Sunday, August 31, 2008

Temples of Water

Pictured above is the Pulgas Water Temple, built at the western terminus of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct, constructed by the City of San Francisco in the early 20th century. The inscription chiseled into the crown of the temple reads: “I give Water in the Wilderness and Rivers in the Desert to give Water to my People”(Isaiah 43:20) invoking the an extra-terrestrial god's words to justify desecration of natural beauty in the wilderness. There, in the wilderness, are the formerly-protected glacier-carved granite monoliths of Yosemite National Park, now partially inundated in the Hetch Hetchy Valley, by a dam authorized by Congress and the water commandeered by the San Francisco politicians, still reeling from the loss of most of their city from earthquake and fire in 1906.

Of course this water project did not happen without a fight. Remember the wise words of Mark Twain, "Whiskey's for Drinking, Water's for fighting over." John Muir started the Sierra Club and used it's fledgling support to battle this outrage against some of nature's most beautiful sculptures, and died of a broken spirit as the nation's chief resource protectors, like Gifford Pinchot and Teddy Roosevelt, succumbed to the support San Francisco's Mayor (1896-1902)and later US Senator Phelan built in Congress.

But San Francisco did have a fairly well developed water system before the Hetch Hetchy Water Project was built, and that system was once a privately owned water company called Spring Valley Water Company (SVWC). Elements of the former SVWC are today essential local elements of San Francisco's regional water system and includes groundwater wells in Pleasanton, infiltration galleries in Sunol and the Calaveras Reservoir to the east and the Crystal Springs Reservoir, in San Mateo County, well-viewed by travelers on the "scenic highway" portion of Interstate 280. Picture at right is the Sunol Water Temple.

The cynical version of the Golden Rule which reads "The guy with gold makes the rules" really holds true when you consider the early roots of San Francisco's water system. Wiliam Bowers Bourn II, upon his father's untimely death was given the Empire Mine, which produced 5.8 million ounces of gold, extracted from 367 miles of underground passages. He used this wealth to invest in many other ventures, including vineyards, gas and electric systems consolidations (leading to the formation of PG&E) and the City of San Francisco's water supply. While successfully enlarging the sources of water available to the City through the infrastructure developed by Bourn's Spring Valley Water Company, he also vigorously opposed the construction of the Hetch Hetchy Water Project, which would destroy his monopoly water supply for the west's premier port city. Prior to construction of the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct, half of San Francisco's water supply, approximately 6 million gallons per day passed through the Sunol temple. The SVWC, including both of the temples, was purchased by the City of San Francisco in 1930 for US$40 million.

Bourn bought the entire watershed in San Mateo County where the Crystal Springs Reservoir now resides.
Before selling it to the SVWC, he split off about 654 acres at the southern end of the watershed, overlooking what would become the lake impounded by the Crystal Springs Dam. On this land he built his 36,000 square foot mansion,which he called FILOLI (the first two letters of the three words of his abbreviated philosophy: “FIGHT for a just cause; LOVE your fellow man; LIVE a good life.”) Hikers and naturalists all know that this watershed was placed off limits for all other development or even entry by anyone outside the San Francisco Water Department. Filoli was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975 by Mrs Roth, owner of the Matson Shipping empire and second owner of the estate. For a small fee, the public is now welcome to visit the estate and tour the mansion and spectacular well-manicured 16-acre formal gardens.

Today, the San Francisco Water Department has been in high PR mode to gain support for its proposed
$4.3 billion voter-approved Water System Improvement Program to upgrade the SFPUC Regional Water System and ensure reliable water delivery for more than 2.4 million customers in San Francisco and parts of three neighboring counties. Much of the support has come from the 28 retail agencies in those three neighboring counties, as well as PR specialists like the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group ( now the self-anointed Silicon Valley Leadership Group, after leading most of their members' manufacturing jobs offshore between 1990 and 2000, when the tech bubble was burst by the prick of the valley's premier pirates.)

All this expenditure by SFPUC is expected to raise water rates to these 2.4 million water users by about 400%. This will then set a new baseline for what Santa Clara Valley Water District can compare to its rate structure and make it much easier to sell new expensive projects to the Board of Directors and the mostly ignorant public in Santa Clara County.

Humans Arrested @ RNC Carrying Ecosystem

From: Starhawk <>

Subject: [starhawk] Permaculture Education Bus Seized by Twin Cities Police at RNC

Hey friends, we need your help! Our Earth Activist Training Sustainable Skills Bus has been seized without cause by the police. Below is an account from the Wilsons, who have been travelling in the bus for the last seven months doing trainings in permaculture and sustainability, including ways you can help. My own accounts from the action can be found on and I’ll be posting daily as long as I can—or sign on to my own list by emailing If you’re on that list, my own account follows. Please support these folks who have been doing such good work for us all. Thanks!


Please Post Far and Wide including any Media Contacts You May Have

At approximately 6:25 pm on August 30, 2008 Minneapolis Police, Minnesota State Troopers, Ramsey County Sheriffs, Saint Paul Police, and University of Minnesota Police pulled over the Earth Activist Training Permaculture Demonstration Bus (Permibus) by exit 237 on Interstate 94. Initially the police told the people on the bus to exit. When the people on the bus asked if they were being detained they were told that they were but police wereunable to provide justification. When asked why they pulled the bus over they refused to answer. After repeated requests to explain why the bus had been stopped Officer Honican of the Minneapolis Police explained that this was just a routine traffic stop though he did not explain the reason for the traffic stop. The police then told Stan Wilson, the driver and registered owner of the Permibus, that they were going to impound the bus in case they wanted to execute a search warrant later. After more than an hour of being questioned by Stan and Delyla Wilson as to the legalities of their detainment and the impoundment of the Permibus, the police then informed Stan that the bus, which is legally registered as a passenger vehicle in the state of Montana, was being impounded for a commercial vehicle inspection. Shortly afterward Sergeant Paul Davis, a commercial vehicle inspector arrived on scene. Despite the polices insistence that the reason for impoundment was for a commercial vehicle inspection the Permibus crew were not allowed to remove anything from the bus including computers, toiletries, and 17-year-old Megan Wilson's shoes. The police finally allowed the animals to be removed from the Permibus before it was towed, leaving the Permibus family standing beside their chickens and dogs, homeless on the highway.

The Permibus was relocating from the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis, where they had spent the day teaching Urban Permaculture, to a friend's house in Saint Paul for a well deserved break. The Permibus has been in the Minneapolis area since August 2nd when the crew appeared at the Midtown Farmers Market for a morning of Permaculture education including Permaculture 101, chicken care, seed ball making for kids, and the Permi-puppet show. During the past month the Permibus has parked at several local businesses and, as a neighborly gesture of respect for local police, Mr. Wilson contacted the appropriate precincts just to let them know the Permibus was in the area and had permission from the business owners to be parked on their lot. Through this, as well as other casual discussions with Minneapolis and Saint Paul police officers, the Permibus crew found the local police to be interested and respectful. However on August 30th all that changed when, for no apparent valid reason the police pulled over and seized the Permibus. After the incident Stan Wilson said, "If the combined law enforcement of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Ramsey County, and the State of Minnesota can pull over and impound a vehicle and home used to teach organic gardening and sustainability, one has to wonder what it is our government really fears. After all, we seek to teach people that the real meaning of homeland security is local food, fuel and energy production. For that we have had our lives stolen by government men with guns."

As of now, after repeated requests to be present at any vehicle inspection, with an list of what they are inspecting for, as well as requests to be served any warrants for searches of the vehicles prior to a search and to be present during the search the Permi-family has been unable to ascertain the current status of the Permibus. On site Mr. Wilson was told that Officer Palmerranky was the inspector in charge of the case and would determine if the Permi-family's rights protecting them from unreasonable search and seizure would be respected. Neither Officer Palmerranky nor his supervisor has yet to return Mr. Wilson's calls. The loss of her home and possessions is particularly difficult on seventeen-year-old Megan Wilson. Megan, a shining example of what this country asks of today's youth, has dedicated herself to making positive changes in the world. She was the youth keynote speaker at the Local to Global conference in Phoenix AZ, has taught conflict resolution at youth shelters and is the outreach coordinator for the Skills for a New Millennium Tour, the family traveling educational project. Megan believes that, "While I understand that the world we live in is not as it should be I strive to live and teach in a way that shows the world how life could be. What I don't understand is why I can't get dressed for an evening out with friends in my own home without armed men stealing my life out from under me." The Permi-family, along with their dogs and Permaculture super-hero chickens are currently being housed by folks in the Twin Cities.

The Skills for a New Millennium Tour is a family education project that travels around the United States teaching homesteading, citizenship, and life skills at farmers markets, community gardens, churches, intentional communities, schools, and in people's living rooms. The Skills Tour is a donation supported project dedicated to providing tools for sustainable living, including Permaculture, to anyone who is interested, regardless of income. "We believe that any solution that is not accessible to the poor and urban areas is not a real solution for the future," states Delyla Wilson. Permaculture is a design system with ethics and principles that can be applied to food production, home design, and community building in order to increase sustainability in food production, energy production, and social systems. The Permibus is a rolling demonstration of small scale sustainable living with three people, three dogs, three chickens, and a box of worms as permanent residence. The chickens and worms are part of a closed-loop food productions composting system that supports the Permibus's traveling garden. For more information on the seizure of the Permibus, the Skills for the New Millennium Tour, or Permaculture, the Wilson's can be reached at 406-721-8427 or through email at You can also see pictures and read stories about the last six months of their educational adventures at

To our supporters: First we ask that as many people as possible contact precinct one in Minneapolis, MN at 612-673-5701 and Mayor Rybak at

Phone: (612) 673-2100 or

call 311 or call (612) 673-3000 outside Minneapolis.

Also call the Ramsey County Sheriff

Sheriff - Bob Fletcher 651-266-9300

and demand the immediate release of the Permibus.

We are also in desperate need of donations. Though we do not yet know the full cost of getting the permibus returned we know that it will include tow fee, impound fees, and legal fees. To donate contact us directly for a local address or...

Donate On-line:

Go to:

Click on: Donate Now!

Under "Gift Information" write: Permibus

Under "Please send acknowledgment of this gift to" write:

Donate by Mail:

Make check payable to: A.C.T.

On the "For" line write: Permibus

Send check to: A.C.T. 1405 Hillmount St. Austin, TX 78704

Guest Bloggers Cari & Starhawk:Spelling Magic: M_I_S_S_I_S_S_I_P_P_I

Starhawk's continuing bulletins from the Republican National Convention, chilling stories about raids and police actions, but here is a wonderful story of magic and power. For those of you who have seen my recent work, you will know why I burst into tears when I read the "chant to the mother river" - spelling indeed!

Blessed Be!


From: Starhawk <>
Date: August 31, 2008 10:14:12 AM PDT

Subject: [starhawk] RNC Report 3: New Moon Ritual

Feel free to forward or repost this—thanks to all who have made calls already—it really helps! We got the convergence space reopened—but the raids continue!

New Moon Ritual
By Starhawk

This is how magic works:

We are gathered on sacred ground overlooking the Mississippi to celebrate the new moon and to begin this week of demonstrations and actions outside the Republican National Convention. We have an intention for the ritual, an intention the planners have been working with here in the Twin Cities for months: to court an upwelling of earth wisdom.

Magic, we say, is the art of changing consciousness at will—that’s Dion Fortune’s definition. Implicit in that is ‘art’, imagery, poetry, and we’ve been looking for the imagery that will embody our intention. The most powerful rituals are built around one clear image and one clear intention.

But we keep getting multiple images: webs, crystals, bedrock, surging water. The hurricane, roaring toward the Gulf, back toward New Orleans where many of us volunteered after Katrina. And dragons.

“Oh please Goddess not dragons!” I’m saying silently inside my own mind. “With or without dungeons—high wince factor. Overused. Disneyesque.” But dragons it is—protective Chinese dragons, ancient earth serpent powers, water dragons, fierce, fire-breathing guardians.

Many years ago, I had a friend who lived in a group house in San Francisco. He used to say that every collective needed a dragon who lived in the basement, someone really ill tempered who will emerge from time to time and drive off those people who come to visit for a night and end up staying for a month, eating up all your sweet pickle chips and losing your bicycle.

And so, when we do ritual in a public place, we always name some people as ‘dragons’, to guard the boundaries of the circle. This ritual coincides with the arrival of a group who has biked from a conference in Madison, Wisconsin all the way to the Twin Cities. Paul has contacted them, and asked them to be our dragons.

I am having a lot of trouble shifting my own consciousness as the ritual begins. It’s been a hard, tense day. All day we’ve been getting news that the police have been raiding houses, breaking down doors, arresting people, with or without warrants or warnings. We hold the morning meeting in a public park, because our Convergence Space has been raided and closed the night before. Someone says, “We’re a community that includes children—we can’t clear them out of their own living spaces. Remember if the police raid your space it’s important to have someone negotiate with them to get the children out.”

I am a tough person. I’ve been through a lot of these things and in spite of all my efforts to stay open I’ve grown something of my own protective scales. But those words pierce through them, and I find tears welling up in my eyes. It just hits me, that we’re standing here in the United States of America, in the liberal city of my birth, talking about how to protect children from armed police.

So this is on my mind as I try to center for the ritual, and then comes the news that our PermiBus has been pulled over and our friends in it are being arrested. My own organization, Earth Activist Trainings, has helped to build and fund this bus, and our dear friends Delyla and Stan Wilson and their daughter Megan have been traveling in it for seven months, offering trainings in Sustainable Skills, and tours of the bus itself as a living example. It has solar panels and graywater systems, a worm bin, hydroponic herb garden, composting toilet and three resident chickens. Megan, a gifted poet at sixteen, says: “We know the world is not as it should be: we want to live in a way that shows people what could be.”

So I’m trying to wrench my mind away from worrying about them, using all my magical tools to try to get calm and grounded and centered, and not having great success. I’m responsible for a major part of the ritual, and though I’ve been meditating on it and thinking about it for days, my mind is still pretty much a blank and now, as the ritual begins, I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to do.

And then the dragons ride in. Paul signals to them, and they ride down the hill and around and around the circle on their bikes, while we cheer and laugh with delight. For each of them has made a dragon costume. They have long snouts of painted cardboard and foam spikes in their helmets and wild wings of wire and gauze and webbing. They ride around and around, and just for a moment, the clouds of stress and worry roll away and I’m filled with wonder and delight. Three bald eagles circle above us. Magic.

As the ritual begins, I know what I am going to say, what images and energies are asking to be expressed. We honor the ancestors, and ask permission to do our work on that sacred land. We cast a circle, call in the elements of earth, air, fire, water. A young woman from the biking group has asked to spin fire, and her dance with twirling balls of fire on chains lights up all our hearts. All the while, the dragons stand guard around us, calm and still in their snouts and wings.

Susu, who is a poet, calls the Mississippi by having us all chant the letters of the mother river’s name, spelling a spell. We call in the earth spirits, and we call protection, for the circle, for all our friends in the street, and for our friends and all those in the path of the hurricane heading toward the Gulf.

My turn comes. Right away, I abandon my plans. This circle needs to move, to sing and dance, so I call in the drummers and we sing a chant to Spider Woman and to change.

“Spiders and webs are positive images for us,” I tell the group when the chant dies down. “The web is a symbol for the web of life, the web of connection. But there are other sorts of webs, too. Sticky webs. Webs of lies. Webs of entrapment. There’s a web of negative energy that has been covering this country, media webs that whisper to you day and night that you’re not good enough, not good looking enough, webs of scorn and judgment. And those webs get inside us.”

I ask people to turn to each other, to draw out the threads of those webs and let them sink into the ground as pure energy. To open up a space for something new.

If there’s a core belief in the Goddess religion, it’s this: that each of us is part of the web of life, and precious, bringing our own unique gifts to the world. We don’t ask people to believe in things, not even the Goddess who is simply our term for the great creative mystery that weaves the world. But we do ask people to believe in yourself, in your own deep work, in your sacred purpose. You are here for a reason.

And then I ask people to sink down into that web of life, to feel it beneath our feet, in the soil, in the web of waters that flow beneath us, in the very bedrock below us which was once living things and which in the fullness of time will return to life as soil and root and growing thing. To listen to that web of life, and to know that all we really need to do to court its upwelling is to open up a space for it, and listen.

Eagles circle, and then as the sun sets, so do helicopters, circling around us, their thrum making it nearly impossible to hear. But we begin to dance and drum, to weave a spiral and raise a roaring cone of power, and the helicopters finally move away. Energy pours through us, roaring upwards like dragon fire.

At the end of the ritual, someone calls for anyone who was in the convergence center when it was raided to come forward. A young woman steps into the center of the circle. She was in the building the night before, with her five year old son, who was scared and crying as the police drew their guns on his mother, handcuffed her, patted her down. Now we lay soft hands on her, chant and sing and send her healing. When it is done, she’s glowing; and immediately begins organizing housing for all the people who have been displaced by the raids.

I sit down, spent. A man and a woman come over to talk. They are thinking of offering housing, but worried. What about the anarchists? Won’t they destroy things, or bring down the police on their home? If they march with us, will they be in danger? They’ve heard that anarchists like to provoke the police to attack peaceful demonstrators, to radicalize them.

I explain gently that anarchism is many things—a political philosophy with widely varying strands, from nihilists to pacifists. But mostly a way of organizing, a stress on personal responsibility, on taking action oneself and not waiting for the government or someone else to do it for you.

A young woman from the biker’s group comes over. She’s dressed all in black—if ever someone looked the part of an anarchist, it’s her.

“We were just talking about you,” says the man, and soon they are deep in discussion. She tells him that yes, she is an anarchist, and so are pretty much all of the group with the bikes. And that for her, it’s about building community, looking out for each other, making decisions together, mutual aid and respect. They have a long discussion, in which magic is happening: consciousness is changing.

I talk with her and with some of the other dragons as we share food made by Seeds of Peace. A tall young man with golden curls tells me how much it meant to them to be dragons. “We really got into it,” he says. “We spent a whole day making our costumes, and getting into that guardian, protective energy. And now I don’t want to let it go. I’m going to keep my foam spikes in my helmet when I’m doing deliveries. We want to be guardians for the marches, for the city. For the world.”

This is how magic works.

The bikers are all hugging each other in a circle, reluctant to leave each other now that the ride is over. They have fulfilled their intention, built their community, spread their message, and brought us a gift of wonder and delight.

And as we prepare to leave, I get a new message. Our friends with the bus have not been arrested, although the bus itself has been impounded. They are free, although their home and all their possessions, computers, permaculture displays, worms and the contents of their composting toilet are now locked up somewhere in a police yard, with no explanation or reason. The police had no search warrant—indeed, they did not search the bus, but explained that they were impounding it in case they wanted to search it later. They did, however, release the people, the two exuberant Australian shepherd dogs, and the three chickens, with whom we are reunited back at our home.

Magic. Like so many things, it doesn’t work perfectly. But it works. <> <> <>

This post has been sent from This is an announce-only listserve that allows Starhawk to post her writings occasionally to those who wish to receive them.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Summer Sweep Prevents Crud in Creeks

Today our street was posted with NO PARKING signs to allow for more thorough street sweeping. It's always amazing to see our street, Brookwood Drive, without a single car parked along the curb. Could call it a dreamscape for someday when we have evolved beyond the ubiquitous automobile as our main transportation device.

Kudos to the folks at San Jose Environmental Services for going the next step in removing litter from the streets BEFORE it reaches the creeks. The alternative is to exert huge effort to remove debris rafts from the creek itself, after long efforts to get help from the Santa Clara Valley Water District to actually expend funds from their parcel taxes to give the community CLEAN, SAFE CREEKS, if not NATURAL FLOOD PROTECTION.

Although I am often bashing the Water District for their blindspots over the years, I am pleased to give praise to the work that some of the staff are currently engaged in restoring wetlands. This is in high contrast to the work they were doing in the early 70's to help put huge malls in the middle of local wetlands.

The project that I am most excited about is the Laguna Seca Freshwater Wetlands Project located toward the northern end of Coyote Valley. This project may actually provide some mitigation for the Upper Silver Creek diversion project that was installed to protect the Eastridge Shopping Center from being flooded, since it is located in part of an old wetlands in the Silver Creek-Thompson Creek watersheds, which are tributary to Coyote Creek.

The primary description of the Coyote Creek's lower 100 square miles of watershed in San Jose is that it is heavily urbanized, hardened by developments, it's riparian corridor encroached upon, and its water quality significantly impaired by storm drainage that carries floatables like plastic bags and packaging and dissolved poisons like automotive fluids or pesticides from landscaping. Many tools have been proposed to help mitigate the flow of these pollutants into local creeks, but none are as effective as restoring wetlands.

The Water District web pages for teachers includes a note about when the native Ohlone lived with the many marshes throughout their range between summer encampments by the rivers and streams, to their hillside habitats where they moved in winter. Farmers in the 19th and 20th centuries filled many of these wetlands, and more wetlands were recently filled by city planners and developers with typical urban buildings and parking structures to accommodate the cars that were primarily employed to move people and products around town. If this were the Bayou, we'd certainly would be up to our collective asses in alligators, but what we mostly have is tons and tons of pollutants flowing in huge seasonal slugs to our all our local creeks and rivers.

Under the provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act, the State Water Boards have been trying to curtail this flow of pollutants from these urbanized watersheds by crafting action plans with groups like the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program. This joint venture of fifteen public agencies, with jurisdiction over watershed lands flowing into South San Francisco Bay, tries to continuously improve the prevention of storm water pollutants from reaching our waterways.

The Silicon Valley Pollution Prevention Center was created in 1994 through a consent decree settling a Clean Water Act lawsuit filed by Clean South Bay, a coalition of environmental groups, attempting to prevent further damage to local water resources by addressing the sources of pollution, rather than the more costly approach to removing pollutants after they reached the water bodies. This organization was shuttered by its Board of Directors when the conversations finally reached the root of the problems for watershed pollution: Land Use. The proposed Coyote Valley development became the line in the watershed where the Board members tried to gag me, as the Executive Director of the SV P2 Center, and keep me from discussing the huge impacts this development would have on the groundwater quality. But once released from my contact, the comments embedded above were submitted to the City of San Jose, and hopefully contributed to the withdrawal of that very flawed proposal with its terribly inadequate draft EIR.

When the SVP2 Center was closed in 2004, over $250,000 of funds remained in the bank. Under State law, all assets of a nonprofit must be bequeathed to another nonprofit, rather then being returned to the donors. Since most of these funds had originated from the Santa Clara Valley Water District, they were able to convince the SVP2 Center Board to transfer the remaining assets of the organization to the San Francisco Estuary Institute to conduct a study of the Historical Ecology of the Coyote Creek. This study clearly identified the historic upland wetlands on both the Silver-Thompson Creeks and the Laguna Seca in the Coyote Creek Watershed, the former wetlands partly occupied by a shopping mall, while the later was severely threatened by the Coyote Valley development proposal.

With the recent court ruling nullifying the last parcel tax vote to fund the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, the Water District project to restore the Laguna Seca may be the only publicly acquired open space land in Coyote Valley in the near future. That is, unless we can attract enough attention to the problems associated with allowing urban development and enlist the help of a nationwide NGO, like Trust For Public Land, to help acquire the development rights in the Coyote Valley, before a future City Council puts the blinders back on and thinks it's a good idea again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ferraro's Funky Farm

Grounded is a good thing for an electrical system, but also important for these "bio-machines" we live in.

How each of us stays grounded varies according to what we have access to. Everyone has the power to just slow down and find their center through meditation. Some do it while practicing vigorous exercise, high on endorphins. I ground myself usually in the very literal sense, inserting myself into the organic cyclical flow of matter entering and leaving the ground right around me.

In my post First Harvest, I described many of the plants that flow through my creek side home, from the cultivated annuals to the trees and vines we have planted by our own hands, as well as the constant delivery of new plants that come to us from the riparian ecosystem. As steward for this small piece of the watershed, I am perpetually called to remove all such organic materials as their maturing renders them food, fuel or yard waste. Of course, there is no such thing as waste, knowing everything has to go someplace, and there becomes what it will be next.

The life style of an urban farmer also often involves keeping some "live stock," domesticated animals that can also dine on some of the organic materials flowing around us. And then, we in turn, may dine upon them. Also their excrement also joins the flow, back to our vegetable gardens, producing food directly for us, with peelings and other garden growth feeding the animals.

Thirty-six years ago, we built the first chicken coop in the flood plain behind our house, and named it "Ferraro's Funky Farm." Free range chickens too often turned into dog-hunted carcasses, so we eventually hardened a 10 x40 ft. chicken run, built of galvanized chain link fencing, with a welded steel pipe arches supporting the heavy wire roofing fabric and the thatched shade organically provided by the molting bark falling from the 80 ft. eucalyptus tree growing through the middle of the structure.

This structure has normally been the habitat for up to a dozen chickens, including, temporarily, a rooster or three. Of course, it seems natural to buy chickens in lots of a dozen, since we know that not long ago, they were encased in egg shells. Our local city ordinance forbids urban farmers from keeping roosters, but as chicks, it is often the case that the sex of some of the new birds will be male. It doesn't take long for the chicken run to become the protected territory of the rooster(s) and biting and generally attacking the hand that feeds you becomes part of the experience.

Luckily, thanks to a wise woman named Emma Prusch, San Jose has a publicly-owned working farm, right off King Road, in the southeast quadrant of the 101-680-280 interchange. This space is the one of San Jose's most valuable park assets, as it provides a place for urbanites to participate in the agricultural process and be reminded of the great potential for food production that this entire valley possesses, now hidden below the veneer of asphalt, concrete and buildings. With many kinds of birds in residence at Prusch Park, it is an natural place to release our roosters rather than harvest them for our dinner table. This usually quickly provides other real roosters for our cocky residents to engage with instead of someone in our family who is trying to feed the other hens or rabbits.

While I do not relish the act of killing and cleaning the feathered animals living with us here at the Funky Farm, I find that raising rabbits for food is a far easier process for putting meat protein on the family menu. A few hours of work skinning and cleaning rabbits puts 10-12 dinners in the freezer, while the discards are buried on the creek banks and return to the nature, as they should.

Raising rabbits and chickens in the same run showed me the basis for the connection of the Easter Bunny and the Easter Egg that are central to the Christian feast, as celebrated in the USA, at least. In the spring, The chickens usually increase their egg production so much that nesting boxes are in higher demand than supply, so chickens will lay eggs almost anywhere. When rabbit hutches are open, they soon possess several eggs, and next there is the appearance that even the rabbits are producing eggs. And the Easter Rabbit-Egg myth is born. One year, I made a video of a white rabbit hopping around some Easter Eggs, which then was edited with appropriate music by my bright son, Nick.

Yesterday, my rabbit population on the Funky Farm increased dramatically, adding 15 furry critters to my pens in one day. But you're thinking: new litters, from rabbits multiplying like rabbits. That would be an inaccurate assumption. What occurred was a neighbor of my friend Frank Schiavo, named Frank Rocca, has a daughter who just turned thirteen, and no longer is interested in caring for her large population of rabbits that had grown in her yard. Her dad was happy to find a willing recipient of this rabbit population, and the possibility of getting some of the rabbits back in a more eatable form than when he delivered them to me.

Luckily, the apples are ripening in San Jose right now and our neighbor John Engel and Karen English on South14th Street had bags of apples on the ground for the taking. This should be a tasty supplement for the alfalfa pellets that were their main staple in their diet to date. Since wild plants are found only in irrigated areas at present, the amount of free food for the rabbits comes mainly from neighbors' gardens and our own during the dry summer months. The alternative is to buy alfalfa pellets at $30/cwt.

Ferraro's Funky Farm has been home to some other critters during the last 36 years. I purchased a dozen pheasants from a huge pheasant farm that used to be located along Summit Road, east of Hwy 17. I also adopted some ducks from Vasona Reservoir County Park, with the Park Rangers blessings, as the amount of duck guano had become a deterrent for park visitors' enjoyment of the lakeside amenities.

We adopted two kid goats one year in the mid 70's, but found a better place to graze them at a friend's home in the Santa Cruz Mountains until they were old enough to butcher. Another goat was purchased live from a farm in Morgan Hill and butchered and barbecued for my Grandfather's birthday in 1978. This year my daughter, Chrysalis, has a friend in Santa Rosa whose family keeps a herd of goats to eat their pastures, converting grass to goats. I was tempted to buy a pair of young goats to eat the winter's vegetative ground cover that grows during our rainfall season between November and April.

The largest living live stock to ever come to the Funky Farm were two full grown hogs we bought from our friends Doug Nelson and Judy Chambers who lived in the rugged hills of Mendocino near Andersen Valley. These hogs had been pretty wild and were hard to keep penned. Their diet was comprised of apples and acorns, both plentiful local crops. Doug finally mellowed out these pigs when he acquired and fed the pigs fermented grape skins from a local wine maker.

Doug delivered two of these special-diet pigs to us, which we penned in our carport until our custom butcher could get to San Jose to kill and process our live stock. Our pigs were quite a surprise when folks would ring our bells at the front gate and get an immediate response of a loud grunt from the porkers. On the early Saturday morning when the butcher arrived, we first discussed the legality of shooting the pigs. They had never been hired to butcher pigs in the city limits before. After deciding it would be OK, they proceeded to shoot and bleed the pigs on the compost pile and then move them to the driveway to skin, gut and cut in half with a giant meat ax, while suspended from a boom on their rig. About this time, my neighbor across the street came out to get his newspaper, but nothing in the paper was as strange as what he was seeing in our driveway that morning. The reward for all this effort was pork that had the most incredible taste I've ever eaten and the normally white meat was tinted pink, probably the result of the fermented red grape skins in their diet.

The Funky Farm is also home to about six cats, some with names and others feral, but friendly enough to cry at the door when feeding time is delayed. We did have two dogs for a time, Tipsy, a black lab with white tips on her front paws, and Sandy, a dirty white terrier that we adopted when our neighbors John and Mandy Hall moved back to Illinois after John was stricken with multiple sclerosis. John and both dogs have since passed back into the earth, but will always be missed and loved.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The First Harvest

While we have all been engaged in our personal and collective dramas, the earth has been traveling around the sun, as she does, and summer is upon us in the northern hemisphere and, especially, our gardens.

Despite all accounts that the planet's ecosystem is in collapse, our gardens are again producing such an amazing variety of plant types, some cultivated but many planted by the surrounding environment.

And that surrounding environment is the Coyote Creek Riparian Corridor. As long as the corridor is vital, the migratory birds and waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway will move along the creek, bringing us constant surprises. Sometimes these new species pick the least-possible fertile locations to grow, like dirt-filled cracks between bricks or curbing.

Other plants are placed on the earth by our hands, while our hands do all the removal of all the bio-growth that happens around here, when its nature has been fulfilled. Thankfully, our city, San Jose, provides unlimited piles of yard waste to be picked up every week, so I don't have to compost all this stuff right here. I can order a load of compost returned to me whenever I need more mulch.

Cari claimed a piece of land right next to our bedroom side windows to plant sunflowers. These were the same blessed seeds we used in ceremony on the Winter Solstice. Nearly every seed germinated and produced some of the largest and tallest sunflowers that I have ever seen.

Blessed Be!

The vineyard is also ready for grazing. First '08 vintage were bunches of spicy white seedless grapes, that I lust for more of every year when they ripen. If the water supply was more abundant than it is right now and the food-growers 95% water discounts were in place uniformly ( i.e. for both commercial farmers and local community farmers, like so many folks are), I might plant a dozen more of this varietal, if I could find it.

This weekend, the first large tomato harvest came in. The first produce went off to my family chiropractors and staff and my neighbors. By the second picking, we had to get out the large scale kitchen equipment to process the first 30 pounds of perfectly red, ripe and round tomatoes. Added herbs were just outside the door, like fresh basil, and oregano, plus fresh parsley and cilantro from the CSA. (Community Supported Agriculture) The peppers and eggplants are also ripening and will be on the menu soon.

And a word of thanks to our most essential garden assistant, the bees.

Thank you, your majesty, and all your helpers

The ubiquitous cherry plums are also ripe and ground fruit is trying to ferment beneath every tree, even on part of the driveway near the carport. The next fruit crop will be the figs, probably in September, followed in December by the oranges and tangerines. Which brings us Full Circle, back to the Winter Solstice.

I am glad San Jose now hosts many Farmers Markets so hundreds, hopefully thousands of local folks are buying fresh produce directly from local growers, many certified organic. As Michael Pollan advocates, "Shake the Hand That Feeds You" If you cannot grow your own fruits and vegetables, the Farmers' Market or joining a CSA are the next best options.

Our neighbors Angelica and Sergio, at the corner of Brookwood and E. William St. have organized a CSA for about 20 families. They buy organic produce from Ledesma Farms, located in Watsonville and Los Banos. The Ledesma's sell at various farmers' markets in San Jose, so Sergio connects with the farmers each Saturday at the Willow Glen Farmers' Market and brings back crates of fresh produce. The MacKay's on 18th St. and I show up at 10 AM and we help divide the produce into single, medium and familly shares during the next hour. When folks start to show up at 11AM, we all catch up on news with each other. With the young ones playing around their beautiful gardens, the scene is tribe-like and the feeling of community is stronger each week. Subscription rates are quite modest: $15/wk. for a single share, $22.50 for medium share, and $30 for a family share. Subscriptions are for any part of the spring, summer or winter growing seasons. The photo below is of a single share last April.

Once you get in the grocery store, the link to the earth that produces your food starts to fade quickly into a mirage, at best. Growing conditions and transportation costs are unknown to you. The price you pay is not a signal of the where or how the food is grown. The "added value" that you pay at Whole Foods Markets is the story you get with the product that you are buying. Our dear friends the DiDinato's are so proud of their daughter, Francesca, who has risen to the corporate heights of chief cheese buyer for Whole Foods. What a cool job for a young urban professional. She can tell us the stories of the many delectable cheeses she buys for their customers

In Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, he exposes the processed food industry and the nutritionist's that make it all possible. He advises that the only real food in a market is on the perimeter. The inner isles are where the processed foods are located, and it is there where the reductionist science of nutrition has allowed factories to take over the feeding of the world. This would be where I would embed a link to Soylent Green if I had one.

Never Thirst!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rainmakers, The Seedier Side of Running Water

During the 2004-05 season, Northside Theatre Company produced one of their best stage plays, entitled The Rainmaker. John Grisham wrote a book called the Rainmaker, but there it's the euphemism for a lawyer who brings in lots of cash to the firm. But the subject of this post is actually the art/science/cult of trying to squeeze more rain from a storm cloud as it passes over a thirsty watershed to give a needed boost to the local inhabitants' water supply.

Last week, I posted about seeking a Clean Bill of Health. I sent the link to this post to many of my caregivers at the CET Cancer Center at Alta Bates Summit Hospital in Oakland. So after my last treatment, Alfred Jamison, one of the many skilled folks assisting me through through the rigorous morning routine, engaged me in a conversation about, of all subjects, water supplies in California. Alfred wondered why the State water managers don't engage in the practice of cloud seeding to increase the amount of rain that falls from the skies in the watersheds with near empty reservoirs. This is certainly not on the list reported by the media of forthcoming solutions to California's water woes. Things are pretty serious though, when the Peripheral Canal is actually being discussed again and was to be included as a bond election in November.

Alfred's question set off my memories of when the Santa Clara Valley Water District performed cloud seeding in a program that was intended to be as scientific and as liability-free as possible. In 1973, when I took my seat as an elected member of the District's Board of Directors, an engineer named Dan Kriege managed this program and reported his procedures and results to us during the time that the operations unit of the agency conducted this activity.

In 1952, the first cloud seeding began in an effort to increase the average rainfall in the valley. Silver iodide crystals were shot from the ground into the clouds. According to the water history available at the Water District's website, in 1992 the cloud seeding program switched to airplanes flying into clouds with canisters of silver iodide crystals sprayed from the wings of the aircraft in order to increase the density of the water droplets and "squeeze more water out of the clouds." It also states that the "Cloud seeding remains a drought fighting strategy of the District."

I could swear that the Board ended the use of cloud seeding for a variety of reasons long before I left the Board in 1995. I will ask the Clerk to survey the Board's minutes to see when it was last discussed. I seem to remember that the District may have done an Environmental Impact Report on the program. This may be when they decided to eliminate the risks to the environment from spraying silver, which is a toxic heavy metal, into the watershed to fall with the induced raindrops.

There was also the aspect of determining the efficacy of the program. Each storm that was seeded had to be classified as a seedable event by the official weather watcher agencies. After that, there was kind of a lottery where as Seed or No Seed determination was made by flip of the coin or some other means. This was supposed to give more statistical relevance to the overall measurement of water added to the watershed by virtue of the cloud seeding. But during times of extended drought like we experienced in 1976-78, we abandoned the lottery and seeded every storm to try to get more local rainfall.

A Google search of Cloud Seeding shows that 12 States including Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Kansas, North Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, Georgia, Colorado and California, operate ongoing cloud seeding programs. Kansas and North Dakota use cloud seeding for hail suppression, while Washington, Oregon and Georgia use it for fog dispersal.The remaining states use it to increase precipitation, with California with the most activities, according to a 1996 publication of the Weather Modification Association.

Although the American Meteorological Society says some studies have shown a 10 percent increase in rain volume, the National Academy of Sciences has said there is no conclusive evidence that cloud seeding works.

It's not the initial cloud-seeding equation that is in doubt: Silver iodide does produce ice crystals in clouds. "You can see on a radar how it grows to larger particles," says Dan Breed, a project scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "But the chain of events between that and precipitation hitting the ground is much more complicated."

Some clouds, it turns out, are less complicated than others. Winter orographic clouds, which form over mountains in winter, are simpler to work with than convective clouds, which cause thunderstorms. Orographic clouds occur almost every day in the Western mountains, where shortages of winter snowpack (needed to fill lakes, rivers and reservoirs in the spring) mean extra precipitation is most often needed.

Glaciogenic seeding, using silver iodide -- its structure mimics that of ice crystals -- is most commonly used in cloud seeding. It is also used for hail suppression; by providing many ice particles for hail to form around, it prevents very large hail from developing. But hailstorms are extremely complicated, Breed says, and experiments with hailstorms are risky. "You do a project or experiment and you can end up with insurance claims or crop damage," he says.

Other countries that practice cloud seeding include Japan, Australia, Russia and China. China spends $90 million per year on cloud seeding, and made an extraordinary effort to seed storms to try to wash some of the pollution from the air before the Olympics began this week. Reports on the air quality by the media indicate that the results were less than noticeable.

In June of this year, The Russians tried to seed a storm to prevent it from raining in Moscow on June 12, Russian Day. The Russian Air Force, for some reason, was using a some packages of cement as condensation nuclei. When the cement failed to disperse, it fell straight to earth, and put a 3 ft. hole in the roof of a suburban homeowner, who is now suing the government for "moral suffering." Guess Russia also has too many lawyers.

Beyond using cloud seeding for solving local weather shortcomings, some researchers are looking at using similar physics to mitigate the global warming process brought on by increased CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Click here to view a 10 minute video on this subject.

If this account was not as entertaining as you'd prefer, please click on the this YouTube link for a funny episode on a Canadian show featuring cloud seeding. And if you don't have a sense of humor, I hope you get one soon.

Never Thirst!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

In California When the Figs Are Ripe

While growing up in the small town of Niagara Falls, NY, famous for its water falls, power plants and the deadly toxic waste dumps at Love Canal, my father's father, Theodore Ferraro, used to always say, "I'll be in California when the figs are ripe." We just used to listen to Grandpa Teddy say this, not knowing what it meant, so it just became an echo of words that I remembered from time to time.

In 1961, my mom and dad traveled to California for a month long vacation, leaving my sister and I under the care of my mom's mom, Lillian. They traveled with an eye to relocating our family to California, willing to leave all our friends and family, familiar folkways, community, landscapes, not-so-wonderful climate, and Grandpa's trucking business.

My grandfather, Ted, had built up a small but successful trucking business in Niagara Falls, despite the dire economic conditions during the Great Depression, and did even better once the war began and local industries based along the Niagara River began to grow with the war effort. My dad served in the army until the war ended, and foregoing his GI Bill education incentives, then went into partnership with his father in the trucking business.

For the next 15 years, we somehow managed to survive post-war recessions and nasty weather, both snow-bound winters and hot and humid summers, by running our small mom & pop trucking business out of our house and grandpa's truck barns, built behind his house. But my dad was less and less happy about our economic well being and our health. Sinus infections, allergies, and chronic ailments plagued us all during these years. My dad decided we needed to leave and my mom readily agreed.

I early 1963, my dad set off for California in a new used Oldsmobile he bought with profit he made from selling the land he had bought to build a new warehouse. He arrived in Southern California and bunked with the son of his dad's next door neighbor, Bill Porreca, for a couple of weeks. Bill's connections quickly landed him a job with a Mayflower Moving Company franchise which was opening a new office near Thousand Oaks. 50 miles north of Los Angeles in Ventura County along Hwy 101. By the end of my school year in June, we said our goodbyes in Niagara Falls and flew to Los Angeles to begin our lives in California. My grandfather loaded our truck, crying most of the time, and the truck was driven by a fellow trucker my dad flew east to drive back with our furniture.

We soon bought our first home in Thousand Oaks through a nice woman realtor named Edith Seid. My dad and I both worked for the Mayflower agent for the next few years, until I got my first engineering job at Caltrans and, soon after, he started his own moving company, Ferraro Van Line. He ran this business from 1965 to 1991, when he sold the business and moved to Las Vegas.

My mom passed back into the earth in 1973, weakened by a long battle with cancer and finally suffering a deadly stroke. After losing my mom after 27 years of having a good loving mate, my dad at first faltered, mistakenly marrying a stressed-out psychiatrist, who was the inverse of Tony Soprano's shrink, Dr. Melby. When their relationship soured, she was the paranoid delusional, fearing my dad was really in the mob and would hurt her. Luckily, my dad reconnected with that nice realtor he had bought a house from back in 1963, Edith Seid. Edith's has just lost her husband to a mid-life craziness crisis and a younger woman, and was left raising four teenagers on her own.

Edith and my dad were soon married and she agreed to jump in and help him run the family trucking business, as my mom had done before she died. Suddenly I had four step-siblings, and a family life that was way more complex than ever when I had with only my sister to relate to. I was living in San Jose by this time, newly elected to the Water District Board and busy writing environmental impact reports for projects in the area.

In 1977, about the time the water district was having their signing ceremony with feds to build the San Felipe Water Project, I called my dad and asked him to send me a truck so I could expand the family trucking business to San Jose. This surprised my dad, since he always wanted to be sure that I wasn't stuck in a manual labor job because I did not have a college degree, as he had foregone to go into the family business and start his family. But I did get my degree, including a Master of Science degree in Environmental Engineering and was already an elected official in San Jose.

From my perspective, I was getting writers block after drafting enough engineering and environmental reports to fill three filing cabinets. Most of my water district projects, like water recycling, were taking decades to implement. I desperately needed something that could give me some short-term satisfaction. I also felt I needed to connect to my dad in a stronger way, less he get farther and farther away dealing with his new family members and local business management.

As it turned out, the moving business was a great balance in my life to offset some of the mega-engineering projects that I was trying to develop in the arena of water politics. Loading someones personal belongings into and out of a bobtail truck became my physical mantra, that gave me exercise, a sense of immediate accomplishment, a paycheck, and an on-the-job training worth more than any MBA.

Also in 1977, my Grandfather, Teddy Ferraro, put himself on a plane and flew to San Jose from Buffalo to teach me "everything I needed to know to run a moving company." Grandpa moved in with my then wife, Lexa, and I and my "training" began. Grandpa taught me about the value of the"sit down" soon after he arrived. San Jose was lucky enough to have two Pat Ferraro's, one an older businessman who used to run a hat shop in downtown, and who recently had opened a mini-storage business. While I was running for the Water Board in 1972, my opponent, Vic Corsiglia, Sr. had accused him of running against him, a fellow member of the Elks lodge. He said "It's not me!" but Vic continued to doubt him until they checked the registrar's office and learned that I was 24 years old, so it couldn't be Pat-the-Hat.

In 1977, when I started the trucking company, I sent out postcards to the other movers, asking them to refer small or overflow jobs to us as we build our own clientele. One of the movers who had been referring storage customers to the other Pat Ferraro, called him and angrily read him off for now going into competition with them. He again said "It's not me!" This time he called me and said I was stealing his good name for my benefit, and he was not happy about it. I related all this to my grandfather soon after he arrived. He told me to call the other Pat Ferraro and set up a meeting at his office. We arrived with some fresh fruit and a compulsory bottle of wine and just sat and got to know each other, like we should have done many years before. Soon, Pat and I were referring customers to each others businesses, and remained friends throughout his life. Not something I could say about owner of the local garbage company, Mr. Corsiglia, who went to his grave angry with me for pushing him off the Water Board after his years of politicking that lead to his appointment in 1968.

Grandpa, was above all, a natural born and self-taught engineer. In Niagara Falls, he had designed and built many machines for moving large, heavy items into and onto upper stories of buildings, like three-ton air conditioning units or for walkin coolers and refrigerated cases for grocery stores. The man knew how to use the wheel, block and tackles and inclined planes. The Egyptians had nothing on him. He also designed and built electric lawn mowers for everyone in his family, using scavenged motors from things like old washing machines. For this design, he even applied for a patent, but someone had already received one, so no big fortune coming from electric lawn mowers.

He noticed that the truck my dad had sent me did not have a external tool box for holding things like road flares, tow chains, or spare oil and filters, lug wrenches, jacks, etc. My grandfather had built most of his moving vans in Niagara Falls. One year he first built the truck barn, equipped with a wood-burning stove, and then spent the winter building the box on a cab & chassis, which he rolled out in the spring, with the pride of a ship builder.

He said he would design and build and attach the tool box, but warned me that he was in charge of this project, and I should just watch and learn. All went as planned until we were hanging the box, and the hanging cleats he designed and had machined needed to be readjusted while we were physically attaching the tool box to the chassis. As we lay on our backs under the truck, we were soon yelling at each other about whose truck it was and who would be liable for the mess when the box fell off the truck. My secretary came outside, wondering what had happened to cause such a load, angry exchange between me and my dear grand dad.

Grandpa Teddy was also a master gardener, who always kept a large vegetable garden in the front of the lot where his truck barns were built. One day he noticed a sickly fig tree trying to grow between two fifty foot eucalyptus trees along my driveway. He placed a large cobble stone in the branch of the fig tree and put a hose at the base of the tree and watered it deeply for three days. Two weeks later, the tree sent up a shoot from the base of the tree. He then cut off this shoot, walked across the driveway and stuck the shoot directly into the ground and watered it until it sprouted leaves and grew roots. Thirty years later, that fig tree dominates my own vegetable garden with its 25 ft. height and girth during the summer, and grandpa is truly in California when the figs are ripe.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Clean Bill of Health

A Clean Bill of Health is almost an oxymoron.

A Clean Bill of Health is a euphemism used to describe a medical evaluation that says you are HEALTHY. Yeah! But many, many people never get to hear such a positive pronouncement from their medical care givers. Of course most people only seek out the advice of a medical professional or neighborhood herbalist when they are already in the state of DIS-ease, and they know they do not have a A Clean Bill of Health.

I say A Clean Bill of Health is an oxymoron, since CLEAN is not what we live in, and HEALTH is what goes missing because we have lost the CLEAN, as we exponentially increase our flow of our culture's excrement into our own nests. One would think that the denser the nests, the denser the amount of waste products. But today, even land without many homes, operated by the machinery of agribusiness, can be equally as polluting, or worse.

The recent floods in the mid-west again reminded us of the deadly chemical legacy the pesticide industry has sold us to have a short-term adequate supply of food and fiber and, now, fuel. Dead zones in the receiving water of this purge reveals the hidden stockpile of poison we have dumped into our farmlands, only now having it washed to the sea, continuing to poison everything along the way.

So just what is the BILL for this UN-CLEAN environment we have created, which has robbed so many of us of our HEALTH? Some damage, like losing a salmon season or a cancerous kidney, is easier to calculate the cost. But the pollution problems we are causing today are so completely linked to the entire web of life on the planet, that we seldom get far enough away from a specific problem to see the systemic problem and its total cost. I'm not sure we have the right metrics to measure the loss of the entire life support system provided by our planet to sustain human life and all the interdependent species that allow our survival.

Simple science demonstrates biological growth dynamics by using a petri dish. Here, a growing "culture" expands exponentially, while the substrate food supply exceeds the demand. At the point that demand exceeds supply, the colony begins to die off exponentially, both from starvation and toxicity of the culture's own waste products.

As a home wine maker, I used to watch this happen when I fed a cultured yeast into a barrel of freshly crushed grape juice. The yeast colony doubled every twenty minutes until the yeast colony was so large that it needed the last half of the sugar in the juice for its next meal, then the die-off would begin. The waste products of this wanton yeast orgy are both carbon dioxide and alcohol. In an uncorked barrel, the carbon dioxide bubbles off to join the other CO2 in the atmosphere, but the alcohol remains in the juice and helps preserve the residual mixture, hopefully through the winter until the next vintage. But as the alcohol concentration increased, it became more toxic to the yeast and increased the rate of die-off of the yeast colony.

All the money we spent getting to the moon in the 60's was for only one reason, that we probably didn't appreciate when we began that great endeavor. Seeing the whole earth from our own moon changed our perception of our planet from terra firma to that of a spaceship/home orbiting and fueled continuously by the sun. But the folks at NASA soon shifted their focus back to what we, as passengers on this spaceship, were doing to our planetary life support system we have taken for granted throughout human history.

Like the yeast culture, human culture is growing exponentially, charging toward that day when we demand more from the earth than she can provide. As our human colonies grow mostly in cities, NASA also examines the impacts of all the cities on the HEALTH of the Planet. As an environmental engineer, my role was to build the portion of the infrastructure dedicated to mitigating the flow of a city's wastes to a degree necessary to protect the HEALTH of the ecosystem and the human population.

James Lovelock says in the Revenge of Gaia, "through our intelligence and communication systems, humans are the nervous system of the planet. Through us, Gaia ( the concept of the living Earth) has seen herself from space and begins to know her place in the universe. We should be the heart and mind of the earth, not its malady."

In a prior posts, I described the merger of the political and the scientific process to determine How CLEAN is CLEAN. The practical determination for a water quality standard depends on where the specific beneficial use of the water occurs. How all this translates to HEALTH is difficult to ascertain. The nexus of exposure to a particular pollutant to a dis-EASE is nearly impossible to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt."
This has protected the generators of most pollutants from liability and damages are seldom awarded to injured parties in such law suits.

Despite heart dis-EASE and cancer being the leading causes of death, medical science spends little effort on prevention. Most of the effort is expended looking for the next miracle pill that will undo the damage caused by who knows what. Michael Pollan, in his latest book, In Defense of Food, exposes the absurdity of trying to achieve HEALTH through a prescribed diet composed of the proper nutrients, instead of eating the whole foods that used to be part of the culture taught by our grandmothers.

I have been diagnosed twice with cancer, once when I was 24, with testicular cancer, and again at age 60, with prostate cancer. Both times, my treatment involved the use of controlled doses of nuclear radiation, in effect destroying the delinquent cancer cells by exposing them to a toxic environment containing lethal amounts of radiation. The first time I was treated with radiation in 1971, the radiation caused extreme nausea for the next twenty-four hours, such that I thought dose was certainly lethal. The medical experts, called oncologists, told me that they would reduce the dosage on my next 14 treatments to avoid the radiation sickness I experienced on the first treatment.

Thirty-seven years later, radiation oncologists are much more sophisticated when using radiation on their cancer patients. My odyssey for selecting the best course of treatment for prostate cancer began with an elevated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) level found in a routine blood test. After the level increased again six months later, I consulted a urologist, who took a four-core biopsy that revealed a early stage cancerous growth in my prostate. He recommended that I have 100 radioactive metal seeds implanted in my prostate that would remain in my organ after the radiation had decayed beyond detection.

The first oncologist that I saw recommended the seeds plus external beam radiation to treat any cancer that had extended from my prostate to surrounding organs. The next oncologist I consulted refused to give me any radiation, since I had received radiation 37 years prior and no records existed to define exactly what dose was given. My next stop was at Stanford Cancer Center for further evaluation of these two conflicting attitudes.

There I met Dr. Chris King, an MD and professor at Stanford University Schoolof Medicine. He ordered a 12-core biopsy that revealed a more advanced stage of cancer. He referred me to a clinic in Oakland called California Endocurietherapy (CET) Cancer Center that administers high dose radiation (HDR) brachytherapy directly into the prostate without the need to leave radioactive metal pellets in my prostate gland. These metal seeds seemed too much like getting a load of radioactive buckshot in my crotch, some of which could dislodge and move through my body, with evidence of some migrating into the lungs, while still radioactive. Umm, getting lung cancer from treatment of prostate cancer did not seem like a risk worth taking.

Once I met Dr. Jeffery Demanes at his clinic at the Alta Bates Summit Hospital in Oakland, I decided that his treatment technique was the best treatment option combined with Dr. King's administration of the external beam radiation after completing the HDR Brachytherapy. I was also referred to another urologist, Dr. Andonian, here in San Jose, who would administer hormone reduction therapy and assist with related aspects of my treatment.

On July 29th, I checked into Alta Bates Summit Hospital for my first HDR treatment. I found that this procedure required that I be a very patient patient. After checking in at 8AM, the entire day consisted of many steps of preparation for a 20 minute radiation treatment that I finally received at 6:30 PM, spending most of the day on a gurney, unable to move or turn over without guided assistance from the dedicated CET staff. Three days later I am feeling pretty free of pain or side-effects. This is good since I have to repeat the entire process again next week. After six moths of research and patience, I am finally in the process of trying to get my proclamation of a CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH.

Below is an X-ray of my pubic region with the flex straws inserted into my prostate which guide the radioactive sources directly to the cancer cells. The round thingies at the side of the picture are my two hip prostheses.