Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Go Big AND Go Home!

Those of you who know me, know that I have a tendency to over share and have a hard time hiding my excitement about future projects.

The future is now. Pretty much, I had to go to Europe and not have Internet for close to two weeks to stop from writing about how excited I am about this.

What is this?

Trees. We need to plant thousands of trees. At first the idea was ridiculous, a dream, far out there. But the more we learned, studied, visited other farms that practise Permaculture, this idea took root and wrapped its tendrils around our imagination. We can do this.

Events conspired, as it is said......Chad quit his job. He was mentioned by name on Permaculture Voices Podcast and was soon invited for an interview. A friend of ours ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign and we started to see this kind of fundraiser as a potential funding source for our own project. What was once a crazy unattainable dream? It's possible. We can do this.

The next time someone asks, 'how can we feed the world without these industrial monoculture systems?' I want people to be able to point to our farm and say, "that's how." 

We chose Indiegogo to host our fundraiser because they allow us to keep funds raised even if we don't reach our goal. As farmers, we face incredible risk every day with inclement weather, insects, chemical drift, escape artist animals with attitude, and changing political policies. We chose less risk this time because we could!

The project:

Here is a link to the entire PDC design that Chad completed recently.   It is pretty long and technical, but if you are investing with us, take a look.

The money raised here will go directly to planting trees and installing the infrastructure necessary to support them.  Tree plantings of apples, plums, peaches, hazels, chestnuts, and mulberries will be interspersed with black locust and other trees designed to fix nitrogen and nurse the main tree crops into production at small intervals designed to be thinned as necessary.  These trees will be planted along swales running on contour across what are now our main pasture areas.  Fencing will protect the trees from the livestock that will be grazed down the aisles created by these tree lines.  If we are successful, we'll be able to put 1000 trees into the ground.  Every $20 we receive will be able to plant one tree and install the necessary fencing and other infrastructure necessary to care for it long into the future.

These trees will be a cornerstone for showing a future generation of farmers how we can feed the world without destroying it.  Our future projects include building a test garden and classroom/community space, holding workshops, and hosting retreats. We hope our farm can also be an incubator for others' farm dreams and small businesses. Teaching others about Permaculture is our lifelong calling and we hope to be doing it for a long time.  We've begun this outreach already by holding the first meeting of the Central Iowa Permaculture Guild. 

Help us continue to pioneer new techniques for feeding the world while caring for it.  Our plan includes perennial tree cropping combined with multi-species grazing smack dab in the heartland of industrial agriculture - Iowa. 

Even if you can't donate, tell others about us and about Permaculture farming. It's important work. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Day Three in Prague: In which I demonstrate that I can actually take decent architectural photos.......

Day three was so overwhelming and amazing that I can't even remember what I ate. Seriously. Ok, Actually I think I had eggs for breakfast with an amazing Czech bread for toast and then frozen cheese on a stick later.....but I know there was other food somewhere in the day and I cannot remember it at all. Why? Architecture. All of it. And the history. This first picture is the place where thousands of people gathered for the Velvet revolution, Wenceslas_Square, but it was also the site of a great many historical gatherings and protests. The sense of greatness and historical importance was dense in the air.

Day Two in Prague

Day two. I slept most of it. Yes I did. I could not sleep the night before. I got up at lunch time and washed my hair, then spent about 45 minutes trying to clean the purple out of my friend's bathroom. Freaking poor planning on my part- freshly dyed hair + staying at someone else's place= frantic cleaning. I did remember to bring my own pillow case and towel though (always travel with a towel because...).  

Day two was spent studying maps, making lists of places I wanted to visit, writing, and getting grounded. Plus, Adrienne had to work and I did not yet have a key to the flat. When she returned we headed out.

Dinner was an amazing beef and gravy dumpling plate and aloe vera tea and then we headed out to a Pub Quiz! Ha. It was fun and I got to use my mad trivia skills....also humbled by my lack of pop culture knowledge in general.....though I did correctly identify Kurt Cobain as a kid.

This was the first time I started noticing the beautiful tattooed doors, but did not yet think to photograph them. Actually, this day I was still getting my artistic mind around how to photograph buildings again. My first job out of college was survey work for the State Historical Preservation Office, taking digital photos of buildings. I even had a portfolio of churches and commercial buildings, but it has been over a decade that I have mostly taken action and macro shots of flora and fauna on the farm and my children. It is a very different kind of photography and requires a different eye. I am posting these terrible shots from my second day as record of the progress I made artistically.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Day One: Prague

Waiting for take off.
In the air!
Flying was interesting. At our local airport,  there was much fuss about Swamp Fire, our signature farm seasoning, that I was bringing to my friend as a thank you gift. My joke that it is "the bomb" but not "a bomb" was not appreciated. Neither was my observation that my boarding gate was C4. Also, at each check point I was taken aside for "special" treatment and reassured that I do not fit the profile of the Panty Bomber.  Not something I was able to find online with a quick search, as the underwear bomber is not someone who looks anything like me.  Still, I made every connection, sometimes breathless and last to board.

I was relieved and travel weary when the plane landed in Prague.  Thank goodness for good friends, seriously. I was so happy to see Adrienne! All the way around the world for a hug. It took me two years to follow through on a promise, but I did it. Well worth the effort.

 And this is the neighbourhood that I spent most of my time in. This particular pub had fantastic gnocchi in spinach cream sauce, so good I hope to make it soon for the family. Mmmm, mmmmm.

Mostly, day one was just getting settled, and day two the same. 

People keep asking me why I went. I answer a couple ways:
One: it was my pig escape money goal. Every time Chad needs help with escaped livestock and swears at me, I get 50$. Ha ha. This is no longer an issue and it actually did not generate enough money for such a trip.
Two: Bucket list, true. Going to Europe was a long term goal. Living there was actually a childhood dream.
Three: In grad school, I had a nursling when I should have been taking the semester abroad in Italy that other Architecture students were required to do. I have always felt this was a gap in my education. This short trip is far from filling that gap, but I have a lifetime to do so.
Four: A vacation? I feel so guilty even allowing myself to admit this outloud. I grew up poor. Free lunch poor. Taking a trip like this is a luxury I don't deserve. It makes me one of them, the not poor. That is a hard thing to swallow, especially after our new transition to grow our farm in which we will have to use government programs for health care and the like. Confused? I don't want to admit we'll be poor or admit we were well off enough to send me on a European vacation. 
Five: Opportunity knocked. The set of circumstances that made the trip affordable all lined up.
Six: It was a personal reward, if I followed through with sending my work out into the world and it was accepted for publication, I would do this. I would have earned this.
Seven: Travel unravels us in ways that are intangible. I needed that unravelling at my seams so I could take up the pieces and reassemble with stranger threads.

Details of the trip budget, since this is the next question I get:
Ticket: I watched flight prices for more than a year, fluctuate. I could have gone to Priceline and a round trip ticket I scoped out was $600 but not refundable and lots of layovers. I opted instead to fly AirFrance/Delta and even pay an extra $75 each way to fly out of the Atlanta hub. Ticket total was around $1300 with all the fees ect.
Passport: $200 with the fees and photo and new driver's license required. That's its own story.
Food and Museum fees while there: $200 for ten days.
Train: less than $20. It was 220 crowns I think and I am too tired to do the math. 1000 crowns=48$.

Lodging was free- stayed with Adrienne the whole time. Huge savings and pretty much what made the trip doable and worth it. She was a guide and translator, and really made the trip fun and local.

The weather was perfect, warm and sunny or overcast and cool (perfect for photos). Fall was full of colour too.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Get ready for it

I'm back, weary from travelling, with 1000+ photos to sort and share, many many stories to tell- including but not limited to getting on the wrong train in rural Czech Republic, the encounter with the drunk French guys, swearing in 16th century Scottish at a brutish ex-pat, touring the infamous and miraculous chapel of bones, and paddle boating near the Prague Castle.

Wait for it. It will be well worth it.

Until then, I am buried in midterm paperwork, laundry, and farm business....not to mention sleep to battle jet lag.

Here's a wee taste to tide over.