Further Tales From The Refuge: Recently someone asked me how winter was going at the farm. Well, actually winter just officially got here. Hasn’t seemed like it since fall. Some folks I know have measured what they think are record-breaking snow amounts in the Casper area for the late fall. The biggest problem with snow events like this is the snow drifts that form in three places between my cabin and Ten Mile Road. I can see the road; I can see it’s clear; but I can’t get there. I have to rely on others to help move the drifts and that is never comfortable for me. It was during one such drift problem that my furnace decided it was lonely and needed a nice man to pay some attention to it. I dealt with two repairmen and both were amazing. They were from Jim’s and Sheet Metal Specialties. And even on my present pre-Social Security budget the cost was completely reasonable. I am hoping that the regular temperature dips below freezing will kill off the majority of the grasshopper eggs. Let’s not go there. All the indoor projects are in-progress. The enclosed porch is now a cozy, sun-filled place for coffee in the morning with a view of the mountain. The kitchen is getting a face lift. And all of the logs inside the cabin are being cleaned with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I’ve used the woodstove more this year than ever before, going through all of the newspaper and firewood I had stored. When the weather allows, I drive out to the greasewood and collect dead and dry material. This reduces the fuel loading in the wilder areas of the property, and it doesn’t take very much of this wood to heat the stove up for the evening. Once the stove is heated and the flames have died I close all of the dampers and flue and keep the fan on. This keeps the cabin at about 64 degrees until bed. The ice hasn’t been good to Bridget either. She injured her front leg so she is spending this winter in the pen in the shed. Rough life: she gets cracked corn, COB and MSM with grass hay in the morning and grains and an alfalfa flake in the evening. I clean the pen and massage the leg and have placed an ACE bandage above the knee to give some support. Some days she stands on it just fine; other days she puts little or no weight on it all. Soft tissue damage is a long heal for anyone. I’m also using this ‘quality time’ when she is happily eating her cow candy to trim all of her hooves. But she won’t be going out as long as there is ice in the corral. I’m certain she will be a princess cow by the time this is all over. Maybe I should cut back on the massages and hair brushing. Those horns disqualify her for My Little Pony. As I do not have a water hydrant inside the shed, I carry a 5 gallon bucket to fill her tub twice a day. Now the whole point to this is that next week I will be 66 years old. I have been graced and blessed – so far – with good health. I am doing yoga every morning to warm up; ten pushups; planks for core work; jogging a quarter mile on the drive (weather permitting), climbing fences and opening gates, pitching hay twice a day, feeding and watering the ducks and geese and tending to Bridget. I wish I had a dime for every time someone has said “You’re a survivor; you are so self-sufficient!” Even I can’t do it all. I get hurt. I get exhausted. I castigate myself for not doing more, or doing it all better. But for now I cannot see doing anything else. I’m sure that one of these days I will be found, face down, frozen in a snowdrift (Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.) And when that happens please, please, please refrain from saying – all of you, at all times – that I died doing what I loved. I hate hearing that. There isn’t a single one of us who doesn’t want to die, ready to go, in a comfortable bed, tired, easing into the dust from which we came. Survivors only say that to hide their own discomfort. It’s 4pm. Time to tell the birds to go into their houses, pitch some more hay to the Black Angus girlz and pamper Bridget. That’s pretty much the day here until March. Soon cabin fever will set in heavily and either I will dream up some new classes for the spring or … fall face down in a snow drift… wish me luck.
Is saving the planet a ‘non-profit, mission of sacrificing everything … or can brilliance even in finance come into play? We need more and more and a thousand times more like these! And note that clean rain water collection is a benefit, along with lighter weight requiring less intense weight-bearing construction materials, less labor intensive, less carbon emissions in manufacturing … etc!!
The Geometry of Organic Design and Clean Water. (In memory and tribute to the efforts of Dr. Nakamura to provide clean water for irrigation and people) Just the form of these towers is comforting. Locally sourced materials. Simple technology and construction. I have the unlikely fantasy of creating one here. Who knows.
And like the refugee tents in the last post, the towers are an ever evolving creation. Organic design learns, is dynamic, evolves to the changes in goals, resources, challenges.
Winter is dipping into my garden again tonight. I bundled up and put Bridget the Highlander in the loafing shed with some grain, MSM for her arthritis and some hay. I let the Angus girls in for water and over-night shelter. I told the ducks and geese that it was time to go into their houses, which they do with very little other direction. The weather station screen in my mudroom shows 25 degrees. The woodstove is hot and I’ve put the extra blankets on my bed. All of which tells me that it’s the season for planning next year’s projects, dreaming next year’s landscape. This year I will be doing this comfortably by the fire along with sips of homemade rhubarb liqueur.
Also color pencils. Mine are kept in pieces of Styrofoam so that I can see the colors. And no matter where, no matter when, I am never without a notebook, a sketchbook and the camera and SMemo app on my phone to capture and record ideas, inspirations, questions, colors, textures. So the first step is to prioritize things that need to be done and things that I would like to see done. Then I pull out all those scraps, notes, photos, color palettes.
**Review of 2019 Projects: Livestock Loafing Shed. Goal: Repair, restoration, cleaning and organization. Methods: (All contractors in Casper WY) Cleaned and sanded exterior and painted metal siding (special paint from Diamond Vogel); pens cleaned, corral cleaned and grading for drainage (Glenn Ross Excavation); repaired and restored broken metal fences around corral (Double D Welding); repaired / re-stretched wire and re-secured cattle panel fences; installed wood posts and three metal gates (gates purchased at Tractor Supply); and repair of frost free hydrant (again Glenn Ross Excavating). I also completely cleaned out the storage area – disturbing at least one 6 foot bull snake – organized surplus materials from scattered storage, and stored small hay bales (from my East Field by JW, my Neighbor)for times when the cows are confined. The painting of the metal fence around the corral will have to wait until 2020.
The cows are still figuring out where all the new gates lead…typical.
For You: Be patient with yourself, with your list. But the most important step toward getting a project done is to take the first action. Study garden catalogs; sand the wood; collect the materials; find what you love, what comforts you, what makes all the work worthwhile.
FIRE RANT TWO: In my first lifetime, as one of the first female cops in my region, family and friends were fascinated and thought I was something very special. I wasnt. I was just another pioneer. Like my Great Great Grandfather James Pursell. Who were my hero’s at that time? Who did I see every night stepping into harms way, up close and very personal, in blood and guts and every other fluid possible? #Firefighters – called ‘firemen’ back then.
And right now literally thousands of #firefighters are stepping into harm’s way risking their lives and the well-being of their families to protect other people’s home and structures BUILT IN INAPPROPRIATE SITES, inappropriate environments, buildings and structures with no #defensiblespace.
To those homeowners who did create defensible space: thank you, but it’s one of those community things. If your neighbors don’t do it their fuel loading feeds the #fires, makes it so hot that very little can stop it.
Planning departments, materials manufacturers, architects have all of the knowledge and technology to mitigate the damage. And any insurance company that issues a policy without inspecting or requiring proof of best practices mitigation – whether for fire or flood or earthquake or hurricane – should have their licenses suspended or revoked.
A disaster occurs only when human beings contribute or are victims. Otherwise these events are ‘naturally occurring wild fires.’
Somewhere in the very deep back of my mind I thought that I might return to California to die. It was mostly fantasy. I’ve always told people that I missed five things from CA: fresh salmon, redwood forests, museums and art galleries, ethnic restaurants and the isolated, remote beaches of the far north of the state. Having lost my own home there to similar fire event, having written emergency plans, I now feel the reality. As long as governments and corporations base their actions on greed and mediocrity, on working to maintain the status quo, living in most of California will be a severe risk of loss. California has for thousands of years, been a FIRE DRIVEN NATURAL ENVIRONMENT WITH AN ACTIVE UNDERLYING GEOLOGY. With the density of development and fluctuations in climatic extremes the present events will become the norm and everyone will learn how to face loss … including the bankruptcy of public agencies and major corporations on which people depend for recovery. Check your mutual funds for property/casualty insurance companies and public utilities and get the heck out … of high fire risk areas and those stocks. Adapt now.
Growth: for me, in plants, in diversification of offerings. The priority project for this year was to convert the potting shed to a small propagation greenhouse. And with the assistance of my good friend Donna this project is completed. Please join me in a little tour of the new shed with a new video on the Tara Farm and Nursery YouTube Channel. Being able to grow clones, seedlings and cuttings from plants that have been proven to thrive here in Central Wyoming is huge. I also posted a short video update of the Fruit Garden. There will be pounds of elderberry, lots of raspberries and later this summer, grapes.
Please “Like” the videos if you find them interesting and Subscribe to the Channel for all future video updates. The next videos will each focus on one of the plants seen in the videos.
And if you live in the Casper Wyoming USA area and see plants that you would like to add to your garden please feel free to contact me with a message here, a Facebook Messenger contact, an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or text or call 307.262.8043
Having my morning coffee in the cool green of the gardens and nursery, seeing the lush growth and the green fruits, checking their health and the moisture ~ my favorite start to any day… creating a refuge in the wind … together.
It is very rare that a client or colleague asks about my background…who am I, what do I do, how have I done it? Why should you trust my recommendations or pay me for them without knowing the work I have put into being able to help you. Here is a brief – somewhat conventional – video resume. From here feel free to ask or challenge or trust. I want you to love belonging to the natural world just as I do. Muddy hands are a statement of purpose…and comfort.
Rural folks know that everything will eventually have a use. Parts and pieces pile up in sheds, barns, fields ~ frustrating the more organized members of each family. In this very short presentation the permaculture strategies of Recycle,Reuse, Restore and Technology Transfer might just clean some of that up and put it to good use. Vertical gardens are all the urban rage. This little project just might serve several strategies: diversification of income (sale of broken pipe), recycle/reuse/restore, technology transfer, wise use of resources, obtain yields in the form of food and soil conservation and restoration. Even the worms win…
Wedge shaped tap roots, rhizobium bacteria in alkaline clay soil, rotational grazing by African Geese, restoring the compacted space of The Refuge’s small experimental vineyard. This short video describes the use of appropriate – custom blended – cover crop. There is genius hiding in the warehouse of the local feed and seed store; just have to drag those kids out into the sun and give them a challenge. Application of several permaculture strategies in Central Wyoming USA ~ the artifact geology of the Western Inland Seaway 100 million years ago…