Goodbye to Helen and Lily

November News from Blue Rock Station:

Pigs. They are a surprising joy in my life here at Blue Rock Station. Over the past decade we’ve had the company, Charlotte & Wilbur sleepingassistance and friendship of 10 intelligent hard working pigs that brought laughter – and taught me many things.

Dealing with an animal – eventually a very large animal – that has the intelligence of a five-year-old human, has given me many opportunities to use my counseling degree.  I’ve taught them their names, how to respond to different calls, and to gently work with me as I walk with them.  They also learned to let me know when something was wrong, directing me to the problem.

Did you know that pigs can sing?  They sing a song that tells me to hurry up with the feed.  They have another higher pitch song when I’m taking too long. When I call them, they answer with a special grunt to let me know they’re on their way.

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They also know how to cuss. The other day Lily rolled her morning pumpkin straight down the hill.  She tried to stop it before it rolled under the electric fence wire and into the forest – but no such luck.  I knew exactly when it passed under the fence because she squealed out several clear sounds that sounded more like a trucker in bumper-to-bumper traffic than gentle Lily.

Helen and Lily have been with me for a year now.  During that time I saved Helen’s life, learned how to make suppositories for pigs and insert them (don’t ask), plus what a pig looks and acts like when they’re in pain.  With them I developed a certain courage to try new solutions to health issues, and to take matters into my own hands.  In the past I would have turned things over to a veterinarian, usually with limited (or bad) results.   I shared every day with them in some form or fashion, and even when it was miserably cold,  I found myself happy to have them call back to me when I announced feeding time with a high pitched “bon jour”.

In exchange for daily feed and health care, they have rooted out the parasite egg table in some of the pastures, cleaned up more of the pond, and cleared the forest floor in front of the Earthship.  But more importantly, they have given me pleasure with their singing, arguing and beauty.

Tomorrow they will go to pig heaven. This is a sad reality on a farm.  While I love and adore them – they are not pets.   They are large, lumbering livestock and they have reached their maximum healthy weight.  Without intending to, they could cause me or someone else physical harm.  They will have no job over the long winter months, and in the spring we must make room for new piglets.  This is the way of things.

 

This part of farm life makes me question myself constantly.   I am sorry to admit to myself that these are animals that were born to be butchered.  They came to us from another farm where I am sure they would have been treated kindly, but not loved nearly so well.  I do not eat meat.  But meat is eaten.  Life and death are very real on a farm.  Helen and Lily were bred and born so that one day they would find their way to someone’s table.  I have tried to make the time in between comfortable, happy, healthy and safe.  I know that is never enough but it is the way it is.

You can learn more about the pigs at Blue Rock Station and view photos by visiting the Blue Rock Station blog at https://bluerockstation.wordpress.com/.

Where you can find us for solar training:

There are still a couple of slots for the November class at Rural Action in Athens OH  OR at Zane State College in January in Zanesville OH.   You can register at www.bluerockstation.com

Upcoming Workshops at Blue Rock Station:

Check out some of our other upcoming classes.  Please register early because all of our events have limited space.

November

  • November 3rd – 4th: Earthship 101: The basics of Earthship building and living plus stay over in a strawbale cabin  (SOLD OUT)
  • November 5th – 9th: Solar Installer Certification Workshop – Rural Action, Athens, OH
  • November 10th Open House Tour 1 pm to 3 pm

December

  • December 1st:   Release of the book The Business of Goats by Annie Warmke and Carie Starr
  • December 15th:   Release of the new Blue Rock Station webinar series

January

  • January 1st:   Release of the book Solar Installation and Design Level II
  • January 5th: Open House Tour 1 pm to 3 pm
  • January 8th – 11th:   Solar Installer certification class, Zane State College, Zanesville OH
  • January 19th:   The Activist in Me: learning how to respond in today’s world; Free School registration is required by contacting Annie Warmke.   Only six spaces available for this hands-on fun afternoon.

The Critters:

The weather, with all the rain and cold, has been hard on the critters. The goats, one-by-one, caught a cold that a visitor brought in early October.  As the days wore on, they fell like dominoes,  greeting me in the morning with runny noses and coughs.   Out came the Vitamin C chewables and lots of minerals with an immune booster tonic.  Trisha still has her cough, but everyone but me seems to be adjusting to global weirding – for the moment anyway.

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Food, the Heart of Sustainability:

Delicious easy broth.  For lunch I baked some butternut squash and while it cooked, I picked some celery stalks and parsley for a broth.  We had some tangerines and kumquats left over from the Dia de los Muertos free school class, so I added them  and saved the tangerine peeling for future recipes that ask for zest.  A little salt and pepper were added to the mix and after about 20 minutes I added some peeled potatoes that I later mashed to thicken the broth for the squash.  I plan to save some of the broth in small zip lock bags so I have a starter for the next time I want butternut squash soup.  After the squash was baked, I peeled it and placed it in the broth to finish it off, and fished out the celery, parsley & citric bits.  Then, along with some tofu and coconut milk plus a dash of cayenne and curry powder, I pureed it in the blender.  Quick and easy delicious soup that practically made itself. Bon Appetite!
Words that Guided:

Just for today I will think about where my food came from and what that means – from the seed or animal all the way to the plate in front of me.
Kindest Regards, Annie

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Visit us on the Airwaves

We are having a grand time creating podcasts.  Actually Jay was rather reluctant but once he did a couple of them with me, he was sold.  You can hear the podcasts at http://www.bluerockstation.com or listen on the radio at WOUB AM Studio B (When the Biomass Hits the Wind Turbine Show), and WGRN (Arriving at Blue Rock Station).  We’re having fun with Chris Luers as our producer (Barking Frog Media) putting together the audio shows about life as we see it.  Stay tuned for more including online webinars plus two new books.

Recording these shows with Jay has been quite informative.  First of all, it’s clear that he makes me laugh more often then I realized.  Yes, he is funny, but on the air he is extra humorous.

Secondly I realize that lots of the things we’re doing in our life together would be interesting to me even if it wasn’t us talking about preserving food, solar energy, and safe travel…

You’ll find more information in those podcasts then you could ever imagine.  I hope you’ll listen to one or two, and let us know what you think.

The Critters:
The new peacock and his hen arrived with great fanfare. The chickens were immediately intimidated by the long peacock tail and huddled together as I carried him down through the field to the hen house.  Over time though they all figured out how to live together, and then a raccoon tore through two layers of wire to brutally kill Mr. Peabody.  In a short time we had all grown to admire and respect his grandeur and abilities.  Penelope, his mate was at a loss without him, but she continued her daily supervision of Laura Nein’s 4th grade class chicks, and still went on her own into the hen house at night.  She’s happy to report that a new Mr. Peabody and his mate, Petunia appeared suddenly this week and while I am still grieving for the grandest peacock ever, it seems like life is moving forward (in peafowl land anyway).

Food, the Heart of Sustainability:
I love potatoes… but doesn’t everybody?  One of my favorite ways to fix them this time of year is to boil them, drain and then add some course salt with pepper.  Newly dug potatoes are best for this recipe, which is often requested by returning interns.  You can’t go wrong with this easy combination.  Bon Appetite!

Words that Guided:
Just for today I will honor my own ability to make smart decisions in life…just to prove it I’m going to make a list of them.

Kindest Regards, Annie

Rebuffed Chickens and the Business of Goat Herding

September News from Blue Rock Station:

Every morning the hen, Isabella and her chicks, who live in the tiny purple chicken tractor near our bedroom window – touch my heart.  As Isabella waits to see if I will bring her some greens, her chicks rest on her back and next to her, reminding me (as if I need reminded) that everybody needs a mama.

There have been lots of young chicks, and by this I mean young people of all sexes, in our lives this summer.   Our two interns were a constant joy to share our lives with as they learned, and taught.  We also had an abundance of young people visit for field trips and tours.  They’re about to be in charge of the world – and it makes me feel confident that we’re going to be just fine.

This autumn promises to be busy as we role our the new solar installer webinars online, and prepare to publish The Business of Goat Herding book.  The Level II Solar Design and Installation book is waiting for me to finish the last edits so it can be a part of our new product line.  Check out our podcasts or register for one of our fall classes (University of Dayton Solar Installer in October and Rural Action Athens Solar Installer in November) on our website.

The news might be full of gloom and doom, but opportunity abounds.  So turn off your TV or radio (or news feed) and join us soon either in person for a tour or consult, or online to share in a great community of people who have an agenda that will keep the earth (and our souls) alive.  Stay tuned for opportunities to become a member of Blue Rock Station and enjoy our podcasts, webinars and Ask the Expert.  More to come…

Where you can find us for solar training:
There are still a couple of slots for the October class at the University of Dayton, Dayton OH  OR at Rural Action, Athens, OH. You can register at www.bluerockstation.com.

750-watt inverter working happily after the connection was fixed. Now on lighter “office duty.”

Upcoming Workshops at Blue Rock Station:

Check out some of our other upcoming classes.  Please register early because all of our events have limited space.

September

  • September 29th-30thTiny House Weekend wrap up for winter…pound some tires, plaster a little and get her ready for the long sleep.

October

  • October 4th – 8th – Solar Installer Level 1 Certification Class, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH
  • October 11th: John McIntire Library – Annie will be giving a talk on “Stories of a Woman Who Learned to Thrive – Growing through and beyond the #MeToo Experiences” 6:30 pm. Free of charge.
  • October 13th Open House Tour 1 pm to 3 pm
  • October 20thFREE SCHOOL: Join Eduardo Sandavol for the second annual Day of the Dead workshop. Learn the real history of the celebration, make some authentic food, and help set up the official Day of the Dead alter.
  • October 27th BRS Goat College afternoon…Rural Action sponsored (part of the SARE grant series).  Register early to avoid disappointment.
  • October 27thSolar Generator Workshop – at Unitarian Universalist Church in Marietta, OH

November

  • November 3rd – 4th: Earthship 101: The basics of Earthship building and living plus stay over in a strawbale cabin
  • November 5th – 9th: Solar Installer Certification Workshop – Rural Action, Athens, OH
  • November 10th Open House Tour 1 pm to 3 pm
  • November 17th:   Learn to be an Activist in today’s world – BRS Free School – register by emailing annie@bluerockstation.com

The Critters:  

Henry (pronounced “on ree”) is quite a wonder.  While still a young chick, he decided he wanted to live at the barn.  Each morning he greets me at the chicken chalet gate, so he can walk with me to the milk room. Patiently he waits while I muck out the barn yard, and then he jumps onto the feed bin with a cute little coo, asking for food. I can point my finger to anything and he comes to see what is of interest. And, now he’s been practicing his crowing. Hoping to impress the ladies, who he just discovered this week.  As the parade of hens came under the chalet gate, Henry’s world has turned upside down.  Unfortunately he hasn’t figured out he has to dance to win their approval, so when he runs after them they turn and fight as if they’re roosters.  He’s had his heart broken, and perhaps his ego damaged, each morning.  He walks with me back to the milk room with his head bowed.

Food, the Heart of Sustainability:

There are still lots of delicious tomatoes available at farms and markets. Pack them into cool jars, add a little salt and place them in boiling water for about 40 minutes.   It’s that easy. Or make up a big batch of sliced/diced tomatoes of various colors, add salt, pepper, and some fresh herbs (parsley, basil, thyme) and enjoy as a salad.  But save enough for later in the week to put on top of a baked potato, a bean salad, or coleslaw.   Bon Appetite!

Words that Guided:

Just for today I will speak the truth in the kindest way possible, but I will speak the truth about something that’s needed to be said.

Kindest Regards, Annie

Food and Its Story

A swift, refreshing breeze drifts up and over the ridgeline and brings a euphoria of relief to my sunned face.  My fingers run through my hair, stiff from the accumulation of dried sweat, gained from a morning of rewarding labor.  The last of this day’s lunch spread has joined the table.  Food tells a lot about a person, and in this case, it can bring illumination to a connection of intentional living arrangements.

Naturally, my eyes fixate first on the vibrant array of food placed so seductively before me.   In one bowl, sliced potatoes, zucchini, and squash are coated in an aromatic blend of cayenne, cumin, salt, and pepper.  In its neighboring dish, peaches, blueberries, pears, and apples coalesce to form a gorgeous fruit salad.

The first story within the food is the food itself.  The BRS homestead has created a system which is not reliant on the mainstream global food market, which most people shop within.  Food is grown on the property or obtained from the local farmers food auction, for a substantially smaller price than normal grocery stores.  In addition, the homestead has canned, frozen, and stored a supply of food which is readily available for a meal and can be relied upon when seasonal food is not abundant, such as in colder months.

Also within the food, is the water used to cook with and to drink for the meal.  The homestead has designed a rainwater collection system to provide for all of its water needs.  The rainwater is collected from the roof, stored in a large cistern, and then purified for daily use.

Energy is needed to make a meal as well.  The homestead’s energy is supplied by a moderately sized solar array.  These elements of BRS eliminate the need to be reliant on large-scale systems, which we have no control over.  It reduces the capacity for a toxic, soul-sucking emotion to emanate, fear.  A word that seems to gain momentum, fueled by the media, and radiated into all of our souls.

A country that idealizes freedom and independence is caught in a wave of insecurity.  This insecurity can lead to hateful fear upon others; blaming things such as immigration for the feelings radiating within.  Immigrants, the people that mostly make up the migrant farm workers in this country, supporting the food system most people are ever reliant upon, end up receiving the blame.

This fear does not need to be exhausted endlessly down these channels which cannot be controlled.  Things that we do have power over can boost our confidence and self-reliance.  Growing a garden, creating a simple water harvesting system, sharing meaningful stories, eating a local meal, enjoying the company of others, or taking any other little step to grow some peace of mind for ourselves allowing us step away from the mass hysteria and put together our attainable pieces of happiness.

Progressing to Purpose

Life needs to have a little oomph in it. Life filled with meaning and love and peace of mind. My life this past week seems to encapsulate a life pretty close to these broad, catchall words. Blue Rock Station has created such a beautiful and harmonious lifestyle 20180626_1308413that just leaves me pretty damn happy at the end of the day. Starting with how time is used in a productive, intentional way around here. I’ve never had a dull moment; the quieter moments are sometimes even more radiant than the adrenaline kicks.   Picking for the perfect elderflower blossoms, I get lost in the rhythmic cycle, only returning to reality when the occasional goat jumps and rattles the fence (they must conduct a thorough investigation).  My hands seem to be fulfilling a purpose, stimulating the side of me that gets neglected much too often. Mud oozes through my fingers as I’m mixing and maneuvering cob and recycled materials for the barn wall. The blood rushes to my head as I am hanging vertically upside-down in a wall cavity, getting a crash course in plumbing. Pounding tires, planting gardens, repairing fences, cutting slate, sawing wood, and uh chasing a peacock are just a few of my most recent endeavors. Even something that might be labeled a chore flows naturally and brings rewards. Scrubbing the vibrantly red algae from a water trough, the gradual restoration of the silver walls brings forth a meditative pleasure to an afternoon task. This rewarding lifestyle is surrounded by a community of inspired and intentional people. Sharing meals, exchanging stories, collaborating on projects, the people at Blue Rock Station radiate 20180621_1209362authenticity, which is lacking in a great portion of society. It’s a way of living that creates a sense of identity and self-worth. Material goods and the lifestyles being encouraged by our modern society do not give us these values. People are becoming less happy and lost
in the muck of advertising and meaning-deprived lives. The signs are showing us that progress maybe isn’t quite what we made it out to be. The push for ever-expanding growth has created a gaping hole in society and in us. Progress needs to be reframed with the intent of creating a more fulfilling, intentional, healthy, and localized society. A society more concerned with fostering 20180627_192327harmonious connections between all of nature’s intricacies, helping our lives to strive towards being wholesome.   As I’m sitting on my porch gazing out into the forest, my little whip-poor-will buddy is chirping away, the hot tea is settling into my belly, and the day is sinking into my bones, I think I’ve found what real progress can be. Progress with the power to actually leave someone happy at the end of the day.

Crack Technology

Something new has invaded Blue Rock Station.

For years we have welcomed interns into our home/business/life.  The experience has been wonderful for us and we hope a great learning experience for the interns.  We work hard during the day, and typically the evenings are filled with conversation, music and staring out over the hills and letting the mind rest.  Often the interns sit outside and write letters to friends and relatives.  Actual pen and paper letters.

But in the past few years this idyllic scene has changed a bit.  The interns have brought with them a mental parasite;  a rectangle that consumes their attention, their conversation, their ability to think clearly.  The rectangle has gobbled up resources, time and joy.

As I write this, I am listening to NPR.  They are telling a story of how high school kids have been asked to give up their phones for a day.  Twenty-four entire hours without the rectangle.  You would have thought their entire family had been killed in a plane crash or they were being asked to walk a dozen miles barefoot across broken glass.

We have tried to limit interns access to the phone here at Blue Rock Station.  But like addicts everywhere, they need their fix and when unwatched, are shooting up with Facebook and Instagram.  We turn off the broadband receiver – and suddenly there are errands that must be run at places with free wi-fi.

I am not sure what solution lies undiscovered.  I just know this addiction to crack technology is damaging and widespread.  I see students on college campuses walking in groups – but they are not together.  They are each focused on their rectangle as they walk in front of cars – oblivious the the world around them and their “friends” in the “real” world.

Why wait for the zombie apocalypse?  It is already here.

Eleonore Buried Along With Her Name

News from Blue Rock Station:

The snow is piled high against the house and it seems hard to believe that in just a few days it will be March.  The worst of winter will surely be over.   We shouldn’t complain, however, as there’s been an abundance of sunshine this winter season.  The sunshine does make extra work for us, since we feel duty bound to keep the solar array clear of snow.

And if the end of February approaching isn’t exciting enough, there’s the release of Jay’s new book ASSEMBLING A SOLAR GENERATOR.  That might not sound like best seller material (true, Steven King is probably not too worried), but we are pretty thrilled with the idea that one small book has the power to help lots of folks create a solar collector in a box they can haul around their house when the electricity is out.  Or when they need power outdoors, or they just want to challenge themselves to use less… all that and odorless, quiet and dependable. Check it out at our website, www.bluerockstation.com

A reporter from the FARM AND DAIRY JOURNAL braved the snow and joined us for an afternoon a few days ago.    Apparently they had held an editorial meeting and created a list of the most influential women in Ohio agricultural and I ended up on the short list.  For the life of me I can’t imagine how that happened since I can think of at least a half a dozen women who should have knocked me down a peg or two on their list.  Now I’m anxious to see what they write, since I’m sure I’m their new poster child for “liberal” women farm producers.

All of the discussion of women in agriculture got me to thinking that what we really need to do is to bring women farm producers together to see what we look like.   There are more then 3,600 women farm producers in Ohio and yet we are apparently quite invisible.   Shawn Fiegelist (City Folk’s Farm Shop) listened to my rant on this subject and now we’re going to put together a little summer farm tour to showcase women’s hard work in farming and homesteading. Perhaps something good is coming out of that afternoon with the FARM & DAIRY reporter after all.


Upcoming Workshops from Blue Rock Station:

The complete schedule for 2015 is, as always, posted at www.bluerockstation.com.  To register for the courses at City Folks Farm Shop, visit their site at www.cityfolksfarmshop.com.

February:

  • February 28th-March 1st (and the next two weekends): Solar Installation Certification Class (Columbus OH) co-sponsored by Simply Living and City Folks Farm Shop. This is the same 5-day solar certification course, but broken into 3 weekend sessions for those who can’t take an entire week off. (SOLD OUT)

March:

  • March 7thCheese Making – Columbus at City Folks Farm Shop (just a couple of slots left)
  • March 7th & 8th: (Columbus OH) Second Weekend Solar Installation certification class co-sponsored by Simply Living and City Folks Farm Shop
    (SOLD OUT)
  • March 14thGoat College: Goats Hands-on Experience – Columbus at City Folks Farm Shop (sold out last month and only a couple of slots left)
  • March 14th &15th: Third (final) weekend Solar Installation certification class co-sponsored by Simply Living and City Folks Farm Shop
    (SOLD OUT)
  • March 17thRecycling in the Garden – Columbus at City Folks Farm Shop
  • March 28th: Earthship and Sustainable Farm Tour (Spring Equinox)
  • March 29thGoat College at Blue Rock Station – a full day of goat school, lunch and a little cheese making

The Critters:

There’s a heaven for goats and Eleonore Rigby is eating everything in sight.  And no doubt she has pushed the pearly gates open to check out the grass on the other side.

On Saturday I left the OEFFA conference early because I felt like I just had to get home.  When we arrived, Eleonore was waiting by the barn wall beckoning me to hurry to do chores.  I led her into the barn with her feed, and she fell to her knees.  As she ate, I managed to get a heavy vest on her to help her stay warm.  But when I cam back with some water, it was clear she had decided she was ready to leave Blue Rock Station Green Living Center.

I settled her on the hay and covered her with more vests and got some water into her.  She closed her eyes and rested.  For a while I laid down with her as the bitter wind blew outside of the stall, and I kissed her nose each time she opened her eyes to look at me.  Her children and grandchildren came to say goodbye and give me courage with their nudges, and then she left me.

At the beginning of the winter I told her that if she was going to die this year, could she please do it by going to sleep and not waking up, rather than by getting sick (she was 13 years old , which is ancient for a goat).  I am glad she honored my request.  I am also grateful for all of the years she taught me about goats.

Just last week she snuck into the milk room to see me, nudging me, then licking her lips to tell me in her own regal way that she wanted to eat.  I kissed her on the nose that day and thanked her for teaching me so many things in this life.  Just a reminder, which goats are good at, that it’s never good to miss an opportunity to be grateful, no matter what the situation.  She may be gone, but she is  still with me …she will always be with me.  True friends are forever.

Words that Guided:

Just for today, I will remember to be grateful for the smallest moments…thank you Eleonore Rigby for reminding me .

Kindest Regards, Annie