Archive for the 'appearances' Category

Midnight Train to Georgia

Sharon October 26th, 2009

Thanks, everyone, for the wonderful music suggestions for my journey!  Remember, if you are in the Macon area, I’ll be at Mercer University, speaking about energy and ecology and our collective crisis.  I’m a completely new talk about how to personal responses -  and their political implications, and a variation on one I’ve done before, both on Friday.  There is still time to register for the conference – more info here:  I’m really looking forward to meeting people – I think this is going to be an exciting and important event.

Also, I’m returning to Albany via Amtrak on Sunday afternoon, but husband and children will be elsewhere, and cabs always hate going out as far as my place - if anyone would like to barter a ride from Albany-Rens train station to Knox, for, say, space in one of my classes or something else I’ve got, email me at [email protected] – I’d love to trade.



Apprentices, Appearances and Farm/Garden Design Class

Sharon September 10th, 2009

First of all, some of you Southerners asked about my appearance in Macon, GA.  I’m going to be speaking at the “Caring For Creation” Conference at Mercer University, Sponsored by Mercer and by Harvard University.  The Conference runs Thursday October 29 to Friday October 30th. I’ll be speaking in a breakout session from 11:30 to 12:30 on Friday, and again at a Plenary Session from 2-3:15.   I hope to meet some of you there. More info and registration information is here: 

Next, Aaron and I are announcing that we’re running our “Home Farm and Garden Design” class this year over six Thursdays from October 15-November 19.  The class is run online and asynchronously – that is, you don’t have to be online on Thursdays or at any particular time, but can follow along at your own convenience.  

Fall is a particularly good time to run this class, because as you are putting this year’s garden to bed (or winding up your CSA subscription if you don’t have a garden) is the perfect time to begin planning for next year, and even doing some of the basic work of expanding or creating new beds and plantings.  Even if you live in a year-round garden climate, October/November are often cool enough to begin doing serious work again.  So we think this is the right class at the right time. 

We’ll talk about everything from site selection, sun, soil and water, to what to plant and how to plant it, how to start plants from seed and divide and propagate perennials cheaply, forest gardening and woody crops, how to integrate cover crops and livestock into your plantings, how to grow vertically and make good use of small spaces, and how to work with large ones.  We’ll include succession planting and harvesting, and dealing with suboptimal conditions.  We’ll also cover oppportunities for making a business out of your farm or garden.  We’ll explore ways to deal with major garden challenges, including climate change adaptations you can make.  At the end of this, you should have a good and coherent garden design plan to implement.

Aaron was a landscape architect by training before he began farming full time – he now runs a large CSA in North Carolina.  I used to run a CSA and now I do subsistence farming, medicinal herbs and livestock farming.  I also vaguely remember we wrote a book about farming ;-) .

Cost of the class is $180 per household/participant (ie, spouses and family members are welcome to follow along), or mutually beneficial equivalent barter.  We also have spots reserved for those in financial need who can’t afford the class.  If you’d like to reserve a spot, email me at [email protected]

Also, in my “Gleanings Farm Rides Again” post, I mentioned I was thinking of a farm apprenticeship program, and there was a lot of enthusiasm, and the more I think about how much fun it would be to spend a weekend with some of you, the more excited I am about the idea.  So I’m going to be running a pilot program here at the farm in January of this coming winter – probably the weekend of January 8-10, 2010.  I know that people would probably prefer to come during the growing season, and I’m hoping eventually to be able to do that, but I need to do some experimenting with this – both to see how it works out as a family experience, but also to see whether it works with our heaviest in-season work periods.  January is a quiet spot on the calendar, not too near my book deadline, no major holidays, and there’s time to imagine a weekend spent doing the following wintery skills:

- Basic animal care with an emphasis on winter husbandry

- Goats and dairying – includes milking lessons, hoof trimming, feeding, etc…

- Making Cheese, Yogurt, Kefir and Butter

- Food Preservation – Root Cellaring, Lactofermenting, Water Bath and Pressure Canning

- Fibery things of interest, including sock knitting, darning, mending and simple scrap quilting

- Cooking and Heating with Wood (on both a cookstove and heating stove).  Breads, soups, staple foods and new recipes for warm, wintery things.

- Seed starting of useful plants, including winter sowing and indoor starting, and garden planning 

- Medicinal Herb work – Tincturing, making teas, getting familiar with herbs

The weekend would also include a mini-AIP class, with a chance to come out with a plan for adapting your home, to talk about various concerns and worries, and hang out and drink tea while talking to other people who get it.   Just to be clear, I’m not sure we’ll get to all of the above, but we can somewhat tailor things to the group.

Accomodations could be at my place (I have 3 queen sized or double beds in rooms not containing anyone else, so could accomodate up to six people, if they knew each other well enough to share a bed) or in the general locality (there are a couple of B and Bs near us, and we’re within 45 minutes of most places in Albany and Schenectady, if you’ve got a place to stay.  I also have a couch that I could offer to one person (or floor space for a couple) who wanted to barter a little help with cooking, dishes and keeping things reasonably tidy for a free spot in the course.  Vegetarian meals will be provided.  I think I can max out at 6-8 apprentices and give you each a good fair share of attention.

I’m going to try this out, but because this is my home, and my kids may be present (we may decide that that weekend is a really good one for them to go on a visit, not so much for their safety but to keep them from being pests), I’m also going to be somewhat cautious about who I have here.  That is, if you are interested, email me, and we will exchange emails and I’ll send you an application.  I will ask that we speak on the telephone at least one time before you are finally accepted into the program. Payment will be by suggested donation (at this point I’m only taking donations, because I haven’t yet figured out whether if you pay me I have to meet the legal requirements for a hostelry in my state), and depend on whether it includes meals and accomodations.   I will note that without donations, I won’t be able to do this again ;-)

If you are interested, do email me at [email protected]


Want to Hear Me Natter On a Bit?

Sharon July 29th, 2009

This is an hourish long radio interview I did with Carl Etnier in VT – it was a great show, and there were a lot of great people on with me. 


Update and Friday Food Storage Quickie

Sharon May 15th, 2009

I’ve finally got internet service back – apologies to anyone who tried to reach me in the last few days and failed.  I’m back now. 

In good new _A Nation of Farmers_ is officially out.  We got a kick-ass review from Library Journal, recommended by Mother Earth News, and a lot of good early publicity.  This is exciting stuff!  If you’d like a copy, you can order it through Aaron here.  Or get it at your local bookstore.  Or for that matter, your local library!

Also, I do still have a couple of spots left in my food storage class.  The class begins this coming Tuesday and runs for six weeks.  The class is run entirely online, and is asynchronous (ie, you don’t have to be online at any particular time),  Here’s the syllabus and class information. The goal is to help people build up a reserve of food, and also to get people ready for harvest season this year.   Cost of the class is $150. 

I don’t take a lot of speaking engagements in May and June – too much to do on the farm.  But I did want to let people know that come July, I’ll be speaking at the Pax Christi conference in Chicago - Pax Christi is the national Catholic Peace organization, and I’m tremendously honored that they asked me.  I believe that the mobilization of existing religious groups will be absolutely necessary to facing the future, and I hope I’ll meet some of you there.

Ok, on to the Friday Food Storage Quickie.  As you know, the idea is to break down the project of storing food and do a little at a time.  This week, we’re going to concentrate on a couple of things.  Recently, we’ve added popcorn, peanut butter, rice and beans/tofu to our food storage, and dealt with lighting and fire safety. 

Now that diet is a little limited, isn’t it.  So let’s add some fruit and vegetables – no point is making sure you have food, only to suffer fatal constipation ;-) .  So this week, we’re going to add dried fruit and a canned vegetable to our list in as large a quantity as you can afford/manage.

Why dried fruit?  Well, dried fruit will save you from aforementioned death by irregularity ;-) , but it will also make you a lot happier – it is sweet, most people like at least some kind of fruit, it gives you treats to offer children, and it is nutritionally dense. 

The cheapest options are raisins, and they aren’t bad.  Prunes are better (don’t be prejudiced against them), and almost as inexpensive.  Dried apricots, mango, cranberries, blueberries, etc… are much pricier but IMHO, tastier.  Get what your family likes, and what you can afford – or dry what you’ve got in abundance at your place.  Don’t get anything with tons of added sugar – you want nutrients, not a sugar high here. Cranberries and blueberries have the most nutritional value of all your options, generally.  You can use the dried fruit in breads and muffins, throw it into oatmeal and rice pudding, or just eat it plain.

On to vegetables.  This is a little harder, since most of us may not eat a lot of canned vegetables.  We’ve been told that they aren’t as nutrious as fresh ones, and if you are eating fresh from your garden, this is undoubtably true.  If you are eating conventional supermarket produce, picked underripe a week ago, waxed, sprayed, and shipped for five days, before sitting the supermarket for several more, that may not be true, actually. 

While sprouts are a good source of fresh veggies and should also be part of your storage (more about this next time), few people actually eat sprouts in huge quantities.  So you will want to add some preserved vegetables to your list – you can can your own, or buy supermarket ones, or dehydrate greens. Right now, there’s tons of nettle, dandelion and other greens out there to be preserved. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume you are going to buy supermarket veggies for whatever reason.

My recommendations are two things.  First, canned mustard or turnip greens.  These are fairly innocuous, and the liquid they are canned in is extremely nutritious – it will have most of the vitamins. Thus, you can add it to soup stock, or even mix it in small quantities into juice or tang or whatever.  The greens are finely chopped and inoffensive (unfortunately, that’s the best you can say for them, but this puts them well ahead of most canned vegetables), and can easily be mixed into rice and beans or other dishes. 

Second, I’d recommend canned pumpkin or sweet potatoes.  This is highly nutritious, delicious and dense – you can add it to rice or other grains and with an egg make fritters, you can add it to breads to add moisture and sweetness, make desserts with it, including delicious pancakes and puddings.  High in vitamin A, this, combined with the greens, will make sure your diet is reasonably nutrious.  Again, you’ll get  better flavor and nutrition if you grow your own and preserve them by root cellaring or home canning or dehydrating, but the supermarket options are pretty tolerable if you are just getting started.

As for our non-food item, this week you are going to pick up multi-vitamins.  You can endure all sorts of diets if you have a basic multivitamin to cover you from major deficiencies.  Don’t just get them for the kids – get them for adults too.  If you are pregnant or nursing, pick up an extra package of prenatals.  If you have children, get an age appropriate vitamin.  If you rely on other vitamins, now is a good time to pick up and extra package if you can afford it as well.



Where I'm Going to Be Next

Sharon April 11th, 2009

Canton, New York, of course.  Aren’t you?

I’m going to be at the North Country Sustainable Energy Fair, which may have the single coolest speakers list that I’ve ever been on.  This explains why I’m going to take a five hour bus ride over the Adirondacks on a weekend in April when it will most likely be warm enough to plant things.  The event has to be good to get me away from my garden in springtime. 

14th Annual North Country Sustainable Energy Fair, April 25-26 at SUNY Canton in Canton, NY. Upstate NY’s largest community energy education event. Admission $5 per day; $8 for weekend. Go to website for more info:

It will also be the very first time _A Nation of Farmers_ is for sale anywhere – this is the debut of the book and a new food talk I’m doing.  So it is all very exciting.  I assume if you are in adjacent Canada or Northern New York, you’ll be there too – if not to see me, for the chance to try timber framing with Rob Roy, meet Jim Merkel, find out how to do your own window insulation and use your bike as primary transport – what’s not to love? 

I’m talking about food on Saturday at 3 and about the whole of our current situation and what we can do about it on Sunday at 11.   I hope to see some of you there!


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