Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mother Earth News Fair- Pennsylvania

 Last weekend, we drove up to Somerset, Pennsylvania to attend the Mother Earth News Fair, which is all things sustainable, off-the-grid, organic, and farming-related. After many years in west, I imagined we'd be surrounded by a crowd of bearded, pierced and plaid-wearing hippie farmers. Instead it looked like people from Iowa. Or North Dakota. Just regular folks, from mostly the upper east coast: PA, MD, NY, OH. We were some of the furthest traveling attendees, aside from another couple we met from Alabama.

The theme was definitely not organic, though it was an emphasis. I think it was more do-it-yourself, and mostly for cheap (though there were so many vendors it's easy to suddenly find an empty wallet). We sat though a talk by Joel Salatin, who has a farm in rural Virginia and has been featured on several documentaries about farming. His approach is really back in time, and logical. Rather than piling on chemicals, and penning up his animals, he lets his cattle graze and moves his chicken coops to spread their droppings, which serve as fertilizer. Of course he's written several books on the topic, which we started reading, and only 20 pages in to "The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer", we'd gleaned enough to warrant the price of the book.

 [Joel Salatin]

I dropped in on Mother Earth's editor Cheryl Long's talk on Organic Fertilizers, and learned that human pee is a good addition to your garden (diluted). As well as confirmation for what my mom always said, "Leave the grass clippings on the yard!" (Or stash them in your compost bin for later.) We met a couple from Chicago who bought a farm in rural Wisconsin and have been slowing going off the grid while running a B&B and raising their son. 

Three days worth of conference introduced us to new ways of thinking and ideas for our place. We figured out that solar panels are very involved and expensive and maybe something down the line.

For a long time, I've been rethinking lawns. The whole idea of them is rather insane, as well as the amount of pollution we produce by having a lawn. After the conference, I wanted to find a way to forgo a lawn all together and truthfully would not mind planting the whole lawn to garden. But I don't think I am going to have a choice in that matter.

[what we'd like for our next camper trailer]
The Lawn Boy
 Quite a lot on animal husbandry. I'm still pretty much vegetarian, and if I had to kill it myself, that would cement my feelings toward meat forever.
 How true this is, especially something I've noticed since escaping the city traffic.
 I wish we would take this seriously.
The seeds were $1 a packet so we went crazy. They are now stored in air tight bags in our fridge until we're ready to use them.
I noticed everyone was wearing blue jeans.
The festival was held at Seven Springs Resort in PA which is owned by the same family who runs Mother Earth News, Grit, and Utne Reader.

 I have a strange affinity for the idea of a composting toilet.

Until next year, goodbye PA! 
(The festival is also held in Washington south of Seattle, 
and a third location is planned for Kansas starting next year.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Confederate Island Neighbor

There’s a skinny old guy kitty-corner from us living in a beat up old trailer with a confederate flag flying among about two hundred bicycles assembled on his front lawn. The other day I was up on a ladder outside on the side of the house, pulling staples and boards, prepping the house for painting. He rode up on his bicycle and said, “Were you the one hanging clothes out the other day?” I affirmed. He said, “Remember when I was talking to you a few months ago and you were talking to your mom on the phone? Where are you from? Darryl's living in the past. Darryl thinks women should stay at home, cooking and taking care of the kids. I’m Darryl. I don’t go anywhere my bike can’t take me. Technology is bad. Cars, they take you places you should not go. A  woman’s place is in the home. Do you know the Amish? They don’t use cars.” I didn’t say anything. This time I was on the phone with my sister who lives in Portland, Oregon. I didn’t tell Darryl I was talking to her. She heard the whole thing, entertained by the funny accent and ideas. I've been told he's schizophrenic and had some hard knocks in the past. He rides past our house on the sidewalk about six times a day I’d guess. Last week I saw him in the town over which is about twelve miles away, looking a little confused. I've heard that he bikes there every day. I'm not surprised- almost every time I hop on my bike I run into him. He always says hi and something about loving bikes.

(I sneakily shot this photo from my bike the other day after I'd seen Darryl up the road going the other direction. There are more bicycles across the street and hidden in the trees.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012


This artist  (Paul Cesewski) was on exhibit at the SF MOMA in 2007 for his cool creation. We need a wheelbarrow-- perhaps this would be an option. I love his chops.
Justin wants to build a wheelbarrow out of salvaged materials. It's sort of a game with us: what can we make from nothing? Yesterday it was business card holders. Justin has been doing graphic design since 1998, employed and now as free-lance. I egged him on a bit to get more official than just word of mouth, and he did it: Cole Creative Studios. He can work for anyone, via the web and phone- it's what allows us to live out here.
Next is an artist from the UK featured on Kickstarter, Robert Montgomery. A company from Berlin is producing book of his works. I love this one, for basic reasons. Last night before bed, Justin asked me when was the last time I had a dream about my dad. I said it was April when we were on our RV trip. So of course last night I had a dream with my dad in it. It was simple. I was trying on a fleece in a store and he showed up suddenly and we were smiling in the mirror at each other, standing side by side. We had the exact same big smile, and couldn't stop smiling. After I woke up I realised in my dream I had left him taller than me. If he were here, I would be the bigger one.
Another of Mr. Montgomery's pieces, which I feel has been something I've been working on over the last few years, or forever maybe. Everything needs to be questioned. Truth cannot be taken for granted.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fall feels good this year

For the first time in a long time, I've been looking forward to fall. The cool air. Donning a sweater. Thoughts of inside projects. Since I moved here, every day has been filled with activities. A little staple pulling. A little scraping. Watering the garden. Hanging the laundry. We accomplish a little bit each day.

These last two days the temperature has finally dropped to the point that we need a sweatshirt at night, and can throw open the sashes and refresh the house with crisp dry air. Fall. It feels so good.

Today I realized that we're ready to power wash the house. The idea of power-washing brews up anxiety within me but also excitement. I know as we finish the final exterior painting prep, the next thing will be to apply the color and turn the house into a happy little cottage again.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We are both called Charlie

Many years back one of my friends forwarded this video to me, which I thought was hilarious. It stuck in my head like a bad pop song. This April while on our RV trip through the south, I showed Justin the Charlie the Unicorn video on youtube, wondering if he had the same type of humor as me. (He did.) He started calling me Charlie. I told him I was having the urge to call him Charlie too, which he said was fine. We've been calling each other Charlie ever since. Now we're thinking maybe we'll call our farm, "Charlies' Island Farmstead" or something like that. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My adventure is a struggle for freedom.

"This is what it means to be an adventurer in our day: to give up creature comforts of the mind, to realize possibilities of imagination. Because everything around us says no you can't do this, you cannot live without that, nothing is useful unless it's in service to money, to gain, to stability.

The adventurer gives in to tides of chaos, trusts the world to support her- and in doing so turns her back on the fear and obedience she has been taught. She rejects the indoctrination of impossibility."

- from Off The Map