Peak Moment - Locally Reliant Living for Challenging Times
Artist Ezio Cusi’s house is a work of art —and also built smart. The cob house with timber-framed upper stories is made with mostly local natural materials. For the cold winters, it has an annualized geo-solar system (AGS) which in summer transfers hot water from solar panels to storage in the ground. In the cool months the heat flows back into the house, warming especially the periphery. It’s comfortable even in the top story. A hand-sculpted dragon provides whimsy as well as warming in the masonry rocket stove — which burns far more efficiently than a wood stove as well as offering a nice warm bench to sit on! Art is embedded in walls while many windows are graced with original stained glass. Enjoy the blend of beauty and functionality.
"We've alienated ourselves so much from nature that our whole way of producing food is by trying to dominate nature. We're not really connected." Dan Jason, owner of Salt Spring Seeds (B.C.), points out how corporations now control most of the seeds and food products worldwide. They are poisoning plants, us, and the planet with pesticides. He passionately advocates our reconnecting with nature by gardening and farming "heirloom" and "heritage" plants started from open-pollinated seeds, just as our ancestors have done in 10,000 years of agriculture. Decades ago he helped start "Seedy Saturdays" for garden-loving people to swap seeds and information. His latest venture is a local Seed Library where people can borrow seeds, and return them at the end of the season complete with growing notes. "It's about love," he says. "Appreciating and enjoying and sharing life. It's about giving, not getting."
“This place is famous. People loving coming by here because at any time of year you can get something to eat.” Architect Mark Lakeman, co-founder of the City Repair project, gives a tour of the corner sidewalk outside his Portland office building, where a food forest is bursting with life. A diagram shows where over 80 plants are located in six or seven vertical layers. Tall fruit trees, flowers, a grape arbor, herbs, berries, small vegetables, and ground cover are abundant. This demonstration project is a haven for insects, and a provider of shade on hot days and the sun’s warmth in winter, which keeps utility bills down and the carbon footprint small. In addition to demonstrating permaculture principles, Mark notes that in this lush garden “what we’re doing here is letting the earth burst forth with self-evident meaning and wonder, so people can just stand here and be appreciative.”
“Each of us was born to do something unique on this planet, and to give our gifts. That all comes from heart and soul and spirit. Without those in [our] work, we cannot really feel satisfied or fulfilled or truly rewarded…” Ellen Hayakawa, author of The Inspired Organization — Spirituality and Energy at Work, delineates four pillars to help us find our unique gifts. Values are what are important to you. Your Life Purpose is with you throughout your life, regardless of how it might be expressed. Visions and Missions can change over time, and may involve working with other people on a shared mission.
If the trucks stopped rolling, how long could locally-produced food sustain your community? A farmer friend of Whidbey Islander (WA) Vicki Robin calculated “Two weeks in August [peak harvest time].” Vicki went on a one-year 10-mile diet, building relationships with her neighboring producers of meat, milk, eggs, and produce. This led her to learn about large-scale food systems which have largely replaced the local food economy.
After a terminal diagnosis, Steve Hamm asked a circle of friends to be with him in his dying. With guidance and support from end-of-life caregiver Kippi Waters, Judy Alexander and other friends were deeply changed as a result.
“If we’re going to really be present in this predicament, we’re going to have to befriend all of our emotions. So we teach some tools for how to do that. Being present with your body. How does the body fit in with all of this? Then, we teach some tools for how do we really see each other?” Carolyn Baker and Dean Spillane-Walker continue with specific tools and practices they’re offering as part of “Living Resilience.”
“Every single metric [of abrupt climate change] has been accelerating since I took on writing the book [The Impossible Conversation] in 2014,” says Dean Spillane-Walker. “But … the calling of our times, is: who will be together in the face of these predicaments?” Dean and Carolyn Baker are offering “Living Resilience,” an online body of resources, workshops and a supportive space for sharing inspiration, learning, and community. They support participants to reconnect with their deeper wisdom, with one another, and with the Earth in the context of the unfolding global environmental and economic crises. As Carolyn says, “…so we can build resilience. Not so we can build survivalists, and store lots of beans and bullets… so we can be truly resilient physically, emotionally, spiritually, and in every way as we navigate this unprecedented experience that humanity has not had to face before.” Episode 331. [carolynbaker.net, livingresilience.net]
“Nature knows Best,” says Cate Shanahan, M.D. “Just do what people used to do….” For their book Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, she and her partner Luke researched early American cookbooks and worldwide cultures with intact cuisines.
Every year for the past two decades, the neighbors near Sherrett Street in southwest Portland repaint their colorful street intersection. Resident Mighk Simpson gives us a tour on painting day. On the sidewalk corners are spacious cob benches (with roofs), a children’s playhouse woven from tree branches and found materials, a beehive-shaped dispensary for the monthly neighborhood newsletter The Bee, a 24/7 Tea Station, and the first-ever “Little Free Library”, an innovation which has now gone viral around the world.
Plant breeder Carol Deppe is passionate about making seeds available for all growers, rather than being in the control of a handful of corporations. “If we want to control the kind of food available and the kind of agricultural system that we want, we have to do our own breeding,” she explains. “What Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) does is create a pool, a protected commons, of germ plasm which will always be available for breeding.
“I ask the groups that hire me to pay me what feels good and right and fair to them, an amount they can afford, and that they can give joyfully… I basically trust them.