Saturday, June 27, 2009

More John Muir

When I walked, more than a hundred flowers touched my feet, at every step closing above them, as if wading in water. Go where I would, east or west, north or south, I still plashed and rippled in flower-gems; and at night I lay between two skies of silver and gold, spanned by a milky-way, and nestling deep in a goldy-way of vegetable suns. But all this beauty of life is fading year by year, - fading like the glow of a sunset, - foundering in the grossness of modern refinement. As larks are gathered in sackfuls, ruffled and blood-stained, to toy morbid appetite in barbarous towns, so is flower-gold gathered to slaughter-pens in misbegotten carcasses of oxen and sheep. So always perish the plant peoples of temperate regions, - feeble, unarmed, unconfederate, they are easily overthrown, leaving their lands to man and his few enslavable beasts and grasses.

—John Muir, from here. Image by Arnold Genthe from the Library of Congress.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Library of Congress again. Discovering Arnold Genthe, a fellow photographic archivist. I admit I never heard about him in Photo History class. There are a bevy of mysterious dancers, none of them digitized (If anyone has a spare $120 they can buy a fiber print (and if they have extra $240 buy me one, too!)). Click on wiki link to scroll for a beautiful photograph of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.
—John Muir

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter... to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life.
—John Burroughs

Photograph from the Library of Congress, one of my favorite resources.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I know I started tonight from This where the animations are only available to Brits, but the link (with stills) is originally from F.A.B. Then there's youtube.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

When the sun rises

I go to work
When the sun goes down, I take my rest
I dig the well from which I drink
I farm the soil that yields my food
I share creation, kings can do no more

Dannal in motion

Dannal Aramburu, archeologist, studies the guts of a pre-Incan terrace. This image was doctored a little in FCP Motion (can you tell? should I add more?).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Interactive Gardeners

Gardeners Index to look for answers to your gardening questions... A repository for all the info you could ever want about las plantas. It seems to be just starting up (the earliest comments are from mid April). Check out all the groups (my favorites are container gardening and compost... there are groups by zone, by plant...). It's no Twitter or Facebook but I could see it coming in handy if you had a specific Q.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Edible City

Foodie movie preview screening on the 9th (I'm going!)... I just found out about this group via Marion Nestle's blog. Really cool work and a whole team of people working on it. Worth checking out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Volunteer Day with Makani

I've been given the thumbs up by the boss to plan a volunteer day across the base at the Alameda Point Collective Farm on Wednesday, April 22; a day outside digging in the dirt and putting things together in the name of agriculture, neighbors and the youth. Friends and family welcome, too. I'm planning to be over there most of the day but you're welcome to just spend the afternoon or an hour... If you think you can come help out email me (goldengreenbird at gmail).

Possible projects for the day as suggested by Evan, the guy who runs the farm:
1) Working on our aquaponics system (fish + veggie symbiosis) and chicken tractors (mobile coops)... these are ongoing projects which will not necessarily be finished, so much as chipped away at.
2) planting native perennials in our pollinator attracting areas
3) hand seeding winter squash in our vegetable beds

I'm putting a keg on ice for post-work beers and general jovial good times.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fujimori convicted of human rights abuses

No doubt this is still the middle of the story, not the end, but I hear from the NY Times that Fujimori has been convicted of human rights abuses. This man exemplifies the flabbergasting politics of Perú (though Alan Garcia, the current president, is another big political puzzle).

Fujimori led Perú during some of its worst times—70,000 people died during his war on the Maoist group The Shining Path and Marxist-Leninist Tupac Amaru—and then he was caught in a corruption scandal when his intelligence chief was recorded bribing a lawmakers and businessmen. Fujimori fled to Japan and faxed his resignation. Five years later he planned to return to run for reelection (can you believe?) and instead got extradicted by Chile and then tried in Peru.

Alberto Fujimori was the president for ten years after he seized control of the government in a coup d'etat, shut down Congress and suspended the Constitution... yet in 1995 when he ran for reelection he won with a 2/3 majority. Then he ran for a dubious third term and in the hubbub that followed he fled to Japan...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act

The New York Times has an interesting editorial out about farm worker's rights and what happened to them in the New Deal Era. What happened is that they were left out, with lasting consequences for the way our food system functions. Keep your eyes out for news about the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act.

The photo is mine, taken in Ccenta near Pampachiri, Peru. One heck of a gorgeous corn on the cob.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The search for a good/understandable FairTrade organization continues.

IFAT-LA (international fairtrade associatio-latin america) seems somewhat promising,
unfortunately i am not a spanish speaker/reader.

so perhaps spanish lessons are in the near future for us seedling-ers?

anyhow, the Latin American IFAT has a small handful of Peruvian producers that are currently registered with them.
Major stumbling block is both the language barrier as well as their parent company's policy of accepting applications for FairTrade Organizations that are already trading.

Finding myself on facebook, yet again, i looked up World Fair Trade...
i shall now spend the day immersed in links.
so so many...
surely one will be a good thread!

Monday, March 23, 2009

giving up on a driveway

Squealed to a stop to examine a driveway that has turned into a promise... Bulbs: tulips, daffodils. These will come every spring forever.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

beer drinking in the afternoon

Pelayo and Dennis, our friends from Andamarca. We served them beer and then got Dennis to record a voiceover about the Cusichaca Trust. He has one daughter and his wife lives in the city. The voiceover said, Cusichaca rescues and restores terraces in the highlands and records and promotes use of indiginous agricultural knowledge in the terrace systems. They further encourage tourism as a sustainable alternative to development in the Andes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The New York Times has a huge story up about new Sendero Luminoso activity in Peru. The organization, whose last member supposedly turned themselves in in 2000, has simply gone underground for nearly ten years and become a drug cartel. Now people in Peru are faced with the same war on terrorism that killed tens of thousands of people in the mountains and scarred an entire generation. The war is hard to fight because of the jungle terrain, and the fact that senderistas look like anyone else in the mountains and are able to disappear into the undergrowth in a split second.

The coca leaf is an important cultural item. I chewed it ALL the time when I was in the mountains. It's great for altitude sickness and there's nothing more special than offering a little bit of it to the apu (mountain peak gods) before a planting, when you are fixing an anden wall, prior to harvest... So it's hard to control it because you shouldn't just ban the plant but about 90% of the stuff gets turned into cocaine rather than sold as a plain leaf, so...

I honestly don't know how I would fight this war if I were the Peruvian government, though I am pretty sure I wouldn't do it the same way they are doing it now; searching vehicles, declaring war, killing civilians. One official is basically quoted saying that a pregnant woman who was killed deserved what she got. There's a complete lack of sympathy for the mountain people, which in a racist country like Peru is what one might expect. Even in Sendero's previous era the war against terrorism (by both the government and The Shining Path) only became a serious issue once the terrorists bombed Lima.

I am going to look at which human rights organizations are working in Peru now, and try to keep up with the news, maybe donate some money so that at the very least we know what is happening. And in terms of the Seedling Project stuff, I am convinced that the best thing to do is provide alternate sources of income for remote rural mountain people so that there is an alternative to growing and selling cocaine. How do we get fair trade yarn, woven blankets, knitted caps out of Andamarca and into the US for some economic stimulus?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

International Fund for Agricultural Development

A cache of documentaries produced by this unpretentious UN group is available here. This is an amazing resource... they also have a knowledge base which has an unbelievable amount of information for rural poor farmers and the organizations trying to help them. And! They just signed a loan agreement to provide support to farmers in the northern highlands of Peru. Right on. I think I will be reading this site for the next month. Here is a recent interview of the president of the organization in the Financial Times where they discuss how rich countries are realizing in order to guarantee food security they are going to have to support agriculture in other, poorer countries... we live in interesting times.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Have I mentioned? new favorite social network. The San Francisco garden registry. It's a Futurefarmers project and I have just posted that I have an extra asparagus crown in case anyone nearby would like it. I really hope someone does want it because I hate adopting plants just to fail them right away.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I have just read on US Food Policy the absolute most exciting news! The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development says that Africa is better off if they focus on organic agriculture. Many people have said it before (even within the UN), and many people will say it again, but each time we hear it I think it gets a little more real.

Organic agriculture is a "good option for food security in Africa", UNCTAD says, citing a 116% rise in productivity on 114 African farms that converted to organic or near-organic production.

Truly, truly thrilling, and I especially love this line in the recommendations for government section: Fund research on sustainable agriculture, building on indigenous knowledge in response and in partnership with farmers. EXACTLY what needs to happen in Peru as well (and what our friends at Cusichaca were doing last I heard).

Monday, February 09, 2009

Small farmin'

The number of farms in the US has increased 4% in the last five years according to the USDA's recently released farm survey (2002-2007), though most farmer's income is actually coming from other jobs (65% of farmers have other primary sources of income, vs. 55% in 2002). The small and mid-size farmers are still at a huge disadvantage because farm subsidy payments are made per acre, says (via Amber Waves).

I did find it encouraging that in this NY Times article about the survey release Secretary of Ag Vilsack says he wants to work to create new market opportunities for small farmers! “There’s real opportunities to create a new rural economy."

And then there is this scary map from the survey that shows the decrease of land that is being used agriculturally... That's another issue altogether. In the previously mentioned NY Times article Amy Bacigalupo, program organizer for the Farm Beginnings program in Minnesota, tells Andrew Martin that the costs of land and health care are major obstacles for most would-be farmers.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Thinking and Drinking

I have been thinking a lot about the new Tropicana look/feel/carbon footprint greenification campaign. Do you suppose they'll see all the carbon going into their nitrogen fertilizer and then calculate how greening themselves with a little compost and some nitrogen-fixing vetch as a cover crop in the orchard might ditch two problems in one fell swoop? I really have my doubts about a big company like Tropicana actually being very environmentally sound, but on the other hand if they don't do it, who will? Now it's up to me to decide whether or not to actually buy Tropicana because at least they are making baby steps in the right direction. I am hungry for leaps, though, aren't you?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Green Orange

Via the NY Times we read that Tropicana orange juice, of all things, is calculating its carbon footprint! I'm impressed... now they just have to figure out what it means and what to do with it. It sounds like the best thing they can do is look at the number and then try to make it better (after all, more efficient = higher profits). “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it," says Bryan Lembke, a PepsiCo manager on the project...

Food Secretary

Oh, if only he were called the Food Secretary maybe he would work out all right... The new Secretary of Agriculture is seen as a good guy by such organizations as the National Pork Producers Council, which means, I think, that we aren't going to see as much change in the food system as we might have if the Food Democracy people got one of their Sustainable Dozen up in the house... Apparently the foodie people are now looking at Tom Vilsack's choice for Under and Deputy Secretary. I have to say, too, it's really a bummer to see another white guy in office. I was hoping for a lady! Or at least someone different-looking.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Bicycle Boom in the midst of a bust

Bicycle stores are trying to guess whether this year will be a slump like the rest of the economy, or a boom, like it was in the 70s when people were trying to use less fuel... I am rooting for a boom! Read the NY Times article... As they say, "When people ride bikes, lots of good things happen."