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Flowers, Creatures & Contemplatives Embracing One Another in the Wilderness World

I.

 

“…the silence of the forest is my bride & the sweet dark warmth of the whole world is my love & out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence, but it is the root of all secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in the beds all over the world.”

Thomas Merton (1997), Dancing in the Water of Life (journals)

 

Among the earliest memories imprinted in my mind: ...

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Agrarian Ecology

One might wonder whether any twenty-first-century preoccupation with agrarian values, agrarian ecology, and agrarian ideals comes as too little, too late. Less than 2 percent of the North American public lives in rural areas outside towns, cities, and suburbs, and less than half of the world’s population now lives outside cities. But the New Agrarianism, which is emerging globally, is not restricted to the rural domain, nor is it necessarily a romantic desire to reenact social behaviors and mores associated ...

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Desert prophet of new food crops

For 40 years Richard Felger has promoted native plants to feed the Southwest

Richard Felger has always been a little ahead of his time. Even before he was a teenager in southern California, he cultivated rare cacti and orchids at home, and kept three alligators in his bathtub. Before he graduated from the University of Arizona, he shadowed some of the world’s greatest desert ecologists. On his first trip down to Alamos, Sonora, he realized what would drive his ...

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An Apology to Young Agrarians

Dear Aspiring and Practicing Young Farmers,

Before anything else, I want to apologize for previously failing to acknowledge your value to our society at large, and to more fully support you in gaining traction with your endeavors. In four decades of writing about farming and ranching, I am afraid I have missed the mark by not writing about the issues most critical to your health and well-being. I have been so attracted to helping save the seeds, breeds, soil, and water ...

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Pollinator Plants of the Desert Southwest

Native Milkweeds

The Desert Southwest harbors at least 41 of the 76 milkweed (Asclepias spp.) species known to exist in the lower 48 states. The species richness of milkweeds in this region is influenced by the tremendous diversity and range of vegetation types, soils, topography, climate, and the exposure of unusual rock types that occur over more than a 9,000 foot elevation range. The nectar of milkweed flowers is attractive to dozens of insects including bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, ...

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Reading Pope Francis on Peace, Justice & Caring For Creation

Respect & Forgiveness for Flawed but Courageous American “Saints”

 

One of the more remarkable features of Pope Francis visit to North America was his request that we remember and reflect upon the lives of certain charismatic Americans whom few U.S. citizens would have placed into the same category of greatness: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and the newly sainted Junipero Serra. What do these five persons have in common? Why has each of them ...

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Becoming “Laudito Si” Franciscans of the Rivers and Seas in the Era of Mining Spills

The recent toxic spill of 3 million pounds of mine wastes in the Animas-San Juan watershed is roughly I received my “call” year ago to become a Franciscan after days of solitude and prayer in the wilderness of the Four Corners region. It is also the same watershed where I once caught five catfish for breakfast while co-leading an Outward Bound-style rite of initiation in tributaries to the east of Lake Powell.

So just how does being a Franciscan brother shape ...

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Migratory Monarchs and Native Bees as Spiritual Messengers of Climate Change

When Pope Francis recently released his encyclical on climate change, people of many faiths finally realized how climate change is ultimately an issue of social and environmental justice that bringing caring for creation and “the right to life” to all species, races, cultures and classes. But it should explicitly be added that climate-related “social justice” needs to be applied to “social insects” like some bees and butterflies, not just to “social hominids” like human beings? Indeed, the plight of monarchs, ...

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Q&A from the Conservation You Can Taste Tour

These are various questions that were given to Gary Paul Nabhan by hosts of his tour Conservation You Can Taste. In particular, these came from representatives from the University of Ohio, and the University of Minnesota.

QUESTION: You have worked as a plant explorer and now you are an orchard-keeper of over 150 varieties of wild and heirloom fruits. What prompted your interest in food biodiversity?

NABHAN: Our Lebanese grandfather was an immigrant who grew trees in the Old World ...

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Water Justice

Pope Francis paraphrased:

“…access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.”

On the bottom side
of each flat rock
that has found a way
to reach its angle of repose
on the desert’s bottom floor
a sheen of droplets
forms at night
enough to fill a single cup.

That is your daily water ration
for the rest ...

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The International Seed Library Forum

The first International Seed Library Forum will be held in Tucson, Arizona May 3-6, 2015, in an effort to further coalesce efforts by public libraries, non-profits, universities, and food banks to increase the quality and diversify the means of managing community seed resources with free or affordable access to low-income households.

Please register online at Eventbrite at your earliest convenience.

Sunday May 3 will include afternoon field trips and open houses, followed by a event ...

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A Tale of Two Foodsheds: Why Slow Money Strategies Matter

In Alleviating Poverty & Food Insecurity through Jumpstarting Farms & Food Microenterprises in Low Income Urban & Rural Communities: Field Notes from Arizona and New Mexico

 

It’s been roughly fifteen years since the food localization movement gained ground nationally, but some communities and states have lagged far behind others in recovering or newly building vibrant local food economies. And yet, many are still grappling with how true democratizing food systems and innovative financing can tangibly make a difference in ...

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A True Keeper of the Desert’s Treasures Passes On

Amalia Astorga one of the most charismatic and quixotic singers, storytellers, artists and visionaries of the Comcaac (Seri) passed away in Desemboque this week, stranded by the hurricane damage to Sonoran coast and left without medical help.

One of several daughters of Jose Astorga, the artist who began the Seri ironwood carving tradition, Amalia grew up in the desert at Pozo Coyote and Desemboque, but later lived for periods of time near Puertecitos, Baja California and on the midriff islands in ...

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Sustaining Water

Water rationing for farmers will threaten our region’s food security

This summer, regional water planners announced a game-changer for Arizona’s economy and already-fragile food security status. As early as 2017, we are likely to see the rationing of river irrigation water available for Arizona agriculture as a result of the pervasive drought that has plagued the Colorado River watershed for most of the last 15 years. Planners concede that Arizona’s farms irrigated from canals coming off the Colorado ...

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Ann Haymond Zwinger, 1925 – 2014

By: Gary Paul Nabhan

Ann Zwinger, whose writing appeared frequently in Orion, died this past weekend. Ann served on Orion’s board of directors from 1996 to 2003, and was awarded Orion’s John Hay Award in 1996.

I am sorry, but I cannot comment on Ann Haymond Zwinger unless I tell you how I met her and how she sent many of us on altogether new trajectories.

Imagine yourself a scruffy, somewhat lazy and spacy seventeen year old trying to make sense of the ...

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Dr. Barney Burns, Native Seeds/SEARCH co-founder, passes on, leaving us a legacy of hope and humor

By: Gary Paul Nabhan

In the second week of August, the Tucson community, the Greater Southwest, indigenous peoples and farmers everywhere lost a good friend, an extraordinary seed saver and a historian of Southwest food and farming folkways. Dr. Barney T. Burns was far more than a co-founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH. He spent over four decades linking native farmers and artisans to the audiences, human rights support networks, and applied scholars who cared about them and their future. Trained ...

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Water rationing for farmers? It’s on the horizon

Our Turn: Arizona is prioritizing water for cities over farmers. And that’s a bad idea for us all.

 

Regional water planners last month made a prediction that will likely be a game-changer for Arizona’s economy, revealing just how water scarcity will restructure the future of our food security. As early as 2017, drought in the Lower Colorado River’s watershed could lead to irrigation rationing for central Arizona agriculture.

Planners suggest that Arizona’s farms irrigated by Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs ...

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Come hear Gary speaking at Overland Trout, August 11th

Come hear local author Gary Nabhan tell of his 14 country “spice odyssey” Monday August 11 at Overland Trout in Sonoita from 6:00-7:30 pm

 

• Commentaries on Gary’s new book, Cumin, Camels and Caravans between dinner courses, with signing afterwards
• Adaptations of ancient Middle Eastern recipes from book by Chef Greg La Prad
• Limited seating, rsvp by August 9 to Overland Trout, 520 455-9316 or email Jennifer La Prad
• ...

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Coping With Heat in the Garden: Drought-Tolerant Crops, Resilient Perennials and More

You can employ several strategies for growing food while coping with drought and climate change, including planting dozens of recommended varieties of short-season, more drought-tolerant crops.

If we’ve learned anything as food growers in recent decades, it’s that climate change has placed not just one but many kinds of stress on our gardens and farms. “Global warming” does not adequately describe the “new normal,” given that many food sheds and farms have suffered from a ...

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UA researcher and colleagues discover the birthplace of the chili pepper

In the Southwest, the chili pepper is practically a dietary staple. It gives salsa a spicy crunch, it brings depth to Mexican sauces, and provides an extra kick to Sonoran hot dogs.

Plenty of other world cuisines rely on it too, from China to India to Thailand. But Latin America, researchers have confirmed, is where it started.

In a study of global significance, researchers have figured out where the first domesticated chili pepper crop was farmed. University of Arizona ethnobiologist and agroecologist ...

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