Jan 312011

In Egypt they are thinking about bread; very important to the Egyptian people. Food shortages will be at the root of much of the turmoil we are seeing and will see in days ahead. And if this crisis messes up the Suez Canal, our oil supply could be cut dramatically. Even a ten percent reduction could bring business and transportation to a halt. Which makes me think about beans.

A strange thing to think about, granted. However, beans are a wonderful source of protein. Even though I am a vegetarian, they have never been a favorite food of mine. Realistically, I know that in hard times, beans will be an important source of nutrition. I need to come to terms with beans. Reading Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener (which I have blogged about here and here), I have reached the conclusion that I haven’t been thinking about beans properly. I’m talking about dry beans: garbonzos, pintos, etc. that one can store, eat during the winter months and use for seed the following season.

For most beans (lentils, cowpeas and peas excepted) Ms Deppe has a fairly involved soaking routine which she claims is most important. First she soaks the beans in cold water for a half hour to hydrate the skins. She pours this off and refills the pot with cold water and some boiling water to make it lukewarm, a couple gallons to a couple quarts of beans. She is now soaking the beans in the same way she would if she were going to germinate them. She stirs them once in awhile to equalize the oxygen. Every four or five hours she drains and refills the pot with fresh water for a total soaking time of around twelve hours (some varieties like fava, garbonzo or runner beans can take 36 hours to soak). The beans are ready to cook (or plant) when they are fully plumped out.

At this point she pours off the water,  rinses them and covers them with two inches of fresh water, adds a pinch of salt, favorite seasonings and some vegetable oil to keep the beans from foaming and boiling over. After the beans become soft she adds some fat and salt (or tamari). Her final trick is something acidic. Lime or lemon juice for the bowl or vinegar for the pot.

She further claims that our digestive system will adjust to eating beans if we eat them regularly, that not eating beans is what causes stomach distress when we occasionally eat them.

There’s much, much more information on beans in The Resilient Gardener. I’m inspired to grow some dry beans this year which will help extend the eating season from the garden. In her book she recommends specific varieties.

Jan 282011

Here’s a series of videos (total of 40 minutes) by an entrepreneurial Texas  gardener who talks about the motivations for storing and growing food and then how to get started. She’s in the Austin area and I was impressed that she has 34,000 gallons of rainwater catchment for her backyard garden and animals. That got my attention. And even though I’m not sure bio-intensive gardening (the Jeavons method) is the proper method for our area, I think it is always of value to listen to someone who has walked the walk. Yes, she’s trying to sell a video and perhaps doesn’t have enough years of homesteading under her belt to qualify as an expert. On the other hand, anyone who is actually doing what she is doing is light years ahead of 99% of the population. Here’s her website which is actually kind of interesting and below her talk in four parts at a book fair in Austin. (I wonder if Marjory Wildcraft is her nom de jardin. I must think of one for myself if I ever want to hit the lecture circuit).





Jan 262011

Thurid Clark approached the Heritage Trust about the idea of planting some fruit trees on the Curry Preserve. The Trust Board came back with a quick and generally positive response to the idea but had some questions which we could use some help in answering. They are as follows:

1) How will the group of orchard stewards be recruited and trained to provide consistent care for the orchard area (mowing) and the trees (pruning, watering, fertilizing, harvesting)?

2) Will the orchard stewards be willing to help prepare the site for planting after blackberry removal?

3) Growing trees is a long-term proposition.  How will the orchard stewards address this long-term commitment; how will the group replace, add and train new stewards over the years to provide consistency?

4) Will there be any relationship between the new orchard steward group and the existing community gardeners?

5) What are some of the basic costs orchard stewards will need to cover to start phase one (planting five trees); how will funds be raised and/or donations solicited to cover costs?

6) How will the group communicate with Heritage Trust staff and board?

If anyone reading this would like to pitch in with some ideas, Thurid and I would appreciate it. At the same time I will try and contact some other tree growing initiatives and find out how they handle the stewardship issue.

In their letter to Thurid the Trust makes the following point:

“A first step toward preparation for any expansion of the current orchard will be the removal of invasive blackberries, old fencing and debris from the current orchard area and the old home site. After clearing, the area will need to be planted with grass and consistently mowed to manage the blackberries. The Trust is committed to completing the blackberry clearing prior to the planting of new fruit trees.”

This would mean planting trees at the Curry is some time in the future. As my literary hero Jack Aubrey is fond of saying, “There is not a moment to be lost.” So, we should be thinking of locations other than Trust property where we can be planting trees this spring. We would solicit ideas on other locations as well.

Jan 242011

This is the two hundredth post on this blog which started a year ago in February with a post titled Everything Is Okay Now, Isn’t It? in which I stated the purpose of this exercise,  “The purpose of this blog is to try to influence the thinking of Lummi Islanders to begin to take steps to prepare for a different future, an unknown future to be sure, but one which results from a crisis which could overwhelm us given lack of preparation.”

In that regard I’ve recommended Chris Martenson’s Crash Course, written about self-sufficiency, the Transition Town Movement, gardening issues, water catchement, food storage, peak oil and peak everything, relevant books,  foraging, putting food by, reskilling,
alternate transportation, money, Transition Whatcom, survivalism and prepping, contingency planning, neat products, time banks, pertinent documentaries, medical issues, life on the Maine Islands, economics, the Lummi Island Ferry, resilience, Dmitri Orlov and James Kunstler, disaster preparedness and seed saving plus other miscellaneous subjects.

As a result, a few other like-minded people have joined in with their comments establishing an ad hoc group from which we can launch some initiatives which may be helpful to the island community in both the short and long term.

Most days, and with most people, it’s hard to imagine that things might drastically change in ways that will challenge the way of life virtually all of us, younger than those of the Great Depression era, have known. The ability to fill our basket at the supermarket, withdraw some cash from the bank, collect Social Security, jump in our car to go where ever we wish, plan trips to distant lands, have the internet at our finger tips, hot water at the tap, propane or natural gas on hand, electricity at the flip of a switch, a toilet that flushes, TV and Netflix, NFL football, unlimited consumer goods is a given in most of our lives. If someone takes an erasure and begins to wipe some of these off the whiteboard of our charmed existence, shock will set in.

Best we be somewhat prepared. Actions we personally exercise some control over are not that hard to take and are not at all risky in any sense, financial or otherwise: plant a garden, build up a food pantry, save some seeds, store some water, buy extra necessities, learn some new skills.

Who knows when the waves of crises might explode on our reef?

Photo by Linda Smith

Jan 212011

Days before this talk, journalist Naomi Klein was on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, looking at the catastrophic results of BP’s risky pursuit of oil. Our societies have become addicted to extreme risk in finding new energy, new financial instruments and more … and too often, we’re left to clean up a mess afterward. Klein’s question: What’s the backup plan?

Jan 192011

So where exactly is our informal Transition project? Here’s a brief report:

1. Nancy Ging has put together a bulletin board that a few people are Beta testing to see where the soft spots were. We hope to have this available soon. The point of the bulletin board will be to provide a topic forum for people to ask questions, discuss issues, buy and sell stuff, make their skills and talents known, etc.

2. Gary Pittman is working on an on line survey to gather information about needs and visions and ability or willingness to participate. This will also be announced on line in the near future via this blog and, hopefully through other Lummi Island blogs and The Tome.

3. The Johnny Appleseed Project has been submitted to the Heritage Trust Board and they were receptive. We are in the process of finding answers to questions and concerns.

4. A seed swap is organized and will be at the Gardener’s Network meeting at the fire hall on Feb. 7, 6:30. (Regarding seed, our small local organic seed company, Uprising Organics, now has their seed catalog available. I’ve had great luck with everything I’ve ordered from them).

And, here is Ginny Winfield’s communication on the Seed Swap so you can prepare:

“Here is some information on our seed swap, Monday, February 7th.
We are putting out the word to the Lummi Island gardening community to join the Gardening Network for the seed swap, so let your friends know.
“Since this is the first time we have done this, and I have had a rather challenging last few months, it will be pretty unstructured. The main things are: bring small envelopes, viable seed, and knowledge. We would like the focus to be on seeds from your own garden, or from local companies, and organic/biodynamic. It will be important to have your seeds marked with dates purchased or gathered, company name, organic/biodynamic, or commercial. Also, please pre-package what you can in the quantities you have to share, this will make everything go smoother.

This will also be an opportunity to hear what your gardening neighbors have done in their gardens, plan for another seed swap, and make contacts for exchanging starts.

I have included a link that Barb Pitman told me about from Mother Earth News.
If there is anything you would like to ad, or have questions, please call or email me. Thanks!

~ Ginny”

Jan 172011

This is the time of year for gardener’s to think about their next garden. Or, maybe you have already started it with some garlic, shallots and onions poking up, some overwintered greens. Or, maybe fava beans. This is the time of year that seed catalogs show up at your door confusing you with a cornucopia of choices. It’s very confusing, especially for a new gardener.

I’ve been reading a new book by Carol Deppe called The Resilent Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. I’ve already blogged about it once here in Thinking About Potatoes. The book is so rich in information that I could go on and on. But this wouldn’t be fair to Ms. Deppe. I suggest that any gardener buy the book.

Reading Steve Solomon convinced me that all gardening books are not equal in that they are not universally useful in every area of the country. We are best served by taking the advice of gardeners like Steve Solomon and Carol Deppe who have long histories in the Pacific NW. As I pointed out in the previous post, “Carol Deppe focuses on five crops: potatoes, squash, beans, corn and eggs (duck eggs). Motivated by celiac’s disease, a gluten intolerance, she developed a program of planting crops that would satisfy her nutritional needs over the course of the year. She goes into great depth on the planting, growing, harvesting, storing, preparing and nutritional benefits of her five main crops.” She also writes very useful and provocative chapters on labor and exercise, watering, gardening in an era of climate change and diet and food resilience.

Her book stimulates much thought and will give you lots of ideas for the garden seasons to come. And, getting back to those seed catalogs, she is pretty specific about which varieties to plant. On her advice I’ve ordered Oregon Sweet Meat Squash. a big sucker that she says will keep for a year! I’m also going to try and inter-plant pole beans with corn. She recommends Withner White Cornfield Bean. (You have to credit someone who can write a fascinating chapter on beans).

I probably won’t be able to resist culling a few more gems from this book for the blog. It’s a good one. Highly recommended.

Jan 152011

A group of the usual suspects gathered at the fire hall the other night to discuss disaster preparedness. (By “usual suspects” I mean some of the 20% that does 80% of the volunteer work on the island. The 80/20 Rule seems to be an inviolate law of nature). The interest in disaster preparedness should be universal because it is the one issue that will affect everyone. Some years ago the Fire Department started a Disaster Preparedness Program which focused on Map Your Neighborhood.  This involved neighborhood pods getting together to discuss how to check on each other in emergencies and how to take care of other basic functions such as turning off water and propane. In addition there were admonitions to acquire a hardhat, flashlight, gloves and a sturdy pair of shoes to keep near ones bed. Map Your Neighborhood got off to a strong start, then stalled.

Interested parties are trying to revitalize Disaster Preparedness on Lummi Island by suggesting a new tack. That is to encourage organizations to take responsibility for specific functional areas. These areas might be: shelter, mapping, food bank, communications, mapping, equipment, potable water, hardware supplies, medical, transportation, fuel supplies, power generation, septic (wasted disposal).

One needs to keep in mind that our Fire Department is a response organization that will not have the time or manpower to do any of the above in the event of an emergency (and by emergency were are talking in terms of an event lasting more than a couple of days). On the other hand, the Red Cross offers support for several of these functions (shelter, food bank, communications and medical).

On January 29, from 8am-4pm the Red Cross will be on the island to train enough volunteers to open and operate a Red Cross shelter on the island should we become isolated during a disaster. Specifically, they will give an overview of Disaster Services, teach how to set up, run and close a Red Cross shelter during a disaster and simulate working with procedures on how to set up, run and close a shelter. The training is free of charge. Anyone interested should contact  Bobbie Hutchings 758-7191. Also see Wynne Lee’s post here.

The next meeting of this planning group will be Feb. 7 at 7pm at the Fire Hall.  Anyone with an interest is encouraged to attend.

Jan 132011

I have four gardening books that I refer to constantly. Two are by Steve Solomon (Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades and Gardening When It Counts).  Steve started the Territorial Seed Company but later on became disenchanted with politics in the US and up and moved to Tasmania where he writes books on how to garden down under. He also moderates the Soil and Health Yahoo discussion group and owns an internet library of important but out of print books on the subjects of health, gardening, homesteading and personal sovereignty. As an avid follower of the Soil and Health discussion group I feel like I’m in contact with Mr. Solomon on a daily basis along with an interesting group of gardeners and health nuts and, as might be expected, just some who are nuts.

A young Tasmanian farmer has started a new gardening website and has been able to get Steve to sit down and talk. Here are the videos he’s made so far. They are short.

The last two give glimpses of Steve’s home garden:

Insurance against hard times

Compost is not enough

You are what you eat

A curtain of beans

The best eating tomato in the world


Carrot Density Planting


More videos have been filmed and will be posted on  padresol.com soon.
By the way, my other two go to books are The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe  and The Ideal Soil by Michael Astera.

Jan 112011

A few of us are excited about planning for a Transition from a cheap energy powered way of life to a more localized and slower existence. Others have an interest or perhaps a curiosity about what the future might bring. Most, however, cannot or won’t contemplate the possibility that life as we have known it will change dramatically over the next one to five to twenty years.

All of us suffer from what James Kunstler calls, “The psychology of previous investment.” That is, we are used to things as they are, have spent heavily in time and money on creating whatever life we have and have no intention of seeing it changed. Kunstler’s thesis goes pretty  much like this, “…as a species we are reluctant  to abandon any path we’ve set down, once we’ve made the commitment to set down the path.” It is the law of inertia. In Mr. Kunstler’s case he was talking about his favorite subject— the horrible (in his opinion) societal investment in suburbia and its unsustainable nature. Suburbia is unsustainable in Kunstler’s view because of the cost of energy to get back and forth from work and services and the lack of infrastructure to support suburban populations if it turns out they are unable to get back and forth.

Oil fuels suburbia and our frenetic lifestyle. We need the oil. Here’s a little Kunstler rant from 2005 to give you a flavor of what I’m trying to get across: “If the American public could stand the truth, we would stop calling it the Iraq War and rename it the War to Save Suburbia. Of all the things that Bush and Cheney have said over the last six years, the one thing the Democratic opposition has not challenged is the statement that “the American way of life is not negotiable.” They’re just as invested in it as everybody else. The Democrats complain about the dark efforts by Bush and Cheney to cook up a rationale for the war. Guess what? The Democrats desperately need something to oppose besides the truth. If they would shut up about WMDs for five minutes and just take a good look around, they’d know exactly why this war started.
     When the American people, Democrat and Republican both, decided to build a drive-in utopia based on incessant easy motoring and massive oil dependency, who lied to them? When tens of millions of Americans bought McHouses thirty-four miles away from their jobs in Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Dallas, who lied to them? When American public officials adopted the madness of single-use zoning and turned the terrain of this land into a tragic crapscape of strip malls on six-lane highways, who lied to them?  When American school officials decided to consolidate all the kids in gigantic centralized facilities serviced by fleets of yellow buses that ran an average of 150,000 miles per year per school, who lied to them? When Americans trashed their public transit and railroad system, who lied to them? When Americans let Wal-Mart gut Main Street, who lied to them? When Bill and Hillary Clinton bought a suburban villa in farthest reaches of northern Westchester County, New York, who lied to them?”

The psychology of previous investment says that “The American way of life is not negotiable.” On Lummi Island we can see the ferry issue as the epitome of what Kunstler is talking about.

A couple of generations ago the island had an economy with farming and fishing and had self-sufficiency several degrees above what we find today. The same demographics that affected small communities across the county impacted the island as people moved to big cities and as businesses centralized, merged, acquired and tried to super-size themselves one way or another. Lummi Island evolved from a focused community into a suburb with a large population of part-timers who are naturally not as invested, except as their real estate is affected, in the island.

Lummi Island was able (is able) to work as a suburb of Bellingham because of cheap and readily available oil and, in our special case, first class ferry service. As long as this continues there won’t be too many people who get excited about an uncertain future. Trying to maintain a job or some kind of income will be priority number one. For the more affluent, more of the same will suffice, thank you very much.

So, while a few of us get excited about the idea of Transitioning to slower, more local future, don’t be too surprised or disappointed if our group remains fairly small. It’s the psychology of previous investment at work.

That said I feel compelled to create a family refuge for a worst case scenario and to encourage other like-minded people to work as a community, ready to assist each other and the greater population if necessity requires.

Jan 102011

Reposted from Lummi Island Living:

Lummi Island Seed Swap

Posted on January 10, 2011 by Wynne

Are you interested in a Lummi Island seed swap this year?   Ginny Winfield (master gardener and organizer last year of an island gardening group), Randy Smith and I all independently started thinking about this recently.

Ginny had already thought about doing an informal community seed swap as part of the Feb. 3, 2011 meeting of the garden group, at the Fire Hall (6:30 pm).  Randy posted an article on Transition Lummi Island, to which I responded with a comment (4th  down) about Canada’s recent “Seedy Saturday” tradition. I’ve swapped seeds and co-ordered with a few islander friends the past couple of years — it was really fun, informative about what varieties work and don’t and frugal, so a community “Seedy Saturday” or some such sounds interesting.)

Anyway, Ginny and I talked and decided to develop something, probably on Feb. 3.  Barb Pittman pitched in with a reference to Mother Earth News’ recent article about how to organize a community seed swap.

I’m not very good at real-world organization but don’t mind help starting up a Lummi Island seed swap. If anyone is interested in helping out, please contact Ginny or me.