Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Wendell Berry Year

"This is how we are celebrating the end of the world as we know it."

That you carry yourself forward and experience the myriad things is delusion. That the myriad things come forward and experience themselves is awakening. — Dogen Zenji (1200 - 1253)

Fencing the chicken coop
Recently Professor Guy McPherson told RT’s Thom Hartmann, “My advice is to be here now. To focus on the now, because this is what we have… Lets create those fantastic, joy-filled moments. Lets be here now with the ones we are with. Lets treat the living planet and other human beings with decency and respect and maybe treat ourselves with a little dignity.” 
It’s good advice. When confronted with a cataclysm of truly apocalyptic proportions, you can adopt the strategy of Harry Truman before the Mt. Saint Helens eruption, and spend the time you might otherwise use to escape to walk among your beloved pine trees one last time. 

Kazakhstan's Денис Тен
learns geodesic design
Or, you could go the path of say, Bill McKibben, and use a lifetime of finely honed talents to scream about impending catastrophe from the rooftops, get arrested, and get on the cover of The Rolling Stone. There is something cathartic about bailing water from a sinking ship, even if it doesn’t stop the ship from sinking.

Last year we took our little bailing tin to 11 countries, surfing available rooftops to scream from, penning stylish warnings, speaking through mass media, and hoping to get on the cover of the small town local version of Rolling Stone. This year we are doing a Harry Truman. Or, perhaps more approximately, a Wendell Berry.

New Pekings
Our neighbor in the Bluegrass to our North, the poet farmer behind the mule team, is a notoriously hard man to invite to anything. Not that he is shy, just that he is a serious farmer. He has animals to care for, crops to get in, harvests to sell or put by, and chores that simply must be done, every day.

So this year, a year that is in many ways a watershed and in other ways just more of the same, we are staying home and farming.

Our Indiegogo campaign over winter (still accepting donations)
was wonderfully successful and bought us straw, clay, sand and lime. We put out a call for apprentices, volunteers and WWOOFers, with the added perk that if they spend 2 months with us this summer we will teach them the full permaculture design curriculum and award them a certificate. As of today we have 23 confirmed and another 30 possibles. We have the first five on site and more en route.

Another swale day at The Farm
Each day we farm. Some days it means working on repairs to the chicken coop or duck ponds. Other days it means cutting bamboo and splitting it for construction. This is the season we inoculate the mushroom logs and we have plenty of shiitake spawn, wax and green logs all ready. Five or six of us can set out logs for the spawn run at a good clip when we get going. Then there are the starter trays of fresh vege to get going in the greenhouses, the raised beds to renew with over-wintered compost, and batches of biochar and EM tea to cook up.

Discovery Channel comes forward
to film our biochar stoves
Our piece de resistance this season will be the Great Hall of the Prancing Poet. Our master builder, Jon Hatcher, has been by to help train the new crew and everyone is itching for more time to make slip forms and tamp clay-straw into the walls, then lime plaster and trim them out.

This is how we are celebrating the end of the world as we know it. Neither a bang nor a wimper; just songs around the campfire, home-brewed ale and homegrown blueberry-apple crisp, and bluegrass picking under the full moon.

Y’all come by.  

PS: And if you still would like to catch us off The Farm this year, we'll be conducting a 2-week urban permaculture design course for the Chicagoland Permaculture Guild August 2-15, with an all-star cast.

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