» Archive for March, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Jacky

Monday, March 15th, 2010 by Marie

Jacky is an incredible person on a two-year voyage which started in Mexico.  We feel so privileged that Jacky was able to spend 10 weeks of his journey volunteering at the Bosque.

Originally Jacky signed up to volunteer for 4 weeks.  As he began extending his stay, we began giving him more responsibility, until at the end of his time here he was cooking a meal (hummus!) every week for 10-20 people and self-managing most of his work days.  He volunteered to look after the Casita and keep it tidy during a particularly crowded time.  Jacky also was able to work with a long list of to-do items and do general maintenance and independent projects which freed up our volunteer managers to focus more on leading large teams.

Jacky is a great photographer!  In his free time and really whenever he had an opportunity Jacky captured great shots of life here and around the Bosque.  Because of his eye for nice photos, he also spent some of his working time organizing our flickr photos and adding good shots to the various sets and collections.

Beyond work hours, Jacky’s nature is friendly and helpful.  And he really jumped completely in to the Bosque experience in order to get the most out of being here.  He attended activities and workshops led by other volunteers and visitors with enthusiasm.  He signed up for classes and learned how to make a very nice looking knife.  He greeted and made an effort to get to know everyone related to the Bosque: residents, volunteers, visitors, volunteer managers, kitchen helpers, teachers…  even the 14 year old incredibly shy guide who walked Jacky into the Bosque found himself chatting amiably despite the language and emotional barrier.  “He’s not shy!” says Jacky.

Jacky will be traveling for quite awhile, and we’ve got no doubt that he will have an amazing experience wherever he goes.  Thanks for being awesome, Jacky!

On New Year’s Eve:

The dogs miss him!:

Sleeping with cat Kali Spot (nearly a nightly tradition):

Working with a team fighting the pine beetle plague:

Volunteer Spotlight: Judith

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 by Marie

Judith participated at the Bosque as a resident volunteer for 5 months.  She spent a year total in Mexico, first volunteering at a school teaching English, and then moving to the Bosque to learn about eco-village living, natural building, activity leading, and permaculture.

And how we miss her!

During her time here Judith learned how to teach eco-construction and led teams of 3-10 people building out of cob.  She helped out our volunteer managers immensely by taking leadership, helping overcome language barriers, and being available to get teams running smoothly.

Translation of our website into German was half-completed on Judith’s arrival, and she not only completed the translation but also read through to look for errors in the other half.  We still need to put all of her translations online!  During rainy days and in the afternoons Judith dutifully translated, and finished up on her last day.

A passion of Judith’s is circus activity.  Once or twice a week Judith led circus games on the Mesa.  She taught juggling, spinning poi, and diablo.  Before dinner she taught trapeze.  Judith also made a large donation to the Bosque of some of her personal circus equipment.

Besides her contribution of activities and her awesome work ethic and leadership, Judith’s personality is so amazing.  She greeted new people with warmth, she answered questions and made people feel comfortable, and her concern for the well being of residents, volunteers, and guests was invaluable.  Judith is a friendly, caring, and intelligent woman!  She has moved back to Germany to start circus school, where she will undoubtedly exceed expectations and be an amazing success.

We thank you Judith for your time, your energy, and being you!  Good luck to you and come back some day!

Judith made an advent candle centerpiece:

In a nearby village teaching the breadmakers how to make a German bread (it was tasty!):

On her birthday:


With Hippie:

Leading cob with Kwan:

Bosque Trail System

Sunday, March 7th, 2010 by Brian

Trails at the Bosque save the forest.

Some people come to the forest afraid at first. They have never lived this close to nature before. The forest is surprisingly large and, especially the first night, a city-dwelling guest walking in the dark can be intimidated with their tiny headlamp and the sounds of the forest around them. It is easy to get lost at night. Luckily other friendly campers who are already comfortable can usually help people find their cabana the first night, and the following nights are much easier.

It all gets easier after that and when the dawn comes, and they are surprised to find they can be comfortable and intrigued by the magical forest they live in. We try to encourage guests to get away from the buildings so they can be alone with the trees, see the most elusive of birds such as the Trogons or the Great Horned Owl, and find some of the magical spots we don’t even put on the Bosque map.

The Bosque has a huge network of trails to let people explore the forest and be closer nature than most people have ever been in their lives. The system took years of labor to plan, build and maintain. While we like to have as few rules as possible, one of the most important is to stay on the trails. The effects of even the most playful humans can destroy the nature we are here to protect.

A human male, 1.8 meters tall of medium build, walking causes about 16 pounds per square inch of pressure on the ground. The compacted soil of a well used trail cannot grow anything but the hardiest of plants and certainly the edible mushrooms which are common in the rainy season cannot grow there. The effects of people walking in the forest, or of even a single car passing over the ground can take years to heal.

The Bosque does have spaces set aside for humans to play. The View area provides spaces for dance, yoga and meditation while the Nexus has a volleyball court. For those who really want to run around, an acre called Frenzy is reserved for playing capture the flag, lasertag and other group games. Some group camping spots are also available. Otherwise we stay on the trails, except when mushroom hunting or working on critical habitat restoration projects.

Planning a trail system and integrating water planning.
Planning the layout of the trails using a GPS took years. Most of the trails follow level along the slope and we are widening many of them into terraces. The terraces are tilted back into the slope so that the heavy rains collect in them acting as a swale would. We call these “swale trails.” They keep the water from flowing downhill and store it in the soil where it can be used by plant life. The soil dug to make the trail is loose and so both native and garden plants can more easily sink their roots down.  Read information about permaculture swales in wikipedia.

The wider trails also allow people to walk side by side through the forest and support the use of carts rather than cars reducing the need for roads in the Bosque. They are also easier to use at night as the smaller and less used trails grow over in a couple years. The trails also serve as a firebreak in case of a forest fire.

History and Restoration
Because over 60 years ago the forest used to be cropland exposed to heavy rains, and had cows grazed on it, and was trampled by pine resin collectors and wood poachers, the forest has fairly compacted soil. Few locations have worms to churn the soil and the dominant pine trees tend to discourage a wide diversity of plant undergrowth. In the past, the fallen branches were considered debris so were collected and burned in piles. Fallen branches and trees are now left on the ground to rot and build up a layer of humus rich soil. The native understory of plant recover is covering and the oaks and madrones will again become the dominant tree. We leave dead trees standing to provide bird habitat. We are also planting other native and food forest trees to speed the diversification process and plan for possible climate change which could cause local death or extinction of many species. The entire process of returning the Bosque to something resembling an old growth forest will likely take another 100 years at least. An essential part of the Bosque experiment is to find ways humans can live in a forest without destroying it.

The dangers of not planning a trail system
If you look at the evolution of a community space, most people likely don’t predict it’s future destruction. Let’s say you are camping with friends, or are a nomadic tribe on a hunting expedition in a remote area, then you likely wouldn’t think too much about trampling here or there to gather food and water or to build a temporary shelter using natural materials. When you have few people, the land can heal itself, but as the tribe grows the entire surrounding area gets trampled. Perhaps this is not considered a problem as the humans will deforest and pave all of it eventually. Even modern public parks are generally trampled and have little biodiversity. However, in the Bosque we would like to live in the most pristine nature as we slowly help the land heal into an old growth forest with great diversity of plants and wildlife. We must plan for humans to be in nature without destroying it. Our own feet are a possible enemy. By defining the trails before inviting people into the fragile forest, we can protect the land. By placing the trails carefully we can get people where they want to go, while taking into account erosion, soil quality, and plant life.  Visitors to the Bosque can explore deep into the forest without destroying plants and habitat.

Volunteer Spotlight: Rose

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 by Marie

Wonderful Rose!  Rose volunteered at the Bosque for 11 weeks.  We miss her hard work, her subtle sense of humor, and the fun moments when she surprises you by breaking away from her normally quiet demeanor to say something witty or outrageous.  Her laugh is contagious and her eagerness to learn made her a wonderful addition to our volunteer team.

One of her most important accomplishments was helping finish the chicken coop and constructing the chicken apartment complex.  The apartment complex turned out amazing, it is sturdy and will house lots of chickens!

Rose also spent several days working on collecting songs for a Bosque songbook.  The songbook will allow more music to happen around the fires at night, and people who don’t know songs can quickly learn the popular tunes in Spanish and English.  She plays the violin and contributed to the live music at the Bosque.

Related to the songbook, Rose collected tons of songs and DJed our New Year’s Eve Dance party!  Her DJ debut was a success.

Every week she led meditation.  About meditation, Rose writes:
I hold meditation classes once a week at the Bosque. I teach techniques from the Zen and Tibetean Buddhist traditions as well as more secular forms like intention setting. I find meditation to be a great way to calm the mind and develop compassion and gentleness toward self and others. I like to share meditation with others because my personal practice has been so fulfilling to me.  In meditation, we bring our minds intently into focus on the present moment. I find this to be an interesting, challenging, and rewarding experience that I deeply enjoy sharing with others.

Rose is intensely interested in building a solar dehydrator, and plans to come back to the Bosque to accomplish this goal.  Her perseverance is one of her wonderful qualities; if she has an interest in something, she is not mildly interested; she passionately engages herself in projects and sees them through their completion.

We look forward to seeing her again.  Thanks Rose!

With Chris drawing plans for the chicken apartment:

Mixing cob for the chicken coop:

Leading meditation (she’s behind the tree.):

Taking a break from DJing at the NYE party:

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