Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New priorities and my birth story

5 minutes postnatal.  Can you tell I'm surprised?!
Peter Jasper Schroeder born 11/4 at 1:15 am 5lbs. 13 oz, 18.5 inches long

Okay - I have a confession to make.  I never really thought that what I did with my urban homestead was very time consuming or very special.  I imagined that anyone given enough interest could create a food rich oasis in their yard because I could do it and I was a crazy busy sort of person.
Well.  I've recently discovered that I was seriously mistaken.  If I showed you a picture of my yard right now it looks like one of the "don't" pictures (designed to piss off your neighbors!) from a landscaping book.
And here's why!  I've spent last 40 weeks growing a different kind of seed.  A little human who is the product of a huge amount of love and care between my amazing partner, Peter and a lot of support and care from our community.  Given a general malaise in my first trimester and the outrageous heat of much of the summer and autumn I had ZERO motivation to do anything homestead style except barely keep things watered (and that mostly because my love helped).  I think I probably spent 15 minutes almost every day and some days more and never considered that was a real investment of time because I never had anything that REALLY took my time.  So be it.  I wouldn't change a thing AND I have much more compassion and understanding of how challenging it is to have a family and do anything else.

and I suppose this is the end of my "single girl" blogs.  But one last story about how my little luv a lump arrived. Warning: It's the long winded version :)

Baby Peter was "technically" due on 10/31 but when we initially called my Mom to tell her about being pregnant she was very excited and said she'd had a dream that I had a baby on 11/4 so we figured that was when he would arrive.  On 11/3 I started to have contractions that seemed they were working towards being regularly spaced.  When we started timing them they were coming at off intervals and were at least 30 minutes apart so big Peter figured we were in this for the long haul and I assumed the same.  Most new Moms here of parents being turned away from the hospital because they aren't in active labor and we've all heard stories of 36 and 48 hour labors.  I was dealing with the sensation but recognized that this was going to be an intense ride.  It felt like I was being turned inside out with each one but there were also much milder contractions every once in a while that made me doubt that I was really laboring yet.  By evening the contractions had gotten even less regular.  We called our wonderful doula, Haize Hawke, and she said I should try to relax and get some rest.  Peter wanted to make sure he was rested and strong for what we imagined  the next day would bring and I was hoping to relax enough to also get some sleep.  We called it a night around 9.  I woke up around midnight from stronger contractions.  These were intense waves.  I would moan my way through them and practice the balloon breath (making space in my belly with my breath and leaning forward) but it was hard to concentrate on anything except how intense it was. I got the birthing ball out and rolled around on that and moaned.  I tried leaning forward onto the bed and moaning.  Mostly I just moaned and felt sorry for myself.  I figured I was just barely laboring and how the holy f&*k was I going to deal with this all the next day if it got worse?!
Eventually I ran a hot bath and got in.  This helped a lot.  Still moaning through each wave, still feeling miserable and without any clear way to relieve the intensity, still being turned inside out with each one.
At around 1 am (before daylight savings time came into effect) I heard Peter's phone indicate a text and yelled for him to pick up his phone thinking it might be our doula.  It was a friend from germany (who else texts in the middle of the night?) but it got him up to check on me.  I reassured him that I was okay and that he should get some rest. He went back to sleep.
Eventually the plumbing was having issues as I would drain the cool water to refill with hot so I gave up on the tub and went back to bed to find another way to manage the sensations I was experiencing. I was sitting on my heels then leaning forward and giving myself up to the contraction.  It HURT! and it felt like it was about as much as I could stand.
Suddenly I felt this wave of having to bear down (i.e. "the urge to push").  I think Peter was finally awake as this was happening.  I think I told him that I could feel babies head. I think I told him that he needed to call Haize.  I think I also told him we ought to get an ambulance.  I'm not totally sure about any of this.  I told him I could feel a head moving in my birth canal.  He got Haize on the phone and she heard me roar and say that I had to push.  She asked how frequent my contractions were and I'd just noticed that they were coming at 3 minute intervals.  She told Peter that we should not get in the car - that the baby was coming soon and he should call the paramedics and then call her back so she could talk him through how to deliver a baby.  When Peter was out of the bedroom (trying to get reception to talk on the phone I think) I put my hand down to feel what was going on.  What I felt is  hard to describe (I imagine it's par for the course if you're a birth professional).  Everything stretched, swollen, heavy, and weirdly extraterrestrial.  The closest I can come to a description is that it was the most extreme form of having my body  taken over and that I was turned into a vessel rather than the being the operator.  Much of pregnancy was like that but now I consider that the "lite" form!
I felt every sensation as he moved through my birth canal.  I felt like the only thing in the world that mattered was pushing my baby out.  I felt the "ring of fire" with the stretch of my perineum and I felt tissue split to make the space for baby (this without any sensation of pain at all).  I told Peter to look for his head as I could feel it moving through.  He said he saw something else (amniotic sac apparently as my water hadn't broken yet).  With the next push there was baby Peters head and I felt the "pop" as it emerged.  Big Peter took hold of him and with another push out came his body.  I turned myself around to look at our baby.  He was a little gray and didn't look completely human - more like a doll.  We watched him as his dark eyes looked back at us.  He was attached to me via the thick and blueish umbilical cord.  I touched him to encourage him to breath and we saw some bubbles come out of his mouth and then the sucking of air and a wale as he took his first breath and started to turn pink.  What a relief!  What a miracle!  I reached down for him and held him at my chest and Peter went to try and find some reception to call the paramedics and I scooped into babies mouth to make sure his airway was clear.  I thought to check the clock so we'd have an idea of his birth time (1:15 am) then I remembered that we had to keep him warm and the only thing I could reach was my bathrobe on the floor.  Shortly after Peter returned from calling the ambulance, Haize arrived.  She checked baby and gave him high Apgar scores - she said he was likely a 10! Great color, great lungs!  Our boy could scream already!  She started checking me and cleaning some of the birth goo off (birthing is messy business!) and then after about ten minutes, the paramedics arrived.  Within seconds there were eight big muscle-bound men smelling of diesel fuel in full fireman gear with medical kits in our bedroom.  I was still on the bed in a lovely blissed out state of post birth triumph and hormonal high but it did strike me as a rather serious invasion of my privacy that I was naked and spread eagle with an umbilical cord sticking out of me to greet all these strangers.  They did there own round of checking on baby and me and at some point they helped me move from the bed onto a stretcher and little Peter and I got carried to the ambulance (that, a fire truck and one other emergency vehicle had all arrived with the entourage) and whisked away to Arcadia Methodist where we had initially intended to give birth. 
Once we arrived at the hospital they called my Ob/gyn, Dr. Dorothy Hong to help me deliver the placenta and to check me out.  I was very happy to have such a talented and meticulous surgeon stitch up the tears but in all honesty the post partum part of birth was equally and perhaps even more hard to manage than the contractions.  Dr. Hong pressed on my uterus to help expel the placenta and I grabbed the sides of the hospital bed and shouted, "Jesus, that HURTS!" and the stitching (even with a local anaesthetic) was really no fun at all.  Also the fact that baby Peter was on the other side of the room getting weighed and measured and cleaned off (water only!) made it especially hard.  Also the fact that I had my calves up in bed stirrups so the doctor could do her work while friends and family were walking around the room was another violation to my sense of propriety - I imagine birth in any hospital is an exercise in surrendering your privacy and sense of appropriateness. In the end of getting all doctored up (I think this took hours) I got my baby back and got to take the elevator up to the maternity ward and big Peter and I tried to get some rest as the sun was coming up.  We then spent the next 24 hours plus in the hospital at the request of the pediatrician on staff and I'm glad we did.  We got excellent help with breastfeeding (not nearly as simple as one might imagine) and I got wonderful support and care from the nurses and great supplies to help heal my aching nether regions. Another pro for the hospital was that the bed moves up or down at the push of a button (wish I had that on our bed at home)! and even though the food SUCKED (seriously?! this is what they feed sick people?  This is what MAKES people sick!) they had an awesome tray/table set up that made eating in bed super easy.  We didn't get any of the shots or eye ointment or other things that they tried to encourage us to do (big Peter had done a lot of research into these newborn protocols and really felt they were not necessary in our case).  I'm sure they thought we were wacky but they weren't rude about it.
Basically I felt like we had the best of both worlds.  We got to have an intimate beautiful (if somewhat surprising) home birth experience and then have impeccable surgical level care to heal the small amount of damage I had as well as lovely, caring nurses to dote on me and swaddle my baby like pros so Mom and Dad could get some sleep.
Would I recommend a home birth after this experience?  I feel like I'd consider a home birth if we did it again.  Peter (my partner) does not share my sentiments! I know we were blessed and incredibly lucky and it all went very smoothly.  I imagine if we'd had a midwife (or our doula) present who had a lot of homebirth experience it might have felt a little less scary (and also slightly less intimate).  I'm a bit on the fence.  Certainly my body knew what to do.  I also was carrying a very small baby (he was less than 6 lbs) and have a generous pelvis.  If those were reversed and he didn't come out so easily I'm not sure what we would have done on our own.  I'm also clear that there are rare times when you NEED a C-section to ensure baby's health and it's really comforting to know that it's only a few minutes away if you are in a hospital. 
Anyway, the ultimate outcome is the one in which both mother and baby turn out well and mother is empowered and feels safe.  I've been told multiple times that elaborate birth plans are a joke and we had a nice simple one that specified no unnecessary interventions.  Turns out fate had another plan for us!  No need for a birth plan at all - we had an unassisted home birth!  I would NEVER have planned that and I still got the outcome I intended.  All in all I am delighted with our crazy adventure, with the fact that Daddy caught the baby, and with my ability to manage the sensations of labor, delivery, and post-partum recovery. Now it's all about trying to get through the day when I've only slept in segments that are maximum 3 hours in length!  Welcome to parenthood!

P.S. I should also credit my doula, Haize Hawke, for putting me on a regime of supplements to help speed labor as well as an incredible pre-natal chiropractic session with Dr. Kolleen at Focus Chiropractic and an incredible accupuncture session that Friday with Roxy Han in Pasadena with helping to create my "precipitous labor".  Thanks guys!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Trials and tribulations: Breaking the law homestead style

Grrrr... Have you ever wanted to make your neighbor disappear? That's exactly how I feel right now - not like mafia style, more like bewitched style. Today was a challenging day at the homestead. It started when my elderly neighbor called yesterday on my way home from errands (including the hardware store) to let me know she was having her grandson over on Easter and they wanted to do an Easter egg hunt and could I please put a tarp over my bees for the afternoon. My neighbor hardly ever uses the back portion of her back yard and at some point my bees decided they liked that flight path better than the one they initially had where they went straight up from the hive box. If she wants kids easter egg hunting it would be fairly nerve wracking to have so many bees flying overhead. I totally understand that. Hmmm... I responded. I will have to figure out how to do that. "What? Your mom said you could just screen them off". I wonder when they had that conversation and I wonder how my Mom knew that. When I mentioned it to my Mom - "Hey Mom, how am I supposed to screen those bees?" she had no idea what I was talking about nor does she recall ever having that conversation with neighborlady. Just like I thought.
So I went to my handy dandy super resourceful backward beekeeping list and emailed them where I was instructed to get window screen and good duct tape and wait until night when the bees were back in the hive to screen off the opening. Okay - back to the hardware store! Got the supplies, waited til night. Way more challenging than I thought. I put the tape on the top and bottom of the screen at least as wide a strip as the hive is wide. I didn't think about the bees getting agitated by this and crawling out the sides but they sure did. So I was scrambling with my heavy clumsy bee gloves to peel off more duct tape and seal those edges (of course the tape was on the table several feet away and the bees were crawling out right now right in front of me. sigh. Okay - gonna lose a few bees.
So I taped the sides up and then had the bright idea to tear off a bunch of tape strips with the gloves off and moved them over to the hive where I overloaded every surface of screen/hive body intersection with several layers of heavy black duct tape and pressed it down to seal it. It was bomb proof! (or seemed that way). Took a lot longer than expected but I felt pleased with myself and went to bed.

Got up to check this morning. More bees outside the screen than I remembered getting loose last night but then it was dark and maybe I just didn't see them. Went to check around noon. Crap! Lots more bees. There has to be some breach of the duct tape but I don't see it anywhere. Ugggg... I thought she said they would be finished with the egg hunt by 3. It wasn't so bad at this point. I didn't see any activity. Perhaps they went to church early and are already done. If so, I'm safe. Relief!
Not so. At 2:30 the hive box is covered in bees trying to find their way back in to the hive. It looks wild and crazy and fairly scary to anyone without a full bee suit on. I also notice her sons car in the driveway. They must be starting around 3. Crap! At this point there is no way to appease the bees except to remove the screen but I don't want to do that because I told her I would screen them and I don't know if they'll be even more mad if I open the entrance. Or more calm because they can do their normal thing? I have no clue. I opt to race to OSH (3rd hardware store run!) to get some bamboo screen and hopefully make an obstruction that gets them to change their flight path so they don't zoom through her upper back yard. I suit up again and grab some zip ties to connect screen to fence (also comic with thick bee gloves on and considering I can't reach over to connect except on the edges and the screen is flopping over and the bees are buzzing all around me). I get it connected and go back inside. I know it's not good.

Later in the afternoon I call to her over the fence to apologize. She is not pleased. I try to explain that I did screen them and I was really careful about putting multiple layers of tape but they figured out a way to get out and that the screening probably made the whole bee scare even worse but she's not really listening. She reminds me that the neighbor two houses down got stung twice this summer. I heard the same story this summer from him. Without trying to avoid responsibility I want to mention that many people do not know a hornet from wasp from a bee. They see flying insect that stings and that's that. I don't know this man and don't know if he's familiar with how bees are different from other similar insects. Also the behavior doesn't sound like bees. I am able to get very close to my hives and work them and they are pretty docile. Bees sting to protect their hive or their lives. They are unlikely to sting unprovoked and away from their hive. According to him he was doing nothing and they just came and stung him. Twice. Since a single bee can't sting twice I'm already thinking this sounds like some other creature. Or maybe there is a feral hive closer to his house and they were defending that. It's possible they were my bees but not likely. But neighborlady mentions it. In fact it is getting even more clear that from now on if anyone in my neighborhood ever gets stung everyone is absolutely clear it's from my bees. I try to explain that my bees are not the only bees in the area - in fact, if there were no bees before I came no one would get fruit! There are a lot of fruit trees in my neighborhood and I'm sure there are a lot of bees in my neighborhood as well since long before I ever moved in. I've also read that bees do not typically pollinate close to home. I don't know how accurate that is and I don't really know how to tell my bees apart from others or if it would even matter. From now on if anyone is unhappy with bees they are my bees.

Sadly, neighborlady mentions that her son was very angry. He used to play in that backyard when he was 5 and now there are bees flying overhead (more than ever now because they are so agitated because I screened the entrance!) He makes a point of mentioning to her that he's surprised it's even legal to have bees in the city. This is the point where I start to feel doomed.
Let me insert something I just stumbled across on facebook:
‎"Peace isn't an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth; it's an experience that's expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened."
sigh. so this is my challenge. I adore my bees. I love what they stand for, that they are so gentle and graceful and allow me and my bumbling beginner beekeeping ways to be tolerated. The honey they make is magical to me. It is complex and golden and deliciously sweet. I love to share it with people (neighbors included) and I love to share what I know about bees with people. I talk about the bee dance language and quantum physics (read this! ), about colony collapse disorder, about the critical role bees play in food production, about different types of bees (honeybees being European imports), about the hype around Africanized bees(yes, they can be more aggressive but not absolutely so and European bees can also kill you if they are in a mood). I LOVE bees and beekeeping and inspiring others to explore that world. The municipal code on Los Angeles (archaic, bizarre, and seemingly random - has a lot more details about issues related to monkeys, circuses, and horse shoes than domestic urban livestock) states that you can have bees as long as they are 300 ft from any dwelling other than your own. 300ft! I'm not totally clear but that seems bigger than most lots in LA. Shoot. On the backwards beekeepers list there are periodic emails about folks who have been busted because neighbors didn't like that they had hives. I really don't want to be another one of those.
I felt really bad about making such a mess of trying to secure the bees but neighborlady didn't notice that. To her, she was not able to use her yard and I completely understand that is upsetting. I really did jump through a bunch of hoops to try and figure out how to make it work and, as this was my first attempt, I failed! Big time. I really hope this doesn't end up with the city ag inspector leaving me a little note. Makes me even more eager to work on getting the code changed to allow for small scale beekeeping. I wish there was a better understanding of how to live in harmony with all of nature and especially, in this case, with honeybees. They are magical and wondrous creatures. How to convey that to the uninitiated? and even more so to those who would rather watch tv than look at the stars or who think that dirt is "dirty" instead of cool or who think their food comes from the grocery store?
I guess that's my real question and I know the answer is the revolution/evolution starts from within. I suspect if I was less self-righteous about my urban homesteading path (and less defensive about feeling like everyone thinks my food forested landscape is a mess) I'd be more friendly. If I was more friendly I'd probably feel happier and would be more nice in general. That's probably my biggest urban homesteading challenge. The techniques I can google and read about. It's the communication strategies to spread the word (preach is sister!) in an inviting, inspiring way that make me stumble. Always more to learn...

Happy Easter Bunnies!

Today I dedicate my long overdue post to my four beloved bunny rabbits. I sincerely hope that none of you or anyone you know got inspired by the Easter holiday to pick up a cute baby bunny from the petstore or the guy on the corner.

Rabbits make very challenging pets and have a nasty habit of dying and getting eaten by predators. If you are the predator and you intend to raise rabbits for meat more power to you. I fancy the idea of such things but am way too fond of my pets (and after you spend a couple thousand at the vet for surgery for a rabbits broken leg it's highly unlikely that bunny will ever end up on your dinner plate).

Let me tell you a little about why rabbits are lousy pets. Rabbits, in fact, are surrendered to shelters in percentages far above their relative abundance as pets. You must know what you are getting in to before you take one of these adorable furry nose twitching cute little critters home with you! They can die of heart attacks if frightened by predators (not a good idea to leave them in the backyard in a hutch that doesn't have bomb proof protection). Hawks will take them from above if you let them run free. They can burrow out of fences unless you put the fence several feet underground around their enclosure. They chew electrical cords (causing great damage to the bunny as well as to your electronics) and furniture - actually anything they can including clothes, bedding, papers, cardboard, books, shoes, sometimes fingers. They are infrequently perfectly litter box trained (one of the four of mine is impeccable. The other three not so much) - their poops are little hard balls of compressed straw, not a big deal to pick up but if you are at all fecalphobic this will be a problem for you. They are prey animals and will rarely be affectionate with you, a predator. If they are picked up incorrectly (as children will often do) they can break their backs and be permanently paralyzed. They have a very sensitive digestion that, when disturbed, can cause stasis (no gut movement) and cause a very painful death within days. As prey animals they don't let you know when they are sick so by the time you notice it's often too late. Rabbit vets are few and expensive. Now why would anyone have an animal like that as a pet?

I got initiated into the world of rabbits when a custodian at school was desperate to get rid of the three he acquired (one was on purpose, another was to keep the first one company and the third just showed up). They were small when initially purchased and then grew to be 3-4 pound rabbits that poop and pee their weight in nitrogen rich (and stinky) stuff daily. and he lived in an apartment. yuck. They all three lived in a small cage that meant they didn't even get to run around. I assumed I'd put them in a hutch in the backyard and happily harvest the fertilizer they made as an amendment to my garden soil. and then I stumbled upon the House Rabbit Society. This site totally changed my opinion about what to do with rabbits. I learned that they can be litter box trained, that when left alone they go crazy since they are social animals who hang out in groups, that even though they will not be affectionate like a cat or a dog they still bond with their caretakers and have delightful personalities and behaviors. I learned what a binky is (a little dance whereby they lift up their hind end and wiggle to express unbridled joy), I learned that they make little noises to indicate pleasure and pain, and that there is a very passionate group of people out there who are incredibly dedicated to raising awareness of rabbits as companion animals.

I have come to really love my little bunns. My garden flourishes because of what they contribute. My weeds are often treats for them. Their behaviors and personalities are super duper heart meltingly cute. It took a while to learn how to feed them properly (Carrots are crack! Not often and not much!). I now buy bales of grass mix hay and keep it in a rubbermaid bench on my patio as it's MUCH cheaper to buy in bulk. I stopped buying them organic greens from Whole Foods (was I crazy???) and now feed them greens that I weed out of my garden. They mostly eat hay and Oxbow Timothy hay bunny pellets (don't feed rabbits those junk food mixes with dried fruits and veggies). I've got the routine down in how I feed and water and clean their zones. I've figured out that as much as I might wish for them all to live together and get along that it's better to come home and not find blood and tattered ears and bite wounds on them (the two brothers need to be separated from each other and the brothers separated from the two original rabbits).
I think we are all pretty healthy and happy and used to each other. If you want to ask me any specifics I'm happy to share more. I regret to say that I did lose one of my babies last year. I noticed she wasn't her usual rambunctious (shoe eating, furniture destroying, escape artist) self and by then she was frothing and obviously in pain (it can happen FAST). I took her to the vet immediately who discovered that she was aspirating food but we couldn't figure out what was causing the problem. It might be that the initial damage was enough and by then she had too much food in her respiratory system to deal with it. The vet took her home to observe overnight and called me that evening to say that she was in such a state that she gave her the shot to put her out of her misery. The vet and I did a post-mortem dissection to try and figure out what happened but found nothing that suggested a cause. Sigh... We buried her in the back yard and I plant bunny greens on top of her. Seems fitting. Nature designed rabbits to reproduce quickly and to be eaten by all kinds of creatures. They weren't really designed to live long lives. It's something to know if you decide to love a bunny. If you do decide to adopt a rabbit PLEASE get your bunny spayed or neutered even if they are single bunnies as this will double their life span and also avoid a lot of unpleasant behaviors. If you get more than one rabbit this is essential.
Anyway, I hope your Easter day is full of green growing things and happy mammals. Mine is!

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 Intentions

I went to an amazing workshop yesterday hosted by a dear friend Deborah Eden Tull (author of the amazing book, The Natural Kitchen as well as the upcoming Mindful Living Revolution). What does this have to do with Urban Homesteading you might ask?
Great question!**
Here's how I see it. In permaculture (one of my guiding principles) we allocate energy in different amounts to different actions. When we consciously place elements that we interact with in locations relative to how often we need to interact we create more ease and grace in our actions. A little esoteric? Here's an example. All too often people put their vegetable garden or compost pile way out in the far back corner of their property. This is often doomed to fail because it needs more interaction than the number of normal visits one makes to the back 40 of their land. If something needs daily tending and you put it on the path you take from your car to your house you've added a little ease to what you're up to. Make sense? Hope so. There are usually up to 5 zones with zone 5 being the wild lands or wilderness interface (for those of us in the city this might be where the opossums, skunks, racoons, and wild birds hang out).
Zone 0 is one of those "unofficial" zones. Not everyone recognizes it (seems to be that those who don't are often exactly the kind of people who ought to pay more attention to how they are being in the world!). It makes good clean sense to me. Zone zero is the space between your ears. It's where everything originates and marinates and the place where actions are birthed.
Zone zero was the realm of the intention setting workshop.

There were many gems of wisdom that the Eden taught. One pearl was "the quality of your life is determined by where you focus your attention". Clear! Simple! Perfect!
Another gem (based on the previous statement) was to find room for acknowledgement in your life. If you don't stop and acknowledge your accomplishments and are always aware of how much of your to-do list is unfinished you, like me, are stuck in an unfulfillment loop. Sucks. I know it well. When you take stock of all that you've done - from the big things like finishing projects to small things like smiling at a stranger or listening to a loved one - you begin to recognize that you are a contribution. A completely new world view emerges! Sweet relief!

We considered both our accomplishments and our disappointments of the previous year. We played at articulating a fundamental limiting paradigm that keeps us from playing big. Finally we crafted a statement/intention/new story to remind us of how capable and wonderful we are. For me it is "I have everything I need right now". This might not seem like such a bit of blinding wisdom to you but to me it feels true, calms me down, and reminds me of how resourceful I am. Just what I need when I'm feeling like I can't do it and am overwhelmed.

Honestly, I got a call from the bank today letting me know that I was $300 overdrawn. I immediately felt sick. I wanted to cry and hide. I don't get paid until 2/1 and it's only 1/10! How could this have happened? How stupid must I be to allow this? etc. etc. etc. and then I remembered, "I have everything I need right now". and I took stock. I had just finished a delicious lunch prepared by my amazing beau. I was in my classroom where I get to be queen of the realm and share things I'm passionate about with young people who often "get it" and thank me for years, I was going to go run after work (I'm fit and healthy) and then come home to my lovely (if a little messy) home that I own full of furry cute creatures that melt my heart. Life is pretty good. All my needs and more are met. Later this evening an dear old friend discovered that she had an extra $300 that she could gift me. My normal tendency would have been to fend off the offer and feel bad for "needing" it. Instead I welcomed it and thanked her and offered to do an alchemy reading for her and she was delighted. In this way I get some financial help that I need, she gets to help out a friend who she loves (lucky me!), I get to practice my alchemy consulting, and we both get to feel closer.

So, for those of you crafting or curious about urban homesteading - there are a million and one tips out there, thousands of books, amazing blog posts, great online and real life communities. There are no shortage of practical resources in this area. and I implore you to also address your own zone zero. Who are you being for yourself and others as you take this on? Are you creating a recipe for burnout? Are you adding in fun and play to the game? What are your limiting paradigms? What have you accomplished this past year? What simple phrase will remind you all this year that life is precious and that you are exactly where you need to be?
I hope we all have an amazing paradigm shattering beautiful community rich resourceful new year. Blessings and bounty for all!

** Also Eden was one of the speakers at the West Coast Womens Permaculture Gathering and a garden and permaculture teacher herself so it's all cool :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Whoa! What Happened to 2011!

Just wanted to do an update and confess that I feel guilty about not having been a better blogger. Perhaps this new year will be a fresh start for my blog as well as the calendar!
2011 was a crazy full year (hence the un-updated blog). By way of explanation and giving myself a virtual pat on the back here are some highlights:
April/May - the Southern California Permaculture Convergence was a wild and woolly success! I organized all the speakers and workshops. I don't recommend that task be done by one person for future gatherings! It made me into a real hag (sorry if you had to deal with me :)
and it all seemed worth it at the event. We had around 275 attendees, 3 days packed with information, action, and inspiration, and some of my favorite permaculture heroes for up and down the coast. There used to be great stuff online on the website. Seems like now it's more about upcoming events instead of history. Probably a good thing. Here's the site for more info:

May also brought the West Coast Womens' Permaculture Gathering. I was one of four key organizers for this event and managed the registration and website among other things. This was another heart warming belly laughing host of amazing permaculture people. IT was especially sweet to be in the company of women in this movement and Starhawk and the other presenters really created something beautiful. This was the second event of this time I've helped create and I can't wait for the next one! Here's more info (historical)

and while all this crazy busy excitement was happening another crazy exciting thing was happening. I fell in love! and it stuck! This has had an enormous impact on my productivity. and I wouldn't change a thing (except if someone offered to pay me for doing permaculture and blogging:) I am still stupidly happy and oogly loving my man. I still feel okay being the "single girl" homesteader 'cause I'm not married yet and my beloved isn't much of a homesteader. He loves the garden, is totally cool with the rabbits who live under the bed (bless him!) and really supportive of my homesteading tendencies and I am really happy. It's pretty amazing to finally have a sense of partnership and what is possible with that.

He inspired me to submit an abstract for a talk at the upcoming Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness conference this February about how plearning ermaculture/natural systems can be transformative. I'm really excited!

Also upcoming are a curriculum package for Common Vision about soil and compost, a community emergency response training permaculture style with Rachel Kaplan, and a soil foodweb workshop with Doug Weatherbee! Stay tuned!

I hope your own year is full of exciting stuff that gets you out in the world and still leaves some time for sitting on a garden bench appreciating all the beauty in the world.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Here's to the O.G. homesteader!

That would be old Grandma Hazel who was born April 24 1913 and died April 14 2011. I haven't had a real conversation with my grandma since I was a little girl. I always thought she was a little weird. She was always pleasant, typically self-deprecating, and usually said goofy things to lighten people up. Her world in Sauk Centre, MN seemed very small town to me and I figured she wouldn't really get me or the things I was up to. I sent cards with pictures of my house and my life and a refrigerator magnet with my face on it that seemed to make her really happy. She loved to brag to her friends about her kids and grand kids so apparently those items gave her bragging rights. I didn't realize just how arrogant I'd been with my Grandma until a few days ago. I was suddenly overwhelmed with grief and guilt and felt like I'd really missed out on knowing her. It hurt. Some of what I've come to see about Hazel Anderson is that she was born before refrigerators were around, way before tv, before cars even. She was born in a whole different world. and many of the skills I am acquiring and pride myself in (for how innovative and cutting edge I am with my homesteading style house and stuff) are all things my Grandma did before I was even born.
I'd forgotten that my Grandma kept a pantry in the basement full of canned fruits and vegetables. I remember going down there when I was little and having to choose between apple sauce and cherries to put on our dessert. And what kind of desserts? Grandma made everything from scratch. She made cracker jack from scratch and the worlds best caramel rolls and Sallie Anne cookies and old Scandinavian favorites like krumkaka (delicate lacy crisp "pancake" with powdered sugar on it that looks like a snowflake cut out in 3-d).
And those are just some of the things I remember. She would spend weeks baking before we came to visit. My Grandma's kitchen was a wonder to behold. I hope I can get a piece of it when I go to her funeral. What I wouldn't give for Grandma's canning supplies! I think she probably got rid of that years ago as she used it less and less. I'll find something wonderful and strange and perfect for the job it's designed for and invite it back home with me.
My Grandma was widowed when my Dad was 8. She had two sons and had to get a job to support her family. I can't imagine what a challenge that must have been in those days.
She was very proud of all the jobs she had. She used to take my brother and I to the Elks Club where she managed the kitchen and show us off to all the old folks. It never occurred to me that my Grandma was a pioneer working like she did.
I don't remember Grandmas garden but where else would she have gotten all that stuff to can? Shows you what selective memories kids have.
If I ever have grandchildren (and I'm still hoping) they will remember my garden. They'll probably think I'm weird and old fashioned and out of touch with the world. They might even make jokes about me when I'm not around. and I'll just love them. Because that's the lesson my Grandma Hazel keeps giving me. No matter what she loved me and all her kids and grand kids to the end of the earth. She was surrounded by friends when she passed because she had invested in the social capital of her community her entire life.
I wish I had realized how inspiring and awesome she was when she was still around. Maybe she can still teach me how to make krumkaka or lefse when I use the fancy tools she had for those delicate jobs. It will be nice to go celebrate her life with family this week. and I'm incredibly inspired to meet the people who kept vigil at her side and held her hand - that's the kind of community I want to build around me. I'm glad I can finally see what props I have for my O.G. Homesteader! Rest in deep great peace Grandma Hazel!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

DIY day: Basic plumbing and how to tunnel under a sidewalk

Two days ago I was under my kitchen sink wimpering and crying. My frustration came from trying to fix the shut-off valve from my hot water line for my kitchen sink. A friend told me it would be easy (same friend who broke it attempting to shut off the water to help me install a new filter) and I had assembled all the parts I needed. All I was trying to do was screw the line from the faucet to the shut off valve and nothing was working. The threads wouldn't connect. I was all twisted trying to fit as much of my body under the sink as I could. I was getting schmuck in my eyes when I'd lie on my back but lying on my belly I couldn't get my arms high enough to reach it. I looked online and in several home repair books I have here and all of them said, "and then screw the onto the threads" and that was where the whole problem was. I prayed and cursed and couldn't get it to work. and it was supposed to be easy. My head started sending me down into the depths of glum. Felt very alone and without support and imagined that it would always be that way (cue the sad image of a decrepit old woman in a nursing home from "The Economics of Happiness" documentary I saw last week).
Then T showed up and wondered what was happening (everything from under my sink spewed all over the kitchen floor and the front walk - me sobbing with my head under the sink). He went to fix it and ended up breaking the entire supply line to the sink!

So today I finally got the new supply line from the hardware store. They guy looked at the one in my hand and laughed. "No wonder you were having so much trouble." The new lines are made from woven metal and are much more flexible and friendly. and he was right. and after screwing it on and finding a tiny drop of water I undid the whole thing, screwed it on again and now have hot water in my kitchen! Hooray! and I learned a valuable lesson. 1) Plumbing sucks and it's liable to make me cry and 2) better to replace the whole thing (or at least have all the parts to do so) rather than tinker with the tiny bits when it comes to plumbing.
Valuable lessons!

My other diy triumph today had to do with irrigation (which explains the pictures I above). I've got to connect my front yard irrigation line to the hose bib. This requires placing the line underneath my front walk so people won't trip over it. After getting some assistance from an incredibly awesome and helpful guy at JH Mitchell Irrigation and researching on google, and being bouyed up by my plumbing success, I took it on.

First I dug out a large part of the dirt around where I was going to tunnel. I needed a lot of space so the pvc wouldn't bend and arc too low. (you can sort of see this in the first picture)

Second, I assembled the piece my irrigation angel instructed me to. He had me get a pressure washer, a length of pvc (the width of my sidewalk plus) and two fittings - one that screwed into the pressure washer on one end and connected to the pvc on the other end and another with a hose thread on one side and pvc connection on the other side. I have a picture of what this amazing tool looks like (second and third picture above). I vacillated about whether I really needed to go to this much effort to make this tunnel but I had no idea how else it would work.

I connected the hose and turned on the water. First attempt I got soaked by each leaky fitting but it seemed to work until I got about 2 feet away from the other side and hit something hard.

Second attempt same thing happened but this time from a slight angle. I was about to throw in the towel but opted to try something different.

For my "third times the charm" try, I went from the other side of the sidewalk to try and meet the second tunnel. I pushed with all my weight wiggled and worked the pvc pressure washer fire hose thingie and finally got the pvc all the way in and under the sidewalk! So now I have a length of pvc under my sidewalk that I can thread the irrigation line through! Only little hiccough is that I still haven't figured out where it is on the exit side. I can see the water come out but I can't find the damn hose. That seems like a minor problem (fingers crossed) and much better tackled tomorrow when the water recedes and I feel like I could use another feeling of triumph.

What's really nice about this method is the pvc is part of the tunneling tool so as soon as you're done with the tunnel you just cut off or unscrew the connectors and your pvc is right where you need it. I'm hoping that as soon as I find the damn thing all I need to do is run the irrigation line right through it, punch a couple connector fittings together, thread it to the hose bib, and TaDa! I'll be able to water my front beds!

All in all both tasks were daunting and I ran into multiple PITA obstacles but still fulfilled my mission! Hooray!