Education in virtual environments is familiar to me. That is my avatar at an anthropology lecture in 2007.
at a metaversed meetup in 2008. Virtual environments are especially good for learning in a circle, using multiple medias, and for establishing a sense of fellowship and shared studio space. They are a great starting point for approaching sustainability because other media like teaching videos, writings and resources can be made available, as well using special tools and interactive abilities in special situations where technology is being implemented.
Tools can be used to create custom fabrication for specific bioregional or population density demands. We can set up educational centers on secure servers hosted by major corporations and governments. Using Oceanarks, Cal earth architecture, and thinkcycle (seems to be griefed info on them here) open source applied development methods we can quickly reach the largest number of people.
These days our human society includes millions of people living in makeshift communities in poorly established human habitats. Using the power of open source thinking and group collaboration we can team up with the world leaders to quickly teach the greatest number of existing community leaders how to create sustainable human habitat in a diverse number of bioregional and human density situations. Together we can strive to meet the needs of refugee populations, ease the pain and isolation of our disabled and frail fellow citizens and create local community bright green centers based on models and training centers we establish internationally online. We can learn how to create a social human colony across human conditions.
On the windowsill sits the teacup fabbed for Annie May. It is a soft and bright green on the outside. She managed to save this one cup through her savage week in the hobo squats of Etown. It represented to her the life she ran to. The possibility of play and of joy.
Next to it was a robo-ball that Tarran had emailed me to print for her. It was a ball inside a ball with small balls inside of it. It was 3D printed with a lattice so the internal colors and lattices shone through. In the very center of the littlest balls was a sort of bell. In the soft light of the deep set windowsill of the CBE brick Blue House it left a strange lacy pattern of shadows on the wooden sill and on her CheapID sitting next to it.
On one side of the room Annie May sat on her bed lost in thought peering at a laptop in her lap. She was playing a game which teaches nochalking symbols. The machine made soft beeping noises which blended in a scattered pleasing way with the sounds of Tarran playing scales of Maquuam on his Turkish Jimbush. He paused and listened to his Usted on the video of his own small unit plugged into a screen hanging on the wall. He was peering at his Usted's finger movements and making faces that looked a lot like Annie May. There was a certain way she set her brow when she was certain she could figure something out. We had all started to have the habit of making this face, sort of puckering and widening the eyes.
That is how it is with kids, you grow to be like them as much as they grow to be like you.
They were wrapped in this domestic study sort of moment when I passed by their small room. Walking down the outer hallway there were eight rooms and a dozen small worlds like this unto themselves to see. This time of year our rooms were always full of peoples things, and late at night people sleeping. This year was strange already because we were not in preparation for our usual sorghum festival. The new moon preparations were extremely laid back. Most of the beer was being capped off or put down into kegs. We had made some barley candy, and some wild cherry bark lozenges with some of the syrup rather than proof it all out with the champagne yeast. After the intense work of harvest and the G team coming down from the algae scrubbers and fisheries people were fine with spending some intense time practicing and studying mostly alone or in small groups. They understood we needed to be responsive to the GEAS.
At dinner tonight we would have the first taste of the first proof stuff. Everyone was festive and upbeat considering.
We were keeping the take out diner open. The indoor diner itself was closed indefinitely due to ReDS.Several people had insisted that we needed the inflow of credits from the riders and the reason for them to stop. Annie May's laptop showed this to be true. There was no way that she could have ever afforded it on her own, yet there was no way really for her to get by among us without it. Most of the twelve or so occupants of the blue house were in their rooms or "hootches" studying and practicing today.
Most of the people I knew who couldn't get really enmeshed in the internet could not bear to stay on the land after the end of cheap diesel. Way back in the seventies they had communes and hoedowns and lots of jams. When video tape players and cable came along the diesel generators meant that all sorts of impossible living situations became semi-possible, if not at least mildly entertaining. By the time the diesel movement was in full swing (with Humboldt nation bootstrapping solar steadily alongside all along) there was satellite and flat screen. It was just as connected to what was perceived as "the world" as any other disconnected first world.
Except that without every single little forty running a gennie big enough to power a small Mexican village there is not much to do besides chores and gadgets and internet stuff. Its an environment for the self amused. If you are part of that generation or cultural layer that had a hard time adapting to digital pursuits and time for tea... or a hard time finding the fun in all that self discipline... the woods became a pretty hard place to be. When it was no longer about driving around in your car all day running back and forth to town, it started to be about you. Your own mess, your own spread, your own library. Your true pals. Finding the threads where you left off in your own life before the consumer frenzy and the festival trail. Lots of people did okay following permaculture principles and getting their social cachet from new sources.
The really frugal Humboldt nation people used the sun and leapfrogging built tidy little spreads with as-close-to zero overhead and new tools. Those were the types most likely to get online and start talking. Those were the ones who made it this far. Our own second superpower NorCal was born from their curiosity. Technology has always been dancing with the environment here in a bright green dance. Even secretly. Sometimes it was because of the whimsy and iconoclasm of the flower children. They were wild enough dreamers to make solar panel companies and radio phones and drip irrigation mister kits. Off the grid pioneers. Another part was the good earth and salt of the local ranchers...putting in huge hydro projects to get buyback money from PG&E and buying town houses so they can walk to the store. The local Wylaki also managed to parlay their Indian taco money into some cell phone university credits. I used to teach philosophy by remote extension and they would really get into the round table discussions. More than one kind of PHD in these rough hills. We ended up adapting a system used in DCAR for remote education.
Most of the tools we use here were developed originally for the third world. Which makes for a good fit since Humboldt county never quite joined the other two worlds entirely. Other areas are working on developing personal rapid transit and we have been decades without a bus service to maternity care.
I mean even villages n the middle of India have a bus right?
During the mad rush of technological savagery called "privatization" we became an outpost, a place you could only reach by direct pilrimage. The laymidwives bear the brunt of the disconnection. No traditional maternity care means they have no local doctor to work under directly. You can read it in the tense drawn lines on their faces. It doesn't mean that there are no babies being born in the hills.
Laura has been pregnant before, her ten year old son holds her bag while she waits in the Blue House for the new Grameen signal. One of the reasons we recently constructed the CBE structure is because we get a better pointer in this spot, its flat,close to the road, and its easy to fence it off and just load in a bunch of keyhole gardens and water features.
The CBE houses are a mixture of high tech and low tech, shared spaces and dense private quarters. The model is based on the 8,000 year old Persian house, with two stories and slightly angled roofs accessible for food processing and water storage. They are gated and locked down compounds with heavy doors which once opened reveal a charming courtyard and a view to the gardens.
Downstairs there are small kitchens on the south side of the building, and across the courtyard is a reception area and comm station. The signal extended beyond the comfortable rooms into the garden area, and even at the other end there was the first bones of a partially open garden study arching up. All around the edge of the new garden there were small groups of people sitting quietly together in the shade of a few Alder trees we kept as a green border. The building is rough, and yet lived in comfortably by its new inhabitants. Personal items were mostly laptops and phones, a few rugs maybe and a lot of instruments everywhere... mostly in cases tucked under beds. The comm room was a recording studio in its other night life.
The fountain in the courtyard was subtly connected to the wind tunnels that were still being constructed on the roof. A small solar pump moved the water so it could either help to cool the rooms, or heat them as needed. The valve systems simply switched the system to run through a heat sink once the outside conditions were cooler allowing the floors to quickly heat up.
The walls are thick and most of the time we have the windows cracked open a little.
Right now it was allowing Laura too talk to a doctor in Eureka. Vital signs and blood chemistry can all be monitored easily in this somewhat primitive setting. It seems primitive until one of other women comes in bearing a tray with nettle tea, dried apricots, figs and almonds.
The room was bathed in a soft blue glow, mostly because of the thin film monitors on the wall showing us the real time activity in several of our fishery projects tanks. A large thin film screen worked in mid level light with the ambient texture of a movie screen and a regular size image that can show a full body. The quality of the image was better today with the new satellite provider. The signal was choppy but steady. It is strange to me that we had to resort to a Bangladeshi outfit however moments like this confirmed my decision. Really being able to talk to a doctor is important. The touchscreen table helps with conferencing also, Laura sat and looked at educational materials with her young son and her Douala, as well as one of the midwives.
Collaboration across disciplines has always been a passion of mine. Bright Green superstructing allows all sorts of innovative thinkers to work together to create a fast paced iterative process that creates environmentally sensitive sophisticated and inexpensive technology to face all five threats.
These are the starting structs that I feel have the greatest potential to reshape our collective vision. If we super them together we can get a better picture. Now that like some of you; I have laid out all of my pet projects and solutions that have been percolating for some time, I am ready to revisit the other players and start to make sense out of the unexpected treasures to be found there.
We definitely need more structs and superstructs to help with the issue of water. Water filtration is a start in adressing the connection between watersheds, foodsheds, and restoration of bio vitality.
Everything is starting to require quite a lot of redundancy. "Freedom is constant vigilance" we used to say in the eighties.
What I dream of is an open system, where we can have "Seed Pals" in far far away places. Like casually I could just choose a womens self help group in Kenya say, and send off to them a small letter with several useful plants already matched to their bioregion.
That is to say when I start looking at women's self help groups or at Tamil farms I would like to only have to choose from those already in my bioregion. Of course I would even prefer to be sending these to refugee children who are being re-settled in appropriate regions for small scale subsistence farming.
Sometimes I get so frustrated at how much redundancy is needed to share out simple ideas anymore. To think we used to be able to offer for interns to come and learn with us by standing in a circle together. The luxury of that. The video conferencing we do in DCAR is the closest thing we can offer. One of the responsibilities of the older teens and some of the G Team is a steady set of course work for our international Dryfarming community. Sometimes we are actually sending seeds out however I get so frustrated and this work is so slow.
What we really need is a Black Bag type program for farming communities like the black bag program in the late nineties that taught midwives in Africa and beyond. The logic is that you can only reach so many people directly; the most effective way to reach people is to teach teachers. Of course my Mentor taught me to teach teachers who teach teachers however that is another story.
Th e idea is that you arrange for a sort of direct contact with the existing dynamic leaders of the small communities. Similar to the later emerging Womens Self Help Groups in India, and Grameen Bank Microcredit programs all over the world, the idea is to disseminate collective wisdom about diversity and Bright Green Tech quickly in other Third World countries.
From a global systems perspective Humboldt is a third world nation. Our only industry for most of our modern history has been a resource extraction based economy with very fragile connection to the outside world through roads and ports and rails and airports that are often closed or crumbling and sometimes both. These were the docks that the Pinkerton boys beat up so bad it broke the backs of the striking workers for Union rights a hundred years ago. Our railway slid sadly into our river long ago. Some light personal rapid transit exists on the old rail between Scotia and Mckinleyville however out here in the woods we are still on our own plenty of times.
Our broadband connection here is pretty good, of course we have a lot of tech on board. If the US west coast gets funky however that means us and recently we have had to figure out a way to try and jack a side signal from a whole new Indian satellite provider. Its all quite dubious however if we can continue our work through some of the interruptions its worthwhile. Also the drivers depend on us to have good signal when they come through the restaurant part of the station. Usually during our big harvests we are reduced to having the drivers carry food out and sit and hang out together in their own rigs. So far since we have slowed down on the work I haven't really wanted to switch back to having an eat in sit down space open to the traders even. We depended on them however they were not really all people that we knew well enough to want to have to share any contamination. We could trust for the most part that our fierce upriver teams would keep turning back the pilgrims that wander our way however we were also making adjustments here quickly to the threat.
The results in Eureka were startling. Parts of that town thrive like they always have, teetering on some slight brink of disaster. Other parts of the town show the recent scars of the conflicts around climate refugees. We have a pretty mild climate and there has always been strife with the hobo towns and pilgrims. Now they are afraid of who might be seeking compassion. When we drove by that end of town you could clearly see several people in huge yellow haz mat suits cleaning up the charred remains of the huge squats that periodically have raged out of control. It just reminded me of my own Protect system gear that I was wearing, albeit tied up fashionably in a scarf. One of the reasons societies often have their adherents cover their heads is that it is a simple way to minimize the amount of surface area that is exposed to contaminated air and mosquitoes. Its also somewhat anonymous to wear headscarves and hats and protect masks which is itself small comfort.
Pea Soup: peas are shipped long distance by sail assisted cargo boats, or shipped by rail from local growers who improve their own soils producing the nitrogen fixing crop.
add 3 parts water to 1 part dried peas
cook without adding any spices or salt, this allows them to cook faster. solar cookers cook peas easily. peas cook fast. add water if they get too thick.
when they start to get soupy add salt and pepper to taste, other veg or bullion after they are all soft.
If you blend them vigorously then you get whirled peas.
We play together. Every day. Because the world only has two types of people in it my children: The players, and the player haters.
Be a player.
Remember learning to play catch before you really knew how to catch a ball? The game had very few rules except play that you can do it already.
Play that you can live by an inner authority of trust and integrity. Play that you can give everything and still get enough. Play that you know what you need and you can care for those needs by being interwoven with everyone and their needs too.
There is a story we tell in my family, it goes like this:
"Hell is a place where everyone is sitting at a banquet, and they have exactly what they want on their plate in front of them
Their arms are very long though, and they do not bend.
Heaven is a place where everyone is sitting at a banquet table across from each other. They have exactly what they want in front of them on their plate.
And they are feeding their neighbor across from them what is on their plate that they cannot reach.
And their neighbor across from them is lovingly and carefully feeding them what is on their own plate that they cannot reach".
Scale in the garden is not an imaginary principle. In one of our gardens we let the deer come in because there is almost no sign of them there is so much food on the ground there. Stored properly and cared for in groups of five to fifteen people, large amounts of food can be produced pretty easily from the land. Of course my lower back muscles are screaming at me this morning for using the word "easy" in that sentence.
In my case they hardly let me do anything around here because of my physical condition, and I feel like I have been beaten with a stick just from the little I have done. Its fall season and that is just typical. Its impossible to imagine what the people feel like this morning who have been working full tilt boogie. In the last few days a lot of work has been done as is the way of seasonal things. You hurry up and wait and then you work yourself sick. We brought in all of the fence roll for most of the gardens, stowing the tire and cement posts up by our cement base latrines above the flood line. Some of the crops we never entirely bring in proper like the quinoah and the amaranth. They make these impressive spires of flowers that give seeds regularly even past their prime. Every few days you just shake them over a sheet and the ripe seed falls out. No reason to stop this process or hinder its use by small wild birds and insects as fodder so the the golden and burgundy flower topped grain crop is left in the field after we pull the fence. We dried a lot of roma tomatoes out of this field which made the fence worthwhile. Early on when the amaranth is just under two feet tall we cut a lot of it for greens as we thin the row. Even the bigger tougher leaves are edible on the plant, though not as delicious as the more tender younger ones. At its fullest height it is about two feet taller than me and it often lays down on the field and keeps blooming.
Once you get amaranth and mustard growing in your kitchen gardens and your field it is pretty good about volunteering in the future. Start it in big pots at first to get it established. Flax is another one that reseeds itself very generously. Of course the birds adore these nutritious oily seeds, and sometimes the amaranth is a flutter with them feeding on the seeds making it seem like there are beige blossoms on the burgundy background.
Our sunflowers were brought in some time ago and processed mostly by the schoolchildren. They provide a lot of food and propolis for the bees when they are building their nests in the "honey moon". We have just gotten into the habit of having our seed packet activities get integrated into the classroom. Its useful busy work and when it comes to more skilled work like separating the seeds for food storage we involve a lot of the older teens. We have about seven in our group and another four who board in for school. They are already very involved in the kitchen team so that they provide a natural liaison to classroom activities like this. They also have a unique ability to take on rather stern tasks and follow up on the younger kids with an avid energy.
They were amazing yesterday putting in fruit trees and stacking "urban ore" for keyhole kitchen gardens up by the new blue house. So much energy and vivacious dance while they helped the G team create this new space for our permanent residents. Each of these seven new round gardens with waist high stone walls has a stick basket for composting in the center. Waste water and diluted wash water is also put on the keyhole garden as well as stray donkey droppings and kitchen scraps. Its tidy and the gardens do well in our dry summers and wet winters. We are working out a modified version that uses pallets. These gardens take very little care once they are established and they provide a prolific source of food right near the kitchens where it is needed. We grow a lot of sorrel, kale, chard, arugula, beets and snap peas right near the houses. There is a living mat of greenery around my house for instance that upon closer inspection reveals itself to be mostly mint, oregano, thyme, Fo-ti, and jasmine. The blackberries are being left out here because their presence on this side of the driveway is not sanctioned.
At the same time as it was a wonderful and productive day yesterday it was troubling. One of our past workers keeps trying to contact me to have him authorized to come up here and join us. He knows that it is not possible and that he has already run our his welcome here for many reasons. We have little leeway to tolerate people who are not really functional, productive and honest. Honestly I have no reason to trust him anymore, and I have no interest in taking it any farther than that. Yes what happened happened a long time ago. When someone reveals themselves to be fox stupid and somewhat self serving in a very basic way you need to just send them down the road these days. Its like back when the work shortages first started happening when the grapes and other crops were coming ripe out in the hills; a lot of thugs had to either pull it in themselves, watch it rot, or pull up stakes.
We were done with them.
All that do-gooder energy can get sucked down the drainhole of one of these vampires. We see the remains when we clean up the shell houses with diesel spills in the yard where the generators sat unprotected and often tended by children naturally causing small spills. The houses have no real walls or facilities inside of them sometimes, and piles of trash in the yard. Sometimes it is a state remediation. Those contracts are rare now and lately we just do it because the watershed and foodshed really needs cleaning up.
During the summer we are able to keep busy with all sorts of work trade projects also. The best way for a lot of the older people to get their own food in and out is to do work trade with our garden teams. Our own crops are dryfarmed so they need no irrigation and just some cultivation. Sometimes we just teach a small community like we did in Panther Gap, how to use the local dryfarming acreage to create food they can subsist on. Part of that process is teaching them over again how to eat.
We rely mostly on foods that a lot of people have never heard of or rarely eat. Its not just the sorghum and amaranth and millett in the low fields its also the root crops and cabbages that we farm in some places where the river usually stays out of it in the winter. Our soup is our way and miso is made just down the road at the ashram proper in Briceland. We also make a lot of smoked fish and smoked game from some of the work trades. You can get me to answer a cell phone call pretty quick by texting ahead the message "smoked fish".
Some cell phone calls I have learned to ignore.
It gets tiring dealing with some peoples crisis because underlying all the stress and all the effort is the clear message: "I want you to do this *for me*". Why do they just think that we will give them effort? Food? medicine? and care? Because all of their lives so far they have received these things by whining, bullying, passive aggressive tactics and most importantly bamboozling themselves that there is no other way.
Its just plain a get your own hands dirty world. Bob taught me to be proud of being able to wipe my own ass (which included all the arts and skills needed to be a "real Human being"), and that what we teach here too.
If you could have seen how many of these people suddenly wanted "Commonstead directors", and "New Tech" when we announced the program here. What they really wanted was someone else to all the physical work while their only visible job is to STRESS as if that helps. Oh it was easy for these people in the start because we had such a steady supply of fresh workforce on the streets and sleeping down by the river. You could piss off your neighbors and then just hire some kid and his family off the street to do all your work while you stomp around and yell and threaten to shoot yourself out in the barn if it all doesn't get done right "NOW".
Once the flow of (thousands!) street people was cut off, and just the long trail remained for the hobos in constant flight, the party was over for those who had abused their own neighbors and family. We live by word and bond around here. If you don't know how to do that it gets apparent pretty quickly. You might get a meal and a cot but then its down the road you go.
Its troubling to consider those who are left outside the gates.
However a lifeboat only holds so many.
Of course we are still an active trading station, and we have even joined forces with some other groups and locals to create a small pony express. We are hoping to make a seed drop box for the book store. That is my answer to the issue of the people who are not together enough to trade out with us directly: a charity seed box in town. We can collect them there, and people can receive them there in the same box. For now I am thinking of setting it up "River", "Ridge" and "Coastal" for basic sorting purposes.
The "G" team came out of the hills yesterday. Its been really busy ever since. They brought bales of dried algae from the algae mats up at the bear creek diesel spill restoration project. They do a lot of tarp work and a lot and a lot of plain old work.
This is our restoration, repair and repurposing team. This is the select group of people who slowly track and exhort the return of the salmon. For the last five weeks they have been doing diesel spill repair on a shell house and building a timber construction fishery station. Once they started dredging the mouth of the river and concurrently they restored the flows on the main fork here in Humboldt County the whole thing really started cleaning out and the coho came back in a steady stream of guided ancient spirit salmon. We had the stories of the arrival of these salmon from the Hupa, Karuk and Yurok to the north on the bigger of the seven dragons to guide us in their care.
It was the music that brought them. In this case I mean the G team rather than the salmon however I wouldn't rule out the influence of music on the salmon either. Our musicians had developed a combination of songs from the ancient silk road woven in with the Californios fiesta style, heavily supported by a New Balkan movement that created a place at the traditional music table for all of the band geeks to sit with the dumbek and tabla players, and watch the commanding tribal dancers do their American Tribal Style improv together, their soul dance.
Asha and I walked down the hill in the bright moonlight leading the way for a small company of musicians who will join the G team at the new Blue house for a special morning of singing. We are getting ready to put in a new set of kitchen type gardens today at the blue house and we like to start that activity with lots of deep melodious singing. The G team really enjoyed the music also, they were mostly fire dancers and musicians themselves who had created a sort of structure of two or three bands in their own company over the decades. They are lean, and tanned, and dressed in somewhat whimsical and expressive clothing considering they spend so much time out in the bush shoveling gravel.
Restoration became part of the steampunk thing when it began to provide seasonal jobs during the employment stimulation act. All of my musician friends already knew that they could use my house as a jumping off point for local seasonal employment. It was a simple step away to have them come here right from the summer circuit of festivals and concerts to do their winter recording. The enticement was the ready company of so many other fun musicians who play the same tunes.
That was back when we had lots of large scale festivals that everyone drove many miles to attend. It was easier when the festivals became smaller and more locally driven. It took years of council and walking and talking the golden trail from festival to festival to convince them to all become sustainability and repurposing festivals. Really it was just a couple of years of begging like mad right after the millennial turn. Once we created the urban free festivals (mostly through "pirate" and "steampunk" events) the system became a viable one for the artists again as long as there was decent right livelihood work at the other end to get them through winter. I mean they couldn't all live in the hinterlands of India and Bali every winter forever. After a certain point they had to decide where they wanted to live because of the cost, the time, the potential for conscription or quarantine by force, and the availability of travel slots.
So our corridor became the little India of the north. All of the same musicians had spent so much time abroad studying with the masters when it was possible; that it was a convergence of the music scenes of Istanbul, Seville, Samarkand, Hollywood, Bollywood and Kabul here just above Garberville.
Outside of the garden area this morning we are going to create from the formerly somewhat scrubby ground, looms a structure that we can see as we approach the blue house. Its tall and conical and obviously mud and cob because of its organic roundness. All summer long we have been throwing pots at the glass shop and firing them off when we run the forge ovens for the glass. We are making an ancient style dovecote. The pots do not have bottoms on them, we slice them off when we take them from our foot driven pottery wheels. The pots are instead stacked o n their side like bricks with cob as mortar in a large circle, with about six feet or eight feet diameter empty space in the center after you build up the tower about two stories tall. Its around a thousand or so pots (which is great practice by the way). Mostly the whole structure is built around a wooden frame and a doorway set in a wattle and daub circle at the base to protect from predators(the doorway faces north so you can maximize the birds use of the south west exposure). It works like this: when the doves all nest in the pots they mostly kick their manure to the inside on the structure. Once they start nesting they provide a very passive source of meat in that occasionally nestlings get kicked out and are collected in the daily collection of bird droppings. Its a soup ecology here in norcal.
We established one over at the yellow house about three years ago and it works really well. Somehow we even have some big fat city pigeons living in there now. Its funny because people always thing of the country as quiet, however when it is alive it provides a constant stream of sound. Especially at the yellow house with the donkeys and the dovetower.
There is a small circle of people awake and greeting the dawn together with tea in hand as we walk into the yard further. Annie May is excitedly winding her way around the laps and legs of the firedancers standing around the small burner and samovar. She is wearing a leather cap with a brim that Tarran had sewn for her this last week. After spending so much time in the male company of the donkey wizards she was shy at first when these stunning and vivacious women came off of the mountain together with their feathered and tatooed consorts. Of course she was unsure how the politics of her situation would change since she had lived a hard life on the juke joint trail where often the partying and hobo camps meant she would be left to the side alone and abandoned. One thing you could depend on with Annie May already was that she was a quick study and a fast learner. It was a crime that she was kept in a stroller and forced to "play baby" until she was almost six. By then you could see she was not so immature and the game was up. Here she was learning fast to skip and jump, dance clap snap and whistle.
"She wants to learn poi" said Simone, following my glance to the bobbing head of our last refugee. I made the classic face of "yes thats very interesting and good", putting my finger to the side of my cheek as if to say "Hmmmmm...Yes!". Simone flashed her bright blue eyes at me and tossed her red and blond streaked hair to the side. She was wearing a long vest with fake fur trim in bright red that matched her hair...she was always impeccable decked out like this. The G team rolled out of their beds in the morning pretty much looking this good. The look was mostly developed long ago at Burningman at the Black Rock City gatherings. A sort of repurposed chic. One of the things that they liked about our details in the woods is that it seemed to be more a continuation of that lifestyle. Our way is the heart and those that come to it find our path a precious thing. Inside the lights were on and the music was already forming up in that lovely chaotic stretching of tuning and picking at the instrument. Part of the trick when it is cold and misty like this is to just sit with your instrument in your lap for a while so that it can warm up from the latent heat of your body. Otherwise everyone has to tune twice, once tuning a cold stick and again once it warms up.
Tea sounds good.
Inside there are some low cushions and futons to sit on as well as several simple wooden stools and a small table. With a warm cup in hand I reclined as is our custom. Waiting to catch her eye, I gestured to little Annie May to come sit next to me. She was shy of me, yet not fearful. We listened to Calvin warm up and play his snaky little violin. It was an Indonesian snake skin fiddle that looked like a small banjo or jimbush. It was played standing up with a bow sort of like cello. The sound was alive with emotion and the interior world of Calvin.
In the softly breaking dawn, in the pause before the work starts in genuine, Annie May and I sat and listened as the little snaky song grew sad and full of longing. Every now and again I could see she was passing glances with Simone, they had the start of a heart bond of friendship. Obviously Annie May had survived by being resilient and finding surrogates everywhere. In our case clearly she had found her home and we had found another jewel. It seemed like she had grown already, or maybe just gotten more sure of herself physically in the space she was inhabiting.
Already it had come up with one of the neighbors, this question of her joining the class in our little cozy warm schoolroom up the hill at the honeycombed greenhouse. There were other children who walked up or were brought up in Donkey carts from the yellow house."OH" so I said, "You really want Annie May schooling all the other children in how much wild pussy and booze she has seen out on the juke joint trail?".
It was a direct reference to a conversation we had had about how useful Annie May had become to Tarran. She was spinning around the donkey barn saying "Useful...useful...usefully" wildly and ecstatically like it was a long song. We motioned for her stop, reminding her of the presence of the animals. She seemed to be able to respond fastest to sign language and we used that commonly around the animals. It was more like a game to her.
"Kurt said that all he had use for was booze and pussy and that I was no good for either". Annie May said by way of explanation after she had gathered herself together. Probably I winced even though I tried not to.
This morning in the gathering company in the Blue house she was wildly excited yet entirely physically composed. Already she was starting to mimic the physical attitude and spark of the G team Wymmn. There was no "A" team or "B" or so forth. There was just the "G" team and everyone else who either worked the field teams or worked in the kitchen or was a musician or tech or trader. We used to have trade workers who could use our wireless access, and eat and sleep in trade for usually almost five hours a day of work. Eventually there was a group of these workers who stayed on more permanent sometimes doing work trade in the hills and we moved them up into the green house to prepare the food and live a more hygenically removed life. It was possible for them to send home credits online or build them up for whatever purpose and reason. Even if it was a ridiculously expensive ice cream cone for himself and Annie May like it was for Tarran when he rode into town the other day. He still got credits trickled into his account from recordings he had made years and years ago. Firebreathing pirate punk on the accordion even then.
For Tarran the choice was simple, he wanted Annie May to have her very own first ice cream cone. Of course he also brought back packages and mail from the post office on his heavy loader Worldbike.
This morning Annie May crawled up to my shoulder while the music began to play for the dawn. She whispered in my ear "someday I am going to BE in the G team". Her eyes were sparkling at the discovery of this secret in herself. Her face was getting tan and you could see little freckles dusting her cheeks now. I nodded and winced my eyes at her making a serious smile, as if to size her up for her potential and possibilities, "Oh Yes" I mouthed at her. Acknowledging at once that she was right to not interrupt the music and that she will assuredly master herself enough to be one of these brave and strong young lions bringing repair and health to the forests and streams of our beloved little dragons.
As familiar as steps on the path this sound of children talking and learning together. This morning we are working on our first outreach program creating seed packages. Its a simple fast way to have a hundred or so packages made up very quickly for the broom corn seed we have to share out this year.
After our hot apple cider and millet cakes the teacher talked about reaching out to the world. I sat in the corner like a little kid myself on a short stool observing. Partly I was taking part in the discussion and partly I was taking advantage of the latent heat that the masonry wall dividing the classroom from the kitchen oven pumped into this part of the room. It was a chilly morning. Usually I liked a quieter start to my day however a couple times a week i like to bring my input up to our class lab and also take the time to stay close to the children.
It was simpler for us when our gates were open. Our mission was to teach and outreach. Now there is a lot of pressure to simply seal up the region since we have always maintained a basic level of self sufficiency as a bioregion. Partly being so cut off we never let our ability to provide our own basic needs slack. In our little cooperative workshops in the seventies and eighties alternative energy solar and radio phone, hydropower and wind power were born in invention. One whole invented way of life that we call "growers".
There are about a dozen kids in the classroom today and several teenagers and adults. We are all enjoying the atmosphere of excitement and the ready access to bandwidth, heat and human company. IN the corner I see my pal Asha doing her yoga quietly. We are all exceptionally stiff from bringing the harvest in the last few days. Its a good thing we have a boogie coming up.
Some of the children are cutting out packets and images of the contents along with directions and seedling identification. This is the system that I developed for my Brazilian pal JorgeG's seed project. The idea is to create a way for people to quickly disperse high quality diverse seeds of useful plants to bio-regions that can use them for food, fiber, medicine and habitat and erosion repair. We are repurposing some old printed phone books for the project. It is important for the seeds to breath if they are going to be stored for any length of time or shipped any real distance.
My mind drifts off with the crunch of millet and flax and the taste of local honey. The teacher is drawing circles that represent the systemic connections between our tribal family and the surrounding community and the world. Already the children are familiar with the concept of the earth as a living organism. They have been raised to be naturalists interpreting the environment around them. The seasons and plants and cycles were the fabric of their daily life and their own position in it as part of a human element of the habitat was an often repeated idea.
This morning while we were all working together to make the stigmergic seed packets that would be simply sent off who-knows-where in the world we were not just telling the kids about these changes for our community we were asking them about it also.
They give good counsel these kids and sometimes they can think of things from another hidden view.
"so we want to help them but we cant have them come here?" said little Kenny. He was enthusiastically gluing seed labels on the packages. He frowned in concentration. For a moment his face shifted and he looked like a rabbit trying to find its way out of a series of blocked tunnels. Each idea seemed to lead to the same problem.
"We have to make packages"he said. Suddenly relieved as if he had found the way to the surface.
At first I smiled because we were in fact all making packages at that moment. Mostly my mouth was full and he seemed intent on an idea so I let him go on.
"We have to make BIGGER packages with more stuff in them". He said with a gleam in his eye. "we have to make a way to get out some of the things we can share".
In our process here one of the most expensive items initially was the centrifuge system. Our self replicating reprap 3-D printer uses the cellulose and sugar to print a myriad of 3D objects and prototypes. Its actually an old school Ponoko laser cut acrylic unit from my early days creating tech.
Some of the strains that we get the most use from feed off of the greywater from our sinks and laundry. If we lived closer to the ocean we could use the special new strains which produce crude and bioluminesce.
Somehow I have never quite gotten used to the particular smell that comes from the pressed algae remnants when they are heaped on the compost. Usually the heaps are quite healthy and have virtually no smell, even for someone with an acute sense of smell like I have. The worms make pretty short work of the pile and it really makes the big deep digging wild night crawlers happy. Its just such a rank and soupy stench. As a kid we thought we would get nuked to a powder or that we would have flying cars. Here we were with lots of smelly donkeys, algae on the heap, squaw fish removal and sorghum mash brewing.
I never guessed that the future would smell so funky.
We sat in the golden sunlight for an hour just simply taking tea and listening to the musicians playing some of their newer folk tunes. Even the donkeys sat at th edge of the river under the shade and happily watched Tarran and Drew and Annie May take turns on the < href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treadle_pump"> treadle pump. Our own littlest climate refugee and self reliance student Annie May had become thick as thieves with two of the Wests best Donkey Wizard.
While Tarran took his turn Annie May combed out Drew's hair. He was part Chin Chinese and part Celt so his hair has pixie nests. "HOld still HOLD STILL!" she commanded him with the severe shrill voice of her old life.
Drew turned to her slightly and raised one eyebrow. For a small girl with a tight bun and a flower shirt she had a very stern look like a young male tabla player would. She met his gaze head on and said first firmly "I don't wan ta hurt you".
She then softened her gaze and kind of giggled to herself and glanced at Tarran "I am scared that I will hurt you" she said "thats why I yelled at you Drew". Drews gaze immediately softened.
Tarran smiled under his chestnut bun of hair and long lashed green eyes. They flashed each other a silent smile of recognition at what an accomplishment this admission was. We all sat silent and golden as we each in turn hummed inside with the sense that Annie May had found her place. These were the hard lessons when one of the kids had asked to take refuge among us. It would take months for the new family system to take over completely more or less. Someday soon she might even be interested in coming up to the daily school sessions that we still enjoy and encourage the children to partake of. For now she was all about becoming on of the few female donkey wizards and the only one under ten.
On the road above us you could hear the soft sound of a few Q drums moving from the storage tanks off towards Pville. A dog barked making a happy playful sound. Kids bringing home water for their household from the spring above us.
Annie May had carefully combed her way through half of Drew's hair and it looked a little funny. On one side he looked like a regular hard living wizard and on the other he looked soft and smooth as a woman with shiny black hair. Drew made faces and hindered Annie May's progress by making her dissolve in giggles. Across the smooth stones on the river bar I could see my dear pal Asha carrying a teapot and a basket of ware. Earlier we has tested this section of the river aquefier with our portable microbiology laboratory and it was good news. It was decades since we had both developed the habit of taking tea together, and I was sure she had tucked something delicious into the basket for us from the oven baked the day before.
Drew listened intently while Annie May whispered something into his ear. He was gooning and goofing and making these extremely fun and funny faces...pinching up his lips and making his eyes really wide. he nodded very dramatically and hopped onto his feet. From the waist down he bowed very formally and dramatically; "Madame I would love to escort you to the latrine" he said very formally. Annie May grapped his hand with a cheshire grin and ran while he walked briskly to the nearest Domed Pit Latrine. We had installed them at each garden and of course each of the four sets of houses (red, yellow, green and now blue). There was no reason for us to take chances with the river.
Somehow the sound of the river moving slowly in the channel matched with Tarran as he worked the treadle. He was a very gifted musician and he could live with us simply playing tunes for six or seven hours a day helping the workload flow. In addition he was a gifted shoe tailor and tackle maker which is why he was one of the very top Donkey Wizards. This was his choice this addition of duties. He had a real genuine affection for the animals and they were well aware of it.
It was not neccesary for me to ask him what he thought of keeping care of Annie May. The evening before he had packed her onto his modifiedBig Boda and rode with her into Miranda proper to get an ice cream sandwich for them to share. They had the first stage look of a small family unit: they walked like each other and moved their heads at the same time in unison of angle and tone. It was an interesting combination because she was a somewhat mannish looking small child and he is a somewhat feminine looking man in his late thirties. Well maybe he is over forty now. I noticed also that Drew is getting quite a lot of grey hair keeping his end of the golden trail open.
Whiskey and Martin, two of the lead male donkeys were shaking their heads under the trees. In honour of their status as our new stud service Jed had tied their harnessess with some old sets of Afghani Camel Bells. I could tell that Asha was delighted to hear the familiar sound...until the donkeys started braying at each other loudly and tossingtheir heads wildly.
"HEEEE Haw...HEEEE HAAAW" they were baring their teeth and tossing the brim of their silly hats. The bells were clanging and tinkling. Asha was covering her ears at the same time as we were both laughing. Tarran had to yell over us "settle!" and again "settle!" for the two donkeys to yell just so we didnt feel the need to cover our ears. They really liked that Annie May she was determined to be a donkey Wizard and they were determined to make her one.
Annie May is used to keeping company with men and animals as she has been a climate refugee her whole life. She is very determined and she is also trying to fit in and find a home here as an orphan, still the way the child has taken to the care of the donkeys is amazing. She and Tarran were up late last night making garlands for the donkeys to wear for our special harvest party today. All of the musicians are coming with us down to the river and we will share a special meal which has already been packed for us in steel containers.
The donkeys know something special is a-foot because of our excitement and our waking early. They are wide eyed and frisky with their flower garlands on their heads. The older lead donkey Whiskey has also got an old straw hat on. We could have taken the sorghum days ago except we needed the one petrol rig to have tires to help carry the children down to the river. Its just too dangerous to have them ride with the donkeys down on the carts all loaded up in the dark. The first patch is just under a mile away however there is a nice turn out nearby and we can bring along some extra food and temporary structures with the stationwagon.
Annie May will be riding with the donkeys. There was no way to convince her otherwise. She passed her health exam yesterday and we moved her into the yellow house next to the donkey pens with the other donkey wizards. Her cheeks are already gaining color. She says about the donkeys: "Its easy...you just have to love them". The donkeys do seem to like her, and she carefully explains to them everything that will happen next. She cups their ears in her little hands and whispers right into them the way Tarran does. She laughs when they startle her by braying. Tarran says he does not mind looking after her for now. She has had him make her hair into a stern bun in the habit of the donkey wizards. It is a hard question when to expect her to be able to interact normally with the other children and even possibly attend our small school and gain literacy along with her donkey wizardry.
After we press out the sorghum tomorrow, we will ferment some of it and bottle it with champagne yeast. The rest will be boiled for syrup. The seed will be saved and also used for animal feed. The canes are dried and stored for later alcohol fermentation; we use a biologic to ferment our tincture alcohol. My neighbor to the north will be coming along to cut cane specifically for brooms. Several of our patches have large sections of colored brooms which she makes into hundreds of brooms of several sizes and shapes for different duties.
This year we are pretending that there is nothing different. Usually we have lots of outside visitors and we used to even hold a small regional festival with this beer. Our sorghum beer (along with other botanicals) was the reason so many of these unusual and amazing young people came to us in the first place years ago. Now we will limit our visitors to our usual pals and other vetted members (mostly leaders) of the Upriver Downriver Alliance of Peoples (UDAP). We will still probably have several hundred people visiting and staying overnight, including my adopted Yurok relatives, the Mendo Wymmins collective, and the dairy farmers and drivers. We are also likely to get a visit at the festival from our caravan trader pals, and with so many people coming it will feel as festive as ever. There will be fresh Salmon and grilled meat as well as fry bread and coffee and family cook camps.
This morning as we left the green house and the musicians compound we closed and locked the gates. The sound of a small snaky violin made the perfect accompaniment to the morning light breaking Grey and cool across the valley. Even the donkeys felt the muse and were silent and thoughtful as they listened to the little song. They are easier to handle and they love it when we bring along the musicians. It was dark out and there was a hubbub of conversation and witty jest to soften the reality of it. I had always hoped that we would always keep our gates open, that the roads would always stay open. 101 used to represent freedom and independence. Now I am not sure who we are in this closed state. With the addition of the child we have reached our maximum number. Even with Paul and Theo conscripted (by force I must say) this last winter hiatus there are already two small children old enough to be considered in their place and several others soon to cross that threshold. We will have to consider expansion or contraction.We are considering suspending hiatus indefinitely. Some of the parents of small children want even more seclusion than we are providing. The Braddah force on the mountain has closed the long trail and the hobo's are trapped in the north. Two juke joints have been cleared out and seized in the last two days.
Our way is meant to be welcoming, to give water and food and salt to the traveler.
The CBE press works very well now that we have re-enforced the hopper as suggested. It created enough bricks yesterday from the foundation soil alone to create the start of the walls for the blue house, donkey pen, dairy goat pen, and chicken coop. We have found that the donkeys are fierce defenders of the chickens and they both love to shout at each other most of the day. Meanwhile two newly formed families are staying next door to the soon to be blue house in hexayurts.
Meanwhile we have only barely managed to keep a peaceful jurisdiction over this part of the valley. Mostly we are able to maintain our presence because of the upriver downriver peoples alliance. Most of the would be squatters are caught long before they even get to the old county line. We also have the support of the dairy cooperative people, including the drivers who take most of our goods to town for us, and with whom we swap products for dairy and meat. They keep the norther perimeter of the river clear as well. Ten years ago it was less of a luxury to be mostly vegetarian maybe eating fish. These days we just rely on who and what we have in place and we do have quite a lot of happy cows here in Humboldt. To think that it has been thirty years since I begged my friend Dick Bryant to consider farming organic silage for his dairy cooperative. Just a seed plot even. He saw the wisdom in farming their own fodder, and he loved his jersey cows and knew that silage was the healthiest option ("they wont have belly aches" he used to say). In twenty years they were producing organic milk as well as ice cream and when fuel prices began to double they were all sitting pretty because they were not buying hauled alfalfa. That one little seed catalog made such a difference. That and tenacious begging.
The blue house disturbs me because it is not a planned part of our system of quarantine or residence here. It was simple to have people stay at the red house who were probably fine but not entirely checked out. We have a house up on the Thomas road that takes on quarantine issues and major health problems. Mostly it is just the house of a healer with an ability to work with people. We used to have a lot more people carved out from substance abuse and stress and malnutrition. Through experience we quickly learned how to keep harmony. Its better if you keep harmful social influences to a minimum so we care for people differently when they are like that.
Once people are accepted enough to become at least allied members of our community, and they have passed quarantine, they move to the yellow house. That is the main place where we keep the donkeys and dairy goats and chickens. Usually we try and have families find a place up here on the hill in the green house where there is access to our shared schoolroom facility. Usually one of the musicians or more teaches at the daily social sessions. Our fortunes have been good in that two couples have formed at the yellow house, one with an existing boy, and now there are likely more children on the way. We decided at a meeting of the Kris that the best solution is to build up our facilities down near the trading station so that we can accommodate more work animals and provide more privacy and autonomy for our emerging family units. Its also gotten pretty crowded up here on the hill. The green house is full and so is the musicians area.
Annie May is a special case. Essentially she is an orphan. There have been a few cases in the past of children being taken in by related families, however this case is quite unique.
Our first orphan.
Annie May is similarly malnourished and stressed as her drug addicted mother was. The toll the life takes has touched her. She has had little daily regularity or care. It would be disruptive to thrust her too quickly into any intense social circle here. Her sense of self and identity would likely suffer.
Since the news came yesterday of the Bo squats getting burned out in Eureka I have had one short conversation with Annie May about her mother. Whenever her old life is mentioned in any way, or there is any suggestion of connecting her with her mother again she would start shaking and repeating the phrase that I realized I had used in her presence.
"Its no LIFE" she would say with strangely adult intensity. "Its NO life".
For now Terran the donkey wizard was happy to comb her hair and have her follow him around as he wheedled and coaxed the donkeys in and out of their work harnesses most of the day. She is only six years old however she is dexterous and quite bright. The donkeys seem to like her so its hard for anyone to complain.
Jacob came home from work late yesterday. He left the government offices in time to get home early. It was just that when he got to his car he found Annie May huddled in the gutter hiding next to the car.
"I knew it was you". she said. "You will take me back to the red house".
Jacob said she then looked him fiercely in the eye, and sort of chocking with emotion and rage the way small children sometimes do she said "Its no life I tell you". Pushing her thin reddish hair out of her face she repeated the phrase again and again.
"Its no life".
Jacob just let her into the back seat of his car and handed her one of Zoe's hoodie sweatshirts. "put this on" he said "It will help". Later on he told me that she was shaking still as she scrambled into the car seat and pulled over the sweatshirt. Obviously she was used to taking care of herself.
It seemed dramatically late when he got in because the light is changing very fast this part of the cycle. Some how just as the light begins to fade the work load begins to be doubled. Often we have cloudy days which means we have to switch from lenses to Babington burners. Some of our parts are waiting on delivery from the laser fabricators in Arcata.
By the time Annie May got to me she had fallen asleep in the car already and was barely blinking awake. She had a very determined air for a very small child as she crawled down out of her car seat to talk to me. We were all actually down at the red house, since Annie May had been away up to Eureka the last week she had to go through quarantine all over again before she could come up to the glass shop.
"Annie May" I said, sounding a little more stern than I meant to, "please can you tell me what happened?"
She swallowed hard, and brushed her hair away from her forehead again. "We found my Mom and she was in the Bo squats".she looked at me now with her intense greyish blue eyes. "Its NO life". she said. "We got to her camp and in one night they were gone and wanted to take me up to the juke joint road." Annie May knew that I knew about the juke joint road because I had casually mentioned it to her before she left with Kurt.
I sighed. Unsure of what to beleive or what to do.
"Its NO LIFE I tell you" she said."She started tricking right away and Kurt got mean." It was scary to think of such a small child fending for herself night after night in the Hobo flats. Annie May then sounded childish for a moment, almost. "I remembered where Jacob had his car and I went up and found it." she was very matter of fact "Kurt doesn't think I am his, so he took off".
You are right Annie May it is no life to sit out in the Bo squats waiting to have to go walk or ride the juke joint trail.