Wretched Vines

The vine has pretty, morning-glory-like flowers, but it is not native to here, and it climbs and grows everywhere. Literally this vine would cover every other plant, tree, and bush if I would let it.

I’m sure many gardeners hate this vine. But, in permaculture design class, we learn that everything serves a function in the ecosystem, and we can find uses for it. In keeping with that principle, I just cut the vine back rather than try to eradicate it. I use the cut foliage as free “chop and drop” mulch. Also, during the most punishingly hot time of year, I will often let the vine grow over most everything, as I figure it provides some shade to the soil and to roots of other plants.

The vine dies back in winter, doesn’t like even our mild winters.

One characteristic of this vine is that its stems get tough, ropy, almost woody. Maybe in some other times and places they have been used for rope — whether braided or single-strand. I thought of that the other day as I was cussing out some dried tangled strands of the vine that were intertwined with a nice pile of twigs and leaves that I was trying to grab from a neighbor’s curbside discard pile in order to add to my mulch pile.

It’s always good to remind myself that everything has its own inherent value. I can choose to remember that, or only choose to focus on the “pesky” characteristics of a thing.

Maybe I should do some weaving or rope-making experiments!

Speaking of natural rope, my friend Barbara, who is a longtime resident of Japan (maybe even a citizen), does a lot of writing and translation about traditional Japanese building methods, which rely entirely on locally grown wood, vines, and other materials. Thatched roofing and so on. Her Facebook posts are lovely. Here’s an excerpt from a recent one:

By now the old roof had been completely removed and the thatchers were repairing the roof frame. In addition to the rice-straw rope that had been used as binding on all the sites I’d visited previously, they were using another type of binding called “neso.”

“Neso” is obtained from “mansaku,” a kind of hazel that grows in the mountains of Gokayama. This should be used immediately after harvesting, while it is still green, but here they were forced to use branches that had been cut in November and had dried too much. Before using, the branches were soaked in water and then pounded to make them somewhat pliant. Even at best, this material is difficult to handle, but once the knot dries it becomes extremely hard and strong.

Barbara’s post is set to Public, and you can go here to read the full text and see photos.

Civilian Climate Corps

President Biden is setting out to create a Civilian Climate Corps, which would be a current-day counterpart to the Civilian Conservation Corps.

“Building on Biden’s oft-repeated comment that when he thinks of climate change, he thinks of jobs … the $10 billion program would address both priorities as young adults find work installing solar panels, planting trees, digging irrigation ditches and boosting outdoor recreation.

“‘We must seize this opportunity to build a big, bold pathway to critical careers, for a diverse generation of Americans ready to take on this existential crisis that we face,’ said Ali Zaidi, deputy White House climate adviser. …

“The effort comes as the White House and many Democrats are intensifying their focus on climate change after a series of devastating storms recently battered parts of the nation.”

I hope this idea comes to fruition. It would provide a lot of people with useful work and a roof over their heads while addressing climate change.

Today when I was grabbing a cup of coffee at my local minimart on the way down to the beach to watch the sunrise, I noticed that an extra-spicy snack food billed as the “One Chip Challenge” had been given a new, bright-yellow warning sign, enjoining store employees to educate themselves and customers on “the intensity of this product.”

I commented on it with a laugh to the morning guy who works there, and he offered to let me try the product. “No thanks!” I replied with a laugh.

I didn’t say this but I felt it: “I don’t need to buy extra-spicy challenges; they are all around us.”

And I pictured myself on a trail with a shovel, working for the Climate Conservation Corps or equivalent. Yep, we have plenty of spicy challenges and, despite being of a life-or-death nature, they might even be fun, and bring people together. And offer people a form of housing security, and community. Not just young people, but older people who still have something to give; don’t want to fade away and stop being useful.

Slower

“When we go slower, we are more patient and when we are more patient we have a choice in how we respond.” — Eknath Easwaran

A friend posted this quote on social media and it expresses something that’s been a major theme of my life lately.

At first I thought that slowing down is a hallmark of patience; that a person has to first become patient in order to slow down. And no doubt it’s true that constitutionally patient people might find it naturally easier to slow down than the rest of us do.

But I’ve realized that it very much works the other way too. Just as the quote says. I have found that I can become more patient by deliberately slowing down. Be it making coffee or doing laundry or writing a blog post or whatever. It works.

And the effects are very pleasant. So nowadays when something or someone seems to be trying to get me to speed up, I’m not so easily led in that direction.

Deliberate slowing down is one of the keys to finding a way of life that’s sustainable; that runs by nature’s rhythms.

We Don’t Have To Be Minimalist

This weekend I have been on a huge adventure — without ever leaving town!!! I have always loved motorcycles, and loved being a passenger, but had never driven one myself. Now I have learned and practiced the basics in a 2-day FDOT-approved course. It was definitely an adventure. All five of us in the class passed our written test and checkout exercises, and are now allowed to have the motorcycle endorsement added to our driver’s licenses.

There is a lot to motorcycle riding. From what I experienced, piloting a motorcycle has some things in common with riding a bicycle, and other things in common with driving a stickshift car. And still other things in common with neither one of those!!

Besides caring about cost and eco-footprint, I am extremely safety-minded when it comes to riding any kind of vehicle on the road. Taking this class — where the riding area was a large empty parking lot marked with cones and lines to simulate lanes, etc. — was a safe way to satisfy my curiosity about motorcycle riding.

I may purchase a motorcycle one day, but even if I never do, this was a wonderful experience and I’m glad I allowed myself to do it.

General note: Taking a class is a relatively low-cost, low-footprint way to explore just about anything you think you might be interested in!

So why am I bringing up my motorcycle class here on this blog? As an example of the idea that living a low-footprint life doesn’t have to involve renouncing all material pleasures and just sitting at home in a sparely furnished house. You can do that if you want, but you don’t have to.

Many people I talk with seem to equate low-footprint living with “minimalism”: having hardly any material possessions; relinquishing all but the strictly necessary. But that isn’t so.

Low-footprint is paring down things that add unnecessary cost (environmental, financial, or monetary) to our lives without adding value. A two-day motorcycle course added great value to my life, for minimal cost and probably only about a gallon of gasoline.

If your hobby is (for example) flying planes on a regular basis, you’re obviously going to be consuming more fuel, but you can still find ways to fit that into an overall low-footprint lifestyle.

The ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes was said to have lived in a large urn in order to reduce his overhead cost of housing. He had few possessions, one of which was a drinking cup. But one day, after he saw a boy drinking water out of his cupped hands, Diogenes threw away his cup.

That’s all well and good, but we don’t have to live like Diogenes in order to have a low footprint.

Don’t confuse low-footprint living with minimalism. Unless you are an aspiring minimalist, this is likely to make you feel very deprived, as well as inhibiting you from engaging in fulfilling hobbies that happen to require stuff (be it yarn, paint, wood, fishing gear, or what have you).

Also, I could be wrong but minimalist furniture doesn’t look very comfortable.

On my Twitter profile, I refer to myself as an “ornate minimalist.” I’m super picky about what stuff I choose to keep around. I wash my clothes by hand in a tub of rainwater, but don’t try to take away my massive bead collection!

Legacy for Future Generations

Someone in the Deep Adaptation group started a thread seeking tips for deep adaptation and preparations people can make who are older and concerned about their families, kids, grandkids and so on.

Below is my comment with a few minor changes for this blog.

Financial: I have about 80k left over from what I inherited after Mom & Dad passed. This is a vast fortune to me; I otherwise for most of my life have tended to not have money beyond what I needed for my basic needs or sometimes a little less.)

(I used most of my inheritance to buy my house free and clear which I am kitting out as a communal living pod and urban permaculture micro-palace to accommodate as many people and beneficial connections as I possibly can. And I invested 25K in a part ownership in a permaculture farm/education center that is a great asset to its community in another part of my home state of Florida. (I do not seek nor anticipate monetary returns from this investment.)
And I tithed to my community, with a focus on Black businesses and organizations, mental-health services, and conservation groups.

And now, I am exploring the possibility of gifting a chunk of that remaining money to each of my (adult) nieces right now.

One, I don’t want them to have to wait til after I die to inherit some of my portion of our family’s intergenerational wealth. (I spoke with my departed parents about this recently, and they gave me the OK as long as I make sure to take care of my own health issues and build a resilient flexible livelihood plan that will bring me security through old age. I am in the process of building this.)

Two, they have dreams and wishes, and I want to be an older person who chooses to support those dreams and wishes rather than hoard. Three, I see the very real possibility that money will at some point become virtually useless. Maybe sooner rather than later.

And four, I feel that it would be the ultimate empowering example to my nieces to see their aunt the family oddball — writer, artist, and climate activist — living boldly in line with her stated values, and not building her life plans around stockpiling money.

But! I do feel a responsibility to my parents, siblings, ancestors, and future generations to treat this money compassionately, wisely, and reverently. It is a resource that, like fossil fuels, may never come again.

When I was in my 30s I had a semi-normal middle-class-type career that allowed me to amass about 70k. I kept it in a 401k. After the stock-market crash, I realized I did not want to be involved with Wall Street at all (and later, I decided this for moral reasons as well as for my initial financial reasons). I took the money out of financial instruments. But, I wound up throwing it around (to well-intentioned people & organizations, and to my own failing business model) in a futile effort to find a more useful place for it than under my care. I guess I basically didn’t trust myself much. Well I ended up with zero. And a life-lesson that has been priceless and I would not trade for anything, and was lucky to learn not too late in life.

Now I am committed to sharing my money wisely and regeneratively even if it means hanging onto it for a little while.

We don’t tend to talk about money openly in my family. Certainly I have never talked about money anywhere near as openly as I do with my permie and DA and SC-FIRE circles. Thank you all for tuning in here and on my other channels, and I hope some of what i have said is useful to someone.

Resilient-living skills; discussions about climate crisis: At this time, I don’t sense that my family members would be wanting what I would have to offer in this area. I am located geographically distant from them, and while I stay in contact with them and always strive to deepen our connection, for various reasons I don’t feel it would be appropriate or effective for me to bring these topics up with them. Rather, I feel it’s more respectful, as well as effective, for me to simply express my love and appreciation for them as best I can, and offer them cheerful encouragement for their plans and dreams, and celebrate their joys and share their sorrows, and hold the strong conviction that all good things are possible.

Some years back, when Mom & Dad were still alive, I gave them a solar oven and a mini Rocket Stove. I framed the gift as “camping gear, and a fun thing to do with the grandkids” — but actually I was more thinking of it as my tiny effort to provide them with some Zombie Apocalypse insurance, however small. It didn’t end up needing to be used that way, and I myself only remember using it with the nieces on one holiday visit. My takeaway from this experience: Sometimes our efforts might miss the mark, but we can’t beat ourselves up for trying to help and protect our loved ones, if it is truly from the heart and based on our best understanding of the situation.

Further Exploration:

• “Impact Banking: Another Way Your Money Can Support Social Justice” (Laura Oldanie, Rich & Resilient Living blog). Includes tips/links for breaking up with your mega-bank, banking with BIPOC-owned institutions, and finding an impact bank near you.

CODB Radio Show Wed Sept 15 noon EST

Very excited to be on the The City of Daytona Beach Government government radio show with delightful host Dr. L Ron Durham! My topic this time is “Climate ‘Code Red’: What Does It Mean for Us?”

(Yes, this will be the first time I’ve been on in awhile!! I used to be on once a month, but I felt it important to make room for other voices in my community; we have so many people doing great things and offering important info.)

I aspire to offer you simple actionable steps for maximizing your community and household resilience, while helping to create a more beautiful, safe, equitable, and joyful world for all.

Tune in WEDNESDAY Sept 15 from noon to 1 EST. The station is JOY 106.3, on your FM dial or via internet.

# CommunityResilience #ClimateAdaptation

Compost Woes?

The following comment is my response to someone in one of my eco groups who said she found it too hard to have a compost pile because of raccoons. Feel free to copy/paste any of the following that you think might help with any of your efforts to encourage people in your circles to adopt restorative practices.

Compost bin/pile types and setups can easily be tailored to keep out unwanted critters or not attract them in the first place. I have never had issues with critters in my compost, other than at a community compost project on a ranch in Texas we had armadilloes and starving feral kittens digging underground to get into the box from underneath. We solved that situation pretty easily by feeding the kittens elsewhere; and by making a natural concrete mini berm wall thing that discouraged the armadilloes enough that they found it not worthwhile, and sought their normal wild food sources.

Another way to discourage critters (other than beneficial microbes and larvae) is to maintain a thermophilic (“hot”) compost pile. It takes a compost thermometer and a bit of practice but some folks enjoy it; it can even be a homeschool science project.

A well-managed compost pile or bin is not usually attractive to critters. The occasional possum or raccoon who digs up some freshly added piece of fruit etc from the top of my compost, because I was in a rush or whatever and carelessly didn’t add quite enough cover matter, I don’t stress out. I just rebury the scraps in the morning as needed.

A healthy balance of creatures is essential to soil health, stormwater mitigation, heat mitigation, and other essential functions that are matters of life or death for climate resilience and community wellbeing. Over time, as people refrain from applying poison to their landscape, a healthy population of predators such as owls and eagles and hawks and snakes can start to (re)emerge and help control rodents etc.

If we don’t start taking serious action now to build back the soil biology and water-holding capacity in this region, which has been depleted by sprawl development and murderous landscaping practices, we’ll be having extreme heat and water issues that make a few critter invasions look like a walk in the park.

And, on a thread in another group, where someone expressed reservations about the feasibility of commercial composting:

I think the commercial facility needs to be on high ground and atop a thick “bio-sponge” of straw, brown leaves, waste cardboard/newspaper, or other equivalent carbon-rich material. Whatever is the scaled-up commercial version of a well-managed home compost bin.

And, any application of the finished compost should be done in places where there are plenty of plants to quickly uptake the nutrients.

From what I understand from my permaculture studies: Here in the semitropics (as in the tropics), soil itself doesn’t hold many nutrients, and plants are a key part of nutrient uptake, runoff prevention. We need to replace as much as possible of the trees and other vegetation we have ripped out willy-nilly just about everywhere in this state. (That’s my understanding of the eco-dynamics of this climate, and it fits with my observations in my own yard, local patches of forest, etc. But I don’t have a science background, so I say this FWIW to the best of my understanding).

In our region, the water moves quickly thru the sandy soil. Which is why I’m always trying to encourage people to turn the ground into a sponge by adding thick layer of mulch. Fallen leaves, wood chips, etc. It’s an essential ingredient; otherwise our sandy soil is a sieve as the original post mentioned.

In closing: Anyone having trouble with compost issues (household, commercial, municipal or what have you), give me a shout and I will help you troubleshoot; it’s part of the free community services I provide as admin of the Daytona Beach Permaculture Guild, Permaculture Daytona; and as a node of the worldwide permaculture-design movement. Though based in Florida, I have done composting and other land-based work in all different climates including cold-weather and desert.