Saturday, December 31, 2011

L.A. days

there is a big wetlands near where my aunt lives. we went for a walk there on the first day of my visit. i had no idea that there was this wilderness area being restored in this huge city. the most dramatic bird sighting we had was of an egret about fifteen feet from us on the walk down to the trail. i notice the big piles of dried cat tail fronds and think they could be spread out as mulch to reduce watering needs and lend all the other benefits of mulch. i wonder why they instead are piling them all into a dumpster, presumably to take them off sight? could be that there is a good reason.
this brisk walk on a sunny L.A. day was a really nice way to visit with my aunt.

i met this guy outside a whole foods market on the 31st and connected with him on a deeply spiritual, while kind of nonchalant level. he was just sitting there eating his lunch, saying hello and happy new year to folks walking by. when he said hello to me i noticed what a good energy he was putting out and commented, as i went to unlock my bicycle, "what a nice, open spirit there." we proceeded to converse, share food and resonate good vibes. when i left he said, "nice to have shared with you. it's how we heal ourselves. have a perfect day!" and i rode off smiling.

on new years eve i made my first attempt at making egg nog. it did not turn out well. we still raised those glasses and drank it down. i was the only one in the house up at midnight. i went outside in the street, spun around a few times, and looked at the stars. when the time came i could hear the fireworks going off in almost every direction, but could see none. there was a part of me that yearned to be dancing and kissing some beautiful woman.

i got some goat liver at the santa monica farmer's market just as they were closing. nobody in this household is interested, so i've been eating a bit of it every day. i've been aware of the benefits of eating liver for some time now, but it is nice to read a well referenced article now and then to be reminded of them.

on wednesday i went to the santa monica farmer's market again. tis time i got there in time to do more looking around and purchasing of the fine produce. i found the 'fairview gardens' stand and got some beautiful broccoli and red kale. after seeing their place i feel very good about purchasing their produce.
on the way home i stopped at this awesome cafe called uephoria loves rawvolutionto get a juice and finish a logo design i was working on. the energy there was so nice. guess i was creating it... a guy who works there saw me working and said, 'i need a logo..." if i take it on and he likes what i come up with i could drawing a logo for him!

mostly i helped out while here by cooking. raking up leaves was the only garden work i did. i also took out the compost a few times and added some leaves to the worm box. karynn has a nice little vegetable garden in which i found, my favorite, italian parsley! lots of great-looking perennial herbs too! there are a few fruit trees, but the apricot has never produced. maybe one of these years.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

trees and people

we are related to trees. i feel a great gratitude towards trees. i feel a deep brotherhood with trees. when i am riding my bike up a hill or through opressive landscapes i get encouragement from trees by the roadside. trees are great givers, supporting many organisms that feed on them and use them for shelter. in life they have a symbiotic relationship with fungi, and when they die the fungi help decompose their bodies so that they may feed the next generation of trees.

this story about how trees communicate through relationships with mycelial networks was recently brought to my attention.

another beautiful video related to this theme of trees is the man who planted trees, an animated film which i just watched for the first time! beautifully made, just as i had heard.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

ojai to L.A.

larry gave me and the bicycle a ride down to the ventura train station on his way in to santa barbara in the morning. i thook the train from there to L.A. the pacific surfliner trains offer bike hooks for free and easy transport of bicycles! i happened to get on the same train that i had taken in to santa barbara and was greeted by the same friendly conductor.

on the train i met a guy who was on his way back to L.A. after doing a bicycle trip from there to santa barbara on some trails back in the hills and mountains... dirt he said. not sure how to find info about this route, but it sounds interesting. this young man said he was interested in working in law enforcement some day. he thought the friendship bracelet, which i finished while sitting next to him, was pretty cool.

it was a hot day in L.A. and when i got out of the shaded downtown streets the sun felt a little oppressive. i decided to linger in the cool and quiet of the USC campus for a couple hours, since i was in no hurry to show up at my aunt's. there are often such nice trees on college campuses! i like being in their presence. i can usually find places to pee outdoors too, which i prefer to peeing in a toilet. while there i did some eating, reading, wood carving, mbira playing, drawing, and wrote a post card.

there are lots of fixie riders in L.A. i counted at least 18 between the university and downtown. by the bike trail i took part of the way i found a wool blanket in a huge free pile! i'd been thinking recently it would be useful to have over my sleeping bag if i sleep out on colder nights or where there is dew. i often find the things i need along the way. in santa barbara i found a wool, button up shirt on top of a municipal garbage can.
the guy who had put it in there was sitting nearby in the bus stop and said to me, 'that shirt's no good you know, the collar's all messed up," which was the case, as well as that it was missing all its buttons, but i assured him that i could mend it and thanked him for passing it on to me. he was having a bad day... had lost his radio, then found a gold ring, which he thought he could pawn and buy a new radio, then he lost the gold ring! i told him i was sure his luck would come through for him again.
the cold wheather riding gloves i now have were given to me by tom, of the walnut farm. they came along just in time! well maybe just a little late... the week before that i had a frightening experience in which my hands froze numb on a morning ride and i experienced fifteen minutes of strange shock while recovering at my destination.

i arrived at my aunt's around dark. it was cool to get a better idea through this bike ride of how L.A. is shaped and what lies in the places between.

santa barbara area

the day i arrived i spent a couple hours at the wonderful santa barbara library. i used my allotted hour on the computer and then entertained myself with a short science fiction story. back out on the bustling State street i asked a cyclist who looked very um... alternative? with panniers... if he knew where i could find a natural food store. he did not. we struck up conversation though and i ended up hanging out with him for nearly an hour at a cool park nearby he was going to take a nap in. this man, kenneth loch, impressed me as a very clarified spirit. the channel was open between us. he talked a lot about himself, but was a good listener too. i was thrilled to find someone i felt was of my tribe.
my host larry picked me up at a coffee shop near the pier and we went to a wonderful potluck. it was high up in the hills above santa barbara, in a community called 'painted caves'. when we arrived there was caroling underway in a gazebo which was up at the highest point of our host's very high up property. it was a spectacular view for sure. the singing circle ended shortly after we got there, to my dissapointment. i met the my second enlightened tennis player of the day and many other wonderful, relatively aware individuals.

the place where larry lives in meiners oaks, near ojai, has quite a nice little garden with several productive fruit trees and pretty nice, loose soil. this garden has been established by the owner, george, over the years. the was they compost is by digging a hole under the blood orange tree, depositing the quart or so of compost, and covering it back up. it works, and has its benefits i suppose. it felt good adding my pee to the soil in the yard as well. the blood oranges were not ripe when i was there, but the meyer lemons and satsuma mandarins were! my family used to buy satsumas every year around the holidays and they were a favorite treat. this year i got to eat them right off the tree! how wonderful! and i've had the pleasure of drinking almost all my water with lemon in it since santa cruz.

on the saturday the 24th was the farmer's market in santa barbara. i make a point of attending the farmer's markets whenever i am able. there was quite a bit of wonderful produce at this one and i spent $30. my last two bucks i spent on chantrelle mushrooms and the guy hooked me up well! i ran into my friend karolina at this market. she is someone i knew in seattle who has now worked with nash's organic produce for some years. it was funny because nash's came up significantly in the conversation i had with the guy i met on the bus from cambria a few days before... karolina and i made tentative plans to meet up on monday to go out to fairview gardens, a place i heard about first at the potluck and intended to visit.

finding the library was closed for the holidays i wandered back towards the farmer's market, thinking if i could find a place to get cash back on a debit transaction i could buy more food. i went in a cafe called our daily bread, but decided not to indulge, then next door at c'est cheese i bought some creminelli wild boar salami. no cash back. so next i stepped into the little used book store. there i ran into one of my fellow Greenstring interns, Richie! i had forgotten he lived in santa barbara and was so surprised and pleased to see him. inquiring with the sharp, old shop owner about whether there were any henry miller books there, she instructed me to look on that wall under 'H'. the first one to catch my eye was his 'BIG SUR and the oranges of heronimous bache', which i ended up purchasing. no cash back here either though. when i got back to the farmer's market they were breaking down anyway. i picked a few broken carrots off the ground at the stand where i had bought carrots. scavenging feels so natural to me. while munching i stopped to check out the crafts of this girl selling knotwork jewelrey by the sidewalk. i had a bracelet in progress pinned to my pants and i shared that with her. it was nice to connect with someone who also does this kind of work.

later in the day saturday i went to a ukulele club meet up outside the maritime museum. they were playing/singing christmas carols on a park bench by the sidewalk. i joined right in and it was really great fun! at times i was off key or said the wrong words, but i just love singing with other people!

a hula hooper woman did some dancing there before i arrived and then i got to meet her towards the end when she was on her way out. i told her i was on a HOOP TOUR and she said she is traveling too. she mentioned the 'sacred hoop' and i felt a mutual recognition in our brief interaction. her website is hooping allure. she is a beautiful dancer!

i did not end up connecting again with karolina, but rode my bike out to fairview gardens on monday anyways. it is a nice bike ride out to goleta from the santa barbara waterfront. there is actually a bike trail that i did not find that would have made the ride even nicer, though a bit longer. i at my lunch contentedly when i arrived at the farm, then went on the self-guided tour, after which i donated the suggested $3. i had hoped they would have some clementines and avocados for sale, but the stand was closed. when i peeked through the covering i saw butternut squash curing on every surface. this farm is doing some very important work. they have made the self-guided tour very informative with several "interpretive panels".

my father had been telling me i must spend some time with larry's sister and her husband, who is director of sustainability at besant hill school, which is near the town of ojai. we rode bikes up there one evening shortly before sundown (beautiful time of day for this ride!) and then i went back a couple days later to see the farm in the daylight and talk more with tod. peter, the manager of the farm there, which is a CSA providing some of the food for the school and wider community, spoke with me for a while and answered some questions about the practices there. some things i liked were the use of mulch, hand cultivation, and cover crops. one of his main goals is to reduce the water usage of the farm dramatically by increasing levels of organic materials in the soil and mulching, among other things.
tod was pruning an apple tree when i rolled up to his place, so i joined in. we conversed while sawing and snipping. we then shared a late lunch and i used the computer to figure out my travel plans for the next day. google maps has been a very helpful tool for me all along the way. after trying to figure out L.A. public transit i decided i would just ride from the train station to my aunts house. the tree pruning was very satisfying work, something i had hoped to do a little of this year, as i have been learning how it is done in the last few years. it was tempting to stay another day and help out more. there are many places on this trip i've felt this way.

on my way back from basant hill i stopped to check out the natural food store in ojai called rainbow bridge. i really didn't need anything, but got some garlic and ginger just in case it was hard to find good stuff in L.A. the woman in front of me at the register let me go ahead, and i bagged her groceries for her. turned out she was an important member of the local sustainability scene! she was involved in pesticide-free ojai and possibly ojai valley green coalition? or something like that. way cool! more mutual recognition with someone supporting important healing work.

Friday, December 23, 2011

seaside>big sur>grover beach>santa barbara

while passing through forest grove, south of monterey, i stopped to read this educational mural on the bike path. part of the first of three panels read:

"the native people of this coastal area - the Rumsien Ohlone and the Esselen - lived in a world of natural beauty and abundance for thousands of years."

i just got to santa barbara. it was a great trip this morning on the train. yesterday after arriving by bus in pismo beach i meandered around the pier for a while and then went to the train station to see if i could get on a train to santa barbara. the next one was to be at 7am the next morning. i had mistakenly thought i had a couchsurfing host, but he was not able to host me. so i hunkered down and spent the night in the waiting room of the station. the room provided shelter from the wind, but is not a fully enclosed space, so i had to keep bundled up in my sleeping bag. i meditated, ate food, drank tea(able to get hot water at a starbucks), played a little mbira, and chatted with one guy who stopped by for a while. i looked like a hobo, but i was just waiting for the next train.
i was not too cold, but a little uncomfortable on the hard floor. the previous three nights were more comfortable, on beds of evergreen needles (pine, redwood, and cypress). i felt so blessed to find comfortable places each night. really the station was not too bad, just the hard floor.

i took a little side trip in Big Sur, up a winding road in a redwood-lined canyon called Paulo Colorado Canyon. my hosts in Seaside had mentioned a guy who has a place somewhere up there and had some connection to a goat farm? i'd decided it was too out of the way and i probably would not find it, but then when i got to the road i said, "here i go!" and headed on up. maybe it was the trees calling me. anyway i ended up finding lloyd's place, called Merlin's Perch, after talking to several locals who i stopped on the road.
the property has an AMAZING view facing the coast (helps make the steep climb worth it). lloyd was not there, so i gave myself the tour. on these steep slopes there is a terraced garden with many fruit trees. a redwood tree here and there... a couple trailers are set up for seasonal WWOOFers. it looks like there is a lot of trail building/maintenence going on and that more planting is intended.
the nearby neighbor was also into gardenning and said she was going to put in a vinyard! Ecology Action and John Jevons came up, and when i told her i had visited there she was excited. we really hit it off. an interesting thing she does in her garden is to grind up her own coarse bone meal for her plantings. she felt it had great benefits, and of course it does! sadly she did not have her composting system functioning well. her food waste goes in one of those rotating drum contraptions and did not have enough carbonaceous material mixed in. she complained of the fly problem, but didn't seem receptive to the solution i presented of using cover materials as a biofilter. i would have liked to stay and help her build a nice pile. i know that intervention is not always effective though. i wish her all the best in her pursuit of relative self-sufficiency!

wednesday, the 20th, was a pleasantly social evening at a restaurant called Nepenthe in big sur. the young bartender, apolo, had the most welcoming and kind spirit, and recognized the good spirit in me. i connected with everyone around me very easily that night. it was my solstice celebration a day early. i ended up sleeping outside the henry miller memorial library and leaving before they opened the next morning.

just a little north of the town of cambria i stopped to observe the elephant seals occupying their beaches. there were babies talking with their moms, bulls fighting, and huge, old grandpas snoring. it was cool to see the whole scene. along the way through big sur i saw a couple of coyote, other seals, and many birds of course. wonderfully wild coast despite the highway's infringement.

at the bus stop in cambria i meet a fellow about my age who had been a small farmer in skagit valley, near my home of orcas island, in the past few years. we talked a lot as we waited and then on the bus to the next town. for me it was a very important discussion. he felt that it was important for small farmers to be big enough so that they don't get shouldered out by the really big guys. a good example of what he thinks is an appropriate example is nash's organic produce, who opperate in washington state. i could see there was a conflict in this young man, which i could really relate to, between the desire to be of most help to my community (humanity as a whole?) and the instinct to farm in a very intimate and sensitive way, for which we sacrifice the 'efficiency of scale'. we can see that there is a transition step, or many steps, that agriculture can take on the way to that ultimately more holistic practice of subsistence farming. i'd like to see every human live a long and healthy life. but the health of the whole we are a part of, i believe, requires that we adjust our populations to what our environments can support.
diversity is what i see as being the source of health. if we choose to share the blessings of life with all the other creatures we will live on happily!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

embraced at trout gulch

i had a wonderful visit at trout gulch farm.

i got a little tour from my hostess cole when we arrived in the late afternoon yesterday. she even took me down to take a look at the neglected three-acre plot where they want to establish the farm. i could feel the potential there. it used to be an apple orchard. we hung out in the outdoor kitchen before dinner. sean fed us delightful and smokey slices of seared lamb heart he cooked over the fire! i shared slices of a wonderful sweet pepper i had been given from the alan chadwick garden. i prepared a miso soup and sauteed greens (leek, onion, fennel, romanesco, brussels sprouts, and nettle). cole made radical refried beans and fatty rice. after dinner i kept warm by the little fire pit, meditating and then doing some wood carving on the mini-mask project i have carried with me from orcas.

i slept in a treehouse that was tall enough to stand in and just long and wide enough to sleep in comfortably. books line some walls(clever insulation idea!). i read an old national geographic article about micro chips before falling asleep around eleven i think. i felt really cozy with a mason jar of hot water in the foot of my sleeping bag.

it was a beautiful day starting with a beautiful morning. when the goats were moved from their night time pen to the daytime paddock i jumped up to join the herd. i saw that they could use fresh brush to munch and asked jeremy if i could get some. he showed me where i could cut some oak branches for them. this was a comforting chore as i used to do this all the time for our goats at wild's edge. i also harvested some trailing blackberry for these fine goats later.

the family who owns the land requested volunteers for a work party to pour concrete into the cinder block forms that are becoming the walls of a new room below their current house. this room will be for their youngest son. i was happy to have the chance to help, to give back. the position i took in the party was as the one to pour the concrete into the forms, overseen by a most vigilant man experienced with this kind of work. i enjoyed talking with him. he is writing a book about psychology as it relates to biophelia. i think that is basically accurate. anyway he had some interesting thoughts and appreciated where i was coming from.

i didn't get to meet the main farmer fellow there, but met many of the other members of this loving and hard-working community and was very impressed. it was very tempting to stay, but i felt ready to head on and left feeling elated.

tonight i am staying with some very pleasant 'warmshowers' hosts in seaside. the ride here was taxing and i rode the last twenty miles or so after dark. almost the shortest day of the year! tomorrow i'll hit the big sur coast. we'll see what happens there.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

esalen farm and trout gulch farm

do you know of this place called esalen in big sur? i didn't before this last week. after realizing what this esalen institute has going on i made some efforts to arrange a visit there, but it has not worked out. through these videos i got a better idea of what their farm and garden are like. maybe i will visit there at some other point in my life. for now there are other amazing places on my path to experience.

where i will be going today is a new farm project called 'trout gulch farm'. a girl who has been involved there is going to be working with my younger brother at Wild's Edge on Orcas Island this winter. when i was looking for a place to stay in santa cruz she offered that trout gulch might be a possibility. to make it happen i have had to spend a couple more nights than i intended here in santa cruz, which has led to some other good experiences.
trout gulch is interesting particularly as a bridge between urbanized, media savvy youth and radical, ecovillage lifestyle. hard to describe exactly what i mean... here is an article that supports this perspective. when i see it for myself maybe i will have a better idea of what this means.
anyway, i am excited about this opportunity to see and maybe do some work at this farm!

Friday, December 16, 2011

oakland to santa cruz

this is another section i thought i was going to bicycle but ended up finding another way. i figured i would take the BART to Fremont, bus from there to san jose, and then ride about 35 miles from san jose to santa cruz. but a guy on the bus told me there was another bus that would take me to santa cruz for only $5. the idea of getting there with some daylight left and not having to ride over the mountain led me to go with the bus. all the connections were very easy from BART to bus to bus and i didn't have to wait more than fifteen minutes. the trip cost me about $14.50 and took less than three hours.

another guy, a member of couchsurfing in san jose, who was at the bus stop, informed me that the farmer's market was happening that day in santa cruz. what luck! while on my way to the farmer's market i happened upon this hot tub place called well within that is owned by a friend of my mother. he is traveling i found out, but the guy who received me let me use one of the onsen rooms that happened to be free at that moment! it was wonderful! i had time to heat up in the sauna, do some yoga, heat up again, then dunk in the tub of cold water. i felt so rejuvenated! i gave this kind man some turkey tail mushrooms as thanks.

at the farmers market the cosmic good fortune continued. i had a very nice interaction with a gal who had lived in seattle and then been traveling in argentina for a year. we had both bought nice avocados and she overheard me asking about trout gulch farm. she knew of the road... anyway then i found a place to sit in the sun, play mbira, and eat my lunch. i was kind of abstractly imagining someone asking me if i needed a place to stay when this gal in spandex shorts popped up next to me and asked where i was touring from. she proceeded to ask me if i had a place to stay. i found it really funny because it was almost what i had been imagining. she did not have a place to offer as she was also a traveler, cycling down to LA like me. we may run into each other on the road... she had quite a story and a wild sparkle in her eyes.

i went to the library to use the computer. they charge a dollar per 20 minutes, so i had to make it quick. couldn't find an address for trout gulch farm, where i had been invited to seek hospitality. i brushed my teeth in the restroom as another guy was doing the same, though he seemed to be trying to brush his teeth OFF. i let him use some of my tooth powder.

i went back to the farmer's market and found someone who let me use their cell phone. it was a nice fellow working the 'occupy' table. they were trying to get folks together to 're-occupy santa cruz'. through some calls i managed to secure a place to stay with a friend of a friend of my sister. his name is my middle name, Paul. just as stands were closing down i bought some of the fantastic produce just in case i had a chance to cook. i found some nice folks sitting on an adjacent corner selling crochet hats and other crafts. i ended up doing a partial trade of one of my zines and $15 for one of her bear hats. she got a picture of me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

oakland herb garden

went with alicia when she got her car SMOGged. when we took a walk around the block i picked some herbs, mostly from one somewhat neglected garden that had a nice diversity of perennials. the sage plant was doing very nicely. just what i was looking for!

over the next couple days i used the herbs in soup and in two spectacular omelets.

today i decided to go back there and see if i could help in the garden in order to close the loop directly. the young woman who does the gardening there answered the door and was receptive to my offer of help. we got some funky pruners and a slightly bent hori hori from the basement. she couldn't look at the garden because she said it makes her too depressed. i assured her i had some experience and could direct myself. with joy in my heart i went to puttering around in the garden, mostly deadheading the herbs, taking out some blackberry vines, and clearing dead skeletons of annual plants.

my new friend was very grateful and we chatted over tea (mint and lemon verbena perfection!) before i had to be on my way. she dried the herbs which she had trimmed from plants at the nursery she works for.

kindred travelers

today i discovered two kindred traveler's websites. check them out if you have the time. i know there is a lot of work to do!

this guy just came through seattle recently!
whereas this fellow is way down south on his way to argentina!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

story stick

i'd had a significant experience out in the forest above bob connard's home farm on thanksgiving. i'd told the story of this experience to many of my friends and family. while staying at tom's place, the walnut farm, i got a message from a friend back on orcas island in which he told me i should go back and get a piece of that black oak tree, because it might be an important power item. it was not very convenient at that point to make a special trip back to bob's, hike up to get a piece of this tree, and then go back to green string for one last visit. but i figured out how i could do it and decided it was important enough to me to go to the effort.

tom drove me a little ways to give me a head start. i got a flat tire almost immediately after starting towards bob's. i was really upset about this misshap, but felt determined to do what i could to make the trip. what else could i do? i ended up getting a ride with a nice geologist fellow, who dropped me and the bike off at the bottom of the road that leads up a hill to bob's place. i left my bicycle there and hiked on up. when i got to the farm i ran into bob by the house. it felt strange to be there all by myself on such a peculiar errand. bob acted like it was the most normal thing in the world. he was like, "alright, have fun!"

i hiked up at a brisk pace to the black oak which had acknowledged me. i took some time in choosing the piece i would take from the section that had fallen. all of them seemed similarly decayed, but i chose a piece that still had rigidity to it and had an appealing shape. when i got back down i asked bob if he had a patch kit i could use to fix my flat. at first he didn't think he did, but when he scrounged around somewhere he came up with one! just my luck. beaming, i headed back down the hill, patched the tube, and rode all the way to the intern house at green string, where i arrived in time to share one last meal with the new interns!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

walnut farm

sunday was my last day at the Green String Farm, where i was an intern for three months. it was a tiring period and, while it was also wonderful and a greatly beneficial period of growth, i'm glad to be done with it. i feel a lot lighter.

for these couple nights i stayed with some new friends at the farm of tom's family, where they produce mostly walnuts. i helped shell and harvest some and was given some to take with me.

its been beautiful and sunny here the last week. the nights are very cold.

here is a picture of me with the desert of my first night there. it was a quince tart (unsweetened and crustless) which we put unsweetened whipcream and persimmon-whipcream (my idea) on top of. it was nice and light, and we found the quince and persimmon worked well together. these fruits were from Green String Farm.

a song came to me after a morning meditation while in this peaceful home of my friends:

rainbow warriors
warriors of the heart
there's lots of work to do

the time is upon us
this is just the start
let healing begin in you

oooooooooh unfurl your heart
oooooooooh let magic happen through you

oooooooooh unfurl your heart
oooooooooh the love within surrounds too