Don’t Keep Calm

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Solving Problems

“The significant problems of the world cannot be solved at the level at which they were created.” Albert Einstein

Who’s Got the Time?

A dear friend of mine just wrote a spontaneous meditation on time entitled “A Curious Loss of Time”, which is all about how life is speeding up, how we are run by a linear, clockwork kind of time which colonizes our minds and our bodies and makes us inward slaves to an outward illusory master. It’s been a provocative read which, quite honestly, I haven’t had the time to finish…

So when the alarm clock rang this morning at 6:30 (which was really 5:30 because of the dastardly invention called “Daylight Savings Time”) I cursed, and rolled over for a good long time before I managed to pull myself out of bed to make my daughter’s lunch and breakfast. The morning was cool and grey with fog overhead – a beautiful relief from the early heat we are experiencing here in the butt end of a nearly non-existent northern California winter.

And I was thinking about time today as I planted 12 lettuce plants, 6 pac choi, 10 dino kale, 27 beets, 15 broccoli, 12 cabbage, 8 cauliflower, some spinach seeds, and watered the pea and beet seeds I had scattered the other day. I was thinking about time as I did some weeding and fed the greens to the chickens, and also gathered up some errant snails that were hiding under leave and fed those to the chickens too.

People ask me all the time how much time it takes to be an urban homesteader. They say, “Who’s got the time?” They say: “I don’t have the time.” They feel judged because they don’t make the time to grow more food, or save more water or energy, or do any of these more “time-intensive” “less convenient” tasks that are part of the homesteading lifestyle. I admit I have been challenged by the question because I’m not in this to guilt trip people, but I have found it so essential to my own sanity and way of living to take on these tasks, to find the time, and so I have thought a lot about the question.

I don’t work a 40-50 hour job away from home – I am lucky in lots of ways, and that is one of them, though it is a choice that also has real consequences – so I do have, quantitatively and objectively, “more time” than many people I know. But all in all, I spent about 2 hours in two different gardens, planting this early spring bounty. I spent about 35 minutes a few weeks ago moving some compost from the compost pile onto these beds to prepare them for these plants. And I’ve spent little tiny dribs and drabs of time all winter dumping kitchen scraps into the compost bin to let them turn into dirt. It doesn’t feel like it takes much time for me to get these beds ready for spring planting. The time I took today, turning over the soil, separating the starts, planting them in small holes alongside their own little drip irrigation spout will eventually yield my family many meals of salad, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, eventually some sauerkraut.

The total cost for all the plants I put in today was about $30.00, and some of those plants were gifted to the woman who loans me her backyard for one of my gardens. The cost of the food that I will eventually harvest will far exceed $30, probably at least by a factor of four. If we count my time at the exorbitant rate of say $100/hour, a fee I dream of but rarely get, the total “cost” of my time today is about $200. If we charge about $35/hour, which is more like it, we’re well under $100 of time and money to make this happen.

I’ve just made that connection between time and money that is one of the pernicious problems with time, and money, in our culture. But I am just trying to parse the value of my time, and come up with an answer to the question: Who has the time? It seems I do, and I venture to bet that you do too – 2-ish hours sometime during the first weeks of spring to plant the first garden of the year? That just doesn’t seem so much, on any kind of time scale, to me. And for what you get in exchange, well worth it.

Living with Roses

I had the opportunity to write an article for Taproot Magazine, a beautiful, full color, ad-free, paper magazine put out by homesteaders living in the Northeast. This magazine has no significant on-line presence: they really want you to get the object, live with it, read it, love it.

I suggested one piece about water and one about “eco-somatics”, my personal blend of ecological and body-based consciousness (a favorite theme), and was surprised when they went for the latter.

Here’s how it starts:

Walking Up the Hill

Walking up my neighborhood hill this morning, it is brisk, nearly November. The trees are turning yellow and red. My hands are cold. It feels good. Footstep after footstep, I join in the ascent. I walk this hill to get my dose of daily perspective—as I turn and face the down slope I see my little city coming to life for the day. I am aware of all the activity in the valley below me, cars and people, houses, trees, the noise of the freeway, a red-tailed hawk circling overhead, how long it’s been since it last rained.

Burdened with a demonic and persistent awareness of the rapidly advancing depredations of climate change, questions run freely through my mind on my walks: How can we adapt to the changes of the 21st century? What’s a resilient response? What do I know that is relevant to the world that is coming into a being—a harsher, more dangerous world, a world with different opportunities and limits? What actions make a difference? Am I prepared? Will we survive?

That’s me, always sweating the small stuff.

On a bad morning, the broken world lies in front of me, unfixable. It’s too late, the damage is done, our goose is cooked. I count every tree that’s been cut down, every extra car in the fast lane, every corporate-sponsored attack on the earth: another Target! another CostCo! another outlet mall! I am so tiny in the face of this juggernaut. I forget my connection to everything, that how I think and feel and act matters. Crouched in this stance, I am a cog in the wheel of the culture of despair.

On a good morning, I remember the daily practices that connect me to the world. I remember that as an ordinary mom living a local life, I have some power, but not much, to affect the dominant cultural mudslide, i.e., “doing the best I can” really is doing the best I can. I know that the small acts we take toward the healing of the world are the only steps we can take, and that the way change happens in this country is from the grassroots, a rhizomatic, perpetual motion, like the beautiful, pernicious bindweed in the garden. And that I am part of that motion. In this stance, I am a solutionary dedicated to the culture of life.

That’s all I can give you because they want folks to buy the magazine. It’s bold to try to distribute cultural information without posting it on the web, and I support them. You can find the rest here:


Root Simple podcast

Also got the chance to talk with Erik Knutsen, co-author of The Urban Homestead and steward of the dynamic blog site Root Simple, about the work we’re up to with the 13Moon CoLab, Permaculture from the Inside Out. Erik and I have a lot of overlaps in our lives–from our commitment to urban homesteading, to our desire to spread the good word, and our constant inquiry into living the “good life” here at the end of the American empire. He’s funny and feeling-ful. We were joined by his partner Kelly Coyne, his partner in urban homesteading goodness, for a really nice talk about what we’re up to, what the movement’s up to, and how to get involved, wherever you are. Check it out.

Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann

I got the opportunity to talk with Scott Mann, host of the Permaculture Podcast, about permaculture from the inside out, the connections between somatics and permaculture (inner repair, outer repair) and the work of accepting who we are and what our unique offering is in this time of the Great Turning. I am always psyched when a host says, “Wow, this conversation went in a direction I never would have expected for a conversation about permaculture.” Bringing together the realms of inner healing and outer land repair is territory ripe for exploration. Join us!

Sustainable World Radio podcast with Rachel Kaplan and Delia Carroll

Last week, my 13Moon CoLab collaborator Delia Carroll and I had the chance to talk with Jill Cloutier, sourthern California permaculturist and community organizer on the Sustainable World Radio show she has been hosting for some years.

Our conversation ranged from “permaculture from the inside out” to personal repair, to city repair, to urban and suburban permaculture strategies. Check it out!

City Repair in California

If you have not had the opportunity learn and play with Mark Lakeman of Portland’s City Repair, here’s an opportunity throughout California to learn from the City Repair instigator of wild goodness. Check it out and share it with your friends and neighbors. This is how streets and communities and cities get to change…

California Tour: March 15 – April 3, 2016!

This March and April, City Repair will hit the road for a three-week tour of California, spreading real world tools for building participatory culture and manifesting lasting change through physical interventions. Join us at one of our many events throughout the Golden State! Contact Kelley at for more information.

Tour Flyer web

Tue 3/15 – Davis, CA @ N Street Co-housing Common House - Fabulous Dinner and Mark Lakeman talk on Neighborhood Placemaking, 6:30pm-8:30pm

Wed 3/16 – San Francisco, CA @ Hayes Valley Art Works - Placemaking Storytelling: The Village Heart is Everywhere with Mark Lakeman, 1pm-5pm || Oakland, CA @ PLACE for Sustainabie Living - PLACE Power, The Village Heart is Everywhere, evening storytelling and public presentation, 7pm-9:30pm

Thu 3/17 – Oakland, CA @ PLACE for Sustainable Living - Urban Placemaking for Cultural Transformation, 2-day placemaking ambassador training, 10am-5pm

Fri 3/18 – Oakland, CA @ PLACE for Sustainable Living - Urban Placemaking for Cultural Transformation, 2-day placemaking ambassador training, 10am-4pm || San Jose, CA @ Joyce Ellington Library - Creative Interventions in the Public Right-of-Way: A Workshop About Linking Art, Neighborhood Engagement & Traffic Calming Techniques, 7pm-9pm

Sat 3/19 – Bolinas, CA @ Regenerative Design Institute, Four Seasons Permaculture with Penny Livingston-Stark || Bolinas, CA @ Bolinas Commons - Placemaking Storytelling, 5pm-7pm

Sun 3/20 – Ojai, CA @ The Chaparral - Placemaking Storytelling, 6pm-9pm

Mon 3/21 – Ojai, CAPilot Program Intersection Repair, 10am-4pm

Tue 3/22 – Los Angeles, CA @ Holy Nativity Church, Placemaking with Mark Lakeman, 7pm-10pm

Wed 3/23 – Los Angeles, CA @ Watts Labor Community Action Committee, Intersection Repair and Dedication Ceremony, 10am-5pm

Thu 3/24 – San Diego, CA @ Emerald Village - An Evening with City Repair and Mark Lakeman: The Village Heart is Everywhere, 7pm-9:30pm

Fri 3/25 – Los Angeles, CA @ LA Ecovillage - Placemaking Storytelling, 7pm-9:30pm

Sat 3/26 – Los Angeles, CA @ LA Ecovillage - Urban Placemaking for Cultural Transformation, 2-day placemaking training, 10am-5pm

Sun 3/27 – Los Angeles, CA @ LA Ecovillage Urban Placemaking for Cultural Transformation, 2-day placemaking training, 10am-4pm

Mon 3/28 – Pasadena, CA @ The Shed - Placemaking Storytelling, 6:30pm-9:30pm

Tue 3/29 – Los Angeles, CA @ OTIS College of Design - Human Ecology class, 7pm-9:45pm

Wed 3/30 – Los Angeles, CA @ Full Circle Venice - The I.AM.LIFE Project hosts Mark Lakeman: An Evening of Connection and Community, 7pm-11pm

Thu 3/31 – San Luis Obispo, CA - Looking for collaborators!

Fri 4/1 – Santa Cruz, CA @ Downtown Santa Cruz - Village Building and Public Placemaking with Mark Lakeman, 1:00pm-6:00pm

Sat 4/2 – Oakland, CA @ PLACE for Sustainable Living - Oakland Intersection Repair ceremony, 12pm

Sun 4/3 - Sebastopol, CA


In case you haven’t noticed, I am a bit obsessed with the issue of climate change, particularly with the question–as climate instability continues to worsen, everything that has gotten us here continues unabated, and the powers that be continue to frack, burn, trash and destroy what’s left of the viable ecosystem–of what is worth doing now. What is a viable action worth taking? I liked this article because I think it looks squarely in the face one of the truths of this time–it’s not going to be possible for us to stop climate change, and maybe not even going to be possible for us to halt the maniacal destruction of the planet which is certainly threatening life for human and other beings.

What I like about this article is that it doesn’t fight for human life at all costs — and it has given rise to the question in me: what’s worth fighting for, civilization or the web of life? The answer is clear to me, even if it means my own death–it’s the web of life that matters, not civilization

A comfrey exchange

Had a nice visit from my fellow homesteader, Darshan Ahluwalla, yesterday morning. He was in search of comfrey to plant among his trees on his property in Butte County, CA. He wrote a nice blog post about our fruitful exchange.

Always feels good to have so much more than I need through no real work of my own, and to share it with others.  That’s one of the best things about the homesteading way — you plant a couple of plants, and years later, they make so many more plants that you can share them with your friends. Becoming a plant propagator is one of the surprising upsides of the homesteading way. Nature does its dance of fertility and when we participate in tending that cycle, everyone benefits.