Denver Green Channel

The roots of the sustainability movement in Denver

Reskilling

by Robbie - December 4th, 2010.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

What’s a Green Reporter to do in between gigs?

For one thing, a “gig” is a questionable term. When good bloggers started to get followings and make names for themselves they upped the value of the independent voice. You don’t need anybody else to give you a writing gig, not anymore. You don’t need a radio job to do a podcast. You don’t need anybody’s permission or a small fortune to have a voice.

Independent reporters are still scoffed at and disrespected by a few people who’s minds are firmly rooted in the last century. Humans respect size, prominence and money before they respect truth, but it’s still worth finding the people who won’t scoff and giving them a voice; it’s worth a little extra networking to get community pioneers heard.

So why haven’t I been doing that?

Experience has proven to me that the holidaze (typo intentional) are the very worst times to bother people. I needed a break, as well. Not just to rest, but also to reskill myself.

I believe that urban homesteading can play a part in a more sustainable future. When an apple is five bucks, it will be nice to have a tree of your own, or a few eggs from the coop to trade for some apples from up the street. Bartering is already seeing a resurgence in some communities. And the urban and suburban homesteading movements are gaining momentum. I’m not so much a slave to fashion as I am a practical person who wants to thrive. In order to thrive you must first survive, and I see the future full of challenges. I intend to meet them standing up, not kneeling and begging someone else to take care of me.

I don’t have a crystal ball. I’ve just interviewed a lot of very smart people and it changed my view. Between what I believe are the realities of cheap available energy, the viability of our swollen financial infrastructure and the human tendency to live in denial to the 11th hour, I don’t think the decadent 80’s are on their way back. On a personal note it wasn’t my favorite decade, anyway.

Reskilling has been an interesting journey. I read up on permaculture and polyculture, and applied those principals.

First, I killed the front lawn. My new philosophy is, if I’m going to water it, I’m going to eat it. We live in high altitude desert. I won’t waste water. So far I’ve grown a bunch of mint there and started some cone flowers, AKA echinacea, and sunflowers. My plum trees were killed by a monster hail storm, but I started over with them. I also started some xeriscaping with yucca and some arid climate-loving grasses. In the spring I’ll be planting lots of prickly pear. They grow anywhere and the fruit is outstanding. This is what I mean by practical.

In the back yard we had a good-sized garden. My house is still full of ground fruit; we’ve got pumpkins, acorn squash and butternut squash sitting on every surface in the house like edible knick-knacks. I dehydrated a bunch of tomatoes. We have a grinder for the Hopi blue corn.

The chickens are thriving in their coop and run. In March the new addition will be at least one, more hopefully two French Angora rabbits. Livestock are particularly nice in a permaculture system where the soil is hard clay. Soil amendment is a non-negotiable, especially here. I think of my chickens as composting machines first, then as pest control and finally egg machines. Rabbits make the very best compost and also give you fiber that’s seven times warmer than wool. They’re cheap to feed, as well, and relatively low-maintenance compared to bigger stock.

This permaculture system feeds itself to a point; you can use the poop from livestock to grow food to feed you and the livestock to a pretty big extent, so you need less money coming in.

Oh, those three magic words.

Need. Less. Money.

I’ve made some mistakes, of course. My biggest hurtle in the reskilling process hasn’t been knitting, which surprised me. It’s been cooking.

I actually thought I was a decent cook, but I’ve run headlong into my limitations, the worst of which was arrogance. As a frantically busy rock and roll disc jockey I had time to master some hipster dishes, like vegetarian sushi. Homesteading food is different. It’s really, really different. You cook to make the most of the food you’ve got and to keep it nourishing and as tasty as possible. You don’t run to Whole Paycheck to buy four things for dinner, slap them together and then toss out the trash. You give that turkey carcass a good hour of your life getting all the meat off before you put it in the stockpot with the odds and ends of vegetables you’ve been saving for a week. All the stray shreds of meals go somewhere-to the compost heap, the worm bins, the chickens. Very little ends up in the trash. With all the classes I took in chicken keeping and gardening and fiber arts, the one challenge I didn’t expect was cooking at home. Surprise, surprise.

So why all this reskilling? First, for survival. But second, you gotta walk the walk. If you really want to be of service and you really believe in a thing, you have to live it. You have to know it.

After the holidaze I’ll be getting back out there and checking out what’s going on in the Green community. I hope you’ll stop back by. The promised Ranch updates will be coming as well.

Thanks for the visit. Happy Holly Daze.

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