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


  1. This post was hard to read.

    After a decade of building up your 5 acres, you're now in your mid-50s, and you're selling it. Ouch.

    I'm now 60, and I'm just starting to set up my 5 acres. And I don't think I was ever as physically fit as you describe.

    I just don't see any viable alternatives.

  2. This post was hard for us to write, and we didn't make the decision to sell easily. It's a "hail mary" as we have no idea if it will sell since again it takes work to do this.

    We suggest that you try to find others to join you in getting the work done. That said, we know how hard it is to do as we've been trying for so long now. If we were in our 30's, we wouldn't be having this conversation but at our age with no help on the way...isn't a viable solution, not while we still have choices anyways. There has to be more to life than working yourself to death and it's right around the corner for all of us.

    Start with family, then friends (people you trust, can depend on and know how to work). Small micro communities like the one we were trying to develop should start with the things we need most, food, shelter, water and perhaps clothing!

    We hope to find others like us to work for food 15-20 hours a week. Between the two of us we should be able to get enough food to store. There are others like us that are having a hard time finding those who are willing to work for their food. It's been eye opening for us to see what we have to offer yet probably only a few out of hundreds that would be willing to work 15-20 hours a week to feed themselves...go figure.

    We wish you the best and maybe you'll get lucky or the timing will be right for you as it's only going to get worse, but that said you'll have to watch for the people who will try and take it from you. We've had people visit and say, "we know where to come to get food."

  3. By the way Jose, it's great to know there are people like you that are still putting forth the effort, and thank you so much for commenting.

  4. the reason no one will work for food is food is basicly free. we are awash in food at the moment, and the nature of humans is to do the least possible. this will change. I would stay and cut out a smaller garden just to support yourselves. when others have no choice you can expand again. there will be many orphans in need of shelter and a family.

  5. Thank you sidd for your thoughtful comment.

    We have thought about this already as it's our Plan B. We're not so sure it will sell anyways as we know it will take a certain someone to appreciate what is here and who is willing to pay the price for it, physically and monetarily, although some might just have the money to spend to put their horses on it or tear it up with their 3 wheelers, who knows?

    What we do know is there are others whom we've met in our journey that would love to take us up on our idea of working for food as our resume is real and long. What a joy it would be to only have to work part time!

  6. Great blog post. And so sad. :(
    I came here after reading your post on Dimitry's blog about the Age of Limits conference (I was there, oy!).
    You probably have spoken with or know about Gail, at WitsEnd blog,, where she's been documenting and writing about dying trees.
    I see it too over here on the East coast of this continent. Tree death on a massive scale. And the hurricanes don't help.

    We Earthlings are in big trouble and a mere handful of us humans are aware. The shitstorm coming is something we cannot even prepare for, or imagine. Try telling friends or family and they look at you like you've gone mad. Guy McPherson talks about all the positive feedbacks that are NOT included in the regular scientific climate estimates, (positive=bad) and it makes me shudder.
    We are moving into a famine period that will be unprecedented. Which makes me want to scream at my neighbors who are cluelessly living and even forced me to get rid of my four egg laying chickens because they believed, wrongly, they were attracting the neighborhood rats. It's enough to drive one to drink...
    I wish you the best and if you have the opportunity to do so, since you seem to have a small community of likeminded folk willing to collaborate, for what it's worth, Guy recommends moving to the southern Equator... If you want to ride this out a bit longer.
    My local Transition Town pals are moving into a new phase of consciousness where we are trying to be more present, more loving, awake and aware. We may have no control over what is happening (anymore!), but we do have control over how we choose to live out the rest of what life we have left.
    And loving each other is our primary goal.

    1. Thank you Pauline for sharing in the sadness. I do know Gail and have visited her blog and pictures of the demise of nature. It's a shame that just a handful of us are aware but I always remember Margaret Mead's work and her quote:

      Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

      We have come to peace with trying to convince those who recklessly destroying what we have left only to say there is little they can do. Excuses are an easy way out for those not willing to go there.

      As long as there is a choice to make or a vote with our dollar, we will continue doing what is right for nature. This is so small an offer to the destruction we have all played a part in, but it's all we have at this point and the choice is ours to make. I think we were all made to work harder for what sustains us and we've gotten away from doing so.

      We have no hopes of surviving the shit storm, we only wanted to enjoy the time we have left by exercising the middle finger at the system that has beat us down and thought others would welcome the freedom of living a different life. Obviously the media and TPTB have done a fine job of making us believe in a fairytale with a unhappy ending.

      Wishing you well in your journey.

  7. I have noticed here in Montana, increasing trouble in trees, especially the higher branches, older trees thinning out, and so on. Elms, ashes, and others. I was wondering if I was just imagining it or what.

    I just turned 53. I and my brother have been helping a friend farm on his small place. He focuses on peas and carrots. But we put in an intensively intercropped variety of dozens of heritage plants this spring. You are right, that few like to physically work. I am overweight and ill, but I really enjoy it. It feels good to work, body and soul.

    No one is listening. I see it all dying around me. I am an American Indian, and it is like watching my family die, but even worse because people naturally die, but nature itself is not supposed to die. If this is the end of nature, I don't want to be around to see it all play out.

  8. Thank you Lance for sharing your thoughts.

    My husband spoke of the trees several years ago before I retired and I thought he was imagining. Now that I'm around nature more I notice many things dying. In the garden yesterday and it's so alive. Never this early have we seen the blackberries in full bloom. I'm sure as you garden more you'll notice your season changing from year to year. Sounds like you're on your way to enjoying what you sow.

    Having the property for sale is definitely a bittersweet feeling, but we're sure someone will benefit from our hard work.

  9. Just wondering if your property has been listed with a real estate broker? We might be interested in looking into this opportunity as we have been looking to purchase a smaller farm in Oregon for a couple years now. Is there any way to find an online listing for your property?