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From Field to Plate...

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Monday, April 5, 2010 @ 10:04 PM
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Ioannis Monogios, Christine, Klio Natsi and George Politis all members of SKETBE

Christine and David with Klio Natsi

Its been a wonderful and full two weeks with several exhibits opening in different places.  On March 24th we had the opening of the Byzantine Ceramics Exhibit in the new cultural center of Toumba in Thessaloniki.  This exhibit was in conjunction with a group of Byzantine Iconographers and so vice mayor Mr. Gakis was present and there was a good tunout.  Then on Friday we drove up to Ioannina where the miniature exhibit was opening in a lovely gallery called Technoxoros.  I also had a piece, the Dancing Ladies, in a SKETBE exhibit at the Bank of Pireos which is now moving to Naoussa and opening there next Friday, April 9.

The show in Toumba will remain open until Wednesday April 14.

With Vanna, Niko and VassoChristine and David with Klio NatsiIoannis Monogios, Christine, Klio Natsi and George Politis all members of SKETBE6 of the 31 pieces on a maroon background

6 of the 31 pieces on a maroon background

Monday, April 5, 2010 @ 09:04 PM
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2010 Diary week 13

Brucie and David using their new chipper

Mountain of olive branches took 4 days to chip into mulch


The garden

Pruning of olive trees was completed this week. Rather than burn the prunings I used as much as possible for fire wood and kindling and composted the remainder.  We bought a new chipper and turned a mountain of olive cuttings into wonderful mulch for the garden.  It is under many trees and also in the new patio just outside the studio.  Makes that parched soil feel very cool and moist.

Book Review

Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last? points out that “water scarcity is now the single biggest threat to global food production.” “Many of the insidious threats that undermined ancient irrigation civilizations – including salt, silt, neglect of infrastructure, regional conflict, and unexpected climatic change – are rearing their ugly heads.” “Per capita irrigated area peaked in 1978 and has fallen 5% since then. By 2020, per capita irrigated area will likely be 17-28% below the 1978 peak. Irrigation has reached the point of diminishing returns.” “Between 1951 and 1985, Israel expanded its irrigated area fivefold with only a threefold increase in water use. Output per cubic meter nearly tripled and the value of output (in real terms) jumped 10-fold. Israel is the only nation that appears to have done what the world needs to do over the next 30-40 years – double water productivity in agriculture.” “Climate change on the scale that scientists are projecting for the next century adds a whole new dimension to the food and water challenge. History shows that climate wild cards can overwhelm a seemingly advanced society’s ability to cope.”

Monday, March 22, 2010 @ 09:03 AM
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2010 Diary week 11


Christine’s Byzantine Ceramics

This week Christine spent many hours at the exhibition of her Byzantine ceramics and met many interesting people. On Sunday she took down her 40 pieces. During the week she received an invitation to transfer her exhibition to another location, opening on March 24. The Director of the Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki invited Christine to participate in an exhibition in the Museum.

Book Review

In starting my gardening enterprise I sought out books that would make me effective as quickly as possible. Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener is such a book. “Organic growing is not complicated. Nor is it difficult.” “I concentrated on collecting information in four subject areas: simple production techniques; efficient machinery and tools; reducing expenditures on supplies; and marketing.” “To keep costs down I emphasize the importance of ‘low-input production practices’, such as crop rotation, green manures, animal manure management, efficient labor, and season extension, thus increasing stability and independence of the farm.” “Five acres is the optimum size because it is about as much land as a couple or small family can manage. I place the upper limit at somewhere around 2½ acres per person – more than sufficient to grow a year’s worth of vegetables for 100 people.”

The garden

Pruning of olive trees started this week.

Monday, March 8, 2010 @ 11:03 AM
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Christine with Demetra Bakirtzi, Byzantinologist

Christine with her students from Perrotis college

Christine with Effie Kotopoulou

2010 Diary week 10


Christine’s Byzantine Ceramics

About a month ago Christine received a phone call from a friend that there had been a cancellation at the Exhibition Hall of the Historical Center of Thessaloniki and could she put on a show to take its place. She said ‘yes’ and dedicated herself to producing 40 quality pieces in three weeks. The theme of the show was Byzantine Ceramics and how to use old motifs from several hundred years ago on large platters and bowls. By introducing new colors and patterns the work took on a brightness that is not evident in old byzantine ware. The opening took place on Friday March 5. People loved the work and 15 pieces were sold that evening.

Book Review

Our Next Frontier: A Personal Guide to Tomorrow’s Lifestyle points out: “On average, during our lifetimes we have enjoyed some of the best weather for farming, gardening, and all kinds of food production that is likely to occur in any but a totally utopian world.” “Gardens are much more secure and reliable sources of food in times of climate extremes than farms.” “We lose 4.8 billion tons of soil from our agricultural base each year due to erosion, with as many as 20 bushels of topsoil disappearing for every bushel of wheat harvested in the state of Washington.” “Irrigation water is being pumped faster than it’s being replaced by rainfall.”

The garden

Fruit tree planting has continued this week.

Monday, February 22, 2010 @ 02:02 PM
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Snow covered Mt. Olympus in full glory

2010 Diary Week 8


This has been the week of the worms. Some years ago, I attended a worm conference organized by Mary Aplehof, the Queen of Worms, bought a couple of pounds of worms and started a worm project at the American Farm School. In America worms are big business as fish bait and disposal of organic municipal waste. Worms eat their own weight of food daily. It is the only investment I know of where your capital increases 16 times each year. Start with 1 pound of worms on January 1 and 3 months later you have 2 pounds; by the end of June you have 4 pounds; by the end of September 8 pounds; and by the end of December 16 pounds. Worms work 24/7, never go on strike, never ask for a salary increase, and their castings is black gold. So the poorest of the poor can start their own business with zero capital investment and sell their worms for municipal waste projects. A report from an Australian spoke of the 25% increase in grape production by adding worm compost so there is plenty of demand from enlightened farmers and gardeners. Worms have become the cornerstone of building fertility in our garden. I followed the instructions for creating a worm-operated compost heap provided in The Rodale Book of Composting. We give kitchen scraps to our chickens and periodically feed the leftovers to the worms. Most people buy a starter stock of worms but I don’t have money. I found plenty of worms in my compost heap as I was moving the compost to the garden. On our morning walk after heavy rain we also found plenty of worms on the road. The photo shows the view of Mount Olympus we enjoyed.

Book Reviews

From 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People, I learned that I could undo much of the damage that I had done to my body in the years leading up to my cancer and found the guidance I needed to prevent my cancer returning.

Christine’s pottery

Christine had her first session with her students from the American College of Thessaloniki mentioned in last week’s diary. The rest of the time she has been in her studio preparing work for her exhibition in early March. It is wonderful to feel her excitement about what she is doing. It’s infectious.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 @ 09:02 AM
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Etching the design

A captive audience


This has been a good week for Christine.

She was invited to a one woman show in the Kentro Istorias in the center of Thessaloniki which will open Friday March 5.  The exhibit is called Byzantine Ceramics: A Modern Approach.  She was also invited to exhibit pieces of her work in the Vlassis Art Gallery with SKETBE in the Ladadika – a popular area in the center of Thessaloniki. A call went out to the 70 exhibitors to participate in a demonstration evening and Christine was one of three to respond.

She took a bowl of dried clay and demonstrated how she decorated it with a Byzantine design, inspired by the works seen in Museums. Even I was amazed at her skill in completing a complicated design freehand in no time at all while explaining her technique and answering questions. One of the audience afterwards invited her to participate in an exhibition that she organizes each summer in Hortiati.

This week Christine was also invited to talk to the students at the American College of Thessaloniki (ACT) about her work and 30 signed up for a seminar over two weekends. ACT is a very fine educational institution that attracts students mainly from Greece and neighboring countries but also those who wish to spend their college year abroad in Greece or obtain an American college education at a fraction of the price paid in America. It is accredited in the US and validated by the University of Wales in the UK. Information is available at  

The week closed with another phone call from Mr Anetopoulos from Pelion inviting Christine to do a demonstration on Byzantine Ceramics in September at his annual International Ceramic Symposium.


In the garden most of my time has been spent up to my elbows in manure. All the trees now have a generous helping and I have mixed a combination of manure and home-made compost for parts of the vegetable garden. When I get to the gardening section of book reviews I will review The Rodale Book of Composting.

The weather swings from snow and cold winds one day to warm weather the next so plant life is not sure whether spring has arrived or winter still lies ahead. We were advised not to prune our olive trees yet but after studying The Royal Horticultural Society’s Step-By-Step Gardening Techniques decided to prune back the roses. The roses have also been given a good mulch of well-rotted compost and manure.

The base of half the prunings were pushed into hormone powder and then put in pots with sand. The other half received no hormone treatment. I will keep you informed of the results. Hopefully roots will grow from the base of the stems and produce new rose bushes.

Book review

My next book review will be From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older.   Zalman Schachter-Shalomi was approaching his 60th birthday, had a feeling of futility, and realized he was growing old. Feeling alone and vulnerable, he feared becoming a geriatric case following the predictable pattern of retirement, painful physical diminishment, a rocking-chair existence in a nursing home, and the eventual dark and inevitable end to his life. “New questions began assailing me. With an extended life span guaranteed by medical advances and our health-conscious lifestyles, could I convert my extra years into a blessing rather than a curse? In 1984 I took a 40-day retreat. I was on a Vision Quest, an ancient shamanic rite of passage in which the seeker retreats from civilization, goes to a sacred place in nature, and cries for a vision of his life path and purpose. I realized that I was sloughing off an old phase of life that I had outgrown and was being initiated as an elder, a sage who offers his experience, balanced judgment, and wisdom for the welfare of society.”

painting in the various colors

Friday, February 12, 2010 @ 06:02 AM
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A year ago Christine’s father, Bruce Lansdale, died in our house. He was the best boss I had in my working life and my greatest teacher. He is my role model for a life well lived. During his 35 years, from 1955 to 1990, as director of the American Farm School he touched countless numbers of lives in a very deep and meaningful way. When he retired the School was the flagship of American philanthropy abroad. Over the Farm School’s 100 years graduates have changed the face of Greek agriculture. Bruce was decorated by the Greek state for his work. The eulogies at his funeral and memorial services in America and in Greece, from the humblest and uneducated to those holding high positions, spoke of his remarkable accomplishments, character, thoughtfulness and generosity at times of greatest need. 

We held a memorial service in our house where Father Niko, the priest from the village of Lakkia, read prayers and said a few words. Everyone had brought food and the wine flowed freely. Eleni Dimopoulou and our son, Bruce, read a selection from Metamorphosis: Why Do I Love Greece, written in the United States while Bruce was on a six-month sabbatical called for by the trustees during the early years of the junta (1967-1974). We also watched a video of vignettes from his life and skyped with family in California, Ecuador and Honduras. 

Everyone was so appreciative of the opportunity to meet together again and for a few brief hours to relive the good old days – days when staff earned a pittance but had community. And in those days community was what raised the school to its height. Days when everyone worked for a higher purpose; days when greed and selfishness were not tolerated. 

To learn more about the American Farm School go to 

To learn more about Bruce Lansdale go to Facebook and enter Bruce Lansdale.

Saturday, February 6, 2010 @ 03:02 PM
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010 @ 09:01 AM
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The fall has been unusually mild with plenty of rain. Now we are having a cold snap. Farmers in the area have been planting peas and spinach in recent weeks. I have been doing some planting, a thousand little things preparing for the spring, and planning.

Book review

This week I am posting my first book review, Jill Sklar’s The Five Gifts of Illness: A Reconsideration. One response to a life-threatening illness is to say “Woe is me. Life is so unfair.” I prefer to believe that life is one long series of wakeup calls that initially take the form of small nudges that gradually get bigger if you don’t learn from them. I took no notice of my smaller wakeup calls that would have put me on a better lifestyle track and got my cancer as a result. As I came through my cancer relatively unscathed I now recognise that it was a gift – probably my final wakeup call.  So I agree with Jill Sklar – my cancer was a gift. The only question is how seriously I decide to take my wakeup call and how radically I am willing to change my lifestyle.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 @ 09:01 AM
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There are two forces at work in the world today: those that turned the 20th century into humanity’s low point and those voices that are rapidly increasing in numbers that say there must be a better way to run the planet. The response that Christine and I have chosen is to adopt Abraham Lincoln’s words, “The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.*”

We have been blessed with a plot of land of 4,000 square meters, about 1 acre, on which we have built our house, have 55 olive trees, a number of fruit and nut trees and a vegetable garden. We are self-sufficient in olive oil, eggs and most vegetables so our food expenses are low.

With modern technology it is much easier to live away from the city but take advantage of good times when there is full employment. When bad times come and work is hard to find, there is never an idle moment improving your property and perhaps selling surplus produce from the garden.

As there have been more than 120 financial crises over the last 30 years it would be unduly optimistic to believe that the powers-that-be have suddenly found the magic formula for long-term economic prosperity and stability. We have therefore adopted the policy of Plan for the worst but hope for the best. This is similar to taking out an insurance policy hoping that your house will never burn down but averting a catastrophe should you be unlucky. The fact that 37 million Americans are on food stamps suggest that the insurance policy is already paying off.

One side of the equation is lowering our expenses and making sure that we survive under the worst case scenario. The other side is increasing our income and Christine seems to have found her niche by teaching pottery, making pottery and hosting visits by school children. In addition we host university courses and families that would like to take advantage of what we and northern Greece have to offer.

This part of the web site is a weekly diary recording progress in our endeavors, our successes and failures, and lessons learned along the way. We hope that it may be helpful to those of a like mind who are thinking of taking out their own insurance policy by adopting Abraham Lincoln’s words, “The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.”

* From Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management by M.G.Kains.