23 January 2009

A (not so) Recent Mulling...

This blog was originally published on my Facebook on 30 September 2008...

The Presidential debate held in Mississippi hosted by Jim Lehrer had my eyes rolling. Though Jim Lehrer tried to get things rolling, McCain's scripted theatrics had me dumbfounded. Ole' Sleepy looked like Bush more then ever especially when he softened and deepened his voice in a sympathetic tone and told of the mother he met who had lost a son in Iraq. She told Ole' Sleepy, "Blah, Blah, Blah." It was the same mannerisms, story, and shit that Bush used. Of course, that's no surprise since Ole' Sleepy is now directed by the same campaign advisers that sunk him in 2000. What is SO frustrating is that voters fall for this humanistic ACT and theatrics. The media plays it up while hammering Obama's intelligence by saying that he doesn’t seem to connect with the audience, and he is standoffish. That came from the talking heads of PBS. Wonder how Thursday's VP debate will be scripted. I read that Palin is training hard which translates to memorizing how to deflect questions, use the sympathetic tone to connect with voters and present personal stories to show she's of the people. God, I pray that Bidden lets loose and smears her! Screw this nice guy shit.

The Republicans love to bring up 9-11. I was living in a little town, Gila Hot Springs, surrounded by the Gila National Forest (population 10 or so) living in a 5th wheel camper volunteering for the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument while my husband spent 8 days at a time out in the wilderness building trails for the Forest Service. I was sitting in my hammock having coffee after my morning run when the maintenance guys from the visitor's center rolled by to tell me the news. They knew that I had no TV or radio. It was 9:30 am MST. I thought, "Oh, Fuck. There is going to be a war."

Oh course, I had been predicting war since September 2000 before the elections even happened. We were living in Panama way out in the campo doing PeaceCorps. Our host family was very interested in the US elections. I told them over and over, "If Bush wins, there will be war." We listened on the shortwave radio for days as the saga went on and on. (Subsequently, my husband's name is Chad as in hanging...) When Bush was finally declared "winner", I shook my head knowing that war was imminent. Our host family told us that the elections were rigged which they judged from their own election experiences in Panama, and of course, they were right. I still can't believe that the Republicans pulled it off. Democrats are too fucking nice.

I know exactly where I was when the bombs burst in Afghanistan.

I know exactly where I was when the bombs showered Iraq, a war that I protested while pregnant. I protested not only because I knew WMD's were a farce, but also because I knew one day, when my son was old enough to understand and ask, "Mom, why didn't you DO anything?" I'd be able to respond, "Baby, I did." I won't let him, nor myself, wear the sins of this administration. The CRS report for Congress, dated 27 August 2008, estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths as a result from military action during Operation Iraqi Freedom range from 86,661 to 113,616. The WHO study reports 151,000.

So where to now? I don't always know, but I keep fighting the best way I know how. I continue to educate myself, link-up with others and spread knowledge any way possible.

I decided to figure out how much the possible 700 billion dollar bailout would have cost me and every single US citizen had it passed Congress. Of course, I had to do the math by long hand since my calculator doesn't have space for that many zeros. It would have cost each US citizen $2293.00. ($700,000,000,000 divided by 305,300,000 people which I got from the US Census Bureau's POPclock). It doesn't seem like a lot of money when presented in such a manner. But I feel infuriated and my intelligence insulted to see my government, with my money, bailing out Wall Street and rewarding ludicrous behavior. Gee, can I get that for my student loans? No! And Fuck you very much.

I would like to give my $2293.00 and use it towards building community gardens so people can grow their own food and eat after the shit really hits the fan.

Okay, enough for one diatribe. Get back to work.


Forty. It has large religious significance and crosses many faiths*. The use of forty is common through out the bible, which is the area that I am most familiar. Noah's Ark was rained on for forty days and nights. Moses and the Jewish people after their exodus wandered the desert for forty years. Jesus spent forty days in the desert in meditation. Lent is forty days long. These are a few of the more popular examples.

For the most part, the significance of forty is that it is "a long period of time."

Are we watching the true unfolding of forty? Is forty truly a magical number? Forty years after the assignation of Dr. Martin Luther King, THE civil rights icon, the people of the United States elect a man with African ancestry. Forty.

More thoughts and links later. Right now, I want to watch this inauguration.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/40_(number)#In_religion

Spirit: The Old Boat that Wants to be a Jungle Gym

The boat in the backyard is a small sailboat with peeling paint made by hand and completely from wood. Her name is Spirit, and as far as I know, she has been only in the water once. My husband, Chad, sails. When he saw the boat, he had visions of us as a family sailing on the lakes in East Tennessee, but that was before we knew that East Tennessee isn't known for Her sailing. I said, "Sure, buy the boat," when he came home and asked. I, too, love the water and enjoy sailing. He bought the boat used from a person in Vestal area. She was a small sturdy boat. He parked Spirit in the big backyard and set up the mast and put up the sails. Our one year old son, Blue, loved the boat and wanted to climb and play in it, and, of course, we let him. Why not? Who wouldn't want to play in a sailboat and "drive" the wooden old-fashioned looking steering wheel? (After all these years, one would think that I have sailing terminology down, but, uh-uh-no...so it's a steering wheel.)

We moved shortly after that to a small city lot. Spirit came with us and quickly became a permanent fixture in our tiny backyard taking up quite a bit of space. The kids would come over and play on her. We even used Spirit during the Knoxville Marathon as a pirate ship. We dressed as pirates and yelled from Spirit at tiring marathon runners passed through our neighborhood. When it rains, though covered with tar paper, she fills with water. Spirit doesn't have a drain hole so she often remains filled with water until Chad bails her out.

Finally, Chad felt extreme determination one day, hitched up Spirit and took her down to the river. He put her in the water and took her for a sail. He had his big umbrella open for protection from the sun, but a big wind blew. The wind caught the umbrella and made Spirit's maiden voyage quite cumbersome.

Spirit is rather neglected. Her paint is peeling and the wood is splitting, but she is more loved by her little boy that ever. With this last series of rains, Spirit holds quite a lot of water. And now with the freezing temperatures, she is filled with eight inches of ice, which our son LOVES. Yesterday, a new friend came home from school with us. On the journey home, I told Blue about the ice in the boat. His friend asked, "You have a boat." Blue casually replied, "Yeah." The friend asked, "Can we play in it?" Having played in the boat for 5 years, again, Blue replied casually, "Yeah." The friend more excitedly replied, "REALLY? Can we play Star Wars in it?" Blue, catching the excitement of his friend, assured them that they could definitely play Star Wars in the boat.

Sometimes I feel a little sad for Spirit. I think of Rob Brezsny's advice for me in regards to the upcoming year (which he borrowed from the historian, Gerald Sorin), "When Reb Zusye went to heaven, God didn't ask him why, in his life on Earth, Zusye wasn't Moses, but why he wasn't even Zusye." I look out the kitchen window at Spirit and think, "But she's a boat, not a jungle gym." But how do I know. How don't I know that Spirit was always supposed to be a jungle gym and someone turned her into a sailboat? Just because she looks like a sailboat and feels like a sailboat, doesn't make her a sailboat. Maybe on the inside, she is really something else, and that something else is manifesting right before my eyes. How many of us have something/someone else deep on the inside that we need to allow to awaken? I know I do.

My journey is ending in one aspect. My warrior persona is no longer needed. This wounded warrior can rest and heal. I can allow myself to feel softer and more feminine. I am grateful to myself and for the warrior within me. I will always appreciate the strength that I was able to show myself that I have. I can see her. So strong and quick. She protected me for so long, but now it's time to say good-bye. I know that I can always call on her energy in times of need, but now I turn over some of that warrior strength to my guide. I trust that He will let me know when I need to reach into that energy. It's time to relinquish the control. It's time for another growth step, but this time, without all the protections I have normally hid behind, but I don't feel vulnerable. I feel ready.

So, like Spirit, I too, have another purpose that is hidden by my exterior. As I realize this, I no longer feel sorrow for Spirit. I honor her and her new being. She doesn't look sad to me. She has new purpose. She is a metaphor for me, an example for my own life. I may look one way, but maybe, I'm truly something/someone else. It is time to shed the conditioning and expectations. It is time to be who I truly am on the inside. And that her name is Spirit...how apropos.

In this Regard...

Apropos. This seems to be the word of the moment. How long will this moment last? I don't know, but like a surfer on the perfect wave, I should allow myself to ride it as long as I can.

Apropos. Apropos. This word keeps rolling through me. On the 40th year after the assignation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the man who stands as the symbol for civil (also read as human) rights, the United States elects a man with African ancestry. MLK's birthday is January 15, and he would have been 80 this year. We honor his birthday on the third Monday of January. This year, MLK's birthday celebration happens to coincide with President elect Obama's inauguration. A perfect moment. Apropos.

In 2007 on January 13, two days before MLK's 78th birthday, I had the privilege to visit the Lorraine motel in Memphis where he was shot. These are some notes from that trip:

"Sittin' on the bus in Memphis
Outside the Lorraine Motel
Sittin' on the bus
Waiting to go home
Saw #306 MLK's last resting place.
Saw the balcony where he was shot
the bloody cement patch long gone.
Saw the cheap wreath hangin' where
he last stood after a pillow fight
with his friends,
his comrades.

They were here to fight for the rights
of sanitation workers.
Black sanitation workers,
who tried to strike earlier in '68,
who wore signs stating, "I am a man."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to support a march (in early '68)
but an injunction blocked the march.
On April 4, 1968, the injunction lifted,
the men (MLK and his friends) returned to the Lorraine.
The all black motel
with king sized beds
and private baths.
A luxury place for Negroes
because segregation demanded it*.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. could finally relax,
which he did by starting a pillow fight.
He went outside to greet
the folks who cheered him.
A brave man
a wise man
a spiritually strong man
a visionary
a catalyst for change
a man with a message
like Jesus
was murdered.
at the Lorraine.
The Lorraine Motel
in Memphis, Tennessee.
That's the world I was born into.
I was 46 days old. 39 years ago.

…At first, I was too overwhelmed and sad (by the tour of the museum) to be inspired, but now, I feel inspired. Not necessarily to fight for the injustices in the world, but to take on, with passion, my mission (whatever it may be) to live life courageously like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to persevere, to be strong and to inspire. "

As the President elect Obama readies himself for his inauguration and as I take this time to reflect on this historic moment, I appreciate these words from Swampland/Time magazine online journalist, Michael Scherer,

"Most people could only see Obama's train for a matter of seconds. It rarely slowed, and Obama only stepped outside the caboose to wave on a few occasions. But none of this seemed to dent the enthusiasm of the crowds. They cheered as if the train was coming to see them, as if Obama's victory had been their victory, and it was only now just beginning. For miles and miles, for people in dress coats and work clothes, it was the same--Americans literally jumping for joy over a president who has changed his country without yet taking office." Barack Obama's Inaugural Train Ride

As one door closes, another door opens. As the old door closes, if I look back will I turn into salt? It feels scary, now, to look back. Do I want to be reminded of all the ugliness of the past behind that door? It seems so dark and dreadful. As the new door opens, a recognizable light peeps through the crack…a light that I have forgotten in the battles. The light I see is reminiscent of a feeling that I clung to with every shred of being, because if I didn't, my spirit would have truly withered. It seems that some have tried with all their evil will to obliterate that feeling in us all, but, our spirits, having clung to that shred of light within the soul, have fought back and persevered. This new door seems to be invigorating feelings that I have long buried and forgotten. Does this light represent an innocence that has long been forgotten? Can one return to innocence? As I pull myself from the trench and wipe myself clean, is something enlightening and magical invigorating itself? Is the world presenting herself in a new light? I believe, yes, and that's why so many are crying. It's relief. It's hope. It's happiness. It's…

It truly feels like the end of a battle. After a battle, there is more work to be done. There's a lot to clean up. If we ride this wave correctly and if we work together, like a community should, it won't be so bad. The bubble doesn't have to burst. It can sustain. We can pull each other up. Each day, the door opens a bit further letting a little more light through. As the strength of the light grows, the strength within each of us grows. The dark days are over.

Last year, we mourned the 40th anniversary of a great civil rights leader and visionary, but as the nation honors what would have been his 80th birthday, we witness the pinnacle of all that he stood for rise from the ashes.


* "because segregation demanded it" There are two ways I can interpret that line. One way to interpret that line is to say that segregation demanded segregation. I could have been making a remark that hotels and motels were segregated. MLK, even though a PhD, had to stay in a segregated motel. No segregated hotels were available in Memphis (at that time). The Lorraine was a drive up motel with the cars parked in front of the rooms. Another way to interpret it, is revealed in the next few lines. As many Americans, blacks were more affluent and could afford travel. Because blacks had to stay in "blacks only" motels/hotels, there was a market for high end "blacks only" motels hence the king size beds and private baths in each room. The victims of segregation demanded, within their own realm, to be treated with dignity.

Fear Meat

"My kids love eating game. They think eating deer and buffalo make you run faster and jump higher..."

This quote jumped out at me from an article, The other dark meat: Raccoon is making it to the table. Children are little intuitive beacons of forgotten knowledge, and if we just listened a little bit more to them...(see If Only Everyone Could Think Like Blue)

Chad and I discuss "fear" meat. Fear meat is the stuff that is raised on large industrial commercial farms. These animals are raised and slaughtered in conditions that elevate the level of fear hormone and adrenaline in the animal. These animals are mistreated kept in awful stinky feed lots (anyone driven past one of these places?) or caged in tiny pens in deplorable conditions. These animals walk or lie in their own shit. They are fed Monsanto corn. I can imagine that animals are depressed and sick (hence the over abundance of antibiotic usage to keep them "healthy"). When a person eats meat from one of these places, they eat the accumulation of fear, adrenaline, depression, illness, GMO corn, antibiotic, and filth. It is all stored within the animal. No wonder our society is so unhealthy.

The native peoples know (knew) the importance of giving reverence to an animal. Free animals eat from Earth and contain the spirit of Earth. Compare wild and free animals to caged and penned animals. Which are naturally healthier? Meat contains life force, just like vegetables (which is why the fresher, the better). Warriors eat the heart because it contains the most powerful Spirit of the animal. Native hunters knew that they could obtain the spirit of the animal through eating it, and that is they expressed gratitude for its gift of life. The treatment of animals is a direct correlation to our reverence for life on Earth.

In the article, the writer briefly mentions the ethics of the raccoon hunters, "try to kill as humanely as possible...It's part of the culture." Culture. Raccoon hunter's culture. This is something our society seriously lacks in killing methodology. Hunters shoot animals from moving helicopters with high powered rifles. Industrial meat producers line 'em up and thwack! Sometimes, the animal isn't even dead yet when they put it on the hook. All the other animals in the "herd" are watching as fear hormones and adrenaline are frantically released into the system right before death. There is no grace or dignity in this kind of killing.

Chad told me of a woman goat farmer who sits down with a goat, in the field, strokes it with great love, and cuts its throat. My first reaction was to think, "How horrible." But the reality is, that goat is being honored and being shown great respect for its life. At least this woman is completely aware of where her food comes from unlike most people who buy meat in neat little packages. If we were forced to kill our own meat, we may have more reverence for life in general. If we had to kill our own meat, we definitely wouldn't be as wasteful, and we wouldn't eat as much of it. To eat meat for all three meals each and every day is excessive, and if anything, as with the "financial" crisis, we are seeing the consequences of excess. When we take more than we need, something's got to give (or fail).

Eating meat from a local free range source is a better choice. I think that these animals probably contain levels of fear hormone too, but not as excessive as industrial meats (is my guess). These animals must have adrenaline bursts when traveling in the trailer to the slaughter house. When they arrive at the slaughter house, they probably smell the death raising fear levels. Animals are so instinctive. They know. So, yes, even our free range meats contain levels of fear hormone, but I'm hoping not as much because maybe they trust their farmer or the trip isn't as traumatic or because they have had a better life in the field…

Will I stop eating meat altogether? Maybe one day. Not right now, but I can be more particular about the meat I eat. I can cut back on my animal consumption. I can show gratitude for the life of the animal which helps me to sustain my life force.

But what if the meat we eat affects our personality and/or abilities? If it does, like those kids believe, we could all benefit by being more aware of what passes our lips.

P.S. None of what I write is cited because what I write is strictly my intuitive opinion.

Thanks for reading.

Guerrilla Gardening

A friend writes, "Sadly, we do not seem to have been granted a plot in our community garden yet- so next spring my growing will be constrained to a variety of large pots and planters. Any recommendations on what grows well in "captivity" vs. free earth? Our tomatoes were kind of lame last year- maybe I should limit myself to herbs?"

The answer to this question is guerrilla gardening. Guerrilla gardening is the concept of taking over unused green space and planting gardens. Some of these green spaces are privately owned, but abandoned by the owners, who haven't paid taxes on these lots in years. Many of these lots are maintained (mowed) by the city only because fellow citizens call complaints in to codes. If someone were to say begin maintaining a lot by starting his or her own vegetable garden (and planting fruit trees and bushes), residents in the area would stop calling codes, the city would stop mowing because of lack of complaints, and the absentee landowner would stop receiving mowing bills.

Wikipedia defines guerrilla gardening as, "political gardening; a form of nonviolent direct action, primarily practiced by environmentalists. It is related to land rights, land reform, and permaculture. Activists take over ("squat") an abandoned piece of land which they do not own to grow crops or plants. Guerrilla gardeners believe in re-considering land ownership in order to reclaim land from perceived neglect or misuse and assign a new purpose to it.
Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden. Others work more openly, seeking to engage with members of the local community, as illustrated in the examples that follow. It has grown into a form of proactive activism or pro-activism."

For more information on guerrilla gardening:
Guerrilla Gardening
Wikipedia Guerrilla Gardening
Guerrilla Gardening Handbook

The challenge with guerrilla gardening is that if the lot is ever auctioned off due to delinquent taxes, you either need to be ready to purchase the lot, loose your garden, or petition the city/county to turn it into a community garden (since it is already being used as such). In Knoxville, it is easy to research lots through KnoxNetWhere, but for friends in other cities, you may have to go to the courthouse.

Another way to create more gardening space, is to approach the city and ask permission to use park space or empty lots owned by the city trying to create more community gardening space. There is no need to re-invent the wheel, talk to local community garden advocates and ask how they succeeded in creating gardening space. See if they are ready to assist in creating more.

Now, none of this really answers the questions above, but it does offer an option if you are unable to get community garden space. If local activism isn't in the cards (this year), my best advice is to find the sunniest areas of your yard and go from there. Gardens don't have to be large tilled areas. Smaller gardens, even 2x3 spaces, created by building up soil (for more information go to The Garden Stoop December 2008 fourth paragraph) in the sunniest areas of your yard work well, too. This also makes it harder for those bad bugs to take over your crops.

If you have absolutely no space at all and need to container garden, make sure you use deep containers. Plants like tomatoes like to set deep roots. I have successful grown tomatoes in five gallon buckets, but deeper is better. I have friends that use the deep rubbermaid type containers (used for storage), but the problem with using these is that they bulge. I have also successfully seen people use the city/county hard type plastic recycle bins. I do not advocate borrowing or stealing these from your neighbors. Old garbage cans might work well f you can keep it from bulging. The trick in any container garden is to provide adequate drainage, and as always, good soil.
Another option to container gardening is to go upside down. I successfully grew tomatoes upside down in 5 gallon buckets last year. My yield wasn't as good as those in the ground, but we grew enough to enjoy. Of course, that was the first year experiment; I will try to perfect this method in 2009. I have seen photos of folks growing peppers and eggplant upside down, too.

As not to make this article too long, and not to distract from the original message of guerrilla gardening, I'm going to pause here. If anyone is interested in learning more about upside gardening, let me know. I may have an article on that, if not, I'll write one for you.

As always, thanks for reading.

Starting Seeds

A request has come across my desk, well across my Facebook, to write an article on how to start seeds. When I reflect on my first gardening attempts at growing my first plants from seed, and I remember my colossal failures, I find this to be a good question.

Seeds need time. Well actually, plants need time. Seed descriptions tell how many days it takes from seed germination to plant maturity. For example, the average tomato plant takes 90 to 100 days to reach maturity. This means that a gardener can't wait till July (in this agricultural zone) to put a tomato seed in the ground because the plant won't have time to mature before first frost. So the gardener, as with the tomato, needs to give the plant at least three months from germination for the plant to bear edible fruit. Germination can take ten days to two weeks. That means if one wants tomatoes in July (weather permitting), seeds need to be started in March (for agricultural zone 7). Celery takes longer to reach maturity, so it needs to be started earlier. Cool weather crops like broccoli and cabbage need to be started very early so to be planted outdoors when weather is still cool.

First things first, you, the gardener, need to identify your agricultural zone and count backward. You need to be aware as to when your last frost date is so you know when tender annual crops can physically go into the ground without fear of being killed by cold temperatures. Plants are generally six to eight weeks old when sown. Technically, Knoxville is zone 6B. We can expect our last frost to be around April 20th, but Mother Nature sometimes has her own watch. It is best to keep an eye on the weather to determine the best time to plant your beautiful plants in the garden.

There are two methods for starting seeds: direct and indirect. Direct sowing of seeds means the seed is directly planted into the ground. Indirect sowing means the gardener begins growing the seed in a container. The latter is usually done because some plants (like tomatoes) need to be started while air and soil temps are still too cold for a young seedling and plant to survive without protection in the garden.

Some seeds are better started as a direct sow into the ground, mainly because they don't transfer well or it is just easier (like with large seeds). Early spring crops like carrots, radish, beets, peas, lettuces, greens are best sown directly, some as early as mid-March. If you live in an agricultural zone that warms the soil in time to allow your plants plenty of time to germinate and grow to food bearing size, sow directly as with summer and winter squashes, cucumber, okra, melons and beans after last frost usually in May.

When planting seeds, both directly and indirectly, seed depth is important. Rule of thumb is to plant seeds according to size. For example, a large seed like a squash seed can be planted about an inch deep, but tiny seeds like basil, celery, and carrot should only be planted about ¼ an inch deep. The bigger the seed, the deeper it can be planted. When direct sowing seeds, spacing is important, too. Usually, the seed package will tell how far apart to plant seeds and whether or not thinning is necessary.

There are tricks to sowing some plants outdoors, like carrots. Carrot seed is very fine and easily falls too deep in the soil, and the sun's rays can't penetrate it. Some people plant carrot seeds in a sand layer on the natural bed. Dampen the sand and make the rows (not too deep) and sprinkle the seed in the row. Add radish seed to the row and pinch the soil closed over the seed. Carrot seed takes a long time to germinate. Radish seed germinates quickly and marks the row. Radish loosens the soil and makes it easier for carrots to grow. By the time the radish is mature and picked, the carrots are growing strong. It is a perfect combination.

Plants that benefit from indirect sowing of seeds are tomatoes, peppers, herbs, celery, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant and most flowers. Keep these things in mind when direct sowing:

Soil. The best thing you can do is buy (or create a peat mix of your own) that is light and loamy. I go down to Knox Seed on Rutledge Pike and buy the big block of Pro-Mix for like $25 bucks. It is a huge block of shrink-rapped soil. The bag might weigh 25lbs. It is definitely cumbersome. They sell it in smaller bags, but somehow, I always put to use that big block through out the season. The reason that light loamy soil is so important is because the seeds need to be able to penetrate that top layer. If the soil is too heavy, no light gets through and, well, it's like trying to push off a big heavy cinderblock. You can go to most home centers and buy seed starting trays, which I have even at Kmart. This may be the way to go for first timers.

Temperature and protection from the elements. Seeds ideally germinate when soil is kept warm and the air relatively humid. Ideally, I think (at the top of my head) that the perfect temp is between 68 and 72 degrees. This is the tricky part if you don't have access to a heated greenhouse. The seeds need to be in a sunny area and kept warm. A sunny warm window inside your home might be enough. R.H. Shumway's seed catalog has warming mats that you can buy to keep the soil at the perfect temperature for germination. You may find a local store that carries them too. I have never used one of these, but I may need to consider one this year. You also want to keep the environment rather humid, but not too wet and soggy.

Containers. What you start your seeds in is an important thing. Initial containers shouldn't be huge and deep. What I found the easiest to use is a flat. A flat is a long, but not deep, rectangular plastic thingy. Usually if you buy six six-packs of flowers, they come in a handy carrying tray called a flat. Use a flat that is mostly plastic with a few holes on the bottom, not the very "holey" kind that is a glorified mesh sort of thing. You will also need larger containers that drain well to transfer seedlings. I save containers from plants I have purchased. I recycle quart milk cartons by cutting them in half and poking holes in the bottom. Orange juice and yogurt containers work well, too. Soup or vegetable cans don't work well because it is hard to get the plant out. You need something that is rather malleable. I have become a fan of peat pots which are cheap and can be planted directly into the soil. I have friends who make their own pots from newspaper.

Seeds. Remember to use heirloom, not hybrid or GMO. (For more info on this read Heirloom vs. the Other Stuff ). Get your seeds from a reputable company or friend. Due to margin of error, you will want to start more seeds then plants you intend to actually put in the ground. Seeds only have a certain % germination rate, so you have to start more than you actually want. For example, I may only want three tomato plants (trust me, three plants produce way more tomatoes than our little family can possible eat), but I start at least a dozen seeds. Like photography, it may take many shots to get that one good picture.

Method is simple. Take the flat and place it in front of you so the long side faces you. Fill it with slightly dampened, but not soggy wet, soil. Don't pack the soil, but lightly press it to minimize air pockets. Use a pencil or a thin stick to press six rows into the soil keeping seed depth in mind. Lay the seed into the row. How much seed depends on how much you want to thin or transfer. With tomato seed, I usually do about ten seeds per row of the same variety with the hopes of ending up with several strong seedlings to transfer. Don't mix seeds in the rows, not even several different types of tomato. When they begin to germinate, you will not know what is what. It is better to start more trays and make extra rows. After you lay the seed in the row, either pinch the soil over the seeds or simply sprinkle more prepared soil over the row to cover the seed. Label the row telling what is planted and the date it was planted. Water the seeds mimicking a soft rain being careful not to disrupt the soil.

When seedlings appear, anywhere from 6 to 14 days, keep them protected from the elements. When seedlings are about two inches tall and before the roots begin to entangle, transfer each seedling to its own container, making sure the container isn't too big. Saved six-pack containers (like what pansies come in) work well. Fill the container with the same type of dampened soil used to start the plants. Lightly press the soil, but don't pack it. Make a little hole that is deep enough for the roots. Usually, I plunge my pinky or pointer finger about second knuckle deep into the soil. Use your finger and carefully scoop out a seedling and transfer it to the new container. Plant the seedling a little deeper than it was growing, but not too deep. Gently push the soil around the seedling. Water and label the containers.

Plants usually outgrow the six-pack container and need to be transferred once more into a larger container. Tomato plants seem to benefit greatly from a double transfer. Especially with tomato plants, plant the plant a little deeper than it was originally growing in the pot.

It usually takes six to eight weeks for seedlings to grow large enough to sow into the ground. It is important, though, to keep a watchful eye on the weather. I recommend waiting at least a week after your areas last frost date. You will also need to harden plants off. This means exposing the plants to the outdoors and the elements about a week before you plant them outdoors. On nice days, simply put the plants outside and bring them in at night (or return to greenhouse) so they can used to living outside.

One alert. When reading seed catalogs, you will see all kinds of cool gizmos that (are supposed to) make planting seeds or gardening easier. I can't account for all of them, but I am thinking particularly of a device that helps dispense seeds to the soil. Don't buy it. Take your $4 and buy more seeds.

Hope this article helps. As usual, if you have any comments, additions or questions, they are welcome.

Thanks for reading.

Heirloom vs. the Other Stuff

It's that time of year that the seed catalogs begin arriving in the mail. Some catalogs boast 100% heirloom seeds while other catalogs don't tell you much about where their seeds come from at all. Some catalogs may have a few heirloom varieties, but one has to read each description carefully to ensure that heirloom is what they are buying.

For some readers, this news is old hat, and you probably have your favorite seed sources (or maybe you have been saving your own), but for newcomers to the gardening game, seed catalogs can be very intimidating and overwhelming with all the varieties and descriptions. You may think, Do people really have the time t read all this stuff? The answer is yes. That is why the owners of seed businesses send catalogs out in December. Gardeners throw all other literature aside to scour the new catalogs whether they need seeds or not.

If you are buying seeds for the umpteenth time or for the first time, remember the importance of supporting the heirloom seed industry. Why? Alright, here I go:

Heirloom is something that has been passed down through time. There is a whole historic meaning of the word, which you can research on your leisure, having to do with antiques and precious family stuff, but for today's educational purposes, I am choosing to keep things simple.

In this case, heirloom seeds are seeds that have been passed down over time. Why is this such a big deal? Because when you use an heirloom seed, you are guaranteed the same vegetable or fruit as the original seed from possible a hundred years ago. Hybrid seeds do not produce the same plant the following year because offspring of hybrid saved seeds usually show unpredictable characteristics from the grandparent plants instead of being similar to the parent.

You may have heard of Thomas Jefferson's vegetable garden, and there are many people that take time each year to recreate this garden. Historically, it's a big deal. Imagine eating tomatoes that were grown from the same seed as Thomas Jefferson used? You are, in essence, eating the same tomato. (Okay, soil quality effects the taste of the food, but we aren't discussing that right now.) When a person plants an heirloom seed and produces food from it, that person can also save seed from that plant and be assured to grow the same food the following year. That's how our ancestors did it.

It's not that hybrid seeds are bad. Hybrids are simply hand-pollinated crossed plants. They have benefits such as higher yields and better tolerance or maybe resistance to splitting (as with tomatoes), but hybrid seeds cannot be saved from year to year. It is also labor intensive to assure the same hybrid plant year after year. So if you want to be sustainable in your gardening practices, so not buy hybrid seeds because you will need to return to the garden center spring after spring after spring to buy seeds.

There is also what is known as GMO seeds. GMO, what does that mean? GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism (or GEO for genetically engineered organism), which means that the GMO item has been modified with DNA from something else to alter the original genes. It is gene altering. I am not mentioning any names, cough Monsanto cough, but they are really fucking things up.

With seeds, there are many reasons as to why some may argue GMO is good. GMO seeds promise things like better pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, cold tolerance, drought tolerance, salinity tolerance, nutrition, and pharmaceutical vegetables (Yes, you read that right...Researchers are working to develop edible vaccines in tomatoes and potatoes. These vaccines will be much easier to ship, store and administer than traditional vaccines.) In order to "create" this kind of ability in seeds, the seed needs to be altered with something else. Some people use the term "Franken seeds" because no one is quite sure what exactly is being used to alter the seed genes, and I have having a hell of a time finding it on the internet, which is pretty scary. The best I could find was this from Natural Awakenings:

"The processes used to create GMOs are not precise or predictable. What is precise is the first step, selecting and engineering the DNA to be used. After that, genes are engineered and recombined with bacteria, viruses, and other designer molecules, then often put into a ‘gene gun’ and shot into living cells."

Why is this such a big deal because some people might like the idea of a stronger disease and bug resistant crop? Glad I presented the question for you. There is so much information on this that I will highlight some of the important things then post the websites where I found the information so you can read the more detailed findings if you choose.

Criticisms: Harm to other organisms like beneficial insects; reduced effectiveness of pesticides; resistant bacterias; reduced effectiveness of herbicides creating "super" weeds; increased human food allergies; unknown effects on human health like cancers and tumors; and economic concerns like dependency on Monsanto products. GMO seeds can not be saved. Well, they can be saved, but when planted, the gardener is not guaranteed the same quality fruit or vegetable as the original seed provided affecting sustainability of all farmers and gardeners. Crops can be contaminated with GMO seed, too. Heirloom corn is suffering because the wind is blowing the pollen from GMO farms, which is contaminating the corn on other farms and our heirloom seeds. If you plant GMO seeds, you may be contaminating the gardens around you.

Here are a few websites that I found helpful and go into detail:

Natural Awakenings

Discovery Guides

Seeds of Deception

GMO and hybrid seeds are not labeled as such. Be sure that the seeds you buy are labeled heirloom.

Go heirloom. Learn to save your own seed. Exchange saved seeds with your friends and neighbors. This is yet another step on the battle of fighting for our food security.

For links to heirloom seed companies go to Heirloom Seed Sources and Seed Catalogs please add sources in the comment section there!!!

Thanks for reading.

In Honor of David L. Dungan...

The permaculture world lost a great warrior Sunday, November 30, 2008. David L. Dungan died of an unexpected stroke while visiting family in Ohio over the Thanksgiving holiday. David was a great mentor to many people. He lived his life with love and immeasurable integrity. David L. Dungan was one of the Masters whose knowledge seemed to permeate an uncountable amount of subject areas. David was always forthcoming and when he spoke it wasn't superficial. David Dungan traveled with his beloved wife, Anne, to teach and study Theology. He always spoke of his sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren with the utmost adoration and respect. The Earth is a more wondrous place because David L. Dungan shared his time here educating, uplifting and inspiring all those around him. And as with every great leader, David L. Dungan listened to those around him and did not put himself above learning something new.

With the will of a strong river, David believed in permaculture. Permaculture is shortened term for the equation, "permanent + agriculture = permanent culture," and coined by Bill Mollison of Australia over 30 years ago. Mollison believes that societies can deliberately design agriculturally productive ecosystems, to echo diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems to create a sustainable human culture. Permaculture is a (w)holistic approach to agriculture and lifestyle. Productive communities are woven through interlacing human needs and nature's natural rhythms and patterns. When the Earth is sick and unhealthy, life on Earth is sick and unhealthy. Through permaculture, societies and cultures build whole and healthy environments by practicing sustainable agriculture, sustainable building and sustainable energy while creating multiple yields or outputs from a single element or thing. For example, an outdoor shower would also water fruit or vegetable plantings.

David would have been the first to say that he, himself, wasn’t practicing the principles of permaculture as diligently as he would have liked, but Dave was very humble. In the 1970's during the Carter Administration, David and Anne designed and built a two story passive solar greenhouse on the south side of their home and used the warmth to heat part of their home. (Joe Hulquist, south Knoxville's city council representative was the young contractor!) David wanted to build a home in a community that based it's origins in permaculture. He was a guiding force in organizations like Narrow Ridge, which he whole heartedly worked toward creating a thriving intentional community with families, farming, cottage industry, education, publications, etc. He had great hopes, but when the idealism of Narrow Ridge didn't pan out, David didn't stop, like the water trying to reach the ocean, he decided to focus on permaculture in an urban aspect and committed to further transforming his home in the city. David and Anne jumped right on board without a second thought when the Knoxville Permaculture Guild started. David was truly excited and hosted the second monthly guild meeting without a moment's hesitation. That was Dave.

It's so incredibly sad to know that David L. Dungan won't be alive to see the fruition of his work and education. The Knoxville Permaculture Guild has lost a great member and leader. David's spirit will always guide us, though, and if we allow ourselves to listen to the nature around us, we will be able to hear his thoughtful, nonjudgmental, no-nonsense wisdom. If we quiet our thoughts, we can see David's visions and make them happen. And when we do, we can remember each time, "Dave would have loved this!"

The Garden Stoop December 2008

Here is my quarterly "column" for the Parkridge Press. Enjoy!

Fall is a great time of year to garden. The unbearable heat filled summer days dissipate as the sun sits lower in the sky bringing lovely golden rays, which soften the days with Fall color. In the vegetable garden, summer plants slow production. The last of the remaining crops continue to ripen while first frost lurks. First frost can hit anytime two weeks before or after October 20th. These fleeting few weeks send some vegetable gardeners into frenzy. They try to pluck final harvests before the big frost to can or freeze for winter supplies. Some gardeners, finished with the harvest, have already pulled tomato, pepper, okra, basil, eggplant and bean plants and sent 'em all to the compost pile to generate soil for next year's garden.

Fall can be a busy time in the garden either way. Old plants need to be pulled or cut at the base (roots will decompose) because old plants can harbor disease or pests, both of which can contaminate soil. After plants have been pulled, the gardener should make improvements to the soil. Amending the soil is an important garden task. Plants take nutrients from the soil as they grow. To ensure the soil will be ready for early spring crops, nutrients need to be put back into the garden in the fall.

One way to accomplish this is to practice sheet-mulch gardening or lasagna gardening. These are both trademark names given to the same principle of adding substance to the garden. Using methods like this will help build soil in the garden and eliminate the need to till. Tilling actually destroys soil structure and leads to more deterioration in the garden.

So, how does one build up the soil? There are several different layering strategies, but this is the easiest. There is no need to weed because weeds will smother, decompose and add nutrient rich materials too. Start with a 6" layer of horse or cow manure that's aged at least 3 months (but not necessary especially if you plan to let the garden sit all winter). Cover with a layer of cardboard, newspaper layered ten sheets thick (no shiny or color pages) or shredded white-only paper. Soak each layer to help facilitate decomposition. Add layer of chopped leaves (as they fall from the trees), grass trimmings, compost and/or food scraps (no meat products) another 6" deep then follow with more paper product like you are making lasagna. Make it a good foot or two high (total) because it will compost down in the winter. Finish with 6" of straw, sawdust or wood chips not burying this final layer with paper product.

If you plan on a winter garden and starting it by seed consider adding a final layer, 2 inches or so, of top soil or compost so seeds don't fall into the deep, dark, mulch abyss never to germinate. If you are using transplants, make soil pockets for immediate planting. Otherwise, let the layers sit for the winter, and you will be ready for spring. Water regularly if weather is dry.

The freezing temps of winter won't keep the determined from gardening. Winter is a fantastic time to grow lettuces, greens, spinach, chard, bok choy, tatsoi, etc. in what is called a cold-frame. A cold-frame is a structure that keeps crops warm and protected from frosts/snow in the winter like a mini greenhouse. It is not a heated mechanism. It uses passive solar to keep the ground warm and plants protected.

There are different types of cold-frames from technical and expensive to simplistic and cheap. We are all about simplicity in the Hellwinckel household, so I'm going to lay out a few easy techniques which have worked for us.
One technique involves using straw bales and old windows. We have used this method a few years running with great success. Determine where to grow your winter garden. Remember that the winter sun sits lower in the sky and doesn't hit your garden the same way that the summer sun did. Observe your garden to detect the sunniest area. Outline the area with bales of straw. Sow the seed or plant transplants. Cover with old windows or a large piece of glass resting on top of the bales. While temps are still warm, there is no need to cover plants, but watch the weather! When temps start to dip into the 30's, get ready to cover. An unprotected young crop can be taken out with one frost. Remove windows when the days warm into the 40's so the environment doesn't get too hot. Use the straw bales in the spring and summer to mulch gardens.

If straw bales aren't an option, try experimenting with cinder blocks, bricks or wood. If you have a tough time finding old windows, try clear thick plastic, which still allows the sun's rays through. Last year, we successfully used hoops stuck in the ground and an old blue tarp. Some of the outer edges of the crops got nipped, but overall, we still had plenty of fresh greens the entire winter. Since the sun's rays can't penetrate a colored tarp, be sure to uncover crops when temperatures permit.

As temperatures cool, there is no need to give up on gardening and fresh homegrown produce. Winter gardening takes some planning, but it's not impossible and is well worth the effort especially for the nutritional benefits. With flu season just around the corner, the added vitamins and minerals provided from fresh winter greens can be a great addition to the diet. So, what are you waiting for?

If needed, blocks or bags of soil can be purchased at Knox Seed of Rutledge Pike. Straw bales can be purchased at the Farmer's Coop on Asheville Highway for about $5

The Morning After...

In celebration and reflection of last nights Obama win, I share with you the following "peace":

For weeks, when I thought of Barack Obama as President, I broke into tears. When I thought of the magnitude of Obama becoming President, I felt astounded.

I was conceived, brought to term and born into a fear filled, violent and hateful world 40 years ago. I was two months old and four months old when the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy occurred.

Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated for believing that humans can be all one. He brought a message of unity and peace, and he was gunned down on the balcony of a "blacks only" motel in Memphis with Jesse Jackson and others by his side. Even if you don't care for him, Jesse Jackson with tears running down his face, was a glorious sight last night. Last night we all watched as MLK's dream came to life. We watched it become the ultimate reality. Anyone who lived through civil rights, anyone who has stood in protest against injustice, anyone who has reached out and helped another human being regardless of differences must feel the magnitude of the historic significance of seeing Barack Obama at that podium on November 4, 2008 as the President-elect of the United States of America accepting the win and beyond that, in all his grace and dignity, give to us one hell of an inspiring speech.

We can breathe a sigh of relief, not only that the nightmare of the past 8 years is finally about to end, that the worst leadership of our countries history is finally over, but that the majority of people in these Untied States have their fists in the air because we are tired of oppression and fear and injustice. We are ready to be inspired, and we are ready to climb out of this fucking hole which became a stinking quagmire 8 years ago.

Obama represents the hope in all of us that maybe we thought was dead, but we knew that there had to be a glimmer. I watch in my son, everyday, the glory of magic and belief and wonder and amazement. I see when a bubble bursts and maybe another little ounce of magic has spiraled away forever. That's how the people of these United States felt. Like everything had spiraled away, but Obama represents our hopes and dreams and wonder and amazement. He empowers us. He inspires us to work and give and share.

And my relief is so huge that tears continue to fill my eyes and run down my cheeks that I can't see the keyboard. I feel so honored to be a witness to this moment in time. My own family had to hide its own African ancestry and deny all gratitude to our ancestors who survived on ships and in slavery. Though his skin was white, my grandfather may have been as much as 1/2 black. He escaped the rural south and passed as white. He could have been hung, and if he had been found out, he would have been hung had he remained in the south. He kept this all a secret from his own wife and, eventually, children, who would have been forced to attend the all black schools.

I am grateful to the people who sacrificed their lives to bring us to this awareness and this moment. I am grateful to my own ancestors who fought everyday just to stay alive when I am sure it may have been easier to just die. I honor them. Though I am deeply saddened that when young, my grandfather could not just "be", I am grateful to him for his courage. A part of my family history is gone forever, never to be known, because of racism.

Last night, watching MLK's dream come to fruition was so glorious, beautiful and enlightening. It is the dawning of new thought process of a new United States and a new world. Every human on this Earth will feel Obama's impact. What a glorious time to be alive!

More Blue Observations...

This past Saturday, Blue and I were driving out Governor John Sevier Highway towards his soccer game. We passed a home that had a garden that was probably bigger then my yard. It looked as if it hadn't been planted this past year because the grass was coming in, but the neat clean lines of the tractor were still visibly clear. I pointed it out to Blue.

He said, "You shouldn't do that thing. You know when the stuff comes out of the soil and makes it so it doesn't snow?"

He really stumped me. I didn't know where he was going with this one. I turned off the radio, like I always do when it's time to have a real discussion. I asked him,"Stuff in the soil?"

He said, "Yeah. You know. When you turn the soil and there's stuff, oh, what is it called? It makes it so it doesn't snow!"

And it dawned on me that my 5 year old son was talking about the carbon in the soil. He was letting me know that one shouldn't till the soil because it releases carbon, which warms the atmosphere and contributes to climate change.

He let me know that we shouldn't even turn the soil with a shovel because that also releases the carbon into the atmosphere.

My kid is so rockin' cool!!!

October Monthly Guild Meeting Review (2008)

Yesterday, October 12, 2008, the Knoxville Permaculture Guild held its fourth monthly guild meeting. 14 "adults" and 2 children attended. The monthly meeting was held at Alex Pulsipher's undeveloped 70 acres in the Carter area where Alex is planning an environmentally friendly community practicing sustainable techniques. You can join Tuckahoe Sustainable Neighborhood for more discussions.

Alex had to cram in two years research in one short hour, and with questions and comments, that was no easy task. Alex focused on the challenges he has faced with Knox County codes and development policies. It is good that codes and laws exist so developers have guidelines to follow, but in the case of building a community on sustainable principles, which in turn help keep more of the land in tact, the task becomes quite challenging.

Alex has plans for a community of 25 to 50 households clustered on as small tracts as possible to minimize damage to the surrounding forest. In doing this, it is developing a residential neighborhood which means that by law, a paved road and sewage must be applied. There's not much he can do to get around this. The road has to be a certain width and paved. Sewage has to be hooked up to a line or on septic. Composting toilets are not allowed, but Alex may have found a way around this matter with the system supporting both a septic and an (forgot the term he used) oven toilet in which a shut-off valve cuts off the septic and allows sole use of the oven-type technology. (Anyone who was there knows what I'm talking about...if you weren't, hopefully someone will fill in the blank in the comment section.)

He would drill a well, but homes would operate off water caught from the rooftop. Homes can be made of natural building materials. He plans on conservation covenants on the land and on each of the homeowners' plots. He is planning an assisted living facility and community center. He is also open for co-housing units. The plan is to keep as much of the acreage in tact as possible by clustering homes. We didn't get to the topic of energy/electricity.

Gene brought up the topic of true permaculture principles and Bill Mollison, the founder of the trademark term permaculture, saying that true permaculture principle wouldn't develop a 2nd or 3rd growth recovering forest. True permaculture principle would develop homes on land that has already been desecrated like a Voldemart parking lot or farmland that has been planted and/or grazed to death, so to speak.

Alex rebutted by saying a community such as the one he is planning can act as a demonstration to change perceptions on how housing developments are constructed.

Gene was curious though as to why Alex would choose 70 acres of recovering land though and not land that was less in tact. He cited the Lake Claire Cohousing in Atlanta, Georgia as a successful example.

Alex said that where the units were planned to be placed was an area that had been over grazed/gardened/tilled, but the reason that Alex choose that site was because the land feels good.

After an hour, the group started fidgeting, and we all took a hike on the land. We walked down to the creek, well some of the group did, while some of us relaxed under a hickory tree that pelted us with nuts. The highlight of the journey was visiting the Faeries and Keepers of the wood. Gene led the group in a guided meditation and taught us how to meet the Keepers. We sat in Nature's wood surrounded by her sounds with no human noise...even our 4 and 5 year old boys sat in utter silence looking for the Faeries for an indistinguishable amount of time.

Thanks for having us out, Alex.


This is more information written by Alex in the comments section of Rachel and Gordon's page:

"The land is 70 acres.
I'll put up a summary of the project on my page in the near future, or maybe as a discussion or group here.We are looking for between 25-35 households, most of whom would live in clusters, leaving roughly 40-50 acres of the property as communal land. Most of it is hilly woods, but there are 3 flat bottoms that have been farmed in the past.
We're thinking about possibly doing some co-housing on it, but not everyone would have to do that.
Also thinking about combining senior care/assisted living, and child-daycare with a community center."
Okay, ME!!!

I will be presenting Saturday, September 27 from 3 to 4 pm at the Sustainable Living Roadshow (SLR) in the dome. The topic is Urban Agriculture: Growing your own Food in the City since that seems to be my specialty. Of course, being so multi-talented, I had a hard time narrowing it down to one subject. Wink.

Spread the word. Hope to see you all at the SLR fair.

Monthly Guild Meeting - El Puente

On September 14, 2008, the Knoxville Permaculture Guild held it's third monthly meeting at Crosswalk Farm. Crosswalk Farm is a community gardening effort started by Robert Hodge's nonprofit El Puente. The gardens are on the French Broad River in South Knoxville just across the bridge on Governor John Sevier highway. El Puente is a newly formed nonprofit that works with Latino immigrants, many of which are here illegally. El Punte's goal is to equip people with skills that can be taken back home to help them create a more sustainable lifestyle in their native country. One area that El Puente focuses on teaching is sustainable gardening practices that will both feed a family and develop the local economy. The Crosswalk Church permits El Puente to use their land as a teaching ground. Crosswalk Farm sold at a local Farmer's Market this year and was able to put some money in the bank to help further their gardening education.

The problem? Robert, who presides over El Puente, claims not to be a gardener/farmer or versed in the realms of permaculture. He wanted to know how he could make his program more sustainable; where he could find assistance in answering gardening questions; are there people who are able to teach sustainable techniques and will participate in a work day; and if all this exists, how to get plugged in. Crosswalk Farm has other challenges, too. For example, water is an issue. There's no water for the crops and they rely predominately on rain. Location is another concern. Due to the garden's distance from town and where El Puente's clients live, many of his clients are unable to get to their plots to work as needed to create a successful bountiful garden. To put it simply, gardening success is directly proportional to the distance the garden is from one's home. Not to say that a person can't have a successful garden that isn't at their home, but it is difficult. It takes extreme motivation and diligence to show up everyday. Due to the distance of Crosswalk Farm from El Puente's clients in town coupled with souring gas prices, the task becomes daunting and almost impossible. What does El Puente need to ensure success for it's clients? Community gardens in their neighborhoods. Robert is currently working with local churches and non-profits like Knoxville Habitat for Humanity who have lots and land to see if some of this excess can benefit his clientele and others who may be interested in learning sustainable gardening technique.

Sitting in lawn chairs and on the ground under a rare cloudy, gusty and drizzly sky on a cool afternoon, the guild gave feedback and brainstormed. One idea that came from the group was a need to further broadcast Knoxville's permaculture guild that stretched beyond this social network due to the fact that not everyone is computer savvy or even has access to a computer. One idea was to work with a local newspaper and have one of us write monthly updates similar to this one and to write vegetable and permaculture based articles to further educate Knoxvillians.

There is something amazing that happens when a group of committed individuals from many backgrounds but with a common theme come together. It seems that an uninterrupted flow of creativity ensues. So many thoughtful conversations and ideas burst forth (of course, I wasn't taking notes) that remembering all of them would be short of a miracle. Please use the comment section to continue the momentum of these conversations or to note something that you found significantly interesting or important.

Thanks for, yet another, great meeting.

If Only Everyone Could Think Like Blue

Yesterday after Kindergarten, Blue and I went for a bike ride to the park. I guess no one else shared his enthusiasm or his complete oblivion for playing in the sweltering heat because the parking lot was completely vacant of cars. Since no one was around, I allowed Blue to ride his bike through the empty parking lot. He said it was a good place to practice turns, and he showed off his cool new BMX moves by hopping the curbs. I rode around behind him trying to get a little exercise when he abruptly stopped, laid his bike down and picked something up from the ground. Blue has a large collection of "cool things" that he finds on each and every outing. I naturally grimaced when I saw him pick up the object. Thinking of all his obscure treasures at home, I said to myself, "Oh no, what now?"

Blue picked up a melted purple crayon. It was hot and overly waxy from sitting on the black top under the blistering sun. He asked, "Why is this crayon like this?" I explained how crayons are made of wax, and like a candle, melts with heat. He seemed fine with that explanation, moved over to the nearby grass and placed the crayon softly on the ground. He said to me, "You know (like I should know and remember) that I think everything is alive."

The daily insight I could receive from my five year old would be much greater if I'd pay more attention, and I'm grateful I was this time. I said back, "Everything's alive?" He replied, "Well, not like houses and stuff." To him, the conversation was over and he rode off, but to me, my thoughts were just beginning to process what he said. As I looked around at the metal parking signs and the playground pavilion, I thought, "Why not?"

Why not? Why can't everything be alive. According to physics, everything is alive with constant motion. Everything on this planet animate and inanimate consists of moving atoms. I remember my high school physics teacher thumping the desk telling us that it was in constant motion. Does that make it alive?

What if humans revered everything like it was alive? Humans would have a radical shift and lifestyle change if everything was regarded as alive. There wouldn't be waste. Bottom line. Voldemarts would not be filled with endless supplies of junk because the elements that go into making these items, which waste finite resources, would be revered as alive and beheld as sacred.

Humans have lost touch with the aliveness of self. They don't revere within themselves their own lives. This lack of veneration contributes to the modern day glutenous and disposable lifestyle. Humans are out of touch, yet yearn to feel connected. This drive and need is over accentuated by the purchasing of more junk and is fueled by the desire for immediate gratification. Oh, but god forbid anyone who threatens the "American" dream, yet the institution of "junk" threatens Earth everyday. I feel sickened by people who claim to respect life but exhibit no respect for other humans' lives, Earth, how lifestyle choices threaten our existence. I think that is called hypocrisy.

If everyone could think like Blue, humans could truly ground themselves again. Permaculture could spread and become the norm instead of the underground movement that it is. But it is through the underground that the Hopi believe they entered Earth. The Hopi believe that they will soon move to the next world beyond this Earth. Maybe "the next world" is a metaphor for an improved and balanced Earth, right here. Maybe it is a metaphor for an awakened human race. Permaculture could be the next step that takes us all to the next level that stirs the human race and takes us to the next world.

An Ode to Lettuce from California

Frank, Frank, Frank!
How dare you raise my level of awareness!
How dare you bring me to think!
How dare you wake me from my self-gratifying obligatory slumber!

Lettuce from California an Ode to You

Oh lettuce!
How I want you for my salad
for my hamburger
for my sandwich!
But it is August
and too hot for you to grow
in East Tennessee.
Oh lettuce!
All the way
sunny California,
you look so crisp
and green
with luscious water droplets
clinging to your leaves.
How much energy
did it take to grow you?
How many calories
to produce you?
To pick you?
To clean you up?
To put that fancy tie twist on you?
(and subsequently, to produce that fancy organic twisty tie label?)
To put you on the truck?
To drive you here to hot, hot, hot
East Tennesee?
To keep you cool and crisp and luscious in the open case refrigerator?
And how many calories will you provide my body in return for my own selfish gratification?

Thank you, Frank, for putting a new twist on the lifestyle of eating locally. Well, a whamo to my thought process, really. This is a new justification for the local movements. Calories in. Calories out.

Growing your own food is the best local food to eat, but if one can not grow their own food read The Gardener's Editorial for further options.

Second Monthly Guild Meeting Goes off without a Hitch

On Sunday, August 17, 2008, Dave and Anne Dungan graciously hosted the second Knoxville Permaculture monthly meeting. About 17 people attended with several new folks to boot. Word is spreading and the group is growing quickly. Hooray!

Dave and Anne opened their west Knoxville home and shared with us their solar greenhouse. Before we ever got the tour though, Anne pointed out the laundry hanging on the clothes line in the backyard on a Sunday and during a social event (gasp!).

The rotary clothesline stood right in the middle of the croquet field. The point being that a space can have many functions. (Permaculture principle # 2 stacking functions from Lesson Four: What are some principles of permaculture?.)

In the middle of the field, Dave sunk a piece of PVC pipe as an umbrella holder for shade during the croquet games. When games are not in session, the sunken umbrella holder also serves as means to dry clothes by supporting the rotary clothesline. (And, of course, I had my camera, but did I think to take a photo? No, so I lifted this one from the internet.)

When playing croquet, the laundry would not be hanging up, instead the rack would be put away and the umbrella would provide shade. The laundry line, with clothing, also does a fine job of providing shade. Be cautious though! It may also obstruct views encouraging a little cheating, which may add a new level of interest to the game. The clothesline did nothing to stop 3 boys from reeking havoc on the croquet field.

After everyone settled in, Dave started us on the tour of their solar greenhouse built in the late seventies, probably back before anyone knew what in the hell passive solar meant. Dave and Anne use the greenhouse to heat part of their home and grow plants in the winter. Dave went into a lot of technical stuff, which I understood, but am not able to regurgitate here. Let's say, though, that Dave and Anne provided a wealth of information, and now I want a solar greenhouse more then ever, ever, ever.

After the tour, we talked and stuffed our faces with delicious food that everyone brought. I can't point out a favorite, but let's say that I ate seconds (and maybe thirds) of just about everything. I think that we should start bringing recipe cards. I would like to compile a book of recipes from the guild that we can publish. Proceeds would go to fund the guild. Richard raised the topic of agenda which was quickly "no no-ed" by the women, but maybe this is something to address?

I am going to be bold enough to say that everyone learned a little something and had a fabulous time. Thank you, Dave and Anne for opening your home, supporting the guild and sharing your wealth of knowledge. Oh, and thanks for all the fresh pears, too!

“What’s so Clear is Whether They Can do It Quickly”

NPR ran a story on Honduras farmers and how the Honduras government is beginning to invest in her small farmers since food has become such a crisis. Twenty years ago, international institutions and some of the "world's smartest economists" told the Honduras government that growing grains like beans, rice and corn, was for losers. Instead these people told the Honduras government to focus on tourism and textile exports. This resulted in food imports of rice and corn. The small farmer, neglected, was left to starve.

A newer and smarter Honduras government is supporting its small farmers by distributing (yuck) fertilizer and seeds (GMO). This is a start for a small country to gain control back, invest in itself, return to the roots of agriculture and be a role model for other developing countries. NPR stated, "Some of these programs started even before the current food crisis. Now they have become urgent." They believe the programs will work and that poor farmers can grow more food, but can they grow the food quick enough.

This brings me to how I view the current upcoming crisis in the U.S. The U.S. has lots and lots of farmland, but will farmers be able to transfer from farms that rely on large quantities of fossil fuel energy in order to produce food crops in time. Current large scale agriculture in this nation is in serious trouble which, in turn, means the citizens of this nation are in serious danger of having less food on the shelves.

With our "fix-it-now" and "want-it-now" mentality, Americans don't even know where their food comes. Many people don't realize that it takes anywhere from 80 to 100 days from the day the seed is planted for a mature tomato to be ready to eat. That's 3 months! And it can only happen during summer months (late winter for Florida). It is like that with every vegetable. Fruit takes longer. After planting that luscious sappling, vine, or bush, all you can do is wait...usually two or three years before the plant produces something you can eat. Don't expect to make jam that first year the plant produces either, because that first crop is usually relatively small. It takes years to establish a strong producing orchard.

There are other factors to consider like weather. It may take longer for vegetable plants to germinate if the soil refuses to warm up. A late or early frost may take out plants and fruit blossoms or cut a season short. If there is no rain, if people aren't practicing water catchment, they can expect big water bills or dead crops.

Farming has a large learning curve as well. It may take a few seasons to know when the proper time of year is to drop a seed or transplant in the ground. It could take years to get to know the bugs, diseases and rotations. There are tricks like companion or interplanting. Right now we have the luxury of buying seeds and transplants, and what if that is threatened? Seed saving is also a learned practice that takes time and patience. GMO and hybrid seeds can not be saved. So a farmer needs to save heirloom seed to assure sustainabilty. Only heirloom seed guarentees the same product year after year. How many average Americans know this?

How many Americans even know the basics of gardening like how to make a garden plot? How many know their agricultural zone? Do northerners know that they have a very short growing season and rely on greenhouses for a large portion of the growing season? Do Floridians know that the start of their growing season is in the winter? Do people know how to build up poor soil or how to terrace a slope if they haven’t level ground to plant on? How many people compost?

Most people go to Home Depot, Lowes and Volde-Mart to get what they need. They buy the crap and plants off the shelves not knowing where it comes from. They fertilize with chemicals. They kill bugs with chemicals. This existence is not only extremely toxic to the earth, it isn't sustainable because the stuff at these big stores comes from commercial farms (refer to paragraph 3). It is industrial, and more than ever, the mark of peak oil is shutting down the industrial age...THANK EARTH, THANK GOD, THANK GODDESS! But is there time?

Is there time for Americans to return to the Victory Garden? Will cities change codes so people in center cities can raise chickens and goats? Will people learn sustainable techniques and change their worldly food perception and eat local? Will schools teach farming/gardening in schools? Will big business allow permaculture to move to the forefront? Will governments listen to permaculture design and incorporate permaculture principles into cities planning commissions? Or will there have to be a more serious crisis then the current one, and by then, will it be too late?

We can grow food, but like the Honduras farmers, can we do it quickly?

Permaculture: The Path to Self Actualization

Taken from the Bloomington Permaculture Guild Blogspot posted by Keith Johnson

"Permaculture or 'permanent agriculture' was originally conceived almost 30 years ago by Australian ecologist Bill Mollison. Observing aboriginal culture and forest ecosystems, he concluded that we could deliberately design agriculturally productive ecosystems, echoing diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.

Permaculture designs provide food, energy, and shelter for people and animal inhabitants while linking the needs and outputs of each element.

Permaculture is a holistic approach to land use, which works with nature's rhythm and patterns, weaving together the elements of microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animal, water and soil management, and human needs into intricately connected and productive communities."

I keep thinking about this over and over. It is by far the most simplistic, yet descriptive and graspable description of permaculture that I have seen, read or heard. I feel the need to memorize those three paragraphs so when the inevitable question arrives, my answer flows eloquently without my stumbling, "Uh. uh, uh, well it's very complicated." Because it is complicated in a simplistic way.

In permaculture, the agriculture proponent is highly stressed and for good reason. Besides clean water and air, what else do humans need to survive? According to Maslow's pyramid the basic elements of humans' needs are: breathing, drinking, eating and excreting, sleeping, shelter, sex, etc. If humans meet only the biological and physiological needs, we wouldn't be much more than animals. At it's most basic definition, permaculture addresses these immediate basic human needs.

Abram Maslow developed a five tier pyramid: Biological and physical; safety; belongingness and love; esteem; and self actualization. In the seventies, the pyramid was adapted to include cognitive and aesthetic needs to read: Biological and physical; safety; belongingness and love; esteem; cognitive; aesthetic; and self actualization. The nineties brought change, too, to include transcendence needs (tier 8), which addresses the need to help others reach self actualization.

I mention Maslow and these adapted versions of his original theory because I think that permaculture addresses all these needs, and is the road to self actualization. Through teaching it (permaculture), humans fill the need of transcendence. What proof is there? Those who I meet who are completely immersed in the lifestyle and teachings of permaculture are very grounded, adjusted, secure and wonderful people to be around. Permaculture reaches a basic need in us: to survive. Permaculture allows us to reach within ourselves and to become free of harmful environmental practices by living off the land in a most fundamental way. If we stripped ourselves of everything materialistic as the human culture and placed our naked bodies in the middle of the land, permaculture would lead us to transcendence. Every need and niche is filled through permaculture because we blossom by working with the land, by touching earth and becoming one with the forces of nature. Permaculture is more then reading a book and saying, "Yah, okay." It is a practice, a lifestyle, a soul's path and a return to our natural beings.

Some people may ask, “What do you mean? Transcendence? How can you transcend or reach self actualization by crapping in a composting toilet? Isn't self actualization more like the movie Demolition Man where we don't even have to wipe our own butts much less compost our poop?" And I would say no. Through stripping ourselves and building within the natural biorhythms of the earth, we reach God, Goddess, the Creators. We allow these energies to guide us. Our natural beings need Earth and to unite with Her. Through permaculture basic needs are fulfilled: creativity, beauty, intelligence, community, and spiritual growth. By working in harmony with Earth, we reach our full potential and we are then able to teach others how to reach theirs.

Bill Mollison started this revolution 30 or so years ago. There have been many other warriors, sages and shamans through the years who have carried the torch, worked in the trenches, battled societal pressures to keep these principles alive. For the most part, permaculture has been an underground movement, but now as the world as we know it crashes around us, folks are scrambling for answers. The time is right for education. The challenge will remain to keep it pure. Support and endorse accredited PDC (permaculture design course) schools or teachers who have completed their PDC. Let's not get confused between 'living green', 'environmentally friendly', 'organic' and the true meaning of being intricately connected and completely aware of how lifestyles and choices affect Earth and humans oneness with Earth.

I originally began this blog because I wanted to link God to permaculture and to human needs. Keith's blog post focuses on land use. Maslow doesn't outright mention 'God' in his tier system either. I feel a human need to express my spiritual views, which are tied to Earth and bring about the need to practice permaculture. I see them linked. It was through gardening that I reconnected with God, but it wasn't the God I was raised with through the Catholic religion. Through following the Earth, I have reconnected with Spirit and feminine energies that have long laid dormant. Like the Tree of Life, I feel my roots taking hold of Earth as I reach for the sun and sky.

I'm not sure that I have an ending to this blog or that I have even fulfilled any complete thoughts. This is a three-day-long stream from my brain. Like permaculture, my own thought process, education and actions are ever evolving; hopefully rising to new levels, reaching higher tiers, and connecting with my soul's purpose. I do believe that permaculture can help me accomplish this. I also truly believe that permaculture is the hope and answer for 'saving' Earth and humans.

The Gardener's Editoral

This article spawned from an earlier post. This is the neighborhood newsletter version, but the pre-edited version spouts off much harder on commercial farming and big business.

The Gardener’s Editorial

Each time I am out in my little garden, I think about buying produce. There is a part of me that feels rather elite, and I puff up. I think to myself in a pretentious manner, "Ha! I don't need to buy produce because I grow my own food." Like the old Grinch's heart, my ego grows a few sizes bigger. I don't view this growth as a positive thing. I don't like to think of myself as an egotistical person, but it seems that my ego grows at the rate of the tomatoes.

Some years though, I am forced to squish my ego back into its box and seal it with duct tape because the luck just ain't happening. I am not always so lucky in the garden whether it is due to a bad seed starting year, drought, too much rain, insect problems, disease, the animals digging things up, soccer balls flying through the air or a variety of issues. There doesn't have to be one specific cause. So with humility in check, I gratefully and graciously visit the local Farmer's Markets.

Besides a bad growing year, there are other reasons to support the local Farmers’ Markets. Let's face it, my ego might be big, but my backyard isn't. I think that I have done an efficient job practicing my version of square foot gardening and meshing companion and interplanting techniques in my sheet mulch garden, but there are only so many things that I can grow. I squish in my family's and my favorites, but with all the diversity and variety in tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, lettuces, beans, carrots...what am to do? There are the big space takers, too, like vining squashes and melons that would leave no room for my five year old to kick his soccer ball without taking out a few prized fruits. Some vegetables, such as potatoes and corn, zap the soil of nutrients. They also require more space than my backyard has to yield decent amounts. Living within city limits means no chickens or livestock, but the Farmers’ Markets feature farmers who sell eggs and meats. And no season is complete without fresh varieties of melons, apples, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, etc. that are all grown locally.

Locally grown brings another important factor. This is my view: If I can’t or don’t grow it, I find someone locally who does. Locally, to me, means as close to home as possible stretching from Knoxville to East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee to Northeastern Tennessee. Also, what this forces me to do is to eat seasonally which is more in rhythm with the natural flow of agriculture. The fresher the produce, the more nutrition it carries. The longer it takes for a fruit or vegetable to reach my mouth from the time it was picked, the more nutritional value the food loses. When produce is trucked in from the far reaches of the continent or world, chances are, it came from a large scale farm that practices environmentally damaging agriculture. Yes, there are large scale organic brands, but in my mind, it is still large scale farming. By choosing local foods, chances are good that these farmers practice environmentally friendly agriculture techniques and the food is more nutritionally sound.

Supporting local markets also helps support local people. Shopping with local farmers keeps the money right here in Tennessee and away from large commercial farms, big scale agriculture or chain stores that aren’t from around here.

Let’s face it, not every year is a good gardening year, so when I have to, I choose to spend my dollars supporting local farmers because they offer great variety and a better quality product. They practice good agriculture that helps preserve farmland. Economically, it supports my neighbor and not some fat cat in a in a high dollar air conditioned office and fancy clothes.

To help all people have access to the benefits of local Farmers’ Markets, Parkridge neighbor, Charlotte Tolley, is currently working to establish the EBT card system in Tennessee.

Local Farmers’ Markets

Market Square: Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
May through November in Downtown Knoxville on Market Square
New Harvest Park: Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
May 20 through November 20 at New Harvest Park near the “new” Target
F.A.R.M.: Tuesdays & Fridays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
April through October (Tuesdays) and November(Fridays) at the Laurel
Church of Christ on Kingston Pike across from the entrance to Cherokee

For more information and other area markets go to:
East Tennessee Markets

First Guild Meeting...Yes, Success!!!

We had our first Knoxville Permaculture Guild Meeting last night, July 19, 2008. Fourteen, total, attended. The meeting lasted about 3 and a half hours with most of that being social time which was an important factor seeing that most of the people didn't know each other. Chad and I invited interested people who we have met over the course of 10 years. These folks either have a deep knowledge of the permaculture lifestyle and/or have a driving interest to learn more. Some friends, I knew, weren't aware of the term permaculture, but I knew from talking with them over time, that they would find these issues compelling. Overall though, about half of the group was from our neighborhood here in Parkridge, but half were from other parts of Knoxville. The beauty of it was how well everyone mingled. It seems that with a base like permaculture, we all had such a common ground that socializing, comparing notes and asking questions came freely and easily.

We made the meeting a sort of potluck asking people to BYOB and to bring an appetizer type of food to share. Everyone brought so much good food. We feasted. Yum.

The actual "meeting" started some after five and went to before seven. We went around the group and asked folks to introduce themselves and tell a bit why they thought this guild would be beneficial or why they were interested in permaculture. With fourteen people, this took about half an hour, but I think was a critical part in getting to know each other and set a foundation for the guild. Everyone's backgrounds are diverse, yet the common thread remains.

After introductions, Chad went over some of the basics of the guild using often the Phoenix Permaculture Guild's guidelines that Jennifer, their founder, so graciously has shared with us. I wanted to note how appreciative we are of Jennifer's guidance and advice.

One thing that Chad mentioned was meeting once per month whether for a demonstration or a discussion. Of course, it is not mandatory to attend, but important that the guild plan at least one activity a month. He stressed the importance that each person go the extra distance and educate themselves in permaculture principles. The group decided to schedule meetings at least three months in advance which will soon be posted along with the topics so attendees can research the topic before attending. Upcoming topics include: solar greenhouses at a member's home who has a solar greenhouse; community gardens at a member's grassroots community garden on the French Broad river; and building codes at a member's acreage where a permaculture community is planned.

Another important topic that arose from conversations was how to communicate. Seeing that the group was diverse, communication preferences also diversified. We decided that main messages and announcements would occur on this website, but a few people opted to build a phone tree in addition to using electronic means.

We hope that the Knoxville Permaculture Guild shares the same success as the Phoenix Guild and other guilds that have sprouted up nationally and internationally. Hopefully growth will continue and guilds internationally will link for a broader range of ideas and networks.

Overall, it seems a good time was had by all. I, personally, look forward to the next few months and watching the guild grow. Soon, there will be events every weekend and people buzzing and talking of Knoxville's permaculture future.

Permaculture Centers Worldwide

Thanks to Jennifer from the Phoenix Permaculture Guild who sent me this link. This concept could be applied to the different zones and regions of the United States.

Geoff Lawton Video

Is there Room Enough for a Little Ego too?

Each time I am out in my little garden, I think about the local farmer's markets. There is a part of me that feels rather elite, and I puff up. I think to myself in a pretentious manner, "Ha! I don't need to go to the farmer's markets because I grow my own food." Like the old Grinch's heart, my ego grows a few sizes bigger. I don't view this growth as a positive thing. I don't like to think of myself as an egotistical person, but it seems that my ego grows at the rate of the tomatoes.

I still visit the farmer's markets though, not because I need to, but because I want to shop with the other local farmers. Let's face it, my ego might be big, but my backyard isn't. I think that I have done an efficient job practicing my version of square foot gardening and meshing companion and interplanting techniques in my sheet mulch garden, but there are only so many things that I can grow. I squish in my family's and my favorites, but with all the diversity and variety in tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, lettuces, beans, carrots...what am to do? There are the big space takers like vining squashes and melons that would leave no room for my five year old to kick his soccer ball without taking out a few prized fruits. The nutrient sucking vegetables, potatoes and corn, zap the soil of nutrients and require more space than the backyard has to yield decent amounts. Living within city limits means no chickens or livestock of any kind. If farmer's markets didn't exist, I wouldn't get eggs, meats and, sometimes, delicious natural milk That's right! Pure milk that's homogenized nor pasteurized. Of course, it's not for me or the family. It is strictly for the pets (wink wink).

Some years, I am forced to squish my ego back into it's box and seal it with duct tape because the luck just ain't happening. Sometimes, I am not so lucky in the garden whether it is due to a bad seed starting year, drought, too much rain, insect problems, disease, the animals digging things up or a variety of issues. There doesn't have to be one specific cause. So with humility in check, I gratefully visit the local farmer's markets who are hopefully having a lucky year. Because you can ask anyone who grows food (novice or veteran), gardening and farming require some skill, knowledge, patience and hard work, but mainly there is a lot of luck involved.

And if it is mainly luck that gets me through, then why the ego trip? The only lame excuse I can throw out there is that I am merely human and, therefore, prone to minor imperfections. But, I need to view ego like the many varieties that my garden can't contain, and leave it out. Luck and humility grow the best crops.

Waste or Giving Back?

My grandfather grew up in the depression. He lived through WWII. Before that though, he grew up dirt poor. I have a photo of him around the age of three in a flour sack shirt dress. My great grandmother, Louisa, sits with her large farmer's hand around him. She is in a dress that could have been stitched together with several flour sacks as well. At his funeral three years ago, stories of how he would not waste anything circulated freely. My cousin told me that after pouring the sugar into the canister, he carefully took the bag apart and made sure that little grain of sugar made it into the sugar jar. Grandpa made his living as a welder, as a union man, he made good money. He always kept vegetable gardens and rabbits on his city lot which helped save on the grocery expenses. When he retired, he still when around on his bike everyday looking for aluminum cans to pay his electric bill. He was a self made man with close to a million dollars in the bank upon his death, but he still wore hand-me-down clothes that his neighbors gave him. That man wasted nothing.

His lessons sit at the forefront of my life. I think of him every time I am in the kitchen and something has gone bad. I don't like throwing food away in any way, shape or form. If a leftover containing animal products sat a little too long in the fridge, I give it to the dog or cats. If it is purely plant product of some type like vegetables, fruits, or grains, I send it to the compost as many many gardeners and people practicing permaculture do.

I haven't decided though if I am wasting when it comes to peeling vegetables. My son wondered who I peeled the carrots. It was a good question. The "skin" is completely edible. I take the outer part of the kohlrabi though I have read it is edible too. The Tassajara Cookbook says that the skins of beets are edible, but I peel them anyway. Is this wasting? Did grandpa peel his vegetables?

I peel vegetables for aesthetic reasons, but as I do so, I feel that I am giving a little back to Mother Earth. When I pluck my vegetables from the great Earth, who was so kind to provide the nutrients to grow the food, I also want to give something back. In this manner, She provides as long as I continue to give back through composting parts of the foods that She helped me grow. The soil is alive as a part of Earth. A part of my energy comes from Her. I want to thank Her and to keep Her nourished as well.

So is it wasteful? Is it frivolous? We can only decide for ourselves. Maybe in some folks eyes, but I see it as practice of taking and giving (back).