building a beautiful and bountiful world in collaboration with nature

Time to Evolve

Dear Reader,

I have not posted here regularly in quite some time, and am finding that it is time for me to move on. I am leaving this site up because there is some wonderful archival material here – especially if you are interested in nature’s intelligence.

Meanwhile, I am in the process of creating a “real” business – one that satisfies my inner prompting to help people recognize their connection to nature and live a richer and happier life as a result. The new website is

I am opening a blog there by talking about my adventures in reading Bari Tessler’s new book, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness. Come and visit me there.

Much Gratitude,


Taking This Break

imageMy husband and farm partner broke his leg last week while chasing down an unoccupied 1995 Toyota Corolla wagon named Rosemary.  Rosemary was headed for a deep, cement-lined ditch.  She fared just fine as my husband redirected her by steering through the open window.  He’s the one who took the seven-foot cliff-fall onto cement, breaking his left tibia just below the knee.

I know on the outside this sounds like misfortune.  And certainly it’s not an easy situation for us.  But it is a gift that I feel deeply grateful for.

Our life has needed restructuring for several years now.  We were – and still are – overextended.  Way overextended.  We have taken on more than we can do well, but between dreams, passions, and the necessity of having an income, neither of us could figure out what to drop, what to keep, what to change.

We needed a break.  Not the kind where you walk away for a while and then come back and start again, but more the kind where you walk away and don’t return, or return but with a different intent and purpose.

The pattern of this broken leg is showing us the path to the restructuring that needs to happen in our lives.  It has created a template for where to start and what to focus on.

My husband is the one in bed, so his projects are first up for changing, downsizing, redirecting, completing. Our projects are very interwoven, however, like a cell and its mitochondria, so as he makes his choices and decisions, I too must look at where I will make shifts, what I will change.

We are early in this process, but as we have waited for the swelling to go down, for X-rays and CT scans to be taken so that the orthopedists have enough information to advise us on setting and casting the bone, I see the healing and restructuring beginning already.

We are on the path of good fortune.

Nevada County residential treated water customers are being required by the state to reduce their water usage by a whopping 36% starting in June. That’s a figure that brings up images not just of brown lawns but of withering landscapes and shriveled vegetable gardens.

This was the vision in my head fifteen years ago when my husband and I drilled our first well.  The well drilller had gone as deep as we could afford, and I still remember the sense of loss and frustration I felt as he told me we had a gallon and a half per minute.  For a gardener-farmer with big dreams that was a devestatingly small amount. Yet that moment marked the beginning of my personal journey in understanding water.

This young mulberry tree thrives and bears fruit even though the pond behind it has dried up early for 3 years now.

This young mulberry tree thrives and bears fruit with almost no supplemental water, even though the pond behind it has dried up early for 3 years now.

As a certified permaculture designer with 25 years of ecological landscaping experience, I know that it is possible to make big cuts in our water usage while growing food and maintaining healthy landscapes. In fact, many drought-proofing strategies also act to improve soil quality, recharge groundwater, recycle nutrients, and enhance the health of the entire watershed.

But what strategies are right for your situation? Should you mulch or does that create too much fire danger? Do you need a new irrigation system or would investing in a greywater system serve you better, or are both essential? Are swales appropriate for your land or should you try hugelkultur? Are there other options to consider?

These are long-term decisions and investments. When made wisely, from a holistic perspective, they can increase your personal resilience and this community’s resilience not only to drought but to a changing climate as well.

This is why I have created a 2-day workshop designed to offer a comprehensive experience that will save you time and money by ensuring that you have the information you need to make the best choices for your property and for your future. In this workshop you will learn:

  • The 4 top techniques to make your property resilient to drought.
  • Tools for safely and efficiently recycling water from your home to your landscape.
  • How to grow an abundant vegetable garden with limited water.
  • Watering techniques that save water and your landscape.
  • What food and insectary plants are truly drought resistant.
  • How your daily food choices impact our water supply, and how you can improve your health while caring for water, restoring ecosystems, and increasing sustainability.

We will discuss the role of living organisms in the water cycle and what you can do to enhance the full cycle. We will also touch on the amazing nature of water and its role in creating and maintaining life.

You will come away from this workshop not only with practical knowledge and skills, but also feeling empowered, optimistic, and inspired to live sustainably with water.

Saturday and Sunday, June 27 & 28 from 10 am to 5:30 pm

Bluebird Farm, 11153 Cement Hill Road, Nevada City, CA 95959 Contact: Price: $180 per person early bird registration before June 22. ($210 per person at the door.) $150 per person when you register with a friend before June 22.

To register, please use the contact form on this website or the email listed above.  I will send you information on how to complete the process.

This workshop is taught by Renee Wade, with guest teachers Matt Berry and Tom Wade. imageRenee Wade is a Certified Permaculture Designer with 15 years experience living with low-flow (and sometimes no-flow!) wells. She understands intimately the tools, techniques, and possibilities of water conservation. She is dedicated to helping people live beautifully and abundantly through understanding and working with the natural world. imageMatt Berry is a Certified Professional Greywater Designer & Installer with a background in Ecology. Learn more at   imageTom Wade is a Certified Permaculture Designer, professional organic landscaper, and grazier. He is passionate about restoring the fertility and hydration of western lands through the intelligent use of ruminant animals.  He is also a professional storyteller known for his ability to captivate any audience.

imageI harvested the first of the Rose Potpourri Sweet Corn on Friday and served it for dinner that night.   My husband and I each took our first bite, looked at the other and exclaimed, “Oh, My God!”  This is an amazing sweet corn!  The response to it seems to be universal.  Whether sharing it with friends, apprentices, or other farm guests, everyone has that OMG reaction.

The beauty makes it special: a feast for the eyes and mind.  The flavor makes it special: a delight for the taste buds and body.  And there is something more: an intangible quality that feeds the heart and soul.  This is Mother Corn.

We opened our weekly farm stand at Bluebird Farm a few weeks ago, and at the end of that first meal, I asked my husband, “How much would you charge for this corn?”

“$12,” was his reply.

“Per ear?”


And then we both laughed, because we know that few, if any, of our customers would pay $12 for an ear of corn.  And because we know that to put any price on it belittles its true value.  This corn – and every other ear of corn grown with love and attention and appreciation – is priceless.

We won’t be selling this corn at our farm stand.  It is a gift from Spirit, from Sun and Earth, from Love.  We are enjoying sharing that gift, as a gift to others.  And I love hearing those receiving this gift spontaneously exclaim, “Oh, My God!”


A Note:  For those who wish to try this corn next year – we bought the seeds from Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seeds company.  What an incredible deal!

I loved the video clips in this post. It shows a powerful model for understanding ourselves, our solar system, and our universe as living beings all using the same energy – electricity – to interface our consciousness with our body-minds. What ever your take on Theosophy, do watch the videos!

Theosophy Watch

healing-mountains“THERE are no isolated islands in an electric universe, from the smallest particle to the largest galactic formation.

“A web of electrical circuitry connects and unifies all of nature, organizing galaxies, energizing stars, giving birth to planets.”

On our own world, agreeing with Theosophy, David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill assert”this electric web is controlling weather and animating biological organisms.” (Thunderbolts of the Gods)

Astronomers like to believe the Sun is a glowing nuclear furnace. And, “that galaxies are clouds of hydrogen gas and intergalactic dust,” Stephen Smith notes in his article The Filamentary Firmament, and they “were assembled by gravity until they coalesced into swarms of glowing thermonuclear fires.”

“The Electric Universe theory,” Smith says, “is opposed to the idea of galaxies condensed from cold, inert hydrogen.”

“Strands of magnetically confined plasma can be seen throughout the cosmos,” Smith argues: “In an Electric Universe, every body in…

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Celtuce busy growing

Celtuce busy growing with perennial kale

Like many gardeners and farmers, I have this love affair with seed catalogs every winter.  The descriptions of vegetable are often mouth-watering, their potentials amazing.  The veggie beds in my wintertime imagination are filled with astounding wonders.

I have heard rumours that our ancestors of hundreds or more years ago ate a much broader array of plant foods than we do.  The buffet they chose from had a selection that numbered in the hundreds or even thousands of veggies and fruits. Knowing as we do what amazing chemists the various members of the plant kingdom are, this means that the selection of nutritives available to our ancestors was huge.  Fine subtleties in a plant’s chemistry can also make a big difference in the information that is downloaded to our bodies.  With the number of species that most Americans now eat limited to less than 50, we aren’t getting the same quality of nutrition or the diversity of information to which our ancestors had access.

As a food grower, I can reverse that trend, so every year I trial varieties or species that are new to me.  Last year I experimented with Oka Hijiki, a Japanese green also called seaweed plant because it is loaded with minerals.  A wiry little plant, it was a nice extra in my salads.  Unfortunately, I didn’t save seed for it and have discovered that its seeds don’t seem to keep for long.  This year’s germination was very poor.  I will be growing more, once I acquire more seed.

One of this year’s experimental selections is Celtuce.  Lettuce.  Celery.  Celtuce is not a cross of the two, but was promised as delivering some of each flavor.  Lettuce it certainly is.  The early leaves are tasty, but it is the stalk of the plant that is the interesting part.  It grows quite long, compared to a lettuce, without bolting.  I’m not sure it delivers on the promise of celery flavor except in the mildest way.  I have found I like it peeled and sliced in rounds, then tossed in near the end of a saute with other veggies.  It adds a crunchy lettuce flavor where leaf lettuce doesn’t survive.

Jelly Melon is another of this year’s trial vegetables.  I will let you know what it’s like later in the season.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog and Seed Savers Exchange are my favorite sources for odd and unusual foods.

Let me know what new, rare, or plain oddball edibles you are growing!

IMG_4100I am in the middle of Spring. Sowing seeds. Thinning or pricking them out. Forking air into the soil of the beds. Sifting compost. Spreading it. Transplanting. Watering. Mulching. Moving electric fencing for the goats. Moving electric fencing for the sheep. Thinning fruit on the peach and pluot trees. Weeding. Picking strawberries. Building support for the raspberries. Guiding the growing boysenberries. Building new compost piles. Sowing seeds.

On days when gray clouds billow in the sky and the weather shifts back and forth from misting rain to warming sun, I feel the thrill of Life awakening all around me. There is a freshness in the air that happens only at this time of year. Spring is bouncing out of the cave of the dark winter light, and I can’t get too much of it. Taking my hands from the fluffy, moist soil to send them tapping over a keyboard – a part of me asks, “Why do that, when there is so much beauty and fun here?” (Thankfully for this blog, day does end and darkness falls, or some afternoons do get hot.)

The Red Malabar Spinach germinated today. Yes! A friend returns for a long season of mutual affection. How do I know it is mutual? Because I know that plants have both senses and social lives. For a peek into them, check out this Nature program What Plants Talk About. The time lapse photography in it does a great job of diminishing the seemingly vast differences between plants and animals.

Who are your favorite plant friends?


Senses and Sensitivity

IMG_4027I’ve harvested several heads of purple cauliflower in the past few weeks. They are beautiful creatures, glowing in a glorious halo of green leaves as they sit regally atop foot high stalks. I always put off  picking them until the last possible moment. Their beauty is a sensory delight that is worth savoring, but that moment arrives when they start to shoot up and another inch of growth will make them begin to resemble a broccoli more than a cauliflower. That’s when I decide to enjoy the taste and smell of the flowerets as they lie enfolded in butter and spices on my dinner plate. A purple cauliflower is complete nutrition for the senses.

I have also been savoring the concept of perception these past few weeks.  Perception, I am coming to understand, is everything. What can be perceived can be interpreted, understood, utilized, acted on.  Perception brings with it the ability to respond.

Perception is a matter of sense and sensitivity.  What are we able to sense?  How much subtlety are we sensitive to?

I talked about Michael Pollan’s article on plant intelligence a few blogs back. In it he mentions that scientists have isolated at least 15 distinct plant senses. The roots alone are able to sense light, moisture, gravity, temperature, and pressure. Plants seem to sense sound waves, as when the roots move to an outwardly dry pipe that contains running water. They may even echolocate – like bats – using clicking noises generated by the growth of their cells to find the location of trellises and other inanimate objects in their vicinity.

How is it that plants can have 15 senses, but we have only 5? Or 6 if you count that controversial 6th sense. Are we really stuck in that narrow of a lens? Is that truly all we get to use to perceive the richness of the world?

I sense – with an undefined and unnamed sense – that we have been short-changing ourselves and that our own list of senses is much longer than 5 or 6.  The Jacobson’s organ senses pheromones, the unscented chemistry of the air. Our hearts are electromagnetic sensors of the highest order. If some grad student wants to take the time to break it out, we could probably generate a list of at least 5 or 6 more senses from the heart alone. The same is undoubtedly true for the gut. While we’re at it, why not count in the sensory awareness of the bacteria that inhabit these bodies? Their presence is integral to our health and survival, and they are the primary educators of our immune systems.

I’m just scratching the surface here – an off the top of my head laying out of how we come to know what we know, think what we think, and believe what we believe.

Why is this important?

Because perception of Self is the most crucial of all perceptions. That is the perception that defines the boundaries, allows growth to happen, and determines the trajectory of our actions.

Limit yourself to 5 senses and you have limited everything you do. Limit yourself to 15 senses and you have moved that boundary line considerably.  Do you want to communicate with plants?  It’s a lot easier when you move the boundaries you’ve placed on your perceptions.

Me? I’m holding out for at least 20 distinct senses incorporated into the design of this brilliantly human bodymind.

Biology is Resilient!

IMG_2915The rain is falling regularly as we enter into spring, and our little rock bars are helping to slow its flow and sink it into the soil.  The California drought is by no means over, especially with the snow level staying at 5500 feet and higher, but I do imagine that all those hard-working people overseeing water distribution in this state must be getting some sleep again.

The ponds on our property filled about 3 weeks ago, after being dry or mere puddles for most of the winter. It took the frogs all of 2 days, from the time the ponds filled, to commence their evening chorus festivals. I delight in listening to them sing each night. It’s a natural, rhythmic lullaby.

Pear and apple trees are budding out already in some places, a testimony to the early warmth we’ve been experiencing. The chickweed and miner’s lettuce are taking off with the new moisture, and pastures that were brown in mid-February are greening up with grasses and herbs. The baby goats will get to meet a green world!

Water is the most wonderful substance! It’s presence makes a huge difference.

The quick response to the rains also makes me appreciate how resilient biological systems are. The frogs and grasses had a much longer wait for full ponds and wet soils than “normal”, but they’ve handled it well. There is so much we don’t yet fully understand about how this planet and all her components work, but biology is truly incredible stuff.

Which leads to a TED talk that I would like to highly recommend. Allan Savory gave this talk about greening the world’s deserts in 2013.  A radically biological approach that mimics the systems nature uses to build deep soils and grow prairies and trees. It is both doable and scalable and sequesters atmospheric carbon as well.  Link is Here.  Enjoy!

The Oldest Among Us

IMG_3895I made a pilgrimage last week, taking advantage of the snow-free roads caused by California’s drought, to visit the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains at elevations of 10,000 feet plus.  Some of the trees in this forest are over 4,000 years old – the oldest known living trees, and perhaps the oldest living individuals on the planet.

Sitting among the Elders of Earth, it’s easier to take a larger perspective.  Easier to remember.  Easier to remember who you are.  Easier to remember why you came here.  Easier to remember what life is all about.

Sitting at their feet, I marveled over and over again at the beauty of their spiraling wood, at the baby pine cones in deep maroon and purple hues, at the awesome view of the Sierra Nevada mountains across the valley, at the patience and steadiness it takes to thrive year after year after year at these high, cold elevations.IMG_3892


Returning home, rested and refreshed, I remember now that the most important thing is marvel, to live with wonder, to appreciate all the explained and unexplained mysteries of everyday life.  How do a trillion cells cooperate to form my body?  How beautiful is the cacophony of frog song around the pond at midnight!  The marvelous flavors – green, smooth, and comforting – of the chickweed growing on the farm.  How wondrous the deep green of a mallow leaf or the bright green of a blade of grass or the ruby glow of a sunset or the bright blue of a cold morning sky!


This world loves to be adored, loves to be appreciated, loves to be touched, and loves to return all of that to us.  This is why I came.  This is why I love this planet.  This is why I love to work with Nature.