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When life doesn't give you lemons, thank goodness we brought some seaberry juice

photo by Jess Ssek

It is the new moon and we’ve been here nearly one month, and apologies all for not corresponding sooner! This is partially due to settling ourselves in a whole new landscape, and partially due to wondering what to say and how to sound rosy when we’ve been a little down.

Why did we move? Converging influences aligned: aging family members who could use some younger folks around the place, family land that is desired to stay in the family but without a clear plan for restoring and utilizing it, fatigue with gender normative work that kept Nick away from home 50+ hours a week and Kelda itching for more time for her career goals, mountains of office work that was disconnected from actually learning how to live sustainably, and general busy-ness with so many well-intentioned volunteer projects that took time away from playing and crafting and just being with our young daughter Gela.

What we envisioned was: the ability to spend more time working the land together, that this would be bigger acreage than we’re able to manage at our numerous gardens in Parkland, and that we would be helpful for Kelda’s grandparents to stay in their own home as long as they wished.

In short, those goals are still primary, but we’ve found that it will cost us more money to be here than we expected, that planning for the whole site will take more trust-building and more people participating in the conversation, and that our role as nearby family members is constantly shifting.On reflection, we anticipated this, but were surprised by how it played out. Dear friends and family back home, we appreciate how much you all have supported our family and our work, and hope that we have and will continue to support you. It was a very hard decision to leave you all and as things are not quite how we pictured it, it’s even harder in retrospect.

Suffice it to say, through this winter our plan is to build out an acre of land surrounding a house that we are very grateful to be ‘housesitting’ for a family elder. We plan to make the land, which Kelda technically owns, a model of the restoration, food productivity, paddocked animal systems, and hedgerows that we think (at this time) make sense to be replicated across the bigger acreage of family land. We currently have 8 ‘industrial rescue’ chickens who are recovering fine but not laying much, and a hand-dug winter garden, with some season extension in the works. By the end of the month we hope to apply for a USDA grant to install monarch habitat (or other grants along a range of projects).

Which brings us to learning about NE Oklahoma and the many tragedies this land has yet endured. We had the privilege of attending the well-organized, riveting, angering and depressing annual event called the Tar Creek Conference, which highlights local environmental issues. Oklahoma history is thick with abuses. Institutionalized racism is everywhere, and/or whites complain about the few privileges the tribes are holding close for its own. Relocations and failed promises are ubiquitous. Undermining of tribal sovereignty precedes undermining (literally) of land that will be toxic for generations to come and could collapse (literally). The story of corporations externalizing their costs and then going conveniently bankrupt is also ubiquitous. Houses are built on foundations of mine tailings, industries still don’t have filters to prevent people downwind from losing their lungs, and nearby water bills come attached with notes saying that the water hasn’t been in federal compliance for two years. Local people here love their home; and their home is making them sick.

Coming here, we actually were looking forward to pulling back on volunteer involvement, which is now just a joke. Clearly our little gardens and food forest at home is miniscule with the dearth of time needed here so people can simply survive. ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire’. Environmental justice lawyers, you are being called to pick any one of the crisis here to get involved with.

One positive note from the conference was learning about the many tribal-led initiatives for healing the land and water (ironically seemingly entirely funded by profits from casinos). There’s no big guns white-led non-profit here to save the day. It’s refreshing, but also worrying that only a handful of people are doing so much and that there aren’t a committee of environmental lawyers working together or a robust direct action team at the ready. So we listened, learned, cried, got angry, and next week will start meeting with people to actually see how we can help.

Does the toxicity of the county affect us? Surely, but it’s unclear how much. We are not downwind or technically downstream of some of the worst abuses, but we are definitely nearby. One researcher is testing the safety of food grown outside the superfund site, and though we’re still 10 miles further, we’re paying attention. More updates to come as we send in soil tests and do more research.

And now, how to end this blog post? We love you. More updates to come


Kelda decided to focus on all the really depressing things so I guess I’ll add in some good things. Gela loves going to visit Nannie and Papa to sit on their laps and read Horton Hears a Who (AKA torment the cats, steal their salty chips, and watch NCIS on television). We found a wonderful local dairy that is a 15-20 min drive but has amazing whole milk, cheese, and ice cream! There isn’t a grocery store in Fairland but there is a gas station that sells vegetables from one of the local’s home gardens. Kelda has found time to read quite a few books; I am ¾ of the way through The Earth Path by Starhawk and looking forward to Allan Savory or Joel Salatin. There was some misinformation about our access to a vehicle here and after much deliberation we decided we needed a vehicle for farm chores, chicken feed, and ‘finding’ salvage materials for projects so we spent 2/3 of our remaining savings on an old 91 Ford F150 4x4; now we just need to secure some work to feel comfortable covering our living expenses. (I’m realizing how privileged I have been to have easy/ready access to work all my life, NOT the norm in these parts). Our small hand dug garden is about 400 square feet now (getting bigger each day at about 12ft2 / hour). We planted some brassica starts from a hardware store and some seeds and all have germinated and look great so far, looking forward to seeing what the winter holds. The uncommonly warm fall here (so we hear) has been nice and we are trying to take full advantage for the garden.

And on a somewhat ironic note, we were trying to decide if we support local food suppliers (but can’t find organic) or box stores who have organic, come to realize Walmart is local, imagine that…. We haven’t felt desperate enough to do any shopping there yet.


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