This past weekend, fully inspired by Thursday’s concert, I had the pleasure of venturing up to Davis California for the first time to play guitar as a member of “The Bearded Ladies” – and band composed of good friends from potlucks, farming and Camp Tawonga. Besides just having a great night playing bluegrass tunes, I also had a chance to explore Davis a bit. What I found was spectacular.
1) Heading to the Davis farmer’s market, and discovering a raw milk stand. For those of you who have never tried raw milk, or never heard of it – I can attest: it is delicious. I swear, you can taste the nutritional value. If you want to learn more, I recommend checking out http://organicpastures.com/. I had a great long chat with the two folks who were running the farmer’s market stand for Organic Pastures, and learned that they had left their video production jobs in LA to take up a life of farming. As former customers of Organic Pastures, they decided one day to take a tour, and before long, they had joined the team as farmer’s market salespeople. It was a great reminder that life is always what we choose to make of it, from LA to raw milk, and everything in between.
Raw milk is another fascinating issue on the modern agricultural scene. When you get down to it, raw milk, because none of the vitamins, lipids or bacteria have been tampered with, is inherently more nutritious and naturally fortified than the pasteurized, homogenized milk we get in our super markets today. The trick is that it only lasts for about a week before it starts to turn sour, and you have to treat your cows right. Pasteurization, as I learned from the folks at the farmer’s market, became necessary as farmer’s started feeding cows things their bodies couldn’t process (i.e. corn), and as distributors began shipping milk vast distances to be sold in super markets. Sadly, while the process of pasteurization kills all the bad bacteria, it also kills all the good ones naturally found in milk – the same great bacteria that have to be artificially added back into yogurts like “Activia”. The take away: local, smaller scale, humane milk production means healthier milk. Say what?
2) I had heard of Village Homes when I was first taking an introductory permaculture class back in Portland. Bill Mollison, in one of his epic 80s videos about permaculture, walks through Village Homes to show it off as an example of what community living could look like if we put our minds to it. Today – it still shines as a powerful example of an alternative to suburban sprawl.
It’s hard to capture everything that made Village Homes incredible. Everything just seemed to coalesce and make sense: having the front yards all face inwards and away from the streets, connected by walking paths, and shared by neighbors; kids climbing in and swinging from trees, playing together outside; food growing EVERYWHERE, and totally free for the picking along public paths; the smell of blooming wildflowers; garden spaces in front of every house, and vast tracts of managed gardens and farmland, including vineyards and olive groves; houses oriented to capture heat and energy from the sun, and properly designed to ventilate during the day, and retain heat at night; a shared community center, greens and playgrounds, to balance with the privacy of the individual homes and family units.
It was like seeing the principles of permaculture completely come to life in a neighborhood design. Each house was designed intelligently, but it was really the overall intelligent layout of the community that blew me away. I found myself wanting to study it and to learn more about the layout, design and planning.
Another interesting note: unlike many of the intentional communities Than and I visited during our road trip, Village Homes was completely tapped into municipal water and electricity, and was located fairly close by to downtown Davis and the university. It was a great example of balance between separation from and incorporation with surrounding neighborhoods and community, which I think is key to any community’s success (though it’s important to remember there’s no formula for that right balance – only what makes sense for a given area). Just driving by, it might have been easy to mistake Village Homes for any other neighborhood in Davis. It just seemed to fit.
Village Homes seemed to me like the sort of community that most people I grew up with and know would be happy to live in, and it makes me wonder if that sort of design is the direction we’re heading in. The Village Homes neighborhood was designed and started back in the 70s, and it still is ahead of the game today. My hope is to help take successful models like Village Homes, and to bring the lessons to other communities and neighborhoods, that similar designs might be implemented that fit a given region. ’cause let’s admit – they can’t all be California.
To close, a few moments of zen from a weekend out in Point Reyes National Seashore:
Love out on a limb,