Saturday, January 28, 2012

giving and receiving in tucson

besides the interactions with people i stayed with, there were many opportunities to engage in positive exchange with projects i felt were aligned with my vision. some i sought out and some i just came across through happenstance.

a great example of a happenstance exchange occurred in the first week i was in tucson. i went to the post office to try sending a package for my niece's birthday and they were closed. since i had enough stamps on me to cover the postage all i needed to get it in the mail was some tape to seal it. i proceeded to look for a place to buy or ask for some tape. only a block away from the post office i came upon a place called the drawing studio. i felt drawn to it you might say. i wasn't sure if they were open but the door was unlocked and when i stepped inside i was greeted by a young woman who said she was just getting back from having some lunch. i noticed they were in the process of hanging a show. when i explained my situation she was able to provide some packing tape! i was so grateful and asked if i could be helpful in hanging the show. she said that would be nice because a couple of the volunteers had not been able to make it. after putting the package in the mail box back at the post office and having some lunch myself, i helped out for a couple hours, mounting artwork on the wall with long thumbtacks mostly. i was just thrilled to be engaging in this positive exchange spontaneously. it is one of my main goals of the trip.

i found the native seeds SEARCH store/seed library on my first trip into tucson after being out at neill's for a few days. i went back later that week for a salon in which two women prepared dishes that included indigenous ingredients. after the salon i filled out volunteer registration form and gave it to laura, the volunteer coordinator. she misplaced my form and it was not until after my time at sleeping frog farms that i ended up spending a few hours packing seeds at their seed bank. i found the atmosphere there very familial and relaxing. i got to meet the director and his wife, who seemed very pleased to have a cycle tourist come and help out.
i showed laura how to turn one of their bulk seed bags into a shopping tote. her baby boy gave me the blessing of his smiling spirit.
i would have liked to work out at the conservation farm, but alas, there was not time for that. others will have to do that good work.

my first day back in tucson after sleeping frog i went to do some work on my bike at BICAS. i'd gone there the week before and helped out for almost an hour cleaning headset parts to be reused in artwork. so i got to use the tools free of charge to true up my wheels, lubricate derailleur cables, and take off the pedals to thoroughly clean and lubricate them. i was going to regrease them but couldn't get the caps off. there has been a clicking sound coming from the pedals that i wanted to get rid of, and i was happy to find that this cleaning and lubrication with tri-flo did the trick! i wish i could have done more to contribute to BICAS. their positive impact in tucson is huge.

after leaving BICAS that day i went in search of the office of sustainable tucson, which i had heard was around there. while riding around seeking i was attracted to a little garden by a big road that was attached to a school. there was a class just finishing up and i decided to go see if i could have a closer look. as i approached i saw a sign that said 'Davis Community Garden', or something like that, and i was like, "that's my name!" what a coincidence! so anyway i was glowing as i went in and introduced myself. the folks there were very nice and one little girl asked me talked to me a bit. she asked if i was going to have a garden when i finished traveling. yup.
i harvested some beautiful rosemary, thyme, oregano, and one branch of italian parsley.
i asked if there were any other community gardens or whatnot in the area i should check out. they directed me to one very close by and asked if i had been to the food bank garden down in the south end. no i had not, but i told them i had contacted the manager there, chris, and not gotten a response. they said i should just come out and help out if i wanted. when they were telling me how to get there we found that the place i was going to be staying is that of their recent housemates! well isn't that just perfectly perfect? it was not too much farther south than this little community farm i had been wanting to see and help out at.

so the next day i went to Las Milpitas de Cottonwood community farm in the late morning. there i found the guys, one of whom i met the previous day, just finishing up planting some trees. next we began building some screens for sifting compost. it was really just a two person job, so i went ahead and used the one screen they already had to get started on the pile.
at this place they compost mainly in windrows currently, but i was told they have tried various things. one new component of the composting system is a large pit that they will be inoculating with worms and hopefully having a productive worm farm. they get materials donated from local landscaping business and from folks who have horses in the area. collecting food scraps from the local community has been difficult to coordinate, but there is one can by the gate where people can make deposits.
i was told that a composting toilet is part of the plan for developing the community center here. the details are being worked out by a committee.

these are several of the wonderful people i had the pleasure of spending time with in the last week i was in tucson.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

surfing tucson

after staying the first week with my friend neill and his parents i stayed for the next week with various members of the couchsurfing community. i sent out a bunch of requests at once and tried to meet or stay with as many of these wonderful people as i could. it is more difficult staying at different places each night, but is a more rewardingly diverse experience.

the first guy i stayed with made us dinner and we had great conversation before he went out for the evening. the pizza was vegan, with an almond and roasted red pepper sauce, until we added some chevre i had bought at a farmer's market. i had collected some wild mustard that went well with the meal too.
nick gave me some food to take with me for lunch the next day too. this hospitality was a very nice treat as i have been taking care of my own food needs often at my host's places. it gets tiring.

at the next place i stayed i was greeted with a hug. these folks accepted my help and advice on their compost. there was lots of music happening at their house and i went back a few nights later to attend a little drum circle they had around a little fire in the yard.

i stayed one night at a punk house that used to be called 'the barnyard', but now has no name. they have chickens and one large sunken vegetable bed. i was allowed to pee on the compost pile there and cook food in their kitchen with my friends. i did not find this place on couchsurfing actually. three kind people, the first people i met upon arrival in tucson, were staying there and introduced me. the house reminded me of when i used to be part of the anarchist/punk house circles in seattle. there is this wonderful communal spirit that i don't find often in other living situations.
one evening we made dinner and ate while two guys were having band practice in the room right next to us. we all put earplugs or toilet paper in our ears and toughed it out. very abrasive punk music on drum and bass. it is one of the more unusual experiences of the trip.
the house has a pretty good library of books on gardenning and composting, including the rodale 'complete book of composting', which i sat with for some time during one of my visits.
here are a couple of quotes from the book:

'the old-fashioned gardener obtains a black earth in his garden which a farmer never could produce in his fields'
-dr. ehrenfried pheiffer

'nothing is more certain than that continual cropping without manure deprives the soil of it's fertility.'
-james madison

another couple i stayed with let me make breakfast for them with eggs and greens i had gotten from the sleeping frog farm stand at the farmer's market. anya was advanced in her pregnancy and i really wanted to make her some healthy food as a way of supporting a healthy birth. but then of course i want to offend them by implying that what they were eating was not healthy. i find this kind of situation a little frusterating.
david and anya played a game of frisbee golf with me one day. it is the first time i have played! the discs are not controlled in the same way that the standard ultimate frisbee disc is, so it was a little discouraging. i battled through feelings of inferiority and had a pretty good time overall. i was happy to have been shown this by my hosts.
the course was interspersed with mesquite trees. many of them were damaged from being hit with frisbees. the ground was bare and compacted from being trampled continuously. there was a lot of litter. overall i found it a sad ecological impact on the place. i suppose that contributed to my sour mood during the game. stewardship is needed even on frisbee golf courses!

the last couchsurfing host i stayed with was down on the southwestern fringe of tucson, a good fourty minute ride from downtown. they were just getting settled in there. it is the family home of one of the girls, who is the one with the couchsurfing account. she has moved back there to try and create the cooperative household she and her friends envision. there is an idea to eventually have a school there!
i got excited when i heard that one of them was already depositing his humanure in the compost pile! the pile had been hastily made, without the proper mix of carbon. so i got permission and gave it a makeover. it is an open-fronted, pallet bin. when i moved the material, which was manly food scraps, asside i noticed that it was quite hot. the carbonaceous material i decided to layer in was bedding from when they had a horse there. it was mostly fine hay with a bit of horse manure in it. i also used this as a cover material in the poop bucket. it turned out not to be ideal, as it was smelly, but it served alright. clean sawdust or some kind of duff would have been preferable.
while at this house i decided to make some sourdough bread. i got a starter from small planet bakery and got flour to feed it right away at food conspiracy coop. that night i made the dough and in the morning produced one small loaf of very fine bread! i made to batches after that, with great success. i brought part of the first loaf to the bakery as i had told them i would let them know how it went. the man there had said that they used it more as a flavoring and it probably wouldn't do much levening... but it did! it acted just like any old sourdough i've ever used. if anything it was a little more sour and highly active.

Monday, January 23, 2012


in the first week i was in the tucson area i was taken to biosphere2 by my host neill. i stayed with him and his parents a little west of tucson. neill works at biophere2, using his skills as a scientist and adept climber.

i helped out with insulating a little shed for storing really expensive lasers to be used in some experiments. it was housed in the 'mountain' of the tropical rainforest area.

just before leaving we collected some lemons from the tree in the little orchard.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

exploring the world from tucson

while in tucson i have spent a fair amount of time online exploring projects related to the theme of my trip. here i've compiled links to the videos and websites that i felt could be interesting or useful to you.

humanure composting is one topic that is of great interest to me. it could greatly increase our quality of life to recycle this valuable resource. when i searched for videos of joseph jenkins i found this one i had not seen of a project in haiti, this one of a visit to mongolia, a related project in guatemala (with a fun soundtrack!), and a couple videos about the loveable loo, one of which is a music video.

cob ovens are another helpful technology i'm interested in. i found a wonderful video of a project in spokane, wa. the woman who led this project has a company with her husband called firespeaking.

there is a strong urban agriculture presence in detroit and i watched every video i could find related to it on youtube:
urban farming detroit
urban farming detroit (cont)
brother nature farm
farmer and the philosopher
building the green city

i then found one of a goat birth in seattle! these are acquaintances of mine actually.

another project i discovered is called lammas. on their website you can find videos of their community and related places. i found it all very encouraging and wonderful!

brad lancaster is someone in tucson who is notorious as a advocate of permaculture and water harvesting. in the second volume of his rainwater harvesting books i read the inspiring story of a village in india that cooperatively increased it's viability through rainwater harvesting techniques. we could do the same in our communities! this organization in rajastan, india, continues to support this work.

Friday, January 20, 2012

night in the desert

from apache junction to tucson was too far to ride in one day, and neither of the people i had contacted for couchsurfing had replied, so the idea was to sleep somewhere out in the desert. i wasn't excited about it, but open and curious.

before florence i zig zagged through big farm land, where i saw my first cotton fields. i probably could have picked up enough cotton off the side of the road to insulate a small house! but i just gathered a little to send to my brother's kids. there were some dairy opperations and crops in different stages of cultivation. some hay fields. all was fairly dreary and unappealing to look at. the state of conventional, modern agriculture...

in florence the highlights were a bowl of butter bean soup at Florence Fudge Company and picking very ripe black olives from a beautiful tree nobody else seemed to notice. there were shrivelled olives in perfect condition all over the ground! i would later brine them at my host's in tucson to render them edible.
i filled water at a rancho sonora. the water there, from a well i was told, tasted wonderful compared to what was available in florence.

while riding this straight and level road i felt very tired and unmotivated, but i just pushed on. i passed wash after wash, and saw they might make good places to camp (not in the monsoon season!). there were fences about twenty yards back from the road though so one would have to tolerate the noise of the cars. i decided i would seek a road to turn off and camp back a ways. the one i found, as it was getting towards dusk, was called anya rd. it was a private dirt road. i could see signs of cattle in the ditch next to the road where i decided to sleep. i hoped they would not step on my head in the night.
i saw the sun set and the moon rise as i ate my dinner, sitting on my mat, wrapped up in the sleeping bag. as the sun rose in the morning the moon was getting close to setting. there was frost on my bag, but the day looked like it would be a warm one. i had been cozy enough with my sweater around my feet in the bag and the extra blanket that i had found in L.A. on top.

i stopped at all three 'roadside table's' along this stretch of highway. they were funny little rest areas where i stretched, sat, and at the last one dried my bedding in the sun.
the next time i stopped to fill water was at the office of an RV park a few miles from catalina. when i rolled through catalina i decided to stop for a break and bite to eat at Claire's Cafe. places like this really comfort me when riding through areas that are dominated by big box stores and gas stations. everything seems corporate, and i keep my eye out for places that have some funky, homey feeling to them. the food was not what i'd hoped (low quality ingredients), but it was served with kindness and the atmosphere was nourishing.

miles and miles of malls it seemed like as i entered tucson and followed the signs toward downtown, where i hoped to find a natural food coop and library.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

suburban density

i found some folks through who would host me at the last minute. after the long, dreary ride out to their place in an R.V. park near Apache Junction i ate like a racehorse. the sour cream i had bought went perfectly with the kind of mexican-themed meal. my hosts, bill and gerri, had already eaten, but they sat with me at the table while i ate and we all talked. very nice!
they live in a cozy mobile home and have another one, their old one, a couple spots down. they rent it out sometimes, but it was available for me have it all to myself for these two nights. i dug the efficiency of these little homes.

the way all these people have chosen to live in close proximity to each other and in smaller spaces was appealing to me. there was a good, neighborly atmosphere and i saw a lot of people walking around. cars always yield to walkers or cyclists!

i went hiking with bill and gerri on that fine, sunny sunday. the desert environment felt so alien to me those first few days. spending time walking through this wilderness area was a good way of becoming acquainted with the native plants. i decided that i really like the palo verde, with it's green bark. i've since learned that the beans from this legume are edible!

i saw young and very old saguaro cacti, and learned that the arms sometimes bend down after freeze damage. also i noticed that the cacti would often grow under nurse plants that provide shade, nutrients, and frost protection.

i always offer to help with anything i can around the place. it is part of my mission on this trip. gerri did some washing of their house in preparation for waxing, but didn't want help. bill had me dig around one shrub to see if it could be moved to another spot, but it proved too much of a task to be worthwhile. that evening i cooked us dinner of sauteed vegetables and roasted acorn squash with pearled barley. that was satisfying!
that evening i also got to use the sauna over at their recreation center. it was very peaceful as i decided to spend my whole time in there and not sit in the chlorinated hot tub, where folks were socializing.
in the morning gerri and bill were going on a group bike ride with a bunch of other older folks. our routes were the same for the first few miles. it was cool to start out this day of riding among other cyclists. it gave me good momentum.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

food everywhere!

in phoenix i stayed the first night with a friend of my father's. at his place i was welcomed to harvest some oranges and some kind of grapefruit. looks like a pomello to me, but i'm not very familiar.
there seem to be fruit trees or some kind of food growing at the homes of every one of my hosts! isn't that great?

hooping in phoenix

in a park i was riding through i found a couple of women hooping. it was a regular class led by one of them. i sat for a while observing them and then went and introduced myself. i was told i could hang out and play with a hoop if i liked. i did and found some pleasure in it. this time i noticed how the hoop massages the body. feels so nice. there are not many ways to work out and get a massage at the same time.
they were listening to some nice music from a device, but i took over for a while with the mbira at the end of the session. i think it makes great hooping music. they enjoyed it and one of them tried playing while hooping. it is possible!

when i went to use the public restroom in old town scottsdale i met a guy outside of it who spoke with me for a while. his name is salvador martinez and he prays every morning and evening for everyone, good and bad people alike. he says we are coming into a particularly dangerous time and we need those prayers.

a little farther along, right near the civic center library, i found a little vegetable garden! the first plant i noticed was the red chard, with it's deep red stems and shiny leaves. while i was hanging out there i corrected a couple of folks who misidentified it as rhubarb. there was also a beautiful center piece of italian parsley! i didn't have much for lunch, so i was grateful for this sustenance. i noticed a lot of other folks taking note of this unusual sight in public space. redical!
one of my missions today was to find a community garden in phoenix! i have not been able to find info online about any major projects. cool to just come accross this one, and basically right where i was dropped off by my rideshare!

this gaudy sculpture is right accross from the garden. love indeed. it is all we need.

Friday, January 6, 2012

glorious rideshare

sometimes i wonder why i go to so much trouble to find rideshares. while in L.A. i probably spent a few hours total checking for rides, posting, and e-mail coordinating. the price of train would have been only ten to fifteen dollars more than i contributed for gas, but i would have had to put my bicycle in a box. so i had patience and the ad finally came that looked promising. a guy going to phoenix with a van! we decided he would pick me up at six on friday the 6th.

chris was not only a really nice guy, but we saw eye to eye on just about every topic. we talked about love, spirituality, radical economics, food/nutrition, and many other things. we introduced each other to some new ideas too, achieving a good degree of eloquence throughout our conversation. it was a blast! this kind of connection with a person that i have no previous history with is so thrilling to me. as i continue on this path i seem to find more and more of these connections. helps me to imagine how living in love with the whole world could be.

during the trip i finished patching the little holes in my sleeping bag. it is not a down bag, but the filling still pokes out annoyingly. not anymore!

i've passed quickly through this rideshare into the land of the cactus. when i looked up from my sewing and saw the saguaro all around i was struck by the strange presence, as i have not been among them since before i can clearly remember.

i had the thought at a rest stop, and shared with chris, "we could create a little oasis here with all the water we use to flush the toilets." not to mention all the poop and pee we could compost and use to grow plants! it also occurred to me that decomposition must happen more slowly in this dry environment.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

awakening the bay

i attended an event called 'adaptogen' while in the bay area. there i participated in a song circle and received reiki and massage. there was beautiful, healing music the whole evening, led by gabe. besides being a gifted musician, he was quite an enveloping hugger. i also got the honor of sitting in for the woman serving tea while she got some healing.

one of the women i served tea to was elicia, a woman who works with this project called Awakening the Bay, which has now expanded to become awakening 360. i'm not sure i understand the way they are affiliated or what kind of organization or whatever this can be considered. you may have to check it out yourself. the important thing for me is the emphasis on 'AWAKENING!' and that i had a wonderful interaction, including a sweet hug, with this kind-spirited woman.
another 'AWAKENING!' -related organization i was informed about while in the bay is generation waking up. how i heard about this one is when i stopped by this house called 'the playground', which i had heard about at the party i attended nearby a couple nights before, and the guy who answered the door ended up sharing this impirational video with me. or some version of it. this was after we had discovered that we know the same wonderful person, kayla, who is now interning at Green String, and had walked around the garden together, which is what i came to this house seeking to do.
it was a nice garden with many redwood trees watching over it. i picked some resplendent italian parsley with gratitude.

i hope you too get a good feeling from knowing these projects are afoot!