Saturday, January 21, 2012

Northeast Organic Farmers Association Conference!

On Saturday, January 14th, we attended an all day conference for NOFA (Northeast Organic Farmers Association) at Worcester State University. This is the first time either of us have attended anything like this and it was such a great experience!

There were many workshops scheduled at 3 different times during the day, a presentation by keynote speaker John Jeavens, an organic lunch and many, many vendor booths to visit.

In the morning we went to a class about raising chickens. There is a proposal in Worcester to allow families to have 4 chickens as long as they are properly cared for and in a coop that has been inspected. We are waiting for the approval and plan to have chickens as soon as possible after it is passed. So the class was a great source of information and I learned a lot from the presenters.

We went to hear the keynote speaker John Jeavons talk about Biointensive Gardening. I am always interested in listening to the innovative ways that people are growing food in small spaces.

There was a great organic lunch of beef stew or a vegetarian soup, salad and bread and dessert – all provided by organic farms in the Northeast.

After lunch we went to a workshop presented by Jonathan Bates of the Permaculture Nursery in Holyoke MA. It was a great presentation on how to grow a lot of different food in a small area – and his personal experience of planting a dirt lot and creating a garden out of it using Permaculture methods. He does a lot of planting and experimenting with different plants, and also sells those that do well in our area. We have already ordered several different berries, kiwi and grape vines, and some other plants to add to our collection for the Spring.

After the workshop – we went to the vendors and looked at what types of organics are available in our area and signed up to be contacted by the Massachusetts Local Food Coop – they do monthly orders for farms in the state and we can have access through them to some things that are not available to us otherwise.

What I took away from the workshop, is the encouragement that so many young people are actively seeking information about gardening, farming and organics, and are concerned about the future and providing quality for their lives.

I am sure that we can use our yard and grow enough fruits, vegetables, etc. to supplement the bulk of our groceries and get our meat from the food coop.

What I am most encouraged about is how many fruits and vegetables – plants, vines and trees – are perennial and will only need to be planted once, but will continue to grow for years; And that there is a wealth of information on-line to read and study to make our garden a success. I am especially interested in the Permaculture information: restoring the balance of an ecosystem so plants and people thrive. Abundance.

I know what it is like to put my hands in the dirt and what it feels like to work the earth creatively. It’s like waking up and everything else becomes clearer. The petty things of life fade away and what is left is the essence of who I am as a human being.

My connection to nature is a peaceful, healing experience and I had been away from it far too long….

Beautiful Birch trees at Crow Hill

The Greater Worcester Land Trust: or How I Became a Ranger

The cab driver had to set the GPS for Ash St. We looked up the address because we never knew this street even existed. On the way there, I had so many thoughts going through my mind. We were heading to a meeting of the Greater Worcester Land Trust volunteer Rangers, to meet others and sign up to be Rangers for the 27 acres that make up Crow Hill…a fairly recent addition to the Land Trust and now a conservation area. One of the entrances to the area is just two blocks from our house.

We had been to Crow Hill recently and were surprised at how many trees had grown there since our last visit. Also, it had become a conservation area since our last visit. Rob has loved the area since he was young and played there as a boy and we had taken our kids there to picnic and hike when they were young. But, being a Ranger? This was different.

When we arrived at the building – the only multi level dwelling left on Ash St - we found our way in and met the Coordinator, Mary Caulway and found a seat at the table. As people arrived, an informal meeting took place, during which we learned about local invasive species and different projects that are happening around the city. We met some of the other Rangers, including those involved with Crow Hill and shared some of the things we had found during our hike through earlier that morning.

During the meeting Colin Novick, the Executive Director and some other people, made homemade pizza and passed it around. Delicious!

What was going through my head and still is now – is that there are huge amounts of open space in and around Worcester that are conservation lands and are protected and cared for by such a few people. There are great needs that remain for people to step up and put on some hiking shoes and see the beauty that is all around us here.

Also going through my mind during the meeting was that I didn’t belong there. It has only been a few weeks since I first heard of this group and now I was volunteering to be a Ranger? Who does that? I was sitting next to women who spend the better part of their weeks in these conservation areas documenting and cataloging information, and I have just begun. As the meeting progressed, I realized that I was aware of many of the issues they discussed and I have a great desire to contribute and protect the areas that are still natural. I realized that anything we could contribute was needed. Nothing would be too small an effort...

I think it’s about time people stopped focusing on the negative and started seeing that a few people are making a great deal of difference in Worcester County and The GWLT is just one of those groups.

I find myself – every once in awhile – saying or thinking “I’m a Ranger”…and I smile for two reasons…I always picture myself in a funny hat, and I am a little surprised at how happy it makes me.

It’s probably the birds. There were so many birds singing that I didn’t recognize and I can’t wait for better weather to go back and see if I can photograph or record them.

An adventure for another day….

(One of our favorite areas - near a pond and river)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Less.... is LESS

Essential Wardrobe:

After spending time reading about living simply and paring down belongings to a manageable amount, and reading professional blogs and websites about business style and the necessary pieces to have in a wardrobe…I am tearing apart my closet, drawers, storage bins, etc.

These are the basic events I need clothing for:

· office – full time, 5 days a week

· home – casual for weekends and week nights

· gardening and outside work clothes

· dinner party or night out, weddings, etc.

· sleep

What I already know is missing:

· a couple of good suits that can be used as separates

· practical (& impractical?) heels

Several hours into this I realize that I have too many clothes, and yet wear only a few things! This is also more difficult than I thought it would be. When you decide to keep just a few things – you really look at each thing individually.

There are some questions I am asking:

· is it torn, stained, ripped or old?

· Do I love it?

· Do I love how it looks on me?

· Do I need it? Really?


· I am not a shoe person – but I sure love boots! Short, tall, work, garden, snow, etc. Right now I would say they are ALL necessary and have a function.

· I have several pairs of sandals and don’t like them – except this really cool silver pair from Jeremy & Sandra’s wedding…those I will keep. And a great pair of leather flats. I will need to get something for summer hiking…

· I have so many coats and have to think about whether or not I need them. Also – I need a long dress coat.

· I should check my closet and drawers before I order online…I almost ordered something today that I did not need.

· Living simply is not as easy as it sounds…but I did fill two trash bags with clothes that could be donated. A few things are beyond usable and will be thrown away.

Personally, I plan to continue to pare down my belongings this year. The things around me take up so much time to store, clean, FIND…

At times, all of it seems a burden. Right now, I know where every piece of my clothing is and it’s a great feeling! There are more than enough options for outfits for my job, enough casual combinations for time out of work, and some clothes designated for gardening and project work. The reality of the evenings is that I get home and get directly into pj’s if we don’t have plans to go out. So really, I don’t need a huge amount of extra clothing for evenings home when I have 7 sets of clothing I use for pj’s that are appropriate if someone stops by in the evening.

The most important decision is to buy only American made clothing and try to buy local. I’m not even sure if that is possible at this point, but if I cannot find what I need, I suppose that sewing lessons will be next! It is becoming unacceptable to me that my clothing should be made and shipped to me from across an ocean when we used to make clothes here, in Worcester.


I bought a black blazer and a pair of short boots with a cute heel. I didn't look to see where they were made...this is just the completing of a wardrobe. I need nothing else this year, so I have a year to find out who makes clothing locally. This is going to be a fun and challenging decision to follow through on!