Thursday, July 20, 2017

Homer's Natural Built Birthing Center

Curt and I took time to stop at the Birthing Center in Homer.  We were so impressed! 

The entry way. 

The waiting room/living room.

The guillotine --- cuts off the airflow so the heat doesn't go up the rocket stove leaving the bench cold.
The pizza oven above the wood input on the rocket stove.

 The top of the heat riser is a stove top in the kitchen

The rocket stove mass heater bench.
The clean-out for the horizontal chimney

The pantry----adding driftwood really makes it more natural.

Nice little wooded details added and then the extra detail of the whale tail!  

Clay TV stand----very artsy.   Fake fire place

The birthing bathtub---details of stone

Bottles adorn the wall between the entry and the bedroom.

Artsy Windows

Nice cubbies in random places.

Cindee with the head Birthing Lady (Doula?)

The walls are 8 inches clay-straw, 8 inches of clay brick in the middle and 8 inches of clay-straw on the outside.  The building took 4-5 years to complete and it is approved by the city of Homer. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

There's a bear in my Subaru!


The neighborhood black bear found us.

Cathy, my intern, and I were unloading plants from the Subaru and taking them down to plant in the orchard area, right below the driveway.  Cathy had just been up to the garage to look for a shovel.  We decided to use our hands to plant with.

Maybe five minutes later I hear something.  I decide it was Curt.  I call out to him, but he doesn't answer.  I decide that he has his ear buds in and is working in the garage.  Then....another noise.  I decide to go up and check it out.  I'm calling for Curt.  When he doesn't answer, I start calling for the neighborhood dogs to come to my rescue.  I walk slowly up the old garden steps next to the garage.  Since I'm still calling for dogs, I think it's got to be Curt working in the garage.  Just as I'm about to stick my head around the corner of the open garage door, I see garbage all over the garage floor.  I knew then, it was the bear.  Dang.

I jump in Curt's car and I call for Cathy to come up.  She of course didn't want to come up next to the garage, so she climbs up the cliff and jumps in the little mazda.  I lay on the horn.  What a dump horn that is---why didn't I jump in the Suburban---something with a substantial horn??  I roll down the window and we still hear the bear in the garage.  We can't see anything though---it's a black bear in the dark garage.  We start calling the bear out of the garage.  No luck.  I decide to open the 2nd garage door to see if that would move him.  Sure enough.  He moseys out of the garage and right next to Cathy's window that she is struggling to get up.  He's heading to the driveway.  Good, we think. bear picture

Then he takes a wiff at my Subaru.  I remember the cinnamon gum in there and more importantly, the bag of trash I should have emptied.  My last Wwoofer loved chocolate, so we splurged more than once on expensive chocolate bars and some reese's cups.  He comes back around and decides to check it out.  Bear Picture  Gingerly he steps into the back of the open Subaru and makes his way to the driver's seat.  He starts picking through the garbage bag that's on the passenger's seat floor!

Well, Cathy and I start up the Mazda and put it in reverse.  That of course did not phase the bear and we decide it wouldn't be able to get out the back of the car again. Who wants it going out the closed window?  So I get out of the car.  I call Curt on the phone---nervously--- to bring the bear spray down from the house.  By the time he comes down, Cathy and I are yelling at the bear to get out of the car and the bear is turning around in my driver's seat. He honks the horn with his butt. (The steering wheel was wet afterwards---let's hope it was slobber. The horn startles him some and he starts coming out of the back of the car. So nice of him to step around all my plants.  Bear Picture

Then, instead of running off like a good bear should.  It decides to go after Latte, who was just sitting there watching the whole spectacle.  She ducks under the suburban and the bear barks at her and pounces on his two front feet.  If you haven't ever heard a bear bark---it's a warning sound.  He claws under the suburban to try to reach her. Bear Picture We are all screaming at the bear to leave.  Reluctantly he leaves the cat and saunters to the top of the driveway.  But he stops and just looks at us, like "so what are you going to do, make me?"   Bear Picture  Curt, Cathy and I start moving forward, yelling.  Curt has the bear spray at the ready along with our house sign "Karns" because he couldn't get it untangled from the bear spray.  Too bad I didn't take that picture.  It looked like he was going to paddle the bear with the board.  Anyway, Curt had to escort that bear all the way down the driveway and across the road so he'd leave.  Bear Picture

We then practiced with the bear spray to see if it would have reached the bear.  That stuff only sprayed like 3 feet and so it might have just made him mad.  He kept about 5 feet away from us.

Anyway, he's been a real nuisance around the neighborhood (IF IT'S THE SAME BEAR).  A neighbor took this picture of him at the post boxes at the bottom of the hill.  Bear Picture

Needless to say our guns are loaded.  We would NEVER shoot a bear unless he were chewing on a leg.  It's just too dangerous with so many houses around.  But we DID go out and buy 4 new cans of bear spray.

Lesson learned:  even if you are working and talking right outside, always turn on the radio.    That was always my Wwoofer's job this year.  When he left, I just didn't do it.  Dumb.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Part II: Rammed Earth House

MAY 2017
House looks great from the outside----no one lives in it yet.

Finishing touches around windows and doors.

Nice color on the walls.  Some sheetrock.

Hard to plan all of the electrical and other wires ahead of time.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Is the bubble bursting???

We moved into the Bioshelter 10 years ago and role modeled a different kind of western living.  We learned so much, but we also realize it’s not enough.  Curt and I are really taking a hard look at retirement. How do we reshape a system?  It’s so much easier to start over.  I think we should become Amish and go live in the woods at the cabin.  Curt isn’t so sure, but the system we are in, our culture, is really becoming more and more DE-generative and the possibility of something that’s regenerative seems out of the realm of possibility.  

If suddenly Big Ag can’t feed us there would be a crisis, so we’d be forced to change.  So how soon is that crisis coming?  I read 1491, a book about before Columbus arrived.  It seems the woods were abundant food forests that the indigenous cultivated.  Could we do that?  Maybe, but in a crisis situation, it’s better to have the life boat already built.  So how do you build the ark, if it hasn’t even started raining?

I think our culture is almost at the edge—the crisis is almost here.  It’s so hard to know.  We have to take exponential growth seriously. This video helps explain it.  Please watch it.  

   These days hockey stick graphs are everywhere and they seem to be getting worse every year.  




And the next hockey stick graph we aren’t really allowed to talk about:  too many people.  The UN put this graph together.

So how do we get these graphs to change?  How do we use less energy and have a better life?  How do we use less water and have a better life? 

I think oil consumption is my number one concern. If that bubble bursts we are in big trouble.

Thinking about our big ag system made me do some research.  This came from the University of Ottowa, so this might be Canadian statistics.  It takes 400 gallons of oil to feed one person for 1 year.  

  • 20% is the farm equipment; 
  • 16% is the transportation; 
  • 13% is irrigation; 
  • 8% is live stock; 
  • 5% are pesticides.  

I’m wondering how much it is to feed our Alaskan family?  How many gallons of gas do we use to go to Chitna, put the boat in, motor up and down the river dip-netting?  How many gallons do we use to pull the boat and a 4-wheeler to the mountains to get a caribou?  How many gallons do I use driving to town to get seeds, or to Palmer to get manure?  If there’s suddenly no more oil……Curt and I don’t know how to live without it.  And we are not very dependent on the Big Ag farms.

 It stresses me out to know that when the fictitious Beverly Hillbillys struck oil, they paid $0 to get the oil out.  Now we may be using a barrel of oil to get a barrel out of the ground.  Here’s the quote:  If we have energy returned on energy invested (ERoEI) = 1 then the net energy is zero. We use as much energy to gather energy as energy gathered.  

Here’s the historical numbers from the Energy Matters  blog site is:  “ERoEI for finding oil and gas decreased exponentially from 

  • 1200:1 in 1919
  • 5:1 in 2007. 

The EROI for production of the oil and gas industry was 

  • about 20:1 from 1919 to 1972, 
  • declined to about 8:1 in 1982 when peak drilling occurred, 
  • recovered to about 17:1 from 1986–2002 
  • declined sharply to about 11:1 in the mid to late 2000s.” 

So where are we now???  How much energy does it take to pull more oil out of the arctic?  According to Peak Oil, for things to keep going as we are used to, we must have at least an ERoEi between 5 and 7. 

Okay, I’ll stop now. I’m beginning to feel like Chicken Little. “The sky is falling.” Who wants to come to the cabin with us and live off the land??? ☺

Monday, January 16, 2017

Reflections on my Biome

 I’m so confused about my biome.  I can’t understand it.  Where are the boundaries?  It reminds me of OUR TOWN, the play.  Here’s the quote I’m remembering from it. 

I never told you about that letter Jane Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: It said: Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America…Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the mind of God – that’s what it said on the envelope. 

So my address would be Cindee Karns, AlaskaBioshelter, RamValley drainage, Eagle River Valley, Anchorage; SouthCentral; Alaska; and then the rest and finally: the Mind of God.  The Mind of God is the coolest. 

Permaculture says to design from WHOLE to PARTS and to look for patterns.  What’s my whole?  If I work on designs for all of my biomes, will that thinking process of mine somehow seep out into other’s thoughts of their biomes?  Since Permaculture also says start with observations, that’s a good thing.  It gives me some focus, but then I get lost when I’m hearing a podcast about the similarities between Italy’s President and our in-coming president.  That’s a pattern and if you look closer at other countries you can see other similar patterns in leadership.  What pattern is that?  Do I have a responsibility for that Biome? 
And then I go out to shovel snow.  I don’t hear the birds that I know winter here.  I hear snow blowers all around me.  That’s a pattern.  Is that a sign of our pattern of oil dependency?  Or am I just observing that because I have a shovel in my hand and am feeling a little elite in my attempt to become part Amish.  J

Eklutna Lake
I often think of who might have come back to this valley in ancient times:  where was the glacier?  It’s still astonishing to me that Knik was the named because it was the END of the Knick glacier when the town was founded.  Amazing.  We still have a glacier hanging above us I think.  No telling when it will be gone.  Soon I fear.  It sends water down to us—on both sides of our neighborhood.  Many of us drink it right from the stream. 

I see cottonwoods everywhere---an awful tree to partner with in terms of a heat source, but they are responsible, along with the willow and other water-loving plants, that sprouted and grew really fast because of the water source.  All of those leaves over the years have turned this valley into a place of soil, a place that can be cultivated, albeit with LOTS of rocks throughout.

There are many animals up here, but they are also down in the valley:  moose, bears, coyotes, rabbits.  We could have warm clothes, bear fat and meat to eat, but I’m not sure we could feed the current population in our neighborhood.  We have plenty of year round birds to entertain us:  ravens, eagles, chickadees, nuthatches, and stellar jays, and my favorite:  the grouse.  Our nocturnal residents help us keep our vole populations down:  owls and coyotes, but unfortunately they eat the grouse too.   

 So, if I think of my ancestors, I don’t think they would have settled here.  Even though there’s fresh water, and SOME spruce trees, it’s 1 mile up on the side of the mountain.  They might have lived in the valley after the glacier receded. But not up here. 

It certainly makes me wonder if I should live here?  I rely on fossil fuel to drive that mile up and then another 10 miles to town.  We use lots of electricity and natural gas to stay warm.  We have to import our wood because we live in a cottonwood forest.  However, it all might be changing.  Our summers are now warmer and I see the cottonwood struggling, but so are the birch and the willows.  There isn’t enough water or snow melt.  Apparently this area used to be covered in PINE trees before the last glaciers covered our area.  Maybe that will be the new tree? 

The mind of God……up here in the mountains.  What pattern is that?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Largest Community Garden in the US.

Largest Community Garden in the US

The Shiloh Field Community Garden just happens to be in Denton, TX where my son and his family are living.  Today we toured it (11/23/16) and talked to the founder, Gene Gumfory. This garden has been open for seven years and they have learned a lot, most of which is very relevant for the Central Urban Farm in Anchorage, especially since both gardens are on church property.

The Shiloh Field Community Garden prides itself on being a teaching, sharing and growing garden.  They welcome everyone.  There are 159 individual 15x15 garden plots for anyone to use for free.  You simply have to register each year.  There are no fences around the garden, but each person can add fences to his/her own plot.  It is open 24/7 so that gardeners can come and tend their gardens as they need to.  Water is free and is supplied by the church, as are wood chips. However, they don’t allow sprinklers.

Gardeners are encouraged to use organic fertilizer, but that is not supplied by the garden. 

Here is the sign that is up at the 
entry of the garden.

Across from the private plots they have a large orchard with pecan, pear, plum trees. Toward the back of the acerage is another type of community garden.  It relies on the community, church members, students from the two universities located in Denton, K-12 studetns and even some court-ordered community service volunteers to grow, harvest and weed the gardens.  Each Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings at 8am before the heat begins, they start arriving.  They all must sign up in order to work there.  Homeless or hungry people are encouraged to sign up as well to work side by side learning with the more experienced volunteers.  During harvest season at least, each volunteer is allowed to take home his/her own food for that night’s dinner. 

To access free fertilizer, they now have horse farms delivering to them directly as well as the tree companies.  In the fall, they put out an all call for raked leaves and people just bring them.  They also have all of their chicken manure.  The long rows of compost mixes right there on site and stays very hot all year. 

The garden also boasts 3 high tunnels for winter growing, 15-20 doz eggs a day, honey, blackberries and grapes.  All of the extra food is shared with many, many organizations who feed the poor.  In Denton 1 in 5 persons lives below the poverty level. 

Gene recommends a committee of 4 or 5 to run the garden, which is not what he has.  He is trying to manage it himself.  He also recommends that every community garden organizer join the American Community Garden Association.  They have lots of ideas there, he told me. 

I left with lots of ideas---especially signage.