Transition Happenings in Northern California

By Larry Goldberg, Transition Humboldt

BRC Convergence Opening CircleThe Building Resilient Communities (BRC) conference held in October at the Solar Living Center of Hopland, CA was a convergence event that brought together the separate communities of Northern California Permaculture practitioners and the NorCal Regional Transition Network.  This event featured such notable keynote speakers as Rob Hopkins (Transition Movement), Richard Heinberg (Post Carbon Institute), Julia Butterfly-Hill (community activist and former tree-sitter), John Trudell (Native American poet and musician), Konda Mason (HUB Oakland), Andy Lipkis (TreePeople) and others.  Workshops also featured prominently in the event, with practical demonstrations and discussions of topics ranging from mushroom cultivation and natural building techniques, to forming intentional communities, urban homesteading and other fascinating topics.

Possibly one of the most important outcomes of the event was the formation of bioregional group representing natural bioregions of Northern California including the Bay Area, North Bay and Northcoast.  These groups will be meeting in future months to take some of the teachings of the BRC conference and applying them to projects in their respective regions.

The Transition Humboldt group took the lessons of the event to stage a Sustainable Living Fair in November in Eureka.  Building resilient communities requires people with skills – useful skills – so for this reason the Sustainable Living Fair was staged a month after the BRC on Saturday, Nov. 16th at the Jefferson Community Center, a new community effort to rehabilitate a dilapidated elementary school that’s being turned into a community cultural center. A community partnership between Transition Humboldt, the Jefferson Community Center, the Humboldt Permaculture Guild, Redwood Community Action Agency and the Community Garden Collective organized the event, which proved to be a big success. 


Workshops were presented at this event on such appropriate topics as:

·         Winter Gardening with local permaculture practitioners Debbie Perticara and Michael Kein explaining what crops to plant, how to prepare the soil and how to “winterize” your garden for the various micro-climates of the California Northcoast.

·         Tree pruning with local expert tree-pruner Nathan Donnelly who demonstrated with various examples of fruit tree branches how to property prune and maintain your orchard trees.

·         Sara Schlutte and Joanna Berg, the owners of “Dirty Business Soil Analysis” demonstrated how to “type” your soil using the soil chart and rejuvenate it, if necessary, for missing ingredients essential to plant growth.  The kids in the audience especially liked getting their hands dirty feeling different kinds of soil types to determine clay, loamy and sandy soils types.

·         “Kelly Compost” demonstrated how to create your own worm farm and grow healthy soil through the use of composting and worms.  A “hands on” demonstration allowed workshop participants to get properly introduced to red wiggler worms in their native habitat – compost!

·         Levon Durr, resident mushroom expert, demonstrated how to grow delicious mushrooms at your home and proceeded to drill and plug alder logs with oyster mushroom mycelia and then create mycelia starts for everyone in the class to grow their own mushrooms at home.

·         The UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preserver group staged a workshop on home canning and preserving in the Jefferson School kitchen.  Workshop attendees learned how to prepare healthy and safe canned goods at home.

·         Workshops were conducted on herbalism at home, HumBucks alternative currency, natural building techniques, permaculture for kids and other topics of interest.

Over 120 people showed up and enjoyed the workshops and a free lunch prepared by the Jefferson Community Center.  The organizers were happy with the turnout and are planning future events to expand on the vision of creating skill-sharing opportunities.  Future events next Spring hope to feature other skills including primitive skills (hide tanning, basket weaving and fishnet weaving) and emergency skills (including producing fresh water with simple materials at hand, creating emergency temporary shelters and emergency first aid). Stay tuned for further developments!

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