To Pause and Give Thanks

Gratitude is not just a seasonal thing for me. I look to be aware of the blessings in my life all the time, the better to enjoy them. Lately I’ve been taking a few minutes before I eat a meal (when I remember to!) to celebrate all the contributors to my food.

I will look down at a humble bowl of oatmeal with raisins and almond butter and pause for a second. I will think (or say), Thank you! I love you I love you I love you! And then, if I feel like I have the wherewithal in this moment, I get focused and consider:

  • the farmers responsible for growing these oats, grapes, and almonds
  • the bees that pollinated them
  • the sun and rain
  • the worms and microscopic wee buggies that do so much unseen
  • the people involved in processing and transporting
  • the folks at my local food coop where I bought these foods.

Thank you, I love you!

What’s really fun is to look down at a meal and realize how many personal connections it embodies. I’ll think: Oh yum, I get to eat Amy’s spinach (from South Circle Farm) or Randy’s squash (from Stout’s Melody Acres). The celebration feels even more expansive when I know my farmer. And the food tastes better too.

Today’s lunchtime moment: thanking Earl (Blue River Natural Foods) and his pastured hens for the beautiful eggs, Laura (dear friend) for the tomatillos that went into my salsa verde, Matthew (Big City Farms) for the gorgeous carrots.

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Local eggs cooked cooked “over hard” and topped with homemade salsa verde, with dilly carrots and spicy sauerkraut on the side.

Also Joshua and the folks at Fermenti Artisan for the spicy Latin American kraut known as curtido. And…myself for the small part I played in planting and harvesting dill from Seven Steeples Farm, where I sometimes help out Mike, the farm manager.

Thank you, I love you!

No matter where the food comes from though, this mindful, grateful state brings texture to a meal. A good thing, to pause and give thanks.

A Lifesized Lego Set for Farmers and Makers

I was invited to visit the Indiana Small Farm Conference this past weekend, and was I ever glad I went. I got to reconnect with some farmer friends and make new connections. I learned about the challenges facing the people who grow our food on a small scale. And of course lunch was delicious, as well it should be with food supplied from local farms and prepared by the stellar whole-foods caterer known as The Juniper Spoon.

But the highlight was a session with a representative from Open Source Ecology. This is a group I’ve had my eye on for a while because of the radical way they are working to take back the building blocks of modern life. The goal is nothing less than a modular, low-cost, DIY “Global Village Construction Set” of 50 machines that would meet the major needs of civilization.

The best part? The plans are all open source, allowing anyone, anywhere, to try them out and make improvements.

The 50 machines, from tractor to 3D printer to wind turbine.

The 50 machines, from tractor to 3D printer to wind turbine.

OSE Construction Manager Chris Reinhart, it turns out, lives just an hour away from me. He calls himself a tinkerer and maker, and holds an architecture degree from Ball State. He is developing plans for a micro-house that could be built by a small group of people in a handful of days, using equipment from the GVCS.

He posts his plans on Facebook and logs his work online for all to see. As a writer I shudder at the prospect of having so many eyes on a work-in-progress, but transparency is the name of the game here. Reinhart says the idea is to “tap the hive mind” and constantly iterate improvements.

Another goal is to standardize workflows. Reinhart explained that a group of 16-20 people could break into smaller teams, each take a module (there’s one for plumbing, one for windows, etc.), and work separately until time to put the construction together. He likened the system to a life-sized Lego set that can be snapped together.

The above TED talk by OSE’s founder, Marcin Jakubowski, talks about how lowering the barriers to farming, building, and manufacturing can unleash human potential. An entrepreneur who wants to start a construction company can jump right in. A household can add a DIY wind turbine and sell energy back to the grid. Farmers can be less dependent on manufacturers.

Think of it: That irritating built-in limitation of purchased gadgets, planned obsolescence, would become a thing of the past as people discover how to build and fix their own machines.

“This is a different model, economically and socially,” Reinhart says. In contrast to a top-down command and control ethos, this bottom-up model empowers many people on the ground, all making and innovating and selling to each other. I love the collaborative “do-it-with-others” spirit of these guys. Go DIWO!

OSE is planning an intensive workshop series to teach people to build six of the 16 machines that have been prototyped so far. For more information, check out this Crash Course on OSE.

Correction: The original blog post indicated that six machines have been prototyped; in actual fact 16 are in prototype phase, and the workshops are being offered on the six most mature designs.