Thursday, November 23, 2006


What makes this Thanksgiving special?

At the end of a long and difficult campaign, some might think that it would be my winning the race for local political office. And while I am thankful for this win, gratitude takes a different form today. First, I am mindful that many good people worked so hard to make it happen and that other good people who worked hard for the other side have been disappointed. My gratitude is for all the hope and effort and energy that went into this race... from both sides. For my part, I ran to serve my community, so I am thankful that the majority of my fellow citizens have seen fit to grant me that opportunity. No doubt I will need to work hard to earn it. For whatever reason, I feel called to do this right now, and to know that I am working on something noble, and much bigger than myself, and to be engaged in a process of transformation and courage and humility... well, that is something, isn't it? Humbing and hopeful.

Victory in this race was dampened by the fact that I lost a dear friend and colleague to cancer partway through. And now this week brings news that someone close to me is facing her own brave journey where the outcome has yet to be written. So today, I am mindful that each day, each hour, that passes is a gift. I am filled with gratitude for the time we have been given, and a special love, for friendship, and an admiration of the courage one must have to take on such a difficult illness.

We are an insane people. These illnesses that we biopsy and irradiate and remove (and often to which we succumb) are but a symptom of a greater problem--many are awakening to the insanity with a chilling realization that we have taken for granted the most basic of gifts: clean water, wholesome food, and a world that accepts and tranforms the waste we create. This path we are on leads to ruin: we will consume ourselves... soon enough, I suppose, unless we choose not to.

The heart of our problem may well be a lack of gratitude.

So today, let's give thanks for the miracle of our own lives, of the life around us and the precious gifts that allow us to be. For friendship and love and for all those who bear the painful burden of our excess, and for the simple gifts that mean so much and were given to so many of us for free: health and sunshine and love among them, and (of course) life--which is so very very fragile. Perhaps our love and gratitude will help us create a new way forward.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Work in progress

Here are a few of photos of the natural building project at the orchard.

Building a cob wall.

The building takes shape... with Hobbit-like nooks and peaceful spaces.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Natural Building Workshop

Our Dancing TreePeople Orchard and Garden hosted its first workshop this past week: Natural Building. Massey Burke was the instructor and did a terrific job teaching as well as keeping the group on task. I was pleased that most of those taking the course were from Lake County. Within the first day, we were working well together and formed a cohesive group for the duration of the class.

The materials are all from Lake County or nearby (we decided to get the rice straw from the central valley). With the exception of the roof and a few supports--we are avoiding the use of wood in the structure. The walls are either strawbale or cob. NO not CORN cob--but rather clay adobe build in place. Cob is from an old english word meaning loaf or lump. It is a mixture of clay, sand and straw--and is suprisingly strong, resiliant and maleable. In England, the cob homes exposed to the weather lose one inch a century. This small structure will have the added benefit of a natural plaster protection as well.

The clay cob is surprisingly easy to work with--and a lot of fun, too.

At this writing--our class structure is half complete. In August (8-12) , we will have another class: Natural Plasters where we will finishh many of the walls.

I will post a few photos soon thereafter

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Untended, Unintended

Untended. The walnut orchard is overgrown as we cultivate other actions this spring. My campaign for supervisor takes precedence this season, and many neighbors and friends are wholeheartedly working to make it happen. Still, it is difficult to see the oat cover crop go to seed on unplanted beds. (My no-till grain planting experiment WORKED!)

Unintended. I moved some hay bales away from the chicken coops today. When I lifted one of the bales, out scurried a half-dozen baby mice. Next to the nest of mice was another nest... I expected mice in the hay. What I did not expect was a baby rattlesnake. There it was--were there others?. Before i could get a tool to poke around and see, it was gone. Where's mama?

I concentrate on caring for the animals as a first priority, and after that, we will have to wait until after the election for the next innovation at Dancing TreePeople orchard. Brian is here for a week or two to help with the garden. we may or may not get the orchard mowed. We may or may not get the next experimental cover crop planted. We will not replace the sheep, for now. We will be lucky to plant vegetables, but won't get the food forest trees planted. While all this is left undone, much is afoot. We are planting different seeds this spring.

My effort lately has been to meet voters face-to-face. I am lucky now to be able to leave much of the daily organizing, phone calling, voter registration and fund-raising to others. We've created a campaign that gains more energy by the week. It's fun and it is already making a difference.

To have so many talented and interested campaign volunteers is both humbling and energizing. This campaign is designed to harness that willing energy. What I did not expect was how reinforcing the energy is to me as a candidate. The harder i work, the more volunteers and donations I receive. The more people donate of their time, talent and treasure, the more energy I have to give. Amazing.

Monday, January 16, 2006


The events of this past day have been too horrible to contemplate.

Two nights ago, we lost ALL of our sheep to a pack of wild dogs or coyotes (we think) based upon the nature of the wounds. Animal control told us they thought it might have been a mountain lion--but at 6:30 am we found a pack of wild dogs still in the sheep yard, so we think the dogs did it. The carnage was horrible.

The thing is, the pen is right next to our house and we heard NOTHING. In the early morning we found two dead (Twinkle and Buttercup) and Dancer is nowhere to be found. The sheep had broken open the fence gate trying to escape--so Dancer probably ran away--but she has not returned and we have searched and searched for her. I do not have much hope that we will find her alive.

I do not know how the predators got into the sheep area but they did. I think they knocked down a segment of fencing (there was evidence of a struggle) or leaped the fence. The sheep would never let us close them in the barn at night--though they slept there when it rained. They would never let me shut the door (they always bolted out). The net is this: these sheep died a terrifying death.

We have only had these magnificant animals since early December. We were looking forward to their lambs in the spring. Renee and I spent yesterday burying Buttercup and Twinkle in the spot they used to enjoy sitting.

I am not sure what the lesson of this is... I wish I could write something profound about life and death and the give and take of living in the country..... but this is just horror.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Natural Building Class

I am still planning a natural building class here at Dancing Treepeople. It will be in mid-july. I will post the exact dates once I have them. We will be implementing a combination of natural methods, strawbale, cob and others. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in learning these techniques and would like to join us, let me know.

Plus, I was excited to discover that Michael Pena from the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians is interested in natural building classes too! We may join forces and get something going here together. The tribe is planning a number of structures and they may even go into the business of producing local adobe bricks!

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Hat hovering over the ring....

I can't help but feel that we are on the threshold here in Lake County. A precipice, really. We face huge forces that will change the place forever if not carefully managed by people of integrity who are paying attention and understand what is at stake. Most people I know feel that the beauty and way of life here will be overrun by outside economic interests. (we do not even have sufficient developer fees in this county) A number of folks believe that we need a change of county supervisors in a couple of districts, including mine. Many agree that the fate of the county hangs in the balance.

So, here is what happened: I kept waiting for someone to emerge that I could support. I was ready to launch their campaign even. I waited.... and waited... and waited. I faced a cold realization: no one else is running for whom I would want to vote, let alone campaign. What is that old saying? You are the leader you have been waiting for. Some people were asking me to consider running for county supervisor.

Yikes. If I choose to run, I face a long-time incumbant who is accessible to people, known by everyone, and shows up. I would face criticism that I have lived here for less than two years. An easy choice would be to just keep waiting, at least until the next term, when folks could get to know me better. The problem is this: in four years, it will be too late. Who will work as hard as i will to protect this place? Four more years will see so much destruction.... and so much is at stake.

So here we are: The Choice. To move into public service is a significant step. As successful as I have been, I have never aspired to a public, political life. As I thought about it, I realized that (at minimum) I have the management and analytic skills and abilities to do a very good job for the people of Lake County. I will pay attention, and am astute enough to understand the forces at play... Lake County needs people like me who will serve with integrity and a higher ideal but can excel at the day-to-day management reality.

Bottomline: I decided that I WILL take this step, IF the people will have me... The real challenge will be to get to know folks, to let them get to know me, and to really understand their hopes and desires for our lives here.

It seems to me that true leaders can and must create a positive vision of community life: one where everyone can share in the abundance an area has to offer (not just a select few with the means to exploit it) and all can have a hand in restoring and preserving places of beauty for future generations.

Up until now, I've been dedicated to promoting a vision of an ecologically sustainable future for people in relationship to the natural world. This is self-reliance. I chose to be here in Lake County, precisely because this place has not yet been utterly spoiled. Here, it is still possible to recreate a local economy and a vision in keeping with a rich local history. Here we can still have a relationship with the natural world and potential for a life-giving, connected, self-reliant community.

I wonder: Is it even possible to articulate such a vision in modern politics? Perhaps people already feel it in their soul and just need leaders to really serve: to listen well and work hard to preserve that which we most value.

As a first task, I and a handful of (amazing) supporters initiated a local signature drive--signatures in lieu of filing fees--to gauge voter support. I will be going door-to-door to talk with people.

I've discovered that campaigns are quite expensive. Family, friends and constiuents--all are welcome to donate to this (my first) election campaign: Denise Rushing for Supervisor and I hope that you will support me in this in any way you can. My website is up: