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  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Search for a Property has Begun

We have begun to look at properties within 60 miles of Santa Fe.  

Property should be at least 10 acres, have some water (acequia, year-round creek, well or spring) and hopefully be located near national forest.

We are not necessarily looking for "farm land" as irrigated bottom land is usually too expensive.

We have so far visited properties in Vallecitos, LaMadera, Mandenales and Mineral Hills (near Las Vegas).

House and outbuildings are a plus but not necessary as we plan to build small, ecologically-smart dwellings over time to fulfill our mission of providing permanently affordable housing.


*Maximum Distance 
60 mi from Santa Fe
30 mi from Las Vegas
30 mi from Taos
5-50 acres
Under $400,000 
Well, acequia, spring or creek. Water rights are a definite plus! 
A Property already subdivided into several lots is preferred as we plan to build multiple dwellings, village style.  
Our educational activities will create some traffic and minor disturbances that could bother neighbors if they are too close.  They may also object to a subdivision of the property. Land adjacent to National Forest, BLM land, or a large ranch would be ideal. 
*Road Access
Year-round, not dependent on a 4x4 vehicle.  Some community members may depend on a part-time job away from the community, and we also do not want to hinder visitors.
*Sympathetic neighbors and community
We are interested in areas where we already know people, as they could help make introductions, vouch for us, and potentially help us navigate the local culture and bureaucratic process.
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