In order for me to explain my passion for the Radical Homemakers Harvest Swap that I attended last weekend, I have to start with telling you about my obsession with fruit.
All summer, from strawberry to apple season, I glean, trade for, and purchase the fruits of this region. I’ve gleaned shriveled pears from forgotten orchards, and purchased 20 lb boxes of perfect peaches from the San Juan valley of Colorado. I don’t grow much fruit here at Ampersand, partly because we only have rain catchment as our water supply for everything.
If we drilled a well here, it would tap into the same seam that our neighbor’s well draws from. Their water level has been dropping nearly every year. Our draw would make their well go dry maybe twice as fast, or faster if we planted a big orchard. The deep wells in our area tap into old fossil water. Using well water here is is not sustainable over the long term (which is really what sustainability is all about).
Raising milking goats here would not be sustainable either. There’s not enough forage on the land. We would need to bring in food for them, and still, all goat-accessible land would be devoid of vegetation. If that ‘s the case, why don’t we support people to have goats in higher elevations where there are lush green pastures? It makes more sense for me to purchase or trade for goat cheese from a homesteader in a lusher micro-climate, than bring in all of the food necessary to goats here, especially when I’m trying to restore the land, not degrade it.
We’ve been exploring sustainable living in this particular spot for over ten years now. In this time we have been able to change our attention from creating minimum impact shelter to stepping into our role in the larger community and economy. As we reach our limits to self sufficiency, we look outside our own property to source local foods and supplies. It is way more fulfilling to interact with our community, cobbling together a locally sourced life, than relying on cheap stuff from China and out of season produce, shipped in from the Southern Hemisphere.
There are things we have to contribute to our community: education about sustainable skills, and design ideas that minimize work, and embodied energy to create a more self-sustaining living environment. But also, we’ve got this thing with fruit. Our solar dehydrator can take more than 60 lb of fruit at one time. A community college class instructor who visited this year calculated that if we were diligent, we could dry 3,000 lbs of fruit in a year. And it costs nothing to run. We’ve got several solar ovens that can be used for making preserves and canning fruits. Our pantry has a sizable shelf dedicated to just fruit.
Happily, there’s a little bit less on that shelf due to the Radical Homemakers Harvest Swap last weekend in Santa Fe. I left the house with arm fulls of dried fruit, and jars of nectarine rose syrup and apricot ginger sauce. My dear friend Erin O’Neill spearheads this event (this is her awesome blog). Thirty six swappers set up their goods on tables around the room. The swapping process was very organized, with time for showing off, for suggesting swaps, and then we were set free to trade.
This event still thrills me. Not just because of the bounty of diverse hand crafted products that are now in my possession. But seriously, I took home not only goat cheese! I also got osha infused honey, beet green kimchi, pickled ginger carrots, pesto, elderberry tincture, apple elderberry jam, macadamia coconut butter, a whole fresh apple pie, coconut deodorant, herbal chest rub, arnica salve, sauerkraut, a beeswax candle, and more. All handmade by these lovely women who I got to meet!
No one knows how long our inflated economy that runs on imaginary value will bring cheap household products from China and strawberries from Chile. We need to know who is making what right in our backyard, and support each-other’s industries to make our local supplies strong. So our communities can be resilient. The most amazing part is that this is fun. It makes me excited about the future.
Thanks Radical Homemakers! And thanks to Gabriella Marks for these great photos. You can see more of her photos of this event here.
Written by Amanda Bramble