Tennesseetransitions


Every Day is Earth Day

April 22nd is Earth Day. hooray. I’m very happy we have that one internationally-recognized day a year to celebrate this beautiful blue planet, but we simply cannot continue to honor our mother only once every 365 days.  The well-respected ‘science guy’, Bill Nye recently said,” We must engage  political hopefuls and elected officials on the topic of global warming.”  I say, we must also support our farmers and learn to eat a sustainable, diversified diet of foods (and medicines!) grown within our local regions. We must commit to a near zero waste lifestyle, while learning to reuse and repurpose everything that comes through our lives. We must support alternative energies, even if they are in our backyards. We simply must clean up our act and take better care of our earthly home.

To that end, I have been thinking about ways we can make the needed changes, going beyond the same old advice about carrying our own shopping bags and changing our light bulbs. By the way, compact florescent bulbs are now ‘old’ technology and have been replaced by LED bulbs in both output and energy usage. Check them out. (While  you’re at it, turn the lights off when you leave a room if you didn’t learn that in third grade.) Buying our way out of hard to solve problems is not the answer but if you are going to buy bulbs anyway, please consider LEDs next time. Or better yet, set up a small solar panel on the tool shed and expand your array as you can afford it.

I think what started out as a post about planning and planting our gardens this spring made me realize how even the choices we make there are important in terms of how we treat the earth. Do  you rotate the things you grow every other year or two, giving your soil a chance to rebuild it’s microbiological life and replenish  what was taken from it the year before? Are you using at least some open pollinated seeds so that the seeds can be saved from your best plants year to year? Are  you improving your soil by continuously making and adding compost, growing cover crops, or adding worm castings? Is your water supply for your garden sustainable? Are you capturing rainwater and using thick mulches to avoid evaporation and weeds growing? Growing food without the inputs of commercial chemicals, fertilizers and hybrid seeds is the best way to grow healthy food that doesn’t cost you-and the earth-an arm and a leg. 

In the fall of 2014 when I was pulling up a spent tomato plant I discovered what looked to be evidence of root knot nematode damage. I took a picture of the tomato root and emailed it to my county extension agent and he diagnosed it. I spent the winter reading all I could about the soil pest and ended up planting the whole bed last summer to a special French marigold that was touted as THE best for helping to eliminate it…

MUMS

Commercial nematicides are very toxic and very expensive but this package of seeds-with shipping-was less than $5.00. I stored the extra seeds wrapped tightly in my deep freezer in case I have more problems in the future. You can see from the picture what a beautiful solution it was!

Here’s another example of ways to solve a problem using what you have on hand: I run vinegar through my coffee pot on the first of each month to keep hard water deposits from building up inside of it. Once it’s run through, I pour the HOT vinegar on weeds. This picture was taken just 20 hours after the pour.

Vinegar Weeds

The hot vinegar works just as well as a toxic weedkiller and would’ve been ‘wasted’ had I just dumped it down the kitchen sink. Once I run the vinegar through, I follow that with a potful of plain water  to remove all traces of it. I use that quart of hot water to pour down my bathtub drain where it promptly melts accumulated soap and keeps the drain running smoothly. Those weeds are dead. No chemicals used, and I solved two problems with one stone. Just sayin’…

Today I transplanted some of my early veggie starts  into larger pots so that they can grow more freely until it’s time to plant them in the garden. The pots and trays have been reused many times over, and the ‘potting soil’ is some of our fine crumbly compost made from household and yard wastes. Absolutely nothing was purchased new to provide us with another season of healthy, delicious organic veggies. I even collect rainwater for watering them since I don’t like the idea of adding fluoride to my broccoli! 

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All of this is simply to say:

listen to your mom

 

One final thought I’d like you to think about: “There is no ‘away’, as in “Throw it away“. Every day is Earth Day!

 

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We Have the Tools We Need

grandmaThis blog is mostly about ways to create resilient and prosperous households, neighborhoods and communities, or, as implied in the picture above, ways to “do stuff”. I wrote a post earlier this year on ‘redefining prosperity’ and I’ve been reminded of it several times this week while listening to lunch break talk. As you probably know, stock markets around the world have taken a beating since last Friday, and folks, from economists to retirees to my workmates are worried. Call me crazy, but I’m not worried, even though we lost a lot ON PAPER due to the plunge. I try to measure my personal prosperity based on how wealthy I am in non-tangible ways rather than on what the monthly statements tell me. Of course I hate to lose money, even if it is ON PAPER, as much as anyone. But I don’t feel any real sense of loss. I’m not going to sell out now, I’m going to stay the course and let the blue chips fall where they may. In the meantime I intend to continue doing whatever I can to make my home and family and community more resilient, so that when the economic crashes and recessions occur-and they will!- we’ll still be standing.

On a personal level, that means staying out of debt and paying cash or doing without. It means using what I have on hand, before buying something, whether it’s a jar of our home-grown tomatoes or a bottle of shampoo. It means continuing to grow as much food as I can, saving my own seeds and making small mountains of compost so that I can return what I’ve taken from the soil, and then doing it all over again next year. It means keeping my body as strong and as healthy as I can through healthy eating, regular exercise and sleeping 7 or 8 hours each night. It means repairing rather than replacing, putting food up for the winter, hanging the sheets on the line to dry, using the fan rather than the AC and driving the car less. I have the tools I need…

Resiliency and prosperity is different for each of us though. Perhaps for you it’s working through debt, learning a special skill that might be useful in bad times, or starting your own small business. For ALL of us, it really does mean having a local supply chain, just like our grandparents did during the Great Depression. When China’s economy collapses (and according to recent NPR reports that’s not as far fetched as you may think) that familiar ‘made in China’ supply chain will break and we’ll be dependent on what we can produce right here at home. And if that chain doesn’t break, doesn’t it just make SENSE to supply ourselves with our own stuff, right here at home? We need the jobs here-badly. And by the way, I’d advise China to do the same. Did you know that last month the USDA gave the OK to ship our LIVE chickens that were raised here to China for processing, then ship the meat BACK to the US for our consumption? What would our grandparents have thought of that hare-brained scheme? Would they have raised their own backyard chickens and sent them away to butcher? In direct contrast, check out the message on this poster that the USDA produced during the Great Depression:

Feed YourselfOur recently re-activated neighborhood association met with the chief of police and the sergeant  assigned to our district Monday night to discuss ways we can keep our neighborhood safer and free from July 4th fireworks that go on throughout the month. Working side by side with neighbors on issues that affect all of us is a sure way to get to know one another and be part of a more livable community. There were 33 people at the meeting, with plans to have block captains, neighborhood watches and to be represented in this year’s Christmas parade! That’s the start of better resilience for sure. I’m hoping at some point we’ll begin to talk about public gardens,orchards and vineyards, bike lanes, Little Free Libraries and “Safe Houses”, health clinics and more. We have the tools we need…

And finally, on a larger community level, resiliency and prosperity might mean outlining a detailed plan for community food security or supporting a community-owned energy system, municipal composting facility or ride sharing plan. It may mean a leaner and slower way of life for some, but also a healthier, happier and more peaceful world for us and future generations to enjoy. We have the tools we need… What we do with them is up to us.

hard times to dance



Every Day is Earth Day
April 22, 2015, 5:53 PM
Filed under: Earth Day | Tags: , , ,

Don’t get me wrong, April 22nd is special in its’ own right. But honestly folks, we can’t save Mother Earth from destruction by just thinking about it on this date. I know the title of this post is overused, but when my daughter’s best friend from high school posted it on her own Facebook page this morning, and my daughter then reminded her how I would ‘preach it’ every year on this date, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it’s NOT overused. Maybe, just maybe, if we can influence our own, and other, generations to remember that innocuous but important little slogan, we’ll actually all to take it to heart. And I still don’t think it’s too late, just a bigger task now.

I recently completed a 6 week discussion course, along with 8 others, called “Seeing Systems: Peace, Justice and Sustainability”. It’s one of the few courses I’ve taken that has had a lasting impact on me. Two weeks after it’s finished, I find I actually miss our weekly discussions and brain storming sessions, the chapter readings and the ‘action items’ the course workbook inspired us to. If I had to recap it, these are the two thoughts the course left me with:

1. We simply cannot have peace, justice and sustainability on this earth and in our lives as long as our Earth is being raped and trashed every second of every day. We are interconnected with every single thing here on Earth and because of that interconnection, we’re ALL part of the problem as well as part of the solution. NOT just on April 22nd.

2. It’s way easier to talk the talk than to walk the talk. I’ve been talking the talk for 45 years. I have tried to walk it too, but somehow, life gets crazy, good intentions get pushed to the background, and suddenly I’m considering buying a Keurig ‘brewing system’! (not really folks, I’m just using that as what I consider one of the WORST current examples of consumerism and environmental pollution that’s on the market; it’s right up there with Hummers)

Those two lasting impressions have left me with a bittersweet taste in my mouth and are pressing on me today especially, leaving me wondering where to go from here? I’m also wondering how does this blog fit in with Earth Day? I’m pretty sure most of my smart readers ‘get the connection’, but in case you haven’t yet, let me spell it out: 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. It is (past) 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. In the transition to that way of living, we’ll inadvertently clean up the earth too.

Since our Earth is a living thing, it has to be cared for like any other living thing. People, plants, mushrooms, rivers, animals, oceans, our beloved Appalachian mountains and even my nemesis, slugs- we’re all living things. If we suck all the life out of our earthly home, there won’t be enough left to support us, much less future generations of slugs or children. My granddaughter called me today to tell me she wants to join the Peace Corps. My heart literally SINGS at the thought of her humanitarianism, and yet breaks in anguish that people all over the world (still) don’t have the basics of food, clean water and safe shelter, much less Keurigs and Hummers. There’s no peace, justice or sustainability in that for millions of humans.

id

P.S. Let’s stop being like the abusive partner that sends flowers. I am chairperson for my local Livable Communities group. I plan to propose to our group at our next meeting that we begin the process and work to have Styrofoam banned in our town. Is that possible? Didn’t we live well before the advent of this product that takes 1 million years to decompose, kills millions of birds, fish and mammals each year and is made from petroleum? Let the work begin!



I Swear It’s (still) Not Too Late!

I’ve been quite busy the last few weeks with garden chores, civic work, a wonderful once-a-week discussion group taking a course called “Peace, Justice and Sustainability” and all kinds of fun things! But I’m always thinking of this blog and how I might best use it to inspire you, my readers, to find ways to 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- I swear it’s not too late- to take stock and to begin 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 well-being.

Since I started this blog almost three years ago, we’ve all witnessed what appears to be an increased rate of decline in the health of the Earth, as she reels from the affects of climate change and resource depletion. At first a gradual process, the changes are becoming increasingly faster as our Earth reels from humanity’s impacts on her. In these 3 years alone, we’ve seen everything from Sandy Superstorms to disappearing honeybees and monarchs, from California’s too-late-for-rationing drought to thousands of beached sea lions.

Along with the effects of climate change, perhaps you’ve also noticed the lack of good paying jobs, or the rising price of groceries and college degrees. Perhaps you’ve seen more potholes in your town, or fewer public works projects? Many of America’s towns and cities are experiencing gradual, but definite, declines in their abilities to replace and repair aging infrastructures, while large corporations often fail to provide living wages for their employees. Perhaps you know someone that is no longer able to afford tires for the family car, a new roof for their home, or even a needed prescription? Maybe that someone is you.

However, unless you’re directly affected, you might not take notice of the cumulative effects of these insidious problems. If that’s the case, lucky you! But I encourage you to not wait until the well runs dry to begin the work of adapting to these changes. There are things we can all do to transition to this new paradigm we’re all facing. I love this quote by a woman that overcame adversity like few of us have ever experienced…

 helen

I keep practicing and preaching local food production, and am currently involved with a group of people working to bring a food cooperative to our town, serving as coordinator of a large community garden and have started spending Friday mornings teaching a group of young women going through rehab how to grow and preserve food. But that’s my thing. Perhaps you are more interested in renewable energy systems, or developing websites or practicing wholistic health care. My chemist friend Gerald has developed and is marketing a line of green cleaning products, and another good friend is developing a close knit community of folks learning to play music. Maybe you have a useful skill you could turn into a moneymaking business; I understand that chimney sweeps are in high demand because of the increased use of wood stoves for home heating use. Home-crafted beers have taken the place of moonshine, and it’s difficult to find good, reliable repairs for almost anything! I, for one, could use the expertise of an orchardist to help me learn to grow fruit and berries organically. We all have strengths and talents that can be shared with others, for either love or money or both. Those skills are going to be the backbone of tomorrow’s localized economies.

Maybe you feel very strongly about a change you’d like to see in the world. like the group of students at Harvard that is currently staging a sit in the office of their president. Why? The students are asking that Harvard University divest its endowment from fossil fuels.They say Harvard has a responsibility to address climate change. “The impacts of the fossil fuel industry are going to be harming our future way more than the need for money”, said their spokesperson. Civil wars are being fought all over the world, nuclear agreements are being drawn up, while peace and climate talks are ongoing. Humans everywhere are hungry for change, and many are even willing to be arrested or die for their beliefs. (Surely I can be responsible enough to recycle my plastic)

Which brings me back to that course I mentioned earlier…our group members are trying to be that change we wish to see, but in a nonviolent way; every week we each declare an intention of some action we’re willing to take, either at home or in our community, that might help us live in a more peaceful, just and sustainable way. We’re concerned about our own futures, as well as those of our children and grandchildren and are committing to changing it, instead of just talking about it. Actions as small as turning off the water when brushing our teeth or writing letters to our elected officials are declared, as well as much larger ones that will require a great deal of time and energy to accomplish have been declared by our members. We swear it’s not too late!

earth



The Tipping Point
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“Tenacity”…as seen on my daily walk

I started the following post BEFORE Tuesday’s elections, and almost deleted it as being too ‘Pollyana-ish’ when I came back to it last night. After a lot of thought, I realized it is still relevant. Perhaps more than ever for those of us that are feeling defeated and hopeless about our collective future in this country (and in this state!).  I believe if we want to see the changes that are important to us that we have to approach them in a grass roots manner, rather than depending on our government and elected officials . There are tons of quotes about this kind of action, but here are my favorites:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” ~Mahatma Gandhi
And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post…

tilt a whirl

Remember riding the Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair? When everyone on board would shift their weight to the same side, the round tub would spin dizzily in that direction. It was the shifting together that tilted the thing. We may have lost some momentum Tuesday, but we certainly haven’t left the fair yet! There’s still lots to see and do and experience, under our own terms. We aren’t beholden to donors or voters and we have no term limits.

As I have traveled my path towards personal sustainability and economic well-being, I’ve come to realize that many others are on the same path with me. We may not all call it that, or even realize consciously that that’s what we’re doing, but I’m happy for the company and am feeling pretty confident that we are close to reaching a ‘tipping point’; that is, “the event of a previously rare phenomenon becoming rapidly and dramatically more common.” We’ve reached a critical mass and I think this election will eventually result in reaching that tipping point because the corporate-run government system that remains in power today is flatly incapable of solving our problems. Climate change, global viral pandemics and super bugs, water aquifiers drying up, the coming food collapse and runaway debt aren’t going to be resolved by Republicans or Democrats, since neither party has a real plan for dealing with them. Many folks will realize that soon enough, and will begin looking for other solutions, adding to the shift.

I’ve listened to strangers and friends (and even elected officials) have discussions about backyard chickens and urban beekeeping, community gardens, farmers’ markets, biking and hiking trails, green spaces, local foods, sustainability, walkability scores, alternative energies and more. I’ve read countless newspaper op-eds, books, magazine and internet articles about the efforts individuals and sometimes entire cities are making to transition to a better way of living. I’ve personally witnessed a surge of interest in historical preservation and Livable Community Initiatives, downtown revitalization projects, rails-to-trails conversions, and soon- a downtown observation bee hive and a meadow on the front lawn of the public library-right here in my town! It seems we are redefining the good life for our own selves, in our own localities, in our own terms. In other words, we’re edging closer to that tipping point.

It seems many of us want to move to a different way of eating too. My local food shed is growing: incubator  kitchens and community canneries are on the drawing board, two edible Food Forests have been planted and a food coop is being discussed, community gardens are expanding,the needed money has finally been earmarked now for a permanent Farmer’s Market location, and a non profit organization has just opened a year-round local foods grocery! All this in my midsized town of 65,000 people! From small towns to large cities, foodscapes are changing. Schools, prisons and hospitals are offering healthier, locally-grown choices via on-site gardens and networks of local growers. Farmers are working around the inane requirements of the USDA’s “certified organic” and moving to a more inclusive “sustainably grown” label. Small farms are coming back and restaurants are proud to add  their ‘locally sourced’ goods to their menus. Friends are milking goats and making cheese, baking their own breads and making beer. We’re tipping all the while.

I’m not going to let the disappointing election results dissuade me in my quest for living a better life on less. It will have the opposite affect in fact, pushing me to work even harder towards finding local, sustainable solutions to the real life problems we all face. I’ve reached my tipping point. Have you?

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