Saturday, September 28, 2013

Seen and Unseen

I’m a Taurus and the ultimate pragmatist…and yet experience tells me that there is more than meets the eye in all situations. I learned this most vividly on the island of Bali in Indonesia. Bali is Hindu but really the Hindu layer is very thin. The real spiritual core is animism – the belief that everything is alive and sentient. If you’re willing to get off the tourists’ air-conditioned bus, it doesn’t take long to feel that living presence in all the elements around you. Feelings can be discounted easily by the western mind. Unexplainable experiences are something else. I had enough of those on Bali to convince me that I am surrounded by an unseen world, on Bali or off of it.

Fast-forward 5 years to my present life doing permaculture in the desert. Permaculture can be extremely pragmatic and suits me well. There are systems to learn, patterns to observe, tools to use, holes to dig etc. And yet, I have recently arrived at a place where I understand that something is missing. It started as a slight discomfort and has grown into an acute certainty. My suspicion was that I had left out my connection to the unseen and the important information that is held in that world. I was observing and interpreting the patterns of nature without making a connection to the realm from which those patterns flow. In certain circles (at Findhorn for example) this would be called the Devic Realm – the realm of conscious energies that build the natural world around us. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not convinced that this realm actually exists in the form described at Findhorn but I am willing to find out for myself. Being a pragmatist, my thinking is that we who wish to regenerate our bioregions need all the help we can get.

Over this last summer, I traveled with my mate through California to meet other permaculture people and groups. But my personal homework was to find a way to make contact with this realm. I feel that I was successful at this and came to understand that the language of this realm is artful, symbolic and startlingly immediate. Here’s how I did it on advice from my friend D.E. Whenever I found myself in a remote part of a forest where I felt particularly relaxed I would ask for contact, my purpose being to gratefully listen and learn. Let’s just say that, among other responses, I got a stunning lesson from a salamander on the importance of consuming and digesting one’s past.

Along with all the digging, building, reading, planting and systems implementation, I’ll be continuing with my attempts to strengthen and clarify my communication with this realm. I’ve only just begun. For me, the real proof will be when I receive information that is contrary to everything I think I know and I go ahead and implement it…and IT WORKS.

Much thanks to D.E. and G.F. for your guidance.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Letter to the New York Times

Letter to the Editor                                                                                                5/28/13
NY Times
Published: May 26, 2013

Which is more heartbreaking – that we’ve reached CO2 levels of 400 ppm or that the powers that be are once again considering untested action, this time on a global scale? How is an earth-loving activist like myself suppose to hold this in my heart? How is anyone supposed to hold this? I’ve cried, raged, despaired and still I take the next creative step. I’m deeply involved with my community in taking positive action that works to regenerate our ecosystem and provide sustenance for all creatures that inhabit this place called Joshua Tree, CA. We use the ethics and design principles of Permaculture to accomplish this and it works. We have to lobby our county and state governments to understand it and support it. It’s a velvet revolution. Can we survive what we’ve caused? No one knows. But we permaculture people are giving our whole hearts to the attempt.

Jill Giegerich
Permaculture Designer
Professor, UC Riverside

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wicking Bed Gardens

Wicking beds are the ultimate in water saving techniques for desert vegetable gardens. They're easy to build especially if you get a few friends on board to help. I'll be doing a variation on this when I put in my permanent garden as my mate and I permaculture our land. The one change I'd make is that I would sink the garden rather than use a raised bed technique as shown in this link. Sinking it will help keep temperatures more stable and will reduce wind damage. And, of course, it will be firmly inside a critter proof garden enclosure.

How to Make a Wicking Bed

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Drylands Awakening

Harvesting Barrel Cactus Fruit on Bean Tree Farm

I've just gotten back from studying drylands permaculture for 3 weeks on the amazing Bean Tree Farm.  I'm deeply indebted to Barbara Rose, permaculture designer and director of Bean Tree, for letting me INTENSELY pick her brain for those 3 weeks. Bean Tree specializes in native plants food production and I've returned as an absolute believer in the importance of this for our community here in the Morongo Valley. These desert native foods are packed with nutrition and medicinal qualities. I'm determined to plant a few carefully chosen fruit trees and a small veggie garden only where they can be taken care of by greywater and rain harvesting tanks. With an aquifer that is being depleted at a foot a year, has no natural recharge, is about to receive piped in water from the Delta through earthquake territory, it's an absolute necessity that we do everything we can to reduce aquifer water use. Irrigated orchards and farms are the last thing we should be doing here. Besides draining the aquifer, the evaporated salts will eventually make the soil unusable. Just take a look at the heartbreak of the abandoned irrigation fields around Tucson to understand where traditional agricultural practices using aquifers will lead us if we start that here in our area. Increasing desert native food production is the answer. Plant prickly pear cactus, mesquite, palo verde, wolfberry, barrel cactus, cholla, yucca. Don't clear your land! Understand the incredible bounty that it offers. All these plants provide food, tools, animal forage, and medicine. For more information on desert harvesting go to

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Stream of Consciousness

It's New Year's Day, 2013. I'm exhausted from changing my life. Enough already. Today, I make no decisions, no plans, I go nowhere, I stay in bed. Ha. Right. So far this is what's happened:

1. I did sleep late. Good for me.
2. Calisthenics and Core building. Permaculturists have to stay fit, after all.
3. Major computer research - native desert grass seeds, correct clay for making seed balls, how to plant potatoes, Transition towns in California, desert land restoration techniques, etc.
4. Periodic reading of "Tending the Wild; Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources". I could only read this in 5 minute intervals because the descriptions of the immensely vibrant ecosystem of pre Euro California...well, it just made me cry.
5. Then some good solid stream of consciousness time that went something like... "Shit. There's so much waking up and work that we humans have to do now to try to repair the damage. Why didn't I start doing this work in my 20s??? But nooo, I had to strive to be a big deal famous artist. Pathetic. Now, I'm 60. There's so much to do and so little time." Basically, I got all Schindler's List on myself.
6. Continuing on - "Good thing it's not all about me. The current 20 somethings include some passionate souls who are ready to step up to the plate. I sure wish we hadn't left them such a mess (iPhones not included). I'm just going to need to keep taking one step at a time and do my best to help make things better." My inner Girl Scout gets the upper hand.
7. Time to go for a walk and clear my head. It takes courage to be human.