Transition: Is your Home a Box or a Dynamo?

Resilient Communities

I have to admit. I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking about my home in the traditional way.

What’s the traditional way of thinking about a home?  To see it as a box.

A very big box that holds a family’s things.  A box that can be decorated both inside and out.  A box that needs constant repair to maintain its box-hood.

If you really think about it.  A static, decorated box isn’t really a home.  It’s a mausoleum.  It adorns you and your family in your repose.

The new way of thinking about a home is as a dynamo:

A dynamic, living system that produces food, energy, water, and much more.  A system that helps you to actively respond to changes in the global economy and environment, particularly as they careen out of control.  A productive asset you actively participate in managing.  An asset that grows more valuable the worse the things get.

Here’s a question to think about.

Another Turn of the Crank…

the premier philosopher of community and rural life

Forward to
Another Turn of the Crank (1995)

Field Observations: An interview with Wendell Berry

The essays in this book deal with a number of important issues that have now become obscured by poor politics, and they deal with other issues, equally important, that are now little noticed, and are perhaps not noticeable, by politicians;

The book is therefore vulnerable to some misconceptions that I would like to correct beforehand. Nothing that I have written here should be construed as an endorsement of either of our political parties as they presently function.

Republicans who read this book should beware either of approving it as “conservative” or of dismissing it as “liberal”. Democrats should beware of the opposite errors.

One reason for this is that I am an agrarian; I think that good farming is a high and difficult art, that it is indispensable, and that it cannot be accomplished except under certain conditions. Manifestly, good farming cannot be fostered or maintained under the rule of the presently dominant economic and cultural assumptions of our political parties.

Another reason is that I am a member, by choice, of a local community. I believe that healthy communities are indispensable, and I know that our communities are disintegrating under the influence of economic assumptions that are accepted without question by both our parties-despite their lip service to various non-economic “values.” The “conservatives” believe that an economy that favors its richest and most powerful participants will yet somehow serve the best interest of everybody. The “liberals” believe just as irrationally that a merely competitive economy, growing always larger in scale and controlled by fewer and fewer people, can be corrected by extending government charity

Battle for the Soul of Occupy…


Alright you jammers, occupiers and Springtime dreamers,

First they silenced our uprising with a media blackout… then they smashed our encampments with midnight paramilitary raids… and now they’re threatening to neutralize our insurgency with an insidious campaign of donor money and co-optation. This counter-strategy worked to kill off the Tea Party’s outrage and turn it into a puppet of the Republican Party. Will the same happen with Occupy Wall Street? Will our insurgency turn into the Democrats’ Tea Party pet?

It’s up to you to decide if our movement goes the way of Paris ’68, the dust bin of could-have-been-insurrections, or something more daring, more inspiring, something not yet dreamed.

Will you allow Occupy to become a project of the old left, the same cabal of old world thinkers who have blunted the possibility of revolution for decades? Will you allow MoveOn, The Nation and Ben & Jerry to put the brakes on our Spring Offensive and turn our struggle into a “99% Spring” reelection campaign for President Obama?

We are now in a battle for the soul of Occupy… a fight to the finish between the impotent old left and the new vibrant, horizontal left who launched Occupy Wall Street from the bottom-up and who dreams of real democracy and another world.

Whatever you do, don’t allow our revolutionary struggle to fizzle out into another lefty whine and clicktivist campaign like has happened so many times in the past. Let’s Occupy the clicktivists and crash the MoveOn party. Let’s #DEFENDOCCUPY and stop the derailment of our movement that looms ahead.

Soil and Health Library…

Soil And Health Library

Health begins in the soil — Healing begins with hygiene — Liberty begins with freedom

[We have linked to this site from the beginning of Ukiah Blog and periodically draw attention to it for new readers. Much of this is wisdom that never grows old, though out of print and now in the public domain. There is often some stuff that science has since proven false, and some that is, yes we love it, “cranky“… but the truly useful shines through. Most recently, Linda Gray circulated this book link:, self care allergy testing for chronic health sufferers.

Linda writes: I’ve been telling anyone I know that has any type of chronic health issue about The Pulse Test because it looks to me that almost no one has ever heard of it and I think it may just drop off the face of the Earth otherwise. It’s less known now than it was almost forty years ago when I first read it. Back then I found it to be right on with my food allergies and Coca claimed that it can help some people with epilepsy, diabetes, irregular heart, depression, chronic bronchial infections, and many other chronic illnesses, besides just plain old allergies (in other words, according to him, many chronic illnesses are simply allergies). You don’t really have to read much more than the first couple of chapters to get the gist of it. It’s pretty simple.” More on this in a few days… -DS]

This website provides free e-books, mainly about holistic agriculture, holistic health and self-sufficient homestead living. There are secondary collections about social criticism and transformational psychology. No fees are collected for this service.

The library’s subject seemingly-diverse topic areas actually connect

Giving Up on Environmentalism…

How To Save The World

It’s been about 40 years since my first environmental activism, fighting against the Churchill River hydroelectric diversion in Northern Manitoba and the Mackenzie Valley Oil & Gas Pipelines through the pristine and fragile Canadian arctic to US markets.

We lost the Churchill River fight — in 1976 the so-called socialist provincial government flooded 850 square kilometres to divert 80% of the water from one huge river to another — because it was cheaper to dam one than two. All told, 2600 sq. km. were flooded, 25,000 First Nations people were either driven off their land or had their way of life irrevocably altered, and the ecosystems of the northern half of the province were desolated in ways we’re only now beginning to realize.

We stalled off development of the Mackenzie Valley pipelines then, but they are now being fast-tracked by the current corporate-owned ultra-conservative Canadian government in order to provide cheap energy to power the eco-holocaust called the Alberta Tar Sands. Big Oil wasn’t in much of a hurry back in the 1960s — they knew the value of the oil reserves they “owned” would only go up.

In the intervening 40 years, from the heady counter-culture days of the late 1960s, the human species has done more damage to this planet than we did in the previous 30,000 years, i.e. since the inception of human civilization, by almost every possible measure: loss of biodiversity on land, in the seas and in the air, loss of natural habitat capable of supporting any creature sustainably, pollution of land, air and sea, non-renewable resources extracted and non-biodegradable wastes produced. So much for the idealism of the boomer generation.

Todd Walton: He Touched Me


“If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.” Pearl S. Buck

Reading Bruce McEwen’s tragic Hug A Kid, Go To Jail, I thought, “My God, there but for the grace of luck and chance and (in my system of belief) the intervention of angels, I, too, might have been arrested for child molestation and been sent to prison and labeled a sex offender for the rest of my life—on several different occasions. What? How?

When I was in my late thirties and living in Sacramento, I played basketball every morning at a neighborhood park. Three days a week I met my friend Bob there for rousing games of one-on-one, and two days a week I shot around by myself. Along with the basketball court, the park featured a big lawn and a swing set and a public bathroom. So one morning I was shooting hoops and these two moms showed up, each with a cute kid in tow, and they wandered to the far end of the park and spread out a big blanket for playtime and snacking and reading and whatnot.

As I continued shooting hoops, one of the kids, a girl, skipped across the lawn to the restroom adjacent to the basketball court and entered the little cinderblock building on the side marked WOMEN. A moment later she let out a blood-curdling scream, and in the next moment I was on my way into the restroom to rescue her. But some unseen power grabbed hold of me, and a loud inner voice said, “Don’t go in there. Whatever you do, don’t go in there!”

The girl screamed again—bloody murder!—and I turned on my heels and sprinted across the lawn toward the moms, waving my arms and shouting, “Your little girl is screaming in the bathroom.”

Transition: Which train would you rather be on?…

Transition Culture

I am really pleased today to be able to share with you some of the key outputs from Transition Streets, which I have written about here before.  Let’s start, for people who are new to the concept, with this short video which beautifully captures how Transition Streets worked in Totnes:

Transition Streets has already been rolled out in places other than Totnes, but in a few weeks, a whole supported programme will be coming out whereby you will be able to run it in your community (I’ll let you know). You can see the first section of the Transition Streets workbook here to get a flavour of it. It is a great example of the tool from ‘The Transition Companion’ called ‘Street-by-street behaviour change’.

The main output from Transition Streets is the ‘Final project report’, which “shares information about the Transition Streets project, funded by the previous government’s Low Carbon Communities Challenge funded: how it worked, what it achieved, what was learnt and where we are heading next”.  You can find a summary of its findings here.  It is a very thorough round-up of the project.

However, the most fascinating to me is “Social Impacts of Transition Together (SITT): Investigating the social impacts, benefits and sustainability of the Transition Together/Transition Streets initiative in Totnes“, which goes into the more qualitative aspects of Transition Streets, what motivated people to get involved, what changes people made

Book Preview for April, May, and June 2012…



coverThe Cove by Ron Rash: For the poet, novelist and short story writer Ron Rash, this could be the break-out novel that gives him the name recognition of such better-known Appalachian conjurers as Lee Smith, Robert Morgan, Fred Chappell and Charles Frazier. The Cove, set in the North Carolina mountains during the First World War, is the story of Laurel Shelton and her war-damaged brother Hank, who live on land that the locals believe is cursed. Everything changes when Laurel comes upon a mysterious stranger in the woods, who she saves from a near-fatal accident. “Rash throws a big shadow now,” says Daniel Woodrell, “and it’s only going to get bigger and soon.” (Bill)

coverFarther Away: Essays by Jonathan Franzen: From Franzen, a collection of essays and speeches written primarily in the last five years. The title essay generated considerable attention when it appeared in The New Yorker in April. In it, Franzen told of his escape to a remote, uninhabited island in the South Pacific following the suicide of his friend David Foster Wallace. Two pieces in the collection—“On Autobiographic Fiction” and “Comma-Then”—have never been published before. Others focus on environmental devastation in China, bird poachers in Cyprus, and the way technology has changed the way people express intimate feelings to each other. (Kevin)

coverImmobility by Brian Evenson: Genre-bender Evenson (Fugue State, Contagion) returns with an inventive mystery centering around a brilliant detective wasting away from an incurable disease and, consequently, frozen in suspended animation for years. Thawed out by a mysterious man, he must solve an important case

Transition Town in Northern Ireland To Plant 60,000 Trees…


Transition Towns have spread around the Globe as a community-lead response to peak oil and climate change. But many people still ask, what does a Transition Town actually do? My previous post on the incredible impact of just one Transition group gives us some idea, but here’s another practical, real world story of a community taking sustainability into its own hands. Transition Town Whitehead in Northern Ireland is going to be planting 60,000 trees in the coming weeks in an effort to reforest a region that is known as the least wooded spot in Europe.

Indian Man Single-Handedly Plants an Entire Forest…


Way back in 1953, French author Jean Giono wrote the epic tale The Man Who Planted Trees. It seemed so real that readers thought the central character, Elzeard Bouffier , was a living individual until the author clarified he had created the person only to make his readers fall in love with trees. Assam’s Jadav Payeng has never heard of Giono’s book. But he could be Bouffier. He has single-handedly grown a sprawling forest on a 550-hectare sandbar in the middle of the Brahmaputra. It now has many endangered animals, including at least five tigers

The Top 40 Voted Best Books for Book Clubs…


1 The Help The Help

2 Water for Elephants Water for Elephants

3 The Kite Runner The Kite Runner

4 The Time Traveler's Wife The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Book Thief The Book Thief

6 To Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird

7 A Thousand Splendid Suns A Thousand Splendid Suns

8 The Glass Castle The Glass Castle

9 The Secret Life of Bees The Secret Life of Bees

10 The Hunger Games (The Hunger G... The Hunger Games (#1)

11 My Sister's Keeper My Sister’s Keeper

12 The Lovely Bones The Lovely Bones

Inside the Growing Prescription Pill Epidemic That’s Ravaging Communities…


What started out as a situation in poor isolated areas of the country left to their own devices has taken root and spread, across Appalachia and beyond…

[…] As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps warning, prescription drug abuse is spreading. Pills, especially Xanax, the anti-anxiety drug manufactured by Pfizer, and Vicodin, Loracet and Lortabs, highly addictive opioid painkillers familiar to anyone who has had a wisdom tooth removed, are being abused more and more, all over. What started out as a situation in poor isolated areas of the country left to their own devices has taken root and spread, across Appalachia and beyond…

In Williamson, Mingo County’s big city, with 3,000 residents, a man arrested for robbing a house admitted to another robbery where he and a cohort stalked an 85-year-old man, busted into his house, beat him to the floor and stole $340 from his wallet. Police said the man admitted he used the money he stole from the elderly man to buy pills. The Williamson police chief advised residents to lock their doors and windows and be vigilant.

Shootings have become news briefs. On April 2, a 33-year-old Mingo County woman, an admitted pill addict, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for shooting her husband to death during an argument.

Too many pill stories have knocked the shock out of the populace. Southwest West Virginia in the age of pilling is like a country that has been living with war for so long, people could barely remember peace.

The Crisis in American Walking…


[…] For walking is the ultimate “mobile app.” Here are just some of the benefits, physical, cognitive and otherwise, that it bestows: Walking six miles a week was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s (and I’m not just talking about walking in the “Walk to End Alzheimers”); walking can help improve your child’s academic performance; make you smarter; reduce depression; lower blood pressure; even raise one’s self-esteem.” And, most important, though perhaps least appreciated in the modern age, walking is the only travel mode that gets you from Point A to Point B on your own steam, with no additional equipment or fuel required, from the wobbly threshold of toddlerhood to the wobbly cusp of senility.

Despite these upsides, in an America enraptured by the cultural prosthesis that is the automobile, walking has become a lost mode, perceived as not a legitimate way to travel but a necessary adjunct to one’s car journey, a hobby, or something that people without cars—those pitiable “vulnerable road users,” as they are called with charitable condescension—do. To decry these facts—to examine, as I will in this series, how Americans might start walking more again— may seem like a hopelessly retrograde, romantic exercise: nostalgia for Thoreau’s woodland ambles. But the need is urgent. The decline of walking

Turn the lights out, I want to see the stars…


Those of you who have seen ‘In Transition 2.0′ will have noticed the song that closes the film, ‘Turn the Lights Out’ by Rebecca Mayes, which was composed especially for the film.  The song will be released as a single on May 7th, and proceeds will go to Transition Network.  I’ll remind you of that nearer the time, but for now, here is the recently completed video, which features some of the clips you sent in of people turning lights out, and a short cameo from someone you might recognise…

Free FARMAGEDDON screening Tonight Wednesday 4/11/12 6:30pm @ Saturday Afternoon Club brought to you by the Mendocino Time Bank

This Event will be offered for free and asking for $ donation at the door. Alternatively a cooperator from the Mendocino Time Bank will be present with snacks and information regarding the Time Bank, how you can become a member and how the system works for you. Become a member and gain admission to the movie for your first Time Bank transaction, no US dollars involved.

The movie will begin after a 20 minute presentation regarding the state of agriculture and your community.

Visit for a trailer for the film

Farmageddon highlights the urgency of food freedom, encouraging farmers and consumers alike to take action to preserve individuals’ rights to access food of their choice and farmers’ rights to produce these foods safely and free from unreasonably burdensome regulations. The film serves to put policymakers

GMO/Monsanto Do Not Buy List…


[Because of our outstanding Food Co-ops, Collectives, Responsible Markets, Local Farmers, Farmers Markets, and CSA’s… and all the locals working on garden and food projects, I haven’t knowingly purchased any of these products from any of these companies in many years. Are we lucky to be living here in Mendocino County or what? -DS]


Gina Covina: On-Farm Seed Variety Trials…

Laughing Frog Farm

This year we’re progressing from “trying out new varieties” to “conducting variety trials” – same thing but with more attention to making growing conditions the same for each variety and keeping track of results. Since neither Lin nor I have the slightest tendency or training toward scientific rigor, we’re looking to the Organic Seed Alliance’s excellent booklet, On-Farm Variety Trials: A Guide for Organic Vegetable, Herb and Flower Producers (download here) for inspiration and instruction.

Here’s the gist: Plant in a location that will provide the most consistent conditions possible – not shady at one end, or different soil types. You want the differences that show up to reflect genetic variations rather than cultural ones. Include one variety you’re familiar with and have already grown. That way if the summer is cold and not one of your tomato varieties ripens until September, not even your old favorite that usually ripens by early August, you’ll know to blame the weather, not the new varieties.

Set up your trial bed with more than one block of each variety, arranging their order so each variety has a chance at an end and middle position to further rule out environmental variables. Plant the entire bed at one go, and care for it the same way – weed the whole bed at once, water every part equally, etc.

Make a list of traits

Crowdfunding Open Source Permaculture…


“What are the solutions and how can I help?”

Putting open source and permaculture together is a savvy combination, and in this case, it’s also really useful. Add crowdsourcing and you have a complete online resource for all things permaculture.

Sophia Novack, a self-described permaculture geek, is currently leading a crowdfunding campaign to support the creation of Open Source Permaculture, an online resource and tool, which consists of a Q&A website and wiki, as well as a free Urban Permaculture Guide eBook.

Her vision is to create a comprehensive online public resource for anyone seeking information on sustainability for their home or community. The web site would have all the resources and support they need, just a click away.

As Novack wrote in an e-mail, she “believes that local, community-oriented solutions are crucial to creating a more sustainable, resilient culture.”

She has already been working on this project for two years by maintaining the Permaculture Media Blog  and Permaculture Directory, which she describes as one of the web’s most comprehensive and free resources for Permaculture educational materials

Ron Epstein: The Destructive Harris Quarry Asphalt Plant Should Not Be Approved — Will Pollute And Cause Cancer In Ukiah…

Coming our way soon?


Here are four questions the Board of Supervisors should be clear about before they make a decision on the Harris Quarry Expansion Project Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR): 1) Is this asphalt plant project needed? 2) Is it in the right location and why is it tied to a general rezoning change? 3) Is it safe? 4) Is it good for business and for our community?

Yes, we need asphalt, but no one has shown that the needs correspond to the large amount projected to be produced by this plant. No one knows when the Willits bypass is going to be built, and even the asphalt for that will be a temporary need. Given the current economic situation of the county, it is doubtful that we are going to be able to afford huge amounts of asphalt for city and county roads. Asphalt cannot be easily transported long distances, so this cannot become an export business to locations out of the county. Despite the assurances of the FEIR, asphalt plants are extremely toxic and polluting. They do not belong in areas surrounded by a lot of people. Clearly the Harris Quarry is not the right location, as has been shown by the large number of neighbors who have formally objected to the project. Although there are not unlimited sites in the county that are appropriate

Redwoods and Climate Change — Montgomery Woods Mendocino…


As the planet warms, will the progressive loss of coastal fog, which has declined over 30%, doom these beauties? KQED follows a team of UC Berekely researchers as they climb up into the crown of a huge old-growth redwood in Montgomery Woods to install monitoring equipment.


Recent advances enable Save the Redwoods League and a team of pioneering scientists to unlock the record of environmental changes stored in redwood tree rings. From individual trees to whole forests, we will study redwood growth, vulnerabilities, early indicators of stress and how these trees might respond to predicted climate changes.

Save the Redwoods League has united leading scientists Stephen C. Sillett and Robert Van Pelt of Humboldt State University and Todd Dawson and Anthony Ambrose of the University of California, Berkeley, to launch the Initiative. Their studies will yield results that quantify redwoods’ vulnerabilities to climatic changes and their capacities to mitigate these changes via photosynthesis, fog interception, wood production and carbon sequestration. They are uniquely qualified, in part, because they have developed many of the methods to obtain the study’s data.

The scientists are:

  • studying whole-tree and whole-forest rates of annual wood production back 1,000 years in forest plots throughout the redwood ranges. These measurements will help the team predict tree and forest growth in response to changing climates
  • reconstructing past climates to learn how redwoods responded to environmental conditions

Creating Community: Lessons from Occupy…

Transition Voice

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) began using public space in New York’s Zuccotti Park on Sept. 17, 2011, prompting hundreds of similar encampments around the world. During the past six months, this mass movement has been assaulted by police and by the corporate media. It has also experienced internal conflicts.

While planning an explosion of spring awakenings, OWS has dealt with various interpersonal problems. This happens in large movements, especially young ones. Occupy attempts to forge new, more directly democratic ways of people being with each other and collaborative decision-making that is egalitarian rather than hierarchical.  It seeks systemic changes, rather than demanding mere reforms.

Occupy goes against the grain of hyper-individualist Western culture. As one activist said,

Imagine the interpersonal strain in any group that is under constant siege by the press and the police, as well as time-consuming meetings that can go on for hours.

It took the peace movement more than a full decade to stop the Vietnam War. Occupy’s goals are even larger. It has already accomplished much, including changing the national conversation and building communities for a long-term struggle.

Ending the autocratic rule of the wealthy 1 %’s control of corporations, the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court had seemed impossible until the rise of Occupy. OWS imagined that it could help mobilize the 99% and then got busy doing it. Did anyone think this would be easy?

Infighting has discouraged some activists, who have either stepped back or left Occupy, at least for now.

The Top Short-Term Threat to Humanity: The Fuel Pools of Fukushima…

From WashingtonsBlog

We noted days after the Japanese earthquake that the biggest threat was from the spent fuel rods in the fuel pool at Fukushima unit number 4, and not from the reactors themselves. See this and this.

We noted in February:

Scientists say that there is a 70% chance of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hitting Fukushima this year, and a 98% chance within the next 3 years.

Given that nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen says that an earthquake of 7.0 or larger could cause the entire fuel pool structure collapse, it is urgent that everything humanly possible is done to stabilize the structure housing the fuel pools at reactor number 4.

Tepco is doing some construction at the building … it is a race against time under very difficult circumstances, and hopefully Tepco will win.

As AP points out:

The structural integrity of the damaged Unit 4 reactor building has long been a major concern among experts because a collapse of its spent fuel cooling pool could cause a disaster worse than the three reactor meltdowns.


Gundersen (who used to build spent fuel pools) explains that there is no protection surrounding the radioactive fuel in the pools. He warns that – if the fuel pools at reactor 4 collapse due to an earthquake – people should get out of Japan, and residents of the West Coast of America and Canada should shut all of their windows and stay inside for a while.

The Whole Pig: Meat harvesting on a small farm…


Local Young Farmers New Book Signing Today Saturday in Ukiah at Co-op Annual Meeting 2pm…

Co-op Owners Invited to the
Ukiah Natural Foods Annual Meeting

First Screening of Greenhorns…
a documentary exploring the lives
of America’s young farmers
and their vision for the future…

~Greenhorns Book Signing & Sales~
Co-Editor Paula Manalo
Mendocino Organics CSA
at Mulligan Books Table

~Live Music and Food~
Co-op Board Election Results

Bartlett Hall
Ukiah Senior Center
2 – 5 pm
499 Leslie Street
Book Excerpt…

Book Review: Farmers of Forty Centuries…


The Most Revolutionary Act

I don’t typically review (or read) 100 year old books. Farmers of Forty Centuries is an important exception. It has become a classic of the permaculture/sustainable economics movement for several reasons. First, it dispels the myth that fossil fuel-free agriculture will produce much lower yields than industrial farming. Without access to oil and natural-gas based pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, agriculture will be much more labor-intensive. However with global population at more than seven billion (as of last October), the world seems to have no shortage of human labor. Second, Farmers of Forty Centuries paints a detailed picture of tried and true regional models of food, fuel, and construction materials production, as well as regional water and human waste management. Third, it provides detailed descriptions, almost in cookbook fashion, of a broad range of permaculture and terraquaculture* techniques. As a backyard organic gardener and member of the lawn liberation movement, I have found it really easy to incorporate a number of the techniques King describes into my routine. I was also intrigued to see Charles Eisenstein cite King’s book in Sacred Economics (2011 Evolver Editions), supporting his argument that more intensive production techniques could easily produce the same or better yields as current factory farms.

Briefly, Farmers of Forty Centuries describes the voyage agronomist and former US Department of Agriculture official Franklin Hiram King made to to China, Korea and Japan in the early 1900s. The purpose of his trip was to study how the extremely dense populations of the Far East could produce massive amounts of food century after century without depleting their soils. What he discovered was a highly sophisticated system

Todd Walton: Stuff


“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” Henry David Thoreau

The calendar says it is springtime, but the temperature and relentless rain say winter continues apace, this being the second year in a row that a very wet March will save Mendocino and Northern California from terrible drought. Yes, we are starved for sunlight and the woodpile is shrinking at an alarming rate, but the ongoing deluge bodes well for salmon and redwoods and huckleberries and forest frogs, so we shall not complain.

On Sunday we attended a gathering at the home of a recently deceased friend of Marcia’s, his children and grandchildren and ex-wives and friends filling his moldy old house and spilling outside to honor his memory. I was impressed by his large collection of paperback books from the 1950’s and 60’s, many of them stuck to various shelves and to each other with the mysterious glue of time. When I pulled on a volume of Kazantzakis, the book broke into several pieces, ditto a Kerouac tome, so thereafter I contented myself with reading the spines and forming an impression of the person from the books he read.

But I was most impressed by the dust that coated everything in the house and gathered in drifts in corners and indentations—dust as a measure of many years passing wherein the man left large parts of his life untouched. And I have been thinking about this dust ever since and seeing it on the surfaces of things at our house, particularly on books we will almost surely never look at again.

So on Tuesday, housebound by the pouring rain, I emerged

How To: Cast Iron Skillet Non-Stick and Lasts a Lifetime…


Cast iron cookware in a nutshell:

1) use a good cast iron skillet with a glassy-smooth cooking surface (Griswold or Wagner). The new cast iron with the rough cooking surface is gonna be frustrating (Lodge Logic).

2) keep it dry!

Using water short term (minutes, not hours) has its uses. When the time comes to put the cast iron cookware away, give it a few seconds on a hot stove, just to make sure all the water is out.

3) use a little oil or grease

4) a little smoke is a good thing

5) too much heat on an empty cast iron skillet can ruin the surface or even crack the skillet

6) clean cast iron immediately after each use leaving a very thin layer of oil/grease

7) avoid soap!

There is a myth about how you should never use soap on cast iron. Details on that below. The reality is that you can use soap on cast iron, but it is better if you didn’t.

8) use a stainless steel spatula with a perfectly flat edge and rounded corners.

9) seasoning cast iron is nice, but you probably don’t need to worry about it.

Cast iron cookware details…

A lovely homage to a cast iron skillet:

Do you have a black iron skillet? You are a southern mountain girl, I can’t imagine you would not. Put it on the kitchen table. Turn on the overhead lights.

Frugal Early Retirement…


This is not a true list of frequently asked questions, but an explanation of the way I live in question and answer format. Back in 2004 I wrote How to Drop Out, which has since become very popular, but the way I live now is better described as frugal early retirement. Here’s another list of early retirement frequently asked questions at the Early Retirement Extreme blog.

How did you get your money?

A way that’s not available to most people. This page is not about how anyone can retire early. You need some luck. But there are people much luckier than me who have not retired yet, and people almost as lucky who could retire with a few more years of work, and even unlucky people might like to know how I live so cheaply. If you add up all the money I’ve received in my life, from all sources, it’s less than the median American male of my age. The difference is that I’ve spent less.

What are some things you did in the past to spend less?

For most of the 1990’s I didn’t own a car, and there were probably some years when I bought two CD’s and had one restaurant meal. In the late 90’s I briefly owned a car and spent a few months driving around the country living in it. Once I lived a tiny detached room from which I had to walk through a parking lot to get to the rest of the house, which I shared with a bully, a psychopath, and a guy who never left his room. Another time I shared a one-bedroom low-income apartment

Buttermilk Biscuits and Tomato Gravy [Organic Version]…


From Jack’s Skillet

[My all-time favorite cookbook for the writing, not just for the recipes. Met the author years ago at a bookstore in Santa Fe. Make all ingredients from local, organic farmers when possible and use fresh tomatoes for the most wholesome meal – DS]

FIRST get your biscuits in the oven. You can make the gravy while they rise, and it will be hot and ready when they are. Biscuits are easy. Just remember the two-to-one rules:

You can make perfect, wonderful biscuits nearly every time if you remember three sets of two-to-one rations. Here they are:

Use 2 For every 1

Teaspoons of baking powder……. Cup of flour
Tablespoons of shortening……….. Cup of flour
Cups of flour……………………………. Cup of liquid

Biscuits are easy. Just remember the two-to-one rules:

You can make perfect, wonderful biscuits nearly every time if you remember three sets of two-to-one rations. Here they are:

Use 2 For every 1

Teaspoons of baking powder……. Cup of flour
Tablespoons of shortening……….. Cup of flour
Cups of flour……………………………. Cup of liquid

Two cups of flour will make six to nine fairly large biscuits, so let’s assume those are the proportions you’re working with. For that amount of flour, according to the rules, you’ll need four teaspoons baking powder. You’ll also need a pinch of salt and a quarter teaspoon of baking soda, not powder–really, that’s all, a quarter teaspoon.

Mendocino Organics CSA Signups…

2012 Vegetable CSA

Mendocino Organics is pleased to offer a spring-summer vegetable CSA in 2012. Sign up to receive weekly shares of local organic produce from mid-May through October. Enjoy healthy, flavorful food and support local sustainable agriculture! (Guess what? We just added Ft. Bragg/Mendocino as a distribution option!)

Invest in your local farms – sustain a vibrant community!

For all the details and a Participation Agreement, please download: 2012 CSA

For just the agreement form, please download: 2012 Vegetable CSA Participation Agreement

To sign up online and pay with debit/credit card in full, please go to:


The Vegetable CSA is for 22 weeks, from mid-May through October. A share costs $400.00. Sharing shares is allowed as is payment in installments. Farm events include a Garlic Party in July and a Potato Harvest Party in August!


Gene Logsdon: Nature’s Promises Kept Again


Every year in the brown, sere days before the great greening in spring, I begin to have doubts. Will the flowers come again?  Will the birds return? Will the trees leaf out? With all the despair and calamity rife in the world, the ancient fear that the end is near is as believable as ever.

Perhaps global warming will burn us up.

Oh no, it’s global cooling on the way. Watch out for glaciers.

No, no. The real fear is bombs and chemicals.

Not to worry. Disease outbreaks will get us before that.

Going into March I am gripped by a madness that has nothing to do with basketball. I am torn between despair over a political process descending into lunacy and an economic process that guarantees only an ever-growing poverty class.  I am glad I do not know how to tie a rope into a noose.

Then I look out the window one morning and see the great miracle. Snowdrops are blooming by the house wall. I blink my eyes and shake my head. They are still there. In a few more days they are joined by winter aconites, merry yellow jewels against the melting snow. Slowly but surely all the spring wildflowers return— actually this unusually warm spring, they came fast and furiously— and I feel that great uprising of joy and hope once again.

Live Power Community Farm CSA Signups…

Member Sign Up For 2012

Okay here we go!
We are using Small Farm Central again for membership sign ups this year. Please let me know how it works for you and if you have any questions or concerns.

Returning Members

As a returning member, please look for the returning member link at the top of the page in green. Click the link and then you will need to know the email address you used last year for sign up. If you do not have the same email address, you can go back to the beginning and just sign up as a new member.

If you shared with someone last year, and will be getting your own share or sharing with someone else this year, be sure to change the information as you go along in the sign up accordingly otherwise it will not let you continue.

Here Is The Link To Sign Up

Please go to this link and follow the directions on the site. Please be sure to check a box in each section to be allowed to go to the next section.

Please be sure to include all family members’ names and phone numbers as well as share partners

Best of Joe Bageant: Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball…


[Joe’s website still alive here. -DS]

This is the introduction to Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball: The Best of Joe Bageant. It includes 25 of Joe’s essays published online from 2004 through 2010.

 “I’m so damn average that what I write resonates with people”, Joe Bageant once told an interviewer in explaining how he had gained a global following for his essays published on the web. In 2004, at the age of 58, Joe sensed that the Internet could give him editorial freedom. Without gatekeepers, he began writing about what he was really thinking, and then submitted his essays to left-of-center websites.

Joe Bageant died in March 2011, having written two books, and 78 essays that were posted on his own website and also on many other sites. The 25 essays reproduced in this book were first published on the web. I’ve selected them based on many emails from readers, web traffic counts, and specific suggestions from his online colleagues. They appear here as Joe wrote them, apart from copyediting and light corrections agreed to between me and his book editor, Henry Rosenbloom, the publisher at Australia’s Scribe Publications.

Joe began writing for various publications in his twenties. He once told me how happy and proud he was when he sold his first article to the Colorado Daily, unashamedly recalling how he got tears in his eyes as he looked at a check for $5. It was only five dollars, but it was proof that he had become a professional writer. Joe freelanced articles for a dozen years

Transition: The ultimate grass-roots experiment on the streets where we live…


[Very inspiring… -DS]

Sustainability isn’t based merely on practical initiatives. It begins with community, in other words social capital and relationships of trust. During our stay on Hulbert Street we participated in a movie night and a pizza night, neither of which sound like they have anything to do with sustainability.

Movie night involves people from the street bringing a cushion and a picnic to the end of the cul-de-sac and sharing dinner together before watching a film. When we were there it was The Power of Community. Pizza night involves everyone bringing pizza fixings to the house with the largest veranda, then cooking and eating together using the communal pizza-oven-on-wheels. Lively discussions naturally follow.

Bringing people together like this allows ideas to spread and a common vision to develop. Before you know it there is food growing in peoples’ front gardens and on the road verges, and people are thinking about solar panels or rain-water catchment systems. People with a common vision don’t complain about the fruit trees on the verge, the guerilla garden or the bike shed on the road (the same size as a van and with a licence plate to indicate vehicle parking).

We’re very much hoping to attend this year’s festival in September, where thousands of people come to a small suburban street to enjoy the themselves while learning about how to gain and maintain local control over the essentials of our own existence. Communal buy-in is an essential part of the model, and understanding people is the means to achieving that.

Promises Broken, Promises Kept…

In These Times

President Obama has fulfilled many campaign promises. But that’s cold comfort to progressives…

Many of candidate Obama’s promises have to do with issues that are important to progressives. By that measure, his record in office is less inspiring.

The path to the presidency is a long and hard grind, and a candidate makes a lot of promises along the way. Many are throwaway lines that have little chance of ever becoming policy. Everyone knows it, and hardly anybody cares. Not long after launching his presidential bid in 2007, for example, Barack Obama promised that, as president, he would deliver an annual “State of the World” speech, laying out his foreign-policy agenda. Obama has never given the speech. Few people have noticed.

But then there are promises like the one he made about closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center—promises that become central themes of the campaign. They’re repeated often enough, and they involve such a critical issue, that keeping or breaking them can partially define a presidency. And that’s the case with Guantanamo, which remains in operation.  Having failed to distinguish himself from George W. Bush on this issue, it’s as if Obama resigned himself to embracing many of Bush’s draconian policies regarding the “war on terror” and civil liberties.

How has Obama done in keeping the rest of his promises?

His record is fairly impressive overall. The website PolitiFact tracks the promises made by politicians and assigns them one of five labels: promise kept, promise broken, compromise, stalled, and

Austerity is a disaster for Europeans…

The Atlantic

Euro zone unemployment just hit a 15-year high. German unemployment just hit a 15-year low. What can those of us across the Atlantic glean from this seemingly bipolar state of affairs? That austerity, every economic conservative’s favorite prescription for an ailing economy — the medicine Republicans here in the United States are pushing hard — is an utter disaster.

A few euro zone members, including Germany and the Netherlands, are enjoying a relative jobs boom. And yet, Europe’s overall unemployment rate is 10.8 percent. How is this possible? Because of  depression-level unemployment in Europe’s austerity-plagued periphery. The chart below compares unemployment among the euro zone’s 17 members (courtesy of Eurostat).

This should put to rest the notion of “expansionary austerity” — that is, that budget cuts can spur growth by giving businesses increased confidence. It has been an epic, epic failure with interest rates at zero. The more a country has cut, the more unemployment it has. Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland have all had markets (and Germany) force them to radically reduce deficits amidst already deep slumps.

OWS: Occupy San Francisco Creates Social Center in Vacant Church Building…


Monday 4/2/12 – In another sign of the Occupy movement’s diversifying tactics and growing spring momentum, yesterday Occupy San Francisco liberated a vacant building owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco and announced plans to establish a permanent occupation — including a social center, shelter, and food bank — on the site. The April 1st action began with a lively march from Union Square before arriving at the building just before 6pm. When they arrived, Occupiers who had already secured the building greeted the marchers with open doors.

The two-story building, located at 888 Turk St., soon filled with hundreds of exuberant Occupiers. Preliminary reports indicate that the Archdiocese has asked police not to take any action until the morning. However, the Occupiers are requesting help and numbers in case of any eviction attempt. If you are in the Bay Area and are able, please get down to the San Francisco Commune as soon as possible! Most recently (as of 1am Pacific time), police had surrounded the building with barricades to prevent supplies from getting inside. Occupiers have announced they will serve breakfast at 9am and are inviting everyone to join them!

Local media described the action as a ¨well-organized takeover.¨ Speaking to local press, a representative

The Constitution Explicitly Denies the Supreme Court the Power to Overturn Laws Based on the Constitution. They do it anyway….


How American Corporations Transformed from Producers to Predators


Over the last 30 years, corporations have turned on the 99 percent. Here’s how it happened and how to fight back.
In 2010, the top 500 U.S. corporations – the Fortune 500 – generated $10.7 trillion in sales, reaped a whopping $702 billion in profits, and employed 24.9 million people around the globe. Historically, when these corporations have invested in the productive capabilities of their American employees, we’ve had lots of well-paid and stable jobs.

That was the case a half century ago.

Unfortunately, it’s not the case today. For the past three decades, top executives have been rewarding themselves with mega-million dollar compensation packages while American workers