The 2012 Sustainability Goals: ver. 1.0

DSC_0119 Sadly, a visit to Sheepworld, and their pink sheep, in NZ didn’t make the 2012 list. Maybe 2013.

I’m a regular reader of NW Edible Life – the Pacific Northwest homestead blog of the very prolific and seemingly radically-organized Erica Strauss. She has a download section on her website of helpful bits and bobs that she’s created – canning label templates, an excel garden planner, and freezer inventory sheet to name a few – so that the rest of us don’t have to reinvent the homestead wheel.  She shares freely – in both the monetary and the liberative sense – and embodies what I think is the ideal of any grassroots, community-centric movement – sharing openly and honestly without much agenda beyond making what we do more accessible. She wants more people to do what we do.

She’s a big proponent of analyzing what works, what doesn’t, and making lists.  Big lists.  Her goal list for 2012, while inspiring (booyah, girl!), lists a whopping 25 aspirations for the coming year – about two goals per calendar month. It’s a good read.  Check it out.

My goal list clocks in at a personally ambitious 10.  I’m not a lister, have two jobs (three if you count volunteering) and have dachshunds to appease (Chuckle all you want.  Didi’s belly will not be neglected).  Also, the garden and the homestead surroundings here are still very much in fetal development.  It still feels very much like a blank canvas. The possibilities are vast.  My first rule of homesteading?  Know thy limits.  Yes, push the envelope and get out of your comfort zone.  But don’t create an unmaintainable hell like I did once. Ok, twice.

So, in no particular order, la lista de 2012…

Morton’s flake salt uses a anti-caking agent called sodium ferrocyanide.  Called “not especially toxic”, larger amounts (5x the recommended) did produce, “marked albuminuria accompanied by numerous granular casts, white cells, epithetical cells and rare red blood cells,” in the urine of test subjects. No studies available on long term and/or lifetime  exposure, and all subjects returned to “normal” after two weeks.  But why would I willingly choose this for my body?  My family’s? Even in small doses?  It’s even in my Morton’s Kosher Salt, pictured above.  Time to change the salt inventory.

1.  Make salt - I live in a massive state with a large ocean coast line and ample, dry summer heat and sunlight.  The salinity of our ocean water is higher thanks to a long dry season and steady evaporation. So can anyone tell me why artisinal salt making doesn’t exist here?  Granted, I’m just coming off a reading of Salted by Mark Bitterman so I have just enough information to be dangerous.  But considering how chemically-pumped and unsustainable commercial salt making is, and that I live in an environment that makes summertime evaporation a low-pull, slow food option, it makes sense for me to at least give it a go.   Bonus? I get to tap into the liberation that Ghandi was trying to inspire with his salt march in 1930.  Food sovereignty, yo. First step – finding a clean water source.  No small task.  But not impossible.  My Master Food Preserver knowledge may come in handy here, too.  Dehydration is the name of the game.  Hey sisthis guy is doing it up in Oregon.  You have local salt!

DSC_9816 My accidental seed saving.

2. Save seeds - Our Dad grew up on a farm in Michigan and had a couple of uncles who would whip anyone who touched their selected “seed plants.”  They’d watch the crops come in, identify which were the best, and then flag them for non-consumption.  ”We were poor,” he said. “They saved all their own seed.  That was how we got our crops each year.”  My great grandmother, Hattie, used to core the eyes out of their homegrown potatoes and replant them.  Not whole seed potatoes.  Just the eyes.  This year I became an accidental seed saver – I had let a few bean vines mature and dry in the garden.  This gave me a nice little mound of seeds which I fully intend to plant in the summer.  That was easy.  Hoping to take it to the next step in 2012 and save seeds from at least half my crops.

DSC_0813 The vertical green wall in Silver Lake at Sunset Junction.

3. Make a vertical green wall that doesn’t cost $1K - There’s a space next  door to the barn that butts up against our neighbor’s shed.  Said shed is unpainted and unsightly, especially now that our barn has a couple of fresh coats and a new door.  Painting over it would cut off light to their interior (part of it is a “window” of plastic sheeting).  And we don’t have their permission to do so, so it’s pretty moot.  It also doesn’t solve another problem we’ve had with that space – there’s a gap where Didi the Curious could hop down between the buildings and potentially escape.  Solution?  Steve asked me to look into a vertical green wall.  There’s a company in SF that builds them and based on their pricing I’d need to fork over at least $1000 to cover the space.  Oh hell no.  The “system” is essentially sown up pockets of recycled PET plastic felt (from soda bottles), which you can buy from manufacturers here in the US.  I can sew.  Or staple.  Or whatever.  I can also set up the irrigation and plant it up.  Steve will have to build the frame, and I still need to figure out how to manage the run off so it doesn’t erode the ground between the two buildings.  But it’s entirely doable.

Milk Crafting 102 11-12-11Goat feta at Mariposa Creamery in Altadena, CA.

4. Make cheese - Pretty self explanatory.  My future life includes goats and sheep.  It just does. Therefore it will include milk, and thus, cheese.  The more I learn now, the better off I will be when that day comes.  It might not be til I’m 50, but it will come.

DSC_4286 The beer class during my master food preservation certification course.

5. Make beer - Also self explanatory.  I don’t like commercial beer.  Never have.  But one day a friend brought over a homebrew, and the clouds parted.  THAT was what beer should be.  So I’m learning.  Luckily, we have a beer guru amongst the master food preservers, so I’m totally going to tap that…which sounds like something that it’s not.  Creating the barn helps.  The carboys and buckets will reside in there, freeing up kitchen space.

Wind Storm 2011 Bees love the lavender.

6. Plant a more bee-friendly garden - I actually want to keep bees, but Steve has safety concerns regarding the dogs. His decision is firm and I respect it.  I sighed heavily once maybe twice and got over it.  The next best thing that I can do is plant a very bee-friendly garden.  The lavender and aloe that bloom in the winter help.  But I want to expand our flora to have a nice year-round bloom for them to visit.

7. Retool the lower “farm” -  The lower yard, to be blunt, is a wreck.  It’s also rife with old railroad ties.  Yes, I know, I know.  We were working fast and cheap and the ties were already there from the previous owner.  Lesson learned.  A more recently built raised bed uses recycled cinderblocks instead.  But I need to get those ties away from the food crops and rebuild the soil.  I also want to install a small greenhouse on the brick ‘patio’ we built down there last year.  That’s the left side of that yard.  The right side?  Fraught.  The previous owner dumped a mess of old asphalt roof material there.  I’ve dug down about two feet and still pull up shingles.  Jerk.  I’ve written it off as food growing space for the present and want to prepare it for chicken housing.  Once I’ve leveled the soil, added a “safety layer” of dirt, and mulched, then Steve will start to build the coop and fencing from the leftover lumber used to renovate the barn.  But at some point?  We need to address the roof tile issue there – correctly – and restore the soil as best we can.

8. Plant Damascus roses and Elderflower/berry bushes -  For both liqueurs and for distilling rosewater.  Distilling rosewater?  Not illegal.  As long as I’m not making distilled spirits, I’m good.  Also, I want the elderberries for wine.  I can forage for these locally, but we live in a forage heavy urban community and a lot of the best bushes are already marked.

9. Companion planting - Do it.  Help them, help you.

10. Teach - There a rumors that a local 4-H group has formed in my urban neighborhood.  I want to offer them my MFP teaching to help them with a preserving project.  I also want to do  classes locally with Diep at her restaurant.  And since I can’t do all this alone, I’m going to try recruiting some local learners who will assist in exchange for knowledge.  I already have a small group forming who I’ll call The Jam Ladies who want to come to my kitchen for quick, seasonal lessons in preserving.  First class is in January.  Marmalade.  You down?

11. This one goes to 11!  Bonus goal!  Actually plan things out - Often times I’m at my local nursery and say, “OOOO peanut seedlings!” and then bring them home and put them wherever there is free dirt.  Not efficient, money or production-wise.  And often, the timing is WAY off.  I bought watermelon seedlings last year way too late in the season.  The vines grew beautifully, but at that point it wasn’t nearly hot enough for the buds to set and form fruit.  Total waste of resources.  Databases, calendars, and guides will be employed.  There will be order, efficiency, and maybe a little innovation.  For 2012, I will cease to be an impulse planter.  No mas.  I will also start my own seeds whenever possible.  I managed to do that with most of my winter crops this year.  Summer will be a challenge.  But I’m game.

15 thoughts on “The 2012 Sustainability Goals: ver. 1.0

  1. If you need help with classes, I’d be happy to be called on (although I don’t need jam-making lessons in return – been doing that for a few decades and I think I got it down…lol), as long as you don’t ask me to drive to the Westside at rush hour (heck, when is it not rush hour?) or brave the 405!

  2. To reinforce #11, you could get a copy of my book, Growing Food in Southern California: What To Do & When To Do It coming out sometime in the coming six months! (Or later…)

    Thanks for all these links!

  3. I love all the things you’re doing and writing about – hope you keep on with all of it.
    Best to you in 2012

    • We found/have two huge cast metal (very heavy) doors/security gates in our side yard from the previous owner. I have no idea what we’re going to do with those. No. Idea.

      It makes me want to be a better steward of our home. As my dad says, you own nothing in this life. It just moves on to the next person/trash heap. I do NOT want to leave this ridiculousness, or anything like it, for the next person.

  4. Firstly, your goals are WAY, WAY more impressive than my goals. I want to take 30 minutes and make a compost screen. You are going to make salt, beer, cheese, walls!.

    Secondly, thank you for the kind words. But just so we’re clear, 80% of the time I have no idea what I’m doing. Hence the lists: my brain just is too muddled to keep it all inside, so I have to write it down. ;)

    Your blog is beautiful. I look forward to reading all your future posts – gonna go subscribe now so I don’t miss out.

    • You also remember to love your family, which is no small thing amidst the hubbub. :)

      80% of the time, I too am an experimental monkey flying in the face of expertness. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I end up with 80 lbs of turnips :/ Love this life!

      Y gracias for your kindness!

  5. Make cheese you say? I’m hosting a Charcutepalooza type challenge this year over on my blog but instead of curing meat we’ll be making cheese! You should totally join! The first challenge is going up on Sunday.

  6. I love your list. Ver impressive. Just a note on what to do by the barn, compost fence. Some are simple and get the job done and may not be the most beautiful, but other, if they include a bit of ‘green’ grass clippings, etc – but not weeds – can have beautiful vines and flowers planted in them! Here are some ideas: It definitely would be low on the price scale and depending on what you got ‘laying around’ may not even cost anything.

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