Friday, February 3, 2012

"Independence Days" Challenge, via Sharon Astyk at The Chatelaine's Keys

Sharon Astyk, who farms, writes books and blogs, teaches homesteading skills, and raises a big family in upstate New York. is relaunching her Independence Days challenge. The idea is for people to document the steps they are taking to build independence (and community interdependence) to adapt more gracefully to changes in climate/economy/fossil fuel availability. Part of the point is that small changes can accumulate over time to create a new way of looking at the resources around us.

Participants post weekly to her blog, detailing steps they've taken in the categories below. As she has lots of followers, the result is a compilation of ideas and mostly small, feasible projects around the world. Here's my opening contribution, which I have arbitrarily expanded to the cover the last month.

Plant something -- Not yet. I will have reduced garden space this year and the bed that usually houses my earliest plantings won't be available.
Harvest something --The parsley, thyme, and rosemary made it through our last snowstorm and hard freeze (thank goodness the snow preceded the single-digit temps to provide insulation) and have been going into soups and sauces. Kale, collards, chard, spinach and corn salad all are waking up as daylight reaches that magic 10 hours threshold. Garden veggies tonight!

Preserve something--My granddaughter and I got a box of apple seconds at a local orchard and made applesauce.

Waste not: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." With an eye to the reduced garden, I went through my seeds and took ones I won't be using to the community seed swap (see community food systems below); my nice neighbor Kate gave me used chicken bedding for my compost pile, and I continue to pick up used coffee grounds from the espresso place down the street. The compost bins are in good shape for the soil amending that will take place soon. We are lucky to live in a city where recycling is easy--between the curbside pickup for glass, plastic, papers and food/garden waste, and the drop-off center near my house for stuff like broken plastic flowerpots and plastic film, not a lot goes in the garbage. 
I also recently went on metered water--it's still optional here--so that I can track what I use and be more mindful; good thing all three rainbarrels are full to the brim.

Want not-- This is about stocking up, building long-term supplies of storage foods and household  essentials. Not much going on here at my house. The only supply I've added to lately is soup bowls. I bought a bunch at Goodwill to accommodate my guest list for a monthly Soup Night gathering.

Eat the food --This category includes trying new recipes that make the most of what we have on hand, rotating our stocks of stored foods rather than saving them for an even rainier day, etc. When making the vegetable stock for the aforementioned Soup Night, I was able to use most of the no-longer-in-their-first-youth parsnips, carrots, and Jerusalem artichokes that were languishing in my fridge. Soup for 27 people means a lot of stock, and it was delicious. I'm also proud to have caught a couple of stored winter squash just before they went bad. Given the space they take in my small garden, it would be a real shame not to eat them.

Build community food systems-- The Community Seed Day, aka Seed Swap, is in its fourth year in Bellingham. It's a great idea and a wonderful place to meet and greet fellow gardeners. Hundreds of people came. 
On Monday I had my first volunteer day at the Food Bank, preparing vegetables for distribution. It's impressive how much food flows through one big room, and where it goes. Since no vegetables with any kind of cut on the skin can be distributed, and since some of the donations are marginal at best, a lot doesn't make it to the clients. But neither does it go in the garbage. Volunteers can take home the slightly mangled onions and nicked zucchinis that can't go out on the distribution line. A local pig farmer picks up the less savory produce, except for apples, which go to a horse farm.

Skill up (learn to do something new)--I just learned how to remove and replace a toilet and how to check for natural gas leaks with soap spray.

For more information on the Independence Days challenge:

For more on Sharon Astyk and her books:

For the Community Seed Day, in case you want to start one of your own:

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