Showing posts from 2005

Two quotes

A review. First, I offer one of my favorite quotes from poet William Stafford: For it is important that awake people be awake, or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep; the signals we give - yes or no, or maybe Should be clear: the darkness around us is deep... I offer this second quote in the service of an awake people. It is from the U.S Bill of Rights, Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Italics are mine: Amendment IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Amendment V No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury,


...on Mars! Okay, I must admit that I am a little bit unsettled by this picture: It was taken by the Mars Rover on May 19, 2005. If you contemplate it long enough, you get a sense of where we are in relationship to it. (Hint: closer to the Sun) I can imagine myself with the Rover at the time this picture is taken--it could just as easily be somewhere in the Southwest desert here on Earth except... doesn't our sun look tiny? Aren't we fortunate to be on this spinning orb instead of Mars? What luck. Wow.

The Mystery Train

Recently, I encountered this editorial by Willam Rivers Pitt: The Mystery Train What do YOU think of this? Of mercenaries? Of white phosporous? Of torture, and secret prisons? Here is what I think: we most certainly have gone mad. What must be done? All I know is that we cannot live our lives as if this is not happening. I often think what can I do about this? I am only one person . When I think this way, I allow depair to gain a foothold. So instead I choose a different way of thinking. No.... I choose a different way of being. Today, this is what i choose to do: spread straw and turn compost. Move a stack of wood and feed the chickens and goats. Clean out the barn in preparation for the sheep that are arriving on Sunday. And (of course) "Blog for Sanity....." and write my congressman. Perhaps each gentle act will counter-balance the cries of terror or burn of chemicals half a globe away. I choose not to deny that this is happening, I grieve for what is happ

Headlines and Walnuts

The headline today reads: Fish Numbers Plummet in Warming Pacific If you follow the above link to the article, you will find an article detailing the catastrophic collapse in sea and bird life taking place in our own Pacific Ocean due to the warming of the waters. Go ahead, read it. Or perhaps you could read this one: Ripples of Global Warming Spread Outward which details the increase in insects and diseases (like malaria) taking place around the world. They do not mention the annoying fruit flies feeding on Walnut husks here in Upper Lake, California... insects which are usually are gone by this time of year. Where is our first frost? I'm rooting for winter weather to arrive. It is late. How about: Melting Mountains: How Climate Change is Destroying the World's Most Spectacular Landscapes Or: Greenhouse Gases 'To Rise By 52%' an article which I think is WRONG because I believe we will run out of oil first (but not before we've passed the magic number of 400p

Dancing TreePeople ORGANIC Orchard and Garden

Hooray! This week, we received the organic certification for our farm. This involved a lot of paperwork and an on-site inspection. Here is a copy of the USDA certificate: We are harvesting walnuts by hand this season (just Renee and I). The good news: we are selling this year's walnut harvest as organic!

Renewing the Face of the Earth

I have been camping in the Cazadero Hills the past couple of weeks, participating in a course in regenerative ecological design (permaculture) with an amazing group of people. I can honestly say that this process of ecological design is one of the most hopeful things I have encountered. This is beyond sustainability, this is about our human capacity and responsibility to renew depleted and ravaged places. Its about bringing fertility to depleted soils and creating better human communities in the process. I will be integrating what I have learned over the next weeks and months and years and will share my insights as appropriate. For now, I am re-entering life at Dancing Tree People orchard and garden and need to begin building winter housing for the animals... with natural materials, of course. With so much destruction afoot in our world, it feels quite empowering to obtain new skills in self-sufficiency and community-building. If you would like to learn more about this course, go t

I wish...

I haven't written about the Katrina disaster until now because I am literally heartsick.... even today, there are people stuck in their own attics in unbearable heat, hoping to be rescued. Thousands are trapped in desperate circumstances. Each hour that passes, more die. Disease for the living is surely next. Blessed are the least of these. Heaven help the survivors of the Katrina disaster. And heaven hold each compassionate heart that chooses to be transformed by the images of this unfolding disaster as we all wonder "is this America?" Yes, it is America, where we must not blame the poor, mostly black, survivors who have been herded into concentration camps and left for days in squalor and filth. They did not choose to stay: they did not have the means to leave. The Red Cross was not allowed into the city to help. Dear God. Another good read is this blog entry . I couldn't have put it better myself. I wish that this disaster had never befallen these peo

Walnut Woes

I finally got myself up into an airplane this week and am flying again. Lake County is stunning from the air, though I can see problems from a very different vantage point. For example, the algae is blooming in the Lake and from the air, the green streaks are sobering. Likely, the algae will do this until the lake water cools. I also flew over Dancing TreePeople orchard where I got a good look at "The Big Picture". In a word: it is DRY. The TreePeople are NOT dancing--they are trying to survive the heat and last year's pruning. From the air, I can see that these trees are clearly stressed. The former owner told me that they hadn't been watered for the past few years because it is not "cost effective." They seem to really need it and I feel bad that I didn't catch on sooner. In any case, I couldn't water if I wanted to--the irrigation system isn't fuctioning and needs replacement. When I returned to the orchard after my flight, I took a l


I mentioned awhile back that I was going to take a bit of a rest from writing or thinking about politics. I tried to (really!) Regardless of what I said , I am now involved in a couple of local issues that matter to me. To be honest, some days I would rather be feeding the livestock and spreading straw, but these issues are too important to ignore. The issues are: (1) Local Sustainability and (2) Genetically-modified Organisms (GMOs) On sustainability, I am helping the Sierra Club organize a local forum. A panel of folks will discuss community sustainability. More on that in the future. On GMOs, the issue was in front of the Board of Supervisors today. I spoke in favor of a moratorium on planting and cultivating Genertically-modified organisms in Lake County. There wasn't much time and I didn't get to say my full piece... the next meeting is on 9/27 in the afternoon. For more informatoin visit

Cultivating the Real Gifts

When I embarked on this journey toward self-reliance, I fully engaged the most scientific and rational part of myself. Slap a few solar panels on the roof, recycle waste, use a solar oven and grow a few organic crops and I would be well on the path, right? What I have learned is much deeper. It is difficult to put into words, but I will attempt to do so. It is this: If one wants to live in harmony with the planet, to accept ones position as a part of the natural system rather than a consumer (taker) of Earth's gifts, then an internal shift is required. This is a change in a way of BEING. Much of what we have been taught about ourselves--how to be happy, how to survive, how to relate--must change. Despite what we have been taught by popular culture since infancy, we do not need more things to make us happy (in fact paradoxically, the more we have, the more elusive happiness becomes). And despite the fact that heros are rewarded and individualism is worshiped in our culture, th

Meet Sugar, Clara and Daisy

Did you know that Pygmy Goats eat star thistle and bind weed? Woohoo. So we adopted three pygmy goats: Sugar, Clara and Daisy. We discovered that these goats are clever about opening gates that aren't fully latched and they will also eat the leaves off of young fruit trees if you aren't careful.. Meet Sugar. She is the "mom" protecting her daughters and talking with them. She gets first dibs on any good food. She likes rolled oats. Meet Clara, Sugar's eldest daughter. She is one year old (more like ten years old in goat years) and is learning that butting her younger sister with her head is fun. I remember feeling the same way when I was ten. And this is Daisy, Sugar's youngest daughter. She is four months old and still nurses from time to time, ungracefully shoving her mother's udder to release the milk. She also climbs and perches on the "igloo" dog (now small goat) house. She takes naps inside it too. These livestock are a new

Star Thistle, continued

I wrote about this plant last time and thought I would also post a photo. Here is a close-up: There is a strange beauty to it, don't you think? Though, one must be careful to avoid the thorns... I keep looking for positive attributes even as I spend hours attempting to eradicate it from my future garden area. This week, I learned from Jen at Cloud Forest Institute that the honey from star thistle pollen is light-colored and quite good. Also, I noticed that the stalk is strong and has an interesting shape. Perhaps this week, I will attempt to weave it into a basket.

Star Thistle

My world has changed dramatically in the past few weeks. For one thing, I am no longer in corporate life--instead I can now officially claim to be a full-time farmer. At last, I am without a cause to champion, a dragon to slay, a mountain to climb. Life is simple and satisfying, interrupted by my own manufactured crusades from which I must learn rhythm and being. My latest teacher: Star Thistle. This noxious weed competes to win on ground that has been abused: dry, compacted, scraped clean. Here in Lake county, it is often found next to the highway and can be identified by its characteristic prickly star head as it reaches maturity. These points are so sharp that they pierce leather gloves and most clothing (ouch!) While it has not claimed our entire orchard, thank goodness, it has claimed much of the backyard and anywhere else that has seen a bulldozer blade in the past few years. I decided to battle this weed and immediately began to fret and worry about how it could be done. My neig

Blame Amercia?

I visited Sydney , Australia last week and while I was there, I had an opportunity to attend an event at Town Hall featuring an interview with David Suzuki, the environmentalist. Before the event began, on my way into the hall, I was verbally attacked by an anti-war protestor for no other reason than I am an American. He was quite upset by U.S. policies and decided to let me know it. Despite the fact that I happened to agree wholeheartedly with his positions, I am surprised at the rage he unloaded on me. Upon first reflection, I was also surprised to realize that his rage is so much greater than my own--after all it is our government that does these things in our name. The event was terrific and included an open Questions & Answer session. The folks I was with were all Australian and were glancing to see my reaction each time the commentator or Suzuki himself referred to the United States negatively and the crowd applauded. Things got only worse for the U.S. during the Q&A as

Would you like to see photos from my straw bale construction class? Here is my collection: The instructors were terrific. I am thinking of sponsoring a Natural Building class here in Lake county. If you are interested, please send me an email by clicking the link on the above website.

The REAL scandal

British Parliment member George Galloway testifies in front of congress... WOW. Please WATCH THIS VIDEO, don't just read the transcripts or press reports. stunning pass it along to everyone you know Denise

Aphids and Gophers, Ladybugs and Snakes

Today I discovered a few aphids on my tomato seedlings and picked the pests off by hand. Since these seedlings have been set outside during the day, and for such a short time, this doesn't bode well for their prospects... I have seen a ladybug or two in the area and find myself eagerly awaiting their return. My hope is that I have enough extra seedings to ride out this infestation until the ladybugs arrive. It strikes me as a bit funny that the success of my tomato crop will depend upon these tiny creatures. Will the ladybugs make it to the garden in time? Stay tuned... Meanwhile, gophers or moles (I don't know which, probably both) have the run of this land. There isn't much I can do to stop them at this point. I've tried mole-chaser windmills, and a strange device that is hammered into a hole in the ground and periodically emits a buzzing sound. The packaging says the sound will annoy the gophers--it certainly annoys me. The only short-term (non-poison or

Earth Regeneration: its about the soil!

I just finished a two day intro to permaculture course from the solar living center in Hopland and I am so jazzed. I was one of the oldest people in the course--most of the folks were under 30--many from all over the world, mostly the western U.S. I have come to believe that the permaculture skills and philosopies will be critical for survival (both physically and spiritually) in the years ahead. For the young, corporate jobs will become more scarce--and far less satisfying. We learned skills--NOT just for sustainability, but for regenerating our soils and our depleted Earth. I came across this quote that makes so much sense to me in the space I am in right now: "The ultimate end to a growth economy is the same as an analagous growth: cancer. But for national economies, the victims are nature, soils, forests, people, water, and quality of life. There is one, and only one, solution,and we have almost no time to try it. We must turn all our resources to repairing the natural worl

It has begun

Peak Oil is here, my friends. What are YOU going to do about it? For yourself? For your family? For your community? The longer you take to decide, the worse it will be (for all three). One piece of advice: Trade in that Hummer. Now. The next two decades will be profound. We will see price increase in things involving energy and fuel. Imports will be more expensive over time. Even the price drops won't last long...the change we predicted in the 70's has begun. I've been on the lookout for the signs that The Peak is here.... the earliest manifestations of Peak Oil are: (1) wars over who controls oil infrastructure, (2) prices of energy (primarily oil) steadily rising, (3) increasing spot shortages of energy and reports of inaccurate oil reserves; and (4) energy investment firms no longer finance energy projects if the fuel supply is not secured. Here are a couple of recent articles that ought to give you pause: Running on Empty Oil Boosts Import Prices There is plenty to do

Turkeys in Spring

Each morning for the past week and a half, wild turkeys have graced the orchard. The males puff up and spead their tales in their spring ritual. Turkeys really do gobble gobble, by the way. Yesterday, I counted 72 turkeys. Even though they have shown up here every day this week, it seems so magical each time they appear. I hear them calling again at dusk, but see them only in the morning. Once the morning dew evaporates, the turkeys head for the hills. Below are a couple of photos. Enjoy.

Lake County Community Sustainability

Just after the election, I decided to sponsor a "Meet-up" in this local area to meet folks that cared about peace and community democracy. I had no purpose in mind and no agenda really, I just wanted to meet some local people and personally avoid spiraling into despair after this last election. We had our third monthly meeting last night and I showed the movie: The End of Suburbia. This movie talks about the profound impact of reaching Peak Oil production on our North American way of life. After the movie, we talked about the advantages we have here in Lake County as Peak Oil manifests itself in the economy and food/energy/oil prices: where locally grown food and local economies are significant advantages as oil becomes too expensive to use. Some acknowledged that focusing on local economy and sustainability is one of the best strategies to promote Peace and to counteract the politics of empire. I was amazed by what happened. This group somehow magically coalesced

Where is the Common Ground?

It seems to me that one can best understand the soul of a nation by looking at how public resources are allocated, and especially how and why a nation decides to reallocate resources. Our national budget is an indicator of our values as a people. With that in mind, we can take a look at the budget submitted by this administration. At the highest level we see this: tax cuts for the weathiest americans are made permanent, while programs for the weak and vulnerable, programs protecting the commons (our land, water and air) and our cultural heritage, including our national parks, are cut dramatically. This budget promises deficit spending for years to come and continued military action. Regardless of how one feels about this war, I think we can all agree that it has been a costly one both financially and in our standing in the eyes of the world. Most of us do not want to acknowledge that day in and day out, violence and torture continues in our name. We do not like it, and many of us

Altruism vs. Reality

Our refrigerator broke this week. Just like that. As far as I can tell, the unit is only five years old--it is a massive thing with ice and filtered water available through the door and lots of high-tech buttons. The repairman said the compressor is shot, the unit cannot be fixed. So we are in the market for a new refrigerator. While Renee and I store our milk and butter in an icecooler on the deck, I am researching the next large appliance to enter our home. The refrigerator is the third largest energy using item in our lives, next to our cars and our home heating/cooling unit. A few facts: a side-by-side uses 1.5 times more energy than a top/bottom refrigerator-freezer. And there are Energy-star rated appliances versus those that cost just a little less. So, as an energy-conscious consumer, I am avoiding the side-by-side and looking for the Energy-star rating. This is a good move, and cost-effective too. Here's the problem: there are super super energy efficient unit

Peak Oil and Local Soul

Humanity has reached Peak Oil production THIS YEAR. What this means is that the world can no longer produce more oil next year than it produced this year. This means that the world economy can no longer grow . Think about this. All that the consumer economy depends upon is about to change. Growth will stop and in fact, over time, we cannot sustain our current lifestyles. Reaching Peak Oil is a profound event. We in the U.S. may not feel the effects right away because we have elected an administration willing to take energy and resources from others by force and unwilling to level with our people that our very lifestyles are unsustainable. They are not doing us any favors in the long term. We will have that much farther to fall. In the days and months ahead, I will write about what I am doing personally and what I believe our local communities and groups need to do to prepare themselves. We need to have a plan. The sooner we begin the better. We have little time to lose. I h

Walnut Economics

It is pruning time in the walnut orchard. I have been told that the new owner (in this case me) faces quite a job because orchard pruning is often neglected for many years. It may have been six to ten years since these trees were pruned. So this week, the trees all got a haircut. It cost $3000. Now, the orchard is waist-deep in trimmed branches and the trees (I've been told) will be under less stress. Birds and deer quickly moved in to enjoy the new, albeit temporary, landscape. Thousands of birds! If I sum up this season financially: Expenses = $262 to shake the trees, $980 to gather the walnuts and $3,000 to prune the trees for a total of $4,242 Income = $3486.98 for the walnuts (walnuts sold for 45 cents a pound this year) NET LOSS = $755.02. This does not include expenses for property taxes or cost of the property. I guess I better not quit my day job to become a Walnut Rancher just yet.