Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A day in the life

Monday was an amazing day. Here’s what went down.

730ish: woke up with the sun. I walked through the forest to the Labyrinth and practiced Yankee Doodle on the harmonica alone in the woods.

830: Medicine Wheel had the weekly projects planning meeting. We outline who has which house responsibility each day: day cleaning, lead dinner chef, dinner assistance & ensuring everyone helps clean after dinner ’til the job is done.

900: video-chat with Katie at the Council Hall

1030: Garden walk with Patricia and the other new house members. She pointed out most of the plants in the garden and orchard and described them - this one we eat, that plant is for eating and attracting pollinators, this one is a dynamic accumulator, bringing up nutrients from deep in the ground to make them available for other smaller-rooted plants. This plant is edible and a nitrogen fixer. So much to learn! There was way too much to get in one walk, so I’m thinking of organizing a regular Garden Walk so we can systematically learn about all the plants’ uses, garden functions, and other info.

It was such a beautiful sunny day for a garden walk in the woods of North Carolina!

1130: I stayed out in the garden weeding with another new work-exchanger, Allie. Weeding in permaculture is interesting: we don’t do monocultures where each bed has only one plant type. Ideally all the garden beds have at least 2 useful plants in them, and plants will spread through the garden over time just like they spread through the woods. Some are too aggressive though, and so we kill them. Since many ‘weeds’ are edible, we often kill them and eat them, but we always return the weed to the soil either by:
  • leaving the dead plant on the ground roots-up
  • composting the plant
  • eating the plant and creating humanure which, after 1-2 years, becomes a soil additive

Most of these ‘weeds’ we rip up and lay back down with their roots up to avoid removing the organic matter from the bed. A very few species are too aggressive and will reroot after that, so we remove them and compost them separately to make sure they’re good and dead, and a year or two later we have good soil.

So we were weeding, but a much different sort of weeding than many gardeners do.

1230: Allie accidentally ripped out some day lilies and realized she was hungry. So we gathered day lilies, onion grass, and mazuna for a lunch of cooked greens. We went the whole prep process: gathering, separating the onion grass stem from the onion bulb, cleaning off all the roots and chopping them up, and then sauteing it all together with some seasoning. Lyndon had some leftover rice and potatoes from his lunch.

After a few cold days, the sun was really coming down, so I ate outside in the garden. I was happily melting on the bench when Patricia joined me and we discussed guilds, which are groups of cooperating plants permaculturists use to make gardening easier - guilds are how they create ‘managed ecosystems’ instead of human-labor-intensive and destructive monocultures.

Our conversation ended when several of Patricia’s friends walked up to the house with their children to say hi. What a nice thing to have so many close friends a short walk away and with no cars nearby. 

1400: Wood chopping and moving.

I was in the orchard with Patricia talking plants when some of her friends walked by with a dog. We called out and waved, and then came together and exchanged hugs. I met a woman named Molly Currie who is a local natural building guru who runs a natural building company. Since natural building is something Katie and I are interested in, it was great to get in touch!

~1500 (When I don’t have scheduled commitments and my next appointment is dinner, I stop caring what time it is): Helped fix some plumbing.  At this point it was shirt-off time. A pipe had burst during a winter freeze, so I learned how to identify the cracked piece, cut the pipe, and install a replacement.

 ~1530: helped build a compost toilet structure in the back of the house. The structure involves wooden posts buried in 2 feet of well-compacted rock & soil. The hole was already dug and the post placed in it, so it was my job to pour in a ~1/2” rock and soil and then treat it like I was really really angry, beating it down with a wooden board, and then repeat.

1630: Quick shower

1645: I was the sous-chef for our dinner, helping the primary cook Sarah make an awesome kale-apple-onion-seed salad with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and balsamic vinegar. We also had brown rice and a bunch of seasonings and sauces for folks to add themselves. 

1800: Dinner, with 8/10 residents in our neighborhood in attendance.

1900: Weekly ‘check-in’. This was a really intimate and happy time. Each person got a chance to share what what was going on in their lives and how it was affecting them. Some people shared family issues they were dealing with, work problems, frustrations, difficult stories from their travels across the country etc. Lots of positive stuff came out too, and many of the negative outpourings became positive as we laughed and supported each other. We were really good at letting the person speak as much as they wanted, laughing and expressing support (as appropriate) without interrupting. Just being able to talk out our feelings honestly with sympathetic people was cathartic, but no one talked so long that we got bored or anxious to leave. It was a special time.

2030: Clean-up after dinner. 

2130: Video chatting with Katie.

1100: Clean-up and bedtime.

I spent the day in the sun doing useful physical labor and learning about the plant ecosystems and home systems we use. Then I slept like a log. What a great day!