Almost the first words from Jess Rubin, February 25 presenter, were that restoring the economy starts with restoring the ecology, an ongoing theme in her talk at the Jericho Community Center. About eighteen of us gathered to hear about all things fungal.
Jess, a resident of Essex Junction, founder of MycoEvolve & co-founder of VT Myconode, said while microbes showed up on earth four billion years ago, fungi two billion and plants one billion years later, working backwards to partner with plants, fungi, and microbes is one strategy to engage in earth healing efforts.
As a new field, mycoremediation arose in the 1970s, largely due to the work of mushroom guru Paul Stamets, author of Mycelium Running. Jess said that as a science, mycoremediation is still in its infancy.
In Vermont, manure management strategies, rotational & cover crop practices, and appropriate buffer strips seemed to be lacking on many farms, thus leading to tainted waterways. These observations led Jess to focus on E. coli in her research.
Much of her initial research focused on the somewhat familiar King Stropharia, or Wine-cap mushroom since it is easy to grow and releases enzymes that ultimately kill E. coli. Jess mentioned that often fungi used for healing sickness in humans such as many of the polypores have great potential to be used in remedial work.
Future plans for Jess include developing a fungal hugelkultur installation to remediate E.coli and redirect phosphorus out of the water via mycorrhizal riparian plantings. With a strong team assembled, Jess intends to pursue this work through a Masters project in Ecological Landscape Design.
After describing fungal research projects in Shelburne, Colchester and Poultney, Jess led our group in an exercise of first listing toxins in our own neighborhoods, then citing existing infrastructure, as initial steps toward understanding, envisioning, and transitioning into remediation practices on the local level.
On January 28th, 2019, Transition Town Jericho hosted a panel of local town Conservation Commission heads from Jericho, Bolton, Richmond, and Underhill. The meeting was an opportunity for the various representatives to discuss recent initiatives and share their experiences as working teams. About 22 people showed up.
· The work to eliminate invasive species, such as japanese knotweed, abundant on Crane Brook and other areas
· Over harvesting of fiddleheads, and how to ensure there are good supplies every year
· Work with land owners providing ideas and resources to reduce erosion
· Applying for a grant to build a wildflower pollinator garden on the Jericho Village Green
The Conservation Commission (CC) oversees management of properties owned by the towns. In addition, they are available for conducting studies, applying for grants, and providing input for the various Boards in regard to the natural resources within the towns.
Tom Baribault of the Jericho CC, talked about the Backwoods program which is an online course targeted at teaching homeowners with 25 acres or less about their woods and how they can be caretakers of it. Whether you own 2 acres or 20 acres, this program will help you make the most out of the woods in your backyard!
Underhill, represented by Karen McKnight, holds monthly meetings with both members and non-members attending. Workshops on living with bears, bird friendly maples, connectivity of wildlife areas, and tree walks to identify/treat ash trees ravished by the ash borer.
Amy Ludwin, of the Bolton CC cited various projects including mapping the river basin and managing the town forest. They work with land owners on erosion issues and partner with groups such as the Friends of the Winooski. They also have stewardship of the Preston Pond Conservation Area.
The Richmond CC, represented by Judy Rosovsky, sponsors studies on town natural resources such as Gillett Pond, assisted by students from UVM’s Department of Plant Biology. They also contribute to revisions of the Town Plan including mapping the town’s natural resources.
TTJ’s film event on Nov 26 provided inspiration for a lifetime. Dancing with the Cannibal Giant and its producer, Chris Wood is currently touring the state, inspiring and motivating community dialogue and interaction. Chris was accompanied by Suzanne Richman, who facilitated a soulful discussion among the nearly thirty people who attended (from Jericho, Essex, and Williston as well as a sizable chunk from Transition Town Charlotte).
Chris introduced himself, saying he was motivated by the film Wisdom to Survive: Climate Change, Capitalism and Community from director Ann Macksoud of Old Dog Films. While that film presented the grave problems we’re facing, Chris was interested in solutions and asked Macksoud to direct Dancing.... Indeed, the first fifteen minutes are excerpts from Wisdom..., followed by Five New Stories for the Great Transition (subtitle of his film) describing inspirational communities/solutions.
Interspersed throughout the film are great quotes from young people “(Activism) is not a fight, but a more joyful existence” to local heroes like UVM’s Stephanie Kaza, “Hope is having a steady mind, and willingness to be present” to maven Joanna Macy ”If you want an adventure, what a time to be alive!” to the literary, “perhaps it’s beauty that will save the earth”-Dostoyevski.
Sherri Mitchell, of the Penobscot tribe, is an omnipresence in the film; there is footage of her talks where she describes the myth of the Cannibal Giant Gilyuk, who is asleep in the forest and awakened when Mother Earth is in distress. Gilyuk’s role is to lull humanity into a false sense of security, consuming themselves to death so Mother Nature can recover. Sherri said that humanity is awakening now, traveling through the long dark birth canal. We can choose to either stay in the dark, or be the midwives to a new way of being.
The first New Story filmed was the Metta Earth Institute, founded by Gillian and Russell Comstock in Lincoln, Vermont. Providing immersions and workshops for groups of young people, they combine contemplative practice, regenerative work on the land and social activism. Russell said he’s trying to re-enact an ancient story, shifting the mindset from ‘me-ness’ to benefiting the whole.
After a fascinating interview with folks at the Center for Transformative Practice in White River Junction, the film takes you to Soul Fire Farm in Petersburg NY, a community trying to combat “food apartheid” by training groups of city dwellers in farming, food production and back to earth skills, then delivering to “food deserts”, populations of people who can’t afford nutritious food.
The film takes you on tour with the duo, Climbing Poetree, a performance art group of two women who provoke their audiences to simply wake up, saying humanity is in a battle of stories and we need to decide which will win. They bring to life the idea of creativity as an antidote for violence and destruction and have clocked thousands of miles with their message, touring on a bus that runs on recycled veggie oil.
Fable Farm is run by two brothers in Barnard Vermont. A working farm, winery and events venue, their Thursday community day has turned into a major event hosting up to 500 people at a time. They say their survival as a farm is based on the community that has built up over the last ten years. Their philosophy, they add, is to focus on the self; from there one can have greater effect on the larger community.
The film ended with the haunting quote from poet Drew Dellinger:
“my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
...surely you did something”
After the film we shifted into a big circle, sharing both dreams and hard realities of building communities of response. Ideas included modeling homesteading through tours/skillshares, running Repair Cafes (ongoing in Charlotte), inner transition book groups, just to name a few. No doubt, many other ideas were generated in the lively breakout conversations before we all parted ways.
Wherever it takes you and your community, Chris and his film are well worth hosting in your town, library or home. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
On Monday, October 22, Jericho homesteader Chris Sims presented “Feeding the Neighborhood” in which she discussed the many ways she and her husband have worked to improve food security for their household.
From foraging to gardening to food preservation to raising livestock, and bartering with neighbors and building relationships with local farmers, her audience got plenty of ideas as to where to begin or to branch out in their own quest for self-sufficiency.
We were reminded that it’s been just 10 years since the Transition Handbook was published by Rob Hopkins. While he focused on developing skills and resilience in the face of Peak Oil, today’s readers foresee new disasters looming for which smart communities need to prepare.
Chris shared real-life examples of how she’s gently introduced neighbors, friends, and schoolchildren to resources that might otherwise go to waste.
She talked about carbon sequestration, composting, permaculture and acquiring healthy foods (from every food group) without a trip to the market.
Eating with the seasons was another theme; so was eating differently: wild mushrooms, baked insects, foraged acorns anyone?
Prime agricultural soils are at risk everywhere, including Jericho’s planned commercial district. How might we act to save such precious resources so that they’re available toward their highest and best use?
All in all, a richly informative and inspiring talk. Thank you, Chris and husband Reed!
Peter Duval, here:
Ruah Swennerfelt (TT Charlotte), Marcy Kass (TT Williston), and Laura Markowitz (TT Jericho) headlined our discussion: "Why Transition Towns, and why now?" at our Sept. 24th meeting.
Marcy described her motivation. She is involved with 350.org and distributed a brochure with 39 small sustainable habits. TT is an appealing, positive way of dealing with the problem. She cited Donna Haraway's "Staying with the Trouble" book. The flip side of hope is disappointment.
Ruah has written her own book, Rising to the Challenge: The Transition Movement and People of Faith. She noted the world is in trouble, in many ways. Everything needs to happen all at once, and it is difficult to work at a big scale, but the TT scale of community is manageable and effective. She joined the Grange, too, which strengthened her involvement in her town.
Laura has narrowed her activism to TT Jericho. Her expectations of participation have been relaxed, and she is going to keep on doing what she thinks is important. Critical mass can happen, and Transition Towns are about a vision.
The panel and audience discussed hope versus despair, duty and what would compel people to act. Is there something to be learned from war? What happened during World War II, with the Greatest Generation rising to the challenge? Today there is little broad adversity, and a climate disavowal to go along with denial. Norse mythology accepts that evil will triumph, but still people are expected to do the right thing.
Scale matters and so does collective impact and addressing the problem in multiple dimensions to shift culture. There are many little things that people do that changes culture. Emergency preparedness is an aspect of TT, but not for doomsday. Instead, the emphasis is on mutual support. Ruah recommended David Fleming's "Surviving the Future". A number of activities were discussed: weekly potluck parties, no electricity nights, email newsletter, repair cafes, asset mapping and skills inventories. Transition Towns is the container for action.
No Card Table Market happening this time ‘round, sorry folks! Didn’t get enough marketeers, so our funky end-of-summer market will just have to wait. We plan to spread the word throughout the year to see if we can generate enough interest to launch such a market next summer.
Meanwhile the TTJ steering group met recently to plan general meeting topics for the coming year. We’ll be exploring new topics and revisiting old ones; let us know what appeals to you! At our first meeting this fall (September 24) we’ll be hosting a panel discussion on Transition Towns.
Reps from Transition Town Charlotte and Williston will help us cover the many aspects of Transition Towns, from what is going on around the world, to happenings in Vermont towns, to Inner Transition work (meshing the mind/psyche with the stuff of the outer world...oooh, juicy!)
Please join us at the Jericho Town Library on Monday September 24, starting 5:30pm with the usual snacks, conversations with neighbors and panel/discussion.
Yep, you heard right! An end of summer market, organized by us transitioners in Jericho. It will be held on Saturday, September 15 from 10am to 2pm on the Jericho Center Green, featuring locals displaying their own produce, crafts and music. That is, if we get at least 20 people signed up, so read on!
This will be a market with a twist...value tickets will be used instead of money, making it kid friendly. We’re encouraging people to creatively use their talents to market their garden produce, homemade food, arts and crafts and musical talents. Creativity will be the theme of the day...maybe you’ve never tried to market your stuff before, or perhaps you’re a seasoned marketer; regardless, we’d love your involvement!
You just need to bring your own card table to display items. And there will be a rain site, the Jericho Community Center.
If you think you’d like to take part, go to the following link to find out more, and sign up!
As Transition Town Jericho is now in summer hibernation I experienced a sort of village convergence of my own at last weekend’s (June 1-4) Epic Skill Swap in Wilmot NH. The sixth annual, this event brings together mostly young people, sharing skills in small groups/one-on-ones in a beautiful bucolic setting.
I was there just for the day, but most people stayed the weekend, as evidenced by the colorful sprawl of tents. Stocked with my own grown and dried gourds, I offered a workshop “Make your Own Shekere”. (Shekeres, those colorful beaded instruments from Africa you can’t help shaking your hips to, when listening to or playing). I only had to give a few instructions before people were on their own, creating varied and impressive renditions.
It was a really pleasant two hours, sitting around the picnic table beading together over conversation. I realized this is a pretty activated group of individuals, including a social worker, a teacher of theology at prisons, an art therapist. If people walking by expressed interest, they were handed a gourd and joined in the crafting.
Being in the middle of opera season (I’m a classical violinist) I was only able to stay for the day, but enjoyed a tasty vegan lunch, then attended informative workshops on bike camping and primitive pottery (did you ever imagine you could make clay/pottery from your own backyard soil?!). Examples of other workshops were: Setting up a Website, How to Build a Wall, Primitive Firemaking, and best of all, the Art and Science of Procrastination (decided to wait until next year for that one!)
The only thing that would make a Skill Swap even more epic is having one right here in Jericho... let’s see what the future holds there.
Thanks to Jen Burton and Mark Woodward for coming to Jericho and sharing their story of organizing, planning and building a community oven in Johnson, VT. The oven has been up and running since last fall and has been a fun and tasty way to bring families and community together. Jen explained: “The oven is intended to provide a gathering place for community baking (bring your own items to bake), community pizza nights, private functions, and other public uses. This year, the oven was used to make 35 pizzas for the Town Meeting Day potluck.”
Jen continued, saying this was a yearlong project that she championed. She organized the effort to plan, found funding, worked with town officials and brought the project to the building point. Some of the fine details included: getting letters of support from town agencies, deriving the plans for the oven and roof structure, confirming there would be insurance coverage and writing several grants for funding.
Once the organization was completed, Mark took the lead to see that the construction of the oven was orchestrated. He worked with many local volunteers, including Jen, to erect the shelter, then assisted with the building of the stove with the hired stone mason. The rocks were sourced locally from a rock pit nearby. The construction project took most of the fall to complete. Lining up volunteers for multiple weekends and getting the stone mason on-site to work around his primary work hours made the timing a challenge.
Take a look at their Facebook page (Johnson Community Wood Fired Oven) that includes pictures of all the construction phases. Everyone is welcome to use the wood fired oven in Johnson: you have to fill out a facilities use form from the Johnson Town offices. Since the oven can get to hundreds of degrees, you will have to read the use policies that include how to be safe while using the oven.
Jen and Mark shared many stories about their project, and felt that all the sweat equity that they put into the project was worth it. They also pointed out there were no tax payer dollars used in the building of the oven, quite a big grassroots effort. The big test will be the first summer months, which are coming up, with the oven in operation. They are hopeful, since they built it, people will come and use it!
Mark and Jen will announce future “oven” events and let Transition Town Jericho know. TTJ will forward the notifications to folks on its email list so they can join in.
Did you know…that every town in Vermont has an emergency management director? …that 223 towns in Vermont were impacted by Irene? …your dishwasher is a great way to waterproof valuables in your home in case of a flood?
These and other facts were presented by Max Kennedy from Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) who spoke at our fourth Monday (February 26) transition town meeting. Hailing from Underhill himself, Max spoke to a small group of people ranging from Bolton to Underhill and in between. Since things get more bureaucratic and expensive as you get bigger, i.e. the national guard and FEMA, Max said it’s best to solve emergencies at the local level. VEM is there to aid communities in this process.
Max informed us that all Vermont towns now have an emergency management director (EMD) as mandated by state law. In Jericho that person is Todd Odit, aka town administrator. Max said the EMD role is often held by the town administrator by default, or even the fire chief. The latter is least desirable since the fire chief is a first responder and the EMD is largely a coordinator role.
Max said that while emergency preparedness gets all the hype, it is mitigation, or reducing long term risk, that is vitally important. Indeed, VEM endeavors to promote mitigation efforts such as building culverts, burying power lines, avoiding building in floodplains. You might call mitigation the preventative medicine of emergency management.
“What energizes communities to be better prepared?” someone asked. Max said that experiencing a disaster firsthand is the best prep. After a disaster, VEM will come into a community and do what he called a ‘hot wash’ asking, “What happened? What can we do better next time?” He cited Swanton as the most recent example, a town still dealing with the repercussions of severe flooding in January.
In order to build a more resilient community you must start with preparedness among individuals and families. From there, a community can better organize and mobilize itself. Max cited a couple towns in Vermont that have begun mobilizing on a community level. In Bethel they have the “Citizen Plus” program which utilizes public education, geographic divisioning, and a volunteer network. In Duxbury they’ve established zones and presiding zone captains, who ultimately report back to the EMD.
Max mentioned helpful resources including Vermont 211 (vermont211.org) for information and referral. “They have answers for any situation,” he said. He also recommended Vermont Alert (vtalert.gov) for emergency notifications; everything from severe weather to traffic conditions to public health alerts. VEM itself offers ongoing trainings and provides a handy little notebook entitled “Family Emergency Preparedness” which offers practical advice for all situations, a must-have for all households.