Local Community

Mendocino Cooking from the Farmers’ Market


From Pinky Kushner
Ukiah

Last week was no exception to the rule that great treats can be gotten at the Ukiah Saturday Market.

Here’s what I was just delighted to find: Small, plump white turnips, complete with their little green tops freshly pulled from the ground by our friends the Ortiz family. Now some of you might say, “What? Turnips? Give me a break.” Let me tell you about turnips. These little treats are not the big muddy balls that you may have seen in an old Dutch painting, although even the big ones can be very special. Here in California, baby turnips ‘turn up’ as a spring specialty at high-end restaurants like Chez Panisse. Grab them now while they are young and being thinned from the field to make room for the later, larger summer crop.

What to do with these little ones? First wash them thoroughly—plunge them into a large bowl of cold water (which you recycle in the yard onto a thirsty plant, right?) and agitate for a few minutes. Then, drain and from the bulb, cut off the skinny little root and all but an inch of the greens.

Steam the turnips in a vegetable basket. After 3 minutes add the greens that have been chopped into 1-inch pieces. After 3-5 more minutes, pull the steaming basket out and pour the water from pot, reserving for later use. Dump the cooked turnips and greens back into the pot with a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon or two of the reserved liquid. Heat over low flame a few more minutes and serve. The cooking time is a total of 8 to 10 minutes.

Freshly steamed baby turnips go with almost anything, from rice to pasta pomodoro to grilled chicken or fish. The reserved liquid can be added to water for rice or almost anything else that might use a stock. The joy of turnips is their mild sweet/bitter taste and their reputation as excellent nutrition. They are thought to have originated as cultivated food about 2000 BC in northern Europe and spread south and east over the next 3500 years. The Romans prized them highly. I will share my favorite recipe for the big guys in the summer.


What is Community? – Part 1 of 2


From Earl Brown
Ukiah
Part One | Part Two

There has been a lot of talk about community lately and there is bound to be more as we move farther into the collapse of Industrial Society. There are discussions on its importance, the need for it and the benefits of it, how it is the answer to our problems and how it is the basis of localization efforts. Everyone seems to have their own definition of what community is and we all seem to recognize its importance but, what is it, really? Can community be defined or, is it an ideal than can be strived for yet never achieved, like perfection and democracy? Do we live in one? How do we know? Is it a lump of land and people, a principle, or is it a self-organizing system?

This topic came up while I was driving a home from San Francisco with a friend the other day, just ahead of the northbound, homeward commute. The insanity of the freeway was taking the form of weaving vehicles, angry drivers, tailgating, speeding, but luckily, no accidents. “How would you describe a community”, he asked. “Well”, I said, “take our current situation. Our community is comprised of ourselves, these other drivers sharing the freeway with us and the species of plants and animals in the vicinity. Our car is our local environment and the freeway is the larger environment. Our success in getting home safely, actually everybody’s success in getting home, is dependent upon how we drivers work together, share the road and obey the principals of caution while navigating the environment of the freeway. If any one person, or group of people, chooses to ignore the rules of conduct and act without regard to everyone else’s safety then, collectively, everyone’s chances of getting home would be reduced. So our current community is the drivers and people in the other cars, all the factors and relationships effecting the drivers and how they worked together, or not, moving through the freeway environment, to reach their goal, to get home.” I’m not sure if my friend was impressed with my example but the idea that a community could be described in ways other than people and property lead to fresh ideas and a deepening of the conversation.

Keep reading What is Community? – Part 1


What about a new bank?


From Janie Sheppard
Mendocino County

The Obama administration is about to disgorge the second half of TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) money ($350 Billion Dollars) to bail out the banks. The first $350 Billion didn’t do the trick, the second won’t either. But wait, before once again dumping that much money into unsound banks, here’s another idea. This idea isn’t mine, and if it gets some attention, I’ll again ask permission to disclose its origins. For now, we’ll just focus on what I understand to be the substance.

Forget existing banks. Why not leave them to sink or swim? The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was created to clean up banking messes, and it has a good record. Let it do its job.

Instead, ask Congress to appropriate money for a NEW BANK. In its charter would be a mandate to extend credit, something no amount of TARP money alone will do, as we have seen.

The NEW BANK would not be burdened with toxic assets like mortgage-backed securities that turned out to have no value and were a bad idea in the first place.

The NEW BANK would not have greedy shareholders demanding dividends from government bailout money. The shareholders would be us, the taxpayers. Instead of dividends going only to rich shareholders, taxpayers would see the benefits in the form of readily available credit. What would this mean? Ordinary people could finance cars, houses, businesses, and get lines of credit. With the increase of economic activity created by the loosened credit, employment would increase. Instead of losing hundreds of thousands of jobs each month, there would be a gradual turnaround.

What else would this mean? No more huge bonuses for executives more concerned about their pay and perks than the welfare of the country. No more incentive to produce short-term stockholder dividends. The NEW BANK’s profits would come from the interest on loans, not from fraudulent financial instruments that through the deceptive magic of “bundling” hid huge losses. This game of “hot potato” went on while the bundlers sold the instruments to our pension funds and, amazingly, to each other.

Congress would set the salaries for NEW BANK employees and managers. Bonuses would be tied to the health of the economy, not bolstered by phony recommendations of executive pay consultants. This could be in the legislation, if we demanded.

There are plenty of people in the federal government who could run the NEW BANK. Recall that the Resolution Trust Corporation and the FDIC employ plenty of smart people. Bankers who made the mess would be prohibited from employment, if we demanded.

To get the NEW BANK going requires a popular revolt. Unless we tell the Congress, loud and clear and with street demonstrations, if necessary, that we’re fed up and not going to take it anymore, the TARP money will be spent, banks will continue to go bankrupt, and the likes of you and I will not see any benefits while the unemployment numbers keep going up.

If you’re fed up, let President Obama know, let Mike Thompson know, let Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein know, and share this idea with your friends. Don’t take it anymore!

See also Good Bank/New Bank vs. Bad Bank: a rare example of a no-brainer - Financial Times

and I am as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore – YouTube


What’s going on around here, and how are we going to find out?


From Kevin Murphy
Ukiah

Reflections on facing the reality of dying news functions

Dave Smith reminded me recently of an inexorable truth coined by Stewart Brand, the original publisher of the Whole Earth Catalogue, that “information wants to be free.” Alas, the world is a much more jumbled place and our need for information in the modern world more complicated. Presumably in heaven information is free and instantaneous. Here and now, however, the situation is a bit different.

I believe it was Thomas Merton who wrote that the only place communism could be expected to actually work was the monastery. Likewise, a great deal of commitment would be needed in the perfect communication model. If, among your friends and acquaintances there was compelling consensus about what was most important and how information needed to be shared, and everyone willingly dedicated a part of their energy to that whole, we wouldn’t need newspapers or news feeds or RSS, assuming our community of friends and acquaintances was large enough that someone was involved in all the communities or organizations where there was important public information (and we all talked to each other enough). I suppose that’s the sort of thing which the Googlezon mythology describes, the creation of a global blogosphere, distilled down to each person’s interests and delivered by digital robots, providing all the information we need at the touch of a button, culled from what every one had offered. Again, that heaven, if that’s what it would be, ain’t here yet, either.

An old saying in the newspaper business is “If advertising isn’t going to pay for the news, who will, the tooth fairy?” Sharp business minds understand that waiting for the tooth fairy is a less appealing business plan than selling advertising. Thus we arrive at the professional consensus that a newspaper is first of all a retail merchandising tool, and only secondarily a means of supporting democracy. The critical value of the availability of reliable news about public affairs, a life blood of democracy, it seems to me, should be judged as only a bit less important than civility, mutual respect and enforceable legal agreements regarding how the public’s business is to be conducted. (The presumed goal being to assure, at least, the tyranny of the majority, and one hopes, significant consideration to minorities. While some readers would have the discussion at this point veer off toward the necessary demise of the two party system, please allow me to make a different point.) Like education in California, the way the purpose of our news is married to its funding doesn’t make sense; the funding structure doesn’t reflect the importance society places on it. (Or, perhaps, it does.)

I can envision a local news organization that appeals to the realization that getting the kind of quality information about the public’s business is not best left to the whims of advertising budgets, especially at a time like this. If in heaven, or sometime before, information will finally get its wish and become entirely free, there’s still however, before those final revolutions of love and truth, some smaller, but necessary preparatory revolutions. Perhaps like the extreme revolution I am proposing. We must consider that we will have to pay for the news, or we won’t be getting it reliably, especially at the local level.

Keep reading What’s going on around here…


Is No Growth Also Smart Growth?


[Mayor Phil Baldwin sent the following to us noting “I found this a telling bee for our bonnets. Why is Williamson’s argument marginalized or nonexistent in Mendo (and most American) environmental circles?” -DS]
~

[Chris Williamson offers four arguments that planners can use to argue that “No Growth” policies are valid positions to take.]

Most local planners view some accommodation of projected population increases as the “right thing to do” and reluctantly support “No Growth” policies when forced to by their elected officials and/or voters. Many of us work and/or live in communities with growth pressure where some of the amenities and quality of life that residents enjoy are threatened by growth. Following are four arguments to respectfully offer the “No Growth” alternative as an arguable position for local planners.

1. There Is No End To Population Growth

In California, planners talk about “the next 15 million Californians by 2020″ as if that is the sum population to accommodate with housing and jobs and water, and then we’re done. But five years from now we’ll be talking about “the next 15 million Californians by 2025″; and five years later, “15 million by 2030.” There is no foreseeable end in site to growth in California and, to varying degrees, in many other areas of the Nation.

Based on the Census Bureau’s national population projections over your lifetime and children’s, any desirable area is going to see continuous demand from internal growth, intra-state migration (as increasingly digital job-holders seek out desirable places to live), and international migration.

If your city or county develops housing and jobs to meet 20-year projections, the No Growth argument is that it will only encourage more people in the long-term as well. The analogy is an added freeway lane — there is a temporary reduction in traffic volume which attracts more drivers and congestion returns.

Arguably, there are really only two future scenarios for communities in desirable areas: 1) high housing costs with some preserved open space and agricultural and 2) high housing costs without open space and agriculture. Accommodating growth never ends, therefore the rational choice is to draw the line now while you still have something to save, no matter the consequences.

Keep reading Is No Growth Also Smart Growth?


2/9/09 Jim Kunstler this a.m…

If this nation wants to survive without an intense political convulsion, there’s a lot we can do, but none of it is being voiced in any corner of Washington at this time. We have to get off of petro-agriculture and grow our food locally, at a smaller scale, with more people working on it and fewer machines. This is an enormous project, which implies change in everything from property allocation to farming methods to new social relations. But if we don’t focus on it right away, a lot of Americans will end up starving, and rather soon. We have to rebuild the railroad system in the US, and electrify it, and make it every bit as good as the system we once had that was the envy of the world. If we don’t get started on this right away, we’re screwed. We will have tremendous trouble moving people and goods around this continent-sized nation. We have to reactivate our small towns and cities because the metroplexes are going to fail at their current scale of operation. We have to prepare for manufacturing at a much smaller (and local) scale than the scale represented by General Motors…

Keep reading Poverty of Imagination


Coming Soon In Ukiah Blog – Patrick Ford (Updated)


:: PATRICK FORD TALKS ::

Fighting Fires, Preaching Truth,
and Playing the Blues

Now Available Here



Update: UKIAH HOUSE CONCERTS

From Annie Esposito
Ukiah

The little network of house concerts is one of many things that makes Ukiah wonderful. Acoustic singer-songwriters passing along the 101 corridor find Ukiah a good place to stop over. A half dozen local people host them.

The musician gets a meal, a place to stay, a chance to sell some CD’s and pick up some gas money. In return, they perform in the garden or parlor of their host. Appreciative friends and neighbors have a pot luck and an evening of intimate live music. These house concerts are sporadic, of course. People can check the website ukiahhouseconcerts.com to find out when they’ll be happening.

At the Clay Street House Wednesday evening about 30 people enjoyed original music from K.C. Connor. K.C. was passing through on his way to Bellingham, Washington. There was even an opener with local singer-songwriter Alicia Littletree.


Our toxic, malnourishing food supply (Updated)


From Dave Smith
Ukiah

Toxic food? Toxic lipstick? Toxic assets? Ponzi schemes? Comes from the same mindless mind-set: suck out the  life at each step along the supply chain, but keep claiming value, not poison, is being added. Last trusting person at the  end of the chain? Oops, sorry about that! Ah, well… I got mine.

We are blessed in our town to have a thriving, locally-owned, democratically-controlled, organic- and local-farm-oriented, 100% organic produce, cooperative food store, Ukiah Natural Foods… along with farmers’ markets and organic, biodynamic, CSA farms (listed in Localizing Links below). If you are local, and not a member of our co-op, you should be—for many reasons. A main reason is shown in the graphic above from an old post by Dave Pollard, Eat Shit and Die, which expands on the topic with details… if you can stomach it.

We have also banned GMO plants from our county, and certify or own organic farmers locally under the Mendocino Renegade label thanks to the Mendocino Organic Network.

One of our local organic farmers, Charles Martin, when asked why organic foods are pricey says simply: pay for healthy food or pay your Doctor… your choice.
~
Update:
See also Staying Organic During Tough Times at OrganicToBe.org→

and Co-operatives: The Feeling is Mutual

and The Greenhorn Guide for Beginning Farmers

and Newly Discovered Toxic Chemical Is Common In Cosmetics
~

A distinguished panel tells a packed room of environmental journalists that the way we grow our food matters to a heating planet…

Go to Agriculture and climate change at RodaleInstitute.org


Ukiah’s Saturday Farmers’ Market 2/7/09


From Scott Cratty
Ukiah

Friends of the Market,

Greetings.  Isn’t winter supposed to be the time of year when things are relatively slow? Not this year.  So, I’ll keep this brief.

The drawing for our 2nd Winter raffle basket will be held at about noon this Saturday.  We have not done such a great job selling tickets this time … so the odds of winning are even better.  For a $5 ticket the winner will get a great deal with lots of local hand-crafted items plus some goodies from our local farms like some olive oil, beef, cheese, honey and more.  So far your raffle funds have purchases a small propane heater (that we use on the bitterest of Saturday mornings and one tank refill).  Who know what wonderful things we can do with some more funds …

You are the first to know … by a sizable majority the winter market vendors voted to accept the invitation for the winter market to join the county farmers’ market association.  So, come next November, the Ukiah winter market will be part of that venerable 30 year old institution.  To make things a bit more uniform year round we will probably shorten the winter hours so that we still start at 9:30 but end at noon, the same ending time as the regular season.

If you are quick enough that Saturday you may become one of the first people at the Ukiah market to try the eggs from Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese.

Hope to see you at the farmers’ market on Saturday.


[Appropriate info for our current water shortage. -DS]

Organic Farming Critical To Deal With Less Water

By BARNABY J. FEDER
Published: April 9, 2000

The Rodale Institute’s 330-acre research farm here got something it prefers to a bumper crop when a record drought struck eastern Pennsylvania last year.

Rodale plants crops with the goal of harvesting evidence that organic farming should be the wave of the future in agriculture. After the drought last summer, Rodale’s parched organic plots yielded 24 to 30 bushels of soybeans an acre, well below the 40-bushel average of previous years for the research site, but Rodale could not have been happier. That was because yields on comparison plots just next to them that had been doused year after year with synthetic fertilizers and conventional farm chemicals had plummeted to 16 bushels.

”These are very significant findings for farmers around the world,” exulted Jeff Moyer, Rodale’s farm manager. ”Our trials show that improving the quality of the soil through organic processes can mean the difference between a harvest or hardship in times of drought.”

The results last year also reinforced long-term comparisons, begun by Rodale in 1981, that document how organic farming can be more profitable for small farmers — even if yields are not always as high and, by some calculations, even without the premium prices that organic crops generally receive.


The Alzheimer’s Resource and Information Center

From Michael Laybourn
Hopland

A few years ago, a friend of mine found that his spouse needed care — someone to be there all the time. He started looking and I did too, to see where we could find information on giving care for Alzheimer disease. There didn’t seem to be anything at the time in Mendocino and Lake Counties, but there was an Alzheimer’s Association information center in Santa Rosa. I saw then, that there was going to be a great need for help in our county. Think baby boomers about to retire…

Alzheimer’s facts: 1 out of 8 people 65 and older have it. 70% of people with Alzheimer’s live at home cared for by family.

Some people do become forgetful as they get older. That is a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5 million people in the U.S. Over time, Alzheimer’s disease gradually destroys a person’s memory and ability to learn and carry out daily activities such as talking, eating or otherwise taking care of oneself. The patient must be watched and cared for all the time.

About the same time, a local group concerned about Alzheimer’s care got together in Ukiah and put on a fundraiser to raise money for local Alzheimer’s needs. The event was packed. Many people that attended, and others caring for their loved ones, convinced the group that there was a great immediate need for a resource and information center in both Mendocino and Lake Counties. I read about the fundraiser and invited some of the participants to give a talk to the Ukiah Rotary Club.

The group found that people needed information first. They began to put together an information center now called The Alzheimer’s Resource and Information Center. AREC is a hub for dispersing information about new research and development… a Center to help define how to care for and understand Alzheimers, and where financial and care assistance may be found. AREC is also a clearing house and referral service to help people find assistance and to help navigate caregivers through various agency systems.

The Hospice Board in Ukiah agreed to be the umbrella board for the center and donated office space. All the other time is volunteer time, including Executive Director Candace Horsely, our retired City Manager. This, to me, is an exceptional example of humans coming together to address a local community need.

In 2008, when the Center was starting up, the Ukiah Rotary agreed to provide a computer and printer for the office. Later in the year I applied for a Rotary district $1500 grant that has been approved. Yesterday, we presented the check to board member Elizabeth Santos.

The Alzheimer’s Resource and Education Center will use this $1,500 to go forward, which will be used as a match with other AREC and other agency funding to host an educational workshop in 2009 designed specifically for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. In this workshop, caregivers will learn skills that will enable them to understand and respond to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with knowledge and compassion. Professional assistance and training will be taught, dealing with typically occurring issues as the loved one descends further into advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.

Think about it. You may experience it some day. It’s good to know that there is a caring group that will be available for help.

The Center is open and anyone with questions or needing information can call Candace Horsley at 391.6188.
~
See also the national Alzheimer’s Association
Image Credit: State of Orange – T-Shirts Available


Cooperative Business


From Dave Smith
Ukiah

The Mondragón cooperatives of Spain combine credit unions and service cooperatives such as grocery stores with industrial manufacturing cooperatives, research centers, and a university — all as one intergrated unit. As a cooperative corporation, they are “an association of persons rather than an association of capital.” That means one person, one vote rather than votes apportioned to the amount of capital invested. It also means that the individual workers own and control the company they work in. They are the largest worker-owned cooperative in the world, doing many billions of dollars in sales. They own and operate thousands of supermarkets, a travel agency with hundreds of units, and gas stations. They also manufacture automotive parts, domestic appliances, bicycles, and bus bodies.

Although cheap energy has allowed organizations to balloon into huge monoliths that will now have to breakup and scale down into decentralized pieces, it is instructive how well the cooperative model can adapt to financial environments and serve its members. As our giant governments, banks, and corporations flounder trying to save a way of business that will have to change drastically in the years ahead, the cooperative model, along with small-scale private businesses, is a way local communities, such as ours, can adapt to the coming “mandates of reality.”

The Mondragón cooperative model can be compared to the corporate structure as follows:

· Owner-workers are valued as people. Management professionalism, product excellence, and customer satisfaction matter more than the rapid growth of profits.

· Owner-workers participate in management, with salary difference limited to a three-to-one ratio, rather than just being used at the whim of a grossly overpaid management class.

· The social contract commits everyone involved to the development of the business, with member-owner security and partnership with capital, rather than confrontation between labor and capital.

· Profits and losses are shared among all proportionally, rather than profits being internalized and costs being externalized irresponsibly.

Mondragón’s Community Bank, a credit union that serves as the core of its financial system, is owned and controlled by the member-owners of the cooperative. Without their own banking sytem, the cooperative would have failed. The bank invests in the development of new enterprises under the motto “Savings or Suitcases,” meaning members can either invest in their own community or watch their money leave their community to work elsewhere and enrich others. The cooperative also operates their own social security facility, which provides unemployment insurance, medical services, and medical insurance.

The Mondragón consumer cooperative grocery chain, with 264 stores, is run by a general assembly composed of an equal number of consumer-members and worker-members. The assembly elects a board that is similarly balanced, with six employees and six consumer-members, with a chairperson who is always a consumer.

Mondragón principles include (1) openness to all, regardless of ethnic background, religion, political beliefs, or gender; (2) the equality of all owner-workers and democratic control on the basis of one member, one vote; (3) the recognition of labor as the most essential, transformative factor of society and the renunciation of wage labor in favor of the full power of owner-workers to control the co-ops and distribute surpluses; (4) a definition of capital as accumulated labor, necessary for development and savings, with a limited return paid on that capital; (5) cooperation, defined as the development of the individual with others, not against others, to self-manage (managers are elected by the workers) and develop training and skills; and (6) wages that are comparable to prevailing local standards.

According to Don José María Arizmendiarrieta, the founder of Mondragón: “Cooperation is the authentic integration of people in the economic and social process that shapes a new social order; the cooperators must make this objective extend to all those that hunger and thirst for justice in the working world.”

Greg MacLeod, author of From Mondragón to America, writes: “The Cooperative Corporation itself is a moral entity having responsibility at three levels: (1) towards the individual employees, (2) towards the cooperative corporations which make up the Mondragón family, and (3) towards the general society of which it is the basic unit. As a microcosm of the general society, the enterprise must practice all the virtues demanded of the total society such as respect for the members, personal development and educational programs, social security and distributive justice.”

This successful alternative to the classic, top-down corporate model allows thinking outside the box store. Bottom-up democracy works and is the next step in bringing meaning into our work as well as our politics. Some of our politicians love to constantly spout off about bringing democracy to other nations, even if it takes our bombers and infantry to preemptively force it on them. Politicians who love democracy should not stop with politics. Let’s take them at their word, in our own local communities where the action will be in the future, and ask them to help us complete the American revolution by bringing democracy into our workplaces and our economies.


Dear President Obama…


By Jason Bradford
Willits

Dear President Obama…

…How You Could Give Me Hope

I know heaps of ridiculously high expectations are being placed upon you, but allow me to give you five simple, inexpensive and immediate ways that you could provide hope.

1. Convert White House lawns to food gardens. In addition to an assortment of vegetables (imagine fresh arugula whenever you are at home), go ahead and include hens, a beehive, and perhaps a dairy cow (I think you have the space). I am a farmer so I know that getting your nails dirty would be a great compliment to a basketball workout and is fantastic for mental relaxation and acuity. A walk through the garden would likely help during tense negotiations, whether foreign or domestic. But most importantly, this move would give people the message that some degree of self-reliance is good for them and their country.

2. Bring House Rep. Roscoe Bartlett over to your office for a special presentation of his energy talk, make sure your cabinet is there, and present him with an appropriate Presidential Medal of some sort. He’s a Republican so this would be a great bipartisan move. He is also a bona fide scientist who can speak with authority on the “source” side of the equation with respect to fossil fuels.

3. Invite James Hansen and his wife to stay in the Lincoln bedroom. Keep him around long enough to personally be assured that you understand his positions and reasoning. He believes substantive changes in energy policy need to happen within your first term or the planet is toast. Unfortunately, I think he’s right.

4. Place Herman Daly as a key economic advisor. So far your economic team looks to me like the same folks who created the mess. I have absolutely no confidence in them. Much of the banking system is a black hole that is insolvent and unredeemable. By contrast, the hundreds of billions (soon to be trillions?) of dollars wasted in shoring up banks could help pay down our ecological debts if allocated wisely. Maybe you are going to tell these guys to do a pirouette and reform themselves and their ilk?

5. Develop a “Securing the Basics” plan. With the economy tanking, the risk of civil unrest, both here and abroad, is real. Because we are mostly a society of urban and suburban consumers, households in the U.S. must pay for basic goods. The extreme income inequity in the U.S. is an additional vulnerability. Lack of self-reliance means that if oil imports are cut off suddenly or commerce falters due to a cascade of credit failures, the very necessities of life such as food, water, and shelter may be lost to tens of millions of citizens. If the population knew that a credible plan existed to mitigate for such a catastrophe, ensuring fair and timely distribution of goods, it would reduce the likelihood that panic would set in. Over the long-term, a society that is not so import-dependent, especially for food and energy, should be a policy goal.

Read the whole letter at The Oil Drum

Hat tip to Meca


The gap and the bridge


From Dave Smith
Ukiah

What is real anymore? Local neighbors, you and me, struggling to weather a financial tsunami that threatens to take us all down with it.

What is real? Our need as citizens to “put away childish things” and work to find a common ground on which to stand together.

That common ground is local and precious, not national or symbolic. It requires us to trust, not fuss. It moves us back in a direction that we lost long ago when we all decided that the point of life was to stampede through the door and grab all we could before someone else did. And now that the grabbing is over, the bills are coming due in the mail, and in the environment.

Judging another’s values based on our identity as consumers, of various political stripes, has been a favorite pastime writ large by mass media… and it kills community. What will get us through locally will be the virtues we share, not the values we fight over.

Values are legion, symbolic, and divisive. Political values are conservative vs liberal, right vs left, us vs them; economic values are socialist vs capitalist, communist vs fascist, etc. etc., all made moot by their smudging together into a bewildering hodge-podge of muttering and grimacing, point-counterpoint yelling and screaming… then suddenly gone silent with the overwhelming alarms of financial and planetary disaster, and personal tragedy. What now?

Virtues are what is best of who we really are. They are the fundamentals of our individual character, and full of meaning. Although defined most recently by religions, they go back much further in ancient wisdom traditions before religions codified them, and thus are relevant to the secular as well. Faith in each other, hope in the future, justice for all, courage to do what is right, and love for our neighbors. And there are a couple more that we’ve forgotten even existed: Prudence, which is wisdom and sensibleness in practical matters; and Temperance, which means to be moderate in one’s needs… knowing when enough is enough.

It is from this place of responsibility that citizens can expect and demand an open and responsive democratic government, both at the county and national level. Closed off, suspicious, and paranoid government officials, as recently demonstrated by our county CEO refusing access to journalists, are not what a renewed and empowered citizenry requires in this county, and at this time in history.

While we stand and fight for our values, as a democratic society demands that we do as citizens, we will find much more to admire and work with by recognizing each other’s virtues and responsibilities. The measure is how we respect and work together as citizens, neighbors, political representatives, and journalists.

Recognize the virtues in a neighbor, and you’ll find a friend, not a foe. And in a time of fear and trembling, that’s what builds a community.
~~

The problems…

Crash Course in Economics

The Automatic Earth

Local solutions…

Mendo Time Bank

Mendo Moola

Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts. ~Wendell Berry


Ukiah’s Saturday Farmers’ Market 1/31/09


From Scott Cratty
Mendocino County

Greetings!

Looks like another freakishly balmy winter Saturday… take advantage with a trip to the Ukiah Saturday Farmers’ Market. Help us celebrate the mid-way mark for the new off-season market.  When we conclude the market this Saturday we will have successfully extending our farmers’ market season by three whole months with three to go.  Stop by and get yourself a treat. You will be supporting the many fine farmers, ranchers, apiarists, fishers and crafters (how about getting your baby a World Peace Doll or some server dinner on some new locally crafted linens for Valentines Day?) who have toughed out our first winter market and made it a success– helping to create a local market opportunity that can pay dividends for our local economy and personal health for years to come.

Thanks to John Johns for finding Josh Madsen to play for us last Saturday. Keep bringing those musical recommendations, recipes, suggested additions, AG related news items, etc.

This weekend we have one more scheduled appearance by the Julian Trio.

At this Saturday’s market you can expect our usual array of great vendors — come for Caroline, Pedro or Richard’s greens, fish should be in the house, the Ford’s great natural beef, Shamrock Cheese, an array of Olivino oil, baked goods that support the Ford Street Project, Thanksgiving coffee, lots of really great crafts and much more.  We have several new things on the horizon … but not quite ready including a seaweed vendor, jams and jellies from two producers, and …. Mendocino grown wheat! Shamrock promises to start bringing their fresh local eggs, perhaps as soon as this Saturday.

For those of you unhappy with things like mercury in your processed foods

(http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_16627.cfm) or our non-organic, commodity and monoculture oriented national AG policy in general, the Organic Consumers Union is one of the groups leading the charge for more farm, food, and eater friendly policies.  You can get a status and find some recommended actions at http://www.organicconsumers.org/vilsack.cfm.

See you at the market.

[“…studies have shown that including apples in your diet may reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, liver, prostate and lung. The flavonoids in apples were credited with the anti-cancer effects.” -DS] See: Apples are beneficial only if organically grown


The Ukiah Latitude Observatory (Updated)


From Martin Bradley
Ukiah

The International Latitude Observatories were a system of (originally) six observatories located near the parallel of 39º 08’ north latitude.  They were used to measure the variation in latitude that occurs as a result of the wobble of the Earth on its polar axis.  The orginal six observatories were located in:
• Gaithersburg, Maryland
• Cincinnati, Ohio
• Ukiah, California
• Mizusawa, Japan
• Charjui, Turkestan
• Carloforte, Italy

History

The International Polar Motion Service program was created by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1899 to study the precession, or “wobble” of the Earth’s axis, and its effect on measures of latitude.  Six separate observatories were created .  The alignment of all six stations along the parallel helped the observatories to perform uniform data analysis.  Twelve groups of stars were studied in the program, each group containing six pairs of stars. Each night, each station observed two of the star groups along a preset schedule and later compared the data against the measurements taken by the sister stations.

Economic difficulties and war caused the closing of some of the original stations.  The stations continued to function until advances in computer technology and satellite observations rendered them obsolete in 1982.  The data collected by the observatories over the years still has use to scientists, and had been applied to studies of polar motion, physical properties of the Earth, climatology and satallite tracking and navigation.

Continue to Ukiah International Observatory Index


Update: The Jason Bradford interview of Bill McKibben on the Reality Report KZYX via Global Public Media (Transcript)


The Media’s role in the financial crisis


[This article is about why journalism is so important. Locally, the UDJ can never do an effective job until it is independent and locally owned, and also independent internally from its advertisers… as professional, feisty journalism used to be. -DS]

by Dan Gilmor
TPM Cafe
Excerpts
Full article here

Our government’s current operating principle seems to be bailing out people who were culpable in the financial meltdown. If so, journalists are surely entitled to billions of dollars.

Why? Journalists were grossly deficient when it came to covering the reckless behavior, sleaze and willful ignorance of fundamental economics, much of which was reasonably obvious to anyone who was paying attention, that inflated the housing and credit bubbles of the past decade. Their frequent cheerleading for bad practices — and near-total failure to warn us, repeatedly and relentlessly, of what was building — made a bad situation worse…

It’s not as if this is the first time a big issue has had too little discussion while there was still time to fix the problem. Journalism has repeatedly failed to warn the public about huge, visible risks. The media’s complicity in the Iraq War-mongering and 1990s stock bubble were the most infamous recent examples until the financial bust came along, but the willful blindness to reality was uncannily similar…

And even when the reporting was solid, which was rare enough, news organizations didn’t follow up in appropriate ways. If we can foresee a catastrophe, it’s not enough to mention it once or twice and then move on.

That common practice suggests an opportunity. When we can predict an inevitable calamity if we continue along the current path, we owe it to the public to do everything we can to encourage a change in that destructive behavior.

In practice, this means activism. It means relentless campaigning to point out what’s going wrong, and demanding corrective action from those who can do something about it.

So in Florida, Arizona and California, among other epicenters of the housing bubble, newspapers might have told their readers — including governmental officials — the difficult truth. They could have explained, again and again, that the housing bubble would inevitably lead, at least locally, to personal financial disaster for many in their regions, not to mention fiscal woes for local and state governments. How many should have done this, given the media’s at least partial reliance on advertising from those who profited from the bubbles? Any that cared to do their jobs…

Californians are especially practiced at pretending not to see what’s visible in front of them. The state’s fiscal crisis is far worse than most, in large part because the governor and state legislature — with media winks and nods — generated a torrent of new red ink, via borrowing, to cover new spending and earlier debts. The piper is now demanding his payment, and his price threatens to be ruinous. (Will this be our national fate in a few years?)…

Once upon a time, news people went on campaigns when they saw the need. Sometimes this led to yellow journalism, as when newspaper owners used their publications to stir up the populace in dangerous ways. At other times, however, old-fashioned press campaigns led to change for the better; back when editorial pages had more influence in communities, a few courageous newspaper editors in the South campaigned for school integration, and made an enormous difference.

Journalistic activism — precisely what we need despite most journalists’ disdain for the idea — won’t save newspapers that are suffering from a perfect storm of dwindling leadership and advertising losses. But as Online Journalism Review‘s Robert Niles recently wrote, journalists should “accept the responsibility to demand action” based on what they learn when they do their jobs right.

The media’s collective irresponsibility has ill-served its audience. If journalists want to keep the audience they have, never mind building credibility for the future, they need to become the right kind of activists. More than ever, we need what they do, when they do it well.


[The right of freely examining public characters and measures, and a free communication of the people thereon has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right. -James Madison, 1798]


Veterans For Peace, Depleted Uranium Petition


From Annie Esposito
Ukiah

So-called “Depleted Uranium” is poisoning our troops, according to the Veterans for Peace.  Mendocino County’s Chapter 116 of Veterans for Peace met Sunday (1/25) in Ukiah to work on a petition to stop use of uranium munitions.

The campaign started in Mendocino County with work by John Lewellan and is now on the agenda of the national organization.  There is a letter to the editor in The Daily Journal, and Bernie MacDonald is editing a press release to go out soon.

Pictured holding the petition against use of “depleted uranium” is veteran Bob Wilkinson of Laytonville.  To the left are VfP President Richard Hincker from Willits and Peter Sears of Fort Bragg; Jamie Connerton is on the right.  For more information, people can contact Connerton at 468-9644


... and from Jim Kunstler today

Putting aside whether this “stimulus” represents reckless money-printing in an insolvent society, let’s just take it at face-value and ask where the “money” might be better directed:

– We have to rehabilitate thousands of downtowns all over the nation to accommodate the new re-scaled edition of local and regional trade that will follow the death of national chain-store retail of the WalMart ilk. Reactivated town centers and Main Streets are indispensable features of walkable communities. The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU.org) ought to be consulted on the procedures for accomplishing this and for rehabilitating the traditional neighborhoods connected to our Main Streets.

– We have to reform food production (a.k.a. “farming”). Petro-dependent agri-biz will go the same way as the chain stores. Its equations will fail, especially in a credit-strapped society. That piece of the picture is so dire right now, as we prepare for the planting season, that many crops may not be put in for lack of front-money. This portends, at least, much higher food prices at the end of the year, if not outright scarcities and shortages. And the new government wants to gold-plate highway off-ramps instead? Earth to Rahm Emanuel: screw your head back on.

Read on: State of Change


Els is back on KZYX today Monday 1/26 9am


From Janie Sheppard
Mendocino County

After a two-year hiatus, Els Cooperrider (photo), much respected host of two previous KZYX radio shows, The Ecology Hour, and The Party’s Over, will resume her radio career today, Monday, January 26 at 9 a.m.

In a cozy interview in front of the fire at The Brew Pub, her family’s brewery and restaurant, Els talked about the new show to be broadcast every fourth Monday (mostly). She and Jason Bradford, host of The Reality Report, will share the time slot and will be flexible depending on their respective schedules.

Els and her guests will address how human relationships will change when cheap energy runs out. She warns, “None of the techno stuff will matter without human relationships.” Peering into a crystal ball, she sees a return to living in groupings of the extended family. This she said will be a matter of necessity for survival. Cheap energy has made the nuclear family possible, and when that goes away, so will the nuclear family.

She made clear that she was not talking about the intentional communities of the 1970’s, which, she said seemed to fall apart. Instead, she meant family by blood and marriage. Her perspective, she said, was made clearer when she came upon an anthropological concept, “Dunbar’s Number.” Dunbar theorized that an optimal group size for humans would be 150. Expect to hear more about that on Els’ show.

Two books could get us all thinking about these issues, she said. The first is a science fiction novel, World Made by Hand, by James Howard Kunstler, in which he portrays us as living in localized, agrarian communities. The second, Daniel Quinn’s Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure, is a series of one-page musings; perfect reading for the bathroom, she noted.

Her first guest will be clinical psychologist, Dr. Richard Miller, already familiar to KZYX listeners as the host of the show, “Mind, Body, Health and Politics.” Be sure to tune in for some intriguing and likely provocative radio.

Welcome back Els!


Biodynamics – The Original and Future Organic


From Dave Smith
Ukiah

We are blessed with numerous, pioneering biodynamic vineyards and farms here in Mendocino County. Action: Convert conventional farms to organics, and organic farms to Biodynamic. Here is a brief introduction:

BIODYNAMICS is the original foundation of publicly recognized organic agriculture. It is often called “organic plus” as this method is free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, but also is minimally dependant on imported inputs and includes proactive holistic farming techniques such as herbal soil preparations, rigorous composting systems, and alignment with a planetary calendar. Avoidance of pest species is based on biological vigor and its intrinsic biological and genetic diversity.

Biodynamic agriculture was conceived in the 20th century by the philosopher Rudolf Steiner (photo). It is a naturally organic, holistic practice that seeks to maximise farm output while ensuring it is also self-sustainable. Special attention is given to balancing the farm with soil, plant, animal and cosmic processes in order to ensure continued harmony. The word “Biodynamics” combines the biology of agriculture with the dynamic aspects of ecological systems. Biodynamic agricultural principles emphasize living soil, the farm as a wholistic organism and acknowledges both the visible and invisible forces that create a healthy ecosystem.

The goal of a Biodynamic farm is to be able to support just the right balance of people, plants and animals, so that no outside inputs such as soil amendments or feed for the animals is needed. This is done by carefully timing planting, weeding, fertilizing and harvesting to coincide with the lunar and celestial phases which will most enhance the farm output. Specially made compost consisting of time-tested doses of plants, minerals and animal manure is applied throughout the seasons to enhance plant vitality and soil fertility.

Biodynamics uses a systematic ecological approach in which the farm is seen as a unique and self-sustaining entity. Any problems that arise are addressed within the confines of the farm itself. This means that fertilizers and pest management substances must be created on the farm.

Biodynamics is the oldest certified ecological farming system and has been an assurance of quality since it’s birth in 1928. When asked why the world was in so much turmoil and why people didn’t seem able to make moral and productive decisions necessary for positive change, Rudolf Steiner responded that our food lacked the etheric life forces to support our will. Steiner believed that the quality of food needed to improve for people to have enough will to be capable of making choices that would lead to a harmonious relationship with nature.
~~

“Naturally grown wines… tell us what is real… These winemakers are basically saying they are prepared to be vulnerable to the rhythms of the earth… Can you taste the Biodynamics? Of course not. But, you can taste courage… you can taste tenderness in the winemaking itself… This is what is real… Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we need that absolutely.” ~~ Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator
~~

More on Biodynamics based on “An Introduction To Biodynamic Agriculture”, originally published in Stella Natura calendar 1995.

What is Biodynamic agriculture? In seeking an answer let us pose the further question: Can the Earth heal itself, or has the waning of the Earths vitality gone too far for this? No matter where our land is located, if we are observant we will see sure signs of illness in trees, in our cultivated plants, in the water, even in the weather. Organic agriculture rightly wants to halt the devastation caused by humans; however, organic agriculture has no cure for the ailing Earth. From this the following question arises: What was the original source of vitality, and is it available now?

Biodynamics is a science of life-forces, a recognition of the basic principles at work in nature, and an approach to agriculture which takes these principles into account to bring about balance and healing. In a very real way, then, Biodynamics is an ongoing path of knowledge rather than an assemblage of methods and techniques.

Biodynamics is part of the work of Rudolf Steiner, known as Anthroposophy – a new approach to science which integrates precise observation of natural phenomena, clear thinking, and knowledge of the spirit. It offers an account of the spiritual history of the Earth as a living being, and describes the evolution of the constitution of humanity and the kingdoms of nature. Some of the basic principles of Biodynamics are:

Broaden Our Perspective
Just as we need to look at the magnetic field of the whole earth to comprehend the compass, to understand plant life we must expand our view to include all that affects plant growth. No narrow microscopic view will suffice. Plants are utterly open to and formed by influences from the depths of the earth to the heights of the heavens. Therefore our considerations in agriculture must range more broadly than is generally assumed to be relevant.

Reading the Book of Nature
Everything in nature reveals something of its essential character in its form and gesture. Careful observations of nature – in shade and full sun, in wet and dry areas, on different soils, will yield a more fluid grasp of the elements. So eventually one learns to read the language of nature. And then one can be creative, bringing new emphasis and balance through specific actions. Practitioners and experimenters over the last seventy years have added tremendously to the body of knowledge known as Biodynamics.

Cosmic Rhythms
The light of the sun, moon, planets and stars reaches the plants in regular rhythms. Each contributes to the life, growth and form of the plant. By understanding the gesture and effect of each rhythm, we can time our ground preparation, sowing, cultivating and harvesting to the advantage of the crops we are raising.

Plant Life Is Intimately Bound Up with the Life of the Soil
Biodynamics recognizes that soil itself can be alive, and this vitality supports and affects the quality and health of the plants that grow in it. Therefore, one of Biodynamics fundamental efforts is to build up stable humus in our soil through composting.

A New View of Nutrition
We gain our physical strength from the process of breaking down the food we eat. The more vital our food, the more it stimulates our own activity. Thus, Biodynamic farmers and gardeners aim for quality, and not only quantity. Chemical agriculture has developed short-cuts to quantity by adding soluble minerals to the soil. The plants take these up via water, thus by-passing their natural ability to seek from the soil what is needed for health, vitality and growth. The result is a deadened soil and artificially stimulated growth. Biodynamics grows food with a strong connection to a healthy, living soil.

Medicine for the Earth: Biodynamic Preparations
Rudolf Steiner pointed out that a new science of cosmic influences would have to replace old, instinctive wisdom and superstition. Out of his own insight, he introduced what are known as biodynamic preparations. Naturally occurring plant and animal materials are combined in specific recipes in certain seasons of the year and then placed in compost piles. These preparations bear concentrated forces within them and are used to organize the chaotic elements within the compost piles. When the process is complete, the resulting preparations are medicines for the Earth which draw new life forces from the cosmos. Two of the preparations are used directly in the field, one on the earth before planting, to stimulate soil life, and one on the leaves of growing plants to enhance their capacity to receive the light. Effects of the preparations have been verified scientifically.

The Farm as the Basic Unit of Agriculture
In his Agriculture course, Rudolf Steiner posed the ideal of the self-contained farm – that there should be just the right number of animals to provide manure for fertility, and these animals should, in turn, be fed from the farm. We can seek the essential gesture of such a farm also under other circumstances. It has to do with the preservation and recycling of the life-forces with which we are working. Vegetable waste, manure, leaves, food scraps, all contain precious vitality which can be held and put to use for building up the soil if they are handled wisely. Thus, composting is a key activity in Biodynamic work. The farm is also a teacher, and provides the educational opportunity to imitate nature’s wise self-sufficiency within a limited area. Some have also successfully created farms through the association of several parcels of non-contiguous land.

Economics Based on Knowledge of the Job
Steiner emphasized the absurdity of agricultural economics determined by people who have never actually raised crops or managed a farm. A new approach to this situation has been developed which brings about the association of producers and consumers for their mutual benefit. The Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) movement was born in the Biodynamic movement and is spreading rapidly. Gardens or farms gather around them a circle of supporters who agree in advance to meet the financial needs of the enterprise and its workers, and these supporters each receive a share of the produce as the season progresses. Thus consumers become connected with the real needs of the Earth, the farm and the Community; they rejoice in rich harvests, and remain faithful under adverse circumstances.
~~


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