Transition Café – Giving Thanks

Submitted by William Mutch:
I had a few ideas for this week’s Transition Café, but we missed last week, and I’d really like to have a giving of thanks. This has been a shocking week, on top of a shocking year, to the degree that it is beginning to be difficult to be shocked by what is coming out of Washington, D.C. Last night, after the Permaculture Café, I got to explain across a language barrier why I have a safety pin on my coat. It took a bit, but we got there, and the fear and rage the woman expressed at the week’s issuances from our President caught me off guard. Again, I’m surprised at myself for being surprised at this. She asked if the Safety Pin-Wearers are an organization, I said we are a loose one.

One of the things I am thankful for is that we are not going down without a fight, and possibly not at all. There are so many good people doing what they can to help and support each other through this parade of “it-can’t-happen-here” scenarios, I feel as inspired by them/us as I feel shocked, outraged, and saddened by what we have unleashed upon ourselves.

Also, the Permaculture Café was on fire, last night. The conversation gloriously bounced all over the Permaculture spectrum, and spent no little time on Holistic Management, then on to Darren Doherty and Geoff Lawton. Thanks to everyone who showed up, so glad to have you! You’ll probably hear about this again in the announcement for that Café, shortly.

Lastly (not really), so very thankful for the inclination and ability to continually learn and teach new skills. I’m teaching a tool sharpening and care class this Saturday, and in preparing for that I’m looking at the fabulous web of skills attached to that one, and the ones which led me to it. Wonderful memories of those learning edges.

And…thanks to all of you who follow these e-mails (in the old days we might have called them “columns”), and who write in and/or chat with me about your reactions and ideas for our Café conversations. I realize that our “virtual Transition Café” community has grown, over the years, and seems huge, at this point. This is happening in the Permaculture Café, too, where folks in the “virtual Café” are following along, reading the books along with us, and either writing in or talking to me about them in person.





Fun and Games

A fine time was had by all at the first ever TPA Games Night.  Folks showed up with games, snacks, and a spirit of humor and adventure. Although Pictionary enthusiasts had trouble illustrating ‘ban’ and ‘unconscious,’ no one minded. And the Forbidden Island team did manage to get off the island successfully.

If you missed the evening, not to worry, we’ll do it again in the new year!

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Holiday Share Faire 12/10 – Save the date

Our Holiday Share Faire is around the corner on Sunday, December 10th, at 1-3pm. We’ll occupy two rooms on the A-block again this year at Cubberley Community Center, and fill them with all things holiday.

Some things slated to be offered by skilled TPA volunteers and regulars:

  • Garden Share! While the Palo Alto Garden Share lacks a permanent home, we’ll have a chance to share the bounty of our gardens at the Faire. Bring your produce, plants, seeds, and garden books and tools to share.
  • Telling stories. We’ll share stories about this season – of darkness and light. How does it impact your traditions? We’d also love to share tales of best and worst gifts given and received over the years. Read an article here by Mas Masumoto (of Masumoto Farms) on how and why our stories are so important to share, especially in these times.
  • Peter Ruddock will share a favorite holiday recipe with details on how to make it. Yum.
  • Lori Stoia will teach us how to make candles – and you’ll have a chance to make a simple beeswax candle of your own to take home.
  • Let’s gather together and make homemade decorations, garlands, menorahs, ornaments and more from natural materials, foods, and dyes. Joyce Beattie and Barbara Weinstein will teach us how.
  • Peggy Prendergast offers her skills as a Master Gardener on composting for the winter.

We’ll also share Holiday decor, cards, and our usual goods share.

Looking to demo something else or help out? Contact us. We’re always happy to get more volunteers :  set-up, organization, greeters and more.  If you’d like to participate, please sign up here.

Please put the date on your calendars and join us in this joyous season!

More at


Transition Café – Stuff

Friday, 10 November, 6:10-7:45pm, at Red Rock Coffee, in Mountain View.
–Posted by William Mutch
We have Dusky-Footed Woodrats (Packrats) in the garage, many of them, and they are disassembling our Human objects and collections of objects and reassembling them as their own homes. Going into the garage at night is interesting, as they will rattle their tails and/or stamp their feet to convince me to leave and alert others of their kind to my presence. We have already pushed them out of the engines of our cars, the dryer vent, and the drainpipes. Some of us have so much Stuff crammed into the garage, though, that the Woodrats are able to do their thing and be pretty much unassailable, without the Humans pulling lots of Stuff out. Not that the folks whose Stuff it is weren’t comprehensively warned about the situation. Still…

Speaking of Stuff, we’re coming up on the Holidays, and the great giving of Stuff. There was a time in my life when I felt I needed to give Stuff to people on holidays, etc. Even dated a woman, once, who was not interested in something well thought-out and relevant to her life, she just really wanted a Thing to indicate that I had spent money on her on the Day in Question.

How many of us are like that, though? Many business seem to think that rather a lot of us are. Myself, I’ve gone through the phases of giving, and preferring to receive, gifts which are relevant and useful, to preferring money that the person receiving it can use to supply themselves with things I could not imagine them wanting. Not always sure how that is received, though, as some folks see it as a Test of the Relationship to find a Thing which would be the most useful to them.

What do you do with all of your Stuff? How many of us rent storage for our Stuff? Storage for our Storage? How many of us wish we had,after seeing what the Woodrats have done with it? What kind of Stuff do you have? I have weaknesses for things which are practical and educational: books, pottery, tools, cool storage doodads. I really dislike clutter, although you wouldn’t know it, to look at my bedroom, at the moment.

How much Stuff do you need? Is it the same for everyone? Is it appropriate for one person to judge another’s Pile of Stuff? Some folks seem much more at home where there is not just clutter, but actual filth: weeks worth of unwashed dishes, food smears on surfaces, unemptied garbage and compost, and a certain smell about the place…and that is home, for them. Raccoons spring to mind, certain types of Rodents, some Humans. Think Freshman dorms…So easy, though, to look at someone else’s Stuff and see trash, and our own to see treasure. There might even be a saying, about that…

In an atmosphere where we have shows pillorying Hoarders, inspiring ordinary folks to spy on their neighbors to find out if they have *gasp* a Hoarder in their neighborhood, how could anyone possibly know how much is too much, or what is right for them?

Of course, the more Stuff you have, the more you have to defend, and sometimes you have to defend against folks who are born to hoard (see above).

Stuff (and maybe some nonsense)at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday. Dinner often happens, afterwards, maybe it will this week, too.





Wasting no time

Barbara O’Reilly sent this message after seeing Wasted! at October Fourth Friday:

Thank you for the Transition PA movie/educational evening. I just wanted you to know that it inspired a couple of actions. 

I stopped to talk with the manager when I went to shop at Trader Joe’s the next day. Indeed, he knew about the importance of not just tossing less than perfect food.  (See photo below.  Perhaps a note to their HQ would encourage all their stores to update their signs or write a story about their efforts for their newsletter.

The other photos below result from my investigation of my own fridge. I rearranged and added a shoebox to house the items I need to use soon.  I removed the items that needed to be used ASAP and listed & weighed those that needed to be tossed.  The photo shows 2 1/2 lbs waste: tomato soup, moldy cheese chunks & spread, 1 cooked beet gone soft, 4 oz. dates – package dated 2002!  An unopened can of anchovies dated 2012 I dug into the garden where veggies will grow next spring. I then started a soup stock which used up the almost expired zucchini, crookneck and kale. 

Waste & Recycling have been a passion (obsession) or mine for many years.  A friend and I spent each Thursday at Los Altos Farmers Market sorting the aftermath of waste from the food vending booths.  Those vendors are required to buy compostable containers/plates but all was then being collected in the black/opaque trash bags that in our town go directly to landfill.

By setting up and “wo-maning” 3 three bin stations (big bins for recycling and compostables, small one for trash) we found significant improvement and with our added step of relocating items using our grab sticks we went from 35 black bags/week to 1/2 garbage bin; 3 compostable and 2 recycling bins filled each week.   

Now that theFarmer’s  Market is closed I am working on a better waste system at our Senior Center and then on to other public buildings and events in Los Altos.

Sarah from Zero Waste had a good display  at Fourth Friday for encouraging people to think before tossing and the audience certainly had plenty of questions for her…a good addition to the evening.

oreilly from wasted 1

Third Friday Games Night

Time to take a break from work, other responsibilities, and the seemingly endless barrage of news about natural disasters and human-caused craziness.

Join us for the first ever Third Friday Games Night

Let’s celebrate what brings us all together, and have some fun!

Bring your favorite board game, card game, or other fun activity – or just show up and play along with what others have brought.

All ages are welcome. Please feel free to bring a light snack to share if you’d like.

Friday November 17, 2017   7:30-9:30pm
Fireside Room, Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto,
505 E. Charleston, Palo Alto
All ages welcome! FREE

games night


Sunset Sit

On a cool October evening, my children and I joined some Transition regulars at the Baylands for a Sunset sit on a Tuesday. It was evening, and any soot from the incessant fires up north had settled. The gate was closing at 7, so we parked our cars outside and walked up the path, where there were benches and sandbags in front of the reeds and saltgrass. We met up with Barbara and William, and looked around for a good place to sit.

We decided to sit for 20 minutes, so I got out for the kids their dinner and some snacks. They decided to sit on a bench together while I sat within line of sight on a nearby ledge. My daughter picked at the curried quinoa and ate carrot sticks, watching movement and listening and walking back and forth along another ledge. My son ate directly from the can of puffed rice, watching the lights in the distance across the water, having told me he was doing some mindful eating. My little girl asked a few questions first, then settled down.
I sat, feet gently resting on woven reeds in the marshy area below, listening to at least 20 different bird sounds, private planes from the Palo Alto airport passing low and close overhead, trucks beeping farther away, animals and wind. For 15 minutes, the kids were silent, eating.
Then my daughter walked over, sat quietly beside me, and held my hand. Silently, she leaned against me for the last five minutes, her feet dangling over the ledge.
We got up, packed up our containers and bags, likely leaving the few dropped bits of food for local wildlife, and met up with Barbara and William. We chatted, saw more planes as they disappeared into the orange-red sunset, looked at the signs that described what was happening here, where the ocean turns into bay, where saltwater meets fresh, what animals and plants make their home. My daughter drew with sticks in the sand. Then, too cold, we said our goodbyes and drove home, the sky an inky blue.

Transition Café – Days of the Dead, 2017 edition

From William Mutch for Transition Cafe Nov 3, 2017:

Funny, this morning, during my sit, I watched two Coyotes frolicking just feet from a day-bedding Buck. I’ve seen Coyotes and Deer close to each other, before, but that’s the first time I’ve seen a Deer so composed about a major predator hanging out while he was relaxing. Perhaps they had eaten recently, and he could smell that or see it in their body language? One of my housemates just found some Deer legs down in the Oak grove we are stewarding, so one would think the Deer would be aware of the Coyotes as a threat. I wonder how often Coyotes actually kill adult Deer, in this area. Maybe they mostly scavenge from Feline predators? Anyway…

It is that time of the year, again, when we get to welcome our departed family, friends, and random party-crashers into our homes, celebrate their lives, remember their deaths, wish them well until next year, and perhaps contemplate our own mortality in the process. …or just dress up in costumes and go neighborhood-hopping, hitting up the houses with the best loot, and forgetting that someday we, too, will get to melt into the ground, or leave our bodies “forever” …whichever… (and yes, I know that this is highly culture-specific, with different cultures celebrating their Days of the Dead at different times of the year…(see last year’s writings on this))

If the latter, enjoy the fallout from that evening, and take care of those teeth. If the former, whether you do the whole thing, or some part of it, what is that like for you? What is it like for you to read that, whether you believe in that sort of thing, or not?

Interestingly, there have been some (many?) cross-cultural studies on bereavement, and it seems that those who have a continuing, evolving relationship with the departed become the most emotionally-healthy, going forward. To clarify:

Some folks force themselves to “move on” from the departed, whether or not they believe in an afterlife, on the grounds that they “shouldn’t” hold on, either for their health or for that of their departed loved one.

Some folks remember the departed the way they were the last time they saw them “alive”, as a “snapshot” of who they were.
Some folks continue to relate to that static image, as if their loved one “stopped”, right then.

For some, the relationship with their departed loved one continues to grow, mature, evolve, as it might have, had the person continued in corporeal form. This seems independent of belief in an afterlife, per se.

Whole cultures (and cults) have been based around each of those options. Some of us, due to culture, personality, indecisiveness, or general obnoxiousness, apply each of those to one or more individuals, at different times and/or when we are in different moods. Not to say that any of these is more or less right or wrong than any other, either, just that the last option seems to be the one which offers optimal emotional health. Of course, some of us also apply each of those relationship options to our corporeal loved ones, too, and for similar reasons.

How a culture deals with Death can have a huge influence on how it deals with Life. How does your approach to Death influence your life? Do “we”, in the US, have a dominant, cultural view of Death, or is it a sort of mishmash of different cultural ideas? Is it worth thinking about future lives and generations, or does the person who dies with the most cheap plastic crap actually win?

How do these questions relate to the world, today, and Transition Towns, in general?

Days of the Dead, 2017 edition, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday. Dinner often happens, afterwards, maybe it will this week, too.

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

Transition Café 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).


More on Wasted!

Do you know that 1/3 of all food that’s produced is wasted? That waste happens at every step of the food chain, from fields to supermarkets, to restaurants and home? That 90% of unused food in the US goes into landfills where it decomposes slowing, releasing methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2? That the ‘sell by’ and ‘use by’ dates on packaged food are set with the goal of selling more, not keeping food safe? That ignoring the dates and using the your nose instead makes much more sense?That significantly reducing waste could help eliminate hunger and have a major impact on mitigating climate change?

Fourth Friday attendees learned all of this and more. And they got a glimpse at some creative solutions. Much waste in farms and fisheries occurs because people (enabled by supermarkets and restaurants) have an overly narrow view of what’s good to eat. People eat only the heads of broccoli and cauliflower although the stems and leaves are healthy and delicious. They stay steer clear of certain seafood just because they haven’t heard of it. And that’s only the start. The ‘good’ is harvested, and the rest is dumped.

The people in Wasted! want to change all that. The film featured chefs and others who are changing perceptions about what is good food. They’re renaming foods and creating delicious gourmet dishes from food that has been considered undesirable.

A common misunderstanding is that stores are restaurants aren’t allowed to donate unsold food. Not true! Good Samaritan laws in California and the US protect those who donate in good faith. This blurb from LA County gives some good guidelines on food donation as does this statement from the California Dept of Education. Also, check out this Huff Post article.

Because the waste problem happens at every stage in the food supply chain, everyone can have an impact. You can control how you interact with the businesses that sell you food, consider what you buy, plan your meals, and dispose of any unavoidable waste responsibly.

More ideas from the audience:

  • Village Harvest volunteers harvest fruit from people’s backyards to help people in need.
  • You can donate excess produce from your garden to your local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • You can also list food you’d like to give away on NextDoor or other neighborhood lists.
  • We can all help spread the word to others about food waste and each of us can have an impact.

Last but not least, a warm thank you to Zero Waste Palo Alto, which sponsored the film, and to Sarah Fitzgerald from Zero Waste, who brought a display on how to sort your waste and answered lots of questions from the crowd.

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