Friday, May 18, 2012


David S.

“We aren't just AmeriCorps, it's AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps)
We don't "work" we serve.
And we aren't volunteers, we are Corps Members.” – David S.

     David called us to arrange bee removal from an historic building in Camp Meeker where he was serving as an AmeriCorps member. He greeted us enthusiastically in his own duct-taped beekeeping suit along with another member and generously assisted us with the scaffolding and unloading of tools. David stayed involved through the entire extraction, taking pictures and asking 
The hive exposed
questions. His excitement was contagious. On the final trip, Joey was greeted by most of the AmeriCorps team who scraped wax from the removed wood siding, painted it to mask the scent, helped tear down and remove the scaffolding, and enabled him in every way. The willingness to participate and serve was inspiring, as was the genuine team spirit. I wish I’d known more about this program while I was still teaching high school. I would have recommended it to everyone.

Removing Comb
     Unlike Peace Corps (which I readily endorse with just a few caveats, but which requires a college degree and a lack of debt outside school loans), AmeriCorps is open to any young adult. It offers “a full-time residential program for men and women, ages 18-24, that strengthens communities while developing leaders through direct, team-based national and community service”. In Camp Meeker, the team was fire clearing and pursuing projects to make the camp run more efficiently and safely. The assignments offered by AmeriCorps generally are 9-12 months long, within the U.S. and provide a small stipend along with aid with student loans. It provides a transition period for that in-between time, between college and career, high school and college, high school and life- that important formative time when you really need an opportunity to step back and figure out what you might want to do with your time and skills. Youths in other countries call this the “Gap year” and I think this is an intelligent way to embrace it while simultaneously encouraging the notion of service, of belonging to a greater whole, rather than immediately grinding your idealism down in the pursuit of financial stability. It seems particularly important now when there is so much anxiety surrounding the economic recession and apparent lack of individual power. Through volunteerism like this, it is remarkable to experience how much you can accomplish when you have a will, and teamwork, to do it. It is an opportunity for your dreamy idealism to become reality, or at least provide some space for you to figure out just how that might occur.
Attaching comb to frames for the bees new home

     I joined the Peace Corps with my husband, Joey, to do just that- find some way in which I could justify my carbon footprint, a way to give back. I learned beekeeping and, amongst my fellow volunteers and people in my community, met the most phenomenal people. Certainly the greatest beneficiaries of programs like these are not necessarily the communities that they initially serve, (though we did leave behind a beautiful hand-dug well in our town) but the communities that they return home to, inspired and empowered by their experience. I did not change the town I served, but I came back and started a bee-rescuing business in Sonoma County. I was able to learn, on more than a tourist basis, how Americans are perceived in other parts of the world and take some responsibility for that. I have not saved the planet, but I have a better grasp on what I can change. I believe that we would have a kinder more proactive nation of engaged citizens if we all could experience some form of volunteerism like this.

So here’s the website, if you are or know someone who might benefit from this, please pass it on:  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Viva Ceramica!

May 5, 2012  
A cracked plate becomes an entry greeter
As a potter, I am extremely aware of the energy and permanence involved in ceramics.  The stuff lasts!  I have taken to breaking up flawed pots and turning them into either mosaics (see stair project on previous blog) or mulch.  The softened shards keep the weeds down, the moisture in, and disincline some slimy creatures from traversing over them to eat my lovely plants.
   As we are adding new terraces to our garden, I went to Lytton Springs, our Salvation Army outlet, to seek mulch.  In one hunt, I filled two shopping carts full of pottery: some rejected, thick-walled, beginner projects, broken terra cotta planters, platters,  bowls from stores where you decorate them and they fire it for you (my favorite with “Please sir, may I have some more?” on the bottom), tiles, teapots, and coffee mugs aplenty.  This is the last stop before the dump; an homage to our mindless consumerism.  The items that end up here have made the rounds through the stores, been rejected again and ended up in The Bins, where people scrabble through them (breaking more pottery in said scrabble) to find treasures worthy (or not) or eBay.  I love hunting here.  I imagine I’m rescuing orphans, trying to come up with some better reuse destiny than landfill.
    After paying up (minimally), I filled the car and clanked my way home.  Once there, I proceeded to enjoy the satisfying and therapeutic smashing of the pots into 5-gallon buckets (with gloves and glasses on!).  My quest resulted in 7 buckets worth which I then trucked down to the cement mixer.  It makes a horrendous rattle and smash with a bucket of pottery even with the dampening effect of the water, so we have to time to tumbling to annoy the fewest people.  The terra cotta, being low fired, melts like butter quickly and makes a red slush if you leave it too long (1 hour is more than enough for them).  Stoneware takes longer (2-4 hours), as does glass, which I only occasionally do because its missiles are vicious.  Then I spread a generous layer over the ground, keeping aside some choice pieces for visible locations. 

Ahab, the rescued peg-legged dinosaur who walks and growls now.
Not all my salvages are reasonable and green-minded,
sometimes I'm just silly.