We Grow From Here's Blog

A Community Garden Project


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Use Small and Slow Solutions

Category            Permaculture Principles

‘The bigger they are, the harder they fall’ …‘Slow and steady wins the race’

David and Goliath, the Tortoise and the Hare…our fables, myths, and legends are loaded with this one, simple lesson, which is really all about focus.  If ‘the problem is the solution’, often the perspective needs to be shifted from the external to the internal, or at the very least—to ourselves.

This one is purely simple—to make a difference, take responsibility.  Start with yourself.  Start small.

    • You want to start a garden, don’t know where to begin, and have no space?  Sprout some seeds.  Learn about the process of growing through sprouting some buckwheat, alfalfa, or mung beans—it’s quite easy, and there are dozens of websites, blogs, Youtube videos, books, and other sources to get you started.  Sprouting requires very little room, few resources, and very little capital.  You will see immediate health benefits in addition to learning something about plants.  Start sprouting.
      • Once you’ve mastered sprouting, maybe you still want to get into some dirt.  Start composting—a worm bin does not require a lot of space, although outdoor storage is advisable, in my humble opinion.  With one design element, you have suddenly integrated several important concepts—you are removing food scraps from the wastestream, and creating some terrific soil amendments for your garden—whether that garden is in containers or in the ground.  Once you’ve managed to keep some worms alive for a while, you will have also learned quite a bit about how some natural cycles work, and how important balance is to all cycles—remember the ‘wheel of life’.  Life is like a bicycle wheel…when it’s on the bike, you can actually get somewhere.
    • Don’t have the time to garden?  First of all, think twice on that one, as Mollison says:  “…everything gardens”.  Wherever it is we are choosing to focus our energy is where we are gardening, however not all gardens come with dirt or green things.  Take a moment to examine your life—where is your garden?  Is it your family?  Your job?  Your social life?  What is the output of this system—what are you harvesting?  Is it beneficial to you…to others…to the planet?  We reap what we sow…be aware of what you plant.
      • Not everyone has the desire or inclination to grow their own food, and it is not necessary to do so, although it is a good idea to know exactly where your food comes from, what’s really in it, and what it took to get it to your fork.  If you don’t know, find out—ask questions, read labels—seek local sources for the bulk of what you buy—that is far more important than growing your own food.  The impact of where we spend our dollars has far more resounding effect on our environment than any other single thing—this is how we vote.  All you have to do is take a good look at what is in your garbage—your ‘wastestream’, to know who and what you are voting for.
    • Perhaps you would like to garden, but don’t have any space, in which case there are several options available—first being the fact that it doesn’t have to take a lot of space.  Take a look at what these guys have done:  Urban Permaculture.  You can grow enough vegetables and herbs for a small family on a balcony, in containers.  Of course, the space must have adequate sunlight, so not everyone has the right living space to grow food at home.
      • So, join a local community garden—they are springing up all over, as are lists to help you find them.  Ask your local extension service—they are great sources of information on local events and spaces.  Still can’t find one?  Start one—(that’s what I did), or create an exchange service, where those who have space but don’t have the inclination to garden will exchange the space for a portion of the produce.  LocallyGrown.net is a great resource for finding some of these places as well.

These are just a few ideas to get you started, the point is to start—something.  One thing at a time—just one, with commitment.
forkIn my past I was always known as the child whose ‘eyes are bigger than her stomach,’ (although, I must say I went to took great pains to dis-prove that, literally), the one who ‘bites off more than she can chew’.  What I discovered, however, is that it really is possible, if you are patient and especially if you do not listen to the voices who judge and criticize—it is very attainable to accomplish huge things, when you take it one step at a time.  Elephant in the room?  Take small bites, chew carefully, remain focused on the outcome, rather than the task(s) at hand—if you don’t know how to get there, keep taking small steps until you do——the road will become clearer the further you travel.

Perhaps the biggest change will come

When we don’t have to change much at all.

When maniacs holler “grow, grow, grow”

We can choose to be small.

The key word may be “little,”

We only have to change a little bit.

Eat a little food, drink a little drink,

And only have to shit a little shit.

Oh-wee, oh-wye, and only have to shit a little shit.

Oh-wee, oh-wye, and only have to shit a little shit.

Early in the morning I first see the sun

I say a little prayer for the world.

I hope all the children live a long, long time,

Yes, every little boy and little girl.

I hope they learn to laugh at the way

Some wicked old words do seem to change,

‘Cause that’s what life’s all about:

To arrange an

d rearrange and rearrange.

Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.

Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.

Words and Music by Pete Seeger (1997)

Read the Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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A Year in Review: Casa Seranita Project 2013

Its hard to believe it’s been a whole year since we began the ‘Casa’ project!  One year from ground zero to abundance and a Full House with poetry nights, permaculture classes, and much more to come.   Inspiring!

Please stop by on Thursdays from 11-2pm for our ‘Lunch & Learn’ permaculture shares, and sign up for the meetup so you’ll be invited to all of our workshops!

The Tampa Bay Permaculture Guild

Worms!


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The Great Worm Escapade

So many things to blog about, so little time…

It is my hope to make up for long absence from writing by giving something of real quality—so here goes—I will not attempt to recap all of the exciting things which have happened over the past month and a half, but will focus instead on one…or many, actually:

WORMS

Yes, this is all about my journey into the realm of the dark and mysterious world of those dirt-workhorses, the worm. You may have heard many things already about worm bins, worm composting, worm tea—I won’t attempt to cover all of these, just a couple: free range worm farming, and what I have found to be the simplest method of keeping worms in a bin.

So, first: why have worms at all (and if you have them—should you share)?

  • Worms are good…no, great little dirt-makers (ok, soil builders—I know—you purists want the right language—I prefer ‘dirt’, but like worms, I like to get down and durty).
  • Worms in your garden mean something is happening the way it should—there is balance.
  • Worms in bins mean you can make worm tea from worm castings: worm castings are GOOD, loaded with all kinds of things our plants need and want.
  • Worms are fun—as I learned in my seventh grade biology class, when we were (unfortunately) dissecting them—great fun to waggle them at lab partners and generally make a nuisance of oneself.

I’ve been studying all of the recommended methods for keeping worms so that you can use the castings and therefore the tea, but it wasn’t until I saw a presentation (see video) in what I dubbed “Free Range Worm Farming” that I realized there are potentially many ways of using worms in our sustainable/regenerative garden systems. One of our greatest tasks to undertake as permaculturists is to rebuild depleted and potentially toxic soil environments as quickly as possible, to obtain untainted yields for healthy consumption, right?

Here is one way of doing that—by creating small, concentrated planting areas, with worms as the centerpiece of the system…

Creating an optimal space within your garden for worms to feed and multiply, well, what could be better than that?

Well, you might ask: “What about the castings…and the tea?”

Ok, not a great system for that—so have two systems—one which rapidly recovers your garden soil, stacking functions right in your planting beds, and another that you can harvest castings, tea, and reproduce wormies to your heart’s content! After great deliberation and many months of research, my method for keeping worms in an enclosed space is simple: an old cooler, with convenient drain plug for harvesting the tea. What could be easier and more portable than that? (Please do not complain when visiting that I have no way to keep your beer cold, though…sorry! Grumble, grumble—can’t leave anything lying around this place—she WILL compost or upcycle it!)

Before I leave you with these ideas, let me tell you a little story about what happened while I went through the process of installing and tweaking my creations—the part that did not make it into the video…the part with the scraping dried worms from the floor, the attempts to reason with the unruly little creatures…and the shrieking. I think the neighbors have recovered by now, so I will share.

Around Day #2, second day I arrive at Casa Seranita, where the bins are stored in preparation for the free-range install—I open the front door to see (yet again), a veritable worm graveyard—a bleak and depressing landscape of kamikaze wormage scattered in a three-foot circumference of the temporary shelter I had hoped to house them in. Clearly, they saw my efforts as being no more than a refugee encampment—surely not the New World they had been promised.

I quickly set myself to adding amendments to the unfit system—gathering a bucket of straw from the half-rotten bale out by the compost bin, I brought it inside, where the water I had added was beginning to leak out of the unplugged drain. Thank goodness no one was home…

It was when I added the straw to the cooler-bin that I saw the REALLY BIG worm scurrying away under the chair nearby. By “really big” I mean: Florida red wigglers do not get that big. I had inadvertently invited a baby snake—mind you, I must have picked it up, not once, but twice, before it attempted it’s getaway in the cool shade of the furniture. “Eek!” you say? I was actually more concerned with saving what kamikaze survivors were not already stuck to the tile, but I did bravely brandish my handy spade to dispatch the critter out the door, once he reappeared. I don’t think it was poisonous—it did not behave as aggressively as the pygmy rattler I saw once at Brooker Creek Preserve–pretty sure it was a rat snake of some sort.  Can’t be too careful, though, right?

I now have a small pitchfork by the compost hay bale…


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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…)  ;^)