Sunflowervillager's Blog

Growing into community

Planting Basil March 30, 2013

Filed under: food/agri/garden,subsidiarity,sustainability — Saera @ 4:23 pm
Tags: , , ,

A couple weeks ago, my coworker Chris and I talked gardening, and he offered me some basil seeds he’d saved from last year. I accepted them with delight and today I finally set out to plant them.  Some of the seeds were still in the dried, tiny flowers which were still attached to the stalk. Others had fallen off, loose inside the plastic baggie. I did a little reading online about basil seeds. There are usually only two to a pod. When going to save the seed, it’s best to wait till the flowers and stalks have turned brown so the seeds are matured. Then you can pick the stalks and let them continue drying in a paper bag. To loosen the seeds, you simply rub the flowers. The flowers and other chaff comes loose and the seeds come out. They are small and black or dark brown, very easy to pick out fr\om the chaff. (Chaff, if you didn’t grow up in a bible-crazy family like me, means the loose bits of plant that fall away when you separate it from the seed or grain). The chaff is tan to light green and smells great. I used a plate-bowl to hold my work on my lap, with the seeds on the part near my knees and the chaff towards my belly. The seed pretty easily fell towards the seed-pile and I herded the chaff toward the chaff pile. I found it easiest to sort through a few flowers at a time, which cuts down on the chaff versus trying to do a whole stalk at once. I got most of the seeds separated my first time through, with minimal chaff in the seed pile. Then I sorted through the chaff pile. I didn’t miss much. I probably only got 12-16 more seeds after going through the chaff again. I planted 4 seeds to a one inch slot in my planting trays and have plenty left over for planting later.

While it’s still lovely and sunny, I’m off to plant more flowers: sunflowers and morning glories. But tonight I’ll add a couple photos of the seed sifting. Soon I want to write a bit about seed-saving and it’s relation to the Sunflower Village Initiative. Hold me to it.


Making Applesauce & Cookies November 13, 2012

Filed under: food/agri/garden — Saera @ 8:02 pm
Tags: ,

Last night I made applesauce chocolate chip cookies. I made the applesauce myself. It was easy, and really didn’t take long! I used apples that I picked with Malcolm and his kids at an orchard about half an hour away a few weeks ago. Don’t let anyone tell you applesauce is hard or time consuming to make. I just washed, peeled, cored, chopped 4 apples and put 4 Tablespoons of water in a medium saucepan.(I probably should have put in 3 like the cookie recipe suggested because it came out a bit runny.) Covered the pot and let it simmer, stirring very occasionally. Whenever I stirred, I mashed up the apples a bit with a wooden spoon. I also added cinnamon and a dash of cloves. I like Kaela’s suggestion to add a tiny bit of nutmeg, so I’ll do that next time. I only needed 3/4 a cup for the cookies, so I had plenty left over for a warm, cozy, healthy snack. I made delicious cookies too. Daniel says they might be the best I’ve made. I think it’s because the food was so local and because I made my own applesauce. One more step to food self reliance! (You can do it too!)


In the words of the illustrious John Gerber July 13, 2011

Filed under: economy,food/agri/garden,subsidiarity — Saera @ 12:33 am

This is a blog by one of my favorite professors, John Gerber. If it is unclear why local/subsidiarity approach is a critical component of the Sunflower Village Initiative, I imagine this post can offer some illumination.




Reflections on Meat, provoked by the Nearings. July 21, 2010

Filed under: anthropology,Buddhism,food/agri/garden,interconnected — Saera @ 9:34 am

Nearly through reading Living the Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing. This couple achieved much of what I am interested in from the 30s through the 70s. They left New York due to the Great Depression, determined to be self-sufficient, humane, skilled, thriving, and cultured, while debt-free and increasingly independent of wage-labor and money. While they achieved much of this, they did not find a strong sense of community in the Vermont they experienced at that time. They were strongly community/communally minded, far ahead of their time. I do not agree with them on every single point, but there is a great deal of inspiring knowledge and wisdom in their writing. Some of it makes sense to me personally, such as eating almost exclusively uncooked vegetables and fruit, but seems like a bit more than I’m presently willing to give up, and more than most people are willing to do. For them, this was a priority, but I am more interested in developing a functional community and adjusting diet later. While I myself am vegetarian, I do not expect that anyone else become one, and certainly people will not have to be vegetarian to live in a village. However, the production and acquisition of meat does present challenges. First for me is the inefficiency of meat production. That is to say, that in order to have meat, first grasses and grains must be grown and then fed to the animals. This not only is an extra step in food production, but also reduces the food produced, as happens in any transfer of energy. Cows produce the worst ratio, but even with chickens you have more input than output. This amounts to one basic thing: you can feed more people on vegetables, fruits, and grain than you can if you include meat. It leads to another challenge. If meat is to be provided to those who cannot (medically, culturally) or will not give up meat, how is this to be compensated for, since both energy-wise and financially, the meat-eaters will be bigger consumers. I may come back to that in a moment.

The second thing is the slaughter of the animals. For many people this is a purely ethical issue of whether or not it is alright to kill another “living being”, by which many people mean mammals, fowl, and fish. While I personally have not been courageous enough to kill my own meat, the consumption of the meat of other creatures has been a part of human cuisine for millenia. It is an important and valued thing for many cultures, and I would not pass judgment on culture.  Too, there is the fact that I do not see a inherently clear line between the life of an animal and the life of a tree. Both live, both have their own meanings until human imposition. Then we disturb both for our use. The ways in which we use or do not use animals affects plants, and the ways in which we use plants affects animals. Our nature as humans leads invariably to the alteration of our environment. Buddhism (among many other teachings) explains that self and the environment are one and the same.

In any case, humans must eat as best as they are able. For a community aimed at self-sufficiency, I believe that animals may be humanly kept and used for their eggs, milk, manure, and labor. This may include meat, but that brings us back to the question of slaughter. You may or may not have heard, but the methods used for slaughter in the United States are, in a word, appalling. Many people seem to think that the slaughterhouse days of Upton Sinclair are long since gone. I pose that they never left, only altered appearance to sate public demand for increased “decency” in wages and some measures of safety for people. But there are other laws now too which were not so dominant then. Now slaughterhouses are few and far between, with only one or two for entire states, and this by federal decrees and standards. Meant to improve safety, they actually increase the danger. The fewer slaughterhouses are not an indicator of less meat, but of more. All the meat is going through a few places, making the risk greater. The sheer speed necessary to process all these animals creates more accidents, potentially leading to contamination of food and injury to humans. I will not write more on the process here, it is easily found in many places now. The relevance to a village is that while, in many places, it is alright to slaughter chickens for one’s own family consumption, or for a small business, most other animals are required to go through a slaughterhouse, which would likely result in participating in problematic practices. It is also expensive and not practical for a subsidaristic, economically self-reliant community. Meat purchased elsewhere, despite promises of grass-fed, organic, and local, still generally goes through the same slaughterhouses. Therefore, while cows may be ethically raised, their use is not recommended for an intentional community until such time as meat processing is reformed. Other meats may be considered by an intentional community, but it should be recognized that, other than as a health need for specific people, meat remains a luxury.

Another time perhaps, I will write on my disagreement with some vegans regarding honey.


Dialogue, Writing, India, Gardening July 12, 2010

Chris and Marcia came over to chant this evening, and it was wonderful to hear from them about their dreams and ideas, particularly from Chris. They listened to me too. Although the phrase “make the impossible possible” didn’t come up so directly, much of the discussion was about how we actually go about doing that, about dividing huge dreams into smaller, connected goals that make the dream seem more possible, and therefore more exciting and tangible.

I’ve been doing some of this already. Through a book on How to Start a Nonprofit, I’ve been working through some important details and motivations. I’ve typed up a bunch of it, and perhaps I’ll post some of it too, with a little more editing.

I don’t know how much I’ve written about it here, but I’m working towards spending next semester studying in India. The program I’m in is called Sustainable Development and Social Change, through SIT, (The School for International Training, located in Vermont). The connection between this and the Sunflower Village Initiative is that I believe that my thinking and actions about SVI will be clarified through this program. By making a connection to Sustainable Development and Social Change in India, I will strengthen, from experience, the ability for intentional communities to positively impact interactions with impoverished countries, as well as making the village inclusive of multiple cultural experiences and non-white perspectives. So in my application for the program, I wrote a good deal about how I think that the program will do this. Something else I can add here.

My friend Mamta is gone for a few weeks, and she has offered me a great opportunity. I get to water and harvest her vegetables while she’s gone! I go the first time tomorrow. I’m going to bring home some basil, and hopefully a tomato or two will be ready! I’m sure some zucchini will be set, since they were coming ripe last week. It will be good to get out and do some garden work. I haven’t done much gardening in a long time, so this will feel wonderful, and save us some money too!


Of Candles and Tea September 5, 2009

Filed under: food/agri/garden,land,subsidiarity — Saera @ 12:20 pm

I made candles Thursday night. It’s been about four years since I did that, so my technique needs a little practice. I recycled leftover wax I’d collected from candles I’ve had over the past year or so. I had a little red wax and some citronella, so I have six rosy pink candles that have a citronella smell! When wax cools, it contracts, and little wells form in the base of the candle. You’re supposed to pour more in, but I made a mess and just barely had enough to initially fill the molds. They look fine though, and I learned some things for next time. I only want to used recycled wax to make my candles, so I’m thinking about advertising for wax wanted on craigslist. Anyway, that was a fulfilling activity!

The other day I got to visit Pages, a new independent coffee bar and bookshop in Conway, MA. Conway is to the north of Amherst, around Greenfield I think. Anyway, Conway is also home to a horse-plowed farm, which I think I may have mentioned that I visited with my Vegetable Production class last semester. I’m starting to have good associations. I’m acquainted with the owner of Pages, and I’m impressed with what she’s started. Not only does she carry used books, she incorporates as much local food/coffee/tea product as she can… local made, fresh, non-frozen pastries that are *heavenly*

Tried to buy Orion at work the other day, but couldn’t find it. I guess I’ll try (ugh) Barnes and Noble.


Tuesday Market September 2, 2009

Filed under: Demeter,food/agri/garden,social investment,subsidiarity — Saera @ 1:29 am

I went to the Tuesday Farmer’s Market today. I don’t go every Tuesday, but I’ve been a fair bit this summer. It’s one thing to see what’s considered “seasonal” at a grocery store like the one where I work and another to see what’s *locally* in season. There is some cross-over, but I have noticed through the course of the summer that the “season” for most things is stretched out quite a bit at the store by shipping things in, like blueberries from Mexico six or seven weeks before the first ones are available here. But the things at the market are beautiful, at least if not more beautiful and diverse than the products at the store. Today I found something at the market which I have never seen anywhere else: fresh, locally grown GINGER, the root still attached to the stem and leaves. Even the leaves smell spicy and exotically like the root. I misread the sign initially, and I thought they were $12 each. Turns out they were $12 per pound. I bought two small stemmed ones, and they were only $2.25. Really that isn’t much more than what I usually spend for ginger. But these roots are lovely and white, still moist from the ground, and with the top layer of the ginger tinged mauve before it starts branching and leafing. The farmer I bought it from noted that the leaves aren’t much good for eating, since they’re so fibrous. But he also told me that they make great tea and soup. There was a lot of other great variety. I found little purple onions that looked like shallots at 10 for a dollar. That was a good deal. And a stand was selling nothing but mushrooms: shitaakes and chantarelles for only $4/pint. But I forgot to go back and get them, I was so distracted by the ginger! I hope they are there next week. There was a lot more that I would have liked to stock up with. But I have a confession to make: we haven’t been fully appreciative of the produce we have had lately, and too much went to the compost bin without becoming part of a meal. So today I was careful.

I keep re-realizing is that I’m not much of an in-season cook, and I’m also not skilled at food preservation. A lot of things I only know how to use one or two ways. Take zucchini for example. I know zucchini bread can be awesome. I’ve never made any myself, but my mom always made some in the summer, and I’ve had some from other people that is generally good. And I know it can be good in pasta sauce, so a couple of weeks ago I grated some up and used it to thicken my home-made chunky sauce. Last week Ann brought in a gigantic zucchini from the garden, and I still have one from the Farmer’s Market. I know only so much can go into pasta sauces, and I can only envision making 2 or 3 loaves of zucchini bread. So I guess it’s time to get into some research about what to do with the rest.

One other note: at the laundromat today, I picked up Green Living. It’s been a long time since I really looked at it, or any other of the many publications now in existence with such similar values and goals to what I’m working toward. It was refreshing, got my imagination and inspiration going a bit more… made me want to compile things and take notes and write responses. So I need to keep in mind how important it is to keep that kind of input coming. Been thinking about purchasing Orion for awhile now, since Kara seems to like it, so I think I’ll do that at work this week.

Thanks for reading!