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Winter, Observe Observe Observe

It’s finally winter around here. The temperatures have been dropping into the teens and 20’s overnight for over a week and the shaded north side of the house isn’t getting above freezing during the day. Our garden continues to grow though, the broccoli is as large as my fist and we are still harvesting salad greens, mizuna, beet greens, turnip greens, and more. Kelda and I go back and forth on how much rope to give the chickens (2 aracaunas, 4 australorps, and 2 brahmas). We have a 5x8’ chicken tractor that we usually move every 3 days or so, surrounded by a 50’ welded wire fence (sort of mobile). We periodically would let them out to forage and I have been letting them out daily for quite a while. They don’t travel far, they stay within 150’ of the coop and are quite self-sufficient (they outran/outsmarted a pack of 3 dogs that got loose last week). They have avoided hitting our garden until the last couple of weeks but now it seems they have it built in their route and are doing damage. Fortunately they are actually laying quite well now, we are getting between 3-5 eggs a day between the 8 of them, much more than the 2 a day we had been getting since we brought them home. They are obviously healthier now, feathers are filled in, much less skittish, and hungry all the time. We feed them about a cup of feed per bird a day, Organic/GMO free when we can get it but we would like to eventually move to using forage only.

Inside our house I built some shelves in our sunniest windows to get as much use out of them as possible. Kelda quickly filled them up with a potted up a bell pepper from last season, some sweet potatoes that were going bad, and some volunteer tomatoes that came up in late Fall. The pepper plant was infested with aphids and somehow I resisted the urge to clean off the sticky leaves and insects with soap and water. The tomatoes which were only a couple inches when they came in are now 12-24” tall with some flowers! The aphids began crossing to the tomatoes and sweet potatoes and I feared all would be lost BUT yesterday we found a welcome band of lady bug larvae chowing down on the aphids. We counted at least a dozen larvae last night. Sitting idle is hard when I’m watching pests kill off our plants but our interior ecosystem is (of course) balancing itself without my help.

We are regularly reminded the importance of the permaculture principle Observe, Observe, Observe. I started excavating the area for our hopeful future earth-bermed greenhouse around the base of an old stump, mostly to determine the soil conditions and amount of work necessary to dig out a 20” diameter stump. I got about 18” deep and a few feet wide and it proceeded to rain 7” over the course of three days. The bad news is the excavation pit is now a pond but the good news is the soil is rich, dark, mostly rock free, and has a high percentage of clay (great for natural building projects). Additionally, we continue to have issues with the solar cones during high winds which seem to be a regular occurrence around here, they really need to be dug into the soil keep their footing.

On the home front, I have occasional carpentry work with a new friend / general contractor Dale who is a real pleasure to work with. Two weeks back I finished reading The Traditional Bowyers Bible and am looking for wood to try my hand at a self-bow. I also recently finished reading The Earth-Sheltered Solar Greenhouse and The Forest Garden Greenhouse, the latter of which details how to build a “climate battery”. In essence a climate battery in a greenhouse is a series of perforated pipes below ground with fans which store excess heat generated during the day for use as the temperatures drop overnight. The system is extremely low energy input, requiring only enough power for a few fans, but can create a 50°F or more temperature difference.

We are also constantly developing and searching for ‘our people’ out here. We are very thankful to have met Rebecca Jim and Earl Hatley at the annual Tar Creek Conference a few months back and are becoming more involved with the L.E.A.D. Agency’s work (Local Environmental Action Demanded) in Miami. Kelda is helping with their community garden program and has enjoyed working with the wonderful children from the Boys and Girls club. We are also working with Julie Gahn, Director for the Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Association (OFRA) about some exciting possibilities for hosting permaculture workshops or Permaculture Design Certificate courses.

Kelda is also diligently working on her Permaculture Designer and Permaculture Teacher Diploma from the newly formed PINA

Nannie and Papa (Kelda’s grandparents) are getting along okay. Papa has some good days and some not as good days although his pain management has been much better since hospice has been involved. His memory is degrading, he now has trouble finishing thoughts and sentences as he forgets where the sentence started.

Gela is her usual cheery self. She can almost always clearly communicate what is going on in her life and has a knack for reenacting things she did earlier that day. I ask her daily what she dreamed about last night; it is almost always penguins or ice-cream. Her favorite things to do include: reading her books (I never understood until now why parents have so many children’s books, it is because we read each on 15 times a day!) talking on the phone to Grammy Cindy, Gramma Susan and Krampaw Tom, watching PBS Kids with Nannie and Papa (some really amazing kids television these days: Dinosaur Train, Daniel Tiger, Sesame Street, and Super Why), and reviewing the most recent pictures and video of herself on our phone. Unfortunately we can only coax her out in the cold a few short periods each day, though if she starts chasing chickens it’s hard to get her to stop, so at least it’s an outdoor activity that she can do in cold weather. We are enjoying the time indoors for planning and winter things but will be very happy to have the warm spring days once again to spend more time outside. We do try and go on at least one long walk each week out into the 40 acres to observe the transition between seasons.

Another blessing from having all this time together is we can focus as a family on how we want to rejoice and celebrate the holidays. We are actively trying to reorganize our lives around the lunar cycles and natural holidays (moon phases, solstice, equinox, and cross-quarter days) rather than the standard 7 day week. The book Circle Round is our go-to guide for inspiration. Some day we would love to share a copy of this book with all our friends and family so we can celebrate together.

Lots coming up in the next month. Kelda received a scholarship to attend a Holistic Business Management course in Oklahoma City. I received a scholarship to attend the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference in Kentucky (if I can find a ride). We are also ramping up to help coordinate opposition to Oklahoma SQ 777, “Right to Farm” which is on the ballot for next year. This legislation is in essence guaranteeing corporate personhood for factory farms and GMO manufactures/producers by preemptively blocking future environmental and safety restrictions (such as animal confinement/cruelty laws, labeling of GMOs, etc.). Also coming up in the next few months: designing and communication with family about rehabilitation of the Williston 10 acres, trying to figure out how to fund implementing permaculture land systems here, grant writing for the Permaculture series and PDC, discussions about starting a Fairland Farmers Market, and more things I can’t quite recall.

Bill Mollison once said, “The yields of a system are theoretically unlimited, or limited only by the information and imagination of the designer.” This doesn't mean that a site can produce an unlimited amount of food or material resources, but rather that we must learn to think about the fruits and rewards of a system in a less constricted way. We import or outsource most of the essentials of our lives these days: food, building materials, health care, entertainment, exercise, art, school. What if we didn’t have to always trade money to get those things, to bring them from outside? What if we could satisfy those needs from our own homes, our own communities?

By Jerome Osentowski, The Forest Garden Greenhouse



Dear (publisher/producer/artist),

I am a mother who is concerned about not perpetuating structural and personal racism in our society. I don’t want my white child to be racist. Racism is taught in this society, especially to white children, through pervasive often subtle messages that tell white children that they are better than children of color. This messaging is continued through their lives with tragic and fatal consequences to people who could otherwise be their peers, mentors, lovers, and friends. As such, I take great offense to your (book, commercial, tv show, movie, song, magazine, billboard, radio ad, etc).

Your (book, commercial, tv show, movie, song, magazine, billboard, radio ad, etc) demonstrates the pervasive racism in media in one (or more) of the following ways.

  • The (story, song, image) is all about white people. While it’s true that most Americans tend to mostly associate with people of their own race, it is destructive to my daughter’s psyche to subconsciously construe ‘reality’ as white people. It constructs the false image that white people are individuals with complex stories, and people of color solely represent their skin color and are not individuals. Plus, I’ve noticed that the stories just about white people that hope to represent society or history, are hopelessly skewed representations of such.

  • Your (story, song, image) has a few people of color, but they are in subordinate roles (sidekicks, friends without a story of their own, extras). See above. Adding a few darker faces doesn’t change the story to be any less skewed.

  • The (story, song, image) is degrading to people of color. This person (these people) are portrayed as (dumb, gross, malicious, a joker not to be taken seriously). If your (song, story, image) does not represent humans per se, as in animated cartoons with animals, I am contacting you because the voices that sound the most ‘black’ are in these degrading roles. Or, the ‘bad guy’ in your (movie, book) one is supposed to instantly recognize because they are darker skinned or come from different ethnicity than white americans.

  • Your (story, song, image) is bigoted racism, obvious in the following (scenes, pages, dialogue).

  • Your (story, song, image) glorifies a truly horrific tragic event. Your representation of (colonialism of the Americas, dramas about wealthy or royal families, ‘white-washing’ of the racism in our country’s history, skewed representations of war and conquest) rewrites history in a common but morally reprehensible way. It is much better for my daughter, and also more interesting, for her to learn about the perspectives of the non-colonizing peoples and the people who suffered the brunt of exploitation. Their stories are more important at this time.

Given that your work is racist, my daughter is not (reading it, watching it, listening to it) because I’ve rejected it from her life. In most situations, I consider myself a recycler and give things (books, magazines, movies) to thrift stores rather than throwing them in the garbage. But given that I don’t want to perpetuate racism, even in other people’s children, your work is headed to the garbage can. Or I wonder, is it compostable?

Sincerely, and with hopeful anticipation about conversations about the kinds of stories and media I would like my daughter to see and learn from,

Kelda Lorax

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