Saturday, October 16, 2004


Food comes from the soil. Dirt treated well is soil. Dirt treated like dirt is what you pay for when you buy food that is not organic. Yes, yes, I know, sometimes it's just too expensive, but usually not.

Farmers' Markets are the sweet way to support organic and local produce. Ask the Farmer, because some, like Bob Cannard's stand, manned by his sons Ross and Marius, doesn't proclaim organic, since Bob, an iconoclast like me, doesn't want to do the paperwork.

In spring and summer and fall, but not now, on Saturday mornings you can buy organic produce out at the Sonoma Garden Park, which I hope to have them rename the Pauline Bond Garden Park. Anyway, this park, garden, little bit of paradise is my contribution to Sonoma so far.

I was intent on feeding the soil there, lots of organic matter. Green mulching the plots. Wood chipping the paths. Aw, we made the soil sweet. Soil and soul, and two way street.

There's another nice essay in here on gardening.

May your day be sweet and your life be a rich, full and beautiful garden.


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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Three visions: Sonoma 25 years from now

As a species humans are at a crossroads.

Continuing as we are going, one future could have Sonoma under a couple hundred feet of water when the ice caps melt from global warming. What happens to the real estate values then.

Another future is a scenario of mass starvation with genetically modified terminator technology having escaped out, causing an end to agriculture on this planet.

But, if human beings make a paradigm shift, and ecology is no longer the slave to economy ( both from the same root, meaning household, as in taking care of our household), and we have a new paradigm where ecology is at the heart of all we do, and economy is under that, as the servant: then we could have a bright and sweet future possible.

Here it is:

The horse farm is still at the corner of E. 2nd and E. Spain, and the Patch still grows food inside the city limits. The Montini Orchards is thriving and beautiful. The trees at the Garden Park are huge, and hundreds of children continue to thrive and learn because of their connection to that beautiful place.

The Overlook trail connects to a path all around the Valley and this connects to paths to the Bay, to the Ocean and to the Sierras.

A quarter of the streets have no cars on them. They are full of people on skates, skateboards, scooters, bicycles, tricycles, walking. A vast network of bike paths make it safe and easy for a child on a tricycle or bicycle to get anywhere in the city safely.

Visitors come up on light rail, which ends at a terminal where bikes can be rented and solar powered buses can take them anywhere in town. Most of the people in town walk, ride these solar buses, or ride bikes. There are lots and lots of three wheel bikes for the elderly, who have discovered that they don’t want to stay home watching television all day any more, but want to get out at live, talk to people, garden, learn languages, sing songs.

There is an eco village on the Eight Street side of the Garden Park ( which has been renamed the Pauline Bond Garden Park): in it houses are straw bale, cob and rammed earth, all water comes from the sky, all power from the sun.

Throughout the Valley there is eco housing. This Valley, filled with happy healthy people is widely admired and revered as a place with one of the lowest cancer and heart attack rates in the world. People here take happiness and being outside as central to their existence. Community has long ago overtaken the television as “what to do” in our spare time: songs, poetry, music, art, storytelling, hanging out, walking and talking and gardening and trail making and meditating and chanting and laughing together are seen as basic human activities.

We are a beacon to people throughout the world, a destination for ecotourism. We are full of businesses based on how to be happy, how to create the new paradigm, how to live well with less, how to slow down and be a human being instead of a human doing. We care about this central question: what is the meaning of a good life?

We are thinking like a watershed, we are acting like a watershed, we are sustainable. We produce our energy from the sun, we gather our water from the sky, we grown our fruits, vegetables and protein locally.

Within walking distance of everyone in the city is a garden where they can create food organically, to pick each day, put in their mouths and on their tables without having to get into a car.. This is why it’s important not to infill in the sardine fashion: no land = no space to garden and people cut off from the soil are cut off from their soul.

This is a Valley with a soul. Let’s keep it that way, help the paradigm shift humanity needs to make, and enjoy nature and life as our primary aims. As Hafiz said thousands of years ago: “When all our desires are distilled down to one, we will cast just two votes: to love more and to be happy.” Loving nature is part and core of a real happiness.

Thanks one and all. Help the vision come true. I know you will.

Please leave your comments about anything I missed in this essay. This is a vision we all need to help create and nourish. With love.
Chris Elms 996-1437

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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Some nice quotes

When the power of love is stronger than
the love of power
then the world will know peace.
Bumper sticker

When all your desires are distilled down
you will cast just two votes
to love more
and to be happy

I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.
Dali Lama

All happiness occurs when we are in the present, slowing down to walk, to listen, to breathe fresh air, to enjoy the taste of our food, to enjoy our friends and children. Quality of life arises from everyday happiness.
Chris Elms

What do you think of Western Civilization?

I think that that would be a very good idea.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.
Chief Seattle

Ecology is about connecting to Earth. It's about reversing the upside down world where life is planned around the automobile, where we are forgetting the miracle of having feet and being able to walk. It is about using the resources of nature, the sun and wind and rain, and being in harmony with them. It is about getting out of our car boxes, and our house and office boxes, and out into the fresh world from which all humanity came.

It is about building the soil more than we are using up, creating a relationship where soil and soul build on and nourish each other. It's about living in harmony with trees and soil and other life forms. It is about sleeping outdoors sometimes, and having creeks that we can get to and enjoy and that are alive and full of happy fish. And so on. Your heart knows all this.

Slowing down brings us back to the pace of nature, back to the present, back to a pace where we can know we are alive, and know the ones we love are important, and know how much we cherish and value nature.
Chris Elms

“We all need to see other people. We need to see green. Wealthy people can do that at clubs and private facilities. But most people can only do it in public squares, parks, libraries, sidewalks, greenways, public transit.”

“The least a democratic society should do is to offer people wonderful public spaces. Public spaces are not a frivolity. They are just as important as hospitals and schools. They create a sense of belonging. This creates a different type of society—a society where people of all income levels meet in public space is a more integrated, socially healthier one.”

“In Bogotá, our goal was to make a city for all the children. The measure of a good city is one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can safely go anywhere. If a city is good for children, it will be good for everybody else. Over the last 80 years we have been making cities much more for cars mobility than for children’s happiness.”

Enrique Peñalosa,

Former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia, quoted in an article in the current (October) ode magazine. You can find the whole article at > in this issue> the article is Cities of Joy.

The ultimate end to a growth economy is the same as an analogous growth: cancer. But for national economies, the victims are nature, soils, forests, people, water and quality of life. There is one, and only one, solution, and we have almost no time to try it. WE MUST TURN ALL OUR RESOURCES TO REPAIRING THE NATURAL WORLD AND TRAIN ALL OUR YOUNG PEOPLE TO HELP. The want to; we need to give them this last chance to create forests, soils, clean waters, clean energies, secure communities, stable regions, and to know how to do it from hands-on experience.
Bill Mollison, co-founder of Permaculture

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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Gardening: nature and mulch


Nature knows, nature grows, nature does it the easiest and most elegant way, and say, how can we imitate nature in our gardens.

BUILD SOIL FROM THE TOP DOWN. Nature doesn’t dig up soil, except for wild pigs. It throws down leaves and twigs and dead animals all to decay from the top down to make soil. In the garden, create your beds by laying down newspaper as a leaf substitute, put a little manure and kitchen waste under the paper, a little straw o compost over it and let it decay into soil in nature’s way.

NATURE COVERS THE EARTH IN WALL TO WALL ORGANIC MATTER. The only place that there are spaces between plants is in a desert. Look at most commercial farms, or those gardens with a lot of bare dirt between the plants and you see something looking more like a parking lot than nature.

In permaculture we call all this dirt showing between plants: brown desert. What to do about this? Grow more weeds for one. Many, as in purslane, mallow, dock, wild radish, wild chicory, and pigweed, are far more nutritious than anything grown commercially, by a factor of almost 10. Weeds also give the gophers and other critters something to eat beside your plants. Also, grow smaller plants between your bigger ones. And mulch, mulch, mulch, it’s not living and oxygen making like a weed, but at least it’s organic, and makes soil instead of little pockets of desert.


Above I commented of how Nature, in all climates except the desert, carpeted the Earth with 100% organic matter. A prairie is all plant, a forest has trees and plants and deep mulch, neither leaving any gaps unfilled with organic materials. In a garden, one way to fill the gaps between the designated plants, is with other plants, prairie fashion, either a weed or another designated plant. For example, winter squash or pumpkins were traditionally grown under corn to suppress the weeds and keep the hot sun off the ground. (Along with these two, beans growing up the corn made up the traditional Three Sisters of the Native American garden). Or you could grow lettuce or strawberries under sunflowers or apples tress over blueberries over lettuce. And so on.

You could also imitate the forest, spreading a thick carpet of organic mulch between your designated plants. You know about our cardboard and woodchip pathways. You know about newspaper and straw or compost between plants. In permaculture, comfrey is grown specifically as a mulch plant, taking advantage of its endless growth as a supply of leaves to pack down against the soil. Neighbors foolish enough not to leave the grass on their lawns when they are mowed, are another source of mulch, if the grass isn’t full of chemicals. Straw bales, or even more nutritious, hay, are a quick and easy way to pack in moisture saving, soil cooling and soil building organic material between your plants.

Think of yourself as a microorganism, busy converting organic matter to soil if the conditions are right. Would you want to hang around near the surface on a hot Sonoma summer day? Then again, under four to eight inches of straw or leaves or newspaper or plucked and piled up weeds, how would you feel now about sticking around and making some soil for the garden?

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