Worm Composting – A Quick Tour

Welcome to Larry’s Place.

We call our worm box Larry’s Place. Larry is our friend who has a brilliant eye for antiques and home design – he even owns a shop called Larry’s Place that specializes in unique home decor items. But Larry did not have the attention span to keep a worm box going… He was given a couple of pounds of worms to set up a worm home, and well let’s just say he is the reason we got the worms.

We use worms for composting our kitchen scraps because we are limited on space plus the finished product makes a great fertilizer when added to potted plants or directly into garden beds. The process of using earth worms to convert organic waste into nutrient rich humus is called vermicomposting.

Our worm composting system

Worm box with faucet and top air vent.

Our system lives in a plastic tote bin we modified by installing a drain faucet, drilling holes, and adding screen material to the top lid. However you can purchase a complete system if that is easier for you. If you do use what you have handy, make sure these conditions are met:

  • Proper Type of Worms
  • Temperature
  • Moisture
  • Ventilation
  • Bedding
Proper Type of Worms
Meet some of the residents of Larry’s Place.

Eisenia foetida or redworms are the best to use in a worm composting system. They can process large amounts of organic materials and they reproduce quickly even in confinement. Check here for places to order your redworms.

Temperature
Vegetable scraps, eggs shells, and coffee grinds served once a week or more.

Redworms can tolerate a wide range of temperatures except for freezing. The conversion of waste to compost occurs between the temperatures of 55-77 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid locations that get too hot like an attic, under direct sun, or in a greenhouse. Larry’s Place is located on our breezy and shady back porch.

Need an idea of what to feed your worms? Check out my recommendations here.

Moisture
Drip spout with a catch pan for excess water.

Worms “breathe” through their skin. So it’s very important that their skin stay moist for the exchange of air to occur. You can always add water when necessary if it looks dry in the system. The drip spout on our box helps to regulate the water content in the bin by ensuring it does not fill with water. I’ve noticed that after a good feeding, the box drips out excess water for a few days. We throw this “compost tea” water in any nearby potted plant.

Ventilation
Our ventilation system also protects from cats. The torn screen is proof of this battle.

Worms use oxygen in their bodily processes and produce carbon dioxide just like we do. Make sure to locate your worm composting system in an area with good air circulation. To be certain we get optimal ventilation, we added mosquito netting to the lid of the bin and drilled small holes along the sides. We could drill bigger holes, but so far so good…For our next box I will.

Bedding

The composting box is filled with lots of dirt collected from around our yard, stuff sitting in old planter pots, or even from bags of soil we purchased (without vermiculite or perlite). In addition to soil we mix in shredded cardboard, newspaper, egg cartons, and leaf along with our kitchen scraps.

Dry leaf matter. Fresh green leaves are also good to use.
Shredded cardboard, egg cartons or newspaper works too.
Combining all components in sections.
Dry leaf, shredded cardboard and veggie scrapes.

Observing for improvements

Larry’s Place has turned out to be a great addition to our home! The volume of our trash is drastically reduced and we get to create an inexpensive source of fertilizer for our plants. With careful observation you can remedy any problems you encounter. If one thing does not work, try something else! Time and patience are great teachers.

Photo Credits: Kim Mendoza

Dovanna Dean is known to get dirt on her hands, tee-shirts, jeans, and shoes. She shares her home with a rescued pride of curious cats and a pack of singing dogs.

Don’t Patronize Me!

There’s nothing like

Standing idly by as an interloper buys the block,

only to disrespect it.

Who invited you?

Told you you can set up shop, sell us cancer sticks and candy,

while openly calling us food stamp cockroaches?

You must be so proud. And so ignorant

to berate us with disrespect and expect a payment for it.

To hear, “I don’t give a f*%k about the Black neighborhood!”

is to receive a slap in the face.

If you didn’t want me us to patronize you, you could have said it politely…

But you wanted the money, huh? Too bad!

A lot of us are waking up to the truth that the Black dollar is the final authority,

like “Dean, Big Brother Almighty!

And we won’t tolerate the injustices within the places of business that we frequent,

because we have the buying power, ya dig?

Or did you miss the memo?

In December of 2020, video footage of an East Atlanta Indian Gas station clerk expressing his blatant disregard for the Black community began to circulate the internet. I learned of this injustice through the 85 South Show podcast featuring Karlous Miller and his guest Scapegoat Jones who recounted the tale. He told Miller that after directly confronting the store clerk, he was told to, “Get out you food stamp cockroach”. It was shortly after this, that Jones started the Don’t Stop Don’t Shop (DSDS) organization, which headed the boycott against the racist Exxon establishment in East Atlanta. The boycott lasted for 60 days and caused the owner to decide to sell. This was a major win for the community and it is Jones’ hope to continue this winning streak by buying the gas station to generate wealth within the community as well as a means of inspiring other members of the Black community to take interest in owning property and businesses within the area. He is steadily raising funds to buy the gas station via gofundme, so whether you are located in the East Atlanta area or not, if you want to support this vision, please donate today and share the link with others. Help them buy back the block, one establishment at a time.

Colorism in 2021

WARNING! If you ever hear a conversation begin with the words, “I just think it’s funny how…” you’re in for a long-winded dissertation on all the ways this person did not find the actions or words in question funny.

I just think it’s funny how colorism is still alive and kicking across the globe. Today, however, I will be discussing the colorism of Black women in the United States. It’s been a problem since slavery and it’s still an issue today. We’re living in the 21st century and the blatant disrespect and distrust have got to end. There’s a level of accountability that must be taken by women of both fair and darker complexions in the Black community. We are all responsible for how we approach and respond to our difficulties in this life. I find it easy to acknowledge my privilege as a woman of lighter skin because I see it as a way to help myself and my highly melanated sisters. If I can get a foothold in the right door, I can reach back and pull someone through when I’ve crossed the threshold. I am a firm believer that my complexion shouldn’t be celebrated as higher than another, nor should it be torn down by my dark-skinned sisters when it is celebrated. Why is it so difficult for all hues of Blackness to be acknowledged and celebrated equally? Is it an internal or external source of contention?

I believe this is what our ancestors marched for; equity regardless of color or creed. The equity I presently speak of pertains to the fair treatment of people regardless of skin tone. This equity should start within the community before it branches out. Colorism is ugly. All differences should be celebrated not exploited. In my school days, I excelled in academics, athletics, and the arts, all of which were celebrated, but I’ve also been disliked for the same reasons among others outside of my control. I learned to cope with being picked on because I was tall and thin and I ignored the girls who didn’t like me because I was a tomboy who hung out with all the cute boys. I did, however, have trouble digesting the words, “You’re not Black enough” as pertains to my complexion or “You’re light-skinned” as a dismissal of my Blackness and relation to the conversation at hand. The words were said jokingly by a classmate, but they left me puzzled and furious.

I’ve been called many things in my life: Sunshine, Ali, Light Brite, Track Star, Ciroc, Babe, Baby girl, “You with the red shirt!” and all of these names were given affectionately and were well received. To be told, however, “You’re not Black enough” by another Black person based on skin tone, or to receive the backhanded compliment of “You’re cool for a Black girl” is something else entirely. It’s mind-boggling how truly ignorant, insensitive, and dismissive people still are. By saying I’m not Black enough, they’re dismissing my human existence as a Black woman. My experience as a lighter-skinned Black woman may differ from that of a darker-skinned Black woman, but it can not negate my ancestry or experiences within this culture.

As a child, one of my favorite songs from the Schoolhouse Rock was “The Great American Melting Pot“. I appreciated the catchy cadence of it in my youth, but as an adult, I can’t help but appreciate the vision of a land where people came to achieve their dreams while marrying their culture with that of this country. My great-great-grandmother on my father’s side was Scottish, while my great-great-grandmother on my mother’s side was one generation away from slavery. Without the combination of both lineages, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today: a 5′ 10” Black woman of light skin with deep brown eyes and curly-coily hair that takes a reddish hue under the care of the intense summer sun. I am American and I am Black. As a child of divorce, I was raised by a single mother who gave me and my brother as much love, emotional support, and stability as she could. I haven’t been the direct recipient of physical violence from racist bigots, which may attribute to my complexion, but I have borne witness to the verbal assault on my mom from a narrow-minded older White woman in the streets of Burbank, CA in 2016. The assault started on the corner as we crossed the street and continued all the way down the sidewalk toward the downtown Burbank mall as other White witnesses stood by and did nothing. They said nothing as I hurried my mom away from the soon-to-be battered woman as quickly as possible. I’m not the type of person who argues. Neither is my mom. We are women of action, and I was a broke grad student, so I quickly calculated the situation and saw there was no alternative to getting the heck out of dodge. Looking back, I had to watch this situation through two lenses. First, the lens of a black woman, and then I had to step outside of myself to envision what the white woman saw; my light skin versus my mom’s caramel skin. In this situation, my mom became The Provoked and I, The Witness. Both experiences are valid and both roles are traumatizing. Racism is alive and kicking in the 21st year of the 21st century, Black women shouldn’t have to be traumatized by colorism too.

Unfortunately, it seems like the head on this pimple is about to burst because people just keep picking at the issue every time something arises. On the flip side, all this public discussion could be good? For the first time, I saw the issue of colorism being addressed in a TV show a few years ago. I don’t know if you watch the TV show Blackish, but I vividly remember the pain I felt as I cried during the first few moments of the episode called Complexion. Those first few notes of Kendrick Lamar’s song “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” were all I needed to hear to know the direction and tone of this episode. The song oozes self-love and affirmations while it addresses the colorist issues within the Black community. It took me back to a time in college where a teammate told me after months of having known me, that she wasn’t sure if she was going to like me, to which I replied, “Because of my skin tone.”, which was more of a statement because this wasn’t my first encounter with colorism. She responded, “Yes” and the moment was bittersweet because here she was telling me that she misjudged me, but I also felt honored because she respected me enough to tell me at all. While watching the Blackish episode, I noticed how they touched so many necessary topics that have been pushed under the rug of Black society for scores. They mentioned the light skin men are “softer” versus dark skin mention issue as well as the light-skinned women, who are most likely to be mixed, “aren’t really black” versus dark-skinned women “aren’t that pretty” issue. I have to make note that even within the context of this episode, the men’s conversation follows the vein of whether their complexion makes them more manly while the woman’s conversation had more to do with aesthetics and racial identification.

In addition to watching that episode, I’ve also watched YouTube interviews with Jorja Smith where her complexion was addressed in a conversation. Before seeing this interview, I saw thumbnails of other channels discussing how she had replaced artist Amia Brave on the remixed version of the song “Peng Black Girls” by ENNY. The comment section was flooded with Black women’s distaste for the decision to remove the other artist from the song. Many women drug Jorja’s name through the mud saying that she was chosen over the other artist because of her complexion, which is very likely considering the way the music industry operates, but Jorja is also a very talented singer, so I find their basis for bias to be lacking. My biggest issue, however, was that any comment of praise for her talent and contribution to the song was lost in the sea of discontent. Following this disheartening experience, I decided to watch Jorja’s Lost & Found, Colourism, and “Pretty Privilege” interview with Apple music.

I understand. I get it. I’m a conversation starter.

Jorja Smith, Lost & Found, Colourism and “Pretty Privilege“, Apple Music, June 24, 2018

Jorja Smith, the Walsall, England born artist, is the daughter of a Jamaican father and English mother. When I heard the words she spoke (as quoted above) I was taken aback because I had never heard a summation about our complexion so elegantly put. Our complexion, light skin, is a conversation starter. It was mentioned how she would like to be seen as an artist first, and that resonated with me so deeply, but unfortunately, that’s not how things work right now. When someone sees me before I’ve even had the opportunity to open my mouth, an assumption has already been made and an internal conversation has begun about my character. I become the sum of my melanin and it is so disheartening. I still feel the pain of being a Black woman, but the difference is that my antagonizer tends to be within my own community and sometimes in my own family.

As a light-skinned woman, who I am, my character, and flaws should not be calculated or summarized by the amount of melanin in my skin. My ancestry and life experiences link me to my African American and Western European identity. Both pieces exist in harmony. So who would have the authority as an outsider (of myself), to tell me who I am and if my melanin is enough to sustain my “Black Card”? If anything, it should be revoked because I’m coming up on 30 and still haven’t gotten the hang of playing Spades. All joking aside, I’m tired of having to bear witness to social injustice online, hold first-hand accounts of racism, and suffer colorism from my own people.

I’m not entirely sure just how long it’s going to take to unpack the years of colorism and self-hatred that’s been ingratiated in our DNA, but I am hopeful because I see the slew of self-love posts on my Instagram from other Black women. The journey has begun and I believe that one day my lighter tone won’t be seen as better than darker tones, but the differences will be celebrated equally and moving forward, we will share open-hearted discussions when tensions arise. I’ve caught a glimpse of a beautifully harmonious future. It will be a bumpy journey, but the destination is worth it! There is a timeline where darker-toned men will not intimidate whites on sight, and lighter-toned women will not inspire distrust in dark-skinned women regarding their men. It’s out there and we’re well on our way. I can’t wait to meet you there!

A Matter of Place

Blue-gray morning and sun-obscuring clouds is my place

Place of home and creation

A home where words are birthed and where my body lives

Location of being

I make my place here by walking barefoot on the backyard dirt

By feeling the crunch of autumn leaves I wait months to remove

from around my home so the animals and ground critters can bask in them

as they desire

Placemaking on this land is to keep the peace between the canine and feline

I live my life with

To spend quiet moments observing and whistling to the native birds that daily

occupy the old oak trees standing strong all around me

Photo by Georgina Marie, Oak Trees in Winter, Lakeport, CA

Much less a poem, more of an observation of my place of home in this time. After attending a writing workshop this past weekend, the following prompt was offered, “What does place and placemaking mean to you?”. This is a glimpse into what my place has become for me during a worldwide pandemic. – Georgina Marie

Does COVID-19 Kill Compassion?

Most likely COVID-19 does not kill compassion. Probably four years of proactive modeling of toxic masculinity did kill some compassion. If it didn’t affect negatively, recognize that for many the toxic fallout from the Trump years is akin to PTSD, ravaging hearts, minds and spirits from coast to coast. In fact, few regular people could thrive under the conditions characterized by instability, lies, bullying and unpredictable rage—all the traits of David Koresh and other cult leaders used to control their followers. Now it’s not fair to blame the victims, but it is our responsibility to heal ourselves now that the tyrant is gone. In other words, time to relocate our moral compasses.

For me and many people, most of 2020 but the especially the last few months of the year and January 2021 have been traumatic and painful. The constant racial stress people of color have experienced combined with totally ineffectual response to the pandemic has led to distress and many socioeconomic problems. Compound that with sickness, food insecurity and isolation, and it’s clear that we need to reconnect with ourselves so we can help others.

Here are some steps you can take to heal society and yourself from the moral depravity of the last four years:

  1. Acknowledge the global pandemic and the toll on everyone’s lives in every country in the world. Accept that truth. It’s horrible. If you can help in some small way, you can be being to alleviate any feelings of helplessness and pain.
  2. Act in your community to protect your family and neighbors from casual COVID-19 spread:
    1. Wear a mask
    1. Distance from others wearing a mask
    1. Respect the six-feet rule around public ingress and egress paths; public spaces are for everyone.
  3. Take time out: Stay home with your family and cool off from social media.
    1. Watch a Disney movie, and turn off the news.
    1. Set up a family jigsaw puzzle table for the family.
    1. Have a weekly family game night after dinner.
  4. Work to reconcile with those you may have hurt. Start by toning down the volume even if you’re upset, a reprieve may bring a new perspective in the morning. Us the cool-down time for discernment. You may need to end some relationships that are unhealthy and cause distress.
  5. Engage in social activism to repair the damage. People are dying. Ask how you can help if you have extra resources, food and clothes. This is a global crisis. Many people need help in the US and abroad. Giving feels good. It also heals.

If you love me, hold me accountable. If you love yourself, be willing to be held accountable for your words and deeds. Accountability requires communication, compassion and desire for wholeness. We have a chance to bring about a new era in our society, one that demonstrates liberty and justice for all. Start with preventing the spread of COVID-19 and embracing the compassion that sees us all as humans worthy of life.

Edissa accessorizes a mask when she leaves the house to protect her family and community from COVID-19. She’s cool like that!

Donate today to support our writers and artists: https://karmacompass.wedid.it/

A Better Dream

2021 has been such as been such an eventful year already. Who would have thought that Wednesdays could provide us with so much history and terror? Two weeks ago, on Wednesday January 6, 2021, I was on the road with my boyfriend for a celebratory staycation in the city of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia, PA), when he got a call about white protestors marching to The Capitol. We got a play by play of how they proceeded to take it by storm under the guise of a “revolution”. Mind blowing right? What was even crazier was that we were scheduled to go Washington D.C. two days following this protest. Thankfully, our trip went well and the only thing we suffered from was disappointment because we were unable to see the sights while everything was locked with a vigilance that should have been in place two days prior. I digress… This Wednesday, January 20, 2021, however, was full of moments that will be ingrained in my mind for years to come.

I watched my Instagram feed provide gifs and stills of Trump’s underwhelming departure, streamed the inauguration of our new President Joe Biden live from YouTube, and I celebrated the birthday of a friend via FaceTime (Thank God for technology). It was a truly glorious day! Big moments aside, what I loved the most, were the little things, the moments within moments. Within the presidential inauguration, I witnessed three things: 1. The unbotheredness of Bernie Sanders, which has become a meme unto itself, 2. The array of color amongst the women present, and 3. the moment where I was gripped by the very presence and words of Harvard alum Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first African American youth poet laureate. It was these three things that highlighted the dream of a promising future for America.

Unbothered Bernie

There aren’t too many pictures, I feel, that represent my mood for 2021 so concisely. The year came in, ignored my “Dear 2021…” post, and began to wreak havoc in ways that myself and other members of the African American population knew it could. I can assure you that on Wednesday January 6, 2021, most of us sat in our respective homes and watched the news with the exact face Bernie has in the picture below. There may have been exclamations of shock and reproach, but I’m sure there was one person in the room who sat back and said something along lines of, ” That’s some white privilege” and “That’s none of my concern” because they stopped peaceful BLM (Black Lives Matter) protests with mace and tear gas, but allowed a storming of The Capital for reasons I believe are all too obvious… They were White. Anywho! Let this Bernie meme be our mood all 2021: Prepared and unbothered. May our masks be raised high, and our stress levels low.

Monochrome!

Do you see what I see? I see a moment from “The Wiz” where all the people danced around the television for the Wizard. The comparison is uncanny! It was glamorous, vibrant, and monochromatic. I LIVE for a monochromatic moment! There is such a strength, stability, and confidence that comes with wearing monochrome that I am certain that this fashion choice was the right one. It spoke loud and clear of the vibrancy that lies ahead for this nation. Watching all these fabulous women, I felt like it was a representation of the people waking up from a dead sleep under the #45th administration. It was like they woke up and decided to put on their “Sunday’s best”. I loved every moment of it.

The Hill We Climb

Amanda Gormon, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, is a Los Angeles native whose words have won her invitations to the Obama White House and to perform for Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and others. She also has work available for purchase, “Change Sings” and poetry collection “The Hill We Climb”, both being released by Penguin Random House this September. In addition to all these accolades, she is stunning! Her gorgeous melanin, complimented by her bright yellow trench immediately grabbed my attention as as she read her piece, “The Hill We Climb“. It reminded me of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech that inspired the nation, but there are so many unknown quotes from him that still resonate.

“But ever since the Founding Fathers of our nation dreamed this dream, America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself.”

“The American Dream”, Martin Luther King Jr. , July 4, 1965

With the momentous sightings of Wednesday January 20, 2021, a palindrome mind you, I feel so hopeful. Hopeful that our fear-driven society could become one of love and peace and justice. Things have been so disjointed towards minority groups in this country since its conception that it will take time to maneuver and eradicate some of these things. People have been avoiding the darkness of this country for so long that they forgot it existed and now is the time to shed some light on it. The most powerful words uttered by Amanda in her piece pertain to light.

“There is always light is only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.”

“THE HILL WE CLIMB”, AMANDA GORMAN, JANUARY 20, 2021

If we can be the light that we seek, maybe the nights won’t be as dark, and if we remind ourselves of Joe’s quote from The Bible in his inauguration speech, “Joy comes in the morning” we can spread hope and love (light) instead of fear and hatred (darkness). Dr. King’s words and his life’s work may not have been fully realized in his time on Earth, but I believe we can achieve that dream in this new day and age. You’ve made it to the weekend, so have an amazing Friday my loves!

Five Steps to Farming With Your Fork

We are living in times of created scarcity.

Each reveal spots our vulnerability.

Food is essential – and we all know why.

Food can be used as a weapon – and we understand how.

Food is a tool to awaken us.

Food activates power.

Food is a gift that is shareable.

– Dovanna Dean

Are you looking to start a garden from scratch, re-thinking your current garden, or realizing you need a long term plan to keep food on the table and in your pantry?

Farming with your fork is creating a demand with each bite for the crops and livestock we want on our table but most important HOW they are raised.  It’s a powerful and simple action that bonds families and communities and solidifies self-reliance.  Farming with your fork also becomes part of your self-care regiment.  I’m applying these actions into my daily “to-do chores” and it has become a lifestyle. By sharing these steps my goal is to inspire you and yours to become activated at your own rhythm.

Let’s begin this beautiful journey.

Photo Credit: Kim Mendoza

EXPLORING THE 5 STEPS OF FARMING WITH YOUR FORK

1. IDENTIFY YOUR GOALS FOR YOUR SPACE.

Create your site plan to get clarity about what you need from your space.  Ask questions like do you want to compost? Should you invest in an irrigation system?  How can you extend your growing season? Is it best for you to start a garden in containers or in beds? Do you have space to store the bounty of your harvest?

Asking questions provides direction and focuses your energies towards reaching your gardening goals.

2. COLLABORATE.

Look around… You may be surprised at the under used spaces you have access to use. Talk to family, neighbors, and community groups who may have unused spaces along with resources and develop partnerships. Work out mutually beneficial relationships. Look into tool sharing collectives, seed saving groups, and start reading to expand your knowledge and build your confidence… I enjoy reading seed catalogs because seed companies want you to thrive so they offer an abundance of tips and resources.

With more space there is no limit to what you can nurture and learn to grow.

Photo Credit: Kim Mendoza
3. CHOOSE YOUR CROPS & LEAVE NO SPACE EMPTY YEAR ROUND.

Resist the urge to start a massive amount of seeds at one time. Instead get on a schedule to start seeds every two weeks for a staggered harvest. Most important is to always plant in season – do not start tomatoes at the end of summer and expect successful growth as the weather gets cold. If plants are started out of season much of their energy is used up working to combat unseasonable weather like cold, heat, rain, or drought. The plants are left with less energy for balanced growth and can become prone to diseases and insect attacks. There are many products and tips to extend your growing season. Grow a vast variety of veggies and herbs. Plant fruit trees and berry bushes. Grow all kinds of potatoes. Try growing grain crops like amaranth and beans you can dry and eat past the harvest.

This strategy ensures you are eating garden fresh year round.

Photo credit: Krista Sherer
4. REACH OUT TO LOCAL FARMERS, RANCHERS, AND FOOD PRODUCERS.

While you are setting up your garden and realizing your “green thumb” support the work of small scale farmers, ranchers, and food producers.

Next time you get to a farmers market start collecting names and numbers and keep connected. Also ask if they need help harvesting or planting in exchange for yummy farm grown goods.  Another priceless bonus from this action is that you get to take a day trip with the family and experience farm life. 

Keep in contact with small scale/local food producers like bakers, cheese makers, bee keepers, prepared foods, etc. In the event farmers markets are stopped you maintain a line of communications and you keep their passion of producing local foods alive.

Supporting the works and efforts of these small businesses creates a strong demand for their goods.

5. START A BUYERS CLUB WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS. 

In a buyers club, you work as a group to share the expenses of bulk items and yield buying power for good prices. Being part of a buyers club takes organization and a commitment of your time. In one buyers club I was a part of, we rotated responsibilities to give everyone the opportunity to know all the jobs associated with running the club. To avoid being charged delivery fees we worked out meeting the delivery truck at one of its super market stops.  To make it extra fun we had pot lucks on delivery days so we could try new items. This was a great opportunity to experiment with new ingredients before buying.

Forming a buyers club puts you in direct contact with suppliers and enables you to be an active participant in the supply chain. You become a link in the system.

Photo Credit: Kim Mendoza

5 steps to farming with your fork becomes a starting point towards food security and solidifying access to healthy foods. It does take work and collaboration.

Be creative and do not give up. You are on the path to farming with your fork!

Dovanna Dean is a practitioner of Permaculture. She is also a lover of animals, plants, house music.

How to Mend Miscommunication

Have you ever walked away from a conversation understanding one thing, but found out later on that the whole thing was misconstrued? I have multiple times and I’m here to tell you that even though the feeling of discomfort doesn’t completely go away, you can grow from each experience. There are so many layers when diving in the well of miscommunication and it can seem overwhelming. One misspoken word can be the end of a beautiful relationship or business partnership. Mending those broken relationships and exploring conversational rifts are intentional work that takes time, but here are a few steps to get you started.

Open Your Heart and Mind

When addressing miscommunication, you have to remember that each individual is coming into the conversation with their own perspective and a set of points that they want to get across. It’s not easy to be the bigger person, but if the relationship is of value to you, it would be in your best interest to be the bigger person and open your mind to their perspective and calm your heart when you hear their frustration.

As humans, we come into this world with these intense emotions that most of us have learned to regulate as we’ve gotten older. These regulated emotions are what keep us from flying off the handle at a moment’s notice or screaming obscenities at our neighbors for letting their dogs poop freely in our yard for the upteenth time this month. We have to remember that empathy is a necessity, no matter what, so listen intently to their concerns without the overwhelming desire to respond. Digest their words, mull it over, and respond accordingly.

Ask Questions

There have been times in my life where I didn’t ask enough questions or the right questions. Who am I kidding? There are days where I still don’t, but I now have a better frame of reference for when and how to ask questions. In my youth, when I would take trips to the doctor, I never inquired further about things pertaining to my body because I was of the mindset that they had already told me everything I needed to know. I thought, “They’re the doctor, they know what’s best. Case closed”. I saw no reason to press the matter further. In high school, I had moments where I was given an assignment where upon first review, things seemed straightforward, but upon further review, I found that all the requirements weren’t clear and I would struggle to complete the assignment that night. My mom would then ask me why I hadn’t asked more questions, and my answer would always be that I didn’t know I needed to ask more questions. I had walked out of the classroom thinking I had all the understanding of the subject that I needed, which time and further analysis proved false. It is within these crucial lessons that I’ve gained the understanding that sometimes, we are so uninformed on a topic that we don’t know what questions we should be asking. If you find yourself on the receiving end of miscommunication, meaning that your words were misconstrued, please practice empathy and remember that you too desire patience and understanding where proper communication is involved.

Respect One Another

Respect is a two-way street. It is also a form of currency. When I enter into a conversation with someone, I am exchanging my words, ideas, beliefs, and energy. The person I am speaking to is doing the same. Issues tend to develop quicker when the two individuals are on different frequencies of conversation. My ideals may not align with theirs and vice versa. For example, let’s say I am talking to a friend about getting some ice cream. I tell them I want chocolate and they say, “Yuck! Vanilla for me”. I could respond one of two ways: 1. Understand that they are expressing their opinion or 2. Take it as a personal attack and become defensive. Personally, I would inquire about why they don’t like chocolate, which allows me to walk away with a better understanding of them as a whole.

When we asks questions with respect and seek to understand one another, people tend to respond better and will be more likely to remain open in their responses. These open responses aid in getting you closer to desirable resolutions. Just the other day, I found myself in a misunderstanding. I found myself a bit flustered because I didn’t see where the miscommunication was. All I knew was that we disagreed on a matter and I wanted it resolved. I also knew that I didn’t want to respond impulsively, which could potentially ruin a great relationship. Thus, I waited, formulated a proper response that allowed me to get my point across while leaving room for an open conversation. Thankfully, the issue was resolved smoothly because I understood the importance of hearing the other person’s perspective and reevaluating it with my own. By doing this, we were both able to identify the breakdown in communication and were able to grow and move forward amicably. I have not always been as successful in my mending endeavors, but I hope to spread hope and share my experiences with the hopes of inspiring you to mend valuable relationships with those three steps. Have a wonderful day, loves!

Farming With Your Fork

At the beginning of the 2020 global pandemic, I reached out to neighbors, friends, and family to make sure folks where OK – physically and emotionally. The common thread of our conversations was a calling to get serious about gardening but beyond that – it was about living as a self reliant community . Garden related “wishes” we chatted about centered on gaining practical skills and further exploration into actions like putting up a greenhouse for year round growing, starting micro-greens, getting serious about composting, or preserving the harvest. I fueled the conversation by asking about their companion planting plan? How many harvest where they planning on trying for the season? Are they starting seeds in succession to have a continual harvest? What integrated pest management techniques they think they will try? Gulp – I think I got WAY too excited. However, at the core of each conversation was the desire to cultivate self – reliance by growing foods, medicine, and beauty. These chats have motivated me to outline my 5 steps towards turning your garden into a “farm” that becomes your “grocer” – in essence your garden becomes your farm with your fork as your grocer.

Growing up during the 80’s Brooklyn, gardening was the thing older folks from the South did and no one else paid attention to.  One day on the bus I sat next to a sweet elder lady who looked over at my biology textbook about the part of a plant and commented “I never had a book to tell me about plants – we always knew what each part did, how to use it, and which ones to stay away from.  I guess these days you have to learn somehow ‘cause you are no longer connected.  I looked up politely and she continued – “we had huge gardens.  We saved our seeds for the next season, we preserved and canned, we used the throw-away stuff to fertilize the soil, and we cooked and cooked and cooked – mostly everything we needed was in the garden our in our neighbors plot…” She looked off into the distance and smiled.  I asked “you didn’t have a supermarket?” “Baby”, she said,” our garden farm was our grocer! “- “and we hardly got sick, we never went hungry, and Sunday dinners was a fest that lasted for days.”  I smiled not understanding the power of her words.  As she got off the bus she sealed our connection by saying “So much power in putting your hands in healthy dirt.  It’s up to you kids to continue doing these things!”  And these words would have a profound guidance on me and choices I would make years down the road.

During the 90’s Los Angeles I was a college student in the middle of the reaction by the community to the Rodney King verdict.  The town was on fire, people frustrated, and I watched stores burn.   I went back to my dorm and decided to stop my formal college education and seek a more practical and hands on path to reliance and peace on earth one garden plot at a time.  Yes, that conversation on the bus years earlier jumped into my very existence and steered my life path.  I started studying and practicing Permaculture shortly afterwards. Permaculture is a coined phrase for a set of principals and techniques for the harmonious integration of our landscape to benefit YOU and the Earth. “Farming with your fork” is a powerful and simple action. We create a demand or market with each bite for the crops and livestock we want on our tables AND how they are raised.

“Control oil and you control nations. Control food and you control people.”

Henry Kissinger, US political figure

2020 has shown is that we cannot continue to depend on outside forces as the sole provider of food. If its not the changing weather due to cyclic earth changes / grand solar minimum creating crop loss, disruptions in the supply chains, or corporate greed feeding us products based on destructive mono-culture farming techniques – we are at the mercy of factors that are not sustainable. What a sobering reality…

We can take charge by creating a demand by supporting your local farmers and ranchers, creating food buying groups, working together to turn empty spaces into abundance with gardening, and preserving and sharing the harvest. Each step becomes your template for abundance, community and self- care from your loving labor. Gardening is humbling to me because these are no mistakes – only actions you don’t repeat or you need to modify for better outcomes. We create “food security” with passion, imagination, courage, and community. Continue the conversation with friends and neighbors. Work together towards your community food security.

Photo Credits: Kim Mendoza

Dovanna Dean is a lover of dirt, pets, plants, and house music.

On New Horizons: Shaping a Life of Goodness in 2021

What do you do when someone treats you kindly? How do you react to the “nice” person in the room? How do you treat your closest neighbors? These questions have been on my mind since October 2020. I’ve noticed how sometimes my acts of kindness, my greetings and my cheerful smile are met with suspicion; I’ve experienced how my joy hangs in the air like an unwanted odor instead of being met with generous reciprocity. When this happens, I retreat to the safety of long-time friends and marvel: What will a person get when they rebuff kindness, goodness and friendship? It’s akin to inviting a nightmare.

Sadly, it’s human nature to repeat patterns and expect a new outcome. This is partially attributable to mindset and habituation. When we do something long enough, it becomes comfortable, familiar and we form an attachment, possibly even perceiving a behavior or habit as an extension of ourselves. So we must first break out of these mental formations. We do this by recognizing that all of us, from the oldest person to the youngest, has something to learn. Embracing learning from a growth mindset will facilitate working and moving toward change. I taught myself to hang about the so-called nice people in the room and to avoid the dreaded pinch faces who populate every sector of society. It turns out that nice people really are kind. Like many of you, these lessons were so slow to come–a great fog obscuring my vision. Fortunately, the more I practice reciprocating kindness, the more I attract good and kind people into my life and let the others go their own way.

Over the years I’ve observed how my husband and i approach so many basic activities differently. As an observer of human nature, I’m fascinated by how often I judge (Okay, I’m an INTJ) these diverging behaviors as right or wrong. Some years into our healthy relationship, I’ve learned to drop that judgment and move toward a value system that recognizes contribution over process. The end result is itself the goal, not how we get there. On the other hand, my husband is cool as a cucumber most of the time. He smiles and waves at everyone. Sometimes I imitate him, because I fell in love with that quality. I do this when it matters, with the people I see regularly at work, school in my neighborhood. These shifts in behavior allow me to focus on what I need to change in and for myself rather than on external elements of my life, which brings me to 2021 and all that I want to leave behind, and a few things I wish to pick and cultivate along the way.

My 2021 Resolutions:

  • Reduce alcohol consumption (I’m human.)
  • Proactive stress reduction (Avoid chaos and toxic people.)
  • Increase eustress: Go back to school for my PhD (Embrace challenge.)
  • Adding a few good friends to my inner circle (Good people are good.)
  • Take care of the children in my life–all them, even yours.
  • Earning a living wage.
  • Create jobs for people in my community.

Make 2021 the year you smile back. Take a moment to return the salutation of a stranger or casual acquaintance. There really is enough time for this. In times of crisis, your neighbors–like it or not–will be the people upon whom you may have to rely. Don’t wait until there is a need. Cultivate a community of people who will nod back at you, give you ride in a pinch or leave a gift when you need one. People look for quick external fixes to their problems; someone to blame for their unhappiness; an excuse for why they keep doing that thing, whatever it is. This year try getting uncomfortable and extend your kindness everywhere you go. Your smile won’t open every door, but you will gain a few more friends and be welcome where they do.

Edissa keeps a mask handy at all times to answer the door and protect neighbors, friends, family and herself from COVID19.