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
anise
basil
Bee balm
burdock-c
burnet
Caraway
Coriander
catnip
capsicum
chamomile
cloves
Coltsfoot
comfrey-c
curry
Dandelion
dill
Dock
echinacea
evening primrose
fennel
Feverfew
Flax
garlic chives
golden seal
hyssop
Indian summer
lovage
lavender
lemon verbena
marjoram
Marigold
mint
mugwort
Nasturtium
parsley
pennyroyal
poppy
Queens annes lace
rue
rosemary
sage
San Pedro cactus
sassafras
summer savory
Sunflower
stevia-c
scented geraniums
st johns wort
tarragon, thyme
tobacco
valerian
winter savory
yarrow

Vegetables

Arugula
Artichoke(P)
Bean
Beet
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrot
Caterpillars
Cauliflower
Ceylon Spinach(P)
Chicory(P)
Corn
Cucumber
Eggplant
Egyptian Onion(P)
French sorrel
Garden Huckleberry
Garlic
Ginger
Good King Henry
Gourd
Ground Cherry
Kale
Lambs Quarters(P)
Leek
Lettuce
Lima Bean
Lovage
Mashua
Melons
Mustard
New Zealand Spinach(P)
Okinawan Spinach(P)
Oca
Okra
Onion
Pea
Peppers
Pigweed
Potatoes(P)
Radish
Runner Bean
Rocket
Stinging Nettles
Salsify
Sorrel(P)
Soybean
Spinach
Strawberries
Squash
Sunchoke(P)
Sunberry
Sweet Potato(P)
Swiss Chard
Tree Collards
Tomatillo
Tomato
Turnip
Watermelon
Watercress(P)
Wild leeks
Yacon(P)

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

BACK ON MY FEET




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.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

HOME, SWEET HOME!

"The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems to create the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. This form of agriculture seeks the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and nonmaterial needs in a sustainable way."

Yes, that's right, I've found a place! It's a four bedroom house with wood burning stoves, two full bathrooms, one and a half kitchens, on a decent sized property, including fruit and nut orchard, greenhouse, two hops to a creek, at the edge of Talent, Oregon, 3 miles from the center of Ashland. I'm ridiculously excited.

My roommates are three really cool grownups(over 30), one is an all around handyman, the other two woman are great gardeners, all of them students of Permaculture. Another gentleman has a shop on the property where he does wood working, round timber stuff etc. So I'll be surrounded by skills, and hopefully I'll pick up a few myself this year. It's great to know that I'll be in a place with lots of support for the ideas and projects that I have.

List of projects of interest:

The gardens- This one is the big one. I am going to be mapping out the properties sectors like sun,wind, figuring out what plants will go well with the trees and vegetation already growing there. How can we utilize the perimeter fence to grow food. If we want some chickens, where should they go? I'll be going into more detail about Permaculture design as I progress.




Gourmet and Medicinal mushroom cultivation- The orchard is a great spot for that. Just a layer of sawdust, compost, coffee grounds and straw then inoculate the whole thing with a msuhroom spawn, of varieties like oyster, shitake, crimini/portobello.
This is also a big one for me. I need to do lots more research and talk to people. I really want to make some money from this, selling mushrooms.

Worms- This one's easy. Vermicompost, having red wigglers, turn organic waste into beautiful nitrogen rich castings. It's just a couple og boxes with holes. Easy peasy.

Microbrew- Yeah, Yeah! Let's make some beer! Also fairly easy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Hard Night's Day in Ashland

I spent the day biking to town to look at two different housing options, one of which looks really great. A working single mother lives with her 8 year old son right in town in 3 bedroom house with an average sized backyard. There's a studio room behind the garage, which would be mine. It has a bathroom, shower, fridge, and hot plate. Pretty basic. But what makes this place appealing is that she is looking for somebody to help her watch her son when she's working. Walk him to school in the morning, pick him up in the afternoon. Some babysitting every now and then. I could stay there for free, no rent, and grow food in the backyard as well. That's amazing.

Tomorrow I am going to look at another option, a house 3 miles north of Ashland, on a property that belongs to a woman who is very active in the Permaculture scene here. I would be sharing the house with some friends of Chuck, the guy who I wwoofed for in Ashland two months ago, all of whom i met before, and are really cool and into gardening etc. The property already had a greenhouse, a workshop, and other things that make it garden/permaculture ready. There would be rent and utilities, about $300 altogether, which is a good price for the area, but it would mean I would have to find enough work to pay for it. Which is reasonable. I can probably make $600 a month fairly easily. I just don't know how yet. We'll see.

We all had dinner tonight here at Chuck's, all of us interested in this house. Chuck and I made lasagna, and the others brought greens for a stirfry and lentils and chips and salsa. And I had a bottle of really good beer. And fresh apple cider which they made two days ago. So after that, and a good nights rest tonight, I should be ready to meet whatever challenges wait for me tomorrow!

Monday, October 26, 2009

I made it, I'm here, in Ashland, Oregon. Now what?

Finally, after a bus to New York City from my hometown of West orange, NJ, a weekend with my friend Rueben and his Upper West Side Jew Scene, another bus to Boston where I spent the night at my friend Diane's, a flight to Denver, another to San Francisco, and one more to Medford, Oregon, I got picked up by my friend Chuck, who I wwoofed for the last week of August, and drove back to his Farm outside of Ashland. Phew!!

I'm staying in his barn which he just finished renovating, really nicely I should add. The upstairs has a kitchen, bathroom, and plenty of space, not that I need much right now. Just a place to put my sleeping bag down, a desk to do internet stuff, a fridge for some food...

Tomorrow, oh tomorrow, things start to happen. My to do list:

Visit possible housing options- I've got a few places to look at. Three are really promising. One, a professional couple has a house in town with some outdoor space. I talked to the guy, they do massage and other body treatments along with clowning for kids. He says it's a really cool house, and they sound like really nice people. They are really keen on improving the outdoor spaces, gardens etc. I could probably get the rent reduced based on how much work I put into the gardens, which I would do anyway.

The second is a single mother and her 8 year old son. Also a house in town, similarly interested in having a garden. She also needs help watching the kid, and I could reduce the rent by babysitting, which is awesome.

Third, and very interesting. This morning I got an email from Chuck's neighbor and friend, who I had met in August. She, her partner, and Karen, who used to live at Chuck's are looking at a place in South Talent, only six miles north of Ashland. It's a house on the property of a woman who's very active in the Permaculture scene here, already has some gardens, a green house, hoop house, workshop, orchard. Just needs some TLC. I like the fact that it's people i already know, who are really keen on doing Permaculture stuff too.

There are a couple of other options, but they are further away from Ashland than I'd like. I need to be within biking distance of town, social activities, educational activities, etc. I don't have a driver's licence, and i don't have a car, so bikability is key. Which brings me to...

Get a driver's license- About fucking time! Yes, I'm 26 years old and I've never had a driver's license. Truth is, I never really needed one, didn't lead a lifestyle that called for it. Now, with an interest in providing for my needs, including access to resources(i.e. organic material, building materials, plants, supplies of all sorts) and the ability to transport them back home, along with a desire to visit lands for possible purchase, and to just visit people, places, and events, having a license, and possibly a vehicle make a lot of sense. So I'll go to the DMV tomorrow and pick up a study guide for the written exam.

Open up a local bank account- I have some funds which I want to use for some of my projects this year, including growing mushrooms, and I also want to get a credit card so I can begin to build a healthy credit score. When it comes to buying land, I've always thought that I would never get a mortgage, despised the idea. And it's very possible that I won't have to, if i can get an interest free loan from my family. But if that doesn't happen, I will have to make a lot of money in the next couple of years, which isn't entirely impossible, or I can get a mortgage. The USDA offers loans for purchasing houses and land in rural areas, which is exactly what I'm looking for, to the tune of 1% interest up to $250,000. That figure is much higher than anything I'm looking to purchase, especially if I go in on some land with partners. So a 1% interest loan of $100,000 is more than manageable, right? So build up your credit, Daniel Kra. Get a credit card, use it, and pay it off every month. I think I'm up to the challenge.

Sign up for some free health care- The Oregon Department of Human Service is having a lottery to pick people to recieve health care benefits. All I have to do is sign up, if i start making enough money to afford rent, food, and a private health care service, I might switch I might not. I might not even get it, who knows? But I got to try.

Find payed work- I thing this will probably have to wait until I find a permanent housing situation. Sure, if someone offered me to do a day's work for pay I might take it, but my Number One priority is to find a place to live.

Well, it's 12:30 in the morning and I've got a big day ahead of me, so good night and please send some postive vibes my way!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On the road again

I'm riding on a bus right now, headed to Boston. The foliage along the highway is gorgeous, shades of orange, and green. And you wan to know something interesting about me? It's when I'm traveling, when I'm on the move, going from one place to the next which is the story of my life, that I truly understand how I could be terribly happy spending the rest of my life in one place and that it could be any place in this whole world. If only I will give myself that oppurtunity. That time hasn't come yet, but it's coming soon, I feel it in my bones.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fuck Hydroponics, Aquaponics is the new cool thing!




So I've heard of Aquaponics before, but lately I've been getting very excited about the possibilities of growing vegetables and fruit in a symbiotic relationship fish. The idea is pretty simple. Poopy water from fish tanks, which are rich in all the things that plants love is fed to plants in methods that are similar to hydroponic systems(no soil, rather a medium like gravel etc). The plants grow well fed by the fertilizers and nutrients form the fish poop simultaneously cleaning the water before it is returned clean and fresh to the fish tanks. The only real input is fish food, which can be comprised of worms and larvae raised on site, duckweed(a water plant) and other organic wastes.

Chemical based hydroponics is already big business in Israel and the rest of the world. I'm thinking about starting a small Aquaponics operation to sell organic, mercury free fish, and organic hydroponic vegetables(hydroponics is nice because you can control the environment of the plants and they are less prone to disease and pests).

Now Aquaponics doesn't have to be in a green house cut off from the environment. The advantageous relationship between fish and plants have been used before in Agriculture both in Central American Chinampas, and Asian rice paddies.

On a small scale home level, people can have a small fish pond on their property and recycle it through an adjacent hydroponic bed and then back to the pond. and it can all look quite beautiful, with the water babbling over the rocks. Commercially, on a small scale, I see a lot of potential. Especially when I think about connecting a fish system to a Volksgarden Hydroponic system. It's a Rotating Cylinder of plants, with the plants dipping in fertilizer rich water every rotation. Because plants are constantly turning, the plants put more energy into growth to support themselves. This is one of the smallest systems I've ever seen for the amount of plants it can grow at one time. the company also sells a carousel, basically a system to house a number of these cylinders vertically, growing 660 square feet of greenhouse plants, in only 100 square feet taken up by the carousel holding six cylinders(the whole thing is like 25 feet high, not crazy). These things are very energy efficient too, because very little light is wasted, unlike in overhead hydroponic operations.

The only limitations on a system like this is electricity and plant food. Perhaps these systems could use poopy fish water and recycle it back to the fish. Maybe maybe not. Still, if I ever have a hydroponic system, i would get something like this, and jsut use compost teas and the like in the water. pretty cool huh?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My friends, My friends





The last few weeks in Israel has been so much fun. I visited all my friends I worked with last year on Chava V'Adam, an educational farm in the center of Israel. That whole year was truly a time of growth and learning for me. As well as a heck of a good time. Let's face it, you put a bunch of 18 to 25 year olds in a outdoorsy communal environment, they're gonna have a good time. We danced the nights away, outdoors on the stage/water tank, and indoors in the salon area, even the kitchen. While one person would be cooking dinner in this tiny room, four or five girls would be breaking down to the sounds of Balkan Beat Box and other cool Israeli music. Most of the Israelis were 18, right between high school and army. So there was lots of energy.

Anyway, fast forward to last week. I spent the first nights of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot at the farm. Most of my friends from last year are no longer there. Some are in the army, other's are doing things in elsewhere. But there's a new group of people there, particularly, a new group of Americans doing the farm's Eco Israel program . I helped out with the first session of the program last year, and boy have they come along way. These American kids split there time between learning and practicing permaculture, learning about israel, judaism, and hebrew. All in a beautiful organic setting. The current group is really great, and I especially enjoyed jamming with Eliot(guitar) and Anna(violin).

I took some time to visit farm friends in Haifa, who had were selling their wares at the Haifa Film Festival. Gali makes clay art and jewelry from clay and pigments that she harvests herself. Neta makes felted wool bags and jewelry from wool that people were throwing away. Felted wool is so cool!!!

I also visited my friend Hadas, who is now working at a Medicinal Herb farm in the middle of nowhere near beer sheva in the desert. I was really wary about going to the desert, seeing as how I don't really like the climate. I lived in Israel's Negev desert for half a year and it's not really my cup of tea. Anyway, I had a blast. The farm is really cool. There's a very small medicinal herb plot, which they supplement wth wild harvests of local herbs to make all sorts of tinctures,creams, etc, in their lab. The owners live in a beautiful cob house surrounded by all sorts of fruit trees, olives planted everywhere, a dome covered in grapes. They have 80 goats as well. The owners were having a Succot festival for their friends, so there was little work to do, asides from playing music around the bonfire, eating good food, playing with babies, and relaxing in the strawbale sauna. That was particularly enjoyable. I also had the oppurtunity to ride a one eyed horse. Don't worry, I was gentle.

After the southern desert, it was off to the North on a road trip with my friend Naomi. We spent a night on the shore of the Sea of Galillee, swam naked under the stars in Israel's main source of water and the worlds lowest fresh water lake. In the morning I got to ride on an innertube pulled by a motorboat belonging to some new friends I made the night before on the beach. What fun! Then it was off to Tzfat(or Safed as some people call it), the Northern Israeli city where many of the great Kabbalists lived and studied. I myself studied for a year in a religous seminary in tzfat back in 2002, so it was nice to visit my old haunting grounds. We stayed in a thousand year old Mamluk period donkey stables, what's called in hebrew a Khan, kind of like a inn/manger, nestled in the heart of the old city. Friends in Tzfat are improving the Khan and turning it into a Center for Holistic Medicine, like natural births and other therapies, along with a community center for events and workshops. It is being restored using natural building techniques including lime plaster and cob, and will also include an indoor greyewater system, sort of artificial wetlands.

Besides visiting friends I also made some movements toward inquiring about land availability in Israel, particularly the Upper Galillee near Tzfat. That's where the most rains are ,30 inches or so, aside from the Mt. Hermon region in the Golan Heights. Land is not cheap in Israel, even agricultural land, which cannot be used for commercial or residential construction. But in the peripheries of Israel, the North and South away from the densely populated center, land is cheaper. Renting agricultural land in a good option for me to start with and one I probably will do. Then there's growing on land for free. A friend of mine told me about a friend of his who posted signs in agricultural communities asking if anybody had unused land he could grow food on. Bingo! Free use of land. I've seen this before in California. A woman I wwoofed for had a market garden but needed more growing space and a neighbor let her use her front yard. For free! So that could be an option too.

I'm back in New Jersey now, headed to Ashland, Oregon on monday. I've got a bunch of people I'm looking to rent a room from, along with space on the property for a garden. I've got all these projects I want to start working on. i want to start designing and building the garden ASAP, including raised beds,cold frames, greenhouse, self watering containers, collect plenty of organic matter for making compost, want to make a worm composting bin, and get some mushroom kits started. And that's just the beginning! Besides that I have to find some payed work, take some more guitar lessons, and be a busy permaculturist in the garden and home. How exciting!!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wow, Israel's really small, and what else is new?






"In 2008, Israelis consumed 3,500 tons of honey. About 40 percent of that amount is eaten in September, when Israelis buy about 1,500 tons,as Jews seek to “sweeten” the New Year. It is part of almost every meal: from the ceremonial apples dipped in honey, to sweet breads, honey cakes, and roast chicken or beef glazed in honey. Apple statistics are even more encouraging: The average Israeli eats about 125 apples a year.

Most people notice the difference between dark honey, whose source is avocado or eucalyptus nectar, and the lighter kinds, from citrus or wildflower nectar. Dark honey contains more minerals: potassium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and magnesium. It is suited to dishes associated with winter, such as stews, and those made with meat. Lighter honey goes well with summery dishes: vegetables, chicken, fruit and vegetable salads, yogurt. The honeys range from a dark amber one made from the jujube trees that grow near the northern border with Lebanon -- a honey so fruity it almost tastes like creamed bubble gum -- to the sharp golden sweet-and-sour sage and thyme honey from the hills around Jerusalem.

According to information provided by the Israel Honey Council, Israel’s 500 honey farmers maintain 90,000 hives, producing 8 million pounds of the sticky sweet stuff. Even this is not enough to quench the Israeli sweet tooth. In recent years, lack of rainwater has affected the avocado, citrus, and other crops on which beekeepers rely for pollen, and honey production has decreased by almost 25%. So, ironically, the Land of Milk and Honey imported 1,300 tons of honey in 2008, up from 940 tons the year before."

"Beekeepers also face stiff competition from producers of artificial honey, and sporadic theft of hives by Arabs. Still, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the apiaries are injecting over $10 million of consumer goods into the Israeli economy each year."

And then...

"An Israeli company is producing embryos from highly productive milk cows, aiming to introduce the Israeli super cow to the global market.

Levanon gazes indifferently at the leafy landscape, unaware that she has been labeled Mother of the Year. Being a cow, it probably makes no difference to her anyway. But by the end of next year, she will be the proud mother of as many as 100 offspring, most of whom she will never see."


And then there is this interesting article about some of Israel plans for their water supply.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What did most people do 150 years ago?

Here's a really neat interactive graph of reported occupations over the last 150 years in the U.S.

Job Voyager

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sustainable Ashland Videos

This is Ashland's local paper's video channel on Local Sustainability. Lots of really cool videos, particularly my friend Josh Shupak's Neighborhood Harvest program, a local business that manufactures elecric motorcycles, the local farmer's markets and a nearby biodynamic farm.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

On the front page again! This time in Ashland





Here is a link to the article about WWOOFing in Ashland, Oregon.

My fifteen minutes isn't over yet! Other top stories include the hot high school soccer team and a lemonade stand. Those two WWOOFers are clearly not me but, they didn't get interviewed, so ha!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What's new in Organic Farming?

Nothing is new in Organic Farming. The basic principles have been practiced for over 10,000 years. It interests me that people always want to know what's new, and people's interest get really piqued if their is technology or chemistry involved. So when people ask me whats new in organic farming, I tell them there is nothing new under the sun. If anything, we have most certainly lost countless amounts of knowledge and experience related to living in harmony with the planet.

I wonder how many people are living in the world today living a lifestyle similar to that of their great grand parents. We, the "civilized" portion of humanity, talk of moving forward, of a better tomorrow. But how have we made our lives better than they were ten years ago, or twenty, or one hundred?

Look at the most civilized of civilized societies, America. Are we happier than we were ten years ago? Are we healthier? Wealthier? Wiser?

What's new in organic farming? Well for one, anybody can do it. That's not actually a new idea, but we most certainly forgot that. Anybody can grow food, anywhere. Whether you live in a house with a yard front and back, or you live in an apartment in the city, you can grow vegetables, herbs, and fruit. The number of people growing food in America has doubled in the last two years due to the economic whatever we are living in. Farmers markets are actually doing less business because more people are growing their own food.

I've never had my own garden, if you can believe that. But, I've made it a goal to have a garden this year. When I go back to Ashland, I'm gonna find a place where I can have a small garden. And it will feel so good.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shalom Oregon. I shall return.

Tonight I fly to New Jersey for two weeks with my family and friends, and then it's off to Israel for a month with more family and friends. Now is a great time to take stock of the last seven months.

On February 1st I landed in Los Angeles and began WWOOFing and traveling my way North to Oregon. In three months I visited over a dozen farms, ranches, and homesteads. I saw small backyard gardens, large market gardens, CSAs, vineyards, and farmers markets. I met farmers as young as twenty and as old as eighty five. There were entrepeneurs, hippies, ex-hippies, hermits, Rich hobby farmers, and Hari Krishnas.

I slept in my tent, in barns, in cozy rooms, in smelly rooms, and cabins.

I finally made it to Oregon and spent the last four months in Coquille, at the Mountain Homestead Intentional Community. I helped build a recycled concrete(Urbanite) foundation, prepared a new food forest, learned how to live in a dynamic community, took part in a three day search and rescue, baked bread, picked cherries, went to a barn dance, played some great tunes for great people, played naked bocce on my birthday, gathered wild mushrooms from the forest, cared for a beautiful old woman, drank lots of wine, and went to a traditional Native American sweat lodge.

It's been a great year, and this past week in Ashland has been great. Potluck dinners, Farmers markets, driving to the Applegate valley full of small farms. Everywhere I go, people are coming together to make their lives better one step at a time. There is inspiration everywhere and it fills me with such energy and motivation to participate any way I can.

Everybody has the ability to make their world a better place to live in. You don't have to buy a hybrid to change your life. Grow food, please!!! No matter if you live in a house, apartment, wherever, you can grow vegetables and herbs. Talk to your neighbors, please!!! You can build strong relationships and help each other out with almost anything. Support your local community. Your neighbors have skills that you could use. Local businesses, local banks. Go to your local farmers markets, there are really cool people in your area growing delicious foods. Start looking around your town for fruit and nut trees, trust me they're there and many of them never get picked. Local businesses throw out tons of perfectly good food products everyday. Baked goods,dairy products, donuts, etc. Stop buying so much stuff. Ask yourself, do I really need it and how long will it last before I'm forced to buy another one.

I can't wait to come back to Ashland and start taking my own advice. It's gonna be grand!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Let my life be an example

Let my life be an example. Of what? Of a life. Let every life be an example for a life that you could, should or will/not live.


I have $150 dollars to my name. And it feels so good. I can do whatever I want in life, and that feels good too.

I have many friends, but no partners. And it hurts me inside, feelings of loneliness. I could travel the world with an empty wallet and a full heart, sharing experiences with great people. Or I could stay in one place and build long lasting relationships, find a girl, settle down, if I want, I can marry. I'm strongly leaning towards the latter. Yes, there are many places in the world I would like to visit. But much more than that, I want to visit a feeling of being home, of sharing home, of love, babies, and puppies. People talk of planting roots, or being rooted. I share that desire, and to actually plant roots, of trees, and watch them grow and feed me for the rest of my life. Doesn't that sound beautiful?

I find myself in a difficult position in that my family has all emigrated to Israel, and I have just left, with a feeling that I might not want to settle in Israel as once thought I would. Things are complicated there, and an aura of complication taints the air of the truly holy land. There are beautiful people there, but many suffer the bitterness that unending conflict brings to their lives. My sister lives in the West Bank, you could call her a settler, though her house, and her neighborhood is more like desperate housewives or Weeds. Little boxes on the hillside. Rich American Jews, ideological, live in big houses in the West Bank. Houses which could be taken away from them at any moment by their own government. I can not in good concience invest in something like that. Though it is cheap, it's cheap for a reason.

It sure is nice being in America, the land of the free. And I know that so many Americans are not free. Whether they are in prison, in debt, sick, being denied "civil liberties". But I still feel freedom here much more than I did in Israel. And it's a good feeling.

I don't have a solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict. I'm a hippy and just want everybody to love each other. So what can i do? Let me know what you think, all eight of you that read this silly thing I call a blog.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Busking and Potluck

So it's the weekend in Ashland. What do people do with their free time? Well i'll tell you what I did. First, I went with Chuck to a Farm Auction nearby. The land and house was up for auction, along with all the farm stuff, tools and such. There were two auctioneers wearing ten gallon hats and they sure sounded like Auctioneers!

Then I went into town and played guitar at the Farmer's Market for an hour or so. I made $25, a peach, and a melon. It was really fun. Then it was off to the park to play guitar for a bunch of cute bridesmaids waiting for the bride to finish with the pictures. And finally, to a Potluck, where I met Cat, this South African who's been living in Israel the last couple of years in Shacharut, which is in the Southern Negev desert region, a really remote town which is mostly comprised of homes made from natural local materials earth, stone, etc. It's a place I've always wanted to visit since I first heard about it. Anyway, she's been travleing in america the last couple of months, wound up here in ashland with family friends. she's pretty cool and spiritual. there was also this Woman who told me how she and her husband and their 13 year old daughter WWOOFed in New Zealand for a whole year, over Forty hosts! I want to wwoof at some point in New Zealand and Australia, so it's good to connect with people who know the good places from the bad.

The Greatest WWOOF hosts in the world

Ok, maybe that is a bit presumptuous of me, considering that I've only wwoofed at a dozen places, of the thousands there are on the planet. But in my world, Chuck Burr and Karen Taylor are the best hosts I've ever had. And I commend them for it. Since I arrived in Ashland they have only been the nicest, warmest people i could hope to work with, learn from, and share good times.

I don't know the whole story, but Chuck got these 10 acres outside Ashland last year, and since then has remodeled the house and now the barn, has planted a half acre of blueberries for a U-Pick(figure it out yourself), planted the first stages of a large food forest, deer fenced the property(with one side planted with grapes that will trellis up the fence, I wished he had done the whole fence), and is now working on a bathhouse to be used in workshops and permaculture courses he plans on having on the farm. Karen has planted a beautiful vegetable garden and is propagating a bunch of perennial vegetables as well, including tons of my favorite, new zealand spinach.

I've been weeding the rows of blueberries the first three days, and today i helped chuck place the two 3000 gallen tanks that will catch all the rainwater from the house roof for irrigation. I've also plain hung out with him, karen his land partner, and chuck's two kids ages 6 and 10 who were here for the summer but left today. WWOOFing isn't like at the homestead where i put in a whole days work. there's time for other things like, swimming in the neighbors pool, and going to the lake for a barbeque with friends(who have horses!), going into town for a nice dinner at a palce that specializes in local cuisine. Tomorrow we're going to a house auction in the morning, then to town where i'll play guitar on the street for a while until i head over to a potluck dinner we're invited to. This is my life and I am so happy.

Ashland is a cool town. it's got tons of art and culture. Shakespeare festival, tons of plays and theater of all kinds, music, lots of spirituality classes and groups. It's really close to California, and it shows. But that's not a bad thing. i don't know when it happened that i came to think negatively about California. it's a combination of bad wwoofing there and a negativity which i picked up from other Oregonians. Anyway, it's a hip town, lots of tourists, lots of money being thrown around, lots of businesses for a town of 20,000, half the population of my home town of West Orange, NJ(which doesn't have a tenth of what's going on in Ashland, Oregon). It has two, count 'em, two synagogues, one reform, the other, renewal. And here I thought I was the only Jew in Oregon! There's even a Steiner/Waldorf Pre-school with jewish aspects called Gan Neveh Shalom. pretty cool, huh. And a guy who does kabbala art. And a guy who does Mayan calendar readings for free in the park. Same park, Lithia park has water with high mineral content that tastes worse than piss but which is probably really healthy. And a really big food co-op, and tons of organic farms to the west in the applegate valley where chuck and I will see when we drive out there on Sunday. Whew!

What's that you ask? What have I been eating while I am here? Well let's start with the breakfasts. Fruit shakes,blueberry pancakes, oatmeal with honey and almond milk, toast with tayberry jam and earth balance, tea.

Lunch and Dinner: Roasted zuchhini on whole wheat with tomato and lettuce. Lasagna with chard, basil, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese. Pizza! Gispacho.

Dessert: Zucchini cake with chocolate chips, Blackberry Sorbet.

So if you got it in your head that I've been roughing it, think again.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Goodbye for now, Mountain Home, Hello to Ashland!

My last post was almost a month ago. What happened did I fall off the face of the earth or something? I was just really busy. Life at the homestead has become my life. The work, the people, the place. I can't think right now of all that happened in the last month. The last two weeks was made extra busy by the food forest/permaculture workshop we had. I had already been working with some other homesteaders to clear an area of brush and trees and blackberry and poison oak, in preperation for the landscaping, path clearing, plumbing and planting of a food forest. The workshop brought ten new people for two weeks to the homestead, to help us with the food forst work and to hear lectures and take tours about permaculture design, water and drainage, ecoforestry, landforms and access, etc.

The workshop brought some really cool people. Some wwoofers form a intentional community called east wind in missouri, some RV travelers on a search for a community themselves, an older gentleman form remote, Oregon, who was definitely out of his element in a progressive place like the homestead. A nineteen year old kid from california who after a semester of college, realized that he was wasting his time and now wants to learn all this sustainable living hooplah. A really cute girl from Reno, who makes really cool bikes for burning man in her bike co-op and just all around creative.

It was such an amazing transformation, my backyard was a jungle just a few months ago and now i'ts cleared with great paths, plumbing, stand pipes for hoses and sprinklers. I feel so confident now in the ability to do the same thing practically anywhere. What a great feeling. Mountain Home has truly empowered me in a way i've never felt before.

Socially, thigns have been so much fun. Bonfires, a free susan tudeski concert in roseburg right by the river which we swam in, a bbq yesterday in town a the home of the local boot and saddle shop owner.

There si too much fruit at the homestead right now. People in and around town, friends of the homestead keep calling to let us know that they have so much fruit they dont know what to do with it, so we come and pick their trees. apples, peaches, pears, plums. Too much. If only we weren't so busy, if only we had a little time, we'd can them, preserve them, dehydrate them. All this week I started my day with a deliscious fruit shake. It makes the day so nice.

Anyway, I left the homestead this morning and hitched to Ashland, which is further south and east, close to the california line. I'm writing this at a bookstore/cafe in town, a town which is very yuppie/yuppie hippie, gourmet this, boutique that, very californian. I'm not saying that thats a bad thing. This place has culture, more than coquille, where the homestead is. It's definitely not boondocky like coquille is, and that's what I like about coquille, real people. I'm sure the people here are real too, but, it's hard to find the words to explain. I am looking forward to seeing some art and hearing some live music, just generally having a good time for the week that i'm here. I'll be staying at the Ashland Restoration Farm, a new Permaculture farm. I'm looking forward to seeing what's going on there, as well as visit some of the other farms and communties in the ashland area.

Friday, July 31, 2009

whatever

i don't really have much to say, but i shoul wrtie sinc i haven't in some time. everything's great here at the homestead, summer vegetables like summer squash, peas, tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers have started rolling their way into the kitchen. ther ehave been really hot days this week, and one day we didn't wor in the afernoon and went to cool off by swimming in the coquille reservoir which is short walk rom the homestead.

It's my 26th birthday, and we're going to have a picni at the reservoir and then go into town for bowling and maybe kareoke too.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another fine week at the homestead

Let's see, on my cook day this week I made a potato salad with three different kinds of potatoes including purple ones, and i mean purple on the inside too, with chives and dill and veganaise. and a stir fry with kohlrahbi, beet greens, stinging nettles, new zealand spinach, beets, walla walla onions. Everything from the garden. Plus a couple of cherry cobblers that were delicious. i also hosted a barbeque at the homestead with bbq venison over a fire pit and my papa's potatoes and onions, carrot cake(again, delicious) and watermelon. and for the entertainment, me on guitar. everybody had a real good time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rant

Sometimes it's best to just let the thoughts roll out onto the keyboard. maybe it's easier for some people on paper, but the keyboards better for me.

things have been really good for me lately. i've been putting a lot more energy and enthusiasm into my work and also even after work doing different things, like the cherry picking, cooking and baking, preserving, jerky making, music playing, whatever. this week, we're gonna have a bbq/entertainment night where everybody plays instruments or whatever, that'll be fun.

i'm still planning on leaving in august for the ashland/ williams area south east of here. though in the last two weeks i've thought of staying on longer a bunch of times. maybe it's because the people change here all the time that discourages me, or maybe it's that i know there's more out there to see and learn from. that and there's as much democracy here as there could or should be. the owner really calls the shots, though for the most part he's good about lettung us decide most things together. i'm looking for really democratic communities, that share the land or have the land divided up, so there's private and communal spaces.

I have more faith in myself than I used to, regarding being able to live a happy, healthy life. Though I still am torn between looking for a place to settle down now, or travel some more. I would like to go to australia and new zealand though i'd need a bit more cash for that. I really do need to find some paind work and make a thousand dollars or more. I don't know what to do about that. There's harvest work around and i think i'll look into that now.

Friday, July 10, 2009

food!!!!!!!!!

the food here just keeps getting better and better. Potatoes are coming out now, and we had an awesome potato sald, and mashed potatoes with 3 different kinds of taters, including purple potatoes. On monday, a bunch of homesteaders heading home saw a roadkill deer on the highway and stopped. they found that it was still really warm, a fresh kill, and brought it back to the homestead. I got back from picking cherries in town( there's a whole cemetary full of 100 year old cherry trees) and came home to find a dead deer on the ground with a bunch of kids standing around it, clueless as to what to do with it. we consulted a few books, and proceeded to skin and gut it. it was quite an experience, one that a number of us guys at the homestead had been talking about wanting to be part of, so we were really excited and nervous at the same time.

after two hours we were done, and we went to sleep, woke up early in the morning and started to cut up the meat into steaks and jerky sized strips. when it was over we had over 30 pounds of venison steaks and jerky, and a whole bucket of stock bones which i used to make 2 gallons of venison stock, which is now in the freezer along with most of the meat. that night, we three butchers went out into the woods, had a bonfire, and stuck a whole side of ribs on the fire, slathered in a barbeque sauce i made. before eating the meat, we talked about the animal, and how thankful we were for it and how we hope it's in a better place, how we hoped it lived a happy healthy life,(which it probably did), how by being a part of the process of getting the meat on to our plates felt so right, compared to the way most people in our culture get their meat.

It was the most deliscous meat i ever had! well maybe not, but it was amazing and tasted great. we've already made some jerky in a food dehydrator which came out good too.

we're really in cherry mode here at the homestead, bringing 20 gallons of cherries back with us everytime we go picking. Most goes to jam, some to cherry pies and cobblers.

even though it's the middle of july there are still tons of oyster mushrooms in the woods. and the gardens are filled with kohlrabi, onions, chard, kale, spinach, lettuces, there are at least six different edible flowers. I may be roughing it, living in the woods and all, but the diet is not rough.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

FOOD!!!!!!

I love food. wow that was really easy to write but doesn't begin to describe how i feel about food. my diet has been awesome lately. roadkill venison, stinging nettle omelettes, cherry pies( in which the cherries were picked that day). there are cherry trees all over this town and nobody picks them so we do. anyway, good eating.

After my birthday august 1st, i'll be headed to ashland which is a town right over the oregon border from california. from there I'll be exploring that region for work and other opportunities.

oh, and i'll be headed to israel for a month or so some time in october. yay!! i'll get to see my friends and family. it's already been long enough.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

ahhhh coquile, oregon!!!

what a week? kept working on the foundation of the maintainance shop, it's real good experience in dry stack foundation building, but man, is it back breaking! We finally filled the hot tub with water, which is now, the bamboo forest sanctuary,Inaugurated it with thoughts of what the homestead will be like in ten ears, twenty years, and musci. My music, anaka's music on her ukelele. My music, disney classics, among other things. Today is the summer solstice, longest day of the year, when light turns to dark. here in oregon, it's funny thinking that winter's just around the corner, when it seems like it just left, but that's the way things go here.

i'M LOOKING INTO DIFFERENT OPTIONS IN THE ASHLAND-MEDFORD GRANTS PASS AREA OF SOUTHWEST OREGON. I'VE GOT THE ITCH TO BUY SOME LAND, A LITTLE PIECE OF EARTH TO CALL MY OWN, AND I THINK THAT SOUTHWEST OREGON IS THE PLACE FOR ME. SO i MIGHT FIND A PLACE TO LIVE FOR A WHILE DOWN THERE, WHILE I'M LOOKING FOR LAND. I HOPE TO VISIT MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN ISRAE IN A FEW MONTHS, AND I'M REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT. OTHER THAN THAT, I'M GOOD. SO PEACE

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Street Painting, Cat Palace, Aquaponics, and Naked Bike Ride

So I went up to Portland with soem of the people from Mountain Home to tak epart in the Village Building Convergence, this 10 day event trying to make the city more community oriented, blah blah blah. it's really cool, neighborhoods paint their intersections every year, build public spaces out of cob and other natural or recycled materials, plant gardens, that sort of stuff.

So yesterday we helped paint a street mural, that was fun getting messy, and we saw a cat palace being built, basically a tower that cats can go into and play around in with an aquarium and solar powered led string lights, very fancy. the guys property by the way was awesome, with lots of cob structures,exterior walls of the house, guest house, some other stuff.

we saw a guys aquaponics set up. thats where you grow fish and plants together. the waste pf the fish is food for the plants. It was pretty cool, cause it's probably one of the best ways to get fish, other than having ponds or just plain going fishing.

we had dinner and a salsa dancing lesson at the vbc headquarters, and then it was off to the center of town to witness the Naked Bike Ride, held annually all over the world, thousands of nude, semi nude, or weirdly dressed people riding their bikes through town, with police escort to boot. It was wild, and liberating. I kind of want to do it myself at some point. And to come back to the VBC next year, we only caught the tail end of it and there were lots of free or low cost workshops that i missed out on. One mre day in portland and than bakc to the homestead.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The WWOOF host of my dreams!

The Mountain Homestead has many friends, "Friends of Mountain Home", They say. One of them is Dave Christian. He's got a place outside of Fairview, Oregon. 26 acres of forest and pasture, a river runs through it. He just started hosting WWOOFers this year and has a half acre vegetable garden, apple trees, blueberries, who knows what else, Oh and chickens, ducks, goats, and a few llamas.

Dave is a neat guy, does tile and stone work, and I'm talking professional stuff. He also has a recording studio in the house, a yoga/dance studio, hot tub, badminton net out on the lawn(nice lawn, kinda big, but hey, it's nice).

Maybe I'll come out here for a while before I go back down to California.

I tell you, putting in a dry stack urbanite foundation is hard on the back, my whole body aches. Though we've been really knocking it out the last few days, found our groove or something. But I'll be glad when it's over. I could use a more relaxed work, like farming food. it doesn't hurt so much, and it's alive not dead.

Friday, June 5, 2009

UNTITLED

I added a few pictures, which i didn't take, but you can find them to the right of this entry. enjoy

Rant:

I must admit that while I have had good experiences at the homestead, and it is a wonderful place, I'm probably going to leave in a week or so. There's not a lot of focus in the work I'm doing, foundation work is slow and tedious and back breaking. Also the work is from 8 to 1 and then 2 to 5, and i can find other cool places that only ask for five or six hours a day, even less. So I'm looking at different options.

I'm going to Eugene this weekend. I'll be staying at a lady who has a house and is gardening and other permaculture type stuff. I'll tell you about it later. Eugene should be fun. It sounds like a really progressive town.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Turkey with stuffing and Otis Redding

Last night we had a turkey dinner in honor of one of the homesteaders leaving to go to Europe. A friend of the homestead brought a turkey which he had slaughtered and cleaned the same day. I made a stuffing based on how I remember my mother always made it. Of course I used fresh herbs from the garden. And there was gravy and mashed potatoes, homemade goat milk pennroyal mint ice cream and vegan brownies.

It was deliscious especially with all the wine we drank. And then we put on a best of otis redding album and danced like crazy. It was one fo the best nights I've had in a while. I love good food and good music and good dancing.

Today a friend of the homestead brought some lingcod( a kind of fish) to the homestead, a big bag of it, all clean and filleted. we'll batter and fry them up tonight.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sweat lodge and more!





Yeah, last night I went to a traditional native american sweat lodge. a couple who used to live at the homestead and who have studied and practice native american traditions set it up, both as a way for everybody to help after the whole search and rescue thing and cause the husband was away for the last 3 months for work. in a tiny dome structure covered in layers of blankets we sat in a circle and in the middle were placed volcanic stones straight out of a huge bonfire outside. a few splashes of water, and voila, a sweatlodge. plus native american chants with drum and rattle. there were five "sessions" lasting about ten to fifteen minutes each, with breaks to open the flap for a few minutes then add more stones. It was an intense experience. I'm claustrophobic and have a hard time being in plain old saunas, but because there were other people there all sending out positive energies I made it through the whole thing without clawing my way out. When it was all over, I felt like I had lost two pounds, maybe i did. I must have sweat out every disgusting thing in my body.

Life at the homestead is good. I seem to be fitting in just fine, and I'm looking forward to the months ahead. The people here are really nice and I will probably stay for the season.

Yeah, I sometimes get the urge to just pack up and go somewhere else. It's almost as if when I'm traveling I want to settle down, and when I finally settle down, I want to travel.

I'm beginning to find faults with the homestead, things that aren't "permaculture". But I think I'll roll with it for now. Maybe. We'll see. I can pick up and go anytime I want. Sometimes I forget that.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Free full body massage!

Payta, a former mountain homesteader offered all the homesteaders and anyone else that helped in the search effort massages at the masage school and center where she works. So today I got a full body massage from two people, payta, and a student. It was divine, my body is so limber now. I'm gonna do some streching tonight before I go to sleep. I made cornbread for our picnic lunch which we made for the homestead meeting we had at the hospital.

I didn't really explain about clara in my last posting. She's seventy, very fit for her age. About ten years ago her mind started to go. Now she doesn't really talk. She just repeats what other people say. She walks around the property all day, needs help using the toilet. As much as that sounds hard to deal with, clara is the best thing about the homestead. She is the most important priority to everybody there, brings everyone together. Loving, caring and all that.

While this whole thing with clara going missing has been hard on everybody including me, I think I like the homestead a lot and as long as they like having me I'll stay. Though I'll mostly be doing his building project and not food related stuff, the community is so nice that it's worth it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Search and rescue

Clara boggs, the cofounder of mountain homestead and 70 year old suffering from dementia went missing Friday morning. We looked for her for two and a half days and finally found her closer than we ever expected to find her. In those two and a half days I probably walked twenty miles of trails and not trails, bushwhacking my way through tough terrain. Really got to know the 365 acres like I was hoping to do, jus never thought that I would get to know it so quickly. Everybody came to help on the search. Power of community

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mountain Homestead, Coquille, Oregon

I got to the Mountain Homestead at about six in the evening on monday. 450 miles of hitchhiking in two days, probably a dozen rides altogether. So I'm in Oregon finally and it's pretty exciting. It's not like the place is completely different from northern california. Sure it's a little cold at night, but so was a lot of places in california.

More importantly, I am for the first time in my life, working in a place which is actually designed using permaculture. There are are maps, and mission statements, and projects of all sorts, organized in the same ways my permaculture teacher organizes his projects. Let me tell you what they've got here.

Compost toilets, and only compost toilets. All the water for both irrigation and drinking is from a natural spring and a pond, both on the 400 acres. Raised bed gardens, lots of raised beds. Tons of fruit trees, fruit vines, berries, and all sorts of other edible plants which i haven't even discovered yet. electricity is from a micro-hydro turbine and solar panels. Hot water for showers is heated by rocket stove, look it up. every structure built by homestead residents and work exchangers. and each building is unique. they are all made from timber harvested and milled on site. there are a few cob structures on the homestead, though wood is their main forte. for cob, one must go to the cob cottage company, their neighbors. I haven't visited them yet, but I'm probably going to do a day of work their sometime in the next week so that will be a cool way to get to know the place.

I've been working the last two days on a stone wall for the back of the bathroom and showers. kind of like stone terracing. also they are putting up a new maintenance shed, and they're working on the foundation, putting in huge pieces of urbanite, big blocks of cement torn up from construction sites, i.e. free. to put them in place, the work exchangers have built a jim pull?, don't know the spelling, a crane made from a log sitting on a notched stump, and then they use pulleys to lift the heavy blocks and then swing it over to the right spot. i'll take some pictures and videos.

This looks like the place I'm going to stay at for a while, unless it doesn't work out. The days are longer than at wwoof farms, but the people here are really invested in their homestead and that's admirable, i could learn a lot from them.

I'm also beginning to realize, I've really learned enough, and it's time I start doing things. At this place, like on the farm in Israel are highly motivated people, who make things happen. I need to become one of those people. Truthfully, volunteering the majority of my adult life, I haven't actually made anthing of my own. I think I know now what I want, and I think I can just go ahead and do it already. I'll find some land somewhere, no matter how small, and prove to myself that I can do anything.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Eureka! I'm half way there

I left lotus garden yesterday and was on the side of highway five at eight in the morning. Had the longest day ever. I waited for hours for rides. I got to red bluff by three, and that was maybe 150 miles don't know for sure. I was already dead tired. I met to other kids hitching to arcata on the coast and hitched with them to eureka, also on the coast. My plan was to stay in Ashland at this couchsurfer's place but since coquille is close to the coast I went to eureka. Stills here and about to get on the 101, which will take me all the way up to the coast ten miles from coquille, one more ride and I am there. Someone from the mountain homestead crew will pick me up.

P.S. Hitchhiking is sometimes hard, mainly the waiting, but it's so much fun. I had my first back of a hippie van ride. Two aging hippies in the front, wind chimes, the works. Ah, California!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Went to a drive in movie tonight with some of the people at the meditation center. yeah there are still a few hundred drive ins scattered around america. tonight was a free night with three movies though we only stayed for one, piece of crap adam sandler film. but it's nice to get out sometimes from wherever I might be. True blooded Americans were on full display there. Obese, wearing muumuus and baggy cloths, eating pizzas, and nachos, and, well, shit. What a sight. This is one day I'm glad I didn't take any pictures.

Worked the afternoon with the center's builder, putting together a workshop. Got me excited about the building projects I'll be working on up in Oregon next week. Gosh, I can't wait. Gosh.


Gosh

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yoga kicks ass!

i took a yoga class yesterday but in the middle i had to leave cause i was all gassy(This is my blog I can write whatever I want). Today there was another yoga class different teacher, and it was awesome. hard, painful at times, I was real close to pulling things a few times but I always pulled back a little. then we finished off with this relaxation pose lying on our backs with these scented sand bags on our eyes. I got high. seriously. I'm still coming down.

I really would stay here if not for the hare krishna thing. It's a real shame. I could really use a healing environment plus the ability to do permaculture, and they need someone full time on the gardens. Shame.

What is this all about?

Yes, Daniel. What is this all about?

Well that's a hard question and what I have to offer as answers raise more questions.

First Question: What exactly have I been doing?
First Answer : For the last two and a half months I have worked at nine different farms/homesteads/ranches/retreats for one to two weeks each, through the WWOOF program. My goal was to see how different people live successful sustainable lives in harmony with their environment. I also planned on finding a place to stay and work until at least winter(October/November). After that maybe it would be a nice fit with the owners that I might stay longer, maybe make some money. Or I might go back to Israel and the Permaculture community there. Or WWOOF in Australia/New Zealand.

Second Question: How has it been so far?
Second Answer : Hard. I don't think I've ever felt this kind of loneliness before, the loneliness of the traveler. Its true that since high school, I moved around alot. Kibbutz, Yeshiva, living with my parents, living in a tiny room in washington heights, an abssorbtion center in Israel, Hebrew University, Tel Aviv, Two Kibbutzim in the deep desert near Eilat, and an educational farm in Modiin. And it's true that through it all I haven't "kept in touch". Every time I moved somewhere, I changed and became someone different, no longer identifying with who I was and the friends I had made. Especially since I stopped being an observant Jew. But now, I get somewhere, just start to get to know the people, and then leave. It's hard. And it's not like I've been running away from these places. They simply weren't good fits for me. I have a vague vision of where I want to be, and it's not on a socially awkward hermit's homestead.
It's not on a five acre ranch where three acres are devoted to two dressage horses.
It's not large property in the middle of a redwood forest, that has no permanence, because everybody's a renter.
It's not a row cropper(though the Bernier's in Sonoma County were probably the nicest hosts I had, and their practices are pretty darn sustainable compared to conventional farming, and they are active in their community, a beautiful community at that.)
It could have been Oz Farm, a CSA, Apple and Pear Orchard, and Retreat in Southern Mendocino. They have a happy, young, and small growing community, plenty of space(450 acres) mostly forest, and a river runs through it. Lots of potential and room for projects of my own. I suppose I left cause I didn't want to work in their mono crops of annual vegetables. I was always envisioning polyculture vegetable beds in between the rows of trees(alley cropping) rather than separate. My permaculture education has taken me way beyond simple CSA's. There was also the owner of the farm, and the manager of the farm, two seperate people and I felt that there wasn't a common vision between the two.
It most definitely isn't stuck in the middle of the woods with a aging lesbian beatnik hermit who spouts permaculture this, and community that, but at the end of the day lives alone, likes it, and has the ugliest, emptiest, stupidest homestead and gardens i have ever seen.
It's not a majestic 140 acre retreat center, though a part of me really wanted it to be. But they were having me do housekeeping and I was unwilling to continue to toxic cleaning products cleaning their lodge, washing windows, etc while the wwoofer I came with worked with the owner, in the owners office, the two of them in matching swivel chairs doing research on their macbooks for a solar panel array they are going to put up. It sucked. Plus I just plain didn't click with the owner whatsoever.
It's not a Meditation Center with a religious orientation. Everything about this place is cool except for the religion thing. The last thing I need right now is to find a new religion. I have a religion already and it's hard enough as it is dealing with that one, thank you very much!

Question Three: So it's hard, and you haven't found what you are looking for. What exactly are you looking for?
Answer Three: I could list things, elements that I would want to have wherever I live. Compost toilets, Food Forests, Natural Building, Aquaculture, Swales, Alternative Energy, Family and Community, Art and Music, No gasoline, chickens, ducks, geese, deer, sheep, goats, rabbits, horses, donkeys, hundreds, thousands of herbs and medicinal, useful plants. And maybe that is what I was looking for a place where all of these elements are in place and work harmoniusly together in a Permaculture designed system. So I could see it with my own eyes and know it to be true. I've seen farms each with a few individual elements, but never all of them, all orchestrated by Permaculture design. So I guess that's what I was looking for. And I realize now, that I should have looked for farms owned by Permaculture designers, not just anybody. I even had fasults with the educational farm in Israel cause though it had many sustainable elements, it too was not designed through Permaculture.

Question Four: So what have you learned?
Answer Four : When I want something, I need to be clear about exactly what it is I want. Then I can put together a plan to make it happen. What I want won't just lie in front of me in the middle of the road waiting to get picked up. To find something, I need to know what it is. I need to think about what it is I want, and why.

Well done, Daniel

Lotus Garden Meditation Center

I'm the worst blogger in the world. No pictures. Well I'm gonna take some pictures this afternoon, and I'm gonna write new entries describing my previous wwoof hosts with any pictures i took along the way(and some I find on the internet already).

Well here I am at Lotus Garden Meditation Centter, in Carmichael, California. It's two acres in a suburban area, There are some trees and plenty of mown grass lawns, and the air is warm.

The people who live at the center are very nice and Zen. When I got her on Sunday they were getting ready for an event, the weekly gathering of the local Bhakti Yoga community. The Center isn't just a meditation center. It is the center of this Bhakti Yoga community. What is Bhakti Yoga? Look it up on Wikipedia. Suffice it to say that they chant Hare Krishna a lot(But they are not hare Krishnas, those guys at the airport who molested children and sold guns). It upset me a bit when I got here, because I felt I was misled. WWOOF hosts should mention in their listings if they have a spiritual orientation that is clearly visible and effects everything. I mean they oofer the food to krishna before feeding it to me. Now I am an open guy but I also don't like eating food that was used in a spiritual ritual without my permission.

Aside from that, this is a very nice place. I work five hours a day, and I am in conrol as to when I work, so I've been working form 7:30 till 10:30 and then another two hours from 3:30 till 5:30(that way I beat the heat). There is a pool and there is wireless internet somewhere so I can sit by the side of one of the buildings in the shade and surf.

The Gardens: As much as this place is nice, I have to chastise the center for it's use of chemical fertilizers. While they use homemade compost and horse manure, they also use potting soil which has chemical fertilizers in it. Also, don't expect to learn anything about organic farming because they don't know anything. They rely entirely on WWOOFers to get their garden going to feed the people that live here and to also sell some, so because there were so few WWOOFers until now, they haven't gotten any food in the ground. Also, aside from the Vegetable Garden which is simple row cropping with no mulch whatsoever, the rest of the gardens is all ornamental beds.

If i stayed , I could definitely improve their gardens, and it would be nice. Working in the gardens, doing yoga classes everyday. But I don't think i caan put up with the whole Hare krishna thing. I'm an open guy but I caan't live in a spiritual community at the moment.

On Sunday, I'm headed up to Mountain Homestead in Coquille, Oregon. Yes that's right, Oregon. I've had enough of California, and enough of "Organic Farms". I'm going to the land of Tom Ward, the Permaculture Designer who instructed Gilad, my teacher. I only found out about them yesterday, on the internet, and I'm really excited. They have already planted a few small food forests and are continuing with bigger ones. They also do a lot of natural building, with timber harvested onsite, coband strawbale etc. I'll probably be helping them finish up building a workshop, and I'm really excited cause I've been waiting to do some building. Finally!!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Headed to Lotus Garden meditation center

20 minutes east of sacremento. Matthew is staying at shambhala ranch to work on the solar project. I move on. call me anytime at 973-280-2261, it's nice to talk to people. i've been out of cell range all week, so call me later today.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Shambala Ranch, Mendocino County

Where do I begin? Yesterday afternoon, Matt and I left Patricia Kovner's piece of shit "homestead", a 20 acre property with a small house, trailer, cabin, a few fruit trees, and a few raised beds. This almost 60 something year old lady would go on and on about how she's "into" permaculture and sustainable living, but there was nothing permaculture about her place. I would call her place a hobby farm, or maybe just a hobby. I didn't take any pictures of her place, though I should have because to see her garden is to see what not to do. First off she had no overall design. A system will never be effiecient if it is not properly designed. Anyway I wont go on about her place, suffice it to say I don't reccommend anybody to WWOOF there.

We left Laytonville for Ukiah ,an hour's drive, and then took a scenic winding road through redwoods and oaks for 45 minutes, while heavy fogs rolled in between the hills. We arrived at Shambala Ranch, an Inn and Retreat center owned and operated by Stuart and Tara Marcus who were hosting a second night Passover Seder for the Ukiah/Willits Jewish community. It was incredible! Yes we were the youngest people there aside from one high school kid, and one baby. But the energy and enthusiasm of the people here last night made up for the lack of pretty girls. It was like no seder I've ever been too, lots of songs in english many of them childish which made them so much fun to sing. Eventhough it was a relatively fast seder ending around 11:30, there were a whole bunch of really great comments and interpretations given about arious parts of the hagaddah. it was one of the most creative seders i've ever been too, we even danced around the room at one point. The food was great too. Anyway we stayed at the Lodge last night and then had breakfast with Stuart and Tara and some of the other guests who stayed over. I made matzoh brei which we had with jam. Then they told us we could stay another night if we wanted, do laundry too. we helped them clean up the lodge , the floors, move chairs and tables. Now it looks like we're going to help them with some things for the next couple of days at least. We're sort of playing it by ear. Tara is taking a permaculture course so she is looking for some help, though it's not clear yet what she wants to do. Tomorrow i am going to look at the sit of her new garden and map some things out and come up with a design. Oh yeah, there is satellite internet with wifi here so I'm in heaven. Matt and I went mushroom hunting just now but we only found a few small mushrooms which I haven't identified yet. Tara gave us a map with directions to places she knows have mushrooms, so we'll try again tomorrow.

Matt and I have really bonded and even though we have no clue what will be a week from now we are really happy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Long time no speak. Oz was Da Bomb!!

Hey everybody. I'm updating this blog from the Laytonville Family Center sort of a state supported local community center, in this piss hole of a town in mendocino county. I'm at this old jewish lady's place in the middle of the woods and she's kind of crazy, so I won't be here long probably till friday, she says thats when we have to leave. and that's not a problem she's not really that nice and as i said she's crazy. she thinks ultra orthodox jews do it through a hole in a sheet. anyway there's another wwoofer who arrived yesterday as well. His name is matt and he's super cool, has a car full of camping gear. he's from phoenix and was supposed to wwoof with his girlfriend but she got sick so we're gonna team up for a while. It's been really hard moving from one place to another all by myself so this will be really good for me.

Oz Farm!!! Oz was amazing!!! Two weeks spent in a beautiful wooded are, with a bunch of really cool new interns to hang out with. The first weekend there was a concert there with three cool bands and pizza being made in the new cob oven. it was delicious. Then this last weekend there was a group of people from Davis hanging out after working on the whole earth festival there having next month. O h yeah, oz has a gigantic heirloom apple orchard with over 40 different apples and also pears, and thy host retreats, events. Oz used to be a hippie commune. lots of places in California used to be hippie communes. I had a blast there a real blast and it was hard to leave but i know the world is a big place and there's always more to see. I really want to settle down for the rest of the year but i haven't found the right spot, though oz was close. they had a great community though the farming methods weren't sustainable enough for me. i hope i find a place that is. I will , i know it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I'm off to see the wizard

Well I left yael bernier's place today, and it was hard because I had such a good time There. They are good people making an honarable living. The people I met in wine country were some of the best warmest people I've ever met. I am headed today to oz farm in boonville. It's
They run a community supported agriculture program that provides 150 families with weekly fresh produce, as well as a retreat center that hosts groups, to relax in a natural environment I guess. My friend naomi worked tree for a few months a few years ago and she had a blast so I'm sure I will too.

Did I mention how nice and friendly californians are? Sometimes I think it's because of all the pot they smoke, but that's silly. Maybe it's just because the weather is so nice that people just have to be real pleasant. Either way, i don't feel like such a stranger even though I am. I skyped with my friends back on the farm in Israel today. It was a bad connection but t was so nice to hear their voices. I am going to try again soon.

I got a good sounding guitar today for a reasonable price, the guitar I came with had crappy sound so I'm happy about that. Rock n roll!!!!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

rantings of a wwoofer

I’ve been working the past week at yael Bernier’s place in Sonoma County and it’s been so amazing, definitely my best farm experience so far in my travels. I feel very included here, feel at home. Yael even told me she doesn’t like wwoofers who act like guests, feel at home!

What kind of work have I done? Weeding, Preparing beds for crops by rototilling, adding compost and feather meal(don’t ask!), then seeding, transplanting(moving seedlings into bigger containers, and planting. What have I seeded and planted and weeded? Chard, peas, lettuces, radicchio, turnips, carrots.. I’m eating very well, though I had too may beans the last two days and I’m not the most fun person to be around right now.

The berniers are a really funky family. Paul comes from a family of engineers, tinkerers, and he has a shop on the property full of all sorts of tools and equipment and some of the machines he uses in the grapes with his tractor are homemade. His son took a recumbent bicycle and put an electric motor and batteries in it and I’m gonna take it out for a spin in the next couple of days. Cool huh?

Tonight, after dinner, I went with the berniers to the Dry creek Valley Association annual dinner, where besides talking about buerucratic paper woerk kind of stuff, local area residents were discussing water. The local governments are trtying to build a system that would give wine growers in the area sewage water for irrigation so they can take the fresh water for something else, probably more developments. So it was interesting to see people getting involved with whats going on with their local regional resources. Water is a complicated subject. It’s not something that can be easily solved, because it’s not something that is just local. Fresh water is always moving, traveling downhill. What the people do with water upstream effects the people downstream. I would love to see rivers and streams flowing with water, teeming with life. But It sounds like more and more rivers are being dammed or tapped almost entirely for human uses.

Lots of people have wells and pumps on their properties, and I can tell that more often, people will have to deal with the fact that their wells won’t pull up water because water tables will have dropped past the wells. What it comes down to is ridiculous consumption of fresh water.

Biggest offenders: Agriculture, Industry, Home Use. I’m on an organic farm but even here I see row crops with no mulch on them. This is an indicator that farmers don’t care about conserving water, with prices so low why conserve? I think that the cost of water should be raised. I don’t know if there are other people out there who think the same way, but as long as it’s ridiculously cheap nobody gives a crap. But they do give a crap, into their toilets which they flush down with perfectly good drinking water, same stuff that comes out of the tapm, same stuff that’s been filtered and had fluouride added to it. Drinking water and poop. That makes sense to you? I am a proponent of compost toilets, They don’t use any water, and produce great compost which can be used to grow more food, thus closing the food cycle. Some people are grossed out by the idea of pooping and the poop not disappearing magicly down a drain. I’m grossed out by the system most homes have nowadays.

I'll be headed next week to Oz Farm. My friend Naomi, worked there for a few months a couple of years ago and had a blast, so i'm gonna work there and hopefully have a good time doing it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Weeding, Weeding...

Spent the day weeding onions and garlic at yael's son zuriel's crops. had fun talking to him about different methods and techniques in sustainable farming. Last night Yael cooked up some halibut and I put some butter on it with lemons. deliscious!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Good Work, Good people, good food, good fun

So I am at Yael Bernier's farm in Geyserville, Ca. She grows vegetables for local restaurants and grow grapes for at least one winery. Today I trellised peas, transplanted tomatoes and echinacea, washed carrots with some gleaners(they go around to different farms collect leftovers of harvests for local food banks), moved irrigation hoses, made lemonade, and had a wonderful dinner of pasta with orange tomato sauce, fresh ground parmesan, leftover curry from last night, and coleslaw. Last night we had a delicious chicken curry which a family friend made, and roasted asparagus, baby portobellos, and winter squash.

I have only been here a day and I am just so happy, this is a much better environment for me than Vincent's Place. There aren't any other wwoofers here but there is a twenty something mexican that works here so maybe I'll hang out with him. tomorrow after work i'll bike around town a bit. there are vineyards everywhere and some creeks too. Yesterday, before I got picked up by Yael in healdsburg I hung out with some people who work at a microbrewery in town and I got free beers which were really delicious and I talked to a guy about mushroom cultivation, which i am getting more and more excited about every day.Signing out, Dani. - Oh yeah Happy Purim! I bet my friends in HavaveAdam had a really good time.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Headed to Yael Bernier's farm in Geyserville today

Yep, I finally managed to escape San Francisco. It was hard, what with all the people in the streets with flowers in their hair. But really, the people make that city, not a bridge or a park, or stores, or cable cars. I met such amazing people, people from all walks of life and I am a better man because of it. Like everyone else in this world, I have lots of preconcieved notions about things, a lot of which comes from tv and movies. So talking to homosexuals, talking to stoners, shroomers and acid freaks, talking to just sme guy on the street for a local perspective, it all helps me to grow and understand my world.

I hitchhiked for the first time in the good ol' U. S. of A today, and I got two rides. Both times I was picked up within two minutes of thumbing(which I didn't actually do cause it's illegal but any other sign like a hand out or an actual sign that says N or S is ok, someone told me.). The first, Lauren, has her own yoga studio, so she's super cool. We talked about her travels in central america and meeting Israel travelers (who hasn't). She gave me a very refreshing take on how the economy affects different people differently.

Now I'm in Healdsburg, which is sort of a touristy town, with wine shops and antique stores and plenty of free wifi. I'm sitting on the grass, with my laptop in my lap and the sun on my neck, eating chocalte chip cookies. Could life get any better? Yael Bernier will be arriving in a few hours to run some errands and pick me up as well. here's what the book has to say about her place:

We farm row crops and grapes in Sonoma County, north by about 75 miles from San Francisco. We farm sustainably, selling our grapes to a couple of small wineries and our row crops with an emphasis on garlic to restaurants and customers at the local farm market. Our farm is in Dry Creek Valley, a well-known wine grape region. The terrain is diverse with a beautiful valley, rolling hills, and coniferous forests. We have farmed here for over 30 years and one of our sons, Zureal, is now involved in the row crops. We farm 14 different varieties of garlic and greens, fruits, and root crops from spring til winter. Our work consists of greenhouse seeding, transplanting, cultivating, maintaining irrigation systems, harvesting, delivering and selling of produce. Sometimes vineyard work, as well. Our house has an extra bedroom with twin beds, and we’re able to host two people. We prefer you to stay a few days to a week or two. Most days we work until noon or a little after, with market days longer. Bicycles are available to ride to town, 7 miles. Car transport is possible, too. Bus service a short distance from our house. We eat organically with occasional meat. We speak English and Spanish.

I'm having trouble figuring out which farm to got to next. I've always been "heading north to Oregon" but that won't work anymore, I have a limited number of farms that were interested in me, and while some of them are geographically close to me right noiw they don't need anyone till april so I might head up to some farms then backtrack and visit other ones. As long as I hitchhike that will cut transport costs to practically nothing, which is good cause the last farm(not enough food) and the bay area kind of took a bit bite out of my wallet, no matter that i couchsurfed the entire time. I didn't pick up that mini amp I was thinking about, but I hope to do it before my next farm cause i really need to start making money and playing guitar in town would be fine. I did get a new used guitar but I have to have it fixed for a lefty this part that guides the strings on the frets.