Independence Days Challenge

I’ve wanted to internet-marry Sharon Astyk since the local Urban Harvest group read her book, Independence Days, in 2009, and I became a loyal blog reader. Here was someone who values the same things I do, who worries about taking care of her loved ones in such a way that resources are left for other people to take care of their loved ones, and who had gone past worrying to actually doing things to make the world around her better.

Around the time the book was coming out, she had started an Independence Days Challenge on her blog – following in the footsteps of Carla Emery to each day:

  • plant something
  • harvest something
  • preserve something
  • waste not
  • want not
  • eat the food
  • build community food systems

Holding the challenge on one’s blog is a lovely idea – not only formally reminding yourself of your committment, but holding yourself accountable for results in the eyes of The Intarwebs. So this year, I am formally joining. (I will probably also start tracking my progress on her Anyway Project as well, as eating mindfully is inextricably intertwined with building resilience.)

So, this last month:

Plant something: mung bean sprouts. Wayyy too early for starting things for outside. I shall also count taking advantage of the unseasonally disturbing weather to cover the emergency-drainage-fix bare dirt in the front yard with straw “books” – if we get any moisture this winter yet, this should prevent erosion AND give me a head start on mulched beds. I was going to plant herbs there anyway, but how nice not to have to remove the sod myself!

Harvest something: mung bean sprouts

Preserve something:  Becky Vs The Pressure Canner Round 2: Beef Stew: The Redux went much better than last time (although the claim that the canner can hold 19 pint jars is an utter lie. I only got 17.)

Waste Not: Veg scraps go to rabbit, and rabbit is now mostly litterbox-trained! woot! I don’t really mind having to add the paper pellets in the litterbox to absorb the urine, as it smells less than the de-facto hay absorbant from her previous arrangement, and has less seeds for the compost pile to worry about. Plus, having a lovely 5-gallon pail (with Gamma Lid) of droppings at the top of the stairs waiting to be carried to the freezing outdoor compost pile gives me a convenient spot to park the veg scraps she can’t eat. Bunneh definitely illustrates how the permaculture technique of adding new elements to a design connected with multiple other elements, makes everything function better.

Want Not: put up shelves on a long unused wall in the living room; got a drumcarder for the 7 lbs of black Corriedale in the garage that’s wanting to be blended with the grocery sacks of angora; splurged on Spoonflower prints for living room window quilts.

Eat the Food: made lots of 100% whole-wheat and flax bread dough for Christmas, and am still eating the last of the frozen flatbreads from the last batch; used 2 cups of my precious Hidatsa Shield Figure bean stash in a Jamaican Oxtail recipe (with actual grass-finished oxtail and neckbones.  The neckbones were quite meaty and amazing, actually.) Lentils in crockpot right now, with the last of a bag of onions and some disappointing sausage from the depths of the freezer. Terribly proud of myself for making last-minute veggie stirfry for two without having to go to the store.

And incidentally, started (albeit did not finish) two knitting projects from stash.

Build Community Food Systems: added eggs to my grass-finished beef herd share; for Christmas got 50 lbs each of local organic dried black beans, green peas and green lentils, and shared with friends and family; applied for the open spot on the North Dakota Community Forestry Council. I’ll be presenting two sessions at the ND State Horticultural Society Conference in Bismarck in July, and just learned this entitles me to a free vendor space. Now to plan for a High Plains Permaculture presence…


Star Trek

I finally got to see the new Star Trek movie. The second matinee meant having the entire stadium theater to myself.

Star Trek: The Original Series is very close to my heart. The first book I ever bought with My Own Money was ST:TOS #41,  The Three-Minute Universe, with Uhura on the cover. This book series was responsible for my triumph in every trivia competition in elementary and middle school, and introduced me to the inestimable Diane Duane. Her first Trek novel, The Wounded Sky, still rates as one of my best examples of characterization and gets to live upstairs in the special bookcase (along with her original Middle Kingdoms sequence, one of the earliest fantasy novels I’ve found with a plausible, compassionate and just plain well-done alternative scheme of human sexuality. See also Melissa Scott.) 

But anyways. The movie. The reimagination of the bridge was bright and clean and glowing and exactly what you’d want it to be. They actually took screen time to explain that this is an alternate timeline and thus is allowed to completely reboot the franchise, and yeah, I get it… I still kind of miss the TOS storyline though. The movie is a great movie if you don’t think of it being Star Trek. If you do, it’s kinda nice to see how they reimagined each character, but kinda sad what they’re doing to it at the same time. But hopefully this is indeed the start of something more for the concept, as I’ve always preferred TOS over any of the sequels…

Simon Pegg is awesome as usual.

Chris Pine is HOT.

I hate Zachary Quinto but I now hate him somewhat less. Maybe even up to neutral/slightly positive. He does look like he kisses very well though. Why yes, I am in a drought, why do you ask? Very canny of them to cater to both the Kirk and Spock fangirls, thus covering 98% of the population.

Winona Ryder I hate with a burning burning passion and when I saw her I wanted to slap the casting director. Just because someone was in a science fiction movie before does not automatically qualify them to be in yours, OKAY?? My god, in all of Hollywood and outside you couldn’t find an actual old woman to play an old woman?

I console myself with the first supermarket nectarines of the season that actually had a fragrance.

Gene Logsdon classic reissued

First published in 1977 and practically impossible to find in recent years, Gene Logsdon’s classic  Small-Scale Grain Raising: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing and Using Nutritious Whole Grains, for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers has just been reissued in a revised and expanded second edition. Logsdon excels in translating agricultural practices which seem overwhelming in scale, like pastured husbandry, into something that is comprehensible (and attractive) to newcomers. I have only a backyard vegetable gardening background, but his All Flesh is Grass has at least shown me where to start and what to look for when beginning an effort to raise livestock on pasture – this new book promises to do the same for grains, something long felt off-limits in the backyard scale. I’ve read of someone (Rosalyn Creasy?) who made a prominent spot in her front yard for wheat sufficient for one celebratory loaf of bread a year, but that’s been it. I’m much looking forward to this book, to expand my skillset in a new and desirable direction.

Urban Harvest Book Club

Bismarck Urban Harvest is hosting two book discussions this summer – “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver on 28 May, and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan on 25 June, both at the Library. If you haven’t already read these classics of the local food movement, they are well worth it. And the book discussion should be a good opportunity to meet other people working for this cause.


I just finished Robin McKinley’s newest book, Chalice, and now I want bees. Well, I’ve always wanted bees, since my formative years were warped by Alas, Babylon – I’ve even 3/4 trained myself to enjoy honey, and have a killer honey granola recipe here – but now I really want bees. I realize that hers are romantic magical bees,  but bees! Pollination of orchards! Honey from horehound blossoms that contains the plant’s medicinal properties! Wax for candles!


And someone’s come up with a sensible way of housing them that will prevent the majority of modern diseases! Hooray for offering Warre’s Beekeeping for All as a free .pdf. There is no way I would be able to do this in town, now, but this is high on the list for when I get my hypothetical acres. For now I shall just knit skeps


Bee hives in Minot, ND 
You can see them in the air!

I was going through some back catalog of Diana Wynne Jones that I had never found when I was younger, and found The Year of the Griffin, a sequel to The Dark Lord of Derkholm which was itself quite good. I’ve noticed that in a lot of her later work, there always seems to be some tidy romantic pairing-off. A Sudden Wild Magic did that too, and it rather annoyed me at the time. But with Griffin, the Entire Last Scene is EEEEverybody getting a romantic interest, including an “I’ve seen you from across the room for 10 minutes, let’s get married!” which… grr. It’s kind of a shame, because otherwise I loved her characters. The stuff explicitly said for kids, like her Chrestomanci series, is much better. Maybe that’s why these are marketed as young adult. I likely would have been pleased that everything wrapped up nicely back when I was 12. Compare that with Chalice – it doesn’t matter whether or not the main characters get together, because the rest of it is full of sufficient emotion that it doesn’t need that to wrap up the ending. (God, and Dragonhaven? Bliss. Finally someone tells what happens AFTER the big climactic scene everyone else would end with.)

The Fruit Hunters (and Beans)

The Fruit Hunters

The Fruit Hunters

I like to read food history books, and with the whole Michael Pollan thing going on, publishers are taking a chance on more and more. Some of them are a bit of an effort – I managed to finish Betty Fussell’s The Story of Corn, but it draaaaagged …  The Fruit Hunters was a lovely counterexample.

I did know that the hand grenade was inspired by the pomegranate, grenade in French, I just didn’t know why. It turns out the pomegranate was originally dehiscent: when it was ripe, it shattered and threw its seeds some good distance. It’s been bred now not to do that, obviously. Yay trivia.

Even though it’s got the trivia, and the requisite chapter on How _x_ Shaped Humans (yes, yes, monkeys see the color red stand out with respect to the background forest), this is not really a history book- it’s more of a travelogue. The poor guy was even infected with his current Fruit Hunting passion in Brazil, just like me

It is also an Immense Jealousy-Inducing Shopping List. 

I now need me a mangosteen. How strange that this has become my number-one reason why I’m thankful to live close to Canada. 

Best recent Actual Food History book goes to Beans, by Ken Albala. Great stories, separated by variety so you can trace them over time (it even mentions the Hutterite Soup bean! Awesome!) plus great recipes, plus it’s just darn pretty. I love when books are designed and printed well, so that it’s a pleasure just to hold them in your hand and flip through them. Highly recommended.