Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Permablitz

PermaBlitz []
Permablitzing brings people together to learn new skills and help one another. Photo credit: Permablitz.

How to Host a Permablitz
2013-07-29 by De Chantal Hillis []:
Ever wanted to transform your yard into a garden but didn't know how? Well, much like the Amish tradition of barn raising, a Permablitz is a way of bringing the community together and turning a suburban house into an urban homestead... in a single day. 
The original Permablitz network was established by Adam Grub and Dan Palmer, and more than 100 Permablitzes have been held in Melbourne, Australia, so far. The concept has since spread across Australia and begun to move overseas -- with countries such as the UK and the U.S. joining in the fun.  Here are some tips on running your own Permablitz: First, get a really great design. Never, ever create a food garden from scratch without first developing a really good design. A good design is the difference between you doing the clearing, digging, fertilising, and pest control for your new veggie patch -- or your rotationally fenced chooks (that's an Australian chicken) doing the work for you. Isn't it smarter to let the chickens gorge themselves on grass, weeds, and bugs; dig through soil; poo in it; and hand over eggs into the bargain? In short, you need an ultra-smart, well-integrated garden design.
Get a good Permaculture designer on board, and take the design process seriously. Work with your designer to create a plan that you are willing to commit to over the long haul. It is more important to get a great, long-term design established during your Permablitz, than it is to complete all the work in one day. Use your Blitz day to break the back of that design, then keep adding to and refining your project slowly, over the years. Then, advertise and maintain engagement. In Australia, households use the Permablitz website to advertise upcoming events and find volunteers. If you live in the U.S., you will need to work a bit harder. First port of call? Friends, family, and gullible (make that visionary!) associates. Second port of call? Progressive websites, any volunteer website, and every single local sustainability/urban farming groups in your area. As you craft your call outs, remember to ask yourself "Why would anyone choose to attend a thing like this?"
In Australia, many people attend Blitzes because they are a great way of learning new skills. Australian Permablitzes always feature between one and two workshops. So, if you are building a henhouse and a chicken run, advertise this fact, and also plan for a workshop or two during the day covering topics like poultry keeping. After you have advertised, make sure that you respond to any enquiries straight away. Ensure that you make it an RSVP event so that people must email you to get the address. (This maintains privacy and gives you an air of exclusivity!) Put your respondees on an email list and send them regular, wildly enthusiastic email blasts: "Our plans for the henhouse are coming along; check out these amazing pics!" etc, etc. It's important to maintain engagement with your participants all the way through the process. Encouraging people to arrive at different times in the day is also pretty wise -- this means that as one group of people begin to fade, new energetic sorts can kick in and start things all over again. Remember that food can also be a drawcard for potential volunteers. My husband is a Californian of Mexican descent. Luckily, our Blitz was held in Melbourne during a visit from my mother-in-law. Our gimmick was actual Mexican food. My friends and family (not to mention nearly every urban gardener in Melbourne) had never seen a tortilla up close before. It was a riotous success with everyone except my grim, pearls-before-swine elderly carpenter, who declared that the refried beans "looked like they had already been eaten and digested once before." Yeah, mate, whatever. We advertised Mexican food. It worked. Finally, get organized but be prepared to improvise. Because most Australian Blitzes attract between 20 and 70 participants, preparation for these one day events is vital. If you haven't prepared well, expect total chaos! If you have prepared well, expect total chaos! (But hopefully a much more constructive form of chaos.) Site plans and designs posted around the Blitz area are a good place to start.
Hosts need to make sure they have enough materials on hand -- enough timbre, mulch, shovels, and screwdrivers to finish the job. It is a good idea to get one person to coordinate food for the day, and at least one person to greet and settle newly arrived volunteers. Make sure your designer will be there to provide practical direction and support, and try to find out who amongst your volunteer crew has the specialist skills that you will need (like bricklaying or carpentry) in advance, if possible. The best blitzes are the result of adequate preparation in the lead up to the event, and crazy, desperate improvisation on the day. It's fun. You'll like it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Property investors attempting to derail ABAG plans for sustainable communities

2013-08-06 "Bay Area Citizens sues Plan Bay Area" 
by Neal J. Riley from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
Critics of a regional plan to encourage development and growth in areas with easy access to mass transit filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday.
Plan Bay Area was approved last month by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments after a contentious three-year process involving dozens of public hearings. Its goal is to satisfy state legislation that requires plans to accommodate the more than 2 million people who are expected to move into the Bay Area between now and 2040, while at the same time lowering overall greenhouse gas emissions.
The petitioner, a group called Bay Area Citizens that says the plan will hurt their property values, is being represented in court by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento conservative organization.
"We've been trying to raise substantive concerns about the plan, the restrictions it places on how individuals can live, how we can travel," said Peter Singleton, a co-founder of Bay Area Citizens. "It restricts people's ability to make their own choices."
The lawsuit alleges that Plan Bay Area violates the California Environmental Quality Act by omitting alternatives to its plan to steer 77 percent of future growth near "priority development areas," including places like Mission Bay in San Francisco, Oakland's Jack London Square and downtown San Rafael, Walnut Creek and Fairfield.
"That's great for people who want to live in crowded city centers," Singleton said. "Most people don't."
The plan is not binding, but that doesn't mean it's inconsequential. When doling out state and federal funds, the MTC would have to give preference to plan-related improvements.
"Do we really need to sacrifice significantly how we live and work to achieve these greenhouse goals?" said Damien Schiff, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney. "The reality is no, those goals can be achieved without all the pain that Plan Bay Area entails."
MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler said he could not comment on the lawsuit, but noted that regional planning has been routine for decades. But Plan Bay Area has attracted a "whole different cast of characters" this time around, he said.
"I don't think the differences between our plan now and the plan last time are that different, but I think the atmospherics are significantly different," he said, referring to the new focus on reducing greenhouse gases. "Whenever you introduce climate change into a discussion, you tend to amp it up, and that's certainly happened here."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

King Arthur Flour, a worker owned company in New England


"King Arthur Flour: A company of the people, by the people, for the people . . . and their cookies"
2013-12-04 by Tamar Haspel, a food writer in Marstons Mills, Mass. for "":
Despite its monarchist name, King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vt., is the kind of company that makes you glad to buy American. Founded in 1790, it’s the oldest fl our company in the country—but that’s not the half of it. It’s completely owned by its 160 employees. It sources all its grains from the United States. It sends its bakers to middle schools around the country to teach kids to bake bread. It donates its kitchen leftovers to feed local pigs. It also insists that its fl ours be within 0.2 percent of the stated protein content, which means that your signature Red Velvet Cake comes out the same every time. All of its products are tested an average of 17 times, and by some of the most rigorous experts— the employees themselves. The test kitchen is right next door to the employee kitchen and sends samples over for all to taste. Here are two cookies we love, hot off the company’s blog Flourish.
This month, when we’re all in the kitchen, King Arthur’s hotline at (802) 649-3717 might come in handy.