Sometimes the fight comes to the warrior

there-is-a-saying-in-the-islands-beware-the-women-of-the-warrior-class-for-all-they-touch-is-both-decorative-and-deadly-yukiThis past week has been a bit rough. #LifewithAutism has been particularly bad thanks to a flu bug and a legal system bent on treating an individual with pervasive developmental delay as a common criminal. Work has been stressful because of misunderstandings for a big project that is now overdue — but I can’t make others do their part of the project. But, more stressful has been the fact that my father has been in the hospital. Now granted every day my Pops is still breathing is a miracle. He’s been battling Pancreatic Cancer since 2009. The doctors marvel at his sheer unwillingness to succumb to the disease even after a near 17 surgeries and treatments.  His family, understands that he is too cantankerous to go without a fight. It’s been a great lesson in learning from where I get my own personal strength.

Last summer Pops was in remission, but Pancreatic Cancer is a fierce villain. The villain appeared back at the beginning of the spring and my dad had to undergo two rounds of chemo and then a surgery to remove the latest tumorous growth the cancer deposited on the back of his liver.  In post-surgery recovery, Pops wasn’t feeling so good. He’s not the best patient, which also teaches me why I am not the best patient when it comes to intensive medical treatment, so he thought he was just toughing out something typical for a post-massive surgery. Sunday night he was medivac’d to the University of Michigan hospital. Infection is always a concern when you have surgery, and this was the case here. For 24-hours it looked like cancer might win. Well, the ornery ol’ Polack is still with us, thank goodness for antibiotics and prayers and dancing naked in the moonlight. Once healthy, he’ll need to do another round of chemo, to make sure that bitch cancer stays down. Again with the help of modern medicine, prayers, and more naked moonlight dancing, he’ll come out on the other end ready to do more camping, fishing, and duck hunting.

I dealt with the stress much like I often do – creating, including canning, painting, and stress cleaning.

Now as Pops goes through a long-term antibiotic treatment as an outpatient, it’s clear to me that this week’s stress and lessons were trying to answer a question I had about continuing to fight in some of the long-term battles I have — my writing life, #LifewithAutism, and my own health. The answer is yes. You keep fighting. Whether it’s cancer proper or the cancer of continual problems, you don on your armor and you swing the sword to kill that enemy.

Dad didn’t stop fighting. I won’t either. How about you?

Water, Farming, and the New Normal

waterBack in the early ‘90s I lived in Wyoming. Having grown up in the Great Lakes region, and living in Hawaii before Wyoming, I never thought about fresh water or this odd thing called water rights. Water rights and Wyoming was a great education in the pre-cursor to climate change.

 

I was flabbergasted at the news headlines in Wyoming regarding shotguns and ranchers and a whole Hatfield and McCoys rivalry over water. You can search any day on any of the Western Mountain state major newspapers and there will be a story about water rights contention. Since that time, I’ve had a whole new viewpoint about water, land, and consumption.

 

http://www.ecy.wa.gov/drought/

http://www.ecy.wa.gov/drought/

Now I live in Western Washington, another place where typically rainwater, snowpack melt, and fresh water are not an issue. Admit it, if you’re reading this and live outside of the Greater Seattle area, you think all it does is rain in Seattle 24-7. The truth is not so exaggerated. But normally I only have to worry about watering my farm in the month of August. Normally being the key word. This summer has reminded me of living in Southern California rather than the temperate rainforest of Western Washington. We have had record high temperatures and in May our governor declared the state in a drought. This on the hills of William Shatner declaring there should be a pipeline from Seattle to Los Angeles. Get a clue, Bill.

 

In all my years gardening, microfarming, and urban homesteading, I’ve never had to water things so much, especially in June. The rain barrels are long empty and I am so judicious with my application and look for every opportunity to gather grey water, too. I’ve harvested zucchini and cucumbers already. In June! Historically we’re just getting the first of our warm weather around the 4th of July weekend. Instead I spend part of the day playing the “keep the house cool game.” See, many of us in the Paific Northwest normally don’t have central air in our buildings and homes here – it doesn’t stay hot for this long – at least not the kind of warm that is sustained. Also, when it does get warm, it dips down to good sleeping weather at night. Last night? Only got down to 72 degrees outside, which for our acclimatization is hot. My own well-insulated home only got down to 71 degrees, but not until nearly 0400 hrs. Not really good sleeping weather. We’re all a bunch of heatwave zombies right now.

 

In the decade I've lived in the Cascade Foothills, I've never seen the fire danger so high.

In the decade I’ve lived in the Cascade Foothills, I’ve never seen the fire danger so high.

Additionally, much of the landscape around me is burning. Lack of rain means the threat of fire is at an all-time high. As I type this, firefighters are putting out brush fires in multiple locations within 25-square miles from me. More than 5,000 acres have burned in Eastern Washington and many homes have been lost. In Alaska, which is also suffering record-breaking temperatures, more than one million acres has erupted in fires.

 

I’ve been posting photos every day of our ridiculous high temperatures with the hashtag #climatechangeisscary. It is scary, folks. There’s nothing more evident that we are in climate change when considering that the temperate rainforest is now semi-arid, much like our Southern California neighbors, or even our Eastern Washington friends. This fall we’ll be installing more rain barrels. We’ll be looking at exactly how to get ALL our gray water.

 

11720347_10207184201505701_958244707_oThen there’s the matter of water rights. It’s unclear regarding my property– just like many places in the U.S.A. But, you better believe my mind is going there, as are my energies. Because it seems this is the new normal.

 

These high temperatures and lack of rain also bring with it a host of new problems for those of us trying to live self-sufficiently – the droughts and wildfires as we’ve discussed already, algae bloom in our ponds and lakes, different pests, more disease for humans, livestock, and wildlife, as well as the economic losses that go with it.

 

We can’t live without fresh water. We can’t grow crops without water. Therefore, I’m looking to the future with more thoughts of water conservation, even more sustainable agriculture, and as much off-the-grid living as possible.

 

This week I was inspired by the story of these folks, The Dervaes Family, down in California. May we all be so smart and energetic in our efforts to live in more harmony with the planet. Otherwise, I fear it will all go up in smoke. Clearly, we all, myself included, have work to do.

I long to see the green again in my community.

I long to see the green again in my community.

 

Arms to Plowshare: The Roman Ideal of Citizen-Soldier-Farmer right here in Twin Peaks

 

The Thrasher Micro Farm on the cusp between June and July tended by an Old Soldier.

The Thrasher Micro Farm on the cusp between June and July tended by an Old Soldier.

The change from soldier to (urban/micro) farmer happened organically for me – no pun intended. I can look at my childhood and point to this gardener and that gardener that influenced my upbringing – mother, grandparents, neighbors, and friends of the family. I knew the taste of fresh tomato sandwiches in summer, the incredible sweetness of peppers from the land, and how strawberries mixed with fresh spinach from the raised beds were some of the best summer salads ever. Even as a soldier, I would have little mini gardens – a tomato plant, a jalapeno plant, maybe a strawberry plant. (I’m still angry that someone threw my pot of herbs off the barracks roof in Germany.) Once on patrol in Iraq we gave seeds to the citizens there and it’s some of my fondest memories.

As a soldier, especially during my reserve time, the idea of Citizen Soldier was very strong. The military functioned by its support by citizens and its citizens created the force. Many would argue, including myself that the all-volunteer force has eliminated the connection between military service and citizenship; but, the culture and rhetoric for it is still strong within the U.S. military.

Image by Jeffery Harbin.

Image by Jeffery Harbin.

The message driven into the servicemembers head daily is that you are a true patriot if you serve and forever have that moniker even when you transition from soldier back to citizen. When I hung up my combat boots and my government spokesperson flag pin, getting back to being just a civilian was hard. However, my desire to grow things was still strong. I started again with just an herb garden. Then there were the raised beds. Then we dug up the whole front lawn, added chickens and ducks, now there’s honey bees and fruit trees. Things are growing away.

 

Romantis: The ideal of the citizen, soldier, farmer.

Romantis: The ideal of the citizen, soldier, farmer.

Right about the time we expanded our growing space(s) at the homestead we purchased in Twin Peaks, I came across an ideal I hadn’t thought about since high school world history class:  Romantis. This was the ideal of citizen-soldier-farmer. Much like the ideals our rebellious founders embraced, Rome had a militia-type defense-force which could be called up in time of war and then disbanded during peacetime. This citizen/soldier/farmer ideal is exampled by Roman citizen, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus – Rome’s George Washington, if you will. Per Roman legend, Cincinnatus was tending his farm when a messenger arrived, telling him that Rome was under attack and that he had been elected leader. He was at first reluctant to go, but the Senate pleaded with him. He defeated the enemy tribe within a matter of weeks and, despite the remaining most of his six-month term as leader with absolute power, returned to his farm.

 

It all started with an herb bed outside the kitchen window.

It all started with an herb bed outside the kitchen window.

I would argue that once you taste combat, once you see the truthful ugly violence that is war (not this Hollywood  crap wrapped in a flag), being left to exist simply, grow food ,and be around those you love is all you ever long for the rest of your life. It certainly is true for me, and I’m finding I’m not alone.

 

Many of the vendors at my local farmer markets are also veterans. You begin to know the look of someone who has done time as a sister or brother in arms. Sometimes we talk about our service time; most times we’re talking about the lack of or too much rain or the best way to keep pests away (or main enemy combatant in our growing farming civilian life), or…you know, farming topics. Holding up our plowshares is how we serve now. There’s a peace in working the land you find nowhere else following your service time, especially if you’ve been under fire.

 

bd2eb99340ec84e2d663289aa72bb03cAs I have been working more and more with veterans to do writing as healing, is another place that I’m finding that many of us Vets have moved from combat boots to farming mucks. There are a variety of organizations that have the mission of exposing vets to the farming life – urban, micro, or big time. Such programs include:  Farmer to Vet CoalitionBeginning Farmers, and Veteran Farmers Project. Also, many states have local organizations encouraging urban farming, aiming their lenses at vets and youth, like here in Washington there is Ground Operations, which focuses on taking soldiers from the battlefield to the farmfield.

 

Many of my fellow Vets-to-Farmers got into it more organically much like myself; however, for those organizations helping others to find the peace of working the land, I’m boosting the signal so others can see their good work and support it, or use it, as they can and need.

 

Happy Farming!

When life throws tomatoes at you

Hello Fiction Farm fans.

I have been very absent.

Busy.

But absent.

Not absent in my life, but absent from here.

I am missing the interaction here and the outlet.

So here’s a brief update:

11642116_10207033045726901_1867241211_oThe farm is flourishing well, everything is planted and the fight against pest and disease is ever-constant.

We’re fighting new development surrounding us.

The old duck – new duck integration has been painful. Ol’ one-eyed Joe just wants everyone off his lawn.

I had a sick chicken, Spock. She is doing well now.

My dad still has cancer and he’s still fighting it. More chemo, more surgery. More worry.

My children have challenges that continue to push my creative problem solving. #LifewithAutism not withstanding.

Thrasher Hive #1 as of June 1, 2015.

Thrasher Hive #1 as of June 1, 2015.

The bees are about to get a third brood box and honey super. Although, I’d like to move their location (this is a difficult task and may risk their happiness, so won’t happen just yet).

My Work In Progress is moving forward albeit slowly because I still need to do other editorial work to pay the bills. As usual, fiction farming is feast or famine.

I have good news coming, but I can’t say anything about it… yet. The waiting is painful.

The news headlines make me miserable. Why as a nation are we still so ignorant?

Tomatoes.

Life has been throwing many tomatoes at me.

I continue to try making sauce, salsa, or reduction sauce with it.

So, what’s new with you?

Bees: The Micro Farm Gets Its Own Pollinators

The author in her beekeeping veil.

The author in her beekeeping veil.

I mentioned last year that getting bees was going to be a priority for the 2015 growing season. And we did. I’ve been a bad blogger and haven’t shared it with you and for that I apologize. But, it’s just been so dang BZZZZ-eeE here. With the new chicks and ducklings and baseball season and growing season and well, yeah, I’m taking a class and writing a book. See? Swamped.

In February we invested in the infrastructure for native Mason bees and those started out in March gang busters. In fact, as of today, our Mason bee house’s little tubes are almost full. That means our fruit trees and blueberry bushes and early strawberries will have pollinators next year. So excited.

Mason Bee house. Mason Bees are very low-maintenance native bees for Western Washington.

Mason Bee house. Mason Bees are very low-maintenance native bees for Western Washington.

Honeybees were also added on April 17 and as of this past weekend, we added a second brood box. In a few weeks we’ll finally have our honey super and the road to home-harvested honey will not be far off. I’ve been stung twice. So has the Chief Engineer. Nothing like I remember as a kid. Fairly mild.

We still need to mark our queen and we hope to do that soon. We’ve attempted twice and to no luck. We are novices after all.

However, on any given day if you look around our property you can see the honey bees flying around and landing on the lavender and roses and daisies and hopefully soon the tomatoes and squash.

You have to register your hive here in Washington and King County. We are registered.

You have to register your hive here in Washington and King County. We are registered.

The way this hive is going we’ll need to split it by fall, which is an incredible thing. It makes me smile to think about the honey and all the good we’re doing to increase the honeybee population and have pollinators on hand for our Grow Foods, Not Lawns efforts.

Beekeeping can be kind of technical and mysterious and there’s lots to consider. I’m not sure where to start to share with you. So if you have specific questions about it, please comment below and I’ll answer them and maybe even do further blog posts on it.

Thrasher Hive #1 as of June 1, 2015.

Thrasher Hive #1 as of June 1, 2015.