Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Meditation on Game Of Thrones

Any of you who have watched HBO’s Game of Thrones has heard the words of one of the principal families, “Winter is coming.”  At first blush this bleak motto of the Starks seems extremely pessimistic.  Hard times will come.  Dangerous situations, lean economic times, fights with a friend or significant other, earthquakes, tornadoes and floods will happen.

The news regales us with tragedy every hour of every day.  At work good news doesn’t go far or fast if it moves at all, but bad news flashes like lightning.

Winter IS coming.  Make no mistake.

So what are our options?  We could eat drink and be merry.  Blow our hard-won cash on toys and other distractions hoping they’ll numb us before the snow falls.  We could rail at the world, the politicians, the immigrants, the other nations, and pretend that our complaining or internet petitions will change our finances, our families or our health.

But that’s not me.  It’s not a lot of other people either, and chances are that if you’re still reading this, it’s not you.

If you’re like me then you know that winter is a season, not an ending.  It has it’s own peculiar perks and dangers, no less than any other time of the year and we need to be prepared.  We need to take action to enjoy the perks, avoid or mitigate the dangers and live, to make the most of living.

That’s what this blog is about.

Bartow County, Resiliency, and The Tough Mudder

Bartow County Georgia is where I live and work and I'd like this to be  a local or even a hyper-local blog so I'll be posting things particular to this county frequently among the general info about Georgia, Northwest GA, permaculture, resiliency, etc...

First off, the Bartow County Extension Office.  Cooperative extension is a partnership between UGA, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and counties in the various participating states.  They do all kinds of neat things from soil testing to certifying safety experts in the food industry (via the ServSafe program).  They also facilitate the Master Gardener program and offer tips and techniques for successful home food production, preparation and storage.  Check them out here.

Speaking of the Extension Office, they've got a Vegetable Gardening Workshop coming up on October 14th.  The details are here.  I plan on being there, so drop by.

Ok, resiliency.

Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary - an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
Around here, like everywhere else, we've got misfortune, adversity and change.  We should add those three to the list beginning with "Death and Taxes".  We've got an aging and obese population, whose educational and job prospects aren't the brightest.  We've got teen pregnancy, stress related illness, and high rates of divorce.  What do we do about it?

We start with ourselves, body, mind and spirit.

Body's pretty easy.  Do you look good, and feel good?  Can you work hard and play hard?  No need for strict definitions, you know the answer to those questions, one way or the other.  What are you doing to get better or maintain your health?  Remember, resiliency is how fast and how well you can recover from the stress and injuries that life throws at us.

For Mind I focus on education and career.  I'm learning more about gardening and permaculture all the time and training in management for a school system's nutrition program.  How well and how quickly can you recover from financial hardship?  What are you learning?  How can you be in the top 10% in your field?  Check out Seth Godin's book Linchpin for ideas.

Spirit is the trickier one.  Rather than debate theology I work on my relationships.  If you're a Christian then asking "WWJD?" is not a bad place to start.  Which relationships bring you down?  Ditch them if you can, work on changing them if you can't.  Who are the people who build you up?  How can you spend more time with them?  How can you act more like them?  What can you change about yourself to be a better friend, spouse, child, parent, significant other?  Goleman's work on Social Intelligence points out all the ways that good relationships enhance our health and the well-being of our community, including reducing crime thus helping both ourselves and our neighbors to bounce back more readily from tragedies.

One of the things I'm doing to work on all three of these areas is the Tough Mudder.  It's an 11 mile, muddy obstacle course designed by a former British Special Forces guy.  While all of the obstacles can be tackled alone, the course is designed to promote teamwork.  I've got about 15 people, old friends and new, joining me in the race.  We've got a facebook page here where we share our training ups and downs and offer encouragement.  So I'm learning new things about myself and physical training, working out consistently and meeting new people while fleshing out some old friendships all at the same time.

If you're looking to change your situation in life, much less the world, start with yourself.  Now is the time.

Soil Testing, Stockbox and Growing Food On Base

I was watching a documentary on the local food movement and was struck by a comment made by one of the farmers “We don’t farm plants, we farm soil.”  Ok, so I know NOTHING about growing things, much less healthy fruits and veggies and I figure this guy seems to be pretty good at it, so I should probably listen to him.  I’m a big proponent of doing research on the web but at some point you need to get out in the world and get messy.  So I went old school and checked a book out of the library.

HomeGrown Harvest by the American Horticultural Society turns out to be a fantastic resource chock full of season by season advice and wisdom.  Definitely work looking into.  Sure enough one of the first things they recommend before starting a new garden is checking out your soil.

I went out to the middle of my site and dug a six inch hole and got a big handful of dirt.
Soil Testing
Add a little water and it turns into a slightly sandy ball.  Looks like my yard is on the edge between sandy and silty, which means I need to watch my water drainage and work in a good bit of compost.

Out on the Left Coast they’re still in the vanguard of the local food movement and there are two new innovations that look pretty cool.

First a semi-permanent grocery store made from a recycled shipping container.  Stockbox, watch the video.

And here’s a story from Grist on using former military bases for urban farming. Check it out.