Amy Arnett

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since Oct 21, 2016
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Nara, Japan. Zone 8-ish
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Recent posts by Amy Arnett

Brody, sounds like you are in the midst of a tough life transition. I relate to a lot of what you described. I hear some "sunken cost fallacy" in not wanting to give up what you put into your current place. I have moved several times and given up a lot of work put into other places, but ultimately the landscape is meaningless if your other needs aren't going to be met there. It's normal to grieve the loss and lament not being in  control of the places' future. I take comfort in the skills, experience, knowledge gained during the time that will always be with me. And try to remind myself that whether or not it continues, the life/ecosystem/restoration/carbon sequestration etc. that was achieved during the time I was in control is always meaningful and a positive even if it doesn't last. After all nothing lasts.

I remember being all-consumed with the urgency of the permaculture way, so much so that it became tied to my self worth. Anything not permaculture or not sustainable that I did was bad and I was bad and wrong, hurting the earth, hurting everyone's future, whenever I did anything not perfectly aligned with my perceived permaculture ideals. I also felt I needed to make up for past behavior and offset the unsustainable parts of my life by permacultur-ing extra hard. This way of thinking was unsustainable, costing my mental health and my relationships.

I related to your description of a permaculture awakening that changes your whole perspective, purpose, priorities. I went through another kind of awakening which kind of settled me back down in a way and broadened my perspective to include permaculture as just a part of everything. Where we are today is the product of everyone and everything that came before and I think I was putting an unfair expectation on myself of fixing the world and as quickly as I could separating from the unsustainable modern world. The reality is that I can only do what I can. I'm cutting myself some slack and taking less responsibility for things outside of my control. I wasn't born into this society on purpose and I didn't make it this way. Of course I will do what I can to change it, but I don't beat myself up for what I can't change anymore. I went through a grief process for the state of the world and the inevitability of suffering, devastation, and what not. In accepting all that and accepting how little I can individually actually do, I became free to enjoy my progress however big or small, to not feel guilty about spending time with my family or having fun, to get excited about a new project without the specter of obligation looming, and to rest. That is the balance I have reached between my ideals and reality so far. Hopefully that all made sense...

I think the most important skill in a relationship is communication and it sounds like you guys are communicating well. I don't think partners necessarily have to have a common goal as long as your differing goals don't contradict one another, and you can be supportive of each other's differences without getting resentful. Ultimately I think it's important to accept your partner as they are and expect the same from them. I think it's important for a partner to listen to your perspective, but at the same time we can't expect them to change their minds or have an awakening based on the same information or in the same time frame as we did. Spending a whole life side by side, each one will be ahead or behind at certain points. What matters is if it's something you can wait on and for how long. But of course in your relationship, if having the same goals is very important for you, then that's what's important for you and that's ok.

I think it's totally normal to give up a "good job" and perfect house for any reason you think is important to you. Your job doesn't sound very good for you from how you talk about it though. We have left jobs and moved a few times. When it becomes clear that the current situation isn't working for us, it's time to move on. I wonder if there is work that is more aligned with your current values if you moved back?

I think it's amazing that you guys are able to openly communicate these things!
1 year ago
Hi Bobby, welcome to permies!

Your plan sounds good to me. I would recommend digging up/pulling out the monster grasses, as I call them. They tend to poke their way through cardboard or grow horizontally til they find an edge. I've found it's just easier in the long run to dig them out, which isn't easy if they've made a big ball of roots from being weed whacked.
The grass that gets like this:

Old tatami have been a great source of straw. There is a lot of straw packed into them. Kind of a pain to take apart, but the older ones from abandoned houses seem to all have used natural strings to bind them.

Please keep us updated!
2 years ago
I petsat once for a senior cat who had similar symptoms, would meow/howl randomly for a few minutes and then go back to normal. Their vet thought it might be some kind of dementia, where the cat might be forgetting where it is and who its people are, panics and gets stuck crying. They used a calming pheromone collar and it worked well. I don't remember the exact one, but it was purple. Something like this:

2 years ago
Yes! bird wonderland! We are hoping to set up a rotational silvopasture situation kind of like edible acres does with perennials in their chicken run, but with multiple runs. The 17 chickies we have now are a good number for our current house and garden. The other house has a similar size garden/hatake space that came with it, but we haven't had any time to do anything with it yet, besides pull up all the plastic and metal roofing that was acting as weed prevention. It's gotten pretty overgrown, but at least it's green.

A big challenge is setting up fencing that is secure enough to keep out weasels since the property is terraced and has probably ten different levels/hatake areas. There are some larger, unused fields across the street and across the river that would be better for rotational grazing. Just need to figure out who they belong to and if we can buy/rent them. That might be years away though.

I think it's best to start small and slowly expand. So even just a few birds in one of the gardens of the extra house would be a good start to help clean up and keep the weeds and bugs down while we replant. 

Religion isn't very prevalent around here, so I would definitely recommend coming here for a break and to step outside for a bit and figure things out. Participating in the ecology and regeneration of the land is becoming a very spiritual experience for me. I have lots and lots to say about religion and spirituality, but I'm noticing this thread is not in the cider press, which is where we like to talk about that kind of controversial stuff. So I might start a thread there later, or please feel free to pm me if you want to talk more about it now!

Yes there are all kinds of people and all manner of village customs, but my experience so far has felt more relaxed than my life ever was in the states. I acknowledge that I currently kind of reap the benefits of living here while also not being held to the strict conformity that Japan is known for because I am obviously foreign. For people who want to come to japan for school or a fulltime job like teaching english, the expectations can be pretty suffocating  depending on the company of course. I first came here for grad school and ended up dropping out after I got married. It really depends on where you end up and who you are working under, so if you are willing to shop around chances are you can find a place that fits you. We've lived a few other places in the country and settled on our current village for lots of reasons, but mostly because they were very welcoming to newcomers and there were already a couple other younger people using the word permaculture. Of course we have some grumpy neighbors who wish we would cut the grass, but they are politely grumpy. And they can't really complain when most of the neighborhood is abandoned and overgrown...

I'm autistic and while I didn't do well in the university I chose (I also didn't know I was autistic or had adhd at the time either) I feel more comfortable where I am now than I did in the US. And for my situation, I think it's easier to do what I want to do living here in this particular village. In fact there is a need for what we want to do. I'm fortunate to have a partner who doesn't mind taking care of all the paperwork and phone calls and PTA business. 

We are hoping to be able to eliminate some of the obstacles to living here for other people who would really benefit from being here and would also benefit the surrounding environment with their presence; if that makes sense. Like a place to just be for a while, and just do what you want. Maybe it's just my experience, but I feel like things are more reasonable here. Like what it takes to live, finance-wise, resource-wise, community-wise. And the coutryside is way more relaxed regarding appearance, what you're wearing, schedules, pace etc.

Some little things I've noticed that make it easier for me personally: eye contact is not expected, greetings are not physical, "not feeling good" is an acceptable reason not to attend and there are usually no follow up questions, it's very unlikely that staff or strangers will get mad at you, like if I bump into someone, they also apologize, and when it's not possible to outsource a phone call to my husband, I can be 99% sure what the other person will say. As you mentioned, day to day speech is ritualized, it's all decided, so it's easier to do the things needed for daily life like grocery shopping because the person on register will say the same things in the same order every time, they won't comment on what I'm buying or get annoyed with me for any reason. Car horns are used for saying thankyou; in general, drivers are very patient and give way. Taking the test for a japanese license after my international expired was very stressful though....

There are of course things that are hard to deal with sometimes and the city is definitely a rougher vibe than here in the village. The grocery store is loud, I wear ear plugs whenever we go out. Sometimes people randomly ask me if I'm the new English teacher. People feel free to open the front door and holler into the house to check if anyone is home. There is littering and dumping in the countryside. So many layers of plastic packaging.

There is more availability of gluten free stuff recently and online orders arrive usually within two days. Have you tried a gluten free soy sauce? I see some for sale on japanese amazon. There is a kid in the village with a wheat allergy, so they would know where to get alternatives and gluten free ingredients. And there aren't many places to eat out nearby anyway, we mostly make our own food.

Before I ramble any further, I'll stop here with a picture of the extra house...
2 years ago
Excellent rant, Sarah!

I really relate to a lot of what you wrote. I felt similarly out of place and disenchanted with society when I lived in the US. Sounds like you would fit in really well in the Japanese countryside. Your train society idea would be doable too, there are plenty of trains already. It sucks that travel restrictions are still in place, but they are temporary. We will possibly be able to get vaccinated in a few weeks, and the olympics are supposedly still going on, so depending on how that goes, I think travel could possibly resume this year. *fingers crossed* 

Your feelings after giving up your faith are understandable and totally normal. I felt similarly when I left about ten years ago, but I'm just recently starting work on healing from the trauma associated with my indoctrination and upbringing. The book "leaving the fold" by Marlene Winell and the associated workbook was very helpful for me. The workbook is free on her website I think. She also hosts an online support group for people in various stages of leaving their faith and dealing with still living in a religious environment or with religious family. 

Sounds like you are really burnt out  and it must be unbearable having stay, work, live in a hurtful situation. Sounds like your "inner critic" is very loud as well. It's ok to not do things that you used to like if you don't feel like it. It's ok to just be. It's ok to stare at the wall for a few hours sometimes. It's such a huge step to notice and be willing to work on healing generational trauma, and it takes a lot of energy.  I heard somewhere that it's impossible to heal completely while you are still in a traumatizing environment. So I agree that you need an escape plan. 

At the risk of being suspiciously forward, you would be welcome to "work stay" in our extra house once travel is open. Not the one still listed in my signature...there is another house I haven't gotten around to listing it because travel restrictions and general overwhelm of daily life. We actually moved into the listed house just this last week. Anyway, you could have your own private house and surrounding garden space to not weed and not water :). Honestly just being in the house is a huge help as it keeps animals from moving in. There are lots of small tasks that aren't labour intensive that would be helpful. We also want to get more chickens and possibly other animals, but don't have the time or infrastructure to meet our own animal welfare standards yet. We are hoping to attract others who prioritize the behavioural/mental needs of their animals. Anyway, that could be a possible escape plan for you. If it's helpful to fantasize and plan a stay here, I'm happy to talk about more details and what a life here would be like. And if you decide against it later or something else comes along, no big deal! 

I've found your posts on permies helpful, knowledgeable and insightful and we are so happy to have you as part of this community. 
2 years ago

r ranson wrote:Sleep and the body scan.  I've done this since I was a kid - be aware of each individual part of the body (start with the left toes and move up), tighten the muscles, relax with an out-breath, continue.  This worked fine for sleep before puberty.  It still helps for nights when there is no sleep as it imitates some of what happens while I sleep so the body feels more rested in the morning.  

My body isn't restless.    It just won't sleep.  It is like a broken switch in the body that lets it go into sleep mode.  

One doctor theorized it is not producing a chemical needed to turn it off.  But we couldn't get the tests to find out what was missing.  I can get a fair amount of rest just turning off my mind and staying still, but not proper sleep.  

I do all the things.  I turn off screens at 4 pm.  I exercise, being careful to eat the right things at the right times, stretch, be calm, don't use the bed for anything other than sleeping, make sure the room is completely dark... on and on.  I do it all. I've tried all the over the counter herbs and remedies. Most of the "sleep" herbs have the opposite effect - like 60 coffees directly injected into my brain.  

Are there any situations you can think of where you can't help falling asleep? For example: riding in a car, floating in a pool, watching tv in an easy chair, sitting in a tree, swinging in a hammock etc. If so, maybe that situation could be recreated at home.

When I have trouble falling asleep and mindfulness isn't working, I put on a "sleepy playlist" of sleepy music I have curated over the years of songs that make me sleepy. Sometimes it works better to focus on something external and familiar, like a sleepy song on repeat or audiobook. Sometimes focusing on my internal state or daydreaming is too stimulating, so the music works somehow.

Sounds like you are ready for "advanced" CBT! If you got a workbook for the class, skip ahead and see if anything interesting is ahead. If it's boring and painful, it's not working. It should be relaxing or at least a positive experience. But I think the point of CBT is that it is supposed to be tailored to each patients needs and how their mind is working. I guess a group class setting would be very basic skills, and it sounds like you have those already!

I don't remember where I learned this or if it falls under CBT. Specifically with nagging pain, I like to visualize the pain as some kind of creature like a gecko or something in my mindscape. This poor gecko is running around frantically trying to alert me to the pain/damage in my body. I hold the gecko, say something like "thanks for letting me know. I'm working on it. You can rest now" and set it on a leaf in my mind forest and imagine it settling in to just bask in the sun for a while. Sometimes I feel better, the pain is still there, but it seems less nagging, like it takes less of my attention. It's a little woo woo and you have to be into it for it to work, but it's the concept of accepting and befriending the pain as a part of you.

Sorry if those are things you've tried already. It's so frustrating to be an outlier!
2 years ago

Lew Johnson wrote:Oh and...

dokudami (Houttuynia Cordata) is apparently allelopathic? Which makes me wonder whether I should purge it from my raised garden. It does seem to be inhibiting growth around it.

I think of dokudami as plant that does well in harsh areas and won't get eaten by animals, so I would give the raised garden space to a more tender plant and move the dokudami somewhere where nothing else seems to grow. I haven't noticed it being particularly allelopathic, but it's not really in our garden near other plants, it was already growing near the road outside the fence and it's happy there.

For the beetles and cabbage moths last year we ended up covering our plants with those white, row cover sheets, the word escapes me right now. You've probably seen it in other peoples fields...Once the bugs move along, the cover can come off. We also spent a lot of time checking for eggs under the leaves and squishing them.

This year we have chickens, so will try getting them to eat the bugs. I did notice that some of the extra starts that I had planted here and there in a more polyculture way, stuffed amongst many other plants and weeds, didn't suffer much damage. They didn't produce much either as I was completely neglecting them as experiments. This year I will try to tend them a little better and more purposefully choose the plants around them.

I did notice last year that the little black beetles preferred a weed with little pink flowers over the curcubits. I'll try to find it in our plant books.

I give this book 10 out of 10 acorns.

Way more than a cookbook! An essential guide for making your own food from homestead to table. 

I'm not a cookbook person and generally wing it when cooking, but this is a book I will actually use. The book is full of straightforward, practical, doable recipes and techniques specific to the needs of a homestead kitchen. Coming from an offgrid mindset this book offers recipes catering to ingredients available to us whether grown in our garden or foraged from nearby. There are helpful tips for recipe variations and replacing ingredients. Variation notes are a helpful, inspiring touch, and a great lesson on how to change up recipes in general.  

Recipes such as "any fruit crumble", "any vegetable gratin", "grains, sourdough, and year-round recipes", "cooking with whole animals" show the versatility of this book as useful anywhere in the world with harvests form any garden. 

Many recipes are foods that I imagined as exclusive to a "modern" lifestyle and near impossible to reproduce on my own in a homestead setting. Foods I thought I would have to depend on the grocery store for or give up entirely like crackers, sweets, bacon, cereal, cheese, condiments. For me at least, I knew these foods must have been prepared with traditional techniques on homesteads in the past, but I just thought of these as such far away, almost unreachable skills. The presentation of traditional skills in this book in everyday, accessible language with insights and tips from the author's experience brings them within reach for me. 

Mouth-watering pictures capture the beauty and simplicity of the dishes. They look like something I can imagine on my own table, and give motivation to try the recipe myself. The organization of the book by season gives it a kind of follow along quality that makes it fun and gives a feeling of connectedness to the author and other homesteaders. I imagine others are probably cooking the same seasonal dishes or working hard to preserve the surplus of a seasonal harvest. 

Definitely recommend to anyone who dreams of providing all their own food someday!
2 years ago
The bin looks good to me! My worms tend to explore the sides of their bin when the sides get moist enough. I gave up trying to relocate them; I trust they will find their way.

As long as there are still plenty of worms staying in the bedding, I wouldn't worry. Sometimes, if I put too much food in the bin, it will start to hot compost and the worms avoid that area until I stir in some more paper.

My bin is outside, so it's no big deal if they escape. If it's bothering you that they are climbing around, you could try leaving off the lid, or open slightly, so that the sides dry out. That's what I did when I had an indoor bin. The top layer of paper you have should keep the bedding moist enough. You could also leave a light on to encourage them to stay down in the dark.
2 years ago