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

Friday, March 29, 2013

April Challenge...

I fellow crew member of Starship Earth posted this...I'm not taking credit for it, but we here at ECO-Tours fully support the effort. (I will try my best not to edit or editorialize too much.)
Welcome to the Local Harvest Challenge
Monday 1st April – Sunday 7th April (If you read this later, just choose a week and start!) 

Great to have you join up for the Local Harvest Challenge! (encourage family and friends as well.)
I’m looking forward to a week of discoveries as we get to know more of the story behind the things we eat. This week is about reducing the distance our food has traveled to come to us, but also about meeting the faces behind our food. Let’s support local growers and help build up a great (safe and resilient) food system.
For some of us, we’ll be buying in a different way this week, for others it will mean learning some skills to do things ourselves in a new way.
So what’s your challenge? (pick just one or several from those listed you learn and grow, try another, then keep adding. They are all worth giving a try!)
1. Don’t use the supermarkets this week – shop at local independent grocers, butchers and delis.
2. Shop at a farmers’ market.
3. Source farm-gate produce. (direct farmer to consumer)
4. Shop at a local food coop, buy in bulk, take your own containers. (If you have no co-op available, buy something in bulk and split it among friends or family.)
5. Harvest and eat food from your own garden. (Because many of us are in the Northern Hemisphere, try sprouting in the cupboard. Don't forget to use organic, untreated seeds or beans.)
6. Eat (at least) 5 Servings of Local, Organic fruit & veggies per day.
7. Cook with seasonal produce.
8. Make yogurt. (it is fun and great for kids to learn about bio-phyllic bacteria!)
9. Compost your kitchen scraps. (We only avoid commercial banana peels because of the fungicide)
10. Start a worm farm.
11. Visit a local community garden.
12. Start an herb box or mini-plot. (can be a single pot on the porch, or something more in the garden)
13. Find out more about and try food preserving – bottling, drying, freezing.
14. Find out about Urban bee-keeping. (This is really awesome and educational.)
15. Like Local Harvest on facebook, or follow us on Twitter.
16. Join a relevant community network. (such as a permaculture group, transition initiative, seed savers network, slow food group or local ecological organization like ECO-Tours of Wisconsin.)
17. Read a relevant book.
18. Ask your local cafe' for their coffee grounds for your garden compost.
19. Ask your local grocer, deli or favorite cafe' to include more local produce.

In preparation, we encourage you to complete the Food Choices Audit here. There’s a spreadsheet to assist in documenting what you presently buy and where it comes from.
I’ll be in touch shortly with details on how you can blog your experiences. (since this is from elsewhere, I will not be following up with you, but...)You can see blogs from last year’s challenge here, (Local Harvest) and who is participating in this 2013 Challenge week on the map.
Thanks for coming on board, and making a difference with your food choices!
Cheers, Nick

Nick Ray
Local Harvest, project co-ordinator
0417 114 492
You are receiving this because (ECO-Tours of Wisconsin encourages you to...) you’re doing (do) the Local Harvest Challenge. Yum!
If you want to make a difference (just for yourself or to the world); want to encourage children, neighbors and community to get involved; have a local business that could benefit from more customers finding out about your commitment OR just for fun, this is a great challenge to get involved with (share with your contacts, customers, school, etc). We are happy to be a part of this challenge. You might like to find out what it is all about, too. Go to:

Thank-you, BetR2 (fellow blogger) this is an important step toward sustainability. The time has come to grow toward the light, begin to transition and embrace Permaculture, ECO-Ethics, Trees.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How To Plan For Change

When we develop into fully functioning creatures, the inevitability of change needs to be understood without question. Learning the difference between what we think change will be and what it actually amounts to can help allocate resources, hunt for opportunities, fish for abundance and gather the gifts that surround us. Knowing what changes are coming is often not so much a function of intellect or hearsay, but as many realize, intuitive signposts often intercede in our creation of whatever the future holds. I took in a homeless fellow once, who ended up costing me thousands of dollars and endless hours of difficulty. I found myself wasting hundreds of hours that would not have been required if I had just let him drink himself to death on the street. Perhaps I should have learned my lesson then and not taken in other friends who again, cost me thousands. In the final analysis, addiction problems drove most of the bad experiences. Other homeless people I have helped over the years came our alright. I have had a long history trying to "help" people. A recent bad experience was because this person's drug of choice is unreasonable faith that as long as they cultivate happy thoughts, their children will raise themselves, the house will clean itself and that because of their fragility. It is only reasonable for the government to support them.

Many on the political right claim that there are millions of inter-generational welfare recipients. The people that they claim to be pulling down the middle class through their "cheating". Who has not heard of the "culture of poverty" that the Rethuglicans claim to be able to incarcerate away. Having been raised on welfare and having none of my mother's four children on welfare, I wonder what kind of soul crushing experiences could possibly encourage a child who has grown up in poverty to want that for their future. The very possibility of such a thing in even a small percentage of individuals who are in poverty for generations only proves that we abuse and neglect our poor rather than giving them a hand up. In several of the cases where I tried to make a positive change, by myself, one person at a time, taking in a homeless person, or helping them to better their station, I soon found that there is an abject lack of social fabric to keep them from falling further out of the fold. Our social garments are tattered. Surely, we can foresee the lasting effect of neglecting those among us who are in the greatest need. Without question, the abuse of those least able to protect themselves has become a cancer across our culture.

I guarantee that as long as the austerity rhetoric holds sway in political circles, less money will be spent to help these throwaway people. I was homeless myself several times, but have made my way back to working for the bank. Even though my experiences with "homelessness" seemed easy to come back from, for many, with less self-confidence, less education, less facility, common-sense or drive, the outcome could have been far more questionable. One may ask, "What does this have to do with ECO-Tours?" Well, one of our programs is in planning stages, but I'm sure I have spoken about it before. We will soon offer summer camp experiences for homeless youth. This way, their parents can have time to get established, while their children are getting important leadership development experiences, job-training as well as learning skills for sustainability that they can bring to the family as well. Cultivating the self-image and skill set of youth has so many collateral benefits that it is hard to find reason not to take time to educate and enrich them.

In college, I remember the first time I heard of Bill Strickland, I almost stopped what I was doing and my next step was going to be to hitchhike to Pittsburg to join him. His book, Making the Impossible Possible is a great text to read to help understand ways to make a difference that will not break the bank. Here at ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc., we do not shy away from the notion that we (humans) are also part of the environment. Rather than just exploring babbling brooks, marshland, forests and the natural wonders, we want to teach about the ways of humankind. Specifically, how living with ecology in your bones can transform the world around us, the nature of the environmental conditions that result from our actions and the nearly infinite opportunities for positive change.

Developing our knowledge, skills and attitudes to reflect the qualities that we wish to see in the future is perhaps the best way to prepare for and actually institute change that will enhance and enrich our lives in the future. some changes are truly out of our hands, but when we begin to make better decisions for our future, many more causal factors can be addressed, leading to larger and larger amounts of effectiveness. This in turn leads others to see the benefits of behaving in accord with integrity and values that are worthy of respect. quality works by example and invites reciprocation. I believe it was Ghandi who said that we must BE the change we wish to see in the world. Making an effort to always leave things better than we found them is a start.

Learning the art of the give away is also an important step in preparing for the future. Many in the "recovery" movement parrot the phrase "Fake it 'til you make it." but perhaps this makes the most sense when we use it to remind ourselves to mimic natural systems and when we learn what we learn from natural systems about fitting in to our environment. We must realize that there is no "away". No natural system creates waste, only resources for other life forms. We must also make plans for protecting entire communities or strengthening them against onslaughts that we know to exist. hoping or wishing these forces away flies in the face of reality and if we do not prepare to meet them head-on, we will be unprepared for their assaults. Reduction of our wastes is a good place to start planning for the future. Making our immediate area safer, healthier and more habitable is also crucial in preparation for the future. Reducing our need to transport ourselves with fossil fuel is also an important step. All signs point to the continued escalation of energy prices and conservation will yield an ever larger benefit for those who know how to live on less. Planting more in our gardens, or starting one if you do not already have one, planting more trees and creating more safe and healthy habitat for both humans and other creatures will be essential if we are to enjoy a quality of life worth living in the future. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc.: Petrochemical "Salvery"

Petrochemical "Salvery"

Next time you pump your gasoline. Think about this...
Trapped within each gallon is roughly the same amount of energy as 300 humans could produce in an hour.

As odd as it sounds, we have "dominion" over massive amounts of energy in a petrochemically mediated existence. How we use our "minions" is more telling about us than we can conceive. The vast coal, oil & gas "reserves" have been stored up over geologic time, eras long gone, that may never exist again. We have burned through about half of the world oil supply in just over 100 years. Although we continue to escalate the amount of energy and expense of trying to get more energy, the equations have been turned on their head. Wind and solar have experienced exponential increases in efficiency and simultaneously lower costs of production as demand continues to increase.

On the news tonight is a story about the dire straights that lie ahead for the nuclear electric generating station on the shore Lake Michigan. No one wants it, because the power it produces is more expensive than that produced by wind turbines. The waste will continue to cost over three million dollars per year to secure, possibly forever. The energy that we burned through recklessly will forever haunt the generations and all the folks who had been told that the facility would be so profitable, that they would never have to pay property tax? They are left holding the bag, without an operating facility, there is no tax incentive for living close to the radioactive site.

We love to feel the power of the accelerator. We love to hope that there is a free lunch and we frequently pray for the intercession of "our lord" or "lady", but the cold hard fact is that we are one. We are one large tribe, inhabiting Starship Earth. None are passengers, we are all crew. What we visit on Mother Earth and Father Sky are what we can count on becoming. The ravages we foist upon the planet are indeed perpetrated against ourselves.

I, for one, will celebrate May Seventh, for the closing of the nuclear power station. Dominion Energy, the corporation that runs the horrible facility will just walk. The local taxes paid by the corporation will drop 20% each year until 2019. Further, the township itself will eventually have to foot the bill for an appraisal of the facility (estimated between 30K and 250K) but what is the "value" of a nuclear waste site? Perhaps in the end, it will be considered a liability, but after many years of expensive legal battles, just compensation will not be possible. The end of the nuclear age will not exempt us from the long-term costs. Opponents of nuclear fission have made their case for generations...

If we look at the fossil fuel industries, their days are numbered as well. How we adapt to the challenges of today will either give us choices in the future, or take them away. I am still uncomfortable of acting like the only one with a crystal ball around here, but what if the fossil energy that we have burned through was put by in an attempt by the Great spirit to give life a chance under the onslaught of the solar wind? What if the great battery that is the living mantle was designed to absorb carbon and lock it away forever, moderating climate, tectonic plate movement and the entire magnetosphere? No "expert" can prove that any of these is not the case. Even when they would claim to "know" you would only have to look at who funded their research to know that it would be unreliable. I imagine the warm oil that sits on the stove after deep frying. It holds heat. What if the vast underground pools of oil helped insulate us from the magma below as well as the incoming rays of the sun by enhancing the magnetosphere?

The Servoglobe people, the technocrats are at a crossroads. The big dogs who control the purse are not interested in launching the next generation of satellites. They claim that "economic conditions" preclude replacing any remote sensing devices, just as we are beginning to see global systems reacting to exploitative energy mining and redistribution of energy. Just as we release massive amounts of energy to our "service" by supporting fossil energy concerns, we are enslaved by them for the use of precious fuels that need to be conserved. The best dollar is one that goes unspent, especially if the result of spending it tightens the noose around all of our necks.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pagan Holidays

I urge everyone to respect and understand, explore and participate in community building during the 
Pagan Holidays. There are few things as precious as getting to know your neighbors and building friendships over the cycles of the seasons. In addition, we could all benefit from putting in just three hours per week volunteering for the good of others with no monetary benefit to ourselves. These are tough times. We are often distracted and kept from practicing the rites that have come down through the ages. Perhaps it is more important now, than ever before, to get in the habit of sharing the seasonal markers with the family and friends that we find nearby. These rites and rituals have worked to keep us aware of the coming and going of the seasons, the various growth cycles and seasonal adjustments that must be made to appreciate and change with the seasons. Communities are what we make them and once you have experienced the cycle of Pagan celebrations, leaving them out of the cycle of the seasons seems like a hollow process. there is a rich tradition that can be rediscovered easily with a bit of study and a commitment to honoring the cycle of the seasons.

One of the easiest "tours" that one can take is to recreate a calendar that fits more precisely the time signature of life. I am still contemplating whether either aspect of the Pagan calendar is more important, the cycles of the Earth around the Sun, or the Moon through it's own phases. It is interesting that both must be of equal importance, just in different ways. Father Sun and Grandmother Moon both share a great deal with us, if we begin to learn to hear their song. What is really great about the pagan cycle of seasons is that once you understand it, and get used to having get-togethers, there is never more than a moon between them. Sometimes, the best events are Full Moon Gatherings. In some cases these are the easiest to organize and they are not as overtly pagan as some of the quarters and cross quarter celebrations.

This particular ECO-Tour will take one full year, or thirteen cycles of the moon to begin to understand. As the ECO-Tourist develops, each year offers the chance to learn more about the relationships between themselves, the Sun, the Moon, and many other factors that come to play during the course of each year. It has become easier and easier to find guides and wisdom about the pagan cycle of celebration, but in my own experience, strict tradition always loses out to just making time for one another and to make it a point to share time with others. In this age, as more and more people get comfortable in front of their idiot box, it is especially refreshing to just get out of the house every so often. The big events are pretty obvious, like summer and winter solstices, or the equinoxes in-between. If you locate these at the cardinal points of a circle, you can plainly see the year divided in quarters. Subdividing these again yields what are referred to as cross quarters.

Adding the big eight to the moonthly Full Moon Gatherings, which sometimes overlap one another, you can see that the cycles are an integral part of life, once you begin to pay attention to them. The Moon phases are the ones that guide many through their days, although most think it is the Sun. New Moons (no moon) is the best time to start new projects, make commitments and reflect on our inner selves. Just as many seeds like to be germinated at this time, so too do actions, events and projects. starting when the moon is occult (hidden) is a time tested way to synchronize our efforts to the monthly cycle of energy that flows from the moon. As you might guess, fullness is a time of completion, fruit and often-times harvest. We reap the benefits of what we sow at this time as well. That is a good reason to plan gatherings at this time. this way those in attendance can share their victories and the sense of completion that comes from honoring this sublime energy.

A fun thing to include in Full Moon events is the gift blanket. Each person brings something to give away, but rather than using it as a get rid of junk event, the gifts that we bring to the blanket should have some inherent value or meaning that we wish to share. as guests arrive, they place their items on the blanket and at the close of the gathering, each person picks an item from the blanket. Basic redistribution of objects that hold value and meaning for one another is a good way to enrich one another as well as feel closer, even when we part. Many like to segregate their Full Moon Gatherings by sex and several funny stories circulate around times that this rule was either ignored or overlooked. As much as I enjoy being flexible, perhaps this single aspect is not one to try to change.

Trying to invent the whole ritual cycle from scratch can be difficult, and many great reference books exist to help folks plan events, but the most helpful thing is to be aware of what the season says to you, how you wish to mark the specific event and what energies you most want to be attended to. Making, or working from a list of color combinations, foods to serve or songs or games to play can be a good way to start, but limiting our events to what is suggested in a book misses the point. The living planet, her people and the relationships amongst us are far more important than following a recipe or specific protocols. At a recent fall harvest event, each guest carved a pumpkin. several adult attendees said that it had been years since they carved a Jack-o-lantern. These same folks were overjoyed at the memories that were conjured by the activity. for some, the spice cakes of fall and winter are the most memorable part, for others a specific song or game will mean more than all the rest of the activities. whatever we do at these times, it is important that they be a reflection of how we are feeling, what we know to be the meaning of the season and to make the events as individual as those in attendance.

After all we do, it is important to develop relationships not only with the planet, our star and our largest satellite, and the people and creatures we share this place and time with, but to develop a relationship with our creator and the oft neglected spirit that resides within us. Remembering the gifts of life, love and sustenance that flow from the cornucopia of nature can be a humbling experience and honoring those around us who make life more precious can change all of our days. these celebrations have the power to influence our hearts and minds, even our spirits in times without the loving support of friends. Making time to sit around a fire, have a pot luck or story-telling session can seem awkward at first, but as we get in touch with the cycles of the seasons, it builds and grows into something we never want to let go of. When we experience integration into a timeless family, one that respects Mother Nature and the cycles of life, it is hard to explain, but there is a great comfort that comforts us and assuages much of the tension that mopdern life foists upon us.

Even if we devote ourselves to the pagan holidays as solitaries, (people who practice alone) just knowing that there are millions worldwide, doing more or less the same thing can be comforting. If you would like a bibliography of some of the printed resources that we use to plan our events, let me know. I do ask for a small donation to cover our time picking appropriate literature to use as a guide. If you wan to attend any of our events, let me know as well and we can plant a meet up.

This is another way of looking at the calendar...
enduring cycles that inform each day, week, moon and year.
Abundant Blessings and namaste'

Friday, March 1, 2013

My Own One Square Foot ECO-Tour.

I choose to write for just this post about the one square foot or so that I inhabit when I sit down to write. i soon hope to formalize my standing desk, but until that time, when I will only require about one square foot to stand, imagine the one square foot frame of reference, that I wrote of in a previous entry, for the sake of message. We will always have to overlook some discrepancy between what exists and what we attend to, but I digress.

The place in which I sit is on what had formerly been a wetland complex of nearly unimaginable extent. from my house, it extended over eight miles North and west of where "my", (the bank's) house stands now. What once existed here is giant riparian filter, in places, several miles wide. A second vast node of this wetland extended eight miles to the north and east. Between them, these wetland complexes absorbed virtually all of the nutrients being shunted off the land, feeding a very broad food chain. In early days, a rendering concern tainted the waters and shoreline with offal, creating an open sewer. After the river was defiled, a brick manufacturer filled much of the shoreline upon which my house now stands, forever barring natural regeneration.

The exact square foot that I inhabit has been dug out of the soil profile to a depth of about six feet without reaching the bottom of the fill. that means at some time before "development" my feet would have always been wet, because the water table here is just below six feet, yet we had not yet hit the bottom of brick-laced fill. Well before this was divided into lots, there had to have been muskrat, beaver, and every sort of creature that could have been around to have been around, because thousands of years of unbroken history were laid out like an interwoven complex buckyball of relationship.

The spot on which I write is known to be outwash, or glacial till, down to a few hundred feet, but beyond the deepest drill-hole, it is labelled question mark. In my area, the deepest well is not so deep.
Whatever native soil still exists seems to be sandy clay, which adapts easily to moisture stress and potential drainage problems. I have experience great results through composting and raised beds. The same can be said for the space I am in now because in the area this square foot exists, terraces of living soil have been built up where there had formerly been air and compacted clay soils, there is a grade away from the foundation that did not exist before... hundreds more sheltering and climate moderating plants and a fence to the east, easy to see over for a view of the river. To the South, the sun streams in, to the west lies our hearth, the kitchen, hub of life.

This is the view created by adding just sixteen square feet to our second floor.
Human beings are actually made for relationship. Part of my own experience has been to excavate as much of the waste brick as possible, along with the nasty contaminated water that the previous owner of our house had allowed to "drain" into the clay under the basement floor. Perhaps for the one square foot that I take up, a five gallon bucket of slop had to be removed before we could remediate the basement. After the addition of a drain field of gravel and a proper sump pump, we laid a concrete floor, so seven feet below my feet there is that. The bones of the house are well over one hundred years old and we can document where it stood before being transported to the current location, so in effect, since the thirties, this house has been "salvaged" from rampant development in the part of the wetland that is known now as "downtown".

On the subject of relationship, this is even more amazing, because my first rented place in Green Bay, no longer stands, but was on the same block as where this house stood. I lived right outside the front door of the Main branch of the Library. Where this house was would be as if you moved the main entrance one block south. I lived, for a while, where my house lived, for a while. The bones came from early forestry and have been backed up with double floor joists because some had been damaged in the move. There have been at least two re-finishings of the floor. This one is guaranteed "for life". The area over my head used to be outside, but because of a recent remodel, there is a space to sit and look out over the parkway that runs along our back and side yard. The relationship between the land and the house is better for it, more pleasing to the passer-by eye and to our own. Where previously there had been plaster, joists, no insulation, roof, there is now, plaster, joist, floor, liveable space with windows, for light, Plaster joist/ insulation, roof. relationship through both time and space. The very same ancient sticks that i removed from firs floor walls went to work raising just a few feet of roof  to get over sixteen square feet of living space on the second level!

The last bit is about the roof. I did remove the old composite shingles with metal because the roof had failed and I am uninterested in putting another roof on before I die, plus, if it ever needs replacing, it is 100% recycle-able. The air that wafts overhead is frequently contaminated. On the order of ten to twenty tons of toxic compounds are released into the air within a few miles of my home. On a global relationship, I live near the 45th paralell, meaning that, on average, the sun is hitting the ground at about 45 degrees.

I left off the chair and table which bisect this square foot, and the computer, but the computer is unremarkable in every way but the table and chair are unique. The chairs are from an American factory, lauded by President Obama during his campaign, going bankrupt because people are feeling squeezed to buy cheap furniture from China at Wal-mart rather than paying for premium and proud American crafted products. Our poverty of spirit allows our country to decline. The table, Old Hickory, Martinsville, Indiana. Again, of relationship, I was a "Hoosier" for a couple years of High School/home school, so the table seems to be a good scholarly sort of table/desk.

The exact square foot that I inhabit contains me, or at least my organism and that is a post in-and-of itself.