Sunday, August 31, 2014

Do the Y.E.R.T. (A Documentary Film Review)!

Image from

And now for something completely different…”  

We (well, just me, actually) interrupt our regularly scheduled Day by Day Homestead blogging schedule to bring you a movie review! 

This past week, I watched an excellent documentary called YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip.  The plot of the film is that a group of three young people (a married couple and one of their friends) travel on a trip across the United States in a hybrid car over the course of a year.  They take a peek at the general state of the environment in the U.S., as well as learn about many of the real solutions that folks are implementing to assist in bringing forth a brighter future for us all.

Along with their travels across the country, the group of three friends attempts to reduce their environmental footprint, including severely restricting the amount of waste that they produce by restricting themselves to one shoebox-sized box full of trash per person per month.  Not only that, but they have to store those boxes in the car with them as they travel, which results in using many innovative and environmentally friendly ways to reduce their waste. 

One of the moments in the film that really stuck out to me was when the travelers visited a site in the Appalachian Mountains where coal mining has been actively going on.  Although I had been previously aware of many of the negative environmental and health impacts of blowing off entire mountain tops to extract coal, this film visually captured what is going on in that region of the country and made it real to me.   This point about coal is particularly relevant to the majority of our lives in the United States since a great deal of our electricity is still produced from coal.

We hear about environmental problems and most of the time we acknowledge in our minds that they are bad, but it is often only until we see these things for ourselves by film or in person that we begin to make them something that we care about.  We are visual beings.  That is why I believe that film is such an important media in this age of global environmental crises.  For the first time in human history, the global environmental impacts of human actions can be brought right into our homes.  However, we must be careful not to become desensitized to these problems and put them into the same categories as any other “entertainment” that we so often feed our minds with.  Our choices are to ignore the problems, get depressed because we feel that we can’t do anything about them, or decide to take action and create positive changes in our own lives in whatever ways that we can as a result of what we have seen.  I’m for the latter as much as possible.

Watching this film has really solidified my concerns about coal (which is never truly clean, no matter what spin that public relations people might put on it), and it certainly makes me contemplate how we are quickly extracting these toxic resources for our energy needs, and how it really represents a momentary blip in the entire realm of human history.  This issue and many others like it are essentially very short term gains in exchange for long term health and environmental problems. There are far more superior and sustainable solutions to meet our energy needs, and we already have access to many of them right now.   

Permaculture is a great comprehensive design system that can help us to transition toward a better future, but there are also many other ways to create positive changes that will benefit everyone and our planet.  Although as a species we are fairly entrenched at present in our ideologies of what the “ideal” lifestyle is supposed to be, there are much better ways to live, and we can all come out in a far better place if we choose to.  We can collectively do this as a human race, and we can create a shift away from a society that is obsessed with constantly expanding and growing (i.e., a global culture that is constantly extracting non-renewable resources and throwing most of the things that we create “away” within six months) to a society of what many economists are now calling a “steady state economy,” and one that takes environmental and human impacts into account with how we live. 

Although this film shows many of the environmental problems going on in the United States, it also demonstrates many of the positive things that people are doing to help propel our society towards a more sustainable future.  I believe that this will happen more quickly as more of humanity begins to awaken to the fact that we live on a finite planet.   Having a great deal of the population reconnect with nature would help us value our dependence on nature as well.  

Oh, and one of my favorite parts of the film is when they interview my favorite farmer, Joel Salatin! 

I highly recommend watching this film if you have some free time.  I was able to watch it on Netflix, but here is a link on the film’s website about other ways to view it as well.

Here is a preview about the film from YouTube if you would like to learn more about it:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Pumpkin Growing Saga So Far

Dear Readers, the pumpkins in my garden are growing like crazy!  Visions of gluten-free pumpkin pie and other tasty goodies are dancing in my head… 

A few months ago, I planted some Sugar Pie Pumpkin seeds (Curcubita pepo) in the mulched soil of my garden and eagerly awaited the first signs of life to spring forth.  At the start, the plants seemed humble and unassuming as they sprouted from the ground, slowly at first.  Then before I knew it, the pumpkin vines began to grow rather aggressively and travel all over the place, as if they had a mind and a personality all their own.  There were even moments when I discovered a few pumpkin vine tendrils wrapped around other unsuspecting plants or structures, all seemingly within a single day (I swear to you that the plants in our gardens do crazy things when we’re not watching them J…). 

In an effort to “use the problem as the solution” as we say in permaculture, I began to direct the vines, tying them to the exterior of the fence around my garden.  This was an effort to give the vines a place to go, as well as to hopefully provide at least a rudimentary deterrent to the squirrels that have proven to be a menace in my garden this season.

While the prickly pumpkin vines have seemed to deter the squirrels at least a little, a few of the varmints have still gotten into the garden despite my efforts.  Thankfully, although they have continued to dig into the mulch from time to time, they have largely left the rest of my mature vegetable plants alone.

I recently came across a pumpkin-growing tip that recommends keeping your pumpkins directly off of the ground as they grow.  According to my research, the moist ground can potentially cause pumpkins to rot, so to prevent this, you can place materials like cardboard beneath them.  I’m unsure why using materials such as cardboard as a barrier is preferable to simply allowing the pumpkins to lay directly on the ground, since they can both become wet after a rain, but I decided to use the cardboard method.  So far, it seems to be working sufficiently, with my pumpkins thus far remaining safe and sound.

Pumpkins have admittedly been fun to grow, despite the vigorously growing vines that seem to take over wherever they grow.  For about a month now, I have been watching my “oldest” pumpkin grow ever larger on a daily basis.  Then one day about a week ago, it stopped growing and started turning orange.  Now I must wait a little while longer until it is fully ripe for the harvesting.

You never truly appreciate what it takes to grow something until you grow it yourself.  Once you grow something for the first time, you treasure and savor it because you have put forth your own resources, efforts and energy.  In the era of cheap and widely abundant food that we have been living in the U.S. for quite some time now, we have become ever disconnected from what it takes to grow our food, and we don’t appreciate these processes for the miracles of nature that they truly are.  In the coming age of natural resource scarcity and limitations that we seem to be entering, it is likely that many of us will once again discover these food cultivation processes that our ancestors knew so intimately.  We may as well have fun while we’re learning. 

One of the best things about this process of growing food is that we can literally taste the results of what we have worked so hard to produce.  My very first gluten-free pie made from pumpkins that I grew myself instead of pumpkins from a can will serve as my sweet reward. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Garden Video Tour!

Okay, so I’m just starting to get a little braver with my trusty handheld digital video camera, and I decided to show you a video tour of my garden.  I begin and end the tour talking about bees, but the bulk of both videos gives you an overview of what is growing in and around my garden right now.  Of course, a Day by Day Homesteading post wouldn’t really be a Day by Day Homesteading post without some philosophy thrown in as well :).

I hope that you enjoy these two videos.  I am working on becoming even braver and I hope to post many more videos on gardening and homesteading topics as time goes by. 

Have a very blessed week!  

Here is Part 1:

And here is Part 2: