This Week’s Bounty

Here's this week's kitchen bounty!

Here’s this week’s kitchen bounty!

I wasn’t able to grow all that I planted. This isn’t California. The extremes in temperature, greater irrigation needs, and proper Ph soil balance targeted at specific crops make growing here far more complicated than out West. Plus, nothing was grown on my land for seven years prior to my purchasing it. The poor quality top soil is only about a foot deep– if that. Beneath it is hard pan red clay.

I finally built some raised beds.
I also built, and rebuilt a Hugelkultur. (I actually did it three times. Truly a learning experience.) I’d planned for it to settle this winter and begin planting on it in the spring, but already, nature is having its way with the virgin mound.

Farm Reality

So I bought 10 acres in North Carolina.
In a conservative county within a conservative state.
Yep… a bit of, “Buyers Remorse.”

Building the first Hugkelultur mound

Building the first Hugkelultur mound in a conservative county within a conservative state.Yep… a bit of “Buyers Remorse.”

I love my “farm”
After a year, I’m still amazed when I look out the window and see all these barns and animal houses on my land. It’s like living in a post card. I also love the little “mini-forest” I have out front that sits between my the pasture that fronts the road, and my front yard. But there are hard points too:

  • I should have moved South or Midwest earlier. At 61, I just don’t have the time or desire to do all I need to make this a real farm
  • I need a tractor, but I’ve already decided to move to Northern Virginia sometime in the next 2 or 3 years. (So I’ll hire that work out.)
  • The ground here needs a lot of work. The home was vacant for 7 years before I bought it. About a foot and a half beneath the topsoil rests hard pan clay.
  • The culture. I came to the Deep South expecting racism. Being retired, I’m sheltered from a lot of that because I don’t have to kiss anyone’s behind just to make a living. But I was not expecting the worst difficulties to come from other black people.

Mr. Gilmore’s Plantation
Another thing the North Carolina culture is teaching me is the depths of internalized racism and the legacy of slavery. Many of the first slaves were brought in through South Carolina. The Klan still has three strong groups here in N.C. But on the surface, most whites are “friendly” … but they get their niggras to do their dirty work for them.

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome
It’s deep here. Transplants to the state are not only regarded as, “outsiders” … but far worse is the label, “Intruders.”
Currently the U.S. is boiling in a stew of Narcissism that like untreated trauma turns into Personality Disorders, the age of narcissism has turned into “The Age of Loneliness.” It’s not just here, it’s throughout the Westernly influenced  world of modernity. So, many of the blacks inherent not only the dysfunctional and painful legacy of slavery, but also local attitudes of “Us against Them” newcomers. Trust me… it’s a Crab Barrel here, and you’ll encounter no shortage of miserable people eager to tear you down.

Women and The Karma of NeoCon/ Libertarian/ Tea Party Politics
Black women are the fastest rising prison population. “Federal studies show that the number of white, black, and Hispanic women who classified themselves as regular drinkers jumped significantly between the 1990s and early 2000s, and Gallup pollsters have consistently found that the more wealthy and educated a woman is, the more likely she is to drink.” Gallop also found that media fueled anger towards men has also dramatically increased Lesbianism and a general hostility towards men. In short, Attachment Issues, T.V. shows like, “Scandal,” Hip Hop culture, oppression, and economics has greatly changed the way black men and black women relate. Often, if you’re a black male, when you arrive in the Deep South, you will be tested in an aggressive way by all… but the worst… you’ll encounter is from black females. This was a huge surprise.

While this was a huge surprise, it all fits in with the Karma of the Republican Right Wing agenda that has been in warp drive since the early 1980s. Social Engineering basically follows the agenda of the Norman Conquest of, “Divide and Conquer.” (In the black community, we rationalize it with the “Willie Lynch Letter.” Perhaps only good fiction, but it illustrates the way the Normans made the Brits slaves in their own land for over 200 years. All this was mapped out by Plato in, “The Republic” and all nations seem to use it to keep the ruling class in place and the masses fighting amongst each other.)

Buying ‘Back South’
In short, I was tired when I bought here. I just wanted to move in and buy a place before home prices rose. Not researching an area before relocating is listed as one of The Five Mistakes Retirees Make when buying a home. I see that I’m still basically an urbanite, and moving rural will push on you in more ways than you can imagine. The way people think they have the RIGHT to be nosy about you… they way they think they can vote on your right to breath their air, and the jealousy that some with lesser education will view you as, is remarkable. My advise is to look for the most liberal and progressive counties to move into, and rent six months to a year before buying a new home in another state.

My Hugelkurtur Mound is Finished!

Building the first Hugkelultur mound

Building the first Hugkelultur mound


I built it, tore it down. Gathered more material … branches, dead logs, newer branches, leaves, compost… then rebuilt it.. and then noticed it was pointing in the wrong direct. So I tore it down and rebuilt it. Then realized I should have kept it in the first position. So I left it… and decided to build another one East/West. Because I’ve learned from struggling with the first one.

Fall has finally arrived in North Carolina. Growing here has different challenges than in California where it was easier. My 10 acres used to be a 22 acre working farm. (I’ve even found a hidden room in the front barn that was no doubt used to hide illegal moonshine during the 1930s.) The land was not worked for over 7 years prior to my buying the property. The soil is hard and sometimes a bit rocky. White granite is everywhere. Less than two inches beneath the topsoil is hardpan red clay. But… it’s my land. It produced before… and it will again.

In the meantime, I’ve built raised beds. That too was a learning experience. I’d ordered four yards of compost/topsoil mix. Toting it from the pile into the raised beds was tougher than I thought … because I did it this summer and summer here in North Carolina is hot. Hot is bad enough, but the humidity! Oh man… I would work for 2-4 hours and then stagger into the house and lay drenched on the kitchen floor… eventually forcing myself to get up and drink some water, for as Les Brown says, “if you fall down, pray that you land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get back up.”

It’s not the biggest accomplishment in the world… but it’s one I’ve dreamt of doing for years. I’m 61 years old, tired, and bruised. Recently I’ve discovered that my central nervous system was all but shot. I’m going to have to commit to three years of yoga and exercise. I’m going to have to change the way I think about desire… for desire is a hell realm, different from passion. I suppose that it’s also a lot about WHAT you desire. As a black man, I learned a lot of whack ideas about sex and desire. What I learned, can shorten a man’s life, erode his mental health, and leave him open for sickness. (NOT the ideas an 18 year old… nor even a 25 year old is ready to accept.) But just as age is a gift, it’s also a season to reap the karma of all the choices, thoughts, and actions of a lifetime… and I feel them lodging in my body.

“Every problem is an opportunity in work clothes.” (~Henry J. Kaiser) So I could run to the VA and ask for some pills that will do nothing but mess me up more and hook me into Big Pharm, or I can reevaluate my diet. Give up the coffee and the sugary cakes and pies I love so much. By deciding to follow my passions … writing, gardening, and travel… I will have to get back into physical shape to do so… and gracefully, in doing so, extend both the longevity and the quality of my life.

Creating Your Farm Garden Life

Moving to a rural farming community is to come faced with how creative many farmers are. It’s not just the choices made in designing their lands … positioning their crops… color choices of barns and out buildings… it’s the very act of intention. “I will now grow something that is of use to myself and others.”

I listened to “Julie Burstein: 4 lessons in creativity” because I need to search for things that feed my “Creative Mind” as many times a week as possible and in today’s world, we are inundated with media choices that excite every part of us other than our creativity. “Consume.. be at war with others … sooth your anxieties with shopping, drugs, and porn in the attempt to safely satisfy our need for human passion.”

100 yr pot put bak with gold lacqureBurstein used Japanese Raku to illustrate that in the process, we often have to let what happens—happen. (Click on the link above and view the video.) Wonderful things come out letting go of our need for safety… of being “right”… of being aware of that there are things I can control and things I have to let go of … because they happen all the time. The weather, deer eating what I don’t want them to eat… a ground hog or an owl in barns where I don’t want them to be.  “Creativity grows out of everyday experiences… including letting go. It also grows out of the broken places and the best way humans learn is through stories,” states Burstein. To tell those stories… through art, writing, sculpture, dance, is to be aware that all stories, novels, and songs are somehow about Attachment and the lack thereof, so putting other people at the center of your work. Burstein list four aspects we truly need in our alienated world in order to create the life we wish to move manifest… to create:

  1. Pay attention to the world around us…experience life instead of cell phones and twitter posts. Being open to the experience to what might change you is the first thing you must embrace.
  2.  Embrace—not necessarily overcome—your challenges… learn from them instead of being destroyed or turned off by them. Some artist’s most powerful work comes out of elements of life that are the most difficult. Acceptance leads to wisdom.
  3. Embrace loss—looking squarely at rejection, at war, at heartbreak, and at death… standing between what we see and what we hope for. (“The tragic gap is inevitable”… but you can hold the tension that comes out of it and create something beautiful.) Pushing up against the limits of what you can do can help you find your own voice, as well as your own genre.
  4. And of course opening to your passions. The need to get to work … that sense of urgency. The passionate obstinacy that compels us to create something out of our experience… cathartic in its transformation of trauma or symbolic in its beauty.”

Don’t let worries about not being perfect or strong or smart enough stop you. Forget about finding the PERFECT place that will have perfect neighbors. Inperfection is “perfect” for the creative person. That one-hundred year old Japanese pot that still shows the creators fingerprints was made more beautiful because when it was broken, the owner put it back together with gold lacquer … emphasizing the broken places… and hence, it’s story is still worthy of being told. What’s yours? What will be the story that leads you to plant a seed in your urban, suburban, or rural garden? Who will come to share the meal… a blue bird… an old tired aunt… a child not yet born?

Thriving in the PRESENT Transformational Era

overpopulationIn this vast interconnected global time we live in, our body-minds are having difficulty keeping up with all the information and change. Robb Smith discusses the very near future complexities … who will win and who will fail.

1. We WILL be a single society of 7 Billion people
2. Currently, 3 in 4 adults feel emotionally overwhelmed by increasing demands
3. One in TWO adults will have a chronic disease within 7 years
4. With overload, simplicity will be a necessity to survive
5. Learn from the different perspectives instead of getting “insulted”
6. There will need to be a shift from “scared to sacred”
7. Exceptionalism is NOT the new average… be your unique self
8. CEOs have the lowest emotional literacy… this will be a “FAIL” by 2020
9. Those without empathy will experience increased mental, physical, and economic

These issues began FIVE YEARS AGO. How will you survive emotionally with all that this generation will encounter? View the video and begin to get curious about how wonderful … or horrible you will be able to make your life. Here’s the link:

Thriving in the Transformational Era by Robb Smith

2013 Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference

The 2013 Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Conference will be held Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM in Brooklyn, NY.

The conference is presented by Black Urban Growers (BUGS), an alliance of predominately Black urban farmers and gardeners, food activists and allies united in rebuilding our community wealth and health by reconnecting to the land and our traditional roles as agriculturalists and environmental stewards.

Keynote Speakers will be Monica White, Ph.D. and Ben Burkett.

Dr. White is Assistant Professor of Environmental Justice in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and President of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.

Ben Burkett is President of the National Family Farm Coalition. Ben managed the Mississippi Indian Springs Farmers Cooperative Association for 16 years. He is a farmer and a community activist who represents NFFC on La Via Campesina Food Sovereignty Comission and is a board member of the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC). He has traveled to Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, Nicaragua, Lebanon, and Zimbabwe with FSC, exchanging knowledge and information with small-scale farmers. He in turn hosted West African honey, rice and vegetable producers who visited the United States to learn irrigation, marketing and packaging techniques from African American farmers.

Together, the conference should be extremely lively and informative. Remember, under the current plans, Americans are expected to one day pay up to 75% of their monthly earnings on food.

Sustainable Agriculture

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Many people give up their dreams for lack of knowledge. Not only is there money out there to assist you in learning how to farm, but there’s also grant money to train you how to operate (not buy) farm equipment, raise organic crops, and even buy seed and livestock. The average age of the American farmer is 55, but regardless of your age, new farmers are needed.

While traditional farming is labor intensive, there are many ways to enjoy growing food, experiencing the natural rhythms of the land, and the life cycle of healthy, well-cared for animals other than over-burdening yourself beyond your limits. I’m more of a “Large Gardener” than I am a farmer. I don’t have to “farm” for a living. I grow only what I want to grow. I enjoy the land and watching nature work her wonders. I enjoy raising chickens, and facing my fears around touching, and caring for livestock. A grand, empowering feeling comes over me when I sit in the seat of a John Deere tractor, raise the front bucket, and scoop up a load of fresh organic compost that I know is rich and healthy, and that will nourish healthy, large, great tasting vegetables.

So it’s wonderful to YouTube a video and learn something new about plant production. SARE Grants come under USDA funding and are intended to fund innovative ideas that demonstrate new sustainable techniques that enrich the lives of farmers and the communities they live in. SARE assists with farmer development, education, and increased agriculture profits turning that otherwise would have ended up only as a forsaken dream.

Click to view a SARE video on grants–>