Happy new year friends,
This is Mark writing and I'm happy to say I returned to Vermont on Sunday night after an extended road trip home. After just a few days back, I'm starting to plan a six week research trip to Europe in February and March. Whew, I guess there'll be time to slow down in 2012?!
The remainder of my visits to eco-designers, innovative land managers and coppice craftspeople was wholly inspiring. My traveling companion Sasha Rabin and I spent a week and a half meeting with over a half dozen people in northern California and western Oregon. This is the first update installment about that trip with more to come over the next few weeks.
Two of the first people we met with include:
Frank Lake; Orleans, CA (in the gorgeously remote Klamath River Valley) - a native Karuk, Phd candidate, and US Forest Service employee who has been researching the use of fire as a management tool to improve habitat, mitigate fuel hazards and provide native peoples with access to high quality shoots for basketry and other crafts. Integrating a deep and interdisciplinary scientific background with the traditions and experience of his culture, Frank helped illustrate how the pre-contact landscapes of northern California were influenced by conscious, mutually beneficial management and is actively carrying out studies that monitor the regrowth and ecological impact of fire as a coppice inducing strategy on existing hazel and willow stands.Tom Ward; Applegate Valley, Oregon) - Elder permaculture educator, designer, craftsperson and visionary, Tom shared the inspiring homestead and farm he's worked to carve out amidst the white oak savannas in southern Oregon. In some of the most challenging ecological conditions imaginable (highly alkaline soils, 14" annual rainfall during the winter rainy season, significant fire danger, healthy populations of browsing wildlife and the potential for extreme summer temps) Tom and his friends and neighbors have been experimenting with a most inspiring vision of a model for what Tom calls, 'Social Forestry'. That is, a culture built around an engaged, conscious and participatory management of the forest, supported by the cities, towns and villages in which they reside. Tom has spent the past decade creating an off-the-grid (and road) life that as much as possible revolves around the resources available on-site. Thus, he's developing bio-char production systems as a means to help build fertility on this starved landsape and steer succession towards a more health, open, 'climax' ecology, while minimizing risk of catastrophic fire. And his house is a marvel of natural building principles and philosophy - built almost completely out of on-site materials. He even invented a new building technique, developing an infill system that utilizes the abundant bundles of available buckbrush (Ceanothus cuneatus) over which he applied light straw clay and earthen plaster. Tom's vision, lifestyle and on-the-ground trials have been an absolute inspiration.For now, I'm going to get back to work, but I'll post another update in the next few days with more overviews of the inspiring people and practice I had a chance to meet.
Thanks for your interest and support all!
Until next time,