I love autumn and winter. My family is amused my favorite seasons are the seasons where things do not grow, but for ice and winds. I love early darkness, a steaming mug of hot tea, cool evenings, introspection, and falling leaves. I love time for poetry, music, medicine making, stitching and drawing, thinking and resting. I love time for planning, for sketching, for wondering, for hoping. I love fleece and flannel, blankets and seeing my breath. I thank the world for summers where we can grow food, fruit, nourish and sustain ourselves. But I love having breaks and having time to change. Summer is the extrovert, and autumn and winter are introverts. Like me.
When seasons change, the light changes. As the summer transitions the light is golden. As the leaves turn gold the sky shifts. It gives us a chance to take a break. Think about what to try next. What to do differently. To plan new ideas and projects and to have time to think about them. To have a new opportunity to change, to reinvent, to try again. To rest with the darkness and rejuvenate for another year.
This autumn I am turning another year older. 54. The older women get it seems the less we talk about it, and the less we share what the number is. 54 feels a little big to me. 50 was pretty simple, but now mid-something, not early something, but halfway to the next something. No longer young, not old, in the invisible in between. Autumn is a change to start anew with the season, and start a new year. I like to live with intention and not obligation, but that can be hard to do. Once we commit to something we feel a little stuck in it, even if after a while it doesn't fit right anymore, raggedy hem, short sleeves, itchy. But we continue. Every year I get older I realize that I have less energy for those things that don't fit anymore, and that I am more aware of the ticking clock of time taking me from the things that are meaningful if something becomes not the right thing for me anymore. Autumn is a time to slow down, think about where I am, and where I want to be. To use all of the medicine I grew all summer. To drink the tea of the herbs I grew with my own two hands. To dream.
So while many people are dreading the end of summer, I embrace it. I change the pillows on the couch. I watch the sun set earlier every evening. I look at the stars. I clean the oven and pull out the blankets. I bake bread. I pound the cinnamon, ginger, clove, and allspice. I write in my journal. I stitch the fabric. I turn the pages. I gather the bark. I mark time by when I can first see my breath in the early morning. I carry my basket and gather seeds. I dig the roots of fall herbs and make root medicine. I listen to the sound of leaves under my muck boots and wrap my scarf around my neck, twisting and turning in warmth and reminders of the season to come. Welcome, September. I have been waiting for you.
It has been 18 months since we first locked down with covid. With a high risk person in the house, we have stayed home, had everything delivered, and haven't gone into any building that wasn't a hospital. Luckily we are all mostly introverted, and happy to be home. This year has been used to get a lot done at home, on our land, and to make future plans that accommodate a likely ongoing challenge of interacting in public spaces with a mutating virus and high risk people. This has been a good year to work on finishing my Permaculture Design and Advanced Social Systems Design Certification. To look at ways that we can be more self sufficient, use less resources, build in loops and cycles that are regenerative, grow more of our own food, produce our own energy, and have our home needs grow with the idea of ongoing multigenerational living.
I have realized as we are living in the world of nonstop zoom meetings, that we are losing our connections even while we see people MORE. I for one am in zoom meetings all day every day, and lately miss the days of blogging where we actually connected one on one, communicated, shared, and interacted. When we continued talking outside that one meeting, that one moment. With everyone working from home people have been working more more more and doing more more more meetings and expecting more more more results and connecting on a deeper level less less less. And, with that, people are connecting less, deeply present less. I miss the world of kindness and interactions. Some of it is that people are just overdone and burned out and are not taking the time and energy to be supportive of one another and don't have to deal with the repercussions of being unkind as when the zoom disconnects, the transaction of that energy and moment is completed. The energy of self care supercedes the energy of other people care. It is tough. Permaculture itself is about regenerative systems and relationships and community are systems just as animal waste and energy use are.
So, how do we find those positive connections with people that are people working together towards a common goal in a supportive way that also shows appreciation, respect, and understanding and that does not burn people out? That looks at relationships as regenerative and doesn't chew them up and spit them out? And, builds continuing connections?
There is a point, and that is if we are going to continue living life differently for years (and for us, being carefully protected in this house, due to our needs), how do we pivot our world, interactions, and goals to better fit our place and this land, and create meaningful connections with like-minded people that lift us up and don't tear us down?
I keep coming back to teaching. Sharing in a positive way that supports people and connects while also giving people information that they can use to create their own circle of sustainable existence, or more accurately, regenerative existence. So I have spent a bit of time this summer (after all the zoom meetings) outlining ways to share information and access to knowledge in areas that people don't talk as much about. People teach a lot about how to use herbs. People teach a lot about how to plant things. Grow things. Make things. But what about how to make community, create regenerative relationships that make communities stronger and not undermine them? How can we look at mutual aid, reciprocity, skill sharing, and social systems in a new way and give people ways to make fundamental and systemic change that impacts their whole community? I share this kind of thing one on one with people to help them work in their communities all the time, but there has to be a way to make it more community based and oriented while building upon those connections.
Abstract things are not as simple to teach - I get it. It is easier to say here is a recipe for how to make a salve. It is fixed, repeatable, the same for everyone, and easy. But, there are also 1,500,000,000 salve recipes out there. Is there a recipe for community building? Will it be the same every time for everyone everywhere? Nope. But when we want to make actual change we need to shake up the system or create a new one. So, I have been thinking of how to create something that does all of these things in an accessible way and it comes back to teaching. I want to be a part of something that might share the 1,500,000,001st salve recipe, but also share the recipe for regenerative living, livelihood, activism, simple living, reciprocity based systems, right livelihood and right relationships, and community building.
Working on it.
One of the things I like to do every year is to review what worked, what didn't work, what went well, what could be improved. One big goal in 2020 was to save more seeds to share out with people to grow their own gardens. So, while I harvested a lot of herbs that were shared out and saved, I also let a lot of plants go to seed and gathered plant heads in the autumn to save. From there, I processed all seeds through a little japanese screen system.
The small screen system worked well, although I was out winnowing seeds in below freezing temperatures a few times when the wind was just right. From there, the labeling and bagging went well, and I saved thousands of seeds and stored them in the cold storage for the winter in bulk paper envelopes that were stored in larger airtight containers buckets and bins.
As we hit the new year, I started bagging seeds down and labeling them all to share in seed grants. I divided saved seeds Into hundreds and hundreds of envelopes that I shared throughout the US. I kept some of each plant seed type in the seed bank I maintain so that there is a backstore of seeds in case something happens.
I saved easier seeds this first year I tried in bulk, and plan to expand to include more plants I grow, and I hope to reach over 100 seed varieties saved next year. The key is to being mindful of the plants and where they grow, using permaculture and organic methods to maintain disease free healthy plants, to wait to harvest the heads until the right time, to fully dry all seed heads first, and to carefully thresh and winnow so that clean, dry, seeds are remaining, and then of course, store them properly.
I love a challenge. I like learning new things, expanding and making systems that create sustainable sharable mutual aid systems and processes that shares the bounty with many, without overworking the few. While I would like a bigger seed cleaning system, my little screen set worked well, and I think is fine for a few thousand of each type of seed each year.
Part of our plan is ongoing social permaculture, and the giving back and supporting community in all that we do. Seeds are a part of that system, and an important part of our master plan every year.
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, permaculturist, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.