Wednesday, February 29, 2012

fort apache to silver city

kristen gave me a ride on friday up to Hon-Dah Casino, near pinetop, where she and kathleen had a meeting that morning. i rode east from there, cringing a little at the cold of this higher elevation. the smell of snow and pine trees was refreshing and new.

i had been told there was a spring along my route. kristen said it was by A-1 lake and this local guy at the mini-mart told me it was actually by the hawley lake turnoff, about seven miles on. so i was on the lookout. i wanted that good water!
at the hawley lake turnoff i didn't find the spigot i was told i would find. i did look around for a while. found a roll of duct tape by the road. i traded this to a guy from michigan who was stopped, playing in the snow with his partner and their little dog, for a quart of water. i didn't find it at A-1 lake either. oh well. there wa plenty of snow around i could melt if i really needed water.
at the sunrise resort, near the ski area, i was able to get some hot water for tea and then i hung out there and read inside where it was warm while i ate my lunch. i found out there that the roads had not been plowed on this route i had thought would save me some time getting to the town of alpine, so i had to backtrack about four miles and continue towards the larger town of eagar.
tried hitching back on the main road and a couple of nice snowboarder guys in a truck took me about eight miles to the turnoff for the small town of greer. the decent to eagar was fairly fast from there. overall i bicycled just over 45 miles between hon-dah resort and eagar, but it was a vigorous day of riding in the thin air of this high elevation. by the time i got to eagar a headache was pretty well established.

i thought i'd find someone to stay with by hanging out at a bar. the bar i found, connected to a restaurant (forgot the name) across from the basha's grocery store, did not feel like the place i would meet my host. i was trying to use my intuition at this point to find some opportunity... noticed a kind of funky looking pickup pull into the grocery store lot and i decided to see if the driver was someone i could approach. she seemed like a nice woman, but when i tried to approach her as she was putting her groceries in the car she pretty much avoided me, closed the door and drove off. seemed almost afraid. this was a little discouraging, but i went back to hang out by the store and see if anyone else would come along who i had a feeling about. the next guy i talked to was receptive and told me he had to finish delivering some hay but would be going back down to this hatchery near alpine this evening... something like that. this sounded perfect! i told him i'd go have a beer at the bar and would he please look for me there? he said he would.
at the bar the couple i saw when i had first stepped in was still there. we chatted for a while and the guy paid for the pint of fat tire i ordered. he works at a prison and has some opinions about how people need to take responsibility for improving their situation. he has little sympathy for those who would blame their circumstances or other people for keeping them down. i concurred, but also tried to bring up the other side of the story, that some people do have more privilege (like he and i for example) and tend to have an easier time improving their lot. his girlfriend felt like it was unfortunate that the apache people didn't seem to have the leaders needed to get them out of their troubles.
they also said they like to garden and grow some of their own vegetables. the guy was interested in learning how to preserve food (mentioned canning) for more variety in the long winter months. in this area there is a short growing season. you can imagine i was full of encouragement for them.
my headache got worse shortly after the beer and i began to feel kind of ill. i sat on the bench by the front door to wait for my ride. by ten he still had not shown up, and i had been nodding off and feeling less and less comfortable sitting there waiting. the guy who had bought me the beer had told me i could probably spend the night in the post office if nothing else came up. they don't lock the doors and it is heated. the folk at the restaurant thought this sounded like a good idea too. so i went to check it out, just a few blocks away.

i was just settling in to this warm, florescent-lit abode when a police officer walked in. someone had seen me enter and called the police. i could have been more careful, or this person could have been less of a jerk. anyway the officer was very nice and honestly seemed to want to help me out in finding an alternative to sleeping in the post office. when he found there were no funds available to pay for a hotel room, as police departments sometimes have, and i remained unwilling to pay, he told me he could take me out to this spot where he thought i might have some shelter and i could sleep without being bothered. it was at the rodeo just on the far side of town.
i loaded the bike and everything in the back seat and after a short drive we came to the rodeo grounds. under the bleachers we found a nice little space which kept me out of view and provided some shelter from wind. it felt right to me, though, i was just so tired at that point i would have slept almost anywhere. my feet were cold much of the night, but i think i got at least eight good hours of rest.

next day i made my way to the town of alpine. it was a clear day but very windy. sometimes it was at my tail, like on some of the hills thankfully, but other times it was a headwind or came at me from the side. made the riding more challenging, but i would just get into a low gear, try to meditate, and keep it steady, taking little breaks every once in a while.
one break i took at a recreational area with access to a reservoir. i used the toilet and brushed my teeth. these vault toilets are disgusting, simply because a cover material is not used. such a little thing, depositing a few handfuls of sawdust after each use, which is more simple than wiping your bottom, makes a huge difference! why is this not the practice? a kind, old german woman, a tourist i believe, gave me encouragement, and a little girl looking at me with curiosity, said hello.
just past the small town (felt like a ghost town) of nutrioso, i came to the highest elevation on the 25 mi. stretch of highway i rode this day was 8550 ft.
when i got to alpine i stopped at bear wallow cafe, where i was attracted by the good vibes i think. there i had a cup of herbal tea and wrote a little of a letter. once i'd gotten up the gumption to try hitching i went out to the far side of town and gave it a shot. after about a half hour a young couple in an older, well-used pickup stopped for me.
these wonderfully generous folks of the town of luna are often the ones to pick up and house travelers in need who are passing through. they told me of a recent experience that went sour, but were kind enough to give another guy a chance. i will not tell the whole story now of these people, but will say that they shared what they had, treated me most considerately, and were pleasant company. when they shared dinner with me i washed the dishes. they gave me a small tent, which i had a hard time deciding to accept, and i gave them one of my last two packages of salmon jerky. i hoped it would be shared with the grandmother, who they said makes many flavors of beef and elk jerky.

in the morning my hosts drove me to 'the Y', which was another 14 or so miles towards silver city. i rode a little ways and then decided to try hitching again. as i approached a little turnout two trucks were coming up behind me. i stuck my thumb out as i slowed. the second truck pulled into the rest stop and i thought they it was for me. but no, this old guy was just in need of a nap. i sat and read more of the book kristen gave me, 'buddha in redface', and waited to see if he would give me a ride once he was done. all i got was a wave when i drove off. i decided this time i would be patient and wait for a ride, even if it felt like a waste of time. i was still kind of unsure what i wanted, to ride this relatively nice section of highway or to get to silver city sooner. after 30-40 minutes someone stopped for me. they had driven past and come back for me!
in this newer pickup were a lesbian couple with two young children in the back seat, where i got to take the last available spot. we chatted most of the way to silver city, stopping only once for a bathroom and snack break. they paid for the lemon i picked out at the gas station market. the five dollar i offered for gas was accepted. i drew on a piece of paper for the kid and the mother had me sign it and write a quote. i decided to write the one that i came up with a couple years ago:

'everything is perfect, but that doesn't mean we can't do things differently.'

and she got it! it was really cool connecting with these folks, who are a teacher and social worker(i think?) now living up in santa fe. i was told there is a woman near to the school where the teacher works who offers produce from her garden for donation. a little spark of urban farming activity. the kids were fun to be in the presence of.

they dropped me off in downtown silver city in the early afternoon and i crossed the street to javalina cafe, where the sound check for a spiritual song performance was just beginning.

Monday, February 27, 2012

urban food forests

recently i was informed about this food forest being created in seattle, the city of my birth. it is an exciting step towards the vision many of us have of producing much of the urban population's food within the city. it may be the first public food forest in the country, but i found some projects in other U.S. cities that are similar.

oakland's planting justice is doing exciting work with food forests in addition to backyard and community vegetable gardens.

chicago's CROP is focusing on apple trees, but will be a community space where people can gather and share in the harvest.

Friday, February 24, 2012

dancing house

here at the home of kristin and kathleen i helped in the garden and the kitchen. i also took pleasure in chopping fire wood.
they had recently acquired a sourdough starter, and i made three batches of bread while there! i baked the bread in these pyrex mixing bowls, which i had never thought to do before. it worked wonderfully. in the last batch i incorporated sprouted wheat and spelt berries and sunflower seeds. this made the bread extra dense. kathleen made a wonderful batch of yeast bread with sprouted grains!
they already had one garden bed mostly planted when i arrived, and i decided to form another couple. the young greens have to be covered at night because of the cold. under the little plastic window i made (plastic blanket package i found in the dumpster sewn to branches with discarded plastic bags) there is cilantro and dill. of course i had to get my hands in the compost pile. i added grey water and urine regularly, covered it with more shredded paper they had on hand, and collected horse manure from nearby to add in addition to the food scraps. there is a lot of horse manure left all around the fort campus and surrounding land. kristin said she may collect it when she goes out on walks.
these girls work for johns hopkins center for american indian health, helping educate the indigenous people about healthier food options and empowering them to grow their own food. while at fort apache i imagined a thriving community garden across the street from their house, in an old play field. the greenhouse could be built on the cracked concrete pad of the old basketball court. i also think that the home garden of kristen and kathleen's could inspire their neighbors to do some vegetable gardening!

kristen shot this wonderful closeup of the bubbly sourdough crust.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

tempe to fort apache

after winter count i stayed with the same couchsurfing host in tempe who i stayed with befor going to arcosanti. we again shared a meal mostly consisting of his CSA produce, prepared by me.
i had arranged with some folks i met at winter count to get a ride with them east from tempe in their van. they are a couple from canada who are on a three month road trip here in the U.S. magical people. kindred spirits. members of my tribe.
we got a late start after a stop at whole foods, where we ran into other winter counters, and at the library, where we ate lunch, chatted with some friendly locals, and used the phone and internet. on our way to globe we observed a nice sunset in the colorful, rocky hills. we didn't get to see the scenery the rest of the way to fort apache, but had a pleasant drive.
we were joyfully received at the home of kristen and kathleen, where food and the warmth of a fire brought us comfort.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

winter count

this week i spent at winter count was very rewarding and energizing. the conference is put on by backtracks, who coordinate another one called rabbitstick in september. at winter count i learned there are several other primitive skills events going on around the country annually.

the trip from north phoenix, where i had stayed with a friend for a couple nights, to the location of the event southwest of phoenix, took me several hours by bike. i left near mid-day and then made a mistake around dusk which added fifteen miles or so to the trip. ugh! it was almost 9pm by the time i got there. i went to the first fire i saw. this was the fire of a nice couple, jill and gary. they gave me the warmest welcome, jill feeding me, giving massage to my tense neck and shoulders, and serving tea! we shared conversation late into the night and then i slept in the bed of their pickup which provided a little shelter. what a blessing to be received this way after tiring trip!

orientation day included registration of participants and introduction of the instructors. by late morning i had still not seen my friend jana, who had told me about winter count and i was excited to see. rather than going through the camping areas in search of her i decided top stay put in the central fire area, where she could find me. after going around the large circle of instructors who were displaying their wares and sharing info about their class offerings, i sat on my sleeping pad next to my flipped-over bike and played mbira. some people mistook me for an instructor as i was sitting in the circle with them, just trying to fill in an empty space to balance the circle.
a boy named Abe came around trying to trade a couple of things and i showed him the friendship bracelets i make. i said i could make one with the colors he likes. he looked around a little more and then came back to me to make the trade. he picked out the colors, gave me the arrowhead in trade, and i got started. the man who was sitting with me while this took place showed interest in the bracelets too. i ended up showing him how to make them, becoming an informal instructor! these interactions helped me to feel embraced.

the instructors had given information on the classes they were offering and i had seen lots of things i was interested in learning, but on the first day of classes i didn't know which one to attend. i thought i would just find something that seemed interesting and had room. i also had the feeling i should start with the basics. near the central fire i found a couple folks sitting on the ground preparing for a class. i asked what they would be doing here. the instructor, a very tan, slender, muscular woman, told me they would be listening to rocks and then learning to make fire. this sounded good to me so i was the second participant to join.

this fantastic teacher was lynx vilden. she started by showing us, by hitting various rocks, one way they communicate with us. their surface, weight, and the smell when struck can also tell us of their qualities and how we might make use of them. this introduced the idea that we could look around us and find the tools we need by making ourselves aware of these qualities in natural objects.
i had noticed how the wood next to me, sotol, made a nice sound when struck. so lynx had me play a rhythm while she struck the various rocks in time with me! i was thrilled to begin the class with this music! as we pecked out sockets in softer rocks and shaped wood with sharp rocks for fire kits lynx taught us a song to work rhythmically to. when lynx demonstrated how to make fire with the hand drill a fire song was offered:

burn fire burn
stoke your inner fire
let the coal inside you rise
blow that flame to life

singing this together in encouragement, we all participated as the ember came to life, was placed in the tinder bundle, and a flame was blown to life! what a remarkable demonstration of community and culture! during this rich class i learned not only how to make fire with what is around me in nature, but how culture and community can be created at the same time!

when the next morning's classes began i was similarly aimless, and ended up finding my way to the 'iceman's knife sheath' class, taught by a wonderful woman named sue. the previous day i had begun to learn about cordage with stinging nettle in another class. with sue i learned how to make twine out of dogbane, milkweed, new zealand flax, and tule. making the sheath satisfied both my interest in doing some weaving and enough practice with cordage to get me established in it.

the next day i found my way to the gourd lady's, where i thought i might find a gourd large enough for a deze. but the biggest one she had was just a little too small for the mbira i carry. this gourd was destined to be made into a mask and bowl, both of which gave me great pleasure to make and to use! i traded the mask during the barter fair on the last day to the guys from elemental awareness for the t-shirt pictured above.

every day at 4pm there was west african drumming, with andrew from the gila area leading. we learned a rhythm and dance and practiced it until we really had it solid! this was one of the many examples of song circle helping us share the spirit at winter count. so healing and strengthening.

on mask night there was a fire performance of a warrior story. then those of us who had been learning the west african drumming and dancing performed what we had learned. i didn't learn the dance, which was performed by almost all women. drumming and dancing around the fire continued for a while, then eventually we moved on to song sharing, story and joke sharing, and finally deep conversation. i took the opportunity to share the message that i see healing taking place and more people waking up to love. when i came out on this trip i felt like part o the purpose was to spread this message.

the atmosphere of the temporary village we created was very productive and pleasant. music could be heard much of the time. i contributed to this by practicing mbira near the central fire sometimes, or around other camp fires in the evenings. one day a band came and put on a square dance with us! i jumped right on that and danced with some beautiful girls.
the night after 'mask night' there was a storytelling circle in one of the tipis. i got to learn from some great storytellers and told a travel story from my time in sicily in 2007. mostly i learned that i have a lot more to learn about storytelling.
while i was in that circle there was a pit roast being cooked in the central fire pit. it was taken out just a little while before i got back to the fire, and i got to pick at what was left after the initial feasting. there was a layer of greens that had soaked up a lot of the juices of the meat, which was wild boar and quail. this is the kind of food i was wishing for! the processed and industrially produced food we ate at breakfast and dinner lack the spirit of the ways practiced at winter count.
this same night i stayed around the fire to share in music. later on mead was passed around and we became very very happy. musical collaboration continued, largely improvised, and we stayed up almost 'til dawn. this was one of the most groovy, harmonious jam sessions i have ever been a part of. the love was really flowing.
since the tent i had been sharing with jana had left with her, i decided i would be sleeping by the central fire pit where it was a little warmer. i only got about an hour of sleep that night before the first people were up and about preparing for the next day.

one of the last events of the gathering was a little barter fair which gave everyone the opportunity to sell or trade things. this is when i traded the mask i had made for the t-shirt. i traded some dried apple and tomatoes for a metal awl. i got some seaweed from one man, which i chose to pay for with cash to his dismay. it would have been better if i had gotten creative and offered something as barter. i actually did offer a red cape i had found on the highway. for their kid. but the wife said their little girl only likes pink. anyway i was very grateful to get some wakame and sea palm that this man had harvested himself. other folks i talked to just wanted to give things away, which really shows the wealth of this tribe.
the next day i traded the mora knife i had earned for dried seaweed from another guy who had brought some. he had dulce and a kind of bladder seaweed that was super tasty. i had run out of bullwhip kelp from home quite a while ago, so this was perfect providence.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

sacred economics

one of the people i met at arcosanti has brought my attention to this book called sacred economics. i read this introduction and perhaps i will read the whole book some day. this paragraph stuck out to me:

'Humanity is only beginning to awaken to the true magnitude of the crisis on hand. If the economic transformation I will describe seems miraculous, that is because nothing less than a miracle is needed to heal our world. In all realms, from money to ecological healing to politics to technology to medicine, we need solutions that exceed the present bounds of the possible. Fortunately, as the old world falls apart, our knowledge of what is possible expands, and with it expands our courage and our willingness to act. The present convergence of crises-in money, energy, education, health, water, soil, climate, politics, the environment, and more-is a birth crisis, expelling us from the old world into a new. Unavoidably, these crises invade our personal lives, our world falls apart, and we too are born into a new world, a new identity. This is why so many people sense a spiritual dimension to the planetary crisis, even to the economic crisis. We sense that "normal" isn't coming back, that we are being born into a new normal: a new kind of society, a new relationship to the earth, a new experience of being human.'

contra dancing

i don't have any pictures from the most recent contra dance i attended in tucson, but here are some from the one i attended with my friend raty in petaluma, back when i was at green string farm.

thanks raty!

contra dancing is a wonderful form of exercise that fosters strong community. in my experience it has also been a beneficial spiritual exercise. to the degree that one is able to open up, make eye contact, and go with the flow, a wonderful grace and joy pervades the dances. we are then communing with god (to me this is awareness of love) as we connect ecstatically with those around us on multiple levels at once. this manifests outwardly in different ways with different people. some smile like crazy and get silly, some seem to just glow calmly.
there is struggle in many people too, some of it just around getting to know the dance form, depending on the level of self confidence a person has. but as those more experienced members of the community help the ones who need it, the graceful feeling is cultivated in time. the energy or those most 'in tune' with the jubilant spirit gets passed on from person to person as the dance progresses. partners dancing together, with their neighbors, and progressing up and down the lines get many chances to exchange kindness and share their joy, if they choose that. some may remain shy or stiff for a very long time, but i think there is still some progress towards opening up the vault of the spirit in every person who engages in this magical dance.

i met several older women at this dance in petaluma who gave me their blessings for my journey. this is extremely valuable to me.
that younger guy with the pony tail said to me during a dance (it could have been as that picture was taken!), 'you have farmer hands!' in a very reverent way that invited me to feel proud of my work on the farm. so nice to be acknowledged in this way.

Friday, February 10, 2012

arcosanti visit

having a room all to myself at arcosanti was very pleasant. it has been a while since i felt that kind of comfortable privacy. being able to sprawl as much as i felt like without concern for offending my host was a treat. hanging out in the cozy space where nobody would be walking through was relaxing. i had a slight headache and was really tired after the day's travels, so i stayed in rather than seeking social interactions with the residents or other guests that night.

over my complementary breakfast i introduced myself to some of the residents who were then starting their days as well. one of the kitchen staff told me i would be welcome to join in a weekly gathering with paolo soleri called 'frugal soup', which they were just getting started cooking for. what luck! i had arrived at the right time somehow without even trying.
before frugal soup i had to pack up my stuff and check out of the room. i did my best to distribute some things i'd picked up on the side of the highway and thought might be useful. these items were: work gloves, a pair of boots, a large sponge, a large piece of leather (probably from a saddle), and what i thought was a coil of copper, and was told was some kind of fiber-optics cable...
i'd carried this extra weight because i like scavenging and reusing materials and i thought it could be a way i could contribute something of value to arcosanti outside of giving them money. for the most part these items were well received, and it got me to interact with some people i may not have otherwise, like david, head of the construction department, who accepted the boots.

after i turned in the key to the room i was informed, just in time, that frugal soup was about to begin! i went where i'd been directed and at first didn't know where to find it exactly... but when i noticed the sound of metal spoons against the ceramic bowls i followed it to the 'community room' on the edge of the amphitheater. the ritual is for all to take soup in silence and then for conversation to begin spontaneously. a calmness and reverence filled the small room. the main topic of this frugal soup became cars, which paolo had recently brought up in an interview on NPR. after listening intently for a while, i felt a strong urge to speak on the topic, and brought the idea that there may be some uses of cars and fossil fuels that reduce dependence on them in the long run. paolo understood i think, but in his response chose to emphasize the point that our use of cars is self indulgent and separates us from community. what i took from that is that we might honestly look at our use of such tools, and why not all tools, with the question in mind, "is it helping build community or working against community?" it is just an idea... still rolling this around in my mind.
the event was very powerful for me. part of it was that the soup was offered freely to any who chose to attend. the importance of tradition was part of it too. honoring elders. listening to and sharing council with neighbors.

part of arcosanti's goal is to produce it's own food in the area directly surrounding the town, both within intensive greenhouses designed primarily into the 'energy apron', and on the agricultural land nearby. there are also small gardens and fruit trees incorporated currently within the compound landscape.
while i was there i walked under the beautiful olive trees many times and noticed the very ripe olives, many already shriveled and some falling off the trees. i wondered why they were not being harvested. i overheard one resident explaining to tour group that perhaps 1400 lbs. of olives have been harvested from all the trees combined in one year. it is possible they were waiting intentionally to harvest them, but i suspected that they were just being neglected, and it confounded me.
also when i went to visit the '14 acres of garden and field production' mentioned on the website i found what felt like a ghost town near what they call 'camp', which is where folks lived way back in the beginning of arcosanti's construction. i was told by a previous resident, who had just returned after a couple years, that it had been productively managed for a while, but was currently dysfunctional. their worm pit had not been constructed in the best way and the chicken rotation system looked to be in need of renewal.
i asked the guy who guided the tour i was a part of where they would get all the soil, the growing medium, for the intensive greenhouse production, and he said with surprising confidence, "we make our own compost". from what i saw of the resources on site it would not be possible to produce enough compost to fill those deep, terraced greenhouse beds. soil would have to be imported.
so how is arcosanti going to produce the food, with onsite resources, that will feed it's residents and support the statement that it is "an innovative experiment in a more sustainable alternative."?
it is obvious to me that the situation could really use an infusion of effective action. the project could use many more hands. also a brilliant ag. coordinator is needed. the foundation does not necessarily need more money, as some people there seem to think, in order to produce more food. there are vacant places for people to live there. they could pay for their own food if the foundation could not afford to. people like me might agree to give a few hours a day in trade for staying a few nights in their otherwise vacant guest rooms! so much could be achieved!
the reason i choose to express this here is that i was told by the workshop coordinator that they have all the hands they need and could not accept work trade in exchange for my stay. i believed her and was happy to pay my $30 for the night until i saw that the situation was quite different and the place sure could have used my work trade, and probably more than the money. if places like this are to succeed there needs to be some kind of balance between managing finances and utilizing alternative economic resources like i was offering. i might have planned to spend a few nights, and devoted five hours of each day of my visit to farm work, if i had been given the option.

i was standing fifteen feet from these folks, eating a ricecake with peanut butter and raisins (ants on a cloud?) when this picture was taken of paolo with the new 'workshoppers'. i got to know a few of these wonderful folks on the ride down to phonix, where they were going for an event in this lecture series at the library.

cycling tempe to arcosanti

after staying a night with a friendly couchsurfing host in tempe, i made the trip up to arcosanti over the next two days. it is about eighty miles from tempe to arcosanti, and about a third of my trip was on I17. the roughest parts were

in downtown phoenix i came across a couple of pedicab drivers and decided to ask if they had any advice on the route to arcosanti. they did not, but one of them, who goes by Opa (german for grandpa), took interest in my story and looked up arcosanti and my blog on his smart phone. he also snapped a pic! check out that hat! this meeting really lifted my spirits and i told him so.

on 15th ave. i began to notice many citrus trees as i rode through what seemed like old neighborhoods that were previously farmland. there were still some little farms interspersed. the first orange i tried was ornamental (stupid me!), but i found some nice, sweet navels and a grapefruit right by the sidewalk soon after that. i ate one of each and took two of each for the coming days. other food i got from sprouts 'farmer's market' especially for these couple days included rolled oats, straus yogurt, peanut butter, raisins, avocados, and raw sharp cheddar cheese. i also had part of a container of miso and sourdough bread i'd baked my last morning in tucson! besides all this food i have some salmon jerkey left, dried fruit that i've been saving for a special occasion, and some raw cacao nibs i was given by sleeping frog farms, among other things... i'm carrying more food than is necessary.

the place i spent the night on the way was in a totally unexpected place, as is my usual style. towards dark i was beginning to feel pretty tired and was beginning to wonder if i would be able to find a good place to camp along the highway before black canyon city... i also needed to stop and fill my water if i was going to continue to ride. i'd been passing by a lot of tract home developments north of phoenix. as i passed by this one called belara apartments which had a little reception office just off the road. it drew me in.
there they had bathrooms and drinking fountains at one end of a little courtyard between their reception office and a few other communal facilities including a small gym, 'business centers', and a 'clubhouse'. to me this was the 'greenest aspect of their place, and it is not even listed on their green features...
i felt so comfortable there i would have just laid out my bedding right in the courtyard, except i knew it would not be tolerated. so i checked out the large wash on the other side of the street. with a large cement pad and good protection from was the perfect place to sleep! i did hang out in the courtyard, using their light to read by, until i was ready for bed. there was nobody else hanging out there, but there were some people using the facilities.
it was a warm, full moon night and i managed to get some rest, using the extra blanket i carry as additional padding. in the morning when i went back to use the bathroom and fill water i was told by one of the employees, "don't hang out if you don't live here." that was the uncomfortable confrontation i had been anticipating. he said i could still use the restroom.
so if you are cycling between phoenix and arcosanti, don't forget this spot as a place to fill water and use the restroom. just be careful not to overstay your welcome!

in black canyon city, after a break outside the rock springs cafe. the head waitress who greeted me when i went in to use the restroom was really nice and filled my mason jar, adding plenty of ice cubes to keep it cold! it was quite a hot day, even though there was cloud cover off and on.
i hung out there for a while, enjoying a snack and checking out the little 'farmer's market' next to the cafe. many stores use this term even if they are not offering much in the way of local goods. this one in fact had quite a few cool things, including preserves made in arizona and pine nuts in the shell, which were from new mexico. the woman there could not tell me if they were harvested by indigenous people, but we suspected not. she gave me a sample, and being impressed by the sweet and rich flavor, i bought a 1/4 pound baggy. this kind woman also furnished me with materials to make a sign for my hitching attempt. it read '$ 4 GAS', to which i later added above, 'CAN PAY GAS'.

i'd been advised to try hitching a ride because there was a big climb up to the mesa soon after passing through black canyon city. i could see it from where i was and it did look pretty formidable, with semis crawling up the winding slope.
i unloaded my bike, took off the front wheel, and tried for over an hour to thumb a ride. there was not a whole lot of traffic and i wished i could hitch on the highway itself, where there was more. i played mbira, finished writing some postcards, and even did a little yoga. when i lost patience there i tried the next exit, at the far end of black canyon city... even less traffic there. when i filled my water at the steak house near this exit i asked if the source for any of their beef is grass fed. the guy had to ask his boss, who told us, 'it's from nebraska, so it might be... but it might be fed corn.' guess they are unaware of the health benefits of grass fed beef and the selling point it offers.

so it turned out i was to ride this hill. it turned out to be quite satisfying, and i reached the rest area about eight miles after black canyon just before sunset. there i used someone's cell phone to call arcosanti and tell them i might not make it. the guy letting me use his phone thought me a suspicious character i guess because he felt the need to put the call on speaker function. i didn't really understand why... anyway then i found out from the maintenance guy, who was a local, that arcosanti was only about twelve miles farther! i had thought it could be more than thirty! so, having no success in finding a ride at the rest area, i decided to push on, though i would probably have to do some riding after dark. the dusk light lent a wonderful atmosphere as i rode the rolling mesa top north. around dark i stopped to eat some ricecake and raw cheddar. then at one of the outdoor tables of a mcdonalds i ate the pint of rolled oats i had been soaking all day with yogurt and water. to this i add a spoon of miso paste and it becomes one of my favorite travel foods! on this tour is my first time trying the combination. add butter and cayenne for the supreme version.

the last little section of road was similar to what i rode to cascabel, except perhaps more washboarded! i made the mistake of taking the slightly longer way to the visitor parking lot. it was pretty quiet and dark at arcosanti when i arrived around 8pm. i found my way to the cafe, where the feeling was very homey and relaxed and there was a young guy finishing up cleaning the kitchen to hardcore music. he summoned the gal who would check me in and welcomed me to have some tea. simple as that. what a relief!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

david and pearl

while at Sleeping Frog Farms i was told about a couple who live in nearby Cascabel. they do humanure composting and are cyclists. that caught my interest of course, so i got a hold of them to arrange a visit.

i ended up going over for breakfast on my last day there. it was a chilly morning and rough riding for several miles on a dirt road. i was able to find flat spots most of the time, but occasionally the washboard surface spanned the whole width! what a trial.

david and pearl live on a friend's property among mesquite woodland. this is the first mesquite bosque i have been within. a cluster of london rocket, which i also found all over the place in tucson, was growing happily in the duff by the trail to their little home. i ate some, as my belly was beginning to rumble. pearl soon satisfied all of our hunger with mesquite meal pancakes. while she was fixing them i got a tour of all the components of their simple home.

during our conversation three points were emphasized as being shaping their way of life:

-living below one's means

-having as many handy skills as possible

-living and working in a local community context

check out their website for more information on how they live.

the night before my visit they had attended a meeting concerning the community garden being established in cascabel. both are volunteering time towards this kind of community development. another project they are involved in, facilitated by the fantastic organization watershed management group, is researching composting toilet models which may eventually gain more permanent permitting in pima county! one of these will be installed at the Las Milpitas community farm where i volunteered! this is the most exciting news i've heard so far in the arena of humanure composting. well, only a little more exciting than the permitting of a composting toilet in austin. can't wait to make a donation to that progressive pooper!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

brad lancaster

brad lancaster was mentioned early on when i was seeking connections in tucson. i was told he's hard to get a hold of, and i began to understand why. he is doing a lot of really good work in rainwater harvesting and related areas to help people achieve a lower ecological impact and support natural abundance. then of course he has a personal life outside of work. he is a man in high demand because he is taking action on what so many of us want to, working towards sustainability. and he's doing it with a smile!

i was not able to chat with him, but got to introduce myself when i went over to use his composting toilet for a second time. he was just about to start a tour and first session of a permaculture course. the first time used the toilet, the previous evening, i met his very pleasant brother rodd. their toilet room is very spacious and comfortable. they are very particular about how one makes a deposit, so that safety measures are followed. walking through their small garden i felt like i was within a sacred place. it was very orderly and well-tended. the vegetable beds were densely planted and mulched.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

sleeping frog farms

on sunday the 22nd i went to the st. philips farmer's market. it was a long ride out there and i only caught the last ten minutes. i felt strongly that i should not miss this market. it turned out that i was destined to hook up with the folks of sleeping frog farms there. i had contacted them by e-mail before arriving in tucson but had not gotten a response. probably if debbie had received my message i would have been declined anyway. but meeting them face to face, at this particular time they were able to welcome me out to help on the farm! i was able to get a ride out with them at 5am on tuesday.

while at sleeping frog i spent a lot of time cooking and cleaning, but i also helped out with farm tasks here and there... weeded garlic, put plastic on a greenhouse, dug a compost pit, transplanted chamomile, seeded flats of chard, helped wash eggs, packed produce in bags for their customers, and some other little chores.

i thought it was cool that i got to help with weeding garlic, as i had garlic at two places earlier in my trip. probably i will have a chance to harvest garlic in the summer! the weeding was some of the easiest i have ever done. the weeds were small and the sandy soil was slightly moist. the hardest part was all the squatting, which led to very sore leg muscles. once again i forgot all about the arnica that i have been carrying with me since the beginning. it would probably have helped. the short yoga practice i did one night with emily and miranda was benefitial.

sleeping frog farms started out on a small plot near tucson, but were encouraged to expand by the high demand for their produce. now they have several acres in vegetable production on their 75 acre farm. one of the most exciting vegetables i got to try while there was the white salad turnip. we had all the chard and other greens we could handle in the intern house. and lots of eggs! i made one quiche while there that turned out really well. it was made at the request of debbie, due to give birth the next week. she said the baby enjoyed it.

at first i wanted to help by building a compost pile close to the intern house in which to deposit kitchen scraps, but ended up digging a pit, which is the way they have been doing it in this area of the property so far. the idea is to have a demonstation garden on this spot with increased fertility. one concern i had was whether the compost in the pits, all covered up by dirt now, were getting enough water to encourage decomposition. i collected water from the kitchen sink to dump on the area of most recent deposits. one cool thing about the pit is that it will retain moisture in this dry climate better than a pile. it is still advisable to keep a thick layer of dry, clean carbonaceous material on the top layer of materials in the pit. i used the crop debris that i found piled up in the yard.

one cool thing i got to whitness was one of the interns, vinnie, doing his laundry by hand for the first time! i remember feeling empowered by the activity when i first tried it, and he seemed to get something similar from the experience.

one night we watched the film Life and Debt, which i had never seen before. it is a very important film! i almost cried a few times. rich tradition and healthy food from small, local farms was shown being replaced by modern convenience foods and a rise in social ills. it helped me to feel emboldened in my mission of helping support the re-identification with traditional ways and holistic farming practices. i felt great admiration for the work farms like sleeping frog are doing. i cherished the scenes of rastas playing music together around a fire.

another highlight of my time there was getting to cook up some chicken they had harvested there and make stock from the bones. sadly the feet had been thrown out because they were unaware of the trick of peeling the dirty outer skin off. here is an article with some helpful information about this topic. i am comforted at least that the feet will be returning to the soil there at Sleeping frog and not going to a landfill like so many others.

i am so grateful to all the folks there for sharing their home, food, and good company. thanks for encouraging me on my mission!