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.


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.




S Definitions June 21, 2011

I’m working on getting the vision for SVI into one coherent document. I’ve started by defining the three “S” primary values of the Initiative. I’d love feedback, and I’m sure these will be edited in the future. Thanks for reading!


Sustainability is literally the capacity to sustain over time. Term used by the environmental movement to refer to practices or series of practices/systems which support the capacities of ecosystems to continue to function properly while providing resources for human activities. This term has become highly popular, to the point of having such broad definitions and use that its use is often meaningless, having been co-opted into many other contexts. Sustainability in the sense of SVI refers primarily to ecological sustainability. This means reducing the impact through encouraging the use of products and systems which are locally sourced, locally produced, repairable, multi- and re-useable, recyclable, biodegradable from least-at-risk habitats, land managed for the benefit of the broad whole with best environmental practices


Subsidiarity is the Principle that tasks and activities should occur at the most local level practical. The most important quality of Subsidiarity is that it argues that local people should have the greatest say in local issues. Of course everything is interconnected and people from local communities have the responsibility to not negatively impact neighboring communities or the well-being of the larger society. Without restricting access to human rights, local people should decide the rules for their community in terms of economic principles and social practices. Unfortunately, at present, many decisions are made at such a “high” level that the people who are most affected by those decisions in their daily lives have little voice, despite votes, ballots, and public forums.

Subsidiarity as an economic principle offers stability of employment, containment of recessions/depressions, and stronger currency by virtue of being backed up by closer approximations to the actual value of goods and services. In some cases, the efficiency offered by engaging in subsidiarity may reduce costs. Subsidiarity supports sustainability by encouraging the use of local products and businesses before ones further away. This reduces the amount of gasoline burned in transportation, the packaging of products due to shipping, wear and tear on roads (and thus reduced need to use petroleum in their repair). From a health perspective, locally grown foods are often fresher and exposed to less chemicals. They are also at lower risk for the spread of disease through the industrial food chain.


Solidarity is the idea that the struggles for justice faced by other people are just as important as those which affect us personally. Genuine solidarity is not patronizing or merely agreeing with the principles of equality and fairness. It recognizes the equality of all people. By identifying oneself with those afflicted by injustices, people who express solidarity contribute to shifting opinions which create the foundation of change. When people who express solidarity take action in partnership with those directly affected, they become an important factor in the achievement of social, economic, political, and cultural justice.

Today, economic and cultural justice are often missing aspects of intentional communities oriented around sustainability. Because of this, many people who would like to participate in the sustainable lifestyle opportunities offered by intentional communities are directly or indirectly denied access. Economic barriers such as income requirements prevent hard-working, intelligent people with low-paying jobs from entry, while people from diverse cultural backgrounds may be made to feel uncomfortable in communities which shun meat or dairy or are primarily Caucasian in composition. There is a critical need for existing and forming intentional communities to reflect on how they can integrate social justice into a broader vision of sustainability.


Response to Mark June 26, 2009

This post is from an email conversation from my friend Mark commenting on the blog. It provoked some good thoughts and clarifications, so I thought I’d share here.

I have not yet had the opportunity to visit a kibbutz, but I think the experience would be interesting as a way to clarify my current ideas and see something in practice similar to what I’m looking to create. I think one of the most fundamental differences is that the village will not be based on a particular faith, making it more conducive to people of all (or no) faiths. Also, from what I understand about kibbutz-es is that they vary greatly. Some are very strict while others are more relaxed. I think that any detailed comparison would have to be on the basis of a specific kibbutz. I think I would be more impressed with the kibbutz concept in general if it became a basis for healing the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

I think that Eco-Tourists are a complex issue, arising from the fact that such travelers still seem to be rooted in capitalism, despite good intentions ecologically. So my feeling is that most Eco-Tourists would probably expect money to exempt them from at least some work, so I think I prefer the “you work and we’ll feed and shelter you” stance in general, at least for short term guests. Perhaps if there were longer term guests, say more than 2 weeks, maybe money would be more an issue and they could pay to learn even more skills or something.

I think it is vital for people to have space to be alone. In the blog recently, I was writing about satellite housing. Perhaps I didn’t elaborate on that part enough, but if people can have a common house for cooking, etc, most people could have their own “mini” house for sleeping and privacy… kind of a bedroom-house. I know that it drives most people, including me, to be around lots of people all the time… even a couple of people can be too much if it’s non-stop. Also, people will be working outside a lot, so there will be some space provided that way too.

I’m very interested in all forms of alternative energy. Ideally, I would like for the village to either be off-grid or producing enough power to sell it back to national energy sources. In fact, that would make a good source of revenue for the village. I have heard a bit about systems which integrate multiple types of alternative energy, several of which can feed into each other, creating more reliable energy sourcing. I don’t know a lot about cow manure power, and really I I’ve heard more practical-sounding things about chickens. But either produces Methane gas, which certainly can be used as an alternative power source. I’d be interested in the name of that VT dairy farm. Perhaps when I get a car I could visit it. Generators are definitely something I will look into. This rest-area sounds awesome…. a couple of years ago when I was doing some research online I found an article about how in Sweden they were planting willows to do a similar thing to process liquid and solid waste. Apparently willows do particularly well with that sort of thing, and could be utilized in turn for firewood and other uses.


Principles May 27, 2009

Filed under: solidarity,subsidiarity,sustainability,transparency,values — Saera @ 3:07 am

After the preceding post, I went back and worked through some definitions of things I’d said I’d write about awhile ago. It seems like a long list maybe, but these things linked together and my explanations say a lot about just what it is I’m trying to do. Obviously these aren’t generally things I have come up with myself, but describe what I feel and value just as authentically as if I had. I am so grateful for those who explicated this vocabulary and gave it meaning to me.

Self and Inter Reliance – Self reliance suggests that people have a number of traits which propel them towards greater achievement. Dependency suggests that a person cannot take initiative or be motivated unless they are pushed by another person. While both conditions occur, neither is really healthy, and it seems to me that most people blend a combination of these two, primarily centered on a third type of reliance, which I term inter-reliance. Inter-reliance is when people encourage, inspire, and help each other, sometimes physically and materially, to create value together that benefits both.

Solidarity – Solidarity is the idea that if someone else is experiencing social or other structural injustice, I stand by that person and work with them to change that situation.

Subsidiarity – anything that can be worked out at the most pertinent local level should be, before resorting to another level. For example, a school should have its own dialogue on curriculum and grades before having them instituted for them by the school district, or even worse, the federal government. Another way of saying subsidiarity is the “bottom-up” approach to leadership, rather than “top-down”, which is the most common approach. I, and an increasing number of people, argue that subsidiarity is much more effective (and probably efficient) than top-down. This is related to the fact that the people most proximate to a situation probably have the best understanding of how to solve that situation, as well as a reduced need for bureaucracy and excessive travel to work out arrangements from a “higher” level.

– many people have defined this terms so differently that I almost hate to use it. Its current popular use can be misguiding for a number of reasons. For me, Sustainability is still an adjective more than a noun that describes living in such a way that sustains the future of life. This is not just about the viability of the planet to support human life, although that is an important aspect. It is about being responsible for the way we do things so that the most life is able to survive, whether we think it currently profitable or not. This does not mean that we have to let pests eat all our crops or insist on the utter abolition of antibiotics or that we can’t cut down a tree to heat us in winter, but considering whether the things we do and how we do them are going to promote life or limit it. I do not see sustainability compatible with a number of words with which it is commonly paired, including corporation, and capitalism.

– life forms cooperating with each other to create a stronger existence for both.

– two things working together for greater effect, perhaps also one thing having more than one function.

– the capacity of a person, community, or other group of people to decided its own future based on its own values

– the idea that all people should be presented with equal opportunity and rights

– the pursuit of righting wrongs in human society by pointing them out and correcting them.

– discussion between two or more people to create better understandings, relationships, and solve disputes, among other things

Seven Generations
– the consideration of the effects our actions on the seven generations to come, as well as an understanding and appreciation of the efforts of those from the past seven generations.

– existing in such a way that those within and outside an organization, business, or other operation are able to see and understand what is happening and why, and that those carrying out an operation are accountable for their actions and the associated consequences.


Pollan and the limited definition of "sustainability" Part 1 March 11, 2009

I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I thought I knew a few things about food, and granted, I already had a good handle on a number of subjects. But the way Pollan strings it all together and makes many “invisible” processes relate to food aspects of our culture brings a number of vital issues and concerns to the forefront. I don’t want this to become a book review, but I highly recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about food, capitalism, or sustainability, among other things which I see as related, like the worry about surveillance I heard people discussing in the breakroom at work or classism.

One thing that concerns me about modern trends and efforts to integrate “sustainability” into a capitalist economy is that it tends to be primarily “available” to those who already have the greatest advantages in our society. In otherwords, sustainability as it is currently being interpreted in our society is only for those who can afford it. This contradicts every real meaning of the original definition of sustainability.

And now, back to working at “Big Organic”