Archive | Июнь, 2006

Shock

Posted on 27. Июнь, 2006 by Park Girl in Uncategorized

A person I once thought of as a friend has died. It happened suddenly, and I heard the news through someone who keeps up with him.

I hadn’t been in contact with this friend for a couple of years. We didn’t know each other for long, but we grew close in a weird, spotty way that to me exemplifies the oddities of modern-day intimacy. We lived far apart and each had little idea of what the other was like on an everyday basis, yet we learned some of each other’s deepest secrets and glimpsed some of each other’s darkest aspects. We also had some good laughs and saw some of each other’s nobler qualities.

Unfortunately, when discord arose between us, I wasn’t able to make things right. An observer might fault me for being insufficiently persistent, or being insufficiently patient, or exercising poor judgment in the first place, but it’s always easy to find fault in hindsight. The fact remains that I tried on several occasions to mend the rift, but when I saw that my efforts only seemed to make matters worse, I stopped trying to communicate with him. And now he’s dead.

Am I beating myself up? No. Would someone else, a better or at least more socially skilled person, have been able to make that situation right? Possibly; hard to say. But I did what I could at the time. Right now I’m just feeling sad. He was a character, and I’m sad for the world that he’s gone. And I’m remembering some good times we had in the brief time we knew each other. All in all I feel privileged to have known him.

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Summer in Full Swing

Posted on 22. Июнь, 2006 by Park Girl in musings

Did everyone have a happy Solstice? I dragged myself out of bed at 5:15 to watch the full process of the sky getting lighter and the sun coming up on the longest day of the year. (Official sunrise time was 5:48.) And guess what, I almost froze my butt off! Jeez, it musta been about 60 degrees out, if that! The morning chill enhanced the suspense of waiting for Apollo to peek over the eastern mountains. A fine beginning to an excellent day.

The next permaculture design class starts tomorrow, and one of my assignments for this week is to prepare sun-cooked goodies for their welcome party. Yesterday I made shortbread and an ice-cream pie. (Well, OK, the ice-cream pie wasn’t solar-cooked. But the cherry topping, which I made from fruit that grew right here on campus, was.) Then today I made a pecan-and-raisin spice pie! I’d been especially worried about the outcome of that particular experiment, because the conventional cookbook recipe calls for a particularly high baking temp of 425, whereas I wasn’t able to get the solar ovens above 250 today. But the pie turned out just great, and finished cooking in the nick of time, right before fat clouds rolled in with a little rain and thunder. Tomorrow I’ll complete the goodie table with vegan shortbread (using olive oil instead of butter), gluten-free shortbread (quinoa flour), brownies, and blondies.

A few of the permaculture students are already here. After having the campus mostly to ourselves for a couple of weeks, it feels a little weird but also exciting to have a new batch of folks here.

Yesterday also marked the beginning of a garden project I’m going to be, dare I say, leading (did I really just say that??) at a halfway-house-type facility for adolescents who’ve been released from juvenile prison. This place is amazing, full of dedicated people who are really trying to give the young folks a lot of opportunities to learn useful skills, as well as find ways to cope with the emotions that led them to do the things that got them into juvenile prison in the first place. The guy who supervises them and coordinates the various volunteers who come in from outside is super. He’s tough and no-nonsense yet very caring and willing to give a lot of himself to the kids. (Also, on a side note, he is a little older than me and, ahem, HOT. [giggle] There’s a lot of that going around New Mexico! Must be something in the water. I’m definitely in deep appreciation mode lately.)

I really enjoyed working with the guys (there were no female residents present yesterday, though I hear there is one at the facility). They were respectful, sweet, and funny, and though they complained about the “hard labor” at first, at least some of them seemed to take to it after a while. We dug holes and planted hardy perennials (many donated by Plants of the Southwest) for three solid hours. Next week we’ll plant annual seeds!

Back on campus, I led (again with that “LEAD” thing — what’s gotten into me lately, I wonder?) a little solstice ritual in the garden at sunset. Various new faces appeared in our midst. I think I was the only person there who identified as a pagan, but it was an open-minded, pagan-friendly little group, and we had a nice circle. Afterward the gathering morphed into a free-form snack-o-rama and jam session.

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Rainwater Harvesting

Posted on 18. Июнь, 2006 by Park Girl in bioregionalism, permaculture

About 50 people squeezed into the seed barn at Plants of the Southwest for Brad Lancaster’s free presentation on rainwater harvesting yesterday afternoon. A lot of the tips for harvesting water were review for a permaculturist (careful protracted observation of your landscape; start at the top, etc.), but I also got a lot of new facts, inspiration, and useful hints.

A big eye-opener was a photo he showed at the beginning, of his hometown of Tucson, AZ, as it looked in the early 1900s. Back then the Santa Cruz river ran year-round through a sponge-like watershed lush with foliage. Bad watershed management practices, which included straightening the river’s meander and putting in cement-soil banks (which speed the water’s passage instead of slowing it down and giving it more time to soak into the earth), have since turned Tucson into the dryland that comes to mind when we think of Arizona today. Currently the water table there is 300-400 feet below the surface, dropping 3-4 feet per year and getting saltier. The solution to this is harvesting rainwater. But instead Tucson is importing Colorado River water, which must travel 1,000 feet uphill; most of the expense goes into electricity to operate the pumps. This story, or a variant thereof, is being played out all over the US. And urban landscapes, coupled with the prevailing approach to dealing with stormwater, exacerbate the problem: Tucson gets 12 inches of rain a year — not much, to be sure, but to add insult to injury, only one inch of that infiltrates the soil. Atlanta loses 130 billion gallons of rain a year to runoff. That’s enough to support 3 million households.

The good news is that if rainwater is collected efficiently, there’s a lot more water available than we think. Tucson’s current consumption is 165 gallons per person per day. As wasteful as that sounds, if Tucson’s rainwater were evenly distributed there would be 235 gallons per person per day available!

One thing I particularly liked about Mr. Lancaster’s talk was his emphasis on using soil and plants as water collectors, and avoiding the temptation to succumb to “tank envy” (thinking you need a really big-ass cistern when actually you can get by with a much smaller one). I also liked his advocacy of using graywater in the garden. He doesn’t even have a Watson Wick or anything like that; just hooks up hoses directly from his washing machine to his fruit trees.

Another notion he brought up that I really liked was the idea that, since our streets under the current setup are ephemeral waterways, then we should treat them as such by planting the edges with the kind of vegetation that grows along ephemeral waterways in each bioregion. This would allow the water to percolate into the ground instead of running straight to the waterways carrying pollutants with it. As existing examples of this practice, he cited the Sea Streets program in Seattle and something called WUSD in Australia.

Mr. Lancaster presented a lot more information; if your interest is piqued you might want to check out his book, Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands. The information is applicable to all kinds of climates, not just drylands.

The talk was preceded and followed by refreshments (most notably cold juicy watermelon and minty organic lemonade) and friendly chitchat. Wise elders, cool chicks, and criminally hot boys were present in roughly equal measure.

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An Inconvenient Truth

Posted on 18. Июнь, 2006 by Park Girl in bioregionalism, permaculture

Thanks to my friend and permie buddy M. back in Austin, I had the word on when Al Gore’s global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, was opening here in Santa Fe. (Warning: The website is good but it has persistent music that I can’t figure out how to turn off.) Opening night, this past Friday, I dragged five fellow Freako-versity denizens along and we had a worthwhile and fun evening. Though I found the film a bit short on detailed practical advice, I personally liked a lot about the film. For one, Gore showed a lot of pictures and graphs that made the situation clear. The graphs that really stood out in my mind were the ones that showed temperature variations for the last thousand years and for the last 650,000 years — though, as global warming naysayers point out, fluctuations are normal, recent decades are totally off the charts.

The movie takes the form of a “town meeting” where Gore is speaking to an audience of regular folks in a gymnasium or someplace, and the people in the theater are made to feel like part of that audience. At the end, he gives some hope in the form of a graph showing various general things we can do that, if all of us did them all, would go a long way toward reversing the global warming trend. And he gives a website, www.climatecrisis.org, where among other things you can calculate your own carbon emissions in relation to the average.

I have to admit I got an eye-opener there. Average carbon dioxide emissions per capita in the US (which accounts for 30% of total global emissions despite constituting only 5% of the total world population) are 15,000 pounds per year. Excluding my driving, my carbon dioxide emissions are about 3,000 pounds per year, or about one-fifth the average. But when I factor in my driving, I’m more like two-thirds the average. The fact that I drive a Ford F-150 truck an average of 7,000 miles per year (5,000 miles less than the average, which is 12,000 miles per year) causes me to emit 7,500 pounds of C02 per year! Yikes. Really makes me think. I could get rid of my truck, or I could drive less. Since most of my driving consists of cross-country roadtrips, driving less would have to translate into hitching more, or taking Grayhound more (both of which would offer plenty of good points in addition to the environmental merits). For now I have no plans to get rid of my truck. But since I’m staying in one place for the next few months, I’ll only be driving an average of about 50 miles per month if that.

One thing I plan to do soon is write my elected officials and urge them to advocate tax incentives to companies that let their employees telecommute. I think that would go a long way toward reducing C02 emissions.

On a related note, of the six of us who attended the movie together, four drove to the theater, one in a high-mileage vehicle. One rode her bike, and one (me) walked. When I went up to the counter to get an extra squirt of butter for my popcorn, one of my (female, diet-obsessed) companions looked askance and said something like, “Whoa, if you’re gonna keep up that butter habit, you’d better step up your jogging!”

I just laughed and said, “Uh … have you taken a look at me lately?”

Walking is such a good way to see the city and to burn off recreationally consumed lipids. And Santa Fe, at least the part where I stay, seems to deploy outdoor illumination in moderation, making a nighttime walk a deliciously dark experience.

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Decompression

Posted on 18. Июнь, 2006 by Park Girl in musings

For the past 4-5 days I have been busy with big translation jobs on top of the work I’m supposed to be doing for my EcoVersity practicum. I’m extremely grateful for the money but the deadlines leave me totally wiped out, even if I were not also in school. I worked til 10 last night and from 6 this morning til noon, but finally the last big translation job (til tomorrow) is out the door!

At noon I paused and took a deep breath and asked myself … well, what do I do now?

The list of things I want to get around to is so ambitious that when I get a free moment, sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself. And sometimes I’m not very good at just plain ole’ taking a break. In this case I took a nice little walk down the street to retrieve my jacket which I had left at Plants of the Southwest yesterday. At the moment I am back on campus sipping a beer, sitting at the nicely shaded picnic table outside the library, where the wireless signal is good and the view of the bees alighting on the water plants in the stock tank to get a sip of water before their next pollination gig is pleasing. The weather here in Santa Fe is hot and sunny, humidity probably in the single digits.

I called my folks earlier to wish my Dad a happy Father’s Day. Where they are, in central Virginia, it is in the 90s and about 80% humidity. Also chatted with a couple of dear friends from home and that was sweet. Austin weather has been hot hot hot for weeks, temps in the 100s.

There are any number of projects I could get around to (like fixing the broken door on the big solar oven, for example), but if I manage to blog a bit and write in my journal, I’ll be satisfied for now.

Later this evening I will cook some fine garden-fresh veggies and upscale delectable gourmet dumpster plunder and quite probably have a nice soak in the solar hot tub. Lately I am in bed by 10 at the latest, sometimes even 9, and up at 6 or 6:30. The minimal use of artificial lighting on campus is conducive to following natural human rhythms.

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My Hot Social Calendar

Posted on 16. Июнь, 2006 by Park Girl in bioregionalism, permaculture

By my own choice, I don’t get out much these days. My favorite hangouts are my cozy, kitted-out truck (The Nanopalace) and the school library here at EcoVersity. But even a homebody’s gotta get out sometime. Tonight I’m going with some other EcoVersity folks (interns, teachers, staff, miscellaneous hangers-on) to Al Gore’s global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, which opens tonight at Devargas Theater. I do not go see doom-and-gloom films unless they also offer hope, practical advice, etc., which this film supposedly does. Back home in Austin, the movie opened two whole weeks ago, and friends who saw it liked it.

Then tomorrow I’m headed down the street to Plants of the Southwest, where Brad Lancaster, author of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, will be giving a presentation. For those of you in the Santa Fe listening area who might be interested, Plants of the Southwest is located at 3095 Agua Fria, and the presentation starts at 3:00 on Saturday.

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