Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Acequia Cleanup Days

Sat. Feb. 24
Sat. March 3

@ 8:00am

In Dilia, NM  (1.5 hr from Santa Fe)

An opportunity to immerse ourselves in the ancient New Mexico Acequia culture, meet our neighbors and support a 200 year-old tradition.
Each year, irrigation ditches get shutdown for cleanup.  

Trees, willows, boulders and sand/silt get removed from the ditch. Flumes, gates, spillways and bridges get repaired at this time.
Guadalupe County workers will be helping with a backhoe and the parsiantes (farmers and ranchers using the ditch) will show up for the annual cleanup.
Come with family and bring clothes to get dirty, rubber boots, shovel, handsaw or chainsaw if you have, and gloves if you plan to join the work crew.

As you may know, the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust, which sprung out of the Gaia Gardens experiment, has purchased farmland in Dilia, an hour and a half from Santa Fe. The property is located in the Anton Chico Land Grant, dating back to 1822. The Vado de Jaun Paiz acequia, built by hand in the 1800’s, is 13 miles long and serves 1,800 acres of irrigated land in the Anton Chico Land Grant.
It has been a yearly tradition throughout New Mexico for farming communities to clean and repair their acequias before the farming season.
The Anton Chico Land Grant population is aging and from what I have been told, fewer than half the parciantes (one who shares the water) show up on acequia cleanup days, even though everyone who draws water from the acequia is obligated to participate, or send someone to help (that helper is called a peon!).

You are all invited to come help or witness the cleanup.
Please RSVP if you plan to attend (I will be sending directions to those coming). Limited indoor accommodations and camping available for those wishing to spend the night at the property Friday night.

I look forward to meeting more of my neighbors and introducing you to this beautiful area.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A property has been purchased in New Mexico

Dear Community,

It is with great joy and gratitude that I am announcing that the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust (birthed out of the Gaia Gardens project in Santa Fe) just acquired a 32 acres property in Dilia, NM, along the Pecos River, 30 minutes south of Las Vegas off Hwy 84 and 1.5 hr. from Santa Fe. 

The property is located in a Land Grant dating back from 1822 with a rich tradition of agriculture and ranching. The land is a typical strip of irrigated rural New Mexico farmland with 20-acre feet of Acequia water rights.  The property has been heavily hayed and grazed over the years and land restoration will need to be practiced to help fuel a dynamic soil regeneration process.

After looking for land for two years and traveling thousands of miles, New Mexico called me back and my return has been a real love fest.

I knew we touched a lot of people’s hearts and imagination when we were running Gaia Gardens, but I never grasped the depth of hopes and dreams that were shattered when we closed the farm.

I can tell you now that it was all perfect.  That it was time for me and Dominique to get out of the line of fire from our angry neighbor and a sluggish-to-evolve City administration.

We have now affirmed that we are removing this little slice of Paradise out of the speculative real estate market in perpetuity (the purpose of a land trust), in order to develop a resilient and regenerative agriculture, along with permanently affordable housing and other cottage industries, and a Permaculture education center.

I am proud to say that this is the boldest act of civil disobedience I have ever committed besides growing food inside the City of Santa Fe!

Our first step is to meet the local culture and integrate respectfully in the community.

Elders in rural New Mexico speak of a need for healing.  How do we design this project to help re-weave the fabric of rural community, acknowledging a painful past of land grabs, poor land management and other violations that often created fractured communities, economic decline and social issues resulting in a progressive abandonment of ancient subsistence agriculture traditions? How do we design our project to help bring back younger people to care for elders and land?  How do we weave ancient agriculture practices with Permaculture technologies and strategies to withstand the challenges of climate change?  

New Mexico has rich agricultural traditions that have sustained its population for hundreds of years.  The irrigated areas along our major New Mexico watersheds could and should be revitalized to provide a large portion of the fresh produce, vegetables, grains, meats, eggs and medicinal herbs for our region.

As a nonprofit, we will be partnering with other organizations that work with regenerative farming, watershed restoration, rural poverty, food justice, summer camps, hospice care and more, and will be designing the farm to offer an inspiring and pristine place for their retreats and activities.

This winter will be spent observing the land and its patterns, remodeling the existing structure to create lodging for interns and visitors, and repairing the neglected irrigation system.

By early spring, we will begin a series of gatherings to start the process of creating a master plan for the property. 

I will be at the property part-time and am happy to welcome visitors.  The watershed is stunning, the birdlife abundant and the night skies a treat.  Feel free to reach me by email if you wish to visit.  Limited overnight accommodations are available.

Thank you for all your donations and support that have contributed to acquiring this beautiful piece of land.

We look forward to sharing our unfolding story with you.


Please Donate!

For our general fund: By credit card via the New Mexico Community Foundation website

Towards the repayment of our loan:
Mail check to:  Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust
135 W Palace Ave #301
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Your donations are tax-deductible

Wish List (items and skills) 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Back in New Mexico! Still looking for Land

A year ago, after not finding a suitable property for the land trust, I decided to move to Colorado in the hope of finding land to fulfill the mission of the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust (MACLT).

In May of 2016, I posted an announcement on this blog about a promising property in Paonia, where I moved to last November. That post has since been deleted (as to not create confusion) because my assessment of that property, and the town’s culture and politics, prompted me to return to New Mexico to continue my land search.

On my first foray in New Mexico looking for land, I stumbled upon White Oaks, a ghost town from the 1890’s (population 20), located 12 miles NE of Carrizozo (population 1,000) and 40 miles from Ruidoso (population 10,000). The town is at the feet of the Jicarilla Mountains at 6,200 feet of elevation, adjacent to the million-acre Lincoln National Forest. It is located in SE New Mexico, 2 hours from Albuquerque and 3 hours from Santa Fe.

White Oaks

I originally went to White Oaks to look at a 40-acre parcel that unfortunately sold 6 days before I got there.  I have now visited White Oaks six times since June 2017, meeting more of the town’s folks each time.  Each visit to White Oaks has been inspiring and nourishing.  I find its residents authentic, intelligent, open-minded, quirky, sweet and fun.  Although it is far from the city, I think both the town and its surroundings make an attractive destination for people in search of unusual, quiet and restful.  The drive on U.S. Routes 285 and 54 is easy and beautiful.  

I have been in conversation with 4 long-term residents of White Oaks about MACLT:

Jaimee has lived in White Oaks for 15 years.  She owns 20 acres and runs a small tree nursery that specializes in desert-adapted fruit trees.  She also trains horses, and was a competitive rider in her younger days.

Anne has lived in White Oaks for 16 years and is the real estate agent for the area.  She has 3 donkeys with French names and lives in an 1892 Victorian house that she occasionally rents out for movie productions.  

Karen is a psychologist working for the State of New Mexico who specializes in autistic children.  She owns the only remaining sandstone building in town (called the Brown building from the original owner’s name), as well as two larger parcels (35 and 27 acres) adjacent to town.  She has 8 acre-feet of irrigation water rights attached to one of her wells.  Karen offered part of one of her parcels (7 acres) but it is too steep for development.

Don is a fourth generation resident (his grandma left him a one-acre lot in town), and a genius-of-all-mechanical-trades.  He has experience in Earthship and adobe construction.  He has a well-organized boneyard full of construction material, welding equipment, sawmill, backhoe, and dump truck (all the tools a homesteader dreams of!), and is excited about teaching practical skills to young people.

School House

The presentations that I have made about MACLT in White Oaks were well received.  I have felt very welcome, as well as appreciated for who I am and what I propose to bring to the town.

White Oaks could benefit from an influx of younger folks, the establishment of a small farm, and over time -the creation of small cottage industries. The town has only one sandstone building still standing, a brick schoolhouse that is on the historical registry, two Victorian houses, a fire station, a bar open on the weekend, and remnants from mine operations, as well as a few houses and old mining shacks.  There is good ground water and some natural springs in the hills.  Karen  is exploring the possibility of buying or leasing  land to build a tiny house park.  A café is also in the long-term plans, and Karen and Don have already purchased the needed restaurant equipment.  The intellectual, artistic and skills capital are all present for the rejuvenation of a tiny town, and its residents seem excited and ready for some new blood (Don said: “bring it on!”).

Anne's House

There are only a few properties currently for sale in White Oaks, none of them suited to the needs of MACLT development.  The town is still legally platted with tiny lots from the mining days, which are not buildable as they are too small for a well permit or septic system.  I am now visiting White Oaks every Wednesday and Thursday to meet more of the town’s resident and see if one of them would be willing to sell some of their land. Because the population is aging, the prospect of a caring house on the MACLT property may appeal to town residents who would like to finish their days in White Oaks.  

During my visit last week, I met some new folks:  

An elderly couple has 20 acres at the entrance of town.  He used to work for LANL and she is a great gardener.

An elderly woman with 80 acres at the edge of town.  She has horses and is a writer. She showed me her pistol grip shotgun that she welcomes hunters with when they trespass on her property (she must be 70 and barely 5’)

A biologist, his partner and their 6 year-old daughter, who are  interested in putting their property in conservation in a few years.

Ivy is a successful potter who lives a few miles up in the hills above town.

If a property manifests in White Oaks or elsewhere in New Mexico, my plan is to first build a rustic but comfortable camp (platforms with army-type tents, composting toilets, outdoor kitchen and showers) and start welcoming individuals and groups interested in helping design the permaculture master plan for the property.

Some of these individuals may be interested in becoming resident members of the land trust, interns wanting to learn all aspects of homesteading in the hi-desert, young farmers looking for a place to farm and raise a family, organizations in NM interested in using the land trust for educational retreats, or individuals simply interested in being connected to a rural farm community that they can visit and enjoy.

The Brown Building

Even though my focus is on White Oaks for the moment, I am also keeping my eyes on other areas closer to Santa Fe.  Should you be aware of any property suited for MACLT, please feel free to contact me here.

MACLT could purchase a property and keep its former owner(s) on the property (they maintain ownership of their house).  Easements could be created on the property to add benefits to the seller in the form of tax credits.  For more details please see here.

And finally… the New Mexico Community Foundation, our fiscal-sponsor who has held the funds ($38,000) that we raised for MACLT in 2014-15, has notified us that we have to use the funds by the end of the year or risk losing them (they would be distributed to other nonprofit projects with a similar goal).

It has been a long journey since Gaia Gardens closed in 2015.  I have driven 50,000 miles since then, crisscrossing the country during the elections, attending permaculture gatherings, lending a hand at Standing Rock, and looking for property in New Mexico and Colorado. I even spent a week in Utah looking for land as I have good permaculture friends in Salt Lake.

Lots has happened on the world stage and consequently I am more inspired and committed than ever to experimenting with the creation of sustainable rural community focused on permaculture education, affordable housing, food production, and life skills sharing.

More than ever, my heart looks forward to creating an oasis in the desert and welcoming people from all walks of life to experience sanity, beauty, community, in a setting that’s multi-generational, inspiring, accessible and fun.

I look forward to hearing from anyone with ideas, resources or just a little hello.

To be continued….


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hello Paonia!

Last April, after not being able to find a suitable property in New Mexico, I started visiting the western slopes of Colorado.

The little town of Paonia immediately captured my attention. Known for its organic and biodynamic agriculture, orchards and now vineyards, the town sits at 5,600’ of elevation and has a population of 1,500, with a dynamic mix of miners, ranchers, farmers, intellectuals, musicians, artists and activists.

The town has a beautiful library, park, bike collective, bike shop, 90 year-old theater,  food coop, community art center, two yoga studios, a farmers’ trading post, two thrift stores, excellent coffee shops and restaurants, lumber yard, solar energy school, hardware store, radio station, world-class publication (High Country News), Waldorf and Montessori schools, artist-in-residence center and a riverfront park on the Gunnison River.  

In the fall, I attended the Visionary Summit (Terrence McKenna’s brother Denis was presenting) and the Harvest Festival, and felt immediately welcome by the town’s people.  I got invited to gatherings and private dinners, and the former Mayor took me flying in his 1948 Piper Club-a nice way to discover this beautiful watershed!

Real estate prices are similar to New Mexico.  The valley is irrigated by a sophisticated and plentiful ditch system fed by a reservoir off the Gunnison River (North Fork). Miles of ditches serve several mesas and thousands of acres of hay fields, grazing pastures, orchards, vineyards and vegetable farms.

It was easy to fall in love with Paonia.  Small, bicycle-friendly, full of working people and free-running children, the town has no traffic lights, franchise or strip mall.  People here take time to speak with friends and strangers. Most never lock their house, car or bicycle.

Early on, I was invited to consider a 66-acre piece of dry land, with southern exposure, just above town.  People who recently purchased a B&B that they intend to turn into a retreat center have an option to buy that land.  We became friends and they liked the idea of having an intentional permaculture community as their immediate neighbor, including the possibility of collaborating on events and sharing infrastructure. 

The exploration was fruitful as I considered the idea of a carless, off-grid and strictly on rainwater catchment project.  It wouldn’t be for everyone but I liked the idea.  Pushing the edge.  What would it be liked to share a few cars within a community of say 10-20 people, parking the cars at the bottom of the hill and walking home through trails.  Or, if needed, using a solar-powered 4X4 hunting cart to carry supplies, a tired child or an elder. What would it be like to walk home in the snow at night after an event or returning from a long journey?  Interesting to consider…  

Same with solely depending on rain catchment for drinking, bathing, washing, growing crops and feeding whatever animals we manage to have enough extra water for.  Challenging!

As a permaculturist, one must work the edges as they say…

I am keenly aware that the success of a rural community depends on its members' ability to make a decent livelihood on, or close to the land, as well as have ample opportunities to creatively and intimately engage with a surrounding community.  If children are part of the community fabric, the proximity of schools is vital as well.

The property being located a mile or so from town fulfills some of these economic and social requirements.

With a friend having just purchased 12 irrigated acre near that property and offering us a space for farming, I can envision creating a multi-family community farm on his land, which is just 15 minutes walk from the 66-acre.   

My exploration also led me to research wastewater and rain harvesting regulations, and in the process I got acquainted with friendly Delta County officials, some of whom were quite intrigued by the idea of a community land trust.

After doing my due diligence on that property, I decided to let it be for the time being.  As much as the price is reasonable for the size of the land, its proximity to town and stunning mountains and valley views, it also presents a multitude of challenges that, as a permaculturist, I can see as opportunities but to others, the limitations may be more than what they are willing to live with.

I have now pretty much seen all the available properties on the market and most are out of our price range or do not have the privacy we need.

My next strategy is to seek farmers, winemakers and ranchers who may want to retire and see a new generation carry their legacy (animal breeding, specialty fruits or crops), and interest them in turning their property into a land trust, retain ownership of their home equity, become part of a community and serve as guides-mentors for a new generation of homesteaders-farmers.

I have already been pointed towards a few of these people and will begin contacting them after the holidays.

I also moved into the Fire Mountain Farmstead, a 14-acre property with pigs, goats, ducks, sheep, turkeys, guineas and chickens, and a fabulous dog named Bubba.  James, who owns the property, recently created the GoldenSeed Land Trust, focusing on preserving farmland and giving opportunities for young farmers to have access to land.  James and I are beginning to explore a collaboration as our projects have much in common.

I am well tucked in for the winter, with very little distractions beside a little bike ride to town or cross-country glide along the irrigation ditch.

I look forward to a productive winter and feel confident that I am on the right track.  A year away from working the farm has opened me up to cultivating new friendships; something the farm did not give me much time to do.  I meet a lot of kind and brilliant young people and families who have moved to Paonia with the same longing to live in a spirit of community.  One of them approached me during the Harvest Festival and introduced himself as a “Designer of Eco-Villages for Happiness”.  Needless to say that I deeply appreciate visionary young people!  

The New Mexico Community Foundation, our current fiscal-sponsor, has given the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust permission to relocate to Colorado and has granted us another 9-months to find a property, as the two-year contract we have with NMCF to hold our funds was expiring.

I will be incorporating the Land Trust in Colorado, creating a New Board of Directors and finding a supportive fiscal-sponsor.  The name of the Land Trust may change to possibly reflect the local culture.

As much as our relocation to Colorado may disappoint some people, we hope to soon be able to welcome you, should you decide to spend a delicious vacation in this beautiful valley.

If you wish to donate to our Dedicated Fund to purchase property (funds held by the New Mexico Community Foundation), you can do so here.  Your deduction is tax-deductible.

May this Holiday Season bring you much inspiration, healing and vitality.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Sunday June 5 gathering


Prompt:  What I most wish for is…


What I most wish for is a place to call home that feels like home, smells like home… welcomes me home again and again.  I wish for thoughtfully created paths from one beloved’s home to the next.  A pod of homes, connected, each radiating its own scent… cinnamon, cardamon, mint, holy basil.. nature’s colors everywhere, lush green tufts to rest our heads upon, circle up and sing, cry, share, listen, dream, complain, fall on my knees and laugh, dance, make fires, invite new friends… I want to continue meeting myself amongst friendly faces… continue refining my reason for being gifted this body, this life… I want to ripen and offer, recoil and unfurl… I want freedom to be all that I imagine.  I want both comfort and the discomfort of stretching my old skin to the point of shedding into the new.


What I most wish for is peace and justice, that everyone on the planet has food, clothing, shelter, that all the earth beings flourish, together, we all flourish together… that we reach each and every soul, person and know we are all loved… just as we are… that every human being be happy in their hearts with no fear.   I most wish that this big blue planet continue to nurture us… that we all discover what is really going on… what we are here for, what it means to be human.


What I most wish for is to grow old surrounded by joy, beauty, and a deep sense of service to all beings.  I wish to live in a setting that’s fun, creative, funky, resourceful, caring and radical.  I wish for community of all ages and styles.  I wish to live simply so all beings can simply live.  I wish to be around trees, water, animals, flowers and laughter.  I wish to be around people who care for themselves and one another.  I wish to always strive to be a sustainable as possible, modeling for others what’s possible when we co-dream and co-create a life that is abundant, healthy, fun and nurturing to self, others, and planet.  I wish to grow old and wise and wild and unbridled.  Free

awakening each other
giving-receiving for all
I want change to come for all levels of humanity.


What I most wish for is some peace, quiet.  I want my child to grow up surrounded by people she can trust.  I want sanity.  I want people to take responsibility for their shit, to shift—me included—beyond small selves and concerns.  I want peace and quiet and time to write.  I want 20 people around a kitchen table.  I want to go outside and pick lettuce and get up at 5am and write in peace, next to big windows, next to people in their little homes, and I want to travel and move and bring love, nourish love, grow love.  I want my daughter to grow up with good food, real adults, sanity, movement.  Freedom in responsibility, simplicity, and desire for more life.  More life is what I most want, a life that I can dive into, sustaining me and everyone and everything around me. 

What I most wish for is balanced and supported self and surroundings.  The ideas that make our physical motion and cooperative momentum a tangible reality.  A realized space and the time to do it in.  Biorhythms that give every life a chance to connect and mature, and develop abilities that society does not support.  We are prone to belong ourselves soldiers and not part of the chain of natural life.  The birds teach me more than any politician, consumerism, or hamburger commercial. 


What I most wish for is a quiet nature place.  A bed with starts over my head.  A simple life.  Barefoot in dusty roots.  Soft changing light fed directly from the garden.  Time spent outdoors.  Laughter. Home soft and natural.  Shared lives, accidental meetings, impromptu parties, shared food, deep reverence.  Prayer and wonder, thoughtfulness, aloneness, and holding hands.  Care for one another.  Another way.  Serve each other and earth.  Model another way.  Care from birth to death.  Celebration, grieving, shared resources.  A beginner’s mind, a deep breath, a poet, a cloud.  Low stress.  Deeply communal. Growth. In it together, co-creating our lives, the possibilities. 


What I most wish for is a field where kids can run free, eat fruit from trees and to hear the laughter and the music and the drumming of adults as they celebrate the earth, and the miracle of us all being together at this small, so very small, place and time.  I wish this spirit and its kin would spread throughout the world and fill all hearts with peace and break down the walls we have built within and without that dehumanize “others” and lead to oppression, theft, and marginalization.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

First Community Gathering

On Sunday May 9, we hosted our first potluck/circle of sharing involving folks and families interested in the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust.

And, what a delightful gathering it was!  

As I sat in circle with everyone, listening and contributing to the collective dialogue, what I realized was that the alchemy was just right amongst us all and thoughtful responses seemed to be emerging organically from everyones’ hearts.

I was left with a sense of deep appreciation for the pervasive honesty and kindness expressed as well as a gentle inspiration to continue moving forward with this process of growing connections with one another, in order to establish a sound and fertile foundation to build upon.

When I was in graduate school certain professors often referred to the fertile void of potential inherent to the mysterious, not-knowing stage of all creative processes.   

As a group of passionate, creative, and hopeful stewards of the Earth and our relations, it seems that we are amidst a fertile void in this process of evolving the Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust, and I am excited to carry on!!


Thank you Poki and Dominique for hosting last night's MACLT meeting!

Sweet how even an initial meeting can exemplify the joys of community -the quick transition to deep sharing, the inspiration ignited, the great food, the children roaming free, the desire to somehow utilize all the experience and trials our lives have held for a greater good, the mediation between individual and community aspirations and needs, the extra moments taken to notice a cloud formation or gradations of the waning light.  We are all seekers at this stage -individuals seeking and a community seeking.  It is a provocative, powerful, full-of-possibility time.

Kris, Kai and I look forward to engaging in and helping with the unfolding process.

Thanks again!


Thank you again for inviting me to your community meeting. The first thing that comes to mind is how grateful I am to be able to participate in the conversation about living together as a community.

It's priceless to me to hear questions I wouldn't think of asking but feel so right when they are spoken. Thank you!

Looking forward to talking to you again 


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Visit to Colorado

Last week, I went to visit Norwood, a little town in Colorado, located 30 miles west of Telluride.  A friend of mine owns land in that area and set me up with one of his friends there to show me around the community.

For two days, I visited with farmers, permaculture educators, a county commissioner, young activists/urban homesteaders and a hemp farmer.  I spent an entire morning with Kris Holstrom who runs a high altitude permaculture education center called Tomten Farm.

I was touched by everyone’s kindness, openness and creativity.

The town of 1,200 residents sits in the middle of traditional farmland, now mostly used for hay production and ranching.  The area used to grow barley crop for Coors Beer as well as potato.  The irrigation ditch system relies on several large holding reservoirs fed by snow melt.

The town boasts a sweet café offering very decent fares, a hardware store, a grocery store, a community garden, a clinic, a library, a school and a food hub where small organic farmers bring their produce.

As much as Norwood is a very small town, I felt a sense of community there.

The visit was very insightful as it made me realize that what I haven’t found in my search for property in New Mexico is a sense of vibrant community.

Lone Cone, near Norwood
I have visited beautiful places in NM but all the towns around are depressed and terribly run-down.  I can’t conceive parachuting myself in one of these communities without feeling utterly isolated and uninspired.

What I witnessed during my visit to Colorado is dialogue, collaboration and camaraderie.

Land prices were comparable to New Mexico.  However, agricultural land in the Norwood area cannot be subdivided in less than 40 acre parcels.  Some parts of the San Miguel County (where Norwood is located) apparently have more relaxed zoning codes. 

I went to Colorado to get a different perspective.  I have looked at many properties around Northern New Mexico and haven't yet found anything suited for our needs, and at a price we can afford.

Expanding the radius of our search......
Mil Abrazos Community Land Trust is a non-profit project fiscally-sponsored by the 
New Mexico Community Foundation, a 501(c)3
Donations are tax-deductible