“Sometimes a mortal feels in himself Nature
— not his Father but his Mother stirs
within him, and he becomes immortal with her
immortality. “ H.D. Thoreau
A bit late, but here it is! 2015 was a year when we noticed more than ever before how much the changes of nature impact our lives. With a very hot and long summer and warm autumn 2015 offered one of our longest growing seasons. The last days of the year were full sunshine and cloudless blue skies, with many vegetables still growing happily in the garden. While this weather gave us extra crops to share with others and lovely walks in the green garden, we cannot refrain from worrying about what this warm December means in the long run.
In 2015 the laborious work of striving towards a high quality, low impact lifestyle was still a major project. Besides learning a lot, we again had the chance to show and teach ecological awareness, traditional and sustainable living to our guest and residents.
Ongoing and finished projects – Off-grid Little House
One of our main events of the year was the Renewable Energy workshop in May, focusing on solar power in rural areas. It was organized in cooperation with the Austrian group of Engineers Without Borders and led by Matthias, a former volunteer at the ranch. Thanks to this workshop we understood even more the importance of renewable energy, especially in secluded rural areas. During the workshop a solar panel was installed on the Little House, which has been serving very well ever since. The light of the sun this way illuminates our yard at night, the room of the house, the cellar and it also sustains a charging station for phones and other electronics. The solar panel hasn’t let us down even in the cloudiest winter days.
The Humanure outhouse that was finished last year has been successful until now, and we are ready to step into our second stage of composting by building now our second humanure toilet for indoor use. The composting has worked well this far and if things go as planned we will be able to use the compost next year in our orchard and fields.
Artist residency – Environmental Art
In 2015 there were several artists who took part in our artist residency program, which is created in order to support traveling artist, offer them a space to create and share with them our muse, Nature, and the inspiration it has to offer. We were glad to have environmental writer Torren Anderson and his family stay with us during the summer time. Torren is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction books from the USA, you can find his published books here: torrananderson.com.
We also admire the works of Nancy Dewhurts, who spent some time in the summer with us creating wonderful environmental artwork. It is fascinating what a creative mind, nature and a mirror is capable of.
Already last year we shifted a great deal of our energy towards helping our local community by offering fair prices for their products and giving value to there work. By buying our neighbors’ surplus agricultural products and offering non-monetary exchange possibilities for physical labor and English classes for their children we strengthen the relationship in our community. This year we acquired a car from Adrian, a former resident and long time friend, which quickly became a community car. We use it to help five families, mostly our old neighbors, by transporting goods for their animals, food and to take them to the market on Tuesdays and back home as well as to buy their medicines from town. We believe that it is essential to help this very last generation of dying farmers, a group of people who have reached sustainability so successfully, and who tend to be forgotten together with their knowledge. There is much to be learned from the old mountain folks!
Each year the garden size is increased, in order to experiment with growing new plants as well as to strive towards a larger crop that can last us all winter and spring, and that we can share with others. This year both our smaller salad garden as well as our bigger garden was made larger with new plots and raised garden beds. Some of the new plants that we successfully grew this year were romanesco broccoli, rutabaga, a type of parsnip and perilla or Japanese basil. We tried a variety of chilly peppers without success. Despite the drought, we have had a rich apple harvest, and are in the process of making our first homemade moonshine.
Herbalism and natural cosmetics
Already at the beginning of the Organic Art Ranch one of our main focuses related to gardening was growing herbs as well as gathering them from the surrounding forests and fields. We learnt quite a lot about herbalism and the different uses of herbs in these past years, but especially in 2015. Now we make our own body soap and dishwashing soap, natural deodorant, hair rinse, creams and balms, herbal salts for cooking, and we use herbs for medicinal purposes. We made a collection of tinctures, salves and liniments. We will share some of our recipes for these remedies, one of which you can find bellow.
Passing on what we learn
Living with the goal to reduce your carbon footprint and to be in balance with nature is not always easy. There is a lot to learn on the path to self-sufficiency. We have decided to start sharing some of the knowledge that we accumulated
these last years, so the knowledge can then be learned and then further passed on, creating a web that makes the world a better place. Our newest post is a description on how to make your own herbal tinctures at home. You can read it by following this link: https://organicartranch.org/stories/