Have you ever discovered that something very progressive was flourishing right under your own routine oriented nose? To be more precise – last week, I witnessed serious academics sharing prized knowledge. Stunned too, to ascertain that the prize was just a short drive down a local country road, and it all related to the quality of our food and possibly, our mutual futures.
The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee continues to inspire and teach just as they set out to do in 1971 with “the goal of establishing a strongly cohesive, outwardly-directed intentional community.” They state in a current public relations piece, “We want, by action and example, to have a positive effect on the world” and so they have. A myriad of non-profits showcase the work that carries out their vision. The Ecovillage Training Center is one that offers internships, conferences and workshops on sustainable technologies such as permaculture, construction based on natural materials, and organic gardening. Bear with me on permaculture – semantics often distract us from learning important stuff.
Ellie Early, a young University of Massachusetts graduate, turned intern turned coordinator at the Ecovillage Training Center contacted me with a compelling enticement – a series of courses taught by leading global experts in sustainable agriculture being held during the months of August and September at The Farm. She emailed, “Nutritious food follows nutritious soil. Soil health makes fresh food healthier…I am notifying folks about enrollment in Carbon Farming classes, an intensive with teachers in the fields of Soil Food Relocalization, Holistic Management, Keyline Design, Earthworks and Food Forestry.”
Even though many of these terms were new to me, I wasn’t born yesterday and those triggers, intensive and food – got my attention. I signed up for only a morning session, which I found to my dismay, was like having one spoon full of ice cream….
Participants included students and teachers of permaculture from as far away as Australia and Canada. They had spent several days learning land management and implementation of design. For a crash course before class, permaculture wizard Ethan Roland offered to me a practical basic, “The solar panel – to catch the rain – to water the garden – to grow the plants – to feed the people, and the people composting their food – to grow the tree – to repair the roof that the solar panel is on…” Ellie added, “Permaculture is a system of providing for short and long term needs which cycles resources within the system.”
I joined a class led by permaculture expert Eric Toensmeier. As the author of Edible Forest Gardens and Perennial Vegetables, he coached the attendees on supportive garden design with a generous verbal listing of low maintenance vegetable varieties for planting that are perpetual.
Among the suggestions, I discovered that I have two of the favored plants in my herb garden. I sowed them originally for their salad talents and Eric agreed that sorrel and lovage are excellent additions for the self-sufficient garden. Being the Renaissance guy that he is, Eric also shared a recipe from Perennial Vegetables using ingredients that I could harvest in my yard. So without using that extra fossil fuel for a trip to the grocery store, I later served the home based soup to my adventurous book clubbers, The Kharma Dharmas.
I left The Ecovillage, enlightened, with an urge to enrich my soil by becoming what Ellie calls a compost connoisseur. Ultimately, following a few design tips and mixing some edible goodies into my landscape, I’ll make my move into the permaculture realm. From the portal at The Farm, I’ve learned that life is very tasty there.
Sorrel and Lovage Soup
6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
3 medium potatoes (sweet or regular)
3 cloves of garlic
1 butternut squash
10 to 12 8-inch lovage shoots
1 pound of fresh sorrel (same as a pound of spinach)
salt, pepper and chili flakes
Boil stock along with 3 cups of water
Add chopped potatoes and minced garlic
Peel squash and remove seeds and chop into 1 to 2 inch chunks.
Add squash a few minutes after potatoes.
Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add chopped lovage and cook for 5 minutes.
Stir in chopped sorrel and remove from heat.
Season with salt and pepper and chili flakes.
Shredded chicken may be added for a heartier dish.
Sorrel and Lovage Seeds – Horizon Herbs – www.horizonherbs.com
Sweet Potatoes – Bobby McIver
Butternut Squash – CSA – Arugula Star of Neal Family Farms –www.arugulasstarfarm.com
More on Permaculture -
You Tube – “Greening the Desert” with Geoff Lawton