It’s a cold day in OH when we post podcasts…

It happened!  We have a new format at www.bluerockstation.com that will hopefully take us one step further into cyber-Wonderland.

Oeffa group '12

Lately we’ve been hearing from people at our tours and workshops that they like our podcasts, and some of those kind folks have also heard us live on WGRN (Fridays at 11:30 am) or WOUB radio (Wednesdays at 9:00 am).   It’s fun to hear folks quote some of the crazy things we say (actually, that Jay says) around here.

On another note, I confess that I have begun my annual rant against the weather. It’s 20+ degrees colder then normal this month, and the wind is relentless. Maybe I’m just tired from working hard to get ready for the cold weather and birthing goats, but it already feels oppressive and I find myself dreaming of the beach… and feeling slightly resentful when I see photos of old friends in Florida in shorts, shamelessly sweating in January.

You can learn more about daily life at Blue Rock Station, listen to podcasts and view photos by visiting the Blue Rock Station blog at https://bluerockstation.wordpress.com/.

 

Upcoming Workshops at Blue Rock Station:

Check out some of our other upcoming classes on solar installation, goat college, cheese making and 10 Ways to Make Thrive Your Mantra…www.bluerockstation.com  Please register early because all of our events have limited space.

 

The Critters:

The hen in the chicken tractor, Isabella, and her biddies are on strike.  At dusk, I patiently hauled the hen and six biddies (almost the size of their mother now) down to the chicken chalet while they screamed their fool heads off.  The next day, Isabella had trekked all the way back to the purple chicken tractor and she and her clan moved back in. This went on for a couple of days and each night she stood patiently, waiting for me to open the door of the tractor.

I am tempted to shut her in the permanent chicken run with Petunia, the peafowl, forcing her to get used to not going back to where I don’t want her to be (chickens thrive on double negatives).  The life of a farmer is one constant puzzle where half of the pieces are covered in manure.   I will let you know how this one turns out.  Ultimately I will win.  When?…is the question.

Food, the Heart of Sustainability:

Soup weather is here,  and about time.  Thank goodness cooking is super easy at this time of year.   Soak four cups of dried garbanzo beans (or open three cans from the store).   I use home grown canned tomato sauce, but a large jar from the store works fine as well.  I boil enough rice noodles for two meals for three people, and while the water is heating I fill a separate sauce pan with the cooked beans, sauce, a small amount of vegan chorizo and another small home-canned jar of spicy salsa.

On top of this mix I add some oregano and salt to taste.  Boiling rice noodles takes no talent.  Simply boil water, dump in the noodles once there is a rolling boil, turn off the heat and stir.  At this point I take scissors and cut up the noodles so they are easy to handle and eat. Drain the noodles and add the bean sauce for a thick garbanzo pasta dish that will get the blood pumping and warm everybody up on a cold night. Bon Appetite!
Words that Guided:

Just for today I will not listen to the news.  As Jay says when I ask what’s happening in the world, “Bin Laden’s still dead, Trump’s still the president, and somebody shot somebody.”  I can do without that in my brain for 24 hours.
Kindest Regards, Annie


Blue Rock Station, 1190 Virginia Ridge, Philo, OH 43771     *  (740) 674-4300

http://www.bluerockstation.com     *   @bluerockstation.com  #bluerockstation

 

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The Greenhorn at Blue Rock Station: Post #4

THE HAPPINESS FACTOR #3: ESTABLISH LASTING FRIENDSHIPS

All too often I meet people who have made it their sole mission in life to seek out one person who will give them indestructible happiness. This is a mission that is doomed for failure. Not only have they made an investment with impossible expectations for their significant other, but they have set themselves up to be resentful when those expectations are not met. It also creates a situation in which one will be all alone if the connection with the other ever severs. What happens if their lover dies, or they have to leave for a while, or it just doesn’t work out like it was originally planned? Happiness isn’t found in one person; it spawns from the multiple lifelong connections you have made within your world. As Aristotle once said, “in poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.”

Now, I admit that I am not the most sociable person in the world. I can even be a bit snotty about it. I only let in people who I absolutely adore, mostly because I find social interaction to be exhausting. If I get to a point in my life where I feel like I have let too many people in, or if they are hanging out with too many people I do not want to let in, I disappear. I learned quickly that people get upset if you just ignore everyone for an indeterminate amount of time, so once I got a vehicle I began finding more excusable ways of escaping. I might change jobs, transfer schools, or work as an intern in Ohio. It’s like I have this unspecified social quota that I let slowly fill up, and once it’s filled I dump everything to start again. I should probably say that I plan to work on this, but I feel like I know myself well enough at this point to know that expecting anything else would be me not respecting the way my brain is wired. Though, I suppose I will eventually need to find less drastic ways to “recharge”.

Being Introverted doesn't mean I don't enjoy the comfort of being surrounded by friends.
Being introverted doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the comfort of being surrounded by friends.

I always come back to the ones I love.  I may be extremely introverted, but I am not heartless. I require their support as much as any extroverted soul. I am only less overt with my appreciation. During my stay at Blue Rock Station, I have witnessed how exponentially important friendship becomes with age. People die, careers are halted, homes are loss, children can be ungrateful, romance may fade, but true friends are always there when you need them. For this reason, one should always make room for friendships in life. They fill your days with songs of laughter and joy, whose melodies will give you comfort in times of sorrow.

Photo credit:  Anna Marie

The Greenhorn at Blue Rock Station: Post #3

THE HAPPINESS FACTOR #2: MEANINGFUL WORK

I have excelled at every job I have ever had. I may not have always been the most efficient or skilled worker, but I am almost always one of the favorites. Much of my success is likely due to the fact that I smile constantly. Coincidentally, in most of the photographs from my childhood I am wearing this awkward smirk because I was never quite sure what it felt like to smile. My family would always get after me about it. “Why are you making that face? You have such a nice smile, cut it out!” In which I would further contort my face into a catawampus mess in an attempt to please them. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized smiling was more or less my default face. I am sure it has been a greater asset to me then I will ever know.

People with Asperger's tend to struggle with facial expressions
People with Asperger’s tend to struggle with facial expressions.

What has also been beneficial is the positive attitude I try to bring with me in everything I do. To the best of my ability, I try to match my supervisor’s sense of importance when accomplishing assigned tasks, and I set off to accomplish the tasks enthusiastically when I am asked to. I don’t do this because I want to kiss my boss’ ass; I do it because it genuinely makes my job more enjoyable. Additionally, I make a point to avoid co-workers who emit a negative aura. The complaints, the poor attitude; it is contagious, and I do not want to be miserable while I work. However, I have still never quite been able to be fully satisfied with whatever job I have held. I inevitably reach a point where I wake up each morning, sit on the edge of my bed, stare at my feet, and think, “What the hell am I doing this for?”

You see, a sense of accomplishment is important, but it will only get me halfway there. In my search for meaningful work, I lacked a sense of purpose. My personal values and morals have never been aligned with the values and morals required to do my job. It feels as if I am always forced to put on one mask at home and put on another at work. I am not merely referring to formalities, but the clear disconnection between my ideology and the goal of the companies who employed me. One can lie to themselves for a while, but their own life may eventually begin to haunt them without a connection between their work and their soul (i.e. midlife crisis). I have witnessed this firsthand, as the many male role models in my life have begun to quietly unravel from their experiences in the military.

I have a very serious milk face.
I have a very serious milk face.

At Blue Rock Station, sometimes the connection to my values are obvious. For instance, when I muck out the goat stalls I am not only contributing to the health of an animal that provides me with milk, cheese, and laughter; but I am also creating soil that will be used to grow food in the future. Considering that sustenance is incredibly valuable to human life, it makes standing in shit not seem like such a bad deal. More importantly, though, I want to live in a way that shows a deep appreciation for my environment. I want to minimize the negative impact I have within the scope of my world, and cultivate healthy relationships with the people around me. The people I am currently working for not only support my lifestyle goals, but push me to pursue them. This not only makes the work I do more meaningful, but it kind of makes it not feel like work. Rather, it feels more like, as Annie says, “I am just living my life.”

The life expectancy in this country is nearly 80 years old. At 24, the time I have experienced on this planet will be experienced another two to three times before I die. I do not want to spend it invested into something I hate. I am aware that this will likely make my initial journey into the workforce difficult, but it will be well worth it. Following Jay’s advice: I will find something I enjoy, and when I do not enjoy it anymore, I will find something else to do.

I wake up each morning, sit on the edge of my bed, stare at my feet, and think, “Get your ass up, the babies are starving!"
I wake up each morning, sit on the edge of my bed, stare at my feet, and think, “Get your ass up, the babies are starving!”

The Greenhorn at Blue Rock Station: Post #1

The importance of introductions and goodbyes have always been a difficult thing for me to process. Much of my early memories of social interaction involve my father apologizing to others for my rudeness when leaving abruptly or failing to say hello. Later, it would be my girlfriends who would be apologizing for me. I am still not completely convinced that introductions are necessary; as it all feels incredibly scripted, but I am conscious that others expect it from me.

Chris Guitar

So this is my Intro – my name is Christopher Creech, and I am a sociology major from central Texas with a focus on the consumption habits of North Americans. I am currently an intern at Blue Rock Station, a sustainable living farm located in rural southeast Ohio in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Specifically, the focus of this internship is on correlation between consumption and subjective happiness. I have Asperger’s, and though I have never viewed it as a disorder, it has likely guided much of my frustration with the world. My desire to escape it, through music, first sparked my interest in sustainable living. As an “angsty” teenager, the folk-punk bands from the Midwest mesmerized me with lyrics that rejected the consumer culture and embraced simple living. This blog will be cataloging my journey towards a more sustainable way of life while at Blue Rock Station, in addition to me musing over the various factors that effect human happiness.

When I first arrived at Blue Rock Station I felt mostly apprehensive. I had spent most of my life running away from places; this was the first time I had ever arrived anywhere with a purpose. I would be spending the next 11 weeks learning new skills, interacting with new people, and all sorts of other things I normally tend to avoid because I have an aversion to failure. However, I had gotten to a point in my life where I felt like I was getting everything I had ever wanted, yet I was deeply unsatisfied. I eventually came to the conclusion that my dissatisfaction with life could not be cured by wants, but by the need for something different. This is what led me to Blue Rock Station.

Chris & Mel
My first day mostly consisted of me being acclimated to the farm. I drank tea with Jay while we discussed what skills I currently had, what skills I wanted to learn, and what goals I have for the internship (i.e. none, all of them, and the confidence to change the world). He then expressed his disdain with Texan’s infatuation with the shape of their state, only to proudly announce that Ohio was in the shape of a heart several minutes later (highlighting how individual differences tend to be slim). Afterwards, Melanie, the other intern, explained to me the assorted functions of all the buildings on the farm. I then followed her through the garden trying my best to not be annoying. She was incredibly kind, though, and helped me plant black radishes in one of the garden beds. I was intensely proud of myself, though I was too self conscious to show it.

As it got further into the evening Annie, Jay, Melanie, and I all convened at the Overlook to discuss the events of the day. I mostly just observed, but I appreciated everyone’s genuine interest in each other. They listened intently as each person told their version of the day. I recognize that this shouldn’t seem novel, but within our fast moving culture I have become accustomed to the scripted calls and responses that plague our daily conversations. It was refreshing. After night came I went to bed earlier than I had in years, likely because I hadn’t spent my day saturated in electronic interference. Laying in bed, I thought to myself, “I can do this,” feeling more confident than I had since I was a child.

Peace Grows
P.S. If you have questions or comments I would love to hear from you.

Day #2 THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH

Day #2     THANKS FOR NOTHING Month                               Sunny/Frigid

“Just for today I will touch the arm of every person I speak to face-to-face.  This one act has the power to create a connection between us.”
????????????????????? Mornings during THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH are a challenge during these beginning days of the month.  Each year we forget how much thought goes into the process of having hot water.  And hot water is the first thing needed in the morning, and nearly the last thing required in the evening.

Ralphie is mesmerized by the morning fire.

The wood stove in the living room is the only active source of heat for our home, an “Earthship” designed by the architect Michael Reynolds.  The home is constructed with rammed-earth tires, cans, bottles and lots of other re-purposed items.  Because the basic premise of the home is to use the concept of thermal mass for heating and cooling, the house naturally never falls below 55 degrees F, even with no heat source.

The only sources of hot water include a large old-fashioned enamel water kettle, and a small modern metal tea pot which are heated on of the top of the wood stove.  This hot water is used for washing dishes, filling up the solar shower bag that’s used for an evening shower, and, most importantly, for hot tea and coffee.  It takes a bit of planning to not run out of hot water, and that’s where our month of no electricity and money gets off to a rocky start.

For example:  Unless someone gets up in the night to put wood into the stove, in the morning the water in the tea kettles is only lukewarm.  The room is still plenty warm, and the stove is still hot, but the tea kettles loose their heat rather quickly.  Since Jay loves his morning cup of coffee, and I crave a proper cup of morning tea, this causes us to huddle around the stove, waiting for the smaller tea kettle to begin to “sing” that it’s finally hot enough.

After the first night, I’ve decided that if I wake up, no matter how much I hate to get up, I’m going to refill the wood stove.  Last night I did wake, and I tried telling myself that it didn’t matter, we could wait for our tea.  But then I remembered that there would be people joining us for a consulting visit and we would not have the luxury of hanging out until we’re good and ready to begin the day.

???????????????????????

With my head lamp shining brightly, I wandered down the hallway like a coal miner and filled up the stove.  Unlike a coal miner, I had the added hazard of avoiding stepping on any of the cats that sleep wherever they find a bit of warmth.  Then back to bed, to dream of warmer days.

Last year I tried hoarding hot water by filling up insulated water carafes.  It didn’t really work.  Lukewarm water just doesn’t make a great cup of coffee or tea.

I’d love to hear an idea or two about how I might keep the water hot enough over night to have a nice hot cup of tea, and not have to wait around for 30 minutes to get the day in high gear.  I’m considering putting some clay bricks on top of the stove (slight thermal mass) and putting the tea kettle on top.  My hope is that the bricks will hold more heat then the top of the stove.

The saga of how to keep the water hot over night continues.  I hope to hear from folks about possible solutions.

Menu
Breakfast:
Fresh fruit with yogurt

Lunch:
Left over butternut squash/potato soup
Rye bread with butter
Fresh hot pepper raw milk goat cheese

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH DIARIES – Day 28

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH             January 28, 2012                      7:34 AM

65 F indoors                 34 F outdoors

TODAY’S HAPPINESS FACTOR:  8 OUT 10

 Image  Sophie and Cadeau, waiting patiently for me.

When I opened the door to the chicken chalet I saw his beautiful body resting on the floor, and I knew he was dead.  King Ferdinand, grandson of Antonio Banderos had just died before I opened the door.  He was young, healthy, and good at his job.  As I carried him to the house I felt worried about who would take his place.

Image King Ferdinand enjoying life with one of his hens.

Animals have been a big part of my January experiment.  Because the weather has been so good I’ve had more time to connect with them, and they have been happy to be my partners. 

Every single time I get ready to go out to do chores the dogs are so excited – really thrilled at the idea that the door will open into the outdoor world, and off we will go to the far off barn (800 steps from the house) to meet up with chickens, goats and llamas.

Sometimes when they are at the door dancing around, and Cadeau is turning in circles – just at the mere fact that we’re going off together – I think about how great it is to be happy about the smallest things in life, and I am grateful that they remind me of this.

I’ve taken a lesson from the dogs, I must admit.  On many days, when I am about to sit down to eat with my family I feel incredibly happy at the thought of it.  When Jay and I go to town together, or explore some new place I have this same sense of delight about life.  During my time in France I felt delighted almost every moment – looking at familiar things I cherished when I lived there, experiencing new people and new ideas.

This month has provided me with delight at every turn.  Each morning and each evening when I walk up to the barn I feel a sense of being nourished.  It is a great thing in life to have meaningful work, and I definitely feel that taking care of our livestock gives me a strong sense of purpose, a life connection.

Image Rosie, resting after a hard morning of guarding the livestock.

In the morning when I wake up I often feel energized by the thoughts I have when I begin to think about what I will write about that day.  Even if no one reads my words, I am pleased that I have the skill to put them into print.

Whenever I am sitting at the computer and one of the cats jumps up to sit on my lap while I work, I never fail to stop what I’m doing to pet them.  This month I have particularly enjoyed their attention, and appreciated the happiness they bring to my life.

The wind in my face as I walk has made me feel refreshed.  The stories I’ve relived and told this month have inspired me to think about what adventures must be waiting for us in the future.  The thoughts of new interns, and old friends visiting make me feel appreciative of what will happen this year.  I have really loved this time that we are alone together, and the fact that spring will come around again.

Staying put for one whole month has taken away some sort of expectation I’ve been carrying around – I don’t know what that means yet but not having any place to go has felt like a security blanket that keeps me warm and safe.

Image Michelle Belle playing the part of the jungle gym for two tiny goat kids.

Living without money has been so much more then just not spending it.  Somehow this month has erased barriers, and given me a new sense of myself – a re-writing of a small part of the core of who I am. 

I’m no Pollyanna though.  Don’t confuse me with anybody who puts her head in the sand.  It’s just that I want to live in a different world – a simple place where we focus on what we have in common.  And this month, I’ve spent a lot of time savoring the fact that I have things in common with everything that surrounds me.

The month’s not over yet, though, although I am not hoping to repeat what I found in the hen house last night – that’s just life happening in my real world, but it feels painful.  Instead, I am anxious to see what will come out of our experiment of living without money – and what has turned out to be my vacation from the world.

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH DIAIRIES – Day 26

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

65 F indoors                 37 F outdoors

Rain, rain, rain

TODAY’S HAPPINESS FACTOR:  8 out of 10

 ImageImage

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.