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Tree crop doodlings

Here are a couple of drawings from this past winter, inspired by cooperative and integrative tree crop happenings throughout the Mid-Atlantic. I would like to draw a series in honor of Keystone Tree Crops ‘five branch’ vertically-integrated nut supply chain. For now, I am sharing two early drafts in honor of that same cooperative effort kicking off its first fundraiser (for gatherer payments and some basic equipment).


Doodle about production and gathering of tree crops

Doodle about enjoyment of tree crops

Shoring up an inner search

In response to a person reaching out for help while seeking to reconcile different concepts of divinity:

Sounds like a search

I recall that a sure foundation for spirituality is shamanism, that is personal connection with the wise and sacred in all by nature and ancestry.
The value of alchemy with our dark spots and neglected edges also comes to mind. Carl Jung’s guidance about one’s shadow self is a more modern/mainstream thread to follow on this. I think of it simply as shining the light of one’s humble, honest, critical awareness on that which one hates or fears. Calcinate by querying like a child, asking ‘why?’ then ‘why?’ and ‘why?’ again, with the patience of lifetimes. Any time is the right time to start. I find that the better I understand what/why I fear or hate, the less my mind is consumed by it.

May peace be upon you!

Strategic trees: hazelnut

On a regional permaculture listserv, someone asked the great question of what trees are strategic to grow during these challenging and chaotic times. That thread received some good answers, including a shoutout to hickories, willows, cypress, hazels, the great book Trees of Power by Akiva Silver, and more. Of course, diversity is a strategic priority in itself, as are site specific selections. Here, I’m sharing an ode to hazelnuts as one such strategic tree:

Hazels have a long history of resilience themselves, surviving climate chaos in the past and being in the birch family who extend to the edges of where hardwoods can survive. There is evidence of hazelnuts being a resilient food source for our ancient ancestors. In terms of site suitability, hazelnuts can be a good fit in both urban and rural settings.

Hazels are botanically unique in that their beautiful flowers stay open for pollination for weeks (a grower recently told me they observed one open for 8 weeks!) Those flowers can also be cold hardy down to -20F, so they are less vulnerable to climate chaos.

There’s so much more to say, but the last bit of inspiration I will share to encourage learning and engaging with hazels is this.

Of all the ways trees can provide for our basic needs in mutualism, hazels offer many gifts.

  • Food: can be eaten raw, can be used as a staple food in various ways, incredibly healthy, can be valuable for trade.
  • Fodder: can be forage for animals, good for wildlife.
  • Fuel: coppices provide a short-rotation source of dense firewood that does not require splitting, and the nut shells are also energy dense.
  • Fiber: hazel rods were used to build early cool temperate-climate homes, and their strong, flexible wood is handy for many tools and applications (even boats!)
  • Farmaceuticals: “Let food by thy medicine…”
  • Fun: Hazels have deep roots in my ancestral culture and many others. They make lovely places for wildlife and can be used in all kinds of play. Their pink flowers softly announce the arrival of spring, and that kind of forward-looking positivity is needed with the challenges and metaphoric-winters we face.

Nut tree mapping with iNaturalist

Trees offer an abundance of gifts. Both wild and tended trees provide food, fuel, fiber, animal feed, medicines, and a range of co-benefits, including clean water and wellness. Much more has been said on this, and there is more to say. For now, I zoom in.

How can we reconnect with trees for basic needs? One way I’m drawn to is that of a sprouting organization called the Keystone Tree Crop Cooperative (KTCC). KTCC aims to gather food from existing nut trees and enable broader audiences to connect with these gifts from trees.

To catalyze the harvest of existing nut trees, gatherers will benefit from incentives (such as compensation for nuts), education on methods (including food quality standards and comfortable tools), and guidance on gathering locations (as in maps). This post is about the latter: mapping existing nut trees and identifying hotspots to efficiently harvest from, with an eye for the coming autumn 2021.

iNaturalist was homed in on as a pretty good platform for nut tree info. There are observations and observers already on iNaturalist. This site also has experts maintaining a cross-platform database of trees, which is useful to build on. While iNaturalist has some limitations discussed below, it is a good starting point – let’s take a look!

Continue reading →

World eater, world propagator

Dichotomies

conventional & organic
degenerative & regenerative
degrading & restoring

I like the latter terms because it feels difficult to green wash. Take any feature that is necessary for the systems that support us, and see if it is being restored/enhanced, or if it is being degraded. Water quality. Soil fertility. Biodiversity.
Alas, if there is a will there is a way, and all of these terms will be “greenwashed” to some extent, making environmentally degrading acts seem restorative.

And by what means is the greenwashing motivated and manifest? Who done it? Some words commonly attributed to the complex system in question, which degrades essential qualities while feigning friend of fundamentals:

The man
The system
Capitalism
Neoliberalism
Globalism
...

These terms too are not perfect. Each has assumptions and complexities, they lack precision and can be tricky. Then I read something which shared a term so precise, so empirical, it could not be misconstrued or exploited:

The cosmophagous world: that world which devours all other worlds to feed itself.

cosmo-
From Ancient Greek κόσμος (kósmos, “universe”).
-phagous
From Latin -phagus, from Ancient Greek φάγος (phágos, “glutton”), from φαγεῖν (phageîn, “to eat”).

And what is the alternative to devouring other worlds? To multiply, to propagate, to support many worlds. Consider, as you go about the polarized and dissonant world, whether this dichotomy fits: some ways grow themselves by devouring other worlds, while other ways grow all by propagating many worlds.

Sheep inhabiting a woodland edge, with forest and meadow to graze, at a diverse silvopasture farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I think of this as I visit small farms and see the countless worlds that are hosted there: the worlds of the orchard and of the pasture, the worlds of the meadow flowers and of the insect colonies which enjoy them, the worlds of the varieties of people who are part of the community affected by the small farm, and the worlds of the countless communities which have other small farms of their own.

That world catalyzation is a stark contrast to the vast monocrops, moonscapes, and mines producing homogenized ways of life, wherein one world grows larger while the others are whittled away.

May this be a high-level guideline, leading us toward Earthbound mutualism rather than parasitism.


I end with an excerpt from the text that introduced me to this concept of cosmophagy, and with a wish that you will celebrate and support the many worlds we coexist in as One.

Power is inseparable from the capacity to be affected. We find potentialities in our shared sensitivity: that sense of urgency that pushes us to seek new ways of living — to want to change this world; that feeling of belonging that pushes us to act, and likewise to risk everything. How can we unleash these potentials? The paths suggested by the existing order — call it what you will, Empire, capitalism, colonial modernity, white supremacy, the cosmophagous world — aim to capture the affects that make life worth living.

Neither sinners, nor victims: we inhabit climate change. We see that this period of disillusionment with centuries of misdirection is also one of infinite potential. Each of us have within us the remote possibility of stemming the tide of the catastrophe. By organizing pessimism, the fundamental affect of the times, and giving it a creative consistency, we can hope to bring about other worlds. But first, it is essential to make a break with this one. We did not choose to be thrown into a world that seems doomed to its own destruction, but we can decide to continue it or break free from it.

via “Re-Attachments: Toward an Ecology of Presence” by Dispositions Collective (2021 Jan 29) @ https://illwill.com/re-attachments

Burying the dead in the beginning

Adult raven photograph by Ron Hanna via https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/common-raven#photo3

Studying Jewish folklore brings one around many old testament stories, and with that, the source of many cultural idioms and expressions: “the writing on the wall”, the value of atonement, among much else.

Something new to me is a source of wisdom on burying one’s dead. I did not realize advice about it for Jews goes back to beresheit:

After Hevel [aka Abel] was slain, he was lying in a field, his blood spattered over sticks and stones. The dog who had been guarding Hevel’s flock now also guarded Hevel’s corpse from the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky.

Adam and his mate came and sat by the corpse, weeping and mourning for him, but they did not know what to do with Hevel’s body.

A raven whose companion had just died said: I will teach Adam what to do. The raven took his dead companion, dug up the earth before the eyes of Adam and his mate, and buried him in it.

Adam said: We will do as the raven. At once he took Hevel’s corpse and buried it in the ground.

Commentary on the fourth reading of the first torah cycle, via https://headcoverings-by-devorah.com/MidrashBereishit3.html, with image via https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/common-raven#photo3

Willows Edge – First Casita Campout – April 2021

Pursuing study and projects oriented toward alchemy and ecology, I have had the privileged opportunity to start a land project at Willows Edge Agroforest. This project is intended to make space for ecological mutualism and for a mother tree nursery that can be used to start a variety of tree nurseries. There’s lots of updates I’d like to share about that, but even with the work done and the photos taken, it takes time to report out about it.

Here’s a gallery to share a big weekend at Willows Edge. This was the an eventful occasion: the weekend of my ‘golden’ birthday, my first time camping out in the workshop-cabin now referred to as the casita (Spanish for ‘little house’), the completion of finding permanent homes for the hundreds of trees I began from seed in Fall 2019, and first sight of the organic farm starting on a lease of 2/3rds of this area. A great five days with friends and allies, human and otherwise, shared with much thanks.

To view the album, please visit the Alchemecology page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=Alchemecology&set=a.3744731438982390

Tracking agroforest tree plantings and farm features using QGIS

Here is a response I want to share from a question about how tree crop enthusiasts are keeping track of plantings and related info:

Metal tree tags on locust stakes are low-tech and work reliably. For a more advanced, digital approach, I use QGIS. It offers the benefits described in a comment above about ArcMap, but it is free and open-source software. It has a little bit of a learning curve, but it is a very powerful tool and it can interface with other geospatial technology including GPS, Google Earth, and iNaturalist. If you try this route, I recommend focusing on the following steps to begin with.

  • Install (and if you can, make a contribution to) QGIS https://www.qgis.org/en/site/.
  • Find and download raster files (.jpg, .tif) for overhead views of your Area of Interest (AOI). These files are referred to as aerial imagery or orthoimagery, and in the U.S. you can get them from county GIS websites or from https://nationalmap.gov.
  • Follow a basic tutorial about raster vs. vector file types, and creating shapefiles.
  • Create a polygon shapefile for your AOI boundary- Create a point shapefile for your individual plants.
  • Add new attribute fields to your ‘plant points’ shapefile to describe characteristics you want to keep track of. Here’s some fields I use (+ examples/explanation):
    • species (corylus spp.),
    • planted_date (fall 2019),
    • permanent (y/n in case it is to be transplanted),
    • measured (y/n to indicate if its location is precise or estimated),
    • source (to keep track of cultivars, purchases, etc),
    • updated (date for when this entry was last updated, since inevitably the records can get out of date; update this every time you update any other field for this data row)
    • notes (misc info that doesn’t fit cleanly in other fields, try to use this sparingly as it is better to have distinct fields in case later on you want to select or analyze plants based on some attribute)
Screenshot of QGIS in use for agroforestry mapping
Here’s what QGIS looks like in regular use for me. You can add shapes as points, lines, or polygons, which can represent individuals, linear plantings, or orchard blocks. This screenshot shows an individual tree point selected, with the kind of info I described above and more displayed on the right-side ‘attribute table’.

At this stage, you will have a powerful, interactive map of your AOI, with individual points or polygons to depict features of interest on your property, and those features can have a miniature (or massive) database of characteristics associated with them. You can have as many or as few fields as you’d like, and you can even associate fields (e.g. feature_ID) with other datasets, such as yield records or amendment history for an orchard block.

A basic tutorial about Coordinate Reference Systems (CRS) and about Georeferencing would be helpful to get ahead of GIS software’s more confusing aspects. Using an appropriate and consistent CRS is especially important for making accurate spatial measurements. You can also go to https://gis.stackexchange.com with questions.

Example map from QGIS
Here’s a finished map from QGIS. It is not as easy to make proper maps in QGIS but it is possible – a tutorial will save you a ton of time vs. winging it.

We are all in this together: balancing individuality and oneness amidst evolving mainstream metaphysics

Importantly, the universe being a simulation does not imply solopsism.

I have seen a few cases of solopsism and similar philosophies taken as a given, based on the ‘universe is a simulation’ press circulating. Eventually news will spread that theoretical physicists think of mind as a substrate of reality. What philosophies will people be drawn to while digesting that revelation?

It is important to remember that in any of these metaphysical views, it can still be true (and perhaps much more-so) that we are all in it together.
Perhaps I am just an ant, or just dust, or just digital. And so, I know how much an ant, or dust, or digital bits, can suffer, aspire, inspire, and love.

May peace be upon you!

Storied Pasts

https://www.lionsroar.com/magical-emanations-the-unexpected-lives-of-western-tulkus/

“If I died in a month would I be satisfied with my life, and the answer was ‘no’.”

“I don’t have to be a reincarnation. It’s not the most important thing. If my existence has meaning, it’s because I’m doing good in this world—I’m helping people. I don’t have to be a tulku in order to do that.”

“We don’t need all those complications,” he says. “We’re all humans. We’re all struggling. We’re all learning from each other.”

“Yesterday, I was talking to one of my tulku friends who is in New York, happily driving for Uber.”