Sour Oat Hotcakes

And my fermented-grain adventures continue with SOUR OAT HOT CAKES!!

I made these little tasties for breakfast today using fermented oats, duck eggs and raw milk. They are FLOURLESS, GLUTEN-FREE, WHEAT-FREE and 100% LOCAL and ORGANIC. (By the way, we always knew it was important to eat organic, but this latest Wise Traditions article about glyphosate contamination of collagen is the real clincher.)

I always keep a mason jar of whole oats (thanks to local farm Nash’s Organic) bubbling away on my countertop. The fermentation process is a type of “cooking” which softens them, and basically makes them ready to serve anytime, as convenient as instant oats, except waaaaay more nutritious and digestible. Even easier is making oatmeal. Just grind with some water, heat, and serve this simple porridge (with plenty of butter.)

For this recipe, I take a few scoops of oats from the jar and grind them in the food processor with pastured duck eggs and raw milk.  Kids love them (yay!) and they are pretty simple to make even on a busy morning.  And BONUS: the fermentation reduces the glycemic load, deactivates anti-nutrients like phytic acid, and basically predigests the grain for you, making these cakes a nutritional win-win-win.


•2 cups fermented whole oats (drained and rinsed)

•2 large (duck) eggs

•1/3 cup (raw) milk

•2 Tbsp olive oil (or other favorite fat: melted coconut oil, ghee, etc. 

•1/2 tsp baking soda

•1/2 tsp salt

Grind ingredients in a food processor, cook on a hot buttered griddle and serve with any of your favorite pancake toppings. I like melted butter, yogurt and cooked fruit on top. This recipe makes enough cakes to have extra–great as a snack in my son’s lunchbox.

NOTE: These cakes work better when kept small. Larger hotcakes have a hard time holding together because they have no gluten.

Enjoy, and B Well—>>>Nala Walla
BWell Nutrition and Somatics
Integrative Wellness Coaching





Holy Sh**t-sicles

I know this isn’t a very marketable name for a food, but I don’t care: these Popsicles are the shiznit! No added sweetener. Just sunripe goodness coupled with nutrient-dense all-stars like coconut oil and grassfed butter. A treat you can be confident will actually nourish your kids, instead of the typical sugar-bombsicles that will rot the teeth out of their heads.

The color and texture is pretty close to poop, but ya just gotta grin, and then admit that some sh**t really is holy.


1 cup ripe raspberries
2 TB grassfed butter
2 TB coconut oil
3/4 cup sour cream (I use organic, lactose-free version)
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
2 TB unsweetened cacao powder
[Options: add a splash of raw honey, or substitute coconut creme/milk for the butter and yogurt if you want a dairy-free version.]

Blend everything in food processor, add to Popsicle molds and freeze! Makes 8 Popsicles. You’re welcome, kids.


Bone Broth Gazpacho

I’m a soup gal. I like to eat it everyday, sometimes several times a day. Lately, however, it’s been so hot, I haven’t been drawn to soup.

But I don’t like missing my daily dose of bone broth! So, dutifully made the creamy cauliflower purée that is normally one of my favorites, but it sat there uneaten.

UNTIL!–I decided to turn it into GAZPACHO! I pulsed tomato and zucchini chunks along with lime juice, chopped parsley, and sea salt, in the food processor, then mixed in the cauliflower purée (which already had quite a bit of butter in it, by the way).

VOILA! A tangy, mouth-watering bone broth gazpacho to drink over ice at the beach. It’s perfect–bone broth, butter, raw veggies, and electrolytes all in one meal.

Super yummm!


Lard Mayonnaise–NOT RUNNY!

I’ve never been able to find a store-bought mayo that doesn’t contain the evil canola oil. Even the ones that claim to be made of “olive oil” still have canola in them.Years ago, I’d tried the recipe for homemade olive-oil mayo in Nourishing Traditions, but it always came out runny.  I tried subbing out coconut oil to make it more solid, but I found the coconutty flavor didn’t really work for mayo, so I kinda gave up on it.

But today, I was making potato salad, and a lightbulb went off to substitute good ole fashioned LARD for the olive oil, and PRESTO!!!  Perfect mayo!!!  It’s so good, in fact, that I wonder if LARD was actually the original base for mayo before it was demonized.   Well, now we know better, don’t we?

Here’s the recipe:  ENJOY!


1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 tsp. prepared mustard

2 or 3 tsp. lemon juice

1 TBsp whey or other lacto-starter (OPTIONAL: the purpose is to make the mayo last much longer.  2 months or more, as opposed to 2 weeks without it.)

generous pinch of salt

3/4 cup lard (melted)

Put all ingredients except lard in food processor.  Mix well for about 20 seconds.  Then turn processor on and drizzle in melted lard slowly.

Super nutrient dense with Essential Fatty Acids — use it on everything!


Halloween Switch Witch to the Rescue!

Grandmother Witch

Around Halloween, health-conscious moms around the country are faced with the challenge of how to avoid all the HFCS and GMO-laden candy that surrounds us this time of year.

I want my son to be able to participate in Halloween Festivities, to dress up in costumes, to Trick or Treat, and to bob for apples with the best of ’em, but I don’t want him subjected to the metabolic havoc of gorging on Snickers Bars, Smarties, and Candy Corn.

So, we have struck a bargain with the “Switch Witch.”

I tell my son that he can collect all the candy he wants on Halloween, and then give it to “The Switch Witch,”  who will exchange it for his favorite foods.  This year I asked him what those foods were and he replied, “French Fries” “Chocolate Chips” and “Bananas.”  So, we gave the the Switch Witch the candy, and she gave Mama the raw ingredients.  The next day, I created the following recipe for “Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes” (being primarily comprised of of eggs, almond butter and sweet potato, these are much more like nutrient dense, grain-free muffins than cakes.)

And, as a bonus, it gave us a super-educational and fun activity to do all morning, as my three-year old got to measure everything out, press the button on the food processor, and, of course, lick the spoon!

Next activity is making gourmet french fries from our garden potatoes and local, home rendered tallow (lard works great too!)

Voila:  some (not so) naughty homemade treats to replace the typcial nasty Halloween fare.  THANKS, SWITCH WITCH!

RECIPE:  Grain-Free Banana Chocolate Chip Cake 

•4 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (cooled, or else the chocolate chips will melt, which is just as yummy….)

•1 1/2 cups homemade almond butter (made from soaked & dehydrated unpasteurized almonds–buzzed in food processor about 2 minutes)

•4 eggs (100% local & pastured with deep, rich golden yolks!)

•1/3 cup raw honey (or to taste)

•2 organic bananas (overripe ones work great)

•2 Tbsp. powdered gelatin (Great Lakes)

•couple handfuls of fair trade, organic, dark chocolate chips

•1 1/2 tsp. sea salt

•1 tsp. baking soda (optional)

Grease cake pan with coconut oil, butter, or other yummy saturated fat.

Process almonds in food processor or blender til it turns into almond butter.  Add remaining ingredients except chocolate chips and mix together.  Consistency should be like a cake batter. If it needs more liquid, you can add milk, cream, or cooking water from sweet potatoes. Stir in chocolate chips before folding into cake pan or lined muffin tins.

Bake at a low temp–250 degrees for about 1 hour.  This cake comes out pretty dense, almost pudding-like in the center, so we are basically dehydrating it a bit in the oven, and allowing the batter to “gel” rather than “rise.”  If you want fluffy cupcakes, add baking powder to batter, increase oven temp to 350, and reduce baking time to 20-30 minutes.

(Need I mention that these go great with homemade lard frosting?  Just pulse lard with maple syrup and spread it on!)

Bee Well this Halloween!

Nala Walla, MS, FIMCA, NTP (June 2015)
Ecosomatic Wellness Coaching

Ugly Ducklings and Suckers

When I hear the word “sucker,” I think of the plum tree in my garden, which sends out little shoots and leaves in a circle around itself, pushing up dozens of baby sprouts everywhere in an effort to reproduce. Many-a plant species uses this suckering strategy, especially when under stress, often cramping up in a tangle of itself so dense that it can choke out its own sunlight and compete with itself for soil resources, making it difficult for any individual in the thicket to thrive.

Sound familiar?

This behavior reminds me of the frenzied and almost automated reproduction of the human race in the last few thousand—and especially the last few hundred—years. Despite our rapidly declining physical, mental, and spiritual health, we just keep on multiplying.
Or maybe it’s really because of our rapidly declining health that our population is exploding?

There’s a sucker born every minute.

Perhaps we (accurately or inaccurately) sense an impending doom and we whirl around in some preset breeding fit that only increases the pressure on the family, the community, the larger ecology. This downward spiral then involves even more suckers to respond to the stress, along with decreasing regard for the vigor or sanity of our offspring.

And then, of course, there is the other sense of the word sucker, which also happens to line up quite well with modern behaviors: someone desperate, someone gullible, someone willing to accept almost any imitation as reality. Confronted with the firepower of an increasingly exploitative and and pathetically fake society, our habitual response is to paddle around our polluted little pond faster and faster with our brood. As the big guns take aim, the chemicals rot our feathers, and we become the proverbial sitting ducks.

But there are other responses to stress besides suckering.   Like the fabled Ugly Duckling, it is time for us to find the place where we truly belong, a beautiful place that involves real sustenance for people and planet both. Not to mention that human beings are (supposedly) a heckuvalot smarter than ducks. It is possible to slow our pace and actually give our children what they need, even if its something we never got ourselves. We can insert some creativity into our tired old procreative fantasies.

Like all other life on Earth, humans do have to reproduce if we are to continue here. Strict abstinence strategies amount to little more than suicide.

The real question is:  reproduce what?

It seems less and less wise to invest the future of humanity in a generation of record-breakingly sick, traumatized and bullied children. Plus a growing epidemic of fertility problems is rapidly chopping away at the colossal numbers we are capable of replicating.

Can we make an attempt to tune-out the roaring industrial propaganda—including brainwashing and guilt-trips about over-population, food pyramids, material success, academic achievement, obedience, manners, and discipline–and listen for the instinctual voice that still knows the root of what our children need? Nourishing food, loving arms, clean air, water & soil, strong family and community ties. These have always been the basis of what humans need to thrive. Maybe if we took care of these basics, we would naturally figure out how to keep our numbers in the range that our ecosystems can support, a homeostasis we achieved for 99% of human existence and lost only a blink ago.

If we can focus on raising a few truly healthy children, maybe when they grow up, they won’t be such suckers.

What Blacklist?

It’s not a Blacklist. And you don’t know who is on it.

Or exactly what the rules are to stay off it. Nor can you describe precisely how one violates those rules. And you’d better not try.

It’s not a public list. But those who know, know. And those that don’t, don’t even know it exists, because it doesn’t. They might suspect, but they can’t confirm.

Hug the woman who doesn’t know. She thinks you are her friend. She reaches out her puny arms to you. Just smile and hug her quickly back. Have pity on her. Have compassion for her blindness. For her self-defeating refusal to join the ones who know. For her sad and unevolved rejection of universal abundance.

Just smile and hug. Make small-talk. Envision a big black B on her forehead as you take a step towards the door. Do not be swayed by her doubts. Remember, she is blocked, even if she has been your friend for years. Let her story fade into the B. Listen but do not hear as she wonders why she hasn’t seen you in awhile.  She has chosen her own exile.  Listen but do not hear as she tells you her mother is ill. Poor thing. She must have manifested the misfortune. Pat her head and walk away. Don’t look back.

And don’t be tempted. All those who wear the black B are a threat to Us, even if they don’t know who We are. Say hello. Give a quick kiss. But be sure your connection ends there, or else you might reveal your knowledge of the List. Make and maintain appearances. Then leave the room.

Lie if necessary. Just a small white one. Small sacrifice to keep the privacy of the hygienic black B.

The B will protect you because you’re not on it. And you’ll do everything to stay off it. Anything to stay off it. Because you know. And you’re in the know. And they don’t.

Poor things. Poor little wretched black B‘s. They should have joined us when they had the chance.

Maintain the Blacklist, and you will be protected.  Betray it and suffer the wrath of your former sisters.  Yes, that is a threat.  But no one threatened you.  We love you.  We are here to help you, remember?  To empower you.  Best to stay inside our graces, encircled in our loving arms.

There is a Blacklist, but we don’t call it that.  So there isn’t one.  A Blacklist cannot exist in our pretty little community.  We are too mature, too enlightened for a Blacklist here, so don’t fret.

It’s not exactly a Blacklist, anyway. We prefer to think of it as an exclusive, renegade network. And that network will last a long, long time. Longer than we know. Generations long, actually.

Even after all the hubbub dies down, our network will be there. Some people just don’t understand it. Simply exclude them. Eventually, they’ll see. And they’ll wish they were in it. They’ll wish they were part of Us.

Membership has its rewards.

You were invited to the party, so it’s obvious you are not on the Blacklist. So you need not worry about it. And you won’t invite anyone who wears the B to your party, will you? I thought not.

The Blacklist doesn’t exist. And it musn’t. So it don’t. And you don’t know about it. Until you do. And believe me, you don’t.

(inspired by Derrick Jensen’s “The Man Box”)

Seeking the Sacred in Women’s Gifting Circles

Recently there has been much debate about the groups calling themselves “Women’s Wisdom Circles,”  “Women’s Gifting Circles,” and “Vision Sisters” (among other titles), which claim to be examples of an emerging Sacred Economy.

The criticisms of “Circle” are wide-ranging, including social, ethical and personal levels. In this post, however, I am focusing specifically on a deeper look at the underlying structure of Circle: does it actually represent a sacred economy? Is it fundamentally sustainable?

I am a woman attempting here to communicate a balanced feminine/masculine view based on my research into sacred and living systems. I write these words in hopes of shedding some light on a goal that many of us hold dear: the creation of a sustainable and truly sacred economic model that embodies the concept of “The Gift.” I hope it will be received by Circle** Women.

**(I use the word Circle here as a matter of convenience in this post, even though I do not agree that the structure resembles a circle.)

When confronted with the basic mathematics that seem to prove that Circles** are destined to collapse, defenders of Circle often accuse their critics of being stuck in a “masculine” way of thinking that is far too linear to understand the “feminine” dynamics of Circle, which purportedly go deeper than surface math might predict.

Supporters claim that the Circle is an exciting and promising evolution beyond our larger growth-based economy where the deck is stacked against women’s success, generally speaking. They claim that it contrasts the larger economy by operating on spiritual principles, supporting life and empowerment of its members.

If this were true, it is reasonable to expect that Circle structure would function in alignment with natural and universal energy systems, where the male and female principles are in balance. An inquiry into Circle dynamics would ostensibly reveal fundamental harmony with fields such as Sacred Geometry, Unified Field Theory, and Living Systems Theory, which are examples not of “masculine” or “linear” thinking, but rather the basic principles by which all systems—living, energetic, cosmic, social—function.

By comparing Circle to these most Sacred of disciplines, I am hoping we can steer clear of knee-jerk dismissals (“too masculine!”) and arrive at an accurate assessment of Circle structures.

Let’s look at one chart commonly used by Circle participants to envision the structure. It is pictured as a flower. Simply beautiful! Who wouldn’t want to join?


But a closer look reveals a strangeness. I know of no flower that actually looks like this, with a rather squarish format, and two petals beside the core. Flowers in the real world generally follow a Sacred geometry called the “Golden Mean” or “Fibonnaci Sequence,” which is a complex spiralling pattern, not a simple doubling: one, then two, then four, then eight.

And even more importantly, flowers unfurl. The flow of this Circle flower is inward, as the “appetizers” give their cash “gifts” into the center. There is no flower in the world that has a continuous inward flow. Even flowers that close up at night furl and unfurl in a diurnal rhythm that is balanced. And they all end up feeding the larger ecosystem by design, as petals drop. Quite unlike Circle dynamics, where the core “dessert” position is the one that drops out.

This concept of an imploding bloom is not only innaccurate (more like a black hole than a flower), it is inappropriate at best, and at worst, deliberately misleading. The only structure that is even remotely comparable to this “eight-four-two-one” sequence is a pyramid. There ARE INDEED pyramids present in sacred geometry, but they have balancing features associated with them, as I will discuss later in this post.

For now, let’s follow this flower analogy even further. Say you have a field of annual flowers, in which the plant grows, flowers, all the while shedding leaves, petals and seeds to the earth. Eventually the whole plant, stem and all, decomposes, adding nutrients to the soil in which the next generation of seeds can now sprout.

In previous posts, I have used the example of a forest, in which mature trees drops leaves, branches, etc. to nurture the growing saplings. This is the way of nature: The current generation gives the “gifts” of its own body to feed the next.

Our growth-based economy does the opposite, cannibalizing the ecological inheritance of future generations to feed an increasingly voracious present. In effect, our paedophageous society has got it backwards: eating its children, instead of feeding them.

The structure of Circle is similar, as the new entrants are required to feed the elders of the scheme, with material gifts flowing effectively from the youth to the elder. This aspect of Circle Culture would need some drastic revisioning to truly qualify as Gift Culture.

HOW DO PYRAMIDS FIT INTO SACRED GEOMETRY?–The work of Physicist Nassim Haramein

As I mentioned above, pyramids do indeed occur in nature. A congregation of pyramids alternating directions comprises the sacred geometric figure the Star Tetrahedron. star_tetrahedron_manifestation_largeIn fact, the Star Tetrahedron has played a central role in the work of physicist Nassim Haramein in furthering Unified Field Theory.

It is quite significant to this discussion that Haramein arrived at some of his most important contributions to Einstein’s work by including movement (spin, or torque) to equations modelling the space-time continuum, instead of Einstein’s more static conception of space-time.

The addition of this audacious and curvy, “feminine” element to the (“masculine”) field of mathematics proved to be a key insight in resolving some of the previous roadblocks in Unified Field Theory.

Haramein’s amazing work shows that the underlying structures of all magnetic and gravitational fields— including the Earth’s—occur in star (double) tetrahedron shapes. These pyramids are clustered together so that they are pointing both upwards AND downwards, in a balance of gravitational and electro-magnetic forces that creates overall stability and ultimate sustainability.

This balance is represented in a more basic form by the ancient symbols of the Star of David, comprised of a triangle pointing up, and a triangle pointing down, and the Yin-Yang, indicating the continual flow between expansion and contraction.

Star of David Yin-Yang

We can see the Star of David and Yin Yang in action in another important figure in Sacred Geometry, the Double Torus, which is essentially a Star Tetrahedron set in motion. According to Haramein’s Unified Field Theory, the Double Torus illustrates the underlying structure and movement of everything in the Universe, from the smallest subatomic structures to the largest black holes (renamed “Black Wholes”) and everything in-between, including human energy fields and social/economic structures. Please have a look at the 3D (or is it 4D?) illustration at the following link:

Here is another view of the double torus, the result of two opposing forces reaching equilibrium, thereby forming a recursive feedback loop. In contrast, pyramid schemes are an example of a vicious circle (positive feedback loop), which moves towards collapse if unchecked.

There is something strikingly out-of-sync with sacred geometry & cosmometry about the current structure of the Women’s “Circle”: the constant funneling of money from the appetizers to dessert, with no equalizing flow back outwards of this money. Remember that the toroidal flow of the Yin-Yang does not merely travel inwards. It necessarily and holistically moves outwards as well.

Case in point: Even if every single woman in “dessert” reinvested 100%—all $40,000—of their “gift” money back into “appetizer,” it fails to offset the exponentially-widening base of the pyramid. For one woman to get to dessert, 32 women must be recruited. Which means even a $40,000 reinvestment offsets only 8 (of 32) women.

The result is a continual cash flow from the many to the few, which is impossible to maintain over time. For this structure to be sustainable, the concentration of funds into the “dessert” position must be stabilized by an appropriate “pay it forward” style-redistribution.

Because they are not balanced by an opposing downward or outward flow, ALL pyramid schemes as we know them ultimately fail, as their base of support is drained and the whole structure implodes upon itself.

Importantly, the Sacred Geometries the Double Torus and Star Tetrahedron reach equilibrium by balancing the opposing forces of implosion and expansion, of gravity and electromagnetism. “Women’s Gifting Circle” structures exhibit no such stability. If we are going to compare the dynamics of “Circle” to sacred structures, it is crucial to understand this discrepancy.

To put it simply, the financial structure of “Circle” is an upward pointing triangle, which needs a corresponding downward pointing triangle to complete the Star of David, to ground the gifts which have been flowing to the top, and bring it into alignment with Sacred Geometry. To survive long enough to truly empower women, and to develop a real Gift Culture, These Women’s “Circles” must evolve into biomimicry and cosmomimicry.

If Circle is truly aiming to create a gift culture, it seems that it would be wise to understand the way that Nature—inlcuding indigeneous human cultures—accomplish gifting. In his visionary book Sacred Economics (which expressly warns against pyramid schemes, by the way), author Charles Eisenstein outlines four essential qualities of gift culture. The following excerpts come from Chapter 18: “Relearning Gift Culture“:

1. Over time, giving and receiving must be in balance.

2. The source of a gift is to be acknowledged.

3. Gifts circulate rather than accumulate.

4. Gifts flow toward the greatest need.

Eisenstein notes that indigenous gifting cultures comprise a thick weave of social bonds that result from giving, with status and esteem accruing to those who the most generous, not those who possess the most material goods or money. Those who are considered “wealthy elders” are citizens with the deepest understanding of their ability and cultural responsibility to support those in need.

In Circle Culture, women enter for the first time seeking empowerment, mentorship, abundance training–all of which the Circle offers them. However, they are asked to pay the “senior sisters” for the opportunity to learn these skills. This “pay upfront” model is merely one more example of our tired-ole standard economics, and is in opposition to the way that True Gift Culture functions. Instead, how about a total paradigm shift, where the more established “desserts” pay the “appetizers” to enter? If we could figure out a sustainable arrangement for this to happen, then we would truly be in the realm of Sacred Economics.

Circle women often claim that “appetizers” can liken their participation to paying for an education, similar to a school program, workshop or apprenticeship. However comparing to our current educational system in the USA is certainly not does not gain Circle any Gift Culture clout. Quite the opposite , it only strengthens the analogy to a pyramid, as the high cost of education ensures that that all but the wealthiest students are effectively required to become indentured servants to the system. Most of our students are obligated to a lifetime of student loan payments. Is this a sacred gifting system? Sadly, the answer is no–our current educational model is also shaped like a pyramid.

A truly empowering Women’s Gifting Circle is entirely possible. However it is clear that It would NOT be based on exponential growth–where 32 recruits are required for each woman to receive their “gift”–but rather on a natural flowing from those who have gifts to give–of financial support, of mentorship, of leadership, to those who need these gifts.

Although some the above mentioned gifts are flowing both ways within Circle Culture, the flow of material gifts is always one-way. Ultimately, all of the flows in pyramid schemes such as these will cease–the “Circle” will fail–unless the basic flaws mentioned in this post are properly addressed.

Supportive organizations that mentor women can and are being created as we speak. Circle women would be wise to lend their support towards the evolution of these endeavors. Writing this article has inspired me to meeting with a group of people in my own town who are playing with these ideas, dreaming up structures that are based on Sacred Geometry, Cosmometry, and Economics.

I hope to write another post in the future to report the results of these experiments with designing a Gifting cirlce that truly mirrors the gifting of nature and living systems.

Recently I attended a workshop with Buddhist scholar and Living Systems theorist Joanna Macy. Macy emphasizes that the perils of positive feedback loops–also called vicious circles, or “runaway” systems–result when the system closes itself off from input that something is awry.

She notes that this “apatheia” poses the greatest danger to our current culture, as we simply shut out information that indicate a need for change or course correction. Whether from overwhelm, from stubborness, or fear of change, or whatever, any positive feedback loop eventually results in systemic collapse.

Unification and harmonization… this is the threshold of evolution we find ourselves at now at a new level of global dynamics and complexity. We have built systems of technologies, economies, governance, education, etc, that do not properly account for the features of healthy living systems. As such, they are reaching the end of their viability and are either going to collapse or become balanced and whole at a higher level or organization and coherence. The choice we have now — perhaps the only viable option — is to align these systems with what we now understand is the way the cosmos creates healthy and sustainable systems… cosmomimicry. (From the Cosmometry Website)

As the quote above reminds us, all of our structures, personal, social, cultural–must come into alignment with the Natural principles.


Since I have many dear friends involved in Circle, this writing is a plea to remain open to the feedback coming your way. Communication among all parts of our system is essential.  So is a thorough and honest evaluation of what works well and what doesn’t.

Sisters: Please open your ears to the testimony of women and men about the divisive effects this is having on our communities, creating in-group/out-group distress and allowing suspicions to fester behind closed-doors and secrect society.

Please understand that many women who try and leave the groups or speak out against them are often targeted for shame and rage by their circle sisters.

Please hear that the risks of never reaching dessert are NOT being fully disclosed to new recruits. Neither is the basic illegality of the Circle structure according to current State and Federal Law (irregardless of whether you agree personally with those laws!)

Invitees are generally NOT being told that Circle Women are being prosecuted, paying fines and even doing jail time.

Are you willing to understand that many of us (even those of us you may consider your “opposition”) actually share the nobler intentions of your involvement in circle: to empower and mentor women, to support women’s entrepreneurism, to create and facilitate a sacred economy?

You are experimenting with something new. Great! You are taking steps to develop alternatives to our current economic models. Wonderful! But please get past the machisto (machista?!) concept that you have gotten the model 100% right on your first try.

Please recognize your participation in an unbalanced, growth-based economic structure, which closely mimics the larger (masculine!) economy in which you are embedded, rather than challenging it. Please see the contradiction inherent in discrediting your critics by accusing them of “linear thinking” when your very system funnels wealth unilaterally upwards.

Do you not believe it is significant that so many people—including people you respect—are trying to share with you deep misgivings about Circle? Do not simply write our criticisms off because you claim we are “stuck in fear and scarcity” mentality. Lets work together to develop a Gift Culture that is truly sustainable and truly Sacred.

If you are still with me, perhaps you will be willing to read more about the principles of Healthy Living Systems, and use them to assess the functioning of Circle Culture? I have included below some useful links, quotes and excerpts on Living Systems, Sacred Geometry and Cosmometry to get you started.

Come out of your closed door discussions and engage in conversations with your concerned community members. Let’s collaborate on a model which incorporates a reciprocating flow from the few to the many, a giving-back of the gifts which have enriched those who come first. Let’s create a flow of gifts from the elders to the youth, from those enriched, to those in need, from those who blaze the trail, to those who follow. From the ancestors to the children.

Please Remember: We are all working together towards the same goal—a shift towards Sustainable and Sacred Cultures.

Yours, in friendship and respect—>>>>Nala Walla | 28 July 2013


LINKS and RESOURCES (updated 1 Aug 2016)

•Resources on Circle by Amber Bieg
Slideshow on Circle Basics by Amber Bieg
Creating Alternatives to Gifting Circles by Amber Bieg
How to transform the “Gifting Circle” into a true Giving Circle

•Gifting Circles and the Monetization of Everything — Charles Eisenstein’s perspective on “Circle”

•”Extracting Yourself from a Gifting Circle with Integrity and Grace”– Post by Sondra Rose

•”Addressing the Womens Wisdom Circle Pyramid”–whistleblower post by former “Circler” Lindsey Vona

Sacred Economics online and in-print book by Charles Eisenstein

•The Regenerative Enterprise Institute — The 8 Forms of Capital
8 Forms of Capital–Summary
8 Forms of Capital– Video

“But, My Circle is Special”–Comment 29July2016–I am including the link directly to my response to this comment from Marian Venini because it addresses a common defense  of Circle.  Namely, “I’m sorry some women have bad experiences, but my circle is respectful and honorable.  My Circle is special!”  If you are interested in the problem with this defense, please read this thread.

The Biomimicry Institute

•Nassim Haramein, The Hawaii Institute for Unified Physics, and The Resonance Project

• Cosmometry WebPage. Please note especially the characteristics of balanced living systems.

1. Self-creation (autopoiesis)
2. Complexity (diversity of parts)
3. Embeddedness in larger holons and dependence on them (holarchy)
4. Self-reflexivity (autognosis/self-knowledge)
5. Self-regulation/maintenance (autonomics)
6. Response-ability to internal and external stress or other change
7. Input/output exchange of matter/energy/information with other holons
8. Transformation of matter/energy/information
9. Empowerment/employment of all component parts
10. Communications among all parts
11. Coordination of parts and functions
12. Balance of Interests negotiated among parts, whole, and embedding holarchy
13. Reciprocity of parts in mutual contribution and assistance
14. Efficiency balanced by Resilience
15. Conservation of what works well
16. Creative change of what does not work well

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The Farmer and the Witch: Replanting the Seeds of Indigeneity

Grandmother Witch

Grandmother Witch

The Farmer and the Witch:
Replanting the Seeds of Indigeneity

By Nala Walla


Just as any store-bought apple will always sprout a unique wild variety when planted (Pollan, 2002), so every person on this globe—even the most domesticated among us—contains the feral seeds of our own indigenous origin. Though they may be deeply buried, so deeply that we may be unaware they exist, these seeds are of incalculable value to anyone interested in the germination of sane and sustainable cultures.

Mayan author and teacher Martin Prechtel (2012, p.53) shares his extraordinary insights about these seeds of indigeneity:

The world is populated with…[p]eople who’ve lost their seeds. They are not bad or useless people, but…[t]he real people they used to be, like the seeds, have vanished…to hide in an inner world inside modern, citified people. In some small, never-looked-at place in the forgotten wilderness of their souls, invisible to the forces that would invade and take over, their indigenous seeds of culture and lifeways live exiled from their everyday consciousness.

The quiescent kernels of indigeneity are resting patiently within all of us, waiting for our variously industrialized and wounded bodies to step outside our climate-controlled routines, into the nourishing rain and soil, so these seeds can flourish once again.

Yet, the “simple” act of spending time outdoors, working again with soil and seeds, animals and trees, has been enormously complicated by oppressive systems designed precisely to break human connection with earth, with each other, and with the wilderness embedded in our own psyches. A profound sense of meaninglessness and depression often results from this disconnection, as described by depth-psychologist and wilderness guide Bill Plotkin (2013, p.160):

Affective depression is, at root…the blockage of the wild, indigenous, emotive, erotic, and fully embodied dimension of our human wholeness. The best therapy for depression begins with the resuscitation, animation, and liberation of [our] Wild Indigenous One.

But accessing our indigenous wisdom is much more than just an excellent strategy for healing our personal psychological wounds. Such liberation involves the deep shift in consciousness needed in order to perceive solutions to seemingly intractable societal and ecological problems. These solutions may have been right in front of us all along, but it has been difficult for us to see them, embedded as we are within a paradigm of exploitation, separation and division. Writer and herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner (2014, p.24-25) emphasizes the importance of our capacity to see beyond entrenched assumptions, to a deeper reality of connectedness with the whole of nature:

[T]here is every reason to view this capacity as a crucial evolutionary adaptation, a capacity hardwired into all living organisms, and which serves a specific purpose…Despite our culture’s willful ignorance, deeper perceptual experiences and paradigmatic shifts in cognition are spontaneously emerging with more frequency, and much more strongly, into the human species. For using this different kind of perception and thinking is the way out of our predicament, the way to solve the problems that those older kinds of thinking have caused. It is an evolutionary necessity.

The convoluted histories which taint our relationship with landscapes, both inner and outer, render earth-based work an extremely powerful catalyst for healing between individuals and families, between nations and races, as well as for the living planetary ecosystems of which we are all part. Our ability (and responsibility) to rebuild our connections with natural communities—human, animal, vegetal, bacterial—is underlined and potentiated by the severity and depth of our wounding. Though this type of paradigm-shifting work may not be easy, it can be extremely rewarding, and can be regarded, as both Prechtel and Buhner do, as an “evolutionary necessity.”

Whether we become advocates for youth naturalist programs, dig a garden in an urban pea-patch, create permaculture programs in prisons (Thomas, P. 2015, Vosper, 2015), or organize large-scale holistic land management (Savory, 2015), opportunities abound to reclaim our birthright as wild creatures on an awe-inspiring planet. Indeed, our ability to respond creatively and decisively to rising sea levels, to civil wars, to nuclear pollution, is directly dependent upon our ability to reconnect with our inner wildness, regarding it as a wellspring of wisdom, rather than an unruly riot which must quickly be tamed.


As I write, the colorful Halloween holiday, with straw-stuffed scarecrows and spooky lil’ ghosts parading across homes and storefronts is approaching all over the Northern Hemisphere. It’s my favorite time of year.

Crooked-toothed icons of witches on their brooms are plastered everywhere, and I can’t help but marvel at how, even after centuries of efforts to hunt and exterminate her, “The Witch” nevertheless continues to capture our imaginations. Even through the thick synthetic cloak of modern culture, our subconscious selves dimly recognize the witch—that earthy woman stirring her pot of herbs and flying through a magical nighttime sky—as our ancestor.

Despite pervasive miseducation, and rampant dilution of her cultural history, the witch endures.

The means by which the long and rich history of witch culture has been eroded include all the typical mechanisms of exploitation we are familiar with today: terrorism, colonialism, genocide, propaganda. The medieval witch hunts themselves served as the proving grounds which developed and refined the above mechanisms, when combined forces of Church, State and media experimented with global violent crusades whose purpose was to sever the connection of the peasantry to the land (Federici, 2011). Only slightly different in style and scope today, these techniques remain favorites of belligerent governments and corporations around the world that wish to remove all resistance to exploitation.

Current cartoonish portrayals of witches—virtually devoid of any real meaning—are a testament to the “success” of these terror and slander campaigns, which have destroyed most of the detail about how ancestral pagan cultures actually functioned, and the extensive knowledge they contained. In just a few hundred years, common representations of the witch shifted from a revered, medicine woman embodying a culinary, shamanic, and healing tradition, to a warty, cackling buffoon in a pointy hat who exists only in picture books.

A similar fate has befallen another figure who, in the public view, once possessed extensive knowledge about the land: “The Farmer.” The infantilized image of the witch mentioned above is reminiscent of popular depictions of farmers, ranchers, and herders as clumsy hicks who are, at best, unsophisticated and out of touch with the slick urban “reality” of modern life, and, at worst, stupid and irrelevant to the river of progress.

As with witch culture, the details of once-hearty and self-reliant agrarian communities have been glossed over in the creation of the current degrading stereotypes. I was ashamed to find on Wikipedia a whole list of pejorative slang used to refer to rural people—the very people who negotiate our relationship to the land and are responsible for our sustenance: boor, bumpkin, churl, hayseed, hick, hillbilly, lob, redneck, rustic, and yokel.

These slurs wound on several levels, translating not only to a philosophical disrespect, but an actual biting of the hand that feeds us, as well. Even worse, they demonstrate the thoroughness with which we modern people have internalized our own oppression, colluding with the severing of our original connections with the land, slashing at the lineages of our own indigeneity.

Though references to farmers in the West today usually assume “white,” “Christian,” and “male,” both the farmer and the witch–with their millenia-long lineages, and bountiful knowledge of food, animals, herbs, handicrafts–are characters which grace the family trees of diverse ancestries. Men and women worldwide have pagan and agrarian roots of which we can be proud, yet despite rich historical links, the potential solidarity between the average modern, industrial citizen and figures such as witches and farmers has been cauterized, allowing for ignorant and dangerous stereotyping to spread.


To prepare for our harvest feast, my son and I are headed to the local market in our little town. He always loves coming here, helping to fill our basket with an assortment of the succulent fruits and veggies available this time of year. But as I put my hand on the door, I feel a small jolt of fright as I notice the illuminated witch-in-silhouette, flying across the face of the waning moon–and it’s not because I am “scared of witches.” Rather, I shudder to think about what falsehoods, what shallow slanders, this image will be conveying to him about his own ancestors?

For all its tiring over-generalizations, it can at least be said that this green-faced portrait is an accurate representation of how desperately little knowledge remains about my son’s own mixed heritage. How the outlines of his original Indigenous Body have been buffed and muted into a puffy caricature. I wonder how bewildering the Witch concept will likely be to his developing Jewish identity, since her image was influenced by and conflated with the anti-Semitic images developing in Europe during the same period as the witch hunts. Wow, Mama, look at how long that witch’s nose is!  Will I really have to explain to him that since the entire populace of Europe was once wiccan, some had big noses, and some little? And how will I counteract the confusing fact that witches are pictured almost exclusively as women? You mean there’s such a thing as a boy witch, Mama? I’m merely trying to get some groceries, yet I’ve unwittingly exposed my son to a triple whammy: sexism, classism and anti-Semitism all rolled into one.

One of the eeriest things about this minstrelized Witch is how well-suited she is to the bland palate of modern industrial society in general, which is in such poor health it can hardly digest anything more than fluff, even as it starves for meaning and connection.

It may come as a surprise to many readers that people of European ancestry were (and arguably still are) subjected to the same processes of pauperization, industrialization and commodification that are currently occurring in so-called “developing” countries. In fact, we are so accustomed to seeing “white” people in a privileged, oppressor role, we assume it must have always been this way. We forget to inquire how Europeans got so disconnected from the their lands? Is it possible that people of European descent—is it possible that white people—also have indigenous roots?

Like existing indigenous peoples all over the globe, pre-conquest Europeans were earth-centered, pagan peoples—a term derived from Latin paganus, meaning “not cultivated” or “wild”—and intimately connected to a living, breathing land that they revered as the source of all life. Similar to tribal people worldwide, ancient European tribes had no formal money systems, and had no need for them, as they inhabited a gift culture based on careful stewardship of the commons—that great interlocking web of physical, cultural, and spiritual relationships. Lo and behold! Europeans once displayed the same connective qualities and behaviors we currently attribute to indigenous people.

Please allow me to propose a journey of kinship and solidarity with a larger family of pagan cultures: if the old European clans practice of “wicca” or “witchcraft” (a more modern term) was similar to that of current tribes worldwide, then can we reclaim and revalorize the term “witch” as a loose description of any intact, nature-centered culture?

In the Dark Ages, the witch-hunting authorities themselves certainly did not limit the label “witch” to European pagans, and they still do not. Snared in that same net—a net cast broadly enough to encompass almost any subversive activity, as “conveniently and strategically vague” (Federici, 2005) as the word terrorist–were colonial subjects from Africa to the Americas, at whom were hurled the same accusations of flesh-eating, fornication with the devil, and infant-stealing, and who suffered the very same torture rooms, pyres, and gallows that so efficiently broke the communities of their European counterparts overseas. And the witch-hunting violence continues to this day, for example in the contemporary murder in London of accused Congolese “witch” Kristy Bamu (La Fontaine, 2012).

Previously just a name for European pagan culture, the brand “Witch” was appropriated and became a slur used to describe anyone viewed a threat to authoritarian control—black, brown and white alike. Just a handful of generations ago, then, before mechanization, before colonization, before Christianization, we were all witches.

Amazingly, even after centuries of terrorism heaped upon the witch on at least four continents–despite her constant demonization, degradation, minstrelization, and Disneyfication–her image continues to haunt the collective soul, even penetrating the bubbliest halls of pop culture. Bovenschen et al. (1987, p. 87) describe the irony and importance of the witch’s staying power:

In the image of the witch, elements of the past and of myth oscillate, but along with them, elements of a real and present dilemma, as well. In the surviving myth, nature and fleeting history are preserved…In turning to an historical image, [we] do not address the historical phenomenon, but rather its symbolic potential…To elevate the historical witch…to an archetypal image of female freedom and vigor would be unimaginably cynical, given the magnitude of her suffering. On the other hand, the revival of the witch image today makes possible a resistance which was denied to historical witches.

I reconsider the witch cartoon on the front door of our local market: at least this image can serve as a segue for conversation with my son. Maybe, as Bovenschen, et al. (1987, p. 85) suggest, the omni-presence of this image evidences a collective ‘return of the repressed.’ Perhaps she can is being re-claimed for purposes of liberation, as seen with the label “queer” in the LGBTQ-rights movement, for example? To be certain, the sheer persistence of the witch to this day is indicative of an archetype not easily forgotten. Perhaps The Witch endures, because she is our collective grandmother?


As my son and I wait in the checkout line, I overhear a woman describing an argument with her friend, exclaiming “Geez, what a witch!” I cringe at the harshness of this internalized oppression, as she not only denigrates a fellow woman in this small community, but also slanders her honorary grandmother. One of the main symptoms by which people in advanced stages of colonization can be recognized is that they have been recruited to participate in their own degradation and destruction, mostly unwittingly.

Using a marginalized person or group (such as “witches,” “terrorists,” or “ Jews,” e.g.) as a scapegoat upon which to blame virtually anything is an all-too-common human response to stress. And it is one that elite classes have long encouraged, since it successfully diverts attention away from the real source of the stress: the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the very few.   And because scapegoating is but a mere temporary release-valve for tensions, the original problem eventually boomerangs back upon the thrower, destroying families, communities and ecologies in the process. Today “isms” are being hurled on a massive scale in the form of rampant racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, all overlying an anthropocentrism nearly as ever-present as the air that surrounds us.

Indeed, the breaking of the power of communities to resist subjugation and appropriation of their resources is the original and primary goal of all the “isms.” The campaign of terror against witches was designed with this exact intention in mind—to attack the women who were the foundations of pagan, peasant communities, as well as the backbone of the resistance to the “Enclosures”—the medieval version of the unrelenting privatization that continues to this day.

In Caliban and the Witch (2002), scholar Silvia Federici reveals how persecutions of witches in Europe in the years leading up to the industrial revolution were overwhelmingly aimed at poor and working-class women, stereotypically represented in ragged clothing (not unlike today’s popular culture depictions of the lazy and tattered cowpoke). Old women who retained their abilities to subsist on the landbase were especially singled out for targeting, since they were the most likely to embody the cultural knowledge and heritage of ancient ways like raising crops and animals, herbal remedies, midwifery, community ritual, and so forth—skills which preserved the health and independence, and thus the power of the peasantry to resist exploitation.

This disturbing strategy by which community strength is efficiently broken by sexist targeting of women leaders was “perfected” in this era. As described by feminist theorist Maria Mies (1986, p.81)

Recent feminist literature on the witches and their persecution has brought to light that women were not passively giving up their economic and sexual independence, but that they resisted in many forms the onslaught of church, state and capital. One form of resistance were the many heterodox sects in which women either played a prominent role or which in their ideology propagated freedom and equality for women and a condemnation of sexual repression, property, and monogamy. Thus the ‘Brethren of the Free Spirit’, a sect which existed over several hundred years, established communal living, abolished marriage, and rejected the authority of the Church. Many women, some of them extraordinary scholars, belonged to this sect. Several were burnt as heretics…Some argue that the witches had been an organized sect…where all poor people gathered and already practised the new free society without masters and serfs.

Unfortunately, modern attempts to manifest a “new free society” are still being hampered by sexist infighting. The consequent scourges of mistrust and abuse remain primary factors in the weakening of community resistance movements which oppose the separation of people from their lands and means of subsistence.

Today, the mechanization of industrial agriculture ensures that a minimum of people know how to grow food or medicine, the remainder being completely dependent upon service and high-tech for their work and their sustenance. During any current election year, the thoroughness with which modern people have been disciplined to accept roles as “workers” can be heard in the constant clamor for “More Jobs!” By contrast, the early sixteenth century European peasant would rather risk the gallows than submit to wage labor. Hence the irony that the wristwatch–once a symbol of slavery and an artificially imposed time, disconnected from the natural rhythms of the land—has become a modern status symbol (Federici, 2004).

The horror of separation from the land created the stressful conditions ripe for scapegoating. As mistrust was sown within pagan communities, peasants began accusing each other and cooperating with their own marginalization. This is the terrorized and disturbed ground in which the “isms” took root, and continue to “flourish” today. In modern, industrialized peoples for whom a subsistent, nature-connected life is already long-gone, these “isms” have become the preferred method of social control: an internalized, instead of overt, oppressor with whom we cooperate in the effective policing of ourselves. Much tidier, and a lot cheaper than inquisitions and bombing, we become, as Brazilian activist Augusto Boal describes in Theater of the Oppressed (1993) our own “cop in the head.”

During the harvest season where I live in the northwest United States, I see examples of this self-inflicted oppression everywhere, as people routinely consume and propagate over-simplified, “pin-up” versions of witches and bucktoothed, grinning farmers with their pants falling down. In an astonishing ignorance of our own pagan and agrarian past (and future!), we conspire in the turning of both witches and farmers into cackling, guffawing minstrels.

Yet, we are beginning to understand that large-scale human estrangement from the land is threatening the extinction of our and many other species. Instead of taking crude potshots at farmers or witches, perhaps it is wiser for those of us who have lost our connection to the land to seek out the people who have been safeguarding it for centuries against all odds? Perhaps we might recuperate this wisdom–preserved within each of our indigenous lineages–and do our best to enact it, learning more about our food systems, our ancient healing customs and remedies, about working with animals, plants, and the cycles of the moon?

In the shallow images of the farmer and the witch lie the remnants of our very own ancestral cultures, and therefore, they deserve to be paid some much deeper attention. As we embrace them with an attitude of openness and curiosity, can our historical traditions and lifeways reveal potential solutions to serious cultural and ecological problems? Could our heritages, for example, contain a key to reversing climate change?


Perhaps this is the first time that you’ve encountered the hopeful idea that animals can help heal large-scale weather- and ecosystems, but I hope it won’t be the last. What follows is one example of how stunningly straightforward reversing climate change can be.

The research of Allan Savory has not yet made it into breakfast-table conversation in mainstream, industrial society, as the television stuffs us instead full of pop culture and trivia, yet he and his colleagues in the field of Holistic Resource Management (HMI, 2015) have discovered something of extreme importance for anyone interested in climate change: a method for swiftly and drastically reducing atmospheric carbon levels that uses no technologies other than livestock.

Livestock? You mean ranchers and cowpokes—those backwards, lazy, know-nothings—can help reverse climate change?

All grasslands–prairies, savannahs, steppes, and so forth–originally co-evolved with dense herds of grazing animals whose natural ranging behaviors provided the mowing, mulching, fertilizing, soil aeration, and seed dispersal functions essential to the health of these ecosystems. For decades, in a misguided attempt to stop “overgrazing,” standard land-management policies worldwide have removed herds—and the herding peoples whose lives were intertwined with them–from these lands. The result has been a drastic acceleration of desertification and therefore, of climate change, as well as displacement and pauperization of countless indigenous people (Schwartz, 2013).

What does desertification have to do with climate change?

As enormous amounts of carbon contained in grassland soil is plowed up and subsequently released into the atmosphere (think of the American Dustbowl), Savory emphasizes that desertification is as big or bigger of a contributor to global warming as burning fossil fuels (Savory, 2013). Savory’s efforts have been assisting people on 40 million acres in Africa, Australia, Europe and the United States to bring back the herds, recreating, out of barren desert, both healthy grassland ecologies and right livelihood for pastoral peoples. Simply by returning the animals to desertified places, and helping to ensure their natural movement patterns in the landscape, soil and range management scientists estimate that we could again achieve preindustrial levels of atmospheric carbon in less than 40 years (Sacks et al., 2013, p. 15).

Amazingly, pastoral skills are now being revealed as an integral part of reversing climate change, as carbon moves out of the atmosphere back into grassland soils (White, 2014). It seems that a restoration of respect for these skills—some of the very same skills witches worldwide gave their lives to protect—is as important as restoration of the land itself. If we are serious about reversing climate change, animal husbandry will necessarily become again, a respectable occupation. Imagine shepherding as the preferred profession for the hip and fashionable, the next “cool” thing to do!

Indeed, many people are being inspired by the example of Joel Salatin, dubbed ‘World’s Most Innovative Farmer’ by TIME magazine in 2011. Salatin is rapidly becoming a well-known example of how using the simple, low-tech strategies of holistic management is not only good for soils, animals, and humans, but can also be economically viable, as well. Salatin’s (relatively) small 550-acre Polyface Farm in Virginia, USA had over $2 million dollars in yearly sales (Gabor, 2011), an impressive accomplishment for an independent farm. Polyface’s success, completely independent of the enormous subsidies given to many US agribusiness, casts doubt upon the assumed “necessity” of ever-escalating investments in hi-tech and government subsidization, and points in a more hopeful and healthier direction.

As more and more people embrace the instinctual impulse towards reverence of the land that is the source of all sustenance, reestablishing a holistic and sustainable relationship to it, all kinds of unanticipated resolutions to ecological impasses like the example above will arise. A huge accomplishment will be to perceive the stereotypes we hold for what they are: examples of internalized oppression, and a disrespect of our own ancestors, the witches and the farmers. It is time for every citizen of this precious planet to identify as a creature indigenous to earth, and to reclaim a history full of herbalists, shepherds, and agrarians. Can we imagine a world where our educational systems encourage our children to cultivate “green-collar” careers in fields such as holistic ranching, dairying, and farming?   Where “Bring Back the Buffalo!” becomes a rallying cry for the sustainability movement?


Since moving to a rural island over fifteen years ago, my own experience with farmers—especially small farmsteaders seeking to steward their lands organically and sustainably—has consistently contradicted the stereotypes I grew up with in suburbia. Far from naïve simpletons, most small-scale farmers and ranchers I know are astoundingly savvy and resourceful. In order for their farms and gardens to survive as businesses, today’s agrarians are required not only to become proficient with a hundred related skills (including entomologist, plant pathologist, vehicle mechanic, on-farm veternarian, and so on) but, as fellow citizens of the Information Age, they also are expected to maintain websites, intern programs, and community outreach calendars, as well as possess enough shrewdness to navigate a veritable gauntlet of health and food regulations, cutthroat subsidies and strategic marketing climates. One local farmer in our valley earned an MBA before starting his farm, and our local butcher originally learned his skills as a working surgeon. It would be very difficult to consider them “simpletons.”

The farmers and ranchers in our county are part of a larger national trend of young people and white-collar professionals who cherish having their “hands in the dirt,” and are voluntarily trading in their high-tech futures for trowels and tractors, returning to our neglected farms, fields and forests (Markham, 2011). In search of deeper nourishment, they are spitting out the thin gruel that our larger exploitative society tries to pass-off as sustenance, and rejecting the dominant cultural memes of our time that denigrate working with ones’ hands. For many, this means leaving urban environments and moving back to the land, in a small, but encouraging reversal of the demographic shift towards urbanization that has been in place since the beginning of land privatization.

And many others are digging right into the urban environments where they live, in the process, healing trampled land as well as tired clichés about where our food comes from and who grows it. The urban agriculture movement in the USA is headed-up by many people of color, and helps heal the ironic and innaccurate idea that all farmers are white. An example: Through its creative and inspiring New Roots program, the International Rescue Committee (2015) is helping refugees to share their farming expertise with their families and neighbors. These innovative programs are often located in “urban food deserts” where residents otherwise have little access to fresh food.

The opportunity to witness and work alongside other people of color who are expert farmers, right in their own neighborhoods, is healing for those whose land was taken from them, including African Americans, for whom the very idea of farming has been tainted with the traumatic legacies of slavery, sharecropping, and racist government policies (Thomas, M., 2015). Urban gardens give people of color a way to reestablish agrarian skills without having to move away from the safety of their own communities into rural areas, which they, often correctly, perceive as racist and hostile.

Other organizations encourage people of color to work in rural areas, such as the Fresno-based African American Farmers of California, which trains African Americans in essential skills such as irrigation and operating farm equipment on their Central Valley farm, and then helps them to sell their produce at farmer’s markets all over California (Scott, 2013). John Boyd–founder of the National Black Farmer’s Association–worked for decades to expose the widespread discrimination and abuse against blacks by the US Department of Agriculture, and eventually won back the farm that was taken from him. Though Boyd agrees that growing food in your own backyard is a huge step towards reconnecting with the land, he urges fellow black Americans to take a “second look” at farming because, “when we lose our land, we are also losing a part of our history” (Thomas, M., 2015).

In the UK, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones founded the Young City Farmers program based on a similar sentiment. After leaving his inner-city upbringing to realize his dream of owning a farm on the rural Devon/Cornwall border, he wanted to help others do the same. “Exposing ‘hardcore urbanites’ to the rural environment…can trigger a deep seated affinity with the land…it opens up a huge amount of options to someone who may have thought they were headed for life’s dustbin heap” (The Black Farmer, 2009).


In both urban and rural environments, people everywhere are breaking with conventional notions that have dictated how and where they interact with the land, and getting involved however they can. Perhaps the time has finally come for us to recognize that it is not required to become landlords of large swaths of land in order to access a meaningful relationship to earth; is not necessary to first become a paragon of virtue before we can begin healing familial, intertribal and interracial patterns; we need not have all the answers before attempting to reshape our culture to be friendlier, more humane, more connected. We can begin wherever we are, just as we are. Prechtel (2013, p. 313) describes this start-small attitude as a type of “sacred farming”:

[A]ny worthy culture has to sprout right out of the slag heap of the world’s present condition…These cultures…start in many ugly places in ways hardly noticed at first…For we, as “sacred farmers”…know we must learn to metabolize our grief into a nutrient…compost the failures of civilization’s present course, and cultivate…a future worth living in, all smack-dab in the middle of modernity’s meaningless waste.

After observing their contemporaries growing ever more hunched and pale in front of computer screens, people of all stripes are choosing to buck the technological tide by embracing traditional skills—starting small dairies, organic gardens, natural building co-ops, wildcrafting herbal medicines, and focusing on classic occupations such as tanning, smithing, orcharding, shepherding, masonry, and boat building. Simultaneously, people everywhere are fostering a world where the time-honored arts that grease the wheels of social and inner harmony–dance, storytelling, music and theater–are celebrated and integrated into everything we do. Innovations which incorporate nature into the healing arts are becoming more and more common, as well. All of the above, and more, qualifies as “sacred farming.”

In revaluing these timeless and enduring skills, we are growing real roots into our communities, and into the ground, gaining a visceral understanding how the fate of the trees, the animals, the plants, the waters are bound up with our own. Working amidst a tearful rain of human gratitude, we are making it possible to sprout forth the seeds of indigeneity that have been dormant within our bodies since our cultures were uprooted, perhaps hundreds, or even thousands of years ago.

These trends towards re-skilling instinctively recognize that when we are connected in a tangible way with the Earth are much more likely to act in reverence and stewardship of it. As Wendell Berry (2003, p.85) elucidates:

In a state of total consumerism—which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves—all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms of either what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and…people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.

Only when we risk rekindling a messy love-affair with our estranged beloved Earth will we gain the inspiration and the courage required to act resolutely when confronted with challenges such as melting sea ice, species extinction, massive pollution and “permanent” war. Thus, a human race moving robustly into a healthy, ongoing future, is destined to be a life which involves a reclaiming of our indigenous heritage—the basic right, and the basic pleasure of working, in community, with wood, with soil, with Earth. For more and more people, a healthy life will be determined by how much dirt we have under our fingernails.


Sometimes, on a windy October night like this one, I can actually catch a glimpse of the ghostly forebodings of my immigrant forefathers wafting around: Gotta get into a good school. You don’t wanna end up a dirt-farmer, like your poor grandfather! You’re smart enough to be a doctor or a lawyer! In these voices, which are threaded deep into the fabric of my personality, I can hear the echoes of a long history of exile from the land. Even after over a decade of living elbow-deep in a food-forest, I can still perceive the cop in my head trying to convince me that working with the land is despicable, suitable only for “peasants,” or, more pointedly in a hyperphobic and racist America, for “Mexicans.”

In response, I heft my wheelbarrow full of leaves and manure into our garden, and blanket the beds for their winter slumber. I laugh with my toddler as he affectionately labels the pile “Big Poop!” and encourage him help dig with his tiny shovel. I thank the cleansing winds as those voices catch an updraft and blow out to sea, and replace them with gratitude for the chance to work with earth–a freedom for which our ancestors sacrificed their lives, and for which people everywhere are still fighting—from Indian farmers resisting the exploits of Monsanto, to Amish farmers battling for the right to drink raw milk from their own cows, to modern herbalists preserving their grandmother’s healing recipes despite increasing regulatory pressure from Big Pharma, to urban farmers markets which sell food grown exclusively by African-Americans.

Like the green leaves that can always be found pushing their weedy heads through cracks in the sidewalk, no matter how many times they are torched, weedwhacked and herbicided, the unceasing sprouting of wild human ingenuity consistently thwarts every attempt to pave it over. For modern people to recognize and repair the disconnection to our “Body” on multiple levels—our personal body, the social body, and the larger earthly body—is perhaps the pivotal task of our generation. It is for this reason that I stand in solidarity with farmers and witches all over the globe, and reclaim them as titles of distinction and pride. I am a Farmer, and I am a Witch.


In putting these words on “paper,” I hope to contribute to the enormous task of piecing back together what Prechtel calls the “tribal shards” of original human culture, shards from which we can reconstruct the blueprint for an ample and sturdy cooking vessel. Only in a pot as miraculous as this, made up of pieces recovered from deep within each of us, can we simmer up the deliciously innovative responses needed to sate the rowdy ecological and social crises currently seated at our dining table and “begin remembering our Indigenous belonging on the Earth back to life” (2012, p. 10). As we reach out to the banished farmers and witches exiled within us, we will welcome also the wild solutions we need to transform travails into triumphs, and give birth to “a future worth living in.”


Berry, Wendell (2003) The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press.

Boal, Augusto (1993) Theatre of the Oppressed. New York: Theater Communications Group.

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Backhoe Blues

As I lay here in our neighbors’ sunny dome, I feel so thankful for such a nice place to nurse my baby down–both of us getting a much-needed midday rest from the land-clearing going on today at our homestead. I close my eyes and envision a funeral wreath made out of the shimmery green hemlock branches that I cut down today, as I shed a tear over the complexity and profundity of it all–how we humans inescapably kill in order to live and live to order to kill, every day of our lives.

Sacrificing the plants and animals around us, and watering the burial site with our sweat and tears: just another trip around the wheel. Today is no different, just the speed of the turning is turned up a few notches.

I’ve done clearings like this many times here in this land, but this is the first time I’ve done so as a nursing mother. And I can assuredly feel the difference: softer, more sensitive joints, and more sensitive heart. My chest and my jaw is literally sore from clenching, and I’ve had to cry alot, as I bear witness to the destruction, even as I hold the saw myself.

My son points in fascination and repeats the word “chain-saw,” in his sweet baby-babble way. The sight of my liitle-one witnessing such industrial scale destruction from the breakfast table of our cozy little hollow feels like a failure–I am unable to shield him from what are, in my view, some of the most distasteful parts of our culture.

I severely dislike the fascination our culture builds around big machines like tractors, backhoes, and steamrollers, around the excavator which is right now tearing down the very trees that Montana has grown up gazing upon, learning the shapes of leaves and the different sounds they make during a storm wind versus a summer breeze.

I was hoping to spare him the sight of this destruction, to preserve his sense of kinship with the trees, but it is not the possible with the homesteader life I lead, and I cringe at the coarseness and desensitization that I am setting up in his soft baby soul–and my own.

Ultimately, underneath it all lies a deep feeling of gratitude to the trees and critters who gave their lives today to provide raw materials and open space for the garden, the duck run, and the future barn and kitchen. Rest assured, we are taking care to save every branch and twig for composting and chipping, so as little as possible goes to waste, and builds the fertility in which we will be planting fruit trees. Our aim is to feed ourselves and our forest kin, with an eventual net gain in fertility, not a loss!

Please forgive us for the gorgeous forest soils and snakes and beetles and worms and creepy crawlies of all kinds that we do trample under our admittedly clumsy boots. We humans still have much to figure out in this world. I remain humbled, dwarfed, and supremely grateful for the immense generosity of this forest.