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.


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.