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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Benefits For Guests

Over the years, ECO-Tours has taken hundreds of individuals out on plant-ins, stuck around our place to for potting up parties to put large numbers of trees into landscape pots to fill our nurseries, and invited people to join us on tours of zero-net-energy homes, walks in the natural areas across northeast Wisconsin and taken scouting and release parties as well. now, before you get the wrong idea, a release party is really just a better name for weeding parties. In essence, we are releasing the seedling trees from the encroaching weeds that often colonize disturbed ground. I have heard so many wonderful comments from our fellow travellers, our guests and those in search of their own path to sustainability to know that there are undeniable benefits for the people who come on ECO-Tours as there are to the planet, soils and the wildlife that abounds in the areas that we restore to a more natural state.

 The exercise that we get is always aerobic and refreshing, because we can work at a slow enough pace to not worry about overdoing it. There is no time constraint on how long it takes to plant a dingle tree and we encourage guests to have fun, not work like dogs. Many people comment on how good it feels to be part of our restoration efforts, if only for the opportunity to be out in nature and lend a hand in a solution to so many problems instead of being part of the great ignorance that allows the Earth to be mistreated. there is a stretching and bending that occurs while planting a tree that is healthy, invigorating and if there is any soreness after an hour or two of effort, it is just a reminder of how sedentary our lives have become.

The emotions that our guests have spoken of are complex and wonderful as well. Being part of a solution and learning techniques that benefit the planet empowers and relieves the guilt that many feel about not doing enough to heal the damaged planet. I recently talked to one ecotourist who felt that leaving such a positive mark on the planet helped him to make a commitment to the future that would not have been possible in any other way. Some folks like to attend plant-ins along their daily commute. This is especially exciting when they begin to see growth and changes that "their" trees make as they mature. We frequently hear stories about how our guests utilize the knowledge they gain while on tour to enhance their own property and that the skills that they gain during one of our events leads them to cultivate changes in their lives beyond planting more trees.

Being part of growing something bigger than ourselves also helps spur a trend toward growth in our lives as well. Just as true healers heal themselves as well as their patients through the process, our fellow travelers grow as well as the trees they plant. The seeds of knowledge that we put in place often grow to affect the lives of people we meet without even realizing it. there is a strong movement afoot worldwide to reassess both the costs and benefits of serving economic interests above human interests and exploiting both the Earth and her people for profit. that is why we have no set "fees"
. We do ask that people come with the goal of having fun, doing a little work (of course) but also trusting that those who do attend will give an appropriate amount for the insights and experiences that they receive. Yesterday, one of our board members explained that she is now calculating the cost of travel by how long it takes. $10/per hour is what she has calculated it to cost to drive her vehicle. I have always used a calculation of $1 per mile (including half the cost as damage to the environment) To put these numbers in perspective, it costs about $10 per tree for us to plant them, factoring in the cost of seedlings, dirt to pot them in, water for our nurseries, transport to the site and planting. We do not factor in the human elements of time, work or care because all the human effort that goes into our programs is donated. As far as I know, there are very few 100% volunteer labor organizations on the planet. The rewards that we receive from our participation in these efforts is, in many ways, more valuable than money and our philosophy is that we certainly need trees far more than we need money anyway, so it seems to "fit" our ideals to only ask for people to give what they can to further our efforts.

The spiritual aspects of our work are a bit harder to talk about, but if you listen closely to the stories that our travelers tell about their ECO-Tours experience confirm that their lives have often been qualitatively changed by the experience. The enlightenment that they reflect in their comments hint at the depth of their awareness changing and with it a greater sensitivity to issues surrounding sustainability as well. We often ask folks who have received trees to send us a donation when they see the first bird alight on the branches, when the fall colors begin to dazzle them, or when they are finally able to stretch out under the shade of their trees. When they have confirmation that the trees are, in fact, seen to be making their lives a little better is a great time to make a donation through Paypal or send us a check. For our guests, we often ask them to be aware of insights and changes in their lives that they have made because of their time with us and to send what they can to allow us to continue our important work. This past week, we were only able to plant another 2,000 trees, but if we had more funding coming in, we could plant many, many more.

It has been said that the most hopeful act we can engage in is the planting of a tree. I have seen seen perhaps billions of them and attest to the fact that, for me, and as a fellow traveler along the path to sustainability, the tree is a strong symbol of hope and abundance growth and shelter. In the turbulent and often hostile world that we find ourselves in, these are all qualities that we need more of. please give what you can to support our important work and if you would like us to develop an  ECO-Tour for you, that you can use in your area, let us know, we will work something up for you. Again, our doors are always open to guests and if you get near Northeast Wisconsin, or are planning a trip to the area, let us know in advance and we will work to craft an experience for you that is both fun and rewarding, sharing what we have learned helps make the world a little better than we found it.

Blessed Be and namaste'

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How Can One Say What A Tree Means To Us?

When I began to plant trees, I didn’t have any idea how much they would eventually change my life. I didn’t know that trees themselves can inform your understanding of the world around you or that eventually I would “speak” for them. The first that I remember planting was a blue spruce that transformed itself from a tiny sprig, like many of us got as students on Arbor Day, to eventually dwarf the house. Since that time, I have come to know thousands of tiny sprigs. More often than not they do the same as that first tree, changing vacant land into habitat, creating from dirt, sun, water and the very air itself, a structure that supports creatures big and small. Trees are essentially the high rise apartments of the natural world. The change in me, that the trees I have planted have wrought, are greater than words can express, but I will nonetheless try.
Learning the scents of so many trees and the changes that they go through around the wheel of the seasons has given my blood vitality that comes only from being in the presence of basswood flowers in early Spring, elder blossoms in Midsummer, birch must in the Fall and the antiseptic smells of cedar swamps in the dead of Winter. Without these sublime essences, my life would be much more cold and hostile. The richness of memory and understanding that comes from learning the stories, held in the very wind itself has enriched my knowing of not only where I am, but who I am as well. When my breath can be absorbed and put to use by these sentinels of hope, I am given heart to continue to do my best in the face of adversity. Each and every tree has a story to tell if we can only learn how to listen.
I have been amazed at the myriad shapes, sizes and structural elements, not only within a single species of tree, amongst individuals, each confronting their own environment, but amongst the many different species as well. I love my insight into biomes and my budding understanding of why certain species like to congregate together, depending on light, soils, terrain and moisture content in the soil.
Appealing as well are the creaks and moans that issue from a tree when it is buffeted by the winds of approaching storms or the ebullient rustle of the willow in the slightest breeze. The respite one gets from the first squalls of rain and the noise that the canopy makes while being pelted during a cloudburst on a hot summer day, even  the drops that fall at random moments after the rain is done and gone all have stories to tell us, if we listen.
Tony C. Saladino Director-ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Benefits For Donors

We often are told that benefits accrue only in our accounts wallets or pocketbooks. The benefits that accrue because of ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. eclipse those that can be measured in euros, dollars or yuan. Just knowing that you are part of a revolution that will not be televised has the power to shift our point of view. In the greater scheme of things, we may inhabit the only planet with life on it, we may be utterly alone in the universe but on a personal level, if this is all we will ever have, we must develop ways of interacting with it that leave the planet better than we found it. Being from the state of Wisconsin, I have had values that include what we call The Wisconsin Idea. The concept is that the state university system has no boundaries. The research done there and the knowledge that is available from within the ivory towers belong to the people of the state. The notion includes the need for institutions to reach out to the citizenry for ideas, inspiration and most importantly, the knowledge of not only what is truly needed, but how to go about getting it. From the ground up. A great misguided effort to "save" people from their ills is often engendered when well-meaning people with a bit of education begin the process of telling people what they need or how to get it. ECO-Tours has a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to the top down theory of management. This is true about people as well as the planet.

Donors to most environmental organizations have to foot the bill for staff and advertizing, because without these important elements, nothing could get done. At ECO-Tours of Wisconsin, we would do our work and positively transform the landscape  not for pay, but for the sake of doing it. We are not very well known because we refuse to play the game the way other not-for-profit organizations do. We rarely provide press releases to the media, we certainly do not waste valuable donations on printing documents or tooting our own horn in the media and we certainly do not want to hire staff that will suck up resources without planting a single tree. We have proven over the years that we are committed to reforesting denuded areas with native forest cover and because we have specialized in this simple act since the mid-eighties, we have learned to become leaner, more efficient and more effective with the donations that we receive. Our group began with just one person, using their tax returns to buy trees wholesale. Other than the ($15 annual fee, later, under a Republican administration, raised to $35) that was required to get a tax-ID number from the state, we spent all of our income on tree seedlings. In those early years, we often planted one to two thousand trees each Spring and gathered tree seeds and planted them, expanding our reach in the Fall. Each dollar that we had available has to do the most work possible, otherwise we would quickly see our effectiveness undermined.

Getting the biggest bang for your buck involves being lightening fast, efficient and graceful. In a world of dog eat dog commercialism it may be hard to understand, but we believe in abundance and the concept of enough. Trees require enough rain, enough soil and enough protection from harsh conditions to thrive. Over the years we have come to understand from the ground up, what kind of conditions support life and what sorts of decisions make it untenable. We have had donors who believe that we are a not-for-profit landscaping service, but that misses the mark for us. Most landscapers ask, "What kind of tree do you want in the middle of the front yard and do you want columnar or globe bushes around the foundation of your home?" We ask landowners, "Where will you allow forest to regenerate?"  We never guarantee trees will survive, as many landscapers do, but we only plant species that will have a reasonable chance of thriving where we plant them and since we never charge for our work, we can invest the time required to make sound plans for planting and work with the goal of improving environmental quality rather than establishing a series of exotic artifacts that do not belong in the native landscape. Making the most of what we have is a microcosmic reflection of what the trees we plant do each and every day. There are plenty of examples of how not to go about reforesting an area, but in our efforts we are finding ways to make the process work.

Through scientific investigation, we have learned that mature temperate forests, on average, are made up of around three hundred mature trees per acre (.4 hectare). This gives us a vague idea about what a forest is, but little direction on how to get there. We could say that if it costs about ten dollars per tree, reforesting an acre would cost about $3,000, but that has two negative effects. For one, most people cannot afford to think about spending three thousand dollars on trees, especially since most land for sale is three thousand dollars per acre or more just to purchase! Another dis-incentive is to think that a forest is merely an amalgamation of trees. Nothing could be further from the truth. Forests are a complex mix of individual trees, moisture, soils, microbes and the web of life that inhabits them. Mature forests may only have a few hundred individual trees living on them, but the soils are made up of countless thousands of dead trees that gave their lives so that others might live.

One may ask, "What are the benefits?" of donating to ECO-Tours of Wisconsin. This is the most amazing part. There are literally thousands of benefits that come from planting a single tree. When the weather is cold, trees act as giant wind reducing solar collectors. Friends who fly during the winter are always amazed that forests appear black from the sky but open fields turn white when the snow flies. When the weather is hot, trees temper the desiccating effects of the sun and wind, humidifying and cooling vast areas. Years ago, I heard the maxim, "We all live downstream". The tree planting that we participate in has transformed entire watersheds. The thousands of trees and millions of tree seeds reduce flooding, wind erosion, sterilization of the soil surface by ultraviolet light, and provide habitat for billions of soil organisms, whose entire life cycle helps to conserve soil, water and provide habitat for generations of life in the future. Donations to support our work are truly a gift that will keep on giving, long after we are gone. It is difficult to put a price, or a value on the feelings that come with improving the quality of the environment, but for those who enjoy the shade of the trees that we have planted, or for the ones who see a bird alight on the branch of a recently planted seedling, there can be no denying, the world has been made a bit better because of our passing this way. In our tiny corner of the planet and in this miniscule part of our universe, there will be the possibility of life, where it had not been possible before.

We may never understand the value of a flood averted or the creation of oxygen that the trees we plant provide. It may forever be incalculable, the priceless rewards that come from allowing nature to flourish. It is amazing that something as simple as planting a tree can have such a profound effect on future generations. Knowing that we are part of a solution to such a wide array of problems has rewards beyond those that can be put into words. Bringing hope to the hopeless, shelter to the exposed and life to the lifeless is pretty heady stuff and through our efforts, your dollars can be put to use in ways that leave the entire planet just a little better than we have received it from previous generations. We will continue to plant native trees and offer to plant trees in even greater numbers with the help of your donations. The tree that falls in the forest may not make a sound if we are not there to "hear" it, but when it goes down, it must sigh a little, knowing that it will feed the next generation of life. Just as the raspberry builds soils that future forests will grow upon, our efforts are meant to build a foundation for future generations to thrive upon. May your days be filled with grace, beauty, blessings and understanding. Namaste'.    A recent story of our activities

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Benefits For Landowners

ECO-Tours offers consulting for folks who own land. On average, we try to find about ten percent of the landscape, using a process that resembles triage, that would have the greatest impact long term, the greatest benefit to the surrounding landscape and the biggest bang for the time and effort we put in to reforestation. Converting even a single acre to appropriate forest cover can have positive influence over dozens of surrounding acres. We specialize in "seeing" into the future and making the most of the existing ecology and the management of the landscape for the benefit of humans, wildlife soils and water quality for generations. Intact forest provides protection from wind and rain, flying ice crystals in winter and the sterilizing effects of ultraviolet radiation by simply hovering above the soil, creating a column of habitable air between our closest star and the Earth. I find that the most simple reflection on natural areas and the phenomena that take place in each specific location, make them even more mystical, more worthy of protection and more sacred. Our efforts have always been not  only about reforestation and remediation of overly exploited soils, but about the people who live on them as well. We have seen countless examples of health improvements, not only for the people who live around areas that we have replanted, but for those who join us on ECO-Tours as well.

Landowners who choose to embark on the process of encouraging at least part of their property to be reforested need to understand this process as not only important, but crucial in finding paths to sustainability. If there is a massive out wash plain that has acted as a settling pond for agricultural chemical runoff for the last twenty years, we would most likely not want to put too much recovery effort there, until the agricultural practices improve. In active, organic soils, it takes about seven years to reach no-detect levels for most common agricultural chemicals, so rather than continue to attempt to battle these chemicals, we try to steer clear of them. Our physical location at this time lies near the stress line, (45 degrees North latitude) We can travel the countryside and find gravelly hills that are nearly soil-less. These areas would be considered for recovery just as often as stream banks, or steeper hills. Our main requirement is that the landowner agrees to put the land into a conservation easement in perpetuity.

Scientists have long known that crop production can be reliably increased in areas within six times the height of surrounding forest. Again, in our area, mature trees frequently reach 100 feet (33meters) or more. The largest benefit of hosting ECO-Tours on your land is starting down a path toward sustainability, learning how to encourage diversity, host positive environmental change and invest in an account that pays dividends that are far beyond flood control and climate stabilization, they have the power to transform the way we look at the world around us. Each tree we have planted over the years has had the potential to forever change the landscape in a multitude of positive ways.

We do not encourage enrollment in government programs. In our estimation, the enrollment of acreage in forest stewardship, or other similar programs strays too closely to welfare and we do not encourage that. It also has a finite length of time that it will be in effect, leading to the possibility of all of our hard work being nullified in a relative instant. Instead, deeded conservation reserve status forever protects land from development. The legacy we leave, especially those areas we commit to protect will either confirm or deny future generations of their birthright to have experiences in nature. We promise that when the trees that are growing around your house exist there because your hand has planted some of them, you will have a feel for the place that no amount of paying taxes on them could ever provide. What we do best is plant trees and we tend to do it in stages. Many areas have been so depleted and sterilized that remediation is required prior to planting trees. This again, requires patience. Once we can stabilize and inoculate an area like this with soil building organisms, we can often start with pioneer species like raspberries or willow, or any of dozens of native plants. We seek to encourage diversity and each site dictates to us, what will be chosen to "do it's best" in the conditions that we find there. As time goes by, the benefits multiply, for air and water quality, as a buffer for climate change and for the long term health of the communities that thrive when the earth is cared for.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

These terms lead one to believe that there are three different realities, past present and future. The deeper we look into the science of reality, the sub-atomic world and the nature of light itself, the more startling clues we find to the true nature of time. Even a lowly photon, we find, has the ability to defy our ability to understand. It actually seems charmed in some way that is currently incomprehensible to us. When we use certain techniques that allow us to grasp the infinite by "slowing down" time, wave fronts seem to move toward the photon source, standing our belief in cause and effect upside down. Mystics and yogis have, for generations, told us to just BE. This has a powerful effect on the world around us and the linearity of time seems to be one of the first casualties that fall under the practice. Sometimes, as we stumble and stagger punch drunk from the errors of past generations, or tie ourselves in knots striving to change what will take time to "heal", "create" or "sort out". Occasionally, the experience of abiding love and oneness with the Universe that accompanies "enlightenment", the timeless state in which all that has ever existed is in harmony requires living in love, infinitely abundant. One can not deny that it takes time to heal certain wounds, but there are ways to circumvent the space-time limitations that we have been presented. In essence, we can look backward into "civilization" and see the ruthless uncivilized actions that history records. Our conceptualization of "reality" is based on such terms as "Boys will be boys.", "To the winner go the spoils", "Nice guys finish last" and "Might makes right." This "perspective", needs to be perpetrated into our language and society to allow the abuse of women, children and the poor. Certain aspects of perception and reality will need to be understood. To see a path to enlightenment, a way to reach sustainability, and to live continuously in an ECO-Tour.

A shaman, Dr. Malidoma Patrice Some', in the documentary "With One Voice ", said..."Go hike in nature. Stand in front of a very tall tree and listen to the deep noisy silence held together in that entity and wonder, why can't I be like that? Stand still in the same place for, we don't know how long and find one self growing taller and taller and taller, both upward and downward. There is something about that which defines greatness as the most obvious depth of quiet inside of which the deepest song can be heard."
Later in the film, he asks,"Is it possible for one human race to open their eyes and look at each other and see gifts everywhere? Let's start with the gift of love. It has no market value right now...but what if it does? What will the world look like once we converge our frustration into compassion, converge our hatred into salvos of love, fired at one another, randomly? What if we invade or entertain the spirit of invading each other with peace? What would the world look like, changing our discourse, our language so that the very word that we use as explosive words to support reason why we should harm one another are subdued and turned into words of love? When you hate someone, send that someone a love poem and see how that person reacts. Is it possible for us to conceive of victory at national level, victory of one nation against another using the yardstick of love and compassion? If this is conceivable then we have reached the same spirit, the same religion and we are all heading toward the final stage of beautifying this globe we call our village.

ECO-Tours are events that honor this truth, this emergent vision of reality. The vision of relationship and of harmony with in one self and between our organism and those around us. These ideas, which to many seem new, are older than time itself and our organization honors and respects all beings, even those who are often ignored, where they are along their own path and what they might need to heal.

It has been my experience that there are states of being that lend themselves to "living in the past". These almost always stem from feelings of lack. By reminiscing, we convince ourselves that we had things much better "back then", or perhaps, like reviewing the mental recordings that we made proving us to be "victim", we can justify in our actions today. The feelings that go with memory are as seductive as our recollection of the events themselves. We must be vigilant though, because our memories are actually nothing but an electrical storm amongst our synapses, distracting us from now. Whether they bring pleasure or pain, they have no bearing on the present moment. Only writers or storytellers need the illusion of time. It allows for the weaving of threads, born of moments into as fabric that we recognize as time. This "cloth" can be used to tie us together, but more and more storytelling today is selling us a bolt of cloth that is fit to weave The Emperor's New Clothes, rife with dissolution, voids and estrangement. My past is no less seductive than yours, I just try to keep "it" in perspective by realizing that on some level, it is the ultimate fiction. Even what I believe to have taken place in the "past", the things I try to file away objectively, are completely made up. This is proven time and time again when different people see the same events, but come away with widely disparate ideas about what actually occurred.

This can take similar form if we dabble in the future, dreaming up ways that things should or could be. Some spend their entire lifetime vanquishing the present for the sake of the future. How many times have we all been told, "You just wait." Even our language has the peculiar proverb, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." It is creepy that we should plot and scheme, coldly choreographing "pay backs" against our perceived enemies. Lives are swallowed up in this process which ultimately destroys the present in favor of a dream. When you look at time in a different way, this is just the same electron storm inside our brains that memories create, but it is about a time that has "not yet come". I argue that this sort of activity is as real as memory and serves to cut our ties with the present as surely as does the "re-living" of our own fictional accounts of the past. Please understand that vanquishing fiction requires far more than one person can present in a few hundred words. Many thousands of people have tried to get us to live only in the moment for centuries and over that amount of time, they have been made out to be fools and fanatics. Even the term mystic "proves" that what they know remains a mystery to those who are bent on forcing reality into the mold that they have made for it.

 As as a shaman, I cannot abide this lie. My vision has proven to me that all things, throughout the Universe, are potential and abundance, relationship and harmony. Living in discord always fosters disease and pain. We are unraveling secrets that have eluded science for centuries. They are beginning to tell us unequivocally what the masters and mystics have told us since the beginning of "time". Living in the now is desire-less-ness, it is moksha, samahdi, liberation or enlightenment. I always tell people that when we are planting trees, or seedlings that we need to exist at the matrix of root and soil, put all of our love and attention into making the rootlets as comfortable and happy as possible. Imagine the power of doing that continually throughout the day, with every one, every organism you meet.

Analogy can often help understand complex ideas and this might be a good place to inject a thought picture. If we look at time from a distance, we might see it as a vast ocean, ebbing and flowing around and through obstacles. The memories that we hold on to are "contained" for better and worse inside our heads, as are the dreams for the future that we create as baubles to distract us from living in the now. When we understand the vastness of time, the universality of this great ocean and the power that lies in the swirling, cohesive domain, the tiny bits "contained" within our head lose their hold on us and our perspective changes. I imagine living in the now like this: Imagine a funnel. It can be pointed into the vast ocean, or into our head. We may be trying to capture the vast ocean, in which case the funnel would be pointed inward, swirling into the brain which many of us worship. Likewise, if we seek to make change in the world around us, we may try to inject our experiences into the vast ocean, making our broader ideas "come alive" in the world around us. Anyone who has used a funnel knows that within that tiny object, amazing interactions and transformations take place. This activation, condensation, momentary implosion and direction is like living in the now.

Whether we point the funnel in or out, it is the active now (staying aware of and committed to the eternal now) that holds the power to transform. We are born of nearly infinite possibility. We live our lives in this ocean and when we "pass on", we return to it. Our five senses, society, our culture, education, beliefs and experiences all conspire to take us away from this realm of infinite possibility.  The greatest things that occur around us are caused by a desperately small group of enlightened individuals who find ways of jumping time. They either tell us stories that bring us back to important realizations, or bring us tomorrow's technologies today. My contention is that these times are malleable and whether we mine our collective experience for things that we can all relate to or reach into the future to bring back artifacts that have not yet been created, we are playing with fire. Living in the now has far more power than either of those other endeavors. We are one. I have been hearing this sentiment from more and more widely disparate groups over the past several years. Perhaps, if we learn to accept this truth, we will find that the ancestors and our progeny are one with us as well. this is why the ancestors are alive within so many native and shamanic cultures. Our success always rests on the shoulders of giants and recognizing our ancestors as alive within our culture will be necessary if we are to overcome some of our "current" difficulties. When we learn to honor the next seven generations, many more difficulties will evaporate as well.

As Ram Dass told me, nearly two generations ago, "We just have to BE together, and it will all happen". Be-ing requires only now. This is the most important thing to remember about time. Yesterday is over and whatever view we take of it, we are perpetrating a fiction. The past exists nowhere, yet we valiantly try to re-create it. This frivolity can be quite distracting, but ultimately it only holds what is in us already. Telling ourselves that the past is real is one of the greatest disservices that we can do to ourselves. We only have hearsay about it and basing our lives on rumor and innuendo will only lead us to pain and continued suffering. Billions are spent and collected by those willing to calculate and define trends in the hope of capitalizing on them. Determining the future is as hard as ever for those who try to see "into" it. Patterns and ways of understanding are changing ever-faster. The only thing we can safely say about the future is that it has been made up by us to create a sense of security. If we had to integrate the fact that everything that has come to pass and everything that ever will has already come and gone, many would lose their tenacious hold on "reality" and some might never come back. I assure you, this may be scary, but the value of transcending time, speaking with our ancestors and committing our lives to improving the lives of the next seven generations has benefits beyond replication, time-travel and mastery of phase conjugate di-electric field capacitance. We all have the infinite capacity that we were born with, and we all have the power to transform the world around us. When we step out of the electron storms in our heads that many recognize as past and future, we can hear the infinite song of love and relationship that is timeless. The only question that remains is whether we will use our mental prowess to create a reality which holds future and past in their exalted place, realizing that through them we are given this moment to make the best of. Or if we will start noticing the deeper importance of changing our minds about these distractions. It is truly a present worthy of our full attention.

Sacred space allows us to more fully realize our potential. Spending our time in a sacred manner has power beyond the realms of space and time. Carrying with us tools to "see" the importance of the revolving moment rather than the illusory time signatures of past and future is what allows the most miraculous outcomes from mundane activities. It is our birthright to experience the miraculous now, free from our attachments to either of the other fictitious "times". We must cultivate the now if we are to have any chance of  survival in this age of change and growth. We are in desperate need of tools that allow us to be self aware and satisfied with what we find around us. Getting to the heart of the matter regarding time involves understanding that we can cloak ourselves in past and future, but they both serve, as did The Emperor's New Clothes, to teach us something important about our selves. Be-ing that authentic person in each moment requires an intimate and growing relationship between ourselves and both our internal and external environment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Picking And Planting Acorns

If you want to be the most effective, have the greatest impact on improving the forest, it is important to know specific steps as well as the best way to give yourself to the process. Watching squirrels, I often pondered why some would frenetically "plant" anything remotely resembling a nut and others would meticulously tap and listen to each potential nut. I wondered what they were listening for, what they were trying to glean from their odd actions. Then, I got interested in planting acorns myself and little by little I began to think like certain squirrels. Although humans are necessarily at a great disadvantage to the tiny mammals who do most of the tree seed planting, we can improve our chances of leaving in our path, permanent positive change by taking a few simple steps.

This week I was walking in an area with many oaks, lots of deer and virtually no people pressure. miles from the nearest road, we found a virtual carpet in some areas of acorns, in a variety of types and styles. There were some that were not much larger than a pea, while others were bigger than the girth of my thumb. Tiny red striped ones and giant yellowish-green ones. While I can't claim the same intimate understanding that the squirrels seem to have for these tiny fruits, I am starting to learn a few important facts. Many of the nuts were light by comparison to others. They most often had a tiny worm hole that allowed access to a previous critter to the interior, the energy reserves for the potential tree inside. perhaps they were full of air, perhaps the next generation of acorn eating insects, I didn't take time to dissect them. I collected over a gallon of the heaviest ones, perhaps a thousand tree seeds in all, but it didn't take much time out from a beautiful walk in the woods.

Many of the acorns were extremely dense and once you know what you are looking for, even the warmth or coolness of the seeds after a cool night out on the forest floor was enough to tell the hollow ones from their full of life neighbors. The oaks are what are called mast seeders. Often, several years will pass without and acorns, or perhaps just a tiny number, but then when they do cast seed, they carpet the floor of the woods with a virtual mat of seed. This helps them in two ways. Since deer love these morsels, it protects the next generation of trees by not being in the same place every year. Perhaps in a lifetime, a specific area may only be "good eating" for them once or twice. The animals, therefore, do not habituate to the areas where the trees are. That means that their search parameters may not extend to each little copse or outcrop. After you look over a certain area a few times and come away unsuccessful, the deer may decide not to go to the effort to "look" for food there the next year. Additionally, if there is a heavy acorn crop, there is a chance that the deer will eat themselves full and yet, leave behind enough "extra" seeds to begin the process of regeneration in spite of being a favorite food for the local critters. Similarly, the insects who bore into the heart of the fruit cannot possibly compete with the sheer numbers of nuts that collect on the forest floor.

As effective as squirrels can be in planting trees, they are helped by their nearness to the ground. Humans have to stoop and bend to gather and plant these little packets of life, squirrels are down to Earth enough to make their finds and excavations without additional tools. They seem to occasionally exhibit special skills at sorting and gleaning the acorns that have the most value as a carbohydrate source for the coming winter, but this also reflects a storehouse of energy that will increase the chances of the tree that sprouts from this packet will survive. Most of the places that ECO-Tours of Wisconsin works to reforest have had their squirrel population extirpated because forest over has been eliminated. at best we are bringing trees to areas with moderate to severe impact and we constantly seek to emulate natural processes that, without our action, might take hundreds of years to occur. Trees are notoriously slow at colonizing new areas and we are the agents of change with the power to increase the spread of forest cover exponentially, if we so choose. Most nuts get buried naturally within a few hundred feet (100meters) from where they fall, of these, many get dug up by the critters that planted them and many are either forgotten or the squirrel that planted them dies before they can be used for food. Conversely, humans are not motivated by hunger, perhaps all we have to give nature is redistributing a few acorns. After all, in every sense, is that not what we do?

I regret carrying on about this, but who else is speaking for the trees? When our own children are born into the world, is not each child blessed with an infinity possibility?  Who are we to know that they won't be hollowed out financially by legal loan sharks, sit and think for a while about all those people who have financed their unemployment with credit cards. In the good times, people financed careers on credit and while the money flowed, times were "good". What will flourish born out of that seed crop? Like the hollowed out acorn, truly throwing bad seed, the only benefit to the carbon cycle is the husk and cap, waiting to once again be incorporated into community, the soils and basis of a carbonic structure upon which life, on our planet, flourishes. Even if only one in a thousand grows, something will come out of it. we need to be the kind of society gives more chance to our progeny, not less. The current slate of money backed "leaders" are all-in on a risky bet, that going backward, or re-starting old policies will be the answer to our economic woes. We are of an age in which light speed communications are trivialized, moving averages can blur exponentially, as enlightenment sweeps over the population in waves. Entrenched beliefs can change, for the vast majority in a matter of hours, changing forever their perspective. In a society that I believe has the best chance of survival, we will honor the trees, reestablish them in significant ways, protect the lungs of the planet which are the plants and trees that surround us. If I have to relinquish myself to being an over-sized squirrel, for a few days each year, then so be it. There are some devices that are made for seed collection, but when mechanically harvesting, make allowance for the sorting time. You have to "feel" the fruit. once you develop the touch, you can detect the less viable nuts. However, it is less tiring than harvesting bent over. Sitting works, and under you, you may be pressing some of the nuts into the forest floor, possibly eluding sniffing deer. The best collector I have seen on the market is like a wire whisk, radiating out from a central axle, the basket created rolls on the ground like a rugby ball, the spaces between the metal hoops spread to admit the nuts and trap them inside when they return to their original shape. So, take that bent back and all, you can pick up nuts with a device like this as fast as two dozen squirrels, but again, you have to sort them or allow for low germination rates. During [planting, I still like the fid type device that just opens a hole big enough to admit the seed, then use the same fid to press the seed down into the soil. like my friends in gardening that use the dibble, when there is good soil, additional disturbance just raises the eyebrows of those dewy-eyed tree seed eaters, the deer.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Great Lakes Awareness

Back in 1987, at age twenty-five, I rode my bicycle around all five Great Lakes. I would like to make that ride again and to share this experience with others, through my book, speaking engagements and periodic rides around the Great Lakes to call attention to their plight and what we can do to approach sustainability, transitioning from high fossil fuel for energy ways of life will give way to human powered or sustainably sourced energy will be the rule. Human calories have several advantages. They are where the people are and no line losses or transport costs are required to get the power on site. Living in a basin as great as that of the Great Lakes, perhaps, makes me a little more sensitive about it, but in my experience, these gigantic bodies of water are not really that big. I was able to follow roads that were near, or literally at the edge of much of the shoreline of three of the five and over half of the other two. 4,280 miles by the highway signs, traversed in two and a half months (80 days) In sharing what I have learned about these freshwater seas, I have learned more than I ever could have imagined. Stunningly, even after over thirty years of studying them, I still learn more about them than I ever dreamed there was to know.
 The experiences that people have around The Lakes is unique in the world because in total, 20% of the world surface freshwater is in this one ecosystem. Compared to most lakes, the watershed is only slightly larger than the actual surface area of The Lakes. We have a remarkably small amount of land area draining into very, very large lakes. Ironically, this requires even greater attention to how we treat the water that courses through the landscape. Especially in the places that we would least expect to matter, the furthest from the creeks, the areas that have the power, by their very elevated nature to recharge aquifers, instead of running off and feeding downstream floods. As infiltration is reduced, sheeting and rivulets create vortecies that are far more corrosive than plain water. Soil particles shear off and this aggregate increases the abrasiveness of the flow further. The longer it takes and the further downhill that we can get these things to occur, the better. My book about the bicycle ride is nearing completion.
Our ECO-Tours provide a look into the environment that you might never expect or notice in your daily experiences. The beauty that lies just down the block is often as stunning as what people travel thousands of mile to see somewhere else. I am sure that for a reasonable consulting fee, we could develop an ECO-Tour franchise anywhere. It is an amazing thing that as I have focused on different areas around the great Lakes, one theme seems particularly universal. That is the reverence for the lakes that each and every individual who lives within the basin has for these precious jewels. that is not to say that most know of areas that have been tarnished, or outright poisoned, but so too, there are places of relative beauty that they identify with. These are part of our birthright. In my area there are waterfalls, cascades and numerous prairie potholes, kames and eskers. The Niagara Escarpment runs just a mile or two to my east. In an afternoon bike ride I can take you to places that are inaccessible except by foot, tour a zero-net-energy home, go on a reforestation expedition/canoe ride or bike a twenty mile circuit without ever having to ride on a busy street. I'm sure that in more and more areas across the country, there are similar yet unique natural features that are what is really worth seeing if you come from far away. Most fun parks look more or less the same, but nature is always full of surprises if you know where to look. When I lived in Indiana, everyone spoke of the light people, or the lizard people between Union City and Ridgeville. The rewarding Front Range bicycle ride past Buffalo Bill's Grave near Denver is a similar ECO-Tour that is worth enjoying.
To bring our tours to life, we want to secure a large acreage for healing arts, family and couples retreats, adventure tourism and outfitting and a general summer camp for healing atmosphere. We are well on the way to finding the perfect place near Bayfield, Wisconsin, but for a facility like the one we are designing it will be a million dollar start-up.
The visioning that we have had thus far include operations on several parcels and integrate half a dozen local businesses as adjunct service providers. Instead of coming into the community as a stand alone enterprise, we seek to integrate and enhance existing services for regional providers. We have an avid equestrian contact who will provide rides, we have herbalists, reiki masters, massage therapists and nutrition specialists who will work with us and guides for actual tours as well. Time spent at our facility would be especially useful for those who want to integrate sustainability into every aspect of their lives. The facilities will be working models for conservation and efficiency changes that are easily adapted and scaled to meet specific needs in a variety of locations. There are several amazing properties that are on our short list for acquisition. to disclose too many details about them would give away their locations, so let me say that in total, it would be over 100 acres. Nearly half forested and nearly half cleared land for grazing and crop production. Several commercial buildings would be scattered about and the "home" offices could be in either Washburn or Corny (Cornucopia) In any case, housing for staff is already in place and serviceable and the time to strike is while the iron is hot. Invest with confidence in this endeavor, Here at ECO-Tours, we invest for the long haul and are committed to success.
Our plan is to sell eighty day increments. Those interested "purchase" vacations, ECO-Tours and retreats in eighty day packages. (10K) Ten thousand dollars per "share". An individual coming for an eighty day stay could hope to gain intimate knowledge about principles of sustainability, Permaculture, ECO-Ethics, Trees as well as a working knowledge about nutrition, herbs, natural history of the Great Lakes and practical knowledge to help them confront ecological and efficiency challenges wherever they choose to settle. These eighty day packages could be used by large families as perhaps a week-long stay. Say, eight people, ten days, or any combination of people days to make up the time. Much like a club that invites you to stay, but with a limited time membership. Corporate rates would apply to events with eighty people days in shorter than ten days and would require significant planning and logistics and would therefore cost more. We are asking for a large investment because we know what it will cost to do it right. We guarantee that once people start to see what we are creating, the popularity will increase and so will the value of your investment. For investors who know the value that we will be able to create, we offer (100K) One hundred thousand co-ownership potential. The development would retain the option of providing 800 days of accommodation, or a buy back at their discretion. That's nearly two and a half years! This co-ownership potential is also great if you intend to start a family tradition of going to Lake Superior annually. We can offer a wide range of programs, or if you just need a place to set up your camper or tent, we will be open and accommodating, sharing the abundance that we have and inviting you to teach us what we need to learn as well as teaching you what we can offer. We want to have no more than a dozen co-owners, because scheduling retreats might become difficult if everyone showed up on the same weekend. Not that a little pandemonium isn't fun sometimes, but not so much when you are on vacation.
In and around our property are some of the cleanest and most tasty artesian wells, waterfalls, beautiful sunsets, sailing opportunities and National Forest trails and the Apostle Islands National Lake Shore. within striking distance, by boat, the sea caves, by bike a ski hill, orchards, even a ferry to Madeline Island. Our desire is to offer vacations and retreats to not only those who can afford and are willing to pay for our services, but we will also offer our summer camp experiences to needy children, be they those of homeless parents, or disaster victims. We will provide eighty day stays at our facility so that their parents can get a leg up, and their lives back on track without worry about how their children are doing.please, talk this up to everyone you meet, it is an essential program if we are to help turn things around. Blessed Be and Namaste'

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Donate-Watch Us Grow!

In this day and age, we are assaulted daily with folks with their hands out. Some claim to make life easier, our online experience better,, our clothes cleaner, etc. In fact, a recent study discovered that the average American sees about 3,000 images each day that are designed to sell them things, services and a way of life that only exists in the minds of marketing agents. It seems that real world experience with making life better is being run out of the media on account of not really being profitable. Even the in-depth programming about sustainability, organic agriculture and environmental issues seems to have a peculiar bent toward selling products and services so that someone far away and unlikely to return dollars to our local economy will receive more in return than they were ever willing to put in on our behalf. At a time when the worldwide economic collapse is causing  folks to spend less and less, it seems that there are more and more people lining up to take hold of the limited dollars that are flowing.

In contrast, ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. has been giving and creating a better world for the last ten years and you may not even know who we are or what we do. Simply put, we plant trees. As anyone who has read my posts already knows, nothing is really that simple. We educate, investigate and tailor our ECO-Tours to best meet the needs of local soils, microclimates and the individuals whpo attend out potting up parties, plant-ins and discussion groups. We seek to adapt, integrate and expand on what the local people and conditions have to offer. If we find a place that has been sterilized by toxic agriculture, we begin by introducing organic material to the area, building the soils upon which future plantings will occur. If we find waste land that has not been too badly abused, we may come right in with pioneer species and start from there. In some areas, there has been a bit of tentative reforestation previously undertaken and we complement that work with our own. To try to explain exactly what we do would be a disservice to what we actually do.

After thirty years in the ecological movement and even longer in the community organizing and public education fields, we strive to bring greater awareness to individuals about where they are, what their actions require and how their attitudes toward nature shape and mold our shared culture. We can show our guests such diverse approaches to sustainability that even the casual tourist will be impressed. We have a range of options for the curious traveler that allow learnign and insight that the average tourist destination cannot begin to approach. Activities range from touring sites where the solar hot air system provides 1/3 of the winter heating budget to the zero-net-energy homes of the future that are here today. We can take wild edible hikes, show off acreage that we have reforested and there are even places that have begun to return to diversity after being completely denuded by the harsh acts of humankind (which seemed to be neither humane or kind to what had been there before).

We are working diligently to raise money for a retreat center that will not only focus on sustainability in an environmental sense, but for our health and spiritual development as well. We are in touch with and able to offer contacts with a variety of healers, shamen, guides and practitioners of a variety of natural health practices. Our vision includes a working farm, a summer camp for the whole family and a center for learning and teaching the way forward toward sustainability. We ask, as does everyone else, for your money and trust, but what we offer is real and good. Our track record has seen us plant many tens of thousands of native trees across Northeast Wisconsin. We have taken the time to educate hundreds of individuals about ecological issues around the great lakes bio-region. We have planted several million tree seeds over the years and distributed many thousands of native plants to areas that needed them. We continue to innovate and try new ways for making more and better changes occur faster and we will not stop researching how to make the cornucopia of nature's gifts even more abundant.

We have been asked to participate in a few teach-ins and public presentations lately. As part of this effort, I recently made a donation can, something that can be put out where we have speaking engagements. It lists some of the costs of things that we offer. for instance, $3,000 can purchase an acre, $300 can allow us to purchase 100 tree seedlings, $30 can plant three native trees. $3 can help us mail out three requests for funding. 0.3 can pay for half a dozen tree seeds. We encourage everyone to give what they can and if you are planning some down time in northeast Wisconsin, please let us know when you will be here and we will design a tour especially for you! You can donate through Paypal using our account number, write us using snail mail at:1445 Porlier street, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54301, or e-mail