I've felt inspired to write today after a long absence from posting articles on Permies.
I have come across the year 2021 being described as the "Year of Loss" both in conversation and in popular articles. I can image that this description is accurate for many people, in may ways, in association with the pandemic. However, it rings awfully true for me in ways completely unrelated to a virus.
Before this year, I would say I was 'privileged' enough to have never experience a deep or traumatic loss. I had been witness to family or friends passing from old age or chronic illness; I was either far enough removed from the person in the terms of physical distance or my personal relationship to them that the loss was simply part of the flow of life, I could see it coming and it made sense to me.
This year I experienced a traumatic loss that felt like it made time stand still, then turned everything upside-down, and it proceeded to shake everything still till today. I had never before experienced a loss that resulted in everything in my life being subsequently altered in such a substantial, tangible, and in escapable way.
I also came to realize that I didn't know how grieve or how to help someone else that was grieving. I'm would normally describe myself as a person who cares deeply, who has close emotional connections to the people around them, and who wears their heart on their sleeve. I suddenly found connecting to my loved ones felt "clunky" and for someone who is usually a ball of emotion I felt numb or distant.
There is a silver lining however, my experiences this year have shown me how I have previously gone through life without taking time to properly grieve. "I'll be sad for a day or two and then I'll be fine" or "That was awful but there is nothing to be done about so I should suck it up and move on".
I learned there was 'big grief' (such as a traumatic loss or injury) and 'little grief' and everything in between. I've learned that each loss deserved to be acknowledged and approached in its own way. I'm working on making space in my life to sit with that grief.
I also learned that people suck at both grieving and helping someone who is grieving (myself included). My best friend lost her partner this year. I couldn't believe the things people were saying to her to be 'nice'. These were the same sentiments I would have said to grieving person, but now I could clearly see how deeply hurtful they were. Not just any people: her friends, family, and community members! People I had previously admired, I had to give "restraining orders" too. I had to call strangers and tell them to 'STFU' because they were spreading hurtful rumours. Rumours, that in retrospect, I would have also talked about behind closed doors, not knowing how easily they would get back to the griever and how incredibly hurtful, sometimes deadly, they could be.
The only 'experience' I had for dealing with grief was, to be honest, watching movies. Where the person who has experienced such deep and profound loss had their friends and community rally around them. Or, the hero/heroine would search the depths of their soul to come out the other side a better human being, with a prophetic new purpose in life ... all in 6-months to boot!
I felt stuck, I felt helpless, I felt incredibly clumsy in a situation that demand such delicacy. Luckily for me, I found help.
The two greatest gifts I received this year are:
#1) It's OK That You're Not OK - Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand: by Megan Devine
I can't recommend this book enough. It's referred to as the "grief bible". Well I'm sure it's not perfect, no book is, it has been the our manual our whole support group in this time of loss. I honestly think I'd be in a much bleaker reality if it wasn't for the presence of this book.
#2) A New Friend - Someone who has already lived though sh*t hitting the fan.
I made a new friend who had pretty much lived through exactly what I was going through. I wasn't expecting to grow so close, so quickly. I had someone I could ask the hard questions to without feeling judged and knowing she understood the urgency of the situation. Questions like "She's not eating. Is that normal? What should I do?". I know there are professional out there that are trained to deal with these situations, but sometimes they fall short or you simply can't reach them (distance/time/$$$). Being able to reach out to them felt like grabbing a life-line when drowning.
I also learned to make sure that "the support network needs a support network". It truly takes a village. I assembled a team a friends that included psychologists, councillors, suicide first-aid attendants, healers, bakers, and fitness professionals in order to help my friend... and I was still exhausted! Again, I was fortunate enough to enough to have family and friends checking in on me too, ready to carry the load when needed.
So why am I sharing this on Permies?
I think a strong community needs to be able to acknowledge grief, learn how to approach it, and know how to support the griever and each other. I think this is not only something that should be address in a permaculture community, but a fundamental aspect of communal living.
Wow, it seems like I blinked and Summer rushed past me! I've been so busy I haven't had a moment for an update! So here is the long over due blog post!
I would say "roller coater" was very accurate description of the season; it continued to have so many ups and downs I can hardly keep track! With record breaking heat, a lot of my greens bolted before I even got a first cutting! I was left scrambling to to pull and replant, leaving my crop plan a mess. I would say it was less of a crop plan and more like "feelings" about what I should plant and when it might be ready to harvest. In the end, there was no record keeping, just panic.
In the middle of this heat waive, I killed my irrigation pump. When I say "my" pump, I mean the landowners' from who I rent from. Which meant I needed to replace it, and quickly! I spent 3 weeks hand watering a 1/4 acre of market garden beds, greenhouses, and livestock. This meant I had no time for weeding, pruning, or keeping an eye on the vole population that ransacked my beets. Luckily, my husband was able to order parts and fix it with the help of the landowner. What I though was going to be a $1000 fix was $150 ... few!
The heat took a lot out of me physically and mentally. I woke up early and worked until noon to avoid the heat. I suck at working in the heat to be honest; I run out of spoons quick! Mentally I broke when my order of chicks arrived half dead or dying. I was livid. They are transported in the cabs of the shipping trucks to make sure the air temperature is controlled, so I knew whatever facility they were being kept in was way too hot! The company replaced the dead chicks, but the psychological damage was done. In addition, I shut down my composting program as I couldn't keep up with the maintenance and irrigation of the piles.
On the bright side, I was very successful with crops that I had struggled with before. I had bumper crops of cucumbers, early season carrots, grapes, cherry tomatoes, and summer squash. I sold out at many of the farmer's markets and had great sales at a local store in town.
The final nail in the coffin of the season was a predator (species still unknown). Over my wedding weekend (yes I got married!) I had the landowner and her family keeping an eye on my flock. Saturday morning they found 3 dead birds, but didn't tell me because they didn't want to stress me out during my wedding. I returned Tuesday to find that half of my flock was missing, over 30 birds. My meat birds are my main source of profit for the season. I was gutted that my fluffy butts where murdered while I was off dancing. I felt guilty for not being there when they needed me. I'm pretty sure that some of them had started sleeping under their coop at night, and all that was needed was someone to make sure they were shut in at night. A simple fix that was missed because I simply didn't know there was a problem.
So where is the silver lining?
I've decided to move from market garden to permaculture project. I'm partnering with my sister to develop her new 4.5 acre property to a permaculture oasis. That means:
- A have a fun new project to plan over the winter
- I don't have to pay rent
- Way less driving, as her location is closer than the previous one
- We can share the work load of raising animals together (alternate who is feeding & watering the animals)
- I get to practice my "permie" skills with my family, who are thrilled about it!
In addition we have built a new greenhouse at our property (photos to come soon!) and plan to add additional raised beds. The focus at our property will be:
- Building soil (I still have to irrigate heavily when it's hot or else fruit trees die)
- Water capture (We plan to have an outdoor shower and rain gardens)
- Turn our mini-orchard in a mini food forest
We plan to grow & preserve food for our family and sell the excess to the local store.
So yes, it's been a season of hard-knocks but I'm glad to still be here and still whole heartedly in love with permaculture!
One of my current goals is being able to grow & produce 75% of my calories ( for me & my partner ) over the next 3 years. One of the things I'm running up against is figuring out a balance between growing the things I want to eat vs eating the things I can grow/forage.
Meat has been one of the things I've recently learned to raise & process myself.
Do you learn to eat what is easily available? Or do you learn to grow things you like to eat? Or is it a journey to find the happy medium?
I live in a climate where the window to grow food or forage is limited to about 6 months of the year; which, to me, is a pretty solid indicator of of needing to learn how to preserve food. This was not something a grew up with so I find myself forgetting to plant things in the garden for winter storage. In addition, planting things in the garden that I like to eat canned or dried. I often default to freezing items only to forget their existence in the back of the fridge.
- What do you do to ensure your garden continues to provide in the winter months?
- How do you ensure what you do preserve gets consumed?
- Do you choose to preserve food using methods that preserve the food's desirability or simply its shelf life?
Another barrier I run into is learning how to eat things that are easy to grow or forage. I find when I'm busy or stressed I just want to fall back to my "comfort" foods and recipes.
- How do you learn to incorporate new foods into your regular diet?
I would say a personal success of mine was learning to incorporate lard into my diet to replace other fats & oils (it's the first oil/fat i learned to produce myself that I can preserve)
Finally, I often find I need to learn to develop a 'taste' for what grows in my climate. I love avocados and bananas but there is no way those are ever going to be a staple crop in a zone 4 environment.
- Any tips or tricks for replacing staple foods that aren't available in your bio-region?
Ashley Cottonwood wrote:Anyone else reading their book? Anyone want to be my accountability partner? I could also make a thread for finding accountability partners
Did you find someone? I'm just starting to figure out what to do with my 7.75 acres and would love to have someone to discuss things with. I haven't found anyone in S Pierce County, (WA state) who is interested.
Yes, this is my mobile coop for my meat birds. I loved the solar door so much I got one for my later coop. They aren't cheap but I've also haven't lost any birds to wild life yet... so either I'm very lucky or having them closed in before dark helps a lot.
So far the market garden season has been off to a roller coaster start...
We had a week of warm weather (Highs of 25C) and then a recent drop in temperature to -3C at night. Lots of people had their plants got frosted. I was really trying to push my season to get crops in the ground early with mixed success.
Things that did fine outside:
- Spinach (covered)
- Carrots (covered)
- Endive (covered)
- My friends super hard tomato variety (covered)
Things that didn't do so well:
- Tomato starts in the greenhouse. I thought they would be fine but it is the second time I've made this error. I think I might have placed my greenhouse, at the property a rent, in a cold sink :? There are two different greenhouses with varying degrees of insulation and all the tomatoes died in both of them with the radishes still happy as can be...
- Squash that I transplanted outside because I started it indoors WAY TOO EARLY. I knew it would end badly but it was better than taking up space in my greenhouse. Maybe it will make a come back, maybe not, either way zucchini isn't a money maker for me. I just like zucchini bread.
I also experimented with trying to get an early crop of radishes off by planting them in one of my greenhouses before transplanting my tomatoes & cucumbers. It worked! The only problem was I didn't have any of my market streams set up to sell them because they were so early! Yay for early crops but I need to make sure I'm ready to sell what I've produced (Newbie fail). So far, I've been selling them on Instagram, which is mind blowing for me. A local catering business also likes to grab a little bit of whatever I have each week to add to her "Wednesday Lunch Club" meals. I'm going to guess there will be some chicken snacks in the future...
Overall I have sense of some changes that I would like to make for next season. These concepts are nothing new, people have come to these conclusions long before me (There's Paul's voice in the back of my head saying "See? I told you so!")
- Move from Market Garden to Permaculture Market Garden/Biodiverse Beds: Instead of 50 ft of one crop plant a mixed variety and harvest whatever is ready/works out. I'm so small scale that I would have to scale up significantly to make "Elliot Coleman" style market gardening efficiency practices really worth my time.
- Direct seed as much a possible for squash/tomatoes
- Transplant all the things and none of the things: Transplant everything in the market garden beds and direct seed everything in my personal gardens and monitor the differences.
- Soil blocking instead of trays: my friend started a greenhouse this year and used soil blocks and it makes transplanting SO MUCH EASIER! No more stupid plastic trays that break all the time.
This is me prepping my garden beds. I peel away the tarp as I'm ready to establish each row. Helps keep the weeds down and earth worms go crazy under it in the fall/winter. Also makes a good habitat for snakes and voles. I then use row cover to protect from frost/hail/insect damage. The amount of plastic required is... depressing. I would like to figure out a way around this. The system has meant so far that I have very little weeding to do and very few issues with pests & losses to frost, but hopefully I can still improve to reduce plastic.
I get wood chips from a local arborist. He knows my preferences so drops some off when he has a load of chips that I would desire. Last years pile I was using in the pathways only to find out the bottom foot of the pile had turned into beautiful soil. YAY! Free soil amendments!
Apple & plum tress are packed with blossoms this season, hopefully we have a good fruit season. My neighbour said it was suppose to be "a good year for her apples"; hopefully my trees are following their lead.
Made a pig run at my sister's place for our families hogs. It's a forested area with a pond/surface well/wallow that hopefully keeps them occupied for a while. We can expand it later in the Summer but right now they are having fun ripping around. I would like to eventually set up a rotational grazing system for them but that will require some planning and forethought.
The meaty birds are doing well... I think. I find the meat breeds more finicky, it seems like half the things your suppose to do for raising meat birds is more like superstition that actual facts. I'm just trying my best to observe them as often as possible and make adjustments as I see them. This year I had 3 chicks with sinus issues. I isolated them for 3 weeks and gave them extra TLC; not sure if it was viral, bacterial, or developmental. They seemed energetic, to be eating & drinking well, and overall happy chicks but they had the sneezes and clearly a hard time breathing through their nostrils. The internet tells me 101 terrible things that are happing to them. My "chicken guru" tells me you would have to send one away for analysis to actually know what's going on so just give them some vitamins and hope for the best. I have Western Rustics. I tried the Mistral Gris last season but I had a painfully awful time with them injuring their legs when they were 3 to 4 weeks old. I was told it was because I let them run around outside too early... but I want birds that can run around outside early. I would love to breed my own multi-purpose landrace variety one day.
So apparently when I'm feeling blue... I order books! I'm excited to poke my way through them over coffee in the morning. I started a thread for people working their way through the "Building Your Permaculture Property" book here: Accountibility Group & Buddies . I've also been listening to Paul's podcasts as I work away prepping beds and transplanting. Gardening + Podcasts = My Happy Place.
Recently Rob, Michelle, and Takota had their book launch and online permaculture forum. There were quite a few Permies who attended and purchased their book & resource package. Yay!
In there book they recommend finding an accountability partner to help keep you on track! I wanted to create this thread to find buddies, share progress & hurdles, and share questions and concerns in regards to process described in "Building your Permaculture Property".
Let us know if your interested in joining a group discussion or finding a buddy to work with 1-on-1~
Yes, I've been pretty spoiled actually. Renting the space has allowed me to "try out market gardening" without huge overhead costs: having to invest in fencing (there is 10 ft elk fencing around the whole property), irrigation & pump, tools and equipment (Jang seeder, hand tractor if I ever needed it), wash station prep area, and established 50 ft raised beds. The owner has decided she wanted to take a step back from gardening this year to be able to spend more time with her family so I have access to an additional greenhouse this season too. She grew up on the land so I know it hasn't been sprayed. She's worked hard to build the soil in her gardens with compost, crop cover, and diverse species planting. The beds are located right next to a pond and the ground retains moisture really well. I'm hoping to move towards a system that doesn't require irrigation, or very little. She now has a live stock guardian dog. She has mini goats to help keep down the weeds and brush. I pay part of my rent by selling the produce and poultry back to her and her family.
Overall it has been a great experience being able to have hands on knowledge of what it takes to grow food using a more traditional market garden process. Or even just run a business in general. I mean, there is a lot of work that needs to be done before it's fully formed permaculture farm, but it allows me the space to experiment with pretty low risk and investment. Land in this area is crazy expensive! No joke, a mobile home, in a mobile home park (so you don't own the land), was listed for over $330,000! So I'm very happy with my 'practice' zones until I have the skill and resources to take on more.
My name is Ashley Cottonwood and I'm a long time Permies lurker and recent staff member. I'm a huge fan of Paul's work and have been bitten by the "permaculture bug". This thread is to share and document my journey to becoming a homesteader, a permaculturalist, and my journey through SKIP in order to become PEP1 and eventually PEP2 certified.
I'm located in British Columbia in the Kootenays. The sites that I work with range from zone 3 to 5.
A Little Background...
I graduated from university and moved back to my home town; I had a hard time finding work in my field so ended up working in the tourism industry and living the "ski bum" lifestyle. I felt stuck! I had all this knowledge and no way to apply it, I loved spending time in nature yet could see how my lifestyle was actively destroying the very thing I loved, I wanted to contribute to my community in a meaningful way but didn't have an outlet. My friend suggested going to a PDC; I spent a few months on Salt Spring Island at the Seven Ravens' Permaculture Institute and my life flipped upside down from there. Even on my way home from the course I picked up a box of chicks and was hell bent on starting a composting program... regardless of the fact in lived in a trailer park that most definitely did not allow hens or large piles of bear attractants!
Since then it has been 4 years. I now run an organic market garden, small scale poultry operation, and compost program. I own a "half-acre homestead", rent 5 acres for my business, and help my sister manage and develop her newly acquired 5 acre property. I'm a class E certified poultry operator and raise a small flock of heritage meat birds in addition to my own personal backyard flock of layers. I have a background in genetics and would love to start developing a landrace of multi-purpose birds for the area.
Where I'm Going...
My current projects include re-working my compost program to address the issues of micro-plastics and latent pesticides. I'm working on converting my traditional market garden to more of a "permaculture farm" to experiment with increasing biodiversity and resiliency; I want to become more profitable while doing less work overtime. Luckily, the landowner is also on the same page! She is a permaculture designer and works hard to develop her property into a biodiverse oasis. I'd like to switch from raising meat birds for other people to teaching people how to raise their own micro flocks and process them on their own. There is a growing movement to allow micro-flocks in urban spaces in my community.
My goal is to try and become as self-sufficient as possible on my little 1/2 acre so one day I'm able to take on 10 to 100 acres! I plan help my sister design her property so that I can help her flourish while continuing to increase my own knowledge and experience. My dream would be to create a permaculture demonstration site, similar to Wheaton Labs, with my own personal flair and interests. In the pursuit of land I'm working on being PEP1 certified by the end of this year!
I welcome you to share in my journey; to help me with your own experiences and wisdom, to learn from my mistakes & triumphs, or to simply enjoy cute photos of chicks in tea cups!
I know I'm still very inexperienced; I've chosen a path of throwing myself into the field and seeing what sticks rather than working under someone who is a master in their craft. This might be outrageous but is a decision based on my personal circumstances rather than a belief that I'm better off on my own. So please, feel free to comment, ask questions, and share your own journey!
I'm BB60 looking to be PEP1 certified by the end of 2022. My goal is to be PEP2 certified by the end of 2025. My primary goal is homesteading and regenerative agriculture. My dream is to develop/create/establish a permaculture/biodynamic demonstration site. I currently run a small organic market garden, a small scale poultry operation, and a composting program. I would like to no longer have a "day job" and pursue market gardening, animal husbandry, and homesteading full-time. My day job and and farming pursuits take about 50:50 of my time currently.
I live in British Columbia. I would ideally like to stay in the Kootenay area. I'm 30 years old, have a husband who is the "builder" to my "gardener", and currently no children. We own 1/2 acre of land, and I rent another 5 acres for my business, and help manage another 5 acres belonging to my sister. I specialize in poultry but also have experience raising hogs. I'm passionate about gardening and animal husbandry. My husband has general carpentry and mechanical skills. I have a background in Biochemistry & Health Sciences, I worked for Agriculture Canada for 4 years, and have my PDC.
We would be open to moving onto a property to work alongside our Otis.
- Chicken: Is perched, I don't think it needs legs
- Metalworking character moved slightly up and to the right to contrast better against the Abbey
- Rocket Over = Rad
- I like how the title is nice and clear
I never stop learning with poultry! I have Ameraucanas that are 7 months old and have been laying for a couple weeks. I came home today to find an egg in the nesting box with a soft shell. Not the first time I've seen this with young hens... but I also noticed a mass of clotted blood in with the yolk and albumin. Not just a spec but a loonie sized mass of blood (that's the funny Canadian money). I haven't noticed any signs of poor health with my flock. Has anyone seen this before? I'm worried about my fuzz faces!
Duplications mean that you can do the same BB twice to meet the point for the badge level. It would be unlikely you would be given credit for doing a BB three times over or more.
If a badge requirement indicates that you can do "new" items from a lower level badge (such as Sand ) it means you can get points for the badge you are working on by preforming BBs from a lower level badge you may have already completed (as long as you have not already claimed the points for those specific BBs when completing the previous badge)
My experience was that I was just slowly asphyxiating my poor rooster. At first is seemed to be working but then I realized he was having troubles eating properly. I would tighten it, loosen it, widen the strap, narrow the strap, but I came to the conclusion I was just slowly torturing my poor bird.
- My friends with student loan debt and no job in their "field"
- Friends who like potlucks
- Hipster friends who like living sustainably (but are not sure how)
- Friends who making sourdough and canning things
- People in my local homesteading group
- Ski bums / Ski Patroller
- Tree Planters
- Red neck friends
- Friends with land that don't know what to do with it
- My parents rich friends that don't know what to do with it
- Rich locals that like "green living"
- People who visit my farm stand
- People in my CSA
- Friends with kids that love being outside
- Friends with kids that are book worms
- Friends that run "forest schools"
- Friends that are high school teachers
- Entrepreneur friends
- Local sustainability groups
- City council (of my small town full of hipsters)
- people in their 20s that are struggling to "get out" or find a better path
How do you reach these people? I know a lot of these people, If not in their 30s. People with degrees & debt and can't see a way out. I know them personally but I don't know where they congregate ... besides bars & coffee shops.
- Girl Guides
- Community Garden Societies
- Seed Exchanges
- Teachers - Shop Class/Textiles/Home-Ed
- Youth Support Groups (There a specific non-profits where I am that help young adults with job skills, connecting with others, counselling, things to do that aren't drugs, ect)
- Homesteading groups
- Survivalist groups
- Zero Waste groups
Rob & Takota are amazing people! They are doing so much in my area to create a community around permaculture, regenerative agriculture, and resilient communities. They've been holding live YoutTube sessions and Zoom meetings during the pandemic in order to help facilitate the surge of interest in the area. They both offer tons of free resources and information beyond this book.
I've met them in person and they are so kind and so happy to answer questions and engage with you one on one. I haven't met with Michelle yet but she also seems like a total badass!
Will have to get my hands on a copy and give a review!
I thought this would take me 20 minutes... I was very wrong!
Coils (Ew Ew Ew Ew)
- Mostly warm water with a rag
- Top was super greasy so I used a little bit of biodegradable dish soap (an a lot of elbow grease!)
- Dust Rag & Vacuum for Coils
- Baking soda for rust spots on stainless steel
- A little bit of vinegar in the mop water for under the fridge (We've had mice)