Dave Smith: Soul School…

Excerpted from To Be Of Use
The Seven Seeds of Meaningful Work (2005)

Guy Murchie wrote a wonderful book called The Seven Mysteries of Life, published in 1978 and still in print. Subtitled An Exploration in Science and Philosophy and almost 700 pages in length, it was called by one reviewer “a staggering work of encyclopedic proportions, with a stirring noble vision to match.”

Murchie’s artful combination of scientific explanation and visionary, mystical spirit is both challenging and inspirational. Murchie writes, “The only hypothesis for the nature of this troubled world that fits all the known facts [is] the hypothesis that planet Earth, is, in essence, a Soul School.” He asks us to test that hypothesis by imagining that we are God, intent upon creating a world for the creatures we are creating to live in. Could we “possibly dream up a more educational, contrasty, thrilling, beautiful, tantalizing world than Earth to develop spirit in?” Would we want to make the world comfortable, safe, and free of danger, or “provocative, dangerous, and exciting” — as it is? He then goes on to say that the tests we meet in life are not to punish us but are here to “reveal the soul to itself,” that the world is a “workshop … for molding and refining character.”

Is there such a thing as a ‘sincere conservative’ Christian?…

“…Ha! Surely thou jests!”

Co-founder and CEO, Progressive Strategies

A lot of people have asked me how it is that so many Republicans claim to follow Jesus in spite of apparently not following his actual teachings at all. How is it that they say they are Christians yet seem to believe the exact opposite of what he taught? How can you square the fact that — while the Jesus of the New Testament preached kindness, generosity, mercy, not judging others, welcoming the stranger and helping the poor — people who claim they follow him seem to disdain the poor, vigorously judge everyone who doesn’t agree with them, show no mercy and seem to have a serious mean streak? Excellent questions…

In his first sermon, he says he has come to bring good news to the poor and liberty to the captives, and calls for the rich to forgive the debts of the poor. He repeatedly spoke with disdain about the wealthy, almost as much as he talked about the importance of helping the poor. He challenged the authorities who were about to stone a woman to death. He drove the money changers from the Temple.

The Manure Chronicles, Part One

Rabbit Manure Garlic Mulch photo by Marcia Sloane


You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly.” Hank Williams

Sandy calls to say she’s gotten permission to harvest rabbit manure from her friend’s rabbit barn. So I load my wheelbarrow and a big shovel into my little old pickup and head for Fort Bragg. A sunny spring morning, the angry winds of the past few days in abeyance, I roll along the Comptche-Ukiah Road at forty miles per and try to remember if over the decades of gathering manure for my various gardens, I have ever scored more than a baggy of rabbit manure. Horse, mule, cow, sheep, goat, chicken…but never a truckload of rabbit poop, until today.

At the intersection of Little Lake Road and Highway One, I pull over to pick up two scruffy humans, their formidable backpacks, and three large dogs. Before I can announce how far I’m going, the humans and dogs scramble into the back of the pickup and hunker down around my big blue wheelbarrow, a smile on every face. I roll down my window and say, “I’m going to Fort Bragg. Please keep a good hold on your dogs.”

To which the taller human rejoins, “No worries, man. No worries.”

Patriots of Place

Coming April 7th to Ukiah
Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op Annual Meeting

Co-Edited by Paula Manalo
Mendocino Organics

Sacred Economics…

The story of our separation from each other and from nature is becoming obsolete, is no longer true, is generating crises that are unsolvable… At each crisis moment we have a collective choice: do we give up the game and join the people, or do we hold on even tighter? It’s up to us to determine at what point this wakeup will happen…

You can visit the Sacred Economics homepage here.


The purpose of this book is to make money and human economy as sacred as everything else in the universe.

Today we associate money with the profane, and for good reason. If anything is sacred in this world, it is surely not money. Money seems to be the enemy of our better instincts, as is clear every time the thought “I can’t afford to” blocks an impulse toward kindness or generosity. Money seems to be the enemy of beauty, as the disparaging term “a sellout” demonstrates. Money seems to be the enemy of every worthy social and political reform, as corporate power steers legislation toward the aggrandizement of its own profits. Money seems to be destroying the earth, as we pillage the oceans, the forests, the soil, and every species to feed a greed that knows no end.

From at least the time that Jesus threw the money changers from the temple, we have sensed that there is something unholy about money. When politicians seek money instead of the public good, we call them corrupt. Adjectives like “dirty” and “filthy” naturally describe money. Monks are supposed to have little to do with it: “You cannot serve God and Mammon.”

At the same time, no one can deny that money has a mysterious, magical quality as well, the power to alter human behavior and coordinate human activity. From ancient times thinkers have marveled at the ability of a mere mark to confer this power upon a disk of metal or slip of paper. Unfortunately, looking at the world around us, it is hard to avoid concluding that the magic of money is an evil magic.

Obviously, if we are to make money into something sacred, nothing less than a wholesale revolution in money will suffice, a transformation of its essential nature. It is not merely our attitudes about money that must change, as some self-help gurus would have us believe; rather, we will create new kinds of money

Letting it all go…

Transition Voice

I had the brass ring. And I let it go. I had reached the pinnacle of the educational world: I was atenured full professor by the age of 40. I walked away from that life, which I loved, an act that made most people think I’d lost my mind. I’ll not rule that out, but I want to tell you my side of the story anyway.

After trying to change the morally bankrupt system in which we are immersed, I realized the system was changing me, and not for the better. So I let go when I realized the first step I can take toward destroying this irredeemably corrupt system is to leave it. I hope you come to understand some of the disadvantages of industrial civilization. If you do, I invite you to join me in letting go.

The beginning of the story is an important part, so I’ll start much earlier than you’ll appreciate — with my birth, in fact, though I won’t get into the bloody details.

Born into captivity

Born into captivity and assimilated into the normalcy bias of a historically abnormal period in world history, I did all the things this culture expected from me. For example, I began my career in the expected manner: I was a classroom conservative. I even taught my dog to whistle. As you might expect, I received accolades and numerous awards for teaching, advising, and scholarship. Early on, I realized students don’t care what you know until they know you care — about them. And I did, in ways that made my colleagues question whose side I was on even while I was pointing out that, in educating ourselves and others, we’re all on the same side.

Even though I taught, and taught, and taught, my dog never did learn to whistle, which showed me something important: Even earnest, caring teaching doesn’t necessarily lead to learning. The Sage on the Stage approach is dead. So, too, is the model of student as customer. So I switched my approach to one based on a “Corps of Discovery” in which every participant is expected to contribute to the learning of every other participant.

Rev Billy…


Whistleblowers in Solidarity


It was a three day gathering, February 17, 18, 19th at the International Hotel at UC Berkeley. It left me dazed and elated. After the Whistleblowers – the things we’ll do inside banks has just escalated to the surreal heights. There’s no turning back now!

The Whistleblower’s Conference was organized by the Fresh Juice Party. This was the group that interrupted Barack Obama’s fundraising dinner last year. A number of the President’s many-bucks-per-chew friends stood up unexpectedly and sang directly at him a song with lyrics that repeatedly rhymed with “Bradley Manning.”

The Whistleblowers gathering had a certain feeling from the start. The circles of people presided over by for Defense Dept. and CIA whistleblowers like Col. Ann Wright and Daniel Elsberg and Ray McGovern –  seemed to be sitting inside history. By “inside” history I mean for the first time in decades history felt sensible – able to be sensed. Old warriors who had blown the whistle on government lies were sitting in folding chairs talking with Occupy youth with pup tents on hotel’s lawn.

The heightened quality in the way participants spoke had to do with the general emergency of world CO2 emissions rising every week. That was the climate of the conference. The specific scandal was  saber rattling over Iran, a script so identical to Iraq, to the bombing

Making Local Food Our Future: A Community Response to the Global Food System


Attempts to find solutions to the problems we face in the current climate of economic uncertainty, energy insecurity and environmental concerns can seem overwhelming. One of the biggest challenges we face is that of food security – leading food producers have warned that unless the UK urgently develops a food strategy we will be left relying on imported food and without a sustainable future for British food production.

But it seems more and more people are taking notice. Across the country, individuals are coming together to set up their own food solutions – from community shops and co-operative farmers’ markets to community supported agriculture projects and veg box schemes. In fact, their impact is so great that they are considered a movement, with community food enterprises springing up in communities everywhere, from small rural villages in Cumbria to the busy streets of central London.

Making Local Food Work – a Big Lottery Fund funded initiative led by Plunkett Foundation – has worked with over 1,300 of these enterprises, reaching out to over 3 million people. Jennifer Smith, head of managing the programme, notes the real shift in momentum over the last four and a half years of the project: “The community food sector as a whole has grown significantly over the past four and a half years,” she says. “But interestingly, it’s not just that the number of enterprises has grown; we’re increasingly seeing communities linking up different activities to create a local food system, with the ability to offer their community a much broader range of services.”

You Have to Join YOGOL!


You absolutely have to join YOGOL—it’s this cool, new social media site I just found out about! It’s incredible. It takes all your current social networking sites and builds on them to make your whole social media experience so much better. Seriously, I have no clue how I ever lived online without it.

Let me explain how YOGOL works. Basically you sign up through all your current sites—Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Google+, LinkedIn, etc—and YOGOL measures your usage to find out how much time you spend being social online. Isn’t that cool?! Haven’t you always wanted to know exactly how much of your one and only life you’re giving to social networks? I know I have!

Here’s a perfect example of why you need YOGOL! Remember when I posted that remark on Facebook and Twitter about how Justin Bieber seemed sadder after he cut off his hair? Well, just like everyone else, every time I make that kind of astute observation, I spend the next 6-12 hours tracking the likes, comments, shares, favorites and re-tweets. Basically, I am still participating in social media and wasting my life away, but not really getting credit for it. That’s just not fair! I forgot to count all those hours of refreshing my browser every 15 seconds as circumventing reality, even though it clearly is—but not anymore.

That’s why you have to join! YOGOL analyzes your time online and gives you credit for every hour of your life that you dedicate to sidestepping your existence. Before this site I thought I spent maybe 5 or 6 hours online a week, but now I know that I devote more than 60 hours to living but not really living on my social media sites every week. Huh, who would have thought? I’m so much more committed to avoiding real

Scars Keep The Record of Our Lives

The Contrary Farmer 

If you want to get a lively conversation going among farmers, bring up the subject of scars. For some reason we glory in telling about the marks of maiming or near death that decorate our bodies like so many road signs along the trail of life. Hardly a one of us doesn’t have a crooked leg or missing finger, or a lost limb from getting tangled in a power take off shaft, the most dangerous (and handiest) thing technology every invented this side of the automobile. We all know of someone who lost his or her life trying to argue with power take off shafts. Perhaps it is the gravity of the situation that awes us into wanting to talk about it. I am only here today because once in my very stupid youth, I was lucky enough to be wearing a pair of jeans that were so rotten they were about to fall off from shear gravity. When the jeans caught in the power take off, they ripped completely off my body in a split second and wrapped tightly around the shaft. Better pants and my leg would have been wound around the shaft too. I remember standing there in my underwear, giggling like the idiot I was.

As a child, one of my fascinating past times was sitting in my grandfather’s lap while he rocked and sang. I was totally enchanted by his fingers. His middle and forefinger on his right hand were cut off half way down and I would search out the short stubs as he rocked, hold them in my chubby fists and stare up at him until he told me once more the story. He had caught them in the mechanism on top of the grapple fork which was used to lift great gobs of loose hay from the wagon to the loft. In only a few more years, I would be “setting the fork” and being careful where I set my fingers.

In our local coffee shops

Dave Smith: Counter Cultured…

Excerpted from To Be Of Use
The Seven Seeds of Meaningful Work (2005)

Religion is something you do, not something you believe. ~Kenneth Rexroth

Once upon a time, members of my generation broke free and created what was labeled a “counter culture.” Because the surrounding culture was not living up to our young ideals, we began creating our own work, our own services, our own communities. I prefer to call what many of us were doing a “parallel culture,” as my experience was more about building something new rather than countering or opposing. Between the straight culture and the anticulture, we chose to be part of a third way, seeking to build something positive out of the chaos rather than just spending all our time protesting and demonstrating. We chose to compose new social and workplace structures and relationships, practicing and feeling them, discovering how to make them meaningful and how to restore a measure of love and joy and amazing grace to our daily work. Instead of remaining within rigid hierarchies and stratified gender roles, we were all in it together. Sure, we made mistakes, but we were willing to fail young rather than take our assigned places and nod off into the ethical and moral wasteland we found around us.

Those times in the sixties and seventies mean different things to different people, and our memories of that time are most often associated with events and places. One image we have is Woodstock: free lovin’, dope smokin’, skinny dippin’, screw-it-all, hippie heaven. Another is Berkeley: radical, peacenik, burn-it-down, anti-war, anti-nuke, anti-everything. Another is the summer of love in the Haight-Ashbury of San Francisco in 1967. At the time, I was coming of age in the center of it all, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I migrated after having grown up in South Florida, a land of racial segregation

A Good Food Farmer…



Oz Farm on Mendocino Coast Seeking Farm Manager

[See also ‘keep the raindrops falling’ video below…]

OZ Farm, located 10 minutes outside the vibrant small town of Point Arena in coastal Mendocino County, California, is looking for a new farm manager to start as soon as possible. The farm is also managed as a licensed retreat center (handled by a separate retreat manager) for weddings, yoga groups, family reunions, and the like.

17 acres of the property have been certified organic by CCOF since 1991. We are entering our 23rd growing season and provide produce for a 35 member local CSA, two weekly seasonal farmers’ markets’, and several retail and restaurant clients. Our three acre espaliered orchard produces 55 varieties of antique and heirloom apples as well as varietal fresh apple juice.

We are looking for someone (or a couple) with significant farming experience in the above areas to take charge of the day-to-day farming operation, expand our markets, help us move into new niche markets, and improve and expand farming operations in general.

Farm manager responsibilities will include: Developing and following an annual work plan; budgeting time and costs; recruiting, training, and supervising seasonal apprentices; and managing all aspects of our CSA, farmers’ market, and other accounts

Reclaiming the Sacred in Food and Farming…

Professor Emeritus of Agricultural & Applied Economics
University of Missouri Columbia College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

What is this thing called spirituality? First, spirituality is not religion, at least not as it is used here. Religion is simply one of many possible means of expressing one’s spirituality. William James, a religious philosopher, defined religion as “an attempt to be in harmony with an unseen order of things.” Paraphrasing James, one might define spirituality as “a ‘need’ to be in harmony with an unseen order.” This definition embraces a wide range of cultural beliefs, philosophies, and religions.

Farming is fundamentally biological. The essence of agriculture begins with conversion of solar energy through the living process of photosynthesis. The food that sustains our lives comes from other living things. If life is sacred, then food and farming must be sacred as well. Throughout nearly all of human history, both food and farming were considered sacred. Farmers prayed for rain, for protection from pestilence, and for bountiful harvests. People gave thanks to God for their “daily bread” — as well as for harvests at annual times of Thanksgiving. For many, farming and food are still sacred. But for many more, farming has become just another business and food just something else to buy. Those who still treat food and farming as something sacred may be labeled as old-fashion, strange, radical, or naïve.

But, the time to reclaim the sacred in food and farming may well be at hand. The trends that have desacralized farming may have run, even overrun, their course. There is a growing skepticism concerning the claim that more “stuff” – be it larger houses, fancier cars, more clothes, or more food – will make us more happy or satisfied with life. There is growing evidence that when we took out the sacred, we took out the substance, and have left our lives shallow and empty. Humanity is beginning to ask new questions. The old questions of how can I “get” more is being replaced with questions of how can I “be” more?

How Conservatives are Wiping Small Town America Off The Map…

Our Future

Two years ago, I wrote that Colorado Springs was a conservative “Utopia,” for its rejection of tax increases, which led the city to lay off firefighters and police officers, stop paving roads, eliminate evening and weekend bus service, reduce garbage service, turn off streetlights, and asked residents to mow the grass in public parks (light work, since the city’s water cutbacks ensured most grass in most parks would be dead). Tent cities began springing up as the city cut social services.

David Sirota called it conservatism’s real “shining city on the hill.”

This is what Reaganites have always meant when they’ve talked of a “shining city on a hill.” They envision a dystopia whose anti-tax fires incinerate social fabric faster than James Dobson can say “family values”—a place like Colorado Springs that is starting to reek of economic death.

But that was so two-years-ago. Move over, Colorado Springs! Youngtown, Arizona has totally got you beat.

In Youngtown, Ariz., city officials are contemplating the legal equivalent of shutting down.

The city of about 6,500 people 30 minutes northwest of Phoenix is, for all practical purposes,a small-government, low-taxes, no-compromise kind of place. Youngtown sold its water authority to a private company nearly two decades ago. It’s been nearly three years since city crews, instead of private contractors, mowed the lawn outside town hall. And trash pick-up has never been a city-run operation.

Youngtown was founded almost 50 years ago as the nation’s first all-senior citizen city, where part of the attraction was the absence of a property tax. A 1998 court order forced Youngtown to welcome younger residents. But as the city expanded its police force and other services to meet its changing needs

Why I call myself a Commoner…

On The Commons

Each day I walk out of my Minneapolis house into an atmosphere protected from pollution by the Clean Air Act. As I step onto a sidewalk that was built with tax dollars for everyone, my spirits are lifted by the beauty of my neighbors’ boulevard gardens. Trees planted by people who would never sit under them shade my walk. I listen to public radio, a nonprofit service broadcast over airwaves belonging to us all, as I stroll around a lake in the park, which was protected from shoreline development by civic-minded citizens in the nineteenth century.

The park, like everything else I have mentioned so far, is a commons for which each of us is responsible.

Frequently I visit the public library, where the intellectual, cultural, scientific, and informational storehouse of the world is opened to me for free—and to anyone who walks through the door. My work requires me to constantly keep up with new knowledge. My best tool is the Internet. The library and Internet, too, are commons.

Returning home I stop at the farmer’s market, a public institution created by local producers who want to share their fare. The same spirit prevails at our local food co-op, of which I am the owner (along with thousands of others), and at community-run theaters and civic events. These commons-based institutions provide us with essential services, the most important of which is fun. Living in the commons isn’t only about cultural and economic wealth; it’s also about joy.

Candido Grzybowski, the Brazilian sociologist who co-founded the World Social Forum, advises, “If we want to work for justice, we should work for the commons.” Protecting and restoring precious gifts from nature and from our foreparents for future generations is one the greatest privileges of a being a commoner.

Back to the land?…


Talking about it is easy. Doing it is something altogether different.

You hear a lot of talk about relocalization and deindustrialization. The pastoral life, the good old days. How romantic! Reality pays you a visit when your pick-axe hits a rock, a chunk hits your face, and you taste your own blood.

Unaware of it at the time, I was a child of privilege, one of five born to a Chairman of Earth and Space Sciences at a State University in New York. We were all expected to be high achievers. I fulfilled the expectation and put in 32 years as an engineer helping the über-wealthy zip around the skies in personal rocket ships from one golf game to another while chalking it off as business expenses, when all I ever really wanted to do was sit out in the woods and cook some food on a stick over a fire.

In 1994 I acquired a 160 acre tract of land in southeast Kansas, for a price only slightly above chicken feed, as a weekender place to go sit by that fire and decompress from the rat-race. 18 years ago the future didn’t look quite so ominous. Reel forward to the present and this full-time back-to-the-land experiment is starting to look like a pretty good idea. Some stark realities become self evident however when you are actually ‘living the life’. Talking about it is easy. Doing it is something altogether different. Here is where I wish to convey a few ‘notes from the field’:

1. You realize after a while it is mostly hard, dirty, repetitive and boring. Mud, blood, shit, sweat, discomfort, disappointment, death. There are rewards, but you have to have a passion for it to endure. People who have grown up ranching already know these things of course

Tiresome Times Ten…


Those of you who do not read the Ukiah Daily Journal didn’t see a response to my recent Letter to the Editors, Pursuing Happiness. My original letter is reposted, and then the response. I didn’t want you to miss it… 😉

To The Editors:

Are you happy? Chances are, if you live here in the United States, you are not. Despite the enshrinement in our Declaration of Independence of the phrase “Pursuit of Happiness” as one of the sovereign rights of mankind, we are way down on the list of the happiest countries in the world. In fact, we are not even in the Top 10.

According to a study by “24-7 Wall Street” that looked into the OECD’s Better Life Index to determine what the happiest nations on the planet are, it turns out that the happy nations spend far more of their GDP on social programs than we do here in America. The study examined quality of life things such as health, education, housing, the environment, jobs, community, work life, and income to figure out what truly makes a nation happy.

Old, stable nations of northern Europe took five of the top 10 spots on the list. These include the “socialist” Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark, all way happier than we are down the list at number 19.

Does it surprise you that the happiest nation, Denmark, also has the highest taxes of all?

As we are continually warned and berated by the tiresome scolds in our local opinion columns and letters to the editor to fear those who hold firm on providing a basic social safety net for the least among us, we must ask ourselves what motivates such a steadfast and determined assault on our personal and community happiness.

Dave Smith

Occupy: America’s Authoritarian Turn…


Ever since the rise of Occupy, corporatist authorities have been trying to figure how to squash our emerging social movement. First they tried a media blackout, but when over 700 nonviolent meme warriors were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge our Gandhian ferocity catalyzed a thousand encampments and the 1% could ignore us no more. Next elites tried the Bloomberg model of midnight paramilitary raids backed up by excessive force and sometimes-lethal munitions. That worked well to evict encampments in New York City, Oakland and nationwide … but it backfired when occupiers became diffuse, appearing at scripted events and interrupting the spectacle of corporate-funded politics with mic checks of truth. Now they are trying the new tactic of “lawfare” – using draconian laws to squash free speech in a last ditch effort to put an end to people power.

A week before the G8 Backdown, the US House of Representatives voted in near unanimous consensus in favor of an authoritarian law, H.R. 347, that makes it a federal crime to disrupt “Government business or official functions” or to enter any building where a “person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting.” In other words, to mic check Obama is now a federal crime punishable by a year in prison. And so too is the banner drop if it takes place in any building that a “protected” person might be visiting in the future, even if jammers don’t know it. And so is the anti-globalization tactic of blocking road access to a meeting of world elites, there is a special clause about that too. Obama signed the bill into law on March 9.

History shows that using authoritarian laws to silence the authentic, legitimate concerns of the people always boomerangs into a fatal loss of legitimacy. Governments derive their authority and right to exist from the people and when the people are ignored and beaten back regimes fall.

Read more about H.R. 347 at the dailyagenda.org and the lawfareblog.com.

Hey Occupy Psycho, you can be cured! See your Doctor…


[Are you an occupier? You may have “oppositional defiant disorder” and, yes, they can make you well again… -DS]

In my career as a psychologist, I have talked with hundreds of people previously diagnosed by other professionals with oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, anxiety disorder and other psychiatric illnesses, and I am struck by 1) how many of those diagnosed are essentially anti-authoritarians; and 2) how those professionals who have diagnosed them are not.

Anti-authoritarians question whether an authority is a legitimate one before taking that authority seriously. Evaluating the legitimacy of authorities includes assessing whether or not authorities actually know what they are talking about, are honest, and care about those people who are respecting their authority. And when anti-authoritarians assess an authority to be illegitimate, they challenge and resist that authority—sometimes aggressively and sometimes passive-aggressively, sometimes wisely and sometimes not.

Some activists lament how few anti-authoritarians there appear to be in the United States. One reason could be that many natural anti-authoritarians are now psychopathologized and medicated before they achieve political consciousness of society’s most oppressive authorities.

Why Mental Health Professionals Diagnose Anti-Authoritarians with Mental Illness

Gaining acceptance into graduate school or medical school and achieving a PhD or MD and becoming a psychologist or psychiatrist means jumping through many hoops

Wendell Berry: The Agrarian Standard

From Wendell Berry
Orion Magazine

The Unsettling of America was published twenty-five years ago; it is still in print and is still being read. As its author, I am tempted to be glad of this, and yet, if I believe what I said in that book, and I still do, then I should be anything but glad. The book would have had a far happier fate if it could have been disproved or made obsolete years ago.

It remains true because the conditions it describes and opposes, the abuses of farmland and farming people, have persisted and become worse over the last twenty-five years. In 2002 we have less than half the number of farmers in the United States that we had in 1977. Our farm communities are far worse off now than they were then. Our soil erosion rates continue to be unsustainably high. We continue to pollute our soils and streams with agricultural poisons. We continue to lose farmland to urban development of the most wasteful sort. The large agribusiness corporations that were mainly national in 1977 are now global, and are replacing the world’s agricultural diversity, which was useful primarily to farmers and local consumers, with bioengineered and patented monocultures that are merely profitable to corporations. The purpose of this now global economy, as Vandana Shiva has rightly said, is to replace “food democracy” with a worldwide “food dictatorship.”

To be an agrarian writer in such a time is an odd experience. One keeps writing essays and speeches that one would prefer not to write, that one wishes would prove unnecessary, that one hopes nobody will have any need for in twenty-five years. My life as an agrarian writer has certainly involved me in such confusions, but I have never doubted for a minute the importance of the hope I have tried to serve: the hope that we might become a healthy people in a healthy land.

Lucy Neely and Will Parrish: Local Food Movement — Mendo & Beyond, Part II


In the first installment of this two-part series, the participants discussed the factors in their individual lives that influenced them to dedicate themselves to their present work, the barriers to a local food economy that the regulatory system imposes, and the growing popularity of the local food movement in Mendocino County and elsewhere, among other subjects.

All four participants are involved in ongoing educational work. For example, Tamara Wilder will conduct a weekend workshop on pig slaughtering and processing on March 24-25 at Ro Sham Bo Farms in Healdsburg, titled “Using the Whole Animal.” For more information, contact naomi@sonic.net  or subscribe to Tamara’s Facebook page. She regularly teaches classes in Mendocino County and other regions of California.

Ellen Bartholomew works closely with the group Ecology Action, which was founded by pioneering biointensive farmer John Jeavons. The group regularly conducts events, including five-day workshops called “Grow Biointensives.” at its demonstration site in Willits. For more information, see www.growbiointensive.org .

Whereas most permaculture classes cost several hundred dollars, Rain Tenaqiya is offering a completely free course entitled “Practical Permaculture,” which is a part of a new project called Mendo Free Skool. His weekly sessions start in early-April and cover a wide range of topics. For more information, contact mendofreeskool@gmail.com. Rain is also the author of the book West Coast Food Forestry, available online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/2029243/West-Coast-Food-Forestry.”

Doug Mosel can be heard on KZYX’s “Ecology Hour” on some Tuesday evenings at 7pm. His grains are available at Westside Renaissance Market at

Todd Walton: Signs Of Spring

Starry Starry Mona painting by Ben Davis Jr.


“I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.” Claes Oldenburg

Harbor seals have returned to the mouth of Big River, sleek silver gray cuties with childlike faces and spindly white mustaches, as curious about me as I am about them. When the wind is right and the sun is out, I will sometimes toss my Frisbee up into the offshore breeze and the disk will boomerang back to me, and the seals will cease their fishing to follow the flight of the disk to and from the sky, just as humans might watch the ball going back and forth in a tennis match.

The harbor seals of Big River are curious about singing, too. I recently had a wonderful experience singing to the seals, an experience witnessed by two people visiting Mendocino from Los Angeles. The tide was way out and the sun was shining when I stopped on the edge of the river to commune with a seal who had popped his head out of the water to take a look at me. Thinking he might enjoy a tune, I started to sing, knowing from past experience that high notes held for a long time are more intriguing to seals than low notes held briefly; and shortly after I commenced my singing, the aforementioned couple from Los Angeles, a middle-aged woman and man, stopped to watch the seal watching me.

After a minute or two of listening to my impromptu song, the seal sunk below the surface and swam away, but I kept on singing. The middle-aged woman opined, “Guess he didn’t like your song, huh?” And then she and her mate laughed. No. They cackled. At which moment, the seal returned with a friend, and the two seals listened to me for quite a long time.

Where’s Woody Guthrie When We Need Him?…

Creators Syndicate

Where’s Woody when we need him?

In these times of tinkle-down economics — with the money powers thinking that they’re the top dogs and that the rest of us are just a bunch of fire hydrants — we need the hard-hitting (yet uplifting) musical stories, social commentaries and inspired lyrical populism of Woody Guthrie.

This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of this legendary grassroots troubadour, who came out of the Oklahoma dust bowl to rally America’s “just plain folks” to fight back against the elites who were knocking them down.

As we know, the elites are back, strutting around cockier than ever with their knocking-down ways — but now comes the good news out of Tulsa, Okla., that Woody, too, is being revived, spiritually speaking. In a national collaboration between the Guthrie family and the George Kaiser Family Foundation, a center is being built in Tulsa to archive, present to the world and celebrate the marvelous songs, books, letters and other materials generated from Guthrie’s deeply fertile mind.

To give the center a proper kick-start, four great universities, the Grammy Museum, the Smithsonian Institution and the Kaiser Foundation are teaming up to host a combination of symposiums and concerts (think of them as Woody-Paloozas) throughout this centennial year. They begin this Saturday, March 10 at the University of Tulsa, then they move on down the road to Brooklyn College and on to the University of Southern California and Penn State University.

If Woody himself were to reappear among us, rambling from town to town, he wouldn’t need to write any new material. He’d see that the Wall Street banksters who crashed our economy are getting fat bonus checks, while the victims of their greed are still getting pink slips and eviction notices, and he could just pull out this verse from his old song, “Pretty Boy Floyd”:

Creative Action Heroes: Rattlesnake Island. Democracy School. Mendo Free Skool.


Ukiah Stands With Rattlesnake Island 

A benefit dinner to support Protection and Preservation of Rattlesnake Island’s Cultural and Historical Resources…

Tomorrow, Friday, March 9, 5-7:30 pm
Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse
107 South Oak, Ukiah

Sliding scale entrance fee: $10-$25. Pay at least $20 and you receive a dinner featuring Indian tacos. All funds will go to help support Friends of Rattlesnake Island.

This special evening of performances and presentations features: Jim Browneagle, Elem Pomo Spiritual Leader and historian; John Parker, leading archeological authority on Rattlesnake Island and local prehistory; Morning Star Gali, international sacred sites defender; an Elem Pomo youth dance troupe performance; and a raffle featuring beautiful traditional Elem items.

As you read these words, one of the Northern California East Bay Area’s wealthiest men is getting away with an act of cultural genocide in neighboring Lake County. Construction crews employed by wireless technology magnate John Nady of Emeryville recently began trenching grading, excavating, and building atop Rattlesnake Island in Clear Lake. For more than 6,000 years, this lush 56-acre island on the lake’s eastern arm has been the cultural and spiritual center of the Elem Pomo.

Lake County’s message to the Elem: the one percent are exempt from our normal regulations. The construction proceeds on this sacred site because Nady received a special extension of Lake County’s normal grading season. In September, the Lake County Supervisors voted (3-2) against requiring that Nady file an Environmental Impact Review

Rooftop revolution: How to get solar onto 100 million U.S. homes…


Get a load of this:

Nearly 100 million Americans could install over 60,000 megawatts of solar at less than grid prices – without subsidies – by 2021.

That’s from a new report by John Farrell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance called “Rooftop Revolution: Changing Everything with Cost-Effective Local Solar.”

It’s about the spread of “solar grid parity” over the next 10 years, where grid parity is defined as “when the cost of solar electricity — without subsidies — is equal to or lower than the residential retail electricity rate.” People often talk about grid parity as if it’s some magic moment, but in fact it will happen in different places at different times, depending on local conditions and electricity prices. And it’s a moving target: It depends on how fast the cost of solar falls and how fast electricity rates rise.

Farrell says that the “installed cost of solar has fallen 10% per year since 2006 and grid electricity prices have averaged a 2% annual increase in the last decade.” In his projections, he uses 7 percent annual decline for solar costs and 2 percent for electricity increases, which seems conservative but reasonable. Obviously either of those rates could change, but almost everything I’ve read and heard predicts rising electricity rates; the rate of solar cost decline is somewhat harder to predict. As a technophile, my money is on the cost of solar falling faster than expected.

Anyway, given those assumptions, here’s a map that shows how and when solar grid parity will spread.

By 2021, some 100 million people in the top 40 U.S. metropolitan areas will be at grid parity for residential rooftop solar. The number is larger if you take into account people living outside those areas. It expands again if you assume widespread time-of-use pricing. And of course

James Houle: To the Ukiah City Council regarding Honeywell’s $3 Million Dollar Proposal

Redwood Valley

To the Ukiah City Council

March 7, 2012

Re: Honeywell’s $3 Million Dollar Proposal for New Water Meters and Conference Center Renovation

Dear Council Members:

A review of the Honeywell proposal dated March 7, 2012 shows that they expect an increase of 6.12% in revenues after the installation of more accurate water meters and that this will net the City $276,845 per year. The total cost of the water meter replacement and leak detection project ($2.5 million) would be paid by we the consumers through higher water service charges. Should the smart water users, mostly small homeowners and renters, elect to reduce water consumption through modest conservation measures in the home, then the extra revenue Honeywell predicts would disappear and the City would be faced with paying off these municipal bonds out of general funds.

The companion proposal would cost $592,000 to upgrade the Conference Center with cleaner carpets, more comfortable chairs, and a commercial kitchen that would allow hosting banquets cooked right there on the premises! This taxpayer debt would supposedly be paid back by avoiding the rental of commercial kitchen equipment that costs $62,400 per year. (I have never heard of “rent-a-kitchen” but that’s what Honeywell says and they’re a major Pentagon contractor after all!) What would happen if the kitchen was upgraded and no high rollers elected to have banquets there? What would happen if these happy conventioneers

Buying this thing will make me happy…


I know what you’re thinking, so don’t even say it. Buying that thing won’t make you happy, is what you’re thinking. Buying things never makes you happy, so why would you buy this thing? It won’t make you happy.

But you haven’t seen this thing.

It’s really cool. They just started making it and not many people have one yet. It does all sorts of stuff and can fit in my pocket, but it can also get bigger than that if I want it to. Plus it’s made by a company I trust to put out things that will make me happy.

(Not that I wouldn’t consider buying this thing even if it weren’t made by a familiar company—that’s how cool this thing is—but the fact that I know and trust the company makes it even better.)

It comes in both black and white, but I can also buy an affordable cover for it in a different color if I want. For example, if I buy it in black but decide I want it to be red today, I just buy the red cover and slide it on. Now it’s red—until I want it to be black again, that is. (I can do that for any other color too, not just red.)

This thing will make me happier during my commute. Whether I take the train or ride my bike, it will be there for me, and since it’s waterproof, I don’t even need to worry if it’s raining out. Making my commute stress-free will go a long way towards making me happy.

Other people will look up to me because I own this thing and use it frequently, which will make me very happy. When I’m at a party, for instance, I can wait for a moment when people start talking about how cool it looks from the latest advertisement. Then I can stroll over and take it out and start using it, pretending that I hadn’t heard their conversation

John Cleese carefully considers your futile comments…

If you’re very, very stupid, how would you know you’re very, very stupid?…

No Public Education, No Democracy

Thanks to Bob Banner

This is why we reject this authoritarian education mandated by an illegitimate corporate power.

I teach English at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, California.  I love my school, my amazing colleagues, and the kids who enter my classroom each year.  But I hate what is happening to public education.

From the national to the local level, our public schools are under attack, and that means our students are under attack.  This attack takes more than one form.  The cuts to vital education services are horrifying enough, but they’re only half the picture.  The other half is the violation of our public trust by private interests.

It’s not a pretty sight, but we must look squarely at the vultures of privatization that prey on the damage to our schools, from New York to New Orleans to Wisconsin to California.  Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education in the first Bush administration, refers to the three big education funders, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton Family, as the Billionaire Boys Club in her excellent book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Ravitch has come a long way since her days of working under Bush Sr.  I’ve even heard people refer to her as the Noam Chomsky of education, a sure sign of how far to the right our political culture has drifted.

But we were talking about vultures.  These corporations are poised to supply the artificial heart of learning to a wounded public school system they fully intend to finish off.  But they won’t succeed. No they won’t because our communities are going to fight for our beloved schools, we teachers are going to fight for our students, and our students are going to demand

A Manifesto for Psychopaths…


Ayn Rand’s ideas have become the Marxism of the new right… I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and Social Security. She had railed furiously against both programmes, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill-health…

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the post-war world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her non-fiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as “refuse” and “parasites”, and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention, in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers.

Rosalind Peterson: Urgent! Take Action! Protect Our Marine Mammals, National Marine Sanctuaries, Recreation & Fishing Industries…

Redwood Valley

I have sent the attached and/or same letter to our Senators and U.S. Congressman Thompson today. We need to send out as many letters as possible to all of our elected officials at every level of government. Please feel free to use this one or make any changes you deem necessary to make your wishes known. Toll Free Number for all elected officials in Washington, D.C. (1866) 220-0044

The closest event is in Fort Bragg, CA for us….see the links below for more information.

Right now we need a lot of pressure placed on our elected officials and others today.

March 6, 2012


  • U.S. Navy Open House Information Sessions under NEPA
  • U.S. Navy NEPA Violations
  • Formal Request for a U.S. Navy Formal Presentation & Q&A Period With Proper NEPA Notice
  • Protect Our Marine Mammals, National Marine Sanctuaries, Recreation & Fishing Industries

Dear                                                    :

On Saturday, March 3, 2012, I received a postcard from the U.S. Navy inviting the public to participate in the National Environmental Policy Act Process.  However, the U.S. Navy is only holding Open House Information Sessions in easily accessible places in California, Oregon, Washington (State), and Alaska.

We believe, for the following reasons, that the U.S. Navy is not following NEPA requirements:

Triumph of the Generalists…

Casaubon’s Book

[As Peak Oil takes hold and energy prices rise, the many years of centralization, consolidation, and specialization will begin to reverse course and erode. The unfortunate “dumb farmer” phrase, blaspheming generalists, that I wrote about the other day, will be replaced with “just a specialist”. The generalists’ smarts and many skills required to garden, farm, survive and prosper in the future will once again take their rightful place of honor in our communities. Oh, yeah… and good luck referencing these books on your Kindle, punk… -DS]

I admit it, I’m a generalist in a world of specialists, and I always have been. Looking back on my career history, for example, I see the way I attempted to make the academic model of specialization adapt to my own taste for generalism – my doctoral project was a little bit insane, integrating demography, history, textual analysis and half a dozen other disciplines across a 250 year timeline – just the sort of thing advisers hate to see. The polite word was “ambitious” but “nuts” is probably more accurate. As you can probably guess from the title of this blog (for those who haven’t read George Eliiot, Casaubon is trying to write the ultimate unified theory of everything – and failing miserably), both the joys and dangers of generalism are something I try and keep in mind.

Having left academia behind, it is perhaps natural that I would find myself a career as a generalist- as a writer covering a wide range of subjects and as a farmer, the ultimate generalist. Agriculture requires a wide-ranging set of skills vaster than almost any field I can imagine, and while one becomes deeply expert in some parts of the work, it is still necessary, even imperative, to constantly be gaining some superficial understanding of a host of new things.

The generalist is jack of many trades, but master of few. That’s not a criticism. Being good enough at things is often sufficient for most of a life – particularly an agricultural life. I don’t need to be able to handle the most complex medical crises

Steinbeck: ‘God damn it. This is my book. I’ll make the children talk any way I want…’

From Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters
Via Letters of Note

During the nine months of 1951 that saw him working on his novel, East of Eden, author John Steinbeck began each day of writing by penning, in his notebook, a brief letter to his editor and good friend, Pascal “Pat” Covici. Early-1952, with the book finished, Steinbeck wrote him a final letter — a dedication to Covici in which he spoke of the frustrations and insecurities faced by an author during such a process. It can be read below.

New York

Dear Pat:

I have decided for this, my book, East of Eden, to write dedication, prologue, argument, apology, epilogue and perhaps epitaph all in one.

The dedication is to you with all the admiration and affection that have been distilled from our singularly blessed association of many years. This book is inscribed to you because you have been part of its birth and growth.

As you know, a prologue is written last but placed first to explain the book’s shortcomings and to ask the reader to be kind. But a prologue is also a note of farewell from the writer to his book. For years the writer and his book have been together—friends or bitter enemies but very close as only love and fighting can accomplish.

Then suddenly the book is done. It is a kind of death. This is the requiem.

Miguel Cervantes invented the modem novel and with his Don Quixote set a mark high and bright. In his prologue, he said best what writers feel

Dave Smith: Transition — Clothes and Cars That Last Forever…


Old Levi didn’t last forever but his old blue jeans do. I still have a pair of Levi’s 501 denims I wore in high school 50 years ago… and they still fit! The style then was to roll up the leg hems once. The blue suede shoes from Junior High are long gone but those Levi’s still sit in storage in a foot locker and if we ever have a Sock Hop in Ukiah I’m gonna to put them on…

Pity old Levi. Walmart screws up his pants along with everything else they touch

Used to be there were cars that would last forever. In the 60s it was the Plymouth Valiant getting 500,000+ miles before collapsing… and only then because they had hung around so long people started pointing and hooting at the silly fin design and they slunk off to the junkyard on their own and died there of embarrassment …

In the 70s it was the Datsun 510. I know, I had one just like this…

Stockman: ‘When the real margin call in the great beyond arrives, the carnage will be unimaginable’…

Associated Press

He was an architect of one of the biggest tax cuts in U.S. history. He spent much of his career after politics using borrowed money to take over companies. He targeted the riskiest ones that most investors shunned — car-parts makers, textile mills.

That is one image of David Stockman, the former White House budget director who, after resigning in protest over deficit spending, made a fortune in corporate buyouts.

But spend time with him and you discover this former wunderkind of the Reagan revolution is many other things now — an advocate for higher taxes, a critic of the work that made him rich and a scared investor who doesn’t own a single stock for fear of another financial crisis.

Stockman suggests you’d be a fool to hold anything but cash now, and maybe a few bars of gold. He thinks the Federal Reserve’s efforts to ease the pain from the collapse of our “national leveraged buyout” — his term for decades of reckless, debt-fueled spending by government, families and companies — is pumping stock and bond markets to dangerous heights…

Complete article here
See also Kuntzler: Reality Check

…Our reality-based assignment is the intelligent management of contraction. We don’t want this assignment. We’d prefer to think that things are still going in the other direction, the direction of more, more, more. But they’re not. Whether we like it or not, they’re going in the direction of less, less, less. Granted, this is not an easy thing to contend with, but it is the hand that circumstance has dealt us. Nobody else is to blame for it…

Transition: 55 Real Things to Worry About If You Must…

We have other things to worry about right now…

Peak Oil Blues

Peak Oil, Climate change and the Greater Depression will pose many challenges to our way of life but let’s get real, for a moment: Golden Hordes aren’t one of them. At least not now. Economic depression brings with it a host of serious problems, and I think you can say quite confidently, without being a chicken little, that most of the world is in a Greater Depression. But still, we’ve got a few years to go before we can say that the USA is no longer a viable culture, when no one wants to live in Paris or London, when potatoes no longer grow in Poland, and before donkey’s begin pulling our rusted-out cars. Bikers with shotguns; weaving socks from milk thistle; crashing waves drowning our cities; evacuating your house on a moments notice to house troops; the government coming to confiscate your precious metals; a mass exodus of cities as the violence and mayhem escalates to untolerable levelsall of these things should not be on the top of the list of what to prepared for.

So what should be?

1. Job loss is up there.

2. We’ve already seen retirement accounts deteriorate, leaving us less money to live on in our aging years.

3. Our elderly today, like that 93 year-old who froze to death in his kitchen, will face real challenges in keeping themselves medicated, warm and fed. It may be time to get concerned about the old folks who live on your street, and start having tea with them on alternating days.

4. The rising price of everything from food to fuel is likely to be a serious problem for a lot of us.

5. Food pantries won’t be able to feed all of the people who need resources from them, and people who used to give generously to those same pantries, might now be lining up for help.

6.Managing depression–emotional depression, that is, should be up there.

Don Sanderson: Transition Redux…


“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  – Aldo Leopold

I was born and raised on make-do Depression and WWII farms, the tail end of a long family tradition extending far back, in one case to sixteenth century Yorkshire peasantry. I’d always expected to continue the tradition, but by the time I was ready the industrial age had surged over Midwestern agriculture and equipment and land were far beyond my reach. I have ever since sought return to the land, but modern day lords of the land always demanded more blood than I had to give. By the mid-sixties, I was reading Aldo Leopold’s “Sand County Almanac” and Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, singing old union and Woody Guthrie songs, subscribing to and collecting Mother Earth News, gardening in every spare corner I could find, and escaping into the wilds at every opportunity. It was clear to me that civilization was sick to death, I ever sought a way out, but found every avenue had been bought by “them”, or so I thought – in retrospect, I realize I could have taken more risks, but I stupidly acquired a family while too young to know better. Transition early had become a constant drumbeat in the background. As a result, I’ve long explored options in considerable depth.