A Life Transformed – Part 2

Part II: Dreams

            My summer in the garden changed my vision for my future almost entirely. Things about which I had rarely thought suddenly became central to my idea of happiness. Food was one of those. Being blessed with the opportunity to eat so much whole, real, home-grown food has deeply convinced me of its importance. In just the past few years since we moved here, my family has developed a simple, but unique food culture that gives me a physical, tangible connection to this place as I move on to college and other chapters of my life. I’ve even told my parents that for my graduation present the only thing I want is a supply of our home-canned vegetable soup mix, salsa, Mom’s apple sauce, and, of course, green beans. My everyday breakfast of homemade yogurt and the delicious mainstay of homemade bread with homemade strawberry jam are traditions I plan to carry on. I’ve learned here how powerful food, especially whole, healthy, real food, can be to bring families and communities together.

            Now, when I look at my family’s garden, I see a great deal more than plants that give me nourishment. I see a visual representation of my connection to my family and to this place and of my own personal growth. I see a teacher that has many more lessons for me, lessons about simplicity, gratitude, humility, discipline, perseverance, respect, inner peace, the importance of connections, gentleness, caring, observation, hard work, independence, and love. I truly believe that, as Masanobu Fukuoka teaches, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation of human beings.” Growing food is about growing yourself.

            But most exciting, when I look at my garden I see my dreams for the future connections I hope to share between myself, the land, and my own family. When I look at the corn field I can hear the taps of my toddlers’ feet and the excited squeals of their game of “peek-a-boo” between the stalks. I can imagine their dad calling them over to help him stuff one of his old shirts for a scarecrow and a precocious 3-year-old telling them they’re doing it wrong. I can see myself buried in a mass of green bean vines until I feel a tap on my shoulder; my little son’s face is glowing with pride at the huge carrot he has just picked. I look now at the tiny fruit trees we planted a year ago and imagine them tall and strong enough to hold little climbers eager for the first ripe apple of the season.

My glimpses have spilled over from the garden spot to encompass all of our land. I envision a driveway lined completely with blueberries and raspberries, flowerbeds filled with sweet potatoes in front of the porch. The house itself is very small, but always warm and filled with light and laughter and people rushing in and out. I can feel the rush of summer air as someone opens the back door to bring in another basket of green beans to snap. “Grandma” is taking a batch of her famous whole wheat bread out of the oven (the smell is to die for) and “Grandpa” is sitting in an armchair serenading us with his saxophone. Someone hops on the piano bench and it becomes a regular jam session. It’s harvest time, and there are tables set up everywhere for slicing cucumbers and peeling peaches. My brother and his wife are there canning their peaches and pickles with us. More probably gets eaten than goes into the bottles, but there’s more than plenty. With all of the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, there are several conversations going on at once. The floor is kind of sticky in spots from where someone has absent mindedly knocked over the syrup for canning peaches. In the evening everyone helps clean up the kitchen and take dinner out to the back porch, where we sit until sunset.

            In my dream all of the people who mean most to me share my love for and connection to the land on which we live. I’m able to instill the importance of that connection in my children, and our whole family grows together through our experiences in the garden. It’s an important bond that we share and the memories of our summers together shape us all and keep us coming home, no matter what other far-ranging adventures life may have in store for us. We are made of this place. The very food we eat is made of the love we put into the garden. The garden is a place of Renewal from life’s stresses and hardships, Freedom from the pressures of the world, a Place to call home, a Refuge from pain, the Memory of golden days, the Peace of silence, the laughter of a Community, the promise of Justice, and the Transformation of the soul.

Prepper’s Top Ten Necessities for Life in Troubled Times

  1. Relationships: Positive, mutually supportive with capable, skilled people
  2. Spiritual & Mental Health: The foundation for all positive action.
  3. Physical Health: Sustainable, natural health care to supplement a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Water: Reliable, secure source of pure water
  5. Food: Natural food from a source you trust and control (yourself)
  6. Shelter: An energy efficient dwelling
  7. Energy: Redundant, reliable, private sources of storable energy.
  8. Reserve: Store and rotate a backup supply of everything you use (water, food, medicine, tools, fuel, clothing & other consumables)
  9. Trade: Prepare to trade for everything else (Cash, Non-Depreciating Assets, Barter-Valuable Supplies, Practical, marketable Skills)
  10. Knowledge & Skills: True self-sufficiency comes from experience – knowing how to do it yourself.

Take a good look at this list.  If this were a report card, what would your grade be on each of these important subjects? For the past 50 years, the developed world has lived in a pampered, complex, yet socially dysfunctional style that values:

  • Entertainment & Entitlement over productive Work
  • Self-Indulgence over Selfless Service
  • Pleasure over Moral Integrity
  • Intellectual Prowess over Practical Skills
  • Dependence on complex systems over Independent Self-Sufficiency
  • Conspicuous Consumption over Provident Preparation.

Is it any surprise that most people lack the skills, preparation, and resources to confidently face a troubled future? Is it any wonder that people feel helpless and out of control? Is there any way you can become confidently competent and provisioned for these ten essential items all by yourself? It’s a daunting task.  But, with help, you CAN do it.

That’s why relationships are at the top of the list. That’s why we are building a community of self-sufficient people at the beautiful Village on Sewanee Creek. If your values are the inverse of the above list, If you want to become more confident, more self-sufficient, and more at peace with your neighbors and in harmony with nature, If you desire close, trusting relationships in a like-minded community, but aren’t ready for a religious or hippie commune, give us a call.

We have fun learning from each other

At the Village, we encourage intelligent, open interaction about things that matter in life.  We encourage a diversity of opinions, seasoned with a good measure of humility as we seek to learn from one another.  We have a private website called “friends of Sewanee Creek”  where Villagers, prospective villagers and other like-minded people exchange information on many topics and build relationships.  Here is a sampling of a recent exchange.
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Study Links GM Corn to Organ Damage
Not to jump on the food scare band wagon, but I coincidentally just ran across this article. It says studies are now linking Monsanto genetically modified corn to organ damage in rats (liver, kidney, heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells).
Naturally, Monsanto claims the studies are bogus. Given the pervasive use of GM seeds in the US, I suspect it will be a long time before conclusive evidence comes to light or anything major is done about it. I’m thinking how long did it take for tobacco usage to be effectively challenged?
Read the article in Food Safety News at http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/01/study-links-gm-corn-to-organ-damage/?CFID=1479691&CFTOKEN=49241182

Digging a little deeper on this site I also found an article reporting that Monsanto has withdrawn its application for approval of GM corn in Europe. http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2009/11/gm-corn-pulled-due-to-food-safety-concerns/

Right now I’m feeling good that we drink 100% chemical free water from the sky and have a freezer full of home grown GMO free corn.


Added By:   Grant Miller On Mon, 01/25/2010 04:49:23 am

Villager 1 – 01/25/2010 08:22:54 am
While I wouldn’t doubt that GM foods have their own problems, I also believe that humanity in general has chosen to go down food paths that are not appropriate to our body chemistry for millenia now.
In fact, all grains (corn, wheat, etc.) cause mild to severe inflammation in the bodies of ALL people. In other words, our bodies are not intended to consume grains in large quantities, let alone as dietary staples. In fact, there is a growing consensus that a grain based diet is the leading culprit behind heart disease and several common cancers.
This problem is magnified by various myths propagated within our culture. The idea that all fats are bad. The idea that body fat is caused by consuming animal fats. The idea that a vegetarian diet (which almost always includes grains) is healthier than a more primitive meat and *true* vegetable diet.
At the end of the day, once a society has sacrificed its allegiances to the alter of convenience and cheapness, its food supply is going to go to hell. GM foods are just one step along the path of a food supply that’s divorced from a natural and optimized state.

Grant Miller – 01/26/2010 11:03:22 am
Politics and Religion are the taboo subjects we are warned never to discuss openly. Ahhh, but then there’s food. Nothing strikes closer to the stomach or the taste buds.  So, I thought I would have a little fun with this one. Here’s my best shot for now.
I think it would be fun to hear your ideas about food in the form of a fun limerick.

“We are what we eat” they all say
and make such political hay.
We debate about diet
till we wish they’d be quiet
and leave us quite out of the fray

Some choose to only have meat
While others claim life’s staff is wheat.
Empty carbs make me draggy
my spare tire gets saggy
but then, without bread where will I put my butter?!!!

Now meat, when taken to excess
puts my bowels in utter distress
A constipated grouch,
I lie on the couch
But good meat is simply the best!

No dairy? that’s out of my loop
Ice Cream’s my favorite food group
But milk makes me swollen
down deep in my colon
with gas, but I’ll have one more scoop!

Then come the social elite
when choosing a diet to eat,
say, “let them eat cake”
Oh!, goodness sake
Few things are as good as a sweet.

Others say fruits, nuts and sprouts
will make you most healthy, no doubt
But, Some get quite edgy
while touting their veggies
and leaving the meats fully out

And when it comes down to fat,
I’ll testify, “that’s where it’s at.”
For if you want flavors
that everyone savors
Nothing even comes close to that.

But, as for me and my house,
we mostly just try not to grouse
at the food placed before us
cause Dad always warned us
to clean up our plates or get out.

So, after it’s all said and done
There are few foods I’m likely to shun.
Without rhyme or reason
In any old season,
Moderation is rule number one.

Except for Ice Cream, Butter, fat of all kinds, fresh home baked bread, fresh strawberries or raspberries or peaches right out of the garden, a thick, juicy grilled steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, buttered yams with brown sugar and pecans, corn pudding, fresh steamed, buttered broccoli or pretty much anything that makes my mouth feel exquisitely happy and reveals no immediately discernable cataclysmic side effects.       smile

Villager #2 – 01/26/2010 09:14:04 pm
..Love your poem, Grant. Right on!!

Friend #1 – 01/26/2010 10:13:03 pm
I am no expert, but I think we need to remember that almost all the food we eat today has been “genetically modified” in some way. Even non-hybrid seeds are the result of centuries of genetically crossing to emphasize desirable characteristics. One can argue that this is different than the modern GM process; but how much really?
And whether corn, wheat, rice, oats, rye, etc is best eaten fermented, I think there is much biased research out there to stake too much in it. You can find a study that supports just about any point of view.
Inuits can survive on mostly meat, fat, and fish. But, they have many many generations of adaptation. Not sure we could do the same. Does that really mean that grains are bad for us? Like so many foods today, perhaps grains are misunderstood. Perhaps it’s not the grain, but the refining that gives it less-desirable qualities. Breaking a grain apart, throwing away the germ, bran, or other components, destroys the complex interactive ‘wholeness.’
I’ve done research on raw milk. Milk has a bad reputation–many people are stricken with significant stomach ailments after consuming milk products. Raw milk is illegal to sell in most states. In some of those states, a person can arrange with a dairy farm to become a part owner of a cow (cow shares) and consume raw milk from ‘their’ cow. So what is wrong with raw milk? The US Government says it killed people and made many sick at the turn of the 20th Century. Further study, many years later, suggest that most if not all of these incidents were due to improperly stored raw milk. However, the ban on raw milk stands. So what is the big deal? Studies (yep, those darned studies) suggest that lactose intolerance and it’s accompaning stomach ailments in many people, comes from the pasteurization of milk; it kills the good bacteria that aid digestion;It breaks apart the whole, and destroys the interactive complexities. As with meat, if milk is not properly handled, it will make you sick, but most food is that way!
So perhaps the same type of issue exists with grains; breaking them down and refining them takes away the good compounds. Food is wonderfully complex. It’s probably why we can’t duplicate the health benefits of an apple, orange, or broccoli. There exist many supplements on the market, claiming to give the benefits, but they all seem to fall short; they can’t duplicate the complexity of the raw or whole food they derive from.

Grant Miller – 01/27/2010 06:47:15 am
I like your take on this, Clayton. One thing I know for sure is that I don’t know much. In my short life I couldn’t possibly count the number of fad diets, supposedly well-founded on studies, that were quickly superceded by an opposing view. That’s not to say that we should throw all the babies out with the bathwater. Rather, take a long-term, skeptical view. Live carefully, eating moderately, the foods you perceive to be natural, as the gifts from God that they are, and enjoying food to its fullest.
As we explore and test what works well for each of us, share it. I love xxxx‘s conviction about a diet that obviously works well for him and I am grateful to learn this perspective. I’m not quite ready to go there for my own reasons, some of which may be peculiar to my own body or belief systems. Yet, I am enriched to learn more of another perspective and encouraged to trust that more meat could be a healthy way to re-balance what I consume now. Thank you, xxxx, for having the courage to share your beliefs and experience with conviction, yet with the humility that accepts other’s experience and beliefs.

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If you like this kind of sharing with like-minded people, you can request an invitation to the Friends of Sewanee Creek at info@sewaneecreek.com.  Please note the reasons for your interest.

Child’s Play – Sand Box or Sand Mountain?

In our quest to build community at the Village, we don’t think just about the physical facilities that are needed, but how they must come into being.  Often the best way to assure that common structures don’t become neglected mausoleums (like so many planned gated community clubhouses) is to involve the community in their conception and construction.

Today, I’ve been thinking about building facilities that bring people together, including a playground for kids, a man-cave common shop for building projects and tinkering and a place for female activities like scrap booking or quilting.  But we must start from the point of creating activities rather than creating buildings.

A couple of weeks ago we enjoyed a day of play with two families who visited with their nine young children.  As the adults were preparing hobo dinners in the fire pit, we noticed that the kids had gathered at a large mound of dirt near the stage.  They were busily digging caves, leveling pads for imaginary structures, playing king of the hill and any number of other great, creative games.

So, this morning we were noodling about building a kid’s playground.  We were reaching into our childhood memories for hints of what will make it the coolest, most fun, most awesome place for kids to hang out and play. I remarked that the first thing we need is a good sand box for the creativity it brings out.  Then it struck me.  The traditional sand box simply won’t do.  It’s too two-dimensional.  We need a sand mountain. And what better way to build it than to involve Village parents and their kids in its conception, placement, and construction?

We have all the materials we need right here at the Village.  I’m thinking rather than use pressure treated lumber for the box, why not use some of the huge logs that have already been cut?  Discarded tires make great barriers or climbing structures too.  Build three sides tall and fill it with sand.  When the sand goes flat from a lot of play, I can bring my tractor in to re-pile it into a mountain.  Maybe put a climbing wall on the back side of the logs.

But then, what do I know?  My most important work is to get the Villagers involved in a way cooler solution.  Who knows?  It might be so cool that the adults will rediscover how much fun it is to play in the sand and we will have to expand it.

Anyone up for a sand sculpture contest?

On Life and Loving the Land

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”
—- Henry David Thoreau

What then is a man who loves spending time in the woods and works to preserve nature and restore sheared land to its natural splendor?

Happy. 🙂

Life in the Village

After a recent visit, my friend, Kerry Clay, wrote down his vision of life in the Village on Sewanee Creek.  I think he did a nice job of capturing it, so I’d like to share it with you.

“It’s Saturday morning and what are we going to do today?

We could watch the beautiful sunrise across the mountains from our back porch.
We could take the trail down the gorge to see how much water is flowing from Swallow Tail Falls.
Let’s take the east trail today that goes under Miller Falls. We might just go all the way down to the caves.
There’s a deer and look at those wild turkeys. They will always be here because of over 500 acres of nature preserve that all of us share in common.
Let’s wade the creek and look for natural treasures.
We could go down to the caves on our ATVs; we have an easement to hundreds of acres of 4-wheeler trails nearby.
Oh, these trees are magnificent, tall oaks, hickory, hemlock, maple and walnut. The ferns, mountain laurel, redbud and dogwoods, the hoot of an owl or cry of a hawk.

The big game is tonight and we have the amphitheater reserved. We’ll have steaks and ribs, burgers and dogs, on the bluff under the stars. Watching the game in high definition on the huge amphitheater screen will be better than being at the stadium.
I am amazed with our fiber optic communications systems for phone, computer and TV.

Last night we all rented a DVD and watched a great movie.
With the canyon view as a backdrop, the fire ring aglow, stars and full mountain moon. What a beautiful night it was.

We love the feeling of community here, sharing our big covered porch with close friends, our neighbors.  Drop by anytime for a visit. Let’s try that new cake recipe with coffee and fresh strawberries from the village garden ……mmmmmmmm it’s better out here.

There’s just something very special about our Village Called ‘Sewanee Creek'”.