Damn Good Biking

Damn Good Biking
Mammath Mountain

Friday, December 12, 2008



I'm in.

In what you ask?


Center for Agricology and Sustainable Food Systems!!!!

I can't quite explain how euphoric I feel at this moment, its like getting into the Peace Corps, better than getting out of the Army, but not as much as getting engaged earlier this year...but how is this all related?

Its another step towards my dream not only to live back on my farm, but to feed communities and provide to my family.

Sooooooo it looks like this year is going to be another that I won't break that $15,000 annual income mark, BUT, I'm attending the Harvard of Horticulture.

I"ll make my millions later.

Be in peace everyone, I am truly a happy happy happy little boy!!!
Man, whatever.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Its begining to feel a lot like a wayfarer's christmas!!!

Greetings all wayfarer's, especially those near Kansas City

I'm almost home, needless to say, totally excited to be coming home after such a brief but intense trip around California and Baja Mexico.

One step forward, one step back, but eventually a kid always finds himself back home right?

A new mandolin has been ordered and is waiting for me at my moms, thanks to the help of some very nice people, I am utterly grateful for their help, and love you all.

My first day of arriving to Berkeley I walked about 6-7 miles round trip to play mandolins at a music store. One of the people working was a local singer-song writer and he sat down to play with me, we shared an exchange of songs, his much better, Man my tail was waging! I was just stoked to play again. For what its worth, I held my own, well however much someone can with 2-1/2 years of experience compared to his 15-20.

I've said it many times, I can be stranded anywhere with no id's, money, or home and be fine, but I start stressing when I don't have a mandolin to sing the blues, or highlight the good times. No bueno!!

For the last couple weeks I've only had one harmonica in the key of Bminor, boo!

Yesterday the boss and I caught a meeting between innings at the big league ball field of California agriculture. Salinas.
Salinas Kansas?
No silly billy's Salinas California!

Imagine a place that feeds a large portion of the United States as well as pockets of the world, but ultimately doesn't feed its own population.

How is this possible? Its like living next to a well, but never being allowed to take a drink.

Disparities in our culture force me to consider what my villagers back in Niger would think about this absurdity.

If there is food, the community prospers, kids study and go to school, mothers watch their families grow, and fathers are proud to provide for their own tribe.

Imagine that.

Aside from this paradox, it was wonderful to crash a meeting with some of state and national leaders in Agriculture. Similar to jamming with a pro' at the music store, the tail was wagging. It is really gratifying to be able to rip off a good riff or pop a good question or opportunity arises.

At this point I feel to be exactly where I should be, I am a geek about agriculture, history, and I don't know social Darwinism, and the thought of being in a place that will someday be compared with the ancient Aztec floating gardens that essentially supported the entire empire from farmers. (Xochimilico MX, so been there) Yet members of its community starve, this deeply perplexes me .

Or how about the fertile crescent, which was known to feed a lion's share of the masses during that period in history, pretty much all of the known world. Nothing big.

What's my part? Who knows of any, and we'll wait and see how it will play out, but hopefully I'm connecting with the folk in this historical region as well as others to help make possible the means for the next generation of farmers able to feed our communities .

Again, here I am back in Berkeley, a hiccup of humanity, a pleasant reshuffling of the masses through a interconnected diaspora that has swept the modern world.

Yesterday, the boss and I went to eat at a Indian-Pakistan resteraunt…..yes I typed it right.

Imagine that, maybe there is hope in humanity, what does it say about our species ability to put aside their differences. Especially in these times when the atrocities of the recent Mumbai attacks is the irritant beneath escalating tensions between the two States.

Not only did both parties agree to the horror of this event, but they came to together as neighbors, and met on a common ground. The dinner table.

Do you see the peace and strength in this?

I'm almost home, sit tight, and see you all soon.

Allah Kiraye!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

5-14-08 Chinese Parasites

Hi gang, this was a blog entry that was kind of misplaced after I broke my back and was sent home. I rediscovered it the other day, and figured why not post it.

The vultures.

From my travels and many wrong turns there have been quite an assortment of individuals who have shared a portion of their lives with me and one thing I have learned is that as humans we all feed off one another.

Why do I say we feed off one another?

Well its not a bad thing, we are social creatures, and as a flower needs the sun, humans need the interaction of others, despite how often we criticize others.

Now this can take two forms, one being a beneficial relationship, a symbiotic relationship if you will between others, our relationships challenge us, the protect us, they offer future adventures, or new loves, and opportunities.

Another form being the relationship of one life form feeding off another for a non-symbiotic relationship and one party acts as parasite to the other.

I like people, I like the symbiotic relationships, but after meeting so many others, both good and bad, when it comes to the bad it seems that most folk are generally good, but it’s the situations we find ourselves in that often force us to do things we often never would have done.

I love people and have spent time with one heck of a variety of them whether they be clergy, killers, relief workers, drug dealers, doctors, teachers , war criminals, the most violent, and the most gentlest of souls, the good lord created all types, Diversity is the spice of life.

The ones who have done wrong aren't' always bad people, even the most savage beast can have a sweet side right? The same obviously rings true for those who side with righteousness as well right?

So what am I getting on about?

Well it just so happens that I think I might have recently witnessed one of the worst type, and that is the parasite that preys on the weakness of those in most desperate need, the poor, the sick, and old.

A couple of weeks ago I was working in my tree nursery and my villagers came and told me that I had some visitors and they were wanting to use my latrine. There was a group of four: two Chinese, two Nigeriens working as drivers/translators. The leader of the group was an Chinese woman, she spoke a little Hausa, some "small small" French, with a side of English. Her companion was a short tubby Chinese man in his mid twenties who said nothing, and sweated profusely, the Nigeriens were nothing short of the suspicious as well.

My villagers were good in their intentions, but seriously, not everyone who comes to my village who is non- African is my friend.

I hate to speak like this but this woman was a bitch, and after my friendly attempts were thwarted to ascertain who she was, why she was in my village, nothing but suspicion could be aroused, I was glad when they were finished with their business, and I could return to my work at the Nursery.

It was market day, and its not untypical for NGO's, or aid organizations to work a market stand by providing free HIV testing, baby weigh stations, or even to take survey's on this and that. So after my work in the tree nursery was finished my second job of the day was to purchase twenty goats for my women's groups. Guess who I saw?

Them. The bathroom user'er'ing people!!

I approached the table to greet them, see how they were getting along, etc, nothing. Just a blank stare back at me like I was imposing on their turf, ah the nerve!

At the table their Nigerien guides in their "broka"english ….
What wrong with you?
You need medicine?

What? Why would I…..?

Then I see people waiting in line…

Oh my, they are selling medicine, and as I look around they have some antique snake oil electrode apparatus that looked about as outdated as the abacus with people attached to its wires with a gauge swinging back in forth.

I am not saying that I am a health care specialist, but I did four years working in Emergency Rooms while in the army, so I have some clue, man this was shady.

So naturally my suspicions were aroused and I wanted to get to the bottom of this. I didn't need to go to Maradi, I wanted to celebrate buying goats with my villagers but I asked them any how for a ride out of my ville after the business with goats was settled. We were off to Maradi in their shoddy SUV.

I sat in the front, the Chinese passengers rode in the back deflecting any friendly inquiries, so I focused my questions with the Nigeriens and set on towards my agenda to get to the bottom of this, and chatted them up.

The key to getting the control of any situation where you find yourself in a shady spot is test the boundaries see where pushing gives you leverage, and where recoiling can encourage a trap for unsuspecting dupes.

I had been pushing all day and nothing, now it was time to try a new approach from what I gathered from the course of the day the woman did have a small command of Hausa, French, and English, the other was a dupe, not a mute, but obviously not too talkative.

Hardly more than a lap dog taking orders from his bitch. Sorry for the language. "But it fits"

Turning on the works I used my ways to ascertain what this was all about and started in on the guides.

They were two Nigerien men in their mid twenties, they formerly worked for the bus companies and have travelled all over Niger, so logically they would be ideal guides for this type of work. They both spoke impressive but broken English and were so easy to guide through the conversation it was kind of like picking on amateurs. Well they were.

From what I was able to gather from them for a twenty kilometer ride out of the bush was that they were hired a couple times a year to escort these two leaches all over Niger and hit up markets and sell their medical wares to Nigeriens.

When the two vultures were not in Niger they returned to China and would acquire medicines then later return, pretty much on a regular basis.

I also discovered that neither had medical training or worked for any type of development agency.

Its funny but I could tell that they knew much more english and hausa then they let on, but it was getting them to show me that they knew I knew…you follow? They minded their own business mostly, but it was apparent when they started listening more intently when I was asking the Nigeriens about the chinese persons work, or any information pertaining to them.

Like boxing, its hit and move, hit and move, each movement deliberate, I was getting close to my market town where I could catch a ride to Maradi. Time to let the jabs fly!

The Nigeriens were starting to get suspicious, So I changed the topic to music

You guys like music ?

"No we don't like music, the koran says its bad….blah, blah, blah"

"Music bad? Well does the Koran say anything stupid people who believe this?


That was a left jab, the right curled tight ready for the follow up.

"What do you think of their work?

"Its… its…"

"Its…its…what? What do you think of people like them coming and exploiting your people, preying on the most unfortunate?"

"Well they…."

"Well they what?"

The sign for Aguie appears, my market town.

Take this left….

We pulled into the taxi pool,

"Okay stop here"


"This is my stop."

I get out of the car, I look into the back and I say

"Don't ever return to my village, if you do we will run your ass's out, do you understand?"

Those same irritating stares, but a level of comprehension is shown

Looking at the shocked guides from outside the car I said

You should be ashamed of yourself and if I had the time or effort I would drag each of you out of this car, tell everyone around what you are doing and the whole village would seriously fuck you up…..

Have a nice day….thanks for the ride! Shag! (equivalent of flipping someone off)

Bewildered they motor on, I hop immediately onto a taxi limping towards Maradi and enjoy a few days respite from the murderous hot season.

This experience has caused quite a stir within me, and substantial time has been spent recounting as many seedy folk, or questionable circumstances that this wayfarer has found himself in.

After all my trips around the world and meeting souls of damn near every color, and shape, people of all different perspectives and motivations, I can't honestly say if I have encountered a lower life form.

These parasites probably are ranked near dead bottom of the pit. It slips my memory but certainly Dante stumbled across a special ring in purgatory for this sort as he and Virgil went wondering off into the abyss.

The Bigger Picture
Niger is a struggling State and is an interesting place to be because I consider it an occupied state by development forces similar to maybe how Iraq is occupied by the American military and the war profiteers.

Nigeriens can be some of the most generous and peaceful of sorts but they are desperate for any kind of assistance, which in many circumstances opens them up to predation.

Not all "development agencies" are bad, many/most do wonderful work, but many witnessed operating here can do just as much damage by not applying their aid sustainably, but not creating community groups, or by not really understanding the needs of the community. This is essential. After a while when you see one level of exploitation to the next you realize its simply nothing more than exploitation, profiteering, and racism.

Think of all the soldiers, private firms, and agencies operating in Iraq; each promoting their vision of a successful Iraq and each either bringing it closer to either ruination or reincarnation.

Imagine Niger in the same sorts only occupied by development agencies, missionaries, international experts of every sort operating to assist a struggling state. What would be our psychological condition if outsiders were in every city telling us we need to change everything about how we live?
And pay well us well to convince others to do so…

It’s a mixed bag, some are really here for the best interests and the Nigeriens respond well to this, on the other hand the occupation is seen as a hand out and creating a culture of dependency.

What this type of occupation has done is open a vulnerable population up to the vultures, or even worse, those like me with good intentions, can come in and seriously mess things up.

There are enough leaches out in the world, and though I have seen exploitation on many fronts and corruption on others this instance happens to be one of the most grotesque forms of predation that this wayfarer has ever had the misfortune to have witnessed.

These two just happen to speak Mandarin, and come from Beijing.

Take the good, the bad, and the ugly, and enjoy it all. The view from my mud hut looks a lot better than the one from your cubicle.

OBama:THIS IS WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO DO!! Help us Feed America!!!

Obama advisor recommends New Farmer Corps

Neil Hamilton is director of the Agricultural Law Center and Dwight Opperman Professor of Law at Drake University. He also advised the Obama campaign on agricultural issues. So his recommendations in this column in the Des Moines Register carries some weight.

Barack Obama’s election has triggered a new sense of optimism and opportunity across the land. His ability to harness this energy to address our challenges will define his success as president.

From the perspective of Iowa’s cornfields, where his race began, one of the serious challenges America faces is finding the next generation of farmers - the thousands of new families needed to produce our food, steward the land and rebuild the fabric of rural America.

The history of American agriculture is a tale of declining farm numbers. Our rapidly aging farm population and growing concentration of land with absentee owners place the future of farming in doubt. Research by Michael Duffy at Iowa State University shows that today more than 60 percent of Iowa farmland is rented, and 55 percent is owned by people over 65. As the countryside empties and land moves to non-farmer owners, the security and sustainability of our food system is threatened.

Ironically, this is happening as surging interest in local food, the environment and health open new markets for farmers. Janie Simms Hipp, USDA’s national program leader for beginning farmer development, agrees we are at a critical juncture in transferring our farming infrastructure.

In his nomination acceptance speech, Obama said, “America, now is not the time for small plans.” Here is a big plan the president could embrace: Launch a New Farmer Corps and set a 10-year goal of establishing one-half million new farms in the United States.

The New Farmer Corps would link his advocacy for public service with an initiative to plant the next generation of America’s farm families. The program would assist current owners to transfer land and offer new farmers training, capital and markets to make their farms thrive. It would encourage states and counties to plan for supporting new farmers.

As a son of Iowa’s soil and part of a four-generation legacy of farm ownership, I know firsthand how the wealth accumulated by hardworking farm families built our rural society and economy. A renewed Jeffersonian vision can make farming the green career choice for thousands of Americans. Agriculture may have changed, but the promise and potential for farming and land ownership to build our culture and economy have not dimmed.

If anything, consumer demand for better food is creating more opportunities to farm. From Iowa’s cornfields to the urban gardens of Detroit, from New England’s orchards to the ranches of the Plains, America needs new people with ideas and energy to be the future of agriculture. Across the nation, consumers are seeking safe, delicious, and healthy food, grown locally, if possible. A New Farmer Corps would be the president’s call to create the new farms needed to satisfy our demands.

Public efforts to support beginning farmers exist. But the initiatives suffer from lack of funding, little sense of public urgency and no integrated vision to address the challenges faced by someone who wants to start farming.

The New Farmer Corps would build on existing efforts, such as Iowa’s voluntary land-link program, which matches aging farmers with young families seeking a start. It would harness loans offered by USDA and Farm Credit banks, but supplement them with benefits new farmers could earn by caring for the land, conserving energy and producing healthy food. Congress could authorize education, training and health benefits to families investing their sweat, labor and dreams on rural and urban farms.

America has no shortage of people eager to put their hands in the soil to feed us. Thousands of potential new farmers exist - college students laboring on urban farms, farm kids hoping to continue the family tradition, and immigrants and refugees who brought their agrarian legacy to America. What we lack is a coordinated, creative national effort.

The New Farmer Corps could succeed by supplementing current efforts with new funds and tax incentives, such as Iowa’s tax break for owners who make land available to new farmers rather than holding it until death. The New Farmer Corps could offer special training and credit incentives for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, so they can join the ranks of America’s farmers and continue serving, but in more pastoral and nurturing ways.

If Obama asks Americans to support a New Farmer Corps, I’m confident it will unleash an outpouring of interest from new farmers in every corner of America’s fertile land as well as from citizens - the eaters yearning for healthy food and anxious to support a more sustainable future for America’s farms.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A report from Niger...that one place over there I once lived.

Niger is plagued with many problems, one of them happens to be the government. It is a country largely ran by politicians how openly participate in corruption beyond our scope of reference in America....

well strike that...we know they are corrupt, just much better at concealing it.

Here is a perfect example of how much the Nigerien politicians disregard the rest of the country and only care for themselves.

I recently found some hidden gems of blog entries that were misplaced during my transition back to 'merica after i had my accident. they will be posted in the next day or two....In sha allah...."If god wills it!"

Niamey - Thousands of protesters took to the streets across Niger to protest a budget that awarded lawmakers millions of dollars in benefits and expenses, reports said on Tuesday.

The demonstrators marched in four cities, including almost 10 000 in eastern Zinder to highlight "the squandering by lawmakers of the country's meagre resources", private radio stations reported.

Last week parliament approved a budget worth more than $15.5m with half the money being allocated for lawmakers' expenses and benefits, according to Nouhou Arzika who organised the protests.

The protests followed Sunday's demonstrations against modifying the country's constitution to grant a third five-year term for President Mamadou Tandja. - AFP

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks to the mom's

Thanks to the Moms
Thanksgiving Day, 2008

By many definitions I am what is called a mama's boy.
It’s true. And I thank my lucky stars every year for being able to have two fantastic moms!

For a son, above all other role models, mamas should always be number one!

There are a multitude of reasons why I work with the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) or enlisted in the Peace Corps and Military for that matter. It’s natural for sons to leave the nest to discover the world for ourselves and though each walkabout differs, it seems we are all similarly wandering with the instinctive drive to make our mothers proud.

If its not then it should be! Maybe it explains the irrationality for those who start our wars; do they no longer care what their mother would think?

I’m thirty years old and have had an enriched life traveling extensively around the world sharing many a home cooked meals with mama's of all different shapes, shades, culinary skills, and opinions. Mothers are the backbone to any culture and maintain the balance in our communities. When mothers watch their children grow strong, healthy, and happy, a nation flourishes. But when mothers begin to lose their sons and daughters to war, hunger, or disaster then a broken mother’s heart can easily tear the cohesive fabric that binds our cultures and communities together.

Mothers are every sons personal Virgil here to guide us through life. Without mothers to steer us through the tempests, triumphs and failures our compasses are directionless without knowing the gift of unconditional love. It’s what makes us become whole.

But what happens to the guide who loses their voyager along the way?
How does a mother cope with losing what means the most to them?
Does the despair of losing a loved one ever wane?
I am childless. This pain is beyond my comprehension.

On November 15th the FVC hosted our second benefit dinner. This time it was at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, North of Santa Cruz. The event was filled with farmers, veterans, community members, and lastly Gold Star Mothers. During the event I spent most of the night learning of these challenges from mothers who are sustaining after losing a child in the wars of Iraq or Afghanistan. Each loss is shattering, but how each mother responded to their loss is truly inspirational and emboldens my determination to do my part to honor my fallen friends, and support other mothers sons and daughters returning home.

Listed below are brief glimpses into each mother’s journey.

After the death of her son Mary Tillman, mother of famed athlete Pat Tillman has spent every opportunity to uncover the truth surrounding her son's death and has exposed the despicable behavior, and the blundering that the Bush Administration, military, and Pentagon employed to use his life and death for their propaganda advantage . Mary is a gracious woman whom I completely admire for her courage and undoubtedly inspiring many other mothers, wives, and family members to seek out the truth behind the many deaths of our nation's fallen sons and daughters. Mary has recently released a book dedicated to her fallen son titled "Boots on the Ground by Dusk". It is a powerful account of a mother’s journey dealing with the difficulty of losing a son, and celebrating a vibrant life.

Nadia McCaffrey, founder of the Veterans Village, also lost her son Patrick during a patrol in Iraq when the American trained and armed Iraqi security forces turned their weapons against him. Nadia, a native of Bordeaux, France, has used her energy in developing a national network of centers where returning veterans can decompress, heal, and find ways to live after war. Currently Nadia is working to open two new centers within the year one in New York and the other in Minnesota. The center is Minnesota is a former school campus that will be transformed into an off the grid community with the intent to use farmers from our organization to provide training and healthy food for its residents.

Dolores Kesterson came to our dinner on the third anniversary of losing her son Erik in Mosul, Iraq when two Blackhawk helicopters collided, killing many of the service members. Afterward Delores had an opportunity to meet President Bush individually while he was meeting victims’ families. From her accounts Bush knew she was not going to be a friendly picture frame opportunity so instead he came at her immediately arrogant, confrontational, and without remorse for her loss. I highly recommend googling Delores and researching her story.

Lastly, Donna Jacobs is a mother who has not lost her son in war but is preparing to say good bye once again as he deploys for this 3rd combat tour at the end of the month to Afghanistan. Donna has been a tidal force in the Santa Cruz area since becoming involved with veteran’s services. She has started an organization called "Not This Time Vets" and was instrumental in bringing Farms Not Arms together with Veterans groups and veterans advocates to help us form a politically neutral group called the Farmer-Veteran Coalition.

My military experience was confusing. First they taught me how to take a human life, but then as a medic working in VA hospitals they helped me realize I had a gift to compassionately help individuals medically with my hands and my heart. I've never seen war, and though I excelled in the military I eventually quit and never looked back. Sworn to a new mission my objective has been to learn how wage peace by living fully, traveling extensively, and loving wastefully.

I will always cherish my mother’s very clear lessons. Be kind, make friends, and if, "IF", you have to fight you do it for the right reasons.

This is what I think all of my adopted mothers from around the world would want me to do.

Be in peace and eat good food.

Joshua Anderson

making a run

Hello everyone, here is a premature happy turkey day shout out.

Be well, be healthy, and be thankful to Sarah Palin that your turkey was not pardoned.

Listed below are a series of blogs that I had wrote over the course of the last couple weeks. Though its quite a bit, its not even a drop in the bucket.

Good news I'm COMING HOME!!

Yep, bought my tickets the other day. I'm coming home for a short spell from Dec 14th-Dec23rd. then Cat and I are going to meet in San Diego and take some bus's Niger style down to Ensenada and explore Baja Mexico for xmas & new years. Yippee!!

Well enjoy the posts, its raining gatos y perros aqui ahora and its the freak'n desert.

I love desert rains.

be well

11-20-08 Who, what, where, when, why....how the F!

Where am I?

As of the last 5-6 months a completely legitimate question consistently reoccurs…

Where the hell is….

Well I'll tell ya.

As of today I have finished a eighteen day road trip taking running me ragged up and down the California coast, today we finally arrived to our long term destination.

Ensenada, Baja Mexico.

I am staying on a six mile long, by quarter mile wide peninsula about twenty miles south of the city of Ensenada "con el jefe" of the farmer veteran coalition Michael O'Gorman.

Immediately after our Santa Cruz benefit dinner at Swanton Berry Farm we tumble-weeded down the California coastline for multiple meetings for official FVC missions.

On Tuesday we had meetings at Sword's to Plowshares in San Francisco to discuss veteran case management/funding . (in the same neighborhood that my mando was stolen) :-( www.swords-to-plowshares.org

That night I stayed in the hipster mission district with my good friend Joey Braccio who is also a former Peace Corps volunteer and sudsy swilling cohort who recently moved to San Fran.

On Wednesday we had a noonsies lunch meeting with an organization named Food First http://www.foodfirst.org/ and discussed the possibility of developing the agricultural sector of a monumental project named the "HOPE collaborative" http://www.oaklandfoodandfitness.net/. The goal of the project is to create a network of urban farms headed by farmers from our project to develop the "food shed" around Oakland. In addition we were offered an opportunity to write a book about the experiences of our members as they describe transitioning from soldiers to farmers.

Six hours after the meeting we had a 2100 dinner meeting with a Neem Pesticide salesman in Los Angeles. I grew Neems in Niger, they are an introduced species from India and have a gazillion useful purposes from food, fuel, construction, medicine, and forage. I love everything about Neems!

Another two and a half hours after this meeting we arrived to our final destination of the day at another veteran farmer who owns a greenhouse hydroponic basil and three acre organic avocado farm named Archi's Acres near San Diego at about 0030. (http://www.archisacres.com/)

After an all to brief slumber we gave a TV interview to a local news station in San Diego in the early morn' describing our project work and then had a meeting with the proprietors of Archi's Acres on some ideas how to best start training other veterans to become farmers.

Another four hours on the road after this last meeting Michael and I finally arrived to this little slice of paradise….many I can hear the ocean from inside the house!!

Though again tomorrow appears to be busy, my hind quarters are refusing to sit on anything that has wheels and a motor.

I'm pooped. Time for bed.

But worry not, I do have a few more items to add that are in final draft mode and will be posted soon.

If I had a mando, I would jam :-(

11-18-08 Woody was right!!

This land is your land,
This land is my land,
From California to the New York Islands...

We are currently driving through the San Joaquin Valley leaving behind the secularly spirited Bay Area towards the subcutaneous and smoggy Los Angeles region for more meetings to help progress the Farmer Veterans Coalition.

The passing view from our rented car provides a road side glimpse of one of the worlds most productive agricultural regions, plantations of apricots, plums, and peach tree's add a patchwork of life to a contrasting parched landscape of empty pastures and mountains.

For yet another night the sun is setting on a unfamiliar western horizon, and once again I hum quietly Woody's timeless lyrics.

As I was walking those ribbons of highways,
I saw beyond me those endless byways….

America really is a magical place.

In the span of a little more than two weeks I have been up, down and back to many of California's most influential agricultural spheres of influence and have met a variety of California's farmers.

Listed but not comprehensive of where I have been.

All over Sonoma County, Davis, Santa Cruz (3 times), Oakland, San Fran', Berkeley, Long Beach, San Diego, The Great Valley, Central Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Bolinas, Los Angeles, and Ontario.

By tomorrow night I'll be sleeping on the beach south of Ensenada, Baja Mexico.

Every day a learning experience, every place arrived another agricultural lesson.

If only seeing was enough...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Day of Rest 10-13-08

So now I am staying at a very beautiful location in Sepastobol, Northern California, the redwoods are towering above lush vegetative damp corridors, the weather is unseasonably fair, and while the rainy season progresses another season comes to a turn away from home, and my village in Africa.

Today was a good respite. Though Matt's land tenet is to say for a lack of a better word….Crazy? It can't spoil my determination to simply rest. It has been a taxing couple of weeks, we definitely hit some lows, the worst of worst about the mando, but you know the work takes my mind away from the challenges and increases my determination to stay the course.

If there is anything I have learned over all of my travels this year is that its not simple to take the road less traveled, the road carries baggage, and who cares about the destination, it’s the journey that means everything.

Founding Fathers of Agriculture

10-10-08 Founding Fathers

Hello all.

Yesterday on 10-9-08 the boss, another veteran, a reporter and I had the privilege to meet and spend some time with a gentleman named Warren Weber at his 100+ acre Marin County farm near Bolinas directly NW of the San Francisco Bay area.

Warren is considered to be the first organic farmer in California and at a youthful 68 years young I observed an incredibly intelligent, well educated, and a thoughtful individual who started out in the 1970's as an idealistic "long hair" practicing a niche market by growing organic. A couple of decades later an older, shorter haired founding father of the Organic movement hosted the well known "organi-philiak " Prince Charles on his farm in Bolinas during his regal road trip around 'Merica to observe our nations organic farms.

In the sun room of his converted late 19th century Druid hall turned home we weaved in and out of many topics related to our project, his personal history in agriculture, and each of our own personal histories and agricultural experience. This conversation was an invaluable lesson in organic agriculture history as he chronologically weaved through the 80's & 90's and then finished on contemporary trends and potential avenues for the future of sustainable agriculture in America.

During our farm walk I had the opportunity to speak with Warren alone and surprisingly we learned we shared a few things in common, geographically speaking we are both from Missouri, each of us have each lived in Charlottesville VA, and though I didn't attend Cornell, my wonderful fiancée did. Aside from that it was about all we could agree on. Just Kidding. Warren was a gracious hosts, and he gave me a several things to kick around the brain box. After explaining my Peace Corps project and my desire to return and finish my work sometime in the near future he provided me with some potential contacts back in Charlottesville that focus on rural international -agricultural development.

Aside from farming, Warren's current endeavor is to transition all of Marin county's agriculture into organic production, currently at about 25%, he has also pioneered an initiative to develop Marin's own specific organic requirements tailored specifically for communities needs.

Afterwards, leaving Warren behind, the four of us all had a delicious lunch with the South African reporter who shared her experiences as a young woman living through aparteid , and later immigrating to the States because of the struggles there.

Then after the meeting we headed back up north and visited a lovely urban garden named "Crescent Moon Farms "where a young couple has converted their lawn to food production for the local community. With less than 1/2 of an acre in production they produce a plethora of peppers, herbs, vegetables, along with roughly fifty chickens for meat and egg production.

They even had an old beaten up Romanian mandolin that could hardly hold a tune, but was enough to eek out one little "friend of the devil" with the natives.

Later that night Michael the FVC boss packed our stuff back up and meandered back to Santa Cruz for another two hour drive, the second trip already that week, ending in three two hour each direction from north of the Bay Area. Yikes!!

Though I have been out of my village for six months now, I would think that they would be proud of me for continuing forwards with my dedication to agriculture and my continuation of what they taught me about the importance of food security.

I feel blessed to have gone so far on this omnivore's odyssey first learning from the most resilient, revered, and innovative farmers, of Niger. Now I am continuing the education my villagers gave me, but learning from their American contemporaries how to feed my own village and others.

Monday, November 24, 2008

HOME!!! Where is that again?

hELLO folks, me here.

But where?

Ensenada Baja Mexico!!!

Been living it up pretty high on the hog here. The weather is spectacular, the ocean (a stones throw away from the house) is refreshing after my daily run, and many a sunset have been enjoyed to a glass of wine. Today i even squeezed in a farm visit and discussed food production with the natives.

but here is the best part. I'm coming home!!!

I booked my flight, from December 14th-December 23rd I will be back in Missouri and visiting my family all upright and actually able to walk.

For those of you just tuning in I returned home from the Peace Corps in June after sustaining two fractured vertebrae.

So if god willing I get another mandolin be prepared for a full on onslaught of the old characters like Rob Nold and the "Asian Sensation" Andrew Weii flying in from Indiana for a serious jam.

So so so stoked. I'm homesick, its been far to long away from home.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Harpooning Baja Mama's!!

As of the last 5-6 months a completely legitimate question consistently reoccurs…

Where the hell is….

Well I'll tell ya.

As of today I have finished a eighteen day road trip taking running me ragged up and down the California coast, today we finally arrived to our long term destination.

Esconedo Baja Mexico.

I am staying on a six mile long, by quarter mile wide peninsula about twenty miles south of the city of Esconedo with the head honcho of the farmer veteran coalition Michael O'Gorman.

Covering many miles, and meeting with many folk along the way for official FVC business we tumble-weeded down the California coastline on Tuesday had meetings at Sword's to Plowshares in San Francisco to discuss veteran case management/funding . (in the same neighborhood that my mando was stolen) :-( www.swords-to-plowshares.org

That night I stayed in the hipster mission district with my good friend Joey Braccio who is also a former Peace Corps volunteer and sudsy swilling cohort who recently moved to San Fran.

On Wednesday we had a noonsies lunch meeting with an organization named Food First http://www.foodfirst.org/ and discussed the possibility of developing the agricultural sector of a monumental project named the "HOPE collaborative" http://www.oaklandfoodandfitness.net/
to create a network of urban farms headed by farmers from our project to develop the "food shed" around Oakland. In addition we were offered an opportunity to write a book and have it published by our veteran farmers explaining their experiences transitioning from soldiers to farmers.

Six hours after the meeting we had a 2100 dinner meeting with a Neem Pesticide salesman in Los Angeles. I grew Neems in Niger, they are an introduced species from India and have a gazillion useful purposes from food, fuel, construction, medicine,and forage

Another two and a half hours after this meeting we arrived to our final destination of the day at another veteran farmer who owns a greenhouse hydroponic basil and three acre organic avocado farm named Archi's Acres near San Diego at about 0030. (http://www.archisacres.com/)

After an all to brief slumber we gave a TV interview to a local news station in San Diego in the early morn' describing our project work and then had a meeting with the proprietors of Archi's Acres on some ideas how to best start training other veterans to become farmers.

Another four hours on the road after this last meeting Michael and I finally arrived to this little slice of paradise….many I can hear the ocean from inside the house!!

Though again tomorrow appears to be busy, my hind quarters are refusing to sit on anything that has wheels and a motor.

I'm pooped. Time for bed.

But worry not, I do have a few more items to add that are in final draft mode and will be posted soon.

If I had a mando, I would jam :-(

Saturday, November 8, 2008

SB Day +2

Scum Bag Day +2.

As you all know after these last two recent blog postings my heart was broken when my mandolin was stolen.

Though its getting easier to accept, I'm not giving up without a fight.

Today I contacted every pawn shop,music store, and dealer and left the general info and contact # Expectantly the pawn shops are anesthetized and unfazed by stolen property, but the music shops wanted to tar and feather the scum bag.

I also contacted my good friends at Picker's Supply and told them what happened and they were in disbelief, and then offered to sell me another mando at a extremely cut rate if I wished to replace the old one.

I'm down but not out.

Currently in Petaluma, tonight we are all going to an awards dinner honoring one of the FVC members for her service striving towards peace.

ok, I've been traveling all day and sitting in this fine park with wireless service in down town Petaluma long enough that my toes tingle. Time to go have a pint, and walk awkwardly until the pins and needles subside.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Making lemonade

SB Day plus 1 (SB=scum bag)

Woke up crying, walked to hallway called Cat, balled, talked to mom, balled, sister, balled, matt, balled.

Them too.

Contacted police department swam like a seagull in Prince William Sound, but the muck cleared.

Received all the pawn shop names/numbers and will be contacting them tomorrow.

To keep my mind off the crime, I had to stay busy, and it actually turned out to be a good day while active, while alone/driving, the emotions stirred

Each time I move to a new location I sense a part of me left behind.

Had a wonderful lunch at Swanton Berry Farms, then went to the CASFS program and caught up with a couple of the 2nd year apprentices I met on my trip in August.

Then attended a meeting and bounced around some ideas with others.

I miss the ole' General terribly, here I'm misty eyed.

But there's hope the police are searching, I'm being proactive, and generous others whom hardly know me have offered help to acquire a mandolin, its impossible to replace.

Even walked into a music store, told the tale, glanced at the mandolins at a distance and left them misty eyed, and willing to offer one hell of a deal.

I even contacted the music store back in Fredricksburg VA at Pickers Supply and spoke with them, equally heartbroken.
Note** you do not get their kind of attention when ordering instruments online.**

All in all, things are progressing, today was good day. As always Santa Cruz is an exceptional place to find myself wayfaring for a while.

Oh, and I forgot, we visited an urban farm ran exclusively back homeless persons.
Darn do good hippy California.:-)

A turn of events

This trip has been an ultimate disaster.

I have little other news to offer, this is how it all played out.

Since leaving Charlottesville a few short days ago my life, dreams, and heart have been ultimately shattered into thousands of tiny jagged pieces. Immediately this trip has been filled with gloom, on my way to CA I fell ill, missed my flight and was charged $400 extra to get to my destination thus depleting my last monetary resources in the world and now have .55$ in my account.

On election day, the day of days, I felt such an overwhelming exuberance that the possibility for real change was at our finger tips, the new era in American history was unfolding before us. I'm merely doing my part. Call it chronic volunteerism.

So after the flight mishap and staying in Long Beach, I walked with my heavy bags a couple miles to the bus station when I arrived and reached into my back pocket searching for my wallet, it was gone. This loss cost me my identification, (passport) etc as well as Personal documents, and the last remnants of cash reserves left other than my bank account.

Africa Redux. Backpack is there too! I hate bags with wheels, that's tourist shit.

But its okay, I know being broke its not out of the ordinary, but with optimism in reserves I knew I'll get more money, ID's can always be replaced.

Wait, it gets worse.

This morning I had a meeting with the FVC and learned the organization has had some steps forward and some steps back, but its on its way to hoof'n forward. I just prefer to hit the ground running.

Wait, it gets worse.

Tonight we attended the annual conference for Swords to Plowshares and after making great connections, enjoying fantastic food, and working for the opportunity to secure funding for my horticulture program I left the event quite optimistic of a future for our organization.

Though my pockets were empty my heart was filled with hope with a positive future.

As we returned to our car walking through the concrete corridors of San Francisco we arrived to the parking spot and was immediately stricken with despair as I saw the chards of broken glass glistening in the street lights from what was once the back window to our car.

Luckily two of my bags were still in the car after a concerned citizen frightened the thief into dropping two of my bags and waited there until officers arrived to file a report and leaving me a note, but the damage was done. My mandolin was gone.

If you know me, spent some time with me, or are a regular reader than you know my immense satisfaction taken away from playing music. My beautiful mandolin was a gift I bought for myself after serving in Niger. I’m a musician, and though I have no plans to make a living playing music, its how I get through life. Sad, I play, Happy, I jam. Euphoric I dance-play-and relish in the self taught ability to create music entirely heart felt with others.

But now what do I do?

My heart is utterly broken. How can I replace an instrument I spent years dreaming and saving for, months shopping and researching every store in Virginia and online internationally. The single thing that gives me the greatest pleasure and excitement in my life has been taken from me, and for what?

Some evil bastard that has no appreciation for the countless hours spent practicing, and playing, or appreciates the craftsmanship of a fine instrument, or the what it takes…whatever.

God, my heart is entirely broken.

Tomorrow I head to Santa Cruz, I'm stopping by the horticulture program and going to do my best to assure my place in the program and pick up the pieces from there.

I'll be fine, money, ID's and personal papers can be replaced but not the object that reflects a large part of my soul with others.

As they say its "gut check" time and its time to pick myself up and keep persevering, but, but….

Damn this turn of events.

If karma catches this scum on the street I hope it secures the parasite a certain place in one of Dante's rings of purgatory. Then I'll do the good thing and forgive him, but it won't bring back my joy.

Be well everyone, and don't worry, my glass will be half full again and you can be rest assured by the time you have read this I have started treading on the hard path towards recovery and already making a new batch of lemonade.

Be well

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thank goodness

Hello all, real short.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I'm sure you all are feeling the same sentiment, thank god the election is finally here.

In about half an hour I am going to walk to the bus station and hop the Amtrak to San Diego where I am meeting up with Michael O'Gorman who founded the Farmers Veteran Coalition to watch the election. I'm not exactly certain where we are going to watch the results, but where ever it is the entire day will be euphoric.

I never thought the day would come when the bush regime finally came to an end, and now hopefully on this historic day we will all chose to usher a new era of American history.

change, recovery and progress, are these such terrible things to ask for?

May god forgive you if didn't vote.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Its Halloween.....eeaooaaahhhhoo!!!!! Change is Scary!!!

Hello folks, slying to CA tomorrow wanted to say sai anjima before heading out and to part with these words.

Vote for Barack Obama.

It comes to no surprise I support him, I'm a liberal.

But it doesn't mean I would like the guy. Initially weary of him, Obama has proved to be a man of integrity, character, intellect, eloquence and curiosity. Until this very morning I remained skeptical if he can be the leader he is proclaimed to be.

On every front considering this election Barack has shown to be truly exceptional and has conducted himself as what I would consider to be presidential. On the other hand my once high opinion of John McCain has been irreparably damaged as every thing he once was respected for proved to be nothing more than a life built on fabrications and cover ups.

The only thing he can actually stand on with dignity is that he once was a POW, but that doesn't make him presidential.

Bush is a mediocre son of a American dynasty, McCain is sub-mediocre and from one of America's most revered military families. Bush has utterly corrupted our systems, trashed our global reputation, and only can only proclaim "mission accomplished" for destabilizing the world an ultimately bringing down the worlds last hegemonic super- power. Us.

What can McCain seriously do differently in the next four years that he hasn't already agreed to for 90% of the time over the last eight.

Eight years have been enough, I honestly can't take another four....or more, we see it everywhere, America seriously needs change.

If McCain wins, I'll support him objectively. But….but……but.

But if Palin becomes Peeps after the old oak falls before the first 100 days. Well then America you just voted in Karl Rove's second presidential candidate. (We can all at least agree he is a slimy fucker right?)

Do the right thing, vote for flipp'n obama.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Folks, more folks, and things folks know that other folks don't

I don't know of what it is worth mentioning but after spending ample time deep in Dixieland, and some more time "up thea!"in "yankee country" Vermont, both groups as different as they are left me with a sensation that both sides are perhaps privy to something I'm not quite aware of.

Now I'm not so certain all those yokel who wear the shirts notrodomously predicting the glorious south rising again are totally backwards or foolish!! Or that some of those run of the mill lumbarjackish armed to the teeth maple syrup tapper kind of guys, are for lack of a better word eccentric.

Both social groups from these despairingly polar opposites of America are true patriots. Both are proud to be from the farming grounds that produced so many brave soldiers for many a war dating back to the revolution.

One speaks liberty or die! The other yells, I don't know something about the glory…..

Gathering intel disguised as a neutral Swiss delegate on a fact finding mission 'touring Uh'merica prior to the election my role was to press the issues in both camps and catch a glimpse of both perspectives and to say the least, I was truly surprised with my findings.

Neither party agreed on a single thing. Except for two exceptions.

1. America will have its eventual downfall and the eventual civil decay will lead to a new bloody age of American civil war, or western style lawlessness. Hum-wa - wa-waaaahhha (Clint eastwood style)

2. Gun Control.

Both camps apparently agree it is fully appropriate and a natural right as citizens to protect you and yours whether it is from crazed gay friendly socialist trying to take away our rights, or from a fascists totalitarian state sponsored by the local mega church.

One calls to arms over a belief that "their candidates palls around with terrorist"
The other side says "We don't think the other side should have all the guns if the shit goes down"
The first says the degradation of "real American" core values has eroded.
The second says you are creating a fascist state totally eroding civil liberties protected by the constitution!

Really is this indicative of our political climate in America?
Is there more to it than some palin crazed frenzy yahoo screaming thoughtless banter at a McCain rally? "Kill him" Terrorist! "Traitor!" Yikes, I think its more politically polite to say how they really feel.

Have we gotten to the point in American history where we have lost so much faith and credibility in our financial, judicial systems, or government 27% Bush, less than that % for congress. That we might actually see these kinds of days if just the wrong kind of things happen?

Has the end game to all of this partisanship built up especially over these last eight years really leave deep seated hatred between belief systems, democrat or republican?

You notice these differences are not as geographic specific anymore.

I never though I'd ever get the feeling of guilt or unease being from a free state, but I certainly have, but only down in the deep pockets of Dixieland.

I'm sure many other people not from anglo-American origins get that feeling quite often.
Its an eerie feeling.

Such was the case when I went to a tractor pull and the traditional rally round the flag time actually flew the Dixie cross instead the old stars and bars we usual folk rally to.
I sat down and folded my hands in.

Later in Vermont after my disguise as the neutral Swiss delegate fact finding prior to the election cover was blown, and that I was actually a lost wayfaring poor ole missoura boy with a war chest of my own back home, it was even tricky to gain back their trust after one of them exposed my Midwestern heritage was indeed linked to a split state during the civil war.

Damn these well read'r northern'rs peoples, indeed Missouri was not 50/50 or demarcated by geographic lines during the civil war, this was tricky.

But through reasoning and dialogue what any friendly nothern'er will give you before they run you through, I explained that even we Missourians can be freedom loving folk. Take for instance Mark Twain, a personal hero, and a man who did more through his literature to expose the deep flaws in Jim Crow's America, he even served briefly in the confederate army, and look what he did in the long run.

They had to agree to that..wheww!

Even back in America travel can be slippery when wandering in places that demand different alliances, but generally if you stick to your guns and say what you mean honestly and back it up with good facts then you can't lose. Or you order the biggest, heaviest, coldest fresh beer for your opponent and then you crack him between the eyes with it and stand your ground or run from the mob.

As for me, I’m a little uncertain how I feel about America's future. So I have decided to disagree with each totally and then arm myself to the teeth and further fortify my current position held in Virginia to prepare for that eventual knock coming to the door this week.

Knock! Knock!

"Sir have you heard about McCain's foreign policy, and Obama's link to the domestic terrorist bill ayers"

Seven more days my friends.
Live free or die.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

once again.

Hi guys here I am. Charlottesville Virginia and all things are going well. Soon I am returning to CA, and going to work there for a few months, then east coast, and hopefully afterwards horticulture school in santa cruz. Which my travels indeed are pointing me in that direction.

I do have some things to write about from my trips so prepare for a few entries.

All right be well.


Sunday, September 21, 2008


are you kidding me?

I was thinking last night while thouroughly enjoying the Neil Young set list at Farm Aid that though it seems my adventures in Niger are past, my new adventures are shaping up to be just as fulfilling.

Currently I am sitting on a little farm called Ceder Circle Farms located in North Thetford Vermont. My temporary residence is nestled up to the conneticut river in a little stowed away in the hills of northern vermont. They are a working farm complete with farm store, cafe, vegetable and orchards, as well as two magnificent Belgium draft horses named buddy and companion.

Two days ago I returned from CA, left the next afternoon for Boston, not knowing either where I would sleep, nor more importantly even where farm aid was, but no worries, that's all details that work themselves out as they go.

So I arrived in Mansfield Mass, about 2330 and did some reconnoitering around the festival grounds and chose a patch of soft grass to rest my bones, and then proceeded to sing myself to sleep while playing mandolin and keeping the morning dew off of my with a borrowed tarp i took off a polish sausage stand.

The next morning I awoke bright and early and met up with my current hosts, Will and Kate Allen. They put up a both to talk about the real costs of cheap food, and as an expert in the field, Will has recently released a fantastic book outlining the history and relationships related to the chemical warfare on our farmlands named "War on Bugs".

I was sent this way to learn from Will, and take away some ideas from them of how to proceed with the farmers veteran coaltion, and more importantly surf the wave of this agricultural movement I currently find myself a part of.

The lessons of food security and the importance of farming intelligently from Niger are returning to me through every conversation I have with interested listeners, and I find myself in a unique posisition having come from that experiance, yet conflicted because my heart pulls me back there, but my roots in America are spreading and it seems that for no America is going to be my home again.

If one was to ask two weeks ago where will I be for the next year, I would say with 75% certainty that I will return to Niger, but after my trip to CA, and having set some plans in motion, its now 85% certain I"m going to be living in Northern California before the year is out.

Here is the Plan.

Matt, Michael O'gorman and a couple others have decided that we are going to start a farm in Northern California, and devote our labors towards producing quality produce to feed into high value markets in the bay area as well as providing locally grown food to the communities we're established in. Through this venture we are also going to develop a veteran-farmer training program to move vets through our farms and our network of emerging partners established throughout America to give these guys some time to learn some skills, travel, heal, and move in new directions to put young able bodied folk on farms.

Alright, I have been living in the desert for a year and a half, not a hot day ellapsed without me daydreaming of kayaking or canoeing down a river, and since I hurt my back I was unable to, but now it seems all the stars have aligned and its time to jump in the river (bathe) and then observe the beautiful landscapes of northern vermont as the changing of the seasons develop.

I hope all is well in each corner of the world for whomever is reading this, on this end, things couldn't be better.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Hi gang, 

you guys wouldn't believe all the crazyness going on out here. I was super busy working on the french garden farm in sebastopol with my friend matt, and together we were guest of the kick off dinner of the veterans farmers coalition. I was with incredible honorary guest such as pat tillmans mother and daniel ellsberg *leaked pentagon papers*

It looks like in this trip has secured a definate future in agriculture for myself, and who knows how far down this rabbit hole its going to get.

 Leaving for berkely tonight, flying to DC tomorrow and will be in Boston the day after that, then Farm Aid.  then i'll probabaly stay on the east coast for a week or so and work some farms.

alright guys take care.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hurricanes and Speaking engagements.

Holy Cow!

I survived the weakest hurricane of all time! (hannah)

Cat and I traveled to North Carolina this weekend to give some presentations to 2nd & 3rd graders about our experiences in Niger, but the trip was mainly for meeting up with some of Cathys friends somewhere in Northern NC for two days then off to Raleigh for a night.

Northern NC was quite beautiful, the place we stayed was nestled in some dense forest and we went hiking there during the hurricane, it was awesome, but I must add it was no stronger than a Nigerien sprinkle for what we expected. Our presentations went overwhelmingly well, we gave two different presentations to about 100 elementary age students. With the backdrop of a photo presentation we talked of our experiences and what life is like in NIger.

We highlighted life for children in Niger and drove home the importance of education and striving to understand different cultures. We talked about our work, and summed up typical life for Nigeriens. The kids were totally captivated, and asked endless questions after and during our 1 hour and 15 minute presentation. Then we finished up with pizza and ice cream with a class then worked off the food afterwards with some very intense games of tag.

I was reminded that though my body is 30, my spirit is about 8, it was so refreshing to be mixing it up and attempting to make a positive impact on students and hopefully plant the seed to think independently and if you have a dream to catch, run after it and never allow limitations to slow you down.

Life to this point is proving that the only thing that can limit us is a lack of imagination and years to pursue our dreams.

take care, Nazifi

p.s. there are winds blowing about possible work, I'm heading out to California Thursday to partake in the farmer veteran coalition fundraiser and then heading out to boston to represent the organization at this years Farm Aid.

Some crazy things are going to be blowing in over the next two weeks so keep checking in.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Contemplating the future

Hi guys, sorry for not writing more about calif0rnia or keeping you all up to date on the goings ons. It would seem that I find myself in a bit of a quandry as what exactly to do. Since I have been gone from the Peace Corps for an extended period of time and my end of service date rapidly approaches at december 15th, they are inviting me back only if I agree to another year, and that decision needs to be made in the next couple weeks.

I can't say that I find this an easy choice, there are many things pulling me in many directions. I have a wonderful fiancee' whom I utterly adore and if I stay than my goal for the next year will be to work towards studying at the Horticulture school in Santa Cruz, along with an oppertunity to potentially mexico to work on a comercial agriculture farm and learn about farm management.

In contrast there is Niger, my home, my mud hut and birthplace to all of these possibilities, but the real stipulation is that I never finished the work I was gaining ground on. I have spent better part of a 1 1/2 years studying, traveling, and most importantly learning new perspectives and gaining so many experiences. Then poof! I'm back in the states?

I'm looking for work and now in short game mode, thinking about the immediate future working menially to keep a float isn't what I feel particularly tailored for at this time. When I look at my paltry readjustment allowance I see it whittled away in a few short months despite how frugal I live, and the money I would use for the Horticulture program never used for its actual purpose.

What happens if i leave and come back, will i find myself in a different position financially I would have a couple more thousand anchored in a bank account if not invested. Maybe also with more time available I can devote it towards my next step after the Peace Corps. Only if given the opportunity for closure, maybe that would be enough, but another year? I know I would take away much more than the first two years, but after finishing my work, will I be better suited to move on, and more prepared for living in the United States?

It has been difficult to leave something so unfinished that has given me everything I could have asked from it, to leave my friends, animals, but also the many many projectrs I was working on. Niger for me has mostly been about the work, though a lot of other experiences have given me equal pleasure, it has been the greatest time of my life sharing these experiances with everyone along the way.

My perceptions have been that the more you see of the world and its diversity the more you will love it, and its sharing these experiences with others as I have grown that has fueled my desire to keep going and its this passion that calls me back.

If I don't return I won't see this as the end of an adventure, a definitely disappointing ending, but it isn't one that was made in vain or a disaster. Besides it can't rain all the time and the sun will surely shine anew. I feel to have enough passion to light my way for many lifetimes.

thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A growing Movement of Agriculture

Hi guys, many of you often wonder what I will be doing after the Peace Corps, thanks to my very good friend and brother in farms, Matt McCue, this will hopefully be a part of my life's work.

and don't cuss the farmers with your mouth full.
Seriously we're lethally trained.

Unique food, peace and farmer event coming to French Garden

Sept. 14 event links Iraq vet with white linen evening
BROTHERS IN FARMS — Members of the “Farms Not Arms” group participated in a recent Petaluma Farmers Market. Pictured from left is: Josh Anderson, Colin Sillerud, Lily Schneider, Matt McCue and Sufyan Bunch. - photo provided

Sebastopol’s French Garden Restaurant will lay out the white tablecloths for a special afternoon dinner on Sunday, Sept. 14, from 3 to 6 p.m. to help launch a new collaboration between seasoned farmers and energetic young veterans looking for their place in the current food revolution.

“Farms Not Arms,” headquartered in Petaluma is sponsoring this event to promote the Farmer-Veteran Coalition.

Produce for the event is grown by Iraq war vet Matt McCue and his crew, including other veterans, on the French Garden Farm nearby, according to Dan Smith, owner of both the restaurant and the farm.
Executive Chef Didier is transforming the dinner menu.

Longtime organic farmer with Del Cabo Organic and Project Director of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, Michael O’Gorman said he was very excited to announce that his friend George Naylor, Iowa soybean and corn farmer, and Past President of the National Family Farm Coalition, will be the event’s keynote speaker.

“There is no one in the entire country,” O’Gorman said, “that can explain how agricultural practices, policies and politics have created the dire situation our food production is in.”
Much of Michael Pollan’s recent book, “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” was dedicated to Naylor and filled with references to his first-hand observations. Pollan is also involved with the Slow Food movement, which emphasizes preserving traditional food sources and educating people about food as a center of community.

“There truly is a revolution going on in food and farming,” O’Gorman said, “and Sonoma County is Ground Zero for it – the growing public demand for healthier, fresher, more diverse, and most importantly, locally grown food. But we can’t make it happen, unless we reverse the 200-year-old trend of having fewer and fewer American farmers. Farming is a life-long commitment to long hours and physical work. We will not find the farmers without reaching out to the two million young Americans who have come out of the military since September, 2001.”

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Tikiverse

Parting from our last excursion from the Ikeaverse and the 70's era wolf pack of rockers we move to a separate reality experience when "Hemily", myself and two others pack our gear into the heart of Virginia near Gettysburg where their friends put on an annual camp out complete with fantastic music, camping, jam circles, and not to mention some of the tastiest pulled pork sandwiches I've had in quite some time. Don't get too much pork in Muslim Niger!

Anyhow after a day of watching Henry complete in Maryland at some back water harbour bar about two hundred "remember the glory days" mix of former high school athletes, fraternity jockey boys, and yokels compete in beer pong. Nothing is really worth mentioning this other than saying WTF!!!! is this. Serious, guys competing on who can throw a ping pong ball into a cup of beer for cash and prizes is stupid, but watching the testosterone soar and shit talking fly was only made worth for it the free food pilfered, and the insanely cheap beer we drank.

Anyhow, after the ding dong tournament we arrive at this wonderful spread of a place complete marshlands and a picturesque creek flowing through a beautifully landscaped home. At the house they had erected a full on stage where the night's entertainment included a bluegrass band from Pennsylvania, a local jam band from Gettysburg, as well as some filler material such as a guy with a guitar.

For a little venue of less than a hundred folk they had one hell of a stage erected complete with professional sound engineer along with all his studio equipment.

The patrons of this wayfarers pilgrimage ranged from cities such as DC and Baltimore, and even some of the local color infiltrated the camp. I recall in between our jam session when I got up to stretch my back and grab some fire water from a tent I saw a pair of hairy confederates near the distant campfire away from the jam bullying each other over politics and I don't know who could piss further. Though they could never agree on the exact same point they were both arguing on with fingers pointed and teeth bared, agreement was settled when one made the popular call to solidarity balking Fuck'n A!!' White Power!, White Power!

Where the $%^* am I?

ahem, I'm from a free state. Well kinda, Missouri was kind of split.

Leaving them alone and not alluding to the fact that their arguments were shit, and it did little good to intervene in such nonsense I returned to the Jam knowing two things. Unlike them I have opposable thumbs, and I can certainly piss farther.

But the point of this blog isn't to touch on the subtleties of Beer Pong, or knuckle dragging extremist, its about my first Jam since being back after a year and half of isolation in Niger from playing bluegrass/jam music. Mind you I picked up the mandolin mere months before leaving for Niger and someone telling me to play a G chord was as alien to me to comprehend as these morons were to understanding that America is most likely going to have its first its first black president.

Down with Whitey!!


Its no secret playing mandolin is no longer a hobby or passion it is an extension of who I have become over my walkabout in Niger, and though I do on occasion jam with rasta's, and other varieties of Africans, and all other walks of life. As a mandolin player in Africa my instrument is more of a novelty and though it does fit in, its not the roots of the music I constantly play.

So one could say this was my time to shine and see what I could do after my year and half's journey.

I arrived at the jam a little late after needing to take down some liquid courage, they knew I was coming and were excited to have a mando' player infiltrate the ranks of banjo, fiddle, and two guitarists. Still a little sheepish and suffering from a bit from not feeling entirely welcome at the small venue I awkwardly picked a seat behind the players and softly included my chops, and a few small runs up and down the fretboard when inspired to do so.

After about twenty minutes of this type of playing my very good friend Henry (the music critic) crouched next to me and said "quit being so precocious and show them what you can do".

Precocious? What the....? Precocious? I have had a lot of life experiences wandering the spinning big blue spinning ball, been loved and loathed and called accordingly. But precocious? Never.

How does one even respond to that?

Well here's how.

Understanding my friends point and he was right, I've come along way to far to simply be mouse'ish and not do what I know I can. So at the next break in songs I was going to do something a little out of the ordinary at a jam circles, I was going to play something of my own.

So the break occurred, while everyone was waiting for the next song to play I started off the beginning of one of the songs I wrote called "Tabula Rasa" which is Latin for "a new beginning" Its a simple piece Dm F C, then back to DM and in Nigerien fashion it repeats itself with the melody and bridge never changing but only in intensity.

I don't know exactly why I decided not to sing the lyrics I wrote for the song but instead I chose to improve the song by weaving a story that was a summation of my wayfaring that began with my induction into adulthood by joining the military to pick up a gun to make my way in the world, but became seriously disheartened as an effect from what I experienced. Then the song morphed into the trials and tribulations of living in Niger then wrapped up with an unexpected intensity that left me emotionally charged and a little misty eyed when I ended the song screaming about the pain of losing my spiritual rasta guide Patrick in a fatal accident one day before we were supposed to link together to help operate a music festival for Nigerien artists and musicians.

My friend was a rastaman
we played for love of all god's man
but when we found our way
and 'bout to wander away
he up and died.

When I started the song everyone sort of stared at me wondering what the hell was this, I was breaking jam band circle code, but when they took in the lyrics and got the gist's of the chords the fiddle came in, then the banjo, lastly the guitar added its instrumentation and before I knew it a full band was rocking it out behind my mandolin and lyrics, though my eyes were closed the entire time I could sense the intensity of the attention of everyone present.

After we finished the song there was an eerie silence as everyone stared, I rubbed a tear from my cheek with the back of my long sleeve shirt and the fiddle player turned around and said. "Dude, did you write that?", Ah well kinda, I wrote the song but improved the lyrics. "Damn, that was intense."

Welcome to the wayfarer's world.

Later as we liberals and hippies took over the bonfire after all the supremacists left about 0230 after a solid three or four hours of playing, I felt my previous precociousness left way behind moldering in ashes after ripping up and down the mandolin.

At the fire the guys in the band asked me more about my journey, my music and commented that my isolation and self taught style of playing mandolin was quite unique and that they were thoroughly pleased to have had the chance to play with me. I felt likewise, it was my D day of playing in America, though it was simply a jam at a inconsequential home festival it was my first time ever playing with veteran musicians at an open jam of the sorts.

In many ways this event was very therapeutic for me, to me when something is really burning deep inside of me there is no way to convey my thoughts through work, conversation, or the spoken word, my medium of choice is the mandolin. It has been there on all the nights in Africa where I have experienced such a wide range of emotions both happy and sad. But all memorable.

I have no preconceived notions of ever trying to "make it" playing music its not my goal to rely on this in my life, but to get through life when I need it most. But who knows music has become the form other form in which I can be completly honest and portray the world I see through sharing my experiances and emotions. It has become an unexpected surprise in which I use to often connect with others. So if it challenges people to think critically, open their minds, or just enjoy a little melody and sing along, well then my job is done.

We'll its getting late 0200 and I need to start winding down for the night, I'm also watching America play Holland in Olympic soccer and I'm a little torn, though i am rooting for America, I did live in Holland for a small very influential period of my life and I am also rooting for them.

So in my confusion I'm going to leave this blog the way it is until my Microsoft word works on my computer and I can edit out all the junk.

alright hope you enjoyed this quick waste of your time.


Wowsers the world is getting smaller

This is incredible, right now I am sitting at the dining room table and watching the Beijing Olympics on my computer both through live streaming and recorded events. It really is remarkable this whole communications technology age, since returning home I have discovered You tube. Youtube was up and going before I left sure, but since all things are usually a couple years old before I get wind of them it makes it even more enjoyable.

Since discovering these mediums I have used them as a wonderful resource to view a range of topics and beautiful things such as musicians performing to staying informed on current world events such as watching actual footage from the Iraq war as well as the terrible developments of the Geogrian-Russian war.

I apologize for not blogging more already about my trip as promised but tonight I'll bear down and hammer out another entry.

Being overwhelmed by how much more connected our planet is becoming connected it reminds me of a firm belief that we are all connected to one another. There is nothing worse then having to hear from someone balk "ah who cares if it happens on the other side of the world, it doesn't affect me" but AH CONTRAIRE MONFRAIRE, it does.

okay that's it, I"m just feeling so awed by all the new developments of human communications and feel strongly that as these types of networks continue to expand we are only going to learn more and more about each other, whether it be how terrible or beautiful we can recreate a song, or how devestating a war can be from actual footage instead of receiving it filtered through the powers that be whom wish to sheild us away from the terrible realities of conflict.

So I urge you if your not traveling, or activily learning more about the world on a regular basis take the time and see what's going on, believe me EVERYTHING is connected and it does effect you.

my soap box'n is done. Time to watch Nigeria and Japan Soccer!!

ahem... go USA! "

Monday, August 4, 2008

Day tripping on the Warshington DC leg of the journey

So when I visited DC two exceptional friends from PC Niger sheltered me. Independently they are mighty but when conjoined like voltron they create a unstoppable force called "Hemily". Tucked safely away from all the evil conservative bushit's of Washington I was sleeping safely in one of the east coasts' most liberal bastion's. A wonderful hood called "Tacoma Park".

Emily is a American Studies PhD student at George Washington University, and is dead set to do anything to bring down the man. For example when our PC friend Matt (whom I just visited) was pulled out of Niger to return for the "surge" in Iraq it was her wrath that had us in immediate contact with the upper eschelons of the policy department within the pentagon.

Henry though more subdued, is quite a force himself. Always in the constant pursuit to become an Olympic marathoner he is a one man wrecking machine of a editor for a weekend culture edition of a newspaper in southern Maryland. Though he is doing all the work himself, theatre, movies, food, reviews etc. etc. His real passion is music and is also a contributing writer for "Bluegrass Now" as well as band manager.

ya good friends to have I know.

Anyhoo, my too few of days in DC were spent catching up with the both of them, but due to schedules it seemed I seldom got to hang out with the both of them at one time. While Henry was away, if time permitted, Em' and I would go into DC and do neat-o things like visit the art museums on the national mall. I even got to gawk at my favorite paintings by Thomas Cole called the "Journey of Life" one of my songs I wrote is based on this monumental work

So here is a little snippet of one of our days.
On July 18th one day after being officially axed from the Peace Corps Henry and I took a road trip to spend some time to ourselves, work, and goof off. He was on assignment to do a write up for a local band playing at a fair, and I was on board to kick it like a ninja.

So we went to southern Maryland, and let me tell ya it might have loads of crabs, sailing, and transplanted affluence; but when all of that is stripped away it is a honest to goodness back woods god bless Americanistanagan.

So naturally two hippies seeking adventure and suffering from extreme parchment and emaciation sought refuge in the town we were seeking only bar. An American Legion.

I know, I know, One would think... Whaaaat? American Legion?

But seriously listen.

I grew up on the road and I learned that if you do a stint on the open road burnt out,counting pennies and in need of a road pint and cheap food. My friends there is no better refuge than an American Legion.

Sure sometimes when I walk in the proverbial record scratches and the heads turn, but as a wayfarer I know how to morph immediately, and often have rounds bought in my favor.

Ah Hi I came in Peace!! Go respective sports team!!! God bless 'Merica.
In AL's folk are always talkative, mostly hospitable if you skip to their beat.

I mention they often buy rounds?!!

So in the American Legion we bellied up to the bar sitting next to some guerrillas of
American folk, after eating a few wings, spouting some 'aMerkana with a tactical special ops trainer and a crew cut former marine/gym coach we washed down our opinions while enjoying a few delicious sammy adams brews.

Then it was time to walk out all uprightish and serious, it was time to get get down to business.

Getting lost in a one bar town is easy when your perceptions are a little hazy, we thought it was us, but little did we know its a natural phenomenon when in close proximity to time portals.

As we eventually found our way to our destination we found ourselves at the predetermined meeting spot: one of the musicians house. Then all things went all wavy gravy.

First entering the house all things appeared normal they were very inviting, the man of the house reminded me of someone like many of our school janitors. A nice man, but seldom do students learn who he is.

On the surface it appeared to be a modern home; hardwood floors, TV, chips on the table, a kid strangely zoned out on the couch watching TV (apparently autistic), a wonderful backyard complete with landscapes and an edible food garden.

But when they took us down stairs...

Down the rabbit hole we went, and what we thought were three normal subdued folk who like to dabble with music turned into a viscous wolf pack of rockers safely hidden deep into their retro lair.

Their jam band palace complete with stand up mic's, huge ass amp's, speakers, instruments, everything all created spasmically in a long forgotten time. Even the tuner for their instrument's was a throw back not to mention one hell of a psychedelic light show in itself. It was like a Frankenstein grandfather clock with tentacles.

Crazy man.

No matter what laws of nature where broken in this teleportal, nothing could remind us in this fantastical realm that the golden seventies were three decades ago.

After the initial phase of being severely dazed and confused I was generally enjoying myself and as we watched and listened to some very surprising enjoyable melodic harmonies we were diggin it. They rattled off their renditions of songs such as the Beatles "nowhere man" then as a closer a twelve minute rendition of CSN&Y's "Southern Cross". WOW!

Sorry I mean Far out man!!!

Completely bewildered by what the hell just happened to us we made the 2-1/2 hour trip back to DC and pushed fervently through an Atlantic blower to meet Emily at her current place of employment which was somebodies house who apparently is a political poller who hires Em' do crunch numbers and apparently dog sit.

Anyone interested in Rhodesian Ridgebacks? Seriously cool dogs, but I wouldn't trust suburbonized ones to hunt lions like they were originally bred for to do anything more than cower from a stuffed animal of one.

There we stepped out of the cozy neatly manicured neighborhood into the ikeaverse. A home of rigid lines, modern furniture, and a general lack of feeling that actually anyone lived there.

But really a beautiful home, northwestern style, wonderful landscaping. But all very factory made, its rude to say but a freezer full of icee pops was the warmest part of thier house.

But they had a GINORMOUS plasma tv armed to the teeth with a thousand and one channels, I can't say I would want to spend more than a few minutes in thier house, but to a kid whose been isolated in a mud hut for the last year and a half I could have spent days in front of that thing.

So steadfast in our determination to see what liberals on the other end of the tax bracket live like we ate some icee pops and watched little frogs ride bicycles all over the mountains of France.

Ah home for the Tour du France!! Generally sucks up about three weeks of every summer for me.

Seriously aside from men in skin tight lycra its one of the humanities greatest athletic competitions. Fascinating sport, naturally been a fan for years.

Thinking of it, not only was this day a passing through a few different universes, my whole trip across America was.

As a nine fingered guitarists once sang "what a long strange trip its been"

Well folks thats about all I've got left in me. Today I rode my bike for the first time in a year and half and was giggling like a school boy the whole way. Two months ago my only wheels were a wheelchair. I love healing!!!

Time to publish.

I've hammered out this blog late into the night and its time to enjoy a well deserved pint of IPA and start settling down with a few games of computer chess before calling it quits.

Alright sai anjima!!

tomorrow the Tikiverse: An Archipelligo of the Jam Band Incidents.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Salaam Aleikum!

Finally back in Charlottesville Virginia, whew!

I did it, two and a half weeks living on the road carrying little more than a small messenger bag with a couple changes of clothes and the mandolin which is what I would typically travel about Niger.

This was a wonderful journey, not only was it an opportunity to explore my options after the Peace Corps, visit with old mates-making new ones, then filling the rest of gaps Jamm'n, farm'n, hike'n, all in effort to "cautiously" challenge myself as a final test to learn for myself if I am physically fit enough to return.

I learned I don't know my third week in Niger that if your not 100% or damn near then don't do anything. Seriously. Heal. Niger is welcoming and really lovely but it is a mean bastard if you wander into the elements without caution.

Where would I even begin, damn I am just so happy to have been able to do all those things. You guys have no idea how difficult it has been to have my wings clipped, nearly my entire time spent here has been indoors laying about resting/healing in between rehab and jamming and exploring the local scene.


A happy man is at this end slowly typing away.

there will be a full write up of the exploits, check in regularly this week I will try to post something each day.

O yeah I was offically released from the Peace Corps...ashaa, but no worries I worked it out and will be returning to Niger in about two and a half weeks, as a fully reinstated hopeless idealist and dirty hippy.