Tennesseetransitions


More on ‘Bringing It Home’

I have finally finished my major chemo treatments (although I may need some ‘follow ups’ using only one chemical, rather than a full Malotov cocktail) later this spring. My energy levels are somewhat better now and I’m looking forward to a trip to California next month and continuing my 10th year as the coordinator for my local community garden during this growing season. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I know my posts have been pretty spotty for the last 6 months but I hope that now I can begin to do more regular writing and living  again. So don’t give up on me yet…

It’s sometimes hard to come up with a topic that fits into the context of “Tennessee Transitions” that will make a full blown post, but this one will be proof that a variety of things are sometimes needed to share ideas with you that only need a photo or a tag line to get the message across.

Regular readers know that I’m absolutely convinced that the best way we can begin to transition to a way of life that is based on lower consumption of energy, goods, and money begins right at home and spreads out to our neighbors and community. Eating local and regional foods, supporting local businesses, and using localized energy supplies can go a very long way towards making our lives more self resilient. I believe our country is still in a very precarious position in this world and the more we can learn to do to ‘bring it home’ to our communities and neighborhoods the better off we’ll be.

Let me share some more examples I’ve noticed in my own community since my last post on the subject…

local company

The small print on the front window of our newest downtown store says “An Appalachian Artisan Emporium: Locally & Responsibly Produced Art, Crafts, & Goods”. Sounds good huh? Michael and I walked down to check it out for the first time recently and it’s a beautiful, classy place with very reasonable prices. We saw everything from hot sauces to jewelry to guitars all made right.here. No need to go anywhere else in town for a gift item or even for my one little luxury of a bar of home made soap! There was music being played on the store system that had been recorded by local musicians’ while we shopped, making for a very nice atmosphere, with the owner being personable and knowledgeable about every product on hand! These are exactly the kinds of businesses that our city is crying out for. Keepin’ our money local helps us all. There was another couple shopping there, filling a hand-made basket with small locally made gifts to present to expected out of town company. They were very pleased with their choices, as I’m sure the recipient was too.

It’s also spring gardening season around here-my greens and peas are up but the potatoes haven’t shown their furry heads yet. A friend had ordered 1500 ladybugs to release on her house plants that were covered with aphids. She found out she only needed about 30 or so to get the job done so I exchanged a handful of live ladybugs for my greenhouse starts (which always seem to get aphids too) for a supper of homemade soup and a thick slice of sourdough bread. We’re both happy and most of the ladybugs are still hanging around a few days later…some have died but we think they were D.O.A. anyway.

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Sharing our extras (even BUGS or soup) is another great way to support your community!

Michael’s birthday was Saturday so we decided to celebrate at a-you guessed it-locally owned restaurant, rather than at one  of the many chains that line the city. The Thai food was excellent, as was the service. There were 21 of us that took up most of their pushed-together tables, but we had such a good time…

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The owners of this place let us bring in our own birthday cake after the meal -unfortunately ordered from Krogers. The cake was just okay, but was a last minute thought on my part or I would’ve certainly purchased it from a local bakery. Next time…

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Later, friends enjoyed locally crafted beer while listening to a local Celtic band at a locally-owned coffee house. No Starbucks for this crowd!

With just this one birthday event, a lot of local dollars were spent and kept in our community. I love the diversity that our local restaurants, bakeries, coffee houses and shoppes provide.

Today’s newspaper carried the following article on another new locally based company. THIS is just a fabulous idea and one I hope will gain a lot of support. I’ve provided a link here to the newspaper article about this innovative approach to what I hope will become the future of municipal-wide composting instead of landfilling…

http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Environment/2016/03/22/Johnson-City-teacher-opens-area-s-first-fully-permitted-solar-powered-composting-facility.html?ci=content&lp=&p=1

All this is to say, it simply takes a small but conscious effort on YOUR part to shop locally. Rather than pointing  you to yet another link, I’ll quote directly from my ‘About’ page  on this blog: “If we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. Now is the time to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community and personal well-being.”

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Bringing It Home

Since beginning this blog in 2012, I’ve been writing about how creating a strong sense of localism is THE key to transitioning to a lifestyle that is more connected, vibrant and fulfilling. Localism, which champions a more equitable economic system of building healthier, more sustainable communities, is truly the way forward.

I see progress in my community towards this end with an  ongoing revitalization of our downtown area, creation of several new community gardens and a brand new 1.5 million dollar Farmer’s Market opening next month! A wonderful biking and hiking trail is being utilized from dawn to dusk each day, as are public parks that are filled with ever-changing art sculptures chosen by a public art committee. Public health initiatives have been implemented, and an increased awareness and concern for homelessness, domestic violence, drug abuse and crime reduction is helping those in need learn how to fish. An emphasis on shopping locally is helping many new small, mom-and-pop style businesses stay competitive. Walkability scores are being used by realtors these days too. How walkable a neighborhood or community is is so important to creating the kind of localism that’s needed to bring a community together. On my morning walk today I saw this bit of harmless fun, right in the middle of town:

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The building below, called the ‘Betty Gay’ Building, sits on our Main Street in a busy block. It has sat empty for years, with the front literally falling off. Our city inspectors finally decided to get tough on the owner, who then sold it to a man known for restoring old properties back to their former glory and beyond. Years in the process, but it’s finally happening!

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And by the way, this is being rehabbed using local contractors and local materials as much as possible-even some repurposed building materials! That’s ‘bringing it home’.

Localism doesn’t mean we need to wait on our city governments or someone else to make change happen. You know what Gandhi said: “BE the change you want to see”…I’m a member of a quiet, dedicated group that has been working for the last 16 months to determine if a member owned food coop (like some credit unions and banks for example) could offer shoppers in our city an affordable, more local option when buying their food. By partnering with an established coop in nearby Knoxville, we have together raised $16,000 in order to perform a professional market study to determine if this idea might be a viable option for our area! The folks that have financially supported this effort (with no guarantee that it will ever materialize) are able to take advantage of immediate savings and introduce them further to the concept, since their investment in the Johnson City Food Coop automatically entitles them to membership and benefits in Knoxville too. Our membership cards arrived in the mail today-

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I’ll be offering more information on the coop idea in the near future, but the point is, we’re working together to make this dream a reality. When opened, this food cooperative will also support different projects to benefit our members, workers, families as well as our local community. That’s “bringing it home”!

Image of The Co-operative Food

More localism: a friend of mine has worked long and loud to make our city not only more bee friendly but is making sure that bees have plenty of food; through her localizing efforts, as well as others, our public library is currently installing a pollinator garden on the front lawn, replacing uninteresting foundation bushes and lawn mowing with a roof top water cachement and underground filtration system that will water the planned ‘meadow’ of native plants that will offer nectar and pollen to the bees. To top that off,  just last week our zoning commission voted unanimously to allow beekeeping within city limits! Progress is often slow, but perseverance can pay off handsomely.

With the fall of the once-almighty indoor mall, revitalizing downtowns that were deserted when they came on the scene is an important piece of re-localizing. Towns and cities all need a square or a commons area for people to feel like ‘they’ve arrived’, and that they belong to something bigger than themselves. Shaping a new economy, building stronger communities while focusing on the tools and strategies that will allow us to prosper together has been proven effective over and over.

Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community. In a world of increasing insecurity (and insanity?) strengthening our home place makes sense.Where we shop, where we eat and have fun — all of it makes our community home. As I was gathering information for this post, look what came in the mail today!

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This little family-owned pharmacy is a 5  minute walk from my house and they are so incredibly helpful that I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else for my prescriptions. They have everything we need in terms of healthcare and I have price-shopped them to death, discovering that their cough drops, bandaids and eyedrops are cheaper than Walmart. Take that big box stores! And now, with a $5 coupon, they’re ‘bringing it home’ even more!

 

 

 



It Starts at Home

These mid-winter days offer me time to ponder the meaning of life, gaze lovingly at my navel, and cross long-carried-over-to-do-items off of my to-do-list. I’ve even cleared out my sewing basket which I think has been on the list for a year now!

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January was National Radon Awareness Month and since I have lung cancer I’ve been thinking a great deal about the dangers of RADON-a leading cause of lung cancer. So, I orRdered a free home test kit here:  https://tdec.tn.gov/Radon_Online/frmRADON_Online.aspx and I hung it for 6 days for testing, mailing it back to the state yesterday.

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It’s precise but simple, and did I mention it’s free? It also comes with a prepaid mailer to return it in! Now be aware…if you find  your home has radon, you’ll need to be prepared to remediate the problem if you plan to ever sell your home, or  you’ll have to at least disclose it should  you sell. But I would hope you wouldn’t wait to sell to alleviate the problem should  you show a high reading. I understand the average remedy costs about $1,000-$1,500 if someone else does the venting work necessary to move the radon out of  your living area. It could probably done much cheaper if you do it yourself. How hard can that be? haha don’t answer that, please.  I’ll let you know when I get my test results back..we’re hoping of course we don’t have any problems.

I’ve also been making lots of soups and canning soup stock, using frozen bags of onion and carrot tops, mushroom stems, celery tops and other trimmings that I save for just such purpose. Last week I made 10 qts of organic broth, and at today’s prices, that equates to at least $20. My time is certainly worth that, and on cold days it helps to warm the house and add humidity by simmering that stock for hours. The resulting golden goodness is good for making soups obviously, but also for cooking rice, pasta, potatoes or beans in too. 

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Speaking of good food and cooking from scratch… I’ve had so many readers ask me for vegan/vegetarian meal ideas that I’ve been writing down what we eat for supper each night, always making sure there’s enough left for lunches the following day. It’s an easy process once you get used to it. I’m sharing this oh-so-exciting information with you, my readers, because maybe you’re one of the ones that have asked for ideas. (If this bores you, just go to the next section.) So, for the first week of February, here was the Jones’ menu:

Week of February 1st,2016

Monday: Good Shepard’s Pie-potato topping made with soymilk and Smart Balance vegan spread-filling contained beans, broccoli, corn, kale, green peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, bay leaf, dried basil, and srirachi sauce. (This is called GOOD Shepard’s Pie because a GOOD shepard doesn’t eat his sheep.)

Tuesday: Fried Rice w/peas and carrots in peanut sauce, roasted brussels sprouts

Wednesday: Aloo Gobi over Jasmine Rice with Fusion Slaw and Rolls

Thursday: Bean and Potatoes Burritos w/Guacamole, leftover Asian Slaw

Friday: Kale, Mushrooms and Potato Bake w/Salads and Whole Grain Rolls, fresh pineapple chunks

Saturday: Grill Cheese Sandwiches w/canned soup, with pickles and fresh fruit (bananas, pineapple and red grapes)

Sunday: Pad Thai w/Naan and Salad

Looking at the lengthening days and the calendar I’m beginning to think about spring planting of course. We ate our last Longkeeper tomato last week…

20160206_170333[1]...so the goal is to grow more of them and get them in earlier than we did in 2015 so that hopefully we’ll be able to grow enough this year to last the whole winter next year!  When planning  your own garden, perhaps you can find space to plant a “ROW” for the “Rest of the World.” Because I live in the city, all I have to do to share that extra produce is to set it out on my front steps.

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If  you aren’t in a high walkability area you may need to load it up and take it to your nearest food pantry or church. Please consider this one little addition to your garden this year…it can make a big difference and won’t cost you much of anything to provide good food for someone who doesn’t have it.

I’ve long advocated that we use our homes as a place of productivity, not simply a center of consumption. There’s a LOT of trouble in this big world and so I feel compelled to do what I can personally to feed and clothe and keep my family as safe and healthy as I possibly can. I share this blog with you in the hopes that it may inspire you to become more self sufficient in any way you can too. It’s my unpaid job but more satisfying than any other position I’ve ever held. It helps me to feel as secure as I possibly can given the state of things. The stock market has crashed again (no surprise there) but since I’ve not been in good health we aren’t driving much (except to doctors’ appointments!) so we’re hardly spending anything on gasoline these days. I love that we can walk to almost every place we need to, giving me an extra layer of assurance that ‘all will be well’. I need that assurance in order to BE well.

In order to create resilient and prosperous households and neighborhoods, it starts at home with me, with you, and you. 



Old Fashioned Insurance

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Just a few generations ago, very few people lived in apartments. Many folks lived and died in the same home in fact. Small, often remote communities often came together to help their neighbors with barn raisings, crop harvestings, or disasters. Folks didn’t have insurance on barns, crops and homes like many of us do now. (although I’m not altogether convinced that insurance is such a wise buy since it’s basically the policy holder BETTING they’ll need it, and the insurance company BETTING they won’t! ) 

Cloudland is just such a community. You can see from the flier above that they came together with just such an old fashioned “insurance policy” last Saturday to help 3 or 4 of their neighbors that have been displaced since their apartment building burned, shortly before Christmas. The normally pay-in-advance facility rental fee was waived for the event, the 9 local bands that played through the 6 hour event all donated their time and talents, the sound system and engineer for that system was donated and the community donated their money and potluck dishes to make this event a smashing success. Over $2,144 was raised! I think that says a lot about Cloudland, and the folks that helped make it so successful. But it also gives me renewed hope in a world that seems hell-bent on individuality, each man for himself mentalities, and embarrassingly evil ways to ‘shut out’ those that need help the most. 

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The Triple J Barn transformed for the evening

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Friends, food and music. A great time was had by all, devastated families will be helped by the money raised, and the spirit of community was strengthened. This embodies exactly what this blog is about and I simply wanted to share the warm feeling I’m still enjoying after attending this ‘Care Fest’ last Saturday. One more thing. I’m truly proud of Michael and several other friends for being one of those that donated his talents by playing with OUR band (I still can’t make this stiff hand work well enough to play bass!) and of my best friend Rhodyjane for spearheading it and making it all come together.

Tennessee may not be perfect (is there any place that is?) but together, we are making the transitions we need to in order to make sure that everyone not only survives, but thrives, during this new year. Make sure  you take good care of you and yours too!



L.E.S.S.

Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation: using L.E.S.S. just might be a meaningful part of our response to the crises of our age. If you’re a new reader to this blog, perhaps you’re asking yourself, “what IS the crisis of our age?”. If so, check out my ‘about’ page for a bit more information. If you’ve “been there, done that”, then just pick one…crisis, that is. Adopting new measures of prosperity needn’t be considered a bitter pill to swallow, but instead a new and exciting taste of freedom and resilience!

A recent (and quite long!) article I read titled “The End of Capitalism has Begun” touched on how Greek citizens are creating a new economy via food cooperatives (as is Cuba!), alternative producers, local currencies and exchange systems. According to the article there are hundreds of smaller initiatives there too, ranging from land squats to carpools to free kindergartens. I recently wrote in this blog about what I called “An Informal Economy”, but I have since learned that the media has dubbed this meme as “the sharing economy”. I believe I like that better. Whatever it’s called, it’s going to be the new global system eventually because the capitalist system we have now is simply not sustainable. All together now, “perpetual growth is not sustainable”!

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Let’s start with energy: Even though my own energy use for transportation has been greatly reduced since moving from our old home that was located out in the country into the urban neighborhood that we live in now, I’m a long way from energy independence. Our newer location allows me to walk or ride my bike to many of the places that I need to go: from the dentist to the grocery store, I can get in my daily exercise while running those errands and keep the car parked at home most of the time. Many towns, including mine, are adding bike lanes and racks to make cycling safer and easier, but don’t forget carpooling and mass transit options to lower your own energy dependence. Car sharing has long gone on in families, and extending that to communities could be a logical next step, and has in fact begun in larger cities.

Home energy needs can be provided via a variety of ways, but lower prices on solar panels and wind turbines, along with tax incentives in many states, are making renewable energies a more affordable alternative. Biomass, waste recycling and community owned power stations are all viable ways of providing our energy needs on a local basis. Natural gas quality landfill gas that is produced from the methane that my town’s local landfill emits, is piped to the nearby VA Campus, a hospital and the university campus to provide their energy needs. How cool is that? Conversely, on a very low tech scale, I enjoy using my solar cooker whenever I can, and I’m exploring the possibility of building a large cob oven in a nearby local park where the community garden has its’ home. In this picture you’ll see a tiny one, next to a larger one, that was built last summer by kids at the site of our local “Tree Forest”, proving that this low tech combination of clay, straw and water is doable by any of us! And CLAY is an abundant natural resource right here in Tennessee…

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Cob ovens can be used to consecutively cook breads, pizzas, desserts and more with just one firing

I completely understand these alternative ideas may not easily integrate into your home, your lifestyle or your neighborhood but I believe the benefits can outweigh the hassles if appropriate technology and community assistance is applied. It really does “take a village” and that ‘sharing economy’ I mentioned earlier is the only way capitalism will ever be replaced with an economic model that works for all of us, not just the privileged few. I also encourage you to never underestimate the sheer effectiveness of cross breezes, cotton clothing, deciduous shade trees and awnings in the summer, and eliminating the extra heat that using dishwashers, clothes dryers and ovens can create. Washing  your dishes by hand, hanging your clothes outside to dry and preparing meals in a crock pot or on the  stove top will easily eliminate that unwanted heat completely. Reflective window coatings, insulation and weatherstripping, fans, kiddie pools and cool showers are excellent ways to cool down in summer heat without turning on the AC, while layered clothing, space heaters, and passive or active solar gains make good alternatives to turning up the thermostat in the colder months. If we all did nothing more than grow some of our own food, preheat our water with a simple batch solar collector and travel car free as often as possible we could decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and increase our personal resilience factor tremendously!

But let’s talk about our ‘Stuff’ now. We have a problem with Stuff. We use too much, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well. But that’s not the way things have to be. Together, we can build a society based on better not more, sharing not selfishness, community not division. The way we make, use and throw away the stuff in our lives is senseless and shameful. I have never asked my readers to do this, but I’d like you to see this profound 52 second video that graphically shows just how far we’ve sunk within our capitalistic lifestyle of stuff. These 52 seconds really impacted me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMTu4ixp9kw  With renewable energy, sustainable use, reuse and “upcycling” of resources, and the smart design of everything from candy wrappers to cities, we can have both sustainability and abundance.

Before I end this already too-long post, let me say this about stimulation: from technological wonders and homework, to club meetings and soccer games, too many distractions and activities have robbed kids and families of the unstructured time we need to thrive and be creative and connected. Setting some new limits for ourselves and our kids might be all that’s needed to keeping those distractions in check. Those limits will necessarily have to be personal and adjustable for each of us, but we might begin by adhering to just one simple rule in our households: for example, no phones or Ipads at the dinner table. Families eating dinner together has been proven to be the best thing we can do in order to maintain open lines of communication, good grades, better health and a host of other positive outcomes within our lives and our families. 

We’re actually close to a tipping point to address these issues. This is the new world we have to learn to live in. Instead of debating outdated economics, let us come together to forge a new path—one that is practical and truly provides equal opportunity for all, even those desiring to live a simple life. Capitalism served us well, but it’s become evident that working together cooperatively rather than in competition is the foundation for a new economy and peaceful world.



Plant Seeds of Understanding

After a full day of hearing a sermon about social injustice, singing and hearing songs about it, and then watching a documentary about the problems immigrants to our country face, I felt compelled to ‘do something’, beyond writing my legislators- yet again. This post is the result of this emotional day.

It’s occurred to me that, like the Earth, the 2016 Presidential race is already heating up too. In anticipation of the differences of opinion I’m sure to encounter during the next 17 months, I have already set my intention to refrain from becoming crass or nasty with anyone, regardless of their political persuasion, during the upcoming election season. With the increased use of social media and internet availability, I suspect that my personal exposure to mud slinging could result in getting some mud in my own eyes. But ‘an eye for an eye’ won’t change anyone’s beliefs, so I’ve come up with a plan that I’d like to share with my readers. Feel free to use it in any way you like…

In order to stay true to my personal mission of spreading peace and (food) justice in the world by sharing gardening with anyone that wants to learn, (even Republicans haha!)  I’m making up some seed packets to share whenever tempers flare or voices rise. I’m calling them ‘Seeds of Understanding’ and I hope that the packets will serve to temper those differences with their gentle humor and a shared love of natural beauty. This isn’t an easy task for me because, as you probably already know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m opinionated at best, and  ‘right’ at my worst.

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The packets will be light enough to carry several in my purse or easily mailed for the price of a stamp. Heck, I’ll even give you one whether we disagree or not, as long as you’ll promise to plant your own ‘seeds of understanding’. May the best man, or woman, win.

“Every time I plant a seed, He say kill it before it grow, He say kill it before they grow”~ Bob Marley




A Livable Community

Back in 2011 my city held an ‘Economic Summit’ that had great speakers and breakout sessions, while offering lots of info for anyone that wanted to know the state of the city. It was there that the attendees were given a survey to answer the question, “What would make our city more livable?”. The answers were then compiled and developed into a Stategic Plan for the the members of the Community Partnerships group to use as as a guiding light, if you will. Several subgroups were formed as a result of that survey, and even though the Livable Communities group has been meeting for about a decade or more, it was first introduced to me during that summit. Today I serve as chairperson of the group because it’s purpose and function integrated so seamlessly with my own values for transitioning to a lifestyle that is based on  localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being, that I knew I wanted to be a part of it. 

The current Livable Communities group serves as a sort of advisory group to the city, yet remains autonomous enough to implement plans and ideas of our own. As our community has built resilient “amenities,” such as community gardens, green spaces, a more walkable business district, farmers markets and bike paths, we have certainly become a more desirable place to live- and invest in, it seems. The survey results have served us well in acting as our guide.

The good news is, we have pretty much managed to see implementation of many of the things the survey results revealed. One remaining ‘wish list’ item from the survey is to ”Improve public transportation using the Complete Streets model with a schedule to accommodate working people.” 

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We’re not there yet folks, but I’ve recently discovered some incredible online resources to begin this next phase of our efforts to improve our bus transit system. Stay tuned here for updates on that process, as our current system really does leave a lot to be desired…

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But first things first; our committee is planning to partner with other nonprofits to man a table during the upcoming Blue Plum music festival, being held in downtown Johnson City on June 5-7th. We’ll share the space with Build It Up E. TN, Grow Appalachia!, Insight Alliance,  the JC Public Library, and Appalachian Resource Council and we’ll have various items to attract passersby to the table. Maps, Quilt Trail Guides, Local Food Guides and even some locally produced food products will be for sale, along with library resources and much more. The spot we’ll hold down is THE BEST spot in town for this, underneath the wide overhang of the Insight Alliance offices, located at 207 E Main St. It’s a half block from the main stage, with bathrooms and a water fountain just inside. I’m looking for folks to join us at the festival and hope that you’ll  attend our planning session next Tuesday, May 19th at 5:30 at the same location. Our main message this year is simply ‘all things local’. If you have any ideas for making that message more attention getting, I’d love to hear from you!

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2014 Blue Plum Table




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