Thursday, December 13, 2007

Getting Started

Though it's taken me awhile to embrace it, finally, at age 58, I see myself as a writer. For the past 15 years I've authored a regular column for Communities magazine, and I've written dozens of handouts for trainings and reports for meetings and clients. Now, apparently, I am also a blogger. The weird thing about this venue is that, for the first time, I'll be creating for a medium I have no familiarity with. That is, I don't read blogs (who has the time?). Kinda like groping in a dark closet, hoping to find your favorite boots while knowing there's a chance you'll come out with something the dog has mutilated. We'll see what we get.

I recall when the idea of doing a blog first popped into my consciousness. It was in 2005 at the conclusion of the FIC's spring organizational meetings. Board member Raines Cohen was suggesting a variety of Web-based options for promoting community, and blogs were among them. I had an inkling then that sooner or later this might be a pool I'd need to dive into. At the fall FIC meetings in Austin I took the plunge. Fellow Board member Tony Sirna (our in-house geek) set me up here at and here we are.
It's mid-December and my cmty, Sandhill Farm, is iced in. I'm home only for 10 days (after being on the road for 7+ weeks) and am thoroughly enjoying this slower pace of the farm in winter. It's a more contemplative time. The workload is low, and there's time for reading by the wood stove and getting to some less urgent projects that have been waiting patently in the queue (does the queue ever empty?).

As the temperatures outside creep up to 32 and the possibility of a thaw, which will relieve the overloaded branches of their icy casings, I reflect on how safe we felt Monday when the ice storm was forecast and the radio warned of potential power outages. It turned out we never lost power, but neighbors did and the schools closed for a day. But we were in pretty good shape anyway. Our biggest concern was that Stan (a long-term member) was away on vacation and expected to return right after the ice was due. Luckily he scooted in early and just ahead of the worst of the ice. With everyone home, we all felt more secure.

Sandhill has been here 33 years and we made choices way back in the beginning about how much we were willing to be dependent on outside utilities. We have vulnerability, but an acceptable amount. We are connected to the regular power grid for electricity, yet our space heat comes from wood stoves. We use propane for cooking, yet would be able to cook on the wood stoves at need. We are connected to county water, yet the water flows without electricity on the farm and we have our own well and ponds (twice in the early years, our water pipes froze in harsh winters and we had to haul water from our ponds for a couple months—a nuisance to be sure, but doable). If we lost electricity, our biggest vulnerability would be our walk-in freezer, which is chock full of the bounty of our previous growing season. (There is some solace in knowing that the most likely time of power outages is in the winter, when the freezer would thaw at a much more leisurely rate than during an outage in July.) Of course, today, a prolonged loss of electricity would also mean a loss of internet service—something we may have become more dependent upon than refrigeration!

Still, in all, we're not that vulnerable. When it comes right down to it, we don't really need to leave the farm all that much. A wag once said that the veneer of civilization is only about three meals deep (by which he meant that after missing three meals in a row, people are prone to be much less civilized with one another). At Sandhill we are very secure when it comes to food (we're likely to miss showers long before missing meals).

And so, the ice storm was a chance to slow down a bit more and ride it out. I have the image of Sandhill as an especially buoyant cork in these turbulent times, and I like that.

Now, for the first time in a week, the sun has just appeared and the explosion of refracting light off the creaking, swaying iced branches is better than rolling around inside a kaleidoscope. (And our neighbors at Dancing Rabbit are rejoicing at seeing some power gain from their solar panels, to replenish their cloud-drained batteries.)


Anonymous said...

Hey Laird! Welcome to blog world (some of us spend WAY too much time reading them)! I love the image of Sandhill "buoyant as a cork." Buoyant indeed, and stuffed to the gills with fabulous food. Yum yum.

Unknown said...

I'll be reading you regularly.

chalicefire said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I'm very interested in what the most important issues are to flesh out before jumping into forming a community. I have some dear friends who my husband and I are considering joining in a small community. We have several ideals in common, and I'd like to improve our odds for successfully sharing space and family ties.