Discovering Commonwealth in a Pandemic

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Ogallala Commons has categorized a foundation of 12 key assets for the commonwealth of a community. Our task at this point in the adventure is to map out these assets and describe some of the examples that we discovered in our own communities. But first what does “commonwealth” mean? Wikipedia starts to define commonwealth as: “Traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good.” And with further searches comes many more definitions. But what really stood out was quiet simple. A Republic in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens. Now we have a group of people and a place. What makes it a community?

                My focus on what I’ve learned this year falls into three categories out of the twelve. This year has been filled with all kinds of surprises. I started the year at an amazing greenhouse here called Panhandle Greenhouses. James and Rhonda Cathey are the owners. They built it from the ground up. His rain catch system starts my list of assets under Water Cycle. I first learned of the system at a water conservation class. Seeing the system in person is definitely worth it if you get the chance. Rainwater is collected in large tanks and used to water the plants they grow. A single inch rain will bring in ten thousand of gallons of water that would normally be lost to runoff. For better info on rainwater harvesting check out High Plains Water District and some of their articles.

                The next asset touches close to home because of our garden. In order for there to be sustainability in a community it needs a healthy food shed. I spent time with both Amarillo Community Market and The Craftership Market this year. Our urban garden has allowed us to meet quite a few others involved here locally. Mamie’s Backyard Farm from Adrian had to be one of my favorites this year. Fresh eggs, patty pan squash and all kinds of pickles and Jams could be found alongside other great produce all season long. My friend Danny with Nuke City Veg is a local pioneer for tunnel gardening that provides year round crops. With the Covid pandemic and drought, this year was really hard for food producers.

                Closely tied into Foodshed is another asset titled Soil and Mineral cycle. Building healthy soil can be a challenge especially in a drought year. My internship has been based with Justin who owns Tir Bluen an organically minded farm. We spent time talking about cover crops and the importance they play in soil health. The cover crops we are trying this winter in the garden will help with soil and also provide fodder feed for our birds. In addition to soil health and fodder, cover crops also play a huge roll in water conservation. On a OC Playa Field day this year we had the opportunity tour Paidom, a grass-fed meat farm in Nazareth, and learn about the use of cover crops and proper land management techniques to help our aquifer while building the soil. It is said the ground is under a curse because of what man did. And in return for painful labor through the days of our lives we might one day see its reward.

                It’s hard to only touch on three of the twelve assets. The chance to touch on a lack of spirituality in my community with an overgrowth of religion would take a page to itself. While discussing Wildlife and the Natural World would fall on deaf ears in most cases. A common good refers to what is shared and beneficial for most members of a given community. In the world we live in this becomes problematic when the majority becomes lost in a life of greed and self. Leaving thinning numbers of those who wish to see a better and more sustainable life. My first thoughts in writing this became lost in broken architecture of what an ideal community would look like. Truth is most people have no understanding of community. There are holes in every bit of the blueprint. With a growing lack of teachers and mentors. But the further down the rabbit hole you explore the more elders you’ll find still putting up the good ole fight!