Really O’k News for Traverse City: Good Food Gardens are Growing

Yesterday, February 27th, we accepted an opportunity presented to us, for a one day merging of our local, Urban Farming Collective mission with that of a global-wide “Occupy our Food Supply” event.

I was inspired through my O’k CSA desires to expand on the need to do something about bringing more folks into the wonderful world of growing our own food and doing so, by learning and applying the ways of permaculture.

Connecting to the larger “Occupy our Food Supply” action along with support of Little Artshram and the Urban Farming Collective, we staged a day-long event, calling it a “GOOD FOOD FIGHT for our FUTURE” throughout Traverse City. From 8:30 am until 9:00 pm with a BIG map, over good coffee and great food, we began tagging places that can transform our town into a plethora of food growing landscapes—asking folks who happened in and questioned our red-table clothed display, to join us in learning more about growing our food locally, taking a pledge with food producing plants and reclaim our food supply! This was a daylong event, beginning at French’s Famous and it was not only great fun but also a very good way to take positive action and turn around some of the corporate control dominating our access to good, healthy food.

This opportunity came up quickly and we had to move fast, and with an already established structure to the UFC we were able to send out notifications and invitations to participate or meet/greet via email and good ole’ Facebook, to Traverse City residents and neighborhood organizations to join us in sharing their ideas. At each of our set up a welcoming information table and met dozens of folks with great ideas and interest for initiating and mapping out a network of green spaces, publicly and privately owned that could become a community or neighborhood gardens. We invited folks to tell us about their gardens, past and present, and any information that they may have in order to map out MORE Community and Neighborhood Gardens in TC. We “occupied” some of TC’s favorite and awesome coffee shops and eateries, and, we thank our hosts and friends that welcomed us: French’s Famous, The Brew, Old Town Coffee Shop, Slabtown Burgers, Higher Grounds, Thai Cafe.

At 5:30 we ended up back at The Brew for a final, group gathering for any and all neighborhoods with our scribbled and garden tagged map of both current and potential allotment and community garden sites, as well as, wished for sites in all of the existing and a few new TC neighborhoods. A nice sized group looked over notes collected during the day, with tidbits about a potentially, large-sized community garden going in across from Thirlby Field and a lively discussion began with a focus on three questions: “Why are we doing this?” and “What’s the next step?” and “How do we reach out and get more folks involved?”

In response to why we are wishing to grow more community and neighborhood gardens:
-Historically, communities were centered around growing, harvesting, preparation and the sharing of food. This is an incentive to not only focus on local food, but also building a deeper, resilent, caring community.
-There is an imperative, with climate chaos and energy descent to build a stronger, local food “sheds” and have a food security plan that is not dependent on outside energy sources.
-With 14,000 residents + in Traverse City, we are concerned that there be a food system organized, embracing the principal of relative location, to meet the needs of apartment dwellers, folks with tree-shaded home-places, the homeless and the elderly
-Continued education and skill-building for children, youth and college-age students, as well as adults in gardening and permaculture practices, CELEBRATING COMMUNITY, providing for our needs and living a lower energy lifestyle.

What’s the next step?
-Invitation to the community and neighborhood organizations to the March 10th event (info listed below) “HOW-to: FOOD & OUR FUTURE in Traverse City”
-Compile notes and the map and contact the City of Tc to share our findings.
-Ask the broader community what they want. Create a survey to ask general questions/feedback about what folks need in their neighborhoods (site specific kinds of concerns: water/fences/neighbors) and also what they want to learn (basic growing/planting/tending), what kind of garden: allotment, community, property to share or give to gardeners to grow food.
-Share new and fresh ideas, without reinventing the wheel or limiting organizational structures already in place.
-Welcome and respect neighborhoods and gardens already working on plans, sharing a collaborative invitation to grow the local food movement.
-Allow systems to emerge, don’t impose.
-Reconnect with the UFC and Little Artshram’s offerings for networking and organizational support of policy, procedure, insurance needs, as well as, sponsoring workshops, programs, events:
-Reconnect with other local, like-minded organizations offering resources, information and possibly garden growing spaces, like: TCAPS, Cherryland Coop, TCLP, Oryana, Transition Traverse City, Occupy TC, NMEAC, Grand Traverse Conservancy, MLUI and the Food and Farming Network, Father Fred Foundation and Goodwill.
-Share “yard-sharing” groups and urban growing information: AND:
-Set up a booth at the Grand Traverse Commons Village Market on Saturdays, sharing information and keeping the dialogue going.
-Begin a seed-saving project, focusing on adaptable seeds, relative to our local soil.
-Identify public fruit trees and other edible fruits….consider the news from Seattle:
-Create a summer outdoor theater venue, show films in yards/gardens/front lawn of Building #50 @ the Village of GT Commons
-Offer Introduction to Permaculture and Urban Farming workshops, Edible Forest Gardening, and Permaculture Design Courses….at affordable prices or free to participants in need.
-Work collaboratively to secure membership/sponsorships/supporters via greenbacks, donations, Bay Bucks and Time-Bank our sweat equity.
-Find our local media supporters and be ready with our info sharing on our local food growing movement.

Now we are inviting folks to bring their neighbors and friends, and please join us at a gathering in two weeks, which answers our “How to reach out and get more folks involved” question:

“HOW-to: FOOD & OUR FUTURE in Traverse City” is an event offered through the Continual University Series, to benefit the UFC and will offer an opportunity to gather folks in a fun and valuable community-wide project, helping build neighborhood food growing alliances, facilitated by Samantha Tengelitsch and Christopher Graves of the Central Neighborhood.
Sat. 3/10, Cogs Creek Studios/Tribalive, Traverse City, 124 N. Maple St., 6-8pm: A general public gathering with information tables and community garden sign-up, facilitated discussion, on how to increase individual, family and neighborhood resilience through food security. The UFC will focus on connecting schools, churches, students, and garden mentors with community garden sponsors and business sponsors, local leaders and organizations for a community food-growing resilience project. Local food production will be a topic of this event, and we hope to have local food co-ops and CSAs represented.

The Urban Farming Collective (UFC), a project of Little Artshram, extends a warm welcome and invitation for Traverse City residents and organizations to join us on this Saturday, March 10th, event from 6-8 pm. This is an annual, and special spring event kicking-off the garden growing season in the Traverse City area, for:

  • Community garden info. sharing and sign-up–featuring any of the established and new gardens in Traverse City; including meeting/greeting neighborhood and community garden organizations;
  • Special 30-minute film showing of “Getting Real about Food and the Future” by the late Christopher Bedford.

The UFC with the help of the “occupy” event has launched a 2012 gardening program and network of community and neighborhood garden sites. We are committed to working collectively. The UFC offers community garden forums, workshops, how-to and start-up information gathered from local, regional and statewide community garden groups, as well as the American Community Gardening Association. Little Artshram, a Traverse City based non-profit, offers assistance to UFC members with liability insurance for gardens, collective fundraising and grantwriting opportunities, along with establishing necessary policy and procedures; opening up an opportunity to create a city-wide garden-growing timeline and action plan in 2012.

A representative from your organization would be incredibly helpful at this event as “target specific corollaries between new community gardening groups and the event”. Please let us know if someone will be able to attend the March 10th event. Thank you for the consideration, and don’t hesitate to respond with questions or clarifications.

More about the Urban Farming Collective, a project of Little Artshram: Do you currently have a Community Garden in Traverse City, or, would you like to begin one in your neighborhood? Are you a chicken farmer, a bee-keeper, a front or back yard gardener, a seed-saver, a soil-manager? Join us and help grow the TC urban farming and gardening movement!

The Urban Farming Collective has worked to create a Traverse City based network to meet the growing needs and interest in urban farming and the building of a local food system, while encouraging a lower energy lifestyle.

Join the Urban Farming Collective (UFC) and a growing group of wonderful folks, and contribute your good ideas to create a citizen-based, local food system for all. The UFC is collectively organized, offering information about potential and new Community Garden sites, workshops, programs and events, as we continue to deepen our permaculture roots, socializing in our yards and neighborhood gardens, eating good food and encouraging a local economy!

If you want to find out why I’ve joined the UFC, or find out more information about it, you can reach me through this blog, or at: [email protected]

Yammerin’ Interview #3: Spring Waters are moving…..

More of a yakkin’ than a yammerin’….from February 21, 2012, On Beaver Island, with Guy McPherson surrounded by Lake Michigan, with spring waters moving….

Before Guy McPherson and I arrived, our host-organizer and an island resident, Seamus Noorgard had shared the National Geographic 2006 film “Six Degrees that Could Change the World”, with the 7th-12th grade students at the Beaver Island Community School. Taking up with information since 2007, Guys’ presentation shared about our planet home in regards to climate chaos and energy descent and also discussed ways in which he had made choices to change his life and live differently.

I introduced permaculture, by identifying it as a system of design, a way to “be on the earth—living with the rest of the planet as part of the design, rather than destroying it….”. Mixed in with Guy’s factual presentation, I shared the basic how-to’s or what is permaculture through the guiding principals and ethics, and laid out the circular visual of the ecological design process.

In the Q and A session afterwards, students asked questions. Of the many, the questions presented by two different high-school girls were the ones that left an impression on me.

One asked asked “What can we do?” She asked sincerely and simply.

I waited for Guy to respond, and he did. It’s a tough question for him to answer, as a scientist he must respond with grim facts first, and as a life-long educator, feels morally obligated to not lie to students. Because in reality, SO much has already been “done” it is now truly time for our human species to prepare for some drastic and dire changes we’ve set in motion. In other words, many of the feedback loops we’ve initiated through carelessness and over-consumption, will continue to positively do their work of reinforcement, until various systems collapse. This causing other systems to go way out of whack. Some of us realize we are already living this dream. However, this is NOT the dream that most of the young people that I’ve spent time with choose, nor the one that we wish for them to have.

I mentioned the necessity of making life-style and behavior changes based on permaculture, and the brief introductory teaching I’d shared earlier.

A few more questions and comments happened, and again the same girl asked….”Well, still I wonder what we can do. Each of us. Isn’t there something we can do?”

Watching her beautiful, earnest face as she made a point to ask this question twice-–unsatisfied with what seemed likely a non-answer to a young person who is living in the “ACTION” portion of the wheel of life. Even though the facts prompt the students into deeper thinking and problem-solving, my artist-gardener-mother self leaped a bit in my heart and belly.

Sometimes it happens like that, when we speak the harsh words of reality as a teacher or mentor to folks. It’s tricky, making the decision to stop sharing information when that is our job, or training. And, sometimes it has to do with the way we learn things, our learning style becomes our teaching style. But stopping to allow feelings to inform and sometimes re-order our thought, is very important, and necessary. The brain shuts off. The idea machine stops, and we digest or compost, and feel it happening.

In those very few moments, I felt a whole lot of loving compassion for her and the other students in the room. Likewise the teachers who had shown the film and brought them to our presentation in the Community Center. Like them, and even WITH this dire message of climate chaos and out of control- human energy consumption, we love this Earth planet….and our blessed lives, and yes even with that information we wish to DO something about it.

And so, naturally I suggested they plant a community garden. I suggested that the students talk to the school board AND to the folks at the Community Center and jointly create a garden project and make sure to plant all the necessary vegetables and fruits to make fresh salads and pizzas’ each week for the entire 348 + students at the school.

The final question of the day, was asked by another high-school girl and it went something like this:

“Why do you think people don’t believe that this is really happening?”

Again, the thinking, factual response was brief and to the point….but the REAL response, the one we all FELT inside was huge.

Sitting with, digesting, composting these serious thoughts and questions, and then, like blessed spring waters inspiring us to MOVE and do something…is all part of my way of life on earth and what Guy was offering as well…..

I was duty-bound and happy to send the students and their teachers basic information and permaculture guidelines to inform them on how-to build a community garden…AND, because TODAY is a good day to join in on the Occupy your Food Supply global-wide movement and put a Community Garden in where ever we can….I suggest we plant our individual gardens AND join this massive global day of action to create healthy food systems and resist corporate control of our food supply, which has gotten us into a whole lot of this stinkin’ rotten mess.

Find out how you can get involved at

To end on beautiful and positive sight and sound….here’s a bit of water-teacher-loveliness from Beaver Island….

Yammerin’ Interview #2: Self-improvement

#2 interview with Guy McPherson, on his Feb. 2012 Michigan visit:

What do you know about self-improvement?

A week before the talk I knew nothing. I did a little research. Contemplated the nature of my own existence.

And what did you find out?

I thought about Socrates and the Buddha and other ancient philosophers.

Why ancient? Why go there considering the here and now…

It’s trite to say there’s nothing new under the sun…. but, it’s true. The ancients took time to think, and to experience the world. We don’t much do that in this society.

What did you find out from Socrates and Buddha regarding self improvement?

Between S and B there is a wealth of wisdom about self and improvement…So I introduced some of those ideas to spark a discussion….Like the Buddha’s five skhandas……”heap” like piles of existence…….

Heaping piles of existence is an interesting visual of “self”….plus likely takes up a whole lot of space….

B contemplated and taught the difference between the self– and no self….between the ego and the immersion into the world as a human animal….Each heap necessary, but inefficient to form “I” or “myself”….

Isn’t that kind of risky to share a message by the B when you don’t know who your audience is?

It’s important for me to take risks, and I felt like linking “self-improvement” to my message of the twin sides of the fossil fuel coin was necessary…..for my own personal growth and perhaps helpful to others.

SO that’ leads me to my next question in terms of tackling the practice of “self-improvement…..what about the dependence our culture seems to have on HOW-to kinds of quick fixes or band aid remedies to addictive-chronic-serious issues…How then can we accomplish tidying up or tending to these “heaps”?

I think what we are immersed in a major and serious opportunity for life-change and what we face in the very near future is a crises of consciousness. If we are going to deal with that crises….we are going to have to deal with the root of that issue, rather than the band-aids. The root is us.

A few years ago someone taught me this short Buddhist mantra….“Om Muni Muni Maha Muni-Ye Soha”…their translation was, from what I recollect: “honoring of the Buddha’s teachings by cutting the root of my ignorant self”. This seems a little tricky because what we are speaking of now, is the need to be rooted.

We believe we are rooted in this culture, but this “culture” has us adrift. We should be rooted in our conscious selves and in our place.

In permaculture one of our principal considerations we answer to when implementing a human-made system is to ask the question if place and practice match-up—or in harmony….

Yes, and this is the message of these ancient thinkers. Socrates and Buddha can help us become rooted in ourselves as human animals….and rooted in our communities…..connecting both….we are the ones we’ve been looking for……

So after Zach and Nellie gathered us all in with their music and songs…which seemed to be their personal messages about self and self-improvement….what did you see happening in that orange room with the discussion that you led?

I saw that we were exhibiting, as a group, a point I was inviting folks to share in. There is no self, independent of other selves. We were building community while talking about building community. We were practicing “anarchy” in this beautiful orange room. Letting each person in the circle express them selves by talking about “self” and taking responsibility not just for ourselves but also for the group.

How does this self-improvement work have bearing on your message of the failures of industrial civilization and your desire for it’s collapse?

These bonds….as demonstrated that evening between the human beings present, are also connected to the bonds between human beings and the living planet, bonds between our superficial selves and rooted conscious selves.

What about the present day leadership who likely don’t embrace S and B’s philosophy?

There is no present day political leadership taking action on self-improvement as we spoke of in that circle. We can not sustain industrial civilization, and at the same time also apply S and B’s philosophy to our lives. Our present day political leadership embraces, as you have said a few dozen times in my presence: a powering over-filthy rotten system. They do not practice or embrace the idea or philosophy of a self-maintaining, self-improving healthy planet, which happens to also include individual, human animals.

We didn’t spend much time contemplating Socrates messages in this interview… but I do agree that our evening pondering Self-improvement was quite wonderful.

And, in closing, I’m going to take this opportunity to share music by Zach Power that was part of our circle discussion of self-improvement via this link:

Yammerin’ Interview: Dragon Party

To kick off the Year of the Dragon, I had a party for a few good friends and neighbors to consider the hoped for positive, and, perhaps destructive dragon energy and meet my friend Guy McPherson.

Guy is the author of “Nature Bats Last”, and most recently, “Walking Away from Empire”. I bumped into him at a conference last November and his thoughts and concerns about our short-comings in terms of care-taking our planet home resonated with me. He is a conservation biologist who has a keen grasp of the severe ramifications of the climatic course we’re on. I invited him to come back to Michigan, and we set up a tour of talks in several cities and towns.

After getting help from a bunch of wonderful folks scheduling his Michigan tour-a-thon, I found my car-less, biking self living a different kind of life these past two weeks, while traveling around to various venues.

So, in the spirit of seriousness, fun, and heartfelt appreciation, I thought I might conduct a few interviews with Guy myself, focusing on the how-to’s of delivering such a looming, dooming dragon kind of message, and share some thoughts on what I’ve observed happening at these gatherings. Here’s the first, from our Dragon Party, in Traverse City….

How did you feel when you were invited to give a dragon-breathing presentation?

I was honored to be invited to deliver a message to a group of artists. Also, I was nervous.

Why were you nervous?

My presentation wasn’t about actual facts, it was an artistic interpretation delivered to a bunch of artists and musicians.

But, why would you not give actual facts to artists and musicians?

Is it okay if I just refer to them as artists? I don’t think artists are motivated by facts. I think they are driven by their hearts.

What the heck does that mean, “driven by their hearts”?

Artists are intuitive and rely on whole-body perspective, including hearts and brains. Scientists are driven exclusively by what goes on above their shoulders. They don’t give a shit about anything else.

Let’s get back to this idea of not giving artists actual facts….who do you think you are, withholding “actual facts” from artists? Is your motivation to try to speak their language?

Every audience is different and I want to try to use language they understand.

But you haven’t answered my question, what’s the sense of you talking to artists and holding back on the actual facts?

I think artists have an intuitive grasp of the facts. They don’t need more facts.

You’re just a big dummy and you have nothing to say because artists already have it figured out. Let’s move on. After you finished saying nothing to the artists at the dragon party, what struck you from the reaction of that pleasant little group of folks?

At the time, I thought several people were unbelieving how quickly the industrial economy could collapse. In addition, I thought most of the people present were not interested in making other arrangements.

Wow. Do you believe that when you meet people, at these talks you go in with expectations or that you make assumptions?

Yes, of course.

Do you think other people understand where you’re coming from in terms of concepts such as industrial collapse and the “making of other arrangements”?


Well, I’m going to ask you to define industrial civilization.

IC is characterized by cities and dependence upon fossil fuels.

Define collapse of IC.

Near-term termination of food at the grocery stores, fuel at the filling stations, and no water pouring out of the municipal taps.

Why should artists care about that?


Yes, really, why?

Artists are people. I think they should care about the future for themselves and their children.

What if they don’t have kids?

Then I think they should care about the future of humanity. If you’re saying I don’t understand the audience, then I agree. It’s no surprise that I speak past an audience b/c I don’t understand the audience.

Don’t you ever feel as if you’re “pissing in the wind”?

Yes, most of the time. I don’t think very many people have changed anything about their lives as a result of anything I’ve said or written.

O’k, so what was the dragon-breathing message you gave?

We’re in the midst of climate chaos and collapse of IC. In response, we should be trying to help each other.

And, what does that have to do with dragons?

Nothing. I cast my presentation in light of dragons, but collapse of IC and runaway climate change are proceeding with or without dragons.

So you abandoned your artistic language?

No, I did not. The dragon is larger than life and he invokes karma. Events tend to happen early during the year of the dragon. I linked the year of the dragon to events in Greece and climate chaos. Because the dragon — the most powerful of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac — is karmic, we should love each other. I invoked the Mark Vonnegut line in response to the question, “Why are we here?” Vonnegut replied, “We are here to help each other through this, whatever this is.”

That’s a pretty good dragon-breathing message. Can you reflect on any of the other events of the evening?

One person was concerned that people would not believe me regarding climate chaos and collapse of IC. After failing to alleviate her concern, we began singing and playing music.

Hmmm….I wonder if there is a hidden reflection in there…but I’ll go ahead and ask, as a soap box doomer-delivering messenger…..what experience or feeling did you take away with you after this dragon party?

As usual when I speak with interesting, interested people… I came away with an emotional high…an adrenaline surge….from people who wish to interact and have serious conversation.

Would you say that they heard your serious message?

Yes, I suspect they heard the message.

Final question: What is your priority for the year of the dragon?

To terminate IC.


(A few more Yammerin’ Interviews, will appear soon)

Celebrating Slowness with a Stirring and a Twitch

Today, to honor what some of us recognize as Imbolc or Groundhogs Day, I wish to write about how I gently train myself to slow down, celebrate and observe times of wondrous change in my Northern Michigan home-place.

One of the blessings I have living in this north woods land near a very big lake is the opportunity to wander, connect and explore the woods and the lakeshore. It’s even
easier for me to do since I gave up owning a car. Every day I get out of my sheltering home, my head up in the sky, my feet on the ground; pedaling my bike along the bay; over to our community garden; or to our food co-op. Those seem to be my oft traveled routes, and I try to make sure that there is, in summer, a greener scape; and in winter, a frozen waterscape accompanying me.

Another gift, is a deeper and wider opportunity to observe and interact with all that is around me… make “friends” with natures’ seasonal cycle and what each of these changes bring. Again bike riding assists me greatly, bringing me closer to all these other elements in my surrounding. And it’s more than just watching the seasons change automatically, from winter to spring to summer to fall. It’s also observing the stirring and twitching, the process of change, and all the incredible, pulsing pieces laid out and carrying on around me.

WIth my best intentions, as a non-fixed species, I can get up in the morning and easily skim right by something absolutely spectacular paying it no never mind. Thanks to a little camera my daughter gave me recently, I’m beginning to realize how I’m completely missing out on observing and taking in a nourishing gift of energy the complex, natural world offers up.

Another way I’ve “trained” myself to honor change (… and to the great frustration of some of the folks that I work along side of…) I often do not know what day or time it is. Except for the time recorded on my computer and phone, which is plenty, I don’t have a clock or watch in my home-place or studio. Listening to a clock tick is one of the most offensive noises I’ve ever encountered. Having an alarm go off is an incredibly horrible way to greet the morning. I go to bed when I’m tired. Sometimes this happens at 7:30 at night in the colder seasons. I get up when I’m rested. Sometimes this happens at 4:30 a.m. Two of my inspirations to honor this kind of “time” are my children. Having children and observing babies as time-keepers helped me a lot. They sleep when they need to, they wake up when they are rested. Why did we big people ever change this system?

Without adhering to every whim and sometimes imposed upon religious or spiritual tradition, I also have taken on observing the natural cycle of seasonal change by singing little ditties or chants as I walk along or ride my bike. Sometimes these are of Native American or Pagan traditions. I love my home-place on planet Earth and I give it recognition and yes, greet it each morning and sometimes sing to it.

When I was a little girl, I used to sit in a swing under a big maple tree in our yard and make up what I would call la-la songs. Little songs, or chants that would begin and repeat themselves over and over, until I became tired, or they ended. Some people whistle, some people hum, I sang la-la songs. I’m so pleased to have a singing/chanting mentor in my older life, and this week, true to her singing self, she gifted me with a new song, which I will sing for anyone today that asks for it to celebrate Imbolc or Groundhogs day.

Here it is:

Let the river run through me
Let the healing waters flow
Let the river run through me
Let the healing waters flow
The earth she wants me
The earth she wants me
The earth she wants to take me home

Slowing down, celebrating and observing times of change, has helped me to deal with not so fun times when tough things happen. Letting go of the mad rush to do-do-do, fix-fix-fix, or to keep up with priorities and expectations that our human species and work life has brainwashed us with, does not necessarily make it easy. Our big brains and civilized ways of living, often make us forgetful that stuff needs to compost or thaw out in it’s own time. It’s BIGGER work to slow down and allow this natural process.

It’s also BIG work for me to remember that my holy days or holidays are not necessarily the same as others. Especially when much of the human world keeps plowing forward and churning on all around me.

Today, I’m taking the day “slow” and celebrating this time of stirring, twitching change, the mid-point between winter solstice and spring equinox. I plan to sing a few songs to the water, woods, and the few “dragon’s teeth ice-cicles” that remain…to my children who’ve taught me much, and to all the creative tinkerers out there tinking away. I might even write a poem.

What you are doing on this very lovely day, that falls in between this and that?