Archive for September 10th, 2009

Bow Low to Your Earthworm Overlords!

Sharon September 10th, 2009

I don’t really have a “winding up the AIP class” post this time, so I thought I’d just repost something I came up with during the class.

That is, there will be times when we each of us have to make decisions that commit us one way or another to a particular vision of the future - it isn’t possible to both put your 401K towards insulation on your home and keep the investment; it isn’t possible to both take the high paying, earth-destroying job and also not take it.  Life sucks that way ;-) .

But a lot of the time, I think it is useful to ask yourself this - what if a miracle happened, and all the limits were taken away?  How would I look at the choices I’ve made in my life.  Would I be happy?  Would they be to my benefit or detriment?  Do they serve me when times are good, as well as when times are hard?  How do I choose to see things.

My feeling is that you can look at your work in the garden as endless enslavement to cruel earthworm overlords who demand turnips as tribute, or as a chance to live a life of basic and true and valuable things, eating well and earning your literal bread.  You can see putting down the car keys and getting on a bike or your feet as a loss of time, privacy and convenience, or the gift of the wind in your hair, time to notice things, better health and greater strength.  You can see your composting toilet as a big bucket of, well…you know…or as the gift of clean uncontaminated water and fertile soil. 

Me, I’m having a grand old time, and if you took all the limits away, I’d still be here, digging.  Of course, it could be the worms are just making me say that, ’cause I drunk the turnip juice. 


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]