Saturday started with a sprinkle of rain and thunder, then cleared up for a big turnout for our planned hoop house raising. Ten people came, friends, acquaintances and strangers (i.e., new friends) alike.

First up was dismantling the structure and moving it from the summer to the winter position.

Then everyone got to witness how fence piping is bent to form a hoop.  That’s the Lost Creek hoop bender.

Then they got to do it themselves. We ran into an issue with the pipe connections. They fit into each other and are held together by a self-drilling metal screw. All looked fine, until once installed over the rebar, 70% of these connectors did this:

No amount of extra bending could remedy this. No amount of hanging off them either:

Well, at least we know those ribs are sturdy! As the problem is not structural but a matter of sharp edges tearing the hoop house plastic, it was easily fixed by duct taping foam pipe  insulator  around them.

We talked about gardening, compost tea, bees and herbal medicine while sipping cold mint tea and oat straw infusion.  One  friends also gave us a fascinating primer about drip irrigation. Seeing all those parts and connectors and pumps lit up DH’s eyes! Mine too, since I don’t want to kill myself watering my garden this Summer.

Some left with a head or two of lettuce and the plans for their own barn raising. Some stayed on for an impromptu vegetarian grill dinner, a few items in which (lettuce, parsley) came straight from the garden.

A successful first barn raising and hopefully one of many to come in our community!

The day after that DH and finished off the structure by installing the plastic.  It is much tighter now, since the ribs are a little larger than the end walls – which hadn’t been the case with the pvc piping.  Since we used the clips again there is still the possibility of taking it apart and moving it. We’ll see over the summer if that’s what we want to, or if we want it there permanently. I really like the possibility of starting the winter harvest in outside beds while the tomatoes are still going strong inside the hoop house, and then moving the structure when the tomatoes are done and it gets colds enough for the winter harvest to need extra protection. Also, it would be another reasons for a bunch of friends to get together over meaningful work and homegrown food.

I gave the inside of the end walls a coat of exterior white to aid the reflection of the light. After being exposed to the snow and rain for months, they were pretty grubby and dark. It’s not the best paint job (should’ve done it before we put the cover on, then I wouldn’t have had to worry about getting pain on the plastic), but it’s not like anyone is going to live in there. I write that one downs as LAL – Live And Learn!

I also transplanted the 50 tomato plants, each with their own cut worm collar.  Took me four hours!

There is one bed left for lima and garbanzo beans.

Next time, join us!

The garden is about 90% planted.

peas and poles for the pole beans. compost in background

Today I sowed all the dry beans, green beans and pole beans – first year I’m growing these – and the squashes, zukes and cukes. Also watermelon, carrots and basil, and calendula, anise and chamomile (German), all from seed.

I have faith in a seed.

new bed in foreground (calendula, anise and chamomile), then parsley and basil, then broccoli and Brussels sprouts, lastly monster rhubarb.

Once my hoop house is moved, I’ll transplant  the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants and sow the lima and garbanzo beans (which like it hot).

seedlings

All the trees, bushes and live plants I put in at the beginning of April are doing fine, except for the Wild Ginger. The currants, gooseberries and strawberries that were planted last year are thriving. Not so the hazels, which got stripped in one day by the nasty caterpillars. I hope they come back (the hazels, not the caterpillars). And none of the asparagus ever came back: it seems like some critter ate the roots (which animal would eat those?).

new bed with medicinals

I harvested mint and it’s steeping. The kitchen smells divine. Also rhubarb. Those plants are monsters!

potatoes!

The hoop house is moving on Saturday. “Moving” is not the right word — being moved. Though the hoop house is movable because it’s modular, some of its pieces are darn heavy. DH and I moved it once, just the two of us, and we nearly broke our backs and our (t)rusty Radio Flyer.

celery, carrots, green beans, garlic, rhubarb

So I’m going to invite everyone I can think of who’s near and will call it a  barn raising!

In return for their help, I promise that “you’ll learn about hoop house construction, what to do and what not to do (yup, that too), what you can grow in it, and how these hoop benders work – and if you want one for yourself, use ours (it’s part of the tool pool). You’ll see what is growing in the garden, I can introduce you to the bees, and I hope you will take home a lettuce or two because we’re swimming in them. And when the time comes for you to do a barn raising, I’ll be there!”

It’s about time we started doing it like that!

Want to come? There will be lettuce and rhubarb…

{UPDATE} What happened?

This is an attempt to reboot my reporting.  I am discovering a lot about the world, others, and myself, at record speed. Gotta write it all down! And I’m going to need some new Categories. Here’s where the blog undergoes its next transformation.

~

In our town, where can a group of people go where they feel at home? Not just “welcome”, but at home. That is, where can they just show up on the spur of the moment, without having to “book” the place, pay a deposit or a fee, sign a disclaimer, or wait on a waiting list, and feel safe and comfortable?

The “community” or “meeting rooms” at the Town Building?  They cost money, they have gatekeepers, schedules, waiting lists. The library? The room is free, but for the rest it’s the same as with town buildings. The public parks come nearest,  but we’re really looking for a place that is warm and sheltered.

So much for the public spaces.

Religious places are private, and usually very welcoming to community gatherings, especially when they’re about Care for People and Care for the Earth. But cost or entry may depend on membership. Strapped for cash, they sometimes charge over $400 an hour if they believe yours is a “function”. Even if they charge a little just to cover the sexton’s efforts to clean up after you (a tip off, as we’ll soon see).

The only place in our town where we can drop in at a whim and make ourselves (relatively) comfortable is the local coffee shop, a Starbucks. Only during opening hours, of course, and it’s only polite to consume at least one cup of coffee, and not to bring your own.  When Starbucks is closed, or if the group is too large for the small space, the only place we can go is…. the mall in the next town over! Seriously, it’s where the Girl Scouts have to hang out: the mall, or Friendly’s, neither of which is within walking distance. These places are  commercial spaces and artificial, soul-sucking environments.

That Starbucks with its sit-down-have-one-drink-and-stay-as-long-as-you-like policy is so popular and public (free) libraries are so overbooked, illustrates the demand for, and the lack of, a common space in our town.

I see it as one of Transition Wayland’s projects to start a conversation about this, to poll the need for it and to find out, together, how we can make it happen.

One of the issues people bring up when I go off on a rant about common spaces is: who will take care of it?

I read somewhere that of all the kinds of spaces – public, private, commercial, common – it is the common space that is often the most cared-for. That’s because it’s where we make ourselves home, and we feel a fondness for it that demands that we keep it clean, much like our own houses. If a common space is well-defined, well-organized and well-loved, we won’t feel the need to delegate its care to the sexton, the barista, the anonymous cleaning crews at the mall or those who keep the Town Hall clean on our tax dollars – all paid people. It’s ours, we feel responsible for it, so we’ll take care of it for free.

As for rules? Some rules are necessary, of course, but they will flow from common decency and common sense. It is under those rules that everyone who enters and uses this space are equal. Indeed, common space may yet be the only space where equality is possible.

Who will pay for it? What about liability? Who will hold the key and is a key even necessary? All questions worth asking. So let’s ask them!

Does your town have a common space? Tell us about it!

The Wayland Training for Transition is over!

I admit I had underestimated the amount of work that goes into organizing it – and commensurately, the relief and gratitude one feels when it all ends well.

If you’re ever tempted to try it yourself and you’re like me (a total novice at this kind of thing), I can break it down to four big tasks: (1) finding the venue, (2) outreach, (3) feeding the participants, (4) breaking even.

The training – thank goodness - is taken care of by the trainer, and the trainees.

(1) Venue

A T4T s a weekend-long affair and the institutions most welcoming to open their doors to you are religious centers, which need their buildings on either Saturday or Sunday mornings for their services and socials afterwards.

The option of holding it on Saturday at a Church and Sunday at a Temple is very much in the Transition spirit of inclusion. But what with the Temples in Wayland having Sunday school (who knew), it didn’t work out for us in Wayland. We found our Sunday venue at an assisted and independent elderly living center, which welcomed us with open arms. Unfortunately, all the events for the residents of the center had to be moved and rescheduled.

I wasn’t attracted to the Town buildings: they are not very inviting and also expensive to rent. AT4T budget bursts at the seams if the venue cost runs over $100.

My difficulty in finding a venue and the fact that the library’s community room is booked months ahead reveal a weak spot in Wayland’s community service: there is no inviting, accessible, free common room. This gets me off on my usual rant about the lack of the commons in this country, which I will leave for a later date. Needless to say: it’s a problem the Wayland community struggles with (Girl Scouts for instance hold their get togethers at the mall for lack of a good common space!) and one that Transition Wayland should address.

(2) Outreach

We threw this together in one month: one month from conception to execution. Don’t do this! Give yourself more time.

First you let your nearest and dearest know, your own Transition initiative and groups, then the religious institutions and other groups in your town and neighboring towns. Do this preferably by telephone, not by email. A month is too short for all that. Churches and libraries, for instance, wanted to put notices in their newsletters, but these are monthly and we had missed the relevant mailing.  Tracking down and calling all those people, while great for community outreach in general and a fantastic opportunity to introduce yourself, takes lots of time and energy.

After this inner and second circle you hit the listservs and meetup groups and ning sites, because you want to attract people from all over the region. But there is no real centralized list out there, and though many people want to help with dissemination, it soon gets out of your control and you end up duplicating contacts and skipping gaps. If you have more time, you can strategize better.

Not the least problem with such short notice is that those who would love to come to a training are also taken unawares: it’s not easy for people nowadays to clear an entire weekend.

(3) Food

I was concerned about the food because I have never cooked or provided food for so many people for breakfast, lunch and snacks for two days. So I was very grateful when I mentioned this to my fellow-organizer from Arlington and she said: Oh, that’s what I do! Turns out she is used to cooking and planning meals for 40 people, and she took up that side of the challenge. Another case of “whoever comes, is the right person”!

You can spend a lot on food, or a little and still have two great lunches, a decent breakfast and healthy snacks.

In the spirit of Transition we go for local, organic, simple and healthy. In our case, most of the veggies (mache, claytonia, and winter lettuce) came straight from my garden, one mile from the venue and eaten within an hour from harvest!  We don’t serve juices because of the packaging, so drinks were teas, coffee and water and BYO, in BYO mugs. We served on recycled and reusable plastic plates, with my own stainless steel cutlery, and I brought cloth napkins in paper rings that everyone put their names on so they could reuse it the next day.

Our Sunday venue had no kitchen or even sink, so that took some organizing, but my house was a two-minute drive and I popped out to do some harvesting and heating up and we were good. Don’t let the absence of a kitchen disqualify a venue!

If you have more time, you can ask places like Whole Foods to donate some of the food, in which case you can considerably lower the cost and fee.

Food is also the area where you have the most leeway. Watch those receipts!

(4) Breaking even

I felt this to be my greatest responsibility, to find the lowest price possible for participants, with enough for scholarships, while also covering all the costs and the trainer’s fee. My goal was to break even and to give what little profit to a charity. Transition and grassroots, in my eyes, are not for profit, volunteer, and shoestring.

We broke just about even with 13 participants at $180 full fee and a good amount of $120 scholarships. When it looked like we wouldn’t make it, our trainer generously suggested she  forego some of her fee, but I didn’t feel that was right,  because she works her heart and soul out for two days, and deserves that income.

If you have more time, you can organize donations and sponsorships. Your participants too can organize sponsors for themselves.

~

I loved being at the training, and think everyone who participated had fun too and came away with a good foundation in the Transition model and a good idea of what to do in their own town.

What’s next? Onwards, together!

I can’t believe I finally found a moment to sit down and write about this. What a whirlwind it has been, and still is.

As you all know, I decided in November of last year that I would try to get Transition going in my hometown. Usually a Transition Initiative starts with a group of friends and neighbors, but as I knew no one in Wayland interested in peak oil, climate change, etc. (yet), I cut the knot and decided to start it by myself. My first step was to call the library and book the meeting room there. I left the date of the “launch” up to the librarian. Turned out that the soonest month when I could have the room three times was April.

April, have you noticed, has come and gone.

I went all out publicizing these events. I wrote to all the newspapers in town, the student press, the enewsletter, the library newsletter. Some were very welcoming. The Wayland Patch published a Q&A with me the day before the first event, and Wayland-e-news too did a great job spreading the word. I also sent out a notice via the Wayland Freecycle Network. I put up posters all over my town. I set up a website. Via via, I connected with several groups already doing the good work: a group trying to get the town to buy land for a Community Farm, a group redesigning a popular park and playground (more on that later), and of course I spoke of Transition to my own Green Team.

It was very strange for a while there, speaking in the royal plural. “We, Transition Wayland”. It wasn’t disingenuous, just a reflection of my hope for the future and also a way for me to project more confidence. Someone, seeing all that was happening, commented what a vibrant group I had.

M-hm.

(Smile.)

Event 1. The first public event was a talk by Transition Trainer Tina Clarke, who introduced the Transition model. We had nine people (including Tina, a Transition and gardening friend, and myself). Someone commiserated on the low turnout (a combination of first beautiful Spring day, Civics Bee and Town Meeting). But there’s this saying in Transition:

Whoever comes are the right people.

Yeah, right!

But wow, is it ever true!

We had a fantastic discussion after the talk, and it turned out that one of the nine works internationally with climate refugees, and so does her husband, to whom she introduced me later. These two charismatic and passionate experts both unreservedly joined the initiating group. Present was also a chaplain in a large hospital, who is most interested in the Hearts part of Transition. Again I couldn’t  believe our luck. The Hearts part, which deals with fear and despair and hope, is often the trickiest to navigate, and here we had another expert. Then there were also a gardener and homesteader, and another community organizer, both of whom will be weaving in and out.

Event 2. The second event was a booth at the Wayland Earth Day event. I don’t know how many people I reached through that, but it was great fun, and the first time it wasn’t just me.

Event 3. Then came what some might call the low point so far: the discussion of Bill McKibben’s Eaarth. Again, it was a beautiful Spring evening, and again Town Meeting interfered. Two people showed up.

Two.

But again it happened.

One of them is a successful journalist who has interviewed Bill McKibben on many occasions and who just started writing a book about his own awakening to these issues. Listening to him talk about what a coincidence it was that I was starting Transition right around the same time that he is embarking on his own project, was a marvel. This incredibly well-spoken and informed writer is now a fellow initiator.

Event 4. The next event was a meeting of that group. The writer brought his wife (also  a weaver who needs some time to think about it), and I had invited a fellow Green Team member (another weaver – I do love the weavers, they make the fabric of the group so much more resilient and refresh it constantly). That made eight of us, spending a wonderful evening getting to know each other, discussing what we expect from Transition, from our Town.

At the end of the evening I walked out as on a cloud.

Event 5. Next, and last, was a talk by Donna Kramer Merritt (trained by Al Gore and a fellow community organizer in nearby Framingham) on Climate Change. This time there were ten of us, including J., P., W., and myself. Of the newcomers, I think two are sure to become engaged. After Donna’s presentation we talked, deeply, passionately, about Climate Change, about Al Gore, and (believe it or not) Martha Stewart, and about Transition Wayland.

The librarian had to kick us out because the building was closing.

Event 6. That was the last event I had organized as part of the big April push. But we had the group and the momentum. We met again shortly after, at the showing of the movie Climate Refugees in Concord, where we made more connections.

Together.

I am now part of a Together that is Transition Wayland, the beginning of hope for me.  At first it was just me and my terrible seesaw of joy (when I had just seen someone’s eyes light up as I spoke of Transition) and futility (what was that, anyway, just one person among 13,500 in my town, and billions in the world). Now I look around me and see all these incredibly engaged people who hold the same hope as I do.

And it is all balanced out.

Next up!

  1. First, another initiating group meeting to  discuss our next actions – possibly show several short movies on Climate Change and Climate Refugees, followed by a discussion, and something to do with bees (BEEwareness).
  2. Right after that  there will be a walk in Wayland’s beautiful nature, where K. will help us find the Sacred in Nature.
  3. That same day there will be a meeting of the Transition Game group – this was J. and P.’s brilliant idea: to design a social impact game.
  4. And the day after that we’ll go en masse to hear Richard Heinberg speak in Jamaica Plain.
  5. And on 21-22 May we host a Training for Transition, here, in Wayland!

I hope to see you at any or all of these events!

Kaat, only one of the Initiators of Transition Wayland.

{UPDATE: Transition US picked up on this story and put it on their website!}

Click for larger

A lot has happened in the garden. The trees are gone and there is more sunlight all around. I’ve planted 2 blackberries, 3 elderberries, 50 strawberries, 4 rosas, 2 hazels, 2 serviceberries, 1 jostaberry, 2 peashrubs, 4 muntead lavender, 8 grapes, 4 wormwoods and 1 witchhazel. I’ve put in 90% of my veggie transplants, now it’s just the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. I’ve filled three beds with potatoes. I’m also filling up the herb bed up front with interesting medicinal herbs. I’m fixing the fence around the veg garden and making trellises. I’m predicting a hot and dry summer, so I’ve also been mulching, mulching, mulching.

A lot of the new activity happens down the hill, near the street. Neighbors drive by and slow down, as they usually do (sometimes to wave, sometimes to ponder me doing my bee hive dance), but now they stop and roll down the window and chat. Many are asking why we took down the trees, and I’m sure we’ll have more enthusiasts coming by once the solar PV comes up. They ask what bushes I am planting (down here? Elderberry, jostaberry, serviceberry,witch hazel, all of which like it moist) and what mulch I’m using (first, a top dressing of compost, then a thick band of shredded leaf mulch. I like it, chatting with the neighbors about the garden, the food. I sincerely hope we can get that bottom area done this Summer.

That brings us to the still to do’s, some big, some bigger:

  1. receive and plant sweet potatoes and sunchokes, for which latter I need to dig and make a raised bed. The former go into containers, which I plan to put up so the vines can trail down.
  2. move and fix hoophouse, plant peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants in it.
  3. dig trench for roof-runoff into pond, dig and plant pond.
  4. terrace the slope path up front (too much erosion, grass seed washes away.
  5. tackle front garden: raised beds with flowers, perennials, more bushes, paths with grass, central area for meeting.
  6. install drip irrigation in veg garden.
  7. as soon as the pile of wood is sawed up, split and stacked, the whole area called “woods” next to the driveway opens up for more bushes and dwarf fruit trees. First up: work on soil there.
  8. saw up, split and stack that pile of wood.
  9. solar PV installation (still waiting for the go-ahead from the state).
  10. and, if there is money and energy left, get those chickens!

I got an email Sunday morning from a fellow beekeeper, letting me know his colony swarmed and would I like the swarm? Unfortunately I read the email too late, and by the time I called him someone else was already collecting the swarm. Bummer! But wow, was there ever excitement!

In any case, I called the collector to see if he wanter to sell it. A swarm like that is worth at least $50 – especially in a time when no more  packages are available. Again my call came too late: he had already installed it in his hive. But he did advise me to look again, and if it was clear there was a laying worker, I should still try to get a new queen  ($15) and see what happens.

So I went in again. Again I spotted the cells with several eggs, but also more capped brood, and not all of it drone brood! The cells for drones need to be larger, so the caps will bulge out more than the do for workers. The bees would not mistake a fertilized or female (worker) egg for a drone egg, so I was fairly certain there were fertilized eggs in there. And to confirm my hopeful suspicion, who comes crawling around the corner of the frame?

The old queen. The blue dot on her back is entirely faded, but I spotted her by her different color (she is browner, less hairy, shinier) and longer abdomen.

So… maybe there’s something wrong with her, but in that case the bees will take care of it. They’ll turn a female egg into a queen. I’ll keep an eye on queen cells, the old queen and her laying pattern. But for now… a big sigh of relief.

And in the meantime, more and more of our food is coming straight from the garden. Here are some raw materials: leeks and kale, and mache and claytonia for the salad.