Take Action! Summary of the Monster Mall Ballot Measure

From Save Our Local Economy (SOLE)

May 19, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

•   What it does

The ballot measure would amend the County General Plan and zoning code to adopt a Specific Plan covering DDR’s 76-acre Masonite site.  The Specific Plan was written for DDR by an Orange County consultant and is 310 pages long.

It allows DDR to build “Mendocino Crossings” with any combination it wants of big box retail stores, residences and other facilities.  The limit for big box stores is 800,000 square feet [B-41], which would make Mendocino Crossings a tie with Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa as the largest shopping mall on the North Coast.  The parking lot would hold more than 3,000 cars.

The Specific Plan would also allow DDR to build up to 150 residences.  Although the Specific Plan provides 3 different “Conceptual Plans” of how the shopping center might look, it also states that “The exhibits shown are conceptual and do not reflect what may actually be constructed on the site.  The actual development of the site is subject to change based on market and regional demands.” [B-42]

•    Could the Specific Plan ever be amended?

Only by another ballot measure [Initiative text, Section 8].  Once adopted, the Specific Plan is law and the County’s elected officials would have no control over what DDR does with the property, within the broad limits established by the Specific Plan.

•    How does the Initiative affect the County General Plan?

If enacted, the Initiative would require that everything else in the County General Plan would have to be revised to eliminate any inconsistency with DDR’s Specific Plan [Initiative, Section 5-B].

•    Will there be an Environmental Impact Report?

No.  Rezonings that are put on the ballot by petition are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), since there is no public agency which is responsible for approving the project [B-228].

•    How did DDR qualify the Initiative for the ballot?

DDR, under the name “Mendocino County Tomorrow,” hired a professional signature-gathering company, H&H Petitions, which brought approximately 20 signature gatherers here from out-of-county, beginning April 9, 2009.  They were paid $2 per valid signature.  According to numerous citizen reports, the petitioners mostly told the public that the petition was to “clean up the Masonite site.” There were 4 letters to the editor in the Ukiah Daily Journal from different individuals who stated that they had been misled in this way, and 82 people who had been misled by the signature-gatherers sent letters to the County Clerk asking that their names be removed from the petition.  Nevertheless, DDR was successful in submitting its petition to the county on April 29, 2009, claiming it had sufficient signatures to force a special election in November on its Initiative.

•    What is the history of the property?

The site is zoned for industry and was used by Masonite Corporation for 50 years.  DDR bought the site in 2005 and demolished the plant facilities, despite appeals to save it for new industrial uses.  The 76-acre property is the largest industrial parcel in the inland county and has rail access and other features that make it ideal for new industrial development.

•    Why should the site stay in industrial zoning?

Because industrial employers offer better wages and benefits than the minimum-wage jobs offered by big box stores.  Also, industry creates a stronger local economy because it brings money into the area, instead of draining it out like big box stores do.  There is good potential for future industrial use of the Masonite site, if it stays in industrial zoning.  About 27 acres of new industrial buildings have gone up just north of the Masonite property just since 2001, showing the demand for industrial property.  Many timber industry officials believe that the regrowth of the county’s forests will create a need for a new wood byproducts facility.

•    How would DDR’s mall affect traffic?

The County’s draft Ukiah Valley Area Plan found that major traffic improvements are needed if there is more development around the Masonite site, including a new north-south road and a new freeway access off Brush Street.  But DDR’s Specific Plan doesn’t include any of these new roads.  Instead, the Specific Plan dictates that North State Street will bear all of the burden. DDR’s Specific Plan specifies 5 new traffic lights on North State Street, bringing the total to 7 traffic lights in the ½ mile stretch from Orr Springs Road to Ford Road [B-65].  While this forest of red lights will make North State Street a nightmare for thru-traffic, DDR apparently figures that it can still get shoppers off and on the freeway.

•    Besides North State Street, would DDR pay for other off-site road improvements?

Almost certainly not.  The Specific Plan says DDR will pay for the new traffic lights and road widenings it wants on North State Street.  Beyond that, the County must prove by a “nexus report” that any fees imposed on the project are justified by impacts created by the project, AND THEN, whatever DDR has paid for the North State Street alterations will be DEDUCTED from those fees [B-223].

•    How would it affect the water shortage?

DDR says that it would meet the large new water demand for the shopping mall from an existing well (Masonite well #6) near the Russian River [B-73].  How this pumping would affect the total demand on the river and on Lake Mendocino isn’t clear, since DDR is circumventing the requirement for an Environmental Impact Report.

•    What development standards would apply to the project?

Only what DDR has written into the Specific Plan, which substitutes for all County Zoning regulations [Initiative, Section 3].  In other words, DDR has written its own rules.  Not surprisingly, these conflict with the existing limits and aesthetic standards that are common in Mendocino County.  For example, DDR gives itself the right to erect a 100-foot tall lighted sign next to the freeway, four times taller and eight times larger in area than allowed by County zoning [B-124].   Signs on the stores themselves can be up to 500 square feet, three times larger than allowed by County zoning. [B-120].   There is no provision whatsoever for design review by the County of the buildings or other features.

•    How can this area support such a huge shopping mall?

Only by capturing the lion’s share of all retail business in Mendocino County.  With about 12 big box stores and numerous smaller shops, the development would be designed to be a “magnet” destination sufficiently compelling to attract shoppers and keep them on site for most of their shopping needs.  The impact on downtowns and existing shopping districts throughout Mendocino County is obvious.  An economic study commissioned by the county in 2007 concluded, “The prospects for new regional retail [center] depend on its ability to capture expenditures from a trade area larger than the Ukiah Valley.”  [“Ukiah Valley Area Plan Economic Background,” Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., p. 37]  DDR claims that its shopping mall would create hundreds of new jobs, but there is every reason to believe that these new jobs would be offset by lost jobs at existing stores in Mendocino and Lake counties.

•    But don’t we need DDR’s shopping mall to get a Costco store?

No.  Costco was in advanced negotiations to build a store in Ukiah’s Redwood Business Park and detailed site plans had been submitted to the city in both 2003 and 2007 for a 15-acre parcel.  As soon as it bought the Masonite site in 2005, DDR went to work to persuade Costco to give up on the City of Ukiah site.  Finally DDR succeeded, and Costco suddenly stopped talking to the city in June, 2007. But when DDR’s ballot initiative is defeated, Costco can still build on the original City of Ukiah site if it still believes the local market will support its store.  The City of Ukiah has 95 acres of vacant land zoned for retail.

•    DDR is experiencing financial distress.  How could DDR build a new shopping mall when it is trying to sell property to raise cash?

It’s true that DDR is shaky.  Last year its stock plunged to only $2 a share, and its debt was recently reduced to junk bond status by the rating agencies.  But the ballot measure is a potentially lucrative speculation for DDR, even if the election campaign costs $1 million.  A rezoning could increase the market value of the DDR property by as much as $30 million.  Then DDR could sell it to another developer.

•    But isn’t it the democratic way to let the voters decide?

Only if there is full information fairly presented to the voters.   As DDR showed in the signature-gathering campaign, lies succeed when they are aggressively disseminated without opposing information.  DDR figures it can spend so much money painting a one-sided picture of the Initiative that it can drown out all opposition.  Even before the Initiative drive, DDR mailed 5 fancy brochures to all county voters, projected a false image of their plans.  DDR will circumvent the normal requirement for an Environmental Impact Report, which is an essential source of objective analysis on any project.  DDR seeks to lock its 310-page Specific Plan into law and prohibit any public hearings or review by our elected officials.  This can’t be described as democratic.  It’s more like direct corporate rule.

Go to Save Our Local Economy

See also The Masonite Monster Mall series

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books

From The Shadow of the Wind (2005)
Carlos Ruiz Zafón

May 19, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

The man called Isaac nodded and invited us in. A blue-tinted gloom obscured the sinuous contours of a marble staircase and a gallery of frescoes peopled with angels and fabulous creatures. We followed our host through a palatial corridor and arrived at a sprawling round hall, a virtual basilica of shadows spiraling up under a high glass dome, its dimness pierced by shafts of light that stabbed from above. A labyrinth of passageways and crammed bookshelves rose from base to pinnacle like a beehive woven with tunnels, steps, platforms, and bridges that presaged an immense library of seemingly impossible geometry. I looked at my father, stunned. He smiled at me and winked.

“Welcome to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Daniel.”

I could make out about a dozen human figures scattered among the library’s corridors and platforms. Some of them turned to greet me from afar, and I recognized the faces of various colleagues of my father’s, fellows of the secondhand booksellers’ guild. To my ten-year-old eyes, they looked like a brotherhood of alchemists in furtive study. My father knelt next to me and, with his eyes fixed on mine, addressed me in the hushed voice he reserved for promises and secrets.

“This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. This place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here.

In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth, books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend. Now they have only us, Daniel…”

Fiber Processing and Re-Manufacture Mill – Community Development Plan for Masonite Site (Part 9)


May 18, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

An integral aspect of the Eco-Village and a sustainable future will be re-cycling. This is not limited to today’s meaning of separating the tin from the plastic, the green glass from the clear, and the paper from the rest; this is waste separation, re-cycling will take on a deeper and broader meaning as we move into the challenging years ahead.

Waste separation is an aspect of the process of recycling, yet, most importantly in the process is using the end waste product, or products, from one industry to feed a part, or parts, of another; re-using, possibly for reasons other than originally intended; re-manufacturing new materials, or structures from part, or parts, of the waste stream, and reclamation of usable components (oils, water, chemicals, nutrients) from objects and solutions before their final (for us) resting, composting, place.

By building “Zero Waste” into our planning as an ideal to work toward, while understanding we are in a transition phase and unlikely to achieve such a lofty goal quickly, we can open our individual and collective creativity without thinking we have to have all the answers before beginning.

Being in transition means action; something is happening and movement is involved. In Mendocino County we can feel the burden of the past blurring into a questionable future and wonder what we will transition into; a peaceful, sustainable group of interdependent communities living within their means, supporting each other through the lean times, celebrating the abundant, or, the opposite. Climate chaos, economic collapse, civil strife, or a number of other causes, which may be beyond our control, may make our future choices futile and meaningless; moot. Localization, now, is our best, most logical course of action and it is time to ask ourselves which of the options above we want to transition into.

We, in Mendocino County, may not be able to provide all of our wants, but we can certainly see to our needs. Fulfilling wants before needs has gotten us into this mess as much as greed, political incompetence, and ignorance. It is time for a transition and we need to decide which way it will go.

Only a certain amount of fiber can be extracted from the forests without depleting the soils. Until our forests have recovered we need to develop other means of supplying ourselves with fiber from alternative sources. Mendocino County can support the production of fiber in many forms; wool, wood, plant fibers, bamboo, willow, fungi, all grow well in Mendocino County and in Northern California. As the health and productivity of our forests decline and the threat of catastrophic forest fire increases these other fibers will become more valuable and necessary in our area. As work is done in the watersheds that helps the natural healing power of nature rehabilitate the landscape— returning streams to natural functioning capabilities, and, as the larger trees mature, the removal of small diameter poles and understory fuel loads to supply a source of useable building materials, bio-fuels, and fiber— the amount is limited by the need to re-cycle nutrients in the forest soils to maintain fertility. Other sources of fiber will need to be developed, many of which we already know and which have higher fiber content that provides superior structural strength when compared to traditional wood sources.

This post explores the use of several plant sources of fiber and gives some background of their use and properties. Below I list Bamboo, Kenaf, and Hemp. Other forms of fiber, such as wool, straw, fungi and willow are also good sources of fiber and vital to a sustainable future, although I do not include them here to save space. For the Bast plant section below I am quoting sections from the 1996- Bast Fiber Applications for Composites Report, authored by, Erwin H. Lloyd (biocomp@comcast.net) and David Seber (organic@organicseed.com). This 1996 document does not look at Bast fiber in terms of clothing and fabric but for composite (wood and plastic) building materials which are very strong for their weight.

Bast fiber plants, as well as other fiber producing plant species, provide a means to supplement for traditional forest products and even capture new markets through the use of alternative raw materials which possess unique and beneficial properties. Bast plants include flax, kneaf and hemp, and have been used by many civilizations for a period of at least 4000 years. Fibers such as bamboo and hemp are also exceptional for clothing yet I only make short reference to these uses. This “Potential Community Development Plan” is not intended to be complete but to stimulate community dialogue.

From the 1996- Bast Fiber Applications for Composites
“Bast fibers have been grown for centuries throughout the world. Bast plants are characterized by long, strong fiber bundles that comprise the outer portion of the stalk. Bast plants include flax, hemp, kenaf, sunn-hemp, ramie, and jute. The focus of our research has been on the species that can grow in temperate regions of the world, namely flax, hemp, and kenaf. These fibrous plants have long been noted for their exceptional strength in cordage and paper.

The word “bast” refers to the outer portion of the stem of these plants. This stringy, vascular portion comprises 10 – 40% of the mass of the stem depending upon the species of bast plant, as well as the particular variety, or cultivar, within a bast plant.
The remainder of the stem inside this bast layer is a different type of fibrous material, which has different names depending upon the species selected. This inner material is known as shives when referring to flax and sometimes hemp, as hurd in the context of hemp, and as core when from kenaf. For the purpose of simplicity and consistency, we will use the word “core” when discussing this portion of the bast plant.”

Overall Advantages of Bast Plants
“In general, bast plants possess the following benefits:
1. High tensile strength in bast portions, especially in fiber varieties.
2. Bast plants have a relatively low specific gravity of 0.28 – 0.62, yielding an especially high specific strength, i.e. strength to weight ratio, (Kozlowski, Mieleniak, Przepiera, 1994).
3. Generally high fiber productivity rates, rivaling and even surpassing that of the most commercial tree species.
4. Potential for even greater productivity, bast portions, and mechanical properties through focused genetic breeding.” (I hope they mean hybridizing, evb)

Overall Limitations of Bast Plants
“In general, bast plants also have the following limitations:
1. Rotations at least every other year generally required.
2. Limited research for composite applications in North America.
3. Lack of related agricultural infrastructure in North America.
4. Relatively high absorption of moisture in core portion.
5. Diminished board properties when using core for particleboard.
6. Difficulty in handling long fiber bundle lengths for processing.
7. Difficulty in applying binder to long fiber bundle lengths.”

Advantages of Hemp:
“Hemp shows the following strengths:
1. Hemp requires less moisture to grow than kenaf.
2. Hemp’s fiber-bundles are stronger and tougher than those of kenaf, generally comparable to varieties of flax, and most other known fiber species.
3. Hemp is generally pest resistant, drought resistant, and light frost resistant.
4. With proper leaf removal, hemp has low net nutrient requirements and requires minimal cultivation.
5. Hemp provides greater fiber yields in areas generally north of the 40th latitude than most other fiber crops, generally surpassing flax by 10%.”

Disadvantages of Hemp:
“Hemp also has the following weaknesses:
1. Restrictions of its growth and cultivation in North America, especially in the United States.
2. Lower fiber yields than kenaf and other tropical species in the warmer portions of the United States and more southerly regions.
3. Lower bast fiber portions relative to kenaf and flax.

Table 1 compares the chemical composition of these bast plants with that of wood.

Table 1: Comparative Chemical Composition:
FLAX     78.5    9.2    8.5    2.3    1.5
HEMP    68.1    15.1    10.6    3.6    2.5
KENAF (bast)    60.8    20.3    11.0    3.2    4.7
CONIFEROUS    48.0    15.0    25.3    11.5    0.2
DECIDUOUS    52.8    21.8    22.3    2.7    0.4
Source: Danforth International, and TAPPI

Table 5 illustrates the fiber bundle tensile strength properties of the various bast fibers are significantly higher than those of wood species. (Douglas fir, Southern Pine, Aspen vs. Hemp, Kenaf, Flax). In light of this issue, higher structural applications appear the most promising. This value is an excellent measure of the structural performance we can expect in a particular size and configuration of a product.”

Table 5: Comparative Mechanical/Physical Properties of Bast and Wood Materials:
FLAX    1.51    1.2    10 – 65    32    10 – 25    18    1,778    51,000
KENAF (bast)    –    1.2    1.4 – 5    2.6    14 – 23    21    124    58,000
KENAF (core)    0.31    –    0.4 – 1.1    0.6    18 – 37    30    20    –
HEMP    1.48    1.2    7 – 55    25    13 – 30    18    1,087    118,000
S.Y. PINE    0.51    –    2.7 – 4.6    3.7    32 – 43    38    97    11,600
D. FIR    0.48    –    2.7 – 4.6    3.7    32 – 43    38    97    15,600
ASPEN    0.39    –    0.7 – 1.6    1.2    20 – 30    25    48    7,400
Sources: Wood Handbook; Danforth International; W.S.U., WMEL; Columbus, 1996, Institute of Natural Fibers, U.S.D.A., A.R.S.; The BioComposite Center.

“Kenaf, Hibiscus cannabinus, originating from Africa, has traditionally been a source of bast fiber in India, China, The Commonwealth of Independent States, Iran, Nigeria, and Thailand. Kenaf is a newer crop to the United States that shows good potential as a raw material for use in composite products. Presently, around 4,300 acres of kenaf are cultivated in the United States. 2,000 acres are grown in Mississippi, 1,200 acres in Texas, 560 acres in California, with lesser amounts in Louisiana, New Mexico, and Georgia. Traditionally, kenaf has been known as a cordage crop or jute substitute. Research on kenaf first began in the United States in 1957 and has continued sporadically since that time, (White, Higgins, 1964). Newer advances in decortication equipment which seperates the core from the bast fiber combined with fiber shortages has renewed recent interest in kenaf as a fiber source.”

Advantages of Kenaf:
“Kenaf possesses the following benefits:
1. Excellent yields in southern regions. For example, 15 tons/acre were grown at College Station, Texas in research plots, (Berger, 1969). Actual production yields of 7 -9 bone dry tons/acres can be expected in the warmer regions of Texas.
2. Low harvested whole stalk costs in favorable climatic regions such as southern Texas.
3. Genetic strains have been developed which yield 35% or greater bast portions. This is a relatively high proportion.
4. Considerable progress has been made in developing nematode resistance in the Texas growing region. Nematode susceptibility has long been an encumbrance to the viability of kenaf development.
5. Is competitive showing favorable weed control characteristics.
6. Is viewed favorably by the USDA as a prime candidate for alternative fiber development and has consequently received greater research funding.
7. Strong federal political support.”

Limitations of Kenaf:
“Kenaf also has the following limitations:
1. Low productivity in cooler climates. Its growing season can be as short as 90 – 120 days, and consequently it will grow in almost any region of North America if sufficient moisture is available. The yields of kenaf in Rosemount, Minnesota, south of the Twin Cities, yielded only 2.5 tons/acre in a research plot, compared to the 15 ton/acre yield in College Station, Texas, (Le Mahieu, Oplinger, Putnam, 1991; White, Higgins, 1964). Actual production yields are roughly 60-70% of those in test plots, (Blodsoe, 1996; Cook, 1996).
2. High moisture requirements. 600 mm, (23.6 in) of water is preferable during its growing cycle of 120-150 days, (Vannini, Venturi, 1992).” (end quotes)

Bamboo is actually a grass that grows to a harvestable height of 60 feet in about three to five years and can grow as much as two feet per day. It has an extensive root system that continually sends up new shoots and does not require replanting. Bamboo, as the Bast plants mentioned above and other fiber sources, holds the promise of sustainable, cost effective and ecologically responsible alternatives to short sighted management and the clear cutting of our timberland. Bamboo can be spun into yarn, or processed as a fiber. It has a unparalleled micro-structure of pours that absorb human sweat rapidly. If left in it natural state, not roasting it to change the color (caramelizing the starches and sugars), the fiber makes a pleasant green colored fabric that is bio-degradable, cheaper than cotton and wears as well, or better.

Composite products for building materials made from the plants mentioned in this post include, but is not limited to: Low-density insulation boards, Ceiling Tiles, Substrate for lightweight furniture, Components in manufactured housing, Office partitions, Core materials for doors, and particleboard. These plants offer reinforcing fibers to other materials such as concrete, wood, straw, pultrusion products; reinforcements for thermoplastics and insulation; and cordage, especially jute, sisal, and hemp, has historically been strong. Fabrics for clothing, bedding, drapes, upholstery and more can be added into the value items for these fibers. This also does not include food fibers and their benefits to the human body.

There is a great deal of creativity in our area and much we could do to supply our local fiber needs with a fiber processing and manufacturing facility as a foundation of the Eco-Village/Transition Park concept.

A Potential Community Development Plan for the Masonite Site – Part 1
Eco-Train, Rail and Depot – Part 2
Ecologically-Oriented Tourism – Part 3
Rail to Trail – Part 4
Autonomous Waste Water Treatment System – Part 5
Community Interpretive Watershed and Visitor’s Center – Part 6
Food Processing Facility – Part 7

Small Diameter Pole Processing Mill – Part 8
Fiber Processing and Re-Manufacture Mill – Part 9

Greenpeace: Polluters to get massive giveaways in climate and energy bill

From Greenpeace

Washington, D.C., United States — Greenpeace is calling for renewed leadership from President Obama and Congress following the release of the drastically weakened Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill today. The American Climate and Energy Security Act (ACES) was already in need of improvement when first released as a discussion draft in March, and has become severely worse as members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee actively worked to weaken the bill on behalf of fossil fuels industries and other corporate polluters.

Following the release of the legislation, Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford issued the following statement:

“Despite the best efforts of Chairman Waxman, this bill has been seriously undermined by the lobbying of industries more concerned with profits than the plight of our planet. While science clearly tells us that only dramatic action can prevent global warming and its catastrophic impacts, this bill has fallen prey to political infighting and industry pressure. We cannot support this bill in its current state. We call on President Obama and leaders in Congress to get back to work and produce a bill, based on science, which presents a clear road map for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, transforms our economy with clean, renewable energy technology, generates new green jobs and shows real leadership internationally.”

Masonite Monster Mall – Letters to the Editor


May 18, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California


A recent letter to the Ukiah Daily Journal 5/15/09 decries the “lack of logic” and “emotional arguments” of anti-Monster Mall citizens, saying that “All these objections disappear when the same stores are proposed inside Ukiah’s City Limits and are not objectionable at all. Pure hypocrisy.”

Citizens oppose bad projects for many different reasons. Some of us oppose any big-box or chain store to save our local economy and downtown merchants; others oppose the Monster Mall at the Masonite site to save our best industrial land for good-paying jobs; and still others oppose it because there is land already set aside for retail stores in town.

As a self-described, life-long developer, the letter writer knows perfectly well that our opposition is by a united coalition of diverse interests.

Nothing at all hypocritical about that.

Ol’ Mister Doom and Gloom

From Jim Kunstler
Author, The Long Emergency

There are plenty of things you can state about the economy past and future with some confidence right now:
— Cheap energy is over and our wishes for alt.energy are currently inconsistent with reality, meaning we have to live differently.
— We have to downscale and re-localize our major economic activities: food production, commerce and manufacturing, banking, schooling, etc.
— We can’t hope to have a stable money system unless we allow a workout of unpayable debt to proceed.
— Even if we can do this, universal easy credit is a thing of the past. From now on, we have to save for the things we want and run our businesses and households on accounts receivable.
— Major demographic shifts are inevitable as it becomes necessary to let go of suburbia and reactivate our derelict towns and smaller cities (and allow our giant metroplexes to contract).
— We have to face the truth that our major social contracts cannot be met, namely the continuation of social security as we know it and probably all pension arrangements. We’ll probably have to change household arrangements to make up for these losses.

Switch to mercury light bulbs to stop climate change? Uh, have you read the label fine print?

Redwood Valley

May 15, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Flourescent light bulb warning

There is a movement by many states and localities to ban incandescent light bulbs and convert to total use of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL) to save energy.

And yet there are few who have read the small print on the tiny inside package label of fluorescent bulbs or heard about the EPA’s problems with regard to mercury contamination.

What should you know about fluorescent light bulbs?

  1. Heat resistant glass is used in these bulbs. The quartz arc tube, when operating creates light by generating a considerable amount of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation. How much exposure to this UV radiation goes through the heat resistant glass and what are the human health problems associated with this exposure? How does the public know that the exposure is safe for children and adults?

Support the fight to stop the Masonite Monster Mall


May 15, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Thanks to Darca Nicholson, you can support the fight to stop the Masonite Monster Mall by having the above machine-embroidered on t-shirts and other pieces of clothing.

Take them to Jana at Encore Fashions, 109 W Church St in Ukiah (707) 463-5590, along with a suggested donation of $25 each to Save Our Local Economy (SOLE).


Time to start growing your own bread

From Gene Logsdon
Garden Farm Skills

[Gene’s long-awaited, and much-anticipated 2nd Edition of Small-Scale Grain Raising: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains, for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers is now available. -DS]

No sooner had the news come out that rice stocks worldwide were at an all time modern low, and that the price of wheat had hit historic highs, when I started getting calls and letters from all over. Modern homesteaders wanted to know where they could get a copy of my old book, Small Scale Grain Raising.

It is gratifying to know there are still Americans who, instead of wringing their hands at a possible problem headed their way, start figuring what to do about it. I only wish I had some copies of that book left. It was published in 1977 and was as high as $300 a crack on the Internet. But I am happy to report that a new edition is now available.

I don’t really know if the high grain prices have anything to do with renewed interest in that book. What seems to me more likely is that self-reliant people are taking a look at what is happening in our financial world and wondering if it is time to plow up the backyard or that old horse lot and plant some food.

In my little world of writing books about rural life and culture, this is all the talk right now, as it was in 1973, 1982, and 1995 when the economy did “readjustments” like it is doing now, only not quite so profoundly. (In an economy ruled by interest on “pretend” money, as I call it, about every ten years there has to be a shakeup to bring the dreamers of riches, floating around in their bubbles, back down to earth again.) The idea of growing and threshing out several bushels of wheat (a bushel makes about 50-60 loaves of bread) in the backyard makes sense to self-reliant people. It isn’t really that difficult to do.

My wife and I first tried it in the late 1960s when living in the suburbs of Philadelphia, just for fun. We scythed the wheat we grew in our backyard, made bundles of it, shocked up the bundles and when the grain was dry we beat the bundles on a bed sheet with plastic ball bats, threshing out the grain. The kids thought it was great fun. We winnowed out the chaff by pouring the grain slowly from one bucket to another in front of a window fan.

Spiritual Shopping

From Bohemian.com

Going local and the Pearl of Great Price

Shopping is a religious experience in the United States. In fact, it may be the biggest drink-the-Kool-Aid church of them all. Sadly, it ignores the parable attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, the one about the Pearl of Great Price, which is something inside you that you cannot buy at a mall. But let’s not get preachy. We all have to go to the store now and then.

Commercial enterprise is a helpful thing; it just happens I am someone who despises corporate greediness and also hates to shop in multi-acre stores offering styrofoam-packed stuff made with exploited labor in China and bearing environmental footprints bigger than San Bernardino and New Jersey combined. Give me instead a farmers market and a few little mom-and-pop places where there seems to be some real personality and environmental thinking expressed. This is why I am so happy to know that like-minded people across the country are organizing commerce groups that strengthen communities and weaken bad-boy corporations—they are intentionally going local.

In Sonoma County, the hub of this movement is a nonprofit group unambiguously called the Sonoma County Go Local Cooperative. It works as an empowering organization for county residents and for businesses that are at least 51 percent locally owned. This means that bullies can’t join. For example, you will not find among the membership any of the following, recently blacklisted by Green America: Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Monsanto, General Motors, Dominion, Citigroup, Shell Petroleum or McDonald’s.

Instead, Go Local has a membership that includes the likes of Redwood Hill Farm, the Post Carbon Institute, Zazu Restaurant and Farm, Village Art Supply and a host of other reasonably sized, mostly locally owned enterprises, most of which have some claim to sustainability. What jumped off the list for me was the Sonoma County Meat Buying Club, a cooperative within a cooperative that will no doubt get a huge boost in membership if this swine flu epidemic is in fact linked to the unsanitary conditions of hog farms that supply meat to chain stores. But this is what going local is all about—knowing where your food comes from and getting services from people who live in your community and want to keep it a nice place…

Presently, about 800 million people in 85 countries are served by cooperatives, nongovernment groups presently focusing on recovering from economic crisis around the globe. The localization movement is not only good for business; it’s good for community spirit. And maybe it’s good for the soul as well. Because when you go local and shop responsibly, you also care for your own community, and you chip away at the corporate superpowers whose unsustainable business practices result in making life so miserable for so many people. Sure, you get stuff, but you also get a better glimpse of the Pearl of Great Price, which is really not for sale.

See complete article here.

Growing Power in an Urban Food Desert

From Yes! Magazine

At the northern outskirts of Milwaukee, in a neighborhood of boxy post-WWII homes near the sprawling Park Lawn housing project, stand 14 greenhouses arrayed on two acres of land. This is Growing Power, the only land within the Milwaukee city limits zoned as farmland…

…Since 1993, Allen has focused on developing Growing Power’s urban agriculture project, which grows vegetables and fruit in its greenhouses, raises goats, ducks, bees, turkeys, and—in an aquaponics system designed by Allen—tilapia and Great Lakes Perch—altogether, 159 varieties of food.

Growing Power also has a 40-acre rural farm in Merton, 45 minutes outside Milwaukee, with five acres devoted to intensive vegetable growing and the balance used for sustainably grown hays, grasses, and legumes which provide food for the urban farm’s livestock.

Allen has taken the knowledge he gained growing up on the farm and supplemented it with the latest in sustainable techniques and his own experimentation.

Growing Power composts more than 6 million pounds of food waste a year, including the farm’s own waste, material from local food distributors, spent grain from a local brewery, and the grounds from a local coffee shop. Allen counts as part of his livestock the red wiggler worms that turn that waste into “Milwaukee Black Gold” worm castings.

Allen seems to take a particular delight in thrusting his steam-shovel-sized hands into a rich mixture of soil and worms in Growing Power’s greenhouses. “You can’t grow anything without good soil,” he preaches to a group touring the project.

Allen designed an aquaponics system, built for just $3,000, a fraction of the $50,000 cost of a commercially-built system. In addition to tilapia, a common fish in aquaculture, Allen also grows yellow perch, a fish once a staple of the Milwaukee diet. Pollution and overfishing killed the Lake Michigan perch fishery; Growing Power will soon make this local favorite available again. The fish are raised in 10,000-gallon tanks where 10,000 fingerlings grow to market size in as little as nine months.

Ukiah Farmers Market Saturday, May 16th


May 14, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Friends of the Farmers’ Market,


We are really getting off to a fast start this season. We may have more vendors than ever this Saturday.

Robinson Creek Flowers will be back as will Aqua-Rodeo oysters. I also expect at least two new vendors with strawberries.

And, the Farmers Market isn’t just flowers and veggies…

Tara Plocher

In addition to market music by Josh Madsen, you will be entertained by the Pastels in the Plaza art festival and the music and entertainment they have lined-up, plus a BBQ and taco wagon. Should be a great market day!

For your healthy shopping pleasure, Holly passes along this article about “superfoods” to look for as we move further into Spring.

Also Friend of the Market Debra Watson passed along the following information about what appears to be a good new film about food issues in America. Anyone care to take the lead in organizing a screening?


Spread the word about this exciting movie and attend or create a screening in your town.

If you don’t find a screening near you, no worries, email them at screenings@freshthemovie.com and they will help you organize a screening for your chapter or community.

At a later date, they will also be streaming the movie right on their website.

Here’s the trailer.

Here’s the list of screenings.

We’re excited to announce the screening of FRESH across the United States. FRESH is a call to action; it means to inspire its viewers to positive change, not scare them into a terrified complacency. As such, the majority of the screenings will be followed by a panel discussion with local representatives from the sustainable food movement so audience members can learn what’s going on in their communities and get involved. We will bring together farmers, activists, chefs, and policy-makers, all working to create a more healthy, tasty, and sustainable future. Please join us, not just as part of an audience, but as part of a movement to better our food system, and to bring about a new vision, a new paradigm, a new reality, one that works for everyone.
Images Credit: Dave Smith

Small Diameter Pole Processing Mill – Community Development Plan for Masonite Site (Part 8)

Small Diameter Pole Processing Mill and Post and Beam Structure Fabrication


May 12, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

If we are not careful we will end up where we are headed ~Ancient Chinese proverb

Planning often works better if done before hand ~Anonymous

The purpose of this post is to demonstrate, in general terms, how the health of our forests contributes to the health of our communities and to the quality of our lives. In fact the forests contain some of the keys to our sustainability and to our collective future.

A vast number of jobs have already been created by past logging and timber management practices and they are just waiting for attention. Our timberlands provide jobs, skills training (personal, life, technical, and social), space for scientific study, development of meaningful environmental curriculum for schools, colleges and universities, recreation opportunities, ecological tourism, tranquil space for reflection, and much, much more.

A healthy forest protects us from fire, infiltrates rainwater into aquifers, catches fog, moderates our local climate, and provides building material, fuel, and homes for thousands of non-human species. There are thousands of jobs available now in repairing the damage of the past, and  repairing the damage, as much as we can, takes us into the future.

We propose to look at many of the dysfunctions and problematic issues facing Mendocino County, with somewhat of a Homeopathic thought ….. “like cures like”. There are a number of social issues that can be addressed within the context of a small diameter pole mill with an adjacent fabrication plant: sustainable local economies, catastrophic forest fire, water supply and quality, forest health, money leakage (leaving our area), garbage disposal, recycling, wastewater treatment (grey water, black water and industrial waste), lack of affordable housing, honest, meaningful work and land use as it applies to industry, to name a few. Environmental issues such as riparian restoration, healthy fisheries, watershed restoration, bio-remediation, zero waste and The Precautionary Principal, can also be addressed within this context and in the eco-village/transition park model in general. By using the problem (catastrophic fire) as the source of the answer (reduce fuel loading) we learn to work with the natural environment for the betterment of all.

A part of the village will become a staging area for small diameter pole processing and utilization; poles will be twelve inches in diameter, or less. This location would include truck unloading, storage area, debarking equipment, grading area where the poles are evaluated for structural strength and best use, and cutting/sizing equipment. Adjacent to this area would be the fabrication mill where various structures are engineered as “kits” (homes, garages, sheds, gazebos, etc.) and a retail space open to the public. This mill could also provide raw material for the nearby furniture manufacturer; the wood chips could be used to produce alcohol, wood pellets for fuel, compost for gardens, bio-char fuel or, other wood products. Buildings, such as offices in the complex, would be made with the post and beam construction (probably needing a code change in building materials) so visitors and prospective clients can view and feel the structures. Having a quality kit home saves the homeowner some of the permitting process and expensive change orders during construction, as well as giving them emotional security by knowing it is structurally sound. Ecologically minded tourists can visit the site to see a creative community working together to resolve its issues as well as learn innovative techniques for localization and sustainability.

Small diameter poles have been utilized here before and between 1952 and 1968 there were several small diameter pole mills in Mendocino County. J.H. Baxter & Company extracted poles and delivered them to mills located in Willits, Hopland and Point Arena, where the poles were debarked and shipped to various locations for treatment. There is currently a functional pole mill in Potter Valley, however it is no longer operating, and there is likely to be usable equipment available from other lumber mills, now closed down. Gathering, refurbishing and installing this equipment would create jobs in themselves and these people may move on to operator, fabricator, or other position in the business. With all of the forestland needing fuel load reduction several of these mills would be necessary to process the available poles. As the forests regenerate, mills that take larger trees can be re-opened under sustainable timber harvest practices providing more jobs, in perpetuity. It has taken 150 years for the forests to unravel to the point they are and it will take sixty to eighty years to regenerate a healthy stand of mature trees ready for sustainable harvest.

With the recent Mendocino Lightning Complex Fires we were given a first hand example of how fire moves through dense forest growth. In fact the Greenfield Ranch community is being considered as a model of citizen response for forest fire, per private discussion with a CDF official. Now is the time to capitalize on this exposure and make some bold moves. A hundred years ago an average forest contained roughly 25 mature trees per acre and was relatively open. The same forest today may contain as many as one thousand trees and is tightly packed with shrubs and undergrowth as well. These are called ladder fuels. The trees in these dense stands are smaller, weaker, more disease prone and more susceptible to insect invasion. Current fuel loading practices include cutting down small trees, brush and other ladder fuels — but without removing, or chipping the slash. The downed wood, left this way, becomes as much a fire hazard as standing dead wood. A wide ranging fuel load reduction campaign coordinated with an equally ambitious thin and release program is not only desperately needed, but is a source of jobs, training, education, building materials and revenue.

Except for the land, the major costs for homes are the construction, the mortgage, and energy for heating and cooling. Leakage, a word used to indicate money leaving an area, or region, is a term the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors favored during discussions about needing more box stores in our area. The Energy Working Group, a citizen’s action group, appointed by the Board of Supervisors, identified the two leading means of money loss, or leakage, from our community; energy and mortgages for our homes. By using material that is on-hand, material that is actually a nuisance and fire danger, and by focusing on new insulation methods, the cost of home construction is minimized (lower mortgage) and the need for heating and cooling can be greatly decreased (lower energy costs), thus minimizing the “leakage” from our county. The combination of using post construction and alternative forms of insulation makes the price of one of these homes affordable to low income families. Given the lack of affordable housing and the expected cost of energy in the near future, post and pole construction makes a lot of sense, and by bringing conservation back into the conversation we will contribute in a wiser way to the visioning process.

Post and beam construction is an innovative means of structure and home construction. There are many examples of post and pole construction, from the Earth Lodge model to the Yellowstone Resort. Most of the high end ski resorts employ pole construction as a common theme for all of their buildings. Infill of the walls (insulation) can be from a variety of strategies now in vogue, straw bale, cob, synthetic sheathing, and traditional framing, to name a few. We would like to propose “Papercrete” as one solution for this need. Around 60% of the waste stream going into the transfer station is some sort of paper product that can be turned into Paper Crete, a kind of super paper-mache, which has an R factor higher than straw bale and other insulation materials. All of the paper waste headed to the transfer station would go to the Re-Manufacturing Facility at the eco-village for processing into Paper Crete and then utilized as insulation for the post and beam houses. Go to http://www.livinginpaper.com/index.htm for more information about Paper Crete.

These homes end up being very affordable, some designs cost less than $20,000. A cooperative agreement between landowners, the mill operation and funding entities initiates the process. Ten years ago the Forest Service paid around $300 an acre to have trees felled to the ground and the landowner matched this with $100.00 per acre. This still left the dry down wood as fire fuel. Lets suppose we charged $500 an acre to remove the usable poles and chip the rest (simulating fire/nutrient recycling). The faller and chipper crew would get $25 an hour $200 would be allocated to transport the poles out to the processing mill. The trees/poles are not purchased, or sold, per say, but it is the value added in the labor that is the commodity. The labor involved in transportation, debarking, grading, sizing, cutting for the kit and packaging the material for shipment represents the basis for the cost of the kits. With another investment of between $10,000 and $20,000 a complete solar/hydro/wind system could be added and roof rainwater catchments would be implemented into the building plans (and building codes) making these homes not only state-of-the-art and energy efficient, but costing $40,000, or less, complete.

Fire is a natural recycler and we live in a fire dependent area. If this land does not burn every 15 to 30 years (approximately) then the fuels get out of control and wild fire ensues. Human intrusion into the timberlands, with their fear of fire and economic loss, has acerbated the problem of past land management practices and now the system is desperately out of balance. We cannot eliminate fire without taking measures to recycle a portion of the woody debris back onto the forest floor to create humus and fertilizer for future generations of trees. This could be done by chipping, or possibly by control burning of the slash given proper weather conditions and location. Without this nutrient recycling our hillsides would soon run out of fertility and the ability to support a healthy forest. This is similar to the need for salmon and steelhead fish to return to our streams; they bring nutrients that have washed down to the ocean and bring them back up into our mountain streams, spawn the next generation and then die, leaving their carcass’ to be eaten by the forest critters and spread back upon the land as fertilizer. Without the fish we loose a huge portion of the nutrients leaving out forests and watersheds; without the forests we do not have the habitat required to support the fish. If we loose either one we are likely to loose both and we will be diminished as a community and have fewer chances of survival given dramatic changes climate, the misfortunes of war and/or the collapse of industrial society.

The existing California Forest Improvement Program (CFIP) guidelines are in a document that directs forest stand improvement and can be utilized immediately (Go here to learn more about CFIP). The point is there is an existing program and guiding document that is accepted by regulators and that has the funding stream and accounting resources to allocate money to private landowners for forest improvement practices. With President Obama’s stimulus package we will be seeing a lot of “green job” money intended to put people to work. Small diameter poles have been avoided because extracting them is labor intensive given the existing commercial market for poles. Peeler poles are the common item and are inferior in structural quality than a hand peeled natural shaped pole. With the current state of the economy, the rising rate of unemployment, the affordable housing crisis, and the need to restore our forests, we need to do something quickly. CFIP provides a mechanism for landowners to be able to afford to enter into forest health management practices and if we had a small diameter processing mill and the ability to make buildings, homes and household furniture with the poles make this a community endeavor worth pursuing.

Although not adequately addressed in this proposal, there is a need for hardwood management in the forests. Unrestrained after the removal of the taller conifer trees hardwoods such as Tan Oak have created large, thick, stands of sick and diseased trees. As part of a comprehensive forest management plan these hardwoods can be thinned, utilized for building materials, chipped, burned, or turned into a bio-fuel such as wood pellets, or used in some other process such as tanning of leather. Trees left standing will mature and become usable for hardwood flooring, cabinets, furniture and other wood products manufactured at the Eco-village. Diversity in the forest, in our community, in our creativity and in the products we produce, will give us an economic base that will not be as susceptible to manipulation from outside sources and provide for a standard of living as good, or better, than what we enjoy now.

We can also use this worldview of sustainability, equity and connectivity to recognize and honor the land management techniques of the original indigenous inhabitants of this area. Many tribes of First Nation People have held and practiced techniques such as separating plant clusters to spreading a usable variety, prescribed burns for vegetation control and to generate forage for grazing animals, painting oak tree trunks with ashes to prevent beetle infestation — just scratching the surface of their knowledge. A powerful healing between our nations could come out of a mutual cooperation to restore our forests with Native American People and vocational programs such as the one administered by Pinoleville Band of Pomo’s. In addition to working with local Native programs there are job and training opportunities for disadvantaged youth, at risk youth, and summer youth programs. Intensive hand labor jobs are perfect because of restrictions concerning under-aged (less than 18 years of age) using power tools. The use of non-powered hand tools is acceptable for the younger and suitable for working in small groups with the smaller diameter poles. Workers and students eighteen years and older will go through a training program in the use of the various pieces of power equipment and be certified in their use. Being responsible stewards of the land, working together, learning from each other, modeling healthy relationships and working toward a sustainable future will bring us closer into harmony with Nature and with each other. We will become a community in the deepest definition of the word.

As this plan comes into fruition Mendocino County becomes a focal point for models that deal with job creation, housing, catastrophic forest fire, forest health, waste management, reducing greenhouse gasses, and sustainability. This automatically kicks in another sector of the economic development strategy: creating a learning environment for various peoples from around the world to come and see how it’s done, e.g. tourism. As the reality of conscious implementation of practical ideas come into being, such as those contained in the Eco-village/Transition Park Proposal,  Mendocino County would be transformed and become wealthier than imagined. We will learn that quality of life and authentic community are beyond monetary value.

A Potential Community Development Plan for the Masonite Site – Part 1
Eco-Train, Rail and Depot – Part 2
Ecologically-Oriented Tourism – Part 3
Rail to Trail – Part 4
Autonomous Waste Water Treatment System – Part 5
Community Interpretive Watershed and Visitor’s Center – Part 6
Food Processing Facility – Part 7

Small Diameter Pole Processing Mill – Part 8
Fiber Processing and Re-Manufacture Mill – Part 9


10 Important Business Trends

From Dave Pollard
Author, Finding The Sweet Spot
How To Save The World blog

May 12, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

A shift from ‘free trade’ to ‘fair trade’: Free trade is a euphemism for unregulated trade, and it’s been a colossal failure for everybody except multinational corporations and a few third-world workers. Its cost has been the collapse of the middle class in many affluent nations, horrific working conditions in many struggling nations, and massive environmental destruction everywhere. As WTO talks dissolve in disarray and we begin to see NAFTA for the social and environmental disaster it truly is, we will start to see trade regulated to ensure protection of working-class jobs and local environments. This will be a huge boon to local and green employment and businesses opportunities, that will far outweigh the additional cost of imported junk.

A shift back to basics and real value: There’s nothing like a recession or three to make you refocus on what’s really important in your life. There are already signs that people are valuing their time more than they have for decades, and that may mean that workers will seek careers that allow them time to do what’s more important than their jobs. Fewer hours and less overtime means they’ll have less disposable income, and that means they’ll do more things themselves that they used to ‘outsource’ — less eating out, more do-it-yourself home and car repairs, purchase of clothes and other durables that are well-made and timeless, more self-made entertainment and recreation (good for your health and creativity!), less willingness to commute, less tolerance of low-quality goods and services, preference for locally-made and hand-crafted products, more saving and less spending in general. That means companies that are depending on a rebound of frenzied consumer spending after each recession will not fare well, and those that help customers to be self-sufficient, to connect with each other, and to learn, those which have a reputation for quality and attentiveness, and which get most of their business by word of mouth, will flourish.

Complete article here

See also Should we all be part-time Garden Farmers?
Hat Tip Dave Pollard

The latest health care corporation’s hoax (Dennis Kucinich video)→

Alternative Currencies

From Tom Greco
Author of The End of Money and the Future of Civilization

May 12, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Because of legal tender laws, the “dollar” has come to have two meanings — (1) as a medium of exchange or payment (a currency), and (2) as the standard of value measurement or pricing unit.

An alternative currency must eventually decouple from both “dollars” but the more urgent need by far is decoupling from the dollar as a means of payment.

As I’ve pointed out in my books, an alternative currency that is issued on the basis of a national currency paid in (e.g., sold for dollars), amounts to a “gift certificate” or localized “traveler’s check.” (See Money Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender, Chapter 14, pp 145-163). It essentially amounts to prepayment for the goods or services offered by the accepting merchants. As such, it substitutes a local, limited use currency for a national, universal currency.

That approach provides some limited utility in encouraging the holder of the currency to buy locally, but the option of redeeming the currency back into dollars without penalty raises the question of how many times it will mediate local trades before being redeemed and leaking back to the outside world.

To truly empower a local community, a currency should be issued on the basis of goods and services changing hands, i.e., it should be “spent into circulation” by local business entities and/or individuals who are able to redeem it by providing goods or services that are in everyday demand by local consumers. Such a currency amounts to an i.o.u. of the issuer, an i.o.u. that is voluntarily accepted by some other provider of goods and services (like an employee or supplier), then circulated, then eventually redeemed, not in cash, but “in kind.” In this way, community members “monetize” the value of their own production, just as banks monetize the value of collateral assets when they make a loan, except in this case, it is done by the community members themselves based on their own values and criteria, without the “help” or involvement of any government, bank, or ordinary financial institution, and without the need to have any official money to begin with.

This is what I mean when I talk about liberating the exchange process and restoring (some part of) the “credit commons” and bringing it under local control. In this way, the community gains a measure of independence from the supply of official money (dollars) and the policies and decisions of the central bank (which in the US is the Federal Reserve) and the banking cartel. That is the primary mission that needs to be accomplished if we are to transcend the destructive effects of the global monetary and banking regime, devolve power to the local level, and build sustainable, economic democracy.

Keep reading Fundamentals of Alternative Currency at Tom Greco’s website

See also Mendo Moola

… and Mendo Time Bank

Myth Seven – Biotechnology Will Solve the Problems of Industrial Agriculture

From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

5/12/09 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

The Truth

New biotech crops will not solve industrial agriculture’s problems, but will compound them and consolidate control of the world’s food supply in the hands of a few large corporations. Biotechnology will destroy biodiversity and food security, and drive self-sufficient farmers off their land.

The myths of industrial agriculture share one underlying and interwoven concept-they demand that we accept that technology always equals progress. This blind belief has often shielded us from the consequences of many farming technologies. Now, however, many are asking the logical questions of technology: A given technology may be progress, but progress toward what? What future will that technology bring us? We see that pesticide technology is bringing us a future of cancer epidemics, toxic water and air, and the widespread destruction of biodiversity. We see that nuclear technology, made part of our food through irradiation, is bringing us a future of undisposable nuclear waste, massive clean-up expenses, and again multiple threats to human and environmental health. As a growing portion of society realizes that pesticides, fertilizers, monoculturing, and factory farming are little more than a fatal harvest, even the major agribusiness corporations are starting to admit that some problems exist. Their solution to the damage caused by the previous generation of agricultural technologies is-you guessed it-more technology. “Better” technology, biotechnology, a technology that will fix the problems caused by chemically intensive agriculture. In short, the mythmakers are back at work. But looking past the rhetoric, a careful examination of the new claims about genetic engineering reveals that instead of solving the problems of modern agriculture, biotechnology only makes them worse.

Will Biotechnology Feed The World?
In an attempt to convince consumers to accept food biotechnology, the industry has relentlessly pushed the myth that biotechnology will conquer world hunger. This claim rests on two fallacies: first that people are hungry because there is not enough food produced in the world, and second that genetic engineering increases food productivity.

In reality, the world produces more than enough to feed the current population. The hunger problem lies not with the amount of food being produced, but rather with how this food is distributed. Too many people are simply too poor to buy the food that is available, and too few people have the land or the financial capability to grow food for themselves. The result is starvation. If biotech corporations really wanted to feed the hungry, they would encourage land reform, which puts farmers back on the land, and push for wealth redistribution, which would allow the poor to buy food.

The second fallacy is that genetic engineering boosts food production. Currently there are two principal types of biotechnology seeds in production: herbicide resistant and “pest” resistant. Monsanto makes “Roundup Ready” seeds, which are engineered to withstand its herbicide, Roundup. The seeds-usually soybeans, cotton, or canola-allow farmers to apply this herbicide in ever greater amounts without killing the crops. Monsanto and other companies also produce “Bt” seeds-usually corn, potatoes, and cotton-that are engineered so that each plant produces its own insecticide.

Patrick Ford Talks – Chapter 3: Fighting fire with fire

From Dave Smith

5/11/09 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

If you’re an old timer around these parts, you know the Ford family, and the four Ford boys, Steve, Patrick, Robben, and Mark. The brothers are locals and have played music around here and elsewhere since high school under the names of The Charles Ford Band, and The Ford Blues Band, among others, and travel the world playing music together and separately. They most recently played here in Ukiah at Sundays In The Park this past summer, 2008.

When he’s not on the road, touring America and Europe with his band, Patrick runs his record company Blue Rock’It Records in Redwood Valley where you can buy their own albums on-line along with his other recording artists. Robben’s website is here; and, hopefully, Mark will be the subject of a future feature.

(See links to rest of the story below)

That last tour with Charlie Musslewhite was pretty brutal. Sharon and I wanted to have kids, and this is where we wanted to have them, so we moved back home to Ukiah in 1974.

I kicked around for awhile trying to figure out what to do. I liked gardening and was knowledgeable in the area, so I went to one of the nurseries and the owner picked me up as a landscape maintenance guy. In about a year, Gabriel was born, and I was getting a little bored with my job. I liked the gig, but I had been playing music for a lot of years at that point and I was getting anxious… I needed something more exciting than maintaining PG&E’s landscaping.

At one point, because we were really in trouble for money, I had to sell my drum set to a friend down in the Bay Area who had always wanted it. To this day, it makes Sharon so sad when she remembers watching from the window at my folk’s house, loading up my drum kit on a friend’s truck and the look on my face as the truck rolled off down the street. She had told me not to do it, but I said we were out of money. That carried us for a couple of months between jobs.

Bartlett Flats crew, Pat on left

Anyway, I was getting antsy and I saw an ad in the back of the Journal (UDJ) that the US Forest Service needed fire fighters. It was Fall and their seasonal employees were going back to college. I went over to Upper Lake and signed up. I got stuck out in Bartlett Flats in Lake County, about an hour on this dirt road from Nice. It was hot and miserable and pretty funky there in a quonset hut. Chester, my foreman, was this American Indian who was just the sweetest, most wonderful guy… the greatest to get for my first boss. He put me to work learning to drive one of these little pumper units, fire techniques, and how to operate a chainsaw. He took me under his wing and was very patient when I would screw up.

Monster Mall Supporters to Descend on Board of Supervisors Tuesday 5/12

From Save Our Local Economy (SOLE)

Will DDR Suppress Your Right To Know The Truth?

This Tuesday, May 12, the Supervisors are scheduled to consider whether they want local staff to prepare an analysis of impacts of Developers Diversified Realty’s (DDR) ballot measure for a huge shopping mall at the Masonite site.

Preparing such an analysis for the voters is a clear duty of the county and it is specifically authorized by the state elections code.  It is likely to expose some serious problems. Not surprisingly, DDR has issued a call to its supporters to jam the Board chambers to speak in favor of the ballot measure.  “We cannot allow them to take control over this process,” says DDR representative David Clark in his over-heated email sent Thursday.

With the collaboration of Board chair John Pinches, the only supervisor who supports DDR, the strategy appears to be to intimidate the Board and to talk the agenda item to death, so there won’t be any objective analysis of the project. If you can attend Tuesday around 1:30 to 2 p.m., please speak up for the public’s right to have some expert analysis of DDR’s impact.  If you can’t attend, you can email the Board members at


The Board’s fax number is 463-4245.

Some points to consider…

  • We need the traffic engineer who is on local government staff to reveal what the impact will be of DDR’s 5 additional traffic signals in a 1/2 mile stretch of North State Street.
  • We need our water agency director to tell what impact DDR will have on the valley’s water supply.
  • We need the planning staff to report on how the development rules that DDR has written for itself will compare to our County Zoning Code.

DDR wants to suppress the facts.  We need to stand up for the public’s right to know.

See also Jesse Ventura on Larry King
Thanks to Ron Epstein

Here’s Why We Need the Employee Free Choice Act (Obama, Kennedy, Sanders videos)

César Chávez (1927 – 1993)

From Around the web

It’s time to restore the freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life.
From Wikipedia

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) (H.R. 1409, S. 560) is pending legislation in the United States. Its text states that it would “amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an easier system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes.”[1] The latest version was introduced into both chambers of the U.S. Congress on 10 March 2009.[2]

In order for a workplace to organize under current U.S. labor law, the card check process begins when an employee requests blank cards from an existing union, and requests signatures on the cards from his or her colleagues.[3] Once 30% of the work force in a particular workplace bargaining unit has signed the cards, the employer may decide to hold a secret ballot election on the question of unionization.[3] In practice, the results of the card check usually are not presented to the employer until 50 or 60% of bargaining-unit employees have signed the cards.[3] If the employer decides to demand an election, and the majority of votes in the election favor the union, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will certify it as the exclusive representative of the employees of that particular bargaining unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

If enacted, the EFCA would change the currently existing procedure to require the NLRB to certify the union as the bargaining representative without directing an election if a majority of employees signed cards.[1] The EFCA would take away employers’ present right to decide whether to use only the card-check process or to hold a secret-ballot election among employees in a particular bargaining unit, and instead give the right to the employees to choose a secret-ballot election in cases where less than a majority of employees has chosen to unionize through card-check.[3][4] The proposed legislation would still require a secret-ballot election when at least 30% of employees petition for an election.[3][5]

The proposed legislation would also establish stricter penalties for employers who violate provisions of the NLRA when workers seek to form a union, and set in place new mediation and arbitration procedures for disputes.

Arbusto Negro and the AfPak War


May 11, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Many Americans voted for Obama because he promised to end the war in Iraq. He promised to remove our troops in 18 months but he never said “all the troops”.

Obama seems to be slipping out of any commitment for withdrawal anytime soon since the pressure is off: fewer US troops are being killed in Iraq, no US reporters are stationed there, and America has just lost interest now that it has the loss of jobs and mortgages to worry about. He needs a new focus for our “war against terror”.

Why a new focus you ask? Because us taxpayers will not continue to see 50% of our federal budget spent for war in a time of economic depression unless someone can keep convincing us that there’s a really serious threat out there to our comfortable lifestyle. So, he must demonstrate that America defends the New World Order, maintains the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, keeps the oil flowing, prevents any serious challenge to our global hegemony, and delivers us from terrorists.

Afghanistan was the obvious choice for a new theater of war. With a mere blink of the eye, the news purveyors inside the Pentagon and the editors of these ‘insider’ stories at the major media outlets shifted gears from the Iraq conflict while continuing to emphasize the key ingredients: the need to defeat Islamic fundamentalism, to kill Al Qaeda terrorists, and to build democratic institutions. Same old story but this time it’s in Afghanistan. However, when Obama looked around Kabul, he realized he’d have a hard time selling it on the Evening News Shows since those Afghanis had:

No threat to our Homeland
No oil resources to protect
No Iranian fundamentalists across the border
No turbaned terrorist faces to showcase
No easily defined battle lines and no measure of military success
No organized military to maintain law and order on our behalf

Our hand-tailored President Hamid Karzai just hopped a flight to Washington for a “Trilateral” conference with Obama and President Zardari of Pakistan. Patrick Cockburn commented in Counterpunch 5/06/09 that if ”the President’s motorcade had headed for the southern outskirts of Kabul, he would have soon experienced the limits of his government’s authority. It ends at a beleaguered police post within a few minutes drive of the capital. Drivers heading for the southern provinces nervously check their pockets to make sure they are carrying no documents linking them to the government. They do so because they know they will soon be stopped and their identities checked by black turbaned Taliban fighters who sometimes take the traveler’s cell phone and redial numbers recently called. If a call is answered by a government ministry, or even worse, by a foreigner, then the phone’s owner may be executed on the spot”.

The Taliban is hard to define and often hard to admire but it has never been the caricature that Fox and CNN developed. Member of Parliament Daoud Sultanzoy of Ghazni Province told Cockburn that: “Security has not deteriorated because of what the Taliban has done, but because people feel the government is unjust. It is seen as the enemy of the people, and because there is no constitutional alternative to it, the Taliban gain”.

Support for the Taliban is not very high, but it has increased since 2006 when their rebellion effectively resumed with aid for Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence agency, the ISI – Inter Services Intelligence – which supports the Taliban in Afghanistan and allows them refuge in the Pakistani mountains. ISI advises them not to fight to the end but to wait until the US loses interest in Afghanistan. “A withdrawal of Pakistani support and a denial of safe refuge would be a crippling blow to the Taliban but is not likely to happen. President Zardari may want to do it, but policy on the Taliban is decided by the Pakistani military” which continues to have little stomach for fighting fellow Moslems. Counterpunch 5/07/09.

Isn’t the Monster Mall initiative democratic? (Letters to the Editors)


May 8, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

One of our letter-to-the-editor writers (UDJ 5/08/09) asks: … “rather then waving your banner of ‘corporate conspiracy,’ why don’t you take your own advice and recognize this petition as part of that ‘democratic process’ that you are so fond of?”

Here’s why. Our nation was founded on one person, one vote… not one dollar, one vote. We the citizens of Mendocino County won Measure H against GMO pollution of our food supply despite being outspent by corporations $500,000 to $100,000. How is that lopsided amount of available money from outsiders, against the citizens of a poor rural county, fair? How is that democratic?

Why should an outside corporation worth billions of dollars be allowed to fund an initiative process that overruns all the local laws set in place by those who live here? How is that fair? How is that democratic?

Corporations have their place and are valuable in many ways. I’ve created and run several myself. But they must get behind the constitution. With their wealth and monopoly power, they are plundering our commons and buying off the democratic process. Please read Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights by Thom Hartmann, and The Divine Right of Capital by Marjorie Kelly.

Once you’ve educated yourself, come back and defend your charge: “Your attempts to marginalize this process, is in effect a way of saying that democracy is defined as anything that supports your views, if not, then it’s a conspiracy.” Really… it’s just us citizens trying to protect and defend ourselves against overwhelming power and money.

Your leadership stated that you have “had enough of our local government not acting in our best interest.” Our local government is elected democratically by our citizens. They represent our majority interests. Since you tried and failed to buy our County Supervisors off and we defeated you at the polls, now you’re trying an “end-around” the democratic process. How is that fair? How is that democratic?

It isn’t. But we will defeat you once again, because we don’t want your Monster Mall in our place, and we are more determined to stop it than you are to foist it upon us.

Mulch Can Cover a Multitude of Sins As Well As Weeds

From Gene Logsdon
Garden Farm Skills

Sometimes I think that Ruth Stout, the Queen of Mulch in the early days of organic gardening, did more to hurt the practice than to help it. She made it sound so easy and carefree. That’s okay because I daresay she persuaded more people to start gardening than any other single writer at that time. We all rushed out to gather up leaves and grass clippings from the four winds to pile on our gardens and then, tra la la, fell back in our hammocks and waited for harvest. Ruth put gardening on Easy Street.

As the old song puts in, “it ain’t necessarily so,”  as we all found out. Mulching is one of the very best gardening practices, but like everything else, you have to master the details if you are hoping for quality time in the hammock.

The rule of timing: The sin that mulching so often covers, in addition to weeds, is cold wet soil from applying the stuff too early. Do not start mulching until the soil has warmed up completely. I suppose on pure sand or in the deep South, this rule is not as critical, but whatever, especially on clay and loam soils, you will experience much grief if you layer on the mulch early in spring or worse, put it on late in fall or through the winter under the mistaken notion that you are protecting the soil from winter’s cold. The soil benefits from winter’s cold.

Mulching too early means you can’t work up a nice seedbed until late in the spring.  Transplants set into cold, mulched soil will sit there, blue and shivering, until July. I am talking now about organic mulches— hay, leaves, straw, grass clippings etc. Black plastic “mulch” can be put on early, and it will help warm the soil up. But that’s a subject for another time.

Here in northern Ohio, (you can make your own determinations accordingly), we do not put on organic mulches until June and then aren’t in a hurry. Right after a good rain is the best time, so as to prevent that moisture from evaporating into the air. Mulching in a normal year can take the place of watering. In a dry year, it can cut watering by half.

First we mulch early vegetables, perhaps even a little before June, especially leafy vegetables so that rain doesn’t bounce mud on them. Then comes the twin pole bean rows where the vines are climbing wooden poles anchored to a center wire overhead. That means a sort of tunnel underneath, impossible to get to with the tiller and hard even to hoe. Then we do potatoes before the plants fall and flounce all over.  After that we do the viney melons, squashes, sweet potatoes, etc. before the plants crawl out all over the place and make mulching difficult. Last comes tomatoes, eggplants and peppers which especially need to be growing vigorously in warm soil before mulching. Do not mulch onions up close. The bulbs need air and sunlight to grow properly. I usually do not mulch the sweet corn either since it is easy to cultivate weeds between the rows with the tiller.

Barter, Baby, Barter

From Susan Astyk

…I’m particularly fond of barter because while it is often not possible to pay the property taxes that way, barter can cover an awful lot of other territory.  It is astonishing what barter can bring about – and while I like barter networks and other programs, and can see their advantages, I am particularly passionate about barter that takes place in human relationships – because I think it kills two birds with one stone, not only does it save money on the particular exchange, but it helps us give up our general dependency on money in place of community.

I see all the uses of internet barter networks, which give you credit you can use with people for what you need, even if the person who has the other thing doesn’t need your resource.  And yet, direct barter – the oldest form of human exchange, in which my eggs and your honey meet one another, has something special going for it.

And that is the reality of human exchange – in monetary exchange, and I think by necessity to an extent in barter networks, things have  a fixed valuation.  This is convenient, of course, but it also changes the nature of the relationship.  When your eggs equal on “barter buck” or “credit hour” you are shopping for the best possible bang for your buck.

But when you and your neighbor who have a relationship are figuring out how many eggs a week are worth a cord of firewood, something more is at stake besides the precise exchange – you have entered into a relationship that can’t be commodified fully, one in which you have to talk to each other, have to interact.  And this is always just the beginning – someone who eats eggs will probably keep wanting them.  Someone who heats with wood may want more firewood.  The relationship will be based on two things – your perceived equity (ie, it was fair) and your pleasure in the relationship – this is also true with some kinds of shopping, and is why people like going to farmer’s markets and hate Walmart (in part).

But the thing about barter that I find true is that it brings out the best in us for the most part – because it is never possible to full equate eggs with logs, because they are fundamentally not the same, in barter, you are never fully sure that the price paid is a fair one – you can’t be.  And what I see in barter relationships is a turning around of economic exchanges – because we want fairness even in ourselves mostly, because few of us like to beholden, or to look cheap, we find ourselves feeling as though the relationship is never fully even – at its best, both barter participants always feel that they got the better of the deal, that they paid too little, and thus, “owe” a little on next time.  Instead of *getting* the best bang for your buck, barter becomes about *giving* the best bang for your time…

Full article here

See also our own Mendo Time Bank (now organizing)

The Hippie Canard – Masonite Monster Mall

Letters To The Editors

May 8, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California


As regards the Masonite Monster Mall debate in local letters to the editors, first we had the “Vote to clean up the Masonite site” canard, misleading citizens about what the initiative really is about. Then we had the Costco canard, where the argument that we could have Costco if we voted in the Monster Mall was shown to be false.

Now we have a “straw man” argument where citizens who are against the Monster Mall are labeled “hippies”, and then we are told that hippies are a minority in our county… implying that a majority will vote for the Monster Mall.

I like hippies. Some of my best friends are hippies. But the majority in this county who will defeat this initiative are citizens. This is a sad continuation of the culture wars.

We’ve heard all this before during the Measure H campaign where we defeated big corporate interests who wanted to poison our county with genetically modified organisms. We beat the big bucks that time. We’ll beat them again this time, and save our local economy from outside occupiers.

The first evacuation of an entire community due to manmade global warming is happening on the Carteret Island

by George Monbiot

Journalists – they’re never around when you want one. Two weeks ago a momentous event occurred: the beginning of the world’s first evacuation of an entire people as a result of manmade global warming. It has been marked so far by one blog post for the Ecologist and an article in the Solomon Times*. Where is everyone?

The Carteret Islands are off the coast of Bougainville, which, in turn, is off the coast of Papua New Guinea. They are small coral atolls on which 2,600 people live. Though not for much longer.

As the Ecologist’s blogger Dan Box witnessed, the first five families have moved to Bougainville to prepare the ground for full evacuation. There are compounding factors – the removal of mangrove forests and some local volcanic activity – but the main problem appears to be rising sea levels. The highest point of the islands is 170cm above the sea. Over the past few years they have been repeatedly inundated by spring tides, wiping out the islanders’ vegetable and fruit gardens, destroying their subsistence and making their lives impossible…

Ukiah Farmers Market Saturday, May 9th

Arlington, Virginia


May 7, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Friends of the Farmers Market,

Greetings!  Should be a splendid Saturday for our opening day do-over.  The market will be packed with vendors and lots of good stuff.  It should be almost as big a mid season last year.  Although, the selection will be slanted much more toward garden starts (i.e., don’t come expecting corn as it is not in season).

It will be interesting to see if the market is large enough to support our two out of the area fruit vendors (Neufeld and Busalacchi) — particularly once the home team Gowans return for the season.  One of the two may stop coming after this weekend.  So, if you enjoy having them at the market this would be a good week to support them.

On a related note I heard from several people who were concerned about the report in the UDJ that the Neufeld Farm cherries are organic.  They are not. Indeed, Neufeld and Busalacchi are both conventional, non organic producers. Not all producers at a farmers’ market are organic.  So, read the signs carefully and ask if you are not certain.  Following the article I spoke with Jim Neufeld and he promised to investigate and make sure that no misleading claims are being made about his products.