Unbelievable Stats on Climate Change

Ecotrain, Homestead

3%. 3% of all earth’s land animals are wild anymore. The remaining 97% are humans and their livestock & pets. We are literally taking over the earth and causing animals our grandparents grew up with to go extinct. 40% of insects have already gone extinct. This is due to conventional farming practices (read pesticides and herbicides), deforestation, habitat destruction and warming air and waters. Our sheer numbers and consumption habits are wreaking havoc (single use plastic was recently found at the deepest trench in the ocean and inside seabird egg yolks at the northern most isolated arctic.) As everything is interconnected and human reach is so vast, our actions intimately and more and more quickly impact all of life on the planet. Now is the time to simplify & drastically scale down consumption, buy used durable goods we can use for a long time, grow your own organic food or know your farmer who does, stop using plastic in favor of wood, glass or metal and simplify simplify simplify. Downscale. Share. Barter. Create. Rampant consumption is not a sign of wealth or progress, it’s actually more quickly devastating our planet and everything on it. Throwaway culture is the death of us all.

Yesterday I shared this soundbite on Instagram with a picture of our little cabin the woods. (We finally got a wee bit of snow!)

I was surprised at some of the “backlash”. Multiple people found the facts I shared unbelievable, one even going so far to call them delusional, and while the gram isn’t link friendly, writing a blog post sure is.

Perhaps you all will find these statistics on climate change and human related impact hard to believe as well. If so, keep reading and I welcome your feedback in the comments.

Breakin’ It Down

3%. 3% of all earth’s land animals are wild anymore. The remaining 97% are humans and their livestock & pets.

This stat came from this article in The Atlantic, Earth Is Not in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction.

Our destruction is so familiar—so synonymous with civilization—in fact, that we tend to overlook how strange the world that we’ve made has become. For instance, it stands to reason that, until very recently, all vertebrate life on the planet was wildlife. But astoundingly, today wildlife accounts for only 3 percent of earth’s land animals; human beings, our livestock, and our pets take up the remaining 97 percent of the biomass. This Frankenstein biosphere is due both to the explosion of industrial agriculture and to a hollowing out of wildlife itself, which has decreased in abundance by as much as 50 percent since 1970. This cull is from both direct hunting and global-scale habitat destruction: almost half of the earth’s land has been converted to farmland.

40% of insects have already gone extinct.

This stat was from this article in The Guardian, Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.


The new analysis selected the 73 best studies done to date to assess the insect decline. Butterflies and moths are among the worst hit. For example, the number of widespread butterfly species fell by 58% on farmed land in England between 2000 and 2009. The UK has suffered the biggest recorded insect falls overall, though that is probably a result of being more intensely studied than most places.

So it seems my statement that 40% have already gone extinct was incorrect. Rather, they’re on the verge of going extinct. Either way you slice it, news like this is not positive and we need to start creating pollinator habitats while we stop destroying the wilds and curb pesticide and herbicide use.

The 2.5% rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years is “shocking”, Sánchez-Bayo told the Guardian: “It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none.”

Our sheer numbers and consumption habits are wreaking havoc (single use plastic was recently found at the deepest trench in the ocean and inside seabird egg yolks at the northern most isolated arctic.)

You all already know about the Mariana trench from an article I did earlier in the week and the egg yolk fact came from this article Plastic chemicals discovered inside bird eggs from remote Arctic.

Chemicals from plastics have been found inside the eggs of seabirds living in remote Arctic colonies, in the latest sign of pollution contaminating the furthest reaches of the planet.

Scientists were concerned by the traces of phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals that have been banned from children’s toys due to their potential “gender-bending” effects.

These substances are routinely applied to many plastic products, and probably came from the bottle tops and cigarette butts these seabirds often eat after mistaking them for food.

The eggs were taken from northern fulmars living on an island in Lancaster Sound, more than 100 miles away from the nearest human settlement.

In a preliminary study, Dr Jennifer Provencher of the Canadian Wildlife Service tested the eggs of five fulmars and found phthalates in one, but warned the problem is likely to be far more pervasive.

“These are some of the birds who have the lowest levels of accumulated plastic,” explained Dr Provencher.

Conclusion

While I misrepresented the statistic on the insects, the rest of them stand affirmed. I find these stats unbelievable as well and it’s shocking to have people who read these demanding that I prove the veracity of my writing simply because the stats themselves are so controversial.

Yet on the other hand it’s not shocking at all. A large group of humans remain “climate change deniers” and they make it a political issue obfuscating the very realities that we need to heed in order to act accordingly.

It’s always so odd to me that people deny that this stuff is going on or get lost in the minutiae. One could go on and on sharing alarming and disheartening studies revealing the state of things facing our world and all of its inhabitants.

Most of us ignore finding the details out about this information because it’s too difficult to take in.

It really is as bad as the scientists confirming it are now saying. Ask people on the coasts or the people facing increased rates of floods, wildfires, hurricanes, island dwellers with raising sea waters, fishermen with less and less to fish, the list goes on…

We can waste our time arguing about the details or focus all of our energies on the solutions. I do think it’s worth hashing out the details so we can really know where we stand and realize how bad it is (or not if that’s what the facts say)! Yet at a certain point, we just have to start acting.

I found this article, The suburbs are the spiritual home of overconsumption. But they also hold the key to a better future, a very worthwhile read proving that no matter where you live you can make key changes toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

After all, we are all just reaching toward sustainability. It’s literally impossible in this day in age to be divorced from the system that is killing our earth. With that said, it is very possible to take the necessary steps toward living more lightly and aligned with the earth. If the movement toward a gentler way continues, we can truly make lasting change and turn this ship around.

2019 Interns at Mountain Jewel Permaculture Homestead: The Details

Homestead, naturalmedicine, permaculture
  • Natural Building
  • Permaculture/Holistic Living
  • Perennial Agriculture/Food Forests

Mountain Jewel is a permaculture homestead in the heart of the Ozarks. Located 15 minutes outside of Gainesville, Missouri on 18 acres, we focus on perennial agriculture, Herbalism, natural building and bioregional living. As a Center for Earth Connection, we seek to observe and align with natural rhythms, making sustainable use of the resources around us while honoring and getting to know the wilds.

At a 2019 internship at Mountain Jewel, there will be a heavy focus on Natural Building as we are building a Passive Solar Post & Beam Straw Bale Infill house!

We also will be tending and expanding perennial gardens and food forests which includes sharing host of practical skills & information on edible landscaping and useful Permaculture & medicinal plants. We currently have 2.5 acres of Food forests, 2 high tunnels, and .5 acre of intensive perennial and annual garden production. Mountain Jewel is completely off grid (save propane used for cooking) using Solar Power and our water comes from a 250 ft well on the property (soon to include more rainwater harvesting as well.)

Garlic harvest

What can an intern expect?

As in intern you will have an amazing opportunity to engage in the intimate process of building a natural home & creating and tending food forests.

You will learn mostly by doing, although there will also be some structured “classroom” time. The process is messy at times, involves plenty of consideration and creativity and a lot of physical labor, which can be taxing emotionally as well (especially in the beginning as you familiarize yourself to new surroundings and experiences.)

Through hands-on skill building in a variety of natural building methods and Permaculture principles, you can expect to receive a good introduction to a wide range of practical topics.

Throughout the season we will be going working on different aspects of the build. Starting with site prep and foundation, we will continue with framing, roofing, raising straw bale walls, plastering, laying floors, plumbing, wiring solar systems, plumbing solar hot water, building a rocket mass heater, etc…

In addition to the building, we also tend annual & perennial gardens, high tunnels and food forests, which account for much of our diet. Other opportunities for learning may include rain-water catchment and irrigation systems, grafting, layering and other propagation methods, seeding, general gardening tasks, pruning, fertilizing and more.

On top of this, there is also the reality that you will become an integral part of an organic Permaculture homestead in the country.

Early summer garden

 With 3 acres of our land open for food forests, high tunnels, outbuildings and gardens, the rest of the land (15 acres) is mature forest which has choice wild edibles and provides respite, recreation and beauty throughout the year (and ticks during the warm months!). Some of our diet is also obtained through foraging and wildcrafting and you are welcome and encouraged to join us in our wild forays where we teach ethical, safe and sustainable harvesting methods.

Wren making a cleaver’s tincture

As we ask for your help 5 out of the 7 days of the week (not necessarily Mon-Fri), this also leaves 2 days a week for rest and exploration of the surrounding areas, much of which is the Mark Twain Natural Forest and includes stellar waterways like Bryant Creek and the Norfork, a world class destination. Our property has a creek of its own and we take dips down there often!

Our western edge

What do we expect?

In opening up our homestead to interns we are seeking to share our experience in hopes of equipping, inspiring and empowering others to participate in meaningful practical ecological ways of living.

Mountain Jewel is foremost a Center for Earth connection and we provide an holistic haven and skill building opportunity for modern humans to reconnect with that which is essential, Nature. Our homestead is dedicated to living in alignment with these natural rhythms and it is these skills we want to pass on.

We foster a culture of respect from ALL participants including ourselves, each other, the wild, the site and the process of learning. This means respecting boundaries, personal space and guidelines we outline as a collective (depending on expressed & present needs.)

Sunset on Ozark Mountains surrounding our homestead

We encourage applicants who are engaged, interested, motivated, self directed, passionate and ready to learn. We see this internship as a relationship between you and us, other interns, the process itself, and most importantly, the land. At Mountain Jewel, interns are crucial members of the team and as such we ask that interns take active interest and initiative to facilitate their learning process, express their needs and desires, and support the collective.

This internship will require a lot of physical work and we want you to know that ahead of time. If the workload is ever too much, please express this to you as we seek to create a healthy work culture. During work hours, we invite your full presence and participation.

Mountain Jewel inspired art by https://lauraleesart.com/

What time frame?

We would prefer interns to stay from 1-3+ months as we feel this gives a richer depth of experience. It takes time to build relationships to place, process and people, as well as taking into account the skill building process. Seeing the building and gardening process through time is a much more grounded way to build skills and experiences. As we are a family run homestead, we are open to various possibilities and opportunities, and if a situation isn’t working for either party that will be discussed.  In these cases, if possible, we practice the Art of Council communication technique to gain clarity and hopefully resolution before going our separate ways. We are all here to learn from and with one another and see these connections as  opportunities to do just this. We have a no tolerance policy for any forms of abuse and will not tolerate drug use.

For all potential interns there will be a 2-week trial period to see if the experience is a good fit for all. It will include orientation, training, check-ins and some hands-on tasks. At the end of this, there will be a process where we clarify next steps and make sure all parties are on board. It is our goal to hold space for interns to have a great experience learning more about themselves, the earth and all that we have to share on this homestead.

Lodging and Food

Lodging

Lodging at Mountain Jewel is simple and rustic. We cannot offer any indoor lodging during the summer months, but offer shaded tent platforms in the woods, running water and a covered outdoor kitchen space for simple food preparation (including a double burner propane range, large sink, shelves, food storage, counter space and table.) While we have a couple extra tents we can loan out, we encourage you to bring a tent that will be your shelter, a sleeping pad or mattress, hammock (with mosquito netting and a tarp) and/or build a shelter (if you know how to adequately do this) once you reach the land.

We live close to nature and ticks, spiders, and other insects inhabit our space with us and the transition to such a lifestyle can take some getting used to. Come mentally prepared and see it as an opportunity to challenge yourself and strip off layers of modern conditioning. It gets hot in the summer and at times this can be oppressive, but we balance this with early morning starts, frequent creek dips, and midday siestas. As mentioned, we do have a creek on the property and this aids a lot in our self care.

Food

Many but not all meals will be shared, and we expect interns to be able take part in food preparation on a rotating schedule. We have yet to work out details, but what has worked best in our experiences has been setting up basic meal plans and going through a rotation where each team member takes their turn in preparation of meals based on what’s seasonally available.

We will offer simple whole foods and seek to eat a balanced diet. We strive for sourcing 100% organic food where we can’t meet these needs ourselves. We eat meat occasionally (wild and locally grass fed from a nearby farms), eggs (don’t have chickens anymore but will source locally) and may source local dairy (depending on refrigeration options at the time). 

During the summer, we will have abundant greens and other produce as well as fruits grown on our homestead. Sometimes we fish and often we go mushroom hunting. We buy bulk grains, beans, oil and other staples.  

*SORRY, but we may not be able to accommodate certain special diets or allergies. Contact us if this is a concern.

As this is a work exchange there will be no stipend offered. In exchange for 6 hours of work a day 5 days a week, you will have access to bulk food staples, fresh garden produce, one healthy shared group meal a day.

Shiitakes we grew on oak logs

Transportation

A personal vehicle is recommended but not necessary. We are located 1.5 hours from Springfield, MO, 45 minutes from West Plains, MO, Ava, MO and Mountain Home, AR and frequent these cities biweekly for bulk food runs at the health food stores and other sundries (these towns have a lot of options.) We live 15 minutes from the very small town of Gainesville which has basic amenities (post office, small conventional grocery, library, and gas stations, etc.) You are welcome to come along for these journeys.

Ini with a harvest of wild Paw Paws

To Apply

Answer the following questions and send us at least 500 words to mountainjewelbotanicals@gmail.com on why you want to do this and your current related knowledge and experience (it’s fine if you have no experience). Tell us a bit about yourself. You can share blogs, social media sites, etc.

Name, Age, Current location, time availability and desired length of stay, special needs/allergies/other considerations, do you have your own camping gear, vehicle or pets, one thing that scares you about this and one thing that excites you, what you’re hoping to get out of it and what aspects you’re most looking forward to. We look forward to hearing from you!

You can learn more about us at Mountain Jewel by checking out our blog at https://steempeak.com/@mountainjewel or http://instagram.com/mountainjewel

Woven Beginnings: My First Wild Willow Baskets

Homestead, permaculture

Oh the slow chilled winter daze! It feels like winter has finally hit! We had our first snow a few days ago and temps have dropped. The Canadian enjoys this weather much more than I do. Feeling like my bundled child self when I do go out, I mainly only go outside to adventure into the woods and to the creek or to make it from point A to point B. Aside from indoor projects (like tiling) and Ini’s work on the Welcome Kiosk, we are turning our sights inward, reading much, and spending time indoors. 
As previously mentioned, this winter I wanted to teach myself to weave with native materials. I started off looking into the river cane, an incredible native bamboo beloved by the Native Americans who lived here previously. Yet, I feel I need a teacher to move forward in this craft — or perhaps I am trying to peel the cane in the wrong season? Nevertheless, there are some Native teachers I may seek out in Oklahoma- especially if they have a workshop on cane material prep and weaving this year. Instead, I have turned my sights onto other materials and I’ve made two baskets!
My first basket – what a thing! Though I did it with a library book tutorial, each step is new and one doesn’t know what one needs to do until ya do it for the first time. It’s cool to already see progress on basket #2 – simply because I knew more about the nuances of the materials and what needed to happen at each stage. Still, the first basket, a true experimental labor of love, is in use and am somewhat charmed by it. However, this second basket.. Ini and I aren’t really taking our eyes off of it! 
Far from perfect, my second basket is USEFUL. It is this that has me deeply enamored with this process. 
The indwelling magic of taking nothing but materials from here to make a useful object with them. As I wrote last night in reflection:
I finished a basket tonight that’s already holding our cedar kindling and sitting next to the fire. It was definitely a life changing moment seeing it there. Somewhat of an epiphany. So outside of capitalism, untouchable. Made completely from this land I love only using secateurs, following a book from the library, a transmission of a skill long held by humans. Something untouchable by the system, made from here, by my hand & serving a purpose… weaving purpose with the land. 
Truly I am enamored with this process and its implications. In a throwaway culture to be able to take a wildcrafting jaunt, especially down by wild water hearing the sounds of the fluid creek as I gather willow, sycamore, bramble and other vines, and harvest materials for a much needed basket… this is really something else. Of course something quite old, but marvelous to my modern self. We’ve been needing a kindling basket for quite some time and we love the look of it sitting there holding the freshly split cedar from our land that we use to start our fires. It beautifies and enhances the whole place. And just looking at it.. the hues and textures, knowing it is born of the river, carries the energy of flood and heron, sunshine and the constant gurgle of spring fed creek… but most of all that it didn’t pass through the hands of commerce and I made it! And I can make more! 
I would like to next perhaps work on a basket with a circular base. It is a bit tricky with the materials I have because they are note uniform “farmed” willow (though I think I will order some of these cuttings to root in the spring so that I can have some cultivated “basketry willow” which is longer, stronger, uniform and comes in neat colors! Yet making these “wild” baskets is a fantastic first step and I read somewhere, and was thinking this too, that if I can weave with the irregular funky pieces, I will cultivate my skill well for when I do have the long ones. And I do love the funk! 
Happiness is making practical objects which escape the economy, made from the land which we love and tend, adding beauty to our abode. I’ve read a lot of books lately on indigenous stories and I am feeling inspired — and also that sick/raging sadness of the destructive march of civilization/modern culture which erases and kills it at every turn. Yet these are skills that bring life and we are all connected to the land, and can be more aware and more connected if we put more time/attention into it. 
Blessings,
Wren of Mountain Jewel

Rivercane Basketry | Native Practical Art Inspired By the Cherokee & Choctaw

Ecotrain, Homestead

It’s a new year and I’m feeling invigorated to learn a new craft. Isn’t that funny how something you passed over in the past may strike an inward fancy and seemingly a breeze on the wind can propel one toward learning a new skill? 

Basketmaking

It started off with hopes of purchasing some willow cuttings from Dunbar Gardens. @schoonercreek, whom some of you may remember, recommended them as a source. As more and more beautiful baskets were passing my vision on Instagram, I’d decided I would grow a patch of willow, wait for it to grow and in the meantime teach myself weaving using brambles and hopefully some wild willows that I could find near me. As I started doing research, however, I found an incredible diversity and wealth of inspiration that quickly changed my initial plans. I will likely still purchase some willow cuttings and root them in this year’s Food (and useful material) Forest planting in “the Orchard” (where you’ve seen us recently clearing and planting apple trees.) Yet I will also be using my energy to try out other local materials, ones that have a distinct and superior history of use.

Choctaw and Cherokee

As I was racking my mind to think of different things I could gather to practice making simple baskets, I thought of the grapevines, aforementioned willows, brambles, wild roses, honeysuckle and much more. People have been weaving since before neolithic times – an art many are keeping alive and reviving and the sky is really the limit as far as what you can make baskets and other useful items with.

What I’ve read is that if you can bend the material at a 90 degree angle or if you can wrap it around your wrist and it doesn’t break, the material is good for weaving. 

I wondered, had the river cane, Arundinaria gigantea, our native bamboo (and one of the three temperate native bamboos in North America), been used?

A quick search found some jawdropping creations by this region’s original inhabitants, the Choctaw and Cherokee.

Here are some samples of their works, though follow the links if you want to be further impressed. Some of these were even made to be watertight!!!

Cherokee

Single weave rivercane basket by
Cherokee basket maker
Lottie Queen Stamper

 

Choctaw

Large pack baskets, such as this one, were used by Choctaw women for transporting many types of large or bulky objects. These baskets were used to harvest fields, to collect wild food and other resources, to pack a family’s belongings for travel, and even to carry the soil for constructing earth mounds. Most pack baskets, including this one, have a leather tumpline, or strap that goes over the forehead to help stabilize the load.

 

 

Taposhake chufa, pointed basket

 

Immediately, I was intrigued. This is the same river cane that we have here and I live on a creek called Caney Creek!

Ini and I have always looked at the cane and wondered what we could do with it. Our neighbors have rich stands of it and it lines the creek that abuts our land’s western edge. People don’t seem to value it much, though I am increasingly learning of its importance and in the importance of tending wild stands.

Cane favors stream banks and acts better than hardwood trees to stabilize the bank from erosion and to filter run-off pollutants. In fact, the big stand of cane on Highway 209 was planted as a stream bank stabilizer by the landowner, on the advice of the county agricultural extension agent, about 40 years ago.

Researchers estimate that some 98 percent of the canebrakes present when the Europeans arrived have been lost. The usual suspect is the enclosure of animals, especially cattle, which eat the tender cane shoots as they emerge. In Cherokee, the tribe has sponsored a restoration project to ensure native basketmakers having a supply of cane for their work. Preserving river cane is one way to recognize the history and value of this hardy and beautiful grass. Source

It’s very important that we treat this process with respect and as Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass, writes,

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so
that you may take care of them. Introduce yourself.
Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.

Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.

To this end, I want to tend wild stands near our creek, spreading the rhizomes and making sure I am adding back what I am gratefully taking. 

Foraging & Learning

My first foraging mission happened yesterday, as many of you caught on to in my DTube video and post. I took my Gerber machete down to the creek and just looked around. I found a lot of wild rose, catbriar and grapevine and finally made it to a canebreak, the name for the cane stands.

I had done a bit of research on making basket materials from the cane, but sadly it is sorely lacking online so I wasn’t sure what size or age I was looking for. I took a few big ones (the size of my thumb- which I later learned are the size you want) and some smaller ones to experiment with. I used my machete to chop off the leaves, which reside at the nodes of the cane.

That evening I brought them into the cozy cabin after googling my heart out for more information. I had found out a few things and watched 1 video which helped me understand a bit more what I was after.

Experiments

That first night was quite funny as Ini tried to split the cane in half and then into quarters and trip the inner pith out. Today I finally found a couple Youtube videos which demonstrated what needs to be done- not what we spent hours last night doing! Hah! But it was good practice and it’s important, I think, to experiment and just try.

This morning I went and harvested more cane and practiced using the new techniques I found out. Thank you past humans and those who have carried this tradition on! I got some usable material.

It’s incredible to believe that this is just Step 1! Next, they usually would then dye the pieces, walnut and bloodroot are two popular local options, and then weave! I found some weaving demonstrations online, but I may practice using brambles as it is a lot of embedded energy in each cane piece and I would like to have a wee idea of what I’m doing before I use them.

Into the Future

I’ve also found some Choctaw classes in Oklahoma (about a 4 hour drive) that I may attend to learn more about these techniques. I am so thankful they’ve been carried on and I’ve watched many Youtube videos and been very heartened to discover that though not quite popular, this art has been carried on and is currently being passed to the next generations.

A fire burns inside as I study these techniques and look with wonder at the baskets and other practical items the Natives to this land created for thousands of years. I seek to honor them as I learn this craft and likely blend techniques as I gain in skill.

Exciting times! Stay Tuned!

Baby in the Garden & Cats on Woodland Walks

Ecotrain, Homestead

Return from Holiday

Just got in at 2 am from visiting my sis and her family near some mountains in Colorado and @birdsinparadise and my dad were there too! Conked out after we got in and woke up to a balmy 45 degree temp so I decided to take a walk in the garden.

Being the garden nerd that I am, I go around and greet my plants, even though some of them are simply roots underground. I can still feel them. My sis and bro in law made Ini and I this cute little cement foot of their new child, my nephew Brooks! What a better place to put it than on the old stump next to the crystals near some raspberries, goumi & asparagus! I am already hatching plans to have my nephew spend weeks in the summer here where we can indoctrinate him with plant lore and alternative lifestyle visions… And what a sweet little foot he has…

 

Good to be Back

As you know, we spent most of December away! A dear old friend visited upon our return and then we flew the coop again, spirited away to visit family. We’ve hardly spent any time here! Since the temps were so balmy, it was great weather to take a walk into the woods. Even though our place is 18 acres, which really isn’t too big, we don’t make it to certain parts of the land.

Today we took a jaunt over to a North East slope where there are some awesome overhanging rocks.

 

Woodland Walks with Cats

I always take it with a little smile inside that our cats follow us on walks. Sometimes just one or today 3 of them… It’s cool they want to be near us and fun to see them scamper and play. They’re clearly happy to have us back and our dog is happy to be home (we had her at a kennel) and she was doing loops around us as we walked through the woods.

 

Into the Future

Winter is such a great time for rest and we’re reading, cozying up by the fire, eating nourishing food, meditating, spending time with friends, planning for the year ahead, moving plants around (today moved and split up an elecampane plant), and finishing up odds and ends around the homestead. I feel like there is so much space and that’s such a welcome feeling after the rush of necessity inherent in the last 3 years.

 

We talked about this a bit with the friend who just visited. She’s built log cabins in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and in the interior of Alaska… and then left… after 2 years each time. At that point, she said, things had just begun settling down from the necessity of getting food, shelter, water, etc worked out.

 

I feel like we’re finally getting there, to that spot of equilibrium where we aren’t rushing around taking care of our core needs. And that feels really fucking good.

 

Yet the house plans are also on the horizon and talk of inviting interns into our space. 2019 will be a good and full year and I feel that we’re filling our reserves and holistically preparing for what comes ahead! I’m excited!

In Other News

A happy holiday season to all of you! Wishing you the best from our mountain homestead! I’ve enjoyed sharing our SP and will be taking back the delegations shortly after posting this. I hope you all have had a good time with them and been able to grow your accounts a bit and share the love!

 

Looking forward to coming into 2019 strong, healthy and clear! Steem On & Much love!

Come Hell or High Water

Homestead

One thing you should know about our area is that we live in a place that is prone to flooding.

Last night we were awakened around 2 AM to the sound of rain pounding on our cupola. We have 100 yr+ White Oaks surrounding the house and when I woke up in the middle of the night hearing rain and the whoosh of the trees around me, my heart gave a little panic and I prayed that they wouldn’t fall on our roof.

Marty Raney of Homestead Rescue (and the whole Discovey Channel Team) begged us to remove the trees. In fact, it was the drama they were looking for the last day — except their plans were thwarted because they couldn’t make it to our homestead. We had a historic “100 year flood” and had to turn around. We were stranded that night and the next day.

We set out early to assess the damage and found a sycamore tree over the “high water bridge” near our house. With the help of our neighbors, we removed it. Yet many times we find our low and high water bridges under water after heavy rains. Now, after a deluge, we always go and check out the damage done, so to say.

This morning I went outside and heard the creeks roaring. We are experiencing unseasonably warm temps and Ini and I were itching to go on a walk.

Taking the Fart Out of “Jerusalem Fartichokes” Aka Sunroot or Topinambour

Ecotrain, Homestead, permaculture

Topinambour

Though this plant, also known as Jerusalem Artichoke, Sunroot or Sunchoke, is making a revival, I have heard much negative press about this forgotten, yet increasingly popular root vegetable. Largely the negatives reside around the side effect of flatulence due to its inulin content (the same characteristic that has earned it the title of a nutraceutical) and the flavor.

Last night Ini and I made our first harvest of these tubers in the sunflower family. A wild plant to the Americas, they were first tended and selected by Native Americans in the eastern part of the continent, yet now they are popular all over the world after early Europeans brought them home with them.

We have already written about the plant and showed you some very sexy photos of the plant in bloom here so today I want to focus on the roots, their preparation towards the tastiest (and easiest) of dishes and ways we can reduce that fartaffect.

Because last night, let’s just say I was nearly gassed out of my house between Ini and the dog and my own digestive track was doing the rumble and “letting wind” — I have a personal stake in the matter.

 

And as their perennial nature of self propagation, ease of growing, and health benefits, I am not even close to giving up on this plant.

Digging them was like digging for treasure and as we collected the smaller heads and filled the hole with a big head and spread them around the property, we realized what an easy staple food crop this truly is.

Only, how to prepare it and reduce the gas?

Acidify

As one article says,

 I learned that indigestible polysaccharides such as inulin can be converted to digestible sugars by “acid hydrolysis.” In layman’s terms, that means bathing the inulin in something watery and acidic. Lemon juice, perhaps?

and furthermore,

 “Boiling Jerusalem artichokes in an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar will hydrolyze the inulin to fructose and small amounts of glucose,” Rastall advises.

 

Ferment

 

Here’s another solution: Traditional fermentation-style pickling also removes sunchokes’ gaseous effects – while retaining their artichoke flavor. Gardening mavens Linda Ziedrich and Rose Marie Nichols McGee developed a game-changing recipe that yields completely gas-free Jerusalem artichoke pickles that keep all their wonderful crunch and taste.

 

Build Up A Tolerance

 

His fix for the overdose of inulin in Jerusalem artichokes? Build a tolerance. “Rather than avoiding all inulin, I suggest that people consume small quantities on a regular basis,” he notes. “Their gut microbiota will adapt – the proportion of beneficial bacteria will grow, while the gas-producing bacteria will diminish – and after a while they will be able to eat Jerusalem artichokes without discomfort.”

 

The Long Cook

Another site adds this helpful tidbit,

In On Food and Cooking (2004 edition), page 307, Harold McGee indicates that the… erm… flatulent effects of sun chokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) are due to complex fructose-based carbohydrates that are not digestible by humans.

> Long, slow cooking allows enzymes present in the fresh of the tuber will convert these fructose over time. McGee recommends 12-24 hours at 200 F / 93 C.

And also,

“About half of the remaining indigestibles can be removed by boiling in a large volume of water for 15 minutes.”

Storage

 Harold McGee addresses this subject in his excellent book, The Curious Cook (1990). He explains the Jerusalem artichoke in great detail in the chapter titled, “Taking the Wind out of the Sunroot.” His conclusions are (a) the quantities of the responsible carbohydrate are somewhat dissipated during cold storage of a month or more.

Late Harvest

 As one of the other answers outlines: the most accepted remedy is cold storage or late harvesting. When left in the groud during the winter, the tubers transform the inulin, thus enabling us to effectively digest the Sunchokes. This means that if you are growing your own, you can just harvest the tubers on the day you eat them, provided you do so late in the season.

First Things First

This is so exciting. Ini and I dug up a bunch of sunroots today and last night and will be selling some on the @homesteaderscoop for SBD! We bought these from a reputable nursery and they are select varieties!

First things first, I have some wonderful fodder here to experiment with. I think, to start, we’ll try the fermented aspect. As you know, we’re going on a 10 day meditation retreat shortly and will start a couple batches of classic lactofermentation using these sunroot and some salt (and other herbs and spices, and perhaps vegetables, as the mood strikes.)

 

The sky is the limit when it comes to learning how to most effectively partner with perennial vegetables. One thing is for certain, I feel the joy of life moving through me as a I work with this plant and I feel the familiar happiness and wonder at thinking of all of the humans whose hands this vegetable has passed through and how it has traveled all over the world (via humans and yes of course rodents, which are known to move little tidbits around gardens everywhere– and the plant will grow from the smallest tidbit!)

 

How do you like to eat Sunroot? Start small and let our bodies, which aren’t used to high amounts of inulin, get up to speed with this nutraceutical and it sounds like we’ll be off to a better start.

 

Let me know your favorite ways to eat it in the comments below!

A Case for Edible Landscaping with Perennial Plants | 3 Plant Profiles

Homestead, permaculture

Perennials.

Food production has long been a passion of ours, the scope and scale of which has evolved over the years. What began as forays into annual market gardening has morphed into more of a focus on perennial food crops. With high labor input and annual tillage (in most cases), the model of annual gardening left us wondering if there was another way to grow food.

There is a huge diversity of underutilized perennial plants that represent a great potential for sustainable food production. Apples, asparagus and rhubarb are perhaps the most well known, but indeed there are a host of perennial plants that yield unique and nutritious food. Many of these have interesting histories and their relationship with humans spans generations, yet they have simply been forgotten in our era when ease of marketability, transportation, appearance and shelf life take precedence.

We believe in a future agriculture where our needs are met harmoniously while the Earth and her creatures are cared for.

As we establish a relationship with the land we steward, we are constantly evolving and discovering what works and what doesn’t. We are discovering for ourselves what foods the land is best suited for, not imposing unreasonable demands. We take note of what species are present, which plants thrive with little attention, and the results of certain practices. We’re putting our money on perennials.

Our vision is to grow as many perennials as possible and share the joys and merits of perennial food production.

By starting small and developing nursery stock of useful and productive perennials, we are allowing time for feedback and evolution. Trees of course factor in heavily, but there’s also a large learning curve for us as we seek appropriate perennial vegetables.

Every year we expand our collection and propagate the established plants. Thinking in terms of years instead of months takes patience and the harvest doesn’t come quickly, but through these thoughtful and consistent actions, we align with and leverage the abundance of nature’s natural propagating tendencies. Perennials are inherently more resilient and stable than annuals. Growing with no soil disturbance and well-developed root systems, perennials are a great choice for lower input food production and long-term sustainability. As we establish perennial polycultures, we are setting up for long term resiliency, which becomes increasingly important in a time of unstable and mercurial weather patterns and seasons.

Allying with larger cycles and taking notes from nature, we see acts such as tilling and annual seeding as unnecessary in many cases. The abundance of nature is available to us if we take note of the dynamics inherent in natural ecosystems and their food-producing members. This is apparent as we divide roots, take cuttings and spread seeds. We’ve already seen with several perennials that plants can survive with less care and attention than many annuals and readily propagate themselves.

There’s a great deal of work needed in developing the systems that will feed us into the future. We are excited to be engaging in this most important of tasks. Below we’ve listed a few plants that we’ve added to our living collection over the past 2 years. We also have created a companion vlog that we’ll be sharing shortly.

These plants thrive in our Zone 6b climate and we highly recommend them. We bought the first 2 earlier this year using Steem and are excited to report back.

Chinese Mountain Yam – Dioscorea batatas

As the name suggests, the edible portion of this plant is a yam, a delicious underground tuber. This genus represents a huge potential of untapped food. Rudolf Steiner said that this would be the staple of the future; owing to its high food value and supposed ability to bring light ether into the body. Relatively unknown in North America as food, the Chinese mountain yam is more commonly cultivated as an ornamental. However, in Japan 100,000 tones are harvested annually for food! It is a long-lived tuber that is often harvested when 2 to 3 years old and which can growth 3-4 feet deep!

While the growth habit may look similar to a sweet potato with its sprawling, vining growth habit, this yam is unrelated and has a slightly more floury texture. Chinese mountain yams also produce tiny aerial tubers that can be eaten or planted, although portions of the underground tubers are a more common method of propagation. Tuber production is increased by trellising. We shall see how it does in our rocky soils, but we are excited to keep expanding our production.

 

Groundnut – Apios americana      

The groundnut is an important yet underrepresented nitrogen fixing food crop that grows wild throughout the USA and Southern Canada. It played a vital role in the diets of many Native Americans and was indispensible for feeding early colonists who were ill equipped to survive winter in a new land. Indigenous populations managed or encouraged stands of groundnuts for increased production.

As the name implies, the edible portion is similar to a walnut growing underground, bearing edible balls on a rope like strand. The tubers boast 16 percent protein (triple that of potatoes) and can yield up to 8 pounds from a single plant! Over the past 20 years or so, selections have been bred by Louisiana State University for increased size and ease of harvest. The resulting tubers are much bigger than tubers found in the wild. Groundnuts may take a few years to get established, but can yield annual harvests for many years.

 

Skirret – Sium sisarum

Skirret is a once popular root crop that has since fallen out of favor. Yielding a cluster of pencil thick carrot like roots, it suffers from few pests and produces and multiplies with little to no inputs. If given good moist soil it can produce large amounts of sweet root mass.

With a flavor reminiscent of carrot and parsnip (they are all from the same botanical family) and potato, skirret can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Baked, boiled, fried, or mashed it has filled the bellies of many over the years, but has perhaps fallen out of favor due to smaller root size and difficulty cleaning. This perennial gets its name from the Dutch for sugar root and when tasted you’ll see why. It’s a truly delicious, easy to grow and propagate plant.

With these 3 examples, we hope to encourage you to consider adding perennials to your garden plantings.

You’ll find they quickly become friends due to their easy nature & habit of propagating themselves- who said you have to work hard to grow food? Why not let the food grow itself! We believe in a perennial food future with rich soil teeming with microbes (to take a phrase from the popular book of that same title). While gardening is an enjoyable and healthy pastime any way you slice it, the perennial beds are like gifts to your future self. Each time you plant one, you’re feeding yourself and your friends and family for years to come.

 

Who knows, perhaps in the future we will even sell some of these plants on the @homesteaderscoop for SBD! Let us know if you have interest!

In the meantime, check out our thornless blackberries which are also self replicating, perennial, easy to grow and, of course, tasty!

This is a vision of abundance!

 

References –

Toensmeier, Eric. Perennial Vegetables. Chelsea Green: White River Junction, Vermont 2007.

Homestead Life: What We Would Do Differently with 100K at the Onset

Homestead, inspiration

“If you could start your Homestead over, completely from scratch, and you had a hypothetical budget of 100k USD in your pocket, how would you plan and prioritize?”

  • What kind of priorities would you have or reconsider?
  • What kind of power would you use?
  • In what ways would you use this nest egg first?
  • How would you do your planning again, if you had the option?

 

@thetreeoflife asks us this hypothetical question as she and her partner mentally and practically prepare to make their homestead move.

I am so excited to dig in and think about the aspects of this question this morning as I enjoy a cup of coffee by the woodstove.

Ini and I started off with a much smaller “nest egg” and if we had had 100k, I am not quite sure we would do much differently. First I’ll walk you all through some of our thought processes, what we liked about that and also things we may shift or do in different orders.

 

Land

First off, make land a priority regarding how you use your nest egg. Think about what your dreams are (for us it was perennial food forestry ultimately) and tailor your vision and land choice toward what is important to you. Maybe you want land for raising livestock or extensive gardening, maybe a certain slope orientation is important to you. Take some time to really consider what your priorities are and your long term visions and as you go about finding land, see if you can literally imagine your dreams unfolding there.

For us, we chose Missouri because of its longish growing season (zone 6b), large amounts of rainfall (over 50 inches annually), prevalence of springs and aquifers (one of the highest concentrations in the country), lack of building codes and relatively inexpensive land prices.

In exchange, we live in Trump country and it can get a little bit “backwards” here or feel like it’s outside of time. There is little progressive politics and we are 45 minutes in every direction from a city large enough for a legit food store with organic bulk produce. We do a lot of ordering online. Consider for yourself what your limits are. 20 minutes from such a town? How do your specific dreams mingle with location and community aspects? We have a small progressive community around us that mostly satisfies us, but at times we wish we had larger social circles.

I think for any budget, land takes up a large part of that. And I think it should. It’s the key asset you’re investing in when creating a homestead.

I also wouldn’t be afraid to choose a place and land you really love (consider the long term taxes though) if it’s a bit more expensive. After all, you can’t change your place as easily as you can make more money or tear down or build a building.

 

Home

For us it was ideal to find a place without an existing home. A structure such as a barn or outbuilding was okay, but we knew we wanted to build our own natural home. We didn’t have any building experience so we didn’t start off right away building a home and I think that was a good move. We built our humanure composting building first- this allowed us to practice our building styles, gain experience and have a home for our poop! We would do it again this way.

Permaculture asks us to Observe before we act and this is wise. We waited a year living on the land before we cut trees, established long term garden plans, built buildings, etc. And I love that we did that; I’d recommend it.

To this effect, we purchased a yurt and easily erected that from the start to take the pressure off of the home aspect. 3 years in and we are finally in the position (financially, energetically, stress levels wise, we have a lot of the other foundations of the homestead worked out and are far along on our food forests) to build a “true home”. We have a great relationship and understanding of our place, the sun & wind patterns, and generally how things feel on the land. We feel equipped to choose a home site. It’s good to wait.

If I could do it again, I would still do it this way. Set aside part of your budget for a beginner home that perhaps can be used in the future for travel, guests, etc. RVs or trailers are popular options. We enjoyed living in the yurt for the first year. There are a lot of options depending on your lifestyle and how you’re truly okay to live for the first few years. In this way, you can really get a piece of land that you like and not pay for someone else’s (dream?) home. By purchasing a tiny home or a house on wheels (or building one?), you’re saving your budget for land, water & power, good foundational elements.

You can always work outside the homestead to make more money to fund a future home and perhaps you’ll have more know-how and be more prepared in the future to build it anyway. I know our building skills have increased enough that we feel excited and (mostly) equipped to build!

 

Water

Water, no matter how you slice it, is a priority. We got a well ¾ of the way through our first year on the land. Before that we pumped water from a well into 5 gal jugs from a gracious neighbor and also got water at times from our spring.

Prioritize water on your land. Our land has a spring and a perennially spring fed creek (that has only gone dry, according to locals, about once in 100 years). This was really important to us as food growing is a top priority- to always have water moving around us. It was also really economical to dig a well and that was a plan all along. Make sure it wont cost another $20,000 to dig a well. Get a quote. Definitely put water in the budget.

We still don’t have hot, running water year round. It can definitely be a bummer, but it’s also something we’ve worked with (and are very excited about for our future home!). Depending on your needs, maybe this would work for you, or perhaps you need running water right away. Either way, make sure you have abundant water on your land. Water issues are a real bummer in any homesteading vision.

 

Power

We lived our first 2 years on the land without power. Our land was a raw piece of land without grid tie (and we liked it that way- power companies often get right-of-way for 10 feet on either side of the power line and we didn’t want to grant them that right to cut down trees, etc). It was interesting, to say the least, living without power for the first 2 years. Both of us were raised in homes with ample electricity haha and we got a taste for how people around the world live without it. It was character building!

We charged batteries at the library, at autozone, at friends’ houses when we’d come over for dinner. We used solar rechargeable lights and certainly weren’t tempted to stay up super late into the night on the dark, cold winter nights. Do I regret it? Absolutely not- it was a good experience to have as a modern human, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. Know your limits and priorities.

Ultimately, in our second year, we set up a solar system and are happily bringing in and storing via batteries more of the sun’s energy than we can use in a day. We have a freezer, run all appliances and work tools, and are content with this amount of energy. We didn’t even have a generator in the beginning and that would’ve made life easier.

If you are going to plan to build a solar system later on, or budget for it from the beginning, many solar places will happily talk you through what components you need and you can get quotes from various places before you ever buy. That’s definitely a good route and I never regret not going grid tied (we don’t have any incentives to do so either in the state of Missouri and there are no federal or state kick backs). Now we have paid for 10 years of energy needs up front, have no energy bills, feel great about taking in the sun’s energy and are literally empowered that we did it all ourselves.

Foundations

Looking back, I suppose the first 3 years on the land have been about laying foundations, of both skill sets, business (regarding our Permaculture plantings and future nursery ideas), power, water, etc. I think it’s wise to start slow and small instead of jumping into a large vision. Move into the place first. Spend a full 4 seasons there. Let the land talk to you. Let your dreams mingle with your place, its people, wildlife, energetics and the specific piece of land you’re on.

 

I believe in collaboration and synchronicity and that we aren’t only here to establish our dreams on a blank slate (there is no such thing), but to interact with the web of life of which we find ourselves a part. We aren’t humans with a green backdrop, so as you think about establishing yourself somewhere, leave room for that somewhere to establish you.

 

Things we haven’t done yet that we wish we had done earlier

Finalize the roof catchments systems.

We have built 3 structures (5 if you include high tunnels) and are not set up yet to catch and make full use of rainwater. Some roofing material we have built with was reused and galvanized metal and therefore not suitable for many uses due to zinc content. Our solar shed was roofed with new baked on enameled metal which is perhaps the best roofing option for rain catchment. We have yet to set up the appropriate system to collect, store and distribute water. It’s on the list…

Lay out water lines.

We have also yet to bury pipes to create a permanent irrigation and water distribution system. We have plans to lay pipes and hydrants for easy access to irrigate and other uses. Our water systems are still in the development phase and while we are grateful for what we have, we are also looking forward to an even more complete system.

Chip brushy trees

Much of the 3 acres that we are bringing into cultivation was cleared 7-10 years ago. The resulting growth is woody shrubs and small diameter trees. In clearing space to plant perennial food crops, we have had to remove a lot of biomass. Some of which has been burned to return minerals to the soil, and some has been made into biochar.

This has been a little labor intensive and the jury is still out on the effects of biochar. In retrospect it would have been great to have had a wood chipper onsite to turn all that biomass into easy to apply mulch to feed the soil that feeds our plants. We will arrange for this on future clearings and are excited to see how many wood chips we get.

This is our answer after 3 years on the land, ask us again in a decade…

 

150 Years | 7 Generations Thinking: Inheriting Things From Strangers

Ecotrain, Homestead, inspiration

The other day I read that the 7 Generations thinking (originated by the Haudeneshone ie Iroquois Nation) is about a span of 150 years.

That’s really not that long, if you think about it. Those of us who are fortunate to have family records (or some freak down the line who pieced it all together -and I can say that because I’m likely taking on this role for my family), possibly even know the name, profession, or even the face in a rare still black and white photograph.

Were these people thinking about you?

In our day in age, we are very much geared toward the Individual- the rise, the fall, the accumulation and somewhat the passing on. What strikes me so much about the perspective of 7 generations thinking is that it requires a long term view of our actions. What are the ripples into our environments from my actions?

In a world with so many people, too, I think this Individualist thinking is also spurred on because we inherently believe our actions don’t really have that much of an effect.

We wait for others to do things because of this. Certainly I couldn’t be the one to … start a business on the Steem blockchain… make a sustainable invention… solve a puzzling world mystery, etc. These things are reserved for other people, people smarter, more attractive, wealthier, younger, etc. Yet when we start to think about how our actions ripple throughout the next 150 years, we realize that we do have a say about the shape of things.

Is an ancestor thinking about you right now?

I want to broaden the scope of an ancestor through writing this article. This subject has been on my mind a lot lately because Ini and I are talking with a local man about the possibility of taking on a position in carrying on his life’s work which involves a certain forest in our area. This person has been working tirelessly to create a sustainable livelihood in relation with this forest. The forest is too small to employ anyone to sustainably manage it (usually over 30,000 acres are needed unto that effect) and so this man had to get his creative thinking cap on.

On Balancing Wrong Action

Many people know that Corporations make Wrong Actions, especially regarding our ecosystems. Notoriously, driven by capitalistic bottom lines, extract, exploit and devastate more, while adding overwhelming amounts of pollution to the environment. They cut corners, dump toxic waste, and have leaky pipes in the Gulf and through the veined corridors through which they run in this country, which pollutes bodies of water all over the place.

The EPA and governmental organizations make a farce of stomping down this type of action, usually their pockets are lined with bucks, too. One such idea to balance this is the Cap & Trade System. The idea is totally new to me so I can’t write much on it, but essentially it allows those who produce a ton of Carbon into the atmosphere to pay people, essentially trading with them, who are sinking carbon back into the earth from the atmosphere.

What a Forest Does

Forests, of course, through the incredible respiration of trees, naturally act as carbon sinks. This is now scientifically documented at what rate this process happens and a large corporation, that has scientifically deduced the rate at which they are releasing carbon, can invest in a long term trade with a forest to balance out their negative effect.

Our friend has engaged the aforementioned forest in such a Cap & Trade deal, which will last for about 125 years. It is this role which we are talking with him about managing.

 

Could someone you don’t know right now be an ancestor to you?

The fact that this person, who we’ve only known for about 3 years, has worked for the past 25 years setting this up and devising a way to make a sustainable business in our local area – for someone who will come after him! Is incredible. He has essentially worked with the next 7 generations in mind not knowing who would take the work on for him!

Ini and I aren’t sure if we’ll have kids and while we have 1 niece and 1 nephew at this point in time, there’s no telling if a blood relative will want to pick up and carry on what we’ve created here. Fruit and nut trees will be abundant by the time they’re entering college, but who can say what their dreams will lead them to. We’ve often wondered who will carry on our dreams. Could we, like our friend, be preparing something for someone not even born yet who we’ll meet many years down the road?

 

If you can complete your dream in your lifetime, you’re not dreaming big enough.

Winona LaDuke recently crowdfunded a hemp farm that will empower Native American youth and in one of her emails she wrote the quote above. It has sat with me ever since. Am I dreaming big enough? Including a vision which propels and energizes the next 7 generations? Am I dreaming something which is viable or healthy for the next 150 years (and not only of humans, but the entire biosphere)?

Am I thinking of water, soil, income streams, food, shelter, and more? Though it may sound like a lot, I really don’t think it is. It is living in alignment with our true nature which is connected to everything. To be out of balance with this nature creates disharmony and though we may reap short term gains and excuse ourselves for trying to survive, how are we influencing the lives of our great great great grandchildren or even the children of a stranger who will show up one day and fit magically into the puzzle we have created.

I think our friend I mentioned above is the first person I have met who has dedicated so much of his life and toiled to create a sustainable job for someone he’s not even sure will come. He does it because it was his promise to the woman who donated the land into a land trust, which is happening more and more nationwide. How do we not only “preserve” these places, but also allow them to bring in salaries based on good livelihood as we talked about yesterday in our “Putting the Eco back Economics” post? Balancing the negative effects of greedy corporations is one such way.