School of the Future Opens Doors
Picture yourself in middle school, but instead of seeing few connections between reality and your curriculum, you see almost no distinction. Just north of Santa Fe at Camino de Paz School and Farm, students experience this. They learn physics by designing solar-heated henhouses, chemistry by making goat cheese, biology by turning a compost pile, and history by means of a foot-powered loom, a horse-drawn plow, or by opening the flood gates of an age-old acequia. Sure, they have an indoor classroom complete with desks, chairs, books, and Google, but it’s also got photovoltaic panels on the roof powering their lights and a woodstove that the kids keep an eye on lest they freeze during a spelling bee. Perhaps the best thing about the curriculum is that the students take turns working the booth at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning. This gets them out in the community helping people, educating people, and learning techniques of effective marketing, and since the school trip they take each year literally depends on chicken-egg sales, they really DO care about effective marketing!
If you would like to tour Camino de Paz and you are the spontaneous type of person, please come to the open house tomorrow, Sunday, February 21, from 1pm to 4pm. If you need to schedule events further in advance, please join us at the school’s annual Food for Thought brunch on Saturday, April 21, from 11am to 1pm. I will be the keynote speaker, and I’ll be talking about water, food, community, and my concept of gradual greening.
Two Great Green Events in Santa Fe this Weekend!
My friend and fellow water harvester Brad Lancaster will speak at Santa Fe Greenhouses at 10am and 2pm tomorrow (Saturday, February 20). A very entertaining speaker, Brad is the author of two excellent books, “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volumes 1 & 2.” It’s $7.50 at the door, but after the five-buck rebate from the nursery, it’ll seem like $2.50. Since I’ll be picking Mom up at the airport, I won’t be able to make either talk, but Melissa and I do look forward to seeing Brad—he’s staying with us while in town, so we better be. Tonight we’ve got a totally slow-food meal planned featuring elk meatballs from a friend’s hunt, scarlet-runner beans from our garden, and arugula salad from Camino de Paz School and Farm. Check back tomorrow for specific info about the farm school’s open house THIS Sunday, from 1pm – 4pm!
Water Justice = Economic Justice
Toward the end of her litany of international water problems, water-justice luminary Maude Barlow paused. Her next words seemed familiar, but Barlow was clearly not comfortable saying them. “Every eight seconds a child dies due to a water-borne illness,” she sighed, adding that this was more dead kids every year than those killed by “war, malaria, AIDS, and traffic accidents combined.” Perhaps the most challenging message from her talk was that our export- and consumption-based global economic system would not provide solutions because it was actually the main cause of the problem. Careful not to blame capitalism itself, she urged her audience to keep water where it is (to conserve), to harvest rainwater, to place strict laws on pollution, and move toward a much more locally oriented economic model, one that could address the flagrant inequality of the mega-corporate system we have today. This model is a lot like the one I describe in my upcoming book, Harvest the Rain, where economic encouragement is geared toward given to small contractors who provide essential resources like water and food.
Farm-Protection Group Forms after Corps Win Day
My goal in the garden was to rebuild, by sundown, my chicken coop’s roof, but when I got the message about testimony being needed in support of Senate Bill 303, I immediately envisioned the job dribbling on for days. By the time I got there 15 or 20 minutes late, the issue had been tabled. All of the representatives from the corporate-person side of the issue received their desired opportunities to address New Mexico’s conservation committee, but less than 5% of the human persons were granted freedom of speech.
Fortunately, a group called the Farmer Protection Coalition has formed to prevent future abortions of justice and see that a bill, now five years in the making, passes through the 2011 legislative session. The group's new law would do the following:
a) limit the liability of farmers who accidentally possess genetically engineered seeds,
b) establish a respectful process for biotech companies who wish to inspect farms,
c) alleviate farmers of any duty to prevent the encroachment of genetically engineered seeds,
d) ensure that legal disputes be initiated locally rather than near the headquarters of distant seed companies.
Please chime in with your take on the hearing or the issue of GMOs generally. If you would like to sign a petition in favor of the above, please say so below.
For folks keeping score, I hope to finish the henhouse remodel by Wednesday, but the bricks, rocks, and logs could theoretically hold her down until our dependable spring winds start rearing their gusty jowls.
Holy Compost, Gramma!
“Bury me in my compost pile,” was one of my mom's mom's mantras for as long as I can remember. Whether we were digging into the pile for bait, loading a wheelbarrow bound for her exquisite flower garden, scraping food scraps into the half-gallon milk carton next to the kitchen sink, or chatting at sunset on one of the longest days of the year, Gramma’s reverence for dark, wet compost resembled nothing if not sacrament. Fortunately, the holy significance of homegrown soil food rubbed off on me, but this winter I have to admit, I’ve had difficulty motivating to turn my pile. We’ve had so much snow that the pile is simply hard to access, and it’s been so cold that...let's just say I've been distracted. BUT with two looming week-long trips out of town, I really MUST turn and water that pile this week!
The good news is that I really could use some upper-body exercise, so if I can just remember this fact when I have a few spare moments of daylight, I’d get her done. Along with fixing up the chicken-coop roof, pruning our dozen fruit trees, and cleaning out the bunny hutch, that would be a healthy chunk of burned calories before hitting the beach!
Oh blessed compost pile, please lure me to your sacred altar ASAP--if not for me than for Adelaide B. Adams who would have turned 100 yesterday.
Love Your Local Farmer and Planet: Testify Today!
If you are looking to love your planet on Valentine’s Day, please come to the hearing scheduled in Room 321 of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe at 3pm, TODAY, February 14th. The New Mexico Farmer Protection Act would provide legal armor to small farmers who are too-often attacked by metanational biotech/agriculture companies. The act:
1. Puts common-sense protections in place for small and independent farmers in New Mexico if encountered with suspected liability when they accidentally come into possession of patented, generically engineered seeds;
2. Establishes a process for biotech companies to enter a farmer’s property to check for the presence of their patented seeds, while protecting therights of the farmer;
3. States that no farmer in New Mexico has the duty to create buffer zones to protect his/her crops and land from genetic engineering encroachment; and
4. Says that the proper venue for any legal dispute between a New Mexico farmer who accidentally comes into possession of patented, genetically engineered seeds or crops, and the biotech corporation, is the district court in the New Mexico county where the dispute occurred – not in Missouri or some other state where the biotech company resides.
Please come support local farmers!
Today (and Every Day) is Love Your River Day!
Here’s an easy way to spend some “gradual greening” time if you’re in Santa Fe on Saturday, February 13, 2010. This just in from the Santa Fe Watershed Association:
All are invited to celebrate the Santa Fe River, the heart of our community. The Santa Fe Watershed Association, in conjunction with the City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County will co-sponsor “Love Your River Day.” Love Your River Day is an annual opportunity for the community to join together, clean the Santa Fe River and connect with the significant natural and cultural landmark, our Santa Fe River, which made it possible for people to settle the area 400 years ago. Everyone wanting to experience the River and learn more about stewardship of the River are invited to join us for this all-river clean-up before the Spring flows begin.
The event takes place on Saturday, February 13th at DeVargas Park, located along the River between Guadalupe Street and Sandoval Street. Registration for the clean-up begins at 10:00 am. Hot beverages and snacks will be served during registration. The clean-up will continue to 1:00 pm.
Santa Fe County, Open Space and Trails Program, who in January, 2009, joined the Adopt-the-River program as a co-sponsor of the stretches of the Santa Fe River in the County, passed a Resolution at their February 9th meeting which recognizes the important role the Santa Fe River played in shaping the character of Santa Fe. In recognition of the important community treasure that is the Santa Fe River, the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners issued a Proclamation naming February 13, 2010 as 'Love Your River Day'.
For additional information regarding the Love Your River Day event or the Adopt-the-River program, contact Mikki Anaya, Adopt-the-River coordinator at 820-1696 or via email at email@example.com.
Water Lovers, Unite!
During the current city-election cycle, we’ve seen forums about crime, jobs, wages, housing, infill, annexation, keeping Santa Fe beautiful, and getting us back to the good old days. No, sorry. Not those days of flood irrigation and apple orchards. You know—the more-recent times when art galleries overflowed with compulsive tourists craving our blue-sky and green-chile hospitality.
All of these debate topics represent important subjects for community-wide discussion, but ultimately each is trumped by Maude Barlow’s notion of a “water-secure future.” Barlow, the senior adviser on water to the president of the United Nations General Assembly, will be speaking at the Lensic Theater, on Wednesday, February 17. Especially since the implementation of NAFTA, people all over the world have had their water, their life blood, taken away from them by large corporations and their bought-off governmental agents. Along with Peter Gleik, Vandana Shiva, Oscar Oliviera and 99% of the human race, Barlow aims to stop the handful of huge companies taking advantage of the pollution and scarcity that plague countless human communities.
Water security will also be the topic of a Santa Fe city-candidate forum on Tuesday, February 9, from 7pm to 9pm. Everyone running for mayor and city council is scheduled to answer questions about rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, water conservation, and how to integrate these productive techniques in a way that promotes green-collar job growth.
We, the people, of Santa Fe fortunately were smart enough to purchase the Sangre de Cristo Water Company from PNM (just before NAFTA was enacted). Subsequently, we don’t face the danger that many places face where water is blatantly auctioned off to the highest bidder. But anyone who has lived here for more than a week know that our water supply is far from secure. The math is simple: Our economy requires growth, and our aquifers and rivers can provide only a limited supply of water for this growth.
The organizers of the candidate forum, a relatively new local group called the Semi-Arid Guild, understand that there is a solution to this world-wide dilemma where economies dry up watersheds and desiccated watersheds destroy economies. The answer is falling from the sky in the form of precipitation and being flushed down the drain in the form of “waste.”
With the support of government at every level, we can create jobs in water harvesting and wastewater treatment/recycling. But, like the efforts of Barlow and her “water-warrior” colleagues, political efforts still need to be made. Otherwise, at the very least, the inertia of bureaucracy will keep progress at too slow a pace, conventional resources will disappear, and we will be too late.
If you care about the future of Santa Fe at the most basic level, please attend either of these events. Thanks to the Lannan Foundation, seats for the Barlow talk are only six bucks. Go to www.lensic.com or call 988-1234 for tix. The Semi-Arid Guild’s forum at the Inn of the Governors is free. For more information about either event, please visit my new blog at http://backyarddigest.blogspot.com.
SFe Water Forum Reviewed by Guest Poster (#3)
Editor's note -- Tonight the Semi-Arid Guild hosted a standing-room-only "Water-Security Forum." All ten of the canidadates in the March 2 city elections showed up but one....
It was interesting. Stephane B. stood out for speaking about past actions and future needs, Rebecca ok but not outstanding; Aseneth good about making hard decisions, cost benefit analysis. David said nothing new (disappointing.) Nava was a non entity but might win. Simon was almost hard on incumbents but never landed a punch. Calvert was ok but somewhat too complimentary to council. I can understand not going for the throat but no one really stood out.
I wanted to see some action, some innovative proposal/promise.
I think the two unopposed candidates took up time and space.
Listener in the Rye
In the middle of his Sunday breakfast, or so it seemed from my voicemail box, Larry Littlebird called to thank me for some eggs I’d gifted him. A dozen distinct shades somewhere between turquoise and latte, "They were SO delicious and SO beautiful," he quaked. "I almost couldn't let go of the cracked shells!" Yesterday, when we had a chance to chat, he’d read my post about art and hunting. “If they know how to bless, hunters ARE artists,” he explained, “and artists ARE hunters as long as they don’t bow to the pressures of the market. Markets cloud perceptions.” This made sense from a man who often smells his prey before seeing it, who asks you to listen with your feet, and who suggests that we all can hear quite clearly with our hearts.
And it made extra-special sense in the wake of J. D. Salinger’s death. Underscoring this theme of “artist as in-tune observer” Adam Gopnik this week in “The New Yorker” rightly concludes, “It was Salinger’s readiness to be touched, and to be touching, his hypersensitivity to the smallest sounds and graces of life. . . .Writing, real writing, is done not from some seat of fussy moral judgment but with the eye and ear and heart.”
How Your Smelly Feet Might Just Save the Planet
For the last five years with the legislature in session across the street, I have been part of a panel of water experts who answer questions from a very diverse group of students from six or seven regional high schools. The event, Students for a Secure Water Future, is sponsored by River Source, a local nonprofit focusing on watershed-based education. Water quality was a hotter-than-usual topic this year, and when the subject of nanotechnology came up, I knew I’d take the mike. In all of its immaculate genius, modern science has recently come out with a new kind of odor-eating sock. Coated with millions of absurdly tiny flecks of metal, the rinse water from these fabrics, we now find, destroys the biological processes built into wastewater treatment plants. Raging against this untested anti-reek technology, I was suddenly clocked with what was probably the silliest catch phrase of the day (or I might venture to say, "any day"): “Save the World. Stink.” Sure it’s a stupid-sounding line, but stupid sure is good when it makes the truth memorable.
A Tale of Two Teachers
Larry Littlebird's approach to his "Hunting Sacred" workshop last Saturday was much like the late great Thomas R. Barrett's take on teaching art history to school kids: Start at the end. Barrett's reasoning was, "You have to understand where you are before you can comprehend where you've come from." So we began the year with the Post-Impressionists and ended in May with Monet.
Completely aware of the naïveté of his pupils, Littlebird's motivation was similar. Most of his students that day had never hunted, and if they had, their experience had not grown out of the premise that “the role of the hunter is to learn to be blessed.” After some initial outdoor awareness-exercises (more on this later), we walked into Littlebird’s one-room “Sheppard’s House.” There, in the middle of the rounded adobe room in front of the woodstove, was a huge, beautiful elk hide centered on a brightly colored blanket surrounded by offering dishes of food and water, many fabulous necklaces, various talismans, and two bows, two groups of arrows, and a quiver. Hours later, when we came back from the day’s last outdoor exercise, what greeted us on the dirt floor were one bow, some arrows and the quiver on a stark-grey blanket. The sun was setting, and it was time for us to go, metaphorically armed for life.
“Artists are the antennae of the race,” Ezra Pound said (around the dawn of cubism and industrial farming). But how does one LEARN TO BE an antenna? From these two incredible wise men (split by a mere 25 years), I gather that becoming a true artist must be much like becoming a sacred hunter. You have to REALLY listen, or more precisely, you must be fully AWARE of your environment—using each of your six or seven senses most of your waking life.