Scale in the garden is not an imaginary principle. In one of our gardens we let the deer come in because there is almost no sign of them there is so much food on the ground there. Stored properly and cared for in groups of five to fifteen people, large amounts of food can be produced pretty easily from the land. Of course my lower back muscles are screaming at me this morning for using the word "easy" in that sentence.
In my case they hardly let me do anything around here because of my physical condition, and I feel like I have been beaten with a stick just from the little I have done. Its fall season and that is just typical. Its impossible to imagine what the people feel like this morning who have been working full tilt boogie. In the last few days a lot of work has been done as is the way of seasonal things. You hurry up and wait and then you work yourself sick. We brought in all of the fence roll for most of the gardens, stowing the tire and cement posts up by our cement base latrines above the flood line. Some of the crops we never entirely bring in proper like the quinoah and the amaranth. They make these impressive spires of flowers that give seeds regularly even past their prime. Every few days you just shake them over a sheet and the ripe seed falls out. No reason to stop this process or hinder its use by small wild birds and insects as fodder so the the golden and burgundy flower topped grain crop is left in the field after we pull the fence. We dried a lot of roma tomatoes out of this field which made the fence worthwhile. Early on when the amaranth is just under two feet tall we cut a lot of it for greens as we thin the row. Even the bigger tougher leaves are edible on the plant, though not as delicious as the more tender younger ones. At its fullest height it is about two feet taller than me and it often lays down on the field and keeps blooming.
Once you get amaranth and mustard growing in your kitchen gardens and your field it is pretty good about volunteering in the future. Start it in big pots at first to get it established. Flax is another one that reseeds itself very generously. Of course the birds adore these nutritious oily seeds, and sometimes the amaranth is a flutter with them feeding on the seeds making it seem like there are beige blossoms on the burgundy background.
Our sunflowers were brought in some time ago and processed mostly by the schoolchildren. They provide a lot of food and propolis for the bees when they are building their nests in the "honey moon". We have just gotten into the habit of having our seed packet activities get integrated into the classroom. Its useful busy work and when it comes to more skilled work like separating the seeds for food storage we involve a lot of the older teens. We have about seven in our group and another four who board in for school. They are already very involved in the kitchen team so that they provide a natural liaison to classroom activities like this. They also have a unique ability to take on rather stern tasks and follow up on the younger kids with an avid energy.
They were amazing yesterday putting in fruit trees and stacking "urban ore" for keyhole kitchen gardens up by the new blue house. So much energy and vivacious dance while they helped the G team create this new space for our permanent residents. Each of these seven new round gardens with waist high stone walls has a stick basket for composting in the center. Waste water and diluted wash water is also put on the keyhole garden as well as stray donkey droppings and kitchen scraps. Its tidy and the gardens do well in our dry summers and wet winters. We are working out a modified version that uses pallets. These gardens take very little care once they are established and they provide a prolific source of food right near the kitchens where it is needed. We grow a lot of sorrel, kale, chard, arugula, beets and snap peas right near the houses. There is a living mat of greenery around my house for instance that upon closer inspection reveals itself to be mostly mint, oregano, thyme, Fo-ti, and jasmine. The blackberries are being left out here because their presence on this side of the driveway is not sanctioned.
At the same time as it was a wonderful and productive day yesterday it was troubling. One of our past workers keeps trying to contact me to have him authorized to come up here and join us. He knows that it is not possible and that he has already run our his welcome here for many reasons. We have little leeway to tolerate people who are not really functional, productive and honest. Honestly I have no reason to trust him anymore, and I have no interest in taking it any farther than that. Yes what happened happened a long time ago. When someone reveals themselves to be fox stupid and somewhat self serving in a very basic way you need to just send them down the road these days. Its like back when the work shortages first started happening when the grapes and other crops were coming ripe out in the hills; a lot of thugs had to either pull it in themselves, watch it rot, or pull up stakes.
We were done with them.
All that do-gooder energy can get sucked down the drainhole of one of these vampires. We see the remains when we clean up the shell houses with diesel spills in the yard where the generators sat unprotected and often tended by children naturally causing small spills. The houses have no real walls or facilities inside of them sometimes, and piles of trash in the yard. Sometimes it is a state remediation. Those contracts are rare now and lately we just do it because the watershed and foodshed really needs cleaning up.
During the summer we are able to keep busy with all sorts of work trade projects also. The best way for a lot of the older people to get their own food in and out is to do work trade with our garden teams. Our own crops are dryfarmed so they need no irrigation and just some cultivation. Sometimes we just teach a small community like we did in Panther Gap, how to use the local dryfarming acreage to create food they can subsist on. Part of that process is teaching them over again how to eat.
We rely mostly on foods that a lot of people have never heard of or rarely eat. Its not just the sorghum and amaranth and millett in the low fields its also the root crops and cabbages that we farm in some places where the river usually stays out of it in the winter. Our soup is our way and miso is made just down the road at the ashram proper in Briceland. We also make a lot of smoked fish and smoked game from some of the work trades. You can get me to answer a cell phone call pretty quick by texting ahead the message "smoked fish".
Some cell phone calls I have learned to ignore.
It gets tiring dealing with some peoples crisis because underlying all the stress and all the effort is the clear message: "I want you to do this *for me*". Why do they just think that we will give them effort? Food? medicine? and care? Because all of their lives so far they have received these things by whining, bullying, passive aggressive tactics and most importantly bamboozling themselves that there is no other way.
Its just plain a get your own hands dirty world. Bob taught me to be proud of being able to wipe my own ass (which included all the arts and skills needed to be a "real Human being"), and that what we teach here too.
If you could have seen how many of these people suddenly wanted "Commonstead directors", and "New Tech" when we announced the program here. What they really wanted was someone else to all the physical work while their only visible job is to STRESS as if that helps. Oh it was easy for these people in the start because we had such a steady supply of fresh workforce on the streets and sleeping down by the river. You could piss off your neighbors and then just hire some kid and his family off the street to do all your work while you stomp around and yell and threaten to shoot yourself out in the barn if it all doesn't get done right "NOW".
Once the flow of (thousands!) street people was cut off, and just the long trail remained for the hobos in constant flight, the party was over for those who had abused their own neighbors and family. We live by word and bond around here. If you don't know how to do that it gets apparent pretty quickly. You might get a meal and a cot but then its down the road you go.
Its troubling to consider those who are left outside the gates.
However a lifeboat only holds so many.
Of course we are still an active trading station, and we have even joined forces with some other groups and locals to create a small pony express. We are hoping to make a seed drop box for the book store. That is my answer to the issue of the people who are not together enough to trade out with us directly: a charity seed box in town. We can collect them there, and people can receive them there in the same box. For now I am thinking of setting it up "River", "Ridge" and "Coastal" for basic sorting purposes.