Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Declaring my Independence

This is a slight detour from the discussion of the homestead and permaculture -- a brief return to the original theme of this blog. I hope you will indulge me.

I'm sure you have heard the old adage: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Based on that, I've been insane for 38 years. For 38 years I have battled my weight desperate to reach and hold on to a "normal" weight. I have dieted, worshiped the scale, starved, binged, purged, exercised to excess, and felt the shame just grow and grow. For 38 years I have hated the face in the mirror, wished it was thin and pretty. For 38 years I have hated my body, always wanting it to look like normal people's bodies. You know what all that misery and self hate got me? Fatter and heavier with shame and self loathing.

As of today -- I declare my independence.
  • I will no longer "go on a diet"
  • I will not worship the number on the scale
  • I will not measure my worth by the scale or the size of my clothes.
  • I will not feel shame for eating a piece of cake. 
  • I will not kill myself at the gym. 
  • I will not worry that my family will be ashamed or embarrassed being seen with me. 
  • I will not allow the judgmental looks of others to shame me -- they matter not.
  • I will not avoid the face in the mirror.
  • I will eat to be healthy.
  • I will exercise to regain and maintain my mobility and health.
  • I will love the person in the mirror because God loves her.
  • I will redirect all that energy to becoming the woman God designed me to be.
 This pretty little girl with the soft features was told she was fat. She was told she was too fat and ugly to be included in the school yard games. She was told that because of her size, she deserved to be hit and ridiculed and pushed off the school bus seats. She believed and was ashamed. That shame made her heavier. It made her see herself as ugly. She had no one to tell her it was lies. Instead, adults said things like "you would be so pretty if only you lost some weight". If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me, I'd be rich.

The overweight lady on the right had the time of her life hiking in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. She felt more alive and more in her element than she could remember ever feeling.  She never lost weight on those hikes even though she didn't have much of an appetite during the hikes -- even on multi-day hikes. But, that didn't matter. What mattered is that she was just as capable as skinny hikers (much to their surprise) and she didn't feel like she had to make excuses for herself.  I don't know if I'll be able to go hiking again. My camping hammock has a weight limit and my mobility is not adequate at the moment. Whether I ever walk the trails of the Smokies again or not, I want to feel about myself the way I felt on those hikes.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Self-Sufficiency Goals for 2012

While my winter greens garden is still growing, the leaves have fallen and it is time to move them into the compost pile and start focusing on 2012.  Thoughts turn to questions about what steps to take in the coming year to move us closer to our goal of being self-sufficient.

The first part of self-sufficiency is having food to eat. Food self-sufficiency means finding ways to grow, gather (through hunting or foraging), or trade for food.

Growing:  as I consider what foods to grow, I'm looking to build a base of perennial plants; both fruit, vegetable, and herb. Of course, there will also be the necessary annuals -- one simply can not do without tomatoes and cucumbers!

The fruits I hope to plant next year include: gooseberry, blueberries, strawberries, fig, muscadine grapes, passionfruit, hardy kiwi and elderberries. Some of the perennial vegetables I hope to get planted include asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes), Egyptian walking onions, garlic, sea kale (if I can find a root cutting), scarlet runner beans, and...well...I'm still working on the list as I read my new book on the subject.

How much of any one thing to plant is always a big question. One issue is cross-pollination -- some fruits simply have to have another of it's kind to set fruit. The other question is: how much will each plant produce versus how much can we use? We like to have some for eating fresh but in most cases, we also want some for preserving either through canning or freezing. We also want to have enough to share and to trade. So, the question of "how many to plant" is not such an easy question to answer.

Gathering. Foraging and hunting are also areas to be considered and improved upon. In 2012, I hope to do more in this area that we did this year. I want to learn where to go clamming and relearn how to do that. I went clamming many years ago but have long since forgotten the process. Fishing is another thing I'd like to do --or find someone who goes fishing that is interested in a barter arrangement. I would love to have more local fish on my menu! Deer is another commodity we didn't get much of this year. We had hoped that Son would get to learn to hunt this year -- we will add that to the wishlist for 2012.

Barter. I recently had occasion to speak with some ladies at church about a potential barter/trade community arrangement within our church family. Some are interested in trying a church community garden which would be great for growing some things that I might not have space to grow. It would also be nice to have folks working together on such a project. The barter arrangement would be wonderful. Not everyone has a "green thumb" or desire to garden but might like to make soaps or candles or perhaps they have or want to have chickens. We have one couple that likes to go fishing. Working with each person's strengths could help each of us be more self-sufficient. Such a community of believers helping each other has long been a dream of mine. We'll have to see what might come of it.

Other goals for the homestead for 2012 are:

* build a berm/swale to separate my growing space from the wall of blueberries the neighbor planted.
* build a chicken dome and finally get my hens.
* get a breeding pair or two of muscovies.
* to work perennial beds which mix perennial vegetables, herbs, and fruits
* improve the health of the pecan trees so they begin producing again
* build the 3 month food pantry and start working on the 1 year food pantry

2011 was a year of struggle but it was also a year of learning. I guess you could say that 2011 was the school of hard knocks. Let's hope that 2012 is the sweet fruit that comes from persistence and determination not to quit.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More on Ducks in the Permaculture Homestead

Ducks do belong in the Permaculture Homestead plan. You might think you can’t keep ducks unless you have a pond. Or, perhaps you can’t imagine of what use a duck is on the homestead. As I mentioned before, I have actually gone back and forth on this issue myself. Yes. No. Maybe. But, I keep coming back to -- Yes!

The best thing to do is consider how ducks will function within the system.

It might help to first realize that there are different types of ducks. Most ducks are water ducks. For these ducks, you will need either a pond or kiddie pool. With the latter, you will be changing that water often because ducks will foul it, fast. While changing pond water might be irritating, there is an upside to it. It can be used to water the garden and provides fertilizer at the same time. But, if you really don't want to deal with the kiddie pool, there are land ducks. 

The easiest thing to do is head over to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and read up on each of the ducks. Take note of the ones with characteristics you think will benefit your homestead. There is bound to be a breed or breeds that appeal to you and fit well within your homestead plan.

For my little homestead, I wanted a non-water, meat duck that is good at foraging (eating bugs and weeds) and quiet. Quiet is important because of the close proximity of neighbors. Docile, good mothering abilities, and easy care were also important. While some folks are fond of duck eggs for baking, Mother nixed that idea. So, which duck meets those standards? The Muscovy! Muscovies are land ducks so a water bowl is all the water they require. They eat a tremendous amount of mosquitoes along with slugs, bugs, and even small snakes. Their meat is said to be lean and similar in flavor to grass fed beef. They are parenting machines so with just a breeding pair or two we will have enough for our freezer and some to sell. They are docile but willing and able to defend themselves and their ducklings against any animal or human stupid enough to challenge them. And, they roost in the trees and only take shelter when the weather is foul. The males are too heavy to fly but the females and juveniles will need to have their wings clipped to keep them away from the neighbors. If we find that we have issues with them being totally free range, I will convert them into a “duck dome” but I hope to avoid that.

What breed(s) are you considering? Or, do you have ducks already (if so, what type)?