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…

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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!

 

 

 



Eating Locally

On this snowy day, I’m recalling some recent conversations with friends asking what exactly am I eating that is fresh and local in this kind of weather? So, I made a list. I consider food that I grew last summer and preserved in some way fair game when making such a list but italicized them below so  you can tell what’s ‘fresh’ and what’s ‘preserved’. All grown or available right.here. 

Here’s what we’re eating these days: corn and corn meal, cilantro, tomatoes-yes, we’re still enjoying fresh Longkeeper tomatoes harvested in October-cabbage, broccoli, beets, parsnips, white potatoes and sweet potatoes, green beans, kale, parsley, herbs, butternut and spaghetti squash, pesto, salsa, dried beans, jams, V-8 and grape juices, peas, edamame, jams and jellies, honey, teas, hot sauces, salsa, flour and corn tortillas, corn bread and yeast bread, apple sauce, carrots, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, onions and garlic, molasses, and peppers and occasionally eggs, goat’s milk or goat cheese are given to me by friends. We also had fresh lettuce until just recently but the cold finally did it in, mostly due to our failure to protect it well. We enjoy stir fries, soups, pasta sauces, and one pot meals most of the time, occasionally splurging on a pizza from Main Street Pizza since they grow their own toppings on their nearby farm. There are lots of other local foods available that we occasionally enjoy but don’t grow ourselves-from  wheat for grinding into flour, to pumpkins, meats, cheeses, apples, pears and other fruits. I suppose most any food you might want can be found locally at some time of the year anyway! (OK, oranges and seafood excluded, but certainly some kinds of fish are available.) Rice, olive oil and spices are my main import exceptions, although rice is being grown in South Carolina now and I hope to buy from there this year. How far does ‘local’ go? That’s for you to define. Some say 100 miles, others feel 250 is still local. And why does eating local foods matter so much to me?

  1. Supports local farms: Buying local food keeps local farms healthy and creates local jobs at farms and in local food processing and distribution systems.
  2. Boosts local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.
  3. Less travel: Local food travels much less distance to market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, therefore using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases.
  4. Less waste: Because of the shorter distribution chains for local foods, less food is wasted in distribution, warehousing and merchandising.
  5. More freshness: Local food is fresher, healthier and tastes better, because it spends less time in transit from farm to plate, and therefore, loses fewer nutrients and incurs less spoilage.
  6. New and better flavors: When you commit to buy more local food, you’ll discover interesting new foods, tasty new ways to prepare food and a new appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.
  7. Good for the soil: Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture, which reduces the reliance on monoculture—single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.
  8. Attracts tourists: Local foods promote agritourism—farmers’ markets and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.
  9. Preserves open space: Buying local food helps local farms survive and thrive, keeping land from being redeveloped into suburban sprawl.
  10. Builds more connected communities: Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods. As customers of CSAs and farmers markets have discovered, they are great places to meet and connect with friends as well as farmers.

So, I’ve told  you what I’m eating these days and why. Now I’ll leave you with a little pictorial  of what we’ve been enjoying at my house…are  you eating any local foods that aren’t pictured here? Am I missing anything? 

 

 

 

 



Old Fashioned Insurance

Flier

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!



Transition Matters

I’ll immediately apologize to my readers that don’t live in my town, for this post is strictly about events and groups that are inherently ‘local’. Feel free to move on, but I hope you’ll keep reading anyway- I’ve tried to make it interesting to everyone, really.  Remember, that the modern industrial capitalist economic and social system, based upon cheap oil and resources, is unsustainable, making a major restructuring of economy and society imperative, and inevitable. Transition contends that citizens and communities need to act proactively and positively at the local scale, in a process of ‘Transition’ and ‘powerdown’ to build localized and resilient communities in terms of food, energy, work and waste. Hence the blog name, Tennessee Transitions.

1. Shopping for Christmas? Check out these products, from Naked Bee! They’re affordable, all natural personal care products AND they’re made right here in our fair city! They produce hair care products, lotions, soaps, lip balms and candles and you can find a store nearby by clicking on this link. If you’re going to buy Christmas gifts, please try to support local businesses. If you  buy these products, you’ll be supporting both the manufacturer AND the retailer. Not to mention the gift recipient. Win-Win-Win

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2. Tuesday, November 18th, is the date for the bimonthly Livable Communities group meeting. We’ll be meeting at the downtown offices of Insight Alliance, located at 207 E Main St at 5:30 PM. A report has been prepared for us with the final results of the survey that was used to gather information concerning the possibility of a natural foods store in Johnson City. That alone is worth coming to hear about. We’ll also move forward in our plans for continuing the work begun by the Southside Neighborhood Organization (SNO) in placing Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods across town and fill you in on other positive things that are happening in our region.

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3. Another meeting? I know, I know, but this one is so important to our current and future abilities to provide food for ourselves. C.O.O.P. (Chickens On Our Property) will hold a short meeting Thursday Nov. 20, 5pm at Willow Tree Coffeehouse (216 E Main Street) to discuss what our next steps should be to stop updates that are being made to the RESIDENTIAL zoning codes – which right now say “no ‘farm animals’ permitted” but are legally trumped by the city codes for animal control which ALLOW for chickens. Honeybees and backyard hens have now been lumped together as ‘farm animals’. This issue concerns any and all who believe in pet rights, self-sufficiency, and food justice.

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4.  I believe medicinal herbs could regain the prominence and importance they once held in our home medicine chests and first aid kits as we transition to more localized lives. After all, many prescription drugs originated from chemicals found in plants. Bring your brown bag lunch at noon on Tuesday, November 18th, to the Johnson City public library to attend a free presentation :”Herbs and the Natural World.” The presenter will discuss medicinal and culinary herbs and their uses and will offer samples of herbal teas for your tasting pleasure.

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