Monday, December 31, 2018

Into Yet Another New Year

While I haven't been posting here, I haven't been idle.

I've been cleaning and cooking for and shopping for the commune I live in, getting involved with local groups, recovering from a stupid and scary injury that was entirely my fault, working on compost, helping with growing projects until the growing season was over, and I even wrote a three part fantasy story for which I am working on the last chapter. 

Most importantly, as of today, I am taking back control of the Commune Life  blog. I will return to the intensive schedule of having something out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I just got back from an Assembly of communes in southern Missouri and it made me want to be more involved with the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.  And I visited East Brook Community Farm and that made me want to build connection between them and Cotyledon, our community.

So, I have much to do in 2019.  I cannot imagine getting bored with my life.  I just wonder how I ever did stuff and worked for a living, too.  I certainly don't think of myself as 'retired', it's that I no longer get paid directly for the work that I do.

And, yes, the times are challenging.   My wish for everyone who reads this is a new year that is better than the old. 

And I hope to write a little more in the new year. Let's see.  As they say, time will tell.

“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential.” ― Ellen Goodman

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

With darkness closing in

I haven't completely abandoned this blog, but close.

I am currently living in our very small commune in Queens, sharing income, cleaning, shopping, and cooking, going to meetings, and writing fantasy stories. (More on this in a moment.) And I am once again writing a post for Commune Life--once a month.

And waiting with fear and trepidation for the next election.

This is the time of the year that I almost always write a post.  Pagans call it Samhain, Mexicans and others call it the Day of the Dead,  and lots of other people call it Halloween, but under any of those names it is about darkness, decay, and death.

For me, it is a time to look at my fears and face the fact that things are always going to fall apart. That's just a part of life.

I should probably be doing more important things than writing fantasy stories, but doing it is very satisfying, even if no one is reading them.  I'm considering publishing them as a blog, the way that I did with Lagoon Commune.

And now that I am back with Commune Life, I want to see it grow, even if I am not the one running it any longer.  Maximus, who is running it is mostly using it to display his videos and the actual blog part of it has only had two posts in the last two months, both by me.  I have some ideas of how to change that, but I will need to run them by Maximus.

And our little commune will be a year old in less than a month, and there is still only three of us at the core.

Everything is uncertain but it seems like this is the best time of the year for uncertainty.  I am trying to embrace the darkness. It isn't easy but it seems appropriate. Not knowing is honest and just how things are. It's trying to pretend anything is certain, or that I can be certain about anything, that is the dangerous path.

I invite you to embrace uncertainty and enjoy the darkness of the season. It will pass, but right now it is closing in.

Quote of the Day: "It's not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share." - Pema Chodron

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ten Years!

Ten years ago on this date, I posted my first piece on this blog. To celebrate and to see how much I have changed in ten years, I want to examine everything that I wrote there and look at it in relation to how I am now.

First, it was the summer solstice; this year the solstice is tomorrow. It happens. I decided to go for the calendar date rather than the event to publish this.  Does that make me a bad pagan?

I said I wanted to change the world as a teenager and still did when I wrote that post. And now I still want social change. (The natural world works fine, as long as we work with it.  It’s society that needs to change.) But I wouldn't say I want to change society. I would say I want to be part of changing this society. It's definitely a group effort.

I am still influenced by all the identities I’ve been, and there is still a little of the teen in me (even at nearly sixty-seven), but I no longer identify as a revolutionary (partly for the reasons I outlined in my last post, and partly because, having studied history, I think revolutionaries seldom change more than the people in power).  As horribly new agey as it sounds, I’m more of an ‘evolutionary’ these days, a slow change person. I also don't think of myself as much of a theorist these days either. As to what I am politically, I’m probably mostly a communist anarchist or egalitarian communitarian or whatever the current equivalent is. I want sharing and equality and community.

And these days, I neither do co-counseling nor meditation. I sometimes do empathy sessions.   I am most influenced by Compassionate Communication (aka NVC) and permaculture, and live in a tiny income-sharing community in Queens, NY.  I suspect I couldn't imagine living in New York City ten years ago, but here I am. At least I’m finally doing the kind of community that I have wanted for a long time. I just wish I had more people to do it with.

I wouldn't change a thing in that next paragraph. “Any change… has to be built from the ground up and it has to be a cooperative, community effort.” Yes. Absolutely.

I am still filled with plenty of ideas. (I’m currently writing a fantasy novel and working on it every night.) And I am still looking for people. I am dragging myself out the door to the Ranch, to the urban farm in the neighborhood, to the composting operation in the city.  And I am trying to find the balance between doing too much and doing too little. These days I have faith that if I can keep going and can be patient long enough, I will find the right folks.

The rest of the post talks about what I wanted to do with the blog. Here’s what I want to do now. Recently I’ve been posting once a week. Now I want to take a break.

I’ve done ten years of posting and four hundred and sixty-one posts (including this one). I am not done. I still want to write about mushrooms (as opposed to simply fungi) and human physiology (hormones and kidneys and bones and blood) and whatever else that comes along which I think would be useful, and I think I want to reach five hundred posts.  But it’s summer and I want to do things. There will more later.

I ended my first post with a quote from the Dalai Lama, “My religion is kindness.”  In my last bunch of bleak posts, I’ve said again and again, the one thing we can do is be kind. Yes, I would say my religion is kindness. Kindness and compassion and love.

I used to have a word or phrase of the day and a hero of the day. My word of the day was ‘Relocalization’ and I still think it's a good one.  My hero was Audre Lorde and she is still a hero of mine. And so I will end with a quote from her.

Quote of the Day: “...I do think that we have been taught to think, to codify information in certain old ways, to learn, to understand in certain ways.  The possible shapes of what has not been before exist only in that back place, where we keep those unnamed, untamed longings for something different and beyond what is now called possible, and to which our understanding can only build roads...” - Audre Lorde

Monday, June 18, 2018

Social Change is Slow

I sometimes joke that the reason why I like cleaning things so much, is that I’ve been involved with both mental health work and social change for most of my life, and improvement in both cases takes decades. With cleaning, you can see changes quickly. It gives me fairly instant gratification.

Since blog is dedicated to social change, I want to talk about, not only how slow social change is, but why it is so slow.

I want to start with an example where social change seemed fairly rapid, but wasn't.  I’m talking about the campaign for same sex marriage.

Although I remember much of this, I refreshed my memory with the Wikipedia article on the history of same sex marriage in the United States.

By 2007, at least twenty-one states had bans on same-sex marriage and it was legal only in one state: Massachusetts.  At that point it seemed like more and more states were writing ordinances against it. It looked hopeless. The tide seemed against same sex marriage.

In 2008, even though the California Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage, voters overturned the decision and two more states passed bans on it. Only tiny Connecticut legalized it.

In 2009, it was legalized in Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia, and almost in Maine. In 2011, it was legalized in New York. In 2012, Maine, Maryland, and Washington state legalized it. In 2013, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, Hawaii, and Illinois followed suit. Suddenly, there was momentum.

In 2014, it became legal in fifteen more states due to various court decisions. There were court decisions that upheld marriage bans that year as well, but change was clearly happening.

On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that all states were required to issue licenses to same sex couples.  

That seems like fairly rapid change, until you realize that activists had been pushing for same sex marriage since the 1970s.  What changed in the twenty first century? Mostly, the issue of ‘gay rights’ had been before the public so long, that young people didn't understand why same sex couples weren't allowed to marry. One thing I noticed at the time was that President Obama came out in favor of same sex marriage before the Supreme Court decision, but after a poll was published where, for the first time, a majority of Americans approved of same sex marriage.

Max Planck said that science advances one funeral at a time (or something like that).  So does social change.  And where a campaign can take decades, systemic social change (transforming a whole society, which is what I am calling Social Alchemy), takes even longer.  I once was a revolutionary, but as I have studied history, I’ve learned that isn't the way it works.

The Soviet Union is an example of how not to do communism. Don't foist it on millions of people from the top down.  I think Twin Oaks is an example of communism done right. It is small, voluntary, and built from the ground up. A basic permaculture principle is “Use small and slow solutions.” There's a good reason for that.

I am not a big fan of Karl Marx, but I think he gets a bad rap.  He would not have approved of the Soviet Union. That was Lenin’s doing.  And, surprisingly, he even had good things to say about capitalism. He definitely thought it was an improvement on feudalism, which preceded it.

And if we want to get beyond capitalism, and replace it, it's probably useful to look at how capitalism replaced feudalism.

There are several different views on the rise of capitalism, but what they have in common is that it was a gradual process that happened over centuries. Adam Smith didn't start capitalism, he merely documented its rise.

And for that reason, I think it will take decades, or more likely centuries to replace it. Of course, the question is, whether it will wipe us out (see my most recent posts) before it can be transformed. And my answer, again, is I don't know. But I do know that it can't be rushed.

It's a sexist quote, but it sums up the dilemma. Warren Buffett said, “You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”  And you can't produce a new society overnight by any means that won't result in something worse.

Quote of the Day: “We are beginning to understand that the world is always being made fresh and never finished; that activism can be the journey rather than the arrival…” - Grace Lee Boggs

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Population Paradox

So here’s a problem.  It goes like this: Suppose you believe we need to reduce the size of the population.  You may decide not have any children, or you may only have one or, at the most, two. If you have children, you teach them what you believe, and hopefully they have less children as well.

Now, suppose you don't believe that the population needs to be reduced.  Suppose you believe that it should grow, and you also believe in large families.  So you have a lot of children and your children have a lot of children.

The result is that there are less and less people who believe in reducing the population size and more and more who don't.   This is the population paradox. It says that zero growth people will tend over the generations to wipe themselves out. Even though I think that reducing the population is necessary, it's going to be tricky.

It doesn't take into account our  ability to persuade people and change minds, but it does make me think of the Shakers who died out because they believed in celibacy.  And, I think that there is an unfortunate truth to it.

I do believe that we are in population overshoot, so this paradox worries me, but I have no idea what to do about it. I have written about simple things that people can do about population growth, but I wasn't aware of this paradox at the time. Now that I am, the one thing I can think to do about it is to put it out so other people can think about it.

I want to be clear. Like all my recent posts, I’m not saying that we are doomed, but I am saying that we’ve got a problem, and these days I have become very skeptical about our ability to change it.

So I advise that we hope for the best and prepare for the worst, because what else can we do?

Quote of the Day: “When it comes to the population explosion, there are two questions on the table.  One, is our population growth going to kill us all? And two, is there any ethical way to prevent that from happening?” - Annalee Newitz

Monday, June 4, 2018

Honey, We Fried the Planet

The guy that I know who goes on and on about mass extinction is not far from the truth.

Ten years ago, when I started this blog, I was very into the idea of ‘peak oil’.  A lot of people were talking about it.  We were also very aware of climate change, but thought that peak oil would hit before any real damage could happen.

I still believe in peak oil, in the sense that there is only a finite amount of oil in the earth and much of it will be out of reach, since it would take more energy to extract than it would give.  So it's been a kind of race between peak oil and climate change. Unfortunately, right now, climate change is winning.

I think a big part of this is our desperation to keep living the lifestyle that we’ve been living for as long as we can. Peak oil folks didn't see how desperate we would get. (The Petrocrats would use the word ‘ingenious’.)  Shale oil, fracking, and oil from the tar sands, along with deep offshore drilling, have certainly bought our lifestyle more time, but they are incredibly dirty ways to get oil, causing lots of pollution. Looking at the figures now, it seems like we still have plenty of available oil, in fact, more than enough to destroy the planet with.

Yes, it would be very possible to live differently and be able to sustain the world, but it seems increasingly unlikely that enough people will choose this path in time to make a difference.

I won't repeat all the awful facts. You can read the news on climate change and see where it's going. You can march and protest and chain yourself to oil tankers and live incredibly sustainable lives and even (but please don't) shoot politicians and CEOs, but unless you can get the majority of people to change their ways, I'm not sure that it will be enough.

Further, I am skeptical and worried about the urgency people approach this with. One of the things I say often is that it was urgency that got us into this mess, and I don't think urgency will get us out of it.

Are we doomed? My optimist says no, my pessimist says yes, and honestly I don't know. (As the saying goes, it's hard to make predictions, especially about the future.)

What I do know is that things are going to get worse, and the first and most important thing that I can think of to do, is to be nice to everyone. Yes, this is another version of being kind.  If we are doomed, think of it as palliative care, and if we get a chance to build a better future, I hope that kindness and compassion will be at the foundation of it.

In the meantime, whatever the future brings, we still have to get through today and tomorrow and spending your time fretting about might or even will happen simply saps your time and  energy that would be better used in getting something done now.

I realize that writing about the destruction of the world and then going on to other subjects feels a little like the newscaster reporting a horrible massacre and then saying, “And in other news…”, but it’s what we need to do in order to do something with our lives.

And, I am not saying that you shouldn't do anything. I am just saying you should do what you think is right, because you think it's the right thing to do, and maybe it will make a difference, but there are no guarantees.

Quote of the Day:  “There are those who are trying to set fire to the world,
We are in danger.
There is time only to work slowly,
There is no time not to love.” - Deena Metzger

Monday, May 28, 2018

Commune Dramas

I often joke that all these utopian communities that I’ve heard folks dream up would work great if they didn't need to be filled with people. When someone can't figure out why it’s so hard to start communities or why so many fall apart, I want to just say, “It’s people!”  Communities are made up of imperfect people. It's the only kind of people I know of.

We recently had a visit from a leader in the communities movement. He and I spent a couple of hours going over some of the turmoil roiling through various communities. He made some remark about all the ‘commune dramas’.

Even more recently, I was on call with members of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. (The good news is that our little commune, Cotyledon, is now officially a Community in Dialogue with the FEC. It was approved of with Guinea Pig noises. I’m not making that up! Who says that communards don't have a sense of humor?) We spent more than a half hour of that call talking about just some of the conflicts and problems that were going on at a member community dealing with some serious issues. When it was finally decided that we had talked through stuff as much as we could and figured out what kind of support the FEC could bring to the commune in question, we decided to turn to other business and the woman facilitating the call announced to a completely different community, “I should make you a certificate for being the ‘Community with the Most Problems, Spring, 2018’.  You could put it up on your wall.” (Again, humor. Very necessary.) We then launched into a discussion about some of the many difficulties that this other community was dealing with.

Commune dramas happen (and dramas happen at co-ops and cohousing communities, although not as often and intensely since people at those communities aren't as intimately involved) because you have lots of very imperfect people trying to work closely together to do some really tricky stuff.

On top of that, even the most isolated communes have lots of people going in and out and these people bring all of the problems of society (competition, scapegoating, racism, patriarchy, privilege, homophobia, intolerance, sensitivity, judgement, etc) in with them. Communes are always struggling with the question of who they will accept and who they won't and when to ask someone to leave and what behaviors can be tolerated (or not).  If you limited communities to only people who have it all together, they would be empty. As a result, there is lots of struggle and lots of drama at the communes. Given that, it's amazing, when you think about it, that a community like Twin Oaks could last more than fifty years (and it's still going). I think that’s an an incredible victory.

I have little illusions that  communes are all wonderful utopias.  I see the myriad problems that they deal with. I’ve seen the dark side of communal living.  It comes with the territory.

So, when you hear me go, “Rah! Rah! Community!”, know that it's because I believe strongly in what they are trying to achieve. Yes, in many ways they are poor vehicles for social change. But I don't know of anything better.

Quote of the Day: “Folks have found their own level after the first years of being overwhelmed.  Some of them have been disappointed with the lack of emotional intimacy, while others, especially teens, have felt uncomfortable living in a fishbowl.
“At times, most of us have probably asked ourselves, ‘What am I doing here?’--a question, I believe, that arises from a complex calculation of time and energy spent and one’s tolerance for conflict.  Sometimes I’ve asked myself, after a difficult confrontation, why I should put so much of my life energy into something that seems, at the time, to give back little. Yet I’m sure that at other times each of us has surely declared: ‘I can't imagine living anywhere else!’--a response to the very personal exchanges that make living in community so rewarding.” - Roberta Wilson  

Monday, May 21, 2018

Difficulties, Tragedy, Complexity, and Kindness

I generally try to be optimistic. Optimists live longer, for one thing. And they are more likely to be listened to, for another.

I know a man who launches into a tirade about mass extinction on very little provocation. It doesn't make others want to do anything about climate change; it makes others want to avoid him.

But, as much as I want to be optimistic, I try to be realistic as well. The world isn't going to be the way that we want it to be, the world is the way that it is and it is very complex. There are a lot of wonderful things going on and a lot of worrisome things going on and one doesn't negate the other.

I try to keep a fairly positive tone in this blog but lately I have been thinking about some of the difficulties with social change (social change being the focus of this blog) and I think it's important to talk about them.

As much of a communities booster as I am, communities are far from perfect and acknowledging that and pointing out the pitfalls and difficulties is part of showing what real community (not an ideal utopia) is, warts and all. Knowing the problems with communities doesn't make me want to give up on them, but it makes me appreciate even more how difficult building them is and some of the limitations of communities as vehicles for social change.  I will write more about this in my next post.

Even more difficult to look at is climate change and the ways we are destroying the earth.  This, indeed, is tragedy. The man I spoke of could be right, we could be headed for extinction, or, at the very least, one poisoned planet. And we need to look at that as well--and I intend to in a future post.

And then there's population, which I want to talk about.  And the slow pace of social change, which I may also devote a post to.

There are just so many problems in the world.

I don't plan on tackling all of them in this blog, but I will say that I am grateful for anyone working on any of them.  I do want to acknowledge three in particular that I don't intend to write a post on at this point, but I think are particularly difficult and troublesome.  These are racism, male domination, and economic inequality.

More than fifty years after the civil rights movement began, black men are still being shot by police, and being incarcerated at horrendous rates.   Recently, two black men were arrested at a Starbucks for asking to use the restroom and, even more recently, three African-American women were stopped by the police as they were moving out of an Airbnb because a white woman in the neighborhood saw them and was afraid there was a burglary in progress.  It turns out that there was also a white woman with these women, but she wasn't seen as “suspicious”. Unfortunately, I see articles like this on a regular basis.

Women are finally being heard about the abuse and harassment and exploitation they receive from men, particularly rich and powerful men. Unfortunately, that continues as well. The #metoo movement is exposing a fault line in sexual relationships that has been needed to be looked at for a long time. The communes have been pushing consent culture even before this, but even in the communes, there are a great many problems. As long as men have more power than women, this is going to continue, and changing power dynamics is far from easy, especially when men don't want to give up power.

The point of income-sharing communities is to reduce economic inequality, but I don't see that changing in this society any time soon, either.  In fact, with the current administration, I suspect economic inequality will be increasing. And even if we got it under control in the US, our lifestyle causes poverty and hunger around the world.  And that's hard to change as well.

My question is always, what can we do?  At the very least, we can care. We can live simply and treat others well. Above all, we can be kind--to others and to ourselves.   It's not accidental that my first two Quotes of the Day on this blog were about kindness. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “There's only one rule that I know of… you've got to be kind.”

Quote of the Day: “Love and kindness are never wasted.  They always make a difference.” - Barbara De Angelis

Monday, May 14, 2018

Compost Tea

I made compost tea many years back (probably close to a decade ago now), after reading Toolbox for Sustainable City Living by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew. (See my post on RUST for a bit about the book.)  I was reminded of this a couple of weeks back when I arrived to do an urban agriculture work day and walked into a mini-workshop on compost tea. The woman providing the information gave the best summary I’ve heard for using compost tea.

“Think of it as probiotics for plants,” she said.

Compost tea is derived from compost but it is used differently.   The main purpose of compost tea is to build up life in the soil. And, depending on what kind of life you want to build up (fungal or bacterial), you brew it differently.   All this is explained in the book, Teaming with Microbes by Lowenfels and Lewis.  Both this book and Toolbox have good descriptions of how to brew compost tea.

On the other hand, the method for compost tea described by Stephanie Davis in her book, Composting Inside and Out, (I talked about the book in my last post) doesn't involve aeration and so it creates an anaerobic ‘tea’, what Lowenfels and Lewis call ‘compost extract’.  If you want the right kind of microbes, you need to aerate it. (For a detailed, fussy description of how to brew compost tea, see this page by ‘The Soil Guy’.)  One way to get aeration is to use one of  those pumps that you aerate fish tanks with.   That's what I used, so many years ago.

It's not something you will need all the time, but if you really want to add life to your soil, compost tea will do it.

Quote of the Day: “The simplest definition of compost tea is: A brewed, water extract of compost.
“Properly made compost must be used…  Compost tea is therefore, a ‘cold brewing’ process, allowing growth of the organisms extracted from the compost.” - Elaine Ingham

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Joys of Compost

I realized at some point that most of my favorite things in the world began with the letters C,O,and M--communes and community, naturally, but also compassion and communication, and,of course, compost.

I sometimes joke (but I’m more serious than you might think) that compost is my religion.   I point out that Hindus and Buddhists think that when you die, you are reincarnated, Christians and Muslims believe that when die, if you are good, you go to heaven, and I believe that, if I’m very good, when I die, I will be composted.

I’ve talked a bunch about composting in this blog, particularly in my posts, Compost Happens!  and Waste. And I’ve written about the reasons composting is so important in my post on Thinking in Circles. When we compost, we mimic the way that the world works.  And there are lots of different ways to compost.

In my “Compost Happens!” post I talked about there being two main ways of composting. I wrote that eight years ago, I wouldn't say that now.

I got out a book from the library called Composting Inside and Out by Stephanie Davis. The subtitle of the book is “14 Methods to Fit Your Lifestyle”.  What's strange is that, even though it also says on the back cover, “Step-by-step instruction for 14 different composting methods”, there is no listing in the book of the 14 methods.  I had to tease them out by trying to look at all the options she provides. As far as I can tell, the 14 methods are:
  1. Compost bins
  2. Tumblers
  3. Three bin systems
  4. Digesters
  5. Piles or heaps
  6. Barrel tumblers
  7. Bins
  8. Wire mesh
  9. Trench
  10. Lasagna
  11. Humanure
  12. Nature Mill Auto Compost Bin
  13. Bokashi
  14. Worm bins

The first eleven methods are outdoor methods, the final three are for indoor composting.  Also, numbers 6, 7, and 8 cover DIY ways of composting as opposed to several others where you purchase a finished product.

Smiling Hogshead Ranch, where I am now helping out, lists six different ways to compost in their explanation of what the compost committee does (you have to tap on the word Compost), saying, “How much do we love compost? Let us count the ways…”
  1. 3-bin system
  2. Windrows
  3. Leaf mold
  4. Vermiculture
  5. Bokashi
  6. Mushroom composting
(Vermiculture is using worms.  Worm bins basically.)

I’m sure that, even between these two lists, they don't cover all the different ways of composting. The joys of composting are endless.

And, best of all, for me, I get to do a lot of it.

Quote of the Day: “Compost has rewards beyond our imagination. We benefit specifically in our gardens and, less obviously, within our thinking.   … Can composting encourage you to see the world differently? Many compost converts have told me that it has done so for them, and I have to admit it has changed my perspective as well.” - Stephanie Davis

Monday, April 30, 2018

High Spring

It’s the eve of May, a time the pagans in the US call Beltane.

I have written about this before often spelling it Beltaine.  (Which the internet says is the traditional Celtic spelling.)  Whatever the spelling, this is the time of year when everything is bursting into bloom.  It’s high spring. If Samhain, which I’ve written more about, is a time of acknowledging darkness and death, this is a passionate celebration of light and life.

It was a fairly mild winter here in New York City, but it was also cold, raw, damp, and dark.  Spring has been oh so welcoming. As I’ve written, with the collapse of Point A, I had been wondering what to do with myself.  That's not a problem anymore.

Our community, Cotyledon, is connected with a bunch of urban agricultural projects, like Smiling Hogshead Ranch and Hellgate Farm.   There wasn't much to do with them in January and February. Now I need to be careful not to do too much. (See my last post.)

Spring won't last.   One of the reasons I follow the pagan calendar is the reminder that the seasons flow into each other.  Spring will become summer, summer will become fall, and fall will become winter. Beltane is just the opposite pole from Samhain.   Life and death are intimately connected, as are light and dark.

The point is that I am going to enjoy all this while it's here.  Everything is in bloom and it won't last. And I am not getting any younger. I want to enjoy each season fully while I am here to enjoy it.

I hope you are enjoying your spring.

Quote of the Day:  “The most dramatic part of the Beltane celebration was the community bonfire.  People would gather around it, often bringing chairs or stools in order to ‘sit out the wake of winter.’  … The fire was usually lit on May eve - fed by whatever a village could spare - and was kept going until sunset on May 1st.  In general, most people extinguished all fires in their homes on May eve. … In keeping with the old ways, ‘new fire’ had to be brought back into the house from the Beltane flames.” - Bridget Haggerty

Monday, April 23, 2018

Self Care

I guess we all need this kind of reminder once in a while.   I got mine recently.

The first and most important piece of social change is taking care of yourself.   I’ve heard this as the oxygen mask strategy. When you fly in a plane, they inform you that in an emergency, an oxygen mask will descend from overhead, and when it does, you are to put on your own first before helping anyone else.  Really, you can't work on changing anything or helping anyone if you aren't able to function. You are one of the most important parts of social change--whether you are building a community or out in the street committing civil disobedience--and you need to be in decent shape to do this.

My own reminder came after several hours of working hard with others on a compost project--mostly shoveling compost out of piles and into bags.  Like I said, I worked pretty hard and was happy with the job I did, but the next morning I was in rough shape. For anyone new to this blog, in spite of my name, I am not a young woman, I am an old man.  I’d like to pretend that I am thirty but I am well over twice that. And I don't know exactly what I pulled, but I was hurting.

As I said in my last post, I have stopped doing things like Point A and Commune Life--a lot of which was internet work.   I spent much of the winter reading or on the computer. Now that spring is here, I want to be outside doing stuff. But not having done much over the winter, I think I overdid it.

Usually I get away with things like this because I stretch every morning. So there are certainly things that I do to take care of myself. Obviously I need to do more. I need to slow down and pay attention to how I move when I am working. I have not had a very physical life and now there is a bunch of real work that I want to do, and the only way I am going to get to do any of it,is to be careful and take care of myself.

I often support others in focusing on taking care of themselves, first.  Now I get to follow my own advice.

Quote of the Day: “If I wished to defeat those who wanted to use their lives to make a difference, this is exactly the way in which I would go about it.  Few such people would be tempted from their purpose by fame, or power, or even wealth. … I could use their own dedication against them, driving them to work until they became so depleted and empty that they could no longer go on.  I would make certain that they never discovered that blessing life is about filling yourself up so that your blessings overflow onto others.” - Rachel Naomi Remen

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Trip Gets Longer and Stranger

The title of this post is a play on the title of a previous post, A Long Strange Trip, which in turn was taken from the lyrics of a Grateful Dead song, Truckin’.  And I have been putting off writing this post for quite a while now.

One reason is that there are delicate and personal issues involved with the direction my life has been moving in and this limits what I can say here.

What I can say is that I really didn't expect to find myself quite in the situation that I’m in.

On the positive side, I am now living in the income-sharing community that I came to New York City to build and I am building it with a couple of wonderful people (DNA and Gil) who I have known for almost three years now and who are every bit as committed to this as I am.  On top of this, we just got a fourth member who also seems really interested in our community. We're calling the community Cotyledon and it is a real joy being here. (And if you follow the link, you can see pictures of the place, DNA and Gil and me, and Smiling Hogshead Ranch--which I will write a bit more about later.)

The first strange piece is that I came to NYC solely because I was doing this work as part of Point A--and now I am not involved at all with Point A. (This is the difficult and very personal part of the saga that I can't go into.)  I'm also (for related reasons) no longer managing or in any way part of the Commune Life blog--which, sadly, seems to be floundering a bit since I left.  (Or, at least, the posts seem a lot more sporadic.) I would still strongly recommend looking at it, since it has an enormous amount of information on what communes are, how to build them (and how not to build them), and a bunch of information on particular income-sharing communities around the US and around the world (or at least in Canada, Spain, and Israel).

Leaving Point A and Commune Life has been a real loss for me, but with spring here, I am preparing to dive into several urban agricultural projects, some of which are connected with Smiling Hogshead Ranch, which I’ve been slightly involved with for nearly three years (and DNA and Gil are very involved with).  So, in a real way, my losses have opened up space for me to take on these new things.

Another strange thing is that I started working on this community project in New York City after I left working on a rural community farm project in upstate New York back in 2014.  But there are plenty of connections between the two. The guy that I had difficulty with ended up at Ganas while I was living there.  The community farm project did happen and is now called East Brook Community Farm and we have talked about building connections between our community and them.  And, in another strange interconnection, our newest community member is someone I knew from the upstate project.

This may be the strangest part of this trip.  I think I am done with something and yet I find myself reconnecting again and again. I'm learning that I can't say I am completely finished with something. I just don't know. So who knows, I may yet reconnect with parts of Point A or Commune Life.   I’m absolutely not planning on it, but I am learning that I can't know.

Quote of the Day:  “Collaborative groups that last over time reinvent themselves periodically. They may need to change their structure, organization and ways of working as they grow and develop.  They are not static, but dynamic, not artifacts, but living organisms.” - Starhawk

Monday, April 9, 2018

Studying Nutrition

Many, many, many, many years ago, I was ever so briefly a nursing student. (Yes, among many things, I am a nursing school drop out.)  I did well in the academics but I was a disaster doing the bedside work. One of the things I enjoyed learning about was nutrition.

And nutrition is still one of the things that I’m interested in. When I think about agriculture, a question arises.  What should we plant? Which leads me to the question of, what foods are better for people? How do we know? And one way of knowing is by studying nutrition.

I have been looking in libraries for a really good nutrition textbook.   I’m not interested in the latest diet or food fad, I want to know what mainstream nutritionists currently think.   (Okay, my nutrition education was from the 1970s, some things have changed since then.) I finally found one that I liked this winter, but then I left town for some traveling and returned the book.   Since I got back, I have been looking for that book, but it's no longer in the library and, stupidly, I didn't write the name of the book down. I went looking in the Queens library system catalog and did find something that looked okay in the catalog but turned out to be some kind of outline rather than a text.  (The book itself has the additional heading, “Student Note-Taking Guide”. Unfortunately, that part wasn't in the catalog.) Rather than just return it and try again, I decided to use it in conjunction with one of those ‘Idiot’s Guide’ books (which generally have decent information, even if the format is very commercialized and silly).  I figured between the two, I should get some halfway decent information. In the future, I may go looking for that good textbook again.

So what did I learn?   Here's some basics. First, there are six categories of nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water.   Yes, water is a nutrient. The first three categories all have calories--as does a seventh non-nutrient, alcohol. Something that I did remember from my nursing years is that carbohydrates and proteins have four calories per gram, alcohol has seven calories per gram, and fats have nine calories per gram. All of the first six categories pay important parts in your diet.

Most of this stuff is common knowledge.   You want to get enough calories to thrive but not much more. Exercise as well as nutrition is important in maintaining your weight as well as your health. You need to get all your vitamins and minerals.  Eat plenty of vegetables. (Really. Probably the best piece of dietary advice I can give.) Drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest.

But a couple of things that aren't so obvious.  Your body needs sodium as well as potassium, but the ratio is important. You need to make sure that you are getting more potassium than sodium.   Fruit is a good source of potassium. Likewise, some fatty acids are essential, but you need to get more omega three than omega six. Fish is a good source of omega three, but for vegetarians like me, nuts and seeds (especially flax seeds and chia seeds) are also a good source.

Not all vegetables are alike.  I am a strong advocate of leafy greens (like kale, collards, spinach, and dandelion greens) and the orange veggies (like carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, and pumpkin).  And, of course, you can never go wrong with broccoli.

Finally, for vegetarians and vegans, make sure that you get enough B12.  Unfortunately, the best way to do this is to take a supplement, since B12 is only found naturally in animal products.

Social change depends on strong, healthy people, and since the society I want to create is one that meets everyone’s needs, knowing what we need nutritionally is important.  And thus I study nutrition.

Quote of the Day: “... nutrition is the science of how the body uses food. In fact, nutrition is life.   All living things, including you, need food and water to live…. If you don't eat and drink, you’ll die. Period.” - Carol Ann Rinzler