Transition Café – What is a Transition Town?

We had a great first session of our course in Permaculture Design for home gardeners, at Veggielution. The link to sign up is here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/summer-saturdays-veggielution-workshop-series-tickets-47241482546, if you want to join us, going forward. Come check it out, 10am-12:30pm, with an optional lunch.

A flock of Turkeys, 30+ individuals, have been regular visitors to the land, up here. Good to see them crowding around for drinks at the birdbaths, kind of funny watching groups teens, even the smallest of whom dwarfs any of the baths, trying to stand in them while drinking. They don’t seem to want water baths, though, as they all headed off to the mulch pile for dust baths, afterwards. Deer drink from the birdbaths, too. Perhaps a bigger water basin is needed?

Observation and Seeking feedback from the systems you are interacting with are practices dear to the heart of Permaculture Design. Turkeys drinking, and others drinking and bathing in birdbaths is strong feedback that this is a system that needs water. Dust baths in the mulch pile are also a big deal, especially given how quickly everyone headed over there when the call went out. Hummingbirds seem to have a strong preference for one feeder over another. Chickadees don’t drink from the birdbaths, so much, but will drain the water in the basins my plants sit in. *sigh* My best guess is that there are microbes in that water that are not in the frequently-replaced birdbath water.

In that vein, we are seeking feedback from our community, this week. We would love to know what Transition Towns are to you, what they mean to you. What would you like them to be, to mean? Some great thinkers have suggested that, if Humans are to survive as a species, movements like the Transition Towns and Permaculture Community are how that will happen. What do you think? How would that work? What would it look like?

Would we focus on emergency preparedness? Community building? Food systems? Education? Politics? Fun?

One of the goals of the Transition Town Community is to make the whole thing fun. Are we doing that? What could we do differently?

Transition Palo Alto is a hub, that is a focal point for Transitioners from all over the South Bay, from Casa de Fruita up to Palo Alto. We tried calling it Transition Silicon Valley, but that didn’t take, so we have the increasingly inaccurately-named Transition Palo Alto. Do you want other Transition Towns in the area? Do you want them enough to learn how to start one in your city?

“What is a Transition Town?”, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 10 August, from ~6:10-7:45pm. We often go to dinner afterwards, maybe we will this week, too.

Also, thank you for your feedback on the idea of the Transition Café announcements moving to a small, dedicated list. Your feedback is valuable, and is being relayed to the Steering Committee of Transition Palo Alto, who will ultimately make that decision.

As much as we try to schedule when Red Rock’s upstairs is open, sometimes we cross up with another event which has the upstairs closed to us. Thank you for your flexibility in working with those evening! We will try to post a note as to where we have gone, with Red Rock.

Apparently, some e-mail programs cut this announcement off in the middle of the Guidelines, with the rest of the e-mail appearing as code. When you respond to tell me about it, my whole e-mail is often visible in your response. Maybe hit “respond”, and then scroll down in that draft? One respondent suggested that there may be a [read more] prompt that you can click on. Let me know what works…

The Guidelines are below. Read ’em, learn ’em, bring a copy if you think yer gonna forget ’em!

Venue information is below the Guidelines, and check out the random and useful other stuff below the notes section. Feel free to forward this widely!

Transition Cafe Guidelines
-Whoever shows up are the right people
-Whenever it starts is the right time
-Speak when you are moved to speak
-The conversation gets to go where it wants to go
-Pauses in conversation are good, they allow information to sink in, thoughts to happen, and quieter people to have a chance to speak
-Silent listening is fine, you do not need to speak if you do not wish to
-The “Law of Mobility”: if you feel like you are neither learning nor contributing, you may use your mobility to find a place in which you are doing so
-Bring friends! If we overpopulate the venue, we’ll figure something else out
-If you are able, please buy stuff from the venues. We’re trying to support local businesses!
Anyone can host a Café! All you need is an hour or two, an independent café you like, this list of guidelines, and a starting subject. Bring something to read while you wait for folks to show up (see the first guideline).

Please note venue changes:

This week, we will be meeting on Friday, 10 August, from ~6:10-7:45pm, at Red Rock Coffee, in Mountain View.

Thanks to everyone who has been supporting the venues by buying stuff while we’re there!

See you at the Café,

William

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Notes: Open Conversation

Heirloom Fruit-Masumoto Farms
Living in Community
Permaculture Class
Trump/National News updates
Free Trade-what do we think about this?
Given a resource, the mining of which would poison ecosystems and potentially render large parts of your world uninhabitable, do you do it, or do you find another option?
Transition Café announcements, where do they belong?
What is Transition about?
-Definitions

Transition Café e-mails
-inspire reflection
-create surface area
-represent Transition ideals and philosophies
-create interest, letting people know what we’re doing, that here is an event they can come to

Random and Useful Other Stuff:

Toby Hemenway’s (author of Gaia’s Garden)

website: http://tobyhemenway.com/articles/

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land, by Gary Paul Nabhan
Thinking in Systems, a primer, by Donella H. Meadows
Masterminds and Wingmen, Rosalind Wiseman

Queen Bees and Wannabees, Rosalind Wiseman

I’ll post other links and readings in this space, as they occur to me.

Please join us on tpa_cafe, or tpa_chat, you can join at http://www.transitionpaloalto.org./

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Garden Share in San Diego

This was written by my mother, who, inspired by our TPA Garden Shares, began her own in Scripps Ranch, in San Diego:

by Suhasini Jayakumar

We’ve held our Garden share once a month, for over 5 years now.  We get together in our community center, where we share ideas, produce, and stories of successes and failures in our backyards. The main idea is to welcome neighbors and get to know them, building community. To that end, we bring snacks and tea or some cold drinks, sharing and communing with friends.
Gradually, we have also added things other than produce and home made snacks. These include books, household items, pots and planters, and even clothes.
During all this time, we have had one big Permaculture workshop, where about 25 people participated, building a grow box, and learning about Permaculture. The workshop was led by Alden, a local who helps run the Sky Mountain permaculture institute. [photos below]
We have also had a show and tell of tools used in the yards, notably a 3 in 1 tool that caught folks’ imagination.
Our latest event, on April 15th., called a Sustainability Hack, drew over 30 people, which we consider quite a success, especially for a first event  such as this. We had specialists talk about Bokashi, regular and worm composting; people showing videos and photos of their Native-plant yards, along with the edibles they are growing; one person showing people how to make small succulent planters out of corks; youngsters having a lot of fun with used, recyclable material; one girl making very cute and useful bags from old T-shirts; henna at one table; stringing of jasmine flowers at another, both of which drew curious and interested spectators. One person made smores in the solar oven, which came out ok despite the cloudy skies. We even had a demonstration of a small wood chipper, and shredder of cardboard for mulch.
Youngsters were interested in calculating their carbon footprint at a table, along with elders. The guess the fruit/vegetable table drew a lot of interest, along with the CO2e of different diets.
All in all, we all had a great time learning from each other, and sharing food and ideas. We will certainly do this again in a few months.

Transition Café – Convenience

Transition Cafe notes from William Mutch…

In setting up Bird feeders and houses on the land I’m stewarding, I have been trying to balance having a consistent, convenient food supply with wanting the Birds to have to work for their food, so they don’t take it for granted and unlearn their foraging skills. The goal, here, is not to create domesticated, tame cultures of the formerly-wild, but to supplement their diet, replacing what my people have damaged and destroyed, until such time as the land is teaming with food for the wild folks, again. Work in progress…

Convenience, of course, is a major issue in Human culture, as well, especially in the age of amazon.com and the internet. We Humans have been grappling with our own domestication for at least as long as the rise of grocery stores and convenience stores, which offered to remove the burden of growing and preparing food, as well as making needed products and goods. How many skills did we let go, along the way? I discover new ones, constantly. How many things used to be done by hand, in the home, village, or city, that are now outsourced to slaves-Human, Machine, or otherwise?

It is hard to have a privileged class, if everyone is making things for themselves and helping each other out, and hard to motivate people to go to work to make money for themselves and widgets for others if they don’t have a life of privilege to look forward to, hopefully with enough of their life left to enjoy it. Convenience stores supply, among other things, a sense of ease and affluence which was formerly available to a very few.

Online convenience stores seem to be the next big iteration of that. Why trouble yourself to walk a few blocks, or bike into town, when you can click on a picture of something you think you want and have it appear on your doorstep soon thereafter? I have heard that there are even houses which have amazon.com-based security systems, which allow for your stuff to be dropped off inside your house by the people whose job it is to do so, eliminating even one more step in the accumulation of stuff, and you never even have to see them or talk to them. There are even, the rumors say, houses which are completely controlled by a computer system contained within the home. This must be an internet legend, of course, as surely folks see the potential issues with that. Have we not seen enough sci-fi to be concerned?

What is the cost of all of this? Is money the only metric we should be using, here? Has all of this really improved our “quality of life”? Why, or why not?

How many of you, reading this, still go into your bank and speak to the tellers behind the counter? Can you recall their names? Do you know anything about their families? How many of you prepare your own food, as opposed to having food prepared for you? What are the ingredients of your food? What are the names of the folks who got your food to your table? Are they all still alive at the time you are consuming it? Why, or why not? That thing you ordered online-who made it? What are their names? Why would you care, if it’s not Convenient to do so?

I hear, over and over, via articles, studies, and friends who experience this themselves, that many many people in this world relate to each other via their computers, and are near-phobic of personal interactions, having spent so much time at, or even growing up with, computer-mediated interactions. But then, why sacrifice the convenience of an e-mail blast for the messiness of in-person relationships? What would you learn about those around you, if you did so?

 

 

Transition Café – Nostalgia for Oil?

Transition Cafe notes from William Mutch

I arrived home, the other night, at the beginning of a concert. The players were just warming up, gathering, tuning their instruments, figuring out where they could play to best advantage. I was sitting in my car, in the driveway, when I felt like I should walk around the house. When I arrived at the front of the house, my headlamp picked out eyeshine, in the dark between the clothesline and the big Cork Oak. Probably seven individuals, glowing eyes bobbing and weaving as they checked me out, then they disappeared toward my neighbors’ place. I circled back around, encountering them again on the little road that runs up the hill, still checking me out. Then the concert began, Coyotes bursting into full voice.

If you’ve never experienced being near Coyotes howling in large numbers, it is something. I’d only been close to it a couple of times, before moving onto this land. My first Coyote song was scary to me, actually. I couldn’t figure out what it was, and the alien, not-Dog-ness of it had me jumpy. It didn’t help that I was one of two Humans designated to scout the Dark and figure out what on Earth that sound was… The second close experience had me right in the middle of a howling pack. I still don’t know how they felt, having me there, but I was close enough to feel the compression waves as their voices hit the air between us, and it took my breath away.

The current concert seemed to involve three packs, or three sizeable subsets of the same pack. The music swirled around, for awhile, then moved down the driveway and across the hill. I was right in the middle of it for around…awhile…which was probably shorter than it felt…

The first time I heard a Coyote, I couldn’t sleep through the night for worrying about what it might be. On a recent campout, I apparently slept right through a great chorus. I usually find it soothing, for reasons contemplated in the Transition Café archives. Not that I’m advocating for standing in the Dark, in the middle of a pack of howling omnivores…do be safe out there…

It’s funny, living in the Age of Convenience. We think nothing of traveling great distances to see things we can’t see around these parts, visit relatives who live far away, but so close via powered vehicles, order stuff from all over the globe. So much I will miss about this, when it all goes away, not least of which being the access to books, tools, and seeds I haven’t heard of. And it will, of course. I love being able to “easily” visit my sister in the North Bay, friends in the East Bay, places I love, like Mendocino, Ashland, Corvallis…things which will be so much farther away, when the cheap oil disappears. So many things we take for granted, that won’t be available anymore, at least not at a price most of us can afford. Mostly I probably miss the innocent ignorance of the early and mid-era.

 

Transition Café – Superstition

The Guru and the Cat

Once upon a time, there was a certain guru. During meditation, the temple’s resident Cat would wind around amongst the meditators, meowing loudly and making it hard to concentrate on anything other than her. So, the guru ordered that the Cat be tied up outside the the meditation hall. In due course, the guru departed the physical realm for more ethereal pursuits, and the students continued to tie the Cat up outside the hall, although few had been with the temple long enough at that point to remember why. Time passed, and the Cat eventually joined the guru. So…the students procured a new Cat, who they duly tied up outside the meditation hall, while they were sitting. Centuries later, scholars would write learned treatises on the importance of having a Cat tied up outside the room in which one is meditating.

-Source unknown, but possibly fictional…

Kind of a silly story, and a trap which, in these enlightened times, none of us would ever fall into. Or…would we? How many of us have habits which we adopted so long ago that we have forgotten why we do them? How many of those habits were consciously adopted, long ago, and now are so far from consciousness that we would deny doing them if asked? How many of those habits have stories wrapped around them to justify their existence, even though they don’t make sense? How many of us make a habit of questioning those habits, when they show up, or even of seeking them out, when they don’t? For instance…how many of us refer to making an auditory duplicate of an event as “taping” it? How long has it been since that term made sense? How about the ring or wristwatch (remember wristwatches?) you no longer wear, but keep adjusting, anyway?

So, to, with Superstitions. Some make sense, sometimes called “constructive paranoia”. In other words, the behaviors do not objectively make sense, but, given the life history of the individual, not only make sense, but their life without them wouldn’t make sense. Habits like going back to check the stove, even if you know you didn’t turn it on, which drive your friends and relatives crazy, might make sense in someone who had lived in a situation where stoves were routinely left on when housemate(s!) had left for work. Others, like a dread of the number 13, might have historic or cultural roots that simply don’t make sense in the current age.

There are also funny ones, like a practice which had become Superstition, bleeding Humans with Leeches, and which, for a long time, was synonymous with barbaric medicinal practices, is now recognized to have valid medical applications. Superstitions around certain Plants being poisonous or medicinal, which turn out not to be (The Milkweed Effect).

What Superstitions are active in your life? Why do you believe them? Are they constructive, destructive, neutral? Do they make sense to you, but to nobody else? Are they cultural? Familial? Personal? Do you remember the moment you were taught one, or when you started to believe one? Is it only a Superstition if it is active in the life of someone who is not you?

Superstitions, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 13 April. We often go to dinner afterwards, maybe we will this week, too.

Transition Café – Triggers

Triggers…everyone’s got ’em…those things which turn you from a reasonable, rational human being who is having a conversation into someone who is shrill, yelling, or otherwise way more intense than the conversation calls for, leaving the people around you wondering what just happened. Some have relatively few triggers, are aware of them, and are able to make skillful conversations happen, regularly. Some have so many it is less like walking on eggshells and more like walking through landmines. I’ve been reading a book, lately, which asserts that an essential quality in a leader is the ability to manage one’s own upset in a way which doesn’t severely impact those around one, although this comes up over and over in the literature on living in community.

 

Talking about Triggers, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 9 March. We often go to dinner afterwards, maybe we will this week, too. –William Mutch

 

 

 

Bird sit

After a long day, on a Thursday, texts were coming in – we were headed to the bird sit in Redwood Grove Park. I had not been to this park before, and my phone map told me it would take 25 minutes. My children dawdled. People wrote, saying they would be late, or could not find the entrance, and where was it and what was it exactly, anyway? I considered throwing in the towel, briefly.

Then we got in the car and drove. Rush hour traffic was growing, but I found plenty of parking. I saw familiar faces. Then my son and I hurtled down the driveway-like path and landed at the bottom in the middle of trees and calm.

We said warm hellos, hugs. We introduced ourselves. William gave us some cues – what to listen for and to. “See what you see.” We stopped to listen, we wandered, we sat, we observed. We breathed deeply, as if for the first time all day. We stilled, for 35 minutes.

Then we gathered, and discussed the types of birds, what we had heard – hawks, the cowbirds or mafia birds, the bush tits, the juncos, crows, squirrels, so much more wildlife. We discussed the impact of our personal stress levels on wildlife, the interactions of humans and birds or animals, shared books and resources, took a last look, and walked back, a little calmer, a little more in tune with nature.

Some resources we shared:

Books:

What the robin knows – Jon Young

Sharing a robin’s life – Linda Johns

Becoming Animal – David Abram

Documentary by Anna Reitenbach – The Animal Communicator

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Transition Café – Social Justice in Transition Towns

–By William Mutch
The issue of Social Justice is coming up a lot, and certainly should be, so I thought we’d have another formal conversation about it. Specifically, what should the role of the Transition Town Community be in conversations around Social Justice, especially in an era when the white supremacist movement is so openly supported by our national government? (I understand that it has been covert policy for a very long time, but the current brazen support for it is alarming, to say the least)

A quick survey, online, offers the usual diversity of definitions for Social Justice. A rough summary would probably be: “equal treatment under the laws of the land”, without regard for culture, ethnicity, gender, religion, spirituality, economic class, sexual preference(s), etc…

The Transition Town Community is very much of a grassroots movement, but with a mandate to work to influence conversations at the local, state, and national levels. Working at the grassroots level, we are in a position to influence people in ways that are simply not available to folks working at the policy and government levels–through conversation, relationship, shared projects.

For those of us who are members of a culturally-dominant group, or who can pass as such, it is easy-ish to say “well, I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, or to draw attention onto myself, so why don’t ‘those people’ just learn to stick up for themselves?” It is a great feeling, though, to know you have an ally in the room, to know that folks support you for who and what you are, instead of turning away because they don’t want to “cause trouble”. When was the last time you allied with someone who needed it? How many times have you turned away, or said it’s “not my problem”? How about this one: “I’m not prejudiced, I just don’t want *those people* (in my neighborhood; taking *our* jobs; dating my children; dressing like *my people*, stepping out from the kitchen, from behind the counter, etc…)

Lots of folks who make those comments, and they happen all the time, genuinely don’t see themselves as prejudiced or in any way responsible for the current state of affairs, and many probably would even say they object to Trump making similar comments. However, each time we allow a comment like that to pass unchallenged, or call the police to remove one of “those people” from “our neighborhood”, we enrich the soil from which Trump and his organization grew.

Every time we look away from situations where Black and Latino folk are arrested or killed for being in “the wrong place at the wrong time”, where someone shouts at someone “Middle Eastern looking” to “get out of my country”, we empower such things to happen again. If you are White, you can make the choice of whether to intervene, or to look away, believing that Trump’s people, or folks like them, will not someday be coming for you and your family. Or, maybe just think that this person is a human being, like yourself, and might like to be treated the way you would want yourself and your children to be treated, and say something because it’s the right thing to do. Of course, we’ve all stood by when we probably could have intervened, or intervened when it was inappropriate or in an inappropriate way. So, we own it, make appropriate reparations, and move on.

What role could Transition Towns have in this conversation? How can we better empower and support our members to speak up for themselves, and for others? A number of us took to wearing safety pins, after Trump announced his candidacy and hate crimes skyrocketed as an aspect of the “Trump Effect”. What does that mean? Do you still wear yours? Prominently? Why or why not? How can Transition Towns influence the conversation at state and national levels?

This feels like a messy e-mail, but then, it’s a messy subject. Come on down to Red Rock, and talk about it. Social Justice in Transition Towns, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 16 February.

 

Transition Café – Designing Community

We have a couple of rooms opening up in our house, right now, so, perhaps more than usual, I am thinking about what I’d like our community to look like.

Community is a funny thing. Sometimes it doesn’t gel, in spite of all predictions, likelihood, and work. A group of folks who are great, as individuals, doing great work in the world, have their values in alignment, get together and simply cannot get along with each other. Sometimes folks who get along fine as friends try to live together and discover that their values are not in alignment. Sometimes one or more folks have emotional wounds or personality patterns that the community simply cannot hold, and those prove divisive, tearing the community apart.

Sometimes, though, community shows up where you don’t expect it to, in spite of all expectations to the contrary. A group of very different folks find themselves working or living together, and friendships and community develop as they discover that their values are more in alignment than they thought. Sometimes, the project they are working on is bigger than a lifetime, and their descendants continue to live and work together, the greater vision taking precedence over whatever individual differences they might have.

A community could be small, in a house, tribe, or village. It could be larger, like a suburban neighborhood or a district in a city. As Psychosynthesis has become more mainstream, we are now having discussions of self-as-community, and of internal family therapy, referring to the multiplicity of subpersonalities in all of us, to greater or lesser degree, and who get along with each other to greater or lesser degree, the macro in the micro.

What are the elements which allow a community to gel? Are they are predictable? Can they be designed for? Adam Brock, a Social Permaculturist, points out that many movements and organizations which “should” work out often don’t because we forget that they are composed of individuals who have their own personalities and motivations, conscious and unconscious.

If you were going to design a community, what would you include? What have your experiences been, of living in community with other Humans, or others of any species? Have you seen communities thrive, fall apart, drift through mediocrity? All of the preceding, at different points? What would the ingredients of your ideal community be?

Design your ideal community, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 9 February. We often go to dinner afterwards, maybe we will this week, too.

 

Transition Café – Self Care

Submitted by William Mutch Feb 2, 2018
A Chestnut-Backed Chickadee flew into the house, this morning. I waited until he or she had worn themselves out with the window thing, then picked them up and carried them outside, getting some bites in the process, although once my guest figured out what was going on they settled down, some, but with attitude. Earlier in the week, I put up some birdhouses, one for Bluebirds, one for Wrens, and another for Chickadees. Of course, those specifications only apply if the Birds have been reading the same books I have, which is not always the case.

I was part of a difficult conversation, last night, and lives were changed, and will continue to be, as a result. These things don’t always go the way you think they will, and sometimes, doing the thing that is clearly best for everyone doesn’t feel the way it seems like it should, so…not much sleep afterwards. Sitting with this, this morning, I learned that an old friend had passed, about a week ago. She and I hadn’t been close close, but we had shared some adventures, in the early days when I was starting out in the Permaculture and Nature Awareness communities. The nature of those communities breeds close connections quickly, which remain so, over the years. She has been a strong and needed voice for keeping space for non-binary gender diversity, among other things. She was within a couple of years of my age. I have a complicated relationship with Death, as mentioned in many a past Transition Café newsletter, but it still involves a change in our relationship. So…a surreal few days, accentuated with the historically beautiful moon performance. Oh, and of course the insane $#!^-show that is the news, right now.

But, sometimes, life is just like that…you get to help a Chickadee through a major event in their life while working out major events in yours, while your culture and even your planet work out major events in theirs.

So, I have to ask again about self-care…

As activists, we often run ourselves even more ragged than the rest of everyone, and in Silicon Valley that is saying something. We frequently have a very hard time taking a break and setting down the burden, from time to time, until we pick it up again. So important, though, to rest and care for ourselves, so we can come back refreshed and recharged, to fight the good fight, another day. If we burn out, we can end up walking away from this work that is so important to so many.

What do you do to care for yourself? Do you take sensible breaks during the day, the week, per month, per year? Do you eat well, sleep well, get enough exercise, drink enough water, meditate, take regular news-fasts? Are you using your work to self-medicate something else? If you were, would you know it? What is that frantic hard-work ethic keeping us from feeling? What happens to you, when you slow down? Can you slow down enough to meet the Wall of Grief, before it catches up to you? Are you responsibly sitting with that grief, so you don’t act it out on the people and environments you are trying to be an ally for?

 

Please join us on tpa_cafe, or tpa_chat, you can join at http://www.transitionpaloalto.org./