Posts Tagged With: gardening

Memories of My Future

On the loose

Last night I went and saw Mark Shephard talk about his new book Restoration Agriculture.  Mark is a Driftless Area permaculture guru.  The book deals with how one can mimic the native environment and biome to create an agricultural system that is high in calories and nutritional content per acre and is an ecosystem in itself rather than a lack of one.  I haven’t read the book yet but I definitely plan to once I finish the 4 (yes 4) books I am currently reading.   Mark’s farm is well known in the area for his hazelnut operation and the hard apple cider he makes.  He’s also well known for his hilarious band Synister Dane, being friendly and jovial, and taking on several interns each year.  I loved his talk and afterwards my mind was really spinning with dreams for the future.

I am an educator at heart.  It is what I am good at and what I am passionate about.  I am also deeply connected to the earth. I dream of forming a relationship with a piece of land and sharing it with others.  What that means is still unclear to me.  Will I someday own land and operate an environmental, outdoor, and farming education center out of it?  Would that land be mine or would I own it cooperatively? Will I find an educational community that I can make my home and educate from there?  Will I simply live close to the land like I dream and keep education as my day job working at a school or park or writing curriculum? I have worked with summer camps, outdoor education programs, public schools, a semester program, an alternative high school, and others and I have loved them all.  Even the experiences that were less than ideal at the time taught me valuable lessons about my values, strengths, and desires.  Where I am in life right now there is much uncertainty.  Where will I be a year from now?  Where will I be six months from now? Who will I be with and what will I be doing?

When I imagine my future I see images behind my eyes like vivid memories I have yet to live.  I am leading hikes in the rain and discussing vernal ponds. I am shelling beans into a bucket as the sunsets. I am chopping wood for future fires and looking up to watch others neatly stack it to season. I am singing songs round a campfire.  I am harvesting tomatoes with a baby on my hip.  I am skiing through snowy fields in the bright sun. I see fresh baked bread, a pantry full of canned goods, teenagers in waiters ready for adventure, and little kids with fairy wings and nature journals. I see a room of ecology supplies that always smells faintly of mildew in the best possible way.  I see children overturning rocks in the stream looking for salamanders and frogs.   I see my feet hanging from a handbuilt tree house as I read and sip on a tea of wild mint and nettles.  My journal is filled with drawings of encounters with wild animals and new plants. My hands are rough from hard work.  My schedule is busy, challenging, and always changing.  And best of all,  I am happy.

As I walked home from Mark’s talk last night  I decided it is time to embrace the uncertainties in my life.  I  don’t know what the future holds for me.  No one does. My professor Marty at Warren Wilson always to said, “Start small, go slow, but go.”  You can’t sit around and expect your dreams come to you if you don’t work towards them.  With that I am going for a walk and see what this rainy, freezing day has to teach me.

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Putting the Garden to Bed

Pulling tomatoes.

Pulling tomatoes.

Fall has come and a frost finally wiped out the last of our tomatoes.  We could have saved them if we wanted by covering them with plastic but we decided to follow what Mother Nature wanted and let them go.

Good bye, sweet summer.
Good bye, eating fresh out of our garden every day.

I am ready to welcome the dark time of year into my life.  I could never live somewhere that did not have winter.  The changing of seasons is deeply moving to me and I love that connection.

Today I am thankful for all the food preservation I did this summer that will enable me to eat locally throughout the fall and winter.  I am thankful for all the fun times Jamie and I shared planning, planting, weeding, and tending our garden.  I am thankful for good friends who bestowed upon us buckets and buckets of manure to get our garden started.  And I am thankful for all the insects, microbes, and wiggly worms that helped make our garden a success.

Goodnight, my beautiful garden.  May you enjoy a peaceful winter slumber.

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Make Your Own Hot Sauce!

Our homemade, fermented hot sauce

Our homemade, fermented hot sauce. Made by Jamie

Hot peppers did really excellently in our part of the country this year and we are now left with a ton.  We had pickled and frozen some and decided to make hot sauce as well!  Traditionally hot sauce (and ketchups, relishes, etc) were all fermented instead of being vinegary like they are today.  Making hot sauce is super easy!

Fermented Hot Sauce Recipe

  • Pick and de-stem a whole lot of ripe hot peppers.
  • Put in a blender or food processor and chop them up until you can’t anymore.
  • Pour into a clean jar
  • Mix in a couple teaspoons of pickling salt.
  • Cover with a cloth or not screwed on plastic lid
  • Let rest and ferment for a couple weeks.
  • Enjoy.

That’s it!  That’s all we did!  After a day it started frothing and bubbling a way.  Later if you want to you can strain it for a liquidy sauce like one you would buy at the store.  We chose to keep ours chunky though and boy oh boy is it hot.

Just remember to use proper protection when you are dealing with hot peppers.  Jamie wore gloves, safety goggles, and a bandana over his mouth during processing day.  Just the smell in the house alone intensely spicy.  I recommend keeping a window open.

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Four Months Later…

4 months.  That’s how long it has been since I last posted.  As I completed another round of folk school catalog design this week and went to delete “Annie writes a blog called Drift Less, Learn More” from my bio, I decided to instead actually take up writing again. As there is no way I could possibly write an update on everything I have done in the past 4 months, here is a “brief” slideshow of events instead.  Enjoy and come back soon for more updates!

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We need a new home!


Move out day from the cabin is fast approaching and Jamie and I really need a new place to live!  We are looking for house or cabin or really anything decent near or outside of Viroqua.  I’d love to be able to bike into town– with the new bike trail that means Westby is also a possibility! We would like to have enough space to grow lots of veggies and raise a couple of chickens.  Ideally we would also be able to hold a couple Driftless Folk School classes there but we are not attached to that anymore because we really just need to find a place!  Please keep us in mind with ideas of any kind!

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