell them when to get up or that it’s too light out to rest your body horizontally?  The heat is on, and when you’re contending with the sun, the better you get done. 

In our years of networking one avenue we ventured was trying to engage city folk into a relationship with country folk, or people living on acreage.  City lawns will not feed city blocks, not by themselves.  Take a look around at your neighbors, neighbors kids and figure an average daily calorie count by what you see, then think about the food that it will take to fulfill that calorie intake.

Even though we know as hunger goes up, calorie intake will go down, much like what happened in Cuba (Power of Community).  We also know that it will take more physical energy to grow food without the resources we have available to us today, causing us to look more like we should or I’ll just say healthier.

So where does one start when planning a garden in the midst of collapse?  Though we don’t consider to be experts on the subject, we do have a fair amount of knowledge that we’ve gained growing food for a combined 20+ years of our married life, and most recently 10+ here in the PNW.  We’re happy to share what we’ve learned as we know time in running out for those who are just starting to contemplate the idea of sustaining themselves sufficiently.

Trading these secrets will become more important than wire tapping as we know the real terrorists live in our gardens destroying our crops, hiding in their underground tunnels where the green revolution has just begun for them.

In our neck of the woods, we’ve had to use an arsenal of weapons such as castor oil, wicked killing traps and golf clubs.  The game is called “whack a mole” and for every one we catch, 2 more escape so the war on terror continues an food takes the place of oil and one has to wonder how many miles to the gallon one will get?

Trying to work with pests sharing a percentage of food (one year it was 40#’s of potatoes out of 150#’s) with them will only become more problematic when we’re producing less due to extreme and erratic weather patterns as we’re already witnessing.

This past week our area was under an Excessive Heat Warning and for several days it was 90+ degrees.  Our boysenberries and marionberries bloomed earlier than ever and were looking very healthy. 

Marionberries from the garden 2013
We were excited about having a bumper crop but as of today  (the 4th), we picked a handful of the marionberries and the new berries that are coming on are small.  They look like they’re withering on the vines.  The boysenberries have yet to ripen but appear to have taken a beaten from the heat.  Our thornless blackberries may be our saving grace as the canes are huge and the berries come on later.  With nature crying outside our back door, we never hold our breath though.

Dying Big Leaf Maple outside our backdoor 2013
Unlike others who may just be starting their gardens, we’ve been at it for awhile and have come to learn that it’s not just a date on the calendar that tells us when to plant a certain crop but many small details such as soil temperature, nighttime temps, dry/wet spells and a long history of being “in place” and paying attention. 

So much is affected by weather and yet we’ve heard so many say, “we’ll soon get rain, we always do”, or “this heat can’t last forever”.  Both of these statements may be true but depending on when we get rain/heat or not, can test anyone’s ability to grow a good enough crop to either collect seed from, supply our own food, or generate an income.

With the yearly weather fluctuations we have to thank our wall street criminals that taught us to diversify, diversify, and diversify.  Unlike monocropping we’ve tried to create a living system that feeds more than just us. 

The bees are out in numbers now and we step lightly on the clover planted between the beds.  By interspersing the garden with flowers, and herbs, we manage to isolate some of the pests to certain areas away from the food we both love.
Growing  a large variety of different things helps when certain families of vegetable don’t do well (ie: brassicas that bolt in the heat, beans that sit in cool/wet conditions, and tomatoes, peppers and melons that like it hot).  Variety has allowed us to succeed when the weather has caused crops to fail.

Perennials we grow:
Asparagus, Grapes, Boysenberries, Marionberries, Blackberries, Elderberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Currants, Hops, Apples, Plums, Cherries, Filberts, Walnuts, Pears, Clover, Chives, Sorrel, Kiwi, Strawberry Spinach, Dill and Sunflowers.

Herbs we grow:
Comfrey, Motherwort, Mugwort, Rose Hips, Echinacea, Arnica, Calendula, Sage, Oregano, Stevia, Sweet Woodruff, Lavendar, Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, Thyme, Skullcap, Cinquefoil, Feverfew, Lemon Balm, Bee Balm, Marshmallow, Yarrow, Chamomile, Amaranth, Valerian, Cilantro.

Annuals we grow:
Broccoli, Beets, Celery, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Onions, Garlic, Green Beans, Drying Beans, Peas, Lettuce, Spinach, Tomatoes, Peppers, Squash, Potatoes, Radishes, Turnips, Rutabaga, Melons, Cucumbers, Clover, Buckwheat, Vetch, Fava, Carrots, Kale,  Corn, Wheat, Barley.

Seeds we’ve saved:
Broccoli, Potatoes, Garlic, Tomatoes, Peppers, Squash, Spinach, Celery, Kale, Peas, Drying Beans, Turnips, Lettuce, Dill, Cilantro, Cucumbers, Carrots.

Perennial Flowers we grow:
Oriental Poppies, California Poppies, Bachelor Buttons, Columbine, Sunflowers, Lilacs, Honeysuckle, Gladiolas, Dahlias, Roses, Cala Lillies, Iris, Hollyhock, Daffodils, Borage, Azalea, Cosmos, Nasturtium.

As Russia learned when they went through collapse in the 90’s the importance of potatoes,  we’ve learned about other root crops that are staples to us such as turnips and rutabagas.  They both have long growing seasons and store well.  Both have done well for us when we leave them in the ground over winter.
Drying Beans in front garden 2013

We’ve also discovered the importance of protein and have tasted many different varieties of drying beans.  In our six years of growing them in our 4’ x 26’ raised beds , we have yielded between 10-13#‘s.  This year we have seven different varieties using a mix of both bush and pole types.  Our main problem here is our early rains in late August or early September and if we don’t pull them, they rot.  Doing this on a small scale, we can pull the vines and place them on tarps undercover to let them dry out.  If the rain stops and we get some sun we just pull them out of cover.  Not only are they good for us, but they are a great nitrogen fixer for the soil.

Lots of beans 2013
Front garden with five beds of drying beans 2913

Today on the fourth of July we think of food sovereignty and we celebrate our own independence by consuming burgers on the grill from less than 20 miles away, “freedom fries” (potatoes from the garden) with our own ketchup and tonight, once again, we’ll gaze up into the black sky at the sparkling diamonds that nature displays for us.
Burger with strawberry spinach, tomato and sauerkraut (all from the garden), Freedom Fries and homemade ketchup...
no Heinz here

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Message in an Envelope

What a nice surprise yesterday when I went to retrieve the mail.  I reached in the box to find a small brown envelope addressed to both of us.   The envelope had a return address with a name that was unfamiliar to me.  Curiosity led me to quickly open the package marked media mail to find a book inside titled, The Law of Physics Are On My Side written by Walter Haugen.  I bounced down the driveway reading the back and the dedication:

This book is dedicated to Toni Lyons -
crack editor, fellow weeder and best companion.
Every day she gets up and does something positive.
When that is done she does something else that is positive.

My emotions were as raw as meat waiting to be tenderized.  I can't begin to say how I felt while reading this.  Standing at the top of the driveway I was surrounded by trees and I felt hugged. 

I ascertained from the back of the book that Walter is a small farmer who makes a difference every day by feeding people and he wanted us to know that there are others who relate.  I haven't felt this inspired to write something for quite some time,  thank you Walter and Toni for thinking of us.

A gift shared from someone you don't know is like a breath at the end of time, one never knows if or when it's coming.  

Two weeks have passed since we put our property up for sale and I thought it would get easier.  Many emails have been sent to family and friends not only hoping to get the word out, but hoping to find a buyer who appreciates what it has to offer, very few replies have come back.    

Maybe too often I expect others to at least acknowledge the hard work that went into creating this sanctuary that feeds us,  though I remember my New Year's resolution was to give up my expectations and I begin to chastise myself for thinking.  

Walking back down the driveway I decided to hide the book that we just received and present it to my husband tomorrow,  as a "thank you" for all that he has done.  

Inspired by a thoughtful stranger, I sat down to write this letter that flowed out of me in less than 30 minutes.  For me inspiration is so strong when it feels so right.

The letter to my husband, reads:

We received this book in the mail today and I've only read the back and the dedication.  It put a bounce in my step as I wondered how the author had heard of us, but even more important is the fact that he felt a need to reach out when perhaps we needed to hear the message.

You especially have worked so diligently in building our small farm which we both know is going to be so needed if not by us,  then by others who can breathe more life into it.  If we sell, the feather will be placed so justifiably on the side of your cap.  

I think I've learned more in these past 11 years than I will ever learn and together once again we weather the storm and embrace what it is we need to, we always do.

I know you have said that you were not cut out to be a father but then I have to ask who is?  You have never been anyone else than who you are and authenticity is a trait that many strive to have but fall short because they would rather be liked.  I for one struggle with this and have learned from you that one of the most important things we can give and share with each other is honesty, without it, is a world full of lies and deceit which we see so much of today.

Wherever we have lived,  you have always managed to create a sanctuary of peace.  This one is not without sadness as so much of the surroundings are now dying.  Our maple tree that once served as a shelter from the rain is already shedding it's leaves now in June.  Nature is crying in pain and all we can do is watch.  But before me is a splendid garden tended by you with the love and interest of a child painting their dream of a lifetime.  

I look at this work of art and I know how it was mastered, one day at a time, putting one foot before the other.  Positive change can only come from the endeavor to face the truth and work with what you have, offering your physical strength and endurance to persevere through sorrow and pain.

No, I am not your daughter,  I am your wife.  I honor your love and friendship every day and I admire your honesty as a father who has been nothing less than honest with your children just as you have been to yourself.  

Thank you for taking the time to explain and teach most of whom has given you the opportunity.  You have gone from the player on the sidelines who listened,  to a coach in the game with a message.

Happy Father's Day from your wife. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Will To Go On

While planting peppers outside last Friday, we took pictures of our bigleaf maples and compared them to some pictures we took in 2011.  What you see here is happening every day before our eyes,  this is collapse up close and personal.
Bigleaf maple over deck 2011

Bigleaf Maples 2011 (one on right is above the deck)
Same one in picture above on left side 2013

Bigleaf maple over deck 2013

I've watched every year since 2007 the changes that have taken place to many of the trees around us, especially noticing the one by our deck.  What was once a big beautiful canopy towering majestically over us is now a mere skeleton.  The leaves (some of what use to be a foot across) are now about half that size.

Recently I read an article posted in the Eugene Weekly here: stating that it's a "banner year" for the bigleaf maples.  Today I emailed David Wagner to find out exactly what that means?

I remember when the tree over our deck served as a big umbrella, it's branches reaching almost to the ground from the weight.  When sitting under it,  we were completely shaded from the sun and it was quite interesting to look up and see nothing but green.
Umbrella of bigleaf maple by deck 2013
Working outdoors is a mix of bittersweet.  I feel as if I'm on a roller coaster suffering overwhelming feelings of despair and enthusiastic bouts of joy.  My gardens are filled with life this time of the year and I welcome the season of hard work as I remember the tastes of the rewards. 
Making Tomatillo sauce 2012

In 2002 we purchased a small 4WD diesel front end loader tractor with tiller and mower attachments.  I cleared an area of brush, wild blackberries and weeds and brought in a few loads of chicken manure from a local farm.  Along with the 50 yards of Blended Mint Compost we had delivered, we collected maple leaves and grew cover crops of annual clover which I worked into the soil.  This allowed us to grow food for a few years before reading Eliot Coleman's books, Four Season Harvest and The New Organic Grower. 

In 2006 after reading these books (which I highly recommend),  I decided to build all raised beds which would keep the costs low and make the garden easier to manage.  Our decision was based on the size needed for a small community of six people as this was our goal.  Since then we have found  most people don't want to work that hard for food and our community building efforts have failed.

For our design of raised beds, I tilled a large area and used string to mark each one 4' x 28'.  I heaped up soil in between the string and tilled and heaped again until the beds were 10-12" high.  This left a 2' flat walkway between them in which I planted perennial clover.  I continued this process tilling on each side of the finished bed I was working on until all 50 beds were completed.
Garden raised beds planted with onions 2013

Framed hoop house before raised beds, planted with perennial clover 2012

Framed hoop house after raised beds 2013

I have found that this system keeps the integrity of the beds intact (alleviating the need for wood), feeds the bees (which we really need to do), fixes nitrogen and is aesthetically pleasing to look at.  I keep the clover trimmed and use it for mulch.

The beds/garden have not been tilled for over seven years which allows the growth of microorganisms as well as increasing water and decreasing soil erosion.   This method also allows for carbon sequestering by increasing the organic matter that is kept in the soil. We use no chemicals and maintain by cover cropping, composting, mulching, companion planting and crop rotations and all maintenance is done using hand tools...manual labor.
Crop rotation chart for lower garden

Our wide variety of flowers and herbs help with pest management and our ducks are allowed in the garden at the end of the season to clean up.
Ancona ducks in Spring garden 2012

I sit under my skeleton of a bigleaf maple that is dying while I peer down into the garden that is full of life.  Even though the majority of the work has been done, I'm now 11 years older and even the maintaining has become too much to handle.  Our property is now up for sale;  such a great find for those who are not afraid of hard work and can appreciate knowing where their food comes from. 
Main garden below April 2013
Main garden 2012

Friday, May 3, 2013

'Tis the Season

 Spring is here again and the fruit trees appear like white lace on green velvet.  Oregon is so pretty this time of the year.  Normally the hum of bees can be heard from a distance but even though there isn’t much noise in the country these days, I have yet to hear the bees, even while standing under the cherry trees.  The days have been warm and sunny and I wonder if the blooms on our fruit trees will get pollinated this year.  Recently we've had lows below freezing and yet this Sunday is suppose to be close to 90 for the high.  How will we continue to grow food with such huge temperature swings?  I'm waiting for signs at the Farmer's market stating, "closed for remodeling".  Every year we hope to see if nature will be forgiving once again, but we know hope is not a strategy.

This past Saturday I was visited by Jehovah Witnesses and I rejoiced in our agreement of how the system is coming down, though I told them I disagreed that horses from the sky would save me.  I explained politely that I’ve done my reading and most of what I agree with is based on science not just another story that I’m told to believe.  I asked them if they ever thought about the bees and what would happen to our food without them, they too agreed that we are so dependent on nature to reward us with life.  This thought keeps me going as I wait to eat the fruit of the garden.

I’m often asked what it is that gets me up in the morning and motivated to work as though it matters what I’m doing.  Sometimes I don’t even think about it when I begin another day but then there are those times that I ask myself the same question.  I think about the variety of ways I answer as it depends on how sad, angry or loving I feel.  My emotions dictate the way I feel at any given time and sometimes I have to acknowledge them whatever they may be, but I also acknowledge at least one thing of beauty every day and here on the property that’s not hard.
Oregon Iris- like painted nature 

I lived for so long in the material world of consumerism and counted on things of no substance to entertain me, now I watch birds.  After tilling an area in our newly discovered pasture for planting raspberries, I watched our chickens scratch and dig in the soil vociferously disturbing the worms.  I watch butterflies puddling in the soil after watering and I walk the garden paths looking for new shoots of food that will satisfy my hunger while noticing the volunteers that are happy to visit again.  I love living.  

Some have asked us, “if you know that the gig is almost up, why do you continue to work so hard?”  I think about this quite a bit and my answer though it may sound flippant is "what else do you expect me to do?"  Do you expect me to lay in bed in a dreamlike state hoping that the economy will pick up full speed and zoom ahead?  I so remember pretending, though it was years ago with my Barbie dolls on the front porch.  Maybe some expect I might take my life but why would I take it now when it's so real and authentic? No matter how tired, disgruntled, angry or bitter I may be, the ability to live in a way that allows me to give back every day is all I need to keep me going.  It’s my breathing tube that keeps me alive.  I can't play dead. 

When we named our blog, I had just begun to embrace collapse and though I had mixed feelings about embracing something so horrific I never questioned it.  I knew deep down I would have to accept it somehow and why not embrace the love that I have for the beautiful place I’ve lived for over half of my life?  Its no one’s fault but my own that I didn’t pay more attention to the real side of it, the deep down feeling of seeing something so beautiful.  Today I see the beauty as well as rotting decay, like a healthy tooth that has been eaten away by sweetness.  

I now live like a hospice patient who wakes up in the morning sometimes with hope and often with regret, rethinking all the things that I or others could of done differently.  Life is so precious that to not live it every day to the best of one’s ability would be a sheer waste of energy, resources and time which we’re running out of all three.  I embrace collapse and I cry a lot.  I share thoughts with other like minded folk and I thank them for helping me understand the incomprehensible.  I embrace their words of love and compassion when they speak of their daily experiences.  Voices from all over the country and beyond.  I enjoy their stories of how they sow and what they reap.  A face I’ve never seen with a voice so kind and tender is a welcomed respite.  Others I’ve met along the twisted path of emotions growing as we learn, dying as we watch, and loving unconditionally.

Since writing my last post (the beginning of the year) I’ve been thinking more about what it is we really need.  I think about love, compassion and empathy.  I often wonder how I can know what I know and still love, when it’s so easy to hate what we have done.  I'm more gracious to those for inspiring me to continue on or those who support me when I feel like I can't.  
The beginning of a new year unfolded before my eyes as February rolled around and Valentines Day became a reminder of more propaganda;  forcing lovers to give in some of the most expensive ways.  Love by means of exploitation.  Precious land being mined for brilliant stones that say, “I love you”, and cards bought and paid for with words written by someone else.  I remember the days spent shopping for the right one that said exactly what I wanted it to say.  Never did it dawn on me then to write a verse of my own using my own thoughts.  February is a month of memories for me.  A meaningful wedding I missed and a death that I tried to be there for.  Memories are wonderful reflections of what we have left, and to hold on to just those that are happy teaches us little about despair.

Recently my husband and I watched a documentary, Citizen King, and I cried to think about the days of real protest and how those days may be over for us.  The sound of feet marching together made me wish to have been a part of that protest, not this one.  I so often feel like I don’t belong in this life with my feelings.  Maybe like my husband said, we lack the moral courage now to stand, whether it’s for something we know is right or against something we know is wrong.  Like seasons that come and go,  we too swing in the balance as if it’s the only thing we can do and denying becomes the norm.

Spring here in Oregon is anything but normal, but we also know that normal changes all the time.  Maybe this summer will be the last good growing season to “put up” or “shut up” as what we think of as the norm for growing food is rapidly changing along with many other things.  

Changing skies on the Oregon Coast

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year's resolution...without expectations

Though I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, this year I will be resolute to live without having expectations of other people.  I’m through with expecting anything of anyone else except myself. It’s been an abysmal few years since we began to network with those who know, talk to others who don’t know and continue to plough ahead without becoming bitter, angry or resentful.  I already feel like such a load has been removed from my back that I can actually straighten my knees once again. 

Kind of funny to think of a resolution where I won’t be expecting any results, how does that work?  Well I don’t have a clue, but I do know that I’m tired of being let down every time I expect someone to understand the predicament we're in and quickly make amends to a system that no longer works for the majority.  Like we've said here before, we have no illusions about saving us but how about riding out the storm on our terms not theirs?  

We can't even have a dialog where we ask questions and get answers, and I’m not saying the answers you want to hear, but answers.  You know something that has a little logic in it.  See how easy it is to expect something, why would I assume that you would get an answer that actually has something to do with the question?  Even when changing the question around and wording it differently you still get the same results and sometimes a look of disdain from those you’re asking as if you’re prodding them with a hot poker or torturing their senses.

I can’t help but think this will be a freeing year for me, if I can accomplish my task and I know it’s a big one for me.  Throughout my life I’ve expected one thing or another.  Friends to be honest, loved ones to be trustworthy, employers to pay me, doctors to heal me, insurance companies to provide, chickens to lay, ducks to forage, husband to grow food (though this one is a shared commitment), and emails as a form of communicating (boy was I wrong on this one).  

Anymore it seems like people have become less dependent on others and more dependent on things.  Things that they think make their lives easier.  Things that help to create jobs that pay $8.95 an hour, whoo hoo! Oregon raised the minimum wage.  Just what kind of jobs are these and how many years of college do you need to get one?    

Maybe after years of trying to build community I finally understand there is no foundation to even begin to put the blocks on.  We’ve lost our ability to depend on one another.  And just because I hold up my end of the bargain does not mean that you’ll hold up yours. 
The start of a new year.
 I once believed that friends and family could come together to talk about differences and actually resolve issues that we may have from year to year, but not anymore.  We learn what we want to know and grow in a way that’s conducive to what we’ve learned, and sometimes we can be miles apart with where we get our information from.  Then there are times we learn what we think we want to know about, then forget just as quickly or unlearn because we can’t live the way we want to knowing it.  The web gets more intricate with outsiders as our communication skills erode. 

Imagine just the simple question that got asked all the time years ago, “excuse me, but do you know what time it is?”  I had to laugh when a lady asked me this just the other day, it really through me off base and I scrambled to pull up my sleeve to view my watch before she walked away!  It was such a nice interaction as I smiled and gave her the time and she smiled back and said, “thank you.”

We seem to expect more from our cell phones and gadgets that we control with our fingers then our own thought processes.  I can’t wait to see how we as a species do without these things.  How long will it take for us to reprogram ourselves to begin to expect again from others what we expect from ourselves?   Maybe some don’t even expect from themselves anymore, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Today I received an email from a retired co-worker about the bargaining between workers and CenturyLink (the roots of the old “bell” system).  Us employees of the old “bell” system poked fun at each other for being “bell heads” as we were all raised the same way with excellent training and thought processes that were not our own but provided good customer service nonetheless.  We benefited from good paying jobs that provided for our families.  Now we’re lucky if we can see a doctor once a year without paying towards our $6000 deductible that as a couple we never reach in a year.  I know I don’t have a right to complain and I’m not, I just don’t understand why we lay down without a fight, but I guess we’ll all be dying of something or another before long.  Maybe I should put my money where my mouth and hands are and buy stock in medical gloves and alcohol.  Seems reasonable to me. 

Companies now have the upper hand with workers and the workers (union workers mind you) have no more voice.  Sure they still have feet to march out of the workplace but don’t walk too fast as your replacements will be there before you’re out the door.  Oh my!  Not the replacements!  I sometimes think about all those workers who came before us and all the battles they fought to get us a little further ahead only for it to be lost now to a new generation of “be happy, you got a job people”.  Unfortunately we’re becoming more like a third world power every day and hopefully before long we’ll get pissed off enough to actually make a difference in the majority’s life, the 99%.

Hopefully 2013 will the year when the bottom falls out and we all have to learn how to depend not only on each other but the system that gives and provides for us.  Tangibles we can sink our words and worth into.  Until then, I will live this year with no hope that others will do what’s needed for all of us to rise up for the next celebration.