Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Progressive East Tennesseee


          Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center, run by Bill Nickle, is located near Knoxville Tennessee, tucked back along narrow windy roads that follow the rhythm of the hollows and ridges of the state. It is a beautiful quiet place where deep things happen slowly. Six years ago, when we visited, Bill showed us the straw bale house he was building. It was tiny, but lovely, with warm plaster walls, radiant floor heating that ran off of the wood stove, and a peep hole behind the plaster to show off the straw construction. The walls were thick and kept the building cool even on a hot summer day.  The entire building was powered by three solar panels and a small wind turbine.  This year, more things are happening.
            Bill took us on a tour of the entire place.  We saw a cozy new cabin for interns, a beautiful round house built totally from recycled materials, a vegetable garden that was about to send cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash tumbling down hill to local kitchens, and the high field where people gather for equinox and solstice celebrations. Several new homes were under construction. One was straw bale, another would be cob. A young couple was raising bees and queens, and their hives were stacked on the edge of the field, painted in vibrant colors and swarming with activity. Bill described the coming vision quest, where eight people were coming to sit alone in silence up on Narrow Ridge for three days, searching for answers to their lives questions.
            The most serious new addition to the center was the natural burial place, high on the side of a hill. Bill saw a need to return to a simpler—and less expensive—method of burial and the group has worked with that state to open the first natural burial spot in Tennessee. People are buried in plain wooden boxes, without embalming. A flat marker is placed at the head of the grave and when the entire area is full, it will return to the forest so that generations to come will, as suggested in “Thanatopis”, be walking on the bones of those who have come before. It was a beautiful, peaceful spot, surrounded by lush second growth. Several graves were already there, covered in wildflowers. This small place  was inspiring and made us feel connected to a wider circle of people all working to change the world where they are.


     
        Another bright spot of the trip, oddly enough, was in the city of Knoxville. Downtown Knoxville is blessed with some stunning old buildings (with some 1970s towers mixed in) that have been left alone since the energy drained from the inner city to the sprawling strip malls of the outer limits in the 1960s. But downtown is reviving. Market Square, a bulge in the grid plan surrounded by three and four story buildings, has been rediscovered and small shops and cafes are moving in. There is a small park full of sculpture, seating around fountains, and people walking through, looking for lunch or a place to people watch. We ate outdoors at Tomato Head, and the food was excellent—lively and fresh. More importantly, the city is encouraging housing downtown and tall apartment buildings are going up in the strip of blocks between downtown and the river. As more young people decide to live in the city and not buy a car, putting housing, shopping, and entertainment all within walking distance is an excellent idea. We liked Knoxville—and Chattanooga, where we were the day before to visit the aquarium—and now I am wondering what else is happening in the mid-west that I need to know about.

Greens and Beans on Toast: AKA dinner in fifteen minutes


Slice an  onion and start is cooking on the cast iron pan. Use olive oil Add a couple of cloves of chopped garlic.
Chop a large bunch of greens-- any kind, but collards or kale, something stiff, works better. Mix them up inf need be. Add to the onion. Add some salt and pepper.

Slice some whole wheat toast and put it in the toaster.

Go downstairs and fetch a can, or, if you are lucky, a jar of home canned beans from the shelf. Open and add to the greens.

Grate some Parmesan cheese.

Layer the whole thing-- toast, greens and beans, cheese. Eat.

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