Thursday, March 26, 2009

Michelle Obama's Garden

Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House

Published: March 19, 2009

WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of the South Lawn on Friday to plant a vegetable garden, the first at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets — the president does not like them — but arugula will make the cut.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Sam Kass, an assistant White House chef, left, and Dale Haney, the White House gardener, at the site of the new vegetable garden on the South Lawn.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

“My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot, in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It is just below the Obama girls’ swing set.)

Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs. Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, will probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

Whether there would be a White House garden had become more than a matter of landscaping. The question had taken on political and environmental symbolism, with the Obamas lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally, and organically, can lead to more healthful eating and reduce reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.

Then, too, promoting healthful eating has become an important part of Mrs. Obama’s own agenda.

The first lady, who said that she had never had a vegetable garden, recalled that the idea for this one came from her experiences as a working mother trying to feed her daughters, Malia and Sasha, a good diet. Eating out three times a week, ordering a pizza, having a sandwich for dinner all took their toll in added weight on the girls, whose pediatrician told Mrs. Obama that she needed to be thinking about nutrition.

“He raised a flag for us,” she said, and within months the girls had lost weight.

Dan Barber, an owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, an organic restaurant in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., that grows many of its own ingredients, said: “The power of Michelle Obama and the garden can create a very powerful message about eating healthy and more delicious food. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it could translate into real change.”

While the Clintons grew some vegetables in pots on the White House roof, the Obamas’ garden will far transcend that, with 55 varieties of vegetables — from a wish list of the kitchen staff — grown from organic seedlings started at the Executive Mansion’s greenhouses.

The Obamas will feed their love of Mexican food with cilantro, tomatillos and hot peppers. Lettuces will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic. There will be spinach, chard, collards and black kale. For desserts, there will be a patch of berries. And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil. A White House carpenter, Charlie Brandts, who is a beekeeper, will tend two hives for honey.

The total cost of seeds, mulch and so forth is $200, said Sam Kass, an assistant White House chef, who prepared healthful meals for the Obama family in Chicago and is an advocate of local food. Mr. Kass will oversee the garden.

The plots will be in raised beds fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. Ladybugs and praying mantises will help control harmful bugs.

Cristeta Comerford, the White House’s executive chef, said she was eager to plan menus around the garden, and Bill Yosses, the pastry chef, said he was looking forward to berry season.

The White House grounds crew and the kitchen staff will do most of the work, but other White House staff members have volunteered.

So have the fifth graders from Bancroft. “There’s nothing really cooler,” Mrs. Obama said, “than coming to the White House and harvesting some of the vegetables and being in the kitchen with Cris and Sam and Bill, and cutting and cooking and actually experiencing the joys of your work.”

For children, she said, food is all about taste, and fresh and local food tastes better.

“A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,” she said. “And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things.

“I wanted to be able to bring what I learned to a broader base of people. And what better way to do it than to plant a vegetable garden in the South Lawn of the White House?”

For urban dwellers who have no backyards, the country’s one million community gardens can also play an important role, Mrs. Obama said.

But the first lady emphasized that she did not want people to feel guilty if they did not have the time for a garden: there are still many changes they can make.

“You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

panya in the newspaper

Just before i took off from thailand, as i was walking down the road in chiang mai, check out what i found in a newspaper:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Contribute to Ping's Education

Contribute to Ping’s Education

Ping is the amazing little girl that lives on our property. She has been with us since the very beginning along with her mother Kae. Living at Panya has given Ping the opportunity to grow up speaking English and Thai (she is amazing in both), and amazing opportunities to learn from a wide variety of people many skills and ways of beings. One thing Ping and Kae do not get by living at Panya is much of an opportunity to save money for the future.

This is why one of our wonderful volunteers decided to set up this way of giving toward Ping’s education. If you are interested in giving towards Ping’s education, please do. Here is a link to the site that Casey set up:

Thank you so much Casey!!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Radical Simplicity: Living Car-Free, Petroleum-Free, and Electricity-Free at the Possibility Alliance

In the small town of La Plata, Missouri, something of a revolution is beginning. A brand new intentional community has recently formed, and its aims and message are radical, inspiring, and daring: the Possibility Alliance is a completely car-free, petroleum-free, and electricity-free communit

y striving to raise a new level of awareness regarding sustainable, cooperative, and compassionate living.

Currently composed of a small handful of members, the Possibility Alliance is totally off-the-grid and uses candlelight and wood stoves for heating and cooking, and it owns no vehicles. Instead, members use bicycles as their main mode of transport. (See above for an example!) Another of the group’s goals is to depend entirely on 100% local food, so that whatever is not grown by the community is obtained within a 200 mile radius. The Possibility Alliance hosts students, visitors, and guests and provides educational workshops free of charge on topics such as permaculture, bicycle maintenance, gardening, etc. Although the group might use the term “radical simplicity” to describe the lifestyle they have taken on, they see it as more of a return to what makes sense for humans living harmoniously with the earth.

Last week, I wrote about the Superheroes bike ride which is currently traveling through Missouri. I spoke at length with friend and communitarian Ethan Hughes, who is heavily invested in both the Superheroes and Possibility Alliance projects. There is a strong bond between both movements, as Ethan explains in this interview about the project. We discuss at length what it means to live sustainably, and what the sustainability community needs to do to take the next step in progressing the ecological movement.

The Possibility Alliance: a Superheroes headquarters

Brian Liloia: What is the connection between the Superheroes bike ride and the Possibility Alliance?

Ethan Hughes: The Possibility Alliance was hatched out of the Superheroes, from seeing what amazing things can happen when we didn’t have an agenda and just stuck to our principles and moved through the world. The Possibility Alliance, in a sense, is a Superhero ride all-year-round. The Superheroes were first, but we offered that hey, we now have this land, and we’ll be the headquarters for the Superheroes. It’s the same kind of expression as living lightly on the earth, and serving the public. We don’t create projects for the Possibility Alliance, we’re just there. We have an intention but no set plan. That equation creates a lot of amazing change. It’s definitely an offshoot of the Superhero energy.

BL: Can you talk briefly about the goal of the Possibility Alliance, and where you think it might be headed?

EH: We’re so happy with what’s happening now. All of us [living there], in our heart level, our big goal is total societal transformation. Our vision is that the Possibility Alliance would have something like a land-based center in every bioregion of the US to see how can we live in this bioregion with a total local diet, no petro input, and as an educational center, and also as a service center. So each bioregion would have a team of Superheroes going out to serve in emergencies, riots, hurricanes [etc.], and for free, which is a big part of the Superheroes and the Possibility Alliance, is that we’re based on the gift economy. We don’t require fees for what we do. We have probably moved over $100,000 in eight years. People give to us and we gift projects. The Possibility Alliance’s land was totally paid for in a year and a half through people’s donations. They say, wow, it’s so amazing that you’re having groups come, you’re teaching permaculture, you’re doing all this for free. It’s amazing how when people have a choice to give, they give a lot more than what you would even charge them.

But really, our goal is not societal transformation as we think it should be, but the belief that if everyone followed their heart, society would be transformed. So how do we support and give people the courage to live what’s in their heart? I know everyone sits on a secret dream, and there’s a whole spectrum. By helping people to live to their full vision, mainstream society will break the fabrics of consumption, people will feel whole again, and we believe that what will emerge is a healthier society.

Radical simplicity

BL: Would you use the term “radical simplicity” to describe what you are doing?

EH: Radical simplicity…. we use that term now, so that people will get a sense of, okay, we’re not doing solar and wind power, we’re not buying chocolate or other things outside of our continent (or even our bioregion), so yes, we tell people radical simplicity, but for us, we haven’t even begun. We feel like our [ecological] footprint, which for most people is very small, still has so much further to go to actually return to some form of harmony with the earth. And without the earth, without water, we’re dead, and we’re facing this reality that wow, no matter how good a movie is, no matter how good chocolate is, we can’t enjoy it if we don’t have bodies, if we’re all dead of cancer. So, not to take away that movies or chocolate are wonderful experiences (there’s beauty in seeing the artform of the movie), but if someone sat down and could really see what was going to happen to the earth, and they see you have a choice: you’re either dead, or you get your cash crop. I think every human being on earth would say, ok, I can eat honey, locally, I can eat peach cobbler. Yes, it’s not the same as chocolate, but I can deal with it.

This isn’t to mean any kind of gloom and doom, it’s just looking at the facts. I was a conservation biologist, that’s what lead me here. I would study the ecosystems and I saw them collapsing. The normal eye can come to Missouri and say, oh, it looks healthy, but the trained eye can see, no, there’s no climax forests, the diversity is down incredibly, the erosion is up, the watersheds are polluted. So I have a lot of compassion that we really still can’t see the impacts. So yes, we’re for “radical simplicity”, but we’re just returning to the way that we feel makes sense, and what we learn from nature. Nature is our teacher. And there is a give and take of energy, which creates a balance in a system, which humans obviously haven’t followed.

The meaning of sustainability

BL: Can you speak to the idea of sustainability, and what that means to you?

EH: Two things. The first one is that we really try to celebrate any shift towards a lesser impact to life. When a friend calls me and says “I sold my SUV and got a BMW”, I sincerely applaud them. And I’ve had friends call and say “I sold my third house, and gave that money away”, and I celebrate that. I feel that any atom going towards more mindfulness, or more environmental consciousness, should be celebrated. So that’s the first part. Sustainability is a spectrum. It means something different to each person. In the minute we think that we own what is sustainable, I think dogma and separation can come into it.

With that said, I also believe that the current alternative, sustainable movement is ready for a profound jump. I’ve been part of it since 1988, when I went to university, and I have not seen a significant shift in our footprint for twenty years. Great ecovillages, solar panels, etc. were all happening in ‘88. These are things we celebrate, but I think that we’re really on the edge of a new jump. When we were in Europe, which inspired the Possibility Alliance, we saw all of this starting to happen: people living much simpler and doing a lot more political and social work than the average community here.

And I think for sustainability, I feel that definition is going to change in the next couple of years. And it’s going to change to the definition which I’m going to give, which is a system that allows all species to thrive. Not just your own land here, but also - where did that solar panel come from? Which is a hard question, and that’s the hardest part for us. Because if we write what inspires us, it often triggers people, and they’ll say “oh, they’re cocky” or “oh, they think they’re doing it better” when we’re just trying to take the facts and say, hey look, we’re willing to really look deeply into what goes into making a McDonald’s hamburger, [for example]. Or if I talk about Monsanto, any activist can list twenty pages about what Monsanto does.

This morning I brought up solar panels and nobody knew where they came from. You’re not aware of the deep-sea drilling they do for silica, much like the oil companies drill? I think the ecological movement needs the maturity to look at itself. I think it’s brilliant at looking at the Bush administration and Monsanto, but turning that same beam in a loving way towards ourselves, not in an “I’m bad” way but, ok, let’s look at what we’re choosing, and let’s really use that information to align with life. The biggest compliment that came from our neighbors who are a lot more conservative, (here we are living so radically like the Amish in simplicity, what the mainstream would say is “radical”), was when they came over to us and said: “you know the one reason we respect you so much is because you are doing what you say”. They really attack Al Gore because they look at the idea that he’s saying ‘it’s imperative now that we change our ways because of global warming, or we’re all going to die’, and here he has this huge mansion.

I think if the ecological movement, in a loving, mindful way, removed the hypocrisy, that’s the first choice: remove the hypocrisy of saying and not doing, or back off on Monsanto and McDonald’s a little bit, and stop making someone else the target. We’re far away from sustainability right now, all of us. It’s hard. What I would ask is how do you bring these hard points to people in a way that doesn’t awaken defensiveness or pain? If we can figure that out, we’ll have the next transformation in the sustainability movement. If anyone knows of more ways to do it mindfully, that’s the strategy that’s going to help the shift happen to a new form of sustainability that will redefine the ecologofical movement.

- - -

I am truly inspired by what is happening at the Possibility Alliance. It is my own belief that this type of lifestyle is perhaps the next stepping stone to a more sustainable society and culture.

To contact the Possibility Alliance to learn more about their community and the Superheroes bike ride, write or call them at:

Possibility Alliance
28408 Frontier Lane
La Plata, MO 63549

Telephone: 660-332-4094

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Story of the Tree

Hey Everyone!

Many of you had asked for the words to this story that the 2 Gregs and I performed at the talent show on fiesta night...and, here it is! (Finally! ...Sorry it took so long!) The Story of the Tree (beautifully written by Greg Rosen, aka. Serial Napper) complete with a short video clip on how to perform each "Heritage Sign".

Enjoy! :)

* * * * *

The Story of the Tree
(by Gregory Rosen)

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, a giant craggy tree stretched its gnarled limbs over the small village of Paan-yah. The limbs attacked the villagers' cottages and gardens. The roots erupted violently from the ground to collapse walls and damage crops. The villagers fought the growth with bitter prejudice, struggling to hack and slice the ever encroaching behemoth. The monstrous weed was known as "The Tree of Repugnance".

The villagers became desperate. The darkness and roots of the tree threatened their very existence. As the adults continued their daily arguments on how to destroy the menace one little boy named "Banananana" timidly approached a much ignored village elder for advice.

Old, wrinkly, "Bobbarundum" grinned widely, with his weathered skin, long forked beard and rotted teeth. His warm gaze gave the boy confidence to come closer.

"Banananana, it's been so long since I've had company. Do come in and have some tea...and tell me what's on your mind." the old man said.

"It's the Tree of Repugnance! Haven't you noticed?! How can we save the village?!" the boy squeaked.

"Well, I'm just an old, forgotten pile of bones, but perhaps you could ask the River to the East...she's always been good to me in the past..." the old man said slowly.

"What?! What do you mean - 'ask the River to the East?!' Rivers don't talk!" the boy said, incredulously.

"You'd be surprised what talks back when you ask directly and listen with an open heart." the old man said, wisely.

Still a little confused, the boy said, "Alright Bobbarundum, I'll give it a try...Nothing to lose, I guess. Just, don't tell my parents; they don't approve of us kids meddling in their affairs." the boy said.

"Mum's the word." said the old man said as he watched Banananana trot off into the cool, moss laden forest to consult the River Spirit to the East.

The river tumbled and bubbled, frothed and fizzled and trickled softly in some places too. Banananana sat for a while on a log near the water's edge and, finally, in his most grown-up sounding voice said, "Mrs. River spirit...if it's not too much trouble, will you please drown the Tree of Repugnance to save our village?"

The river answered him sweetly, her voice smooth and flowing, "Dear boy, watch how I move with ease around the rocks and bends. I will not drown the tree you speak of, but instead ask you to consider working with nature, not against it. Look into my sparkly blue depths for a magic sign to use on the tree."

Peering into her waters, Banananana saw and practiced the magic sign while mouthing the words "Work With Nature, Not Against It..." The river then said "It is one of the heritage signs, once known by all of your people, but now long forgotten. The magic signs, used in combination, can bring great change. Now go seek the Soil Spirit for another magic sign."

Encouraged by the lesson the River Spirit had taught him, Banananana sped off back into the forest to a place where he knew the soil was a deep, dark, red-brown hue, teaming with life. On his hands and knees he implored, "Mr. Soil Spirit, show me the next sign so that I might help you suffocate and bury the Tree of Repugnance in an earthen grave!"

The Soil Spirit answered him in a low, rumbling, rocky voice, "I will not bury the tree you speak of, but instead urge you to consider how the plants, fungus, worms and bugs all live and work together. The magic sign I will teach you captures the power of how everything gardens."

Peering into the soil community, Banananana saw and practiced the 2nd Heritage sign while mouthing the words, "Everything Gardens." Beaming with pleasure, the Soil Spirit told the boy to find the next sign by talking with the sun.

Climbing the tallest hill he could find, Banananana let the blazing noon sun shine radiantly upon his young, naive face. Humbled by the blinding light he asked, rather meekly, "Sun Spirit, would you please show me your Heritage Sign and...torch the Tree of Repugnance with your mighty heat?!"

The Sun Spirit answered him in a booming, fiery voice, "I will burn NO such things! BUT instead will urge you to notice how my life giving rays touch the land, providing a bounty of infinite yield."

And, in the sun's rays, the boy saw the 3rd Heritage Sign and practiced it while mouthing the words "Infinite Yield".

The Sun Spirit then boomed, "Stay here and beckon the kind Wind Spirit for another sign."

Banananana did as the sun directed and called out, "Mrs. Wind Spirit, show me your magic Heritage sign and...blow down the nasty Tree of Repugnance!"

The wind answered him in a howl, "I will not blow down the tree you speak of, but instead will ask you to watch how the birds use little effort when flying upon my wind streams to dance, glide, coast and swoop! This is called, leverage."

Eyes searching the skies, Banananana started in amazement as a flock of crows flew in unison to show him the 4th Heritage sign. Banananana saw and practiced the sign while mouthing the word, "Leverage".

The wind then remarked, "There is a fifth sign I have heard of, but know not where it lies."

The boy thanked the wind profusely and decided to ask old Bobbarundum for advice once again. Filled with excitement and wonder at his adventures, the boy skipped happily to Bobbarundum's door, knocking loudly and vigorously, and shouting impatiently, "No time for tea, no time for tea! I've got to find the 5th sign!"

Bobbarundum eased his old, brittle frame over to the door and welcomed the boy in with his warm, rot toothed grin. "My, my! Your talk of signs does tickle my memory bone, but...can't say I know any more. Here now. There is always time for tea. So, settle down, have some tea and tell me of your splendid adventures.

Banananana eagerly shared his story and showed the old man the 4 Heritage signs he had learned, imploring Bobbarundum for advice on the 5th sign.

"Funny...but all I can muster is the image of a tree. Hmmmmm. Why don't you go down and show the signs to the tree in the village. Certainly won't make the situation any worse than it already is..."

Somewhat disappointed, Banananana thanked the old man for his delicious banana tea and headed back into the village, but with some confusion, caution and hesitation. Heeding the old man's advice, he timidly crept up to the horrid Tree of Repugnance, gathering his courage to address the massive monstrosity.

"Um, Mr. Uh,, spirit? ...Behold my magic signs and fear them!!"

The tree spirit answered him in a deep, slow, baritone voice, "Well, well, my young friend, it's been a long time since someone has spoken to me. I see you have some magic and perhaps I can add a bit of my own...You see, I wasn't always the "Tree of Repugnance" Not so many generations ago, I was the "Tree of Abundance", and the people let my long lanky limbs stretch and grow to produce all sorts of delicious treats like, apples, cupcakes, tofu, roast beef and beer! After generations of cutting my branches back before they could fruit...(in order to protect their bland tasting mono crops), the villagers have forgotten my incredible bounty. It is here, standing before me that you can plainly see that your problem is the solution. My twisting branches can show you the 5th and final Heritage sign."

Banananana was enthralled by the tree's magnificent story. He watched closely as the tree performed the sign and practiced it while mouthing the words "The Problem Is The Solution."

The old tree then remarked, "When performed all together, these (5) Heritage Signs are a powerful, powerful force and resource to guide you in your journeys, my young friend."

Finally understanding, Banananana thanked the tree with his whole heart and ran off to relay to the villagers everything he had learned. With the help of old Bobbarundum, he convinced the still desperate villagers to let the tree grow and provide its tasty and nutritious treats.

The villagers all rejoiced and celebrated as they watched the Tree of Repugnance transform back into the Tree of Abundance.

From that day forward, the villagers never again forgot the uses of the Magic Heritage Signs and the wisdom contained within them. They joyfully taught this wisdom to all future generations as a tool to propagate harmony throughout the land.

As Banananana later told his children's children, "...with these 5 signs, go forth and spread beauty, life, love and compassion!"

The End

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Wiki Gardening Website

We have been talking about how powerful a site like this might be. I just got the e-mail today that it has now been set up. Totally user edited and controlled. Add a plant, list your successes and failures. This could eventually have the most comprehensive list of plants, their uses, and the way people use them. I'm excited.

Lots of love,

March 4, 2009

Wikigardens ( is a new website for the landscape
architect, the practiced gardener, the amateur plant nerd and anyone who
falls between the three. It is primarily a site for plant research. The
site features a 50,000 plant encyclopedia, a garden showcase, a forum, a
members' journal, seasonal topics of interest, and listings of local garden

What separates this site from other garden database websites is the "wiki"
function which allows any member (membership is free) to contribute
information about plants, successes and failures, helpful hints, post shots
of their garden, etc. The information is vetted by other WikiGardens
members to insure it is correct and trustworthy. The philosophy behind this
is "many eyes make mistakes small" therefore the more users, the more
accurate the information.

Additionally unique to Wikigardens is the absence of annoying pop up and
sidebar ads. Vendors who chose to buy advertising on the site do so in the
form of links back to their own website. This feature is useful because
vendors are sorted by the zip code closest to the member. When searching for
a particular plant to purchase, your choices will be closer to home.

Like any wiki site, it is only as robust and vigorous as the users who
contribute to it. We invite any and all to visit Wikigardens, become a
member and "dig" in the garden.

For more information Contact:
Michael Peterson
503-236-7574 <>