Friday, September 14, 2012

Ramblin Man

"Creativity is the residue
of time wasted"

-Albert Einstein

It feels good to be posting again, after a break...

Moonrise in Waiheke's main village

We all have something to say..

How important it is to us, taking the time, and cultivating the dicipline to say it, are clearly, important factors for anyone writing.

Growing real food is magic for me.
The enjoyment and understanding that comes from partaking in and  preserving the bounty our natural ecosystem services provide is important to me.
So I write about it. Pretty simple, really. 
Winter cauliflower
Winter broccoli

Winter is mild in New Zealand, and good food can be grown at all times of the year. Being surrounded by water, there is little chance of any frosts, and it is just a matter of timing as to when you can get seeds to germinate etc, like anywhere else. Seedlings can go in at any time of the year. So good nutrient dense food can be had all year. 
This is a good thing.                   

Wave riding

Music, media and meditation (amongst other things) all garner my attention as well...
Some can be written about, the others, not so easily. 

While political junkies are running about in a lather talking up their guy to run the broken, rigged system that is the United States government..
Bob Dylan has a new album out.

It is his 35th album. Tempest is the name.

Rocking Bob
Pictured left is his concert at the recently refurbished Capitol Theatre in New York. Apparently, a perfect venue for the this NYTimes review states, making it clear the 71yr old was enjoying himself. Not one to be left behind, the maestro has his songs drip fed out online nowadays, and a quick visit to iTunes will get you the feel for his enduring musical gift. A glowing review of the album on The Guardian makes interesting reading for the die-hards (like me)

Tempest. What a great name.

Which is what Spring is often like down on a small island in a big ocean. 
Waiheke is only 20km long, and about 15km off the coast of the main city of Auckland. When the wind blows, it howls. We have had a share of it this year... but the signs are good now, even though Spring days are so unpredictable

Signs of Spring
One of my new favourite blogs is by a lady called Perma Goddess (great name!) about her abundant small permaculture holding in Ireland called Bealtaine Cottage. She posts about most days. Absolutely superb.

My spring walks take me all around the small village of Rocky Bay here on the island, a home of mine for a number of years, and a great little community.
The country lane I start my walks on

I start up the lonely lane and see where it might lead. There are signs of Spring everywhere, and the air is fresh and crisp.

The ground is still a bit too wet to get involved in any cultivation presently, but the birds are active, the temperatures are warming, and growth is emerging from hardier species. 

Even the spiders are getting themselves 
Fractal geometry?

Nature is all about balance. We would do well to seek that in our lives, rather than make so much effort trying to own, patent, and manage natural processes.  
They are already managed very well, thanks. 

This was an interesting take on our energy conundrums I read recently from a solar enthusiast:
"Think about it this way. We’re killing people in foreign lands in order to extract 200-million-year-old sunlight. Then we burn it . . . in order to boil water to create steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity. We frack our own backyards and pollute our rivers, or we blow up our mountaintops ... for an hour of electricity, when we could just take what’s falling free from the sky.”

Danny Kennedy

Solar is undisputed as reliable source of energy. In fact we would die pretty quickly without it. The problem is not using it, we do. Every day. The problem arises when we want to try to plug it in to our excessively energy-hungry lifestyles! Then we are dealing with all sorts of issues like infrastructure, rare-earth materials, etc etc.
As a farmer, I am a big solar fan. Works great. 
Have to have it, actually. 
I just use it as it is...


Friday, September 07, 2012

Living Earth

"Eating is an agricultural act"
-Wendell Berry

I love compost. It is the most essential and basic of all natural life processes. It is beautiful, easy and efficient. The small pile above, in which my fork is stuck down deep, was made in only a few months. The carbon material, mixing with water air and nutrients, has broken down into a dark friable and highly fertile mix that anything will grow like mad in. Great stuff. Most of the material has been sourced from the local wineries on the island, and is quite acidic, so I always make sure to add plenty of lime. Great for compost tea, which the plants respond to quickly

The compost I have made in between rows in the vineyard (left) is called green manure, or cover cropping, and works essentially the same way, only on a larger scale. Seeded in the fall, a mix of grasses and legumes are now in full bloom and will be turned under this week. With some added bacteria and fungi, the process will take place over the 6 acres in the ground, just as it has for ages, as nature designed. I am just facilitating the process. with enzymes and bacteria that helps ensure the biological activity is complete. This enables the soil to use the additional organic matter in holding water better, allows nutrients to become available through electromagnetic and chemical reactions going on all the time. It is a dynamic situation, always changing and always teeming with life. This life in the soil is essential for life in our food.

"Soil is alive. It more than simply supports life. Living soil is healthy and healthful. It allows for the growth and development of healthy, healthful plants - plants that fulfill the nutritional needs of animals and people. Dead soil is dirt. It does not produce healthy animals and people. It does not produce healthy vegetation. It erodes. It compacts. It clods. It no longer carries an adequate electromagnetic charge".

-Dr. Arden B. Andersen
Life and Energy in Agriculture

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dancing In The Streets

"The question that motivates this book originates in a sense of loss: If ecstatic rituals and festivities were once so widespread, why is so little left of them today? If the 'techniques of ecstasy' represent an important part of the human cultural heritage, why have we forgotten them, if indeed we have? If we possess this capacity for collective ecstasy, why do we so seldom put it to use"?
-Barbara Ehrenreich

Dancing In The Streets, A History of Collective Joy

No problem for the annual migration of "Burners" that take to the Nevada desert for a bit of "ecstatic celebration" and all sorts of creative foreplay in the process.. All the latest from SFGate here, and from 10 Zen Monkeys here, which includes the silly guy that wanted to "Burn the Man" a couple of days early. Not a good boy...

But what would you expect from such a character?

Everyone else seems to be having a grand old time..

I always thought it might be a bit uncomfortable camping out in the blowing sands for a fortnight with very little else to do but build and burn...but hey, haven't been there, so I will trust it is a tribal thing.

In tech news, the Wikipedia vandals have been found out, and now you know where some of those entries come from, and what happens to them (and by whom). Pretty clever.

Who's afraid of Google? The Economist asks the question, and according to them, plenty of folk. Mainly around privacy concerns, but anytime you have a company that grows that fast, it just has to have some kind of secret agenda. Doesn't it? Simply to organise and rule the world's information, seems fairly innocent enough... Yeah right. It is really a targeted advertising company selling you products aligned with your specific interests that they just happen to know about because of your search history. OK with that?

At least they have got some characters working for them, like this guy, reported in NYTimes, who gets his photograph taken with all the VIP's passing through the
Googleplex. Just an ordinary engineer, eh?

Gotta be a fun place to work, though...

No doubt everyone saw Miss South Carolina give her answer to on a Teen Beauty Contest as to why so many Americans cannot find their way around a map...
It makes Bush seem articulate!

Biopics of famous people, dead or otherwise, have been prolific in recent years, especially in the musician category. Paul Harris in Alternet asks why Bob Dylan himself doesn't play a role in the upcoming movie about his life called I'm Not There. Perhaps he thought 6 actors was enough.

Want to know all about private islands, and the eccentric people that own, inhabit and visit them, for say, up to 8years at a time? Well look no further. Private Islands blog is here.

Pick one up today. And don't forget to invite me around.

Gotta love those Africans.. They are becoming adept at blending culture and technology into a real art form:

Now that's what I call Hands Free!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Under Mouse Arrest

"I will visit a place entirely other than myself.
Whether it is the future or the past

Need not be decided in advance."

-Susan Sontag

A plethora of links, clips bits and bytes of completely unrelated, yet undoubtedly culturally important information on offer today, in case curiosity got you as well as the cat:

That icon of American journalism Bill Moyers, has a chat with Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch) as well as Clive James, Australian born cultural critic living in U.K. Lively and entertaining discussions on the state of affairs here, there and just about everywhere. Moyers' PBS show called The Journal, is indeed a worthwhile view, either on the television or the net.

The current state of the Music industry, how it got to where it is, and where it might be heading in this article "off The Record", by Robert Sandall in Prospect Magazine.

A nice little ditty from the SF Chronicle on the beautiful Waimea Falls Canyon on the North Shore of O'ahu, since it has been run by the Audubon Society these last few years. One of my favourite spots, and worth every plaudit.

Why are we so afraid of offending Muslims? asks Christopher Hitchens in online magazine Slate.

Gee, I dunno, maybe it's something to do with being afraid of what we don't understand?

Not to get stuck into politics and World Affairs for too long, there is always that little bit of 40 yr old gossip for ardent music fans about 2 greats: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and their relationship with well, one lady. Patti Boyd tells what she remembers here.

Leave it to good ol' New Zealand to come up with some innovative ideas for getting out there and enjoying the scenic wonders this country has to offer: All the Great Walks are now free for under 18's including great accommodation in the Department of Conservation Huts (DOC). Take it from me, that is a really good deal.

If you are a reader, you will appreciate Venezuela's mobile library that has 4 legs. Great stuff.

A new documentary film entitled Dr Bronner's Magic Soapbox about a one Emmanuel Bronner, a chemist who escaped from a mental asylum and developed his own brand of peppermint soap (as you do) is previewed here on NPR, as well as chat with the director, Sara Lamm.

Staying with the health and food, an interview with Andrew Kimbrell , author of Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and The Secret Changes in Your Food is important. This is not going to go away. Half of the processed food on American shelves has been genetically modified in some form or another. Own the brand, and own the business.

Wiser Earth, Paul Hawken's enormous database of NGO's and environmental activist groups (literally thousands) all on one portal website. Head off wherever your interest and time take you. What a great visionary. His latest book is entitled Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in History Came Into Being, and Why No One Saw It Coming.

Speaks for itself, really.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Being Bob

"There must be some way out of here", said the joker to the thief
"There's too much confusion", I can't get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, ploughmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.

"No reason to get excited", the thief he kindly spoke
"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late".
All Along the Watchtower

The cynical reviewers harp on about the ageing audience, and lack of intimacy , or the clinical nature of his performances in Bob Dylan's current tour down under. His re-working of the songs, far too many in nearly 50 years of performing to reach everyones favourites, also cops some flak.

None of it matters. Not to him. And not to those who experience the essence of a living legend performing the way an artist does best: with creativity and surprise.
Since when is music just for the young? Yes, each decade I see him is a different show, and each one has a magic all its own. Auckland sold out its first show last night, and after a stint over in Australia, he is due back for two more shows at the end of the month in a small theatre. He must be doing something right for that kind of demand. And for someone who has been called everything from god to the spokesman of his generation, the lyrics say it all:

You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion'
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.

Masters of War

That was Vietnam, now it is Iraq et al. The words mock and they taunt, they make you think. His backup band as tight a R&B unit as you will ever see. No, rock concerts are not as they were 30 and 40 years ago, and a commercial pall hangs around some of the concrete arenas like a bad odour, totally inappropriate for the man who set the tone launching an important cultural revolution in the last half of the 20th century.

He says what he needs to say, plays what he likes to play, and does it with truckloads of class.
For me, that is enough.

Winter creeps slowly along it path towards conclusion in the Southern Hemisphere, with warmer and longer days pointing towards Spring, albeit the skies still frequently showering us heavily, and keeping the ground too wet to work for us growers.

Waiheke Island only has about 7000 inhabitants full time, and in the winter, it is isolated and removed from the mainland by a 30 min boat ride, and everyone feels it. Especially when the weather cancels the ferries, which is not too often.

One of the things I like most about living in a small rural community (at least this one) is the fact that so many people wave as they drive past. I don't know who they are, most of them, but it doesn't really matter. They are saying hi and smiling, content in the knowledge that they too, are experiencing something unique in todays urbanised and industrialised world. there are no traffic lights on this island. No MacDonalds and no Wal Mart. Refugees all of us, it's as if we all have a very special friend in common.


I take the opportunity to embrace the solitude available, and though I have been called a bit of a hermit by more than one of my friends, it is not an exclusionary practice, but one borne out of both desire and circumstance. It certainly has its benefits, not the least of which is an ability to practice the art of living in harmony with my environment, which at times can be a challenge. It's both serene and wild, a small island in a big ocean,
and I don't want to miss any of it. Right now, the clouds hang low and dark, pellets of rain pounding down from one of many showers today, and in between welcome sunny periods to walk and refresh from the onslaught of power that so characterises the natural beauty.

Hare Mai.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Grape Expectations

It's mid-winter in Aotearoa, and the pruning for grape growers is well under way. The two main types of pruning the vines are finding healthy canes with sufficient number of buds and laying them down on the wires for shoots in the spring(left); or leaving spurs with a sufficient number of buds on last years canes as shown in the picture on the right.
Both methods work well, and depend upon variety, terrain, labour and growing styles. The essential purpose being to have new shoots burst through in the spring from last years growth and produce canes healthy enough to flower and fruit. Viticulture experts will have any number of reasons for using either method. In the end, the production of quality fruit will have to start with an appropriate number of buds, and from there, it all begins, as with most plants. Note the heavy under planting of a winter cover crop on the left and lower shots as opposed to the right. This will be due to a simple timing issue effecting the strike rate of the seed put down (the row on the right picture was sown a week later, after the soil temp had dropped), as well as the bird population catching on!

Heavy rain is falling at the moment, and July has had a number of moist warmer low pressure systems dropping copious amounts (100mm+) of rain on several different days. Needless to say, it is pretty soggy out in the fields. We keep all the equipment off until it is dry to avoid further compaction. 100mm= approx 4 inches in N American terms. About what Southern California gets all year!

I thought Auckland might rate as one of the 15 greenest cities on the planet, but not so, according to this poll from online magazine Grist, as reprinted in Alternet. West Coast USA cities Portland, Vancouver and San Francisco came as no surprise, having lived in each of them. But places like Sydney and Bangkok were eye openers for me. See for yourself why the initiatives these cities have taken are putting them at the forefront of urban environments making a difference. Still, Bangkok? I could hardly breathe last time I was there. Apparently recycling residents' cooking oil for biodiesel fuel is a winner. Whatever.

For Jack Kerouac fans, the legendary scroll on which he typed non-stop the book On the Road, is a priceless piece of literary history. The truth, according to this NPR article citing the curator for the famous piece of paper, is that he worked through many drafts over the period of 1947-49, but the actual typing only took about 3 weeks, as he typed 100 words a minute. He thought it wasted too much time replacing sheet after sheet, as his mind raced along, reportedly aided by any number of substances that eventually killed him not long after. Great book nonetheless.

If you have the funny feeling that the gap between rich and poor in whatever measure makes sense is getting wider, this article in the U.K.'s Observer is a real eye opener. Welcome to Richistan, USA, gives some sobering statistics. Just a few lest you are in any doubt about what is happening in the Land of Plenty:

"In 1985 there were just 13 US billionaires. Now there are more than 1,000. In 2005 the US saw 227,000 new millionaires being created. One survey showed that the wealth of all US millionaires was $30 trillion, more than the GDPs of China, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the EU combined".

Pretty cool. Especially if you are one of the 227,000 every year(presumably many from the emerging online industries and dot com booms) - was there a bust? Doesn't sound like it. That is only one year! It is an interesting article about how new economies are building around the super-rich and all the social implications of that (can it be called a sub?) culture. Apparently net worth needs to be in the $100 million region even to be considered part of the club.

Hope they're all happy.

In the end, we all come into this world and depart it with the same amount.

On the health front:

A great article here on the famous Dr Bronner and his soap empire (ever read those labels?)

And of course nothing would be complete without a quick update on the latest research around Soy and all its related products. It would appear the fermented variety (such as tempeh), as noted earlier on this blog, has less of the adverse effects present in normal soy.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Blessed Unrest

"Ideologies exclude openness, diversity, resiliency and multiplicity, the very qualities that nourish life in any system, be it ecosystem, immune system, or social system...Ideas are living things; they can be changed and adapted, and can grow. Ideas do not belong to anyone, and require no approval. History demonstrates all to eloquently that no ideology has ever amounted to more than a palliative for any dire condition. The immune system is the most complex system in the body, just as the body is the most complex organism on earth, and the most complicated assembly of organisms is human civilization. The hundreds of thousands of organizations that make up the movement are social antibodies attaching themselves to the pathology of is what the earth is producing to protect itself".

-Paul Hawken
Blessed Unrest

Paul Hawken's latest contribution to the increasingly complex dialogue on social and environmental justice movements is more like a resource encyclopedia. While he meticulously outlines the urgent nature of many imminent global crises, he is at pains to steer clear of languishing in blame and recrimination. Instead, in one important chapter, he takes the example of the human immune system as proof that living things will respond to potential threats in a complicated, yet efficient way. That is not to say all is well, and we can sit back and watch as things work themselves out. He devotes nearly half the book, as well as his latest project Wiser Earth, as an opportunity to catalogue and celebrate the action and interconnectedness of the thousands of NGO's, civil society organisations and groups that are filling the leadership vacuum left by governments and politicians. The website is a truly global resource centre and portal for those whom action on issues as pressing as global warming, real food production, AIDS, poverty, and all aspects of sustainable living are given tools for "solving as pattern", as Wendell Berry termed addressing multiple and interconnected issues.

How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why no One Saw it Coming is the appropriate subtitle.

One such example in wht he terms "the movement" is The Center For Food Safety, informing consumers what really is in their food, what they can do about it, and how to eat real food. They have pulbished a new book called Your Right to Know, Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food, by Andrew Kimbrell. It might be useful to know that over half the processed foods in the grocery shelves of the U.S. contained genetically modified ingredients.

A good place to start this journey of discovery is to be aware of what we are putting into our bodies. Food is not what it seems in many cases, and many large corporations, in the name of increased productivity and "feeding the world", are indeed toying with an unproven and highly unstable area of science, now selling at your local shop!

As Hawken points out, " Ecology is about how living organisms interact with one another and their environment. Sustainability is about stabilizing the currently disruptive relationship between earth's two most complex systems - human culture and the living world".

Having children often puts a different perspective on some of these matters, as we ponder what they and their children and grandchildren will face in coming years in dealing with the living world, which they are a part of.

If the issue of sustainability is really about ensuring adequate resources for future generations, it becomes quite personal and relevant once some of those "generations" start staring you in the face, wondering WTF you did to leave something to live on for others, like well, them.

If we continue to consume in the same way, there will not be enough, and ways of living will alter dramatically. This is already starting to happen with many, but life as we know it will not be the same...

Consuming is part of the process of living of course, and then there is hyper-consuming, a mode of living made famous in the U.S., and spreading like a virus throughout the world, thanks to the marketing saavy of our best persuaders, that teach us how to want things we don't need.

Like perhaps 66 hot dogs at one sitting. A perfectly normal activity to celebrate Independence Day...Or whatever.

Good luck with that gut, buddy.

If you are not familiar with Google's newest controversial toy, Street Video, apparently one can get even closer to the neighborhood than with its famous maps, which by the way, did not even get Waiheke Island in the picture, not that I am disappointed in the least. I don't need people trying to locate and zoom in on my home. Mark Morford's column in SF Chronicle gives it a review to remember, in "I can see your thong from here". Pretty funny if it weren't actually happening. Wasn't there something by George Orwell about Big Brother and all that around 1984?

Well, it's here.