Tomi Hazel's Blog & articles

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2013 Article on Tom in the Applegator: With Design in Mind.

Community Inventory Report from the Little Applegate Valley

By: Tomi Hazel and Megan Fehrman, Spring 2017

In the spring of 2014 a pair of neighbors met a few times to plan a series of community meetings to map our resources. These ideas are based in exercises called Community Asset Mapping and Scenario Practices, that is setting up a session to record information about the strengths and resources of a community and then visioning solutions to challenges and brainstorming how to move beyond imagined constraints. Once community strengths and resources are inventoried and mapped, the group can more easily think about how to build on these assets to address community needs and improve the health of our particular places and their surrounding environments.

Thirty folks showed up to the first meeting from various neighborhoods and farms in the Little Applegate. We recruited a local farmer to MC the meeting while Megan and Tomi Hazel facilitated the group process. Tomi Hazel hung up some posters on Systems, and talked the group through the concept and procedure. We all agreed that none of the data or information was to be photographed or posted online, and that this was just a pen and paper exercise for our community.

Everyone went to work as we began the first of two poster-making sessions. In the first round, groups worked together by place-- each farm or homestead teamed together to jot down resources they had on each of the ten posters, thus starting to map the assets that the community held. They had 5 five minutes per poster and the categories ranged from local businesses, non-profits/community organizations, skills and knowledge, equipment available, natural resources, transportation, and communication systems.

In the second session, we broke up into groups based on interest area, with each group analyzing just one of the posters. Folks began clumping the information into bubbles on a new piece of poster paper and then looking to see how the bubbles related to each other. Lines were drawn between bubbles with action words on the lines or the intersection of bubbles suggested places of overlap and collaboration. We did this all in about two hours.

Two months later we gathered again. Twenty-five neighbors came out for the second meeting; about half were new to the inventory—which means we had about forty participants total for the two sessions. We hung the twenty plus posters in two parallel lines so that folks could tour the first meeting’s work. Tomi Hazel had made a meta-poster in between meetings so that we could see the relationships between the inventory categories. Then we brainstormed what was missing-- were there other categories that seemed crucial to have on the map? What actionable projects leaped out of the information? Where could we go from here? Several committees formed to work on new categories or to move forward with the obvious projects. A bulletin board at Buncom, a bus stop at Crump, and a farm store at Yale Creek Ranch made the agenda. Several small businesses in our valley talked about sharing bulk buying and recycling by-products between operations.  We could share event calendars and set-up better communication systems. There was a lot of enthusiasm for this community inventory process and some of the projects have seen some progress. We are now planning our next meeting for the spring of 2017.

In talking about this experience with folks from around the Applegate, there was interest from other neighborhoods. We hope that this report encourages and enables other community inventories, or at the very least, encourages a mutual report exchange among the various drainages of our eclectic valley.

October 2016

Tree roots keep mostly horizontal near the surface.  Successful natural forests on clay soils have A layers with lots of mulch to keep the "hemisphere" (the thin layer of fungals and roots at the A/B soil horizons) happy.

The work we did on North Mountain Avenue near Ashland at Star Gardens in the early 80's with black sticky did involve some perennials.

We did not deep rip the clay, we "scratched" it with my tool bar mounted bar steel scratchers, only two to four inches deep so that our flood irrigation was spread better.  We tilled the top one to two inches with a rotator to break up the existing pasture sod and then we scratched/ripped.  Then we seeded in alluvial fines (mineralization) and red clover.  The clover grew four feet tall and blew our minds.  The ground showed good flood irrigation spread and the hedgerows and windbreaks had decent survival.

The whole place was years later bulldozed and planted to wine grapes.

So in an orchard retrofit one might look for roots near the surface just under the drippiness of the trees and deep mulch there as well as drip irrigate there.  The areas between the tree shadows is where you can start to build a carbon heavy fluff that will welcome tree root expansion as the crowns spread.

Do not forget that black sticky is black because of high carbon content!  That is one reason why it shrinks swells so enthusiastically!  Those soils were built by marshes at the edge of large shallow lakes behind glacial moraines.  They are found in lower mid elevations all around the Bear Creek valley.  They represent some of our best clay loans but they have a very narrow window of entry when they can be lightly tilled or ripped.  JUST ADD CARBON. Clay is an awesome soil component for water conservation and tree crops.

December, 2015 Storytelling event at Jackson Wellsprings
Find the recording of the talk on the Video Page.

May 2015

We have finally gotten Tom's South Africa slide show up on youtube.  This is a 2 hour presentation of a slide show given in January 1995 whose subject is Tom's four months at Thlolego Learning Centre near Rustenburg, South Africa in the fall of 1994.  Tom was there to teach a PDC and support village development with technical advice and help.  This was just after Nelson Mandela was elected president and the revolution had not yet fully settled down.  Tom says, "I learned a lot and taught the PDC in seven languages under translation with lots of break out discussion groups."  Find it on the Video Page of our website (third one down). 

December 2014

On December 6, 2014, Tom Ward aka Tomi Hazel brought us the annual storytelling at the Jackson Wellsprings Community Room where about 100 people were present.  You can listen to the talk by going to our Video Page.

Acorn Woman is the guardian spirit of the White Oak tree, an ecologically key species of the forest in our region, especially in the oak pine savannah.  The White Oak has a high degree of connectivity in ecosystems, which is called implication, a poetic word in the English language with lots of different implications.  White Oak, Acorn Woman, the Triple Goddess, the White Goddess, Diana the huntress, all of these are associated with the White Oak in different cultures, in different places, showing us the central ecological importance of the White Oak tree.  Because she's such a strong woman, she has many consorts, the spirit animal plant guild of the White Oak.  We're going to meet her friends and talk about their relationships to her and to each other, and learn about our relationships to this place. 

August 2014

The challenge with a plaster lining is that it only holds water if the pond is kept full.  When the plaster dries it cracks and you have to reseal.  Perhaps you can draw it down and then re-plaster and after several years it would hold better?  I do not recommend epdm liners as they are laminates of questionable materials but more importantly are glued seams with a toxic glue, even though they say "fish safe".  Try hdpe instead as it is non toxic but no glue works.  One has to heat weld although I suppose one could do some fancy folding.  I wrote an article about plaster ponds for the Permaculture Activist long ago.  

The most wonderful thing I found about a small lined pond is the soil moisture condensation on the underside of the liner.  Do put lots of cardboard or leaves or carbon material under the liner and expect to grow a lot of good herbs along the edge of the pond as the roots will follow the underside of the liner.

May 2014

The Water Care poster is a map of technologies.  It's about extreme water care.  If we're going to really care about water, there's a bunch of details we need to know to do that.  On this poster, the further we read out in the sectors, the harder that category is to do.  The easiest tricks to do are close in.  If we do water care properly, we close loops.  There are eddies, backwaters, where water care wiggles for a moment before flowing back again.

Let's start with SOURCE.  The easiest way to get water is from rain and snowmelt.  It's gravity delivered, it's high quality, Mama delivers it to your roof.  The next easiest to do is to recycle water, to re-use water.  This is way easier than pumping water.  The rest of these are "we have to dig to get to water," "we have to develop a spring to get water;" "Oh, we have to dig really deep to get to water;" that gets more and more expensive and difficult.  The easiest is to collect the water off your roof.  

April 2014

One important principle used in permaculture design is that the very best place to store water is in the soil and in vegetation.  We want to know where to sink in water on the landscape.  The slogan and program is, "Slow it, spread it, sink it."  With overhead irrigation, we lose up to 80% of the water.  The best method of irrigation is flood irrigation when it's done perfectly.

The state doesn't like keyline and infiltration.  They say it's stealing from the fish--Not True!  Charging the groundwater keeps the main stem of the creeks running at cool temperatures later in the summer.  If we were all infiltrating water, our creeks would run year round.  We need to learn to do these things on a landscape scale.  Between keyline ripping and swales and patterning, we can avoid the whole impounding issue of pond regulations because there's no law against swales.  There are no laws against infiltration.  "Look, We don't have any ponds.  I don't see any water,"--because it's underground.

March 2014

Life is more complex than we can measure.  It's more complex than we can actually design.  We've produced three water posters to try to understand water.  This article addresses the Water Cycle.  The others will be discussed in follow-up articles.

On the Water Cycle poster let's start with evaporation, where water leaves the ground.  The first thing that happen when water leaves the landscape is three different ways that plants move water.  How does a redwood tree get to over 500 feet?  It can pump water three ways.  It does it through osmosis because the tree has minerals and sugar in it's sap, and the water in the soil doesn't have sugar in it; therefore the water moves into the plant because nature abhors a vacuum.  Water moves from less salty to more salty, and that's the nature of osmosis.  The second way that plants pump water is by capillary action, the tubes in the wood are tiny, microscopic.  That means that water tension likes to climb up those tubes, and the tubes end up being a pumping action because the water tension pulls itself up the tube; that's capillary action.  The third way the plants pump water is trans-evaporation, which means that the leaves with the sun on them evaporate water to stay cool and that creates a suction.  The leaves pull water up from the roots through evaporation; the trunk moves water up through capillary action and the roots pump water through osmosis.

This is important for permaculture because one of the best places to store water is in the plants.  The drought that we are in has left the trees with 5-10% moisture, when they should be at 80-90% moisture at this time of year.  So the trees are rapidly growing root hairs right now to suck up some of the 4 inches of rain that fell in the last few days.  All the trees are maximally extending their root hair surface, and it's all microscopic straws.  They're quickly trying to suck water into the trunk.  The trunk of a large tree can hold thousands of gallons of water, tons of water--it's amazing.

November 2013

We do not own the land, it owns us, and the land is sad for the loss of our careful attention and disturbances.  The human heart longs for usefulness, engagement and biological entanglement.  Permaculture moves us back towards home, to things we once all knew as a people place, and held in common stories and practices, all local and specific. Oooh, my heart grows faint with the promise of relationship and reciprocation, in the place where my macro-molecules will one day be reassembled in some new emergent complexity.

By helping whole systems thinking to stay sane while the big systems ride their adjustments and we tinker in some corner, Permaculture is a method of persistence.  The crazy horizontal spread of permaculture education has sent out a lot of experimenters and public speakers to entertain change in the face of corporate consolidation.  An academic origin gave permaculture just enough of a design based education template.  For most every ecosystem inhabitation we can collect ecological knowledge, reassemble patterns and preserve precautionary principles.  And away it goes.  Where it ends nobody knows.  At least we know a good wave to jump on when it rolls by.  Think about how the water stays in place while the wave passes through.  All the local denizens are busy while some skimmers take a bigger look.  Who else is taking the bigger look?  Lots of indigenous councils and intact, but battered, traditions are there with us.  The world does not need us to save it.  The job is saving human culture and the memory and continuity of co-evolution and biodiversity building.  Nancy Turner calls this "Keeping it Living".

Metastasis.  Many other academic institutions of ecological design have carried on with whole systems science and Permaculture just keeps teaching and implementing forward on the ground all over the planet.  What Wendell Berry calls "doing the right thing" means learning to live an engaged life on a low financial budget.  We need to learn to live local and good, but poor.  Re-skilling and Transition Towns are necessary, and so is what Scott Pittman calls "nurturing that design mind with good pedagogy".  Permaculture offers the special gift of peoples' applied design process for kick-starting re-indigenation.

August, 2012

There has been plenty of controversy in seed saving, land restoration and Permaculture circles about "invasive weeds" and what to do.  Some have pointed out the inherent racism in judging species and some have blamed the plant newcomers for the decline of ecosystems and fondly remembered landscapes ("nostalgia guilds").

Often a recently arrived plant will have an eco-spasm.  For example, Mediterranean Desert Parsley, Torilis arvensis (we call it Velcro Burr for its affinity for socks) are to be found on disturbed soils.  There are lots of ways that industrial extraction of bio-life and minerals has caused disturbance.  Thus if we are disturbed to find our socks full of Velcro Burr burrs, we have some conceptual ecosystem tools to talk about this and get some therapy.

Ecological Implication implies that native long time resident species have a lot of commensalities: the plants, animals, insects, fungi etc that have relations to each other.  Oregon White Oak has been around so long that we can pick up pieces of petrified wood millions of years old on parts of the Old Cascade Mountains.  This sacred tree is important to both west coast indigenous folks and to the Druids of southern Europe.  She holds a reservoir of fungal associates and is very competent at recovery from hot fires by sprouting from the roots.  The mycorrhizal fungi can help many other perennial species recover by helping their surviving or carried-in seeds germinate and thrive.  She is also the usual habitat of many birds, butterflies and acorn gatherers.  The list of associates goes on and on.

MARCH 12, 2012

We are in a long drought period that started in the late 70's. The 
pattern was found in tree rings in the Sierras. Such dry periods 
appear to last about 60 years so we are over half through. Who knows what climate wierding will do?

If a woody stem has good turgor (sap pressure) the larva hatched from eggs inserted by the ovipositor will be pushed out of the bark! Hard to keep good turgor when we have low carbon content soils and a Mediterranean climate of wet and dry extremes. There is a pine bark beetle population spike just now and we can measure low water pressure in the tree trunks. If we were burning regularly and taking out understory competition and making sure there are lots of mycorhizals and limiting compaction from tractors or roads or development then the pines would have better turgor. You cannot stop a bark beetle epidemic by cutting down affected trees (almost all of them presently) or by spraying poisons.

As I have said so often we are talking systemic complications 
everywhere and there is no silver bullet (sorry, masked stranger!).

So lets talk stem temperature. Rose family bark beetles (there are 
several species and many are endemic) use infra-red telemetry to find nice warm places to insert eggs. So a big part of the white wash is to lower the target temperature. This can also be done with shade boards propped up against the south and southwest sides of tree trunks or with wrappings but clustered stems and vines work the trick naturally. Perhaps some stems on the hot side of the guild will be beetled but not all. Put species that bark beetles do not like there. Bark beetles hurry the return of carbon to the soil by taking down weak trees. Without burning and thinning we have a lot of carbon standing in vegetation instead of in the soil cycle. Most of the poor soils in Southern Oregon have had the carbon farmed out of them. Guild clumps are not continuous standing carbon.

Then there is the challenge in the Siskiyous of late frosts and early 
blooming. The traditional method of bloom suppression is to plant the apple tree in the shade of the barn where it will have a cold trunk until late spring and yet still have enough sun in the crown for fruit ripening in the fall. We in Ashland are about at the same latitude as Southern Vermont. There they have used stone mulch inside the drip line to keep the soil cooler in the spring and warmer in the fall. Again, a well laid out food forest will have the varieties located by aspect and no species would be continuous (one apple tree next to another).

I suggest berries (especially Ribes sps,) and Modoc plums and nut pines
 and such is where we should be going. I cannot find bare root Foothill  Pines in any nurseries as they are not timber trees. There are a  number of cone bearing specimens in Ashland. We need a nursery grow out to supply us all. Pinus sabiniana.

Keeping pet trees is a real good way to learn how things work and to  pay attention to details. I love all the flowering trees we are all 
about to enjoy this spring. Luckily we can graft fruit bearing scions via topworking onto many of the flowering but not fruit bearing ornamentals and get them into production in a couple of years. Meanwhile for sure get out your grafting knife and poke about in the bark cracks and sun scalds to see who is home, Perhaps there are Downy Woodpeckers doing it for you?

Plant them all and let the goddess sort it out. We are babes in the 
woods for sure. Lets explore like children excited with spring.

Seasonal Work, Festivals and Forestry on the Ecological Calendar 
published in the Permaculture Activist, November 2014

Let's start by cherishing the goal for us all to deeply realize that we are natural beings on this landscape and that we belong here.  That is a big healing for everyone; we’re not necessarily only making messes.  We have work to do here and the land misses us because co-evolution is deeply embedded in our genetics and there have been First Nations peoples working on Turtle Island for anything from 13,000 to 250,000 years depending on who you talk to.  It’s only very recently, 150-200 years ago that a regular cycle of seasonal stewardship got broken here in the Siskiyous.  We can still see the remnants of that ethnobotanical work as we walk around landscapes and find what the First Nations peoples were doing.  So it’s not that big a jump to get back into the game.

Paul Shepherd, author of Nature and Madness, and Coming Home to the Pleistocene, says to make sure that the children have full support when they’re infants, full body contact at all times—it’s called continuum parenting.  Then from 3-9 years old they should have plenty unsupervised nature immersion.   As a child in nature, the brain picks up the metaphors for thinking: the fox, the mud, the lichen, the dark, the light, the rain, the cold, the seasonal flavors, the template for all those symbols is genetically built into our brains.  If we have that full complement of natural symbology in our metaphoric repertoire then we have a chance of becoming adults, growing up and being useful.  A lot of us are missing parts of that vocabulary.  Read more.

Siskiyou Seasonal Work, Festivals & Pilgrimages on the Ecological Calendar
December 2013

Tomi Hazel's annual storytelling in December 2013 outlined what the future indigenous people of this area will be doing in the post-industrial world.  Watch the full two hour video on youtube.

The villages of Wagner County in the 22nd century (by the old reckoning) are tucked up into the side canyons and connected by rail and canals built on the old irrigation template. Semi-nomadic herbalist, herder, trader, horticulture, ranger, miller and crafter guilds all work together to Keep It Living.  Everyone has work, praise, family and is deeply connected to the land.  

In the ongoing series of reverse scenario vision talks, we previously talked about icons and indigenous essences of place, stories from the past, watershed repair for Return of the Salmon.  This talk explored a year of celebrations and work cycles by settled and  nomadic cultures sharing the work and supporting the shared council. We talked through a yearly cycle and remember back and forth what we can do Now, Next and Forever.  

Posted October 2013

On the very day of my attainment,
I took unto myself a field of thistles.
I cleared the ground, plowed the earth,
And planted my crop in straight rows.
Thistles grew among the corn,
And eyes peered laughing from the forest's edge.

I cut it all down, and read books.
I planted my crop in rows.
Thistles grew among the corn.
Armed with science now, I poisoned the thistles,
And the corn died.
Eyes peered laughing from the forest's edge.

I read different books then planted my crop again
Thistles grew among the corn.
Armed with philosophy now, I let them grow together.
Then reaped the corn and thistles with studied equanimity.
But no one would buy my harvest, unlettered Philistines!
Eyes Peered laughing from the forests's edge.

I sat in my field, cross-legged and naked.
I let the powers of Earth and Sky, of Life and Death,
Touch me, fill me, flow through me.
In profound understanding, I planted my crop in rows.
Thistles grew among the corn.
Armed with Enlightenment now, I appreciated them:
Thorns sharp enough to splinter raindrops into rainbows,
Blossoms bursting from pregnant pods,
Hued like the first harmonic of dawn,
Molting into snow stars as the season matured.
In ecstasy and awe I simply was, fasting until I fainted.
Eyes peered laughing from the forest's edge.

I awoke in a field of thistles.
Armed with desperate cunning born of hunger,
I ate them.
Not bad.
Corn grew here and there in broken rows,
I ate that too.
I looked for the peering eyes,
But the forest no longer had an edge.

Armed with the most ancient secret of agriculture,
I abandoned my field.
I no longer plow or plant,
I no longer watch for rain or frost,
Harvest comes when I hunger,
And my crop whatever comes to hand.

Now in my abundant leisure,
I peer and laugh from the forest's edge,
And sow thistles in other people's corn.

Poem by Gwion, 1990

and found in Greenward, Ho! An Ecological Approach to Sustainable Healthavailable from



November, 2012

When we humans find ourselves outside the hedge, away from the barnyard, with neither dog nor drove, wild nature greets us.  Small birds come by to take a look.  Gatherers, rangers, wood workers, poets and artists, we all have a lot to learn from the less tended edge.

The denizens of the woods come by to observe us.  We present edgy opportunities.  What might we knock over or pull down?  What is all that racket?  Or, what smells are those?  They seek the sounds and smells and flash of disturbance regimes!

The work we do in Zone V, "the wild lands" is critical to whole landscape integration.  Forested ridges provide water brooms and corridors for plant and animal movements.  Mixed forest and savannah foothills are traditional human forage lands and most specifies mosaics (or ecosystem types) co-evolved with human burning, seed dispersal, digging and hunting.

May, 2012

Question: I've been hearing a lot about solar heated & cooled greenhouses for climates such as South Central WA and your neck of the woods.  Do you have any resources you would recommend I look at?

Most greenhouse/season extension recommendations are about the favorite of the author.  My two cents worth is that stand alone fancy greenhouses have management issues in the long run with pest build ups and difficult cleansing and sterilization procedures.  The most intriguing is Solviva where the author lives in the greenhouse and monitors and adjusts continually.  An unmanaged stand alone greenhouse needs full time observation and management.  Folks love to build them but then they go away; there are a lot of abandoned greenhouses.  There is another type of greenhouse that uses air circulation pumped by solar electricity through the soil in plenums and thus keeps the soil temperature up and allows better overall mixing.  I have worked in one near Ashland.

My favorite tactic is cold frames.  They can be simple and multiple (redundancy) and can have manure compost bottom heating or just solar.  They can be opened in summer and used as a boxed bed and the gophers can be excluded as well as the hares and deer with a bit of netting.  

Hoop houses as temporary tactics that can be moved around are also great.  More flexible than a fixed construction.  

I think that built greenhouses are most useful as solariums with cactuses and succulents and not too much humidity and mildews.  They are great for sitting in during cold spells and as meditation and yoga studios.  They still need management such as winter snow load removal, summer shade cloth and daily ventilation adjustments.  

Home attached greenhouses are famously recommended as a stacking strategy to do many things but my experience is that they may solar heat a room in a house but if one tries to grow food or does a lot of watering in an attached greenhouse the thermosiphoning of solar heat carries mildews, irritant pollens and humidity (that settles out on north walls and baseboards) into the house and is a really problem.  So attached solariums are best for heating, sitting and perhaps drying clothes occasionally.

March 20, 2012

I make a distinction between biochar which is cooked in a closed 
container (double retort) at low temperatures (about 350 degrees F.) 
and is used for fertilizer (layered into compost or topdressed) and 
agrichar which is pure charcoal cooked by various methods at high temperatures (about 750 degrees F.) Agribusiness is into biochar because they can skim the biogas off the pyrolization, use the biogas to power electric generators on site (think slaughter yard) and then sell the granular biochar to farmers who can use the same equipment to 
spread it as they use with chemical fertilizer.

Agrichar has the structure of wood preserved but has no nutritive content. Pure carbon. I believe that it is granulated or powdered (we should look at the results of fragmentation with a microscope and see if the pore structure is intact although miniscule!).

I heard on Science Friday (NPR) from a professor at the University of Maryland that the formula for the one time treatment of soils (especially high magnesium clays like we have at Wolf Gulch) is:one kilo of agrichar tilled in 20 centimeters deep per square meter of soil.  
I assume that the agrichar offers a hotel for soil biology and is a stable carbon sequestration with the agrichar lasting a long time.

I observed in my Oak/Pine savannah cool underburning this January that the black lace left suspended on the bunch grass clumps was biochar not agrichar and the rains quickly washed it into the top soil. I am still waiting to see how the wild flowers come up. Welcome to spring???

Such is my meager understanding at this point in the process of rethinking everything! tw

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth; a bold blueprint for survival that diagnoses the causes of the environmental crises, by R. Buckminster Fuller, 1969
May 17, 2012

Just reread this forty-three years later, the positivist systems manifesto by the famous uber-geek.  It fits well with Overshoot, by William Catton (1981).  Where Bucky tells us in systems engineering lingo that all is well if we just get with the program, Catton tells us that we are sinful and doomed--something like that.

This is definitely a formative text to the can-do roll out of Permaculture shortly thereafter.  Systems theory talks in universal principles and patterns.  May of us were on the same trajectory into a survivable (and even fun) future.  There was Earth Day and Environmentalism, the first wildernesses had received designation and Limits to Growth, the club of Rome study (1971) had laid out the statistics and projections.  The back to the land movement rooted an ecotopian ethic.  Lots of work and documentation has ensued.

We are now on course for the event horizon of 2030, just as laid out by many trend scenario buckaroos in the late sixties and early seventies.  We even have a magnificent science fiction opus, especially of dystopian futurologies.

Here is the last paragraph in Bucky's book:
"So, planners, architects and engineers, take the initiative.  Go to work, and above all cooperate and don't hold back on one another or try to gain at the expense of another.  Any success in such lopsidedness will be increasingly short lived.  These are the synergistic rules that evolution is employing and trying to make clear to us.  They are not man-made laws.  They are the infinitely accommodative laws of the intellectual integrity governing universe."

Check out that last sentence! Idiots do eventually go down.  Looks like this idiotic species is about to get an integrity overhaul.  Now, why not try, we might as well go on bravely creating the new paradigm of collective cooperation and creative culture that joyfully lives within limits.  Do do, right?  We have the blueprint Bucky recommends and we now had a lovely elegant put down for the industrial capitalist model (you know, that late behemoth with the shark fins?).  Assessment massively accumulated and experimental design progressed onwards, still no brakes on the overshoot.

Our cytoplasmic evolution is a work in progress and people are not quite in sync with the planetary metastasis.  Culture can correct this to some extent and Bucky thought back then that computers and robots would free us to get better educated.  We have a built in bias for positive remembering and it takes storytellers to remind us of our goofs.  We have cognitive dissonance that keeps us from changing world views when challenged with contradiction and inconvenient evidence.  The brain dumps chemicals and we just go ahead and paint ourselves into the corner.

So the prescription seems to be that we learn to accept limits to our social and material behavior and that we celebrate the properly accumulated wisdoms.  Education is ongoing, the grass roots Permaculture model, the reactionary non=profit Big Green compromise machine, the anarchist Luddite monkey wrenches and even the corporate fascist propaganda counter revolution are all busy trying to cap a plea and get off with involuntary earth slaughter.  The dissonance is deafening.  If we check out the traditional eco-knowledge, we find taboo, etiquette and social process that seem appropriate.

Are we having fun yet?  Actually we need to indulge in some irreverent hilarity as we confront our culpability and our puny evident leverage.  And the laws of chaos do suggest that we have a shot at lucky positioning where artisan effort gets a boost from magnification and emergent properties of complexity.  Create senseless beauty and acts of random kindness, but pay attention and do not buy into the consumptive coma.  This is the way a paradigm crumbles, in cascading effects, temporary equilibriums, black swans, phase shift wonderlands and lots of amazing moments.

April 16, 2012

None of us (organizations and circles of friends) know what we are doing because the rate of change of the rate of change is accelerating.  All the trends of "Limits to Growth"  laid out in the early '70's are on track and  thus we cannot expect the future to look anything like we can imagine.  The trends (see Heinberg, for example) point to 2030 as the collapse point of all fossil fuel energy dependent and global systems.  Yes, that is what I said, all.  Sorry to be so curt and short, but to ignore this is to feed the beast more until it eats all species.  

So, the overall recommendation is a sort of survival ark for all species and for practical knowledge.  That means a good library of books and tools and skilled grounded personalities.  I can see that the tool and book collections are on going but how to nurture useful elders and workers?  My inclinations are mostly from my Quaker background and I see many aspects of that already implied in the backgrounds and questions.  I suspect that the most important theme here is cooperation, collective holding and careful balance of altruism with individual competition (see E.O. Wilson's latest work).  

All the ecologically embedded cultures of indigenous peoples that I have visited, lived in or studied seem to have some version of taboos, etiquette and social ranking (which is circular and occasionally ritually renewed).  They have ways to adopt and orient new arrivals and they exert a careful discipline for the young and the community.  As moderns, we are trained to resist restraints and yet to learn to live within limits we all will need to happily agree to rules and regs that preserve the larger whole, which includes the land and the means of production.  

Many questions about how to proceed can be answered through such a filter but the cognitively dissonant mind sets that we have been drafted into and the tendency of the mind to remember the good stuff and forget the bad keeps us all hesitant to yield to community and the common good.  

I would say that the common good is species diversity and the ethics and principles of Permaculture.  I am continuously discovering that we have not yet actually digested the implications of Permaculture.  Meanwhile the democratic legislative process and global economic hegemony is madly running in the wrong direction.  Only black swans (unexpected events with large repercussions) and drastic systems collapses seem to have any chance of slowing down the beast.  I expect that human social reaction is not so easily predicted, especially by the current models of systems control and expansionary rhetoric.  We really really do not know what happens next and the best hope is for lots of different community arks to be set up in case some of them survive and offer good new approaches to culture and spirituality.  

The human species seems to do best when it is constrained by bodies of cultural knowledge (wisdom stories) and by traditions of behavior enforced by elders and rituals.  Otherwise we are likely to compete and maneuver and keep our own counsel which does not work for living within limits and appreciating our dependence on all of life.

Answering specific questions might require (surprise, surprise) a whole systems plan along the line of a Permaculture Design.  The folks closest to the ground will have the most useful specific information as to how to cooperate with the landscape, the traditional residents, the domesticated animals and the hopeful but mostly clueless humans.  

Perhaps a reading circle and discussion group approach will evolve common grounds for cooperation?  Do we have the time?  Can we not have the time?  Touch, love, forgive and hold each other in the light!  Then speak truth to power and each other.  Eldering is a lost art.  It can be done with love and careful attention.  We all can benefit from learning discipline.  As the Quakers have Queries and Advices.  There is a lot of music, art and poetry that is pertinent.

February 21, 2012

Has anyone found an effective efficient way to keep deer out of the garden without an 8' fence?

Lovely to have a wild discussion on semi-domestication.  I would rather think myself such but the deer are coming from the other direction.  So to work deer (cultures in Asia milk them!) we might think design.  Lots of options depending on . . .

If one blocks a wildlife trail, they will search for alternatives.  So always find the flow paths and keep them open.  Perhaps plant a hedge corridor of browse they can keep open.

Deer in the wild can jump ten feet if they have a launch ramp, such as a leaning tree.  City allows only five feet (always check). (Ashland allows 6' in back yards until recently when they have decided to allow mostly transparent fencing up to 8'.)  High wires and sparkle dangles do not count as they can be considered temporary and see through.  I use sixty pound monofilament fishing line.  the glint is enough to deter without dangles.

The brush mulch I use covers the entire plant so that the noses do not rush in.  It is open so that one can reach in to garden.  I put the stem end in, near the middle of the bed and leave the twiggy ends pointing in every direction.

I believe that the mountain lion population is considered to be higher than ever, historically high.  The surviving deer out in the backcountry are big and strong and fast.  The deer in town are refugees.  Deer in the wold move a lot of beneficial mycorhiza around as they love truffles and then mix the mushroom spores with shredded wood that comes out the other end as innoculants.  Deer also are vectors for a number of diseases, especially Limes Disease.  We need to keep up the lizard population to clean the deer ticks of the spirochetes.  That means, as Mollison insists, mulch the cats.  Now we are getting dicey; if actually the dogs and cats are the ecologically useless surplus animals then we will have to deal with the humans.  Nobody wants to be useless and redundant, do we?

Well trained dogs might work with deer.  Cats might have to be kept
 indoors and the ferals fixed to prevent eco-spasm breeding like we have with abandoned pet rats here in Ashland.  You see we cannot have this conversation without the larger map of urban wildlife including us.  Busy humans tending a garden cottage density would be outdoors all times of day and night.  I can imagine a lovely complexity of care and attention.  Just now there is very little attention given to gardens and yards.  No time for that; got to pay the debts and keep up the appearances of value, without maintenance.

So we might want to tame the local deer, learn deer doctoring, develop a herding guild of costumed specialists and sell the cheeses to the eco-tourists?

Prolonged and careful observation rather than prolonged and thoughtless labor!  Occupy Home!  tw