The Kirksville Permaculture Education Center has arrived!

By this point, most of us are aware that we have been on the wrong track, environmentally speaking, for many years and are still charging full speed ahead into the great incinerator of doom. Obviously, we need a new system.

For those of us who want to unplug from the machine, Permaculture offers an answer. It’s a comprehensive system designed to create agricultural and lifestyle systems that can ecologically sustain themselves. Indefinitely.

An answer to our crisis, according to Permaculture, would involve creating systems of human life that replicate the self-sustaining systems of nature. Relying upon the city to bring you water, a supermarket to sell you food, and electricity to produce your power means there are a lot of external environmental costs you don’t see on the surface. Meanwhile, you could catch your own rainwater—treating and reusing it, grow your own food from a garden and/or livestock (or buy locally) and produce your own renewable power—or don’t product it at all.

There are three elements to Permaculture (according to Wikipedia) are:

  • Earthcare – recognizing the Earth is the source of all life, that Earth is our valuable home, and that we are a part of Earth, not apart from it.
  • Peoplecare – supporting and helping each other to change to ways of living that do not harm ourselves or the planet, and to develop healthy societies.
  • Fairshare (or placing limits on consumption) – ensuring that Earth’s limited resources are used in ways that are equitable and wise.

Now, a few kind folks called Jerry and Michelle have started the first ever Kirksville Permaculture Education Center! They are still getting their feet off the ground, but they plan to offer free classes, give tours, and offer knowledge and support for anyone interested in Permaculture and sustainable living.

I worked at KPEC a few weeks ago doing some digging, and they live in a lovely house out by HyVee with a salvaged piano and a lively little kid named Oliver. They even fed me a delicious lunch! If you have some free time, hit them up and get your hands dirty: http://www.kvpermaculture.org

These guys are run entirely run out of pocket and by donation. Donate here. If you want to help out and do some gardening, look here for jobs.

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Ten Unique Ideas for Sunshine Merriment!

If you ever lived through the biting winds, icy shivers, and numb-fingered winters of the Midwest, then you know how to appreciate these newfound spring days. With the air newly abloom with sacred warmth, I thought I would conjure up a few adventurous ideas to inspire your spontaneous side to rise to the challenge of having fun outdoors! We’re done watching movies and drinking hot chocolate inside. ‘Tis time to rise up and embrace the sunshine!

Outdoor fun not only offers us a way to reconnect with nature. It proves that we don’t need to buy our way into having fun. We can begin to become self-reliant by creating our OWN wonderful times!

  1. Climb a tree. You could read a book up there, or maybe you could bring a notebook and do some people-watching.
  2. Meditate or do yoga under a tree (I find these activities immensely easier when I’m outside). Or in a pasture. If you want to take a slightly different route, hold an outdoor séance with a few friends.
  3. Go CAMPING. Try to find someplace slightly uncrowded. Personally, I think crowded campsites kind of ruin the atmosphere. Fall asleep under the stars. If some people have instruments, a music session would be in good taste. (…outdoor dance party, perhaps…?)
  4. Grab some chalk. If you’re above the law, perhaps a can of spray paint although it’s probably not the most eco-friendly option. Head to an abandoned part of town. Make SURE it’s abandoned, because graffiti-ing on someone’s property would probably be rude. Make a stencil beforehand if you want to ensure your art’s splendid-ness. Or, if you’re not one to plan ahead, just freestyle!
  5. Play Tag, Hide-and-seek, or Sardines in the dark with some friends. Or my favorite, lava monster. (that’s when everyone runs around on a playset except one person on the ground who tags someone who then becomes the next lava monster)
  6. Sit in the grass and read a book out loud to a friend or two. I find Harry Potter books ideal for this, because the Dursleys’ voices have fantastic potential for imitation, especially because of the British accents.
  7. Work in a garden. (For Kirksville-ians, I’d recommend looking into the Kirksville Permaculture Education Center or the Communiversity Garden, which meets Thursdays in MG 1096 and generally does garden work on Saturday mornings/early afternoons)
  8. Grab some paints (or make your own milk paint to avoid chemical vapors), brushes, a surface of some sort, and find a sunny hilltop.
  9. Search around for some abandoned buildings. Enter at your own risk. This will ensure an adventure, if only for the fear-factor adrenaline rush.
  10. Visit an intentional community or eco-village in your area. With the sun out, they are now in visitor-accepting mode and will probably give you a tour over a weekend if you call ahead. Lean about alternative and sustainable living. For Kirksville, look into the Possibility Alliance or Dancing Rabbit. Here’s a directory of all the communities in Missouri.

Any ideas to add? Comment!

Radicle Radio Episode I

Welcome to Radicle Radio, the environmental audio blog-cast!  Are you interested in nature and the environment?  Are you curious about what is going on in the area and how you can be a part of it?  Do you have an iPod?  Check out the first ever (and hopefully not last) episode, downloadable for free at:

http://www.zshare.net/audio/7431045257010e14/

Radicle Radio seeks to explore the roots of our environmental problems in an entertaining, creative, and thought-provoking way.  Not that radical.

Links from the Episode:

Who eats bugs?  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/04/0416_040416_eatingcicadas.html

Saul Griffith on the challenges of renewable energy:

http://blog.longnow.org/2009/01/19/saul-griffith-climate-change-recalculated/

http://assets.en.oreilly.com/1/event/8/Energy%20Literacy%20Presentation.pdf

The world’s governments are concerned about climate change http://unfccc.int/2860.php but still may not be doing enough  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/24/AR2009092402602.html

This episode, including the statistics used regarding consumption rates compared to population rates, draws heavily from the essay “The Rise and Fall of Consumer Cultures” by Erik Assadourian in the 2010 State of the World Report:

Assadourian, E. (2010). “The Rise and Fall of Consumer Cultures”. 2010 State of the World:  Transforming Cultures-From Consumption to Sustainability. New York:  W.W. Norton & Company.  p. 3-20.

Music Used:

“Pfrancing (No Blues)” by Joe Henderson. So Near, So Far: Musings for Miles. 1992.

“Ahuvati” by Kaki King. …Until We Felt Red. 2006.

“Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I Shake the Dirt from My Sandals as I Run” by Sufjan Stevens. Come on feel the Illinoise. 2005.

“Water Fountain Quicksand” by Railroad Earth. The Good Life. 2004.

Sustainable Kirksville Eggs

Factory farmed eggs or free-range eggs? I tend to choose the latter without a second thought, but for those of you on the fringe allow me to explain: chicken factory farming causes extensive animal suffering, produces more greenhouse gases, contains more bacteria, and exposes us and the environment to hormones and antibiotics. I’d rather my egg-layers were happy and natural, thank you.

Factory farming conditions of egg-laying hens: video

There you are. Now that you’re thoroughly convinced, let’s explore some places to find pasture-raised, hormone/antibiotic-free eggs!

For Truman students, contact Robert Moore at rob.moore23@yahoo.com for his farm-fresh eggs. You can simply meet him in his Magruder office and buy eggs from him for about $2 or $2.50.

Also contact:

Green Valley Farms (Kirksville, MO)
660-332-7217
saltsgvf@missvalley.com
http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M3314

Leunen Farms (Lancaster, MO)
Home: (660) 457-212
Barn: (660) 216-0231
dleunen@marktwain.net
www.leunenfarms.com

Harmony Farm (Greentop, MO)
Home: (660) 874-4714
Fax: (660) 874-4711
crifarm@ nemr.net

I’ve also seen free-range Heartland eggs at HyVee from time to time, but not recently.

Anyone else have some friendly egg sources? Comment up and let’s share!

Now Available at C-Stores: The first 100% compostable chip bag!!!

I bought a bag of chips today. I normally try to stay away from these greasy morsels since they are fatty, somewhat unsatisfying, and produce waste when I throw away the bag. I always liked Sun Chips because they are more nutritious and delicious than most brands, but now that Sun Chips has introduced the first 100% compostable chip package, I can’t complain about anything. Amazingly enough, this bag produces almost zero waste all around. Can’t wrap your head around a compostable chip bag? Allow me to elaborate.

The package definitely has a unique texture. The bag feels lighter and crinkles louder than average chip bags, although it still feels fairly sturdy, slick, and strong. I can’t puncture it any easier than most chip bags. The back of the packaging boasts that it was made from 90% renewable, plant-based materials, which allows it to completely break down over 14 weeks into compost under ideal conditions, including a temperature of at least 55 degrees C.

Don’t believe me? Check out this time-lapsed video of the bag breaking down into compost or see the pictures from Sun Chips below.

After six weeks:

After 13 weeks:

A press release explained the bag’s miracle ingredient, a plant-based polymer called PLA:
“PLA is made from lactic acid. Lactic acid is made from dextrose by fermentation. Dextrose is made from starch and starch is made from carbon dioxide and water. Because it’s made with plants that grow annually instead of petroleum (which takes millions of years to form) the impact on greenhouse gases is much lower.”

Think about how much food packaging you throw away every day: Saran wrap, candy wrappers, grocery store produce bags, microwave dinners. Then, consider how nearly everything we purchase, from computer programs to bedsheets, is packaged in plastic. Plastic, which produces one third of our waste, takes an inordinately long time to disintegrate (estimates vary from a thousand to a million years, depending on the plastic), which means we use tons of heat energy and millions of barrels of oil to create all this packaging that simply gets balled up in a landfill, out of sight and out of mind. (Unless it’s dumped into the ocean, where it harms the ecosystem.) I personally wonder if compostable packaging will start a revolution. If chips can be reasonably packaged in this material, then why need we create ANY non-renewably sourced, non-biodegradable packaging?

The compostable bags are now available at Truman’s C-stores. Pick one up next time you are around campus, and tell me what YOU think. And don’t forget to drop it in the compost pile at West Campus Suites or at the University Farm when you’re done!

Read these tips by Sun Chips on how to start your own backyard compost or click here for more info about Sun Chips’ bags.

Want to learn how to do some things?

Haven’t you always wanted to learn how to can your own food so you can have organic, locally grown tomatoes even in the middle of winter? How about how to build your own house out of adobe or cob? Fix your bike? Make cheese and sourdough bread?

I present to you the Possibility Alliance‘s schedule for spring, summer, and autumn classes. If you haven’t heard of the Possibility Alliance, they call themselves  “an educational center practicing simplicity, self-reliance, service and gratitude.” In a nutshell, it’s a homesteading experiment in La Plata that values sustainability and service to the community. The home runs on no electricity and they make almost everything they use, down to their candlewax. These people have hosted thousands of visitors at their home who wanted to learn from them. Their guiding statement is to live so that all life can thrive. Simple and powerful. If you haven’t visited, I’d highly recommend it. They are very down to earth and enthusiastic about their mission. But just a warning-your overall perception and values might shift a little!

In addition to these classes, which last just a few hours each, you can also head over for a tour on the second Saturday of each month starting in April and ending in November. And if you want to spend some time learning hands-on, come by on the last Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a Volunteer Day. Remember to call the folks at the Alliance for registration and to pack a bagged lunch.

Here you are, mark your calendars because the first classes are starting within the next week or two!

(CLICK TO ENLARGE)

There you are. Feel free to print this out if you want to reference it later! I will leave you with the passionate words of Ethan Hughes, who runs the Possibility Alliance with his wife Sarah.

“I know that if [the roof] fell on me right now, I would be content. I feel like I’m living my life to the fullest, and I go to bed feeling very content. I see that what a lot of people are lacking is not food, shelter or clothing. I have friends who have their Ph.D’s, and they’re not content. I think content means living everything that’s in our heart, no matter what the risk.”

For more info on the Possibility Alliance, check out the following links:

“Radical Simplicity”
Testimonial from a former resident
My Index article
Ethan Hughes audio interview
The Superheroes (The Alliances serves as headquarters for a volunteer group of bikeriders who ride around the country to do free service)

You can also contact the Possibility Alliance at:

660-332-4094

or

28408 Frontier Ln. La Plata, MO 63549

Indian Curry NomNoms!

Is the wind chill keeping you inside, cozying up to your heater? Tired of sitting inside, bored and culture-less, eating the same dorm food or maybe chomping on the stew you cooked last Monday? If that’s the case, then spicing up your meals with a flavorful and ethnic vegetarian meal will surely inspire a little excitement in your life. For the vegetarian non-savvy, abstaining from meat is, as a general rule, a very environmentally friendly choice. Not only do you cease supporting harmful and unnatural practices toward animals like CAFO farming (unless you purchase naturally raised meat), but you also reduce your carbon footprint since the livestock industry takes up 10 times more land than crop-based food industries and emits anywhere from 18 to 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Here is my own special Indian-style veggie-lentil-potato super curry, improvised by yours truly. The recipe is forgiving, so feel free to play around with ingredients. I’ve made sure to note what ingredients you can buy at a local store in Kirksville—Countryside Market—so you can support a solid local food businesses.

Photo provided by http://www.mediterranean.com
(This is a fake picture. But maybe your curry will look JUST LIKE this sparkling dish!)

Ingredients:

3 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp fennel seeds*
2 tsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp minced garlic
Oil to sauté*
Lentils (8 oz. bag)*
1 cup brown rice*
Two large potatoes, chopped*

A mixture of the following vegetables, to your own taste (or other veggies, if you like)
1 cup of peas*
1 head of broccoli (maybe less), sliced and chopped
1-2 carrots, sliced
4 whole mushrooms, sliced
2 large tomatoes, diced
Water and flour as needed
Ground coriander*
Turmeric powder
Curry powder*
Cinnamon*
Chili sauce (I prefer Sriracha. There is a rooster on the logo, you can’t miss it)
Salt to taste

*available at Country Side Market (a few minutes north of Wal Mart), where you can purchase quality, local ingredients. This supports the local economy, reduces CO2 emissions of long transportation. The rest are available at HyVee or Wal Mart.

You might want to do the following ahead of time, since you might not have enough kitchenware to cook the lentils, rice, potatoes, and the sauce at once. I had that problem, at least, and multitasking all three things can get a little tricky.

  1. Boil 2 ¼ cup water. Add rice, simmer on low until done.
  2. Meanwhile, boil 3 cup water. Add lentils, simmer on low until done.
  3. Meanwhile, cover potatoes with water and boil, simmer on low until done.
  4. Warm oil in a skillet. Sauté green onions with garlic, fennel seeds, and turmeric powder. Cook until onions are tender. Do not let garlic burn!
  5. Meanwhile, make sure vegetables are chopped. Add broccoli and carrots to green onion mixture, in a wok or other large pot, heated around medium or lower. Add about ½ cup of water, and add more as needed for consistency so it’s a paste, not watery. Add curry powder, coriander, and turmeric to taste, and add a few spoonfuls of flour to keep the mixture like a paste, not watery. Let cook until carrots are tender then add the rest of vegetables. Continue to heat on medium.
  6. When lentils and potatoes are tender, add them to the mixture. Add more flour, water, coriander, turmeric, and curry powder as desired. Add a little cinnamon if you’re feeling adventurous. Add plenty of salt, and add chili sauce to taste.
  7. Enjoy, with brown rice!

Congratulations! Sit back and watch some Bollywood to celebrate your triumphant completion of this completely authentic *cough* Indian curry.