Welcome to Wild Blossoms Farm

Whoa, it’s been quite a ride these past several moons.. I can’t think of a time more dramatic .It didn’t look like it was going to be so crazy last verano (the dry and windy season that kind of correlates with a northern summer). I was the sole permanent member, homesteading RADi on my own, while running over to Seed Camp a couple days per week to give suggestions and answer questions. Lukas was the main anchor at Seed Camp through until solstice, and with him, the dry season was full of beautiful people that brought me lots of gratitude and laughter. Matt and Taylor, Matt and Kristine, The Fun Swedes (Linus and Love), helped ease the burden in more ways than one.

image

After equinox, everybody but Lukas and Kristine had left, and we were settling into a routine. Keisha had written, saying that she and Casey were no longer interested in keeping the goats, but Kristine talked me into taking them. I went from deciding not to have goats anymore, to reluctantly being a goat caretaker, to agreeing into another goat partnership. When will i learn?? So, with her commitment declared, we brought up a male goat for the ladies to enjoy, and everybody got together and in a few days built the main structure for a little goat herder cabin just above the social project.

Around the solstice, the community vibe transformed completely. Lukas bid us farewell, while Keisha, Casey, and Darcy all came back up. Suddenly Seed Camp had a mission! The plan is to fix the place up in order to host retreat style workshops and classes. On top of the members, Jeff, Jen and Michael were an awesome volunteer team that joined the party. They decided to start with an earthbag structure on the north side of the kitchen, where the old oven used to be (and model 3.2 is built and rock(et)ing!). This will become a shower, but became the sink, while the kitchen and dining room moved to the deck and the rest of the old Seed Camp kitchen was gutted. It was sad to see her go. I remember fondly of the days when that WAS Sacred Sueňos. All of it, surrounded by bracken ferns and possibility. It was the perfect cabin for a crazy kid and the beautiful folk who’d come up to visit, help, and call home (Trini, i miss you in particular!).

The kitchen floor was tiled, and new counters were built and tiled. The sink, kitchenware, and table returned, and the library concentrated in the loft. It looks lovely, and will be even more beautiful with the planned cabinets. That, actually, is not the dramatic part that I alluded to at the beginning…

image

The dramatic part is that… just after the community returned to Seed Camp… Kristine found out that… she was pregnant…and i’m the father…

Considering that i’d been looking into vasectomies for a few years before this moment, you can probably imagine my resistance and regret, but Kristine wants to have the baby, so I can only support her, and the new being about to join the 7 billion as we go on a turbulent ride into the future.

My support starts with RADi, by no longer being RADi. It’s now Wild Blossoms Farm, and i’ll continue my development of the site by focusing on a well designed homestead that raises the animals which Kristine’s interested in raising (the goats, ducks, chickens, and rabbits), and gardens for home consumption as well as for planting a diversity of ingredients for medicinal products, which she sells at the organic market in town. We’re definitely focusing on income generation. I had to skip my yearly fall workation while everybody was away, and was only compensated with enough to last me until March. Since then i’ve been living off of Kristine’s savings. Not a responsible dad. So i’m blessed to have Matt return in July so that i can go off and bring in some financial security. Kristine’s due in mid September, and i plan on returning not too long after that

image

Until July, keep working on Wild Blossoms Farm. The rabbit runs are finished and ready for a steady stream of bunnies and garden bed material. We’ve already got fifteen, but will reduce it to 8 or so by the time Matt gets here, and will grow when i return. A dozen chicks already roam the new chicken run. A new and improved goat house by the duck pond, and just starting to make cheese (the babies, two sets of triplets, were adorable, but lots of energy. Giving them away is so bittersweet). Half a dozen terraced garden beds have been constructed so far, with plans for many more. On top of that, we hope to finish two small cabins and an apothecary by the time i leave! I couldn’t do it on my own, but luckily Ale returned in the beginning of April! I’m so happy to have her working beside me, and honoured to have her in my life at all, considering the circumstances.

Polyamorous relationships are difficult in any circumstance, more so when sharing a project and home,  and even more so when a pregnancy is involved. But true Love is free. It’s about respect and support and not constraint and possession. I couldn’t imagine how and if our conflicts (between, yes, but mostly within ourselves) could be resolved where it not for the tools given by Non-Violent Communication, and the will of us three to live in harmony.

image

While i feel this space, Wild Blossoms Farm, to be growing into a communal feel, my connection with the Seed Camp has sadly drifted. Even after the community returned, I was still giving one or two days per week to bring up food and materials with the horses, but no one ever came to help me out on my projects. There were several instances where i thoug thought we were working together and felt holding the stick, and a few instances where i needed help and realized that nobody had my back. So, i’ve decided to step back, and focus on my own projects instead of helping Seed Camp. It feels sad, but the extra days each week that i can dedicate to my projects, and Wild Blossoms Farm, honour me so much more. And with Seed Camp populated by a steady flow of volunteers, i don’t think the burden will be too heavy on them. I’m still always ready to lend a hand if needed, but no longer will allow it to be expected.

image

It seems like i’ve talked about change a couple of blogs in the past, so i don’t know if this is a theme, or if i’m just over-repetitive? Well, here i go again: While i thought that my life was going to be simple and straight forward on this little remote mountainside, it turns out that my life, my world, has a habit of radically transforming, and my dreams with it. Yes, the sunsets remain stunning, the connection with the land is constant, but those anchors barely seem to hold me within the currents of my social and spiritual being. I still dream of the change i want to make in my life within the next couple years, but in the meantime life will take me to un-imagined places, and all i can do is remind myself to appreciate the ride! 

Looking back, staying present

SOME WEEKS AGO:

The last couple of moons have brought me a familiarity of another time. Those first years, when I would spend long stints completely alone, falling into routines, forced into reflection, talking to myself, to any animate object, and perhaps a few inanimate, as well. There was some loneliness back then, i admit, but what i’ve been reminiscing about has been the sense of calm that comes from focusing on the land. Literally being one with nature.  I also appreciate the freedom to sing to goats, argue with ducks, and be a happy freak without any judgment. Even before these moons of solitude, though, for a full spin around the sun, actually, I’ve been blessed with the comings and goings of Ale, a very adept freak enabler. She was also an astounding work enabler, and we managed to accomplish quite a lot while she was here during invierno, the rainy season. We finished the pond and got some ducks for it, made a little aviary and got 30 quail (but 29 were male, and we’ve eaten most of them), and with help from Lutz and a fun crew, we put up the main structure for the SolariYome. Bam!

image

image

Ale left during the same week that Louisa, Keisha, Casey, Chad, and Kyrsten left as well, a couple of moons ago. Lutz was still around, but only came up for a couple days every couple weeks. A while before, Deb and Edwin had moved into the valley and disappeared into a secluded love nest. So it got quiet, quickly.

It feels fondly familiar to those first years that i lived in the Seed Camp kitchen. Lots of solitude and serenity. Ample time to lose myself in daydreams and self-dialog while working. Those first years  immersed me in a peace that cleared my head and allowed me to understand myself better, and i can feel it happening again, now. Of course,  there are significant differences. I’m not completely alone on the mountainside. Lukas, who volunteered here last year, has returned. He’s made the Seed Camp his home, and we see each other a couple of times a week. Another difference is the number and diversity of animals and birds. I’m not only talking about the farm animals, though i appreciate the entertainment, and connection that the horses, goats, dogs, cat rabbits, chickens, ducks, and quail provide me. I’m also talking about all the wildlife that now exists here. If the biodiversity continues to increase at the rate that i’ve been experiencing lately, i can’t imagine what this mountainside will look like in the decades to come.

image

Perhaps the most significant difference is my level of confidence. In those first days, i wasn’t sure if i could do it, build it, plant it. I wondered if i were going to find community, if the land could be regenerated significantly, if i could find the right tools to grow my skills, and grow as a person. Today, well, i still have some insecurities, and will continue to deal with them as i take on new challenges, but when it comes to the challenges that i began this adventure with, I feel that i am succeeding.

image

AND NOW:

From solitude to multitudes! These past few weeks have brought a number of volunteers, nearly filling all the beds at Seed Camp. It’s a pretty good crew, good talks, fun lessons, and new bonds forming. Strangely, i still feel like i’m comparing this with the past. Not those first years of relative solitude, but the next few years, when a more permanent community didn’t yet exist, but the flow of volunteers was steady. My memories of that time, however, are not as romanticized as my first years. Managing volunteers without being a boss is like trying to herd cats, and i didn’t do the greatest job during those last couple years at the seed camp. Without the rest of the community, I have to be responsible for the volunteer program again. But again, there are some significant changes. Being able to live at a distance has given me the space to breath when i need to, and for a while, Lukas tried to take some of the responsibility. The most significant and optimistic difference between the past and now, though, has been how Non-Violent Communication is radically changing how i deal with people, including myself, when i feel my emotions triggered. I’m not perfect. I’ve asked the crew to call me out if i do get grumpy or short with anyone, but most people don’t usually tell me until well after their stay. Hopefully, these guys will be the ones who write me in years to come, and tell me that I inspired them, not that i offended them.

image

On a different note, I’ve reconsidered what i’m doing with RADi. At the moment, Keisha,
and Casey, who are the most committed to living at Sacred Sueňos on a relatively permanent basis after i leave, have said that they don’t want to be responsible beyond the land that i originally liberated. Well, i’m going to have to find somebody who’ll keep RADi thriving when i’ve done my share of regenerating and developing it. Asking somebody to take on something like a design institute may be asking too much, so i’ve decided to humble my plans, and just focus on making a very easy to manage homestead. I’m announcing this mainly to force me to update the website sooner than later. We’re still planning on giving classes, workshops, and retreats at the Seed Camp, and i’ll always offer free weekly regenerative seminars to anybody who wants to participate.

image

I know that i’ve still got a few years before my fifteen year promise to this land is fulfilled, and I may find myself playing on the mountainside a year or two beyond that, but i can sense a shift. I’m now visualizing the end game, setting final goals, even imagining the possible lives i could be living beyond this one. It won’t be easy to let this place go, and luckily i don’t have to go through that right now. Today, i get to appreciate the sunset, breath the fragrant mountain air, taste the pure spring water, and relish in a lifestyle that has fulfilled me in ways i could never have imagined. I’m so grateful that i found this path, and that so many have joined me on it, one step at a time.

image

image

New path for an old star

image

I thought i was celebrating my personal new year during the solstice, watching the sun set furthest south on the Cordillera Occidental, the clouds turning pink, then mauve above the already moon-lit mountain range. I remember thinking about how Ecuador has a tradition at the turn of the Roman year, of burning effigies, called ‘los viejos,’ representing issues during the past year that should just be burnt and forgotten. I wondered what my viejo would be, and concluded that it should be a frail old version of myself. The entire week leading up to then had me coping with a bad back that made me feel twice my age. I suppose it serves me right for jumping into full mountain man role after an extremely sedentary six weeks in the USA. Turning 40 had caused an obsession with the idea that i was becoming an old man, and the back pain seemed to only encourage the idea. I knew it was temporary, and that if i let go of the idea, let my body heal some, that the child within me could easily return.  

image

I think it’s interesting that here the focus is on the year that passed, while up north i would concentrate on the promises and resolutions for the year to come. That solstice, i followed the Ecuadorian tradition, without a clue to the change a new year could bring…

While i was in the USA, old Santi, and pregnant Elli, joined Butters and Maple at the Seed Camp, and the horses moved to the giant pasture between Seed Camp and RADi. It should have been smooth and peaceful for Andrea to caretake RADi were it not for repeated incursions by a malnourished bull.. and the fact that she was in the first trimester of pregnancy! She’s currently up north, but is now on her way back to Vilcabamba.

image

It wasn’t just me being out of shape, nor merely the expected culture shock, that made my return to Sacred Sueňos feel uncomfortable. I felt a barrier between myself and the community, felt i was isolated and stuck in a bit of a rut. A month later, two weeks after solstice, there was a blow out between the volunteer crew and one of the members that gave the tribe a little shake-up, and forced us to talk about personal issues and desires for growth. The volunteer crew was made up of really cool people, and it sucked that they got to a point where they all decided to leave. I wish they had communicated to the member before letting it build up to this point, but i appreciate that the incident had revealed some important insights, and begun a much needed discussion on ways for all of us to work on communication. Everybody, not only the member involved in this conflict, could work on non-violent communication. The opportunity for us to all work on it together makes me so happy.  Nothing concrete had been worked on, yet, but the potential for time spent together, for genuine connection, gave me hope. I could finally see a bright light beyond the gray dawn of the past moon.

image

A few days later, i left for Quito, to pick up Alejandra and soak in some hot springs. I was looking forward to returning to a tribe again. Deb, Keisha, Casey, Lutz and his new girlfriend, Luisa, were already at the farm. Chad was on his way back, with his fiancé, Kristin. Even Darcy had returned to Vilcabamba and was considering returning to Sacred Sueňos! I had just made it to RADi, on my way to deliver the Sunday market goodies with the horses, when i got the call that Eli had died. She was tied near the trail to make it easier for me to bring her back from the Seed Camp, and she managed to break her neck.

I’m grateful for Ale’s compassion and ability to help me through my emotional initial response. It took me a bit of time to accept the loss, accept that my days as the goat cheese guy were over. We skinned her, harvested what we could from her. I’ve been offered new goats to replace Eli, but i don’t think i want a RADi herd anymore. Eli was such a fantastic girl, producing gorgeous kids, and making the milk that nourished me, and financially supported me through the cheeses i sold. I adored her, and with one incident, i lost so much. Perhaps it’s time to try new things, and find new products to diversify my income. I got a few breeds of chickens, and a flock of quail. Once the aviary is finished, Ale and i will build a shed for rabbits. The tilapia pond will probably be completed in the next few weeks, not only for the fish, but also some ducks. There’s even talk about a couple of pigs. I’ll also see what value added products the growing gardens and edible forest may bring as well. And of course i’m happy to be a goat sitter   for the Seed Camp’s herd, so there’s still be the odd cheese. Not only am i sure that i’ll find ways for the farm to support me, but i’m also definite that i’ve got many opportunities to experiment, make small mistakes, and learn new things.

image

I think that the shared tragedy of losing Eli, and the bond created during her harvest, has actually strengthened the tribal connection. I haven’t felt this level of mutual support in years! And with 9 or 10 members at Sacred Sueňos for the next few months, such mutual support is going to make a lot of dreams manifest. The Solstice may have been a good astronomical marker for another cycle of our shared planet twirling around the sun, but i feel that a new year for Sacred Sueňos began with the sacrifice of a pregnant golden goat.

The long dry summer

Mid July to September brought together a magical crew. It was so refreshing to have a group of volunteers so full of enthusiasm, responsibility, teamwork, and deep connections. I think it helped to have Deb be the Seed Camp mama. I really appreciate her contribution to the community. It was a fun team, bent on filling the days together, working, learning, and playing. I finally got real progress on the SolariYome at RADi. Andrea had a team when she wanted to develop her site. The Seed Camp and all the animals were well loved. A drip was installed in the upper orchard that has saved hours per week of work, and hundreds of liters of inefficient water allocation. It wasn’t all roses, though. One volunteer ran off to avoid paying for the three weeks he spent here. Worse, Zoe, the Seed Camp dog, followed him down. By the time we realized he wasn’t coming back up, we alerted friends in town.. but haven’t yet been able to find Zoe. It surprised me how even through that, the community vibe managed to stay positive. That’s impressive, that our love could overcome our sense of betrayal. I truly felt Love for everybody in that crew. And one, Alita, i connected with even deeper. If all goes well, she’ll be coming back in January. Just as the magical crew was in the last week before disbanding, Andrea, too, fell in Love, with a peruvian artisano. So she put on her butterfly wings, and fluttered off with the guy. She’s currently part of a nomadic tribe that makes crafts to sell, mainly to backpackers on the Gringo trail. I believe she’s in Chile at the moment. I hope she enjoys the experience, but not enough to keep her from coming home eventually.

image

A couple of days after the southbound equinox, the sun made a trip directly overhead. This year, the passage was extra powerful. Big Sun. The dry season has been intense and unrelenting, turning the mountains yellow. Thankfully, our springs are still flowing enough to keep the edible landscapes green, and the majority of Sacred Sueňos is covered with native shrubs and trees that have adapted to this climate. The pastures are taking a hit, though. Grasses are yellowing and withering, and the forage shrubs are slow to bud out after browsing. Ensuring access to forage has become a juggling game for us. Only Bosque truly respects the electric fences, Joe and the RADi goats, Santi and Eli, only stay in as long as the eating’s good. I’ve been spending a lot of time chasing hooves, and the Seed Camp has been having a share, chasing Butter’s kids. Those guys don’t even respect the mesh netting! With an average of 0.5 volunteers participating through September, The animals have taken up most of our time.

image

Lutz, Lexi, and Eli returned at the last half of August, but unfortunately there are issues between Lutz and Lexi that they are unwilling to resolve at the moment. Lexi and Eli have spent the last month at Sacred Sueňos, with Lutz visiting on Sundays. Lexi is considering leaving Sacred Sueňos within the next weeks. It’s difficult to let go of people who seem so at home here. I must accept that i am powerless regarding this circumstance. I wish her and Eli all the best, and am open to welcoming them, and Lutz, to rejoin the tribe, whenever the time is right for them.

image

When the dry season gets as sever as these current days, one of my favorite trees, Aliso, draws nutrients out of its leaves, and drops them. I feel myself mimicking them, pulling into myself. I’ve long accepted a hermit aspect within me, but these past weeks have been full of a desire for solitude. I’m not judging myself. The peace is lovely, my mind has more clarity. Like the Aliso, the time will come when i bud out again, but for now, i’ll appreciate the coziness of social dormancy.

Looking into my crystal ball.. Keisha and Casey believe they will be returning at the end of October, and Chad should be back when it gets too cold up north. Andrea committed to returning to caretake while I take a break. I was hoping to leave sometime in the last weeks of October, visit some beloveds, and possibly get on a friends’s ecuador bound boat in November… if El Nino doesn’t make that too risky. Whether by water or air, i will return well before the southern solstice, when the mountains  should be green again. But for now, i’ll ignore the parched yellow hills, and enjoy the stunning sunsets, and the magnificent night sky, revealing a cosmos so vast and old that i am humbled, and i am honoured to be able to appreciate it all.

image

A few words from the hermit

image

The winds have arrived with a vengeance this year, blasting the mountainside with a fury that i haven’t felt since august 2012. I remember that season, when the dust obscured the view, and a gust picked up Amanda’s meditation hut, and not so gently tossed it down the hill. Well, lessons have been learned since then, and i’m betting that we won’t be losing any roofs.. but some plants at RADi are definitely getting a beating since the windbreak isn’t yet established. It’s also sad to see the wind blowing away soil exposed by road and house construction on nearby mountainsides, and to witness the first uncontrolled fire of the season destroy hundreds of hectares of land.

image

The advent of the dry season has got me into building mode. Since Keisha and Casey are heading to the US for some months, i may end up distracted by the extra responsibilities, but i’ve got big plans nonetheless. Over the next few months, i hope to build a little bedroom (protected from winds and rains a bit more than the wall-less loft where i currently sleep), as well as the ‘solari-yome’, a small greenhouse that’ll mimic a humid tropical climate, with the help of a hot tub and mass heater. Even though i’m not really interested in the whole cleanliness thing, the thought of regular hot baths does get me pretty excited! If it comes down to one or the other, i’ll take the bath over the bedroom before the rains come.

image

As i begin digging ground on my building projects, the rest of the community is finishing an assortment of their own construction jobs. Andrea has put up her greenhut, where she plans on sleeping and storing materials until she builds her dream home. Lutz and Lexi had almost finished their new cabin, just before leaving for Germany last month (they plan on returning at the end of August). And Keisha and Casey are now plastering their gorgeous new earth bag home. I’m amazed by how quickly Sacred Sueňos is growing!

I admit to hypocrisy when i cheer community members building their houses while i grumble about the  development going on across the yamburara valley. Of course, everyone has a right to do what they wish on their property, but that doesn’t mean it’s not attractive for me to see several tin roofs connected by power lines, and to hear mufflerless motorcycles on the new road. Once, i could relate and connect to my neighbourhood by our lifestyles. Now that the American Dream™ has arrived, i find myself more isolated. I’m that crazy neighbour who refuses to sign the petition asking the government to build a road or power grid to and through the land. At least there haven’t been any conflicts. To my knowledge, my neighbours have accepted my decisions, just as i must accept theirs.

image

….So… It’s been three days since i wrote the previous paragraphs, and the winds have stopped for a rainy spell. The rainbows heralded Santi’s birthing of Cedrone (also known as Lance 2), and Silk Oak (Silky). Butters is due within the next couple of weeks. Baby goats are so cute!!! I’m probably going to bring up a billy for Elli next month, so there’ll be another round of kids come southern solstice!

The logistics crew remains Joe and Bosque, though there has been talk about reintroducing donkey to our herd. Bonnie has been happily retired at Martha’s farm, and we miss her, though not so much her stubborn slowness 😉 For now, though, J0 and Bosque are doing a fantastic job. Bosque has calmed down a lot, to the point where he’ll even allow volunteers to check his hooves. J0 is beginning to accept awkward loads, and now even hauls 6m lengths of bamboo up the mountain from the river. Unfortunately, they work best as a team with me. While i was away, Lutz and Casey brought up a lot of building materials by hand rather than deal with loading and leading horses. Saddlebags full of groceries is one thing, but tying long awkward material on a large animal, and making it hike through narrow trenches and up steep and sometimes slippery terrain…it’s tough. But one trip with the horses can bring up 10 times what i could carry on my own back. Thank you, J0 and Bobo!!

image

I’ve been doing a little less do, and a bit more talk, lately: I’ve spent a little time consulting for other permaculture projects in the area; I’ve had the pleasure of teaching components of a few PDC courses, and other workshops off the farm; And i’m now offering weekly seminars, covering a wide array of topics, to willing residents of Sacred Sueňos. I’m still most focused on building, planting, tending, and experimenting, but i think it’s time i begin sharing some of the insights that i’ve gained with my experience so far. Though i lamented earlier the growth of the American Dream™, i want to end this blog by appreciating all the people i’ve met who are passionate about a solutions based lifestyle. Thank you for the inspiration and ideas you have given me. I want to give as well.

image

image

The winds have arrived with a vengeance this year, blasting the mountainside with a fury that i haven’t felt since august 2012. I remember that season, when the dust obscured the view, and a gust picked up Amanda’s meditation hut, and not so gently tossed it down the hill. Well, lessons have been learned since then, and i’m betting that we won’t be losing any roofs.. but some plants at RADi are definitely getting a beating since the windbreak isn’t yet established. It’s also sad to see the wind blowing away soil exposed by road and house construction on nearby mountainsides, and to witness the first uncontrolled fire of the season destroy hundreds of hectares of land.

image

The advent of the dry season has got me into building mode. Since Keisha and Casey are heading to the US for some months, i may end up distracted by the extra responsibilities, but i’ve got big plans nonetheless. Over the next few months, i hope to build a little bedroom (protected from winds and rains a bit more than the wall-less loft where i currently sleep), as well as the ‘solari-yome’, a small greenhouse that’ll mimic a humid tropical climate, with the help of a hot tub and mass heater. Even though i’m not really interested in the whole cleanliness thing, the thought of regular hot baths does get me pretty excited! If it comes down to one or the other, i’ll take the bath over the bedroom before the rains come.

image

As i begin digging ground on my building projects, the rest of the community is finishing an assortment of their own construction jobs. Andrea has put up her greenhut, where she plans on sleeping and storing materials until she builds her dream home. Lutz and Lexi had almost finished their new cabin, just before leaving for Germany last month (they plan on returning at the end of August). And Keisha and Casey are now plastering their gorgeous new earth bag home. I’m amazed by how quickly Sacred Sueňos is growing!

I admit to hypocrisy when i cheer community members building their houses while i grumble about the  development going on across the yamburara valley. Of course, everyone has a right to do what they wish on their property, but that doesn’t mean it’s not attractive for me to see several tin roofs connected by power lines, and to hear mufflerless motorcycles on the new road. Once, i could relate and connect to my neighbourhood by our lifestyles. Now that the American Dream™ has arrived, i find myself more isolated. I’m that crazy neighbour who refuses to sign the petition asking the government to build a road or power grid to and through the land. At least there haven’t been any conflicts. To my knowledge, my neighbours have accepted my decisions, just as i must accept theirs.

image

….So… It’s been three days since i wrote the previous paragraphs, and the winds have stopped for a rainy spell. The rainbows heralded Santi’s birthing of Cedrone (also known as Lance 2), and Silk Oak (Silky). Butters is due within the next couple of weeks. Baby goats are so cute!!! I’m probably going to bring up a billy for Elli next month, so there’ll be another round of kids come southern solstice!

The logistics crew remains Joe and Bosque, though there has been talk about reintroducing donkey to our herd. Bonnie has been happily retired at Martha’s farm, and we miss her, though not so much her stubborn slowness 😉 For now, though, J0 and Bosque are doing a fantastic job. Bosque has calmed down a lot, to the point where he’ll even allow volunteers to check his hooves. J0 is beginning to accept awkward loads, and now even hauls 6m lengths of bamboo up the mountain from the river. Unfortunately, they work best as a team with me. While i was away, Lutz and Casey brought up a lot of building materials by hand rather than deal with loading and leading horses. Saddlebags full of groceries is one thing, but tying long awkward material on a large animal, and making it hike through narrow trenches and up steep and sometimes slippery terrain…it’s tough. But one trip with the horses can bring up 10 times what i could carry on my own back. Thank you, J0 and Bobo!!

image

I’ve been doing a little less do, and a bit more talk, lately: I’ve spent a little time consulting for other permaculture projects in the area; I’ve had the pleasure of teaching components of a few PDC courses, and other workshops off the farm; And i’m now offering weekly seminars, covering a wide array of topics, to willing residents of Sacred Sueňos. I’m still most focused on building, planting, tending, and experimenting, but i think it’s time i begin sharing some of the insights that i’ve gained with my experience so far. Though i lamented earlier the growth of the American Dream™, i want to end this blog by appreciating all the people i’ve met who are passionate about a solutions based lifestyle. Thank you for the inspiration and ideas you have given me. I want to give as well.

image

Trips and a rant about the climate

image

I had planned on posting the next blog entry about 2 months ago, but i made a last minute decision to drop by California instead. It was an awesome choice, leading me to six weeks of fruitful opportunities, meeting and spending time with some beautiful people. It gave me a nice little sabbatical before Keisha and Casey left for their own, longer, California tour. I miss them, and all of the great Spirits of Sacred Sueňos. My heart goes out to Thomash, Marietta, Leftheri, Andrea, Chad, Travis, and Amanda. I hope you all come home, soon…

image

Darcy, who had been a member over a year ago, has returned indefinitely, and Lutz, Lexi, and their baby, Eli, are now at Sacred Sueňos more often than town.. So it’s not like i’m back to the days of taking care of everything. ¡Viva Comunidad!

image

What follows is a little taste of Sacred Sueňos, and a big dose of ramble, that i wrote during my first days in California:

With the exception of one outstanding crew (and a bouncing, mead sloshing, dance party!), Sacred Sueňos has been mellowing out, quieting down as fewer people surround the kitchen table. We’re still taking steps forward, with gardens producing (despite some devastating chicken attacks), fruit trees planted, and RADi’s now fully fenced, and cheap drip irrigation system installed. And the Seed Camp Den now has a low cob bench/table/shelf/backrest/wall surrounding most of the sides. It’s starting to feel pretty cozy.

For just a few days, the wind came and blew the clouds away, but the rains came back with the solstice. The mountain’s soaking it up, and shining green, and my farmer bias can’t help but smile. Water is life. Every year, i anticipate with dread the dessication, the gust blown dust, the drought that ‘verano’ (the Ecuadorian dry season) can bring. We should be almost a month into verano, but this year i find myself dacing in the drizzle, watching the plants flourish. I’m almost tempted to be grateful for climate change for the gift…until i remember a few years ago, when some neighbours invested a lot of time, hard work, and seed into planting their fields as the rains began, only to have them falter. The subsequent dry months turned the investment into topsoil blowing in the wind. I also remember last year, when we planted hundreds of trees in the beginning of March, expecting them to have until May to establish. April, usually one of the top two months in terms of rainfall, was the dryest month that year. Not a drop fell on from the sky, and most of our trees died.

I also remember a few years ago, when several campesinos in the bioregion cut, burned, and tilled their hillsides, planting the corn and beans saved from last harvest when the first rains arrived.. but the rains didn’t persist as usual, and all that work and seed turned to dust blowing into the unseasonal winds.

(ok, now i really begin to ramble. I’ll leave it in for those of you who get a kick out of me going off, but if you just want to stick to what’s up at Sacred Sueňos, click here to skip.)

It’s no coincidence that agriculture developed all over the world, from distant societies using different plants, around the same time, around ten thousand years ago.  It coincides with the beginning of an era of climatic stability unprecedented in the experience of the human species. Once we could see the yearly patterns, we adapted, using seasonal rhythms to plant our favorite foods. Thus began our journey into settlements and towards civilization as we know it.

With the reality of climate change already affecting those of us most directly connected with the land, I wonder how we can adapt?

Will we return to the ways of the nomads, following the rainclouds? What population of humans could that support, and what kind of trauma will we have to endure in order reduce our population?

Will we disconnect further from nature’s way, produce food via chemical processes manipulating genetically engineered bioforms within artificial environments? Is that the future we want for all of our children? It sounds pretty dystopic to me. If i had children, would hope for them  to live on a biodiverse planet, to be connected to earth through their relationship to growing food, and knowing where their water comes from, and goes. I don’t know if anything i do in my lifetime will enable me to provide future generations with the world i would want them to thrive in. Does anyone have any power to decide our children’s future, or has the juggernaut of global capitalism made our individual choices irrelevant?

These questions seem to repeat themselves at the California farms that i visited. People here worry about what our future will look like when the economy fails, when resources become scarce, when the weather becomes completely unpredictable. Ad they continue to endure a drought of historical proportions, these farmers are pretty grim about the future. They share my worries, many feeling even more pessimistic than me. They also express dismay regarding the immensity of change we need to see in order to offer a better world for future generations. I hear a lot about everything that’s wrong with the political and economic systems of the world, and the consumer culture born of these systems. I hear a common critique of the blind materialism that’s dominating the over-developed world.

And, in the case of my Californian farmer friends, I see an attempt to be more conscious about their actions, especially when it comes to food. They are willing to put money where their mouths are, and financially support producers of such wonderful catch words, such as: local; organic; sustainably raised; free range;  and grass fed. They use cloth bags when shopping, they love used clothing and furniture, and of course they recycle and compost.

Comparing themselves with the larger American culture, they see themselves as living an alternative way of life. And it’s true; they aren’t the same as middle America. But if everyone had the same ecological footprint as even these conscious friends of mine, we would need a bunch of Earths to sustain us. It’s still not really a sustainable, much less a regenerative way of living. Even these organic farms depend on plastic greenhouses, tractors, and processing machinery. Generators are constantly running, to feed the high energy demands of the farm and farmers. Quads rumble through the farm, and big pick-up trucks are considered a necessity for moving about northern California. Everything would have to change pretty drastically if petroleum stopped burning. And yet, I don’t see anyone here seriously contemplating drastic change.

I remember watching news clips of the Earth Summit in Rio, sometime in the late 90’s. This was the first time world leaders got together and talked about climate change and biodiversity. I remember daddy George Bush addressing all these leaders, addressing the world, and saying that the summit may be discussing some important issues, but one subject that would not ever be up for discussion was “the American Way of Life”.  And for the most part, the world obeyed. The powers of the world continued to pursue a paradigm of global development where the American Way of Life was the ultimate goal, and everyone agreed that this goal could not be discussed. Development would be measured by the extent which people can exploit resources and consume them.

A couple decades later, hundreds of millions of people have integrated into the American Way of Life. They may not feel a significant rise in happiness, nor have more human rights. They may not even have access to clean air and water, but they have access to extraordinary amounts of disposable materials, and they will continue to be told that more materials will eventually lead to happiness. …

Well, that’s when my tablet or at least the app i was trying to use, gave me a hard time, and i took it as a sign to focus on how peaceful it is to live amongst those majestic redwoods, on how beautiful fellow human beings can be. I made some good friends, whom i miss very much. I also got to spend a little time with Amanda, whom i miss more than anyone.

The first couple weeks back after a long trip.. well, it’s a form of culture shock, and takes some adjusting. The Seed Camp appears to have been well Loved, with the gardens looking better than ever, and a new earthbag/fill built sun deck beside the Den. RADi’s a bit sad, but i’ve battled the molds; the leaky roof; the  goo dripping blackberry stem sucking, monster bugs. And once i’ve finished setting up pasture fences, and giving the few gardens and contour bunds a good chop and drop, i’ll be ready to start one of my projects… but where to begin? One of my favorite questions. 🙂

image

To the next level

image

Each time someone becomes a part of the community, and each time they leave, the energy of the place, the soul of the community changes. I would have thought that, after all these years, where hundreds of people have passed through Sacred Sueňos, by now i should be used to this kind of change. I’m still not used to it, though, and often find it difficult to let go of a beautiful crew. It’s even more difficult when it’s even more than volunteers. Since we began our most recent membership policy, there have been some amazing beings who’ve contributed to the spirit of Sacred Sueňos as a community. Even though almost all have the intention of returning, there was still a significant change whenever a member left. Leo and Travis in October. Andrea in December. And this month, we say “see you later” to Chad, and to Thomas, Marietta, and Leftheri. The family has been a cornerstone of the community, leaders in communication and inspirations of Love. I’m going to miss them, and hope they come home, soon. And once again, i’m learning to embrace change, and trust the future. Keisha and Casey are putting extra Love into the Seed Camp, even while working on their house. I’m trying to put in more at the Seed Camp, too, while very distracted with developing RADi more. We’re blessed to have Amanda back for a few months, too 🙂
image

The Seed Camp has a beautiful new deck, a wonderful space to play, for yoga and dance, and chilling out. Crucial!! 🙂 Now come cob railings, paint, fabric. Then build a library, so the kitchen can be renovated into a true kitchen. Looks like the Camp is growing into a Castle (well, a very humble one)! The Chakra gardens are getting even more productive as the green manure is turned in, even more, now that Bonnie the donkey baron is living down in the valley, and hence unable to raid the brassicas! At RADi, we’re putting a lot of attention to the landscape. Once we’re done fencing around the edible zone, we’ll get a couple dozen chickens to help provide manure, among other things, adding to the gifts brought by the horses, goats, and people, pooping for a good cause. Trees, herbs, lots of plants, are being gathered, beds are being built, and contours are being dug, an irrigation system is being implemented. It’s so exciting to see an edible forest garden being born! There’s now talk of starting to develop the edible landscape at the social project, too! Back at RADi, the house is looking less rustic-almost (but not) too upscale for this dirty farmboy 😉 It’ll look even better once we’ve plastered, and finished the mosaics. We’re also going to start building an earthbag bedroom. Apart from building, I hope i have time amongst all that fun to play with rocket stove designs. I always want to do more things than i am able, but as long as i don’t get attached to the idea of accomplishing all my goals by a certain time-frame, it’s all fun 😉
image

/>

We just had a visit from a couple of cool cats who are encouraging us to take a go at crowd funding as a means of having the capital to build RADi, and improve the Seed Camp. They’re even making a short video to promote Sacred Sueňos to philanthropically minded people around the world. Sounds like a great way to save me from having to work outside of Ecuador for a few months every year to build RADi, and it takes the responsibility of financing the Seed Camp away from members, so that they can focus on developing their own humble homes at Sacred Sueňos. I don’t know if it’s pride or humility that restrains me from asking for help, but i’ve received so much help up until now. Just this month, Stewart and Vera arrived with their luggage full of things that Germany has which Ecuador doesn’t, and now we have better communication technology, aerating compost teas, more photo voltaic amperes, and lots of cool tools. It’s so heartening to see how many people want to help this project, and so i’m gonna plunge through my self-restraint, and ask for help. If anyone is interested in joining the Sacred Sueňos crowd funding team, please contact me. It’ll be great to have a crew of people with better internet access than us, and i’m confident that, together, we can raise enough money to take the Seed Camp to the next level, and to make RADi into a classy little education retreat center. Let’s make this dream come true! 🙂
image

/>

image

Forgotten Post

A few weeks have passed since i returned from my journey through northern California. This is the third time that i’ve been on such a journey, the third time that i have had to ease into the transition from the world of unsustainable convenience, into that of regenerative challenges. Yes, it’s never been easy to suddenly live in a reality where i’m never completely isolated from the weather, where i cannot get anywhere by car, and where the list of work that should get done often grows faster than the deeds which i, and the beautiful people who come through here, accomplish. This years transition has been substantially easier, though. The rains are beautiful when leaky roofs have already been fixed. Transportation is sweet when the worst part of our trail has been replaced by a relatively smooth “highway,” and when the horses are more amiable than ever (and are remarkably healthy, given that the lack of rain has been hard on pastures). And though my to-do list is still as expansive as ever, i’ve already crossed out my repair and reorder list, and begun making progress. I can’t begin to fully express my gratitude to the community members, and all the other passing residents who’ve helped them! I see the wet green house has grown and strengthened. I see a new humanure set-up that works best by far. I see new plantings. I see spots being cleared for a few humble houses. And almost every day, i eat at the seed camp kitchen, and see beautiful people sharing their passions and visions, and planning on how to work together to manifest them.

3 months without me on the farm was just what the community needed. This was a great opportunity for everybody to find their niches, and fully feel their independence. My history, experience, and energy can often make it difficult for others to feel like that this project is theirs as well. Of course, all who consider being members of the community can already see how it could be theirs, but it can take a while before they truly believe it. The tribe here had a few months to do their own things, solve their problems, make some big decisions, and they did a great job. Though i can feel my ego want to resist the fact that i am no longer needed to keep this beautiful place going, i know this is exactly what i wanted, what Sacred Sueňos needs—a community that supports itself, the individuals within it, and the land that it lives on. Besides, this doesn’t mean that i don’t have a niche within this growing socio-eco-system. I’ve got plenty of projects, and i am blessed with the support of people who share similar dreams. People who are starting their own cool projects that i want to support and help with.

I am very optimistic about this year to come. There seem to be tons of building projects in the works, including a den to bring space to the kitchen, and a couple of houses near the seed camp. I hope to contribute to those projects, as well as build some furniture at the RADi center. I also want to put up a greenhouse, and experiment with a few things: small scale aquaponics; introducing pigs into a rotating horse and donkey pasture; and several different rocket stove applications, from cook stoves to hot water heaters. The latter is part of my special focus this year, to discover alternatives to electricity as Ecuador officially gets rid of its’ gas subsidies. Of course, i will also be making some garden beds, and delving more into analog forestry and edible forest gardening. Fun Fun!! And just to make a huge list even more lofty, i would Love to make a little earth bag bedroom, if i have some extra time 😉 Hey, if the right kind of volunteers and interns come to help, absolutely everything is possible!

Wishing you all the best during this coming year! Much Love,

yves

headin into 2014

A few weeks have passed since i returned from my journey through northern California. This is the third time that i’ve been on such a journey, the third time that i have had to ease into the transition from the world of unsustainable convenience, into that of regenerative challenges. Yes, it’s never been easy to suddenly live in a reality where i’m never completely isolated from the weather, where i cannot get anywhere by car, and where the list of work that should get done often grows faster than the deeds which i, and the beautiful people who come through here, accomplish. This years transition has been substantially easier, though. The rains are beautiful when leaky roofs have already been fixed. Transportation is sweet when the worst part of our trail has been replaced by a relatively smooth “highway,” and when the horses are more amiable than ever (and are remarkably healthy, given that the lack of rain has been hard on pastures). And though my to-do list is still as expansive as ever, i’ve already crossed out my repair and reorder list, and begun making progress. I can’t begin to fully express my gratitude to the community members, and all the other passing residents who’ve helped them! I see the wet green house has grown and strengthened. I see a new humanure set-up that works best by far. I see new plantings. I see spots being cleared for a few humble houses. And almost every day, i eat at the seed camp kitchen, and see beautiful people sharing their passions and visions, and planning on how to work together to manifest them.

 

3 months without me on the farm was just what the community needed. This was a great opportunity for everybody to find their niches, and fully feel their independence. My history, experience, and energy can often make it difficult for others to feel like that this project is theirs as well. Of course, all who consider being members of the community can already see how it could be theirs, but it can take a while before they truly believe it. The tribe here had a few months to do their own things, solve their problems, make some big decisions, and they did a great job. Though i can feel my ego want to resist the fact that i am no longer needed to keep this beautiful place going, i know this is exactly what i wanted, what Sacred Sueňos needs—a community that supports itself, the individuals within it, and the land that it lives on. Besides, this doesn’t mean that i don’t have a niche within this growing socio-eco-system. I’ve got plenty of projects, and i am blessed with the support of people who share similar dreams. People who are starting their own cool projects that i want to support and help with.

 

I am very optimistic about this year to come. There seem to be tons of building projects in the works, including a den to bring space to the kitchen, and a couple of houses near the seed camp. I hope to contribute to those projects, as well as build some furniture at the RADi center. I also want to put up a greenhouse, and experiment with a few things: small scale aquaponics; introducing pigs into a rotating horse and donkey pasture; and several different rocket stove applications, from cook stoves to hot water heaters. The latter is part of my special focus this year, to discover alternatives to electricity as Ecuador officially gets rid of its’ gas subsidies. Of course, i will also be making some garden beds, and delving more into analog forestry and edible forest gardening. Fun Fun!! And just to make a huge list even more lofty, i would Love to make a little earth bag bedroom, if i have some extra time 😉 Hey, if the right kind of volunteers and interns come to help, absolutely everything is possible!

 

Wishing you all the best during this coming year! Much Love,

 

yves