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