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John Lee
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Lawrence, KS, United States
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Cold Temperate
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Action, At All Costs

Posted by John Lee about 8 years ago

   In Colorado, my landlord forced my roommate and I to evacuate with little notice from our newly established permaculture site, initiating a quest for land to work, with parameters being a triangle from Denver to Chicago to Asheville and back to Denver.

   After a calamity in Lawrence, Kansas wherein I was misled on several accounts and luckily came out with a couple good contacts and needed experience, I returned to Colorado for the final weeks of tenancy at my Denver Berth Gardens (named so for being my inaugural permaculture working site).  In those weeks, I founded some of the finest people Denver or anywhere had to offer, only too late.  

   Everyone is in transition, at different stages, and with varying degrees of knowledge, skill, and other resources to offer, no one of us with enough to start on our own.  The answer is so obvious, so I jumped at the first available opportunity to take head on the challenge I know so desperately needs my attention because I so desperately need it's resulting resilience for my peace of mind, and physical well being.

   Lawrence, again, is where my call recieved response.  A friend of a friend whose family owns a 200-acre plot invited me out to manage a portion of that acreage into permaculture production.  Through several road bumps, a tiny speck of hope that winks every time my situation seems dark has led me into a realm of comfort with which I was previously unfamiliar.  I am here to change the world and can't imagine any better place or time to do that than where I am.

   The new site will be located on Eastern Kansas prairie, southwest of my old mushroom hunting woods from when I lived in Lawrence for 6 years.  The woods lining the rolling grasslands are all different mixes of Elm/Cottonwood, Hickory/Walnut, Hedge/Locust/Cedar, with Sycamore, Birch, Maple, Mulberry, and the typical, mid-succession plains players speckled throughout.  The prairie grasses are burned off every year or so, as common practice adopted by most farmers from our ranch to the horizon.  

   Gaines Ranch, where I'll be working, is a traditional beef and hay operation.  The owner is apprehensive in devoting much acreage to his son and my establishing a permaculture site on the ranch because he does not want to lose grazing land.  I haven't counted exactly but with (200 acres and) less than 30-head of cattle, there is more than three times the necessary land per cattle to graze happily.  

   Jeremy (the rancher's son) and my plan is to utilize about 10 acres in a restoration agriculture setup, which of course still leaves the cattle more than enough grazing land even if it were all blocked off, but to address the rancher's concern for lost space we need only make one simple alteration to our system (that likely would have existed for our own future purposes anyhow) and that is to cap either end of our alley crop rows with gates for the rancher's cattle to graze through at the end of the season.  Really, it's what we would have eventually done for our own livestock, so to allow existing livestock to come through and clean up (and fertilize) for us in the first year or two is just fine with me!  After the cattle come through, we can close the gates, let the chickens run through then plant our winter cover crops.  The rancher's "problem" easily works to our advantage - farmer happy, cows happy, ecosystem happy, permies happy!

   While Jeremy and I establish infrastructure at our new site and dream of structures for communal gathering and cooking spaces, as well as living quarters on site so we have more working time, I'm biding my time living and working part-time at a horse ranch up the road.  The owner is pleasant.  The horses are gorgeous.  The property sits atop a breathtaking hill with apricot, apple, mulberry, walnut, and other food-bearing, mature trees one after another all the way around the house.  In exchange for my apartment in the stables, I clean stalls on weekends and will perform some tree pruning and general grounds maintainence.  I love trees and horses, so neither of these tasks qualify as work per se.  I've already installed my own tiny garden outside the apartment with gooseberry, strawberry, sage, lavender, oregano, lemongrass, and Jerusalem artichoke from my Denver Berth Gardens, and several flowers seeded with some carrots, fennel, basil, amaranth, and other goodies - I cannot WAIT for it to fill in!  Not having a personal garden is kind of like not having pants for me.  I'd make it without, but life is much more agreeable for everyone when I'm equipped.

   Anyhow, it seems as though this year intends to challenge me in new ways, mostly to do with people and communication thus far.  Nothing could have prepared me for any one challenge so all I've been able to do is adapt.  Adaptive is another word for resilient, and I've no intention of coming up short on that end for the rest of my days, which is not to say I've been happy or comfortable through much of this change but since when has resilience revolved around happiness?  Ask a polar bear or desert toad if he wakes up stoked about life every day or simply wakes up.  Today, I'm kneeling in the trenches so that tomorrow we can stand on a hill overrun with an abundance of life.

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