It has been eight years now since it first happened. The constant evolution of space and time in the garden of snails and squirrels allowed me to expand my web of relationships with life. The first day, I don't remember if i actually took stock of my backyard as it stood. I was 17 years old. I had just moved on up to a nearby enclave. "The Cheviot Hills California Country Club Estates" was a fairly tale island of Stepfordesque proportions, named after a developers contest picked the name "Cheviot Hills" and British theme of street names. The neighborhood was once a Spanish Land Grant Rancho, and for a short stint, a golf course, was built in the 50's on a platform that it constantly aimed to pitch itself as a step above every other neighborhood in the immediate area including Palms, Mar Vista and Beverly Wood. The one edible thing on the property was a lemon tree that was hanging over the fence of an adjacent property. Other than that a fine sample of poisonous and exotic mid-century horticultural nightmare. Thorny bougainvillea, rodent dominated ivy, the sappy mess of giant bird of paradise and heavenly bamboo, (not a real bamboo) and the worst canopy tree, the ficus. Above ground, ficus harbor crows, squierrels, below grounds the destructive roots break pipes and sidewalks. A diverse group of animals inhabit the hills of cheviot such as the coyote, raccoon, opossum, crow, sparrow, hummingbird, parrot, duck, squirrel, rat, mice, lizard and an abundance of insect critters were the primary players in this ecosystem. Many of them lived on site, or in the nearby sewer drains, golf courses, freeway underpasses and basements of the area. In the house and yard (and somewhat beyond for brief periods) lived a canine, (owen) contributing feces, urine and fur mostly on the back side of the guest house, and a feline (boo) contributing the same on a smaller, more discrete scale. This area is also where things like urbanite, planters, mulch bags, straw bales and garden tools and fertilizer concoctions were kept, in an area about 3 feet wide.
The design parameters have changed about five hundred times, a wide range of species have been encouraged, cultivated, tolerated and contained. This can also be seen as a Venn diagram with these overlapping themes. The original banana was planted near the guest house, so it could be picked from the flat roof, which could be reinforced for a rooftop garden, passive and active solar panels, ovens and dishes. It could be a great place for summer fossil free bbq. Other flora I have tried to include both things that are expensive at markets or just unavailable. Things that you wouldn't see in a neighbors yard. I have taken note of some of the fruit trees in the neighborhoods where i grew up, and everyday I find new trees. Typical fruit trees like avocado, oranges, lemons, loquats, kumquat, blackberries, apples, apricots, plums, grapes, peaches and bananas. A much wider exotic variety exists on a lesser obvious note, (papaya, mulberries, guavas, macadamia nuts, pomegranates)in public and private areas. For over story trees, I have let the volunteer peruvian pepper tree colonize along the fence among the vines. I planted a pear tree that will be ready for grafting soon, a passion fruit vine, a kiwi vine (male and female), chayote, raspberries, blackberries, three large artichoke plants, a suriname cherry, elderberry, pineapple guava and loquat. In the front yard, I have put in more bananas, two dwarf tangerines, a nectarine, low chill cherry, pakistani mullberry, strawberry guava, hawaiian kona coffee bushes, allspice and an apricot tree have encroached their way into the stagnant landscape of suburbia. Most of the trees were planted close enough to be picked from the sidewalk.
I manned the jackhammer for days on end into steel reinforced concrete, every last foot provides space for food, animals, medicine, fibers, and wood for small projects, snacks and barbecues. Once the concrete had been plowed and sculpted to the flow path of my zones and sectors of influence, I had set into motion a modest yet powerfully change. Long before Craig's list had a farm and garden page, I was perusing from cheap and free plants, mulch and stones. I happened to find a gold finger banana tree for $5-15 dollars US. In small, lesser known suburb of sprawling West Los Angeles, it is rare for the person to be three blocks away when communicating over the internet. The banana sat in the shaded corner of the patio pre-construction for about a year. It grew about two inches and shrunk maybe three. Once I planted it in a better solar location, in deep, rich soil and organic compost with mulch, it has grown to a height of about twelve feet in less than 2 years.
Some of the other pest that are usually tolerated cross a threshold that demands immediate action to prevent further damage. It is best to gather all the interested parties into one area to determine the best outcome. In a recent snail infestation, I began to study the snails in my area. I had been fascinated with them since childhood. My grandmother even made me a snail birthday cake one year. Oddly convenient to find that the common garden snail of California was brought here as an immigrant (by immigrants chefs) of the gold rush era as a delicacy to be fed to wealthy miners who struck it rich.
Today the fauna were in an uproar over the heat wave. The resident squirrel came into my room for the first time, brave soul. When I emerged in the late morning, there were two hummingbirds perched on the line to our house, enganged in a uproar of clickety chatter. The usual large black carpenter bees that live in the wood fence were present at their favorite yellow flower vines I have yet to identify. The parasitic wasp was having a feast of aphids and grubs on the late season brussell sprouts, and I was enjoying the raspberries with the honey bees placidly browsing the white flowers that they turn in to berries. Soon the herbs, raspberries and lettuce will all be in arms reach of my favorite outdoor reading spot, and I will eat the raspberries while laying down and reading. it's even better than being fed grapes.
The liberation of threatened and marginalized fruit remains a problem in the homeland, while people are encouraged to eat subsidized “edible food-like substances”, in the words of Michael Pollan. These urbane vigilantes are taking the harvest into their own hands, with a mature avocado tree in the middle of a construction site. While "gardeners" who "mow, blow and go" often rake and remove the avocados natural mulch, the UC Agricultural research division found that "70 Percent Reduction in Yard Waste Going to Landfills in Ventura County. Not only has the green waste helped in controlling a terrible avocado disease, using the green waste in avocado orchards has reduced significantly the amount of materials going to landfills. The integrated control methods have allowed growers to rely less on fungicides while achieving greater control than with fungicides alone. These practices have done much to maintain the productivity of the $350 million a year avocado crop, saving growers as much as $50 million annually from avocado root rot".
Every now and again, an uncomparable book passes through my fingers by chance, like finding Fast Food Nation among the magazine racks at a big-box super-market, Deep Economy (the wealth of communities and the durable future), by Bill McKibben was not vernacular to the Economics section of the Beverly Hills library. I thought I knew what to expect from this book, but it surprised me at every turn with striking, well researched figures and poignant analysis of both global economics and that of communities. Although it became evident that the author had been jet-setting to almost every continent to scribe this work, I could think of no better way to use that fossil fuel than educating Americans of the massive situation that our mindsets and industries consume and waste, and illustrate vibrant solutions to problems that plauge both worlds, the first and the third, with surprisingly similar solutions.
Bill touched on the sentimentality of use of the word community. I have been weary of the term and how it has been raped by the corporate media to legitimize their dominance and attempt to dispel the obvious and widely accepted truth that multinational corporations have destroyed community and ecological infrastructure since their outset as "beings" in the earlier twentieth century. From food to fuel and plastic to pensions, he covers so many aspects of the financial reality of American life and it's enormous effect on the rest of the world. As Eric Scholsser Francis Moore and Michael Pollan wrote of the bleak post of American agribusiness and still were compelled to end on a positive note, McKibben has done the same for globalization. Answering with flying colors the undisputed rhetoric of Adam Smith and his modern economic cheerleaders equatable to Ben Friedman in his take on global economics "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" and "The World is Flat".
Inspiring words and stories that valued the marginal and embraced, small, slow and sometimes up side down in a mono-directional speedway of monetary growth. Like Paul Hawkins' Blessed Unrest, this book paints a picture not often seen by Americans who watch TV and commute in an SUV, that another pond is possible, and if you dip your foot in it may not be as cold as you think. Among the dense, stellar research and scathing figures are heart warming stories that anyone can enjoy.
Although I was familiar with Bill McKibben before this book, I had not read any of his previous books and I was delighted to hear someone put into readable print the idea that the developing world and the over-developed world must come to a compromise. We first worlders change our highest values from net worth to net connection. Putting value back into our bioregional and keeping it there will benefit our short term economic woes, as well as our long term global environmental crisis.
be soft, be humble like earth so that flowers of many colors can grow from you ~ Rumi
With every death come a new life and with the passing of a great architect, poet, humanitarian and writer will surely bring abundant life to many places on the planet that his life has not already brought. He is and will be dearly missed and his work will continue to inspire people of all races, ages and genders throught the world and maybe beyond. Racing Alone, to Sidewalks on the Moon, he has forged new ground and unearthed ancient routes on the path to wisdom and generosity to cultures.
The past few weeks I have attempted to focused my reading to macro economic issues, often as they relate to globalization, local ecology, micro-banking, fair trade and alternative and complementary currencies. There are so many wonderful books out there, that I wanted to share a few of the ones that have been helpful in my research.
Deep Economy - Bill McKibben
Interest and Inflation Free Money - Margrit Kennedy
Alternatives to Economic Globalization - International Forum on Globalization
Blessed Unrest - Paul Hawkins
Ecology of Commerce - Paul Hawkins
Natural Capitalism - Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, Paul Hawkins
Cradle to Cradle - William McDonough, Michael Braungart
Eco Pioneers - Steve Lerner
Critical Mass - Philip Ball
Hemp Horizons - John Roulac
Natural Wealth of Nations - David Roodman
It's All for Sale - James Ridegeway
Divided Planet - Tom Athanasiou
We Own It - Honigsberg, Kamoroff, Beatty
The Lure of the Local - Lucy Lippard
The Paradigm Conspiracy - Denise Brenton, Christopher Largent
Sustainable Cities - Bob Walter, Lois Arkin, Richard Crenshaw
“Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back.”
- Harvey MacKay
How time travels in html . . .
It has been almost 9 months since my last entry, good thing no one noticed but me, hehe! It has been on my mind but alas, we all have our short comings. I feel like a fruiting mycelium body emerging after a long hard rain ready to express my spores upon the earth. Let me fill you in on what I have been up to in fifty words or less. Begining in August I began publishing the Los Angeles Permaculture Guild Newsletter every month, in email digest form, but now also available on the web for your viewing pleasure. I traveled to distant lands, namely Mexico, (to work with City Repair on the Gila Sol Project) and Big Sur (for the Permaculture Teachers Training Course at Esaleen). Working with Architects and Landscape Architects consulting for perennial arid gardens and food foresting has been my primary work outside of school. I have authored a sample food book proposal, The Arid Food Book which will include interactive mapping and video cooking shows in it's final inception.