Full Life Farm Ethnographic Diary Week 7 Ending 21 February 2014

Monday began with another raccoon caught overnight in the Haven’s trap near the chicken coop.  At the time, I considered how this may be part of a raccoon family doing what raccoons do to survive. At the same time, there are the lives of the chickens to be considered as well as the consideration of the Haven’s owners who are raising chickens for egg consumption and chicken meat.  I am still challenged by all of these feelings, but I am certain that if I start a farm with my family or if I join an intentional community, I will be more interested in contributing to the welfare of the community if that community is more vegetarian and more mindful of animal humanity.  To be fair, yes, I know and understand that plants have feelings and they feel and suffer pain.  I also realize that mushrooms scientifically are part animal as well as part plant.  But at the moment, I have not mastered the extraction of nutrients from the air.  I need food to live and to thrive.  Vegan is the food I choose to eat to minimize the suffering that already exists in abundance in the world.  I am here to learn, to teach, and to alleviate as much of that suffering as possible.

Later in the week, I discussed the concept of clipping roosters’ wings.  It’s something I have heard of and may even have discussed with my Nonno, my Italian grandfather many years ago, but this was a good refreshers.  Roosters can sometimes get out of their pens by “flying” up to reach a higher roost. They don’t necessarily fly, but they use the air under their wings to push themselves up and coast.  Given that roosters need their wings as well as clawed feet to fight off any predators, clipping their wings is a challenging decision.  Some farmers clip both wings and some just clip both.  With one or both clipped, it can make the rooster both defenseless and safe.  But leaving the wings intact, can also lead to a rooster’s escape and susceptible to a predator outside the pen.  Like the dilemmas I face daily as a vegan on the farm, Paul has equal challenges to balance his and his farm’s best interests.

Work at Full Life on Monday began by assisting Wwoofer Paul to erect another shelter, one for the firewood to keep it relatively safe from rain and snow.  This one is much like the shelter for the recently cut lumber (with cross beams and a corrugated roof, but this one is portable, not mounted to any cement posts, and free to move where it is needed.  Cement bricks would be used to protect against rotting and moisture. It is interesting that there is an abundance of some materials such as trees (that also need to be cleared to a point to further the farm’s goals of self-sufficiency) that are used for lumber and firewood as well as scrap materials that were previously used but lying around.

As I emphasized before, everything is used and nothing is considered garbage until it has been completely used up.  Everything has value as an object, as a recycled object, and as an upcycled object.  Everything has been used to create and build with that intent, even the trellis that was built last Friday to minimize erosion and weeds.  I wasn’t able to stay, as always, to complete this task so I viewed it earlier this week.  There are plant beds everywhere at Full Life and other land that Paul is using to grow his crops.  These plant beds are being used for transplanted raspberries (over the dormant and mostly safe winter for such things) and perhaps additional companion plants that are used in symbiotic relationships to benefit both plants, like alligators and some species of birds.  After this little but significant work over the last few weeks that I have participated in, the farm appears to be progressing nicely.

Wednesday the firewood shelter was completed and moved to it’s current corner of the farm to best take advantage of the sun, shade, and convenience of location.  Shortly thereafter, I visited “Brad’s Place” with Paul and Paul, the Wwoofer where Paul has an additional plot) to clear old plant beds of leafy greens that did not survive the harsh winter freeze over the last month.  Additionally, straw was cleared enough from the onion and garlic plants to allow for breathing but still protect against the elements until the winter finally passes. Additional ground needed to be prepped to plant red onions and English peas. Weeds were cleared with a weeding or Hula hoe, airing of soil to allow it to receive nutrients from the soil and to breath was accomplished with a shovel and furrowing with a triangle how followed shortly thereafter to allow for planting of red (or what I like to call purple) onions in one bed and English peas in the other that were spaced about 3 inches apart.  In the case of the onions, they were planted a little closer than normal to allow for the harvesting of green onions as well as larger storage onions.

Given my interest in medicinal herbs and plants we also discussed beneficial weeds including dandelions.  Paul occasionally collects plantlings of dandelions as often as possible, given their nutritional value and their interest by certain segments of the farmers market going public. I found some additional onions growing outside of in the plant beds, and I took the opportunity to ask Paul the difference between onions and garlic, at least from above ground.  Garlic apparently has flat leaves and onions have round, hollow leaves.  But my oldest goddaughter already knew this and turned me on to the ones growing wild in front of her house and in the city center of Greenville, SC.  These are wild onions growing here at the Haven and outside the plant bed.  They have nutritional and medicinal value but none whatsoever as a market crop as I was told.  Since my visit to Greenville, I haven’t been able to get enough of these delicious treats.

Friday began with the preparation of  sweetgum logs for shitake mushroom growing.  Now this is something I am interested in duplicating at a later date on my own, given my interest in DIY and sustainability.  Holes were drilled in the logs, allowing for equal spacing and room to grow.  The holes are then inoculated with shitake mushroom spores.  The spored logs have nine months to a year to grow and a continuous harvest for three years on average.  To protect the spores they were sealed with beeswax.  On another note, I must look for information regarding the possibility of sealing the logs with other food grade wax other than what I consider an animal product.  When there is a more sterile environment available on the farm, it will be possible to grow shitake spores to inoculate rather than purchasing them from a supplier directly. Additionally, it is possible to grow shitake mushrooms faster in wood chips but the woodchips need to be soaked in water for twenty four hours to prep such a growing medium.  At the same time, there is a danger exposing the spores to the elements that creates a risk of failure.  Again, one must weigh their options when deciding what to do as a human and as a farmer each step of the way.

For future consideration of where I may decide to plant roots and start a family, the discussion of intentional communities and communes came up.  Paul and Terra apparently considered them as a viable option at one point, but Paul and Terra are interested in sustainability on a whole other level with the ability to generate income from a working farm.  None of the intentional communities they visited were interested in that.  In fact, Paul compared them unfavorably to as neighborhood associations where permission has to be requested by everyone for each little thing and such a process in a sixty member commune takes forever.  This topic bears more consideration and further research once I determine what I want.  But the idea of having like-minded souls around that allows for contributing skills and gifts to a collective where everyone benefits is appealing especially when I would like to travel part of the year and teach. That commune may not yet have been formed or I have yet to discover it somewhere in the world.

At this point, if I keep this up, I may become some sort of expert farmers market’ egg cleaning expert.  I won’t bore you with repeated details.  But I also washed some harvested Jerusalem artichokes for tomorrow’s farmer’s market. Raw, they are delicious.  I plan to incorporate them into my Kim Chi fermenting and vinegar-based cold-pack pickling as soon as possible in the spring spring.  They would be a delicious addition to both.

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