between here and there


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The Empire Revisited

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In my last post I talked about the looming threat of wild visitors to my Apple Tree. Yesterday I took a hike up the local trail and upon my return the tree had been visited. All the apples were stripped from the bottom branches ! Ha! Time to harvest. So, here is my share of the apples. I left some on for any wayward visitors who really need an afternoon snack.

By the way, I’m still hoping someone will send me their favorite recipe for an Apple Crisp!


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The Empire

The Empire Apple, small as a plum

The Empire Apple, small as a plum

 

 

Apple season has arrived in my yard. Almost overnight the leaves on the Amur and Cottonwood are turning bright yellow. And I am not exaggerating about the “overnight” aspect. Come and see for yourself if you want. In addition to the bright light of leaves glowing in my yard I think the apples on my single apple tree are ready to pick. And as I noted in a previous blog, that means I need to pick them before the Moose or Bear get them.

One came off the tree the other day, and I decided to give it a try. They are smallish. Like a plum. They are mostly yellow with a beautiful overlay of reddish streaks. But I don’t know which variety they are. Looking on line it seems like it may be an Empire.

Here is what they say about the Empire Apple:

Empire
Introduced in New York, 1966 (McIntosh x Delicious).
Ripens in late September, (two weeks later than McIntosh).
Fruit is medium; skin is red-on-yellow to all red. Flesh is crisp, juicy, aromatic and slightly tart.
Sweet, spicy quality excellent for eating fresh, in salads and fruit cups

The Apple Tree in my yard

Take a look at the pics and let me know what you think. Am I right? Or is it another variety?

What I know, is that the one I tasted is sweet. very fragrant, and slightly soft. Delicious, and wonderful considering I got to watch it grow from sweet pink blossom to edible fruit!

I think I need to pick some a make an Apple Crisp. Anybody have suggestions for a recipe?

 

just before eating


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on the road to Fall

Bear scat along the road home

Bear scat along the road home

the great chokecherry attractant

the great chokecherry attractant

 

The days are becoming more brisk, more fall-like. As the summer pushes towards its last moments the rush of ripe fruit arrives. Sweet smelling and practically dripping from its bush. With the fruit comes the bears. Bears move by season and available food source. So while I am always cautious of bears in the wilderness around me, the places that I hike and camp, I also realize that most bears are in particular landscapes and elevations at certain times of the year. If I pay attention to their needs I am most likely not in their way. Of course there is the “hibernation” period, those long restful periods of winter, when it is unlikely to see them. Those short days of light, and long days of dark when I wish I could crawl into a cave as the snow falls, just as the bears do. But in rest of the year they are moving around looking for the best food source: logs and bugs, left over carnage that is left from a creature not surviving the winter, or losing a battle with another animal, nuts, and the sweetest of all, berries. When the fruit comes into season we have the greatest opportunity to cross paths with a bear or two.

For me, living up a canyon outside of Bozeman surrounded by protected Forest land, such an experience is even greater. The two trails that leave into the mountains from the end of my road provide great cross over with bears and their berries. And when I know it is best to start paying attention to where and when I am hiking on these trails is when I see the large piles of bear poop that start showing up on the road to my house. Which is now. The chokecherry and other berries are ripe along the road and every morning there are more piles left from the bears after they gorge on the berries. The branches of bushes are pulled down and leaning toward from the roadside where the bears are tugging on them. And as they move up the road they are moving up in elevation, which means that they are naturally following the berries as they ripen over the next few weeks.

The last stop before they head up the trails is a treat in my yard. An Apple tree which is heavy with fruits this year. Planted just outside my front door I observe the fruit every time I walk by. This week it is turning from green to shades of red. Small little sweet fruits that will soon be eaten by me, moose and bear. The question is, who will get the most of the fruit.


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Living Like Weasels

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I’m on the plane headed from Montana to North Carolina to visit life-long friends. Friends whose children have transformed in the past few years into different versions of the creatures they were the last time I visited.

I’m thinking about the visit, great conversation, good, local food, and a few long walks. And as I think about their home I can’t help but land in the middle of my own imaginary “Annie Dillard” land. While it has been many years since Dillard wrote

“Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” when I visit my friends I always feel like I am returning to the land and experiences she wrote of many years ago. Beyond Tinker Creek ruminations I realize I mostly transport to the landscape she describes in her short story “Living Like Weasels”, deciduous woods filled with scurrying sounds, that remains a strong touchstone for me even twenty-odd years after reading it the first time. Such a profound reference point for life this story has given me, that I read it every year with my students. A discussion of freedom, choice, intuition, love, living , and instinct pursues. Each discussion , every year, different, but similar in nuance.

Tomorrow I will head into the woods, both real and imagined, for that soulful journey that marries reality with imagination. I will bow to the six directions, as Jim
Harrison notes. I will live for a bit with the weasel and look for the wild rose bush , if I am lucky I will lose myself for a while, lose destination, hear the sounds of the wild woods beyond the motors of cars that hum past the perimeter. I will think about what I should be holding onto, and what is unnecessary. I will smell the woods, look up into the sky for that Eagle she writes of and deliver myself to the World, mindless for as long as I can muster, searching for my necessity in life .


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Manufactured Landscapes

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I’ve lived in Montana since 1998. When I arrived there was still a realness, a grittiness to the place, that, as I look around today, seems to be slipping quietly away. What is disappearing is that sense of a community when folks have slowly built up their surroundings responding organically to the place in which they live. The growth over time that occurs as people scrape together their savings to open a mercantile, or a bakery, or build their home. These are individuals who become a collective, who put down roots, people who truly commit and live in the place of their business. The collective of place that I am missing today evolves beyond the hands of trained designers who have learned to execute an industrialized model for living. What I see today are the designed landscapes that have vegetation spaced correctly, trees and shrubs (not bushes) growing from a  pattern of circles specified while looking down at a two-dimensional drawing instead of making decisions while standing on the ground, designers who have the landscape smoothed and weeded, and de-wrinkled the nature of the place.

I know, you’re saying to yourself , she’s just romanticizing the past. But I don’t believe that’s what is happening. Instead, I am witnessing my hometown of Bozeman transform into the sameness of the industrialized American development model. These are the manufactured landscapes that support the commercial and economic successes of Costco, Home Depot, Lowes, World Market, The Gap, and Starbucks (yes we finally have them here, too). These are the places that now look the same across the United States. The trees and shrubs that decorate and edge these big box stores ring them like imitation stones of cheap jewelry. The curb cuts and edging and bark islands, the four layers of vegetation from Trees, to shrub, to some ambiguous flowering plant selected for its long blooms and easy maintenance growing up against bermuda grass or its equal, these living things are used to make a new place that we know, but not really. The easily recognizable non-place.  A place that is everywhere but nowhere. A place that makes us feel comfortable so that we easily slip into the ridiculously large parking lots of suburban America without question so that we can happily pop into the big box store of choice. And as we drive in we think, isn’t this pretty, with the greenness of the world around us. When actually, we are just holding nature hostage for our own use, our own manufactured excuse of a natural landscape.

Who is to blame for all of this? We are. We all are, every time we forget where we are as we slip into that lull of commercialism that makes us feel better, or even good about shopping for things we don’t necessarily need. We, the designers, are responsible because we have passively accepted the instruction of “how to design” the edges of these places, that we have followed city planners who have created such sweet little places for their community to come and go from. We are responsible because we are not getting out into the wild enough to recognize the difference, or care about the difference of what this lack of understanding does to us or our impact on the world. We are, because we fail to recognize that we continue to use the natural world in ways that discourage and erase our sense of being a part of a larger whole, instead encouraging even the simplest use of the living world in dishonorable ways.

 

If we do care, how do we find that integrity of place, how do we retain it? How do we respect these places in their specificity and richness of conditions while knitting together our sense of belonging to these places, too? How do we honor where we live, and how do we create them?

Perhaps we start by not fully and completely erasing the world that appears scrubby and unresolved, the place that is living, cyclical, jagged, and constantly changing. The place that was here before we moved in, before we used that can of upside down marking paint and staked the land. We can start by standing, feet on the ground as Ed Abbey said, and feeling and observing and learning the world around us. By not accepting the lessons that we are taught at school without question, the lessons that are same all over, lessons of ubiquity for providing generalized backdrops where we live. By valuing the need to take time, to live local. To live the local, not the commercial, to live the place, not the sameness that is expanding across the United States.

I think you know what I’m talking about. If not take a look around. If your hometown looks like the one down the road you are living in a Manufactured Landscape. If not, then there is still time to give deep consideration, time and commitment to where you live, to not erase the community that already lives there, all of it,  plants and animals alike.

The Wilderness that surrounds us

The Wilderness that surrounds us


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Dreaming of Utah

Utah, South of Moab

Utah, land of dreams

I have been dreaming of Utah these past nights. Not those kind of dreams you have when you are wishing you could go somewhere. Not the melancholy type. But the kind of dreams that are had from experience, when your subconscious is so full of an experience that it pours out of you after you have had it. The dreaming is rich of the landscape. They are not full of saga or people, or any far-fetched narrative. They are full of the place, the feelings, textures, smells, and colors. Every night after I close my eyes I relive the place. The overwhelming beauty.

I have never had such realistic and vivid dreams before of a real place, portrayed in a true and actual dynamic. I am wondering what this means for my psyche. Have I found my spirit home? Or was the experience simply overpowering that my subconscious is relishing the intensity of the memories?

Utah. I await the next adventure.

 

rain falls on Utah, the mist of magic

rain falls on Utah, the mist of magic


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Remote Studio meets Cloud Nine Farm

on the way to Cloud Nine Farm, Wilsall Montana

on the way to Cloud Nine Farm, Wilsall Montana

 

In early April I visited Cloud Nine Farm near Wilsall, Montana for the first time. The ground was just thawing at this high-elevation farm that bases it’s growing techniques on Permaculture. Despite the fact that there was nothing sprouting green in the land that surrounds them, Allison and Seann, owners of  Cloud Nine, were following their daily farm activities. In order to make Cloud Nine profitable the farm is a year round operation. Green houses, chicken and duck eggs, and micro-greens help extend the seasonal potential for the farm. Cloud Nine is an organic minded farm and in the past few months that we have been planning the Remote Studio project for them they have been working through the process for gaining full “organic farm” status. This status not only is a great personal goal it also assists their product commitment with the CSA they work with, Market Day Foods in Bozeman, Montana. As the organic reviewer told them, they have the most diverse farm requesting organic status she had ever seen. Which means that the farm had ultimately more paperwork and verifications to deal with , because their application  for organic status extends beyond a mono-culture farm, and instead operated as a holistic entity. The holistic condition is representative of the permaculture farming that they have adopted. It is a best case operation that organic farms can reach toward. In May they gained their full organic status!

The concepts of permaculture farming are not so different than the architecture profession’s goals seeking to design their buildings to work with the environment of their buildings. Consideration of land, orientation, weather patterns, and best conditions for employing the “energy” and “productivity” of the place. While this may sound straight forward, its not simple. Certainly not simple if you are farming in the high elevations of Montana with land that had been previously overgrazed. And if you want to develop a closed-loop farm as Allison and Seann do, the challenges can be even greater. Closed-loop (just as in architecture) means that what you need you gain from your “ground” and what you produce in by-product stays on the land, and is not hauled away.

one of the hoop greenhouses growing micro-greens

one of the hoop greenhouses growing micro-greens

seeding for the upcoming growing season

seeding for the upcoming growing season

Artemis Institute is interested in supporting practices and experiences that recognize the relationship between nature and culture. With the Remote Studio program we focus our design/build project on community structures that assist this relationship. This year we are committing the Remote Studio project to Cloud Nine Farm because we believe that the food that they produce for our community helps ensure that we have healthy “connected to the land” choices. We are overly impressed with Cloud Nine and other such small organic farms who commit to find a way to grow healthy food, in less than simple environmental and economic circumstances. These young farmers work long hours, reinvest their meager profits in bettering their ground, seldom have time-off, and little financial opportunity to build the simple support structures we all imagine to be in place on farms. For these reasons, Remote Studio Summer 2014 students will be designing and building a multi-functional support structure that enables the farm to store their implements out of harsh conditions, hang their garlic and store their onions, better rinse their vegetables for market, and store their young plants in a more protected environment.

To achieve this new support structure Cloud Nine is providing the funds for all construction materials, and Artemis Institute/Remote Studio provides the design, construction management, drawings and construction of the structure for free. There is one more component that is on their list, but not in their budget: a refrigeration unit with a high-performing “cool-bot” that would allow them to extend the storage and delivery season of their products. We have estimated materials and technology for this portion of the structure at about $5,000 for Remote Studio to incorporate into the design and construction of the new structure. If supporting our developing American Organic Farmers seems like an important and necessary thing to do, then consider helping Artemis Institute build the new Refrigeration Unit for Cloud Nine Farm. Artemis Institute is a non-profit organization. Your donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. To make a donation click here.

Remote Studio students start designing the Cloud Nine structure June 16!

 

eggs and sunflower mico-greens from Cloud Nine Farm

eggs and sunflower mico-greens from Cloud Nine Farm

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