Theatre of the Oppressed at Full Bloom

We recently had our second “Theatre of the Oppressed” workshop here at Full Bloom, led by our friend Eliot, a wonderful performance artist and facilitator of this dynamic and unique form of theater.  Here’s is synopsis of the form:

As created by Brazilian visionary Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed (T.O.) is a form of popular community based education which uses theater as a tool for social change. It’s basic aim is to re-humanize humanity. Originally developed out of Boal’s work with peasant and worker populations, it is now used all over the world for social and political activism, conflict resolution, community building, therapy, and government legislation. Designed for non-actors, it uses the universal language of theatre as a springboard for people and whole communities to investigate their lives, identify their dreams, and reinvent their future. Not a soapbox, T.O. invites critical thinking and dialogue. It is about analyzing rather than giving answers. It is also about “acting” (taking action) rather than just talking. With T.O., people can and often do discover empowering solutions to their own struggles. And they have a good time doing it.

He is serious about the “good time” part of the description.  The workshops have been extraordinarily fun.  In turns out that the serious, charged and complex material of social oppression really needs movement, mirth, and play in order to be fully and sustainably explored.  Cause at the end of the day we’re not going to be motivated to explore and heal oppression if its heavy, lacks movement, and is completely devoid of laughter.

In T.O. participants are incredibly supported in the exploration of oppressions they feel in their daily life (such as money, ageism, racism, physical disability, sickness, isolation etc.) by having some of their feelings, thoughts, and stories on the matter reflected back to them by “players” (BTW all of the participants in the workshop are spectactors, meaning they both witness whats happening and are actively engaged in the games and theatrics).



An warm up game where everyone partnered up with someone in the circle and attempted to mirror back their movements to the best of their ability. That’s Eliot in the red hoodie.

What I took home as the higher purpose of T.O. was this: to refelct the tender complexity of the human condition so that we may be genuinely heartened, grow in our understanding of humanity and maybe even laugh at the messes we get ourselves into personally and collectively.  I really appreciated the sense of togetherness that it generated which felt much fuller than what often happens in a simple “sharing circle” where everyone shares their personal stories or challenges as if they are theirs alone, when it actuality everyone has versions of feeling excluded, oppresses, or unjustly treated.  I’m looking forward to taking this form deeper as we continue to grow as a community through all the inevitable conflict, oppression, and confusion.

IMG_8287“When we look beyond appearences, we see oppressors and oppressed people, in all societies, ethnic groups, genders, social classes and casts; we see an unfair and cruel world. We have to create another world because we know it is possible. But it is up to us to build this other world with our hands and by acting on the stage and in our own life” Augusto Boal


Climbing the curve of Permaculture

I have several interesting and sometimes tiresome dialogues going on in my head about growing food. As I’m weeding bed after bed of vegetables sometimes in the hot sun questions roll through my mind like: “Is this really having any significant impact on the state of the world?”,  “Should I just leave organic vegetable growing to those that are actually really good at it?”, or “Is any form of annual based agriculture a net contribution to the eco-system with all its tilling, inputs, and deer fencing?”  Those questions can certainly take the wind out of my sail particularly on a hot day and when my back starts to ache bedding over the onion bed.  Yet I do want to attempt to answer those questions, I want to feel even more connected to the why of vegetable growing.  So I thought I would share my musings and my struggles with you so as to not feel as alone in the matter because I know I’m not alone.


My dear friend and land mate Rosie helping me hoe the potato bed.

The questions I have pinballing around in my mind around seem to have their root in a deep intention of mine to do no harm and to be have a positive impact on my environment. That’s my intention and then there’s reality.  As mentioned above there’s several practices that are less than ideal in terms of truly doing no harm whether that harm is in the form of disturbing elk migration patterns or disturbing soil ecology through big tractors till blending up the earth.  People seem to have a lot of hope around organic agriculture and I do as well and yet I feel move to point out that there’s quite a ways to go on the learning curve (especially for me personally) to get the point that human food growing actually has a net positive impact on the ecology.  The hope for me lies in all the various incredible people I know or read about that are plugging away and steadily moving along that curve on differing fronts.  And with the world as it is the opportunities for cross fertilization and collaboration are immense.

I’ve been really feeling these days how much we need each other if to do the learning and work it takes to move beyond a high impact agriculture into a permaculture.  Growing our own vegetables is a start, planting a food forest hedgrerow is one too but its just a start.  I am grateful to be supported in the ways that I am on this challenging journey towards living in harmony with the land.

So maybe I should relish the fact that there’s still so much journeying to experience, eat some strawberries and just keep learning.

Thanks for reading,



My wife Eden (7 months pregnant) helping weed the community garden

Women’s Natural Building Workshop on the Horizon

If you’ve read many of my posts you’ve gathered that there is a strong emphasis here at Full Bloom on the importance of building structures in a way the reflects the deeper values of the emerging ecologically based culture.  These values include: using locally and sustainably sourced materials, staying connected to the rhthyms and patterns of the natural world, and creating a sense of belonging to a place and/or bio-region to name just a few.


The inside of me and my wife Eden’s Strawbale home.

There’s another value that’s becoming a significant and perhaps understated value in the emergent natural building culture: gender equality.

For quite some time now the art and trade of building has been dominated my the male half or our species and we’re excited about being able to shift that imbalance and see what happens.   How would our structures look and feel like if more of them were designed and built by women?  For centuries we’ve missed out on the God’s knows how many cool ideas by not having women be an integral part of the our building culture.   All I know is that diversity is a good thing for any system/culture wanting to thrive.

So in the spirit of supporting more diversity and continuing to evolve this art form called “natural building”  Full Bloom will be hosting a 10 day women’s natural building workshop given by our friend, neighbor, and master builder Lydia Doleman.  The women will be building a load bearing strawbale structure that will most likely be used as a massage room and healing space.


Lydia plastering one of the “cob” structures here at Full Bloom

Its all very gratifying to be a part of the unfolding of a building culture that actually reflects my deepest values of equality and natural beauty.  If you want to learn from about the workshop you can visit Lydia’s site:

“We must raise both the ceiling and the floor.”
― Sheryl SandbergLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead


Pruning the Orchard

Last week an amazing veteran Orchardist came to Full Bloom to share his pithy wisdom and love for the art of Fruit Tree care.  His name is Terry Helfrich and he’s been taking care of fruit orchards in the Rogue Valley for several decades now.   It was a blast to see him trim up some of our trees without any hesitation, leaving them in a shape that will be super easy to maintain in the years to come  His approach really simplified things for me around pruning as I’ve been exposed to several different styles and they have left me a bit confused and tentative as I attempt to prune our now 60 tree orchard.   Thank God for good teachers!


That’s Terry in the Red, droppin’ the pruning science


What I really appreciated about Terry was his ability to empower each of us to take to our own trees and just go for it, giving us encouragement to not get caught by thinking there is an absolute right way to prune.  There are basic principles, then its just a matter of seeing being in relationship with the trees over years and noticing the impact of what you’ve cut and haven’t cut.

Its really difficult to convey his style in a blog post, especially since I’m relatively new to the vocabulary and would have to sketch out some nifty diagrams, so I’ll just have to let you know ahead of time the next time he comes out in case you want the direct transmission.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”  Martin Luther

Let the Mapping Begin!

Last weekend, almost 30 members of our rural community in the Little Applegate Valley got together for our first ever community mapping event.  It was relaxed, fun and even exciting.  My wife and I got there 20 minutes late but that was no biggie since one of the organizers was also late due to daylight savings time.  So we didn’t miss anything formal, just a bunch of friends and neighbors getting a chance to chat and catch up on how the winter was and how the spring was looking.  The purpose of the meeting was to start a dialogue and explore what resources of all types we have to offer to each other now and plan to offer in the future.  The group consisted of a sampling of farms from our valley but not every farm or homesteader from our valley was able to be invited due to space constraints. DSC02748So, after a more formal introduction we let the mapping begin.  This wasn’t the type of map I usually think of when I hear the word map.  We were about to map a wide range of things not just geographical locations. Then we would group the like items out of that brainstorm to make sense of all the information. Our wonderful community organizer whose inspiration had called us all together had already prepped 10 large sheets of butcher paper to brainstorm on with different headings on each.  Headings such as: Historic Sites, Communication and Culture, On Site Businesses and Education, social services, Big Dreams. DSC02753 We then broke out into small groups based on which farm we were from and spent 5 minutes in our group brainstorming around what our group had to offer under that heading.  So that took about an hour.  This was called assessment.  We were asked to be specific. If under education we wrote Music Lessons, we would also write the name of the person who was able and offering.  Under communication, we would note which person’s Twitter account or which business  webpage.   As the minutes ticked away we listed whatever came to mind for each topic.  And wow,  at the end of it all, there was so much information on each piece of paper. I felt amazed by how much was being offered by all these different people and the places they loved and the things they loved to do.  I could not help but be excited by all the potential being expressed.  It also blew me away that this was only a sample of the valley community but far from an exhaustive group.  It was clear to me that this was just part of the story.  And it was just the beginning of our story.   Our story of who we are and what we do and how we want to do it together.  Every community ought to do this.  Let the mapping begin!

Permaculture: the Love Story of the Land: Part 1

When we came to this land, bright eyed and tender handed, we came with a dream of farming, of raising our food and our families in a sustainable way, and we saw permaculture as part of that way. Unlike the buzzword ‘sustainability’ that has been co-opted by corporate media, permaculture offers a very clear set of principles to follow, including a code of ethics.  Why does this practice appeal to me and my friends, and to an emergent culture of these last few generations? What permaculture offers is a blueprint for how to relate not only to land, but to each other.

Permaculture encourages us to observe, explore, and interact with our natural environment- a practice that has been undervalued as more and more of our society had to leave the farm and take industrial jobs in the city. Observation, observation, observation you will often see in permaculture texts.  You must know the territory before expecting to know how to work with it.  And when you do interact, you receive valuable feedback, which helps you understand even more deeply.  Working with, rather than making something work for you; creating relationships that lead to greater health within the entire system, rather than just extracting or taking what you need and leaving the system to repair itself (or not) is a fundamental shift from the way industrial systems operate.

These very same principles are what we long for in our human relationships.  Just as we have rejected the archaic idea that children are just blank slates to be filled with our knowledge and ideas, it becomes unethical to just ‘do what ever you want’ to the land.  Our land has a deep history, stories to tell of the animals, humans, water, fire, and geology that has shaped it.


That’s me, Eden, observing and interacting with our land here at Full Bloom

We long for true intimacy with our land and with each other.  We want to know another for who they are, not just our idea of who we think they are.  We are done with the fairy tale ideas of boy-meets-girl and happily-ever-after for we see they are bound to fail; they work only as longs as everyone involved does what they are supposed to, and we all know how well that turns out with humans.  True relationship that allows all humans involved to flourish, that leads to mutual benefits, is based on non-coercive interactions and deep honoring of what is true and present for each individual.  …part 2 to come…

“It is our collective responsibility to protect and nurture the global family, to support its weaker members and to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live”
The Dalai Lama

The Greenhouse Advantage

At Full Bloom we a have a pretty extreme climate leading to a relatively short growing season.  We’ve been know to have a frost as late as Early June and as early as early October leading barely a 4 month frost free growing window.  But that’s outside.  The Greenhouse changes everything; it gives us another two months on either side.   For several years now we’ve been able to get a major head start on our  tomatoes in the raised bed in the greenhouse planting them in April and still harvesting tomatoes in December.

IMG_8492 IMG_8497

Every year I do dance with the greenhouse to get in our winter salad greens sown just after the hot weather crops like peppers, and eggplants begin to slow down in early October.  Its taken years to get that timing down ( and develop the nerve to pull that pepper plant that may have one or two peppers still to ripen) and this year I was very proud of myself for clearing the bed space and sewing tons of arugula and salad mix for our enjoyment during the winter (note: outdoor greens can end up getting pretty much killed during the winters here. Especially when it gets down to 6 degrees like it did this past December.)

Given the extreme productivity and season extension power of a greenhouse I’ve been pondering lately how we can add another to the land here and/or build a “field house” for the agricultural fields outside of the central area.  These can be put up for minimal cost and can really increase production and protect crops of frost damage.


An example of a “field house”. A no frills green house that one can even drive a tractor through for cultivation.

Well that’s it for now.  Off to the greenhouse, cause its basically already spring down there and its time to prep the soil and start sowing some spinach and lettuce.

Till next time……Ryan

Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too.”  William Cowper

Winter Camp Winding Down…..

The Consensus on the land here is that the inaugural Social Forestry Winter Camp at Full Bloom was a success!  (To be transparent: that’s not an official consensus, but I haven’t seen much in the way of sour faces or complaints either from the winter campers or the Full Bloom residents).   Yesterday was their “open camp” and they gave a tour or the their community and some of the forest tending they have down.  Very impressive.  What was a dense thicket of fir and cedar is now a spacious forest with a lot more breathing room and a lot less fuel for potential forest fires.

To know that this was all done within the context of a group singing songs about the land, having daily check-ins, and generally imbedding themselves in the forest ecosystem fills me with reverence as I move through the “treated” forest.


An Oak woodlawn treated by Winter Camp

Winter camp was also successful in doing a small controlled understory  burn of an Oak woodlawn.   Periodic, if not annual, burning was an essential practice of the Native Americans who lived in this bioregion to maintain the fertility of the Oak Forests (a.k.a Acorn Food Forest).  Modern controlled burning has to be done in a different way as the amount of understory fuel has built up through years of fire suppression, clear cuts, and general lack of integral forest management.

DSCN1558DSCN1557 DSCN1580To me, the biggest success of the whole Winter Camp experience was that a group of individuals spent 5 weeks living in the forest, relating to it, tending to it and each other and now have a wealth of learning and experience to further themselves and all of us towards a truly regenerative relationship with forest.

But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.
Alan Watts

Winter Camp has Begun….

The beginning of 2014 brought with it the arrival of an amazing crew of devout forest tenders, naturalists, and bold experimenters in “social forestry”:  Winter Camp.   What exactly is Winter Camp?  Its collective of 10 mixed gender individuals committed to learning together what it means to truly care for the forests of this Bioregion.  Using whatever skills and practices they have at their disposal (Permaculture, Regenerative forestry practices, primitive skills, non-violent communication/process work) the winter campers are discovering and rediscovering practices that bring human beings into a more intimate, regenerative and sustainable relationship with the forest ecosystem.  And by all accounts they are having a fun time doing it!

Yesterday most of the Full Bloom residents participated in a work day at their site, where we helped gather and burn the lopped branches from several days of  thinning the forest (Historically the native people performed periodic understory controlled burns to keep the larger trees healthy, reducing competition and cycling in nutrients) and peeled usable poles that came from the forest thinning.

Burning Cedar branches and returning nutrients to the forest soil, while providing the most pleasant of aromas…..
Burn Pile
Pole Pealing Party. These poles can be used as posts and rafters for small cabins on the land.

After a morning of working together on the poles and the burn piles we gathered at their camp headquarters for a delicious meal then the group as a whole began a ceremony initiating the restoration of an Oak woodland that had been taken over by conifer species (cedars and firs).   Rather than going right at it with a chainsaw we started with song and hand tools, which felt good and not so much like work.

The beginning of our ceremony: we are all gathered around an old oak tree that is barely perceptible amid the crowd of conifer trees.

I feel deeply appreciative for the vision of these young folks to have put together such an undertaking that provides untold benefits to the land and to the residents here at Full Bloom.  Yay Winter Camp!!

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
John Muir

If you tell a joke in the forest, but nobody laughs, was it a joke?
Steven Wright

The Great Potato Harvest……

There’s something undeniably satisfying about getting on your hands and knees and digging in the earth in search of large tubers that will later become rosemary home fries, creamy mashed potatoes, and other comforting fall and winter foods.  Over the weekend we harvested the Full Bloom potato crop which amounted to over 800lbs of potatoes and it didn’t really feel like work, it felt like a treasure hunt in the dirt.



Several Full Bloomers on the hunt for taters.



Mica (a current resident) and myself showing off some of the harvest

As Fall transitions to winter it becomes essential to store properly all the abundance from the growing season so that it can be consumed through the winter and on into the spring.  With proper storage there can be a continued sense of connection to the land as the prime source of one’s life rather than the supermarket.   That’s not to say there isn’t still a lot of food being brought to Full Bloom from off-site, it’s to emphasize the importance of cultivating a deep sense of place.  As we open this place to more and more visitors in the years to come, I hope that sense of place can be enjoyed by all who come.

“It is easy to think of potatoes, and fortunately for men who have not much money it is easy to think of them with a certain safety. Potatoes are one of the last things to disappear, in times of war, which is probably why they should not be forgotten in times of peace.” 
― M.F.K. FisherHow to Cook a Wolf