The Graham Self-Reliant Community hosted a kind of “show and tell” session at their July meeting last week, revealing their steady – and diverse – growth towards self-sufficiency.
Topics ranged from developing healthy eating habits to innovative gardening designs.
Long-standing members Anuttama and Bill Budd, who live on a couple acres near Eatonville, discussed several features of their almost-completely self-reliant lifestyle, namely cheese making, portable garden enclosures, and slug control.
Anuttama has become an expert at making a “Monterey Jack-style” cheese from milk delivered by the Budd’s cow.
“We call it ‘Eatonville Bill’ cheese,”Anuttama said with a smile, adding that her YouTube video on cheese-making has topped 250,000 hits.
As for slugs, many SRC members said this season has been particularly ferocious for the little critters, and Anuttama described a two-pronged approach to ridding a garden of these slimy predators.
“Our Muscovy ducks love eating slugs,” she said. “We have a crop of strawberries for the first time because of them.”
However, many vegetables, especially the Brassica of kale, cauliflower and broccoli, have to be protected from the Muscovies who roam freely in the Budds’ garden. Therefore, Anuttama and Bill have installed two-foot high hoop houses, covered with chicken-wire, over their raised beds to keep out the ducks once they’ve cleaned the area of slugs.
These portable hoop houses are also valuable to nurturing veggies through a cold and wet spring.
“We were able to start our garden two months early because of the hoop houses,” said Anuttama. “We’re already harvesting cauliflower!”
The G-SRC will be hosting a hoop house construction workshop in the near-future, Karelina Resnick announced, and details will be forthcoming shortly.
Discussions of more substantive hoop enclosures and greenhouses was launched by nearly-sovereign members Toby and Irene of Eatonville, and were joined by a new comer, “Mack” from Orting, who constructs tubular steel hoop greenhouses.
However, wet snow can still collapse such structures, as Toby described, and the need for truss work is required for long-term success. For more information, Mack works at the antique store in downtown Orting, and has a structure built near-by.
The topic of slug control reverberated throughout the meeting, and Louise Carson and others passionately described the efficacy of using Diatomaceous Earth to repel the critters. The DE is sprinkled on the ground adjacent to the plant, and its gritty composition keeps the slugs away. DE is relatively inexpensive, with 50-pound bags available at Gordon’s in Yelm for less than $20, and smaller bags are available at Raquel Roos’ Organic by Nature Farm in Eatonville.
Daniel “Deej” Heath presented an innovative design for a more self-sustaining garden with a photo display of “perennial zone” gardening. In this unique concept, Deej places compatible annual vegetable plants together, which would normally have to be re-planted every year, and lets them re-seed in their growing area. This is not necessarily an “original’ idea, as Mother Nature does this automatically, but Deej carefully selects the plants so that cross-hybridization is prevented.
As a result, Deej plants garlic, carrots, dichon, spinach and strawberries in one zone and receives a potpourri of healthy, abundant vegetables. In another cluster he plants chard, lettuce and beans.
However, he has to separate all of his Brassica, such as the aforementioned kale, broccoli and cauliflower, which will cross-pollinate.
“It’s an expansion on the concept of permaculture,” he said.
Permaculture seeks to integrate crops and landscaping for maximum food production with minimal plant and soil maintenance, such as in irrigation and weed control, and is touted by international expert Sepp Holzer, who has worked extensively in our area.
In addition, Deej invited the SRC to the 4th Annual 70th Ave Block Party on Sunday, July 10th at the Morse Wildlife Preserve. It’s a potluck that starts at noon and runs until 4 pm. The Morse Preserve will also be showcasing its new boardwalk over the marshlands of Muck Creek.
Closer to home, SRC member Ray said that he has lost 25 pounds in a few months by introducing whole grains into his diet. Using a small, hand-crank grinder, Ray is now making his own home-made bread and cereals.
“Whole grain is the deal, and I eat as much as I want,” he said, adding, “I’ve cut out at least 95% of the meat that I would have normally eaten.”
Local resident and director of the Pierce Conservation District, Rene Skaggs, also attended the SRC meeting and discussed several upcoming projects from her organization, particularly low-cost home irrigation.
Rene said that a recent legislative change allowing residential use of rain run-off from a roof has created a wave of interest for inexpensive methods of capturing this water. Prior, Department of Ecology regulations had mandated that all rain be routed directly into the ground, but now folks can utilize this water, estimated to be 60,000 gallons per year per dwelling, thus saving huge water bills.
To this end, the PCD will be holding workshops on building cisterns, rain barrel collection systems, and rain gardens. For more information, contact Rene at (253) 845-9770, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In associated news, SRC member Lynn Worley announced that the Tacoma Food Co-op will be opening August 1, at 3002 6th Ave. For more information, contact Henri Parren at (253-235-3133, or email@example.com.
Also, SRC member Joyce Moss announced that she had seen a cougar roaming through her sizeable front yard on Webster Rd.
Lastly, folks in Eatonville have started their own Self-Reliant Community, and their meetings are held in the Eatonville Library on the second Tuesday of the month. The next meeting will be Tuesday, July, at 6:30 pm.
© 2011 The Mountain News – WA