Why "Growing Edge?"

Earth Hey! Life is amazing and if you aren't paying attention, it just may be passing you by. Slow down! Observe what is around you. Plant a garden. Make your own food. Create Beauty.

Welcome to our blog. We love discovering what Earth has to teach anyone willing to be on the Growing Edge of life.

--Denise Rushing, New Story Center
--Loretta McCarthy aka EarthWalker, Soulwork Adventures

Tuesday, December 27, 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, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


Remember? We mustn't forget that the reasons these rights are in our constitution is to guard against tyranny, and it is so easy for leaders to argue that safety is more important than liberty. Today, democracy requires our vigilence. The signals we give should be clear. Or are "We, the people" asleep?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sunset...

...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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

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 happening and am so sorry for my part in it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

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 400ppm carbon dioxide which guarantees global climate collapse will happen. We are at 384 ppm this year, by the way.)

It's official: we ARE the seventh generation of those we began despoiling this place.

The walnut crop is 10% of "normal" due to weather anomalies. A small impact compared to this:

60,000 species of life will become extinct this year, mainly due to climate change. And another 60,000 or more next year. And the year after that. Plants and animals. Gone forever, unless we save the seeds, and even then, it is a desperate situation.

In the meantime, companies are developing a "terminator gene" and releasing it into nature in the form of crop seeds. The gene prevents farmers from saving seeds; they will have to buy new seeds each year from seed and chemical conglomerates who claim that this will solve the worlds hunger problems. I'll bet it won't.

What do you think?

Not only have we lost track of caring for the seventh generation to come, we have stopped caring for our own. What will it take for us to begin to care, and more importantly, to ACT.

As for me, I wonder what the children of this generation will eat. So today, in a profound act of hope, I will wander into the orchard and spread straw to enrich the soil for next season.

Perhaps I will plant a fig tree.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

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. 


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!

Monday, September 26, 2005

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 to the E.A.T. website.

Friday, September 02, 2005

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 people whose only crime was being poor and living in our beloved city of New Orleans. I wish we the people could wake up to the disaster that has taken hold of what once was our civil society--that we are no longer being governed, we are being looted by those who cultivate the basest of our nature. Or are we too busy buying big screen televisions that we haven't noticed what we have become?

And If I hear a news pundit say "those who chose not to evacuate" one more time, I will lose my lunch.

Please consider donating to Veteren's for Peace a group that is on-the-ground in Louisiana helping these people.

My final prayer this day: may we collectively and culturally experience the transformation of soul that this event evokes in us. We will need great strength, courage and fortitude for the journey ahead if we are to reclaim our noble humanity.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

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 long walk. The weeds from the summer rains are now completely dry. The ground literally crunched under my feet. I noticed that the trees hold very few Walnuts this season, and the squirrels are claiming a large portion of the meager crop. My neighbor, Raphael (the local expert), told me that this is a very bad year for walnuts because the late June rains prevented pollination. I'm certain that my crop is even worse that most.

I have decided that I need to focus the next weeks and months here on capturing and storing water, without which this land will be a desert soon.

Looks like I will not have to spend much energy on harvesting walnuts this season and can concentrate on irrigating these trees. Assuming they make it, perhaps next year will be better.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Go Slow on GMOs

The Lake County Record Bee published my letter to the Editor on Genertically Modified Organisms. For those who missed it, here it is:

Recently, some have suggested that GMOs are safe because humans have been involved in genetic manipulation for centuries. This argument is misleading and dangerous. GMOs are NOT the same as genetic hybrids.

Those who produce hybrids through pollination or breeding accelerate nature’s own processes. Nature has the opportunity to reject problems before they affect the whole system.

The mechanics of genetic engineering are crude and messy. Viruses are used to inoculate DNA from one organism into another organism in forced combinations, many unintended. The viruses, once released cannot be fully controlled. Only time will tell.

Genetic Engineering replaces nature’s wisdom with human experimentation and techniques and then releases the result into natural systems. The effects can be catastrophic and we are already seeing negative consequences of the early GMO “products”. Most importantly, mistakes cannot be recalled once they are introduced.

As one with a technical background, I am in awe of new scientific discoveries… and disturbed by how GMO technology is introduced by companies. Our community is in this together—we must consider the realities of Living Systems Science, which studies the whole picture over time rather than just the pieces today.

Through science, we know that organisms will evolve and adapt and reproduce and that one change affects the whole community of life. We also know that the genetic code is key—the blueprint for all of it. This code has behind it the wisdom of billions of years of interaction.

The risks of introducing GMOs into natural systems are huge. The Europeans and Japanese have decided to wait saying: “We will watch what effect these GMOs have on American children.”

I would rather risk a future of laughing at our caution than crying for our children. Wouldn’t you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Whirlwind

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 lakelive.org/alfalfa

Monday, August 15, 2005

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, the most important gifts in the next few decades may well be relationships with neighbors and the cultivation of local community.

Why do I say this? Because one cannot possibly have all the skills, or resources, or tools, or creativity or time to be fully sustainable on their own. Even if you could afford it, you would not have the time or strength working alone. And, more importantly, the vision of such a life is unappealing. One needs a life-giving and sustaining vision, a spiritual sustenance, in order to let go of the false promises ingrained so deeply within us.

As it turns out, our ability to forge relationships and our own creativity are probably our most important individual gifts.

As I harvest the first of our organic vegetables and contemplate the season ahead, I drink in the beauty of the landscape around me here in Lake County...., I am grateful for all I have been given. From the land and trees, to the community of life, and the community of people here. We have all that we need for the times ahead. May we accept that which is entrusted to us and make it better for our community in the generations to come.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

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 source of weed control, manure for the organic garden and joy for us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

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.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

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 neighbor mows and sprays and rototills. His approach not only seems time consuming and expensive, but goes against my desire to work with nature rather than constantly fighting natural systems. Besides, his methods require constant vigilence and his yard has more star thistle than mine --so his approach does not seem to work well in the end.

At first, fueled with zeal and a competitive spirit, I went after the star thistle in a weed-pulling frenzy. At the end of the first few days, I was sore and exhausted and the star thistle still seemed to be everywhere--popping into full bloom and most certainly re-seeding itself. I quickly realized that I needed to find a different way to interact with this plant, my energy toward it seemed counter-productive. So I decided to observe the start thistle for awhile, and think about ways that I could enjoy it.

How could I possibly enjoy this plant? It grew faster than all the others, and with no water or care, could quickly dominate a place. I realized that it had a job to do and that if i were to remove it, I would have to find a more successful way to do its job: repairing the dry, hard ground and creating soil structure where there is none. I noticed where it grew, how easy or difficult it was to pull out depending upon the cirmcumstances it found itself in, how it sprouted if I didn't get the tap-root out, how it resprouted if left on the ground after it was pulled and how all the thistles opened even as it was dying. If I could not enjoy it, I could certainly admire its tenacity!

With a little more observation, I noticed that star thistle did not grow where we had mulched with straw. I also noticed that the whole plant came out easily if the ground was watered the night before but pulled before the plant had a chance to soften to the new water.

I began to enjoy the time spent observing and continued to observe even while I was pulling the star thistle. I found that I enjoyed the satisfaction of working small sections of the garden, where whole plants came out easily after watering, and found that I was no longer worried about the whole yard. I decided that we will have many seasons together, the star thistle and I, and that eventually, with my help, the soil will be moist and healthy and will not need this weed.

My final observtion is this: in some ways, I have been like star thistle: tenacious, hearty, energetic and strong. Heroic even. Now I must cultivate a deeper nature in myself: gentle, patient, enjoying the smaller simpler task of working the soil. With enough gentle care and cultivation, who knows what new life will emerge in this garden?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

An unpublished letter to the editor

Recently, a gentleman wrote a letter to our local paper and preceded to use scriptural quotes to lambast a person with whom he disagreed. I was appalled (though not surprised) that he claimed the Bible as "absolute","the only source of knowledge" and "unerring" and he then used scripture as the basis for his attack. So I wrote a letter to the editor. I later discovered that it was too long to be published, Here it is:

Dear Editor:

I am responding to Mr. Sowins’s letter to the editor (All we need to know about religion, May 5, 2005) because he does not speak for all Christians and I would like to provide a different perspective.

There are a few underlying assumptions that must be challenged:

First, to say that the bible is the only source of Divine revelation degrades and discounts all other form of divine revelation: from saints, prophets and mystics to the vast Universe itself—with the capacity to reveal the wonder and majesty of the Divine in even the smallest of life systems. Do we really believe that God is not revealed in our time as we discover millions of galaxies, each with millions of stars, and the mystery of the quantum realm? Do we really believe that God is so small that all God’s sacred revelation is contained only in the Bible?

Second, to say that the Bible is the unerring and absolute Word of God ignores biblical scholarship and the scriptures themselves. Biblical scholars acknowledge that the translations are imperfect and sometimes inconsistent and the books to be included and excluded were chosen by men. They acknowledge the bible contains historical and personal bias from time to time. Linguists who have studied the Bible will also tell you that some of the words of Jesus can be attributed to the historical Jesus and others were added later by his followers to attempt to explain what Jesus meant (the explanation after many of the parables for example). This doesn’t make the Bible any less sacred, but it should make us pause before we use individual scriptures as a club of division; Jesus most certainly admonished those who would use the scriptures in this way.

Jesus’ message was one of LOVE, not using scripture to judge or hate. Jesus reserved judgment for those in authority who claimed to speak for God and who caused suffering by insisting that others follow the scriptural law. The law was made for us not we for the law, Jesus said. Hypocrisy seemed to draw Jesus’ greatest rebuke. What would Jesus say today to those who claim to speak for God and then judge and condemn and divide and hate using religion?

To think one knows for certain the will of God is a dangerous path indeed. Great evil has been brought into our world by those claiming Christian values but not living the teachings of Christ:

The [National Government] regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life." – Adolf Hitler

We live in a time of growing divisiveness, much of it in the name of religious values of all religions in many countries. Here in the United States, some claiming to hold Christian values continue to divide us, tapping into our darker nature. I urge Christians to reclaim their faith from those who divide and those who stir up hate and fear.

“Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” Mark 5:36
Denise Rushing
Upper Lake

Saturday, April 30, 2005

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 trap) solution seems to be chickenwire around the plant roots. So, the raised beds are set upon chickenwire. All of the other plants will be in trouble. My longer term solution will be to create snake habitat and find myself a large gopher snake. I will cheer the first time I spot one.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Where are the Good Christians?

Today, Mike Morford, a columnist for the Sf Chronicle, asks "Where are the Good Christians?"

Ironic, isn't it, that a good Christian is "Good" precisely because he/she actually follows the words of Christ humbly and without sanctimony? The "Good" or authentic Christian does not wear their faith on their sleeve, pray on street corners and judge other people. The authentic Christian is deeply concerned about poverty, war and injustice and is quietly, deliberately and constantly engaged in justice work. These days, the "Good Christian" is likely appalled at the public face of Christianity as personified by rigid religous zealotry and labeled by the main stream media. When asked if they are Christian, they might answer "well now, it depends, what type of Christian?"

I have known people to give up their possessions to follow the call of their heart, to work for social change and earth justice, to risk much and ask nothing in return. Some go to jail in non-violent acts of civil disobedience. They do this, not because of blind and naive spirituality, but because somewhere deep in their core they resonate with the mystery of spiritual awakening and a call to protect the weak and voiceless.

The state of our world is awakening new prophetic voices and mystical souls. You will find these awakened people through their art, poetry and you will find them speaking for the poor, the marginalized and the voiceless (both human and non-human). Their presence is a gift, they change lives by who they are not what they preach. You will not find them exploiting others for their own gain. You will not find them carrying a sign that says "God Hates Fags." You will not find them threatening others who do not believe what they do. You will not find them destroying earth to bring about the rapture, for they humbly understand that the message of faith is an internal event, the mountains that are meant to be moved are internal mountains. The problems we face externally can be solved if we address their internal source.

Those who endeavor to understand the depth of the message of Jesus of Nazareth, know and that Jesus' core message was one of Love. Those causing division, poverty and violence on local or epic scale are not Christian, regardless of what they call themselves.

How will you know the Good Christians? "By their fruit you shall know them."


------------------
Afternote:
I highly recommend the book "God's Politics" by Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners. Sojourners is a prophetic and active organization. "God's Politics" includes sections with titles like "when did Jesus become pro-war?" "When did Jesus become pro-rich?" This book is a call to live an authentic Christianity.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

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 world,and train all our young people to help. They want to. We need to give them this last chance to create forests, soils, clean waters, clean energies, secure communities, stable regions,and to know how to do it from hands-on experience" --Bill Mollison
The sacredness of preparing the beds and creating the soil for life became SO apparent. At our place in Upper Lake, I am finding that my two resources that most matter are (1) time and (2) soil. I am just beginning the soil-building and permaculture process here... and have such a long way to go for the place to be thriving and healthy and teaming with lush and abundant food. I find that the act of engaging in this process is centering spiritually and creates tremendous hope and transformation of spirit. Earth can regenerate, Earth can heal, and I can be a part of it.

I have decided to get educated. The courses I am taking will lead to a "Permaculture Certificate," which will enable me to teach others. Permaculture is based upon 3 ethics: (1) Earth Care--the land, soil, water and wildlife (2) People Care--Care for oneself and others and (3) Return the Surplus (Take only your fair share)

Isn't that the heart of my spirituality? Isn't that the center of the action I am destined to engage in? The energy I feel toward this is tremendous.

Friday, March 18, 2005

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. I wish I had started a decade or two ago. To begin, you might go to Meetup.com and join a Peak Oil Awareness group in your community. Or start one. Get the DVD: The End of Suburbia. You can get your own copy via the Post Carbon Institute. I've taken these steps myself. Plus I am working to change my life to a less energy-intensive one. Your actions will depend a great deal upon where (and how) you live. My plan is outlined in my January blog: Peak Oil and Local Soul . Oh, and I just ordered a Pruis.

If you want more information on this, feel free to contact me. There is plenty that can be done to prepare, but we need to start now. The next step is up to you.

Monday, March 07, 2005

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.



Thursday, March 03, 2005

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 into something exciting and energizing. The result of the meeting was that we decided to become a forum for furthering the discussion of local sustainability. Many shared an interest in sustainable practices: alternative energy, locally grown food (or growing your own), biodiesel, limiting consumption of goods etc.

We decided to rename the group from Community Democracy to something that is more non-partison The best I could come up with is "Lake County Community Sustainability Group" (any ideas?) The purpose of our group is to share ideas and experiences, and to promote actions and policies, related to preparing ourselves local community for life after Peak Oil.

Wow, I am jazzed by this.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

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 suspect it is counterproductive. Can most Americans agree that we would rather fund positive expressions of our values?

Can most Americans also agree that protecting our natural world matters to us? That deficit spending and destroying our air, water and common spaces and cultural heritage are ways of mortgaging our children and grandchildren's future? Can we agree that how we spend our public money is a reflection of our common values? Is cutting taxes to the rich so that we can deficit-spend on war while cutting culture, environmental protection and programs for the vulnerable the legacy we wish to leave to future generations?

We must demand that our government act on our behalf. As a democracy, our government represents US. Please urge congress to reject this budget, and further, to reject this administration's efforts to dismantle social security and environmental law.

We can do better.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

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 units out there, the most well known is called Sun-Frost. I wanted to buy one for the sake of Earth. Sadly, I am NOT buying a Sun-Frost. Why? Because the comparable 110V unit available from alternative energy places costs $2800--well over $2000 more than the standard Energy-star version at Sears. Granted, the Sun-Frost uses 85% less electricity. By my calculations, the unit would pay for itself in energy savings in.... 33 years. Renee said she'll probably be dead by then.



Reality intrudes on my idealism... again. And, of course, I am a proud member of the reality-based community.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

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 have already begun working on my personal plan. A summary:

(1) Live somewhere where I will not have to use a car every day in order to eat, shop and work. There are two options I considered: live in a walk-able city with a thriving local merchants or live in a rural area with locally grown food and town centers for gathering, trading, and shopping. I chose the latter because I also require rural beauty to sustain me spiritually.

(2) Look at how I use energy and either eliminate energy use, or find sustainable substitutes. This is a tough one, no matter what it involves tradeoffs and/or cash.

(3) Begin growing my own food and shopping locally. This is a lot of work and I am hoping to find others who will join me in this effort. Farmers markets and community supported gardens would help here.

(4) Over time, find a local vocation--one that requires little or no travel (except perhaps to local markets). I must put some more thought into this. My computer and web skills are ok initially. Perhaps I can make pottery and fire the clay in a wood kiln? I will think about this some more.

Fortunately, Lake County is ideal because it beautiful, rural and has potential for the necessities of food and water and solar energy and potential for a thriving local community that can be bonded to place. In a sense, Lake County already has less distance to fall, it has not been overrun with sprawling development (yet) and has community centers.

As for the communities, the plan will need to include not buying into the corporate box stores, or out-of-area markets and sprawl. Local communities must further develop their town centers, creating centers that are alive and thriving. We must find local markets, particularly for our food, perhaps sponsoring local farmers markets and community-supported agriculture. Local communities must look at securing local energy (bio-diesel, solar) and water sources, developing barter systems, and most importantly, preserving their natural resources and beauty. We must not allow these to be sacrificed and stolen by the desperate outside interests, especially as the economy inevitably begins its collapse. We must not sell our soul.

Both individuals and communities need to ask ourselves: How will we invest our wealth now, for a time when we are not awash in easy and inexpensive energy?

I see the decades ahead as desperate for humans, yet in some strange way hopeful, too. To become more bonded to place, to become more more local, must happen. This is good for the planet and all her creatures. May we care enough about beauty and quality of life that we are willing to preserve that which gives us joy and life.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

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.

What is Permaculture?


Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is an ecological design framework inspired by living systems. The ethics, root practices and principles in permaculture can be applied to the garden, the farm, and indeed any living system including human structures.