Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Busy, busy, busy!

Hey y'all! Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I have been busy, busy, busy! And, I admit, unfaithful to my daily journaling. Oooops!

Permaculture class last weekend was, as I put it on FB, "fascinating, fantastic, hilarious, healing, enlightening, exhausting, exhilarating, beautiful, and successful." I had a lot of fun with the permies!

Despite my infidelity last week, I do have a couple entries to share..


Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Today was a full day! I worked on the fence from 9am-5pm, with an hour break for lunch. I was stripping bark again for most of the time. Even though it is labor-intensive and repetitive, I really enjoy stripping the posts. I listen to my iPod and get in the groove. As I was stripping, I realized a few things. First, I totally get why pill bugs (aka rollie-pollies) are also known as wood lice. I had to brush off SO many of them! Hundreds would not be an exaggeration! They had completely colonized the logs, which brought me to my other realization – the importance of thoroughly stripping each post. Locust is extremely dense, and will resist rotting for a very, very long time… IF insects don’t burrow in through the soft spots, build homes, and make lots of baby bugs, which allows moisture to seep in and speeds the decaying process. As I stripped off the bark, I started noticing where the pill bugs were already starting to make homes in the nooks and crannies in the log created by limbs and bark formations. I made sure to shave out those burrows until they were gone, or at least shallow and exposed enough to be undesirable to the pill bugs. Also, as soon as the posts are stripped and go in the ground (and thus are no longer stacked on top of each other), the pill bugs at least will no longer feel compelled to make their homes there. Wood lice prefer dark, damp places, like woodpiles and under rocks.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011


So I started off my day with a crazy adrenaline rush. About 3am, I woke up to a little scratching noise just above my head. It suddenly turned into a loud scratching noise and a little thunk right next to me on my windowsill. I leapt out of bed and retreated to the other side of my (rather small) room. When I finally worked up the courage to get close enough to my bed to turn on the light, a mouse skittered across the windowsill, leapt down onto the floor, and disappeared. After recovering from the groggy heart attack, I was able to go back to sleep for the rest of the night, but I had some crazy dreams!

I got up for real at 7:15, and got a few chores done before we were ready to start on the pond project. If you recall, the pond was put in about six weeks ago, but sprung a leak and needed to be re-lined. Sarah and I taped the new, non-leaky pond liner together in the correct proportions. We did a “French seam,” which involved taping and folding and taping and taping, ensuring that this time, there would be NO leakage! We also patched a hole and reinforced potential weak spots, because I certainly do not want to have to RE-redo that pond!

When we were done prepping the liner, we went outside and joined the others in bailing the existing water out of the pond. Since the problem is that the pond was leaking, it obviously wasn’t full, but there was still a significant amount of water in it. And water life. I felt really bad about all the tadpoles and pollywogs that had to die, but we did save a bunch in a large plastic container that was a little bigger than a kiddie pool.

Once all the water was out, we were able to pull up the first layer – wet carpet. This pond, you see, was constructed using the “carpet sandwich” method, that is a layer of carpet, the plastic liner, and another layer of carpet on top. Removing the top layer of carpet was… challenging. But we did it! Then we swapped out liners, laid down a new top layer of carpet, and refilled the pond with the water full of rescued baby frogs and water from the rainwater catchment.

After that, I worked in the garden for a bit. It was definitely the heat of the day – the perfect time to harvest some greens, broccoli (which I ate for lunch), and a TON of tomatoes (which I made into bruschetta for dinner). I also pruned the tomatoes, which have a tendency toward tomato blight. I removed the diseased leaves in order to slow the spread of the blight.

Then, after sweating in the garden for a while, I went for THE most wonderful dip in the creek! The water was nice and cold, and I was able to exfoliate with some fine sandy silt. Is it too ironic that I always feel cleaner after scrubbing down with mud in the creek than after a shower with soap?! Also, I had my first encounter with the creek’s inhabitants – little fish about the size of my index finger! Once I stood still long enough, they swam up to me and nibbled on my toes. They don’t have teeth, per se, so it didn’t hurt; it was just a funny little tickling sensation. The tickling coupled with my fascination with the baby fishes made me laugh out loud. Ah, blissful!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More Adventures

Thursday, June 16, 2011

This afternoon, Patricia and I armed ourselves with bow saws and pruning shears and trekked up into the other MW sites to get us some mountain laurel for the orchard fence project. And did we ever get some mountain laurel! Patricia and I cut down four whole trees (admittedly, mountain laurel isn’t that big, but these specimens were fairly hefty with a great deal of spirally branches), all while fending off hoards of mosquitoes (commonly referred to as “those damn critters”)! Then, strong mountain women that we are, we dragged all four of them a quarter mile down a mountain and out of the forest. RAWR! Makin’ Ma proud.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Today was excellent.

I got up at about 7:30, and I was ready to start the pond project at 8, as scheduled. Unfortunately, a whole series of events prevented the pond project from coming together today. First, Sarah, Patricia, and I were the only ones awake, so I went to wake up Chynna and Coleman, who joined us eventually. Then, no one could find Lyndon to ask him where the new plastic for the pond liner was located, so Patricia, Sarah, Coleman, and I planted a mahonia tree while we waited for Lyndon to reappear. When Lyndon showed up and produced the plastic, Patricia was unable to find the right tape to affix the plastic in the right shape for the pond. That turned out not to matter much, though, because we discovered that we only had a little over half of the square footage of plastic that we needed.

At this point, Patricia went outside and just hollered. I couldn’t help but laugh! She just turned around, walked out the door and into the garden, and pitched a fit – yelled and growled, stomped her feet and pounded on the ground. But when she came in, she was perfectly calm – ready to figure out what materials needed to be acquired, to set up a new time to finish the pond, and to move on to another project. I think that Patricia has the right idea – let off the steam in a healthy way that doesn’t hurt anybody instead of allowing the frustration to build and sublimate into interactions with other people. I’m generally pretty laid-back, but it is nice to be in an atmosphere where it is socially acceptable to throw a healthy, well earned fit once in a while.

So instead of working on the pond, the garden team (made up of Patricia, Sarah, Coleman, and I) had a garden meeting and then took a tour around the garden and orchard. Patricia introduced Sarah and Coleman, who haven’t met the garden yet, to all of its various occupants. She pointed out newly completed projects and projects to be done, and she delegated on-going projects, like watering and harvesting. (I am the official harvester.) She talked about what has been planted and what still needs to go in the ground. It was a really informative trip, and we decided that we would have one every Friday morning.

When we were done with that, I went to help Lyndon with the fence around the orchard. We got so much done! There is an enormous section of fence where there wasn’t a fence yesterday. Plus, I got to play with power tools again. This time, I got to use the circular saw to cut the cross-boards to length and the drill to screw everything together. Lyndon and I got into a real groove – measure, cut, drill, repeat. Stop to paint (to seal the cross-boards against mold) every once in a while.

I also used the “tamper” to tamp in a fence post, which was fun. The tamper is a very long, incredibly heavy pole with a blunt end, and the idea is to slam it into the hole as hard as possible, adding dirt and gravel to ground level, over and over and over until the fencepost doesn’t budge. Lyndon, Sarah, and I took turns tamping and egging each other on by calling to mind things that make us angry. Anger is excellent tamping fuel. On my turn, no one could figure out what would piss me off. (I suppose I already have a reputation for being laid-back.) So I started talking about bp and Monsanto and Nestle, and believe me, that fence post will never budge.

Anyway, I did such a good job today (and I so enjoy the work) that Lyndon has promoted me to Head of deFence. I am now the work-exchanger (wexer, for short) in charge of making sure we get the fence up. For some reason, now that it’s "my" project, I feel super motivated to see it completed promptly. There is a LOT left to do (there are still 20 or so fence posts to go in the ground!), but I’m hoping to have it done before the end of July. The fence is really important. We can’t safely plant anything in the orchard until we can be sure that the deer won't eat it all, and there is so much valuable ag space in the orchard that could be churning out food. I am super motivated to make the fence happen, and SOON.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

So about four o'clock today, I walked into the kitchen and Sarah told me that Rising Appalachia was playing a second show tonight, and she was seriously considering going! I was so excited! I thought I got the marimba experience (see previous blog entry) instead of Rising Appalachia, but I ended up getting to go to BOTH concerts! I’m SO blessed!

Sarah, Coleman, and I went, and we had a BLAST. Rising Appalachia is SO incredible! The energy was great, and Sarah kept buying rounds. It was fantastic. There was just enough room to dance, and Leah and Chloe have great stage presence. Their new music is fantastic, so I bought the CD, and we listened to it all the way home. I could go on and on, but it's late and I need to go to bed. But AHHH!!! FANTASTIC!!!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

After lunch, I went to help Lyndon on the fence, and he put me to work stripping the bark off of the new locust fence posts. The idea is to remove (or at least make less appealing) all little nooks and crannies where bugs might decide to take up residence. Locust is an extremely hard wood, which makes it very rot resistant and gives the fence a long life expectancy. However, burrowing insects compromise the integrity of the posts, which makes them more prone to mold and rot. In order to make the posts last as long as possible, we must discourage the insects by removing the bark, which is their habitat because it is easier to bore into.

Bark is removed with an extremely sharp curved blade with a handle on either side. You have to straddle the log, preferably on your knees to keep your shins out of the danger zone. You cut the bark off with a pulling motion and moderate pressure on the tool. For safety, you sit pretty far back from where you are cutting and use lots of short, shallow stokes rather than trying to take all the bark off in one long, deep stroke, which can result in losing control and cutting yourself. Let me tell you, bark removal is some dirty work. Aside from the fact that I was completely soaked in sweat from the several hours of exertion, I was COVERED in dirt and bits of bark that got kicked up throughout the debarking process. I was going to hop into the solar shower, but it ended up thunder storming really intensely, which forced me to quit earlier than I would have and to shower inside.


Note: You apparently also use your glutes a great deal when debarking, because mine are SORE this morning!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Evening with Chikoro Marimba

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Tonight was quite possibly THE BEST night yet at Earthaven, and definitely makes top ten evenings of all time. A marimba band from Asheville came to play at council hall, and they were INCREDIBLE. The music was absolutely intoxicating; it was the kind of music that vibrates through your whole body. Not only that, but it was the kind of music that you cannot possibly sit still while you listen to it. Obib was the first one up to dance, and I was right behind her. The music was so thrilling and so tangible that it was completely natural to let it flow through myself and emerge in dance. Before the second song was over, the dance floor was full, and it was obvious by the energy in the room that everyone was having a fantastic time. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire evening!

The strange thing was, just a few hours ago I was feeling a little left out because some people decided on the spur of the moment to go to Asheville to see Rising Appalachia (whom I love!!!), and I couldn’t go because they were staying over at a friend of a friend’s house and I was cooking dinner. However, I didn’t let it bother me, because I intuited that it wasn’t what I was meant to be doing tonight. Well, I was SO right! Nathaniel, a new, awesome friend from Permaculture class, who I hadn’t seen in a couple of weeks, had randomly dropped in right before dinner, so he and I headed to the council hall together to see the band that came to us.

When we got there, they had just finished setting up the six different marimbas, which were incredibly cool. They had a “bass” one that was so big, the player had to stand on a bench to play it! The marimbas also made a truly breathtaking sound in the council hall, which is a fairly small, circular building with a great deal of stone in it. The acoustics were unrivaled.

And the dancing was ecstatic. If the music was intoxicating, the kind of dancing it inspired was euphoric. I could not be still! I stopped between songs to chug water, but when the music started up again, I felt drawn to the dance floor as if I were magnetized. About three songs in I realized that it had been a mistake not to make sure I had a hair tie with me. I was getting HOT! I searched the building, but the best I could come up with was a fork. So I pulled my hair into a tight bun, stuck it through like a chopstick, and was right back on the dance floor. Why yes, yes that is a fork in my hair. Functional, if unconventional. As Nate pointed out to me, “It is the Western equivalent of a chopstick.”

Then, after one particularly exhilarating song, one of the players announced that the title was “Jabberwocky.” Another of them recited the first stanza, to which I chimed in. Then, I don’t know what otherworldly goddess-being suddenly took over my body, but I continued and with fiery passion. I declaimed the rest of the poem, right there in the middle of a crowd of dancers and players, complete with vorpal-sword swashbuckling, embellished tones, and wild facial expressions. It was only several minutes afterwards, when the adrenaline rush from the wild delivery and the enthusiastic round of applause wore off, that I was like “What. Just. Happened?!?! I don't DO stuff like that!” That was a short-lived moment though, and I promptly refocused on the bliss of turning myself over to the music and the dance.

The band played for several hours. Nathaniel and I, and a half dozen or so others, stayed and danced until the very end. Oh, we all had SUCH an awesome time! My feet ache, but I am beyond joyful! AHH! I can’t imagine a better place to live!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


So, Blogger does not have the best photo sharing capabilities, so here is a link to a Facebook album of bunch of photos of my favorite spots at Earthaven.

P.S. Admittedly, FB doesn't have the best photo sharing capabilities either, but it's what I'm familiar with and a far sight better than Blogger.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Some Awesome Days

Friday, June 10, 2011


Today, as I was eating breakfast, Patricia came in and reminded me that I had promised to fish the tadpoles and pollywogs out of the greywater level indicator and put a screen over it. So, I took a tea strainer and a jar of water and went to work scooping several different varieties of frog young out of their puddle. When I’d gotten as many as I could catch, I released them into the pond, successfully rescuing them from starvation and death. Hooray! I was less successful, however, in getting a screen to cover the hole. I got the screen cut (and just the slightest bit thin on one side… dang it!), but it refused to be fixed with twine. We’ll have to find a bungee cord or some sort of elastic to make it stay.


Saturday, June 11, 2011


This afternoon, Lyndon, Kane, Chynna, and I helped Joe start his shed project. Joe plans to take everything out of the shed, build all new shelving units, throw away all of the junk (which was about half of what was in the shed), and put the rest of the stuff back in an orderly manner. Today, we started the project by taking everything out of the shed.

As we removed every last little piece of junk, we discovered several wasp nests. Lyndon decided to remove them with the time-honored traditional redneck hit-it-with-a-stick-and-run-like-hell method. We all stood around (fairly far back, mind you) to watch the spectacle. Between Lyndon’s terrified look during the run-like-hell part and comments like “This here is some redneck entertainment right here,” “We’re mountain folk fer sure,” and “Hell! This here is better’n TV,” we were all rolling! Fun bonding moment.


Sunday, June 12, 2011


Today has been really awesome!

I got up this morning and did a large load of laundry in the bike-washer. I have a feeling that is going to get old quickly if I don’t get a rhythm going with a partner. Also, I am planning to wear my clothes longer between cleanings, especially the heavy ones.

When I finished hanging my clothes up to dry on the brand new clothes line (which is much more accessible and usable… and less mosquito-y), I headed to the shed to help Joe continue the project. Since all the junk is out of the shed, we were able to rip out all the shelving. And I do mean rip, for some of it. I used the power drill to unscrew as many of the shelves and brackets as possible, while Joe tore the rest out with large crowbars and a hammer… and brute force. There was some more redneck wasp eradication, and a fair bit of cleaning. Tool sheds with wide-open faces get shockingly dirty!

Over lunch break, we brainstormed design ideas for the layout and functionality of the tool shed. We both contributed some excellent ideas, and drew up a basic layout. We went over a bunch of different ideas for shelf design, but we decided that we should do more research on shelving options before jumping straight in.

After that break, we took a short detour to make an appearance at council. “New Roots” are supposed to introduce themselves to council as soon as possible after arrival, so we went to do that. However, there was no way that I was going to stay for the whole, dramatic epic saga of a four-hour council meeting in which I have no say.

So Joe and I headed back to the shed project. We poked around up in the attic for suitable wood to build new and improved shelving units and work benches and hauled that lumber down from the fourth floor. We did yet more cleaning, and then set up saw horses and rummaged around under the tarps for tools that we will need – circle saw, level, etc. After that, the daily afternoon thunderstorm started, and we decided to call it quits for the day.

This evening, we had a great time playing Catchphrase. Some of the best quotes:

[among a bunch of random chatter]

Heather: This is what you do with an infant.

Joe: Squeeze.

Heather: No after…

Joe: Squozen!

Chynna: There are a lot of these in San Francisco.

Patricia: Queers!

Patricia cracks me up! She looks like a sweet grandmotherly older lady. She even bakes us cookies and takes good care of us when we aren’t feeling well. But, oh buddy! Some of the things she says! Oh, SO FUNNY!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 6 and 7

So, it turns out it works best just to keep my private journal in a Word document and then except from that for my Applied Study Term (AST) journal for UIS and for this blog. So, here you are...


Monday, June 6, 2011

Today was another garden day. Patricia, Theresa, and I planted summer squash, banana melons, basil, peppers, and Malibar spinach. Malibar spinach, I learned, is a tropical, heat-loving, form of vine spinach. I did not know such a thing existed! It’s excellent, because I love spinach. Your average spinach is a cool weather plant, doing well during the spring and autumn (some varieties even over-winter in warmer climates) but bolting to seed in the heat of summer. Now, I can rotationally plant spinach and Malibar spinach and eat it all through the growing season! I also learned to plant basil close to tomatoes, as they are complementary crops. Basil is so fragrant that it confuses the bugs that usually plague tomatoes. Patricia also told me that often plants that work well together in the kitchen (sun-dried tomato basil anything is delicious!) also work well together in the garden. When we were finished planting, she took me in an showed me a chart of plants that work well together and plants that inhibit each other, which was really interesting. I think I’ll make a copy of it to stick in my gardening notebook.

Towards the end of dinner tonight, I got a call from my mom. Apparently, Jake is in the hospital after five guys attacked him and his friends, and Jake fell and hit his head on the pavement. Mom said he went in through the trauma center and is now in the ICU. The doctors say he has a head trauma and a “subdural hematoma.” Mom says he is going to be fine, but the doctors just have to keep him in the hospital for a couple of days to make sure, because head injuries can go south really fast. Mom let me talk to him, and he sounded okay. He even asked me how I liked it here. Mom said he was already joking with his buddies when they came to visit. But, yikes! What a phone call to get! I skipped New Roots to relax, because I was feeling a little shocked and dazed.

After a nice, relaxing cup of chamomile tea, I sat down to distract myself with the first assignment for Liberty Struggles, which was to read the syllabus. Well, I read it and I decided that I can't really justify devoting the time that it supposedly requires. It is a four-hour course crammed into 7 weeks, and therefore really intense. I decided that I need to be here now, especially as I get established this summer. If it were in the fall and I was only expected to dedicate 12 hours a week to it, then that would be a different story. Right now, I need to focus on what I am doing - integrating into a new place, meeting new people and making new friends, and getting involved in several exciting activities. I am not willing to spend 24 hours a week on the internet this summer. So, I emailed my advisor, and we are discussing alternatives.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Today was really, really awesome.

I went to coffee and trade - the community Farmer's Market - this morning. Unfortunately, I was too late to get some yogurt, but Genie said she’d have some tomorrow if I wanted to go an get it. So Chynna and I are going to walk over there for yogurt tomorrow after we get the pond project finished. It wasn’t a total loss, though, because I got a really yummy muffin that Eli made and did some community building. I talked to Kim-Chi about the new off-the-grid Earthaven Laundromat, about her meeting with the lawyers to form a better protective legal bubble around Eathaven, and about doing some computer work in the office for Leaps. I am very glad for the opportunities to imbed myself into the Earthaven network.

Then I came home to do some laundry in the Medicine Wheel bicycle-powered laundry machine. What a cool experience! Once I figured out how to fill up the tank, it was pretty straightforward. Shut the drain, put in laundry and soap, turn on the connected hose to fill it up, pedal to agitate (slow and steady is best), open the drain to let out soapy water, close the drain and refill with the “rinse cycle,” pedal some more, drain, and pedal hard to spin out the last of the water. Hang out to dry. It’s free, burns no coal, and uses water from rainwater catchment. Plus, it is pretty awesome to bike my laundry clean. (Look mom, no hands!)

However, I discovered that the laundry bike would be more efficient and a better experience as a group project. The bike is at an odd, downward angle, so your arms get tired of holding up most of your body weight pretty fast. Also, the “spin cycle” leaves much to be desired, so I had to hand-wring out a pretty significant amount of water. Plus, I started getting a little lonely after a while. So I talked to Marissa and Chynna, and they agree that we should do our laundry together so that we can rotate between biking, wringing, and hanging. Plus, we entertain each other pretty well!

After I got my laundry hung out, I ate lunch and headed out into the garden. I rigged up some trellising for a few tomatoes. I know that doesn’t sound like much work, but between scrounging up some suitable materials, figuring out how to fix them in the dirt and rig them together, and then carefully maneuver the plants around their new habitation and gently tie them to it, it can be a tricky and time-consuming process requiring a fair amount creativity and sweat. I also harvested some walking onions, replanting their little babies to continue to species.

Another awesome Tuesday potluck for dinner. Robby gave a really interesting talk about his research on ecovillages, urban planning, and innovation. I really hope is able to go far with it because his scheme could allow for actual progress in society. I have never really held out much hope for society, but knowing that there are Robbys in the world gives me hope for a more peaceful transition to the new paradigm.

Came home to another awesome jam session with Joe and Taylor. I can't imagine a better place to live!


Update on Jake: I called my mom today, and she says Jake is home and recovering. Doctor says he should be fine after plenty of rest and relaxation, which is a major relief.



Monday, June 6, 2011

Permaculture Class!

WOW!!! I thought I was busy before, but my baseline has now been adjusted.

Since I am work-exchanging for the class, I've spent every moment for the past three days, from 7am to 10pm, fixing and serving meals for 30 people, absorbing massive amounts of information in class, and participating in some excellent revelry. Needless to say, I slept well last night!

So, here are some excerpts from my journal regarding my experience over the past few days...


Thursday, June 2, 2011

In the morning, we had an extensive house meeting with all the regular agenda, plus the Permaculture class logistics. We got everything worked out, though, so it was fine.

Then, I went outside to help Patricia compost what was left of the seedlings that never got in the ground. I got about halfway through the task, and then got distracted. First, by a frog that I found under one of the trays. I was so excited! I took him inside to show him off (no one but me was impressed), and then took tons of pictures of him until he hopped into the shelter of a rotten log. (I forgot my camera, so I'll post the pictures later.) I found another baby black snake under a different tray, but decided to leave him alone.

Then, Joe asked for my help in taking down two trees that Patricia asked him to remove. It was really fun, but I don't think I actually did much. Being the offspring of Hercules and Tarzan, Joe didn't need all that much help. First, he shimmied about ten feet up this skinny, limbless black locust with nothing but hands and boots to tie a rope around it. Then, he hacked down this easily thirty or forty foot with nothing but an axe. Twice. Well, Chynna and I did help pull them over, but he dragged the darn things out of the canopies of the trees that they fell into.

Anyway, when I was done assisting Joe with tree removal, Chynna, Patricia, and I went into town to go shopping, which was actually pretty fun. Perma-girls day out!

After supper, I couldn't really gather the energy to go to the moon circle, so instead I joined Joe, Michael, and Taylor in some live, local music. The music was awesome and really relaxing – an incredible experience. I had a really excellent evening.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday morning I was up fairly early, as usual, but the weirdest thing happened in the night. About 3am, I woke up hearing these weird squeaking noises. As I slowly gained degrees of consciousness, I realized that those were bat noises. Still half asleep, I thought that a bat had gotten into my room, and I was a little disconcerted. I couldn’t decide whether to turn on the light, thinking fuzzily that I might scare it into biting me. Rabies isn’t fun. Finally I woke up enough to realize that the noise was coming from outside my window. I turned on the light and made sure everything was kosher, and then rolled over, trying to ignore the high-pitched sounds and go back to sleep. A few hours later, I got up and went outside and sure enough, there is a bat house right outside my window. That would have been nice to know when I was moving in to that room. However, I am now appreciating my close proximity to such awesome creatures. I think of them as my familiar spirits! And I slept through their return this morning, so it’s all good.

Permaculture class has been so incredible. I knew some stuff before, but this is a whole new level. Patricia is a really good teacher, as are the co-teachers, Zev, Dylan, and Nikki. They have been able to clearly and concisely build an excellent foundation and provide a well-integrated “whole picture” of permaculture. Patricia and Zev, in particular, give great examples without getting bogged down in the details – always holding the whole systems view in focus. Yesterday, we opened with a lovely opening ceremony at the future home of Medicine Wheel’s forest garden (which is now the campground). Back in the classroom (the oh-so-versatile second floor living area), we honored the problems of the world before moving on to the solution-oriented format of permaculture, which was really powerful. We did a class on pattern understanding, and ate lunch.

It’s been a little bit challenging – well, actually “exhausting” is really the term – being a student and a work exchanger. My brain is processing so much all through class, and then I have to immediately get up and run to get a meal served, or prep a meal, or find something that someone needs, or play courier, etc. I’m really glad that I get a chance to participate in the course, though. I’m really happy about that.

After lunch we had more a couple more classes on fundamentals and ethics and basics and such. Most of it was review for me, but it was still very interesting, well-presented, and an excellent refresher.

Dinner was potluck and Steven already had the meal prepared, so that was easy. I had a nice chat with Dylan, Chynna, and some other people. Another music evening. It is so fantastic to be able to listen to (and even participate in… working on some improvised vocalization) really excellent, live music in the comfort of my own home. I can’t help but smile and laugh and sing when Joe gets going with the crazy, improvised bluegrass jams. It is SO MUCH FUN! Then Taylor will lead up some funky jazz beat on drums, which lends itself perfectly to jumping in with some improvised vocals. I can’t imagine a better way to spend the evening!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Today, we started class with permaculture principles, or what Patricia called “the heart and soul of permaculture.” A great deal of it is just (un)common sense, and I think Patricia said it best when she told us, “You can’t so much ‘learn’ or ‘teach’ permaculture. We’re just reminding people of their common sense.”

The primary design principle is OBSERVE! So much happens when you stop to notice things! We did a really excellent observation exercise in which we were sent away from the house to find a spot to observe for 15 minutes. I went down to the Red Tent area, and sat on a rock overlooking the creek. It was so peaceful, and I noticed so much. The spiders floating on the water looking for other bugs to eat. The shadows that those spiders cast on the sand on the bottom of the creek. How clear the water is. The patterns in the debris and the sand in the creek bed. The incredible way the light reflects off of the moving water… then onto the trees… and back onto the water. How the leaves floating downstream allow one to see the otherwise invisible water currents. The bird songs, which increased in number and volume after I had been still a while. The babbling of the creek and how it sounded different when I looked upstream than when I turned my head downstream. It was a really excellent exercise to get me to stop and look more closely.

Then, after lunch, we talked about site analysis and then went on a long walk to analyze different areas around Medicine Wheel neighborhood. It was really incredible how very, very different microclimates that were just a few yards apart could be! One tree of a very specific variety, one rotten log at just the right angle, one tiny patch of sun can completely change the type and amount of life that springs up in an area.

When we returned from that lovely hike, we actually got into design. Unsurprisingly, Americans do everything completely backwards from how it makes sense. We didn’t get too deep into it, but I’m looking forward to getting more substance tomorrow.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Today was the last day of permaculture class. I started off the day kinda sleepy. I had breakfast duty, so I had to get up at 6:30. Had a minor crisis when I realized we had no regular potatoes, but I switched the plan to sweet potatoes, which turned out delicious, so it was all good. Chynna made eggs for the crowd, and that went well, too.

Class was cool. We went over ecosystems, water, and soil. A lot of it was review, but I did pick up a lot of really interesting information, too. Also, the physical demonstrations that went along with Nikki’s soil talk were really neat for a tactile person like myself.

After class we went out in the orchard to do some sheet mulching, and I apparently stepped on a nest of no-see-ums. By the time I realized I’d ticked them off, they were already attacking me. What an odd sensation! It is a really sharp little pain with no apparent cause that continues to have stinging pulses for about an hour. I had them all over, too. It was really uncomfortable, but Lyndon gave me some salve and reassured me that it would go away fairly quickly.

After dinner, Nathanial and Joe started jamming on guitar, attracting me, Chynna, Marissa, Clara, and Theresa to the second floor living room. We danced and sang, stopped and talked, Marissa sang a cool ballad that she wrote, I performed “Jabberwocky,” and we danced and sang some more. It was SO much fun. Really chill, awesome atmosphere – just two candles for light and guitar and bliss. We all really connected. Awesome!


That's probably enough for today.

Love and peace to all!!!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Encounter with a Baby Black Snake in the Garden!

Yesterday morning, I got up a little before 8 and we were out in the garden by 8:30. I started out by harvesting a TON of lettuce, enough to fill this huge metal bowl with leaves spilling out the top. Apparently this has been a good year for lettuce. We went on to plant and trellis a bunch of tomatoes. Patricia taught us to dig really deep holes for the tomato plants because they can grow roots off of their stems when buried in the ground. A vigorous root system makes for vigorous, drought-resistant plants.

As Cate, Joshua, and I were getting ready to plant some tomatoes, Joshua found a tiny baby black snake in the path. It was so small that I might have mistaken it for a big earthworm. He scooped it up, and on closer inspection, it was a perfectly formed and proportioned black snake, just in miniature form! It was so incredibly cool!!! It was thrashing around in Joshua’s hand, probably scared out of its wits, but I was so enthralled with it, I started talking to him. Cooing at him, honestly, like I would at a human baby. I told him how beautiful he was, and sent him blessings, because as a black snake, he will grow up to eat poisonous copperheads. As I cooed at him, he noticeably relaxed out of his curled up strike position and started checking out Joshua’s hand with his tiny little tongue. “Look,” Joshua pointed out just after I sent him blessings, “I think you’re helping him relax.” To my amazement, I believe Joshua was right!

It was especially cool since I identify with snakes because the snake is my sign in the Chinese zodiac and appears in my Mayan chart. I think it was especially symbolic that I noticed that the baby black snake was also shedding his skin.