A lot of my attention lately has been on a new dream of mine: living at the Gypsy Café, an all-female collective focused on sustainability, permaculture, and active community.  Oh, and they like to have fun, too!  That's very important.  No sanctimonious monasteries for me, no matter how self-sustaining they may be.

The ladies at Gypsy Café also produce the We'Moon calendar, an astrological datebook.  Within its insightful pages, I found the following gem on transforming community, by juliett jade quail. 

No matter where you live, or what your community looks like, let this be an inspiration to you as it is to me:
how to transform a suburb into a community

 
 
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Last week on Farm Girl Diaries: 
It was my first week on the job at an organic veggie farm here in the Rocky Mountain Foothills. 
I dirtied my boots, iced my knees, practiced Spanish, and found out that if we don't get rain, my job is in serious danger!  Yikes.

This week...


 
 
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It's official - I'm a farmer! 

Well, a farmer's assistant, anyway.  And pretty soon here, I'll have the farmer's tan to prove it (okay... it's a freckle line - who am I trying to kid?)  So here's a run-down of my 'breaking-in' on the organic veggie farm, here on the Rocky Mountain foothills - it's really a 7-day stretch over two work weeks.

Coming up on this week's Farm Girl Diary - new friends, local food politics, Spanish-language learning, major drought drama, and a lot of planting! 


 
 
Oh, the humble dandelion.  Dandelions are so under-appreciated in our age of pristine grass lawns!  I'll save the lawn rant for another day - for now, let's appreciate the glory of this well-known 'weed'. 

Dandelions are edible and medicinal, and easy (so easy!) to find.  Their uses range from wine to salads to medicinal tonics, and they are perfect to harvest this time of year.
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One of spring's first blooms, down by our creek bed.

Spotlight on Dandelion

Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), gets its name from the French 'dent-de-lion' or 'lion's tooth', and is related to chicory and wild lettuce.  Dandelion leaves, flowers, and root are all edible, and are also useful to make herbal remedies, especially tonics for liver and your overall health.

 
 
Wellness is physical and mental.

All things cycle, and we all go through natural emotional lows.  Sometimes, though, these lows can make it hard to even function, let alone be proactive about feeling better.  At times like these, we just need to take care of the basics.
The Icarus Project, a radical mental health network, published a wonderful poster by Sophie Crumb - "Taking Care of the Basics".  I reference this gem often, especially when my mental/emotional wellness is starting to tip off balance.  It's a great reminder of basics that are too easy to forget.

 
 
Here in the Rocky Mountain foothills, spring pulled a sneak attack.  All sorts of growth erupted from the earth, which means I can get back to foraging for wild edible and medicinal plants.

In December, Morgan gifted me with a trio of useful books:  The Forager's Harvest: Edible Wild Plants, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, and a homemade native plant observation journal.  Awww... so sweet.  But I've been waiting all winter for our native plants to revive so I could actually use her gifts!

So, without further ado:  Today's spotlight is on mullein!

Spotlight on Mullein

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) - also called Golden Rod, Shepherd's Staff, Cowboy Toilet Paper (awesome) and about a million other names - is from the Snapdragon family and is best known as a medicinal herb that aids coughs.

 
 
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Sexy bad-ass Lauri Newman, my new inspiration
photo by Hannah Combs
Alright folks, I have a confession:  I stretched the truth on my farm hand job application.

I believe my exact words were, "I know how to lift properly - 50 pounds shouldn't be a problem for me."  Well... lifting 50 pounds shouldn't be a problem for me.  But it is.

In reality, I am a lightweight, petite woman with low upper body strength.  As a dancer, my core strength and flexibility is great, but my upper body is... 'delicately' muscled. 

So, in an effort to be a valuable member of the farm crew, I made a plan:  Farm Girl Bootcamp.


 
 
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Red Wagon Organic Farm
I just got offered (and accepted) a full-time job as a farm hand at Red Wagon Organic Farm.

Who knew?  When I was a kid, I never liked helping my mom in her veggie garden (I blame the Michigan mosquitoes for that), though I did always love to eat peas fresh from the vine. 

Then, when I was 20, I was a guest at an off-grid organic (& bio-dynamic) farm.  When I ate freshly picked herbs from that land, I could feel their life force radiate into my veins.  I know that sounds strange, but there's an incredible difference between fresh, local, lovingly-grown food and trucked-in, several-week-old produce from the grocery store. 

Since then, I've become passionate about local food

Well... I'm going to be a farmer.

 
 
I recently watched "Radically Simple", a short documentary about a man Jim Merkel & his quest towards sustainable living.  Merkel teaches and exemplifies a simple lifestyle, one that will allow all Earth's billions of beings the space and resources to live
Ever seen the bumper sticker, "Live Simply So Others May Simply Live"?  That's his whole point. 

Merkel leads workshop participants through a painstakingly detailed assessment of their Ecological Footprints, an estimate of how many resources you use, versus how many we each can afford to use.

Essentially, your ecological footprint is how many pieces of chocolate mousse pie you're taking at the party.  Turns out, I'm a little glutton and I'm eating three pieces of pie... but there's only enough for everyone to have one!
 
 
It started with a post-college-graduation crisis... I mean, 'realization':  my survival skills are nil. 

Great.  And with a supposed 2012 doomsday looming, 'real world' financial realities about to set in, and a sudden wealth of free time, my nerves got a little antsy.  I had been a student for 19 years of my life, and pretty well cocooned inside the ivory tower for the last 5.  Without a senior thesis to distract me, the precarious reality of my/our/the world's situation began to set in. 

Namely - I'm a highly trained dancer with little economic power and even less practical know-how.  My skill set, though a beautiful art, will not feed me.  I do make a little money through dance, but socioeconomic discussion of starving artists aside, I mean this very literally:
I didn't have the basic survival skills needed to provide myself with food, shelter, or health. 

That's pretty scary to realize, at over two decades of life, that you really have no tangible skills.

Enter the book that started it all, passed on by my awesome love:  Back to Basics, a Complete Guide to Traditional Skills

Contents include such amazing topics as: 
  • Building a log cabin
  • Developing a water supply
  • Solar energy
  • Gardening in limited space
  • Preserving produce
  • Baking bread
  • Woodworking
And so many more!  I was amazed, inspired, and most importantly, empowered.

So it began.


 

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