Friday, May 29, 2009

Permaculture & Me

A Bee Organic… only if we are

So, my friend and cohort Sarah Costin, along with Ron (my husband) & I are filing the paperwork to become an Accredited Certification Agency (ACA.) Organic Certification is an intricate verification process at the end of which the client can use the word “Organic,” “100% Organic,” or “Made with Organic” on their label as a marketing tool. Products carrying the word Organic have been verified as produced and handled without genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), irradiation of the ingredients, or sewage sludge. It also means no petro-chemical fertilizers or pesticides were used to grow the food. It means that land resources have been preserved and all things monitored and documented. These are things I am bio-ethically bound to support.

For me, the energy and commitment involved to birth an ACA came out of the writing and exploration I’m doing in Personal Permaculture. The intent in founding A Bee is to insure the humane treatment of applicants and employees- both, even while upholding all standards we hold dear. If successful we believe we would be the first of our kind.

How wrong is that? That we would be the first? Very… but the condition of the industry was not enough to get me involved. If I believe that in the near-future we can achieve a sustainable planet via- us as individuals showing up, then the path for me narrows. But not enough to make such a sweeping commitment to the industry… and even if the leap was to be taken…then, how to avoid being more of the same?

I looked to the map permaculture offered:
1) See the system as a whole.
2) Identify the whole elements within the system
3) Observe how the elements operate and interrelate
4) Create a supportive environment for a healthful system by following templates of healthy systems

My intent is that that Organic Certification becomes obsolete.
Obsolete through becoming so dead-common that the table flips, and those who ravage the environment through their Franken-seeds and chemicals be held accountable. But first I must be accountable. Even trickier than accountability, I must merge my passion to my ethics and everyday good-sense business. I’ve done it before in my commitment to motherhood, my marriage to Ron, my deeper friendships, but never to business…can I make the leap?

A lot of the fears of becoming more of the same and a part of the problem were alleviated by sitting with partners and painstakingly reviewing the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) Standards for the duties and responsibilities of Certifiers. The hardest thing to do- was to forget everything we’d seen which was fragmented, did not meet the mark, accurately support the law, or even the clients’ rights, but to see the system as a whole. Then we needed to map, how… out of our wholeness we could show up to meet the wholeness of the industry.
slowly and methodically
as true to ourselves as we know…
find new ground.

With the dream..
With the NOP…
Within ourselves.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Farmtown Fun

So after a little over a week on Facebook, I’ve dropped out of Mob Wars and I’m only slightly obsessed with Farmtown, a happy virtual agricultural reality of friendly neighbors, growing crops, and perky pets. In Farmtown players earn virtual money by growing and selling their crops and harvesting for other farmers. With the money earned, more crops can be planted, more land purchased, along with houses, barns, fences, scarecrow, hay bales, flowers to plant by the front doors.

The farmers of Farmtown are very socially interconnected, always lending each other a hand with watering, raking, weeding, and harvest. They also send each other gifts like fruit trees, livestock, and farm pets. There’s a wide range of game strategy making the farms interestingly diverse, one will have all his animals in pens and crops organized in perfect rows, another may have planted alternating crops making fun patterns using the colors and textures of different plants. Some farms choose to mono crop, all grapes in their vineyard, or a coffee plantation. For now, (as the game is still evolving) on my farm the chicks, pigs, sheep, cow happily wander free range through the sunflowers, wheat, and strawberry fields. There’s a tavern (chat room) in Farmtown where farmers can ask questions and get acquainted. The people in the game are from all over the world but mostly, US, Canada and UK. Some like me are really farmers, others garden, but many are suburb dwellers and city folk playing in Farmtown.

In contrast, back at the farm here in De Luz last year’s avocado crop was dismal, personal stash only (not enough to sell) but next year’s looks promising. Overlooking the idealistic side of Farmtown I love the social training. Interwoven into the game are lessons on the value and benefits of being and having good neighbors. Poignant lessons for our time, as sustainability must happen in both individuals and the collective.

Just like in Farmtown, most of us who plant a garden end up giving away an abundance of fresh veggies to friends and neighbors- a big difference from water guzzling green lawns. There are growing numbers of people creating sustainable businesses, providing goods and services from renewable, low carbon footprint, fair trade humane practices. As one business after another puzzles it all out, the do ability of sustainability begins to unfold. How do we join the growing wave of personal bio-ethics partners to support the transition? A hopeful example is of those who have been able to add photovoltaic systems to their homes and are hooked back into the grid operate as micro-generating stations, feeding clean electricity into the system. Everyone benefits

I write this blog as a way of exploring and cultivating inner eco-psychology. I’m fascinated with the gap I still track both within myself and the world at large. Gaps where sustainability gets so easily shelved for convenience, or ego; Gaps as a culture we may no longer be able to afford….

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sustainable Elements of Self

In the cultivation of plants and livestock there are some known formulas for success. The first being good land. Obviously farming a chunk of rock like the one we owned in Sedona, (while not impossible) has its limitations, as would farming a frozen chunk of land or a sand dune. I used to think that I could add a few amenities and farm anything. Sedona humbled me, teaching that although I could add all kinds of organic materials and improve what little clay/dirt lived on our rock; only god made soil.

Then there is water. There are cultures like the Hopi who have thoughtfully established effective low water farming practices, something mainstream farming is slowly wrapping its mind around. Water conservation and management are essential to sustainable farming practice.

Sunlight is a must, unless perhaps one is farming mushrooms & air is also vital for thriving plants & people.

Which brings us full circle, in an earlier blog the question was poised: What do you need to thrive?

The answer for each of us is unique and evolving but when organized into sustainable systems rather than the more daunting to-do list, a grace can begin to take root.

The body has wants, needs & appetites ranging from exercise to sleep, food to shelter, sex, reproduction & everything in between. Care & feeding of the body alone can seem a daunting chore, then there are the abstracts like tenderness, dance, competition, play.

Family, friends, lover, community can all play a big role in body health. A friend to walk, play work out with, family & friends to prepare and eat healthy food & give warm hugs, community for parks, team sports, gardens, farmers markets can all show up to meet you & support body health. Doing it all by oneself can feel like a never ending to-do list or it could all be reframed as quality time with loved ones and great fun.

Friends, family, work & community should also play a huge role in mental, emotional, and spiritual exploration. If they do not… I’m a big believer in one’s right to choose.

Do not settle for less than true family, friends, career and community hand chosen to inspire, challenge and meet in those places one needs to feel met. Mysteriously, once one has really been met by life…, that resonance can be quantized and returned to life & loved ones.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Patterns & Chaos

As avocado growers we count on our Northern San Diego County weather, coined, the banana-belt, because of the moderate climate. We grow semi-tropical plants, so when a freak cold snap came through, it killed a lot of our youngest avocado trees and bananas. When the thermometer hit 104 on April 5th, the tender blossoms and buds on the trees were toast. As of last year our water was restricted by 30%, this year it could be 40%, and avocados really love their water. Being adaptable, we found a free municipal source of mulch. It was not perfect as it had bits of trash but hey, it was free including delivery. We got about a dozen, 40’ semi truck loads of mulch and distributed it throughout the grove. The trees loved it.

Some of the mulch was used in the yard around the house. Soon out of the mulch all kinds of cool plants began to sprout. Oddly it wasn’t weeds but all kind of interesting flowers, shrubs and trees. Our landscaping is new and incomplete, so a lot of the plants were put to use. Flowers included sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos, and trees like ginko, fig, mimosa, jacaranda, pomegranate and some promising mystery plants began to grow. Granted I had to move some things and eliminate others but it has been an ongoing source of pleasure & discovery.

There are those times when rhythms and connectivity of nature, juxtapose its chaos. Random disruptions in the patterns fuel the two sided sword of extinction and evolution. This holds true from our internal stories, and patterns, our health, money and relationships all flower forth from the pattern. Just as weather is wonkie and we call that climate change, there is a deeper shift, in each of us…for better or worse…the pattern had been disrupted. This time there is the option to do it differently than by our forefathers and mothers. This time we have the opportunity to wake up within the pattern and have a say in the direction of variation, or not and stay asleep.

I know this can seem nihilistic or extreme but it can be a simple as taking a slow deep breath, centering oneself and making conscious choices and actions throughout the day.
This slowing can,
in and of itself,
make room
for awakening,
new lines of connection,
activating internal authority
and faith in the process.

We accept the waning and waxing of the moon,
the cycles of the seasons and tides,
as a comfort,
but when applying natural cycles,
to self ,
or gross national product,
we always seem surprised.

For better or worse, personal and planetary change is on the loose. And it affects everyone as our stories allow it, but like wonderful plants sprouting in my garden there exists a parallel mystery enfolded within the change. Surfing the wake of deconstruction is as simple as faith, spring follows winter, and high tides, and a full moon always cycle round.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Subterranean Terrorists in Garden & Self

Spring is so hopeful; everything is in bud & in bloom. But wait, there’s more! Aphids have appeared out of nowhere to engulf some of my favorite plants, gophers are on the move, & the weeds… We’ve come home to the abundance of spring for better and worse.

Out in the grove the weeds are a part of our healthy eco-system. In the winter & early spring they serve as rain erosion control, food/habitat for the first wave of beneficial bugs, then mulch for the land when cut. If I let the aphids go untreated, they’ll annihilate my first wave of roses & hibiscus, but soon ladybugs, lacewings & praying mantis appear and set up house as they have plenty of food & no poisons. After that it’s all good.

Then there are gophers, they are pure evil.
This year we had a five year old apple tree topple over, no roots thanks to the subterranean terrorists. Our youngest cat has caught two that we know of, we were so proud…, but if I get very still I think I can hear their 5,000 cousins out there chomping.

Trapping gophers is slow and takes daily dedication. Pumping gas in and blowing them up, while it has Caddy-shack appeal, I’m told it only gives them a headache & it’s not compliant with the Organic Program. I don’t poison them because the hawks, cougar, bob cat, and coyote all hunt the land, and I am leery of secondary poisoning.

Our land came with many many snakes, but all of them were Rattlesnakes as it was the dumping ground for all of the capture and release rattlers in the canyon. We enrolled our dog in snake aversion training, and killed the ones which were in & around the house & construction sites. The grove workers continued to kill them up in the grove.
Fast forward and our gophers are unchecked and doing a lot of damage.

Other snakes are beginning to show up. Lite rainfall means light weeds, less gopher food. I have faith that with work & time balance will come. Just not soon enough to save the apple tree, & entire beds of mixed perennials.

It has been my experience that there is a lot of valuable & indispensable content of self; entombed, hiding, or skulking in the subterranean shadows my unconscious.

Left unchecked and in the dark, it is common to feel victimized by life. Not recognizing it’s a disassociated aspect of self, who is in fact conducting the train of events. What aspect of self undermines our relationships, finances, and careers?

Often, pop psychology & religion
will recommend we locate & repress or eradicate
undesirable bits of self.
The question to ask oneself
of all aspects of self is…
What is its function?
Rattlesnakes do help keep rodent populations under control & gophers aerate soil…
Our land has room for both
From a healthy sustainable standpoint,
What does that look like?
And for self…
Same question.