ImageAnnie in front of the Earthship with her treasured French pussy willow cuttings – the first of the 2012 season


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

61 F indoors            6 F outdoors

Bitter cold and more on the way – 2” snow on the ground



It’s already spring in my brain…the pussy willows have set their little catkins, and some of them are slowly bursting out of their shells.  Bliss on a stem – spring will be here once again.

The first time I saw a pussy willow I must have been in grade school.  Those little white puffballs caused me to fall instantly in love – in love with something so alive yet the snow and cold were still holding onto the earth outside.

When we moved from Europe to live at Blue Rock Station I wanted to make an outdoor room like the one my Hadleigh England neighbor, Sabrina Bloomfield had in her garden.  I loved the space she created with plants and bushes.  We often ate lunch, or had a snack in that out door room – some times even sitting with blankets on our laps so we could enjoy being outdoors before the long dreary winter of England near the North Sea took a hold of us.  One time we even ate out there in the snow – Sabrina was German so any excuse to be outside seemed good to her.

When we first bought this acreage I ordered two pussy willow trees.  Some of the guys who worked for me thought I was silly.  They told me that I should wait until I lived in Ohio to grow a tree.  Trees take time so I wanted to have nice trees – scarlet maples, pussy willows and crabapple trees that would bring life in the earliest part of spring and the latest part of fall.  They thought I was crazy.  Today those trees are magnificent – giant trees at the entrance gate. 

The more I learned about pussy willows, and gardens and beneficial insects the more thrilled I was at the idea of using them as giant bug hotels hosting more than 100 beneficial insects.  They also bloom so early in the spring that they provide the first big feast for all of those loaner pollinators and honey bees that are looking for a one-stop buffet.  They can be a bush, a tree or something in between.  What’s not to love?

Today the willows create a hotel in a very wet spot right next to the garden.

In 2005 I took some cuttings from the large willow trees at the entrance and shoved them into the ground where I wanted to form the outdoor room.  Each winter since then I’ve cut back each of those small trees into bushes (5’ tall after pruning).  Some of those cuttings have gone to the local florist shop.  Some have been sold as whips so other people can start their own willow patch. 

Honestly I don’t know which is better – the job those willows do for my garden by hosting all of those great insects, or the fact that I have to get outside during the winter to cut them back.

As I shape the trees into bushes, deciding which limbs will be good for forcing the catkins for bouquets, and which ones can be used for starting more plants, I am dreaming of spring.  It’s hard work cutting above my head, so I don’t get cold, which helps me dream even more about the smells and sights of March and April and May.

Elyse Perruchon wrote yesterday to say she’s dreaming of her garden – planning what she’ll grow.  For me, that’s the next step into spring.  Today I’m dreaming of catkins and pussy willows.




Fruit shortcake

Greek Yogurt






Left Overs




THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                                  January 19, 2012            7:20 AM

59 F indoors (burr)   23 F outdoors Bad weather is coming


Prepare to be inspired.  If you think the youth of this country are going to hell in a hand basket (as my grandmother used to love to say) then read on…

As I went through some early intern photos this morning I could hardly believe how much has changed here since our intern program began in 2007.  This month has given me quite a bit of time to think about the intern program, and the amazing people who have walked down the lane into our hearts, and left their mark. 

Some of them were WWOOFERS (, some of them came through high schools or university programs, and some just came because they wanted to learn more about sustainable living.  Some paid to be here, while others received scholarships.

We’ve been inspired by their work ethic, and the emotion they feel when they dream up and then create their projects.  Blue Rock Station would not be the place it is today without their work, their devotion and their energy. 

Our first intern was Elyse Perruchon who has gone off to work towards creating an urban homestead near Cleveland and during the day she’s an environmental consultant for an international firm.

Nans Thomassey, who is doing the THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH with us in The Rhone-Alps, joined us in early spring the next year.  He designed and built the Llama Lounge, plus named the “Happy Nest”, and created the design for the Firefly – the basic building design we’ve used for the cottages.  READ MORE:  (! and you can ask Google to translate the page or just look at the photos)

And the interns kept coming to us (37 in all), bringing a passion for sustainable living that just needed a place to gain roots.  I sometimes think that Jay and I might not have continued to this point in our business if it weren’t for some of our interns. 

When someone came in the night and killed Michele, our llama, interns like Elyse and Nans showed up to give us perspective.  When I was depressed after her death, some of them showed up to push me to take care of myself. 

Sometimes on holidays, or my birthday they re-appear to share time together, or to surprise us.  Some of them visit regularly throughout the year, or we visit them.

Mostly the interns have inspired us by going on to work on sustainability in their daily lives. 

All of this reflection today has made me wonder about this summer’s interns.  Persa Zula is our first student in the new Fellowship Program.  She has been here several times so I know it will be a great summer just because we get to work with her. 

The University of Dayton ETHOS club (engineers working towards sustainability) will be here a few times to build a bio-fuel station.  That will be great fun too since they are usually an intelligent group of folks who are really thinking about the future.

But it is the unknown that intrigues me.  The interns that will come from far off places who will bring their talents, their experiences and their dreams. 

By next year at this time I won’t remember the hard work, or how tired we’ll all be.  I will eventually forget how much effort it took to make the projects come to life, to build a time line, to get their dreams into reality.  One thing I never forget is the hole in my heart when some of them go up the lane and back into the world beyond the gate.

What I look forward to as the winter finally turns to spring is how it will feel at the end of the summer when we’ve reached our goal of living together in peace, cooking great food, eating together, learning together, creating solutions, and moving forward.




Biscuits and Jam

Scrambled Eggs



Potato Soup




Cheese Quesadilla





THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                      January 18, 2012                      7:45 AM

64 F indoors                 27 F outdoors (feels like 18F)

Snow flurries


 Image Jay at 5 AM -writing the great American non-fiction


Jay uses the coffeemaker.  There, I’ve said it.

Yesterday Jay informed me that I should write about his indiscretions with energy.  I hated to do it, but since I haven’t said much about his comings and goings it seems like a good way to begin my blog today.

When we first started planning the THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH Jay was very keen about the idea.  Together we made a list of guidelines we both agreed to follow.

Jay is kind of a low maintenance kind of guy.  He requires cheese, coffee, pasta, potatoes, bread, butter and chocolate, plus lots of hugs and kisses.  Actually these are his food groups and if the food doesn’t fit into these categories then he has the attitude that it probably isn’t good for him. 

Jay is also a guy who enjoys routine.  In the evening he is eager to report what film we’ll watch.  After the film he takes a shower, then switches on the white noise machine. Reading comes next, and finally sleeps. 

For several months now he gets up at 5 AM to write.  The night before he puts his clothes in the living room so that when he changes in the morning he won’t wake me up – he’s a thoughtful kind of guy as well.  Next he makes coffee in the coffee maker, and begins his day.

I personally think he needs this routine because he is a brilliant workaholic.  That brain just can’t shut down. 

When we started thinking about THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH though I felt like we weren’t really making many changes in our routine life.  Then Nans came up with the idea that we should live with the rhythm of the earth and turn off every ounce of energy (we need a little for our business day) once it got dark.

To me this was a Eureka idea.  To Jay it began a list of things that were challenges.  The first item was the white noise machine.  He said he wouldn’t live without it.  Within a day he had discovered it would run on batteries.  Whew!  That was a relief because that machine was staying one way or another.

Then I mentioned that we had a large French press that would work well for morning coffee.  Honestly, I don’t ever want to be responsible for putting that look on his face, but it had to be said.  “No way” was his response.  That coffeemaker was his best friend and he wasn’t giving it up for a whole month because his business day begins when that coffeemaker starts.

There are those who would side with Jay on these matters (and more) because after all, he does live with me, and he has to set his limits.  In fairness to him, I can see his reasoning, but I refuse to agree.

I argued that the whole point of this month was to have a deeper experience at living simply.  He said the purpose was to live without an exchange of money.  Sigh…

Last night, as we ate supper at 9 PM (he taught his class until 8 PM) he said, “I had to spend money today – I had a 20 cent fine at the library.”  I couldn’t help laughing.  When I pointed out he could pay it in February, he couldn’t see the point.

He said he could have stood in front of the Newark library and asked someone for 20 cents, which I thought was a distinct possibility.  The image of Professor Warmke in his expensive brown leather bomber’s jacket standing out in front of that fancy building with the folks who do ask for cigarettes or money for a cup of coffee seemed like it might be a life-changing experience.  Jay said that it would be his luck that the dean of the school would show up just as he asked for the change.  We had a good laugh about that.

Personally I think that this month is about stepping outside of the ordinary, and trying new ways of thinking about consumption.  Jay often tells me that my approach is about the soft side and his about the basics.  I tell him I’m the global thinker and he’s the local thinker. 

From a distance it might make people wonder how we’ve spent more then three decades together, but for me it’s just another day with my dearest friend and the most brilliant person I’ve ever known.




Gluten-free cinnamon toast

Left over noodles with egg (for Jay)



Chicken Salad

Potato Soup



Left Overs



Miss America with gluten-free pancakes, real butter and homemade blueberry/raspberry jam made into syrup.

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                      January 17, 2012                      7:45 AM

63.4  F  indoors             48 F  outdoors

Rain, rain and more rain, and then snow tonight



CAUTION:  This is a serious “thinking” day…Reader be aware.

I was born white…but my soul is a rainbow of nationalities.  This has caused quite a bit of happiness, yet confusion in my life.

During THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH I’ve taken daily time to just think.  Sometimes I’ve done this by taking a walk, but mostly by ending my workday early – turning off the computer, signaling the end of that part of my “busy-ness”.

Yesterday I wanted to think about what it means to erase barriers.  Nans sent me a long post about some of his thoughts as he begins his THANKS FOR NOTHING month in the Rhone-Alps with Fanny Gonnet, his partner.  He feels strongly about the barrier that the exchange of money creates between people and communities, and society.  Until yesterday I didn’t really understand the entirety of his thinking…maybe I still don’t but I’m getting closer.

Since it was Martin Luther King Day, I spent time thinking about how I have failed or succeeded at being a social change agent.  It didn’t occur to me until yesterday that part of living a non-consuming life includes making social change.

One of my benefactors, when I was working to get battered women out of prison, used to say that she would never be able to go to the prison, but her religion dictated that she help those in jail so she was duty bound to give me money…and she surely did.  But that wasn’t her soul reaching out to anything – she was just passing money from one hand to another.

So many of the life lessons I’ve needed came from putting myself in places where I was not the white majority, or not with other Americans – just watching or listening.  Sometimes I got it wrong – I’ve been chewed to pieces for saying something I didn’t understand was derogatory.  Sometimes I was so uncomfortable I could hardly stand it, but each time I moved outside of my shell I took home something that served me well.

When I went to New York to be on the Phil Donahue Show in the 1990’s I was driven back and forth from the airport by a very bigoted Russian immigrant who decided that driving me through Harlem at midnight was a way to demonstrate how lazy “those people” are in their own country.  When he was the driver for the return trip, I had thought through what to do to protect myself from letting in his hatred.  He started with the same offering of racist commentary but this time I demanded he stop the limo so I could telephone for a new driver.  He was really listening to me by then.  I explained I could not listen to him speak in such a way, and the reasons.  He taught me that I couldn’t let the violence of racism happen in front of me, and just ignore it.   I realized that if I didn’t speak up I’d be carrying around all the hatred he was spewing out, with no way to get rid of it.

After September 11th I was beside myself with what to do about what I believed would happen next – war against Muslims in the US.  One day I rounded up Miss America (age 7) and some friends, plus my mother and off we went to the mosque in Tampa to attend an open house.  That day I was mesmerized by the friendliness of the Islamic community, and everything that I learned.  I went there because I needed their support and their knowledge – I did not want to be ignorant of how to stand up to my neighbors’ bigotry. 

When I met the young Muslim women University of South Florida students, my knee jerk reaction was to ask them to come to Miss America’s school and give a talk on their beliefs.  What happened next is too long to tell in this blog, but I was glad, even after a physical attack from a “Christian” mother of one of the school students, that I took the lead to bring Muslims face-to-face with young children.  Those young women made their case in a way I could never do, and all I had to do was open the door (using my white American privilege), and step back.  That event changed my life – gave me confidence in a new way to take the lead against injustice

My reaching out to those who were different from me erased some of my irrational fears – removing barriers in my mind – barriers of fear of people who were different from me that my parents helped create, and barriers that being born a privileged white person put into place in my life.

Reliving these memories, and many more gave me a clearer understanding of how social justice work, volunteering, and just filling in where we’re needed, builds confidence to make a difference for those around us – and there is usually no paper money involved in that connecting.  Those actions speak to the soul of those giving and those receiving. 

Maybe I’m doing too much thinking, or just maybe I putting things into perspective.  I don’t know the answer just yet, but I know Nans sure started a firestorm when he wrote his post yesterday.  All of those “thinking” breaks are re-writing “me”. 


The pizza crew:…


The pizza crew:  Rachael Miller, Miss America, Jay Warmke, Ryan Evans, Mike Voellmecke, Annie Warmke – photographer extraordinaire, Keith Bowers


THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                      January 16, 2012                      7:00 AM


62 F  indoors                            18 F indoors

A bit warmer but the wind is fierce, making it quite cold still



 Thank heavens Ryan and Rachael were here visiting or there might have been a major killing spree.  The dog from down the road, an adorable golden retriever named Lilly, was waiting at the gate for us when we went to do chores this morning.  The minute she saw us she jumped through the gate opening and tore off after a big yellow chicken.  Rosie was with us, and she tore into Lilly, with backup from Cadeau and Sophie, of course.

This was how we culminated three days of cooking, working, and enjoying our time together.  Mike Voellmecke, engineer extraordinarre, and a former intern arrived on Friday evening to begin the completion of his book on building a rocket stove.  In 2010 he spent eight weeks with us living sustainably, and building an amazing machine out of re-used materials.  We worked on the booklet (he’s written quite a bit of it already) all day Saturday in between cooking food and talking our fool heads off about anything and everything. 

Ryan Evans arrived late on Saturday with two friends, Rachael Miller and Keith Bowers.  By candlelight I heated some broth and dug some bits and bobs (cashews, leftover rice noodles, and cheese) out of the frig to throw into the soup.  The feast included bread and butter, and a coffee cake dessert covered in pear syrup.  It all came together in what seemed minutes – the woodstove can be a tool for fast food after all.

On Sunday morning everyone helped with chores – and they met Lilly, since we’re on her regular rounds now.  Fortunately Nate showed up and took her back home. 

Jay made waffles for breakfast, and we sat around changing the world one conversation at a time.  After the day’s agenda was discussed – bring in firewood, chopping wood for the rocket stove, getting the fire going, taking photos of the firing process, washing dishes, preparing pizza dough, cooking pizza sauce, cutting up veggies and preparing supper, everyone jumped in to do their part.

By the time the sun came out in the early afternoon everyone was ready for a walk in the woods.  Off they went with the dogs to discover more about the Great Beech Woods – the place we take the llamas when there are treks during the warm months of the year.

By late afternoon they had returned, and  Keith was in charge of the dough making.  While he’s a fantastic photo-journalist, he is also a very serious maker of dough.  Rachael cooked the veggies in the antique cast iron skillet that I re-discovered down in the bunkhouse.  That’s the first time we’ve used the cooking surface of the woodstove like it was a quick cooking surface, and it worked fine.

After a round of photo taking, we sat down to a candlelit table weighed down with individual pizzas, kumbucha (a gift from Ryan’s personal stash), and conversation.  Afterward we played the card board game Tripoly, and I am pleased to report that I was the big winner.  My only regret is that we didn’t take a photo of my winning stash of poker chips.  Since I don’t normally win I would have liked to have a photo to prove the outcome.

As we were playing the game I was drinking in how it felt to sit in a room with such amazing young people.  I try never to miss such an opportunity.

Miss America was to my left, and full of instructions and advice (aimed primarily at me).  Apparently I have grown quite a bit younger and need some assistance now that I am having a challenge with my hearing.  She really enjoyed herself during the pizza making and the rest of the evening in spite of her periodic bossing of me.

Mike Voellmecke was also to my left.  He’s a brilliant guy, with a certain grace about him.  He also seems to have great luck at games, mainly because he’s patient and pays attention.  I value his opinions immensely.

To my right was Ryan Evans, a gifted man in many ways.  He’s brilliant, on top of being an artist.  I think he’d like to cheat, but only to see what he could get away with, but then it’s all done in a way that endears him to me.  He loves to think about many things and I value his ability to talk to people, and to lead them – and his opinions.

Rachael Miller is Ryan’s special friend.  She’s clever and has a charming quick laugh.  It’s clear she’s intelligent and gifted too.  I am sure I will come to value her opinion as well.

Keith Bowers has declined to play.  He would rather sit quietly with the dogs and cats.  Keith has the energy of a guru at some moments, and the massive energy of a thinker who has the passion to make things happen.  I am sure I will come to value his opinion as well.  Eventually he fell asleep on the couch, even though we yelled and cussed and carried-on rather loudly.

Over breakfast this morning we solved quite a few of the future world’s problems over raw granola and a proper cup of tea.  Sustainenace that we would need for dealing with Lilly as their final activity before driving back to Cincinnati.

As I told them on their way out of the door – I will be waiting for their next visit.  They teased that they would come without Ryan next time, which I objected to in a loud voice.  Out the door they went – taking with them their breath of fresh air.  I WILL be waiting for their next visit.




Raw Granola with peanut butter



Potato Cakes

Fried Cabbage



Baked Chicken



New Year Begins

January 1, 2012

TODAY’S Happiness factor:  9 out of 10 (we both have a slight case of the flu)

68.3 F in the house  41.2 F outdoors  8:29 AM


Today’s Menu


Omelettes with toast


Baked potato with toppings

Salad from the greenhouse


Curry Soup



After a restful night’s sleep (we stayed up until 10 PM watching Dr. Finley videos, which is quite late for us), I stayed in bed until 8 AM because I wanted it to be light outside when I got up.  It’s unusual to stay in bed for so long but I was savoring the comfort and warmth of the bed.  The dogs were anxiously waiting for me at the bedroom door since I had disturbed their routine.

For the moment I don’t think anything is out of the ordinary.  Jay got up at 5 AM to write and drink coffee.  The woodstove was blazing by 8 AM, and there was hot water for a proper cut of tea.

Yesterday Ryan Evans sent a post to say he’s visiting with his great friend Chad the glass blower this next weekend.  And Mike Voellmeke confirmed he’s visiting the next weekend to work on the rocket stove book so we can get it completed and printed.  Some friends are joining me here for lunch on Wednesday, and others on Thursday.  My social calendar runneth over with those who bring intellectual stimulation and great joy to my life – at least for next week (let’s hope the great weather holds).  The only thing missing will be Sam, who goes back to Ft. Gordon and the Army this week.  It’s clear to me that his leaving will temporarily bring down my happiness factor, but I am dreaming of traveling to Hawaii to have time with him, fishing, snorkeling, couch surfing and just generally enjoying his company.

This sounds a little selfish to me, but today I plan to telephone some old friends I haven’t talked to in ages, and read cookbooks, plus maybe finish my Marlene Dietrick biography, if my eyes will read that long.  Oh, and I’ll cook two meals (Jay will make the big breakfast since he really enjoys that).  I’m hoping Catlyn will be here with her fella, Devyn Kennedy, and, of course, Sam.

At breakfast we’ll drink a toast with a little hard cider, watered down with spiced cider (a gift from my adorable cousin Vicki Perkins).  We’ll tell jokes, share gossip from what went on last night at New Year’s and we’ll talk about the WHIZ TV interview.  This is the stuff that makes life complete.

On Death & Dying

This was blogged by Richard Carlson.  It describes a horrible act of butchery that took place against us – killing our precious llama Michelle Belle.

I’m fascinated with friends.  At some points in my life I have neglected family completely to be involved with friends.  They don’t need to be 2 separate groups I guess, but there seem to be significant differences.  That would need to be a different essay.
I don’t think I’ve had a lot of friends since junior high school, although I don’t count or usually compare myself to other people in this regard.  I’m not very good at making friends or keeping them…but the ones who have hung around I really treasure.  I hope I tell them so enough…but I’m sure I should do more.  And I should tell my family I treasure them too.

Sometimes people have shown up in my life who are so incredible, and even famous, that I can’t believe we even know each other.  I don’t understand how that happens, and I don’t want to tempt the fates by asking.  I just tiptoe along in gratitude.  I hope you know people like that too.

Continue reading On Death & Dying