Where to begin updating you on Herban Renewal – After a pretty productive lock-down period of installing gardens, trying a few hugelculture beds, testing aquaponics, setting up the vermiculture, getting our chickens set up and starting to lay, we did the next logical thing and decided to sell the Herban Renewal property in town! Yep.
However, after finding Buyers, then finding another property, things just didn’t go as planned. The house was packed into boxes, utilities were set to switch, many, many plans were made. Also, there were the way-too-many plants and seeds ordered and hatching eggs set to deliver, the sketches of raised beds and food forests, all in anticipation of a few acres and a couple of awesome out buildings, and then, on the final day, –(cue dramatic music) things…fell … apart.
You could say I was a bit shook, but I am a big believer that things work as they should. What has been unsettling is my lack of ability to decide if I wanted to stay put or move. The plants and hatching eggs arrived because I couldnt bring myself to cancel them. The plants made lovely gifts and egg hatching is always fun, even though I was not planning to have 30 plus chickens in my laundry room. But we hatched them because, well, because we could. There is nothing as fun as the anticipation and hearing those little eggs when they begin to peep. And the chicks are also delightful for about the first week. They continue to be delightful, but their odor inside your home – not so much.
Now here we are at the beginning of fall and we continue to live in our home and it’s still not for sale. So I am publicly declaring – I’m going to stay put!! Let fall planting begin.
— “A practical revolution,” I read this phrase recently on Morag Gamble’s bio page. If you are not familiar with her, I highly recommend you spend some time reading, perusing, breathing in all of her wisdom. Her topic of education and her way of life are permaculture.
The current climate of covid-19, and the civil unrest and racial tension in America has given me pause to reexamine my beliefs. In my past, I have marched, made signs, taken my younger daughter to the Women’s March in DC. I have grown food organically since I was a young adult, lived off grid, etc. Recently one of my children asked me when I had gotten, “so conservative.” I was quietly taken aback to think I could be construed as conservative. Since that conversation, I have been considering whether I have become more conservative in my beliefs, after all I am now a woman of 53. People often appear to give up the fight as they age. I feel I have not. What I do feel is that I have grown more impatient with the restating of problems. I want to say “yes, but…” In the current climate of hurt, anger and discord, “Yes, but” is only heard as “I disagree with you and therefore I am part of the problem.”
Don’t get me wrong, I fully admit I am part of the problem. I am imperfect, I am human, I am short sighted and impatient. I also put forth the idea that being unable to hear the other side — and that goes for any side —, is part of the problem. I don’t pretend that it is easy to attempt to “truly hear” what seems to be a conflicting opinion, especially when these issues are so real and charged with history and disrespect, and when some opinions just seem downright hateful and wrong.
It is hard. It is hard to hear past someone’s words, posture and tone to find their real meaning.
However, trying to hear beyond rhetoric, beyond the language that is not as currently politically correct as we might like—, I feel that is where the meeting of each other and the healing begins. And even more importantly, that is where the solutions begin to emerge.
I think it is worth repeating: It is hard. It is hard to hear past someone’s words, posture, and tone to find their meaning.
So, I don’t feel I have become more conservative with age, but that I am more interested in a peaceful solution. I am not one who enjoys rehashing a problem over and over. I much prefer to acknowledge that there is a problem and move on to see what peaceful, kind, and productive action can be taken going forward. I fail to see where burning, shooting, beating, hating, or name calling ever did much to promote peace, harmony, or growth among people.
And to take my own advice, I have to be willing to listen to people that chose these methods, to see if there is a way I can understand how they might think these methods do promote a solution to the problem we are trying to solve. Granted, some folks are simply frustrated/angry/hurt and that is what they are trying to solve with their actions. I hope and pray these methods will soon cease and then we, as neighbors, can begin to move forward and solve some of our problems.
But wait, this is a blog on a food growing site, you say! What’s the connection? Food is about community. Food is about health. Food is about a solution to release people from dependence. Growing food allows people to contribute to the health and well-being of their families, their communities, and the planet. In essence, it is “a practical revolution.”
Teaching and supporting food self-sufficiency is one of the main goals of Mahala Love and the primary focus of Herban Renewal. Learning to grow in ways that regenerate our bodies, souls, and planet is truly a practical revolution well worth pursuing.
And on that note, I invite you to join our practical revolution, where we can learn and grow together. Come speak your truth, listen to others, and be heard yourself. Bring an open heart and mind, a pair of hands, and the willingness to get a little dirty along the way. Then, we can move forward as a community, planting new seeds and watching them grow into something that will nourish bodies, minds, and souls.
May is winding down. The weather has been much cooler than most recent Mays and we have had some really hard rains followed by no rain. The garden beds are slowly taking shape and a variety of experiments, which are completely unscientific, are succeeding, or not. Overall, the growth seems slow and tedious for the plants, but the mulch paths are growing a little more every day. Maybe it’s like the watched pot problem and if I don’t look for a few days, big healthy plants will appear.
I’ve been doing a ton of reading, watching videos, digging through old books and general planning. The topics that I’ve dug into most deeply are mushrooms, Microgreens, permaculture, and food preservation. These are all topics I’ve looked at and tried out to various degrees, so it’s nice to circle back around for a deeper dive.
The first of 2 shipments of plants have arrived. Some people might just think they are tiny brown sticks, but I can imagine the Spice bushes, Lindera benzoin, hazelnuts, Corylus americana, and roses, Rosa rugosa, they will all become. The spice bush leaves serve as tea and the berries are edible, dried and fresh. The Hazels produce hazelnuts or filbert. Can you say homemade Nutella?!, I mean healthy protein! The Roses are for teas, fragrance, and Vitamin C from the hips. I once made rose petal jam; it smelled lovely, but it came out more like a hard candy that I couldn’t get out of the jar once it solidified.
Most days I feel more like I am cultivating patches of mulch than an actual garden, but I know once the heat arrives most of these plants will explode! Here are a few pictures of the ever growing mulch patch and if you zoom in closely, you might even see a few plants.
One of my first substantial gardens was an herb garden. I love the smell and ease of herbs and am fascinated at the many medicinal properties. That garden soon evolved to add a few flowers, that were also medicinal, then useful, and finally edible.
Being a practical person, today I like to grow things that are useful. Sometimes it’s food, sometimes it’s medicianl; I’ve even grown a small patch of flax for an unsuccessful attempt at making linen. In the end, I find herbs to be the workhorse of the garden. They are functional, useful and cheerful to my soul. Three snips from a blooming thyme plant, mixed with butter and spread on even store bought bread, makes me feel like the Julia Childs of my generation.
At Herban Renewal, we are in the very beginning of our first season of developing the gardens. The small urban lot is mostly taken up by the house in the center and giant varieties of hollies which take up most of the space. And while there is currently no dedicated herb garden yet, I find myself tucking herbs here and there, for their ability to repel bugs, thrive in a dry sunny spot, and mostly for their ability to make me smile when I brush by one.
Below are a couple of links for people’s ideas about herb gardens. Personally, I wonder how long some of these ideas can last after a photo shoot with tiny unglazed pots that would crack and dry up with a half of a August afternoon in these parts, but they are pretty and inspiring and maybe you’ll find an idea or two to build upon.
What is your favorite herb? How do you use it? I would love to know.
Herban Renewal is a micro intensive urban homestead. Although it is a stand alone facility, it is part of the larger structure of Mahala Love. Herban Renewal will be used as a teaching base and demonstration garden for Mahala Love, as well as serving to provide food and income for the family living onsite and a small community of people who visit.
Herban Renewal is three blocks outside the Central Business District in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. It is within walking distance of the local downtown shops, restaurants, and the seasonal farmers market. The south entrance is located on a broad main thoroughfare with on-street parking, and slow consistent traffic from locals.
The location is a typical urban corner lot with a house occupying the bulk of the center. Unique to the property are an enclosed large pool area with retractable roof panels, a west facing glassed in porch, a flat roof top porch, small concrete patio, and yard that has been divided into 7 separate areas based on environmental conditions or hardscape features.
A mobile “chicken tractor” houses the small flock of chickens with chicken tunnels to be implemented later in the season, The tunnels will allow chickens to have adequate leg room and more access to insects throughout the gardens. A test vermicompost structure is active housing 2000 red wigglers. A prototype aquaponics systems is housed in the enclosed pool area, consisting of 11 comet goldfish and a combination fill and drain and deep water culture bed. As the effectiveness of these is determined, more systems will be added.
Although we have no plans to obtain an organic certification, all methods will be organic. Permaculture and regenerative methodologies will be implemented with the goal to reduce inputs required each year. Inputs will be tracked and compared annually.
Products will consist of tangible and intangible products. Tangibles will include micro greens, salad foods, and eventually eggs, fruits, berries and hazelnuts. Value added products will include herbal vinegars, dried herbs, plants and more.
Intangible products will be online video classes, and on-site workshops. Formal consulting for MicroIntensive gardening startups will be available starting year 2 and informal knowledge sharing available always. A Community Supported Agriculture, (CSA) style package consisting of both tangible and intangible products will be offered starting Year 2.
Homestead skill classes will be offered at Herban Renewal. Courses such as herbal vinegars, hot sauces, medicinal tinctures, vermicompost, small scale aquaponics and more will be offered. Initially we will offer 1 course per month starting in July. If the Coronavirus continues to be an issue, courses will be offered online only. Some courses will be outsourced to bring in a deeper skill set, and others will be taught by Herban Renewal staff.
Beginning in Year 2, consulting will be offered for other start ups. Internships through Mahala Love will also begin in year 2. Travel-based project trips through Mahala Love, will use Herban Renewal as a training base. The income structure from this has yet to be determined.
Production and quality manuals will be created and used to provide reliable turn key systems as well as track product quality.
Year 1, 2020, April – June: Installment of permaculture plantings. Rose hedge, fruit trees, berries and bushes to be planted. Initial aquaponics system built, vermicompost box expanded, compost started. Overall design to be drafted. Business plan completed. Research possible Co-ops or other value added business models. Implement as many space intensive plantings as possible to tend. Make and sell sprouted bread, sourdough products and possibly micro greens and mushrooms.
June – August: Begin harvest. Schedule first two classes online. Begin to preserve food. Continue filming and creating manuals with all processes.
Fall: Continue monthly online classes. Harvest, preserve, expand, Put together CSA packages to start in February. Film, continue manuals, Rinse and Repeat.
Marketing will be determined as the business plan progresses. Initial year’s marketing will be word of mouth and social media advertising.