Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Testing, testing!

The Gaia Gardens blog feed is getting too big after 4 years and FeedBurner, the app that distributes our Blog posts has been firing random posts once in a while.

I apologize for these snafus and am trying to fix the problem...

Poki

Friday, September 22, 2017

Back in New Mexico. Still looking for Land

A year ago, after not finding a suitable property for the land trust, I decided to move to Colorado in the hope of finding land to fulfill the mission of the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust (MACLT).
 

In May of 2016, I posted an announcement on this blog about a promising property in Paonia, where I moved to last November. That post has since been deleted (as to not create confusion) because my assessment of that property, and the town’s culture and politics, prompted me to return to New Mexico to continue my land search.

On my first foray in New Mexico looking for land, I stumbled upon White Oaks, a ghost town from the 1890’s (population 20), located 12 miles NE of Carrizozo (population 1,000) and 40 miles from Ruidoso (population 10,000). The town is at the feet of the Jicarilla Mountains at 6,200 feet of elevation, adjacent to the million-acre Lincoln National Forest. It is located in SE New Mexico, 2 hours from Albuquerque and 3 hours from Santa Fe.



White Oaks

I originally went to White Oaks to look at a 40-acre parcel that unfortunately sold 6 days before I got there.  I have now visited White Oaks six times since June 2017, meeting more of the town’s folks each time.  Each visit to White Oaks has been inspiring and nourishing.  I find its residents authentic, intelligent, open-minded, quirky, sweet and fun.  Although it is far from the city, I think both the town and its surroundings make an attractive destination for people in search of unusual, quiet and restful.  The drive on U.S. Routes 285 and 54 is easy and beautiful.  

I have been in conversation with 4 long-term residents of White Oaks about MACLT:

Jaimee has lived in White Oaks for 15 years.  She owns 20 acres and runs a small tree nursery that specializes in desert-adapted fruit trees.  She also trains horses, and was a competitive rider in her younger days.

Anne has lived in White Oaks for 16 years and is the real estate agent for the area.  She has 3 donkeys with French names and lives in an 1892 Victorian house that she occasionally rents out for movie productions.  

Karen is a psychologist working for the State of New Mexico who specializes in autistic children.  She owns the only remaining sandstone building in town (called the Brown building from the original owner’s name), as well as two larger parcels (35 and 27 acres) adjacent to town.  She has 8 acre-feet of irrigation water rights attached to one of her wells.  Karen offered part of one of her parcels (7 acres) but it is too steep for development.

Don is a fourth generation resident (his grandma left him a one-acre lot in town), and a genius-of-all-mechanical-trades.  He has experience in Earthship and adobe construction.  He has a well-organized boneyard full of construction material, welding equipment, sawmill, backhoe, and dump truck (all the tools a homesteader dreams of!), and is excited about teaching practical skills to young people.


School House


The presentations that I have made about MACLT in White Oaks were well received.  I have felt very welcome, as well as appreciated for who I am and what I propose to bring to the town.

White Oaks could benefit from an influx of younger folks, the establishment of a small farm, and over time -the creation of small cottage industries. The town has only one sandstone building still standing, a brick schoolhouse that is on the historical registry, two Victorian houses, a fire station, a bar open on the weekend, and remnants from mine operations, as well as a few houses and old mining shacks.  There is good ground water and some natural springs in the hills.  Karen  is exploring the possibility of buying or leasing  land to build a tiny house park.  A café is also in the long-term plans, and Karen and Don have already purchased the needed restaurant equipment.  The intellectual, artistic and skills capital are all present for the rejuvenation of a tiny town, and its residents seem excited and ready for some new blood (Don said: “bring it on!”).

Anne's House

There are only a few properties currently for sale in White Oaks, none of them suited to the needs of MACLT development.  The town is still legally platted with tiny lots from the mining days, which are not buildable as they are too small for a well permit or septic system.  I am now visiting White Oaks every Wednesday and Thursday to meet more of the town’s resident and see if one of them would be willing to sell some of their land. Because the population is aging, the prospect of a caring house on the MACLT property may appeal to town residents who would like to finish their days in White Oaks.  

During my visit last week, I met some new folks:  

An elderly couple has 20 acres at the entrance of town.  He used to work for LANL and she is a great gardener.

An elderly woman with 80 acres at the edge of town.  She has horses and is a writer. She showed me her pistol grip shotgun that she welcomes hunters with when they trespass on her property (she must be 70 and barely 5’)

A biologist, his partner and their 6 year-old daughter, who are  interested in putting their property in conservation in a few years.

Ivy is a successful potter who lives a few miles up in the hills above town.

If a property manifests in White Oaks or elsewhere in New Mexico, my plan is to first build a rustic but comfortable camp (platforms with army-type tents, composting toilets, outdoor kitchen and showers) and start welcoming individuals and groups interested in helping design the permaculture master plan for the property.

Some of these individuals may be interested in becoming resident members of the land trust, interns wanting to learn all aspects of homesteading in the hi-desert, young farmers looking for a place to farm and raise a family, organizations in NM interested in using the land trust for educational retreats, or individuals simply interested in being connected to a rural farm community that they can visit and enjoy.


The Brown Building

Even though my focus is on White Oaks for the moment, I am also keeping my eyes on other areas closer to Santa Fe.  Should you be aware of any property suited for MACLT, please feel free to contact me here.

MACLT could purchase a property and keep its former owner(s) on the property (they maintain ownership of their house).  Easements could be created on the property to add benefits to the seller in the form of tax credits.  For more details please see here.

And finally… the New Mexico Community Foundation, our fiscal-sponsor who has held the funds ($38,000) that we raised for MACLT in 2014-15, has notified us that we have to use the funds by the end of the year or risk losing them (they would be distributed to other nonprofit projects with a similar goal).

It has been a long journey since Gaia Gardens closed in 2015.  I have driven 50,000 miles since then, crisscrossing the country during the elections, attending permaculture gatherings, lending a hand at Standing Rock, and looking for property in New Mexico and Colorado. I even spent a week in Utah looking for land as I have good permaculture friends in Salt Lake.

Lots has happened on the world stage and consequently I am more inspired and committed than ever to experimenting with the creation of sustainable rural community focused on permaculture education, affordable housing, food production, and life skills sharing.

More than ever, my heart looks forward to creating an oasis in the desert and welcoming people from all walks of life to experience sanity, beauty, community, in a setting that’s multi-generational, inspiring, accessible and fun.

I look forward to hearing from anyone with ideas, resources or just a little hello.

To be continued….

Poki

Monday, December 26, 2016

Goodbye Santa Fe


I wish to begin with a Big Thank You to all the people who contributed to making Gaia Gardens, and my initiation as a farmer, one intensely profound experience.  

First and foremost, my co-conspirator and dearest friend Dominique, who makes beauty of whatever she touches and helped hold a loving space for all the people who came to the farm. 

To the volunteers who made us feel like a family and fed the holy fire of community. 

To all the sweet people at the Farmers’ Market, who cheered us on all along, whether they were our customers or not. 

To all the farmers I befriended and fell in love with. 

To all the organizations and sponsors who understood our worthy and noble cause. 

To my cat, who constantly made me laugh and reminded me to always stay somewhat feral. 

To the teacher who inspired me to look at soil as what a farmer really grows. 

To our neighbor, who through her determination to destroy the farm, helped make us popular and successful.

To all the city officials and food justice activists who helped bring more food security awareness to the community.

To the Gaia Gardens property owner, who offered his land for farming so generously and stood by us all along. 

To the local Press who did mostly a very good job at covering the issues and standing up for what’s right. 

To all the attorneys who helped us fend off an administration and neighbor bent on keeping the farm from operating.

To all the residents of the Los Chamisos Homeowners Association, our direct neighbors, who saw the farm as an asset to the neighborhood and showered us with kindness.

And finally to all the seed growers and seed keepers without whom this would not be written.  

Many people expressed their sadness at the farm closing and my relocating to Colorado.  Of course it is sad when a beautiful community hub like Gaia Gardens disappears.  Many of us understand how beneficial a vibrant and welcoming farm can be to a neighborhood.  Of course it is sad to have so many people are deprived of the opportunity to stop by the farm and dip into a dynamic oasis of fertility and human interactions.

It is sad for me to no longer be able to hold a place for community to gather.  For me the farm was way more than growing food. Just like a Café is more than just about coffee.  These places always serve an essential function in the building of community.  People need to interact socially for some fundamental soul nourishment.  On a farm, people also get to interact with a vibrant and self-reflective ecosystem.  Together with the farm, we learn.  How to grow food.  How to grow as people.  How to grow as community.

I am personally pleased with the amount of human relationships we helped weave.  Through our community potlucks, open-house policy, volunteer time and at the Farmers’ Market.  For me it is probably the most important measure of our success.  We made friends and felt very loved.

It is my hope that what we accomplished, with community cooperation and very little resources, will inspire others with vision and passion to keep re-greening the city with a tapestry of “farm-gardens”, where people trade their crops or buy from their neighbors.  Where paths connect gardens so children can play and the wildlife has a home in the city.

Over the course of four years of farming near an arroyo, I experienced a connection and communication with birds that I wish every child on Earth to have.  Birds seem to know who the farmer is, the one who cultivates plants and supports the birth of seeds, season after season.  They see you everyday in the garden.  They always hide in the bush near where you pee in the morning, and seem to chirp you up for a good day. They come for food and water but stay around the farm-their home.  

After we closed the farm, Dominique and I committed to planting the next season for the wildlife.  And we did.  And that makes me very happy to have made so many friends with so many birds.

The difficulties we encountered from a neighbor’s opposition and a less than enlightened City administration dramatically increased my workload and stress level.  Farming in itself is difficult enough without having to spend countless hours in meetings with attorneys, and being seriously impaired in our ability to operate freely as an educational center.

When I started Gaia Gardens, I already knew that the property was in foreclosure.  I was willing to take a chance, and attempt to make a positive impact on the City, even if I only had a year to do so.  Circumstances made it so that we were able to farm for four seasons.  The uncertainty about the future of the property was a strong factor in making the decision to close the farm.

But it was not the only reason.  My stress level made me brittle.  I wasn’t operating at my best.  My workload-farming year-round, writing grants, working with school gardens, dealing with a bureaucratic firestorm, helping draft an urban farming ordinance and managing the 7-unit rental property that the farm was located on, was an initiation of tough proportion.  My nervous system and Soul were ready for a break. 

When we began working together, Dominique and I had just met.  She rented a studio on the farm.  She jumped right in while also finishing her Masters degree and working as a Massage Therapist.  The farm workload and stress increased for her as well.  Without her complete devotion to people, plants and animals, the farm would have never been what it was.

As much as the economics of Gaia Gardens were successful by all standards, we also depended on small grants, donations and paid work at school gardens.

For me, it became increasingly difficult to work so hard while making so little money.  I had to be honest with the imbalance in my life.  I was working to nourish people yet felt depleted.

Dominique and I assessed that we had done our best, learned a lot, touched a lot of people, fed an abundance of wildlife and survived our friendship. We both intuitively knew that it was time to wrap it up and move on to new creative endeavors dear to our hearts.

I took a year off, went traveling, promoted a documentary that was made on the farm, got immersed in the Bernie fever, started dancing again, went to Standing Rock and began exploring where I would be drawn and inspired to acquire land for the MilAbrazos Community Land Trust, which was birthed out of the farm momentum.

After six months of looking for land, I have chosen to relocate to Paonia, on the Western Slopes of Colorado.  It is and adorable and creative agricultural community that has welcomed me with a warm heart.  Should your whereabouts take you to this part of the West, feel free to stop by for a visit.

I will miss my friends in Santa Fe and will visit once in a while.  

Thank you again for all the Love and support you gave us!

With immense gratitude,

Poki

Monday, June 27, 2016

Help Restore the Creativity for Peace Memorial Garden




















CALL for VOLUNTEERS

Help Restore the Creativity for Peace Memorial Garden


WORK PARTY: Saturday, July 2, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at Camp (just before Glorieta)

In 2009, a 15 year-old former camper from Gaza along with two of her sisters and a cousin were killed in the fighting between Israel and Gaza. Later that year, our campers and staff created a memorial garden on our camp land to honor these young women and as a place of contemplation and remembrance for all those affected by war and violence.

As the camp is not occupied year-round, time and nature have left their marks. We now need to infuse care and love back into this garden. We have received a cash donation to help with the project as well as materials donated by local businesses. Now we need a few volunteers to undertake the garden restoration and year-round maintenance.

If you can help with this project, please contact: Kirsten: kirsten@creativityforpeace.com

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Garden Parties have started!

Dominique and I were blessed to share Easter morning in the garden with our dear friend George…he lifted our spirits and renewed our desire to continue hosting volunteer days. 

George had just attended Easter mass at the Cathedral and was all pumped up!  He even had a dream a few days before that he was Pope!

I got my camera to capture a bit of his rapture.



https://vimeo.com/160541673/93c752563b














On Monday, George showed up again, brought a friend with him, and a couple other folks joined us for our volunteer time.








We bundled dried basil stalks from last year as some beekeepers use the stalks in their bee smokers.





 
















We also cleaned up the beds by the farm office and amended them with some pretty lovely compost.

The weather is supposed to warm up so we'll start transplanting next Sunday.

Come join us!


Volunteer Days

Sundays  11:00-1:00pm  
Mondays  3:00-5:00pm 



Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Fever



















Yesterday was our first garden party of the season.  As you may know, we've announced that, if enough volunteers commit to work with us, we'll give the produce we grow to the Food Depot.

Three of us showed up yesterday and we got a little bit done...























































Most of the beds have been cleaned and amended with fresh compost, all the bird and rodent damage to the irrigation lines have been repaired, and a few beds have been seeded with carrots, beets, turnips and radishes.


























Our friend Juaquin, who works on a demonstration farm in Encinitas, CA, gifted us many starts.

Our one remaining greenhouse is getting pretty full.

For the next few weeks we will hold Work Parties on:

Sundays  11:00-1:00pm
Mondays  3:00-5:00pm 

If these days/times don't work for you, feel free to contact us.

We will add more days and times as more people are interested.


Over the years we have noticed that the garden loves to be visited, stroked, laughed upon & sung to…life appreciating connection and recognition…
 

So come!!  Join us in tending to this dear friend.

Dominique, Lauren and Poki 











Saturday, March 12, 2016

Seeking Volunteers to Grow Produce for the Food Depot
















Dear Community,

Dominique and I are clear that we are not doing a farming season this year, as was announced last fall.

We are now focused on the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust project.

We still live on the farm property and have beautiful soil, plenty of seeds and irrigation.

We were going to plant wild flowers and a few vegetables, turn the irrigation on and let Nature do her magic dance.

However, as of late, I am thinking that if we get enough committed volunteers, we could grow plenty of food and donate it to the Food Depot.

If you recall, at the end of last season, we donated 1.5 tons of fresh produce to the food bank.

Should you feel drawn to spend a couple of hours per week in the garden, we could have fun playing in the dirt together, while providing fresh food to the underserved.

It would be a beautiful thing to do, continuing in the spirit of Gaia Gardens, as well as honoring our dedication to serving the community.

So think about it.  If interested, please email us or call: 505-796-6006

In Gratitude,

Poki