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chickensSteve and I just spent the weekend at the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt Colorado for a greenhouse intensive workshop. All I can say is WOW, and it is a wow on many levels! When we arrived there, we were given a tour of the institute and told that if we needed to “go Number 1″ we should go wherever we felt comfortable going. If we needed to “go Number 2″ they have a composting toilet that we should use. It was a small outhouse with a full length window next to the seat. Apparently lots of sun is necessary for the composting to happen. You could close the curtain if you felt that was necessary while you were using the facility. I found it necessary!

Our host was a beautiful, earthy young woman that made all the meals for us each day. The meals were usually a big pot of veggies or a veggie soup made from anything onsite, a beautiful bowl of fresh greens from their expansive greenhouses (topped with edible flowers), and a delicious savory cornbread or cake. She would whip up a fresh hot sauce or horseradish sauce to spice things up. Wow again. All fresh ingredients – in April at 7400 feet elevation.

The other students in the class were a hodgepodge mix of hippies, gardening professionals and weekend wannabe gardeners. There was a startup landscaper who didn’t wear shoes the entire weekend. I mean never! It was cold at night, we were walking over rocky, prickly hillsides, and even walked through manure infested chicken runs. Never wore shoes… Wow. Another twenty something girl had rainbows tattooed on her feet, wore clothes with no underwear (I’m pretty sure about this one!) and read my irises to see how strong my internal organs were. Less exciting were the middle aged weekend gardeners like me that enjoyed our escape to hippie land, free from cell phone coverage and civilized bathroom rituals. The crazy thing was, we all got along great!

So after dinner on the first night, we all lingered over our lemongrass/mint water to talk. Our conversation turned to one of my favorite topics- food and where it comes from. I commented that I’m glad to see a new generation of young people interested in food and growing food. I feel like my generation got the short stick. My parent’s generation may have as well. Growing and raising food is very time intensive, so when Wonder-bread, Tang and Stouffer’s came along, nothing looked better to their parents. They gladly substituted foods that had been eaten for centuries for these new-fangled versions that were so much “better”. It’s taken us a couple of generations to find out that was wrong. They were sacrificing quality in food for convenience. And it’s only gone down hill since then. Now we have a generation of kids that hungrily eat chicken nuggets, but have never actually seen a live chicken. We have entire generations of kids that can not recognize foods unless they are in their packages forms – a twenty something recently told me that she didn’t know peas grew in a pod until last year. She only knew what they looked like frozen in a bag in the freezer, or squished in a can.

This makes me sad. There is nothing more delicious than a fresh pea, picked and eaten right there in the garden. Nothing more flavorful than a strawberry still warm from the sun. What have we given up in exchange for easy? I don’t even think we know what we are missing. So I came home from this weekend dedicated to helping reintroduce food to our growing generation of kids. My backyard is my testing ground. Chickens and rabbits, here we come. A root cellar and cold greenhouse is slated for this summer. I’m taking out yards of grass and replacing it with a food forest. These are things we can do, and I think they are things we need to do. So, I will keep you updated on the Jorgensen backyard homestead, and I am planning training classes with experts in these areas sponsored by Total Care Dental in the future.

As the group left to their real lives today, I told Steve that I liked hanging out with hippies! We didn’t talk about money, jobs or stuff. Some of these people had no stuff and were perfectly content with that. We talked about being healthy and happy, about reconnecting with the earth and it’s abundance. We talked about future generations and what we wanted to leave for them. It was uplifting and inspiring and made me want to do more. So if you see me walking around the dental office barefoot next time, you’ll know why! Tell me about your backyard homestead- I want to learn! Let’s make this world a better place one chicken or apple tree at a time!

Dr. Michelle Jorgensen

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