19 April 2010

Update: Life from the Trenches

I am well underway in my thesis. For those of you who are able and or willing, I am presenting my proposal next thursday morning at 11.45a at PNCA in Rm 128. I know most of you will not be able to make it but such is life. Its probably better this way, I'll be less nervous giving a presentation to strangers.

This is the final piece I'm working on this semester in progress.

Step 1: Cut a hole in the box. (Sorry, I had to) The fiber panels were all needled together and then needled to the silk organza.

This is the underside of the organza with wool pulled through. Major close up.

Hanging on a tree, this was simply to demonstrate that the wool and silk are adhered and it is a three-dimensional object -- not just flat.

And this is with all three sides converged to make a triangular structure. I'm the lovely ostrich underneath.

It will soon have connector ropes to be able to connect it to tree limbs so that it holds its form. At that point it will be ready to be hung and sat under.

At any rate, I'm busier than I'd like to admit but it feels manageable. Today I worked with Plant Joy again (that's who I was working with when I found the newt) and it went really quick in spite of compacted soil. Tomorrow I'm giving my second practice run proposal presentation. I've doubled my hours at work in the library. I have two papers to write by semester's end. And on top of all that I'm sick. I've been more sick this year than the last five years of my life combined. Maybe my immune system never recovered from Swine Flu? Who knows. Perhaps just stress? I eat really well (tonight Joel cooked a chicken and vegetables -- delicious!), exercise daily (to and from school by bike + gardening/farming/landscaping) and drink lots of fluid (lots of water and probiotic-rich kombucha). What's wrong with the picture?

Speaking of farming, on saturday Joel and I helped at a farm day at New Era Farm in Canby, OR -- about a twenty minute drive south of Portland -- with a friend who is part of the farm co-op. We just came out to help work, to learn and get experience. Its a fruit/vegetable farm that also has three meat cows and several chickens that are still only about a month and a half old. The farm is nestled in the foothills above the Willamette Valley along the river of the same name. It was so green and bright the whole way there. I wish I had thought to bring my camera, but it seemed a little inappropriate at the time. Next time. We fertilized and mulched part of the orchard (apples, pears, kiwis and grapes) and the berries (boysenberries, blueberries, strawberries and currants). It was nice consistent work, not too hard, not too easy. We did a lot of pushing/pulling the wheelbarrows back and forth from the chicken poop (fertilizer) and the mulch piles to the orchard. Everyone was really nice and we had a really positive experience. If Joel and I stay through next summer we may join the fruit/vegetable co-op. We'll see.

The way that CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) differs from co-ops is, to put it bluntly, a CSA is capitalist and co-ops are communist. A CSA can function in many ways but the most common I've seen is this: the consumer buys a share of the crop and gets a vegetable/fruit/meat/whatever box each week or every other week. This is a large up-front cost and this is a nice insurance for the farmer. A co-op, as I saw it played out the other day, is a small up-front cost. But this involves the consumer more because it asks that they are involved with helping on the farm at a regular interval. In this case it was to work at the farm five times throughout the season which equals approximately once a month. I like this model better because the up-front cost isn't really for the vegetables but for the seeds and tools. At this particular farm the upfront cost was $100, compare this to how much the vegetables would cost throughout the season per pound -- that's a deal!

The meat co-op is a similar method but with no money changing hands. Since there is much less to do with the actual growing of the cattle, the work is all at the end. You must be willing to help with the slaughtering, butchering and wrapping and then you are able to take a portion home. Its a really great way to get the community more educated about farming and to be involved and interact with the farmers and where their food comes from. I love this because everyone benefits. It certainly isn't something where you can work as a full-time farmer straight away but its a nice way to learn together with a community and have people help start your farm with you. Starting a farm initially is always a big investment.

Joel and I are looking forward to having a farm someday and employing the co-op theory. It seems the most holistic and communal where learning can happen in abundance. To me, farming is the most satisfying work that a body can do. In the sun or rain, it doesn't matter, I always feel satisfied when I am done.


jen brown said...

I just got some friends to sign up with me for our local CSA, and we are so excited! Four of us total, so in total it ends up that we are paying $8 each, every week, for 24 weeks of a variety of produce!

And of course meat farmers must have a similar deal, I just never thought of it that way. Its an amazing idea, and it sort of blows my mind.

Hannah Stitzlein said...

That's so wonderful to hear Jen! I love hearing when people are supporting their local farmers directly. :0) And as far as CSAs go, you guys have quite a deal, here the cost is up ten times that! I'm sure there are better deals but who knows. In the mean time Joel and I will grow our own food. :0)