Monday, November 17, 2014

The Summer of Superweed Hell!

MARCIA POWELL -- Blog article (#16) – November 17, 2014 –
The Summer of Superweed Hell!”

My last blog was July 5th, two months after planting the WPP (Woody Perennial Polyculture). My mentor, Kevin, came to visit, checked the plants and informed me that they were being stunted by the weeds. Furthermore, the weeds happened to be “superweeds”--weeds that have become resistant to Roundup. Turns out these plants (the species I have is waterhemp) can grow 1-2 inches A DAY (!) and each plant has some 500,000 seeds per plant!! Eeeeeeek! Conventional farmers are indeed freaking out about them because Monsanto's herbicides do not kill them. 

The war started by my paying a couple of guys to come in with their weedwackers and fell the majority; but they could not get to the ones right in the rows of plants. These I had to pull up by hand, or, if they were too big to pull, sickle them off at ground level. Then I had to smother the ground with 4-5” of wood chips to (hopefully) smother the stalk root and kill it. Plus, I found that a few weeks after the weeds had been “wacked” (instead of pulled), they grew new sprouts and so needed to be sickled. Thus from the 2nd week in July up until yesterday when it snowed, I spent from 2 to 4 hours a day weeding and mulching! (One positive by-product: I've lost some 10 lbs and am really buff!) 

While I battled the superweeds, my garden did its thang, producing a bumper crop of cucumbers, squash, lettuce, kale, kohl rabi, carrots, beans. Somehow I went through life not realizing that pickles come from cucumbers. Duh. Anyway, I got a recipe for breaded pickles, which Bob made, along with some relish. Now I like eating pickles. Ended up giving away a fair amount of produce to some local food banks, as well as getting ideas on how to market next year's produce. 

Meanwhile, in September I attended the Illinois Libertarian Party convention in Chicago. Turns out I was #6 in the state in terms of collecting ballot access signatures (540) (deliver what is needed and wanted...). At the final meeting, going over some bylaw changes, I noted an error in grammar. So they voted me in as Deputy Secretary for the state party. Okay... why not?

We fought a major battle to get our seven candidates for state offices on the ballot. It was such a pleasure to be able to vote for them on Nov. 4th. The percentage of people in Illlinois who voted Libertarian was way up from previous years. I perceive a groundswell occurring towards Libertarian viewpoints and candidates. Will continue working with my county chapter to grow the party.

Readers of my earlier blogs know that Bob Lawrason, a permaculture designer, came to stay with me last December to help create Lockie Farm—rain bins, hugelkultur, compost tea, worm compost, biochar, bone salve, etc. I learned a lot! Both of us being single, we checked each other out, but in the end determined that we were not a match. So I checked out a great online dating service—the Affinity Exchange :-)-- and sent out a message to Dave Christian.

Although originally from St. Louis, he was at the time in the Philippines working with his son. Thus began an online courtship—challenging, as the normal sequence is to connect online, then meet asap to see if the “chemistry” is there enough to pursue a courtship. Anyway, we finally met on Oct 10th when he returned to St. Louis. That meeting went well enough that we decided he should move in with me so we could continue the courtship—again, backwards, as the norm is to pursue the courtship to the point that you determine that you should live together. Oh, well—I've always been an adventurous spirit. Meanwhile Bob moved to Michigan where he can continue his career as a permaculturist. Dave started learning how to weed and mulch waterhemp. 

One day, working at my computer, I noticed a black sedan slowly backing up down my road, which is a dead end … strange... FBI? CIA? Come to get me...?? So I dashed out and spoke with the driver. Turns out he's a local farmer who was really curious about what I was doing. I got his number so I can invite him to my open house next summer. Anyway, that prompted me to get a little sign made with my phone number so curious people can call me and stop by. Knowing that little sign would not survive the winter winds, Dave helped me attach it to a board and some posts. I transplanted a couple of ornamental grass plants my mortgage broker had given me and then purchased some fake red berries and “planted” them in pots to add a splash of color. I've come to realize how important it is to me to create beauty as well as a sustainable farm. 

The Affinity Exchange continues to help people match up. (Please do refer your single friends.) And I'm up to four regular piano students (need more).

My advice: continue your spiritual growth; donate to the people who are fighting the chemtrails; eat organic/local and avoid GMOs; avoid flouride and vaccines; invest in hard assets; be politically active; know your neighbors and help build community.  I continue to recommend as an excellent source of information and advice.

Hope you all are flourishing and thriving in these challenging times.
Please write and give me an update on your adventures.

Oh, and it would be great if you could subscribe to my blog so I could take you off the email list.

Love to all, Marcia (217) 582-2112 home (818) 552-2211 cell

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Winter of Cold and Ugly

MARCIA POWELL -- Blog article (#14) – April 6, 2014 –
The Winter of Cold and Ugly”

In my last blog of Dec. 5, I had just moved into my new house on my 20 acres of alfalfa. But first, regarding the title of this blog, it came from “The Winter of Our Discontent,” title of a novel by John Steinbeck, from a quote by Shakespeare. Anyway, my plan was to ride my bicycle from the house in Urbana to the new house, but from November to now, there has not been a day warm enough to do that! I'm sure you all heard the term “Artic Vortex” to describe the weather in the Midwest and Northeast. It was indeed non-stop cold and wind and snow. So that's the “cold” part. The “ugly” part
refers to not having been able to do any landscaping, so there's this poor little house surrounded by ugly dirt and mud—no trees, no flowers, no green. 
Bob Lawrason, a permaculture designer,
arrived on December 12—a cold (5 degrees!) snowy day. He spent the last 20 years in Florida, so probably the only thing that saved him was that he grew up in Michigan. The day he arrived he put together a cabinet for my bathroom, and then attended an orchestra concert with me in the evening! Immediate points. :-) We then got 6” of snow—I HAD to make a snowman!
Thus came about “Corky,” a poor drunk leaning against the “DEAD END” sign by the driveway.

Bob fit right in with the family at Christmas, playing Bananagrams and napping with the dogs.

Not being able to work outside, I/we spent many, many hours creating the inside of the house.  Here's a photo of the "island"--the piano and futon couch back to back with a drop-leaf table on the north and a wine-rack table on the south.
Spent many hours sorting 50 years of music and putting it in a kitchen pantry cabinet I bought and converted; also many hours spent gathering, framing, and putting up a Family Photo Wall.

Hosted our first dinner party—Tom, Sue and Jake Smith, the people who have been farming the alfalfa. Please remember that I'm not a cook. However, I had purchased a book of vegan desserts, so chose the brownie recipe. I swear EVERY ingredient was “exotic”! And I used a blender instead of a food processor. Miraculously, they turned out good. Bob roasted the pasture-fed chicken from our friend David who runs the Bane Family [organic] Farm nearby. It was so enjoyable to be able to sit, eat, talk (Jake even played the piano) in a lovely quiet ambiance with no feeling of being rushed.

A book I read recently advised eating organic liver twice a week (!). Bob has never liked liver, but I bought some from David, who also passed along a recipe which calls for soaking it in milk first. Result: Bob liked it! So did I. I'm at twice a month now.

Although one's tendency is to hibernate when it's artic cold, Bob and I braved the weather to attend seminars, forums, meetings and such in order to meet more people who are actually doing something to improve the environment. We are now official “River Rats,” having attended the Prairie Rivers Network's workshop on how to lobby.

I started the winter with a Californian's viewpoint that the weather would not stop me from doing what I wanted to do, but I had to “eat crow.” On Sunday nights I would drive 1-1/2 miles to my sister Jane's house to watch “Downton Abbey” (yes, I am addicted). But one Sunday there was a mighty blizzard. I called her up and told her I was going to make some snowshoes and walk over. She laughed and said “Don't you dare!” Hard to do, but I finally gave up. Another instance was an orchestra concert—Bob and I got dressed up, got in the car, drove the mile to the freeway entrance, and then Bob refused to go further. He has done racecar driving in the past, and I saw him handle the car weeks earlier when we did a full spin-and-a-half on an icy street in Urbana, so I capitulated and we went home. Sigh. Then there was the time I drove to town for a Lady Landowners meeting at the Farm Bureau. It started snowing heavily just as I arrived, plus there was lightning and thunder (in the middle of a blizzard??!!), so I bade them farewell and got my tushie home pronto.

Since we have no trees, there is NO windbreak for the house. We've had winds up to 55 mph, which have resulted in many shingles blowing off. Plus these high winds create all kinds of odd noises that make it hard to sleep.

I read somewhere recently that a weather expert said “There is no normal weather anymore.” See for some data. I missed a global protest day against chemtrails last January, but have vowed not to miss the next one.

Bob spent a lot of time doing a design for Lockie Farm.
(Lockie is a family name—my grandmother, sister, and niece are all Lockie's). I am Case Study #1 (see, Lockie Farm), for Woody Perennial Polyculture. I've paid for 2 acres ($5000 per acre, on credit cards, gulp!) of trees/shrubs/berries. Roundup was used last October to kill the alfalfa, as I was led to believe there was no other way to kill it. Bob freaked, so we're now remedying the situation by digging up the top 3” and then putting purchased compost in. Bob set up and is making “bio-char” which he will add to the soil to bring microbes and such to enrich it. The planting will be done at the end of April.

The other day he came in from many hours of moving dirt in 40-degree weather and said something about the “… alfalfa-treated Roundup...” Of course, he meant to say “Roundup-treated alfalfa” --anyway, the verbal typo tickled my funnybone; took me awhile to stop laughing.

There were a couple of days recently that were above 50 degrees, so I took the opportunity to start going door-to-door with my music teaching flyers. Have a new student starting tomorrow.

Ogden is a small town of 850. Between Ogden and Urbana is the town of St. Joseph, which is around 4000. A friend invited us to attend meetings of the new “Love Your Neighbor” group that has started up there. That's what we're all about, so we're enjoying interacting with this group.

We're also starting to meet some of the local farmers. “Restoration Agriculture” by Mark Shepard is an brilliant book published last year about how agriculture should be done. We're on a mission to get farmers enlightened and inspired to start transitioning to this method of farming. Thus I gambled and purchased a case (28 books) so that I could get them into people's hands at a lower price. Have sold 10 already!

We've found that the parcel of land just south of us is owned by the Sadler Family Trust, along with more parcels elsewhere in the area—290 acres in all. That trust terminates next March, and the beneficiaries (my relatives!!) want to sell. Well, guess what's percolatin' in Marcia's little head—yup! Put together a consortium of some kind that will result in that land being owned by people who will use restoration agriculture methods! Let me know if any of you are interested. And, let me add, if you know if any young people who are still trying to figure out what to do with their lives, please let them know about sustainable farming. It is sooooo needed and wanted!

Of course I continue to run The Affinity Exchange. There are now twenty success stories
on the home page, Anyone can go there and read them.

Overall, even though there are still numerous threats to our survival, I'm feeling more and more optimistic about the good things that are happening to bring down the “bad guys” and allow us to create a better world.

Hope you all are flourishing and prospering (thriving)!
Please write and give me an update on your adventures.

Oh, and it would be great if you could subscribe to my blog so I could take you off the email list.

Love to all, Marcia (217) 582-2112 home (818) 552-2211 cell