Saturday, June 26, 2010

Looking for place in Ashland to live, share, and grow

My name is Daniel Kra. I am 27 years old, originally from New Jersey, though I spent most of my Adult life in Israel, where I got into Permaculture, Sustainable living, natural building etc. That's why I came out here to the west coast, cause there's so much of that going on here. After work trading for a few months in California, then another four months at the Mountain Homestead community in Coquille, Oregon, I came to Ashland because i heard so many great things, all true. I've been living here for the last 8 months and though my first winter was kind of tough and scary, being in a new place and all, I'm excited to stay in Ashland and make more connections and help do wonderful things. I've been doing yard work, landscaping, babysitting and a few other odd jobs. I'm hoping to continue with the landscaping work next year with an emphasis on edibles/medicinals/useful plants as well as making and selling herbal beers and meads and a few other new money making projects.

I would like to find a place to live in or outside of Ashland beginning around October 1st after a visit to Israel to see my family and friends. I am looking for a place with community oriented people, possibly sharing food budget and making meals together(I'm a budding Freegan), making art and music together, doing sustainable oriented projects, especially food related, biker friendly too. There should be plenty of space on the property for gardens, chickens, rabbits(not that i would get chickens and rabbits right away, but it's a goal), mushroom patches, cob oven.. I want to build a bunch of raised beds and other beds for growing annuals and perennials. If it was in town that would be great so I could bike around rather than drive everywhere. It shouldn't feel cramped because I am a bit claustrophobic and like large rooms and spaces, especially for doing yoga or even dancing, outside space for a fire pit, hammock etc. Ideally the individual rent should be as low as possible only as high as $400 including utilities, If there was a work trade option that would be great too. Cigarette(outside) and 420 friendly. Pot lucks and small gatherings are great, huge college type parties not so much. I might be interested to find like minded people and rent a whole house as opposed to just moving in to an existing house with existing housemates. Either way is good. I should also mention that I intend to live in this next home for at least a whole year, probably more if it's great and we make it great.

If you know of any places that sound like what I described or like minded people who would be interested in creating a new space together, I would love to hear from you. Even if you just think that I'm a neat guy that you'd like to get to know. I could never have too many friends.

Many blessing,

Daniel Kra
(I'm on facebook too)

How I experienced four days of a ten day Vipassana meditation course

Well first off, it was hard. But I'm getting ahead of myself. At the recommendation of my friend Hadas, I signed up for a ten day Vipassana course. She thought ti might do me a lot of good. It's ten days of silence, ten days of meditation, ten hours a day. The meditation is guided by audio tapes of S.N. Goenka, who teaches the meditation method by video discourse at the end of each day. No speaking( except to ask the assistant teacher a question or if you need something), no intoxicants, no reading, no music, no sexual activity. It's meditating, resting, eating(delicious vegetarian food) and sleeping.

The course took place outside of the City of Rogue River here in Southern oregon. At a private residence in the woods, very beautiful. Now I've never meditated before. I mean I've never sat down and consciously meditated. I know I've meditated on things before, just thinking, or praying. But never meditated to increase my level of awareness of my mind and body, which is part of what Vipassana is. So it was hard. First off, physically. if a week ago I had sat down and meditated for an hour, similarly to what i do sometimes in yoga, just sitting indian style, following my breathing, I would have had a better idea of what i was getting myself into. It hurt to stay in one position for one to two hours at a time. I tried a number of different positions while there, finally on the third day moving to the back of the meditation hall so i could sit up against the wall, which helped. So the first three days were hard physically including the fact that I slept poorly the whole time, nodding off over and over while meditating.

Obviously, it was mentally hard. It's all about focusing the mind on one thing, at first your breathing, then specific areas of your body. Focusing on these, being aware of them and aware of the sensations you feel connected to them. And when I was doing it really focused, it was a wonderful feeling of being at Peace and being very aware. Though most of the time, I was out of focus distracted by being physically uncomfortable or in pain, or just by the distracting nature of my mind. I must have had every song in my ipod stuck in my head, popping up all the time. I also had a tough time not thinking about the future, my plans, things i need to do. It's not easy to live in the present and only the present.

It was on the fourth day that things really changed. The first three days were just preperation for the actual vipassana meditation. The actual vipassana started with the focusing on our entire bodies, section at a time. Focus on the head, then the neck, then the shoulders etc. Being aware of whatever sensations pop up along the way. Anything. Warmth, tightness, vibration, pressure, anything. That wasn't so much of problem. It was the fact that we were discouraged from changing positions at all, as well as discouraged from leaving the meditation hall until the end of the one or two hour long session. Sure i could move to change positions or leave the room if I wanted, though slowly and quietly so as to interrupt my own medition and the meditions of others as little as possible. But I was already physically suffering and this just compounded it. The final straw for me was that i realized I was in pain physically and feeling very claustrophobic. There were walking trails but very short that looped back to the meditation hall. I couldn't really walk far to be alone. Couldn't make eye contact with the other participants, had to behave like I was alone there. Couldn't play guitar, sing. Couldn't scream.

So I left. They were really nice about it even though when you start you vow that you will stay the whole ten days. I'm not embarrased or ashamed. Sometimes I feel like I'm surrounded here on the west coast, particularly in ashland, by amatuer yogis and practitioners of every meditation technique or tai chi or hear circles or ancestral healings. I've been a Jew all my life, in fact I always will be. Point is, my Jewish upbringing taught me to pray,to read words from books. But nobody taught me how to feel, how to think, how to just be. So I sometimes feel like I have a lot of work to do to get where I want to be. I learned a lot in those four days. I learned a few simple techniques to help me focus and sharpen my mind to be aware of different aspects of myself. I can't tell you what I would have learned the next six days cause I wasn't there. But maybe someday I will.

I'm back home in Ashland. Back to work, back to friends, my housemates, music, my guitar, the farmer's market, the park, bonfires and full moons. Life.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm back baby!

"Back from where?", you ask. My last blog post was in December, so I have a lot to explain for. First off, This was a very hard winter for me emotionally and psychologically. Winter in a new place can be very tough, especially for someone like me who really suffers from Seasonal Effective Disorder. Anywho, I'll just say that i was really depressed all Winter, which was also a late winter here in Southern Oregon. I moved out of the place I was at in Talent, even though the property has so much potential. The main reason is that I didn't fit with the other renters. One in particular was very OCD and bossy, and she made me feel like I was a bad guest living in her home rather than a housemate. Leaving, I felt like a failure.

No worries. Though it was sad to leave such a beautiful property, I found three amazing University students living in a huge house on the edge of Ashland who were renting out the basement apartment. So thats where I've been since New Years. I've been working doing yard work for people I found through Craigslist and that's paid the bills(Yay me!). I also recently started a work trade with a clinical herbalist, helping her in her Apothecary and gardens in exchange for consultation and guidance in living healthy. Then there's my work with Bach Thor, a older man here in Ashland who wild harvests stinging nettles for restaurants, farmers markets, and other customers.

I got back a few days ago from the Village Building Convergence, an annual ten day event in Portland with projects all over the city to improve neighborhoods, like using natural building styles to make public space useful like cob benches, saunas, as well as gardening projects all over the city. There are workshops of all kinds related to Sustainable Living, as well as lectures and live music at night. I saw some old friends there and made new ones as well. Portland is an awesome city and I wanted to stay longer, especially to participate in the worlds largest naked bike ride next Saturday. Though I came back this week because I am participating in a ten day Vipassana silent meditation course starting this Wednesday.

Today after doing Yoga with one of my housemates, I went to Lithia Park in town to play guitar. I made 15 bucks in one hour, plus a ticket to the Feast of Bill, a dinner in the park to kick off the start of the summer season at Shakespeare Festival here in Ashland. Barbecue chicken and Bagpipes, who could ask for more. Then on the the way home, I found a garage sale, where I bought a 2 person dome tent and an fm tranmitter for my ipod, for 5 bucks. pretty sweet. So all in all, I'm one happy camper.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Let The Games Begin!!!

My trip to Hood River, near Portland was a great success. Besides coming back with enough money to pay my rent for the month, I had the great experience of being part of a very quick permaculture design. Which is normally speaking, not supposed to be quick. You're supposed to take your time observing the property, thinking about your needs, the lands needs, and so on, similarly taking your time with the design, waiting to implement it only when the design seems solid. At least that's how I used to think about it. I also thought that every Permaculture Design had to have maps, maos, and more maps, otherwise it wasn't a Permaculture design at all. Lately though, I have begun to learn that the real map you make is the one in your head. The owners of the property in Hood River, have one of those head maps. They've been living there for two years, seen the sun rise and fall, noting where it's sunny and where it's shady, where the wind blows etc. It is also helpful that there property is quite small, about a quarter of an acre. While I was up there I planted about 30 fruit and nut trees and bushes. They may look small now but in ten years they're tiny gardens will be Eden!

Now those fruit and nut trees are only one layer of Permaculture gardening, Forest Gardens. Let me show you.

Here in Talent, the house we're renting is on about an acre of land. Now I don't plan on investing too much time and energy into developing this property, seeing as how I'll only be here for a year, but I have a few ideas. Let's take a look at the hazelnut orchard.

That's all it is, hazelnuts. But not for long. Existing orchards are perfect candidates for becoming food forests. They just need more diversity and layering. I spoke to the owner, and she said that some of those hazelnuts can come out and be replaced with other fruit or nut trees. I am also coming up with a plan to sheet mulch the orchard,inoculate the mulch with a few different mushrooms, and plant tons of stuff underneath the trees. I'm not sure what yet, but they'll be coming off of my plant list, a list of plants that i want to grow this year.

aloe vera-c
Bee balm
evening primrose
garlic chives
golden seal
Indian summer
lemon verbena
Queens annes lace
San Pedro cactus
summer savory
scented geraniums
st johns wort
tarragon, thyme
winter savory


Brussels Sprouts
Ceylon Spinach(P)
Egyptian Onion(P)
French sorrel
Garden Huckleberry
Good King Henry
Ground Cherry
Lambs Quarters(P)
Lima Bean
New Zealand Spinach(P)
Okinawan Spinach(P)
Runner Bean
Stinging Nettles
Sweet Potato(P)
Swiss Chard
Tree Collards
Wild leeks

Now you're getting the idea. Polyculture, diversity.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I'm finally getting over being sick, my housemates convinced me to go to a doctor. I got antibiotics for my sinus infection, and all is well in the world.

What about everything else? Well life is difficult sometimes, especially when it concerns change. So settling in to a new environment, new circle of people can be tricky. I've been living at the Talent Homestead (I prefer the name New Talent Homestead but nobody's buying it!) for three weeks no. And what have I accomplished? Well fist off, let me remind you that I've been sick, and that I've also been taking advantage of the fact that i have a place of my own and can do what I want, no WWOOFing, no schedules. Ok, I haven't done that much. I've already gotten some work, putting up solar panels, and painting a house that is going to be part of a Cohousing project here in Talent. I just lined up a few day work in Portland(that's weird!) helping plant stuff for a urban food forest. I've also applied for a couple of jobs to be a caregiver for older people. Let's hope I get some steady work!

In terms of my own projects, things are going slowly. I could start growing Oyster and shitake mushrooms tomorrow, all i need is the spawn(usually bags of sawdust thick with white strands of mycelium). I'm trying to find the most local source of spawn, and so far the closest I've found is 223 miles away in Corvallis, which is on the way to Portland so I can pick some up when I come back from there. Buying locally isn't just about supporting the local economy. it's also about finding someone who has mushrooms and mushroom spawn suited for this climate. Kind of like saving seeds with vegetables. I want to start growing mushrooms indoors ASAP, which doesn't really require this local spin, cause I can control temperature and humidity artificially. But I want to sheet mulch the hazelnut orchardand other areas on the property and inoculate them with spawn of different mushrooms as well, and it will be more successful the more local the varieties are. I could look for people with spore prints(basically a piece of paper set underneath a frshly picked mushroom which drop thousands of spores onto the paper) and create mushroom spawn of my own. It's not rediculous, but can be tricky because everything needs to be sterile if the mushroom that i want is to grow and not some other household mold. i want to play around with making mushroom spawn, but for oysers and shitakes, i think i'll just buy a couple of bags for about $25 buck each. I should be able to grow a lot of mushrooms with those mixed into coffee grounds and sawdust(both of which I can get for free) and then afterwards I can spread the spent mixture into a mulch of sawdust,wood chips, wood shavings,straw, more coffee grounds, newspaper, and cardboard outside and hopefully this spring we'll get tons of mushrooms!

My housemate Karen is going to be mapping the property. I know i said I was going to do it myself, but hopefully I can help her do it and learn from her. All that i want to do is hindered by the fact that by nature, i am a pretty lazy guy and have wasted years of my life watching tv and movies. Though i made a promise to myself that from now on, I'll only watch movies with other people, it's still hard for me to get up and do the things I need to do. When I'm working for other people, I easily prove myself in terms of getting a lot done all day long. But building up the motivation to do my own projects is still very difficult and something I'm trying to work on this year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Journey Continues

I'm sitting in front of the wood stove in the living room of our new place. The house is already half furnished thanks to my housemates, who have lots of cool stuff. We already have a dining room table, chairs, a futon for the living room, all the kitchen stuff we could ever need. Great, now that's all settled, now what? I'm a little under the weather right now, I have an ear, nose, and throat thing, which has drained me of my energy. So I'm taking it easy for a while. I got some work yesterday with my housemate Grant. He's putting up solar panels for my friend Chuck. It was fairly straightforward, like building an erector set, only trouble is, I never had an erector set. So i felt a bit stupid, not knowing how to use a wrench, but I pick things up fairly quickly. I could have got more work today, but I feel so weak. I worry I might have Mono, but I hope that it's just a cold+stress. I'm hoping I can find more work too, I have some options to check out.

Then there's the garden, if we want to get our winter garden in, it's got to happen now. So we've got to get some beds made. Anne and Grant have a couple of raised bed frames at their old place that we can use. We just have to get them up here, fill em up and plant them with all sorts of leafy greens, and garlic.

The list of projects keeps growing:

Start growing all kinds of sprouts
Build a Cob oven
start collecting coffee grounds for future mushroom projects

Now I'm writing from the Ashland Food Co-Op, where it's snowing outside! Yay! I'm picking up my bike from the bike place, where it got a tune up. Today I become truly mobile. There's a bike path all the way from my place in Talent to Ashland, even to Medford the big city. Ashland is really bike friendly. Even the buses have bike racks on the front. They don't have those in Israel yet!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hitchin' to Reno for Halloween

Most cool people around these parts either stick around Ashland for the scariest night on the Calender, or head to the bigger cities like Portland. Me, I'm headed to Reno, Nevada, to see my friend Kat. We met a few months ago at the homestead. I'm sure I'll have a ghoulish time.

Ah, hitchhiking! One of the greater way to feel truly free that I know of. The act of sticking your thumb out on the side of the road says that you don't need a car, don't need anything at all to keep you going. You just need a ride. And seeing as how everybody is driving these huge cars and SUVs, with only the drivers behind the wheels as cargo, couldn't you see fit to a little bit of company while going whereever you're headed?

Reno is five hours away from Ashland, so wish me luck and that I get the perfect ride. From here, to there.