Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Green Gate Farms

Lanora and I went to Green Gate Farms in Northeast Austin for a super farming class. We had a great time visiting a small-scale, organic, local farm. The animals were wonderful, the historic Bergstrom Barn was a piece of art and the windmill was pretty cool. Oh yeah, Farmers Erin and Skip were pretty OK too;p They had farm animals in addition to organic crops. There are two pig pens, both with heritage hogs. One family was a VERY friendly group of Guinea Hogs, the same hog breed they used in colonial times. Thomas Jefferson had this breed and conservationist are trying to save this breed from dying out. Unfortunately with our current food culture that has been in place since the 1950's, small family farms growing these heritage hogs have been dying out. These are lard hogs. In colonial times, before margarine and shortening, these hogs were grown for their lard content as well as for their meat. Farmer Erin says they taste great! They also have a flock of wild sheep that originated in South America. These sheep are grown for their meat not their fleece. They room with Sonnen goats. The goats are calm animals and they keep the wild sheep from "Freaking Out" as Erin describes. Their chickens are grown for their eggs which are sold along with the veges at The Farm Stand. The ducks are rescued ducks by the farmer's daughter. Green Gate recycles junk that would normally go to landfills. They collect SXSW banners after the events and use them as shades for the animals. They also regularly pick up pallets, wire bobbins and feed discarded food items from markets to their hogs. All animals, except the ducks, have a job. They provide food, they are not pets, even if everyone of them are named. This is a real, working farm feeding the community around it using sustainable practices. They work long hours and love it! They left high-paying corporate jobs to do this and we are lucky to have them. Thanks Skip and Erin!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Giving Back & EcoSabbath

Saturday was 'Giving Back'. This can take many shapes, both little and large in its compass but it's probably more important to do it long term. The what, where, how, who isn't as important as making a life-long committment to giving back, whether it is for one organization or many. On Saturday, I brought an old favorite winter coat to the hospital I work for. It's not the first time, it won't be the last. Our Emergency Room Social Worker works amazing feats of miracles. At times she is tasked with finding the identity of a critically ill patient with nothing more to work with than his finger prints, finding family members of a critically ill patient that has been estranged and can't tell her where they are, find housing and home care emergently for people in need. Frequently, her clients are discharged without clothes. They have no clothes because they were cut off by medics and fireman in an emergency and they don't have family to bring them new clothes. Her clients may be homeless too. Her clients need clothes & shoes and now that it is Winter, they need coats too. A lot of charitable organizations make the news, press and word of mouth. If you are at a loss as to where YOU fit in pertaining to giving back,, I suggest you contact the social workers in a hospital in your community. Childrens hospitals have different needs than community hospitals and trauma centers but they have one thing in common. Their social workers need your help. It's a great way to make a big difference in someones life in YOUR community. Think about it..

On Sunday, I worked another long shift. I did reflect on the past week all weekend. I talked to others about what I was doing when they seemed interested. I feel like several seeds were planted in my co-workers who appear to accept me even though I might be 'A bit off'. I accept them for who they are too.....

I plan to write a follow up in 100 days to observe and reflect on how the NIW affected me long term and I very much welcome your own observations, both good and bad. I think it's good to share experiences when trying something new to validate one's own experiences and avoid feeling insufficient in such matters. If 100 days comes and go and I still haven't posted, feel free to give me a nudge;p

Friday, January 7, 2011

Water Day 6

Today should be renamed to 'Two Steps Foreward and Three Steps Back'.

This is water day, however. Thankfully I made progress in this department. I already practice turning off the water when I brushed my teeth and wash dishes. Actually my husband and daughter do this also. In the past two years I have installed drip irrigation to most of my garden areas and have been chipping away at the lawn and replacing them with beds. I plant both Xeriscape and vegetables in these beds. I purchased materials last week to make three new beds, two for veges and one for Xeriscaping. I filter tap water with the Britta Filter and fill refillable bottles. These are all things I have been doing already. I tried three new things today. I used a bucket to capture water in the shower while I was waiting to heat it up. I poured it out onto my Japanese plant that gets neglected. I also practiced toilet discipline. Without being graphic, my daughter taught me this jingle, "If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, send it down"! Lastly, I turned off the shower while sudsing. This is easy actually. We did this in Haiti since we didn't have running water. Before Brown And Root built us semi-running water showers, we had to fetch two gallons of water in a hanging bladder to take a shower. It had a spout. It was just enough water to wash hair and body if your technique is good. I learned early to wash hair first. You can always towel off soap on your skin but not really your hair.

I regressed in respect to the other tennets. Going into this adventure I acknowledged Transportation and Trash are my weakness. I learned a lot of how to reduce trash and I am amazed at how much I was able to reduce when I planned for it. This week has really changed my perspective on the world around me. Now when I go into any store, first I see the packaging and then I see the product. This weeks exercises really changed the way my brain functions with respect to all waste. I am surprised, its only been a few days.

I made a few mistakes, namely distractions are to blame. I went in to two stores with my reusable shopping bags but was distracted by other people talking to me in the check out lane and before I knew it, the cashier said, 'Have a nice day' and handed me my goods in PLASTIC BAGS!!

I wanted to cry. I felt guilty, I felt like mad cat.... Instead of having her rebag them, which I have done in the past only to watch them rebag them and throw the plastic bags in the trash, I just took them knowing I will reuse them as trash bags. I know. They will end up in the landfill. Note to self, be more vigilant!

Mistake number two, don't tell your blog readers that you are going to secretly pick up your daughter from school on a city bus without first making sure this can happen;p

Apparently my daughter was scheduled to stay after school, no not suspension, she volunteers for EVERYTHING!! It's part of her social life. She cleaned up the school theatre, AGAIN! I kinda think she got wind of my plan and made sure she was engaged in something after school. The time of her pickup was the same time I had to be at my sisters house so still, no bus adventure. I went to buy some bus passes for us only to learn they don't sell the daily bus passes, you are expected to just give the driver exact change. Oh well. I thought, well, I will ride my bike tomorrow for some errand, ANY errand. I have no bike lock. So mistake number, how many is this now?, I bought something new, a bike lock.

I am chucking up all these mistakes, ah hem, observations, as part of research that will allow me to live a lower impact life and overall not be so ignorant of the important issues that are affecting the citizens of this planet.

For food, I bought some conventional bread from a conventional store to make patty melts from my local organic beef from my freezer. I have gotten into the habit of going to the farmers market a few times per month and buying lots of bread and storing them in the freezer but I ran out.

For trash, just the packaging from the bike lock and some tissue. I was able to compost or recycle everything else. I committed some small trash crimes at work yesterday I forgot to cough up to.

For energy, nothing new that I haven't told you about.

So clearly there are 5 main points;

1) This has been an emotional experience.
2) I have learned TONS!!
3) Even doing a little to change your habits can be quite disrupting and difficult but very much worth it. Eventually, over time, the changes just become a way of life.
4) I love funny animal pictures.
5) Anyone can do this, just don't give up when you have setbacks.

Tomorrow, Giving Back.