Friday, January 31, 2014

Many hands...

My family has been through a lot of changes over the last year.  A person who had the knowledge of some of the tools and chores around the homestead no longer lives here…along with some of the tools he used. I have had to find work outside the home whereas I used to be a stay at home mom who knitted all our hats, mittens, socks and other wooly goodness. I used to grow and put up most of the veggies we ate. I homeschooled both my sons but now my youngest is in school. We eat different food because the time to cook from scratch is stretched with schedules. The garden was not maximized to its potential last year. Things did not get done.

     I struggle in my thoughts between what would be easy; a small apartment in town, and what feels right; finding a way to make this work. In that effort I am fortunate to have my friend Rhonda. Rhonda squats on land that has been in her family since the early 1800's She has a little shack she built herself. She hauls water and has a little solar panel she charges off a car battery. She works part time at an alternative health store. She is an herbalist and has a vast knowledge of wild foods.

     During a recent visit we were discussing the challenges with gardening that we faced last year. Ronda lamented her inability to grown winter squash, I lamented the faced paced life that took so much time away from gardening and putting food by. She shared that she knew several other people with the similar challenges. The solution was simple. A group of us will get together and grow a large quantity of one crop and divide it among the group. Contrary to the idea of a communal garden where each person would have to get in their car in order to tend a communal plot. Each person can stay home and tend their own plot and share some of the bounty.  Each of us may have unique strengths growing some crops. I will be planting brussel sprouts, cabbage, rutabaga and broccoli towards this effort. I can get these easily in the ground in the spring. They do well with the soil I have. I can grow micro greens under their canopy and when it is too warm for the greens I can mulch them heavily so I will not have to spend time weeding them.  It is my hope that as part of this effort we can have a monthly pot luck at each other's house and offer to weed and mulch the garden of the host. Our first organizing meeting is Sunday, February 2.

     For me I think the root to making this venture work is to tap into the human capitol. It is not for lack of will or knowledge or even small financial resources that I find lacking. It is the time and hands to get some of the work done that seems to be missing from the equation. I learned a simple lesson last summer that I soon forgot. I had just received some laying hens. I traded them for the sheep and goat. It was a reasonable decision. The sheep and goat were at this point only mouths to feed and more often than not they were eating what I did not want them to eat ( I could tell a sad tale about brussel sprouts).  Laying hens on the other hand are perfect little food factories. I didn't have the right housing for them. So I had a work party. I gathered a bunch of scrap wood and some old windows and turned the sheep shed into a chicken coop. Actually a bunch of friends and I turned it into a chicken coop with a good door, nesting boxes and lots of room for some more layers. 

I think the solution to this will come from my community. By strengthening my community I can build in resilience.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

From this day

This is a problem mind map that I made. It is an exercise from a class I am taking in Permaculture design through the small farming and sustainability certificate at Umass Amherst.  This is an eye opening exercise for me. Permaculture design has always intrigued me. I practice some of its principles on my homestead but felt like there were some elements to its overall implementation that I was missing. Permaculture is a wholistic systems approach to design.

I've been trying to figure out how this space could remain relevant to the homesteading discussion and sharing of information. I am excited to share with you my thoughts on this.

Let's begin with the problem. I have 7 acres, a small house that needs some work. I have the challenge of trying to balance the need for income ( from a job that takes me away from home) with the time requirement that work on a homestead necessitates. How do I find the balance between all of these in order to keep the homestead instead of packing it in and finding a little apartment in town?

I love my home and little plot of land but is it too much for one person to manage?

This really is the questions I ask myself every time I get my car stuck in my driveway, lay out cash for another repair on something and lay awake at night worried about the diminishing pile of wood we have for our heat during this very cold winter.

This is January when seed catalogs beckon, big plans are made. It is also a reflective time of year for me. Life slows down a bit. It is also time for me to think of gratitude. I am blessed to have this spot and this land. I may have lost some knowledge and labor when Mark and I divorced but what remains is my own stalwart energy and desire to live this simple life. The project at hand is to figure how to make this happen and that is where this blog can be useful. This is why after all this time I still find myself coming back to this space.

I've got some plans. Not big plans. But plans I think can reframe this challenge in a way that can bring me a life of balance between home and work. I am excited to share some of these plans with you.