Audrey Lewis

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since Jan 01, 2019
Audrey likes ...
food preservation forest garden kids
Transitioning from a suburban, office job lifestyle to a more self-reliant, nature-based lifestyle.
Lexington, KY
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Recent posts by Audrey Lewis

Blake, I love your website for Peaceful Heritage Nursery. I'm also located in Kentucky and currently planning a half-acre orchard / food forest in Lexington. Your website is the primary source I visit to get a quick summary of the pros and cons of each cultivar and learn about what conditions they need to thrive. Your plant descriptions give just the right amount of information, and I appreciate how you highlight what makes each variety special. I will likely be placing an order with you this coming fall as I start planting my first trees. Strangely, out of all the amazing trees and shrubs you sell, the product I'm most excited to try is the Chadwick tomato seeds. Its description sounds exactly like the tomato I've been dreaming of.

I watched your video last week. I must have found it on your fruit blog. I have never pruned apple trees before, so I found it helpful to see you describe the apple tree pruning process rather than having to read about it in a static book. I learned other things from the video, too, but the apple tree pruning is what stood out for me personally since that's something I need to learn about right now. Thanks for putting the information out there!
21 hours ago
Victor, I appreciate you emphasizing that liberal arts are important, and that the point of education is not necessarily to get a job. There is nothing wrong with learning as much as you can for the sake of learning! I taught math and statistics, but my thinking was very much shaped by the courses I had to take in college that were not related to my major, like anthropology and architecture history. I think you and I would both agree that every field of study has intrinsic value. The friction comes from figuring out what the connection should be between higher education and the job market.

You also talked about showing others the good things that can be done within your community as a way of creating change, in addition to being active in changing policy. This is something I've been thinking about lately. I don't see a lot of people who straddle both of those worlds well. I see a big disconnect between the bearded guy in overalls who grows amazing beets but never leaves his farm and the person in local government who sits through endless board meetings with other people wearing suits and has good intentions, but lacks practical knowledge of what the beet-growing farmer needs to thrive.

My impetus for thinking about all this is that I'm currently transitioning from the business world to not quite homesteading, but something along those lines. I am realizing that by leaving the business world, I am cutting off some avenues of influence. Currently I work in an office with about 80 college-educated professional folks who lead pretty typical suburban lifestyles. These 80 coworkers are involved in churches and sports and neighborhood associations. Their influence extends far throughout our community if you think about it. Suppose I left some of my amazing produce in the break room and chit chatted with my coworkers about it. When they tasted the difference in produce that's grown in healthy soil, that could spark some eye-opening, attitude-changing conversations. But that's not what I'm going to do, because if I sit under those fluorescent lights for 40 hours a week, I'm not in my backyard growing the amazing vegetables. It's a Catch-22.

This thread is about millennials who are involved in permaculture. I think we've already established that there are some, but not many. We've established that many millennials were sold the lie that they had to go deeply in debt to get a college degree. So where are they now? I think a huge proportion of them are living their lives, mostly unfulfilled, in suburbia, working at meaningless office jobs that they got with their college degrees. They are driving their SUVs to Costco on the weekend to buy crap for their kids' lunch boxes in bulk. They are standing around with other miserable parents at a Chuck E Cheese birthday party making mindless chatter about whether their kids should take piano lessons or do gymnastics. They're buying the crappy overpriced plastic toys that their kids see advertised on YouTube. They think about wanting to eat healthier and live a more balanced lifestyle, but they don't know how to escape the consumerist hamster wheel they're running on. How do I know this? Because I work with these people, my kids go to school with their kids, and I kind of am one of these people (not 100%, but more than I'd like to admit). To me, these unfulfilled suburban millennials are a huge source of untapped potential. We just need permaculture enthusiasts to infiltrate their inner rings and gently show them another way of thinking and living (i.e. - not by preaching, but by sharing some delicious peaches or tomatoes and starting a conversation).

2 days ago
Dillon, I also wonder if there will be an overcompensating swing the other way against higher education. I mentioned it in a post way up near the top of the thread, but I recently left teaching at a university for many reasons, mostly that the university was being run as a business. Students and instructors were seen as commodities and treated as such. Actual learning was not the goal of the administration nor many of the students who just wanted their degree. I see a lot of people in our age group (millennials) and younger harboring feelings of resentment and bitterness toward college, which I completely understand as I share some of those feelings, but it also makes me sad. Higher education has its place in any society. I'm afraid we will throw the baby out with the bathwater and lose many of the good attributes of higher education as people turn away from it.

David up above mentioned that he loves Gen Z and that they have their act together. I have to agree. I started teaching at a university when I was 24, so basically I was teaching my fellow millennials. I stopped teaching at age 36, when I had reached the age of a fossilized dinosaur in my students' eyes. The shift I saw from millennials to Gen Z was the following: Gen Z is much more tolerant of people with differences. If you have blue hair, depression, and three gender categories, it's all good. They have much more realistic expectations of how little money they will earn and how hard it will be to eke out a living. Their low expectations border on pessimistic and self-defeating, but I think it's better to start out with low expectations and surpass them than to do the opposite, which is what many millennials have done. Gen Z does things on their own terms, like showing up late for class or turning in an assignment two weeks late and just expecting to get credit for it. This is absolutely maddening from the teacher's perspective, but I have to admit, they are laid back and lovable. I could go on, but I'll stop there. Obviously, as others have pointed out, there is much variation among individuals within a generation. I'm giving my own personal observations of the generation stereotypes.

I have enjoyed reading everyone's experiences, young and old. They give me hope. I think we will see a cultural shift toward a more sustainable lifestyle for the majority of people over the next generation. It will be painful, and I certainly don't expect folks to flood out of the city and live 100% self-sustainable, off-grid lifestyles, but there will be urban, suburban, and rural versions of positive changes.

Finally, James (the person who started this thread), it sounds like you have a very good head on your shoulders for being 23. I think you will be able to do the great things you wish to do.
4 days ago
Hi Kevin. I'm in central Kentucky (Lexington) and have two gooseberry bushes on the south side of my garden shed that do very well. They also get dappled shade from a nearby tree in the morning. I did not plant them, so I don't know if anything was done to the soil where they were planted over ten years ago, but the rest of our yard has clay in it. I wish I knew the variety. I know nothing about gooseberries, but since our weather and soil are similar, perhaps shade is the only difference.

...It just dawned on me that rabbits live under that shed. There's a good chance my gooseberries are getting a healthy dose of rabbit poop too.
5 days ago
Joel, you bring up a very important point:

My thought — that of someone older than yourselves who has been living the homestead way for many years — is that you’re starting with the advantage of theoretical knowledge of the soil food web. You’re not starting from the concepts, convictions, and habits of “chemical farming”.

The abundance of wise, often ground-breaking information available now is an enormous advantage over toiling away in the soil blindly, or worse, with only knowledge of chemical farming. While it can feel like information overload at times, and it can make you feel like you'll never learn it all, it can also save you from having 80 apple trees die in their first year. It can guide you to create the right infrastructure for your property before you shell out your hard earned money on plants and animals, thus setting you up for success.

Millennials may struggle to scrounge up enough capital to get started, but a penny saved is a penny earned, and using what you learn from others on this website (or elsewhere) about permaculture can save you thousands of dollars and hours in losses. Thanks for the reminder!
1 week ago
James, you asked if I have plans for my 1/3 acre urban yard and the 1 acre I have access to use. The answer is yes!

I always grow basic vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, kale, and cucumbers in my raised bed in my backyard. This year I have added another raised bed and plan to invest a lot more energy into composting and developing healthy soil, growing more cool weather crops, seed saving, and using the space more efficiently. I am also learning how to care for the apple tree, grapes, gooseberries, and blueberries in my yard. I have haphazardly pruned all but the blueberries in the past and occasionally added some soil amendments, but all of that was done without much research. None of those plants are as healthy and productive as they should be. I want to change that. I'm also going to be grafting several other apple varieties onto my apple tree. I've never tried grafting before and I'm very excited to see if it works.

On the 1 acre of my parents' property, I will be planting a food forest. As soon as it warms up I will be adding some amendments to the soil, doing a one-time till, and planting a cover crop. I will spray compost tea on it periodically. I haven't completely worked out the summer and fall plans. In late fall I will lay down woodchips and plant the first trees, selected to be hardy and disease resistant and well acclimated to my growing zone. Over the coming years I will fill in the understory and ground covers with as many plant varieties as I can get my hands on.

My ultimate goal is to spend more time outside, in the moment, not rushing to the next deadline; to teach my children where food comes from and how to be a good steward of nature; to bring some biodiversity back to my tiny piece of earth; to grow the most nutrient dense food possible for my family; to share excess with people who need it; to infect my fellow suburbanites with a passion for (or at least awareness of) sustainable, regenerative growing methods; and last on the list is generate some revenue from all this, although that is not a requirement.

I have learned so much about permaculture from this website, among other resources, and am very thankful that older, more experienced people share their knowledge so willingly. The internet is rich with helpful people, although like you, I feel physically isolated from others who share similar goals or interests, especially in my age range.

So James, what plans do you have for your farm this year?
1 week ago
I mailed in an order form for some seeds in mid-January, maybe around January 11th, and have not heard back yet either. I will update if I ever get any seeds.
1 week ago
Hi James, I am an old millennial. I was born in 1982, which I think is right on the cusp. I see very few millennials who are into farming, but that could just be the crowd I run with. I don't know anyone in my age group who is interested in agriculture, let alone permaculture, like I am. I meet people who like to talk about "chemicals in food is bad" and buy organic, which is a great start, but I don't know a single person who has heard of the soil food web (that I know of at least). There was a guy a year behind me in high school who now runs a successful no-till market garden and has a YouTube channel and podcast and all that jazz. He is the only person I am aware of from our age group living that kind of lifestyle. He says the biggest barrier that keeps young people from entering into an agrarian lifestyle is the cost of land. I would agree with that, but I also think that the lack of exposure to food production plays a huge role in keeping millennials from farming as well. You don't know what you don't know, right? If you've never seen a seed planted in the ground, if you have only seen food that appears in a shiny plastic container on a grocery store shelf, how would it ever occur to you to start growing food? And if you did decide to plant a little garden, surely you would first till it and then douse it with as much chemical fertilizer as you can because more equals better, and cover crops don't exactly pay for advertisements. I can't really blame millennials for their lack of participation in growing food, especially in a permaculture style way, if they have never been exposed to it.

I, personally, am still trying to escape the rat race and get into a permaculture based lifestyle. I went to college and grad school right after high school and have worked professional office jobs as a researcher and a college professor since then. This past year I couldn't take teaching anymore for a variety of reasons (I will not launch into a rant about the current state of education), so I went back to a research-based office job, even though all I have ever wanted to do is farm. I just assumed that farming was never an option for me. I felt huge pressure from many directions to "prove myself" in society through education and in holding a professional job, all of which occurred in an urban environment. I don't regret all that I've learned and the experiences that I've had, but after 12 years of being a "professional," I don't really give a shit anymore about society's opinion of me. I am putting a concrete plan in place to leave my full-time office job, transition to teaching part-time online for a reliable (albeit much smaller) income, and throw myself into growing as much of my family's food as I can. I live on a 1/3 acre plot in the city but have at least an acre available to me on my parents' property 30 minutes away. Their 10-acre property, by the way, is something I would never be able to afford. That goes back to the earlier point that the cost of land is a huge barrier for people who want to get involved with agriculture.

I have an insatiable desire to learn everything there is to know about the interconnected nature of soil, plants, and wildlife, and to develop skills to restore a biodiverse environment while growing nutrient dense food. My library of books on soil, compost, orchards, nutrition, herbs, etc., grows weekly. My software developer husband (lovingly) calls it my stack of crazy hippy books. To be honest with you, I have no idea where this passion comes from. I grew up in suburbia, although I am only one generation removed from an agrarian lifestyle. My parents both grew up in rural Appalachia growing most of their food, churning their own butter, slaughtering pigs on the kitchen table, etc. Perhaps my limited exposure to that lifestyle through their stories, and the fact that I see that way of life disappearing, is what drives me. I think other millennials are two or three generations removed from that style of living and thus lump it in with fairy tales and a vague notion of "back in the day." In my opinion many millennials have their heart in their right place but lack the tools, knowledge, and access to break away from modern society. They care about the environment, they don't want nasty pesticides on their food, they want workers to earn living wages, they want to buy responsibly sourced products, and they don't want to work for evil corporations. At the same time, they typically don't have any idea of how food is grown AND they like the comfort of a reliable paycheck AND they don't even see an agrarian lifestyle as being a possibility. It's just so foreign to modern culture. That's pure speculation from being a millennial and from my dealings with other millennials, though. Take it with a grain of salt.

Sorry for launching into an essay on millennials as if I am some sort of expert. I am not. I'm glad to see another millennial on here, and I'm happy that you're happy with way things are going in your life on your farm. I consider every story I hear from a young person who's making it in natural style farming to be breath of fresh air, so thank you for making your presence known!
1 week ago
Today's post is brought to you by the letter G.

Gooseberries: I moved into my house in the fall 9 years ago. It has a couple gooseberry bushes in the backyard. I had never seen gooseberries before and knew nothing about them. I associate the gooseberries with becoming a mom because they were ripe and ready for picking a week after I brought my first baby home from the hospital. Every year when they ripen I think back to my first week of parenthood.

Gourds: When I was in fourth grade my parents let me pick two plants for our garden from the seed catalogue for the first time. This continued through my senior year of high school. I always picked the strangest plants I could find - loofah sponges, giant sunflowers, white pumpkins, you get the idea. Anyway, that first year I chose gourds because I couldn't believe that you could actually grow a container, and I was fascinated by all the shapes they came in. I haven't grown gourds in a long time, but every time I see them they make me appreciate the love of gardening that my parents instilled in me. I actually need some birdhouses - maybe it's time to plant some birdhouse gourds.
1 week ago
Thank you guys for all these suggestions. This is giving me some floss ideas to investigate.
2 weeks ago