Potential for Ripples

Wow, where to begin?  This weekend was totally cool, man (there she is again, the old hippie).  I attended the Oklahoma Sustainability Network Annual Conference and was blown away with the information and networking opportunities offered.  Some sessions were definitely better than others as is always the case with this large a conference, but I was thrilled with the things I learned and the way I was challenged to do more, be more and give more. 

The first breakout session I chose was Trathen Heckman from Daily Acts in Petaluma, CA.  Who would have thought that a 50-something Christian could learn anything from a 20-something Buddhist?  To be so young and so focused and so passionate about your life and so in tune with the world around you is an amazing gift.  I wonder if he even knows how blessed he is?  He must have remarkable parents. When God’s people don’t take care of His creation, He raises up others who will. 

While he used a lot of Buddha-mind phraseology, it was easy to apply a Christian view to most of what he said.  Parenthetical comments below are my Christian take on his comments.  He encouraged us to be mindful that “simple ripples move the world.” In other words, our daily actions, even the smallest acts, influence everything around us.  (Our actions affect people around us, who then affect those around them; actions have eternal consequences.)  He told us to focus on what we have influence over (be faithful in the small things) and our sphere of influence will grow (we will be trusted with more).  Be mindful of relationships in our lives – not only with people but also with nature. 

I attended his session on the second day of the conference where he more thoroughly explored the previous day’s topics.  He began by showing us a short video of his home and vegetable gardens, bees, etc. and spoke about how people on the street will stop and knock on his door, asking about the food he grows and the life he has chosen to live.  He talked about how self-sufficiency, sustainable daily living, will be a much bigger issue as the economy worsens.   He talked about taking better care of our emotional and spiritual health by centering ourselves before the day begins (for me, that’s prayer); making healthy choices (wisdom versus foolishness; God promises to give us wisdom; we need only ask). 

He spoke about how we will be forced as a culture to adapt to peak changes.   We need to recognize that what we do to the planet we do to ourselves.  We are tied to the soil we stand on.  We can individually grow healthy soil, plant trees and conserve water.  Our planetary resources are not infinite.  He encouraged us to redevelop the culture of community and rethink our priorities from those of consumers to that of conservers.  He reminded us that nature nurtures its own communities, of sorts, to sustain life.  Permaculture is the practice of this concept.

He spoke of the patterns in nature – that there are six to eight patterns that dominate, such as meanders or flowing patterns, branching, etc.  Those same patterns are found in the human body (coincidence?  I don’t think so.  Nature and man were created by the same God).  Our physical brain is full of meandering pathways and our lungs have branches.  Nerves branch out from our spinal column.   Nature and our bodies both have the capacity to heal in amazing ways. 

He encouraged us to write a short personal mission statement that we can daily remind and encourage ourselves with.  He told us to work from our strengths, what we’re good at; develop a culture of stewardship – I like that! consume less, grow and give more.

Overall a very positive and encouraging session.  This guy practices what he preaches.  He is active internationally in setting up sustainable communities for the poverty stricken.  He’s sending out lots of positive ripples, that’s for sure.   He has a video you can see at  http://www.peakmoment.tv/conversations/?p=270  on graywater systems.  Peak Moment Television produced it and they have over 100 videos of sustainable living information. 

I also attended a session on the Buy Fresh Buy Local group that brings together local food producers with local consumers.  There is a Tulsa group that has been active for two years and an Oklahoma City group is in the works.  I networked with those folks and told them I really want to be involved in getting it going here.  I’m very excited.  

I attended a session on urban farming.  The OSU extension office  has an amazing facility here and lots and lots and lots of resources for people like me just getting started with sustainable gardening.  Good stuff!

At the lunch break on Saturday, I ran home and helped my husband unload a ton of garden soil from the back of the pickup.  Then we ran and got a bite to eat and I went back for the last two afternoon sessions.  Whew!  Then on Sunday, a friend came over and helped me put together the third vegetable bed.  I got the onion sets and broccoli planted and put up a couple of old trellises for my peas to grow on. 

onion sets, broccoli and old trellises for peas later

onion sets, broccoli and old trellises for peas later

A very busy weekend, but very productive.  I also roasted some wheat berries and was pleased with the result. 

You know, I realized something this weekend.  This new passion for sustainable living, simplicity and community is full of peace for me.  That tells me I’m right smack dab in the middle of God’s will for my life.  I can’t say that about the last five years and the dog treat business.  I’m not saying they were wasted years, maybe just misdirected energy.  I started the dog treat business out of desperation to quit my job.  I prayed and asked for direction, confirmation, but never really got it in any tangible way.  Doors would open as I prayed, the business grew, but I never really had a complete peace about it being the right thing to do.  I think it all has to do with motivation.  Its different with this – the sustainability thing.  For one thing, I’m not doing it as a business, which takes an enormous amount of pressure off.  I would love to be able to make a living with it somehow, and I still don’t like my job – in fact some days it drains the very life from my soul – but I’m okay with it for now.  I feel like I’m in training for something much bigger.  I will be faithful with this small thing and perhaps I will be trusted to lead others down this path at some point.   My ripple potential is high!

Keep it simple.

Advertisements

Natural Home Cleaning Link and Other Ramblings

Found a great new website and just quickly wanted to share the link.  This particular link will take you directly to the author’s page on natural house cleaning tips.  Lots of information there I didn’t know about.  http://www.thegoodhuman.com/2007/11/05/the-natural-way-to-clean-everything-in-your-house/

In the new garden bed, the lettuce is just beginning to peak its little green shoots above the soil and the swiss chard is sending up little red/green spikes.  The strawberries survived the frost last week.  The plan is to get another bed planted this weekend but we have slight chances of rain.  We need the rain but I also need to get my broccoli in the ground!  The plants are starting to loose the bottom leaves, turning yellow, and they desperately need to get into the soil!  My tomato seedlings aren’t looking any too healthy, either.  They are getting really leggy and limp.  They are still putting on new leaves, but are laying down in the seed tray.  I’m new at this.  Help!  How big do they need to get before I can plant them?  I think it is still a little too early to put them out, but I don’t know if they are going to survive at this rate.  I don’t have them under grow lights so maybe they are having to work too hard for light.  I don’t know.  Would appreciate any advice.

Tomorrow and Saturday is the OSN Annual Conference.  I am really looking forward to getting out of the office – which has been a really negative environment lately – and getting around people who are into sustainability and simplicity.  Something positive for a change!   I can really use the encouragement and all the new knowledge I’m sure I’ll walk away with.  There will be a delegation from Greensburg, Kansas there and lots of great topics on individual and community sustainability. 

Another thing I’m looking forward to is the next gardening club meeting.  The topic of discussion this month will be local food and how to make the community more aware of what it is, where it is and how to get it.  Followed by a yummy potluck dinner, of course.

Our dear friends from Colorado will be in town for their annual Spring Break visit next week!  Waaahooo!!!  Can’t wait to see their smiling faces. 

Prayers for Natasha Richardson’s family – she was one of my favorite actresses.  Really a sad thing. 

I read a thought provoking comment on www.farrfeed.com today.  It was in response to a new marketing campaign to bring more tourists into Taos, NM.  One commenter said that one of the major problems in America  is marketing in general.  We are what we are told to be.  As an example, he referred to his wait at a doctor’s office.  They were holding a free clinic for low income citizens and he noticed that all the kids there for the free services were talking on cell phones and listening to iPods.  “Homo Consumerus”.  Well said. 

Keep it simple.

The Future Home of Veggies

I can truthfully say that this weekend I was the walking, talking, breathing definition of bone tired.  OMG!   All I can say is God bless whoever invented the lower back support thingy.  I am feeling muscles I didn’t remember I had and the ice pack got in some serious overtime.  Need to replenish the ibuprofen as well.  BUT – we built three 4×8 raised beds on Saturday.  A friend was kind enough to pick up a ton of garden dirt for us before the place closed and then we all – including his visiting nephew – took shovel in hand and unloaded it.  We also put together a makeshift compost sifter and I separated out all the gorgeous homemade dirt that has been brewing for the past few months.  I would not have had as good a result without the 50 blocks of mushroom medium that I bought from a local grower last fall.  It composted down beautifully and the mulched up leaves and eggshells were all there!  (Tips for the next round: leave out sticks from the trees; they don’t break down.  Be sure to break up the eggshells before I add them to the pile and soak the cardboard egg cartons and tear them up into smaller pieces.)

So, back to the process.  It took all day Saturday to get the beds built and the compost separated.  So, Sunday after church and the grocery shopping I  hit it again and got one bed filled with manure on the bottom (watered well), then a couple of layers of folded newspaper sections (watered).  Then I shoveled in about 95% of the garden soil and added a couple of thin layers of compost.  It didn’t quite fill the 12″ bed, but I wanted to save some of the soil for the strawberry bed.  I removed some old hostas and bulbs and expanded that bed with  manure and soil and planted 8 strawberry plants.  They are already in bloom and one or two strawberries are already forming.  Can’t wait!

So,  next Saturday, we go for another load of dirt – we’ll have our new used pickup by then – and fill in one of the two remaining beds.  I’ll put in my onion sets and broccoli plants.  I know its getting close to the last good days to get them in, but we just ran out of time, money and energy this weekend.  Its a hard process putting in new beds and an expensive one, but next year should be a breeze compared to this.  Speaking of money, FYI we spent $168 on wood, manure and strawberry and broccoli plants.  The dirt was $43.  We will need another two loads of dirt to finish off the beds, one next week and another sometime in April when it is time to plant the other stuff.  I think I may need a 4th bed about May.  I kinda went overboard with seed purchases.  🙂

Here are a few before and after pics – enjoy!

Before - south fence line

Before - south fence line

 

After - future home of lettuce and swiss chard

After - future home of lettuce and swiss chard

 

Wet newspaper layer

Wet newspaper layer

"Can I use the drill?"

"Can I use the drill?"

Already have a couple of tiny strawberries on the new plants!  Will have to cover them; freezing temps forecast for this week.

Already have a couple of tiny strawberries on the new plants! Will have to cover them; freezing temps forecast for this week.

Homemade compost sifter worked like a charm!

Homemade compost sifter worked like a charm!

Back to Basics Grain Mill

My grain mill came yesterday!  Its a Back to Basics brand I ordered from the Bosch Kitchen Center people.  (See pictures below) It was one of the lowest price ones I could find, but is still well constructed with a minimal amount of plastic parts.  I figure if I really need a heavy duty, i.e. fast, mill, I can put out the big bucks later on. 

I rinsed the whole thing to get rid of any packaging residue and then put it all together.  It went together very easily.  I put about 1/4 cup of my precious whole wheat berries in the hopper and started turning the handle.  One of the down sides to this simple mill is that you can only adjust the coarseness of the grind with the knob on the handle.  I had it adjusted as tight as it would go without forcing it and had to retighten it occasionally as it would work its way loose a little.  But not to the point of making a huge difference.  Maybe I just needed to tighten it a little more to begin with. 

Something else I soon discovered is that it tended to slip around on the countertop.  Again, I did not have it tightened to the max because I just got new countertops and did not want to damage the surface.  I suspect that even if I had tightened it as far as it would go, it would have still slipped some just from the force of the grinding.  So, I put a single thickness dish towel underneath where it fits the countertop and it stayed in place while I ground the flour. 

The finished product was a little coarser than I want.  I compared it to the whole wheat flour I really like from Hodgson’s Mill and what I am producing does not have a fluffy component at all.  Also, the germ, or outer shell of the wheat berry is dispensed along with the finer flour component.  I separated the germ from the flour by gently “sifting” it through my large tea strainer.  The strainer has a fine mesh and it worked great for this purpose.  I put the germ in a freezer ziplock and stored it in my freezer for use in granola, breads, any recipe where wheat germ is called for.  The flour I stored in the fridge until I bake bread in a few days. 

It took about 30 minutes or so to grind 1-1/2 cups.  This will not be a speedy process by any stretch of the imagination and I will definitely work up some arm muscles  :-). 

So, on an approval scale of 1 to 5, I would give the Back to Basics Grain Mill a 4.  It does what it is supposed to do, even though I had to tweak the attachment process and had to keep an eye on the grind knob.  The literature says it will work on grains, nuts, seeds and beans.  It has a 2 year warranty and has a nice diagram with parts numbers and a price list if parts ever need to be replaced.   I need to get the registration card sent it pronto. 

Hope this information is helpful to any of you looking into buying a grain mill.  There are not a whole lot of hand operated ones out there.  Electric are easier to come by.  But I wanted something I could use even without power.  Of course, that means I need to learn to bake bread in a solar oven or some other non-electric method.  That’s on the list….the very long, long, long list 🙂

Here are a few pictures (didn’t know my kitchen was such a mess!) Enjoy.

The only plastic parts: the grain hopper, the blade shaft and a small ring that fits between the mill and the handle.  This one could get lost easily.

The only plastic parts: the grain hopper, the blade shaft and a small ring that fits between the mill and the handle. This one could get lost easily.

From the back

From the back

From the side

From the side

Wheat germ separated from the flour

Wheat germ separated from the flour

Flour separated from the germ

Flour separated from the germ

Bye Bye Geese – Hello Spring

 

Took this image off the internet.  This is how my tree looks full of white fluffy stuff.

Took this image off the internet. This is how my tree looks full of white fluffy stuff.

Well, its official.  Spring has arrived in Oklahoma.  It will be 88 today – yes, warm for March – BUT the wind will be sweeping down the plains in all its fury.  25-40 mph predicted for today. 

Sign of spring #2 – our Bradford pear tree is in bloom.  A beautiful sight.  I attempted to take a picture of a blossom cluster before breakfast this morning to share with you BUT the wind was sweeping down the plain and the stupid branch would not sit still.  I tried to hold it with my hand, but then got a nice shot of my hand in the image and I was too hungry and running too late to keep trying. So I snatched off the Internet.  I REALLY have to figure out this new alarm clock.  Some mornings I can push the snooze 3 or 4 times.  Mornings like today it only goes off twice and then I fall back asleep waiting for number 3 and before I know it, its 6:30!   That is just wrong!  A person should be able to depend on being able to get another 27 minutes of sleep in those precious 9 minute intervals without fail!  By the way, who’s idea was it to make the between snooze interval NINE minutes?!?  How about an even 10!  Okay, I’m rambling now.

Sign of spring #3.  While letting the dog out to potty – for the THIRD time since we went to bed last night – a huge flock of Canadian geese sang me a farewell song as they headed straight north.  For some reason, the honking song of flying geese is one of my favorite sounds in nature (along with singing crickets and chirping birds – but buzzing cicadas drive me nuts!)  Anyway, I don’t know why, but the goose-in-flight thing has always brought me comfort.  I know this will sound silly to some and make perfect sense to others, but once when I was really praying hard about something in the car on the way to work, this huge flock of geese flew overhead honking their heads off.  It was like God was saying, “I’m here.  I hear you.  I’m in control.  You can trust me.”  So now every time I see and hear a flock of geese, I smile and remember that God is in control and no matter what comes our way, He will provide for our needs.  This morning’s viewing was a “Good morning!” from above and a reminder that nature has its cycles, that everything is right on schedule and that no matter how bad the financial news or no matter how upsetting it is to read that Monsanto controls our food supply, God is in control and if I trust Him, he will lead us up the path we’re supposed to be on. 

Keep the faith and keep life simple.