I die a little bit every time i step out onto my beginning permaculture adventure. Whether its the asian pears i thought were big enough to live without protection or the hugel bed that was just too big to fence right away, the underestimation of animal predators seem to get me every time. Now I've had sheep eaten by bears; foxes, raccoons and opossums get into the chicken house; fruit trees eaten by deer and now a mysterious wilt, and an entire spring crop decimated by voracious ground hogs taking up residence in the hugel bed. I just stopped writing for a time. Stopped being excited about this venture. again.
But then we shot a ground hog and the chard got some time to grow back, and then i had a salad. Then the vision that inspired me to grow my own food gave me hope again, hope that springs from the everlasting well that is life. Then i buy a couple more soil amendments a book or two, some seeds and I'm off again planning and conspiring against the enemies that i think shouldn't be enemies. That is the most frustrating, thinking that i should be able to grow food and raise animals in harmony with nature not fighting against it... which brings me to yet another metaphorical way to die on your tractor; thinking you can do things that go against the natural order.
I dont think we were meant to cultivate to the extent that we do. We are meant to be foragers, to be in line with nature so that we know when to harvest before a thing is gone. We can help things along but we aren't the only things alive out here. You cant just kill everything that eats your chard.
I gotta think that if you can "control" pests by balancing the soil and the plants you encourage to grow, there must be a way to do the same with animals. The questions this raises is- Are the populations of deer and groundhogs a symptom of our tampering with mother nature too? Could I handle some deer attacks if there were fewer? Are we responsible for some of the animal control ourselves? We eat so much red meat and chicken, what about deer and groundhog? Is it just that we have so removed ourselves from the laws of nature that this is what we are left with? Farming animals by the thousands while ignoring the meat running around the back yard? With all these questions how can i not reevaluate at every seeming failure? As the sun sets on another day and the deep blues of the sky sink into my eyeballs i cant help but think things will come to me and i will get it eventually.
Recently while listening to a permaculture podcast I was introduced to the mycotoxins that hide in coffee. And everything else. Mycotoxins are the chemicals that funguses release when stressed to protect themselves. Turns out that there are mycotoxins in a bunch of the stuff we eat. The biggest offenders being cereal grains, wine, grape juice, coffee and pork. Most of this results from bad storage methods, but some of the molds have a symbiotic relationship to some of the plants, and fruits we consume. Mycotoxins showing up when the plant is stressed, or jumping into the fruit when damaged. The whole thing was fascinating, of course at first i got caught up in Dave Asprey's opinion of mycotoxins, which is that they are bad and have been made deadly by the use of fungicides on the soil, breeding super fungi like antibiotics breed super bugs. While most of his research seems sound, and his coffee is great, his opinions on fermentation seem a little rash. Although he did make me a little more cautious of drift in my cultures and what constitutes stress to fungus. ( hint: electromagnetic fields are a biggie and the new phos. light bulbs put off more than your laptop!) He also made me very aware of the symptoms of mycotoxicity. You may not be allergic to wheat but the mycotoxins on it. After doing more reading on mycotoxins and how our own gut releases mycotoxins in food I found that some research has been done on what reduces these toxins, and if I read this stuff right says that some of the old ways of preparing food help to reduce and eliminate certain mycotoxins. Some of these food preps include fermentation, the adding of sulfur to juices before fermentation, lime to some veggies before cooking etc. Having enough antioxidants like BHA and BHT can also neutralize the effect of certain mycotoxins. Here it seems again that though we may not be able to completely avoid these things in our food, by growing our own and following tried and true methods of preparation and preservation, we can weather the toxic load carried in our food. I am of the opinion that mother nature will eventually balance out most of the stupid we put into the world, but feel put "on notice" that if we screw it up too bad we may not survive the fix. So here is another few ways you can take it on your "tractor"- by trusting the mass food system with your food safety, by not being careful enough with your ferments, and not just cutting off the spot of mold on the cheese, but throwing it away.
Ahhh and the heavens opened...
So many times the depths of despair have threatened to consume us all, and so many times the heavens have opened to cradle us in thier comfort. What if you don't have to become a slave to your thoughts, your worries and insecurities? What if you can put a stop to the destructive path your mind takes? In our transition from a fast track life to simpler one we need to reevaluate the thought patterns that are destructive as well as our physical patterns and really make some conscious changes to how unconscious we will be to our thoughts. We get more and more involved in the worry of things and counting the things that didnt pan out or were failures, or worse what might fail. Fighting the habitual states of our mind is one of the noblest of paths and the most difficult. We all end up falling back on old habits but it seems to start in the mind, with a thought. Chores can add up and our desires and ideas can overwhelm us. Spring Seems the time when this happens to me the most. There are a million things I think I need to do and my head spins until I am forced to step back and reevaluate. It is about that time when I get an email that says you're not a slave to your brain, Thank god for the safety net of friends...
How many of you have been on the vitamin d3 supplemental kick? How many of you did your own research? Ok so I raised my hand with the bulk of you all. Now after hearing about it, reading about it and telling everyone I know about it, I gotta holla out there and tell everyone to hold on to that pill bottle for just one second. I'm sure I don't have to remind you all that I am no doctor or naturopath, I'm just passing on information I've come across and believe to be important. With that being said it looks as though Vitamin d supplements can cause an imbalance that could lead to heart disease, if you don't also supplement with vitamin k2. You see nothing in the body works alone, you take one thing and you screw with the balance of everything associated with that one thing. Whole body processes can be altered. I suspect we do this on a regular basis and lucky for us it seems as though the body is like an understanding parent allowing us a certain generous amount of time to realize our mistakes and correct them. Heart disease takes years to show its ugly head and for us smart people who never stop learning this gives us the chance to reevaluate our actions. Now the good news is that there is a solution to this vitamin d craze imbalance mess and it comes in the form of a naturally occurring supplement that our parents probably took as children. Cod liver oil. but not just any cod liver oil, I'm talking the grossest sounding cod liver oil of them all-Fermented Cod Liver Oil. Might sound a little over board but it is turning out to be the bees knees of CLO. You get your vitamin d, and k2, which is the nutrient your body needs to tell the body where to deposit the calcium. Vitamin d helps the body absorb calcium. And get this- the process of fermentation creates the k2, and not just in CLO. Read the book Vitamin K2 and The Calcium Paradox to learn about how these nutrients work in the body. This book has more current studies and info on this particular supplementation and will give you more information to base your supplement decisions on. Fermented foods in general seem to give us these vitamin groupings naturally, try reading some of Sandor Katz books on fermentation, especially The Art of Fermentation, to get how these vitamins are created by ferments.
Crazy how much money you spend. Have a mortgage? Then you are paying almost double what you bought your home for. And there is the big kicker for those of us wanting to give it all up and head for the country. You gotta have cash, and lots of it saved to be able to buy your prospective homestead. Sustainable living begins with your steady movement out of what is the norm for todays "living on credit" lifestyle. You have to own your house and land outright to be able to live on almost nothing. Reduce your outputs, trash your tv, get rid of things you have to plug in, shop consignment for your clothes. This begins your trek to the country and can last decades before you are ready to cut ties with the old job thats got ya down. Don't be fooled into thinking that this permaculture, sustainable bus is gonna get you rich. It might, but the work and know-how needed increase exponentially. Marketing, business models, yea the crap you left the city to get away from. So don't rush is the game plan. Be sure you understand the reason to go sustainable is to get out of the rat race that has you by the balls, that has disillusioned you into thinking you need it all and you need it now. Don't buy what you don't have money for today, and rethink what you think you need. This is the lesson I needed to learn, that just skipped my mind. Another way to die on your tractor, so to speak, an unseen danger on your path to a sustaining life - thinking you can get there on a loan, with all your toys...
After much research and tasting raw as compared to pasteurized milk I have decided that raw milk is the way to go. This said, I would normally go out and buy a cow or goat and sell the milk I couldn't use to neighbors, but in the state of West Virginia you can't sell raw milk or buy it out of state and cross state lines to bring it home. This angers me more than most laws that get in the way of making a living on the farm. People who only see a portion of a thing and then act as if they have an intimate knowledge of the whole. In most states it is illegal to sell raw milk to the public. So illegal in fact that sting operations have been set up to catch these criminals in the act. How much money has gone into the catching of the raw milkers? Money that could have gone into schools to teach people the benefits of raw milk I'm sure, and money that could be shaved off of the national dept. Upon further contemplation of this subject I considered other dangers to the food supply that make laws like these look ridiculous. Take raw eggs for example, warnings abound on the subject of eating them uncooked but we can still buy raw eggs, right? Raw meat? Hell even raw spinach these days presents a danger to the public at large but I can buy it right off the side of the road if I wanna. So why such a big deal with raw milk? There are many reasons I'm sure, but the biggest I suspect is not your safety, but for the profit of the milk industry. You can produce more, safer if you cook it. It lasts longer on the shelf so you can truck it further. Why do you think milk is one of the only things we can't buy raw? How many other laws out there keep us from selling products out of our homes, and make criminals out of the resourceful? No wonder we are such a welfare nation...
You can never know the day the time or the cause of your own death, but if you own a tractor you can add at least 100 more ways your death might go down. While those are mostly obvious- the tractor rolls over and squashes you. You get in the way of said tractor and it runs you down...The nature of the tractor and the environment you use it in can make the least obvious dangers the most dangerous. This you must remember as this blog goes on. Its the things you dont think of as dangerous that coddle you onto that shaky rope bridge to hell. As my husband and I embark on the building of our own house it seems as though the myriad of dangers involved increases every hour, at times exponentially. On the other hand the opportunities we have been given and the tools and the ideas for living the way we were meant to live seem to have increased in more ways than I can yet count.
When I was younger I read a lot about the idea of homesteading, buying a piece of ground and utilizing what was there to build what you needed. Growing the food you ate and making a modicum of money to pay your share of taxes and buy essentials you couldn't provide for yourself. Helen and Scott Nearing lived a portion of their lives on the coast of Maine doing just that. Since theirs was one of the first books I read on the subject, it was the life they led that captivated me then and inspires me the most today. Ann laBastille was another in the adirondaks of New York state. She lived a solitary life as a writer building her own log cabin post divorce, and living alone with her dog for most of her life. Both faced dangers untold and unforeseen, but persevered all the same. Both had varying reasons to live in this sort of fashion, one common denominator being a yearning to live in some kind of harmony with the environment they inhabited, and live happy productive lives. They believed we all must be compelled on our own to do things for the greater good.
Working on making the most out of what I have so that I can lead a life that fulfills me and leave some kind of inspiration for others to do the same. I don't want to leave my home to make money so I can come home and sit around pissed cause I have to do it again tomorrow. That idea has always seemed so redundant. Buying crap food that I could make better if I had the time, buying fancy clothes that I wouldn't need if I didn't have to go to work in the first place. Paying someone else to watch the child that I can't take to work with me. Why do we think this is the good life? These are the dangers we face today, dangers of being swallowed up by what our culture deems important. Least obvious and most dangerous.
Born in New Hampshire and raised in Maine, Eva's passion for living self sustainably began with Helen and Scott Nearing. Both were homesteaders who carved their lives from the land. Eva now lives in Eastern West Virginia, with her husband Dain and daughter Shayna, carving out her own life.