ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Monday, September 12, 2016



Although I have suspended this campaign until the next cycle, I will use donations to further the work of ECO-Tours and to teach people how to make and use biochar. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Whole Kit And Caboodle

My days as an artist have been filled with materials, consumables, the materials that flow, through a process into becoming other things, making my art possible. Even the image I have conjured of an artist as a 3-D printer of sorts aptly describes the materials within the caboodle. Posterboard and felt tip pens were the "liquid" materials flowing through the creative force of my friend Wesley Willis. At once, his caboodle could fit in a single bag for his pens and a garbage bag full of posterboard that allowed him to make his kit useful. Another favorite artist, Joseph Beuys managed to pare down his caboodle (materials) to blood, lard and wool. The kit that operated on the materials was both experience, adroit skill and the specific "eye" for juxtaposing the familiar with the sacred and/or profane.

Some make the mistake of thinking that the kit is just a series of objects, but it is not just that. Of course, if I wanted to draw a circle, a compass might be necessary, but knowing how to use it, or make due with a string and a pin attests to the fact that the intellect becomes just as important as the physical object one carries to the process of creation. The artists mental state, creativity, insights, thought process and skill in making objects from what they have in their caboodle are all essential parts of the creativity puzzle. One teacher I respected a great deal once said that the difference between art and craft is that a crafts person knows what the finished product will look like before the creative process begins. artists allow their creative process to morph, often resulting in things that were never planned or imagined at the start. I am not completely convinced, but it does present a fair starting point into the meanings I want to get to with this post.

To save our species from itself, we must get on with the process of educating as if our lives depended on it, because in fact, they do. all lives matter is not the refrain, necessarily of self important bigoted fools, (although if the shoe fits wear it.) but a plain and simple fact. today, for instance, even I froze up when a person suggested deporting anyone who reads the Quran. The same day, I had read of a Syrian fellow who returned 55K in cash that he found in a donated piece of furniture he was given along with personal papers covering about 1,500 individuals. He said that Allah would not want him to benefit from the fortune that others had built. this rep[resents the vast majority of people in any religion. You know the type. People who are honest, compassionate and helpful. Trying to act as if 1/3 of the planet's population is inherently "bad" or even to be suspected for having a different "God" is absurd. We need to, each one of us, throw whatever we've got, both kit and caboodle, into speaking truth to power in this respect as well as others.

Collective evolution can only take place when we talk to strangers, spread the word, continue sharing what we have learned and spreading both the materials and techniques we have each developed for making creative contributions to society as a whole. This is most often accomplished by giving back to individuals. Break out whatever might be languishing in your caboodle, heck, even if you have things in your kit that you have forgotten or that have become rusty for lack of use, break those suckers out! The same is said for the other side of the process, if you were holding something back for just the right time, get it out! The world is ready for it, now! and if there are skills or tools that you have been hoping would one day become important, unleash their power now! We must use all that is at our disposal to evolve past fear and hate. Prove once and for all, the value of peace and creativity, we will call this evil deception and it will wilt in the light of day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Week-long Intensive

ECO-Tours of Wisconsin offers week-long intensives as well as one day tours/classes covering a variety of topics. Welcoming people to our facility includes having a private space in which to stay. We have been and continue to convert our facility into a living classroom for such diverse retreats as Art, Biochar, Compost, Dirt vs. Soil, Energy, Food Systems, Green Living, Habitat Improvement, Investing for Seven Generations, waterfall wanders, writer's retreats, etc. Our accommodations can be booked through Air B&B, or if you are willing to camp out, we are able to offer reduced rates for Leave No Trace campers.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


It has taken some time, but this blog finally has as many individual views of this site as trees that we planted our first year! The power of a single act, much less 3,600 of them has amazing power to outlast the moment in which we find ourselves. I would like to think of the ideas stories and activities that I share here will blossom and grow just as the forests that we have cultivated over the years. I may not know about the preferred climate, soils conditions and moisture requirements to make each of my readers thrive, but I do know those things about most trees and many native plants here in the Western Great Lakes Region. If I could think of, or find a way to grow my audience more or more quickly, I would do it, but for now, I will content myself with reaching this amazing milestone.

I have been writing "here" a bit less than usual and that is because I'm also running for the U.S. House of Representatives. As those who read my blogs often will know, I'm a strong Bernie Sanders supporter and friend of the environment, of course. What they may not realize is that all of my activities, training and concerns are for healing the planet, her people and the economic system that often rewards bad choices with regard to both people and the planet.

Without this form of communication, there would be less opportunity for me to spread the word about ECO-Tours, that they exist, how they work, what they can teach and ultimately how the revolution that is not being televised continues to gain both speed and diversity right under the noses of those who have always denied that we are a force to be reckoned with. It seems that as we grow and develop as a culture, like with the rest of our lives, the little things matter most. Knowing that so many people still find these posts informative gives me great hope for the changes that are yet to come!

When I write about planting trees, or inner city beekeeping or when I go on and on about political or social factors that affect and create the environment that we all share, it brings me joy to know that others have been inspired and informed by the posts. The tree planting we did our first year in operation took place in about four months. This writing has taken four years. The forest may remember our loving hands, but the culture does not always understand, or feel the work of those who massage and inform their development.

Like the many hours we spend at the breast as babies, those influences and building blocks are lost to time and oft' forgotten, but their power and the grace required to nurture are reflected in every act later in life, just because we do not have as long a memory as trees does not mean that we are not to be taught, or fed, or nurtured. In fact, perhaps, we need these things even more! My writing seeks to feed the souls of my readers, enlighten their minds and nourish their own drive toward finding balance between themselves and nature. I hope that the next 3,600 views come more quickly, but I also understand that you cannot rush a great thing. The Universe is unfolding as it should. Thank-you all for reading my words and may they bring you insight and comfort. your interest in my words gives those things back to me and for that I thank you all! 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

When 50-50 means 100%

There is territory on our bodies that we supposedly "own". In fact, some far out liberals say we should have dominion over our entire bodies. "Self determination from within" is how we described it at one of the Yoga Institutes that I have lived communally with. When we take the hypothetical idea of genital mutilation, it is abhorrent, but about half the population gets surgically altered, genitally, within hours of birth and there is no valid reason for it to be done. There is no way to describe the intimate pairing of violence and intimacy that men bear in relation to their indoctrination to our U.S. of American culture. (Most cultures around the planet have now  disavowed genital mutilation) Another way We the People have remained like the very barbaric groups who still practice female genital mutilation.

For the purposes of my message, I want to confine my discussion to the male part. Most men do not even realize consciously, that they have been "circumcised". Such a clean word for such an obscene business! I am motivated to point out to half the population that if your junk looks like a mushroom, you were cut. if it looks like your hand, jammed down a sock at the end, you are intact. The message should, or could be easy, if it were just a matter of skin.

This seems to only apply to the half of the population whose genitals would, or could be involved, however, this is never the case. Abandonment issues often arise from being taken away from adoring mothers only to be cut savagely. How many men have unresolved abandonment and or mommy issues? Doctors claimed for years that boys "didn't feel much"; they said there was a natural anesthetic from the birth process. Newborn organisms in need of nurture can't be compromised with anesthetics, so it validated the lie. Children feel it, yet, the cutting continues, for no good reason.

When one considers and understands that sexual assault can even be perpetrated by men in white coats, it changes the discussion. Just because you were cut does not mean your child's penis should look just like yours. The entire culture bears the legacy of all that betrayal, guilt and shame. None of that would occur and nurturing could continue right through the formative years.

Ask the child at the age of adulthood if he wants the end of his wanker whacked off and my guess is that he will tell you to step off!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Egg On Their Faces

I found my way to a site that claimed to have research on bio-char. They supposedly found that loss rates can be as high as sixty percent in their "test plots", with the majority being lost to runoff and a significant amount just blowing away. I personally have worked with char for about three years and I can imagine scenarios that might approach those numbers, but only an ignoramus would leave the char sitting on top of the soil, on a hill in a rainstorm, or try to top dress a windblown prairie that has had virtually all organic matter produced there removed from it for decades. The ultimate refutation of this "scholarly" work lies in the fact that 2,000+ year old fire pits are frequently nearly 100% intact and that the most easily recognized element in them is carbon. Human-sequestered carbon. In this age of anthropogenic climate change, looking to the options we have for removing carbon from the atmosphere, especially the simplest ways that require virtually no special equipment or heroic new technologies just makes too much sense for our oligarchs. They always want to overdo things.

It has recently come to light that some scholars are willing to doctor their research or tailor it to meet the requirements of big donors. This is not to call all science into question, but when you know what you are trying to describe, and how it is supposed to look, the mere thinking that you know what you are doing can have drastic consequences. Advancing human understanding is difficult enough when we bring to the table a huge number of assumptions, expectations and rules that have been established for centuries. Looking at the here and now often challenges us to let go of what we have been told.
There are several things that are terribly wrong with these pictures. I can only imagine that there are ulterior motives behind why giant corporations owned by multi-billionaires would want to prove that char does not work.
I received this picture of a page from a magazine from a friend, who is learning about using biochar and was interested to show me that the message is being echoed in the press and there was no credit given. (Please forgive my not having the name and issue number of the magazine it came from.) My presumption is that the image comes from National Geographic magazine because it is a thinly veiled advert for them, designed to sway the hearts and minds of casual viewers to believe that the institution, now owned by Mr. Murdoch and his Fox Entertainment Group Inc. has the best interests of Costa Ricans and tropical farmers in mind as they massage their public image. This information is intended to be used for educational purposes only. I am sharing it to hone to a fine point my concerns about the inhumanity of capital against humankind. Billionaires and corporations owned by nameless faceless corporate boards, like oil giant Shell or corporations owned by oligarchs from overseas, like Rupert Murdoch, want the World's population to see them as benevolent. Whether they are or not can only be determined by looking critically at their actions and the results of those actions.

The photos above raise more questions than they answer in that regard. Optimal sizes of biochar particles are 2mm or less, far smaller than the pieces being buried in the photo. Natural processes in the soil will never break down the relatively giant chunks of char that are being buried in the photo above. The char pieces pictured above will suck moisture out of the soil and keep it out of reach of the roots that char can benefit if used and prepared properly. Since the picture shows people adding raw char to the soil, they are creating a massive sink for nitrogen, which will deprive plants of that important nutrient as well. Trying to think like a microbe is difficult enough without letting industrial minded donors push our attempts to benefit humankind push short sighted use of appropriate technologies in inappropriate ways.

It is difficult enough to make positive change. Cooking the books and offering help that hurts only complicates the issues and makes adoption of appropriate technologies less likely to be adopted. I think that this sort of activity does more harm than good.

TLUD technology is an acronym for Top-lit, up-draft, which is a fairly simple way to drive off the volatile gasses from organic material while preserving the carbon that has been heated to a glow in an oxygen deprived atmosphere.
Courtesy of Dr. Paul Anderson of the Biochar Working Group in Seattle. Image helps explain how easily we can make char.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Biochar and the Five Principles

My pagan friends know the Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit connection well. These forces and qualities permeate, entwine and give substance to all that surrounds us. all of these elemental forces are alive in soils as well. Biochar can help to heal and nourish our environment, our soils, our cells, our selves and our spirits, but only when we take the time to honor the fundamental parts, the char itself and the life giving nutrients and minerals that we add to it with love. I have been part of this process since before time began and my ideas will continue to be passed along centuries after I have passed the veil. That is one of the things about charmaking that has become infinitely clear to me.

The Earth, supreme mother and womb of all terrestrial life is the structure, the latticework upon which life thrives. The fundamental basis for biochar involves roasting organic cells to purify them, pyrolyze them down to nearly pure carbon. As you can easily see and understand, the roasting involves fire. During the actual roasting, it is important to deprive the char of air, otherwise you will be left with mineral ash only, the beginning of making lye. The black char acts as a structure upon which soil organisms thrive.

The Air comes later, once the char is heated to glowing hot (about 450 degrees) and left to cool, the char becomes highly absorbent and can be allowed to, should be allowed to breathe. Interestingly, the surface area of finished char is over fourteen acres per handful and the smaller the bits, the better. most experts recognize a maximum size of 2mm, or about the size of a grain of rice, but my work is finding that smaller seems to always be better. The smaller the particles, the more surface area that can later hold moisture and nutrients.

Fire lends an energy to the char that lasts literally for many decades, almost like clay, once fired is as permanent as rock, but the cellular structure of the parent material is preserved as a microscopic latticework upon which life can thrive. We invest time energy and thoughtfully prepared substances to the char to make soil faster than the Earth ever does. Our efforts are rewarded over time.

Water, is part of the magic as well. Char holds 6X its own weight in water. Although char is extremely light, biochar is relatively heavy. Once it is nutrified, primarily with organic nitrogen fertilizer, and mineralized (typically with rock dust or other mineral-rich substances), it can hold even more moisture. finally, when a safe and secure habitat is created upon the surfaces of the char, healthy soil microbes are introduced that will colonize and fill the char with microscopic life.

Finally, you ask, What about Spirit? This is the part that is most difficult to speak of. For me, after five years of making char, caring for soils and building my garden beds, I am only beginning to grasp the spiritual depth of my commitment. Giving our lives for our children or a cause only take us so far, but gibving our life force to the healing of the soils upon which we grow our food, upon which the forests rely and upon which future generations will make their way, now that is a profound gift.

We are stardust.