We Grow From Here's Blog

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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

                                     Bees!

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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Casa Seranita Update: Two Events Coming up!

March looks to be the month for the winds of change to blow in with a breath of fresh air…no Ides of March here, my friend.

On March 2nd, We Grow From Here and the Tampa Bay Timebank will hold the first official “Barn Garden Raising”, which is the TBT term for a permablitz. In the days of old, barn-raisings were common community events, involving the entire community—from the oldest to the youngest, fit or infirm. They became symbols of the ideology of our young country, one which some of us would like to bring back into common practice.

A barn raising wasn’t just an organized work party, you see, they were truly community events—a chance for families who lived miles apart when transportation wasn’t so efficient to gather and celebrate the creation of something new, because the raising of a barn also meant the birth of a new family in the community. Everyone participated—each to his or her own ability or desire—not only on the swinging of hammers and climbing rafters, but also preparing food, toting water, chasing children, and no doubt a bit of matchmaking occurred.

This event on March 2nd, and the following weekend on March 10th, are opportunities for our young community to come out and get involved—learn a little about permaculture principles, meet some of those who have been practicing this lifestyle for a while, and yes, of course you are welcome to move some dirt! On Saturday the 2nd, beginning around 10 AM, we will be setting up the actual design of the permaculture-inspired community garden site, which is primarily the backyard all the way to Klosterman Rd. There will also be a community garage sale happening in Baywood Village, so attendees are advised to park on the North side of Klosterman Rd. behind the house, and to bring anything they want to get rid of to throw on the community sale tables, located on the driveway n front of the house. There will be plenty of shopping opps as well, so if you’re brave, bring your wallet as well. Rakes, shovels, pitchforks, wheelbarrows and any other dirt-moving equipment will be needed, and gloves and sunscreen advised.

For those who have yet to be introduced to the concept of time-banking, we will break at noon for some lunchtime sharing, at which time all of those who have been involved will have the opportunity to share their experiences with others who may not be familiar (hint: bring a friend, or three!). Lunch is potluck—bring a dish if you can—Casa will provide some snacks and beverages for a small number of attendees otherwise. Timebank members are also encouraged to submit any projects of their own which they wish to organize an event such as this one around—We Grow From Here will be helping to organize ongoing ‘barn raising’ and ‘quilting bee’ events for the Timebank and surrounding communities.

March 10th: Casa Seranita Grand Opening

Our first educational “Learn & Earn” event will take place on Sunday the 10th, beginning at 1PM (to give you time to make it to the Tarpon springs Sunday Market first!), we will have a series of presentations by local permculturists and timebankers, on subjects ranging from Florida gardening to nutrition, upcycling, well-being, wildcrafting, a seed swap and more! Timebank members may attend in exchange for hours, and presenters may earn hours for facilitating discussions. This is a non-monetary event, so there is no fee to attend for the community-at-large, however donations of needed garden equipment, plants, seeds, etc. are encouraged, as are additions to our newly-forming tool bank.

Check back for the list of presenters and facilitators, and if you have something you’d like to share, please contact Loretta@wegrowfromhere.com to be added to the roster. The schedule of events will be posted on the website a week before the event.  So far, we have interactive workshops planned for:

  • Worm bins
  • Backyard chickens
  • Market Gardening
  • Upcycle Wizardry
  • Timebanking/Alternative Currency
  • Garden Art
  • Digestive Wellness and Your Diet
  • The Kinder Garden
  • Permaculture Design 1.01
  • Seed Swap
  • Drum Circle

And I’d REALLY like someone to do fermentation…kombucha…canning (I can do canning, but…)  ;^)


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Gratitude

“If you build it, they will come.” ~ (Field of Dreams)

Sometimes, when you build it, they really do show up.

Here is my blatant plug for a movement I became involved with last year: Timebanking… IT ROCKS! Our local ‘chapter’, Tampa Bay Timebank (TampaBayTime.org), is fairly new, and even so has really begun not only to grow by leaps and bounds, but also in the energy it has generated. See, that’s part of the equation in timebanking—currency as energy rather than paper. But I digress—let me first explain what timebanking is, then we’ll talk about what it does.

  • Timebanking is egalitarian, which means that no one person’s time is valued more highly than another’s. Time = Time. One hour = One hour. Some doctors, for instance, might not get the concept so much, when their time is valued exactly the same as, for instance, a cook, or a plumber. (Although I must point out: most plumbers I’ve hired make about the same per hour, if not more!) I once had a long-term relationship with an MD, and I often wonder whether he would ‘get’ that I always considered my time with him as valuable as, say, my time with my daughter, my job, etc. See, time is time—my time, your time—if we choose to share it with someone else, it really is all the same—no value judgments. It is in fact when we begin placing values on time that the conflict begins, and oftentimes when communication stops: “I’m sorry, I don’t have time right now, I have to_(fill in the blank with something you don’t particularly enjoy)___.” Think of all of the relationships you know which might have benefitted if you had not said or heard those words! Some common questions and/or misconceptions:
    • So, if I’m a dentist, and I normally charge $100/hr for a consult, I have to offer those services for ‘nothing’ through the time bank?
      • NO, you offer whatever services you choose to offer—perhaps you also have a sideline interest in, say, cooking, and you just happen to have taken culinary classes at a world-renowned institute: offer cooking lessons, or supply catering for special events. Or, perhaps you are a musician: offer music lessons, or to play at events. You really love to sew: offer lessons, or services. You have rocking mechanical skills: offer to fix things.
    • What if there is more than just time involved? (ie., food for the cooking, materials for sewing, etc.)
      • The details of supply-related stuff is simple: you work it out between those who make the exchange; this includes gas and travel time—if that is a factor, you simply agree what the ‘exchange rate’ will be, and that becomes part of the agreement.
    • So, this is just like bartering?
      • Similar, yes, but the main difference is: you don’t have to make a one-to-one exchange. You can accept an offer from one person, and provide a service to someone else in the timebank. Better than barter.
    • What can I get from the timebank…there are lots of things I can do, what will I get in exchange?
      • What don’t you like to do? Clean? Cook? Organize? Fix gadgets? Fuss with computers? I’ll just betcha there’s someone in timebank who does that!
  • Timebanking is not ‘volunteering’, but it does work very well with organizations who utilize volunteers. Many new to timebanking will refer to their time spent in timebank activities as “volunteering’, however it is not—this is compensated time, it is just not compensated in the same currency as a ‘real’ job. The currency is, in part, the energy generated by the exchange. I like to think of this as ‘green energy’, and this type of energy, not having physical form per se, increases in value and scope in the course of each exchange.

Which brings me back to “Gratitude”…it has been my extreme good fortune to have connected with several very helpful, not to mention pleasant and fun, timebankers. Yesterday, one of them even brought his son along to help in moving some large stuff, including a couple of mountains of dirt. What we accomplished in one day I could not have hoped to do in weeks–it was truly amazing. Here’s the other side of the “time” equation: the amount of time this one day has saved me is far greater than the time I took, or awarded to these two guys. Consider the amount of time you spend worrying and griping and recovering from all of those tasks you’d prefer not to do—this is, again, “true cost accounting“.

 

And the list goes on…I am grateful, thankful, fortunate…and I have some time. Do you?