Consumed by Fire

by Mimi Hedl

The wind takes the bamboo ashes far and wide. Soon what once possessed 7,500 cubic feet (bamboo rhizomes grow 1 foot underground) will have disappeared in all but memory. I saved one rhizome as a souvenir. It will go in some appropriate spot, a medal of sorts, to commemorate the battle that began more than a year ago, when I began thinning the canes in November.

With frigid temperatures and snow still on the ground, I burned the dried rhizomes without fear of embers igniting elsewhere. I did not feel prepared for the intensity of the burn. Because the rhizomes sat for months, they compressed into a tight pile. With no rain and much wind, they became dry and brittle.

One match and one balled up sheet of newspaper set the process in motion. Quickly I scurried 20 feet away from the pile, as the inferno exploded into a volcano of fiery ash. With a 10-degree day, the heat felt welcome. I peeled off layers of clothes. I stood transfixed, watching a year’s worth of struggles change into yet another form.

After 30 minutes, the pile had burned down. I could move closer to the flames. I raked the rhizomes along the edges into the center, thankful for my leather gloves, protecting my hands from the heat. Then I remembered: I had two cast iron pieces to season, a large kettle, and a scan pan a friend had given me, so badly etched with carbon nothing would cook without sticking. The kettle I’d taken to a
friend who did sand blasting for farmers, and that process took all the pits out of the kettle another friend had given me, as beyond hope, maybe good enough for a plant. (I have become the patron saint of discarded objects.)

The sand blasting made the kettle look brand new, it only needed seasoning. The scan pan would take more work, but the rhizome fire would easily burn off the carbon build-up. Inside I go for the cast iron, the flax seed oil, and a silicone brush.

First I lay the skillet on top of the fire. The skillet has to tilt as it sits on the flames. The heat doesn’t distribute evenly. I discover I can lift the skillet full of hot coals and shake it like I have nuts toasting inside. The coals will eat off the carbon. Every bit of the inside has equal heat this way. It’s fun to then tip out the coals, fill the skillet with snow, and watch the snow become boiling water. I pour off the water and accumulated carbon, and repeat the process again and again until no carbon pockets remain in the skillet. A beautiful process. Although the skillet doesn’t look brand new, it will cook a lovely omelet.

Many people make the mistake of applying too much oil to the cast iron. I used to. A thin coat, applied with a brush, will coat the cast iron. Should you need to apply another thin coat, you can do that later. You want to avoid the jellied oil in the cast iron that makes everything stick. In this case, more does not mean better.

After both pieces have had their resurrection by fire, I feel hungry. The pile of ash has one more job. I go in the house and prepare a quarter of a cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onion and garlic. I make three tin foil packets and go back out to my headquarters. A deep hole, wide enough for all three packets provides my oven. Then I put a layer of clay on top, then a mountain of hot ash. I salivate. How I love these camp fire meals!

I stand watch over my dinner. Hollis (from Hollis’s thistles) pulls into the driveway. He exclaims, “What’cha doin? Tryin’ to burn down the woods?” I motion him over to my fire, tell him I just put a punctuation mark on my bamboo project, seasoned two cast iron pieces, and now cook my reward. We talk for a bit. He wonders if I need any wood. How nice. I don’t though, but I appreciate the offer of help. After a few more minutes, I open my oven. I shovel off the coals, dig down, and pull up the parcels. I feel their softness through my gloves. I smell their deliciousness. I thank Hollis for stopping by, and I head inside to feast. Nothing could taste better. Pure ambrosia. After which I collapse into a well deserved nap, and dream of bamboo, as Nita says, in someone else’s garden.

Standing by the burned pile, with a few odds and ends that didn’t burn, I feel like I’ve made peace with the earth. To have battled so long and so furiously because of a romantic notion, and oh how beautiful bamboo does feel, look, and to see the scars I made on this land because of that notion, gives me respect for what will become part of this mosaic.

And it does seem like a collaboration, Bud. Not with another person, but with the earth herself. My solitary life has kept me from embracing projects with other people, but I see this partnership with the Earth as my calling. My joy explodes when I see plants growing in happy harmony. I hope la tierra looks at those spots of beauty and forgives me.


The New Year

by Nan DeGrove

January 2018

January is named for the Roman deity, Janus, god of doors, thresholds, passages. He has two faces, one facing backward toward the past, and
the other facing the future, reminding us of the thresholds we have crossed in the old year, as well as the ones that await us in the new.

This year January graces us with two full moons: one in Cancer, January first, and another on the 31st, in Leo, which is also a lunar eclipse. The full moon in Cancer on the first day of the new year brings the promise of life renewed even in the depths of winter’s darkness. Cancer is the sign of the Divine Mother and is associated with birth, protection of women and families, and creative work. The full moon brings to my mind the blue lotus of Egyptian mythology and art, sometimes called the Egyptian dream flower for its psychotropic effect. The blue lotus was especially sacred to the moon goddess Isis. An elixir made from the flower was used in sacred rites of Isis which continued to flourish well into the Christian era.

The second full moon of January, on the 31st, is in Leo, and is, in fact, a “blue moon.” It will also be a total lunar eclipse in Leo. This eclipse unveils more of the meaning and significance of last year’s August solar eclipse in Leo. It may bring fruition of potentials of that earlier period, both positive and negative. Leo eclipses speak to issues of power and leadership, darkness and light. The positive expression of Leo illuminates and shares light; the negative consumes light and spreads darkness.

These moons preside over the month, setting a course for the year. The lunar theme makes this a favorable time for dream work, visualization, art, and ceremonial ordering of the environment.

Brief meditations for each sign:

Aries: Your ruling planet, Mars, is in Scorpio, with Jupiter. You are coming to deeper knowledge of your destiny, what you have sacrificed and why. Your myth is the Hero/Heroine’s journey — undergoing trials, facing demons, escaping traps you set for yourself, but ultimately bringing your gift of wisdom to the world.

Taurus: The earth energy of Capricorn brings grounding and balance. The blue lotus opens in your third eye as you find time to meditate and work with images. Surrounds yourself with growing plants, flowers, herbs. As mentioned last month, you need lots of exposure to light:sunlight, moonlight, candlelight, in these dark days.

Gemini: Every three months, when Mercury is retrograde, you have a chance to re-think your life’s direction, or to even stop thinking and analyzing so much, and tap into a deeper knowing. Many insights come now as Mercury is direct again, carrying you into the new year with a vision of a life you’re creating, a threshold you will cross.

Cancer: The full moon draws you within, to reflect and replenish.You are a child of summer, of leafy gardens and moonlit seas. You need warmth now.physically and emotionally. Create an atmosphere of ceremony and order in your environment. Saturn’s passage into Capricorn sets you on a new course that will unfold over the next two years.

Leo: If you have to travel during this time, make it easy on yourself. Take less baggage; don’t feel you have to meet every social obligation. You’ll be carrying less emotional baggage too, as you are reviewing some past
experiences and letting go of old ghosts.

Virgo: Traditional astrology assigns Mercury as the ruler of Virgo, which fits with your analytical abilities and sensitive nerves. But older myths point to the moon as mistress of Virgo. These full moons speak to your emotional depth and vulnerability, which you need to honor this month, after the tasks and activities of December.

Libra: The new year calls for a house blessing, a clearing of physical space that will support the psychic and creative energies that are emerging. Perhaps you are anticipating a visitor: a child, a new love, an old friend returning, an angel.

Scorpio: Jupiter has brought much change into your life in the past few months. Some things have been released, and something is offered as a gift. It will take time to understand the full meaning of the gift, but you are learning to to receive graciously.

Sagittarius: Time to rekindle your vision and passion. Some obstacles are removed from your path now, but you may feel a bit like a skittish horse, unsure of the footing. You are half-wild and half-tame — find the balance; don’t hold the reins too tight.

Capricorn: A vision for Saturn in Capricorn is a crystal structure forming deep in the earth, a diamond perhaps. You are in a metamorphosis, like the crystal. Your earth energy is becoming more translucent, more radiant, allowing you to show your true essence and shine .

Aquarius: You have the gift of prophecy, sensing the future. You feel something coming. a new purpose for your life. In the next few months you may become involved with earth magic, perhaps through gardening, herbal medicine or working with animals. Your ruling planet, Uranus moves into Taurus in May. Welcome to planet Earth. We’ve been waiting for you.

Pisces: The full moons of this month are favorable for the realization of a goal or dream that has required focus and flexibility. Many people may wander into your life this month, new friends, as well as a friend from the past with whom you have something unfinished, or some gift to share, or both.

“Go ahead, eat your food and be happy, drink your wine and be cheerful. Always be happy and cheerful. It is all well with God. Enjoy life with the ones you love, as long as you live the life that God has given you.”
Ecclesiastes 9: 7-9 (paraphrased)

Peace, Love, and Goodwill,


by Mimi Hedl

Sometimes it feels good to sigh a big, huge, long sigh of relief. Breathing in, then slowly, ever so slowly, letting that breath go out, out, out. I think of the hours, the energy, the anxiety I spent eradicating a bamboo grove I had loved and then grew to hate when I saw it taking Strawdog, insinuating itself 10, 20, then 50 feet in all directions from the ever-expanding margins of the grove.

With such innocence I planted that pot of yellow groove bamboo, probably fifteen years ago. I bought the small start at a plant sale in Owensville, at a garden club fund raiser. I had tried to start bamboo before, but failed. This time I ran a long hose directly down to the bamboo start, drained the water from the wringer washer onto the bamboo, week after week, without fail. I dreamed of what the bamboo would look like, how it would wave in the wind, how I could learn to paint bamboo by direct observation, the trellises I could make from the canes. No doubt, a love fest. Oh my, oh my, oh my. If only I’d listened to the failure.

Year after year I swelled with pride when I saw how well the bamboo grew. Little by little, the tiny start increased to a clump. Soon it began to do the exponential thing. I felt thrilled and began to train the grove into a tunnel. I wouldn’t let any canes come up in the central pathway, just on either side. A small tunnel, granted, but still, an enclosure, a Monet, that surrounded you with softness and promise as you walked through. And when the snow came and bent it to the ground! Beyond beautiful.

A few more years passed and the canes had grown tall enough to harvest; just a few dozen, but enough to make a couple of bean teepees. What a wonderful material to work with! I loved the way it felt, the way it sounded when you tapped two canes together. And the shade and privacy the grove provided. It couldn’t get any better.

The five years or so I spent worrying and taking care of Ron gave the grove a chance to catapult its rhizomes into security. By the time I woke up from life in this nether world, the bamboo had started throwing up shoots where I didn’t want them. I’d take my hoe, walk down to the grove to chop down the offending shoots. Simple. Chop, chop. Away they go.

Bamboo rhizomes

Why oh why didn’t I study the morphology of bamboo’s root system? I’ll never understand. I needed to lose my life to the eradication of this renewable resource to respect the life cycle of anything I grow. I thought by cutting down the shoot, I deprived the rhizome of energy, and soon the rhizome would shrivel up in horror and die. I had no idea how much latent energy the rhizomes held, and how many nodes each rhizome had, where it could throw up another shoot. The rhizomes had crawled over, under, through and around each other. The earth, one foot down, had become a web of nothing but rhizomes, as strong as rebar. (The chosen material in Japan for concrete reinforcement!) This fact remained a mystery until later in the summer of this year.

Some time last winter, I wrote about cutting the bamboo canes to thin out the grove. The canes had taken every available inch of space, so that moving around inside the grove became impossible. I wanted to walk inside the grove, for children to play there too. I set 100 cut canes as my daily goal.

If I had known then what the spring would bring, I could’ve saved myself lots of trouble by beginning on the outside of the grove, then moving in, cutting every cane instead of only the big ones. Pulling 20’ long canes out of the grove proved more than difficult. It took longer to drag one cane out than it did to cut six. So one day I’d cut, the next day I’d drag and sort. By the 1000th cane, it didn’t seem like fun anymore. I began to resent the bamboo. My love affair had begun to wane.

According to my journal, when I came back from Georgia in mid-March of this year, I found bamboo shoots far and wide. For a woman who needs order, this unsettled me. I ran for the hoe and started whacking shoots like a mad woman. Granted, I panicked. I saw a looming disaster. I began to imagine the shoots appearing everywhere. If they could go under the driveway with chat down 6”, it could go anywhere. I realized that if I didn’t get rid of the grove, every bit of it, I would lose the farm. My mind reeled. I felt faint. It felt like the invasion of the body snatchers, only bamboo rhizomes played the malevolent part. I had a mission.

Every morning, often before breakfast and coffee, for an hour or more, I’d take the hoe off the clothes line pole, see if it needed sharpening, then go down to attack. I’d whack at shoots until my hand, arms, shoulders and legs felt tired and sore. Then I’d walk back to the house, bent over, and do a yoga pose for 15 minutes to stretch out my poor body. A daily routine. A pathetic, ridiculous desperate routine. And like all obsessions, at the end of the day, before beer, I’d go down and do the erad again. I won’t admit how much time I spent. This went on into July.

My helper, Mark, needed work. When he came over in late July, I had the pick-ax waiting for him. By then I had uncovered some buried rhizomes and saw what I faced. I knew I had to get the rhizomes out of the ground. The hoe failed me. I needed more power. I had to throw something over my head to get enough power to sever a rhizome. My body felt worn out from swinging that monster. I felt grateful to have Mark do the labor. After five minutes, Marks stopped swinging the pick-ax, looked at me, and said, “Miss Mimi, we’re goin’ about this the wrong way.”

Hanging up the hoe

He went on to say that I could work like I’d been working for years and never get rid of the bamboo. He told me I was fighting a losing battle. I felt a little foolish. Desperate people often don’t act rationally. Mark knew someone with a brand-new Kubota front-end loader that he could borrow. He’d come over with that piece of machinery and let the machine do the talking.

And he did. The Kubota scooped out the rhizomes like they were a plate of spaghetti on steroids. I stood around with my mouth open, watching the rhizomes plop on the ground. As Mark moved from one area to another, I’d push my wheel barrow over that rough ground, picking up the rhizomes, hence the photograph of the pile of spaghetti.

The Kubota worked for 16 hours over 4 days on the site of the grove, covering 7500 square feet, where I’d cut 2000 mature canes. It took me weeks to pick up all the rhizomes, and weeks more to pull out rhizomes the Kubota missed. As I picked up the rhizomes, day after day, I thought it would provide a wonderful task for a mathematician to write an equation for the energy the rhizomes used to grow to their mature size and then the energy we used to eradicate the grove. Somehow I think the bamboo used the energy of the sun more efficiently and cost-effectively to grow than the Kubota and I used, combined, to eradicate this beautiful plant.

After I took the photograph of my hoe, I oiled it and hung it up in the wood shed. I still go down to the grove every week or two. I find shoots as thin as one of these letters, and I break them off. Sometimes I find a rhizome I can easily pull out. I won’t plant anything on the site of this eradicated grove until next fall. It will take a year to clean up the weeds that will appear and get rid of all the stumps from the bamboo canes.

The soil already feels wonderful. Each rhizome had feeder rootlets galore. These slowly rot down and mellow the earth. A Transparent apple tree will grow there, along with native plants and grasses. For now, I see lots of stinging nettles and moth mullein. Come spring, I’ll have stinging nettle greens in everything from pasta to soup, then digging up the plants and composting them. That task will seem like a joy.

Ahhhhh…some victories feel sweeter than others. So many lessons in this victory; how to stay calm in the midst of a crisis comes first to mind. The need to know plants another. As I look out at this new canvas, I can hardly believe bamboo once grew there. Even my body forgets the labor. A sweet calmness visits me now. Let it stay, let it stay, I say, as I breathe out again.

Two Rivers & the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

A letter from activist and ecologist Paula Palmer.

Dear Friend,

For the Haudenosaunee people, words of thanks are the “words that come before all else” — not just during this season, but in all their activities and gatherings. I’ll attach their beautiful traditional Thanksgiving Address. You may want to make it part of your Thanksgiving blessings this year. I like passing it around the dinner table so that everyone can read a paragraph or two aloud.

I’m feeling deep gratitude to you for supporting my work “Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples” over the past few years. It has grown and deepened with the participation of 10 Native American workshop facilitators and more than 70 non-Natives who are now offering workshops through their own circles around the country. A recent workshop participant expressed our hopes for this work beautifully:

“I can feel the Mother energy rising up from below to inform, smile upon, and bless these initiatives so we may hear, remember, heal in truth together, so we may return to our wholeness and relatedness.”

We are challenged now to raise funds to support three new efforts —

1- We’re creating a new website that will offer positive examples and models for taking concrete steps toward right relationship with Native peoples. It will be inspiring and motivating and doable!

2- We’re coordinating a community process in Boulder CO to build right relationship with the Southern and Northern Arapaho tribes that were banished from their Boulder Valley homeland 150 years ago. On our visits to these tribes in Oklahoma and Wyoming, Ava Hamilton (Arapaho), Jerilyn DeCoteau (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) and I heard how they long for a place in the Boulder Valley where they can gather, camp, pray, collect medicinal plants, have sweat lodges, and bring teachings to the people who live here now. We are bringing their voices to City government, churches, and organizations, and hope to host delegations from the tribes to visit here next year.

3- National Quaker organizations (Friends General Conference, Ben Lomond Quaker Center, Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center) are asking me to take next steps beyond my presentation on the “Quaker Indian Boarding Schools: Facing our History and Ourselves.” Now the Religious Society of Friends needs to discern how we can contribute toward healing the wounds that Native communities continue to suffer from the history of forced assimilation by means of the Indian boarding schools.

If you are moved to support these efforts with a tax-deductible financial contribution, it will be much appreciated and carefully used. You may send a check to Boulder Friends Meeting (please write “Right Relationship” on the memo line) and mail to: Treasurer, Boulder Friends Meeting, PO Box 4363, Boulder CO 80306, or donate online at (please write “Right Relationship” in the “purpose” box).

Words Before All Else:
Greetings to the Natural World

The Thanksgiving Address (the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen) is the central prayer and invocation for the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations — Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora). It reflects their relationship of giving thanks for life and the world around them. The Haudenosaunee open and close every social and religious meeting with the Thanksgiving Address.

It is also said as a daily sunrise prayer, and is an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and her inhabitants. The children learn that, according to Native American tradition, people everywhere are embraced as family. Our diversity, like all wonders of Nature, is truly a gift for which we are thankful.

When one recites the Thanksgiving Address the Natural World is thanked, and in thanking each life-sustaining force, one becomes spiritually tied to each of the forces of the Natural and Spiritual World. The Thanksgiving Address teaches mutual respect, conservation, love, generosity, and the responsibility to understand that what is done to one part of the Web of Life, we do to ourselves.

The Thanksgiving Address
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty and responsibility to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give our greetings and our thanks to one another as people. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send our greetings and our thanks. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms — waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to the spirit of Water. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and our thanks. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

Now we turn toward the Plants. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give our thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life continue for many generations to come. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them our greetings and our thanks. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

Now we turn to all the Medicine plants of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind we send our greetings and our thanks to the Medicines, and to the keepers of the Medicines. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We gather our minds together to send our greetings and our thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we pray that this will always be so. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to the Tree life. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds — from the smallest to the largest — we send our joyful greetings and our thanks. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to the Four Winds. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunders live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwiseres underground. We bring our minds together as one to send our greetings and our thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunders. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We now send our greetings and our thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to our Brother, the Sun. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night‐time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send our greetings and our thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

We give our thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewels. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send our greetings and our thanks for the Stars. NOW OUR MINDS ARE ONE

Let’s Not Forget Puerto Rico/No nos olvidemos de Puerto Rico

For all the tragedies that have landed on these shores, there has been help — eventually. But Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria, has been stranded (not to say insulted) by the U.S. president and the United States government and its entities that might bring the island back to health.

Please consider donating and helping in any way that you can.

Puerto Rico Resilience Fund – 24 Months
The future of Puerto Rico will be formed through solidarity brigades, groups of people forming communities on farms. Farmers helping farmers. Volunteers learning as they do. Consumers and Communities supporting the food they will eat.

As the hurricane came, agroecological farm brigades became an effective way to access, clean up, prepare, and grow.

Many volunteers both in Puerto Rico and from around the world are looking for ways to help. Hosting volunteers is not an easy task for a farmer in need. La Guagua Solidaria is a mobile tool for organizing solidarity brigades at different farms, with different groups of volunteers, the necessary equipment, and a calendar.

Your gift to the Puerto Rico Food Revival Fund will go to help families and communities recover from the recent hurricanes that have devastated the lives of so many. Our goal is to help those who were affected rebuild and restore their homes, communities, environment, and lives.

Departamento de la Comida in Puerto Rico. – A grassroots organization powering local regional-food systems including sustainable farming practices and farmers markets.They are committed to providing food and relief for those affected due to the devastation of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Thank you for your generous support in the recovery PR families and communities.
What do we need?
A bus or more!
Mobile Kitchen
Camping equipment
Mobile tool shed
Tools: chainsaws, woodchopper, drill, gloves, hammers, saws, seed germination table materials, saran, solar cube for recharging tools and others
Seeds for sharing
Wellness kits for farmers and communities
Communication station (wifi, computer, charger, hard drive and others
Americas for Conservation + Arts and its Latina Environmental Giving Circle, in partnership with various organizations have launched the Puerto Rico Resilience Fund – 24 Months with Departamento de la Comida to power the restoration and the establishment of local sustainable food systems and reforestation of decimated forests; incubate authentic civic engagement through mobilization of “solidarity brigades” (small groups mobilized for the cleaning phase, planting phase, and overall education of farmers communities on sustainable practices); mobilize Promotores Verdes from multiple organizations as part of the brigades and the envisioning of restoration efforts past 24 months; create self sustaining farms that are autonomous and efficient with irrigation systems, including rainwater collection techniques & clean solar energy; chronicle and document the relief and rebuild efforts to use as a model of resilient communities’ ability to rebuild in the face of climate change destruction.
The Guagua Solidaria will work on a weekly schedule for 24 months, beginning the last week of November (accessible online).
It will visit 2 -4 farms each week.
The individual farm needs and location will be taken into account while planning the schedule.
The schedule will include the volunteers and resources needed that week.
The volunteers will detail their skills, and will sign up for a particular brigade/farm (accessible online)
How the Guagua Solidaria will work?
How can you help?
Spread the Word
Check our Calendar
Social Media Guidance

Sponsorship Opportunities
La Guagua. Ecológica. Solidaria. Puertorriqueña
The solidarity Brigade EcoBus: Cultivating the Future

Rooster Call and Pokeberry Ink

by Mimi Hedl

I’ve spent many a year honing my rooster voice. It came into service when I went down to Georgia for a family visit. My daughter had asked me if I’d want to talk to my grandson’s kindergarten class about farming on Strawdog. “Why not?” I said, “sounds like fun.” Then I began to scratch my head: “Just what will I say?”

I’d sent Brady a turkey wing feather for his birthday, a talisman, I told him. Then I mentioned to my daughter, to tell Brady we could sharpen the feather for a quill. He liked that. “What about ink?” he said. HMMM, I thought. When put on the spot, the gears start to spin, and our sluggish mind comes up with wonderful ideas. I’d make ink out of pokeberries, the children could write their names in magenta ink, and know one of the inks the early colonists used.

This idea percolated in mid-October. We hadn’t had rain for weeks. I found a small handful of berries around the farm. I’d have to go on an expedition for more berries. I walked down to Mitch’s and checked around his decrepit barn. Another small handful, all the rest dried up. Then I walked up the long, steep hill to Helmig’s. Poke berries grow in rich soil, in full sun.

My dear neighbors, bless them, have no compulsion for neatness. The world becomes their dump. I stumbled and crawled over dead tires, washing machines, abandoned bicycles, car parts, computer accessories and oodles of aluminum cans, old milk jugs. They’d become part and parcel of the land, grass growing over and through them, making my trek nearly impossible. But therein grew the pokeberries! All around this abandoned effluvium.

Forgetting my bad hip, I plundered in, stretching and reaching for the plump, ripe beautiful berries. Pierce one, receive a lovely stain, a dot in between my eyes, streaks on my face. Yahoo!! Before long, I have a half gallon, surely enough to make ink for 40 small ones to write their names. Careful not to fall and dump the berries, I look up and pause.

Oh my. Suddenly it comes back. Thirty-five years ago, we used this once majestic barn as storage. We watched Roy breed the draft horses, the mules turn the sorghum mill. All a memory now, as Roy and Viola have long ago disappeared, and the children and grandchildren no longer have time to keep it up. What once looked loved, looks abandoned, part of the past. Like Strawdog will look someday.

When the past unexpectedly visits us, we honor the moment, but don’t dwell. Flooded with memories, I keep moving, afraid the past will capture me and not let loose. I need to safely carry these poke berries down the hill, up the hill, and on to Strawdog. Come on legs, let’s go.

Poke berries grow in a cluster like grapes. Each berry has lots of seed. The birds eat the berries and dispense the seeds, making poke weed a common sight in farm yards and gardens. As I take the berries off the clusters, juice drips from my fingers, onto the grass. Once I have all the berries in a bowl, I squeeze the berries until I’ve crushed them all. Then I put the juice, seeds and skins in a strainer, and squeeze them dry. I put the pulp in a sauce pan with some water and make a grade B ink. The uncooked, unadulterated juice becomes my prime in, grade A.

So I have poke berry ink and turkey wing feathers, a few peacock feathers, a tanned rabbit hide, a racoon’s pelvic bone, 4 kinds of beans in the shell for the children to open, photos of our donkeys and chickens and pigs and cows and even one of Ron holding a snake longer than him, rescued from the chicken house. Jeremy brings me an entire turkey’s tail feathers, a fan, a beautiful thing. Along with the poke berry ink, I should have enough to entertain the children. And don’t forget, I have my rooster call!

The morning arrives. I’m on for 9:30AM. Hilary took off the day. JoAnne, her mother-in-law, will come too. Gulp. I don’t plan anything. How can you prepare for such young ones? I have lots of props and my voice. I’ve lived in this world. I know it inside out.

ERrrr-errr-err-errr-err! (a rooster’s morning greeting) begins my talk. All the children repeat it, over and over, and away we go, a day on the farm. It unfolds perfectly. Everything works out. Everyone wants to touch and hold the props, we pass around and around. They loved the rabbit hide and didn’t ask me how I got it. I’d worried about that one. They look and look at the photographs, until we finally put them all on a table, for them to look at later. They love knowing how to catch a snake and where to put your head when you milk a cow. They have more questions, more comments, and stories!!

I have plenty of help writing with the quill, five teachers, my daughter and her mother-in-law. They have two quills and I hear them instructing the children. I sit at another table with ten children and have each of them open a seed pod and see what’s inside. They want to do more. They love the colors. They like the names. Christmas lima, agate pinto, black turtle, and Anasazi. Even the teachers want to open a pod.

I give garden seeds to Ms. O’Connor, Brady’s teacher, the turkey tail feather, the quill, the poke berry ink (a security nightmare on my flight) and a peacock feather for good luck. The children hoot and holler, having done donkey, horse, chicken, pig, cow and rooster calls, they feel in good company and Ms. O’Connor is beside herself with appreciation. Brady’s delighted. Claims me as his one and only, and what grandma wouldn’t melt at such adulation?

Season of Spirits: November 2017

by Nan DeGrove

Jupiter in Scorpio
All Soul’s Day November 2nd
Full Moon in Taurus November 3rd

Jupiter moves into Scorpio on October 11th where it remains until November 8th, 2018. With this Jupiter cycle, we want to learn and know more about the hidden energies and patterns beneath the surface of our relationships and the social issues of our times. Scorpio is a sign of mystery and secrecy as well as power, sex and money. Jupiter is about justice, and the light of truth, the lamp of knowledge, which must be guarded and restored when the abyss of darkness threatens, whether despair is personal or societal. We have seen Jupiter in action with the recent exposure of sexual abuse and other misdeeds by men in positions of power, as well as the investigation of the murky aura around our current president and his allies. It also speaks to the release of censored information pertaining to the assassination of President Kennedy, whose spirit and death trauma still haunt the American psyche.

This is an excellent time to study philosophy, history, metaphysics, and wisdom traditions of different cultures. The great teachers of humanity may speak to us through our dreams. Personal teachers may appear and reappear too, in different ways. Be grateful for all who have been teachers in your life.

With the Taurus full moon coming so soon after Hallowe’en and All Soul’s, the mystery and magic of this month is magnified. The veil between the worlds is gossamer thin, fluttering like a spider web in the autumn air. Scorpio brings a reckoning and release of the shadows of the past, while Jupiter gives us courage to embrace the future.

For this special time, I’ve written a brief comment for each sign.

Scorpio: Something is calling you—a mission, a project, a journey, a stand you take for truth? Whatever it is, it’s big. It will change your life in many ways you don’t yet realize, and have benefit for those around you.

Sagittarius: You’ve had two years of Saturn which have tested your faith. Now your energy is being renewed form a deep source, like a spring bubbling out of the earth. You need some solitude to contact this inner resource.

Capricorn: In the flow of life energies, you often pour out more than you allow yourself to receive, like tide going out, leaving dry sand. Now the tide of abundance and love is coming your way. As a teacher and friend, you are a treasure to others—recognize your worth.

Aquarius: A new door is opening in your life; you need to find it, as it is hidden. It leads to a fulfillment of some deep desire, yet the way may be blocked. Spend some time exploring this image. Where is it?

Pisces: You may feel like Alice (In Wonderland) in the Pool of Tears. Sorrow has lingered in your heart, but the call of Jupiter in Scorpio awakens something new in your soul. It has to do with learning, teaching, using your talents, realizing a dream.

Aries: Your will and determination has brought you through a time of trial and error. Jupiter in Scorpio activates a magnetism that attracts new opportunities and abundance. Time to share the precious knowledge you have gathered.

Taurus relates to the third eye, the pineal gland, which is light-sensitive and maintains circadian rhythms and hormonal functions. It is also the center of inner vision and illumination. Starlight, moonlight, sunlight, candle light—take in a much light as you can to support health and happiness.

Gemini: Jupiter in Scorpio portends a change in work life, and an improvement in health. Something that has been dormant is waking up; an energy block from the past is released. Mercury, your special planet, brings helpful people just when you need them.

Cancer: You need intimacy and understanding from those you love, as you are a mystery to yourself now, in some ways. Wear pearls or moonstones to help illuminate the confusion in your heart. Something is ending.

Leo: Your ancestors speak to you through your dreams and longings. They are ghosts who watch over you and celebrate your success, your gifts, which are their legacy. Light candles for them this month.

Virgo: Like Leo you are close to your ancestors and angels now, and finding meaning and messages through your dreams. Jupiter draws you to new areas of study, perhaps alchemy or depth psychology.

Libra: Once, long ago, Libra and Scorpio were merged into one sign: the Scales in the Scorpion’s Claws. Scorpio is your twin sign, the daemon (angel) who accompanies you through life, and keeps you close to your soul and the primal forces of rebirth.

Season’s Blessings,
You can read these monthly commentaries on my website,

Time to Say Goodbye

by Mimi Hedl

The wind howled last night. It dipped to 46°. I needed socks to stay warm on the summer kitchen. I especially savored the night, as soon I’ll retreat to the upstairs bedroom, and will patiently wait until I can continue camping out with the wind, the stars and night critters.

Today I dressed in two sweat shirts and wore gloves. I pulled my hood up and tightly secured it. Moving quickly, I picked the garden, gleaning all the peppers, tomatoes with some red*, tomatillos, and beans that’ll go the way of all flesh, soon, very soon. I also picked two large green tomatoes for the last decadent indulgence, fried green tomatoes.

*(Years ago I learned that unless a tomato has some red, or lycopene, visible, the tomato will never ripen to taste like a tomato. Yes, it will turn red, but will lack flavor. Now I pitch the green ones into my wheel barrow and haul them to the compost. Of course you can make mock apple pie, green tomato pickles, which my mother loved, chutney, relish and all sorts of other delights. I have no time this autumn, I leave in a day for Georgia.)

I bypassed the basil and zinnias. The freezer bulges with pesto. I hate to see any basil abandoned, but it too will grace the compost. If the zinnias survive the 36°, I’ll pick a bouquet tomorrow. My grandson loves flowers. He asks his mother to buy them when they go to the grocery store, so the bouquet goes to Logan.

The pineapple sage should survive a minor frost, as should the lemon verbena. But I covet lemon verbena tea, so I’ll pick that too. Whenever I leave Strawdog, I gaze lovingly around me. You never know what the future holds, and it feels good to honor the moment, to look fondly on what has captured your imagination for months, and years, really. As if by standing quietly, your focus will hold that vision and carry you through difficult moments.

The other warm evening, only a few nights ago, I watched the last two moon flowers open as I hustled in and out of the summer kitchen. I hadn’t taken the time to watch them open, and how like me to wait until the end of their flowering to witness the magic. Earlier that morning I’d taken a photograph, somehow knowing their time had come to an end.

Now for the fried green tomatoes, they must have NO red, pink, orange, yellow or purple. The tomatoes won’t fry up crisp if they have an inkling of ripeness. I like to slice them thinly, 1/16” or so, shake them in a bag with flour, and cook them in hot vegetable oil, just enough to coat the skillet. They don’t need to swim in oil. I make sure the oil sizzles before I add the coated tomatoes. I want to sear them. Then, when they had a golden finish, I turn them over and let them cook very slowly until they look crisp on the outside and soft and delectable inside.

Meanwhile I cook potatoes for mashed potatoes, make milk gravy. Then I arrange the scoop, a large scoop, of mashed potatoes on my plate, with a nice indentation for the gravy, display the tomatoes around the potatoes, put the gravy boat on the table and sit down and celebrate!

I can’t deny I don’t have a lump in my stomach, an ache, an anxiety as I watch another chapter closing. Good-byes don’t come easily. Jeremy will begin working on the humongous tree that came down in the tornado, and I’ll spend happy hours hauling brush, making faggots, noticing the bark of trees and the way the sun hits the hills. Somehow, it all feels good. We move from one season to the next, not sure what it will bring, ready for the challenge. Always hopeful.

The Big Dark

by Nita Hill

The wind came up yesterday. It was surprisingly fierce. The strongest wind I have ever experienced outside a chinook or tornado. I was painting a mural on the back of the house and dirt and sticks were flying around. Pine needles from two yards over. The wind even broke my Belamcanda lilies and at times knocked me off the step stool.

The mural on the back of the house, finished before the cold sets in.

The leaves have begun to change making my very ugly tree look it best and plants that had finished their bloom long ago have changed into pleasing colors. The peonies, Lysimachia, burning bushes and the Virginia creeper. As I trimmed things back, I saved the golden hosta to enjoy. They glow in the dusk light.

Fall began in earnest while we were away. A first-time trip to Southern Utah. Hundreds of miles of glorious landscapes. My favorite is the yellow aspen. There was only a little snow to set it off properly.

Before the wind, I had raked leaves to mow and add to the Xeric bed. They all blew next to the house under the patio. Western winds aim the clouds at the back of the house and the leaves follow. As I raked, I thought of the blessing of being a gardener. How else could you understand the cycle of things? Being a gardener is like being a midwife and a Hospice caregiver at the same time. You have to let things go and bring things into being with equanimity. It was such an extreme summer you welcome the plants dying back. They need to rest.

Building beds and de-grassing took us much of the summer. I now have a rock garden and a “Chinese garden” which will require years to come into its fullness.

The rock before.

The rock garden “after,” filling in.

I spent the rest of the summer expanding beds until I have them almost the size and shape I want. I have started at least a hundred perennials from seed and I now have most the beds full of lupines, coneflowers, foxgloves and my Belamcanda lilies, plus all the plants I purchased. I found the clearance table to be great. Fall is my favorite time for planting.

I divided day lilies, Liatris and peonies that had been lined up like soldiers and spread them around. After giving away a couple hundred strawberry plants I had loads of room. The “biggest” spring surprise was a 9-foot Delphinium. I really like it (although as Jenny reminded me I don’t usually like them) so I bought a packet of seed and now have six babies. My neighbor gave me loads of Columbine seed and I stole Baptisia and Asclepius seeds and put them in the nursery bed for the Xeric garden.

The beginnings of the Xeric garden.

I haven’t had a Xeric garden in years. Most Xeric plants like sun and it’s been several gardens ago since I had any significant sun. I took the sod I had set aside and covered sheets of cardboard with the upturned dead sod and began piling soil on top. By the spring all the grass underneath should be dead and the sod will have rotted and I should have a Xeric garden. Or at least that’s the plan. I need a rest too.

The wind brought the rain. Welcome rain. Driving back across Utah the horizon turned the sickening color of wildfire smoke. We had spent the first night on the road to Utah in Winnemucca, Nevada. The woman in the diner where we had breakfast kept yelling into the phone to some relative who must have told them not to return home. She told the waitress they were from Calistoga. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be told not to return home. This has been a year of fires and storms. My husband was in the insurance office the day after the Las Vegas shooting. The agent couldn’t concentrate because two of her relatives were at the concert and were out of contact. Would they return home?

The autumn has its own plans for us. A box of bulbs should be here soon and it seems like an eternity ago I ordered orange phlox on a whim. It should be here this weekend. There is mulching and deadheading and then the snow should come and then everything becomes as quiet as it can be.

The California Fires

By Rosie Wyatt

With these terrible fires burning I’m saddened by all the loss and want to do something to help. I’m going to donate to one of these groups helping animals so if you feel so inclined here is a good list.

California on Fire – What You Can Do
Our hearts and prayers go out to every one of our neighbors, two-legged and four, impacted by the deadly fires that are raging across the Golden State. From our Northern California partner communities of Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Yuba Counties to the Anaheim Hills fire in Orange County and several other devastating blazes throughout the state, we are saddened by the loss of life and property. At the same time, we are comforted by the support of the many emergency responders, support personnel, and volunteers who are saving lives, property, and pets.

Here are links to the latest information on the fires and some ways you can make a difference.

On the Northern California fires, evacuation centers and road closures from ABC 7 News, KGO-TV —

On the Anaheim Hills fire from ABC 7 News, KABC-TV

From Cal Fire
Cal Fire statewide fire map

EPA Bay Area air quality

How You Can Help/Pets
Many animal welfare organizations throughout the Bay Area and California supported the rescue organizations in Texas, Florida and beyond during the hurricanes that recently hit our country. Now, these same organizations are stepping up to assist our local neighbors with support and services. Here are a few:

Sonoma Humane Society is accepting stray and injured animals at their Santa Rosa shelter and is offering no-cost veterinary treatment for burn victims. You will find updates and more ways to help here. Use this page to make a donation to the Sonoma Humane Society.

Napa Humane is offering ongoing support and vet assistance to displaced animals in the Napa Valley area during this emergency. If you would like to support Napa Humane, please donate here.

The Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville are open for people and large animals. The Humane Society for Inland Mendocino County says all animals are safe and are beginning to come back to the shelter as the fire shifts. You can donate here.

Marin Humane is providing free, emergency boarding for pets of those who’ve been evacuated, and staffing the evacuation center at the Civic Center in San Rafael for pets and their people. They are grateful for the outpouring of offers of donations of food and supplies but at this time, the shelter is fully stocked. The best way to help them right now is to donate funds.

Rocket Dog Rescue in Oakland is urgently seeking foster homes and volunteers at their sanctuary in Oakland to help the animals displaced by the local fires.

Pets Lifeline in Sonoma has evacuated their animals to Marin Humane. Stay up to date on their status and please donate to support the great work they do in Sonoma County.

The Milo Foundation Sanctuary animals in Mendocino County have been evacuated to Willits High School but could return shortly. Milo Point Richmond is ready to receive animals displaced by the fires. Please help, foster, volunteer and donate, designating “Fire Evacuation Fund.”

Wine Country Animal Lovers, Petaluma Animal Services, Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch and the Lake County Animal Care & Control LEAP animal disaster response group are all working hard to save and protect pets during this difficult time. Google their sites and please give generously.

More evacuation, donation, fostering and other fire-related information can be found on this Facebook group started by Becky Ewens. has posted a page with these and other resources plus ongoing updates.

How You Can Help/People
Red Cross:

For people forced from their homes since Sunday evening, the American Red Cross Northern California has been supporting evacuation centers and providing safe shelters while they wait until the danger has passed. There is no immediate need for volunteers at this point, but you can sign up online for updates, as more people may be needed in the coming days. You can donate to the Red Cross at any time here or make a one-time donation of $10, by texting REDCROSS to 90999.
Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership:

The CVNL is so grateful for the generosity of volunteers who have stepped up to help as the fires continue. Click here to read about their current need for volunteers. At this time, the CVNL does not need donated items/goods at either location. If you’d like to give a monetary donation, you can do so here.