Sometimes I feel like I’m on an island up here, only thirty minutes north of the hustle and bustle of Chico. I love it up here, alone with the oak trees and the dogs. We do our own thing, in between consigning a great deal of hours to our chosen, or maybe settled upon, sources of income. It’s a funny thing though; I think Trish and I go out in Chico now more than we did when we lived in town.

Chico is a weird, wonderful, spirited community, and nowhere was that more in evidence than at the Save the Bookstore benefit show held last Sunday night at the Women’s Club. The event was part musical concert, art show, an auction of goods and services, and a killer buffet – all mashed
up with a color and style like only the influence of the dames from Chikoko could inject   (is “dames” politically correct these days? I haven’t been keeping up…).

The music started with the gothic-leaning Snow in May churning out a wicked version of the Stones’ classic “Paint it Black,” and ended with the crowd shaking and grooving to the funkadelic stylings of Black Fong. In between was an eclectic line-up of groups ranging from smooth jazz to quirky country to the sweet original songs of Erin Lizardo and Aubrey Debauchery. The silent auction was teeming with original artwork: paintings, writings, sculpture, even a serenity gong fabricated from an old piece of artillery. The place was brimming with almost careening energy. I had to leave before my head exploded – my country brain can’t handle all the city excitement anymore.

In case you missed last week’s episode of Synthesis, the event was held to raise funds to keep The Bookstore, Chico’s premier used book store, up and running. If the level of participation and enthusiasm is any indication, things are looking promising for the Muir family, and the community at large. Fingers crossed.

 

I’m currently reading a book called The New Organic Grower, written by Eliot Coleman, an organic farmer with over thirty years of experience. Everyone should read this book, though maybe not cover to cover. The sections on soil health and garden insects reflect a growing awareness among farmers of the balance between a healthy environment and healthy food production. In this age of increasingly high-tech and virulent pesticides, and genetically modified food stock, Coleman emphasizes a holistic approach to farming – an approach that focuses on causes of problems, instead of symptoms. For example, Coleman surmises that a plant susceptible to insect attack is a plant that has been compromised, or made vulnerable, by improper exposure to sunlight, water, or lack of nutrients in the soil itself. Instead of spraying for the bugs or genetically modifying the plant to resist the bugs, create a soil environment that encourages healthy plants. It’s basic and intuitive, but somehow over the last century and a half the thinking in agriculture has shifted towards technology and away from the natural order. It’s time to move forward by going back.WALL-E_plant1

I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. All this stuff is common sense. But how do we find ourselves, in the year 2013, so far away from positions of common sense? Is it simply layers over layers of disjointed thinking that have taken us step by step down a course that teeters on the verge of self-destruction, or is there something even dumber going on? I don’t know, the box of wine is almost empty and my head is spinning like a top. Until next week…

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Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.