Nourishing life, community, family, home.

Archive for the ‘Nature Connection’ Category

Sacred time…

I have been, over the past two years, developing what is sometimes called a sit spot. There’s not a lot of mystery to it. I go out most mornings as close to dawn as possible and sit.

I take in the light,
the wind,
the plants,
the birds at the nearby feeder,
any insects that are moving…
and I take a moment to be thankful for them.
I take a moment to check in with what is going on within.
I set my intentions for the day
and connect with the mystery of how life unfolds around me.
I feel gratitude.
I open my heart.
This is not merely a sit spot.

Somewhere here is a "sit spot"

Somewhere here is a “sit spot”

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Love and the springtime

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Appreciate the people in your life and first stirrings of spring.

As we prepare to get hit by winter weather, I recognize the lengthening of the day, the calls of birds, the play of squirrels in the maple tree, and the restlessness of everyone in the house.

Beginning of spring, CC-Takashi .M on flickr

Beginning of spring, CC-Takashi .M on flickr

Human Beings are Not Born

I was greeted to the day with this post on Phillip Carr-Gomm’s blog (a blog I enjoy tremendously).

The beauty of this short film is only surpassed by the poignancy of the message Stephen Jenkins is sharing. I thought of the many endeavors of my friends and the questions with which they dance as they consider how to live a sane and beautiful life in this culture and these times. Ann Kreilkamp with her wonderful blog, Exopermaculture–wherein she addresses big questions about creating permanent culture, the changes of our times, and how to approach death and dying in our culture. I thought of Kevin and Monique, Mark Morey and the 8 Shields Institute, and Maya’s efforts to go to Coyote Camp. There are so many rich and wonderful responses here–and I know there are many more.

Enjoy!

Sugarin’ Time…

Well, Happy Valentine’s Day!

And, I find myself preparing this year to tap trees for syrup–at least the trees I’ve got access to. I’ve thought about it for years and always missed the timing or hesitated. Not this year!

We try not to use refined cane sugar in our household, but we do use a lot of honey and maple syrup. So why not become more resilient and build a deeper connection to the trees and season by including this practice in our lives? A perfect way to “tap into abundance.”

There are, of course, excellent videos and sources about when and how to tap your trees and then use that gift of nature to make syrup.  Tap My Trees is one of the clearest sites I’ve seen. It even talks a bit about the benefits of drinking the sap straight–pointing out that this is a regular practice in South Korea. I am reminded of how important the maple syrup was to indigenous people the world over). And, hint: there are other species of tree that make excellent syrups.

Which trees might you be able to tap? Is there a “sugar shack” in your future?

So, here’s to –sweets for the sweet

Teaching permaculture to children?

I love to offer permaculture workshops to children. People are usually surprised and supportive–but mostly surprised when I say that I love to work with children. Their response is usually based on their own perceptions or understanding of permaculture.

What is permaculture?

It’s an ethical design science–and it’s more than that. It is a movement. In this country, it’s a gloriously unruly movement of people implementing their versions of permaculture. Yes, permaculture–“permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture” is based in the three ethics: Care of the Land, Care of People, and Equitable Distribution of Surplus. Yes, it’s systems theory driven and based in mimicking the patterns and solutions of natural systems. Yes, it’s about growing food, foraging, and integration with the natural landscape. Yes, permaculture is about buildings, technology, water, energy, seeds, nutrition, economics, villages, and regenerative cultures–story-telling, song, art, really, really good design. And it all derives from a connection to the land.

I love Jon Young’s gentle challenge in the May 2013 edition of the Permaculture Activist (which I guest edited) when he asks, “Is it permaculture if no one connects to the land anymore?” (p. 11) I have the rare opportunity to work in my programs with children who are learning to connect deeply to the land through Nature Connection programs (through The Wild Nature Project) or to introduce children to some of the basic routines that are held in common with nature connection and permaculture.

Harvest & Emily at PDC 2007

Why children?

I love introducing children to permaculture–they GET IT! So I’ll share the top three reasons I offer to adults about why I love sharing with kids so much:

1. Design: The “shoulds” of our modern culture are not imposed. Children are natural designers–and because they are not limited in their imaginations, they are very, very creative with design. Children will spend a long time organizing, imagining, problem-solving and creating together–given the opportunity to do so. Team designs bring out the best in sharing and the joy of co-creating.

2. Patterns: Children can (and, I believe, should) spend hours observing the patterns and rhythms of nature–even a small backyard garden or the changes and interactions between a single potted plant and the light. They don’t do this because they HAVE TO, but because they are drawn to. Young children are learning to orient themselves to time and space. Having a solid natural context with grounded understandings of the movement of birds and animals, the weather, the timing of plantings, the flowering and fruiting of plants, why people build houses and communities the way they do–these are all valuable skills.

I love celebrating their discoveries with them. Patterns hold secrets to a mysterious language–how air and liquids move through plants and over land, pathways of animals, bird song, the growth of trees, where the cats sleep, how a seed sprouts and grows, and on and on and on…

bee balm & Asiatic lily

3. Ethics: This response always gets a few raised eyebrows, but it is completely true. Ethics do not have to be some eye-rolling, tortuous, intellectual exercise.

Children, maybe especially the young ones, love the simplicity of the ethics: Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. It’s natural for them. Often when we come to a point of potential conflict, a child will pipe up with “Okay, Fair Share.” Or, in answer to a question about why we might do something (like donate extra produce to a food bank), we’ll get “People Care, Fair Share.” When my daughter asked me what a group meant by “social justice” (comparing it with her own understanding) we clarified it with anything that has to do with the permaculture ethics. “Clear as a bell, mom.”

I would love to see every child have an opportunity to practice Deep Nature Connection and explore permaculture for themselves. To that effect (and in the interest of a bit of self-promotion), I am offering:

workshops this fall for children;

drafting a set of curricula for children ages 3-15; and

offering workshops on parenting for permanent culture next spring. This fall, my daughter and I are offering a workshop at the Bluegrass Bioneers about our journey together.

Lest you think children get to have all the fun, we are currently enrolling adults in our fall weekend course, which will begin mid-September.

enjoy!

First day of homeschool…

Today was our first day of school. It’s a new stage for us–not only are the grades different, but this is the first year I’m really consciously “doing pre-school” with Caden. So balancing the needs of pre-K and a burgeoning sixth grader are here in front of me.

What does that look like from a Waldorf/Nature Connection/Permaculture/big emphasis on family view?

Well, today for us was:

Walk the dog on the B-line trail through town (stopping to smell the roses); breakfast at Bloomingfoods and running into a former permaculture student to talk about the great projects he’s working on.

Then back at home:

Geology/Geography: A look at Pangaea and continental drift theory. This video really put the concept in perspective for us. We puzzled out the relationship between continents and talked about the biogeographical implications and the relationship between mountains, ocean trenches, faults, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. More on this for Maya in the weeks to come.

Meanwhile the preschooler, enjoyed working with the numbers 2 and 3, various coloring projects and drawing crab monsters. While Maya reviewed parts of speech, explored new vocabulary, and practiced math work from the previous year, Caden helped to prepare lunch.

After a lunch break (with a breather for mom), we did some individual reading. Maya worked on sewing up a project while I read a beginning story to Caden from our Keepers of the Animals curriculum.

We wrapped up the day with some cordage (one of my favorite primitive skills). Maya harvested a few yucca leaves from our garden and guided us through processing (pounding with a stone). It turns out that one particular stone I’d collected is indeed the PERFECT stone for this kind of work. Under Maya’s tutelage we all made great progress with it–enjoying the shade and comfort outside, playing and laughing together. Even the pounding became a rhythmic play. Here’s a look at our handiwork:

Yucca leaves in various states, stones for pounding out the material, and finished yucca cordage.

Not every day will be this idyllic, but I think it’s been a lovely start to the year and I am grateful for this opportunity.

The Gift of the Hydra

I once called it a “trash tree.” So ignorant, I was. We cut the “ugly thing” down in 2006–preferring to use the space for an apple tree in our new permaculture forest garden. But, year after year, it’s sprouted new growth–so that for every branch we cut back two seemed to grow.

I nicknamed it “The Hydra,” and wrangled with what to do. I could keep cutting it so ferociously that its roots would give up all of their nourishment and it would die. I could paint it with some sort of chemical to stop that. That’s when the poison ivy sprouted at its base. The gods seemed to be laughing. That slowed me down a bit.

I’m really glad the poison ivy DID slow me down and help me appreciate what a gift it is. Not only is the shrubby growth a visual barrier between my living space and my neighbor’s big living room windows. I realized the rabbits I keep love the tender growth and leaves. Last year I let it grow as a supplemental feed for them. I began to think of it as an unusual coppice tree. Then a friend showed me how to create cordage from the bark of saplings.

Today, it all came together in a new and joyful way. I am so thankful to this mulberry–which in my ignorance and its persistence–has come to live a different life. We have a new relationship. Today, needing a stake for the garden, I took a branch the right size and left the rest to grow for now. I stripped the extra small branches and leaves. I stripped the outer bark. I staked one of the tomato plants.

My staked tomato

Then I divided up the rest of the materials: bark set aside to make cordage. Larger branches stripped to make baskets, and the smaller twigs and leaves for rabbit feed. The rabbits love the fresh leaves–preferring it to their normal pelleted food in the heat. Mulberry and lambsquarters are among their favorites.

Not a scrap of it is left as “waste.” Every bit of it is integrated into our garden and home for the good of the whole. This is joyful living. Taking only what we need, and using every bit.

Lily munching on the mulberry treat

Materials separated for their purposes