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