Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quick Note

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we made it down the mountain with dog, 5 cats, last small U-haul (I swear to god if I ever see another U-haul I will scream!) and all the last bits, so we are now fully in one place again, all of us, which we have not been since a year ago. YAY!

Now comes insane amounts of cleaning (OOOOH the mouse poop!) and painting (oh the wood paneling :/ ) and the REAL internet service gets here on Tues. so for now, we are severely limping along on the crappy Mifi service that Verizon provides (or doesn't provide in this case) internet communing will resume just as soon as the tech leaves on Tues.!!

Anybody want to come help me with an insanely long to-do list? :)


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Star Thistle....

Most of the nearer yard is waist high in star thistle. Ever the opportunist, I think....well, there's my mulch...just waiting for harvest. I've been wondering about mulch provision a little. So I've spent several hours already getting intimate with my old scythe....a tool never finding a use in Georgia due to tree stubs and sticks everywhere. The electric weedeater just won't hack it, not full grown like that. And I read about other uses of this "invasive exotic"....a valuable goat browse that will grow longer into the drought than the grasses, and an important bee forage and bird food. But so far I'm after two yields by cutting shouldn't be left to stand there after it dries, and mulch. Perhaps I can arrange a beneficial meeting between the two invasive plants on this land...the bermuda grass in the garden and the star thistle.....separated by a layer of cardboard....with the production of food as the eventual yield!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Making Friends

The other day when we were down in CA, Alder and I took time out of our busy painting schedule to take a walk around the land. We could feel the pull on both of us, out to the back part of the land, where things are a little wilder...we just wandered that way, coffee in hand, knowing we had painting to do...

I collected plants for a bouquet. I had found a tequila bottle which I think must have belonged to one of the previous (probably a long time ago) owners, hidden behind the fridge in a dusty crevice, and, washing it clean, it's very art-deco looking so I was glad to find some flowers to put in it.

I can't tell you how odd and cool it is-how happy it makes me, to make acquaintance again with all of the plants I knew so well as a child, but did not know their name.
So on this day, Alder called out the names as I picked things.

Some I know-I'd know anywhere. Plantain, Dandelion, and Wild Oats! What medicine, and Oh, I love the wild oats! I have such fond memories of the oats behind our house-dry and brown after a long summer, and the first rain perfumed the air with such a warm, yummy fragrance-oatstraw tea all over the place!

What ended up in my bouquet (above) are, Brodia (purple flower-species unsure), a wild tall Hypericum (St. Johns wort), wild yarrow, Oats, one other unknown grass, and an unknown stinky daisy looking thing (sort of looks like feverfew)...ah, yes, we need weed books! They are on their way. Well, not the UC Davis one-it's two volumes and "cheap" is $64, so that one will wait!

While I picked flowers, Alder noticed that there was a 2nd species of oak on the land.
We THINK these two are Blue oak (right) and Valley Oak (left), but we'll have to key them, as well as the herbs and grasses, etc. out before we know for sure, and before I attempt to make medicine out of anything.

While I looked at the ground, Alder looked out at the landscape.
Our land is only 1.5 acres, but right next to it, unfenced are two small peninsulas, one near the house, and the other out on the back of the property, separated by a gully (which will hopefully someday be a pond) and these two peninsulas, if added to our area that we can walk and sit and harvest from, increase the land to probably over 2 acres. At the edge of this back peninsula, half of it falls straight away down about 12 feet to a small wet spot, where there must be something good-we'll find out, and that "creek" goes south up the hill onto the neighbor's land and up to two ponds, while it also goes downhill to the seasonal creek with the large open bed and tall cut banks, that gives the area it's name "Red Bank" district.
The other half of this back peninsula slopes down steeply, but enough to walk down to the bottom there, and just above it is a spot where cat-tails grow, a sign of year round water. Which means a lot of things...

We are both terribly excited to go exploring! I keep telling him though, just watch your feet in the sunny spots. The first time I said that, it got a quizzical look. Snakes. Rattlesnakes. BIIIIG eatin' size rattlesnakes! Oh, I can't wait!

Our First Gleaning in Red Bluff

Alder and I took the first load of stuff down to Red Bluff last weekend, and on Sunday we took the Uhaul back, and so found ourselves at the Dutch Brothers coffee hut on S. Main St. in Red Bluff.

Alder, ever eying the plants, spotted fruit on an olive tree, and came back with a few black olives.
They were still there after the winter, which is a very ODD thing. Olives normally ripen in the Fall, which means this tree either bloomed in the middle of winter, or else the olives hung there all winter-unlike another unloved tree a mile or so away, where we found dried up olives all over the ground, and none on the tree.

We decided that if that they were hanging there dead ripe, it meant no one in that parking lot wanted them, so we drove over and picked what we could reach off the tree-and then parked the Prius under it and stood on it to glean higher.
Our small first "harvest" of gleaned olives is now in a brine bath.

Olives are naturally inedible right off the tree, so you have to soak and rinse and soak and rinse, in pretty salty water, until they are tasty.

Here's a link to a document Alder found about pickling olives.
Wikipedia and PFAF also have great info on "Olea europaea"

The bitter substance, oleuropein, is medicinal... see

And we know where there are about 1/2 a dozen more trees, who's olives dropped (don't know why this tree's didn't) so we plan to visit those this Fall!

I can see easily becoming obsessed with olives, as people are with wine...there are so many different cultivars-some better for eating, some better for oil pressing, oooh, and then the oil....Sigh.

On my way back from Sacramento several weeks ago, I stopped in Corning, at the "Olive Pit", a restaurant and olive store/tourist stop, and bought several kinds and flavors of far, my favorite is the Manzanillo style, with pickling spices and a bit of hot pepper. MMMM.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

learning a new world......

Several times now we have driven from Oregon to California and back, through the Siskiyous, over the high pass and back, from the old place to the new. In the road cuts one can see the strata of the rock, once deposited on the level, all heaved sharply up at an angle. What astounding force could have done this, and over how long? Moreover I learn that the strange greenish rock, the serpentine, is actually former ocean floor, and now here it is at 4,000 feet! A sense of the muscle and bone of the Earth takes hold, alive, flexing in ponderous strength and slowness beneath the thin skin of topsoil and green.
And then there is Mount Shasta. From certain vantages, one can see it even from Red Bluff, perhaps a hundred miles away. The snow never leaves it. And Mount Lassen across the valley. Maybe I will get to see some of Gaia's fireworks before I'm mulch!
I still know my trees in the distance....if not to species, at least to genus...the douglas-fir, alder, maple, cottonwood, madrone, and various pines of Oregon, and down in the valley the strange grayish pines, weird eucalyptus, and the odd blue oak...visibly bluish compared with some less common greener kinds...
And fruits. Our first scrounging from the new land is marinating in brine in the back room....olives from a parking-lot tree in Red Bluff.
--Alder (Bob)

Udan Farm Reborn

I wanted to explain how we came up with a name for our new place, and what the symbolism in the logo is about.

We closed on the new “farm” a week or so ago, and we took the first load of stuff down from OR, spent two nights, cleaning up and basically camping while we unloaded the Uhaul.

A farm, a home, a place, in my opinion NEEDS a name! It makes it more of a living entity.

When Alder and I first started seeing each other-which entailed me coming down to the farm he was on every weekend-one of the things we did was read together. I’ve always loved doing this, and he had a great love of Ursula LeGuin. I wanted to know about the things he was passionate about, so we read quite a lot of her stories.

The one we both like the most (well, one of two) is a short story called “Another Story, OR the Fisherman of the Inland Sea”, which is set on a continuously inhabited (for 3,000 years) family “farmhold” named Udan.

So when we started our own permaculture homestead in GA, that was undoubtedly our choice for it’s name.
It’s been a good name, but now we are in CA, and we have to ponder, was Udan us, or did Udan stay in GA…

When we started talking about the new place we knew we wanted to name it, and our minds immediately went to Ursula LeGuin for our inspiration.

Our other favorite book is “Always Coming Home”, arguably Ursula’s epic novel, of an indigenous people that inhabit CA many years in the future.

I love the cover of this book, because it always looked like “Home” to me-where I came from...those rolling, voluptuous, velvety hills where I grew up-the land that comforted and shaped my soul.

Alder and I started pouring over “Always Coming Home” last week, thinking that the name for our new farm MUST come from this book. But nothing really struck us. “Just give it some time”, he said.

Then a couple of days ago, we had a colorful encounter that inspired us. The dog was barking and I went out to see a peacock in the neighbor’s yard! My mouth dropped open! So pretty! I figured the elderly neighbor lady must have gotten a peacock, but the more I thought about it, I figured that probably wasn’t the case, so I ascertained that it was not hers, and it was most likely wild.

In the meantime, I had been reading about our friend Liam, who died unexpectedly a few weeks ago, and his re-drawing of the Seal of Atlanta to include a Sun and fruit tree. Ever the optimist and catalyst for change, he made the grey phoenix into a “green” phoenix.

I have a special place in my heart, because of a vision I had, for phoenixes. I think of the Cherokee (part of my heritage) phoenix as red, my personal bird is turquoise-and came to symbolize the direction my spiritual life would take, so the image of a green phoenix sounded very cool!

Visions of a colorful pet for the farm and a “green phoenix” danced in my head as we spent some time trying to catch the bird. Chasing a bird through dense underbrush (mostly posion oak) is not easy, but when it drew us into the blackberries and then FLEW away, we said goodbye to our dream of a free, LOUD alarm clock!

I came back to the house and looked up “Peacock Medicine” as in the lessons that an animal passing into our lives has to teach us. Peacock is a symbol of watchfulness (his “eyes” on his tail feathers) and in Christianity, a symbol of resurrection. It also teaches us with it’s laugh-like cry to laugh with life! Chasing a peacock unsuccessfully through the brush is certainly a case for laughing at one’s self, and as I made lunch, I thought about peacocks, and Liam and phoenixes and resurrection, and chasing peacocks and laughing. Liam is still not far from my thoughts, and the one thing that I think if immediately when I think of him, is JOY and laughter-yes, I think Liam would have thought Alder chasing a peacock was funny.

As I cooked an idea came to me...Udan farm, our beloved permaculture homestead could BE reborn in California! Why NOT name the new farm the same as the old farm, and continue all the good that we did there-continue the permaculture ethics and community, teaching, etc….it felt very right.

So I passed it by Alder and it felt right to him too. I told him I had been thinking about Liam helping us plant persimmons and figs on Udan, and phoenixes, and being re-born (wondering where Liam is now, and where he’s going) and how it all wove together into the idea that Udan should stay with us.

Being the graphics geek, and having a rare (at the moment) day to goof off, I set about making our new “logo”…. I can see it as a carved and painted wooden sign at the gate of our new farm.

I started with a pecan tree, one that was part of an ad for the first Permaculture Design Course at Koinonia (Alder’s home for 10 years and coincidentally the PDC where Liam was a student). I changed that pecan tree into an olive tree, to symbolize where we are going and what Alder hopes to plant. The two fallen leaves are our permie friends that we have lost in the last 2 years, Liam, and Frank Cook. They symbolize something of the circle, of life and death, that is part of every farm.

The artichoke is also a symbol of our future food. Even before we closed on the house, the previous owner gave us permission to take artichokes that may be growing there, so we had a dinner several weeks back that included food off our new land! How cool that the land is feeding us before we even move onto it! The artichoke in the logo is one of the ones we ate, turned into a graphic. It looks mighty like a lotus, which is also a symbol of rebirth.

The red line at the bottom is symbolic of the land, our grounding foundation, red for both the land that we left, and the land we are going to-which is in the “Red Bank” district-so named because of the color of the soil showing along the banks of the creek. The red also stands for my Cherokee and Alder’s Mauntauk heritage.

The phoenix has so many meaning held within it. My Cherokee heritage, my vision and newfound Spiritual path (hence also the 7 drops of water coming off the bird, as if he were coming up out of water), Udan’s rebirth, Alder’s rebirth, and even Liam and his green phoenix.

And the spiral on the bird is a pattern in Permaculture, was the G in “Georgia Permaculture” and was part of the peach logo for the Altanta PDC that never happened.

As for the word wudeligv, which is Cherokee for West, we didn’t just want to name the place “Udan Farm” again-there needed to be some distinction, and with me ever ready these days to practice my Cherokee language skills it seemed like a nice 2nd part to the name. Udan West.

So that’s the story behind our new “logo”. And the picture behind the blog is the new place we call home.

Home. Owenvsv (oh weh nuh suh) in Cherokee. The place where we will grow food, make friends, sit and watch the grass grow, maybe play with some great-nieces in a few years and laugh. And I hope there’s a LOT of laughter, and joy.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Cows

Because I'm on a cow roll, and this little ditty has stuck with me since Northern Exposure was on!


In honor of the new place we are going to call home, and our thousands of neighbors with 4 legs and horns....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Welcome everyone!
Alder and Isabel will both be posting what they're up to here. Stay tuned!
We just purchased a 1.5 acre in Tehama County, CA, which includes a metal barn, two chicken sheds, three other sheds (food storage, laundry, etc.) and a 1976 mobile home!
I (Isabel) have never been very fond of mobile homes, especially after living in the South (and in OK for one year when I was a kid) where mobile homes can be death-traps if a tornado comes along. But happily, no real threat of tornadoes in CA, just heat (it's a DRY heat!) and snakes. Earthquakes I'm not worried about.
I'll post a link to the right for some awesome folks in Truth or Consequences, NM who have become my heros for having a permaculture/maker outlook on a mobile home. THEY are the reason I'm game to fix this place up!
Another blog I'll post a link for is for a family who has been doing permaculture in southern Tehama county for 3 years!
Stay tuned for an explanation of the new logo and farm name, and first photos of our first gleaning foray in Red Bluff!
We're looking forward to the challenge!