> jumping into life.


the best bread recipe ever, ever:

self-rising flour.



bake. 350.



amazing what twelve people can accomplish over the course of three days. three mornings even - we didn't stay past 3 in the afternoon, and on wednesday it started raining at noon so we only worked for a few hours. in that time, we: dug up a 15 by 25 foot front yard (having first destroyed the concrete pathway by dropping big rocks on it) to a depth of 18 inches below the street; used the excavated dirt and concrete shards, as well as pieces of curb we scavanged from a roadworks project a few blocks away, to build a front porch; dug a trench about 25 feet by two and planted, bermed and straw mulched five plum shrubs; pulled up an illegal and poorly planned greywater system, re-routed it, dug new trenches and basins so that it now feeds five grapevines, an apple tree, and assorted greens, and then buried it so that it can also be a driveway; took out several lengths of chain-link fence; removed and relocated a cement-footed clothesline; removed a big-ass cottonwood stump; and dismantled an herb spiral, repotting all the perennials for later planting in the spring.

the cooler part is that everything we did was something we'd conceptualized, drafted, planned, and learned ourselves. as of now, i know how to lay pipe, graft fruit trees, start a neighborhood traffic calming proposal, make and use a water level, and explain to a feng shui fanatic that while i'm sure she does need a mountain for the spirit of the tiger in her front yard (to balance the dophin-spirit pond she's digging in the back), it would be more useful to the overall design if she placed it where it didn't shade her vegetable garden. i also got a lot better at digging.

a week off; he's coming to visit tomorrow; it's snowing; i'm happy.


i had my fortune told at a party last night. she said i would live on the coast of maine, in a seaside house filled with family photographs and white roses. my husband will be a fisherman she said, and i will bring him sandwiches and we'll sit on the docks and have lunch together, our feet dangling over the edge. lots of dogs, and she paused, smiled. mutts, all of them, at least four, pound dogs, ugly and sweet and their hair everywhere. and lots of kids, big family. she laughed. you only have one bathroom, and all the time there is someone pounding on the door, there's no privacy but you don't need it, you all take baths together, a big old porcelin tub, dinner is a madhouse, milk spilled on the table, dogs bumping against the chairs. you are a writer, she said, or... and a pause, or you own a bookstore. yes, a used bookstore and maybe a cafe. you are frustrated because you don't have any time to yourself, it's hard to find a private, quiet moment, but at the same time, you love it, you love your family and the bustle and the noise. oh yes, she said, you love it, and your hair is long and your kids are wild and creative, but you know how to keep them under control when you need to. your house is so personal, she said, and her voice was full of admiration, everything in it is something you love, seashells and momentos. a big garden in the back. lots of books. i see you reading by the water. lots of drawings, sketches, maybe you have a room for art, and you love your husband madly, isn't that right?

and i could only nod and smile, yes. yes yes, that's right.


the premise is this: nature knows what's up. she's been at this gig for a helluva lot longer than we have, and she's got it down. it would behoove us to pay attention. the mantras are as follows: the problem is the solution. everything is reciprocal. pay attention. my favorite metaphor is this: conventional [everything] is a boat with a paddle, a wind from behind, going upstream. we use technology to create better and more efficient paddles, to create more paddles, to change the hydrodynamics of the boat, to minimise or mechanize the labor required to push against the flow of the water. it gives its boatsmen jackets and blankets to protect them from the wind. permaculture says: hey, let's get a sail.

watch where the water goes, and then put your crops there. watch where the sun shines, and how, watch the wind in its moods and seasons, and place your house accordingly. watch how you move through the landscape, what areas you are drawn to and which you avoid, notice what elements of your life seem to have affinity. put the garden near the kitchen, if you can. put the bench in the winter sun with a view of the woods. make it easy. orient your gutters and drains so that they water your garden, and you'll never need to lift a hose again. face your house southwards and cut your heating bill in half; shade your east and west walls and cut your cooling needs by a third. attention, attention, attention. what you can acheive, they insist, is limited only by your imagination and your ability to observe.


well, the rain was late, but it's here, and it's hard. wish me luck, and i'll be back on saturday.


it started snowing just before i got into town on tuesday, and stopped sometime wednesday night. yesterday was clear brilliant sun, today more snow, and rain predicted for the weekend and possibly until tuesday next.

one of the most important elements of permaculture, especially in the desert, is water. systems are designed for "the big event," as my professor puts it - for the long drought or the big flood. well, we're in the middle of perhaps the worst drought in the recorded history of the southwest, and we've got several inches of precipitation on the ground with between four more and a foot due in the next week, onto ground that is already saturated, into waterways that are already swollen. in class next week, we're going to be visiting several of the most successful and famous places, groups and people in southwest permaculture, and everybody is pretty excited to walk around in the rain and not have to imagine what that cistern or catchment might look like if there happened to be water in it. there's a good chance that this will be more water than any of these systems have seen in a long time; maybe more at once than they've ever had. it'll be something to see.

and if i thought being in class for three days straight was tough, next week - from tuesday morning to saturday night - should be an adventure indeed. back on sunday to catch our breaths, then back out in the field monday until thursday. then our final project the next week (we're going to be permaculturifying the professor's property), and then ricocheting straight into spring quarter.

it's good to be back.