Growth is a double edged sword. Unchecked, growth can be cancerous and destructive. It is this type of ceaseless expansion that has put our society into the precarious environmental and financial positions in which we currently find ourselves. On the other hand, growth can be regenerative and life-giving. Following a forest fire or a bitter winter, the first green shoots to emerge from the earth bear witness to the earth's ability to restore life in the wake of disaster.

My goal for this blog is pretty simple and open-ended: I want to document and share with family and friends my efforts to incorporate an ever increasing degree of self sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, and environmentally-conscious design into my life as a would be urban homesteader.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sunset for the Summer garden

The sun setting behind das Cluck Haus

Tomorrow is the 1st day of September. Holy hell. I have officially entered my crazy time of year, as evidenced by the lack of posting. Once the month of August rolls around, I get swept up in back to school meeting, football practice, teaching class, football practice, student council activities, football games, the boys going back to school (1st grade this year), and occasionally coaching football. All of that cuts my available free time down to about nothing. This, ironically, all happens at one of the busiest times of the gardening cycle as well. The garden is pumping out food everyday and the farmers markets are full as well. Its the time when you start to put away the excess bounty of summer for the colder times to come - canning, drying, freezing, etc. This is also the time to plant your fall garden so that you can have another harvest of peas, lettuce, spinach, and chard; as well as getting your winter crops in order so that they can sprout and grow before the days get short and the temperature dips too low.

The garden or work, kids or canning...which do you think gets left on the back burner? So rather than being an abundant source of nourishment for my family that is transitioning smoothly from one seasonal cycle to the next, my garden is a weedy-ass mess complete with over grown tomato vines, okra that's way beyond harvesting, cantaloupes that have been pillaged by squirrels and bugs, beds that should have been cleared and replanted 1 or 2 weeks ago, a mosquito swarm that puts the Congo to shame, and precious little food actually coming out of it. Yeesh!

And yet, all I can really do is keep plugging away. While I know that it's not technically the end of Summer yet, September and back to school time have always make feel like Autumn is here. I really want to get my Fall garden stuff in order this weekend so that it can at least have a chance to get started. Once (if) I get everything planted, I'll do a run down of what I'm trying out, and a recap of how different crops did this past summer.
One of my Beam's Yellow Pear Tomato plants, still going strong

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Homesteading as art

Being an artist/art teacher by trade, I have the opportunity to create and be surrounded by beautiful drawings and paintings and sculpture all the time. But while fine art is something that I love, I think that the creative spark that resides in all people extends far beyond paintbrushes and pencils. One of my favorite quotes comes from Dada artist Marcel Duchamp, and I think it distills nicely what the creative spirit is all about:

"It's not what you see that is art, art is the gap"

Art is recognition, the ability to make connections between things and ideas, to appreciate beauty in the world around us. And when it comes to beauty, a functioning homestead (or 'burbstead) is resplendent with it. Humans have a pretty hard time holding a candle to nature's ability to create things of aesthetic value. What we do have a knack for, if only we slow down and open our senses a bit, is the ability to appreciate the beauty - to see the gap. Gardens, kitchens, farms, markets, forests, all of them contain a wealth of sights, sounds, scents, tastes, and textures. Our job is merely to care for the world that makes them all possible.

So I leave you with a picture of something that caught my eye this morning as I was waterig the garden. For my money, an okra blossom is probably the prettiest flower that will show up in a vegetable garden. Squash vines have big, showy, bright orange cones, and melons, tomatoes, and cucumbers are covered with petite yellow ones; but an okra plant puts out a real flower with petals. They are the most subtle shade of pale greenish yellow, almost white. This contrasts wonderfully with the dark, rich, blood-red center, black stamen, and intense yellow orange pollen grains. Simply beautiful, especially when situated amongst the large, sap green stalks and leaves of the plant. Enjoy!