Thursday, September 10, 2015

Best Laid Plans and Focusing on Zone Zero

Best laid plans.... so much for posting weekly and following the "Gardening Week-by-Week" book. I got off track but for a good reason! As some of you know, back in April, Momma headed to Florida to visit her momma and sisters. In her absence, there was some surprises afoot.

In Permaculture, Zones are The KEY to all things planning. Zone Zero is the home, Zone 1 is the space around the house that you can get to easily for gathering a quick herb for the kitchen without getting soaked if it is raining, Zone 2 is the next area…and so on. When you read about permaculture design, usually they start with talking about Zone 1--designing from the doorstep outward. Zone Zero gets little attention.

Well, April to mid-July forced me to stop focusing on Zones 1 & 2 and turn inside to Zone 0 -- our home. We had tried to finance a mobile home but were turned down. I had knocked on every door I could think of to get help with making our home safe in general and especially for my elderly mother. When she left home, she expected to return to the same broken down home. The trip wasn't expected to be more than a few weeks or a month at most. What she didn't know was that while she was gone, friends and a few very special Baptist Men came in and worked on making some major repairs to our house. I had to refocus off the gardens and onto decluttering, painting, and dealing with life in a construction zone. It was all very worth it and Mother was very surprised about what she found when she finally came home mid-July.

Zone Zero – the home. The place we gather as a family to seek warmth and comfort. Our spirits as well as our bodies are sustained and supported by what Zone Zero provides. The kitchen is a big part of Zone Zero as it is the “center” – it is where we go multiple times a day, engaging in the timeless rituals we have around cooking, eating, and gaining physical, emotional, and spiritual sustenance. 

What should our goal be for Zone Zero? I think most would agree that the goal is comfort, safety, tranquility. It should be a place where family and friends like to gather. An uncluttered place that allows for the uncluttering of the mind and spirit. Just as we hope to create permaculture gardens that others want to enjoy, our Zone Zero should be a place we – and others—want to live in. But, what makes a home comfortable, safe, and full of tranquility? For each person, there will be a different answer -- but it is important to ask the question.

First, declutter. One of the biggest things I had to do in front of, and behind, the construction work was to declutter. My mother is minor league hoarder. Along with that, at some point this home fell under a grey cloud that seemed to collect "stuff". As stuff collected, the cloud got heavier and more oppressive and harder to fight. Stuff not only clutters the space but it clutters the mind and spirit. So, step one is to declutter. It sounds easy. But Stuff has a way of entwining itself around and through our hearts. We find ourselves keeping things because of the memories invoked. King Solomon wisely stated, "...a time to keep and a time to throw away" and indeed there is a time to throw out the clutter so that the treasures we keep are appreciated and enjoyed more. An amazing amount of useless stuff went into the waste bin and to the curb. With it's departure, and a fresh coat of paint throughout, the cloud lifted and a light and lightness came in.

Making an inviting home: [be] a lover of hospitality, ...sober, just, holy, temperate.... (Titus 1:8) One of the hopes mother and I have is to be able to open our home to friends and guests. We want to have prayer meetings and Bible studies and fellowship meals. We've not done so for a long time because of the condition of the house. We are getting close to a point when we can do that without shame or embarrassment. The desire is there to be hospitable...we just need to get things to a point we can. The Proverbs 31 wife worked with her hands to provide for her family and to create a Zone Zero that was hospitable. I have been realizing that somewhere along the journey of the last decade, I lost consistent practice of arts and crafts that both beautify a home but also feed my soul. This is something I hope to remedy.

Creating a Pantry:  The wise store up choice food and olive oil.... (Proverbs 21:20) I won't get into the argument of whether we should store up 25 years worth of freeze dried food or none at all. That is for each person to decide for themselves. Personally, I don't want to eat MREs for 25 years. I would much rather be able to source food locally. And, as much as possible, I'd like to be able to provide healthy food for my family and friends -- and a good neutraceutical/herbal medicine cabinet. So, this is where we begin to expand our focus to include the other zones of the permaculture homestead plan -- and beyond into the local trade/barter systems you can form. That trade/barter system covers our shortcomings in food production systems within our own homestead. In other words, what I can't manage to grow -- either due to lack of space or lack of skill -- I can trade or barter to obtain.

Some of the things I'd like to have in my food and medicinal/neutraceutical pantry are (**denotes things I need to learn or perfect):
Fermented foods:
Pickles / fermented veggies**
fermented garlic**
Larder (cool room—not quite refrigerator but cool enough to keep produce fresher longer):
“root cellar”-ed vegetables**
Canned vegetables, fruits, and meats
Dried mushrooms
candied lemon slices**
rose water**
dried herbs from the garden**
herbed vinegars/oils**
Elderberry elixir
Muscadine juice
Mulberry juice
Mulberry, Blackberry, Elderberry elixir
Zone 1 & 2 activity during the last four months:

I gifted myself 15 Welsh Harlequin ducklings (females) for my birthday. I lost three before figuring out what the issue seemed to be and corrected the problem. The remaining dozen are doing well. I also gifted myself a quad set of Standard Rex show quality rabbits. This is a breed I didn't think I'd find on the East Coast so when I discovered someone just 90 minutes away, it was a no-brainer.

 I managed to actually harvest my garlic but not my elephant garlic. I hope I can locate their bulbs so that I can replant them for next year. My potato patch did well but I did not get a chance to harvest them. The tomatoes and cucumbers were a disaster. I know that a big part of the failures were because I was not paying attention to the garden. I feel very frustrated and with each passing season and garden failure, I become more convinced that animals and perennials are more my "thing" than vegetable gardening.

Speaking of perennials, my elderberries are doing fabulous! We actually did harvest some this year and made a dozen jelly jars of elderberry syrup/elixir. I will be expanding my elderberry bushes and working to make this a cash crop product. I hope to find other perennial crops that do well without a lot of effort.

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