Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ends and Means

At this point it is appropriate to outline what, exactly, it is we're up to at Ecotone. First and foremost, we are trying to live here together at this place. The principle characters of this "we" include: 150ish chickens (heritage laying hens: Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, & Rhode Island Reds), 38 turkeys (all heritage breeds, mostly Blue Slates), 25 guineas, 4 Ringneck doves, 3 Toulese geese, 3 semi-feral barn cats (Maxine, Crescent, & Sassy Cat), 2 Red Wattle Hogs (Ruby & Sadie), 2 Great Pyrenees puppies (Cloe & Cletus), 1 Rogue Goat (Billy), 1 Variegated Kingsnake (Herman), Ozark (The Poodle), John Morrell (Ecotone Chair of Pastured Poetry), Jen, and, well, me. There are also a host of less personable - but no less present - characters that include our friendly predator the fox, a salamander, the mouse that lives in Jen's dresser drawer, and several large spiders residing in each window. Must I list the birds and the bacteria? The trees? Each blade of grass?

Second, we are building a small-scale, highly diversified sustainable farm. Through the farm we aim to increase the amount of food we raise for ourselves, as well as offer high-quality food for folks in middle Tennessee. While we are not certified organic, we use no synthetic chemicals in the garden and no antibiotics or hormones with the animals. All of the animals are "pastured", which means that they have constant access to fresh forage in the pasture; in other words, inside of portable pens, they are free ranging -- with some even freer than we would like.

In addition to the eggs that are now available - and the 35 Thanksgiving turkeys for which we are now accepting deposits - we have also committed to becoming stewards of several livestock breeds that are in danger of extinction. Both the turkeys and the pigs fall into this category. In the future we hope to add bees and mushrooms, plant fruit and nut trees, considerably expand the garden, add a few more goats, some sheep, and perhaps a milk cow. The idea behind this is that a diverse farm is an ecologically sound farm. We aim to farm this way, and to provide the place and space for others to learn to farm this way too. To this end, we also hope to make Ecotone a place for agrarian education, and so welcome all who wish to learn. Our method, above all, is experimental, but we incorporate permacultural, biodynamic, and ecological principles into farm practices as well. We do not own, nor do we plan to own, a tractor; the only combustible engines we employ belong to the truck and weedeater.

Obviously this is only the "agricultural" aspect of Ecotone. But because ecotones are borders of transition - liminal spaces where differences coexist and edges intermingle - there are other aspects to our dwelling here as well. More specifically, Jen is in the process of setting up an art and paper studio that she will call Recellulose Paper Products. This is just one of the "industrial" or studio aspects of Ecotone. John, too, has his own projects lined up, the most prominent of which is his plan to construct a structure for himself and future farm and studio interns. As these projects get up and running, I'm sure these folks will have more to say.
For more information on sustainable farming, see the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and the Tennessee Organic Growers Association. For more information on pastured poultry, see the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association. For more information on heritage livestock, see The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

No comments:

Post a Comment