Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Hoe, I Hoe....creating a garden to feed the people

Well, with dance season over for now (yay!) we are home more and able to dedicate a little more time to getting things accomplished here at KC. We have been working on a garden. Hopefully, over the next couple of years it will evolve into a raised bed sort of garden in order to reduce the amount of time dedicated to weed wars. For this year though, we had to make due with what we have.

What we do have is an abundance of compost and organic fertilizer, soil that retains water, and space. So we set out to begin growing food to eat, to share, and to trade. We wanted to plant a variety of items to prevent frequent trips to the market for that 'one item'. We wanted to plant enough to can, freeze, and give away, but not so much that it would be too much for just us to handle.

It appears that I am having issues with moving my pictures around and my computer time is about to end. I will post more about this amazing garden with some new photos soon.
Here is what we have planted this year:
heirloom tomatoes
cherry tomatoes
grape tomatoes
several varieties of sweet and hot peppers
carrots (orange and purple)
sweet corn
lettuce (these didn't do well)
pole beans
yellow squash
sweet onions
sweet potatoes
various herbs
I think that is about covers it. Oh yeah, we did plant some trees this year as well ~ plum, pear, peach, and fig. Of course, this is a work in progress. Over the next couple of years our list will continue to grow. But for now, we should be able to start on our path to self-sufficiency and be growing our ability to feed people.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Alea's Illness

Sorry I have been so slow to update on what has been going on here at Koinonia Community. I have begun many times to write, but have been unable to complete what I start.

Alea was diagnosed quite awhile ago with severe abdominal migraines. She will go for days with abdominal pain and vomiting. She will be restless and exhausted, anxious, disconnected. She is fearful of travel, of sleep, of eating. She moves and thinks very slowly, and if you try to rush her, her anxiety level increases and she gets sick. She becomes very introspective and a very worrisome way.

These began when she was barely five. We have tried to treat them with medication. The meds did nothing. The doctors prescribed doubling the dosage of her medication and adding another very serious medication. Concerned with the way the medication made her feel, and praying for God alone to heal her, Alea chose to go off all medication.

She didn't have any problems for over a year. Recently they started again. Of course, she is nearly ten, so there could be a bit of a hormonal trigger occurring this time around. We have identified so many "triggers". I'm not sure they are triggers as much as amplifiers. Alea really can't have caffeine, especially chocolate. She can't have anything with nitrates in it, such as hot dogs or pepperoni. She has to be wary of preservatives and dyes in what she eats. Sometimes loud noises and bright lights can bring on an episode. Often fatigue, and stress or worry, or even a feeling of a lack of security can trigger days of pain and vomiting.

There has been research that has shown that a misalignment of the atlas bone between the cranium and neck can contribute to migraines. When Alea was five (right around the time the migraines began) she had a boy jump off some playground equipment and onto her head, splitting her scalp open. We had her neck scanned and her atlas is out of alignment (in the direction of the blow she received). So we began chiropractic treatment. I think we are onto something. But here is the rub. Every time she has her neck adjusted, it triggers another episode. That seems to point pretty clearly to the misalignment being a cause. But how do we get it back into alignment without aggravating the situation in the meantime?

Lately, she has been sick a majority of the time. It seems that the unsettled position of staying in the camper and all the running around town to shower and wash clothes, and all the running involved with trying to build a house aren't helping the situation. What she needs right now is to have the comfort of her own bed, with her own comforting things around her instead of in storage. She had the added stress of 'tech week' for two dance performances, and the death of a few animals here at the farm.

So why am I sharing all this information? Our family has been in survival mode lately. Everything has been placed on hold while we just deal with day to day living, worked around Alea's health for the day. Those of you with children with illnesses know exactly what I mean. True, we are not, to our knowledge, dealing with a terminal illness. But for day to day living for the entire family, it is no less disruptive.

We know so many of the readers of this blog are praying for our family and this project. I ask only that you redirect your prayers. Alea needs your prayers. We all need the prayers. God can create something amazing from all of this. He already has begun. He takes hardship and uses it to strengthen relationships. He takes illness and uses it to strengthen faith. We are completely powerless to help her now. But of course, when we are weak, He is strong. Please lift us up in your prayers.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Armchair Activism

We whine endlessly about the state
of our sorry privileged lives
our cold fries
our thankless jobs
we're hot, we're cold

we wake early from our soft bed
and starbucks made our latte
with milk instead of soy
we missed this week's lost
and didn't get a hug

our cashier gave us a look
as we paid for our load of food
after waiting five agonizing minutes
in line in air conditioned shelter
while a child dies from lack of clean water

another cries out from hunger
as we pound our fist in anger
at the injustice of it all
we throw words like daggers
that fall harmlessly to the carpet

eliciting no change
in the state of the world
but piercing only the ears
who had the misfortune
of being withing firing range

as the ears bleed painfully
from the force of our rage
we lean back and click the remote
to dull our emotions
with the next top story.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Song to Sing

Lately, I have really tried to focus on the words I hear in songs as I hear and sing them. It is amazing how we can hear a song and fall into the melody without even realizing what we are singing aloud. We can sing worship songs and they fill us with a feeling of worship, without us believing the words we are singing. Even more often what we call 'praise and worship songs' are about us. They are safe songs that don't mention anything about Jesus but his grace. They don't praise God. They don't inspire us to follow Christ. They speak of our needs, wants, and fears. We rarely abandon ourselves to praising God.

I have found myself falling into the habit of disregarding a song if it says I or me more than a couple of times. But the following song is an exception. True, it speaks of me. But if you pay attention to the words, it speaks of reckless abandonment of self. It cries out against a lukewarm Christian existence. I think the words are beautiful. This is the sort of living that I envision when I read Christ's words about taking up the cross to follow him.

Luke 9:23 (Amplified Bible)
23And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [[a]disown himself, [b]forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, [c]refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [[d]cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].

Start focusing on the words you sing. Are they the words you want to cry out when you worship your Lord and Savior? Are they words of praise for an awesome God?

The Motions ~by Matthew West

This might hurt, it's not safe
But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

No regrets, not this time
I'm gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I'm finally feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

'Cause I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

take me all the way (take me all the way)
take me all the way ('cause I don't wanna go through the motions)
take me all the way (I know I'm finally feeling something real)
take me all the way

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

take me all the way (take me all the way)
take me all the way (I don't wanna go, I don't wanna go)
take me all the way (through the motions)
take me all the way

I don't wanna go through the motions

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What Now?

I don't believe in coincidences. Do you? So when we were told that it appeared as if someone had flown over our land and dumped soil completely unique in this area, in only this spot, I started to wonder why. I wasn't really surprised. God told us to do something different. It only makes sense that he would select a unique spot for such a venture. But where were we to go from there?

We had a preconceived notion of what we were to do. God wanted us to feed people. He wanted us to combine our energy and our resources. He wanted us to fellowship together. He wanted us to be light and salt. So it made sense that we would accomplish that through establishing a living community, right?

What about the soil? What made it unique? We knew that God had most definitely sent us here. So we needed to look at the reason for this location. The problem with the soil is that it acts like a sponge and does not release water. It looks like premium clay on the surface but once you dig past the first foot or two it changes. It takes on a different appearance. Suddenly it hit me. I went to our county soil scientist who was laying out our single septic system and said, "So the soil retains water. That may be a bad thing for a septic system, but wouldn't it be an advantage for growing things? When we are having a drought and everyone else is having trouble growing food, we should still be able to grow? Right?" His answer? "Yes, unless you are trying to grow tobacco. Tobacco likes dry sandy soil." But we aren't wanting to grow tobacco. We are wanting to feed people! Food requires water to grow.

So there is one part of the puzzle figured out. But what about the fellowship and sharing of resources and energy? How can that be accomplished if we are out here all alone? And how can we do all this ourselves? And home school? With Darrell working a full time job as well? It all hurt my head to think about.

But we have learned something over the last several months. We aren't the only ones that God has planted with this dream. We have encountered so many people who desire to feed people. We have learned that others, as well, desire to live in fellowship. Others desire to share what they have so more can be done to show the love of Jesus to people who do not know Him. We believe that God will continue to send people to help make this dream a reality. Already we have people coming out to help who do not live here. And I believe that many hands will help to turn this place into the place that God envisions. We will, together, feed people. We will feed them common food, and we will feed them love.

I believe that is only the first step. I think God envisions a living community as well. But to establish a living community as well as a small farm capable of feeding people takes quite a bit of energy and resources. It will have to be done one step at a time. Quite honestly, if it all happened at once I believe I would be overwhelmed and possibly even give up. So God is going to allow us to feed people on a smaller scale from the start. In the meantime, we will get settled and have an opportunity to get this small farm set up and running. It will be built slowly. We may even have an opportunity to rest and enjoy it.

Why would God give us a job to do, and then tell us to rest? Because we are going to need rest for what is to come.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ahhh! The Joys of Sewage

So many obstacles must be crossed when purchasing land and building a home. One of the greatest obstacles is the perc test performed by your local environmental health department. Often people locate the "perfect" place to build a house but find the land is not suitable for a septic system. The problem is magnified if you are considering building more than one structure.

Of course you can circumvent this whole issue if you purchase land in an area with public sewage lines run to it. Sewage is being run in this area, but is still a couple of miles away, so that was not an option. When you purchase land with the intentions of building in an area that will require a septic system, often the purchase loan will be contingent on a valid perc test.

The land owner from whom we purchased had considered developing this land, so he had already done much of the leg work. He had hired a soil scientist to analyze the soil, and presented a report and map of the land showing where conventional septic systems could be used, where alternative (aka. more costly) septic systems could be used, and what land was unsuitable for septic at all. We were set. There were more than enough perc locations to accommodate the eight or nine homes we were intending to build in this community. We intended to cluster the homes close together, maintaining as much green land as possible, and utilizing much of the unsuitable land for farming.

Working closely with our county zoning and planning department, the soil scientist's map, and our surveyors, we outlined lots so that each lot would include some of the land ideal for septic systems. Then we waited for it to stop raining so we could go to the environmental health department and apply for our perc tests. It rained for weeks. Finally the rain ceased temporarily, and the county soil scientist was being sent to analyze our soil so we could get moving right along.

We had to dig at least three pits per lot, each four feet deep, and four feet wide. We dug 24 pits to start with. The soil scientist from the health department came out two or three times and told us he would be back in another two weeks with a man from the state environmental health office that was coming out just to analyze our soil. He wanted us to be ready to dig fresh pits while they were there. So Darrell took the day off work and dug some more pits while both of the soil scientists climbed in and out of the holes and discussed their findings.

The bottom line? They told us that the soil on this property is completely unique in this area. They have not found any like it in this county and in very few locations in this part of NC. They actually told us that it looked like someone had flown over and dropped loads of soil just on this field. They found a location that had perfect soil...down the hill and along the banks of the creek. You never find soil of it's type downhill or near water. Of course you can't place a septic system near a creek. The water at the top of the hill looked waterlogged. Water should be running away from it. It was insane.

They denied all eight of our applications. They did, however, find one location that would be suitable for septic...but it was not on any of the lots. It was on the area we had designated "community land". According to the soil scientist map we had from the previous land owners, it was a septic dead zone. The county would approve a septic system for a single house only if we reapplied with the entire acreage as a single lot. We were told that we would not be approved to build more than one residence unless 1) we purchased adjacent land and it would perc OR 2) sewage was run to this area.

????? be continued......

Monday, May 4, 2009

The first of the updates

Wow! So much has happened. A year ago this month we closed on the sale of our house and started pursuing the dream that God had planted in our hearts to be a part of forming a Christian intentional community. First and foremost, God told us to feed people. Hunger is a huge issue. Maybe you don't see it. You have food in your cupboards. There is a market within driving or walking distance. Your neighbor is there for borrowing a stick of butter. But hunger is commonplace in many parts of the world. In fact, if we looked closely, we would see it closer to home than we would ever have believed.

People don't just hunger for food. They hunger for touch, a smile, a caring word, a bit of attention...a bit of hope. God wanted us to feed these hungers as well. He planted a vision of a community that lived in close proximity, caring for one in fellowship, sharing their resources, bearing one another's burdens, and sharing in victories. Such a way of living, He showed us, would provide greater resources for feeding the hungry in our greater community.

So we waited for Him to lead us to the place where this community, a community founded on the principles of 'koinonia', would be established. There are communities founded upon the same principles being established all over the world. People are hungry. They hunger for a different way of living. They hunger for true relationships. They hunger to live intentionally. Many hunger for a way of living different from the comfortable routine existence that they have been taught to expect from life. These communities have been planted to feed such hungers.

God led us to some beautiful land in Davidson County, abandoned farm. We purchased it last summer and have slowly been going through the process of bringing to life the vision of a koinonia community. Our family felt led last November to move onto the land in order to work and live, and begin working with the resources already available to us to feed people.

We purchased a camper, hooked it up to electricity flowing from an old abandoned barn, and our family of four spent our first night living here on November 22, 2008. Our time here so far has been challenging, surprising, difficult, educational, and blessed. I will try to catch you up over the next week or so on all that has happened in the last 5 1/2 months now that I have received the incredible blessing of wireless internet.

We are not truly 'roughing it' but we are lacking several of the luxuries that we had taken for granted throughout our lives. We are living in a 31' camper that contains a queen size bed, a pair of bunks, a sofa, kitchen table, and even a small kitchen and bathroom. It is just a little shy of 250 square feet. It is about the size of an average kitchen. We do have electricity and even heat and air...usually. The air is working beautifully today!

We don't have a well or a septic system. Whatever water we use for living or for watering animals must be hauled in in coolers and buckets. From several weeks of rain we were able to collect rainwater from the roof of the old barn in buckets placed around the barn perimeter. Hopefully before long, we will be able to finish repairs to the old metal barn roof, and have gutters to direct that precious rainwater into holding tanks. The hauling in of water limits our water usage, and we do have to go somewhere else to shower and to wash clothes. And hot water for washing dishes and face cleaning is obtained through the old fashioned method of heating a potful on the stove. We do have a toilet, but with no septic system...what goes in must be taken out. So we try to use the outhouse whenever possible.

We have nearly 50 animals here now ~ two dogs, two cats, two pigs, three roosters, four rabbits, seven goats, nineteen hens, and six chicks....I think. That sounds about right. So we have a steady supply of organic fertilizer to add to our quickly curing compost pile. And we are collecting more than a dozen eggs daily. And we have planted a garden of goodies. New little seedlings are popping up every day.
We wake up to the most amazing and inspiring view every day. It truly makes me desire to have an opportunity to start painting again. When I start to become discouraged or whiny, (which does happen occasionally) all I have to do is walk out my door and look around, and know that God is all around me, and I feel comforted. I am reminded of my purpose.

But the big news is that we now have a driveway. It was completed a little over a week ago. Those of you that have been here know what a big deal that is. Our way in was truly a challenge, especially with the amount of rainfall this past winter. Many days we had to park at the road and walk back to the camper a little over a quarter mile through the mud, hauling groceries and laundry. Occasionally we had to drive backwards in order to make it up the hill. And we had a little narrow rickety 'bridge' crossing the creek that some found to be a little frightening. That bridge was our biggest obstacle to building, or a well, or septic system. It had to be replaced before any progress could be made. But now a lovely (and wide) concrete pipe is in place across the creek, and a graded roadway covered in sand rock leads back across this beautiful property...all the way to a still pristine home site.

Life is good and God is great. More updates and some fabulous pictures coming later.