Jennifer Jennings

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since Mar 06, 2013
39.720014, -74.875139 - Waterford Works, NJ
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Recent posts by Jennifer Jennings

I loved the faceplant in the river.  That's exactly what I look like in my garden...every day.
3 months ago
"Gracie's Backyard" is the latest video release by Possible.org, and delivers a well-rounded view of permaculture practices that is often overlooked.

Ridgedale Permaculture Farm is a working regenerative agricultural system covering 10 hectares in the northern climate of Sweden, specializing in pastured poultry and market garden produce, while educating interns on silvo/agroforestry permaculture.  Many students come to Ridgedale with no previous farming experience, and that’s not a problem for Richard Perkins.  “I’m looking for people who are driven by a desire to be a benefit,” says Perkins, who hired his market garden manager based on his character, and not his skills.  His belief in the value of his staff’s diverse skill sets has allowed the farm to flourish, both as a business, and as a community.  Workers can follow their interest and move through all functions of the farming process without restraint, building strong bonds between one another.  “I feel like my strengths and flaws are welcome here,” said one woman.   

That holistic approach to the farm business is an overarching theme.  Although the film begins with the farm, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not a traditional farm success story.  "Gracie's Backyard" goes beyond the pastured eggs and CSA boxes and into the hearts of people.  Unlike most other environmental films concerning permaculture, the film gives equal value to the practice of growing children and human interactions; it shows the often overlooked social aspects of what our modern systems lack in education, employment, and community. 

The film captures the essence of profitable business and environmental responsibility without losing the romantic charm of agricultural idealism.  As the farm’s cook stated, “We’re not doing hippie stuff; it’s more about achieving something, and trying to be more free, and have free time to do what you like.  It’s also to create a better world.”

An intrinsic part of that better world is the namesake of the movie, Grace.  At almost 6 years old, she has an amazing grasp on the circle of life, and her part in it.  There is no school in the world that can provide the education she receives every day in her backyard; “Gracie is…living very spontaneously and very empowered to get into anything she wants,” says her Father, Richard.  She has a role on the farm, helping in whatever way she can, and is not excluded in the decision making process.  “I think the more we include kids, in an adult way…the more they take responsibility,” he adds.  That model seems to be working; according to her fellow farmers, Gracie holds her own in both labor and conversation, to the point where her fieldmates sometimes forget she’s a child.

As with all Possible.org films, the visuals are vibrant and beautiful, and the soundtrack is tailored to the visuals.  Olivier Asselin’s camera work is tight and succinct, bringing the right amount of breadth and depth to the landscape without losing the focus of the individuals in them.  The story weaves the threads of earth care and people care together in a way that usually gets lost in the shadow of a PDC, and does it in gentle, intelligent way, making  "Gracie's Backyard" a delight to watch.

1 year ago
I had the good fortune to review Jean Martin Fortier's video companion to his book "The Market Gardener," and I wasn't disappointed. If you feel you didn't support his project on Kickstarter and want to purchase the film now, please use the links in the review (and I might get a shekel or two).

I gave the video a 9.5 out of 10 acorns (are we allowed a half acorn?), and that wasn't being generous; Olivier Asselin and JM Fortier put a helluva lot of work into everything they do, and this was no exception. They designed this film to be absorbable for everyone and not just the hardcore Permie - which makes it a fabulous gateway tool for the "uninfected" future Permie. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


The local food and farm-to-table movements are pushing forward a whole new generation of farmers; farmers who look at farming in a completely different way than the traditional mega-agriculture farmer would. Instead of using sprawling landscapes, these greenjeans are concentrating on the most efficient use of even the smallest plot of land, getting a lot of bang for their buck and a lot of food to the market. For them, working the soil is a combination of honest hard work, a love of what they do, and a smart business model – the end results of which create the best of both worlds where farmers actually feed people and make money.

This new farming model is filmmaker Olivier Asselin and Possible Media’s latest video offering, “The Market Gardener’s Toolkit,” where they follow farmer Jean-Martin Fortier through the daily functioning of his Quebec farm, sharing his knowledge of operating a successful farm on 1.5 acres. The film, designed specifically as a video tutorial for those desiring to enter the world of farming for profit, removes the mystery from veggie rearing and opens up a whole new world of modern farming.

From the very first chapter,“The Market Gardener’s Toolkit,” takes a no nonsense, high common sense approach to farm design, management, and food production. Fortier focuses on the “three E’s” of farming: environment, economy, and efficiency. The majority of tools they use on his farm are hand tools, with only one multipurpose Rototiller-style, gas powered tool that uses under $300 of gasoline yearly; such low equipment costs ensure few barriers into entering the honorable profession of farming. Some equipment can even be custom-built on the cheap (like the canister vacuum powered tray seeder Fortier demonstrates) and are pure Yankee ingenuity (or pure Canadian ingenuity, in this case).

The meat and potatoes of this video (well, at least, the potatoes part) clearly defines everything one needs to know about successfully running a market garden farm. Fortier outlines in detail land requirements, equipment, startup costs, farm design, marketing the product, resources, potential pitfalls, and everything in between. Some of the most valuable information he provides is the reasoning behind their best practices, and why taking a different approach than his may or may not work for you.

Fortier also gives you the tools to customize your approach so that you have measurable and consistent success. For example, he standardizes his vegetable beds to serve as a unit of measure; this allows him to calculate yields and inputs on his crops with a very small margin of error, thereby removing some of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that normally plague the traditional farmer. Such standardization also lends itself to making other things on the farm easier to implement and duplicate, such as irrigation, greenhouse length and width, row cover requirements, and rotation of crops each season.

And what to do with those crops once they’ve been harvested? Fortier also covers all processes that follow harvesting, including cleaning, bundling, storage, transport, marketing and sales of his crops. The film approaches farming with an eye to vertical integration, from the soil prep to the end sale of product. With each concept, Fortier sows the seeds of the future farmer’s success by leaving nothing to chance; the inputs of time, materials, and manpower have all been calculated with the business acumen of a Wharton graduate, and tempered with almost Amish common sense. Fortier has had plenty of practice condensing his considerable field knowledge prior to filming; his book, "The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower's Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming," has sold over 70,000 copies.

Possible media’s previous successes include ”The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic,” "Permaculture Skills: A Cold-Climate, Applied Permaculture Design Course," and "The Art and Science of Natural Plaster," both of which incorporated dense information with striking visual appeal. True to form, Asselin and Possible Media have again delivered a clean, crisp, fresh DIY tutorial that is both attractive to the eye, and to the ear. The flyovers of the farm, and the macro views of the rich garden environment would entice even the brownest thumb to try their hand at farming the land. The film style is lively and dynamic, and even static shots where Fortier is explaining the method at hand are not boring. Add to that the whimsical artistic drawings announcing each chapter, and a toe tapping soundtrack that would inspire even the most jaded composter, and “The Market Gardener’s Toolkit,” makes for an attractive education in profitable farming practice.

From a nutritional perspective, the key is to feed the brain what it really needs upon waking, which is fat and protein. Our standard American diet focuses on carbs and sugar, which promotes melatonin production in the body (a sleep hormone) instead of serotonin, which should be on the rise just a you come out of sleep in the morning. This, in turn, flips hormone production on its head; as a result, you're sleepy and exhausted at mid morning, and your sleep is crappy (especially if you had a fatty protein dinner the night before).

The bulletproof model can use any kind of natural fat and no sugar; I use coconut MCT oil with heavy or light cream, whisk them together to minimize seperation, and add stevia. I've also used egg yolks in place of the cream. With only that as my breakfast, I'm not hungry until 2-3pm, with no tiredness whatsoever. My clients have used this to break their sugar addiction and reboot their metabolism, and it does work. For me, someone with a picky palette and a frugal streak, doing my version of Bulletproof coffee was a better fit, faster and tastier.
2 years ago
For those into homemade hooch, I just reviewed Victoria Redhed Miller's latest book "Craft Distilling: Making Liquor Legally at Home". Vicky has been a forum guest at Permies in the past when she released her "Pure Poultry" book, and this latest DIY book is a new venue - making hooch! That said, you can read my review here - Examiner.com, or avoid the hassle of Examiner.com and read the review below (please note that hyperlinks to her book do put a few shekels in my wallet, if you choose to buy it - Examiner pays squat, pretty much).

I give this book 8 out of 10 acorns - primarily because I am not an expert in this field - but I am mechanically challenged, and still felt I could attempt distilling my own booze.

Making your own distilled spirits has been a largely ignored area in the DIY market, and not since Prohibition has there been serious interest in “homebrewed hooch” until now. With local microbreweries and wineries popping up everywhere, it was only a matter of time until people’s interest turned to the harder liquors, the fine spirits market, and a surge of enthusiasm for home distilling. Indulging that hobby, however, is not easy. It requires a still, fire, is illegal to do in some states, and is a gray area with very little good information…at least until Victoria Redhed Miller’s latest book, "Craft Distilling: Making Liquor Legally at Home" hit the bookstores.

So, how does one make a smooth dark rum, a single malt scotch, or a kickin’ tequila without poisoning yourself or blowing up your house in a still explosion? Miller, an avid do-it-yourselfer, went on the quest to answer those questions and documented the entire process, soup to nuts; all her hard work has made for an exceptional book that anyone can use to make the booze of their dreams.

Miller begins with a short history lesson on the “what” and “why” of liquor and liquor law (while making a most excellent case for Federal legalization of home distilling), but quickly progresses into the “how” of still construction and operation. She details every step of still assembly clearly so that even the least mechanically-inclined can duplicate her process. She also explains the liquor lingo of “heads”, “tails”, and other alcohol-related nomenclature as she moves through building, cleaning, testing, and using her distiller to make numerous spirits. Ingredients, mashing, fermentation, and aging are all covered thoroughly; Miller generously shares all of her experimentation, both successful and failed, and garnishes the lessons learned with a twist of humor.

As a bonus, Miller includes a chapter on boozy peripherals, such as the classic mixers of bitters, syrups, homemade tonic water (the real stuff without the high fructose corn syrup, mind you), and even maraschino cherries. The recipes included for these mixologist necessities are a pleasant bonus; even if you have no desire to build your own still, you might just want to make the best ginger syrup on the planet.

Miller’s chapter on the economics of liquor make for an interesting lesson that no farmer (or government) should ignore. Her concise, almost balance sheet-like analysis shows how anyone with extra fruit or grain could easily pad their wallet with a bit of networking and resourcefulness. Miller closes a farm-to-table loop that’s usually left open to waste by connecting the dots between the produce grower, the distiller, and the stockyard; information like that could easily keep more farmers in business and improve the overall economy of the United States.

Miller moves easily between the history, science, and implementation of creating homecrafted hard liquor, intertwining the three into an easy read on a difficult topic. If you’ve made your own wine but were intimidated by raising your game to include brandy or kirsch, fear not – this book was written with you in mind. All told, "Craft Distilling: Making Liquor Legally at Home" condenses a vast amount of hard liquor information into a great read that goes down like a Château de Montifaud cognac – smooth, easy, and leaving you wanting some more.


2 years ago
Geoff's comment on "White privilege" was most likely based on the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of Caucasians to any other race group, and of that group, the majority have a higher level of education and income - hence, the potential for someone to assume there is "white privilege." This assumption works against the goal of getting permaculture to those who need it most - the disadvantaged and poor - and prevents us as a whole getting to the tipping point. Fortunately, Geoff also made it clear that some of their best work is being done in the poorest neighborhoods of Detroit where the population is in dire need of support and empowerment.

In order to serve those populations, you need more teachers in those populations - especially in Latino populations (he also mentioned we should be teaching more PDCs in Spanish, right?).
The next meeting of South Jersey Permaculture is this Thursday, June 19th @ 7pm. Topic is "Bee Foods for a Healthier Brood - Plants for Healthy Hives". Meetup info here: http://www.meetup.com/Permaculture-Network-of-NJ/events/189352702/?a=co1.1_grp&rv=co1.1 Hope to see some of you there!
4 years ago
Welcome Arthur! I'm always interested in plant preservation, conservation and propagation; is there any particular ancestral plant that is becoming endangered, and we should focus on preserving it? Any plant that is disappearing based on environmental causes or habitat loss? What plants are you most concerned about?
4 years ago

Ben Goldacre's book "Bad Science" looks specifically at foot detox treatments as one of his examples of bad science. The water goes brown and gunky looking after treatment so it must be taking toxins from the client right? Except that the water goes brown and gunky during "treatment" even if they don't put their feet in. Well worth a read.



Actually, Michael, you might be assuming a few things; I have read that book (on my shelf right now, in fact) and while Goldacre does a fair job of proving his point, he also focuses on that point to the exclusion of all else. I am hyperaware of the incredible amount of bad science in the healthcare field and I deal with the damage done by it every day ( like terminal cancer patients who were told shark cartilage would save their lives, for example). My business staying open, profitable, and reputable depends on both scientific and empiric evidenciary practices - and I will not have it any other way.

So, before we bought our detox unit, we extensively tested it with using water from multiple residences (where the water quality had been recently tested), public water sources, and distilled water. We tested each of these without any human interaction to determine if there was any coloration or change in water viscosity or behavior. There was no reaction to any of the water with the exception of a well water sample that was known to be heavy in iron (which created a slight orange color).

After that trial, we recruited a sample group of 30 clients (15 men, 15 women) who agreed to try the detox unit. We did not tell them what it did, nor what was expected to happen. We already had health histories on them all as well. We required that their lower legs and feet were to have no lotions, perfumes, or creams of any kind. The sessions were timed exactly, before and after photos were taken of the water, and seperate photos of the water (in sample glasses against a white background for color accuracy) were also taken. Each sample was labeled with the number of the client (no names were used) to compare against their known health information.

While we did not test the water in a lab, the empiric results were striking. The water samples ranged from pale rust to brown-black, and the client with the brown-black water later changed their diet by eliminating processed foods and re-tested a medium rust color. Additionally, the after-test questionnaires we received recorded a varied and interesting number of post-test reactions, including a feeling of general wellness, fewer headaches, better sleep, less hayfever, and improved restless leg syndrome. Two out of the 30 noticed no perceptible change.

With results like those, I was comfortable purchasing the unit and offering it as one of our spa modalities. It will stay there until such time as our clients feel they no longer benefit from it...but our clients undergoing chemo swear by it. That is the scientific testing that I require.

There are many things that we have an inability to explain with math at the moment, but that does not mean these things do not work or exist. In those situations, I defer to the human experience and empirical observation - which is the core of permaculture, is it not? - until such time as the math proves or disproves otherwise.
4 years ago
Thank you so much, Ardilla - your explanation was excellent!

I understand all too well the kind of lab costs we might be looking at; we do a foot detox treatment in my spa that the clients swear works for them but I've not been able to put the water through testing for the exact same reason - it's almost $800 per sample ($1600 for control and after sample) to sort out what (if anything) exactly has been removed from the client. A Home Depot water test won't do for what we're looking for, and I doubted our compost would be any different. Thank you for all your insights.
4 years ago