Easter morning

As I sit reading and listening to Chopin this morning, I’m so aware of the changes in the earth cycle. The sun now rises farther south than it had at winter solstice. We have a clear view of the Green Mountains to our east and so can follow the track of the sun throughout the year. That sun is shining on my face, the temperature outside being only 37 degrees fahrenheit yet my face is warm from the sun and the coziness in my home.

The onions, planted as seeds only weeks ago, are straining for that sun, their stalks bending to the southern windows in the sunroom. I turn them around each day to help them grow tall and strong. I cut their tops as though they were grass, which strengthens them even more. Soon we’ll have the grow lights all set and will begin to plant the remaining seeds.

It’s such a time of growth and rebirth! I revel in the beauty of the earth and its rhythms. Yet a part of me holds the sadness of the suffering that abounds. The fear and sadness from the destruction in Syria and Belgium in this last week are very much on my mind. The planned fracked-gas pipeline planted in the ground not far from where I live is a constant reminder that we continue to make decisions with a short-term view. It’s what has gotten us in trouble all along. And Bill McKibben’s recent article in The Nation (http://www.thenation.com/article/global-warming-terrifying-new-chemistry/) confirms that fracking is bringing about even more destruction than earlier thought possible.

Yet our very human nature allows us to find joy in what is immediately around us, our grandchildren, our loving partners, our friends and neighbors, and Earth’s great green beauty. And I continue to have hope that we can turn the tide. The Transition Movement provides proof that there are so many people around the world who really care and are willing to give their time and love to make a difference.

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Back connecting to everyone

I’ve been busy this last year or so writing a book. It’s now with the publisher and will be available by June 2016. Many of you are in my book. So many voices from the many places I visited in 2011 and after are included. The title is “Rising to the Challenge: The Transition Movement and People of Faith.”

I am so committed to the process that is offered through the Transition Movement. I have seen how communities, neighborhoods, streets, and more have been strengthened by creating a Transition Initiative where everyone is invited to participate. I’ve learned of the tremendous efforts to make Transition more inclusive. I’m inspired by the creativity and hope shared by so many people who are involved.

So I will now continue to share what I learn and share the experiences of my own Transition Initiative. I’m hoping to write about once a week and welcome your comments.

In the volatile climate of the political primary season here in the U.S.A., we are needing even more the connection with our neighbors to allow for time to eat together, laugh, and share our visions for a better world. In the volatile climate of the surge in refugees entering the E.U. we need the same connections and to find ways to be welcoming (and we need to do that in the U.S.A.).

Mitigating and adapting to climate change and the ensuing climate disruption has to be a priority. And we in the Transition Movement know the power and solution of local efforts. And we must be working to promote climate justice. We who have the luck to be well fed and properly housed need to look at our own complicity in our daily choices that give rise to climate change and the injustices to the poor as a result. Transition offers a positive approach to all of us to make a difference without resorting to despair.

I want to hear your stories. How has Transition made a difference in your lives?

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Preparing for winter

Ah, the temperature is dropping, there’s a fire in the wood stove, the leaves have almost all fallen, and when the sun shines it’s bright and sparkly. I love this time of year. I’m full of anticipation of a winter of writing and quilt-making. This quilt will be done by May of 2016 for a granddaughter’s college graduation. Two have already received theirs. It’s a labor of love which I do all by hand.

An exciting development in my life is the book I’m co-authoring with Steve Chase of Transition Putney, Vermont. It’s title is Building Beloved Communities in an Unsustainable World: A Transition Town Primer for People of Faith. We hope it will be completed and in circulation by summer 2015. It will be published by Quaker Institute for the Future (QIF), but will have a multi-faith focus. I’ll keep you posted.

Now to throwing a few logs on the fire, and back to writing.

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Transition Town Charlotte, Vermont, USA

Our Transition Town had a fun dinner, making plans for the coming year. We are involved in two edible gardens, one at the local library and one at the Congregational Church in town. We oversee the collection of electronic waste once a year. We have an email list which includes more that 200 people (we live in a small town). We have a directory of people’s skills to share. We work with the town Energy Committee which is attempting to get the town buildings retrofitted to net-zero-energy buildings. We have composting at our local school and gardens there too. And we have hosted a number of movie nights and speakers over the last couple of years.

One effort that I’m involved in is to create a community pub/meeting place. Our town doesn’t have such a place and we think such a place would help foster community.

So, we’re busy and we’re having fun while we work.

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Back writing again

It has been some time since I’ve written, but I’ll be back regularly. You’ll see from below that we’ve had some chaos in our lives.

One might not call our lives “quiet” by outward standards, but throughout our married life we have had many hours of evening quiet—reading, playing word games, or watching a movie. Louis and I met in June, 1994 at a Quaker Earthcare Witness[1] (QEW) meeting in Massachusetts. It was my first time attending a QEW Steering Committee meeting, though Louis had been attending since 1989 and was a member of the Steering Committee.


It wasn’t love at first sight, but I had been reading Louis’s articles in the BeFriending Creation newsletter (BFC) and admired his writing skills and insights. I enjoyed meeting Louis and we do remember doing cleanup and washing dishes together one evening. I was very taken with his chromatic harmonica playing. It was filled with tenderness and was really quite wonderful. But other than a few interactions over meals we didn’t have much opportunity to get to know one another.


My time at the meeting was a bit frenetic. After registering to attend, and prior to the meeting, I had submitted my application to be the sole employee of QEW. So, while at the meeting the search committee decided to interview me since I might get on the short list of applicants. It was a joyous and fun interview over breakfast, everyone dressed in shorts and by the next meeting in October I was announced as the new General Secretary and Business Manager.


Over the coming months I had many opportunities to interact with Louis about publications matters via internet and at a March Steering Committee meeting, where we went grocery shopping for supplies for the meeting, so that by the time June rolled around in 1995, we felt we knew each other quite well. In short, one starry night we took a walk and our lives were changed forever. Since Louis lived in Missouri and I in Vermont it took six months to untangle relationships and possessions and by December 1995 we were living together in the woods of Vermont in an off-grid, home-built house.


Since my three children were already adults and Louis had chosen not to have children (due mainly to the issue of over-population of humans on Earth), it was just the two of us unless the children and grandchildren descended on us for a visit. So you can picture the kind of life we developed in our cozy nest, finding out what we jointly liked to do and finding the rhythm to our joint life.


Now, this doesn’t mean that we lived quiet lives. We were, and still are, both actively involved in the life of Burlington Friends Meeting (Quaker). We also are involved in the life of our community. We care about the fate of the earth and want very much to help create a healthy and sane world, so working on environmental issues in Charlotte, our town, seemed a natural match. Since I worked for QEW and Louis eventually became the QEW Publications Coordinator, we were active on a national (and sometimes international) campaign to help people deepen their relationship with Earth and lower their ecological and carbon footprints. This took us to many parts of North America, Central America, Cuba, and England.


Our personal work evolved into a real strong focus on where we lived, helping spawn the “localvore” movement (eating and focusing on local foods), and, several years ago, co-founding Transition Town Charlotte.[2] We’ve also been very involved in our local Quaker Meeting, serving in a variety of capacities and on many different committees. We’ve been a terrific team, with complementing skills and with lots of mutual appreciation.


 This photo is what our home looked like before our lives radically changed.

Over our years together we’ve increased our vegetable gardens to include many fruits as well and have grown enough to “put up” for the winter plenty of food to keep the sun in our lives through the dark days of winter. And during those dark winter months a typical evening would find us sharing our time by Louis reading aloud to me while I worked on a quilt.


So, why would we have been open to be approached by our son and daughter-in-law, Rich and Jenny, with the idea to move in with us with two of their school-age children? And why would they want to move from sunny Southern California to the winters of Vermont? Read on to learn of our reasons, goals, and experiences as we joined lives. And also read, in their own words, what each family member’s hopes, vision, and experience has been.


(This  was written in the midst of our home construction site with no one having a completed space of their own and with a new dog on the scene who wasn’t cat-friendly, (and a cat who didn’t understand why the dog was so aggressive) so chaos had descended on the little Toad Road homestead.)



[1] When QEW was founded it was called Friends Committee on Unity with Nature (FCUN) and although it’s name wasn’t changed until 2004 it’s easier for me to just use the current name throughout this book.


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Review of The Transition Companion

The Transition Companion—Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times. Rob Hopkins, 2011, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont
What if the best responses to peak oil and climate change don’t come from government, but from you and me and the people around us?—Rob Hopkins
MAYBE YOU’VE already read Rob Hopkins’s first book, The Transition Handbook. Maybe you’re involved in a Transition initiative in your community. Or maybe you’re just curious and just want to learn more about the fast-growing international Transition movement. In any case, you’ll be in for a great treat reading his new book, The Transition Companion.
The original book was published about five years ago, when the movement was very new, as a beginner’s guide to starting, encouraging, and participating in a Transition Initiative. Key elements of Transition work were described in terms of re-skilling for resilience (e.g., canning, tool care, home health care), nurturing local communities, and supporting local economies.
While the original handbook analyzed the successes of just a few pioneering Transition initiatives, the new book is able to share hundreds of examples out of the thousands of Transition initiatives world-wide, ranging from diverse towns and cities to islands, universities, and even neighborhoods.
Since Part Three (the final part) of The Transition Companion” has a “starting out” section titled, “How the Transition movement does what it does—ingredients for success,” you could just read the new book and learn most of what was included in the first book. The remaining sections in Part Three are “Deepening,” “Connecting,” “Building,” and “Daring to Dream.”
Part Two, “Why Transition Initiatives Do What They Do,” begins with this important observation about diversity within the Transition movement:
“People get involved in their local Transition initiatives for a range of reasons. Although when Transition started it was framed very much as a response to peak oil and climate change, as time has passed and the idea has taken root in more and more places, it has been fascinating to see the wide range of reasons why people get involved.”
It moves on to the varied, delightful reasons that people get involved in Transition, including, “because it feels way more fun than not doing it” and “because of wanting a fairer world.” Along with all the descriptions of great tools and strategies used by various Transition initiatives are wonderful color photos of real people making a difference where they live.
Hopkins doesn’t guarantee what the outcome will be. In fact the movement’s publications always include this “cheerful disclaimer:”
“Transition is not a known quantity. We truly don’t know whether Transition will work. It is a social experiment on a massive scale. What we are convinced of is this:
v If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too late.
v If we act as individuals, it’ll be too little.
v But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.”
THIS BOOK IS FUN, informative, inspirational, and very helpful for our very necessary transition to a warmer, post-petroleum world. The book helped me better understand the next steps my local Transition initiative needs to take to make us truly relevant to our community. If you want to learn more about Quakers involved in the Transition movement, go to http://www.quakersintransition.wordpress.com

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Transition Los Angeles?

Since Transition is all about connection, resilience, and community, how is it possible to have a Transition Los Angeles, or Paris, or Barcelona? It is daunting to think of trying to support a Transition Initiative in a city of 3,792,621 people (according to the Los Angeles 2010 census) or 11,000,000 people in the greater LA area. So, with that question in mind, I set off to discover Transition Los Angeles.

According to their brochure:

Transition Los Angeles was established in late 2008 as a city hub to support the blossoming of Transition ideas among the residents of Los Angeles. Local initiatives have sprouted up across the greater LA basin…..with more in formation.

I had made a date to meet with Joanne Poyourow who has been a part of Transition Los Angeles (TLA) since the beginning. She’s also a blogger on the TransitionUS website. Since I did not want to rent a car, it was very interesting arranging to get to her in the Westchester area of L.A. Having grown up in the Los Angeles area, I remember when it was impossible to cross the city without a car. Now I could get on a transportation website to figure out a route from Hemet, where my son lives, to Joanne’s neighborhood.

I took an early commuter bus from Hemet, which is out in the desert kind of towards Palm Springs area, to Riverside transit center. There I took a Metrolink train in-town to Los Angeles Union Station. I then had to walk about a block to catch a bus which traveled in a special lane right down the very busy freeway! In fact the bus dropped me off in the middle of the freeway with stairs heading down to the street where I caught another bus out to within 3 blocks of where I was to meet Joanne. I write all of this because I was so impressed that it could actually be done and within a fairly short period of time with short wait times between buses and trains. It’s what’s in store for all of us in the future when personal cars may no longer be available or desirable.

Joanne and I met in a beautiful, small community garden with flowers and vegetables that was created on the lawn of a church. The church wanted to make the change from lawns to food and there was a ready set of hands in the neighborhood to do the work. I began by asking Joanne about how Transition LA City Hub works.

Joanne said many people ask her, “which comes first, the local group or the hub?” For LA the hub came first because at the first Transition Training the 19 participants came from all over the area and they felt they needed a support system to keep the momentum going.

At the very beginning, in late 2008, Mar Vista/Venice, Westchester, and Culver City neighborhoods were groups in formation. Now, in 2011 they have a total of eight active pods and on the cusp of having 11. Early on they made a decision not to localize by geographic area, but instead by where people felt a sense of belonging. I love the fact that on their website there are individuals identified in certain areas who are looking for others to work with. What a great networking tool that is!

Joanne explained that this growth of initiatives stretches the work needed in the hub. Up until this point they have been in start up mode: no legal organization, all volunteer, and rather amorphous. But it has become difficult since there’s more work to be done. They are about to change a whole lot, but don’t know quite how. Joanne feels confident that how they’ll change will come as they together discern the next steps. They have a leadership team of 28 people with monthly meetings and are connected electronically. They have at least one representative from each pod (an earthy, permaculture approach to naming the initiatives), though not everyone can come to every meeting. All meetings have so far been face-to-face, knowing that being “techno-centric” may cut out many people in the city.

The work of the individual LA Transition Initiatives is very localized. The hub acts as a facilitating device and uses its ability to bring in important speakers and host larger events. The hub helps when local groups encounter leadership issues, or need some guidance.

Joanne is excited by how fast it’s growing and how individualized each pod is. The challenge is the size of the area. The leadership team doesn’t look at the big picture very often. They don’t think about the fact that there’s eleven million people out there and worry that most of them don’t know about Transition. Instead they “put one foot in front of the other” and stay focused on what they can do. Joanne said this is better than doing nothing and it’s also moving them in the right direction. Some of the leadership people have been involved with Occupy LA, bringing food and information to the crowds. They find opportunities wherever they can.

When I asked Joanne why she was attracted to the Transition model, she said she feels it’s about the only model which can address the combined issues of peak oil, climate change, economic contraction, and social justice. It involves all the petals of the permaculture flower. In fact Joanne published a novel, Legacy, about using permaculture as an inspiration for humans to transition from an oil-based culture to one without oil, and just before publication she found Rob Hopkins work, and realized that all the way across the planet someone else came to the very same conclusions! She also said that she can’t imagine doing anything else with her life.

Her vision for Los Angeles is what her book covers. For the book she had created a time-line for success. Now that the Transition movement is active, she has seen that constructed time-line shorten for the positive changes of transition and that excites her. One vision includes food gardens permeating the whole area. She now sees that the food base is happening so much faster than she ever imagined.

She believes that the world vision is what is coming out of Rob Hopkin’s work–that he is the “visioner.” She also said that we are in a grieving phase and that the vision will only come after that phase. She also said that since being world-globalized is a contradiction to transition, there really can’t be a “world” vision. It must be made up of local visions, that are human scale.

Because of the many challenges towards Transition in a city as large as LA, and because we all face huge challenges to make change in our culture, Joanne has given a lot of thought to how we will survive severely-depressed economic times and has written a blog entry on economic resilience, which can be found at http://economicresilience.blogspot.com. We have to take seriously that our future will be very different from how we live now and Transition is one very meaningful path to that resilient future.

I’m excited by this hub model and believe it can work in small cities as well as large. In fact, even in my small town, I think we could divide into neighborhoods and communicate through a hub-like communications group. Let’s next see what’s been happening in Brazil! Tune in.

There’s an opportunity available for you to help with funding for the Transition 2.0 video by going to http://www.transitionnetwork.org/news/2011-08-02/transition-2-film-crowd-funding-call. Transition 1.0, available for free on http://www.transitionnetwork.org has been watched by thousands who have been inspired to start Transition communities around the world. Transition 2.0 exposes the more mature movement, including the voices and faces of people who are already involved and excited about the movement. I hope you’ll consider contributing.

I’m ending with this great poem by Wendell Berry, since it has inspired me:

“If we pursue limitless ‘growth’ now, we impose ever-narrower limits on the future.
If we put spending first, we put solvency last.
If we put wants first, we put needs last.
If we put consumption first, we put health last.
If we put money first, we put good last.
If for some spurious reason such as ‘economic growth’ or ‘economic recovery,’ we put people and their comfort first, before nature and land-based economies, then Nature sooner or later will put people last.”

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Birthing a Transition Initiative

Richard Heinberg’s latest book, The End of Growth–Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, clearly outlines why we’ve come to the end of economic growth after so many years of continuous, unbridled growth which created a bubble that was bound to burst. Fortunately he provides some guidelines for “Life After Growth” instead of only focusing on the doom and gloom. I was delighted that he suggests Transition Initiatives as a viable alternative which lends support to what I believe is the hope for the future. Sometimes I ask myself why I’m reading another book about the doom and gloom senario. But often each author provides another piece of the puzzle and Heinberg’s book definitely does that.

As a counter to the doom and gloom, I just read that Local Motion (my county’s bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization) won another important victory in Burlington. From their website: “The Public Works Commission voted 4-to-1 on October 19 to approve a city-wide 25-mph speed limit! After 11 years of advocacy, Local Motion succeeded in getting the City to adopt this forward-thinking policy. Livable communities require slow streets. A car-pedestrian collision is 9 times more likely to be fatal at 30mph than 20mph. Slow and constant speeds (in contrast to fast stop and go traffic) mean less traffic noise, more predictable behavior, more fuel efficiency and greater safety. To our knowledge, Burlington is the first Vermont municipality to do a city-wide study and set a city-wide speed limit. Our hope is that communities across Vermont will look to set village-wide or town center wide limits that can be clearly conveyed to the public.”

This is what good, engaged Transition Communities can do. Burlington was one of the first cities in the country to develop a sustainability plan, The Legacy Project (www.burlingtonlegacyproject.org), which provided the foundation for many good initiatives, such as Local Motion. That kind of activity is often the precursor to the great work of Transition Initiatives. In my small town the Charlotte Sustainable Living Network morphed into Transition Charlotte. During my travels I have encountered similar stories in many towns and cities. What difference does Transition bring to the work? It provides a common, well-planned framework and common language to help communities recognize the network of good work being done nearby and around the world. It can also be the link among all the separate good works in a community, allowing the good workers to feel part of something larger.

In like fashion, Bloomington-Normal, Illinois the Vision 2020 initiative has been wondering if helping to create a Transition Initiative will provide the glue needed to continue their work. I was invited by Carolyn and Roy Treadway, Quaker friends of mine involved with Vision 2020, to give a public talk earlier this month in Bloomington-Normal and meet with those who showed interest in becoming the core initiating group.

Carolyn, being a great organizer, arranged for radio interviews, the talk being video-taped, and brought out a crowd of more than 90 people. She also arranged for me to meet with Becky Wilson, a local Transition Trainer. Becky and her husband Bill are the co-founders of Midwest Permaculture and helped found Transition Stelle, a non-incorporated village of 100 people, which first started as an intentional community. Becky was present at the talk and following discussion to provide official perspectives and offer her and her husband’s (another Transition Trainer) ongoing support for the efforts. At the end of the talk a group of about 15 people stayed to discuss next steps. I’m anxiously awaiting news about whether they are moving forward to be the next U.S. Transition Initiative.

Bloomington-Normal, twin cities with a population of about 130,000, is in the heart of the U.S. “breadbasket.” The cities are surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans which are grown mostly to feed meat animals and to make high-fructose corn syrup. In the midst of this politically conservative area (Illinois has the most nuclear reactors than any other state in the nation with no plans to decommission them) is a University whose students and faculty provide some innovation and there are pockets of terrific conservation efforts. Carolyn and Roy gave me a tour of conserved lands with large wind turbines surrounding them. One small effort we visited is the M. J. Rhymer Family Nature Preserve and Center with re-constructed wetlands, where they are also planting a small forest and prairie. It was very impressive.

When I asked Carolyn what draws her to wanting a Transition Initiative in her area she said that when she heard this quote from Rob Hopkins; “the Energy Descent Plan should be more like a holiday greeting and when you read it you should feel bereft if you do not spend the rest of your life working on this,” the latter part of that sentence grabbed Carolyn because it was a description of the kind of life she wanted to live. She then took a weekend Transition Training and made a commitment to bring the news of Transition to Bloomington-Normal. That was in March of 2009.

Carolyn was also trained by Al Gore four years ago to be one of the first climate presenters and has given more than 50 climate talks since then. She was also trained by Joanna Macy to give despair and empowerment workshops. She sees a link among the Al Gore, Joanna Macy, and Transition work. The Transition Training’s heart work is based on the work of Joanna Macy. Carolyn recognizes that Transition presents a positive approach to change and prefers that to just focusing on the problems. She said presenting just the bad news at the climate talks is not fun.

Carolyn’s vision for Bloomington-Normal includes a community interested in energy descent. “We live on the very best, fertile, prairie land and I’m sad that all that land is being used for commodities rather than for food.” She wants to see a strong effort on agriculture–small-scale, organic farming and also on saving energy in homes and businesses. She hope’s Bloomington-Normal’s efforts to support electric vehicles will grow into efforts to improve all kinds of public and private transportation.

On her better days Carolyn feels there is a global movement for change, but isn’t optimistic overall. Her big question is whether we can change fast enough. She concluded by saying that the work she is doing is for all species on earth.

Roy has been involved in environmental concerns for 50 plus years. He’s worked for a healthy planet both professionally and privately and felt that maybe we were on the brink of real, positive change with a new federal administration and has been disappointed by the lack of governmental innovation. He sees that helping to promote individual and community awareness may bring about swifter action, though he won’t stop writing those letters and pushing for change from the top as well. He sees the Transition movement as a good vehicle for community efforts.

Roy wants to see Bloomington-Normal be a sustainable city that lives within its own means–that it becomes bicycle and pedestrian friendly, develops a better public transportation system, and limits its population growth. He wants all buildings to be built or retrofitted in energy-efficient ways. He sees that some of this has been started in his city, but is hoping for much more.

Roy doesn’t see a global transformation going on. He believes that people are asleep and that they think we’ll find cheap substitutions for the dwindling cheap oil. He doesn’t see the politicians and people in charging buying into the idea that radical change is needed. He thinks that people are uninformed about what a world of ten billion people will look like and that they think we can continue to feed and house and care for that many people on earth without using up our natural resources. But his pessimism doesn’t stop him from acting and he’ll put time into Transition Bloomington-Normal, if it comes about.

I was so lucky that Carolyn introduced me to Becky Wilson. She and her husband Bill have been facilitating Training for Transition weekends in the Midwest for a number of years. They operate a Permaculture landscaping business and really throw their full lives into helping build healthy communities. Because Becky came to Carolyn’s house before my evening talk, we were able to exchange ideas, excite each other, and she graciously allowed me to interview her.

One of the main things that drew her to Transition is that it came out of the Permaculture movement and she and her husband’s primary business is education and permaculture. When Transition came along they realized that it organically emerged from a Permaculture course Rob Hopkins was teaching because the concepts went “viral” on the internet over the Permaculture network. Becky and Bill were excited (Becky said they thought it was “way cool”) that Rob had taken the Permaculture Principles and applied them to communities instead of just to farming. They had previously founded a group, Center for Sustainable Community, looking at David Holmgren’s (one of the Permaculture founders) work on transferring Permaculture ideas farther out to ways of living. They were strongly encouraged to take the first training in the U.S. by some friends of theirs who had gone to the U.K. for its first training. Since then they have jumped in fully to the work. Now when they teach Permaculture Design courses they bring in the Transition aspects to their teaching. (I strongly recommend Holmgren’s book, Future Scenarios, which looks at four possible outcomes of peak oil and climate change.)

Becky’s vision for her area includes seeing more renewable energy uses, better public transportation, and less agri-business farming. Where she lives there are a number of small villages that all send their children to unified schools. The schools become the hub and the strength of the bonds among the residents is very much like the vision of Transition.
She doesn’t think there’s a world vision yet, but that it’s emerging. She does think that people from all walks of life and all continents see that what is happening now, with wars, shipping goods globally, etc. is not sustainable and hopefully from that realization, the people will demand change.

My personal life right now is very focused on the end of the gardening season. We’ve canned pasta sauce, apple pie filling, peaches, pears, and jams. We’ve frozen or stored almost everything else, though still have to bring in the potatoes, turnips, and beets. We still have to plant the garlic and spring onions (Egyptian walking onions–what fun). Then, before the snow flies, we’ll have to get the beds ready for winter. I love the cycle of the seasons and look forward to the dark winter for reading, quilting, and planning the spring plantings! But in the meantime there’s more coming about Transition…..

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Fall gardens, busy days

Working in the garden in the Fall has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures. The days are crisp, the sun is sparkly, and there’s a satisfaction of getting the beds ready for Winter. I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to live in a beautiful and peaceful place. I count my blessings each day, knowing that so many humans and non-humans are suffering around the world. I hope my little bit, living somewhat lightly, working on Transition, urging my legislators to act reasonably on my behalf, and just plain caring, will make a difference.

I haven’t posted in over a month since I’ve accepted a very special, time-consuming job. Louis and are are now legal guardians of our 17-year-old granddaughter. She is living with us and attending her last year of high school nearby. It’s a huge adjustment for her since she was attending a very small (15 students) Quaker, boarding, farm school which closed due to financial constraints. They had no grades, no tests, just written evaluations and lots of writing. She’s now attending a large (1,600 students) public day school with grades, tests, and large classes. So we are trying to help her through these challenging times and it challenges us sometimes!

Now that a month of school has gone by, I’m beginning to find my new daily rhythm and I hope to be writing more. I am continuing my visits with Transition communities, next month in Illinois and California, and through Skype interviews with those in distant countries. I participated in two radio interviews with stations in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois today, sharing the Transition message and promoting my talk next Monday. So, soon you’ll be introduced to more folks involved with Transition.

I’ve been immersed in my own Transition Town work, organizing an Awakening the Dreamer symposium (see http://www.awakeningthedreamer.org) this month. It was a great success. It explores the inner transition that is talked about in the Transition Handbook, and then inspires people to take action. It was our effort for the Moving-Planet Day organized by 350.org. After the symposium, many people carpooled to the rally held at Vermont’s capital.

We are now organizing a Training for Transition in November. We have opened this up to all folks in the Northeast. The more people who get trained, the more committed our members become, the more we are able to share the work load. If you’re in the Northeast of the US, the dates are November 5 and 6 and you can find information on our website: http://www.transitioncharlottevt.org.

We’re planning to approach the town select board this Fall or early Winter and begin a collaboration with its various committees and councils. I’ve also been working with Steve Chase of Transition Keene, a fellow Quaker, on developing a Quakers in Transition website (he’s younger and done lots of the website work, of course) which you can look at at http://www.quakersintransition.wordpress.com.

Whew, busy days, but rich with hope. So, back to the garden, harvesting red peppers and cleaning up some of the beds. What fun!

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Listening to what the land says

Oh, I so looked forward to coming home and then I returned to a heat wave. I had been complaining that I never got warm enough in Europe and then had to suffer 97 degree Fahrenheit temperatures during the day and sweltering nights. But the heat wave’s finally broken and I’m reveling in the lush beauty of a Vermont summer. Our garden is producing lots of berries, summer squash, broccoli, peas, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes so far. What a bounty! I’m loving the weeding and harvesting and especially the cooking. Last night at our neighborhood potluck we had a delicious pasta primavera, a salad from a neighbor’s garden greens, home baked bread, great wine, and another neighbor’s blueberries in a fabulous dessert. With great conversions sprinkled in, what more could one ask for? Currently our land is saying, “produce, produce, produce.”

Bound Brook Farm, not too far from where we live, is owned by friends of ours, Erik Andrus and Erica Hurwitz. Erik and Erica’s dream was to grow wheat, partly to supply Erik’s fledgling bakery and partly to sell in the Champlain valley. Erik started a bread CSA (Community Supported Agricultural farm), selling his excess bread, croissants, and other mouth-watering delights at local farmer’s markets. His goal of a net-zero-energy farm is assisted by the use of horses. What Erik didn’t know about the land he purchase in 2005 was that a good deal of it stays wet and this isn’t good for wheat farming. Pulling up stakes isn’t an option after all the labor to build the house, outdoor wood-fired oven, and other essentials for the bakery. Instead he is learning to adapt in a different way.

Erik is learning that there’s another niche to fill in the Champlain valley, where so many people are focused on eating locally–rice. As he was quoted recently in the Burlington Free Press, “I love bread, and I love beer more than I love a plate of brown rice and a glass of sake–but if my inclination says bread, and the land says rice, I have to listen to what the land says.” And with that said, he’s invested money and time for his first rice harvest this year, hoping to produce 4,000 pounds of the stuff. The rice will be harvested with a horse-drawn reaper binder, and after the drying and threshing, it will be processed with a recently-purchased rice huller Erik ordered from China.

I was so moved by Erik’s statement. Actually, how brilliant is it to truly understand the land where you live, to have a deep sense of place? How often in human history have we not listened to what the land says? Deserts made green for agriculture and cities built where wildlife should have flourished are just two examples of how our incredible human creativity has backfired with unwanted results. What would it be like if we all took the time to observe and listen to the place where we live? It’s one of the basic principle’s of Permaculture. Once you really know your place, observe where the sun shines on the land in all seasons, know the changing temperatures, and observe how the natural world adapts to the place, it’s time to grow your food.

For a free poster of the permaculture ethics and principles, go to http://www.permacultureprinciples.com/downloads/pc_principles_poster.pdf. This poster includes the permaculture flower which has been used to teach the principles.

So, get out there and be present to your place, whether you’re an urban, suburban, or rural dweller. No matter where you live, you can connect to a sense of place and find your place in it. Permaculture principles inspired Rob Hopkins to change the place where he lives, Totnes, England, and see how the world is changing because of his actions? You can do it too.

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