Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve—and not only that, but it’s also a blue moon. I guess it’s time for me to reflect back on the year (and the decade, if I get around to it) and plan for next year (and maybe the next decade)[and maybe even the next half of my life].

I feel like we’re on the brink of societal collapse. It seems important to focus on the positive things we can be doing so that the transformation will be less chaotic. That’s what I’m going to be working on.
This past year I began to feel a much more urgent need to learn skills that could help me become more self-sufficient. These are skills I’ve always wanted to learn, but it’s all begun to fell urgent nowadays. I expanded the garden and was able to can and store a lot more food this year for the winter. Not nearly enough, but at least it’s made a noticeable dent. Next year one of my goals is to start a serious food storage effort. I want to have at least a year’s worth of food always in reserve and more than that if I’m able. For the coming year I’d like to buy a good supply of beans and grains and other staples (salt, sugar, vinegar,…) and then can and dry and store as much garden produce as possible.
My burning need is to disengage from the system. The system is making life on earth unsustainable and as long as I continue to participate in the system I’m a guilty party.
How do I more fully disengage? By taking back a lot of the responsibilities I’ve delegated to others, particularly nameless, faceless corporations. I certainly can’t do it all in the coming year, but I feel confident I can in the next ten years.
I really like all of the new initiatives that have been springing up in the past few years. There is an increasing group of people awakening to the true reality of our time.
The Transition Town initiative is an interesting movement. It was started to help prepare towns for peak oil, but I think it’s much more broadly applicable to all of the crises we’re facing. I think the financial crisis is a much more ominous worry—like possibly in the next few months. We really need more time to re-build resilient communities.
I’ve been giving considerable thought to my town of Snyder. I actually think it has a lot going for it and if society collapsed we may actually be a very cohesive community. We’re small enough, old-fashioned enough, and skilled enough to potentially pull together quite well. Most people already garden and many have backyard livestock of some sort. We could grow most of our produce, plus eggs and small-scale livestock, and the surrounding farms can produce grains. I think we could all look out for each other quite well, and do alright.
In the next year I’d like to get hens and meat rabbits, and all of the accoutrements I’d need. I’m planning to expand the garden to 800 square feet at least and get the soil tested and amended. I’m planning to grow oats and get a grain roller, start nixtamalizing my own corn to make homemade masa, hopefully finally get a pressure canner AND finally clean out the storm cellar. I hope to order some bulk grains and beans in February through a Denver-based bulk grain sale and buy a bunch of buckets for food storage. I plan to get suitable crocks for making sauerkraut. Ideally I’d like to get a high quality grain mill, but I’m not sure that’ll happen this year. And I’d like to finally put up a clothesline.
I’m no longer buying any disposable products except toilet paper, and any clothes I buy (besides underwear) are secondhand. I’d like to learn how to knit socks so I can make several pairs of durable and warm wool socks for Collin and me. Store-bought socks nowadays are so cheap they’re almost worthless. I think manufacturers purposely design them to wear out as fast as possible.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Khatru died yesterday, aged 17 years, 4 months, and 12 days. It was a rather beautiful death. I got to wake up with her beside me (she’s been sleeping with me, snuggled against my chest, for about the past month because her body could no longer keep her warm). She was still alive but her body seemed to be completely paralyzed. Even so, her eyes through very subtle shifts of focus were responding to everything I said. I talked to her and stroked and kissed her for about half an hour, then told her I was getting up to fill her hot water bottle. When I got back a minute or so later her head was torqued back and she wasn’t breathing. She spasmed a few times and her heart stopped beating a few minutes later. It almost seems like she waited for me to wake up so I could say good-bye to her.

We had to borrow John’s mattock so we could dig a hole in the frozen ground. It wasn’t easy. Collin and I tag-teamed to get it done.
It seems very strange without her here. I spent more years with her than anyone else in my life except Mom and Dad—and with them it was only a few months longer. So the energy shifts yet again in the house.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I woke up exceedingly groggy this morning and my morning coffee hasn’t helped me feel any less dazed (yet). It’s been bitterly cold, but at least this morning the sun is shining and the weather system that brought snow the past few days has cleared out. It was supposed to get down to -9 last night, but when I woke up this morning (although not until 7:30) it was 10 above, so I don’t think it got quite that cold last night. Yesterday it didn’t get above 10 all day.

I’d like to write about Albrecht’s book but my thoughts are so cloudy this morning—we’ll see how it goes. I haven’t read all of his book, but what I’ve read has been almost earth-shattering for me.
Forgive me if I get some facts wrong here—I haven’t internalized the information yet so I could easily garble it.
He explained of course how mineralized soils led to plants with high mineral and protein content and likewise how low-mineral soils led to plants high in starches and sugars. He also explained how soils age and that when temperature and humidity increase, aging happens much faster. In areas with high rainfall, such as the northeast US, soils age rapidly.
In his first few chapters he included these really fascinating maps of the US. Obviously the most fertile (and mineralized) part of the country is what we call the nation’s breadbasket. The most infertile section is the humid southeast. One thing I had never realized is that forests spring up on old, depleted soils. That should have been obvious—trees are all cellulose. And the lushness of Pennsylvania is really all about plants being all about carbohydrates rather than proteins and minerals.
The subdued nature of life here on the plains is actually healthier. Mineralized plants grow much smaller, but concentrate much greater nutrition. The conservative way life expresses itself here is a sign of health.
Fodders grown in the east are only good at fattening cattle—not for raising healthy cattle.
On a hunch I looked online to see if I could find a map which shows the distribution of diabetes in the US.  I was shocked when I found one—it totally matches Albrecht’s maps! I wasn’t sure I would find such a close correspondence, since our diets aren’t very local anymore. Maybe it’s a total coincidence, but I don’t think so. Maybe it’s what’s in the water (or not I the water) rather than the food that makes a difference. Most water is local—even soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi are bottled regionally. Maybe there are enough regional foods—dairy and produce perhaps—to allow the soils to express themselves through the people. It’s shocking and fascinating and brings me right back to—what else—environmental determinism!
We are expressions of the land—and only as healthy as the land itself. That Hamaker fellow I quoted the other day believed that the glaciers were responsible for mineralizing much of the land (by crushing and distributing rocks over vast distances) and that because we are so far into an interglacial period we’ve largely depleted our supply of minerals.
There would then be a cycle of health and disease on earth, it would seem, that would correspond with glacial advances and retreats. We are currently in a dying or disease part of the cycle.
The implications of everything Albrecht wrote seem enormous. It will take me awhile to trace the paths of all of them.
One thing I’m wondering about is the Fertile Crescent and the advent of agriculture. When those first grains were cultivated, the land there must have been highly mineralized. Those would have been very high protein, mineral-rich crops. Healthy humans grew out of that soil and civilization grew from it too. But eventually the land was depleted (actually salinized is what I’ve heard). Then what happened—marauding, pillaging, conquering. Everyone fighting for resources. Haven’t we simply been fighting for protein and minerals? And haven’t people with the most protein and minerals been the most dominant cultures? It’s Jared Diamond all over again. The tropics are all carbonaceous—cellulose and starches. They have starchy root crops, woody nut crops, no grass crops (except sugar cane?).
For cultures to be strong enough to maraud and conquer they needed protein-rich food. Is this true? Or were they marauding and conquering because their own supply of protein was dwindling and they were trying to find more?
It’s clear to me that in order to have healthy humans we need to have healthy soils. If we all were eating healthy, mineralized foods I’m convinced the true potential of our species could unfold.
More and more I’ve been thinking lately that I might not want to move back to Pennsylvania after all. This new part of the equation—the health of the soil—adds another factor to my considerations.
Appalachia is artsy and creative—very expressive in other words—like the rampant growth of foliage there. All sky energy.
Colorado is understated in its expression. It’s aging very slowly because it’s so arid, so there’s not as much going on here. The soils are more mineralized—there’s more earth energy here.
Where would the ideal blending of earth and sky be found? It seems it might be somewhere a little wetter than here—where soils age faster and there’s more going on—but somewhere drier than Pennsylvania.  Probably it would be smack dab in the middle of one of Albrecht’s maps.
Of course if I’m growing all of my food and doing so in re-mineralized soils, I could do that anywhere. But simply because I would be getting a healthy balance of earth and sky isn’t enough. The whole culture surrounding me matters, so I would want that to be healthy too.
And I wonder, if I found a place that perfectly balanced earth and sky energy, would that also be a place where new paradigms wanted to be birthed?
(Ooh—the outside temperature right now is -3.3. When I though it said 10 above earlier, it must have actually said -10.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

In William Albrecht’s book, Soil Fertility and Animal Health, (which I was able to download for free) he says this about corn:”Corn, another of the grasses, can have considerable concentration of nitrogen. However, the introduction of its hybrids has reduced that while the starch and fodder yields have gone up. Hybridization has been the equivalent of pushing the physiological performance by the corn plant down to make it duplicate more nearly those of sugar cane. By this manipulation we have pushed the crop’s production of protein nearly down and out for growing young animals.”

But I found a quote in John Hamaker’s book the Survival of Civilization (also a free download) that seems to contradict what the woman said Charles Walters said in Eco-Farm regarding hybrid corn being unable to take up trace minerals. Hamaker said:
“In the summer of 1977 a corn crop was grown on soil which was mineralized with glacial gravel crusher screenings. The corn was tested along with corn from the same seed grown with conventional chemical fertilizers. The mineralized corn had 57 percent more phosphorus, 90 percent more potassium, 47 percent more calcium, and 60 percent more magnesium than the chemical-grown corn. The mineral-grown corn had close to 9 percent protein, which is very good for a hybrid corn.”
Hamaker also said:
“Virtually all of the subsoil and most of the topsoil of the world have been stripped of all but a small quantity of elements. So it is not surprising that the chemical-grown corn had substantially less mineral content than the 1963 corn described in the USDA Handbook of the Nutritional Contents of Food. The mineralized corn was substantially higher in mineral content than the 1963 corn. Hence, as the elements have been used up in the soil, a poor food supply in 1963 has turned into a 100 percent junk food supply in 1978. There has been a corresponding increase in disease and medical costs. Essentially, disease means that enzyme systems are malfunctioning for lack of the elements required to make the enzymes.”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The guy who writes the soil minerals blog I love (I think his name is Michael Astera) finally had some new posts this month.  He doesn’t post often, but when he does it’s always good stuff. (He also has a website which has a lot of good info too.)

Anyway, one thing he said caught my attention. In previous posts he’s pointed out that one of the (few) benefits of conventional agriculture is that if a consumer eats some broccoli that was grown on minerally-deficient soils from one location, he’ll also likely be eating, say, peppers that were grown on mineral-rich soils somewhere else.  Because conventional agriculture brings foods in from such far-flung places, as long as you’re eating a good variety of foods, you’re unlikely to become deficient in essential minerals. But if you’re growing all of your own food you stand a very good chance of developing deficiencies since the spot you choose to farm is unlikely to have optimal levels of everything you need. That’s why re-mineralization is so important. What he mentioned in his recent posts concerned grazing animals. He said that in the past we used to hunt grazing animals who regularly migrated vast distances, thus eating from a wide variety of soils. Now all of our animals are confined to relatively small acreages and so they can’t achieve a healthy mineral balance.
Think about it—all of the vast herds of animals that once covered the earth, now dwindling and dwindling and confined by human developments and fences, limiting their range. Unable to freely migrate, they can’t become the fullest and truest manifestations of who they’re meant to be, and earth and sky can’t fully meet within them. And then we eat them and we’re imbalanced too. Animals instinctively know what they need for optimal health, but when they’re penned in they can’t migrate to find it.
Then someone in the comment section said the following, “I read recently in Charles Walters’ Eco-Farm that test after test has shown that hybrid corn is not even able to take up trace minerals from the soil.” This sort of ties in with my question of whether sweet corn is sweet because it grows on minerally-depleted soil. Would it be less sweet on optimal soils? Apparently not. It seems that hybridization has so damaged it that it can’t even access the soil minerals now.
All very interesting stuff. I want to learn more.
Next year I want to test my soil and re-mineralize it and get a Brix refractometer so I can chart my results. It would be fun then to start a garden service to test people’s gardens, write soil prescriptions and help them maximize nutrition in the things they grow.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

I’ve been sick the past few days with the flu bug that’s been going around, so I’ve just been bundled up in bed with a stack of books.  Two of the books seem very important and I need to spend more time reflecting on what I read.  I caught myself dreaming about the one book last night, so my mind is definitely trying to work something out.

The book I finished last evening was Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators, by William Stolzenburg. It documented many examples of “trophic cascades”—chain reactions initiated by the loss of top predators, spreading throughout the food web and bringing down entire ecosystems. It’s very scary stuff.
For instance, when we eradicated the deer’s predators we created a cascade leading to the loss of countless other species in those habitats: songbirds, bears, orchids, trillium lilies, cedars, whole forests…. In many places which have been studied, up to 80% of species have been lost due to the overpopulation of deer. What remains is a severely altered and dying ecosystem—only the ‘deer-proof’ species, like “poisonous snakeroot and stinging nettles”, can survive at ground level. And the density of deer is also responsible for the epidemic of Lyme disease in the human population.
One of the most interesting parts of the book concerned the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone. The whole ecosystem had been disturbed once wolves were eradicated in the 1920s. The elk population skyrocketed, causing massive damage to the ecosystem.  No new groves of aspen, willow, or cottonwood had been able to spring up in seventy years—any new shoots would immediately be grazed.  Riverbanks were eroding with no vegetation to hold them in place. Bird habitat was destroyed, beavers were driven away.  But once the wolves were re-introduced all of that began to change.  The willows began to spring up in lush thickets along the river, surprisingly quickly. The number of wolves seemed too low to account for such a rapid rebound—they just weren’t killing enough elk yet to have that kind of impact on the vegetation.
What the researchers figured out is the most interesting part of the whole book.  The willows were coming back because of fear.  When the elk had no enemies they browsed indiscriminately, everywhere. Once they had an enemy again their old survival instincts reawakened.  They recognized certain types of terrain to be dangerous and thus began avoiding them.  Mostly these places were river bottoms, stream courses, or other incongruities in the land that would cause them to slow down during a chase. A wolf, who is so much lighter and more agile than an elk, doesn’t need to slow down nearly as much to accommodate changing terrain and can catch up with an elk more readily in such places.  So when the fear returned, the willows returned—in river bottoms and other places that posed a hazard to the elk.  Once the river bottoms repopulate with willows it’s expected to have a (positively) cascading effect—halting erosion, bringing back songbirds and beavers, fish and amphibians and aquatic insects, etc.
In another part of the book a French ecologist, Jean-Louis Marten, studying an archipelago in which some islands were free of deer and others overrun by them said, “For me it was sort of a major light bulb which came on.  Suddenly what I realized working there [is] that carnivores are mainly not animals which eat prey but which change the behavior of prey.”
Fear is the glue that holds the world together, or used to. No critter likes fear, and all creatures seek safety, but only we humans have developed the power to eradicate fear. By wiping out predators we feel safe, yet it is a false sense of safety because it is untenable. Without anything to fear the world falls apart.
We’ve wiped out the predators, thus changing the behavior of vast numbers of species, including ourselves. We need to occupy niches constrained by fear. How can there possibly be hope for us or the planet now that we have the technology to make guns and other extremely efficient weapons of death? Our instinct is to create safety for ourselves, and if easy technology is at our fingertips to do just that, we do it. Eliminate the wolves, the big cats, giant raptors, bears, etc. No need to live in fear. But no fear, no world.
What is fear? Beyond emotion, beyond a chemical response in the body, what is it? It seems to be a necessary part of the metabolism of Gaia, a key regulatory function.
It seems ridiculous to think we could bring back fear to the human population. Not without total societal collapse. That’s what the world desperately needs though. Without it we’re doomed.
When I imagine the world full of predators again, it’s a beautiful world. We would live like the !Kung again, a part of the ecosystem, participating, being both predator and prey, co-evolving.
We humans don’t co-evolve anymore and what does that do to the intelligence of the planet? It dumbs it down. Eventually it will kill the planet.
Imagine if we had fear again. If we had fear we would learn how to be present again. Our powers of direct perception would be honed. Our ecosystems would have natural constraints and limits which we would easily recognize. Our human endeavors would arise from the land, co-expressions of place.
A more bizarre thought wants to come through too. Something about the co-evolution of us and predators. We co-evolve by behaviorally influencing each other and by jointly influencing our environment. My bizarre thought is that maybe by us never being preyed upon anymore, the predators miss out on something vital they need.  I’m thinking about the food web and how human bodies are the only bodies largely exempted from passing through the gut of carnivores. It gets to my thoughts about the energy of foods—how I learned that herbs each possess unique energy which changes us when we ingest them and how easy it is to extrapolate that everything we consume, animals included, imparts a unique energy or unique qualities to us. So likewise for the predators—everything they ingest helps to form their identities.
Humans (largely) are no longer ingested by anything other than microbes. It seems intuitively important to me that human bodies inform the bodies of other animals by passing through their gut, and by transforming our flesh into their flesh. I realize no science yet exists to show that this matters—the closest “science” would be the field of nutrition—but I think there’s something here. Each living thing concentrates its own unique interactions with the environment into its flesh—that flesh is consumed and it impacts the consumer. Yes we can reduce it all to calories and fats and proteins and carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals and maybe in an elementary way that’s all it is—but maybe not.
What do we know about what happens in the gut? We know that most of our immune system resides there. Why is that? Our immune system has the job of recognizing and responding appropriately to our environment. I’m sure what it finds passing through the gut can trip epigenetic triggers that turn gene expression on and off. I believe we are profoundly shaped by what we ingest.
Back to the issue of fear again. Fear creates diversity—more niches and more species. An elk-free thicket of willows is a pocket-sized niche—a diminutive ecosystem which evolves its own flora and fauna. Humans on the savannahs of Africa knew to avoid thickets, which might be hiding lions, so those were human-free thickets. What evolved in the thickets was surely different than what evolved in the surrounding open lands where humans modified the environment with their hunting and gathering activities and their mere presence. Diversity is a direct effect of fear.
It seems like humans have never come to terms with physical manifestation and what that entails. By physically manifesting we enter a compact that requires us to participate in the intricate dance of eating and being eaten. Life is a process of energy being transformed by death. We try desperately to opt out of that compact—killing off all the predators so we can’t be eaten and even trying to stave off the microbes as long as possible after death by shooting our corpses full of preservatives. But if we’re here in physical form, that’s the compact. Without it, life isn’t possible.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I had a dream last night that we were moving to a new house—a large beautiful log house nestled among forested hills, with a huge yard with plenty of room for gardening and for some animals.

Moving to a new house is a recurring theme in my dreams. The dream is always set in Pennsylvania, and the house I’m moving from (my house) always ends up being Mom and Dad’s house.

In this dream at varying points I was my adult self, my seventeen year old self, and my twelve year old self.

The only odd thing in the dream was that in the old house we were leaving behind a lot of stuff I thought we should be taking. The attic was full of stuff, mostly toys. I thought if we were selling the house to a family it would be nice to leave the toys for them, but we were selling the house to a baseball association.  I found some of Grandma's afghans in the attic as well. I wanted to at least keep an all-white one, but had trouble getting to it because I spotted a huge black widow spider. Grandma was there in the attic with me.

The thing that vexed me the most was that we hadn’t taken any of the dressers. I complained to Mom that I wouldn’t have anywhere to put my clothes in the new house. She suggested a cardboard box, but I was complaining how ridiculous that seemed when we had all of these dressers. Jamie had a gorgeous, tall antique chest of drawers. She was talking about how perhaps she could get $150 for it if she sold it. I thought it would make a perfect dresser for me if only I could convince everyone else to move the dressers to the new house.

The dressers obviously symbolize something. Mom and Dad’s house (my childhood home) has always symbolized my Self, and these moving dreams always seem to be about moving into a newer Self, in this case also a more expansive self.  Dressers contain our clothes, which we use to don different forms of self-expression. But it wasn’t that I’d be without clothes, it was that I’d be without a container to hold them. And a cardboard box wasn’t good enough. I wanted something beautiful, with character and the patina of age, like Jamie’s dresser. Even my dresser (from childhood) is probably, technically, an antique now. Any dresser would’ve been better than a cardboard box.

I was arguing vehemently that we need to have beautiful containers to house our self-expression, our various forms of self expression--but what does that really mean? If I move into a more expansive Self, I still want a beautiful container to house my various forms of self-expression. Each form of self-expression I don, each persona, is not me in my totality. All of those various expressions, together, should be a thing of beauty. But even all of those are not all of me. The whole house represents the whole Self. The dresser only represents the various aspects of self which manifest discretely.

The toys in the attic--they represent playful spontaneity. I wanted them to go to children who would fully engage with them—not to a baseball association—where play has become rigid and overly formalized.

And Grandma’s afghans….as far as I know, she never did crochet an all-white one. The color white contains all other colors, but is an absence of color as well. What does the afghan represent? It represents my connection to Grandma of course—to memories of my personal past, what’s gone before. It’s an item of warmth and comfort; it represents love. The purity of love. And how love contains everything. The afghan is made up of both matter and empty space—yarn endlessly looping back upon itself and interconnecting with other parts of itself. The form of it is created by the intersection of matter and emptiness. (Earth and sky?)

Back to the symbolism of the dresser. The dresser I was most drawn to was tall, wide, but narrow from front to back. In proportion and styling it reminded me of a Shaker piece—simple, and elegantly understated.  But the finish on it was not Shaker—it was very rich, had beautiful depth, perhaps it was a wax finish which had been painstakingly built up over many years of attention. This seems to represent myself as I’m currently manifesting—in this context of voluntary simplicity.

Another interesting thing was Mom’s cardboard box comment. It was implied that the cardboard box would be one left over from the move. So I would’ve been basically living out of a box, as if the move were only temporary. But it wasn’t meant to be a temporary move. There seems to be symbolism there about living outside of the box too. A cardboard box is ugly—that was a big part of my objection to it. I wanted to live in a beautiful space.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My newest thought today about how we might save the world?  Do nothing.

This paradigm has been about too much “doing” anyway. All of the activists out there, doing this, doing that—they’re acting from within the current paradigm and that never works.

Our destructive society has arisen as a natural process of the earth, and earth will always evolve back towards balance sooner or later. We’ve swung so far out of balance now—reached total unsustainability —that the only way for things to go is to swing back towards sustainability.

How will that happen?  We simply can sit back and allow it to happen. In fact the end of Western society is already underway. The financial system is utterly unsustainable—it may only have a few months left. Total economic collapse is what will bring us back towards balance.

All of our problems—greenhouse gases, peak oil, overpopulation, etc.—will right themselves when modern society collapses. No, it likely won’t be pretty, but the earth will eventually return to balance.

At the same time that I’ve been getting this vibe lately that we’re on the brink of collapse, I’ve also been getting a vibe that a new paradigm is about to be birthed.

I keep finding more and more people scattered across the web who are awake as I am and have learned how to be authentic and present—these are the people who will first express the new paradigm. It’s already staring to eke out through them. Our job isn’t to dismantle civilization—there’s no need. Civilization will dismantle itself. What we need to do is to birth the new paradigm—show people what lies ahead for us, lay the groundwork, create the vision.

But it needs to be a practical vision. Post-collapse, we’ll need to be practical. Re- localization, taking back control of our food supply, building community—these very basic things will be of the utmost importance. It would be really good if we could somehow manage to maintain global inter-connectivity—although I don’t know how likely it is that the Internet will survive. Without it, we run the risk of forgetting things, becoming alienated from each other and regressing to a sort of tribalism—us and them all over again.

We need global connectivity—that’s the only blessing to have come out of globalism. It should be a priority that of all things, connectivity is the one thing we preserve on a global scale.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I get closer and closer to the end of this journal—must mean a new chapter of my life will soon begin. I wonder what lies in store?

The weird vibe I’ve been getting lately makes me wonder if the next chapter isn’t going to be about total societal collapse. Economically we’re teetering on the very edge of the abyss.

It’s unnerving.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I’m having a new thought tonight. I haven’t had time to work with it so it’s still very undeveloped, but I wanted to jot it down so I don’t lose it.

I’ve been so frustrated that we haven’t found a way to tackle all of the “converging catastrophes” we face. We haven’t found that crack that would let us enter into a new paradigm. The old paradigm is a sinking ship still trying to charge along at full speed, but all the while taking us all down with her. Stopping the madness seems impossible. How do you topple the system?  And not only topple it, but have something even better to replace it with?

Tonight the new thought has to do with not how to bring about change, but where to bring about change. I was thinking again about the land and the unique energy of each place. I was thinking about Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel, and how Diamond believes that unique features of the land brought about the domestication of animals, the rise of sedentary lifestyles, city-states, eventually colonialism, etc. When I read the book I remember being depressed—it made a pretty convincing case that the rise of Western society was an inevitable and very organic process of the earth.

Tonight I am wondering—if there were propensities held in the land which led to the rise of our Western culture, might there not also be propensities held in the land that might give rise to the next paradigm?

Are there places in this world which would be conducive to birthing the next paradigm?  Are there places which possess the right “personality” for that?  Are there places that are already small-scale success stories?  Are there places more conducive to evolving or expressing solutions?

I need to think about this more—not tonight, too sleepy. But if such places exist, we need to work with those places and help to expand the solutions so they can work globally.

What are the geological features that would birth of post-consumer, post-ego paradigm?

Or, another way to think about this would be to have every locale do an inventory of its “personality” traits and learn what part of the solution it might be able to give birth to. I’m sure each locale has its own particular strengths—each locale might have something to contribute to a global solution.

I’ve got to give this more thought.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

We’re having a cold October. It got down into the low twenties the past two nights.  The garden is done.  I’m not even sure the chard made it through. When all is said and done the tomato harvest was 241 pounds. I could’ve gotten more if I had picked all of the green tomatoes but I let them go into the compost.

It was a good year in the garden. I canned tomato juice, tomato sauce, marinara, ketchup, hot sauce, salsa, and three kinds of pickles, froze tomato paste, pesto, zucchini, chard, and green beans, sun dried (well, oven dried) a batch of tomatoes, dried oregano, coriander seeds and dill seeds.  I’ve got a string of garlic, the small pile of butternut squash, beets still in the ground, piles of cantaloupe and watermelon (although mostly they didn’t ripen). I still have tomatoes on the counter, the giant bag of hot peppers to deal with, more chard waiting to be frozen and basil to be made into pesto.  Is still have to dig the last of the potatoes. Collin has a mountain of gourds (plus I donated all but one pie pumpkin because they just didn’t get big enough to bother with).

The failures this year were lima beans (again), the potatoes (darn grasshoppers), cabbage, and peas (I got a good harvest of snow peas, but only one serving’s worth of shell peas before the frost hit). The onions did poorly too. The sets I planted had their leaves snapped off by wind and hail so they didn’t bulb out very well, and the onions I planted from seed didn’t grow fast enough to produce full-sized bulbs.

But all in all it was a great year.  I can’t believe the season is over already. Next year will be even bigger and better. And next year I’ve GOT to get hens and rabbits.  That’s a must.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I’ve been getting really bad vibes they lately about the stability of our society. That’s on top of my regular doom and gloom about climate, population, and the environment. Despite the official line of bullcrap we’re hearing about the recession being almost over, I don’t believe we’ve even begun to see the worst of things. I still think we’re heading for something absolutely catastrophic—far worse than the Great Depression. They keep pumping fake trillions into the economy, as if that could possibly create any real change. It’s mere slight-of-hand. What’s the point of any of that when the dollar is totally worthless?

For so many reasons the time is now or never for converting to a steady-state economy. But it won’t happen.  The machine is too big. The only way it will happen is through catastrophic collapse of civilization, with the survivors having to rebuild from nothing—and who’s to say those survivors will be smart enough to do it right?

Personally I would like to survive the coming collapse just for the adventure of it, but at the moment I feel very ill prepared.

My most immediate goal is to deal with the food issue. I’d like to have a year or two of staples stockpiled. I normally have at least a month of food on hand simply because I tend to only do one shopping trip per month. But one month’s worth of food isn’t going to cut it. I need a big stockpile of beans, rice, flour, sprouting seeds, salt, yeast, sugar, etc., etc. I need a grain mill and a pressure canner. I need rabbits and chickens.  The list goes on and on. I need to practice foraging.  I need to learn about hunting and trapping. There’s so much to learn and acquire. Fortunately this is stuff I’ve always wanted to learn and do. Even if everything were peachy in the world at large, I’d still be working towards self-sufficiency. This just adds a sense of urgency to the process.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I was reading back through here and came to the section where I was puzzling about the weather last year—trying to figure out how I could be the same phenomenon as the weather, as my vision suggested. I think I’ve figured it out—it’s the metabolism thing. “The metabolism of the grass and the metabolism of the horse are one and the same”. The metabolism of the human being and the metabolism of the weather are one and the same. We represent the metabolism of Gaia.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I was thinking about the John Livingston essay again and his idea that we “downshift” into the egoic self. I had a different way of conceptualizing it flash in my mind. It kind of reverses the whole concept. I pictured the energy of Gaia as a ground beneath us, the energy of our immediate environment as another layer above that, then maybe our collective humanity as another layer, and at the top (and farthest removed from Gaia) would be our individual consciousness and ego. Expanding our consciousness is just merging back down into earth consciousness. I like this conceptualization better, because “upshifting” seems to imply effort and a striving for a new state of being. But my concept feels more natural--a surrender back to the ground of being from which we emerged.

Each individual and each living thing is an apex coming out of the ground of being, or Gaia. At the peak of the apex is that little dot of self and ego. We look all around us and it sure looks like we’re all little isolated dots. We just forget to look beneath our feet. If we did that we’d see we’re still firmly connected to something larger.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Yesterday the cumulative tomato harvest topped 50 pounds. I’m guessing when all is said and done (barring an early frost, which is quite possible considering our unusually cool summer) we’ll have a harvest of at least 150 pounds--maybe 200. That’s all from a 100 square foot bed--actually a little less because the middle of the bed contains twenty-some odd basil plants. According to John Jeavons a 100 square foot bed should yield roughly 100 pounds for the beginning gardener, 194 pounds for the intermediate gardener, and as much as 418 pounds for the advanced gardener.

The tomatoes are the only thing I’m weighing this year, mainly because they’re the major crop, taking up nearly a fifth of the whole garden. When Collin’s grown I won’t have to go so crazy with tomatoes, but while he’s still with me, I need to keep him well supplied with tomato sauces and salsa and ketchup, etc.

Over the weekend I canned our first batch of tomato sauce. I made six pints of a basil marinara (there was also an almost-full seventh pint that just went straight into the fridge). On Friday I plan to can a batch of spaghetti sauce. I figure about 24 pints total of various types of pasta sauces should last a full year, especially considering I’m also making tons of pesto. 

Then, after I have 24 pints of sauce, I’ll make a few pints of pizza sauce, then move on to ketchup. We’ve already done some salsa. I made a 1 quart jar of lacto-fermented salsa, and over the weekend Collin made four little 4-ounce jars of fresh salsa. But, if the tomato harvest holds out, I’d like to can some salsa for the winter as well. We’ve got four different types of hot peppers growing, all doing extremely well. So I’ve got to use those up.

Then, if the tomato harvest is still going strong, I like to do some jars of tomato juice and vegetable juice, tomato paste, and finally, some canned whole tomatoes. And, of course, we’ve also been eating tons of tomatoes fresh!

On Sunday we ate our first corn-on-the-cob from the garden, and also our first cantaloupe.

I spent the entire weekend in the kitchen. Saturday morning I picked, blanched, and froze the day’s green beans, then picked basil and made a batch of pesto. Then I picked chard, made the stems into lacto-fermented pickles (that’ll take three or four weeks) and put the chard leaves into a double batch of pasta. I started dough for sourdough bread, and I baked a loaf of lemon zucchini nut bread (my current favorite zucchini recipe).

On Sunday I made the basil marinara, as well as rolling out the pasta dough I had started on Saturday, and hanging it to dry.

Of course, in addition to all of this was the regular cooking of all of our meals, from scratch of course. On Saturday I made tostados, which included rolling sixteen corn tortillas, cooking each one in the cast iron skillet, then frying each one. 

I’ve been wondering about corn masa—wondering if there’s a way I can make it myself. I know it’s just corn and hydrated lime. Ironically, the process is explained in a book I just took out of the library called Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz.

Now why, you may be asking yourself, would I want to go through all of that trouble when corn tortillas are readily available and extremely cheap? And why is it not enough to buy the corn masa and just add water? Why must I soak my corn for hours, then cook for hours in a hydrated lime solution or wood ash solution, then rub off all the skins, then grind the corn, then make the dough, roll it, cook it, and fry it before eating it? 

Probably because I’m just plain crazy.  But maybe it has to do with this need to get back to the basics. There’s something important about being intimately involved in all aspects of my food production. In a spiritual sense I think we need to merge with our food--there has to be participation on many levels.

And besides that, if I do this myself, I can buy organic whole dried corn at Vitamin Cottage, and know I’m avoiding the genetically modified corn that’s in the masa from the regular grocer. Plus if I do one day go completely off-grid, I will have acquired knowledge that will be very useful.

Did you realize that without this process of soaking the corn in lime, called nixtamalization, the healthiest qualities of corn remain unavailable? Sander Katz says, “Specifically, it alters the ratio of available amino acids, rendering nixtamalized corn a complete protein, and making niacin in the corn more available to humans.”

You have to wonder what type of process led the ancient Aztecs to this process. It had to be a spiritual process, a communication from the corn.

I’m learning so much about plants these days. Actually it feels like I’m learning from plants these days. It’s hard to describe, but I can feel subtle shifts in my perceptions, in my way of experiencing the world, as I take in these different plant energies. I believe living foods share their intelligences with us.

I’ve been dreaming about plants incessantly. The one night last week (after eating an inordinate amount of tomatoes) I spent at least the first 2/3 of the night dreaming about nothing other than tomatoes. Tomato energy was coursing through me, and it wanted me to integrate that energy.

Lately, I’ve also been fascinated with the topic of fermentation, both as a food preservation technique and as a method of enhancing the healthfulness of foods.

So far, I’ve been experimenting with sourdough breads, homemade ginger ale, lacto-fermented beet juice, salsa, and chard stalks. I love the idea of inviting in the local wild yeasts and bacteria. It seems like another important way for me to participate with and merge with the local ecosystem. Eating the soil (indirectly through the plants), eating the plants, which express both the soil and the sun (and all local conditions), eating the local yeasts and the local bacteria. The only things missing are the local animals, and I hope to remedy that eventually.

We’ve become so disengaged from our particular place on earth. We’ve stopped interacting with place. Instead, place has become an insignificant backdrop for our purely human activities. We act as if we’re the only things that matter and we act as if we don’t need the earth. The reality, of course, is that we are both utterly dependent upon it and inextricably connected with all of it.

I’ve been learning so much lately. Everything is fascinatingly interconnected. It just occurred to me, for instance, this magical alchemy that occurs with corn and lime—it’s really a way to make earth and sky influences meet. Corn--all sugars and starches--a sky food par excellence, needs to merge with earth elements, in this case calcium, in order to confer its healthful qualities to humans. Left as a pure sky food it’s all carbohydrates—leading to human imbalances such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome. We desperately need to become grounded beings again, and we can do that through the foods that we eat.

I’m really starting to understand the sacredness of food, deeply understand the sacredness of food. Here I get to that point were words fail. Many people have called food sacred and for years I could nod my head that yes, of course, food is sacred. But now I know food is sacred, and I know it in a way that defies all description, in a way that is far deeper and more significant than I ever imagined possible.

Do you think the Aztecs might have recognized corn as a sky food? Do you think they intuited that earth and sky needed to meet?  That earth and sky (lime and corn) meeting in a watery matrix would bring about the proper alchemy?

I’m thinking back to my dream in March about the patch of wheat. The message that came in the dream was that in order for earth and sky to meet, a plant must be able to express its true and full nature.

I wonder if over the past 10,000 years with all of our hybridizing and selective breeding of plants we haven’t created foods that overly concentrate sky energy? Hasn’t much of our breeding led to increased sugar and starch content?

And I’m curious—I’ll have to do some research—but do plant foods with naturally high sugar content favor soil that’s depleted in mineral content? Would sweet corn grown on healthily mineralized soil be less sweet than sweet corn grown in a typical, depleted field?  I don’t know where I could find the answer to that, but I’ll have to do some poking around.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I’m really starting to think I don’t want any electricity at all when I go off-grid. To totally do that I’d have to find a property with a spring or else a shallow well that would allow hand pumping. If that presents too much of an obstacle I can settle for a solar or wind-powered pump. But that should be the extent of my electric needs, unless I absolutely need a laptop.

And still this crazy idea to have a dirt floor is holding sway—and not one of these fancy, polished dirt floors that you see in multi-million dollar “green” homes—I’m talking about plain dirt. At least to start, then maybe filling in some or all of the floor with brick or stone as time goes by.

It seems like dirt would have many good qualities. If the house was too humid, wouldn’t it absorb some of the moisture?  And likewise, if the air was too dry, maybe it would exhale some moisture.  And it would probably help to regulate the temperature too, moderating between extremes. (And wouldn’t it be wild to grow your houseplants right in your floor?)

Of course there could be some potential drawbacks. I’m thinking a dirt floor would be best in a dry climate, otherwise mold might be an issue. Bugs could be a problem too. And of course dust getting tracked around.

But, ah, just imagine always having your bare feet in contact with the earth—something in me is screaming out that this kind of contact is vital for our well being. I don’t know why—I just feel that I need to have my feet on the dirt.

And the separation of indoors and out would be minimized—you’d always be connected to nature.

I wonder if building codes require floors? Or would I have to find a place where building codes weren’t in effect or weren’t enforced?

People would probably think I’d gone off the deep end if I had a dirt floor. But billions of people have lived and do live on bare dirt. I certainly wouldn’t be without company.

Of course there’s a stigma involved with dirt-floor living. But that’s okay. We’ve been so busy getting civilized and giving up our primitive and barbaric ways that I don’t think we recognize everything we’ve lost.

“Dirt-floor poor” people are connected to the earth. The dirt-floor poor are not the ones out there plundering the earth. Is it just because they’re poor and don’t have the resources to plunder, or is it maybe because they’re still connected to the land—Mother Earth?

I keep reading up on the topic of re-mineralization. It’s such a fascinating topic. Today I found a website that talked about re-mineralization in terms of raising healthy horses—what was necessary for the soil in order to grow healthy grasses in order to have healthy horses.

I never realized (then again I don’t know much about horses) that metabolic syndrome is a major problem for horses, just as it is for people. It seems that when soils are depleted in essential elements the starches and sugars that plants synthesize cannot be built into amino acids. The minerals provide the alchemy that allows amino acids to form. So, the animals who graze on depleted pastures get too much sugar, not enough minerals, and not enough amino acids or proteins.

The author at one point said something along the lines of—the metabolism of the grass and the metabolism of the horse are one and the same. That was a powerful statement for me to read. It feels like it has really far-reaching implications—not all of which I feel able to express just yet.

But part of it has to do with my thoughts about us being emanations of the land and globules of the land and expressions of the land. We’re so ridiculously interconnected with everything else it seems absurd to act as though we’re each independent entities.

There’s such a weird blending in my mind of the factual and the mystical when I think about these things. It’s so fascinating to me and as I’ve said before this is just a totally unexpected line of thinking for me. Wisdom wants to unfold--it’s not a line of inquiry I ever would’ve planned to pursue. It just wants to be known. 

That book I took out of the library last year—The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook--comes to mind. I was reading people’s reviews of it on Amazon once and while most people loved it there were quite a few people who were put off by the author’s “New-Age”, hokey, and fruity asides about plant energies or spirits or things like that. Those critics are clearly people who have not worked with herbs, because as fruity as it sounds, when you begin to work with herbs it’s obvious that these are entities, that they have specific personalities and powers. It’s not “out there” at all—it is what is!

So, when I think about such things as herbs, it’s this weird blending of these very practical matters—what essential elements does this specific herb tend to concentrate, which essential oils are present, what kind of soil does it prefer, what habitat?—and the odder, more mystical thoughts—what is expressing itself here, why does this blending of the earth and sky manifest as this, with these particular properties, what is being communicated here? Every living thing is a communication of sorts. The land communicates through living tissue.

Plants communicate with us through dreams, imagery, and intuition. I find it odd how casually people talk about the way animals instinctively know what to eat for health and healing and yet such a fuss is made when anyone suggests that our ancestors instinctively knew these things as well. Animals know, and people know (if they pay attention) because all living things communicate. Plant wisdom is available to us simply because plants exist, they emanate from the earth, and anything that emanates by default communicates. We don’t need scientists to isolate healing compounds in a plant before we go to that plant for healing. If we listen, the plant will tell us what it can do.

I came across something interesting yesterday too. I was reading about hops and came upon a picture of the female flowers—the part that’s most frequently used. Now I’ve seen hops growing before but had never noticed the flowers. They’re shaped like little nubby pinecones, about one to two inches long!  Just like the things in my dream in January. And then I read that hops can induce vivid dreams. Remember that in my dream the nubby things induced hallucinations in high doses. Vivid dreams—hmm, could I be getting warm yet?

I poked around a little more. Everywhere I looked when it mentioned hops in the context of vivid dreams it mentioned mugwort in the same breath. My impression is that mugwort is much more powerful at inducing vivid dreams than hops is. Still, extremely interesting.

And because of that dream last January, I’ve learned at least a little bit about three different plants: buriti, hops, and mugwort.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Self-sufficiency has become an absolutely enormous obsession for me. It’s frustrating that I can’t do it all now, but encouraging because I see myself making progress in knowledge and applied learning.  I’m just doing what I can for now.

I really want to get some hens next year. Definitely for the eggs of course, but they should also make a dent in the grasshopper population should we have a plague again next year. I think I’ll probably get about ten unsexed birds to start, and butcher all the boys at around fifteen weeks. Ideally, I only want three or four hens, but you just don’t know what kind of mix you’ll get when they aren’t sexed.

This year’s garden has been so wonderful. I found the 500 square feet to still be extremely manageable—I probably average ten or twenty minutes in the garden per day—and with that I’m able to deal with watering, weeding, fertilizing and bug stomping, as well as harvesting, as necessary. These 500 square feet really produce quite a lot even considering all the losses this year due to grasshoppers and hailstorms. Raising all of my food seems quite a reasonable endeavor. I, of course, am not saying that just these 500 square feet would be enough to live off of—no, of course not.  And I don’t have enough space here to grow everything I would want to--the grains are the killer. But I’m getting a good sense of what I can produce and how much space is required.

If I get hens and rabbits and a beehive and expand the garden to a thousand square feet, I think I could reduce our grocery bill to $50 per month or less. If only I could have a dairy goat here that would reduce it to about $15 per month. And if I was able to grow all of my wheat then all I would need to buy would be spices and exotic things I couldn’t grow myself—plus maybe some other types of meat for variety. 

So, when I get back to Pennsylvania, even if I’m only able to buy an acre or two, I feel confident that I could easily disengage from the system.

Next year I might try devoting 100 square feet to oats (the hulless variety) just so I can get a little experience growing grain. I forget what John Jeavons says is the expected yield per 100 square feet for oats, but I’m thinking it’s about 10lbs. (I could be wrong—it might only be about 4lbs). At any rate, that would provide enough for the year, I think. We don’t currently go through a whole lot of oats. The nice thing is that it would also provide me with some free straw, which I use for mulch and I’ll need for chicken bedding. I’ll need to get a grain roller though, but that’s okay because it’s on the master list.

Next year I want to go vertical much more--picking pole beans instead of bush beans and climbing varieties of the cucurbits. Growing potatoes in a bin or a couple of bins, getting pole peas. Building a good tall climbing structure for my indeterminate tomatoes. I’m already using space quite efficiently with the bio-intensive beds, but I could do even better. The three 100 square foot beds I put in this year beside the house are such a hoot—it’s just one massive wall of vegetation right now.  A jungle out there! I love it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about land lately—how I’m going to afford to buy a piece of land in five years. If I give up on the idea of Pennsylvania (where land seems to be fairly pricey) I open up for myself many more possibilities. I noticed on the web that many five acre plots in the San Luis valley of Colorado sell for $5,000. Sure some of them are on the valley floor (i.e. the treeless desert) but other parcels are up in the hills. It’s not exactly the climate or place I’d ideally want to be, but if it could be had for $5,000 and I could raise all of my own food there it might not be a bad idea. Property taxes for a plot that size are about $75 per year and building codes are unenforced.

Think about it. Five thousand dollars would put me on a piece of land. I could erect a small temporary shack right away with a wood stove, a composting toilet and I could haul in my water to start. As I was able I could have a well drilled, start improving the land’s fertility, putting in the gardens, building the animal pens, eventually building the main house. It seems quite attainable.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I was reading up on soil mineralization on the web yesterday. Next year I want to get my garden soil re-mineralized, but I’ll need to get a soil test done first.
The one site gave me some food for thought. It was talking about all of the elements and how carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen come from the atmosphere and the rest come from the earth (of course, oxygen is also bound up as oxides in the earth). Ninety-five percent of our bodies and the bodies of all living things are made up of these atmospheric elements while only five percent of our bodies are comprised of the remaining elements and yet those elements are absolutely vital for our well-being.

This got me thinking about my insights (or glimmerings of insights) from earlier this year about the meeting of earth and sky within us. If the mineral elements have largely been leached out of the soils, then we are unbalanced in favor of sky influences. To be healthy and the fullest expressions of ourselves we need to feed on mineralized soils.

We are globules of earth and must carry the earth within us. The earth elements root us to the land. But instead of insuring our adequate intake of earth elements, we gorge ourselves on sky foods--carbohydrates, especially.

Healthy people need to eat from mineralized soils. They need to eat a diverse diet of plant foods—vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, grains and other seeds—as well as healthy animal foods. Each living thing concentrates its own unique spectrum of elements. By eating diversely we ensure that our own unique spectrum of elemental needs will be met.

I’m eager to remineralize the soil here and begin to become a healthier and fuller expression of my humanness.

Another thing that interested me on this website was the mention that ocean animals are always fully immersed in all of the natural elements, and that before we fouled the oceans with our toxic pollutants, sea creatures did not suffer disease or degeneration the way land creatures do. 

I realized that water is where earth and sky meet. They can’t mingle otherwise, or not readily. Our bodies are containers for holding water—the necessary medium for earth and sky to meet.

Sea creatures are bathed in the ideal medium. We land creatures are vulnerable to deficiencies because we are not.

The website mentioned the work of Dr. William Albrecht. He was the soil scientist who first recognized the importance of minerals for healthy soils and healthy people. Anyway, the website said Albrecht called foods comprised of the atmospheric elements “go foods” because they gave the body energy (which indirectly comes from the sun through photosynthesis). He called the foods comprised of earth-bound elements “grow foods” because they are necessary for the growth and maintenance of healthy bodies.

I find all of the earth and sky metaphors really fascinating because there seems to be truth lurking here. The sky is cerebral, ethereal, mental. The sky is about energy and Doing. The earth is grounded, rooted, about bodies and health and Being. Sky foods give you energy to Do, earth foods give you health to Be.

An imbalance which brings too much of the sky within us causes too much Doing, too much cogitating, too much ungrounded, disconnected action.

If we all ate properly balanced, mineralized foods would we all become more grounded and more balanced? If you fed the CEO of Monsanto healthy foods would he suddenly mend his ways? I’m sure it’s not so simple—the patterns of a lifetime probably could not so easily be changed—but I’ve no doubt he would see changes, in health, in mood and attitude, and possibly, just possibly, in more fundamental ways.

To really see changes would probably take a few generations. We raise our children from the day they’re born on healthy mineralized foods (well, okay breast milk from day one—hopefully mineralized breast milk),but we may still pass on some deficiencies to them because of our years of eating unhealthy, unbalanced foods, but their children stand a chance of achieving optimal well-being, and of expressing their fullest potential.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I struggle financially in this world because the global marketplace is at a scale that is too large for me to handle. The global marketplace hides cause and effect relationships and is destructive and dehumanizing.

I need to operate within a much smaller economy—a homestead with some local exchanges. I just need to figure out a way to earn enough money to buy some good land, build a good cabin and outbuildings, and supply it with all the tools I’d need to live self-sufficiently.  Then I’d be able to live in a proper-sized economy. The majority of our physical needs should be supplied locally. From the rest of the world we should only trade inspiration, love, beauty, culture, art, spirituality, knowledge, stories, dance, wisdom, dreams, myths, friendship, peace, kinship, sun, moon, stars, wild imaginings, and only those physical commodities that spring uniquely from the locale. Spices from the Spice Islands, Vidallia onions from Georgia, ginger and tea from China, maple syrup from Vermont, olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Italy, etc. The unique expressions of particular places should be our only commodities, and with limits. Certainly the earth should be left intact as much as possible—not ripped apart for diamonds and coal.

Monday, July 27, 2009

There’s a metaphysical aspect to gardening and eating fresh healthy foods. I’ve been experiencing this most strongly with the herbs—I feel like each one has its own personality and each one shapes human expression when ingested. Plants are powerful. It seems important to take in a wide variety of plant essences—not just for generic health but because in a metaphysical way we absorb their attributes. We will be sickly humans as long as we continue to eat the standard American diet—we will be physically sickly, but more than that, we will be diminished humans, unable to reach our full potential.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A few nights ago I had a dream that is still lingering in my mind. I had moved back east. In the dream it was Kentucky, but it looked just like Pennsylvania. I was moving into a simple, pleasant-looking house that sat on the edge of a forest. There was a front lawn that would be perfect for gardening and the woods would offer lots of wild foods and materials for crafting. I was going to be working at a Folk School of some sort. The whole feeling of the dream was one of coming home to my destiny, being where I belonged and doing what I was meant to do. And also of finally being a part of a like-minded community. I felt such deep contentment.

In my mind I can immerse myself in the setting of this dream and when I’m snapped back to reality here by some practical concern like having to move the water in the garden, the whole aura of the dream lingers and I feel like I’m a different person. If I lived in that landscape I would be the fullest expression of myself. For those fleeting moments where I’m transitioning back to reality here I am that fuller self.  It’s beautiful while it lasts, but it leaves such an ache in my heart. For a few moments, the aura of that land gets superimposed on the land here and it feels like anything is possible. I so desperately need to get back home.

The Folk School reference in the dream was interesting—and totally unexpected. It made me realize that a very core part of me is my love of traditional skills and crafts. Also it was clear that this love of mine is an expression of the energy of the whole Appalachian region, as evidenced by the Folk Schools that sprang up there.

Maybe part of my destiny there will be to teach classes. First, I will have to learn all the skills involved in self-sufficiency, but eventually I should have a wide range of hands-on knowledge to pass along.  It would be neat one day to have my own mini Folk School.

Last night I had a strange dream. I was in a forest with some other people in these wildcats chased us up the trees. These were mountain lions, leopards, panthers, etc.—the big cats except these either weren’t full grown or were just smaller varieties of each species—like medium-sized dogs, maybe.  Anyway, there was a person above me in the tree I had climbed so I was blocked from going any higher. A cat climbed up and started clawing at me. I grabbed it by the neck and kept punching and kept punching it in the face and head until it was disoriented enough that I could toss it to the ground. Then another one came up after me. This one I grabbed by the scruff of the neck and swung it around and around in circles to get it dizzy, then I tossed it. They kept coming up and I kept abusing them and tossing them away. In the end I had bloody hands but no other apparent injuries. I sensed that the cats were not going to allow themselves to continue to be harassed but would simply move on to new territory to get away from us humans. I felt sorry that we had entered their territory and forced them out—all I had intended was simply to save my own life.

The dream might simply be a metaphor for what we’ve done to so many animal habitats, but I wonder if there isn’t more to it than that.