Thursday, June 1, 2017

Now What?

Excuse the following ramble. I think I am still processing.

When I made the decision to start growing food, it was without question that I'd grow it in a responsible, sustainable, non-polluting way. After all, I grew up with the mindset of not polluting the air, soil or water. It was something of which I have always been conscience. Putting the earth first.

While I can't afford an electric truck and tractor, now that I grow commercially, I do what I can to combine stops to reduce overall trips; use solar energy and rain to irrigate the gardens, into whose soil I am constantly working to sequester organic materials (aka carbon), so they'll retain moisture longer, leach less and become more fertile than when I began - thereby reducing the amount I need to use the tractor. When it was nearby, I used bio-diesel. I'd love to learn how to make my own some day. 

It's a habit, leaving things in better condition than you found it, that I adopted decades ago as a young Girl Scout. Living in Chicago and cherishing the camping trips in forested areas,we never left our trash laying around and we always respected Nature.

I grew up in awe of Nature. There was always something to see in the woods camping that I'd never see on the paved back yard on which I grew up. Our closest green space was an empty lot on which, before I was out of grade school, a fast food restaurant went up.  Parks were not grass, they were wood chips and playground equipment. You rode your bike not across fields to get there, but down paved streets filled with houses, concrete and useless lawns that no one was supposed to step foot upon.

My mom grew as much as she could in a very small space in that back yard, and while gardening wasn't my thing  until much later in life, I intuitively appreciated the out-of-doors. The rain and the sun and the changing of seasons were on my mind.We were taught to turn off the lights when we exited a room. We turned down the thermostat in the winter and used a blanket and opened the windows and appreciated the fresh air in the warm weather. I still prefer a warm breeze to synthetic air conditioning most of the time. We didn't toss trash out of our windows and we began recycling. That is after they decided to replace deposits on glass bottles and cardboard cartons with plastic.... well, everything.

I remember when they told us of a coming ice age of sorts when I was a young girl. I was scared half to death because winter was not my favorite season and I couldn't imagine it never being summer. I don't remember when they back-tracked on that idea. But it didn't seem to last too long because before we knew it, we were looking at "global warming". No more aerosol hair spray so we could help close up the hole in the ozone. From what I remember, anyway.

While I'm glad that the deep freeze event didn't end up happening, perhaps it's the missed marks of predictions in science such as this, that have caused some people to question the validity of what is now being called climate change. But it seems to me, that we have many more incidents and data backing up the warming of the world's oceans, and all of the damage that this is doing, than we ever had for an ice age. Even many US cities are being affected. Just ask the mayor of Miami about the ever increasing rising tide and what they're going through to protect the city's ocean-front properties. Made me re-think about retiring to some beach front property some day.

Yet, there are many people who cling to the idea that we, "mere humans", could never do anything, even collectively, to affect something as massive as the Earth's atmosphere.

This line of thinking is pretty interesting to me, considering some of the same people are saying how great they are and how responsible they are for other things that would require a much different posture than that of a mere humble human. Either we are capable of doing great things or not.

Well, let me just say; we are capable of doing great things; we have already affected this beautiful planet.

We have stripped its forests,

polluted its waters and air,  

caused earthquakes,

longer lasting and more severe and violent storms - which have cost lives.

We've ruined soils by trying to do more, too fast,

and in the process, pushed a lot of species of life - to the point of extinction. 

How can anyone say "we" couldn't affect the climate, when we've already done so much damage in so many ways and in so many places around the world, just in my lifetime?

I don't know how old the earth is. I don't know for sure that if my old Ford truck were put out of commission and replaced with an electric one tomorrow, it would make a big difference in the big picture or not.

But I do know that nearly every time I drive or take the train into the city of Dallas from the south east, there is a haze of smog hanging over downtown as I draw near, that I don't remember seeing 25 years ago. 

I do know that when the neighbor fires up his old diesel rig and idles it for 15 minutes, it fills the air and my house with a suffocating cloud that lasts long after he's gone. And that can't be good for anyone to inhale. And the post oak tree he parks underneath, is dying.

I do know that when the wind blows from the south, the air is noisier with I20's traffic and it's not getting quieter. And surely the exhaust from all of those vehicles is being filtered by fewer and fewer trees as we cut them down in lieu of more places to shop and eat - for things that do nothing to clean the planet. Urban sprawl is coming to my side of town. Quickly. And I'm not excited about it.

And I don't know that what I, as one person does, alone, affects things or not; but what we do as a nation, collectively as millions of individuals, until very recently, has caused more pollution to this big, blue, beautiful planet than any other country on it. And it made perfect sense that it should be up to us to bite the biggest bullet to help fix things. But that, apparently, wasn't fair. Over two decades of negotiating and 200 countries later say otherwise.

Farmers all over the world are among the first to feel the imbalances in the seasons. And in turn, those who eat food feel it soon thereafter.

The longer rainy seasons. The longer dry spells. Higher low average temperatures. Higher highs.

California just recently came out of what I believe was its worst decade of drought in generations - only to be followed by floods.  

Generations that occupy the same land now experiencing fewer chilling hours each winter; forcing them to move orchards to higher elevations in order to produce food and make a living. To yield less, means to charge higher prices.

The push is on to develop strategies for drought tolerant species of vegetables, using season extending and soil protecting structures to grow food where it used to grow more abundantly - before climate changes began affecting yields.

Farming organically actual helps sequester carbon, BACK into the soil. It conserves energy and water. Organic farming slows runoff and erosion of topsoil by rebuilding it.

Farming without the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides reduces pollution because the products we may use, break down in the sunlight, with water or quickly with exposure to air. And, a small, organic farm, refuels itself in a closed loop system when combined with livestock whose manures are used for fertilizer and sometimes, fuel.

Organic farmers are on the front line - and in a place to help where others refuse. But we can't do it alone. 

I realize we can't turn back the clocks. And no, I don't want to have to light a candle to see at night or have to build a fire to make myself and friends a meal, or not be able to communicate with you all via this blog, a computer or a cell phone. Or live totally off-grid all of the time. I like running water and heat just like anyone else. 

But I want to do it in a way that does not leave a trail of smog and pollution behind me. And I want my government to lead the way with matching or better funding for safe, alternative and renewable energy sources as fossil fuel gets. I don't want to say, "me first and too bad about the rest of the world." And I really do think most of us agree.

What comes around, (the planet), goes around.

I want to embrace every eco-friendly option I can afford to embrace and save up to afford more.

I want to conserve as much energy as I can and leave the little slice of Texas that I am fortunate enough to own, in a better way than which I found it; stripped down to nothing but sand burs and Bermuda grass where it wasn't bare sand. Not a grain of top soil to be found unless you went to the back 3 acres of unspoiled prairie.

I want to be an example for conservation and living responsibly.

I want to encourage more people to learn to grow a small back yard garden of popular foods. Organically.

One of my goals for Eden's has always been to be green. As green as I can be. Solar power and rainwater collection for at least some of the irrigation and animal's drinking water.

Solar panels for the walk in cooler and hopefully some day for the yurt and my house and one day I hope my main automobile will be green, too.

My thinking was that the lower my overhead, the less I'd have to mark up the food I grew to pay the bills and make a living - so more people could afford to eat well. I have been green out of frugality, if nothing else.
I believe, we all can be examples of conservation. 

We have become a society of disposable phones, packaging of packaging - of food that can and should be coming out of our own back yards as much as possible, raw and local otherwise. And we are a society of convenience over conscience with profit over people and the environment. Or safety.

None of us is perfect. No one is asking us to be perfect. But if my shopping or living habits contribute to the pollution of my land, soil or water, I will certainly do whatever I can to change that. Maybe now more than ever.

We don't own this planet. We are simply borrowing it from future generations of people, of children, of those who haven't even had a chance to see it yet. 

Once again, look for organic farmers and like-minded citizens to lead the way, in spite of the profit seekers and those who choose to stay in the old ways of increased fossil fuels use, at the expense of small islands and countries on the other side of the world, our own shorelines, and the very air we breathe and water we drink.  By the time some people notice the effects of the warming of our oceans, because they don't have one nearby, it may be too late.

It's time we think of others and err on the side of caution. At least, that's what I think.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!


 Click for some tips on how you can do your part, and some links/sites to follow;

Food and Water Watch
DownWinders at Risk - local organization dedicated to cleaner air for North Texas.
A plethora of 100 sites. One for everyone's fancy.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Coming Together to Eat

The one thing that brings us all to the same level playing field, is food. The need to obtain it and consume it.

And when we can all gather around one big table, be it a long fancily decorated one, a round one with a porcelain top or a picnic table with ants running across it, barriers are lowered and we can all come together and enjoy one of life’s most simple acts. Eating.

My decision to move to Balch Springs to open a garden shop had more to do with the piece of property I found appealing than anything else. Moving my home there a couple years later, was just a two mile jaunt from where I’d been living, and honestly, it’s felt a bit like moving back to where I grew up in IL; On a pretty busy road, a block off of a noisy freeway, (instead of a busy commuter rail station), in an old house of a smallish, mostly blue-collar community. The main difference being this community is more diverse and markedly more rural. 

People of my community, whenever they’ve come here to the shop or Market Day, have always been warm, welcoming and friendly.

They come seeking nourishment, flavor, quality and often find the experience of an old childhood memory of their grandparents’ farm, or make a new one.

They’re often surprised to see chickens running amok, huge, old oak trees shading the area, historical buildings, and if on a tour, the land opening up to what often feels like to some, a never ending expanse of land full of native wildflowers, indigenous trees, shrubs, insects and other wildlife.

I’ve made my home and stay in this community because of my love for this land, and the people who live here. I’ve watched a lot of changes I don't necessarily like in the past 12 years; too many new fast food restaurants, beer stores and national brand cheap merchandise outlets, and don't see enough simple quality of life improvements or focus on existing mom and pop establishments.

But none the less, the people seem to come together for the fall fest parade, 4th of July celebration, the repair or building of a playground for its children or to pick up litter city-wide; showing me that there are a lot of people who, too, feel a sense of community here.  And as I've hoped, the community garden here continues to grow into a place where neighbors gather more often, too.

The longer I live here, the more comfortable I feel and the more determined I am to keep this farm here, in Balch Springs, rather than move it further out. Demographics have been evolving and development has been exploding here just as in the rest of the state. And as a rural property owner and lover of things left undisturbed, I’m not too excited about some of the development or the pace of it.

However, knowing that my little farm can still provide a relatively quiet space for someone seeking solace from their busy life or a tragic event; a safe home for wildlife; a bit of a preservation for what the native prairie lands here looked like before “Zip City”, before it was called Balch Springs, and produce nourishing organic food for local families who want it, really makes me smile.

Won't you gather together with others this weekend, wherever you are, and sit down at a table, long or short, and share at least one meal? Not in the car. No phones. No computers. No TV’s. Just food and people and conversation. And if you’re around the farm, join me Saturday after Market Day for a picnic. Potluck style.

I’ll provide the garden salad and a few crazy chickens running amok. 

Eat Your Food - Naturally!