We Grow From Here's Blog

A Community Garden Project


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Mulch Ado About Mulching, or: Making Molehills out of Mountains

There is an argument, in Permie circles, about whether it is ‘permissible’ to use powered machinery to get the job done.

Highest and best would, no doubt, be 100% petroleum free…but, my back would beg to differ here. See, I’ve got eight 15 cubic yard loads of mulch to spread, and while it’s great exercise and all, this is a pretty daunting task. Yoga has taught me great patience, that is so—and yet, this part of the job is preventing progress on everything else, or so it seems.

Enter (Timebank) friend, who offers a gas-powered mulcher. Oh, “heck ya!”, she thinks: this noisy creature will make short work of those piles, maybe even two tasks at once, moving AND grinding into useful dirt! Well, not so much—not without a few clever modifications, anyway—I’m all about removing steps, particularly those which require repetitive bending or loading and unloading. I do have extensive experience in the field of “back-breaking”—thus, the daily yoga practice.

So, gas-powered: not ideal, however (here’s where she’ll justify her heart out), the amount of gas required to munch up all of those mountains will be far less than the amount it takes to drive to the other end of the county and back, once. I know some people who do that every day, to go to jobs they despise! (Not that I am condoning it—I am not.) I think that the formula should be something to the effect of: “If the time and effort (including bed rest required post-back-breaking) required to complete a task without the use of machinery is greater than the sum total of time, gas (including the gas it takes to bring the machine to the job), and other inputs: Use the Machine. This, by the way, is an example of “true cost accounting”—if you are unfamiliar with the term, it is something we use in permaculture, and which the corporate machine avoids like the plague it is—plague, that is, to their business model. Try calculating in the cost of countless lives wasted in filthy factories, of working conditions so bad that in this country we wouldn’t (knowingly) subject them to our animals. Ah, but we do—this is the true cost of shopping, for instance, at Wal-Mart. It may save you gas, because it’s so conveniently located at every major intersection, it may seem to save you money, if you are the disciplined sort of individual who can walk past the endless end-caps of enticement—but the true cost is factored on everything which has gone into every single item in the store, as well as the people who work and shop there.

Another one of my favorites to run through the “true cost” calculator is garbage pickup. In my neighborhood, no less than five days a week you can get stuck behind a monstrous gas-guzzling, soul-crunching beast picking up mounds of household discards. What do you suppose the true cost of this practice might be? Factor in the inconvenience of the time and space they consume on our roads and in our neighborhoods, the noise pollution and visual insult of having these nasty trucks near our homes and children on a daily basis. Factor the gas they use, not only on the pickup runs, but all the way to the county landfill, where these trucks are lined up by the dozens to dump the waste—most of which is in the form of excess packaging no one could be bothered to attempt to recycle. Now factor in the humans—those who were forced into this line of work, of picking up other people’s garbage, because there was nothing else available and at least it’s a paycheck. Now what is the true cost of your sheer laziness—those who can’t be bothered to separate the recyclable plastic, glass, aluminum, and paper items—that many don’t even know which these are? I’ve considered starting my own recycle/compost pickup—to encourage those who don’t to start—everything begins with awareness, after all. Imagine a world where the piles of garbage in a landfill were actually piles of compost, turning into beautiful, viable dirt.

Maybe that’s just me—dreaming of soil, dirty girl that I am—but this is how it is done, turning mountains of garbage into molehills—through awareness.

01-26-13 7:02AM

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Who Are “We” Really?

1/24/2013 6:12 AM

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The prior post having been more aptly named “Who Am I?”–this one hopes to answer yet another inimitable question of the same ilk.

“We” is now an Intentional Community, aptly named “Growing Together”.  A number of other working titles were considered, containing such themes as “Eden” and “Radiant”, but simplicity and reality won.  I mean, face it—who is really radiant or exists in paradise every day, right?

“We” officially declared ourselves so, aptly on December 12, 2012:  12 ~ 12 ~ 12.  The Shift Begins.

Over the course of the past few months, beginning in October or so if I recall correctly, the talk amongst  several of us for a much longer time prior suddenly bloomed into fruition, spurred by the arrival of a family who have hit this area much like a Pacific Northwest cloudburst.   The Manninos (see Denise’s blog “Sustainable Tarpon”) are a force, to be sure—artistic, musical, and a refreshing breath of fresh “Left Coast” air for this often change-resistant ‘burg.  Our core group of six families chose to create our community “from here”, remaining in our individual single-family homes, and gathering consistently once a week for ‘family’ pot-lucks on Monday nights.  Many also gather at the Tarpon Sunday Market, where the Manninos also play their music, and the gardeners share their knowledge and produce.

We are:

  • Four musicians (maybe more…)
  • Five gardeners (or permaculturists, as some of us have gone from certifiable to certified)
  • Four Yoginis
  • Several writers
  • Several healing arts professionals and/or healers of various modalities
  • Some artistic, most creative
  • Three (couples) are families with small children; two have grandchildren
  • Many are vegan, some vegetarian, some flexatarian
  • All have respect for the Earth, our Mother, our home.

We are a chosen family, a community:  Growing Together.


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We Grow From Here Community Garden Project: “Casa Seranita”

In 2010 “We Grow” was planted on a home site, with a few trees, some bushes, a compost pile and some rain barrels. Two years later, the second phase has begun: the truly-community garden project. At a rental house in the same neighborhood, work has begun to convert the former sandspur-laden lot into a permaculture demonstration garden of locally unseen proportions.

Ok, maybe an exaggeration, but right now there are seven or eight HUGE piles of mulch out there which beg to differ. Here’s my bet: in less than one year, this residential lot will be producing (in a neighborly, attractive and inviting fashion), enough food for 4-5 families. “We” are creating this possibility while also creating the space as a community center, eCo-housing for up to 4 adults, as well as a learning and healing space.

Her name is “Casa SerAnita”, honoring the memory of my mother Anita, and our desire for a peaceful planet—may Mi Casa grow many beautiful things!

Here is how we began: Check back for updates!


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Who is “We”?

maypop01-24-13(*) Who is “We”?
There is something truly daunting about the blank page, as well as something else purely inviting, as if it begs to be filled with scribbles or these regimental symbols we call “words”.
It is 4:14AM. Sleep has been erratic, at best, since “The Great Shift” in December last. I am in the Vata stage of life now as well, which means my energy is shifting from primarily fire to air and water.
I thought a few words of introduction would be appropriate, because, while “We” is indicative of multiple people, and in fact I have been that in this life, the writer of this blog is one person: Me.
Some facts which have brought me to this point, and particularly, to this “permaculture” thing:
• My father’s family have been farmers in this country for over two hundred years. I know this, because until this past century, pretty much everyone did, in fact, grow at least some of their own food—it was necessary for survival. I’ve always been a little confused when, in Permie circles someone poses the question: “Can we grow enough food to sustain us?” (Meaning, of course, in our own backyards.) Of course we can—how do you think our ancestors brought us to here? But, back to the family—the Buckners were in fact a prolific bunch, who bred their children by the dozens to work in the fields…at least, that’s how my father tells it. (They did breed in nines, but I’ll tell that story another time.)
• In 1978, also known as “The Last Great Recession”, this same father, a bit ahead of the curve some might say, was living on what was then the family farm: 160+ acres in Siler City, NC. Along with organic farming—something unheard of in that region at that time–he was also attempting to sell solar heating products (water tanks), and synthetic fuel. Are we noticing any patterns here? Let me help: recession: recession; fuel shortage: fuel shortage; alternative energy and chemical free food growing: we’ll get to that in just a moment.
This is the part where I go into more detail regarding my involvement: my sister and I each went to NC to help—we were teenagers, fairly typical–full of romantic ideas and not terribly in touch with the realities of what goes into putting food on the table, even though we may have known a little more than the average American even then. She–my sister that is–was far more responsible than I: she took on the role of learning to cook and can and such things. I attempted to grow controlled substances and got a job at the local convenience store. (Rebellion has always been my forte.) I did learn about the market economy, however—I will never forget my father telling me that a cantaloupe was priced according to how many other cantaloupes were also for sale that day, and that this was known as “supply and demand”, regardless whether they were pale and tasteless.
• Leap forward thirty years (we’ll skip the garden which actually did quite well when my daughter was pre-school—I had tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers, herbs—many of which I’m sure grew out of simple ignorance of the fact that they weren’t supposed to grow well in this climate).
As most people are aware, the real estate market began to tip and tank in 2006, shortly after I shifted from accounting and finance, becoming a real estate broker (emphasis on the first syllable). It seemed like a safe bet at the time—in 1998 I had noted that the homes in Orange County, CA, were virtually identical to those in Pinellas County, Florida, the regions also quite similar, and yet the prices of these tiny suburban block homes were three times the price in the OC. When I returned to Florida in 2000, I began investing in real estate, and watched my wee rental portfolio climb in value for the next six years.
I don’t think I have to tell you how the rest of this story goes—suffice to say that depression was a big part of my reality by 2010. Everything I had worked for, from nothing, for ten years, was worth just that. With the knowledge that my property was not even really “my” property, now that the bank truly owned more of it than I did, the only thing I could do was make the best use of it that I could think of:
I planted a garden.
I might not make enough money to pay the mortgage, but I can eat what I grow on the land. Thus, “We Grow From Here” came out of the process of removing my own head from my… I mean the sand.
(*) A note about post date/time: Several weeks ago, after having spent two months attempting to switch from Bright House to Verizon, I chose to unplug instead, just to see exactly how important having a house phone, internet and TV really are. In short: I don’t miss them, and now I am writing (more!) blog posts offline, and posting once or twice a week, from the library or some charming, locally owned coffee shop, such as I am today, at Eco-Bean in Tarpon Springs!