Wednesday, November 30, 2011

California, 11/11

We're still catching our breath from the trip west that we took towards the end of October. Since we left nearly two years ago we have been returning to the Willits area each March and November to teach at Ecology Action's Three-Day Workshop, as previously noted in posts last November and this past March. It's a great opportunity to teach and stay closely connected with happenings on site at Ecology and the Golden Rule Garden, but it's also a chance to see friends out there. In March the timing is tight; since much of our garden is in its infancy as needy seedlings in flats, we rush out to the workshop and back. But in November the winter crops are in, growth is slow, and we have more time.
So this November we decided to do the big trip, swinging through southern California where I lived for a couple of years and made friends that remain important to us. Then on the other side of the workshop we visited as many of our friends in the Bay Area as we could. In all, we were away from home for three weeks. We both imagined Alten would have a hard time with the trip, but he thrived on the time spent with folks we know well, who all wanted to meet him badly. A brief account follows:

First stop was LAX, that beast of an airport that is simply too big and busy to be pleasant. Luckily our time there was short, and our friend Robin (at right, giving Alten her watch) picked us right up. We had to wait on the checked bag, of course. I want it noted, by the way, that we had only one checked bag, two backpacks, and a car seat, for three weeks of travel with a 17-month-old. Thank you for your applause.

We stayed with Robin in Carbon Canyon, an unlikely piece of land in the LA area in that it is not completely encrusted with concrete. Her place is an approximately 575 ft² cabin which, having now experienced it, we consider to be a great size for a home. You can clean the whole thing thoroughly in an hour! Robin has noted that the same people who seem shocked at how small her space is also comment how much easier life would be for them if their own house were that size. She took us hiking, seeing friends, surfing, and hanging out. Alten is still talking about the surfing.

Then we stayed a few days with Shawn and Ryan, who pursue music, gardening, healthy living, and delicious food. While during waking hours Alten competed with their small dog Meeko for food scraps, they were seen to sleep happily together at nap time. And Alten got his first up-close look at a squirrel, which was in turn looking for food right outside the front window (at left are pictured me, Alten and Shawn). While there, we saw all our friends, rode motorcycles with Kevin, played volleyball, ate Mediterranean, had great conversation, and got to see our friend Frank Wayne's urban homestead in Cypress.. Alten would add that he saw a zebra truck (you can see the very one here), saw palm trees, and got to play on a slide for the first time.

We then traveled to Willits via Amtrak, which involved a two hour bus ride, five hour train ride, then another three hours on the bus. So, really, only slightly different from Greyhound. It was an exhausting day, but we did get where we were going. Ellen Bartholomew picked us up and took us to Christ's Church of the Golden Rule, where we had lived for the second two years of our time with Ecology Action.

Our trips to Willits are always full with visiting friends, so on this one we scheduled an extra few days to slow the pace a little. Despite that our time quickly filled. Tuesday night of our visits always means Aikido at the Willits dojo, and Wednesday is Aikido at the Ukiah dojo. We have meals with the Golden Rule community, Carol Cox, the Jeavons', our Willits Spinning Guild people, and a few other friends. We stop by Bountiful Gardens, we try to see our Quaker meeting friends, the head librarian of the Willits branch, and our good ol' dentist's office. And this time we added to the mix a trip up the road a ways to Polcum Springs, an intentional community that seeks to nurture the natural world as well as its own members. We visited a friend who lives there, and through the tour and explanation of its history were impressed with the creativity and forethought that has been a part of its foundation. And next time we go we will follow the advice of the hand-painted sign posted as you turn off of Highway 101: "Use 4WD. If you don't have it, buy a truck that does."

Throughout the visit we got to spend time here and there with the current Golden Rule Garden interns, Fernanda, Luke, and Rashid, and the field coordinator and his wife, Randy and Amy.

Then, of course, comes the workshop! I can't speak highly enough of the participants in general, but the attendees of this workshop, specifically, were incredibly positive. It is always a joy to interact with folks who are all there to learn more about treating their own piece of land better. There are beginners, there are folks working in other countries, there are entrepreneurs, and there are experienced gardeners who'd like to learn more about GB. And their energy always leaves me empowered to continue our work here with renewed vigor.

I'd post photos from the workshop, but our camera was out of commission just then. If anyone wants to send some of their own, I'd gladly post them :)

After the Three Day Workshop we had a few more days planned to visit friends in the Bay Area. First came Bridget, who has a boat in Oakland. It's beautiful inside and out, and inspires me to sail around the world. Unfortunately I could only spend about 20 minutes on it at a time before feeling quite ill from motion sickness. The next day we got a chance to meet Samuel Nderitu, Peris' husband. He was attending the Community Food Security Coalition conference, where he accepted an honorable mention for the 2011 Food Sovereignty Prize on behalf of G-BIACK. It was great to meet him, and encouraging to hear how active G-BIACK is and how much more they will be doing in the coming year.

We headed over to visit our friend Tina for the next evening, and spent some relaxing time talking and singing with her. It is a mark of how familiar we are with her space that, though the BART roars past less than a block away, we slept fine.
Finally, we traveled (by that very same BART) to Pacifica/Monterra to visit Loretta and Alan, who have active roles in the Pacifica Gardens project (above). I am inspired by the accomplishments that have come from its 3½ year history, and can't wait to see what the next few years bring. The project just had its 3rd annual "100-Mile Meal" fundraising dinner, which is a big hit, and which I wish I could have attended. The nasturtium-leaf pesto alone would have been worth it.

As a bonus trip, mere days after returning, we left for northern Ohio to attend a camping conference. Among the highlights of that trip were 1) hand-cranking ice-cream, 2) presenting a 2-hour class on Grow Biointensive and the relevance of a functional garden to a camp, and 3) visiting Lehman's Hardware and Appliances, which was about five times more overwhelming than their mail-order catalog. As part of our class we had participants come up with creative ideas for designing sustainable gardens with summer camp applications (pictured at left).

Now, with our travels behind us, we are left to contemplate the rest of our winter season. Before the ground thaws out in the spring we hope to have formed the bones of a 10-year plan for Circle of the Sun, including housing, water, land use, educational program, garden expansion, and perennials. Whew! Hope this winter is a long, harsh one...