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

Monday, December 29, 2014


Sustainability can be defined in a few different ways, but the idea of it is quite oxymoronic. As I have written before, in organic systems, there are frequent lapses in sustainability, however, the one key element that assures continuation of natural systems is that there is no concept in nature of waste. This week I had an interesting Facebook post come across my feed. It was about a woman who has lived for over two years now without creating any garbage. How she did it is worth reading about. Every single thing in nature, when it is no longer viable, transforms into one of three things. either food for another organism, housing for other organisms or breeding ground for other organisms. When we learn to mimic this reality, we will find ourselves participating in a sustainable system. One of the things that I have always done is reuse paper bags. I currently use them in my art because they make some of the strongest papier mache' ever and when I sculpt, it creates art that is ultimately recyclable. It is not possible in natural systems to make Kraft paper, because to make it you must boil wood chips in sulphuric acid, but by utilizing the material as efficiently as possible, I feel that the best and highest use can be made of something that has a foundation in an ecologically unsustainable world view. Healing this mind set gives us a greater chance of survival (as a species) and I have found, allows humans to more fully understand their place in the world and make peace with it.

This is not to say that humans will live forever or that the system will always remain unchanged. Quite the opposite is true. Adaptation has always led to change and development of new possibilities, new potential. When we key into the inevitable changes that occur in nature and learn to adapt to them with style and grace, many issues disappear and myriad possibilities open up for us where nothing had existed before. The folks who wish for things to remain the same or that things could go back to the way they were in less informed and/or less developed times are on the wrong track. Although there are a few things that were useful in the "good old days", the vast majority of them had unintended negative consequences that helped to create many of the problems that we are still trying to overcome today. In the ECO-Village of the future, we will have to be energy independent, food self sufficient and socially able to handle and adapt to the variability that is blamed for so much strife today. Learning to live and let live is something that we spend far too little time on in our educational systems, our religious institutions and in daily life.

One seriously difficult issue has dogged "humanity" for centuries. Why are we here? This single question has dominated human thought at least since the Greeks. As far as we can fathom, no other creature wonders or worries about this so-called "important" concept. A liberating mantra has presented itself to me recently that can be used by anyone at any time. Get ready to have another gift bestowed upon you courtesy of ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. This freebie offers the potential to change your life forever and if you use it conscientiously, it can also transform the lives of those around you. The reason that you may have never heard about this mantra before is that the entire fortune of each and every oligarch on the planet depends on you not realizing the insights that come from stepping off the hamster wheel. Back in the seventies, there was a massive marketing program devoted to TM Transcendental Meditation. They told each of their customers, (yes, you had to buy your mantra) to never, under any circumstances tell anyone your mantra. Like your native name, you were not to spread it around. I have found that the power that comes from keeping things secret is far outweighed by the clarity of mind that accompanies openness. In fact, many believe that the whole "secret mantra" thing was based on the fact that those running the business of indoctrination didn't want folks to know that everyone got one of just a few mantras.

I, on the other hand, have no reason to keep information that has the power to transform your life and the culture as a whole for the better, secret. One day, my giving will pay back, but I am not going to enrich myself at your expense, so here goes. This meditation can be done wherever you are, whatever you are doing and it requires nothing more than mental discipline. If you see "X" or "Y" or "Z", practice telling yourself "X" has no meaning except what I give it. "Y" has no meaning except what I give it. "Z" has no meaning, except what I give it. For some real world examples just keep your eyes open and remind yourself...This hand has no meaning, except what I give it. The view outside the window has no meaning, except what I give it, the book that I am reading has no meaning except what I give it, etc. This has several complimentary actions on our world view. First and foremost, the message is that even we have no meaning, except what we give ourselves. This liberates us from defining our "selves" in ways we always have. When we begin to understand that our human mind has the power to assign values, traits and characteristics that seem relevant at the time, we can reassign or remove those burdens, replace them with uplifting ideas or tweak our perception in ways that assign different meanings to all that we experience, even our sense of "self".

When we learn that whatever we perceive or value only has that value because our perceptions and preoccupations are acting on the idea of it in our mind, it liberates us from having to understand the "Why?" question. Our minds will fight and squirm to tell us that some of our perceptions are true, but even then, this "truth" has no value except what I give it. Defining all of these things serves to tell us that the world around us has meaning. It is just one trick that the mind plays on us. In an ECO-Village, the value of each and every object, person, creature and resource gains meanings that cannot be expressed until one confronts them in the unique ways that flow from having this changed perspective. Water becomes a temporary status of the greater water cycle. The energy that gets used and created is part of a cycle as well. The carbon that cycles through the biological systems is a temporary status of something much longer-lived. Again, the meanings of all of these things is recognized as malleable and that it changes based on what we each bring to the perception of it, but ultimately, it is not for us to assign values and meanings to each and everything we perceive. Understanding that we are meaning making machines and can do nothing other than assign value to our environment can liberate us from limiting ideas of what is going on around us.

ECO-Villages require us to participate in something else that has no value, but what we give it. The actual adaptation that organisms in nature have always done. If you would like to invest in our ECO-Village, we will continue to welcome your participation.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Preparing for the Twelveth Night

I read a little about the Twelveth Night this morning, trying to find out more about the twelve days of X-mas. It was interesting to find that the celebrations have been around a lot longer than the song suggests. Saturnalia lasted 'til mid-moon after Winter Solstice, which could put it as late as mid month in January, but around January fifth. Give of take a week or two. Oddly enough, we often re-create the customs of our ancestors either knowingly or unknowingly, because it is part of our genetic code. Let the revelry continue, at least until January Fifth, the Twelveth Night.

In ancient times, a cake would be baked and in it would be hidden a bean, coin or nut. Whoever should get he piece of cake with the foreign object would become lord of the feast. I guess this is a great reason to have your cake first. The holiday celebrations stretched out to fill the long dark nights of winter  and served as both distraction and community building as we would annually pass the mantle of host throughout the tribe. So much more could be achieved if we were only to recognize this ancient human art of reciprocation.

The art of the give-away comes up routinely in my writing because it is so fundamental to pour humanity. Every intact tribal culture exhibited this aspect and as each one has lost touch with their roots, it is supplanted with issues of power and control, abuse and neglect, patriarchy and "rule of law". Codified systems of "justified retribution", crime and punishment and property "rights"
 have led to far more savage abuses than they have ameliorated. Perhaps by selecting random folks to fill in for our leaders, to rewrite the "laws" if even for one night, could lead us out of our very bleak situation.

Of course, the cast of characters for any respectable Twelveth Night festival also include the queen of court, the jester and a slate of advisers, viziers and the courtiers. Perhaps seeing the silliness of the retinue helps offset how seriously we take our rulers during the rest of the year.  It is only the third day of X-mas, so we have nearly ten days to plan out Twelveth Night festivities. May yours be fun and full of hilarity! In my reading, it made it seem like this celebration is growing in popularity. Bonfires and revelry  are retaking their place amongst the people and that can only be a good thing.

One Gross (that's a dozen dozens)

How can one sell an idea? Well, here is my shot at it. I'm a man. So much more than just a man, but on one level, nothing more either. I have created a product...(admittedly, with some help) these dozen dozens of posts on an obscure blog. I certainly never expect to get rich writing, but how can one value one's work unless some value can be ascribed to the labor of it? I have grown as a writer, but this value accrues to folks who read what I write in the future. I have become what I believe to be a better person by looking critically at information, turning ideas over in my head as a geologist might inspect a sample of rock. I have developed a deeper sense of self by stripping away the lies that I told myself about who I am. Now, I am coming to my readers with an outstretched hand, asking for you to value what I write in ways that feel appropriate to you.

I was recently at the store with my mother. She needed eggs and so did I. She selected the styro-trash container for a buck and a half. This woman, who was in the first graduating class from (University Wisconsin at green Bay, UWGB with a degree in Analysis/Synthesis, the trendy name for broadly educated with a major in ecological principles and a minor in Art Education. The same woman who was reprimanded by her school administrators that she was not to subject her art students to term papers. After all, the implication was, art is only for people who don't fit in, or to fill elective credits by drawing. The former teacher, whose room my mother inherited, only had tens of thousands of sheets of grey paper and about half a ton of chalk and pastels, more than half of that stock had been just black and white. The former teacher was training them to see the gray scale and render objects as the old masters did, but what the ancients learned over days of work and toil needed to take place in an hour each week. But I digress, this is about the eggs. A dozen dozens. I selected the Phil's eggs, I know Phil, or at least I have written him letters, he cares about the birds and their health is of primary concern. Phil puts his eggs in paperboard, which I recycle or pass on to folks I know who have eggs.

Mom's eggs have a definite ecological impact. I worked in an egg house that provided those kind of eggs. Mine were nearly five dollars, triple the price, and Mom was aghast. She asked "Why do you spend so much on your eggs?" Having had chickens, I knew what to say. "It is a lot of work to create an egg and I certainly wouldn't want to have to pump one out every day." I said, I appreciate that. So does Phil. I know he does, because I can see, feel and taste the difference between the two "eggs".

The point of the egg story is to draw a parallel between the cost of eggs and my work. I urge everyone to go back and read all of my posts, all 144. It is truly a dozen dozens. If it seems as if I'm just pumping out as many posts as I can, like the egg factory, please value my work (and please, please, pay me accordingly) at roughly the cost of the cheap eggs in your area. These will undoubtedly be petro-chemically underwritten to a massive degree. I'm not exactly sure about other parts of the world, but in The U.S. of A., the corporate food giants who deal in these sorts of commodities receive other corporate tax breaks and subsidies, but I have no hard proof of exactly what that might be in the case of my local eggs. The simple accounting practices that allow taking feed and energy bills off the top of one's profit actually encourage buying feed from elsewhere and concentrating birds too close together for health. If you can see, feel and "taste" the difference between corporate schlock and rich and nutritious writing, then pay me like the expensive eggs in your area.

I often think of my writing as an egg, meaty but easily assimilated. Like an egg to our body and mind, I seek to nourish both. I want to inform, invigorate and activate my readers, or at least prepare them for growth. I want the writing to hold together, for each post individually and the collection of ideas as a whole. I see the value of my work as helping bind divergent ideas into a light sponge, pliable and yet able to hold ideas in a suspended state of animation for future use. The neural net that is established by these ideas are for each individual to fill in as their experiences allow. I hope to never be as pretentious as to tell anyone what to think of the ideas I render, nor how to piece any of that into a larger world view. Each of my messages is about the need to collectively realize what we are up against and how we might retain as much of our humanity as possible within a corrupt and collapsing system.

I assure you that ECO-tours has received no government subsidy other than business planning consulting services and the guy who actually collected the money was truly a huckster and subsidized suit. Having a business plan, heck even paying back double that cost to hire another subsidized suit, a lawyer, for drawing up incorporation papers. The State payed out a few hundred in assistance, the lawyer collected $1,200. Another thousand or so slipped away to petrochemical giants through fuel use and our purchase of a few hundred dollars worth of black plastic pots which harbor our seedlings while they are in nursery status. At least I am aware of, and keep track of my subsidies. I have never taken them for granted. I certainly didn't feel entitled to them. My work through ECO-Tours has been with the intent of getting the biggest bang for the bucks that are given to our efforts.

For our part, we seek to plant more trees. We do it as efficiently as possible. ECO-Tours and our 100% volunteer staff as well as the many guests who tour with us have planted tens of thousands of native trees over the years. Additionally, we have begun to plant far more tree seeds, leading to higher rates of survival and trees that are better adapted to their sites. We plant about a dozen dozens of trees per acre and if you would rather make a donation to further that work instead of the writing of this blog, I will put your donation in perspective. It costs nearly ten dollars per tree for seedlings, but that includes purchase, planting, protection and care. If you would like to plant 144 trees, that's about 1440 dollars. When we plant, all the labor is done by volunteers or paying guests, so the donation you make is more than doubled by human effort, given with love by people who care about restoring the Earth, protecting soils, stabilizing climate and fixing carbon.

At five dollars per dozen, ($60 for the lot) that's less than fifty cents a piece for these first one hundred and forty-four blog posts alone. I'm willing to pay that to get good eggs and my goal is to put as much or more into each post than I get out of having an egg for breakfast. If you agree, send a check to ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. 1445 Porlier street Green Bay, WI 54301 or you can use our paypal account: We are also working to build a new char burner that will allow us to build soils in areas that we are reforesting, reducing the numbers of trees that we will lose in the future has always been an overriding concern for us. Typically we lose lass than ten percent of the trees we plant, but when you plant as many trees as we do, that is still more than we wish to accept. Making biochar part of the soils that we plant into reduces stress, increases available soil moisture increases nutrient availability as well as beneficial soil organisms and protects against drought.

Any donations over $1,000 will come with a free week-long ECO-Tour so that you can see some of our operations up close and personal.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sacred Days On A Lake

When we looked across our lake at Thanksgiving, it looked more like Solstice, today, the ice has all but released the grip it had on the surface back then. To the casual ECO-Tourist, it has become all to clear that the biosphere is out of balance. Fukushima continues to release energy into the biosphere and we continue to wreak havoc with hydro-fracking, exploding massive amounts of energy into rock that has sequestered carbon for millions of years. We do it to capture the fumes upon which old way thinking was based. We now pump three BTUs into the ground to release five. A losing hand in poker and underwater business loans for the Mother Earth rapists. The energy center, which has boomed the last few years is going through upheaval and the majority of the population wants none of the business as usual that could keep the petrodollars flowing. We see all around us the extreme weather events that used to be extreme, but have become commonplace. Longest droughts followed by heaviest rains, record cold, wind and heat, record snow cover and warmest water temperatures, aquifer depletion etc. all combine with the fuels we burn to wrench the quilt of air that envelops the planet in ever-more tortured ways.

Now, when virtually all people realize in every fiber of their being that conservation matters, the corporate welfare whores who purchased our representatives are cheerleading for wasteful practices that belong in history books. Electric cars are becoming common at the same time that gas is not being purchased at the past rates. China, once the fastest growing automobile consumer on the planet is seeing a drop in registrations. There is enough common knowledge about ecological catastrophe and the relationship between fossil fuels and ecological quality that we no longer want their black goo. We don't want the plastics that are made from that crap and we certainly don't want the waste disposal nightmares of consuming more and more trash.

The rebirth that I see coming to pass in the coming year is rebirth of community, not in the traditional sense. Many of us live in urban environments so geographically contiguous communities are few, but our "home" will begin to be seen as a series of domains, our community an integration of geographically diverse locations, but the re-birth will be more about how we get to these places than anything. Walking, riding bike, ride sharing and multi-owner vehicles are just one way to share costs and cut fuel use/emissions. Co-operatives owning fleets of electric vehicles could dispatch themas needed or have neighborhood-wide stations for pick up and delivery of seldom used vehicles. Another business venture that I would like to share widely is the personal concierge service.

With very little space and overhead, just a an electric car a bicycle, fitted with a trailer, a computer and motivation to start, you could take orders and make deliveries of groceries, tools, hardware, etc. The primary market would be those too busy to run errands themselves and those who would prefer to leave their gas guzzling car idle for the day. Just eliminating a car from the family budget can save over $9K dollars per year. Perhaps with a prudent and available personal shopper for many of your errands, you could afford to take a cab occasionally to a doctor's appointment or longer trip. Even if you are making lots of money, lopping off nearly ten thousand dollars from your annual budget could give you an extra something special.

Staying off the fossil energy bandwagon is ethically defensible and some customers will want to take advantage of the service just to do the right thing. We all lie at the edge of a great, once frozen lake. The ice that is clinging to the shore is as fragile as the exoskeleton of a cicada and it is time to grow beyond this old, dead shell. Taking our first timid steps into the great lake is the only way to decide if it is something we will enjoy. break the ice, reach out and let yourself float free from the shores of old way thinking. time is changing and the time signature of life has been revved to a fever pitch, help relieve the strain on everyone and you will be rewarded. This is not to say that there will no be hard days, dark days or set-backs along your path, but they will all become burdens easily lifted when you know that right is on your side.

When you falter, or work yourself to a frenzy, or feel frayed and burnt at both ends, Take some sacred days on a lake to remind yourself about what matters, what ties us to the breast of Mother Earth, and what life would be like without her, or worse yet, with her poisoned, than get to work finding ways to live without fossil energy. It had been done from the beginning of time until quite recently. We have technologies that make it possible once again. As the shoe company who I cannot advocate said, Just do it! You may not feel compelled to build a community in that specific way, but if you reach pout and ask what people need, you may be surprised at the lifestyles that you might rise to, just providing folks with things or experiences that are simply not available in this day and age. Think creatively about problem solving and you will find that the only thing there is no shortage of in the universe is opportunity.

Blessed Be and may all your days be filled with sanctity and reverence.

e to get out into the world is the personal consierge service.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Momentary Lapse Of Reason

I try to remain apolitical in my approach to ECO-logic principles but the recent election bears at least cursory scrutiny because of the horrible and tragic influences that are swirling in the houses of government and the halls of justice. First, we might take some solace in the fact that in most of the areas that just elected a new crop of seemingly stupider and less pragmatic representatives. The nation is moving toward a population far more interested in sanctifying the living mother, Earth and less compelled by claims that, raping the planet instead produces the "greater good". It is important to understand why and make sure that this stops happening.

To be sure, only about 1/2 of 1/3 of the population felt compelled to go to the polls to vote in the most recent "crop" of representation. Only one third of the nation came out to vote. About half of them did the electin'. Assuredly, the 1/6th were some of the, most dissatisfied with the way things are going and have the most extreme views about what is right, good and worth going to the polls for after all. This is like trying to describe the signs of the zodiac, but only letting on that there are two.

Anyone thinking that the well-funded rabble, that we will have to put up with for years, have any interest in making significant change to protect the planet from exploitation is not paying attention. We have seen rollbacks in environmental protections across the board for years and more and more responsibilities are passed off to local jurisdictions, assuring that unless a complaint occurs, no records of ecologic catastrophe will be kept. We used to see cancer clusters, now, we are displacing people from contaminated zones into other contaminated zones and cancers are occurring everywhere. Luckily, many have realized that the rush to get somewhere is fiction. There is no escaping and that the only way to make life better is to focus more effort in smaller areas.

 I write routinely about our sense of ecology, how big, or small are we focusing our attention? There is an internal ecology inside our skin, the surface of the body provides habitat as well. Our outstretched arms enclose a sphere, our room, apartment, property, our backyard, town, village or metro, we can find ECO-logic principles at every distance. Bear in mind that if the biosphere was made to scale, at the size of a balloon, all life, from the deepest ocean depths, where bacteria survive in hot jets of sulfurous volcanism. All the way up to the highest atmospheric life forms, inhabit an area about the size of the rubber sheath enclosing the air inside the balloon.

The oligarchs have nearly as tenuous a situation. Their wealth is like the balloon skin as well. Their methods of social and political control have been discovered and found out. If we can mobilize the other five sixths of the population to participate, stop allowing the money to "speak" and for all of us, who see the very real possibility of finding a path to sustainability clearly to get involved. The teach-in of old has been replaced by You tube. I know dozens of people who do not own a how-to book, but they have all of them in their phone. Validating a system that exploits everyone for the wealth of a tiny few is getting harder and harder to "sell" to the population of the world. A tiny pin could drop now and the whole thing (the ballooning big lie) would contract into tiny shreds, falling limp and lifeless on the floor. When the boom stock Market pops this time, no one will be able to bail out the bust, or perhaps, we will decide not to. The time has come to re-invest in the things that last, the things we have been giving thanks for in this special season. Friends, family, fruitful endeavors. Investing in anything else, or betting on more of the same in the future is a fool's errand.

I read the accounts of the Donner Party as part of my Fall Feast of the Mind. What struck me hardest was the frivolity with which the pioneers confronted unknown hazard. Nearly half of the Donner Party perished, but perhaps they can teach us something across the years, so their lives were not lost in vain. At this time in human evolution, we need to adapt or perish. We have made some terrible decisions based primarily on what the richest people wanted. We may be unable to step back from the edge of the abyss. We may free fall again no matter what we do in the short term, but how well we do and whether we make it as a species or not depends on the choices we make today. do not dwell on the past, and like one of the survivors of the doomed Donner Party wrote afterward, "Never take no cutoffs and hurry along as fast as you can."

Do not become distracted. Mobilize, organize, educate and unleash love (for others and Mother) with at least the same intensity that the Earth rapists spew their hate. we are one giant family and there is no away. No planet to run to when this one gets ready to spit us out. The establishment of our living history museum of the now is about to take place. I can nearly hear the waves lapping at the shore! If you have money to invest in creating a sustainable resort that is like a summer camp for all ages, send it to ECO-Tours and note when you would like to schedule a stay. Now, let's get this show on the road! 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fourteen Acres Per Handful

Much of the time I feel like Jack, the poor little lad from the English fable that we were all told when we were young. Jack and the Beanstalk Jack, poor lad whose mother told him to go sell his beloved cow at market Jack, that boy who returned with magic beans, but was belittled Jack. The boy who climbed above the clouds and brought home a bag of gold coins on his first trip, the goose that lays golden eggs on his second climb up the stalk and ultimately the golden harp which plays by itself. The Giant, who "owns" all three of these treasures is killed by the boy when he cuts down the magical beanstalk, ending the threat from this over-sized beast. You may remember the refrain..."Fee, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of and Englishman. Be he alive, or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread.", a variant and elaboration of what was originally written by Shakespear (from King Lear, act three, scene four) When Jack traded his prize cow, who had gone dry, for a handful of beans, his mother thought him daft. She flew into a rage and thrust the magic beans to the ground outside their cottage. Overnight the beanstalk grew taller than the clouds.

In my own time I have had many valuable resources that have run dry. I routinely had to sell off all of my prize possessions so that my mother could move the family cross country in search of her fortunes, or in fact, even her whims. My own magic beans were the bits of information that I was able to glean. some came from research and study, others came from strange old men, mystical yet intrigued by my rapt attention. There were even some magic beans that I found within my own psyche, but they were all tossed out the window by the adults who raised me. Instead of growing into a mile high beanstalk overnight, the tendrils continue to grow and the length of their magic is infinite. I have spent my life climbing up and down, bringing back treasures.

Unlike Jack, I have not raised the ire of the giant. I keep it on the down low, only taking what the beast thinks is waste. This has not always been a pleasant occupation. Once, when I found enough sash cord to make a person-sized nest of tangled asbestos laced string, I got deathly ill from untangling the mass and making skeins for use as art material. The skeleton that I created with the waste nearly killed me, but the resource was distributed into a safe finished product that keeps the asbestos contained. In slides yet to be transfered I have a few photos of the skeleton that I fashioned. A masterwork done entirely with rope, string and twine, woven and wrought into human form.

Making biochar is a perfect example. I live in a part of the country where wood products are big business. Finding pure sawdust, without glues or chemical treatment of any kind is easy. Most producers of this kind of waste would rather give it away for free than pay to haul it off. Turning that liability into value added product (char and bio-char) is relatively easy and although it takes energy to get the process to completion, it can be done with minimal equipment and a campfire, which allows folks to get together and participate in the char-making process.

Understanding the value of char requires seeing several co-mingled aspects of the material. First and foremost, it holds six times it's own weight in water. Areas that are drought prone can be stabilized by using biochar. The water holding capacity alone is only a tiny fraction of the benefits that accrue by using this amazing substance. The entire surface, on a microscopic level are covered with fissures, craters and micro-topography that provides habitat for soil organisms. Anywhere char exists in soil, with air, but without direct sunlight, billions of beneficial organisms can exist in a single tablespoon. These organisms hold additional water within their cell membranes, increasing water holding capacity many fold more than the char itself. Biochar is inhabited by organisms that provide the interface between compounds that exist in the soil and the plants themselves. Just like the bacteria in our gut, the soil microbes inhabiting the char help create easily absorbed and adsorbed nutrients. The life that biochar holds in the soil is perhaps more important than the amazing water holding capacity of the material.
This is the char making vessel that I have been using. It creates just over one gallon of char per three hour burn.

If you are not yet questioning how this miracle substance can be flying under the radar, read the last two paragraphs again. It is easy to explain why. Money. No one and no corporation can corner the market on bio-char. It is best when created locally with as little transportation cost as possible. There are a handful of people in the country who can teach about this material, but anyone willing to look into it themselves can learn the ancient technology, experiment with it and start to comprehend the art and science of creating healthy soils. Monsanto cannot patent it, no corporate welfare could make sense if we all have the knowledge of how to make and use char. When mid-sized small commercial char generators are utilized, the costs of adding biochar to an agricultural system can be as low as $90 per acre. Home gardens can be enriched for a few dollars and half a dozen hours worth of home brewed biochar. Full details for home and small commercial scale materials, devices and enrichment methods can be obtained through our state not-for-profit. donations of fifty dollars get you access to our full seminar notes, ideas book and glossary of terms. Interested parties are asked to write ECO-Tours directly to find out about having seminars in your area. Fourteen forty-five Porlier street, G.B.WI 54301-3334 USA. Or just stay in touch by leaving comments here.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Two Superior Properties

They say that changes come on the wind. I certainly have seen it happen enough in the past to know when the spirit of change is nigh. this is one of those times.

My Grandaughter exhibiting my coat of many colors...well half of it anyway. I am working on a book describing the story that goes with every patch on this jacket, What would you pay for 180 stories? That's enough to read one a day for six moons!
 We have discovered property on Lake Superior! This takes us one step closer to having a Northern ECO-Tour Resort. We have also found a property that is less than two hours by bicycle from the shoreline property that is nearly forty acres and includes the headwaters of a creek. It has been heavily impacted on about ten of the acres and will provide plenty of opportunity for reforestation, ECO-Agriculture and aquaponics. Donations for these properties can be made through our normal Paypal account or by sending direct to ECO-Tours at 1445 Porlier street Green Bay, Wisconsin 54301 USA.
 We were talking of the ways of the winds not very many days ago. You see, they come this time of year. Brutal and sustained, they speak to our souls of winter beginning to push back summer and they echo the insight that will be gleaned by breathing the frostbitten air of the long dark nights to come.

We also now have a You tube video that explains a bit about our work and the Leave No trace Ethics that help guide tourists to not only be respectful stewards, but to leave the natural world in such a way that others can enjoy it in the same condition as they found it. This visual ECO-Tour shows several places that we have planted and gives sound information on some of what we do. One caveat, at 0:45, (forty-five seconds in) the video says we are a 501(c)3 org. We are a state registered not-for-profit, but the costs of federal registration have been too great for our current budget. We are looking to register with the federal government in the future, but for now, we are only a state institution. We will be making a video of our biochar process soon and hope to create videos featuring benefits of ECO-Tours for guests, landowners and folks who donate soon.

Essentially, ten hours of sustained, twenty mile an hour winds, brings the air that was over Lake Superior  last night, fresh to our morning lungs. Some of the least disturbed, and consequently least polluted air on the continent, and my spirit is blessed with it. This element of change that the winds represents makes one restless and energized, no matter what time it is, day or night. Some things need to be done. With gusts of fifty, the north shore of Lake Superior has come to my lungs. Biochar made at this time would help capture some of that northern influence, inoculating it with whatever bacteria, fungi and spores it carried with it. The unique Breath of the North might well be used to best effect on north slopes and cooler wetter sites, I would imagine, because they most nearly replicate where the air brought them from.

Immeasurable thank-yous go out to Brenda Huisman for her video capture and editing, as well as the voice over for our first video. In spite of horrible conditions, extremely limited resources and having very little time to spend on it, she, of course, did what she does best, and her efforts are deeply appreciated.

To "finance" the northern acreage, we are looking for ten folks who can put $1K into "Deer Camp" it would allow you to stay during the 10 day deer gun season for a Cultural Heritage Encampment, Northern Folk School. This is not only a traditional deer camp, but living history encampment with fall chores being part of the gig.

Great Spirits passing frequently bring high wind events, and when we honor the ancestors, their spirits too, are disrupted. rustled as it were, like sheets in the wind. They know that we humans will once more re-live passed grief, and try to cast off shackles that we have created in our own minds; that there will be attention paid to them constrains them in ways that they cannot express yet, it has reigned them in at inappropriate times, the rest of the year and probably don't want to be bothered. That is why it is essential to make peace with the past and it is such a blessing to be blessed with what the dead have given us. In these nights of Sowen, What we unburden ourselves of will return to the Earth with those echoes that trace infinite, passed, other lives. We literally breathe the same noble gasses that the dinosaurs did, and in the night huddle together for warmth, and the blessed return of the Sun.

One more order of make the Shoreline property a reality, we need ten people to step up and pre-pay a week rental on the beach, also $1K. We are having a beautiful and sustainable time with our Air B&B listing and will be running all three properties to make the payments, that is why we can offer such awesome rewards for your participation. Redemption of your "gifts" can take place at any time and will come with as much programming, or lack of it as you desire. From full-blown ECO-Tours and guide services, to utter solitude, you only get what you come for.

Tonight, as I breathe the air of restlessness solitude, that lives over Lake Superior, Part of my soul is tied to her breath. This is one of the parts of my soul that I love to share through ECO-Tours. If you can develop your own affinity for place in the world, we have done our job. Letting go of our old souls and stepping into fragile territory, like an insect shedding it's protective cover, we are vulnerable at this time too. Treading on ice for the first time each winter, we are hyper-cautious, but without great sacrifice, great rewards will never come. If the Sowen season cannot allow your shackles to be shed, Lord and Lady help you make it through 'til next year.

Focalizing is a process of allowing collective will to express itself, by sacrificing your own idiosyncratic intention for what works for everyone.  This concept is at the heart of ECO-Tours. Every adventure that we orchestrate is the result of what participants bring with them, what they choose to leave behind, a spirit of revelation that distills the essential abundance around us, and perfecting the ritual and art of the give back.
There are things to do, arte to be made, miracles to participate in. When you are ready to, join us for your tour and learn about a place inside your self as well as all that surrounds us and that many of us forget to enlist in our grappling with the distractions of a modern world.

May the Dark Lord and Lady Bless you.
Peace, and BE Good STEWARDS!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Char "Meltdown"

My char retort in action. Made from a simple stainless steel vessel. Before use, I removed any plastic or rubber parts, replacing them with steel and copper. 
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it is hard to capture exactly how awesome this burn was. I had trouble finding time to create this batch, because financial pressures and the rapidly closing tree planting window has required me to spend all of my time elsewhere. I had to burn some wood and decided that the char could wait no longer. Here is a bit of context to help understand what you are looking at. I reduced five gallons of very dry sawdust to char in about two hours. My last burn, with fresh sawdust which took over five hours to "cook". That burn created massive amounts of steam during the first of those five hours. This was another animal altogether!

One consequence of the speed at which the dry material liberated hydrogen and oxygen is that the pressure inside the vessel went way up. As you can see by the flame, we had some fear that material inside the vessel might fly up and clog an outlet creating a massive and rapid increase in pressure that would be catastrophic. Luckily, the removable lid had enough blow by to allow the hot gasses to escape. You can see the flammable gasses escaping around the lid (where the wing-nuts are) This burn was so fast, and so hot, that when the process was finished, the lid had partially melted. The next upgrade to the device will be to make a new lid of steel rather than aluminum.

The other thing that the image cannot convey is the sound. It was like we had a rocket engine in our yard. The clean burning flame was about two feet long for the duration of the burn and the fiery jet was almost unimaginably persistent. It became reduced slightly a couple of times, but by simply jostling the container a few times to "stir" the contents, the flame continued as the material inside was charred. Because I live in a state where wood products are a major industry, I have been experimenting with charring the sawdust. It helps to reduce waste and can easily be scaled up to industrial levels without the time (and energy) consuming process of crushing. Even though I have a great method of crushing the char from wood, it is still a bit messy and as long as clean sawdust is readily available, I will continue to use it. After seeing the efficiency of this burn, I may have to commit to using dry material for making char instead of the fresh stuff.

Wood may seem dry when you buy it, but this sawdust had aged for about a month in the open air of my garage. I suspect that it lost over half of the moisture that had been contained in it. I may have to weigh two samples, before drying and after drying to get a better idea of how much water is in the fresh sawdust. My retort and I are available for demonstrations and during my half-day presentation I will demonstrate and discuss a variety of options and methods for producing or procurement of char, grinding methods and optimal size of char for agricultural and garden use, inoculation, water holding capacity and the biology of organisms that inhabit char. All speakers fees and honoraria will help to enhance our programs and offset costs of our school of sustainability.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tree Planting

We have been planting trees for forty years. In the early days, we were a small group of friends, but registering as a not-for-profit in the Wisconsin, our efforts have mushroomed. We continue to seek efficiencies that allow us to plant more trees at lower cost and increase word of mouth advertising that secures the best and most loyal ECO-Tourists (guests) and supporters (donors). with protection, watering, weeding and aftercare, our seedlings cost about ten dollars each in monetary value, but we frequently cut that number significantly by planting tree seeds, which typically cost a bit less, but require a bit more effort. We have had years where we got over a million seeds at once that were perfect for planting large areas and we have had years when we were only able to plant a few hundred acorns, maple seeds or walnuts. Much of this is due to time availability and what tree seeds we do find. Some years are naturally better than others and this year has been about average.

We have recently found a supporter who cannot afford to make donations, but who has time to stop out at the City Compost Facility on a somewhat regular basis. He has found us many, many tree seeds, which are far easier to deal with in piles than they are when they are spread across the ground under a giant old tree. He has become a great source for seeds and seedlings that find their way into the Earth without draining our bank account. The reason that I explain this in some level of detail is because I see the need for doing this sort of work nearly everywhere. Trees can transform the landscape and with a bit of effort, many places that humans have deforested the land can be recovered.

When the Russians first invaded Afghanistan, their first attempt at making the population beholden to them was to cut down every tree in every courtyard of every compound, leaving the locals without any sort of reliable, albeit tiny, source of food in their immediate vicinity. Additionally, their shady retreats were turned into nothing more than parking lots. My idea for U.S. intervention there was to give each of our soldiers one thousand fruit and nut tree seedlings that they would have been responsible for, and when they could find places to plant them and people who would care for them, their "tour" would be over. In a scenario like this, there would have been no shots fired, no assaults on our people and no unnecessary casualties. People can tell the difference between those who want to exert power and control over them and those who want to lift them out of a difficult situation.

I recently heard that in cities across the U.S., there is a push to create Million Tree Pledges, creating plans for reforesting our cities. Here at ECO-Tours, we have expanded our area of operations steadily outward, first working in the watershed that we live within, then planting in areas that flow away from our city, ultimately expanding to plant in the watershed of two of the Great Lakes, Michigan and Superior. It is becoming harder and harder to find areas that have not been ransacked by the power and control freaks, stripped of vegetation and paved over, many of these areas may never recover, unless we humans stop abusing the landscape. I applaud the Million Tree idea, however, if cities continue to plant non-native populations, or limit themselves to just one or even three species of trees in their planting mix, we will soon find that the efforts are for naught. We have been down those roads before.

When I was a child, there were many millions of elm trees, planted along nearly every residential street in America, (at least every place that they would grow) before I was ten, a pathogen came through and nearly eliminated the population. It spread like wildfire and within a few short years, the street trees were gone. Neighborhoods that had looked like giant living cathedrals of green were turned into harsh, hot, dry landscapes that made playing out in the quiet streets a thing of the past. The cities across America that had lost those giant elm trees seem to have learned nothing because they all seem to have rushed to plant ash trees in their place. The ashes are being wiped out, a bit more slowly, but because of the same type of monoculture planting.

In recent years, city foresters are seemingly beginning to understand the need for a mix of species, but only time will tell whether their efforts will be enough to change the balance of species enough to build a resilient forest where our cities have most ravaged the natural environment. I regularly see trees that have truncated lives because the wrong species got planted "too close to a house", or "too close to a street". They are taken down because they are "Too messy" or because "the birds that sit in the branches shit on my car". I have seen trees that only wanted the moisture that would normally be there for them, but that died because the drains in the street had turned that patch of ground into a desert, or trees that had found a way to survive in spite of human interventions killed when the street was widened. I have even seen trees killed because humans deemed one afternoon of entertainment to be of more value than the trees, that had been there for decades, quietly making the air just a little bit cleaner, making that area just a bit more habitable, and invisibly taking what they needed from the planet without harm to a single living being.

When I first began planting trees, I thought that the process would one day become boring or that at least I would tire of doing the work. This has not been the case. When I gently spread the filamentous root system of a tiny shoot into the ground, I get as much satisfaction today, at age fifty-something as I did when I was twenty, or ten. when i breathe my carbon-filled breath into the hole or say a prayer of blessing into the tiny sprig's leaves, my spirit mingles with that of a living be-ing. It releases all of the goodwill and hope that one can muster into the tissues of another entity. I have seen birds show up, where none had been before, within minutes of planting a small tree. They fly in alight on one of the branches and I have seen them immediately transform the newly planted tree into an ecosystem in and of itself. See, frequently birds, as part of their pre-flight check, defecate. This nutrient rich shit not only helps fertilize the tree, but also builds the soil with much needed organisms and organic matter. Having a hand in this transformative process is always powerful, always amazing and always increases the feelings of intimacy that one feels for the world around them.

I understand that some people don't like to get their hands dirty. I do. I understand that for the uninitiated, it sounds like "too much work", but in my experience, there is nothing better than fresh air to breathe, wild berries to eat when one is on a walk, and clean water to drink. The trees we plant today will one day provide for us in ways that we may not be able to fathom. My goal is not to help myself to the benefits of all of the trees that I plant, but to offer them as hopeful messengers that speak to the spirits of all those who will enjoy their shade over the years. If it is only for the birds, it will all be worth it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Opening Our Resort

It is funny how occasionally, the things that we need the most are right before our eyes. It is even more interesting that the experiences leading us to that place and time do not allow us to see them. When I learned that dandelions are good for the liver, I had been living under a toxic cloud for nearly a decade. It did not change the healing properties of the plant that I was unaware, but it did change the way I lived amongst the environment forever. I have studied herbal healing and medicinal plants for decades, but I am still learning specific attributes that are important in members of the plant kingdom that I have either not paid close attention to, forgotten, just never needed, or did not know that I, or people I have helped could benefit from before. Research into most fields often reveal that the more we learn, the more there is to learn. Perhaps it should not be surprising then, that the answers we seek are often right before our eyes. One of the quirks of our perception is that we are blind to most of what surrounds us. In my Theories of Aesthetic Perception  class, one of the points that is important is that we are constantly sorting, sifting and winnowing the reality that we confront, as much for self-preservation as anything. There is no way to take in the totality of experience, so we dump 99.9% of what our senses provide to us in the dust bin of ignorance. We cling desperately to the things we deem important and the rest is just chaff, left wherever it has fallen.

We, my wife Nancy and I, purchased a rental property across the street from our home a decade ago. It is currently being transformed. We are remodeling and furnishing the two apartments, making space for an Air B&B. Our experiences have allowed us to envision the B&B concept with a few valuable twists. One place that we like to stay calls itself a B no B, a bit more like a motel for people who can make their own breakfast or find their own way in the world. Those who want to keep to themselves, or who have special dietary needs, find that this sort of place is perfect. As hosts, we can be across the street and out of guest's hair during their stay. However, if our desired, we can provide many extras as needed or by request. We offer those who stay with us ECO-Tours, equipment rentals and guide services. Even if all that is desired is a campfire to sit around in the evening, we can arrange for that as well. In the past, our perceptions were limited by prior experiences, but now we are looking more closely at what exists right across the street from where we live.

Perhaps the history of the place, or our own experiences limited what we could see as possible there, but that is not unusual. The constraints on what we can see are never visible, until they are shattered. We purchased the property with one thing in the forefront of our minds, it sounds funny now, but the people living there were terrible neighbors and we wanted them to be gone. We had the eviction notice drawn up ahead of time so that after closing on the property, we could deliver it immediately. It may be the first time in history that a person getting evicted was happy to have to leave. The woman who was renting there actually hugged me for kicking her out!

Of the three adults who had signed the lease, only one remained. This older lady told me that the other two were in prison. The families of those two, plus a friend of the older woman had decided to make that place the home base of their activities and a permanent place to crash or drop off their children whenever they needed a break from them or were in town. I guess that officially, it wasn't considered a child care center, because most of the children were related, but to the neighbors, seeing six to ten children running around at any one time made us wonder. This was not, however the problem. What was bad were the dozen police calls to the property every few moons. Waking up in the middle of the night to one hassle or another and having to hear the ugly details of lives out of balance was too much for Nancy and I to bear.

The details of owning a rental property were far from our minds when we bought the place. The thought of gaining peace of mind pushed out all other perceptions, so we bought it. Since then, there has only been one long-term tenant in the lower and perhaps half a dozen renters upstairs. One by one, each of the neighbors has gone out of the way to thank us for buying the property and for that we feel pretty happy, but our perceptions being limited had led us to only see the place in a certain way. Within the past couple years we started hearing about home share programs, couch surfing websites and air B&B. Some of our friends and family have traveled using these online resources and had a great time of it, many staying in other folks spare bedrooms or coming and going from entire homes left vacant by their owners. Then, we found out that one of our friends opens her home to guests nearby and we had a few long talks with her about what she was doing through Air B&B. She loves it and by reading her reviews on the website, her guests do too!

We are currently working feverishly to ready the upper apartment for our first guest, who will be arriving in the coming week. Onsite we already have dozens of edible landscape plants at least the same number of healing herbs and garden beds that are managed with an eye toward permaculture and sustainability. We are adjacent to over 160 acres that will never be developed and directly across the street from the property is the East River which is a great place to canoe. There is also a walking trail/parkway along the river bank for recreation. As many things in nature show, great things often grow from tiny beginnings. ECO-Tours has organically grown from a group of three into a network of folks who can plant hundreds of trees in a single day. There is no reason to believe that our modest beginnings with space for four guests could grow into a Summer Camp/Resort that can accommodate hundreds of ECO-Tourists. The greatest oaks start from a single acorn.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Autumnal Equinox 2014

Life seeks balance and what better time to speak of it than around the Equinox. This time, more than any other hangs in between High Sun and Low Sun. Many of us who live in temperate climates enjoy the Spring and Fall seasons best of all. Not too hot and not too cold as Goldilocks would say. This year, the balance is being perturbed in several ways. I prefer not to get too topical in this blog, focusing instead on the natural world and all it has to teach us, but the times have changed drastically enough that it seems imperative to focus on events that have been in the news, or possibly some that have not, because our future quality of life hangs in the balance as well. Unlike the changing of the seasons, which come around in a regular cycle, we are pushing the limits of rational behavior and disrupting the very fabric of our lives, often without even knowing it.

This Equinox was marked by over four hundred thousand individuals protesting ecological insanity in New York City. Climate change protesters, kudos to them, brought home the fact that changes in the way we do business, procure our energy and meet the needs of human populations around the world need to change. In fact, the next day, many of the same people walked down to Wall Street and continued to protest against the corporate elite who have stacked the deck against sanity.

 In Pennsylvania, where tens of thousands are being subjected to living in a police state, there is an ongoing manhunt for a cop killer survivalist. Massive resources are being brought to bear, all for one guy. This is the state that brought fracking into the news because of the flaming tap water and the intransigence of the corporados, who still refuse to release the list of toxic chemicals that they are pumping deep into the Earth. It seems that we are so inundated with distraction techniques that one can no longer tell if a cop killer is even a threat, while the police defend those who would poison our water. No expense is being spared, they say, but a simple fly over with an infra-red camera would find their quarry in short order. We had an armed gunman kill some people at the Upper Michigan - Wisconsin border a few years ago and the perpetrator was in custody within a few hours. hiding your body heat signature is not easy. The days are turning to weeks and schools remain closed, roadblocks are still in place and the local volunteer fire department has become both communications center and drop off point for snacks, sandwiches, drinks and cookies. Friends living in that area are convinced that the police are doing their best at finding the individual. I am not convinced.

In the high plains, the fracking nightmare has mushroomed beyond comprehension, even satellite imagery sees the transformation lighting up the night sky. Parts of Texas are the same way, riddled with roads, shoulder to shoulder drill pads and nothing to show for it but tax breaks, subsidized oil and natural gas and waste. conservation is so much cheaper! This nightmare continues north across the border in Canada, where oil shale "development" has and continues to defile one of the last great open spaces on the continent. Shit gets in the water, no one takes responsibility. Toxic waste ruins watershed after watershed and no one seems to be at fault. In the minds of the exploiters, we are the ones to blame...we keep pumping the gasoline into our vehicles.

The oceanic gyrae continue to be flooded with plastic that has slipped mindlessly beyond our ability to control. a friend was telling me the other day that, "Organisms now exist that can eat plastic." but he was dumbfounded when I explained that they are not eating it in any real sense. The food they consume is attached to plastic and therefore it is becoming integrated in the food chain. This cannot be mistaken for "eating" plastic, or using it for nutrition. I can swallow plastic as well, but it will not ever become part of a nutritious diet. In the final analysis, plastic is a non-food product. Children have swallowed marbles since they were invented, but it can't make them food. Just because plastic becomes trapped inside your body certainly can't make it food.

Across the sea, in Syria, we are blowing things to smithereens again, hesitating to call it war. If anyone tried doing the same thing to out oil wells or financial institutions I think it would be called war. Even the women and children that have perished in just the first two nights of bombing have been referred to as, "Children and spouses of insurgents." how this makes their human rights any less important than out own, I will never know. Examining the list of countries that support us in our bombing missions reads like a who's who of nations that summarily deny civil rights to their people. If these are the kinds of "friends" we count among the league of nations, then I don't want to be part of this any more. Not in my name! The Saudi's after all provided refuge to those who supposedly brought down the world Trade Center on 9-11. Israel just killed many thousands of their neighbors, guaranteeing the need for an even larger military in the future. What is often forgotten by the hawks who  design these actions is that every innocent killed becomes a martyr, with generations of hate that will be directed at you for your arbitrary attacks. No healing ever occurred, and nothing positive has ever been created by the firing of a single rocket or the dropping of a single bomb.

The balance to all of these events and activities is that more and more people are learning to live on less. Greater and greater numbers each day are coming to realize the fallacy of business as usual. Each and every opportunity to share our sanity, our ideas and our commitment to change must be taken. Healing a world so full of sick ideas may seem daunting, but we have one another and the facts are on the side of right, not might. Love is the foil to all of this hate. I speak out at this time because of my own beliefs that our species is worth saving. There is no planet "B".


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Developing an Ecology of Mind

It has been said that worry is like paying rent for a place you may never live. Worry saps energy that is essential in transforming the world around us. There are many things that we cannot change. These things must be accepted. Wasting our energy worrying about them only takes us out of a position of power within the universe. There are many thought processes that drain away our life force and especially at this time we cannot afford to squander our energies on things we cannot change and that may never occur. The word power is often confused because of the ways our culture has distorted it, but power in and of itself is not bad, what corrupts power is the attempt to wield it over other beings. Fortunately there are also many things that we do have the power to change that need to be done differently, done better, or in some cases not done at all. Finding appropriate vehicles of our energies, tasks that will make the biggest positive change with the least effort, is necessary if we are to keep in touch with our own sacred body, mind and spirit. As we begin the process of growing into a more benign species that can co-exist with nature, we must learn to think and act like the beings that have live here without destabilizing the climate, poisoning the lakes and rivers, or contaminating the air which we all depend on for survival.

There are plenty of new age philosophies that tout the theory that we can think our way to a better life, but I am deeply suspicious of many of them. I think that I am a successful and wealthy person every day. I visualize myself as a person with nothing but leisure and a secure future, but at this point in my life, My retirement savings will be depleted within a few moons of whenever I stop working. I have not yet gotten to the point where I can afford to say no to opportunities to make money and I do have relatively good health, but my wealth is of friends, relationships and ideas, all things that are undervalued in the marketplace. I visualize myself having the freedom to move about the planet, develop new relationships and influence greater numbers of people by sharing what I have learned, but the fact remains that I am a wage slave that has very limited funds with which to pursue these avenues. What has been much more profitable for me has been to reduce the waste of energy that worry would sap from my life.

In the study of ecology, the most striking feature that one will never see is waste. Each and every thing in nature is providing food, home or breeding ground for some other trophic level. Humans have a knack for not understanding this. It can be difficult for some to step out of their limited perspective, but waste, as we know it, is non-existent in nature. Having the good sense and discipline necessary to reign in our minds and their rampant waste of energy is essential to a healthy ecology of mind. The big money capitalizes on our fears and worries, but that is another thing we do not see inherent in nature, money.

Here at ECO-Tours of Wisconsin, we put all of our income into trees, dirt to plant them in or materials necessary for their protection. With this focus, we have reduced our waste and increased our survival rate for the trees that we do plant. Like an organism, we have grown larger, but remained committed to increasing our efficiency as well. The organic growth that we have experienced has allowed us to keep up with the changes that a growing organization faces, without losing focus or momentum. In the earliest days, we were able to plant a few hundred trees each year and now that many of them are tall enough to dwarf the homes that they were planted near, they are also providing a source of seed for future generations of trees. The exponential growth of a single tree mirrors the exponential growth of our reforestation efforts. This year, we have had a bunch of trees donated by other folks who specialize in starting trees from seed, so their efforts have joined with ours to create synergy. another aspect of the natural world that is clear to those who study the environment. Symbiotic relationships, in which both parties benefit from a relationship, are common in nature and as we mimic natural systems, we can benefit from these relationships as well.

By calming our minds, we unleash immense power that has been wasted trying to fit in, trying to play nice, trying to act appropriately. In nature none of these concepts exist. In the natural world, every organism just is. It seems that every being on the planet is content with being themselves. Learning to be true to our nature is perhaps the hardest thing we humans have to learn to do. In many cases, humans have been lying to themselves for so long about who they are, that the calm of being true to our own spirit, calming our own minds and healing our bodies seems an impossible task. Here at ECO-Tours we teach by example what massive change can occur if we just do a little digging, learn about our place in the natural systems that surround us and act in ways that efficiently express our unity with the planet.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Summer Camp For Adults

My dream is to create a living school. One that uses sustainability as not only our lessons, but as a way of life, integrating our guests and students in the living fabric of life. To this end, we will have classes on natural herbs, healing and cultivation of biomes that support a range of biota. As much as the retreat center will continue to be about learning, it will also be designed to be fun. Just as most summer camps, we will have group meals, then break up into sessions focusing on a variety of arts and crafts, woodworking, gardening, the science of ecology and several other areas. My plan is to enlist other teachers as needed to assist in providing a wide variety of lessons that coincide with the aims of reaching all of our guests with an ethos of conservation, efficiency and trust.

Nature, unlike the brutally harsh force that we have been told it is, is here to sustain and support us, just like all of the other creatures. Where problems begin is when we start to take without giving back. Imagine coming for a week-long intensive and being able to learn how become a successful gardener. Perhaps learn how to keep bees, or to run a home aquaponics system. we will have introduction to home power classes, advanced solar thermal classes and window quilt making studios. If you have troubles with urban composting, we can teach tricks on how to close the loop on organic wastes, etc. All of our classes as well as our fun and games will be focused on conservation of natural resources and sustainably enjoying the world around us.

Some of our past students are still creating ecologically sustainable systems around the country. Like dandelion seeds carried on the winds, they have spread the work far and wide. In the learning environment that we create, the skills and insights of all of our participants can be brought to bear on what seems to be an insurmountable problem. Keeping motivated in the face of very difficult challenges will be a large part of what we do, but the daily practices of thrift and conscientious use of what can be found in the immediate environment will be the "meat and potatoes" of our programs. Leadership training will also be an important and integral part of our program as well, since most of us live amongst others, knowing how to encourage them to adopt sustainable practices is important to our sucess in transforming the world around us.

Since adults usually come with extra entanglements, we offer a range of programs that can accommodate families, even extended ones. We finally have available guest rooms for up to four guests with relative privacy. They can be seen at this link. If you just want to come and stay with us, that is fine, but if you would like specialized tours, let us know and we can develop a special ECO-Tour that meets your specific needs. We have canoes, bikes, cross country skis and snowshoes in addition to all of our tree planting equipment.

In any living system, there are chores that must be done, but each chore that we have is part of the larger experience. You may have to take out the compost for example, but you will be treated to garden fresh veggies that come from the earth right beside the compost bin. You may need to take a turn watering the plants in the greenhouse, but you might see them again when you eat your sandwich at lunch. One of the greatest benefits of living sustainably is that the myth of increased leisure begins to unravel. The lines between work and play begin to dissolve and more life seems to take place even during the times that we are actively making our living. This is hard to describe adequately, but becomes evident to ECO-Tourists as they have their experiences unfold.

It came to me yesterday as I taught some neighborhood children about herbs that were growing right in their front yard. We do not need a faraway retreat center and the massive cost of large acreage. where we are right now is perfect for right now. We can grow into the full flower of a larger acreage when we get bigger. Right now, we must do what we can with what we have and grow into the bigger facility when we have more guests. Using what surrounds us and appears to us in abundance is the logical and natural way. The urban center that we live in may seem impossible to re-green, but the years of tree planting that we have done has already transformed the immediate area. The hundreds of thousands of tree seeds that we have picked off the sidewalks and yards have been brought to the headwaters and are beginning their lives as either food for rodents and deer or (if they are really lucky) as sentinels of hope.

Teaching a half dozen children about food growing in their yard turned my eyes to see different things in what surrounds me! Learning how others see the world around them can often be the bridge that allows knowledge to pass between us. Learning to live this way is a two way street. The best teachers realize that our work is not top down, but rather the insights of our students often provide the richest rewards. Students eyes have seen the world in unique ways and their truth and understandings can often lead teachers to understand the world around us better as well.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Aim A Little Higher

In many areas of our lives, things are on the decline, much of what I put down in words has been known a long time, but only recently has it been admitted to by the popular press. home prices are down, interest rates are down, hiring is down and jobs are down, but when we shoot down slope, we have to raise our sights and aim high. We can have Montessori quality education for everyone for far cheaper than what we spend on gizmos and doo-dads that have not been proven over any length of time. I have been recently studying the time continuum as it relates to "human" history. After the Ice Age, was a mere ten thousand years ago, five hundred generations. Since Homo sapiens first appeared, about 8 thousand generations ago, only a few technologies are still in use today. Many are as simple as bowls and pots, but those have been proven over millennea. Nuclear energy and weaponry, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imagery) radio-frequency exposure, sub-sonic exposures to noise, etc. are all very well understood, but the money to be made on each is so great that logic and science lose out to economic expediency.

This is the slow decrepit end that humanity seems to be headed, so aim high. Eat your sea vegetables, everyday and particularly from parts of the world that are less contaminated with nuclear materials. The massive releases that are now being admitted by the Tepco officials are staggering. What we have known all along is unfolding like a new fractal of 1% class war abuses. Again, collectively, we need to make sure that the money extracted from us for energy is going into the greenest mix possible. Biogas has the valuable by-product of charcoal which can be used for water filtration, providing safe water for millions and is also useful as an agricultural soil amendment of unsurpassed quality. Biochar containing soil is more able to hold moisture, and resist leaching of nutrients better than soils amended with any other material.

The reason that you have never heard of biochar, is because the information, technology (proven over again millennea) is open source, relatively easy to build and corporate welfare frauds can't make money on them. In fact, what they call, syn-gen facilities (for their Synergistic production of energy and a valuable resource) could bankrupt the energy giants in short order if the public demanded and invested in education about this single topic.

ECO-Tours will be hosting another biochar making event in the next week or so. If you would like to attend and can be in Green Bay, Wisconsin 9-9-2014. covered will be topics that include, but are not limited to production of char, history, technique, current trends, innoculation of char, grinding and application. Energy, moisture and carbon sequestration are just three of the massive benefits of using biochar. Understanding why the biochar revolution is so critical at this time is not difficult I urge everyone to add a few pounds to your favorite garden bad and watch in amazement at increased yields and added vigor of your plants. Event participants will be gifted one pound of char as inspiration for holding future events.

Our retort and presentation on all of the topics listed above are available for your event or personal curiosity. Presentation lasts a full five hours so some sort of food and wash up facilities need to exist where the presentation is to be held. In addition to travel expenses, a donation of  $365, which is the number of trees that it takes to reforest an acre. In ECO-Tours dollars, it costs us about ten dollars per tree to procure, plant and protect each of our seedlings, so for your donation you will also be reforesting 1/10th of an acre.

When we aim a little higher, two things happen. Gravity pulls the trajectory of our shot and the aim is true. The gravity of our current situation is strong, so aim particularly high for best results. When I bought my car ten years ago, I did not fully understand what a boost it would be for my lifestyle to reduce my fuel consumption be over one thousand dollars each year. Try getting your boss to agree to a raise like that and see how it goes.
This beautiful scene will be re-created in just a few short moons and even a few shorter weeks! Sunset, Winter solstice 2012.
 Sorry for this aside into my personal life, but Woo hoo! I just got a two day carpool that will save four gallons of fuel times two trips! I am elated!
When we embark on our first ECO-tour, whether it be to explore voluntary simplicity, or to investigate how much plastic you can keep out of your life, if it is a trip out to plant a native tree somewhere in the watershed above where you live, or to visit a local grower who provides your food, each step is a new beginning, like a hoop cast to the wind, carving out a bubble of understanding. Each new experience, whether you do your ECO-Tours once a year or every month have the same carving out ritual associated with them, we carve into a vast ocean of experience, like surfers on a swell, but those bubbles sometimes collide and overlap allowing us to see inside ourselves an integral piece of nature. Learning about the intricate and intimate features of our environment let us see in ourselves the same traits and habits of nature, our water cycles, our energy cycles and there are even ECO-Tours that we can take together that explore your inner ecology.

These ECO-Tours regard nutrition and healing. It is our birthright to know what native plants can heal us. This technology has rested on over seven centuries of practice, but again, no one can get rich teaching people how to learn to live with nature. It seems that we have so thoroughly estranged ourselves from Mother Earth that to treat her with loving respect seems "too simple" or perhaps "just words", as if something more is necessary or desirable. We know that the best things in life are free, yet we expect to pay big money to be cured of our ills. What we need most for our healing is growing right under our feet! Don't look whilst aiming however, just know that the earth is here to catch you if you should fall back upon her after the shot rings out.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Building A Forest

One of the most rewarding things that I have found is to look back after twenty or thirty years and see a maturing tree where there had been no soil to speak of a few decades ago. One of the most difficult tasks is to reestablish harmony and balance in an ecosystem that had been systematically tortured for decades, but it can be done. The trees are capable of giving the outward appearance of normalcy, but only if they have the essential ingredients that help them to thrive. Sick trees don't cut it. If they are in the proper type of habitat that would normally allow them to flourish, but they are still unhealthy or dying, it just means that the land was too played out to support them. I have seen many hundreds of trees die for no other reason than that they were the only thing available to be eaten. The great void that we have created where nature used to exist has created, in some areas, a drastic lack of viable habitat for both plants and animals. Sometimes the best first act is to build life in the soils, protect it from the sun and then add the trees.

Our organization has put thousands of trees in the soil in a day, only to have the weather take half and wildlife to eat the other half. We have seen dry spells so hot that even weekly watering could not save our seedlings. We have even protected trees for several years only to have the landowner mow them down with impunity. In spite of all these set backs, we continue to plant. Hundreds of thousands of seedlings have made it to heights that make it difficult for critters to stunt them. Thousands of them have reached heights that dwarf humans and thousands more dwarf houses. We honor and respect the fact that it is not possible to build a forest, forests require the participation of the wildlife that they attract, forests need all the players within them to be healthy and only naturally functioning cycles of energy, water and nutrients are required to truly make a forest. We continue to build the soil and plant more trees, but in reality, all of our work is like building and dressing a set in the theater and dressing the talent. Only the living players can bring the story of a forest to life. 

One of my favorite experiences is when forest life comes out to visit the planting site. Birds are usually the happiest to see the new trees and often, before we pack up our shovels, there are birds resting their wings and perching on their newest neighbors. The real soil building begins when they prepare for flight and leave behind their nutrient dense extra weight. I have returned to planting sites and roused a variety of creatures that were just enjoying the shade, or hunting amongst the seedlings. The rewards are not just for me, the whole cast of characters that normally enjoy the woods are an active part of the restoration process. I have often let my mind wander into the future, imagining how rewarding it will be when the successful trees fall, after a life well-lived, age or a particularly wicked storm will finally catch up with them. In a sense, my job will be complete, because the primary decomposers will have a place to begin the life cycle again, taking up residence in the fallen logs that began with a prayer, my two hands and a sip of cool clear water.

It is hard to fit the depth and quality of love that I feel into mere words, but trees, especially the native species are my life. I know the life cycle of the birch as if it were my own. I know the medicines that come from the sap, catkins and leaves. I know and have utilized most of the dozen or so uses of elderberry, of oak, cedar and pine. I have tried to hone my senses to feel each unique site, understand the moisture content of the soil, feel the slope and understand where the sun will come up in each of the four seasons, to help make good decisions on placement, so the tiny sprigs and smaller potted plantings that we make have the best chance possible. It seems that the Fall rains have come early this year, so this fall planting season looks like it will be longer than normal.

We are always looking for help in purchasing trees. If you can afford to spend a bit on recovering the denuded parts of the planet, helping us to purchase more trees, we have volunteers and the will to get them in the ground. Acorn harvest is coming into full swing and walnuts, as usual, are spreading their seed. The elderberries are also putting out their fruits and are giving us their seed as usual. We are on track to plant another million or so elderberry seeds again this year, pioneer species that help set the stage for future growth. To put our efforts (and their cost) into perspective, it costs about ten dollars per tree to get them from the nursery to the field, protect them and occasionally weed around them. All of our labor and administrative activities are provided by volunteers. The only things that we pay for that are not trees are tools for planting and enhancing the soils, soil for potting up trees that we hold in our nursery and protection for the newly planted trees. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wholistic Approaches

Too frequently, our scientific approach leads us to compartmentalize our thinking. This piecemeal approach to our lives neglects the most important parts of any system, the synergies brought about by interaction. When we developed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, it was clear that we were missing the point. Air cannot be separated from water, nor can water be isolated from air. In fact the three major phases or states of matter, solid, liquid and gas are just temporary states, allowing many transformations of each to occur. Rather than creating Venn diagrams that seek to isolate different parts of the environment from one another, what we need is a regulatory framework that is based on items being regulated, not the realms into which they can be released. Imagine how our ecological thinking would have been different if we had cut to the chase right from the start, attacking the sources of pollution rather than developing strategies based on an undesirable current state. Had we made a few lists for guidance, based on science rather than what had been contaminated, things may have progressed more quickly. Regulators could have made one category for all known carcinogens, these would have been eliminated from any discharge as a vital first step.

Over the years, there have been more and more chemical compounds that are added to that category and as science progressed, we could have expanded the scope of our protections. Instead, we let most carcinogens continue to be put into the environment, just at a marginally lower rate. Most sophisticated people understand that dilution is not a solution to pollution, because natural processes concentrate materials that may well be at infinitesimally small concentrations approximately tenfold per trophic level. Let us take a slow walk through the biological world and investigate how many of those there are. In water, phytoplankton, zooplankton, tiny fishes, smaller fishes, larger fishes, top predators (this could yield a million times the concentration in the water which supports this system.) On land, we have the soil microbes which are basically the same as in water, some converting sunlight directly to food, other microbes feeding upon them, as well as fungus, then insects and critters that feed upon them, or other tissues (left over from living creatures). Moving up the food chain, we have tiny creatures, their predators and perhaps luckily, just a couple steps between the prey and the top predators. Stemming the flow of toxic compounds into the environment is easiest at the source, but we didn't even consider that when we decided to regulate chemicals out of the environment. We focused so myopically on how they were being released that we forgot to ask "Why?". Frequently, clamping down on one sort of release, say to keep it out of our water, just increased amounts going somewhere else, often to our air because we frequently burn our dried sewage sludge, either that or it was land filled creating a different sort of problem.

One hard and fast rule in nature is that there is no away.

Similarly, we must find ways to become whole in spite of our cultural impetus to cleave and dissect our realities just as aggressively as science dissects us. I am not separate from my mental life, my spiritual life or my physical body. all of these "realms" exist in a complex interplay, just as the winds lift solids into the sky and as surely as the deluge can transport tons of dirt or soil (solids) elsewhere via a (liquid) phase change, my own states of being can morph into something much more profound. Who I am, who you are, we all are, in fact, ecosystems, microcosmic niches for complex biological and chemical interactions. In our gut and on our skin; up our noses and inside our ears, bacteria, fungus, molds and viruses make their living, or try to. Luckily, 85% of the bacteria are good, or at least do no harm. Even under our fingernails there is a delicate balance of life.

Many of us wear our psychic scars as a badge, as if the pain validates our existence. Like picking a scab, it only reinforces the power of the past. Healing is multidimensional and exactly the same as nature cannot be surgically approached. All things are connected and the infections that can manifest from abuse, disuse or misuse of natural abundance has distinct repercussions. One reason that I have frequently mentioned the Environmental Working Group is that their "skin deep" program allows people to understand the toxic mix of treatments that are sold in endless combinations and preparations for slathering on your skin. This is just one route that toxic compounds have into our lives and true to form, ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. must stand in league with others who combat brutality to humanity by those who seek to capitalize on "just business" (which is wholly and utterly unjust!) The reason I mention it again here is that the topic of individuals being microcosmic ecological systems recognizes that true beauty comes from the soul level and radiates outward, nearly like having a sun inside you. Our very metabolism is a solar furnace running on complex molecules that act as storage batteries. When we begin to honor the food (fuel) that we put into our bodies, sanctify the water we wash it down with and clean the air which we breathe, the rest will take care of itself.

We do not exist in isolation. Together we can thrive, but only if we can stop the madness of exploitation, carbon fueled "development" and the abuse and neglect of both the planet and her people that passes for "economic imperative" around the globe. The reasons that people flock to relatively untouched places is to know that such places still exist somewhere, but it is crucial to "green" every inch of the planet as well as putting an end to the oppression and extractive methods of the failed system. The crucial thing to realize is that when we do visit other places, that the best way to protect them is to practice Leave No Trace Ethics. Recognizing that peak oil has come and gone will be the first step to healing our addiction to oil and coal. Funny how the Leave No Trace folks have a car on their homepage. Until we stop denying that our carbon addiction has destabilized climate and create reasonable rewards for carbon sequestration as well as penalties for blasting it into the atmosphere, there will be those who will not reign in their assault. We need to understand that our invisible footprint, generated when our actions in nature are mediated by petro-carbon fueled energy, rather than human energy, it is still an assault on pristine, no, sacred beauty.  I plant trees as part of my healing as much as to heal the planet. I urge others to join me. Together we can create a desired future state capable sustaining human life, a planet worth living in.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Great Lakes

This is...
These freshwater seas have always felt like home to me.
In the foreground, the Finger Lakes can be seen. When I was bicycling around the Great Lakes, I came into the top right of the picture on my way back from rounding the North Shore of Lake Superior. My route, contained within this photo, which took about two weeks at fifty miles (80 km) per day on average, came down The East shore of Georgian Bay, roughly followed the Severn-Trent Canal and rounded the nearest point in this picture crossing at the Thousand Islands Crossing, coming back from Canada. I took a few days off  (as well as being off the photo)to recuperate at the Canton Canoe Weekend. A special shout out to all my friends from Outing Club!

After that, I headed West again, pretty much hugging the shore the rest of the way home to Green Bay.

As I ponder this image, it is basically a look back from the downwind part of our airshed. Just as the water follows gravity, through clefts in the rock and dunes, the air wafts from our tailpipes and smokestacks, our fossil fuel powered electric generating stations and the wires that transmit that power, our heat islands are clearly evident way back, poking through the clouds. You can see a few black smudges and holes poked through the cloud bank that obscures Lake Michigan. I'm sure that each person who looks deeply into the image, at least those who know the area will see all sorts of different things in it, but for me who has pedaled his way through the image, it still has the power to amaze and mesmerize me. When I was a child, and had the dream to ride my bicycle around the Great Lakes, to see how large they had to be, to be able to dilute the poisons and terrific amounts of waste that we clogged them with when I was growing up. What I found is that they are actually pretty small jewels relative to our planet. The fact that they contain 20% of all the liquid fresh water on the planet is all one needs to know about why I dedicate my life to saving them.

Millions of tree seeds have been planted by our organization, tens of thousands of seedlings and saplings have been planted as well. This is to say nothing of the forbes, the composting and the aeration of long depleted areas that frequently start the whole process of regeneration. We are currently working to transform ever more acreage faster because forest cover, (especially on high ground, susceptible to wind erosion, marginal or steep slopes and along watercourses where runoff can carry massive sediment and nutrient loads) is essential if we are to reverse the flow of carbon from fossil fuel to the atmosphere.

We can only do as much as we can afford to do. We give as much time as possible. All the work is done as a labor of love, but all of our trees are either purchased with donations, or grown from seed which requires even more hours of our time. To give a bit of perspective, it costs about ten dollars per tree to get it, plant it and protect it. We do get some benefits from scale and the larger your donation, the lower the cost per tree. The nurseries that we deal with often give us steep discounts because of our commitment to maintaining an all-volunteer staff. Just because our trees are planted, the airshed is already being scrubbed of some carbon, with your help, we can do more.