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It Starts With Doing For Yourself, and Sharing...

[I'm leaving this sticky since it's still drawing comments from people returning to it. --lambert]

I'm turning this comment by Monkey Fister -- which is the flip side to my post here -- into a post.

For the first 1-1/2 years in my place, most of my neighbors were your typical, bedroom community types-- wave coming and going, and while doing yard work.

One day, the neighbor kid, Andy, came by to check out my raised-bed, Square Foot Gardens. His dad is a contract trucker, and things were starting to go bad in 2007, and he wanted to start gardening to help provide for the family.

I not only showed him how, I helped him buy lumber, and the "dirt" ingredients (peat, vermiculite, and lots of different composts), and helped him build his first boxes. I also helped him till and plant a conventional garden. By Fall of 2007, the whole family and I became friends, and their pantry was full of food from the gardens. From there, we began to expand. I found some chicken coops for free on the side of the road, and dropped them off with Andy. He bought chickens, and I helped him get the whole set-up going. Now, he looks after my chickens during the day, making sure they have water, and such.

In 2008, my neighbor, two doors down went on Disability having torn his back up on the job. He needed some sort of income, and during the heat of Mid-South Summers, I cannot be outside too long, as I am epileptic. So, I hired him for yard work, and handy-man work. He got into my gardening, and I taught him how to do it. Last year, we set him up with a great garden, at his buddy's house, but it was a long drive.

This year, I am giving him one of my boxes to garden in, and am going to help him get beds set up at his own house over the Spring, as well. He has been instrumental in helping me expand my beds, throwing dirt, and all manner of things.

He and Andy and I became partners of sorts in a host of food-related projects, where I have been able to teach them the basics of Permaculture to make it all happen. Between us all now, we've got plenty of eggs, lots of veggies, and the start of some great smallfruit orchards. Because we share labor, tools, and transportation, we share our surpluses, and everyone gains. It's basic Hippie stuff, but, I don't teach it that way, and keep politics totally of it. Together, we started a core.

My immediate neighbors have now realized that the economy is not going to get better any time soon, and this year, they have started jumping in, helping out, asking questions, providing what they can, and ol', gruff Jim, across the street has gotten curious, and started coming by to help us all.

I feel like Tom Sawyer in a way... Making self-sufficiency, and low-energy projects as fun as possible, feeding folks-- potluck grilling-- together, everyone is really just naturally flocking to something that is taking on it's own mass. The kids in the neighborhood used to be pretty wicked-- ready to vandalize and swipe stuff from an unlocked car.

Because Andy is proving to be so industrious, they have turned around 180-degrees, and are now protecting our properties, gardens, and chickens just because they think what we're doing is pretty cool, and they get real benefits, as we give them eggs and veggies to take home,and eat. Once the fruit starts rolling out, it will be even better!

Ol' Jim just tore his back yard up, and is putting in raised-bed gardens. My neighbor, Dave, has asked me if I'd help him set up fencing so he can have some pygmy goats for milk and meat, and would I mind the goats? I told him I'd be thrilled with the idea. I offered to provide some of my back acre for grazing, and would help him milk and butcher the goats as needed. Andy is ready to help, and Tommy is on-board for allowing paddock space for them.

It really doesn't take much, folks... Just be friendly, offer to grow your neighbor's favorite veggies in your garden for them, and provide them free. The next thing you'll know-- EVERYONE wants to learn and be a part of something bigger. The elderly lady next door? Ask her if you could garden in her yard, and in return, you'll provide her favorite veggies with no effort on her part-- offer to pay for the extra water. It's really, really simple.

I think that we ALL are old enough to remember what being neighbors is supposed to mean, and perhaps I am simply lucky to have the folks that I DO have around me, but, by gum, everyone is actually acting like proper neighbors, and when things get rolled out, as they are proceeding, we're going to have damned near everything we'll need to get through the next five years of guaranteed hard times that we are going to continue to face.

The bottom line is the bottom line. I don't talk politics with them. I discuss saving money, supporting local, small businesses, knowing where your food comes from, and low-energy techniques. Period. The chicken tractors are a HUGE hit, as the neighbors can see how the chooks eat the weeds and bugs, fertilize, and how the pens get moved daily. They sure as hell like the fresh eggs that I give them, and they all want to help. Like I said-- It's like Tom Sawyer without the selfish agenda.

Peak Oil is what is driving ME. Trying to explain that to my neighbors would be foolish. All they know is that food prices are higher every time they go to the store. That's all they need to know right now, and all I need to work with to teach them these basic, Permaculture techniques to provide food. We all have ~2 acres each, and none of us like dealing with the grass mowing. Dave wants the goats mostly to help mow the grass! Work with the motivations you are provided!

The Transition Towns idea was started by Rob Hopkins: http://transitionculture.org/about/

Totnes, in England was the first Transition Town: http://www.transitiontowns.org/Totnes

He is a collaborator with Energy Bulletin: http://www.energybulletin.net/

Richard Heinberg, noted expert on Peak Energy, has pushed Transition Towns in America: http://www.richardheinberg.com/

I recommend these sites as daily reads, and as road maps for your future, as it is clear that we are well and truly on our own down here, and the only way out and up, is through doing this-- even if it is one neighbor at a time until you can rouse the local leadership and populace at large. I decided to just start small.

Look-- the extreme angst, here at Corrente, is truly, and basically bourne of the fact that the most obvious, and easiest of Political Solutions are simply not being undertaken at the Federal Level or the state level.

I pretty much have given up on ANY possibility of Political Solutions to our growing menu of problems; and realized, in 2005, that the only way to be sure to be able to provide for myself, was to go the Transition/Permaculture way-- whether it was just transforming my OWN land into 100% edible landscape, or if I got lucky, to get my neighborhood involved, excited, and together. So, I bought this house and two acres of land and simply started.

I keep trying to get my small municipality involved, but rednecks keep getting in the way. I laid the DVD, "The End Of Suburbia" on my Mayor, along with Richard Heinberg's "The Party's Over," and Hopkin's "Transition Town Handbook." My town is so small that the Mayor is the owner of the Auto Repair shop. After giving him several months to mull things through, he's realized the energy problem is very, very real, and quite the cause of our current dilemma. He's a good man. Reminds me very much of Alan Alda. In our town, the Mayoral position is non-partisan, so I have no idea what his politics are, but he keeps getting re-elected, and the town is doing well on a VERY slow-growth plan based on LOCAL owners.

Every time he tries to provide 15 minutes or a 1/2-hour of discussion to this issue at the City Council meetings, the Conservatards start screaming. So fuck them. I just decided to start in my own back yard, and start doing, and teaching, and building out from there, and here's where i am. I am hoping to be able to establish a City-funded demo-garden as a seed to start a Community Garden in town, but in the meantime, this is what I am doing, and the seeds are growing!

I'm not preaching, just doing, and folks around me like what I am doing, and deciding on their own that it's a good thing to be a part of.

My real blog is http://monkeyfister.blogspot.com

I discuss some politics, still, but my emphasis anymore is simply demonstrating how to grow stuff, provide food you can trust to your family, Permaculture, and small-scale self-sufficiency. Feral Liberal is doing much the same as I.

Tear up everything non-edible in your yard, and start replacing it with edibles. Even if you live in a place with covenants, will people really bitch if you have a bed of really pretty lettuces in an attractive layout? Look at this pic: http://i296.photobucket.com/albums/mm196...

What is ugly or offensive about that-- even to the most horrid of Neighborhood Nazis? BE the CHANGE!

Let's not confuse "politics" with electoral politics, let alone party politics.

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Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

I have been meaning to write this for a while, as my own humble contribution to the idea of cultivating the local community as a pathway of survival in the coming shit storm.

The Artists Blacksmith Association of North America has about 75 local chapters, called guilds, in the United States. Most guilds meet at least once a month, and are thrilled to have newcomers interested in learning the craft.

Now, this is not environmentally friendly - the typical blacksmith forge burns high grade metallurgical coal in the open air. Many blacksmiths who actually make a living doing blacksmithing will also have closed forges burning propane or natural gas. And if you find a smith who can tell you when to use a coal forge for better artistic effect than a gas forge, then you have found a truly wise old man (or woman - there are a number).

Most guild members are doing blacksmithing as a hobby, but almost all are exceptionally highly skilled in the mechanic arts - and these talents are going to make a big difference if things get as bad as we all here seem to think they will. This goes beyond growing your own food, to making your own tools and equipment to grow your own food. Talk about customized small scale farming operations! These are the type of people who love mechanical challenges, such as building and erecting a small wind turbine to power someone's homestead. Just imagine the possibilities that open up if you are able to start shaping metal to the form you want it to be in.

Abana's website is www.abana.org. The list of guilds is here. You do not have to be a member to visit a local guild, and I have not yet seen a guild that ever asks people to pay up to join (though they expect that if you become a regular). This is usually around $20 to $40 a year, and usually includes a subscription to the guild's newsletter.

This is a great 5-page introduction to the craft, with some great photos, by the Appalachian Blacksmith Association.

Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

I am glad that this helped.

Can you do me this edit c/p: One day, the neighbor kid, Andy, came by to check out my raised-bed, Square Foot Gardens.

I hope if Mr. Hopkins ends up finding this, that he agrees with starting where and how one can. Even if your Resilient Community ends up just being you. Doing it starts mass, no matter the level of complexity at which you enter.

The wonderful Mel Bartholomew, in his book, "Square Foot Gardening" ( http://squarefootgardening.com )explaining one of the finer points of reasoning for physically putting a grid on your garden beds, he says, (paraphrasing): It's visually striking, and anyone seeing your garden is going to ask why, and you can tell them all about how you're planting only the seed you need to sow at the exact spacing they need. how it makes weeding an almost thoughtless part of harvesting, and tending to the garden, by compartmentalizing the big picture into little squares.

My raised garden beds aren't necessarily a Permaculture concept, but why they are laid out as they are actually IS.

Newish home, top of a hill, topsoil scraped clean; New Homeowner planted some grass seed on the hardpan-- good luck with that-- deep erosion arroyos ensued.

The beds act as boomerangs/berms/terracers (pick what concept works for you) they stop water and soil and make it go somewhere else, whether to either side, back, or down.

There are two rows of beds, each parallel, and running across the slope of the hill. My leach lines are also parallel to them, each ~2' up-slope of the boxes, the final being below the lower row. They were getting close to being exposed by the erosion, with some gullies close to a foot deep in some places. In just over four years, there is no sign of the erosion gullies. I had a friend in the septic tank biz to come and check out my lines the second year here. The tank was clean, and the lines seemed fine to her. She liked the plan that I had, and saw no problems with them for future.

Each of the beds has been inoculated with culinary fungi types from http://fungi.com Paul Stamets is one of the most incredible people in America, and it's a pleasure buying his products. The fungi are slowly spreading in the boxes, and and even more slowly spreading with the downhill drainage of the garden boxes. One day, the hardpan will be thick with a layer of rich soil, because of those mushrooms.

Here's a 36-Hour College Series about Permaculture fro N. Carolina University, free at iTunes: http://monkeyfister.blogspot.com/2010/03...

Cheers!

And there is this less angry, and more fun and productive way starting to make good over here, and it is really, and seriously about building a solid and sustainable micro-to-macro Community. It ain't politics or religion... it is purely and simply structure. The rest doesn't matter. Gotta work "in spite of..." When my neighbors invite me to their church things, I go. Stick close, smile, and make nice. I often enjoy it for my own reasons. My County doesn't have a Food Bank, so working with Tommy's Church (Pastor is Universal Life Church) to establish a full service Food Bank, to accept typical goods, plus garden veggies from local gardeners, and we're working on the Meat handling side of things for the Hunters for the Hungry Program, and to process locally raised, USDA inspected poultry, beef and pork. Perhaps by November this year. Wouldn't have known Tommy was ULC if I hadn't said yes to an invite. Heck I'm a Pastor of ULC!

One last, great link: http://ooooby.ning.com/

--mf

Submitted by lambert on

I don't have that. OTOH, it's clear to me that the whole "rows" concept causes difficulty. It's not pleasant as a worksite.

My soil's clay-y, but seafood mulch last year, and ashes from the wood stove and coffee grounds this year are my amendments. And mulch again, I think.

Submitted by hipparchia on

thanks for writing it, and thanks to lambert for changing it into a post.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

we live in town and have a very small backyard and I was hoping to add a box this year to start to learn how to garden. I grew up in a family that always had a garden and everyone older than me, at least the women, always seemed to know how to do it, but the knowledge didn't transfer (or at least a lot of it didn't, I'm sure I picked up a few things). I was wondering if it really worked because it sounds like it should and it sounds fairly doable. Now I know - it is!

TaosJohn's picture
Submitted by TaosJohn on

This is fabulous! ON DA MONEY! Yes, yes, yes. I really can't add anything else. Thank you for posting this. Exactly how I feel, especially including the utter futility of trying to accomplish anything sane through trying to participate in national affairs.

Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

Andy's parent's are HARDCORE CONSERVATIVE RELIGIOUS RIGHT. Home-Schooled the whole family. Yep. I have gone to their church functions. Stuck tight. Did my best to have a good time. OUR Community relationship outweighs their Conservatism or my Liberalism. Neither are a factor. They don't question my not going to church. I simply do what's right.

I think I've just reached the age where I understand my Family adage-- "Always attend the Wake." It's a profound statement that transends "the Wake." But it is one of THE SERIOUS Handed-Down Wisdoms of my family, with the "dot, dot, dot" stapled on.

You do what's right for your community at the level you have. It's almost Taoist.

--mf

Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

on both terms.

on the former, it's how one chooses to look it "National," and one will get different results person to person. Tough thing to argue, really.

I posted at my place, a great essay, thoroughly on topic, by Dmitri Orlov. He's friends with Rob Hopkins, and the rest of the heavy thinkers on the nature of resiliency, community, and transition, and I think once you the links, and read, the greater discussion, I think I'll have lead you into a serious understanding of the topic of your original question!

Dmitri Orlov-- "Communities Are Self-Organizing" http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/search?upd...

With my brief comments germane to this exchange: http://monkeyfister.blogspot.com/2010/04...

Dmitri Orlov is an unique cat. When he was a young teen, his family escaped from Soviet Russia at the time of the Collapse, and emigrated to the US. He's got a fascinating POV. Greer, Astyk, and Hopkins are his peers and this grand discussion has been and continues to be utterly enlightening.

If one takes a bit from here, and here, and here, and here, and here, one will come damned close to getting it right.

One question that will always arise is in regard to the long-term effect and capability Online Communities. I can be glib, and say, "When teh power goes down, where's that community?", but seriously, How many online fund-raisers, and how much money have we all laid out to try and get good, equitable Laws passed that protect citizens, are simple, and the most cost-effective for ROI? We've put plenty of Lawmakers into office, but even many of the ActBlue Candidates, once in, have gone Blue Dog, or worse.

I think what I am getting at is that it's damned clear that our absolute most pressing problems-- those that directly involve food, clothing and shelter of American Citizens-- will not get addressed properly, if at all by Political means at ANY level.

When the power goes out, and there's no internet, or intermittent at best, Then we all are going to learn to appreciate our real communities much more, and I think that that is the key. I've made more solid, and lasting friends, allies, and relationships with Fresh Eggs and Veggies, Canned Tomatoes, and Pickled Peppers, and gardening, in four years than I've made on-line since 1996. Lambert, I've known you, and enjoyed your POV for a pretty damned long time... You're one of my best on-line relationships, and that's been perhaps 10 years? I sorta cherish that, but I don't even know what you look like! Damned odd. I've got several awesome binders jammed with great information and how-to's and great exchanges, from here, atop the Mighty Corrente Building (powered by hampsters fed by us in the Online Community). 2nu.

I really look forward to more of this thread, buddy. I feel that something profoundly excellent is in the process of being made. All the pieces are right here... In the Mighty Corrente Building.

All of the people above, couch all of their discussions under the the umbrella of the need for Permaculture at every level of organization. I gave a link to a full Semester University course Lecture (36-hours worth of free class) in this thread. Here's a 52-minute video about Bill Mollison, the creator of the idea, and a good intro to the concepts of Permaculture.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=...

David Holmgren is a also a good googleable Permaculture key

I've dropped a lot of info in this comment. Time to let you digest.

--mf

Submitted by lambert on

and don't let me forget this--

1. Regardless, "when the power goes out" (or, as we say here, "when the trucks stop") we're going to need a national communications network. No, it won't be able to stream pr0n, but who needs that anyhow? I keep thinking radio, if the data format for transmission were sufficiently compact, and there were a network of repeaters. Do you know anything about that?

2. Would love to have Orlov et all doing cross-posting?

3. What about the cities? They too, just like "communities", are a spontaneous human construct (and I don't buy the "grass will grow" argument exactly). We have awesome ongoing city sages in Manhattan, Philly, LA, NOLA, Detroit as much as say Vienna pre-WW I ("proving ground of world destruction").

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

I am very tired. I just found out someone in my family has lung cancer. Thank God, she has Medicare. However, I posted excerpts from an interview w/HRC today on AC.

For anyone interested, the links to the full interview are in the post:

http://alegrescorner.soapblox.net/diary/...

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

Except I can't do anything with them yet because I'm miserably sick with the flu.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Are earthboxes a way to do square foot gardening? They seem like they might be. I'm one of the lucky ones who has more money than time, so I'm looking for a way to shortcut the building of my garden. Are these a good way to do it? I remember reading about Earthboxes here before and I believe the consensus was that they worked pretty well.

Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

When you're back to Wellsville, Let us know about everything!

Do you think you'll get as much food production as you thought you would from the ad?
Where are you gardening? Zone?
How much space do you have?
Do you have pics of your space?

Earthboxes can be the perfect choice for some folks, and I really am interested in your experience, this year, with them.

Keep us informed!

You know I'll be posting on my garden projects, here or at my place. Both if I have the time!

--mf

Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

It allows more freedom and room for planting. Also, risk of disease is lower with good ol' raised beds, due to drainage, and air circulation.

Nothing against Earthboxes-- they work great-- especially if one has extremely limited space.

For the cost of one ~2'x3' Earthbox, one can quickly make, fill and plant a 4'x4' SFG bed with a full 16-sq. feet of growing space. More than twice the garden!

Big Box garden stores have pre-made raised bed kits ready to roll.

--mf

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I can get pre-made kits for raised beds that won't be too much more work (e.g., time) than Earthboxes, but will be better for gardening, making the bit more time that it takes worth it. Is that right?

Monkeyfister's picture
Submitted by Monkeyfister on

I checked on the way home from work. Lowe's has the cedar 4'x4' bed for less than $90. Get a hose, a $10 timer, and a Mister Landscaper Drip/mist kit for $50, and you're set. The kit will easily water 3 4x4 boxes, as is. For my 4'x16' beds, I just needed to buy three more misters for incredibly thorough coverage. Surprisingly, you're going to end up buying about the same amount of dirt, so I didn't factor that in, since it's a constant, and understood. A bit more in the kit, sure, but not much more considering the units you'll be buying in (set-sized bags of composts, peat and vermiculite).

The dimensions of the EarthBox are 29" L x 13.5" W x 11" H. About $35 dollars.
The dimensions of the Cedar kit are 48"L x 48" W x 9" H. about $85 out the door.

A 4'x4' bed kit and drip/mist kit is looking better for the value

I've grown fantastically healthy organic Tomatoes in my old 6"- deep beds for years. Just add compost! I have 3-year-old Asparagus that has survived three pretty cold winters at only 6" depth. I just last week started adding a 2"x10" of depth to each of my beds as I plant them in. I know that my wood is solid for at least five years, before I upgrade to Cedar, which will last for a decade. Especially if I lap it to the old, pine frames. As stated elsewhere in this thread-- I'm a bit squishy on plastics and food-- especially plastics left in the sun. I have a WalMart plastic bin on my deck that is too broke-down to touch after only a year in the sun.

I could type forever on this topic, but I think it's best to just let you digest. If you go the SFG method, the only tools you'll need are a screw gun, a pair of scissors, and a staple gun.

I've posted here, about how to grow Tomatoes and Vine Crops up twine frames. You can have the dude at Lowe's cut the metal conduit for you. Everything else is on the shelves there for cheap.

Vine Crops per 4'x 1' edge row (typically, you'll use only the West or North edge):
Tomatoes: Up to 4 depending on size and type
Butternut Squash or Cukes: 8 if pruned.
Pole Beans and Peas: 32
Melons of any sort: Up to 4 depending on size and type-- gotta support watermelons.

The Bottom line is teh Bottom Line: With the SFG method, you get a lot more for the modest price difference, and really, after set-up time, they will both take about the same amount of maintenance and attention through the week-- plus, by use of floating row cover, and visqueen, you can easily get four seasons of garden out of the bed. I did it in Saginaw, MI in 2001.

OK. Time to let you read!

--mf

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

Please allow for my illness, I'm a little out of it but I'm not trying to argue -- I'm sure that you can get great results in raised beds, too.

EBs have a reservoir in the bottom and water is drawn up into the growth medium as the plants dry it out, so the plants get exactly as much water as they need. Also, the containers are covered with mulch covers so you don't get weeds. Finally, they can be moved if you put them in a place that doesn't have the right sun for your plants.

My best sunlight locations in my back yard are on a concrete patio that I don't want to break up, so this is what I'm trying.

Submitted by gob on

(as in EarthBoxes) is different from raised beds.

I've never had an EarthBox, but I have grown cherry tomatoes in plastic self-watering window boxes that operate on the same principle. In hindsight, I'd be leery of these since who knows what the plastic does to the edible crop.... But for limited space gardening where the summers are hot, self-watering containers work really well. I've tried making my own very very cheap ones, but there are some issues I haven't worked out, like good wicking material that doesn't rot. If I had money, I'd have EarthBoxes.

Another solution for containers and hot summers is a drip watering system on a timer. I inherited one of these installed on a roof deck, and it worked great. I can't remember the brand name, but it was very cheap to buy parts. All pretty low tech, so not much to go wrong. It worked great for me. Imagine being able to leave your potted tomatoes for a week in July!

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

compared to what is listed here, but a great resource is the FREE section of Craigslist. I got a water filter there and there are plenty of nifty things.