Blue Rock Station Diaries

Jay, the writer

Blue Rock Station Diary                                                                March 1, 2012

62 F indoors                 44 F outdoors

The sun is shining again this morning.  What’s the world coming to – it’s Ohio, after all?  Even though it’s a little chilly in the house, that bright light in the window is going to heat the walls of the living room for an afternoon temperature indoors in the ‘70’s.  It must be April.

Last night when I went up to shut up the chickens the bull frogs were singing in the pond that refuses to hold water for more than five minutes.  They sounded so happy.  I could just picture them forming a little circle (this is what they do) and then calling out to each other. After lots of vocalizing one swims towards the center, then the singing stops for a second of two.  Who knows what it all means because the frog then swims back to his place and the singing resumes.

Yesterday (the leap year day) I finally went over to the east field to start cutting down saplings so I can create a willow field.  It was so warm that I had to strip down to my t-shirt and bib overalls.  The wind was fierce but it was a wonderful afternoon of working physically hard, with the dogs and I enjoying the work.  Today I hope to plant all of the curly willows Bill Johnson gave me.  After that there are more pussy willows to plant, and then the paw paws I ordered will arrive.  I think this year will be a record for planting trees – around 200 or more if I don’t wear out before I finish my task.

There’s a lot to think about in spring.  The buildings always look so ratty and in need of little repairs – that’s on the list of first tasks to complete when it dries up a bit.  First I worry if the goats are pregnant – it’s impossible to know until they start showing.  Then I worry that they are pregnant.

Getting the raised beds weeded is next on the list, and where to plant everything.  Jay didn’t want me to raise turkeys this year so now I am thinking about how to keep pigs down in the woods, and the design for all of the fencing that will be built this spring.  Where we will get all of the time to do these things, plus finish the book?

Part of the reason (this is my excuse anyway) that I feel a bit anxious about the long list of things to do is that I believe we have to get them down now.  MY PREDICTION:  the summer is going to be so darn hot we’ll have to get up at dawn to work, and then rest until dusk.  We’ll be like the factory farmers at night mowing hay with their spotlights in the field, trying to work in the dark to escape the heat.

Please don’t think this is about complaining (except in regards to the prediction of excessive summer heat).  As a dedicated goal setter, there could be nothing more encouraging then to create a long list of activities month-by-month.

But at the end of the day, when I look around to see who is going to help complete this ever-growing list I have to be realistic that the main assister is sitting across the room from me, writing his little heart out.  He gets religiously gets up at 5 AM every morning to write about all those thoughts that run through his head.  After WHEN THE BIOMAS HITS THE WIND TURBINE is completed (end of March), there will be the revision for the GREEN TECHNOLOGY book.  And then the GIVIING THANKS FOR NOTHING book to be ready by December.  All of this requires either that he writes and I edit, or I write and he edits.

The solution?  It will all come down to whatever makes the most noise to be completed…the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  The loud voices of producing food (there’s only so many months of warmth), visitors, family obligations, friend time, caring for livestock, repairing buildings, teaching, and writing make for a full life.  It will be rewarding to look back over 2012 to see how it all shook down.


Blue Rock Station Diaries February 28, 2012

Blue Rock Station Diary                                                                February 28, 2012

24 F outdoors              66 F indoors


In the night, as I listened to the noises of the house, I was thinking about how much everything in life is about to change.  And those changes are going to be at every single level in our lives.

 ImageFirst day of school 2010:  Jay, Miss America, Annie

The most fundamental change will be that we aren’t parents of a child anymore.  Our Miss America is going off into the world this year.  On most days I am fine with the concept of her growing up, but on some days I wonder how my role as nobody’s mother will play out in my own grown-up life.

New chicks, new baby goats, and more adventures with the critters that live here with us.  Spring is such a rich time for new life.  There will be goats and roosters that get sent away, and new ones with new names that will add richness to the barnyard.  This is the time of year that makes me the most anxious, and the most deliriously content.

Next will be the changes as the season’s rotate.  The spring will bring a new roof, solar generated electricity, and new interns.  No more leaks in the roof – I can predict that for the future – whoopee!  No more electric grid unless we want to partake.  The new faces we’ll see will bring young energy and passion for the life we lead.  While I can’t know what experiences we’ll share, I know that I am quite hopeful that the summer will be a good one.


We’ll make new friends, and make time for the old ones.  Lots of new visitors will arrive for workshops and tours.  Out of those groups there will be one or two that we will connect with, and find opportunities to share time.  Jay’s birthday and Miss America’s high school graduation (she will have completed her freshman year of college and doesn’t plan on attending the graduation ceremony) will be big events with a grand weekend planned of celebrating life and our journey together with old and dear friends.  I’m thinking about a trip to Blannerhassett Island on the ferry, a grand Victorian picnic, and lots of story telling.

A new house – as the year grows older we’ll be talking a lot more (and dreaming) of the new place we hope to build – a “nest” for ourselves so that the Earthship can become more of an office and guest house.  The idea has been growing for a while, along with the new pond, which has now become a plan to fix the old one.  I’m dreaming of a building the size of our current living room and kitchen with a deck that looks out over the tiny pond, and the forest below it.  This will be a place to sleep, to read, to sip tea, and to contemplate.

There are more books to be written before the year is over.  We’re under contract to re-vamp the green technology book, and WHEN THE BIOMASS HITS THE WIND TURBINE will be out in print soon.  Before December we’ll have the GIVING THANKS FOR NOTHING book written and hot off of the press in time for another January of using no resources.  We hope that lots of folks will sign up to join us in some form or fashion.

Then there is the new routine we’ll begin to establish to visit Miss America wherever she plants herself.  Our four-day getaway in August is still hanging in the balance until we know more about her summer location. 

A new president – given the choices, I hope there isn’t a different president.  This one just needs to be able to point more powerful folks in a better direction with a new plan, and a new message.

 ImageThe new raised beds just waiting for the April workshop.

As spring unfolds it is clear that the Happiness Factor is high at Blue Rock Station, and the workload is heavy.  I don’t plan to get ahead of myself though by pushing this day away.  It’s just good to look into the future and see that there is hope and opportunity.

Dear Best Friend;

Blue Rock Station Diary                                                  February 23, 2012

66 F indoors                 41 F outdoors


Dear Kati (my darling Hungarian best friend);

ImageChristmas caroler and Kati in Cambridge OH – Kati has a great sense of humor and a fine intellect, as you can see from this silly photo.

Life is so darn full – getting ready for the goats to have baby kids.  Just returned from speaking at the OEFFA conference.  Cutting willows every day until my arms wear out.  Cooking good food and enjoying myself immensely – Lots of interns applying but right now I’ve only accepted four – all women.  That should be interesting.

Jay and I are going off to Marietta this weekend for a weekend special at The Lafayette Hotel that overlooks the Ohio River.  We decided to have a getaway because we’ve been steadily busy – he gets up at 5 AM to write, and I’ve been working full out with such great weather.  On top of all of that I’m editing the book in the evenings so we’re justifying our time away as a bit of a retreat (marketing strategy for the new book) and then off to a great meal and the comedy show.

After THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH in January I was officially weaned from the radio, and I’m still not listening to it so Jay occasionally (not to overload me) fills me in on some of the politics – nothing good except that it IS official that Obama is a dictator that promotes anti-Christian sentiment.  I was glad to learn that because now I can at least rest easier to know the Obama will be winning the next election.

The latest thing on Facebook is that the Girl Scouts promote homosexuality.  Honest to heaven, what’s next?  This is why I don’t want to hear the news.  If the world is going to hell in a giant explosion I want to know that I lived this day to the fullest and I couldn’t do that if I thought you, and everyone else I love was going to die today.  So I am doing what I can to make the world a better place without being told the latest bullshit from the mainstream media.

Life’s so full of normal worries these days that I could pinch myself.  During our time in Europe, when we were struggling to hang onto our Miss America, we dreamed of a day when all we had to worry about were things like annual repairs to the buildings, too many intern applicants and her gap year before she returns to college. 

ImageTaken at our 30th anniversary, here we are looking good – Kati has a great fashion sense…I admire her greatly for many reasons.

My biggest worries are not our health, or how to pay the bills but if I’ve done everything right so the goats will have an easy kidding, and how many chicks to order, or how to keep the two yellow roosters from mating with the hens I want to collect eggs from for hatching.

It all brings me back to the HAPPINESS FACTOR and how truly wealthy I am.  Yesterday, after trimming the rose bush (I call it Aunt LaVerla – it’s over 200 years old) so I can start some slips from it, I walked down the lane with the dogs chasing each other, and Carolyn Cat running beside me.  It struck me hard that life is good because I can savor those very moments…I’m not seeking anything else but the company of two happy dogs and an adorable cat.  My world is really amazing, and I get to be in it every single day.  I’m going to savor every moment.

I miss you…bisous…. Annie

Hope for the future… February 15, 2012


As I prepare for my appearance at a statewide conference I have taken myself down memory lane by gathering in all of the photos from our time with interns at Blue Rock Station.  Looking at those photos is like an emotional roller coaster – lots of ups, lots of leveling out and only an occasional dip down.  They are an inspiring lot.


With the middle of February glaring back at me I have begun to receive quite a few intern requests.  Most of them are from women, which is not unusual.  All of them are from young folks looking for a chance to learn in a way they have failed to experience in a formal education system.

Our way of teaching is to assume that the learning comes from both sides so we have skill-building afternoons where interns teach all of us things that they know.  We also have cooking class once a week.

We use the Happiness Factor Model that I developed as the structure for our time with interns.  They arrive with high expectations – ours are equally high and remain that way so that we are always reaching forward to find what we need.  

The goal is to create a sense of security so they will push themselves to learn new things.  We want them to feel safe to make mistakes and to be creative.  There is a sense of community and family because we cook and eat together, plus share the workload on projects.  Everything is up front with lots of talking through ideas, creating time lines, and evaluating progress – both physically and psychologically.  All of this creates friendships – often lasting beyond their experience here, and a sense of wholeness and health.  No wonder it is a challenge for all of us when it is time for them to go back out into the world.

And what do we get in return…inspiration from their ideas, their energy, their questioning, their knowledge, their nurturing…and so much more.  Truly I believe we would not still have the energy to do what we do without the interns that have walked through the gate to give us a small part of their lives.

Here’s the story in photos:

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageEach of these amazing folks in the photos, and many more have left their mark on us and Blue Rock Station.  If you know someone who would like an opportunity to experience sustainable living with us please pass this along, and don’t forget to press the “like” button.


THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                                  January 26, 2012            7:20 AM

65 F indoors                 37 F outdoors

Rain, rain, rain



Meaningful work…Annie mucking out stalls and Jay, the breakfast chef 2012

January has been a time of reminding me that life cannot feel secure unless those around us are safe as well.  Safety comes in many forms – healthy food, affordable health care, adequate energy for heating, a safe place to live, and meaningful work at a living wage.  I would also add good friends and strong relationships with others.

A huge part of being happy in life is rooted in our personal values and a sense of security.  And values and a sense of security are rooted in feeling free to make decisions.  It seems like we use the excuse that we don’t have time to do anything else, when it really amounts to the fact that we don’t know “how” to make more meaningful decisions about how we use our time.

Turning off the TV or the computer at a regular time and giving the gift of time for reading, playing games, or just sitting around the table talking is a big step towards a higher HAPPINESS FACTOR.  This is such a simple thing to do; yet we hesitate because technology is an easy way to spend our energy.  Creating a quieter environment actually takes less energy, and, as we’ve found this month, gives back energy.

Another idea is to step out into society to volunteer, or just fill in when needed.  It often feels like we have so little control over what happens in our world, but volunteering to help others (and not just at Christmas) is a terrific way to replace consuming habits, and fill up that space with a sense of being worthwhile…an exchange of something besides money for making the community around us safer in every way.

My freedom to choose is so much more then just a bumper sticker.  This month has made it clear to me that I can choose to step away from the world for a period of time so that I can decide what is important to me at a deeper level, or I can learn new skills or even new things about myself.  I am more determined then ever to fight for my right to have this kind of freedom from technology, from consuming, from commercialism or the opinions of others.

This month, as I’ve thought more about what it takes to be content, I can see that a big part of my HAPPINESS FACTOR came from working for the rights of other abused women, and by going to places I’d been told to never go, or that I’d never be welcomed into.  Prisons, halls of great power in far off places, on trains across foreign unfriendly lands, and finally building a house out of trash.

My journey from those experiences, and now from taking time this month to be on vacation from the world, only led me back to the place my grandparents had shown me – a simple life.  At this point there is just no going back to the old me, or the one that my culture demanded.  Even though I know this, I need to be reminded that there are ways to live my life without consuming, without shopping, without wasting things and taking away from the future.  After all I am an American, filled with her ideals and dictates.

Please don’t think I have all of the answers.  I’m trying to find my way, the same as lots of folks.  But I do want to find and hang on to the energy that is at the heart of feeling secure, and free to be a happy human being.  The ultimate foundation for living a life rooted in THE HAPPINESS FACTOR.



Jay Warmke, Chris Lofromento, Deb LoFromento, Annie Warmke, Chris Luers, Karrissa Hahn enjoying a Chinese New Year feast 2012

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                      January 22, 2012                      7:30 AM

27F outdoors                           65F indoors


If food is the heart of sustainable living, then friendship is the soul…

The table was all dressed up in red for the Chinese New Year luncheon. 

Our small gathering of friends braved the icy road to bring fruit and avocados (for later), a chicken dish, a noodle dish (for a long life), freshly made bread, and lots of good moods.  Jay and I had prepared shrimp spring rolls, and a rice dish.  The teapot was steeping with a Jasmine blooming tea flower.

There were decorations of Yen (Chinese play money), tissues (in Chinese packaging), paper cuts (beautiful little designs delicately cut out by hand), chopsticks (cheaters for Chris Luers, who is a novice at eating this way), and a big red sash in gold letters that ran down the red and gold table covering.  I have no idea what the letters say, but since my friend, Ginger Swank sent it to me last year from China, I’m pretending that it wishes us all a happy and prosperous year to come.


Carolyn joining in as part of the Chinese New Year decorations

The conversation was wild and intelligent.  After about two hours we might have solved many of the world’s problems, but it didn’t matter because we were laughing and agreeing with each other at almost every idea.

After we finished our broth (the official signal of the end of the food) Jay read us our Chinese horoscopes.  Karissa Hahn and I are rabbits.  There is nothing in the definition of a “rabbit” that fits either of us, which only added to the delight of the horoscopes.  When Jay said we are submissive we couldn’t stop laughing and protesting at the same time.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Chris Luers and Deb Lofromento think there might be some truth in their horoscopes.  But Chris Lofromento was full of jokes about his reading.  Strangely Jay’s was relatively accurate so we were all sure he wrote his own just to be “smart”.  He vehemently denied any responsibility.

By the end of our time together the dogs were jumping at me to get my Carharts on so the evening chores could commence.  They can tell time, even when they can’t see the clock. 

After everyone left and I was alone with the critters doing my routine at the barn I was thinking about the energy of friendship.  Friends, at least in Jay’s and my life, are people who have taught us things.  They bring hugs, and love, and their opinions to share.  They create souvenirs – memories, and these souvenirs sustain us when they are not around, or in times of trouble or need.

My best friend since my childhood is still connected to my life.  We’ve taken to having a bit of a holiday together annually.  To have time with her goodness is like a drink of fresh cool water.  Our history carries us through things – when I’m at my saddest and have no words, she is at the other end of the phone telling me the truth, or giving me nourishment.  How could I live my life without her – just knowing she is my friend gives me energy.

And at last, there are friends here in this place we love so much.  They are like a cool breeze that floats into the room and leaves nothing untouched.  Their friendship lends courage and goodness to my life.  We hold birthday swaps (one this Saturday), and share food, politics, and life.

Beyond them there are friends around the US that have been in our lives for a long time.  They have been through good times and hard times with us.  They show up in times of trouble or to celebrate life with us, and we miss them every day. 

And beyond them are our friends in far off places.  We stay in touch, and sometimes we even get to work on projects together, or actually see each other face-to-face.

A while ago I read that people who have long-term friendships live happier, longer lives.  If that is true, then my wish to live to be at least, I repeat, at least, 94 years old will come true. 

In spite of being opinionated, loud, passionate, and not normally knowing my place in this world (not like a rabbit at all), I’ve managed to achieve one of the big goals of my life – friends.  For sure I am going to live a long healthy life even though I did not eat any of those delicious-looking Chinese noodles.




Cinnamon Raisin Toast

Scrambled Eggs



Potato Cakes




Shrimp and Rice leftovers

It was love at…

Image It was love at first sight over 30 years ago  Photo by Keith Bowers


THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                                  January 21, 2012            7:00 AM

65 F indoors (burr)   21 F outdoors

Ice, ice, ice



Yesterday the ZANESVILLE TIMES RECORDER sent out a reporter, Holly Richards, and a photographer, Trevor Jones to talk about our THANKS FOR NOTHING month.  Their visit was a time of re-hashing what I’ve been mulling around in my head these past few days.

I keep getting asked what this month really means to me, and how much money has been saved?  Right now I’m working through, as much as possible with one third of the month to go, what I think.  As for saving money, that’s never been my focus.

At this point I have finally accepted that I have not found any type of reward in making money – in fact I have said from the beginning of my adult years that I do what I do because it is valuable to me, and I would do these things if there was no money for me. 

In fact some of my work has been unpaid because I did not want to be manipulated by people with money – I wanted the freedom to make the right decisions without finances being held over my head.  Fortunately I had the luxury of Jay being my benefactor during those times so that I had the freedom to do what was needed.  Not having debt gave us that autonomy.

But today I realize that all of the things I’ve cared about – social justice, relationship-building, creating community, re-using things, raising/rescuing animals, raising/rescuing children, saving things for tomorrow’s re-use and so much more – are what has made my life such a challenge, and such a joy. 

Nans Thomassey (my French counter part in this month’s experiment) is right when he says that the focus on cash and money makes a barrier between people.  I am grateful to him for saying it again and again until I could make that concept make sense to me.

ImageNans Thomassey (holding the mug) & Guillaume CHARROIN making crepes at Blue Rock Station

When Jay and I met with the reporter I wanted to be able to talk about all of the things I’ve been thinking about, but in a way that she could “hear” me.  I told Jay that I don’t want to sound like I’m fucking crazy.  He said, “Well, then don’t talk.” 

After some thought I decided that I would talk about taking a vacation from spending any kind of energy related to money or electricity or petrol.  Most folks take a vacation from their work.  I don’t need a vacation – I love my life.  But my soul has always needed vacations from the world of finance, and this month has been just such a vacation.

During this month’s financial vacation I realize that whatever I do from this point on has to be more rooted in trading things, inviting people to share, and pushing myself to learn more about how to have a simpler life.  The models of simplicity I need do not surround me in this culture.  I’ve also decided that I want to take a trip to work on a project somewhere – some place where people struggle with the daily issues of having enough water and food. 

Most of the important lessons I’ve learned in my adulthood have been from making myself really uncomfortable –spending time organizing women in prison, hanging out with Muslim women, writing tracts for prostitutes, living with immigrant women, and visiting people who live in poverty in other countries (where I did not speak the language).  Every one of those experiences re-wrote something inside of me.

What is the next step?  I’m not really sure yet, but for now I’m thinking of today’s gathering of friends.  Each of them has had a part in some way in our THANKS FOR NOTHING month.  They’ve lent support, brought food, offered levity.  I’m going to savor our moments together as we celebrate the Chinese New Year.



A variety of Chinese food surrounded by decorations that were sent to us by our wonderful friend Ginger Swank when she taught in China