December 2015

Cultivating abundance with the Radical Center

By Art Goodtimes

ALBUQUERQUE … The Quivira Coalition has been working for the last 18 years to end the conflict industry between environmentalists and agriculturalists. They like to talk about the Radical Center where people come together to get things done. They’ve developed innovative tools, like Bill Zeedyk’s highimpact, low-cost stream-restoration methods that folks have used here in Colorado. They focused on strengthening livestock economics, improving our food-production systems, sequestering carbon on ranch lands, and sustaining the health of local ecosystems. The theme of this year’s conference was “The Next Wave: Cultivating Abundance” … I had been pretty disappointed in the difficulties we’d encountered in San Miguel County in trying to implement a Payment-for-Ecosystem Services (PES) Carbon Ranch project, following on the heels of the county’s successful Rare Plant PES of a couple years ago. With only one year left in my last term of public office, I didn’t see how we could make much progress … But Quivira’s annual conference always seems to come to the rescue and renew my sense of hope. Kris Holstrom, who’s also been working with the county on the Carbon Ranch concept, heard a lecture with me from Dr. Dave Johnson, a senior research scientist in molecular biology with New Mexico’s Institute for Energy and Environment. His focus on soil microbes was startling. He had developed a concept he called BEAM – Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management. It was a far cheaper way of sequestering carbon than expensive carbon-capture technology. The latter technology being funded now by the feds costs hundreds of dollars per ton of carbon sequestered. Dr. Johnson’s BEAM method, using specially prepared compost rich in microbial activity for farm and ranch operations, costs around $20 a ton … After the talk, Kris and I buttonholed Dr. Johnson, and when we told him about our situation, he expressed a willingness to come and possibly work with us to set up a demonstration project in San Miguel County. Suddenly the three-day trip to New Mexico seemed more than worth it.


One Unpredictability

playing chase
with a thunderstorm—
tucking my son into bed

— Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Post Laureate of the Western Slope

FIBERSHED … Rebecca Burgess is on a mission. She wants to revolutionize the way we grow our clothes, not just our food. She wants our clothes to become carbon sinks, not pesticide banks. It’s a dazzling vision … Her talk at Quivira was titled, “Wearing the Range: Soil to Soil Fiber Systems.” She outlined the hazards of wearing synthetic fibers next to one’s skin, absorbing the heavy metals, endocrine disruptors, and carcinogens present in most commercial fabrics. And the toxic, petroleum-based dyes that our ubiquitous in our textiles. She gave several examples of her projects in California trying to create climate-conscious fabrics and to go directly from healthy croplands to healthy clothing … Check out her website at <>

STONERS … It appears some cannabiphiles have taken over Montezuma County’s former ski run site upstream of Dolores and want to turn it into its own Stoner municipality. A town for the stoned. ‘Course, with a name like that, what else could it be? … I had the pleasure, on my return from New Mexico last month, to spend a night at First Inn of Pagosa. It’s kind of famous in the nation for its “420 Friendly” policy (and sign on its tourist marquee) – the first motel in the nation to advertise that policy publicly, starting back in the summer of 2014. It’s still their policy. It’s still on their sign. But, actually, I got a no-smoking room, as I was traveling on county business. And its combo of good reviews on Yelp steered me its way, even before I saw the sign … It was interesting, though, talking to the staff at the First Inn. They said cannabis smoke was easy to vent from the rooms and didn’t stain everything – drapes, towels, etc. – and leave them with tobacco’s strong odor. So they didn’t mind cannabis use even in the non-smoking rooms. But tobacco was allowed only in one room in the establishment … Nice people. Clean rooms. And reasonably priced. Even without its “420 Friendly” policy, I’d recommend it when you’re in Pagosa Springs.

SHROOMERS … Remember all the warnings to avoid the deadly Amanitas – their Death Caps and Destroying Angels? Well, scientists have extracted the amatoxins from those particular toxic species and combined low doses in an antibody drug conjugate (ACD). Those lab studies showed that the ACD is very effective in treating tumors from colorectal cancer ... Speaking of poisonings, turns out (according to the recent issue of Fungi magazine) a Polish study found that over a seven-year period, 87 percent of mushroom poisonings (457 people) were from edible mushrooms, not poisonous ones. More than a third consumed mushrooms over two days old and a quarter had stored them in plastic bags. Good to remember – even edible mushrooms can make you sick if improperly collected or stored.

AGED BEER … Okay, I know a lot of people deny that beer can be aged, successfully. But that’s wrong. My good buddy Jim Rosenthal (a fellow porter connoisseur) has long exploded that myth. For years, I’ve enjoyed cans (as well as bottles) of originally unremarkable swill taken to new taste heights after 20 years or more in his cellar … This past fall Jimbo returned to put the winter touches on his Naturita hideaway. We sat in the mown grass and willow shoots of his front yard enjoying the last of summer’s heat wave. He pulled out several ancient bottles of beer. I chose the oldest – a 50-year-old Canadian lager. Now mind you, not all beer ages well. Some oldies merely spoil. The bottle cap was rusty. Not a good sign. Jimbo popped the top and poured the clear liquid into two glasses … And delight! The taste was superb. Creamy. Smooth. Complex. Delicate. With just a hint of carbonated buzz. No bitterness. Almost sweet. And only the most pleasant of aftertastes … It’s too late in my life to be putting down six-packs for a decade, or two, or five. But I’m sure glad my friend did when he was a young man.

RAIN BARRELS … It’s still illegal in Colorado to collect water off your roof. Bills to change that “only-state-in-the-nation” law have failed in the past, although the Legislature is considering trying to change that again this session … There are limited abilities on the part of some homeowners to collect water under certain conditions, but only if they register with the state and obtain a permit. Which, according to regulators I’ve contacted, almost never happens … And so while the law is widely violated and unenforced, it is technically theft. Makes you wonder about the disconnect between what legislators do and what the people do. No wonder folks are frustrated with lawmakers. Too often common sense gets lost when legislators meet in their legislative chambers and listen only to special interests … That said, on the Front Range, where if the huge population there all collected water off their roofs, the state might not be able to meet its compact requirements with states to our east, some restriction on roof collection may make sense.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County, Colo., commissioner.