We Grow From Here's Blog

A Community Garden Project

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“It’s About Time”

What an amazing weekend for Tampa Bay permaculturists! For me, being fortunate enough to share a weekend with so many creative, inspired, and truly conscious people was incredibly uplifting. Over and over, the thought came to me that “this is a world I can be in”. As simple as that—tiny change in perception, and there it is:

Be the Change You Wish to See In the World.

Saturday was “Spring into Sustainability” at Tricia Gaitan Medina’s Wheat Berries Homestead in Brooksville. Such a lovely drive out there, even US 19 has a different feel once you get into Hernando County, or maybe it was just the “lookout for bear” signs along the road. Ara McLeod, who was there to speak about Morningstar Farms aquaponics, said she took the scenic route through Dade City, which is a drive I also highly recommend. The land there is rolling hills and the city itself a step back in time to the Old Florida many of us may recall—a more relaxed, southern pace.

When I reached the farm in the afternoon, many of the talks had been presented already, but there was John Starnes, leading a herd of children with paper airplane in hand, much like the Pied Piper. There were tents set up with selected handmade items for sale—soaps, salves, elderberry syrup…and a woman with angora rabbits who earlier had demonstrated knitting right off the bunny! Now I may have a reason to get bunnies—I would not eat them, but their poop is great, and I do love angora sweaters.

Tricia’s daughter Corryn gave a wonderful talk on kombucha and kefirs, and thanks to her I’ve now adopted my very own kombucha ‘mother’ or SCOBY, which I now know is an acronym for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? This is great stuff—as I’m learning on my wee journey of discovery about all things digestive and bacterial and fungus—fermentation is a very, very good thing! Remember “Pre-chewed Charley’s” on Saturday Night Live? (You just dated yourself if you answered “yes”…just sayen.) All fermented foods are like that, and not only do they benefit those of us with compromised digestive systems, but anyone can use a few more probiotics and enzymes in their diets—the health advantages have been proven. If you do have sensitivities to various different food groups, such as milk (lactose), or wheat (gluten), which are the common or popular ones, eating fermented foods and/or drinking kefir or kombucha is like paying a visit to good ol’ Pre-chewed Charley’s—the bacteria colonies in the food or beverage have already processed, or digested, the sugars (lactose or glucose) which can wreak havoc with your gut.

A brief aside—I just inspired myself to brew up some tea, while writing this, so that I can start my first batch of Kombucha today! The ‘standard’ formula seems to be 2 bags of green tea and 2 bags of black tea, plus 2 cups of sugar per 2 quart batch, (2, 2, 2, 2: how convenient!), but I seem to be out of green tea at the moment, so mine will be one gallon (I’m using an old restaurant-sized pickled pepper jar—glass only is the rule—no plastic or metal), 3 bags of Ayurvedic black tea, which contains some spices such as cardamom and clove, and five bags of Earl Grey. Check back in a week to ten days and I’ll update on how it comes out!

The next presentation was one that I did not think I’d be particularly interested, and was I pleasantly surprised! A young woman by the name of Emily told a story of her personal journey back to wellness, involving a car accident and subsequent chronic pain—something I and many others I know are quite well-versed in. She had my attention, so when she began speaking of removing toxins from her environment, all of her environment, included personal care products, I was really hooked. I realized some time last year that I had removed chemicals from all of my cleaning products, but had yet to tackle those closest to ‘home’, so to speak—my shower, bath, and hair products. Well, dang—what do you know? Emily spoke of the very culprit I have had my suspicions may be at the root of my remaining issues—the evil, insidious Sodium Laurel Sulfate. SLS is in everything, literally every shampoo, shower gel, hand soap, you name it—the personal care industry adds it to make soapy stuff have bubbles. Suds is apparently the equivalent of ‘clean’ to modern Americans—so much so that, when I had family visiting over the holidays and ran out of dish soap, the batch of the homemade variety I brewed was not good enough, so a bottle of Dawn appeared the very next day. Here’s the real rub: the person who insisted on having this brand-name product, “with active suds”, has chronic pain issues herself. It might behoove the general public to raise their awareness of the kinds of things the FDA approves of—particularly those which other countries do not allow, such as these common detergents, derived from palm and coconut oils.

It may not cause cancer—that seems to be in the realm of urban myth, but according to one article I read, 16,000 studies show that SLS does link to irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, and neurotoxicity. Doesn’t that sound a lot like “toxic” to you? As one who has spent years trying to detox from environmental contaminants, I think this may just be a good thing to remove from my body care products—after all, our skin is our largest organ, so even beyond “irritation”, overloading any compromised system with more toxins—not such a great idea, right?

The rest of Emily’s presentation had to do with makeup, which didn’t really apply to me, since I pretty much gave up cosmetics a long time ago, but I did feel it was worth sharing with others, such as my daughter, who still has years of the self-esteem caulking, which cosmetics seem to provide to women in our society, ahead of her. According to my friend Franko, there are traditions elsewhere which also point to unhealthy practices, not only for women, but men as well—such as applying Arsenic to achieve that ever-so attractive ghostly pallor popular in bygone days (and by Goths).

I was up next, with a timebanking talk, which lead to a lively discussion and lots of interest from our Northern neighbors in Hernando, as well as participation by some Southern cousins already involved in the Sarasota area. Andy Firk shared that they had a very active timebank of over 200 members going, without even the virtue of any computer-based tracking system! This one is now joining with the Sarasota group, which should lead to even greater growth down there very quickly.

The final two presentations were a step-by-step tutorial on soap making with goat milk, by I believe her name was Chris, and a wonderful finish by Keith Lopez, all the way from Broward County, wherein he managed to tie up all of the holistic wellness thinking of the day into a beautiful bundle with a loving bow.

I was so charged up after this day I was concerned about running the ‘repeat’ show again the next day, but Sunday dawned as another gorgeous Florida spring morning. Not even the realization, before I’d even left the yoga mat, that I’d lost an hour to the archaic practice of “Daylight Savings” (certainly never saved me any time!), was enough to unbalance me. The day went smoothly, but not without its hiccups—I don’t think I was alone in the time change dilemma—most of the guests arrived sometime after 2PM, but once they started rolling in we had a full house, which rotated several times throughout the day.

Figure 1: Ara McLeod


Figure 2: Worms!

We gave ‘garden tours’ (more like work-in-progress intros), Ara again spoke about Morningstar, we had a good TBT ‘share’, and then we released Jacob, Sabrina, and their bees—an awesome and well-attended and attuned talk! We lost a few speakers, either to time crunches or other engagements, but even so, Justin Marlin’s worm talk also went very well, and quite suddenly it was not just six, but seven o’clock. Many, many thanks to everyone who attended, those who had a turn ‘onstage’, and those who just came to enjoy the day—We could not have done it without you, and I, and Casa Seranita are most grateful for your presence! This will be a monthly thing, along with regularly scheduled volunteer workdays, so please don’t keep us a secret—share with your friends—”Mi Casa es Su Casa“.


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Sustainability, and Beyond


1, 6. Support, maintain, sustain, uphold all mean to hold up and to preserve. To support is to hold up or add strength to, literally or figuratively: The columns support the roof. To maintain is to support so as to preserve intact: to maintain an attitude of defiance. To sustain a rather elevated word, suggests completeness and adequacy in supporting: The court sustained his claim. Uphold applies especially to supporting or backing another, as in a statement, opinion, or belief: to uphold the rights of a minority. 3. suffer, bear, stand, stomach. 13. sustenance, subsistence, keep.


In permaculture circles, the term “sustainability” has now become “regenerative”. Those of us who have been striving for sustainability have recognized that the erosion of our natural support systems has reached the critical point. The damage already done is to such an extent that more dramatic measures than simply reinforcing the foundation and refusing to participate in further destruction is no longer enough. Therefore, the processes we now engage in must both repair and sustain: regenerate.

Let’s look at the human body, which naturally deteriorates, like any physical form, over time. Many of us have found that even a lifetime of what were once considered “good” practices is simply not effective in preventing degeneration—that’s just life, right? We are told that this is just aging: “a fact of life”. But is it…really? We know all about cellular regeneration—our entire body replaces itself on a cellular level over and over throughout our lives, and it is the damage we inflict upon ourselves which leads to reproduction of less-than ‘perfect’ new cells. Is it always ‘less-than’, however—or is there potentially a process by which the regeneration can actually improve on the original? When we break a bone, the mending process can create a stronger bone mass, if the body is given enough support during the healing process. Could it be, then, that this process of proper sustenance could also be applied to other human body systems, and beyond that microcosm, to the macrocosm of our big collective body: the Earth?

If we were to consider each of our bodies as individual cells in this larger body, as indeed many spiritual practices tell us “we are all One,” then one way to look at the cells which do damage to the larger body could be considered cancerous. If we were to attack these cancer cells the way in which modern medicine approaches the dis-ease, we would irradiate the entire body in order to kill those cells—much like a nuclear holocaust. Wars are our way of attempting to surgically remove ‘tumors’—all in the name of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. The conundrum which any soldier surviving battle may relate, however, is that in the course of eradicating the ‘enemy’, he may recognize that his foe is indeed, very much himself—a different form, yet still the same. We are all bodily forms, units in the same system.

Science fiction has even gone to the length of creating ‘them’ as alien life forms—some evil, wicked, destructive, others benevolent, but all, still: Other. Regardless, as we are all cells in some greater system—that is a fact which neither science nor spirituality refutes—the ‘them’ in the universe of possibilities is still us. Shakespeare said “there is nothing new under the Sun”, and we know that this is true, because all new life comes from material which already existed, in some form, prior to the creation of any new body, be it cell, plant, animal, or planet. The system is elegant, a symphony of simplicity in grandiose complexity—it is life.

If we are to support ourselves, our bodies, each other, and our planet, we must first recognize these simple facts—we are, truly, all part of the grand scheme. To sustain the system, we must turn from habitual destruction and focus our energy instead on repair. To regenerate, we must choose to feed rather than starve, to share knowledge, resources, and time. When we choose to value our time equally, when we recognize one another as all part of one body, not only will we be healed, but we will also begin the process of healing our home, with us still a part of it—because Mother Earth has her own ways of dealing with cancerous overgrowth. When a part of the system becomes too greedy and takes up more resources than it gives to the system, it will be undermined in some fashion in order to restore balance.

The theory of the ‘tipping point’ posits that it takes only a minute percentage of the collective to create change on the largest scale. Therefore, if each of us—that is you and I—were to devote one tiny fraction of our attention beyond the daily maintenance of our personal support system to focus on community, the point would be reached virtually in an instant. So, what are you doing today? Got time?

One easy way to focus this energy is in the form of currency known as time banking—an exchange of a valuable commodity often overlooked in our daily existence: Time.

Get involved—join your local timebank, BE the difference.

In the Tampa Bay area, visit TampaBayTime.org for more details—there are events all over each month, one happening this week (see details: Casa Seranita Update – Two Events Coming Up)! Elsewhere, visit Timebanks.org.