What’s burning in East Texas?

Just east of the Davy Crockett National Forest lies a little patch of red dirt I might one day call home. Douglass, Texas… crazy as it sounds, this place has a lot to offer. Pine trees, rich soils, natural springs, loving family and some of the most beautiful land in Texas are just a few of pleasures I have the good fortune to enjoy before my adventures ahead.

But is is all pleasure, the drought has hit this land particularly hard. Ponds and creeks are almost entirely dried up. Livestock and wildlife are struggling, not just to stay hydrated but to stay fed. Typical pastureland does not weather these arid extremes well… in fact, typical pastureland does not weather any extremes very well.

The vegetation is all but missing from the landscape this year. What is left hardly appeals to the ranging cattle. Many ranchers have sold off their herds early and those who haven’t have had to invest a lot in imported feed to keep them going. Either way, conditions like these make ranching a costly venture.

To make an already bleak situation worse, it seems when the high-pressure front that has hovered over most of Texas all summer, and prevented many a storm front from quenching this parched landscape, has at last moved on, it does so not with much needed rain but rather with raging winds.

As I write this, there are evacuations just minutes up the road from where I sit. The smell of smoke hangs in the air and an orange glow lights up the sky to the North West. All that lies between my parents sapped land and a devastating inferno is a pine forest (tinderbox) and a small band of dedicated firefighters.

For us, fortunately, we will be spared this evening. The winds are in our favor and the flames are unlikely to make it this far tonight. Here’s to hoping the winds don’t shift!

Other’s have not been so lucky. Continuing to add insult to injury, this summer will not subside without great losses to land, livestock, homes and wildlife. The thousands of acres ablaze across Bastrop and all throughout Texas today is an unfortunate example.

There are no easy solutions to the situation we are witness to this year. And, with the continual degradation of our landscape through deforestation, ecological neglect and agricultural misunderstandings there is a good chance the situation will get worse before it improves.

Not only is this trend held in place by many causes, it also doesn’t seem to be localized to just Texas. All across the world, deserts are expanding while natural forests decline at alarming rates.

Despite the obvious challenges, there is a lot that we can do to turn this trend around… but it’s going to take quite a shift from our current practices of land management. What we need is a holistic approach. Building on systems such as Holistic Land Management, Permaculture and reforestation efforts we can begin to rebuild our soils, buffer damage from natural disasters, recharge our springs, aquifers and rivers, and even increase precipitation.

These changes are going to require a great deal of cooperative effort on our part. Only by working together are we going to be able to have any substantial recuperative impact on our environment.

Leaning back

Kicking off the adventures right, these last two weeks have felt the equivelent of a month’s worth of activity. Aside from not blogging on this page, here’s a little taste of what I’ve been up to since my last blog post:

The adventure officially kicked off on Saturday, July 30 with the most inspirational display of community love and togetherness. Yes, it was a party. To call it an epic party might even qualify as an understatement. It was beautiful in all regards and elevated my spirit beyond any previous frame of reference.

After the explosion of love that was the end of July, the first weeks of August have been a whirlwind of organization and development. Not entirely centered around the development of my personal upcoming adventures (fortunately, much of that organization is already in place) but rather the organization of Community Cultivators.

Somehow, I’ve successfully managed to occupy more of my time on this development than my 40+ hours a week at Wheatsville. As you can imagine, a lot can get done in a couple of weeks with full time project development. A key to the future will be figuring out a way to make this work a paid gig (or at the very least, a self-sustaining one).

Recognizing the community had reached an obvious inflection point, the consensus could be felt hovering in the air and floating on the breath of every conversation… it’s time to get organized!

One meeting, two meetings, committees, defined roles, events, a list of projects, timelines… Engagement, involvement, inspiration, encouragement, excitement! These are but a few of the happenings I’ve been blessed to witness over the past two weeks… and, above all else, the deep understanding that we’ve only barely begun to scratch the surface of potential with in this thing we call Community!

From reading this blog it’s easy to extrapolate that this is about all I do. Well, yea… but what else is there? Follow your passion! There is no time to waste on anything that doesn’t feed your spirit!

I feel incredibly fortunate to have found a community of people as passionate about life as I. But I didn’t find that by sitting around my living room in apathy. Bare your passion to the world. If you don’t find your community, Cultivate it!

Yes, it takes time and it takes commitment… the benefits are well worth your efforts!

And now, I set myself out to embark on an adventure that will carry this passion around the globe. Life is as much about cultivation as it is about exploration.

Until then, leaning out: giving the community the opportunity to find its own identity and build its own narrative.

Separating myself has to be one of the most challenging parts of this whole process. So many beautiful things on the horizon.

From a continent away I will look on and watch how we grow together even while separated by great distance.

Blah blah… none of this is what you came to this blog to read. You want to hear about my adventures. Well, stay tuned. The adventures have just begun.

32 days from Honolulu. 42 from Kona. 52 from Molokai. 59 from Australia. and 64 from complete permaculture immersion!

Next stop… Douglass, Texas?

Starting with an affirmation

As the freedom of this epic journey starts to permeate further into my reality I am overwhelmed by the love and generosity of the beautiful community here. I’ve tried several times to capture my appreciation in words with little success. Rather than continue to blunder through that line let me get back to brass tax…

Last night I raised an additional $200 for my future permaculture aid work efforts. Despite what the ChipIn sidebar says, I am now a mere $50 from reaching my first goal of $1000 to carry the seeds of permaculture to parts of the world that are, for one reason or another, most in need of this revolution in ecological land management.
I never imagined I would come this far and, even more so, be so well received by you all. I’d like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my conviction that I intend to show you how your contribution has made a difference in the world. This is not some large faceless charity you’ve contributed to and I will refrain from trying to guilt you with images of starving children. I intend to pull back the veil on some of the root causes of poverty and famine and expose real solutions that demonstrate that the potential for abundance can be found anywhere.
That’s a tall order, I know. But I don’t have any hesitation in saying your contributions will go toward accomplishing just that. I’ve separated the donated money from my personal accounts and travel expenses. This will help to ensure that each dollar donated goes directly to these goals and I will not withdraw on that money until I feel I can justify its use toward that end.

Indeed I feel very fortunate to be in a place were I can take this leap and experience life in this way. None of this has come easy and I have no illusions about the incredible challenges that lie ahead. I arrived here through hard work and dedication, however, what I’m doing is not extraordinary. Rather, it is the result of applying myself to what I truly believe. Life is what we make it…

YOU make it amazing!

To all the people who have inspired me and helped to make this journey possible…
~My Deepest Thanks~


“Does it feel weird?”

A mix between loss and gain. Opportune blessing strung together through separation and farewells.
How does it feel? How’s it going to feel?
As more and more of my past is trimmed away I keep wondering how this is going to all turn out. My mind pacifies itself envisioning scenarios of other world views. But, how can I envision the world to come without the lenses only experience can provide?
I think the trick to evolution is letting go of all this. The filters that disguise our reality eventually inhibit our experience. The optometrist told me I have perfectly healthy eyes as I sat wondering why I was paying for a new pair of glasses.
What is it like to leave the door open on your future? Does it feel weird?
Only if you are tied to your past. Some of us are… painfully so.
Evolution doesn’t often happen without some discomfort.
Every time a bird moults its feathers, and a snake sheds its skin, as painful as it might be… new opportunities emerge. Minor adaptations that can build into competitive advantage… or increased cooperative associations! 
Your mind has the same potential. By shedding your mental dialog which, for all intents and purposes, is the skin of your mind, you open yourself up for new opportunities… 

Ready or not…

My bag is packed. Yes, I said bag. As in singular.

Ok, so I will have a second bag… for my books. Aside from that, I have consolidated my life for the next year + into one bag. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m still having a hard time grasping it.

It’s like it’s all happening of it’s own accord now. A flow.

Maybe more like a torrent?

By the end of the weekend I’ll be for all intents and purposes, homeless. Really, that is to say, I will not have my inviting bed and only a hardwood floor to lay my head. Well, thats not true either.

Now, lets be completely honest… the point of this blog post is not to waste your time with silly exaggerations because…
Ready or not – IT’S TIME TO PARTY!

You are cordially invited to my Permaculture Adventure Kickoff!

When: Saturday, July 30th at 8pm — until the party ends.

Join me at the Deadend Homestead:
3616 Pennsylvania Ave

Hope to see you there!!

Minutes from freedom

I’m continually humbled by the generosity and genuine graciousness of my community. Everyday I’m reminded of the great gift I’ve been given in this life… that really, IS this life! It’s powerful stuff and it deserves constant acknowledgement and reverence.

It’s hard to comprehend that less then a month from now this journey that has been nearly a year in the making will officially be in full swing. Granted, I’m not stepping on a plane until Mid-September. This often leads people to the impression that my experience doesn’t start until my flight. I’ve learned that my experience is not defined by airports and long-distances but, rather, by experience itself… and, since even before this journey was conceived, my experiences were driving me to this point. If it were to all end here, I’d have no regrets!
That is not to say that the experiences to come aren’t themselves full of excitement… quite the contrary! What I’m trying to express is the recognition I’ve come to that, although I’m approaching a whole new chapter of my life, I’m not starting over… nor will the next chapter be somehow independent from this one. Essentially, the way I look at it, I’ve already begun this journey… in fact, I’ve been on this journey for a long time now. Each chapter has been unique and interesting and held an excitement all it’s own but never has one chapter been independent of all the rest.
Even in the day in and out routines of modern work life I’ve been traveling and building upon the book of my experience. Sure, those chapters might bore you to tears and seem to drag on and on… not all the chapters in an adventure novel can be about slaying dragons and exploring unknown territories! Some chapters are about character development and setting up the story. An author sacrifices these details at his own peril… and we, without clear vision and zeal, can easily fail to see how a moment of drudgery can lead us to pure ecstatic freedom [if only for a moment]! 
So, when I’m asked, “how much longer before you start your journey?” I find it hard not to question what the person’s definition of this journey is. Mostly, when asking this question, it seems what people really want to know is “what’s your timeline?”
With all my material possessions being divvied out amongst friends and family, my residence for the over the past year already rented to new tenants, and the training of my replacement at work… it would seem pretty silly for me to say that I’ve not already begun!
Where does this “new chapter” begin to unfold, you ask? Well, on Friday, July 29th I’ll celebrate my last day at Wheatsville Co-op. That weekend will also mark the moment in time where my home will officially transfer into the hands of it’s new tenants. That may be the most definite mark of this transition. At that time I will move from a life dominated by obligations and responsibilities to one defined much more by inspirations and aspirations.
“Oh, but you still have a long time to go before you leave. What are you going to do until then?”
Yes, my flight does not leave until September 14th. And yes, That means I have a whole month and a half with no job and no home. What am I going to do for a month and a half?! [feel free to imply deep tones of sarcasm to that statement]
I have some plans. I have some ideas. Most of all… I have nothing to hold me back! What will I do? I’ll live a moment of freedom! A moment of unscripted vitality! Yes, a much deserved vacation!
If you know me well enough… you know that I find it hard to not be productive, even while I sleep (yes, I listen to audio books sometimes when I sleep… it’s educational). So, even this “vacation” is not intended to be a laze fest. I want to take this opportunity to return some of this beautiful and amazing gift to those who’ve shared so generously with me. 
On this new chapter I’ve yet to embark, but the journey has been underway for the entirety of my life up to this point… thank you for being apart of that!

Discovering Permaculture in San Diego…

This past weekend was a strange mix fun, education and awkwardness. It started Thursday when I arrived at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego for a national conference of retail grocer cooperatives. You can surely imagine the irony of hundreds of old hippy co-operators invading the Hard Rock Hotel in Sunny San Diego. With out a doubt, the irony would only became more pronounced as the weekend progressed.

There are few things in this world that I find more fascinating than a less-than-subtile reminder that I live in a bubble of my own making. Exposer to the “hard rock” lifestyle, as prescribed by the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego being no exception. I’ll get to more of that in a minute…

A Hard Rock Checkin
I arrived in San Diego with high expectations. This would be my third year to attend a CCMA conference and the last time I would attend under my current board term. At the end of August, I will turn over my seat on the Wheatsville board of directors in preparation for my highly anticipated journey Down-under!
CCMA has proven in the past to be an “experiment in sleep deprivation”… quoted directly from Wheatsville’s own General Manager, Dan Gillotte. For three event-filled days it’s learn, listen, eat, drink, party, prattle, rinse and repeat. 
The conference always kicks off with a series of pre-arranged tours of the host city and all that it has to offer (or at least a decent cross section). Last year, I visited several farms throughout southern Indiana, ending up at a winery for wine and cheese tastings… yum! The year before that, I had an (unplanned) 32 hour tour of the DFW airport (the details of which I’d rather not go into) that resulted in me missing the (planned) tours of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
So you can imagine my anticipation of this event when I found a tour that included a permaculture farm in the Souther San Diego valley!
“Perfect!” I thought, assuming that this would be a great opportunity for me to get my feet wet before immersing myself in the permaculture travel blog that awaits me. Well, as you can probably tell from my lead-in… that is not exactly how things turn out.
Arriving with high aspirations, check-in at the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel gives me a small taste of what’s ahead. My room is not ready?… Wait. What do you mean my room is not ready? Oh, you need a credit card to charge the room to, even though it’s already been paid for?… right. No, I do not have $850 dollars just hanging out on my debit card, sorry. No, I don’t think I’d like to have a $850 dollar hold on my card for a room that isn’t even ready yet, thanks. Can the strange blocky dude with the generic tribal armband tattoo hold my bag while I wait for my room?… yea, I guess. 
Whew, thank goodness that’s over with… now, on to the tour! Wait… not enough busses? Didn’t we register in advance? Bummer, I really had my heart set on visiting a permaculture farm. I guess it’s on to the Historical San Diego tour?… still not enough room, right!
It appears that all the busses have left the station… except for one — “Hello public transit!” San Diego’s finest! Get your gear together friends… it’s time for an adventure!
See the farm!… A battle cry of sorts. Tour number five, a motley crew of co-opers, blazes on into the great unknown!
The Adventures of Tour Number Five

Well, so far, my plans were not exactly working out as I had hoped. But, I had to check my baggage at the door (yea, that guy with the tight tee-shirt took ’em, remember?) and count my blessings. At least I was with a group of great people who shared my passion for co-ops and sustainable agriculture!
In the midst of our exploration of San Diego’s public transportation system, I lifted my head from the cacophony of co-operative conversation and immediately realized — I’m still in my bubble!
The stoic faces of San Diego’s hapless stared back at me. What a strange disruption to their afternoon commute we must have been. It was obvious that an examination of co-operative governance styles was not on their list of things they hoped to be exposed to on that fateful day. 
The swaying palm trees of Southern Cali

The public transport system had taken us as far as it could. Only our feet would deliver us now.
By this point we had completely embraced the idea of making Tour Number Five one to remember! There was plenty of sight seeing opportunities along the way and our lack of tour guild lent itself to uninhibited discovery. 
On our final leg of the tour before finally reaching Wind Willow Farm, we stumbled upon an expansive community garden in the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park. The community garden was host to many interesting sights. It was there that we discovered what can only be described as one of San Diego’s great hidden treasures, guarantied not to be found in any tourist guide… Behold! San Diego’s most unusual palm tree!!
Ok, ya got me… the picture on the left is NOT of a palm tree. This is, however,  one of the oldest brassica I’ve ever seen! In Central Texas, we have to mulch deep to weather brassica like this through our brutal summer, and sometimes all the mulch in the world isn’t sufficient. This little dinosaur needed nothing more than the uninterrupted beauty of Souther California’s climate and a cool coastal breeze to survive through several seasons and result in the canopy of leafy green goodness you see here.
Wind Willow Farm, finally.

At long last, as the official tour bus pulled away, our destination was in sight… Wind Willow Farm and Education Center was just around the next bend (the one that tour bus just pulled around. yea, that one!) 
Well, we probably should have called ahead. Thankfully, these were possibly some of the most hospitable farmers one could find in the Tijuana Valley. 
Mel Lions, a man with an obvious passion for his work greeted us. “did the bus leave without you?” he questioned. “No, we’re the unplugged tour… we didn’t want to be constrained to the guided tours and decided to explore the real San Diego. We took the public transit system.”
“Well, in that case, I think you all deserve a tour!”
To be continued…