Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Web roundup

Want to know what I’m reading about agriculture, food, and sustainability? Well this periodic post is the place to find out:

  1. Kajabi on the old wise farmer
  2. Treehugger on exploding pig barns
  3. The New York times on the rise of the artisanal food producer
  4. Scientific American on the impracticality of the cheeseburger
  5. Foreign Policy Magazine on commodity induced food price inflation
  6. Popular Science on how feeding antibiotics to pigs is helping to create superbugs
  7. The Guardian on Monsanto being found guilty of poisoning by a French court
  8. Gene Logsdon at The Contrary Farmer on the need for secret crying places
  9. Wake Up World on bus roof gardens
  10. Treehugger on Seattle’s attempt to create the world’s first public food forest

You can also get these kind of links in real time by following me on Facebook or Twitter.

DLH

Read more at my Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater site...

Worldview: Philosophy: The single family household is the worst idea ever

It is my opinion that, in the history of the worst ideas ever conceived, the idea of the single family household is among the worst of the worst. If we take a survey of the things done wrong in the 20th century, I think many people will be amazed at how many of them are tied to the ridiculous ideal of the single family household.

Detachment from extended family and community

The extended family died the day Americans decided they needed to have their own place, and with the family went the communities those families supported. There was an era when the grandkids could walk to grandma’s house or, at worse, take a sleigh ride over the river and through the woods. Cousins, nieces, and nephews could walk to school together. Brothers and sisters could watch each other’s kids when someone was busy. Sunday dinners with the family were things everyone looked forward to.

No longer.

Instead, we now live dozens, hundreds, or thousands of miles away. For all practical purposes, we’re cut off from our own people, adrift in a sea of strangers, trying to find solace for our violated souls in a never-ending indulgence in the anesthesia of technology, media, and excess.

Our society is dying because of it.

Immense cost and duplication of effort.

When people lived in mutually supporting families and communities, everything they did cost less. Families and communities shared meals, appliances, tools, work, happiness, and sadness in a way that made everything better for everyone.

Now, everyone, sometimes down to the individual, has to have their own version of every single thing that defines modern life. We’ve spent the wealth of the wealthiest nation that has ever existed accumulating a mind-boggling assortment of stuff that serves no other purpose but to reinforce that we live alone.

Consider the cost of your own household. How much more would you have if you could share something as simple as a ride to work? What if you could share your meals beyond just yourself and your immediate family? What if your home was your work because your worked for yourself or your family business?

If you look at the United States at the turn of the last century, before the urban boom and before the income tax used to support it, ours was a wealthy nation. That wealth was slow and hard-earned, but it was a growth both sustainable and able to be passed on for generations.

What do you have now that you plan to give to your kids besides debt?

Insane consumption of resources.

Do you ever wonder where all the wild spaces went? More than likely, you’re living where one used to be. The suburbanization of the United States has meant its denuding as well. We cut down forests and pave over farms to build new subdivisions as if our forests and farms will go on forever.

Never mind the fact that we’ve consumed the world’s resources in oil paving our roads, putting tires on our cars, keeping those cars in oil, and burning gas just so we can live dozens of miles from where we work.

And because we live such a frenetic life, we eat everything out of boxes and cans. Do you say you don’t waste? Look at the trash cans you put out every week or couple of weeks, then follow them to the dump being built as a monument to your waste.

We have launched ourselves into the age of scarcity because we all think the American dream is to live in cookie cutter houses in cookie cutter subdivisions in cookie cutter towns-for-the-sake-of-local-taxes-for-services in a cookie cutter country that is as disposable as the boxes and cans we eat out of.

What will we have gained for all of this? I do not think our descendants will remember this era with much kindness. The irony is that they will share that bitterness about the past they could not control over family dinners in close-knit communities brought together by the excess and scarcity we caused.

DLH

Read more at my Philosophy weblog...

Read more at my Worldview site...

Worldview: Farming: MENF 2011: More on not having to go it alone

I think it is a human trait to view new undertakings, especially ones that are large or difficult, as occurring in some kind of isolation. Yet the truth is that very few people are really going it alone at anything we try to do.

The growing desire so many people have to establish sustainable, ready lives is a perfect example. I know when I took over Innisfree Farm, I felt like I was doing it all by myself, especially given the attitudes of the farmers I interact with most often. I believed that I had to figure this out myself and that I wasn’t going to get any help.

As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While there is a dearth of sustainable agriculture and readiness mindset in my specific locality, thousands upon thousands of people around the US and around the world are doing some version of what I am doing. All I have to do is seek them out and ask for advice.

And that’s all you have to do too.

Whether you’re trying to plant a window box or a thousand acres, put together a 72-hour readiness kit or establish an off-grid thousand-acre farm, there are people out there trying to do the same thing you are doing. They want to talk to you, to share their experiences and advice. Not a small number of them even want to help you succeed.

None of this is to say such undertakings are going to be suddenly easy. It has been my experience on the farm that the most worthwhile undertakings are hard because they are worthwhile. Yet, knowing that there are people you can turn to to commiserate, ask questions of, and even ask for help makes the going easier even if the work is hard.

If I may suggest, the fact that you are even reading this blog post is the first example you can cite of there being others out there willing to offer advice and help. The whole reason I established this weblog is so that I can share my experience with others with the hope that it will help others struggling through the same things I am. I am always willing to hear from you, to listen to your stories, to offer advice when I am able, and to help build networks of people trying to do what we’re doing.

Over the next while–I can’t really say how long it might take–I hope to add to this site large quantities of information on organizations, publications, and resources I know and have used to make my effort easier. Along the way, I also hope to build a network of people who are doing the same thing and who are willing to offer the same commiseration, advice, and help I would like to offer.

And you should do the same. Maybe you don’t want to maintain a weblog, but you can still seek out your neighbor who also gardens or your local sustainable agriculture group. You can go to farmer’s markets and actually talk to the farmers or seek out conventions and fairs on the subject. By doing so, you’re helping build the network and make things a little better for all of us.

DLH

Read more at my Farming weblog...

Read more at my Worldview site...

Worldview: Farming: Mother Earth News Fair 2011: Learning we’re not going it alone

My wife and I attended the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania this past weekend. For us, it was an amazing experience to be surrounded by thousands of people who care about agriculture, sustainability, and readiness as much as we do.

The fair, I think, had something for everyone. I attended sessions as diverse as one on building an electric motorcycle to one on urban gardening to one on using permiculture on a farm. There were sessions on everything from alternative energy to alternative medicine to alternative building.

What I took away from the fair more than anything, though was the realization that we’re not alone in what we’re trying to do and that there are an amazing amount of resources out there, sometimes for free, for anyone interested in trying.

The fair also jump-started my thinking process, and the result will be, I hope, a series of blog posts over the next couple of weeks on things I came to realize or wonder about during my trip.

Finally, I recommend this event to anyone who cares about the future. I will post information about next year’s fair as it becomes available, and in the mean time, I hope to pass my inspiration from the last one on to you.

DLH

Read more at my Farming weblog...

Read more at my Worldview site...

Worldview: How to get started growing your own food

Over the past couple of years, I have received several requests from various people about information on how to get started growing one’s own food. While there is no foolproof way that I know of, there are all kids of places someone can start, but I will share several things that helped me.

A few great books to start with for information are Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman, Backyard Farming by Derek Hall, Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon, and McGee & Stuckey’s Bountiful Container by McGee and Stuckey (don’t be put off by the container gardening focus, it has great information on all kinds of plants). These books talk about growing food in a direct, no-nonsense sort of way, and they all assume that you are trying to grow food to feed yourself, not just as a hobby.

I also subscribe to the magazines Grit, Hobby Farms, Mother Earth News, and Rural Heritage, all of which have regular great information on small-scale farming. They also provide advertising and links to all kinds of places that have resources for small-scale farmers.

Of course, getting started raising one’s own food also requires the proper equipment and resources, and those depend entirely on what kind and scale of food raising someone intends to undertake. A good way to figure out what you may need is to seek out someone already doing what you want to do and see how they are doing it.

I also find that attending farm and heritage festivals and shows can provide all sorts of good information.

In the end, though, the biggest thing someone has to do is to do it. My own adventure into food raising started because I just started doing it, first in a tiny garden when I still lived in the city, and then eventually on my in-laws’ farm as I took over operations here. The biggest thing I learned from that experience is that you have to set aside the fear of failing and just try things until you find something that works. Once you do that, you will find it leads to many things that work.

And, once that happens, you’ll find that people start coming to you for advice too.

DLH

Read more at my Worldview site...