When Art and Farming Fuse

From Poets.org

[In this lovely piece of poetic review about farming and place, Wendell Berry reveals deep character among three men. Last week, on their final Farm and Garden Show, Tim Bates and Dan Imhoff, Anderson Valley, interviewed Wendell Berry on KZYX here (mp3). Thanks to Tom Davenport, Redwood Valley, who recorded it. Tom writes: “The broadcast recording ends while Wendell Berry is speaking – the recording was made automatically by a computer while I was away from home, and was programmed to run 2 minutes past the hour.  I do not know how much was missed.  Apparently the program ‘ran over’ by more than two minutes. Please feel free to pass this on to those you believe might enjoy it.” -DS]

On Hayden Carruth: A Friendship in Poetry

When I was in college and had become certain that Anonymous was not the name of a prolific medieval poet, I began to read the “little magazines” to try to learn about the poetry of my own time. That was in the early fifties. And so I must have known the name Hayden Carruth for a good many years of such scattered reading before it meant much to me.

It began to mean much to me in May of 1964. My family and I had been living as neighbors to Denise Levertov and Mitchell Goodman on Greenwich Street in New York City. Denise and Mitch had bought an old farm in Temple, Maine, where they spent their summers. They invited us to come up for a visit, and in that May we did so.

Wanting Less

Ursula K. Le Guin

When the world’s on the Way,
they use horses to haul manure.
When the world gets off the Way,
they breed warhorses on the common.

The greatest evil: wanting more.
The worst luck: discontent.
Greed’s the curse of life.

To know enough’s enough
is enough to know.
Image Credit: Rolf Hicker
See also Muddling Toward Frugality
by Warren Johnson, Covelo

Move Your Money Local (Updated)


A month ago, in More Gang-Bang For Your Buck, we suggested the following: “Time to move your money out of the big national banks that are “too big to fail” and let them fail… and put your money into local and regional credit unions and banks that did not get caught up in the disastrous lending greed, or who practice criminal usury. Locally- and regionally-based financial institutions are more responsive to local communities. And with locally-owned businesses, do them a favor by using cash, checks, and local currencies instead of debit and credit plastic.”

Now comes a grassroots movement to do just that. See their video, action items, updates, and comments here

[Update: On that site you will find a listing of banks that have a rating of B and above. However, if a community banking institution has been hurt, through no fault of their own, by the machinations and greed of Wall Street and the national banks, they need our support to pull through this national tragedy.]
See also WATCH: Woman Documents Closing Her Account With BofA, Switching To Community Bank at HuffPost here

Save Us President Daddy, Please

From digby
Thanks to Janie

Please just shoot me now. The media has gone insane. Suzanne Malveaux just asked Candy Crowley how the voters in 2010 are going to rank the president’s response to this failed terror attempt. It’s a stupid question, but the answer really takes the cake:

Candy Crowley: I think the fact that we have seen him for two days in a row is the White House recognizing that this is perhaps more important — the safety of the American people —than jobs at this point. It wouldn’t take much to rev up security moms who were so important in 2000 and 2004. So I think what voters judge is, sort of, the record. So it won’t be today, but then what did he do? How safe did he keep us?

That’s ridiculous. Did Candy wake up this morning and think it was 2003? The plane didn’t go down. Nobody died. The perpetrator is some young, screwed up loser who tried to set his pants on fire. The only “security mom” who cares more about that than the fact that she doesn’t have a job is a well paid television celebrity.

The press loves the boogeyman story because it makes them feel like crusaders for freedom and allows them to make common cause with macho right wingers. It’s far more exciting than dull stories about losers who don’t have jobs — you can see the exhilaration coming off of them in waves. They love it.

Case in point, Chris Matthews, who is ready to force everyone to be cavity searched in the ticket line:

Local Mendocino Slow Money


Lowly, unpurposeful, and random as they may appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life may grow. –Jane Jacobs from “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”

One of the features of BerkShares [and Mendo Moola], the local currency circulating in the Southern Berkshire region of Massachusetts, is that it fosters this wealth of sidewalk contacts (www.berkshares.org).

Use of BerkShares, a paper currency, requires face to face economic exchange. The citizen/buyer must meet the merchant/owner and enter into conversation about the item purchased. In the course of these multiple transactions an understanding begins to grow of the nature of the business, how it fits in the streetscape of the town, the working conditions of its employees, availability of locally made goods, the impact of new regulations, the necessity to respond to the changing tastes of consumers, the hurdles to prosperity, the many roles the merchant plays in the community as volunteer ambulance squad member, school board official, community theater player.

When purchasing directly from a producer with BerkShares the information shared may be even more deeply sourced in the local landscape. You may learn how to detect the first signs of a blighted maple tree plaguing the maple syrup industry, or learn how heavy spring rains kept bees from pollinating the apples blossoms, resulting in fewer apples to market.

BerkShares are a “slow money” to borrow a term coined by Woody Tasch. It takes more time to process a transaction, time for graciousness, time for building connection with community of place.

“Inconvenient,” some will say. Yes, when compared to the hastiness and anonymity of an internet purchase. But rich with information needed for conducting public life. A democracy only thrives when its citizens are informed and engaged by public issues.

Where’s the Clean Energy?

The Nation

[This article appeared in the December 7, 2009 edition of The Nation. I shortened this article somewhat as much of it didn’t apply locally to Mendocino County. ~Michael Laybourn]

It was in Germany that Ed Regan realized Gainesville, Florida, was going about things all wrong. The assistant manager at Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU) was out looking for ways to boost his city’s renewable energy capacity. “Germany was a game-changer,” Regan says. Wind turbines and solar panels seemed to be everywhere. He soon learned the secret.

Before Regan’s June 2008 trip, the GRU was trying to promote small-scale renewable energy generation by offering hefty cash rebates to customers who installed solar photovoltaic panels. And it had a “net metering program” that allowed customers who generate their own power to run their electricity meters backward, thereby cutting their electric bills potentially to zero.

But the programs weren’t attracting a great deal of interest. The utility’s rebate program had yielded only 300 kilowatts of solar power capacity–roughly the amount of electricity used by 160 hair dryers–and it cost a lot of money. The difference between Gainesville and Germany was that Germany had a national feed-in tariff. Under this system, energy consumers can become renewable energy producers by installing solar panels on their roof or a wind turbine in their backyard and selling their energy to the local utility. These customers-turned-producers receive above-market prices for their energy, often for up to twenty years. With the feed-in tariff, Germany boosted its renewable energy production from 1 percent of its total output in 1995 to 12 percent in 2005. By 2007 renewables supplied 14 percent of Germany’s electricity. Denmark and Spain also have successful feed-in tariff programs.

So this past March, Gainesville rolled out its own feed-in tariff. GRU now pays twice the retail cost for every kilowatt of solar power-generated electricity. The extra cost means a small increase in electrical bills for all utility consumers, less than a dollar per month per household.

Global Warming – Fact or Fiction?

Redwood Valley

The threat of Global Warming has become accepted wisdom in America. Between the Al Gore book and film, the pictures of polar bears leaping amongst ice flows, and snippets of data about melting glaciers and how warm it has become recently, we have become captives of this calamitous scenario. In this essay, I have tried to separate fact from forecast, to examine actual climate history rather than computer generated projections of The Cataclysm That Awaits Us from Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Is Planet Earth really heating up inexorably? Is it because of CO 2 emissions from fossil-fueled power stations? I will lay out a few of the key questions and cite the evidence that exists. You can decide for yourself where reality lies, but first look at some of the data and arguments that question Big Al’s simplistic forecast of a warm and watery doom if we don’t change our ways right now. I hold no brief for dirty coal fired power production, and I believe that moving towards renewable power sources away from gasoline guzzling cars makes good sense. My home is fully solar powered and I’ll purchase an all-electric car in 2010.

I first became wary of ‘made-up’ climate data some years ago, while managing a large irrigation project in Algeria, We lacked sufficient meteorologic data to predict rainfall patterns and thus available water for irrigated agriculture. We were forced to ‘fill-in’ large gaps in the historic rainfall data where trees had grown over rain gauges, or where the French had inadvertently burned a valuable meteorologic station while napalming miserably poor villages in the Atlas Mountains. I was reminded of this when I began to read of the paucity of reliable information on global temperatures before the advent of satellites in 1975, and the very spurious simulating of past surface temperatures by counting petrified tree rings, by drilling ice cores and the like. We are unable to track carbon dioxide levels very far back in time, but we do know that much of Greenland’s shoreline was very warm and green in 1400 and supported herds of cattle. I have found that much of the current UN-sponsored research relies upon computer simulation to fill in their model of the environment.

The Big Lie of Mass Consumption


In his 1925 autobiography, Mein Kampf, Hitler coins the term “the big lie,” which refers to a form of propaganda that pivots on telling a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe anyone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” A “certain force of credibility” runs through this big lie so people will find it easy to accept. Of course, in accusing an entire people of this falsehood, he was employing the very technique that he was describing, and would continue to do so toward the most monstrous ends.

But don’t think for a moment that any of us are safe from the machinery of “the big lie” today. This enduring, insidious force is very much alive, woven into the very roots of our society.

In our times, governments and corporations still heavily employ “the big lie” psychology with enormous success, their minions none the wiser. In fact, just about all the foundational aspects of our culture can be traced back to one of their big lies: they have convinced us of what to consume, what to put on and in our bodies, what to expect of our health, and what to expect out of life. We accept this way of life because we believe it is correct and created for our highest good, or at least the best that we can expect, given humankind’s extensive shortcomings and iniquitous wiring (which we also accept).

The biggest lie is that it’s all okay—that while our culture may not be perfect, it is the best way of life imaginable thus far, and if we just keep following this trajectory, we’ll eventually make things even better. That is THE BIGGEST LIE!

One BIG TRUTH is that we are consuming our planet at warp speed and we are very close to the point (if we’re not already there) where we cannot save it.

Mendocino County: 18th Annual Professional Pianist Concert 1/9 and 1/10


[This is one of the great reasons for living here. Don’t miss it! -DS]

For 18 years, local keyboard artists have put together sellout concerts benefiting local schools or foundations. In January, there will be two performances in Ukiah at the Mendocino College Center Theatre (1000 Hensley Creek Road, Ukiah): Saturday, January 9 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, January 10 at 2 p.m.

By popular demand, the concert will feature all the pianists on stage throughout the concert! These popular musicians will be trading stories and songs with two pianos on stage to accommodate impromptu collaborations. Performances will feature: Spencer Brewer, Elena Casanova, Tom Ganoung, John Gilmore, Chris James and Elizabeth MacDougall. This concert is an annual sellout because of the diversity and quality of all involved. The musical selections range from classical to jazz, boogie woogie to Cuban and many more.

Sponsors of this concert are: Savings Bank of Mendocino County, Spare Time Supply, Ukiah Music Center, KWNE 94.5, KZYX & Z  and Sol Dial Sound. There will be concessions available. The concerts benefit the Ukiah Educational Foundation, Music for Youth Program and the Allegro Scholarship Program. There will be autographed CD’s and cassettes by the artists for sale in lobby. Refreshments will be provided by Ukiah Civic Light Opera. Tickets: $10/students and seniors; $15 general and $25 “I ‘Wanna’ See the Hands” limited seating. For more information call (707) 468-8910. Tickets are on sale at Mendocino Book Co., Ukiah Music Center, Watershed Books in Lakeport, Leaves of Grass in Willits and online at ukiahmusic.com.